Chapter 1

I got the nickname of Shotgun Jack from my habit of carrying a sawed-off 10-gauge shotgun instead of a pistol. It's one of them new-fangled cartridge guns. I can fire off two cartridges and reload, ready to fire again in about the time it takes another man to fire off five shots from his Colt, and he still hasn't reloaded. Five shots to two doesn't sound like much of an advantage, but my cartridges are loaded with 10 balls of .36 caliber lead. That means that I can get off 20 lead balls of killing size all at one time ifen I wants to. That's four times as many balls as him, and the spread from my sawed-off barrels means that I don't have to be as accurate as the other guy. On top of that, the simple fact that I'm still alive has to prove sumpthin'.

I guess I should tell ya a little bit about me. I'm Jack Green, 6'-4" tall and weigh 243 pounds. That makes it kind of hard fer me to hide in a crowd, but my size does help me on occasion. Fer one thing, I kin fire my shotgun with one hand ifen I have to, though I have to admit that it ain't all that easy. It has a pistol grip and no shoulder stock, so that it's easier to swing around and handle. Of course, it's no use over about 40 yards, so that's why I carry a saddle gun, a Winchester '73, fer when I need a little range.

My hair is nearly black and my eyes are kind of a funny color green. My features are what I would call regular, but I've heard that women call me handsome. I don't know ifen I would agree with them completely, but I admit that I do like the description.

I have an unusual education. I went to school all the way to the sixth grade, so I've got more learnin' than most folks, but I try not to let it go to my head. I guess that's why I talk a little funny—my accent ain't as strong as some, but most folks don't have no trouble understandin' me.

I got kind of a funny job, too. I like to call myself an independent health contractor, though most folks would call me a body guard. The thing is, I don't work cheap, so I don't work very often. I fill in with odd jobs like bounty huntin' and such as that when I ain't looking out fer sombody's hide. I gits paid $20 a day or $100 a week, in advance, so I don't need to work very often. I gots a first class reputation, which is my best advertisement. I ain't never lost a customer, though sometimes they do git bent or dented a little.

Right now, I gots a job protecting the lieutenant governor of Texas. Normally, that would be a job for the Texas Rangers, but he's afraid that one of the Rangers might try to collect that $500 price that a rancher over near Laredo put on his head. It seams that the rancher thinks that the lieutenant governor knocked up his daughter, at least that's what she claims. I don't know how long this job will run, but I'm on the payroll until the Rangers find out who the real father is. I don't know how they're gonna do that, but, hell, the money is good and the work is easy, so I ain't complainin'.

So far, we've stayed around Austin, but my client is scheduled to visit some sort of shindig for politicians, and we have to leave next week. The kicker is it's in Laredo. I ain't looking forward to a trip what runs that long, but I will be happy to git the money, soz I guess I kin put up with it. The lieutenant governor plans to travel by his private carriage, since the railroad don't run all the way there, yet. Well, I'm making the trip on my own mule, since I'm too big to ride a horse. I gots a real nice mule, also named Jack, and he's the biggest damned mule anybody ever saw. It takes that size, too, to carry me very far, since I'm so big and heavy. I joke about Jack being built for comfort, not for speed, but that mule is plenty fast enough for me.

We left kinda late in the mornin', it was 8:00 o'clock, but I ain't running this here show, soz I just went along without complainin'. There were two men in the carriage with the lieutenant governor, a driver and his relief. I didn't know either one of them, but my man was happy with them, so I guess I couldn't complain.

We'd been on the road about two hours when it happened. The driver stopped to switch off with his relief, and they both stepped down from the carriage. I was watchin' them kinda close, since I still felt like there was sumpthin' wrong. All of a sudden, the galoot what was drivin' pulled out a pistol and pointed it at me. Now, I ain't one who cottons to havin' a pistol pointed his way, so I jerked up my shotgun and let him have one barrel. That was when he lost interest in livin'.

The other galoot had also pulled a pistol and had pointed it at the lieutenant governor. Well, that's when I stopped playin' nice. I gave him the other barrel and blew him into the next county. I reloaded afore I did anything else, but then I did step down to check on the lieutenant governor. He was right pale, let me tell you.

That was it fer the trip to the convention, or whatever it was. He asked me to drive him home, and that's what I did. We pulled up to his portecochere and he got out of the carriage. I drove to the shed and put the carriage up. I took care of my mule and went into the kitchen for my lunch.

