Authors: Robert J. Thomas
“I know,” replied Jess, “and all too often it gets a man killed. Do you know the names of the two gunslingers?”
“No, I never saw them before, but they were at The Long Branch Saloon. Probably still there ‘cause I just left there not more than thirty minutes of so. They kind of acted like they were looking for someone.”
“Yeah, they’re probably looking for me,” said Jess, as he put the shotgun back in the sling and nudged Gray into a slow gallop with Bodine following suit a moment later.
“So, who do you think the two men are?” Bodine asked.
“Does it really matter?”
“Well, I guess not. Do you think they’re after you for the blood bounty?”
“I’m not sure and I don’t really care. I plan on killing the two of them just the same, bounty or not.”
“Why take the chance in a gunfight if there ain’t any money involved?”
“Because if that man told us the truth, and I believe he had no reason to lie, then they deserve to die just because they are bad men.”
“Okay, I’m with you no matter what you decide partner,” replied Bodine.
They rode into town and went straight to the gunsmith’s store. John got his two cut-down shotguns and loaded them both. “This is some nice work. These look perfect and exactly what I wanted,” John said thanking the gunsmith.
“Just don’t shoot your feet with one of them, they won’t have much range, but the shot pattern will be wide as hell,” said the gunsmith.
They walked out of the store and headed straight for The Long Branch Saloon. As they walked in, they saw two men at the bar and both of them were wearing double six-shooters. Jess could tell they were trouble and walked over to the end of the bar. The two men were Dan Healy and Larry Frost and they were in fact looking for Jess, who they noticed as soon as they turned to look at him.
“Well, look over there, Dan,” said Larry Frost, “our big payday just walked in. We’re going to be ten thousand dollars richer in a few moments. How lucky can two men get in one day?”
“Yeah, I’m already spending the money in my head,” remarked Healy.
Jess looked down at the two men. “I suppose you two are here to try and collect the ten thousand dollars of blood bounty put on my head by a rich banker out east?” asked Jess.
“Oh, we ain’t trying, we are collecting it,” replied Healy.
“Are you the two who killed that drifter a little while ago?”
“Yeah, not that it’s any of your business,” replied Frost.
Jess looked over at the barkeep, Logan Whipple. “Did these two really force that drifter into a gunfight for no reason?”
“Hell yes they did. That drifter was minding his own business, but those two just kept at him until he couldn’t take anymore. He didn’t stand a chance against those two. It was that one who shot the man,” said Logan, as he pointed at Healy.
“Shut the hell up, barkeep, or we’ll make sure you end up like that drifter after we kill this one here,” scowled Healy.
“I don’t think there’s much chance of that,” replied Whipple, “I’ve seen that man in a gunfight before and I ain’t too awfully worried about either of you two being left alive when he’s done with you.”
“Well, we’ll just have to see about that now, won’t we?” replied Frost. “Dan, you can take his partner there and I’ll take the Williams fellow.” The two of them spread out a little.
Jess smiled and looked at the two of them as he said, “John, go ahead and have a drink, I’ll take care of these two by myself.”
“You sure you want to do that?” Bodine asked. “I mean, I know you’re fast, but why take the chance?
“Just for the satisfaction of being the one who put these two in a grave,” Jess replied, a sarcastic tone in his voice.
“You think you can take the both of us at once?” asked Frost, defiantly.
“Yes I do, but if you two are worried about your reputation, you can each take a go at me one at a time if you want, it really doesn’t matter to me much one way or another.”
Jess’ attitude and his cool demeanor he displayed just before a gunfight somewhat unnerved the two men. They looked at one another.
Dan Healy, who was the faster of the two, looked at Larry Frost. “I’ll take him Larry. You go ahead and have a drink while I shut this one’s mouth with a bullet. As soon as that’s done, I’ll join you for a celebratory drink, unless his friend there wants to get involved.”
Bodine put his glass down. “Hell, he doesn’t need any help from me. I plan on having another drink with him once he puts you two down.”
“You know what, John? Why don’t you go ahead and pour me a drink now. I’ll be having it in a few minutes,” said Jess.
“You’re a right cocky one, ain’t you?” asked Healy.
“I guess you could say that. I have to say though, you’re a lot smarter than I first thought.”
“And what the hell does that mean?”
“I’m surprised you knew the meaning of the word ‘celebratory’. I figured you for a little dumber than that,” said Jess.
That pissed Dan Healy off. He went for his pistol without saying a word. He did, however, say the word
just before he fell backward onto a table and then onto the floor. Larry Frost, who seen the blurring speed at which Jess drew his pistol, was completely taken aback. Jess looked over at Larry Frost as he replaced the spent cartridge and holstered his pistol.
“Well, I suppose it’s your turn next,” Jess said, smiling at Larry Frost.
“I changed my mind, Mister, especially after seeing that. A dead man can’t spend money.”
“You know, I’ve been trying to tell people that for some time now, but they just don’t listen,” replied Jess.
“Well, I’ll be leaving then,” said Frost.
