Authors: Robert J. Conley
“Yeah. I'll have Aubrey set it up.”
“Have him set it up over here again,” I said. “And have him send along that there smelly soap.”
“I'll do it,” she said, and she give me a slobbery kiss right there in front a' ever'one, and then she went on out the front door with her Merwin Hulbert pistol a-hanging around her neck. I went to the winder to watch her walk away. I loved to watch her from behind like that. Her two humongous ass cheeks flopped and wallered around whenever she walked.
After a while when she never come back, I commenced to worrying a little, getting downright aggravated. I reckoned she had got into a conversation with someone in the Hooch House, and that pissed me off. Whyn't she come on back? I knowed it would take a spell for Aubrey to get the tub over and to get it filled with hot water, but there weren't no reason for ole Bonnie to hang around over there while he was getting it did. “Goddamn it,” I said, and I poured me another glass a' booze.
It didn't never occur to me to worry that she mighta got herself in some kinda trouble. I always figgered ole Chugwater was some kind a' gentleman, not like his sleazy little brother. He wouldn't bother no woman. I still had a lot to learn. By and by, I heared Aubrey's voice outside.
“Barjack,” he hollered out, “it's Aubrey. Don't no one shoot at me.”
“Let him in,” I said.
Polly opened the door and Aubrey come in. He looked some nervous too. He seen me behint my
desk, and he walked over to stand in front of it. “Aubrey, what the hell are you doing here? Why ain't you a-drawing bathwater?”
“I am, Barjack,” he said. “Miss Bonnie came in and told me to have a bath drawed and fetched over here to the jail, so I give the orders, and it's being done.”
“So why ain't Bonnie come back?” I ast him.
“She started to leave the Hooch House,” Aubrey said, “but ole Chugwater stepped in front of her with a shotgun in his hands. He took her pistol away from her, and when she went to cussing him, he threatened to shoot her. He finally got her quieted down and had a couple of his boys tie her up. Then to keep her quiet, he tied a rag around her mouth.”
I jumped up from outta my seat. “That goddamned bastard,” I shouted. “What was you a-doing all this time?”
“Two of them cowboys was holding guns on me,” he said. “Then Chugwater come over to me, and he said, âAubrey, I want you to go over to the jail and tell Barjack that we have his woman down here. Tell him,' he said, âthat if he ever wants to see her alive again, he'd better trade my brother for her.' ”
He shut up then and I waited but he never said no more. “Is that it?” I said final.
“Yes, sir,” he said. “That was all of it.”
“He wants to trade Bonnie for Owl Shit?”
“That's what he said.”
I thunk real hard about that. It were a chance to get myself free again, but then I recalled that time
I had got rid a' Bonnie and married up with ole Lillian, and I found out that I missed Bonnie real bad and Lillian made me near crazy. So whenever ole Sly come to town and he and Lillian hit it off, I let her have a divorce and let Sly marry up with her, and I felt like it was the smartest thing I had ever did. “Aubrey,” I said, “tell him I'll do it.”
“Just a minute, Barjack,” said Sly.
“What? I got to save Bonnie,” I said.
“We'll save her,” he said. “But let's set up the terms.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know back on the backside of town there's two empty buildings sitting right across the creek from each other.”
“Yeah,” I said. “I know them. One's the old mill. It ain't been used for years. The other one's a hotel that ole Angus McFarlan was a-building, but he went and croaked before he finished it. They sit right across Chugwater Crick from each other. What about them?”
“Let's tell Chugwater to meet us there. He and his men can bring Bonnie to the hotel. We'll take Owl Shit to the mill. Then at the appointed time, we can start the two of them walking across the bridge at the same time. That way, no one gets cheated.”
“Sounds good to me,” I said. Then I turned back to Aubrey. “Did you get all that? Can you go and tell Chugwater just what Sly said?”
“Yes, sir,” Aubrey said. “I can tell him all right.”
“What you going to tell him?”
“He's to bring his men and Miss Bonnie to the
old hotel and you're going to have Owl Shit at the mill across the creek. You'll start them both at the same time walking across the bridge.”
“That's right,” I said. I looked at Sly. “Was there anything else?”
