Gunfighter’s Legacy: Orphans’ Inheritance

Volume 2 of the Beth Carver Saga

By CR Britting

 

Blaine, Colorado, 1886

The crowd on the sidewalk looked on in stunned amazement as the echoes of the gunshot died away. There had been some short-lived sympathy for the woman when the McCraken kid had shot her horse. After all, nobody liked to see a good animal mistreated. But folks were tired of the tomboy and her aloof attitude and it was long past time for her to be taken down a peg or two.

The stone-faced girl had come to town four or five days ago, ready to take on anyone who looked at her sideways. Tall for a woman, she was within an inch or two of six feet, and in her leather pants and long vest, she looked at first glance to be a young man. Her hair was the color of autumn leaves, and in a long dress, she might have been fairly pretty. But she kept the hair tucked under her flat-brimmed hat and the revolvers belted around her had caused many a head to turn.

The ladies of Blaine, of course, had been outraged at such a disgraceful display. They attempted to take the young woman to task but had been politely, but firmly rebuffed. The men had made fun of her, until two had tried to collect a kiss at her expense. One got his toes stomped and the other ended up taking a dust bath in the street. When the sheriff couldn’t think of a good reason to run her out of town, most folks simply pretended she didn’t exist.

A few hours ago a gunman named Dale McCraken had ridden into town. He claimed she had killed his brother and vowed revenge. He called her out, but she refused to fight him, saying she’d had enough killing. Enraged, he shot her beautiful black horse instead.

When she turned from the dead animal with tears in her eyes, McCraken laughed. “Well, look at that, folks. She’s cryin’.”

There were a few chuckles from those watching, amused at the tears after the high and mighty way the girl had been acting.

* * * * *

“A dollar says the stranger takes her,” whispered Reese Pickrel as he and his friend Billy Joe Randorf watched from the sidewalk.

“I dunno, Reese,” Billy Joe replied. He’d heard rumors about her, that she’d already killed a couple of men. He hadn’t put much stock in the story at the time, but now, as he saw the determined look on her face, he wasn’t so sure. “I think your dollar’s wrong.”

“Aw, c’mon,” hissed Reese, waving a hand at the girl. “Look at her, she’s scared to death. Any fool can see that. He’ll put her down before you can blink an eye.”

* * * * *

“I’m not going to fight you, mister,” she told McCraken. “I’ve enough of killing.” Then, to everyone’s surprise, she turned away, heading toward to entrance to the general store.

She hadn’t gone but two steps when McCraken pulled his gun again. The roar of the weapon echoed between the buildings  and the girl stumbled as the bullet hit her.

“Don’t you walk away from me, Carver,” the gunman yelled.

She turned to face him, bleeding from the wound in her right arm.

“I’m not fighting you, mister.”

“I know what her problem is,” he yelled, turning toward the crowd watching from the sidewalk. “She ain’t no gunfighter.” he said with a grin. “She’s just plain yella. And ya know what? I think I’ll just walk over there and take them fancy guns o’ hers. Then I’ll help her outta them pants and send her home to mama.”

He might have said more, but a sudden movement caused Dale McCraken to turn, and he was surprised to see a gun in her left hand. He tried to bring his own weapons into play, but he was far too late. His revolvers had barely cleared leather when a gunshot broke the silence. 

Her bullet struck him just below the ribs, hard enough to shove him back a few steps as he tried hard to stay on his feet.

“You little wildcat!” he shouted. “I’m gonna kill you.”

Folks watching from the sidewalk held their breath, knowing this time the gunman would take her for sure.

They both fired at the same instant, the crash of the gunshots merging into one blast. McCraken, hurting from his wound, couldn’t lift his guns high enough, and both of his bullets struck the ground halfway between them. Then he stumbled back a step, struck in the middle of his shirt by a second bullet. His fancy revolvers slipped from his fingers and the young gunman toppled over like a felled tree. The crowd watched in stunned amazement as he landed in the street, raising a small cloud of dust.

For perhaps ten seconds the young woman remained motionless, the fancy Colt revolver in her outstretched hand and a thin wisp of smoke curling upward from the barrel. Elizabeth Carver finally took a deep breath and lowered the weapon as she turned away from the still body in front of her. Tears running down her face, she knelt beside the black horse, touching his muzzle one last time.

“Oh, Nate,” she murmured sadly. “I’m sorry. I didn’t want this to happen. I tried to walk away.”

* * * * *

Just down the sidewalk, in the general store, Gail Youngfellow Johansen turned away from the window and wiped tears from her eyes. How awful! Beth had tried to avoid the fight, but the gunman wouldn’t let it go. When he’d shot Midnight, it was like a knife plunging into Gail’s heart. She’d ridden the black gelding and he was a great horse. Beth and Midnight had been inseparable and she could only imagine what her young friend was feeling at his senseless death.

