May, 2020

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Issue #128

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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!

Killing Whiskey Smith
by Jack Paxton
Whiskey Smith was the town bully, feared by all and hated by most. Men had tried to kill him before, and now they all rested in unkept graves in boot hill. Now someone was going to try again. Would he be the one who succeeded?

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The Usury
by Hannah Hannan
The Money-Lender is at a crossroads. He will not absolve any debt, but this man who has come to him today, with a Ridge-Top hat that casts a half-moon shadow across his face, will not budge. The Money-Lender could call for his guards, but he suspects that's what the Ridge-Top man wants.

* * *

by Paul Grella
A cowboy cook named Sweetbread invented a new menu for his drovers and, in doing so, became an instant star on the trail north. Along the way, he takes up a brand new game, and a new fame.

* * *

Yuma Tranquility
by Tom Sheehan
Russ and Hubie were innocent men, framed and sent to the Yuma Territorial Prison, a place that was Hell on Earth. They had to escape, but if they did that, how could they remain innocent?

* * *

Wade Troop, Texas Ranger
by Glenn Boudreau
Texas Ranger Wade Troop is hot on the trail of Jake Smith and his gang and won't rest until they are brought to justice. Jake and his gang will not go down without a fight, and the climax will have Western fans on the edge of their seats.

* * *

Lobo, The Three-Eyed Sheriff
by Harry Steven Lazerus
Three-eyed Lobo, sheriff of Wickhall County, has a big problem on his hands-a big problem: the body of the Melunjun clan chief, Juju. If Lobo doesn't find Juju's killer before word of his death gets out, another deadly clan war is sure to erupt.

* * *

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All the Tales

Killing Whiskey Smith
by Jack Paxton

Drunk and crazy is usually a bad combination; this was especially true for Whiskey Smith. When Whiskey made his way down the wood plank sidewalks of Main Street everyone and everything gave him plenty of room. Dance hall girls, horse thieves, preachers and high society matrons alike peeled away in the opposite direction if they saw Whiskey headed their way. Town Marshal Bob Moody would peer up and down the street before he exited his office, just to make sure Whiskey wasn't close by. Even Old Tom, the orphan calico cat, who freely roamed from one end of the street to the other would be on the lookout. Old Tom knew to steer clear of the big collie dog that slept out front of Major Connell's general store, and to stay out of kicking range of Whiskey Smith. Old Tom usually slinked down an alley way if Whiskey was close by.

Whiskey Smith was not liked but was certainly feared by the townsfolk. Most folks avoided him and the ones who couldn't kowtowed to his whims and tried to stay on his good side. This usually meant that Whiskey rarely bought a drink on his many trips to the saloon. There were three saloons in town and Whiskey was known and feared in all three. There was always an innocent bystander willing to buy a drink to avoid the anger that Whiskey Smith was quick to display.

Whiskey was a large burly man who stood a good 4 inches taller than anyone else in town. Little was known of his past. What was known is that he liked to drink, fight, and generally disrupt any room he walked into. The townsfolk had once watched him fight three cowboys who stopped off at one of the saloons and refused to buy him a drink as he had requested. If the three cowboys had been backed up by another three, they might have had a chance, but Whiskey maimed and defeated the unsuspecting wranglers, even going to the point of biting off part of one man's nose. As the cowboys lay unconscious on the floor Whiskey poured himself a drink and charged it to them.

Whiskey, himself, showed the effects of his rough and tumble lifestyle. Several of his teeth were missing and a part of his left ear had been cut away in a knife fight with a buffalo hunter. He had several scars on various parts of his body which he proudly displayed as medals to honor his many victories.

To say that everyone in town feared him would not be totally accurate. One person would challenge him whenever she saw him. Young Annabelle Lacey didn't tremble with fear when he passed by. She always confronted him, "What you did to me; that weren't right."

He would always push past her or dismiss her with "Get away from me you simpleton!"

Annabelle was a thin, bony girl in her mid-teens. Her long blonde hair was weaved tightly in braids that fell across her shoulders and ended near her waist. She had been a pleasant happy child who was always smiling. That changed at the age of eight when she was helping her Pa round up a pair of mules. A big, rangy, plow mule kicked with full force and caught her square on the left temple. It was touch and go as to whether she would make it. Annabelle proved to be a tough little girl but from then on, she was never the same. Before long she was being called simple or a simpleton by kids and adults alike. She didn't smile as much as she had before, and headaches were as common as the sunrise. What triggered her dislike of Whiskey was a matter of discussion around town. Several people had an idea, but no one said anything.

The sun was near straight overhead as Whiskey ambled down the sidewalk with his boots making a loud clanking sound on the wooded slats of the walkway. Whiskey had slept late after a long night of drinking and was headed to the Brass Eagle Saloon for a bit of the hair-of-the dog. He felt the warmth of the noon time sun as he pushed his sweat-stained hat back on his head. He also saw Annabelle standing in the middle of the sidewalk about ten feet down the way.

Whiskey said a curse under his breath as he saw her standing there. He wished he'd never done what he had done, not because he regretted it but because the girl had been nothing but a nuisance since then. Accosting him everywhere he went. Couldn't even walk down the street in peace.

