.44 Caliber Preacher: A Ben Baxter Western Adventure

.44 Caliber Preacher: A Ben Baxter Western Adventure

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A Sneak Peek into .44 Caliber Preacher

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Chapter One

Toward the end of June, 1884
It was a hot afternoon and the day already felt long. The unseasonable heat waves were shimmering on the horizon. The dry air smelled of sage and hot sweaty mules. The four-inch wide wagon wheels ground away at the dry cracked earth. Sagebrush, bitter brush and junipers dotted the landscape on both sides of the road. A few gray and white clouds were floating against the soft blue sky.
Clint Leeds, the brown eyed mule skinner and Ben Baxter, his brown haired partner was working as the shotgun-messenger. They rode the river together for the past six years. They had known each other for eleven years and started working together as deputy sheriffs in St. George back in ‘78.
Wiping sweat from his forehead and pushing his brown hair out of his eyes, Ben put his brown slouch hat back on. He could still feel dust and grit covering his nose and mouth in spite of wearing his large yellow handkerchief over his face. Taking a deep breath, he dabbed his forehead again. Suddenly, his attention was turned in the direction of a sound that was loud enough to be heard above the din of the six mules. He nudged his buddy Clint and pointed over his broad shoulder. Suddenly, there was a gang of fast approaching horsemen that appeared to be riding hard toward them.
This wasn’t the first time in their career as teamsters that road agents tried to dry-gulch them. Ben bent over and grabbed two sawed off doubled barreled coach guns to check their loads, then he shoved the butt of one under Clint’s thigh. He shoved the other coach gun under his own leg. He bent over and grabbed a regular length scatter gun from under their seat. He opened the breech and checked its loads. While cradling the double barrel ten gauge, he yanked out Clint’s Colt .45, opened the loading gate and checked that each of the six chambers were loaded. They were. The horsemen were riding hard toward the freight wagon, but were still out of rifle range. After putting the gun back in Clint’s holster he checked his own peacemaker to find it was fully loaded. They were as ready as they could be for a hold up. Blazes! Why does this have ta happen so much? Ben wondered. Why do they have ta go for freight wagons so much?
Clint snapped the reins a couple of times yelling “ha! Ha-ya! Yah! Yah! Git on! Go!” The six-mules steadily picked up their speed to a full gallop. The freight wagon followed suit. The wagon was swaying with a rhythm set by the gallop of the mules, occasionally bouncing as the wheels would hit a bump or rut in the road. Ben took a quick look over his shoulder and the horsemen that were chasing them were drawing closer with every passing stride. This wasn’t new to Clint and Ben. They always worked together when it came to being teamsters, and were equally skilled at handling a team and at riding shotgun-messenger. They had the unfortunate experience of being held up numerous times in the two years of their running freight.
The pounding of the approaching hooves grew louder and they could now hear the yelling and screaming of the group of highwaymen fast approaching. Both men heard the first familiar sound of a gunshot, followed by another and then another. So far, all three shots were a clear a miss. So far neither Clint nor Ben had returned fire. Experience had taught them when the time would be right. They had ammunition to waste, but they were hardened by experience. They heard another gun shot hit the side of the wagon. Glancing toward the mules, Ben saw, out of the corner of his eye, the straining head of a horse bringing up a desperado. He turned to face the rider who was quickly pulling along the side of the wagon. Ben thumbed the first hammer of the Parker long barreled shotgun, pointed it at the undulating outlaw and squeezed the trigger unleashing a ten-gauge explosion that threw the man off his horse. The horse broke away and galloped off the road and into the brush.
Without a moment to breathe, Ben noticed off to the drivers side a road agent coming up rapidly. Clint was blocking Bens shot so he stood on his feet and held onto the back rest and thumbed the second hammer of the shotgun. Still holding onto the wall, he pointed the scatter gun at the approaching desperado and squeezed the trigger. The roar of the shotgun was right next to Clint’s ear, but, in spite of the ringing in his ears and the echo of a shotgun blast in his head, he kept the mules going all out.
Clint snapped the reins again and the wagon lurched forward with a renewed vigor by the mule team. Ben dropped his empty scattergun and found the sawed-off gun that had slid out from under his leg. He cocked it and studied the road behind them. Two riders down and three more still chasing the freight wagon. Most groups of robbers would fall back and disperse by now, but those men seemed to want whatever was in the back of the wagon. Besides twelve barrels of drinking water there were some food supplies and a strong box under the front seat containing three payrolls for three of the Frisco mines. Maybe these highwaymen are after the payroll? Thought Ben.
Ben noticed one of the water barrels was pouring water from a bullet hole. He heard the ring of a ricochet near where he was gripping the back board. Instinctively, he let go of his grip and started to slide off the bench. Clint saw Ben sliding fast, but he was able to grab his partner by his gun belt holding on to him long enough for Ben to grab hold of the bench and reposition himself securely.
As a rifle shot was heard, Clint felt the mule at the front on the drivers side lurch and rear its head as it let out an anguished bray. As the mule stopped running, it threw the whole team into disarray. While Clint was snapping the reins and yelling at the mule team, they were forced to slow a little since the mule that had been shot was in their way, bumping into them as they tried to keep going. The wagon lurched and was veering to the right as it continued to slow down. A rider was gaining on the driver’s side so Clint grabbed the sawed off shotgun from under his leg as he snapped both reins with only his left hand urging the team to pick up its pace.
Ben whirled his body to the right to look for any rider who may come up on his side of the wagon. With one shot remaining in his scatter gun, he was able to point in the direction of an approaching desperado. He squeezed the trigger and the third horseman dropped to the ground screaming in agony.
Clint shot the rider that came up to his side. Ben dropped his shotgun and drew his six-shooter with a seven-inch barrel and pulled the hammer back. He stood up to look for any others. They should be riding off, he thought. He saw the last man turning his horse hard to the side as he rode away.
“He’s running away,” gasped Ben as he tried to regain his breathing. He wiped his forehead with his left sleeve. In spite of Clint’s best efforts, the mule team was slowing down as they dragged the dead mule. Clint let the mules come to a stop and when they did, he jumped off the wagon to unharness the dead mule.
Clint scurried over to the mule that had been shot. Remarkably, it was still breathing. Clint pulled out his Colt .45, and shot him in the head. No more suffering for the hard-working animal. He unharnessed the beast and unhooked him from the jerk line. Taking the reins, Ben helped Clint rearrange the mules. They each took a long drink from their canteens. Ben stood on top of the wagon bench and looked around. “I don’t see anythin, except for that last rider runnin off to the northwest. Fer as I can tell, they’s no one else out there gunnin fer us.”
