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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Sidewinder - 4. Chapter 4 Lawman

Proverbs 10:9

Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.





“Saw you boys ride out of town this morning. Y’all forget something?” Sheriff Willard asked in a slow drawl. He was a tall man with the hint of a belly, but his shoulders were broad, and he still came across as plenty powerful despite having some years on him. Leaning beside the doorway of his office with one booted foot against the wall, his expression was somewhere between amused and cagey as he watched them dismount.

Boone felt his narrowed gaze like a brand as he stepped up onto the boardwalk. Coy soon bumped against him, and he didn’t need to look to sense his nervousness. Those eyes were piercing when they were directed at yours. “We didn’t forget anything, Sheriff, but we do have something for you.”

The boards of the wooden walkway creaked under Coy’s shifting weight, the gunny sack swinging at his side. “We… Boone and me… we was wondering if we could talk in private. It’s about… well… it’s about Wes and Lee.”

“It is, eh?” the sheriff asked quiet-like, as if it was no surprise. “Saw you at their burying, but y’all left in a hurry. I was friends with those two for damn near twenty years, even back before they took the young fella in.”

“Dan, you mean?” Coy asked with a hitch in his voice.

“That be him. They called him Wes’s kid to avoid folks talking, and taught Dan to stick to that, but he belonged to both of them.”

That gaze shifted to Boone, who couldn’t help wondering why the man was telling them this, but the one thing he was sure of… Sheriff Willard was sizing him up. He felt relief when the man’s eyes flicked back to Coy after a long minute.

“Shame he ended up dying right in the middle of my street. Convinced he had good reason for calling your brother out. Would have stopped him if I knew what he was fixing to do.” He sighed and spat just clear of the boardwalk before continuing.

“Yep, damn good man, young Danny was. Your brother on the other hand....” His sudden sneer, like he’d just tasted something rotten, had Coy shifting his weight again, and the squeaking of wood seemed extra loud to Boone.

The sheriff stepped forward and spittle flew again, this time making it all the way out into the street. He cleared his throat as he turned and went through the doorway. “Anyhow… you gentlemen come on in and we’ll have us a private little talk.”

The office was empty, but Boone wondered if the jail in the back had any occupants.

“No one here but us,” the lawman said to Boone, as if he’d asked a question. He took a seat and gestured them into the two chairs on the other side of his desk. “So… what’s this all about?”

Coy, sitting quickly, exchanged a look with Boone before he tried to answer. “Ah… well….”

“Cat got your tongue, boy?”

“Give him a chance, Sheriff,” Boone said as he took his seat. “Coy, spit it out… what we came here for. Just tell the truth… we ain't got nothing to hide.”

Coy gave him a thankful glance before meeting the lawman’s curious scrutiny. “My brother shot… he killed Wes and Lee. Dan was right about that.”

The big man leaned back, the chair creaking under his weight, seeming completely relaxed, but his eyes had gone noticeably narrow. “You sure of this?”

They both nodded, and Coy answered, “Yes, sir.”

“And you’re just telling me this now?”

“Ah… I didn’t know until today… well, last night, but I was a mite… drunk… when Boone got round to telling me.”

“I was pretty sure the day after they was shot,” Boone said, “but I had to prove it to him. Not something a brother wants to hear.”

“I suppose not, unless he was involved in some way.” The sheriff was leaning forward now, and seemed to have gotten larger in the small room.

“He wasn’t, I swear to it.”

“They were my friends,” Coy said, sounding fearful, but meeting the man's direct gaze with his chin thrust forward.

“Fair enough… for now.” His posture relaxed a mite as he gave each of them a measuring stare. “Tell me, Dixon… just how did you prove it to him?”

“Ah… well... I needed to show him something, but Will was sticking close to camp, so I had to wait because… because he would have… ah, just show him, Coy.”

The gunny sack was lifted up onto the desk and let down with a thunk. Coy’s eyes met Boone’s, and he saw more fear. Sheriff Willard likely did too.

“In there… you’ll find a tin what belonged to Wes and Lee, and it has their gold in it,” Boone said calm as he could, mostly for his friend's sake. The man was sweating something awful. “There’s some paper money and a gun… don’t know who the gun belongs to, but it weren’t Will’s.”

