Chester’s Last Chance
A Notorious outlaw was heading toward town. Someone was about to die.
It was a very hot and lazy day in the little desert town of Coldwater Springs. The town had been unusually quiet for the better part of a week. Jim Wills, the town sheriff, took advantage of the lack of business by sitting at his desk busying himself with long neglected paperwork.
The stagnant office air, the heat of the day and the boring paperwork were getting the better of Sheriff Wills. He halfheartedly brushed away a pesky fly that thought the end of his nose was a good landing place. It was becoming harder to stay focused. His eyelids were getting heavier by the minute and his head began to bob as it moved closer to his desk.
Just as he was about to doze off, the front door unexpectedly swung open giving him a start that about broke his neck as he jerked his head upright and instinctively grabbed at his gun as he jumped from his chair.
Bounding through the open door was the town clerk, Chester Gramm. “Sheriff Wills, I just got an urgent telegram for you. Seems the ‘Elko Kid’ has held up the bank in Marysville and may be heading in our direction.”
The sheriff regained his composure. “Chester, are you reading my mail again?”
“It’s a telegram sheriff. I wrote it out, can’t help but read it.”
The sheriff motioned for the slip. “Let me see it.” He took the telegram from Chester and read it for himself. “Yup, you got it right Chester. If the Elko Kid comes our way, I’ll be ready for him.”
Chester tapped his long bony finger on the telegram. “Says right here there’s a seven hundred dollar reward for him…dead or alive. I sure could use seven hundred dollars.”
The sheriff looked up at Chester with a bit of concern. “Now don’t be getting any fool ideas. You could end up with a bullet in your back. It’s best you leave bounty hunting to the professionals. The Elko Kid hasn’t eluded the law this long by being stupid. He’s not going to ride right into town and let you get the drop on him.”
“That may be true sheriff,” retorted Chester. “But a man could get lucky.”
“Lucky?” Questioned the sheriff. “It’s more likely a man would get himself killed. I’m talking about you, Chester. Not the Kid.”
Sheriff Wills tossed the telegram onto his desk and sat down. Chester was about to head out the door when the sheriff called out. “Chester, If you see Dusty, send him my way.”
Disgusted at the mere mention of the name, Chester remarked, “That no good lazy deputy of yours is probably holed up in a cool spot somewhere. He’s not much for an honest days work you know.”
“Maybe so,” answered the sheriff easily. “Can’t blame a man for trying to stay cool on a hot day. Besides, not much deputy work to be done around here these days. So if you think you know where he is, find him and send him my way.”
Chester turned, muttering to himself as he headed out the door.
“Seven hundred dollars, that’s a lot of money. I don’t care what the sheriff says. He’s not my mama, and I could sure use seven hundred dollars. It won’t hurt none to be on the lookout, just in case that ol’ jasper comes my way.
I think I’ll have my assistant handle things for a day or two while I take a well deserved vacation. I might just mozy on down the trail toward Marysville. You never know what a man might find while he’s out ridin’ the trail…”
Later that day Sheriff Wills and his Deputy, Dusty Mason, discussed the possibility of capturing The Elko Kid.
“You know Dusty, my contract with this town says that I can keep any reward money offered for any outlaws I bring in. With the Elko Kid in the area, I think we should take a ride out of town. Give the area a good looking over. See if we can scare something up.”
“Sounds like a good idea. Where do you think we should head?” Questioned Dusty.
“I expect he’s heading out of Arizona. Maybe to New Mexico. I hear he has a lady friend over there. He’s not stupid, so I would imagine he won’t be traveling on any main trails.
I’ll tell you something else Dusty. I have a gut feeling about where we might meet up with him. Do you remember the area, and in particular, that old Indian trail where we caught up with ‘Black Hat Baxter’?
If you recall, Baxter and the Kid rode together for a spell. My guess is they traveled that old Indian trail at one time or another, and the ‘Kid’ just might head that way this time as well. I’ll be fair and square about it and give you half the reward money if we catch him.”
Half the reward was a lot of money. Dusty was all for giving it a try. “When do we leave,” he inquired.
“Gather your gear and be ready to go at first light,” remarked the sheriff.
Meanwhile, Chester was laying his own plans.
“I’m going to take a couple days off. Do you think you can handle things around here while I’m gone?” Chester asked his assistant.
Chester’s assistant looked up from his work. He had been in the office with Chester earlier that morning when the telegram to Sheriff Wills came through. He had a good idea what Chester was up to.
“And just where might you be going?” He asked.
“Don’t be answering a question with a question,” quipped Chester. “If I wanted you to know my business, I would have told you.”
“You don’t have to tell me. I can add two and two together. You’re going after the Elko Kid and that reward money.”
Chester retorted. “Like I said, If I wanted you to know my business….
I’ll ask you again. Do you think you can handle things around here for a couple of days while I’m gone?”
“You know darn well I can handle things around here, Chester. So get out of here… and happy hunting.”
That’s all Chester needed to hear. “I’m not going hunting,” he replied.
