Milos Tellman’s first short story for NITH is a brutal and cleverly plotted revenge story with a neat twist.
We’re calling this a Dodge City Western. All the elements of genre great are here, drawing both fictional characters and historic individuals into a terse hustle in the infamous Dodge City.
It first appeared on the short list for the TRIGGER WARNING short story contest, one of three excellent stories. Since then, Seven Dead Eyes has established itself as a favourite with readers and fans of Western fiction.
SEVEN DEAD EYES
A Dodge City Western
by Milos Tellman
Dodge City. The stink of it.
I found Earle ‘The Eagle’ Brealey dozing off his nightly drunk in the alley behind the Long Branch Saloon. Chalk Beeson having kicked him out the night before and the Long Branch being the only place in town still serving the Eagle on a regular basis. Well, at least up until then.
“Who the fuck wants to know?” said the gunslinger when I asked if he was he.
“The name’s Patterson,” I said. “I got a job. A railroad job. Looking for some real deadeyes.”
“I ain’t in need of work,” Earle said, sitting there in his stinking, filthy clothes. “I’m fine just here as I am”
“Sure you are.” I said. I slipped a gold coin from my bag and placed it on the man’s leg and said. “I’m staying at Dodge House. Come by Saturday and meet the rest of the gang.”
Rest of the gang, I thought as I turned away from the man. Hell Earle Brealey was the first gunslinger I’d approached. But that was the way these guys worked. You wanted the best of the dis-reputables you needed to manufacture some sort of reputation.
Tuesdays most of the brawlers in Dodge City were found hanging around the horse stables at the south end of town. Vera Lynn, a local proprietor, cleared them out for regular boxing meets.
Strictly speaking gambling was illegal in Dodge City. But Wyatt Earp and the other lawmakers turned their heads on this one so long as they thought the meanest and the baddest fist fighters in town could get their anger out in a controlled environment. They’d even come down and keep an eye on things. See who the new players were and what they were up to.
So I’d have to be discreet.
Calvin Carson was your typical sort of brawler. Big hands big chest and a head like a boulder. His style of fighting was to absorb as much punishment as he could until his opponent opened themselves up enough to receive a mighty wallop. He was a TKO specialist.
“McGrady said you’d be interested,” I told him after the fight. “Pay is as good as you’ll get. It’s not easy money, but there’s a lot of it.”
“I heard McGrady was dead,” boomed the big brawler. “Shot in the eye from close range in his sleep.”
“Heard the same thing,” I said. “Cruel world.”
“That it is,” said Carson, rubbing his hands.
“So I can count you in?”
“On one condition,” he put his arm around my shoulders and steered me towards the ring where a lithe young lady was warming up. “That there wildcat is my girl, Tennessee. She can shoot and she can fight, and she’s quick. She comes with and gets her own share.”
“We don’t have place for her. We’re already pretty full,” I lied. There were reasons I’d picked Carson, Earle and the others. Tennessee was a headache I didn’t need.
“Well then you find a place,” said Calvin. “If you want Calvin Carson on your team.”
The evening of the same night I booked a room in the Starlight Hotel. I already had a room at Dodge House but if I was going to speak to Cairo I would need to go to him. And Valentino hadn’t left his room at the Starlight except to yell for more hookers and more wine.
Europeans had a reputation in Dodge City and Cairo wasn’t about to live that down.
“I have many vices, Mr Patterson,” he told me. “Violence is not one of them.”
I had proffered a deal with two girls. Get the man out of his room, and I’d double their hourly rate. Despite the ruse, Cairo seemed a man in good spirits.
“You’re the greatest thief on the frontier,” I told him.
“You don’t seem like the kind of man to buck a reputation.”
Cairo nodded, and I knew he was onboard.
Rick Hodgers, Neyma Sanchez, Ham Detlef
The last three men found me. Cornered me in an alley on my way back to Dodge House. Hodgers and Sanchez stood forward, blades dawn. Ham behind them, a rifle held low and menacing.
“Just the fellas I’ve been looking for,” I said, extending a hand to introduce myself.
Hodges and Sanchez exchanged glances.
“We don’t know you old man,” said Hodges. “Hand over what’s in your pockets. I’ll take that monocle and your gloves as well.”
“I can assure you much more than that,” I urged the men. “If you’ll listen to my proposition. A heist, on the railroads. We have Cairo, Carson, and Earle Brealey.”
The three men looked at each other.
From the back, Ham Detlef said “Where?”
I arranged it so Brealey, Carson, and Valentino Cairo all came in at separate times. Every hour on the hour they came in and every hour on the hour my associate knocked them out and together we tied them up and dragged them into the darkest corner of the barn. For some of Dodge City’s most dangerous men they were pretty gullible, but then Tennessee was good with a blackjack. That’s why I’d hired her, years ago.
Each of them were surprised to be taken out by a woman. None more so than Carson.
The last three were more difficult, on account of them all arriving together. Ham Detlef with his rifle, well we had to take him out. Tennessee shot him in the back as they entered the barn. The other two, with their proclivity for blades, well we held them at gunpoint until they surrendered.
And there I had it, five of them tied up back to back in a barn at midnight, the place lit by a single lantern suspended from the ceiling. Tennessee woke each of them men up in turn with buckets of water to the face. There was a lot of cursing and cussing, but eventually that all died down and I told them what I’d been longing to tell then for six years now.
“My name’s not Allan Patterson,” I said. “You don’t know me, but I know you.”
I circled round saying each of their names
“Earle Breaely, Calvin Carson, Valentino Cairo,” I stopped over the dead body of Ham. “Ham Detlef, Neyma Sanchez, Rick Hodgers. You want to know what you all have in common? One thing, ten years ago. Galetown.”
I let that word sink in. Then, as the cursing and the cussing started up again I signalled to Tennessee and we started towards the end of the barn. As we passed through the doorway Tennessee took a blade from her waitband and flung it towards the ceiling. The lantern crashed to the floor. The cursing turned to screams and the barn caught fire, burning to the ground in our wake.
Allan Patterson was a friend of my Father’s. His family had come from Ireland. He was of the educated classes and had about him clever airs that didn’t lend kindly to the rest of the folk in town. It was only once he started up his school that some of the townsfolk saw he was on a mission. Not from God, not out of greed, but to educate.
My Father was one of the first to sign up. He had always wanted to learn to read and as he learnt he taught me as well. Soon though, I was surpassing him, and my father brought me to the school as well.
“Children learn quicker than adults,” Patterson told my father. “As we get older we get stuck in our ways.”
For six months Allan Patterson taught me and the others who came to his school about numbers and letters. About how to read a map and how to draw plans for construction a house or barn. He was a clever man who’s only flaws were a love of whiskey and blindness in one eye.
“It’s my Dead Eye,” he would say, pointing to the white, useless orb. “It sees everything.”
This all took place in Galetown, where I lived and learnt my whole life. Until that one fateful day when a group of bandits came riding in, and Mr Patterson, he put himself in front of a bullet that was meant for me.
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