Mystery Short Story: The Good Samaritan

Aug 12, 2023 | 2023 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze, Terrific Tales

by Shari Held

The Good Samaritan has never before been published.

From his porch, Henry Moody spied the cloud of dust that indicated an approaching vehicle well before it came into view. He raised one liver-spotted hand to shield his eyes from the brilliant Montana midday sun and waited to get a better look.

It was an SUV, speeding down the road like a hungry dog called to dinner. It slowed as it approached his drive. It was new. Not a dent or scratch or accidental swipe of paint marred its shiny finish. Not local.

Probably some tourist who’s taken a wrong turn off U.S. Highway 2.

To Henry’s consternation, the SUV pulled into his driveway.

Dang it! Should have gone inside before they’d seen me. Henry had momentarily been lulled into inaction by the unusual sight. Now it was too late to retreat. Abe was barking and wagging his tail in anticipation of guests. Abe was the more social of the duo.

A man who looked like he’d be more comfortable on a dance floor than on Montana’s Scobey soil exited the vehicle. A woman and a couple kids stayed inside, faces nearly hidden behind sunglasses. Not a smile among them.

The man extended his hand. “Mr. Moody? I’m Rob Canfield.”

“That so,” Henry said. His hands remained folded in his lap. The intruder withdrew his hand but kept talking.

“I wanted to let you know my family is renting the Dunkirk property adjoining yours. We’ll be neighbors for the next few months.”

“Neighbors, huh? You here for huntin’ season? Bag some deer or elk?”

Canfield’s complexion went from pale to pasty. “No, just here for some R&R. That’s all.”

“That so.”

“Yes. We stocked up on groceries back at Chinook. Mr. Miles at the general store told me I should stop by and introduce myself.”

“Did he, now?” Damn that Miles. He knows darn well I value my peace and quiet.

Abe was whining. Waiting for Henry’s signal to tell him it was okay to greet the stranger. Henry nodded and twenty-plus pounds of hound dog bounded toward Rob. He petted the dog and motioned to the kids, who tumbled out of the SUV.

“These are my boys. Bob’s eight and Patrick will be five next week. Say hello to Mr. Moody, boys.”

Letting Abe go was a mistake, Henry thought. Now, the Canfields, who appeared to be dog lovers, would stay put for a spell.

“Mister!” the littlest Canfield said. “Can we play with your dog?”

“If he wants to play, I won’t stop him.” Dang dog’ll pout all night if I don’t agree. Should have gotten a German Shepherd instead of a tail-wagging Beagle that thinks it’s the welcome wagon.

The kids immediately ran toward Abe, who rolled over, inviting them to scratch his belly. Rob asked a few inane questions before he gave up on conversation and watched the kids instead. After a few minutes, the woman rolled down the window, yelled a polite hello, then told her husband and kids they needed to get going.

At least someone in the family has some sense! Henry called Abe to him and the two of them, one with relief and one with regret, watched the Canfields leave in a plume of dust.


A few days later, Henry and Abe were inspecting the fences around the farm when they happened upon the two Canfield youngsters. Henry didn’t pretend to possess any warm fuzzies where young kids were concerned. And he especially didn’t cotton to trespassers. Even pint-sized ones.

“You kids are a long way from home,” Henry said. “You’re on my property, you know.”

“Sorry, mister,” the older boy said.

“Your parents know you two are all the way out here?”

Both kids hung their heads. “Not exactly,” the older one said. “We kind of wandered off, and now we’re lost. Can you take us home?”

“Please, mister,” the youngest one said.

Great. Just great. Henry decided to make them sweat a bit. He didn’t respond immediately, just rubbed his poor excuse for a beard and glared a bit. Finally, he started to walk off.

“You kids comin’ or what?” he yelled over his shoulder.

Henry and the boys trekked back to Henry’s vintage Ford pickup. He motioned for them to get in the back.

They just stood there like their feet were suddenly tethered to the earth.

“Well, come on, jump up,” Henry said, motioning with his arms.

“Patrick can’t jump that high, mister,” the older boy said.

For Pete’s sakes. Now I’m gonna have to touch them. He hoisted the younger boy into the truck, then gave the older boy a boost. Abe jumped in and sat between them.


Henry knew he was in trouble when he pulled into the drive at the old Dunkirk place and Canfield flagged him down before he could deposit the kids and get the hell out.

fireplace“Mr. Moody, could I trouble you to take a look at the fireplace? I can’t seem to get a fire started.”

What the heck are these people doing out here in the middle of nowhere? They aren’t prepared for roughing it, that’s for sure. Henry shook his head. City folk.

Henry gave Canfield a lecture about green wood and kindling and hightailed it home.

Several weeks later, Henry was in the woods stalking a stag he’d been after for the past two seasons.

