Weird Western Tales
The Devil’s Right Hand
The story of Kid Kelly, one of the Old West’s most notorious killers, can finally be told. Before he became Kid Kelly, he was just a thirteen-year-old boy who should have listened to his mother’s warning that a pistol is the Devil’s right hand.
My daddy went to the war and never came back. Word was he was shot down at Gettysburg, like a lot of poor fellows. His friend, Ira Johnson, lost a leg. You can imagine my ma thought poorly of any kind of firearm after that.
Still, when I saw that cap and ball Colt, I knew I had to have it. It was the prettiest thing in my eyes that I had ever seen. Of course, I was only thirteen, and hadn’t thought much of girls yet.
Ma went through the roof, as you can imagine. She said a pistol was the Devil’s right hand. I didn’t know what she meant then. I just thought I was the man of the house and knew better than any old woman.
I admit now that I was wrong. Of course, that’s easy to admit now.
Once I got that Colt out of the general store, I practiced with it, but I made sure not to let Ma know. She hated pistols, like I said. I ignored her warning and went my way, as most boys do.
I had gotten good with that old Colt, having stolen a supply of ammunition from the store the same time when I stole the pistol. In my own eyes, I was faster than anyone around.
Some of the men and the other boys thought that I wouldn’t do anything, because they all had guns and I didn’t. I admit I had a violent temper even then. A few found that I would just go berserk if provoked. So troublemakers let me go about my way.
My temper was even more hair-trigger when I held a gun in my hand. That’s why I usually didn’t wear it. That and Ma.
Still, one day I did take the Colt with me. That’s when I learned an important lesson. A pistol will get you into trouble, and it can’t get you out.
I had gone into Mr. Parsley’s saloon to sell the farm. Ma died, and I wasn’t interested in working it. So I thought I would sell it and move along.
Some of the boys started riding me about wearing a pistol. That’s when I killed them all.
Like I said, I had a horrible temper. It was worse when I wore my pistol or had it close at hand. That day I had it on my hip, ready to use it against anything that decided to make me mad.
I was standing outside of Parsley’s door. Ike Stoddard and some of his friends were around me. They had decided to insult me about wearing a gun and remind me how they had beaten me up. Said there had been nothing I could do about it.
Ike was laughing when I shot him in the eye. He never saw it coming. Crow Howard took one in the stomach next, because he had faster reflexes than the rest and had actually touched his pistol as I turned to fire at the gang of them. I had four more bullets. I put one in Jeb Stubbly, then one in his brother Jake, because they were closer than the others. I didn’t want them rushing me. The last two bullets struck Kit Furley. The first struck him in the shoulder, because he moved to get away from the sudden gunplay. The second hit him square in the back of the head, dropping him to the floor dead.
I dropped the empty pistol, smoke from the barrel drifting upwards as it fell.
There had been nine men when I started. Four had fallen in the first few seconds. I grabbed Ike’s brand new Colt from his belt as the other five went for the guns they wore. They should have practiced like I did.
Three bullets ripped the wall around me as I took aim and killed Shorty Elmore with a bullet in the neck. Walt Gorley placed a hot rod across my left arm as I put two through his ribs. Joe the bartender pulled the shotgun from under the bar as I shot Lem and Lon Kale with the last of the ammo in Ike’s pistol.
Joe fired the shotgun as I yanked Dean Darling in front of me. I helped Dean shoot Joe as the buckshot ripped his chest up. Parsley came out of his office, and I shot him just for spite.
I drifted west after that. I took Ike’s Navy to replace my old revolver. I did a lot of odd jobs, staying on the move because I continually lost my temper and put a man in the ground as soon as look at him.
One day, I got into a card game in a mining camp in the Sierra Madre. I had won some and lost some. I was watching the man deal out cards. I noticed he dropped one of his cards on the floor as he went around the table. I jumped to my feet and shot the dog down. He didn’t even have a chance to go for his guns.
Men fell on me as I pushed clear of the table. Something hit me hard against the back of the head. Everything went black.
The deputy dragged me out of my cot the next day. They marched me over to the general store with my hands tied behind my back. They had turned the store into a court, with the sheriff presiding as a judge.
A table was converted to a judge’s bench, with a chair beside it for witnesses to sit in. They marched me in behind the defendant’s desk. Another table was set up for the prosecutor, whoever that turned out to be.
“You’ve been brought up for murder, boy,” said the sheriff. “How do you plead?”
“Not guilty,” I said quietly. “He went for his gun. I had to defend myself.”
The crowd hooted and called enough for the sheriff to slam the gavel down to command silence.
“No more of that crap, or you all can go outside except for the witnesses,” he said irately. He must not have had his morning coffee.
I sat in my chair and watched the crowd go up and state what they saw. All the while I worked on the rope around my wrist with a pocket knife I borrowed from the deputy.
The verdict was guilty as charged. No big surprise there.
They led me outside, whooping and cheering. Two miners helped me onto my horse. They were smiling as they looped a noose around my neck.
When they slap the horse’s butt, one of two things happen. You’d fall off your horse and break your neck. That’s the quick way. The other way is you’d fall off and slowly strangle because they tied the knot wrong. That’s the slow way. I preferred the fast way if I had my say in the matter.
I held a pistol in one hand, hiding it in my crossed arms, while the knife was in the other.
I tried to wait patiently as the preacher said some words that didn’t mean that much to me. He closed his Bible and stepped back out of the way. Time for the festivities to begin.
The deputy slapped the horse’s rump to send him forward. The horse jumped into a gallop. My right hand came up and put the sheriff in the dirt. My left brought the knife around in an arc and sliced through the rope, even as I rode forward.
I placed a bullet in the preacher as I rode for my freedom, bullets buzzing around me like bees as men fired their guns. I rode clear, throwing the rope in the ground as I laughed at the sunny day ahead.
“Put it over there,” Kiley said. “We’ll set it next to the one we got in the Westworld auction.”
“This is kind of gross,” said Moe. “Why did they stuff them like this?”
“To put them on display, like we’re going to do when we clean ’em up,” said Kiley. “Too bad they didn’t do John Wesley Hardin or Wyatt Earp like this. Think how much we could charge for that.”
“I’m sure,” said Moe, raising his eyebrows in puzzlement. “What makes you think anyone is going to want to look at two stuffed gunfighters in display cases?”
“You’ll see,” said Kiley. “I can see the pitch now. Two mortal enemies are finally under one roof. Over here is notorious bounty hunter and gunfighter, Jonah Hex. His arch-enemy, Kid Kelly, gunned down as many as a hundred men, some just for snoring too loud.”
“Wasn’t that Hardin?” asked Moe. “‘Sides, these two never met.”
“Don’t confuse the truth with facts,” Kiley said in mild disgust.
“Get it right before you start handing that guff to the tourists,” said Moe, “especially since some of them will be history buffs.”
“You’re such a party-pooper,” Kiley said, placing a box of old pistols at the foot of the cadaver they had rescued from New York.