' 'Dead' Ned Bryson'

By Phineas Redux


Summary:— Henrietta 'Harry' Knappe and Sally 'Snapshot' Nichols, Deputies and lovers in 1870's Red Flume, Arizona Territory, USA, both become entangled with a troublesome renegado.

Note:— Influenced by the 'Wolfville' stories of Alfred Henry Lewis.

Copyright:— copyright ©2023 Phineas Redux. All characters are wholly fictitious representations, and the overall local geography may be questionable, too.

Disclaimer:— There is some light swearing in this story.


The door of the Sheriff's Office, this sprightly morning of July 187- in the rollicking township of Red Flume, Territory of Arizona, crashed back against the wall with a fine bang loud enough to wake Henrietta Knappe, Deputy therein, from a refreshing mid-morning nap; she in no way pleased by the experience.

"Mister Granger, what for ya come stompin' in h'yar like a herd o'bison? Ain't ye got no restraint, or thought fer folks tryin' ter recover some gentle from last night's fandango at the saloon?"

Percival Granger, local leather goods store owner, stood in the small room gasping for breath; he dressed in a blue wool suit and wide-brimmed Stetson, a white red-spotted handkerchief now being brought out to fulfill its registered duty to the fullest extent of its capability on his sweating brow.

"I got news! Wan'na h'yar same?"

A long pause followed, he remaining completely silent throughout; Henrietta, dressed in her usual attire of red checkered shirt, blue jeans and boots, stolidly awaited the start of a conversation that seemed, final, never to be fated to begin.


"Dead Ned!" Granger, his eyes nearly popping with excitement, coming back to life. "I jus' seen Dead Ned in town!"

Having just returned from the Land of Nod Henrietta took a few seconds to collect her thoughts.

"Dead Ned? Dead Ned Bryson? Thought he was knocked over permanent down Yuma way last yar? Didn't Sheriff Tomlinson fill him ful'la lead, shotgun-wise?"

"it's Dead Ned we're talkin' about here, leddy." Granger shaking his head in scorn. "Take a lot more'n a coupl'a volleys from a shotgun t'see him off, as we all knows full well. Anyways, he's jus' stepped off'n the Yuma stage, the same which's jus' rolled up outside the Chatham Hotel not ten minutes since. Reckon if'n ye move fast enough ye can still catch him, an' do yer duty tharby."

Henrietta raised an enquiring eyebrow at this latter suggestion.

"Do my duty? An' in what manner exactly would I carry thet out, d'ya think?"

Granger waved a hand in the air at this, he having a pure and clear idea of what this entailed, in his mind at least.

"Why, go along, with a shotgun loaded fer bear, yer pistols o'course an', yeah, better take yer Sharps rifle too just ter make doubly sure. Why, ye'll be the Queen o'the Territory! Harry Knappe—the gal who final killed the man who cain't be killed, no-how! Ye'll be famous throughout the whole country; get yer name in the Eastern newspapers fer sure, possible even the Atlantic! Be a historical figure in the History books, fer certin!"

Henrietta dismissed this possible outcome with a contemptuous snort.

"Don't reckon none I wants ter be remembered jes' so, thanks. Far's I knows Bryson took the mornin' ferry 'cross the Styx las' yar, curtesy of Sheriff Tomlinson, like I said. Anyways. I'll sure enough look in'ta the matter—see what blows in the wind. Thanks fer the information, Mister Granger, g'bye."

So coldly extolled Granger took the hint like a gentleman.

"Yeah, well; so thet's how things stands, anyways, ma'am. Hopes t'h'yar mighty soon thet Justice has caught up with the reprobate, I'm sure. Waal, g'bye t'you, Miss Knappe."




And the door closed behind the dutiful citizen with a click.



"Refresh me on his history, lover."

Sally Nichols, Deputy and loving partner of Henrietta, just returned from her morning constitutional, for which read official patrol, of Red Flume's streets had been immediately informed of the latest supposed addition to the town's population.

"Ye've heerd previous, no doubt, o'the man in question?"

"Figure so; somethin' at the back o'my mind's nigglin' some over same, anyway."

