"Sureshot Lin"
By Ricki

Rated PG


        The town was small, but most of them were that Vash pulled into as of late. People in the larger towns tended to make notice of someone who never aged. The smaller towns were filled with people of lower class, those who didn’t really notice someone unless they made trouble, and even then they were quick to forget. Besides, the smaller the town the friendlier they were and Vash loved a good time at a small saloon with a bunch of friendly folk.
        He doubted this town would be an exception. Frank Marlon, the local gunsmith, promised him if he walk straight into town, and made a left down the only side street, he’d find the local saloon, a place that had no name but that of the owner, Holland. Vash was only too happy to comply after he got a good tongue lashing when Frank found out the condition of his old beater. Grimacing and apologizing profusely to the gunsmith, Vash backed out with the promise he’d be back in an hour to see how it was going and hoping Marlon would have cooled down.
        Into town he went, figuring he couldn’t get into much trouble in an hour and found the saloon without any difficulty. It was nearly empty this time of day but for the bartender, a few men squabbling over the best beer and a woman at the end of the bar. It wasn’t even two in the afternoon but the woman already looked a tad sloshed, a red hue covered her cheeks as she stared off into what remained of a drink. He pulled up a barstool at the other end and the bartender walked over. “What’ll you have, stranger?”
        “What’s she having?” Vash asked, nodding to the little glass the woman held with clear liquid and ice.
        “Gin and tonic,” the bartender replied. “It’s her fourth, but she’s got an iron stomach.”
        He cocked an eyebrow, “Doesn’t look that way to me.” His reply came only in grunt from the bartender as he added, “I’ll take one too.” The older gentlemen tending bar with his graying mustache poured the drink and set it in front of Vash. Then went over to take the now empty glass from the woman. Vash sipped his drink slowly and glanced around the bar. It was murky but for the two windows at the front and they were dirty. A man on a thomas rode by and Vash turned his attention back to his drink. Looked like nothing much happened in this town.
        “Can I ask you something?” Vash inquired of the bartender.
        “Shoot, it’s a slow afternoon,” came the reply.
        “What’s the name of this town?”
        The bartender nodded to a sign posted to the mirror behind the bar. “Holland. My grandfather built this town after he found the plant. My father sold the plant for this bar. I’ve been here ever since.” He shrugged, “We don’t get a lot of travelers around here but if you’re looking for a place to spend the night I’ve got a room upstairs, the prices are posted.”
        “The room’s used mainly for prostitutes,” said the woman on the other side of the bar. She looked up and Vash studied her for a moment as the sipped from a new glass. Her features were plain, gray hair pulled back haphazardly so half of it still hung in front of her face. She wasn’t very old he realized, her hair being the only thing that made her look old, probably only in her mid-twenties. Her hazel eyes narrowed, “You aren’t looking for one of them tonight, are ya, Broom Head?”
        Opening his mouth to intervene, the bartender noticed the smile that spread over Vash’s lips. “You offering?”
        Within the blink of an eye, the woman drew a pistol from her belt and held it at arms’ length toward Vash. She still held the glass to her lips in her left hand. “I don’t mess around. If you do, then you probably wouldn’t hang around this town.” An object shone on her shirt, and Vash’s mouth dropped open, she was the sheriff. But he didn’t have a moment to apologize as the bartender started to complain about the gun.
        “Hey, what did I tell you about…”
        She fired the gun. Vash could feel the bullet pass by his ear and then it lodged in the wall behind him. His earlobe stung right below… He turned to look in the mirror behind the bar even as the bartender retrieved the gun from the woman and started to yell at her. “What do you think you’re doing? I’m cutting you off right now…” Vash wasn’t paying attention to that, no, rather to the fact that his ear was bleeding right below his earring - the bullet had passed right through the silver hoop. Had it been a fluke, or… “Lin! Your father wouldn’t have approved of you shooting at strangers…”
        “My father hated guys who messed around. He and my mother were married until the day they died… I’m sheriff now and if you have a problem with that find someone else who’s done as good a job as I have around these parts.”
