In the small town of Agua Fria, New Mexico, history wrote a new
page and a legend was forged. Two of the fastest, most deadly,
and most feared gunfighters alive, Texas Red and an Arizona
Ranger, were pacing off the final steps that one of them would ever
take. Within minutes, a fatal bullet would be—must be—fired.
Only one will survive. There was eighty feet between them as they
walked toward each other on the wooden boardwalk on either side
of the street. They had not yet stepped out of the shade and onto
the dirt street that would soon claim and absorb the blood of the
As they paused for a moment to await the appointed time, both
men tipped their hats ever so slightly to the other and nodded with
the last remnants, the last vestiges, and last thoughts of friendship
or respect. The past week of their lives must now be forgotten and
pushed aside. It is time to kill.
They know each other’s greatest strength and greatest weakness.
Both men know they have just cause to fear for their lives, and both
know without question that the other man could win this gunfight.
They know that they may well lose their life, and both gunfighters
are too skilled to risk mercy and aim for an incapacitating wound.
They must, and they will, aim for an instant kill.
One of them has a draw so blindingly fast that gun-fighting
legends refer to it as an invisible draw—a draw so rare there has
never been two such elite gunfighters alive at the same time.
However, this master gunfighter has attained such legendary speed
at a potentially fatal price. An erstwhile secret injury, openly known
since just last night, could render the fastest gun alive as helpless
as a child. They resumed their slow but fatal walk to death. With
sixty feet between them, they stepped out onto the dirt street, at the
appointed time, to take those final steps that one of them would
ever take. With fifty feet between them, they could no longer see
the other as human, nor could they see anything except what was
directly in front of them as both men were so intensely focused,
their sight compressed into a tight scope of tunnel vision.
Texas Red chose the appointed day, and the ranger chose the
appointed time. It was exactly 11:20 Saturday morning, and there
was forty feet between them when they stopped to make their play.
Both men reached for their guns at exactly the same instant.
There were two gunfighters and two guns, but there was only one
blast from a single gunshot, and there was only one tongue of flame,
and there was but one cloud of blue-white smoke. The second
fastest gunfighter now lay in the dirt street, dying by the second. He
has perhaps two minutes to live, and he lives them with the ultimate
humiliation feared by all gunfighters—the dying gunfighter never
An Arizona ranger named Kyle Lawton came to Agua Fria eight
days ago to arrest, or kill, the outlaw called Texas Red, who has
killed twenty men in fast-draw gunfights. In addition, he has
robbed stagecoaches, banks, and even trains, resulting in a number
of additional deaths. The ranger was packing a customized Big Iron
that was one of a matched pair. The other Big Iron belonged to
his brother, a Texas ranger who also faced Texas Red. The ranger’s
brother was one of the twenty notches carved deep into Texas Red’s
gun handle. Although Texas Red was barely twenty-four years old,
he is already a vicious killer, and he was forced to flee El Paso and
live in New Mexico territory because of the very first notch on the
handle of his six-gun; the notch was for a deputy sheriff in El Paso.
Before he was Texas Red, the six-foot, two-inch, 240-pound
outlaw was William, William Travis Jr. He has genius-level intellect
and is an exemplary college graduate with a master’s degree.
Moreover, he was a greatly feared member of his college boxing
team, and he is every bit as tough and strong as he looks. Texas
Red has flaming red hair, a soft voice, and a disarming baby face
smile and equal charm. He is very charismatic, but the angelic face
and boyish charm can turn into a raging demon from hell within a
single heartbeat. Texas Red aches inside to become famous, more so
to become legendary. Others can see this in part, but no more than
a tenth of it. Like a dangerous iceberg, 90 percent of the danger
remains hidden. It is a hunger and emotional starvation he has felt
all of his life. It was relatively easy to hide while in college, but
now his internal demon is too powerful to contain and has been
unleashed. His hunger and ache to be legendary overwhelms all
else, and when it comes to a final choice, even his beloved sister,
Lynda, is second.
