June, 2015

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Issue #69

Looking for free, tantalizing Tales of the Old West?
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Read this month's Tales and vote for your favorite.
They'll appear in upcoming print volumes of The Best of Frontier Tales Anthologies!

The Human Rifle
by Ken Newton
I figured there was something bad wrong with Momma when Uncle John came out of the house. When he handed me his revolver and then took up his human rifle, I knew we were going on a manhunt.

* * *

The Capture of Cynthia Adams
by Lela Marie De La Garza
When the Indians captured her, Cynthia was afraid they would use her the way she'd been told, for their amusement. She soon discovered what they really wanted from her.

* * *

The Stranger
by Larry Flewin
When the stranger showed up and helped fix her broken wagon wheel, Kansas MacLean figured she'd just had a bit of luck. But it wasn't going to be good luck for everybody at the Wells-Fargo station!

* * *

The Forgiven
by Christopher Davis
The Bratton gang had a choice: try to take on the gunslinger, the minister, the teamster, and the boy; or else, turn tail and run. Well, we should all be forgiven for our small lapses in judgment, shouldn't we?

* * *

A Lesson
by David Henrie
Robby was ten, and he surely did admire the way Mr. Tucker carried that big pistol of his. Tucker figured the boy needed a lesson. Turned out, and he was just the man to provide it.

* * *

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All the Tales

The Forgiven
by Christopher Davis

Bardwell stood alone in the one dusty street leading through the dry little valley town, the only thing standing in the way of the Bratton Gang, the stage office safe and the payroll for the railroad men working up and down the new Pacific Southern line.

"It's no use Bardwell," A greasy looking Bratton said standing opposite facing the lone gunslinger. "Step aside Dan and no one in this pretty little town gets hurt."

Two old Navy Colt's at his side, the gunslinger knew that he was outgunned. Twelve thirty-six caliber balls would be all that he could muster this afternoon against the guns of five men now planning to take the undefended stage office.

"Yeah," Bardwell said in a low voice the outlaws had to really listen to, "Fuck you Billy."

Dan Bardwell had faced some long odds in his years of Cavalry service and drifting, but never anything quite like these. Bratton knew that the gunslinger standing in his way was no one to take lightly, but he couldn't back down. Hell that would set a precedent that he just couldn't allow. Besides, there was a lot of good green money in those safe boxes just up the street.

"Use a little help this afternoon son?" Luke Fisher, the new Methodist preacher, asked walking up to where Bardwell stood alone in the dusty street.

Bardwell had liked the preacher from the first moment they had met some weeks ago. It wasn't often that a preacher rode into town wearing a brace of Colt's. "A gentleman's got to be able to protect one-self," The preacher had said, "My Daddy did a fine job of teaching me how to handle these things so many years ago. And it's always worked for me brother."

Bardwell nodded, "Sure you're up to this father?" Continuing on, the gunslinger explained, "These Bratton boys will play for keeps."

Spur rowels rang out from behind, Bardwell dared a glance to the side and nodded. "Thanks for coming gentlemen, didn't think you would make it," The gunslinger said to teamsters Ira Stoudt and the young Negro boy Franklin Curtis.

"Wouldn't miss it for the world Dan," Stoudt said in a low monotone voice, cigar clinched in his teeth.

"N-no sir," Franklin Curtis, the one-time orphaned Negro boy stuttered.

In a matter of moments, the odds out here in the street had changed considerably in the contest for the stage line office. Bratton and his men paused to think the situation over some. Bardwell, the drifter, was a known gunslinger and one time Texas Cavalryman. Ira Stoudt was part owner of the town's drayage business and a deadly shot with balls to boot. The Negro boy, Franklin Curtis, stood like a rock next to his mentor, his trusty coach gun over his shoulder and Terrance Gentry's old Peacemakers at his side. Stoudt and the boy had held off a band of Mexican's late last year inflicting a terrible toll on the would-be bandits.

Three known gunfighters stood in the way of the stage line treasure, but it was the preacher who intrigued Bratton the most. Standing in the road, his tall frame, black coat and white collar sent a shiver through the outlaw. Looking to be that of a Dandy with his long flowing yellow hair and oversized walrus mustache, Bratton knew the type very well. It takes one to know one, he would have told if asked. This afternoon, the preacher man didn't carry the bible of a minister, only those two single action Colt pistols of a well-seasoned gunfighter.

"Was it you who gunned down those Mexicans in the hills preacher man?" Bratton yelled out, he and his boys still standing in opposition. "Rumor has it that it got mighty ugly up there in the mountains?"

Fisher winked, "Might have been son, I don't rightly remember." The preacher threw back the tails of his long black coat exposing the blued Navy Colt's at his side. "I don't rightly remember."

Turning to smile at the men backing him in the fight, Bratton said laughing, "I told you boys it was the preacher man that did those poor bastards in."

The odds now stacking in his favor, Bardwell announced, "Billy, you and your boys don't have to do this." The gunslinger searched the face of his adversary for any sign, "Just turn around, walk back to your horses and ride out of town. Nobody gets hurt."

Bardwell and Stoudt tossed back their coats exposing now four more weapons. Sticking half out of Stoudt's front pocket was a couple of long red sticks their fuses starting off in different directions.

"Give us the money Dan," Bratton answered exposing his firearms. "It's just that easy."

"Ain't going to happen that way Billy and you know it," Bardwell said. It was his job now to protect the stage office property until the railroad asked for their money. Not one of the gunfighters flinched standing under a warm summer sky.

