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"For Love: Six-guns and Death."


J.L. Kramer

Billy T. Johnson rode out of the gray black
that marked the dawn. He had come to Montana
to escape his bloody past, to start a new life with
a wife and the baby she carried, but all he had
found was trouble.

Injured and weary, he slouched in the saddle
as a fine mist settled over the land, casting an
eerie scene before his eyes. The smell of death lay
heavily upon him. His left arm was bloodied and
he continually flexed his hand to assure himself
that it still worked. Blood trickled from his soot
stained cheek where a bullet had cut a narrow

Behind him, Billy left only death. Bull
Braxton and his B/B toughs, had laid siege to
his homestead for three costly days. In the end,
they had won, but they left five men behind who
would not join in their celebration.

Much of the land Braxton claimed as his
own actually belonged to Billy. His father had
bought it outright from the government ten years
before, but hoping to avoid trouble his reputation
as a gunman would draw, Billy quietly settled on
a small parcel of land, letting Braxton use the
rest as he chose.

Now, everything was gone and his past
returned to haunt him once again. The house, his
wife and the child she carried were all gone,
taken away from him because of another man's

"Bastards! Oh God, you Son of a Bitch...
Braxton, I'll kill you for what you did to her."
Billy sobbed as he rode into the ranch yard with
death in his heart, and in his six-guns.

A light burned in the bunkhouse, another in
the main house. Dismounting, exhaustion from
the long days and nights without sleep and the
loss of blood from his wounds, showed in Billy's
step, yet he found an inner strength to go on. It no
longer mattered to him whether he lived or died.
Nothing was important anymore except revenge.
It was time for the killers of his wife and unborn
child to die, and he would die with them if God
had any mercy.

Wiping the tears from his eyes, Billy checked
his pistols at the bunk house door. Inside, he
could hear them laughing and boasting about
what they had done. They were proud of the fact
that they had killed a woman and child yet
unborn, and it exploded the pent up fury burning
deep within Billy.

"Those damn nesters won't be moving in on
this land for a while." A rough voice sounded.

"Not after they hear what happened to the
last sod buster, they won't" Another laughed, but
it would be his last laugh.

The door opened easily under the pressure of
Billy's hand and he stepped inside. He wasted no
words on those within. Instead, his guns came to
hand, flamed orange in the dimly lit room, and
spat death into those assembled.

"Jesus, no..."

Billy Thunder Johnson heard the shocked
gasps as the room filled with the stench of burnt
gunpowder and death. He too, had called on
Christ for help, yet his wife was dead and he'd be
damned if he let God intervene in this matter.

Firing until his pistols clicked on empty
cylinders, Billy's hand sought his spares, but
there was no need. Of the seven in the room, only
two men had managed wild shots and they lay in
the bloody mess along with their friends.

It didn't matter to Billy if they were all dead
or not. They had felt the bite of his bullets and if
any lived, they would remember there is a price to
be paid for killing another mans family. For
some, it was the ultimate price. Death!

Turning on well worn heels, Billy left the
bunk house, thumbing shells into his empty guns
as he moved in the shadows of the outbuildings.
It was time... time to find Bull Braxton and his
right hand killer, Ban Oliver.

"Shelby?" The word startled Billy and his
gun came level. Before him stood Art Donner, the
number three man on the ranch.

Twice more, Billy's gun flamed orange and
Art Donner died not knowing what had hit him.
He had been sent out to quiet the rowdy boys, to
tell them to get some sleep, but instead, he had
found a one way ticket to hell.

Voices sounded down the long hallway of the
big house as Billy slipped inside and he walked
that way until he came to the main room. Bull
Braxton and his foreman stood before the huge
fireplace, brandies in their hands, ready to toast
their success.

"That you, Art?" Braxton asked over his
shoulder, but only silence greeted his query.


Ban Oliver was the first to notice Billy
standing at the thresh-hold to the room. "God, .
no..." He gasped, dropping the brandy as two
slugs tore at his heart.

Like the others, Ban Oliver felt the bite of
revenge and died an astonished death.

"You!" Bull Braxton breathed, his eyes
unbelieving. "You're dead... I saw you fall." Fear
gripped the man's soul as he stared into the ugly
face of death. "I warned you... I told you what
would happen if..."

Bull Braxtonís draw was that of an old and
frightened man and Billy watched until the gun
almost cleared leather before firing. His first
lifted Bull Braxton to his tiptoes, the second
slammed him back onto his heels where he
teetered a moment, his life's blood spilling out
onto the plank flooring.

"Those two, are for my wife and child."
Billy's voice was soft, yet bitter as he stepped
further into the room. "This ones for all the
other's you hurt in your sorry life."

