May, 2021

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Issue #140

Welcome, Western Fans!

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!

by Phillip R. Eaton
The move to Kansas turned into a nightmare for Seth Owens. He was bullied Mercilessly at school until one day he fought back. But Seth's parents paid the ultimate price for his retaliation. With his world shattered, Seth set forth on a quest for REVENGE.

* * *

Forgive Me, Father
by Issac Withrow
A stranger admits to a brutal murder. Sheriff Dan Fields wants to figure out who this man is and why he did it, but the stranger's not talking. Once the truth starts coming out, Fields's own secret past emerges, and he soon hears more truth than he bargained for.

* * *

A Lynching
by B. Craig Grafton
A drunken encounter between a white man and three black soldiers ends with two men in jail. They're to see the judge in the morning, but a rope might just change those plans.

* * *

Farmer's Son
by Raymond Paltoo
A US deputy Marshall is passing through a small Oklahoma town on his way to the Indian Nations territory when he sees a farmer being harassed by some cowboys in a saloon. Whereupon he quietly teaches them a lesson they will never forget.

* * *

The Dealer
by Jake Jaskowiak
We all have to play the cards we've been dealt. On a quest for a lost treasure Luke and Harrison take a stop at a saloon where a mysterious card dealer lets them glimpse their futures.

* * *

The Hind Tit
by M.D. Smith, IV
An insult from a corrupt sheriff only added venom to what was already brewing inside the kid. Finding justice in this town would not be easy but he didn't come unprepared for what he'd find.

* * *

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All the Tales

A Lynching
by B. Craig Grafton

Part One-The Lynching

There were just the three of them there drinking that night at Elena's. Rufus a corporal, Bennie a private, and Marcus, their sergeant. They were Buffalo soldiers from Ft. Davis just next door to the west Texas town of the same name. Elena the owner was there but in the backroom doing inventory. They were at Elena's because the other bar in town, Charlie's Place, didn't serve coloreds or Irishmen too for that matter.

Rufus was staring off into space contemplating God knows what while Marcus and Bennie were having a conversation about baseball, who was the better team, the Boston Beaneaters or the New York Highlanders, when in strolled one Scruffy Malone, an Irishman. But he didn't look Irish. Didn't have freckles or red hair or green eyes. Had brown hair, brown eyes. Was of average weight, height, and build, an average looking white guy. Average in every respect except when he was drunk that is. Then he was mean, real mean, and he was drunk that night, real drunk.

Elena told Scruffy in no uncertain terms she wasn't going to serve him.

"Well just see about that now won't we," he countered. Elena blew him off and went back to doing inventory.

Marcus, Rufus, and Bennie didn't know Scruffy from Adam. They took one look at him and went back to their drinks.

Scruffy went up to Rufus, plopped himself down beside him, put his hand on Rufus's shoulder, and mush mouthed, "How about sharing your drink with a fellow soldier? I was a soldier in the war ya know, The 508th something or other out of Massachusetts," he lied. Scruffy had never been in the army.

Rufus gave Scruffy a dirty look, lifted Scruffy's hand from his shoulder like he was picking up a dead mouse or something, positioned it over the bar, and let it drop.

"What the hell. What's the matter with you boy? Kind of touchy aren't ya? All I asked is if you'd share your drink."

"I ain't touchy. I just don't like you pawing at me like that. That's all."

"Pawing at ya? You accusing me boy of being what I think ya are?"

Rufus realized now that he had lit the man's fuse. What he didn't realize though was how short that fuse was.

Marcus turned around to see what was going on. No problem. Rufus could take Scruffy. He was a head taller and twenty pounds heavier. Besides, the man was drunk. So he turned back to Bennie and they went back to talking baseball.

"You're buying me a drink for that. Accusing me of being one of them there girlie boys. You ought to know better than to disrespect a white man like that boy."

Rufus didn't take no crap from anyone, black or white. He had grown up in a hell hole called East St. Louis Illinois where a man had to step up and defend himself or he wasn't a man any longer.

