March, 2016

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Issue #78

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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 Burden of Absolutes, Part 1 of 3
by Robert McKee
Bobby Joe Thomas confessed to the murder of Lenny Lukather, but was he lying to protect someone? Young Joleen knew the truth, but she was too frightened to tell her story. Only the skills of Jeb Blake, the court's stenographer, could save Bobby Joe from both himself and the hangman.

* * *

Buffalo Soldier
by Keith G. Laufenberg
Black Eagle stood up slowly, his knee dripping blood. He clenched the knife and slid it underneath his buckskin shirt, then spoke to the soldiers in Cherokee. "Today is as good a day as any for me to die; I never liked the cold."

* * *

Robert's Rules of Order
by Jesse J Elliot
Sheriff Jones was hired to support the law by arresting those who break it, but she discovers that the killer is a victim of a horrific crime carried out by the man he killed. When justice is no longer black and white, do the rules of order change?

* * *

That Day in Jefferson City
by P.D. Amos
The Civil War is done and the South is in ruins. A young veteran, heading West in search of a new life, must ride through the dangerous but strangely alluring town of Jefferson City, Missouri, where a chance encounter at a boarding house provides him with a big surprise, and more than a little education.

* * *

Pointed Gun
by Robert Gilbert
"You the marshal?" Jacob Flowers' gun is pointed in Marshal Brothers' face. The marshal responds peacefully-he knows Flowers' kin were murdered and blame is on the three Waverly brothers. Their chase ends in the town of Little John where the marshal and Flowers face the guilty trio. Guns blaze. Is justice served?

* * *

The Killer and the Doctor
by Charles Rector
Patrick Runde figured he had it made. He'd killed his father, securing his right to the family's ranching operation, and done it so well that everyone took his word that his father had died peacefully in his sleep. But the doctor had voiced his suspicions about the whole affair. What's a killer to do?

* * *

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All the Tales

The Killer and the Doctor
by Charles Rector

In May 1887, Patrick Runde was feeling pretty full of himself. He had killed his father without anyone in law enforcement suspecting him. Now he was going to inherit the ranch that his father had built up and with it the wealth and social standing that came with it. His friend, the local political power boss, had always said that he'd make a great state senator since he'd always vote the party line. Now that his father, who abhorred politics and politicians, was out of the way, there was nothing or nobody standing in the way of his ambitions.

Runde sat contentedly at the table eating the porterhouse steak that the family cook had prepared for him. By the plate was the bottle of whiskey that he had selected for this private celebration. Life was good.

Just then Doctor Paul Walther stepped into the dining room. "I hope I'm not bothering you," the doctor said with his hat in hand along with his bag.

"Not at all," said Runde, "kind of surprised you're here though. I thought you had left for Phoenix."

"I was on my way, but I turned back. Got a lot of things on my mind that I want to talk to you about," said the doctor.

Runde replied, "Why don't you sit down and make yourself comfortable. I'll get the help to get you something to eat and drink."

After a servant came with a bottle of whiskey, Doctor Walther took a swig of it and remarked, "That was just what the proverbial doctor ordered. All that time in the hot desert."

Runde laughed, looked at the doctor and asked, "What's on your mind, Paul?"

"You."

"Me?"

"I've gotten to thinking about your father and how he met his untimely death. There are some things that point to you as a killer," the doctor said gravely.

Pat exclaimed, "Me a killer? You're crazy!"

The doctor replied, "Don't deny it. Given our past relationship, I really did not want to believe it. However, as I was riding to Tucson, I got to thinking about the strange fact that your father died so soon after your mother. While it's clear to me that your mother died of natural causes, I just cannot get over the fact that your father died so soon after her and so oddly."

"So are you accusing me or something?"

Doc Walther leaned forward in his chair and said, "We need to talk about this, now if you don't mind"

"All right" said Runde, "Let's talk about your suspicions."

Doc Walther placed his black bag in his lap and started talking, "Did you know that I have been a doctor right here in the Arizona Territory for 21 years? And before that, I served in the medical service in the U.S. Army for 20 years?"

Pat Runde responded, "Of course doc, its all you ever talk about it seems like."

The doctor narrowed his gaze at the new ranch owner and said, "You always were an insolent brat. Your parents sure spoiled you rotten and ruined you."

"Gee doc, you sure know how to praise a guy," Runde said sarcastically.

"You know, in all my years as what the injuns call a medicine man," the doctor went on, "I've handled all the problems that a frontier doctor can expect to handle as well as some completely unexpected situations."

"Are you trying to audition as a filibustering U.S. senator on my time?" Pat Runde was getting exasperated. "Please doc get on with your suspicions before I die of old age," the heir to the Runde ranch said.

"Your father died just a few days later in a strange way," Doc Walther said.

"You said his heart gave out."

"That seemed to make sense at first. You had said that he had been suffering chest pains. However, when I examined him, I found something in his throat that should not have been there. I got it out, but did not say anything about it because I wanted to believe you," the doctor said.

Runde started to feel agitated, "What did you find in his throat?"

"A feather."

"A feather?"

"A feather, you know the kind you find in a pillow. A feather that had no reason to be in your father's throat," replied the doctor.

"That's weird," replied Runde, "perhaps he got it in his throat while he was having convulsions in the bed."

"That's odd," replied Doctor Paul Walther, "you said that he died as peaceful as a lamb. That's your exact words."

"I might have been mistaken," Runde replied. "You are insulting my very honor insinuating that I could kill my beloved father like that."

"And there's something else. There's been talk that your father had been messing around with the widow Faherty. She's got kids and if your father married her, you could lose your entire inheritance. You obviously have a motive for murder." Doc Walther just sat there for a bit contemplating the scene. Finally, he said, "I'm going to bring this to the attention of Sheriff Mark Edgette and see what he intends to do about it."

Upon hearing this, Patrick Runde decided that he had to eliminate this threat to him and his ill-gotten wealth. He stood up and tried to pull out his gun to shoot the doctor. However, the doctor pulled his gun out of his leather bag and shot Runde first.

"Doc . . . you shot me," Runde said with his last gasp.

Doctor Paul Walther got up and looked down upon Patrick Runde in a disapproving way and said, "I suppose I'm wasting my time telling you this, but I'm not really who you thought I was. You thought that since I was a man of medicine, I was a man of peace and as such an easy make. Actually, before I became a doctor, I was in the U.S. Army for twenty years and that's where I got my medical training. All that time on the frontier fighting the injuns helped me learn the fine art of the quick draw in close combat. The simple fact is that you never had a chance against me."

The End

Charles Rector is a 51-year-old lifelong student of History complete with a Master of Arts degree in the subject from the University of Arkansas. He has a few published journal articles, some of which won awards, and book reviews. "The Killer and the Doctor" is his first published work of fiction.

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