Authors: Robert J. Thomas
“Really, and what the hell could that possibly be?”
“Well, you have to understand something,
See, me and John here, we accepted the fact that we might end up dead before we leave this town and we’re okay with that. We’re prepared to die for what we are doing. So the question really is, are
ready to die today because as sure as I’m standing here, I’m telling you that the minute any lead starts flying, I’m going to put a bullet into your brain before I start killing as many of your men as I can before I go down. Now, if you are willing to accept those terms, go ahead and give the order to your hired guns here to start shooting.”
Manny Welch didn’t quite know how to respond. He just sat on his horse and stared at Jess, trying to decide if Jess was plumb loco. He believed that Jess was serious about what he said and Manny Welch wasn’t ready to die just yet.
“Manny, did you hear what I just said? Either you have a hearing problem or maybe you’re just still trying to decide what to do next, but I ain’t waiting much longer. I’m ready to pull this trigger and take whatever comes next, so either give the order to your men to start shooting or get the hell out of my sight and out of town. Make the decision. I don’t really give two shits either way,
Manny Welch was totally taken aback by Jess’ demeanor. He couldn’t tell if Jess was crazy or not, but he was pretty certain that Jess meant to kill him with his first shot so Manny quickly came to his senses. “Men, keep those guns strapped down. There will always be another fight and another day. Alright, Mr. Williams, we’ll leave town for now, but mark my words, this ain’t over yet.”
Jess smiled at him and said, “I never figured it was,
Manny Welch and his eight men turned their horses around and rode out of town, quickly. Jess holstered his pistol and watched them until they were out of sight.
The sheriff, who had been frozen standing on the porch of his office finally found his voice. “Are you out of your mind or something? That’s Manny Welch and he’s got over two dozen hired guns and most of them are damn good. Those men ain’t going to let up until the both of you are six feet under,” said the sheriff.
Jess looked at the sheriff. “That’s exactly what I’m counting on it, Sheriff. I just hope most of those boys have a bounty on their heads.” Jess and Bodine walked over to the hotel to sit on the porch and digest their breakfast. After a few minutes John finally leaned forward in his chair and turned to Jess.
“What in the hell was that back there? Are you trying to get us killed before we collect any bounty? You can’t face down that many men at once.”
Jess looked at his new partner and smiled. “And yet that’s exactly what we just did. Didn’t you see the look in Welch’s eyes? He ain’t ready to die yet and he knew for a fact that he was going to be the first one to go and the fact that we already took down four of his best men told him that I could and would have done exactly just that. I agree he’ll send men in to ambush us sooner or later so we have to be really careful and watch each other’s back from now on. Also, I want to start taking you out of town to practice a little each day. You shoot straight and true, but you need to increase your hand speed on the draw and the only thing that can do that is practice and lots of it.”
“That sounds fine to me. I can’t think of a better man to teach me; but in the future, could you at least warn me when you’re going to do something as crazy as what you just did?”
“I’ll try, but I can’t guarantee it. Sometimes there ain’t enough time and you just have to go with your gut feelings.” The rest of the day was uneventful and that gave Jess and John a little time to relax. They did, however, make time to ride out of town and find a place where they could practice with their pistols.
They rode back into Dodge City in time for supper. Jess stopped at one of the larger banks in and withdrew eight hundred dollars. When he came out of the bank, he handed a wad of money to John.
“What’s this for?”
“That’s your half of the bounty money on the four men we turned into the sheriff in Abilene. I’ll give you your half of the money on the others as soon as I know the money has been deposited into my account in Black Creek. I’d give it to you now, but you never know if you’re going to get the money owed. Sometimes, they refuse to pay and sometimes they simply screw up and the money never shows up. I won’t cheat you out of one cent though, you can count on that,” replied Jess.
“I know you are an honest man, Jess, and I trust you one hundred percent.”
“Good. Now, let’s go and get some supper. I’m starving,” said Jess.
They headed down to Dottie’s Eats and ordered some grub and it was damn good. After they finished their meals, they headed for the Long Branch Saloon. When they walked in, the place went dead silent for a few moments. Everyone in town heard what Jess and John had done, killing four of Manny Welch’s best men and facing down Manny Welch and eight other gunslingers. After a few minutes or so, the banter slowly went back to normal. Jess and Bodine scanned the saloon looking for any likely threats or targets. Finding none, they walked up to the end of the bar where two men were standing. Jess always wanted the corner so he could have his back to the wall and have a complete view of the room. He walked over to the two men who didn’t look to be gunslingers. Only one was wearing a six-shooter and it wasn’t tied down. Jess tapped the man with the gun on the shoulder.
“Mister, would you and your friend here mind moving down the bar enough for the two of us to take the corner?” Jess asked.
“And why should we do that?” the man asked.
The other man recognized Jess as soon as he walked into the saloon and he knew all about Jess so he leaned over to his partner and whispered into his ear. The man wearing the gun suddenly changed his demeanor.
“Oh, I’m sorry Mr. Williams, I didn’t recognize you right off. Of course we’d be willing to move for you.”
“Thank you and I’d be willing to buy you two gents the best bottle of whiskey that the barkeep has,” replied Jess, taking up his favorite position in the saloon as soon as the two men moved over.
“That’s mighty nice of you, Mr. Williams. We don’t usually get to drink that good stuff very often since it’s a little too expensive for the likes of us.”
“Well, enjoy it and make sure you take whatever is left home with you.”