"Buy your own Goddamn drink you turkey neck cracker," said Rufus and he turned his back on him, the ultimate insult to a white man by a black man.

"No nigra turns his back on me boy. Turn around here boy," shrieked Scruffy. That got the attention of Marcus and Bennie, Elena too. She ran out the back door for Sheriff Carter Brown.

Rufus ignored the demand. Downed his drink.

Scruffy grabbed Rufus by the shoulder and spun him around, getting in his face. Rufus pushed him to the floor with both hands. Scruffy reached for something behind his back.

Instinctively Rufus knew Scruffy was going for a weapon and he reached for his razor in his right boot. Only it wasn't there.

Scruffy pulled out a Bowie knife from behind his back and struggled to his feet. Rufus frantically fumbled for his razor in his left boot. It wasn't there either. He thrust both hands in his front pockets thinking it might be there and that's when Scruffy gutted him. Rufus's eyes bugged out, he gasped, gurgled, then toppled to the floor in a pile of blood and guts.

Marcus and Bennie stood up when they heard all that but it all happened so fast there was nothing they could have done about it. They stood there frozen in place.

"You boys want some of this too?" yelled Scruffy brandishing his knife at them.

Marcus and Bennie slowly began backing away.

Rufus groaned. Scruffy bent over and stabbed him in the chest without even looking at him, his eyes glued on Marcus and Bennie the whole time.

"Now you nigra boys leave your drinks here on the bar and get the hell out of here. You hear me now?"

"Yes sir,' said Marcus. "Yes sir." Marcus at six foot one, one seventy wasn't afraid of Scruffy. Hell he had gone mano y mano with a Comanche war chief once and had killed the man. But he knew not to fight a white man no matter what.

Just then Sheriff Carter Brown came in, saw Rufus on the floor, saw Scruffy with the bloody knife in his hand, and knew he was going to have to arrest him even though he knew no jury here in town would convict a white man of killing a black man. But he had to go through the motions to show that he, the law, was doing his job.

"Scruffy," said Sheriff Brown, "you need to come with me now." Sheriff Brown didn't want to tell him he was under arrest since Scruffy still had the knife in his hand and no telling what he might do if he heard that.

"I ain't going with you sheriff. It was self defense. The nigger here was reaching for his razor."

Carter looked for a razor. Didn't see one.

"I don't see a razor anywhere Scruffy."

Scruffy had helped himself to a bottle and a glass. "Self defense Sheriff, self defense."

Rufus groaned again.

Marcus went over and bent down next to him, placed Rufus's head in his lap. His military mode kicked in and he shouted out orders, "Bennie go and get a doctor. Elena get some towels and help me stop the bleeding here. Hang in there Rufus. Hang in there." Marcus had seen wounds like this before and he knew he was holding a dead man's head in his lap.

Scruffy had resheathed his bowie knife now since he needed both his hands, one to pour, one to steady the glass. Sheriff Brown deemed it safe to approach him now.

"Please Scruffy you're going to have to come with me. You can sleep it off at the jail."

"He made the first move sheriff. It was self defense."

"Ya ya I know."

The Sheriff and Scruffy had their backs to Marcus and Elena who were busy trying to stop the bleeding. Marcus had to find out if Rufus had a razor on him or not and now was his chance. Marcus had caught Rufus with a razor in his boot once. Told him that if he caught him again, he was going to have to report him to the company commander. Marcus stuck his hand in Rufus's right boot. No razor. Reached in Rufus's left boot. No razor. Then he patted him down all over. No razor. He obeyed me thought Marcus and I cost the man his life.

Sheriff Brown had his arm around Scruffy's waist now, holding him up, steadying him. He had talked Scruffy into surrendering by letting him take the bottle to jail with him. The two of them stumbled forward and out the door as Bennie came running in.

