The thunder of the two pistols erupting and the spitting out of their deadly projectiles sounded as one. Two clouds of gun smoke filled the air. The two hands that held the pistols jerked upward at the same time from the recoil of the two weapons........
But let me start at the beginning three days ago that lead up to this moment. A moment that will live in the minds of the people that witnessed it.
My name is Charlie Evans. I am a reporter for The Barleyville Gazette. I have written news articles for some of the larger news papers back east. But trouble with a married woman back there forced me to come west. Her husband was a judge in Philadelphia. I stopped in Chicago for awhile, but a similar situation came up there also. This time it was the mayor's daughter. Same story in Saint Louis.
Anyway, back to our story.
I've been in Barleyville now for about six months. The small paper here is almost not needed. Gossip gets around faster here than the news paper does.
Barleyville is not much more than two roads that intersect in the eastern plains of Wyoming. It has only a couple of hundred residents that live here year round. It has two saloons, a dry goods store, blacksmith/livery shop, an apothecary store, etc..... Your general western town.
Barleyville was a quiet peaceful town. It was so peaceful that there hadn't even been any gun play for almost two years. But all that changed three days ago when the man in black rode into town.
He was dressed all in black, from his hat to his silver toed boots. The buttons on his black leather vest were made of silver. The details of his hand tooled gun belt were accented with silver piping and thread. Even his trouser belt had a silver buckle on it. The twin Colts in his gun belt were nickel plated with pearl handles. His hat was pulled down to shade his eyes from the sun.
He rode a pure white horse. It looked like it could chase the wind for days without stopping. The saddle on it's back was black and trimmed in silver with a large Mexican style saddle horn.
People on both sides of the street stopped what they were doing and watched as he rode by. Whispers began flying and the gossip mill was alive once more.
He rode through the middle of town to the livery stable and dismounted. He tossed the livery boy a silver dollar and said “Brush him down good. Give him all the oats he can eat. I'll be back to check in on him later.”
He walked with more confidence than anyone I've ever seen before. He walked the entire length of town looking at every detail of the town. He then looked around one more time before entering the Trail Dust saloon.
He took a table in the back and propped up his feet in the chair next to him. Evelyn, the bar girl, brought him the beer he asked for as he entered the saloon. She tried being friendly and make small talk. He tossed her a twenty five cent piece and told her to get lost.
Sheriff Gene Danvers heard about the man and came in to check him out. Beside him were his two deputies, Tracy Hawthorn and Kyle Adams. All three men were decent with a gun, but this man had the aura of death around him.
Sheriff Danvers and the two deputies walked up to the table where the man sat sipping his beer.
“What's your name, mister?” asked Sheriff Danvers.
The stranger didn't respond. He just kept sipping his beer.
“The Sheriff's talking to you,” said Deputy Hawthorne. “You answer him when he speaks.”
The stranger razed his head and looked at Deputy Hawthorne. His cold gray eyes sent shivers down the spine of the sheriff and his two deputies. But they stood their ground.
“This is a peaceful town,” Sheriff Danvers said. His voice had a tremor that told everyone in the saloon that he was nervous. “We ain't had any gun play here for some time. I suggest that you drink your beer and move on.”
The stranger took another sip of his beer and lowered his head. “I'm not here to cause trouble. I'll move on when I please,” he said. His voice was as cold as his eyes.
“You....you got a name?” asked Deputy Adams. Of the three lawmen, he was the greenest.
“Granger,” said the stranger after another sip of beer. “Now get lost. You're blocking my view of the door.”
The name Granger hit the sheriff like the fist of a lumber jack. He took a step back. “Clyde Granger?” he asked even more nervous than before.
The man in black emptied his beer mug and waved for Evelyn to bring him another.
Sheriff Danvers screwed up what little courage he had left and said, “Enjoy your beer Mister Granger. Let's go boys. There's nothing we can do here.” He turned and quickly left the saloon, he was walking so fast that he was almost running. His two deputies close at his heels.
Clyde Granger was a shootist. It was said that there was nobody faster, nobody as accurate, and nobody as cold when it came to dealing death with a six gun. He gave no quarter to anybody. If you drew on him, you would die.
It was just past noon when he took his seat at the table in the back of the saloon. He didn't move from it all day. At supper time, he called Evelyn over to him. “This town got a cafe?” he asked.
“We serve meals here,” she said.
Granger looked around. “I don't see nobody else eating,” he said. “That tells me that the food here isn't any good. Does this town have a cafe or not?”
“Ida's is on down the street a bit,” she said. She turned threw up her nose and stamped off. She made her money off commissions from the drinks and food she served.
