Wednesday, June 8, 2016
Flash Fiction Friday, Week 41: In Plain Sight
The prompt this week was to write a story set in the old West and to include the following words: Gunfire, territories, blacksmith, ranch, and stampede. My story is about a Sheriff who believes in righting a wrong, no matter how long it takes.
In Plain Sight
Moving from our comfortable home and my comfortable job in the East, out to the territories was my wife’s idea. She’s always been the adventurous one. Her lady friends were all content to be married to a man who came home for supper each evening. Not my wife, Mary, though. Don’t misunderstand me; we’re the happiest couple I know, but she never wanted me to do what she considered ordinary work. I was already Sheriff of our small town when we met, and I was prepared to give that up after our wedding since most women are full of fear for their men when they’re the law. My wife told me if I quit, she’d quit me. It’s important to keep folks safe, she said. I’m proud of my husband for keeping the peace, she said. You know, I’m proud of her for that.
So our wedding came and went, and I stayed on as Sheriff of our little town. Lots of folks traveling out West these days to look for bigger and better. Nice folks mostly, but there’s some bad ones too, which is why Mary said we need to go out there too. Right now, she said, they need more lawmen, so we packed up and headed West. We’re starting life over here in a little town that’s close to Ridge Rock Mountain – a little piece of Heaven on Earth. This town’s still building up and needed someone to keep it in line, so I presented myself to the Mayor. He, in turn, presented me with a badge.
The wife and I are doing well. We have a house just outside of town. She enjoys planting her vegetables and flowers, and I enjoy my walks through town, checking on folks and their businesses, and making sure our town drunk gets tucked safely in at night in my jail. It’s a good life, but I will always have one big regret: A killer I didn’t catch. Not long before we left the East, our town’s bank was robbed. It normally didn’t hold a lot of cash because the town was small, and the bank didn’t handle any large payrolls. This time, though, the owner of a big ranch out West was finalizing the sale of a large piece of land and several hundred heads of cattle. He planned to deposit the money in banks along the way as he traveled back home. Word spreads like wildfire these days and two men decided they would help themselves to this man’s fortune.
I had already closed up the office and gone home. I was almost asleep when I heard gunfire from the direction of town. I got there in time to see two men on horseback with sacks of money hanging from their saddles. When I fired, they turned around, and I got a clear look at both of them. One fired back and hit me in the shoulder. Before I passed out, I saw Davy Michals, the bank’s night guard, lying dead in the street. He still had rope tied around one hand. They had broken in, tied Davy up, took the money, and were on their way out when Davy got loose and tried to stop them.
The bank had no big safe like most, so all that cash had been locked up in the Manager’s office. How did they know it was there? They were never caught and the money was never found, but I never forgot their faces. One was clean shaven and had dark hair and the other had light hair and a big scar across his left cheek. Davy was a good man with a wife and a young son. He deserved justice, and the man who killed him deserved to hang.
We’ve got excitement coming since a big cattle drive is camped outside of town. Cowboys will be heading in to drink. They usually don’t bring a lot of trouble. They’re around for a night or two, and most of them stay out at their camp. The saloon and stores welcome their business. It brings a bit of money into town and that’s always a good thing. I was coming out of Rosie’s after having lunch when I saw some of them riding in. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The one at the back was the man who killed Davy 6 months ago. What was he doing out here working as a cowboy, and what happened to the money he stole? Too, where was his partner? I decided to get to know their foreman and treat him to pie and coffee at Rosie’s.
The foreman told me a couple days’ ride back, there was a stampede. When they had arrived in the town, the local blacksmith, whose name was Jeremiah, and who had a big scar across his cheek, seemed to recognize one of their riders whose name was Willie. Willie seemed bothered by the man, who insisted they go somewhere to talk. Later that night, the herd got spooked and ran off in the direction of the north end of town. The foreman told me they managed to settle the cattle down, but not before they ran right through the blacksmith’s house, destroying it, and his small crop. Jeremiah was found dead inside, trampled to death.
He said Willie was still with them, and described him as having dark hair and always being clean shaven. I said nothing because I knew exactly which one Willie was and why Jeremiah had been killed. Splitting the money two ways didn’t sit right with him. But where was the money, and why had one of them been working as a blacksmith and the other as a cowboy? I needed to make sure Willie got what he deserved, but not at the risk of having a herd of cattle stampede through my home or my town. He was a killer who wouldn’t hesitate to use any means to eliminate someone who could identify him, or arrest him. He hadn’t seen me when he came into town, so right now, I was holding the winning hand. But, where to go from here?
I found out over a second piece of Rosie’s pie when the foreman told me Willie was a poor soul too. He told me Willie did all he could to go on this particular drive since it would pass by Ridge Rock Mountain. Said his younger brother had been killed in one of the big caves up there by some Indians and he wanted to pay his respects. Some of the men offered to ride up there with him since it was rough country, but Willie told them he had to go alone. It was his duty to honor his kin. There have never been any Indians in that area. I knew exactly what I needed to do.
“Hello, Willie, if that’s really the name your folks gave you.”
I stepped out of the shadows in the cave just as Willie walked up to the entrance.
“What do you want, lawman? Can’t a man find some peace in these parts?”
If only peace was what he was after.
“I found the satchels of money from the bank robbery that you hid in here. That was real smart too. After the robbery, you kept on riding until you found a good hiding place. Then the two of you separated, worked like regular folks, and waited, hoping nobody would be looking for you after all that time. So, what went wrong? Did your partner want his share too soon for your liking? Is that why you used a herd of cattle to get him out of the way?”
“I know you, lawman. I put a bullet in you when I was leaving the bank. I should’ve gone back and put in one more. Doesn’t matter now though. This is as far as you get.”
He pulled his gun on me.
“Drop those satchels, Sheriff, and don’t reach for your gun because you’ll be dead before those bags hit the ground.”
“No, you drop your gun because this is as far as you get,” his foreman said, as the rest of the cowboys stepped out of the shadows behind me.
“We’re trying to make a living to feed our families, and all you were after was money,” the foreman continued. “You killed a bank guard, shot the Sheriff, and used my herd to kill your partner. You could have killed us all.”
Willie appeared to be lowering his gun, then raised it up and took aim at all of us. I lost count of all the shots that were fired in his direction. I plan to make sure all that money gets back to the bank safe and sound. Too bad Willie won’t be going back along with it. I guess the thought of his neck at the end of a hangman’s noose didn’t appeal to him as much as it appealed to me. Rest in peace, Davy, my friend. Rest in peace.