Evil can change, dead cannot

Submitted into Contest #76 in response to: Write a story told exclusively through dialogue.... view prompt

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Mystery Western Crime

1953

“Grandpa, what is this?”

“Grandson, that thing there’s called a sapphire. It’s our most prized possession. I won it.”

“How?”

“Grandson, that’s a long story.”

“I’ve got time.”

“Okay. The year was 1890, and I had just graduated from college. I was dirt poor. My parents had passed away a few months back, and for some far-off reason all I got from their will was a red and white quilt, a white horse named Victoria, a fast, obedient one, and a gray cat named Shelley who had six toes on her front paws. I lived out in New Mexico, a few miles west of Santa Fe, in a rickety old shack I built myself. It was the middle of summer, so I was blazing hot and there was little water. So, each day I rode Victoria into town to get some with the little money I had.

“One day, which I reckon was July 2, I passed a few miners who were hard at work when I was riding back with a barrel of water. One of them came up to me and asked if I could trade Victoria to them in exchange for a special artifact- a giraffe carved from stone. I could sell it for so much money.”

“But that’s not what this is, Grandpa.”

“It’s not. But long stories are good stories. I told them that I would never give up Victoria. I offered them my red and white quilt, but they told me to ‘amp up them prices.’ So I offered them Shelley instead, and they accepted.”

“You were going to trade a cat for a statue?”

“I was already planning to sell her. I didn’t have much money. And this guy seemed nice, and I knew he would take care of her. Anyway, he told me to go back to my home and get her. But I knew that would be a challenge. It’s almost impossible to get a cat on a horse, so I’d have to walk for three miles through the desert. But I didn’t turn down the offer. I rode west on Victoria until I reached my home, and then I called for Shelley. But she didn’t come. I then tried searching the shack for her, but it was no use. Shelley had run off.”

“What?”

“Yep. But she was 10 years old, so I knew she couldn’t have gotten far. I found pawprints leading northeast, so I followed them on Victoria. They gradually shifted to leading southeast, and before I knew it I was in Santa Fe once again, with it’s gravel streets. I couldn’t track her anymore. Signs were up saying that the bank was closed, and a woman about my age with dark hair and a smiling face in front of one asked what I was looking for, and when I told her I got lucky. She told me her name was Viola and that she picked Shelley up and took her to her home. She led me through the bustling roads to a shop, coincidentally the same one I got the barrel of water from earlier that day. I dismounted Victoria and followed her inside. The teenager who was still working behind the counter recognized me as we slipped behind him to a small door. He told me that, for coming back, I could get a horse whistle for free. I blew into it, but no sound came out. However, when I looked out the front door, I saw Victoria trying to squeeze in. I thanked him, commanded Victoria to back out of the entrance, and followed Viola through the small door behind the counter. The door led to a flight of stairs that we climbed to enter a short hall. Viola opened the door at the end of it and suddenly Shelley came running up to me, begging to be petted.”

“You found her?”

“Yes, Grandson. I did. Viola offered me to stay for the night, since the sun was starting to set. The miner had probably already gone home, so I agreed. I didn’t want to have to walk Victoria and Shelley over to my house in the dark, even though it would have to be done eventually.”

“So you stayed?”

“No. I didn’t feel safe sleeping in a house with strangers, so I asked Viola if she could take care of Shelley for the night. When she agreed, I rode Victoria out of Santa Fe and to my house. We got home pretty late, but it would’ve been even later if I walked with Shelley. On a normal day the sun would still be sinking, but Victoria was really slow on the way to get the water. And sure enough, I didn’t pass the miner. I just prayed he’d be out the next day. I fell asleep, and I woke up and remembered it all. The miner. Shelley running off. Viola. Leaving Shelley in Santa Fe. I walked outside and saw that there was a man riding towards me on a black horse. When I got a closer look, I instantly recognized him.”

“Who was it, Grandpa?”

“Marshal Stuart. His badge gleamed in the rising sun as he asked me if I’d seen any criminal activity lately. Apparently there was a bank robbery in town overnight, done by the Gang of 3. The Gang of 3 was a famous group who had been wreaking havoc in the area, consisting of three criminals who always wore hoods. Stuart thought that I could know something no one in town did, since I lived out in the middle of nowhere. When I shook my head, he grunted something I couldn’t hear and rode off northeast, following the footprints Victoria and Shelley had made the previous day. His huge black horse had started galloping off before I could say anything. So I decided to go on with my plan. I got on my horse and headed east. And that was when I saw the teenager from Viola’s store, walking off of the path.”

“You did?”