“Let’s get outta here,” Clint said. “We’ve been stopped too long. Why don’t ya take the reins and drive a while, otherwise you’re likely to fall into one of them dark spells of yers.” Without argument, Ben released the brake lever and snapped the reins. “Ya, Ya,” he shouted and the wagon jerked a little as the mules pulled up tight on the harness.
“That ain’t never happened in all them dern hold ups we been through,” said Clint. “Sure feel bad bout that mule.” Clint and Ben took good care of their mules, horses and even oxen, when they used them. They did everything they could to be good to their animals. Brigham Young had taught the pioneers as they came out to Utah to treat their animals well. That lesson had been passed down the generations and Clint and Ben abided by it. Many teamsters could care less about their draft animals, not Ben and Clint.
After all that had happened to the mules, Ben didn’t push them. As they drove on, neither one spoke for a while. Clint and Ben did not like to kill anyone. In their hearts they were peace loving men, not killers. They had been forced to kill several times, but they didn’t enjoy it. In their line of work, as teamsters, they had been involved in several shootouts when they were being robbed. They had shot many, killed a few and hated it every time.
Ben figured they were about eight or nine hard miles out of Frisco and they had planned on arriving just before nightfall. Now they had one less mule they weren’t so sure they could make it before dark. They had never lost a draft animal and so they didn’t know how it would affect the rest of the team.
As Ben held the reins, Clint wiped down the guns doing a quick clean and then loaded them all. Working on the dry dusty desert floor, the gun oil attracted the dust that was kicked up by the wagon and animals. They both started to feel a little shaky and unsettled as they started calming down after that intense gunfight.
They had been on this road before and when they started down the second to the last hill they knew they were only seven miles away from the mining town. They could tell the mules were starting to blow hard and struggle.
Since there was a flat grassy area at the base of the last rise, they decided to turn in early. It was a good place to stop because it had a small creek running through the flat grass. There was some shade from a stand of juniper trees. Ben drove the mule team onto the narrow grassy area and unhitched the mules. He turned them out to graze and water. Clint unloaded the last of the grain for the mules to eat. Between unloading the rest of the grain and taking off two damaged barrels of water, the load would be lighter for the last seven miles.
Clint was busy making a fire while Ben was preparing the food for their evening meal. He noticed a jack rabbit loping along near the river which was about twelve yards away. He picked up his ten gauge and pulled one hammer back. Took aim and squeezed the trigger. The sudden roar of the shotgun made Ben jump and turned the jackrabbit into dinner. “Well, now Ben, looks like we can have somethin other than bacon and beans fer dinner, provided there ain’t much buck shot in the rabbit.” Ben went over to the rabbit and took a look at it. Almost no blood, which meant it wasn’t overly damaged from the buckshot. He skinned the rabbit by the river before bringing it to the smoky fire.
“Guess this is a popular site for stopovers. There’s three places where folks have made fires and almost all the real dry wood is gone. Guess a little smoke won’t hurt too bad.”
“Reckon not,” replied Ben. “This area has a great view and there’s plenty of grass and water for the livestock.”
Soon, the smell of coffee filled the air. They both sipped their coffee and rolled a cigarette as they waited for the rest of their meal to be done. Just as the sun was touching the horizon, casting long shadows over the camp, the meal was cooked and they started to eat.
“Clint, I reckon I’m gettin a little tired of hauling freight and all the highwaymen that want it.”
“Well, this haul is the last one on our contract with the Frisco Freight Company. Ain’t nothin keepin us here. We wanna go on, let’s go” replied Clint easily.
“We’ve been savin our money up for a spell, how much ya figure we got now?” asked Ben.
“I reckon it’s about two-thousand dollars, that’s buried. He thought a moment more and added, “plus what’s in our pockets and what we’ll get paid tomorrow.”
“Think that’s enough for startin our ranch?” asked Ben.
“Depends on how we want ta start out,” said Clint as he rubbed his hand through his scraggly blond hair. He went on, “it depends on where we want our spread to be, do we want it up north where we can get it from my grandpa for cheap and live where the winters are down right freezing or do we want to pay higher prices for land in the southeastern side of the territory where the winters ain’t as bad?”
“My vote is fer the southeast part of the territory,” said Ben as he put his brown wide brimmed hat back on.
“Me too. If it turns out, we can’t get land at a good price we could always go up north if we have to,” added Clint.
“Now we know where we’re goin, what’s next?” asked Ben. Clint was good on details.
“I’d say we could git about a hundred head of brood stock to start buildin a herd of cattle. As fer horses, it’ll depend on what we’re able to round up from the wild herds. Will we git what we want or would we be needin to breed some studs into them? We never decided if we want to get into draft horses either. I think we’d have enough to build a cabin and barn both, to start out with. It would be tight, but I think we could manage all that.”
“It might be a slow start, but we wouldn’t have no more road agents shootin at us,” added Ben as he stretched his arms and yawned.
“We might have to deal with rustlers from time to time,” remarked Clint.
“But I doubt they’ll be shootin at us first.”
“That’s likely true,” said Clint.
“I don’t like killin,” said Ben which changed the subject.
“Are you talking about today or are ya thinkin bout that bank robber five years ago?”
After a pause, Ben said, “both, I reckon.”
“But remember, you had no choice with that bank robber. Remember, I had to shoot the other bank robber? None of the killin’s you’ve done were murder, they’ve always been self defense and in the line of duty. You can’t just let a man point a loaded gun at you without defendin yerself Ben, you know that,” said Clint with a tone of exasperation. “We’ve been over this dozens of times afore. We’ve always been on the right side of the law ever-time one of us has had to shoot somebody.”
“I know . . . I know . . . it’s just that, well, it don’t make it no easier sometimes,” said Ben as he shook his head slowly while looking at the smoky camp fire. In spite of the other killings Ben had been involved in, it was mostly that first killing that bothered him the most.
Looking for a way to get Ben out of the misery he was falling into, Clint changed the subject back to the topic of ranching. “So what’re we doin bout our ranch? Do we want ta start now or keep up haulin freight for a bit more?”
“I don’t like Frisco much. Ain’t safe. I’m tired of all the shootin that goes on there and the shootin with our job, them at us and us at them. My vote is let’s start out fer our ranching days after we turn in this wagon.”
“I’m agreed. Though it won’t hurt, if we found a good last haul to make some money hauling something out of here, drop it off and keep on a goin. That’s if it’s a south or an eastward haul” suggested Clint.
“All right then, we dig up our money and get out of Frisco, one way or another and we don’t come back.”
