Authors: Robert J. Conley
We walked on, and whenever Happy figgered we was close enough, he raised the shotgun to his shoulder and pointed it in the general direction a' the hardware store. He pulled the trigger, and that shotgun roared. Pellets musta been dancing all around the store. A cowhand come a-yelping out into the open, hopping and a-dancing. Me and Butcher both commenced shooting with our six-guns, and he was hit several times. Final, he dropped down dead on the boardwalk. Two more come a-running out from somewheres then and headed for their horses.
I seen a arm poke outta one of the windows in my office and fire a shot, and one a' the bastards dropped off a' his horse. Then Sly come out onto the boardwalk and leveled his deadly Colt at the last one what was riding hard outta town, and he shot him right outta the saddle. We walked on down and checked all a' the bodies. They was all dead. We never had no time to not kill them. “Butcher,” I said, “go find Bones and tell him to clean up the street.”
Butcher tuck off in a run. Sly walked over to me. “You showed up in the nick of time, Barjack,” he said.
“Hell, four of them come down to the Hooch House to get me,” I told him.
“That makes eight,” Sly said. “Chugwater's serious about this.”
“It's his baby brother we got in a cell in there,” I
said. “And if we keep him there till the judge shows up, he'll damn sure hang.”
“I think I could use a drink,” Sly said.
Well, that surprised me. I hadn't never heared ole Sly actual call for a drink. “There's a bottle in my desk,” I said. “Come on.”
We went in, and I got the bottle and some glasses outta my desk drawer. I poured drinks all around, and ever'one tuck a chair till I run out. “That's all right,” Miller, the Churkee, said. “We'll sit in here.” He tuck his sweetie by her arm and led her into the unused jail cell, where they set down on the cot and went to sipping on their whiskey. Sly slugged his down real fast and held the glass out to me.
“I believe one more is called for,” he said.
“You goddamn right,” I said, and I poured his glass full a second time. He tuck a sip, and then he said, “Barjack, don't you think it's time we made some plans?”
“I sure do, Widdamaker,” I said. “But let's wait for Butcher to get back, so we don't have to go all over it again.”
Just about then, Butcher did come back. There weren't no more chairs, so I told him to set on the edge a' my desk, and I poured him a drink. He perched his ass down.
“All right,” I said, “ever'one listen up. We got us a serious situation here. Chugwater hit us with eight men, and it didn't work. Next time, he'll use a larger force. We got to be ready for it. Happy, you and Butcher take turns a-setting on the roof. I think you can see from up there if anyone's a-coming into town from the direction a' Chugwater's
ranch. I want one a' the two a' you up there all the time.”
“Yes, sir,” said Happy. Butcher nodded.
“Right here,” she said from inside the cell.
“I want you to set out here with a shotgun and keep it trained on Owl Shit all the time.”
“When do I shoot him?” she asked me.
“Any time Chugwater's boys gets inside a' the office. I don't want them setting him free. I want him dead first.”
“I'll do it,” she said, looking straight at Owl Shit through the bars. I ain't for sure, but I think that Owl Shit was a-trembling then.
“Sly, Miller, and me will just hang around in here most a' the time. We'll let one a' the three of us go out at a time to eat a meal or get a drink or whatever. But just one at a time. That means at least three of us will be in here all the time.”
“And one on the roof,” said Butcher.
“That's right,” I said, “and one on the roof.”
“Now, don't no one let no one else in here, 'cept only the rest of us. That's all. And if you're out and come back, holler out and identify yourself before you come a-walking in here. If you don't, you'll get your ass kilt. Pistol.”
“If that there door starts to open and no one's called out, I want you to shoot. You got that?”
“I sure have.”
“Don't even wait to see who it is. Just if that door handle moves, shoot. We'll look and see who it is later.”
“I got you.”
“We're even going to sleep here,” I said. “Three of us at a time. I don't want no one sneaking in on us after dark. And if there's three of us in here at night, one can stay awake.”
“Barjack,” said Sly, “may I request the first night off? I'd like to go home and explain to Lillian what's going on.”
