February, 2022

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Issue #149

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!

The Perfumed Bandana
by J.R. Underdown
Just an average cowboy with another big job, but one enchanting night with a mysterious dancer could undo everything the Winchester Kid had ever worked for.

* * *

The Day God Rode the Bozeman Trail
by James A. Tweedie
Michael and Robert were on the trail to Bozeman. Michael said he was a Mennonite, a pacifist, and he would not kill another man. When two Sioux threatened, would Michael hold to his beliefs?

* * *

by Michael W. Clark
They call me Jumper. I guess it's better than coward. I am fast, but not with the pistol draw. I'm sort of a bounty hunter, but not really. Do odd jobs mostly. If I happen to take down a wanted guy, I will collect.

* * *

by Phillip R. Eaton
Rebecca leaves her home to live with relatives in Kansas and immediately has to ward off a stagecoach attack by natives. But the robbers are not what they appear to be and seek revenge by kidnapping her. Then, with the help of a good Samaritan, she gets the final word.

* * *

The Beast of Talbot County
by K. M. Hayes
Captain David "Dave" Cantwell is a believer in karma. He often wonders how that beast of an incident with his bethrothed will come back to haunt him. He is ready for it to be over, but can he bear the costs?

* * *

The Man With No Name
by Craig Sholl
A man is found lying half-dead on the open ground without any memory of who he was. He is indentured to a church, but when Sheriff Barnaby Townsend arrives one night, it turns the out the man has a much starker past than expected.

* * *

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All the Tales

The Man With No Name
by Craig Sholl

The man had been found one day by Father Dominican while making the long and tiring journey from the Salinas Valley, near the southern New Mexican border, all the way up to the Franciscan church of San Sebastian, an old and long-standing mission going back to the time of the Fifteenth century conquistadors. The church, however, had been in long neglect and had been widely resented by most of the locals or Puebloans who neighbored its adobe walls, so that in time much corruption and unwelcomed taxation had been endured by the townspeople, as a new clergy and director of council was being summoned in hopes of carrying on the order, and to correct the innumerable injustices of the past administration.

It was Father Dominican, a modest and plainly man in stature who would lead the council and was then heading the expedition to the outpost on foot. He and his fellow missionaries, consisting of a few nuns and Franciscan traditional priests, had been traversing along the Rio Grande in that late of August and had been steadily making their way up, as the Mexican sun held, hot and arid in the cloudless sky.

It was Father Dominican, nevertheless, who would first spot the lone figure of a man laying half dead on the rubbled ground, his foot and knee slightly bent up from the contour of a nearby rock. Upon coming up to the stranger, Father Dominican could also notice that the man's face and forehead had been badly battered as their looked to be a large dash of stained blood onto the pebbles and rocks laying off to the side, and his hands and all the bones of his fingers looked to be broken as well.

He could tell though that the bludgeoned person was a young man, perhaps in his thirties, with slight sideburns coming down his cheeks and which like the rest of his face was inundated with blotches of inkish blood. Also apparent, was the fact that the man was not wearing a gun of any kind, or holster, and that Father Dominican either guessed he was a local cowhand that had been ransacked and left for dead, or perhaps even part of a much less formidable outfit.

The man regardless of his circumstance was, nevertheless, quickly summoned onto a nearing wagon as the Father's fellow missionaries carefully gathered him and hoisted him onto the platform. Amid the particular wagon though, as they carried him away, was also the new church's resurrected bell and that had recently been cast to be hung in the church's constructed bell tower, specially erected and built for the coming Father and his fellow brethren.

The next few days would go by, however, when at last the congregation led by Father Dominican would finally arrive at the San Sebastian church residing just outside of the New Mexico city of Santa Fe.

Father Dominican would, nevertheless, see to the young man in the coming days as best he could after what was, for the most part, a well-greeted reception, mostly put on and felt by the locals or Puebloans who had long resented the religious gentry, but could tell that the newly arrived Father was hardly a part of the bigotry and unjust order that had long reigned their community, and instead, was an admirable quite humble man in appearance and manner.

For several weeks the man in question or bludgeoned stranger would not come to consciousness but would remain dormant as to any signs of getting better with his eyes shut and barely audible breaths observed, as the Father would sit for a time each night beside his cot in one of the vacant wings of the old Franciscan church. Neither, for that matter, was there any indication in any of the man's pockets or clothes upon his first day's there that could hint as to who he was, or where he had come from, with just a few scraps of straw and few small coins in either pocket.

Father Dominican would, nevertheless, see to his uncertain recovery and it was thought by the others that the man would not last the next few days, but the Spanish priest would simply go about his routine, wetting him down and keeping him clean so that infection would not arise, and also on occasion so much as reading the bible to him, though he knew the man was not showing any real signs of getting better.