Henrietta sighed at this wooly knowledge on her lover's part.

"Edward Bryson, colloquially known as 'Dead' Ned in course of havin' been shot, an' hung by the neck, so many times an' survived same, he's developed a repy'tation fer bein' some immortal—"

"Hung! An' survived?" Sally totally disbelieving of this possibility. "Tell me another, gal! Cain't be done, no-how."

Henrietta grunted in reply, shaking her head as knowing the real facts in the matter.

"Took fer rustlin' five yar since, up Montana way; stood a'fore the Judge, who handed down the one-way sentence. He then reported as givin' a fine partin' speech whilst stood on the gallows up ter Virginia City or possibly Helena, cain't certin remember which; saluted the crowd with a fond farewell, the drop opened an' he fell through an' swung fer ten minutes a'fore comin' ter a stand. Stayed so fer another hour before bein' cut loose an' transported t'the local Doc's surgery whar, ten minutes later, jus' as the Doc was goin' ter amuse his'self by openin' the corpse fer examination, he, Bryson, coughed some, wriggled around on the table, an' came back ter life sound's as a bell an', sittin' up like a young 'un, declared he could sure do with a cup'pa coffee!"

"F-ck me!"

"Doc, some disappointed, had no option but t'declar him as alive as alive could be. Thar then followed a long discussion by the Judge an' Sheriff as t'the next step, moral an' legal-wise, but final they had no choice but ter let him go free, a man as innocent as a newborn lamb havin' served his allotted sentence t'the full."

Sally whistled low between her teeth, shaking her head in disbelief.

"Waal, I never! An' as ter bein' shot? He was shot some often, y'say?"

"At least seven times these past ten yar." Henrietta nodding again. "By a Smith an' Wesson, a Colt, a Lefaucheux seven-shot, though he only took three his'self on thet occasion; a Henry rifle, a Derringer, an' two shotguns on sep'rate occasions. Most he sarved in hospital bein' five weeks on the occasion o'the last shotgun episode."

"What about the Yuma incident, last yar?" Sally having also been informed by Henrietta of this episode in the infamous outlaw's life too.

"Thet'll have bin the eighth time he wus shot, I admits." Henrietta nodding musingly. "Thought, mysel', thet'd done fer him final, but if what Granger's told me's true—waal?"

Sally, being a lady wholly capable of the darkest of dark thoughts, most of which, if unrestrained, she was perfectly capable of bringing to actual fruition, frowned over this for a few seconds.

"Tell ye what, lady; ye connive t'haul him out onto the middle o'Main Street this afternoon an' I'll, some accidental, run him down with a buggy loaded with wood logs! Bound t'quash him like a beetle underfoot! What ya say? Go on, lover—say yeah, jes' fer me!"

Henrietta sighed once more, aware not for the first time that many of the most dangerous threats to the happiness and safety of the town's citizens often lay within the Office of the Sheriff rather than without, if the lady in question was not held firmly in check by a tight grip.


The Chatham Hotel, as the two Deputies stood before its entrance on Hallam Road, had seen better days—those being some twenty years in the past. Right now, as both ladies observed, the frontage could do with a new coat of paint, the window frames could do with replacing, the glass on the left-hand door was cracked from top to bottom, and a deep layer of dust and dirt crunched underfoot as they entered the small foyer.

On the left side a meagre desk showed the official side of the complex, with a fortyish balding thin man in a scruffy suit standing behind it, gazing at the newcomers with a dejected air.

"Hi, Hiram." Sally coming straight to the point, she having other better things to do that morning. "Which room's Ned in, thanks."

"Huh! Got'ta I got'ta tell ya—or what?"

"Hiram, dear," Henrietta sparking up nasty from the get-go. "How far along the line'll this dump stagger when the Housing Department arrives t'inspect the joint, d'ya suppose? I gives this hovel, oh, ten minutes a'fore bein' shut-down permanent."

"Jeez! OK-OK! Room 34, OK?"

"OK, thanks."

