Western Fiction posted February 9, 2022

Not yet exceptional. When the exceptional rating is reached this is highlighted
Written while watching The Duke himself.

Jim Beamed

by Ethan Vandervelden

The author has placed a warning on this post for violence.

Wiping his dirty, pock-scarred face with a blue handkerchief, Harold sauntered into the saloon for his daily fill. He strode across the old wooden floor leaving a trail of dust from his boots and trousers.

“Geez Hank, d…d…don…don’t y…y…y…you ev…ever…ever wash?”

“Don’t ‘spose it's none of yer’ business,” Harold replied, dropping into a stool at the bar.

“He…hey now, that’s n…n…not n…nice,”

“Whatever Jim, just gimme a drink,” he leaned over bar towards Jim and whispered, “whiskey, and not that watered-down stuff you give the highfalutin city slickers,” he pointed with a thumb over his shoulder towards a table of well-dressed men.

“You go…got it H…Hank.” With a smile, Jim reached under the counter and produced a large bottle and a short glass.

“Ahh. You’re a good friend Little Jim, you might even be my best friend. Another!”

“Pretty s…sure I…I…I’m your only f…f…friend,” Jim stammered as he slid the glass back to him. “You s…seem like you m…must be cel…cel…celebrating."

“Shore am. I caught that Tucker feller today, gonna take him to Sheriff Russel for a payday after I have one more drink.”

“Wherebouts is h...he? You d…didn’t p…parade him a…around like you u…usually d…do,” the little bartender asked, his forehead wrinkling as he struggled to get the words out.    

“Well, yah see. It was a dead or alive bounty. And just so happened the Tucker fella weren’t quite willin’ to come without a fight.”

“Did I hear you say Tucker?” The clinking of spurs rang across the floor behind them.

“Guess it depends on who I’m talking too, fancy pants.” Hank looked forward in the mirror behind Jim and saw a tall man in the reflection.

“Tucker’s boss.”

“That so? What name your mama give you?”

The man looked back at him in the mirror, “Garner Adams. And you would be?”

Hank turned to size up his visitor. A black trench coat covered his dark clothing and a pair of pearl handled pistols in leather holsters hung on his hips. “You like black and shiny hey? Name’s Harold. My friends call me Hank.”

“Th…that would be m…me. I…I’m his fr…friend,” Jim said interjecting himself into the conversation and sticking out a bony hand to Garner.

The gunslinger ignored him.

Hank watched Jim’s boyish confusion at being disregarded, “Call me Harold, I heard you put the cash up for old Tucker.” He offered a handshake which Garner accepted firmly. Harold began to squeeze and waited for Garner to crumble. Instead, he was met with a grip not unlike his own.

“Tucker was a cattle thief, didn’t you know?”  an evil smile revealed yellowing teeth.

“Yeah, I ‘spose that’s so.” Hank squeezed harder and was matched in strength.

“Well, it just so happens he was stealing from the wrong man.”

“Y…y…you don’t look m…m…much like a rancher s…s…sir,” Jim spoke up, while wiping down the bar in front of Hank’s three empty glasses.

“Of course I’m not a rancher, say, why don’t you could get us some brandy, barkeep.”

Jim turned and walked down the bar with a whistle. He returned a moment later with one snifter and a decanter of brandy.

“Are you dumb in the head lad? I said, ‘us’ meaning two glasses.” He let go of Harold and held up two fingers towards him. Secretly relieved the battle of strength was over, Hank took his whiskey in hand.

“You did fine Jim. I’m not much of a brandy man Mr. Garner. Now what can I do for yah? I doubt your here to talk about the weather.”

“I need a replacement for Tucker. Pays handsomely,”

Hank took his fourth glass, as Jim slid it to him. “Tell you what, you meet be here in a couple hours after I’ve had a rest, a bath, and dropped off my cargo. Then we can chat about this job.”

“Here?” Garner looked disdainfully towards Jim. “How about the Debutant Hotel.”

“Dandy, I’ll see you then.” Hank slammed his glass down on the shiny bar. Dropping from his chair he moved towards the door.

“H…hey you gonna p…p…pay?”