One day, thereafter, during Sunday prayer and after the congregation had just commenced their early morning psalms, the man would, for no anticipated reason, suddenly come to and regain slight consciousness. As he opened his eyes, nevertheless, a young Spanish clergyman sitting next to the man's cot with some netting strewn above for the diverting of straying flies and such, would notice his first signs of life whence lifting himself from his seat and fetching the Father Dominican now nearing the end of his sermon.

Despite the Sunday prayer the Father would quickly leave and summon himself to the man's side as he awaken, with slight indications of intelligibleness in his hollowed eyes, and a his lips slightly speaking small, occasional gibberings at times though his face seemed to be still deeply bruised from the innumerable blows and concussions he had been inflicted with, but would continue to get better from there on in, and it was considered by many of the Father's congregation to be a miracle of God.

For weeks on afterward, the man would continue to recuperate and gain a fair amount of consciousness so that his eyes became more solid and less hollowed, and his speech finally became audible, with much less present confusion.

Nonetheless, after feeding the stranger his daily nourishment of some prepared soup and broth, the man would finally say something, during one day, as the same Spanish boy lift away his spoon from his face, and as the boy could see his lips slightly move.

He could not understand at first, but quickly realized he was indicating he was cold as the young boy further covered him with the sheets and as the man and stranger drifted off to sleep.

Things would eventually improve though, as far as the man could be discerned in his face and intelligibility, and he would begin to ask for other small favors, such as when the Spanish priest or Father Dominican would read to him certain passages from the bible, or when leaving the room at night to turn down the candles.

The man would, nevertheless, improve each day so that he could finally get up and walk, as it was observed one morning upon himself rising in order to wet himself with some water that had been left near his bed, and which was used for as such.

Upon coming in, the young priest, or by his name of Fernando, would again quickly summon the Father Dominican whence it was visible that the man had finally regained his faculties and was no longer the helpless invalid he was before.

Still, although the other would try at times to question the man, and Father Dominican would try to learn what he could of the man's origins or where he had come from, it was not evident in any real way that he knew of his own name, or any of his knowledge of his past, or why he had been found bludgeoned in the way he had.

For in addition to his new mental lack of awareness of who he was, it was also evident and visible that the man looked very much to be as affected by a sort of sleight stroke of the mind, as though he had been stricken with such a condition, so that he looked to walk funny, and was lame of eye and his head and body was often perceived in a fatigued way.

His manner was, nonetheless, completely void of any violence in temper and never did the man retaliate in any way other than in the manner described, so that he was often regarded as a quiet person, with hardly any talk from him, other than when he was in need of fulfilling some daily habit, or when indicating he was hungry.

The others did not, in this way, see him as being a danger to anyone or anything, and the Father of all people was quite open to letting him stay, and it was felt by all to greater extent that he should stay on and assist in the daily chores and prayer so that in time he became a part of their community and would come to be seen as a normal part of the ongoings of the Church and fellow clergy.

Years would pass by, nevertheless, and the man would continue to work and be of service to all of those around and he was commonly referred and to be known as, 'the man with no name,' but in time he would answer and reply to the name Peter, which Father Dominican had given him under the circumstance and as he thought appropriate for him to have as a child of God.

Peter would, therefore, continue his modest vocation and would never speak of where or why he had been found in such a way and no one would really question his existence other than regarding him as a kind and gentle person.

In addition to his daily regimen of chores, however, such as helping with the Father's duties in his administering of education for his fellow Mexican townspeople in the San Sebastian School next to the adobe church, as well, as, giving sermons and Sunday worship for his clergy and Mexican Puebloans, alike, the one called Peter would also be in charge and responsible for the ringing of the church bell that had been erected for the church tower and which he had been brought with that same day he had been found many years ago.

Now that he had finally found a place in the church and community as being and feeling a part of the clergy and accepted for who he was despite his given limitations and appearance, he seldom questioned where it was he had come from or what his real name might have been, or anything requiring him to remember a past he could not bring to mind.

For he was in this way very much settled, and the Father looked upon him as a good person, although knew in some way he may have come from more foul and corroborative circumstances.

* * *

On a stormily November night in the year 1870, henceforth, while making his way up New Mexico en route to Colorado and escorting a prisoner, Sheriff Barnaby Townsend would have to find refuge in the nearby San Sebastian Church as the wind and thunder and lightning come down with vehemence, nearly getting caught in a mud drift, but luckily saved himself and his convoy by steering to the side, whence seeing the faintly lit torches of the church from inside the gate at a small distance.

