Once Upon a Time in Montana (Full Story)

Once Upon a Time in Montana

A short story by Beau Montana

“It’s hard being a gay man in the old west,” Mr. Ree said.

“Word. Wait…you’re gay?” I asked.

“Well I wouldn’t say I’m gay. But I exclusively have sex with men.”

I took a sip of whiskey. My mind was on other things. 

We were in Montana. I reckon the year was 1879. Mr. Ree and myself have been stuck out of time, out of place, for the last two years. 

Time travel does strange things to a man. For one, it strips you completely naked. Mr. Ree and me were found in San Francisco, ass to ass, behind a brothel on Haight Street when we emerged from the plasma ripple. But it does something else: you realize that everyone, and everything, you’ve ever known is out of reach.

I’d never see Miriam again. Or my unborn child that I left back in another timeline.

But Mr. Ree maintained hope. “We might as well get filthy fucking rich,” he said. The gold mines in California were stripped by 1879. Resigned to our fate, we travelled to Elkhorn, Montana to start a new life.

As we sat in the local tavern, townsfolk glared at us. One burly man came up to our table.

“We haven’t seen your kind ‘round here before,” he said.


“We don’t take kindly to strangers. I reckon y’all better drink your whiskey and ride out before sundown.”

“Why don’t you mind your own business buddy?” I said. “We ain’t bothering you. How about you ride your fat ass back to your table?”

“Them are fightin words.”

“Damn right pal! You don’t want none of this!”

“Now gentlemen,” Mr. Ree interjected, “there’s nothing here that can’t be settled by a good old fashioned duel.”

The burly man nodded. “I’ll see you outside.”

“The fuck are you doing Mr. Ree?” I asked.

“Don’t worry about it. You got a Korth 357. You’ll blast his ass into the future,” he replied.

“Ree, this is 1879,” I said, “they don’t make bullets for this gun yet. I gotta conserve my ammo. Besides, wouldn’t I be disrupting the timeline?”

“Nah. According to J Robert Oppenheimer, this is a new timeline, remember? We can do whatever the fuck we want.”

I just shrugged and walked outside. The burly man was standing in the street. The townsfolk all stood around.

“Alright,” I said, “fastest draw wins, or however this bullshit works.”

The burly man opened his duster, exposing his six shooter. “Ready whenever you are,” he said.

We had a stare down. The townsfolk stood around nervously, waiting for the fireworks. 

Suddenly he reached for his six shooter. I drew my 357. The sound thundered from my gun, echoing across the town and down through the mountains.

I shot off the burly man’s suspenders. His pants fell down, exposing his ass and penis.

I twirled the 357 and placed it back my holster. 

Suddenly a shotgun blast went off. The townsfolk scattered. Out of the shadows appeared a man dressed in black. His spurs jingled as he walked towards us.

“I won’t have this nonsense in my town,” the man in black said.

I recognized the face.

“I’m James,” I said. “And this here is my partner, Mr. Ree.”

“I know who you are,” he replied. “And if you fire that gun again, I’ll shove this shotgun right up your ass.”

“Doesn’t sound like much of a threat,” I said.

He stepped a little closer. 

Could it be?

“I’m Oppenheimer,” he said. “SHERIFF J. Robert Oppenheimer.”


“Bob,” I said, “you know us. Just set us free and we won’t cause trouble.”

Sheriff J Robert Oppenheimer locked Mr. Ree and me in jail. He sat behind his desk. He looked tired, haggard, and was pounding a whiskey bottle.

“Sorry boys,” he replied. “But we have enough trouble with Dillon B Dickleburg coming into town and buying up all the gold mines. This town is a powder keg.”

“Well shit Bob! You are a man of science. You said that gold was a part of your time travel weapon. Just build another time machine and send us back to our timeline.”

“Like I said, even if I could do that, it’s highly improbable that I can get you back. In fact, it’s definitely impossible with 19th Century technology.”

“Have you even tried? Come on, you were a legend in our timeline. What happened to you?”

“You just don’t understand.”

A ten year old boy then walked into the jailhouse. He went up to Oppenheimer and gave him a hug. 

“Who are these men papa?” the boy asked.

“These are just strangers Malachi, now go home to your mother. She’s been looking for you,” he replied.

The boy rushed out of the jailhouse.

“Ohh I get it now,” I said. “You’ve settled down. You traded in your lab coat for a badge.”

Oppenheimer put down the whiskey bottle.

“I arrived in this timeline through the spacetime ripple 15 years before you two showed up,” he said. “I met a woman, we settled down. I now have a son that I’d do anything to protect.”

“I’m just asking for your help,” I replied.

“I killed countless people with those damn nuclear weapons,” Oppenheimer continued. “Not again. I have an opportunity to do it right this time. I’m going to do whatever it takes to protect my family and this community from dangerous people like you.”

“Bob, please,” I said. “We’re not here to cause problems. In fact, if you need assistance handling this Dickleburg fellow, Mr. Ree and I can help.”

“You two have done enough damage.”

There was some commotion outside. I could hear one of the deputies ask “how can I help you Mr. Dickleburg?”

“Ah shit,” Oppenheimer said. He grabbed his shotgun and walked outside. “What seems to be the problem?” he asked.

“Mr. Rockwell up in them hills has been chasing us off that land,” I could hear Dickleburg saying.

“I’ll have you know, Mr. Dickleburg, that Mr. Rockwell is the rightful owner of that property. If he wants to chase you away, he’s well within his right,” Oppenheimer said.

“Why sheriff, all I want to do is offer him a business proposition.”

“Now Mr. Dickleburg, I’d advise you to leave that man alone. If you have a message for him, I’ll make sure he receives it.”

