May, 2016

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Issue #80

Looking for free, tantalizing Tales of the Old West?
You're at the right place.


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 3 of 3
by Robert McKee
Jeb, the court reporter, knew that simple and sweet Bobby Joe Thomas was innocent of the murder of Lenny Lukather, but only one person could save him, and she wouldn't leave her farm for anyone. Was there anything Jeb could do about it?

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That Day on the Autumn Plains
by P.D. Amos
Lord Harold of the Plains and his friends in the Arapaho village awaken to a great surprise—fresh meat on the hoof in numbers beyond counting. But blessings come with a cost, and in the midst of their frolicking hunt they must face a cold-blooded killer—one who cannot be outrun, outgunned, or outsmarted.

* * *

by Sharon Frame Gay
Recently widowed Polly is heading West in a wagon train when she encounters an unforeseen challenge that leads her to a proverbial fork in the road. Alone, with winter coming and hostiles too close for comfort, Polly must make a decision that will change her life forever.

* * *

Arizona Ranger Meets Texas John Slaughter
by C. Lamar Owens
Arizona Ranger Brian Owenby rode into Tombstone hunting four thievin' killers that murdered a rancher up on the Salt River. The last thing he expected was to run into the steely-eyed Cochise County Sheriff "Texas" John Slaughter. Would that be a good thing . . . or a bad thing?

* * *

Privy to it All
by B. Craig Grafton
Only one man knows all the facts as he escapes the law and runs to Texas. Watch out. This story is a real stinker!

* * *

The Confluence
by William L. Domme
Godwin Merritt, a Colorado silver mine owner, struggles to keep the rights to his land in the face of old rivals who aim to snatch it out from under him. Merritt solicits help from the county sheriff, but will that be enough?

* * *

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

All the Tales

Privy To It All
by B. Craig Grafton

Nag, nag, nag. That's all that woman ever does. No matter what he said, what he did or didn't do she would cluck her disapproval. Nothing was ever right for her. Her two years of dirty looks, head shaking and scowls at him all the time finally pushed him over the top that day.

She came out to the barn while he was working at the forge pounding out horseshoes. Some trivial thing had sent her into a tirade and once she got fixated on something there was no stopping her. Except this time there was.

He didn't even remember doing it. He just raised his hammer and brought it down on her skull.

She fell to the floor like a sack of potatoes—not another sound from her.

George T. Thompson had purposely unintendedly slain his wife Sarah Johnson Thompson and ended his two years of living hell.

If she hadn't have gotten pregnant, he would never have married her but her father, old Abe Johnson, put up the money and shotgun for a wedding and sold them this run down cabin and forty acres of hardscrabble mountain in eastern Tennessee on contract at an inflated price. There was no way he could eke a living from this rocky soil. He owed everybody for everything and had no way ever of paying it back.

The baby that was the cause of this was born and died two days later and that was what set the his wife over the edge. Now it was finally over except for disposal of the body.

It was getting dark. He was tired of digging in these rocks. He wasn't going to dig a grave. The ground was so rocky he hadn't even dug an outhouse. He just built one over a deep crevice in the rocks and that's where he'd bury her. He'd throw her down the hole. No one would look there. Anyway, a grave would be too obvious and taking her the mile and sinking her in the river would take too long and the body would surface eventually. This was the smartest and only way to do it and the most appropriate place.

He knew where he was going. Where everybody with problems like his went. Having disposed of the body he left a note on the kitchen table to cover his tracks. It read: "The debts being too much we have departed. Creditors help yourselves." He signed his initials. G.T.T.

George T. Thompson got as far as some little river town just across the Mississippi in Arkansas before the ghosts of his evil past caught up with him. In the bar of some backwater dive the sole other barroom patron sat down next to him and asked, "Say you ain't that stranger in town named Johnson from Tennessee looking to dispense some justice on a fella named Thompson who tried to kill his daughter?"

George was taken back by what he'd heard. They were here. He had to do act fast. Thinking on his feet he decided to play this hand he'd just been dealt. "Ya that be me. Hit her with a hammer but didn't kill her, but thought he did and dumped her down the privy, the bastard!"

"Is it true that one of the creditors came out there and plopped his butt down on the one seater and she let out a shriek like a banshee? Must have scared the . . . bejesus out of him."

"Know where he's at?"

"Hear tell he's lodging at the hotel across the street."

"My daughter and I are staying there," said George. "I think I'll go check it out now."

"Good luck Mr. Johnson. Hope you catch that lowlife Thompson."

George peeked in the window of the hotel and saw only the clerk on duty. With furtive glances he cautiously entered. "Say young man, is there a Mr. Johnson here?"

"Yes sir, room 22, but he's outback in the crapper now."

"Thank you." He left and ran to his horse, took off the rope from the saddle and ran to the back of the hotel to the outhouse. Silently he wrapped the lariat around the outhouse a couple of times so that the door could not be opened and tied the rope into double and triple knots. It was rope-locked shut. He bolted back to his horse, jumped on and disappeared into the night.

But it didn't end there. Old Abe Johnson knew he was on the right trail all along. This incident was proof of it. He knew that George would go to Texas. The note gave him away, G.T.T., gone to Texas.