Entering the church's vicinity, then, he would look up from the front of his sheriff's wagon and see a sudden flash of lightning from overhead, while briefly glimpsing what looked to be the church tower and bell; just then though a bolt of stray thunder would strike the tier as the bell sounded from inside momentarily with what seemed like an audible thud.

Nevertheless, the priests and clergy from inside the structure would quickly open the doors of the church upon the evident blow, but would hastily see to the sheriff while taking the harness of his wagons horse, bringing him past the surrounding fence closer to the entrance.

Getting off from on top of the wagon, the sheriff would go back to the wagons barred door as he whip out his gun and told the prisoner to get up to go out. Cautiously opening the kennel door after the sheriff unlocking it with key, a handcuffed prisoner with his hands clasped together and hanging below his waist, would look to ascend himself down onto the wet ground, as the sheriff stood back holding his gun in hand and pointing it at the prisoner.

Continuing on, he would lead himself and the prisoner through the church's entrance as the fellow priests escorted the two while making their way up and through the roomy construct with the dim glow of soft torch light and candles amongst its walls and church's altar.

In this, the priests would remain mostly silent as it was quite evident that the man and his convict would have to stay the night and would have to wait out the storm from overhead.

The whole time though, Sheriff Townsend would keep the prisoner well within his sight and would take him by the arm up the stairs of the church's wood steps, as they creaked along, and as the cloaked priests showed them to their room on one of the upper levels.

The room was lit like all other rooms and in the hall with candles and softly light as the priests gathered some linens in one of the cabinets above a small furnace, off to the side, to dry themselves with.

The sheriff would, nevertheless, keep the prisoner handcuffed as he dried off both himself and the other, but not before handcuffing him to a fixture secured in the cement wall, as he went afterward to get a stool in the corner and brought it over for the prisoner to sit on.

The prisoner would not say anything despite this for as long as this took and would keep quiet the rest of the night, although he looked to be of an older man with a grey beard and whitely hair, but not by any means overly physical.

The attentive and formidable sheriff would sit down at a nearby table, keeping an eye on the prisoner as they waited for whomever to come with some food the Father's priests had promised them in the meantime.

Suddenly, then, as the sheriff sat quietly with the subdued prisoner, Father Dominican would enter the room in his kindly manner to greet the sheriff and his captive.

Getting up from his seat as the sheriff saw him come in, Father Dominican told him not to bother to stand and that he was a welcomed guest and that if there was anything he needed not to be afraid to ask. Then, going over to the prisoner as he sit there, not saying anything, the priest would give a small benediction by making a cross with his hands as the man rose to his feet momentarily so he could do this.

"Don't worry, Father," the sheriff would oblige him. "We'll be headed on our way soon as it gets on mornin' and the storm passes through. I'm much obliged."

The Father simply bowed his head, then, as a few of his brethren came in with some hot soup and bread and set it down on the table.

"I hope this will be satisfactory," the Father spoke as the sheriff looked to take a spoon in hand and tried a sip from one of the bowls.

"Very much obliged again," the sheriff would speak up as he looked to the prisoner afterward. "I wouldn't be worryin' too much about Carl here, though." Taking a bowl of soup and spoon from the table the sheriff would give him a sip of the broth as the old man looked to swallow it down.

"I'll be keeping a good eye on him for the night, and I don't plan on sleepin' any. He much appreciates the soup and warm shelter, though."

"Yes, Señor," the Father would reply as he looked to head to the door. Turning to him then, he would tell the sheriff he would gather some sheets for him and the prisoner, and that he would be back in a little while.

After the sheriff had finished feeding the old man the soup and bread, and after he had had some of his own, some time went by as the sheriff took his seat and as the prisoner kept quiet leaning against the wall.

"I supposin' we won't be gettin' much sleep tonight but maybe you could prop your head on the floor once the priest gets back with some of those sheets, and you have yourself a little nap. Anyway, we were lucky just to get out of that storm the way things were headed so we should be thankful in that."

The prisoner would stay quiet, despite, as he continued just sitting there and looking down.

Just then, though, the sheriff could hear some words being said from out in the hall as he listened but could not be sure what he heard, though he could tell they were whispering something to themselves.

Then, the priest or Father Dominican would enter the room again, as he had with him the bunch of cotton sheets in hand and that he would give to the sheriff.

"Much obliged," the sheriff would say again as the priest went to go back out of the room.

From outside thunder and lightning could still be heard with steady wind and rain pouring down, but the sheriff would continue to stay awake as he keep an eye on the prisoner who was now slightly nestled against the wall with one of the sheets covering him and that the Father had brought.

As he look to his side, he could see lightning come in through the window of the cement wall, but almost looked to go off to sleep then as his eyes slightly settled into him.

