The above illustration, "Blowing Bubbles," has been adapted for use here by generous permission from the artist, Cyril Rolando.

September 9, 2011


In general, The Drowning Machine publishes only winning fiction resulting from our annual Watery Grave contest. But some little while back, David Cranmer (aka Edward A. Grainger) promised me an original story to be published here first. Who would say 'no' to that offer? Like his fictional heroes, Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles, David is an honorable man, and his word is his bond. He is also the author of the bestselling Kindle collection, The Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles. I am extremely proud to present here his excellent new Cash Laramie story, a tale about blind justice, Reflections in a Glass of Maryland Rye.

Reflections in a Glass of Maryland Rye

Edward A. Grainger

“Marshal, you want more?” the pockmarked lad asked.
Through glazed eyes, Cash Laramie tried to remember the waiter’s name. Was it Jim—or Jerry? He wasn’t going to recollect, and he didn’t really care. He settled on nodding then watched the kid pour whiskey in his glass and set the bottle down next to it. Jim, or Jerry, moved to a nearby table where two cowboys sat.
Cash looked in the jewel-toned liquid and saw distorted burned-out cinders in blue orbs staring vacantly back at him. Startled, he looked up at the mirror behind the bar where he met his likeness: tired eyes, week-old stubble on a square jaw, a dusty black Stetson tilted high on his head, and an Arapaho arrowhead dangling on a leather thong around his neck. He swirled the drink and then took a swig, wondering how long he would continue to recall that man—another name he couldn't remember—and that day.
He watched the waiter pouring ale into a mug as one cowboy tossed some coins on the table.
Silver. That was the man's name. How could he have forgotten? Wanted for horse thieving.
A full year had passed since he tracked Silver to a cabin in Upton, Wyoming. As Cash rode up on Paint, the man stood at the cabin door aiming a Henry rifle at him. “I ain’t going back. They mean to hang me, but I’m innocent.”
“You have no choice, Silver.”
Cash slid off his mount on the left, stepped away and pulled a Winchester rifle from the scabbard in one sleek movement.
Silver raised the barrel, firing lead over Cash’s head, and then retreated inside, slamming the wooden door closed. The gun barrel reappeared through a slot centered in the door.
Cash slapped Paint away with a stern “git” and then, ripping off rifle slugs at the house, he darted behind a wagon next to the well. He flinched as potshots rained down from his right, splintering the wagon inches above his head. A puff of gray smoke drifted from the barn loft about two hundred yards away.
He targeted the bushwhacker’s outline in the shadows and triggered his weapon. The slim figure in over-sized dungarees dropped in an ungainly heap to the ground.
A shout rang out from the cabin as the door flung open again, Silver charging hell-for-leather toward the barn, yelling, “Jamie!
Cash drew a bead on the running mark, and Silver stumbled as the bullets punched him to the ground. He slipped cartridges in his Winchester when abruptly Silver sat bolt upright, firing shots that split the air beside the marshal’s ear. Cash palmed the rifle in his left hand while yanking the Colt holstered on his right hip free and blasted the horse thief, hitting him in the gut.
Silver gasped, dropped the Henry, and kissed the earth again.
Cash pouched his iron and sprinted to the barn. He hadn’t come with the intent to kill.
He slowed as he approached the body and then stopped and angrily kicked the dirt. A young woman lay contorted on the ground with an arm stretched out, blood trickling in parallel. Could have been the man’s daughter. Could have been a much-younger wife. Didn’t matter. She nearly killed him.
He found a shovel and buried the woman in the field behind the barn, marking the shallow grave with a wooden cross.
Paint stood several hundred feet away at the edge of the clearing. He walked over, replaced the Winchester and then led the pinto back to the homestead.
Cash went in the cabin, scouring the rooms for any sign of next of kin. All he turned up was several letters from Arden V.S. Thompson, Esq. from Boston stacked on the table. He pocketed them and left for the barn.
As Cash stood in front of a stall gate, two horses whinnied and stomped their hooves. He identified the chestnut-colored horse as the stolen mare and the other as Silver’s. He bridled each and led both out to the yard where Silver still lay. Cash draped the body over Silver’s horse, binding the man’s wrists and ankles underneath, and then tethered the two horses together behind Paint. He mounted up and they ambled off.
Several miles into the hard trail to Casper, he dug into his vest pocket and pulled out a black cheroot. He scratched a Lucifer to life off his leather belt and fired up the end of his cigar.
A muffled noise came from behind. Cash dropped the match as he swiveled around in the saddle.
Silver’s left eye looked wearily at the ground and his shoulder squirmed under taut ropes. Cash slid off his mount, and strode back to the corpse that seemed to have come back to life.
He bent down and listened as the man sputtered, “Ja…mie.”
“She’s alive,” Cash lied. How in hell this owlhoot was still breathing baffled him.
A faint smile lifted the corner of Silver’s mouth as he spotted Cash’s arrowhead. “You must be the outlaw marshal. Thought you were a bounty hunter. After twenty pieces of silver, eh?” He cackled. “Am … I … gonna … make it?”
They were about fifteen miles from Narrow Creek, where Cash knew a sawbones who might patch up Silver, but that was fifteen miles out of his way and he had no desire to waste the time on a no-good horse thief who would be hanged anyway.
“Wouldn’t you like to think so?” Cash’s teeth clamped down on the cheroot. He grabbed the man by the head and twisted with force, snapping Silver’s neck.

