vocals/music by: Half Deaf Clatch (aka Andrew McLatchie)
A Musical and Literary Collaboration
Musically dark and haunting, it combines Americana with Spaghetti Western style arrangements to create an atmospheric backdrop to the story of Beelzebub Jones
Sunrise painted the canyon with colours to match the glowing em-bers of the dying camp fire.
Beelzebub Jones sipped whisky from a battered tin mug as he stared at the distant town.
Half a mile away, and about a hundred feet in the air, a group of vultures turned lazy circles, waiting patiently for something, or someone to turn to carrion.
Scavengers of the fallen.
Takers of the dead.
Vultures bothered him, always had, in a preternatural way that he couldn’t define. Like a vague memory from a previous life, or maybe a premonition of things to come.
If he believed in such things.
Turning his gaze back to the town, he swallowed the last of the whisky, tossed the mug to one side, shucked the coarse blanket from his shoulders, and cast a long shadow as he stood up and unbuttoned his pants.
The campfire hissed its death throes, throwing up clouds of am-monia-scented steam as the torrent of piss deluged the hot ashes.
Shaking off the last drops, he buttoned up, picked up his battered Stetson, and then pulled two Colt .45 Peacemakers from the holsters slung low over his hips.
Both were fully loaded. Twelve rounds, ready to go.
Replacing the pistols, he took a cheroot from the pocket of his leather jerkin, lit, inhaled, and stared once more across the desert landscape.
After a few moments of reflective smoking, he turned towards a tall Sequaro, where a piebald mustang stood motionless, loosely hitched to the giant cactus by a single leather rein. He strode towards it, pulled a Win-chester rifle from the saddle holster and ejected six shells.
That would have to do.
He reloaded, pulled a canvas sack from a saddlebag, placed the ri-fle inside, pulled the drawstring together and slid the sack back into the hol-ster.
Next, he unfastened the saddle bags and tossed them to the ground. He needed to travel light, and come sundown he planned to be safely over the border, and a very rich man.
The mustang snorted as, in a single movement, Beelzebub Jones snugged the reins, grabbed a fistful of mane, put his left foot in the stirrup, and swung himself onto the saddle.
His head full of trouble, dark thoughts clouded his mind as Beel-zebub Jones adjusted his Stetson, wheeled the mustang around and headed towards the town.
Soon the vultures would have new meat to feed on.
Today was going to be a good day.
He rode into the shimmering town just before noon. The merciless heat had driven most folks indoors, save for a couple of old timers in rock-ing chairs in the scant shade of the porch outside the General Store. They stared in silence as the tall stranger dismounted and lead the mustang to a water trough.
While the horse drank, Beelzebub Jones filled his canteen as he surveyed the town. He took a few moments to formulate a plan, and then walked the mustang to a hitching post outside a down-at-heel saloon.
Conversation stopped as he walked inside. Behind the counter, a greasy-haired bartender with a doleful moustache and powerful body odour, wiped dirty glasses with a grubby towel.
“Howdy,” said the bartender. “Sure is a hot one today.”
Beelzebub Jones walked up and placed a silver dollar on the scarred wooden bar-top.
“How much whisky will that get me?”
The bartender sniffed. “Two half-pints.”
“Open one now, I’ll take the other with me.”
The bartender nodded, and slid two bottles and a shot glass across the bar. “You ain’t from round here,” he said.
Beelzebub Jones swallowed a shot of whisky. “I guess not.”
“You stoppin’ here,” said the bartender. “Or just passin’ through?”
Beelzebub Jones took another shot. “Well,” he said. “Since you ask, I’m fixin’ to rob the bank, maybe shoot someone too. I ain’t quite worked out the details yet.”
He filled and then emptied another glass.
“You see,” he said. “It’s been awhile since I shot anyone, and eve-ry now and then I gets me a hankering to do it again.”
The bartender stared at him. “You sure got a strange sense of hu-mor, mister.”
“Yeah, I hear that a lot.”