Annabelle stood her ground and refused to move. "You shouldn't have done what you did to me," she said in a quiet voice. "That weren't right."

"Get out of the way, you stupid simpleton, "the big man raged as he grabbed her by the shoulder and tossed her into a large mudhole located next to the sidewalk.

The Code of the West had not made it to this town. No hero strode forth to defend the young and disabled. No knight errant stepped up to protect young maidens from evil. Whiskey Smith continued unchallenged on his way to the Brass Eagle.

In his usual charging-bull manner Whiskey swept thru the swinging doors of the Brass Eagle and plowed forward to the bar. But he soon realized something was different. A person he had never seen before was seated at a table in a darkened area near the back wall.

A new black hat with a perfect crease, a freshly ironed blue shirt, and twin pearl-handled Colt forty-fives in brown leather holsters strapped low on the hips. It had to be the Abilene Kid. The Abilene Kid had a reputation as a feared shootist. A gun for hire; killing was his passion. Legend had it that he had dispatched more than twenty gunmen throughout the west. Actual eyewitness accounts did little to support his reputation as a feared gunman. His only three confirmed kills were an 83-year-old farmer in Arkansas, a blind Indian on a train station in New Mexico, and a drunken cowboy in Abilene, Kansas.

The Kid made his living and his reputation by being a gun for hire. He generally preferred to go up against men who were at a distinct disadvantage. The Kid had been assured that Whiskey Smith was an over-the-hill drunken saddle bum. The drunken saddle bum description was a good fit, but he certainly wasn't over the hill.

Whiskey sized up the situation in a flash. Another hired gun sent to take him out. It was nothing new to Whiskey. He was not a popular man; as he had offended everyone within a fifty-mile ride. Four other gun hands had been hired to kill him in the last year. They currently resided next to each other in four unkept graves at Boot Hill.

Whiskey sipped a glass of cheap rot gut as he eyed the Kid.

"Well, Fancy Dan," he laughed. "I'm guessing you're here to see me."

The Kid took a long slow drink from a half-empty glass of beer and slowly stood up. "If you're Whiskey Smith; you're the man I'm here to see."

"Well, Sonny, you have found your man." Whiskey stood up straight and stepped away from the bar. "You here to buy me a drink?"

The Kid set the glass of beer on the table and stepped forward. "I'm here to watch you crawl out of town on your hands and knees; or put a bullet in you. Your choice."

Whiskey laughed a long loud belly laugh as he moved closer to the Kid. "I don't believe you got what it takes, Kid." With that he spit a long stream of tobacco juice on the front of the Kid's freshly ironed shirt.

The Kids' eyes flashed with anger. "Make your play!" He stood arms at the ready; hands nervously waiting to grab the Colts.

Whiskey smiled and wiped wayward droplets of tobacco from his beard. "Not in the saloon; too many bystanders. Out in the street."

"Gladly," said the Kid as he turned toward the door. Two shots thundered from Whiskey's Schofield Smith and Wesson pistol. The Kid turned with a look of surprise and grabbed for the Colts as two large red stains streamed down his side. He raised one of the Colts only to be met with another slug to the chest as he staggered toward the door. He fell to the floor as the Colt dropped from his lifeless hand.

Whiskey holstered his gun and turned back to the bar. "Set 'em up, barkeep. Drinks on the house, courtesy of the Abilene Kid."

As the crowd nervously edged to the bar to take advantage of free drinks a soft voice was heard behind them, "Turn around."

Voices quieted as everyone turned to see Annabelle holding the Colt that had been dropped by the Kid. Silence filled the room as everyone stared at the young girl pointing the gun at Whiskey Smith.

She spoke softly, her voice not much more than a whisper, "What you done to me in the barn that day. That wasn't right."

Caught off guard, Whiskey stared at the girl. "What are you doing? Get out of here!"

Fire and smoke erupted from the Colt forty-five and Whiskey staggered back against the bar, clutching his chest as his life ebbed away. A look of surprise was chiseled on his face as he gasped, "The simpleton has killed me."

Without another word Annabelle tossed the gun on the floor next to the Abilene Kid then slowly walked thru the swinging doors and out onto the street.

After Town Marshal Bob Moody felt enough time had elapsed following the shooting to be safe, he entered the saloon. He saw the Abilene Kid sprawled lifeless a few feet from the door. His freshly ironed shirt stained with tobacco and life blood. The work of Whiskey Smith, no doubt. The Marshal's face registered a look of surprise as he stared at the lifeless body of Whiskey Smith lying at the base of the bar.

"What in the world has happened here?" He asked as he quietly surveyed the scene.

Sam, the bartender poured a glass of the best whiskey in stock, "Whiskey Smith shot the Abilene Kid, then committed suicide."

"Committed suicide? Whiskey Smith?"

The bystanders nodded their agreement as they sipped their drinks.

Sam handed the glass of whiskey to the Marshal. "Drink up. Courtesy of the Abilene Kid and Whiskey Smith."

The End

Jack Paxton lives on a miniature donkey ranch in Arkansas. He enjoys writing humor, science fiction and his new interest is in Westerns. He has recently completed two western short stories and a novel that he is currently seeking a publisher for. He has two current humor novels on Amazon; Gone Ape and Lost in the 70s'. He is a member of the Arkansas Writers Group.

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