New Mexico, 1896
U.S Government established New Mexico Territory in 1850
First Transcontinental Railroad Completed in 1869
24th U.S President Grover Cleveland , term since 1893
David crawled for hours now, his black suit was ruined from sand and dust. His lips were cracked, his breathing, haggard and painful. He finally arrived and came by the towns people, they did not give him what he came for. Four walls created the small town, two stories of lobbied apartments built into the infrastructure – Casa de Morales. He crawled from the entrance onward, asking for water, no one responded to him. He was getting closer to the centre, someone finally came down to their knees. A young man with a thick beard, a poncho and shaved head.
“ Can you shoot a gun?” the man asked him.
David simply looked up, he whispered the word water, it was barely audible. With little strength he flailed the coat tail off his hip, revealing an empty holster.
“ Good good!” the man laughed. “ Get this man some water! We've got a game to play and we need one more shooter. Hurry before he dies.”
They brought him cups of water and he engorged himself, they lifted and carried him by his arms, while pouring water into his dry mouth. He got to a line in the dust, were five other shooters stood waiting. He took a cup in his own hands now and drained it down, spilling water down his dry lips and cheeks. The Mexican man came to him and placed a revolver in his hand. 7 feet forward he could now see the game.
A women sat on a horse below a tree. There was a noose around her neck, looped over the strong branch above. The Mexican laughed at Davids facial reaction. “ Don't worry my new friend, the game is to save her. When the horse runs off shoot for the rope. The one that cuts the rope first saves the gal.”
“ How will you know that?” David asked.
“ Ohh you can speak now, such a deep voice too, you sound like a rough man. You've seen stuff haven't you?” the Mexican asked.
David moved passed it, “ When I shoot the rope how will you assure my winning.”
“ Cocky, eh, there's a ref beside each man, everyone has a bet on someone on stake, no one will cheat. I'm even betting on you, we needed another to make betting even. If You do good on this then I'll bet on you next time, bigger bet means bigger reward. I've yet to see a person of this county born with a pecker who didn't like to play money games.”
“ Tell me when,” David said.
“ A natural this one,” He said with a smile.
The men placed their guns in the holsters, they all kept their hands close. David had his relaxed, it was loose and not stressing towards the gun. Someone slapped the horse. There was one distinctive bang, followed by four others that came as the woman's rump hit the floor.
“ Jesus!” the Mexican shouted, “ We didn't need a ref for that. That was a sight worth my losing money, say cowboy what is your name? I'm Virg.”
“Call me David. That doesn't sound like a spanish name if you don't mind me saying.”
“ Virgilio Gonzales at your service.” the man said cheerfully.
“What service is that?” David asked.
“ In this town there are two kind of people. The Gamblers and the Players. There's many different games that require a variety of Players, but as Gamblers all we need is our money and a Player to bet on. I think me and you should start a private partnership where only I get to bet on you. I can take care of you, make you one of my own. You'll be set up in this town. Need a place to stay my friend? There are more available beds and whores then your eyes may perceive.”
“ What do you call the people you use for the games,” David asked.
Virg laughed, “ The Game Pieces I suppose, we just refer to her as the Bet.”
David saw that the woman was still on the floor, no one had helped her up. She had red hair and she was wearing a descent dress. David walked towards her and offered his hand.
“ Oh a gentlemen eh,” Virg commented from far away, “ Do as you please in this town, even the unwanted portions I suppose. There's another game at dusk, I'll be at the Saloon waiting.”
“ What's your name young lady?” David asked.
“ My name was Josephine Castle, now they call me Myra for some reason.” she answered.
“ I hope you'll be better treated from now on.” He said to her.
“ What interest does a gunslinger have in dead weight like me. There's other whores here that don't charge that are worth more value then me. My corpse will be worth two cents more then now.”
“ I don't see a whore, I see a fine young lady in a place she don't belong. Whats keeping you here?” He asked her.
“ A bad range of mistakes mister. I was a foolish young girl, and now I'm a women made slave and worth less then what makes up dirt. I left home with some gallant gunslinger, thinking I was energetic enough for a life in the wild west.”
“ How long have you been here now?” David asked.
“ Almost a year ago now, me and Hubert got married, then the damn fool played at the Richmans Jail and lost everything including his life. I was left with his large debt.”
“Richmans jail?” David asked.
“ Every year, the landlord Carlos Morales, hosts the Richmans jail. This place becomes a gamblers den, they have to build almost fifty tents outside to accommodate. Business waggons increase, residents here earn their living from the one night. People get wild, they play in big money, bigger then they could ever bet with a small group. Gamblers can get turned into Players or Bets. My husband kept losing, and then he made a bet of double or nothing on his own skills. Not only did he bet he could ride a bull blindfolded for a minute and a half but he allowed the Gamblers to shoot at its feet to rowdy it up. He felt heat would bring in more betting, earn him more money when he won. Enough to pay back debt and have more. Damn fool. Broke his neck. Now here I am.”
