Skeeter Bill by W.C. Tuttle
Skeeter Bill is a horse-thief. An honest one, but a horse-thief, nonetheless. He and his pardner, an old, washed up, drunken Judge, somehow manage to clean up a mining town run by outlaws.
Skeeter Bill is a horse-thief. An honest one, but a horse-thief, nonetheless. Ask him. He’ll tell you so himself. He and his pardner, an old, washed up, drunken Judge, somehow manage to clean up a mining town run by outlaws. Two novelettes of how to turn a spark into a flame.
The Spark of Skeeter Bill (1922) – The horse-thief who would not lie.
A novelette of eleven chapters.
Flames of the Storm (1922) – The cattle country — a sheep-herder up against it.
A novelette length story.
W. C. Tuttle (1883-1969) was born in Montana. He wrote more than 1000 magazine stories and dozens of novels, almost all of which were westerns. He wrote at least five or six series, but his best known one featured Hashknife Hartley and Sleepy Stevens, two wandering cowboys who served as unofficial detectives solving crimes on the ranches where they worked. Tuttle was also a screenwriter, and he wrote for 52 films between 1915 and 1945.
Skeeter Bill contains 5 illustrations.
Excerpt: The Spark of Skeeter Bill
“SKEETER BILL” SARG stopped at the door of his tar-paper and lath shack and looked back at the street. Skeeter was cranelike in his proportions, his long legs were slightly bowed and his skinny hands hung well below his thighs. He was one of those solemn-looking individuals whose faces appear on the verge of either laughter or tears.
Just now he seemed undetermined. He rubbed a skinny hand across his chin, spoke softly to himself and went into the house. It was a small shack. A broken mirror hung crookedly from the wall, a broken-top table was littered with dirty dishes. On a bunk, built into a corner of the room, sat a man of undeterminate age. His face was frowsy with gray stubble, his gray hair straggling down over his ears and turning up from his collar at the back of his neck.
The man was of powerful frame, but whisky and the lack of ambition had turned him into a gross, greasy figure, bellied and jowled like a hog. In his hands he held a worn volume. Across the bridge of his nose rested a pair of steel-bowed spectacles, one of the lenses missing.
Skeeter shut the door carefully and sat down on a broken chair. The fat man looked at Skeeter, squinting one eye shut and looking through the empty circle of steel.
“What cheer, Skeeter?” The fat man’s voice was well modulated, although husky from continual libations.
Skeeter shifted his cartridge-belt to bring the holstered gun across his lap. He rolled a cigaret slowly and thoughtfully before he replied.
“I killed Jeff Billings a while ago, judge.”
Judge Tareyton closed his book softly and removed his glasses. He polished the lenses with a once-clean handkerchief, unmindful of the fact that one lens was missing. He replaced them, polished to his satisfaction, astride his nose.
“Killed Jeff Billings, eh? A pity and still a blessing, Skeeter Bill. It has been brought to my notice that Billings was very instantaneous with a gun. My congratulations.”
“It was a even break,” said Skeeter slowly.
“Brought about, no doubt, by what was done last night.”
“He lied,” said Skeeter simply.
“Yes,” nodded the judge. “Yes, he would do that. I fear that Mr. Billings was a dishonest horse-thief. Mr. Leeds will be very much annoyed, Skeeter Bill.”
Skeeter nodded and reached for his tobacco. Came a tap on the door. Skeeter dropped his hand to his lap and turned to face the door.
“Come in,” called the judge.
The door opened, disclosing a scar-faced cowboy with one empty eye-socket. He squinted at Skeeter for a moment and then:
“Leeds wants to see yuh, Sarg. He’s in his room now.”
“All right, Mears,” said Skeeter, getting slowly to his feet. “I’ll go with yuh.”
NO ONE seemed to know why this town was called Sunbeam. It was located on the summit of Cholo Pass, on the old trail to Ophir. A year before there had been nothing but a log-cabin; but gold had been found in the gulches — gold in abundance. Like magic had sprung the town — a town of false-fronted saloons, gambling-houses, honkatonks.
