Read The Outlaws Online

Authors: Jane Toombs

The Outlaws (7 page)

BOOK: The Outlaws
7.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Tunstall’s horse, Ezra told himself. Killed like his rider.

He thought he’d recognized some of the men, but the gathering dusk made it hard to tell one from another. Was it Morton who’d shot Tunstall first or had his killer been Evans?

Why hadn’t he brought up his Winchester and killed the son-of-a-bitch, whoever he’d been? What was the matter with him? Was he a coward? Afraid of getting killed?

They’d have gotten him if he’d fired; that was as certain as snow in January. On foot, his horse lame. One of him and twenty-seven or eight of them.

He should have shot just the same.

Ezra waited to be certain they weren’t coming back before sliding down the hill and cautiously making his way to the pines where they’d taken Tunstall.

There was barely enough light to see under the trees, but he made out the bulk of the dead horse on the ground. Tunstall’s blanket-covered body was laid out beside his horse. Ezra lifted the blanket, caught sight of Tunstall’s battered head and face and quickly covered him again. He turned away, retching, and spewed out vomit.

Still gagging, Ezra hurried back to his pinto. He mounted and headed for town. Dolan hadn’t been with the posse, not that Ezra had seen. But he had no doubt Dolan was responsible for the murder. He’d gotten Tunstall, exactly as he’d threatened to.

Tunstall hadn’t a chance, had been gunned down without even a Colt in his hand. Would McSween be next? Jesus, he didn’t even own a gun!

And what about Tessa and Jules, in the house with him? Ezra cursed and tried to urge the lame pinto on faster.

He reached Lincoln by midnight, afoot and leading the hobbling horse. Lanterns bobbed in the plaza as men hurried back and forth in the street. Exhausted, Ezra stumbled in among them. He started to blurt out his terrible news, Stopped..

Why were all these men in the plaza? Who was an enemy? Who a friend?

Ezra turned into an alley and took a roundabout route to the McSween house. The first person he saw as he opened the door was Billy. The house was crowded with men.

“Tunstall--” Ezra said to Billy.

“The damn dirty cowards!” Billy cried before Ezra could go on. “Me and Middleton never had a chance to stop the bastards.”

Ezra blinked, not understanding. “Tunstall is dead,” he told Billy.

“Where you been, Ez? We brought word more than an hour ago about Dolan’s men killing him.” Billy’s eyes narrowed. “Going to get me a couple of those boys before the month is over. I ain’t going to watch them walk the plaza boasting how they shot Tunstall. He was a good man, Ez.”

Tears glittered in Billy’s eyes.

Ezra clenched his jaw, afraid that if he let himself go, he’d bawl like a baby. “How did

you know about the killing?” he asked.

“Me and Middleton were riding behind him. Saw the posse. Told Tunstall to run for it like we meant to do. We did. He didn’t. He never stood a chance.” “I didn’t see you,” Ezra said.

“Where were you?”

“Riding for Tunstall’s ranch. To warn him. Horse went lame. I heard the shooting and hid.”

“Lucky they didn’t see you. Widemann and Brewer were riding in front of Tunstall and the posse tried to bring them down first, but they got away, All we were doing was driving some of Tunstall’s horses into town. Not looking for any trouble. Me and Middleton were a ways in back of Tunstall, Yelled at him to take cover, but he didn’t do it. I’m gonna get those bastards if it’s the last thing I do.”

Ezra stared at him. “Take me with you.”

“Ezra!” Tessa pushed her way through the crowd and put her arms around him. “Oh, Ezra, I’ve been so frightened you were killed like John.” She put her head on his shoulder and wept.

Ezra stood helplessly, feeling his throat tighten and tears sting his eyes. Up until now Tess had always been the one to comfort him. He forced himself to straighten his shoulders and began to pat her back.

He’d always thought of his sister as stronger than he. Even though he’d grown taller and heavier than her in the past year. Now she felt small and fragile in his arms. He swallowed his grief and murmured to her, “I’m here, Tess. I’ll take care of you.”