“Yeah. Sure,” I said, thinking to my own self, let her wonder. To hell with her. But I never said nothing like that out loud to the old widdamaker. “Happy, you want to take the first watch up on top?”
“Sure,” he said.
“Well, get your ass on up there, then,” I said, and he picked up his shotgun and hurried on out the door. I turned back to Sly then and said, “Sly, you might as well go on to see your wife.”
“Thank you, Barjack,” he said, and he tipped his hat and went out the door. Damn, he was polite. I shoulda been thanking him for throwing in with us on this deal. With them two gone, that left me and Butcher and the Churkee and his woman, Pistol. I thought about going back to the Hooch House and my Bonnie, but something come over me real hard like a sense a' duty or something else awful like that. I just leaned back in my chair and picked up my glass a' whiskey and tuck a drink. Then it went real quietlike in the marshaling office.
Pistol Polly was still a-setting with Churkee on the jail cot in the unused cell. She was a-twirling her six-gun on her trigger finger. I was setting behint my desk a-watching her. Then she let that there six-gun go, and it went a-flying up high. Whenever it come back down, she caught it by the handle and helt it ready to shoot. I hadn't never saw a man do nothing that fancy. I waited till she shoved it back into the holster, and then I said, “Pistol.”
“Didn't I told you to set out here with a shotgun?”
“Yes, you did,” she said, a-getting up and going for the shotgun. She planted her ass right where I had told her to, and set down, shifting her eyeballs from Owl Shit in his cell to the front door and back again. Churkee went to sleep pretty soon, and then so did Butcher. I ast Pistol if she needed to catch some snoozes, but she told me to go on ahead. She was wide awake. I dropped off pretty quick a-setting there at my desk.
I don't know just how long I had been a-sleeping whenever I was rudely awoke by a loud goddamn
noise. It sounded like the sky a-falling. I like to fell over in my chair, but I never. Instead I jumped up, grabbing the shotgun off a' the top a' my desk. I jerked it up ready to shoot and looked around, but I never saw nothing. The front door was still closed. Pistol had come up off a' her chair and was a-looking into Owl Shit's cell.
“What was that?” I said.
Churkee come a-running outta the other cell with his six-gun out.
“It come from in there,” Pistol said, jerking he shotgun toward Owl Shit's cell.
I tuck the cell keys from off a' my desk and walked over to the door. “Get your ass over there against that wall, Owl Shit,” I said, and he moved where I told him to move to. “Pistol, shoot him if he moves.”
“With pleasure,” she said.
I unlocked the door and went in. Nothing seemed wrong in there a'tall. I kept on a-looking around for a bit. Then I decided to look out the winder, and when I looked thattaway, I seen that there was ropes looped around and around the winder bars. I moved on over to the winder kinda cautiouslike and peered out. It were dark and I couldn't see none too clearly out there, but I seen a big pile a' something on the ground. I went back outta the cell and locked the door back. I tossed the keys onto the top a' my desk and headed for the front door.
“Butcher,” I said, “come on with me.” He follered me. “Keep a sharp look,” I said to Churkee and Pistol. Then I went out the front door with Butcher.
We was each of us a-holding our shooters ready for action as we went creeping around to the side a' the jail. I didn't see no one around there, but what I did see was kinda comical-like. Them ropes was stretched out to two saddle horns. One saddle was a-laying on the ground. It musta ripped right off a the horse's back. The horse wasn't nowhere in sight. The other saddle had stayed on the horse, but the horse had been pulled over on its damn side. It was just a-laying there on the ground and trying to stand back up. No cowhands was in sight nowhere.
I stepped out into the street and yelled up at Happy up on the roof. “Happy,” I called out.
“Did you see any cowboys ride in here?”
“No, sir,” he said. “I never.”
“Damn,” I said, and then just kinda to my own self but out loud, I said, “The silly bastards'll try any damn thing.” I looked at Butcher, who was just a-standing there a-scratching his head. “Go on up there and spell Happy,” I said.
“Yes, sir,” he said, and he hustled off to climb up on the roof. In a few minutes Happy come on down and stopped beside a' me. I was still in the street just a-looking around. I was wondering where two cowboys without no horses mighta got to.
