Free Story: The Legend of The Black Gun
I remember that when I was a kid my father had two great joys when it came to watching television. One was watching Yankees games, and the other was watching Westerns – what he called “Shoot ’em ups.” It didn’t matter if it was some hokey old singing cowboy movie or one of the many Western TV shows that were aired back in the day, if it was on, he was watching.
I like a good Western too, probably something I inherited from my father, just like my being a lifelong Yankees fan. As I grew into adulthood however, I learned that much of what we saw in the cowboy movies and television shows was greatly glorified. The lives of the cowboys weren’t as glamorous as they were portrayed on film. For the most part, their lives were hard – not glamorous at all. I also learned that contrary to what we watched in the movies and on television, there were a lot of black cowboys. I don’t know if my father ever knew that there were black cowboys in the Old West. I do know that if he had, he would’ve been proud that maybe some of them served as the inspiration for his “Shoot ’em ups.”
I came up with the idea for this short story – The Legend of The Black Gun – as a tribute to my father. Maybe one day it will grow into a novel.
The Legend of The Black Gun
Eldorado Canyon, Nevada
The Techatticup Salon
Dusty was polishing his bartop when the salon doors swung open. He looked up to see who might be coming in so early, and his hand froze in mid-swipe. The man coming into his place wasn’t one of the local miners or cowboys.
The young fella wore fancy duds; a buckskin duster over a black shirt and trousers, and a black gus hat. But it wasn’t the man’s clothing that made Dusty freeze as still as stone; it was the fact that the man wearing the fancy getup was a Negro.
The newcomer stopped just inside the swinging salon doors and took a look around the place. Dusty noted that his eyes were squinted up like he was looking for trouble, or like he was expecting trouble to come looking for him. He had the look of a fella who was used to dancing with trouble.
Seeing no one in the place, the stranger took his hat off, slapped it against his thigh to knock off the dust and put it back on.
The fella’s duster was open so Dusty took a look at his waist and spotted the gun belt. The boy was heeled. Dusty side-stepped his way down the bar, to the spot where his scatter gun rested on the shelf under the bar.
The stranger watched Dusty as he moved, and then headed his way. He walked slow and easy across the hardwood, his spurs jingling with each step.
Dusty kept his hands on the bar. He wasn’t scared and wasn’t expecting trouble from this boy, but he kinda wished some of the fellas from town were around to back him when he told this ignorant darkie what was what.
The young man reached the bar, and before he could open his mouth Dusty said, “We don’t serve you here, boy.”
The newcomer didn’t blink. He looked Dusty dead in his eyes and said, “I ain’t looking for service.”
“Then what the hell you want in here, boy?”
“I’m looking for a girl.”
Dusty felt his anger grow from tepid to hot. “Boy, I don’t serve your kind no liquor and I damn sure don’t sell you none a my girls! Now get the hell outta my place before I fill you full a buck shot!”
The boy didn’t react to Dusty’s command. He stared at the bartender as cold as a snake and said, “Her name is Eloise. Eloise Parker. I been told she works here. I reckon that means she works for you. I want to see her.”
Dusty glared at the boy, trying to decide if he should cold cock the black bastard or let him taste both barrels.
The Negro said, “Mister, I ain’t here for no trouble. But I’m telling you that the wise and intelligent thing for you to do is keep your hands on top a that bar and call Eloise on out here. Any other decision you make sure gon’ be your last one.”
This boy didn’t talk like the coloreds Dusty had encountered in his life. And he didn’t show the least bit of fear. Most of his kind had their hats in their hands, eyes on the dirt and were shuffling their feet before daring to say a peep. That made Dusty nervous. He sure wished some of the boys from town would show up. He swallowed and said, “Is she some kin to you, boy?”
“Can’t see how that’s none of your affair. Now, you gon’ call her, or do we have to do this some other way?”
Dusty wanted to put this boy in his place. He thought about trying it, but as soon as the thought hit his head the boy put his hand on top of the bar.
The hand was so fast that Dusty didn’t see it move. One instant the boy’s hand was at his side. The next instant it was on the bar top, holding a polished black Colt Peacemaker. The boy laid the gun flat on the polished bar top, his finger not even on the trigger, but his intent was as loud as a scream.
Dusty turned his head and crowed, “Eloise! Eloise, get on out here, girl…right now!”
“Much obliged,” the young man said. He holstered his sidearm. Dusty breathed a sigh of relief and tried to keep his water from running down his leg.
A minute later the girl came out from the back, rubbing sleep from her eyes.
The young man backed away from the bar so he could get a good look at her while keeping the barkeep in his sight. When his eyes fell on her his heart felt like it would burst from his chest. She wore a tattered calico dress that had faded so much it was colorless. Her hair was pulled up in a simple bun. But she was still the most beautiful creature he’d ever laid his eyes on.
As she walked and rubbed her eyes she muttered, “What you want with me this early, Dusty?”
The barkeep said, “This here boy come looking for you. You know him?”
The stranger waited as she dropped her hands and looked at him. Her eyes got big. Her mouth dropped open. She blinked and said, “Solomon?”
His smile started at his heart and worked its way up to his mouth. “Hey there, Ellie,” he said.
She ran to him, threw herself into his arms, and gave him kisses sweeter than honeysuckle.
He let her go sooner than he wanted to because he heard laughter and footsteps thumping outside on the plank walk, coming closer. He turned as three men pushed their way into the saloon. Their laughter lasted as long as it took their eyes to adjust to the low light in the bar. Then they saw him and went quiet.
Solomon eyed the men. All were carrying side arms. When he came to this shit town he’d hoped to find Ellie, pack her up and ride out of this rat hole with no trouble. It looked like the chances of that were getting slimmer.
