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Western Short Story
Thomas Murphy was glad to be leaving town. He’d just spent the most tedious week of his life holed up in the desolate village known as Barksville. It was a tiny settlement which had no saloon or night-time entertainment. Not even a bottle of whiskey could be purchased anywhere. He hadn’t seen a beautiful lady since he arrived and not a single man had an ounce of charm. It was the sort of place you should never stay in unless you’re paid to or you have to.
Unfortunately for Murphy he had come here to receive a telegram. One which finally arrived late last night. It was to tell him that the Wilder job was on in two weeks time. With that good news intact the handsome man rested his body and mind as he sat in the stagecoach carriage.
Outside the driver called for the last time, “I’ll be leavin’ in two minutes for Clay Park and Rakers Hill.”
A gentle rabble of voices filtered into the coach as the man in black closed his eyes to sleep. Just in case anybody hopped in beside him, he firmly lowered his hat to block out his face. A little trick which always worked a wonder when conversation was furthest from his thoughts. He slowly started to drift towards that dreamy sense of solace when two squabbling voices could be heard. They punctured the beautiful rays of sunshine that were filtering across his legs.
“Now Now Edna! That’s not what I said. I said that Mrs Peacock’s dress was a fine garment! A fine garment that’s all!” corrected the old voice in a Southern drawl.
But his companion was having none of that. She knew what he’d said and it wasn’t to her liking. “Wilfred! You can fool all those young fillies who you tip your Stetson to. But my ears have been around the block more than once. I know what I heard and you know too!”
And with that the old lady opened the carriage door and hopped in. “Excuse me sir,” she said as she passed the feet of Murphy who pretended to be asleep. Then to his surprise, she planted her robust yet tiny figure on the seat beside him. Swishing from side to side until she was happy with her posture. At last she breathed out in a sigh of exaltation.
Meanwhile, Wilfred was finding it difficult to board the stagecoach and it was only due to a helping hand from the driver that enabled him to enter the seating space.
“Oh Edna, what are you doin’ sittin’ there!” he exclaimed in aghast as his tired eyes spotted her on the opposite side.
“I ain’t sittin’ beside a streaky man. Not even if I love ‘im,” she replied in a punchy whimper. “You’ll have to sit yonder.”
“Oh, huh, alright,” he muttered in a mumble as he slouched down on his seat.
Murphy thought to himself, Oh no, this is all I need, a warring couple.
Suddenly a wispy scent of the most alluring perfume flew into his nostrils. It made his inquisitive eyelids slowly lift up to view the cause of this wonder. As he slowly tipped his head up, two beautiful long legs in black lace-filled boots stood in his sight. Covered loosely by a long black wavy dress.
“There you go Mam,” stated the driver politely as he handed the lady a large box.
Thomas Murphy couldn’t see her face or upper body yet as he still wanted his fellow travellers to think he was asleep. But he heard her sit down and place the box beside her. Then the carriage door was closed and in a few moments the stagecoach was finally on its way.
For the first few minutes not a word was spoken between the passengers. Only the turning wagon wheels made a sound. On and on they twirled along the sandy path. Sending a timid cloud of dust into the air around them. Now the Sun was beaming stronger. It warmed up the wooden carriage and made it slightly stuffy.
The elderly man tried to pull down the window beside him but to no avail. It was rigidly stuck and wouldn’t budge. He tried again but his efforts were at a loss.
“Oh, leave it alone, Wilfred!” cried his female companion. “You’ll only go and break it!”
“Would you like me to lower this one?” asked the lady in black referring to the window on her side.
“Much obliged Mam,” thanked the elderly gent before inquiring caringly, “what about this gentleman, would he mind?”
Just before Murphy could answer the question that was for him, the caring woman responded in a soft whisper, “Oh, I think that fine young man is sleeping soundly.”
“He’s been sleepin’ since I hopped on,” laughed Edna delightfully. “He knows when a conversation’s not worth listening to.”
“Maybe he does,” laughed the younger passenger as she opened the window to Murphy’s right.
“Ah, that’s better, thank you Mam,” smiled Wilfred as a cool breeze begot them.
“No problem and its Miss Tracey Shaw. A pleasure to meet you,” charmed the lady, holding out her hand.
Wilfred grabbed it with pure glee as his eyes lit up, “The pleasure’s all mine Tracey.”
“It’s Miss Shaw to you,” interjected his jealous partner.
