The first thing Deputy Shugg had us do after we put our hands up was make us put them down again and undo our gun belts.
"Drop your guns and kick them over to me, real slow-like", he gave us the stink eye with his pearl handled .45 trained at our heads. We kicked our beautiful guns towards him, and not leaving us from his sight, wrapped both gun belts around his free arm.
The next thing Deputy Shit For Brains did was make us put our hands up again. Did this idjit even have any idea what he was doing?
"What about Miss Willa?" I nodded towards the gutted corpse of my former bed hostess.
"Well, that is none of your concern any more, Killer", Shugg sneered. "Phineas Lexington the undertaker will handle her remains. Now, git!"
We both marched angrily in the dark with Deputy Numb Nuts holding up the rear. We walked from the alley to the main drag and towards the sheriff's office. I was cussing under my breath to raise the devil and spank his ass. Pete stopped crying long enough to start spitting angrily.
"You'd better have a good explanation for all this ruckus, Shugg".
"Never you mind, Killer. You just keep walking and when we reach Sheriff's door you open nice and slow, and no funny stuff from either one of you, hear?"
This big-eared jackass was full of piss and gumption. I was dying to take the gun out of his hands, stick it up his ass and pull the trigger.
I let Pete open Sheriff Frehley's door as we marched in, catching Frehley almost choking on his coffee when he saw us.
"Alright, Shugg, what is this all about, now?" Frehley asked at the sight of us all rolled in.
"Sheriff, once again there's blood all over these boy's hands. They hung Miss Willa in the alley right behind the old barber shop!"
Frehley rubbed his face irritably. "You just told me you weren't a killer, Walker. What goes on here?"
"I didn't kill Miss Willa, Sheriff. We found her hanging against the fence by the barber's".
"Don't tell me that! What is it with you two? This used to be a pretty quiet little town. Ever since you two rode in you've left a trail of dead bodies, one after the other. First there was that rodeo bull, then the clown, and now Miss Willa. I wouldn't be surprised if you two are responsible for the dead Hiss boy that's got that darn family in an uproar".
"MYUT OIO VDEYFT JKJIOIUO!" Mumblin' Pete protested.
"What the hell is he sayin'?" Deputy Shugg sneered.
"What the hell do you think he's saying? We're innocent, you turkey necked bastard".
"HU TREP IOYT FCDX!"
Shugg waved his gun at us. "Hand over your bandanas!"
I frowned. "Our bandanas? What the hell for?"
"Evidence? Why you piss-breath gopher, I said we didn't do nothin'!" I yelled.
"He's right, Walker. Hand over them bandanas, both of yous".
Cussing blue streaks, we took off our bandanas and practically threw them at Frehley.
"Now head on in to the cell. You gotta admit, Walker, three dead people -"
"TWO dead people AND A BEAST", I corrected him.
"A very expensive beast. And like I said, for all I know you might be responsible for that Hiss death, too". He slammed the jail cell door and turned the key. "I'm going to have to formally charge you both for the death of Young Rance Hiss, Miss Willa, The Rodeo Clown, and a Very Expensive Bull, Property of Dr. Tarr's National Rodeo".
Pete angrily kicked his bunk. I sat on mine, angrily rolled a cig and smoked. "Ain't that some sweet sheepdip? Self-defense don't count for much around these parts".
"Blaga hiy weg nhyt desp!"
"Frehley, you coward. I didn't kill Rance Hiss and you know that. You'd rather turn me over to crazy old Hiss than have your town burned down".
Frehley walked up to our cell. "I don't do the tryin'. I just do the arrestin'. We'll let justice be served tomorrow when you come up before Judge Harschaw".
"WHAT??? I'm being judged by Judge Horseshit? Are you kiddin' me?"
"Know him? I always found him to be pretty fair, Walker. Seems to me if you're seriously innocent you got nothing to be worried about".
