September, 2022

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Issue #156

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!

From This Tree I Hang
by Joshua Britton
A bungling gunslinger narrowly escapes two hangings while taking advantage of his lifelong friendship with Dusty. Dusty would like to leave behind these life-risking adventures and take care of his mother and the family farm, but will his selfish buddy let him?

* * *

A Shivaree for Goldilocks
by Tom Sheehan
How do two ornery and smelly mountain men, used to each other but nothing else, handle the discovery of an abandoned baby they dub Goldilocks because of her golden hair? Will unaccustomed tenderness mixed with the tenacity and rage of a wounded grisly do?

* * *

The Great Train Robbery
by James Dickman
On June 2, 1899, Butch Cassidy, and his "Hole-In-The-Wall-Gang" hold up the Union Pacific Overland Flyer transporting gold and valuables. But Butch doesn't expect a second train carrying soldiers minutes behind. With time running out, will Butch have to fight it out?

* * *

The Walking Man
by Francisco Davila
Mr. Walking Man walked out into the middle of the street and pointed his rifle at the three hardcases. They rode right at him. Mr. Walking Man yelled out real loud, "I ain't dying alone, you border scum."

* * *

The Blue Tinted Specs
by Ray Dyson
At the trading post, a gambler wearing blue tinted specs dealt cards to several infantrymen. Bannon instantly saw the tinhorn was cheating and called him out. The entire room froze as a lanky gunman stepped up behind the tinhorn. This game of poker was about to turn deadly.

* * *

Off the Beaten Path
by Alexander J. Richardson
Gunhand Thomas Burns finds himself caught up in the wild claims of a newcomer at the saloon.

* * *

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All the Tales

Off the Beaten Path
by Alexander J. Richardson

It was Monday mornin' when he sauntered into the saloon, wearin' a bearskin jacket—hung open, with gold buttons—a gray vest underneath, brown chaps, and black boots with spurs a' silver. His mustache was long and curly and held touches a' gray against the amber it had once been, and his wide-brim hat had a taxidermized rattler wrapped around, the snake's face bulgin' at the front a' it. A revolver hung from his right hip, he carried a lumpy sack that stunk somethin' awful, and while newcomers usually bother me fierce, I didn't see nothin' wrong with this feller.

Easton and I clearly wasn't in agreement, though.

"Hey," he said from behind the bar, one hand on the spotted apron he always wore, his paunch givin' its ties no slack, "can't come in heeled."

The man tipped his hat at Easton.

"Buongiorno, " he said, then gestured at me. "This-a man is heeled, no? Why is so different?"

Easton jerked a thumb at me. "This man helps me keep order here. And what the hell's a buongiorno?"

The man shook his head a few times. "Apologies, apologies. To saying buongiorno is to telling you good day."

Easton looked him up and down. His black facial hair was long but tidy—so as to give the girls upstairs a rewardin' tickle, or so he always told me.

"You a goddamn Spanish?"

He grinned and shook his head again, pressin' one hand against his chest.

"Me? No, no, no. I hail from Italia, makin' my way in the west same as-a all body else."

Easton looked at me for a moment. I was in my usual chair with the usual eight-gauge in my lap, and I didn't speak.

"You got money?" Easton said, turnin' back to him.


"Guess Italians can spend money here good as any other feller, but you gotta lose the iron. That's a house rule for any visitor, even Americans."

The Italian smiled and stepped outside for a moment and when he came back his holster was empty. Easton glanced at me, and I nodded. He took a bottle out from under the counter, poured a small splash, and pushed the glass over. The Italian put his sack down and looked at it.

"What is this drinking?"

"Whiskey," Easton said.

"I do not care-a for no whiskey. Only wine."

"Ain't no wine here," Easton said. "Options is whiskey or stickin' your head in the trough outside."

The Italian frowned, but after a moment he lifted the glass and downed it in a quick swallow.

"I am Luigi."

"Hell sorta name's Luigi?" Easton said.

"It is the name given by me papa, and was-a his name, and the name of his father firstly, and many of his fathers before."

The bartender grunted. "My name's Easton. This here gunhand," he said, gesturin' at me again, "is Thomas Burns. You might think he looks like a goddamn Irish, what with the red beard and all, but he ain't. He's Swedish. Keep in mind that if you give me any sorta fuckin' trouble, you'll be answerin' to him. Got it?"

Luigi turned to me, his grin wider.

"Buongiorno, Thomas."

I nodded slightly. Easton leaned across the bar.

"I asked you got it, Italian. You gonna got it, or do I need to send you packin'?"

Luigi dipped his chin. "Apologies, apologies. Nobody ever so sorry as me. May I have another-a drink?"

Easton took his glass and poured another splash.

"What brings you so far off the beaten path?" I said.

Luigi downed his beverage and smiled at me again, a twinkle in his eye.

