tibur Frontier Tales Magazine - Home

October, 2022

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

Issue #157

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!

Onward We Must Go
by CS Simpson
After consumption slowly kills their family in Kentucky, John packs up his surviving daughter, Tillie, and heads west for Colorado. Tillie is not happy. John is hiding a terrible secret.

* * *

Deadman Reborn
by Phillip R. Eaton
Aaron Knight, sentenced to die for avenging his wife's murder, is mysteriously saved from the hangman's noose, only to be hired to kill again. A change of identity could cost him his life—or keep him alive.

* * *

Apprehending Mr. Howard
by Peter Ullian
LA County Deputy Sheriff Emil Harris and his wife, private detective Lettie Rosenfeld, are tasked with collaring the fugitive Jeff Howard. They have no problem tracking him down to the most dangerous and lawless area of 1870s Los Angeles. Getting him out is going to be another matter, entirely.

* * *

Lost and Found Henry
by Geordan Melton
In the Texas town of Sol Rojo when you can't find something lost, Henry Pathfinder is your man. He is offered a reward for a simple retrieval, but the catch is the house that holds the quarry has been abandoned for years, and something moves amongst the dust and darkness.

* * *

The Ex in Texas
by Arón Reinhold
Come to find out, Texas wasn't big enough for John and his ex, let alone for him and her daddy's posse. But maybe he'll find the right woman for him while on the run.

* * *

by Templeton Moss
Two bounty hunters. One fugitive. Who will walk away with the prize?

* * *

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

All the Tales

Apprehending Mr. Howard
by Peter Ullian

an Emil Harris short story

Historical note: Emil Harris was a real person, one of the first policemen in frontier Los Angeles in the 1870s, and the only Jew on the force at that time. He later served as a Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy, as a U.S Deputy Marshall, and, eventually, as a private detective. Sheriff Miller of Ventura County was also a real person, and Jeff Howard really was an accused murderer with a habit of repeatedly breaking out of Sheriff Miller's jail. Policeman George Gard was also a real person, Harris' former partner on the LAPD. And, finally, the "Calle de Los Negros" was an actual red-light district in frontier Los Angeles.

Despite the factual basis for this story and its setting, creative liberties have been taken.

It was twilight by the time we tied our horses to the post outside the Golden Eagle Saloon beside La Prietita, a brothel, in the infamous Calle de los Negros in Los Angeles, or the Town of Our Lady of the Angels, as the Mexicans called it.

Calle de los Negros is among the most notorious five hundred-yard stretches of city block in the world, rivaled only by San Francisco's Barbary Coast, but perhaps even superior to that legendary stretch of Northern Californian waterfront real estate in its abundance of vice and degradation. In 1877, that was saying quite a lot, because there was no want to vice and degradation in most cities at that time.

The air in the alley smelled of tobacco, tallow, roast beef, and horse manure. The sounds of trumpets, guitars, fiddles, dulcimers, hurdy-gurdys, and zithers wafted with the odors from the rows of shops, opium dens, gambling dens, cat houses, and drinking establishments that lined the street.

There was also a dead horse stuck half in and half out of the street. In Los Angeles, when it rains, the dirt streets transform into a muddy morass, but when the streets dry again, they are as hard as granite. The horse must have expired and sank into the mud, and now was half entombed and half in the open air, immovably decomposing until the next rainstorm. Its fragrance did nothing to improve the atmosphere.

I was, at that time, a deputy with the Los Angeles County Sheriff, having had a falling out with the chief of my previous employer, the Los Angeles City Police Department. The Chief and I did not see eye-to-eye, so despite having gained a state-wide reputation as the man who captured the infamous bandito, Tiburcio Vásquez, I had found my tenure with the city police no longer bearable.

This was how I was assigned the task of apprehending the outlaw Jeff Howard, who had considerably vexed Sheriff Miller of nearby Ventura County through frequent escapes from his jail. Howard was rumored to be in Calle de los Negros, an area of town with which I had more than a passing familiarity.

