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Two (Really) Early Stories (1966)

Two (Really) Early Stories (1966)

I have no excuse for these stories, except to say I was in my teens when I wrote them. Proceed with caution.






About the Thumbnail Photo

The summer after my junior year in high school, I came across and ancient Woodstock typewriter in the base thrift store at Sewart Air Force Base in Smyrna, Tennessee. I talked my mother in buying it for me. It costs eight dollars.

When we got home I cleared a space on the small desk in the room I shared with my younger brother and started hunting and pecking. After a while my mother came into the room; in her arms was her textbook from typing class when she herself was in high school. The Woodstock was featured in the appendix as a representative model.

I covered the keys with gray duct tape (the residue of which I was never able to remove from the keys in those pre-Goo Gone days—and proceeded to teach myself to type.

The text was designed to prepare young women for a career as secretaries and typists; to that end all the exercises had to do with discipline and good work habits. By the end of the summer I was sick to death of typing paragraphs like

Work is good for us. It builds good character and develops our inner strength. It gains us the admiration of our peers and leaves us with good habits that will last a lifetime. It is important to pay attention to grooming, be punctual, and be courteous at all times.

By the end of the summer I had made my way through as much of the book as I could stand— and I was touch typing.

I told myself I could type 30 words per minute. I thought I was being optimistic. Some years later, while applying for a job as a Kelly Girl (the company had not yet been renamed Kelly Services), I was clocked at 85 wpm on an unfamiliar machine.

Why didn’t I take typing in high school, you ask? Because, transsexual-in-hiding that I was, I was afraid people would clock me.

Touch-tying has stood me in good stead for nearly 50 years. I thank my lucky stars every day that I don’t have to hunt-and-peck.

The stories that follow pre-date the acquisition of my first typewriter, so I know they were written before June, 1966.

Paradise in Antarctica

©1966, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Denny, Dallas. (1966). Paradise in Antarctica. Unpublished short fiction.


Paradise in Antarctica

By Dallas Denny


Harold Walters spoke tersely into the microphone clipped onto his collar. “This is U.S.A.F. F101430 calling McMurdo Sound Station. Mayday. Mayday! This is U.S.A.F. F101430 calling McMurdo Sound station.”

“We read you, F101430. What’s the trouble?”

“Preparing to eject. My engine just flamed out. Latitude 10 degrees, 41 minutes, 12 seconds, longitude 84 degrees, six minutes, three seconds. Did you read my location?”


“Okay. Here goes nothing.”

Walters pressed a stud which said, “Emergency Ejection Seat.” The canopy flew off, and the next second Walters felt the savage Antarctic wind bite into his cheeks. Immediately, he felt colder than he had ever felt before. It was as if he’d been thrown into ice water. Protected from the frigid night by only his flight suit, Walters felt savagely grateful for the survival kit which he had with him, fastened by a long cord to his waist.

Harold had been free-falling for six seconds when he remembered to pull the ripcord. If he hadn’t, an automatic device would have opened it at an altitude of six thousand feet. This would have actually been better, because Walters wouldn’t have had as long a time to remain in the air before he reached the ground.

The chute streamed above Walters, not yet open. For a second he felt a dread that it wouldn’t open. But it did, with a violent jerk.

Like a pendulum, the freezing Walters swung somberly back and forth underneath his chute, which he couldn’t see because of the complete darkness.

Walters noticed a growing numbness in his hands. He let go the parachute harness, thrashed them against his chest until they began hurting, and put them in the pockets of his flight suit.

Thirty seconds later he experienced a growing fear of hitting the ground unexpectedly. He prepared himself to hit, but nothing happened. He glanced down, his eyes straining against the darkness. Suddenly he tensed. Was that a light he saw down there? It— yes— it was a light! Coming out of the clouds, he saw the light in its entirety. He gasped in apprehension. Mount Erebus— the only active volcano on the continent of Antarctica! But wait! Mount Erebus was more than two hundred miles away. It couldn’t be Erebus. It must be another volcano.

Walters became aware of a delicious warmth creeping intohis bones. At first he thought he was freezing, but later realized it was heat from the volcano. Suddenly, Walters realized that he was headed straight for the gaping mouth of the volcano. He jerked his hands out of his pockets, grabbed the parachute harness, and pulled the left shroud. The left part of the parachute collapsed, and Walters sideslipped for what he judged to be a thousand yards before he released the pressure. After he straightened his parachute the volcano was to his right, far enough away not to be a menace.

Harold now concerned himself with landing safely. He hung from the shrouds, ready to release the chute as soon as he hit the ground.

Walters had started growing cold again as he drifted out of the hot air rising from the volcano. Suddenly, he began to feel hot air in his face again. He almost panicked again, but told himself it was more air from the volcano.

Looking to his right, he saw the fiery pit disappear as he drew beneath it. He didn’t hit immediately, so he surmised he was on the side of the mountain. He was afraid of hitting the hill and falling the rest of the way down the mountain. It was too late to do anything about it, though, for if he hit while sideslipping, he would likely break his neck.

After falling for two more minutes, Walters tensed. It was still warm! Before he could even ponder this, he hit the earth.

