Against his better judgment, Joe thumbed back the hammer, let the ball fly and watched the young preacher die.
Then he saddled his pony and rode into the sun and that's how this chase was begun. Little Joe Talley, yer wanted for killing the last Baptist preacher in Apache Territory, the last decent clergy in the whole damn valley.
The lawman was absent when the town came unraveled. Marshal Mulhaney had a thing for the ladies. He was high on the mescal down on the border, courting his Mexican lovers. Marshal Mulhaney, yer shirking yer duty. Yer the last armed sentry in Apache Territory, last constabulary in the whole damn valley.
Allison Bentley was the town schoolteacher. She and this preacher were brother and sister. When the news had found her what Joe Talley had done, she stole her a horse and a gun. Allison Bentley, have you gone bloody crazy? Yer just a lowly schoolteacher in Apache Territory and the last pretty lady in the whole damn valley.
The next day in town, half blind and hungover, Marshal Mulhaney assembled his posse. He meant to kill Talley and catch Allison. You see, both he and Joe loved that woman. Marshal Mulhaney, yer King Bastard of many, abusing yer title in Apache Territory to kill yer last known rival in the whole damn valley.
They met under the desert moon in the mountains. Just like Joe planned it, they'd live lives of bandits. The preacher had sworn to tear them asunder. That's why Joe murdered her brother. Joe Talley, yer dreamin if yer thinkin yer leavin without a heap more killin in Apache Territory, it's yer last quiet evenin in the whole damn valley.
Marshal Mulhaney found their trail in the foothills. His Apache myrmidon knew just where they'd gone. Mulhaney took the shot from a lofty crop of rock. Joe slumped in his saddle and dropped. Allison Bentley, yer feelin so guilty, lost the last of yer family in Apache Territory, he's yer last loving memory of the whole damn valley.
Little Joe Talley sat bravely bleeding in the shadows of sunset, counting his bullets. She cried and she left him as he made her a promise, "Mulhaney won't live through this." Little Joe Talley, you come to yer ending, yer last act of vengeance on Apache Territory, yer last "good riddance" to the whole damn valley.
Allison Bentley had done what Joe told her. She rode for a mile dragging plunger and wire. When she saw through the glass both lawman and lover, she unleashed the dynamite's thunder. Marshal Mulhaney, yer pieces are many, on every promontory in Apache Territory. Joe, these mountains and hills are yer crematory...
This is the last love story from the whole damn valley.
Chrysalis, a growing collection of very short fiction.
Unless noted, all pics credited to Skitz O'Fuel.