K&H Round Robin

Marshal Stone’s Story


Marti Carlson


“Well, Marshall Stone, what can you tell me about this mess?” Judge Callahan began.


“Not much, I’m afraid,” the Marshall replied.


“And why not?”


“Got conked on the head right at the very beginning, slept through the whole thing.”


The judge sighed and shook his head.  “You don’t really expect me to believe that, do you?”


“I wish you would, Judge, it would save us all a lot of trouble.”


“How so?”


“Because I don’t think anybody really knows the whole story, and it would be a lot of trouble trying to make sense out of the things that some folks say that don’t match up with what some other folks say.”


“Just tell me what you know; let me worry about making sense of it.  That’s what I’m here for.”


“I rode into town a few days ago.  I came to arrest Bubba Michaels.”


“Bubba Michaels?  Bo’s brother?”


“Yes, sir, one of ‘em.”


“From what I hear, that would be a tall order.  You came by yourself?”


“Yes, sir.”


“How’d you expect to arrest a man like that, all by yourself?”


“Judge, I have the law on my side.  That’s all the help I need.”   Stone smiled confidently, without a hint of smugness.  The Judge decided that if anyone could arrest one of the Michaels clan on his own, Marshal Stone would be just the man.


“Well, go on then.  What happened when you got to town?”


“I took my horse to the livery, saw to it that he got some good grain and clean hay in his stall, and walked out the back, just to get the lay of the land.  I could see the livery horses in the corral, and they were actin’ mighty nervous.  Milllin’ around, some of ‘em had their ears pinned back, and all of them were rollin’ their eyes.  I’ve seen horses act like that when there was a storm brewin’, but the sky was as peaceful as a preacher’s smile.  The stableman came out just then, and I asked him if his horses could tell a storm was comin’ before the sky showed any sign.  He said, ‘Oh, a storm’s a-comin’, alright,’ and pointed.  That’s when I saw a cloud of dust on the plain, with three people ridin’ ahead of it, well, they were the ones stirrin’ it up, actually.  I told him that wasn’t a storm, it was just riders makin’ that cloud, and he said, ‘It’s a storm, alright.  That’s the Michaels clan, three of ‘em anyway, and they’s enough for ary storm.’  So I asked him which Michaels they were, and he said it was Bo, Jesse and their sister Marva, who, according to him, is the meanest hell-cat woman ever put on this earth.  Wellsir, I kinda cursed my luck at that point.  It might’ve been easier to take Bubba at the ranch, without his kin around, but my horse needed the rest and I just hadn’t figured on getting’ a chance to take him so soon.  Anyway, I figured not to tip my hand so I left before they got any closer, went and got a room and a bath, somethin’ to eat, and then I went to the saloon to see what I could find out about the Michaels.  Wound up getting’ into a poker game with that Smith character and nearly lost my shirt, but I did find out that the Michaels had got wind of somebody comin’ for their brother and were there to stop him.  Found out too that it was lucky I hadn’t tried for him earlier, ‘cause he was holed up at the ranch with two dozen hands armed to the teeth.  Cowboys sure do talk when they’ve got too much whiskey in ‘em, don’t they, Judge?”


The Judge smiled, “That they do, Marshal, that they do.”


“The next day, I had breakfast with Smith and his partner, Jones.”


“How’d that come about?” the Judge interrupted.


Well, the café was crowded, and they had a big table with an empty chair.”


“Why’d they have a big table, if the café was crowded?”


“It wasn’t just them; Sheriff Trevors, his cousin (whose real name I never did catch) and that fella Trampas were there too.  Anyway, they were about done, and I was just gettin’ started, when the Michaels come roarin’ in, with the local sheriff in tow.  Marva walks right up to us, points at Trevors, and tells her bought lawman to arrest him.  Trevors asks what for, and she says he knows what for; he killed one of their hands the night before, tryin’ to take Bubba in.  The bought lawman makes a grab for Trevors, and Smith, Jones and the Virginian jump up real fast, knockin’ their chairs over and goin’ for their guns.  That Jones kid is quick, not just quick but fast, real fast Judge.  Never seen anybody so fast and I’ve seen a lot of fast guns.  Well, Trevors just smiles and tells the men to put their guns away.  He’s sure there’s some mistake, he’s got faith in the law to sort this all out.  I don’t know, but I think I’m the only one who saw the smirk on Bo Michaels’ face.  I’m guessin’ that the Michaels thought they’d got the law who’d come for their brother.  But Trevors says he’ll go peaceably, and they take him to the jail, well, next door to the jail, where their courtroom is, or was.”


