Chapter 12… Jail
They hurried down the street towards the sheriff’s office. Nothing appeared to be amiss this early. That was good. Out front of the office were three horses tied to the hitching post. When they arrived Carlton held Luke back and paused to get a quick look at the horses. Luke saw that Carlton had a slight smile on his face as he opened the door and walked in.
Sheriff Morgan was seated at his desk talking with three men. They all had travel-worn clothing on, even though they looked fresh and well rested this early, and of course well-worn holsters. Men familiar with the use of their weapons and not shy in that use, Lawmen. Morgan stood and the three turned to face Carlton and Luke. Each one was wearing a small tarnished star with the legend, Arizona Rangers, engraved on it.
Luke looked at them with awe, “Hey, Cousin Carlton, those are Arizona Rangers!”
Carlton grimaced at him, “Shut up, Luke.”
One of the men, a handsome blond with a large handlebar mustache, broke into a grin, “Well Carlton Holt! You good for nothin’ horse thief! How long’s it been… since the Oklahoma territory? Back in ’67 wasn’t it?”
Carlton slapped him on the arm and smiled, “Sure was. Now that was quite a mess wasn’t it?” Carlton’s plans for the day were changing rapidly. It was always good to have old friends in town and this Arizona Ranger, Jed Thornton, was certainly that. Friends to both he and Donni. A man who got things done when they needed to be done. A man who could be trusted to do the right thing, no matter the situation, and as a territory ranger one that could be lawman, jailer, judge, and executioner if necessary.
The ranger turned to the sheriff and other rangers grinning, “Me and Carlton did some riding together back in the O K Territory. Those were the bad ol’ days.” The other two rangers looked interested, they knew what “riding together” meant. He turned back to Carlton, “That crazy brother of yours still riding with you?… hell, he was a wild one! One of the best damn shots I ever saw.”
The sheriff looked uncomfortable. Carlton grinned, “Yeah, Donni is still with me. He’s residing in Sheriff Morgan’s jail right now though.”
Jed Thornton grinned, “That sounds like Donni. What’d he do… kiss the mayor’s daughter?”
Carlton shook his head, “Not this time… there was a gunfight.”
Thornton smirked, “There was a girl involved though, right?”
Carlton nodded, “It was a fair fight. There were plenty of witnesses.”
Thornton shook his head, “Lemme guess… one in the chest and one in the head.” Morgan’s eyes got wide for a second. Thornton slapped his fellow rangers on the arms, “If you ever come across dead men with holes in their chests and heads… that’s Donni Holt’s work. Man’s a damn fine shot, but if he is going to shoot a man he want to make sure they never come looking to even up the score. Can’t say as I blame him. I should have learned that lesson myself a time or two.” Thornton’s hand unconsciously wandered down to his hip and rubbed a spot that bothered him after long rides.
He introduced his two friends, “Carlton… this here’s Don Mathers and this is Jim Wainwright. We’ve been riding this part of Arizona for the last year or so.” Carlton shook their hands, hard men, lawmen, then introduced Luke.
Jed Thornton shook his hand, “Well, another Holt. How many of ya are there, Carlton?”
“Well, I’m looking for Kelvin. He’s another brother riding with us, younger than Donni. Sheriff?”
The men in the office turned and focused on Sheriff Morgan who cleared his throat, “He’s in the cell with Donni. Tried to break him out last night.”
Carlton shook his head and gave Jed Thornton a pained look, “I figured something like that. Thank you for keeping them safe sheriff.”
Jed laughed, “Are you sure he was tryin’, sheriff?”
Morgan looked angry and a flash of the derringer laying on his desk added to the indignity, “You gents might find this amusin’ but I don’t find it very funny at all. Killing a man, jail breaking, are not things we put up with here.”
Carlton spoke up, “Sheriff, my brothers aren’t criminals. I’m sure that there’s a very good reason… at least in their minds… for what happened. They don’t always think all their actions through, but they are not criminals.”
“Sheriff Morgan, I can speak for Carlton and Donni. I’ve ridden with’em before. They’re good men. As for Donni shoot’n someone… he’s never shot anyone in an unfair fight… at least as far as we could prove,” he winked at Carlton.