"The doctor wouldn't come," he said. "Said it was a matter for the town doctor since it happened in town. Said since it wasn't a combat wound, regulations prohibited him from treating it."

"You went to the army doctor?" asked Marcus in amazement. "Why in the hell didn't you just go and get the doctor here in town?"

"I didn't think he'd come, That's why,"

Marcus knew he was probably right. No sense scolding the kid.

"Probably wouldn't have made any difference anyway. He's dead Bennie. Help me put him on his horse and get him back to the fort."

Back at the jail Winston Brown, the seventeen year old son of the Sheriff who was there watching over a prisoner by the name of Sludge Mueller, helped his father escort Scruffy to a cell.

"What's with Scruffy here Dad."

"Drunk over at Elena's. KIlled a negro in a knife fight."

They got Scruffy in his cell bunk. He passed out. The sheriff took the bowie knife off him.

"It's been a busy night and it's late son. I need to go home and get some sleep. Keep an eye on them for me will ya. They shouldn't give you any trouble since they're both dead drunk. I'll be back first thing in the morning."

Sheriff Carter Brown went home. A short time later in stormed the McClanahan brothers, Tim and Roy, young men in their twenties. They were the ones who had pressed charges against Sludge Mueller a couple of days ago. Pressed charges against him for violating their retarded little sister Julie Ann. The McClanahan siblings' parents were dead and it fell on the two of them to look out for her. What fried their fritters here was that it took Sheriff Brown two days to arrest Sludge. So when they heard Sludge was in jail that night, they had to come see it to believe it.

"Well you finally found him huh," snarked Tim going over and spitting at what he thought was Sludge through the bars.

"Took ya long enough. Where's your old man anyway?" demanded Roy.


Roy went over and spit at what he too thought was Sludge.

"That isn't Sludge," Winston informed him. "That's Scruffy Malone."

They both went over and spit at Sludge.

"Ya know," said Roy, "it sure took your old man long enough to find him. 'Fraid of him or something. Had to wait until he was drunk to take him in huh?"

"We should have just strung him up when we caught him in the act," added Tim. "When we had the chance."

Winston didn't know what to say but he wasn't afraid of these two. That was because McClanahan boys had spotless reputations. They didn't drink and everyone knew why. Their father had been a drunk and they didn't want to end up like him. They both had good jobs and were reliable workers, Tim at the blacksmith's and Roy as a clerk at the courthouse. They were regulars at the Presbyterian Church. They weren't womanizers. Both of them were courting a couple of respectable young ladies here in town from good families. Thus Winston had no reason to fear them at all.

But nevertheless they were fuming mad and went off on a tirade against Sludge, the sheriff, and the legal system in general. Finally the two brothers wore themselves out. Their final warning to Winston was, "You tell your old man we better get justice for Juie Ann or by God we'll see to it that we do."

Marcus and Bennie got back to the fort. There they met the sergeant of the guard at the front gate. Marcus explained to him what had happened that night. The sergeant of the guard told them to wait there while he got the company commander. The second he was gone Marcus grabbed Bennie by the wrist. "Listen up now. When he comes back with the captain let me do the talking and follow my lead. Got it soldier?"

"Yes Sergeant,"

The sergeant of the guard came back with the captain. When the captain was done questioning Marcus, he turned to Bennie.

Marcus spoke up. "Sir if I may interrupt but we have to get back to the Sheriff. He told us to come back and give him a statement."

"Okay go then," replied the captain. "But If I need to look into it further, I'll let you two know. Got it?"

"Got it," answered Marcus for two of them.

Marcus and Bennie left. After they had gone a little ways Bennie spoke up.

"What's all this about?" Sheriff didn't want us to give him a statement."

"I know. But I came up with that so we could go back and get justice for Rufus."

A wild, feral, animal survival of the fittest look, had come over Marcus. It was visible from the glare in his demented eyes. A hunger for revenge took possession of his very soul, burned within him, ate at his heart, and Bennie saw it and he was scared.

