Tuesday, December 28, 2010

An Old Interview

 Recently, I came across an interview I did a couple of years ago for Great Western Fiction Magazine. Unfortunately, the magazine folded the month before my short story was to appear. The story of my life. But, life goes on and, anyway, I still have the interview. You can catch it at: ...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGADM027kzI

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Not So Long Ago

  I have always been told people come into your life for a reason. Some for a short time and some become life long friends.
  Not so long ago, when I was starting to doubt myself and finding the time to write was not as important as it used to be, I met a young writer. She was very good at what she did, but only a small circle of friends ever got the chance to see it, because she wasn't sure how people she didn't know would react to it.
  We started to talk about writing and what it takes to succeed. Then, one day I said to myself, "What a hypocrite! Here you are thinking about quitting and you're trying to tell someone else what it takes to succeed."
  The writing passion that had gone from a bonfire to an ember flickered back to life. The more I talked with her the bigger the fire got until it was a raging bonfire again and finding time to write became important once more.
  Since then, I've contracted with a publisher and now she's putting her work out there for the world to see and critique. Maybe, even win a contest or two. Getting published isn't out of the question either.
  So, never take a chance meeting for granted. Like they say, Some things happens for a reason.

                                                                                            Larry Payne 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Looking Ahead

  With all that's happened in the last couple of months of 2010, I am really looking forward to seeing what 2011 holds for me. With my book, RIDE THE SAVAGE LAND, being accepted for publication, 2011 will be exciting and busy at the same time. I have a couple of projects in the works including Book 2 of the SAVAGE LAND Series. As things happen, I'll keep everyone informed. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year. Enjoy your families and Stay Safe.

                                                                                           Larry Payne

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Night Visitor...a Christmas story

Pulling the collar of his Mackinaw up around his neck, Marshal Cooper Smith stepped out from the doorway of his office onto the boardwalk. It was Christmas Eve and, except for a small gathering at the hotel, the town of Sweetwater had shut down early. One more turn around the town and he would head home himself.
Locking the office door, he walked down the boardwalk checking doors and looking in windows as he passed. Coming to the end of the alleyway, he noticed a fresh set of tracks in the light falling snow leading to the back of the General Store. Drawing his Colt, he stepped off the boardwalk into the large, fluttering snowflakes and followed the tracks to the small alcove at the back of the store. The crunching snow under his boots was the only sound he made as he peeked into the alcove. Huddled tightly in a corner was a young boy.
“Whaddya doin’ here, boy,” asked the marshal, holstering his Colt.
The blond-haired boy looked up at Cooper, noticing the badge pinned to his coat. “You the marshal? Am I in trouble?”
Cooper shook his head. “Not unless you stole somethin’.”
“I was just tryin’ to get in out of the snow,” the boy explained.
Cooper reached in the alcove, taking the boy by the arm. “Why ain’t you at home?”
The boy shrugged his shoulders. “Don’t have one.”
The marshal put his arm around the boy’s shoulders. “Well, come on, it’s Christmas Eve, you’ll come home with me tonight.”
The boy walked along with Cooper while the marshal finished his rounds, finally walking to the edge of town where a tidy white house, surrounded by a picket fence, stood in a small pine grove. Unlocking the door, Cooper lit the lamp on the table. The boy looked around the house as the marshal ignited the logs in the fireplace.
“It’s the day before Christmas and you don’t have a tree,” exclaimed the boy.
“I haven’t had a Christmas tree in a long time,” replied Cooper, warming his hands next to the fire.

The boy’s face suddenly lit up. “You have Christmas trees all around you. Let’s go cut one.”
With a slight hesitation, the marshal followed the boy out the door. Passing the woodpile at the side of the house, Cooper grabbed a hatchet. They hadn’t gone far when the boy pointed and ran to a tree, spotlighted by the moon, among the tall pines.
“It’s perfect,” said the boy, when Cooper caught up to his young companion. It took him a few minutes to cut down the tree and they dragged it by the trunk back to the house, standing it up against the wall next to the door.
“Where are we gonna put it?” asked the boy.
Cooper hung his coat and hat on a wall peg next to the door and, holding up one finger, disappeared into a bedroom. He came out a few minutes later carrying a wooden tree stand and set it on the floor to the left of the fireplace in front of the window. Next, he took the waiting tree and slipped it neatly into the hole in the top of the stand.
“A perfect fit,” said Cooper proudly.
“We need something to put on it,” advised the boy. Cooper held up his finger again and disappeared back into the bedroom, returning with a big wooden, red and green box. He set it on the floor next to the tree, unhooked the small latch and opened the lid.
“I haven’t done this in a long time. I’m gonna need some help,” explained Cooper.
Together they hung wooden, hand painted ornaments on the tree until only one remained in the box. The boy lifted the sleigh ornament with the name TIMMY painted in gold across its red side.
“Who’s Timmy?” asked the boy, examining the small, hand made ornament for a moment.
The question made Cooper hesitate. “He was my son. He died about five years ago from the fever. He was about your age. It took his mother, too.”
“That why you stopped putting up a tree?”
Cooper nodded and his young friend held up the ornament. “Can I put it on the tree?” he pleaded.
Cooper nodded again and the boy hung the sleigh on the only empty space left, right in front. “Perfect,” said the boy with a big grin.

