trees whipped by at an unforgiving pace. Two men sat in the
train’s cab facing one another. Sam reclined as he peered at the
flying landscape, boot-tapping a rhythm to match the incessant
click-clack of the rails below. As usual, Clyde seemed to simply be
memorizing the lines and scars of his hands.
boy, I can’t wait til we get there. How bout you, Clyde?” He
gave his traveling partner’s knee a slap. “I betcha can’t wait
gave time for the response that he knew wasn’t coming. Clyde
pulled his bowler hat a bit further down to cover his eyes. Sam
pursed his lips in response. “Shame things had to turn out this
way and all. But you know you’re getting what’s comin to you for
good reason, dontcha?” Clyde wore his silence as fine as the
blackened leather belts strapped around his waist. “Ah well,
you’re gonna hang first thing for sure. I know it. I can’t
wait, though. Can’t wait!
Gonna be sweet.”
intertwined his fingers and looked up at Sam then shifted his view
out the nearby window in disinterest as the train started to leave
the forest behind in favor of a lake view. They couldn’t be more
than a hundred miles from the Red Rivers station now. Red Rivers
Chapel is where the law liked to do the public executions of
well-known criminals such as himself.
the usual thieves or occasional murderers, any old noose tossed over
any old tree branch would do, but not for Clyde King. He was going
to get the special honor of a proper hanging. He thought perhaps he
was supposed to feel honored by the gesture. They’d at least have
the decency to put him in the ground in a box this way. Better than
knowing your body was going to end up as a fine treat for some forest
wait, Clyde. Can’t wait.”
was the leader of a gang who ran their business and sordid affairs
out of High Ground. They weren’t known by a name or any such
nonsense - that type of vanity was left to the amateurs. Their
dealings ranged from extortions and kidnappings to the good
old-fashioned bank robberies. It was true that innocents were found
with a few extra holes in them from time to time, but they were
simply unfortunate enough to be in the wrong places at the very worst
once did Clyde King seem to be caught where he shouldn’t have
necessarily been. An attractive young lady had fought long and hard
at the saloon to catch Clyde’s eye. She wailed the story of a
husband who didn’t do right by her and beat her mercilessly, that
is, whenever he managed to find a reason to come home. It didn’t
do much for Clyde’s pity, but he wasn’t one to turn down the
invitation from a beauty in such dire need of attention.
outlaw found out in a most unfortunate way that the tart he went home
with that evening was the young Mrs. Branford – Sam’s wife.
Sam’s untimely return home caught all three of them off guard. The
lawman had Clyde get dressed and cuff himself behind his back as he
held him at gunpoint. Once Clyde was dressed, Sam marched him out of
the house and as he did, Sam turned and put a bullet in wife’s
pretty little forehead for humiliating him by being so damned
unfaithful. He left the outlaw’s pistol behind as proof of the
affixed his gaze at the officer who sat opposite him aboard the train
bound for his execution. He shook his head in disgust at the
thought. Sure, he had put down a few in his time as well, but only
out of necessity for his own survival. And never a woman.
Sam asked as if he didn’t know what the accusatory glare was for.
He resumed his boot-tapping staccato symphony upon being ignored once
outlaw averted his eyes from his captor and began to take note of the
other occupants in the car with them. At the far end on the other
side of the aisle sat a sheraph reading from his book. There was a
likely chance this man was meant to end up being Clyde’s
executioner once they arrived at the Cathedral. The priests and holy
men like the sheraph were the official law bringers in these dusty
plains; men like Sam Branford were little more than local bounty
hunters and mercenaries for hire.
few rows closer sat a man and his daughter. He appeared to be
teaching her about the world that was passing them by on the rails.
She would ask him questions and he would answer. She would point at
some miniscule object on the horizon and look up to him for approval
and he would return her inquiry with a smile and nod. The continued
happiness of these two passengers somehow made him regret the choice
he had been forced to make a few hours prior.
Clyde’s capture and Mrs. Branford’s execution, Sam decided to
take his prisoner to Red Rivers himself rather than alert local
authorities. Upon seeing the outlaw’s face, many townsfolk greeted
Sam with praise and adoration for taking down such a delinquent of
their budding society. He claimed to them that he was making the
delivery himself because he wanted, nay, needed to see justice done.
However, the decision was more likely to be based on the hopes of
claiming a reward for some type of bounty on the outlaw’s head.
railroad ran a few miles just south of town and so the duo was forced
to walk the distance to the nearby station. Sam didn’t have the
good fortune to have the money for horses or other travel expenses
besides the train. Luckily, their destination lay at the end of a
dirt path made by the travels of many others’ journeys. Years ago,
a ranch had popped up along the route and as Clyde and Sam progressed
they heard gunshots emanating from a building on the premises. The
lawman insisted on investigating the situation, being the upstanding
citizen that he was.
their arrival, the two men found not a trace of the attackers, only
what had been left behind. A family had been pulled from their home,
robbed, and then shot. Either the assailants were inept or entirely
cruel, but they had shot them all in the bellies rather than a quick
death granted from a shot to the head. There was always the slight
chance the marauders meant to entirely forego killing their victims,
but they managed only to prolong what was now inevitable. The head
of the household was coddling the bloodied, lifeless remains of his
wife and child all the while grimacing in his twofold agony.
as he might with his somewhat good intentions, Sam could not seem to
convince the man to allow his assistance. The father wailed and
cursed the heavens as his whole world lay in the blood around him.
