The outlaw strolled into the tavern, his spurs jingling as he walked. They weren't just any spurs, they were big, cruel spurs designed to rip into the horse's flanks for faster responses and better "motivation." Every eye was on him, but there wasn't an eye he could catch with his own. Sucking his whiskey down without a blink, he muscled his way to the card table - not that anyone willingly stood in his way. His stride and his spurs said everything they needed to know about this unknown.
That's when the sheriff walked in. A few moments later, four men walked out with his limp form in their arms.
Weeks went by with the townspeople laying low, staying behind their closed doors, the outlaw leaving at night and returning in the day. Once a man from the Pony Express arrived. He thought it best not to leave.
Finally, the barber headed out of town in the opposite direction of the outlaw one night. He never returned. In his place came the long hoped for Texas Ranger. While they stared, they avoided his eyes as they had the outlaw before, keeping to themselves the certainty of his fate. This man was no horseman, this man was no gunman, this man would be dead when the outlaw returned. The town stayed inside that day too.
The Ranger moved with assurance, but he wore no spurs, his guns looked more like those of a farmer than those of the outlaw, but he seemed sure of himself. The girls thought him handsome, but knew him foolish. The men scoffed, asking themselves what sorts were now being accepted into the Texas Rangers.
When the outlaw returned and looked upon the stranger's horse, his face went pale. He knew this man, had heard his name, had killed his father. This man had hunted him for twenty years, taking each of his men to face their judgment day. He ran back to his horse, but was too late. The Ranger knew his ways, knew his moves, knew him as well as he knew himself.
"Come with me to Austin. You know that's the only way for you."
"Austin? They'd hang me in a heartbeat! What good is that to me? No better than the others you've killed!"
"They all had the same chance. Better chances than the men you have killed. I've never killed any who did not deserve death, nor have I killed any without offering them Austin."
"Why? What's in Austin? What awaits me there that I can't get here?"
"There's a chance to meet death the way my father did - in humility and honesty, with grace on your side and not at your back."
"You're crazy! Who cares how you die? The old man didn't die in humility! He died humiliated! A fool who didn't know what he had and no idea what he could've had! I should have killed you with him!"
"Could you have born the look on your mother's face if you had killed her only other son?"
With that, the outlaw reached for his gun, but the Ranger was faster.
As the blood pooled around him on the ground, the outlaw dipped into the senseless mumblings of the doomed and dying, begging for mercy, promising a better life, pleading for second chances. The Ranger knelt by his side as the town's priest ran forward.
"Jon, Jon, there's still time. Listen to me. Here's a priest. Jon, Jon. Look up, sit up. Here's a priest. Beg God's mercy, Jon."
The outlaw's eyes fluttered to those of the priest, but words never reached his lips before his life was gone.
The Ranger stood, looked at the priest and hung his head. The townspeople peeked through their windows, stepped quietly into the streets and took in the scene. None rushed to congratulate the Ranger, none rushed to thank him, all stood silently, watching the Ranger's retreating back.
The priest looked from the dead man lying in the street to the dead man walking down the street and approached with gentle steps.
"Son, there is still time. You do not have to leave this life this way. There is still time for you. Beg God's mercy and live."
"Father, Father, what can I do? I have doomed my own brother and the seven who stood between us! What is left to me but the same sad fate? Where can I go where they will not follow me?"
"Do not pretend you know the heart of any man. Beg God's mercy and live. Trust God's mercy and live. Hope, have hope for your brother as you hoped for your father. There is yet time for you."
The Ranger said nothing, climbed into his saddle and rode from town, never to return, nor to be heard of again.