“Put it on my tab Little Jim! May as well leave it open for now.” He turned, gave Jim a wink and tipped his hat to Garner as he sauntered out the door.
Sure…I’ll just put it on your tab with all the others. Little Jim chuckled and shook his head.              

Harold stepped off the veranda and untied his bay-coloured mare, Sally. Tuckers body hung unmoving just behind the saddle. “Good, right where I left you.” It wasn’t clear if he was talking to the horse or Tucker’s corpse. Jumping on, he prodded Sally with his heel, down the street towards the sheriff’s office.

Sally spread the Oklahoma dust like a cloud as she dutifully carried Harold across town. Past the general store and the stables on one side, and on the other side the mighty Debutant Hotel stood proudly. The only building in town with more than two stories, the hotel boasted a gambling den, a full bar and a stage known to host dancing girls once a month. Also, the only place in town a lonely cowboy might find some company in the late night hours.

Arriving at the Sheriff’s office, a couple wide-eyed ladies in long dresses stared at the body hanging off Sally’s backside.

“What? Ain’t yah never seen a dead outlaw before? Come on over, have a good look,” Harold laughed as the ladies quickly scurried away. Climbing off his horse he banged the door open to the sheriff’s office.  

“Afternoon Ms. Dottie, you’re looking mighty fine today! Have you bought a new hat?"

Dottie looked back at him unsurprised at his condition “I did get a new hat, I am surprised you can see straight enough to notice.”

“A blind man can see well enough to notice a beautiful, dark-haired, fine dressed, gorgeous, high society…” he paused trying to think of more compliments, “full busted. . .”

“Harold Otis Collins! That’s quite enough. I’m betrothed now you know.”

Hank laughed, “Well it ain’t the first time you been engaged and I’m betting it won’t be the last neither.”

Belly first, a star clad man with a ten-gallon hat joined them from a back room.


“Howdy Russel! Good to see you!”

Sheriff Russel looked him up and down, “Hi Harold.” then turned to Dottie, “Run along now Dottie, I’ll see you later.” Dottie kissed him on the cheek, said her goodbyes and delicately left the office.  

“So, you and Ms. Dottie! When’s the date Sheriff?”

“Don’t you worry, you’ll get your invitation. Just like every other Tom, Dick and Harry in Dogwood.”

“Well, I got you an early wedding present on the back of Sally.”

“Tucker? Already? Kinda quick for you, isn’t it? We just put bounty out yesterday.” The blond haired, pudgy sheriff appeared surprised. “I half planned to go looking for your body when you got into a tangle.”

“He came quite willingly, I don’t know what you were so worried for. Where do you want him?”

“In the cell of course. Where else would you put ‘em?”

“You bet.”  Harold nodded to the middle-aged man and went to collect Tucker’s body. Sheriff’s gon’ be some pissed when he realizes he’s got a dead body sittin' in his cell. He laughed to himself as he shouldered the deadweight and walked in the door.

“You didn’t tell me you shot him! Take em’ out the back way, Man.”

“Nah, you said you wanted him in the cell so that’s where he goes.”

Harold roughly dumped off Tucker on the cot. “Now. Let’s have it. I have places to be.”

“Geez man. Luther’s going to be in a some foul mood after he has to cart the body out to his carriage to casket him.”

“Seems like a Luther problem. Bounty?”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m getting there.” Sheriff Russel flipped through a jangle of keys with one hand on his locked desk.

“Anytime now would be great.”

Russel finally handed him an envelope. “There you be. Now, I ‘spose you met Garner Adams down at Jim’s?”

“Supposing I did, how’d you know I was at Jim’s?”

“You’re a creature of habit Harold, well that, and you reek of Jim’s cheap whiskey. About that Mr. Adams, what did he say to you?”

“Told me he had animals stolen.”

“Yeah, told me the same. ‘Cept I just got a telegraph this morning. Here, have a read.”

Hank took the small card.

To Sheriff Russel Bowker of Dogwood STOP
Known gun fighter cattle rustlers and thieves headed your way STOP
Gun fighter wearing all black left three men dead in townsend STOP
Couple of his gang ran their mouths at the saloon and mentioned heading to dogwood to meet with him for some QUOTE easy pickens STOP
Townsend sheriff was just glad to be rid of him and did not chase STOP
They say he is fast and ruthless seemed to enjoy the killing STOP
I broke a leg when my horse fell and am laid up here for a while STOP
Sincerely Deputy Charlie Carmichael


“So, what’s Charlie doing in Townsend?”