He insisted he didn’t need any help and that his life was over.
Clyde knew as well as he did that he’d never make it with a wound
like his, even with their assistance.
wasn’t one to take no as answer and forced the man to his feet,
allowing the heads of the deceased to fall to the bloodied grass with
a wet thud. The man fought with the lawman to be left to die as he
should. As Sam forced the man to his feet once more, Clyde slipped
the restraints under his feet so his hands were free to do as they
needed. Upon pilfering Sam’s sidearm, he managed to grant the
father of the household his final wish as well as shoot his own bonds
loose before the officer was able to react. An intense moment
followed with both men having a pistol each and both aiming to kill
with a single shot. Clyde shrugged and tossed the pistol at Sam’s
feet and mounted a saddled horse nearby. He continued along the path
to the Pinedale station with Sam trailing behind.
outlaw realized that he didn't regret the decision that he had
made, but rather the situation as it had occurred. He admired the
connection the man on the train had with his daughter. From what he
had experienced, it seemed much more difficult to make a new life
than to destroy one. Destruction was easy - all it took was a twitch
of the finger.
men entered at the opposite end of the cab from where Clyde had
perched himself when the train left Pinedale. One remained behind
and gazed out the window beside the sheraph. The other continued
forward and stopped next to the outlaw and lawman.
gents. We ready?” A pistol was drawn in one hand and a hefty
looking satchel was slung over his back.
addressed the man with a nod and stood. The sheraph had been
relieved of his weapons as Sam was in the process of surrendering his
own pistol and keys as well. The three of them gathered together at
the rear exit and confirmed that they had already procured the church
fund and both bank deposits that had been intended to be transferred
to the capital. Clyde’s men ran down the itinerary as he removed
the broken handcuffs from his wrists.
spoke not a word while the three men exited the cab and proceeded to
uncouple the final car at the rear of the train. With a tip of his
bowler hat, Clyde released the caboose and the passengers watched as
the car slowed and shrank into the distance.
blow to Sam Branford’s ego was enormous as he quickly became known
as ‘The Man Who Lost Clyde King’ rather than the man who brought
him to justice as he had intended. In the following weeks he began
drinking heavily and gambling profusely. With little effort, his
debts surmounted the small fortune that he might have acquired had he
completed the prisoner transfer of a notorious criminal. He was
unable to find employment due to his disreputable job history and the
bounties he pursued all managed to elude him. The men he was
indebted to were quickly become aggressive.
much begging and pleading on Sam’s part, a friend of an
acquaintance granted him a job working as security personnel for his
bank. After two days of standing next to a doorway, it quickly
dawned on him that the pay was insufficient to ever be able to cover
the cost of his loans.
dark evening after closing, Sam took it upon himself to do away with
the banker and steal the money in order to save his own skin. While
his employer was transferring money to the safe, Sam followed him in
and shot him in the stomach after knocking him to the floor. A
bullet to the head made sure the job was done - a lesson learned.
piled as much as could fit into both leather deposit satchels and
left the vault in a hurry. He closed and locked the enormous door
behind him in hopes of it slowing the process of others finding out
what had happened, thereby slowing their pursuit of the culprit. As
he pivoted on his heel to leave the scene of the crime, he was halted
by the sight of a man donned with a bowler hat standing just inside
the bank doorway. A smile of recognition cut across the intruder’s
face as a single shot was fired. The man strode forward, accepted
the bags as his own and exited the premises with a tip of his hat.
King was pleased that no innocent men had to die by his hand that
ABOUT CLYDE KING
be told, Clyde
was written with the intention of being a teaser into a new novel
that I plan on completing in the near future. The entire world,
timeline, and back story for characters and their plot is sitting and
waiting on the sidelines. Clyde King himself will most likely end up
playing a minor role in the book. I simply wanted to give this world
life and a new perspective from where I was coming from in the main
have a strong desire to bend and play with the rules of morality and
social responsibilities with my stories. The anti-hero has become too
cliched recently though. What if there was no hero at all? Who would
win and who would lose? Is there a black or a white or is it possible
that everything is gray? What if someone had no hidden desires and
did exactly what he wanted, when he wanted, and was good at it? Would
you adore this man or fear him? By leaving Clyde with no spoken
dialogue, the reader is left to answer questions on their own. This story was originally published as a bonus to the first edition of The Seventh Horn.