I was joined in this endeavor by my wife of six months, Lettie Rosenfeld Harris. Lettie, upon learning that as a woman she could not join any of the government law enforcement agencies, had joined the Pinkertons for a time, but, dissatisfied with their practices, had with a sum procured from her father who had made a fortune in dry goods in San Francisco during the Gold Rush, subsequently established her own detective agency, and proceeded thereafter to accompany me on many of my duties as an unpaid detective consultant.

"Can I convince you to go home and allow me to handle this?" I asked Lettie. Although my wife was brave and capable, I often feared for her safety.

"Mr. Harris," she said, "what a silly question."

When working together in a professional capacity, we always referred to one another as "Mr. Harris" and "Miss Rosenfeld." Only in the intimacy of our private moments was I "Emil" and she "Lettie."

Resigned to my wife's indomitable will, I walked with her into the Golden Eagle Saloon, where we were met by the sound of clinking glasses filled with brandy, rye, and aguardiente. A large roast sat upon the bar, with a huge knife and an even more impressively sized two-pronged fork beside it. Patrons occasionally carved off a piece and ate it with their fingers. The Golden Eagle's customers largely eschewed the stack of small plates on the bar beside the meat.

We sauntered up the bar and ordered two glasses of aguardiente. The barkeep served us, and Lettie wandered to the roast. She picked up the fork and knife and began to carve small pieces, placing them on a ceramic plate.

I turned and looked at the crowd as I sipped my aguardiente.

It was a rough crowd all right, although not a-typical of the crowds who did their drinking in this establishment. A number of them were members of the Sydney Ducks gang, a group of Australians who had once formed a criminal enterprise in San Francisco's Barbary Coast, before they had been driven from town by the US Army almost twenty years ago. They had taken up residence in Los Angeles' Calle de los Negros, where they had resumed their criminal activities with somewhat less scrutiny in our smaller and less cosmopolitan town.

They looked back at me suspiciously. Most knew who I was, both because of my reputation as a lawman and because I had once owned an establishment of my own in the alley, The Wine Room, which I had later moved to Main Street.

I was about to say something to the scrum of faces turned in my direction when I heard a familiar, unpleasant, and unwelcome voice at my side, along with the click of a pistol hammer.

"Emil Harris, as I live and breathe, what are you doing in the Golden Eagle?" said ex-special officer Joseph Dye.

I turned and looked at the disgraced former Los Angeles police officer who had shot dead our previous Marshall, William C. Warren, but who had been acquitted of all charges on the tenuous grounds of self-defense.

His pistol, a Colt Dragoon, lay on the bar, his hand casually wrapped around its grip, his finger gently caressing its trigger, the hammer fully back.

"What are you doing back in Los Angeles?" I asked. "I thought you were in Santa Barbara."

"I missed my old stomping grounds," Dye said.

"You've done quite enough stomping around here for a lifetime, I think," I said.

Dye frowned and twitched his mustache. "State your business, Harris," he said.

"I do not think that I will," I said. "As I do not answer to you."

Dye did not lift the pistol from the bar, but he cut his head towards it. "Don't you, now, you filthy Jew?" he asked, none too politely.

It was true I am a Jew— previously the only Jew in the Los Angeles Police Department, and at that time the only Jew with the Los Angeles County Sheriff. But judging by the condition of the clothes on Dye's back and the condition of those on my own, I was not the one who could rightly be accused of being filthy.

Just then, Lettie brought the two-pronged fork down on the bar, its sharp ends pinning the sleeve cuffs of Dye's jacket to the bar, trapping his gun and gun hand.

I saw Dye's eyes go wide in surprise as he struggled to free himself.

I punched him in the jaw. I felt the power of the blow surge through my fist and into my shoulder, and Dye's head bounced off the bar and he fell unconscious, his arm still attached by the sleeves to the bar.

I picked up the Dragoon from the bar and eased the hammer back into place, the better to avoid any unintended discharge.

A bevy of tough customers was inching towards me with unpleasant countenances. They seemed displeased at the violence I had visited upon Dye, although I considered it proportional to the violence he had implied that he intended to visit upon me.

As the men approached, Lettie spun one of the plates that sat beside the roast through the air, and it shattered into one of the would-be assailants' foreheads. The man, short, bald, and mustachioed, stood for a moment, a look of perplexity upon his face, before collapsing to the floor.