“Go on in, Happy,” I said, “but call out before you touch that door.”
“Yes, sir,” he said, and he stepped up onto the boardwalk and yelled, “It's Happy coming in. Don't shoot.”
“Come on in, Happy.”
He opened the door and went inside. I follered him and when I come to the door, I yelled, “Barjack coming in.”
“Come ahead, Marshal.”
I went in, and I latched the door back.
“Barjack?” said Happy.
“Chugwater ain't waiting none at all. That was his third try all in one day.”
“You're right,” I said.
“He might could even try again before morning.”
“Three or two times,” I said. “We'll just hope Butcher's eyes is better than what you got.”
“What do you mean, Barjack?”
“Well, hell, two cowboys just tried to tear the wall outta my jail, and you never even seen them come into town. Did you?”
Happy hanged his head down like he was embarrassed or ashamed, and he said, “No, sir. I never.”
Well, Chugwater never tried again that night, and come morning, ole Sly come up to the jailhouse. He yelled out his name and we told him to come on in. “Any action last night?” he asked.
“Two cowboys roped up the bars in Owl Shit's winder and tried to pull them out,” said Pistol, “but it never worked. One horse went down and the other saddle got jerked off a' the horse.”
“What about the cowboys?”
“We never seen hide nor hair of them,” I said.
“Well,” Sly said, “I asked Lillian to have six
breakfasts fixed up and sent over. They'll be here before long.”
“Thanks, Mr. Sly,” said Pistol.
“I'll put some coffee on here,” Pistol said. “If I can move, Barjack.”
“Go on ahead, Pistol,” I said. She put her shotgun down and went to build a pot a coffee.
“Sly,” I said, “did you see any a' Chugwater's boys in town when you was a-coming over?”
“No,” he said. “I didn't see a one of them.”
“Well,” I said, “right now I'm making up a new rule. If anyone sees Chugwater or any of his hands in town, arrest them and fetch them over here to the jail. If they refuse to come along peaceful, kill them.”
“What charge, Barjack?” said Happy.
“Never mind that,” I said. “Just do it.”
Well, I set back down behint my desk and went back to sleep in a short while, and by God, I dreamt about them two times I had went flying, not in my dreams, mind you, them two times in real life when I had flew. If you ain't read my other books, you might not believe it, but I had for real learnt how to fly, and I had did it twice. I never learnt how to land real good, though. I can tell you, it were a real hair-raising experience, that flying. When I come to, I thunk I would like to try it again one a' these days. Maybe I could land better if I was to do it again.
Well, Pistol was the one what was awake, and so I told her to go on ahead and get her some sleep. I would keep watch, but then ever'one else
went to waking up. It was morning already. Pistol went into the free cell and gouged ole Churkee up off a' the cot, and then she laid down on it to catch her some winks. She hadn't got to sleep much, though, till the man from Lillian's snooty eating place come a-bringing our breakfasts. Sly had warned them, so when he come up to the door, he hollered out, “Don't shoot me. It's breakfast.”
“Let him in,” I said, and Churkee went over and unlatched the door. He come in all loaded down, and I let him unpile the stuff onto my desk. Ever'one went to eating. The disturbance had woke up ole Pistol, and she got herself some too. Whenever Happy had done finished, I tole him to go take Butcher's place on the roof and tell Butcher to come on down and have some chow. He went out, and pretty soon Butcher come in to eat. Whenever we was all did, I had Butcher to gether up the dirty dishes and stuff and take it back over to Lillian's place. I felt some better and had me another cup a' coffee. Soon as I finished with it, I poured myself a glass full a' good whiskey. I tuck a good long slurp and then I did feel a whole lot better.
Setting there with my whiskey, I got to thinking. I wondered about going out to the Johnson Ranch and arresting Chugwater. That would sure enough put a stop to all this bullshit. But then I recalled what a army a' cowpunchers he had out there, and I decided that it sure as hell wouldn'ta been worth the try. I guessed there weren't nothing for it but just what we was already doing. We had done stood off three tries, so I guessed we
could stand off more. We had us about six more days to go, was all. Hell, yes, we could do it.