February, 2021

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Issue #137

Welcome, Western Fans!

Looking for free, tantalizing Tales of the Old West?
You're at the right place.


Read this month's Tales and vote for your favorite.
They'll appear in upcoming print volumes of The Best of Frontier Tales Anthologies!

Bobcats and Wild Hogs
by J. David Thayer
The Odyssey of a young trapper who must stand between his family and encroaching evil. But evil can take on many forms and not all are unfamiliar.

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For Sapphires and Gold
by G. D. McFetridge
The two aold men were partners, prospectors searching for a big strike. This time out, they had been told, their luck was sure to change. And it did. Boy, did it ever!

* * *

Texas Jack and the Fatal Hand
by Michael Gygi
He enjoyed his whiskey and an occasional dance or two with Kat. Aside from that, he was a loner. There had been the occasional altercation in the bar which always ended with the sound of two shots, a dead stranger on the floor, and a smoking gun in the hand of Jack Rose.

* * *

The Chase
by Jack Clevenger
New Mexico's Jornada de Los Muertos is a lonely, hot, long stretch of desert. It is also Apache country. With Apaches coming up behind him, Ben Johnson will rely on every skill he possesses—and his big horse, Gabe.

* * *

Mitchell and the Death of a Shotgunner
by Dick Derham
The stage had been robbed and the shotgun guard killed. Wells Fargo was on the hook for the value of the bullion. But was the guard killed so the stage could be robbed, or was the stage robbed so the guard could be killed?

* * *

The Man of Boot Hill
by Chino Nunez
When a notorious gang leader by the name Magruder tries to strong-arm the right town at the wrong time, Charlie Casket has no choice but to step in, despite being outnumbered and underestimated. An old-fashioned duel will solve the issue, but for who?

* * *

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

All the Tales

The Man of Boot Hill
by Chino Nunez

The temperatures were in the 90s, easily. The streets were bustling with the people of the town, wagons rolling by and horses carrying their travelers to their destination, both parties aching for a cold drink. Inside the Perro Y Toro Cantina, the tables were filled with patrons from both sides of the border, occupied with many different things, from card games to drinks to whores. A man in a derby hat was pounding away at the stand-up piano, along with a trumpeter and a fiddler, all three just barely able to be heard over the noise of the saloon. A few men had bellied up to the bar including a man in a suit and a man in a white jacket.

"I heard ol' USG is planning on giving people good federal jobs based on what they can do, rather than who they know," said the man in the suit, "as if that'll change anything. Probably get thrown out by the next president anyhow." The man took a swig of the beer in front of him. "What do you think about this whole mess, Charlie?"

"I think those bastards in Washington don't know their ass from their tail feathers. They should just leave us alone over here. What are they gonna do from several thousand miles away, write me a strongly worded letter?" the man in the white coat, identified as Charlie, stated. They both shared a hearty laugh before taking another drink.

While the two men were talking, a man came bursting in through the door. Disheveled and panicky, he yelled "Magruder's comin'!"

At this, a man in the back yelled back, "Magruder ain't nothin'. I could beat him with one arm tied behind my back." He proceeded to laugh, not noticing the large figure in the doorway.

"Oh, you could, could you? Tell me, what's your name?" said the figure, the saloon going dead quiet at it. The man in the back just gulped as the people parted for the figure as he walked through.

"Well come on now. You said you could beat me with one hand tied behind your back. I want to know the name of the man who could beat Mean Magruder in a fistfight." His voice was almost playful, like a cat stalking a ball of yarn

"S-Simon, sir. Simon Baptiste." The man said, stuttering.

"Well Simon," said Magruder, looping an arm around Simon's shoulders, "You claim something that most men won't, or can't, claim. I like that. Respect it even. There may be a spot for you in my gang, what with the bravado you just showed."

"R-r-really?" Simon said, smiling.

"No." Magruder said, gripping Simon's jaw with one hand and extending his arm, snapping Simon's neck. "Anyone else want to man up against me?" he said, observing the crowd. "What about you, farmer boy?" he said, pointing at a young man in overalls, enjoying a Sarsaparilla. The boy coughed, shaking his head. He went on, challenging anyone that looked his way.

"So, nobody wants to fight, eh? Too chickenshit to fight one man? Pathetic, all of you." Magruder said, his eyes landing on Charlie. "What about you, Slick? You some kinda road agent or something? With your fancy white coat and pants."

Charlie turned to Magruder, his eyes chips of obsidian in a rock face. "I don't reckon I am, mister. It's mighty hot outside, and this is my only set that won't stink after a day. Unlike you, I prefer not to smell of skunk and garbage whenever I go anywhere." he said, meeting Magruder's glare.

Having never had a person stand up to him before, Magruder was, understandably, baffled. Soon, he recovered and said, "What did you say, you piece of trail trash?"

Charlie stood up, matching Magruder eye to eye and coming toe to toe. "What I said was," he began, "that you smell terrible. Did you wallow in the mud with the pigs on the outskirts of town, or do you just naturally smell that bad? Not to mention you look like the middle of main street in San Antonio after a hard rain."