“ How unfortunate,” David said, “ I'm sure your family misses you.”
“ I think not, I had been so rude and ungrateful to them, I didn't want what they had to give. And I didn't listen when they told me to stay away from Hubert. I'm sure they hate me and would more so if knowing of all this.” she told him.
“ Something tells me your definitely wrong about that.” David said.
“ I guess I should take the advice of a professional gambler,” she said.
“ I think you mean to say Player.” He answered.
Four dogs were tied to the post. They were howling and growling madly, and had foamy saliva dripping from open mouths.
Virg came in cheerfully up to David, “ We starved em for a few days, oh also one of em spread rabbis to the others. Aha, its a good game trust me partner. We put a good amount of money on this one cause its harder to win. Those who do gain full pockets. ”
He got closer to one of the dogs and pointed a gun to it, it howled viciously at him. “ Its easy to shoot the dog, but what about the rope behind it? Thats the game. Shoot the rope, of course you want to shoot the dog as well after. You only get two shots, even if you kill the dog with the third shot it wont count. Watch how he does it.”
Another spanish gunmen stood a few feet away from the post. He looked at the rope and aimed. He fired and missed, the dog was clear as well.
“ Okay no point in trying now, you wont get it. Let the next guy go.” Virg announced.
A chubby white man with a thick gruff and yellow teeth came forward, he aimed behind the dog, and remained for a while, eventually showing signs of tremble.
“ Come on just shoot the damn rope already,” Virg called out.
“ I know I can shoot the damn rope, “ He cried back, “ I just don't think I can kill the dog before it makes me dinner.”
“ Goddamn coward,” Virg said.
“ You go then,” He said.
“ I ain't a good gunner but ill be damned if I play chicken to my own games. Give me that!”
Virg swiped the gun and took his time to aim carefully. Bets were changing, the bookie was scribbling and rewriting. They watched as he prepared his after shot. Aiming at the dog and moving back to the rope. He fired, the rope broke, the dog came running, he didn't shoot right away. He adjusted for the dogs forward movement and shot through the canines skull. It went down tongue out and foam spilling.
“ Your turn.” he said with a grin.
David didn't hesitate. He stepped up, drew his gun and aimed from the hip. With his other hand he pulled the hammer, fired twice with quick succession. The rope broke, followed by the dogs dying squeal and a thud of dusty ground.”
Virg stepped in front of David and stared into his face, then he stepped back , “ The way you shoot, it shows your practice.
“ It gets done when it needs to be.”
Virg laughed, “Aha You've got confidence to back your gun hand Kid”
David became stern “ You just called me Kid? I'm older then you,” David responded.
“ Yeah but you don't say much and your damn good at these games. We should put posters of you up. Come challenge the flawless aim of the kid, Cash David, greatest target shooter of the south west.”
“That sounds like a terrible poster in my opinion.”
David wondered when Virg would tell him about Richmans jail. Perhaps he would say something after a few more games, or he was waiting to have his trust earned. David himself wouldn't wait more then a day or two, then he would simply ask. At night the games were played inside and mostly with cards. Before night David watched with them, as boys raced back and worth with their legs in sac bags. Little girls chased chickens. Two men without legs had to stay on a horse as it rode forward. What a damned strange place. It was close to all borders of the county, people travelled through all the time. Virg said everyday brought different people and different games. Businesses sure as hell made a lot of money, selling things to people with more then they can spend. The brothel across from the saloon was the biggest he had ever seen. For the gun store an exit was built from its adjacent wall of Casa de Morales and lead to a somewhat private field which played for a large gun range. The store itself was only filled . The general store was as big as the ones he could see in boom towns.
Virg was drinking at the table and playing cards. He laughed and gambled, David stood by, remaining serious and focused, hip side revealed, hand ready to draw at any time.
Virg turned his head towards David and made a gleeful comment, “ Damn what are you my body guard? Look at him he's ready for the job. Man was born to shoot guns.”
“ Your my bank, I'm just protecting my interest. “ he said.
The boys laughed. “ Sit and have a drink why don't you?”
“ I'm not that type of man,” he said, “ I value money, in large sums it benefits me well. These mind altering liquids provide nothing for me that I wish to keep.”
“ Buddy what made you so serious? Don't you hear em singing,” In this life you can work and die. In this life you can live and die. work until your dead, ill drink until the same end.” some of the boys chanted with him.
“ Who wants a life of cracked hands, give me iron and give me horse, I'll ride till the end, like the cowboys do.”