        “You also scare away every newcomer that stumbles into the town who even looks at you funny. Your father didn’t want you to be a gunfighter, Lin. He and your mother wanted you to get married and settle yourself down…”
        Lin slammed her glass down on the bar. “What? Marry a guy like Mr. Broom Head there? They’re all the same, Hol, all the same! Come into a town hoping to find some chick to lay and then run off again!”
        If the conversation hadn’t been so riveting, Vash may have said something right away. Truth was he was kind of curious about this girl all of sudden. She wasn’t like the normal ones he ran into. Besides the fact he’d never met a female sheriff before. Especially one who could shoot like that! Finally he spoke up, “It’s okay,” he just had to know how this woman could be such a sure aim. “I’m actually used to being shot at, but can I ask your name?”
        “Sureshot Lin,” the bartender supplied for the woman as she finished the rest of her drink. “She’s the daughter of the lately deceased sheriff of this town.”
        “I took over to keep outlaws like the ones who killed my father out of this town for good,” Lin replied, getting up from the bar. “So if you plan on hanging around this town, you’d better watch yourself… I don’t take too kindly to men who make light of women. What’s your name?”
        “Vash,” he supplied. “I am sorry about that, I’m usually not like that.”
        “Not usually, really…” Lin frowned, digging in her pocket for money. “Well, what are you, usually?
        Vash shrugged, sipped his drink and said, “Gun for hire, usually.”
        “So what you doing in this town? Little towns don’t have the money for your kind.”
        “Came here for Frank to look at my gun,” Vash replied.
        “Marlon?” Lin asked as she came to stand next to Vash now. She wasn’t very tall, just a bit taller than him sitting on the barstool. “You’re a friend of Marlon?”
        Vash nodded. “Apparently you know him. But I’ve heard most people in these parts do.”
        “I was on my way out there for practice. You going right now? I want to see how you shoot.” She threw a few dollars on the bar and nodded to the door. “Let’s go.”
        With nod, Vash finished his drink and followed her out the door. He was right, she wasn’t very tall, only came up to his shoulder and she was squarely built. However, he figured it might be the clothing she wore, men’s clothes really, slacks and a work shirt. She plodded down the street in front of him and to the far edge of town where a little shack sat next to a firing range. Lin pushed into Marlon’s shop and Vash followed behind her, curious about what Marlon’s reaction would be to this little sheriff. “Hey there Lindsay.”
        “I told you not to call me…”
        “And Lightning! What you doing back so soon? Told you I wouldn’t have it ready for another hour. Probably be longer than that. Don’t you ever clean your gun? Come now, you need to treat your gun with respect otherwise…” He stopped talking as Lin stared at him. “What is it?”
        “You got one to lone him? I want to see ‘Lightning’ shoot. He says he’s a gun for hire. You vouch for him?”
        Marlon glanced at Vash and shrugged. “Sure. Never had any problem from that kid.” He went over to a drawer and pulled out a box. Inside was a gun very similar to Vash’s own and his eyes went wide. Where had he found a low barrel gun like that? Had he made it? Frank laughed, “Don’t look so surprised. I made it after the last time you stopped in, thought maybe it would come in handy someday.” He handed it over with a handful of bullets he pulled from a pocket. “Show Sureshot here what you’re made of.”
        Vash closed an eye and blushed as Lin glared at him. “I’m not that great,” he said humbly.
        “Yeah, I’ll bet,” Lin replied and returned outside. Vash followed with a backwards glance at Marlon who returned to cleaning his gun. He made a mental note of what Frank said, but he was afraid that his gun would probably return to it’s poor state, he didn’t have much chance to clean it out in the desert. Everything got sand in it… No helping that.
