Saturday Morning in Copper Springs

Dreaming of horses and cactus and storms turning the streets to mud…the sound of a gunshot woke the Deputy, who leapt up from his chair, snatching his shotgun, and ran down the street towards the town’s stables.

He rounded the corner and saw two standing and one on the ground. The shorter one, a child, was looking up at the taller one, a woman in travelling dress. She had a pistol in her hand, pointed at the unmoving body at her feet.

The Deputy recognized her as Miss Greenwood, who had arrived in Copper Springs a few days before. He couldn’t remember the child’s name, but he knew Miss Greenwood was her teacher, or governess.

“Miss Greenwood, I’m going to need that gun please. Hand it over slowly.”

She turned towards him, and offered the pistol. She had a rising bruise on her cheek, and the front of her blouse was torn. Some of the buttons were scattered on the ground, around the body laying there.

The Deputy rolled him over. He looked like one of those railroad laborers. His clothes were filthy, and his boots were heavily worn. He had been shot in the heart.

“I had to shoot him. He was going to…”

Her eyes showed her shock, and the horror began to rise in her as she realized what she’d done.

The child took the woman’s hand and said, “He called Miss Greenwood the most awful names. He said he was going to…well I can’t repeat what he said.”

“And that’s when you shot him?” the Deputy asked Miss Greenwood.

The little girl answered him, “No! Miss Greenwood answered him with some comments about his manners and upbringing.”

The girl began to cry. That seemed to pull the woman out of her shock, and she knelt to face the child and touch her cheek.

“Miss Greenwood insulted him. Not as bad as he had insulted her, but it made him angry. He grabbed Miss Greenwood by the front of her blouse and struck her face with the gun. He hit her so hard, she fell down. He also dropped the gun.”

For the first time, the woman spoke, “He seemed drunk. I’m surprised he could stand. He threatened the most awful things! He threatened both of us.”

“And then Miss Greenwood picked up the gun and shot him. She stood up, and we just stood there until you ran up. I’ve never seen a man killed before, and I’m sure Miss Greenwood hasn’t either.”

The pistol looked much finer than what a railroad laborer could afford. But it was the weekend after payday. It was possible he had won the pistol while gambling. The short barrel and fancy engraving marked it as a gentleman’s gun — not what your typical cowboy brought to town.

The Deputy stared at the body for a long time. Then he said, “This looks to me like self-defense. But the Sheriff will have many questions for you, ma’am.”

Alice Greenwood checked the contents of her valise and began setting out clothes for the next day. The little girl sat on the bed and began removing her shoes.

Alice said, “Emily, you did some fast thinking today. I don’t think I could have come up with a story like that so quickly.”

“Miss Greenwood, I’m sorry you lost your pistol. Why did you challenge that man? Why did you kill him?”

“I’d seen him before, about a year ago, back east. I was afraid he’d recognize us. He was a friend of your father.”