I groaned and turned to Mumblin' Pete. "We're going to be judged by Judge Horseshit. Let me tell you all about Judge Horseshit, this no-necked pecker faced old puke I got into a tussle with at the barber shop a week ago after I sang at the Town Fair.
"Well, I was still feeling pretty puffed up and full of myself after singing and yodeling for all the ladies, breaking hearts and what not. So I decided to celebrate by getting a good and proper barber shop shave and a few cuts on the back and sides.
"Ty Flint the barber was taking good care of me with a nice hot towel over my face, the whole bit. I was telling him about that song "Campfire" and how I swung all the gals with it.
As I was talking about it this big bo I didn't pay any mind to before started snorting in the next barber chair. It kinda rankled me, you know?"
"Bzza yty pomi def tyu!"
"That's right, you got it", I puffed away. "So, anyhoo, I got all chuffed about my next song 'Buffalo Babe' and telling Flinty about it while he's a-shaving me, y'follow? So this big galoot starts rumbling words like 'Ballll-der-dassssshhhh!' and 'Tuurrrr-nip Juice!'
I look over to the next chair and there sat this Humpty Dumpty behemoth of a man. Fingers like fat sausages, legs like four ham hocks tied together and a belly bigger than six Horns O' Plenty put together. His nostrils were so large you could see all the bush a-growin' inside them! The man was fatter than an Easter Sunday Hog on a spit. He had the bushiest eyebrows covering this little piggy squinted eyes and an even bushier beard rolling down to his ol' belly bucket.
"The smell coming out of that body was so pungent even a tin o' talcum powder couldn't kill it, and did he come in for two bits and a shave? Hell no, he's there for a manicure, can you beat that? He wants his piggy fingernails cut, cleaned and lacquered like a Kansas City whore!
"Not content to say those dopey words he starts up with, 'Good responsible citizens work for a living. The fair people of Jonestown have no need for deadbeat, no-account fancy boys who refuse to toil God's earth and waste time instead indulging in their vanity and singing obscene songs for the sole purpose of corrupting the good Christian ladies of their maidenhood'.
"I looked at him and said, 'If you are referring to me, Tubby, you can take all that Sunday School sermonizing and go shit in your flat hat'.
Well, the next thing you know this big fat ass jumps out of his barber chair with his bib still on and screams at me, 'Sir, I'll have you know you are addressing the Good Judge Clinton Harschaw! Unlike you, neighbor, my lips do not touch alcohol, nor do I indulge in demon weed tobacco!'
I said, 'I reckon there's a lot of things your lip's ain't touched. Maybe that's the problem, Elephant Pants!'
"We both jumped out of our chairs, ready to attack. He tried to grab me and I was ready to hit him back until Flinty stuck a cane between us and pushed us away from each other.
'No fighting in my salon! Both of you, back in your chairs!'
"Well, Judge Horseshit threw his bib down and started walking out of the barber's, but he stopped and turned around to face me. Do you know what he said before he left?
'It'll give me great pleasure to sentence you. I'll be looking forward for that day to come, and knowing your scurrilous type, that day can't come soon enough!'
"He snorted like a pig and stormed right out. Best shave I ever had!"
Deputy Shugg drifted over to our cell bars. "How do you sleep at night knowing you're a killer?"
"Leave the prisoners alone, Shugg!" Frehley barked.
"Jig frde vncjkdhj yyue bil koh!"
"Yeah, when do we eat?"
Frehley got tired of Shugg cutting up like some attack dog so he sent him home and slept in an empty cell next to us. he was a pretty good host, I got to admit, lighting a fire and turning down the lights so we all got a good night's sleep. Every once in awhile and I'd wake up thinking about Judge Horseshit and get all riled up knowing my life was in his fat, smelly hands.
I hoped I had some good representation - I was going to need it, especially since I was in the company of people who were damned good at forgetting who their friends were. These weren't fair weather friends, they were no weather friends. One day I was the singer they all applauded and now they were ready to blame me for everybody's death.
