Chapter 23, Set the Stage
Col. Ben Hill, Sr. stood in the middle of his men, it was time to set in motion the plan to end the outside opposition to his efforts to claim this territory for himself. Once he took enough of the land in these parts he could control the town and all commerce coming through. Ultimately leading to his gaining the political power he needed to control a portion of the territorial government. Then he would shoot for the governorship himself. Looking around for a second at the faces of the men surrounding him, waiting for his orders he was reminded of leading men into battle, some of these selfsame men. He cleared his throat and began, “All right boys, this is it. Jimmy says,” nodding towards the man on watch who had recently entered the saloon after Donni and Luke passed, “that two of them Holts just strolled by here headed for the south of town. You all know that the Perkins’ got the sharp end of the stick today by the Holts and the Rangers… so we’re going to settle matters our way. Here and Now. Strike quick before they have a chance to get reinforcements. We have the numbers to make this a quick end to the enemy. Then we get back to taking the ranches we need to keep the peace in this area. Whitey, you take six men and go after the two that headed to the south,” he motioned south. “I want this over quick and with a show of strength so that no one will think twice about coming at us again. Buck, you take the rest and head up to the saloon. Don’t start nothing inside of the saloon… just wait for them to come out then cut’em down. I figure they will all rush out when they hear Whitey take care of the two out south. If they don’t then you will have to call them out.”
His foreman, Buck Trent, quickly split the group and they disappeared in the shadows towards the opposite ends of town. Col Hill watched Buck go with his group of men. Buck was a good soldier and could lead the men. He could manage the platoon and would follow his orders. Buck had been with him since the start of the war. Once the shooting started he was sure the rest of them in the saloon would rush out to see what was happening. With luck the other Holts and the Rangers were all in the saloon and they would cut them down before they knew what hit them.
A skinny narrow faced man leaned against the post, eyeing Ben Hill almost insolently. He had a fancy double holster, tied down with pearl handled revolvers. A stocky good-looking boy that resembled the Colonel a great deal was standing beside him. He was also wearing a tied down gun. Ben Hill’s son stepped up to his father, “What about me, paw?”
Ben Hill smiled at his son and clapped him on the shoulder, “You stay with me, boy. Let these men do what I pay them for.”
His son shuffled his boots, “But, pa…,”
The narrow faced man laughed raucously, “I think what your pa is trying to tell you, Benny boy, is don’t get your hands dirty. This ain’t gonna be a stand up gunfight.”
Ben Hill, Sr. scowled at the man, “Watch your mouth, Clayton. War is never a stand up gunfight. Besides Buck knows what to do and how to get the job done. Let’s go have a drink.” Clayton shrugged and stood straight. He was Ben Hill’s hired killer. There for when there needed to be a one-on-one gunfight. When war was not the goal. He was good and he knew it. It didn’t matter that he was only eighteen. He had already out drawn and killed his fair share of men, making he name and reputation. He turned and went back inside following the Hills.
Down by the saloon, with the Holts in it, Buck positioned his men. First he put two men with Winchesters across the street on a balcony. Another with a longgun climbed up on the roof above the balcony. He put a man with a scattergun by the horses, just out of sight in the shadows.
“Hank, you and Tom go inside,” he said to two of his better gunhands, “and get yourselves a drink. Keep’em from getting back into the bar once they run out. I’ll send Rob and Thorne in through the back to help you.” He turned to Rob and Thorne. “Wait until the shooting starts then come in through the back of the bar. If any of’em duck back inside, you help Tom and Hank,” he whispered harshly. “Once no one is coming back in take position at the windows and doors and cut down any of them that you see still opposing us. If there are any still alive.”
The four took off to do as they were told. He stepped back into the alleyway beside the saloon with the last three of his eleven men. They drew their pistols and waited for Whitey to make his move.
“What if the rangers is with’em?” one of his men asked worriedly.
Buck Trent shrugged and spit, “Ben said cut’em down, didn’t he? I hope they are. We get this done now. I just hope that asshole Donni Holt gets out here quick so that I can kill him myself.”
The man shifted uncomfortably, “I don’t want no trouble with Rangers, Buck!”
Trent frowned at him then cocked his pistol and shoved it into his stomach, “You listen to me, ya yellow-bellied bastard! We do like Col. Ben Hill says, ya hear. They is the enemy. Now shut your yap.”
Trent turned away with a quiet curse and waited. He’d been with the Colonel in the war, as his sergeant, and he knew that the old man knew what he was doing. This was a good tactical plan. These men weren’t all soldiers. Many of them were just cowhands looking to make a little more money than they could punching cows. They knew what side they were on though, money. He felt a calm come over him as he waited in the shadows with the feel of his pistol in his hand. The calm before killing. He grinned savagely as he recalled his previous meeting with the Holts. This was going to be a real sweet pleasure. He was so looking forward to killing Donni Holt. He just hoped that he was the one that got to pull the trigger.
They tensed as a group of four men rode up. One dismounted and pointed at the horses tied up out front. “That’s Kelvin’s horse and that’s Donni’s.” The men tied their horses off and went inside.
“Who the hell was that?” one of Trent’s men spoke up.
Trent shrugged, “Don’t know, light wasn’t very good. It don’t matter none. If they’re with the Holts, they get the same treatment. Go spread the word to the rest of our men outside and come back quick.”