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The Saga of Gentleman Bert
About the Author: Prior to 1990, Stan Dryer published 17 short stories in magazines that included Playboy, Cosmopolitan and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. He has now returned to fiction writing and has recently had thirteen short stories published in a number of magazines including Fabula Argentea, Mystery Magazine, Adelaide Magazine and Write Launch.

Most outlaws like to rob the stage from Dry Gulch at the top of Dead Mule Pass. After the long haul up to the pass, the driver usually rests the team for a few minutes before starting down to Dustville. Bandits don’t have to go to the trouble of chasing the stagecoach. They just wait for it to stop, step out from behind the rocks that fill the pass and demand whatever of value the stage is carrying.

As Dead Mule Pass is in Sand County, these robberies are not my concern. My fellow sheriff, Charlie Conroy over in Dry Gulch, gets to waste his time hunting for the bandits.

Unfortunately, Gentleman Bert Scramett and his gang decided to rob the stage after it had come down from the pass into Dustville County where I would have the thankless job of administering justice.

The survivors filled me in on the hold-up. The Whippet stagecoach had just come out of the Pass when Bert and two members of his gang rode out of the sagebrush with bandanas over their faces. They pointed their guns and shouted for the stage to stop. Spike Williams, who was driving, pulled up the team. Whippet Stage’s official policy is to let the robbers have their way as they don’t want a lot of gunfire and dead bodies. If one of their employees dies on the job, Whippet has to pay for the funeral.

Willie Farrell, who was riding shotgun, was new to the game and didn’t understand the rules. He thought riding shotgun and carrying one meant he should use it. Unfortunately, his closest target was not Gentleman Bert himself but Bert’s brother Eddie. Willie gave him both barrels. Eddie catapulted off his horse, probably dead before he hit the ground.

Seeing his beloved brother instantly deceased riled up Bert a bit. He rode over and put four slugs into Farrell before he could reload. Spike, sitting next to Willie, sat real quiet with both his hands reaching skyward.

Bert shouted to his remaining partner to keep Spike covered. He loaded his brother’s body back on his horse, this time face down. Bert then headed for the back of the stagecoach where he blew the lock off the strongbox with a couple of shots. He started cursing when he saw how paltry a take there was in the box. If he had been a local hombre, he would have known the stage is robbed so often it never carries much in the way of cash.

Then Bert made the biggest mistake of his lifetime. Instead of riding off into the sagebrush, he decided to rob the passengers. There were two of them. The first was Nancy Turgis, a pretty twenty plus young woman all dressed up in her Sunday finery. She was coming back from Dry Gulch after smiling, giggling and eye-batting her way into a deal two entranced cattle buyers would regret forever. The second passenger was a traveling salesman who, by this time, was flat on the floor of the stage.

Bert pulled open the door and pointed his gun in at Nancy who was holding her oversize purse in her lap. “My dear young lady,” he said, “would you be so kind as to hand me that lovely bag you are holding. I will, of course, return it undamaged after checking its contents.” You can see how Bert got the Gentleman handle glued on the front of his moniker.

Nancy smiled her most innocent smile, reached into her bag, pulled out her favorite Colt and pointed it at Bert.

At first sight of Nancy’s hardware, Bert pulled the trigger of his revolver. All he got was a click, a poignant reminder he had forgotten to reload.

“The problem with you men,” Nancy said, “is that you don’t realize we women have figured out how to count up to six. Drop your piece, raise your hands and back out of this stagecoach. I’ll be right behind.”

“Now,” Nancy said when they were both on terra firma, “tell your friend over there to drop his hardware on the ground.”

“Better do like she says,” Bert said.

Bert’s buddy did as he was told.

“Now vamoose,” Nancy shouted at the other bandit.

He didn’t wait. He turned his horse and headed full gallop for the sagebrush.

“Next,” Nancy said to Bert, “pull off that bandana.”

Bert was happy to do so. He likely figured his ugly face would scare her into handing him her gun. That was not the case.

“Well, well, Gentleman Bert in the flesh,” Nancy said. “You’re even uglier than your picture on the wanted poster.”

Bert was probably starting to reckon Nancy was serious about handing him over to the law with a noose and a dropping trap door in the offing.

This story appears in our MAR 2023 Issue
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