Authors: Robert J. Thomas
“Sure thing Jess, I’ve got your back,” replied John. “And now that that’s out there, every gunslinger for miles around will be coming into town to collect that kind of money.”
“Yeah, but like you said before, it might work to our advantage.”
“I agree with that, but now that it’s really out there, it kind of feels different somehow,” replied Bodine.
“Well, they won’t be looking for you and those who will be looking for me will have a bounty on their heads,” replied Jess.
Hal Dixon was tired of listening to Jess and Bodine talk. “Hey, I’m getting tired of waiting, let’s get down to business.”
“I guess you are in a hurry to die, Mr. Dixon. I’ve tried to talk you out of this just like I did with your brother, so go ahead and make your play,” replied Jess.
Bodine moved away from Jess and kept the cut-down shotgun leveled at the crowd in the bar. Hal was staring into Jess’ eyes looking for any signs of fear. He found nothing but a darkness that seemed strange. He went for his gun and actually got it almost completely out of its holster when he felt two slugs ram into his chest. He stumbled backward a few feet and dropped his pistol on the floor. Clutching his chest he looked over at Jess and gurgled, “Damn, I hate to admit it, but I never even had a chance, did I?”
“No you didn’t, and I tried to tell you that just like I tried to tell your brother,” replied Jess.
Hal Dixon wavered a little and then he just fell flat forward and onto the floor. All the other men in the saloon slowly started to pick up their banter and the barkeep sent one of the men over to get the undertaker to come and get Hal Dixon’s lifeless body. Jess looked over the crowd and didn’t see any threats in anyone’s eyes, but he left his hammer strap off just in case. John Bodine gave Jess his shotgun back and poured both of them another drink.
“It won’t take long for the story to get around about the ten thousand dollars on your head,” said John.
“No, it’s already out there, but this will spread it like a wildfire in a dry field. I bet it won’t take more than a few hours before everyone in town knows about it,” replied Jess.
Bodine looked at the cut-down shotguns that Jess had stuck in the back of his holster. “I think I’m going over to the gunsmith in town and get me two of those. I think we’re going to need the extra firepower,” said Bodine.
“That’s probably not a bad idea. I’ll go with you so the gunsmith can look at these and see exactly how to cut ‘em down.”
Jess and Bodine walked over to the gunsmith’s shop and John picked out two shotguns and showed the gunsmith one of Jess’ cut-down shotguns.
“So, you want them cut down exactly like this?” asked the gunsmith.
“Yes, and cut down the handles just like this one too,” said Bodine.
“You do know that you might hit someone you don’t mean to hit with these things being cut-down that short,” said the gunsmith.
“Yeah, but in case of an emergency, I’m willing to take that chance,” replied Bodine.
“Alright, as long as you’re paying I suppose you can get whatever you want,” replied the gunsmith. “I can have them ready for you by tomorrow afternoon.
“That will be just fine. I’ll be back tomorrow to get them.” Bodine paid the gunsmith in advance for the shotguns and the extra work to cut them down like he wanted. After that, Jess and Bodine walked over to The Long Branch Saloon to see if they could muster up some more bounty money.
One of Manny Welch’s gunslingers, Taylor Hamm, was summoned into Welch’s office. When he walked in, Manny Welch offered him a drink, which he gladly accepted. “What can I do for you, Mr. Welch?” ask Hamm.
“I’ve been told that you are one of my men who doesn’t have any bounty on your head, is that correct?” asked Welch.
“That is correct, Mr. Welch. I should have, but I just didn’t get caught.”
“I don’t want to know about that, but what I want you to do is to deliver a message to that Jess Williams fellow in Dodge City.”
“Sure thing Mr. Welch, what is the message that you want me to deliver?”
“Just tell him that as far as I’m concerned, our business is concluded and that I have no intention of sending any more men into town to try to kill him. I want you to take this and give it to him,” said Manny, as he handed a fat envelope to Hamm.
“Okay, but can I ask what’s in the envelope?”
“Yes, that’s the most important part of the message. There is two thousand dollars in there. Tell Mr. Williams that if he agrees to a truce, this money will make up for any bounty he might collect on any of the rest of our men. Don’t give it to him unless he gives you his word on it.”
“Are you sure you can take his word on it. I mean no disrespect, but he’s already killed over a dozen of our men and he seems to be on a mission of sorts.”
“He may be a lot of things, but I figure him for a man of his word.”
“Alright, I’ll head right out there now and look for him,” said Hamm, as he took the envelope and stuck it deep into one of his front pockets.
Hamm saddled up his horse and rode straight into Dodge City and up in front of his favorite saloon. He walked up to the bar and ordered a drink and looked around. He didn’t see Jess Williams anywhere. “Hey Randy, have you seen that Jess Williams fellow around?”
“Hell yes, he was in here a few hours ago and got into a gunfight with another gunslinger and it didn’t go well for that other fellow. Jess Williams shot him dead before that man even got his gun out far enough to take a shot. That Williams fellow sure is fast with that pistol of his. I heard he went over to The Long Branch Saloon. He’s probably looking for some more men with bounty on their heads. I wouldn’t be going over there and mess with him, Taylor.”
