Chapter 24, Old Friends
“Holy crap about time you guys got here.” exploded from Kelvin’s lips.
“Watch your language Kelvin,” Carlton said, “but true you are. Where have you guys been?”
Inside there was a brief reunion as Joe Stokes, Dan Greene, Pierre LaForte and Sam “Bear” Weaver pulled up chairs and helped themselves to Carlton’s whiskey bottle. Dan explained how they’d gotten hooked up with Perkins’ bunch. They were taking their time traveling the back country coming up from Tombstone and ran into some men heading towards Perkins’ ranch. Word had been sent out that Perkins was hiring so the four had tagged along. Figured it was easy work and eventually they would make it to town to catch up with the Holts. Finally they laughed over their sudden “flight” from the gunfight at the river.
“Yeah, Perkins’ boys was none too pleased at the way we hightailed it out of there. None of us getting hurt.” Dan chuckled, “We just told them that we didn’t sign on to mess with Rangers. Besides the way you boys ambushed us there wasn’t much they could say. They were figuring there was about five guys on the hill. We didn’t bother telling them different or going back to the ranch… we wouldn’t have been paid for anything anyway.”
“So of the twelve that rode out this morning only four went back?” Carlton queried.
“Yep, and the last one you shot probably died on the way back. I doubt that Perkins’ men will be doing anymore raiding in the area.” Joe Stokes replied.
Kelvin fanned his deck. “Feel like a game, Dan?” he asked with a grin. Greene took another drink of whiskey, “Just as soon as I get my throat unparched I’ll teach you a thing or two about card playing!”
“Where’s Donni and Luke?” Sam asked wiping at his bushey black beard. He had drank most of the whiskey so far and waved for the bartender to bring a round of beers.
“Taking a walk,” Carlton said, “In the morning the rangers and the lawmen are going to get up a group of deputies. Then we are going to see about settling this range war before it gets out of hand. We will get you guys deputized along with the rest at that time.”
“Maybe Carlton, I don’t want to fight no lawman but I am not sure I ever figured on wearing a star.” Joe replied and both Pierre and Sam were shaking their heads in agreement. “Just makes you more of a target, and a government man. I don’t have the stomach for being a government man. Had enough of that already. We will always ride with you boys though, so no problem with riding along and supporting.” It was obvious he was speaking for himself and Pierre.
“There might be an angle that would be good to keep you guys from being deputies. Let me think about it some and talk to the Rangers in the morning,” Carlton replied.
“Don’t bother me none either way,” Dan commented then looked around, “Anyone else interested in a little card game?” he asked loudly to the bar in general. All but Kelvin at the table shook their heads immediately. The bartender ignored him and kept wiping his glasses. Two rough-looking cowhands at the bar, one with a fancy gun rig, who’d walked in before their arrival looked startled. They looked at each other, then the one with the fancy gun shook his head. The younger barmaid smiled at Dan and trailed over. If he didn’t get a game going maybe he would want to indulge in another activity with his stake. The only other occupants of the saloon were a drummer contentedly eating his meal at another table, who shook his head at Dan, and two locals in nice clothes, probably shop owners, having an early evening drink.
When there was no response Dan turned back to Kelvin, “Guess it’s too early for the high-rollers.”
“Nah, I already cleaned most of them out,” Kelvin replied.
“Good then you will have some cash for me to take. Deal,” Dan said.
Donni and Luke stopped in front of the church at the edge of town, buildings stretched out on either side of it and a small cemetery was in front of them.. Luke dropped his cigarette and ground it out with his boot heel. He looked at the church, “You ever been religious, Donni?” he asked half serious.
Donni glanced at the church and shrugged, uncomfortably,” If you mean do I believe in being a Mormon… no. I believe in God.” He replied as he started walking past the cemetery.
Luke laughed, “You sure don’t act like it.”
Donni grinned, “No, I guess I don’t. But then I haven’t read the Bible and the Book of Mormon like Carlton. You wanna talk about God, talk to him. You should have seen the way he argued with some traveling preacher back in the Dakota Territory. He had the poor man so confused that he didn’t know what to say. Carlton’s like that. He sure can confuse a man with his words.” Donni chuckled over the memory and tossed his cigarette away. He noticed three men walking towards them, from back the way they had come. He frowned, remembering what Carlton had said about watching his back. He loosened his pistols in their holsters and continued walking around the cemetery, away from the men, circling back into town and towards the street running behind the church, “Let’s get moving, Luke,” he said, glancing over his shoulder to keep them in sight and stepping a little faster, “I think that we’re being followed.”
Luke followed suit and then swore softly as the men quickened their pace. The two Holts headed for the deeper shadows by the buildings on the other side of the church.
“How many are there?” Luke asked turning down an alley.
“I saw three,” Donni said and pulled a pistol, cocking it. He spun and stepped back into the shadows of the doorway of the building that Luke was next too. Luke crouched behind a barrel in the narrow alley. He drew back the hammer on his pistol and waited. A figure stepped around the corner of the building, in the street, and started looking around.
“You see’em, Whitey?” another figure appeared and whispered, holding a shotgun. The fact that the man was whispering and had a shotgun out was enough to even make Donni Holt suspicious. He aimed carefully in the dim light.