Murphy started to giggle but sensing they heard his laughter, disguised it in a moaning snore. For a tense few moments, he could feel all eyes upon him. Then the strongly perfumed lady changed the point of focus.
“Oh, look at that! What a wonderful sign of love,” she stated with sultry ease.
“Do you mean those two brown horses standing side by side?” asked Wilfred excitedly.
“Yes, aren’t they delightful? How they look into each other’s eyes.”
“Maybe one of them‘s got dodgy eyesight. Like you Wilfred?” joked Edna in a joyous whirl.
“Ha! Ha! Very funny dear! But at least it explains why I married you,” he replied triumphantly.
Before his loving old wife could reply to this comeback, Tracey Shaw interposed her calming spirit. “Ah, isn’t that sweet! How the two of you express your love through joyous banter.”
“I don’t know about that,” snapped Edna in a tiny huff.
“No! No! Don’t let those funny quips ever tear your passion. What you have is special. Like a sunrise on a seashore,” charmed Tracey in her soothing fashion.
“Do ya’ think?” asked Wilfred, besotted by this lady.
“Off course I do! Marriage is the center of all that is good in life. Without it, all the souls that walked the plains would only be empty vessels,” she replied in a teasing tatter.
“Uh-huh?” sneered Edna.
“Yes a life without love is a life without living,” she returned in dramatic fashion.
Murphy had reached his limit. He needed to finally look at this lady who had brightened up his day. Not to mention the fact that she smelt like no other person who he’d come across in a year. Beautiful, enchanting, sultry, stylish, intoxicating. These were just some of the words that had filled his mind when she had boarded the carriage. Then there were the boots she wore that displayed a sense of confidence. The type that he adored on ladies. Apart from that he couldn’t hold his laughter in any more. It was time for him to leave his sleep and join in the scene around him.
“Aaaaahhhhh!!!!!” sighed Murphy as he pretended to wake up. He gently lifted his head upwards and looked towards Miss Shaw. Facing him was a vibrant curly black-haired beauty. She sent a warm, cheeky smile towards him. It had the air of adult knowledge fully ringing in its flavour.
“Afternoon Mam,” charmed Thomas Murphy.
“Afternoon Sir,” she replied confidently.
He chuckled softly as the two starlets felt a gentle sense of common interest. Then he politely turned towards the other passengers and greeted them. They returned his gesture in a warm response. With introductions over, the four travellers joined in an easygoing talk. With love and marriage still foremost as the subject.
“So what do you think of Marriage, young man?” inquired Edna seriously.
“Oh, I think it’s a wonderful institution. The breeding block for future generations,” stated Murphy charismatically.
“So you’ve travelled down that aisle where escape is but a dream?” asked Wilfred cynically.
“Now Now Wilfred! Marryin’ me was the best thing to ever happen to you! And don’t you forget it!” snapped Edna hurriedly.
“Oh, off course it was, my love. I was only jokin,” apologised the old man caringly before sending a sneaky look which Murphy fully understood.
“Well to answer your question, Mam. I haven’t had the privilege or the good fortune to find a lady who loved me quite that much,” answered the handsome man despairingly.
“Is that so?” inquired Tracey disbelievingly.
“Yes Mam, it is,” replied the man in black with a gentle firmness.
The beautiful lady looked into his dashing green eyes and saw a mirror image of herself. A soul who didn’t take himself too seriously but yet still had a joy for life. He too was enchanted by her reflection. A sophisticated white satin blouse adorned her upper body. It complimented beautifully with her pearl earrings, mauve eye shadow and soft pink lips. Her gently tanned skin was luxuriously blemish free. The two passengers were locked into a lovely private gaze.
“Clay Park’s upon us folks,” shouted out the driver from above, breaking up the serene setting.
Suddenly the stagecoach stopped and the door to Murphy’s left was quickly opened. The shaggy haired travel guide stood looking in at the four passengers in the carriage.
“Anybody hoppin’ out?” he inquired.
“Yes, my wife and me,” replied Wilfred, disappointed to leave the lovely young lady.
“It was a pleasure to meet you,” warmed Murphy to the old couple.
“Same here,” responded Edna and her husband.
“Best of luck with your travels,” smiled Tracey lovingly as the married pair bid farewell to the younger set.
“If you don’t mind folks we’ll be straight on our way to Rakers Hill,” stated the driver to the two remaining travellers.
