The Outlaw

14Jan16

! outlawThe stage wound its way over the ridge, braking some as its wheels churned in the dry dust. The steepness of the trail necessitated the driver having to apply the brake lever and sooth the jittery team least the whole rig tumble down the slope the short way.

There were two men up front, both wearing wide-brimmed felt hats over grizzled unshaven faces. The first, the driver, looked to have a weather-beaten and leather complexion as if years of the road were written on his face. The other was more crimson-skinned, like a storekeeper who had stepped out of his element, but sandy white hair suggested Nordic ancestry struggling out of its natural element.

“Whoa girls, whoa,” Jake Holcroft said softly, his expert hands guiding the reins.

Even Joe Hanson riding shotgun had put up his long gun and was pensively attending to the horses. This was always a tricky part of the journey and the stage coach rocked violently as it made the turn.

The man adjusted his hat and shot an accusational glance to the sky. “I’ll be glad to get out of this sun,” he said and spat.

Jake didn’t answer, all his attention was still on the rig and the final turn.

In inside the coach Martha Johnson grimaced and held on tight as the coach rocked, each bump a personal insult to both her dignity and the place in closest contact with the seat. She was almost 30 and well-turned out with high piled ash blonde hair and a subtly powdered face in the Eastern style that made men admire her without scandalising the churchwomen.

Martha was used to favourable attention and generally got her way so the bucking carriage was an uncharacteristic experience and she was wondering to whom she should complain. This wouldn’t do at all. After all she had survived a loveless marriage and widowhood now suited her. Once she got to Carson City she was finally going to live a little.

Ken Clarkson was more stoical and viewed Martha’s discomfort with pleasant passivity. He knew her type; her dangerous beauty was not for him. His tipped his hat and smiled all the same when she scowled at him.

He had the look of a preacher, but banking was his game and a new position awaited him in Carson City.

The remaining passenger was asleep, an older woman of homely appearance and a cheerful disposition when she was awake. She had introduced herself as Mrs Dandridge when she had come aboard, but since then her conversation had been limited and Clarkson for one was glad that mostly she just slept.

“This is really too much,” Martha said haughtily as the stage lurched and made her bounce hard on her derrière. “Ooouch.”

Clarkson offered her a non-committal smile and tipped his Derby again.

Jake’s relief of finally completing the long rugged descent was short-lived, for there on the trail was a large man on a big black horse.

Despite the heat the man wore a long grey cattleman’s coat and kerchief pulled up high under his eyes. What with the low-brimmed sundowner hat his face was obscured and only hard dark eyes peeked through.

If the whole outfit hadn’t already screamed outlaw then the pair of long-barrelled six guns pointing at them would have done.

“Toss the rifle friend and no one will get hurt,” the man drawled in a firm but easy manner.

There was crinkling at his eyes suggesting a smile and Joe hesitated. It was that dangerous moment in any robbery and it quickly passed. The stage guard had lost.

“That’s a smart man,” the stranger said as Joe tossed the gun. “All I want are the two lead horses and the cash.”

Jake sat back and double checked the brake. He had been here before, many times. He knew the drill and he knew how it worked.

“We’ll cooperate fella’ no need for any gunplay here,” the driver answered.

The big man nodded and holstering one pistol he slipped from the horse in one easy motion.

“How many aboard?” he said nodding at the stage.

“Just three, one man, two women?” the travel-weary man sighed.

“No kids then?” the outlaw pressed him. Children were always unpredictable during a robbery and best avoided unless one was utterly ruthless.

Joe shook his head and then twisting around in his seat he yelled. “You had best get out folks.”

Martha got out first. Her language bordered on the unacceptable as she demanded to know what the hold-up was. Even when she saw the outlaw she didn’t shut up as if she didn’t quite understand the situation.

Mrs Dandridge was rather more upset and kept muttering ‘oh dear’ as she fluttered for her handkerchief.

“You packing?” the outlaw rasped sharply when he saw Clarkson.

“No Sir,” the banker replied and held his coat open.

Martha gave him a filthy look and sneered.

“Now look here, what is the meaning of this?” she said rounding on the outlaw.

“Best calm down ma’am,” Joe said, making a placating gesture with his hands.

“I will not calm down, who do you think you are?” Martha shared her second best haughty tones.

“Listen to the man, lady, all I want is the cash box and any ready valuables you got. You can keep wedding rings and such,” he said almost gently, adding “just turn out your purses and pocket books and I’ll be on my way.”

The cash box landed with a crash at the man’s feet and some of the horses rocked back and reared a little. At the same time Clarkson let go of his coat with his left hand and slowly reached for his wallet.

Mrs Dandridge too began to fumble in her purse, all the while muttering about the inconvenience of it all.

“And what about you?” the outlaw said to Martha.

Martha responded by folding her arms and glaring at him.

The gunman smiled with his eyes and made a half-laugh. Then after glancing at the cash box and the paltry few dollars Mrs Dandridge was holding out to him he actually shrugged.