Granger stood, slid the chair he sat in aside and headed for the door. He stopped at the swinging doors and looked outside at the street. He didn't expect any trouble, but he never knew when it would find him and where it would come from. Satisfied that the street was safe, he pushed open the swinging doors and stepped out onto the porch of the saloon.
He walked down to Ida's, ever watchful and alert. The smell coming from Ida's was that of good home cooking. He gave himself the luxury of a second with his eyes closed as he took in the sweet aromas that emanated from the cafe. If a person looked close, they could almost say they saw him smile.
He opened his eyes and looked around before he opened the door to Ida's cafe. Once inside he looked around again. There were a dozen tables in there but only a few didn't already have diners at them. He selected a table near a side wall and sat in the chair by the wall. This position gave him a commanding view of the cafe and the front door in particular.
A young girl of about seventeen approached him. She had on an apron over her blue checkered dress and a towel thrown over her shoulder. “What'll you have?” she asked.
“A pot of coffee, steak, potatoes, bread, and a piece of pie,” Granger said, hardly even acknowledging her presence.
She turned and went back to the kitchen.
Almost all the diners in the cafe stopped eating when Granger entered. Some hurriedly paid and left before finishing. Granger could feel the eyes of the diner's on him as he sat and waited for his meal. They were no different than the eyes that plagued him in the other cafes of other towns. He had long since learned to ignore the onlookers and pick out the trouble makers. But he felt them all.
The girl soon returned with a pot of coffee and a cup. She set the cup down and filled it. As she turned to leave, he grabbed her arm. “Leave the pot,” he said.
“Sure, Mister,” she said and set the pot on the table.
Granger sat there for twenty minutes, sipping at the coffee and steeling glances at the other patrons who stayed to finish their meal.
When the girl returned, she had his meal with her. She sat the plate down and returned to the kitchen. Granger quickly emptied the plate and sopped up the juices with a piece of the bread. The apple pie was one of the best he had had in a while.
“How much?” he asked the girl when she returned to collect the dirty dishes.
“Seventy five cents,” she said.
Granger tossed her a silver dollar. He then stood and left before she could get his change.
He went to the livery stable and checked on his horse and saddle, then he returned to the saloon and the table in the back.
At midnight, the bartender rang a bell behind the bar and yelled closing time. The dozen or so drinkers in the saloon quickly downed their drinks and filed out the door. Granger took another sip of his beer.
“Closing time, Mister Granger,” the bartender said as he cautiously approached the table where he sat. “We got rooms to rent upstairs if you need a place to stay. Fifty cents a night.”
“I'm fine where I'm at,” Granger said.
“But it's closing time,” the bartender said nervously. “I got a wife and kids to get home to.”
“Then go on home,” Granger said coldly. “I'll be here when you come back in the morning.” he then pulled his hat down over his face and leaned back in the chair.
The bartender then turned and started for the door, blowing out the lamps as he went.
“The lamp by the door,” Granger said. “Leave it be.”
“Sure thing, Mister Granger,” said the bartender and he left and closed the big glass doors of the saloon behind him.
When the bartender returned the next morning, Granger was still in the chair in the same position he was the night before. “Sleep well, Mister Granger?” he asked just to be polite.
“You've got mice,” was all Granger said as he stood and walked to the door. And just like the night before, he looked over the street before he stepped out into the morning light.
He went to the livery to check on his horse, then to Ida's for breakfast, then back to the table in the back of the saloon. At lunch it was the same routine, and then again at supper. Very few people spoke to him and he spoke back to even less.
The sheriff and his deputies still kept an eye on him, but from a distance. They now carried sawed off shotguns where ever they went. Again that night, he slept in the chair in the saloon.
That brings us to this morning. He again left the saloon when Dykes the bartender showed up and opened the outer doors. He went through the same routine as yesterday. He checked on his horse at the livery, and went to Ida's for breakfast. I was there with pencil and paper when he came in. He sat at the same table and ordered ham, eggs, home fries, biscuits, gravy, and a pot of coffee.
I screwed up my back as straight as I could get it and managed to get up enough nerve to approach his table.
I removed my derby hat and said, “Mister Granger, sir. I am a reporter for the Barleyville Gazette. I was wondering if you would consent to an interview for me?”
His cold gray eyes looked at me from under the brim of his hat. He sipped his coffee and just stared at me. The rest of the patrons had grown silent and you could have heard a pin drop.
“You looking to get rich off my story?” he asked coldly. “If you are, just pick up one of those dime novels and make up something like every body else.” He then went back to sipping his coffee and staring at the door.