I could hear Dickleburg pull out his six shooter. “I own this town Sheriff,” he said. “I am the rightful owner of that property and all the property around it. That means I own you.”

I could hear the clicking of Oppenheimer’s shotgun. “The people of this town are the rightful owners,” he said. “You go back to that company of yours in Helena and you tell them that if they come back, there will be a bloodbath.”

“I’ll be back,” Dickleburg said. Him and his men galloped away on their horses.

Oppenheimer came back into the jailhouse. He took the keys, opened our jail cell, and handed back the 357.

“Men,” he said, “I now pronounce you deputies of Elkhorn, Montana.”


I couldn’t hit shit with my six shooter. I missed every target.

J Robert Oppenheimer’s 10 year old son, Malachi, watched and nodded his head. “Did you really know my father from the war?” he asked.

“Sure, why not?” I replied.

“Whose side did you fight for?”

“Uh, Abraham Lincoln’s?”

“Which detachment?”

“963rd, 9th battalion, 4th infantry, uhmmm, at the Battle of Waterloo?”

“Did you get injured?”

“Oh yeah. All over.”

Malachi scratched his head. He knew I was full of shit. “Are you sure that you didn’t know my father from the future?” he asked.

“How do you know about that?”

“He has a time machine in the barn.”

Malachi took me into the barn and lifted a large tarp off a time weapon—a similar looking time weapon that sent Mr. Ree, Oppenheimer, and myself back to 1879.

“Does it work?” I asked Malachi.

“Of course. My father built it. He can make anything work.”

Oppenheimer stood at the entryway of the barn. “That’s enough Malachi,” he said. “You run along now.”

Malachi shook his head. “Yes father,” he said and went back to tending to his chores.

“Why didn’t you tell me about this, Bob?” I asked.

“It doesn’t work.”

“Malachi says it does.”

Oppenheimer paced back and forth, rubbing his hand across his face. “Look,” he said, “we can go over this all day. Sure, I can send you to the future, the past, whatever. But it’s almost impossible to get you back to YOUR timeline. I’m sorry James. But we need to look at the present. You’re here. Mr. Ree is here. I need help. This community needs your help. Please help me. I can’t fight Dickleburg on my own.”

I thought through his words. “You love Malachi,” I said. “But did you know that I have a child back in that timeline? If there is a chance, however slim, to get back there, I have to take it. Wouldn’t you do the same if you were me?”

Oppenheimer nodded. “If I’m going to help you,” he said, “then we have to secure these goldmines. There’s a property in gold that makes these time weapons work. To secure the mines, we have to defeat Dickleburg.”

I pulled out my Korth 357.

“I’m no good with those six shooters,” I replied. “But I can shoot a fly’s dick off with this 357. Can you help me make more bullets?”

“That I can do.”


“Christopher Nolan is a hack,” Mr. Ree said, “Oppenheimer looks nothing like Cillian Murphy.”

“Goddamnit Mr. Ree, I fucking hate the old west,” I replied as I spit out some chewing tobacco, “it’s nothing like the movies. Everyone is drunk all the time and reeks of cow shit!”

“How’s that any different from 21st Century LA?” 

“I know we’ve been here awhile,” I said as I drank directly from the whiskey bottle, “but I just can’t get used to it. I miss Miriam. I miss Izzy. I miss my unborn son. Hell, I even miss Angelika!”


I took a few cocaine drops to help with a toothache. “Nevermind,” I replied, “I forgot what we were talking about. I could use some grub though. Where the hell is Maybelline?” 

Maybelline, Oppenheimer’s wife, brought out a fully roasted turkey with all the fixins. Mr. Ree and I were joining her and her son Malachi for supper around the fireplace. “Sure looks delicious, Mrs. Oppenheimer,” I said, “will Mr. Oppenheimer be joining us this evening?”

“He’s in town tonight. There’s a public hanging,” she explained, “he probably won’t be back until the wee hours of the night.”

“This turkey is delightful, Mrs. Oppenheimer,” Mr. Ree said, “too bad Bob couldn’t join us.”

“Thank you, Mr. Ree. I didn’t catch your first name, by the way.”

Ree looked up from his plate, mouth stuffed with turkey, and cocked his head. “What do you mean?” he asked. 

I changed the subject. “I suppose you’re used to not having Bob around. Being a sheriff’s wife must be lonely,” I said.

“Yes,” Mrs. Oppenheimer lamented, “but I have my dear son Malachi to keep me company.” She smiled and looked over to her son. “Malachi Oppenheimer, how the lord has blessed us,” she continued. Then Maybelline looked at me with a wink and a suspicious, crooked smile. “I also have you two gentlemen to watch after me,” she said, “care for some pie?”

I thought for a moment. 

“Well, I appreciate you offering,” I replied, “but because of poor diet and access to copious amounts of narcotics associated with the Old West, I haven’t experienced an erection since I’ve arrived and…”

“I think she means apple pie,” Mr. Ree interrupted. 

“Oh yes, of course. I’d love some pie,” I said. 

Maybelline got up from the table and departed for the kitchen. I quietly nudged Mr. Ree. “Hey, do you still have that opium pipe?” I asked him.

“What the hell is wrong with you? You are stoned as fuck!”

“I know! I think I have a problem!”

“If we ever make it back to the future,” Mr. Ree whispered, “you’re getting some help!”

Maybelline returned to the table all smiles carrying a piping hot trey of apple pie. Malachi was licking his chops with anticipation. “I want the biggest piece, Mom!” he declared. Mr. Ree and I chuckled. 

“It sure is nice having a full house for a change,” Maybelline said, “it keeps my mind from worrying about Mr. Oppenheimer.”