“You folks can keep your money,” he conceded. “You men just sling that box between the two horses up front and I’ll be on my way.”

With calm efficiency Jake and Joe dropped from rig’s seat and while the driver unhitched, the guard heaved the box over to the jittery horses.

“That’s the way,” the outlaw said pleasantly and began backing away to his horse. “You all have a fine day now.”

Just then a shot rang out and Martha ran forward with glee as she chambered the second bullet of her small hand gun.

“You God-cursed bastard, y-you…” Martha spat, having exhausted her entire vocabulary of acceptable bad words. Then standing legs akimbo, pistol in both hands she aimed for her second shot.

Mrs Dandridge chose the moment to scream and fled between the reckless young woman and the outlaw just as Martha fired.

The older woman fell heavily into the dust with a crump leaving a horrified Martha gaping in confusion.

Joe and Jake swung their gaze to the outlaw. Fully expecting him to blast the foolish woman where she stood, but to their complete surprise he actually holstered his weapon and then stooped to take up Joe’s fallen rifle.

Martha felt sick and let her eyes drop to Clarkson who was bending over Mrs Dandridge’s body.

Meanwhile the rifle described a perfect arc as it spun beyond reach further down the slope. If it survived the fall Joe would pick it up later, but only he cared. His partner, a grief-shot Jake, was anxiously looking over at the fallen passenger and then in bitter accusation at Martha.

“She just fainted,” Clarkson announced with relief as he stood up.

“Thank the Lord,” Jake sighed as he looked skyward.

“I didn’t mean to… I-I… oh lore,” Martha muttered.

“Lady, I am about done with you,” the outlaw growled as he advanced upon the hapless woman. “Has anyone ever taken a good piece of leather to your bare hiney? If I had my druthers I’d add a switch to that, but lucky for you I don’t see a stand of hickory to hand.”

Martha startled and looked around her for some rescue as she blushed.

“As it is I am going to turn you over my knee and paddle your hind end to a cherry sunset,” the stranger snarled.

“Y-you, you wouldn’t dare,” Martha spluttered, “Mr Holcroft…?”

“I reckon it is just what you need,” Jake said bitterly, “If thought it was worth my job I would do it myself.”

Bemused and stunned, everyone looked on as the outlaw seized Martha and dropping to a boulder turned her over his knee. Her skirts offered little resistance as one by one they were hauled up and her pantaloons went south to form a puddle with an ease that suggested an expert.

“Oh my,” Mrs Dandridge gasped as an amused Clarkson helped her to her feet.

The banker now looked away, but Joe and Jake turned on the scene with a grim satisfaction.

Martha was shrill in her protests as her bottom was bared and rolled uppermost over the outlaws lap.

“You’re an outlaw,” she shrieked, “A bastard; I was just doing my duty… I was just… ow…. Eeeeeeeei.”

The gunman’s big hand fell like a paddle, blasting Martha’s bare bottom with firm satisfying cracks as she kicked her heels and made angry mewling sounds in her throat.

“You have a spanking coming lady and I am going to give it to you,” he said in a determined voice.

As the man spanked on his masked slipped a little and Jake thought he recognised him. But maybe he would forget that detail. Neither the cash, nor horses were his, and what was a two hour delay into Carson City? He would drink on this for months.

A miserable Martha struggled not cry, but being scarlet at both ends it was a challenge and the outlaw seemed in no hurry to finish her punishment.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to…” she wailed.

“Lady, you tried to kill me and almost got that passenger killed,” he growled. “What if I had been a mean sort? You could have been killed. You hadn’t lost anything you little fool, even the stage team understand that.”

Joe felt faintly guilty that he wasn’t doing anything, but his rifle was downslope and he reckoned that with the man still having a gun to hand, anything precipitous might just get someone killed. Besides, that woman sure had it coming.

Martha was sobbing now and was flopped in total submission in a draped position over the man’s lap.

“I guess were done,” the outlaw said, letting her down.

While Mrs Dandridge moved to help the sobbing woman the outlaw turned to his horse.

“Glad to do business with you all, have a good day now and go careful,” he said.

As he crested the ridge Martha glared after him through heavy water-pooled eyes, but try as she might the resentment just wasn’t in her.

“I’m sorry ma’am,” she whispered as Mrs Dandridge helped her up.

“Hush now girl, no harm done to either of us,” the older woman soothed.

As her bottom flared with pain Marth wanted to dispute that, but after a rueful glance to the direction the outlaw had gone, she held her tongue.

The ride to Carson City was a painful one for after that. The hard seat bouncing under her tender tail had forced her to kneel up on the seat and the amused stares from Mrs Dandridge and Clarkson only added to her shame. But strangely it was not thoughts of the outlaw that turned in her mind but curiosity about her next husband. Maybe she would look out for one with mean eyes and big hands.



One Response to “The Outlaw”

  1. 1 MrJ

    A world of justice.


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