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The Red Well

Max Brand

  First Skyhorse Publishing edition published 2015 by arrangement with Golden West Literary Agency

  Copyright © 2011 by Golden West Literary Agency

  “Bad News for Bad Men”” by Hugh Owen first appeared in Street & Smith’s Western Story Magazine (12/8/34). Copyright © 1934 by Street & Smith Publications, Inc. Copyright © renewed 1962 by the Estate of Frederick Faust. Copyright © 2011 by Golden West Literary Agency for restored material. Acknowledgment is made to Condé Nast Publications, Inc., for their co-operation. “The Lion’s Share” by George Owen Baxter first appeared in Street & Smith’s Western Story Magazine (12/1/28). Copyright © 1928 by Street & Smith Publications, Inc. Copyright © renewed 1956 by Dorothy Faust. Copyright © 2011 by Golden West Literary Agency for restored material. Acknowledgment is made to Condé Nast Publications, Inc., for their co-operation. “The Red Well” by Hugh Owen first appeared in Street & Smith’s Western Story Magazine (12/29/34). Copyright © 1934 by Street & Smith Publications, Inc. Copyright © renewed 1961 by Estate of Frederick Faust. Copyright © 2011 by Golden West Literary Agency for restored material. Acknowledgment is made to Condé Nast Publications, Inc., for their co-operation.

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  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available on file.

  Cover design by Brian Peterson

  Print ISBN: 978-1-62087-894-1

  Ebook ISBN: 978-1-63220-104-1

  Printed in the United States of America

  Table of Contents

  Bad News for Bad Men

  The Lion’s Share

  The Red Well

  About the Author

  Bad News for Bad Men

  Frederick Faust published twelve serials and twenty-five short fictional works in 1934 in a variety of publications, including Harper’s Magazine, Argosy, Collier’s, and Street & Smith’s Western Story Magazine, this last his primary and almost sole market from 1922 until 1932. “Bad News for Bad Men” was published in Street & Smith’s Western Story Magazine in the issue dated December 29, 1934. The story appeared under Frederick Faust’s Hugh Owen byline and is about a young, hell-raising hero who is saddled with the editorship of a struggling newspaper.


  The letter to Jimmy Jones was succinct, though strange. It came from his uncle, Oliver T. Jones. It said:

  Dear Jimmy:

  You have often wondered why I have been so damned stingy. That answer is—because you have been so damned mean. I have always been rich, but the richest thing in my life was not having a son and heir like you. You still are not my son, thank heaven, but the lawyers tell me that you are likely to be my heir unless I give away all my money before I die.

  That’s the chief reason I want to give you something now. It isn’t anything very good or else I wouldn’t want to give it to you now, or any time. But I think it might make trouble for you, and since you have made so much trouble for everybody else, it seems only right that some of the gift should be returned.

  You are twenty-four years old, and your life has been divided into two exact halves. In the first twelve years you were a small child and a schoolboy. In the last twelve years you have tried to raise hell continually.

  You have raised it.

  You could raise deep-rooted hell on a sand-lot or a Sunday picnic. You could make it bloom in a church. You could turn a picnic into a dogfight.

  If you think I’m wrong, ask any of your friends who you have not shot and see if they don’t agree with me.

  For twelve years you have done what you pleased at home.

  For the next twelve years you have wiped your feet on the face of the world.

  But there is one thing that you cannot do.

  What is it? Why, Jimmy, it is an attractive proposition. Think of owning a whole newspaper for yourself. In the newspaper you, as editor, can say what you think of the people you don’t like. You can tell any sort of a lie that pleases you. You can be called an editor, instead of a gunfighter. You never can call the world all the things that the world has called you, but you can make some pretty hot returns.

  A newspaper, Jimmy. In the town of Jasper. The Jasper Journal. The lot it stands on is paid for. The building it is in is paid for. It has a fine little modern press of the latest design. It doesn’t owe a cent in the world. It has a stock of blank paper waiting for ink. It has the ink to do the printing. As a reporter it already has one of the most natural free-hand liars that ever beat a typewriter.

  Therefore I think that it has everything a newspaper could wish. Except circulation.

  All the circulation, all the advertising in this damned town belongs to the Jasper Bugle.

  I have tried my hands at running the Jasper Journal until my hands ache to the shoulders. At last I have thought of giving the paper to you.

  Why? Because I thought of the euphony, having for editor of the Jasper Journal a man named Jimmy Jones. Jimmy Jones of the Jasper Journal. That sounds good to me.

  Also, the worst thing I can wish on the town of Jasper is Jimmy Jones. If I thought yellow fever was worse, I would send it, but I know that yellow fever is nothing compared to catching Jimmy. Catching smallpox is practically a pleasure compared to catching Jimmy.

  So come on, my lad. Every dollar you make out of editing this sheet during the first year I will cheerfully double. If you can sell this paper, I’ll double every dollar you get for it above $5,000.

  It is a gift. It is more than a gift. It is a dare and a challenge. And when did Jimmy Jones ever take a dare?

