Death On The Range

Born in Turlock, California in 1964, Richard Paolinelli began his writing career as a freelance writer in 1984 in Odessa, TX and gained his first fiction credit serving as the lead writer for the first two issues of the Elite Comics sci-fi/fantasy series, Seadragon.

In lieu of an account of my sojourn along the Gulf Coast – a trip postponed due to illness as mentioned earlier – I thought I would dig into the archives and share with you this 1,100-word short story I wrote several years ago as part of a contest.

It didn’t win, although it was well received by the judges. The premise was to write a 1,200-word or less short story that mixed the Western genre with any other genre. I chose Western/Horror and this was what I came up with.

Enjoy:

 

DEATH ON THE RANGE

By Richard Paolinelli

 

Slim Jenkins swore softly as his buckskin dun topped the ridge and saw what he’d been hoping he wouldn’t see again for a long time. Another dead cow, the sixth in the last two weeks. Even as he rode up to the carcass he knew exactly what he’d find.

The animal would be dead, drained of every drop of blood, and no sign of the wound that caused the loss save for two small holes near the head. Even more puzzling to the lean, aptly-named cowboy, there would not be a spot of the animal’s blood to be found on the ground nearby.

He’d been riding for the Slash- S-Slash brand in the Wyoming Territory for six years now, ever since the War Between the States wound down, and for other brands most of his life before the war. He’d seen his share of dead cattle, but nothing before like this.

“Curly,” Slim shouted back over his shoulder as he heard the rider behind him top the ridge, “come on down here. We’ve got another one.”

“Damn,” Curly exclaimed as he rode up. “The boss ain’t gonna like this.”

“I reckon,” Slim replied as he studied the carcass. “You