“Yes I feel I could make some change from your story,” I said, the nervous sweat on my brow began to run and get into my eyes. “But I want to tell your story. The way you want to be remembered.”
He sipped his coffee and again brought those cold eyes up to meet mine. My knees were now becoming weak. I was beginning to find it hard to breath.
“The last time someone said he wanted to tell my story, he twisted it all up,” he said. “By the end of that story, he had me being the one who shot Lincoln. I was only six years old when that happened.”
“Well, sir. I would write only what you tell me to write and print only what you authorize. It will be as if you wrote it yourself,” I said.
“And what's in it for me?” he asked.
I tugged at my now sweat soaked collar and swallowed the lump that had grown in my throat. “The knowledge that the truth is written down for history and can't be changed,” I answered.
He looked at me with softer eyes this time and pushed the chair across from him out with his foot. “Sit down writer. You've got more nerve than a lot of lawmen I've come across,” he said.
For the next three hours we sat at Ida's, he talked and I listened. He told me he was born in Waco, Texas. His father was a cowhand for one of the big ranches there and his mother did seamstress work for the other cowhands. They lived in a shack behind the bunkhouse at the ranch's main complex.
When the war between the states broke out, the owner of the ranch joined up with the Confederacy and marched off to war with half of his cowhands behind him. Granger's father stayed behind to work the ranch with four other cowhands that were too old to fight a war. But because his father stayed behind, he was branded a coward by most of the other people in town. But the four older cowhands stood beside him.
Word got back that the owner of the ranch was killed at Jackson, Mississippi. His brother assumed ownership of the ranch then and fired every one there and brought in his own hands.
Granger's mom and dad took what little savings they had and bought a horse and worn out buggy. They drifted west, working their way from ranch to ranch. They didn't stay in one place more than three years.
When Granger was seventeen, he killed his first man. That was in a waste dump of a town named Mulberry Creek in Arizona. He came home from working the range with his dad and another cowhand and found a stranger in their house going through their belongings. His mother lay dead on the floor. His father lunged at the stranger but received a bullet in the chest before he got half way across the room.
Granger had just started wearing a gun the year before. He never thought that he would have to use it this way. But somehow, the gun came into his hand, as if by magic, and fired. A clean round hole appeared in the stranger's forehead and the back of his head seemed to disappear. He still doesn't remember drawing the gun.
His father, gasping for breath, lay on the floor at his feet. Granger knelt and took his father's head in his hands. His father looked at him and said, “I love you son.” He then closed his eyes and the last bit of life left him.
The cowhand spread the word about how fast he drew and fired the pistol. The word spread like wildfire. Strangers started showing up looking for the kid with the fast draw. The cemetery started growing with the extra bodies he was placing there. The town grew tired of the unwanted attention and the town marshal was told by the city council to run him out of town. They were tired of the almost weekly gun fights on their streets.
Granger took what few belongings he had and packed them into a saddle bag and left. He never went back to that town. With him gone, the town eventually dried up and disappeared.
But where ever he went, men who fancied themselves as fast with a gun, wanted to challenge him. He faced two men at the same time in Tuscon and bested them. Whitie Lawson, the notorious outlaw, met his fate at the hands of Clyde Granger. And so on and so on it went.
He grew tired of the game and changed his name once and settled down in a small town in Utah. He went back to his cow punching ways and met a girl from back east. They fell in love and were married. She was soon to have a child, but before it's birth, a stranger rode into town who recognized Granger.
Although Granger denied who the stranger said he was, he knew that there would be more blood on his hands. The stranger grabbed for his gun, but Granger was faster. The stranger had not even cleared leather when a bullet punched a hole in his heart. The stranger was only nineteen.
With the speed of his draw, the town knew who he truly was. His young wife couldn't believe it either. She said she would not bring a child into a world such as that that surrounded Granger. So she packed her bags and moved back east.
She would send him letters, some taking months to reach him, that told of a son and how he was growing and looking more and more like his father.
Granger longed to go east and find her and his son, but he feared if he did, the wild elements that constantly tracked him down would follow him there. He couldn't inflict that on his wife and son. But then the letters stopped coming. It had now been years since she had written him.
I asked him her name, but he just kept on with his story.
He hid out in the mountains of Colorado once. While he was there he did a little prospecting and found enough gold that he could live comfortably for the rest of his life. That's when he bought the fancy guns, fancy clothes and fancy saddle. The pure white stallion was owned by Whitie Lawson.
That's how he has lived his life. Always moving from town to town. Using bank drafts from the Denver bank where he deposited the gold.
I asked him what brought him to this little hamlet of a town. He looked at me and said, “Dave Woods.”
