Western Short Story
“Double Yew” as a nickname for our character quickly lost its appeal in all places, but mostly in any saloon he was visiting, and became “Dub” twice as quick. From its first pronouncement in Houston’s Hazard Saloon, the nickname flourished for Whosely, and when he became a top-gunhand for the biggest spread in that part of Texas, the name “Dub” followed him through every adventure on and off a horse. He was “Dub” until the day he died, victim of a sniper from long range and directly in the back.
But the story really isn’t about Dub, it’s about his killer, a yellow-as-a-coward shooter nobody would have anything to do with, if they knew his background; that’s where we’re lucky, getting it right from the horse’s mouth, as the old boys have said from Day One.
Deacon Dog was a hired killer, a $100-a-head for any sure drop and burial; sometimes he made $600 or $700 a year, depending on someone’s hate or fear. Some insiders even say he earned $1000 in a couple of those years between the end of the Civil War and the day of his execution when he was stood against a wall, bound, and facing a dozen rifles, each one shooting him in an extremity or any other place, never twice in the same place, until his blood ran from a dozen spots; fair punishment to say the least in this case of Deacon Dog, killer supreme, dead-shot to say the least about him, and surmised as “having no echoes in his whereabouts, being in the area of a newly dead man who had no chance to respond with a shot of his own.
But we all know, one way or another, that Texas gods always provide for the final solution to a problem in their own way, but not in their own hands, never firing a gun from the heavens or the ether up there in that protective Texas realm among all the other gods, some possibly agin the choices made.
It is quite often that they choose a handy man down here on the ground, a young man, a full-grown man almost, and one who is already seeking the right way in his life, this life.
So, it was young, untried, rookie at gun-fighting, Marcus Harrier, 16, and “Mark” from now on, who was selected, blessed, commissioned to bring justice with him wherever he went, especially after Deacon Dog, rampant killer, counter of deaths at his hand, like the way a cash register tallies the odds, and indeed, the ends of paid selectives who suddenly bite the dust, as they still say to this day in all parts of Texas.
Mark came out of far-west Texas to establish his aim in life for truth, law and law re-enforcement to whatever degree he needed. He had been taught by his father, yea, a shooter of small-repute but deadly deliberate, how to handle a pistol and rifle from the day he could lift them and aim them, all on their own spread near a small town called Near Heaven, Texas, where his father was the sheriff without a jail or an office or a badge on his chest, but with inborn abilities with any weapon he took to hand to keep all his neighbors’ accounts on the good side of the law. Indeed, some folks called him the Holy Ghost of Near Heaven, Texas. That’s nothing to laugh about if you’re a bad-ass Texan bent on law-breaking of any kind, be it murder, theft, kidnapping, torture, cheating at cards, abuse of the fair sex, or kids half their size.
On the very day that father and son first heard about Deacon Dog, life’s commission became bound and narrow, to get Deacon Dog, collector of death payments, cash on the barrelhead, the barrel of his selected choice to snuff another life for the sum of it, in most cases being at $100 a head for the dead, Deacon Dog’s going-and-gone price for someone else’s death, often long-range, always in the back, from deep cover, darkness, the corner of a barn under no collective vision of a single other soul of the universe. Some folks, local to where a new death was dealt up for the sum, referred to Deacon Dog as Sneaky Pete, not wanting their true words being delivered back to Deacon Dog himself for counter-balancin’, as he called getting even for abusing his name.
Mark’s father trained him relentlessly on weaponry, site selection, known habits of the selected killer who was prone to certain standards in the commission of death for the unwary. He had determined, after endless site inspections, what kind of cover the killer favored wherever he was, in open plains, bush country, low hills and valleys, rocky cliffsides, the mountains themselves, any place on Texas terra firma that gave him the stealthy advantage, the edge on a new death. He taught the boy the history of the man, bound to attain every advantage for taking on a mean killer, his own body having fallen into private agonies he never told his son about.
He never cried, whimpered, agonized his pains because he did not want sympathy to get in the boy’s way, to alter any creditable advantage that could come to hand: “Take what you can, son, and whenever you can, because it all belongs to you. Deacon Dog is your aim in life. Make the most of it, a ghost of him, the sneakiest, dirtiest killer there is in all of Texas, in all of the West, for which you are hereby sworn to protect until your own demise comes upon this hallowed land.”
The day of days came without warning, a stagecoach driver yelling out as he passed them on a section of a long prairie road, “Beware you two, for Deacon Dog has struck again bare miles behind me, in Princeville itself which has not had a murder or a killing of any kind for a dozen years, from long range as always, and in the back, him sight unseen, but him by the antics of this newest death, from the lone boulder on an open plain like it was plain delivered there in the very beginning for this purpose of death. The shooter would have been seen from a mile way if hat rock was not there, him scurried down behind it like the yellow dog he is and you can tell him I said it, if you happen to run into him, his being in the local area, dirty dog of dirty dogs who might try me next if he’s hereabouts and listens.”
“Mark,” said his father, “I think the time has come because I believe Deacon Dog knows about us two, how I have trained you to get him, and he must be yearning to get rid of us, so be on your way and remember all that I have shown you, every little speck of it.’”
The shot came from way off, taking Mark’s father off the chair on the porch, to fall in one bounce back into Texas dust, not a single yell of pain, but a deadly thud on the scene.
Mark dove behind an empty wagon, rolled against the rocky foundation of the barn, slipped inside, climbed up high where he could see through peep holes his father had provided years before, and saw Deacon Dog lying low behind a log, invisible from ground level, but a target
from decent elevation.
“I got him now, Paw,” he said, as he took aim at Deacon Dog, as if shooting from the heavens, and put several unanswered shots into that frail form behind the log, even feeling the entry of each slug as Deacon Dog shrugged with each one finding home, in him, in this part of Texas, the last place Deacon Dog wanted to die, in Near Heaven, Texas, “curse of curses.”