A little bit later, the boss called me into his office and thanked me for saving his life. He asked how I had known that the two men, who had worked for him for the last five years, were going to try to kill him. My answer was that I didn't know exactly, but I had a good instinct for that sort of thing, and that's what has kept me alive for the last 10 years.

He pulled a $100 bill from his pocket and said, "Well, here's a bonus for having such good instincts." I thanked him graciously and pocketed the money. I planned to go by a bank tomorrow and convert the paper to gold. I figured I should git about $75 for it.

Things went along quietly after that for about a month, then the rancher's daughter had the baby. To quote the word from Laredo, the baby was half-nigger! Shit, what was she tryin' to pull!?! When he got the word, the lieutenant governor fainted dead away. I can't say that I blame him. The rancher was so upset that he shot his daughter and then himself. I don't know what happened to the kid.

Well, that was the end of that job, but I had made almost $2,000 dollars off it, so I couldn't complain. Even with my spendin' habits, this was enough money to carry me fer nearly two years, so I wasn't in no big hurry to find another job. Since I had insisted on being paid in gold, I was in good shape. I bid the lieutenant governor goodbye and went on my way. Dammit, a week after I was fired, somebody shot him! His Ranger bodyguard shot the attempted assassin, and the lieutenant governor pulled through, but it was a close thing.

Other than the money, I got a lot of free beer by tellin' this story in one saloon and another. In fact, one whore thought the story was so funny that I got a free fuck out of it.

After about six months of no more jobs, I got kind of bored, so I figured on a round or two of bounty hunting just to have sumpthin' to do. I checked out the wanted posters and saw one that looked promising. It was fer a galoot what was wanted fer bank robbery. The reward was $1,250, so I figured that he was worth runnin' down. The report was that he was last seen up near the Red River, so I figured that he had run to Indian Territory to escape the law.

I wasn't doin' nothin' else, soz I figured I'd take a little trip to Indian Territory to see what I might find. Spring had come, soz the weather was middlin' decent. I figured that it would be warm enough up there by now, but the wind and rain might still be a nuisance. Well, I was right! Ifen I could find Arkansas Bill and collect the reward, I guess I couldn't complain, though.

I crossed the river on a ferry just north of Wichita Falls. I went into the first saloon I came to and asked the bartender for any information he might have on Arkansas Bill. He said that he didn't know nothin', but I was kind of suspicious. Anyway, I hung around town fer a day or so, but nothin' showed up of interest. That was enough, so I moved on.

I must have stopped at 50 saloons afore I got a useful answer. The swamper told me that a man fitting my description of Arkansas Bill had been through town two days before, and he was headin' east. I tipped the swamper four bits for the information and made a friend for life.

The next mornin', I saddled up Jack and we headed east. We had gone about six miles when a bullet whanged into my saddle. Luckily, it didn't hurt me or Jack, but it did startle us both. Jack jumped forward farther than you would believe, and that was what kept the second bullet from hitting either one of us.

This time I saw the powder smoke, so I pulled my rifle from the scabbard and bailed offen Jack. I slapped him on the hip and he understood that I wanted him to move along about 50 yards and wait fer me. Meanwhile, I dove in a ditch on the same side of the road as the shot had come from and went looking fer the bastard what had tried to ambush me.

Man, I was pissed when I hit the bottom of that ditch. There was about three inches of rain water standin' in it, and the bottom was slippery with mud. OK, now, that son of a bitch was gonna pay fer this! I was wet, now, soz it didn't make no never-mind—I couldn't get much wetter or muddier, soz I stayed in that ditch.

I followed the ditch fer a ways 'til I got close to where the shots had come from. I figured that any galoot with sense was gonna move, but I didn't have any other place to look fer now. I worked my way, stayin' as low as I could, which was a problem fer somebody as big as me, but what else was I gonna do?

I got pretty close to the clump of brush that the shots had come from when another bullet came flyin' at me. It missed, but not by much. I was pissed all over again, but now I had a pretty good fix on the shooter. He had to be behind a hillock about a hundred yards to my left. He knew where I was, so what the hell? I fired a shot at where the last shot had come from, and, dammit, I heard a sharp cry of pain. It wasn't much sound, more of surprise than pain, I think, so I guess that I may have just scratched the galoot.

