Authors: Robert J. Thomas
“Mattie, do me a favor and ask Dottie to come out so I can speak with her?”
“I’ll ask, but she is mighty afraid of you two.”
“Tell her she has nothing to fear from the two of us,” replied Jess.
Mattie went into the back to speak with Dottie. A few minutes later, a large woman who was wiping her hands more out of nervousness than attempting to clean them walked out and over to the table where Jess and Bodine were sitting. “Mattie said you wanted to speak to me about something?” asked Dottie.
“Yes, I did. Dottie, I apologize if we are causing any problems for you because we eat here. Mattie says we’re chasing some of your customers off so I want to ask you if you want us to stop coming in here. If you say so, we’ll start eating at one of the saloons in town. We don’t want to trouble you,” said Jess.
Dottie thought about it a moment. “You can still come in if you want. Just promise me that if any problem starts in here you’ll take it outside. I don’t want any shooting in here. That’s the only reason why we don’t serve alcohol and I’d sure make a lot more money if we did, but then we’d have gunslingers coming in here and I don’t want that.”
“I promise that I will do my best to see that nothing happens in here. If I even think someone is walking in that might be trouble, I’ll immediately walk out and take the problem out with me. Also, I want you to take this to make up for any loss in your business,” said Jess, as he handed her fifty dollars.
“Thank you Mr. Williams, but that’s not necessary. You pay for your food and you always leave a nice tip for Mattie, so you keep your money,” said Dottie.
“I insist that you take it. It should cover any losses you’ve had so far and for the time we are here in Dodge City, which might be another few weeks.”
“Well, alright, I’ll take it and thank you for understanding,” said Dottie, as she took the fifty dollars and went back into the kitchen.
Mattie Womack walked over to their table. “That was mighty nice of you Mr. Williams.”
“I don’t want to see anyone pay for what I’m responsible for,” replied Jess. Mattie Womack went back to the kitchen.
John kept silent during the conversation and he continued eating. He finally stopped eating and looked up at Jess with a funny look.
“Now what?” asked Jess.
“Last night, you were executing a man out in the middle of the street and today you are reimbursing the owner of this eatery for her loss of business,” replied Bodine.
“She shouldn’t have to pay a price for what we do.”
“Just make sure that fifty comes out of your share,” said John. “I still plan on retiring after this is over, if I manage to stay alive.”
They finished their meals and Jess left a five-dollar gold piece on the table for Mattie. Then, they walked down to The Hanging Tree Saloon to see if they could run into anyone with a bounty on their heads. The barkeep, Randy Hunt, brought them a bottle of good brandy and two glasses and sat it down in front of them. “No one in here yet that might be a problem, Mr. Williams,” said Randy. “These are mostly locals from town.”
“Yeah, but that could change real quickly though,” replied Jess.
“I suppose you’re right about that,” replied Randy. “The ranch hands and cowboys usually come in a little later.” They both sipped on brandy and waited.
Manny Welch was in the office of his large ranch house meeting with his men. He had found out what had happened to the twelve men he sent into town last night to ambush Jess and John. He was in a somewhat heated debate with the best man he had left on his payroll, Heath Durrand.
“Listen to me, Heath,” said Welch, “I sent twelve men in to ambush those two and they managed to kill every last one of them. I’m not going to lose any more men to those two.”
“I still say you let me pick out three other men out of our bunch and let me go into Dodge City and kill those two,” insisted Heath Durrand.
“Didn’t you hear me?
Any two men that can take out that many men in a gunfight is just too damn good to mess around with, especially when we ambushed them at night! Hell, the truth is, they ain’t really hurting my bottom line so I’m not letting any of my hired guns with any bounty on their heads go into town until those two leave. Let them kill off the other rancher’s hired guns or gunslingers that drift in and out of Dodge City. Hell, I have a lot less men on the payroll now because of those two and that is actually saving me some money.”
“Well, I hope you’ll change your mind and if you do, I’ll be willing to go into town and kill those two,” replied Heath Durrand.
“Don’t hold your breath waiting and make sure you stay out of town since you have a bounty on your head, you hear me. If you go into town, I’ll fire you before you can get back here, that is if you live to do so.”
Heath Durrand had a temper and he was mad as hell. Three of the twelve men that Jess and Bodine killed were personal friends of his. They actually rode with Durrand for a year before they all hired on with Manny Welch, but Welch paid good wages and Durrand knew that he would make good on his promise to fire him. He would have to think about whether or not revenge was worth losing the best job he ever had. He walked out of Welch’s office and over to the bunkhouse to let the rest of the men know what Welch’s orders were. The ones with bounties on their head were upset since they couldn’t go into town anymore, but the ones without bounties didn’t really care either way.
