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Death For A Bounty

By Madison
Copyright 1999

**McKay’s Second Dime Novel (A Tale of Lovers is his third, though I did write it before this one. But after all, this is make believe so please excuse any confusion this may cause!)**

“Adventure runs wild page after page with love riding its tail!” - Edward Hayes, Saddle Falls Courier

“McKay does it again with his latest thrill-loving masterpiece!” -William Post, Denver Pioneer Press

“Heroism, love, and honor have never been so defined in the great American Wild West” - Thomas C. Jackson, Chicago Chronicles

Oh, how my heart danced with light feet at the joyous reviews my latest novel, “Death For A Bounty” received from some of America’s toughest critics. Throughout this broad country I was being praised as one of the most talented journalists in the west. Sigh. Of course, my accomplishments couldn’t have been made without Wild Bill and his mysterious beauty. And like all great creators, I have another story in the works!

Willow Springs

The unkempt brute who reeked of cheap cigar smoke acted on his true cowardly nature by using Hickok’s lady as a shield. Pressed against her temple with shaky fingers was the barrel of his black revolver. The ruffian knew death was drawing near by the calm composure Hickok was able to maintain during their confrontation, and it petrified him.

With a commanding voice, the legendary gunfighter advised his adversary to release his love. His gaze never wandered from his opponent, intent on ending his miserable life. No one endangered his woman and got away with it. No one.

With beads of sweat gathered on his face, the woman’s captor made his assault on the young hero. A bullet embedded between the eyes was his only compensation, allowing the beautiful woman to run her lover’s side unharmed.

The spineless bounty hunter remained in the dusty streets, awaiting the undertaker’s arrival. Like other scum who was foolish enough to go up against the quickest draw in the west, death was his only reward.....

Boom, that’s it? Hickok fires and it’s all over for me? Jake Colter threw McKay’s memoirs of their adventure across the saloon. Funny, that ain’t quite how I remember it. Reading the pencil pusher’s latest tale made him want to pay the fame seeking writer a visit. Just for old times sake. Course how could he do that when he was ‘dead’? Maybe he need’s a little haunting, Jake mused. And he was just the ghost for the job. Abandoning his drink, Colter eagerly set out for Seneca for a friendly little reunion.

Seneca....4 days later

The lace curtains failed to block the rising sun from peeking in on the heroic couple resting in their bed. Tenderly the gunfighter encouraged his sleeping angel to wake by tracing his fingers ever so gently along her soft, bare shoulder. Though he lived to hold her in his arms, it was time to begin the day, and set forth on yet another adventure.....

Setting my pen aside, I realized that a man is truly blessed when he finds his calling in life, his reason for existing. I am one of those fortunate souls thanks to the mighty pen, the reliable paper, and the daring couple America yearns to read about, Wild Bill Hickok and..... Well, I’m just gonna have to name her myself. After all, I can’t keep referring to her as Bill’s love.

The perfectly matched pair were making me a very wealthy man, and I was genuinely grateful! By exploiting their bond, I became the most successful journalist of my time, and I planned on furthering my career more so with this unfolding tale.

A timid knock from my assistant, Henry, interrupted my celebration. “Uh... Mr. McKay,” he called from my office threshold. “There’s somebody here to see you.”

Another fan, no doubt. “Well show him in!” I always made time for my admirers. “Go on!” With a nod of his scrawny head, Henry obeyed my orders. Best get my pen ready for signing yet another terrific story written by- myself!

Moments later, Henry was back occupying the doorway. “Sir, he would like you to come outside.”

“What ever for?” I asked impatiently. Henry just shook his head nervously. “Fine, I’m coming.” Straightening my crisp white shirt, I made for the door.

“Look out!” Henry cried as he was shoved to the floor. Before I could react, a strong hand grabbed my roughly by the collar.

“Boo!” Jake Colter shouted in my face. With gun drawn, he ushered us back into the room for a little ‘chat’. Dread consumed me as the door sealed us in the little confinement.

Then with disgusting arrogance, the bounty hunter sank down into MY chair, placing his dirty boots on MY polished oak desk. Henry, like a coward, hide in the corner afraid of the weapon still occupying Colter’s hand. I kept my silence and distance until the intruder lit one of his stinky cigars.

With building rage, I approached him. “This is unacceptable! You have no-” His gun’s barrel centering on me, killed my protest. To further wound my pride, he exhaled dreadful smoke in my face.

“Sit down, shut up,” Jake ordered.

A sinister grin slithered across his unshaved face as I complied. Oh, how I longed to strike it away! “Why are you here?” After balancing the cigar between his smug lips, Colter reached deep into his filthy coat pocket, pulling out my latest and most successful tale, ‘Death For A Bounty’. The story explained everything. “Who would’ve thought you could read?”

Surprisingly Jake laughed, finding my insult rather amusing... or so I thought. I was barely able to dodge the marble paper weight once peacefully lying on my desk. The object marked for my skull shattered against the wall to the brute’s delight. I could only imagine what or who else he’d break next.

As the menacing smoke swelled in my richly furnished office, the hunter’s presence became more excruciating than the last encounter I had with him. OH! Why didn’t Wild Bill shoot this obnoxious beast for stealing his lady love? Why allow this ruffian to continue crawling on this earth, tormenting good folks like myself?

“It ain’t so much being the ‘bad guy’ I mind,” Colter confessed with a smirk engraved on his face that suggested being the villain appealed to him. “But running scared of Hickok?”

“You sure appeared frightened to me when the gunfighter drew upon you with his lightning reflexes, ordering you to leave his woman alone!” I threw at him. “I believe you cried ‘Please Wild Bill! Don’t shoot me!”

Not finding my reciting the tiniest bit amusing, Jake leaned forward in his chair, staring intently at me. “Things ain’t always what they seem,” my tormentor declared before crushing his cigar out, wounding my novel’s cover.

After a moment of staring upon my stained work with a nauseous feeling in my stomach, I composed myself. “What are you saying?”

“Me and Hickok,” he began after pushing most of my writing utensils to the floor. I could only assume it was to make more foot room. “We crossed paths long before your lady hunt.” To close for comfort, Jake confided with his foul breath dancing toward me, “And I ain’t dead yet.”

Pity. Colter’s survival proved an old saying true. The good really do die young. Still, I was eager to listen to the bounty hunter for a change. After all, I loved hearing about Wild Bill. “Please, tell me about these encounters.”

Jake just chuckled and lit up another air smuggling cigar. “Talk’s cheap, but it ain’t free.”

Want to play hard ball, huh? Well, let’s see who gives to the shove. “I don’t think you’re in a position to negotiate,” I explained bravely. “After all, I’ve already paid my debt!” My words drew a puzzled expression over the his face. How surprising. Now was the time to cast my subtle threat. “I haven’t sought the law upon you YET, have I?”

“And I haven’t broke both your hands for writing this!” He declared before winging my novel at me.

I cringed at the very thought of broken bones murdering my booming career. What to do, what to do. Or, how much to pay?

On to Chapter Two

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