Authors: Robert J. Thomas
“Great. I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather have with me,” replied Bodine. I say we head out right after another glass of this fine whiskey.”
“I’ll have to stop at the general store before we leave,” replied Jess.
“I thought you were just at the general store.”
“Yeah, but now that I know I’m heading into what will most likely turn into a small war of sorts, I have to get some more ammunition.”
Jess headed down to the general store and bought up boxes and boxes of all types of cartridges and .12 gauge shotgun shells. Then, he met John at the livery and loaded all the ammo into his oversized saddlebags on his packhorse, Sharps. John watched him pack the ammo and was amazed at how much ammunition Jess had bought.
“Are you in the bounty-hunting business or are you going to war?” Bodine asked.
“It’s kind of the same business sometimes. Besides, I like to be prepared for anything,” replied Jess.
“Well, with all those guns you carry on you, I’d say you are well prepared.”
“Yeah, and I’m going to stay that way,” replied Jess.
Jess and Bodine took five days to make it to Dodge City. They stopped in Abilene, Kansas, just long enough to turn in the bodies of Lance Bolin, Curtis Clifton, Clive Henchel and Mitch Matthews and filed a claim for the bounty with Sheriff Colt Baxter who agreed to send the money to Jess’ bank in Black Creek, Kansas. Jess told Bodine that he would get his half once they got to Dodge City. Each night when they made camp, Jess would practice his shooting skills for about an hour or so. It had become somewhat of a ritual for Jess. He would practice with every gun he had on him and then he would practice with his Sharps buffalo gun and his Winchester rifle. Bodine was somewhat amused, but he was also quite surprised. He couldn’t believe how fast Jess could draw the strange looking pistol he had. It was the third night on their journey to Dodge City and Bodine walked over to where Jess was practicing.
“Jess, where did you get a pistol like that?”
“Well, it’s kind of a strange story. After I came home one day and found my entire family murdered, I began practicing with my Pa’s Colt .45 here that I keep tucked in the front of my holster. Then, one day I saw my Pa’s hat hanging on a nail in the barn and there it was. This pistol and holster was hanging on that same nail under my Pa’s hat. Funny thing though, I had looked at that hat a dozen times and I swear that the pistol and holster wasn’t there before. It’s like it just found me for some unknown reason and I took it for a sign that it was sent there somehow to help me with my plans to hunt down the three men who killed my family. When I first started using it, it seemed as if the gun was actually teaching me how to use it. The design is different from any other pistol and the craftsmanship is superb. Also, the balance is perfect and it weighs half of what my Pa’s Colt weighs. It is quite an extraordinary piece of hardware. I had to have a custom hammer strap placed on the holster to hold the gun in since it comes out of the holster so easily, it might fall out if I make a quick or unusual movement. I have to keep checking the hammer strap constantly and make sure I keep it tightened.”
“Would you allow me to see it?” Bodine asked.
Jess didn’t say anything for a moment. He looked deep into Bodine’s eyes and saw an honest man and a friend who had saved his life just a few days ago. “You know, John, no one has ever laid hands on this pistol before. I never allowed it because if I somehow lost it, I don’t know what I’d do. I sure can’t go and buy another one because no one makes pistols quite like this.”
“I promise I won’t do anything you don’t want me to do. I’d just like to shoot it a few times,” said John.
Jess slowly handed the pistol to John who looked it over very closely. He held it up and it did indeed feel different than any other pistol he had ever handled. “Damn, I can see how you can draw and shoot this thing so fast. The way the handle on the gun is designed, it can’t slip out of your hand when you grab it and the way this hammer is designed, sticking straight and higher than normal would definitely help you fan the pistol much easier. I can’t believe how light and perfectly balanced it is. Is it okay if I fire off a few rounds?”
“Okay, but be careful. Give me your gun and see if my pistol will fit in your holster.” Bodine handed Jess his Colt .45 and placed Jess’ pistol in his holster. It didn’t fit perfectly, but it fit well enough to hold it.
“Okay,” said Jess, “now when you draw it, cock the hammer back and shoot at that tree over there and as soon as the shot goes off, have your left hand already in place close to the hammer to fan the second shot at the tree to the right of that one. You’ll see that there are no rear sights on the gun and that’s so you don’t cut your hand or fingers when fanning it.”
Bodine did it exactly like Jess had told him, but he did it really slow so he could get the move down correctly. “Damn, that was nice. I can see how you keep taking down two and three men at a time.”
“Like I said, it almost teaches you how to draw it. It takes a while to get used to that long hammer, but after you do, it just comes natural. Go ahead and try it again.”
Bodine drew the pistol again and cocked the first shot and then fanned the second shot. He was twice as fast on the second time. He did it a third time and was even slightly faster. “Damn, I wish I could get me one of these,” replied Bodine, as he handed it back to Jess, who emptied the six spent cartridges and reloaded the pistol.
“Good luck with that. I’ve looked at every gunsmith shop and have never found anything even close to it.”
“Maybe they have something like it out east,” said Bodine, as they walked back to their campfire.
“I doubt it, but I suppose it’s always possible.” Jess went to his saddlebags and retrieved a bottle of the fine whiskey he had bought from Joshuha back in Clarence. Bodine immediately threw the rest of his coffee he was drinking out of his tin cup and Jess poured the whiskey into the cup.
“This is a mighty nice surprise, Jess, thank you.”
