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Open Hands Travis Herche Smashwords Edition Copyright 2013 Travis Herche

* things were di!!erent" #n !our months o! service& the worst Russ had (een !orced to do was tell Hansen-s oldest (oy to go home and sleep it o!!" He spent hours every day $ust sitting on the tower& and he was ra ing in two dollars a day !or doing it" .ederal %arshal" He-d heard stories o! daring lawmen that gunned down outlaw gangsters every night" That sort o! thing was (ound to happen in the (ig towns" )ut here in .oster * population 11.oster citi1ens gathered around (y now" The %ayor was hal! shaved" He ru((ed the smooth part o! his !ace a(sently" .ol s wor ed their (ac s o!! in the hot sun !or less" )ut Russ had a gun and a star& and that was worth good money" He too a long draw o! his cigar and s/uinted into the east" The two roads in the town were shaped li e a T& with the water tower at the southernmost tip" 0t the other end& (y the 'i(erty Hotel& was the east* west road through which the stage line passed" The passengers usually stopped to eat on their way west to Reno" 0 stage was coming now& $udging (y the dust trail" Sometimes Russ would go meet the stage& (ut it was a la1y a!ternoon and he didn-t !eel li e clim(ing down and wal ing all the way over there" )esides& his !eet hurt" He needed a new pair o! (oots" Russ !lic ed the ashes !rom his cigar and pulled his hat a little tighter onto his head" The stage was coming pretty !ast" #! he didn-t now (etter& he-d say the horses were at a dead run" %ay(e this was worth the wal a!ter all" The %arshal chomped down on his cigar and descended the ladder into the street" He too the le!t& shadier side out o! ha(it and wal ed slowly up the (oardwal & his (oots clomping noisily with every step" 2ulled out his engraved poc et watch * once worn (y his great*grand!ather * and ru((ed the dust away" 0lmost two o-cloc " He snapped it shut" 0 !inger ru((ed a(sently on the walnut handle o! his Colt 0rmy revolver" The stage was coming3 something was de!initely amiss" He could hear the thunder o! the horse-s hooves and the rattle o! the carriage& and the driver whooping li e a maniac" He /uic ened his pace" 0 !ew other citi1ens turned to loo " The little %cCoy (rothers scampered (are!oot past him" The stage clattered into town in a swirling cloud o! dust and stopped in !ront o! the Hotel" The driver leapt down !rom his (o4 with a whoop& sending his wild (lond hair !lying" 5o one else on the (o4" The driver couldn-t (e twenty yet * (etween hay and grass" Ruddy !ace and tattered clothes" He li!ted a ri!le high and screamed victoriously again" Russ dou(le*timed it over to the driver& where a small crowd was already (eginning to gather" 6Welcome to .PART ONE Russ Williams li ed sitting atop the water tower in the a!ternoons" #t was positioned $ust at the southern end o! %ain Street and gave him a commanding view o! most o! the town& all the way to 'i(erty Hotel on the northern end" Sometimes the dust !rom the horses and wagons made his perch un(eara(le" )ut it had rained the night (e!ore * $ust a sprin le * and he was (ac " #n all o! the +tah Territory& it was hard to imagine a more peace!ul town than .oster"6 6Hey76 The id casually dropped the gun in the mud and e4tended a hand" 6.oster" That-s why Russ had chosen it !or his !irst turn as a .oster8 )ully !or you7 #-m Sherman"6 Russ !rowned at the stage" 5o passengers" The (ac side was riddled with (ullets" 6What happened86 6Huh86 Sherman glanced at the stage" 69h that" :eah"6 He giggled3 an annoying high*pitched s/uaw " 6:eah& !unny thing that"6 Russ waited patiently" There were two*do1en .