“There used to be an angel that set on top of the tree,” Cooper remembered, “ I’d lift Timmy up and he’d set it right on top. I buried it with him.”
“It looks perfect anyway,” exclaimed the boy. Cooper and his new friend sat on the sofa to admire their handiwork.

Cooper opened his eyes and realized he’d nodded off. He looked over at the sleeping boy, took a blanket from the back of the couch and covered his young friend. Realizing he hadn’t asked the boy his name, Cooper stroked the youngster’s head, then walked over and blew out the lamp on the table. He would find out the boy’s name in the morning.
Cooper woke with a start and looked around the moonlit bedroom. Swinging his feet to the floor, he rose and slowly opened the bedroom door to a quiet house. He walked to the sofa to check on the boy and found a rumpled blanket. In the flickering firelight, he looked quickly around the house. His gaze settled on the angel sitting on top of the tree.
Hurrying to the table, he lit the lamp. Lying next to the lamp was a folded piece of  paper. On the outside was a Christmas tree, drawn with a child’s hand. He opened it and read MERRY CHRISMAS MARSHAL.
A single tear rolled down Cooper Smith’s cheek. He knew of only one person who spelled Christmas that way. Walking quickly to the door, he looked out into the night. He found no footprints in the fresh fallen snow.
Just then, a stiff breeze blew through the pine grove jingling the riding bells hanging from a red ribbon on the porch.  Cooper remembered something his grandmother told him a long time ago. “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.”
“Congratulations, Timmy,” he whispered.
Far out in the grove, he heard a child laugh.

Monday, December 13, 2010

And Hell Came With Him...Part 5

Wil Sunday and his dog, Buck, stepped off the boardwalk in front of the hotel walking toward the livery. He saddled Goldie and led her across the street, hitching her to the rail in front of the gunsmith. Stepping up on the boardwalk, Wil opened the door of the gun shop, ringing the bell mounted above the door on a taught spring.

Hans Larson, known as Swede, sat at a workbench with his back to the door. He turned on his swivel stool when the bell rang.

“Wil Sunday,” said Larson, with a heavy Swedish accent and a big smile. He got up from his stool, circled the glass display case and pumped Wil’s hand vigorously. The Swede had been Wil’s personal gunsmith when he was hunting bounty. Wil paid regular visits to Gunsight to see him.

“Didn’t know if I was going to see you again,” said Swede, “They said you was in a bad way.”

“Hell, Swede, It’s gonna take more than a coupla pieces of lead to stop me.”

“You may get a chance to find out. The Walker brothers were Jarod McKinney’s gunhands.”

“So I’ve heard. Everyone keeps tellin’ me how much trouble I’m in. Well, Jess and Aaron was with them that killed Cassie. I did what I had to do.”

“Won’t matter to McKinney,” said Swede. He held up a finger at Wil, picked up a ring of keys from his workbench and went to a nearby cabinet and unlocked it.

“McKinney never goes anywhere without three or four of his gunhands, so let’s even it up a little.”  Larson took an oilskin bundle from the top shelf of the cabinet and laid it on the glass display case in front of Wil and pointed to it.

“Go ahead, open it,” offered Swede with a grin.

Wil took his Bowie knife and cut the twine around the oilskin. He smiled when he unwrapped the bundle. “I thought I’d seen the last of this.”

Wil picked up the Greener shotgun. The barrels and stock had been sawed off to make for easier handling. It had been a valuable weapon to Wil in his bounty hunting days. He sold it to Swede when he married Cassie, but Swede couldn’t part with it and kept it cleaned, oiled and wrapped. Now, he was giving it back to its rightful owner. The old gunsmith went back to the cabinet and retrieved the saddle boot that went with it, putting it in front of Wil, who slid the Greener into the boot.

“You may need it sooner than you think,” said Swede, nodding to the front window of the shop. Jarod McKinney rode with three men down the street.

“You have a back door?” asked Wil.

Swede pointed to a curtained doorway. “Through there.”

Wil started toward the curtain. “Hey,” shouted Swede and tossed Wil a box of shotgun shells. “It works better with these.”

Wil smiled, touched two fingers to his hat and slid through the curtain.

Jarod McKinney rode into Gunsight with his foreman, Cinch Riley, and two of his gunhands, Wade Jessup and Briley Cole. They turned into the hitch rail at the Marshal’s office and dismounted.  Stepping away from the hitch rail, Riley nudged Jarod McKinney as he stepped up on the boardwalk.