“Why do you say that?” I asked.

“Elkhorn used to be a quiet town,” she explained, “but with Mr. Dickleburg from Helena coming down and bullying us townsfolk, Bob has become more worried. He’s just one man, you see. Mr. Dickleburg has a whole army.”

“I assure you ma’am, Mr. Ree and I will do everything we can to help Bob protect this town.”

“It’s not only that,” Maybelline paused, “but he’s also taken to the bottle a lot lately.” She began to weep as she grabbed ahold of my hand. “Oh, he’s just not the same man anymore!” she cried.

“There there,” I said.

Suddenly, J Robert Oppenheimer busted through the door and tossed Mr. Ree and me two Winchesters. “Grab a horse,” he ordered, “we gotta ride into town.”

“But Bob,” I said, “I told you: I’m a terrible shot without my .357!”

“Just point and shoot,” Oppenheimer replied, “I don’t have time to explain. Hurry! Elkhorn is about to have company!”


“No wonder Mr. Dickleburg’s pissed,” I said to Oppenheimer after we galloped into town, “you didn’t give his man a fair trial!”

“That’s the thing about this timeline,” he replied, “they have no concept of judge and jury. Yet we still come to the same conclusions without them. It’s the damndest thing.”

Sheriff J. Robert Oppenheimer was about to hang one of Dickleburg’s company men on the streets of Elkhorn when word got to him that Dickleburg was riding into town with some hired guns. Oppenheimer and myself, along with Mr. Ree, we’re standing around in the sheriff’s office with the prisoner, Billy Friedkin, behind bars. 

“You boys don’t know what’s comin,” Billy said, taunting us.

“I say we hang the son of a bitch right now and send a message,” Mr. Ree opined. 

“We can’t do that,” Oppenheimer said, “Mr. Dickleburg will burn this town down.”

“Then why did you arrest Billy Friedkin to begin with?” I asked.

“Because,” Oppenheimer paused, “Mr. Friedkin shot and killed several of Mr. Rockwell’s cattle. The law plainly states that’s an offense punishable by death.”

“Then wouldn’t the government have your back?”

“No,” he replied, “Mr. Dickleburg owns the Montana government. But I had to arrest and hang Billy or else the townspeople would have hung me. You see, I’m between a rock and a hard place.”

Billy began guffawing in his cell. “Shut up,” I ordered, “I could kill you now and get away with it.”

“Relax gentlemen,” Oppenheimer said, “we need to think. Other than the time in that dormant volcano in Hawaii, have you ever been in a gun fight?”

I chuckled in response. “Bob, seriously?” I asked, “I saved Mexico City from a nuclear attack and massacred the entire West Coast mafia up in Big Bear. The FBI was pissed. So I think I know my way around a fire fight.”

“Good,” he said, “because Dickleburg and his merry men will be here in a matter of minutes. We need to set up a defensive parameter. It’s only going to be the three of us.”

I looked over to Mr. Ree. “I think I’m gonna need that opium pipe now,” I said.

Mr. Ree shook his head and dug out the pipe from his satchel. “I don’t think I’ve ever killed a man sober,” I said to him as I took it from his hand.

“Hopefully it will improve your aim,” he added.

“Don’t worry about it,” I replied, “I’ve got this shotgun. Are you any good with that Winchester rifle?”

Mr. Ree held up the weapon and smiled. “I’m no Lee Harvey Oswald,” he replied, “but I think I can handle myself.”


“Proceed no further,” Oppenheimer ordered the gang. Dickleburg and his men remained mounted on their horses in front of the sheriff’s station. The pale moonlight lit the town square; Patrons at the whore house stood by to see what the fuss was about.

“But we outnumber you five to one,” Dickleburg chuckled to the sheriff.

Only me and Oppenheimer stood ready to confront the gaggle. At that moment, the opium started kicking in. Normally that would drag me down. But Thankfully I took a bump of cocaine to keep me alert. Oppenheimer kept his eyes, along with his pair of six shooters, on Dickleburg. I had my shotgun lowered and cocked on the other nine men.

“If you’ve come here for Billy Friedkin,” Oppenheimer said to Dickleburg, “you may succeed at getting him, but we won’t be the only ones standing on hell’s doorstep tonight. So you need to ask yourself: is it worth it?”

Dickleburg gave another hearty laugh. “I think you misunderstand my intentions here. Of course I’m here for Billy. He is, after all, a very valuable employee to my company. I’m sure you’d do the same for your loyal deputy standing here,” he replied, referring to me with a wink and a smile. “I value all of my loyal employees, which got me thinking: I have not been a very good employer to you Sheriff Oppenheimer. We have a saying in Helena: money fixes everything.”

Dickleburg dismounted his horse, grabbed two comically large sacks- complete with dollar signs stenciled on- and threw them at the sheriff’s feet. “I do hope you accept my sincerest apologies,” Dickleburg continued, “I hope we have a much stronger working relationship moving forward.”

Oppenheimer stood motionless for a few moments as he stared at the sacks of cash. Finally he looked up at the townspeople still congregated around the whore house. “Give me a moment,” he uttered.

I followed him back into the sheriff’s office where he pulled out a large whiskey bottle from his desk drawer. “You aren’t serious about accepting his offer, are you?” I asked as he uncorked the bottle.

After several long seconds of nonstop gulping, Oppenheimer lowered the bottle. “Yes I am,” he finally replied.

“Come on!” I exclaimed, “What the hell is so important about Elkhorn?! Surely to god there’s a lot more places to find gold in Montana?!”

“Other places? Yes,” Oppenheimer replied, “but the best place? That’s right under our feet.”