6We got dry gulched&6 said Sherman" 60nd86 6Well& they got everyone down o!! the coach and too their plunder" They # $umped em and ran o!!"6 The %ayor stepped !orward& his !ace wide with indignation" 6:ou le!t your passengers there86 Sherman scratched his head" 65ah& # was a passenger" )ut everyone was tied up and stu!!" # only had a second"6 6'et me get this straight&6 said Russ" 6:ou were a passenger on this stagecoach" Ro((ers stopped you and tied up everyone e4cept !or you" Then you $umped onto the stagecoach and outran their horses"6 6:up"6 Sherman (ent down and scooped up the ri!le" 6# saved most o! the valua(les too" Hey& can # get a room at the Hotel86 He wal ed through the doors into the Hotel and everyone $ust stared at the door as it swung shut (ehind him" Russ too a long pu!! o! cigar and turned to Wade& the livery (oy" 6The stage is staying here tonight" :ou can charge the company (ig (ug when he comes in to pic it up"6 6%arshal"6 %ayor Higgins stepped !orward" 6.ound it"6 Russ pulled open a small poster and smoothed it out on the des " Higgins leaned !orward and ad$usted his spectacles" 6%issing= Shootin Sherman )oyd" Wanted !or /uestioning related to the cold*(looded murder o! seven lawmen in 0r ansas" >100 Reward"6 The drawing was s etchy (ut clearly matched the id who had $ust arrived" Higgins loo ed up" 6Shootin Sherman8 #-ve never heard o! him"6 6# have&6 said Russ" 6He-s a iller"6 6So what& you-re $ust gonna tuc in your horns8 :ou-re the %arshal76 6# don-t wanna (e num(er eight"6 6What do we pay you !or86 6# ain-t saying #-m shinning out" .ust a minute& %ayor"6 Russ turned and headed !or his o!!ice a(ove the (ar(er shop on the le!t side o! %ain street" Higgins !ollowed& nervously twirling his (owler hat in his hands" 6%arshal& # don-t trust that !ellow" 0lso& you-re not allowed to go waving guns in the street li e that" #t-s illegal"6 6# reali1e that"6 6Well& aren-t you gonna stop him86 Russ mounted the stairs to his o!!ice" Higgins !ollowed& growing increasingly antsy with every second" 6What do we pay you !or& %arshal86 Russ unloc ed the door and stepped in3 put out his cigar in the tray on his des " Then he sat and opened the (ottom le!t drawer" There were do1ens o! posters and telegrams scattered hapha1ardly within" 6Have a seat while # sort through these& will you %r" %ayor86 6%r" Williams& your !ine reputation is (eing nailed to the counter right now" :ou can-t $ust sit here" <o arrest that id !or promiscuous display o! !ire arms& or turn in your star76 6.ust that we gotta thin a(out this one"6 6%arshal& you-re the only one we-ve got" :ou and that idiot id )uc " :ou have to do something"6 69h& #-ll do something& %ayor" )ut something ain-t the same as charging into the Hotel and going down in a (la1e o! glory" We gotta !ind the right angle"6 .

