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Vignette #20 - Heroes

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Just a simple heist. That’s what he said this was gonna be. And like the damn fool I am, I listened to him. And now, here we are, me and the almighty goddamned Jesse James himself, holed up in a deserted saloon bar, dodgin’ bullets left, right and centre. Simple? Ain’t never anythin’ simple once he sticks his oar in. If he’d let me run this job by myself, like I suggested in the first place? I’d be back home countin’ the greenbacks now instead of hidin’ under a counter tryin’ to reload the four barrels of my shotgun.

I hate him.

I ain’t just sayin’ that to just to make myself sound big. I do. I really hate him.

I mean, look at him. Really, just take a moment and really look at him. Every bit as much of a machine as he is a man if you ask me. Ain’t nothing natural left about Jesse James other than his charm and even that’s as artificial as you like. But everyone thinks of him as this great big hero…

“Duck, Kid!”

I do as he says, of course an’ thanks to the early warning, the two bullets zinging through the already broken plate glass window narrowly miss my head.

Kid. Stop calling me that. I hate it when you call me ‘Kid’. That’s Mistah McCarty or Billy to you. I ain’t some child for you to make sit in a corner, thinking ‘bout what they done wrong, no sir. I’m gonna be every bit as famous and every bit as feared as you are. When you call me ‘Kid’ I can hear the laugh in your voice. The joke you’re makin’ at my expense. An’ every single time you flash me that smile, pretendin’ you ain’t got a clue how much you’re aggravatin’ me. But you sure as hell know, Jesse James, you surely do.

There’s a sayin’ I heard once. Never meet your heroes, and gosh darn it if that ain’t the truth? When I met Jesse James I was a boy. Barely outta short trousers, I guess, an’ I was blown away by his sheer presence. That man walks into a room, everyone else pays attention. It ain’t his good looks, that’s for sure, although maybe at one time it might’ve been. Hell, no. It’s just that he owns every space as if he’s gathered people to him. He commands their respect by some unnatural means, I reckon. Like them crazies down in the Louisiana swamps I hear tell of with all their hoodoo stuff. Maybe I should look into it. Get myself one of those little dolls stuck all over with pins and stuff.

Not that he’s got much left that you could hurt with ‘em.

Keep it together, Billy. Bide your time. Your chance will come. Someday soon, he’s gonna look over at me an’ he ain’t gonna see that nervous little kid any more. He’s gonna realise that I will come into my own. An’ on the day that happens, he wants to keep his back firmly up against the wall, ‘cos I will step into those shoes of his like they were never vacated.

No more Jesse James. No more single obsession. No, sir. When William McCarty is rulin’ the roost, things are gonna be different.

“This is some fun, huh, Kid?” Even his grin is drivin’ me crazy. He thinks this is all a big game, a show put on by the Lawmen out there in the street just for his benefit. He’s already taken one of ‘em out. Poor bastard didn’t stand a chance. Pew. Bullet straight to the brain, instant death. Not even a chance. James can stand, use those implants in his eyes to aim an’ fire with more accuracy than even the best shooter in the West.

You know.

Me.

The so-called Billy the Kid.

He might actually be the best, but only ‘cos of those weird things he got from that Carpathian fella. Now me, I’m good without any help, thank you so very much, an’ I’m gonna keep it that way.

“Time to make our run for it, Billy-boy. You game?”

And, damn it, he fires up my enthusiasm, an’ I find myself noddin’. Because while I hate him, with the heat an’ passion of a burnin’ star, I sure as hell want to be just like him.

He’s my hero, after all.


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