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Jimmy Walker - A Western Short Story - Conclusion.
The morning dawned cool and damp. They made a breakfast of bacon, beans, and tortillas bought from the Felix ranch. The trail was somewhat washed out but still easily visible to a skilled tracker like Ty Conners. His father had employed several Apache cowhands, and they had taught the boy well.
To the east loomed the brooding Superstition Range, and as they crossed the shallow Salt River, the small village of Phoenix lazed in the morning sun, far to the west. The trail then led north, and in the general direction of the Cartwright ranch, Seven Springs, and the Verde River.
It was noon of the following day before they found the next body. For a long time, the sheriff and deputy stared at the dead man and then at each other. He was laid out on the sand, with his pants down around his ankles, and a hole in the center of his forehead. There was a combined look of fear and astonishment on his face.
They dismounted, and while Logan Newberry studied the body, his deputy scouted around, returning in a few moments with another note. He read it, chuckled, and handed it to the sheriff.
“I was looking for a spot to relieve myself when I come up on this Jasper. I reckon he had the same notion because he was just squatting down when I come around them rocks yonder. We was both took back some and surprised, with him having his gun belt hanging on a mesquite limb, like that. He tried for it, but with them pants down, he couldn't run, so I shot him. Maybe you and Ty should just go home.”
Since he knew Ty was there, that meant that Jimmy Walker was watching his back trail. Sheriff Newberry sat on a flat rock and filled his pipe, deep in thought. Behind him, a silent audience of giant saguaros lifted their massive arms in bewilderment at the strange ways of man.
Ty regarded him for a moment and then rolled himself a smoke in a piece of paper; a Mexican method that was becoming popular with the cowboys. After a few minutes, he spoke to the sheriff.
“Looks like we’re now following Jimmy Walker as much as the men who killed Jimmy’s woman. This killing might be seen as a fair fight, but that first killing was pure-dee murder, and torture at that..”
Logan Newberry regarded his tall, wiry deputy for a long moment. Then he spat in the sand and stood, arching his aching back.
‘You never saw what they done to Bird. I did, and so did Jimmy. Them cuts was meant to hurt, and hurt bad, and from the way it bled, they scalped her while she was still alive. What Jimmy did back there was just a tickle compared to what they done to his woman.”
Ty nodded thoughtfully. “Do you want to go on home, Sheriff? No one will care if Jimmy kills the last one, and it won’t be no mark on you.”
The sheriff walked to his horse, lifted the stirrup, and adjusted the cinch. “No, I have it to do, but you can go home if you like.”
Ty Conners grinned at Logan Newberry. “Hell, Sheriff, you couldn’t trail a herd of buffalo if they was fifty feet in front of you. I’ll go along. What about the body?”
“We’ll cover it with rocks. That’s all he deserves.”
That night, they camped at Seven Springs. Thunder rumbled far to the south, but this time, there was no rain.
They were some thirty miles from the Mogollon Rim when they discovered the last body. The trail had led them up into the foothills, and into a mixture of scrub cedars and juniper that suddenly opened into a small clearing, bordered on one side by the bottom slope of a small hill. The other side was a mix of jumbled rocks and heavy brush. Near the rocks was a dead horse, with no saddle. Ten feet away was the body of a dead man. On the far side, a big gray, stood, ground hitched and still saddled. He watched them for a moment with his ears perked, before returning to cropping the grass in front of him. Ty spoke up.
“That dead horse there is Jimmy’s. He rode bareback most times. That gray belongs to the last man, and I think that’s him lyin’ there.”
He dismounted and began to study the tracks and sign. Sheriff Newberry sat his horse for a few minutes, using his vantage point to look around. Overhead, a lone hawk called out from a cloudless sky. At last, the sheriff dismounted and walked stiffly over to the body. He recognized the face as the last of the men he was pursuing. Jimmy Walker was nowhere to be seen. Ty Conners was staring at a spot where the ground was disturbed, scratching at his four day growth of beard. At last, he walked over to where the sheriff stood, catching him by the arm and walking far enough away to be out of hearing range. He spoke quietly.