The men looked about, unsure of themselves.

I raised my Deputy Sheriff's badge high in the air. "Gentlemen, I represent the Sheriff of Los Angeles County, the county in which you currently reside, or at any rate, in which you are currently located. I recommend you all take several steps backwards before this situation escalates into further unpleasantries."

This was when "Duckie" Sydney Duckworth, the leader of the remnants of the Barbary Coast's Sydney Ducks, stepped forward.

"G'day, Emil," he said, for I am well-known throughout the Southland.

"Hello, Duckie-Boy," I said, although he was no boy, being at least in his forties by now, if not older. His Australian accent, although diminished, still lingered. He wore a natty vest and bowler over a frayed and stained shirt which I suppose had once been white.

"What can I do ya' for?" he said.

"I am looking for a man by the name of Jeff Howard," I said.

"Jeff Howard?" Duckie Sydney mused. "Well, you won't find him here."

"Do you mean to say he isn't here?" I asked.

"I mean to say you won't find him here," Sydney said.

"It's an enigma," Lettie chimed in. "Mr. Duckie, you are very enigmatic."

Duckie Sydney tipped his bowler to her. "G'day to you, Miss Rosenfeld," he said. "And thank you kindly for the compliment. How are you finding employment with the Pinkertons?"

"I have gone into business for myself, Mr. Duckie," she replied. "I found the Pinkertons objectionable."

"Well, on that we agree, m'lady," he said.

"Please do keep us in mind for your investigative needs," Lettie said. "We are the Rosenfeld Detective Agency. I am the proprietor and sole agent."

"So, you're a small outfit then, are you?" he said.

"The better to serve our clients, I am sure, Mr. Duckie, as we can devote our full resources to their inspective necessities."

"Well, should I ever have any inspective necessities, Miss Rosenfeld, you shall be the first to know."

"That's fine, then," Lettie said. "Now, where can we find Jeff Howard?"

"On that subject I cannot be of service, I am afraid," Sydney said. "In Calle de los Negros, we do not inform."

Lettie raised an eyebrow. "Do you mean you have been paid to not inform?" she asked. "May I ask by whom?"

"You may ask, Miss Rosenfeld," Duckie Sydney said. "But I will not answer."

At this point, Dye shook himself awake and got to his feet. He angrily pulled the two-pronged meat fork from the bar, freeing himself, and proceeded to swing at me with the prongs pointed in my direction.

I deflected the blow with my forearm and landed a roundhouse upon Dye's jaw, which sent him over the bar. He disappeared behind and did not rise.

This was enough, however, to provoke the crowd.

A large man, bald on top and upon his chin, but bushy in eyebrow, mustache, and mutton-chop, came at me, his gap-toothed mouth snarling. Although I am six feet tall and well-muscled, he was of a different class entirely. His biceps bulged inside his shirt, and his chest strained against his suspenders.

Despite my disadvantage in size, I retained advantage in alacrity. When he neared, I dodged to one side and drove my elbow into the back of his neck, driving his head into the bar with considerable force. His face bounced once off the bar top. He spun around, blood pouring from his nose, his eyes glassy. I struck him once more across his bald crown with Dye's Dragoon, and he crumpled into a heap upon the floor.

Lettie kept up a fusillade of crockery against the ruffian charge. Her aim was unerringly accurate, each plate spinning with precision and considerable force and striking its target right between the eyes, faithfully bringing the ruffian down.

Another man was upon me then, a tall specimen of Western manhood, his cheekbones chiseled into sharp edges with which one could cut leather, his unshaven and strong jaw jutting beneath thin, pursed lips, dark eyes flashing hatred below unkempt, unwashed, darker hair. His arms swung in a wide arc, the hand curled into a fist at the end of it aiming with remarkable accuracy for my temple.

I dropped to the floor and drove my boot into my assailant's testicles. My aim was true and as the man doubled over, I grabbed him by the shirt collar and drove his head into a barstool. The barstool came apart in splinters, and the man collapsed upon it, where he lay still.