“That’s not a problem Mr,” answered Murphy as Miss Shaw grinned a nod of thanks.
Soon they were out of the tiny little cluster which called itself a village. The few wooden houses disappeared before their eyes. Leaving them alone to sit amidst their feelings. A gentle sharing laugh developed which turned into a chuckle.
“You’re an awful man, Mr,” jeered Miss Shaw.
“Murphy. Thomas Murphy. And look who’s talkin! Sunrises and empty vessels. Ah, you’re a hoot,” he said charmingly.
“Well Mr Murphy...” she smiled.
“Thomas,” he interrupted.
“Well, Thomas, seems like someone wasn’t asleep after all. And I meant every word,” she stated with an adorable playfulness.
“Then so did I Tracey,” he returned warmly.
“So you were listening?” she inquired.
“I always listen to a beautiful woman,” he seduced.
“Mmmhhh? Do you, now?”
“Yes,” he smiled.
“So, why haven’t you married then?” she requested.
“Because I never listened enough.”
“Ha! Ha! Funny guy. Do you always have the answers?” asked Tracey sharply.
“Depends on what’s the question,” remarked Murphy.
“What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you look at me?” she asked daringly.
“Your beauty. And...”
“That’s two things, Thomas.”
“So it is. But with you, both go hand in hand.”
“So they do,” she responded confidently.
“Hmmh,” sighed Murphy gently.
Then an uneasy silence developed between the two as a slight sense of embarrassment overcame them. It was as if they were going down a path with only one outcome. They stared intently at one another. Hooked by the transfixing presence of each other. A sultry scent of hope sauntered in the air.
It brought their bodies ever closer. Closer and closer without moving an inch. Trickles of sweat began to perspire from Murphy’s forehead as desire began to take its hold.
But it was short-lived as Tracey Shaw destroyed it with the next words that she spoke. “Don’t like the look of that out there!”
Thomas Murphy followed her gaze and looked out the window. They had long since left the sandy plains of Clay’s Park. Now their stagecoach was travelling through a thick forest with low lying overhanging trees. The vegetation was mere feet away. It wrapped an eerie, creepy feeling around the travelling coach folk. And crawled along their bones. It felt damp and cold and full of hidden terrors. Although it was still the afternoon, the sturdy branches and swaying leaves blocked out nearly all the sunlight. If they didn’t know better, they would’ve guessed it was the night-time.
“There’s nothin’ to worry about out there. I’ll protect you Mam,” said Murphy caringly.
“Will you?” she asked seriously.
“Off course Tracey,” he replied.
“And who’ll protect you?”
“Me?” He asked unsurely before stating warmly “You!”
The fears that surprisingly had shown themselves so quickly on her face now succumbed to her companions touch. She sighed a little gasp that was full of safe feelings. Which propelled gratefulness towards his soul. He nodded appreciatingly and smiled with reassurance. It made her give a look of guilt for something that she’d done wrong. She looked down at the box beside her seat. Then ran her fingers gently over it.
Murphy looked down at it also and asked politely, “Is it something precious?”
“What?” she said confusedly before understanding what he meant “Oh this! Yeah...Yeah. You could say that.”
“A gift?” inquired Thomas Murphy.
“Yeah,” she said simply.
“For someone special?”
Tracey Shaw hesitated for a moment. Her eyes looked perplexed. Then the answer to his question developed along her face.
“Yeah. For someone special,” she replied softly.
Murphy could sense that she wasn’t going to explain more so he left the subject there. Miss Shaw seemed to weigh up a decision in her mind. Should I or shouldn’t I was stretched along her fulsome cheeks. Then a wry smile came across her face. But it was tinged in sadness.
Thomas Murphy felt it was rude to watch her deep in thought so he aimed his gaze out the window to his left. Dark green and brown leaves, bark and branches were the only objects that he saw. Very little light ventured in as they were still travelling through the dense forestation. But a new larger object now blocked his view. Miss Shaw had left her seat and stood before his eyes. A moment later she was on the bench beside him with her arms wrapped around his neck. She pulled him in firmly and kissed him in great passion.
It all happened so quickly that it took Murphy by surprise. But he was a good man at catching up. He plunged powerfully into the moment and savoured every touch and taste of the goddess in his grasp. She tasted like heaven personified.
And then just as quickly as it started, it reached an end. Tracey Shaw broke free and walked back to her seat. She put her hands down by her side and lifted up her handbag.
