Western Short Story
Knife in the Right Hand, and Shank
Tom Sheehan

Western Short Story

Tory Jgvoluv came into Texas in the death of night, not a soul catching sight of him, the family knife, a hundred years old in Mexico if a week, in his boot, him now the sole owner. He was bent on a new life with the knife. Pin-point accuracy was his with the weapon, a skinning machine when needed, death its measure when silence was at call.

Joe Callus, once of Mexico, now chief honcho of the Great Northern Ranch outside Houston, his lone contact north of the border. He hadn’t seen Joe Callus for 10 years, since Tory was 12 and now a robust 22. The legendary knife made him feel older, safer, more dangerous to an enemy, sure as shooting in the saddle or on foot.

He felt invincible, said it so in manners, usual traits branding some men born for fighting, come of the Devil himself, sworn by some who could no longer speak the language, any language, south or north of the country line, a thin, mysterious, and often arguable point of reference; who owned what or where was tenable, quite tenable.

Joe Callus was sure to hire Tory Jgvoluv in spite of the curse of the Devil sharing the saddle with him, Joe and his owner always needing strong help, dedication, potential if called upon; Texas, just about every foot of it in 1845, when it became a state, was ruled by the gun, or, on special occasions, by a knife in the hands of an expert in its use, its proficiency, its absolute promise in close quarters, like how far a man could throw it in combat; and it had been there dozens of times over the years, but was now in the hands of its best application; in the throwing hand of Tory Jgvoluv.

He carried it, usually hidden in the shank of his right leg, ready for whipping, scaling, skinning; you name it, he did it.

The very first contestant on the Texas side of that thinly-appointed borderline was a pair of road agents waiting for a target, and here came Tory Jgvoluv, a Mexican alone in wide-open Texas; a piece of cake, as might be declared, a peasant and his burro in the search of the good life, and probably without a peso to his name. But it would be one less Mex north of the border; a deed worth the effort.

So, it seemed, but all’s not fair or true in love, war or road agents on horseback, deep in the saddle, too comfortable for their own good.

Tory saw them, recognized that they were going to search him, kill him, dump his body for animal food. They said, in broken Spanish, to dump his rifle on the ground. He reached for the rifle, whipped the knife at one man, hitting him plumb in the throat, and shot the other man, fully surprised, with a shot from the rifle. He buried both of them, masked over their graves, wiped down his knife, cleaned his rifle, went on his way.

Texas, Texas proper, had not seen much of Tory Jgvoluv as yet. But it was early in the day for contestants, as would be proved in the course of that same day when he was again accosted by illegal road warriors bent on no good at all.

“Hey, Mex,” one of two of them said, as he gained Tory’s interest and attention, while the other roped Tory with a lasso and immobilized him, “what you got in that donkey hump you got wrapped up? We need a look-see,” and he jerked Tory off his saddle to the ground, no pistols or rifle available to his tied-up torso, just starting a harsh drag along the rough earth, looking like the most helpless creature that he appeared to be, being dragged further in a huge loop.

As Tory was dragged, bumps and bruises and burning throat nearly aflame, his bones wracked by pains, the laughter of the dragger coming atop of humility and helplessness of a nearly totally inert man in motion, he grabbed the hauling rope with one hand and, with great difficulty, reached for and extracted the near-blessed knife from his shank.

He was now primed for action.

On a rise in the prairie ground, the rider’s horse slowing down, our knife-man, fully armed, flung that knife into the backside of the dragger with unerring accuracy, taking him out of the saddle and out of this life in one-fell swoop, the mark of a master, magician, or a mortician at his job.

Tory recovered the rider’s pistols and sent the second raider into oblivion with a single shot, then gathered all weapons, regained his mule and packaging, buried two wild Texas road agents in the middle of the prairie, said prayers over them, and rode on his merry way, another day of dawn, death and departure.

Texas, at the next saloon for a drink to clear his throat, soon heard about Tory Jgvoluva as Tory Tory was thus acclaimed by another rider who had seen from a distance Tory’s escapade with the roping and the knifing, and his miraculous escape from clutches of the road agents.

The rider, having his own throat clear of prairie dust, soon loudly introduced him as Tory Tory after introduction, and said, “This here Mex name of Tory Tory, finagled his way out of being dragged on this here earth by a road agent who he knifed in the back while being dragged, knocked him off his saddle and straight into Hell. So, I say, Hell, we got another fighter on our hands and one to be aware of his pure talents. He will prove to an able foe to any enemy who comes his way, or the town or rancher who hires him to work such charms.”

He raised his glass on high, “To Tory Tory, the only way I can introduce him to Texas and you, one and all, as a man who killed two road thieves while he was lassoed and roped and dragged for his life, and for the life of the dragger himself, gone to prayed death under Texas earth.

So, the word spread and Joe Callus realized at length that the announced Tory Tory was none other than his friend of younger years, Tory Jgvoluv, a re-match born in Heaven and brought down here to the Great Northern Ranch, Texas and the ranch each richer for the transition from Heaven to Earth.