Western Short Story
BANG! BANG! went the shots, and BANG! BANG! again, as Deputy Remy Gargon checked out his guns before leaving the generally silent area of the foothills more than a half dozen miles from Haverwood as he planned his entrance into the nondescript town, not even having its own jail yet.
When Remy Gargon rode into Haverwood, men in the Red Jackal Saloon knew someone was in trouble with the law, which was at the moment in the saddle, but in their town, Texas being his beat as an officer of the law, settler of disputes, caretaker of evidence gathered from a crime or the crime site, bring to a stop if he could any crime at hand, in the immediate area, in another saddle out there on the whole of the Great Plains running from here to there in every direction.
Jud Hannah, at his fourth or fifth drink before noon, turned to his drinking pal and said, “Looks like you got the law on your tail, Louie,” Louie being Louis Talmon, bank robber, cattle rustler, stagecoach bandit, women hater to the nth degree for past misdeeds, now also on his own early thirst, and feeling it fall deeper by the wayside with each drink, who replied, “Can’t be me. I ain’t done nothing bad in a month of Sundays, if you and him together can count that high.”
That said, he checked his guns again for the full load, and was quickly satisfied with his protection elements; nothing’s like a quick shot from an unseen place on a lawman of any measure, no matter where. That included the Red Jackal Saloon at any hour, day or night.
But Remy Gargon had learned a long time ago not to walk in the front door of any saloon, if he had found a rear entrance, the Red Jackal having one betwixt two buildings, which gave him immediate entrance to one end of the bar, one pistol palmed at the ready for the expected unexpected, “Toes up,” being his own dictate in such circumstances.
Dud Henrick, sniper, robber, rustler galore, leaning at one end of the bar, felt the sudden nearness of a lawman, as though he had caught the scent of him, before a gun was in his back.
“Hold it right where you stand, Dud. That’s not my finger in your back, but enough packed in it to blow you down the length of the bar, belly-first all the way. I’m in my talking mood today. No arrests in mind, but looking for Charlie Hayes, your one-time pard, who’s wanted for attacking a decrepit old woman, Molly Sandler, on the trail and leaving her to die. I’m going to hang him for a month of Sundays and let the birds eat him for breakfast, lunch and supper. It’s not a death arrest, not yet, but it’s due. Life in jail, if I don’t get him hung, will be Hell for him if she dies. She put up with lots of you gents over the years and this is how she gets treated.”
He stretched his measurements, a reach upwards to full height, “I’ve had it up to here with you guys.” His eyes, Dud realized, had gone to a hard green, the hardest green one can imagine, and just as cold. He was not about to mess around with the badged man at his backside; it would hardly be worth the trouble to do so, the upper hand always seeming to win any old argument regardless who started it.
“I ain’t seen old Charlie since the Kiowa chief, Pearled Bow, taught him a lesson the Kiowa way, hanging him by his feet for a whole day almost too damned near the fire lit for Charlie alone. I don’t think anybody’s seen Charlie since then, embarrassed to all hell by the whole scene, never mind coming outside it with all his hair, and up-right in the saddle.”
“Well, I can get it all on the drawing board for Charlie, once you see him or once I see him, He gets stuck in jail until the judge gets here from his big rustling case over at Tockawonda on the Rio. That’s not gonna keep him too long, The Pecos Kid hung and buried before he knows what’s happened to him almost without him looking at where he is in this life right now and not able to move another foot. I swear, some men never learn what they see is the way to go when it’s right in front of them. Pecos drew on the fastest man alive, and he was the quickest man dead and buried almost where he stood and fell, the cemetery just out the back door of the saloon over there at Tockawanda Two just across the Rio like a good guy-bad guy line was drawn right down the middle of the river, on every curve until the fast break it makes after the waterfall where everybody fills their canteens for the long run to wherever they get another chance to keep breathing on their own,”
“Is that where the sheriff reigns in his horse and waits for the bad guys getting thirsty for the last time? That kind of patience must cut a lot out of his work, sitting and waiting for the bad dudes to come along and get captured like there ain’t no other way to go. Like a mouse trying to sneak up on a mousetrap and forgetting all about the cat waiting to claw him down and cuff him up. That beats me all to Hell, if I do say so myself “
“Well, if you put it that way, we don’t need any men with tin stars on their vests waiting for killers and robbers and rustlers doing themselves in from a long run. Just hand ‘em a jail key and say, ‘Hey, pard, I got a place here just for you. Mighty thanks for coming by to say hello and goodbye all at once, I ain’t ever had it so good, somebody else doing my job for me, and just like that, as what I said, bringing all the cows home where they belong. I heard once that was called something like Nirvana, for all its comforts. Pretty soon, when all them dudes get to know crime don’t pay, we get to name everything and everyplace with a new name and there ain’t any Texas anymore. That breaks the bubble on the whole matter of correction, if you see what it might come to.”
“Well, dude of dudes, when you put it like that, I guess I got to stay with Texas. Much as I love it with all that other stuff getting in the way of long life and happiness, the kind we ain’t even got now.”
I swear to Heaven, that’s what they were saying right there at the bar, the conversation not changing for hours and hours, and the sun coming back to say, “Good morning, boys. You still here?”