Miss Cooper, Sheriff Pt. 1, a short story by KiwiDreamer. Date added: 2012-03-13. Times viewed: 1984.
- Please SEND FEEDBACK - Writers love hearing from you. You can view the Authors profile here
- Intro: Dressed in black came a pretty female gunslinger, the new sheriff, who cleaned up Larkspur and she left town a much happier woman.
Late afternoon on a drought-lingering day in the fall of 1878, the tight-lipped woman in black, Stetson hanging down her back, rode into Larkspur that until some years ago had been called Lang’s Junction, but fifteen years ago when lumber had been virtually cut out, the axe fell and the loss-making line to Lang’s junction that branched to continue in two directions into the hills was closed and the lines ripped up.
Angry citizens reacted by changing the name of the former railway construction town.
The rider hitched her black gelding outside the Green Brothers’ Silver Horseshoe Saloon, a hangout for drunks, town bullies and tough cowboys. The fact she didn’t loosen the saddle girth suggested she didn’t plan to stay long, or was forgetful or mean to her horse.
Jake Jackson, a club-foot and out-of-work 33-year old bachelor, who sat outside Ma Weaver’s soaps, oils and linen store most afternoons, clucked his tongue at the thought the woman might be mean to her horse.
It wasn’t clear to Jake why she was entering the Silver Horseshoe. She didn’t have the appearance of a whore. She was running the risk of being identified as an undesirable and could be thrown out of the saloon and over the boardwalk to land face down in dust and muck under the hitchin’ rail.
* * *
The gaunt woman strode up to the bar and said, “Whisky.”
The fat bartender in white shirt, paisley waistcoat and wearing a brown derby and white half-apron, appeared confused. He looked across to the bewhiskered Ben Green at the poker table who nodded and the bartender banged a glass in front of the woman and without speaking sloshed in the amber fluid.
The woman reached into a pocket under her black frock coat and tossed a 20 cent coin on to the bar that the bartender swept into the wide pocket of his apron.
Before she had time to lift the glass, a bearded guy with a prominent belly came up to the woman and said: “What’s your business here?”
“It’s my business.”
He tried again: “What’s your name?”
He yelled, “Sam Carter and I’m throwing you out on to the street. Women are not wanted here.”
As he moved closer, arms out-stretched to grab her, the woman pulled 5½-inch barrel Colt Single-action Army .45 with a white carved ivory grips and bully Carter’s eyes popped. He froze with the barrel of the gun pushing into his gut but his mouth still worked.
“I’ll come after you and kill you for embarrassing me like this,” he gritted.
All conversations and movement in the saloon ceased as everyone watched this little confrontation take an interesting twist. The travel weary woman had suddenly looked more alert and physical as if she were a gunfighter.
“Then perhaps this will slow you down,” drawled the woman, who stepped back and lifting her sixgun shot the objectionable Carter in his right shoulder. Carter fell to the ground yelling, blood seeping through his fingers holding his shattered shoulder.
The woman gulped down her whiskey and wiping her mouth with the back of her hand said, “If this town is as unfriendly as it is in this bar then I’ve made a mistake of coming here.”
There was no reply, no attempt made to object to this slander of the bar and town.
She walked out, spurs jingling and not looking back, as two men rushed to Carter’s aid.
“What job has she got here?” Hugh Cook, a storekeeper, asked the co-owner of the saloon and Ben Green said, “Well she sure ain’t going to work in here. That woman’s a menace. Get a bucket and clean up the floor Larry. Jed go fetch Doc Martin.”
Judge Billings walked in as the woman walked out.
“Did I hear a gunshot?”
Several men muttered yes.
He then saw the two men helping Sam Carter on to a chair.
“Who shot our jailer?”
Someone called out, “That woman you passed as you came in. She carries a bone-handle Colt.”
The judge laughed.
Richard Green called, “Share the joke Judge Billings.”
“Boys,” smiled the judge. “She’s a day early. That’s Miss Molly Cooper, our new sheriff, elected by the town board when our last sheriff after being two months in office when a well-directed lead missile punctured his chest at great speed and with devastating results.”
He looked at the startled faces around him.
“She was the only applicant who responded to the Town Board’s advertisement published in several newspapers seeking an experienced law enforcement officer. I think that was because other potential applicants were unable to read or write.”
The judge was noted for his wry humor and the guys laughed politely because Judge Billings carried a long barrel Colt Single Action Army M1873 revolver and had a tendency to bang the 7½ inch barrel against the head of anyone standing too close to him who annoyed or threatened him even mildly.