        The firing range consisted of three human shaped targets, each with a bull’s-eye where the heart would be. Vash practiced here from time to time when he rolled in to talk to Marlon so he was used to the setup, but the new gun would take some getting used to. Already as he loaded it he could feel the subtle weight difference from his old beater. It would throw off his aim; he knew that already and mentally prepared for a tough time against this “Sureshot Lin”.
        Lin stopped short and pulled her gun. “You want to practice first or shall we play a little game?” The sheriff lifted her gun, aimed and fired in one quick movement. The bullet hit dead center. Vash was impressed. She looked at him and pushed the hair out of her left eye. “Well?”
        “What kind of game you have in mind?” He shot off his own bullet hitting the target slightly to the right. Vash grimaced, “Apparently this gun isn’t exactly like my old beater.”
        “I’ll bet,” Sureshot sent a shot into the far right top corner of the target and stood back. “Probably no use playing with you. Not much of a gun for hire. You get much business or are you just a cute face?”
        The gunfighter looked at her with a twinkle in his eyes. He’d never once been faced with someone who had such a low opinion of him so quickly! What bothered her so much about men, he wondered. She was definitely an interesting person, quite a bit like Rem, very high-spirited and determined. “Oh, I’ll play a game with you, just have to get used to this new gun.” He didn’t miss his mark this time. “There, that’s better. What kind of game?”
        “Not bad… I was thinking about a game of ‘Thomas’ but first, answer me this, why does Frank call you Lightning?”
        “Probably…” Vash turned to face the shack again and saw Frank’s son Brandon sitting in the kitchen window. The little boy waved at Vash and he waved back. He put his gun over his shoulder and fired off the remaining four shots. They hit as one, four-cornering his previous shot. He turned his head to look at Lin, her mouth had dropped open. “I’d say that was the reason.”
        “If… How in the world did you just do that? It sounded like one shot.”
        “If I answer your question, will you answer one of mine?” Lin nodded slowly, her brow furrowed as she eyed him. He smiled. “Hair trigger. So my question is, did you purposely shoot through my earring a little while ago, or was that just a fluke?”
        It was Lin’s turn to smile. “I did that on purpose. Although I didn’t account for the caliber because I hadn’t met to hit your ear.” An eyebrow lifted, “You okay?” When Vash nodded she turned her back to the targets, “Shall we count those last shots as the start of the game?”
        “I didn’t think you’d….” Vash’s sentence trailed off as Lin copied his last shot; all but the speed. He whistled through his teeth and sat down to refill his gun with the remaining bullets Marlon had supplied him. “Where’d you learn to shoot like that?”
        Lin shrugged, looking down at him, refilling her own gun, “My father.” Lin’s eyes narrowed, “You really weren’t trying a few minutes ago, were you? I have this odd feeling we could keep this game going until your gun was ready…”
        With a smile, Vash watched her sit down next to him. “You’re probably right. Never met a girl who could shoot like that. Especially with how drunk you should be right now.” Her hands were steady even if her eyes were slightly crossed and her cheeks were still pink. He mused that she must have a photographic memory because she kept her eyes closed as she sent another shot into the target, followed by a second that was exactly six inches below the first. She had stopped trusting her eyes.
        “Doesn’t bother me,” she murmured. “You’d get drunk too if you’d lost your family like I did. Lin opened her eyes and stared at the target, waiting for Vash to continue the game, but he didn’t. He was looking at her, feeling sorry that this young lady had to go through so much just to be happy. He closed his eyes after a moment, more to stop the tears from coming than to get ready for the next shot.
        The two bullets ripped through the target as one. Vash’s head sunk down into his knees and he opened one eye to look at Lin. “Who killed them?”
        “I’m not out for revenge, Vash.” Lin sighed. “Well, maybe at first I was, but…” She looked at him and he tried to wipe the tear from his eye before she saw but it was too late. Lin stood up abruptly, “You feel sorry for me!” She stormed away and Vash scrambled to follow her.