“How do you know this?  Weren’t you just starting your breakfast when Sheriff Trevors was arrested?  Didn’t you finish it?”


“No, Judge, I didn’t.  Too bad, too, that was a mighty tasty slab of ham.  I hated to leave it.  But I figured I’d better tag along; another gun on the side of right might be needed.  But ‘right’ doesn’t mean a whole lot in this town.  In fact, it doesn’t mean a damn thing.  They had Trevors convicted inside of thirty minutes; no jury, their witnesses a bunch of hung over cowhands and Trevors’ witnesses not allowed to give evidence.  It was a sham and a shame, Judge.”  The Judge nodded grimly and signaled for Stone to continue.


“When their ‘judge’ slammed his gavel down and shouted ‘Guilty!  Hangin’s tomorrow!’  I saw Smith’s face get real hard and set, and his eyes looked like agate.  Then his face smoothed over, just as mild and plain as could be, but I knew that was just a mask; he was comin’ up with somethin’.  I figured that, if the Michaels thought they’d got their man, now would be a good time for me to get mine.  So I went to the livery for my horse, and headed for the Michaels spread.  Before I got there, I came across Smith and Jones, headed for the same place.  They were goin’ to stampede Michaels’ cattle through the town and bust their friend out.  That’s when I told them who I was and why I was in Flint Rock, and while I couldn’t help them with their plan, it would help mine considerably.  We rode together for a ways, and then split up.  When the stampede started, it was easy for me to slip into the house and grab Bubba. Well, not easy to grab Bubba, he’s a mighty big man.  But my gun behind his ear convinced him he needed to do as I said, so he got his horse saddled up and we headed back to Colorado.  That was my intention, anyway.  I knew I’d never hold him if we went back to Flint Rock.  But the sky got real ugly, and the wind was whippin’ up the dust that hadn’t settled from the stampede.  It started to rain, big heavy drops that felt like lashes from a whip when they hit you.  Then it started to hail, and that was worse than the rain, ‘cause that was like being pelted by rocks.  And then, we hear the noise, like a dozen trains bearin’ down on us at once, and saw the twisters comin’ down from the sky.  Bubba said there was a cave nearby, and I figured I had to trust him; it was his neck as well as mine that was on the line.  We took cover, and it was all over in about half an hour.  But my horse went lame, and I decided I had no choice but to go back to Flint Rock.  When we rode in, everything was pretty much as you see it now.  I imagine the twisters did it.  I didn’t have much hope of holdin’ Bubba, but I had to try, so we headed for where the jail used to be…”


“Wait a moment.  If it was your horse that went lame, how did you manage Bubba?”


“I rode his horse, had his hands tied behind his back, with the rope around my saddlehorn.  He wasn’t goin’ anywhere.  Anyway, when we got to the jail, we found Smith, Jones and the rest of their friends playing poker where the jail should have been.  I found out that they had managed to capture the rest of the Michaels, the ‘judge’ and the ‘law’ were laid up unconscious from their injuries, supposedly caused by flying debris from the storm, and they had sent someone to the nearest telegraph to send for you and the others.  That’s about it.”


“That’s quite a story, Marshall.  In some respects, it matches, and in others, it does not match, what I’ve already heard.”


“Well, sir, that’s what happened as I know it.”


“Very well, you’re free to go.  Send in the next witness.”


“Yes, sir.”  Marshall Stone stood, his hat in hand, ready to go.  “Your Honor...”


“Yes, Marshall?”


“Thanks for comin’.  If anybody can make sense out of this, you can.”