My intuition, likely aided by narcotics, started kicking in. “So that’s why you’re in Elkhorn,” I said, “tell me: how much gold does it take to kickstart your time portal device?”

“Shit,” an obviously drunk Oppenheimer wondered aloud, “at least a few tons.”

“A few fucking tons?! You are telling me there’s that much gold in this godforsaken town?!”

“Ohhh yeah. But what does it matter now? My family’s here and it’s not like I could make it back to my own time anyway. So fuck it! I’ll take the money.”

I grabbed the sheriff by the lapels. “Goddamnit Oppenheimer,” I shouted, “you can’t give in that easily! You serve the PEOPLE of Elkhorn, NOT the corporations! The gold belongs to THEM…AND the natives they stole the land from.” I then let him go and straighten myself out. “Besides,” I continued, “you agreed to help ME to get back to my timeline.”

Oppenheimer just laughed. “That’s impossible and you know it.”

I shook my head. “Damn it man, if you pick up those bags of cash, I will shoot you myself,” I declared, “are we clear?”

Oppenheimer began rubbing his face. Then he picked up the whiskey bottle once again. “Dickleburg probably has some trick up his sleeve anyway,” he said. He looked out the window at the armed men standing by and took a swig. “I used to be a great physicist,” he lamented, “so what are we gonna do about Billy Friedkin? Do we turn him over?”

“That seems to be the only sensible option,” I replied.

The sheriff picked up the keys, unlocked Billy’s cell, and grabbed him by the arm. “I told you they’d be coming for me,” the prisoner said.

“We know Billy. We expected them to, you fuckin idiot.”

We escorted him outside and released him to Dickleburg. “Aren’t you gonna take the money?” the businessman asked.

“Just take Mr. Friedkin and get out of town,” Oppenheimer replied.

Dickleburg lit up another cigar and nodded. “That’s a shame boy, I thought we’d be partners,” he said. He turned around and signaled for his gang to open fire. 

Oppenheimer and I dropped to the ground as bullets ripped up the sheriff’s office. All the townspeople fled into the whore house. We exchanged fire for what seemed like eternity but was likely only a few seconds. Then the sound of a Winchester rifle pierced through the gunfire as Dickleburg’s men began dropping one by one from their horses.

Mr. Ree was to the rescue.


“Goddamn Mr. Ree!” I said while gazing upon the bodies of nine hired guns; their brains were splattered across the dusty Elkhorn street, “I thought you were only decent with a rifle!”

“Heh! I guess I’m better than I thought,” he replied. 

“Billy Friedkin and Dickleburg managed to ride away,” said Sheriff Oppenheimer, “we gotta get these bodies off the street.”

Right then the town’s undertaker, Fred Ward, stepped out of the whore house wearing only his long johns. “Sorry for disturbing you on your day off,” Oppenheimer said to him.

“Oh it’s alright,” Fred replied, “I got the whiskey dick anyway.” He immediately began loading the bodies into his carriage. 

“When Dickleburg returns,” the sheriff said to me and Mr. Ree, “he’ll bring an army.” He then looked back over the carnage in front of his office. “Son of a bitch!” he yelled, “this went worse than I was expecting 

The three of us rode back to Oppenheimer’s place where Maybelline and Malachi were waiting. “Thank goodness you are all alright!” Maybelline declared. She strutted right past her husband and hugged me. “I don’t know what I’d do if you were killed,” she said.

Oppenheimer spoke up. “Maybelline, bring me a bottle of scotch,” he ordered, “come on men, we have work to do.”

We all went out to the barn where Oppenheimer removed the tarp over his time portal device. He began scribbling down some equations on a note pad. “According to my calculations,” he said, “we’re gonna need five tons of gold to get this thing operational.”

“That’s a lot of gold,” I replied.

“And we have very little time to get it.”

“Any idea where we could find that much in such short of time?” asked Mr. Ree.

“The average prospector will only find a fraction of that amount in his or her lifetime,” Oppenheimer responded, “but…”

“But what?” I asked.

“But, the mother load is here in Elkhorn.”


Right then Maybelline brought in the scotch. Oppenheimer opened the bottle and started chugging. “It’s under Mr. Rockwell’s land,” he finally stated.

“So what’s the big deal?” I asked, “we’ll just go over there and take it under the cover of night.”

“It’s not that simple.”

“How do you know it’s there?” Mr. Ree inquired.

Oppenheimer took another swig of scotch. “Because history says it there. One of the largest gold deposits of all time is there.”

“I thought you said history is slightly different in this timeline. It might’ve been there in our timeline, but there’s no guarantee it’s there now.”

Oppenheimer closed the bottle and straightened himself out. “That’s the risk we gotta take,” he said.

I shook my head. “I don’t understand this time bullshit,” I stated, “it’s either here or it’s not. You’re the scientist. Make it make sense.”

“Time isn’t necessarily linear,” Oppenheimer explained, “it’s more like a color wheel. Our timeline might be orange, for example, but the one we’re in now might be light orange. There are some similarities between the two but there’s no telling where the timelines might diverge. To make make matters worse, even if we could get the gold, time is not only a color wheel, but it’s an INFINITE color wheel, seemingly. Pinpointing your EXACT spot on the wheel would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. No…worse…a needle in an entire universe!”

“So we can only hope for the best,” Mr. Ree responded.


Malachi wondered into the barn. “Are you okay daddy?” he asked while rubbing his eyes.

Oppenheimer kneeled down before his son and held him in his arms. “Of course I am,” he said, “everything will be alright. You and your mother shouldn’t worry.”

Maybelline picked up Malachi to escort him to bed. Mr. Ree and I stood silently while we watched the small family comfort each other. After the mother and son left, Oppenheimer kept his back facing us. “Dickleburg will stop at nothing to get what he wants,” he uttered, “if anything happens to me, I want you two to take my wife and son to whatever timeline you end up in. Being there will be safer than being here.”