David went out for a walk near the end of midnight. He found Josephine brushing his horse.
“ Why don't you just take it and leave?” he asked her from behind.
She was startled, “ I just wanted to do something nice for you.”
“ I wasn't being sarcastic, when I was in there you should have gotten on it and rode away.”
“ Its your horse though.” she said.
“ You know I can afford another one. What are you doing here, you should leave this town.” he was firm and serious.
Glass hit the ground. A man stumbled and picked it up, he drank from the cracked bottle. He came forward to David, “ Hey hey buddy, New kid. Lets play a game. I need some cash for a drink.”
David handed the man a five dollar bill. The man stared in disbelief. “ Is that a joke? Whats the catch?”
“Don't hurt anybody tonight. It would be nice.”
“ This ain’t a fighting kind of place my friend but I thank you none the less.”
he went back into the saloon.
“ That was a whole five dollars,” she gasped, “ What kind of man can give away money like that.”
“ How much is your debt?” he asked.
“ You have an odd way of conversing. The number for me is so high its almost imaginary. 800 dollars they say. But to them I'm worth negative that amount.”
“ What a fee indeed. Why have you remained here?”
“ Where can I go? Atleast here I have a home and bed.” she said.
“ They use you for game, you have a family awaiting you. Go to them.”
“ You don't know what your saying. Ill be here till I die or I'll die in the dusty plains. Now your horse is brushed and ready for ride. Maybe your the one who should leave, since you don't seem to fit in here at all.”
He turned and made direction for the saloon, “ So I guess you do then.”
In the saloon he walked passed Virg, he was making way to the black jack table where he would try some luck on a small sum. He bumped into a mans shoulder by accident, that mans face turned red and started howling drunk nonsensical words. This man still drank from a cracked whiskey bottle.
“ Don't have to much fun old man.” David turned for the table again but the man grabbed his arm.
“ I bet you think you can shoot. Huh don't you? I'll show you some shootin.” the man gibbered.
Virg heard it from across the room and laughed, “ Jim's to drunk to know he's challenging the new local legend.”
“ No thanks, if you don't mind. Have your self a nice drink.” David said politely.
“ I didn't think we let his kind in here. What happened to the grit of this place. “ Jim commented.
“ Your confusing grit with drunken foolishness, get yourself seated. I'm headed for the table.” David said.
“Gamble with me you damned fool. Where's your sense of competition. I've got a whole five dollars to place bet with. I'll shoot any target and easily take your five.”
“ You already did.” David said, while turning his back.
Virg stood up, “ Whats the matter David, your not afraid of the challenge are you?”
“ I gave the man the five dollars he holds in his hand. He had no money of his own to bet with.”
“ Ya rotten lizard,” Jim commented.
Virg chuckled loudly, “ You gatta love Jim. I think the boys need a show David. Lets play a game.”
Outside in the dark. Yes some lamps were lit, but overall it was still dark. You couldn’t fight the nature of night. Not yet anyways. Josephine was prepared on a horse with a lamp on her head that she had to hold with her own hands. The horse was moving forward in a comfortable pace. David didn't like this at all, maybe now she would regret not leaving. He had a bolt action Springfield in hand. Single shot rifle.
David gave Virg a bit of a scold “ Jim's to drunk. Hes drinking from a cracked bottle. He cant shoot a lamp off a woman's head.”
Virg smirked, “ Could care less, but we do need a fair match. Jim take a seat, your five dollar bet is still in the game. Send up Jude King.”
A young man of blonde hair and a bowl hat came up. “ You come makin word round here fast. Some say your better then me, I intend for them to be wrong.”
David didn't say anything. He studied the rifle, when he was satisfied with it, he handed it to Jude. Then he said “ You shoot first.”
The further the women got the more likely she would be hit in the head. And despite his best instinct to shoot first, it wouldn’t be a fair and fun game when he shot the lamp off right away.
Jude prepared for a moment, he had good posture and focus. David could see that man was a skilled gunner, he fired but the lamp didn't go down, she seemed to be fine. David prepared himself now, she was getting further but he took his time. When he fired the lamp went down and Josephine turned the horse around. Making way to them now.
“ That just for five dollars.” David commented.
“ I made a lot from it. They thought Jude had the better odds. You do damn good shooting, were you ever a soldier?”
“ No I've been shooting cattle rustlers my whole life.” David said.
“ Oh my god!” Virg exasperated “ Boys its a true cowboy in the flesh! How'd you end up dry and on all fours?”
“ Don't ever herd cattle with a short Irish man missing two pinky fingers. He'll take your share , all you own, and leave you near a town of impudent men.”
Virg chuckled along with the joke. “ I'll be sure to keep eyes open for a man like that David.”