He continued, enjoying as always, being in the center of discussion.
“She was hired, sight unseen, in an exchange of letters conditionally with the proviso she had to prove she was tough. It seems to me she’s just accomplished that. I guess poor Sam Carter was lucky to be only maimed. Miss Cooper usually shoots anyone who threatens her in the gut and through the throat. I guess she spared Sam having been told that our town board chairman, Mrs Eva Parker, believes prayer is mightier than violence.”
Most of the people in the saloon listening, looked as if Judge Billings was talking gobbledygook
The Judge switched to words with a more familiar ring: “She’s sent to Boot Hill eleven men and one woman who drew on her and comes here after cleaning up the mining town of McElroy.”
The assembled motley lot didn’t know what to think although Ben Green, with his usual wit, raised a tension-easing laugh when he drawled, “If she draws that fancy gun on me she’ll get it shoved up her backside.”
“The Town Board should have advised us they intended hiring someone as our new sheriff who should be at home doing the washing and cleaning and cooking for her husband and their brood.”
Men nodded and snickered and nodded again when Ben Green, dealing greasy cards, said, “You know I know have the feeling that woman is not the type to wear an apron or get her hands dirty.”
Jake watched the woman come out of the bar in one piece and assumed she wasn’t the victim of the one-shot shooting.
Molly spotted him and walked over to Jake briskly and asked, “Good afternoon.”
“Who runs the best rooming house in town?”
“You mean Mrs Pike?”
“Are you deaf or just stupid?”
Jake tried to back-pedal into the back of the bench seat as the woman opened her coat wider and he saw the two holstered handguns.
“Don’t shoot me.”
“I don’t shoot people who are civil to me.”
Jake looked as if he half-believed her.
“Charlie Pike has never married. The bad-ass Catlin brothers opened a livery and horse sales depot next to Charlie’s smaller stables two years ago and cut prices until they ran Charlie near-broke. He sold his outfit to the Catlin’s and bought Ma Ross’s rooming house as she wished to head down to Arizona to let the drier air cure her tuberculosis.”
“Thanks,” she said and Jake told her where to find the rooming house.
She turned back to him and asked, “Why aren’t you sitting in the saloon with other vagrants?”
Jake scratched under an armpit.
“What’s a vagrant?”
“Yeah well I’m a bum. I can’t get a job because of my misshapen foot that I was born with. And I don’t go into the saloon because my parents are drunks and I don’t want to be like them. I was the horse groomer for Charlie but lost that job and the Catlin’s told me ride on out. I didn’t have a horse but knew what they meant. I earn a bit of money doing jobs that other people don’t want to do like removing horse shit off Main Street. I do that three nights a week.”
“So you do have a job?”
Jake sniffed and said, “You call that a job?”
Molly smiled and said she got his point but someone had to do it.
“Why doesn’t that bitch who runs the Town Board do it? I know why, it’s because she’s smart enough to say she’s a lawyer.”
“Who knows how to kick ass?”
Jake grinned and stood. “Come, I’ll take you to Charlie’s place and introduce you. I think he has a couple of spare rooms at present. I stack wood in his woodshed and stock the firewood boxes in the kitchen and dining room and lounge and in the boiler room in return for him giving me meals and a bed.”
Molly was walking along the boardwalk with Jake who walked quicker than she’d expected. Women moved out of his way as if expecting him to be contaminated with horse droppings while several men walked straight at him, expecting Jake to step out of their way, which he did.
One well-built guy aged about forty did that but also spat on Jake’s shirt when passing.
“Excuse me sir,” Molly called.
The guy wearing a sixgun turned and snarled, “What?”
“Please return and wipe your spit off my companion’s shirt.”
The guy emitted a belly laugh and said, “Go to hell lady.”
Molly turned fully and hitched back the front of her coat and said, “Perhaps you will reach hell faster than me mister.”
Mine boss Cliff Ross said, “Lady you need a bullet up your ass” and went for his gun. He looked in shock at the barrel of one of Molly’s guns pointing at his throat.
“How the hell did you manage to draw so fast?” he asked.
“It’s what I do sir. Now kindly wipe Jake’s shirt.”
Molly stepped up to him and hit him on the side of his face with her gun barrel.
Cliff staggered sideways, blood oozing.
“Does it or else get a bullet up your fat ass?”