“Naw, I don’t think so,” replied Jess.
“Why not? I said I changed my mind, Mister. I got no more beef with you.”
“Yeah, but you sure had one a minute ago.”
“And I told you I changed my mind, so just let me clear out of here.”
“I don’t think so, now come on over away from the bar and grab one of those pistols you have there. Besides, it’ll make up for the poor drifter that your dead partner killed earlier. He didn’t have any beef with you either,” said Jess sarcastically. Besides, I’m getting mighty thirsty and I have a drink waiting on that bar,” Jess said nodding toward his drink.
“I ain’t doing it and you can’t make me either,” exclaimed Larry Frost.
“You want to bet on that?” asked Jess.
John Bodine put his glass down. “I’ll take that bet,” he said looking at Larry Frost. “Do you have twenty dollars on you, Mister?”
“Yeah, I got twenty dollars, but it don’t matter, ‘cause I’m not going up against this man now after seeing him draw like that.”
“Oh, I think you are dead wrong about that, but as long as you got the twenty dollars, I’ll get it out of your pockets when it’s over,” replied Bodine.
“I told you, I’m not going against him,” insisted Larry Frost, as he started to turn to leave.
Jess slicked his pistol out and shot Larry Frost’s left ear clean off. “Son-of-a-bitch, you shot my damn ear off! Are you crazy, Mister?”
“Hey, you two are the ones who started this. I’m just the one finishing it. Now, you still have one more ear left and after that, I’ll start with your kneecaps. If you stall long enough, you might have to draw your pistol sitting down, but you will draw it eventually. By the way, which hand is your fastest, the right or the left?”
“My right hand, why?”
Jess slicked his pistol out again and shot the man in his left elbow. “Jesus Christ, what the hell did you do that for?” cried out Larry Frost.
“Well, you said you use your right hand to draw, so I didn’t want to shoot you in that elbow and you only had one left so that’s the one I picked. Now, which kneecap do you prefer, the right or the left?” asked Jess, nonchalantly.
Larry Frost finally came to the realization that there was no way out of this now so he did the only thing he had left to do. He went for his pistol. He never got it out of its holster before two slugs from Jess’ pistol slammed into his chest and he fell on top of his dead partner. Jess replaced the spent cartridges while John Bodine walked over to Frost and dug through his pockets and removed twenty dollars.
Jess looked at him with a funny look. “John, let the dead rest in peace.”
“Hey, a bet is a bet. Besides, he ain’t going to need it anymore and it’ll pay for a good bottle of whiskey and then some.”
“I suppose you’re right, he sure ain’t going to spend it,” replied Jess, as he walked over to take a drink out of the glass Bodine had poured him.
Logan Whipple was staring at Jess with a look of amazement. “Mister Williams, I hope you never have a reason to be pissed off at me. I’m not sure if you’re crazy or just plain mad at the world.”
“I’m not mad at the world, Logan, just the bad men that are in it.”
Taylor Hamm rode straight back to the Welch ranch after delivering the message and the two thousand dollars to Jess Williams. He went into Manny Welch’s office to inform him that Jess agreed to the truce as long as none of Welch’s men tried to bother him or John Bodine or anyone else for that matter. Manny Welch told Hamm to get all the men together in the bunkhouse for a meeting.
About an hour later, Manny Welch walked over to the bunkhouse. He informed every one of his men that they could go into town and to the saloons, but that they were forbidden from starting any trouble with anyone. They could defend themselves, but only if someone started a fight with them. He told him that anyone violating this rule would be fired on the spot.
After he walked out, his men went about their usual routine. Taylor Hamm and Heath Durrand began to play cards with two other men, Lee Thomas and Hank Cullom. Hamm was dealing the cards and the men were digging into their pockets for money.
“So, how did that Williams fellow seem when you made him the offer from the boss?” asked Durrand.
“Well,” replied Hamm, “I don’t think he really wanted to agree to it, but his partner wanted the money, so he obliged him.”
“I still don’t agree with the truce. Some of those men he killed were really close friends of mine,” said Durrand.
“Maybe, but he warned me that if any of us messed with him he would come out here and kill the boss and burn the place to the ground and I believe he would surely do it. He’s one crazy son-of-a-bitch,” replied Hamm. “It is kind of a shame though.”
“What do you mean about it being a shame?” asked Durrand.
“Well, before I left town, I talked to Randy Hunt at The Hanging Tree Saloon and he told me there was a ten-thousand dollar blood bounty on Jess Williams’ head. I guess some rich banker out east placed the bounty on his head for the death of his brother who got into a gunfight with Williams and lost.”
“Shit, that’s more than we make working here for years,” exclaimed Durrand.
Taylor could see the look in Durrand’s eyes. “Heath, don’t go getting any crazy ideas. That Williams fellow said that if any of us messed with him, he would not only kill Manny Welch and burn this place to the ground, but that he would hunt down and kill every last one of us, too. And I don’t know about you, but I ain’t ready to die just yet.”