"What do you mean justice for Rufus?"

"I mean what do they do to a black man who kills a white man? That's what I mean. You haven't ever seen a lynching have ya? You being from Boston and living back east and all."

"Well no," answered Bennie, his voice quavering some.

"Well I have. I'm a sharecropper's son from south Alabama and I seen a lynching, my brother's. They held me there. Made me watch. And you know what they did to him after they hung him? They set him on fire. That's what they did. Oh no it's not good enough just to hang a black man. You gotta burn him too. I was lucky to escape with my life that night. Next day I lied about my age and joined the army. Got out of there. Never went back. But I swore that night that I'd get revenge for my brother. All these years have passed now and I still haven't got it. Now's my one and only chance and by God I'm going to take it. We're gonna lynch that low life white trash peckerwood."

"But Scruffy didn't lynch your brother. Those white men in Alabama did,"

"Don't make no difference no how. He's white isn't he. Any white man will do. Just like any black man will do for a white man. He'll represent all those white men everywhere who ever lynched a black man anywhere. Tonight we're getting our revenge. Getting it for all of us."

Bennie was scared. Didn't know what to do. What to say. Finally he blurted out, "You ain't fixing to set him on fire too are ya?"

"I would if I could, but I ain't got no kerosene."

"You ain't got no rope either. Where you going to get a rope?"

"We have to ride by Charlie's on the way to the jail don't we?"


"Well I'll help myself to a lasso from one of the horses of those drunken cowboys there. That's where I'll get me a rope."

Bennie weighed his options. He couldn't go back to the fort for if he did he would have some explaining to do as to why he came back so soon and why Marcus didn't. He knew he wasn't good at lying. He could keep going hoping to come up with something to stop Marcus. But he knew he wasn't good at coming up with things either. He rode on.

Marcus grabbed a lasso outside of Charlie's and handed it to Bennie. It was midnight now, pitch black. They stopped down the street away from the jail a piece.

"Here's the plan," said Marcus. "You go around and knock on the back door. The Sheriff will get up to go see who's there. Make sure you knock loud enough for me to hear it because I'll be at the front door listening for it. Knock and go hide somewhere. Then when the sheriff opens the door and looks out back, I'll come in the front door and cold cock him from behind. Then we get Scruffy and string him up from the telegraph pole out back there in the alley. Got it?"

"Sergeant please don't make me do this," whined Bennie.

"That's an order soldier," said Marcus.

"An illegal order sergeant."

"You're as guilty as I am Bennie. You got the rope in your hands now don't ya. You got blood on your hands now. You're an accomplice and under the law an accomplice is just as guilty as the perpetrator."

Bennie's chin sunk to his chest. He should have done something on the way in. Too late now. He was doomed and he knew it.

Bennie got Winston to come look out the back door. Marcus clubbed him.

"Quick find some handcuffs and something to gag him with," ordered Marcus. Bennie found the handcuffs and cuffed Winston's feet together and his hands behind his back. Then he found a couple of snot encrusted old handkerchiefs and blindfolded and gagged Winston with them. That's when they both realized they weren't gagging the sheriff.

"Who's this?" asked Bennie.

"Must be the sheriff's son." answered Marcus. "He looks just like him, spitting image of his old man."

"That means the sheriff will be coming back shortly leaving his kid here in charge like this. Come on let's get out of here Marcus before it's too late. Nobody's seen us. Time is of the essence let's go,"

"Time is of the essence all right," countered Marcus, "but not to go. What's the first rule of combat soldier?"

"Accomplish the mission?"

"Correct. We came here on a mission and by God we're going to accomplish that mission. I'll take the rope and go out back and string it up on one of those climbing hooks on the telegraph pole out there. You unlock Scruffy and bring him to me. He shouldn't be any trouble. Hell he's so drunk probably won't even wake up. Hurry now, hurry hurry hurry."