        He hadn’t really meant to cry, but the whole thing… “Wait a second!”
        Lin spun on her heal. “Don’t you think for one second that you should feel sorry for me! Men are so stupid sometimes! I should run your butt out of this town, Broom Head!”
        She huffed off and Vash wiped his eyes. He stumbled after her, “Do you need help?” The sheriff stopped on her heals and turned on him. Vash nearly tripped over her but stopped as she pointed her gun at his nose. He swallowed. She’d nearly shot him before; maybe it wasn’t a good idea to have followed her. “I just thought…”
        “I don’t need…” Lin stopped, her lips formed into a tight line and she lowered the gun. “Maybe I do. But I don’t have any money to pay someone like you so there’s no point in…”
        Vash looked down at her and sighed, “How about I help you as a friend?”
        “Don’t need friends…” Lin shook her head and turned again, Vash shot out his hand and put it on her shoulder. She dropped her head, “Alright, so maybe… The gang comes through once a month to collect fees… Or a life.” Sureshot looked over her shoulder at Vash, “Father refused to kill them and both my parents died because of it. I tend to correct that mistake.” She cocked her gun.
        With a sigh, Vash considered the problem. He couldn’t let her kill the gang, but maybe… Vash nodded, “Okay. I’ll help, but I’m afraid I’m inclined to agree with the old sheriff. Killing doesn’t…”
        “Tell that to their graves!” Lin stomped off now, only calling over her shoulder, “They’re due in town tomorrow morning. Be there to help me or leave, doesn’t matter much to me.” She disappeared back into town leaving Vash by himself. He frowned. He didn’t usually approve of revenge, but in this case he was afraid that the female sheriff might be over her head if he didn’t help. Sure, she was a quick shot, but if her father hadn’t been able to stop them…
        “Hey Lightning,” Frank said from the doorway. He held out Vash’s gun and waved a hand at the empty yard. “What you say to her?”
        “Nothing.” Vash took his gun and handed back the loner. “Who is this gang that killed her family?”
        Marlon waved Vash back into the house and little Brandon came running over. He latched himself to Vash’s leg almost immediately and didn’t let go. “Horsey!”
        Vash chuckled and walked Brandon around the room as Frank sat offered him a glass of whiskey. “Small group, about ten men,” the gunsmith said after a moment. “You offer to help her did you?” Vash nodded, “I figured as much. She’ll need the help you could supply her, but I’ve heard she’s taken to drinking at the saloon waiting for the day she’ll kill them. And she can, Lightning, every single one of them. But if she’s not fast enough she’ll wind up dead herself.” He shook his head, “We’ve already lost one sheriff this year, would be a pity to lose another.”
        With a sigh, Vash sat down in a chair, peeling Brandon off his knee and pulling him onto his lap. “You think it would be possible to stop her from killing them?” He patted the young boy’s head. “He was only a baby last I saw him now he’s what, three?”
        “Ha!” Marlon poured Vash another glass and leaned back in his chair. “You always do this don’t you? What got into you to think you can get away without killing anyone? I’d say though if anyone could stop her from getting killed you could.”
        “I guess it’s worth a try,” Vash murmured, setting Brandon down to run around the house again. “I guess the Doc will have to wait another day. They were hoping I’d be home soon.” He sipped his whisky and set the glass on the table. “Mind putting me up for the night?”

        With a yawn, Vash stretched and looked up at the alarm clock above the bed. The sun wasn’t up yet, and he sat up, looking out the window at the lightening sky. He smacked his lips together tasting the fuzz from the previous night’s drinking with Marlon and moaned as the hangover caught up with his head. “Gonna have to stop doing that,” he grumbled to himself, getting up from bed and plodding down the hallway to the bathroom.
