The River Bender: A Short Story

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If Duvall was still in town, Jake figured the outlaw’s indulgence for gambling, liquor, and women might provide a lead to his location. He’d been to five saloons already, and so far, no one recalled seeing him. Most saloons looked the same, but the broken chairs in the corner and the cracked mirror behind the bar made the River Bender the exception. The air stank of smoke and whiskey, and a vile looking spittoon sat low on the wooden floor. A potbellied bartender regarded him and took a step before booting the yellow cat stretched out in his path. Hissing, it escaped under one of the nearby tables. The man wiped his hands on a threadbare bar towel. “What’ll you have, mister?” His gut jiggled with each word he spoke. Jake threw a coin on the…show more content…
Homesteaders walked behind their covered wagons, keeping their children and animals nearby. Duvall staggered between the wagons, startling a four-horse team, before looking back from the far side of the street. With no clear shot, Jake ran after him. The outlaw crossed the bridge leading from the bluffs to the river, shouldering aside anyone unwilling to move out of his way. Angry men hollered and grabbed for the offender, but he kept moving. Ahead of him, a side-wheeled steamboat, the Scarlett Rose, cast off from the dock. Her passengers waved to another group on land, and amidst the laughing and goodbyes, the gunslinger shuffled up the plank, jumping aboard. He didn’t get far. A roustabout seized him, jostling his body backward from the deck. Duvall thrust a fistful of bills in his hand. The vessels’ steam whistle blasted. “Stop!” Jake skirted past the circle of well-wishers and hustled up the plank until he, too, jumped, but the steamboat picked up speed. He sank into the muddy river and like a shot, splashed to the surface. On the main deck, the outlaw swung around. Their expressions met. With a deep flourish, Duvall bowed. As his head rose, a smug smile lit his face, but it disappeared when another deckhand pinned his
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