Marcus exited the back door. Bennie grabbed the keys hanging on the wall. The first key didn't work. He tried the second key. It worked. He went over and drug the still sleeping inmate out into the alley. Marcus came over and slipped the noose on him then went over, grabbed the end of the rope and started hoisting him into the air strangling the life out of him. "Go get that kerosene lamp inside. We're going to toast this cracker now."

"We ain't burning him sergeant. We ain't burning him."

Marcus tied the rope up around the pole securing it in place leaving his symbolic victim dangling two feet off the ground, dead now. "I'll get it myself then."

Bennie took off down the alley. Marcus ran after him. Caught up with him. Tackled him.

"Okay we won't burn him. We won't burn him."

"Thank you. Can we go now?"

"Okay we'll go back but let me do the talking again."


The plan of Marcus's was beautifully executed, pun intended, with military precision that night, except for one little thing. They hung the wrong man. They hung Sludge Mueller and didn't even know about it until a couple of days later when the scuttlebutt hit the fort. Bennie in all the excitement that night, and in being in such a hurry to get it all over with and get the Hell out of there, wasn't paying any attention when he drug Sludge out of the cell. Didn't even look at him. Just grabbed him and ran. Didn't see the other cell. Marcus wasn't paying any attention either when he strung Sludge up. Of course it wouldn't have made any difference anyway the two of them rationalized later. Scruffy and Sludge looked alike, average wite men. Anyone could have mistaken one for the other.

  Part Two-The Consequences

Next morning Sheriff Carter Brown uncuffed his son.

"Where's Sludge?" he asked.

Winston looked at the empty cell.

"The McClanahan brothers must have taken him. They were here last night demanding justice for their sister. Ranting and raving, throwing a hissy fit, saying they should have strung him up when they had the chance. Said you took your sweet time arresting him. They lured me to the back door and then one of them came in from the front and hit me from behind."

"Well they must have taken him out the back door so as not to be seen. Let's go out back and see if they left a trail or something."

They cut down Sludge and brought him back inside with the noose still around his neck. There was Mrs. Higginbottom waiting for the Sheriff to complain about her neighbor's dogs again. Upon seeing Sludge she let out a shriek and ran out the door her hands flailing in the air. Within minutes Sludge's death was front page news.

"Well," said the sheriff as the two of them laid Sludge out on his cell bunk, "I guess I better I notify Sludge's next of kin whoever in the hell that might be."

That afternoon they found out who in the hell that was thanks to Adolph Guzman, a local attorney of dubious ethics and moral character. In other words if one was looking for a good shyster lawyer, Adolph Guzman Esquire, Attorney and Counselor at Law, was your man. "Sheriff I represent the grieving widow of Sludge, aka, Ewell Eugene Mueller, one Mrs. Melodie Lane Mueller.

'You mean the Melodie Lane that works, and I use that term derogatorily, over at the sporting house? That Melodie Lane?"

"Yes, Melodie Lane and she's a hostess. The poor woman is so upset that she won't be able to carry on her hosting duties for a while and earn a living. Thus she is in dire need of funds, now, today, to carry her through these her trying, challenging, times. In fact she's so upset she couldn't be here and sent me as her representative to take custody of the body and settle up."

Sheriff Carter Brown rolled his eyes. "Good then. Take him then. He's all yours. And what the hell you mean by settle up?"

"The money to bury him and a little extra for the grieving widow. That's what I mean Sheriff."

"I'm not giving you any money Guzman."

"Well then since you're obviously at fault letting an innocent man get hung on your watch, my client will have no choice but to pursue legal action."

Carter Brown never did like Guzman. Guzman always seemed to get some crook he had arrested off by hook or crook, usually by crook. He'd be damned if he'd pay him anything.

"Look," he bellowed. "My son here was clobbered from behind. Those two McClanahan brothers double teamed him. It's not his fault. I was on my way to arrest them just now when you so rudely barged in."

"Your son?" queried Guzman picking up the scent of money.

