Authors: Robert J. Thomas
“Yeah, but ten thousand dollars is a hell of a lot of money,” replied Durrand.
“Sure is,” said Lee Thomas, as he picked up his hand. “I’ll tell you what Heath, if you do decide to go into town and collect that blood bounty, I’ll go with you and we can split the money and we’ll still both be rich.”
“If you want more help, I’ll throw in with you two,” said Hank Cullom. “Even split three ways, that’s still over three thousand dollars each and that’s still a lot of money.”
Taylor Hamm was getting nervous just listening to the discussion. “Well, if you boys decide to do that, let me know ‘because I’m getting the hell out of here before he comes out here after the rest of us.”
“You’re already assuming that we’ll fail,” replied Durrand.
“Hell, the boss sent twelve men into town in the middle of the night to kill those two and every last one of them ended up dead so my assumption ain’t all that crazy when you think about it,” Hamm retorted.
“Hell, we risk our lives every time we get into a gunfight and we do it for a few hundred dollars a month,” said Lee Thomas.
“Yeah, but it ain’t Jess Williams that’s holding the other gun when we do. That man ain’t exactly the normal gunslinger if you get my drift.”
“Well, we’ll see, but if we do decide to go after him, I’ll let you know so you can clear out,” Heath promised. They continued to play cards for hours and all the while, Durrand kept counting the ten thousand dollars in his head.
Jess and John stayed at The Long Branch Saloon for the next two hours and nothing happened. Jess suggested they hit one of the smaller saloons in town off the main street. Bodine agreed, but said that he was going down to the China Doll Brothel first to get himself some attention from one of the women working there. He invited Jess to go along with him, but Jess declined and decided to go and check on any messages he might have received over at the telegraph office.
Jess walked into the telegraph office and an old man was tapping away and held up his hand letting Jess know that he wanted to finish the message first. When the old man was done, he looked up and noticed Jess.
“Oh, I’m sorry about making you wait, Mr. Williams. I didn’t know it was you until I looked up,” said the old man.
“That’s okay; I’m in no hurry anyway. I’m just here to check to see if I have any messages,” Jess informed him.
The old man looked over a few dozen messages and found one with Jess’ name on it. “Here is one for you. It came in a few hours ago. It’s from a man by the name of Jim Smythe over in Black Creek, Kansas. I remembered it because it said it was from the mayor of Black Creek. Don’t get too many messages from mayors.” He handed the message to Jess. It read—
From Mayor Jim Smythe to Jess Williams, please proceed to Black Creek, Kansas, as soon as you receive this message. We need your help immediately.
Jess immediately handed the operator a dollar and headed out the door before the old man could thank him. He headed straight for The China Doll Brothel and John was already coming out of the brothel with a satisfied look on his face.
“Well, that didn’t take long,” said Jess.
“I guess I was kind of in a hurry,” replied John. “Well, shall we head for one of those smaller saloons off the main street?”
“No, I have to leave town immediately,” replied Jess.
“Why, we ain’t finished up here yet. I’ll bet there is probably five thousand dollars more in bounty that we could collect if we stay here. It’s not like you to walk away from trouble, what’s going on?”
“I have friends in Black Creek, Kansas, where I grew up and I received a message asking me to come there immediately and that they needed my help, so I have to go and I’d like you to go with me,” replied Jess.
Bodine didn’t have to think about it long. “If you need me to go along, I guess I have to say yes. You agreed to come here and help me and any friends of yours are friends of mine,” said John. “Besides, I don’t think it would be wise to stay here in town by myself. I might end up with a bullet in my back.”
“That’s probably true. Let’s get some supplies and head out right now,” said Jess.
They headed for the general store and bought up enough supplies to make it to Black Creek, Kansas, and saddled up and rode straight out of town. Jess kept a careful watch on all of the rooftops on their way out.
It took them five days to make it to Black Creek. Along the way, Jess continued to work with John on his shooting skills; even teaching him to shoot the Sharps rifle. John was getting a little faster each day, but he didn’t like the Sharps rifle much. He said he preferred his Winchester rifle.
It was early in the day as they headed into Black Creek. Bodine looked over at Jess. “So, you say that this friend of yours, this Jim Smythe got himself elected as the mayor?”
“Yeah, I never figured him for the type to do that so he must have had a good reason.”
“What happened to the old mayor? Did he quit or did he just lose the election to your friend.” asked John.
“I don’t really know for sure. All I know is that I ran one of the previous mayor’s and the town sheriff out of town after I let them out of the jail,” replied Jess.
“Who the hell was dumb enough to lock up both the mayor and sheriff of a town?”
Jess smiled back at John. “It was me.”
“I should have known before I even asked.”
Jess’ smile turned to a frown when he saw a large sign at the end of town. The sign read—
All men entering town are hereby ordered to surrender their firearms to the sheriff’s office and retrieve them before they leave town.
Bodine looked at Jess. “Well, what do you plan to do about that little problem.