“Seen that yeller horse before?” Riley asked.

“Yeah, I have,” replied McKinney and turned to Jessup and Cole. “Go check out who owns that yeller horse and bring him here to me.”

The two gunhands walked across the street and into Swede Larson’s shop. The old gunsmith was rearranging a gun display, “Where’s the fella that owns that purty horse out front?’ asked Jessup.

Swede shook his head. “He didn’t come in here.”

“Well, we’ll just take us a little look around,” said Jessup and went behind the counter to look in the room behind Swede.

Briley Cole walked to the curtained doorway, slid back the curtain and was greeted by the double-barreled blast of the Greener, hurling him back into the gun shop. Wade Jessup bolted from the back room with his Colt drawn.

“Didn’t come in here, huh?” he said to Swede and hit the gunsmith with the barrel of his Colt, knocking him to the floor. Jessup crept over to the narrow doorway and looked down at Cole lying in a twisted heap. Peeking around the corner into the room, the back door stood wide open. He eased into the room and stopped at the back door.

Cinch Riley  burst through the gun shop door with his Colt drawn, looking down at the blood pooling around the dead gunman. “Jessup,” he shouted, looking around the gun shop.

“Back here,” Jessup shouted back. Riley moved through the narrow doorway and met the gunman at the back door. “Ol’ man said he wasn’t here, but he was waiting when Cole come through the curtain. He went out through here,” Jessup informed Riley.

“See if you can find him, I’ll tell McKinney,” ordered the foreman. Jessup slipped through the doorway into the alley.

“We’ll deal with you, old man, when we’re done with him,” said Riley as he hurried through the gun shop and out the front door.

Wade Jessup walked cautiously down the alley checking every doorway and alcove where a man could hide. Passing the stairwell behind the General Store, a stack of crates came tumbling down behind him. A double-barreled blast of the Greener caught him as he turned, killing him before he hit the ground.

“Two down, two to go,” whispered Wil, running down the alley reloading the Greener.

Cinch Riley and Jarod McKinney looked out the window of the marshal’s office at the sound of the second shotgun blast. Riley looked back at McKinney who nodded toward the door. “Don’t come back without him.”

He watched Riley jog across the street and disappear between two buildings. “Who is he, Draper?”

“His name is Wil Sunday and he’s got you outclassed, Jarod,” replied the marshal.

“He’s caused me a lot of headaches. He’s killed, probably, four of my men and he’s gonna pay.”

“He’s a killing machine, Jarod, and believes if a man’s worth shootin’, he’s worth killin’. If you brace him, he’ll leave you lying in the street and walk away.”

“We’ll see.”

Wil Sunday went back through the open door of the gun shop. Hans Larson sat on the stool at the workbench holding a rag to his head.

“You all right, Swede?” asked Wil.

“Jah, will take more than a bump on the head to stop Hans Larson.” He removed the bloody rag from his head revealing a small gash on his forehead.

“I’m going to put a stop to this before anymore innocent people get hurt,” stated Wil. He laid the Greener on the glass display case. “I’ll be back for this.”

“Be careful,” warned Swede, “McKinney’s foreman is still out there. Thery’re not above backshootin’.” Wil went to the front door of the gun shop and out onto the boardwalk.

“Well, well, look what just showed up,” said Jarod McKinney when he saw Wil come out of the gun shop, step into the street and walk toward the marshal’s office.

“Let it go, Jarod, you can’t beat him,” pleaded Draper.

“Watch me.”

“McKinney, Jarod McKinney,” shouted Wil, standing in the middle of the street.

McKinney smiled at Tom Draper. “Let’s not keep him waiting.”

The rancher walked out onto the boardwalk followed by Draper. Stepping into the street, McKinney faced Wil Sunday.

“Let’s end this, McKinney. Enough men have died,” shouted Wil.

“You’ve caused me a lot of embarrassment, Sunday. It ain’t ended ‘til you’re face down in the street.”

“Then, make your play, McKinney.”

Mayor Herbert Addison, in his gray suit and derby hat, walked up beside Tom Draper on the boardwalk.

“You have to stop this, marshal,” ordered Addison.

“I tried, Herb, it’s too late for that now.”

McKinney caught movement behind Wil Sunday and saw Cinch Riley come out from beside the gun shop. With his Colt drawn, Riley moved into the street behind Wil. Inside the shop, Hans Larson picked up the Greener shotgun from the counter, broke it open to check the load and walked from the counter to the door. Buck, left in the gun shop with Hans, began to bark when Larson thumbed back both hammers of the scattergun. Hearing Buck, Riley turned and saw Larson in the window with the Greener to his shoulder. The split second of surprised hesitation cost him his life. He caught both barrels of the scattergun in his chest sending him, flailing, backwards onto his back.