They cleaned the camp and got ready for the morning before falling asleep under the stars. They both enjoyed the stars and pointing out constellations and making up tall tells about them. Soon Clint nodded off. Ben tossed and turned. He was falling into one of those dark places that were all to familiar with him. It took a while to fall asleep.
The morning came fast. They got their bedrolls and gear stowed away and Clint started a fire. Clint was privately grateful that they didn’t have whiskey with them. When Ben got into one of his dark moods which always followed, killing someone, he would get drunk to hide from those moods. It he had gotten drunk he wouldn’t wake up until late morning.
Clint got out the last of the beans and bacon and put them in the iron fry pan. The fire was putting enough heat off to get the coffee started and to cook the bacon and beans. The sun was coming up on the eastern horizon, sending out yellow and orange rays of light. The air was still crisp, but warming fast. Other than the smell of the nearby mules, the air was clean and fresh. The scent of the Frisco kilns making charcoal could usually be detected for miles, but this morning the air was clean. That usually meant they were emptying the kilns and getting ready to load them up again.
As they sat around the camp fire, Ben asked, “how many barrels of water do you reckon we’ve hauled to Frisco since we’ve been runnin this route?”
“Hundreds, maybe five-hundred I’d reckon. It’s a strange thing to haul water, but we’ve had all the work we’ve wanted so I reckon it ain’t worth grumblin over.”
“I don’t guess it matters much what were haulin as long as it pays decent wages,” added Ben.
“Freightin’s been good to us, aside from the road agents and the gun fightin, but I’ll be glad to let it go,” said Clint, “get on to raisin horses.”
“Just think of it. In time we’ll have a nice ranch with two big homes, one fer you and yer family, one for me and mine. Horses ever-where and a right lot a cattle too.”
The odd five-mule team took the wagon up the last steep hill much better for having had a night’s rest. Missing the dead mule didn’t seem to be much of a trial for the remaining five. Of course, they had been able to lighten the load. As they made their way to the top of the hill Ben asked Clint. “I wonder jest how bad is the runoff from the mines? After all, the animals still drink from the river.”
“Don’t know fer sure, but I’ve heard tell a couple stories about some of the first miners gettin sick from the water. Reckon it concerns them old mine owners enough ta pay ta bring in water. Payin for water seems loco, so I reckon they’ve reason to worry,” answered Clint. “They sure ain’t goin a pay fer nothin unless they have ta.”Chapter Two
Clint and Ben crested the last hill before Frisco. As they viewed the dusty town on the horizon they saw many clapboard buildings, a few were painted, most were not. There were even some big tents serving as businesses. Beyond the main street and business areas where residential parts of town that were made up of shanties and tents. There were even blocks that were no more than campgrounds. The buildings were fairly new, but were put up in such a hurry, they looked as though one good wind storm would blow them away.
From their vantage point they could see the dirt roads leading out to the mines to the south or the soot-covered kilns on the northwest side of town. Further off, they could see a few of the limited smelters. During the week they had been gone, two new buildings had begun construction.
The town of Frisco was only a few years old. It sprang up almost overnight when silver was discovered where the Big Horn Mine now stood. Not much thought was given to the town as most of the labor went to the silver mines. The production of silver was so significant that their smelting capabilities fell short, so the mines had to send a great deal of raw ore up north. Ben and Clint often found themselves hauling raw oar to Milford so the train could take the oar to the Franklyn smelter in Murray, Utah Territory. On their return trip they would haul water barrels.
On the way down the last hill, Ben asked, “What’s the first thing ya plan to do once we get paid?”
“I feel like splurgin, I think I’ll be gettin myself a bath. Not in the mood fer a cold water shower. I reckon I’ll drop off my dirty clothes to the laundry lady over by the livery and then get a steak dinner at the Silver Frisco Café. Likely I’ll play some poker and drink some rotgut. What about you?” asked Clint.
“That’s the same as we always do, but I guess cause they ain’t much otherwise to do. Sounds good ta me,” replied Ben. “I’ll do most of drinkin in our hotel room, providin we can get a room, that is.”
“Yeah, a drunk in a card game ain’t too smart,” replied Clint.
Clint enjoyed a good drunk, but he worried about his friend bending an elbow. Ben drank to avoid going to a dark place in his mind. Being drunk gave him a place to go where he could forget. One good thing about Ben’s drinking was that he didn’t let himself play poker when he was befuddled. He would usually get himself to his room before getting sloppy.
Their wagon steadily inched toward Frisco as the temperature steadily inched up. They came to the outskirts of town and turned left. They would go around the outside of town to make their way to the freight station. In spite of the last three Marshals, there was still a lot of gunplay in the streets. Last month there were three killings during one night. No one called them murders. They might have been. They might have been killings in self defense or they may have been killed by stray bullets. No one knew and no one took the time to find out. Even with the occasional sheriff, It was a lawless town.
The town would get rowdy once the sun went down and the miners crawled out of their mine shafts. But even in the afternoon it was common to hear the occasional gun fire. Wanting to avoid random gun fire and to protect the water barrels from stray bullets they wanted to avoid driving the wagon down Main street.
Because Clint and Ben worked as a team and had a stellar reputation of getting the job done, meaning that they never lost a load to the highwaymen, they earned top dollar for every freight haul they made. They got ten dollars up front and seven dollars daily on the run plus supplies such as food and shotgun shells. In the western part of the Utah territory miners made the best daily wage of $3.50 a day. Cowboys earned $ 35.00 a month. Compared to miners and cowboys, Ben and Clint earned above average wages.
They rolled into the freight station by noon and after signing a few papers, they collected their pay and strolled on. By mid afternoon they had managed to get a hotel room. The hotel rooms filled up fast and they were lucky to get a room so easily. There were plenty of places to stay if you didn’t mind sleeping in a dusty, dirty tent that smelled of everything.
Next door to the San Francisco Mountains Hotel was a barber shop and bath house that maintained four bath tubs. The boys liked their tobacco, but they seldom splurged on cigars. They rolled their own cigarettes and got into their tubs with a fresh rolled smoke.
The bath house was whitewashed and the floorboards were wet. There were two gents soaking in the other two tubs. They were enjoying expensive cigars and sipping whiskey. After a few minutes of puffing their smokes, one of the two gentlemen broke the silence.
“My name is Wooster, Horace Wooster. This gentleman here on my right is Edward Brown.”
Clint nodded a hello and said, “I’m Clint Leeds and this here is my pard Ben Baxter,” he motioned with his head to his left. Ben added a “Howdy boys.”
“Getting ready for a night out on the town?” asked Horace.