Caught by surprise, it was several seconds before he found the quick-release lever and pulled it. As the parachute billowed softly over him, Walters felt the ground with the palms of his hands. Amazingly, it was warm, without snow. Harold felt in his pocket for the penlight he carried to read maps with. Pointing it at the ground, he gave a gasp. He seemed to have landed on a broad meadow, for there was ankle-deep grass underneath his feet.

Forgetting his location, he shone the light upward, trying to locate his co-pilot. If he had ejected a second after Walters, he might be anywhere within a half-mile radius. If he had delayed, he could be as many as twenty miles away. Flashing the light in all directions, Walters saw no silken canopy other than his own.

After shouting himself hoarse, to no avail, Walters decided it was best to see if he could find his co-pilot. First, he opened his survival kit, and lifted out a Very pistol and a packet of flares. Tearing the package with his teeth, he drew out a flare and placed it in the Very pistol. Aiming the flare gun at the sky, he pulled the trigger.

As he watched the bright colors of the flare disperse, he took stock of his predicament. Walters didn’t know why it was so warm here— about 76 degrees Fahrenheit, he estimated—­ whereas all the rest of Antarctica was a bleak, barren, coldwasteland. He decided that perhaps the volcano heated the ground, and the bulk of the mountain cut off the savage winds.

His survival kit— that was another matter. It was fitted for icy weather. Before each assignment it was repacked with the essentials for survival in the country over which he would fly. He knew in general what it would contain— an inflatable raft, warm clothing, a tent, high-protein value food, and many small items.

Walters was jerked out of his meditation by an answering flare. It seemed to come from a point almost a mile away. Frantically digging in his pack, he withdrew an oil lamp, a tiny contraption, and a small can of fuel. Setting the lamp on the ground, Walters opened the tin of oil with the key provided, groped in his pocket for matches, found them, and lit the small lamp. Using the light to illuminate the interior of his survival kit, he found a flashlight and drew it out. He flashed Morse code in the direction from which he had seen the flare. He coded A, then B, then C, then D.

There was a long pause before the same message came back to him. Walters flashed, “Am OK. Coming to you. Affirm.”

“Roger. Am OK also. Will stay.”

Placing the blubber lamp where he could see it to find his way back, Walters set off in the general direction of his co-pilot. After a while he stopped and flashed. “Status.”

“Here,” came the reply.

“Flash every 5 min,” Walters commanded. “Affirm.”


Presently, the other flashlight seemed to draw nearer. Soon he and his co-pilot were within shouting distance.

Bob Clarke, Walters’ co-pilot, moved as his friend’s flashlight beam hit him in the face. With a grin, he gestured toward his survival kit. “Have a seat and tell me where the hell we are.”

Walters told Bob his opinion.

“Sounds logical to me, Harold. What are we going to do?”

“First we’ll pick up my gear,” Harold said, gesturing at the tiny light that showed where his gear was.


At that second the light winked out. Walters and Clarke looked at each other in astonishment. Then a grin split Clarke’s face. “Well, since the wind blew the light out, we might as well camp here ‘till dawn.”

“Oh— all right,” conceded Harold. It certainly wouldn’t hurt anything.”

As he helped Bob break the tent out of the pack a glimmer of metal caught his eye. “Why, it’s a hand-cranked radio transmitter!”

Later, sitting around a campfire which they made of dry wood they found upon the ground, they took turns cranking the radio. They discussed thoroughly their location, which they eventually agreed was warm due to the heat of the volcano. After two hours, they took watches of two hours each, one man sending, the other sleeping.

It was October, early spring in the Antarctica. Dawn found Bob sending and Harold in his sleeping bag. As soon as it was light enough to see a hundred yards, Bob wakened Harold, and they set out for Harold’s gear, after a hearty breakfast of coffee and pemmican. As they drew near the emergency kit, it was a dusky twilight.

“Damn!” exclaimed Harold as he saw his gear. “Something’s gotten hold of it. Look!”

Indeed, the gear was scattered over a large area, and most of the dehydrated food had been ruined. The blubber lamp was upset, and the small sledge had one of its runners bent.

“Damn!” exclaimed Harold again. “Some animal has decided to make my survival kit its cafeteria!”

Bob looked for tracks as Harold searched for his survival rifle. When he found it he cursed softly. The barrel was bent at a ninety degree angle. He found his .45-caliber pistol and holster and strapped it on. “Me and you are going hunting, baby,” he crooned. “I’m going to catch that fugitive from a sideshow, and when I do—”

He was interrupted by an exclamation from Bob. “Hey, Harry. Come here!” Harold double-timed it over to where Bob was squatting. There in the soft earth were a number of footprints. But not ordinary footprints. For— they were human.

“People!” cried Harold, staring at a naked footprint. “Of course, it may be a bear—”

“Bear nothing!” exclaimed Bob. “I’m a good enough tracker to be able to tell footprints apart. They aren’t bear tracks!”

“Well, they don’t look like bear footprints!

“Besides,” explained Bob, “there are no bears native to the Antarctic continent.”

“Hey. We’d better pack up and leave.”

As they were packing, Harold asked, “Wasn’t I supposed to have a radio transmitter in my pack, too?”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“Well— it isn’t here!”

