Intro -James Whittacker

Cresting the last ridge before town, Rattlesnake Gulch came into view. The way the team leader called to the horses pulling the stagecoach to slow their pace jarred the coach and roused James Whittacker from his slumber. He’d dozed off an hour ago to avoid listening to the travelling salesman tell him his whole life story… for the third time since leaving Tulsa. He’d known they were nearing their destination as this was the only reason to slow the horses since they left their last stop to change teams and he’d only woken briefly then.

Rattlesnake Gulch. Not a pleasant name but he’d heard worse. It was a busy enough place and not likely to die out since it grew by being a hub between major points, not solely off of a boom of some sort. James wanted to set his feet on solid ground a while, maybe till he wore a wooden overcoat. Wouldn’t that be nice, he thought to himself, still pretending to be asleep. One place… no more running. Seemed like trouble always followed him like thunder does lightning. It wasn’t that he went looking for it but his reputation caused it. Most folks knew his name and assumed he was a successful road agent, having held up coaches and trains all over the West, but the truth was he let them believe the lie. He’d never robbed anyone at anything other than cards – and even there always fairly. The reputation made some too eager to play and as the drinks were poured and he let them blabber on about his supposed exploits their playing got worse. No, James was a gambler, and a good one but he’d never robbed a soul in his life.

Life though had a funny way of paying him back for assuming credit for misdeeds not done. There tended to be some cowpoke who took offense at not being told the whole story or how he wouldn’t fess up to the tale, or who’d get angry he’d lost at cards and assumed James had cheated him, or worse, someone figured he was a fast draw and as much as he tried the only end could be in proving them wrong. That was James’ other trademark skill. He was a fast hand but getting slower as the years caught up with him. Tulsa had proved that. Some young buck had tried slapping him around to get him to out to the street and James’ wouldn’t be man handled. The buck had been faster though, much faster. What he’d possessed in speed, he lacked in aim though and the bullet had struck James’ in the opposite shoulder to his gun hand, thankfully, and that’d given James the chance to take aim and silence the man’s gloating. After that, he’d worn out his welcome in Tulsa. Once he’d mended, the Sheriff saw to it personally he got on the next stage out.

So as the coach rumbled to a halt outside the hotel in town, James took a deep breath and exited, hoping Rattlesnake Gulch might be different.

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