Having found the room, along a dingy corridor that had not seen any form of redecoration since its inception in 1847, it fell to Sally to beat a musical tattoo on the thin pine door, which opened almost immediately to show a medium sized man in his early thirties, standing to his full height of five foot seven inches, thin faced and dark haired, a Colt .45 gripped in his left hand pointing to the floor. As a purely natural reaction both Henrietta and Sally drew their own weapons like lightning, they pointing their weapons full at the man before them without excuse or apology.

"Want we shoot yer straight-off, Ned? Or can we parley some—up ter you entire." Henrietta taking the High Road with a cool politeness.

Ned, on his part, hardly seemed much put-out by the circumstances of the moment. But he did lower his weapon and turn slightly to place it on top of a nearby chest of drawers.

"So, what's the game, ladies? See's yer both Depities, what've I done wrong, in the less than an hour I've been resident in this hole; my askin' just out'ta pure curiosity."

Henrietta holstered her Colt, but Sally held her own Smith and Wesson casually in her hand, being of a much more suspicious and unforgiving nature than her partner.

"We wonders, out'ta pure official an' tender regard fer the citizens of this fair city, jes' what the hell ye think yer doin' pollutin' the place, is all." Henrietta disregarding any attempt at politeness herself.

Ned laughed at this.

"Cain't a man take a holiday ter soothe fractious nerves anymore? Jes' thought Red Flume was a nice resort, renowned as it is throughout the Territory fer its peaceful ways an' kind citizens. Anythin' wrong in thet?"

Sally was up for this.

"Yeller Dog's only nine mile further east; cits thar far more t'your taste an' low natur', I'd a'thought."

"Or Wolfville, fifteen mile west!" Henrietta putting in her two cents-worth. "If its fractious citizens ye likes, them's yer folks, fer certin. Gunfights every other day, lynchin's every fortnight, Mexicans, Indians, an' stylish folks from the East strictly banned from the environs. Should suit yer jes' right. Can we point yer in the right direction?"

Ned frowned darkly, obviously not enjoying the tone the conversation had taken.

"Have I done anythin' wrong since hittin' this backwoods dump, may I ask?"

Forced so onto her back foot Sally scowled savagely, like the Medusa in a temper, leaving it entirely to her better half to answer.

"Nuthin as ter say outright illegal, nah." Henrietta frowning in her turn.

"Well, then, any warrants or wanted notices out fer my hide at the present moment?"

"Sh-t, yer clean so far, sure." Sally coming back to life, though strongly miffed from top to toe. "Which ain't ter say ye can dance the light fandango through the town as ye feels needful; nuthin lastin' fer ever, y'knows. One step out'ta line, one wrong move, one mis-step in any direction, an' either Harry here or me or both o'us in duo'll fill ya ful'la so much lead it'll take seven strong men ter lift yer corpse from the dust an' drag it t'the nearest dung-heap fer disposal—get me?"

Ned, no way put out, grinned at this thrust.

"Lady, you have a filthy mind an' a filthier tongue—some complimentin' yer looks the same way, I finds."

Instantly Sally took a step forward, pistol held high, barrel thrusting against Ned's neck so strongly he jerked his head back to ease the strain. Things stayed this way for several seconds, during which Time itself seemed to have stopped for the duration; then Sally stepped back, fury covering her features like a dark storm over distant mountains.

"Next time I does thet I pulls the f-ckin' trigger!"

In unison both ladies turned and went back along the corridor, leaving their late quarry standing by his door, a sadder and a wiser man; if he had any common-sense, that is.


The small poky Sheriff's Office was host to something between a planning committee and a full blown war council, Sheriff Charles Donaldson as main speaker.

"Anything less than a point thirty-eight, or Number Three buckshot'd be useless aginst him, an' they latter'd need t'be fired-off mighty numerous at close range t'have the desired effect, goin' by his undisputed repy'tation thet way, I'm thinkin'. Any idee's, gals?"

Sally shrugged disaffected shoulders under her yellow deerskin jacket.

"We can pussy-foot around every step he takes, I suppose; remainin' mighty scared t'do anythin' at all in the aggressive line. Or we could jes' make a trio, armed with every dam' weapon in our arsenal, go find him, an' start blastin' promiscus without benefit of reason, excuse, nor clergy. Got'ta say, thet latter attracts me some fine."

