July, 2021

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Issue #142

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!

Back Alley
by Drew Davis
Sheriff Granger is determined to find the killer who left the body of a stranger outside the rear door of the Dusty Diamond saloon—despite the disinterest or deceptions of the cowhands, barmaids, and saloonkeeper involved.

* * *

Chasing Sundown
by Alexander J. Richardson
When his late pa's horse is stolen, Clyde Daniels and his brothers put together a posse to get it back. But things take a turn when they discover who the horse thief is—and learn that not everyone in their posse can be depended on.

* * *

Full Flight from Yuma
by Tom Sheehan
Life after an escape from prison can often be as torturous as cell life, unless certain changes are made in more than behavior.

* * *

Huckleberry Pie
by Devin Beggs
Owen McGregor sits in jail, set to be hanged the following morning. Young Deputy Matthias is standing guard with his rifle, eager to prove himself in the sheriff's absence, when Ma McGregor arrives with her son's last meal. But the deputy was given one instruction: no visitors.

* * *

by Ginger Strivelli
What do you do when you strike gold but your gold mine is haunted? You go to the saloon, of course.

* * *

Ren of Tree Hill
by John T Morgan
A young boy, brutally separated from his family and home, returns at the cusp of manhood hoping to take back his home and his loved ones.

* * *

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

All the Tales

by Ginger Strivelli

Jade sat at her table in the corner of the saloon. She had her tarot cards out, shuffling them absentmindedly. She had no customer across from her yet. The saloon was full of men as the gold rush was in full swing and the miners had overtaken the small sleepy town. The customers were usually more interested in the dancing girls and the man that ran the poker table than the fortune teller sitting in the corner.

"Jade, you want your usual plain tea?" The bartender appeared behind her carrying a fine silver teapot he had brought from back East with him.

Jade bowed her head, gesturing to her own ancient cups she used for drinking and tea leaf reading. Her name was really Mazu, after one of her ancestral Goddesses, but the Americans didn't understand how to say it or what it meant. They understood jade. Jade was like gold. It was dug from Mother Earth's body and traded for money. So she went by Jade, that she hoped would convey that she was valuable herself. Alas too many women had little value in this time and place she mused as she watched one dancing girl prying some coins out of an old miner for the cost of her company.

Jade stirred her tea with a jade chopstick she pulled from the folds of her purple silk dragon print cheongsam dress. She looked up to see a miner marching up to her table addressing her. Her English was adequate but this man was speaking French.

"Do you speak English or Mandarin?" Jade asked him.

"Oui . . . Yes, yes." He stammered. "I require help, much help. Magical help. I require a sorciére"

"Wu po, in Mandarin. Witch in English or perhaps the more poetic sorceress." Jade said, still stirring her tea.

"Madame, are you such a creature?"

"I am such a human woman. You may call me Jade."

"My gold mine is, how do you say, hanté?"

"Haunted." Jade said one pointy eyebrow pointing even higher. "By what, sir?"

"I have none ideas, Madame." He finally took off his hat and wrung it in his hands. "My name is Gasper."

"Gasper. I grow bored of reading people's fortunes anyway. I will assist you for the night, for a handful of gold nuggets."

Gasper held out his large hand and motioned to her much smaller ones. Jade held out her hand. He nodded and reached to pull out her chair as she rose.

"Won't the bartender worry about you leaving?" Gasper asked.

"He will only think you have hired me for some more mundane work for the night. In any case. I work for myself, not for him."

Jade had an American style crocheted shawl and bonnet on a peg at the door she paused to put on over her silk cheongsam dress. It made her look even more out of place as they stepped out onto the busy San Francisco street. Not that anyone really stood out with people from the Sandwich Islands, China, Mexico, and Canada all mixed in with the local Natives and the American settlers anyway. Most of the Chinese women had adopted the local dress style however, so Jade always looked a bit out of step with the times. That suited her fine. The 1850s were not her time after all. She was an old soul with lifetimes dating back to the lost island of Lemuria, sunken deep below the Pacific that she looked longing out over as she followed the Frenchman to his wagon.

The ride to Gasper's mine was a long one. What had been dusk was then deep darkness as he helped her out of his wagon in front of a cave he had been digging in. He lit four lamps he had hanging in the entrance of the cave and lit another that hung from a walking stick that he took in hand.

"We might should not came within the night." He stuttered. His English was poor but his nerves were rattled, she could tell by the worse than usual shaking of his voice.

Jade took one of the hanging lamps from the wall of the cave and motioned to Gasper for him to lead her to the problem. On the drive out to the mine he had told her all about a shadow that followed him in the cave and how it screeched at him when he dug. Gasper marched unsteadily ahead of the little woman who seemed much more at ease than he was.

"Stop." Jade said as they reached a fork where the cave split into three halls. One running downward, the other two running upward.