“Far as I can tell, that dead feller ambushed Jimmy from them rocks up there. He shot his horse deliberate-like to put him afoot. Damn a man who will shoot a horse!”
He spat on the ground, and wiped his mouth.
“Then he shot Jimmy. Jimmy’s canteen was holed too, just in case. There’s sign where Jimmy was lying on the ground, and he was bleeding from the head. My guess is he was unconscious for a time. It looks like this feller thought he was dead for sure after a while, and come on down. That’s when Jimmy killed him.”
The sheriff looked all around. “I wonder where Jimmy is?”
Ty Conners spoke softly. “See them creosote bushes over by that granite outcropping?”
The sheriff nodded.
“Well, if a man did not want to find Jimmy Walker, I would tell him to stay away from them bushes.”
The sheriff filled his pipe and lit it. “We’ll drop a loop on Jimmy’s horse and drag him back down the slope to that ravine. I saw a place where we can cave in part of that sandy bank on top of him. Then we’ll bury this man.”
Ty Conner’s eyebrows went up. “You want to bury this one?”
“Yes. After that, we will head for home.”
While taking care of the dead horse, they spotted the remains of a discarded wooden box, and the sheriff retrieved a board from it. Ty wondered at that but said nothing. They pulled a shovel off the pack horse and dug a grave. Ty Conners pulled the saddle off the gray, gave him some water and picketed him out on some new grass. He checked the saddle bags and canteens. Both canteens were near empty, and there was no food in the bags.
The sheriff finished filling in the grave and mopped his brow. Then he handed the shovel to Ty Conners. “Put that back, water our horses at the creek, and then saddle up. I’ll be done here in a minute and follow you down there.”
“What about that feller’s horse, Sheriff? The big gray?”
Sheriff Logan Newberry put his hat back on and turned to his deputy.
“What horse? I never seen no horse.”
Ty Conner stared at him, and then pointed over the sheriff’s shoulder at the peacefully grazing animal.
“What the hell’s wrong with you, boss? He’s standing right over there!”
The sheriff put his hand on the pointing arm and gently pushed it down. He looked directly into Ty Conner’s eyes.
“There aint no horse over there Ty. There never was.”
Realization slowly dawned on the deputy, and without another word, he gathered up the horses and went down to the creek for water. Half an hour later, the sheriff joined him and mounted up.
“You ready Ty?”
“Just about. I forgot and left my knife up there. Wait here and I’ll be right back.”
They were five miles down the trail, and Ty was in the lead when Logan noticed that his deputy’s extra canteen was missing, and his saddle bags looked empty, so he spoke up about it. Ty answered without turning around.
“I never brought no extra canteen, Logan, and I reckon we ate all the food that was in them bags.”
“Well, now I’m real sure that you brought that extra canteen, Ty, and them bags looked pretty full this morning. We better go back and find ‘em”
Ty wheeled his horse and rode back to the sheriff, halting beside him and looking directly into his eyes. “There weren’t no horse sheriff, so there weren’t no canteen or extry food neither.”
Logan Newberry stared back at the young man and then his hard set mouth turned up at the corners a little in a brief smile. He waved his deputy to take the lead, and after a few hundred yards, he spoke.
“You are a damn poor liar son.”
“So are you, sheriff, and it‘s a pleasure to know you.”
Jimmy Walker watched the retreating lawmen until they were out of sight. He had a raw furrow along his scalp, and his head ached, but he was feeling better, although he had lost some blood.
He had seen Ty Conners drop the spare canteen full of water and the sack of food. He had also watched Sheriff Logan Newberry carving on a weathered old board, before he placed it between two stones at the head of the grave. He walked over and read the inscription:
Here lies Jimmy Walker
Killed resisting arrest by Sheriff Logan T. Newberry
He spotted one stone on top of another, and pulled out a note:
‘I have a brother in Montana name of Jubal Newberry. Just ask around. Tell him to write me when you get there.’