Bob looked up, glancing around. “Why, those little—”

Harold patted the pistol on his hip. “I’ll sure be glad to find ‘em.”

As they swung around to head home, they saw a half-dozen black specks moving around their campsite. They made it there in record time, carrying the survival kit between them. One hundred yards from the camp they hit the ground and crawled to within thirty yards of the camp. As they pushed through the last clump of grass separating them from the camp, they got their first clear view of the plunderers. They were a group of apes, well over five feet in height, built like gorillas, but with a cranium nearly as large as that of a man.

As they watched, one stooped specimen picked up the survival rifle, eyeing it quizzically. Before he had a chance to wreck it, Walters fired, twice. The animal’s hands flew to its throat, then its stomach. It looked at the sap of its life coursing through its hands, grunted, and collapsed. The others immediately dropped what they had and fled. Only one remained, as if to help its friend. Walters fired at it. The shot plowed into the ground behind the animal. Startled, it broke and ran after its comrades.

Bob and Harold approached the fallen arthropod cautiously. It was quite dead.

Together, one carrying the arms and one the legs, they carried the beast away from camp. Harold decided to dissect it after dark. It was totally unlike anything either one of them had ever seen. Its brow ridges were almost nonexistent, a sign of high development and intelligence. The body had little hair, and the chest was tubular. It was a male.

Perhaps an hour had passed since they had left the camp, and the short spring day was already half over. On arriving at the camp, they decided to see if the nature of the surrounding terrain could be determined. Bob pulled a small pair of binoculars from his survival kit and scanned the horizon. In the distance he could see a black line of cliffs, high, steep, and far away. These continued in a circle around them, joining the cliff by Walter’s previous camp. There were no breaks in the steep surface of the sheer rock walls. They were in a large grassy plain, dotted with trees. In the distance was a herd of herbivores which looked like horses or cattle. There was a large body of water to the left of the camp, and a low knoll to the right. The volcano could be seen belching smoke behind the camp. The hot air from the volcano was apparently carried by downdrafts into the huge hole. It rose, to be constantly replenished by more. The apes were nowhere to be seen.

Harold and Bob flipped a quarter (which Walters had in his pocket) to see which one took the first turn with the transmitter. Bob won. As Walters started sending, Bob decided to take a short exploratory trip near the camp. He lay the .22 rifle over his shoulder and made sure his .45 was in its holster. He returned in a half hour carrying a large rabbit-sized marsupial. “I caught this on the shores of that lake. I didn’t even have to shoot him. He just stood there gawking while I walked up and knocked his head in.”

Harold examined the marsupial. “It’s a phalanger.”

“A what? Looks like a flying squirrel to me.”

“Simply parallel evolution. They resemble each other outwardly, but internally there is quite a difference. For instance—”

Bob shrugged. “O.K. I’ll take over the transmitter. You can go dissect Ichabod. Meaning our friend, the ape.”

Harold grabbed his survival knife, a flashlight, and his survival book, and started away, towards the body. It was already growing dark.

He returned two hours later, covered with blood, the blank pages of his survival book filled with notes from the dissection.

“Good land, Harry!” exclaimed Bob, after his arrival.

“Are you hurt?”

“No, it’s just blood from the dissection. With only light from the flashlight, and a hunting knife, I couldn’t help it.”

“What’d you find?”

“Well, I’d just that it was of the species Paranthropus. Supposedly extinct for a million years. There was more body hair that at first apparent, but it was white. An adaptation to the environment, I suppose, until its ancestors blundered in here.”

“No ‘missing link’, huh?”

“Missing? Oh. No, this is a primitive ancestor of man.”

“Oh— a missing link.”

In the waning light, Bob and Harold gathered enough wood to last until the next meager day.

They stayed up for another five hours, discussing their predicament and cracking jokes. That night, they heard the drone of a plane above them. Frantically, Bob grabbed the radio transmitter and cranked the handle. It was useless, though, for the plane was already becoming inaudible in the distance.

Harold continued heating a can of C rations over the fire. “It’s useless, Bob. The signals can’t be picked up through the cloud cover.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

Harold continued stirring the spaghetti in the open can. “Bob, could it be possible that we’re in South America or Africa or even Australia and were just flying North rather than South?”

“No chance, fella.”

“Why not?”

“The day was—” Bob looked at the blank pages of his survival kit. “—two hours and twenty-seven minutes long. Our latitude is certainly correct. The length of the day yesterday was supposed to be almost the same length. It was a little longer because we were further north.”

Harold conceded. “Oh.” He drew the hot can from the fire and tasted the spaghetti. “Supper’s on.”


The weak rays of the sun shone in Harold’s eyes. He rolled over to get away from the light and became aware of the odor of roasting bacon. No C ration this, but taken from the flanks of a wild pig Bob had caught the day before. Harold sat up sharply.

Bob broke two eggs, robbed from the nests of wild gulls, into the pan. The yolks were startlingly orange.

“Chow on?”

“Almost. You slept long enough.”

“It’s a bad habit I picked up from my Aunt Matilda. When she slept, she sounded like a T-Model Ford.”

“You’re no quiet sleeper, yourself. You sound like a B-52 warming up.”

“Thanks for the compliment.”