“Yes, sir, we jest got done with a freight haul and we’re hungerin for a steak dinner and an evenin of poker and whiskey,” answered Clint with a grin. His arms were hanging out of the tub showing a line dividing his white skin from his sunburned skin.
“Sounds like a nice way to finish a job. How long were you on the road?” asked Horace.
“Eight hot days.”
“Was it a smooth haul?” asked Edward.
“Nah. We had some trouble yesterday. We were dry-gulched by some road-agents,” responded Ben as he shook his head.
“That’s too bad. How’d it turn out? You gents look all right.”
“Well . . . There was a shoot out. Five came at us and one road off,” said Clint wiping his wet blonde hair back.
“Glad you men are all right then,” said Horace as he continued to puff on his expensive cigar.
Ben dipped his cigarette into his bath water to make sure it was out before he flicked it against the bath house wall. “Like haulin freight, jest don’t care fer the shootin,” said Ben.
“Sounds like this isn’t the only time you’ve been dry-gulched?” suggested Horace.
“It happens way too often, especially in this area where a lot of payrolls are carried in strong boxes,” said Clint as he rolled another smoke.
“We’re well aware. We’re in the freight business ourselves,” said Edward nodding his head.
“We operate here in Frisco and we have some wagons in Park City,” said Horace proudly.
“What are you men doing for work? Got another job lined up or are you going to take up a little bit of mining here in Frisco?” asked Edward.
Ben chuckled a little as he shook his head sideways. “Ain’t no one gettin rich by minin, unless you discovered the mother load.”
“I agree with you Mr. Baxter,” said Horace with a smile. “My partner and I are doing well in the freighting business. We’re adding two new wagons a month to our growing enterprise.”
“What do y’all haul?”asked Clint.
“Mostly heavy ore. Our extended wagons are reinforced with side walls six to ten feet high and need between six to ten oxen to haul. We go around to various mining towns and rent out our wagons to haul ore. We’ve been in Frisco almost four months getting things running well. Then we’ll move on to the Tintic district and set up there.”
“Who runs things for y’all when you leave for somewhere’s else?” asked Ben.
“We hire someone to manage each location. In Park City, we have four people working for us. We’ve got a big operation up there. It’s also shaping up to be big here in Frisco. We got one man working for us and we might need a few more before we leave,” answered Horace.
“Do you men run your own freight wagon?”
“No. We just drive whatever they want us to,” said Clint.
“Does that include oxen?”
“No. Not unless they are trained to take a whip from the wagon seat. We’re not built for walking along side the oxen,” answered Clint emphatically.
“We’re not bull whackers,” added Ben with a grin. “Besides, it’s hard to get the oxen to run when highwaymen want to rob you,” added Ben.
“I reckon we’ve driven our last freight wagon. We’re fixin to move on in a day or two,” said Clint.
“Looks like we’ve grown tired of hauling freight,” added Ben.
Their conversation went on for a few minutes and then it wound down to a silence that was only disturbed by the sound of an errant gun shot nearby.
“We’ll be glad to leave this place. Never been in a town with this much gun play,” said Horace. Edward nodded his head in agreement.
As the four men were rinsing off the soapy water Horace Wooster said, “It’s been nice talking to you young fellers. Maybe we’ll see you around town?”
Clint and Ben nodded a so-long to them and went to the laundry forgetting their haircut and shave. A while later as the sun starting to drop, Edward Brown and Horace Wooster found themselves in a Café across main street and down a block from the barber shop.
While they were eating, Horace and Edward were talking about their next job. “I was thinking to ask Ben and Clint from the bath house to run our next wagon, but when I heard them talking about shooting four of the five highwaymen yesterday I thought better of it. It won’t do if they shoot up the men we send after them,” said Edward.
“We’ve spent so much time setting things up for the job we haven’t been looking for drivers. Now we’re getting desperate. We’ve only got this evening and tomorrow to find someone to drive the stolen wagon coming in.”
“I wish we could just send Abe and Buck on,” said Horace.
“Yeah, but we need them on the next wagon coming in. It would be nice if we could just use them, then they could ride out there a ways, leave the wagon and come back with the stolen payroll and say they were bushwhacked,” said Edward.
“So far, everyone we’ve come across already has work or they are teamsters with no experience with mules. We should take our chances with Ben and Clint,” suggested Horace.
“They said they were done with hauling freight. Besides, what if they shoot up all our men going after them?” said Horace, as he relieved a scratch on his chin.
“Maybe they were lucky. Maybe they aren’t as good as we think they are. We’re in a dire spot, we can’t afford to be picky in this late hour. For ten thousand dollars, we can afford to hire several more men to go out after them, make sure they get good and shot. I’m worried we won’t find anyone else,” said Edward desperately. “And since we won’t actually be paying them, we can offer them whatever amount they need to make sure they take the haul.”
“I guess you’re right about that. Of course, we still have to find them,” said Horace doubtfully.
“This job will be our biggest heist at ten thousand dollars. We can’t afford to let it slip through our fingers,” said Edwards.
Nodding his head in agreement, Horace said, “let’s keep our eyes out for them. Maybe we can stroll around before it gets too late and too dangerous and see if we can find them.”
“There’s an awful lot of bars here in town. It won’t be easy finding them.”
“What choice do we really have?” asked Wooster shaking his head.
Their conversation went in several different directions as they finished their dinner. They were about to pay their dinner bill when they saw Clint and Ben walk into the Café.
“Hey, look over there. There are the two young gents, we’re talking about. How lucky can we be? This is a good sign.” Horace motioned with his head towards the front of the Café.
Edward waved his hand toward the boys as Ben and Clint were looking their way. He motioned for them to come over. Clint and Ben weren’t tall at about 5 feet and six inches tall, but they had a purposeful stride that got them where they were going fast. They were standing next to Horace and Edwards table quickly.
“We were about to leave when we saw you. We have a business proposition for you men. Would you care to sit down and take your dinner with us and we can see if you’d be interested in what we have to say?”
“We’ll even pay for your meal,” added Horace.
Clint looked at Ben. Ben nodded agreement. Clint said, “we might be interested in hearing what you have to say. But remember, we’re not plannin on stickin around these parts.”
The sun was going down and the restaurant was growing dark. Some of the waitresses and other workers went around lighting candles and coal oil lamps. Soon the pleasant smell of food gave way to the odor of coal oil. Ben and Clint sat down and ordered their big steak dinner. Horace ordered a nice bottle of whiskey. Once Ben and Clint were well under way with their juicy beef steak, Horace brought up the business proposition.
“We just learned today that we have a last minute haul, we need to make day after tomorrow. It’ll be a huge load of lumber to Cedar City.”