Surprised by the shotgun blast, Wil ducked, turned aside and took a quick glance behind him in time to see Cinch Riley fall to the ground. Seeing his chance, McKinney drew his Colt and fired a hurried shot at Wil .  Turning back to McKinney an instant before the rancher fired, Wil dropped to the ground, firing twice.

With a bewildered look on his face, Jarod McKinney looked down at the growing red stain on the front of his shirt. He looked up at Wil and dropped to his knees, letting the Colt slip from his fingers. He toppled over, face first, into the street.

Wil as he picked himself up from the street, as Buck ran up beside him. He thumbed the two empty shells from his Colt, replacing them from his gunbelt. He looked behind him where Hans Larson was walking toward the lifeless Cinch Riley, the barrels of the Greener resting on his shoulder.

Walking up to Jarod McKinney, the crimson stain growing around him, Wil turned the dead rancher over with the toe of his boot. Sightless eyes looked up at the blue sky. He holstered his Colt and, along with Buck, stepped up on the boardwalk in front of Tom Draper and Mayor Addison.

“You have your town back, Mayor. Don’t let it get away this time,” said Wil. He reached over, taking the marshal’s badge from Draper’s shirt and handed it to the Mayor. “I think you need a new marshal too.” Wil turned, stepped into the street and walked back to the gun shop.

The old gunsmith waited for Wil on the boardwalk. "Works good, too," he said, handing the scattergun back to Wil.

Wil offered his hand to Larson. "Swede, take care of yourself."

"Come back real soon, Wil," said Swede, shaking his friend’s hand.

Wil looked down at Buck. "Let's go home, boy."

                                                        THE END

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

And Hell Came With Him...Part 4

Gunsight was not the quiet town Wil Sunday remembered. It had grown with new buildings along the street. The name McKinney seemed to dominate the businesses in the new buildings. He appeared to have a good hold on Gunsight. A collection of horses marked the new saloon down the street.

Wil dismounted in front of O’Shay’s Saloon and walked across the boardwalk. The owner of the saloon, Jimmy O’Shay, a big redheaded Irishman, stood behind the bar wiping glasses. He turned when he heard Wil come through the batwings.

“Are me eyes playin’ tricks on me or has Wil Sunday risen from the dead?” asked Jimmy O’Shay with a big smile. Hurrying from behind the bar, he greeted Wil with a big hug, then, waved his friend toward the bar.

“Come, let Jimmy O’Shay buy ye a drink.” The big redhead returned behind the bar and set a bottle of Irish whiskey in front of Wil.

“A special drink for a special friend.” Jimmy poured the whiskey into a shot glass in front of Wil and poured one for himself. He lifted his glass to his friend.

“May ye be in heaven a long time before the devil knows yer dead.” They threw their shots back and Jimmy refilled the glasses.

“Awful quiet in here for this time of day, ain’t it, Jimmy?” asked Wil after looking around the empty saloon. Jimmy’s saloon had always been a popular place in Gunsight. He didn’t think he’s ever seen it empty.

“A lot of things have changed since ye left, Wil me boy,” replied Jimmy.

“This McKinney have anything to do with that? His name seems to be on just about every building in town.”

“Jarod McKinney showed up shortly after ye left. Came with a lot of money and bought up a lot of land. Hired a bunch of gunhands to hold it, then he started on the town. That’s ‘is saloon across the street. Even the marshal is bought and paid for.”

“Tom Draper still the marshal?”

“That ‘e is. Never thought I’d see ‘im turn on us like ‘e did. McKinney’s bunch can pretty much do what they want in Gunsight without any fear of the law.”

Wil took the posters from his pocket and spread them out on the bar facing Jimmy. “You seen any of these men in Gunsight?”

Jimmy studied the rough pictures of the men on the posters and nodded his head in recognition. “Four of McKinney’s gunhands.”

“You’re sure?”

“As sure as I am I’m standin’ here talkin’ to Wil Sunday.”

“All four of them?” asked Wil. Jimmy nodded.

Wil picked up the posters, refolded them and returned them to his pocket. “They come in town often?”

Jimmy nodded again. "The Walker brothers come in every night. They’ll drink ‘til they run ‘im out.”

Wil held out his hand to Jimmy O’Shay. “You’ve been a good friend, Jimmy.”

“We couldn’t believe it when they told us Cassie’d been murdered. We all loved ‘er, Wil. I’ll do what I can to help ye get who done this to ‘er.”

Wil touched his fingers to his hat and left O’Shay’s Saloon. He stabled Goldie and got a room at the Gunsight Hotel. Removing his gunbelt, he hung it on the bedpost. Cracking open the window, he lay down on the bed without removing his boots and was asleep before Buck got settled on the floor.

