When Charlie finally caught up up to him, Blue had already made it to the ravine. The sweat lay cold down his back as he turned to face his old friend, his hands raised above his head in surrender.
Charlie’s horse pranced nervously as he leveled the rifle at Blue’s chest, and he whistled under his breath.
“Well, Golden, Looks like you finally got me. God knows I’ve led you on a merry dance.” He flashed a sly smile. “You planning on getting down from that horse and making this thing fair? You already took my guns.”
Charlie spat to the side and thumbed back the hammer on the rifle. “Think I’ll stay right where I am if it’s all the same to you. The way I remember it you were never too good at playing fair. Figure I’ll afford you the same courtesy.”
“Suit yourself.” Blue shrugged, measuring the ground between them with his eyes. “Not the sort to hold grudge, myself, but I understand your reasons.”
Charlie didn’t look impressed. “Why did you come back here, Blue?” He asked, his voice full of old hurts. “What could you possibly want from me that you didn’t already take years ago.”
Blue grunted. “Not about you. I made a promise to Genevieve. Figured it was time to honor it. Not the smartest of notions, and probably twenty years too late.” He shrugged, amused by his own foolishness. “But there it is.”
“Roe ain’t your daughter. I’m the one that raised her. I was the one there when Genevieve died.” Charllie’s mouth made a grim line. “Shit on your promises, Blue. You’re too goddamn late.”
“You know damn well I had no choice in that. After all, you made sure of it… Good old Charlie, always so sweet and understanding. But it never made a damn sight of difference did it?” Blue bared his teeth and took a step forward as though to drive the point home. “You just could never stand the fact that she loved me better.”
His rifle lowered just as Blue dived to the side, the shot missing him by inches. He came up with a mouthful of sand, didn’t pause for thought. Grabbed the first rock that came to hand, ducked towards the horse and smashed it in the knee with as much strength as he could muster.
The shot Charlie’d been aiming flung wide as the horse reared up, the whites of its eyes flashing. His hands were too full of gun to get a grip and he toppled over backwards, hitting the ground with an ominous crack as the horse galloped off. Blue hated to hurt an animal, but when you had a rifle at your head and someone had stolen all your guns, a man’s options were limited.
Charlie’s face was all slicked with red from the fall, his left arm bent at an unnatural angle. He tried to bring the gun to bear but Blue was on top of him before he could do much.
He raised the rock above his head, saw the fear in Charlie’s eyes and felt a small measure of regret. Once they had been friends. Something more than brothers, a bond they’d thought would last throughout their lives.
How wrong they’d been.
Blue brought the rock down and felt Charlie’s skull give way. Somewhere there was a terrible cracking sound, like gunfire echoing off the sandstone walls. Only that wasn’t possible, Charlie was the only one with a gun, and Charlie was dead now.
Blue looked down at his chest in surprise, touching a tentative finger to the red blooming across his vest. “Well I’ll be damned.” He gurgled and fell off Charlie’s body into the dirt.
She must have followed them. What was that old cliché? Head off the bandits at the pass? Blue supposed that’s what he was now, an old Bandit, no better or worse than most. He’d had cast-iron blood once, the quickest hands North of Sarrento, and the love of a good woman. Foolish to have thrown it all away. Just dust now, not much of a legacy for a man to leave behind.
Roe jumped from the saddle and stalked over, gun still aimed squarely at his chest. The damage was already done, but he didn’t fault her for being careful. A man ought to be proud of his own daughter.
Her eyes flickered over to Charlie where he lay staring up at the night sky. Her brow puckered briefly with pain, then she stuck her chin out the same way her mother’d always done and pressed the barrel of the rifle against his breast.
Blue smiled through bloody teeth, coughing wetly. “My, God.” He said. “You look just like your mother.”
He saw the confusion on her face, then the slow slide of understanding. Of course Gen would have told her. Whatever else he’d done, Genevieve would have told their daughter who her real father was. Strange to think that all these years, Charlie’d kept them safe. Was probably more than Blue could have done, he was man enough to admit that much.
“Blue. Blue Morley.” She sounded unsure, then angry. The tip of the gun pressed hard against his chest and she leaned in close, close enough for him to feel her breath upon his face. Strange how things had suddenly gone so cold.
“Why the hell did you come here?! Why couldn’t you just leave us alone…” She’d started crying, and though it took some effort he reached up to brush her cheek with dirty fingertips. Didn’t matter that the tears weren’t for him.
“I came for you, Roe. To fetch you. Just like I promised.”
He’d never get a chance to tell her why, never get a chance to be a better man, a better father. Roe bowed her head between them, shoulders shaking, and he couldn’t help but notice that the stars looked very bright.
“It’s alright now.” He whispered. “Everything will be alright.”