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11

It's a story about a guy of dubious mental well-being who manages to outwit the members of a posse who have arrested him, on a charge of horse-thieving. His hands are tied throughout the story, but he turns his captors upon each other with only words as his means to do it. It's the first in my efforts to revitalize the western story.

 

Crazy Willie Rides On

 

Crazy Willie was not in the whorehouse, as they had been told he would be.

They stormed through every room, upsetting two ranch hands, a young man passing through on his way to Abilene, and a gambler celebrating his latest take with two of the town’s best. If they had not been six in number, and if they had not been preceded by their reputation, the upset they caused would have likely caused a reciprocal upset to them. But the town of Amarillo, as well as everyone within a five-mile radius, had known these boys were coming since last Tuesday.

            There was a fiddler over in Hereford, who had been playing Aces there for two days, said Crazy Willie had taken him for everything in a card game, and then lost it all back to said fiddler in one reckless bet. Crazy Willie had parted ways by saying he would be going on to the next town, that being Amarillo. He complained that the ladies in Hereford had given him scratchy pants for the whole week he’d been there. He planned to check-in at the house of ladies over in Amarillo and not come out for five days, or until he had experienced “The Vision.” The fiddler had bid him a dubious farewell and watched him ride off into the storm that was sweeping over Hereford from the west.

            The six men from the north had thanked the fiddler with as much genteel grace as Willie had thanked him, each tipping their hats, almost in unison. The first one, the one who had asked the questions, said, smiling, “Thank you, fiddler. Mr. J.T. Earnest, Jr. of Oklahoma is deeply indebted to you. Some day, he will return the favor to you a hundredfold.” The fiddler watched him pull a twelve-inch Bowie from a sheath inside his black wraps. He watched the way this man looked at its blade, with the same look he saw cowhands give ladies at the end of the pay week. There was never any impression that violence from the man was forthcoming, except for maybe the way he was dressed. He and his friends wore black and, usually, that meant business, but the fiddler had decided guessing about it could wait until later. The way the man held the thing, kind of lightly cradling it on the fingertips of both hands, it felt a whole lot like the man was going to give it to him as a present.

            Which he did, between the third and fourth ribs.

            On his way out, the fiddler heard the man tell him, “Believe in the afterlife, fiddler. Mr. Earnest will repay you when he meets you there.”

            Coming out of the cathouse in Amarillo, the man with the blade called a halt to his men and went inside the only other building in town. The church house. In it, he saw the man he believed to be Crazy Willie, kneeling at the altar. “Mr. Willie, sir, I have come to take you back to Oklahoma. You will answer to the charges made by Mr. J.T. Earnest, Jr. regarding charges of horse-thieving.”

            Willie stood slowly and turned, solemn and removed from the room by higher things. He looked at the man with the blade with pointed interest, standing with his hands clasped unthreateningly in front of him. “Whom do I have the pleasure of addressing, sir?”

            “My name is Ridley O’Fallon, from Arkansas.”

            Crazy Willie nodded, coming forward quietly. “I have made my peace with God, and I am ready to make my peace with Mr. Earnest.”

 

[End of Excerpt]  

 

 

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