May 5, 1876
Approximately Four Years Before the West Was Zombed.
“It’s not too late, law man. Just let me go and you won’t have to die.”
Seth Bullock, the young handsome sheriff of Lewis and Clark County, had been trying to get some shut-eye all night, but the prisoner in the cage in the back corner of his office wouldn’t allow it.
“You hear me, tin horn?” the prisoner asked. “My boys are coming for you.”
Bullock leaned back in his chair, threw his feet up on his desk, and tipped his hat over his eyes.
“You know Bullock when I shot at you, it wasn’t personal.”
“Whatever you say, Clell.”
“Nope,” Bullock said from underneath his hat. “You just decided it was more important to you that I die than you give up that horse you were rustling.”
“Just business,” Clell said. “Your shoulder still hurt?”
“Only when I do anything,” Bullock replied.
“Shit,” Clell said. “I’m sorry. But you think your shoulder is worth my life?”
Bullock took his feet off the desk and let his chair plop down. He brushed his hand through his brown hair then put his hat on.
The Sheriff looked over at his prisoner. Clell Watson’s eyes were bloodshot. His face was haggard as he hadn’t slept for days. Even criminals have worries.
“Verdict’s been rendered,” Bullock said. “Nothing personal.”
“God damn, Seth Bullock,” Clell said. “You got some big brass clackers I’ll give you that.”
The voices of angry men traveled from the street, through the air, and into Bullock’s ears. The Sheriff stood up, pulled his suspenders over his shoulders then stepped out onto the front porch of his office.
A dozen men were marching Bullock’s way, lighting up the night sky with blazing torches. Leading up the mob was Floyd Larson, the leader of a gang of rustlers who’d been pinching horses and cattle all over the Northwest.
“Sheriff!” Floyd shouted as he and his flunkies reached the office. “I’m calling you out!”
Bullock scoffed. If Floyd’s bellowing was supposed to scare him, it clearly wasn’t. “Go home Floyd.”
“Send out Clell and I will,” Floyd said.
“Can’t,” Bullock said. “He’s got a date with the hangman at dawn. The judge has spoken.”
Floyd’s face was grizzled. Leathery from too much time in the sun. And he had the kind of miserable voice that could cut through a man’s soul if he had to listen to it for too long.
“Thirteen versus one, Bullock,” Floyd said. “The odds aren’t in your favor. Let him go and we’ll let you live. Fuck around for much longer and we’ll skin you alive and take him anyway.”
“Aw son of a bitch,” Bullock said. “Well, when you put it that way.”
Bullock started for the door then stopped to look back at Floyd. “You promise if I bring him out, you won’t hurt me?”
“You’ve got my word,” Floyd said.
“God damn it. Hold on.”
Bullock retreated back into his office. Floyd and his boys chuckled and traded jokes about the sheriff’s manliness, implying that he was a pussy, a pansy, a wimp and so on.
A few minutes later, Bullock emerged from his office, but Clell wasn’t free. Rather, he had a gag in his mouth, a noose around his neck, and Bullock’s left hand on his shoulder, pushing him down the porch steps.
In Bullock’s right hand? One big ass double-barreled shotgun.
“What are you doing, Bullock?!” Floyd shouted.
“Get back!” Bullock flailed the shotgun around, making sure everyone of Floyd’s lackies got a good look at it. “First one to try anything loses his head.”
“We had a deal!” Floyd shouted.
“Fuck you and your deal,” Bullock replied. “All you did was move this shit heel’s hanging up six hours.”
Bullock moved the shotgun to his left hand, then took the noose off of Clell. Hanging from the side of the building was a metal pole that held a sign that read, “Seth Bullock: County Sherif.”
Said sheriff twirled the noose around in the air over his head three times then let it fly over the sign and watched it fall back down to the ground.
Floyd and his boys were restless. They kept looking for their opportunity. Bullock knew the second he let that shotgun drop an inch, they’d rush him. He wasn’t going to let that happen.
With the shotgun still pointed at the mob, Bullock put the noose back around Clell’s neck.
“Clell Watson,” Bullock said. “For the crimes of horse theft and shooting an officer of the law, you have been sentenced to death by hanging. Do you have any last words?”
Bullock removed Clell’s gag.
“Fuck your mother.”
“That was lovely,” Bullock said.
“Come on you fucking women!” Clell shouted. “Jump him! He can’t shoot all of you!”
Floyd was vexed. “Yeah but…he’ll shoot someone.”
Bullock grabbed the other end of the rope and pulled until Clell’s feet were dangling in the air. The prisoner’s eyes bugged out of his head as his face turned purple.
“Fuck…gack…fuck you, Floyd! So fucking…stupid!”
“Jesus Christ, Bullock,” Floyd said. “You could have just shot him and run out the back door.”
“Yeah,” Bullock said. “But what point would that have proved?”
Bullock whistled to signal Abner, his well-trained, intensely loyal horse. It took less than a minute for his loyal steed to gallop up to his owner from around back.
“You’re a dead man, Bullock,” Floyd warned. “A dead man!”
Bullock kept a tight grip on that rope, and an even tighter grip on that shotgun until Clell gasped his last breathe. Ever the professional, Bullock opted not to allow Clell to drop to the ground with a thud but rather, lowered the horse thief slowly until his body was on the ground.
The sheriff pointed his shotgun at the mob and mounted his horse.
“You just signed your own death warrant,” Floyd said. “I hope it was worth it.”
Bullock kept his shotgun pointed at the rabble. He kicked his spurs against Abner’s sides and his steed began to trot down the road.
“You know what?” Bullock asked. “It was.”