General Fiction posted November 19, 2023 Chapters:  ...69 70 -71- 72... 

Not yet exceptional. When the exceptional rating is reached this is highlighted
One day at a time

A chapter in the book One Man's Calling

One Man's Calling, ch 71

by Wayne Fowler

In the last part Ben wrote Henry Halleck in San Francisco for documentation of his freedom. He and Beth took an apartment and both got part time jobs. Ben preached on the docks. In a previoue chapter, when God had caused Ben to appear as a giant to Larabee, Ben ruined his handguns.


Hank Larabee replaced his two handguns with a single Peacemaker, Colt .45. He practiced with it almost as much as he target-practiced with his Henry repeating rifle. He was devastated that he’d missed with sixteen shots at the man who had mocked him. He would not admit, even to himself, that he was afraid to approach closer. He allowed his mind to completely block out the giant of a man who had disarmed him. That part of the incident was more than a blank; it was as if it had never happened. Hank practiced with his guns. And he drank whiskey.

“I’m lookin’ for a man and a woman in a double team carriage.” The stranger nearly burst into the saloon, nearly shouting his remark, daring anyone to give him trouble. The stranger was Seth Brown, one of the Redway toddler’s kidnappers.

“Somebody knows who was ridin’ through here! Where they mighta stopped or turned off.”

None of the decent folk along his path would have given him the time of day, let alone inform on the nice couple in a carriage.

The stranger repeated himself, aiming his voice toward Hank.

“Wassit to ya?” Hank hissed.

The man took two steps toward Hank, stopping when he saw the Peacemaker aimed at his face. The pistol was slightly wobbling, but deadly enough. The stranger was satisfied with a negative response and left to continue his ride north.

The woman Seth had partnered with had let the boy that she’d kidnapped get away from her when he’d gone for food, not baby food, but hard tack and jerky. “The woman could worry about feeding the kid,” Seth thought. When he’d returned to her, she was half crazy. She’d been out looking for him like as might a lunatic. He helped her search for nearly an entire day, finally giving up. They were bushwhacking their way around Redway, crossing Briceland Road when a young man riding at a fast canter shouted that the boy had been found. The young man had only slowed enough to shout the news, on his way to inform all the searchers, particularly the boy’s father.

Eventually, the kidnappers learned Beth and Ben’s descriptions and route out of Redway.

“You gotta kill ‘em, Seth. Kill ‘em. Them two what took ar’ boy.”

Seth left the woman in Phillipsville to fend for herself while he moved more quickly in search of a couple in a double team carriage.

When Hank sobered slightly, he remembered the brute who’d asked about the couple that he would like to see dead. He loaded a saddle bag and rode north intending to catch up.


Hank rode farther into the darkness than he would have under any other circumstance, far too late to make a camp. Finally, smelling smoke, he urged his mare on, letting her have her head until he saw the light that must have been a campfire. “Yo, the camp,” he yelled as soon as he thought the camper might be able to hear his approach. “The camp.”

“Good way ta get shot, ridin’ in on a camp at night,” the voice from behind a tree said. “Got nothin’ for ya. Just ride on through.”

“Ain’t wantin’ nothin’.” Hank stopped his mare. Just at the edge of the fire’s light.

The camper, Seth Brown, released the hammer of his pistol, easing it back to its safe position and then re-cocked it just to let Hank hear the distinctive action.

“No need for that,” Hank said. “You the one wanting the man and woman with a kid? Ridin’ in a carriage wagon?”

“Might be.”

“Well, I want the man dead. Just offerin’ we team up.”

The man thought on the idea long enough to make Hank believe he’d gone to sleep.

“Still ain’t got nothin’ for ya. Supper’s gone. I don’t eat of a mornin’.”

“You don’t mind if I light do ya? Got a bottle here I’d share.”

“Name’s Seth. Let’s have it.” Seth again uncocked his gun and came in from behind his tree.

The two rode north the next morning, not bothering to make any inquiries in the little burgs along the way where they saw no double team carriage. Presently, they entered Fortuna, the Slide sign having been replaced.

All Hank had evoked from Seth was that his woman would never be the same again unless he returned with the news that the couple who took her boy was dead.

All Hank let Seth know was that the man, Ben, was an evil that had to die. What he had not disclosed was that Ben saw through Hank, and had shamed him in his own sight. A man with that knowledge couldn’t remain alive.

Hank and Seth had already established that Hank would recognize the pair. Fortuna being a regular city, larger than any all the way back south to Santa Rosa 200 miles distant. Asking for the whereabouts of a couple in a carriage would be futile.

“You got money for a room?” Seth asked.

Hank smirked at him, but nodded. If Hank didn’t depend on Seth to face the giant he’d seen in Ben, he would have long past parted company with him.


“He won’t be in no saloon,” Hank said, as Seth began to poke his head into one. “Hotel restaurant, general store… probably the livery.” They decided to return to their hitching-pole-tied horses and ride until they found a livery stable. The boy at the first one they found told them that there was another a few blocks further on.

“Got a feller, owns ‘at wagon, yonder. Starts work here ‘morra mornin’ might be who yer lookin’ fer,” the livery man said. “Seems like he knows animals.”

Hank turned and walked away without comment.

“Tomorrow,” was all he said to Seth.

That night in a saloon, Hank sauced on whiskey as Seth nursed one beer after another, it was the first that the two shared motives.

“So, what’s it to you?” Hank asked as if he hadn’t the first clue as to Seth’s revenge.

“My woman wants him… both of ‘em dead.”

“Why?” Hank insisted.

“Ar’ kid died, Some kinda fever. She got this other kid. Same look. Same hair. We was headed for the ocean figurin’ nobody would expect that. I went for food, and she lost him. He wandered off. Next we knew a couple in a carriage brung him to his momma. My woman’s half crazy. Won’t have nothin’ but them dead.”

Hank didn’t understand, wouldn’t have even sober, but he nodded anyway.

“You? What you got against ‘em?”

Hank poured another drink from the bottle he’d purchased, spilling as much as he poured. As hard as he tried, he couldn’t think of why he’d rode north to intercept them. He’d knocked out the hotel boy’s teeth for talking badly about him. And then it just came to him that there was a couple riding out of town who knew what he was. He couldn’t have that. If the man had just taken a couple punches and stayed on the ground, it would have ended, been over with. Hank would have ridden back to town, his friends bragging about his putting the taller, stronger man down and in his place, and life would have gone on.

But the do-gooder did something. First, he chased his friends off like scared bunnies. Then he did something to himself. Hank downed his whiskey in one toss, shaking himself all over as if he had a palsy. The do-gooder put some sort of hex on him. He threw John Wesley Hardin’s gun in the river. And then there was something that held him back when he found them with his rifle. Something kept him from getting close enough. Hank trembled again as he reached for his whiskey bottle, missing it and bumping it over, letting two or three shots worth pour out.
“Yer drunk.” Seth said, righting the bottle.

“Maybe.” Hank looked at Seth, hoping Seth could help him close the distance to the do-gooder who could see into his soul.

Ben Persons: a young man following God's calling
Beth Persons: Ben's wife
Henry Halleck: San Francisco lawyer friend of Ben, elected mayor
Seth: the male partner of the ones who stole the little boy from his momma
Hank Larabee: heir of Henry P. Larabee, ranch and town owner
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Save to Bookcase Promote This Share or Bookmark
Print It Print It View Reviews

You need to login or register to write reviews. It's quick! We only ask four questions to new members.

© Copyright 2024. Wayne Fowler All rights reserved.
Wayne Fowler has granted, its affiliates and its syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.