I leap to my feet in time to see Duckie Sydney raise a Navy Colt in the air and fire into the ceiling, which caught everyone's attention and promptly put an end to the onslaught.

Then, to my dismay, he brought the barrel of the pistol down in my direction as he thumbed back the hammer.

Returning the favor, I drew the Army Colt from my shoulder harness and pointed it back at him as I likewise thumbed back the hammer.

Lettie, I could see from the corner of my eye, had abandoned spinning crockery as her weapon of choice and had drawn both of her Frontier Bulldog snub-nosed revolvers, one aimed at Duckie Sidney to dissuade him from pulling the trigger whilst his pistol remained pointed in my direction, and the other aimed at the crowd to persuade them to discontinue their assault upon our persons.

We stood there for a moment, suspended, each of us a hairsbreadth away from killing one another and likely being killed in kind, when the doors to the cantina swung open and George Gard, my former partner in the Los Angeles Police Department, stood there with his jacket pulled back to reveal his badge upon his vest, flanked by four gendarmes in uniform, two on each side, all of them with their hands upon the handles of their revolvers.

"What's all this then?" George demanded.

"Hello, George," I said, without lowering my pistol.

"Why, hello, Emil," George said. "What brings you back to our old stomping grounds?"

"I am here on an investigative matter," I said.

"Is that so?" George said. He surveyed the scene, broken crockery and fallen men both littering the floor. He looked at Lettie and tipped his hat, a derby like the one I wore; indeed, like those we had both taken to wearing when first we were promoted to detective. "Evening, Mrs. Harris," he said.

"George," Lettie said, without taking her eyes or her aim off neither Duckie Sydney nor the crowd that faced her. "What a delight it is to see you."

George turned his attention to Duckie Sidney. "Duckworth, what's the trouble then?"

"No trouble, Detective," Duckie said.

"Then why all the gunplay and broken crockery?" George asked. "To say nothing of the men lying about with bloodied noses, blackened eyes, and swollen lips?"

"Just a little Saturday brawling, Detective," Duckie said.

"But it's Wednesday," George remarked.

"Every day is Saturday in Calle de los Negros, Detective," Duckie said.

George grunted and opened the other half of his jacket to reveal a shoulder harness that holstered his Remington .44. "Do you want to lower your weapon, Duckie, or do you want me to pull my pistol from its harness and see how big a hole it makes in your carcass?"

Duckie Sydney spat on the floor in response, but he thumbed back the hammer of his weapon and put his pistol in his belt.

I returned the gesture and holstered my pistol, as did Lettie with her Frontier Bulldogs.

"Now, Duckie-Boy," George said. "Why can't Emil here go about his investigations without all this hullabaloo and calamity?"

"No reason I can think of," Duckie said.

"That's fine then," George said. "Attend to your wounded, Duckie." He turned to me. "Emil and Mrs. Harris, would you join me outside in the moonlight for a chat?"

At this moment, Dye rose again, this time from behind the bar and armed with a double-barreled shotgun.

"I'll teach you to knock me senseless, you malignant malefactor!" Dye shouted.

I gripped the barrels of the shotgun and forced it upwards. Dye blasted both barrels into the ceiling.

The blast had heated the metal of the barrels and scorched my hand. I wrenched the now empty weapon from Dye's grip.

"You don't need to teach me to knock you senseless, Joseph," I said. "I already know how."

I smacked Dye smartly in the face with the butt of the shotgun, and he dropped again to the floor like a sack of grain.

After a pause, Lettie said, "I think a spot of fresh air would be most welcome right about now, George, thank you for the suggestion."

* * *

Of course, there is no fresh air in Calle de los Negros, not even outdoors. The atmosphere reeked of everything that it had when we arrived, in addition to the rapidly ripening horseflesh half-entombed in the street.

"Aren't you in charge of removing dead horses, George?" I asked.

"Damnit, Emil, why are you always making trouble wherever you go?" George complained as he lit a cigar and offered one to me. I accepted, then cut my head towards Lettie, who stood impatiently, waiting to be offered one as well.

George offered, and she accepted. George lit a match and we each put the ends of our cigars to the flame at once and puffed, our cigars glowing to life.

"I don't cause trouble George," I said. "I investigate it."

