Table of Contents
The Spaniard snapped his hand toward his holster and pulled the .44. Clint's arm moved in a similar flicker of motion as his hand wrapped around his modified Colt.
Both weapons cleared leather at the same time, but Clint was able to aim and pull his trigger before Franco's hammer could drop. The Colt barked once and sent a bullet through Franco's heart. The .44 roared as well but only after a twitching reflex of Franco's finger.
The Spaniard had a surprised look on his face as the fire in his eyes slowly dwindled away . . . and Franco's body landed facedown in the dirt.
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THE SAPPHIRE GUN
A Jove Book / published by arrangement with the author
Jove edition / May 2007
Copyright Â© 2007 by Robert J. Randisi.
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Johnny Blevin's place wasn't much, but it was comfortable and it was nestled on a fine piece of California property. He was a short ride from the mountains, the ocean, or even Mexico. That made it easy for him to spread word to plenty of friends about the party he meant to throw to celebrate a recent bout of good fortune.
Word of the party spread like wildfire. It spread so quickly, in fact, that the number of people to show up was actually more than double the number of people he'd invited. Johnny took the additional arrivals in stride. Of course, that was easy to do since most of the uninvited guests brought food or drink along with them.
It had been a while since the town had seen a celebration that big. If Johnny had to put up with a few strangers to be the host, then so be it. He was just happy that one guest in particular could make it.
“Someone get a beer for my friend, here!” Johnny shouted as he spotted another new arrival and rushed over to greet him. Johnny was a short man with enough extra weight around his middle to make him look almost perfectly cylindrical. His wiry dark hair and protruding front teeth made him look like an overgrown beaver. At the moment, he looked like a very happy beaver.
Clint smirked and extended a hand to the approaching man. Johnny brushed right past that arm so he could wrap both of his around Clint in a brotherly hug. Clint couldn't help but laugh as he felt himself get nearly lifted off his feet.
“Good to see you, too, Johnny,” Clint said. Even though he didn't know most of the people at the party, Clint quickly became uncomfortable as more and more of them stared in his direction. “All right. That's enough.”
“Sorry about that,” Johnny said. “I'm just glad to see you made it.”
“Doesn't look like attendance is much of a problem for this event.”
Turning to take in the scene, Johnny nodded as if he were seeing it for the first time.
The property was five acres of mostly flat grassland, bordered on three sides by steep hills. A small, three-room house was in the middle of those three acres and was surrounded by a crooked wooden fence. A wandering trickle of a stream snaked its way behind the house and a small barn was situated nearby.
Just looking at the land by itself, a man could imagine quiet sunrises or even the beginnings of a modest farm. Some pigs could be raised on the property. Maybe a few cows or sheep could be penned in. There was definitely room for horses. Currently, however, there was barely enough room for Johnny and Clint.
Four tables were pushed together to form a single row. On those tables, there was a collection of all the food and drink that had been brought to the party. A few men played loudly upon banjos and guitars, and one of them even beat a rhythm upon an upended bucket. Some folks were dancing. Some were playing games. Here and there, some were fighting. All of them appeared to be having the time of their lives.
“I guess things did get a bit out of hand.” Johnny sighed.
“How long has this been going on?” Clint asked. “The letter I got said this was all to start on Sunday. I thought I was going to miss it.”
“It did start on Sunday. It's been going steady ever since.”
“For three days?” Clint let out a whistle. “You might have a hell of time getting these folks to leave.”
Although Johnny winced, he quickly waved it off and said, “To hell with it. I may just hand all of this over to 'em when I leave.”
“You're leaving? The last time I checked, you were settling in for good after getting that shipping business up and running.”
“And I've still got you to thank for that, Clint,” Johnny said as he draped one arm over Clint's shoulder and squeezed. Every breath he let out smelled as if it had been soaked in liquor. “Hey, everyone!” Johnny shouted. “This here's the man who made me the man I am today!”
Although a few of the revelers looked over in Johnny's direction, none of them seemed to be as happy as he was about Clint's arrival. In fact, one of them shouted back, “Who the hell are you two?”
Clint patted Johnny's back. “How about you just point me to something I can eat?”
“Right over this way,” Johnny replied. “I'll show you.”
“Have you been drinking this whole time? You smell like whiskey.”
“Not really. I had a bit, but most of what you smell is what was spilled on me.”
The more times Clint was bumped and jostled by drunks, the more he regretted riding in from the coast to put in an appearance at Johnny's shindig. Once he saw all the food on the table, however, his good spirits quickly returned. Grabbing a plate and piling some food onto it, Clint asked, “So what's the reason behind this feast?”
“Didn't I put it in the letter?”
“Nope. All you said was that you wanted me to get here and that you'd tell me about it when I arrived.”
Johnny squinted as he thought back to writing the letter he'd sent to Clint. Once that became too difficult, he shook his head and let out a breath. “I thought I wrote it all out.” Suddenly, Johnny snapped his fingers. “I remember now! I wrote all of it in the letter I sent to West Texas! Rick Hartman wrote back to me, and I was just barely able to scribble something out and send it to where he thought you'd be. Now that I think about it, I'm even more surprised you made it here at all.”
“Jesus, how long have you been planning this affair?”
“Ever since I heard the news.”
Johnny straightened up, lifted his chin, and held onto his lapel as if he was posing for a painter. “The news that I'm gonna be so rich that I won't have to work another day in my life.”
At first, Clint thought it was just the liquor in Johnny's system talking. But after studying the other man for a few moments, he saw that Johnny wasn't so unsteady that he should be written off just yet. In fact, Johnny looked more proud than delirious.