April, 2019

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Issue #115

Looking for free, tantalizing Tales of the Old West?
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Read this month's Tales and vote for your favorite.
They'll appear in upcoming print volumes of The Best of Frontier Tales Anthologies!

Bounty Hunter
by Scott Harris
Three men, trapped in a remote cabin, pinned down by a band of Crow. One of the men was just passing through, the others an uncommunicative bounty hunter and his prisoner, bound to die for a crime that wasn't. Will any of them survive?

* * *

The Quick and the Deed
by James Hold
The Yegua Kid roams the Texas southwest observing many strange things as he goes along. He keeps to himself and lets life unfold as it will. In this episode an ornery sidewinder rigs a gunfight so the man he bets against loses. But the gunfighter's ghost has objections.

* * *

Trying to Heal Old Wounds
by Charles McCormick
A young man struggling to make a living in west Texas after the Civil War is ambushed by a murderous bully, but survives, setting in motion a much more complicated life.

* * *

The Ransom For Miss Lydia Weston
by Lara Alonso Corona
Sheriff Bennett had to keep playing the game, had to keep pretending the Ward brothers, after years of personal antagonism, had finally gotten the upper hand—at least long enough for them to confess where they kept their hostage.

* * *

Final Judgment
by Tom Sheehan
It takes a man like Harvey Walter, an old man of the West, a pure spirit standing before man and God, to lead a jury right to the promised land of justice, in no uncertain manner.

* * *

The Deputy
by Corinna German
A former sheriff's deputy must relive his past as he searches for a mad, murderous trapper in the mountains of Montana. What does he have to lose?

* * *

Want all of this month's Western stories at once? Click here –

All the Tales

The Quick and the Deed
by James Hold

They buried Speedy Winters at sundown, this despite said corpse's objections.

"Now quit yer fussin'," his friend Jess Passin told him, as he plopped another spade of dirt on Speedy's coffin. "Lightnin' Hoskins outdrew yuh fair and square and th' undertaker pronounced yuh dead, so just settle down and accept it."

Misery City did not have a regular doctor, or a regular undertaker for that matter. The town undertaker was actually a carpenter. Still, it did not require either a doctor or an undertaker to declare Speedy Winters dead after Lightnin' Hoskins put three slugs of lead through his heart.

None of that seemed to matter to Speedy though as rumbling noises continued to emanate from his coffin.

Jess paused to wipe the sweat from his brow; then went on talking. "Yuh might at least show a little gratitude seein' as I'm th' only one who cared enough to bring ya out here—in muh own buckboard, mind ya—and dig yore grave myself."

The rumbling from the coffin faded, growing fainter and fainter as more dirt piled atop it until, finally, the hole was covered and all noises ceased.

"There," Jess tamped the dirt with his shovel. "You rest in peace now. After all, everybody's gotta go sometime, and yore time was now."

With that for an epitaph, Jess climbed into his buckboard and headed for home as the darkening sky focused the last rays of the setting sun on the little spot of earth that marked the final resting place of Speedy Winters, gunfighter.

* * *

The Yegua Kid eased his meandering mount to a halt and rose in his stirrups. Yonder, in the distance, sat a small house with a light burning in a window. The Kid patted the horse's neck. "Maybe some kind soul can put us up in his barn for the night," he told it as he urged the steed forward.

* * *

As it happened, the house the Kid spotted belonged to the same Jess Passin who had just buried his friend, Speedy Winters. It was a dismal affair, more a shack than a home, set amid a wide-open range with a few scraggy head of cattle. All the way back from the cemetery the creaking noise of the buckboard on the rutted road reminded Jess of the rumbling noises from Speedy's coffin.

"Cut it out," he chided himself. "It's just yore imagination. Speedy's dead under six feet of dirt and that's th' end of it."

Now, having washed his hands and cooked up some beans and potatoes in the fireplace, he felt a bit better. Still, a pang of regret touched Jess' conscience as he stared down at the table where lay the pile of money he had won by betting against Speedy. That and the worn leather holster housing his friend's Colt .45 pistol—the one that Jess had loaded with blanks.

"I hated to do it, Speedy, but muh note was due at the bank and .  .  .  well, this was th' only way."

It all happened quite unexpectedly. Jess and Speedy were drinking in the Misery City saloon when the stagecoach to Abilene pulled in for a stopover, and from it stepped Lightnin' Hoskins. Recognition was instantaneous, but guarded, as Hoskins sidled up to the bar and ordered whiskey. Exactly how things deteriorated from there is hard to say, but talk and insults got traded and soon the challenge was issued.

"I got twenty dollars says Speedy's fastest," someone shouted.

"Twenty?" another yelled back. "Heck, I'll make it fifty!"

And so it went, with the odds favoring the veteran Speedy over the young upstart Lightnin'.

And there Jess saw his opportunity.

"Now wait a minute, boys," he spoke up. "Let's not get ourselves in an all-fired hurry. Some of th' other cowhands might want a piece of the action. Let's wait an hour to get all the bets in. Besides, both men here've been drinkin' and it's only fair we give 'em some time to get their heads clear before they commence shootin'."

This seemed a good idea to everyone. Not so much the thought of letting Speedy and Lightnin' sober up, but of collecting more bets around town.

"And, to make sure nothing happens in th' meanwhile," Jess continued, "I'll hold onto both men's weapons in case temptation should prove too strong."

This was agreed to also.

The rest was soon done. Jess snuck off to another saloon, placed his money on Lightnin' Hoskins to win, and to assure that victory, replaced Speedy's ammunition with blank cartridges. One hour later, Speedy Winters lay dead in the street with three slugs through his heart. Speedy's draw had been quicker, but somehow Lightnin's aim was better.

Jess smiled ruefully. "Like I said, Speedy, I hated to do it but—"

Something like a footstep sounded on the dry gravel outside the shack. Jess became instantly alert. He had done his betting in secret so few knew of his winnings. Still, those few just might be ornery enough to try something.

"Who's out there?" Jess called out. "I got a gun so don't try nothin'." Of course, what he had was Speedy's Colt, the one with the blank cartridges, but nobody else knew that so maybe his bluff would work.

The sound died away and Jess breathed a sigh of relief. He poured himself a cup of coffee to settle his nerves. Then came a rattling at the door. It was the same sound he had heard from Speedy's coffin. The door opened, and in the darkness beyond Jess saw a pair of spectral hands approaching.

* * *

The Yegua Kid came to a sudden halt. The shack was quiet, but a sixth sense warned him something was amiss. Dismounting cautiously, he held his gun hand ready at his side as he approached the open doorway. He need not have bothered. No kind soul would be putting him up for the night. For there, sprawled lifelessly in a wooden chair, was the body of Jess Passin, which somehow contained three bullets fired silently from a blank pistol, along with a handful of cash smoldering in the fireplace.

The End

James Hold is a retired systems analyst with 40 years experience in the IT field. He has posted stories at www.smashwords.com and would like to entertain a larger audience.

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