Beelzebub Jones drained the last of the whisky, placed the second bottle in the pocket of his jerkin, and then tipped his Stetson at the bartend-er.
“Nice talking to you,” he said, and then turned and walked out of the saloon.
Outside, he led the mustang across the street, and hitched the reins to a post next to the bank.
Beelzebub Jones took a last look around, pulled the canvas sack from the saddle holster, untied the drawstring, withdrew the Winchester, and walked into the bank.
The metallic double-click got everyone’s attention.
Three customers, standing in line, turned and gasped as Beelzebub Jones levelled the rifle.
“This here’s a robbery,” he drawled. “You folks git on the floor an’ you won’t get hurt. Do it NOW!”
All three customers lay down without a word.
“That’s good,” he said. “Stay right there.”
The manager and a teller stood behind the counter.
Beelzebub Jones threw the canvas sack to the manager, and then shouldered the Winchester.
“Fill that up,” he said. “Nice and quick, and don’t try nothin’,”
“Mister,” said the manager. “Last feller tried to rob this bank is still hanging outside the courthouse. You won’t get to the end of the street.”
Beelzebub Jones blinked once, and shifted the gun barrel to the right. Customers screamed at the explosion, the manager yelped as the teller’s brains spattered his face.
Beelzebub Jones aimed the Winchester at the manager. “Now I tried askin’ nice,” he said. “You don’t fill that sack right now, I’ma shoot someone else, and then I’ma shoot you.”
The manager whimpered, his hands shaking as he opened drawers, quickly filled the sack with cash, and placed it on the counter.
“Now, that wasn’t so hard, was it?” Beelzebub Jones grabbed the sack and nodded towards the crumpled body of the teller.
“My condolences for your loss,” he winked.
Beelzebub Jones walked calmly out of the bank, waved to the crowd that had gathered, mounted the mustang and was halfway along Main Street when he heard the first gunshot and sound of hoof-beats be-hind him.
“Well hell, that didn’t take long.”
The posse were closing fast.
“C’mon, boy, time to show ‘em what you got.” Beelzebub Jones tapped the horse’s flanks and leaned forwards as the powerful mustang surged into full gallop, opening the distance from the posse as they headed out of town. After half a mile, Beelzebub Jones looked back. The posse were still some distance back, but starting to gain ground. Soon they would be close enough to start shooting. He had to get off the trail.
He steered the mustang onto rough ground, the nimble horse in-stinctively finding the best route as they raced towards a group of boulders at the base of a mesa.
As soon as they were safe behind cover, Beelzebub Jones grabbed the Winchester, dismounted and slapped the mustang on the rump. As it cantered away he clambered up the boulders, finding a vantage point about twenty feet up.
He got into firing position just as the six-man posse came into view, took a bead on the closest rider, held his breath and exhaled softly as he squeezed the trigger.
A red rose appeared on the rider’s chest, blood flying from his back as he fell sideways, his body bouncing as the horse dragged him at full gal-lop for several yards before his foot dislodged from the stirrups.
Beelzebub Jones dropped four more riders, leaving only the sheriff.
“Say goodbye, you sonofabitch.”
He took aim, squeezed the trigger.
Beelzebub Jones ducked back beneath the lip of the boulder, threw the Winchester to one side, drew a Colt .45, and waited.
After an eternity, he braved a glance. No sign of the sheriff.
He waited some more.
The desert was silent save for the “screee” of a golden eagle high overhead. Cautiously, Beelzebub Jones began to descend, measuring each step, careful not to dislodge any stones, or to make any sound.
The first bullet ricocheted off the boulder, an inch from his head. As he dived for cover a second bullet hit him in the left shoulder.
Frantically, Beelzebub Jones scrambled around the boulder, fum-bled the whisky bottle out of his pocket, pulled the cork out with his teeth and took a long drink as he took stock.
Somewhere behind him was the sheriff. In front and to his left lay open desert. His only chance for cover was a pile of rocks, fifty yards to his right.
Fifty yards of open ground, with a bullet in his shoulder.