“You’re welcome. My father always told me to tell people their good points.”

Harold grabbed his rolled-up parachute and threw it, grinning, at Bob, who deftly stepped aside, caught it, and hurled it back. “Come and get it or I’ll throw it in the fire.”

Eating breakfast, they discussed their plans for the immediate future. “How long will the day be tomorrow, Bobby?”

“Seven hours and forty-three minutes.”

“Thank you, brain.”

“You’re welcome, witless,”

“My father told me to always—”

“Hey— that’s my line!”

“Not now— If you can’t lick ‘em, join ‘em.”

Bob pointed to the door of the tent. “Age before beauty.”

Harold grinned and stepped outside. “Beauty was a horse.”

Outside, they strolled towards the lake. Bob looked at the sun. “The day will soon be long enough for us to travel. We can start looking for an exit tomorrow.”

Harold looked at Bob. “Do you seriously think there is an exit?”

“There must be, or else a way up the cliffs.”

“What makes you think so?”

“The animals had to get in some way.”

“Yes, but it could have been a million years ago when there was a passageway.”

“Well, I guess we’ll just have to take the chance that an exit will be available for us.”

They had now reached the shores of the lake. Harold picked up a handful of stones and commenced skimming them across the surface. Bob sat down in the grass. “Have you got all your zoological and botanical specimens?”

“Most of them. I have the margins of my survival manual filled with notes and data. I’ve found quite a bit of material here that looks like pitchblende. It’s definitely uranium ore.”

“I know. But the government can’t remove it, because we agreed with Russia that we would use Antarctica in no way concerning A-bombs or radioactive materials. The only things permissible on the whole continent are small nuclear reactors, and their wastes have to be shipped out.”

“It’s a pity, really.”

“Well, there’s nothing we can do about it.”

“Yes,” agreed Bob glumly.

Harold, who had stopped skimming rocks, began again.

 In the past three weeks, while waiting for the days to lengthen, Bob and Harold had contented themselves with making an extensive survey of their location, Harold the biological part, and Bob the geophysical part. They had quite a bit of information which they believed was not known to the world. Harold had discovered several new species, in addition to the Paranthropus. There was a new type of butterfly, a type of tree long believed extinct, and a new type of toad. The phalanger was a new species, much like the other types. Its habitat was a 25-acre forest near the place where Bob had caught it.

Bob had discovered what he believed to be a new type of lava flow and had much valuable data about the valley and the volcano.

Harold and Bob knew that they had probably been given up for dead. They also knew that if they found a way out of the valley during the brief Antarctic summer, they could easily get back to McMurdo Sound.

That night they packed the sledges. Bob had straightened the bent runner. The sled had a slight tendency to turn right, but was serviceable.

By themselves, the sledges would not run over the ground, but Bob and Harold had fixed a crude set of wheels from the trunk of a recently fallen tree. The wheels were lubricated by animal fat.

Early the next morning Bob and Harold set out.


Thirty-two days later, Bob and Harold were back at their starting point. Both were disgusted. Nothing had seemed to go right. First, the wheels of the sledges refused to turn. They had tried to lubricate them, but the wood was brittle and continually cracked and chipped. Finally, they had given up and made light packs. They wasted three days trying to catch and tame the herbivores. Both men received a shock when they saw these beasts, for they were unicorns. Although they looked like horses, they were members of the cattle family, with cloven hooves. The rhino had something to say about the genetic make-up of the unicorn. There was a single horn growing from the center of the forehead. The animal was entirely dun-colored except for white markings on the colts (calves?).

The unicorns had no fear of the men, for the humans reminded them of the ape-men, who were vegetarians. Catching them was easy, but they were impossible to tame. Finally the men moved on, leaving the unicorns.

The men made an entire round of the canyon, from starting point to starting point, but to no avail. There were no caves, gaps, valleys, or other kind of outlets. the walls were everywhere vertical; in some places they were more so. Scaling the walls would be a difficult, if not impossible task.

Bob and Harold spent the next day preparing to leave. At the lava cliff nearby, them camped. They made pitons from the metal from old tin cans. Before starting their climb, they got a good night’s sleep.

The following morning they both rose early. The days were now about twenty-two hours long, so they had no fear of night overtaking them on the cliff. They pulled on thick Antarctic clothing— hooded coats, fur-lined, two pairs of socks, one pair larger than the other, and thick mukluks, and fur-lined trousers. They wore heavy gloves. They were equipped with the latest innovation in Antarctic clothing— a woolen undersuit, heated by an electric pack which had an ample supply of power for seventy-two hours.

There were two fifty-foot long ropes, which were of nylon, so they would not snap in the intense cold.

They started climbing at 4:22 a.m. Ten minutes later Bob was back on the ground nursing a sprained ankle. He had fallen twenty feet and twisted it. Harold clambered back down. “Are you all right?”

Bob grimaced as he pulled his socks down over the ankle. “Yeah, except for my ankle. I think I broke it.”

Harold cursed softly. “Well, it’ll take a month for that to heal. Let me see it.” He felt the ankle, then grinned. “It’s only sprained. You’ll be limping for a few days, or a week, but in three weeks you’ll be as fit as a fiddle.”