Drifting away then, his breathing became silent as the room continued cascading of the lightning with some of the lit candles gradually dimming down. Nevertheless, after a time, the sheriff would begin lightly snoring, but it was then when the prisoner would open his eyes and look over at the sheriff.

Calmly he continued keeping still just lying there but then he mirrored to his handcuffed hand mounted to the wall with his arm hanging from above, off the fastened hook. Suddenly another distant sound of thunder sounded as the sheriff woke without indication, but the prisoner just faced away turning to his side.

Just then, though, a man would enter the room without any heed of warning as the sheriff looked to take notice. The man would, nevertheless, not look to say anything as he was hooded like the other priests but could tell still that he was a white man unlike the others and that he looked to be limped in walk, with a slightly shadowed face hidden by his cloak.

Going over to a cabinet on the other side of the room the man would briefly go to get something out as the sheriff could see this. Turning then, with the object or book in his hand, another heap of lightning would come through the room so the sheriff could see his face plain as day and brightly lit.

He could see that the man looked distant of eye and that he was an older man, though not as old as the man he was escorting. Nevertheless, he could tell there was a distinct likeness to his face and head that he had seen before though he could not be certain why he thought this, but he would continue thinking it over, as the man just stand there for a moment before carrying off out of the chamber.

He also noticed, then, that their looked to be a straw bed in the corner of the room but had not paid much attention to this thinking that the room was unoccupied by anyone, or that it belonged to one of the Spanish priests, since it was quite modest in decor and very primitive at first sight.

As the man left the room the sheriff simply sat back in his chair and relaxed a moment as he could hear then some more whispering from outside like before, though he could tell now that it was the Father Dominican talking to the man who had just entered.

After this there was a brief silence in the hall again as the Father and other looked to part, but then he could hear the Padre coming back as he entered the room again to see how the sheriff and prisoner were doing.

"Are you alright, Señor?" he asked as the sheriff sat their looking back.

"I reckon I'm fine," he answered him while the prisoner was slightly snoring in the corner. Going back out, the sheriff would sit back in his chair and took out a cigar that he remembered was in one of his coat pockets.

Going over to the candles in the far corner as he lifted himself up, he would light the smoke in the flame and come away from the candle. Then, looking around the room he would go over to the cabinet the same one the man had taken the small book from and open it slightly. Inside he could see a few articles of clothing and a cross made of wood. As he took the cross in hand to look at it, he saw that it had been made by hand and that it was carved with the name Peter on its front side.

He put it back though almost as quickly as he got it out and returned it to the cabinet without a second thought. Then, going back over to the table puffing on his smoke he would sit down again. Just then, though, he remembered something that he thought he would never think about again as he gazed back near the cabinet.

Going back over to it, he would wait a moment, and then, would take out the cross again to look at it. There was something about the name and the way it was carved that reminded him of something, but he could not be sure what it was.

Nevertheless, as he continued looking at it, he could see there was another small carving in the wood on the bottom of the cross that he could not be sure of but sworn he had seen something like it in the past.

Holding it up to the Flame of one of the candles he could further make it out, but it was a star with seven points in perimeter with a small, barely legible X carved out in the middle, and was distinct to other stars he had seen like it such as the gold-plated badge he was wearing attached to his shirt.

Nevertheless, holding onto it a moment more, he could tell where he had seen a similar star like it before, and that it was the gang symbol of the Jody Clanton outlaws who were responsible for some of the most murderous jobs and bank robberies that side of the country.

Holding it up again to the light, he suddenly remembered years ago seeing the same seven-pointed star, a corner for each of Jody's gang members and that they would leave every time they robbed a bank or committed some awful theft, they were responsible for. A moment more, he would put back the cross and looked through the rest of the man's articles or what clothing he had, but which did not mean anything to him.

Sitting back down at the table he realized now that he had seen the man before, although it was uncertain from what he had saw if it likened to someone he had known.

Suddenly though as he took his smoke from out of his mouth and rested it onto the side of the table so that it stuck out over the edge, he remembered who the man likened to himself, but could not believe that it could possibly be the same person he had seen.

Shocked and confused, he was now unsure of anything but as he continued sitting there in his trance he suddenly realized that the man he had just seen might be no other than one of Jody Clanton's gang, or his right hand man of all people and second in command, Barney Dreyfuss Laramie, a cold-blooded killer and known thief, quite experienced with the use of a six shooter and that he had seen murder down single handedly two of his men during a bank robbery nearly killing all in sight except for himself, after ducking down near a horse dock.

