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Stu's Stories
Tales of the Diamond W
I could swear someone pushed me, but when I looked back no one was there. Old Hammerhead had bolted at the gun shot over his back (he never did like guns), but I didn’t get a good look at the shooter in the dark. He went one way and I went the other. I was standin there in the dark with my face hangin out, wonderin what was goin on.

  Somone said “Cyclone.? It was a strained whisper, barely audible over the wind. I was startin to doubt my own sanity, but then I heard it again.

  “Cyclone, over here.?

  I started movin slowly toward the voice. It was somewhere between the buildings to the east. As I walked through the total darkness I heard what could only be Chips voice say “Over here, ya idjit, behind the barn.?

  I eased down the hammer on my forty four. Then a light came on for a second or so. It was just enough to show me Chip and Montana Slim. Help at last! I stumbled toward them through the mud just as the rain started up again. As I approached them, Slim said “Come in here. We’ve got one of yer buddies. He was quite a handful, but Jim sorted him out.?

  We entered the barn from the back and Slim turned on the light. There on the floor was ‘voice’, the guy I’d been tryin to deal with since I came to this weird little town. I wondered if that was his ma shootin at me over my horses back.

  “Well,? I said, “I believe I’ve met this guy. I’ll just bet he was a handful. Wait ‘till you meet his mama. Boys, you aint seen nothing yet.?

  “You apparently don’t know who you’re dealin with? Slim said. “This here is Hard Pan Thompson. He and his ma, Lily, are wanted in about half the states in the union. Them and Lily’s cousin Eustis have been into every kind of dirty business you can think of, and some you wouldn’t want to think of. I’ve been trackin ‘em off and on for years. It looks like we’ve found ‘em now boys, and we’re takin ‘em in!?

  “Lily?? I said, “ Her name is Lily? Oh, Slim, that’s one flower I’ll never look at the same way again.?

  “Cyclone, what have you found out out about these people? What have you seen??

  Slim’s eyes were glowing. I could tell he felt pretty strong about this. I was tryin to figure out how to tell him all the weird things that had happened since I trailed in there, when a shot rang out! The bullet came through the south wall of the barn and knocked Slims hat right off his head! We all hit the floor pronto, except Slim.

  “Now that makes me mad? he said. “That makes me real mad.?

  Bullets started whizzing through the walls from the south and west. Chip killed the light and yelled “GIT DOWN, MONTANA!?

  But Montana just kicked open the door and walked out, one hand blazin away with his forty five, and the other waving his hat around. He always was particular about that hat. Chip and Jim quickly flanked him, firin at the muzzle flashes across the street. Steve and I made it out the back door and returned fire to the south where someone was hidin behind a huge Cottonwood tree.

  “Use the dark? I yelled at Steve, “spread out.?

  He knew what I meant. We could see the tree pretty well, but we’d be hard to spot in the dark if we kept movin. Steve disappeared to the east and I ran at an angle to the southwest. I fired at the west side of the tree, tryin to drive the shooter around where Steve could see ‘em. Sure enough, as I ran out of shells, Steve fired and I heard someone holler. It was Lily! I was tryin to reload as we moved in on the tree, when we heard a horse whinny and take off at a full gallop.

  “Dang? Steve yelled, “they must’ve been hidin a horse in the tree. I sure didn’t see it.?

  “You aint seen this old girl? I said, “she probably had it tucked under her arm.?

  It suddenly got real quiet. Even the wind had quit. It was still as a tomb. I finished loading. The sound of the bullets clicking into the cylinders was almost deafening. We crept real easy to the edge of the barn. We couldn’t see much, but soon we heard Jims voice say “He aint dead. 

Looks like one of us just creased his skull.?

  Slim said “Well, let’s get him into the barn and check on Cyclone and Steve.?

  “We’re over here? I said. “Yer girlfriend got away, but I think Steve hit her.?

  “Montana,? I said, “I’m surprised you’re still breathin, stompin out there like a crack-brained calf, waving that hat around.?

  “I aint to happy about it, either.? Montana held up his hat. There were five more holes in it!

  “I guess I can use it as a vegetable strainer.? Slim said. “I wonder where Lily ran off to.?

  “She went to the cave.?

  “What?? Slim said, “Who said that??

  We all peered into the darkness, but there was no one to be seen. The short hairs on my neck were standin on end. I wasn’t ready to tell the boys yet, but that voice was none other than Shug Maxwell!