Jed’s casual attitude about Donni shooting men was not lost on anyone in the room and Morgan’s face hardened. It just confirmed to the sheriff that these men were killers with little respect for life, even if they stood on the side of the law. Perhaps they were men that were needed in these days and times, but times were changing with the coming of the law. Even if they were part of the law, “We’ll let the judge decide that. We have more pressing matters to attend to anyways. As I was saying before they arrived, I’m glad that you boys are here. This range war’s shapin’ up to be bad. I’ve got several large spreads squarin’ off against each other over water rights. The Marshall went out yesterday riding the spreads, to try and get a feel for them. I don’t expect him back for a day at least. With you Rangers in town I hope it will calm things down and we don’t need hired guns, roaming the streets, killing citizens, even if they say they are here to help us. We don’t need any of them in town to tell the truth,” he finished, giving Carlton and Luke a hard look.
Carlton looked angry for the first time, “We’re not hired guns, sheriff. We pick our jobs carefully and try very hard to stay on the right side. Even if that means we have to switch sides should we be in the wrong. Our loyalties are not to the pay.”
Jed placing his hand on Carlton’s arm said softly to the sheriff, “I think you’re being a little harsh, sheriff. These boys have been deputized before… hell, that trouble I was tellin’ you about in the Oklahoma territory involved some outlaws. Carlton and Donni was made legal deputies by U.S. Marshall Jack Higgins until we got it settled. They’ve worn stars before. If Carlton says it was a fair fight, I am sure it was.”
Morgan slammed his hand down on his desk, “I don’t give a good damn what they’ve been or where they did it. They’re just troublemakers in my town! You rangers are here to help… so you do your job and let me do mine.”
Jed gave Carlton a sympathetic look and shrugged. Carlton asked, “Can I speak to Kelvin and Donni now?” Morgan looked as if he was about to refuse until he caught the look in the rangers’ eyes. He nodded, walked over opening the door to the back, and proceeded them to the cell. Carlton followed with Luke trailing along behind. Donni and Kelvin were still sleeping on the bunk.
Morgan rattled the cell door until they sleepily rolled over and looked up. “Someone’s here to see you boys.”
Kelvin jumped up and staggered to the door,” Carlton… am I glad to see you! The sheriff thinks that I was breakin’ Donni out last night! You got to tell him I wasn’t and get me outta here.”
Donni lifted his hat, “Mornin’ Carlton, Luke… sheriff,” he finished with a touch of disdain in his voice. Damn it Donni keep quiet was all Carlton could think.
Carlton looked at Kelvin and slowly smiled, “Were you breakin’ Donni out?”
Kelvin looked hurt, “No! He was just going to go visit that girl and I was going to stay here… you know, take his place… until he came back. He promised he would come back, so I didn’t think it would hurt.”
Carlton frowned at Donni, “That’s right, you didn’t think. You know better Donni. You got your little brother stuck in a jail cell.”
Kelvin glared at Donni, “That’s what I told him.”
Jed Thornton stepped into the back room and looked in. Kelvin’s eyes widened a little when he saw the star on his chest, “Donni Holt… just like old times. Me on the outside and you starin’ through bars.”
Donni rolled off his bed and sat up, “Jed Thornton! What the hell are you doing here?” Jed stuck his hand through the bars and Donni shook it. They laughed as they looked each other over. “You come to get me out?” Donni asked hopefully.
Jed laughed at him,”Nope. I come to hang ya!”
Donni grinned, “I’ll bet. Just some little gunfight and they get all bent out of shape… hell, he drew first and everything. ‘Sides, a man that ugly shouldn’t be talkin’ to normal folk.”
Jed shook his head, “Same old Donni. I don’t think you’re going to die an old man. It’s good to see ya.” Jed tapped the sheriff on the shoulder, nodded towards the office, and then walked that way, the sheriff followed.
Carlton lowered his voice, “You guys gotta settle down. You’re making this tough on me. Now you just stay in there and behave yourselves and I’ll have you out as soon as I can.”
Donni nodded and looked contrite, “Sorry, Carlton… but he would’ve shot me. Honest.”
Carlton smiled at him, “I am sure he would have Donni, and I’m sure that you didn’t do anything to provoke it.”
Donni grinned, “Not too much.”
Carlton looked at Kelvin, “I thought I taught you better than to listen to Donni’s crazy ideas, little brother. A little time in jail will make you think twice before you listen to him again.”
Kelvin grinned and looked at Donni, “Probably not,” all was going to be well. Carlton was going to get them out of jail.
Carlton walked away and towards the office, mumbling something that neither of them could hear.
Luke stepped up to the bars, “Hi Cousins. You two enjoying yourselves. I think I’ll mosey on over to the saloon and have a couple shots of whiskey later this afternoon.” Donni just grinned and laid back down. Kelvin glowered at Luke.