“Just the time,” he said. “It's getting a little late. I'd say let's do it in the morning. Say ten.”
“That sounds good,” I said. “Tell him ten o'clock in the morning, Aubrey.”
“Yes, sir,” he said. “Is that all? Can I go now?”
“Hell, yes,” I said. “Get going.”
Aubrey most run outta the office and went hurrying back down the street to the Hooch House. I could imagine ole Bonnie getting mad as hell on account a' me leaving her with Chugwater and his boys all damn night till ten in the morning. They had for sure better be glad they had gagged her up. I went to pacing the floor and chewing on the inside a' my cheeks.
“Barjack,” said Sly.
“Do you have any more of that dynamite you were packing?”
I opened out my coat to show him the five sticks what was still there in my inside pocket. “Good,” he said. “Be sure to bring them along.”
“I'll sure do her,” I said. Then I told Happy, “Go out and bring Butcher down. And come back in your own self. I don't reckon we'll need anyone on the roof tonight.”
“Yes, sir,” he said, and he run out the back. When he come back in with Butcher, I called
them all around. I told Butcher what the plan was, and then I told them all, “I want you all to get your guns ready. Clean them up and make sure they're in good working order. Load them up full. Ever'one take along a rifle or a shotgun in addition to your sidearm. And pack some extry bullets in your pockets.”
“Barjack?” said Happy.
“Are we planning for a fight or a trade?”
“We're a planning a trade, but we mean to be ready for anything what might happen. You got that now?”
“Yes, sir,” he said.
I poured me another glass a' whiskey while ever'one got busy with their guns. I had my Merwin Hulbert and a shotgun and five sticks a' dynamite in my pocket. Pretty soon we was all ready for action. What I had told Happy weren't quite true. We were planning a trade all right, but after that I meant to wipe out Chugwater's bunch once and for all. I was pissed off at Chugwater now. I didn't have no more use for him. I meant for the action in the morning to be the final big battle over at the Rio Chugwater. Never mind that it was just a crick.
“I sure do wish I could have a talk with Bonnie before morning,” I said.
“Forget it, Barjack,” said Sly.
“Hell, I've let Chugwater talk to Owl Shit twice,” I said.
“He's just proved that he can't be trusted,” said
Sly. “He's taken to fighting with women. He might say he'd let you talk to her, and then he might just capture you too.”
“Yeah. That's right.”
“Barjack,” Sly said, “be sure you have cigars and matches in your pockets.”
“I've got them,” I said. That reminded me that I could sure use a smoke. I tuck out one cigar and a match and lit the cigar. It were kinda close in the office, and I had it pretty near filled up with cigar smoke in a right hurry. No one minded, though. Leastways, no one complained a'tall. I leaned back in my chair, but not too far back lest my wheels got to turning again, and puffed at my cigar and sipped at my whiskey. Sly give me a look, and I pulled open the other side a' my coat to show him that I was packing a few cigars. Then I pulled out a handful a' matches and showed him those. I put them back in my pocket.
I sure did feel like getting drunk, but then I knowed better. I had a real important job to do in the morning. I figgered this glass a' whiskey would be my last one for the day, and I meant to really enjoy it too.
“I wish my daddy and his gang was all here,” said Butcher.
“Well, they ain't,” I said.
“I wish they was.”
To tell you the truth, I did too. Them Five Pointers in New York City was damn mean and tough. If I'd had them, I coulda fought off three times as many cowhands as what Chugwater had out there. “Butcher,” I said.
“They would be a damn big help, wouldn't they?”
“Barjack,” said Sly, “I ought to go home and see Lillian tonight.”
“You think you can make it without them seeing you?”
“I can,” he said. “Even if they should spot me, I don't think they'll want to fight tonight, since we have the swap arranged for the morning.”
“You might could be right,” I said. “Well, go on, and good luck to you.”
“I'll be back in the morning by eight thirty,” he said, and he went out the back door. Polly latched it up behint him. Then she went and got Churkee and tuck him by an arm and pulled him into the extry cell what still had the blankets hanging up. I figgered I knowed what they was up to back there. They was awful quiet, though. It made me to miss Bonnie something fierce, and I sure did want to see her and talk to her and make sure that she was all right.