“Today’s my lucky day,” he mumbled under his breath as the stag came closer. Another foot and Henry would have his prize in his scope. With one pull of the trigger, he’d have eighty pounds of venison, nearly enough to last him through the winter. Henry mouthed a silent countdown. “One, two, three . . . ”

“Whoa, look at that, Patrick! A deer!” Four little feet scampered through the leaves, laughing and yelling.

The stag bounded out of sight and out of scope.

woodsHenry knew if he said anything he’d explode. He slid down the incline and stomped back to his cabin.

Thanks to them, I might have to dip into my savings. Buy extra provisions to see me through the winter. Blasted kids. Let their father come to the rescue this time.

The next day Henry was sitting on his porch when he spied a cloud of dust coming toward him at a fast clip. Sure enough, it was the Canfield SUV. Didn’t slow a bit. Not until it practically hit two of Henry’s best layers. Feathers flew everywhere. He’d be lucky to get any eggs from the stressed hens for two weeks.

Canfield laid on the brakes and jumped out, followed by the two boys. They looked as scared as Henry’s chickens. Canfield tried to apologize.

Henry wasn’t buying it. This time, he blew a gasket. Grabbed his rifle and stomped toward the car. “You damn city slickers think you can come here and disrespect our way of life,” he yelled. “I don’t care if your dang house is on fire. I don’t want to see any of you set foot on my property again.” He turned and walked away.

The older boy looked at his dad and said, “Why’s he being so mean to us? I thought he was a friend.” The younger one burst into tears.
Henry turned back and waved his rifle at them once again. “And no cryin’. I’m warning you. I don’t relish killin’ folks, but sometimes they just need it.”


Henry enjoyed his peace and quiet for the next couple days. Then Canfield’s SUV approached his drive. Slowly. “Son of a bitch! I thought that family would’ve cleared out by now. Found some other secluded spot to vacation. Some other person’s life to mess with.”

Canfield stepped out of the vehicle carefully, hands raised.

Henry almost smiled. Almost.

“What now?” Henry asked, not making a move toward his rifle.

Canfield visibly relaxed and lowered his hands. “I need to talk to you.” He nodded toward the porch. “Mind if I join you?”

Henry grunted and motioned toward the chair at the far end of the porch. “Make it fast. Don’t have all day.”

Canfield sat hunched over, his hands clasped between his legs. Then, he sat up, pushing his glasses back on his nose. “I know this will sound like something out of In Plain Sight, but I swear it’s the truth. We aren’t on vacation. We’re actually . . . in hiding.”

Henry didn’t say one word, so Canfield continued. “I figured out my boss was doing money laundering for Toadsy McGee.”

“Toadsy who?”

“Toadsy McGee, a small-time gangster back in New York.”

“Seems a long way to come to avoid a small-time crook.”

Canfield stopped a minute and looked off in the horizon. “What I didn’t know is Toadsy is chummy with the police captain. I can’t trust the police to keep my family safe. We needed to get away fast.”

“And you ended up here because?”

“The Dunkirk property belongs to my cousin’s distant relative by marriage. We have no easily traceable ties to the Dunkirks. We thought we’d be safe here.”

“Hmm. Explains a lot,” Henry said. “But what’s that got to do with me?”

“My cousin warned me a man contacted her and asked about us a week ago. They’re looking for us. I thought I should tell you. Maybe you’ll let us know if you see any strangers around here?”

Henry said nothing.

Canfield looked down at the ground, his chin trembling. “I don’t even own a gun and wouldn’t know what to do with one if I did. But I’ve got to protect my family. They’re in danger because of me.”

Pain rolled off Canfield like tumbleweeds across the prairie. He looked like he’d probably cry given any encouragement. Henry shuddered. Kids are one thing. But there’s no way a grown man is gonna cry on my property. Not even a city slicker. He had to break the mood fast.

“I’ll let you know if anyone comes snoopin’ around here,” Henry said. Feeling magnanimous, although he wasn’t sure where in the dickens the unfamiliar feeling came from, he added, “You want a rifle, I can loan you one. Throw in a few lessons, too.”

Canfield got up and came over to Henry, extending his hand. “I’d appreciate that.”

Henry ignored Canfield’s hand. Didn’t want him getting all mushy again. “It’s nothin’. Be here tomorrow at sunup.” He nodded and went inside.

donutThe next morning, Canfield showed up with a baggie filled with homemade doughnuts and a thermos of black coffee. He offered to share both. Henry was going to turn them down. He didn’t want to be beholden to the family. But the fragrant maple frosting on a spice doughnut began to wear down his resolve. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had a fresh doughnut.

