Friday, December 2, 2011

Why Do I Write?

  I get the question posed to me periodically "Why Do You Write?" and more specifically "Why Do You Write Westerns?"  I got a comment today on one of the western short stories I have posted on one of the many writer's sites I belong to.  It said:

"Louis Lamour would be proud, Larry, although he might be a wee bit jealous. You see, I think, and having been a truck driver for many years I've read of his, you blend your heavy, yet effective dialogue with a more defined narrative. I say this because yours is more efficient. Pure and simple. There wasn't a single paragraph of narrative that exceeded four lines in Hangman's Noose. This was just crisp classic western writing...period!

Right down to the names of the characters in Hangman's Noose, I felt I was reading authentic western writing at it's best. Reminded me very much of a Chick Beaudry tale, only like I said...a bit faster. You built up to the climax of the story with incredible skill, leaving the reader not only guessing, but no doubt calculating as well.

This is excellent work. Would make a great audio book type thing for truck drivers, whom we know are great admirers of vintage western stories.

All I could do was click the six star button on this stuff. It's publishable, it's well-written and very entertaining. Thanks for the story. I enjoyed it very much and am off to read the next one."

This comment answers the question of "Why Do I Write?"

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

It's Official

I have officially become a published author. My western fiction short story, The Reverend Mister Black, appearing in the Rope And Wire Western Short Story anthology, became available today on Amazon.com.
http://www.amazon.com/Rope-Western-Short-Stories-ebook/dp/B0063MTB8G/ref=sr_1_6?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1320533958&sr=1-6

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Genesis Project....Chapter 2....My NaNoWriMo novel in progress

     One by one the pods opened and the ship slowly came back to life. Kenzi sat in sickbay when one of the Freelancers, wearing sergeant stripes, stepped through the door.

     “Miles Gordon said you wanted to see me, Ma’am,” he said.

     Kenzi paused for a moment and looked at the name label on his camouflage shirt. He stood in front of her with his feet spread and his arms behind his back. His eyes looked somewhere behind her.

     “Did Miles tell you why, Sergeant Brackett?”

     “I think I know, Ma’am.” His eyes never wavered from the spot behind her. “The Major was supposed to be up before me and I’ve not seen him.”

     “Relax, Sergeant,” said Kenzi. She held out her hand to Brackett. “Doctor Kenzi Sheppard.” 

     Immediately the tenseness in Brackett disappeared and he shook Kenzi’s hand. “Mike Brackett, Ma’am, glad to meet you.” Spreading his feet apart, he stood with his hands behind him.

     “Major Grayson’s pod malfunctioned,” Kenzi informed the Sergeant. “It happened sometime after we left.”

     “Can I see the Major, Ma’am?”

     “He may be hard to look at.”

     “Yes, Ma’am.”

     Kenzi rose from her chair behind the desk. “Follow me, Sergeant.”

     She led Brackett to a corner of the small sickbay where a black body bag rested on a gurney. Kenzi unzipped the body bag. The sergeant looked at the remains of Major Grayson for a couple of minutes, then looked back up at Kenzi.

     “Thank you, Ma’am, I’ll break the news to the men when we’re all together. One more thing, the Major was really looking forward to this mission. If you don’t mind, I’d like to bury him wherever we decide to settle down.”

     Despite the sergeant’s rough exterior, Kenzi could see the sadness and hurt in Brackett’s eyes. “I think that could be arranged, Sergeant. We have a chaplain with us. I’ll talk to Miles about it.”

     “Thank you, Ma’am. Me and the Major go back a ways. We met in the Corps. Fought a lot of wars together since. He was a warrior and a gentleman. You would have liked him.”

     “I’m sure I would have,” replied Kenzi.

     “Well, I should go be with the men. Thanks for taking care of the Major.” Sergeant Brackett turned and strode out of sickbay.

     Kenzi zipped up the body bag and returned to her desk. She’d been apprehensive about the dangers of the Genesis Project, but if the rest of the Freelancers were like Sergeant Brackett, they were in good hands.

              * * * *

     “If you’re watching me tonight, your journey is almost over.” Doctor Sheppard quietly slipped through the door of the darkened crew lounge, winching as the door latched loudly behind her. The President of the World Council of Nations spoke from behind a desk in front of the Council’s flag on the screen at the front of the room.

     “Earth, as you know it, no longer exists.” Kenzi scooted into an empty seat next to Sergeant Brackett at the end of the back row. “Did I miss anything?” she whispered.

     “No, Ma’am,” Brackett whispered back after a shake of his head. “He’s just getting started, but he’s getting ready to tell us how he appreciates the sacrifice all of us are making.”

     “All of mankind appreciates the sacrifices each and every one of you is making.” Kenzi covered her mouth to stifle a laugh when Brackett looked at her with a raised right eyebrow.

     They sat for the next twenty minutes and listened to the President rehash the objectives they’d gotten in a pre-launch briefing fifty years ago. Mercifully, the screen finally went white. Kenzi looked over at Brackett with his chin on his chest and gently poked him in the side. The sergeant opened his eyes and looked over at her, lifting his head as the lights brightened the room. “The torture session is over,” said Kenzi.

     They rose from their seats as the rest of the room started to file through the door. “I talked to Miles Gordon about your request,” Kenzi said to Brackett.

     “Yes, Ma’am, I talked with him earlier. Thanks for going to bat for us. Now we can give him a proper sendoff.”

     “Better that he be among friends than being shot off into the stars all by himself,” said Kenzi.

     Miles Gordon, trailing the line leaving the crew lounge, stopped beside them. “That wasn’t as painful as I thought it was going to be.”

     “Speak for yourself,” replied Kenzi.

     “I should be getting back to the men,” said Brackett and nodded at Kenzi and Miles.

     “Sergeant, I’d like to see you when you get time,” said Miles.

     “Yes sir,” replied Brackett and followed the last of his men out the door.

     “Mister Gordon, “ said Max, the android’s soft voice appeared from the overhead speaker.

     “Yes, Max,” replied Miles, looking up into the speaker.

     “Our destination has come into view.”

     “I’ll be right there.” Miles looked at Kenzi. “Care to have a look at our new home?”

     “I’d love to,” replied Kenzi and followed Miles out the door.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Genesis Project....Chapter 1....My NaNoWriMo novel in progress


     The last few numbers on the control panel countdown clock mesmerized Max as they clicked down to zero. The streaks of light in the view port suddenly turned to a twinkling star field as the big sleeper ship dropped from hyper light drive. The android pilot of Genesis I turned in his seat and watched the lights in the forward compartment flicker to life. The sleeper ship’s fifty-year journey had entered its final stages.