 

 

 

* * *

 

At noon the next day, strangers from the east arrived at the McSween house— Presbyterian missionaries who’d been recruited by McSween the year before: Dr. Ealy, his wife and three children, plus a young woman named Susan Gates.

When Turnstall’s body was brought into Lincoln in the evening, a medical doctor as well as a minister, examined the dead man before assisting Dr. Appel, the Fort Stanton surgeon, with the embalming.

The next morning Ezra trailed Billy and Fred Waite as they marched to Dolan’s store with Constable Martinez. Martinez meant to serve murder warrants issued by Justice of the Peace Wilson against twelve of the posse. With some surprise Ezra saw that Negro Soldiers from nearby Fort Stanton, thirty miles over the mountains, stood in front of the store, blocking them from entering.

Sheriff Brady came out of the store and pushed past the soldiers. A dozen grim-faced men with their hands gripping Colt handles followed him. Ezra’s fingers hovered over his holstered pistol.

“You can’t serve those warrants,” Brady told Martinez. “Every man in that posse was there by my order. You can’t arrest men who ride in a sheriff’s posse and you know it.” Martinez eyed him a moment, glanced at the soldiers, shrugged and started to turn away.

Billy grabbed his arm. “Don’t let that bootlicker talk you out of it,” he told Martinez.

Martinez jerked his head toward Brady, the armed men backing him up and the contingent of soldiers.

“I don’t know if the sheriff is right or wrong about these warrants, but he’s sure as hell making it impossible to serve them.” Martinez eased his arm from Billy’s grasp.

Ezra, some four feet behind, let his hand slide down so it almost touched his Colt.

“Peppin! Martin! Longwell!” Brady barked. “Arrest these men.”

Brady’s deputies surrounded Martinez, Waite and Billy before they had a chance to resist.

“What about the other one?” Peppin asked.

“I said men, not snot-nosed boys,” Brady answered.

Several of the deputies laughed.

Ezra’s fingers clutched at the Colt.

A hand clamped onto his wrist.

“Don’t be a fool,” Washington said in his soft drawl. “You won’t help no one lying dead in the street.” He pulled at Ezra. “We got to get away from here.”

Ezra resisted, seeing cuffs being snapped on Martinez, Waite and Billy.

“Come on,” Washington urged.

Ezra gave up and retreated with the Negro. There was nothing he could do to help Billy.

Not at the moment.

“What’s Brady going to do with them?” he asked Washington.”

“Reckon he’ll toss ‘em in jail.”

“Billy’s not guilty of anything! It’s Dolan’s men who ought to be in jail. They killed Tunstall.”

“One thing you learn in the army if you didn’t already find out, life sure ain’t fair. Looks like Dolan’s got the sheriff and the army on his side now. Ain’t no use to fuss and carry on.”

 

* * *

 

Tunstall’s funeral was two days later. A company of infantry from the fort watched as Dr. Ealy spoke over the open grave.

“If a man dies, shall he live again,” he intoned while Tunstall’s friends, armed with Colts and Winchesters, stood by.

Despite all Ezra could do to dissuade her, Tessa stood beside him.

“What do you mean, danger?” she’d demanded. “At a funeral? I certainly want to pay my last respects to poor John, no matter what.”

Billy and Waite weren’t there because, though Brady had let out Martinez, he still had the other two in jail.

There was no good reason for it, Ezra told himself. Maybe Brady was afraid of what Billy might do. How long would the sheriff keep him locked up?

Tessa began to cry softly as the coffin was lowered. “John was a good man,” she sobbed. “He would never have harmed anyone. Why did it have to happen?”

Only a few feet away. The earth over their father’s grave was still raw and mounded. What would Papa have thought of Tunstall’s murder?

I expect you to know the right thing to do, Ezra
, Papa had said so often.
Know what to do, then do it
. Ezra took a deep breath. The right thing to do was to avenge Tunstall’s death. He stared at the unfinished pine coffin that hid Tunstall’s remains. I won’t forget who did this, he promised the dead man. I’ll remember and I’ll do my best to see those bastards punished.

 

 

 

Chapter 5

 

The day after Tunstall’s funeral. Sheriff Brady released Waite and Billy from jail.