Henrietta meanwhile was looking at the problem from a purely utilitarian point of view.

"Thar must be some local Ordinance we can lay on him? How's about a chat with Judge Andrews about thet? Sure he can come up with some esoteric Law thet'll settle his hash?"

"Would sich stand up in Court later though?" Charles looking at the problem in the long term. "Sure t'be a investigation if we does thet, an' lays his remains out on Doc Jameson's table fer future inspection. We'd need t'have a mighty good story handy, thet'd stand the light o'day. Any idee's?"

"Charlie, will ya stop askin' thet asinine question of us?" Sally all out of a patience she never had much of a stock of. "We're the upholders of the Law around these parts; Bryson's a confirmed felon, ergo, we can sure as beans find some excuse fer bringing his pollution o'this town ter a swift close. You got any idee's thet a'way?"

Donaldson was somewhat taken aback by having his own question fired back at himself, taking time to consider the matter, one finger scraping loudly over the short stubble on his chin the while.

"Charlie, don't do thet."

"Sorry." He coming back to reality, blinking his eyes like a rabbit in the morning sunlight fresh from its burrow. "Only, the way I sees it, our hands is some tied by circumstance, social niceties, an' the clar Law o'the Land. Jes' goin' out pertikler t'bushwhack the varmint without givin' him the option jes' won't play, not in this here modern world."

"So what do we do?" Sally looking for any escape route at all, be it moral, dubious, or downright illegal—this latter aspect of no great moment to her.

"We could hound his every step within the confines of Red Flume!" Henrietta going off at a tangent, casting the niceties to the four winds. "Follow him down every street, road, avenue, lane; in'ta every saloon, hotel, drinkin' den; hell, reside in rooms in the same dosshouse he frequents? Never let him out'ta our sight fer one minute of every day, till he breaks an' does something wholly aginst Right nor Reason, so's we can official terminate his Life policy fer good!"

Charles sat back, shaking his head while giving his Deputy a sad look.

"Harry, ye ever thought o'writin' fiction fer the Eastern magazines? Ye could make a fortune, I'm sure o'it. Now, has either o'ye got a sure-fire tinplated undeniable answer t'this here problem, or can we all go about our daily scheduled business as usual?"

There was a long empty quiet pause.

"Thought not. OK, go to it—your afternoon patrols is already forty minutes late; folks'll be wondering why the Law in this town's jumped ship an' left 'em defenceless in the face of Crime unlimited. See ya both in two hours."




"The problem as I see's it, lover, is thet he's more'n nor less invisible as things stands."

"Wha' ya mean, ducks?"

The two women were walking along the eastern side of Rankine Street, trying not to bump into too many of the passing citizens as they did so; the question of the moment still hounding their every thought.

"Waal, he's a felon, outlaw, an' all-round desperado; but he ain't wanted fer anythin' at the moment. Puts him on the same basis as any other law-abidin' citizen, y'see."

"How so?" Henrietta not seeing in the least.

"Not breakin' the law he's as innocent as anybody else, is what I'm gettin' at." Sally frowning over the difficulty of explanation. "He don't stand out none from the passing crowd, is what I'm sayin'. What we wants is him doin' something outrageous, impolite, aginst any kind'a Law whatsoever, don't ye see."

"I see's thet plain an' fair, sure. But how we joggle his shoulder accidental in'ta doin' so's the problem."

"I got an idee."

"Oh, God!"

"Come on, babe, I kin think fer myself, at least on occasion."

Henrietta gave in.

"Well, lem'me hear it; suppose I kin always ignore it, if necessary."

"Y'know, sometimes you're a weight on my shoulders, lady!"

"Your idee, let's hear it?"

Sally, though quite up for a jolly argument amongst friends, merely shook her head heroically and came to the point instead.


Henrietta walked on, expecting further explanation which failed to materialise.


"So, we give him something thet'll tickle his warped fancy so much he jes' cain't stop his'self from takin' the bait's all."

"An' what would same be, exact, baby?"

Here Sally showed her innate craftiness, honed through years of skirting the Law, breaking same when required, and finally upholding such against all odds whatsoever.

