Authors: Robert J. Conley
“A real hanging?” said Butcher, who was from New York City.
“Real enough to kill him,” I said.
Bonnie give a real big shudder. “What's wrong, pretty ass?” I said.
“The thought of a hanging always gives me the creeps,” she said. “What an awful way to die.”
“Owl Shit's kinda skinny,” I said. “It won't be so bad for him. Just snap his neck if we get a good hangman. Now, for someone built like you, it would be bad. You got too much weight on your butt. It might even jerk your lovely head right off.”
She shuddered again. I tuck a long drink. The place was starting in to get lively. Mostly cowhands and local businessmen. I liked that. It meant I was making money. Well, me and Bonnie was making money.
“Marshal?” said Happy, real cautiouslike.
“How come Owl Shit to shoot that man in the first place?”
“Meanness,” I said.
“Well, what'll you do whenever Chugwater comes in for him?”
“Nothing. Ain't a damn thing I can do. Whenever a man's done locked up and charged with a murder, ain't nothing to be done 'cept to wait for the trial.”
“Chugwater ain't a-going to like it,” Happy said.
“No,” I said. “He ain't. So why don't you finish up your drink and get your ass on down to the jail to keep an eye on things?”
Happy downed his drink and stood up. I likely shouldn'ta made him drink it all down fast like that. He seemed to me to be on kinda wobbly legs. But he got on over to the front door all right and disappeared outta the Hooch House.
“What about me?” said Butcher.
“You're okay for now,” I said.
Butcher called for another drink. Bonnie said she had forgot something upstairs and excused herself. She waddled over to the stairs and flung her right foot up on the first stair, and I noticed the way that caused her whole ass end to shift around. Then she swung the other leg and made it shift again. It was kinda like watching a big ship on the ocean getting tossed around by high waves. And I know. I had saw them. I was borned on one a' them oceangoing vessels when my folks was coming over from the Old Country. I hadn't lived out West all a' my damn life. I started out in
New York City, just like ole Butcher Doyle, but I had left it long before he did.
Well, I never let on to no one, but I was beginning to get some worried about ole Owl Shit's brother a-coming in to town. I knowed that Chugwater weren't about to let his brother get hanged up without putting up a fight a' some kind. Now and then my marshaling job did weigh on me some. And this was one a' them times. I'll tell you that for sure. Chugwater had him a bunch a' cowhands out at the ranch who would do any damn thing he told them to do. They was a loyal bunch for damn sure. I had done saw him win one big, rough range war, and them hands a' his fought like hell for him. I weren't for sure just what he might do or how far he might go. I was sure about one thing, though. Whatever he done, it weren't going to be pretty. And it damn sure weren't going to be easy for me.
I tuck me another drink, and I seen Bonnie a-coming back down the stairs. Coming down she looked a whole lot different from what she looked a-going up. What caught your eyeballs when she was coming down was the way her big tits just bounced up and down. It sure did take my mind off a' ole Chugwater watching them flop around like that. She come back over to the table and flopped her wide ass back down in the chair next to me and squashed me again with another bear hug. I struggled loose and had me another drink a' whiskey. My glass was getting low again.
I didn't even have to wave it. Aubrey tuck notice
all by his lonesome, and I seen him get my bottle and head over to the table. He poured my tumbler full a' whiskey, and then he leaned over to talk into my left ear.
“Barjack,” he whispered, “them two cowboys that just left, they work for Chugwater. I betcha they'll ride back to the ranch and tell him what's happened in here. He'll know pretty damn soon.”
“Okay,” I said. He went back to the bar, and I dranked my drink down as fast as I could. Then I looked across the table at Butcher, and I seen that his drink was about gone too.
“Butcher,” I said, “drink up. Let's you and me get our ass down to my office.”
My office and the jail was the same. The office had two jail cells in it. When we got there, Happy jumped up from the chair behind my desk he was a-setting at and hurried over to another chair. Butcher found hisself a chair, and I walked over to the gun rack and went to pulling out shotguns. I tossed one to Happy and another to Butcher. Then I helt on to one for my own self. “Check these,” I said, “and load them. Hang on to them. You might need them before too much longer. I have a feeling that ole Chugwater will come a-riding in here soon.”
