“For Fifty Cents”
An excerpt from Chapter Six of Ronnie McBrayer’s Wild Wild Walton:
The racket had awakened the entire street. Men, women, children, and couples began to cautiously gather outside the General Store in various night clothes, most carrying lanterns. It was Judith Blount, that old spitfire not afraid of anything, who finally ventured into the store itself, when she saw that the front lock had been ripped away. Shortly thereafter, she came tearing out the front door, screaming bloody murder, as fast as her ninety-year-old legs would carry her.
“Ezery’s dead!” she hollered, so as to be heard all the way to Eucheeanna, “Ezery’s dead! His brains’ve been beat slap outta his head!” Pandemonium ensued as the news billowed through the crowd and down the street. Some ran to find a doctor, though it appeared no doctor would be of service to poor Ezery tonight. Others went to see if the parson was in town, staying at the room he kept in the church. Someone bolted immediately to William McLeod’s house on Alaqua Creek. He was a regulator, the closest thing to a lawman for some thirty miles. A few took to the woods, on the trail of the alleged assassin. Others, reeling from the shock of the news, entered the store to fetch Ezery’s body, and grimly brought it out to the street. There, respectfully, they covered him with a blanket and waited for the doctor, preacher, or regulators – whoever came first – with word on what should happen next…
By the time William McLeod arrived, riding bareback on his giant, red mule, the small crowd was feverish for vengeance. And had the circumstances been somewhat different, his arrival would have been hailed as the vanguard of some circus or side show. Comically, he was dressed in long, white underwear and English riding boots that rose almost to his knees. He dismounted smartly, brandishing a shot gun, draped in bandoliers, and wearing a fine Scottish military hat, a topping he was never seen without. McLeod was a proud Scot – they all are – a direct descendent of the first Scottish families who had settled in Walton County, Florida some 75 years earlier.
“Ah-right! Ah-right!” McLeod barked at the crowd. “Ye people got to calm down if there’s to be any justice tonight. So, hold a minute an’ someone tell me what happened here and who’s the poor sacket a kipping ‘neath the blanket?”
Everyone answered at once in a mighty chorus of confusion, each person sharing his or her unique vantage point of the terrible affair. Finally, McLeod fired a shotgun blast into the air to silence what was quickly becoming a vigilante mob…