After he turned around, the sheriff and former scientist wiped a tear from his eye and picked up a shovel. “Tomorrow we’ll ride out to Mr. Rockwell’s land,” Oppenheimer stated, “and we’ll pray to god that we’re in the right timeline.”


“Man, I can’t see shit!” Mr. Ree yelled. 

Sheriff J. Robert Oppenheimer led the way through the dark of night carrying a shovel and lantern. Mr. Ree and I kept tripping over rocks and branches as we followed behind him onto Mr. Rockwell’s land.

“Shut your goddamn trap,” Oppenheimer ordered, “Mr. Rockwell will shoot us dead if he finds us digging up his property.”

“Bob,” I said, “if several tons of gold is on his land, how will we carry all that weight back to your barn?”

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” the sheriff replied, “in the meantime, we just have to determine if it’s here at all.”

“How will we do that?”

Oppenheimer turned around and smiled. “You think I don’t have a plan?” he rhetorically asked. Bob opened his duster and inside he carried a small metal detector. “I’ve been itching to try this thing out,” he continued, “it ain’t easy inventing something like this in the old west. But I’m nearly certain it’ll work.”

We finally arrived at a dried up creek bed some hundred yards behind the Rockwell home. “If the gold is anywhere,” Oppenheimer said in a lowered voice, “it’s right around here.”

Bob took out his makeshift metal detector and began listening for certain radio signatures. Mr. Ree and I stood back while he walked up and down the creek. After 10 minutes of watching him do this, we sat down on a large sandstone rock. 

“So we’re gonna die in the old west aren’t we?” Mr. Ree asked.

“Almost certainly,” I replied as I pulled out a flask.

“Well I gotta say, it’s certainly been a lot of fun riding around out here palling around with you. I have no regrets.”

“Yeah, I suppose we’ve had some good times,” I said as I took a few swings of whiskey, “it’s just a shame that I’ll never see my son.”

Mr. Ree patted me on the back. “You never know,” he said, “sometimes impossible things happen.”

I ignored that comment as I passed the flask to him. “Tell me, since you no longer work for the Admiral because he fell into a lava pit, what would you have done if we made it back to LA?” I asked.

Mr. Ree pondered for a bit after lowering the flask from his lips. “Prostitution probably,” he responded, “why do you ask?”

“We make one hell of I team,” I said, “if we do make it back, you should come work with me at my detective agency.”

“Say,” Mr. Ree nodded enthusiastically, “that’s not a bad idea!”

Right then, Bob came rushing down the creek bed. “Grab your shovels!” he ordered, “I think we hit the jackpot!”

Several meters down the creek, the metal detector was wildly sounding off. Oppenheimer put down his lantern and began eagerly digging. Meanwhile, Mr. Ree and I were cackling away. “We might make actually make it out of this shithole town!” I exclaimed.

Seconds later, from out of the darkness I heard the clicking of a Smith and Wesson. “Drop dem shovels fellas,” the Irish accent ordered.


“Jesus Christ,” I said to Mr. Ree, “my head’s killing me! How long have I been out?”

“Two days,” he replied.

“Two fuckin days?!”

“Yeah, you were spazing out because you were suffering from narcotic withdrawals so Rockwell injected you with something and you’ve been knocked out ever since.”

“But but…it feels like just a moment ago we were outside looking for gold!”

“Rockwell caught us,” Mr. Ree explained, “so he took us by gunpoint and has kept us locked in his basement ever since.”

I sat up straight on the dusty floor and looked around. Something was off. Nothing in the basement looked like it belonged in the 19th Century. In fact, it looked like a laboratory from well beyond mine and Mr. Ree’s time.

“What the hell is going on here?” I asked, “where’s Oppenheimer?”

“Rockwell took him,” Mr. Ree shrugged, “probably to torture him.”

“What the hell?”

“Yeah man, Rockwell’s a strange dude. You should get a look at him when he comes back down. Try not to laugh though.”

“I doubt that I will find anything funny about this situation.”

“Nah, this is a little different.”

Seconds later we heard the door unlocking from the top of the stairs. The two of us fell silent as we waited for what came next. The door crept open then all we could hear was the sound of footsteps thumping down the stairs. Finally, in true dramatic form, Rockwell made his way into the basement and stood before us.

“Ohhh, I see what you mean,” I said to Mr. Ree. 

Rockwell stood less than five feet tall with a buckle on his top hat and sporting a long red beard. “Ye boys coming after me gold are ye?” said Rockwell in his thick Irish draw. 

“Where’s J. Robert Oppenheimer?” I asked while trying to hold back laughter. 

“Ahh the foolish scientist man, eh? I’m just keepin’ him detained for questionin’. Strange how a 20th century scientist became a sheriff in 19th century Montana wouldn’t you say?”

“Look dude, I’m not here to argue with you,” I said, “seeing that you know that we’re from the future, all we need is some of your gold to get back to our time and then we’ll get out of your hair.”

“Aye, five tons of gold that is, which just so happens to be all the gold here.”

“Well shit, that’s pretty unfortunate,” I replied, “welp Mr. Ree, I guess we’re gonna die in the old west after all. So Rockwell, do you want to let us go or do you want to kill us now? I don’t give a shit which.”

“Wait wait wait,” a perplexed Rockwell stuttered, “you won’t let me question you?”

“Nope,” I said, “Keep the gold. I’m ready to die.”

“Alright alright,” Rockwell replied, “I’ll let you have the gold. BUT, I want access to this time portal device developed by Oppenheimer.”