Well, we done that, and then I told Butcher to move his chair over against the back wall a' the office and set where he had a clear shot at ole Owl Shit in the jail cell. “If I give you the word,” I said, “or if anyone shoots me, kill the bastard.”
“Yes, sir,” said Butcher.
“What about me, Barjack?” Happy said.
“You just stay where you're at,” I said, “and keep your eyes open.”
I went back behind my desk and laid my shotgun across it. Then I sat down. I pulled out a desk drawer and got me a tumbler and a bottle and poured me a drink. I don't particularly like to be without one at no time. I tuck a good long drink of it and set it down on the desk.
“When do you reckon he'll get here, Barjack?” said Happy.
“Most any minute now,” I said, and just then I heard the sound of several horses riding down the street. I got up, picked up my shotgun, and walked to the window to look out. Sure enough. It were Chugwater and he had five more men with him. They rode right up to the front of the jailhouse and stopped. I stepped out on the boardwalk a-holding that shotgun.
“Howdy, Chugwater,” I said.
“Barjack. I hear you got my brother locked up in there.”
“I've come to get him out.”
“You can't do that.”
“He done a killing. Unprovoked.”
“Well, can I see him?”
Chugwater swung down out of the saddle, and his boys started to do the same.
“I said you,” I told him, kinda lifting the barrel a' my shotgun. “I never said nothing about them.”
The cowhands settled back down in their saddles and looked at Chugwater.
“Boys,” he said, “go on over to the Hooch House and wait for me there. Have a drink while you're waiting.”
They turned their horses and headed for the Hooch House. Chugwater give me a hard look.
“If there was another saloon in town,” he said, “I'd have sent them there.”
“That's why we ain't got another one,” I said. Then I helt the door for him to walk into my marshaling office ahead of me, and he did.
Whenever we stepped inside the office, ole Chugwater, he stopped just inside the door and turned to look me in the face. I figgered that maybe he was a-trying that ole kid's game, you know, trying to stare me down, so I just stared right back. “Barjack,” he said, “you know you'll never get away with this.”
“I ain't trying to get away with nothing,” I said. “The law has caught up with your worthless brother. That's all.”
“You mean you have,” he said. “You think you're the law around here.”
Well, I did kinda think like that, but I weren't going to let him get away with saying it.
“Owl Shit done a killing, a unprovoked killing,” I said, “and they was all kinds a' witnesses around when he done it. Now, did you come in here to argue with me, or did you come in to talk to your shit-ass brother?”
“I'd like to talk to him,” he said.
I made a gesture toward the jail cell where Owl Shit was standing up and clutching the bars. “Go
right ahead,” I said. He walked on over there and stood in front of Owl Shit.
“What the hell did you do?” he said.
“I didn't do nothing to get throwed in here,” Owl Shit said. “I just shot a feller that we didn't even know on account a' he was smarting off at me. That's all. This crazy stuck-up marshal, he just decided to make it his own business. Now get me out of here.”
Chugwater turned his head and looked back at me over his shoulder. Then he looked back at Owl Shit. “I'll get you out. Don't worry,” he said. “Just be patient. I can't buy your way out after you done a murder.”
“Aw. Come on,” Owl Shit said. “You got plenty a' money.”
“Money won't do us no good now,” Chugwater said. “You're charged with murder.”
“So what? It ain't the first time, is it? Get me out.”
“Listen, Owl Shit,” said Chugwater, lowering his voice, but only it didn't make no difference, we all could hear his ever' word anyhow, “you got to learn to behave yourself. Times is changing. The law's here now. You can't just ride into town no more and have ever'thing your own way. And you're causing me problems trying to take care of you.”
“You promised Mama on her deathbed you would do just that. I was there, and I heared you.”
“I'll see you later,” Chugwater said, and he spun around on his heel and headed for the door. He jerked the door open and turned to look at me once
more. “You ain't heard the last of this, Barjack,” he said.