     Turning his attention back to the control panel, Max anticipated the first of the twenty- five red lights turning green, signaling the opening of the first sleeper pod and the return of life back to Genesis I.

     Earth was dieing and Genesis I, the first phase of The Genesis Project, carried an advance party to C1789, a planet in what was deemed a habitable zone in the recently discovered Hemera galaxy. The revived crew would shoulder the responsibility of creating a colony for Genesis II, carrying their families, and the ships that followed.

     Max looked over at the red light marking the first life pod switch to green. Life was returning to Genesis I.


     The life pod marked with a big black number one on its end hissed and the lid slowly lifted. Doctor Kenzi Sheppard’s eyelids fluttered open and she laid quiet letting her eyes take in her surroundings. They settled on Max walking through the door and she smiled when the android stopped next to the pod.

     “Welcome back, Doctor,” greeted the soft-spoken android. He looked at the numbers on the panel above the pod. “Your vitals signs appear normal,” he added.

     Doctor Sheppard swung her legs over the side of the pod and sat for a moment, waiting for the wave of lightheadedness to subside. “Thank you, Max,” she replied, “it’s definitely good to be back.”

     With Max’s help Kenzi put her feet on the floor. “I expect you’ll be wanting a big cup of hot coffee,” said Max, getting a chuckle in return from the doctor.

     “Yes, that would be nice,” she replied.

     “Shall we?” said Max, sweeping his arm toward the door.

     Kenzi took a couple of unsteady steps. “Now I know how babies feel when they take their first steps.”

     “Before you know it, you’ll be as good as new,” replied Max, walking behind Kenzi as she made her way toward the door.

     They left the pod room and walked down the long hallway toward the dining room. Max seated Kenzi at a long table with a long row of bench seats on each side and disappeared through the swinging doors into the kitchen. He returned with a steaming mug of hot coffee and set it on the table in front of her.

     “Anything in it?” asked Max. Kenzi smiled at the range of Max’s knowledge of human tendencies.

     “Black is fine,” she replied, wrapping both hands around the coffee mug. She looked over the rim of the mug as Max sat down across from her.

     “In approximately thirty eight minutes the next pod will open,” said the android. “Your pod opened twenty two minutes ago and they are scheduled to open one hour apart.”

     Kenzi looked at Max and wondered if the appearance of an ever-present smile on his face was a hint at humor by the creators of the android and his counterparts. She was curious to see if the androids piloting the rest of the ships that followed them carried the same pleasant trait. She giggled softly as she took another sip of her coffee.

     “Did I say something funny?” asked Max, cocking his head

     Kenzi giggled louder. “No, Max, it’s just nice to be up and about again,” she lied.

     “I’ll have to prepare something light,” said Max, rising from the table. “Everyone will need something to eat when they awaken.” He stopped midway through the double doors and turned back to Kenzi. “Do you remember where sick bay is?”

     “Yes I do, Max, thank you.”

     Max continued through the doors and Kenzi finished the coffee in her mug. Setting the mug on the table, she rose from her seat. “You have work to do, Doctor,” she reminded herself. “Time to get a move on.”

     She turned left from the dining room and walked down the hall until she reached the large MEDICAL sign. She stepped through the door grabbing the white lab coat hanging on the peg on the wall. She checked the large pockets to make sure her stethoscope was still there. Everything was as she left it. She slipped the coat on over her white jump suit. On the way to her desk in a corner of the room she stopped at the sink and looked in the mirror.

    “You don’t look a day over thirty-five,” she said, running her fingers through her brown hair. She didn’t really want to think about how old she really was.

     She opened the top drawer of her desk, removed a watch and to her surprise saw the seconds were still counting up. Not sure how long it was going to last, she strapped it to her wrist. At least it would make a nice accessory, if nothing else. Taking note of the time, she realized she had just enough time to make the pod room before the next pod released its occupant.


     The pod hissed and the lid lifted as Kenzi stepped through the door. She looked up at the numbers on the vital signs board above the pod and noted they were increasing slowly into the normal ranges. She walked up beside the pod.

     “Good morning, Miles,” she said with a smile.

     Miles Gordon, the advance party’s leader, rubbed his eyes and squinted up at Kenzi. “Doctor Sheppard,” he said, “is it morning?”

     “It is for us,” replied Kenzi.

     Miles swung his feet over the side of the pod and tried to stand up, but sat back down. “Guess I tried to get up too quick,” he said, scratching his salt and pepper hair.

     “It does take some getting used to,” replied Kenzi with a chuckle, patting Miles on the shoulder. “Max has coffee in the galley when you get your legs under you.”

     Kenzi left Miles and walked down the row of pods looking at the changing numbers of the vital signs boards above them. She frowned when she approached the blank board above pod number eleven. The name under the board read Major Anthony Grayson. He was in charge of the Freelancers, a group of mercenaries that accompanied them for security. She walked up to the pod and looked through the small rectangle window in the lid.

     “Oh my,” she exclaimed when she saw the shriveled face lying on the pillow inside. She stepped back from the pod and walked around it. Not seeing anything that would suggest foul play, she decided it was an unfortunate equipment malfunction and would make Miles aware they had lost a member of the party. She finished her inspection of the pods and solemnly walked from the pod room.

     She found Miles Gordon sitting at the first table in the galley sipping on a steaming mug of coffee and munching on a pastry. “These are quite good,” said Miles, holding up his breakfast, “you should have one.”

     “We’ve lost one of our Freelancers,” said Kenzi, ignoring Miles’ suggestion.

     “Oh?”

     “Major Grayson’s pod malfunctioned. It must have happened shortly after we left. I’d like to get him out of there before anyone else wakes up.”

     Miles popped the last of the pastry in his mouth, licked his fingers and wiped them off with a napkin. He drank the last of his coffee and wiped his mouth, stuffing the wadded up napkin into the mug. “I’ll get Max to help me.”