Gail had been working behind the counter five days ago when the bell announced a customer. She glanced up, seeing a tall stranger with a pair of tied-down six-guns circling his hips. A Gunfighter.

“Can I help you?” she asked,.

“Yes, ma’am, I’m looking for Gail Johansen.”

Gail was shocked to hear a woman’s voice. At first glance, she had looked like a man in those pants and boots. A good look at her face dispelled that notion in a hurry. Why, she can’t be much over twenty. What in the world…?

“Well, you’ve come to the right place, young lady. That would be me.”

The girl smiled for the first time and held out her hand. “I’m Beth Carver.”

“I’m pleased to meet you, Beth. What brings you to Blaine?”

The girl took a deep breath. “I…uh…I’m afraid I have bad news about your brother.”

Gail’s hand flew to her mouth. “About Nate? What’s happened?”

The girl drew a deep breath. “He’s dead, Gail,” she said, her voice filled with sadness. “I’m so sorry.”

Gail’s hand dropped to her chest and she shook her head. “I tried to get him to hang up his guns, Beth. I always knew the day would come when he’d meet somebody faster and get himself killed.”

“It wasn’t like that, Gail. A man named Curly McCracken shot him in the back. I was there when it happened.”

Gail was silent for a moment. “This McCracken fellow, did they catch him?”

“They didn’t have to. I killed him.”

Gail was shocked at the hard look on the girl’s face. “But…”

“He tried to kill me too, Gail. I didn’t have much time to think about it.”

She touched the older woman on the arm. “Nate was my friend, Gail, and I’m sorry to be the one to tell you.”

The bell over the door tinkled, bringing Gail back to the present. Elizabeth Carver walked slowly into the store, tears streaking her face. 

“You know, someone told me this would happen,” she said with a sigh. “That men would come after me and try to kill me. I guess now I believe it.

“Well, no more. I’ve had enough.” As Gail watched in surprise, Beth Carver unbuckled her guns and dumped them on the counter. Then she turned without a word and headed for the door.

Instructor Response

Gunfighter’s Legacy: Orphans’ Inheritance

Volume 2 of the Beth Carver Saga

By CR Britting

 

Blaine, Colorado, 1886

The crowd on the sidewalk looked on in stunned amazement as the echoes of the gunshot died away. There had been some short-lived sympathy for the woman when the McCraken kid had shot her horse. After all, nobody liked to see a good animal mistreated. But folks were tired of the tomboy and her aloof attitude and it was long past time for her to be taken down a peg or two.  Good! Grabs interest.

The stone-faced girl had come to town four or five days ago, ready to take on anyone who looked at her sideways. Tall for a woman, she was within an inch or two of six feet, and in her leather pants and long vest, she looked at first glance to be a young man. Her hair was the color of autumn leaves, and in a long dress, she might have been fairly pretty. But she kept the hair tucked under her flat-brimmed hat and the revolvers belted around her had caused many a head to turn. Good description!

The ladies of Blaine, of course, had been outraged at such a disgraceful display. They attempted to take the young woman to task but had been politely, but firmly rebuffed. The men had made fun of her, until two had tried to collect a kiss at her expense. One got his toes stomped and the other ended up taking a dust bath in the street. When the sheriff couldn’t think of a good reason to run her out of town, most folks simply pretended she didn’t exist.

A few hours ago a gunman named Dale McCraken had ridden into town. He claimed she had killed his brother and vowed revenge. He called her out, but she refused to fight him, saying she’d had enough killing. Enraged, he shot her beautiful black horse instead.

When she turned from the dead animal with tears in her eyes, McCraken laughed. “Well, look at that, folks. She’s cryin’.”

There were a few chuckles from those watching, amused at the tears after the high and mighty way the girl had been acting.

* * * * *

 "A dollar says the stranger takes her," whispered Reese Pickrel as he and his friend Billy Joe Randorf watched from the sidewalk.

"I dunno, Reese," Billy Joe replied. He’d heard rumors about her, that she’d already killed a couple of men. He hadn’t put much stock in the story at the time, but now, as he saw the determined look on her face, he wasn’t so sure. "I think your dollar’s wrong."

"Aw, c’mon," hissed Reese, waving a hand at the girl. "Look at her, she’s scared to death. Any fool can see that. He’ll put her down before you can blink an eye."

 

* * * * *

“I’m not going to fight you, mister,” she told McCraken. “I’ve enough of killing.” Then, to everyone’s surprise, she turned away, heading toward to entrance to the general store.