A crowd had gathered and a woman called, “Be careful ma’am, you’re dealing with Cliff Ross.”
“Mr Ross is busy having a rethink,” Molly said, lowering her gun to point at the guy’s groin.
Without a word Cliff pulled out a handkerchief and walked forward and wiped the front of Jake’s shirt, even though Jake has brushed the spittle off with his hand.
“Thank you Mr Ross,” Molly said. “Now apologize.”
“I’m sorry I spat on your Jake. It won’t happen again.”
“Well done Mr Ross and now what to do with you. Are you repentant?”
“Are you now a threat to me?”
“I shouldn’t think so,” the big man said politely. “I’m not a vindictive person and tend to react less than perfectly at times. I don’t appreciate being hit with a gun barrel but you were right to react sharply to my disrespectful behavior. I haven’t seen you before. Are you passing through?”
“I shouldn’t think so. Good-day to you Mr Ross.”
Molly holstered her gun and she and Jake walked on.
“You took a risk turning your back to him,” he said and she replied that it was a risk she’d learned to assess.
“Thanks for taking him on,” Jake said. “But there was no need to do that. I’m a nobody.”
“Everyone is somebody Jake. You’d do well to remember that and to remember if you think of yourself as being bottom of the heap, that’s where you’ll stay.”
“You sure think a lot ma’am and you say things in an educated way I think.”
“I’m not a ma’am Jake, my name is Miss Cooper and you should call me that. You are correct to have figured I’m educated. I read law while serving as an apprentice to a prominent attorney in my home city when my parents were shot and killed by two intruders.”
Jake said aw that was sad.
“They were apprehended with two bags containing some of my parent’s treasured possessions but denied they had committed the robbery and shootings. They eventually appeared in court but the judge dismissed them on the grounds of insufficient evidence.”
“That night I came out of the house to investigate a noise and the two discharged suspects jumped me and hogtied me. Two neighbors watched this and then watched the offenders torch my parent’s house. The brothers went off laughing and the neighbors put out the fire and then released me and
provided to be good witnesses.”
“Two days later I borrowed a shotgun and holding the gun pointing down when I met the Wilson brothers on the sidewalk, I challenged them to draw on me. People around us scattered. Bart Wilson, the tougher brother laughed and told me to go to hell, that they would kill me before I managed to get one shot away. I said provocatively ‘Draw you yellow-belly asshole’. They both drew but were now very agitated and arrogant, whereas I was calm and firing from the hip I shot Bart and then Luke, both fatally.”
“I was arrested and in court next day the Judge accepted evidence from two prominent citizens who witnessed the gunfight that it had been a fair fight because I waited until both men had their guns clear of their holsters before I fired. I received a suspended jail sentence on a good behavior bond of six months. Of course I was fired from my legal job and was told I could never become a lawyer because of my serious conviction although I never went to jail.”
“God almighty, what did you do?”
“Well Jake, all my possessions were destroyed in that fire and I had to wait for probate before I would become entitled to sell the land. So I became a bum and finding some work like cleaning store windows and doing dishes at eating places when regular washers were away sick. Then one day Lefty Todd, the county Marshal, asked if I’d like to be trained to ride shotgun to protect visiting Federal dignitaries and senior State officers or when gold and paper money was being shifted around. And that’s how I began my career in wearing a badge.”
“Jesus Miss Cooper, the Larkspur & Territory Informer editor would like to hear your story.”
“Yes Jake but I’ll defer that until I get my job offer confirmed.”
Jake hesitated and then asked what job was that.
“I’m likely to be your town’s new sheriff.”
Jake was struck dumb after managing to squeak, “Jesus.”
Charlie Pike appeared to be a civil although not very talkative guy and said he had a couple of rooms available and took Molly to inspect them while Jake went off to begin filling firewood boxes.
“Jake told me you are to be our new sheriff. He’s kidding isn’t he?”
“Why’s that Charlie?”
“Well I could start by saying towns don’t have women sheriffs.”
Molly pulled out one of her handguns and gave it to Charlie to hold.
“Now this is a gun bus it’s too big for you,” he said.
“Well Charlie, are you aware this Army Colt is designed foremost for killing rather than personal protection and they arrived on general issue only fairly recently.”
“Just like female sheriffs,” Charlie grinned, handing back the gun barrel first.
“Yes but don’t expect to see as many female sheriffs as they are rare guns,” she laughed.
Charlie stroked his moustache. “I won’t insult you by saying a women’s place is… is not in a sheriff’s office. “Did you ride in?”
