Authors: Robert J. Thomas
All of a sudden, a rider came flying out of the livery down the street firing his pistol in Jess’ direction, but he wasn’t even aiming, he was just trying to give himself some cover so he could get away.
Not a chance,
Jess said to himself.
Jess ran over to the Winchester that the man on the roof had used to shoot the sheriff and picked it up. It was still cocked and Jess took careful aim at the rider who was a good two hundred yards out and Jess slowly pulled back on the trigger. The rider slumped over and then fell off his horse. Jess ran over to Sheriff Burleson and the man who was checking on him.
“How bad is it?” Jess asked.
“Looks like the bullet went straight through his shoulder. I think he’ll live, but he’ll be laid up for a while.”
Jess ran down toward the man he had shot with the Winchester to check on him. When he walked up to him, the man was moaning and bleeding out in the street. Jess stood over him, his pistol in his hand.
“You back shot me you son-of-a-bitch!” cried the man.
“Well, then I guess you should’ve turned around.”
“Mr. Welch is going to be really pissed off now,” said the man, looking up at Jess and still moaning. What kind of man shoots a man in the back?”
“You let me worry about Mr. Welch. And I’ll tell you what kind of man I’m am. The kind that will finish what
started,” Jess said, as he put a bullet into the man’s head. Jess stood over the man and reloaded the spent cartridges in his pistol.
The two men who were with Sheriff Burleson watched Jess finish the man off. One turned to the other. “Did you see that?”
The other man looked at the other three men who lay dead in the street and then looked at the other man. Then he looked down the street at Jess who was now walking toward them. “Nope, I didn’t see a damn thing and neither did you, understand?” the man nodded in the affirmative.
Jess finally reached the two men who were now helping Sheriff Burleson up so that they could take him to see the doctor. “I’m glad to see you’re going to make it Sheriff,” said Jess.
“Yeah, me too, but I’m turning in this damn badge until you leave town, not that I’m pissed at you. You probably saved my life tonight. If you and your partner hadn’t taken out all these other men, me and my two deputies here would probably be getting a funeral.”
“Well, just the same, I’m sorry about you getting shot, Sheriff.”
“I appreciate it. I suppose you’ll be making a claim for any bounty on these men tomorrow.”
“Yeah, once we round up all the bodies and your deputies can check on any of them that might have bounties on their heads.”
“That’s fine by me. I’ll be lying in a comfortable bed for the next week so you’ll have to deal with these two for now.”
The two deputies started walking the sheriff over to the doctor’s office and sat him in a chair outside the office as one of the deputies went to get the doctor who was already coming down the street in his robe and carrying a big black bag with him. They took the sheriff into the doctor’s office and laid him down on the table and the doctor went to work.
Jess walked back down to the man by the livery and took the man’s right foot and jammed it into his horse’s stirrup and dragged the man down the street. Then he went into the hotel and the lights were now on and the clerk was behind the counter with a look of fear in his eyes. Jess walked over to him and told him to give him all the keys to all the rooms. Then he hollered up to Bodine to ask him if it was clear to come up and he said yes. Jess walked upstairs and found Bodine right where he had left him. He had the cut-down double-barrel in his left hand and his pistol in his right.
“Well, said Jess, “it’s nice to have a partner who actually listens and follows a plan.”
“Hey, I’m doing whatever you say. I figure I might survive this if I do.”
“Your chances will sure be better if you do. I’ve been through this kind of stuff more than once. Now, we have to check each room to make sure there are no other men hiding in them.”
Jess knocked on every door, one at a time. The ones who had people in them, opened the door so Jess could make sure it was safe and apologized for all the commotion. Jess used the keys to unlock the two rooms that had no reply and they were both empty. Then, they gathered up all of the bodies starting with the six in their two rooms. Then, they got the two dead men at the bottom of the stairs and the four lying out in the street. Bodine went down to the livery and got a horse and wagon and they loaded the bodies into the wagon. As they did, Bodine couldn’t help but notice that there was a hole in Jess new hat.
“Seems like you’re going to need another new hat, Jess,” said Bodine.
“I know. I can’t seem to keep one for very long before it ends up with a hole in it. I guess it’s better than having a hole in my head though,” replied Jess.
“I can’t argue with you on that point.”
The owner of the hotel showed up as they were loading the last of the men into the wagon. He looked very distraught as he ran inside to check out all the damage. When he came back out, Jess and John were sitting in rocking chairs on the front porch.
“At the risk of being shot by one of you,” said the owner, “who’s going to pay for all the damage? There must be over three hundred dollars in damage in there. The two rooms you two were staying in are completely destroyed including most of the furniture. There are holes in every wall and both doors and windows are destroyed not to mention that I won’t be able to rent out those rooms until I can get them fixed,” complained the owner.
Jess reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of bills. He still had a lot of the money he had taken off the bodies of Burton Stiles and Harvey McBain a few weeks ago. He counted out five hundred dollars and handed it to the owner. “Will that cover your expenses?” asked Jess.
