Authors: Robert J. Conley
I felt some better with that goddamn load of explosives all around my chest. Course, I also thunk that someone might get off a good shot at me and blow my ass all to hell. When I thunk that there thought, my steps got just a little bit longer and faster as I hurried my way back to the safety of my office. I sure as hell did not want to get scattered all over town thattaway. Whenever I got
back I yelled out my name, and I went back inside and behint my desk. I pulled out a drawer and started unloading my pockets a' that stuff, stashing it all in my desk drawer.
“What's that, Barjack?” Butcher ast me.
“What the hell does it look like, moron?” I said. “Never mind about it nohow.”
“Well, it looks like dynamite.”
“Do tell,” I said.
“What're you planning to do with it?”
“Didn't I tell you to never mind?”
“Well, yeah, you did.”
“Then never mind it.”
“All right. I don't mind it, but is it dynamite?”
“Butcher,” I said, kinda like snapping at him.
He turned around and hung his head and sulked off in one a' the corners a' the room. I almost had a mind to explain things to him, but not quite. Bonnie come a-waddling out a' the cell from behint the hanging blankets just then, and she waddled right at me. I braced myself real good, and when she run into me, I stood my ground. I helt my breath whenever she give me her big bear hug too. “Good morning, Barjack,” she said. “Ain't you glad I spent the night here with you?”
Whenever she turnt me a-loose, I said, “Yes, sweet tits, I sure as hell am.”
“Can I pour you a tumbler a' your good whiskey?”
“No, I been a-waiting for that there coffee.”
“It's damn near used up, Barjack,” said Sly.
“I'll take the damn dregs,” I said, and that's just
ezackly what I got too. The goddamn dregs. But I went right ahead and drunk them down, and then I went to spitting out bits a' coffee grounds. Bonnie put on a fresh pot for me. “Thanks, sweet tush,” I said. Then it come to me that I'd have a few minutes' waiting time again, so I tole Bonnie to go on ahead and pour me a whiskey. She did too, and she give it to me. I dranked that down, and then by and by I final got my coffee. I was setting behint my desk a-sipping on it, and Sly come over and perched his ass on the desktop.
“Barjack,” he said, “I don't know about you, but I would sure like to know what Chugwater is up to. I'd like to have a warning well before he comes back to town.”
“Well, hell, Widdamaker,” I said, “I would too, but I don't rightly know how we're going to get that warning. I've got either one a' Happy or Butcher on the roof a-watching. I don't know what more I can do.”
“You can let me ride out to Chugwater's ranch and do a little spying,” he said. “I think I could maybe find out something.”
“Maybe get yourself kilt,” I said.
“I've watched out for myself for a good many years now, and no one has killed me yet.”
I slurped on my coffee and set the cup down. I looked up at him right into his steely eyes. “You really think you could might find something out?” I ast him.
“I think it would be worth a try,” he said.
“When you want to go?”
“All right,” I said. “Go on ahead, but be damn careful.”
“You can count on that, Barjack,” he said, and he left the office. I got up and walked to a front winder. Pretty soon I seen him riding by out in the street on his big black horse. It come back into my mind about the first time he come to town. He was already a well-knowed professional gunfighting killer. It were widely knowed that he would kill a man, any man, for a price. So ever'one in town what had someone who was mad at him for some reason went to thinking that Sly had come to town to kill him. We had fights start and shootings take place and all kinds a' trouble over that. Ole Peester tried to get me to run him outta town, but I didn't have no reason to do that.
Me and Sly come to be good friends, and as it happened, he never come to town to kill no one. He were just taking a well-deserved rest. Then he went and fell for my goddamned ex-wife, and what was most likely worse, she fell for him, and they went and got theirselves hitched together. Me and Lillian had a kid, and Sly tuck that little devil too. Freed me up of all of them. That was the most luckiest thing that ever happened to me, I can tell you. Lillian had tried to kill me at least once, and shot a nick outta my ear. And the little shit just didn't have no respect for no one. Least of all for me. So I was sure as hell glad whenever Sly married up with my Lillian, I can tell you that much.