Expecting a fight to erupt at any moment, none of the residents of the little river town stirred. Sensing the tension in the warm afternoon breeze, even the prairie songbirds had settled for the time.

"Times wasting out here Dan," Bratton said, his men laughing, "Why don't you and the preacher man step aside and let us have what we rode in for?" Not waiting for an answer this time, Bratton sealed his fate and the fate of his men by going for his weapon.

Bardwell got the drop on the outlaw and fired first striking Bratton in the arm, but only serving to provide a grazing wound. It was on now, Ordained Minister Luke Fisher, grabbed for both Colts and began to fire the single action pistols with deadly accuracy. One of the outlaws went down for a moment with a ball to his leg.

Dragging his now wounded leg, the outlaw slid in behind a nearby wagon for cover, one of his partners joining for some shelter from the flying lead now coming in their direction. Stoudt held the fuse of one of those red sticks to the cigar clenched in his teeth before tossing it to the boys behind the wagon. The dynamite blast turned the wagon on its side taking those two of the Bratton's out of the picture for a time.

The boy smiled at his mentor as he held the remaining red stick to his cigar, "You g-going to throw that thing?" Franklin stuttered just before dropping both hammers on the coach gun. Buck and ball tore through the ranks of those in opposition still standing in the street as that one red stick bounced once then exploded behind the remaining outlaws.

Stoudt grabbed for both of his little Colt's and began to provide cover for the boy as Franklin reloaded the shotgun. One of the Bratton's made for an alleyway between the Nine to Five and the unfinished boarding house. Curtis stepped off in that direction to cut the outlaw off, "I g-got him boss." The boy was running now around the opposite corner of the saloon.

"It's over son," Fisher said, yelling to be heard over the sporadic gunfire. "There's no need for anyone else to get hurt here today."

Looking around at the condition of his men, Bratton yelled back, "Fuck you preacher man, I ain't leaving 'til I get that money."

Fisher sighted down the blued barrel of his Navy pistol and dropped the hammer the bullet found its mark right in Bratton's stomach. "Like I said it's all over son. Now let's call this whole thing off. Nothing lost, nothing gained. All will be forgiven, what do you say son?"

The shotgun barked from somewhere out behind the boarding house. Bratton down in front of Wilson's Livery, fumbled as he reloaded his pistol coughing blood. "Like I said preacher man, I ain't leaving." Bratton drew a bead on the preacher standing in the dusty street.

"Well then I've had just about enough of this," Fisher said as he fired three shots into Bratton, alternating between the revolver in his left and the revolver in his right hand. "Forgive me son, but it was either going to be you or me and yes I did gun down those men who took the life of my brother up there in the hills."

Bratton's eyes glazed as he looked up at the tall preacher standing over him his guns now holstered. "Our Father that be in Heaven…" Fisher started as he prayed for the dying outlaw breathing his least breath.

Stunned from the blast, two of the outlaws behind the overturned wagon gave Stoudt a close call as he closed in on the covered board walk. One of the gentlemen pointed his barrel in Stoudt's direction. The gunslinger made quick work of him just as the other elevated both of his weapons. Stoudt cycled the single action pistol in his right hand, nothing. The second pistol in his left was empty also.

From between the saloon and boarding house across the street, Franklin Curtis fired Gentry's forty-fours for the first time today. It was the least that he could do. Stoudt had kept his bacon out of the fire on many occasions over their years of running together.

Stoudt nodded thanks to the boy as he fumbled to load the converted Colts. Things had looked kind of bleak there for a moment as far as the teamster was concerned.

"No more." The remaining outlaw said throwing down his gun in the street and raising his hands, "No more."

Now, after the three minute scene had played itself out, here and there the proprietor of the river town business poked his head out to look things over.

"Mister Richardson," Bardwell asked, "Want to have some of your boys ride over and fetch the Sheriff?"

"Already did Dan. Sent 'em out when those Bratton's rode in," Richardson said in reply. "Sure would be good to have a lawman around here close wouldn't it?"

Black powder smoke drifted away from the gunfight on a gentle southerly breeze. In the quiet of the warm afternoon the grassland birds had returned to their cheerful songs as things returned to normal, just another day in the little river town of Whitmore's Ferry. Billy Bratton lay dead in the street where he fell. Three more of his boys lay across the dusty street a product of Bratton's stubbornness.

As businessmen up and down the one dusty lane ventured out, some began to move the dead outlaws to the porch of the stage office to await the arrival of the Sherriff from nearby Tulare. It would be several hours before the lawman could ride out to the lawless little town. Beginning to stiffen under a hot California sun, the dead men would have to wait there in the shade before burial in the town's new cemetery just across the dry river.

Picking up the pieces, Bardwell said in his dry monotone voice, looking into the eyes of each of the gunslingers standing in that same dusty road where it had all started earlier, "I want to thank you gentlemen for coming out to day."

Ira Stoudt smiled back, "Like I said Dan, we wouldn't have missed it for the world."

Franklin Curtis swung the coach gun up to his shoulder and nodded agreement, "N-no sir."

The long black coat of the preacher now concealing the deadly tools at his side, Luke Fisher, the town's newest resident and Minister, smiled at his gun-slinging peers, "Well gentlemen, it has become rather hot this afternoon."

No one disagreed with the Minister.

"Why don't we take a walk over to the saloon and get ourselves a cool drink?" Fisher continued, looking over the gentlemen standing in the street and the tiny town, "In time, as they say, all will be forgiven."

The End

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