Dave P. Fisher                        
Author & Western Humorist

Double Diamond Books                      
  
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Monthly Feature
    
    Buck the Tiger

 Virgil Creede and Jim Brooks are escorting Dora Pickett from Helena, to her brother in Cheyenne.

 

 
 

Jim and Virgil rode next to each other, talking back and forth in low voices while Dora rode behind them. Virgil pulled up his horse until Dora was next to him. He moved his horse along with her mare. “We’re crossing an area known as the Outlaw Trail. To the north is Hole in the Wall, and farther to the south and west is Brown’s Hole. Outlaws work this area back and forth, so we’ll need to be on our guard. Make sure you stay in close to us.”

Dora listened to him and looked around her. “Do you think they will bother us?”

“Probably not, but you don’t survive this country by taking things for granted.”

They rode along in silence for another hour before they spotted a small settlement of stores and cabins in the distance. Smoke was rising from the stovepipes above the buildings. Jim looked back at the others, “I’ll bet we could get some more grub down there and maybe even a real meal.”

Dora smiled, “I would love a real piece of meat. Not that there is anything wrong with dried beef.” She was afraid she had sounded like a complainer and had to qualify the statement.

Jim grinned at her, “You can live on dried beef, but you can go crazy eating it every day. Give me a real cut of meat any day over it.”

Virgil studied the settlement. “Okay, let’s ride on down there and see if they have something resembling an eating establishment.”

They rode on into it. It was only a scattering of buildings with wagon ruts for a street that the rain storm had turned into mud. Horses were tied to rails and a loaded wagon was rolling out ahead of them. Dora noticed that Virgil had once again turned to intensely watching everything around him. She also noticed that they were drawing attention from some rough looking men.

A hand painted sign in front of a small building indicated that they served meals. Jim looked back at Dora, “It’s not fancy, but it beats dried beef and hardtack again.”

They dismounted and tied their horses to the rail in front of the building. Dora looked at Virgil, his face stern as his attention was on a group of four men loafing under an extended roof in front of the saloon next door. She looked at the men and didn’t care for the way they leered at her. It was a simple flip of his finger, not meant to draw attention, but a chill went through her as Virgil lifted the leather loop off the hammer of his gun.

As they entered, there were three other men sitting at a table. Their loud conversation was liberally laced with cuss words and rude talk. Virgil walked in first looking over the men. They looked back at him, but continued their talk. When they saw Dora walk in behind him, they stopped talking and nodded acknowledgement to her. Their conversation became more careful with a woman among them.

The building was small with two long tables set with a bench running their length on each side. The tables were placed so a man could sit with his right or left side to the door. It was a knowing proprietor who placed the tables so no one sat with his back to the door.

Virgil directed Dora to slide in along a bench at the unoccupied table. He sat on the end with his gun side out and Jim sitting across from him. The owner came out of a backroom where the smell of cooking food and wood smoke followed after him. He was wearing clean clothes and a welcoming smile. He came up to the table. “Afternoon folks.” He bowed slightly toward Dora, “Not often a lovely lady graces my table.”

Dora smiled at him, “Thank you.”

“Menu’s not too complicated,” the owner continued, “we got beef or deer steak with the fixin’s. What would you like, ma’am?”

“I will have beef and the . . . fixin’s,” she laughed and the owner did as well.”

He then looked at Jim and Virgil. Virgil’s attention was focused on the open door and didn’t notice the man looking at him. Jim spoke up, “Make that beef all around, and coffee.”

The owner held his eyes on Virgil like a man trying to remember something. He looked back at Jim and nodded, “Coming right up.”

Jim watched Virgil. “Didn’t like the looks of that bunch in front of the saloon?”

“Not particularly.”

Several minutes later the man came back with three plates filled to overflowing with meat, potatoes, and a huge biscuit. He set the plates down and went back for cups and a coffee pot. Placing the cups next to each plate he filled them. As he did, he leaned in close to Virgil, “That’s the Leach brothers next door. Bad lot. They like to check out anyone new who comes through here to see if they can push ‘em around.” He stood up and walked away.

Although the man was trying to speak without Dora hearing she still heard what he said. They all ate in silence. Dora kept glancing at Virgil who was watching the open door as he ate. Jim split his time looking from the door to Virgil. They had finished the meal without interruption and were working on a second cup of coffee when the four Leach brothers stepped through the door.

The one who appeared to be the oldest pretended to be looking around with no particular interest in mind. He stopped and set his gaze on Dora. He walked casually across the room with his brothers trailing behind him. Virgil and Jim watched them coming on. The leader stopped at the table.

Ignoring Virgil and Jim, Leach grinned at Dora, “Why, you’re the prettiest thing to come along in a while, wanna head next door for a drink?”

Dora sat still staring at the man, her eyes flicked to the three men behind him and then back to him again. They were a dirty lot, and they all kept grinning leeringly at her. She felt an involuntary shiver shake her body.

Virgil’s voice was low and mean, “The lady isn’t going anywhere with you.”

Dropping the grin, Leach looked down at Virgil who held a steady stare on him. “I don’t recall talking to you, pilgrim. Best mind your own business before you get hurt. I’ve got plans for her. Now, as I was saying to the lady . . .”

Before he finished the sentence, Virgil rammed the heavy, three tined dinner fork into Leach’s stomach and shoved him back hard coming to his feet with the momentum of the push. The man screamed out in pain, took several steps back, and then looked at the fork stuck in his stomach surrounded by a growing blood spot on his shirt. “You son of . . .” He went for his gun.

Virgil cleared the 44 out of the holster and from three feet away shot Leach in the mid-section. Leach fell to the floor as his brothers shouted and went for their guns. They stopped mid-move realizing that Virgil had his gun on them and Jim was sitting at the table with his gun out and pointed at them as well. They held their hands out to their sides.

Virgil set a hard look on the three, “Let’s not make the man’s café messy here boys.” He gestured with his head to Leach twisting on the floor in agony. “You pick that up and head out. If you’re still looking for a fight, I’ll be happy to oblige you outside.”

The Leach brothers fidgeted nervously and glanced at each other. The three men at the second table were watching with amused grins. The owner stood in the doorway to his kitchen holding a twelve gauge coach gun.

As one, the Leaches pulled their hands away from their guns. “Can we pick up our brother?” one asked.

“I think that’s what I just told you to do.”

The three stepped forward and picked up their brother and began backing out the door. “You played hell, mister,” one of the brothers sneered.

Virgil growled, “No, you played hell when you took us for greenhorns.”

Virgil kept walking toward them, his gun still out, as they backed up across the room. Jim got up and walked with Virgil. They followed the Leaches outside.

The owner hurried over to Dora and sat across from her laying the shotgun on the table. “Are you alright, ma’am?”

Dora nodded. Her face was pale, but she held her head up.

“My name’s, Dee Vernall,” the owner whispered. “Mind if I ask who that man of yours is, he’s awful familiar.”

“He’s not my man, he’s just helping me,” Dora replied. “His name is Virgil Creede.”

The men at the opposite table snapped their heads around to look at Dora when she said the name. They exchanged glances and whispers. Gunfighters were as much a topic of conversation across the west as were horses and Indian fights. Every western man knew the names of the most prominent gunfighters, and the three men knew the name of Virgil Creede.

Dee grinned, “Virgil, huh? He’s got some miles on his face and put on a few more pounds, but it’s him. I thought I knew that face. Did you know that you are traveling with a genuine war hero, ma’am?”

 

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