"Well, I can't have any of that Jeff Howard business around here," he said. He acknowledged my surprise and went on. "Sheriff Miller telegraphed Sheriff Rowland and City Marshal King. Sheriff Rowland's on your side, but King doesn't want any investigation in his jurisdiction, which is the city of Los Angeles, which is where you are, now."

"But we believe the fugitive is hiding out in Calle de Los Negros," I said.

"You'll have to wait for him to leave the city, then," George said.

"Why doesn't the Marshall want Howard apprehended?" Lettie asked, sharply. "Howard is accused of most flagrantly murderous endeavors."

George shrugged. "If I knew half of why folks did what they do, I'd be a hell of a wiser man. Heed me on this, Emil. If I must come back again because of this thing, I won't be the only one unhappy about it. Mrs. Harris, it's been a pleasure to see you again. Take care of your husband for me, will you?"

Lettie promised she would, and George tipped his derby again and walked off with his troops in tow.

"Well," Lettie said. "I hadn't expected the Los Angeles police to be against us in this investigation. It certainly does raise some questions."

It certainly did, I thought. It raised the question of how much bribery was required to purchase City Marshal King.

Lettie took my right hand in hers. "Oh, Emil," she said. "Look at your poor knuckles."

My knuckles were indeed raw and bloody and swollen from all the hardened heads I had been forced to drive them into. Lettie brought my hand to her lips and gently kissed it, sending a tingle of lightning through my body, for I am helpless to resist my wife's kisses.

Then Lettie took a flask from her saddle bag, uncorked it, and poured whiskey on my hand.

I grimaced in pain.

She took my other hand and did the same. I grunted in discomfort.

"That should help," she said.

Then she looked thoughtfully at La Prietita, the brothel, next door.

"Are you thinking what I am thinking?" she said.

I looked at La Prietita. "That depends on what you are thinking," I said.

"If you are thinking you should find a way into the La Prietita to talk to Sadie Margolis, then you and I are very much in agreement," she said.

* * *

Most women would object if their husband snuck into a brothel and spoke to a Sporting Lady who knows him by his given name. But Lettie Rosenfeld Harris is not most women.

The entrance to La Prietita was guarded by two conspicuously large men I recognized as off-duty Los Angeles policemen. Rather than risk another potentially escalatory confrontation, we decided the stealthy approach represented the best option.

Although generally, Lettie hates to be left out of the action, in this case she agreed to distract the guards at the door while I attempted to enter the adobe through the rooftop.

La Prietita was a two-story adobe sandwiched between a row of one and two storied buildings along Calle de Los Negros, with no space between them. This required me to climb to a one-storied roof, make my way along several more, and then climb up to the second story of La Prietita, and attempt to gain entrance from there.

I climbed atop a barrel next to the building at the end of the street, which allowed me to grip the edge of the roof of the first building on the block. With some effort, I hoisted myself high enough that I could swing my leg and secure a foot upon the roof's edge, thereby allowing me to drag the rest of myself to the roof. There, I crouched to reduce the chances of being seen and crept along from building to building until I reached the two story La Prietita.

Along the second floor of La Prietita there was a balcony, so I swung from the adjacent roof of the building upon which I stood and gently lowered myself to the balcony's floor.

I crept along the balcony, peeking through the windows, searching for Sadie Margolis. I encountered many a salacious sight along the way of Sporting Ladies and their customers clutched in carnal embraces, but none of the women were Sadie, and none of the men were Jeff Howard.

Finally, I peeked in a window and spied Sadie Margolis, lying luxuriously upon her bed clothed in only her natural splendor, while a gambler I knew as Harvey Rappaport pulled on his boots, left cash on the dresser, and bid his adieu.

Upon Rappaport's exit, I rapped gently upon the window.

Sadie looked up with a curious expression upon her face. Recognizing me, she rose from the bed and, without bothering to cover her nakedness, came to the window and opened the French doors to the room.

"Emil, you silly boy," she said, in Yiddish, our common tongue, "why don't you use the front door like everyone else?"

"I couldn't wait to see you, and the men at the door looked like such a bother to get past," I said, also in Yiddish.