"He's bin had-up on no less'n four occasions fer holdin'-up stages, with varyin' results cash-wise. He bein' shot on at least three o'these runabouts, he bein' not very good at same."

"But livin' ter tell the tale, howsomever, as vide his g-d'd-m repy'tation!"

"Jus' so, dear, jus' so." Sally gritting her teeth in an effort to get past these interruptions. "So what we do is organise a story thet the latest stage from Red Flume ter Phoenix'll be carryin' a chest o'gold-dust fer assayin'. Say, around ten thou's worth. If anythin' does, thet'll stir his emotions enough ter make sure he rolls up som'mer's along the trail with the intent t'make other folks' gold his'n without benefit o'payin' taxes. Cain't fail!"

"An' where're we in this fairytale, ducks? Just out'ta curiosity."

Sally had this detail well in hand, however.

"I'll be in the stage, carryin' my Lefaucheux forty-five seven-shot loaded with dum-dum shells, borrowed especial fer the occasion from Charlie's private arsenal! I offloads them all intire in'ta his sorry carcase, cal'clatin' he'll be torn asunder in all directions, pieces spread so far apart even he won't be able t'rejuvenate his'self this time—ha-ha!"

Henrietta raised startled eyebrows at this cold-blooded example of her loved partner's inner thinking, but rallied bravely.

"An' me?"

"You'll be trailin' the stage on yer hoss through the brush, with yer Sharps; wait till he holds-up the stage an' I goes ter firin', then you can finish things off by usin' him as target practice with your rifle at long range, jes' ter make doubly sure of a certin thing's all, baby."


"It's a good plan, lover."

Henrietta spent the next five minutes in silence, turning the proposal over in her mind. By the time they reached the corner of Middlemass Street she had come to a decision.

"We'll run it past Charlie, if he gives the go-ahead then we're in business, ducks."



The trail from Red Flume to Phoenix pretty quickly deteriorated into desert scrub, widespread but low-growing bushes, thickets of knee-high dry grass, and bare dirt mostly gravel and stones interspersed with rocky outcrops; the trail passing through this dry terrain like a wriggling scar across the face of Eternity. It was a week later after their discussion of what to do about the renegade in their midst and the plan outlined by Sally had come to full fruition.

The stagecoach was a false entity, insomuch as the full load of passengers, all pre-informed and in the know, had been decanted just outside the environs of Red Flume leaving only Sally as sole passenger. There was, of course, no gold aboard only an empty chest looking the part. Henrietta had ridden out beforehand to be able to accompany the stage at a reasonable distance; the uneven terrain allowing her every opportunity of remaining invisible in doing so. And so the trap was set.

The past seven days had given more than enough time to spread the news that the stage would be hosting a cargo of immense wealth across the barren desert, making a popular talking-point for the citizens during the course of its preparations; this leading to the very result most wished for by the Deputies—Bryson suddenly disappearing from his room in the Chatham Hotel the evening before the stage was due to pull out from Red Flume, to Henrietta's and Sally's great delight.

"He's taken the bait fer sure."

"Yip, told ye so." Sally reveling in this positive unfolding of her scheme.

Now, as the sun beat down mercilessly across the wastes surrounding the trail both women, in their separate ways, were ready and willing to face the outcome of their plan, however it might pan out.

The stage reached the waystation at Gardner's Spring in due time late in the morning; a change of horses being scheduled there. Nothing untoward took place, no sign of Bryson being seen around, Sally keeping carefully out of view inside the hot coach, her temper unwinding with the discomfort with every passing minute. Henrietta meanwhile riding her mount carefully among the winding arroyos and dried-up streambeds that covered most of the surrounding territory, mumbling and swearing to herself in a low tone with every advancing step her horse took over the uneven ground.

Finally an hour later, in the middle of nowhere, things came to a head.

The trail wended its way between a series of rocky outcrops rising some forty or fifty feet in the air, a mass of boulders and sheer rock faces, almost like moving through a canyon with close sides. As the coach passed through this bottleneck a man on a horse suddenly appeared from behind a low outcrop, mask over face, gun in hand, voice shouting loudly and echoing in the confined space.