He could not believe though that it was indeed the same man, but as he sit there he knew of the familiar seven pointed cross with the scrawled X in the middle, but as he thought some more and seeing the man in the burst of lightning as he had with his faintly covering sideburns coming down along the sides, and distinct look in his clef and chin as well as his slightly chiseled cheeks and jutting forehead, he realized now that it might be the very same man, or the one he had seen gun down his deputies that day in front of the bank.

Still, he could not be sure, but as he look momentarily to his side at the prisoner who was still slightly snoring in the corner and quite impotent seeming, he decided then that he would get up and go out to see if he could find the Father Dominican, or even the man himself that he now sought.

Putting out his cigar after rubbing it on the bottom of his boots he would go outside while giving the prisoner one last look and leaving out through the wood door with its gate like latch.

Looking, side to side, he could see no one except for some dying candles gradually going out, but there was still some ethereal light coming from down the hallway as he made his was along the corridor and down the wood steps at its end.

It was quite late now, nearly early morning, but in the background, he could hear some lightly praying somewhere and voices being heard though he was not sure where.

Once reaching the bottom of the steps near where he had come in, he looked out across the Church procession, over to the candle lit altar that had the image of Jesus and the Virgin Mary ascribed and painted on its wall and a gold cross amid the brightly lit candles in its center, each in their own holders for the priests or Puebloans and locals to light after prayer.

Nevertheless, the faintly praying now had stopped as it was silent then as he look around seeing no one and was about to go back up the steps, but then, he could suddenly hear a door in the back open as his attention diverted to it. Steps could be heard then, but Father Dominican suddenly could be seen walking out of a shadowy corner of the vestibule as the Sheriff removed his hat momentarily to talk to him.

"Is there anything you need, Señor?" the Father would ask as he approached him with his hands in his priests cloak.

Looking down a moment, the sheriff would wait to speak but then lifting back up he would say, "I'm sorry, Father. But, I noticed a man come in just now, a little while ago."

"Yes, Señor. I am sorry, but that is Peter our bell ringer. We put you in his room for the night since it is decently warm, and we thought it appropriate under the circumstance."

"Well, I much obliged Father, but you say his name is . . .  Peter?"

"Yes, Señor. He has been a bell ringer for some time."

"I see," the sheriff would reply while still holding his hat and looking slightly down. Looking back up though, he would ask, "Does he have a last name?"

The Father would hesitate for second but then replied, "No Señor. He came to us some time ago. He was found one day, and had been badly beaten. We know nothing about him, except that he is somewhat lame."

"Lame?" the sheriff asked cutting him off briefly.

"Yes, Señor," the Father replied. "He is often mute, and does not talk much."

"I see," the sheriff went on. "Uh, does he ever speak of his past to you, or anything?"

"No Señor," the Father would say. "He does not talk much and seems to have no memory of anything before we found him, except that we think he may have been a cowhand or ranch worker, but he is quite harmless."

"Harmless," the sheriff replied. "I see."

"Yes, Señor?" the Father asked, seeing he was unsure.

"Would it be possible for me to see the man again?" he asked inquisitively.

"Yes, Señor," the priest replied. "If you want, he is staying in an adjoining room of my chamber in the west wing. You can follow me there. I will take you to him."

As the Sheriff and the priest made their way across the chapel and past the open pews and altar, the light was still quite somber and Father Dominican would walk back with him through the shadowy entrance and door he had come in by but was quite baffled by what the Father told him, and unsure if the man he was about to meet was indeed the man he had known.

For although he was described as harmless, he could not but think that there was some link to the other, and seeing the symbol of the star, and his face, he could still not be sure, but he could not understand either how such a man might have wound up in such a place, or why he was the way described with no memory or utterance of his unknown past.

Still, the fact that he had been found and left for dead or beaten like the priest had told him was something that only made him more curious as to his current disposition, and although he knew the man he thought him to be had been a violent and notorious killer and gang member, he saw no reason to prepare himself for any outburst, except the mere notion and shock that may come if it was, indeed, the same man.

Walking in after the priest had opened the door, the sheriff could see the fathers modest chamber and bed, as they passed through to another small room with a door. Opening the door the priest would say, "Follow me please, Señor," as the sheriff kept in back.

Inside the small aperture of room was the man lying on his bed with the dim glow of a mere candle on top of a nearby table.

The man did not waken, nevertheless, as the sheriff stand over him with the priest looking on the side, but then, as if out of a dream the man would suddenly and calmly open his eyes, as the sheriff stand there looking back.

He could see still that he was a lame man as the priest had said and as he briefly observed him earlier, and that it looked as though he had been touched by some type of mental ailment or even severe stroke that rendered him the way he saw him, then.