After Rockwell led us upstairs, I saw J. Robert Oppenheimer wipe his brow. “What did he do to you?” I asked him.

He shook his head. “Meth is a hell of a drug,” he replied. 

“Did Rockwell torture you?”

“If you call being methed out for two days straight torture, then yeah, I was tortured!”

I inquisitively looked back over to Rockwell. “How the fuck are you finding these drugs?” I asked him, “what was that shit you gave me in the basement? Are you some sort of time traveler?”

“Gentlemen, please,” he calmly responded, “I know all of this seems unusual, but I had to drug all of you to get answers. Luckily it appears that fate has brought us together. I won’t divulge too much about me, but I have what you want and you have what I want which is the time portal device.”


“Now’s not the time to ask questions,” Rockwell rudely interrupted, “I have the gold buried by the creek bed which Sheriff Oppenheimer found. We should uncover it now and proceed with our plans.”

“Wait!” Oppenheimer yelled, “We must stop Dickleburg before I send the three of you to another timeline. How are you with a pistol?” he asked Rockwell.

“I see,” Rockwell responded while stroking his red beard, “I suppose I should help you kill Dickleburg considering all the meth I gave you while under interrogation. In retrospect, I did kinda overdo it..”

“It wasn’t all bad,” Oppenheimer said.

“But to answer your question, I can shoot a bull’s nuts off from 500 yards. It’s the luck of the ol’ Irish!” Rockwell concluded while twirling a six shooter around his finger.

So while we were digging up the gold, Oppenheimer and Rockwell stepped off to the side to go over the details of the time portal. Mr. Ree and I were left alone to do the work. “Is it a good idea to bury gold by a creek?” Mr. Ree asked.

“Good question,” I said.

“And besides what the hell’s up with Rockwell? Is he some kind of time traveling, drug dealing, leprechaun?”

I shrugged. “I don’t give a shit what he is,” I said, “all I know is that I haven’t had any withdrawal symptoms since he injected me with whatever that crap was in the basement. So maybe I’m cured from drug addiction! By the way, do you still got some crack?”

That moment, a man came riding down the trail towards the Rockwell homestead. He was a hootin and hollering. “Sheriff Oppenheimer! Sheriff Oppenheimer!” he screamed. It was Fred Ward, the undertaker. 

His horse stopped in front of Oppenheimer with clouds of dust behind him. “Where the hell have you been the last two days?!” the undertaker asked.

“Uhh, well,” Oppenheimer stuttered, “that’s complicated.”

“Well you better uncomplicate it!” Ward screamed, “Dickleburg has taken over the town and has your wife and child!”

“Fuck me running!” Oppenheimer yelled. Everyone was shocked into silence after hearing this burst of rage. We simply stood there while the sheriff paced back and forth and concocted a plan.

“Alright,” he finally said, “here’s what we’re gonna do: we’re gonna kill all of Dickleburg’s men. It’s that simple. James, do you still have that Korth .357 magnum?”

“Of course, I never leave the house without it,” I replied.

“Good, I made you more ammo,” Oppenheimer said, “I want you to do what god put you on this earth to do: kill every last mother fucker you see. Any son of a bitch that gets in the way, kill him too. I’ve already unleashed a fiery hell on one Earth, and I’m about to do it on another. I have become DEATH: DESTROYER OF WOLDS.”


“Here’s semi-automatic plasma rifle from World War XIV. You should be able vaporize 500 men with this dandy,” Rockwell explained. 

I took one look at the weapon. “Why didn’t you say that you had all of this futuristic technology?” I asked.

“Well I thought that it would create all kinds of paradoxes in the space time continuum. But apparently none of that matters. Hell, being a good Irishman that I am, I got super drunk with Jesus Christ on the Last Supper and he ended up asphyxiating on his vomit. Good guy by the way, but it ended up changing nothing in the future. Peter got crucified instead. So fuck it.”

I scratched my head. “So are you from the future or past? Just what the fuck are you?”

“Stop thinking so much,” Rockwell replied, “let’s go kill some cowboys and get back to our timelines.”

“Thanks,” I said, “but I don’t think I’m gonna need this plasma rifle. I got a .357 Magnum.”

“Are you some kind of dipshit? That thing’s only got six shots. We’re going against hundreds of men.”

“Have I ever told you about the time I killed the west coast mafia up in Big Bear, slaughtered an army in the jungles of Honduras, then did it again in a dormant volcano in Hawaii? This ain’t my first rodeo.”

Rockwell shook his head. “Yeah well, whatever dude. You tell me every chance you get.”

“Come on men,” J. Robert Oppenheimer ordered, “let’s ride out. With our futuristic weaponry, we should be able to handle all of Dickleburg’s men. Don’t let them get close. If it moves, kill it.”

We rode out from the Rockwell homestead into Elkhorn. Everyone was armed to the teeth; Oppenheimer, Mr. Ree, and Rockwell we’re strapped with multiple pistols, shotguns, and assorted hand grenades. Fred Ward had a Gatling gun mounted to his carriage. When we arrived at the outskirts, Fred got into position while the rest of us dismounted and marched side by side into town.

When we reached the sheriff’s office, Billy Friedkin stepped out to greet us. “Well well well,” Billy taunted, “if it ain’t Wyatt Earp and his merry men.”

Oppenheimer immediately pulled out his laser pistol and fired. Billy Friedkin exploded into a million pieces. Bits of brain matter and guts were strewn around the town square.

“Jesus Christ BOB!!!” Dickleburg screamed when he saw the bloody scene, “Chill the fuck out!!!”

Oppenheimer pointed his pistol at Dickleburg. “Do you see what happened to Billy?” he asked, “This is what we’re prepared to do to you if you don’t release my family and leave this town!”