  I am going away to take a long rest.

  Affectionately yours,

  Uncle Oliver

  P.S. There is no news in Jasper except bad news. Therefore you ought to be quite at home.

  When Jimmy received this letter, he paused in the midst of a stud poker game to read it. He had lost everything in that game except his golden spurs. But he returned to the game, staked his spurs, and an hour later had the price of a horse that carried him to the town of Jasper.

  Jimmy Jones was a very bland young man with the gentlest voice that was ever heard. He was neither very tall nor very broad; he spoke perfect English most of the time, and his smile was a thing that caused mothers to trust him perfectly. Above all, he had the most beautiful blue eyes that ever were seen, though occasionally that blue became just a trifle too pale and bright.

  He arrived with a horse and pair of .45-caliber single-action Colts, in the middle of an afternoon so hot that it caused the shingles to curl on the roofs. His guns were loaded and he had $5 in his pockets; therefore, he felt quite complete. When he looked at the hot hollow of the hills in which the town of Jasper was located, his heart did not sink, because a town of five thousand was quite a place compared with some of the cities in which he had been spending his time.
/>   It was not hard to find the Journal building on the main street. When he entered the editorial rooms, he saw a tall, thin, sad-looking man of middle age chewing a bad cigar and beating a typewriter with his forefingers only.

  “Hello,” said Jimmy. “Are you the editor?”

  “Yes,” said the other over his shoulder. “And the office boy, janitor, reporter, and lucky piece of the Jasper Journal.”

  “Well,” said Jimmy, “you’re only the lucky piece, reporter, janitor, and office boy now.”

  “You must be Jimmy Jones,” said the tall man. “My name is Joe Parson. I’m glad you came, because I’m about to . . .”

  “Wait a minute,” said Jimmy. “Tell me that at a bar.”

  There were plenty of bars to go to. On the main street of the town of Jasper there were saloons on every corner. But just then the nearest one seemed the best one to Joe Parson, so he led the way across the street. As they reached the sidewalk, a tall man with white shoes and a white suit went by them, avoiding them with careful eyes, steering the girl who walked with him as cautiously as though she had been blind.

  “Who’s your friend?” asked Jimmy Jones, pausing to stare after the couple.

  Joe Parson made a forward motion and a wry face, so they went on into the saloon and had a drink.

  After the drink, Parson was able to say: “That was the owner and editor of the Bugle. That’s the rival newspaper.”

  “The one that has all the circulation and the advertising?”

  “That’s it.”

  “Was that Missus Bugle walking with Mister Bugle?” asked Jimmy.

  The sad face of Joe Parson loosened almost to the point of smiling.

  “His name is Cadwallader, and the gal is Ruth Denham.”

  “It’s a nice name, but it doesn’t suit her,” said Jimmy Jones.

  “What would be a quicker fit for her?” asked Parson.

  “Jones,” said Jimmy. “She looks like pay day to me.”

  “You talk kind of passionate and quick,” said Parson. “I guess you haven’t been in love for a couple of weeks. She’s engaged to an hombre by name of Burwell.”

  “What’s he got?” asked Jimmy.

  “Aw, nothing but a gold mine and a cattle ranch. We’re printing an article about his gold mine on Saturday.”

  “We sure are,” said Jimmy. “And about him, too.”

  “All right,” said Parson. “I don’t care what you print, because I’ve resigned.”

  “How much have you been getting?”

  “Fifty dollars a week.”

  “Stay on with Jimmy and a hundred bucks a week,” suggested Jimmy Jones.

  “Where will you get the hundred?” asked Joe Parson.

  “Out of the paper, of course,” said Jimmy.

  “The hell you will,” answered Parson. “The only place the Journal runs is in the red.”

  “What would I get out of the Journal if I offered it

  for sale?”

  “Ten percent of the value of the printing press, five hundred dollars for the lot, and another five hundred for the building. Real estate isn’t booming in this town.”

  “How about circulation and good will?”

  “Your uncle Oliver left damn’ little circulation and no good will.”

  “Brother,” said Jimmy Jones with a sigh, “I see that I’ve got to stay here and go to work on that newspaper.”

  “What makes you think so?”

  “The crease in the white pants of Mister Cadwallader. And the smile on the face of Miss Ruth Denham. Did you see her look at me?”

  “I didn’t,” said the reporter.

  “Neither did I,” said Jimmy, “but she’s going to. What about this Burwell gent? Outside of his gold mine and his cattle ranch, I mean?”

  “He’s only about six feet two,” reported Parson, “with a clan of other Burwells about the same size all rallied around him. The timekeeper, the manager, the engineer, the foreman, are all Burwells, and the rest of the Burwells work on Harry’s ranch.”

  “What sort of people are they?” asked Jimmy.

  “Big and mean,” said Parson. “They eat tacks for breakfast and drink lye. No Burwell wears long pants until he’s killed his man . . . no Burwell speaks up in public until he’s killed two.”

  “Not counting Indians and Mexicans?” queried Jimmy with a yawn. The reporter grinned. “Have another drink,” said Jimmy. “I feel a lot nearer to Ruth Denham since I’ve heard you talk.”