Happy was a-packing his pockets with boxes a' bullets for his six-gun and shells for the shotgun he was planning on toting. Butcher done the same thing, but 'cept he was carrying along a Marlin rifle. I went and got me some bullets for my Merwin Hulbert and some shotgun shells, on account a' I meant to carry along a Greener too. I thunk that Polly and Churkee had done loaded up their pockets, but I weren't for sure.
By and by them two come back outta the cell.
Churkee were looking a bit sheepish and Polly, she looked like she was a-feeling just grand. They put my mind back on my sweet Bonnie, and I had to try to come up with something different to put my mind on, on account a' I felt like as if I kept thinking on Bonnie, I were like to start in to crying. I sure didn't want no one to see me do that.
I got to thinking about how I would kill ole Chugwater and his baby brother and all a' his cowboys in the morning. I were really looking forward to that there. I figgered that we would make the exchange and then me and my depitties would commence to shooting. I knowed that in a fair fight we could kill them all dead'r'n hell. Course I didn't know just how dead hell was, but that didn't make a shit. We could damn sure kill them. I knowed that. We had did it before without no trouble to other damned owl hoots. I knowed we could do it again.
There just wasn't no one to match up with ole Sly. He was about the best, and I thanked my lucky stars that I had him on my side. And then ole Miller the Churkee, he was about as good. I hadn't seen many could match him. But 'cept that Pistol Polly. She was a match for Churkee. That was for sure. Happy and Butcher wasn't bad neither. They could both be counted on in a fight. I had been backed up by them before. Dingle, he weren't nothing to brag about, but he was game for a scribbler. My Bonnie was out of it for now, so I didn't count on her. But then there was me. Up against all them that I just named, I guess I weren't much neither, but I had come through a good
many scrapes and I was still a-kicking. I meant to sail through this one more big one and still have both feet a-going too. Hell, I meant to dance on the graves of all a' them Chugwater boys.
Butcher and Happy was huddled up in a corner a-talking. I reckoned they was a-talking about the coming fight. Churkee and Polly was snuggled in another corner. Sly had gone home, I reckoned to diddle Lillian. I hoped that was what he was a-doing. I figgered that Lillian might could be a-chewing his ass out real good on account a' him helping me out the way he was, but I knowed that he could stand up to it, and I knowed that he'd be back in the morning. I was actual starting in to looking forward to the morning fight.
Well, I were up pretty damn early in the morning, and I got my guns strapped on and in my hands. I were ready to go with my Merwin Hulbert six-gun and my loaded shotgun and my five sticks a' dynamite in my pocket. I checked and made sure I had my cigars and some matches in my pockets too. Then I got to pacing the floor. I were nervous, anxious for the big fight what was a-coming, but it were way too early for that. I wanted a cup a' coffee, but I didn't want to have to make it, so I poured myself a good glass a' brown whiskey outta the bottle in my desk drawer. I set down behint the desk to drink it.
I was thinking about my poor Bonnie all trussed up over there in the Hooch House and I was sure a-hoping that no one had seed fit to molest her none. Damn, but I was hot under the collar. I was just a-itching to take a bead on that goddamn Chugwater and blast his ass all the way plumb to hell. By and by ole Churkee come awake. He had to untangle hisself from pretty Polly without waking her up, but he managed to do it. He gethered up his weapons, and then he went to looking
for some coffee. Whenever he figgered out that I hadn't done nothing about it, he went and built a pot and put it on the stove to cook. Final, he looked over at me and said, “Good morning, Barjack.”
“Mornin', Churkee,” I said. “You ready to do some killing this morning?”
“I reckon I will be pretty soon,” he said.
Happy come awake then, and he went straight to the coffeepot and poured hisself out a cup. He lifted it up to take a slug, but he stopped. He studied it for a minute or so; then he said, “This coffee looks like warm piss.”
“Well, you dumb ass,” I said, “it ain't finished a-brewing yet. Pour it back in the pot and wait a decent time. That is, unless you like it like piss.”