Bob sank back, relieved. “That’s good to hear. But— will we be able to leave here this summer?”

“Sure,” grinned Harold.

During the next few days, while Bob was convalescing, Harold searched for an easy means to ascend the cliffs. He found none. One day, before Harold was rather far from the new camp, he saw a dark opening in the rocks. It appeared to be a cave. Not a speleologist by nature, but endowed with a spirit of adventure, he ran back to fetch the pitons, ropes, and flashlights.

Returning to the spot directly beneath the opening, Harold began climbing, driving pitons into fissures in the rock above him. At last he gained a narrow shelf and peered into the dark. He could see nothing.

Drawing a two-cell flashlight from a clip on his belt, Harold advanced cautiously into the darkness. He snapped the flashlight on. By its light, Harold could see that the cave continued. He advanced further.

The cavern— for it was a cavern— had a roof which, about five feet high at the entrance, lowered to about three feet, then rose. The walls were of black volcanic basalt, which glistened coldly in the beam of the flashlight.

Walters advanced further. There was a sharp turn in the tunnel. Before he moved again, Harold needed something to mark his way. He deliberated. He couldn’t use a candle for marking, because of the blackness of the walls. He felt in his pocket. There he found, to his relief, a piece of limestone he had found on the valley floor earlier. This would make an excellent marker.

As Harold wandered deeper into the cave, he drew arrows pointing to the exit. The tunnel gradually grew smaller, Harold was about to give up and go back to the camp, when the tunnel terminated in a chamber. This huge room was the size of a small gymnasium. The ceiling was at least twenty-five feet high. Branching off from the room were several tunnels, all leading upwards.

Harold started into the nearest tunnel, which quickly became too small to permit further advance. He returned and started anew. This time he was lucky. The passage widened until it was large enough to permit an automobile to roll through. Always, it steadily went upwards.

Walters climbed for an hour, always marking his way. It was gradually growing colder. Shivering, Walters nearly abandoned his explorations again, when suddenly he saw a speck of light.

Harold ran forward, to be hit by a cutting blast of cold air. Struggling forward, he saw an opening in the basalt.

Squeezing through the hole, he found himself on the slope of the volcano. He was in typical Antarctic weather, with intense cold and fierce wind, Harold rejoiced in silent triumph. Here he was, above the valley, which he could see below. About to return, his foot slipped. Instantly, he was sliding down the side of the volcano.

Harold grabbed at the snow-covered gravel, but couldn’t retain his grasp. He had been a mere fifty feet from the brink of the cliff when he started sliding. The cliff drew nearer.

As he slid downward, unable to stop, Walters let out a yell. Below, in the valley, Bob looked up in time to see a figure shoot over the edge of the cliff high, high above. The figure began falling, faster and faster. Suddenly, a wisp of silk appeared above it. This blossomed quickly into the shroud of a parachute canopy. The floating figure hit the ground five seconds later. Bob rushed off towards the figure, limping slightly.

As Harold had shot over the edge of the cliff, he had pulled the ripcord of his parachute. Wearing it every day, every time he had gone climbing the cliffs had paid off.

By the time Bob had covered the two miles separating them, Harold had the chute repacked.

“Harry, you damned fool! How’d you get up there?”

“I got a lift.”

“You know you could have been killed?”

“Who— me?”

“What if your chute had failed to open?”

“I’ve never had any complaints about it not opening.”

“Luck— pure luck!”

Harold scratched the dirt with his toe, modestly. “T’wasn’t luck. T’was skill.”

Bob grinned. “You scatter-brained goatherd, how’d you get up there?”

“Through a tunnel.”

“A tunnel?”

“Yeah. See that place on the cliff? The black spot. No— to the left. Yes, that’s it. It’s a cave, with a clear passageway to the top!”

Bob’s yell could have been heard from a mile away. “Let’s go home!”

McMurdo Sound was in view, as, four days later, Bob and Harold stood on a slight rise. “Boy,” said Bob to Harold. “I can’t wait to tell someone about this!” He started forward, to be stopped by Harold’s restraining hand on his shoulder.”

“Bob, I don’t think we should tell anyone about this.”

“Why the h—? Why not?”

“You know as well as I do that if we reveal the secret of the valley to the government, they’ll move in, find the pitchblende, make the unicorns and others extinct, and make a scene with Russia. You’re well aware that we’re not supposed to even think about radioactivity unless for domestic reactors.”

“Yeah. Well, okay.”

They burned their survival manuals, which were filled with notes, then trudged slowly off towards McMurdo Sound Station.

The Sheriff of Gallstone

©1966, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Denny, Dallas. (1966). The sheriff of Gallstone. Unpublished short fiction.

The first two pages of the original manuscript are missing.


The Sheriff of Gallstone

By Dallas Denny


…the sheriff of Gallstone, three days before. Immediately he had set out. Now he had arrived.

Henry found Gill in his office, feet propped on his desk. He was fast asleep. Sneaking up behind the sheriff, Henry tipped the chair ever so slightly. With a resounding clatter the sheriff, along with his seat, hit the floor. Almost instantly he was on his feet, groping for his gun. “Henry! You old son-of-a-gun!”