"Yah my son.'

"Your son was guarding the prisoners last night?"


"Kind of stupid of you isn't it Sheriff letting a kid guard prisoners. Why don't you have a regular deputy? I see a case of political nepotism here. Puting your son on the payroll who's obviously a minor and incompetent. Oh I can see it now sheriff, you're going to cost the county, and yourself, a lot of money,"

Attorney Guman stopped to let that sink in. Then he turned to Winston and said, "Ya know kid you could sue your old man here for child abuse and neglect."

Winston did not respond.

"I tell ya what," said Guzman turning back to the sheriff, "Take it out of petty cash right now and I won't sue ya. Of course that depends on what ya got in petty cash in the safe there," he said craning his neck toward the safe.

"I can't take it out of there. There's no way I can account for an expense like this."

"Sheriff, you were negligent in having your son here guarding prisoners. You gotta make it right for the poor widow and pay up. How much is in the safe anyway?"

"One hundred forty three dollars and fifty seven cents." One thing Sheriff Brown was good at was keeping track of the office's money to the penny."

"Prove it. Open the safe and show me. I don't believe you."

Carter Brown stomped over to his desk, ripped open the top right desk drawer, took out a book, and tossed it at Guzman.

"Here. Here's my petty cash ledger. See for yourself but I'm not opening no safe for ya."

Guzman opened the ledger, turned to the last page. The bottom line $143.57.

"I was thinking more like five hundred," said Guzman, setting the ledger down on the sheriff's desk. "The bank is just around the corner. Go over there and get it out of your savings account."

"No I'm not paying you out of our savings account. I'd have to explain that to my wife then."

"Not my problem Sheriff. Not my problem."

Negotiations between the Sheriff and Guzman didn't last all that long. Carter caved reasoning that a defense attorney would eat up most of his savings anyway and he'd probably get off cheaper with a settlement. Besides the trial would be an embarrassment to him, hurt him at reelection time. He left to go to the bank. Winston remained.

"Well kid you want to sue your old man or not?"

Winston never answered and huffed out the door. That was what Guzman wanted. He ripped the last page out of the petty cash book showing the balance and stuck it in his briefcase.

The settlement was as follows. They had agreed that Sludge would be buried in potter's field aka boot hill for free and that Mrs. Sludge would see to the stone. For the record she never did. They agreed on an undisclosed cash settlement known only to Carter and Guzman. Carter didn't want his wife and Winston to know what it was. Guzman didn't want his client to know what it was. That's why it was undisclosed. Guzman pulled out two already typed up identical sheets ot paper from his briefcase and hand wrote in the settlement amount of $143.57 on each. Had Carter sign both. He signed for his client and stuffed one in his briefcase, left the other on the desk for the sheriff, and left. Sheriff Carter grabbed his copy and stuck it inside his shirt.

Guzman then went to the train station and bought a one way ticket to El Paso. Then he got word to one of his client's regulars that he wanted her to come to his office and settle up. Guzman didn't want to go to her office to settle up. He had his reputation to protect. So when she finally got a break, she got there.

"Here," said Guzman, handing her an envelope. "It's $143.57."

"That's all?" she moaned. She was good at moaning.

"That's all he had in petty cash. Here see for yourself," he said taking the petty cash sheet out of his briefcase and handing it to her.

"I was hoping for more."

"Look," said Guzman, "I didn't charge you anything. I did this pro bono because us attorneys have a duty to help the downtrodden and you certainly are the downtrodden now aren't you Mrs. Mueller."

She opened the envelope and began counting the money. That's when she found the one way ticket to El Paso. "What's this?"

"That's your ticket to ride sweetheart. You weren't married to Sludge. I checked the records here and in Pecos, no marriage license either place.

"We weren't married at those places."

"You weren't married at any places. You can't produce a marriage license can you?"

Silence was her answer.