Nevertheless, as the man calmly lift himself up while the priest looked on, the sheriff continued to study his face in the dim light. He could see no sign either from his look of eye, or any gesture that made him think anything inordinate as to the sheriff's presence with the Father, other than the mere notion of why and what they wanted of him.

Mumbling something at first the man looked to talk to the priest, but the Father would just stand on and utter something in Spanish which the man seemed to understand enough to let him look. For a moment the sheriff did not do anything, but then, taking the nearby candle from off the small table, he would further scrutinize the face as he held it high and as the man continued in his oblivious sort of gaze.

As the sheriff's eyes opened wider though he could immediately tell the man had a distinct likeness to the outlaw he had known and their seemed to be a small scar running down the bottom of his cheek.

Ponderingly, the stoutly sheriff turned to the Padre to ask him something.

"You say you found him?"

"Yes," the Father returned as the sheriff looked back up at the man.

"Did he have that scar on his face when you found him?

For a moment the priest would not say anything as he looked to think, but then he would reply.

"Well, yes, Señor. I believe there was a small scar on him when I found him, but his face had been beaten so badly I could not be sure if it had been there before."

Taking his small candle again the sheriff would look one more time, then return it to the table next to the small Bible the man had brought down for himself.

"Well, I can't be sure," the sheriff went on, putting his hand up to his face and feeling his mustache." A moment went by as he looked at Father Dominican. "That cross by chance he has, do you know it?"

The Padre looked to think. "Yes, Señor. I had given it to him when he first arrived. He has had it ever since."

"Has he ever said anything about it. Anything at all?"

The priest looked unsure but then would speak up.

"No Señor," he replied. "Why is it you ask?"

"Well, when I looked at it there was small star near the bottom - and an X etched out in the middle."

Thinking again the priest or Father Dominican seemed to remember.

"Yes, Señor," he said, "I believe I have seen it."

Putting his hand back up to his chin and mustache the sheriff would go on.

"Well, did he by chance say where he had seen that?"

The Father thought a moment.

"Well, no. I believe I had asked him once after giving him the cross, but I cannot be sure if he knew where it was he saw it."

The sheriff looked back at the man, now sitting on the edge of the bed but still silent and unsure.

Turning to him then, the sheriff's voice would change to harsher demeanor as the man look him back.

"Is your name . . .  Barney Dreyfuss Laramie?" he asked more coldly.

The man sat there saying nothing, though, but would just turn to the priest standing along. Then, the priest would talk Spanish to him again as the sheriff waited.

Looking back up at the sheriff the man would finally say, "Name is . . .  Peter."

His voice was trammeled a bit, but the sheriff looked back to the priest. Looking at the man again, he would ask, "Why did you make that star in that cross?"

The man looked unsure but looked back to the priest as he spoke more Spanish to him. Then, looking back at the sheriff, he would speak some more barely legible Latin, as the priest translated it for him afterward.

"He said the star he is not sure of, but it is something that has always stayed with him since he's been here, and that he cannot remember why this is?"

The sheriff looked hesitant but would speak.

"Well, try to remember now," he went on, looking hard at the man. "Think now . . .  where did you see that star?"

The man sitting their listened to the priest's translation as the sheriff stood by. Looking more marked in eye and thinking, the man would suddenly begin to sense something or something he had known, but the sheriff as he looked could just barely see this.

"Barney Dreyfuss Laramie," be bolded out. "Notorious bank robber and killer of the Jody Clanton Gang," he went on.

The priest or Father just stood there with wider eyes but would translate some of what the Sheriff spoke to him.

Looking back up at the sheriff, finally, the man would slightly tilt his head as he seemed to be thinking of something but not knowing what.

"Try to think now. You, Barney Laramie, killed two of my men and nearly killed a mother and child just after robbin' the New Hyde Bank in Colorado."

The priest could see the man was beginning to look agitated and confused and turned to the sheriff saying, "Please, Señor  . . .  I do not think he understands any of this. "Perhaps—"

The sheriff would just cut him off, nevertheless.

"Well, I do," he boldly said. "Two of my own men gunned down in cold blood right in front of women and children and God fearin' folk. It was him who done it though, I know it was. I'd recognize that face even after all those years and with all those bruises anywhere."

Looking straight at the man the sheriff continued: "It is you, isn't it, Barney? A star with seven points for each one of your men, and an X in the middle to demark me and my men— the same X that you carved into the middle of that star."

The man could not be sure of what the sheriff spoke as the Padre went to translate, but suddenly as the sheriff took off his hat and opened up his coat to show his badge to the man sitting there staring back, he turned of a look of some epiphany though it was unsure of what.

For as he thought looking down a moment, he soon realized that he had indeed seen the star somewhere before and was trying to place it. As he looked at the sheriffs gun and star his eyes had a deadness to him as he looked away. The Sheriff and Father Dominican could see this, nevertheless, as the man looked of uncertain guilt. The priest would speak up to him, then.