Slowly, he pushed himself to his feet, the exertion sending fresh waves of agony down his arm. As he waited for his head to clear, he smiled as something beyond the boulders caught his eye.
Beelzebub Jones checked the Colt .45, took a step to his right, peered around the boulder, stooped low and sprinted for the rocks.
Halfway across the open ground, he saw the sheriff break cover, levelling his Winchester as he ran towards him. Beelzebub Jones fired three shots, and then crashed to the ground, crying out at the sledgehammer punch to his stomach as the Winchester gunshot echoed around the desert. He lay for a second, blood spilling from his guts, and then lifted his head.
The sheriff took aim again, and then sprinted for cover as Beelze-bub Jones fired the Peacemaker three more times, drew the second pistol and crawled towards the rocks.
A bullet careened off the boulder. Beelzebub Jones fired two shots, keeping the sheriff at bay as he staggered towards the far side of the rocks.
“I got me a poster here,” The sheriff’s voice boomed across the de-sert. “Got a pitcher of your ugly mug, says ‘Wanted, Dead or Alive’.” He paused. “Guess which one it’s gonna be?”
Beelzebub Jones doubled over, leaning against the rock and gasp-ing in agony as blood poured from his stomach wound.
“Won’t be long now,” boomed the sheriff. “I seen the shit fly right outta you. AIn’t nothin’ worse ’n bein’ gutshot. You die real slow and it hurts like a sumbitch, so they say.”
Beelzebub Jones watched his blood pooling around his boots, felt his breath rattling in his lungs, and coughed again as he tried to whistle.
“That teller you shot, he’s mah nephew. I’m a takin’ you in if it’s the last thing I do. It won’t be the first time I strung up a dead man.”
Beelzebub Jones hawked, spat a gobbet of thick blood, and whis-tled again.
The piebald mustang appeared from the far side of the rocks, stepped towards him and stopped next to a small boulder.
“I reckon you must be near ‘nuff bled out by now.” The sheriff’s voice sounded closer. “Make your peace you sumbitch, cos’ here I come.”
Beelzebub Jones summoned the last of his strength, staggered to-wards the mustang and somehow clambered onto the saddle and grabbed the reins.
The bullet hit him square in his lower back, the mustang whinnying as the exit wound spattered gore onto its neck.
Drawing his last ounces of willpower, Beelzebub Jones gripped the saddle, turned, raised the Colt .45, and fired. He saw the sheriff’s Stetson fly into the air, saw blood spray from the side of his head, saw the sheriff crumple to the ground.
Darkness closed in as he heeled the mustang’s flank. He felt the pistol slip from his hand as the horse launched itself towards the desert.
Beelzebub Jones held on at full gallop for about half a mile, his senses shutting down to the blur of the desert, the thunder of hoof beats, and the blood covering the horse’s neck.
He didn’t feel the mustang stumble, had no recollection of hitting the ground, no sensation of bones shattering.
Some time later his eyes opened wide to dark shapes circling in the sapphire sky.
Scavengers of the fallen.
Takers of the dead.
Beelzebub Jones turned his head. The mustang lay ten feet away in a lake of congealing blood, flies buzzing around the bullet hole in its neck.
He tried to crawl towards it but the pain was too much, and any-way, his legs didn’t work.
He felt a tear run down the side of his face, and then heard himself cry out in anguish as a vulture landed close by, flapped its wings and hop-skipped towards the dead horse.
Beelzebub Jones looked away, and then passed out to nightmarish sounds of flesh being ripped from a still-warm body.
The Crossing Place
He dreamed feverish images of childhood. Images of a small boy taking the slaps, punches, kicks and cigar burns from the succession of drunks, drifters and outlaws that his Momma entertained for a few dollars, or, more often, bottles of cheap moonshine.
He saw his Momma on the bed with her latest man, staring at the ceiling, her skirts rucked up, the bed thumping against the wall.
Beelzebub Jones opened his eyes to the sound of the drumbeat, and the earthen smell of dried leaves that covered his bare midriff.