Clint gave Ben a questioning look. “Why would you be haulin wood to Cedar City when they are paying top dollar for wood right here in the mining district?” asked Clint.
“The client needing the wood is so desperate for lumber that he is willing to pay higher prices for our lumber than wait for it in Cedar City. We’re not selling the wood, only providing the shipment. That’s all we know. They are willing to pay a bonus if they get the lumber in three days.”
“What are you using, mules or horses?” asked Ben. “Like we said, We don’t generally work with oxen.”
“Horses are faster, but it will be a hard ride so mules would be better in the long run. We’re planning on four spans of mules,” said Horace.
“I don’t know. Mules are strong and tough, but a little slower, twenty miles a day is pushing it,” said Clint. “There are a lot of rises, a mountain or two and few big hills on the way to Cedar City. If we took the job we wouldn’t be interested in pushing the animals that hard.”
“We want the bonus and there is an extra hundred dollars for the both of you in addition to a flat one-hundred dollar wage for each of you. Does that increase your interest any more?”
Clint and Ben had a hard fast rule that they would never put the health of their animals at risk unless they needed to push them for their own personal safety and for no other reason.
“We’ll do the job, but we won’t push the mules that hard. It’s not worth hurting the animals for a little extra money,” said Clint.
Both Horace and Edward raised their eyes in response to that comment. They had never dealt with teamsters this ethical. Of course, they didn’t really care. They were just making it look legitimate.

 

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“We are in a hard place. We don’t have time to find anyone else. I guess we’ll forgo the bonus if you two men will take on the job. It is still a good contract,” said Wooster as he continued to play his role. “They are paying us far more than the lumber is worth, they are desperate for the wood,” said Edward, trying to make the sell.
“We’re your men,” Ben held out his hand as did Clint. They all shook hands to seal the deal.
“We will need you to meet us by the livery stables at the end of town. We’ll have everything ready and your food supplies loaded. We’ll have you on your way as quickly as possible. We need you men there at sun up day after tomorrow.”
“We’ll be there and where do we get paid?”
“The bonus would be paid on delivery. But since that’s not an issue, you’ll need to bring your paperwork back to us for payment,” said Edward.
“We’re only takin this job cause it’s leavin Frisco. We won’t be comin back,” stated Clint.
“We’ll then, I guess we can wire you the money through the telegraph,” said Wooster with a sly grin, knowing that all talk of money and payment was a lie.Chapter Three
The light was dim and the air was filling up with smoke from the miners cigarettes and the coal oil. After they finished their large steak dinner, Clint and Ben found a good poker game. They were sharing a bottle of whiskey. Clint was letting himself get drunk and as a result, lost the last four hands of poker. He decided to quit the game. No one at the table cared if he stayed or left since he wasn’t winning. Clint remained at the table watching Ben play a few rounds.
On the next round Ben played to a straight flush and won fifty-two dollars. In spite of winning with a good hand, he was feeling dark. He was no longer interested in the game.
“I’m gettin tired out, I’ll be seein ya later,” said Ben. He started to scoot his chair back, but was stopped by the angry man to his left.
“Not so fast. You stayed long enough to take our money, now it’s yer turn to stick around long enough fer us to win some of it back.”
Hell-o-mighty man, I jest wanna get drunk. “All right,” he drawled. “I’ll stick around for a few hands, but that’s all,” said Ben with a determined tone.
“That’s better young feller, you sit right back down there and lets all play some poker.”
Just as the dealer was starting to deal the cards a gun shot rang out. It was quickly followed by another. The two gun shots caused a sudden panic in the dimly lit saloon. From he wide spread panic, everything became chaotic. People were pulling their guns or tipping over tables looking around frantically for the source of the sound. As the commotion was starting to even out, Ben got up off the filthy wood floor that was covered with sawdust and put his gun back in his holster. He grabbed his money and put it in his vest pocket. He was scanning the saloon looking for Clint, but he was no where to be found. Ben was starting to be concerned for Clint’s safety. Ben saw a whiskey bottle sitting on the bar explode as he heard another gunshot.
Ben dropped to his hands and knees again. He was growing irritated and concerned. Irritated at the senseless gun fire and concerned for Clint’s safety. Sure be glad to leave this town fer good. He pulled out his gun again, just in case. The chaos was quieting down. By now everybody was on the floor and behind tipped over tables and chairs. Ghostly shadows were on the walls and ceiling as the coal, oil lamps and candle light showed the shadows of people starting to stand and move around. One of the big mirrors was shattered.
The sheriff came in looking for the shooter. “Anyone know who the shooter was?” He yelled out. Amazingly, no one in that crowed saloon spoke out. Violence of all types was so common and many of the residents were so used to it, they tended to look the other way unless someone they knew was being hurt or killed.
After a quick look around the room the sheriff left. No investigation, no real concern. The last sheriff only lasted three weeks and was killed in broad daylight. The murderer was still at large. This new lawman wanted to work long enough to collect a paycheck. He was establishing himself to be an ineffective ornament the town could point to if someone wanted a law dog. He was the only sheriff they could get.
It took a while for Clint and Ben to find each other in the commotion as people were turning the tables upright and getting their games going again. Once they found each other they bought another bottle and left for their hotel room.
Back at the hotel they got themselves comfortable and passed the bottle back and forth. They played a few light hearted games of poker as they worked on getting drunk. Soon Clint fell asleep. After a few minutes he was breathing loudly through his nose with the occasional snort. Ben reflected on his time with Clint and all the experiences that had gone through. They had been deputy sheriffs together. They had been cowboys together and now they were teamsters. Soon they would be ranchers with a big herd of horses and some cattle.
They had lived their past with a purpose and had been saving their money together so they could start a ranch. After all those years they were finally getting ready to do it, to finally start rounding up horses and buying some cattle. In spite of falling into his dark place, he had a glimmer of hope for the first time in a long time. That glimmer of light was soon covered over by the power of the darkness that was consuming him.
Ben glanced around the room. He saw the heat stove. It was empty. These summer days didn’t need any heat. There was a stand with a water basin and a ceramic pitcher filled with water. Wonder if that water is shipped in?
His thoughts were mulling over some of the faces of those he had killed. He hadn’t always got a good look at those he shot, but of those he had seen, he remembered, especially that boy in St. George during the bank robbery. Why don’t it bother Clint bout the killin? He’s done kilt about as many as me, I reckon? Killing bothered both Clint and Ben, but with Ben’s way of thinking, it seemed to bother him more than Clint. It always irritated him that Clint didn’t seem to have a dark place. They shared so many things in common that Ben figured they should share a dark place together. Ben also wondered why he seemed to focus on his first killing more than any others combined.
