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An Outlaw of Note

Who can you trust?

With a price on your head, that list is very very short.

An Outlaw of Note by Patrick Cooper



Cliff tossed the newspaper on the table. “In town but one night and you made the paper.” 

Elias put his coffee down and picked up the paper. An unflattering picture of himself stared back. Above his photo, the headline read: Noted Outlaw Elias Warring Passes Through Town. He cleared his throat. “Noted outlaw Elias Warring has arrived in Montgomery Flats on his way to Atlantic City. Warring, who drank his fill at the Trappe Tavern last night, is wanted in several northern states for murder, bank robbery, horse theft, swine arson-”

“Swine arson?”

“Blasphemy, general mayhem, and...oh no.”

“What?”

“And sodomy.”

Cliff recoiled. “The fuck?!”

“I didn’t do any of those goddamn things! Especially that, most importantly that last one! All I do is run shine, dammit!”

“I know that, but you shouldn’t have run your mouth off like that. With that lubricated mouth on you, what did you think that journalist was gonna do?”

Elias slouched in the chair and looked out the second floor window. They’d taken a room above a butcher shop for a couple of days, before heading to Atlantic City. The article was right about that. They were going there to hook up with a bootlegging crew. Elias and Cliff knew the eastern Pennsylvania back roads better than most, valuable knowledge for a crew looking to expand around the tri-state area.

They’d arrived in Montgomery Flats late and went to the tavern to unwind. A few drinks deep, Elias latched onto a redhead with cleavage you could hide a donkey between. He started spinning yarns to impress her. Disinterested, she left and a journalist took her place on the barstool. Elias was too wet to care. So, on he rambled about misdeeds never done.
 
“Shit,” Cliff said. “You sure like talking big when you’re drunk.”

“How the hell would I know that journo would take me seriously?! Swine arson, for Chrissakes!”

“They’re taking you serious, all right.” Cliff fished a hand into the pocket where he kept his .45 and pulled out a flier with the same unflattering photo of his mug, along with a $1,000 REWARD in big, bold letters. “They’re hanging everywhere in town.”

The sound of footsteps rumbled outside.

Elias quickly sprang up and reached for his pistol. Cliff drew his own gun and stepped toward the door.

A voice called out, “We know he’s in there! The outlaw Elias Warring! Send him out and there won’t be any trouble!”

Cliff leaned his heavy frame against the door. “He ain’t no outlaw! He was just talking shit!”

“Bull!” The voice said.

Elias took a cautious peek out the window.

The street was clogged with townsfolk armed with makeshift weapons. An obese Chinese boy holding a sharpened hog bone stood at the front of the crowd.

“Damn it all! It’s a hunting party!” Elias yelled.

“Don’t worry!” Cliff whispered. “They ain’t getting in here.”

“We hear you!” someone in the mob yelled. “You got until the count of three to send him out! One!”

“He was drunk!” Cliff yelled back. “Just running his mouth to impress some fire-crotch!”

Someone in the crowd yelled, “It was in the newspaper! It’s got to be true!” Another person called out,“They wouldn’t print it if it weren’t facts! Two!”

Elias fell to his knees and vomited. He took a moment to gather himself and said, “I’m a dead man. You gotta get me out of here. The roof, maybe we-”

Cliff fired.

The bullet tore through Elias’ abdomen. He made a sound like a dying animal and folded in on himself. “What the fuck, Cliff?” Blood bubbled out of the sides of his mouth. 

Cliff approached with a genuine look of sympathy in his eyes. “Thousand bucks is a thousand bucks. You know how things are.”

“I ain’t no outlaw.”

“Yeah but it said so in the paper.” Cliff put a bullet through Elias’ head.

When the door to the small room caved in with townsfolk, Cliff stuffed his gun back in his coat and hoisted Elias over his shoulder.  

Townsfolk parted in silence as he walked out of the room and over to the courthouse.

Cliff waited twenty minutes while the officials got his reward money together. He walked to the tavern and bought everyone a round. The journalist interviewed him about his brave showdown with the outlaw Elias Warring.

Cliff proceeded to drink himself into oblivion.


Patrick Cooper is a writer in Trappe PA. His short fiction has appeared in various places, including Thug Lit, Akashic Books website, Shotgun Honey, Ghost Parachute, and some print anthologies. Find more of his goods at: https://patrickgcooper.com/