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The Coward Steps Aside episode #7

Clay Holden, the deputy of Jefferson City, and his new bride, Karin had just gotten back into town after getting married. They were both surprised to see most of the town boarded up and all the businesses closed except for the saloon. He came across old man Stoner and asked him where everybody was. Stoner told him that there was silver up on Howlins Ridge. Clay told him that the rumor about the silver had been going on for about as long as he came remember. The old man told him it wasn't a rumor anymore and that most of the men and half of the women were up there already. He told Clay that the town counsel had hired an engineer and he brought back the word about the silver. "We're all gonna be millionaires!" Said the old man with excitement and belief as he finished packing up his mule for his journey to Howlins Ridge. Clay took his new bride home and decided he better go and talk to the town counsel and see what was going on.

Jas was already with the counsel. "I never told you anything of the kind Mr. Bates!" "I told you there was a large vault where the veins join.....if there is a mother load, it's a long way down!" Mr. Bates reminded Jas that he had said that there were three separated veins and the silver was high grade. "I also said that a few dozen men swinging pick axes couldn't begin to get to it. It will take experienced workers.....heavy equipment and even then it will be a gamble!" Jas was upset, as he started to leave Mr. Jenkins called to him and asked him if he was sure he didn't mention his findings to anyone else. Jas told him he was sure. The sheriff butted in and said that the whole town was up at Howlins Ridge and that everybody knew. Again Jas assured them he didn't tell anyone. He was not a gossip and if they wanted to talk engineering he would be in his room until tomorrow. As Jas was leaving, Clay entered their office.

There were a couple of strangers in town. While at the saloon they asked Hatton, the bartender, if he was going after some of the silver. He had a bad leg and had to get around with a crutch. He told them by the time he got up the mountain riding side saddle it would be picked cleaned. He was about the only one in town not going. The two men, Luke Garrett and Topaz, walked over to the doors of the saloon. As they looked out the first thing they saw was the bank, it was straight across from the saloon and on the windows it had painted "assets of $23,000." They knew what they both were thinking, this town and it's bank was there's for the taking. They went over to the telegraph office to send a telegram to their friends. It read: Chicken needs plucking.....Come to Dawson Flats at once.....Bring chili sauce.....Garrett.  The clerk told them that it would cost a dollar and a quarter for thirteen words. Garrett punched the clerk in the face knocking him cold. Topaz then went and smashed the telegraph equipment with the butt of his gun.

Then they headed over to the sheriff's office. Clay was setting behind the desk when they walked in. Garrett asked Clay if he was the sheriff. Clay told them he was the deputy. Garrett asked where his boss was, meaning the sheriff. He told them he was out of town and asked if he could help them. Garrett leaned over his desk and told him that they had three friends up in Dawson Flats and that since his town struck it rich they figured they wouldn't be needing the $23,000 that the bank advertises. He told Clay to collect all the guns in town and put them in the street by four o'clock. Clay was puzzled. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. Garrett then told them they would ride into town and make a withdrawal and ride out real peaceful. "Now is that a deal?" Asked Garrett. Before Clay could go for his gun, Topaz had him covered. Garrett then asked Clay if he ever saw a town burn. Garrett then took a match and set fire to some papers that was lying on the desk. "Well I have.....wooden buildings burn real fast. Now you take old people and women.....they don't move so fast. You can hear the screaming for miles." Garrett then put out the match and looked at Clay and said....."All the guns boy by four o'clock." Clay set there helpless, he couldn't do anything. Then they both left. Clay picked up the paper and threw them to the floor stomping out the fire.

Jas had gone over to the Silver Bucket Saloon to grab a bite to eat. The bartender apologized for the meal; he explained that the cook left along with the rest of the town folks. Jas told him the meal was fine. After Jas finished his meal he left the saloon and started for the hotel when he heard someone call to him. "Captain!" It was Garrett and Topaz. Garrett rode up to Jas and said....."Captain McCord.....sir!" As he saluted Jas. Garrett then told Jas it was nice to see him and then the two of them rode off.

Clay wasn't sure what to do first. Once he thought it over he decided to wire for help. When he got to the telegraph office, he couldn't help but notice all the telegraph equipment was smashed. As he looked around he saw Mr. Harrison was lying on the floor. He had nothing left to do but to collect all the guns in town and have them out in the street by four.

The men Garrett wired, Lennart, Webb and Wilson were waiting for Garrett and Topaz at Dawson Flats. Now there was five of them to take over Jefferson City. Webb asked if Garrett was sure all the men would be out of town. Garrett assured them that there would only be a boy, a one legged man and McCord there, plus women and children. Wilson didn't like the fact that Garrett told Clay about them riding in. "If were going to be sitting ducks while we blow that vault Wilson.....I want all those guns where we can to be a hero," said Garrett. "Beside.....you should have seen the look on that boys face when I fired up his desk." Wilson still didn't like it. Garrett told him they would get themselves a little insurance. He turned to Topaz and said....."Make sure she's pretty." Topaz nodded his head and headed for town. Garrett looked at his watch; it was a few minutes before three.

