The Holts… Chapter 30 (End)

Chapter 30, Reunion

Click here for Chapter 29

    Kelvin and Dan paused as they heard boots on the boardwalk outside. Each immediately picked up their pistols that they had out and sitting next to them. Dan checked his rifle, making sure it was in easy reach, and waited. The swinging door pushed open slowly by the barrel of a pistol, they aimed and waited until they saw Carlton looking around inside then ease on in to the saloon. He uncocked and holstered his pistol as he spotted the two in the balcony. Luke and Donni followed him inside.

    Kelvin dropped his pistol, jumped to his feet and yelled, “Donni!”, as he came running down the stairs, “You’re alive!”

   Carlton looked at Donni and smiled, “No. You couldn’t tell you two were brothers.” As he moved in behind the bar looking for any intact glass and something to drink.

    Donni winced as Kelvin slapped him on the shoulder. Kelvin stopped when he saw the blood on his hand, “You got shot!”

    Donni snarled, “You and fucking Luke can both go to hell!”

    Kelvin frowned then turned to Carlton, “Are you saying I’m stupid?” he asked.

    Carlton was pouring a whiskey, “If the boot fits…,” Donni laughed at Carlton’s quip.

    Kelvin gave them a sour look, “Well, Dan says that I’m almost as stupid as you are Donni!”

    Carlton sipped his whiskey, “That’s the pot calling the kettle black.”

    Dan leaned over the balcony, “I heard that, Carlton!”

    Carlton raised his glass, “Sorry Dan. Just stating the obvious.”

    Dan looked perplexed, “What’s that mean?”

    Donni grinned, “He means you’re stupid.”

    Dan looked satisfied, “Oh. Okay, no dispute. Hey `Nevada’, bring me up some more whiskey.  I am almost numb enough to try and get down from up here.”

    “Nevada?”, both Donni and Luke questioned at the same time.  Kelvin looked embarrassed and poured whiskey in another glass that Carlton had lined up on the bar.

    “I’ll tell ya later,” Dan yelled down from above.

    Donni looked down at the bodies, noting that three of them were his friends, “Shit! They’re dead!”

    Kelvin agreed, “Yeah they are.”

    Carlton looked at his brothers with amazement. “How can you two be so damned dumb? Someone must have gotten over the fence.” Donni and Kelvin looked hurt.

    “Well they are,” Kelvin said as he carried the whiskey up to Dan.

    Luke leaned weakly against the bar, “How about my leg, Carlton?”

    Carlton finished his whiskey,”We’ll take care of it. Just have a drink and shut up. You’re all giving me a headache. Besides making my side hurt.” as he felt his side.  It was leaking a little blood off and on.

    Dan spoke up, “That dead gunslinger said something about four other men and shooting it out with a badge.  Was that you or a ranger?”

    Carlton replied, “We found them down the street as we were coming back.  All dead. Looked like Don Mathers took out all four of them before he succumbed to his injuries.  He was a hell of a man, the territory will miss him and the other rangers.” as he fingered the badge still pinned to his chest.  Crap could he and his family be the only deputized law men in the area?  Nah, the sheriff was probably still hiding somewhere.

    Donni looked up at Dan, “What other gunslinger?” Kelvin ran back down the stairs and pointed at Clayton’s body, “This one! I shot him, dead as hell. In the head, too… just like you Donni.”

    Luke and Donni came over and looked at Clayton. Donni looked at Luke, “Must’uv been slower than we thought.”

    Kelvin became angry, “The hell with you! I outdrew him, fair and square!”

    Dan cleared his throat and looked at his whiskey glass.

    Donni grinned up at Dan, “What’d do… get him laughing?  Why don’t you come down?”, he asked just realizing Dan hadn’t moved.

    “Shot in the leg.  Let this whiskey soak in a bit and I will be down.”

    Kelvin set his whiskey glass down. He walked over to Donni, “You take that back Donni.”

    “Take what back?”, Donni smirked.

    Luke started laughing,”Watch out, Donni! I hear that Nevada’s a mean one.”

    Kelvin curled his hands into fists,”You shut up too, Luke. I can beat you up… take it back!”

    Donni knelt beside the body. He stuck his finger in the hole. “Doesn’t look quite right.” Luke looked sick.

    Kelvin gave Donni a superior look, “Oh, I suppose now you’re going to do that tracker shit and tell me something about how he was shot?”

    Donni grinned, “Look’s like a Winchester wound to me.”, thinking about Dan in the balcony.