He was lying on top of a simple bed fashioned from branches and buffalo hide, inside a large Tipi. Arcane symbols and naïve artwork had been daubed on the animal-skin hides that rippled in the slight desert breeze. Smoked drifted lazily upwards, drawn towards the hole at the apex of the poles.
Beelzebub Jones twisted to look for the drummer, and then gasped as a stiletto of pain tore through his stomach.
“Hold on, Cochise.” A deep voice boomed around him.
“You in a bad way, son. Gonna need time to heal.”
“Where am I? Who are you?”
“Time enough for that, son. All in due course.”
“Seems you’ve had you quite the day.”
Beelzebub Jones twisted his head. “Where are you? I can’t see you.”
“Shot in the arm,” said the voice. “Shot in the guts, front and back. And yet, here we is having us a conversation. Boy, that sheriff’s gonna be pissed when he finds out.”
“Sheriff’s dead,” said Beelzebub Jones. “I shot him in the head. I seen him fall.”
“Nuh-uh,” said the voice. “He still upright. You took his left ear off, but he ain’t dead.”
“Well now, that is a shame, ‘bastard shot my horse.”
“That was bad luck,” said the voice. “The bullet come outta your guts, went into the mustang’s neck. He bled out at full gallop, and yet he still got you outta there. That’s gotta be a special kinda horse.”
“Best I ever had.” Beelzebub Jones tried to look around again. “How do you know all this, anyhow? Where am I?”
A tall, thin man of indeterminate age materialized from the gloom. He wore a dark, threadbare suit and a tall black hat, the shadow of which obscured a gaunt, white-painted face.
“You at the crossing place, son,” said The Stranger.
“Am I dead?”
“That’s a interesting question. You ain’t alive, strictly speaking, but you ain’t passed over yet. You’re in the shadows where the dead men wait. Ordinarily, folks such as yourself, they passes over with no fuss, no inter-vention. But you,” The Stranger aimed a finger at Beelzebub Jones. “You sir, are an enigma.”
“Raised on hard times and dragged through the dirt. You ain’t been dealt the best cards a man can get in his life,” The Stranger paused. “You got a stone-cold heart.”
“It’s the only way to be,” said Beelzebub Jones.
“Yeah, but you a special kind o’ nasty. You shot that kid in the face from like, two feet away, easy as breathing. You sir, are one mean motherfucker.”
“That’s my guarantee,” said Beelzebub Jones.
The Stranger nodded. “Yes indeed,” he said. “And someone like you don’t come around too often.”
“Someone like me? What’s that s’posed to mean?”
“You got a rare talent,” said The Stranger. “Be a shame for that to be wasted.”
Silently, Beelzebub Jones counted to ten.
“Mister,” he said. “You been talkin’ in riddles since I woke up. Now I wants you to talk straight, and tell me what in the name of Sam Hill we doin’ here inside this Tipi?”
The Stranger stepped towards the table, his eyes glittering as he leaned in close and stroked Beelzebub Jones’ face.
“You and me, we’re gonna make a deal.”
The sound of his voice and the touch of his hand carried the tor-ment of a million souls lost for eternity. Beelzebub Jones shuddered and then moaned, first in terror, and then in shame as he voided his bowels.
“That can happen,” chuckled The Stranger. “Jus’ means I got your attention.”
He stepped backwards.
“How’d you like to walk outta here?” he said. “No more pain, all your wounds healed. Hell, you can even get your damn horse back.”
“I’d like that very much,” said Beelzebub Jones. “What I gotta do?”
The Stranger disappeared into the gloom and rematerialised carry-ing a Mason jar of clear liquid.
“Before we goes any further,” he said. “All what’s gonna happen can only take place with your full agreement. I said I can fix you, an’ I can, but it’s gonna be on my terms, an’ you gotta agree to that before we goes any further.”
“What are your terms?” said Beelzebub Jones.
The Stranger’s face split into a rictus grin, his eyes twinkling with dark mischief. “Well now, there’s the rub,” he said. “The only way you gon-na find that out is to give me your agreement.”