The door (urst open and )uc %aynard (urst into the o!!ice" )uc was too young to tie to (ut he wanted to (e a ?eputy" %ay(e some day" #n the mean time he shadowed Russ night and day and made himsel! a general nuisance" 6Hey& %arshal7 Come on outside76 6What-s going on& )uc 86 Russ stood and pulled a ri!le o!! the wall" 6#t-s the new guy" Sherman76 Russ too the steps down to the street two at a time" .oster is responsi(le !or this86 Sherman shrugged" 6# guess" That-s your pro(lem"6 6# now you did this" #t-s plain as day"6 6:eah86 The id put his hands on his hips and wal ed !orward until their !aces were inches apart" Russ wanted to wipe that sneer o!! his !ace (ut didn-t dare" 6What-re you gonna do a(out it& %arshal86 2eople were watching now" He was (eing em(arrassed in !ront o! the whole town" Russ raised his voice" 6# can-t arrest you&6 he said" 6#t-s circumstantial evidence" .ustice is (lind"6 6:ou mean scared"6 Sherman snic ered loudly" 6# li e this town" # rec on # $ust may stay awhile"6 Russ gripped his ri!le tightly as Sherman wal ed past him& heading (ac to the Hotel" He had (een tested and !ound wea " 5ow this young rip would wal all over him" Things were going to get (ad" )uc was staring& crest!allen" His hero had !ailed him" Higgins loo ed worse" His lips were clenched tightly shut as i! to hold (ac a torrent o! ver(al !ury" Russ ept his head high as he wal ed (ac to his o!!ice" Higgins and )uc !ollowed closely (ehind" The rest o! the town went (ac to the !utile wor o! trying to put out the !ire" The door closed (ehind him and he plopped into his chair& eeping his head down so he didn-t have to ma e eye contact with )uc or Higgins" The (oy was the !irst to spea " 6:ou-re a coward"6 His voice trem(led" He was trying not to cry" 6'oo " <oing o!! and getting illed isn-t the answer&6 said Russ" Higgins slammed his !ist on the des " His thin voice rose to a shrill pitch" 6Then what is the answer8 Sit .ol s were running south with water (uc ets in their hands" Smo e in the air" 6What-s going on86 )ut he already saw what was going on" The water tower was on !ire" )right yellow tongues o! !lame were crawling up each o! the !our pillars on which it rested" )lac smo e (illowed into the air" #t was already much too late to stop the !ire" )ut the wind was still and the tower was separated !rom the rest o! the town" The danger o! spreading was low" Higgins was glaring daggers at Russ" )uc was watching e4pectantly" Sherman was standing on the (oard wal & arms crossed and a satis!ied e4pression on his !ace" Russ strode over to him" 6Why-d you do it86 69h& # didn-t do that& %arshal"6 Sherman win ed and opened his coat slightly& revealing the two gold* plated& ivory*handled revolvers at his side" Russ cleared his throat nervously" 6?o you e4pect me to (elieve that one o! the good people o! .

here and watch him (urn down the town86 6Calm down&6 Russ snapped" 6We $ust have to thin a(out this"6 6%y uncle wouldn-t have to thin &6 )uc muttered" 6What86 6# said my uncle wouldn-t have to thin " He arrested three outlaws all (y himsel!& and he-s not even a %arshal" He-s game as a (anty rooster"6 Russ glanced at Higgins" 6Where does your uncle live& )uc 86 60t the R9 ranch" He-s their gunhand" 0nd a !ew years (ac & he guided +S Cavalry through Shoshone territory"6 6What& down (y Craw!ord86 The R9 was a sprawling longhorn ranch hal! a day-s ride to the south" 0 real gunhand" Trained to !ight" Too on three gunmen alone" #ndian !ighter" 6Say& may(e you-re right& )uc " # (et your +ncle could ta e this upstart"6 6:ou (et he could76 6There-s still light le!t in the day" Why don-t you ride on down to the R9 and tell him a(out the di!!iculty86 Russ pushed the poster across the des " 60nd ma e sure he nows there-s a reward"6 )uc !rowned" 6:ou-re a coward& Russ Williams"6 Russ grit his teeth and said nothing" )uc gra((ed the poster and ran out o! the o!!ice" Higgins was still glaring at Russ" 6:ou-re not worth two dollars a day" :ou haven-t done a thing this whole time you-ve (een here e4cept sit up in that dadgum tower all day"6 6Hey"6 6:ou-re a """6 6Stop"6 Higgins clamped his mouth shut again" Russ stood and planted his hands on the des " 6This town has (een /uiet and peace!ul up to now& ain-t it86 6:eah"6 6Then #-d say #-ve done my $o( up to now" :ou let me handle this mudsill * +S .ol s running all over the place& standing in small groups tal ing& and most o! them snea ing glances i! not outright staring at him" 0 man in a clean suit wearing a gun and a star was standing outside a (ar(er shop on the le!t& pu!!ing at a cigar" .ederal %arshal style" 0nd stop listening to that idiot id" #-m not a coward" #-m a thin er"6 Higgins didn-t loo satis!ied" )ut he turned and le!t the o!!ice& slamming the door (ehind him" Russ sighed and san (ac into his chair" )uc -s uncle (etter (e someone very special& or they were all up the spout" His !eet hurt" 20RT TW9 He rode in with his head down& the (road (rim o! his (lac leather hat easily concealing his !ace" He remem(ered this town as a /uiet little stage stop" )ut now it was all in a shindy" .

