Everything changes for Matt Jordan, U.S. Marshal for the Territory of Colorado, when a bullet rips into his best friend's back. Will the Marshal be able to save J.T. Cutter's life? And will he discover the identity of the mysterious shooter with very little evidence and no witnesses?
The Inexperienced Outlaw.
Western Short Fiction by Lincoln Rogers.
Published by Echelon Press
The Inexperienced Outlaw
By Lincoln Rogers, copyright 2003
The bullet split the air, screaming towards the man blocking its path, a name written on its spinning side. It was a .44 caliber, propelled in an explosion of sound from the seven inch barrel of a modified 1860’s model revolver. Though the formed metal itself knew no evil intent, it did what it was designed for, cleaving the firmament until it hit something. A muscle perhaps, or maybe the hard shrill of bone.
J.T. Cutter’s face ran with streams of perspiration coursing down cheeks and neck until they joined to flood most of his cotton shirt. Arms and shoulders burned while they worked the double-headed ax in his hands, rising and falling like a pump handle as he provided his family enough fuel for heat and cooking to outlast the upcoming winter.
J.T. was short for Jonathon Thomas. He’d come to the Colorado Territory as a young man, his parents traveling here to try their hands at the gold rush of the early 1860’s. They didn’t come to work the gold itself; their economic course steered instead to the bustling frontier city of Denver, establishing an honest living selling supplies to hordes of wild-eyed prospectors. Now he was proud to be a deputy lawman for the city his parents called home, helping to keep Denver and its business establishments free from the presence of swindlers, gunfighters and two-bit outlaws.
He was taking advantage of time off and sunny late-August weather to finish long neglected chores around the small ranch. A smile appeared on his tanned face, forming shallow lines on otherwise smooth skin, as he pictured his wife’s surprise when she and the two boys returned with the Bellington family from a three-week visit with her Ma and Pa in western Kansas. The Bellington’s had kin in the same area and were kind enough to offer Emma and the two young boys a ride there and back. It worked out right fine. They had the chance to spend rare time with her kin and Cutter was able to do man’s work while they were away. Besides, he’d get a chance to spend a day with his good friend Matt Jordan before everyone was due back tomorrow afternoon.
His smile deteriorated to an expression of confusion and distress as a projectile slammed into his muscled back, knocking J.T. to his knees as he was readying a downward strike on the last piece of wood.
“I’ve been shot,” were the only words his bewilderment allowed. He had just seconds to try and make sense of his misfortune before falling on his chest, unconsciousness laying hold of him with darkness like the bottom of an empty well.
The iron-framed, dark mustached U.S. Marshal of the Territory of Colorado trotted his black and white steed in the direction of J.T. Cutter’s ranch. The two knew each other since boyhood and it was almost a year since they’d shared conversation and a cold beer. Matt Jordan was looking forward to catching up on news of the Cutters and the ever-expanding city of Denver. What he wasn’t looking forward to was revealing the other information he carried with him; information that Levi Stokes was freed from a Kansas prison on a technicality several days ago. This was the same murdering Levi Stokes J.T. arrested himself this past spring, wounding the outlaw’s leg in the process before literally dragging him from the back of his horse to Denver to send away for trial.
It seems Mr. Stokes had powerful friends holding sway with the Judge presiding over the case. Though near twenty-five people heard the shots and ran out into the Kansas dawn to see Stokes standing over a dead man with his pistol out, the judge ruled: “...since there were no direct eye-witnesses to the crime itself, there was no crime. Case dismissed.”
Jordan realized he had to tell Cutter sometime. If Stokes held to form, there was a chance his black heart was on its way to Denver right now, looking to make the Deputy pay for the pain and limp Levi will carry in his leg for the rest of his days...
“... you’ve got to get (The Inexperienced Outlaw). I loved the ending... I guarantee you won’t see it coming.”
Judith R. Parker- WWA Member and EPPIE Award winning author.