“Hell, what makes you figure that there is going to be any of it left to take home,” the other man said with a big grin on his face.
Jess ordered two glasses of good brandy and he and John slowly sipped it while they watched and waited for anyone to come into the bar that might have a bounty on their heads. They waited for over four hours and nothing happened. The two men who had moved had finished the good bottle of whiskey and they were both drunk on their asses. They went back to ordering the cheap stuff, but at least they were smiling and joking around with each other. Jess and Bodine finally decided to leave and go back to their hotel and turn in for the night. There was always tomorrow.
When they got to their rooms, Jess noticed that the little stick he always placed in his door below the handle was missing, which meant someone was probably in his room. He put his hand up at Bodine who was just about to unlock his door and he froze.
“What?” Bodine asked whispering.
“Either they cleaned the rooms or there is someone in my room and possibly yours too. Might be an ambush,” whispered Jess.
“How do you want to handle it?” asked Bodine.
“First, move away from the door and against the wall.” They both moved away from the doors.
“Here’s what we are going to do,” said Jess, as he handed one of the cut-down shotguns to Bodine. “If there is someone in our rooms, we have no idea of where they are, so let’s kick the doors in and as soon as we do, move to the wall just for a second to see if anyone starts shooting. Then, reach over with the shotgun without exposing yourself and let both barrels go. It’ll hit anyone in the room bad enough to stun them and then we can finish them off with our pistols.”
“Sounds like a plan,” said Bodine.
They placed themselves in front of the doors and kicked them both in at the same instant. They moved out of the way of the door and sure enough, three slugs came flying out from each room. As soon as that happened, both Jess and Bodine reached over just enough to stick the barrel of the shotguns inside the doorways and they let both barrels of each shotgun go off.
There was screaming from both rooms as Jess and Bodine went to their respective doors and looked inside. There were three men in each room, and each of them was hit by buckshot from the cut-down shotguns, but they still had their pistols in their hands. Jess fanned his pistol three times hitting each of the three men in his room. One of the three got off a shot, but it missed Jess and hit the wall outside the door, high enough that it probably didn’t hit anyone who might be in that room across the hall. John Bodine had shot two of his three men, but the third was still shooting so Bodine moved over to Jess’ doorway. Jess and Bodine reloaded both shotguns and Jess reached into his room and grabbed the bowl of water that was on the dresser and threw it across Bodine’s door and as soon as he did, another shot came out of the room. Immediately after that shot, both Jess and bodine stepped into the doorway and let all four barrels of the two shotguns go off, peppering everything in the room and killing the last man. Jess noticed Bodine begin to relax so Jess slapped him on his shoulder.
“John, reload the shotgun and your pistol as quick as you can. This might not be over just yet,” said Jess.
As soon as Jess said that and before he had finished loading his shotgun, a man appeared at the top of the steps of the hotel and he took a shot that went straight between Jess and Bodine. Jess slicked his pistol out and killed the man. He dropped the shotgun, giving up on it for now. He ducked back into his room just long enough to reload the four spent cartridges from his pistol and peeked out of his doorway. Bodine was doing the same.
“Watch your window too, John,” said Jess, as he shot a glance at his window. He saw nothing, but John saw the outline of a body in his window. John reloaded the cut-down shotgun Jess had given him and he let one barrel go and he saw the man fly off the landing, breaking the wooden rail and he heard him hit the ground just as the door across from Jess’s room flew open. Jess pointed his gun at the door and was ready to pull the trigger when an old man wearing a robe appeared at the door.
“Get your ass back in your room before you get yourself killed,” hollered Jess. The man quickly obliged, slamming the door shut. Jess grabbed the cut-down shotgun he had thrown on the floor moments earlier and reloaded both barrels and he tucked it in his back holster.
“John, you stay here and watch my back and your window while I go downstairs,” said Jess.
“I’ve got your back, Jess,” replied John.
Jess slowly walked down the hallway almost jumping past each of the six other doors. He knew that if anyone was hiding in any of those rooms Bodine would see them come out and shoot them so he ignored them once he got past them. He got to the edge of the stairs and took his hat off and threw it across the stairs. Two shots rang out and hit the wall to Jess’ right. Jess immediately stepped into the stairway area and fanned two shots at the two men at the bottom of the stairs before they got off another shot. Both of them lay dead in a heap at the bottom of the stairs. Jess made his way down the stairs watching carefully. As soon as he stepped over the two dead bodies, he saw a shadow move across one of the front windows of the hotel. He waited and sure enough, the man outside peeked inside the second window on the other side of the main door and as soon as he did, Jess shot him in the head. The man fell backwards and off the porch. Jess looked around the lobby of the hotel and saw nothing. He slowly opened the main door and peeked outside. He saw two men lying dead in the street. One was the man Bodine had blown off the overhang upstairs and the second was the one Jess had shot through the front window. He looked down both directions of the street and saw nothing, but he still didn’t let his guard down. Then, he saw Sheriff Burleson and two men running for the hotel toward the shooting. All of a sudden, Sheriff Burleson went down from a bullet that came from a Winchester rifle in the hands of a man on top of the building across the street from the hotel. Jess fanned a shot from his pistol as the man was cocking the Winchester for a second shot and the man fell forward and landed in the street along with his Winchester. One of the men who were with Burleson was on his knees checking on the sheriff and the other one was turning in circles looking for any other shooters. Jess was doing the same thing.