        After brushing his teeth, taking an aspirin and going to the pains of sticking his hair up in its usual way, he wandered back to Marlon’s spare bedroom and sat by the window. The sun was just coming up now and the alarm clock above the bed went off. Vash closed his eyes and moaned, plodded over to the alarm to shut it off, and then returned to his spot. Everything was so quiet this morning. He wondered how a little town like this could have such a big problem with gangs. It was a pity that the paradise Rem always wanted had turned into a place of crime and killing. Vash sighed, he could only try and do his part in stopping it one day at a time.
        Shucking his nightclothes, he pulled on the tight fitting suit the Doc supplied him a year ago when Vash left the ‘village’ to roam the planet. Every part of his outfit was lost technology, meant to keep him from getting killed. However, it and his long red coat, where already full of holes he had no idea how to sew. It wasn’t as if he tried to get into trouble, but every town he came into he found yet another reason to get in over his head. Vash just hoped that today wouldn’t be one of them.

        The sheriff sat in front of her office, polishing her gun. Vash walked up and looked down at her, his sunglasses sliding down his nose. Lin looked up at him, “So, you did show up after all. I told you I wouldn’t be able to pay you.”
        “Just don’t kill anyone and that will be payment enough,” Vash replied, taking off his sunglasses and placing them in his coat pocket. Lin sneered at the remark and went back to cleaning her gun, examining it now for debris and reloading it.
        “You’re foolish to think that we won’t be able to get out of this situation without blood. My father thought the same thing,” she looked sad, and Vash sighed. Girl had it tough, he could tell that much. Trying to get by in a world like this… Rem would have loathed what the planet had turned out to be. He tried not to think about it much more, but Lin looked up at him and her eyes narrowed. “I told you I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me.”
        Vash shook his head and turned to gaze down the street. “I don’t feel sorry for you, I feel sorry for the whole state of affairs. This planet just gets worse by the day.”
        “You sound like one of the old generation,” the sheriff said, standing up now.
        “Well, I believe the same things,” he responded. His attention was on a rising cloud of smoke coming toward town. “That the gang you spoke of?”
        Lin nodded, her gun still at the ready. “They’ll be here in a few minutes. There are usually about ten of them, but by the looks of it they brought friends.” Vash looked down at her and drew his own gun, hoping he wouldn’t have to use it, but knowing by the determined expression on Lin’s face that it probably wasn’t an option. Why did everything end up in bloodshed? Were things so dire that humans felt a need to kill their fellow men just to survive? It didn’t make sense… None of it did.
        The gang pulled up in five jeeps, four men apiece; the leader threw the engine into neutral and jumped out, waving a half dozen with him as they walked up to where Lin and Vash stood. “You get yourself a bodyguard cutie? He doesn’t look that tough to me. Kind of a fruit if you ask me.” The leader stood six and a half foot tall, black hair, and tattoos up bare arm. He, and his fellow members, each held shotguns. Vash hoped Lin took that into consideration, if they weren’t quick at reloading they’d have only forty shots total. Forty shots took a lot more time to fire than twenty to take out each man, or five to take out each jeep, and six more for the men on foot… They had only twelve between them without reloading.
        “I don’t need a bodyguard against the likes of you,” Lin shot back, holding up her gun. She cocked it and held it steady. “Get your men out of this town or I’ll kill you. I won’t give your gang another penny, not while I live and breathe.”
        “We could take care of that…” Tattoo said and his fellow men laughed. He brought his shotgun up and rested it on his shoulder. “This time the fee will be four if you don’t pay up.” The gang members were still chuckling as he fired the shotgun into the “sheriff” sign above their heads. The debris rained down on Vash and Lin.
        Thirty-nine. Vash stepped forward, even as he watched Lin’s trigger finger tighten. “We don’t have to do this,” he said, holding his gun up for the men to see. “What do you need the money for anyway? I’m sure the sheriff here could get you jobs here…” The shotgun went off again. Thirty-eight.
