"No man in the wrong can stand up against a fellow that's in the right and keeps on a-comin'."
As often happens to many authors when writing a story, the characters take on a life all their own. Such was the case of the first book in the Creed series of novels, No Town for Outlaws. In fact, the book even started out with a different title, and the Creed family was added as the story grew. Soon, they began to take over the story, with a multitude of twists and turns to their own stories that simply couldn't be told in No Town for Outlaws.
They began to haunt my mind as I started another story, one totally unrelated to the original book, or any of my other stories, until finally I put the others away to create a book dedicated to three of the Creed boys and their time in Arizona Territory before their father called them home in this prequel to No Town for Outlaws.
Ben, Todd and Zack Creed each begin to grow their own legends, as well as increasing the family legend, in this story of law and lawlessness in Arizona Territory. And if you like this tale of the Old West, there will be many more stories written about the Creed children, as well as their parents, in the future as I'm already inspired to write many more stories about the members of this family.
"I'm here ta take ya in, Thornton."
The big man standing at the plank bar didn't bother to look up before answering. "I ain't goin' no damned place 'til I get good an' by gawd ready. An' when I do, it ain't gonna be with you, whoever the hell ya are."
"Well, I reckon that's one way o' lookin' at it, 'cept that ain't the way it's gonna play out. You can ride with me peaceable like, 'r over your saddle. Your choice at this point. But one way 'r another, you're goin' back ta Prescott with me."
"Bob, you'd best just go on along with him. I'm not real anxious ta clean the blood off'n the floor again."
"Aw, shut the hell up an' pour me another whiskey, Stubs. The rest o' the boys'll be here shortly, an' I figure ta ride out with 'em when they go."
"Thornton, you'd best pay attention, 'cause I only got a warrant for you. But I reckon there's some what's wanted among your pals, an' I won't hesitate ta take them in with ya. An' I don't really care how I do it."
Finally, the big man stood to his full six foot seven inch height and three hundred pounds, and turned to face his accuser. The end of the makeshift bar was bright, and Thornton had to squint to see the man standing on the other end. "I reckon you don't have no idea how many men I've killed, do ya boy? It don't matter ta me who the hell they are, if they get in my way I just kill 'em."
"Yeah, like unarmed Indians, farmers, settlers, even women. But how good are ya when ya face somebody better'n you?"
"Sonny, I ain't met that feller yet, not in this territory."
"Bob, I'm tellin' ya, ya'd best go on along with this feller. Don't you know who he is?"
"I told you ta shut up, Stubs. I flat don't give a damn who he is, he's as good as dead..." Thornton said as he made his move. He barely touched the butt of his Remington before the first slug entered his chest just above the second button of his shirt. The second slug ripped through Bad Bob Thornton's skull just below his left eye, and the big man fell, almost knocking over the plank bar.
"Sorry, Stubs, I gave him ever' chance. Any chance you got some fresh coffee 'fore I try ta load that pile o' shit on the back o' his horse? I figure I got near a two ride ta get back ta Prescott, an' I don't cotton ta my own cookin' 'r my brother's grub, let alone my camp coffee."
"It was fresh made an hour ago, Zack. Will that do ya?"
"Sure thing, Stubs. That ought ta give me a big 'nough jolt ta help me pick that big galoot up high 'enough ta get him over his saddle."
Both men chuckled, and then Stubs retrieved the coffee and a pair of cups. "Hope ya don't mind me joinin' ya, but I reckon I'd best fill ya in on somethin' I heard last night now that it's just you an' me in here."
"Sure, set down an' tell me what ya heard, an' who said it."
"Ya know, ya could cut off half a day if ya was to go over the top at Jerome."
"Yeah, hard ride though. 'Sides, I need ta try ta meet up with Todd west o' Fort Verde tomorrow afternoon. He should be comin' back up from a couple o' days o' scoutin' around Townsend for some rustlers workin' the area."
"Yeah, well that ties in with what I heard last night. There was a couple o' new riders come in, said they'd been workin' around Townsend an' up an' down the Agua Fria an' Verde River basins, but when I asked 'em what outfit they was ridin' for they changed the subject. I got names, but I reckon they wasn't their real names. Carter Jackson an' Morton Forseth is what they give me."
"Believe it or not, Stubs, I think that's who Todd is lookin' for. An' you're right, their real names are s'posed ta be Jack Carter an' Seth Morton, so it doesn't appear they are very original in pickin' a name. Well, guess I'd best drag that hump out o' here an' see if I can get him loaded."
