April, 2024

Home | About | Brags | Submissions | Books | Writing Tips | Donate | Links

Issue #175

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!

Five Points of Light
by Scott MacLeod
An aging sheriff haunted by the death of his son tries to solve two problems at once when dealing with a another troubled boy.

* * *

Start With a Horse
by Alexander J. Richardson
Gun hands Elliot and James are hired to track down a stolen horse. But their task takes a complicated turn when they come across the thief dead on the trail, and the steed in question missing.

* * *

The Short Fuse
by J.B. Stevens
Chewie always figured robbing banks would end poorly, but he had no idea how explosive that ending could be. When a job goes wrong and the bullets start flying, Chewie ends up trapped. As he stares at a burning fuse and a pile of dynamite, Chewie must find a way out—and fast.

* * *

The Devil in Foreign Boots
by Myles Robb
Cornelius Cain and his cousin Sidney English set off from home and their families to hunt gold in California. On the way, the two become outlaws and terrorize communities. Until a group of strange and mystical men begin to follow the cousins—but why?.

* * *

Texas Town
by Tom Sheehan
Sheriff Tollivan watched over Texas Town. It wasn't the kind of place that needed a constant law presence every minute of the day, but it had its moments. Right now was one of those times, and Tollivan knew a rancher's wife was involved. But how deeply was the question.

* * *

A Cowboy's Elegy
by James Lee Proctor
Silas Cain is a man driven by a strong sense of tradition and duty, both to his fellow man and the country they occupy. When his neighbor lets a horse thief go because the money doesn't add up, it's a calculation our hero just can't make.

* * *

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

All the Tales

The Devil in Foreign Boots
by Myles Robb

They had begun riding in the early dawn, leaving home and their lives in the past just as they fitted themselves a new one. The air was warm, and the sun had barely begun to rise on the horizon, gleaming with a pinkish-red sky. Cornelius Cain led his younger cousin, Sidney, down the sloping hills off into the western darkness. The two of them laughed as they rode the horses in the glittering plains, blowing with each fall breeze that strung past them. Behind them lay that sun, ever-looming and melting the ground with its impressive glow.

When they had stopped to rest, Cain cooked them both raw meat over a small fire under the dry sun. They sat and bubbled with excitement over the life that awaited them. Cain had convinced Sidney to travel with him, describing the spoils they would find. Gold lay somewhere out there in the mountains near the sea, but along the way were towns without count, full of money and women. Sidney tried to smirk. They talked and laughed over fond moments in their past, passing a bottle of whiskey between the two. Cain sang and danced, lifting Sidney's spirits, with confidence that this had been the right choice. After all, they were meant to be outlaws, not caretakers. Cain assured Sidney that they would only hit a few places on their way just so they had enough to make it through the mountains. After they finished their meal, Cain stomped the fire away with his fresh boot, and they saddled up, following the train tracks that drifted off into the southwest. The sky was filled with blue, and clouds sailed across the air like ships trekking across a sea. Cain's hat shaded his eyes from the scorching fall sun, and the wind whispered secrets through the sagebrush, painting a portrait of the barren hills overlooking a bustling town.

Cain told Sidney to load up, and they set down off the road, readying their guns and eating the old meat. Sidney wrapped a bandanna around his face, covering his mouth and nose, copying the work of Cain. They each loaded pistols and stuck them in their waists, then loaded shotguns, which they would carry horseback into town. Cain laid out a careful and cautious plan, while Sidney wiped the sweat off his brow, reluctantly nodding his head in acceptance.

The pair rode in slowly, and Sidney listened to the horses' feet clop against the ground, avoiding eye contact with those who saw them come in. Cain saw it just ahead of them, the bank standing tall and proud, egging him on with his newfound sense of pride and destiny. They fell out of their stirrups when they arrived at the front steps, Sidney gripping the shotgun with all his nervous might. Cain gave Sidney a countdown and led the way, bursting through the doors into an empty lobby and shouting, "Everybody stop right now. I'll shoot." He looked to the young lady at the gate, "You, load up some cash, now." He motioned to the nervous Sidney to watch the other attendants. Cain followed the woman back and watched her pull out bundles of cash frantically before falling to her knees and sobbing. Cain stood confident before saying, "Shut it. Just finish up so I can get out of here." She finished stacking the case full of cash. He kissed her on the cheek and smiled before jogging out into the lobby, ushering for Sidney to follow him quickly out the door. They quickly loaded the horses and took off through a growing crowd of people watching them ride. As they left town, Cain looked back and saw nothing, then began to belly laugh to Sidney's nervous delight as they began riding west towards the sun that now fell into darkness.

