There are no descriptive sexual scenes in this story.
Constructive comments, critiques, and emails are very welcome and are appreciated.
Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my work.
Deputy U.S. Marshal Thomas Boone dismounted in front of the Marshal's office in Tucson Arizona. He raised both hands over his head, leaned backwards and stretched. He was 30 years old but felt much older. Too many outlaws, too many long trails, and too many gun fights, he thought. I can't make these long rides like I used to.
Boone turned to the horse that he'd led into town. Jenson Stoolie was tied face down across the saddle. Boone motioned to a 12 year old boy sitting on the porch in front of the store next to the Marshal's office.
"Run down and fetch the undertaker for me son," he requested and tossed the boy two bits. The youngster caught the coin and took off at a run.
"Who you got there Tom?" U.S. Marshal Ted McCoy asked as he walked out of his office.
"Jenson Stoolie. He said he'd just as soon die as to go back to Yuma Prison." Tom tied his horse to the hitching rail. "I obliged him."
"Put up a fight did he?" McCoy said not expecting an answer. "You know if he'd stopped at shooting that cowboy in the saloon he might have claimed self defense and got away with it." The Marshal shook his head. "But the damn fool had to go and steal a horse. That's what caused the circuit judge to put a warrant out on him."
"Jenson never was the smartest man," Tom replied. Looking down the street he said, "Here comes Sam now. Soon as I turn the body over to him I'm gonna get rid of this trail dust. See y'all in the morning."
Tom handed the reins of Jenson's horse to Sam Johnson, the undertaker. He mounted and rode to the saloon. First a whiskey and a beer and then a bath, he said to himself. Rubbing his hand across his face he thought, reckon a shave wouldn't do any harm either.
"That's a hard young man," Johnson said to the Marshal. "Not a speck of remorse in his eyes after killing a man."
"He didn't used to be that way Sam," McCoy replied. "Time was Tom would have talked to Jenson for hours trying to get him to come peaceful. Oh, he'd have still killed him if necessary but only if there was no other choice. Five years as a Deputy Marshal in this country will surely change a man."
Thomas Jethro Boone came to the Arizona territory as a boy of 17 with his father in 1866 just after the end of the Civil War. Tom worked with his father on their small cattle ranch for five years. The folks about Tucson often remarked that there was no doubt that the Boones were father and son. Both men were tall for the times at 6'1, had the same light brown mane of hair and piercing dark eyes. The older Boone, James, was the heavier of the two at 200 pounds but young Tom showed signs of filling out as he matured. The Boones were well liked and respected by the townspeople they came in contact with.
Early on a spring morning a band of renegades, thieves, and outlaws known as Comancheros made a raid on the Boone ranch. The elder Boone was killed and Tom was shot. The Comancheros, led by a man called Texas Jack Billings, stole all the live stock that could travel; they killed the three pigs and a dozen chickens that couldn't take the trail. Billings took anything and everything of value. They left Tom face down bleeding from the gunshot wound in his shoulder.
After the doctor patched Tom up, Justin Wren took him in and helped the boy recover. Wren said he was a retired lawman but most of the folks in Tucson said he'd been on the wrong side of the law for more years than he'd been on the right side. They said a few years earlier Wren might have been riding with the raiders. Of course they never said it to his face.
It took three months and lot of work for Tom's shoulder to heal up and get back to full strength. The first time that he could ride, Tom borrowed a horse from Justin went back to the ranch. He dug up the strongbox that his father had buried behind the house. Inside was twenty gold Double Eagles; a total of four hundred dollars. Tom took one last look around at what had been his home and rode into Tucson. He went to the gunsmith, bought a Remington .44 pistol converted to metal cartridges and a Winchester 73 repeating rifle. He also bought a good horse from the livery.
For two months Tom honed his skills with the Remington and the Winchester under the tutelage of the retired "lawman". Justin taught the youngster the things he'd learned in a lifetime of handling and using weapons. Finally Tom felt he was ready and he started on the cold trail of the Comancheros.