His thoughts seemed to slow down and the room seemed to suddenly grow dimmer than it already was. Soon his thoughts ran together and made no sense. Then he was out. Now he could forget. Now he was at peace from the horrors of his memories.
Clint woke up long before Ben did. They were having a day off and so Clint felt like he could give Ben a little more time to sleep figuring that he had gotten to bed a lot later than normal. He knew his pard had gotten drunk by the empty bottle that was tucked under Ben’s chest as he slept face first on the mattress.
After Clint had knocked around the room doing every little thing he could, which included cleaning and oiling their guns. He got tired of waiting and started the process of waking Ben up. He jostled him around on the mattress and yelled his name. It was nine in the morning and he figured he wouldn’t be waking up anyone if he yelled Ben’s name. Even though it was a day off, they needed to make that run to dig up their money.
After a few more minutes and some heavy effort Clint got Ben up. Ben wasn’t happy about it, but then Clint reminded him that they needed to go dig up their money so they could leave Frisco once and for all.
They left some of their gear behind in their hotel room and locked the door on the way out. They took with them most of their weapons since they would be traveling back with two-thousand dollars. The dime novels exaggerated the way things were in the so-called wild west. However, Frisco, located in the southwestern part of Utah Territory, was a lawless, rowdy town. Even when they did have a lawma it didn’t amount to much. The current sheriff would barely make himself known and did as little as possible. Frisco was a dime novel town, if there ever really was one.
They knew that leaving some of their gear behind was risky. The lock on the door was solid enough, but the room door was flimsy and could easily be kicked in. They were used to taking risks. Just living in Frisco was a risk.
They were eating ham and eggs for breakfast. The eggs were so runny they daubed it up with bread. They were happy with the ham. It was tender, moist and very tasty. They were making plans to rent a couple of mounts, borrow a couple of spades and ride out behind the town to the place they had chosen to bury their money. They thought it prudent to find a place away from all the mining just in case someone stumbled upon their savings. Prospectors were always finding small mines in the San Francisco mining district. They further away, the better, they thought.

~~~

“How many more mines do you think we can hit a freight wagon before the pressure will be to great?” asked Edward.
“I would have thought we would be long gone by now. In Park City we were only able to hit four payrolls before we had to leave. We’ve hit the Indian Queen and the Imperial mines twice.”
“I wonder what the difference is between Park City and here in Frisco?”
“I’ve wondered about that. I thought after we stole the Golden Reef payroll last week the heat would have increased. It must be the no account law dog. Tarnation, I love that man,” said Horace.
Laughing along with Horace, Edward said, “in our line of work, who would have ever thought we’d love a lawman?”
“That’s got to be it. That do-nothing sheriff is a thieves best friend.”
“Even though this lawman is as dumb as a post, the mine owners are not going to stand for all this looting of the payrolls. Someone, sooner or later is going to demand something be done, then they’ll look elsewhere for a lawman, maybe even send for some Pinkerton boys. That will put pressure on us since it’s our freight wagons that are supposedly being hit on their return trips.”
“I think I might have the makings of an idea,” said Horace. “We call in a sheriff from Beaver or Milford and ask for help. Then we look like we’re more concerned than the mine owners. They won’t look at us as hard if any, real investigation happens because we are the ones that called them in.”
“I’m not so sure I like that idea, calling the law to investigate us. We’re the ones doing all the robbing,” said Edward.
“That’s the point. If we call in some legal help we’ll look innocent. Also, we can control the story. The sheriff or detectives that investigate will only know what we tell them. We’ll send them on a wild goose chase, they won’t be able to find anything and no one will suspect us in a million years.”
“Hmm. I think that maybe I like that idea. In fact, after we have Luke, Barney and Sid kill Clint and Ben, and return with the money we go to Milford and request the sheriff do something since he’s the county sheriff. We lay low for a few weeks and when they stop investigating the robberies we hit a couple of the biggest mines.”
“Good idea.”

~~~
Frisco had a clap board bank. To try and create more confidence in the bank the owners kept it well painted, but it didn’t improve the lack of trust in the bank. The fact that Frisco was so lawless was one the main reasons that so few miners trusted it to keep their money safe.
Ben and Clint felt the same way. They didn’t trust the bank. Ironically, in the midst of all the lawlessness, the bank had never been robbed.
With the late start, Clint and Ben pushed their horses and traveled half way in a gallop. Near the half way mark they gave their horses a break. They dismounted and walked a spell. The sky was a vivid blue with not a single cloud. They could smell the kilns as they slow burn the fresh batch of wood. As they were walking, they started talking.
“I’ve been thinkin a bit about our ranch. I think it would be wise to cover all aspects of the horse trade. I reckon what I’m sayin is that we should add draft horses to our stock. We can raise good cattle, horses, draft horses, and maybe even a few race horses,” said Ben.
“That’s good thinkin. If a farmer came to buy some draft horses and they see we sell all kinds, then the next year he comes back for a quarter horse or a cattle horse,” yeah, I like that idea,” responded Clint with a smile.
They went on to talk about draft horses and they also discussed getting a good start from the wild horse herds in the west desert.
“I swear, all this talking about horses makes me want to dig up that money and just keep on goin, get started on our horse and cattle ranch. Maybe we could go lighter on cattle and heavier on horses. There is still a lot of good wild horse herds in the territory. We could also look into gettin some Mustangs from eastern Nevada. I’ve heard that over in Nevada they have lots of wild horses. If we don’t find what we want in the west desert we could just keep on goin into Nevada till we get all we want,” said Clint.
They had been walking at least a mile and decided to mount up. They gave their horses all the rein they wanted. They noticed that the trail has been more worn since the last time they made the trip. There were even some wagon ruts worn into the road which meant it was more well traveled than it used to be. That was a concern. Wagon traffic might mean that miners could be moving into the area. The last thing they wanted was to have miners around their buried money.Chapter Four
Clint and Ben rode the river together for more than ten years. They met ten years ago. Ben’s family had been killed by renegade Indians and their cabin had been burned. Ben had been alone for several weeks as he made his way from his pa’s farm in southern Utah, on the border of Arizona. The farm was about forty-five miles east of Kanab. Ben traveled west, on his own two feet, until he ran into Clint Leeds who brought him home to his family. After a few years, Clint and Ben lit out on their own. Their first job was working as deputy sheriffs in St. George, Utah territory.
Ben was still bothered by the loss of his family, but because Clint and his family had taken him into their home and treated him as one of their own, he managed to survive and even thrive. He and Clint were inseparable.