The young man polished off the dregs in his cup, stood and strode to the body, removed the gun belt and his money pouch, and then grabbed him by the heels and started dragging the three hundred pound carcass toward the door. When he stopped to catch his breath, Stubs asked, "Say, what was he wanted for this time?"
"Usin' Navajo an' Yavapai for target practice. Killed three men, two women and a baby last week outside o' Shong-a-pavi two weeks ago, an' a young Yavapai boy an' his mother ta the southwest o' Prescott last week."
"Damned fool thing ta do, even for a snake like he was. 'Course, nobody ever said Thornton was the sharpest tool in the shed. Zack, I'll help what I can, but my ol' back is all but done for. I got a spare plank in the back, an' maybe we can roll out one o' the empty barrels an' set one end o' that plank on it an' at least get him up ta where we can roll him onta the saddle."
"Yeah, that might work. Show me where that plank is, an' I'll grab it while you roll the barrel out. Fair 'nough?"
Twenty minutes later, they had tugged the body up the plank as far as they could, led the outlaw's horse alongside the end of the plank, and yanked and pulled until the corpse was bent over the saddle. Not wanting to take any chances on him slipping off, Zack tied Thornton as tight as he could to the saddle after covering him with his short tarp.
After carrying the plank back inside the saloon, Zack decided to sit down and rest for a moment before climbing aboard his blue roan for the trip south to Fort Verde, and then west to Prescott. Stubs had left their cups on the table, and brought the pot of now old coffee over, filling both cups, saying, "I s'pose I should be cleanin' up that blood 'fore it dries inta the floorboards, but I'm plumb winded."
"Ya think it'll discourage any o' your customers from drinkin' in here, Stubs?" Zack said with a smile.
"Naw, I don't reckon it will. In fact, it might even encourage a few more ta come in just ta see where Bad Bob Thornton bought it. Maybe I can even charge an admission," the saloonkeeper laughed.
Just then, three men came shuffling into the saloon, none to happy looking. "Stubs, that looks like Bob Thornton's horse outside with a body draped 'cross't the saddle. Is that Bob, an' who done it?"
"That would be me, mister. I'm carryin' a warrant for his arrest, an' he decided ta try not goin' along with me ta Prescott."
"An' just who the hell are you?"
"Yavapai County Deputy Sheriff Zack Creed."
"An' you outdrew Bob?"
"Yes, I did. What difference does that make, Callendar?"
"None, really. 'Cept that there's three of us now, not just one, an' ever'one o' us is as fast 'r faster'n Bob. It ain't lookin' real good for you ta leave here alive, boy."
"I don't have any current warrants on any o' ya, so my advice is that ya leave things be. As soon as I finish this coffee, I'm walkin' out o' here. Don't try ta stop me, 'r you'll just end up like your friend. Understand?"
The three men looked at each other, then one of the others said, "Best stand up an' meet your maker, Creed. 'Less ya wanna go out settin' on your ass."
"Parker, I suggested real nice for you fellers ta let things be. Same goes for you, Nettles. Let it go. Ya see, here's the thing. I'll for sure get two o' ya, maybe all three o' ya. Yeah, ya might get me, but is it worth takin' the chance that you'll be one o' the two I get? Then there's also the chance that I get the third one winged sa bad he don't live long, 'r ends up crippled. I'll ask ya again, is it worth the chance? Now, I'm gonna stand up real slow like, then I'm walkin' out that door an' mountin' up ta ride. One move from any one o' the three o' ya an' I start shootin', got it?"
Zack rose slowly, moving to clear himself from the table and get as far from Stubs Allard as he could, not wanting to take any more chances than necessary that his friend might take a round accidentally. As he was moving, the three men separated by several more feet, obviously thinking the further apart they were the harder it would be for Zack to hit any of them. That was their first mistake. The second came before Zack was halfway to the door.
Even in the dimly lit room, Zack could see the first man make his move, and yanked his own Colt. He drilled the man while his hand was still in the air, then fired on the second man, who had grabbed the butt of his Remington, before firing on the third man, who had cleared leather but never got the chance to lift the barrel before the .44-40 slug lodged in his mouth. Walking to the only one who survived, the first man, it was apparent he wasn't going to last more than a few more minutes.
"Mister, I tried ta warn ya. Why'd ya think ya had ta try me?"
"Didn't believe nobody was that fast. Had ta see, I guess."
"Hate ta tell ya this, but I got a sister that's faster'n me, an' two brothers even faster'n her. You three wasn't even in my class. An' neither was your pal Thornton." Turning to Stubs, he continued. "Stubs, I think I can load these three by myself, but now I'm gonna be late gettin' inta Camp Verde tanight. Any chance ya got somethin' I can gnaw on 'fore I get on my way south?"
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