“Howdy, Gill, you old coyote. Why did you send for me?” Instantly, Gill’s face fell. “I called you here for a reason. You know, I presume, Ezekiel Masterson?”

“Yes, I do. Isn’t he an old card sharp?”

“Yes, but he has a new racket.”

“What’s that?”

“Kidnapping dudes.”

“Kidnapping dudes?”

“That’s what I said.”

“Well— how does he do it?”

“That’s why I sent for you. I just don’t know. No one in the town knows you, do they?”

“No one except you.”


“Just how do I fit into this?”

“Well, Henry, you’re going to be the most goldarndest dude the West has ever seen. You’re goin’ up to Phoenix and outfit yourself with everything a dude would be expected to have. And buy yourself a set of city duds. Then you’ll go east a hundred miles and hop a train. You’ll come into Gallstone just the way any dude would. You can make up your history and name, but don’t change it once you do. Okay?”

“Fine with me, but where’s the money for the clothes comin’ from?”

Gill pulled a dirty-looking wallet from his back pocket and removed two one-hundred-dollar bills. “These are from the town. You should spend as little as you can.”

“Couldn’t I just get on the train at Phoenix?”

“No. We have reason to believe Masterson has a spy who works at the railroad station there. You’ll have to go to Bisbee or Tombstone.

“Well, I can’t say as it’ll work, but I’ll give it a try.” Henry turned to leave.

“One more thing, Henry.”


“Try to talk like a Yankee.”

The hostilities of the Civil War hadn’t completely died down. “Damned if I will! I’m a Southern gentleman!”

Henry sauntered into the only clothing store in Phoenix. A chubby, red-faced man with hawk-like eyes scrutinized him. “ “Howdy, stranger.”

“‘Howdy’ yourself.”

“You want somethin’?”

“Yes, as a matter-of-fact I do. I need, ah, a pair of fancy boots, and, ah, a pair of chaps, an embroidered shirt, a beaded vest, and uh, a fancy ten-gallon hat, like that one there. You can give me a fancy belt, and I guess you have a dress-up suit like they have back East.”

“That’s a mighty strange and tall order, mister. You planning on paying cash?”

“I’m a mighty strange and tall man, fatso. Keep your mouth shut and get what I told you to.”

“Yes— yes, sir!” stammered the proprietor.

Minutes later, Henry emerged, carrying the clothes in a bundle. Upon finding his horse, Adolph, Henry walked with him to the nearest livery stable, where he left him with instructions to give him to a certain dude. This done, Henry took the next stage for Bisbee. At Bisbee, he rented a hotel room for the night.

Up in the room, Henry grimaced as he shaved off his whiskers. “Took me nearly a year to grow these magnificent things,” he muttered. This done, Henry had a tub of water brought to his room, and he took a much-needed bath. Then he fell asleep.

No one would have mistaken the sanguine cowpoke who had rented the room the night before for the fancy dude who emerged the next morning. The dude was dressed in a pair of embroidered black Eastern-type boots, a pair of fancy pants, a narrow-brimmed black hat, and a white shirt with a bow tie. The room quieted noticeably as the “dude” entered the lunchroom. He spoke to a waitress. “I’ll have a plate of eggs and bacon, with toast, and a glass of milk, please.” At this, a hoarse laugh went up through the crowd. A big, burly-looking character approached with a bottle of whiskey and a shot glass. “Have a real man’s drink, kid.”

“No, thank you.”

“I said drink!”

“And I said no, thank you.”

The burly-faced man swore. “I said drink, and by damn, you will drink!”

“I said no, thank you, and by damn, I won’t.” In an instant, pandemonium broke loose in the restaurant. The two men tumbled across a table in a bear hug. As they landed, however, the dude’s feet hit squarely on the bigger man’s chest. There was a sound of breaking bones, and the bully collapsed.

A second later the marshal appeared. “What happened here?” he said, seeing the bully’s crumpled form. “Who’s responsible for this?” Then, seeing the egg on the dude’s lapel, “If your breakfast is ruined, sir, have one on me. This guy’s been pestering people for months.”

“Well— I didn’t mean to hurt him.”

“That’s all right. He’s been asking for it. But I’d advise you to hustle out of town, because he’s got friends.”

“I’m taking the next train out of here.”

The marshal patted Henry on the back. “Don’t be worried, son. I’ll keep an eye on him until you’re away safely.”

The locomotive spewed a heavy stream of black smoke as it pulled up to the station. Henry grabbed his valise and scooted aboard into the passenger car. The inside of the car was shabby and dingy. Henry sat down in an empty seat near the door and commenced to reading a dime novel called Gunfighter Dan and the Bandits. Soon a tall, pallid man came over and sat next to Henry. “Is this your first time out West?”

“Why, however did you know?”

The man guffawed. “It shows on you.”

“Oh. I didn’t know.”

“My name’s Dan Alcott.”

“Mine’s Ezekiel Smith,” lied Henry. “Pleased to meet you.” Henry and the pallid man shook hands.

“What are you planning to do out West?”

“Oh, I don’t know yet.”

“I hear tell,” said the pallid man, in an awed tone, “that there’s a gold mine in the hills. They’re selling stock in it.”


“Yeah.” The man called Dan Alcott rose and went back to his previous seat.