Sheriff Willard opened the cloth sack, but kept his eyes on both of them. He brought the gun out first and his eyebrows rose as he examined the fancy grip. “Well, well, look at that.”

“You know who it belongs to?” Boone asked.

“I might.” He brought out the money next, moving it in his hand as if he was weighing it. “So you telling me you boys found this stuff in Will Diamond’s possession… or maybe in that canvas mess he called home?”

“Weren’t in neither place. I knew where his hidey hole was, up on the ridge across the river from our camp, and saw him stash something in it. I couldn’t be sure what it was until I had a look see after he left for town.”

The sheriff reached into the sack again, and brought out the gold. “And it was this here tin?”

“Yep. That very one. About made me sick.”

“When was this?”

“The night after the bodies were found up there above the falls. I had my suspicions Will had a hand in it, so I was keeping an eye on him.”

“So you’ve known since then, and I ain’t hearing it till now?” He was holding the tin in his hands, tracing the initials with his fingers before he opened it. “Sure as anything, this is theirs,” he muttered as if to himself. His eyes rose to Boone, waiting for his answer.

“I never said nothing to no one till I told Coy last night.”

“And why in tarnation not? A good man died because I had no proof. What’s the point in telling me now?” he asked angrily.

“Because it was the right thing to do, sir,” Coy answered for Boone. “He tried to protect me….”

“Protect you? What the hell does that mean?” His expression hardened, but Boone had expected this wasn’t going to be easy.

“It’s not what you’re thinking, Sheriff. Coy had nothing to do with it. I was protecting him from his brother because Will was a dangerous man… I think you know that, and I didn’t want to see anyone else get killed. Like I told you, Will was sticking close… he was back in camp minutes after I got back from finding that stuff, and he was nervous as a treed puma. Set me on edge, knowing what he did, but if he’d cottoned on that anyone knew for sure what he’d done, he’d have come after them with guns blazing, and that includes his own kin.” He met Coy’s shocked look briefly before continuing. “I didn’t know Dan was going to challenge him like he did, and I was late by a few breaths.”

“You were late for sure. You got that right, at least.”

“I know it,” Boone said, and hung his head. “I was trying to keep Dan from doing something reckless, and I wanted to keep everyone safe. I was thinking I had time, and I wanted to talk to Coy about turning Will in to you before we gave Dan his fathers’ gold and told him the truth. Then he went and got hisself killed anyway, even without the proof.”

Boone sighed, feeling powerful guilty. “I done it wrong, I know.” He sighed again. “Anyways, Coy was hurting bad, so I waited till after he buried his brother—his fourth one to be buried—before I told him about what was in Will’s hidey hole. Saw no sense to laying that on him before the service, seeing how Dan was already dead. If I could do it over….” His eyes began to burn as he pictured Dan laying in the street, blood seeping into the dirt, and his beautiful, brown eyes wide open with the light gone from them.

The sheriff grunted as he kept his hard gaze on Boone. “I knew for sure Will Diamond was dangerous.” Eventually he shifted it to Coy. “Do you really think your own brother would’ve shot you?”

“I… I don’t rightly know. I still have trouble believing he did such a thing to our friends. They were nothing but kind to him… they’d even share meals with him from time to time.”

“You got anymore family… ones I should be worried about coming around Red Bluff?”

“What? Oh, no, sir. One brother died young, and the twins drowned in a flood… and they were decent, hardworking men. Will was my last kin.”

The man peered into the tin again. “Not a lot of gold for the amount of work it took.”

“I swear we never took none… we wouldn’t do that!” Coy said fiercely.

“Settle down, boy. I believe you… saw this not too long ago, and that’s a fact.”

“There’s enough there to buy some land—that’s what they was going to do,” Boone said, having let the awful picture of Dan go. “I wish they’d done it sooner, before Will did what he did.”

Sheriff Willard snorted as he put the lid back on the tin. “They were never going to buy any land.”

“Sure they were,” Boone said. “They talked about it lots… it was their dream.”

“Son, I’ve known them a long time, and they had the fever. Land was a dream they could hang their hat on, but they’d have been mining till the day they died. Once you get the fever, it never lets you go. Dan had it too. He left a few times, thinking he could do something else, but he always came back. It would have been his life same as theirs, if he’d lived. I warned him more than a few times and the boy did try, but gold had too powerful a hold on him.”