It was dusk when the tinny piano music from the McKinney saloon drifted through the open window and woke Wil. Buck sat up when Wil rose from the bed. He moved the curtain with his finger and looked down the street. It looked like McKinney’s saloon had a full house. Taking his gunbelt from the bedpost,  hebuckled it on and thonged down the holster. He shifted it until it felt comfortable.

“Let’s go get some supper, we have work to do,” Wil said to Buck.

It was dark when Wil walked out of the hotel dining room and onto the boardwalk. Buck sat up when he saw Wil. Standing at the edge of the boardwalk, he rolled a cigarette. He lit it with a match he struck on the support post. Stepping into the street, he walked toward the Cattleman’s Saloon. Buck sat on the boardwalk when Wil went through the batwings.

He weaved through the crowded saloon and up to the near end of the polished mahogany bar. The clack of the roulette wheel blended with the tinny notes of the out of tune piano. Wil concentrated his attention on the tables with poker games in progress. This is probably where he would find Jess and Aaron Walker. He ordered a beer and proceeded to make his rounds of the poker tables. The Walker brothers sat at the third table he passed. He stood at the table looking at Jess Walker until the gunhand looked up at him. After a second, Walker turned his attention back to the game. The Walkers had no idea who he was. He would wait for the crowd to thin before he made his move.

Wil sat at a nearby table when two of the men at Walker’s table left their chairs. Rising from his chair, he walked over to stand in front of the bar facing Walker’s table. He stood with his feet apart, balancing his weight.

“Jess and Aaron Walker, stand up and get what’s comin’ to you.”

Jess Walker looked up at Wil Sunday as men bolted from the line of fire. “You talkin’ to us, mister?” he asked.

“Time to pay up for what you done to me and mine,” answered Wil.

“What do you say we done?” asked Aaron Walker.

Wil was aware that all the attention in the room was turned toward him and the gunhands. “You, Wade Jessup and Briley Cole, rode onto my land, gunned me down and raped and killed my wife.”

Jess Walker smiled at Wil Sunday. “We never rode with Wade Jessup.”

Wil reached into his shirt pocket, never taking his eyes from Jess Walker. He shook the poster, unfolding it, and held it up for all to see. “This says different.”

The smile left Jess Walker’s face. The brothers jumped up from their chairs, drawing their Colts as they came up. Wil anticipated the move and drew his Colt at the first sign of movement. He fired twice before either brother could clear leather. Wil’s shots struck both brothers dead center in the chest. Jess Walker toppled backward over his chair and Aaron feel forward across the table.

Wil walked to the table and looking down at the motionless outlaws. Thumbing the spent shells from his Colt, he replaced them with from his gunbelt and holstered his Colt.

The marshal came into the saloon as Wil was picking up the poster from the floor. “What happened here?” demanded the marshal.

“Fair fight, marshal,” said the bartender, “ TheWalkers drew first.”

Marshal Tom Draper looked at Wil Sunday and smiled. “Still might not have been a fair fight.”

Wil handed the poster to the marshal. “I’ll be at the hotel when you get the money.” He shouldered past Draper and strode through the batwings.

Wil sat at the small table cleaning his Colt when he heard a knock at his door. He stepped softly to the door, careful not to stand in front of it.

“Who is it?”

“Tom Draper.”

Wil turned the key and cracked open the door.

“Hello, Wil,” greeted Tom Draper. Wil opened the door to admit the marshal.

“Back to your old ways, Wil?” asked Draper as he walked past Wil and up to the window. He turned when Wil closed the door and walked back to the table.

“This was personal,” stated Wil. Sitting back down at the table, he resumed cleaning his Colt.

“The Walkers worked for Jarod McKinney. He’s not going to kiss you for killing them.”

“They’re also two of the men who killed Cassie,” said Wil without looking up.

“McKinney will come looking for you. People expect it.”

Wil stopped cleaning his Colt, laid it on the table and looked up at Draper. “I killed two men today that helped kill my wife. If Jarod McKinney comes looking for me, I won’t run. I took care of two problems today, if I have to I can take care of another.”

Tom Draper left the window and started for the door. “I’ll have your money for you in the morning. I’d be obliged if you left town after you collected it.”

“You runnin’ me out of town, Tom?”

“Let’s just say I’m tryin’ to stop trouble before it starts.”

“Then, you better be talkin’ to Jarod McKinney, not me. I’ll be leavin’ Gunsight when I’ve finished my business her, not before.”

Wil picked up his Colt and resumed cleaning it. “Excuse me if I don’t show you to the door.”

He didn’t look up again until he heard the door latch behind Tom Draper.