“I’m just here to give him a message, nothing else,” replied Hamm.
Hamm finished up his drink and walked over to The Long Branch Saloon and as soon as he walked in, he spotted Jess and Bodine at the far end of the bar. He walked over to them and as he did, he saw Jess remove his hammer strap.
“Hold on there, Mister, I ain’t here for no gunfight and I don’t have any bounty on my head so killing me won’t make you any money.”
“Maybe not, but I recognize you for one of Manny Welch’s men from the other day. That’s all the reason I need for putting you in a grave.”
“You might want to hear the message that I was sent here to deliver to you from Manny Welch first,” said Hamm, nervously.
“Alright, I’m listening,” replied Jess.
“He wants a truce and he’s willing to pay you two thousand dollars for it.”
“Are you kidding me? He’s going to pay me two thousand dollars for a truce? What kind of truce does he want?”
“He wants you to agree to not hunt down any of his men for bounty money. That’s what the two thousand dollars is for. It’ll make up for any bounty you might make killing any more of his men and you won’t have to fire a shot to get the money. Besides, you’ve already collected a lot of money so far and probably will collect quite a bit more from the twelve men you killed last night in that ambush attempt.”
“That’s on Mr. Welch. I didn’t ask him to send them in here to ambush us in the middle of the night like a bunch of cowards.”
“What’s done is done. All he’s asking is that if you agree to the truce, I have the two thousand dollars on me right now with instructions to hand it over to you. Besides, there are plenty of other men with bounty on their heads that you can go after. Every rancher around here had hired gunslingers on their payroll. You’ll have enough men to go after instead of any more of Manny Welch’s men.”
Jess looked over at Bodine. “Well, partner, what are your feelings on the matter?”
“Well, he makes a good point. There are a lot of other men we can go after, and two thousand dollars for doing nothing is some serious money. I’m in this just for the money to retire so maybe it’s a good deal, but I’m going to leave the final decision up to you.”
“You said you have the money on you, so let’s see it,” said Jess. Give it to my partner so he can count it. Hamm handed the envelope to Bodine who counted it and verified that it indeed was two thousand dollars.
“John, what do you say? Do we agree to the truce?” asked Jess.
“I vote yes. Hell, this is a lot of money and he’s right. There are a lot more men around here with bounties on their heads. If you can get past it, I say we agree.”
Jess looked at Taylor Hamm. “Alright, go back to your boss and tell him that this is what I’ll agree to. His men can come into town anytime and even if they do have a bounty on their heads, I won’t bother them. But, make sure that he understands this. If even one of his men tries to mess with either of us or anyone else, not only will I kill the rest of his men, but I’ll come out to his ranch and personally kill him and burn down his ranch, you understand.”
“I understand and I will take that message back to him,” replied Hamm.
Hamm went back to The Hanging Tree Saloon. He had Randy pour him another glass of whiskey.
“Did you find Jess Williams,” asked Randy.
“And yet you are still alive, how in the hell did that happen?” asked Randy.
“I was only there to give him a message from Manny Welch.”
“Mr. Welch paid him two thousand dollars to agree to a truce between the two of them and agree not to hunt down any more of Manny Welch’s men.”
“Hell, that ain’t nothing compared to the ten thousand dollars on Jess Williams head.”
“Ten thousand dollars? What in the hell are you talking about?”
“Well, that fellow who came in here earlier to try to kill Jess Williams said that there was a ten thousand dollar blood bounty for the killing of Jess Williams. The bounty was placed on Jess Williams head by some rich banker out east. I suppose every gunslinger in town will be looking to collect it. As bad as it’s been so far, I think things will get a whole lot worse pretty quick,” Randy explained.
Jess and John hung around the saloon for a few more hours and no one came in that looked like they might have any bounty on their heads. The truth was that most of the gunslingers with a lick of sense were doing whatever they could to avoid Jess especially after the results of the ambush attempt by Welch’s men. They finally left town and headed for their camp, making sure that no one was following them.
In the morning, they left camp and found another campsite about three miles down the river, even farther from town. Jess worked with John on his pistol skills and he was in fact getting to be a little quicker on the draw. They were riding into Dodge City when off in the distance they saw a lone rider coming their way. Jess pulled his shotgun out of his back-sling and Bodine took his Winchester out of its scabbard.
The rider noticed the guns that were drawn as he reined up in front of Jess and Bodine. “Hold up boys, I ain’t looking for more trouble. I’m just trying to get the hell out of Dodge City.”
“Did you run into some trouble there,” Jess asked.
“I guess you could say that. Me and my friend was in town at one of the saloons just having a drink before we passed through and two gunslingers there who killed my friend for no reason at all.”
“Your friend didn’t do anything to provoke the gunfight?” asked Bodine.
No, nothing at all, we were just having a drink and they started insulting my friend and then, without any warning, they forced him into a gunfight. My friend was no gunslinger and he never even had a chance, but they didn’t give him any choice in the matter except to walk out like a coward. A man has his pride you know.”