mouth moved (ut he made no sound" He turned helplessly to Russ" Russ li!ted his hat and scratched his (alding head" 6'oo & all # now is= he-s got to go" 0nd your nephew seems to thin you-re game enough to ta e him"6 9pen Hands had ordered )uc to stay at the R9 until he came (ac " He anticipated trou(le and didn-t want his nephew around when it went down" )uc had (een hard to restrain" 9nly a!ter he had (een promised a ride on any horse in the ranch did he agree to stay" 6#t-s never a(out how tough you are&6 said 9pen Hands" He tapped his !orehead a !ew times" 6Will you help us or not86 Russ demanded& e4tending a silver Special ?eputy star" 9pen Hands s/uinted up the street at Sherman and lic ed his lips" Then nodded and clipped the star to his shirt under the coat" 6:eah& # can help you" )ut # want the reward money" 0nd # need what-s le!t o! your tower"6 Russ loo ed at Higgins" Higgins loo ed at the (urned out remains o! the tower& now $ust !our charred posts stic ing out o! the ground" Shrug" 6#t-s all yours"6 .The rider dismounted and tethered his horse& then slowly loo ed up" 6%arshal Williams86 Russ nodded" 6#-m 9pen Hands"6 He e4tended a hand" Russ shoo it slowly" Standing ne4t to Russ was a round& nervous man who seemed to (e hiding (ehind his spectacles" 69pen Hands8 :ou don-t loo li e a savage"6 His nostrils !lared slightly" 6# assume you are re!erring to the Shoshone"6 6:eah"6 6:ou are correct= # am not Shoshone"6 6Then how-d you wind up with a name li e that86 6The Shoshone gave me this name" # pre!er it to my other one"6 They glanced at each other and shrugged" Russ= 69 ay" So can you help us86 9pen Hands reached into his nee*length (lac leather duster and pulled out the poster" 6This the guy giving you trou(le86 6:eah"6 Russ pointed up the street" Sherman was on the !ront porch o! the Hotel& leaning against the railing" His muddy ri!le was still with him" 6Well& this ain-t an ordinary wanted poster&6 said 9pen Hands" 6#t doesn-t say he-s wanted !or anything& e4actly" They-re $ust loo ing to as him some /uestions" They do that sometimes when they can-t prove it was him" So # can-t arrest him $ust with this hand(ill" Has he done anything here that you can arrest him !or86 62romiscuous display o! !irearms&6 volunteered Higgins" 65o&6 said Russ sadly" 65ot unless # order him to surrender his !irearm and he re!uses" 0nd # haven-t done that" He (urned down that water tower over there yesterday& and he (urgled the general store last night" 0nd (e!ore that he ro((ed the stage coach" )ut we can-t prove any o! it"6 6So you want me to get this man out o! your town (ut # can-t legally arrest him86 6There-s a reward"6 6That-s a missing person reward" :ou can-t arrest people !or that"6 Higgins.