“Yep. I rode up to him and asked him what he was doing, and he jumped, probably startled, and turned to face me. Told me he was looking for something his friend left in the desert. But I didn’t want a repeat of the day before, so I hurried up without helping him. The miner was out, and he asked me if I had gotten Shelley yet. I shook my head, but told him I would come back with her later. I rode on, and the bank was closed again. I rode to Viola’s house, and she was behind the counter this time. When she saw me she stood up, went through the door, and returned with Shelley in her hands. I grabbed her, thanked Viola, and walked out the entryway. I led Victoria through the town and went into the desert, and with Shelley in my arms I walked the two miles between Santa Fe and the spot where I’d seen the miner. And when I got there, he was gone.”

“Gone?”

“Yep, even when I told him to wait. Then I saw another patch of rocks in the distance, and figured he switched locations when I was gone. I walked over and he wasn’t there, but I circled the rock just in case. That was when I realized- I was lost. I didn’t know which direction the road was. But I could tell by the sun that I had to go opposite the way I was facing, so I turned around. I walked and walked for the next few hours, and came across a pole. Attached to that pole was something that looked to be the same size and shape of a paw. I picked it up and kept heading east, knowing it was probably a kid’s toy. I found the path eventually, and it led to my house.”

“Good.”

“Yep. And it wasn’t until I was back that I realized I had never traded Shelley. It was still mid afternoon, so I knew that I could probably go see if the miner was out. My plan was to get over there and walk to Santa Fe to stay at Viola’s, so I left that weird paw thingy there and rode. And this time the miner was out. I traded him Shelley, and he gave me the statue. And oh, was it nice. It was so intricately carved and huge, probably worth about two hundred dollars. Grandson, you may not think of that as much. You might have even more than that yourself. But back in my days it was a fortune. But even still, it was hard to part with Shelley. I kissed her good-bye, and she meowed. I was in tears for my ride into town, but it had to be done. I finally had money! I wiped away those tears when I reached Santa Fe, wanting to look good in front of Viola, and I noticed that the bank was open again. But before I got to Viola’s store, I saw Marshal Stuart again. He told me he followed the footprints coming from my house to the city, and I explained the whole story. He sighed, as usual, grumbling about ‘wasting half of his day with a gang on the loose.’ And I couldn’t blame him. But I asked him if he wanted to trade anything for the giraffe, and he said no. But he gave me a task. He handed me a sandal and a list of people. He explained that he recently found three sets of hoof prints that could very well belong to the gang of 3’s horses, and the sandal was next to it, probably fallen from one of the riders. Apparently the list of people were all of them citizens in Santa Fe with photographic memories, and I was surprised to see Viola’s name on it. I had to ask all of them if they saw anyone wearing the sandal. I headed for Viola first, planning on asking her and then turning in for the night. But for some reason, when I got to her house it looked like a bank. And a person that I asked said it was one. I figured I was probably at the wrong building, but then Marshal Stewart stormed in. Apparently someone saw me through the window facing the street while the bank was closed, before it was robbed.”

“Wow… that was unexpected.”

“It was. And there were a lot of witnesses, and Marshal Stuart handcuffed me while he did an investigation. And sure enough, he found a perfect match of my fingerprint touching the walls in the hallway, near one of the doors that had a bank vault behind them. And that particular vault was completely empty. Stuart accused me of being part of the Gang of 3, but then he decided to do an investigation. He would compare Victoria’s hoof print to the ones he saw in the desert. I sighed with relief, knowing he would see Victoria wasn’t one of the horses. But apparently she was. But when I took a closer examination… this horse had blue eyes instead of Victoria’s brown. I instantly thought of the miner. He wanted Victoria at first.”

“Oh.”

“Yep. But I asked Marshal Stuart if I could do one more thing. I blew on the horse whistle that teenager gave me, hoping Victoria was near. And she came running. But Stuart said that wasn’t proof enough. He locked me in the jail, and said I couldn’t come out for three years. I sat there, thinking how that store could’ve really been a bank that whole time. Viola had to have been in on it, maybe even that teenager. What was he looking for in the desert? Could it have been the sandal that Start found? Or something else? Or what if this was a misunderstanding? What if he didn’t know anything either, and Viola fed him lies? What if Viola was fed lies herself? But that wouldn’t make sense- the place was supposedly her home. She wouldn’t be living in a bank if she was innocent, would she? I thought and thought and thought, and then I heard an explosion in the wall behind me. A bullet. I immediately took my chance, not caring who shot it, and ran outside. I didn’t know where I was, but it looked to be near. I ran and ran, and a few more bullets were shot, all of them missing me, some by a frighteningly close distance. When I turned, I saw three figures in hoods, riding on horseback.”

“The Gang of 3?”