      Kenzi watched Miles leave the galley and hoped this wasn’t a forecaster of what lay ahead of them. They didn’t have any more people to spare. With a soft sigh, she turned toward the plate of pastries next to the coffee urn.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

NaNoWriMo in 5 days

    November is National Novel Writing Month. For those of my friends that have never heard of this,during the  month of November every year the NaNoWriMo website puts up a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It challenges you to, as writers would say, "put your butt in the chair and write." They've even broken it down to say 1,667 words a day will get you there.
    There is an incentive besides getting a novel done in 30 days. They have a couple of writer's perks if you finish. In past years you've gotten a chance to download some writer's software or publish your book or a review, stuff like that.
     This year I'm going to stray away from the westerns and crime fiction I usually write. I'm going back to what got me into this whole writing thing. I've had a science fiction idea bouncing around for awhile. So, for a month, I'm going to go "outside the box" and return to my writing roots and get this down on paper, so to speak. Working full time, I don't know if I'll make the word count, but I'll give it the old college try and who knows, there may be a new series come out of this at the end.There's always room for a good sci-fi series, right?
     When it starts,my NaNo work in progress, The Genesis Project, will be showing up here as it progresses, so it will give me a little added incentive to "get 'er done."   See You Soon! 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

NaNoWriMo

Decided what I'm going to do for NaNoWriMo. Maybe at the end of November I'll have the 1st book in a new sci-fi series. At worst, I'll have a good head start. Looking forward to it.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Update

Good News!!! I was invited to submit a short story to Rope and Wire's western fiction e-book anthology, ePulps. They accepted my story, The Reverend Mister Black, and it will be out in Volume 2. Good things are starting to happen.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Scratching My Head

 I'm working on Book 2 of my series and the story just don't feel right, but I can't put my finger on why not.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Opening Scene to The Reverend Mister Black, a new western fiction work in progress.



     The hot afternoon breeze swirled the dust in the Sweetwater street as Deputy Marshal Otis Fuller stepped from the Marshal’s office onto the boardwalk. Taking the fixings from a shirt pocket, he sat down in one of the two chairs in front of the office and rolled a quirley. He searched the opposite shirt pocket for a match, struck it on the arm of the chair, lit the quirley in his lips and tossed the burnt match into the street.

     He leaned back in the chair, thumbed his hat back from his forehead and took a long draw from the cigarette. A rider coming down the street astride a big, black gelding and trailing a body-draped sorrel caught his eye.  His interest intensified when the rider, dressed in a dusty black suit, turned the big black into the hitch rail in front of him.

     When the stranger swung down from his saddle, Otis caught a glimpse of a gunbelt and the butt end of a Walker Colt under his black frock coat. The stranger hitched the horse and patted the black’s flanks as he walked around behind him. He untied the sorrel’s reins from the pommel of his saddle and hitched the body-draped horse beside the black. He ducked under the hitch rail, stepped up on the boardwalk and touched his fingers to his wide brimmed black hat as he strode past Otis into the Marshal’s office.

     Marshal Cooper Smith, sitting at his desk browsing the fresh batch of wanted posters, looked up when he heard bootsteps come through the door.

     “Reverend,” greeted Cooper, recognizing the newcomer. A confused look crossed Otis Fuller’s face as he stood in the doorway.

     “Marshal Smith,” replied Reverend Josiah Black, extending his hand.

     “What brings you to Sweetwater?” asked Cooper, shaking Josiah’s hand.

     Josiah reached into his dusty coat, unfolded a dodger and laid it on Cooper Smith’s desk. “The usual.”

     Cooper read the poster and picked it up as he rose from his chair. “This one of those you been looking for, Josiah?”

     “He is not,” replied Josiah, “but God provides me with the means for sustenance to fulfill my quest.”

     Otis Fuller, standing in the doorway, backed out onto the boardwalk as the two men walked toward him. Josiah waited next to the Deputy as Cooper shouldered his way through the gathering crowd, stopping at the shrouded body draped across the sorrel’s saddle. Uncovering the head of the corpse, Cooper grabbed a handful of hair and compared the outlaw’s face to the rough sketch on the wanted poster. Satisfied they were one and the same, Cooper retraced his steps back to his office.

     “I’ll have to notify the sheriff in Abilene, Josiah, so it’ll be a coupla days before you get your money. I’ll go good for you, if you need eatin’ money,” said Cooper.

     The Reverend shook his head. “That won’t be necessary, Marshal. I’ll be staying at the boarding house, you can reach me there.”

     “I’ll let you know as soon as I get the wire,” replied Cooper.

     “Do you have anyone in your jail, Marshal?” asked Josiah

     “I do.” Cooper opened a drawer of the desk and retrieved a ringed set of keys. He walked to the big wooden door of the jail and opened it, letting Josiah enter ahead of him.

     “On your feet, Manning,” ordered Cooper, running the ring of keys along the bars of the cell.

     The prisoner, Ed Manning, laying on the cot with his back to them, rolled over, swung his feet to the floor and stood up. “What’s this all about, Marshal?”

     “Over here,” ordered Cooper again, motioning Manning closer to the bars of the cell.

     “I got rights, you know,” argued Manning as he took two steps toward them.

     “You got the right to be quiet or get a salty supper. That’s what right you got,” countered Cooper.

     Josiah studied Ed Manning, finally meeting the prisoner’s gaze when his bantering with the Marshal stopped and he looked at the Reverend. Josiah looked the prisoner up and down once, shook his head, then turned and left the cellblock.

     “That’s it? That’s what you wanted?” shouted Manning as Cooper followed the Reverend out the door and locked it behind them.

     “How many, Josiah?” asked Cooper when he returned the ring of keys to the drawer.

      “I found four and the law gave me justice on three. Only one left, Marshal, I’ll not rest until I find him. His trail led me here to Sweetwater.” Reverend Josiah Black turned toward the door. “I’ll be around, Marshal, if you need me.”

     “Reverend?” Otis asked Cooper, when Josiah mounted the big black and rode toward the boarding house.

     Cooper nodded his head. “About three years ago, Reverand Josiah Black was pastor of a church in west Texas. He took sides in a range war and made it known in his Sunday sermons. To the point where he used to give his sermons with that big Walker Colt settin’ right next to his Bible.  One night, eight riders rode on his church, burned it down and danged near killed the Reverend. He swore that night he would find out who rode on his church and would bring down the wrath of God on them. Well, he did and he has. When he runs low on money, he’ll hunt down a bounty and always gives half the bounty to the church in the town he collects it. But, one thing he did, he made the people of his church swear to never rebuild that church until he came to do it himself.”

     “What if he gets killed and don’t come back?”

     “I guess that wasn’t part of the deal. If he don’t come back, the church don’t get rebuilt.”

