Jimmy Walker - A Western Short Story
Jimmy Walker, Part One
“Figgered you should know.”
Cooley Watters spat a stream of brown juice into the dust of the street, and wiped his bearded mouth on his greasy sleeve. He lived in a sod hut down by the river, and hired out as a part time cowhand when he needed whiskey money. He looked at the sheriff with watery eyes.
“There was three of ‘em, and two of ‘em held that breed, Jimmy Walker, while the third pounded on him something fierce. Then they set to with his squaw.”
Cooley wiped his mouth again, and glanced at the saloon doors. He swung his eyes back to the sheriff, a hopeful look on his face. Sheriff Logan Newberry walked to the batwing doors.
“Nat? Draw a glass of beer and bring it out here, Put it on my account.” He turned back to Cooley.
“Go on, Cooley.”
“Ain’t much else to tell. When Jimmy Walker finally come around again, his squaw was dead, and them three was gone.”
“They murdered her?”
The saloon keeper came out with the glass of beer, a question on his face. Sheriff Newberry pointed at Cooley Watters, and the saloon keeper handed it over, a look of distaste on his face. Cooley took a few swallows and scratched his jaw in thought. “Well, no, it wasn’t no real murder, I reckon. Like I said, she was just a squaw.”
“Where is Jimmy?”
“He sent someone to tell her people what happened, so they can fetch her if they want, and then he set off on their trail.” He shook his head sadly. “Would not want to be them fellers, when Jimmy catches up to them. He set some store by that squaw-woman.”
Sheriff Logan nodded, as Cooley drained his beer. “Anything else?”
Cooley looked uncomfortable. “Well, like I say, she was just a squaw, but they sliced her up something fierce, and then scalped her to boot. Weren’t no call to do none of that.” He pulled off his hat and wiped his brow. Then he pulled a folded piece of paper out of his hatband and handed it to the sheriff.
“Almost forgot this. Jimmy said to give it to you. Never did learn to read none, but mayhap you can cipher out what it says.”
Jimmy Walker was a half breed. His father was Davis Walker, a brilliant lawyer and a drunk, who came from South Carolina. His mother was a Cherokee, and the reason his father left South Carolina to come west. They had both died of diphtheria when Jimmy was twelve, leaving him with a sizable inheritance, and no friends, other than Logan Newberry. He attended an Indian school, but no college would accept him, Nevertheless, he was more educated than most.
Two years ago, Jimmy had found Sialea-lea, a Navajo maiden, wandering in the desert. She was an outcast for some reason that neither Jimmy or Logan could ever discern, but she was beautiful, and Jimmy soon took her for his wife, much to her own joy and delight. Her name meant “Little blue Bird”, but Jimmy just called her his Bird. They were deeply in love.
Sheriff Logan Newberry poured a cup of coffee from the battered pot in his office and unfolded Jimmy Walker’s note.
“I know that finding those men is rightly your job, Logan, but I have it to do after what they did to my Bird. They need to pay and the law is far too slow. I know you’ll follow, because that’s your way, but don’t try to stop me. I would not take it kindly. Jimmy”
Deputy Ty Conners was Sheriff Newberry’s best tracker, even if he was a bit green and way too cocky, so it was the two of them that set out the next morning. The trail was quickly worked out, and so plain that they were able to follow at miles-eating pace. By evening, they were a few miles west of Florence, at the Felix ranch.
“Si, they were here yesterday, Senor. We feed all strangers, but we did not like these hombres. Their eyes were too bold with the senoritas, so we fed them, and invited them to leave. They were persuaded that my humble wishes were best, and left. Perhaps it was the way my vaqueros were seeing to their pistolas and cuchillos. I am a simple man and do not know of such things.” Juan Felix raised his hands, palms up in bewilderment, his face innocent and bland.
Sheriff Newberry nodded, and made a note to himself that Senor Juan Felix was not a man with which to trifle. No one had seen Jimmy Walker, and his tracks had veered off the trail just before the Felix ranch.
They ate beef, beans, and tortillas on the moonlit patio, to the strains of a Spanish guitar. To the west, a lonely coyote yipped his appreciation of the music, and somewhere, a young man sang his song of romance to his lady love. By dawn the next morning, they were miles away.
The summer heat was stifling with the monsoon humidity, and to the south, vast thunderstorms were building when they found the first man. He was propped up against a mesquite tree, and his shirt was missing. His chest was covered with hundreds of tiny cuts, and his neck was raw from rope burns, and it was also broken,. He was very dead. A nearby palo verde tree had one high limb with damaged bark.
”I wonder why he didn’t just leave him hanging?”
Deputy Conners had worked out the trail and confirmed that this was one of the men they were following and also that Jimmy Walker had hung him. It looked like the killer had chosen to go his own way, and it had cost him his life.
“I guess he thought he might need that rope again. Waste not, want not.”
Ty Conners chuckled at the sheriff’s words.
The sheriff walked over to the dead man, and checked his pockets, but there was nothing. He was about to turn away when he noticed one stone resting atop another stone. He lifted the upper stone, and found a note.
“I know you are following me, Logan, because you are a good man and also a good lawman. This man admitted what he did, after some persuasion, and he knew things only the killers would know. I showed him more mercy than he showed my Bird.”
“Do you want to bury this man, Sheriff?”
“No. We do not have the time, so we’ll just cover him with enough rocks to keep the critters off.”
They camped that night under a ledge miles away, and after they rolled up in their blankets, the rain began, accompanied by the far-off muttering of discontented thunder. They slept well.