"Hold fast, stop or I dam' shoots yer, driver!"

The driver, prepared for exactly this eventuality and well paid in advance, hauled on his reins bringing the coach to a skidding stand in an all-encompassing cloud of dust. This latter working precisely in Sally's favor as she was able to lean out her window aiming exactly for her target before he knew such was in his near future.

When the dust billowed free from the close confines of the coach it revealed the brigand sitting his mount only some ten yards distant from Sally. Taking her opportunity before the man could react she fired her enormous cap and ball pistol in another spreading cloud of white smoke,—


—making every shot count; seeing at least three hits on the duster coat of the outlaw, who had no time to retaliate in kind before slipping from his horse to fall in the dust himself, a spent force.

The clatter of approaching hooves reflected the arrival of Henrietta along the trail in the coach's rear, but too late to have any effect in the late drama.

"You OK, gal?"

"Yeah, he never got a shot off, darlin'. Wan'na give him a kick, make sure the sun'na-a-b-tch's really gone fer good. Yer knows his angle thataway; meb'be jes' put a few shots with yer Sharps in him anyways, jes' ter dot the I's as it were, cain't be too careful, y'know."

Refraining from taking this excellent advice Henrietta all the same dismounted with some care and suspicion, approaching the huddled figure on the ground with extreme caution, well aware that where other men would be entirely defunct as per regulations Dead Ned might well be just taking an informal nap before proceeding with his devious ways unfazed.

"He's dead right enough, an' he ain't Dead Ned!"


"This here pile o'scrap ain't Dead Ned, darlin'. Ye've shot him ful'la holes, right enough, somethin' resemblin' a colander, fer sure. He's entire deceased, good fer you; but Dead Ned he ain't; come over an' feast yer eyes on him yersel'."

"Sh-t an' b-gg-ry!"

But Henrietta's recognition, or non-recognition, of the person under examination was all too certain; whoever he was he wasn't the outlaw they most thirsted after sending on a one-way journey on the Heaven Express, one halt at Hell Junction along the route.

"G-d'd-m!" Sally not slow to show her discontent. "What a dam' mess! Why in Hell'd this guy show up to mess things around? What do we do now? Carry on, an' hope for the best?"

"Nah, all this shootin'll have warned Bryson, if'n he was anywhere within ten mile." Henrietta acknowledging the reality of the situation. "Best return t'Red Flume an' count our losses. Meb'be we can still stick something on him when he returns his'self. At least he'll have ter explain where he went an' what he did in the meanwhile."

"Dam'! An' it was such a good plan, too!"


There was no sign of Bryson for the remainder of the day but next morning, when Henrietta and Sally returned to the Office after their morning patrol they found Sheriff Donaldson eager to impart further information on the topic.

"Bin talkin' with the bell-boy back ter Chatham's Hotel, seems Bryson tol' him the day a'fore he was goin' ter Peascod ter meet someone, meb'be wouldn't be back fer a coupl'a days, but t'keep his room free."

"Why didn't he take up the chance over the gold?" Sally still mourning her lost opportunity.

"Cain't say; meb'be 'cause it interfered with his appointment." Donaldson shrugging over this mystery.

"Must'a bin a fairly important meetin'." Henrietta musing about the subject herself.

"So?" Donaldson grinning at the women.

"So what?" Henrietta suddenly feeling her heart descending to her boots.

"Ye both knows the way t'Peascod." Donaldson sounding like the Knell of Doom personified. "Go to it, gals. Wants a full report when ye both returns, hopefully with the brigand in cuffs an' leg-irons, but please yersel's over thet."

"Oh, fer God's sake!" Sally heaving a long sigh. "Tell's ye what, Charlie; when we returns, all three of us, two of us'll be breathin', the third won't be by a long shot—an' several o'those, too!"


Peascod had a reputation as being a forthright go-for-it sort of establishment; if not as wild as Wolfville, or as blatantly dire as the Eastern penny dreadfuls made such places out to be, at least lively to a certain extent. Standing in a rolling prairie of sweet green grass it was a haven for herds of cattle, with a few other animals thrown in for good measure. About three-quarters the size of Red Flume and composed mostly of ancient wooden shacks it presented the aspect of an old ghost town which was still, however, on this side of that Great Divide, but only just.