Friday, July 22, 2011

Excerpt from Return Of The Bounty Hunter...Book 3 of The Savage Land Series...A Work In progress

That afternoon Wil Sunday and Johnny Waco reined up at the top of a rise where Buck had suddenly stopped, waiting for the two riders to catch up.  Below them, a covered wagon sat at an awkward angle, the two horses still in their traces. Reaching into his saddlebag, Wil pulled out a pair of field glasses and looked down at the wagon. After a couple of minutes, he handed the glasses to Johnny with a smile on his face.

“You’re kiddin’ me,” said Johnny, lowering the glasses, looking back at Wil.

“You see ‘em,” said Wil as Johnny put the glasses back up to his eyes. Three women stood on the tailgate of the wagon looking down at two women on the ground bent over the back wheel of the wagon.

“Ladies in distress,” said Johnny, handing the glasses back to Wil, “waiting for their knights in shining armor.”

Wil returned the field glasses to his saddlebag and heeled Goldie, following Johnny and Buck down the rise.

“Riders comin’,” said the youngest of the women on the tailgate and disappeared into the wagon. The other women, putting their hands to their foreheads to shade their eyes, looked toward the rise and the oncoming riders. Buck was the first to reach the wagon and was warmly greeted by head scratching and ear rubs.

“You boys are close enough,” said the young woman, stepping onto the tailgate, sighting down a levered Winchester. “State your business.”

“We saw you was in trouble and thought we could be of some help,” said Johnny, making sure his hands were up away from his guns.

“May, put that thing away, these boys don’t mean us no harm,” said the oldest of the women, standing near the back of the wagon scratching Buck’s head.

“That’s what you say,” said May, not moving from her position on the tailgate.

“You boys gotta excuse May, her manners ain’t so good. Step down, my name’s Madge Jennings.” She offered her hand to Wil and Johnny when they approached the wagon.

“This here’s Claire Olson,” Madge said, pointing to the woman next to her. Two of the woman jumped down from the tailgate. “The golden haired one is April Hanlon, the other is Jillian Sinclair. The ill-mannered one up there is May Perkins.”

“Ladies,” said Wil, tipping his hat.

“Glad to meet you,” said Johnny. Both of them got smiles and nods from all the women except May, still standing her post on the tailgate. “Now, what seems to be the problem here,” said Johnny, bending down to inspect the wheel leaning at an odd angle as it sat in a hole.

“Axle’s broke,” said Wil, looking under the rear of the wagon. He stood up, looking around. “I don’t see nothin’ we can make one out of, neither.

“Got one,” said Madge, pointing under the wagon, “in the possum belly, under the dry firewood.”

“You got a wagon jack?” asked Johnny.

“In the wagon,” said Madge pointing toward the open tailgate. Wil Sunday, climbing up into the wagon, found looking down the barrel of May’s Winchester a bit unnerving.

Without warning, Wil swept his arm up, causing the cocked weapon to discharge into the air. Before May could react, he grabbed the Winchester’s barrel, wrenching the rifle from the woman’s grasp.

“Little girls shouldn’t play with loaded weapons,” said Wil, as he levered the rifle, littering the back of the wagon with unspent shells. What happened when he handed the empty rifle back to May surprised everyone. As Wil squatted to open the trap door in the floorboards of the wagon, May grabbed the barrel of the Winchester.

“WIL,” shouted Johnny, as May raised the rifle above her head. Wil barely had time to block the blow with his forearm, grabbing the rifle and pulling it from the grasp of the enraged woman despite the pain shooting up his arm.

With all the power he could muster, Wil exploded from his crouch and planted his right fist on the side of May’s face, knocking her from the tailgate of the wagon. Throwing the Winchester to the ground, he resumed his search for the wagon jack as April and Jillian rushed to May’s side.

By the time Wil and Johnny repaired the wagon, May was being helped to her feet by April and Jillian. Sitting her down in the shade with her back to the wagon wheel, Jillian stretched to lower a dipper into the water barrel on the side of the wagon and offered it to May.

“I want to thank you boys for your help,” said Madge, as Wil returned the jack to the back of the wagon. “You’re welcome to tag along with us if you’re going our way.”

“And where is it you’re going?” asked Wil.

“A new town called Bentley sprung up at the railhead near the west Texas border. A friend of ours opened a saloon there and invited us to join him.”

Wil looked over at Johnny. “ New town, most likely, don’t have much of a lawman. Be a good place for our boys to hold up.”

“It’s worth a look,” said Johnny.