As they were coming up a gentle rise in the landscape Clint said, “I thought we had picked a good spot to bury our money, but all these wagon ruts on the trail mean people are making their way out here.” Clint was nervous.
“Well, at least we don’t have to worry bout it anymore. Once we dig up our savin’s and get out of here, they can mine the devil out of these here rocks for all I care,” said Ben urgently.
“I hope there’s no one over the rise,” added Clint warily.
It was over the rise where they had buried their money. At the time they chose the location for their life savings they thought it was a good place. Easy to find if you knew where to look. Far enough out that no miners would chance upon it. There wasn’t a mine within ten miles of it. They never expected to find a lot of traffic in the area, much less wagon ruts.
They got to the top of the rise and looked down into a large dish like depression. It was mostly barren with scattered sage and juniper and a stream trickled through. In the spring and early summer the stream ran high. It was early summer, but the river was already running low.
They reined in their horses and walked around the ridge until they came to the natural trail leading into the deep depression. They worked their horses slowly down the trail. There was still that one pinyon pine near the riverbank holding on to life. The blue sky was void of any clouds. The heat was relentless.
They had only visited the secret depression three times, once to bury their money and two more times to add to their loot. It had been about four months since their last visit.
They didn’t have a map where they dug their hole, they had simple coordinates. Eleven steps from the bank of the stream and horizontally even with the nearby large boulder. After a long drink of water they had unsaddled and unpacked their horses and were ready to dig.
As they started to dig Ben asked Clint, “how long’s it been since Charlotte wrote us a letter? I wonder if she’s still sweet on that feller of hers?”
After thinking for a few moments, Clint replied, “reckon it’s been three months since we last heard from her. That’s the second time you’ve brought her up this month. Are you sweet on her?”
“She’s my sister, I ain’t sweet on her,” said Ben emphatically.
“Well, you ain’t related to her by blood, . . . You know, you could marry her by law if you had a mind to.”
Shaking his head firmly, Ben said, “no, not a chance. She feels as much like my sister as Camille does.”
“Aw shucks, don’t be that way. Marry my sister and we’d be brothers-in-law to each other. That would be right nice.”
“I swear,” said Ben. “I always thought of us as brothers, shoot, more than brothers. Don’t know of nothin better than bein closer than brothers, but if they was, that would be us.”
“Yer right about that. Reckon there ain’t no word to describe us. Friend? Sure. Brother? Dang right. But there’s more to it than that.”
“Sure ain’t no one better to ride the river with than each other,” suggested Ben with a grin.
Soon Clint’s spade hit the board that was resting on top of the of the heavy leather bag of money. They cleared the board, lifted it up and pulled out a bulging leather bag they had hid their life savings in. They climbed out of the hole, dusted off the sack and opened it up. There it was, over two thousand dollars of mostly gold and silver coins along with three billfolds of green backs. Most of the money was in the form of double eagles, half eagles, eagles and a lot of silver dollars.
They took a moment to pause and rest, wiping the sweat of their faces and talking a long couple of swallows from their canteens. “I’m sure looking forward to the day we can find a good, trustworthy bank to keep this money in,” said Ben hopefully.
“It won’t matter much since we’ll be shed of most of it by the end of the year.”
“Wadda ya mean by that?”
“By then we’ll have put most of that money into horses, cattle, land, a cabin and a barn at least. That’ll take most of our money,” said Clint. Always the planner.
“Yer right about that I reckon,” said Ben jovially.
Just then, there was a faint noise that caused Clint to look up at the direction of the disturbance. “Ben, looky up yonder there . . . Behind you. . . Don’t turn around fast, easy like,” said Clint with an urgent tone of concern. The sound was growing louder and then became recognizable as the clopping of horse hooves on the ground. Ben stood up looking like he was taking a good long stretch and in the process glanced over his shoulder. There he saw on the horizon five horsemen coming their way. “Where did they come from?” asked Ben.
“I dunno. Let’s get our horses saddled up pronto. Let’s hide the money in the saddle bags as fast as we can,” said Clint urgently.
In the San Francisco mining district, there were numerous mines which meant there was a lot of silver traveling on horseback and a lot of gold and other minerals. There were many private mines and several company mines. Desperado’s could get rich by dry-gulching miners and teamsters.
“Maybe we can outrun them,” said Ben hopefully. “Ain’t in the mood to kill nobody today.”
“Think there robbers?” asked Clint, afraid he knew Bens answer.
“Can’t say fer sure,” said Ben. “My gut feelin says they likely are. Hurry up.”
“Yeah, better safe than sorry. This kinda money, I don’t want to take no chances,” said Clint as he finished stuffing the money in the saddle bags.
By the time the horses were saddled up and their saddle bags secured the horsemen had advanced to within shouting distance. They also noticed that in their haste they had left a few unimportant things scattered over the nearby ground.
“Hello the camp!” came a loud voice.
“Howdy!” replied Ben.
“Mind if we come in?”
“Come on in. Where just fixin ta leave,” said Ben loudly. They each realized that their gun belts were still hanging from their saddle horns. They each fluidly stepped behind their horses and swiftly put on their gun belts. They unhooked the leather loops around their gun hammer. In Ben’s case, his two shotgun holster rig was on his side. Clint’s was on the far side of his horse. They were trying to prepare themselves without alarming the fast approaching horsemen in case they were thieves. They weren’t afraid of the approaching men. They were afraid of a gunfight where they would end up killing those five men. They always tried to avoid trouble because they didn’t like to kill. It looked like this time they wouldn’t have much of a choice.
Normally, when someone announced themselves before coming into camp you could count on them being friendly, but this was mining country and they had more than two thousand dollars to protect. It was their life savings. As the five horsemen continued toward their camp, they noticed they were spreading out in a half circle. They had the look that was familiar to Clint and Ben, the look of outlaws. They could see their faces as the riders came closer. They had the look of hard cases. Untrustworthy men if they had to make a quick judgement, which they did.
Ben drew out both of his double barreled Parkers and handed Clint one. They both pulled back a hammer, just in case. Clint and Ben instinctively began studying the situation. The man in the middle was doing the talking. There were two rough customers on either side. This meant that if worse came to worse, Clint and Ben would have to face off against two men each with one wildcard of a man in the middle. They had decided to face the men rather than run. Either choice was risky, but staying gave them a sight more control over the situation.
“Welcome to our camp. We’re just fixin to ride on out,” said Clint.
“Looks like you been doing a little diggin there, find any gold or silver?”
Trying to appear both tough and casual, Clint said, “I guess we wouldn’t want to tell you if we did,” he smiled.
“True enough. Mind if we dismount and help ourselves and our horses to the stream?”