Bingo, thought Henry. I’ve made my first contact. He’ll tell the others and they’ll try to get me to buy some stock. When I figure out the identities of the complete gang, I’ll tell Gill, and we’ll round ‘em up.”

As he got off the train in Phoenix, Henry was met by an hombre who looked like he was simply a bag full of bones, with sharp corners sticking out here and there. “Say, dude, I got somethin’ for you.” He produced a yellow envelope and handed it to Henry. “That’s a map to a gold mine. I want you to have it ‘cause they’re after me. Meet me tonight at the livery stable with a horse.”

The man left Henry gawking, mouth open. Well, there was another contact. They would kidnap him tonight. He’d have to telegraph Gill.

That night Henry, clad in his dude cowboy clothes, stood outside the livery stable with Adolph. He fidgeted nervously. Yes, he had telegraphed Gill, but anything could go wrong. He would surely be killed if he was to be found out.

Henry was a walking arsenal. Besides the six-gun and saddle rifle any dude would be expected to carry, he carried a sheathed knife strapped to his shin and a revolver was strapped to the other shin. He had a smaller knife taped to his arm, and a derringer was in his boot. He certainly didn’t mean to be disarmed.

Presently, the stranger showed up. He was leading a big black horse. He tied the horse to a post and sauntered over to Henry. “You got the map?”

“Sure,” replied Henry.

“Look at it?”

“Why, yes!”

“Good. Let’s ride.”

They rode out of town in a northwesterly direction. After a while they dismounted and led their horses. Henry took every opportunity to leave an obvious trail. He hoped the other wouldn’t notice.

Daylight found the two men riding across the desert. They had become slightly haggard-looking. As the day progressed, the terrain began to change. The cacti at first were bigger, then scrawny pines began sprouting up. In the distance loomed the White Mountains.

They camped at the base of those mountains that night. Henry, still playing the part of the dude, left his saddle on his horse and lay down on the still-warm ground. The other man, who had said his name was Jed Harmon, guffawed. “Put your saddle on the ground and use it as a pillow.”

“Oh. I would have never thought of that!”

After Jed had fallen asleep, Henry built a large fire about a hundred yards away. “Well, this’ll show everyone where we are, including the Indians. I just hope the posse gets here first.”

Henry awoke the next morning with the cold steel of a rifle barrel pressed against his forehead. Opening his eyes, he saw an Apache behind the rifle. There were three more around Jed, who was still asleep. Henry acted swiftly. Batting the rifle aside, he kicked the Indian in the groin and leaped up, knife in hand. One quick thrust and the savage was dead. Yanking the knife out of the belly of the Indian, he flung it at the back of one of the Indians standing over the prostate form of Jed. The first hint the other Indians had of danger was the grunt made when the good but dead Apache fell over Jed. They turned, open-mouthed, raising their rifles. Two quick shots from the first Indian’s rifle silenced the other two forever.

Henry walked over to Jed and kicked him. “Get up, man!”

But Jed had gone to meet his maker.

Henry sat in the shade of a rock and napped until Gill and his deputies rode up. At the sight of the five bodies, Gill said, “Should we bury ‘em?”

“No. Leave them to the coyotes and the wolves and the vultures.”

“All right. What do we do now?”

“I’m goin’ on to the ‘gold mine’.”

“Be careful, ‘cause they may come back here to see.”

“All right. You’d better get movin’”

“I intend to. Well, adios.”

Henry rode off into the mountains. After a few hours ride, he came upon a lighted cabin. Pulling back into the shadows, he again waited for the posse. When it didn’t show up, he galloped his horse into the yard, screaming, “Help! Help!”

A man appeared in the doorway. “Hey, it’s that dude Jed was supposed to bring in in the mornin’!”

A voice rang out from inside the cabin. “Shut up, you fool! You want him to find out?” This was a venomous voice, but clear and fine-pitched.

Henry tried to get off his horse, and purposefully fell.

“Indians! They killed Jed. I was— I was sitting behind a rock. They jumped him and— and— killed him!”

A girl appeared in the doorway. “Get him in here!” She glared at him. “You’re lucky you weren’t killed, too! Jed was a damn fool, anyway. Serves him right.”

Henry entered the cabin. Inside were a table, a few chairs, and rough bunks. In the corner was a miniature arsenal, and in another, a stash of supplies. A pot-bellied stove glowed warmly in the center of the room. A man sat at the table, a pile of poker chips in front of him. “Play poker, kid?”

“Why, no sir.”

“It’s a pity. Siddown.”

Henry sat. “I’m sorry about that Jed. I was scared, so I ran. He’s— he’s lying there on the desert, with all those arrows sticking into him.”

“That’s OK. Janet, get this dude some grub.”

Henry ate, babbling like any green Easterner would. “My poppa said I could spend the summer here, so I came by stagecoach—”

“How old are you, kid?”

“Twenty-one,” lied Henry, who was twenty-four.

“Well, here is a letter I want you to sign.”

“Letter? Why sign a letter?” Henry read swiftly, a false look of surprise growing on his face. “You can’t do this! My poppa will give you the money. Just let me go! I’ll run away. I’ll—”

Henry Robbins, feeling the cold steel of a pistol in his side, stopped speaking. “All right,” he whined. “I didn’t mean it. I’ll sign.”

