The Starshine Kid: Arroyo Grande
Part 1 of 20
Silhouetted tall and lean against the scorching desert’s rising heat waves like an ancient weatherworn saguaro cactus, the Starshine Kid slowly ambled back into town and entered his lonesome office, passing one of the most popular saloons along the way. He had never taken the time to frequent any of the local alcoholic infested saloons. Watching folks snuggle up to bottle after bottle of whiskey just to take the edge off of life was not his preferred cup of tea.
How he ever came to be known as the Starshine Kid, he never knew. Rumors concerning the title’s origin ranged farther than straying cattle before an overdue roundup. Somewhere between how his teeth glistened under the stars on a clear, cool summer’s night, to how he had mortally mistaken the twinkling shimmer of a U.S. Marshal’s sunlit badge for an outlaw’s blazing pistol’s discharge, laid the coffin-cold truth. Nobody, let alone him, cared about the why of it all. But now his days of obscurity drew to their predictable end, for he had been… discovered.
Taking a Small Town’s County Sheriff’s job in a desert hole-in-the-ground of a town had not proven to be the great decision he had so erroneously believed it was. This time, however, it was not a careless and corrupt U.S. Marshal wearing a twinkling badge in the wrong place at the wrong or right time that perplexed him; it was the notoriously reputed outlaw known as ‘Juárez’.
Half Seminole, half Mexican, this every-man’s nightmare was not the type of individual anyone of sound, or even unsound mind, wished to have searching for them. He bore a scar across his weathered face from the top of his piercingly evil right eye down to his scarred crooked chin, though half Seminole and thus a member of the Five Civilized Tribes, there was nothing civilized about this cold, soulless gun for hire. He could seal his prey’s fate faster and tighter than any iron coffin nail.
Juárez was a tricky and formidable foe. The Starshine Kid, a.k.a. Adam Henry King, had tracked the outlaw over half of the state. His foe’s horse left distinguishable tracks. It dragged its rear left hoof slightly as it walked. Juárez had even attempted to deceive the sheriff near a rock bluff some fifty miles to the south by walking backwards for an incredible distance around the expanse, but the Starshine Kid immediately noticed that the outlaw’s shoe pattern did not possess the normal push off with the ball of the foot. The pattern also contained a slight roll to it where Juárez’s boot heal sank down into the soil due to the weight increasing as he leaned back to step behind him. The gait was also slightly shorter than Juárez normally strode.
As the Starshine Kid entered his Sheriff’s office he looked down at a piece of paper someone had slipped under his door during his absence; it lay there in obscurity, almost as alone as he always felt. He picked it up and read, ‘The Old Livery – out back – High Noon. Juárez.’
What ‘High Noon’ meant he could never fathom. Noon was always at the same time, never sooner, never later. It was not determined by the ever-changing position of the sun shining over the horizon.
High noon… sounds like a bunch of that sissy poetic stuff to me, he thought. Starshine never relished in the fine arts. Life was just too serious, too tough and too short for sampling any of those types of pleasures.
As the Kid approached the old livery he tried to think who may have hired such a colorful adversary, but he could only feebly attempt to imagine who those would not employ such a man as Juárez. He had many enemies, both law-abiding and not. He had burnt many bridges and broken many a damsel’s heart. Time was catching up to him he felt. Time… that encroaching entity that creeps up on a man as he ages and numbers his final days, days that become short and fast with their passing, Starshine wondered if he was now the pursued.
He caught a whiff of desert sagebrush and fresh cut hay, two smells he loved. Ever since his youthful days on long cattle drives he had learned to appreciate the natural splendor of his rural surroundings. He wondered if he would live to enjoy these fragrant aromas for just one more day, week or month. Nothing was ever certain in his life; nothing etched in stone.
Rounding the corner of the livery, the Starshine Kid slowly crossed the back open yard. The air was as still as a dead man’s breath and smelled even worse.
Juárez stood alone, appearing as hard as a chiseled statue in the garden of a rich man’s estate somewhere back east, his trademark brown leather bandolier crisscrossed his chest; his only entourage… two pearl-handled pistols, his only friend… the Angel of Death. Juárez’s piercing stare told its own story.
The Starshine Kid observed the flash from Juárez’s two pistol’s barrels before he felt the bite of a solitary bullet. The sounds of gunfire exchange followed closely behind. The Kid managed to crack off a round before he fell to the ground, alone, injured, but alive. He rolled quickly to one side to dodge any more of his enemy’s gunfire, but as he stared across the empty abandoned livery stable’s back lot, he saw Juárez on the ground in the distance… as dead as dead can be, laying there in the dry dust with blood oozing from the corner of his partially opened mouth.
A flesh wound to his left leg was the empty price Sheriff King paid to rid the world of one more darkened villain. One man to the grave with two more to take his place, just one of those unwritten laws of humanity, he reminded himself as he crawled to a post and raised himself up, just one of those laws.
After removing his cowboy hat to wipe the sweat from his forehead, Starshine noticed a bullet hole, Darn, that was my best hat!
* * * Stay Tuned for Part Two: Della * * *
All Rights Reserved
Cover Art & Illustrations by:
The characters, locales, enterprises, entities, and events herein are entirely fictional and intended for educational and entertainment purposes. Content portrayals do not reflect any actual events, locales, entities, or any individuals living or deceased.
Dedicated to all of those who lost their lives establishing peace, safety, and harmony in the days of the Old West