Arkansas stared across the desk at the curious looking man with the head that was almost perfectly domed shaped. Everything about the man was globular – a rotund head, sunk into a podgy neck which sat atop a pair of rounded shoulders. His belly ballooned out over his belt like some great fleshy ball and his legs bulged at the knees forming a half circle.
‘You’ve got me at a disadvantage.’ Arkansas said. ‘You know my name and I don’t seem to recall yours.’ The chains around Arkansas’s wrists were biting into the skin but he ignored the pain. The chain ran downwards alongside his legs and was attached to the heavy shackles he wore.
‘I’m Justice O’Keefe,' the man said. He adjusted the tie slightly and ran a finger behind his ill-fitting collar as though struggling for air. ‘And you – once a Texas Ranger, a war hero and now just a common criminal. A killer no less who has an appointment at dawn with the rope. What a disappointment.’
‘I’m none too pleased about it myself.’
The portly man smiled. ‘Good to keep a sense of humour,’ he said. ‘It’ll be of comfort on your way to the gallows.’
‘Look.’ Arkansas snarled, tensing and pulling at his chains but O’Keefe didn’t move.
He was in no danger. There was no way for Arkansas to break free of his bindings but all the same the sheriff came back into the room, alerted at the sound of the struggle, his Army Model Colt in hand.
‘Please remain outside, Sheriff,’ O’Keefe said. He was clearly in control of the situation and was in no need of assistance.
For a moment the sheriff looked unsure and his face held a puzzled expression that almost looked pained. ‘If this skunk gives you trouble,’ he said, finally. ‘I’ll plug him here and now. Bullet or rope – he’ll still be very much dead.’
‘Thank you,’ O’Keefe said. ‘I’ll keep that in mind. Now if you’ll excuse us please.’
The sheriff shrugged his shoulders and left the room, slamming the heavy door behind him.
‘You see,’ O’Keefe said. ‘Unpleasant fellow.’
‘What do you want with me?’ Arkansas asked.
‘I think I can help you,’ O’Keefe said.
Arkansas looked the man directly in the eye. ‘You talking about my heavenly soul? I’ve had enough with the praying already and I’ll meet my maker on my own terms.’
‘I’m talking very much about the physical you. What eventually happens to your soul is none of my concern.’
‘I’m listening,’ Arkansas said.
‘I represent Washington,’ O’Keefe said. ‘We’ve been following your little rampage with great interest.’
‘Then you’ll know I’m here on trumped up charges,’ Arkansas said. ‘That those men deserved to die.’
‘Difficult to prove, though.’ The podgy man pulled a large cigar from his coat and took a match to it. He sucked hard on the thick tobacco. ‘In fact with the amount of corruption around here I would say it’s impossible to prove. And whichever way you look at it, the fact remains that you killed those six men. Four of whom were U.S.
Calvary and not to mention a prominent politician and his son.’
‘And I’d do it again.’ Defiantly, words spat out with real venom. ‘To a man those lot were skunks. They shouldn’t have done what they done.'
Saturday, 27 March 2010
Extract of Arkansas Smith by Jack Martin
Tomorrow I'll post a transcript of a question and answer session conducted by BHW authors with Jack Martin. For now below is an extract from Jack's latest novel.