“I’m not really sure yet, but I’m sure about one thing. Nobody is ever taking away my guns,” Jess assured him.
“You sure make things real interesting, I’ll give you that,” replied Bodine as they rode into town.
They rode up to the livery in town. Tony, the livery owner, turned around and saw Jess and flashed a big smile at the sight of Jess.
“Well, ain’t you a sight for sore eyes! I’m glad you got the message that we needed your help,” said Tony, shaking Jess’ hand so hard Jess was worried he would pull his arm off.
“It’s nice to see you again, Tony. I heard our friend Jim Smythe got himself elected as the mayor of the town. How in the hell did that happen?”
“Well, after you ran Mayor York and Sheriff Newcomb out of town, we went through several more mayors, but Jim has become quite popular and finally agreed to run and he won with no problem. Hell, I even sit on the town council with him,” replied Tony. “So who is your friend here?” asked Tony, sticking out his hand to shake hands with Bodine.
“This here is John Bodine. He saved my life a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been helping him with some bounty hunting over in Dodge City when I received the urgent message from Jim Smythe.”
“Someone finally had to save your ass, that ain’t the way it usually goes from everything I’ve read about you lately.”
“Yeah, I heard about those dime novels. They have them here?”
“Hell yes. You’re the town hero don’t you know? I mean, you’ve been a good friend to us here. You’ve donated enough money to build the new school house and the new church down the street. Hell, you’re a right popular fellow around here.”
“Well, I’ve made a lot of money so far and this is where I grew up, so I had to spend it on something,” replied Jess. “So, what’s the emergency that you need help with?”
“I’d better let the mayor tell you about it. He’s over at the general store right now. I’m sure he will be happy as hell you showed up.”
Jess and John started walking across the street as Tony took their horses into the livery and began taking the saddles off. They didn’t make it more than a hundred feet when Jess noticed three men walking in their direction and all three had tin on their shirts and were carrying double-barreled shotguns.
“Well,” said Bodine, “this ought to be interesting.”
“Yeah, let me do the talking, John,” said Jess.
The three men walked up to Jess and Bodine. One man’s badge said Sheriff on it and the other two had badges that said Deputy Sheriff. “Howdy, Sheriff, what can we do for you?”
The sheriff, Clio Fowler, spoke first. He had heard about Jess Williams, but he had never laid eyes on him so he didn’t know who he was talking to yet. “You can start by handing over those weapons to my deputies. Didn’t you see the sign outside of town?”
“Yes, we read it, Sheriff, but I have to apologize to you because I’m not surrendering any of my weapons to you or anyone for that matter.”
“It’s the law here and we enforce it equally, so we’ll be taking those guns. You can have them back when you leave town.”
“Sheriff, I’ll leave town first before I surrender my guns, but the mayor sent for me so I think you’d better ask him if he wants me to turn around and ride out, because taking my guns just ain’t going to happen.”
“You said Mayor Smythe sent for you?” asked Sheriff Fowler.
“That’s right, I’m Jess Williams and this here is my good friend John Bodine.”
“Well, then why didn’t you say so,” replied Sheriff Fowler, as he stuck out his hand to shake Jess’ hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Williams. I’ve heard a lot about you. You’re a welcome sight and you can keep those guns. From what I’ve heard about you, I’d never get them from you anyway. Besides, we need your help and that means you’re going to need those guns; and, by the way, you sure you have enough of them?”
“Yeah, I know it seems like a lot, but in my business they come in real handy and I need every one of them.”
“Well, let’s get you over to the see the mayor so he can inform you on what’s been going on.” They all shook hands and walked over to Smythe’s General Store. When they walked in, Jim was up on a ladder stocking things on shelves. He turned around and almost fell off the ladder when he noticed Jess. He immediately climbed down from the ladder and came around the counter and gave Jess a big bear hug.
“It sure is damn nice to see you again, Jess. I just wish it was under better circumstances.”
“Well, what the hell is going on that you had to call for me when you’ve got three lawmen working for you?”
“First, let me make a pot of coffee and we can all sit at the large table in the kitchen and I’ll tell you all about it.”
Jess finally realized that he didn’t see Sara anywhere and she would usually be the one getting the coffee. “Jim, where is Sara?”
“Well, that’s part of the problem. She’s upstairs nursing a broken arm and a busted up nose she got at the hands of the bunch of thugs who keep coming into town and raising hell lately.”
Jess didn’t even let Jim finish his words before he was running up the stairs, taking two steps at a time. He got to Sara’s room and knocked.
“Who is it?”
“Sara, it’s Jess. Can I come in and see you?”
“Of course, come on in,” replied Sara.
Jess walked into the room and when he got a look at Sara he was immediately enraged. Sara was propped up in the bed and she looked like a mess. Her nose was bandaged and blood stains were seeping from the bandage and her right arm was in a sling. She had multiple cuts and bruises on her face and a fat lip that also had a cut.