From the start Guzman knew she was a fraud, but a fee producing fraud. That's why he bought the ticket. That's why he wanted her out of town before the whole scheme, which included him keeping the rest of the settlement money which was in excess of two hundred dollars, all unraveled in his face.

Melodie Lane, if that her name was, was on the 8:10 train, to El Paso that night.

Sheriff Carter arrested the McClanahan brothers for the murder of Sludge a couple days later. The brothers hired Guzman. They wanted this over with as soon as possible. The trial was held a week later. During that time Guzman greased some wheels and pushed some buttons guaranteeing a favorable verdict. His exorbitant fee covering the costs thereof.

Meanwhile Scruffy Malone remained in jail waiting for his pals to come up with his bail and Guzman's exorbitant fee.

The McClanahan trial was a piece of cake for Guzman. He was up against some young dude prosecutor from back east somewhere with little to no experience who somehow had gotten himself elected claiming he was from some Ivy league school and therefore smart. Guzman during the trial more than once called him a carpet bagging easterner, not one of us.

Winston testified that the McClanahans said they should have hung Sludge.

Guzman cancelled that out by having the brothers vehemently deny anything of the sort. And besides that, they had an alibi. They were home that night watching over their baby sister Julie Ann. He had Julie Ann testify to that. Best she could anyway. Being mentally handicapped she was discombobulated in her answers, incoherent at times. She had trouble putting a sentence together let alone two in a row. But what she said mattered not. For it was her swollen belly that testified for her.

"Who you going to believe here anyway?" said Guzman in closing argument, "a kid who screwed up, probably fell asleep on guard duty, a kid who shouldn't have been there in the first place, or my upstanding clients, churchgoers, hard workers, pillars of the community." Guzman had a tendency to lay it on a little thick at times. "Besides, the kid admits he doesn't even know who hit him. It could have been anybody. You all know what kind of a person Sludge was. He had lots of enemies. Any one of them could have done him in."

The jury adjourned. Their decision had already been made as they left the jury box, not guilty. Even if the brothers had hung Sludge, they would have walked. The jurors to a man were convinced that Sludge had gotten what he deserved. Nevertheless the jury didn't come back right away. Guzman knew why. The young prosecutor didn't and the longer they stayed out, he became more of a nervous wreck. The jury had adjourned at ten and by God they wanted their free lunch at noon. So they drug things out and after they finished their noon feast and they made sure it was a feast by sending Sheriff Carter out for seconds, seconds on desserts too. They came back at two. Didn't even go back to the jury room. Just announced the McClanahan brothers not guilty, another win for Guzman.

Scruffy's drinking buddies finally came up with Guzman's fee and his bail. Same prosecutor, same piece of cake. Or so Guzman thought. First Guzman knew no jury would convict a white man, not even an Irish white man, of killing a negro. But to hedge his bets Guzman got two Irishmen on the jury, a Mr. O'Keefe and a Mr. O'Leary. He also got a Mexican, a Senor Ochoa, on the jury, one of his own, figuring it was good for business, might bring in some more Mexcian clients.

The trial began by having Marcus testify as to what he saw. But that backfired on the young prosecutor. Guzman got Marcus to admit his back was to Scruffy and Rufus the whole time and that he didn't see anything. Got him to admit he didn't hear anything either since he was engaged in a heated discussion with Bennie about who was the better team, the Boston Beaneaters or the New York Highlanders as if that mattered out here in west Texas.

The prosecutor asked Marcus if Rufus was unarmed. If he had a razor on him. Marcus said Rufus was unarmed, had no razor on him. The prosecutor then asked him how he knew that. Marcus said because he searched Rufus for a razor while he was lying on the floor and found none. The prosecutor then asked him why he searched Rufus in the first place. And that's when Marcus told the story of catching Rufus with a razor in his boot and warning him not to do it again since it was against army regulations.

Guzman jumped all over that on cross, accused Marcus of taking the razor from Rufus when he searched him, of hiding it on himself, of leaving with it, and getting rid of it. Then he added looking at the jury, "You know how those kind are always looking out for each other."