Monday, December 6, 2010

And Hell Came With Him...Part 3

Long days on the trail gave a man a lot of time to think. Wil Sunday thought about the events that put him on the vengeance trail.
He was a bounty hunter when he walked into the General Store in the town of Gunsight and Cassie Landis was the prettiest store clerk he had ever seen. It took some doing, but he finally persuaded her to have dinner with him. A whirlwind romance ensued and three months later they were married. But first, he had to promise to unstrap his guns. Putting his guns and clothes in a trunk, he buried them under the hay in the barn loft of  their newly bought Kansas farm. That was where the trunk was when the four outlaws rode into his yard, gunned him down and had their way with Cassie before they killed her.
Buck’s deep-throated bark interrupted Wil’s thoughts. Ahead of them, six riders circled a tree under which a seventh rider sat mounted with his hands tied behind his back. A rope over the bottom branch of the tree was noosed around his neck.
“Looks like someone’s about to get his neck stretched,” Wil said to Buck. He pulled the Henry rifle from its boot and heeled Goldie, reining up outside the circle of riders.
“Keep ridin’, mister, this don’t concern you,” said the rider nearest to Wil.

Holding the Henry rifle across his lap, Wil raised it and rested its butt on his thigh. “I don’t have much of a stomach for lynchin’s,” he stated.
“Then, ride on, or you’ll take his place,” growled a rider from the middle of the circle. He walked his horse to the circle edge. Wil figured this was the leader. The man’s graying temples told him he was older than the rest.
“I’ll ride on when you release the kid,” countered Wil. He noticed the intended victim couldn’t have been more than eighteen years old.
The rider turned and looked at the tree, then back at Wil. “Looks to me like you ain’t in a position to make demands. You’re a little outnumbered, I’d say.”
“Maybe so. But, you’ll be the first one I drop when the shootin’ starts.”
The rider leaned forward, hands crossed on his saddle horn. “I don’t think you’ll get a shot off.”
Wil leveled his Henry at the rider, thumbing back the hammer. “You willin’ to take that chance, mister?”
“You know who I am?”
“Don’t matter. Turn the kid loose.”
The rider stared at Wil, but Wil’s eyes never left the circle of riders. The first sign of trouble would come from them, not the one in front of him.
“Turn ‘im loose and give him his guns back,” yelled the rider, not taking his eyes off of Wil.
The rider nearest the kid removed the noose from around his neck, untied his bound hands and handed him his gunbelt and rifle. The kid wheeled his horse and rode out of the circle.
“Now, unbuckle your gunbelts,” said Wil, when the kid rode out of his line of sight.
“I hope it was worth it, ‘cause you just made the biggest mistake of your life,” the leader warned, unbuckling his gunbelt and letting it fall.
Wil watched the gunbelts of the rest of the circle fall to the ground. “Maybe, maybe not. Now, the rifles.”
One by one, rifles clattered to the ground. “Now, ride out,” ordered Wil.
The rider gave Wil a look of pure hatred. If looks could kill, Wil would have dropped from his saddle.
“You ain’t seen the last of me, mister.” He wheeled his horse and rode away at a gallop with the rest of his riders falling in behind him.
When the dust settled and the band of riders were barely visible in the distance, Wil let the hammer down on his Henry rifle and slid it back into its saddle boot. He looked down at Buck.
“Think we can make it to Gunsight without getting in anymore trouble?”

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Why Write Westerns?

  Why do I write Westerns? Why not mysteries or Science Fiction? These were a couple of questions someone asked me recently. Actually, I have written both Sci-Fi and Mysteries, but Westerns are what I do best. I guess it comes from being introduced to them at a young age by my Dad. The very first movie he took me to was a John Wayne western. I've been hooked ever since.
  To me a western is an adventure story. Good versus evil with a touch of romance and a little bit of humor mixed in. And they're fun to write.While waiting for RIDE THE SAVAGE LAND to be released, I'll be posting a number of my short stories here. I hope they'll be enjoyed as much as I enjoyed writing them.