“Where’s your horse?”
“Outside the Silver Horseshoe. I’ll find a stable for him soon.”
“Don’t do that. I keep two horses and there’s a spare stall.”
“Okay and thanks. He’s gelded and answers to the name of Tango.”
“That’s a strong although strange name for a horse and makes him welcome in my stable.”
Charlie asked about her appointment and Molly said she was waiting for official word she was hired.
“Well once you are appointed I’ll have bars placed over your window and two bolts fitted to your door to ensure you sleep easy at nights. I suggest you take the ground floor room next to mine. Our guard dog sleeps outside my door and is a light sleeper.”
“Thanks Charlie. Are you a good cook?”
Charlie said stiffly he employed cooks and cleaning staff.
“Oh what do you do?”
“I don’t sit all day on my butt if that’s what you appear to be suggesting. We have twenty-eight rooms and someone has to be responsible for running the house, keeping up to scratch with maintenance, keeping residents and staff happy and ordering in supplies and getting rubbish carted away.”
“Oooh, busy man Charlie. I honestly wondered what you did and now accept there is much to do.”
“Now you look after yourself young lady. If a guy was to grab your arm like this and…”
“You were saying Charlie?”
The barrel of one of Molly’s guns pressing under his chin, Charlie sweated and pleaded, “Okay Miss Cooper. You have made your point loud and clear. I doubt any guy would have time to also grab your gun.”
“Um come through for a drink.”
“After I fetch my horse. I won’t be long.”
Riding back along Main Street, Molly spotted a guy molesting a young woman with three men and an older woman standing by and looking on helplessly. The big guy raised his fist and shouted, “You lying bitch, I feel like smacking you hard.”
Molly rode slightly more to the left to get a clean shot without the risk of hitting anyone else and from 25 yards out shot a groove along the top of the guy’s hat.
“My next shot goes into your belly if you don’t back off.”
The startled guy looked up and said, “It’s not what you think. This editor of the ‘Larkspur Informer’ has published lies that the stables operated by my brother and me…”
“Yes ma’am, I’m Joseph Catlin, the younger brother.”
“So what’s your gripe?”
“Miss Young published a front page article by her reporter who repeated allegations that their horses had been stolen from our stables and claimed the brothers Catlin had sold them and shipped them out.”
Molly asked, “Did you?”
“No ma’am but since that story published I checked on the small ranch leased by our night watchman and discovered the three horses stolen from our care, were grazing in a fenced off box canyon on his spread. I kicked his ass and brought him in and the deputy sheriff has him under lock and key. I have just returned with the horses and stabled them and accosted Miss Young. I demanded she apologize for publishing lies and now write the truth. She refused until she had confirming evidence that what I said was true.”
Molly nodded and said, “Fair enough.”
“Oh you think so? Well the newspaper found it acceptable to take the word and allegations of the three complainants without seeking confirming evidence. The reporter didn’t even come and talk to us.”
Molly agreed and said, “You make a good point.”
Miss Young said angrily, “We were nearing deadline when we went to press with that story and we checked with the sheriff’s office and the deputy confirmed three horses had been removed from the stables without the permission of the owners and those horses were unaccounted for.”
“Okay but it seems to be rather sloppy journalism Miss Young,” Molly said. “My concern is that Mr Catlin appeared about to strike you. Do you wish to have him taken in on a charge of molestation?”
“No he’s a bit of a hothead and actually he’s one of my suitors. He finds it difficult coping with females who stand up to him.”
“I know the point you are making,” Molly smiled. “So you don’t wish to lay a complaint?”
“No I do not.”
“Should I pistol whip him for you?”
“Oooh I’m tempted to say yes but no please don’t.”
“Mr Catlin please apologize to Miss Young and these other citizens who witnessed your outburst and your behavior may have alarmed then.”
“Very well, accept a bullet in the fleshy part of your butt instead.”
“Sarah, Mrs Parker and citizens. I apologize for my tough behavior and accept I could have broached the matter is a smarter manner. Um ma’am, who might you be?”
The woman standing in the original group said with authority, “She’s Miss Molly Cooper, who fifteen minutes ago was confirmed at a special meeting of the Town Board as our new sheriff.”
“Well she’s mean enough assed to be a sheriff,” Joseph Catlin grinned.
He walked off and Molly dismounted, leaving the reins dropped and Tango stood still.