"Come in, come in, Emil," she said, taking me by the arm and leading me to her bed, sitting me down as she went to a small table and poured two glasses of whiskey from an open bottle. She returned to me and handed me one of the glasses. "L'chaim," she said, and gulped down her drink.

I did likewise.

Smiling, Sadie took the glasses and returned to the table, to fill them up once more.

I will confess that Sadie's nakedness made me uncomfortable, as it always did. By now, however, I was quite used to it, as she was not one to hide her nakedness if it did not suit her. We did a fair amount of business together, as she was one of my most reliable informants, and, I had discovered, it rarely suited her.

"Have you arrived at last to sample my services, you handsome boy, after all this time?" she asked.

Indeed, while I had visited Sadie many times for the information she readily provided, I had never visited her for the carnal pleasures she promised, although she had often offered them to me free of charge. Nevertheless, I felt it would be improper for me to partake in Sadie's fleshly gratifications, as a sworn officer of the law. Even though prostitution was, at this time, perfectly legal in Los Angeles County, it nevertheless struck me as a dicey proposition to take Sadie up on her offers.

And, of course, now that I was happily married to Lettie, who satisfied all my wants and more, the matter was entirely out of the question.

"I'm hoping you can provision me with some information, Sadie," I said.

Sadie sighed as she returned with the glasses. She handed me one, then sat beside me. Rather than gulp it, this time she sipped the whiskey, as did I.

"Again, with the information, Emil," she said. "A girl would think you didn't like her."

"I like you very much," I confessed. "But duty calls."

"And the wife beckons, does she?" Sadie said.

"You should meet Lettie," I said. "I think the two of you would get along famously."

"She wouldn't be scandalized by a woman such as me?" Sadie asked.

"Lettie is not easily scandalized," I said. "And she also speaks Yiddish."

"Well, what can I do ya' for, Emil?" Sadie asked.

"I am seeking a man who goes by the name of Jeff Howard," I said.

"Ah," Sadie remarked, "you are helping Sheriff Miller of Ventura County who cannot keep Howard locked in his jail, despite the fact that Howard is accused of murder and of absconding with a significant sum from a cattle rancher's payroll, which has yet to be recovered."

"I am," I admitted. "And I suspect the money from that payroll has been used to hire protection from the Sydney Ducks and to pay off City Marshal King to look the other way."

"Correct on both counts," Sadie said. "However, he hasn't used any of those ill-gotten gains to line my pockets, even if I'm not wearing any, so I have no compunction in telling you that Howard is just down the hall, since you asked." Sadie sipped her whiskey and pointed towards what I assumed was Howard's current location.

"Is he now?" I replied. "Just down the hall?"

"With a young Sporting Lady named Miranda Vega, a Sonoran of not inconsiderable beauty."

I'd had cause to meet Miranda Vega a time or two in my duties as both a policeman and subsequently as deputy sheriff, and I concurred with Sadie's description.

"But she cannot compare to you, Sadie," I said.

Sadie chuckled. "You're too kind, Emil," she said. She raised three fingers. "Three doors down," she said. "On the right."

I reached for my billfold.

"Don't insult me now," she said. "Your coin is no good here, Emil, as you well know."

"Will you accept my gratitude, then?" I asked.

Sadie smiled and put her mouth to mine and kissed me.

"I'll accept your sweet kisses," she said, "even if you remain stingy with the rest of you. Be off with you now. I have customers lined up downstairs to see me, and someone's got to line my invisible pockets, if Howard won't."

I finished my drink, tipped my hat, and slipped out into the hallway.

I counted doors, and listened outside the third, as I unholstered my Colt and thumbed back the hammer.

I heard only silence from within, so I assumed Howard and Miranda had completed their business. Although I regretted having to enter the room abruptly, I saw no other way.

And so, I stepped back and kicked the door open.

It swung wide and I stepped in. Miranda and Howard lay naked and entwined in post-coital bliss, which I had just rudely interrupted. They both sat up in shock and surprise.

Miranda Vega remained, indeed, a beautiful young Sonoran woman. Howard was somewhat less beautiful, but only somewhat less young.