6:ou may want to clear the street"6 He turned and wal ed slowly to the tower" The town was getting /uiet" .ol s could tell there was going to (e trou(le" He stopped in the center& with the !our (lac ened posts around him& and turned slowly" Too a long& deep (reath through his nose" Smelled the wet ash and the dust" 0n empty street& a /uarter mile long" The only soul on it was Sherman& standing on the Hotel porch with the ri!le in his hands" 9pen Hands loo ed up" 5o clouds" Two (irds circling la1ily overhead" He could ta e this whippersnapper" )ut the %arshal was right= he had to use his head" 0nother deep (reath& so he could shout at the top o! his lungs" 6Hey7 Shootin Sherman7 # hear you can !ight li e the @il enny cats76 Sherman shi!ted nervously" 6:eah& # can76 69h& you can& can you86 6:ou (etter (elieve it7 # illed seven men76 6# (et you didn-t ill more than two76 Sherman stepped !orward" His screechy voice was already getting wea !rom shouting" 6#-m the (est gunman in the +tah Territory76 6:ou now what you are86 6What86 60 !lannel mouth7 5ow #-m gonna show you what a real gunman can do& and then #-m gonna come over there and haul you down to a hanging" 0nd then& #-m gonna have a nice (ig cup o! 0r(uc le-s and go (ac to (eing a real man76 Sherman cran ed the lever on his ri!le& ratcheting a round into position" 6:ou-re gonna wish you hadn-t said that76 6:eah& you-re gonna wish you-d never heard the name o! .oster76 9pen Hands threw open his duster& revealing si4 sawed*o!! shotguns" Two in holsters riding low against his thighs& two high on his hip& and two strapped against his chest" His (elt was !illed with (right red 12 gauge rounds" #n the same motion& he chuc ed the coat o!! his shoulders onto the ground and gra((ed the !irst pair o! guns o!! his thighs" Then he dropped to one nee and !ired the le!t (arrels into the !irst post& (lasting it into charcoal dust" 9pened his arms to point at the posts on either side and emptied the right (arrels" The post on the le!t shattered3 the one on the right needed more persuasion" He dropped the shotguns and spun& li!ting the second pair o!! his hips" 9ne shot to the damaged post shattered it" He dropped the third gun and put (oth hands on the !ourth& then !ired (oth (arrels into the last post" ?ropped it in the dust and whirled (ac to a stand !acing Sherman" The whole dance had ta en less than three seconds" 6#! you drop you guns now&6 he shouted& 6# won-t hurt you76 Sherman shoo his head" 65o way76 .ust a id" :oung and stupid" He didn-t understand the decision he was ma ing" 9pen Hands shoo his head sadly" 6See you at the (one orchard76 With that& he (egan a slow wal up the middle o! the street" The windows on either side were (arely open" .ol s were pee ing out& watching him" His hands were empty& (ut he still had the two guns against his chest" Sherman leveled the ri!le and !ired" 9pen Hands grimaced involuntarily (ut the aim had (een poor and the (ullet raced away past him" Sherman cham(ered another round and too a second to aim (e!ore !iring" This one whi11ed (y very close on his le!t" 0nother shot" %iss" .

Sherman was getting !rantic& (ut 9pen Hands still had plenty o! ground to cover (e!ore he was within shotgun range" 0nother shot" Wetness $ust a(ove his right nee" 9pen Hands glanced down and saw a tear in the side o! his pants" 0 gra1e" 5othing serious" He limped !orward" Sherman let out a vicious war woop& perhaps more to steady his own calming nerves& and !ired another shot" This one was so (adly aimed it shattered a window up ahead" Screaming inside the house& (ut not the ind o! screaming that said someone had (een hit" 9pen Hands ept wal ing" 0nother shot" Something smashed against his chest li e a sledge hammer and he stepped (ac to eep his (alance" The wind was noc ed out o! him" He put (oth hands on his nees and too a !ew deep (reaths" Then put his head up and pulled the le!t shotgun out o! its holster" 0 (ullet was s/uashed against the side o! the (arrel" He tossed it over his shoulder and ept wal ing" Sherman dropped the ri!le& hands sha ing& and pulled his ela(orately decorated revolvers !rom their holsters" Two simultaneous shots& (oth wide misses" Two more" Then a pepper o! gun!ire as Sherman emptied his guns at !ull speed" Sherman silently counted the shots" Two& !our& !ive& si4& seven& nine& ten& eleven """ he saw the twel!th shot coming (e!ore it hit" #t (uried itsel! in his le!t shoulder& (rea ing the collar (one" His arm swung (ac wildly and he stopped in his trac s again" Sherman was standing !i!ty !eet away& wreathed in smo e& with two empty guns in his hands and a shoc ed loo on his !ace" 9pen Hands deli(erately pulled the last shotgun !rom its holster and $ogged !orward" Sherman was rooted to the spot& staring as i! it a ghost" 9pen Hands stepped up onto the porch and leveled his weapon in Sherman-s !ace" 6:ou-re under arrest&6 he said& 6!or assault with a deadly weapon"6 .

About the Author Travis Herche is a pro!essional online coach" .ind out more at www"travisherche"com .

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