They woke that morning in the plains, surrounded by grass under a cloudy sky. Cain was awake before Sidney had opened his eyes, sitting around an early morning fire, singing folk hymns and skewering meat to take with them on the journey. He was naked and dripping from the river where he had bathed and looked as warm as the sun, telling Sidney they would find another town and spend the day there, but they had to leave now for a head start from the law. Cain wore only a smile on his face, proud of the success that had befallen them. They left soon after, with Sidney falling asleep on his horse while Cain sang folk tales to himself. The day was warm, with a boiling sun lighting the sky to the west with a strain of white clouds dissipating into eternity. A pale blue sky broke through them and ushered light onto the grasses that swung in the wind. They saw four riders in black shuffling across the hazy horizon behind, passing silently and sullenly. A yellow shine came down from the sun, illuminating the plains with a road into destiny. Cain led them on ahead, and they reached town later in the day when the clouds grew dark. Sidney tied the horses to poles, and the pair entered a bustling bar full of laughing and singing.

Over the next few hours, they sat in a group of grown men playing cards, filling their bodies with liquor and whiskey. The men around them had women come by to serve their drinks, groping them and returning to their gambling, teeth filled with rot. Cain won a hand of poker, took both arms, and wrapped them around the money, pulling it into his lap. Sidney fell back in his chair to the ground, and with a laugh, Cain picked him up and led him out into the warm night. They sat on the porch drinking from an empty bottle, and the strange men came out demanding their money. Cain took the bottle and, with a jolt, swung it against the big one's head with a crash, then falling into his unconscious body. His skin was pulled off and thrown to the wood boards, pummeled by fists before Sidney's young body freed him and dragged him off. Cain jumped off the wooden ground and ran into the bar, grabbing a bottle before throwing it back at the men after him. He shouted, "I won the money fair," holding the broken bottle out like a knife with the silent bar staring him down as if he were the devil in foreign boots. After the commotion subsided, he returned to picking fights in the back with the pigs, taking all comers.

Cain spent the night in a jail cell and was released in the early morning and thrown onto the dusty ground. Sidney dropped the pistol and money on his back, and they spent the day drinking again. That night, Cain slept with an unnamed woman he discarded the next day while Sidney played cards in the dirt alone. They left town the next day and rode on through the country, passing into the hills of Oklahoma. The prairies were yellow and dying, with the preserved heat from summer lingering and the sun illuminating the journey.

Over the following weeks, they continued on their path. They robbed and stole from those they came across and drank in the towns they stopped. Cain had begun to court so many women that Sidney lost count while he would sit lonesome around the fire with nothing to him but his thoughts. Sidney had stopped following him into bars, beginning a friendship with a young woman that he had to leave behind, promising her he would return. Cain had started to look disheveled as his beard and hair grew out on his person. He would spend the money they stole almost immediately, promising they would earn more when they reached California. To him, it served as a symbol to the life stolen from his youth, reminding Sidney of the life they had, although Sidney had come to want it back.

Weeks later, they came into a large town near the Rocky Mountains. It sat on a flat plain beneath the slopes and was surrounded by rolling barren hills and decaying grasses. The sun was a bright yellow, with a slight heat keeping the two men warm. Their horses stopped along a river that led into town and drank from the pale, clear water. The men had grown tired from their journeys here and had kept themselves a whole satchel of cash to spend when needed. As they pulled into town, the streets were filled with people, and they tied their horses to poles before heading into the bar. Cain spent the day drinking and the night with a beautiful young lady who begged him to stay with her. The next morning Cain told his cousin he was too rich for a whore.

