Western Short Story
In the summer of 1842, Derrek Doss made more than 40 personally-delivered messages, looking for a life job on-the-run. He had no idea of future additions, like telegraph coming along to change all life, including his hopes and daring, as he was often pursued by those who wanted to read the private messages being delivered, to gain an upper hand of some sort, any sort, in any manner that gave them the advantage on possible developments of money transfers or land deals.
In one such case, he carried a message that said William and Bonard Winstead, brothers and co-owners of a one of the largest pieces of property in Colorado, were going to sell their interests to
another individual, Homer Osterland. A third party, name unknown at the time, wanted the sale held up, so he had Bonard Winstead killed and his former wife would have certain rights to claim, thus messing up the deal, because they knew her to be a really stubborn woman with a sour disposition at being told what and when to do anything, especially indirectly when the cause was not overt.
She clogged the deal to a fare-thee-well.
Some of the messages in reply also illuminated other deals not to someone’s liking, and hired thugs began to pursue Derrek Doss relentlessly, and he employed all the wiles and tricks at his command to escape their pursuits. He led them into trails and passages in mountainous areas that hindered any man or men in pursuit; what they ran into paid good dividends for Doss, like them getting what they deserved, and full force.
In one pack, caught in a nearly blind passage in boulder-strewn country, one member said, “I know he’s drawn us into this area on purpose. We damned well better keep our eyes open for a good way out of here, and wait him out. He has to come out sometime. Let’s sit and wait on him in the open. He can’t hide forever.”
The collective misery, discomfort and sense of being toyed with, had seeped well into the ranks, and they found their way back out of the area to wait out Doss’s re-appearance. They didn’t get to see him again, not that day, and not until days later when he was on another delivery and seemed headed into a similar area. But Doss had arranged for a friend, dressed exactly as he was dressed, and on Doss’s horse, lead them on a merry chase to a saloon far off the course he was on.
When the pursuers entered the saloon, they found they were facing one of the best gunmen in the West, dressed as Doss had been, waiting on them.
They backed out of the saloon with proper care and ease, no sense in bringing on more trouble, like getting killed on the spot.
The whole year went like that for Doss, ruses and tricks and second and third-party players helping him out, often for a hoot and a whistle. “You should have seen the looks on their faces, Derrek, when they saw me up close, like cowards in a storm. This is more fun than work ever was. Call on me anytime I can play games for you.”
Now, there was a joyous employee, even part-time.
The speaker was Henry ‘Sure-shot,’ no other name ever used or given, but deadly when called upon. “I can tell that no boss of the lot is apparent, just a bunch of raggedy gunmen short of talent and brains. To twist them into a bigger puzzle, is a deed in itself. I love it!”
He rubbed his hands together and slapped Doss on the back, adding, “anytime you need a helping hand, think about throwing some fun my way. The price’ll never change. And I keep thinking about a few tricks on my own, Like I said before, work was never fun before like it is now.”
That very same week, with a fake badge, he pretended he was a Federal Marshal, and swore in three lackies as deputy posse members to search for two thieves riding a pair of white horses, wanted for murder of a peace officer. The two were caught, shot down in a gunfight, and the posse members were to be paid off that night at the local saloon.
They never saw the phony marshal again, gone off onto the wide prairie, and then the shadows, wider than the mountain, darker than midnight in mountain shadows, the same way thieves made a run for it; a self-serving sense of duty completing a curve in the law.
The short life of a messenger, and Doss’s ambitions, seemed to come to an end when the telegraph was strung along wide spans between western towns, not only quicker, but replies locked in the loop when necessary; all about two-way service.
Doss got himself appointed as a deputy in the Colorado town of Green Mountain Falls, not far from his home town, then slowly biting the dust, his experience and fast talk gaining him a quick hire.
He brought his broad experience full bore on the job, cleaning up some old cases, running down a few new thieves in the area, the mayor openly saying at a Council meeting, “This Doss fellow strikes me as the best hire we’ve ever pinned a badge on. He’s a remarkable investigator, a relentless tracker, and has a mind as sharp as a razor, if you’ll allow me to say so, as he was hired after I interviewed him. He had me in his corner in ten minutes, and I swear that’s the truth. That man has done it all, wherever he’s been and regardless of the odds against him.
The telegraph was not the end of Doss’s career hopes, as it first appeared to have done, and he sprouted thusly in the cause of the law, a spirited and gifted man at a new occupation, a bright future indeed, as the telegraph changed enough life in the west to touch most every town where it went, a tap on a keyboard and a message bound in linear flight for receiver’s eyes: progress on the prod, the old West leaping past itself, and those fit for the move.