The incident with the deputy in El Paso did not transform
William Travis into Texas Red. The incident was the triggering
mechanism that unleashed the outlaw that was already there, and
Texas Red would have soon emerged in any event. Although killing
the deputy in El Paso was arguably justified, it was the gateway for
Texas Red to justify every act, crime, and murder for the rest of his
short life. The incident gave Texas Red a guiltless excuse to commit
the crimes he would have committed anyway. Eventually, William
would have transformed into Texas Red under any circumstances.
The incident with the deputy simply made it sooner rather than later.
Accepted by his college to begin studies on a new degree program
called a PhD, which has only been available for fifteen years in the
United States, William returned home to El Paso to tell everyone
the good news and then quickly returned to college.
Three months into his studies, William realized he had not
received a letter from Lynda in over a month. He had many friends,
and he mailed letters to several people he knew, and after yet another
month, there was no response from anyone.
Then William sent a telegram telling them he was on his way
home, and he asked very pointedly and almost threateningly, “I
strongly suggest a response. What is wrong?”
The only response to his telegram was anonymous, short, cryptic,
Lynda will survive, but she is not well. We fear for your life
if you take action.
Two weeks later, William burst into the house and shouted for
Lynda. She was in a corner of her darkened bedroom crying and
shivering and tightly grasping William’s eighteen-inch, hunting
knife. Lynda was catatonic, and it was long and difficult for him to
convince her that he was her brother William. Then she dropped
the knife, grabbed William, and held him as tight as she possibly
could. She cried uncontrollably and could not speak. Then William
turned up the light, and he froze in horror and could not believe his
It took long seconds of staring at Lynda for William to realize
what had happened. He saw Lynda’s misshapen face, viciously and
violently beaten and broken from more than one beating. William
begrudgingly thought she was lucky to be alive as he looked at the
fist and knuckle marks permanently indented into her face and skull.
It was an hour before Lynda could tell the story.
It was the deputy. He made lewd advances toward her and
demanded an enormous amount of money for his protection. When
she refused, he broke into their home, late at night, and beat her
senseless and raped her repeatedly as she lay unconscious. He also
committed unspeakable acts. Although he returned time after time
and despite being observed and followed, Lynda was able to hide
and escape all but twice more. When he caught her those times,
he now demanded the money and also threatened to kill William
while she watched if she did not comply. However, Lynda staunchly
refused and unwaveringly withstood the beatings, torment, threats,
and rape. She would not give up one dime of their money, and
she spat on him and cursed him. The third time was by far the
worst beating of all but was fortunate in that this beating required
hospitalization where she was out of the deputy’s powerful reach
and out of his sphere of influence. The deputy had no concept
of the enraged beast that would instantly ignite within William.
Everyone thought of William as a…gentle giant. However, the
deputy thought of William as a spineless, weak college boy with
a soft voice. His misconception would be excruciatingly painful…
William was enraged beyond the ability of words to convey. His
rage went beyond the wild, screaming, loud rage of verbal threats
and mindless actions. Outward, William seemed almost calm. His
rage was the quiet, cold, unemotional, calculating rage that went
to the marrow of his bones. Someone…was going to die. The
deputy showed no mercy; now he would receive none. Not even a
Lynda mercifully went to sleep on the couch and enjoyed her
first real sleep since the nightmare began. She knew in her heart
that William would make everything all right.
William went to his room and found the gun. It was a six-gun
his mother bought for 5 dollars from a man named Reno when she
ran away from home at seventeen. The six-gun was a .36 caliber
Navy Colt with modifications Reno made for gun fighting, and
the gun has a long, tragic history in William’s family. When he
was about fifteen, William bought a black, leather holster custommade
especially for this six-gun, and he became quite proficient
at drawing it. William’s hand speed is so fast that in boxing, his
hands always wore the blood of his opponents. This is how William
actually got the nickname Texas Red, not because of his red hair.
Ironically, he thought the source of the nickname was too violent
and refused it. Now his extreme hand speed could easily mean the
difference between life and death. However, William does not care
about his own life, as long as he fires two bullets into the fat deputy’s
belly before he dies.
William went to a friend of his named Saul who owns a gun
shop. Saul oiled the holster, cleaned the Navy Colt, and made a
batch of carefully measured cartridges with close attention to detail.