“I never thought I had,” I told him. He walked on out and slammed the door. Happy come a-walking toward me.
“Barjack,” he said, “he means business.”
“I reckon I do too,” I said.
“You know how many ranch hands he's got?”
“Somewhere between twenty and thirty, I reckon.”
Butcher come up outta his chair. “Twenty or thirty?” he said.
“That'd be my guess,” I said.
“Well, what are we gonna do?”
“We're going to sit tight right here in my office and jailhouse till the judge gets to town.”
“When will that be?”
“I figure he'll be around in about a week now.”
“What if Chugwater comes in here with a whole bunch a' cowboys?”
“We'll just have to stand him off.”
“We could let him have Owl Shit,” said Happy, “and make like he tuck him from us.”
“And have the both of them coming into town and drinking right in my own damn saloon, lording it over us? No, thanks. I ain't a-doing that. If either one a' you fine upstanding depitties wants out, now is the time to get to getting. I damn sure don't need you if you don't want to be here.”
“I never said that, Barjack,” Happy said. “You know I've stuck with you through hard times before. I'll stick this time too.”
“Me too,” said Butcher, his head hanging low
like he didn't really mean it. “Even if it gets me killed.”
“All right, then,” I said. “You two stay here and guard the place. If any of Chugwater's boys tries to get in, shoot Owl Shit. I'm going out to try to round us up some help.”
“Yes, sir,” they both said almost at the same time. I headed outta the place. When I got outside, I could see Chugwater's horse and the horses a' them men what rode in with him all still tied up in front a' the Hooch House. I walked right past them and over to my ex-wife's fancy eating palace. I was hoping to find her new hubby in there. I walked in and she seen me. She give me a real cold look, what woulda froze the face of a polar bear.
“I'm a-looking for the widâI'm looking for your husband,” I said, taking the hat off a' my head, on account a' she was real kinda prissy.
“Mr. Sly is not here,” she said. “I believe you will find him at our house.”
“Thank you, ma'am,” I said, and I put my hat back on and left. I was thinking how what she called “our house” had used to be my house, but I didn't let that stop me. I walked on over to the house, and I found Sly a-setting on the porch a-sunning hisself. I waved a howdy to him.
“Barjack,” he said, “what brings you around?”
“I need another depitty or two or three, Sly,” I said. “I come to ask you.”
“What's the problem?”
“Well, ole Chugwater's baby brother, that low-down sneaky bastard Owl Shit, come into the
Hooch House earlier and shot a man down in cold blood, right in front a' me and a whole mess a' other witnesses. I throwed him in jail. Soon as Chugwater got the word, he come in with some a' his boys and demanded me to turn Owl Shit a-loose. Course, I refused. He said I ain't seen the end a' it. I know he'll be back with a gang and try to shoot Owl Shit outta the jailhouse. I got both Happy and Butcher setting over there right now keeping a eye on things.”
Sly stood up, and I seen that he weren't wearing his guns. “Let me go inside and get myself heeled,” he said. He went in, and in a couple a' minutes he come back out a-wearing two Colt six-guns. Damn, he looked mean. He was far and wide knowed and feared and called the widdamaker on account a' his skill with them two guns. “Shall I just go on down to the jail?” he asked me.
“Sure,” I said, “you can put a chair out on the boardwalk if you like.”
I walked back toward town with him for a spell, and when we got close to the Hooch House, he went on toward the jail and I turned aside. I walked to the bar. Aubrey seemed surprised. Chugwater and his bunch was a-setting at a table together, and they all looked hard at me as I walked by. I motioned Aubrey to lean over close, and I said, “Aubrey, is that Churkee and his woman still up in a room here or has they left town yet?”
“As far as I know, Barjack,” Aubrey said, “they're still here.”
“Which room is they in?”
I headed for the stairs and run up as fast as ever I could. I walked down the hall to room number 7 and pounded on the door. My legs was a-hurting me from the fast trip up the stairs. Mose Miller, the Churkee, opened the door right away. “Barjack?” he said. “What brings you around?”