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Of Guilt by goldieasj

Word Count 541

And he never even knew her name.

“She was his wife,” they’d said.  “She loved him.”

That wasn’t the first time Johnny felt remorse.  Not even the second.  The first was when Diego had challenged him in the cantina.  Diego’s rusty firearm contradicted the knife scars on his face.

“Don’t be loco,” Johnny remembered saying.  “You know who I am.  Put away the pistola.”

But Diego was drunk.  He did not put away his pistola.  Instead, he waved it in the air, causing several men in the cantina, including Johnny, to duck.  “Estás borracho,” Johnny had said calmly, or so he remembered.  “I’m leaving.”

He’d made it as far as his horse when he’d heard Diego shouting behind him.

“Johnny Madrid!  Today you die!  I – Diego Aballo – I will kill the great Johnny Madrid!”

But Johnny hadn’t felt like dying that day.

That was the second time.

And now here she was – Diego’s woman – knocking on his hotel door.  She said the name Diego and that’s how he knew who she was.  But he didn’t know what to say and he wasn’t sure how to feel.

Her expression was unreadable.  She forced her way into the room and stood in front of him, assessing him.  “You killed my man,” she said quietly.

What did she want?

“Why?” she asked.

“Diego wouldn’t let it be.  He kept after me . . . “

Si,” she said, less quietly.  “That was Diego’s way.”  She sat on the bed.

Did she intend staying?  Johnny didn’t move.  He noticed she had a bruise on her face.

“So, you see then?” she said.  “And this . . . “  She pulled her dress down low enough for him to see her breasts.  There were bruises there, too.  “This is Diego,” she said.

Johnny finally knew what to say.  “I’m sorry.”  He did not approach her.

Suddenly she was angry.  “Why?  You sorry for this?  Or you sorry you kill my man?”

“I’m sorry for . . . all of it.  He shouldn’t have hit you.  He shouldn’t have forced me to . . .”  Those last words just wouldn’t come.

“No,” she said loudly.  “You are not sorry.”  She jumped up.  “You are not sorry at all!”  She grabbed his hat from the bedpost and flung it across the room.  She came up next to him.  Johnny did not move.

“The great Johnny Madrid,” she said venomously.  “Today just another hombre die by his hand.  Diego was not a good man, but he was MY man.  And Diego die by pistola of Johnny Madrid.”  She pointed at his gun and for a moment he thought she was going to make a grab for it.  He involuntarily moved back a step. 

“It was fair,” he said softly.  “You can ask anyone.  Diego . . . “

She narrowed her eyes and he knew something was coming.  “I’m sorry,” he repeated.

She slapped him hard across the face.  Then she turned abruptly and left the room.  At the doorway she paused.  And screamed “Gringo!” before slamming the door behind her.

The great Johnny Madrid never learned her name.  But he finally knew why she had come. 

And that was the third time.

December 2022


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