Saul then took William out back to practice and taught William
everything he could in an hour. After an hour, Saul told William
that he had the speed but wondered if William had the nerve to
pull the trigger when facing a man rather than a target. Saul was
amazed at William’s speed, and if William could pull the trigger
knowing his bullet will kill a man, this gunfight was already over.
Saul continued to shake his head at William’s speed, and William
wanted more practice, but Saul knew William would soon become
slower rather than faster because of fatigue. William had to go with
what he had.
William made certain that Lynda was watching as he called the
deputy out into the street. Surprising to some, he did not want to
come out, and even from a distance, he could see the look of a killer
in William’s eyes. The deputy immediately realized that William
did not care about his own life, and William wanted only to avenge
his sister, at any cost. The deputy called out that Lynda was a lying
whore and he had nothing to do with her beatings. In fact, the
deputy claimed he put a stop to them. The whole town then knew
the deputy was a coward as well as a liar.
William asked him how he knew this was about Lynda. Then he
called out that the deputy was indeed a champion among women
and then challenged him to try his skills against a man. William
said many things that drew a crowd and generated laughter. It got
to the point where the deputy would be an ineffective laughing
stock throughout the city if he did not come out and face William.
Moreover, everyone knew what the deputy did to Lynda, and
everyone knew he prevented her from leaving town.Then the
deputy got an idea and finally opened his door and walked out onto
The deputy drew first, long before either man was supposed to
draw. Another deputy who was to count down to the draw had not
even started. Even at that, the deputy barely touched his gun before
two gunshots blasted two holes in his lower abdomen, and the bullets
simultaneously bent him double and knocked him backwards. He
screamed for mercy with a mouthful of dirt, but it was already too
late. The only mercy available to him at this point was a gunshot
to the head. He did not know that the teenage William had
anticipated exactly what the deputy would do. The deputy was a
lifelong bully and tyrant but never a skilled gunfighter. The deputy’s
name remains unspoken in order to prevent the tainting of others
with a name he made too evil to speak.
William started walking toward the slowly dying deputy, but by
the time he got there, William was Texas Red. He then put a bullet
through each of the deputy’s shoulders and each of his knees. Then
Texas Red mocked the deputy and told him that it was going to be
excruciatingly painful for anyone to carry him to the doctor’s office.
Perhaps he should walk. The shooting was arguably justified, and
the gunfight was more than fair considering the deputy’s early draw.
However, such a deputy could not exist without equal corruption
and support from higher-up. Not to mention that, corrupt or not,
he was a legal deputy sheriff and therefore afforded a measure of
latitude by law.
Warned by friends that the deputy was the sheriff ’s first cousin,
William and Lynda knew they could not wait until the deputy died;
they knew they had to leave El Paso now, and they had to leave El
Paso forever. Fortunately, the hospital knew what had happened to
Lynda, and they kept her as long as they could. The point being
that Lynda’s face has healed more than enough for her to travel in
As they feared, within an hour, friends warned them of their
impending arrest and near-certain death from hanging or death
from manufactured excuses, such as shot while trying to escape or
while fighting law officials for a gun. William and Lynda had to
leave El Paso, and they had to leave immediately. Since almost all
of their money was outside of Texas, their immense wealth was safe
and secure. Unfortunately, nothing within Texan borders was either
safe or secure, especially their lives.
The doctor was able to slow the deputy’s internal bleeding but
could not stop it. It would take two days for the deputy to die, and
there was very little the doctor could do for the pain. From the
instant William’s second bullet slammed into the deputy’s body, he
was on the wrong side of a deathwatch.
Back in their El Paso home, William and Lynda quickly grabbed
the things they needed most. William walked into her room,
carrying a small travel bag containing not much more than his gun
and holster, and he asked her where she wanted to go. Lynda told
him they have much of their money in a Santa Fe bank. And since
it is over three hundred miles from El Paso, Lynda suggested they
return to their childhood home. William agreed and then told her
from that moment forward, he is no longer William. He is now
Texas Red. Lynda quickly informed Texas Red that he has been
William all of her life, and he would continue to be William for
the rest of her life. As they walked down the stairs to leave, she still
fussed at him and informed him that he was her brother, William,
and she would call him by no other name…not politely, anyway.