“What if I don’t?”
“Well then, you gonna wake up on the desert floor, right where you fell, and you gonna open your eyes an’ you gonna see vultures circling. An’ then, one by one, you gonna watch ‘em drop and hit the dirt, and then the last thing you gonna see is a vulture’s head dippin’ into yo’ guts.”
The Stranger paused.
“You got any more questions?”
Beelzebub Jones didn’t even blink. “I guess not.” he said.
“That’s what I thought.”
The Stranger dipped two fingers into the Mason jar. Beelzebub Jones flinched as The Stranger painted the liquid onto his forehead.
“All that’s yours belong to me,” he said. “Fo’ now and fo’ever af-ter. Are you in agreement?”
“I am,” said Beelzebub Jones.
“And this is yo’ own decision, made without coercion or threat?”
“It is,” said Beelzebub Jones.
The Stranger dipped his fingers once more into the Mason jar and painted more symbols onto Beelzebub Jones’ forehead.
“I’m anointin’ you with liquor, in the mark of the single eye and the inverted cross,” said The Stranger. “An unholy communion, you might say.”
He laid his hand flat on the leaves that covered Beelzebub Jones stomach. Grabbed a handful and squeezed them into pulp
“This gonna hurt,” said The Stranger. “Real bad.”
He pressed down hard.
Beelzebub Jones screamed as he felt the leaves forced deep into his wounds.
“Ain’t nothin’ but tobacco,” said The Stranger. “Nicotine’ll ease the pain, fight off infection.”
He pressed harder. A fist of pain hit Beelzebub Jones like a steam train, his scream lifted his shoulders from the bed, and then he passed out.
The Deal Is Done
Beelzebub Jones woke to sunlight blowing dust motes through a gap in the Tipi’s hide. He looked around, and then down at himself. The leaves were gone, replaced by red welts of scar tissue across his stomach.
“Got yo’self a badge of honour.” The Stranger appeared from no-where. “How you feelin’?”
Beelzebub Jones took a minute to consider this.
“I don’t feel no pain, as such,” he said. “But I’m somethin’ kinda cold inside. Empty, you might say.”
“All that’s yours belong t’me now,” said The Stranger. “That’s what I said, and that’s how it is.”
Beelzebub Jones nodded. “I understand,” he said.
The Stranger looked at him. “No son, I don’t think you do.” He picked up the Mason jar. “Looks like you could use a drink,” he said.
Beelzebub Jones sipped, and then gasped as the clear liquid scorched its way down his gullet.
“Tha’s moonshine,” said The Stranger. “Necessary inebriation. Best there is.”
“That’s harsh, indeed.” Beelzebub Jones grimaced, but took a sec-ond drink.
“What happens now?” he said.
“Whatever you want to happen,” said The Stranger. “You’re free to go your own way, do what you wanna do.” He paused. “There’s one thing you gotta consider, though.”
“When the moon comes out, there’s gonna be a few changes.”
“Changes? Like what changes?”
“To your appearance.”
“What about my appearance?”
The Stranger shook his head. “It ain’t nothin’ to worry about, you’ll see when it happens.”
He paused. “What do you think you’re gonna do first?”
Beelzebub Jones thought for a moment. “I wanna go back into town, I gotta score to settle with the sheriff.”
The Stranger nodded. “I got you two new pistols,” he said. “Colt .45s, just like you had before. I think you’ll get along just fine with ‘em.”
He pointed to some garments folded and stacked on a three-legged stool. “I also got you some new clothes, befittin’ of your new status.”
“What status is that?”
“Oh, you’ll find that out in your own good time.”
Beelzebub Jones stood up, walked over to the stool and started to get dressed.
A few minutes later, he pushed the Tipi flap to one side and emerged blinking into the afternoon sun.
‘Well now, Mr Fancy Pants, ain’t you the dapper one.”
Beelzebub Jones wore a dark suit over a crisp white shirt with a black string tie. A double-holster gun-belt, embroidered with firebird motifs and holding two gleaming revolvers, slung low across his hips.
