October, 2015

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Issue #73

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!

Courtship – Texas Style
by Nancy Peacock
Texas was a hard land, and it took hard men to tame it. But the lovely Miss Lucy could be just as hard as the men, and it took a special kind of toughness to break through her shell.

* * *

Mitchell and the Silver City Stage
by Dick Derham
Wells Fargo agent Mitchell knew that sometimes it takes a thief to catch a thief, and he was one of the best. But now he was faced with a gang of murderers. Would it take a murderer to stop a murderer?

* * *

Saggy Pete
by Robert C. Yalden
Though Saggy Pete Lorton was the head of a vicious outlaw gang and as deadly as a snake, Sheriff King caught him with his pants down and locked him up. But King knew the gang would bust him out, sure as the world, if he didn't get Lorton on the 2:10 train to the Marshals'. Could he take them all on?

* * *

Sweet Potato Pie
by Steve Myers
The sheriff and his posse rode up to Granny Selden's house, looking for a fugitive—her grandnephew—who was wanted for murder. The posse tried to ride roughshod over Granny Selden but they were no match for the tiny, old woman.

* * *

Texas Roulette
by B. Craig Grafton
Leonard and Elmer fought over the saloon girl, but now she lay dead, and one of them was to blame. The only way to settle it was with a bullet, just one, in the cylinder of a Colt. Let the game begin.

* * *

Want all of this month's Western stories at once? Click here –

All the Tales

Saggy Pete
by Robert C. Yalden

Hard-luck miners, a rickety old railroad track, and tumbleweed were the only things that passed through Jefferson, Nevada, just a desolate speck on the map nestled between disconcerting mountains and a barren wasteland of desert. People came and went, and seldom stayed for long.

During that hard winter of '80 the Lorton Gang, without remorse or sympathy, descended upon the remote town for no reason except getting out of the cold. It started with bar fights and target practice with the empty whiskey bottles in the barroom and it wasn't too long before the body count began climbing in earnest. People ran in fear, but really there was no place to go.

The person responsible for the murderous onslaught was a notorious outlaw, Pete Cowles, a small stocky man with a jack-o-lantern grin and trousers with a sag that no gunbelt could make right. Ole "Saggy Pete" shot a friend for calling him that, but the name stuck like the burrs in a dog's neck.

Billy King, a tall circumspect man just in from Wichita, found himself newly elected as sheriff in a desperate attempt by town elders to stop further bloodshed. When confronted with the situation presented to him by the scared townsfolk, the sheriff nodded like a priest, all slow and calm-like; he thought about it a minute and then proposed a simple plan. "The way to fight a snake is go after the head. Cut the head off and ain't nuthin' else can bother you no more." Townsfolk marveled, smiled, and breathed a sigh of relief at the simplicity of eliminating ole Pete Cowles, himself. Then the rest of the Lorton Gang would shrivel and blow away, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

One particular cold night not too long after, Sheriff King hid in a secluded closet in a brothel that smelled of perfume, stale beer, and cheap whiskey. Saggy Pete was through his second bottle, riding his second lady, when the sheriff caught the skinny-hipped outlaw with his pants down and his gunbelt around his ankles.

Apprehending Saggy Pete without a shot fired was cause for celebration and considerable relief. However, those feelings didn't last long. Word spread through town—the Lorton Gang was coming soon. Wasn't the snake supposed to wither away, they asked, fresh with new fear.

The sheriff considered his position of the only lawman in the town untenable, one gun against many. The question loomed what to do with the outlaw while his gang would soon gather. But, he could not let the townspeople believe that he did not have a plan. He had to get Saggy Pete on the train and out of there as soon as possible. It was really the only way.

Sheriff King walked slowly across the dusty wooden floor of the jail, stroking the stubble under his chin, and leaned against the doorway of the only cell, "I suppose it's time." Saggy Pete sat on the bench and stared defiantly at the lawman with dark, unflinching eyes.

"Sheriff, you know I ain't gittin' on that train."

The sheriff regarded the outlaw for a moment and spat a wad of chaw without taking his gaze off him, "That right?"

"My boys will spring me before we reach the train platform. They're gonna be waiting for us," he added with a toothy and confident smile.

"I know they are," the hard-eyed sheriff agreed, grabbing an earlobe and working it between his fingers. "I've got a plan and, truth be told, I never thought your gang to be very bright neither."

The sheriff and prisoner walked in silence with winds off the barren prairie and dust trailing them. Handcuffed in front with a threadbare blanket draped over his chapped and calloused hands, the prisoner shuffled clumsily. He wore shackles with his duster hung over his shoulders, collar pulled high, and hat slumped low across his brow.

In the distance, the 2:10 train chugged slowly towards the depot, belching black smoke under a low gray sky. The sheriff stopped and tilted his head back like a dog testing for a scent when the anticipated gang of horsemen appeared like the apocalypse, with their coats and dusters pulled back exposing their heavy revolvers, rifles, and vengeful intentions.

The gang leader, with slicked black hair and a round face, stole a glance at the train in the distance measuring his limited time. "Come on, sheriff, we ain't letting you hand him over to the marshal. Give him up," a smile widened into a grin, "nice and easy now."

The sheriff's mistrustful face narrowed while the forlorn prisoner stood cold and silent, his head drooping lower. Observing the menacing gang and calculating his poor odds, the sheriff reluctantly raised his hands slowly and gently, with his palms facing out, pulling the tension out of the air. With an embarrassed smile, the sheriff spat a wad of chaw on the ground. "I guess I'm outnumbered."

The ringleader, beguiled at the sheriff's unexpected cooperation, exhaled a long breath and gently leaned forward in his saddle in agreement and confident satisfaction. The gang observed in silence as the leader raised an eyebrow, his unease growing logarithmically by the millisecond, and looked at the prisoner. The captive slowly lifted his head and the threadbare blanket exploded violently, with two colt revolvers bucking and blazing, dealing death like a blackjack dealer.

The closest of the gang stared confused and blank with a lead slug through his forehead outlined with a ring of black powder. Another outlaw was thrown from his horse with two bullets ripping into his abdomen before he hit the ground in a meaty thump. The sheriff moved swiftly for his revolver, breaking leather, and firing a succession of quick shots. The leader saw the flash soon enough to flinch but not quick enough to avoid the .45 caliber lead ball that pierced his gut. His hands laced over his belly as he fell backwards.

The other horsemen took a brutal fusillade of black powder and lead. Another horseman, stitched with lead, slid backwards with his six-shooter barking in retaliation into an empty sky.

Through the smoke and confusion, the other horsemen dispersed in a starburst of panic and false bravado.

Still sitting and brooding in his cell, Saggy Pete jumped off the bench, wide-eyed, grasping the wrought iron bars, hearing the gunfire down the street.

The gang had come for the wrong man.

The End

Robert Yalden is a former U.S. Secret Service agent. His credits as a consultant are in the movie, White House Down. His flash fiction has been published in Shotgun Honey.

He grew up on Long Island and earned a degree in history from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, where he played on the 1988 NCAA Division II National Championship basketball team. He also earned a masters degree in education from Rivier College, Nashua, NH.

Rob has worked on an ocean going tugboat, bar tended, taught history, coached, and cage dived with Great White sharks in South Africa. He has been to all 50 states and has traveled to over 50 countries.

Rob currently lives with his wife and family in Germany.

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