Thursday, March 25, 2021

The Eighth Angel


Well, Pilgrim, I finally finished a Western.


Not a novel, and therein lies the rub. It’s a short story, and markets for Western short stories are harder to find than nuns in Deadwood. Rather than continuing to frustrate myself, and knowing I have half a dozen short crime pieces saved up that might well have outlets, I decided to give it away here on the blog in serial form. (What the hell. It worked for Andy Wier.)


In the spirit of the recent craze for anthologies based on songs, “The Eighth Angel” is inspired by the song “Seven Spanish Angels.” In a perfect world, the opening chapter would have been the lyrics, but the rights owners never responded to my request, so I’ll just include a link to the song  for everyone who reads it here. (Sorry about the ad.)


Here’s the intro. The rest of the story will play out over the weekend and into Monday. I hope you enjoy it. If you do, please feel free to forward the link.





The Mexican desert southwest of Juarez


The horse was done in. Maria was a small woman, but her horse fell lame miles ago. Asking Jaime’s to carry them both at speed proved too great a burden. Jaime looked over his shoulder toward Juarez. Saw the ball of dust that signified the approaching riders. A stand was possible if Jamie and Maria reached the small box canyon to the southwest before the riders overtook them.

The canyon was smaller than he’d hoped, with sides too steep to navigate on foot. He found the best spot he could, sacrificing what high ground he could obtain for a bit of cover. Not that it mattered much; the riders would see them wherever they were. Jaime walked the horse to a spot where it would be the first thing the riders saw in the hope of buying a few seconds of uncertainty. The spot he chose for them to stand would at least keep the sun in the riders’ eyes as much as possible in such a small, steep canyon.

Jaime checked the loads in his revolver. Spun the cylinder. Looked into Maria’s brown eyes. “Say a prayer for me, Maria.”

She threw her arms around him. Buried her face in his chest. “God will keep us free. The seven angels would not abandon us.”

They held each other a minute or two until Jaime heard the riders enter the canyon’s mouth. Held Maria at arm’s length to move her deeper into the shadow behind him. “Stay out of sight. They have no reason to harm you when it is over.”

Maria resisted. “We will leave together.”

Jaime shook his head. “This is my last fight. If they take me back to Texas it will not be alive.”

The riders paused when they noticed the horse. The leader saw Jaime first. He pointed and they all spurred their horses that direction. A hint of a smile touched Jaime’s lips. Arrogant gringos. They expected him to cower, approaching as they did. He took careful aim and shot the leader. The man lurched but maintained his mount.

The riders pull up to return fire. What tiny advantage Jaime had was due to the horsemen having to shoot from bright sunlight into the shadows where he stood in as much cover as was available. Lost even that when the riders took stock of the situation. They withdrew out of range to stand their horses and take aim. Four rifles against one pistol made for a short fight.

Maria counted each of Jaime’s shots. Waited for the smoke to clear and the riders to approach. When they were close enough she ran to Jaime took the pistol from his dead hand. She said a silent prayer for forgiveness as she aimed and cocked Jaime’s empty gun and let the rifles tear her to pieces.


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