Dickleburg raised his hands and nodded. “I think we have another misunderstanding,” he said with genuine concern, “Look, I have a proposal that will make everyone happy.”

“Release my family first,” Oppenheimer ordered.

“Alright. Alright!” Dickleburg responded. He looked back into the sheriff’s office. “Bring ‘em out!”

One of Dickleburg’s men escorted Maybelline and Malachi out into the open. “James, save us!” Maybelline screamed at me. 

“As you can see Bob, your family is perfectly fine,” Dickleburg added.

“Release them!”

“First, I want to go over our proposal.”

Oppenheimer cocked his pistol, which made a loud charging noise. “You better make it quick,” he threatened, “if you don’t, the next time I press the trigger there will be no remains to send back to your family.”

Dickleburg gave a nervous chuckle. “I make you and everyone in this town filthy rich,” he said, “and in return, my company has complete access to the mining rights of this town.”


“I get it,” Dickleburg yelled, “we’ve been assholes. It was wrong of us to come in and run roughshod over the town. Let’s put this all behind us and end everything peacefully.”

J Robert Oppenheimer stood motionless as he held up his laser pistol. His black duster was swaying in the wind. I could see his hand shaking as he lowered his finger towards the trigger. I approached him quietly then spoke in a low, calm voice. “Perhaps Dickleburg’s right,” I said, “we may have more advanced weapons than them, but they severely outnumbered us. There’s no way this ends with all of us alive.”

“Come on Bob,” Dickleburg shouted, “let’s be smart about this.”

Beads of sweat were pouring down Oppenheimer’s face. I leaned towards him again. “Do we really want to unleash this kind of bloodbath?” I asked him. 

“Just let my family go,” the sheriff finally uttered, his voice cracking.

“First we need you to agree to the terms,” Dickleburg replied. 

“Let them go, and we’ll talk.”

Dickleburg smiled and motioned over to his men. The two gunmen released Maybelline and Malachi. As they started running towards us, I saw another gunman peep out from around the corner. As he lowered his shotgun, I took out the .357 and hit the ground. “Everybody down!” I yelled.

One shot. One shot was all it took to take out the gunman. Dickleburg ducked for cover as he dodged laser shots from Oppenheimer. The bright blue beams hit the two gunmen standing behind him, vaporizing them instantly. 

All hell broke loose in the town square. Everyone looked for cover. 

Maybelline and Malachi ran into the whore house while bullets and lasers flew around them. Windows were smashed, dust was kicked up from scrambling boots and horses, but the four of us maintained our line. 

“Aaaahahhahha!” screamed Rockwell as he tossed a space grenade. The device bounced towards four of Dickleburg’s gunmen. When it detonated, a plasma bubble formed around them which initially caused confusion. However, heat rapidly increased within the bubble and their skin began melting off. The screams were unbearable.

“Jesus fucking Christ!” I yelled to Rockwell.

“I didn’t know it would do that,” he replied. 

Meanwhile, Mr. Ree was on the roof of the whore house, picking off men with his laser Winchester. Heads were popping like watermelons all around us. Yet no matter what we did, more gunmen kept pouring into the town square.

Finally, we were all cornered in the whore house. “Damn, I’m out of space ammo,” Oppenheimer said. “My ammunition is spent as well,” Mr. Ree chimed in. 

“I’ve still got five shots,” I stated.

“Five shots?” Oppenheimer asked, “you started off with six! You mean to tell me that in all this carnage you only killed ONE guy?”

“Maybe two,” I replied, “I hit a man with a shuriken but I don’t think he died.”

“Go to the roof,” Mr. Ree ordered, “with all that ammo and your lethal accuracy, you should be able to hold them off.”

I charged up the stairs to the top of the whore house. As I was about to aim at the gaggle of gunmen below, I heard a shout. “PROTECT THE WHORE HOUSE!” the man screamed. It was Fred Ward. He rolled out the Gatling gun and unleashed fury on the poor, unsuspecting bastards. 

At least 50 gunmen were senselessly mowed down on the street, blood popping out of the bodies with each round. I barfed after I surveyed the massacre below; every man was shot to an unrecognizable pulp. “Thanks Fred,” I shouted, “I completely forgot about you!”

“No problem man! Anytime!”

I walked back downstairs where everyone was gathered around the bar. “Alright, Oppenheimer,” I said, “they’re all dead. Time to send me and Mr. Ree back to our timeline.”

Oppenheimer slammed the whiskey bottle on the bar and threw down his hat. “Fuck me right in my ass!” he yelled.


“I said I’d never be responsible for this many deaths again,” he lamented, “why me? What did I do to warrant this kind fate?”

“I dunno. The gods must hate you for harnessing their power by inventing nuclear weapons probably. Oh well. So about us going back to our timeline…”

Right then, Mr. Ree rushed in the door trying to catch his breath. “Bad news,” he said, “Dickleburg is not among the dead!”


We found Dickleburg at the train station, boarding the Barnum and Bailey Circus train headed for Helena. “I got an open shot,” I yelled to Oppenheimer. 

I emptied the revolver in Dickleburg’s direction but every bullet missed. “Goddamn you suck,” Oppenheimer said. 

Dickleburg jumped on the train just as it was departing. Oppenheimer and I chased the caboose down the track and we made it onboard right as the train picked up steam. Oppenheimer kicked open the back door and fired a round in the air. “We’re looking for Dickleburg!” he screamed at the startled passengers. 

“He went that way!” the bearded lady pointed. We ran in that direction but unfortunately the next car contained the lions. One of them was pissed because he was hit from one of my stray bullets when I shot at Dickleburg. He roared and leapt towards Oppenheimer but I shot him in the face. That only angered the other lions so I shot the rest of them as well.