Monday, July 4, 2011

HERO

                                                              HERO
   A light snow fell as Walter Gentry stepped out onto the stoop of the brownstone. Looking up into the gently swirling flakes, he smiled, turned up the collar of his coat, and descended the steps to the snow-covered street below.  Touching down on the sidewalk, he slipped, quickly regained his balance and stepped gingerly as he started down Fourth Street.
   Making everything look so clean and bright, Walter always liked taking his late night walks in fresh fallen snow. Holding his gloved hand out, he marveled at the beautiful shape of the big flake that fluttered into his palm. But, it would all be short lived though, for the snow plows would be out in the morning and the dark piles of plowed snow would replace the picturesque scene.
   Coming to the deserted intersection, he crossed against the light, walking backwards a few steps to see his lonely footprints in the snow, turning in time to step up on the curb. Slowing his pace, he walked by the dimly lit window of Jansen’s Department Store, looking to see what old man Jansen had on sale this week. Probably something the old skinflint found stashed in the storeroom that he couldn’t get rid off six months ago.
   Turning from the window, he saw an old man sitting on the bus stop bench in front of the department store. Altering his course, Walter walked over to the bench.
   “May I sit down?”
   The old man, wearing an army fatigue jacket and a green woolen cap pulled down over his ears, looked up at Walter and pulled his bulging green backpack closer to him. “It’s a free country, suit yourself.”
   Walter brushed the powdery snow from the bench and sat down, clapping his gloves hands together. Looking over at the old man, Walter found him looking back from beneath the woolen cap.
   “My name’s Walter,” he said, extending his hand. The old man looked at the outstretched hand and then up at Walter. Finally, the tattered, gloved hand reached out and grasped the extended hand.
   “Name’s Eddie,” said the old man, surprising Walter with a firm handshake.
   “Well, Eddie, I don’t know about you, but I could use a hot cup of coffee. If you come with me to the diner across the street, I’ll buy you dinner to go along with your coffee.”
   “They won’t let me in there,” replied Eddie.
   “They will if you come with me, Eddie,” Walter said, standing up, waving Eddie to join him. “Come on.”
   Hesitating for a moment, the old man stood up, slinging one strap of his backpack onto his shoulder. Together, the two new friends stepped off the curb and walked across the street to the all night diner.
   Walter held the glass door of the diner open, letting Eddie walk in ahead of him. The only customer in the diner sat at the counter talking to the night cook. Sitting on a stool behind the counter, the cook waved at Walter as he came through the door.
   “Anywhere you want to sit is fine with me, Eddie,” said Walter and followed Eddie to a booth on the far side of the diner. Swinging his backpack onto the seat, the old man slid in next to it. Walter hung his coat on the tree at the end of the booth and slid onto the seat across from Eddie. Coming from behind the counter, the waitress carried two white coffee mugs in one hand and a steaming pot of coffee in the other.
   “Hiya, Walter,” said the gum-popping waitress, setting the two mugs on the table and slopping coffee into them. “What’ll ya have?”
   “Margie, you look as gorgeous as ever,” complimented Walter, getting a smile back from Margie. “I’ll have a piece of apple pie and give my friend, Eddie here, whatever he wants.”
   Eddie removed his woolen cap and tattered gloves, setting them on the seat next to his backpack. Taking a quick look at the menu, he ordered a breakfast of eggs, fried potatoes, ham and a short stack of pancakes.
   “Been a long time since I had breakfast food,” said Eddie, sipping his coffee.
   “That you, Eddie?” asked Walter, pointing at the name over his jacket pocket.
   “Yes sir.” Eddie nodded, running his fingers through his tangled hair. “United States Army Special Forces.”
   “Green Berets?”
   Eddie nodded again. “Did three tours in the Nam.”
   “Thanks, Eddie.”
   “For what?”
   “For going over there. For doing what you did.”
   Tears welled up in Eddie’s eyes and he looked down into his mug. “Nobody ever said that to me before.” When he looked up again, a tear escaped his left eye and slid down his cheek onto the table.
   “All they did was spit on me and call me a baby killer,” said Eddie. He wiped his eye with the sleeve of his jacket, as Marge walked from behind the counter with their food.
   “That why you went back, Eddie?” asked Walter after Marge left.
   Eddie nodded as he forked some pancakes into his mouth. “They were the only ones who understood.”
   Nothing more was said until Eddie sopped up the last of the egg yolk with the corner of jellied toast, shoved it in his mouth and sat back on the seat.
   “That why you went back a third time?” Eddie wiped his mouth with his napkin and laid it on the table.
   “My wife told me if I went back for a second tour, she wouldn’t be here when I got back. She was true to her word. I came back to an empty house. She took everything, including my daughter Shelly. I ain’t seen either since. That was over thirty years ago.”
   “Did you look for them?”
   “Far as I knew my wife’s only kin lived in Saint Louis. I sent her a letter there, but it came back to me address unknown. Had no idea where else she would go.”
   “So you went back to Nam a third time.”
   “And didn’t care if I come back or not. I went out on every patrol I could and volunteered any time they asked. Maybe that’s why I survived. I didn’t care.”
   Eddie unbuttoned the jacket pocket under his name and pulled out a wrinkled dog-eared photo. “I never forgot about ‘em,” he added, handing the photo to Walter. “Shelly was about three years old in that picture.”
   Walter straightened a dog-eared corner of the photo of a young woman sitting on the stairs of a porch holding a curly haired girl between her legs.
   “That was taken just before I left for my first tour. She has a birthday coming up soon,” Eddie informed his new friend.
   Walter handed the photo back to Eddie and the old veteran put it back in its place in his pocket. “Eddie, come home with me and get a hot shower and a good night’s sleep,” invited Walter.
   Eddie smiled and shook his head. “Thanks, Walter, but I don’t want to put you out, so I’ll just head on back to my shack below the bridge by the river. Besides, the boys would miss me anyway.”
   Eddie put on his woolen cap and tattered gloves, dragging the backpack by a strap as he slid from the booth. “I’d like to thank you for the good food and good company, Walter, I’ll be on my way now.” Eddie slung the backpack over his shoulder.
   “I eat here every night, Eddie, come back sometime and I’ll buy you dinner,” said Walter.
   Eddie smiled again, pointing his finger at Walter. “That I will take you up on.” Waving at Walter, he turned and waved at Margie and the cook as he walked out the door. He waved a final time at Walter through the window and walked down the street toward the river.
   Walter saw Eddie periodically, in the months that followed and even talked him into that hot shower and a good night’s sleep once or twice. One evening while Walter was eating his dinner, a tapping on the diner window got his attention. Tony, one of Eddie’s friends who’d eaten with them one night, motioned to him. Wiping his mouth with a napkin, Walter went outside.
   “Mister Walter, you gotta come, something’s wrong with Eddie,” blurted the old man.
   “Where is he, Tony?”
   “In the park, hurry.” Tony hurried down the street with Walter in tow toward Riverfront Park.
   Walter found Eddie sitting on the ground against a big oak tree, his backpack next to him. “What’s wrong, Eddie?” asked Walter as he approached his friend. Getting no response, Walter bent over placing his finger against Eddie’s neck.  
  “He’s gone, Tony,” said Walter, not finding a pulse. Tony removed the old, battered fedora from his head, holding it over his heart.
   “What happened, Mister Walter?”
   “I guess he just wore out, Tony. Things like that happen.”
   After making a phone call, Walter waited with Tony until Eddie was loaded into the black van of the Medical Examiner.
   “What’s going to happen to Eddie now, Mister Walter?” asked Tony.
   “I’ll take care of everything, Tony, you just make sure all of Eddie’s friends are there.” Walter put his arm around Tony’s shoulders.
   “Everybody liked Eddie, Mister Walter, they’ll be there,” said Tony.