In the center of town was a bank that stood arrogantly while Cain admired it from the barsteps. Sidney tried to argue that they had all they needed and to focus on food to bring with them during a cold winter in the Rockies. Sidney lost his argument when Cain began chatting with a young lady and impressed her with his ensuing wealth. With a confident opening, he burst in through the doors and danced, while Sidney held his sweating shotgun to the bank attendant. Like before, Cain brought an older man to fill another satchel full of cash. All the while, the man muttered, "Damn heathens." A rumbling commotion gathered out front and the old man laughed.

Cain shouted, "Come on! Fill it up. I gotta get out of here."

The man replied, "You both ain't getting nowhere."

Beads of sweat dripped down Cain's forehead, and he pressed his hat to his skull before holding the shotgun to the man's head. "Just do it. Don't make me shoot you."

The old man only smirked and said, "Then you'll really be in trouble."

With bulging eyes, Cain heard Sidney shout, "Cain, we got to go now!"

The man was about to speak again before Cain pulled the trigger without a care, and a rupturing bang hit his ears. The body of the man fell over on the floor, and Cain ignored it while grabbing the satchel. Sidney shouted, "Let's go!" On the way back to the lobby, Cain smiled, knowing he had won. Sidney looked him up and down, forgetting the immense sound, and said, "A man over yonder got loose. Said he was gonna make us regret it. Let's get out of here. I ain't staying here a second longer." Running out the doors, Cain threw a bundle of cash in the air to the onlookers and laughed before saddling his horse and smiling to the ground as if he were returning the spoils of war to the people. No one smiled at him.

Immediately after, Cain ignored his own advice and found himself in town drinking in the bar, gambling away the money they robbed only hours previous. Cain had already started a fight and fell asleep on the wooden floor with booze stained in his linen shirt. Sidney sat in the corner, playing cards with a traveling salesman. With a sudden jolt, the doors swung open, and a silent wind blew into the saloon.

Four men came into the bar holding rifles, with one leading the way, carrying nothing. The leader wore all black and had a face hidden by a long beard with a hat hiding his scalp. He spoke to a silent bar room, "There now, boys. We ain't need no trouble." There was silence. He had no expression and unrolled parchment in his black gloves, "We just want the boys Cornelius Cain and Sidney English. If y'all could be so kind as to point me in their direction, we will leave happily." Without even a seeming hesitation, Sidney and the sleeping Cain were dragged out of the saloon and tied with rope before being set on horses. The four men rode out quickly in the ever-darkening night, with a blue horizon fading into the sloping hills.

They were taken into a barren field in the dark night underneath a sky full of white stars. The mountains surrounded them in the distance, and it was still except for the now quiet and muffled cries coming from Cain. The men sat around a fire, silence filling the air around them, with each taking a small sip from a liquor bottle and passing it across to the other. The two men were tied on the dirt, looking up into the night. Sidney's body was shivering, and he tried to huddle in whatever warmth he could find. Cain lay there motionless and worn, staring up as if he were dead. The man in black strode over in his leathery boots, stepping purposefully in time to the bound men. He crouched down and his beard nearly hit Sidney's body, "You're Sidney English?"

Sidney looked at him now tearfully and regretfully nodded.

The man nodded briefly, "I expect we'll get more truthful information from you than your cousin then?"

Sidney only nodded.

"Good." The man grabbed the scrawny Sidney by the arm and dragged him to the fire with the other men, out of earshot for Cain. The men took turns staring at him with no expressions, and they would look at each other, speaking in an unknown, foreign language. The one in black said again, "Well, I expect you know why we took you out here, then?"

Sidney gave no indication of a response.

"You can speak if you'd like. The other one won't hear a word."

Sidney swallowed. "I reckon you aim to kill us, then. For the robbery."

The man nearly laughed, which made Sidney's body shake. "Well, you're close then. Not just for the robbery. And we ain't gonna kill ya. I reckon that ain't for me to decide. Did Cornelius tell you?"

"Tell me what?"

"Your boy, Cornelius, there. He strolled right into that bank and murdered Lloyd Parish in cold blood. No rhyme or reason to it. Just because the man wouldn't listen to an outlaw."

Sidney shut his eyes. "Today?"

The man's mouth formed into a curve, and he said, "Well shit Sidney. I expect you would know since you were in the damn bank."

He shook his head, remembering the piercing gunshot from inside the bank. "I don't buy it. Cain wouldn't hurt a damn fly. He only wants money. It must've been a punch." He replied defiantly, believing his own words.

