"Indian Sign" by Robert Bloch (1943)
To wrap up a celebration of Robert Bloch's 99th birthday week, let's look at a rare bit of Bloch-iana, a western story by the author of Psycho.
Most people familiar with Robert Bloch's writing wou.ld be hard-pressed to consider him an author of westerns. They probably would be right. Out of hundreds of stories, Bloch wrote only two westerns -- neither of which ever appeared in a Robert Bloch collection. "Indian Sign," first published in West magazine in January 1943 is a gimmick story, but one which could only be told as a western.
Johnny Marsh, a half-breed Kiowa considered to be somewhat slow by the whites in the area, comes across a man leaning over the freshly-killed body of another man. Johnny subdues the man, taking him and the corpse into town for the sheriff. The man Johnny has captured produces documents showing to be Rex Blinn, the new Indian agent, who has come to have the Kiowa chief sign a treaty ceding right to mostof the tribe's lands. Blinn said the dead man had waylaid him and was shot in self-defense. Johnny feels low about his but wonders why Blinn, who has become cheerfully friendly with Johnny, originally called Johnny a "dirty Indian."
As I said, this is a gimmick story, one of "the biter bit" kind. Certainly it is not prime Bloch, nor a great western, but it's an entertaining (albeit forgettable) western tale.
"Indian Sign" has been reprinted only once that I know of -- in the second (and last) issue of Robert M. Price's small-press magazine Pulse Pounding Adventure Stories, December 1987. The link below will take you to that issue so you can read this rare tale yourself.