September, 2020

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Issue #132

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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!

Blessed are the Peacemakers
by Curtis H. Stratton
The Good Book says "Blessed are the peacemakers . . . " but was that a sentiment shared by all?

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The Phantom Terrace
by Edward Sheehy
It's 1876, and a city boy arrives in a Colorado mining town and soon discovers the terifying truth about an Indian spirit said to guard the trail leading up to the Continental Divide.

* * *

Why God Created Cowboys
by Paul Grella
The truth behind the legend. "It's the economy, stupid!"

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Just Death
by Robert D. McKee
Being a deputy sheriff in the Old West was no job for a coward, and Tom Mason had been a coward all his life.

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A Gunfighter's Last Call
by Tom Sheehan
When they left the gunfighter, shot to pieces and lying dead in the dust, they headed to the saloon to celebrate. Last call would come late that night.

* * *

Belle Saves the Day
by Larry Lefkowitz
Big Brett Tunney entered the saloon and faced the sheriff. It was time for a showdown. Belle, watching from the stairs, knew Tunney was deadly when he was sober, and he was as sober as a judge. What could she do to save the sheriff?

* * *

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Belle Saves the Day
by Larry Lefkowitz

The doors of the bar swung open and the hombre entered. Some of the men in the bar lowered their eyes, others looked down at their cards, but most recoiled backwards in their chairs because the big man with the scowl on his meaty face was Brett Tunney. Better known as "Big Brett" because he was big in size and reputation—he was wanted in three states and one territory "dead or alive." The sheriff had his badge set on ending Brett's murderous career and now Brett had come to him before he could come to Brett.

"Bet you didn't expect to find me here, Jed," he said to the sheriff.

After a moment's silence, the sheriff replied, "Now that you're here, I expect to find you at the end of a rope."

Both men tensed for the inevitable draw, should the other make a move for his six-shooter.

The men in the bar tensed to dive under the table or try to make it to the exit.

Brett glanced up to the second floor where Belle was leaning on the balustrade outside her "salon," between clients. He smiled, his smile more like a grimace, at her.

He then turned to the sheriff, "I felt you getting close, Jed, and wanted one last time with Belle before I exit this world." He raised his eyes heavenward.

"But first, Belle, me and the sheriff here have to settle our accounts. I can visit you before or after."

Belle knew she had to act. Big Brett was known as a deadly shot when he was sober and he was sober now.

"Before," she said. "Although red is my favorite color in attire, blood red is not a favorite."

"Yeah, the sheriff's blood would disturb you from what I hear."

Belle blushed, despite herself, It was common knowledge that she was "after" the sheriff. He had always refused her "hints," protesting, "My profession would only leave you a widow."

Belle moved quickly. "I got a better idea to settle accounts, as you put it, Brett. Each of you are allowed one bullet. Whoever puts it in the center of the bull's eye of the dart board is the winner. If you win, Brett, the sheriff lets you leave and won't pursue you for a year. If you lose, you enter the sheriff's jail and things will take their course."

Brett, impulsive, hasty, and proud, accepted the challenge. Or maybe he simply believed he was the better shot and the end was a foregone conclusion.

All eyes were on Jed.

The sheriff accepted, too. A refusal would have caused him to lose face and the town would surely choose a sheriff with more cojones.

"We all know you use silver-tipped bullets, Brett, ever since you robbed the silver load from the Wells-Fargo stage," Belle said. "The sheriff uses lead bullets. If the bullet in the bull's eye is silver-tipped, you win. If lead, the sheriff wins."

"Silver always beats lead," Brett boasted.

"We'll see," the sheriff replied.

"When I drop my handkerchief, you both draw and shoot, agreed?"

"Okay," muttered Brett.

"So be it," said the sheriff.

Belle withdrew her perfumed handkerchief between her ample endowments, locally known affectionately as the "Grand Tetons."

"Ready boys?"

Both men nodded.

Belle released the handkerchief and the noise of two shots punctuated the bar. Her handkerchief drifted leisurely downward, but all eyes were fixed on the dart board.

"I'll come down and check the results," said Belle. She tried to keep her knees from shaking.

She descended the stairs slowly to reveal one creamy thigh and leg protruding from her red dress. The men's eyes moved from the dart board to her and, after she descended, back to the dart board. She walked to the target and dug out the two bullets from the bull's-eye with her diamond- studded nail file, the gift of an admirer from "back East." One bullet had struck dead center, the other slightly to the left.

She stared down at the two bullets in her hand for a long, dramatic moment, before she announced, "Lead."

She quickly pocketed the bullets.

The sheriff beamed.

Brett scowled, shook his head in shock, and handed his six-shooter to the sheriff.

The sheriff tipped his hat to Belle and led Brett away in cuffs.

"Wait a minute," protested Brett, "How—" but the sheriff had already pushed him out through the swinging doors.

Had the sheriff really won?

Had Belle faked the results?

If anyone dared thereafter to hint at such to Belle, she simply replied, "You dare to question my integrity?"

No one questioned her integrity because shortly afterward it was clear that the sheriff had mellowed in his refusal to marry Belle and no one wanted to cross him.

The sheriff indeed married Belle. She, after all, in a sense, had provided the dowry.

Belle had to give up her profession, of course, to the chagrin of many of the town's men and the satisfaction of many of the town's women, but she knew that, whereas ladies of pleasure are more plentiful, a good sheriff is hard to find.

The End

Larry Lefkowitz's stories and humor have been widely published. His humorous novel "The Novel, Kunzman, the Novel!" is available from, Amazon, etc.

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