As they got into their buggy to leave, they heard the last voice on
earth they wanted to hear. It was the sheriff. “Hold up a minute.
We need to talk here.”
The sheriff walked up to the horse and laid his hand on the back
of the horse, and then he pets the horse. He took a deep breath and
looked long at Lynda’s face and then looked at Texas Red. “I’m not
doubting what your sister claims. I know what he can be, but he is
my cousin. At least he is for the next day or two. The doctor says my
cousin doesn’t have a chance. If you had killed him quick, I could
wrestle with this thing a lot better. But you shot him twice with no
intentions of him dying right off, but you made sure he would die.
I look at your sister, and I can see some of that, but he’s still my
blood, and she is still alive. Why does he have to die while she still
lives? That’s the hardest part of what I’m wrestling with. I am really
wrestling with this thing, young man. I’m wrestling hard with it,
and a lot of it won’t go down. You gut-shot him, and then shot him
in each knee and shoulder. That’s vicious, young man, pure vicious.
You knew the man was going to die, and you knew your sister was
going to live. But you still turned as vicious as a meat ax. This is
some powerful poison that you want me to swallow.”
Then he looked at Lynda and nodded. “It’s a sure thing that you
have suffered enough, and there will be no more on you. But I do
ask that you stay out of the way if the fighting starts.
But to tell you right, I am split right down the middle on this thing.”
Then he looked back at William. “So what I am going to do
is split your chances of getting out of here alive right down the
middle. I will give you what I think is a fifty-fifty chance to survive.
That way, we are leaving this thing in the hands of higher powers
to decide who lives and who dies. Here’s the deal… I am coming
after you with full intentions of killing you. I am going to give you a
two-hour head start, and then me and two other cousins are coming
after you. You can go in any direction and use any means of travel.”
Then he glared at Texas Red with the coldness of death. “Don’t
let me catch you, boy. If we catch you, your sister is going to see
things she ain’t ever going to forget.”
Texas Red nodded. “Are you saying that if I had shot your cousin
between the eyes, it would have watered down and diluted the
poison we’re passing around here?”
The sheriff nodded, “Oh yeah. It would have made a
Texas Red pulled his gun out of the travel bag with blinding
speed and shot him right between the eyes. “You mean like that?”
He grabbed the sheriff and put him in the buggy and positioned
his arms like he had been shot in the shoulder. They took off in the
buggy and yelled at everyone to get out of the way. When they got
to the doctor’s office, Texas Red put the sheriff over his shoulder
and easily carried him into the doctor’s office and put him down
on an operating table. The doctor looked at the sheriff and quickly
looked at Texas Red. “What the…”
Texas Red pressed his gun against the doctor’s body as hard as
he could to muffle the gunshot and pulled the trigger. Lynda was in
the buggy and never heard the gunshot. Texas Red put the doctor
in his chair at his desk and even put a book in his hands. Then he
got in the buggy and simply rode out of town like nothing had
happened. Lynda never knew that William killed the doctor.
As his father had done before him, William, who has now
transformed into Texas Red, had to flee El Paso for his life, perhaps
Lynda’s as well.
They would soon settle back in the small town they grew up in
on the outskirts of Santa Fe. A small town named Agua Fria. Arizona
commissioned a ranger, who had been a US Marshal for
ten years, to extract an outlaw in New Mexico Territory. Texas Red
settled down too close to Santa Fe, therefore territorial officials
requested help from the newly organized second formation of the
Arizona rangers in 1882. This request was not surprising because
New Mexico and Arizona were the same undivided territory less
than twenty years ago, and they were still accustomed to being
citizens of the same territory.