“They say Dave Woods is faster than Wes Harding,” I said. The nervousness that had left my body now returned.
“He's fast,” Granger said after sipping more of the ever present coffee. “But not that fast.”
“What does Dave Woods have to do with you coming here?” I asked.
“He wants to have it out with me,” Granger said. “To settle once and for all who's fastest.”
“But why here? Why not Denver or Laramie? Someplace more notable?” I asked.
“I have my reasons,” he said.
Just then the door to the cafe burst open and the boy from the livery came in. Spotting Granger, he came over to the table. “He's here, Mister Granger,” the boy said, out of breath from his run from the stable. “Just like you said, sir. Strawberry roan and tan saddle. Ivory grip Smith and Wesson with DW on the grip.”
“Fine, boy. Where is he now?” asked Granger as he handed the boy a silver dollar.
“Out in the street in front of the livery, sir,” the boy answered.
“You run along now,” Granger said.
The boy turned and left as quickly as he had entered.
Granger laid a five dollar gold piece on the table and slid back his chair. He stood, straightened up his leather vest and checked the loads in both his Colts. He said nothing else as he walked out the door. This time he didn't look outside before he went out of the door. He knew where trouble was waiting for him this time.
He stepped out to the middle of the street and faced Dave Woods. People on both sides of the street scurried for cover. Women grabbed children and ducked into the nearest door. People who wouldn't be caught dead in a saloon were now hiding in them. In a heart beat, the only things left on the street were the two gun fighters and horses that were tied to hitch rails. The once bustling town now seemed like a ghost town.
Woods started walking towards Granger. Granger started walking towards Woods.
“It doesn't have to be this way Woods,” Granger yelled out.
“I think it does,” Woods yelled back. “After I get through here, I'm going after Harding.”
“You'll never get that chance,” Granger yelled back.
I quickly ran out the back of the cafe and ran to a vantage in an alley about midway between the two men. I had just ducked behind a barrel when the two men stopped. They were about twenty five paces apart.
“It's your call, Woods,” Granger said.
No sooner than he said it that, Dave Woods grabbed for his gun.
The thunder of two the pistols erupting and the spitting out of their deadly projectiles sounded as one. Two clouds of gun smoke filled the air. The two hands that held the pistols jerked upward at the same time from the recoil of the two weapons. Each gun spit a flame out at least a foot.
When the smoke had cleared enough to see, I saw Dave Woods lying on his back. His gun pointing to the sky. His eyes couldn't see the blue sky and the few puffy clouds there. He was dead.
I turned to look at Granger. He had fallen to his knees, his arm fell limply at his side. I rushed over to him. Woods bullet had pierced the left side of his chest. His breath came in gasps and I could hear the gurgling as blood began to fill his lung.
He looked at me, the cold gray gone from his eyes. They were now a tender blue color, like the eyes of a new father.
“In my......pocket. Take out the.......paper.....there,” he said.
I reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. I looked up and saw Sheriff Danvers standing there.
“Read it,” Granger said. “I want.....the Sheriff to witness.....it.”
I slowly read the paper. “I Clyde Granger bequeath all my worldly possessions to my son, Charlie Evans.” I couldn't believe what I had just read.
“Evans......was your.... step father's.... name” Granger said. “Your mother...... married him.....after she went back east and.....divorced me. Her name was Mary Elizabeth.”
“She died from a fever five years ago,” I said.
“That's when...... letters......stopped.” Granger said. “I looked.....for you. Found out you were.....here at the......same time Woods......got.....a hold of.....me.”
“So you told him to meet you here,” I said. “But why meet me this way?”
“I've known you....were here... for months,” Granger said. His voice was noticeably weaker. “Just....couldn't.... get the......courage up. I knew I....could beat.....Woods.....but also.....knew he.....might get....lead in me. I'm older......and.....slower. This was....my last....chance to meet.....you.”
It almost seemed like I was in a dream. A crowd had gathered around us now. “Get a doctor,” I yelled at no one in particular.
“That won't be necessary, son,” Sheriff Danvers said.
I looked back at Granger. He had stopped breathing. Slowly his body began to slump over forward. I grabbed him and laid him down easily. The notorious Clyde Granger was no more.
I looked again at the piece of paper. At the bottom was a set of numbers and the name of the bank in Denver.
There are now two fresh graves in the cemetery at Barleyville. One grave has a fancy carved head stone. The other grave has just a wooden cross with a name painted on it. Clyde Granger will be known as long as that granite marker stands tall. Dave Woods will be forgotten when the paint fades from his.
Me, I now live in the lap of luxury in a hotel suite in Denver.
Oops, I gotta go. The senator's daughter just knocked on my door.