Thursday, February 18, 2016

In honor of the death of John H. Tunstall, who died today at 5:30pm MST, in what is now Tinnie, NM, I give you a snippet from my short story, The Curse of Scáthach, that takes you through his murder that fateful evening...

For more about what lead up to this and what happens next, tune in to the Facebook page for the full novel version of this short, entitled, The Curse of Billy the Kid.


P.S. You can leave virtual flowers at Tunstall's online gravesite by going HERE.


February 18, 1878

The thunderous echo of approaching horsemen interrupted the leisurely quiet of the canyon. Gunfire erupted behind Middleton and me, so we spun about to see a large posse of Dolan’s men on horseback comin’ at us, guns a’blazin’. Looking ahead, for we were at the back of the travelin’ party, I noted the other three of our group had just gone over the brow of the next hill. They couldn’t see the trouble comin’ our way.

“Hey-ah!” I yelled, slammin’ my heels into my horse’s sides. We raced through the newly fallen snow, past the horses we were movin’ to town, and toward Brewer, Widenmann, and our boss, John Tunstall. We needed to warn them.

Once over the hill, we noted that Widenmann and Brewer were off the trail to the left a ways. Making a split second decision, I rode toward them and Middleton headed to warn Tunstall.

As I rode I heard Middleton shout, “For God’s sake, follow me!”

As I came up on Brewer, Widenmann yelled out, “We can’t hold this place! Let’s ride to the hill over there and make a stand!”

With no time to argue, we rode toward an area covered with tall timber and large boulders, and I assumed Middleton and Tunstall were right behind us. Yet, as Middleton joined us, he was alone.

“Where’s Tunstall?” I said, panic squeezing my chest tight.

John Tunstall was the one they were after. Jimmy Dolan was out for blood ever since John posted that letter in the Mesilla Valley Independent, exposing Dolan and his pals as the real crooks of Lincoln County.

Middleton spoke up. “I yelled for him to follow. He rode in a circle and I motioned him to follow me. As soon as he started toward me I headed here. Maybe he didn’t hear me?”

“Or he didn’t want to hear you,” I clarified, “Damn it, John, you can’t talk your way out of this one!”

“What?” Middleton asked.

“Not you, the other John. We really need to give you a new first name,” I said before looking to Tunstall’s Cattle Foreman, Richard “Dick” Brewer. “Tunstall thinks he can surrender and fight this in court.”

“Dodgasted! They’ll kill him, Will,” Dick replied, his voice strained and his eyes filled with worry.

“Let’s lay down some cover fire and get him outta there!” Rob Widenmann, Tunstall’s best friend, suggested.

Dick’s eyes swiftly scanned the area, which was no more than vast, unsettled land, filled with nothin’ but brush and trees surrounded by mountains covered in snow. We were well hidden, but that caused another problem.

“Will, you’re the smallest. Can you climb?”

I nodded, dismounted, and reluctantly handed the reins to Middleton. I’d have preferred to ride out there and take a shot at them myself, but I understood what Brewer was aimin’ for. Besides, at five-foot-eight and only a hundred and thirty-five pounds, I was the best option for giving us eyes to what was goin’ on the other side of the hill.

Spotting a good tree, I started up. Halfway there, an eerie silence filled my ears like water and a rifle shot echoed off the canyon walls. I came to a halt as dread slammed into my gut.

“Oh, God,” Middleton said, “They’ve killed Tunstall.”

I prayed he was wrong and scaled the tree as fast as I could. Once high enough, the scene before me froze the air in my lungs. John Tunstall, a man I looked up to, lay on the ground next to his horse, not moving, his left cheek buried in the snow.

The group of twenty or so men had now split into three sections. Most were back a few hundred yards while four men rounded up our small herd of horses, leaving just three men on horseback looming over John’s body. I recognized them as Billy “Buck” Morton, Tom Hill, and the dangerous outlaw I used to ride with, Jessie Evans.

Buck Morton’s rifle was still in firing position as Hill dismounted, snatched up Tunstall’s revolver, and fired a bullet into John’s head before killing his horse the same way. He then placed John’s hat on the dead horse’s head and remounted as Morton shouted orders to his men who rounded up our horses.

Eyes wide and jaw clenched, my soul felt cold to the core while my blood was as hot as a smithy’s furnace. Drenched in a need for revenge, I shook with rage, gripping the tree with all my might to keep me from grabbin’ my gun then and there. I was on the brink of losin’ it, when Brewer appeared below me. He wanted answers I didn’t want to give.

Swallowing the pain, I climbed down and gave the news. Widenmann went off his rocker. It took both Brewer and Middleton to stop him from ridin’ out there and gettin’ himself killed.

“There’s too many,” I told him as the other two held him tight. “You know me. I’m the first to jump into the fray, Rob, but now ain’t the time. Not if we want to live to see them bastards pay.”

Since Dolan’s men had moved Tunstall and his horse somewhere none of us saw, we waited for the safety the dark of night provided, and then rode for town. Widenmann had Brewer and Middleton divert to John Newcomb’s farm to get help finding Tunstall’s body while he and I headed straight to Lincoln.

 The whole ride I tried not to think on how I’d left John’s dead body lying in the snow somewhere. I may not have had much in common with the twenty-four year old British businessman, but I respected him, and I didn’t think highly of many people.

Since my momma died and my stepfather abandoned me and my brother, I’d not felt a part of anything. On the run and alone, I’d been unable to find where I belonged until John had gotten me out of jail and given me a job. He’d believed in me and given me the family I desperately needed. For that alone, I vowed that anyone involved in his murder would die at my hand.

------------------Read more of the short story by going to my WEBSITE, clicking on The Curse of Scáthach, and buying it for 99c on the site of your choice. OR...go LIKE the fan page for the book and get a FREE copy tomorrow in honor of Dick Brewer's heavenly birthday if the page reaches 100 Likes! :) ------------------