Oh I've got you in my mind's eye
My day might be coming but yours is coming first
I'll knock you out of your daylights
And when you come for me some night
You'd better bring a shovel
Be expecting the worse...
was getting old. Not compared to the old man who served whiskey and other spirits in the tavern, nor to the undertaker that had dressed for burial many a man that had stood at the other end of a dusty street from Alain, but for a man who lived by the way of the gun, he was old. Leaving his prime.
There were no national figures kept for such a thing, but the average lifespan of a gunslinger in this day and age was 22.5 years. Alain celebrated his 32nd birthday three months ago by killing a man that looked as if he was barely able to shave. He'd tried to stop it, he often did when they were so young, but the man was hellbent on reaching the end of his path as quickly as possible, and Alain had a reputation to uphold.
His gun didn't even clear the holster before Alain's bullet pierced his heart, and a second was dead center through his forehead before his body even realized it had ceased to function properly. The man was buried in a simply marked grave in a graveyard just outside of the dusty town of Devil's Basin, in the same place Alain himself knew he'd end up someday.
There were likely many keys to Alain's continued survival to an age few in his line of work saw, a simple quirk of genetics gifting him with heightened reflexes, excellent vision, and exceptional hand-eye coordination among them. For his part, he credited it to steadfastly avoiding alcohol, and never allowing himself to truly care about anyone. Alcohol dulled the senses, and it was those very senses that kept him alive. Gunslingers that drank were gunslingers that died. Maybe not right away, maybe some even managed to survive long enough to make a name for himself, but in the end all of them fell to someone who had not yet stained their body with drink.
And caring caused hesitation. When you thought about those you might leave behind, those who would have to fend for themselves in a dangerous time if you were gone, and realized that the man standing across from you may have those same people himself, then you hesitated. When you hesitated, you died. Despite knowing it was inevitable, he had no desire to make that train arrive any quicker than it had to.
The rumor that had begun to circulate in the last few days was that someone else was coming down the line to try to make that happen, however. It caused the same quick glances and whispered conversations as he passed people by that it always did, and not for the first time he wondered how this sort of news spread. All too often, it was the man himself that got the ball rolling, announcing to anyone that would listen that he was going to Devil's Basin to kill Alain Brautigan. He'd grown to have less concern for encounters that started out this way. People that knew how good they were had no need to try to get into the head of the man they sought. It was the person that would one day show up unannounced to challenge him that made it hard for him to fall asleep at night.
Still, he prepared just as he always did. Oiled the sandalwood grips on his guns. Cleaned each of them thoroughly. Checked each bullet to make sure it was without visible defect and ready to fire when called upon. He worked out every morning: pushups, situps, pullups, just enough to keep him lean and limber, not so much that a bulk of muscle would slow him down. Speed, not strength is what kept him alive.
It was possible that Alain was the best gunslinger alive. The man at the top that all others were aiming for. He no longer left Devil's Basin to make a name for himself, and he no longer needed to. Men came to him. Someday, another would put a bullet through his heart and make a name for themselves. The man who killed the best of the best.
Whoever it was that came to challenge him would've been disappointed that it wouldn't be him, if it was possible to feel anything after being gunned down.