I had been crawling these last few feet, but I came to a much deeper ditch that I could run in, bent over, soz I wouldn't git shot while I was tryin' to move. This ditch took me within about 50 feet of where the last shot had come from, soz I switched my primary weapon to my shotgun. I was half runnin' with my rifle in my left hand and my shotgun in my right hand. I suddenly came out of the mouth of the ditch and there was the bastard what had been shootin' at me! I didn't hesitate, but I raised the shotgun and fired both barrels.

I ain't got no idea how many balls hit him, since I quit counting at 12, but it didn't really make no difference, no how. He was as dead as it was possible to get. I was lucky and hit him in the side and kinda low. One ball entered just below his ear and probably would of killed him even ifen he didn't have all of those balls in his chest and gut.

I took the time to reload, just in case, but I thought that he was alone, soz I didn't have to worry about another ambusher. Yep, as I figured, this was Arkansas Bill. I found his horse and loaded the body on it in preparation fer goin' back to Texas. I did wrap his body in his duster, since I didn't want to attract any more flies than I could help.

I caught up to Jack, who was just where he was supposed to be, and headed for the Red River to cross back over into Texas. I headed for the nearest county seat and turned in Arkansas Bill's body to the sheriff's office where I got a receipt. I was glad to give him up because he was already getting pretty ripe. I took my receipt to the courthouse and was issued my reward. It turned out to be $1,500. It seems that I had been given an obsolete wanted poster, but I wasn't complainin'. While I was at the courthouse, I did pick up some new posters, but I really wasn't expectin' to go do any more huntin' for a while.

I figured I needed a vacation, besides the weather was warming up, and I really didn't want to be out in the hot sun any more than I could help. I found a cool saloon with an interesting poker game and settled in for an extended session of poker. Now, I don't claim to be the best poker player in the world, but there is no question but what I win more than I lose, so I was sort of in hog heaven.

I was kind of surprised when I started losing more than I was used to. After 90 minutes of losing more than I won, and I noticed that all I won were the small pots, I figured that there was some cheatin' going on. Except fer the fact that most everybody but the poker professional was losing too often to be natural, it seemed like a friendly little game.

I started paying close attention to the pro and the way he was handling the cards. Aha! There it was! He was palming cards and sticking them on the bottom of the deck. From my angle, I couldn't see exactly how he was doing it, but he had to be seeing the cards before they were dealt. He was smart enough not to win every hand and to give other people face cards, but he always had the high cards when there was a big pot.

I unobtrusively worked my shotgun into my lap and cocked both hammers. I waited until he had set himself up with three cards from the bottom of the deck before I said anything, but when the time was right, I said, "OK, that's enough. I've sat here and watched you cheat on nearly every hand, you bastard. I've had enough. Let me see your cards. If you don't have the winning hand, I'll apologize and leave right now, but I don't think that I am wrong."

The pro snarled, "Ya stupid yokel, I ain't cheatin'. Ya can't prove that I am."

"Oh, I'll prove it as soon as you show us your cards. Lay them down, face up, soz we kin see."

"I ain't gonna do no such thing!" With that, he reached inside his coat and pulled out a derringer. As he was cocking it, I pulled the trigger on one of my barrels. The charge caught him directly in the gut. There was too short a distance for the balls to spread, so he got hit with a close-packed load of .36 caliber buckshot. I wasn't worried about hitting anybody else, we were sitting so close together.

The balls literally picked the fourflusher up and threw him back, turning over his chair, and laying him out on the floor. There was no need to check—he was dead! One poor guy at he table was so startled that he was literally scared shitless. He had to leave for home after collecting his money from the table. We split the money the pro had lying on the table evenly among all the players. That was the fairest way that we knew of to handle the situation.

Since I was the one who had won the "duel," I was the winner of anything that the pro was carrying. We did a quick search and found about $230 in a money belt. I took that, his watch, and the derringer. There was nothing else that I wanted, so I tipped the swamper a dollar and told him that he could have anything he wanted from the body if he disposed of it. The swamper was delighted, he could probably get $5 or $10 worth of clothes and such from the body.

That killed the poker game for the night, so I left for my hotel room.

For the rest of this story, you need to Log In or Register

Story tagged with:
Ma/Fa / Historical / Humor / Violent /