She hadn’t gone but two steps when McCraken pulled his gun again. The roar of the weapon echoed between the buildings and the girl stumbled as the bullet hit her.

“Don’t you walk away from me, Carver,” the gunman yelled.

She turned to face him, bleeding from the wound in her right arm.

 “I’m not fighting you, mister.”

“I know what her problem is," he yelled, turning toward the crowd watching from the sidewalk. "She ain’t no gunfighter.” he said with a grin. “She’s just plain yella. And ya know what? I think I’ll just walk over there and take them fancy guns o’ hers. Then I’ll help her outta them pants and send her home to mama."

He might have said more, but a sudden movement caused Dale McCraken to turn, and he was surprised to see a gun in her left hand. He tried to bring his own weapons into play, but he was far too late. His revolvers had barely cleared leather when a gunshot broke the silence. 

 Her bullet struck him just below the ribs, hard enough to shove him back a few steps as he tried hard to stay on his feet.

“You little wildcat!” he shouted. “I’m gonna kill you.”

Folks watching from the sidewalk held their breath, knowing this time the gunman would take her for sure.

 They both fired at the same instant, the crash of the gunshots merging into one blast. McCraken, hurting from his wound, couldn’t lift his guns high enough, and both of his bullets struck the ground halfway between them. Then he stumbled back a step, struck in the middle of his shirt by a second bullet. His fancy revolvers slipped from his fingers and the young gunman toppled over like a felled tree. The crowd watched in stunned amazement as he landed in the street, raising a small cloud of dust.

For perhaps ten seconds the young woman remained motionless, the fancy Colt revolver in her outstretched hand and a thin wisp of smoke curling upward from the barrel. Elizabeth Carver finally took a deep breath and lowered the weapon as she turned away from the still body in front of her. Tears running down her face, she knelt beside the black horse, touching his muzzle one last time.

"Oh, Nate," she murmured sadly. "I’m sorry. I didn’t want this to happen. I tried to walk away."

 

* * * * *

Just down the sidewalk, in the general store, Gail Youngfellow Johansen turned away from the window and wiped tears from her eyes. How awful! Beth had tried to avoid the fight, but the gunman wouldn’t let it go. When he’d shot Midnight, it was like a knife plunging into Gail’s heart. She’d ridden the black gelding and he was a great horse. Beth and Midnight had been inseparable and she could only imagine what her young friend was feeling at his senseless death.

Gail had been working behind the counter five days ago when the bell announced a customer. She glanced up, seeing a tall stranger with a pair of tied-down six-guns circling his hips. A Gunfighter.

"Can I help you?" she asked?

"Yes, ma’am, I’m looking for Gail Johansen."

Gail was shocked to hear a woman’s voice. At first glance, she had looked like a man in those pants and boots. A good look at her face dispelled that notion in a hurry. Why, she can’t be much over twenty. What in the world …?

"Well, you’ve come to the right place, young lady. That would be me."

The girl smiled for the first time and held out her hand. "I’m Beth Carver."

"I’m pleased to meet you, Beth. What brings you to Blaine?"

The girl took a deep breath. "I…uh…I’m afraid I have bad news about your brother."

Gail’s hand flew to her mouth. "About Nate? What’s happened?"

The girl drew a deep breath. "He’s dead, Gail," she said, her voice filled with sadness. "I’m so sorry."

Gail’s hand dropped to her chest and she shook her head. "I tried to get him to hang up his guns, Beth. I always knew the day would come when he’d meet somebody faster and get himself killed."

"It wasn’t like that, Gail. A man named Curly McCracken shot him in the back. I was there when it happened."

Gail was silent for a moment. "This McCracken fellow, did they catch him?"

"They didn’t have to. I killed him."

Gail was shocked at the hard look on the girl’s face. "But…"

"He tried to kill me too, Gail. I didn’t have much time to think about it.

She touched the older woman on the arm. "Nate was my friend, Gail, and I’m sorry to be the one to tell you."

The bell over the door tinkled, bringing Gail back to the present. Elizabeth Carver walked slowly into the store, tears streaking her face. 

"You know, someone told me this would happen," she said with a sigh. "That men would come after me and try to kill me. I guess now I believe it.

"Well, no more. I’ve had enough." As Gail watched in surprise, Beth Carver unbuckled her guns and dumped them on the counter. Then she turned without a word and headed for the door.

Great storytelling. Engaging, well written, and imagery excellent. Nicely done.

 

Best,

Bill Coles

  1. Thank you, sir. I appreciate you taking the time to read it. Chuck

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