"Es esto cierto?" he would ask.

The man would again look trembling at the sheriff, but then would bid down his head. "Si," he answered almost to himself, though the sheriff could hear this too.

The priest would, nonetheless, look on perplexedly as he finally went to speak.

"I reckon," the sheriff said before he could do so. "Barney Dreyfuss Laramie . . . " he would say once more as the man look stern of eye. "I'll be damned."

Turning back to the priest as the Father looked slightly irresolute in eye and manner, he would look to talk to the sheriff, but then the sheriff would simply censure him away with his arm.

"Well, I'm afraid I'll be havin' to take him in," he said to the priest as they huddled near the door.

Looking back over at the man sitting there, the priest would ask, "Are you sure, Señor, he is who you speak of?"

Glancing back at the oblivious face of the man he would say, "Yes, that's him alright. Nobody could have made that star the way I saw it, and I'd recognize it anywhere's. That's Barney, alright. I wonder . . . " he went to go on, but then the priest briefly stepped outside the door with him leaving it half-cocked.

"Señor," he said, "Mightn't it be better, perhaps if the man were to stay here and live out his life?" but the sheriff would simply look down and remove his hat for a moment while thinking and looking at the door. Returning it to his head again, he would speak. "I'm sorry Padre, but I just can't see leavin' him here, and I think owe it to all those people he killed and I think their wives and children would want it. Just seems to me he ought to pay for what he's done."

The Priest looked on in silence, but would say, "Yes, Señor. I believe you are right. But he is still a child of God, and he has been here so long. Mightn't you have any doubts?"

The sheriff stood there and answered after a slight moment. "No. I'll be takin' him in for sure, and he'll have to go up with to Colorado where I'm head chief in New Hyde."

"Well, Señor," the priest spoke as the sheriff listened. Lowering his head, as he went on in compliance he would say, "I see. Then, if it must be," as he looked back to the half open door.

It was still windy and thundersome outside, for that matter, and the two knew the sheriff could not depart until morning, but the man would be brought up to his own room where the prisoner looked to be still sleeping against the wall, as the bowls of soup and bread had already been taken away.

The man would be able to stay in his bed, nevertheless, under the watch of the sheriff until early morning. The sheriff would last the night without sleep but only thought how such a man that was lying in the straw bed in front of him could be the murderous man he had known, as though they were two different people now, one Barney and the other, a man named Peter the church bell ringer. He could not be sure if the man before him understood all that he had done and the men he had killed, but somehow, he still thought it right to bring him in and let justice have its way.

In the morning, once the storm had passed through, it looked to be bright and clear on a new autumn day as the sheriff and his prisoner would settle out, and after he had handcuffed the one, or Barney now, who could not be sure of what awaited him.

The Father would say goodbye one last time in his regretful manner, and some of the congregation could see the wagon and jail move through passed the gate and fence, but no one would speak of it.

In addition, the bell had been detached from it scaffold by the lightning during the night and had crashed into the floor of its tier, so that it could not be wrung, as the wagon passed by one last time and as the man could see it through the bars of the wagon's door, now sitting across from the convict and chained down to his seat.

He knew he would never see or hear the bell again but could not seem either to understand all that he had done, leaving him in a most unreconciled confusion of anguish.

As they made their way over the next day's, they would soon be close to the town of New Hyde where the sheriff was headed, as each night they would settle down and the sheriff would chain them to a tree or obstruct that could be used to secure them as such.

For he now felt a relief that he had got Barney Laramie, the ruthless killer he had known him to be, and was somehow in anticipation of seeing him tried and found guilty of what he had done, but he could help neither to see that the man before him was different of eye, and character, and that their seemed to be a missing piece to his association of the once killer and bandit thief he had known.

On occasion, when watching the man feed himself, he could see unlike his other, less affected prisoner, or old man, that their seemed to be a kind of reverie that the man possessed so that he was not as quick to get up or when being indicated to leave, as though he were in another place and time.

Still, the sheriff would try to not dwell on this and would keep his composure for the most part and try to see through as to the justice he thought he wanted for him.

One day, then, as they had stopped for what would be the last time before the sheriff planned on reaching the town, the prisoner had been steadily sleeping the night and the old man, or convict, had already opened his eyes laying on his side. The sheriff would not see this, nevertheless, as he quickly got up and went to strap over his suspenders and then to unlock the prisoner's chains.

As he went over to Barney, he woke without being spurred but simply would rise up to his tiring feet.

As the sheriff went next to the old man though he would simply look to be asleep, but the sheriff would stand over him as he give him a small shake of his boot.