Virg went over to Josephine and pulled her down from the horse roughly, then he forced her into the arms of someone else “ Make sure she gets to her room. She's been wandering around lately.”
David woke up when Virg walked into his room, the spurs of his boots clanking on wooden floor. He went to the window and threw the cigar he had in his mouth. Then he blew on his coffee to cool it down. David cleared from the bed and retrieved his trousers and shirt from the chair nearby. He put the holster and ammo belt on and checked his gun for proper care. He listened to Virg.
“ I need you to be security of the town today. The boys and I are ganna russle up some horse and cattle. Jude King and some other boys are ganna be here too. Its very rare but a raid can come from the marshals or worse outlaws seeking the wealth of this place. And in case you don't know we have an event coming up the weekend. There's a walk in fee for all outsiders. Your the exception of course.”
“ You've really got this place organized.” David said. He placed the gun in the holster when he was sure it was working properly.
“ It's still nothing. I imagine if me and Carlos dropped dead this would just become another regular town in no time.
“ I was told this town made all its income from the yearly event.” David put in.
“ All the businesses make extra income. They pay us for the land of course though. I receive a small fee. The rest goes to Carlos. Every high roller here has to make his own though. During Richmans jail I only make from the bets and the walk in fee. Me and my boys need money to gamble with, that night a lot is needed.”
Virg shook his spurs a little more and pranced his feet, “ This year is a good one!.” he repeated it again in singing tone.
He pointed at David and said,
“ You and Jude will be my biggest winners. Three days from now waggons will start coming in.”
He relaxed. Sipped his coffee and lightly stepped towards the door “ Anyways we have to go head off soon. You've defended cattle before. This place has walls so its easier, Just keep men rotating on the upper levels of the walls.”
David had his own task to attend to. Virg took more then twenty men with him. The town was still bustling with the lives of the ordinary people. men were gambling outside. When he asked Jude about Josephine's were abouts he found him to be rude.
“ She's where she belongs.”
David kept his gaze on him, Jude was half his age with the same kind of starkness that he had but lacked the sense and wisdom of knowing when to use it.
Jude became annoyed by his eyes, “ Are you asking for a challenge old man?”
“ If I ask are you capable to answer?”
“ Damn you, you have a way about you that I find familiar and unpleasant. Step away from my direction, shes cleaning the outhouses behind the saloon.” he was bitter in his voice. David could see he was losing a lot of money on the rooster fight.
David walked away. Jude nudged for the attention of his closest man, “ His formal manners, his obedient posture , the way he shoots. He reminds me of every marshal I killed.”
she was digging a whole behind the saloon. So she hadn't dumped the buckets yet. He stealthily came behind her and spoke.
“ What a glamourous life you've chosen. I can see what keeps you here. A women can really feel good about herself here.”
“ Oh shut it you!” she knew it was him by his voice. She stabbed the shovel into the dirt and faced him, “ You know nothing of me. Your just some wandering gunmen. Take mind to your own task. Let me worry about why I'm here.” she shouted.
He became serious. “ Your family won't just leave you here. Not once they've learned your widowed. They chose not to interfere in your life but look what its become. Return to them.”
“ You know nothing of me! Damn you, why have you been such a nuisance.”
“ Today, before Virg returns, I'm heading for Chicago. I wont be here during richmans jail, and I wont ever return.”
She dropped silent. “ what... what game is this.”
David looked her dead in the eyes, spoke low for no one but her to hear.
“ Your are from 178 North La Salle Street. Your father is a stern but overly polite man with a long moustache and little hair on his head. Your mother is a small and quite a talkative women who prays to god for her daughter's safety every night. Your brother was a baby when he left, now he walks and will soon learn to speak.”
“ Stop it. You know my family?” She gasped.
“ I won't say more. I'm your only chance home. Take it.”
Josephine must have been overwhelmed, she had been dead silent as they made their way to the town's threshold. There was an overwhelming smell of alcohol, then Jim tugged at her sleeve.
“ Oh my dearest, such an ugly thing looks pretty when one is drunk and penniless. Come court with me.”
She quickly grabbed Davids arm and whispered into his ear. “ I'm not allowed to charge or say no.”
“ Jim my old friend. The women has just cleaned shit from the stalls. She simply needs to wash her hands before she can perform such a task on your vulnerable parts.”
The old man smiled, “ Oh yes of course, and you still remember where my room is do you not?”
“ Ill be there momentarily.” she said.
He gleefully left.
“ Wretched dust bag, grows tired and drunk before I even dare consider not showing up. Let's leave. Enough of this damned place.”
They quietly left, a few steps out David used two fingers to whistle, a horse came forward with a saddle. She couldn’t help notice four canteens of water.
“ When did you set this up?” she asked.
He pulled her up to the horse behind him. “ He's been waiting since long before I crawled in. I hid him nearby.” he answered.