“Worst jail I was ever in,” Billy said as he and Ezra walked toward Justice of the Peace

Wilson’s office. “A damn hole in the ground.” Ezra stared at him. “Were you in jail before?”

“Once, over in Silver City, when I was your age. Didn’t last long. I climbed out the chimney and took off.”

Ezra wanted to ask what Billy was in for, but decided he’d better not.

Tunstall’s foreman, Dick Brewer, was at Wilson’s when Ezra and Billy arrived. He waved papers at them.

Warrants for Tunstall’s murderers,” Brewer said, “Wilson’s made me a special constable and I’m forming my own posse. You in, Kid?”

“You can bet on it.”

“Okay we’ll get you deputized all legal like. I got ten now, counting me. You, Waite, Middleton, McNab, Skurlock, Bowdre, Brown, Smith and French. That oughta do the trick.

Ezra gazed wistfully at Brewer, but he didn’t seem to notice.

“We’re going to go by regulations,” Brewer went on. “We got papers and we’ll make arrests. Won’t be no powder smoke lynchings.’’

“I reckon you’ll be calling us the Regulators then,” Billy said, winking at Ezra as if to show he wasn’t taking Brewer all that seriously.

But Ezra had trouble smiling back at Billy. He badly wanted to be chosen to go with the posse and he could see it wasn’t going to happen.

Nobody can stop me from trailing after them when they ride out, he told himself. I’ll help whether they want me or not.

Early in March, Brewer called the ten Regulators together in Tunstall’s store.

“We got word that Buck Morton’s in a Dolan cow camp down on the Pecos,” he told them. “We’re going after him. Remember, we ain’t going to be like that posse who did in poor old John.” Brewer paused to eye them. “We aim to see his killers hung by fair trial and any man who feels differently won’t be riding with me.”

Ezra, standing beside Billy, felt his heart pound. At last something was going to happen.

Jules came into the store, saw Ezra and ran over to him. “Tess wants you to come home right away,” he said.

Ezra paid no attention. “I mean to go along with the Regulators.” “Ain’t no one stopping you,” Billy told him, smiling.

“Tess says you got to hurry,” Jules persisted. “She says I got to bring you back.” “I’m riding out, You tell her that.”‘

“Where?”

“To get the men who shot John Tunstall.”

Jules stared up at him. His gray eyes filled with tears. “You’ll get shot like Papa and John,” he sobbed.

As Ezra started out the door after Billy, Jules flung himself as Ezra, clutching him around one leg. “Don’t go,” he begged. Ezra tried to pry him loose, conscious of amused smiles from several of the Regulators.

“You better take your brother home,” Billy said as he swung onto his gray.

“I’ll catch up,” Ezra promised.

 

* * *

 

Tessa breathed a thankful sigh when she saw Ezra returning with Jules. She’d been terrified he’d go off with some of the men trying to avenge John’s death. Go off with Billy.

“I told you he’d come back,” Calvin Rutledge said, walking over to stand beside her,” I’ll speak to the boy if you like, about protecting you. Dolan’s men are totally unscrupulous and since I can’t be in Lincoln all the time, Ezra must understand it’s necessary for him to be here to protect you.”

“Thank you, but no,” she said hastily. Ezra didn’t take to Calvin for some reason she couldn’t understand and would resent anything Calvin told him.

Calvin reached for her hand. “You know I’m ready to take care of you permanently any time you wish, Tessa. More than ready.” He pressed her fingers.

Tessa smiled at him, but eased her hand from his. She’d been in a whirl of confusion and guilt ever since John’s death. How could she have made love with Mark while others of Dolan’s men were riding on their way to shoot John down in cold blood?

She felt as though she never wanted to see Mark again, no matter what had passed between them. Color crept into her face as she thought of her wanton behavior. How could she have taken leave of her senses as she had? And with John’s enemy, as any Dolan hand must be.

BOOK: The Outlaws
7.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Gone With the Woof by Laurien Berenson
Trial by Fire by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
The Wolves of Andover by Kathleen Kent
Authenticity by Deirdre Madden
Timeless Tales of Honor by Suzan Tisdale, Kathryn le Veque, Christi Caldwell