The owner smiled. “It sure will and then some. Maybe I’ll join those two rooms into one large suite and charge a little more money for it. Thanks Mister, I appreciate it, but most of the other renters are telling me they plan to check out tomorrow if you two gents decide to stay here.”
“Don’t worry about that,” replied Jess. “Tell them we ain’t staying another night in any hotel in town. We’re going to have to stay at a camp outside of town from now on.”
“Alright, I’ll let them know. Do you two want to stay in the two rooms that are empty until morning?” asked the owner.
“Thanks for the offer, but no. It’s only a few hours until daylight and we have to guard these bodies here so if you don’t mind, we’ll stay right here on the porch until morning and then we’ll be leaving town,” replied Jess.
The owner left and Jess and John took turns taking naps in the rocking chairs on the porch. In the morning, they took turns going up to their heavily damaged rooms and retrieved their belongings. Jess noticed some holes in his leather pouch he used to carry his cartridges for his Sharps buffalo rifle and he figured that he would buy another one along with another new hat before he left town. To his surprise, his saddlebags were untouched, which was nothing short of a miracle. He met Bodine downstairs and the two of them led the horse hauling the wagon full of dead bodies down to the sheriff’s office. Only one of the deputies, Justin Watts, was in the office making a pot of coffee. He walked out and looked over the bodies of the twelve men. He noticed three of them right away and they had bounties on their heads.
“Well, I know those three for sure. I don’t know how much bounty is on their heads, but I’ll check for you and let you know. It’ll take several days before I can let you know about the other seven, but when I do, I’ll let you know and you can file a claim for the bounty,” said Justin. “I’ll stop by the hotel and leave a message for you if you’re not there.”
“We’re not staying at the hotel anymore,” replied Jess. “We’ll come into the office in a few days and check with you.”
“Okay, that’s fine with me. By the way, I have to tell you that what happened last night—well, it was surely an experience of sorts.”
“I suppose that’s one way of putting it,” replied Jess.
Jess and John rode out of town and headed east until they were out of sight and then they turned north toward some hills they could see about three miles away. They would make camp there for a few days and then they would move to a new camp. That way, the chances of someone discovering where they were and trying to ambush them again would be low. Soon after they turned north, John finally broke the silence.
“Last night I was listening to the shots and after the shooting stopped, I heard one more shot that sounded like it came from the end of the street. What exactly happened?”
“After it was all over, a man rode out of the livery and started shooting wildly at me and the sheriff and his two deputies. I took the Winchester that the man used to shoot the sheriff and plugged him in the back and he fell off his horse,” replied Jess.
“I got that part, but what was the last shot for?”
“Well, he wasn’t exactly dead yet, but it was only a matter of time, so I put him out of his misery,” said Jess.
“You mean to tell me that first you shot the man in the back and then you just killed him in the middle of the street?”
“I might have shot him in the back, but he was shooting at me when I did it. Besides, I wasn’t going to let him get out of town and then come back and shoot one of us in the back while were eating lunch or something. Besides, I did him a favor. I’m pretty sure he was going to die anyway.”
“Yeah, pretty sure,” replied Jess.
“Damn, you do go about things a little differently.”
They rode the rest of the way in silence and found a nice place by a fast running river that ran through the hills. They picked a nice spot close to the river where there was a heavy stand of trees and a rocky ledge that would provide protection as well as some good cover if they were ambushed. Jess climbed up to the rocky ledge and placed several boxes of cartridges for the Winchesters, pistols, shotguns and his Sharps rifle in a leather bag just in case they had to rush up there at a moment’s notice. He also placed the two extra Winchesters that he usually kept on his packhorse up there, already loaded. Then, he proceeded to place the cans with rocks in them around their perimeter. John watched all of this as he collected enough firewood to last them for a few days.
“You are a careful man, I have to say,” John stated.
“The way I see it, you can’t be too careful. If I do get shot, I don’t want it to happen to me when I’m sleeping,” replied Jess.
Bodine caught several nice fish out of the river and cooked them up along with some beans and salt pork. They had a nice meal, drank some fine whiskey and retired for the night.
They woke at daylight, had breakfast and spent an hour practicing. Then, they rode into Dodge City and stopped at the sheriff’s office to inquire about the sherifff’s condition. The deputies said he was in pretty good shape, but that he would be laid up for at least two weeks. They thanked the deputies and walked down to Dottie’ Eats and ordered some lunch and a pot of coffee. Everyone in the little café seemed nervous about the fact that they were in there. A few customers hurried up and finished their lunch and left. The waitress, Mattie Womack, brought them their lunch plates and placed them on their table.
“You two gents have started to cost the owner of this establishment some business. It seems that whenever you two come in to eat, some of the other regulars refuse to come in,” said Mattie.
Jess put down his coffee cup. “What is your name?”
“My name is Mattie Womack and the cook in the back is the owner, Dottie Brown.”