Coy and Boone exchanged another look. Did they have the fever? Boone was certain he didn’t, but did Coy? “So what happens now, Sheriff?”

The man leaned back again. “Anything else to tell me? Anything else your brother did I should know about?” he asked Coy.

“No, sir. Nothing I know of.”

“What about you?” he asked Boone.

“Will came and went a lot, but we never knew what he was up to. Talked about robbing a bank someday, but we said we wanted no part of it. Think it was just talk.”

“Well, I’ll tell ya… he might not have robbed a bank, but he robbed a trading post three days ride from here, and not that long ago.”

“He did? How do you know that?”

“This gun you brought me, Mr. Diamond. The description matches a poster I received a week back. Yep, belonged to the owner, another old man he shot in the back, and that paper money appears close to what got stolen. There’s a fifty dollar reward for information about the killer, or the return of the gun. You’ve given me both.”

“Son of a serpent… I knew it!” Boone exclaimed. “I knew never to turn my back on him.”

Coy leaned forward, and buried his head in his hands.

Boone was quick to feel bad for his words. “Sorry, Coy.”

The handsome head rose, his eyes red, but not leaking. If anything, he looked more angry than sad. “My ma would roll over in her grave if she knew what he done. I’m the one who’s sorry… for taking his side so many times.”

“He was your brother, so of course you would.”

Sheriff Willard was watching the two of them, and staying silent. He was a hard man to read unless he was angered.

“Am I in trouble, Sheriff? For not coming in sooner?”

The man continued to stare, not moving a muscle… not even a finger, before finally answering Boone’s question. “I take pride I’m a more than passable judge of a man’s character. Wish you’d have been quicker, but you tried to do the right thing. What matters is you did tell me, and provided me proof on another robbery and murder, so no, you’re not in any legal trouble.”

Boone let out the big breath he’d been holding, and wiped the sweat from his brow.

“You fellas want some advice?”

“I suppose we could use some,” Coy answered, while Boone nodded.

“Don’t be hard on yourselves, neither of you. Wes and Lee were good at seeing the heart of people too, and they liked the pair of you. Talked about you a lot, and that’s a fact… but they were wise to Will Diamond. It didn’t protect them in the end, but they knew he wasn’t to be trusted. They might have shared meals with him, but they told me he was a sidewinder who’d strike when a body wasn’t looking, and Lord knows he spent enough time in my jail. Nasty snake he was, especially when he was pouring whiskey down his throat.

“And if you boys were smart, you’d find a new way to make a living. I’ve been in this territory a long time and I ain't never seen a single miner strike it rich. I swear that river plays with folks on purpose, giving them just enough they keep hoping for more. Most of them work themselves to death all by their lonesome. Wes and Lee were good friends, and we spent many an evening shooting the breeze at my cabin, so it does my heart good to know they had each other till the end. That’s more than most miners get.”

“Appreciate the advice,” Boone said, wondering what Coy was thinking. “Will folks round here be told Dan had a right to shoot Will, no matter that he was walking away?”

“They’ll know for sure, I promise you that. I’ve heard no bad talk about Dan, though.”

“Pleases me to hear that. Can we go now?”

“I have nothing more if you fellas don’t. Don’t forget to take your gold.”

Coy sputtered while Boone spoke. “Our gold? No, sir, it’s not our gold.”

“Sure is. Finders keepers.”

“But it was stolen. Shouldn’t it go to their relatives?”

“They didn’t have any… just Dan, and he had nobody either. I know that for a fact, and it’s not needed as evidence either, since all parties are deceased.”

“So that’s it?”

“No, Mr. Dixon. That’s not it. We don’t waste time holding trials against dead men, so I’ll report the facts to the judge, and he’ll close the case. Will Diamond will be recorded as Wes and Lee’s murderer… and that’s it. Any more questions?”

“No, but… I don’t know… taking the gold don’t feel right. Does it feel right to you, Coy?”

“No, it don’t. Seems to me—”

Coy was interrupted by a loud guffaw from the sheriff. “You boys take the cake. You sure as heck don’t have the fever if you’re trying to turn down gold. Listen, boys… some more advice. Wes and Lee would want you to have it, and from what they told me about how Dan felt, he wouldn’t begrudge you either. Know that for a fact too, and legally, if there are no relatives, it belongs to the one who found it, which would be you, Mr. Dixon. Did you see anyone else besides Dan and myself when they got planted in the ground? No, you didn’t, so get it outta my office, and then you can do what you like with it.” He put the tin back in the sack and pushed it over to their side of the desk. “The money and the gun will be returned to the owner’s widow.”