Molly removed her right-hand riding glove and went up to the chairman of the Town Board and holding out that hand said, “I’m pleased to meet you Mrs Parker. I thought I was to be interviewed about the concern some of the board had about my toughness for the position?”
“Welcome Molly and the actual process we had in mind was a final assessment. Well Judge Billings came to me and described your handling of our belligerent jailer who threatened to kill you for embarrassing him in getting the drop on him when he tried to throw you out of the saloon. I called an emergency meeting of the board and invited the Judge to attend. After he explained how you handled that confrontation according witnesses who’d answered his questions, the board agreed unanimously to confirm your appointment forthwith.”
“Well that great news Mrs Parker and um I assure you that little incident at the tavern wasn’t pre-arranged.”
“I accept that and like the somewhat outburst by Mr Catlin we just witnessed, the idea that you pre-arranged them seems preposterous.”
“Not unless I was very foxy.”
“Unlikely,” Mrs Parker smiled. “Molly please meet my niece Sarah Young. She’s editor of the newspaper published by our extended family’s printing company. You are both the same age, thirty-six.”
Sarah smiled and as they shook hands she said, “I must interview you Sheriff Cooper. Lunch tomorrow at the Territory Hotel at noon?”
“That would be fine. You want something from me so you pay.”
Mrs Parker said, “At 9:00 tomorrow morning Molly please come to my office that’s behind me for your briefing. I estimate that will take the best part of three hours.”
Molly smiled and said, “Yes Mrs Parker. We have much to discuss.”
Molly rode home and as Charlie placed Tango in the spare stall, Charlie said, “Tango is tired. A long day I think. How long was he left outside the saloon in the sun?”
Molly’s ears burned as she said about three hours and heard Charlie’s tongue click disapprovingly.
“Take Meg the bay tomorrow and use her as your second horse because you’ll work long spells.”
“Thanks that’s very kind. Um that drink…?”
“Meet me in the resident’s lounge in fifteen minutes.”
* * *
The briefing next morning was detailed and tedious but Molly remained aware the chairman was a lawyer and lawyers thrived on detail because that’s how their minds were trained to work.
“So I just don’t shoot the gunmen and wife beaters and have them carted off?
“Molly please, this is a civilized community and please do not throw women being detained into the same confines in the jail as males.”
“Why not?” Molly asked impishly and regretted that because she received a lecture about impropriety that soaked up more time.”
Then Mrs Parker finally ran out of things to say and after answering three questions from Molly said, “Well now we’ll visit your office.”
“Sorry Mrs Parker, it’s almost 12:30. You are passed your allotted time. I’m late for my appointment with the Press.”
“You’re not more important than the Press Mrs Parker and neither is the Sheriff. You ought to know the pecking order of a civilized community. Good afternoon.”
Mrs Parker appeared unable to reply.
“Hi Sarah, call me Molly. I apologize for standing you up for half an hour.”
“That’s fine. I know my aunt can be …”
“Just how fast can you draw Sheriff?” called a gravely-voiced guy.
Molly spun around and Lester Bateman, a reformed gunfighter and now a fire-arms repairman looked at two barrels, one pointing steadily at his throat and the left-hand one pointing at his belly and Molly said lightly, “Bang, Bang.”
He flinched and other diners looked alarmed.
“Please sit and finish your meal in the company of your good lady sir.”
“Er yes Sheriff. Jesus I would have been dog meat.”
Diners laughed nervously.
“I’m Lester Bateman.”
“Oh Mrs Parker mentioned your name and that your arrangement to service our weapons comes up for review shortly. Is that Mrs Bateman with you?”
“It’s Miss Cooper or preferable Sheriff Cooper although I still have to go to the Courthouse to be sworn in. Mrs Bateman looks lovely and I admire the way she dresses. If a lady like Mrs Bateman felt comfortable about choosing you I’d feel comfortable about signing you on for another term as our gunsmith once I have checked on your workmanship and enquired about your reliability. If I take you on I stand over you while you work on my guns.”
“Yes Sheriff and it would be a pleasure to service those colts that jump out of your holsters faster than your hands could possibly move.”
Everyone including Molly laughed and Sarah scribbled furiously. Publication of the article she wrote that day began the legend of Miss Molly Cooper, Sheriff of the Town of Larkspur.
- Use for below to send feedback to author - View the Authors profile here
- The following form will send feedback to the author about this short story, please enter your e-mail if you wish a reply (which is obviously at the authors own discretion)