“Ya, right,” replied the assistant as he went back to his work.
Early the next morning Chester headed out of town. He had his own ideas where the Elko Kid might be heading. He was hoping to find him out along this old Indian trail he knew about. He had an hours head start over the sheriff and his deputy. Seems they were all heading toward the the same area.
After the Elko Kid had robbed the bank in Marysville, he headed for New Mexico to see his gal. He had enough money to last him a couple of months and had managed to elude the worthless posse that tried to follow him.
Now he was heading down a little known Indian trail he knew about from his days of riding with Black Hat Baxter. Up ahead was a hidden crevice that would lead him out of the desert and into the hill country. Once he made it through the crevice he would be safe from any pursuers. Just as he reached the crevice he was surprised by an old man with a shotgun.
Chester stepped out from behind a large boulder and pointed an old double-barreled shotgun toward the Elko Kid and yelled out. “Surprise! I’ll bet you didn’t think anybody knew about this old trail, now did you?”
Chester continued to blab. “Well guess what, you were wrong, I knew about it and now I got me the Elko Kid and a seven hundred dollar reward that comes along with it.
I could have killed you. Shot you dead as hell, right here, and nobody would have said a thing against it. But I didn’t. And do you know why? Because if I paraded you into town slung over a saddle, everyone would be looking at your dead body and that would be that.
But if I lead you into town alive and upright, everyone will be paying attention to me. I’ll be a hero, and a rich one at that. I’ll have money and young ladies hanging from my arm, maybe both arms. That’s right, I’ll be both rich and famous.
So, Mr. Elko Kid, why don’t you just drop that belt of yours real slow like, and don’t try anything funny. It would be no tall feat for this here shooter to blow you right out of that saddle, but then I wouldn’t be famous. I might still be rich, but not famous, and I want both.”
The Elko Kid couldn’t hardly believe his bad luck and complied with Chester’s demand. “You sure talk a lot,” He commented as he slowly removed his holster, dropping it to the ground next to his horse.
“I thank you kindly, for the belt and the compliment,” Chester happily remarked.
“It was no compliment,” replied the kid.
Chester ignored the Kid as he stooped to pick up the guns. He only took his eyes off the Kid for a split second, but it was enough time for the Kid to pull a revolver from under his vest and shoot Chester in the back.
“Now you’re not rich, famous or talkative,” scoffed the Elko Kid. “Now you’re just a dead old man. Sorry about your luck.”
The Elko Kid dismounted and retrieved his holster, strapped it back on, then led his horse into the crevice.
As Chester had the drop on the Elko Kid, Sheriff Wills and Dusty watched from behind a boulder higher up the hill.
“Well Sheriff, what do you want to do now? Chester seems to have the Kid.”
“Just keep your eye on them,” he ordered. “I don’t trust the Kid and I sure as hell don’t think Chester has the brains to get that varmint all the way back to town on his own. We’ll follow from a distance just in case he tries to make a break for it.”
“What about the reward money?” asked Dusty.
“Well, it looks to me like Chester has laid claim to it fair and square, don’t you think? I ain’t one to deprive a man of what rightly belongs to him, but I don’t plan to help him get the Kid to town either. Now, if the Kid gets away from Chester, and we capture him, that’s another story. So keep a close eye on him, just in case.”
As the two watched the Kid remove his belt and drop it to the ground, they both were thinking the same thing. “Chester, don’t go and pick it up.”
Chester began to head toward the belt.
“No, bad move,” thought the sheriff out loud. “Dusty, get a bead on the Kid in case he tries something.”
As Dusty reached for his rifle, a shot rang out. Surprised, Dusty quickly turned to see Chester laying on the ground and the Kid dismounting from his horse. Dusty quickly steadied his rifle on the rock in front of him, but the Kid had dismounted with his horse between him and a bullet.
“I’ll get him as soon as he mounts up,” said Dusty as he kept his sights in the direction of the Kid.
“Don’t miss,” warned the sheriff. “You’re only going to get one shot before he disappears into that crevice.”
After buckling his gun belt back on, the Elko Kid led his horse into the crevice and Dusty never did get a clean shot.
As soon as the Kid was out of sight, the sheriff and Dusty scrambled down the hill and into the crevice, but the Kid was nowhere to be seen.
“Looks like we lost him,” stated the sheriff in disgust.
“Guess I should have shot his horse,” replied the deputy.
“Too late for that. Let’s head back and check on Chester.”
When the sheriff and Dusty reached Chester, he was barely alive. They turned him over and made him as comfortable as possible. Chester looked up and smiled. In a faint voice he whispered to Sheriff Wills. “I had him sheriff. I had him and I let him get away from me. This was my big chance. My last chance to be noticed. Maybe have a few dollars in my pocket and a fine young woman around my arm. Was that too much to ask?” And with that, Chester closed his eyes and drew his last breath.
“No,” confessed the sheriff. “Not too much at all.”
© Copyright 2020 by Scott A. Gese All Rights Reserved.
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