"So, where'd we start?" Sally sniffing critically as they rode into town in the middle of the afternoon.

"Place doesn't have a Sheriff or Judge, let's try the Doc."

"Where's he park it, then?"

"Dun'no. Wait a mo'. Hey, you! Yeah, you! Where's the Doc?"

The citizen so inquired of, taking the question and tone in his stride, merely pointed behind him.

"Along'a thar, take the first on the left, it's the shack with the red shingle by the door."

Doctor Jeremiah Andrews, as his shingle announced, on entering his office proved to be a young man in his late twenties full of both grit and self-awareness in equal measure.

"Ned Bryson, yeah, he consulted me yesterday—why?"

"Oh, nuthin' pertikler." Henrietta hedging her bets. "We jus' wondered if'n he said whar he was holed up in this township—which Hotel or whatever, if ye happen t'know. What'd he want of ye, anyway, if I might ask?"

"He came in early yesterday morning, we'd been consulting by letter for a few weeks beforehand. About what I cannot say."

"Why not?" Sally eager for any iota of information. "You saw him, you must know what he wanted."

"No, I mean I know perfectly well what his need and situation was, but I ain't tellin' you! Strictly private between Doctor and patient, you understand."

Henrietta groaned under her breath.

"We're both Officers of the Law, we need t'know."

"No, you don't." Andrews perfectly sure of his position. "You may well ask, but I certainly will not tell you—such information is private altogether. Good-day to you both."

"Jee-sus Chr-st!" Sally losing her calm across the board. "Where's he hidin' his carcass right now then? Or is thet dam' private information too?"

"Madam, such indecent and irreligious language will not make you many friends in this neighborhood, particularly regarding me!" Andrews standing on his honor and turning a little red in the face. "As to his present residence, I can tell you he set out back to Red Flume early this morning, many hours before you arrived. You not passing him on the trail must, I suppose, mean he took a slightly divergent route. No doubt when you return to Red Flume you will find him back in residence there. Good-day, once more!"

Out in the street the women paused to consider their next move.

"Back t'Red Flume?"

"What else?" Henrietta coming it sarcastic. "Or would ye like we catch the next train fer Boston, t'live it up in the Big City instead?"

"Not a bad idee, leddy." Sally up for the fight. "I always wantin' ter burn the midnight Boston oil—on my own!"



They reached Red Flume just before 10.00pm, the streets shrouded in darkest night, stars filling the sky like cherry blossom petals in Spring. Sheriff Donaldson listened to the report of their failed excursion with the tired expression of the long-term Law-officer to whom such outcomes were merely routine, simply grunting in reply.

"So, what d'we do now, Charlie?" Henrietta looking for support from any direction. "Go round t'the Chatham an' kick him out'ta bed?"

"Sich'd be a dam' pleasure, I assures ye." Sally being mean out of simple spite after a long journey for no return whatever.

"You two go home, I'll send Frank round to see if the moron's back thar yet." Donaldson being as diplomatic as he could be, given the circumstances. "No sense in you two goin' round, you'd only cause a dam' gunfight, or jes' murder the man in cold blood out'ta pure meanness. Cain't have thet."

"Very funny, Charlie!"

"Goodnight t'you, an' I hopes yer dreams is nightmares deep an' dark!" Sally being personal from tiredness and spite combined.


The next morning, when the two Deputies turned up for work at ten o'clock, they found even more disappointment waiting in the wings for them.

"Sent Frank round t'the Chatham jes' after you two left." Donaldson even more disenchanted than the night before. "Clerk thar tellin' him Bryson had checked-out thet day, sayin' he was headin' back ter Yuma."

"Oh, fer God's sake!" Sally disgusted with the world in general.

"What d'we do, Charlie?" Henrietta as usual taking the utilitarian outlook. "Go after him, or let him go on his way, hopin' some heavy he never pollutes the neighborhood agin?"

Donaldson shook his head.