“Help yourselves’s, the water’s cold.”
“Looks like you two are in a mighty big hurry. You’ve left a few things behind,” said the man in the middle as he dismounted.
“I reckon that’s a might sloppy of us,” said Clint. He made no effort to retrieve the items. The unwelcome strangers seemed to notice.
Clint and Ben had been in many gunfights since the first one in St. George five years ago. They knew how each others thoughts and were able to work that to their advantage. They had been forced to kill several men and wound many others, but they had never suffered a single scratch in any of their fights. They were happy to get the men off their horses, putting them on even footing. This would be better if push came to shove.
Clint and Ben both sensed serious trouble, but they genuinely hoped that there would be no confrontation. They didn’t want to just jump on their horses and dart off, forcing the outlaws hands. Maybe they could resolve this peacefully which was always best.
“Looks like you gents have been diggin fer gold or silver or whatever they got around here. How come ya ain’t been pannin with a stream right here?”
“We ain’t miners. It’s our day off from haulin freight. Thought we’d come out and try our luck fer a few hours. Didn’t find nothin, but a few blisters,” said Clint a little to sternly.
“Yer sure welcome to our camp and our hole if you’ve a mind to. We gotta be gettin back ta Frisco,” said Ben as friendly as he could muster.
They both started to mount their horses when the boss man made a sign and the other four thieves drew their pistols. “I reckon not. You’ll not be leaving just yet. Why poke around the dirt? We’re not miners either. We can just take what you have.”
“I guess you could do just that, but ask yourself if it is worth it? We’ll not be lettin you take what’s ours. We’ll die protectin it. One or two of you might jest live, but with these ten gauge Parkers in our hands at least three of ya will go down with us. Are you ready for that?” asked Clint with a haunting tone.
As the robbers looked at Clint and Ben, they noticed that both Parkers had one hammer back. They knew what a sawed off shotgun could do and they were at the perfect range for maximum damage. They also realized they had to pull their guns, cock them, aim and then pull the trigger. The two with the scatter guns were already cocked and were already in their hands. They didn’t really have to aim as close as they were. The two men with shotguns already had the advantage of first blood. Even if they weren’t killed, they’d likely all be injured which would affect their shooting.
There was a silent span of time pass between them where the boss was eyeing Clint. Clint was returning the stare without flinching. All that remained to start the gun fight was for either side to flinch. After that, the devil would open his grave and all hell would break loose.
Knowing what his men were likely thinking, the boss man, the man in the middle wanted to motivate his boys or at least keep them from retreating. He said, “I dunno boys, they’re all sure-fired ready to protect what they got. Must be pretty valuable to risk their lives fer. I say we take a chance and see for ourselves. Ready boys? Fire!” The metallic sound of cocking guns broke the stillness in the air, but before all the triggers could be pulled, a giant roar filled the air with the sound of two ten gauges echoing in the depression. As soon as they saw two men fall to the earth, Clint and Ben thumbed the second hammer of their Parkers and they fired again. They couldn’t hear above the resulting gunfire if anyone else was hit. They couldn’t see past the thick cloud of gun smoke if anyone else fell. Everyone stopped shooting because there was no where to point their guns. No one could see more than a foot or two in front of them. Clint and Ben stepped back a few feet and got on the ground with their six-guns in their hands waiting for the smoke to clear enough to see. Being on the ground gave them an advantage because the smoke would rise as it thinned out.
Through the smoke filled air the sound of men moaning could be heard. How many men were moaning? No one knew. Soon, the clouds of gun smoke started to thin out. In the hazy air Clint and Ben looked for a man to shoot. Clint saw a shadow of a target moving away from the fight. He aimed and squeezed the trigger of his Colt .45. The roar from his gun created a volley of shots that were triggered out of fear. The air was filled again with the acrid smell of gun smoke.
Ben hadn’t fired in that last volley, but Clint had fired one shot so he popped the shell out and put in a fresh round.
“I know that at least three of you are down. If anyone is alive, tell us now and throw down yer guns, else we’ll shoot you dead when the smoke clears,” shouted Clint.
There was no reply. They both knew the odds of having shot all five were slim. They were on edge as they tried to see through the slowly dissipating smoke. The only sounds came from the horses as they nickered. Remarkably, none of the horses ran off during the gunfight.
As the cloud of smoke grew thinner, Clint and Ben grew more tense. The sense that it wasn’t over, filled them with dread. They were alert. They could only see three men stretched out on the ground. One man was rolling back and forth on the ground with both hands holding his neck. They couldn’t account for the two other men through the gun smoke. They looked at the horses counting five. They then heard a noise of boots scraping against the ground. The sound came from just behind the edge of the earth that sloped down to the stream. One of the polecats had managed to slide down the bank into the stream. Then they saw a man’s hat bobbing up and down below the embankment. They heard a voice, “I surrender, don’t shoot.”
“Throw your guns toward us,” said Clint. They both saw a gun come up and over the berm. Now there was only one man unaccounted for. Ben slowly worked his way around to their flank near the stream. Put your hands up and come on out,” shouted Clint.
They saw a hand rise up and they heard the man say, “My arm is shot up, can’t lift it, but I’m comin on up, don’t shoot.”
“Hurry up and come on out,” said Clint.
The man started to stand with his left hand raised and his right arm held against his chest. He was at an angle where Clint couldn’t see he had a revolver in his hand, but Ben could see that he had a gun and so took aim with his Peacemaker and squeezed the trigger. While hearing the roar of the gun fire they could see blood spurt from the man’s chest. He was pushed sideways before dropping to the ground. Astonished, Clint looked at Ben.
“He had a gun in his hand,” said Ben matter of factly. Clint nodded appreciation. Soon the smoke was clear enough for them to see another man down, which meant that all five were dead or dying. They looked around to find four of the outlaws dead. The only desperado that wasn’t dead was writhing in agony as he held his bloody throat. Clint and Ben were standing next to the dying man staring at him. They didn’t know what to do. There was more blood around the man’s neck and head than they had ever seen before.
As Ben was looking at the dying outlaw the expression on his face started to change. He wasn’t getting sick because of the grisly sight, he was growing in anger at that man and the other four men. Finally, Ben erupted into a rage and yelled, “Damn-it-all-to-hell! You white-livered puke! Why did you men draw on us? Why did you try to rob us? Why did you make us kill you? Why?” Ben screamed so hard his throat ran dry and he started coughing. He tried to kick the dying man in his rage, but he didn’t have stable footing. As he began to fall, Clint grabbed him and helped him stay on his feet. Soon the anger started to die as did the man bleeding from his throat.

 

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