Western Short Story
All Topeka, Kansas was in an uproar, one prisoner, Roy Carver, escaped from state jail, one other prisoner penned up in an ammunition shack and threatening to blow it to smithereens, and no doubts about his doing so, a three-time loser and bound for the noose, and another inmate advising the warden of the escape when he brought his breakfast from the kitchen, beans again and hash.
But all the warden could do was worry about how they got free of their cells; no concern about who was on the lam or who was about to blow up a year’s worth of ammunition, small potatoes to the sleepy warden, most likely past his prime as an official of the state corrections board.
But the escape would come to a head when the governor muscled his way into the act, focusing on a budget about to be blown out of town. The worst thing to the warden was the budget disaster, not who Roy Carver was, not in the least; just another one of the bad guys, in jail for five years, and never guilty once of spitting on the floor, never mind killing his girlfriend at close range, in the near-sight of a local constable with a heavy heart for the same woman, the twisting of errant souls in tight quarters.
None of the aforementioned mattered except the constable’s word, held up in court, every penny’s worth of it. He was judged a poor soul deprived of his one love, the life of a constable a hodge-podge of here and there, where and when, who and what in the trek of the old ways of the West, the quick gun and the speedy horse most precious of possessions beside a woman.
The constable, Jake Henry, a smooth liar, a hungry lover, the bearer of a badge with all the points bent out of shape, could stand before the Good Lord and twist the truth to fit his needs. He was that good at it. He was as good at it as the escaped prisoner was a civic hero in his own right, a kindly man, a dutiful man, an innocent man in most other eyes; Roy Carver wouldn’t hurt a flea on his horse’s collar, or at a feast on his backside, with his guilt being no more than a kid snitching apples off a neighbor’s tree, that very tree with pies galore in its promise.
The contest between the two was a simple argument; one is an avowed liar and cheat, and the other is child innocence still at work in a growing man, though cast by fate into a jail cell and bound to prove himself free of the charge against him, the reason of his interment in the toughest jail to break out of in the whole West United States, bar none of the others.
Heroes, we often find, fit a mold made in heaven and allowed to carry it through a kind of perfection of the lot here on our own Earth.
Roy Carver was so good in confinement that he was warded simple but dutiful tasks, one eventually bringing meals to the outer guards on duty, where he studied one guard’s horse to his own acclimation: “That sure is one fine animal to trust your life to and with.”
So, came the day, the meal carried by hand to the guard with the grand horse, a hand-off of the meal to the guard who put down his rifle, Carver’s sudden leap into the saddle of the fabulous horse and the both out of sight in a danged hurry, the guard in truth firing one bullet completely over the escaping pair lest he hit his own great horse. It was the least he could do to two favored creatures.
The escape was that simple, though its study consumed hours of deliberation; and Roy Carver on the lam all the while. Where he’d end up was not known, but folks in the real know, onto inside stuff and secrets of the lot, figured he was bound to face the lying, love-hungry constable on the true facts of their lives, on each side of jail bars, love making its desperate pitch from two angles.
Roy carried no gun, no belt on his hips loaded with bullets, no rifle in the steed’s scabbard; and didn’t bother to pick up either on his break-out; harmless is the man without a weapon in the old West, unless he’s an arrow-smith and deadly accurate with it, like he was riding alone and unarmed into battle, mark of a true hero of the times, the old West, roads and trails full of robbers, bandits, wild gangs, deadly shooters, snipers galore looking for a meal, a horse, a supply of ammunition, a new break in life, none of which falls into Roy’s hands.
So, escapee Roy Carver closed in on the false witness who had sealed him into a cell, obviously for life or possible death by hanging if laws in the case could be twisted, easy enough for a crooked constable of the law now hustling Roy’s one true love, supported by a too-friendly judge at easy choice. These matters are swift manipulations, when an only, lonely soul is caught in the vise of avarice and need.
But the escapee, surely not sitting still, came as close to the constable of choice as nectar on the edge of air, a breath away from the misery itself, or the beauty of it all behind a wall or a lost thought cast to the night.
His hands closed on the neck of the lying constable, the false witness, the thief of a woman herself, a loved one, and his voice barked out the demands for truth, for justice, for clarity of the entire situation: “Tell the truth to the judge himself and to a court of common folks alert to the truth of an injustice of the highest order, my incarceration, the theft of my true love, the absolute difference between right and wrong, and right from the damned beginning”
It was all told, the entire sordid story, including the stance of the judge, the lies of the constable, the assignment of him to a new Hell, and the ache in a sweet heart not knowing what direction her heart would be aimed, come revelations to and from all involved, all souls bared and busted, all men of guilt ushered to their proper place in the court of fair dictates.
Hell, we see. has no place on Earth, when justice is wrought to being.