Gasper turned to look at her inquisitively. She poked her head into each shaft for a look, though she didn't lean her lantern in to light them. She was actually not seeing the cave halls but feeling the energy within them.

"You have been digging in all three?"

"Oui, Madame."

Jade started down the single hall that headed deeper into the ground. Gasper did not want to follow her. He didn't at first until some continental sense of chivalry came over him and he rushed after her. He held the light on his walking stick up like it was some weapon that would protect them as they walked then crawled down to the bottom of the cave floor where a still, tiny pond shimmered in the light of their two lamps.

The light was not a weapon though. It held no power to harm or even brighten the shadowy figure who rose out of the pond and flew towards them at great speed. Gasper took several backwards running steps until he noticed Jade was standing firm at the end of the pool. The shadow had come face to face with her.

Gasper watched slack-jawed as the little Chinese lady spoke in tongues to the shadow who seemed to understand her perfectly. He was mortified and crossed himself not once, not twice, but thrice as he watched their supernatural exchange.

Jade finally stopped speaking and sat her lamp down beside her feet. Then she calmly extended her arms as if to pick up a child and the shadow stepped in as if to embrace her but then just melted into her, disappearing from view. Jade picked up her lamp, turned around, and took the few steps to join Gasper again.

"You have disturbed his resting place. The great warrior, hunter, chief of his tribe, from many many years ago, has rested here for hundreds of years."

"You speaking his language? How do you know his language?" Gasper stammered out between some colorful exclamations in his own French.

"I was speaking a much older tongue than his or mine. Both our peoples, your people, all people descend from that tribe."

Gasper looked around nervously. "You hexed him. He is gone?"

"No. He is within me. I will take his battered soul to a safer resting place. He would never have peace again here with the gold in these caves and rivers of this valley.

Gasper stepped away from her looking worried.

"Never fear, Sir." She patted her heart twice. "He will stay with me until we take him to a better resting place."

"We take him?" Gasper whispered.

"Yes, you will drive me to the sea." She said climbing back up the caves cramped passageway.

Jade was in the wagon first, pulling her shawl tighter around her narrow shoulders. Gasper joined her gingerly, taking the seat beside her and taking up the horse reins. He looked at her as if she might explode like dynamite any moment.

"The sea?"

"Yes, Gasper."

The ride to the nearest beach was only slightly longer than the ride from the saloon to his mine was. They rode in silence these hours as Gasper was frightened stiff of the ghost the little Chinese lady was carrying, and Jade was exhausted from carrying the other spirit inside her own unnaturally.

The sun was just turning the sky shades of purples and reds over the mountains to the east as their wagon pulled out onto a sandy beach with the Pacific to the west. Gasper helped Jade down. She shooed him back when he started to join her walking into the waves. So he backed away and watched from beside the horses, petting their manes. Jade walked bent and in pain like a woman eighty years older than her young body really was. She fell once. Nonetheless she motioned for Gasper to not come help, pulling herself back to her feet. Finally Jade made it to the line where the outgoing tide was crashing. She looked through her pockets and found a large hunk of turquoise with half a dozen other rocks and various charms she carried. She put the turquoise stone in her left palm.

Gasper was watching in awe and fear as she worked the magic. She somehow conjured the shadow being back up out of her right hand and poured it into the rock she held in the other hand. It reminded Gasper of someone pouring tea from a kettle into a cup. Once all of the shadow had disappeared into the rock, she promptly collapsed to the sand. Jade motioned this time for Gasper's help.

When he got to her side he carefully hoisted her up to her feet though he kept one arm around her for her to lean on.

"You hurt, Madame?"

"Tired. I've worked great magic tonight. You must finish the spell for me. I do not have the strength. This must be thrown way out into the sea." She handed Gasper the rock.

He recoiled from it, knowing the spooky shadow man was somehow inside that rock now. Then thinking of how grateful he was the shadow man was no longer in his gold mine, he did take it from her and quickly threw it as far as he could out into the ocean.

The ride back into town Jade spent knocked out cold. Gasper kept looking over his shoulder, fearing perhaps the shadow might have climbed back out of the sea and was following them. When he pulled back up to the saloon, he carefully woke up Jade. She sat up looking like herself again, smiling. Gasper helped her down and then took a sack of gold nuggets from his belt and held it for her to reach into for her pay. She started to stick her small hand in but he stopped her and plunged his own hand in, pulling out a large handful of gold and offering it to her. Jade took a purse from the folds of her cheongsam and opened it for Gasper to drop the gold into.

They parted ways after the payment was made. Gasper went back to his mine, thinking he was grateful to the witch for getting rid of the old Native Chief's spirit that wouldn't be haunting him anymore. Jade went back into the saloon, ordered her tea, and started shuffling her tarot cards waiting for her next customer.

The End

Ginger Strivelli is an artist and writer from North Carolina, where she raised her six children. She has written various types of fiction and nonfiction for over thirty years.

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