That remark emboldened the timid young eastern liberal thinking prosecutor to jump up and object, "Objection Your Honor. Racially infuriating."

"Racially infuriating? What in the hell is that?" squawked Judge Davis.

But before the prosecutor could say another word, Guzman spoke up. "I didn't mean Negroes look out for Negroes Your Honor. What I meant was soldiers, Buffalo soldiers, they always look out for each other." Guzman had still gotten his point across for there was no such thing as a white Buffalo Soldier.

"Objection overruled." bellowed Judge Davis.

The prosecutor then had Marcus testify that he saw Scruffy stab Rufus while he was laying on the floor. But later when Scruffy took the stand he said he had to. Rufus had grabbed him by the ankle and was trying to pull him down. Marcus was recalled and refuted that. Guzman refuted that by saying it's just Buffalo soldiers covering their butts for each other again.

Bennie then got up and testified. His testimony was pretty much a repeat of what Marcus had said. On cross Guzman asked him the same questions, got the same answers. Bennie was such an ineffective witness that one of the jurors fell asleep while he was testifying.

Guzman had Scruffy take the stand after the prosecution rested. He asked him only a few questions about him defending himself. Scruffy said he was in fear of his life. Said he knew the Negro had a razor on him when he reached for his boot. That's where negroes keep them, he said. Said a man has to do what a man has to do to protect himself now doesn't he.

The prosecutor on cross told Scruffy, not asked him, the kid was a fast learner picking up on Guzman's tactics, that he was nothing but a drunk, incoherent, low down vile character who didn't remember anything that happened that night.

Guzman objected. Said the prosecutor was testifying. Judge Davis sustained the objection. Told the jury to ignore the prosecutor's remarks. They already had.

Both sides then rested. The jury adjourned and they were out for a long time. No it wasn't because they wanted a free lunch. Senor Ochoa, the man Guzman made a point of putting on the jury, wanted Scruffy to hang. But since the other eleven voted for acquittal, he hung the jury instead. Senor Ochoa never did like Scruffy. He and Scruffy had got into it once at Elena's and he'd be damned if he was going to let him walk.

But Scruffy walked. Judge Davis declared a mistrial. For the record there was no retrial. There was no uproar or clamor for it and the young prosecutor fearful of a third strike against him, let it go.

Marcus and Bennie headed back for the fort after the verdict was read.

"Ya know Bennie I think we should put in for a transfer."

"Why's that Marcus?"

"Because sooner or later someone's gonna figure this all out and we're gonna hang. That's why. I should have never let my emotions get the better of me that night. God damn it," he said through gritted teeth."

"Marcus they got nothing on us. That ain't gonna hang us."

"You forgetting Bennie that we told the sergeant of the guard and the captain that night that we were going back to town to give the sheriff a statement."

"Ya so what?"

"So if the sheriff finds out about that and if the army finds out we never talked to the sheriff, no telling where it will lead. We're going to have some explaining to do. That's so what."

"That don't mean we hung that Sludge fella."

"No it doesn't but when in doubt, lynch a negro."

While Marcus and Bennie discussed their fate on the way back to the fort, Scruffy with his entourage were on their way to Elena's to celebrate his victory. Elena had everyone check their weapons at the door first. She had a very profitable night.

Three months later when Marcus and Bennie were stationed at Ft. Still Oklahoma, Julie Ann McClanahan gave birth to a baby girl. The brothers found a family over in El Paso to adopt the child. They didn't want anybody locally here adopting her. And as to who exactly was the father of that child. Well let's just say that remains the McClanahan family's dirty little secret.

The End

B. Craig Grafton has been published by Frontier Tales before and had seven books published by Outlaws Publishing. Three of which are about a West Texas Attorney. His latest book is with Two Guns Publishing and is entitled: Willard Wigleaf: West Texas Attorney. It is available on Amazon.

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