   Three days later, with a small gathering of his friends looking on, Eddie Collins was buried in the veteran’s section of West Ridge Cemetery. The local American Legion officiated the small memorial service that included a flag draped coffin and twenty-one gun salute. With Taps sounding, Eddie was laid to rest. Being the closest thing Eddie had to next of kin, they gave Walter the folded flag from Eddie’s coffin.
   Waiting until everyone left Eddie’s gravesite, Walter tucked the folded flag under his arm and walked back to the brownstone. Putting the flag on a shelf in his closet, Walter spotted Eddie’s backpack in a corner on the floor. He’d brought it home the night he found Eddie.
   Taking the backpack into his living room, he set it between his feet when he sat down on the sofa. Going through Eddie’s meager possessions, he found a key on a key ring in an inside pocket of the backpack. Not finding anything else, Walter returned the key to the backpack along with Eddie’s possessions.
   After returning the backpack to the closet Walter went to his desk, retrieving a pad of writing paper from a drawer. Writing a short letter, he folded it over the dog-eared photo, and slid it into an envelope. Addressing it to Shelly Collins, address unknown, Saint Louis, Missouri, he sealed it and put a stamp in its corner.
                                                             * * * *               
   Waving at Margie when he entered the diner, Walter slid into his favorite booth near the window. He turned over the white coffee mug when he saw Margie come around the corner of the counter.
   “Somebody was in here looking for you today,” informed Margie, slopping coffee into Walter’s mug.
   “This somebody have a name?” asked Walter, reaching for the sugar packets.
   “She said her name was Shelly Collins.”  Walter stopped in mid reach and looked up at Margie. It had been two months since he’d mailed his letter to Saint Louis. Considering it a long shot, he hadn’t been expecting a reply. “I told her you ate here every night and she said she would be back,” added Margie.
   Walter ordered a cheeseburger and fries and while he waited for Margie to bring his food, he thought about what he would say to Shelly Collins. He slipped the last bite of his burger into his mouth, when a blond, looking to be in her thirties, entered the diner. After a brief conversation, Margie pointed her in his direction.
   “Mister Gentry?” she asked, arriving at his table. “I’m Shelly Collins.”
   “Please, sit down, Miss Collins,” said Walter, motioning to the seat across from him. “Would you like some coffee?”
   “Yes, thank you.” Walter got Margie’s attention and pointed at Shelly’s mug.
   “ You knew my father?” asked Shelly, waiting until Margie poured her coffee.
   “I did.”
   “My mother told me my father died in Vietnam.”
   “I assure you that was not true. Your father was buried a couple of months ago.”
   “I would like to visit him.”
   Walter looked at his watch. “We’ve got some time before it gets dark, I’ll take you now. It’s a short walk from here.”
   “Did you know my father long?” asked Shelly, walking beside Walter.
   “I knew him long enough to know he never quit caring about his little girl,” replied Walter. Shelly fought back the tears and didn’t say another word until they walked through the gate of West Ridge Cemetery. Following behind Walter, they stopped at a small headstone with a small red, white and blue flag stuck in the ground in front of it, waving proudly in the breeze.
  The name EDDIE COLLINS was etched in broad letters across the headstone. Below it were three question marks where Eddie’s birth date should have been and then the date Eddie died. Shelly knelt beside the headstone, putting her hand on it just above Eddie’s name. Walter put his hand on Shelly’s shoulder when she bowed her head and let the tears flow free. After a couple of minutes she rose, wiping her tears with a tissue from her pocket.
   “Can I see where he lived?” she asked.
   Smiling at Shelly, Walter put his arm around her shoulders. It was almost dark when they reached the bridge over the river.  A fire burned bright under the bridge and they carefully walked down the narrow path that led to the river’s edge.
   Tony met them as they neared the encampment. “Howdy, Mister Walter, what brings you down here?”
   “Eddie’s daughter wanted to see where her father lived,” said Walter. Tony removed the old, battered fedora from his head, squeezing it between his hands.
   “This is Eddie’s daughter?” asked Tony; a slight smile touched his face.
   “Tony, meet Shelly Collins. Shelly, this is Tony, Your father’s closest friend.”
   Shelly extended her hand to Tony. “Glad to meet you, Tony. Thanks for being friends with my father,” she said gratefully.
   “It was easy being Eddie’s friend,” replied Tony, shaking Shelly’s hand. “Eddie was everyone’s friend. Come on over and meet the guys.” Tony led Shelly and Walter to the fire blazing in the big oil drum under the bridge.
   “Fellas, I want you all to meet Eddie’s daughter Shelly. Shelly, these are the guys. We were all Eddie’s friends and we miss him a lot.” The men standing around the fire removed their hats and murmured greetings to Eddie’s daughter. “And you already know Mister Walter,” added Tony. They all waved greetings at Walter.
   Shelly looked around the encampment at the assortment of tents and shanties. “Which one was my father’s?” she asked Tony.
   He walked them to a wooden shack at the edge of the bridge. “Nobody’s bothered it because we knew Mister Walter was looking for you.”
  Walter and Tony watched while Shelly walked up to the shack and lifted the hook, opening the door. Two mattresses covered by an old olive green blanket were against the back wall and an old table and two chairs under a makeshift window were the only furnishings in the small one room shack. On the table, with a couple of old magazines, sat a battered, gray lockbox. Not finding anything else in the shack, she picked up the lockbox as she turned to leave. Not being able to open it, she tucked it under her arm and walked out of the shack.
   “This was the only thing I found,” said Shelly, showing the lockbox to Walter.
   “That was Eddie’s secret box,” said Tony. “Nobody but Eddie knew what was in it.”
   “I think I have a key to it,” said Walter, “I found one in Eddie’s backpack that might fit it.”
   After thanking Tony and his friends for their hospitality, Shelly and Walter walked back to the brownstone and up to Walter’s apartment. Taking the lockbox to the kitchen table, she waited while Walter retrieved Eddie’s backpack.
   “All that Eddie owned is in this backpack,” said Walter, setting it on the table next to the lockbox. “The key is in the inside pocket.”
   He sat in the chair across from Shelly while she went through her father’s possessions. “He didn’t have much, did he?” asked Shelly, taking the key ring from the backpack.
   “He knew he had a little girl out there somewhere and that’s what kept him going,” replied Walter.
   Shelly slid the key into the lockbox, turned it and opened the lid. Taking out four blue boxes, she laid them side-by-side on the table. She opened each box in turn revealing a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts. She looked up at Walter and reached back into the box. She unfolded two documents and read about her father’s actions “in the face of the enemy” and “without regard for his own life.”
   “Says my father was a hero,” she said, handing the documents to Walter. She reached back into the box, lifting out an old picture of a group of soldiers dressed in fatigues and wearing green berets. She spotted Eddie kneeling in the front row with his arm around another familiar face. She slid the photo in front of Walter.
   “Recognize the guy next to my father in the front row?” she asked.
   Squinting his eyes, Walter concentrated on the face next to Eddie. “Tony?”
   Shelly nodded her head. “He knew all along what we would find.”
   “There’s one more thing in the box,” said Walter, peeking into the box and pointing to an old wrinkled envelope with Shelly’s name on the front. Opening the envelope, Shelly read the letter inside. Tears streamed down her face as she folded the letter, putting it back in the envelope.
   “I wish I would have known,” she said, wiping the tears from her eyes, “ I would have come back.”
     Returning the medals and papers to the box, she stuffed it back into Eddie’s backpack. “Thank you for letting me know about my father, Walter.”
   “It was the least I could do for Eddie to try to find his little girl.”
   Shelly smiled and hugged Walter. “I’ll be going back to Saint Louis now.” Shelly picked up Eddie’s backpack and Walter walked her down to the foyer.
   “I hope to come back sometime, can I look you up?” asked Shelly.
   “I’d be upset if you didn’t,” replied Walter, getting a smile and wave from Shelly as she walked down the brownstone steps.