        “Damn idiot!” Sureshot swore behind him. She held her gun in front of her and walked up to stand next to Vash’s side. “You don’t seem to care about your life, do you?” She growled, putting her left hand onto Vash’s arm to push him back. “Some gunman you are… Can’t even…” Lin fired off a shot, it skimmed the leader’s shoulder and the tattoo of a snake on the leader started to bleed. Vash grimaced, make that eleven shots, just enough to finish the job now… If only Lin realized it…
        “Little piece of…” the man yelled. He lowered his rifle, squeezed the trigger, but the gun lay silent. He swore, backed up a step and waved the other members ahead of him. “Just kill them. I don’t care about the money now… That little… Kill them!”
        Vash threw Lin to the ground as a barrage of shot guns were lowered on them. “Stupid idiot what are you…” The sheriff yelled as they rolled into the dust and Vash fired off the first five shots he needed to take out the jeeps. The engines rumbled and the men in them fled as four of them blew. The explosions rocked the town, but the gang members managed to get away in time, even as the fifth one burst into flames. Lin was pounding at Vash’s left arm as he hefted her over his shoulder and dashed into her office. “Take me back out there!”
        “Oh no…” Vash yelled at her over the sound of more shots eating away at the wooden door. He threw Lin behind her desk and took one quick shot at the closest man. He dropped to one knee, clutching his leg. His bullets spent, Vash retreated to the desk, dragging Lin back and holding her in his arms as she started to kick and scream at him.
        “You let me go this instant! I could have taken them all out…”
        “Not without reloading,” Vash murmured. He put his hand over her mouth as the gunfire died down outside. The men were reloading. The newest recruits ran away after the jeep explosions, only the main ten gang members remained. One of them was crippled, leaving nine, eighteen shots. “How many bullets do you have left?”
        “Five,” Lin spit as Vash allowed her to speak again. “But I have more in the desk…” She wrestled out of his arms and pulled open a drawer, feeling around for something, she came away with a box and handed it to him. “Here, problem solved.”
        Vash opened the box and tipped it upside down. “Solved eh? It’s empty.”
        Lin swore, “Oh no…” Her eyes moved to the desk on the opposite side of the room. “This isn’t my desk… it’s that one.” She started to move, but Vash caught her by the arm again. “Let me go you idiot, they’ll be in here shooting before we even get…”
        “You want to get yourself killed?” Vash nodded to the door. Two men were already in the building, footsteps quietly trailing across the floor. “We don’t have time for your heroics, shoot them in the leg and we’ll take them hostage.” He slipped his sunglasses out of his coat and put them on. Had to be ready to go back out into the sun. This was going to take some quick thinking…
        “What makes you think I’ll do it your way?”
        “Because if you kill them, the rest of them will want revenge as much as you!” Vash spit through his teeth. He thumbed in the direction of the two men, and then pointed under the desk. Lin rolled her eyes, got down on her belly and fired. Both men dropped to the ground screaming. Vash jumped over the desk, grabbed the first one and hauled him out into the sunshine, his empty gun pointing at the man’s head. He hazarded a glance over his shoulder, and with a relieved sigh realized she had followed suit.
        “Drop your guns or we’ll kill your buddy here,” Vash yelled, cocking his gun. This was risky. Calling a bluff like this only worked half of the time. But two of the gang members put their shotguns down. Fourteen.
        Lin pushed her guy, his leg bleeding pretty badly, out next to him. “What do you want me to write on his tombstone?” She gritted her teeth, tossing him to the ground, undoubtedly the weight of the man got to her. Vash’s eyes narrowed behind his sunglasses. There were people looking out windows now, hidden behind shutters, others peering around corners. No one came out to help. He sighed, had to trust that Lin would do the right thing with the three bullets she had left.
        “You think you’re so macho, don’t you?” The leader growled, his shotgun never wavering as he kept it on the sheriff. “But I remember last month as you cried like a baby when I killed your parents. The sheriff was you daddy wasn’t he? Aw, poor baby!” He sneered. “Let my men go and I’ll spare your life in return for Blondie’s. He shot up my cars and I’m not too happy about that.” His focus lay on Vash now, the shotgun changed position. “What do you say, sweetheart? Is it a deal?”
