Western Short Story
The day Brock Felton got his deputy badge, it was tossed into his lap by the current sheriff of Stockwood, Colorado, Deke Withers, on the job just three weeks and looking for help. Brock was the only one around who had done any law work at all and that was in a few posse chases, so it was a leap up for the youngster. With him, he brought a talent with Colts and other handguns, like Sure-Shot Harry was just hired, Harry himself, the real Sure-Shot with reams of wanted posters spread all over the territory, as if the circus was coming to town.
Brock was broken in in a hurry, seeing three strange riders tie up their mounts right in front of the bank and walk into the bank with guns drawn for robbery. He motioned several people away from the bank with silent hand waves, and slipped to the side of the bank door, against a heavy wooden column, part of the overhead support, and positioned himself for the robbers’ exit, choosing to face them on the street rather than rushing into the bank, merging tellers and customers in the middle of a gunfight.
The street was cleared, no shots were fired inside the bank, and the three robbers came out the front door of the bank, walking, in no apparent hurry, their hands loaded with cash bags, and the third man the only one with a drawn gun. Brock whacked him on the pistol hand, the pistol falling immediately to the ground. The other two guns were dropped quickly from holsters at Brock’s orders.
Three robbers caught, no shots fired in or outside the bank, no tellers or customers hurt, silence and admiration floating in the dusty road. The silence was deafening until applause and cheers broke loose up and down the main road of Stockwood, Colorado, in the year 1888.
There could have been a great party in town that night, but Brock was off on another mission; it was business for the busy, the way things in the West went for officers of the law, just about every single one of them.
Meanwhile, word had come to the sheriff’s office that a wanted man, Batter Colby, had settled himself in Doc Witherly’s cabin in the mine-rich foothills and was holding Witherly captive, one man who Brock knew personally and liked him as though he was his old grandfather, now gone a half dozen years. The old miner was a story teller who several times entertained Brock with a series of once-told tales right off the saddle or the tip of a shovel. That relationship spurred Brock to get close to the cabin, watch Batter Colby for the best part of a day as Colby made several check-out rounds of his own about the cabin, at least assuring his safety for the time being, knowing the old man had few visitors.
He never once spotted Brock, or his horse, each hidden securely and not detected in any way, at a decent distance from the cabin. Such results kept both Brock and his current adversary, Batter Colby, in hopes of complete security both ways, at least for the time being.
However, Brock kept thinking of ways to draw Colby from the cabin, but worried continually that a wild disruption would endanger the old man; he had to protect him at all costs, a duty that braced him with deep fervor.
When an idea came to Brock, he slipped away and went back to town, picked up a few things, and returned to his position of watch. That night, at a safe distance from the cabin, he tied a small bell, with a red ribbon on it, to the limb of a tree, hoping for the wind to blow hard enough and often enough to make the bell tingle, in its position away from the cabin; he’d call it, if asked, a nerve wrench, assured that it would work with some assistance from Mother Nature.
He remembered how his grandfather in the older days was totally upset at a scraping on their home roof from a tree limb, and it happened every time the wind blew. It finally irritated his grandfather, mad enough one night, to climb out of bed, get dressed, set a ladder in place, climb to the roof, and cut off the noisy branch, then put the ladder away, undress and go back to sleep in an instant; saying loud enough for all the family to hear. “All’s well and done, and a job done well is a man’s highest tribute.”
Those words had stuck in place with Brock all those intervening years, and this day they came into play, the truth of them nearly spelling themselves aloud.
Once in place, in the dark of night, Brock sat back to wait for Colby to react, take things into his own hands, get rid of the distraction which every gust of the wind blew down the valley and slammed into the foothills, including Doc Witherly’s cabin, cell of a kind right now for the gentle old man who was as much a saint as any man Brock had ever met, not deserving one minute of the imprisonment in his own cabin, and such a waste of time for a goodly soul.
Brock figured, for both these men, the ruse he had set up would make both amends and corrections for the sinner and the sinned on.
On the third night of the bell being in place, some ringing on previous two nights, a steady wind had come up and began to play a constant tune of sorts, a continuing ringing of the bell under a moonlit night, the night itself kind of keeping in touch with the bell and its music, and the nerves of Batter Colby into a twist of fortunes, a twist of chance.
The composite of bell and wind and moon must have reached Batter Colby, for in the dead of night, Brock heard the cabin door creak open, and caught a glimpse of Colby stepping out of the cabin, pay attention to the wind’s direction by wetting his fingers in his mouth and holding them overhead.
The wind, he thus determined, was coming from the East, and coming from where he heard the bell ringing all the while. He headed that way.
Only when he saw a branch sway and heard the bell tingle and sort of spotted the bell on a branch, he stepped closer to get rid of it, after looking around the whole area, to make sure he was alone.
Nothing alerted him as he pulled the small bell from the tree, until he heard the click of a rifle, and a voice say, “One false move from you, Batter, and you’re dead as the old door nail. Toss your rifle and your pistols on the ground. No tricks or you’re dead with one shot from my rifle.”
Batter Colby flung his rifle way off to his left, and then threw his hand guns much closer to his feet.
Brock could read the potential play of the noted bandit, so he fired one rifle round onto the pistol nearest to Colby, setting off one of its own loaded rounds as a reaction. Colby did not move again until he was ordered to lie flat on the ground, hands behind his back, until handcuffs were twisted onto his wrists with a loud and final snap.
Brock locked him outside the cabin while he untied Doc Witherly from his ropes in the cabin, hugging the old story teller as he did so.
The old miner and story teller said, at his release, his eyes flashing with the true light, “I remembered the story you told me about your grandfather cutting the noisy tree branch on the roof of your old home a long time ago. It kept me thinking of a follow-up. So, glory be.”