   Tony rose from his knee, as Walter approached Eddie’s grave.  A Green Beret hung on one side of the small flag. On the other side was a bouquet of flowers left by Shelly.
   “How’d it happen, Tony?” asked Walter, walking up beside the old veteran. Tony looked up at Walter, then back down at the grave.
    “It was supposed to be a routine patrol,” started Tony, “we were supposed to go out about a klick and set up. But, the gooks was waitin’ for us. They caught us in a cross fire and there was nothin’ we could do but try to fight our way out of it. I took two hits right off, but Eddie stood there like he was bulletproof, firing back at them gooks. When he got clipped in the arm, he figured it was too hot and grabbed my collar and drug me through the bush. He finally threw me over his shoulder and got us out of there. We was the only two that made it back. I owed Eddie my life. We worked at the factory when we came back, but when they shut down we didn’t have nowhere to go. So we joined the rest of the boys that lost their jobs under the bridge. But, he never forgot his little girl.”
    They stood in silence for a couple of minutes, and then Walter slid his arm across Tony’s shoulders. “I don’t know about you, Tony, but I could use a cup of coffee. What say you and me go down to the diner, I’ll even buy you dinner.”
   “Think they’ll let me in there?”
   Walter chuckled. “I think they will.”

Copyright 2010 by Larry Payne

Monday, June 20, 2011

Prologue To Freelancers...A New Look On An Old Manuscript

  I dusted off an old manuscript and started reading it. I realized how much I missed these characters. So a revival is in progress.


Prologue

   The fire crackled in the fireplace as Trace Brodine wiped the condensation from the window with the side of his hand. He reached down into the fireplace for a flaming twig and held it up to the cigar between his lips, turning it gently until the end glowed red. He tossed the twig back into the fireplace and looked up at the sleet bouncing off the pane of the den window. The winter storm they’d predicted for a couple of days had finally arrived.

   He took a long draw of the cigar and removed it from his mouth. He blew smoke rings toward the ceiling and looked at the cigar between his fingers. The retired freighter learned to savor these moments, since the cigars were becoming harder to find and he was down to his last box. He’d have to pay a visit to his old friends on the freight docks that always seemed to be able find him an extra box or two.

   He turned from the window and gingerly lowered himself into his favorite armchair in front of the fireplace. Years of spending nights in his freighter protecting his cargo had finally caught up to him.  He leaned back in his chair and watched the firelight dance on the walls and ceiling while the freezing rain tapped at the window. A smile broke across his face at the laughter and the sound of little footsteps running down the hallway toward the den.

   “Those things stink, Grandpa,” said the curly, red haired little girl, holding her nose when she stopped in front of his chair.

   He tamped out the cigar, set it in the ashtray and picked up his frowning granddaughter and sat her on his lap. Her curly, red haired twin brother ran up to his chair a second later. The six-year-old twins were his pride and joy.

   “Tell us a story, Grandpa,” requested Jenna, as her brother climbed up into his grandfather’s lap opposite his sister.

   “Tell us about space pirates,” demanded Jason. Trace put his arms around his grandchildren and settled them in his lap.

   “I’ll do better than that,” he answered, looking over at his smiling daughter, Rena, who’d eased into the room and settled herself into the other armchair in front of the fireplace. Her fire red hair draping her shoulders left no doubt as to who the children belonged to. “I’ll tell you about the most feared bounty hunter in the galaxy.”

   “Yeah,” replied the twins in unison.

   “And the story I’ll tell is true,” he continued, “because your mommy and I were both there.”  



Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Excerpt from Guns Of The Rangeland...Book 2 of the Savage Land Series...A Work In Progress