Miranda's look of shock faded into recognition. "Detective Harris," she said. "Sadie is down the hall."

"Thank you for your assistance, Miss Vega," I said. "But I am not here for Sadie. I am here for Jeff Howard."

No sooner had I said this than Howard threw a bottle of mescal at me and leapt out of bed, making a dash for the door to the balcony.

I dodged out of the way of the flying bottle, but the liquid splashed my face as the bottle smashed. Mescal stung my eyes, although, fortunately, not shards of glass.

Through the one eye I managed to keep open, I aimed with my Colt at Howard's bare-assed figure as he reached the door.

But I could not bring myself to shoot down an unarmed and naked man. Howard escaped through the door, and I gave chase, wiping mescal from my eyes.

By the time I made it to the balcony, I could just see Howard's lower half dangling as he hoisted himself to the roof.

I rushed to him but failed to get a grip upon his legs in time. He swung them out of my reach and dragged himself to the roof. I nearly went over the balcony as my arms grappled with thin air. As Howard got to his feet upon the roof, I recovered my balance, grabbed the lip of the balcony's roof, hoisted myself upwards, and followed.

Howard was already well down the row of buildings, his pale body illuminated by moonlight. I took off in a sprint to try to catch him.

I reached the end of the two-story adobe's roof and leapt to the roof of the one-story next to it. I crouched when I landed, sprang to my feet, and resumed my chase.

Howard had just reached the end of the row of buildings and paused as he searched for a way to safely descend to street level.

I was gaining on him.

I saw Howard bend at the knees, presumably to make a leap off the roof, when suddenly, scrambling up to the roof beside him, there was Lettie, who got to her feet and charged at him.

Howard did not even see her before she tackled him around the waist and the two of them rolled and tumbled to the edge of the roof and then off of it.

Alarmed, I ran yet faster to the end of the row of buildings until at length I stopped and looked down at the street below.

Lettie sat atop Howard, who lay upon his stomach. She straddled him, pinning him down, gripping his hair in her hand. Howard, evidently knocked senseless by the fall, offered no resistance.

Lettie looked up at me. "Hello, Mr. Harris," she said. "I believe we have apprehended Mr. Howard."

I looked down at her.

"I believe, Miss Rosenfeld," I said. "That in this matter, as in most, you are quite correct."

Lettie beamed at me, which made my heart swoon. I took the handcuffs from my belt and threw them down for her. She took them and shackled Howard's wrists behind his back.

I climbed down to her, and together we hoisted Howard to his feet, where he wobbled, still senseless from the fall.

"Mr. Howard, I am Detective Rosenfeld and this is Deputy Sheriff Harris," Lettie informed him. "We will return you to Ventura County now."

"I just came from there," he protested.

"Yes," Lettie said. "That was contrary to plan."

"I'll just escape again," he muttered.

"Perhaps," she said. "Or perhaps they will hang you this time before you get a chance."

I saw a concerned expression cross Jeff Howard's face.

Lettie evidently noticed his expression as well. "It is often a mystery to me, Mr. Harris, how so many miscreants appear surprised when confronted with the proscribed punishment meted out for their crimes," she said. "They should do a more thorough job of investigating the legal consequences of their crimes before committing them, I think."

I smiled. Lettie Rosenfeld Harris had yet to fail to fill me with wonder at her boldness, intelligence, and courage.

I found myself eagerly awaiting the moment we could once again be alone together, and I could hear her call me "Emil."

The End

Peter Ullian's post-apocalypse, post-pandemic, near future neo-Western, The Last Electric House, is published by Swamp Angel Press. His short fiction has appeared in Cemetery Dance Magazine, Hardboiled Magazine, Frontier Tales Magazine, the anthology Crimeutopia: Say What Now? from British publisher Murderous Ink Press, and the DAW Books Anthology Star Colonies. He was the 2019-2020 Poet Laureate of Beacon, New York. His poetry has been published in anthologies and periodicals and nominated for the Rhysling Award and the Pushcart Prize. His plays have been produced off-Broadway, regionally, and internationally. His books can be found on his Amazon Author's Page ( https://rb.gy/oivt8z).

Back to Top
Back to Home