Last Hope of Diablo City by Mark Enlow

Willie ‘Noose’ Rhoedon was astonished and looked twice at the man stepping out of the Sheriff’s Office as his horse plodded into dusty Diablo City. He had brought an end to that man, Sheriff Clayton, a year ago this very day. He was sure of it; he’d shot him six times!

No! That fool sheriff is dead! He thought.

Willie muttered under his breath, “I’ll tear down any wanted poster of me outside the sheriff’s office, then I’ll follow him. He’s gonna be done with!”

I have my reputation to consider! Noose thought. Most folks say, ‘Noose never let no bad deed of his get undone.’

He hitched his horse outside the saloon and watched Sheriff Clayton enter the General Store. Noose followed him in.

“Lady, the man that just come in here, where’d he get off to?” Noose asked, giving the store an eye squinting scan.

Mrs. Percy peered over her wired-rimmed spectacles. “Sir, if you are referring to Sheriff Samuel Clayton, he’s in the back room visiting with my son Walter, who’s wheelchair bound. Mind you, he comes around ‘bout this time each day to fetch my boy for a walk. He’s one of a kind, that sheriff. He’s an angel, you know?”

 “I aim to make him one, Lady! Now call him out!” Noose rubbed his thumb on the hammer of his holstered six-shooter.

“What?” she demanded. “Oh, never mind. Have a seat in the waiting chair and I’ll fetch him,” she answered.

She eyed Noose as he plopped down in the chair and fidgeted, then she slipped into the back room.

“What’s taken so long?” Noose called out.

He listened, only to hear the ticking of the store’s clock. “Bet she’s tipped him off,” he muttered. He jumped up and hustled out the front door.

He made his way down the street before the store’s door chime could stop ringing. Leaning up against the livery stable’s frontage, he kept a vigil for the sheriff.

Bo Parker, the blacksmith, stepped out of the livery stable’s door, took one look at Noose and asked, “Can I help you with anything, Mister?”

Ignoring the blacksmith, Noose just patted his gun holster.

“Mister, did ‘cha hear me?” Bo said louder.

“Waitin’ for Sheriff Clayton.” Noose answered without looking at Bo, his gaze fixed on the General Store’s entrance.

“Mister…” Bo stammered. “That man you’re looking for only needs a good kind of following, I’d say. Why… he comes by here all the time just to talk to me ever since my missus passed.” 

Noose laughed. “Oh, horse manure,” he said under his breath.

“Pardon me, Mister? What did you say?” Bo asked.

Noose spat a wad of tobacco on the ground, turned and squinted at Bo. “Thought’ cha might like a little company, but I’ll be leaving now. The sheriff just left the General Store.”

“Mister, did you hear me?” Bo asked. “Sheriff Clayton is Diablo City’s last spirit of hope for a peaceful place.”

Noose grunted and walked off, following Sheriff Clayton towards the town’s church.

As Noose walked, he said under his breath, “I still can’t believe I’m following a spirit. This is taking away from my saloon time, but he needs killin’ again!”

He followed the sheriff through the church’s double doors, looked around the chapel, and saw no one except Pastor Smith.

“Hey you! Are you what they call a preacher man?” Noose inquired.

“I’m Pastor Smith. How can I help you, my son?”

“I ain’t no son!” Noose replied. “Especially your son! Don’t be callin’ me one neither. Name’s Noose. Answer me one question! Did you see the sheriff come through here?”

“He did,” the pastor answered. “Dropped off a new shiny chalice and some candles. Ordered the chalice himself from the General Store. That man has grown wings. Bless his soul!”

Noose grunted and tapped the grip of his holstered gun. “Well… where’d he go, preacher man?”

“He did,” the pastor answered. “Dropped off a new shiny chalice and some candles. Ordered the chalice himself from the General Store. That man has grown wings. Bless his soul!”

Noose grunted and tapped the grip of his holstered gun. “Well… where’d he go, preacher man?”

“He left out the back door, said he had a burying to do at the cemetery, Boot Hill. It’s just up the hill a piece, behind the church.”

Noose spat some tobacco juice on the church’s wood-planked floor. He eyed the pastor, then brushed past him as he hurried towards the back hallway.

Noose came strutting back from the church’s back hallway, his face flushed red with anger.

“You lied, preacher man! Ain’t no back door! Now tell me where he is!” 

“Listen, Noose,” Pastor Smith tried to explain in a calming manner. “When I say he passed through the back door, I meant that he’s gone—passed away. It’s just an expression I use.”

“Is that right, preacher?” Noose asked, narrowing his eyes and tapping his holster. “Well, how you like to ‘pass through the back door,’ too?”

“The sheriff is up yonder on Boot Hill,” the pastor implored. “Go up there and you’ll find him.”

“And if I don’t find him, Preacher… I’ll be back to find you!” Noose spat another stream of tobacco juice, frowned at the pastor, turned, and walked out.

Pastor Smith followed and watched Noose disappear up the hill. He kept a vigil on that hill past sunset.

“Strange thing,” he whispered to the wind. “Noose never came back down off that hill.”


Days later, Pastor Smith noted he hadn’t seen Sheriff Clayton out and about anymore, nor had anyone else in town.

The pastor travels up the hill to visit Sheriff Samuel Clayton’s resting place often. Over time, he chiseled an inscription on the sheriff’s marker, the one with the flying angel on top. It reads:

‘Let it be known, this brave and noble lawman       

gave his life so others may live in peace.’

As he turns to leave after each visit, he passes by an old oak tree with an unmarked grave beneath it. His eyes follow the massive trunk upwards to a large lower limb, where a tattered noose swings in the wind. Sadness overcomes him momentarily, until his eyes focus back down the hill on the little town of Diablo, a town grateful to be restored to peace and hope.

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