   Jake Hollister stepped from the CafĂ© onto the boardwalk. Pulling the fixings from his shirt pocket, he rolled a cigarette, sticking it in the corner of his mouth. Searching his pockets for a match, he thought about the week of quiet that prevailed since the raid on Ab MacGregor’s ranch and wondered how much longer it would last.
   Finding a match in his pants pocket, he struck it on the doorjamb. Lighting the quirley, he spotted Ab MacGregor and his son, Harley riding down the opposite side of the street. Waving out the flame, he threw the match into the street, watching the ranchers dismount and hitch their horses. Stepping up on the boardwalk, they shouldered through the batwings of the LA ROSA cantina. He stepped down from the boardwalk and strode across the street to his office where Zac Benson sat outside.
   “See who just rode into town?” asked his deputy, when Jake stepped up on the boardwalk.
  The sheriff nodded his head and sat down in the chair next to Zac. “Yeah, I did,” he answered. “The MacGregors don’t usually come to town during the week.”
   “I got a funny feelin’ the quiet times around here are about to come to an end,” uttered Zac.
   Looking down the street, a rider caught Jake’s attention, bobbing in his saddle to the gait of the gelding dun. Any doubt Jake had to the identity of the rider was erased when he rode by wearing the ivory handled Colt. The crossed gunbelts told him an identical gun rested in a holster on the opposite hip.
   Riding by them, the gunman glanced down at the two lawmen. A long scar, the gift of a long ago knife fight, started at his chin and disappeared under his hat causing a permanent sneer on his face.
   Dismounting in front of the LA ROSA cantina, the rider hitched his horse between the two MacGregor horses. Walking around behind his mount, he patted the dun on his flank and looked over toward Jake and Zac. He stepped up on the boardwalk accompanied by the soft jangle of his spurs and pushed through he batwings of the cantina.
   “Was that who I think it was?” asked Zac.
   Jake nodded at his deputy. “Reed McNally.”
   “First, Mac Prescott, then Spence Delman and his slimy bunch and now Reed McNally. Who’s gonna show up next?” asked Zac.
   “Don’t ask,” replied Jake, rising from his chair. “Guess I’ll go see what brought McNally to Bannock.” Accompanied by Lobo, he started toward the cantina. Popping up from his chair, Zac followed close behind.
   Jake pushed through the batwings, holding them open while he surveyed the room. Nearest to him, at the end of the bar, stood Rosa Dejesus, owner of the cantina. The ever-present pink rose adorned her raven black hair. She glided toward the two lawmen when they pushed into the cantina.
   “Senor, sheriff, what brings you to Rosa’s cantina?” she asked.
   “A fella came in here, two guns and a big scar,” replied Jake running his thumbnail down the side of his face.
   “Si,” Rosa replied, “he sits with Senor MacGregor.” She nodded toward the back of the room. Jake thanked her and he and Zac walked toward the MacGregors.
   Ab MacGregor sat back in his chair when the two lawmen neared their table. “Afternoon, sheriff,” greeted the rancher.
   “Ab, Harley,” responded Jake, nodding at the father and son. He looked over at Reed McNally, whose attempt at a smile made the sneer appear more sinister.
   “Sheriff,” greeted the gunman with a barely noticeable nod.
   Jake put a boot on the empty chair and leaned forward on his knee. “What brings you to Bannock, McNally?”
   “I hired Mister McNally, sheriff,” interrupted Ab. Jake looked over at the elder MacGregor.
   “For security reasons,” added Harley with a smile.
   Jake looked back at Zac who gave him a shrug of his shoulders. Looking at the ranchers and the gunman in turn, he removed his boot from the chair.
   “You gentlemen have a nice day.” Touching a finger to his hat, Jake turned from the table, waving at Rosa as he walked from the cantina.
   “I think all the quiet days are about to come to an end,” mocked Jake as he and Zac walked back to the sheriff’s office.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Happenings

   Guns Of The Range Land, Book 2 of my Savage Land series, is progressing nicely. I've introduced a minor character, Reverend Josiah Black, a gun-toting preacher, who's story will be told around Book 4 in The Reverend Mister Black. You gotta pay attention 'cause you never know who's gonna turn up in the next book.
   The jury is still out on Blake Tanner. I'm still waiting anxiously to hear the verdict on whether my Private Investigator hits the big time or not. To be on the safe side, I rummaged through his files for another case. You'll know when I know.    Talk to you soon!

                                                                         Larry
        
 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Excerpt from Guns Of The Range Land, Book 2 of the Savage Land Series...A Work In Progress

   Spence Delman led his drovers whooping and hollering into Bannock. Townspeople scurried to avoid the oncoming riders. Dismounting in front of O’Reilly’s Saloon, they hitched their horses and stormed through the batwings. Shoving anyone in their way, they lined up along the bar.
   “Bartender, whiskey for the boys,” shouted Spence Delman, slapping his hand down on the bar. Al Parker put a line of shot glasses on the bar.
   “No glasses, just the bottles,” added Delman.
   “I’ll have to fill some,” the bartender informed the trail boss and put the glasses back under the bar. Putting four full bottles on the bar, he hurried to the back room.
   Spence Delman slid three of the bottles down the bar, pulling the cork on the fourth bottle with his teeth. Spitting the cork behind the bar, he turned up the bottle.
   Drawing his gun, Ace Duncan fired three shots into the ceiling and was promptly joined by others at the bar. Al Parker rushed from the back room at the sound of gunshots and ran into Sean O’Reilly coming out of his office. The owner of the saloon grabbed his swamper, Leon Kelly, by the arm. “Go get the sheriff.”
   O’Reilly’s attention turned to the cries of one of his girls struggling against being dragged up the stairs to the second floor by Ace Duncan much to the delight of his companions. The owner started to object when he saw two heads appear over the batwings.
   Jake Hollister and Zac Benson pushed into the saloon. The blast of Jake’s scattergun into the ceiling silenced the room. “Nobody move,” yelled the sheriff.
   “Let the girl go,” ordered Zac and watched the girl rush down the stairs when Ace Duncan released her wrist.
   “Who started this ruckus?” asked Jake.
   Spence Delman pushed away from the bar. “Sheriff, we was just kickin’ up our heels a little. We just come off a long trail drive and was havin’ a little fun is all.”
   “O’Reilly, you see who started this?” Jake asked the saloon owner.
   “No, sheriff, I didn’t.”
   Jake walked past the silenced cowboys. “I oughta run the whole lot of you in. But, then I’d have to feed you.”
   “Sheriff Hollister, I think I can make your job a little easier,” shouted Bret Hanley. Rising from his seat at a corner table, all eyes turned to the gambler as he weaved his way through the crowd toward Jake.
   “Mister, you better mind your own business,” warned Spence Delman.
   The gambler stopped in front of the Diamondback trail boss. “Your shenanigans broke up a game I had going back there and cost me a winning streak. You made it my business.”  The gambler turned to Jake.
   “The gent who started this mess is right there.” Hanley pointed out Ace Duncan standing at the bottom of the staircase.
   “All of you, unbuckle your gunbelts,” ordered the sheriff.
   “Wait a minute, sheriff,” objected Delman, stepping toward Jake.
   The sheriff hammered back the scattergun freezing the trail boss. Sensing defeat, Delman unbuckled his gunbelt and let it drop. One by one, gunbelts thudded to the floor.
   “Now, step away,” ordered Jake. Ace Duncan started to move. “Not you,” Jake shouted, “you’re under arrest.”
   “Miss Thorn ain’t gonna take kindly to you arrestin’ one of her boys,” informed Delman.
   “You ride for Diamondback?” asked Jake.
   “We drove a herd up here for her,” replied Delman.
   “O’Reilly,” shouted Jake, “make a list of damages and I’ll make sure Miss Thorn gets it.”
   The saloon owner waved at Jake. “Sure thing, sheriff.”
   Jake waggled the scattergun at Ace Duncan. “You’re comin’ with me. We got a nice secure cell for you.”
   Jake waited behind Duncan while Zac Benson and Bret Hanley collected the gunbelts.
“You boys can claim your guns when you leave town,” Zac informed the cowboys.
   “This ain’t over, card sharp,” said Delman when Hanley walked by him with the gunbelts.
   The gambler stepped back toward the trail boss. “When you want to finish it, mister, you know where you can find me.”