JUDE KING - OUTLAW AT HEART
After the rooster fight, Jude King played cards, dice and then black jack. Overall he had lost a lot of money. He was becoming frustrated, he wanted to gain money before Richmans jail. It wasn't fair. He had wanted to come along with the cattle rustling. Virg wouldn't have it. He said he wanted him out of harms way for the games. He didn't wan to be just a Player, he wanted to put his own stakes in and come out large.
He had 8 and 4, and said hit me, he drew a king. Bust. The black jack dealer laughed, starting a ring around the table. Jude drew his gun and fired over the dealer's shoulder. It was a harmless shot but the sound shocked his ear into deafness.
“ You no good cowboy!” the man shouted with his hand to ear.
Jude placed the barrel to his temple, “ Mighty fine words in front of a gun.”
“ Jude stop!” one of table players shouted.
Jude fired into the air. Most people lowered to their knees. Two security men came forward from the door , revolvers drawn, the bartender grabbed a shotgun from behind the bar.
“ Jude just calm down.” The bar tender said, “ Put it down and we can walk away.”
“ I'm sorry boys. I guess I let the liqueur get the best of me.” He slowly placed the revolver into his holster. The three men lowered their weapons, Jude's own quickly returned to his hand at hip height. He reached his other hand to the hammer and fired six quick shots. The three men dropped. Jude quickly pulled another gun from a second holster, and dropped the empty gun. He held it to the dealer.
“ Now who will stop me from killing you?” He asked.
The man trembled far to much to even speak.
“ Oh, all these bills on the table. Is that the bank? Perhaps that will lighten my mood.”
The dealer squatted to his knees and covered his head, he was out of sight behind the table. “ Take it!” he shouted. Jude continued around the house, taking all its worth. He left expecting David to be outside waiting. He came out, people looked but no one made any attempt to halt him. No one even called out or spoke. David was not in sight.
“ Where is he?” Jude shouted.
There was no answer. The people ignored him.
“ Someone tell me damn it!”
He was frantic, he then took notice of an old bastard sleeping like a baby on dirt ground in front of a building. Hand and head resting on the wooden planks placed between building and dirt ground.
“ Jim you drunk fool wake up!”
“ Oh my Sweet Matilda, keep it right there.” drool followed his words.
Jude kicked at him.
“ I wish you'd perish you grey hair bag, but until then where is David?”
He stumbled his words a bit and then straightened out. “ Last I saw he was by the front with that whore. It was hours ago. She was suppose to see me after.”
“ Which one?”
“ The one he fancies,” Jim said.
“ Myra?” Jude said.
“ Yeah that's it.”
“ What the hell is going on.”
“ If they were still here I'd have seen them. Went looking around for the fire head.”
Jude stole a horse from the stable and left clear of town.
THE TRUTH REVEALED
Virg and his men came to cross the wood and rope bridge into the county as they always did. After travelling less then a mile they found themselves barred from going forward by a marshal and a large group of deputies. Virg already knew what it was about, they were sick of his men stealing from the land. With the dangerous bridge being there only exit he thought it best to turn and run. He told his men to do so as he fired his gun and shot the marshal down. They crossed the bridge and of course the deputies didn't follow. At this time Virg found it best to return to town. They would return to another county tomorrow.
Josephine found it strange that David had been such a nuisance in town with his mouth. Now while riding the horse when she asked questions he was a nuisance with his silence. Such an annoying man. She almost hated him. When frustration grew in her voice he finally spoke.
“ Is it not enough to know your returning home.”
She regretted everything she had felt before. Once again she came to realize about herself how ungrateful she was. It would do no good to return to her family the same girl she was when she left.
“ I'm sorry. Thank you.”
David galloped the horse through a valley and when he came out the other end there was a long dusty path and empty fields as far as the eye could see. There was a small town down ahead. The larger town that connected to the train was further north. They could arrive by tomorrow night if they left in the morning. Unfortunately when they came out he could see in the distance the dust of horses. He grew to worry that it was Virg returning. At a certain distance he knew. He didn't know what he would say, with the women on the back of his horse. It was to late to hide from view.
Virg galloped forward fast and came to a stop about 10 feet distance from them. He wasn't happy. The rest were coming up.
David throw a sac into the hands of Virg.
“ 1400 in bills for her debt. I need to return this women home.”
David started the horse and passed him.
“ What of the games David? Richmans Jail, the event of your life.”
“ Your dam right about that.” David put a smile on when he faced Virg. He took another sac out and threw it to him. “ That wad is 2000. my fund for the game, make sure you bet on me when I play. Ill be back in two days. I'll explain all this after.”
He quickly took off.
Josephine was excited as the horse sped off. There had been so much fright in her moments ago it all played out smoothly with little words.