“I even got you a new hat.” The Stranger handed over a black Derby.
Beelzebub Jones raised an eyebrow, then donned and adjusted the hat.
“One more thing you gonna need,” The Stranger clicked his fingers. Beelzebub Jones turned to the sound of hoof beats and smiled as the pie-bald mustang cantered into view.
“That’s one feisty damn horse,” said The Stranger. “Seemed fittin’ that you two be reunited.”
Beelzebub Jones held the mustang’s bridle, stroking its head as he breathed gently into its nostrils.
“Best damn horse I ever had,” he said.
“Well, I think that’s our business concluded,” said The Stranger. “The deal is done,” he grinned. “Live a life devoid of grace, and go forth and sin all you fuckin’ want.”
His grin stretched wider. “Nicotine, liquor and blasphemy. The un-holy trinity. It’s all a man needs.”
Beelzebub Jones nodded to the Stranger, mounted the Piebald mustang and cantered out into the desert.
The sun was low in the sky when Beelzebub Jones rode into town. Townsfolk on Main Street stared as he stopped outside the saloon, dis-mounted, tied the Mustang to the hitching rail and walked through the bat-wing doors.
The bar fell silent as Beelzebub Jones walked to the counter.
“Thought you was dead,” said the barkeeper. “Sheriff said you was gut shot, said the last time he seen you, you was just about bled out, said the vultures was circling.”
Beelzebub Jones placed his boot on the brass foot-rail, and slipped the hem of his suit-coat to clear the holster on his right hip, his fingers ca-ressing the handle of the pistol.
He looked around the bar, sniffed and then turned to the barkeep-er.
“Looks to me like the sheriff was exaggerating somewhat,” he said. “Last time I seen him he’s bleeding from the head.”
“Well,” said the barkeeper. “Whatever happened, you pissed off a lotta folks in this town. The sheriff deputised a whole bunch of mean moth-erfuckers to replace the posse you kilt. They’re all gonna be mighty glad to see you.”
Beelzebub Jones’ mouth twisted into a terrible smile. “Looks like me and the deputies got us a lot in common.”
The barkeeper leaned in close.
“Mister,” he whispered. “If I pour you a drink on the house, and give you a half-pint of whisky, what are the chances of you leavin’ my sa-loon and raisin’ hell somewhere else?”
The double-click of a Winchester rifle stopped all conversation.
“Beelzebub Jones. Put up your hands you sonofabitch.”
Beelzebub Jones turned around slowly.
The batwing doors framed a tall figure, backlit by kerosene lamps that hung from the porch, the stock of the Winchester pressed against his cheek.
“I’m a deputised lawman,” he yelled. “Sworn in by the sheriff. Now throw me your gun belt and I’ma walk you outta here, and you’re gonna come with me to the jailhouse.”
“An’ I ain’t gonna ask you twice, there’s five more like me and the sheriff’s a-waitin’. You ain’t ever gonna leave this town.”
Beelzebub Jones inhaled slowly, his nostrils flaring as he stared at the lawman. He held his breath for a heartbeat and then breathed out, felt his lips twitching as delicious sensations swirled and shivered through his body.
The lawman sneered. “What’re you smilin’ at?”
“I was just thinking to myself,” said Beelzebub Jones. “This could be a good day.”
The Colt .45 appeared in his right hand. He felt the recoil, saw the flame spit from the barrel, heard the lawman scream as the barrel of the Winchester blew apart in his face.
The rifle clattered to the floor as the lawman clutched at his ruined eyes. “I cain’t see,” he screamed. “I cain’t…”
Women screamed as the lawman’s head exploded, glasses smash-ing as his body crumpled onto a table and then rolled onto the floor.
Beelzebub Jones blew smoke from the barrel, plucked two bullets from his gun-belt, reloaded the Colt Peacemaker, stepped over the dead lawman, paused at the batwing doors, and then walked out of the saloon and into the middle of the street.
He paused to glance at the fat moon veiled by a large cloud, felt a rush of exhilaration at was to come.
