Friday, June 1, 2018


Congratulations to Jenny Martin, the winner of the Castle Prize pack. It's on its way. I hope you enjoy it.

This month's fiction is a bit of a prequel for my current work in progress, a meta fantasy western that turns the traditional epic story arc on its head. Let me know what you think in the comments section. In addition, it's my birthday so follow, like or share my social media pages for a chance to win an Audible version of my award winning novel Terra Soul.

The Boy watched the murders with keen interest. He observed the grizzled old sheriff square off in the sweltering street with the coarse, angry young man the posters throughout Texas named Thomas Bartlett aka Black Bart. The four roughians with him were equally scruffy, equally cross. Cowards. Villains. So the Boy saw the sheriff die, out drawn before his big Navy revolver had cleared the holster. His two deputies died moments later.

The Boy looked up at the woman beside him who stood in frozen horror, gloved hand over her mouth.

“I shall fetch the lawman’s gun,” he said solemnly. “It is still fully loaded. But first you must scream,

She looked down at him in surprise, for the Boy did not seem much older than ten--surely not more than twelve--all tan and gangly and cherub-faced as boys of that age often are. She made to protest, but stopped short for something in the Boy’s cold blue eyes made her trust him instantly.

She nodded.

Black Bart laughed, levering the cylinder of his pistol open and shaking out the shells.

“Hoo-we! Nuthin’ like smell of slaughtered pigs.”

“Now?” the woman whispered.

“When he has loaded,” he said, slipping away to skirt the scene.

The bright cartridges slipped home one at a time as Black Bart loaded. The cylinder clicked as he turned it. Once. Twice. Four times.

The woman screamed. All eyes turned on her, the gang’s included. She stood frozen like a startled hare for a moment, eyes wide, ringed with white. She clamped her mouth shut, and promptly fainted.

“Judas! She’s a might late to the party,” the Tom Bartlett said with a sneer. The Boy slipped unseen from the crowd to approach the fallen sheriff. The man lay where he’d fallen, a look of surprise frozen on his weathered face. Had he really thought this was a fight he could win? Some minor character against a villain? The Boy eased the Navy pistol from the man’s lifeless fingers. The gun felt large and familiar in his hand.

“Well what have we here?” Tom Bartlett bellowed.

The Boy turned to regard his opponents and smiled. The pistol, he let hang easilly at his side.
Tom squinted at him. “What you think you’re doing there, boy? Speak up now.”

“You wish to banter then? So be it,” answered the Boy in a steady. His voice sounded unnaturally high and his hand trembled slightly in excitement or fear he did not know. “It seems, Mister Bartlett, that you have a problem.”

“Oh-ho! Mister Bartlett is it? How proper,” Tom said turning to his gang. He laughed and they smiled, though tensely. The Boy could see a glimmer of fear in their eyes. “How you figure I got a problem?”

“You're a villain,” the Boy said. “Author says we're to put ‘em down.”

“True and sure that is what the Good Book says, but you forget, it’s heroes who put down villains,” Black Bart growled. All the mirth had gone from his sun baked features. He clicked the cylinder of his pistol closed, but he did not move to holster it. “You figure you're a hero, boy?” Bart snarled the last word, tossing it out like a challenger’s hat.

“I am the hero,” the Boy said.

The gang blinked at him in surprise. He started walking toward Tom Bartlett and his gang, pistol still low at his side. The dirt road crunched beneath his shoes. He watched them keenly, the way their bodies and hands shifted, their placement scattered around the street. “I was born in blood and fire on Saint Crispin’s day. My family was slaughtered that day. I was taken in by the People who made me one of their own and returned me to the East to find my way.” Though he spoke the words softly, the Boy could feel their power spread through the sweltering air, thick as smoke, intoxicating as whiskey. The Boy stopped just a pace or two from Black Bart. A stillness now filled the muggy Texan street. Tom’s four allies glanced at each other, while Tom himself stood frozen in place, a mouse caught in the gaze of a rattler.

The Boy gripped the Navy pistol tight. A line of sweat slid down between the his shoulder blades making him shiver. He leaned forward slightly. “Want to know something else?”

“Wh--wh--” Tom Bartletts’ adamsapple bobbed as he swallowed. “What?”

“I was taught to shoot afore I could walk.”

Like magic the words transformed the gang from statues to gunslingers. Pistols rose. Hammers fell. Shots barked, sharp and loud. The boy responded in like, the big Navy pistol bucking in his hand as he fanned the hammer.

Smoke choked the air.

The last shot faded away, leaving behind only the moans of Tom Bartlett. He lay clutching the cavernous wound the Navy pistol had opened in his belly. The rest of his gang lay still in the street. The Boy squatted at Black Bart’s side.

“H-how?” Tom gasped. “Ain’t no child can shoot like that.”

“I am no child. I am the hero,” the Boy said. He looked across the carnage in the street and sighed. He turned back to Black Bart, gently prodding the man’s belly with the hot barrel of his pistol. The villain moaned. “You're gutshot, Mister Bartlett, bad way to go, or so I've heard. I reckon this here pistol still has one shot left. I could ease your passing though it's a mercy you hardly deserve.”

A spasm of pain jerked Tom into a miserable ball. He nodded sharply. “Please.”

The Boy stood, cocking the pistol a final time.

“It didn't have to be this way,” he said.

Tom looked up. “Didn't it though? Cain’t have a hero without a villain. Cain't see a light but fer the dark. Cain’t--”

The Navy pistol cracked.

by Ella McPherson
The Boy walked slowly up the street. He paused to gather the sheriff’s gun belt before continuing. As he passed the woman who had screamed for him, and was now recovering from her faint, reached out a shaking hand. “Wait. Where are you going?”



The boy frowned at her, puzzled. “Mister Bartlett was right. A hero needs a villain. So I must go and seek the enemies the Author sees fit to put in my story.”

With that, the Boy passed quietly from town, out into the wild of Texas and the destiny chosen for him long ago.