As Cash swished the liquid back and forth in the glass, he knocked over the whiskey bottle the waiter had set on the table.
“Disgrace,” the curly-haired cowboy said.
“Sure is,” the pointy-nosed amigo agreed.
Eyes red-veined with anger, Cash surged out of his chair, smashing his glass across Pointy’s head and throwing Curly a quick hard left that landed on the cowboy’s chin, knocking him sideways to the floor. Curly came up to brawl but was held back by Pointy, his head shaking. “Don’t do it.” Curly hunkered on his heels next to his partner with a sour, pinched look.
Cash removed his badge, sliding it into his shirt pocket. “Got some grit in ‘ya now?”
Both men looked at each other and held their heads low as Cash staggered between them.
“Fuckers,” Cash muttered, tossing a half dollar on the table. He looked to the startled waiter. “I’m paying for these yellow-bellied shits, too.”
The wide-eyed lad nodded. “Yes, sir.”
Cash snagged the whiskey bottle as he angled past his table and out the saloon’s batwings. His boots thudded with a hollow resonance as he walked down the uneven boardwalk. He stepped into the street and untied the pinto’s reins from the hitching post. Placing a shaky boot into the stirrup, he paused as he spotted a smiling couple leaving the Mercantile General. His mind jumped back to a meeting with Chief Marshal Devon Penn not long after he brought Silver’s corpse in.
Cash, remember the Upton man wanted for horse thieving?”
Turns out he was innocent.”
What? He and that woman tried to cut me down.”
That woman was his wife, and her grandfather is Arden Thompson, a big shot lawyer from Boston. He came to Wyoming to clear their names of theft. What had happened was another fellow stole Silver’s mare, stamped his brand on it. When Silver went back for it, he got accused of stealing his own horse. Certainly, drawing on you warranted the action you took. Odd that Silver didn’t take his chances in a court of law, huh?
Yeah, odd,” Cash said.
He swung up into the saddle and watched the couple move hand in hand to the next store. Cash glared at the trifling amount of whiskey remaining and then nudged his horse across to the mercantile where he’d buy more rye. A lot more.


 Reflections in a Glass of Maryland Rye will be published in the forthcoming ebook, The Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles, Vol. II. Watch for it at


  1. Wow, David. I mean, "Ed." I went in not recognizing Cash. Lost my like for him. Then you pulled it all together and showed me something dark in the man's heart from mistakes in his past, that paint the man in stark detail.
    Well done. Glad to see more Cash Laramie, and the depths of his soul.

  2. Excellent as usual. I'm never disappointed with a Cash Laramie story.

  3. You have really mastered the art of plunging right into the story and saving explanations for later. Very exciting tale.

  4. A fine play on words for the title, too. I just love a good title! Cash paid, I guess... Of course I liked it!
    Nik Morton

  5. Tom, I’m glad you didn’t like him at first because that was my intention. He screwed up royally and will be paying for his actions for a long time to come. Thank you for the kind words, sir.

    Larry, Always a pleasure to have a distinguished writer like yourself taking the time to comment. Gracias.

    Thank you for your continuing support, Patti. I am deeply grateful for the friendship we have found through our writing and blogging.

    Nik, And thank you for taking an early look and offering suggestions. What would I do without you and Tyrell?!

  6. A sad story, but I liked the firefight all the same. Very fluid. I especially like the slang: how he "pouched his iron."

    Even lawmen can't be right all the time.

  7. Yup. Tough one. Cash will have to live with that. Makes him all the more real. Well done.

  8. Another excellent story from Grainger

    -Evan H.

  9. Cash keeps revealing those depths. Well done.

  10. Nice reveal of another piece of the man. Well done.

  11. Thanks, Garnett. The language you liked I’ve borrowed from many legends who passed before.

    Glenn, I appreciate you taking the time to stop by, sir. Thank you.

    Evan H, Gracias, Jefe!

    Charles, I’ll do my best. I feel that is what makes this series intriguing.

    Thanks, Randy. I will have Vol. II coming your way shortly.

