Western Short Story
Four Crimes Solved, Penalties in Abeyance
Tom Sheehan

Western Short Story

#1: Trot Thurmond, in a two-month search, had his own personal target somewhere out on the trail, the blatant murder of his parents for the milk of one cow in their barn, being sought by a man on the run, most likely from the same type of crime, hateful, deadly, driven by the Devil himself, on the loose from Eternity itself, the havoc of being killed twice-over, just for proof of justice, if it found its place, even on the wide-open.

Trot came to the foot of Kilbred Mountain sticking up like a sore thumb on a killer’s best hand, left or right made no difference, crippled aim did all the way home. If his target stopped long enough to take aim, he could knock Trot right off the saddle, but if he kept hot on the killer’s trail, like he was doing and been doing for over a week now, that rat wouldn’t take time to get off his horse and line him up.

Despite all his assumptions, and guess-work, it was difficult to fully enter the thinking of a killer on the run, faring most of all, the pay-back coming his way from anybody besides the law. Families of the dead had a narrow view of the law, if any at all. The man chasing him for weeks on end was relentless, most likely a family member of the couple who protected a stupid cow.

Then, with his eyes wide open, and the merciful sun directly behind him, he caught a flash on the mountainside halfway up. He dove off his saddle, dragging his rifle with him, as the shot slammed off a rock right beside him. He aimed his rifle at the rock where the flash ad been and saw the other shooter fall beside the rock.

It took Trot half a day to mount the killer, bound tightly, on his horse and draw them down the mountain, for delivery back home, to let him stew in jail for as long as the law allowed, before hanging him.

#2: In Salidas County Jail, the sheriff strangled to death, the lone prisoner, Jiggs Dogger, rode off on the sheriff’s horse right through the town, a few folks not screaming the alarm seeing he was armed, and deadly as ever, but Trooper Kell ran for his horse across the dusty road, and began a week-long chase of Dogger, leery every step of the way of the escapee’s particular talents, having brought him to jail in the first place.

The trail led Kell through high grass, rocky slopes, a poisoned waterhole decorated with three dead animals, knowing his own canteen was always full, yet he wondered how much water the sheriff had left in his canteen; enough to supply one man’s thirst how long?

When Kell saw the thick line of trees near another water hole, and suspected a river flowed beneath the tree line, he pulled his mount to a halt. “I’ve been on his trail before, so he’s slick enough to try to get me off his back anyway he can, and now, from this thick line of trees, the chance might already be afoot.

He dismounted, tied his horse off in a deep swale, and crawled on hands and knees to a good observation point. Right, he was, for Dogger was already in wait, his horse also tied off, him lying on a brimmed edge, his body a thick shade of darkness from dark clothes, the sheriff’s rifle probably in hand, and having taken several sips or drinks from the sheriff’s canteen, finally tossing it aside.

Kell, comfortable at rest, his canteen near full, decided to wait out Dogger, knowing the man’s impatience in a deliberate way.

It didn’t take long, as Kell, from behind Dogger where he had crawled for over an hour’s time, clicked his rifle, the sound thunderous, and full of alarm for Dogger, knowing this man had caught him again, for the long and embarrassing ride back to jail, right through the heart of town.

#3: The banker’s eyes nearly popped out of his head. He had seen this man standing in front of him on a prior occasion, an earlier hold-up, perhaps six months in the past. His breath caught up in his throat as the gun came into sight, before he could swear out an alarm, not a single waver in the weapon, steady as any professional at business. He even remembered his name, Rocco Don Alvares, over the border one more time, to where the money was waiting for him. Tons of it from the mining community.

The teller, William Bell, married with wife and three kids, had always dreaded days at work since the first robbery; and now was no time to make a stupid move. money was only money, and none of it was his, except for the few bucks every week, that in itself proving to be a bit of a godsend.

Bell was sure that Alvares didn’t recognize him, didn’t remember the last trip around these parts; so, he focused his eyes on a customer just stand at the door before entering. She was a neighbor, in fact her home being only a few hundred yards from his place. He put a stern look on his face, shifted slightly a facial glance of worry, winked once at her without Alvares catching it.

“Oh,” she yelled, “my horse has run loose. I’ll be right back to the busy line in a few minutes.” She leaped from the door, calling out several times, “Thunder! Thunder! Get back here.

And she was gone.

Right to the sheriff’s office, inside his door, saying, “The bank is being robbed. Right now. Bill Bell winked at me and never winked at a woman in his whole life, I’ll bet.”

When Alvares stepped out the bank door, the sheriff and a deputy each had a rifle on him, one of them was jammed into his gut with extra push.

He waited trial, in jail, for six months until the territorial judge paid his yearly visit, the verdict plain, simple and quick.

#4: The wagon master pulled his dozen wagons to a halt at a waterhole just outside Paranos, Texas, not far from the border of the next territory. They’d had several breakdowns so far en route, and he wanted and sought a good man to see they received good and proper care and beyond the menial talents of the regulars, more adventurous than mechanically inclined.

He sought the sheriff’s advice on the appointment.

The sheriff was in cahoots with a man who had the talents to do the required work, but who would check out, as far as possible, the worthy contents in any of the wagons and plan for a hold-up once on the trail again.

The wagon master’s son, 11-year-old Jeremy Dawson, enticed by curiosity and the applications employed by the wagon-fixer, advised his father that the man had inspected the insides of several wagons and spent a considerably long time in wagon #6.

The wagon master, Higgins Dawson, talked to the owner of #6, discussed the valuables, and arranged a swap onto other wagons for prevention of loss, as best they could.

After all work was done, and “sneaky inspections of wagons,” the train headed out of town, on the trail further west. They were held-up a few days later on the trail by two masked gunmen in a subsequent lay-over and who could not find the object or objects of value and importance, then hidden underneath other wagons in secure locations. Both men were subsequently taken prisoners by wagon personnel armed to their teeth with shotguns, and bound and roped into place, holding them for the next law official, an honest one, for trial of attempted theft and robbery.

Jeremy Dawson was hailed as a hero by every man, woman and child on the wagon train, firmly announcing that he was bound to be a sheriff when he grew up.

It is assumed he did so in the following years, after the prisoners were bound and held for trial in front of an honest territorial judge who listened with admiration to the young witness, a stand-up and honest person marking him as a coming sheriff for some lucky town, at the end of the wagon trip west, hopefully distinguishing his name in the annals of western law. even promised as the thieves served jail time awaiting their punishment, the way things went Westerly in those days.