“You guessed it. One of the hoods was red, another was blue and then there was a black one. And I noticed that the horse the red-hooded figure was sitting on was Victoria. I knew then it had to be the Gang of 3. I knew I would die, so I just kept running with no rhyme or reason, not looking back. Then suddenly the bullets stopped, and I looked behind me to see Marshal Stuart, who had grabbed the blue-cloaked figure by the hood. He raised it to reveal the teenager from Viola’s ‘shop.’ He took his gun, threw him off his horse and kept on riding. The other two figures, however, started shooting at him. He tossed me his gun and three sets of handcuffs, saying I was the new marshal. I couldn’t believe it, and I didn’t have time to. Because in the blink of an eye, Marshal Stuart had been shot and the remaining two figures were coming for me. I sprinted to the teenager’s horse, hoping to reach it before he did. It was a close one- he got there before me, but I quickly took one of the handcuffs out of my pocket and hoped I was doing it right as I grabbed his arms and shoved his hands through the rings, behind his back. But the remaining figures were still coming. I quickly mounted the horse and galloped towards them, but they kept shooting at me. But I kept steering the horse in unpredicatble directions, and soon I got close enough to the red figure to throw them off, too. Their hood fell off his head in the process, draping down the back of their neck, to reveal the miner, who started all of this. I quickly repeated the process Stuart and I did with the teenager, taking his gun and putting his wrists behind his back with the handcuffs. I mounted Victoria and rode to the remaining figure, but they still fired at me. So I steered Victoria every which way, until once again, I was close. But before I could grab them they grabbed me, and tossed me off of Victoria. I ran, but I knew their horse would catch up to me. I wanted to stay, to brace for it. But that’s not what marshals do. I ran over to Stuart’s body, trying not to cry as I searched and searched his bag, soon finding the horse whistle. I blew it, and Victoria came galloping over. I mounted her and rode towards the figure, who was circling me on their horse. They pressed their trigger, but nothing came out. They were out of bullets. So when they got close enough, I quickly tossed back their hood before they could do anything to me. It was Viola. She stared at me, and I stared back. It was like I didn’t want to arrest her even after she tried to kill me. The truth was… I had begun to love her. She was so nice, considerate and so many other awesome things! But I resisted that, and handcuffed her.”

“Why didn’t she do anything?”

“That was the thing. In some cases I can read emotions really well. And I think she felt… guilty.”

“Guilty?”

“Yep. She didn’t do anything. Just let herself be arrested. And I got them to the Santa Fe jail, and was rewarded that sapphire for finally catching them. And I got Shelley back too. And it wasn’t long before I pried what really happened out of them. Apparently when the miner saw Victoria, he needed her to cover up his tracks. So when I refused and offered Shelley instead, he quickly got on his horse and rode for my house, where he took Shelley and used that stick thingy to make fake pawprints. I found this because Shelley has six toes on her front paws, and the prints only had four. He got the teenager to take Shelley to the bank, which they had disguised as a store. There were many witnesses for that, but the 3 always moved out of sight when they investigated. They stationed Viola in town to lead me to the store, so that they could frame me for robbing the bank. Meanwhile, the miner went through the desert to trade the giraffe, but lost the stick along the way. And it was them who robbed the bank.”

“And I have one more question. You had the marshal’s gun for most of the showdown. Why didn’t you just finish them off?”

“Because, grandson, evil can change. Dead cannot. They could be good people someday. The teenager is still a jerk. The miner’s dead already. But Viola’s pretty nice, even though she’s still in prison. And in my forty-year long marshal career, I never killed one single person. That’s the wrong thing to do, even if it’s the easiest.”

January 15, 2021 19:53

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7 comments

Echo Sundar
20:18 Jan 15, 2021

Okay. I have a lot to say for this story. For one it was really interesting I can give you that. At first, it was confusing in the middle I sort of figured things out but then it got confusing again. FOr my critique It was a really good story very interesting I just thought it was a bit over-complicated and there for a little bit confusing. It had so much of a story I just think that this should be a novel, not a 3 paged story. But it was amazing it was fun to read I didn't know what was going to happen next. I have one critique in terms ...

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Kat Sencen
20:32 Jan 15, 2021

Thanks! I love the critique it helps a lot!

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Echo Sundar
20:42 Jan 15, 2021

Same! Anything you say about my stories is helpful. Also, I love the title. I thought it was really creative.

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Lynne Buttercase
22:21 Jan 20, 2021

Hey Keefe. I kind of agree with Rachel’s comments. There’s a great story and moral in there - actually the moral and title are fab! It hits the brief but would work better if it wasn’t dialogue only, drawn out into something a lot longer and more descriptive. There’s a project for the future in there but it’s a great starting point. 👍

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Leo Reynie
15:19 Jan 28, 2021

Really like this story. 👍 You know, grammatically, when clips of dialogue are that long, you can divide them into paragraphs within themselves. I thought it was overall, really good, had a great moral. I think it was harder to read in big blocks like that, however.

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Ari Berri
14:46 Jan 22, 2021

This story is awesome!

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05:57 Jan 20, 2021

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH *squeals herself to death* IMG KEERE SENCEN?!! GOSHH I LOVE KEEFE!! (well... the character, not you) (not meant sarcastically, I mean as friends your cool!) OMG YAYY

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