Before Henry could sign, a fusilade of shots broke out outside. Slugs spattered against the sturdy adobe of the cabin. Somewhere, a bullet ricoched into the night, whining.

The man, with one swift movement, pushed Henry to the floor and laid the cool steel of the barrel against Henry’s neck. The girl simultaneously extinguished the kerosene lamp.

There was scattered shooting for a few minutes, then a husky man broke through the door. “Bob,” he cried, addressing the man on the floor, “it’s a damned posse!”

A cold light glinted in Bob’s eyes. Before he could pull the trigger, however, Henry smashed him in the face with the heel of his hand. The man rolled over, stunned, and Henry kicked the girl in the stomach before she could draw her gun. With a flying tackle, he crumpled the man in the doorway, then, making doubly certain, stamped the gorilla’s face. He then grabbed the limp body of the girl and carried her outside, where the battle was still raging. As he fought his way to the scene of the battle, the girl revived. She groped for her gun, but Henry grabbed her slim hand, “Easy, honey.”

“You put me down!”

“OK. Henry unceremoniously dumped her on the ground. “How many men are there left?”

“None of your damned business!”

“If you say so.”

Henry contemplated the angry scowl, the pretty face, the blonde hair, and the slim figure. “Pleased to meet you. How did you come to join a gang like this?”

She frowned. “Why should I tell you?”

“No reason.”

“That kick hurt.”

“Not so much as a bullet from your gun would have hurt.”

“Well— OK. But if I get a chance, I’ll kill you.” Henry grabbed the girl and lifted her to her feet. The kiss that ensued was a long, hard one. In the middle of the kiss, the girl submitted.

Henry grinned. “Still going to try to kill me?”

“Just try me.”

Henry held her close. “You don’t act like an outlaw now.”

“I’m not an outlaw.”

“Oh? Well, you sure put on a good act.”

“It’s not that. I was kidnapped once, and they decided not to let me go. I mostly cook and clean up.”

“Haven’t you tried to escape?”

“Not really. I’d never make it back before they found me.”

A bullet plowed into the ground by Henry’s feet. With a start, they broke into a run. Dodging behind the nearest tree, Henry drew his gun and gave the girl hers.

A long silence began. Another of the two behind the tree moved. From the night came only silence. After a while, Henry said in a whisper, “Let’s get my horse and clear out of here.”

Half-walking, half-crawling to the place where Adolph was tied, Henry leaned on the horse and pulled the girl up behind him. Henry galloped the horse about a mile, then slowed down to a trot.

They stopped at the edge of the desert and waited for the posse. Dawn came, crisp and surly, and the day swiftly became hot. The posse didn’t show up.

Presently, a cloud of dust became visible in the far distance, near the peak of a mountain. Evidently the posse was chasing some of the men who had ran from the fight, thinking they had Henry in captivity.

But they didn’t. “We’d better get moving,” Henry said. “The outlaws will be after me, ‘cause they know the posse won’t be back for a week.”

“No sooner said than done,” said the girl, pointing to a cloud of dust coming from the cabin. “That’s them now.”

Sweat stood out on Adolph’s flanks after an hour of heavy riding. Henry slid off of the horse’s side, then helped the girl down. They clambered into a nest of rocks, leading Adolph as far as he could go. Then they sat behind a boulder and waited.

Presently, five horses came into sight. They were ridden by the two men Henry had bowled over, and three others. At the head of the procession was Ezekiel Masterson, the head outlaw.

The group stopped in front of the rocks where Henry and the girl were hidden. Masterson sent a man to the top of the rocks to look for the two. As the man trudged by the rock where they were hidden, a knife flashed out and struck him in the ribs. The man dropped without a sound. Masterson waited, then peered up into the rocks. He made no sound when the bullet tore through his left leg. He simply dropped to the ground, then rolled behind a cholla. Before he could yell, a second shot rang out, felling one of the other men. Yet a third shot rang out, killing a horse. A fourth ricoched from a rock. Then there was silence.

For a long time, the four remaining men lay where they were, scarcely moving. The day waxed hotter. Sweat poured from four bodies, but none moved. Presently, a band of horses were seen by the four. It was a Comanche war party of about twenty braves. Two bodies scattered to the shelter of the rocks. Henry and the girl held their fire. Better not to let the Indians know they were there.

But the Indians saw. They swiftly drew nearer, rifles cocked. On an off chance, none of the whites fired. When the Indians were within fifty yards, Masterson pulled a stick of dynamite from his shirt. With a deft wrist he lit it and threw it into the midst of the band. Instantly it exploded, bowling a number of braves over. Another stick followed. The surviving Indians were picked off by rifle fire.

Masterson whirled, pistol in hand, and leveled the gun at the rock where Henry was supposed to be. But Henry, who had moved, shot him through the head. Then he surprised the remaining man and arrested him.

Henry and the girl were locked in a passionate embrace when the posse rode up that night. Gill shook his head softly. “You always were a messy marshal.”

Henry grinned. “Why shouldn’t make a mess?” You have to clean it up?”

The lights in the theater flashed on. Henry kissed the girl as the words flashed across the screen:


The End