Again the pistol bucked against Billy's palm,
the slug hitting Braxton over his heart as the last
spark of life faded from the eyes of the man who
had taken so much from him.

Shaking his head and holstering his pistols,
Billy stared almost sadly at the two dead men. It
was over, the killing, and the need for bitter
revenge finished, and he turned to go, but a
woman's scream stopped him.

As he turned, his eyes followed a young
woman as she ran into the room. She was
beautiful, much like his Brenda had been, only
younger and taller.

"No! Daddy... you killed him!" She screamed
as she knelt at the side of Bull Braxton, tears
streaming down her cheeks. "Why?"

Sympathy for her tugged at Billy's heart as
he stood watching her, feeling the guilt and the
young woman's loss. Again, he turned to leave,
but her words stopped him. "No! Why? Tell me

Billy Johnson stood quiet. He had no words
for her, nothing to ease the pain she felt in her
heart. He felt it too, and the revenge he had just
issued out did nothing to ease it. So instead, he
just stood there, watching her.

He saw her hand slowly close over the butt of
her fathers pistol, saw it rise and come level with
his chest, and heard the hammer click back. He
could have killed her, but he didn't even try, his
life wasn't worth it anymore.

All that he had ever wanted out of life was
gone, and he was tired, sickened by all the
killing, but mostly he was tired of living.

As the forty five caliber slug hit him in the
chest, Billy took a step backward, his legs slowly
giving way as he sank to the floor with the young
lady staring at him, shocked by what she had

"Th... thank you!" His words were soft, yet
audible as he lay down, his glazing eyes still
watching the young woman.

"Why?" Ann Braxton asked, her mind a
confusion of emotion. As she stood, she let the
heavy pistol fall to the floor. She doubted what
she had just heard and involuntarily stepped
closer to where Billy lay. "Tell me why?" She
pleaded, wanting to know why he had killed her
father, and wanting to know why he had thanked
her for shooting him.

"Your father... he took it all away from me."
Billy murmured. "He and his men... they killed
my wife, the baby she carried..."

"But you... you were squatting on our land."

Ann Braxton couldn't believe her father
would kill a woman with a child, nor any woman
for that matter, yet somehow she knew the man
was telling the truth. He had no reason to lie to
her, he was dying.

"No, not squatting... it was our land. My
Pa... he bought it years ago, now it's yours." Billy
told her. "It's over for me, but for you it's just
beginning. Be strong, but fair and reasonable.
There's no need for anymore violence, there's
room here for everybody."

Kneeling by his side, her father forgotten for
the moment, Ann Braxton was caught by his
words. "No, I don't want your land. Not if what
you say is true." She said, her lower lip trembling
as the tears streamed down her cheek anew.

"Promise me... promise me, you'll take it."

"I... I..." She was beginning to fall apart.
What had she done? What had her father done to
this man?

"Promise me..."

"Yes, I promise." His eyes and voice were
growing dim, but she heard his next words.

"Bury me next to my wife..."

"No! God no!" Ann Braxton prayed. "Don't
die!" It was no use though. William Thunder
Johnson exhaled his last breath, his last word,
"Brenda..." Then he was gone.

"No... no, don't... God, don't take him,

Out in the yard, Ann Braxton heard horses.
Slowly rising to her feet, she started to go see who
it was just as Marshal Clyde Harper entered the
room. Looking into his eyes, Ann broke down,
great sobs racking her body as the marshal took
her into his arms.

"My father," She said, sobbing into the
marshals chest.

"I know, I know." Marshal Harper said
gently, leading her away from the horror filled
room. "We found Mrs. Johnson and five of your
father's men. They were all dead and the house
burned. If that man hadn't gotten to your father
first, I'd of had to arrest him for murder."

Ann Braxton wiped the tears from her eyes.
It was true then. Her father was a murderer and
she a murderess. Yet, when she thought about it,
she knew that the man she had killed had
wanted to die. He'd even thanked her for shooting

"I killed him." Ann said after a long minute
of silence.

"You didn't know, how could you?" Marshal
Harper told her in his gentle was. "Whatever your
father was, Ann, he loved you very much. I'm
sorry he's gone, but this way was a lot easier than
a trial would have been for him."

"He asked me to bury him next to his wife."
Ann said softly. "Can we do it this afternoon?"

"Sure, if that's what you want. We can do it
right after we see to your father."

A new house stands on Billy Johnsonís land
close to where his used to be. Someone else is
building a future where his left off. There are
fresh flowers on Billy's and his wife's grave every
spring, and throughout the year, Ann goes often
to sit by the man she killed long ago. There is
peace there, and there is forgiveness for a time
long gone, but never forgotten.

The End.

"You cannot worry about that which you cannot control."

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