“Sent him there after Tucker, seems he found the gang and you found Tucker. Anywhose, if Charlie is right, Garner Adams would fit the bill.”

“So why did Garner put up the bounty for Tucker?”

“I’m guessing Tucker got greedy and took something on the side for himself. And Garner was gambling that I would send both my deputies after Tucker and most folks like yourself would be out looking to score some coin. Good time to take advantage of a little town like ours.”

“‘Folks like myself hey? I resent that a little Sheriff.”  

“Resent all you want, I offered you the deputy job and you said no. If I’m right, Garner’s plan played out nicely for him.”

Hank took off his hat and scratched his fuzzy head struggling to think clearly. He had known Sheriff Russel for nigh on ten years. Russel didn’t get it wrong very often. “Funny thing, I’m meeting Garner tonight at the Debutant. He said he had a job for me.”

Russel’s face twitched. “I’m guessing he wants to size you up. With Tucker gone he probably needs a replacement, and if we are honest, you do have the semblance of a gun for hire.”

“Well, I am a gun for hire, but I try to listen to the angel on the right, not the devil on the left. So, what do you want me to do? Provided I’m getting paid I mean, the angel does need to pay for a golden halo after all.”

“See what the man has to say, we might have him completely misjudged. But go see what he has to offer at least till we know more. I won’t be far if it all goes South”

“And the getting’ paid part?”

Russel looked straight into Hanks cool blue eyes, “I’ll talk to the angel on your shoulder and I’m sure she will talk to some fine ladies at the Debutant who will happily repay you.”

“Done deal.”

“Cigars and brandy barkeep!” Garner Adams barked at the man behind the bar at the Debutant.

Little Jim watched from behind the big upright piano as the men gathered around the table. Dottie stood with some of her girls nearby, all wearing frilly, though revealing dresses.

Mr. Adams sat with two cowboys on either side of him and Harold across from him. Garner introduced them as Carter and Morgan. A brown beard covered Carter’s face and he wore a ragged hat. Morgan looked caught between a man and a boy and Hank was guessing he couldn’t be much older than 19, he figured Carter to be in his forties. 

“I am a man of purpose Harold. So let’s get to the point.”

Little Jim banged a tune on the piano in the background. Adams glared, annoyed at Jim’s unexpected presence. Jim either didn’t notice or didn’t care, as he happily continued his evening job of entertainment.

“Tucker was my number two. But I don’t much like getting stole from. Now I am in need of a replacement.”

“I’m listening,” Harold said striking a match and lighting his cigar.

“I run what you call a business. I sell security and health. And I make people offers they can’t refuse.”

“I see.” Hank hid the emotion in his face, and spoke plainly, “When you say, ‘offers they can’t refuse,’ what exactly does that mean?” 

Garner leaned forward, his voice raised and his dark eyes serious, “I mean I get what I want one way or another. You seem like a sensible man, I’m sure you can understand exactly what I mean.” He continued staring at Harold.

“Well, I reckon’ I understand, I also reckon you had the same deal with old Tucker. So what went wrong?”

Garner's face instantly flashed red. “I already told you Tucker was a thief! He was taking a cut from every job we pulled.”

The music had stopped and Jim stood up from the piano at Garners shouting. The room grew quiet.

If possible Garner turned an even deeper shade of red. “Play that thing, stammer-mouth! And mind your business! All you, mind your business!” Most everyone complied.

Not Dottie. “Why don’t you make us, mister!”

“Listen here you bar room, flesh peddling, whoremaster. . .”

“Best you calm down there Adams,” Hank interrupted, trying to keep his voice even, as he wondered how nice it would feel to lay a licking on Garner.   

The door banged opened, and the large frame of Sheriff Russel walked in. Rifle in hand, pointed straight at Garner.

“That’s my wife-to-be Garner. I’d shut your mouth and walk out the door if I were you.”

Rage across his face, Garner looked to be considering his options. He didn’t think too long. “Lets go boys. You coming Harold?”

“Nah, I don’t think you're quite my type.”