Jas was resting in his room when he heard a frantic knock on his door. As Clay entered Jas's room he told him who he was and that he was the deputy sheriff. He told Jas he wanted his gun. Jas looked at him puzzled and asked him what he was talking about. Clay told him he didn't have time to argue and went for Jas's gun that was hanging over the end of the bed. Jas put his foot up against it to stop Clay from taking it. Jas wanted an explanation; Clay again told him he didn't have time. "Take the time!" Said Jas. Clay told him about the gang that was outside of town. He told him there were five of them. He told him about how they were going to rob the bank and promised nobody would be hurt if he disarmed the town and delivered the guns to them. Jas asked him who made him that promise. Clay told him a half-breed and a man with a scar on his face. He told Jas how he had gone to wire for help but they had ripped out the telegraph. "I've got to get those guns to them by four!" Jas thought for a second and then told Clay that he knew the man he was talking about. He had served under him in the cavalry. He was court-martial out of the service and charged with arson. He told Clay his name was Garrett, they had caught him starting a fire in a barn full of horses; just to watch them burn. Clay was surprised, and yet he was still helpless, even now knowing what kind of a man he was dealing with. "Now what do you think he will do to this town if it's unarmed?" Asked Jas. Jas told him there was nothing left but for him to stand up to them. "I'll back you!" Said Jas. "You'll back me?" "Listen mister.....I love this town and I love these people; if I thought I had a chance I'd fight.....but what am I gonna fight with?"
"Women, old folks, kids!" "You say you'll back me.....I know your reputation too Mr. McCord!" "How do I know your promise is worth anymore then his?" "Look son.....there are some lines from a poem.....'For everyone.....there's a time to decide.....that's when the brave man chooses and the coward steps aside.'

It was four o'clock and Clay had a pile of guns lying in the street as Garrett requested. Clay went into the street to talk to Garrett and his men. Garrett told Clay he did a good job. "Tell your men to put down their guns," said Clay. Garrett didn't like that what he had just heard. Clay called to Jas, he and the old men and women and what was left of the town came out with their weapons drawn. "Well captain, I wasn't sure you'd remember me.....you got yourself a new command I see.....that's about your speed." "Yes sir.....this is quite an army and you folks got yourself a real famous leader.....Captain Jason McCord," said Garrett. You could hear the people in the background talking. They were surprised to learn that this brave man was the coward of Bitter Creek. As Garrett kept talking, one by one their confidence was being shattered. Garrett told Jas he wouldn't take them without a fight and that Jas would be responsible. Jas told them that this might be an army of women, but each of their guns were pointed at him. He then called to Topaz to bring out Clay's wife. "Captain.....why don't you show the people how you can turn and run; just like you did at Bitter Creek." Jas started for Garrett, but he already had a gun on Jas. Jas looked over the situation and felt there was nothing left to do but to walk away from this. One by one they all put their weapons in the wagon, where Garrett told them to put them. He told Topaz to lock up Clay and then follow McCord. He told Lennart to stay and guard the guns.

Hatton, the bartender tuned and went down the side of the saloon. When he got to the back of it he heard someone call his name. It was Jas. He told Jas to get out of there. Jas told him they were the only chance this town had. Hatton told Jas he couldn't run as fast as him and anybody that is associated with him needs two good legs. "Hatton.....your a citizen of this town and in ten minutes it's coming around your ears. "I know who I am and I know who you are.....and I don't like the kind of show you're putting on," said Hatton. Jas asked him where Clay was. Hatton told him they put him in jail. Jas said they had to get him out of jail. Hatton told Jas that maybe he was safer in jail, as long as Jas was around.

Garrett, Webb, Wilson and Clay's wife were at the bank. Wilson tied a stick of dynamite to the handles of the safe and then lit the fuse. They all ran for cover.
 
Jas went over to the jail to get Clay. He surprised Topaz and they ended up in a shootout with Jas killing him. Garrett and Wilson heard the shots; Garrett assumed that was the end of Jas. Garrett told Webb to finish helping Wilson and then he took Karin, Clay's wife with him.

Lennart was still guarding the weapons that were placed in the wagon. Jas told Clay they had to take him first. He told Clay to cover him while he went up behind him and knocked Lennart out. Hatton saw what was going on and was angry because he couldn't help.

Wilson told Garrett that Topaz should have been here by now. When he looked out the window he saw Lennart lying in the street by the wagon. He called Garrett to the window. Garrett then took Karin outside. Garrett called to McCord.....
"McCord.....were leaving and were taking the girl with us!" Jas came out of the building next to the back and surprised them. "Drop the guns!" Yelled Jas. Garrett turn to shoot at Jas, but Jas was faster, he shot Garrett, just wounding him. Then Wilson shot at Jas, missing him and Jas shot Wilson. Webb then turned to shoot Jas as Clay came out of another building shooting Webb. Webb managed to get a shot off shooting Clay in the left shoulder. Garrett ran off in all the confusion. Jas ran to check on Karin and then to check on Clay. Jas told Karin to take Clay inside; while he went looking for Garrett. Garrett ran and hid behind a barrel as he kept shooting at Jas. Jas was getting closer. Lennart had come to and saw Jas going after Garrett. Jas and Garrett fought until Jas got the better of him and killed Garret. Jas was unaware that Lennart was behind him. Lennart was taking aim to shoot Jas in the back when you could hear the sound of a shotgun ring out. Hatton had killed Lennart. As Jas walked up to Hatton he could see by the look on his face how pleased he was with himself. "I thought you might need some help.....Captain!" Said Hatton.

Jas was all saddled up and ready to leave when Clay came to thank him. "Mr. McCord.....do you remember what you said about how a brave man makes a choice and the coward steps aside?" "I remember," said Jas. "Well I.....still don't understand why you let the men talk about you the way they do.....but I do know that you made a choice." "You're not the kind of a man that steps aside." "Well.....good bye and good luck.....Mr. Holden." Said Jas. "Good bye.....Mr. McCord," said Clay. They shook hands and then Jas rode off.



The Coward Steps Aside ― Cast


Next ― The Mission - part 1


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