“Well, well, well. If it ain’t Mr Jones.”
His back to the saloon, Beelzebub Jones turned to see the sheriff standing twenty yards away to his left, flanked by two deputies.
“Evenin’ sheriff,” he said. “How’s the ear?”
“Laugh while you can, you sum’bitch. Like I said out there in the desert, you’re wanted dead or alive. There’s only one way this’s gonna end, and that’s with you in a box.”
The sheriff smiled. “But first we’re gonna have us some fun. Take a look behind you.”
Beelzebub Jones turned to his right to see three lawmen appear from an alley, walk into the street and took up position in line across the street.
He looked back at the sheriff. “You got me covered from both sides,” he said. “Six against one. You sure you got enough men?”
“Well sir,” said the sheriff. “We could shoot you right now. But I’ma give you a sportin’ chance.”
He turned and yelled towards the saloon. “Jeb! Get out here.”
The barkeeper emerged from the saloon and stepped out onto the boardwalk.
“Be careful, sheriff,” he gabbled. “This’n just put a bullet down the barrel of a Winchester. I seen it with my own eyes. Straight down the barrel. The Winchester blew up in Luke’s face, right before his head blowed apart. Ain’t never seen shootin’ like it.”
“Is that right?” said the sheriff. “Well then, we should have us a good show.”
“What do you want me to do?” Said the barkeeper.
“The sheriff smiled. “I just wants you to count t’three. You think you can do that?”
“Sure,” frowned the barkeeper. “I can do that.”
“That’s all I need to know.” The sheriff winked at Beelzebub Jones. “Cos we’re gonna have us a good ol’ fashioned quick draw.”
Beelzebub Jones raised an eyebrow. “You sure you don’t wanna deputise a few more lawmen? Just to make it equal?”
“No, I think this’ll do just fine.”
Beelzebub Jones looked around, and then back at the sheriff. “Where y’all are stood, you better make sure you don’t shoot each other.”
The sheriff smiled. “Oh don’t you worry about that. We got this all planned out. You stand right where you are, and we’ll take up our posi-tions.”
“Do what you want, sheriff,” said Beelzebub Jones. “But this ends today, and whatever happens, you brought it down on yourselves.”
“Well, sir,” said the sheriff. “We can do it on the count of three, and you gets a chance, or I can shoot you dead right now. ’s up to you.”
Beelzebub Jones turned to face the saloon, flexed his shoulders and rolled his neck.
“Let’s dance,” he said.
“You ready, Jeb?” yelled the sheriff.
“I guess,” said the barkeeper.
“Well OK, then. Jeb’s gonna count, and we’re gonna draw on three.”
A stiff breeze blew up, rolling the cloud across the sky as it moaned along the street, lifting whorls of sand in brief cones that span and then col-lapsed.
As Jeb stepped forward, Beelzebub Jones looked sideways to the three lawmen on his left.
Silence rang in his ears and then he heard Jeb take a deep breath.
Beelzebub Jones looked sideways to the sheriff and two deputies.
The cloud drifted on.
Beelzebub Jones gasped as moonlight climbed his body. Felt his face tighten, his blood rush, and his senses heighten to the point of all-knowing.
Beelzebub Jones stared up at the glowing moon, and understood. He inhaled deeply, exhaled slowly and lifted his head. Once again he felt the smile play around his lips.
This will be a good day.
Beelzebub Jones felt his body lift, became cruciform, head tilted upwards, laughing at the sky as five lawmen to his left and right fell simul-taneously beneath a fusillade from his Colt .45s.
The sheriff yelped as both guns were shot from his hands, and then screamed in horror. He turned to run, tripped and sprawled headlong.
Beelzebub Jones blew smoke from his gun barrels as the sheriff looked back at him, his face twisted in terror.
“What. What are you?”
“Why sheriff, whatever is the matter?”
“Your, your face…”
Beelzebub Jones grinned, and then laughed maniacally as he raised his hands to the sky.
“I have been baptised,” he yelled. “I am born again, this poor sin-ner has become a disciple of the night.”
