October, 2015

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Issue #73

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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.

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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?

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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?

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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.

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All the Tales

Texas Roulette
by B. Craig Grafton


"Leonard! Didn't reckon I'd see you here 'specially after that rowdy between us last night," slurred Elmer. "Figured the sheriff would have tracked me down by now, not you. Why the hell you here anyway? Feeling guilty after cheating me at cards and running off with my woman?" Elmer slumped his head down on the creaky wooden table in this run down flimsy shack that was now his hideout. A bottle of rye whiskey stood on the table. Next to it lay his six shooter.

"She's dead Elm."

"I know. I shot her last night right in her bed at the hotel, right after you was done with her. I was madder than a newly brand calf and I was rip roaring sauced to the gills and I killed her. You can have my god damn money but you'll never have her again." He paused, "Aw hell I don't care about either the money or her. Don't care about nothing anymore. I'm doomed anyway." He started sobbing uncontrollably, his head laying on the table.

"They'll sure as hell hang you Elm. The hotel clerk saw you go up and saw you in her room tottering over her body after he heard the shot. How the hell you ever got out of there in your condition before the sheriff arrived I'll never know."

But before Leonard could say any more Elmer interrupted him and blubbered on, "It doesn't matter now, no way, no how. It's all my fault. Getting drunk like that after the drive. Arguing and fighting with you, my best friend. Why how many drives have we been on together eating dust and beans and covering each others tails? Half a dozen at least. And all this over a handful of dollars and some cheap trampy woman named Lulu. At least I think that was her name. Why she wasn't worth the cost of the bullet it took to blow her away. Doomed. Got no choice. I'm going to end it all right now. Shoot myself." He raised the gun to his head, grabbed the whiskey bottle and took a good long pull.

"I can't let you do that Elmer."

"You can't stop me Len."

"Well there's no bullets in your gun,"

"How do you know?"

"I took them out of your gun after I, not you, shot Lola last night."

"What the?"

"Last night I was as wild eyed drunk as you. I knew where you would be so I went up to her room to shoot you after I recovered from our fist fight. I wasn't going to let a scrawny little runt like you get by beating the crap out of me, a fine young strapping fellow twice your size. Luckily for you I was drunk and missed. Bad luck for Lola. I took the bullets out of your gun thinking the sheriff would catch you right then and there as you were too schnookered to stand let alone run and he seeing that your pistol hadn't been fired and was empty he'd go looking for someone else, but my plan to save you didn't work because the sheriff and a posse are on the way. I came to warn you."

Elmer looked nonplussed.

"You have no idea what happened last night do you?"

"Reckon I don't but how come the clerk didn't mention you to the sheriff?"

"He wasn't there when I went up and after the shot I heard him running up the stairs so I ducked out of sight into the backside of the hallway and skedaddled after I seen him go in the room. Got lucky." Leonard grabbed the whiskey bottle from the table and took a couple of gulps.

"So why tell me now?"

"Have to mend the fence with you before I turn myself in. Can't let my best pard hang for a crime he didn't commit. Gotta get right with the Lord too, but you first." Leonard took another swig.

"Give me that," hollered Elmer and he grabbed the bottle from Leonard's lips. Elmer chugged it, tossed it against the wall, and pulled a flask from his leather vest pocket.

"You're a god damn stinking yellow bellied low down polecat and everything else liar, just like last night. You came here to kill me to cover for yourself. You knew where I'd be holed up. You could have told the sheriff but you didn't because you could come here and kill me and make it look like I killed myself. Case closed. You knew I would be bat guano crazy with grief and since you knew I had no bullets, you would graciously provide me with one."

"No that's not so Elm. I come here to make it right with you." He paused, "Give me that flask." Leonard ripped it from Elmer's hand, drained it and let it slide from his hand to the floor. "You're still drunk," he mumbled as he swayed back and forth.

"You gonna make it right and give me back my money? I lost all my trail drive wages to you."

"I would if I could but I can't."

"Spent it on Lulu did ya?" Elmer reached down and pulled up a jug, slammed it up on the table, popped out the corn cob stopper, heaved the jug up over his shoulder, tilted his head back and took a big long drink of the rot gut brew. "You want to do the right thing do ya? Then you kill yourself."