Magruder had gone redder than a lobster and was steaming like one too. He called out, "Arnold, Smith, get over here and help me beat this man into submission." He put on his gloves while his two associates burst into the barroom, a club in one set of hands and a hammer in the other.

"Hold it right there, Magruder. I don't care if you start a fight in my bar, but if you do, it'll be a damn fair one," the bartender piped up, leveling a shotgun at the two henchmen.

Grimacing, Magruder gave in, "All right, old man, I won't start anything in here." He pointed at Charlie and said, "You. Meet me outside in ten. I'm gonna teach you where exactly you stand to me."

Charlie seemed unaffected, lighting a stogie and chuffing it before responding, "All right. Make sure you're there on time, alright? That's when the big hand is on the six. Do you think you can manage it?"

Magruder looked ready to burst, but knew if he started anything, he'd be without two henchmen, and by the way this man was talking, he might need more than two. "Alright boys let's go. We'll teach this filth what it means to be a part of Mean Magruder's gang." he said, walking out, followed by his lackeys.

The saloon was silent until he left, then burst with noise, primarily questions for the insane stranger in white. "What are you doing?" "What were you thinking?" "Are you really going to fight him?" "Can I have that coat when you die?" were some of them that were prominent. Despite the questions, Charlie didn't look fazed.

His friend leaned over and asked, "Are you sure you want to go with this? He could seriously hurt you."

Charlie cast his gaze to his friend and said, "Of course I'm scared. In my line of work though, fear is often present."

His friend gained a knowing look before returning to his drink. "You think there'll be enough to get them all?" A solemn nod was his answer. "And the ones that run?" Another nod. "Well, I wish you luck then. You'd best get out there, it's almost time."

"Alright. Keep the beer cool, will you? I don't want to come back to warm beer." Charlie said. The crowd was baffled at this man who seemed more concerned with the temperature of his beer, than the most dangerous criminal this side of the Mississippi. Nonetheless, they parted for the supposed madman, the men taking off their hats in respect for this dead man walking.

As Charlie walked out, a flash of light hit his eye, and he waved it off, revealing Magruder crouched next to a little boy, around 13 years old, if Charlie had to guess. Magruder caught his eye and waved the boy off.

"My son here was wondering if he could be a man like me someday. I told him to watch this slaughter to see if he likes this life. He's saw it before, I just want him to see you beg for your life as I kill you, to remind him to never be weak." Magruder said, a grin splitting his face.

Charlie stood in the center of the street, one hand brushing his coat back to reveal a pitch-black Schofield with ivory inlays, saying "Be a shame for a kid to see his old man be chucked in the dirt so young."

Magruder's grin shrunk into a straight line across his face, taking his place across from Charlie, mimicking his stance. He sized up the man across from him. Nothing too special, just a fancy dressed smack talker whose scraggly hair likely blinded him to an extent. Despite that, Magruder could feel those cold, black pits staring at, no, through him. Almost like he wasn't there. Like the bumpkin had sized him up and dismissed him.

The man across from Magruder was stone cold, he could tell. There was no fear in his eyes, no trembles in his body. Hell, his moustache didn't even twitch. Magruder called out to his boy, saying "Call it out, Mac. This one's on you."

A second went by, then a boy's voice pierced the silence with a "Draw!"

Magruder knew he was fast. He had bested several of the fastest men of his time. He could make snakes look slow with his drawing and firing. Which is why it was a surprise when he saw the stranger's hand flash down and up, then firing while he was still drawing. He didn't get time to process this as a chunk of molten lead came screaming at him, making its home right in Magruder's heart.

Young Mac didn't know what had happened. When he yelled 'Draw', he expected his dad and uncle Arnold to fire at the same time, taking the man down immediately. What had happened was his father getting killed, and his uncle Arnold nowhere to be found.

Mac got his answer when New Mexico Rangers, Pinkertons and a few local police came out of the buildings where the gang was stationed in case the man wasn't fair. Right behind the law officers was the rest of the gang, bound and gagged, being dragged along by the lawmen.

White hot rage was what Mac felt, and he decided to take it out on the man that was supposed to die. "You bastard, you killed my pappy!" he yelled, fumbling with his own .36 revolver. Before he could level it, the man in the suit batted it out of his hand and rapped the kid on the head with his own pistol.

Charlie, having noticed this, thanked the man, adding "If you need anything from me, William, let me know."

William nodded and said, "You've done far more than I could have. Thank you, Charlie." The two were quickly surrounded by officers, all congratulating each other. "What other names you got? If you don't mind me askin', that is," said a local deputy, barely out of his twenties.

Charlie stretched a bit before answering. "I only got two. Charlie Indigo, my Christian name, and the one I got on that fateful day fifteen years ago," he looked at the crowd, all of who had leaned in closer, "Charlie Casket, The Man of Boot Hill."

The End

Chino Nunez is a Graduate of Full Sail University and has graduated with a Bachelor's in Creative Writing. He has a Wix site at https://csnunez1.wixsite.com/mysite. He updates it when he can

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