Sarah Cawkwell, the renowned novelist, will be writing a series of short stories for Wild West Exodus. We couldn't be happier!
It's time to delve into the world of stories surrounding Wild West Exodus.
Are you sitting comfortably?
Because believe you me, you'll want to listen carefully...
“They say,” the man said as he leaned back on the back legs of the chair. The seat creaked alarmingly under his not-inconsiderable weight, but he didn’t seem to be bothered. “They say that Jack’s abroad.”
“You mean he’s in another country?”
The old man glowered from the first speaker to the other. “No, you damn fool, I don’t mean he’s in another country. Watch your lip. An’ you!” He pointed a long, thin finger at the second speaker who looked uncomfortable at this sudden recognition.
“I’m talkin’ about Broad Arrow Jack! He’s out and about. On the prowl, so to speak.” The chair tipped back a little further, defying gravity to step in and lend a hand. His audience were more enraptured by the precarious balancing act than they were by the content of his little tale. “An’ believe you me. You ain’t gonna wanna be there when he arrives. Why, the tales they tell of Broad Arrow Jack... better’n anythin’ any of you young ‘uns read in those hack rags of yours.”
“They ain’t hack rags, Caleb. They’re called Penny Dreadfuls.”
“Dreadful’s ‘bout right.” Old Caleb laughed, a hacking, wheezing sound that suggested his lungs weren’t entirely engaged in the process. Regardless of any respiratory issues, he put his old corn-cob pipe into his mouth and lit up the tobacco in the bowl. A cloud of sweet-smelling smoke rose up and briefly obscured him from everyone’s view. There was another ominous creak and then, much to everyone’s disappointment, the chair re-settled onto all four legs. “Load of ol’ nonsense, fillin’ your heads with made-up stories when there’s plenty in this world that’s more real.”
He shook the match out and dropped it on the floor. He leaned forward, his bony old elbows settling on the table. “Where was I?” Without really trying, Caleb had captivated his audience. A few others left their card tables and joined the group that was forming around the old story-teller.
“Broad Arrow Jack.” A new voice joined the chorus; deep and resonant. The kind of voice that was so often described as ‘chocolate brown’. “You were going to tell us all about him.” Caleb waved the pipe around expansively as he continued.
“Aye, that’s right. Beast of a man he is. Huge. Head and shoulders above the average man, so they say, with shoulders wider than anythin’ you ever did see. Goes half-naked most the time, showin’ off a life of scars. Wears ‘em as proud as any soldier would wear a medal on his chest. An’ he’s a cold-blooded killer. But the ladies, so they say, love a bad boy.” The old man chuckled and spat up a wad of phlegm. “An’ they don’t come much badder. That’s the truth.”
“You have stories?” The younger members of the audience were ever-eager for tales of adventure, heroism and derring-do.
“Sure I have stories. You got the time, the inclination and, say, the ability to fill Ol’ Caleb’s glass a few times, I’ll be glad to tell ‘em. I can tell you things that’d curl your hair!”
A bottle of bourbon was slammed down on to the table and a huge, broad-chested figure took a seat opposite the old story-teller. Caleb looked up into the face of a cold-blooded killer and let his rheumy eyes trail down a body so scarred and damaged that it was hard to drag your attention away from it.
“Reckon at your prices, that this will keep us entertained for a while, old man,” said Broad Arrow Jack. “Start talking.” His smile was slow and casual, his eyes assessed Caleb like a predator consider its prey.
“Because believe you me, I’m listening.”