Western Short Story
Born Artist Becomes Shooter
Tom Sheehan

Western Short Story

Born Artist becomes Shooter

Tom Sheehan

When Gary Bede was 5-years old, playing in the barn, he saw a man shoot down both his mother and father for a misspoken word, he assumed, because nothing was done on his parents’ part, still before they were still. The killer, sitting on a black horse, like he was ten-feet in the air, fired not once, but twice at each parent.

Gary, later taken care of by friendly neighbors, never forgot the killer’s face. It was so in-grained in his mind, it kept re-occurring to him, and each detail on that face nailed itself home. When he found a kind of magic in a mere pencil, his custodians, the Barton Clovers with no children of their own, made sure he kept busy. So, he began to draw that face over and over again, catching up on a mole on the right side near his hairline, a strange twist in his black mustache, his left ear missing a significant chunk as if it had been shot off.

Elements, details, deep dreams, came and left their footprints on his mind, so that he was a unique youngster in the area of Bull Run, Texas, smack dab in the middle of the territory. Barton Clover handed him a gun when he was 8-years old and said, “You’ll need to be as good with this as you are with the pencil, Gary, so learn to work with this too.

Gary Bede took to weapons as he had taken to pencil, each sharing a piece of his life, becoming a dead-shot with anything needing a trigger to set it off, and a finger to pull that trigger.

As he grew, the pencil work getting keener, the pictures getting more details, he stowed each piece of art in a secret part of their barn, his normal hideaway; the outdoors was saved for weapons where he excelled there too, as seen by Barton Clover, and other neighbors in Bull Run.

The word, of course, spread throughout the territory, running well ahead of him before he made his departure from the Clover, which came with the rising sun and waking Gary from a disturbing dream; he began packing his gear before sitting down with Barton Clover.

“Mr. Clover,” he said, “I think it’s time for me to move on and start looking for the man who shot my folks. Here’s a picture of him I drew and I wanted you to know who and what I was chasing.”

Clover, looking askance at the neatest pencil drawing he had ever seen of an individual, said, “Why I know him. That’s Pete Pedro, killer, rustler, bank robber, jail breaker, half of Texas knowing some of his pain. He won’t be hard to find, Gary, not for you, not the way you’ll go.

We haven’t seen him around here for years, but he’s apparently been everyplace else, the way people talk at the saloon. He ain’t worth a nickel you chasing him, or a dime you catching him.

You give him all the Hell you can for your folks. I’d like to be there to see it all, Gary,

Cause you’re that good with a gun, anyone you pick.”

The pair shook hands at departure.

Gary Bede, 15-years old, strapped with a pair of pistols and a rifle in his scabbard, started his adventure, heading toward West Texas, last place noted in saloon discussions. He also carried a dozen sketches of the man he now knew as Pete Pedro; he figured they’d come in handy along the trail, in any saloon in any town, stirring up more than emotions, like grateful compliments on the work, and bloody-lust hatred for Pedro, so closely detailed in the sketches. Now and then, a sheriff or a marshal, with coercion on their part, managed to have a sketch placed on the wall of their office. Such sharing set them to dreaming of the big catch, getting it done before the kid did.

The word, of course, spread, and was soon heard by none other than Pete Pedro himself when he was handed a sketch of himself, mole and all, missing ear chunk and all, the strange twist in his lop-sided mustache and all, nothing missing, nothing at all.

He was infuriated by the complete and detailed likeness. Like looking in the damnedest mirror he could imagine, the close scrutiny amazing him, not used to seeing himself with such clarity.

“Why, that sniveling little son of a bitch, wait’ll I get my hands on him, get him in the sights of my rifle, shoot him right of his holy-brother saddle first chance I get. I’ll let the buzzards come down and eat him to the bones and me enjoying the whole show. It’ll be hilarious, so help me Hannah.”

The showdown neared, as Pedro began dropping hoof tracks and verbal hints that he was heading for Felton Hills near Lubbock, along the River Brazos, for a quick respite, “to rest my weary bones,” as he proclaimed with valid promises, those words spreading like a rampant disease, almost knocking down some folks right where they stood in line for justice-on-the-move, history-in-the-making.

Gary Bede was advised by about every person who had heard about the possible coming confrontation; “Watch your step, kid, no telling where he’ll hide himself to get aim on you. Watch every damned rock on the way, and every swale and dip into the heart of West Texas, along that river, too, where he might be flat on a lonesome boat out and beyond, up-river coming your way slowed in the run.”

Pete Pedro, as surmised by many, came up out of a hale in the ground, his sudden appearance not noted by Gary Bede but by his horse, by shaking his reins and stamping his hooves on the turf and practically dumping Gary out of the saddle as a bullet whizzed overhead, the whistling retort getting sucked up by the vast plains like it had never happened.

A second shot sprayed dirt in the air not too far from a prone Gary Bede, swinging his rifle into play, scratching the ground for an invisible cover, and finding none.

A third shot went past his right side, inches away, it seemed, the whizz less a hum and more a scream almost human, as if Gary himself had let out a yell.

Perhaps that part had brought Pedro into sight, a dirty hulk crawling out of a hole as if satisfied he had hit the young hunter of men, or of one man, now visible, in the sights of Gary Bede, loser of both parents to this single man in his sights; he found that he couldn’t pull the trigger on a heart-on shot, but hit him in one thigh, then fired into the other thigh, and saw Pedro’s rifle fly into the dry air, the man’s screams accompanying the loose rifle.

He was an ugly brute of a man, reduced to near tears by the pain, crying aloud, a shell of himself once arraigned with great difficulty on his horse found tied off in a deep swale.

Of course, wanted all over Texas, including Lubbock not too far off, he was razzed and cursed by the quickly-gathered crowd who had heard “the kid” had captured the killer of his parents, the one and only bad ass of bad asses, Pete Pedro, now coming into town locked down in his own misery.

The cheers came a mighty roar, as did the curses and the steady exhalations, as Gary Bede, artist, gunsmith supreme brought to jail, and any handy doctor, the highly-wanted killer.

The sketches of Pete Pedro have lasted a lot longer than Gary Bede’s other talent.