The man in black was taken aback and began to mumble “Wow! That...that was unexpected!”
“Really?” replied Tracey casually with a little hint of sarcasm.
“Yeah...well,” laughed Murphy charmingly before asking playfully, “So what made you give in?”
“I wanted to know,” she answered coolly.
“Wanted to know what?” he smiled.
“What it was like to kiss the man that killed my husband,” she sneered coldly. With that she pulled a small ladies pistol from her handbag and pointed it at the man facing her.
“Whoa! What’s goin’ on?” stammered Murphy quickly.
“You’re gonna pay for what you did!” Tracey snapped in reply.
“What are ya talkin’ about?” he asked swiftly.
“You killed my husband! Bobby James!”
“Bobby James?!” Murphy paused as he tried to recall the name. Then the horrid episode came flooding back. “He robbed my horse and left me out to die!”
“That was never proven!”
“Never proven?! I was three days in the desert with no food or water. All because of Bobby James.”
“Liar!” she shouted sharply.
“Liar?” demanded Murphy meanly. “When I got my horse back off him, he tried to shoot me in the back!”
“You’re a liar! A no good liar!” she rasped in furious anger.
Seeing a chance to stop this foe, Thomas Murphy lunged right at her. But she wasn’t to be played with. Miss Shaw fiercely pulled the trigger and the speeding bullet clipped him in the left arm. He flew back against the carriage wall. Blood streamed down his aching arm.
“Ha!” she laughed bitterly. “Think I’m a fool, do ya?”
Thomas Murphy said nothing but merely looked at her in anger. Then she lifted the box which was beside her and placed it on her lap. All the time still holding the gun on him.
Then she shouted out to the driver up above “Ted, stop the coach, I got ‘im.”
Suddenly the travelling warzone halted quickly.
“What?” she asked, seeing the look of surprise on Murphy’s face. “Oh, Ted, he’s a friend of mine. Aren’t you Ted?”
“Yeah,” came the hoarse reply from above.
“So you gonna kill me?” rasped Murphy angrily.
“Me? Kill you? Not at all. That was never the plan,” she laughed joyously.
The man in black was confused again. What the hell was goin’ on, he thought? Then Tracey Shaw opened the large box and put one hand inside.
“But he will!” she sniggered viciously, pulling a rattlesnake from the pit.
The eyes in Murphy’s head stretched back in fearful horror. Then his unrelenting mind went to work. He went for his pistol just as the viper lady flung her friend at him. A loud boom filled the air as the devil’s spawn opened up its jaws. The bullet wheezed by the evil creature. Leaving him untouched as he leapt horribly onto Murphy’s scared frame.
A vicious scream of “Aaaaaahhhhh!!!!!” punctured the air around them.
Terrified beyond belief, the handsome man stumbled for his life. He could feel the reptilian monster swirling around his scared legs. Sensing that he was ready to sink his fangs, Murphy wriggled with all his might and knocked the snake off his legs.
It was then he noticed that Tracey had screamed in pain as the bullet had hit her hard. She mightn’t have been the target but she certainly was the victim. Blood seeped from her shoulder as she cried in anguish.
But then the driver leapt into action and jumped down on the ground. He pulled open the door behind the injured Murphy and laid his eyes upon the scorching scene. Twisting onto his belly, Thomas Murphy pulled the trigger fiercely and propelled this new villain onto the grass behind him. Extinguished powerfully in a second.
Aware that the snake was still near him, the battered hero climbed to his feet and looked amidst the ruins. It was then that it all came together. The click of a pistol told him that Miss Shaw had her weapon raised. Then to add to this, the evil haunting rattle of the serpent told the tired man that it was at his feet.
“Looks like I’m gonna kill you after all!” laughed the injured beauty deliriously.
“Maybe not!” shouted Murphy rapidly as his right leg hopelessly kicked the woman’s pet right back at her.
She screamed once more in bitter agony as a small torpedo left her gun. Thomas Murphy dived to his left as the bullet veered to his right. Then he fell from the stagecoach as the horses that pulled them along had heard enough of gunfire. They sped away in awful fear. Pulling the battered carriage along with them. With two evil slimy passengers now locked in a bitter life struggle. Biting and screaming for all their worth.
The shattered man in black watched as the coach disappeared from his piercing sight. He fell back onto the ground once more. Panting and moaning in awful triumph. He searched along his body for any bites. But a bullet wound on his left arm was all he found. That and a tortured, beating heart.