        “Never!” Lin screamed. Her finger pulled back on the trigger.
        Vash grimaced, dropped his man, turned to Lin, and everything exploded around them. The shotguns went off everywhere, chewing up the wooden beams of the building behind them, the ground; he could feel one slam into his arm, blood flying. Two of the gang members dropped. Everything seemed to slow down as Vash hurtled into Lin and threw her to the ground.
        Two bullets left. The gang leader fired, Lin fired. Dust flew up around them as Vash and Lin rolled onto the ground. As the smoke cleared, he turned to see Tattoo was dead. He closed his eyes and swore, it didn’t have to be this way… The other gang members ran upon seeing their leader dead. At least they wouldn’t come back, not at once anyway, until they selected a new leader and it would all start again. Vash gritted his teeth and turned to the woman below him. “Are you okay?”
        “Did I get him?” Lin choked out.
        Vash sighed, “Yeah, you got him.”
        “Good, that S.O.B. killed my parents…” She coughed, and her lips were stained with blood. Vash gasped, backed off of her and saw the reason. The last bullet ripped through her lung. Blood gushed out of her chest and he scrambled to press down on it, stop the bleeding.
        “You’re shot! Don’t talk…” He turned his head, “Someone call the doctor! She’s dying!” Vash screamed it again until finally the townsfolk watching came to life and people ran out from the buildings. A hand touched Vash’s face, and he turned, looking down at Lin.
        Sureshot coughed again and her hand retreated, “You were probably right, Broom Head.” She convulsed in pain and Vash opened his mouth to tell her not to speak again, but the look Lin gave him silenced him. “You know… I probably would have messed around with you…”
        “We can later… Just don’t die on me!” Vash hissed, he kept pressure on the wound but the blood was still pouring out around his fingers. “Doctor! Someone please…” Lin closed her eyes.
        “You’re sweet,” the sheriff wheezed, and then she was silent.
        “No! Lindsay!” Vash choked, he pushed down on her wound, “Come on…”
        The doctor arrived then, pushed the people away and came to sit at his side. He clucked his teeth and felt Lin’s throat for a pulse. “She’s dead,” he announced, looking up at Vash. “I’m sorry, Sonny.”
        “No…” Vash pulled Lin to his chest, tears pouring down his face. “No… Don’t… You stupid woman!” He buried his face in her gray hair. Too soon… Her life was gone, too soon. All because of revenge.
        A hand rested on Vash’s shoulder, and he shot out, “Go away…” But it persisted and he turned tear-stained eyes to see Marlon. “Marlon…”
        “Lightning,” the gunsmith said, putting his other hand on Vash’s shoulder and pulling him back away from the dead woman. “Let her go. Come on… Let’s get you cleaned up.”
        “No one else cared about this town!” Vash spit, getting to his feet. “You people didn’t care to help her!” He waved his gun at them. It was empty, useless, but they still backed away. “If even one of you had bothered to help this might not have happened!” He turned on Marlon, “What good is it if only one person stands up for a whole town and gets herself killed for it? What good is it?” Tears still poured down his face, he could feel them rolling down his neck. “Damn it, answer me!”
        Marlon grabbed his arm and pulled Vash’s gun down from pointing at the nervous crowd. “It won’t happen again, Vash,” he rumbled. “I promise you, I personally won’t let it. And my son, and his son…”
        Vash holstered his gun and eyed the dead body of Lin as the doctor covered her up. Then he looked over at Marlon. “Keep your word.” The gunsmith nodded slowly as Vash moved out of the crowd. His eyes narrowed behind yellow sunglasses, no one dared stand in his way. Vash stalked out of town toward his previous destination; his home. The blood still stuck to his red coat. But in fury he couldn’t see anything but the red desert.

        7-10-04 RLS


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