  They had the drink.

  “How do people work up circulation on a newspaper?” asked Jimmy Jones.

  “By printing bad news,” said Parson, “and scooping the other paper.”

  “Did my Uncle Oliver try that?” asked Jimmy.

  “There’s no news to print in this damn’ town,” said Parson.

  “We’ll have to make some, then,” said Jimmy.

  “How d’you mean? Make it?”

  “Ideas grow easy in a brain like mine,” said Jimmy Jones. “How much does the Bugle make in a year, net?”

  “About twenty thousand dollars, I’m sorry to say.”

  “It’s as good as in my pocket,” said Jimmy. “Is most of it advertising?”

  “Yeah. They get out special editions, and all that.”

  “Weekly newspaper, like the Journal?”


  “We’re getting out a special edition on Saturday,” said Jimmy.

  “Hold on! About what?”

  “About the Burwells. You said that you were running an article about the gold mine?”

  “Yeah, but what’s news in that? The story is just one of a series that your uncle wrote up . . . he just writes down what everybody knows.”

  “That mine pays, doesn’t it?”


  “Then there’s news in it . . . bad news, blood. I never heard of a good mine that didn’t have a few murders behind it.”

  “But how will you get the news about them?”

  “If I can’t find the news, maybe I can make the news find me.”

  “Jones, are you drunk?”

  “No,” said Jimmy, “I’m only thinking.”

  “About what?”

  “About the Burwells, and Ruth Denham, and what a lucky thing it is for Jasper that I hit this town. Have another drink.”

  “I’ve had enough. Jones, are you going to start raising hell in this town?”

  “It’ll only take a word,” said Jimmy. “Hell is already here, but it’s just asleep. I’ll find the right word to wake it up.”


  Jimmy Jones went out to wake up hell that night shortly after dark. He saddled a horse, rode out behind the town, and then came charging down through the main street with a loud whooping, firing off his guns. When he got to the office of the Jasper Journal, he raised some Indian yells, put some bullets through the door, and then nailed a paper against it.

  He went on, shooting into the night, ducked his horse down a lane, and turned back around the side of the town. No one noticed the sweating horse that was brought into the corral behind the Journal building; the townspeople were busily flocking to read the rather rudely written notice that had been nailed against the front door of the building:

  Notice to all concerned:

  If the Jasper Journal runs the story about the

  Burwell mine next Saturday, hell is going to pop.

  The notice was not signed. The letters apparently had been printed with a small brush and ink.

  When Jimmy Jones returned to the office, he found a steady file of people passing, ordering copies of the paper of next Saturday. That was not all. Half a dozen storekeepers and other businessmen of the town determined to have advertisements in that issue of the Journal, since it was attracting such attention, and Jimmy Jones, multiplying the usual rates by five, took in enough advertising to fill the newspaper.

  “How come such high prices, Mister Jones?” asked the owner of the biggest grocery store.

ll,” said Jimmy Jones, “if you get money on Saturday and have to die on Sunday, you want a lot of hard cash to make up for your hurt feelings.”

  This speech was passed around the town, rapidly. There was more than one inquiry as to the nature of the article about the Burwell mine, but Jimmy merely said: “We’re not going to print anything but the truth. The truth is always a lot worse than any sort of lying.”

  This remark, also, went the rounds.

  It was quite late that night before the line of special subscribers faded away, and Jimmy had a cup of coffee and a sandwich at a lunch counter with Parson.

  “Now you’ve gone and raised the devil,” said Joe Parson. “You’ve set up a lot of talk, and, when the folks don’t find nothing but what your uncle’s written in that article, they’re going to tar and feather you.”

  “I’ve made a good start,” said Jimmy. “I’ve got money in my pocket, and luck can give me a good finish. What did my uncle write about that mine? Anything exciting?”

  “Money’s always exciting. But there’s nothing to his article. Except he mentions how Charlie Denham was killed.”

  “Denham? Was he any relation of Ruth?”

  “Father. He was out hunting with the two Burwells, and there was an accident with a gun during the trip. Denham shot himself by accident.”

  “Accident? Little kids back East have accidents with guns. Men in this neck of the woods don’t have accidents.

  Murder, Joe.”

  “Don’t be a fool.” Parson grinned. “Besides, the Burwells carried Charlie Denham three miles to town to get him to a doctor, and Denham’s a big, heavy man, too.”

  “They got to the doctor too late, didn’t they?” asked Jimmy Jones.

  “Just too late. Denham died just before they reached town.”

  “Too bad,” said the new editor-owner of the Jasper Journal. “I guessed that Denham would never get in alive.”

  “You’re crazy, Jimmy. The reason Ruth Denham is so thick with Harry Burwell is because of the way Harry carried her father in on that three-mile trek. They say that old Sigmund Burwell was not much use, but Harry got that heavy man up on his shoulders and half ran with him all the way home.”

  “Who tells that wonderful story?” asked Jimmy Jones.