"I could go with you," Wren offered. At 5'8 he had to look up at Tom to see his face. Justin Wren looked more like someone's grandfather than a lawman. He was 40 years old, rotund and didn't look like he'd missed many meals. Justin's hair was steel gray and was just a fringe around his bald head. In spite of his looks, there was no doubt that the man could be a force of nature by the look in his eyes. Justin Wren was not a man that anyone crossed; not more than once that is.
"You could, but it's not your fight Justin," Tom replied. "I believe this is something I got to do myself."
"Trails near six months old boy. You'll never pick up their tracks."
"Don't have to follow them, just got to find out where they lit. Reckon they headed down Mexico way so I'll start my search toward the border." Tom shook hands with Justin, mounted and looked down.
"You're a good man Justin and a better friend. Thanks for your help."
"Y'all come back if you're able Tom. I've always got a place at my fire for ya."
Tom touched his hat in a salute and turned his horse south toward Mexico.
The journey south wasn't an easy one. The harsh desert, lack of water holes and the vast distances between settlements made for a hard trail. In addition Tom twice ran into bandits who thought the young man would be easy pickings. They found they had made a bad decision when they tried to rob him. Both times Tom left men dead behind him on the desert floor as he continued his quest to find Texas Jack and the Comancheros.
Tom wasn't having any success in finding the raiders. He'd been on the trail for better than a year and a half and was no closer to finding Texas Jack than he'd been when he started. Tom would ride into a small town and ask questions but got no information about Billings or his band. Oh everyone knew who he was talking about and said the Comancheros had passed through but none would offer any idea of what direction the gang took or how long it had been.
It was in the border town of Nogales that a senorita, seven or eight years older than Tom, working in a cantina told him why people wouldn't talk about Billings. "He is a dangerous man Niño," Theresa told him. "All the people are afraid that Texas Jack will come back and punish them if they help anyone trying to find him. But I will help you."
"Why would you help me? Aren't you afraid of him too?"
"Texas Jack and his men killed my husband and my son. What can he do to make my life worse?" Theresa asked. "I'm alone; I work as a whore in this miserable town just to get food and shelter. I'm a toy to be used by any vaquero with a few dollars and then thrown away. What can he do to make my life worse?"
"Why don't you leave?"
"Where would I go? I have no family left except an aunt and my sister down in Magdalena and no money to get to them. There is no work there and I'd just be another mouth to feed." Theresa looked down for a bit and added. "So I'll stay here until I get to old for the men to want me. After that, quien sabe... 'Who knows?"
Theresa brought another plate of beef and beans to Tom and poured another glass of tequila for him. "Texas Jack came through here last month. One of the pendejos told me they were headed down to Santa Ana. Wanted me to go with them." Theresa touched Tom's shoulder as she sat down at the table. "Niño, that's four or five days hard ride through country that makes this place look like a garden. You will end up a pile of bleached bones in that desert. Please don't go?" Theresa pleaded. "There will be another time for Texas Jack. You are young, wait for your time."
Tom continued eating for a few minutes. He downed the tequila, threw two dollars on the table and stood. "Come Theresa, it's time for you to leave this damn place." At the questioning look on the woman's face Tom said, "I will take you to Tucson and we'll find you work and a place to live." He smiled and added, "Something different that what you're doing here."
Theresa had little worth packing and was soon ready to travel. Tom bought a horse for her. The animal wasn't a beauty but he felt it could make the hard journey back to Tucson. The landscape north of Nogales was an improvement. There were several waterholes and a few lush valleys like Green Valley. Tom and Theresa rode easy. They would start just before first light, ride until the heat of day, and make camp. Usually they were able to find a stand of Mesquite or Palo Verdes for shade. Around five or six they would continue until it got too dark to ride and they would camp again.
It was early morning of the fifth day when they rode into the clearing at Justin Wren's place. Tom stopped about a hundred feet from the ranch house.
"Hello the house," he yelled. "Like to ride in if we can."
"C'mon in youngster," Justin yelled back. "You sure ride noisy. Been waiting for you for the last twenty minutes." Justin stepped into the yard in front of the ranch house. When Tom and Theresa got closer, Justin's eyes opened wide.
"Who's your friend?" He asked Tom.
.... There is more of this story ...