The session went well. Canfield was motivated. That helped. But by tomorrow his shoulder was going to be sore as if he’d been kicked by an ornery mule. Henry moved the lessons to every other day, rather than daily.

I’ll sure miss those doughnuts, though.

The day after the first lesson, Henry parked his truck on the far edge of his land and hiked into the hills surrounding the Dunkirk property. The house set far back from the road that ran past Henry’s place.

Henry told himself he was just inspecting things, but he’d brought along a pair of high-powered binoculars from his early days on the lam. This time he trained them on the Canfield’s house and the area overlooking it. And watched and waited. That became Henry and Abe’s daily pastime.

Meanwhile, Canfield was getting better with each practice session. Turned out, he was a natural. Canfield put it down to Henry’s skill as a teacher. Henry didn’t contradict him. The day Canfield shot a Prairie rattler, Henry declared him ready to graduate. Canfield’s confidence had grown. No doubt about it. But he still had that haunted look in his eyes.

Henry was familiar with that look and the gnawing in the gut that went with it. Thirty-some years ago he’d been accused of killing the son of a Texas senator. Didn’t matter it was self-defense. He had two options: Let them take him in and face a life sentence. Or run for the hills. He’d headed to Montana and lived under the radar ever since. It had been tough. And he didn’t have a family to worry about like Canfield.

A week later, Henry saw an SUV come down the road. He grabbed his binoculars. It was a black one. Going slow. Windows down. The driver taking in every detail like a well-trained hunter. Didn’t crack a smile as he drove by. Just nodded at Henry.

“Don’t know who he is, but he’s up to no good,” Henry said to Abe. “Mark my words.”

Maybe he should tell Canfield about the stranger. Naw. It would just worry Canfield, and he already looked like a fuse ready to blow with the next plug-in. Henry and Abe got into the truck and went to his lookout spot near the Dunkirk property. Sure enough, Henry observed the guy on a nearby hilltop, spying on the house the Canfields were occupying. Henry took off in the direction of the stranger. When he was within earshot of the guy, Henry advertised his approach. Sneaking up on someone can get you shot faster than a falcon diving on its prey.

“Howdy, stranger,” Henry called out. “You huntin’ whitetail? This here’s a good spot for it.”

“Yup. I was thinking about it. I’m not on your property, am I, old man?”

The man looked like he didn’t care one whit if he were trespassing. “Naw. The owners are never around these parts. Everyone has an open invitation during the season. Fred at the general store in Chinook tell you about it?”

“Sure did,” the man said.

Abe ran over to sniff at the guy. He was carrying a rifle, but when he turned to kick out at Abe to keep him away, Henry noted what looked like a Glock tucked into his pants. Not usual hunting gear. Unless you’re huntin’ humans.

Henry changed the grip on his rifle. “That would be a feat. Fred’s been dead going on ten years. Mind telling me who you are and what you’re really doing here?”

The man lowered his rifle to the ground. “Hey, old man, you got me. I’m a lawman tracking down some fugitives. A husband and wife team. They robbed a bank in Havre. Killed the bank manager and wounded a teller and security guard. I think they’re holed up down there.” He nodded toward the Dunkirk house.

“They seem decent enough,” Henry said. “You just never know ‘bout people, though, do you? Sometimes they aren’t who they say they are.”

“That’s the truth.”

“You call Sheriff Hogan for backup?”

The man stood up straight, towering over Henry. “No, I can handle it myself, old man. You should go on home.”

“I dunno. They sound pretty dangerous to me. How ‘bout I stay right here and be your backup?”

The door of the house opened and the Canfield boys came running out.

“I s’pose the couple kidnapped those two boys, too?” Henry asked. “As part of their criminal spree.”

“Back off, old man. This has nothing to do with you. The less you know, the better.”

Henry raised his rifle across his chest and took a few steps forward.

The stranger narrowed his eyes and sneered. “Look, I’ve tried to warn you off. You’d better believe me if you want to live another year in this god-forsaken shithole.” He reached for his gun.

Henry was faster. He remembered the pain in Canfield’s eyes as he pulled the trigger.

The stranger dropped to the ground with a thud.

Henry walked over and prodded him with his boot to make sure there was no sign of life. Then he took off his hat and looked down at the stranger. “I don’t relish killin’ folks, but sometimes they just need it.”

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify. A new episode goes up next month.

Shari Held is an Indianapolis-based fiction author who spins tales of crime, mystery, romance, and horror. Her short stories have been published in dozens of magazines and anthologies, including Kings River Life, Hoosier Noir, Yellow Mama and Asinine Assassins. She is a member of the Short Mystery Fiction Society and Sisters in Crime. Visit her website,, to find out more about her and her stories.

1 Comment

  1. I liked the nice little O. Henry twist at the end. The story was enjoyable.


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