It was true I killed the Straight Razor Bull and The Rodeo Clown but it was in self-defense. I had nothing to do with the other murders. Well, Pete killed that Hiss boy but I wasn't about to pass the hanging rope to him, and anyway you could say that was self-defense, too. Defense against a bunch of man-buggering coyotes.
What rankled me the most was the way everyone in Jonestown was so quiet, fair and eager to party with their whiskey until things got a little too tough and then they couldn't point the finger at me fast enough. It was like they had their fun handing me the key to their city and now they were going to beat me to death with it. Cowards.
All those drinks and nights sharing laughs with Frehley meant nothing. He was going to dump me on old man Hiss's doorstep, letting him kill me so he can have his revenge. It's as if our friendship meant nothing. Here today, gone tomorrow.
I can see the darkness evaporate into a growing light creeping through the door crack and windows. Soon the night will be over and the new day I hoped would never come will finally arrive and take over. Damn it.
Hours later we were cuffed and put in a caged wagon like a couple of rodeo beasts and they rode us over to the old school house down the road. As we were taken through town all the citizens stared at us and some even got on their horses and followed us. Some of the girls who swooned at my singing a few days ago stared at me in surprise.
"Where they taking you, Crash?" they asked.
"I don't know. Follow me".
"Why are you behind bars?"
"I said I don't know. Follow me". And that they did.
When we got to the school house Sheriff Frehley jumped off the running board and unlocked the cage and treating us like he was some kinda fool lion tamer and we were trained lions.
"Alright, both of you out nice and slow, and no funny stuff". Deputy Shugg was on the other side of the cage with his pistol pointed at us.
As I jumped off the wagon I realized there were already a passel of horses and wagons hitched by the front of the school house. It seemed people were waiting for us, and Lord, I smelled trouble.
Whatever disarray the school house was in when I fought The Rodeo Clown was all cleaned up. Where once there was an empty floor with broken furniture there was now rows of chairs filled with an already seated townsfolk, a jury box to the side and a nice little platform for the judge to park his big, fat ass on.
The judge was already sitting on his big, fat ass, chuckling quietly and murmuring, "Well, well, well...heheheh". He had a wide cage next to his chair with a large vulture perched in it, hopping around every once in awhile and ruffling his old, stinky feathers.
There was a large cage wide enough for me and Mumblin' Pete to stand in and Sheriff Frehley ushered us in. He and Shugg sat down towards the front of the courtroom.
I saw Mayor Randall sitting at a table facing Judge Horseshit.
"Hey, Mayor, you representing me today?"
"Hell no, he's the prosecuting attorney", someone shouted and everyone laughed. Everyone but me and Pete. Randall looked sheepishly ashamed of himself.
"Well, where's our attorney?"
"Killers don't get attorneys!" the man shouted back again and I turned to see Bo the squarehead blacksmith doing all the yelling. He never did like me.
"Order in the court! Order in the court!" Harschaw pulled out a bull whip and snapped it so loudly you could hear the wind rustle around the room. "CRRAAAACK!" "No one gets to speak in my court until I tell them to! Mayor Randall!"
Randall stood the floor of the court room and barked.
"The case of The City of Jonestown, Festus County, plaintiff, versus Mr. Crash Walker and Mr. Mumblin' Pete, defendants in the matter of four charges of murder in the case of Mr. Rance Hiss, Miss Willa Parton, one John Doe rodeo performer we'll name Rodeo Doe, and one, uh...rodeo bull".
Everyone laughed at the last charge.
Harschaw belched and spat into a brass spittoon to the side of his dais. "Let's forego the charge on that dead beast. We have enough to hang these two without some damned bull".
Mumblin' Pete nervously gripped my arm.
"Bring on the first witness".
"Teresa Mullins, please take the stand". Miss Teresa was all duded up for this shebang and she looked finer with clothes on than she did in her usual Jezebel finery.