Hal Dixon received word about six months ago regarding the death of his brother, Galt Dixon, at the hands of a young man by the name of Jess Williams. Hal Dixon knew it was a fair fight, but that mattered little to him, Galt was still his brother and he was obliged to avenge his death. Hal Dixon taught his brother Galt everything he knew about using a six-shooter. He was faster than Galt had been and since he decided to hunt down Jess Williams, he had been practicing every day to increase his hand speed. He had been to Buford, Clarence, Devil Ridge, Abilene and Wichita, Kansas looking for Jess William, but he just couldn’t seem to catch up with him. He even tried Black Creek, Kansas, but no one would even talk to him about Jess Williams. While he was in Devil Ridge, he found the poster that Henry Stidham had sent out to every town he could, notifying people about the ten thousand dollars in blood bounty for the death of Jess Williams, which only made Hal Dixon want to catch up with Jess Williams all the more. Ten thousand dollars was enough money to let a man retire for life.
Hal had finally found himself in Dodge City. He had heard about Jess Williams being there and engaged in bounty hunting men who were working for some of the rich ranchers there. He arrived the day after the shootout between Jess and Bodine and the twelve men that Manny Welch had sent into town to ambush Jess and Bodine. He took a room at a different hotel since the construction had begun to fix the damage from the shootout and it was quite noisy. After he checked in, he walked over to the sheriff’s office to ask the whereabouts of Jess Williams.
He walked into the sheriff’s office and found two deputies sitting inside. Justin Watts and Conner Landon were still going through wanted posters checking on the twelve men to see if there was any bounty on their heads when Hal Dixon walked in. They both looked up and immediately knew that this man was a seasoned gunslinger.
“What can we do for you, Mister?” asked Justin Watts.
“I heard that a man by the name of Jess Williams was in town, is that correct and if so, can you tell me his whereabouts?”
Justin and Connor looked at each other and Hal Dixon picked up on it right away. “I can tell that you boys know what I’m talking about, so you might as well tell me. I’ll find out somehow anyway,” said Dixon.
“Mister, you don’t want to be messing with that man anyway. Hell, he and his partner killed twelve men last night alone and Jess Williams killed the majority of them himself and that was after he killed another half dozen gunslingers in town the day before. He ain’t one to be messed with,” said Justin Watts.
“You let me worry about that. He’s worth ten thousand dollars and I am going to collect it by putting a bullet in him.”
“There ain’t any legal bounty on his head, at least not yet,” said Conner Landon.
“Maybe not any legal bounty posted by the law, but there’s a rich banker out east who has placed a blood bounty on his head for the killing of his brother. Besides, he killed my brother, Galt Dixon, and that alone is reason enough. The ten thousand dollars will be just a real nice bonus the way I see it.
“Well, just the same, we ain’t seen him today,” Justin Watts lied.
Hal Dixon knew he was lying and didn’t know why, but it didn’t really matter much. He knew that he would find Jess soon enough. He headed for the first saloon he saw, The Hanging Tree Saloon.
As soon as Hal Dixon walked into the saloon, he noticed a young man standing in the corner of the saloon with another man that he didn’t recognize. What he did recognize though, was the shotgun sticking up behind the young man’s right shoulder. That was a clue that this young man might be Jess Williams since he had heard about Jess carrying a shotgun in a sling on his back. Hal Dixon was not a man to waste any time so he went right to it. He looked straight over at Jess and Jess was staring straight at Dixon since he walked in and figured him for a gunslinger and trouble.
“Are you that Jess Williams fellow?” Hal Dixon asked loudly. The loud banter in the saloon went silent as if someone had turned it off with a switch.
“That depends on who’s asking,” replied Jess.
“My first name is Hal and my last name is Dixon. Does that name ring a bell with you?”
Jess took a moment to think. “Oh, you must be related to a man by the name of Galt Dixon.”
“That’s right, he was my brother, and if you are Jess Williams, you’re the one responsible for his death.”
“I’m not responsible for his death,” replied Jess.
“So, you’re saying you didn’t kill him?”
“Oh, I killed him, but that was his decision. I tried to talk him out of it, but he was hell bent on forcing my hand; and, well, I guess you know the rest.”
“Then you’d better fill your hand with that fancy pistol you used to kill my brother.” All the other men who were standing at the bar walked away, leaving a clear path between Hal Dixon and Jess Williams.
“You don’t have to do this, Mr. Dixon, and neither did your brother. Don’t make the same mistake your brother made,” said Jess.
“I’d kill you just for the fact that you killed my brother, but on top of that, you’ve got a ten thousand dollar blood bounty that’s been placed on your head by Henry Stidham out in New York City and that’s a lot of money. I intend to be the one to collect it.”
“Well, thanks for letting everyone else know about that,” said Jess.
“It won’t matter much after I put a few slugs in your chest,” replied Dixon.
“You’re going to end up dead just like your brother did. You can’t beat me and you should know that.”
“Well, you never really know for sure. I’ve been doing a lot of practicing getting ready for you and I taught my brother Galt everything he knew about using a six-shooter. I’m twice as fast as he ever was.”
“Even if you were three times as fast as your brother, you will still end up just as dead as him if you draw down on me,” replied Jess.
“I only have one more question for you, Mr. Williams, is your friend over there going to be involved in this matter?”
“No, he’s going to be busy enough watching everyone else in the room who might want to collect the blood bounty that you were nice enough to let them all know about,” replied Jess, as he slowly handed John Bodine one of the cut-down shotguns. “John, watch them close because ten thousand dollars will make a man do stupid things.”