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(Tombstone, Arizona Territory, 1880)

A crowd gathered, straining to peer inside the saloon. An old man, slightly bow-legged, ran as fast as he could, shouting, “Make way!” pushing through the the growing throng of people.

“Hey, mister,” a young boy said, pulling at a tall bystander’s sleeve, “what’s goin on?”

Craning his neck, the lanky man said, “Don’t rightly know, some say there’s been a shootin’.”

Inside the saloon, Doc Goodfellow knelt, examining the body. Deputy Kade emerged through the throng, winded.

“I think she was…” the town’s physician began.

Kade, bent over with hands on his knees, put one palm up, saying, “A minute,” breathing heavily, face red and perspiring. Having caught his breath after a moment, Deputy Sheriff Kade asked, “Is she dead?”

Doc said, “She’s as dead as I ever seen.”

Did she fall?

“Did she fall? Was it an accident?” Kade straightened up.

Looking at the obvious exit wound and blood soaked clothes, the doctor said, “No, she was shot.”

“Yes sir,” piped up Amos, “shot by a big black man. Never seen him before last evenin’. I saw her tumble over the rail, was the darndest thing, like she was taken her time fallin’. Dic and I barely got out of the way before she flattened the table.”

“So, it was murder?” Kade asked.

Amos looked at the doctor, whose patience was wearing thin. The doc stood up, “Yup, I reckon so.”



“Yah!” Derek shouted as he whipped his horse with the ends of the reigns, side to side, goading him onward. Fallon tried to keep up, staying to his side out of the dust.

After a few more miles Fallon yelled, “Sir, you have slow down! You’re gonna run the horses to death!”

Most of his attention fixed on avoiding obstacles on the dwindling trail ahead, Derek heard something faint to his right side. Finally he made out, “Stop!” realizing it was Fallon who yelled.

His lathered ride skidded to a stop as Derek pulled back hard on the bit in the horse’s mouth. Fallon’s horse overshot Derek’s saw Fallon bring hers to a standstill also. Coming around walking her sweat-soaked mare, Fallon said, “We have to slow down, the horses can’t take the pace.”

Derek nodded, dismounting, and proceeded to replace a bullet in his Winchester. Running his hand lightly over the gelding’s backside, he walked around to the other side of his horse. He lifted up the canteen and shook it, commenting, “We need’s water.”

“There’s a nature spring up there in those hills near the old stagecoach station,” Fallon pointed to the northeast. In the distance jutting mountains poked through the flat desert like so many blunted knives through paper. Running her fingers through her hair trying to get out the worst tangles, she looked at Derek, going through the saddle bags, searching for anything useful.

“We already gots food, but we needs bullets and grain for the horses. Might be able to pick some supplies at the stage,” Derek said.

Sir, I’m not sorry

Coming up to the big black man, Fallon reached up and laid her hand on his shoulder. She sensed his back muscles stiffen, then relax. “Sir, I’m not sorry you had to shoot her. Thanks for saving me.”

Stopping for a moment as if steadying himself, Derek replied, “I’s don’t know if it were right or wrong, but it done now. My’s name’s Derek, by’s the way, you can calls me that.” He looked up at the sky, “We better get on a few more miles before sundown. I’s glad you brought your blanket, we can’t’s have a fire tonight.”

Fallon felt sore all over. It had been a long time since she’d ridden, and never that hard. During her years with the Apache she always walked, even if the other women rode.

Derek said, “Best walk the horses, cool’s them down a bit.”

The Dragoon Mountains gradually grew bigger as they walked on. Fallon felt an apprehension growing in her stomach. The brutality of the Calvary raid that freed her from the Apache still weighed heavy on her heart. They’ll certainly be on the war path again. Will they blame me? Reigns held tight in her hands, she looked at Derek’s broad shoulders leading the way. Smiling a bit, she felt like her whole life never stopped changing, but this time it might be in a good way. Isn’t that just plumb funny.


Deputy Kade balanced on a short stool realizing that all eyes were focused on him. Since a young boy, he had always admired the law, and played being a sheriff with his stick pony, chasing bad outlaws. Now, today was his big chance. Grave, the assistant to the sheriff said, “All you folks are pretty shook up, I know I am,” wiping his brow with his red handkerchief. “We all knew Frannie, well most of us anyway.” Frowns formed on the few women present. “She was a hard woman, a business woman, not always understanding, or pleasant if rubbed the wrong way, or if you did not tip the girls. . . but she was one of us. The sheriff won’t be back from Tucson for at least a week, so I aim to get up a posse and go after the man that killed her.”