"Bounty hunters," he said.

Easton perked up. "You? A bounty hunter?"

Luigi rested his elbows on the bar.

"There is tanta money in this, no? To any tiratore who brings in the nefasto Juan Rojas Gang, dead or alive?"

Easton looked him up and down.

"Figurin' you're a few saddles short for that sorta work, Italian. Ol' Juan's got plenty of guns ridin' alongside him, and the posse started outta here a few weeks back now."

Luigi arched an eyebrow. "Oh, is he so-a tough? Potente sceriffo?"

Easton snorted. "A locust ain't tough without its swarm. He's got a lot of men is all. Sure as a stopped clock's right twice a day, fifty bullets is bound to hit somebody more'n a few times."

He pointed at me. "Hell, even my old muscle went off after 'em. Had to hire this cowpoke, keep some sorta order in here."

"And I'm all the luckier for it," I said.

Easton grinned. "Stuff that piehole. You're paid fine."

"In all truthfully," Luigi said, and there was a twinkle in his eye, ain't no doubt about it, "I have-a come here to claim the bounty on Juan Rojas and his sporchi truffatori."

Easton stared at him.

"What's that, now?"

Luigi stroked his fingers across the sack. "Your ears most correct. The sorry bastardos are no more."

Easton stared a moment longer. He barked a laugh.

"You're outta your skull."

Luigi wagged his forefinger. "No, no, no."

Easton leaned over the bar, starin' at Luigi's sack.

"Ain't no way or no how you could fit one body in there, Italian, much less a slew of 'em. Sack ain't even close to big enough."

"All truthfully, but it fit their heads."

Easton frowned.

"You're a goddamn liar."

"No, no." Luigi pushed his glass forward. "Another drink, per favore."

Easton didn't reach for the bottle.

"You got the heads of Juan and his sorry folks in there, prove it."

"I will only show-a this to the men that posted Juan's bounty."

"It was me posted it." Easton jerked a thumb at his chest. "Me."

Luigi leaned a little closer.

"Only you?"

"Well, Mr. Watson from the general store contributed, with approval from the sheriff."

"Then-a Mr. Watson needs to be here, too." Luigi spread his arms. "That is how I condotta business."

Easton didn't speak for a moment. He scratched his beard.

"Wait here a stretch. Thomas, don't you let him leave."

I nodded. Easton went around the bar and hurried out a' the saloon. Luigi reached over for the bottle and poured himself another splash before holdin' it out to me.

"Drink with me?"

"Not yet," I said.

It was several minutes before Easton came back, Mr. Watson with him—his signature striped shirt tucked into stitched pants—and a sandy-haired man with a revolver on his hip and a star pinned to his vest.

"Thought we should have us a representative of the law present," Easton said. "Deputy Glover agreed."


Deputy Glover pointed at the sack.

"You really got a bunch of heads in there?"

"Certainly smells like it," Mr. Watson said, wavin' his hand in front a' his face.

Luigi nodded.

"Let's see it, then" Easton said. "Enough gawkin'. You wish to be paid, show us what we're buyin'."

"Can't believe you done took 'em without seein' the sheriff," Deputy Glover said. "He an' the others was hot on the trail. I been tendin' this two-horse town for weeks."

Luigi lifted the sack.

"Nobody said I no see the sceriffo," he said, shakin' it out and sendin' a pile a' heads tumblin' onto the floor.

Easton, Mr. Watson, and Deputy Glover all stared, their expressions shiftin' slow from curiosity to horror.

"Mother of God," Deputy Glover said. "That's . . . that's Sheriff Wood! That's the posse!

Luigi was closest to Easton, and he raised his glass, smashin' it against the old bartender's face. Deputy Glover reached for his revolver, but I raised my eight-gauge and blew a hole in his chest with the left barrel. Mr. Watson shrieked, lookin' from Luigi to me, and I shot him with the other barrel before he could come to his senses. Easton was pawin' at his face, screamin', and Luigi pulled up the back a' his coat, takin' out the revolver that had been in his holster earlier and shootin' the man three times in the chest.

I broke the shotgun open, ejected the spent shells, and reloaded as Luigi poured two glasses and slid one to me. I lifted mine.

"To the gang's continued success," I said.

Luigi nodded and we both drank.

"Where's everybody hidin' out at?" I said, puttin' my glass down.

"They are-a outside Gallup. Easy ride."

I looked down at the bodies.

"Better get to it, then."

Luigi grinned as he holstered his iron and grabbed the bottle, and the two a' us walked out to our horses.

The End

Alexander J. Richardson is a writer of speculative fiction, crime fiction, and westerns, with sixteen stories published. His work's been distributed on five different websites, both long-standing (Fiction on the Web) and newer (96th of October). Outside of his short stories, Alexander's working to have his debut novel published. He currently resides in New Jersey.

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