Western Fiction posted March 6, 2018 Chapters:  ...7 8 -9- 10 

This work has reached the exceptional level
Hayden Kearny is accused of murder

A chapter in the book Pecos Valley

Chapter 9: Cochise Canyon

by Brett Matthew West

A Western full of calamity and a wistful but prevailing human spirit.
***NOTE: There is a major scene shift in this chapter.***

Cast of Characters:

Wyatt - young cowboy for the Bar JS ranch and narrator of this tale

John Shelton and Verne Alexander - co-owners of the Bar JS ranch

Laurel Cordova, Ernestine Eloy, and Bud Gilbert - passengers on the stagecoach bound for Fountain Hills

Governor Abram Askew - Governor of the Arizona Territory

Ben Cottom - vigilante

Bert Livingston - miner shot in the back in Cochise Canyon

Clay Richards - cattle baron in Fountain Hills

Tom Ens - settler shot in the back near Hayden Kearny's cabin

unnamed bearded stranger on the stagecoach


"Hayden Kearny," Laurel Cordova said.

The name made Ernestine Eloy cringe. She and Laurel exchanged astonished glances. Bud Gilbert stiffened.

"Is something wrong, Mr. Gilbert?" Laurel wondered.

Never tactful, Ernestine Eloy blurted out, "I should say there's something wrong, Hayden Kearny is an insufferable fool! How can you marry a clodhopper like him?"

"Please, Enestine, we're talking about Miss Cordova's fiance," Bud Gilbert cautioned her. Then, turning to Laurel, he asked, "I presume you have not been informed of the murders in Cochise Canyon, Miss Cordova?"

Not sure she wanted to hear the terrible news the passenger beside her seemed determined to tell her, Laurel finally responded with, "No, I have not been told of any such murders. What is Cochise Canyon?"

"Cochise Canyon is a mysterious and strange place to be avoided. Many folks have died there under suspicious circumstances. Then, Hayden Kearny settled into the canyon and built his cabin there," Ernestine Eloy stated not holding back any words.

"About a year ago, Hayden Kearny had trouble with another settler named Tom Ens. Weren't but a week later a cowhand found Ens' body close to Kearny's cabin," Gilbert explained before adding, "he'd been shot in the back."

Ernestine Eloy dabbed her forehead dry with the folded cloth she held in her hand. She drew a harried breath before she spoke.

"Then, there was the old miner, Bert Livingston who was panning for gold in the gorge. The harmless old coot had been there for months. He too was shot in the back after Hayden Kearny settled in the canyon. Mark my words, he's the cold-blooded killer behind it all."

"Those were only two of the murders, Miss Cordova. There have been others," Gilbert stated.

For the first time, the fourth passenger in the stagecoach spoke. He asked, "According to my perspective the two of you seem to be condemning Hayden Kearny for these murders. Have any witnesses seen him shoot anybody?"

"Who else would ride into that awful pass except Hayden Kearny? We warned him to stay out, but the know-it-all wouldn't listen to what we told him," Ernestine Eloy stated, "now, people are dying. Who else would be behind these murders?"

"That's not true!" Laurel Cordova defended her espoused, "I've known Hayden for years. There's not a nicer man anywhere."

A dictator in her own world, Ernestine Eloy became rigid. She could not believe the little scamp seated across from her would contradict her opinion about Hayden Kearny or anyone else.

"Young lady, you have a lot to learn and you will learn it soon enough," she remarked, turned her head, and stared out the window.

"There is some truth to what Mrs. Eloy claims," Gilbert commented, "Hayden Kearny has a bad reputation around Fountain Hills. When he first arrived in town, he was offered good work for Clay Richards and refused the offer. That aroused suspicion in the people of this town. They wanted to know why he would decline such an opportunity."

"Perhaps he is independent, or chooses to build his own ranch. There is no law against a man not laboring for another man," the unshaved stranger stated.

Bud Gilbert ignored the comment. He turned to Laurel and declared, "Miss Codova, why don't you pause a few days and inquire around for yourself before you commit the rest of your life to Hayden Kearny?"

Laurel Cordova was angry, but, she was scared too. With all this talk about murders, she wondered what she'd gotten herself in the middle of?

She also thought to herself, 'Just because he lived in Cochise Canyon didn't make Hayden Kearny a killer, did it?'

"You make your inquiries, ma'am. That's sensible. But, judge no man on evidence like that," the stranger stated.

The stage rolled on through the tufted and green fescue with its coarse broad leafs. Like the people who lived in the Territory, the sturdy grass grew well in the heat of the Arizona desert where water was scarce.


Mr. Shelton answered the question he'd been asked, "Why, yes, Patch. We might be needing some hands if you don't mind chasing killers."

They exchanged eye to eye stares. Mr. Shelton wanted to see if he could rely on Patch or if he'd slither like a snake and slink out of real work. Charlie, Tad, and I was already walking towards the corral.

"You should have rode on last night, Patch. You may never see the last of this outfit now," Verne told him with a clap on the shoulder.

Ben Cottom looked thoughtful. His milky brown eyes seemed to be traveling over scenes from his past. They also gave the impression he was a man of constant sorrows. Nothing could be further from the truth. Cottom did what he pleased and kept his boots unmuddied doing it. Somehow, in a country as big and rugged as the Arizona Territory, he managed to slither through life.

"I've been meaning to get down this way and see you boys for some time," he told Mr. Shelton, "I can smell an opportunity when I see one, and this gold Governor Askew's offering is to my taste. The biggest problem I saw all the way from Prescott was persuading you and Verne to say yes."

"The law's the law, and we might against my better sense ride together, but that don't make us partners, Cottom," Verne told him, "we don't handle affairs like you."

"I abide by the same laws you boys do, Verne," Cottom retorted.

"'cept you sell out to the highest bidder, Cottom," Mr. Shelton told him, "we don't." Turning to Verne, he said, "Tell the boys to mount up. We're riding. And, that includes little Wyatt. We can't leave him here."

"That boy's not the greenhorn you fancy him to be, John," Verne fumed as he stomped off to round up the wranglers.

Mr. Shelton and Ben Cottom glared at one another. The heat was intense, but no words were spoken. Neither trusted the other. Their past could not be resolved. Too much bad blood had been shed.


Prescott - the capitol of the Arizona Territory from 1863 until 1912

Symmetrical Motion, by Paul G., selected to complement my tale.

So, thanks Paul G., for the use of your picture. It goes so nicely with my tale.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Artwork by Paul G. at FanArtReview.com

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