Marching out in a huff, Garner and his two flunkies left the door swinging behind them as Russel watched them every step of the way.
Russel breathed a sigh of relief as he heard the men get on their horses and ride out of town.

“It’s alright folks carry on.” Jim sat back down and started playing, soon the room was again filled with conversation, mostly about the men who just left.

“Well Russel, I’d say that would be your man.”

“Yeah. He’s coming back, isn’t he.”

Harold nodded, “I reckon so.”

“Let’s go for a walk.”

Jim watched his friend leave with the sheriff and shook his head. He’s gonna get himself killed.
“Garner Adams, you’re under arrest.”

Garner stood beside Carter and Morgan; they were spread wide across the street walking further into the town. “That so Russel? Whose taking me in? You?” He looked smug and confident.

“I guess the two of us will Adams,” Hank answered from beside the sheriff. Cleaned up, shaved, and in his best Sunday clothes with his short-barreled 45 Colt hanging low in a worn leather holster. His head was a little more clear, and his mind sober.

“You look ready for a funeral. I’m glad you got prepared to get put in a pine box.”

Wind whistled across the empty street. Townspeople were packed on the wooden walkways, watching, and waiting for someone to draw.  

“I might be headed for a funeral, but it ain’t gonna be mine. Morgan, you don’t need to go down like this. Take a walk.” Hank looked at the young man as he spoke.

“I’m shooting you first. You got a ugly face,” Morgan sneered.

“Carter what about you?”

Carter guffawed, “Not sure about you Harold, but I’m pretty sure you two are outnumbered.”

“That was your plan?” Russel looked at Hank, “Just ask them to leave?”

“Never said it was a good plan.”

The silence that grew in the next few moments was deafening. Garner pulled his coat back, revealing the pearl-handled six guns on his hips. Carter and Morgan widened their stance, each with a hand over their revolvers. Hank’s gaze met Garners eyes, and each waited for the other to move.

It was Carter who was the first to twitch, and Hank drew as he saw him move out of the corner of his eye. Carter’s first shot went wildly low, but Hank’s shot found its home deep in Carter’s chest. Hank felt a bullet enter his knee and then one in his shoulder as Morgan kept his promise. Responding to Morgan with a pair of bullets that sent him to the promised land, Russel’s six gun spoke.

The smoke from Adams matching pistols was already wafting away as Russel realized his gut was burning from the inside. He collapsed ten feet from Hank who was scrambling to grab a gun with his off hand.

A shot rang out, and a spray of sand rendered Hank blind. Another shot ricocheted off the pistol he was reaching for, bouncing it further away.

“Looks like it might be your funeral after all there, Hank.” Garner strode towards him. “Pretty funny you shooting Carter first.” Adams cocked his gun, while standing over a bleeding Hank, his pistol pointed right between the baby blues “Now why did you do that?” Devilish amusement covered his face.

Hank looked up with a pained smile. "Call me Harold."  

Two more gunshots. One right after the other.

Garner’s head snapped up not knowing where the shots came from. A cloud of powder smoke rose from the end of a double barrel sawed-off shotgun.

“D…D…Didn’t much care f…f…for you Mr. Adams.”

Garner looked down at his crimson splattered chest and fell to his knees. “Damn…st…stammermouth.”
Sheriff Russel blinked a few times and looked around. “What happened?” his voice was hoarse, but he sounded strong.  

Dotty looked at him lovingly, “You lived sweetie, that’s what happened.”

“See, the plan went off without a hitch. Told you we could handle them.” Hank enthuastically raised a flask towards the sheriff from another bed in the doctor’s tiny clinic.

“Without a hitch maybe, but how many stitches are holding me together.”    

“Doc said only nineteen. If your gut was smaller would have been less. Anyways’ we got him. Well. . .Jim got him.” The three looked towards the little fellow sitting on a stool.  

“D…d…don’t mu...much like it w…w…when folks m…make fun of the wa…way I talk," and Little Jim beamed.

Western Writing Contest contest entry

I grew up watching westerns of all sorts, though mostly John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. This little story was written after watching "McLintock!" one of The Duke's most comedic Westerns. I hope you enjoy.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Artwork by MoonWillow at FanArtReview.com

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