The US marshal was Kyle Lawton, who for ten years extracted
outlaws so dangerous that no one else could face them and take
then down. No one else could work alone and do what he did. He
was now an Arizona ranger and proud of it. In fact, he prefers the
title ranger to his own name. Strangely, he had never felt that way
about his title of marshal. At thirty-one years old, the ranger is tired
of the ceaseless traveling to Godforsaken places and dangerous little
towns. He mocked himself within his own mind that he could call
more rattlesnakes by name than he could people. Although proud of
his ten years of service as a US marshal, and proud to be a ranger, he
is beginning to have fleeting thoughts of settling down and having
a family. However, for now he can still brush such thoughts aside,
albeit with increasing difficulty. He could have easily gone after
Texas Red as a US marshal, but he resigned to become a ranger, and
for now he cannot figure out why. The ranger did not yet realize
that by resigning as a US marshal and becoming an Arizona ranger,
he has taken a very large step toward abandoning his fraternity of
rattlesnakes and living among people.
The ranger stands about five feet, ten inches tall and weighs
perhaps 180 pounds, but he is a pure gunfighter. Gun fighting was
all he did, all he thought about, and all he had ever known. He was
the best of the best and well known among outlaws as the fastest
gun alive. No man he ever faced so much as cleared leather, and
most never got a firm grip on the gun handle. Moreover, Kyle’s
reputation as a US marshal was such that many outlaws, who faced
criminal charges they could hang for, declined to draw against him.
They figured it was better to die later rather than sooner, and they
figured they had a much better chance of escaping from jail than
escaping from the feared marshal. In addition, he could almost smell
an ambush, and in ten years, he was never wounded or so much as
marked by a bullet.
With all of that, the ranger is indeed the best. However, he
has a fatal secret—a secret injury that is not fatal to his opponents
but fatal to himself. An injury that is getting worse and will not
heal, and it is an injury that he carries with him to face Texas Red.
This injury destroys his ability to defend himself and is an injury
that awakes and sleeps according to its own timetable and strikes
without warning. In less than a heartbeat, the ranger can plummet
from the best gunfighter to the most helpless gunfighter. Most of
all, there are no warning signs whatsoever.
He was not exceptionally close to his brother, named Henry,
who faced Texas Red and lost. Nevertheless, Henry was his brother,
and Kyle swore on Henry’s grave to avenge him and kill Texas Red.
That is when Kyle resigned as a US marshal and became an
Arizona Ranger. His timing was such that he had a unique choice
to either fight Apaches or to accept a commission to New Mexico
territory as an Arizona ranger to extract an outlaw. An outlaw called
Texas Red. He could have easily become a Texas ranger, like his
brother, but Texas rangers do not go into New Mexico territory
and, as a rule, neither did Arizona rangers. The ranger could have
gone after Texas Red on his own as a civilian, but after being a US
marshal for so many years, he was not comfortable with that in the
least, because it was too close to being a vigilante. He has seen far
too many innocent men at the end of a vigilante rope. He also had
too many powerful ingrained memories that generate and create
nightmares that he aches inside to erase.
The second formation of Arizona rangers was formed exclusively
to fight Apache’s within Arizona Territory. However, Kyle was the
best man to send to Santa Fe to help them with a dangerous and
feared outlaw. He was the right man, at the right time, for the right
job. When presented with his options and choices, Kyle wondered
if he was dreaming. However, one thing is now certain, and that is,
he will never again go out on the trail as a US marshal. He is done
Kyle Lawton is the Arizona ranger whose gunfight with Texas
Red became a timeless legend. Texas Red forced the ranger to wait
over a week before they drew leather, which gave Texas Red time
to build the gunfight into legendary status. When the week was
over, the ranger’s life had changed in ways that he never dreamed
possible when he first rode into Agua Fria looking for Texas Red.
A lesson the ranger thought he thoroughly learned years ago was
etched further into his mind, and this time, it etched deep into his
soul—the good guys are not always good, and the bad guys are not
always bad. Nevertheless, with all said and done, that’s the way the
cards will fall.
The ranger never met an outlaw like Texas Red, and Texas Red
has never met anyone like the ranger. The ranger never met an
outlaw as intelligent, as wealthy, as educated, or as helpful. Yet when
talk ends and actions begin, Texas Red is a vicious killer who must
All of this, and Texas Red is but a youth of twenty-four.