Father and daughter kept on George's trail so that eventually they were in Texas, now less than a day behind George.

"Mr. Johnson I wouldn't go out there. There's nothing out there but Comanches. Nobody lives out there," said the owner of the cabin where the Johnsons had stopped. "Well, I take that back. A few months ago a young couple named Bates went out there. Said they were going to settle there just short of the Llano Estacado. Told them not to do that 'cause of the Comanches but they wouldn't listen. Haven't seen hide nor hair of them since."

"We've come all this way. We ain't quitting now. You said that yesterday you saw a lone rider headed that way and hollered at him but he didn't stop. Our man fits your description. We'll get him or die trying."

George was barely ahead of the Johnsons. He knew he had to keep going west, to California if need be. He saw a shack of a cabin in the distance. He'd stop there, find out where he was and where to go next, maybe rest, get something to eat.

As he neared the house of mud and boards a woman came running out carrying a rifle. "Hurry mister, hide your horse in the barn and get in the house. Comanches. They killed my husband and stole all my livestock. We shot two of them but they'll be back. Hurry!"

George spotted a fresh dug grave close up to the cabin. Oh God, from the frying pan to the fire, he thought.

"They're back!" she screamed pointing eastward. "Hurry!"

George didn't have time to think. He saw the dust cloud. He ran to the barn with his horse and shut the door but before he could get to the cabin it was too late, he heard the riders come to a stop. He was stuck in the barn. Wait, he thought, Comanches should be coming from the west , not the east. He put an eye to a knothole and listened. Two riders dismounted: Abe and Sarah Johnson.

"You Mrs. Bates?"

"Yes. Hurry put your horses in the barn out of sight. Comanches are about."

"There wouldn't be a single fella you seen ride through here?" asked Abe Johnson, his one track mind not be be diverted.

"Some fella is in the barn just arrived not more than ten minutes ago. Hurry and bring him with you. We might have a chance with four of us now."

"We got him now, daughter," snickered Abe.

Abe heard something. He looked westward. A dozen screaming Comanches, not more than two hundred yards away. The Johnsons dropped the reins to their horses and all three of them ran into the cover of the cabin.

George froze. The Comanches never saw him nor his horse, but now what to do?

Immediately the warriors surrounded the cabin. Even though the three occupants rained continuous fire, killing two and wounding two, the Comanches managed to set the home on fire and capture the Johnsons' horses.

Now they retreated and waited for the flames to smoke out the occupants. All firing from inside ceased. The flames moved fast, gobbling up the dried cracked warped boards. It wouldn't be long now before the roof caved.

No one can survive that inferno thought George when a single shot came from inside. The door burst open and out come the Johnsons, blasting away their clothes ablaze. Mrs. Bates had shot herself he knew now. And he knew a worse fate awaited the Johnsons, as the Comanches rode in and clubbed down Abe then threw a blanket over Sarah, extinguishing the flames while they carried her off. Some buck will have her now. Deserves her right.

Abe they dispatched slowly, clubbing him mercilessly and slicing him up in the process. Then they cut off his privates and threw them in the fire, gave up trying to scalp his little bit of hair left around his ears, grabbed him by the arms and legs and flung him alive into the flames. George put his hands over his ears. Even a mean old cob like Abe didn't deserve that fate.

Now one of the warriors started for the barn. He's going to set it on fire, where to hide, panicked George. There was a small room in the far corner of the barn, maybe there. George ran there and opened the door. It was a oneholer. This was the Bates privy. He went in, shut the door, and squeezed himself down the hole feet first. Dropped five feet into two feet of human excrement up to his knees. The Comanche was in the barn now. He opened the door and peered in but not down the privy. Then George heard him running around the barn trying to capture his horse, the animal snorting and stomping wildly.

From outside the other Comanches started screaming. The one inside ran out and George heard them all mount up and gallup out to the west. Silence. Then more horses hooves clopping, coming only now from the east. George held his breath, silently awaiting his new fate. Hopefully they're white men he thought coming from that direction, but they could be outlaws or Mexican banditos or even some other Indians.

The horsemen pulled up and dismounted. George heard voices speaking English. Then, "Anyone in this barn can come out now. It's safe. Comanches are gone. The Texas Rangers are here."

George's muffled yells from the latrine were unintelligible to the rangers so a couple of them went in and found him. "Looks like you got yourself into deep do-do Mr. Bates," one snidely remarked while holding his nose and pulling George up and out. "That your wife buried over there?"

George nodded affirmatively.

"Here's your horse. Mount up and let's go. There's nothing for you here anymore Mr. Bates. Just what in the hell happened here anyway?"

'Mr. Bates' a/k/a 'Mr. Johnson', Mr. Thompson knew the answers, he was privy to it all.

Oh what was your name in the states?

Was it Johnson or Thompson or Bates?

Did you murder your wife?

And flee for your life?

Oh what was your name in the states?

The End

B. Craig Grafton's stories have previously appeared in Frontier Tales as well as Heater, The Texas Writers Journal, The Fable Online, Romance Magazine, Fear of Monkeys, The Zodiac Review, Clever Magazine and Flash Fiction Press.

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