The Almanack is pleased to host the latest installment of this Story With No Name for western writer Jim Griffin. Who will write Part 7? It could be you. Make a comment below and stake your claim. No blog? No problem. One of the several gents already involved will be happy to post your contribution.
Our story so far...
Part 1 by I.J. Parnham
Part 2 by Jack Giles
Part 3 by Chuck Tyrell
Part 4 by Evan Lewis
Part 5 by Jack Martin
Part 6 by James J. Griffin
Luck was with Walt. The horse didn’t shy from him, but snuffed Walt curiously. He reassured the black and white tobiano with a pat.
“Easy,” he said. “We’ve got some hard ridin’ ahead.”
Walt’s good fortune continued. A Winchester rode in the saddle boot. The saddlebags contained spare cartridges, along with some beef jerky. A half-full canteen hung from the saddlehorn. Walt shoved a strip of jerky in his mouth, checked the cinches, and swung into the saddle. He put the pinto into a long-reaching lope. The powerful horse responded eagerly.
Dark had fallen, but the bushwhackers’ trail was visible under the light of a waxing gibbous moon. Walt expected them to veer off, but they kept alongside the tracks.
“We’ll be comin’ upon Bannon before long,” Walt murmured to the pinto. “Seems kinda odd those renegades’d ride straight into town.”
He slowed the horse to a walk. A mile later, the outlaws’ trail turned into the brush.
“That makes more sense. They’ll be sneakin’ through the back alleys.”
Walt avoided the railroad depot when he rode into Bannon. The train had already pulled out. Bartlett’s burnt-out car had been shunted onto a siding. Walt used an alleyway to reach the livery stable. He unsaddled the pinto and turned him into a corral. Walt took the rifle and extra ammunition. He headed for the nearest saloon, certain that was where he’d find Bartlett’s killers.
Just as Walt reached the street, two men emerged from the saloon.
“Arnside!” one shouted. He clawed for his gun. Walt put a bullet in his chest. The second man fired, his slug smashing the Winchester from Walt’s grip. Walt ducked behind a trough and pulled his sixgun.
More men were boiling out of the saloon.
“It’s Walt Arnside!” the second man called. Walt shot him through the gut. The gunman screamed in pain.
“I’m hit in the belly, Zack! Help me!”
“I’ll take care of you, Billy!” Roden shouted. He leveled his Colt at his partner’s back and fired twice. Billy pitched to the road.
“That way you can’t talk,” Roden muttered.
The gunmen concentrated their fire on Walt. He ran for the cover of an open doorway. He had almost made it when a horrific pain ripped through his middle. Walt clamped a hand to his right side and sat down, hard. He hunched over, unconscious.
“Let’s get outta here,” Roden ordered. His men gathered their horses and galloped out of town.
Several bystanders carried the gravely wounded Arnside to the physician’s office.
“He’s in rough shape,” the doctor muttered. “Dunno what I can do.”
Walt awoke to find the doctor and marshal staring at him.
“Must’ve died and gone to Hell,” he said.
“Not yet, but you still might,” the doctor observed. “You could be one of the few men who survive bein’ gut-shot. I believe that bullet missed your intestines. It did nick your liver. You’ll be laid up for quite a spell.”
“Then you’ll be tried for killin’ two men,” the marshal added.
“They were doin’ their best to kill me,” Walt protested.
“Not the way the townsfolk saw it,” the lawman answered. He was interrupted by a feminine voice.
“Marshal, I’d like to see your prisoner, if I might.”
“Lola!” The name escaped Walt’s lips. He’d last seen Lola Metivier years ago, in New Orleans… and she’d left him with far more pain than the slug which had just been dug out of his gut.