“ You lie with such confidence David. I almost believe your going to return back.”
“Its apart of my work.”
“ As well as shooting and saving women I see. Are you a marshal then ?”
“ No. I'm from Pinkerton National Detective Agency. Only those that fear or need us know of the agency.”
“ What brought you down here?” She asked.
“Two weeks ago I was tasked with reclaiming stolen bank notes, my partners were injured but I brought back the notes. The bank owner was very impressed by my work, he asked for a favour.”
“ My father?.” she asked.
“ Yes.” He said. “ He offered me a reward in search for you. I told him we won't accept. I'm paid daily to ensure my duties continue.”
Virg arrived into town and was unpleasant without his usual grace. Arriving things didn't get better.
Jude was gone, according to Jim he wasn't happy to see David abandon the place. But he stole 4000 in cash on his way out. People in town were demanding that Virg chase Jude and return the money. On his way back his gut was telling him David wasn't returning. The 2000 he gave was a parting gift to keep Virg quiet. He didn't like being bought out like that.
His horse couldn't carry though to the saloon because so many people were gathering around with complaints. He fired his gun into the air, the people scattered. “Since when did I become Sheriff of this town? The cash will be returned , all of you mind your own until then and allow me a drink and time to think.”
inside his crew shared whiskey.
“ It don't make any sense Ryan. Finds himself lost here, we gave him the things any man would need and he leaves with that girl. Not a girl, but the girl we all regard as the lowest of trash here.”
“ Seems obvious to me boss. His shooting, his staring, his words. He protects that woman like a law man.” said Ryan.
“ No can't be , I've never seen a law man walk into a den of thieves without shooting.”
“ Had no gun. No horse, not even a chance to live. The perfect scenario for you to take him in. I reckon a bounty hunter would do that. Maybe Jude had a big bounty.” Ryan offered.
“ Jude left after realizing David had left long before him. We all have higher bounties. No one else is away other then Myra.”
“ Where did Myra come from? Who was she before coming here?” Ryan asked.
“ You remember the fool who strolled down with 6500 in his sac last year. Ended the night with an owing of 800 and broke his neck.”
“ And before that Virg? Where did he pick her up from?”
“ Ummm.” Virg scratched facial hair and thought about it. “ That man was drunk and said he was from southern Illinois. Said he met his wive in Chicago. A bankers daughter. Brought her here.”
Ryan's jaw dropped.
“ Chicago families, pay good money! We could have ransomed her out. Instead I bet that city slick gunslinger was given a hefty fee to retrieve her.”
Virg's eyes went wide, “ You think so!”
“ Ive never seen an Irish man missing, pinkies around these parts. I bet if we ask Big Lip Bob he would have some real information.”
Virg swallowed his shot and slammed the glass. “ Alright then it's settled. Weather they go to Chicago or not, they gatta take that train. If we buy new horses on the way and keep going, we can get ahead and ambush him. Mean while Ryan go to talk to Bob and meet us after.”
The sun was high in the sky and it seemed to scorch the earth a degree higher then usual. David was once again parched and had to drink from the canteen. He then shared it with Josephine. It was the first can and running low. He was fortunate to have three more. This seemed to be the parting gift of the south west. For when the train brought them north it would be cooler climate.
From this distance, a line of rock could be seen at the end of anyone’s vision. A mountain range all across the north east. Coming closer a fissure could be seen, the only path through to the other side. There was a small wooden house not in use, evidenced by its falling door swinging back and forth with the wind.
David had that instinctual feeling. He looked up, above the fissure was a rope and wood bridge. Years ago someone figured it a good idea to build a town in the mountains. That town wasn't around anymore but the bridge still was. He felt uneasy about it. Coming closer he drew his revolver weapon, he placed his hand roughly on Josephine's waist and shoved her off the horse. “ Run to the house,” He fired a shot at her feet, she ran immediately and the horse raised its front hooves upwards. Raising and calling in prone state.
Just then shots rang out, David quickly fired two shots before he let his body slip off the horse and roll on the ground. The prone horse dropped forward dead, its body received all the bullets, saving David. And now on the floor, he pressed as flat against ground as he could. bullets whizzed over the fallen horse which was now his only cover. He refilled the two bullets, raised quickly and fired three shots. Someone went down. There was a pause in firing as they had to reload. He got up and ran to Josephine's covering, firing the three remaining shots, someone was skimmed. Bullets came towards him from above but missed. She was within the four walls, he took cover on the outside wall.
There had been five on the ground, now four. Those were manageable numbers. The path left and right of the rope bridge, he could not account for how many armed men were up there.