“You are welcome, John,” said Jess as he filled his cup next.
“You never said why Clive Henchel and Mitch Matthews tried to kill you back in Clarence.”
“Well, it seems that a rich banker out in New York City named Henry Stidham has a grudge against me for killing his brother, Jon Stidham. He has placed a blood bounty of ten thousand dollars on my head. I can’t be sure if they were trying to collect the ten thousand or just kill me for the reputation of being the ones who finally took me down since they ended up dead before I could ask them.”
“Ten thousand dollars! That’s a hell of a lot of money and there will be a lot of people trying to collect it. It might work to our benefit when we get to Dodge City.”
“How do you figure?”
“You’ve already got quite a reputation and with that kind of money on your head, every gunslinger in Dodge City will be trying to collect it. I guess you’ll be like a big magnet for men with bounty on their heads.”
“Well, ain’t that just lucky for you,” replied Jess, sarcastically.
“I didn’t mean it like that, hell, I don’t want anything to happen to you, but you have to admit that I’m right about it,” replied Bodine.
“Which is why we have to be really careful and extra vigilant when we get to Dodge City,” replied Jess.
Jess and Bodine rode into Dodge City at noon. They went to the livery and stabled their horses and then headed for one of the nicer hotels in town and got rooms. Jess made sure their rooms were next to each other. Jess showed Bodine how to use a chair to block the door of his room as an extra precaution. Then, after they took a hot bath, they headed over to the sheriff’s office. Ashton Burleson had only been the sheriff for a few months since the last sheriff had gotten himself killed trying to break up a fight in one of the saloons. As soon as Jess walked in Burleson noticed him.
“Aw, hell, things were just getting back to somewhat normal and now you show up. Who the hell are you hunting now?” asked Burleson.
Jess stuck out his hand to shake Burleson’s hand. “Well, it’s nice to meet you too, Sheriff. Seems you know quite a bit about me already and we’ve never met before,” replied Jess.
“I’m Sheriff Ashton Burleson and I am friends with someone who knows you quite well. Marshal Frank Reedy told me all about you helping him clean up a problem in Navarro recently. Besides, you are in half a dozen dime novels already.”
“Yeah, I recently heard about that. This is John Bodine, a friend of mine.” Bodine shook hands with the Sheriff.
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Bodine. Well, I’m almost afraid to ask, but what are you boys in town for?”
“Sheriff, we are both bounty hunters and we are looking for any men with bounty on their heads who might be in town,” replied Jess.
“You sure came to the right place. There are at least four men hanging around here right now with bounties on their heads that I can think of.”
“Sheriff,” asked Bodine, “how come you ain’t arrested them yet?”
“Do I look loco? Those four would kill me the minute they saw me coming. I figure as long as they don’t mess with me or start any real trouble, I ain’t going to mess with them and hope they leave town eventually.”
“Well, then Sheriff,” said Jess, “I suppose you wouldn’t mind telling us the four men you are talking about. If you ain’t going after them that makes them fair game for the likes of us.”
“I’ll tell ya’, but I wouldn’t recommend you go after them. They are some of the meanest men I have ever met.”
“You let us worry about that, Sheriff.”
“Alright,” said Burleson, as he handed four wanted posters to Jess. “Graham Heater is the worst of the four and he’s worth two hundred dollars. Jacob Miller is worth one hundred. Herman Caldwell is worth one hundred and fifty dollars and Mack Ross is worth two hundred dollars. The last two, Caldwell and Ross stick together like an old married couple and they will come at you as a team so you watch yourself with those two. If they even hear of you being in town they will most likely try to kill you just for the reputation.”
“Jess smiled at that. “Well, that will just make our job that much easier.”
“Marshal Reedy said you was quite the cocky one,” said Burleson. “I guess he was right.”
“Yeah, he told me the same thing recently. I suppose it just comes natural.”
“Well, I have to rethink this new job now that you’re in town. Maybe I should just quit now and go back to working at the general store,” said Burleson.
“Sheriff, just sit back and relax and let us do all the work for you,” replied Jess, handing the wanted posters to Bodine to look at.
“The sheriff laughed. “I don’t think I’ll be relaxing until you leave town, I’m pretty sure of that.”
“Yeah, I suppose you might be right, Sheriff. Especially if there are that many men with a bounty of their head hanging around here.”
John Bodine had been looking at the wanted posters and now he was looking out of the front window of the sheriff’s office. “Hey Jess, I think that’s Caldwell and Ross that just rode into town and went into that saloon over there across the street.”
“I guess it’s time to get to work,” replied Jess.
The sheriff sat back down in his chair with a look of frustration on his face. “You sure don’t waste any time now do ya’?” asked the sheriff.
“Nope, I sure don’t Sheriff. I hope your banks in town have lots of money,” replied Jess, as he and Bodine headed for the saloon across the street to go after Caldwell and Ross.
Jess and Bodine discussed their plans while walking across the street. Jess told John that when they went into the saloon to split up and for him to go after whoever was on the right and he would go after whoever of the two was on the left. When they walked into the saloon, it was busy and noisy with a dozen men at the bar and a dozen or more sitting at tables. Jess stood to the left of the door and Bodine stood to the right. The banter in the saloon almost ground to a halt when they walked in, which was normal, since every man who walked into the saloon could be a gunslinger or a killer on a mission. One look at Jess and all his guns told them they were right.