He stepped towards the horse trough, and then stifled a gasp at the sight of the skeletal face dancing in the water beneath the vast shimmering full-moon halo. He saw the face of death peel into a fiendish grin, and then look down at the bony claws still gripping the two Colt .45s.
Beelzebub Jones looked up. Jeb the bartender had fled, the street lay in moonlit silence save for the whimpering of the sheriff.
“Broke my ankle,” he gasped. “I cain’t get up.”
Beelzebub Jones levelled his right arm, the Colt revolver steady like an accusing finger as he pulled back the hammer.
“You lose, sheriff,” he said.
The sheriff sat up, mustering the final dregs of bravery.
“Well, hell,” he spat. “Go on and shoot me if you’re gonna. But know this, by shooting deputised lawmen, the bounty on your head just tripled. Killin’ a sheriff gonna double that again. There ain’t nowhere you gonna be able to stay for more than a couple of days before some low-down, rat-bastard snake recognises you from the wanted posters that are gonna be stuck on every building from here to Frisco.”
Beelzebub Jones smiled. “Your deputised lawmen, they died fair and square in a gunfight that started out as six on one.”
He paused. “And I got me a saloon fulla’ witnesses to you organis-ing it.”
Beelzebub Jones shrugged. “As for bein’ on wanted posters, I’m kinda used to that. It’s who I am, it’s who I’ll always be.”
Three seconds later, Beelzebub Jones blew smoke from both re-volvers, span them around, slid them back into their holsters, and stared down at the sheriff’s dead body.
“And that’s for shootin’ my horse,” he said.
Beelzebub Jones untied the Mustang and rode along Main Street. Out in the desert, he patted the horse’s neck, spurred its flanks and galloped towards the moon.
Today was a very good day.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:
Sometimes in life, something happens that ignites the spark of inspiration. That day arrived for me when I saw Andrew McLatchie post on Facebook that he’d had an idea for a concept album with a supernatural, spaghetti-western theme. I had to find out more. I contacted Andrew with a suggestion of a short story to accompany the album. Andrew sent me a brief plot synopsis, together with a demo of the opening track “Nicotine, Liquor and Blasphemy”. As soon as the demo started to play, the open-ing scene appeared in my head, I began writing and what you are about to read is pretty much the story I thought of all those months ago. This musical and literary collaboration somehow grew from a small idea into a project of epic proportions that at times has taken us both out of our comfort zones, but at every stage, working with Andrew, has been an absolute pleasure. I hope you enjoy reading A Good Day To Be Bad Guy as much as you are enjoying the fabulous music.
Born in England in 1962, Richard grew up in a small market town in rural Herefordshire before joining the Royal Navy. After 22 years in the submarine service and having travelled extensively, Richard now lives and writes in rural Worcestershire.
Richard’s stories reflect his life-long fascination with the dark underbelly of American culture, be it tales of the Wild West, or of the simmering menace of the Deep South, or the poetry of Charles Bukowski, or the writing of Langston Hughes, or the music of Charley Patton, Son House, Johnny Cash, or Tom Waits.
Drawing from his obsession with pre-war country blues, Half Deaf Clatch (aka Andrew McLatchie) has been impressing audiences all over the UK for the last seven years with his raw down-home blues sound and his original song writing. Described as a Slide Stomp Blues Machine he has been nominated in the finals of the British Blues Awards eleven times, and three times in the finals of the UK Blues Awards 2018. Not one to rest on his laurels or shy away from a challenge, in 2017 Half Deaf Clatch pushed at the boundaries of traditional Blues when he released Crow Soul, a two-song ‘Gothic Blues concept album’ to wide-spread critical acclaim. Half Deaf Clatch has graced the stages of most of the UK's top Blues events and festivals over the past seven years including; Hebden Bridge, Colne, Maryport, Broadstairs Blues Bash, Shetland and Orkney Blues Festivals – and has played on the daytime line-up of BluesFest at the O2 Arena in London on two separate occasions.