Then PT Barnum rushed in ranting and raving. “You killed all of my lions!” he yelled. So I shot him too. 

“Was that necessary?” Oppenheimer asked.

“Fuck that guy,” I said.

We heard a thud from above. We knew that Dickleburg was attempting to escape from the top of the train. We climbed up some boxes and unlocked the cover to the roof. 

The cold Montana air instantly blew us back. A few cars away, we could see Dickleburg rushing towards the front of the train. So we braved the elements and climbed to the top. My hat immediately blew off. We leapt from car to car, running into the wind, until we were at the front. 

When we climbed back inside, Dickleburg was running between a gaggle of clowns before grabbing ahold of a pair of conjoined twins. He pulled out both of his six shooters and held both to their respective heads. “Do you really want to do this?” Dickleburg asked Oppenheimer.

The two of us paused just feet away. Oppenheimer lowered his weapon. “Let them go, Dickleburg,” he ordered, “this is between you and me.”

“Why didn’t you consider my offer?!” Dickleburg asked, “So many people didn’t have to die!”

“Let em go and we’ll talk.”

“Drop your gun first!”

Oppenheimer slowly bent over to drop his Smith & Wesson. However, noticing an open shot to the legs, the sheriff dropped to the ground and fired a round into Dickleburg’s kneecap. He screamed in agony as the conjoined twins ran off.

Oppenheimer stood straight up and lifted his gun to Dickleburg’s head as he was bleeding on the ground. “You can’t kill me,” Dickleburg said, “you’re a man of the law.”

I could see a hint of pity in Oppenheimer’s eyes. He was worn out from the bloodshed. “You’re right Dickleburg,” Oppenheimer replied while placing his gun back in its holster, “I can’t kill you…”

“…but I can,” I interrupted. Then I emptied my revolver into Dickleburg’s chest.

We both gazed upon the dead body for a moment. “Thanks,” Oppenheimer said, not making eye contact.

“Can we go back to our timeline now?”


“Ya know, it occurred to me,” said Oppenheimer, “right before the shootout, when Billy Friedkin exploded into a million pieces, I realized that the ions in your body emit a certain quantum signature that is very specific to your spacetime place of origin…,” he continued, but I quit listening that all that scientific shit. “In summary,” Oppenheimer finally concluded, “my time portal device should get you back to your exact timeline, or somewhere very close.”

“That totally makes sense,” I replied.

After we gathered all the gold from Rockwell’s land, melted it, and loaded it up into the time portal device in Oppenheimer’s barn, we were preparing to give our final goodbyes. Rockwell was to go through the portal first. As he picked up his satchel and his precious few belongings, I approached him. “What was that shit you gave me in your basement?” I asked, “I haven’t needed an opium hit at all. I feel great!”

“Oh yeah, about that,” he said, “that’s gonna wear off in a few days.”

Right then, Oppenheimer activated the device. It briefly emitted a brilliant red light and the portal opened in front of us. “Welp! See you later!” Rockwell shouted. And through the portal he went, never to be seen again. 

“You mother fucker!” I yelled.

“Mr. Ree, James,” Oppenheimer interrupted, “you’re up next.”

As I picked up my bags full of crap I gathered from the old west, I realized how heavy they were. “I don’t need any of this shit,” I said to Mr. Ree. I threw it all back on the floor. 

“Wait!” shouted Maybelline. She walked up to me and held my hands. “Thank you for all you’ve done,” she said. The she gave me an uncomfortably long kiss on the mouth.

Even Malachi gave his farewells. “I will never forget you, James,” he said

“I hardly know you kid.”

“James,” J Robert Oppenheimer said as he extended his hand, “thank you.” 

After I nodded and shook his hand, Mr. Ree and I turned towards the portal. But before I walked through, I stopped and looked back to Oppenheimer. “Just one more thing,” I said, “in your name, what does the ‘J’ stand for?”

Oppenheimer warmly smiled. “Ja Rule,” he said.

I turned back around to face the portal. Mr. Ree and I gave each other one last look then we stepped into the portal together. The last thing I heard was Malachi shouting “Jaaaaames!”. But there was a bright flash of light; the old west barn surrounding us slowly morphed into a 21st Century office riddled with bullet holes and empty whiskey bottles.

“This must be some mistake,” Mr. Ree said.

“No. It’s just right.”

We were in my office in Los Angeles. We were finally home.

I walked out into the lobby where I saw Izzy sitting behind her desk and filing her nails. “Where the hell have you been James?” she asked. 

“I can’t even begin to explain,” I said. “But I gotta go back to that Amish community in Pennsylvania. Miriam is about to have my child.”

“Yeah, about that,” Izzy explained, “She called and said that Admiral Colonel Majors is the real father. He was cheating on me with her. I’m SO glad that I roundhouse kicked him into that lava pit.”

I sighed. 

But then I pushed the pain away by taking a deep breath of the stale nicotine air that was permanently stained into the walls. 

“It feels good to be a private dick again,” I said to Mr. Ree. 

“Shall we get to work?” he asked, noticing the deep pain I was harboring inside.

“Yes,” I said. “Izzy, where’s the keys to my 2006 Chevy SSR?”

“Chevy SSR?” she laughed, “Sorry James, but you never owned that piece of shit. Here’s the keys to your REAL piece of shit.”

It was keys to a PT Cruiser.

“Well Mr. Ree,” I said, “this might not be our EXACT timeline, but it’s close enough. And being here is certainly better than being in 19th Century Montana.”

“Word,” he replied.


2 thoughts on “Once Upon a Time in Montana (Full Story)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s