    Kelvin laughed, “Hah! You’re not so smart! It was my derringer!”

    Carlton paused in his drinking and looked at Donni. Donni grinned and straightened.

    “Fair and square, eh?”, he asked.

    Kelvin looked flustered, “Well, he was faster!”

    Carlton stared at Donni, “Did you figure that out all by yourself?”

    Donni looked at him dumbly, “Figure what out?”

    Carlton nodded, satisfied, “Thought so. Too good to be true.”

    “Can we find a doctor?” Luke said and wiped the sweat off of his face.

    Donni looked at him, “Bear and the others are laying here dead and you’re whimpering about a little leg wound.”

    Kelvin chimed in, “Yeah you don’t hear them complaining!”, immediately wishing he hadn’t  said it.  Everyone else ignored the comment.

    Dan spoke up, “Well I’m complaining. Get me a damn doctor!”

   Carlton shook his head, set his whiskey down, held up his hands, and left the bar.

    Kelvin looked after him curiously, “Where’s he going?”

    Donni shrugged, “Probably to get a doctor.”

    Outside Carlton paused and looked at his horse, still alive, still tied up in front of the saloon. He could just mount up and keep riding. He heard laughter from inside and with a heavy sigh he shook his head and went to find the doctor.  They are family.  Besides he needed to get his side looked at too.

    Dan slowly made his way down the stairs, leaning heavily on the banister. Kelvin had righted a table and some chairs and sat down, pulling out his cards. Luke sat down by Kelvin and shakily poured himself another whiskey. Dan fell into a chair beside them and reached for the bottle.  “What the hell is the name of this town anyway?”, Dan asked.

    “Hilldale,” Luke replied.

    “Not anymore,” Donni smirked as he checked his guns, flexed his shoulder a little, the pain was pretty much gone and no bleeding.  He grabbed another bottle of whiskey and headed for where he had hung up his coat so long ago it seemed. After pulling on his coat and straightened his hat he headed toward the door.

    “Where’re you going?”, Kelvin asked.

    Donni smiled, “I think someone needs to go tell the Gatlins the good news.”

    Kelvin sneered, “Right. Don’t get shot anymore.”

    Donni left, whistling a Mormon hymn.

    Kelvin shuffled the cards and looked after Donni, “Probably thinks that wound is gonna get him some sympathy from that girl.”

    Luke grinned,”Probably right.”

The Holts… Chapter 29

Chapter 29, Gunslinger

Click Here for Chapter 28

    …Kelvin squatted by Dan watching as he tightened his crude bandage, Dan grunting and cursing under his breath. Glancing up at Kelvin he said.  “What the hell you lookin’ at?”

    Kelvin shrugged, “Don’t know. I was just thinking. I mean. Does it hurt much?”

    Dan grimaced from the effort and question, shook his head more to clear his eyes from the pain and replied, “No. I get shot in the leg all the time.”

    Kelvin looked surprised, “You do? I’ve never seen you shot before!”

    Dan spat and chuckled a little. He closed his eyes and laid his head back, “You’re almost as dumb as Donni, Kelvin!”

    Kelvin looked offended, “Donni’s not that dumb, Dan.”

    Dan groaned, “Whatever you say.”

    Kelvin stood up and fidgeted nervously about the balcony. He was coming down from the excitement of the gunfight and he just didn’t feel like sitting.  He looked down at the ruined barroom.  It would take a lot of work to get it up and running again, if ever. Then he saw the body of the bartender/owner again and wondered who would do it.  Bodies and broken glass were everywhere.  He should be happy to be alive and unhurt. Just relax, but he couldn’t, “When’s Carlton gonna get back?”

    Dan opened his eyes, wearily. “Give him some time. He’s only been gone a few minutes.  There is probably a lot of things to find out.”

    “OK, ok, I’m going to go down and get a whiskey, if there is any left down there. You want me to get you something.”  Dan just blinked at Kelvin for a second and then waived him on.

    Kelvin walked down the stairs. He carefully stepped over the bodies and made his way to the bar. He found a couple glasses that weren’t shattered and a bottle of whiskey.  Taking one of the glasses and the bottle he poured himself a whiskey and downed it quickly, then closed his eyes and leaned against the bar. Feeling the liquid burn a little in his throat and stomach. The question, ‘Why was everyone trying to kill his family?’, went though his mind again. A lot of his friends got killed and all they were doing was what was the right thing, right…??? Carlton said so. He spun as he heard several gunshots from outside and headed quickly towards the front door.  Carlton was out there…

    “Slow down, partner,” he heard a cold voice from behind and the back of the bar.  As he slid to a halt, a cold clammy sweat came on in the pit of his back.  Someone must have snuck in from the back door.