He could hear Virg laughing from the fissure, “ You know we asked folks around these parts bout you, after you left. Specifically Cassidy Bob. This is a man who's never wrong about his information. He eats and pays rent using words from his mouth. He said he's never heard of a sharp shooter named David. So we described you to him. You know what he said. He said a shooter by the description, and damn good one. Chased down a couple of our distant friends in South Illinois, who robbed a mail train. He said that man was a Pinkerton named Ira Hayter.”
“ You talk to much.”
He came around the wall edge quick, took aim for Virg and fired into his neck. He was on his knees with hand to neck. Shots rang from both sides. Ira jumped to the house, where Josephine awaited.
He blindly fired his revolver into enemy direction, and refilled the chamber. “ I'm in desperate need of a rifle.”
Josephine had been pulling things from the closet. She had opened a box , “ David theres a Yellow Boy in here!”
Ira fired outward with his revolver, “ a what?” he asked puzzled.
She raised a rifle in her hands, a Winchester model with a bronze metal receiver above the trigger.
“ It's a 66 model repeater.” He said, “ This'll save us.”
She threw it into his hands, “ Call em Yellow Boys in Morales. Their guns for the young hands.” She told him.
It was empty, she handed him cartridges and he filled them into the bronze receiver fast.
“ Won't need 15 shots for this.” he said. But filled it up to that much anyways.
He stepped out and fired onto the five remaining on ground. Pulling the lever-trigger back each time, it let loose a shell and he could fire again. When the five men were injured or dead, he fired at the rock peaks on his right flank. He came back in and loaded a few more shots, and put a stop to the distant shooter above. But left of the house , the sound of gun fire continued and smoke filled the air.
“ They'll get smart and burn the place soon. Our only chance is back in town. We gatta run.” He grabbed her arm, she put up resistance.
“ We can't make it by foot but look.”
she pointed her finger towards a machine of two wheels.
“ I've never seen that before.” Ira said. “ I'm from Southern Illinois, don't look at me like that.”
“ It's a bicycle Hayter, sit on it, push your feet on the pedals and follow the road. Lets get the hell out of here.”
“ Does it go fast?” he asked.
“ As fast as you can push it. Allow me to ride first.”
She had to quickly show him how to go forward with a few pushes. He fired shots into the air to keep their enemies thinking and then tried the bike himself.
“ Okay , you better learn how to pedal faster.” she told him after witnessing him make slow circles.
When he was ready she pulled the basket from the handles and sat herself on the vacant place. He placed a revolver into her hands.
“ Just go forward, you can see but I'll tell you to turn.” she instructed.
“ I haven't gotten use to turning yet.” he noted.
“ Road's mostly straight any way’s. Keep it up.” she said.
The bike struggled on rocky road. They worked better on the planked roads of Chicago, it occurred to her then why users were tolled on those roads.
“ Fire it.” Ira instructed.
She fired upwards. It would keep the shooters on high ground in tension for a few more minutes.
“ Eventually they'll come after us. This isn't going fast enough and I'm not built like a horse.”
It was maybe a quarter of a mile out when a man on horse came into their direction. He was bulky and tall with a moustache and long hair mix of grey and white. He had a rifle slung across his back.
Ira came off the bike and quickly raised his gun but didn't cock the hammer. The man stopped his horse and was reaching for his rifle. “ I mean you no harm if your not a bandit searching for my head.”
“ I am not.”
“ I have bad news. The way you wish to go is blockaded by bandits. They want holes in me.”
“ How many?” The stranger asked.
“ At least ten left, some dead but not enough. Please stranger. Take this women into town with you.”
“ And what contraption is that under her legs?” he asked.
“ She can tell you on the way, go inform the marshals.”
“ Wait,” she refused, “ Are you kidding, we won't leave you here...”
“ What are you waiting for?” Ira scolded, “ Your a strong man, pull her up to your horse and leave for town.”
She willingly climbed up, “ Please sir, if you could provide him with your rifle, he needs it more then you do now.”
the man was hesitant, but gave it up. Ira studied the machine.
“ Come back alive you bastard.” She said to him.
He didn't look up. “ Oh my god. Its a 95 Winchester. Only loads five shots but it heavier and more powerful. They hunt elephants with this in Africa.”
The stranger answered, “No man can recover quick when shot with that. I've trusted my life to it many times and hope to do so in the future.”
“ You'll see the gun returned to your hand, if not you'll receive more then equal payment. Now get going, ill be in town soon as I can.”
they took off.
From the distance she would turn her head and see Ira pushing as fast as he could. But he was just getting further and further behind them. When his figure was becoming small and unclear, she saw dust clouds forming. In the far distance near the fissure, from the ground by galloping horses.
“ Oh my god,” she gasped. They were getting further from him and the dust was getting closer. Soon him and everything behind was out of sight. “ I'm sorry I doubted you.” The middle aged man said.