"Wake up, Carl. Time to go," he would casually utter.

Then, undoing his chain, the man would stand on with other as the sheriff took out his gun.

"Alright, boys," he would carry on as they walked over to the wagon handcuffed and as Barney walked in his same limped way.

Opening the jail wagon door, the sheriff would stand off to the side to let the others go on in, and then to fasten them to the foot lock once they were inside as there was an iron clasp around their ankles that would fit onto a solid beam along the bottom.

Dropping his key though as he removed it from his pocket, he slipped his gun into his holster in a careless way, as the others could see this and as the sheriff looked to bend over and pick up the key from off the ground.

It was a bright sunny day and as the sheriff went to unlock the door with his gun in holster, the old man could see this and quickly dropped a knife from out of his sleeve that he had somehow pawned that same night at the church when the sheriff had been away, and that had been lying next to the loaf of bread.

Barney could see this, nevertheless, out of the corner of one of his drooped eyes but would not do anything at the moment despite.

Then, after the sheriff had unlocked the door and stepped back, the two standing at a small distance behind him, would proceed to go in as the sheriff let them pass. The old man went through first as the other followed and were both handcuffed, still, of course, as the one went to make the first step.

Just then, though, the sheriff would turn his head ever so slightly as the old man could see this, and as he momentarily tried to draw his knife from down on out of his sleeve, into his hand, while hiding it.

The sheriff, now looking back, did not think anything inordinate as the man briefly stood there before heading in, but, all of a sudden, a swoop of birds seemed to take off in the surrounding brush as the sheriff took notice while turning his head again. Nevertheless, the old man and prisoner could see this as he quickly got grip of his knife and as the sheriff still had his head turned, he went to swoop down from off the step and tried to stab him in a quick scurry. But, the sheriff seeing this in time, managed to stop him with his hand by preventing the blow, and would stand there momentarily with the man trying to haul him off.

Just then, the old man would turn towards the wagon as the sheriff leaned up against it, and as the man continued to force down the knife into the sheriff's chest. Almost about to give way, the sheriff even with his ardent strength could not prevent the knife from coming down on him so as he began to give in, Barney's hand quickly took hold of the old prisoners' arm and forced him back into the wagon as the two fought for a moment while the sheriff looked on.

Falling, finally, to the ground the old man somehow regained the initiative and continued trying to penetrate the known outlaw, but the sheriff would simply draw out his weapon and fire a shot, as the old man fell from off on top of him and onto his side as he lay there dead and his eyes wide open.

As for Barney he just lay there a moment more looking languid and quite fatigued from the scrapping, but the sheriff would go over to the knife, then, as he picked it up from off the ground and from the old man's hands still clenching it. Looking at it a moment more before tugging it away, he would slip his gun back into his holster and would look down back at Barney, putting his hand out to him.

The man would rise up to his feet, nevertheless, as the sheriff helped him do this, and as there seemed to be no need for caution. Then, looking at him as he took his hat from off his head a moment and put it back in place, he would say, "Ok, Barney, we're goin' home."

The prisoner just stood there saying nothing, but the sheriff knew then that he could not take him no matter what he had done and that he was not the same man he had known before. So, instead, as he look to the dead man on the ground he would say, "There's no need for anymore blood, I reckon."

The man, or Barney, would sit up with the sheriff after undoing his handcuffs and the two would head back to the church where they had just come from, as the wagon pulled off and turned around to get on their way.

The man would, nonetheless, return to the church and live out there for the years to come and few would give any qualms to this, or what the Padre had been told by the sheriff and, as a child of God, they could not turn their heads away from a sinner no matter what his past was or what he had done.

He would be called again by the same name the Father Dominican had given him those first days he had been there and would not dwell on his past as much or what he was guilty of, or why the sheriff had let him stay. But, to some he would still be known as the man with no name, and few would ever come to know him in any other way, except for his kind repose and humble manner.

He would return to the belfry that following Christmas on the Lord's birthday in that same year, when the bell had finally been restored to the tower and the tier had been repaired to celebrate the occasion.

The bell, for that matter, would last many more years, and would eventually be taken down and put on display in the coming time so that visitors of the old Church could see for themselves what had been hung in the old tower. Stories would, nevertheless, be made up as the years passed on of how it had come to be a part of the church or why it had been brought up, but the story of the man would never entirely fade, and it could sometimes be whispered the one called Peter had been its caretaker, although others would simply speak of him as, 'the man with no name.'

The End

Craig Sholl lives in Long Island, NY. He has been published in Frontier Tales and The Cat's Meow Magazine. His book No Gun's in Little Cavern is available on Smashwords and Amazon.

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