"Bin thinkin' over jes' thet. Seems you out'ta go out along the trail, visit the first two way-stations at least; just t'make sure he ain't lurkin' nearby waitin' ter hold-up a passin' coach. Go as far as Tolley's Bend, then come back."

"Gawd, this thing's never-endin'!" Sally muttering under her breath as they both turned to the door.


Snake River Rapids, the second way-station on the trail to Yuma, found their prey in residence, but not in the condition or state of mind they expected.

"Don't talk too loud, nor excite him overmuch; he's bin coughin' blood these last several hours past—don't think he's got long t'go, poor fel'la."

This from the Master of the way-station on Henrietta and Sally turning-up at his door.

"Yeah, Ned Bryson's here, but in a parlus' state o'health all round—thrombosis of the lungs,—tuberculosis, y'know, seen it a'fore."

"Oh, God!"

"How bad exactly?" Henrietta aiming for the straight details.

"As bad as bad can be, in my opinion." The Master shaking his head. "Lucky y'both came along when you did—this same late-afternoon, he'll be gone fer sure."

In the dark shuttered back room, on a low truckle bed, lay the prey of their extended search, lying under a stained blanket looking more like a ghost than a ghost itself. His face seemed to have fallen in to mere bare bone hardly covered by skin at all; his features so pale there didn't seem to be any blood coursing through his veins, a bucket by the bed giving all too clear evidence of his fractured lungs by its contents and nearby stained rags. Looking up at his visitors he did, however, manage a twist of the lips that might have been meant for a smile.

"Helluv'a thing this—Helluv'a a way t'throw the cards in—but thet's the way they falls, sometimes. I ain't got long, have I? Thet guy outside won't tell me, thinkin' it a kindness."

Facing the undoubted tragedy taking place in their presence both women changed in an instant from dogged pursuers to gentle carers, having no other choice.

"Yeah, you're pretty close t'the exit door, I admits, Ned." Sally speaking softly as she knelt by his head to wipe his brow with a clean rag.

"Knew it, jes' knew it. Oh, well, sich is Life. Ye dances the fandango in the mornin', an' in the afternoon the Dance's over!"

"Anythin' we kin do fer ye?" Henrietta crouching beside her partner. "Write anyone a letter, or whatever?"

"Nah, I ain't got anyone close as'd take note of my passin'." Ned attempting to shake his head but giving-up the effort almost immediately. "One thing, don't laugh—but kin ye wrastle my boots back on? Thet man took 'em off earlier, out'ta kindness, I suppose; but I never figured t'die with my boots off—not manly, y'know."

A few minutes later the crisis came to a head in the only way it could.


As evening wore on the two women stood by the newly filled-in grave by the riverside contemplating all sorts of feelings.

"He said as he'd like t'lie hereaways, by the sound of the river tumblin' over the pebbles, as he slept his long sleep." Sally's voice trembling somewhat as she spoke.

"Yeah, don't know what sort'a a man he really was—but he went out like a good 'un." Henrietta speaking softly as she held the spade she had just finished covering the grave with. "Waal, looks like the show's over, fer all concerned."

"Funny thing," Sally turning with her partner to retrace their steps to the way-station. "All those times he faced death, more'n most, an' came through more or less unscathed—only t'be caught out by something from the inside he had no way o'beatin'?"

"Life's mighty strange sometimes, sure." Henrietta agreeing wholeheartedly. "At least his repy'tation'll see him remembered fer years t'come."

"However much of it was true, thet is." Sally frowning over this unknown facet of the man's past. "Was he really shot so much, an' survived? Didn't see any sign of bullet wounds on him when we was preparin' him fer his last bedchamber, only a few pockmarks from shotgun pellets, nor any sign of marks on his neck. Which as to thet hangin' thing, I've never really believed in thet at all. Some sort'a exaggeration goin' on thar, I believes."

Henrietta sighed quietly.

"Ye know the old sayin', lady? When the legend becomes fact, print the legend!"

"Yeah, his legend'll certin serve as a long-lastin' epitaph, fer sure! Come on, lover, let's go home!"

The End


Another 'Red Flume' story will arrive shortly.