"Miss Mullins", Randall puffed up his chest, "please tell the judge and jury what Mr. Walker asked you the night of Miss Parton's murder?"
"He asked me where Miss Willa was like he really had to see her something awful".
The court murmured all over.
"Did you see her alive after he asked you about her?"
"No, Mayor...I couldn't. She was dead!" She gripped a hanky and wept, dabbing at her baby blues.
Everyone talked even louder around the room.
"Thank you, that will be all".
"Quiet in my court room!" he banged a pistol instead of a gavel on his desk.
"Wait a minute! That don't prove nothing!" I yelled.
"I SAID BE QUIET - YOU'LL SPEAK WHEN IIIIIIIIIIIIIII PERMIT IT!!!" He pulled out his whip and cracked it closed enough to almost reach our cage bars. "CRRRAACK!"
"Next witness, Mayor Randall".
"The court calls on Phineas Lexington, undertaker, please take the stand". A potato faced man of dumpy build with saggy eyes and a soiled suit took the stand.
"Now, Mister Lexington, are you a certified undertaker?"
"Why, yes, I attended Good Shepherd of Christ University in Baltimore, Maryland and have buried more than a hundred deceased souls".
Harschaw hacked up a green goblin and spat it into that brass spittoon again.
"You examined the late Miss Willa Parton, did you not?"
"Yes, I did, Your Honor".
"Considering the physical damage that was done to Miss Parton, would you in your estimation say the little man in the mustache inflicted any form of pain on her person?"
"No, not at all. He's too short of build. He couldn't reach her".
"So, would you say a man of Mr. Walker's height could have killed her?"
"Welllll..." he looked me over like he was fitting a brand new coffin to bury. "Yesss, I'd say so".
"This proves that Mister Crash Walker killed Miss Willa Parton!" You could hear Miss Teresa wailing like a baby in the background.
The court roared in outrage.
"NOW, WAIT A MINUTE!" I yelled.
Harschaw jumped out of his chair and cracked the whip. "CRRRAAACK!" The whip licked the bars of my cage while I heard the words "Killer" bandied around.
"You may be seated", Randall excused Lexington, "My next expert witness is-"
Judge Horseshit waved his pudgy arms around. "That'll be all, Mayor. I don't give two whoops and a holler about hearing any more. I've reached my verdict".
"WHAAAT?" I screamed.
"Don't need some meddling jury nohow. What's the name of that funny looking guy with the moustache?"
"Mumblin' Pete, the city of Jonestown, Festus County, finds you not guilty". Pete relaxed while Frehley stepped into the cage, unlocked his handcuffs and let him out the cage.
"Free that little squirt. I know my killers and he wouldn't piss on a fly", Harschaw muttered.
"And now, Mister Crash Walker. The court of Jonestown, Festus County, finds you guilty in the first degree -"
"YOU SON OF A BITCH, THIS AIN'T NO FAIR TRIAL!"
"CRRRRAAAACK!" The whip again.
"-for the murder of young Rance Hiss, god-fearing Rodeo Doe, and poor defenseless Miss Willa Parton -"
"THIS IS NOTHIN' BUT A DAMN CIRCUS AND YOU KNOW IT!!!"
"-killed in the flower of their youth, all good Christians and soldiers in the Army of Jesus Christ".
The court room roared louder and louder upon hearing my verdict. Judge Horseshit's mouth twisted into something that almost looked like a smile.
"The court sentences you to be hanged by the neck until stone cold dead this coming Saturday morning, the 24th of September. May the Lord have mercy on your murderous soul". He spat derisively into that spittoon again.
At this point I yelled so much I couldn't even hear my voice any more. The white hot courtroom became blacker and blacker until all I could see was a vulture flapping its wings wildly in its cage. My knees gave way and everything went...black.
Be sure to get a copy of the complete novel "Wranglers' Canyon" in eBook form to be released in July 2015 by Book Baby. Don't miss it!