And I'll tell you even more about that widdamaker Sly. He were beyond a goddamn doubt the
fastest and more accurate and most coolest-headedest gunfighter I have ever saw. I had done been in a number a' scrapes with him by my side, and there weren't no one in the world, not Wild-ass Bill Hickok, not Wyatt Earp, not Ben Thompson, not even that Black U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves, not Bat Masterson, nor any of them big-name bastards, that I would ruther have had on my side than that damn widdamaker, ole Sly. And I was for sure glad when he decided that him and Lillian would just stay settled right there in Asininity where I could call on him for help whenever I needed it real bad.
I tried not to bother him too much, but whenever things got real tough, I would ask him to help out, and he never once refused me. No, sir. And whenever I had his help, we always prevailed. (That there is another word I learnt from ole Dingle, that “prevailed.” It's a good one, don't you think?) Anyhow, we killed ass on a number a' gunfighting gangs, me and ole Sly, and that there is the way we prevailed.
I didn't know what the hell he was a-planning on doing out at Chugwater's ranch, but whatever the hell it was, I figgered he would damn well get it did. I had Bonnie pour me out another cup a' coffee. It were good coffee. And while I was slurping at it, Dingle come over to my desk. “Barjack,” he said, “what is Sly up to?”
“I ain't for sure, Scribbler,” I said. “He's got him some idee about spying up on ole Chugwater. I don't know ezackly what he's going to do, but he'll do something, don't you never worry none about
that. Whenever Sly gets something on his mind, he's a-going to pull it off. I can promise you that much.”
“Okay,” he said. “Thanks, Barjack.”
And he went back over to his chair in the corner and went to scribbling some more in his notebook. I figgered that what we was into just right at that goddamn minute was already going into another a' them dime novels about me what Dingle had been writing now for quite a spell. Me and him both was a-getting rich off a' them things. To tell you the truth, I was a-worrying about ole Sly my own self. Hell, it was broad daylight. How the hell was he a-going to ride out to Chugwater's ranch and find out anything? I couldn't see it. He damn sure wouldn't be able to sneak up to the house and listen at a winder. Someone would see him for sure. Someone would plug him with a bullet. As good a gunman as he was, he weren't no match for a whole army a' cowhands. And just then a horrible thought come into my head.
What if ole Sly was to get hisself kilt? What would ole Lillian do then? Would she come back after me? Would I get my ass stuck again with her and that goddamn snotty kid? It was enough to make me sick to my stomach, and I went and poured myself another glass full a' good brown whiskey.
Well, I was a-setting there worrying my ass off about ole Sly getting hisself foolishly kilt out there at Chugwater's ranch and thinking that I had been a fool to agree to his going out there. I wisht I had rid with him too. I coulda stopped him from doing any goddamn foolish bullshit what was too damn dangerous. I poured myself another glass a' whiskey, and Bonnie seen me. She come a-waddling over to the desk. “Barjack, I coulda done that for you, sweetie. Whyn't you call me?”
“I can pour a goddamn glass a' whiskey,” I said.
Sly come back final. He had been gone for quite a spell, and the rest a' my gang was getting mighty restless, I can tell you. They was wanting some action. Once ole Butcher had piped up and said, “Why don't we just ride out to that damn Chugwater's place and attack the bastards? Why do we have to sit around here and wait for him?”
“Butcher,” I said, “I am the town marshal a' this here town. I ain't got no jurisprudence outside a' town. We'd just be a bunch of owl hoots attacking a man's ranch if we was to do that. What we're a-doing here is we're guarding the jail and
our prisoner. We just has got to keep our patience. That's all.”
And he weren't the only one neither. They was all getting kinda jumpy. Me too, but I never let on so they could tell it. So I was damn glad whenever Sly final come back. I even jumped up from my chair and practical run across the room to meet him, but so did ever'one else, and I run smack into Bonnie and fell over back'ards and landed on my ass. “Barjack, I'm sorry,” she said, and she helped me up to my feet. Ever'one was talking all at the same time and asking Sly what he had found out, so I at last yelled out for them all to shut up. They did. Then I stepped right up to Sly and looked him in the face.
“What'd you find out?” I said.