In town they went straight to the sheriffs office, She took a seat and remained there until night fall. The man had gone with the sheriffs to see Ira. When she informed them that he was a Pinkerton on mission , they took immediate priority. One of the deputies came back and asked that a stage coach be brought to the scene. He told her he was alive and well but couldn’t travel. She rode on the back of his horse. They arrived after an hour, he was being carried on a stretcher by two men. The sheriff was riding horse and holding the reigns of two horses. They put him down when the stage couch stopped.
The Mrshal told her this , “ He can speak but hasn't said much yet.”
“ Ira?” she asked, he blinked but continued staring up at the stars.
“ There's eight deceased bandits up ahead. A few dead horses to. I don't figure any man survived but him.”
Ira spoke in a low voice. “ The 95 repeater. It came in handy. I fired all five and four were dead. The fifth one missed but hit his horse. Hopped on the back of his friend's. There wasn't time to reload, I emptied the 66 on them. I could feel some stings but I didn't pay mind to it. Some of their horses dropped, two men got up and I shot them, finally pulling out my loaded revolver. Another man that was injured rose up and shot my shoulder. I had to shoot him to. Then a final one was stuck under his horse. I sat by a tree and the man stuck managed his hands on a revolver. Shot at me six times. I don't think he hit me. I filled the 66 with another round and that was it. Then these guys came.”
They led him into the waggon and she rode with him along with a doctor on the ride as well. They were heading towards the northern town. Where the train station was, as well as a hospital. Surprisingly he only had 3 bullet wounds. 2 were non fatal but the third hit internally. She was told the surgery would be dangerous. At visiting hour she told him she would stay. He looked at the two deputies in the room.
“ They are going to escort you all the way to Chicago and make sure you arrive safe, enough time has been wasted. Go see your family.”
“ But I'd rather you take me.” she told him.
“ The doctors said that if I survive the surgery it will be weeks before I can walk on my own again. The wounds would re open.”
Bitterly she said good bye. And he said it too but she felt like it was an empty moment.
3 days later she was called by the marshal. By now she was settled with her family. There was only love for her at home, and although they now wished to spend every moment adoring her, at times she would sit alone in a room and think of Ira.
When the Marshal called he did not have good news. She had waited for some contact from down south but not this.
Jude came into town that very morning. Eager to find Ira. Like the others, and like him, the Pinkerton title was a most hated rodent of the their world. When he came Ira was more then capable to move around on his own freely. He had lied to her. They came to bitter words and Ira accepted Jude's challenge. A one on one duel. She nearly cried out when the marshal said that.
Ira won. Jude had dropped from fatal chest wound. He was found with 3600 in bills on his person. Ira's left index finger was caught and ripped off by the bullet. The stress had caused his wounds to re open and he was taken into surgery. She immediately rushed by train. She prayed his stubborn soul would remain until she arrived. She arrived to find him cold and dead, died from the complications of surgery.
“ Why would he do something so foolish,” she cried.
The Marshal had been in the room, “ Some people want very little from this world.”
“ What does that mean?” she asked.
“ It means he had nothing to lose and a lot to gamble with.” He answered.
In his will $14,000 was to be donated to the Illinois school for the deaf, opened in his hometown of Jacksonville in 1839. A remaining $5,000 was to be invested into the Chicago Police department. Josephine was told that the Pinkerton National Detective Agency was created from a member of department when corruption couldn’t be over turned.
She made sure the body arrived in his home town in southern Illinois. She attended his funeral. Many friends attended. He had no family members except for a younger sister. She was fully grown and deaf, she was raised at the school and was now a teacher there. Their mother died giving birth to his sister, Cecilia. She told Josephine that when she was still very young, she had moved to Jacksonville to live with her grandparents and attend the school. Her father had been born there but got married in Chicago. In 1878, Ira came to join her in Jacksonville after his father was murdered. He was chief of the Chicago Police at the time, the case was never solved. Chicago news papers reported that Jerald Hayter was the only man in uniform not corrupt and had died because of it.
As for Carlos Morales, he remained as Kingpin of his Gamblers Den until New Mexico was considered for statehood in 1912. Government officials and Federal Marshals began poking around the territory. He sold his land and ran away to Mexico.
As for Josephine, she enjoyed her time with her family. She watched her younger brother grow, and the world modernize with electric lights and phone lines, films screens and automobiles. Josephine had written her story into numerous news articles around the state, she continued telling of Ira's heroic tale well into her fifties. When she was old, and fragile, an early holly wood producer had taken attention to her story, and composed a contemporary romance film from it. Her only condition was that Ira Hayters name be kept, as well as his South Illinois origin and blind sister.
© Copyright 2017 Culford Smith . All rights reserved.
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