The man grinned. He leaned in close, and Sidney could smell the liquor in his breath, "What do you think his wife would say, Mr. English?"

Sidney recoiled. Turning his head from the stench, he looked off into the hills. Barren and dry. Snow had begun to fall hushfilly in the cold, and Sidney shivered in his linen clothes.

The man turned back to the others. "Looks like I damn near shook him back to reality." He took the bottle and held it in his black gloves and drank and slammed it into the dirt, shattering it into pieces and stomping his boot in the glass. "Some people forget how good they have it." The men sat sullennly, judging the young man tied and shivering in the falling snow. The man stood above Sidney and said, "Why don't you tell us what you all been up to since you left home."

After some time, Cain had finally been joined by the man in black as he kneeled near Cain's face. "I expect you are Cornelius Cain, are you not?"

With a grimace, he replied, "Yes, sir, I am. Just call me Cain."

The man grinned, "Good." He pulled Cain up forcefully, dragged him to the fire, and slammed him in the pebbled glass. He groaned. The other men around the fire looked at him angrily. Cain lifted his head and looked at the group of them. He looked at the one in black in confusion.

The man smiled. He sat on a wooden log, "Now, shall we begin?"

With a frown, Cain replied, "Begin what?"

The man looked off into the freezing night and ignored his question. "You are Cornelius Cain of Fort Dodge, Kansas?"

"Yes, sir."

"You are the husband of Eleanor Cain and father of Mattie Cain?"

Cain gritted his teeth and hesitated. "Yes, sir."

The man smiled, "So what are you doing out here in the middle of nowhere New Mexico?" He clasped his gloved hands.

Cain looked him in the eye, "What do you aim to know?"

"You know your family is mighty worried about you. Thought you were killed."

Cain smirked, "Maybe I was."

The man looked at him sternly, "Freedom ain't the same as death. You'll learn that soon enough." Cain hoisted his body up and sat against a log. He stared at the flames of the fire and watched them rise, sparking light in the ever-looming darkness. The man stared at him intently, watching the expressions on Cain's face change as if he were looking for something hidden in them. "Tell me about where you are going, Cornelius."

"I told you to call me Cain."

The man's face was pure stone, "Tell me about where you are going, Cornelius."

"Sidney and I aim to travel to California."

"What's in California?"

Cain swallowed. "Gold."

The man laughed and held his belly as he doubled over. The other men just continued to stare at Cain. It was a deep, bellowing laugh that filled the valley and hills, rolling off the lands and into the mountains. The man had to catch his breath in the silence and then looked at Cain, "Gold." He laughed again. "What gold do you think is left, now? Do you think endless riches are awaiting you at the sea?" Cain said nothing. "I tell you this. There is nothing in California that is worth the trouble. You will only find pain and suffering when you continue your journey." Cain spat in the dirt. The man took a deep breath and stroked his beard with his glove. "Who is Sidney to you? By blood, that is."

"He's my youngest cousin."

"That's right, I remember now. And what was the reason to leave your family behind on this journey into paradise?"

Cain huffed and spat out, "What business of it is yours then anyway? Who are you? What do you want with me? Are you the law here?"

The man grinned and chuckled, then signaled the other men to do the same. Cain looked at them all like a scared dog. "Well, I don't know about that. I guess you could say that we're just trying to do the right thing." He breathed. "Tell me, if you're on your way to California, why did you spend so much time here?"

"Well," Cain thought, "Guess I liked it right and good here."

"Like women, don't you?"

"Don't you?" Cain smirked.

The man gave a half-smile. "Sidney told us you're a bit of a troublemaker. Robbed a train back home in Fort Dodge. The sheriff had more to say, many of it involving young women." The man shook his head in disgust.

Cain swore under his breath, "Damn." He looked back up at the now-standing man. "That ain't true. You can't prove it was me."

The man sat eagerly. "Right, you are, Cornelius. Care to tell us about the crimes you committed on your way here?"

Cain swallowed again. "What crimes?"

"Do I need to spell them out for you?"

"Mhm." Cain lifted his head proudly.