A slight murmur ran through the crowd, but Kade was unable to figure if it was positive or not.

Shaking his fist in the air like he’d seen other orators do, he declared, “Who’s with me!”

Another murmur. He wiped the sweat from his brow again, Tough crowd.

From a stool in the corner Dic piped up, “Given the prejudicious nature of the current state of affairs, and the belligerent demeanor of the fugitive, isn’t discretion called for?”

The whole room turned towards the old drover with confused looks on their faces.

Frowning, Dic said, “I say we wait for the sheriff to get back.”

This time, the murmuring seemed clearly positive.

“Now wait a minute, folks,” the deputy continued, “by the time the sheriff returns, this killer could cross the border to another territory or even Mexico!”


I ain’t sorry

One woman, in a broad rimmed hat and ranch clothes said, “I ain’t sorry she’s dead. My Rodger, God rest his sorry soul, couldn’t keep away from her calico cats when he was livin’. Between the drinkin’, gamblin’ and Frannie’s sportin’ ladies, I hardly kept food on the table for our youngin’s. As far as I’m concerned, I’ll thank the man who done her in. That’s my two cents.”

Amos added, “She was awful cantankerous, Deputy.”

To that, the crowd sounded in broad agreement.

“It’s the principle of the thing, Amos, we gots to uphold the law! Hand up, spreading wide, looking round, “If we start making exceptions, where does it stop? We can’t let HIM GO FREE!”

“But just this once, Deputy?” another man said from the crowd. “Like Amos said, nobody liked her much.”

Dic was sure the man who spoke up was the one he’d seen descending the stairs in tears a couple of weeks earlier.

Five dollars and a drink

Looking around the room, Kade exclaimed, “Oh gosh dang nab it! I’ll pay five dollars and buy a drink for any man who’ll volunteer for the posse.”

That’s technically not volunteering, Dic thought.

Amos was the first to change his mind, “Okay! I’ll drink to that!”

Another young man came forward, saying, “I’m in, too.”

One of the husbands in the crowd started to say he would go, too, but his wife, who had her suspicions, slapped him up the back side of his head, saying in low, menacing tones, “Iffin’ you go, the pigs’s the only one you’ll be sleepin’ with from now on, mister.”

Big Shirley walked forward, “I think ditch diggin’ can wait a couple of days. I’ll go along for the ride – as long as I can bring Gloria.”

“Any other takers?” Kade asked, looking over the dispersing crowd.

My only condition

“I’ll go,” a man declared, walking through the thinning group, spurs jangling on the floor, poncho, hat and cig in place. “My only condition is, if it comes to a showdown, I face him alone.”

Dic had seen the angry black man come down the stairs looking like the angel of death. He imagined the words on Clyde’s tombstone might read: Here lies Lightnin’ Draw Clyde, he faced so-and-so alone, and died.

“Any other takers?”

Amos volunteered, “Dic will go, we’ll need a tracker, he’s the best in the county.”

Dic, rousing said, “Just a minute, I never…” Then looking at the others, he said, “Oh alright. But no more than three days.”


Last embers of the day

Fallon felt the cooling of the evening air on her cheeks as the last embers of the day slipped below the Arizona desert. Derek, mindful of his surroundings, found a good place to bed down. She could tell he was a man who knew his way around the wilderness. A smooth rock under his head, cowboy hat tipped forward, he looked like he was asleep. The ground feels good again, she thought, wrapping herself up in her blanket a few feet from Derek. Looking up at the stars sprinkled across the desert sky like fancy diamonds, she prayed quietly, “God, I know you have a plan in all this. I can’t see it for nothing, though. I ask you help us. . . and please, forgive Derek for what he done; don’t hold it against him.” Turning, she looked at her benefactor, wondering why he risked everything on her account.

Derek felt her gaze on him. What does she see in me? – his heart beating a bit harder.

He heard her footsteps approaching, then she laid down next to him, spreading her blanket over them both. Feeling her warmth, after a moment, he reached over and drew her close.