“They'll be coming in in the morning,” he said. “And Chugwater's called in another twenty men. They mean to attack with a full force and kill us all if that's what it takes to free Owl Shit.”
“By God,” I said, “we'll be a-waiting for them.”
“That's not all,” he said.
“He means to block off the town so we can't get out. Both ends. He's sending men in right now to do that.”
I scratched my head, walking back to my chair. “What the hell would we want to get outta town for?” I said. “We're guarding this here jail.”
“Chugwater thought that you might think to ride over to the county seat and ask Sheriff Cody for some help.”
I thunk hard for a minute till it got to hurting
my head, and then I said, “I wonder how in the hell he come up with that. That's just ezackly what I was a-thinking about doing. Butcher, go back up on the roof and send Happy down here.”
“Yes, sir.” And Butcher run outside. I was thinking to send Happy, but I thunk better a' it before he come in. I decided that I would ride over to the county seat my own self and get that damned Cody and make him help out. I knowed that I would be more persuasive than what Happy could be. I checked my Merwin Hulbert self-extracting revolver, and then I went over to the gun rack to get me a good rifle. I picked out a good Henry what I liked. Happy come in the door just then.
“Happy,” I said, “I'm leaving you in charge here. You know what to do.”
“Where you going, Barjack?” he ast me.
“I'm riding over to see Cody,” I said. “I'll be back quick as a flash. In the meantime, you take care a' things around here. Ask Sly to tell you what he found out.”
I stuck a bottle a' whiskey down into my coat pocket. Bonnie run up and grabbed on to me. “Barjack, be careful,” she said.
“Don't worry, sweet hips,” I told her.
“Barjack,” said Sly, “are you sober enough for this?”
“I'll be all right.”
I walked on out and then down the street to the stable, where I got me my favorite horse and had the man saddle him up for me. And I tell you what. I did stagger some in my walking. Even so, while I was a-waiting for my horse to get saddled,
I pulled out my bottle and had me a snort. Then I tuck out a ceegar and lit it up with a match I had in my pocket. My horse was ready, and I climbed into the saddle. It were a bit difficult, but I made it, and then I rid outta there and headed for the county seat.
I rid as fast as I dared to ride, and once I nearly wobbled outta the saddle. That shook me up some, so I slowed down a bit and set more careful in the saddle. I got outta town and was a-riding alongside a' the big clump a' rocks what set beside a' the road out there, when I seen a gang a' five men riding toward me. I turned and went behint them rocks. I dismounted and tuck my Henry with me. Laying that rifle acrost a rock, I cranked a shell into the chamber. The riders come to a halt out there in the road.
“Barjack,” one a' them called out.
“It's me,” I answered.
“You might just as well get back on that horse and ride back into town,” he said. “No one's getting out.”
“You bastards think you can stop me,” I said, “you just come right on ahead and try.”
He laughed. “You're already stopped,” he said. “You ain't going no farther.”
I tuck my Henry in my left hand and reached inside my coat with my right to find a stick a' dynamite, which I brung out. I helt the fuse to my ceegar tip till it begun to fizzle, and then I helt it a little bit longer. Final, I stood up behint that rock and heaved that son of a bitch just as hard as I
could. It went a-flying up and out and landed in the road just in front a' the five a' them.
“Hey,” yelled one.
“Goddamn,” said another one.
The rest a' them mighta been thinking about hollering out something, but they never got no chance. That there dynamite blew, and it blew big. It scattered pieces a' horses and men all over the road, along with dirt and rocks and sticks and such. I looked around and didn't see no survivors. I pulled out my bottle and tuck me another drink. Then I walked back to my horse and put a foot in a stirrup. I grabbed on to the saddle horn and went to swing my right leg over the horse, but I lost my balance and fell down in the dirt. “Goddamn it,” I said.
I struggled around till I was on my hands and knees, and then I reached up with a hand for the stirrup. The horse was kinda dancing around, and he dragged me in a circle kinda. “Whoa. Whoa, you son of a bitch,” I said. Final he settled down some, and I managed to pull myself back up onto my feet. Then I got on his back, but it weren't no easy task.