  12. Neat, like a shot of rye. I like how spare your stories have become. They cut to the quick and take a reader into a dark zone of ironic honesty. No matter how heroic, your character is compromised in some way. It's a fallen world in which something is lost and never regained. It's a theme well suited to the times we live in.

  13. I thought the tweet about Cash making a mistake was just a way to get people to read the story. Excellent action scene and painful memories makes this a perfect read. Incredible job, David.

  14. “..into a dark zone of ironic honesty.” Wow, Ron! Thank you. I may have to use that for the blurb to the second volume.

    Sabrina, I’m so glad you enjoyed Reflections. Gracias, amiga.

  15. I do love haunted characters. I really liked the way this one was framed, Mr. Grainger, Cash looking back with regret. I also love your mastery of the old west vernacular.

  16. That's what I was shooting for, Laura. :) Thanks!

    Lots of research for that old west vernacular, Mike. And nothing beats a haunted character. Plus Cash was long overdue to have the rug pulled out from beneath him.

  17. A Maryland rye bottle with a Boston label?! I'm deeply offended.

  18. I wonder if the TV/film people of the world have your work in their hands. To me Cash and Miles deserve a series at the very least, an Alias Smith and Jones, a High Chaparal or something from a little before my time.
    That snapping of the neck was the real tipping point for me, working that dark, human side for all it was worth. Buying his foes a drink in the bar? - was that an act of contrition, a little too little and a little too late, I wonder.
    Anyway, always a pleasure.
    I'm also about to adopt 'owlhoot' for some of the folk in these parts.
    More please.

  19. LOL, Brian. Don't blame David, he didn't know I was going to add illustrations.

  20. I mean damn you could have at least used a picture of Pikesville or something instead of one of the interlopers. :)

  21. Brian, Ha! That may be my favorite comment. Btw Maryland Rye was big in the 19th century. So it was nationwide. And I believe Penn Rye was the second most popular.

    Nigel, If you know any film people please drop a copy in their laps. :) Comparing my short stories to Alias Smith and Jones/High Chaparal (two of my favorites) is high praise. Thank you, sir.

  22. Excellent as always, David. Loved the title. Loved the language and your pacing. Was really impressed with your manipulations of our expectations every step of the way. Ladies and Gentleman: that's how you write a series character and keep it interesting.

  23. Brian, mea culpa! But you know, those Pikesville bottles, at least the ones on Google Image Search, all look so new.

  24. Terrific story, David. We get to see both a darker side of Cash as well as the price a still honorable man pays for his mistakes. I wonder how this will continue to change him. Will he get lost in the bottle? Change his ways and not doll out so much justice on his own? Not sure, but you've kept up the development of this fantastic character and I can't wait for more.

  25. Best thing about Cash to me: you may not like him at times--as evidenced by some of his past actions here--but, at the end, he's still wearing the badge. That is his line, even when he takes it off. He's done some stuff in the name of justice, even if he's the only one that sees it.

    As R Thomas said, I wonder if Cash continues down this road and, more importantly, will Miles be there to help him.

  26. Fascinating to see Cash develop in each story--especially this one. Beautiful work.

  27. R. Thomas Brown/Scott, I’m not 100% sure of Cash’s direction yet. I have a few ideas but I wait for him to reveal his story. He always does and quite often I don’t like what he has to say.

    Thank you, Chris. I appreciate all the support you have given my stories at DEATH BY KILLING.

  28. Read an earlier version of this story and liked it. Seasoning it some has only made it better. Nice work, David.

  29. A purely fantastic tale. Sad, hard, powerful. Love these stories.

  30. I guess everybody has a bad day once in a while...even a Legend like Marshal Laramie.

    Enjoyed it, David!

  31. Terrific story - where does Cash go from here?

  32. Heroes always have a dark side,a untold story that haunts them and shapes their character. What a way to tell it, my brother.

  33. I thought the line“Got some grit in ‘ya now?” says a lot, like he's talking more about himself. It seems Cash is trying to prove something, and the more he attempts it, the more he digs himself in the very hole he trying to get out of. Very cool story, David. I like the style.

  34. Thanks for taking that early look, Chris. Your suggestions were a huge help.

    Very nice, Chad. Appreciated.

    Thanks, Alyssa. And lets hope he doesn’t have too many more.

    Always means a lot coming from you, Mates. Thanks.

    Jodi, I'm very interested in seeing if he pulls back from this behavior or pushes forward.

  35. JJ Stickney, Thank you. I almost missed you in there. :) Thanks for stopping by.

  36. What makes Cash work is that his hat isn't all white. There's edgy darkness there, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of it. Nice work as always, Mr. Cranmer.

  37. How did I miss this? That was great, David. Cash is a great character and the dark side of him gives him realism. Very well done, buddy!