The old pack-trail became a deep rutted road, over which toiled freighters, gold-seekers and the riffraff which infest a place where money comes easy.
Men sang and fought as men always sing and fight, where riches come without the mark of the mint. Twenty miles away was the cow-country, sans cowpunchers, for the chaps-clad sons of the range were rubbing elbows with prospectors in a frenzied search for gold.
But the song of gold reached beyond, and caravans of treasure-hunters, like the Argonauts of old, headed for the fabled land of Sunbeam. New ground was opened every day and men who had never earned better than a dollar a day now bought chips at a hundred dollars a throw and laughed derisively when it was swept away.
Into this country came the “Sticky-Rope” gang, a crew of cattle-rustlers who had lately transferred their affections to “lifting” horses and gold shipments. “Tug” Leeds controlled this gang, planning the coups, disposing of the stolen stock.
Skeeter Bill Sarg joined this gang. Skeeter’s reputation had preceded him, and Leeds was glad to add him to the crew. Leeds had planned to steal the clean-up from the Solomon Mine, which turned out as planned, except that “Kid” Sisler and “Blondy” Jones, two of the gang, had been killed. Skeeter got no split of the gold, but narrowly escaped being killed when two shots were fired at him in the dark.
A hue and cry had been raised over the robbery. The Solomon men swore that it amounted to twenty thousand dollars, but Jeff Billings, Leeds’ right-hand man, swore that the sacks only contained black sand. The Sticky-Ropes had been hoaxed. Skeeter did not believe this; he believed that Leeds and Billings had double-crossed him after trying to kill him.
Skeeter and Billy Mears crossed the street and went into the Panhandle Saloon, the headquarters of Tug Leeds. Men looked at Skeeter, but made no remarks. The whole town knew that Skeeter had killed Jeff Billings in a fair draw, and Billings was reputed to be as swift and deadly as a rattler.
Mears stopped at the bar, but Skeeter went through the crowd and up to the door of a rear room, where he knocked once and stepped inside.
The room was evidently part office, part bedroom. In the center was a heavy table. The walls were covered with sporting pictures, cut from a well-known yellow weekly. In one corner stood a rumpled bed, with clothing hanging to the foot-posts.
Sitting at the table was a big, black-bearded man. His hard, pig-like eyes wee barely visible through the surrounding puffiness at the bottom and the heavy thatched brows above. His nose flared at the nostrils, hinting of negro blood, and his thick lips appeared swollen and cracked.
As Skeeter came in, Leeds got to his feet, disclosing the fact that his trousers were too small around the waist, and one would expect momentarily to hear the snap of a defeated button or the ripping of overwrought woolen.
Leeds glanced down at the Colt pistol on the table top and then at Skeeter, who was watching narrowly. To Sarg, Tug Leeds was merely a fat animal. He wondered why men obeyed Leeds — feared him. Sarg did not fear Leeds. In fact, Skeeter Bill Sarg feared no man. Leeds did not know this, for to him, Sarg was merely a rebellious hired-man. Leeds removed a half-chewed cigar from his lips.
“You shot Jeff Billings?”
Skeeter nodded indifferently.”
“Why?” Leeds spat the question, as he leaned across the table, shoving his set jaw close to Skeeter’s face. But Skeeter merely smiled and replied softly—
“Lied?” gasped Leeds.
It was preposterous. Leeds gawped around the room, as if asking the inanimate sporting celebrities to make note of such a foolish reason. His eyes came back to Skeeter.
“You killed him because he lied?”
Leeds chewed viciously on his cigar, studying the lanky cowpuncher.
“What did he lie about, Sarg?”
“You ought to know,” meaningly. “You told him what to say, Leeds.”
Leeds’ face flushed purple and his hand twitched toward the gun on the table, but stopped. Skeeter was watching that hand, a half-smile on his lips.
“Go ahead,” grinned Skeeter. “Yo’re old enough to know what yuh want to do with yo’re own skin.”
Excerpt From: W.C. Tuttle. “Skeeter Bill”
More by W.C. Tuttle