Saturday, December 4, 2010

And Hell Came With Him...Part 2

Wil practiced tirelessly day after day. When the shell boxes were empty, he bought more. The days turned into weeks, until one day the speed came back. The accuracy followed close behind. But, Wil had to be sure. One morning he brought Miguel Saldano, his farmhand, to the field where he practiced. He handed Miguel a tin can.
“Miguel, walk out about twenty paces and hold that can out.”
Senor?” asked Miguel, an alarmed look spreading across his face.
“Trust me, Miguel.”
Hesitantly, Miguel marched out twenty paces and turned around.
“Hold the can out,” said Wil, holding his arm out at shoulder level. Miguel raised his arm.
“Drop the can whenever you’re ready,” ordered Wil.
After a moment, Miguel released the can. At the first sign of movement, Wil became a blur of motion. He drew his Colt and shot the can at waist level. Miguel crossed himself.
He asked Miguel to retrieve the can and this time hold it waist high. Again, Wil shot the can before it touched the ground.
Madre de dios,” said Miguel, crossing himself again. “I did not know you could shoot like that, Senor.”
Reloading his Colt, Wil walked back toward Miguel.
“You go after Senora Cassie’s killers?” asked Miguel,  “you wish me to go with you?”
Wil dropped the Colt into its holster, put his arm around Miguel’s shoulders and they walked toward the house. “Miguel, I want you and Maria to run the farm while I’m gone,” he told his farmhand.
Miguel stopped and looked at his boss. “Me, Senor?”
Wil smiled at the Mexican. “You’ve been with me from the start, Miguel. You can run this farm as good as I can. I’ll make all the arrangements to make sure you get all the help you’ll need.”
“I’ll do my best, Senor Wil.”
Wil left Miguel in the yard and went into the house. In the bedroom, he removed the clothes from the trunk. Putting on the Levis and the blue cotton shirt, he slipped a black leather vest over the shirt. After stomping into his boots, he slid the leather scabbard and the Bowie knife on his gunbelt and rebuckled the Colt around his waist. He rethonged the holster to his left thigh and settled the black, low crowned, flat brimmed hat on his head.  Grabbing the Henry rifle from the corner by the dresser, he walked from the bedroom where Miguel and Maria waited in the kitchen.
“Move your things into the house,” ordered Wil.
Maria threw her arms around Wil’s neck and gave him a hug. “Thank you, Senor Wil. I will pray that you find the men that did this thing. Come back safe to us.”
Wil hugged Maria for a moment and then shook Miguel’s hand. “I’m taking Cassie’s horse. Buck is going with me too.”
Si, Senor,” said Miguel, “She is a good horse and Buck will watch out for you.”
Wil went to the barn and saddled the golden Palomino mare that was Cassie’s pride and joy. She had not been ridden since Cassie’s death. Throwing his saddlebags behind the saddle, he put the Henry rifle in the saddle boot.  Walking the horse outside, he stepped into the saddle. Wil could feel the anticipation of the powerful horse. She hadn’t run in a long time. He waved at Miguel and Maria standing on the porch as he rode out of the yard.

“Vaya Con Dios, Senor,” whispered Miguel.

Wil Sunday reined up at the white picket fence surrounding the grave of his beloved Cassie. The gravesite sat on a hill under a tree, overlooking the farm. She liked to come up here and sit.  Dismounting, he walked through the gate, picking up the wooden folding chair that lay on the ground next to the fence. Unfolding the chair, he sat down next to the grave. Taking off his hat, he set it on the ground at his feet.
“I guess you’re wondering why I’m dressed in my old clothes again,” said Wil, looking down at the fresh flowers Maria had put at the head of the grave that morning.
“You prob’ly noticed I was wearin’ my gun too. I’m goin’ after the scum that done this thing to you. I know I promised you I wouldn’t wear a gun again, but I didn’t know this would happen, either. Don’t be mad, just try to understand. Miguel’s gonna watch the farm and I’m takin’ Goldie and Buck with me. Goldie’s a good horse and Buck’ll be a good companion. I don’t know how long it will take, but I’ll come back every so often to let you know how it’s goin’. I love you, Cassie. I always have and I always will.”
Wil picked up his hat and put it on. Rising from the chair, he folded it and laid it next to the fence before walking through the gate. Buck sat outside the gate and Wil scratched the big brown dog’s head as he walked by him. Mounting the Palomino, Wil sat for a moment looking at Cassie’s grave. Turning the horse, he looked down at Buck.
“Ready to go, boy?”
Buck replied with a boisterous bark and followed after Wil.

Wil rode into the town of Beecher a little past noon. His unusual dress attracted attention as he dismounted in front of the bank. He withdrew one thousand dollars from his account and asked to see bank president, Hiram Willis.
“I want to authorize Miguel Saldano to make any withdrawals or deposits as needed on my account.”
After a mild objection, Hiram Willis drew up the paperwork for him to sign. Wil, then, made stops at the General Store and Hardware Store before dismounting in front of the sheriff’s office.
“I wondered when you were going to get around to this,” said sheriff Logan Shepherd, eyeing the thronged down Colt when Wil walked through the office door. The sheriff knew about Wil’s bounty hunting past and had vowed to keep his secret.
“Before I leave, I’d like to look at your dodgers,” informed Wil.
Logan opened a desk drawer and removed a stack of wanted posters and laid them in front of Wil. One by one, he looked at each poster in turn, setting aside three. When he reached the bottom of the stack, he looked up at Logan Shepherd.
“I found them.”
Logan looked at the three posters. The faces of Wade Jessup, Briley Cole and brothers Jess and Aaron Walker looked back at him.
“Cole and the Walker brothers still ride with Jessup,” informed Logan and slid the handbills back to his friend. “Where you find one, you should find them all.”

Wil folded the posters, put them in his shirt pocket and held out his hand to his friend. “So long, Logan, keep an eye on Miguel until I get back.”
Logan shook Wil’s hand. “Be careful, my friend and good luck.”