Behind him Ellie said, “Mornin’ boys! Ya’ll look a might thirsty.” She was trying to quell trouble before it got started.
One of the men looked at the barkeep. “What the hell’s this, Dusty? You serving coons now, or this your new mop boy?”
Emboldened now that help had arrived Dusty said, “Hell’s I know, Clint. I think this nigga’s tryin’ to run off with Ellie. Steal my property.”
Solomon spoke to the bartender without taking his eyes off the three at the entry. “She ain’t your goddamn property. Ain’t nobody property no more.”
The three men spread out, moving slow. Solomon felt Ellie close behind him, pulling back the tails of his duster. She whispered nervously, “Ooh, boy…”
One of the other men spoke. “Hey Clint, I think I know this boy. I think he’s the nigga what rides with the Sundown Raiders.”
Clint spat a wad of tobacco juice on the wooden floor. “Don’t mean shit to me. All I see is a nigga bout to die.”
Solomon saw the fingers on the one named Clint’s gun side twitching. All right then.
The third man, who looked like he had some Mexican or Cherokee blood said, “That true – you ride with the Raiders?”
Solomon said, “No…they ride with me.”
Thinking he was distracted, Clint went for it. Solomon drew and killed him first. As he shot the half breed, who’d just gotten his hand on the heel of his pistol, Solomon reached to the small of his back with his left hand for his derringer. It was gone. Goddamn it!
The third man was quick; he had his iron clear of his holster. Solomon fired fast, without aiming, and hit him in the shoulder. The man cried out. Solomon cut his cry off with a bullet to chest.
Solomon flinched when a gunshot banged behind him, near his head. He spun around and saw Ellie with her arm straight out and his smoking derringer in her hand, pointed at the bar. The barkeep stood behind the bar with his shotgun in his hands. His eyes were wide and his mouth hung open. There was a spot in the center of his forehead. The spot starting leaking blood, and the dead on his feet bartender collapsed, disappearing behind the bar.
Solomon looked at Ellie. She looked at him and said, “Good thing for you you don’t change your habits; still keep a backup.”
Smiling, Solomon said, “I like some a my habits, Ellie – like kissing on you.”
Ellie handed his derringer back and said, “We need to go, Solomon. Come on.”
He followed her out through the back of the saloon.
They rode hard, heading north. Solomon knew of a valley in the Nevada desert about a day’s ride from Techatticup that had natural spring water. There was a settlement there, a little town called Las Vegas. The Mormons had settled that spot, had built a fort there and even planted fruit trees and vegetable gardens years back, before they were driven out by Indian raids. Solomon figured they could hole up there for a day, and then move on.
The Mormon Fort
Las Vegas, Nevada
Solomon sat on the narrow bunk, tugginghis boots off and looking at Ellie as she sat waist deep in soapy water in the room’s tin washtub. The water made her skin glow like burnished copper. She sure looked good naked and wet.
“How long we staying here, Solomon?” she asked as she ran a rag along the length of a slender arm.
“Not long. If there’s a posse trailing us they’ll get here soon enough. We’ll leave before light. How you feelin’ girl?”
“My tail’s sore. I ain’t rode like that since we was little.”
“You might be blistered. Stand up and let me take a look.”
Ellie smiled over her shoulder at him. “What you wanna look for, boy?”
“To see what I ain’t seen for nigh on three years.”
“Oh, is that right? And what makes you think you have the right to see anything, Solomon Hanks? What makes you think that after chasing off all over the place robbing banks with your friends that you can just come and see what you wanna see?”
“Because it’s mine, that’s why. I ain’t got nothing to say about who paid for it. You got to eat like anybody else. But it’s mine, Ellie. Now stand up and let me see.”
“I ain’t scared a you, boy,” Ellie grinned.
Solomon got out of the rest of his clothes and went to the tub. Ellie looked at him…at all of him.
“Who else you been giving that to?” she asked.
“Ain’t had time.”
“Yeah, I heard you been busy. So I’m the last one you been with?”
“In almost three years.”
Ellie looked up at him, smiled at him. “Then I reckon it’s ‘bout time you come on home.” She stood up and turned her back to him, letting Solomon see what he’d been missing and dreaming about.
He stepped into the tub and wrapped his arms around her from behind, cupping her plump breasts in his hands. He pressed his lips to the tender spot at the base of her neck. Ellie sighed and leaned back into him.
“They don’t mean nothin’ Solomon,” she whispered. “It was always you I was thinking about.”
“I know, Ellie. Like I said, you had to eat.”
“You gon’ keep me with you now?”
“We ride hard, Ellie. We’re always moving. That’s no life for a woman.”
“My life is with you, Solomon. That’s where I want to be. I don’t care how hard it is.” She turned around in the tub, gave him her lips.
Solomon sat down in the tub and pulled Ellie down on top of him. She grasped him in her hand, guided him to her and inside her as she sat.
As he lost himself in her heat Solomon decided that he couldn’t let her ride with his gang. That was no kind of life for his woman. And they couldn’t settle out west. There was too big a price on his head.
He decided that he’d take her east, maybe to Pennsylvania or New York or New Jersey, and set her up there. He had enough stashed away to buy them a nice little piece of property. Then he’d do a few more jobs and go join her. They could settle down and start raising some young ‘uns.
Solomon had been planning ahead, for the day when he’d settle down to live a normal life. He’d already had papers drawn up to give himself a new identity. When he moved east to start his new life with Ellie he wouldn’t be Solomon Hanks, also known as the outlaw called The Black Gun anymore. His name would be Solomon Gray.
He thought that name had a nice ring to it.