Book 75 in the Garden City Publishing “cheap” digest-paperback series, which ran from 1923 through 1927, is “The Clean-Up on Deadman” by Frank C. Robertson. The tale originated within the 25 August 1924 edition of Short Stories pulp magazine. The cover art hails from the 25 April 1924 Short Stories and was created by James Reynolds.
Ted Marsh, a lone rancher, joins a crooked posse reportedly chasing two rustlers. Ted knows that the majority of those present are villains, and is interested in seeing how events play out. However, when they eventually do capture the rustlers, Ted and three others are ordered by the corrupt sheriff to head back with the rustled horses. Realizing that something is afoot, Ted breaks from the pack and circles wide back on the trail, to the spot where the duo was captured.
Ted discovers nobody at the cabin but discovers an envelope with the name Monson on it. Never having heard of the fellow, he heads onward toward a train depot, realizing that the sheriff and gang could only head in that direction.
While spying on the gang, Ted is bonked over the head and tossed in a river, to die. Remarkably he stays afloat on some form of a decrepit raft (how convenient) and a rascally old varmint fishes him out of the river. When Ted comes to, he is suffering from amnesia, and the old fellow, having found the envelope in Ted’s possession, has read the contents and believes that Ted is mixed up with a bunch of train robbers.
When Ted eventually recovers his memory, he sets the fellow straight, and learns that the old man knows the actual identity of the supposed sheriff (again, how convenient, eh?). The pair join forces and ride back to Ted’s county, to try and unseat the sheriff and unmask the band of robbers.
But plans oft need go awry, otherwise I’d be reading a short story instead of a long novelette. Trying to remain hidden from all, he is immediately discovered by a half-breed (belonging to the gang) and then boldly rides into town. The innocent members of the town are shocked to behold Ted, alive! They had all heard that he died, likely drowned, when his horse was found by the river. Unable to set them straight on what actually happened, for one can’t simply accuse the sheriff without evidence, Ted begins to plant seeds….
However, the sheriff and gang hardly wait until night falls before ambushing him at the hotel and try to assassinate him. Ted breaks free with the aid of the old varmint. The latter is arrested, but Ted escapes captivity and flees to a ranch where he used to be well-known and liked.
A posse is formed to capture him. The sheriff alluded to the townspeople that Ted lost his mind and assaulted two men, etc. The posse rides up to the ranch and all hell breaks loose and a gun battle ensues.
Rather than have anyone hurt or die on his account, Ted eventually surrenders and the sheriff locks him away. Word soon circulates that Ted and the old codger are due to be whacked during the course of the night, but the local women sabotage the sheriff’s plans, by bringing freshly cooked food to the jail, in order to keep the men detained. The sheriff had intended on releasing the pair at night to go eat at a restaurant and establish an alibi as to why they were killed, supposedly trying to escape. But when word of this plot got out, the women flipped the position by eradicating the necessity of feeding the men at the restaurant, by bringing the food directly to them.
The old codger feigns that the women-folk poisoned his food and the deputy sheriff opens the cell to retrieve the trays of food while he is groveling in agony upon the ground (talk about an overused plot device!) and then the old fellow yanks the deputy to the ground, retrieves his gun and ties the fellow up.
Making good their escape, Ted and he depart and, after learning that the sheriff and other key members of the gang are missing all day, realize that the gang has decided to seek greener pastures. The local bank, which was being used to hide the stolen gold and funds from the bank heist, is now empty!
The pair hump a pair of horses and rake the ground with hooves, tearing up the miles in hot pursuit of the gang. Wildly outnumbered, they are bemused to learn that the gang no longer trusts one another and whack one another, as each member of the gang tries to make off with the loot.
Finally, with little resistance remaining, Ted takes in the lone survivor of the gang, retrieves the stolen loot, and coming home, learns that he is to earn a fat reward from various enterprises…..
It’s a rather loose story, with loads of padding.