Thursday, December 2, 2010

And Hell Came With Him....Part 1

Lightning streaked the darkened sky above the solemn group around the grave. The preacher, standing at the head of the grave, read passages from his worn bible while four men, dressed in black suits, grasped the ends of the two ropes stretched under both ends of the wooden coffin. Slowly, they moved the coffin over the open grave and began to lower it. A woman’s white-gloved hand appeared from the coffin, slid the lid to the side and reached out to the group above.
Wil Sunday sat upright in his bed. He looked around the moonlit bedroom, a chill running over his sweat soaked body. The recurring nightmare became a frequent part of his nights since he buried his beloved wife, Cassie.
Swinging his legs over the side of the bed, he sat staring at the floor. Finally rising, he lifted his pants from the chair next to the bed and stepped into them. Running his fingers through his hair, he walked from the bedroom to the front door.
The cool night breeze greeted him as he walked out and sat down on the edge of the porch and looked up at the full moon amid the dark blanket of twinkling stars. His big, brown dog, Buck, who had followed him out the door, laid down next to him, resting his head in Wil’s lap. Wil looked around at the yard, and the events of that tragic day flooded back to him.
He was repairing a harness when Buck’s barking brought him to the barn door to see four men riding up to the house. They reined up when Wil approached them.
“Howdy,” said the rider closest to Wil. He figured this was the leader, being he appeared the oldest. Wil walked up beside Buck growling at the new arrivals and patted him on the neck to calm him down.. He looked at each of the four riders in turn. Hard men, probably a step ahead of the law, had ridden onto his farm.
“Your dog’s a mite unfriendly,” added the gray haired rider.
“He doesn’t like strangers. What can I do for you fellas?”
Just then, Cassie walked out of the house onto the porch. Her appearance got the attention of the four outlaws.
“I think you and your missus can do quite a lot for us.”

Suddenly, Wil wished he hadn’t left his rifle in the house. With a slight nod of his head, he motioned Cassie back into the house.
“I’ve got work to do, so I’d be obliged if you’d water your horses and be on your way.”
“Yeah, so do we,” said the outlaw, drawing his Colt as his three companions dismounted.
Wil dove as the outlaw fired, feeling an intense pain in his side. Despite the burning pain, he tried to get up. The outlaw fired a second time, hitting Wil in the shoulder, knocking him to the ground again.
The outlaw stepped down from his saddle, looking at the still form of Wil Sunday. He thumbed out the spent shells from his Colt and replaced them from his gunbelt. Dropping the Colt back into its holster, the outlaw turned and followed his men into the house.
Wil opened his eyes as the gunman disappeared through the door. The last thing Wil heard before he succumbed to the darkness was Cassie’s screams.
Buck licked Wil’s face, interrupting his thoughts and bringing him back. He scratched Buck behind his ears. “ I guess it’s just you and me now, boy.”
Wil stood up, walked down the two steps of the porch and angled toward the barn. Stopping at the barn door, lit the lantern with the matches he kept beside it. Taking the lantern to the ladder at the far side of the barn, he climbed it to the loft.
Setting the lantern on the floor and grabbing a pitchfork, he began moving the hay from a corner of the loft.  Uncovering a trunk, he dragged it clear of the hay. He removed a wooden peg from the hasp and opened the trunk lid.
Lifting a tarp covering the contents of the trunk, he pulled out a low crowned, flat brimmed hat and laid it on the open trunk lid. Next, he pulled out an empty gunbelt and holster and laid it next to the hat.
Then he unwrapped a well-oiled, sightless Colt from an oilskin and slid it into the holster. A Henry rifle lay across a stack of clothes. He removed the rifle and leaned it against the side of the trunk.
He lifted a Bowie knife and removed it from its leather sheath. Lightly running his thumb along the edge of the blade, he tested its sharpness.  Sliding the broad blade back into the leather scabbard, he laid it on the trunk lid.
He lifted the clothes to uncover two boxes of shells each for the Colt and the Henry rifle. Repacking the trunk, he closed the lid and slipped the wood peg back through the hasp.
He took the end of a coiled rope and strung it through a pulley above the edge of the loft and tied the other end securely to a leather handle on one end of the trunk. Dragging the trunk to the edge of the loft, he gently lowered it to the floor of the barn. Stepping off the bottom rung of the ladder, Buck returned to his side.
He untied the rope and after a short struggle, maneuvered the trunk onto his back and carried it from the barn into the house, lowering to the bedroom floor.
He reopened the trunk, laying the contents on the bed. Picking up the gunbelt, he buckled it around his waist and thonged the holster to his left thigh. He lifted the Colt and settled it gently back in the holster.
Wil caught his reflection in the full-length mirror that stood in the corner. Turning toward it, he looked at his reflection for a moment, then suddenly drew the Colt. He looked down at the gun in his hand, then over at Buck who was watching curiously.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do.”