Coy and Boone shared another look before Boone reached over and picked it up. His friend still looked confused.

“And don’t forget to come back in a couple of days for the reward. I’ll get it handled at the bank when I take in the money you recovered for those trading post folks… telegraph makes things plenty quick. I’ll need your signature when you collect.” He laughed again at their expressions. “Anything else, or did y’all forget how to walk?”

His words finally got them moving. “Ah, no sir,” Coy said with a start. “Oh… yeah… we think someone stole Wes and Lee’s horses, and their mule. They were gone when we got back to camp this morning. Could have wandered off, but they was hobbled, and they’ve never done it before.”

The big man laughed again. “No such luck someone would steal that godforsaken mule. They weren’t stolen. I brought them back with me last evening.”

“You? You were at our camp?”

“Course I was. Expected you folks would be there, and I had me a suspicion you might have something to tell me. Was about to make another ride out there, truth be told, but you fellas saved me the trip.”

The sheriff’s smug, knowing look made Boone grin.

“Happens I did a search of your brother’s tent while I was there—had a look in yours too—just doing my job,” he revealed with a smirk. “I only wanted to bring home the paint since Wes loved him so much. Least I can do is look after him for my old friend, but the other two put up such a fuss—that mule bellowing—and them hopping after me like rabbits with them hobbles, I brought them too.” He looked at them slyly. “Don’t suppose you two would take them off my hands? Not the paint… he can keep my gelding company.”

“Ah… what about the undertaker?” Boone asked. “Won’t he want them as payment for Wes and Lee’s burial? He took Will’s horse as his fee… and Dan’s. Maybe we should go talk to him and settle up?”

“Taken care of,” Sheriff Willard said with a quick flick of his hand. “Franklin and the preacher have been compensated for their trouble.”

Looking to Coy, Boone got a shrug from his friend. “In that case, I reckon we could use a pack horse for supplies, and I like the mule. Lee’s mare ain’t much to look at, but she’s almost as sturdy and sure-footed as Blue,” he said, thinking of the long trip he had ahead of him.

“It’s settled then. Save me trying to find a home for them. The livery would take them, but I won’t chance they’ll be sold off to some brute… won’t do that to my friends. I have no doubts them old boys would be happy they went to men they considered friends. Do y’all know my place?”

“I do,” Boone answered.

“Good. Lead ropes on the gate… so are the hobbles. I wish you luck with that damn mule.”

“He’ll be fine. He likes me.”

The lawman raised his eyebrows at Boone’s words. “Try taking him away from the paint and see how much he likes you.” The deep cackle that followed was unexpected.

Boone chuckled at the fellow he finally thought he had a handle on. He was no one to mess with, but he had a good heart… better than most of the lawmen he’d encountered in the past.

“And, remember,” he called out as they reached the door. “Heed my advice, boys. Find something else to do with your life. Gold can be a curse, but it can be a blessing too. What you got in that sack is all the gold you’ll need if you don’t waste it on drink and such. Trust a man who’s seen his share of misery pass through this town over the years.



Thanks for reading. It would be nice to hear what you're thinking of the story so far... are you somewhat engaged? Many of the readers have been quieter than usual, and it's been difficult to tell with this one. Cheers.

Thanks to my editor, Timothy M., for his efforts.

Copyright © 2020 Headstall; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

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Chapter Comments

44 minutes ago, Headstall said:

we have a long journey ahead yet. :D 

Great! Long journeys cover more ground!......😁

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19 minutes ago, Leo C said:

Great! Long journeys cover more ground!......😁

Yeah, they do. There's a lot of traveling ahead... it's not an epic length, but it's long enough to be satisfying. ;)  :P 

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1 hour ago, Sss0226 said:

I love a good western and this one’s great!  Can’t wait to see what happens with the boys!

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I always love to hear from a fellow western fan. The boys have interesting journeys ahead. :yes:  At least, I hope you find them so. Cheers, Sss... Gary.... :hug: 

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