"OK, alright, I will," responded Leonard his head bobbing up and down. "Let's do this. Let's play Russian roulette. Give me that jug."

Elmer took another swig and passed the jug back to Leonard. A plan was coming together in Elmer's besotted mind. "We ain't playing Russian roulette. We ain't Russians. We're from Texas. We're Texans. We're playing Texas roulette 'cause were Texas cowboys."

"Texas roulette. What in the hell is that?," roared Leonard taking a drink and handing the jug back to Elmer.

"That's two players, one gun, one bullet but you don't spin each time. You just keep taking turns pulling the trigger until someone eats the bullet. The odds against you go up with each pull. Give me a bullet," screamed Elmer taking another big swig.

"Give me the jug first."

"No you give me the bullet first."

Leonard fumbled him a bullet. Elmer slid the jug across the table toward Leonard. Leonard's timing was obviously impaired and he missed it and it slid off the table onto the floor.

Now Elmer was as drunk as Leonard, but Elmer was not drunk enough to lose this opportunity. He knew what he had to do. As Leonard bent over to pick up the jug Elmer stuffed the bullet into a chamber of his six shooter. He inserted it so that on the fifth pull of the trigger the bullet would fire.

Leonard retrieved the jug, righted himself, pulled himself up to the table and plopped himself down into an old rickety wooden chair across from Elmer.

"Your idea, you go first Len," demanded Elmer shoving him the six shooter.

"OK I will." Leonard grabbed the gun, put it to his head, and pulled the trigger. Click. "One in five Elm," he chortled handing the weapon back to Elmer.

Elmer placed the gun to his right temple and hurriedly pulled the trigger. "One in four Len," he smirked and slid the revolver back across the table.

Leonard fired. Click. "One in three Elm old pal." Then he hesitated. He sensed something was wrong. He kept the gun.

Now Leonard was a gambler. He knew how to play the odds. That's how he won all Elmer's money and something didn't figure right here. Suddenly even in his drunken state it hit him. Elm had rigged the game so that Leonard would get the next to last turn and the bullet. Elm's so drunk thought Leonard that he thought I was too drunk and or stupid to figure it out, but I sober up quick and I'm holding the gun now and I got all the remaining pulls one of which will blow that dirty double crossing little weasel to hell where he belongs. When the sheriff gets here I'll tell him he killed himself playing Russian roulette since he was so despondent over killing Lola. Elmer would be a victim of the plan that he thought that I had concocted, Serve him right. Everything was going to come together just fine.

Leonard stared at Elmer and then pointed the gun at him.

Elmer knew instantly his hand had been called. He lept across the table grabbing Leonard's gun arm and pointing it to the ceiling. The table disintegrated under his weight, broke and splintered to the floor dragging down both combatants with it. The men rolled to and fro on the floor crashing into one side of the small wooden shack and then into the other.

Leonard was the bigger man but somehow Elmer managed to keep Leonard's arm extended and the gun pointed away from himself. Leonard fired the necessary click so that the next tug of the trigger would discharge the bullet. Both men knew this. Leonard was not going to lose this fight like he had lost the one last night and Elmer knew this.

Elmer was littler but he deemed himself wilier, and dirtier. He kneed Leonard in the groin. Instinctively Leonard dropped the gun, then with both hands cupped his crotch and sat straight up on the floor. Elmer moved for the gun that was now behind Leonard but Leonard stuck out his leg and tripped him. Elmer lost his balanced and fell into Leonard's lap, pushing his back into Leonard's stomach. This unseated Leonard knocking him over and flattening his back to the floor. Leonard groped for the gun that he felt against his spine. Elmer was stacked on top of him when the gun went off.

When the sheriff arrived with his posse two bodies lay on the floor side by side, both face up, a gun in the middle between them. The sheriff took off his hat, pounded the trail dust out of it on his thigh, scratched his bald head, twirled his mustache, expectorated, turned to his posse and barked out, "Well we got one fired gun, one spent shell casing, and two bodies with a bullet hole clean through each of them back to front. Anybody got any idea just what in blue blazes happened here?"

From the back of the room a posse member hollered, "Texas Roulette."

Then from the other side came, "Always pays double."

The End

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