The man sighed and reached into his pocket. From it he pulled a parchment paper and unrolled it, holding it in the silent falling snow. He cleared his deep voice, "Robbery of four banks. Assault. Gambling. Stolen property. Marooning. Murder."

"Hey now, some of those ain't crimes."

"Like what, Cornelius?"

"I ain't maroon no one. And it ain't a crime."

The man reached for Cain's chin, holding it in a black leather glove with vicious fury. "I reckon the Good Lord will think otherwise." He threw the chin away. "I tell you what, someone will be brought to justice for these actions, but it don't have to be you. I will raise you a proposition. We plan to bring you both in on these charges and let the masses have at you. But I tell you this," He smiled and grabbed Cain's body, holding it tightly in his steel black gloves, "If you testify against Mr. English, you will go free while he gets stuck with the charges. If he testifies against you, then it's reversed. However, if you both testify against each other, you will both go to prison. If y'all are both silent, then you'll go to prison as well, but you will be on your own. There is no way out of this. Someone will be brought to justice for their transgressions. Now, it can be you, Cornelius, or Mr. English, whom we spoke to before you. Decide." He threw Cain to the ground against the broken glass.

Over the next few minutes, the man paced around the fire, stroking his beard and staring into the mountains. He listened to Cain mutter to himself and began to shiver in the dead of night. It was a deepening blackness, with the falling snow melting as it hit the grass and hills.

"Alright," Cain said in finality. "I'm ready to answer."

The man stopped suddenly and turned in his boots briskly. "Good." He smiled and sat quietly next to Cain and listened closely.

Cain breathed and then spoke, "Sidney English committed these crimes. I watched him rob four banks and from different men along our journeys. He committed an assault upon many men and gambled in the night. He is a sinner and preyed on women. He marooned his family and killed Lloyd Parish in cold blood. He disgraced our family in Fort Dodge."

The man stood up and with no expression, replied, "It's done." He adjusted his hat and motioned to the silent men to stand, and they moved quickly into the darkness. One of them had written Cain's words down on parchment. The man disappeared with them. Cain sat still in the darkness now and shivered from the falling snow. He looked about him. Pale mountains and snowfall like soft raindrops, landing on the ground and dissipating in the dirt. Some howls began to erupt from the ominous land around him, circling him. The silent men came back nearly an hour later and carried the hobbled and cold Cain onto the horse and began riding. They rode back into town, and there were lingering lanterns lit in the night, and some people had gathered to see them. Without knowing, Cain woke in the morning on the ground untied.

For the following days, Cain drank himself away in the saloon and spent his nights with numerous whores, who took his money eagerly and left him asleep in the mornings, broke and drunk. One afternoon in the dead of winter, he gathered with a crowd on the road and saw an execution rise in the square. There was a stand with hooded prisoners, and an undertaker guided them to the platform. A priest had come out and read from his bible, and the crowd looked on in eager silence. It was a warm day, and most of the snow had disappeared, but that would not last. Cain tried to see the prisoners' faces. Then, as their hoods were removed one last time, he saw Sidney at the end of the line. The man had looked disheveled and ratty. He wore dirty rags and was skinny to his ribs. There was grease in his hair and bags under his eyes. Cain couldn't hear his final words. The hoods were put back on, and the undertaker released the lever on the platform. The six men fell, and a snap of their necks breaking filled the silence. Cain stared blankly at the scene and shortly after, left his former cousin to hang.

Cain found himself in the mountains weeks later, drinking the last of his liquor from a large canteen. Penniless and ill, he wandered aimlessly into unknown western reaches dangerous for a lonesome man. His body ached and he longed for the pain to end, his stomach starving him endlessly. The snow was falling, and his hat was heavy with moisture. He tried starting a fire, sitting in the cold snow, and rubbing his hands together. The horse stood there, stamping its feet, freezing. His sight had almost left him as he sat there staring off into a blue dusk that fell into the night. He heard wolves surrounding him, but he could not care for their growls in the darkness. He could feel their breath on him. The trees blew, and the wind was frigid and angry, locking him away in the valley. Cain tried to sleep around the fire but found none. Instead, he shivered and pleaded for rest.

The End

Myles Robb is an undergraduate student studying public administration. This is his first publication. You can follow him on Twitter via @mylescrobb.

Back to Top
Back to Home