    Kelvin turned slowly with his hands out from his sides to find Clayton Forrest standing there with his guns drawn. Kelvin looked at Clayton’s guns, well oiled and clearly well maintained, very lethal tools of his trade.  He then looked into the man’s eyes. He was a killer, that much was obvious.  Easy to read, even without his poker skills.

    “You must be a Holt,” Clayton smiled slowly.

    Kelvin felt a surge of anger. Stupid bastard. Why was everyone always trying to shoot him and his brothers?  “Where’s Carlton?” Kelvin demanded.

    Clayton shrugged, “Don’t know. Probably dead. I got four men out there shootin’ it out with one of them badges. You ready to die, boy?”

    Kelvin frowned. What kind of stupid question was that? “No,” he said.

    Clayton holstered his guns and lowered his hands to his sides. “I’m gonna give you a chance. I like your grit, boy.”

    Kelvin kept his hands up and out from his sides, not lowering them anywhere close to his pistol.  Kelvin frowned again. This guy was younger than he was. Where did he get off calling him a boy?

    Clayton flexed his fingers slowly, one hand absentmindedly caressing the butt of one of his pistols.  His instincts in high alert for movement from Kelvin, “Anytime you’re ready, Nevada.”

     Kelvin smiled that’s more like it, “I like that. `Nevada’ Holt… it’s got a nice ring.”  Still not moving his hands.

    Clayton shook his head with admiration, “You got guts… for a dead man. Nobody’s going to remember who you are.”

    Kelvin held up his finger on his left hand while moving back closer to the bar, and reached out for the whiskey bottle saying, “Mind if I have a drink first?”

    Clayton smiled and nodded, “Sure. Seem’s a decent last request.”

    Kelvin poured a whiskey then pulled the second glass over and filled it, “Join me?”

    Clayton smiled as he moved closer to the bar and Kelvin. Making it easier to keep track of his actions, “You drink’um both. Hell’s a mighty dry place from what I hear.”

    Kelvin shook his head slowly in distaste, “That’s sounds like something Zebediah Smith would say. And you know what?”  Kelvin said as he eyed Clayton in what was left of the mirror behind the bar.

    Clayton raised an eyebrow, “What?”, he asked.  This was getting exasperating, time to just kill this Holt.  Even if he never went for that gun at his side.

    Kelvin flexed his right hand and the derringer up his sleeve slid smoothly into it. The right arm he had never let fall to his side, where his pistol sat in its holster, straightened slightly.  The arm already leveled at the gunslinger.  Kelvin quickly cocked the derringer and fired in a well practiced motion. Clayton’s mouth disappeared as the .45 slug hit him in the face, nearly removing his head from his body as he fell backward. Clayton’s gun went skittering across the floor.  He had almost gotten the gun up before he fell backwards.

    “I always wanted to kill that self-righteous bastard, Smith. ‘Specially since he ran off Donni.” Kelvin put his derringer on the bar and picked up a whiskey with his left hand, drinking it down smoothly. “Stupid gunfighters.” Kelvin looked up at the stairs, “You want a drink, Dan?”

    Dan lowered his rifle and uncocked it, “Sure could use one.” Kelvin brought the bottle and a couple glasses up the stairs. He sat down and poured Dan a drink as Dan fished a deck of cards out of his pocket and dealt.

    “Why didn’t you shoot him?” Kelvin asked.

    “I can always tell when your feedn’ someone a line of bull or bluffin. Pair of Tens.” Dan announced as he laid down his cards and pulled in the pot with out even looking at Kelvin’s hand. Ten minutes went by as they continued drinking and playing cards, before they began to wonder what happened to the others.  Kelvin was finally calm.

The Holts… Chapter 28

Chapter 28,  Hill

Click here for Chapter 27

    …Carlton knelt beside a sprawled body. It was Jim Wainright. He’d been hit several times in the chest and stomach. Carlton closed Jim’s eyes and stood. Not a good way to go. Not that there is a good way to go, especially for a law man.  It didn’t look like he had much of a chance to even defend himself.  He got caught in the ambush, the same as he and the rest in the saloon he had just left.  There were others scattered around the street also. He’d found Jed Thornton and Marshall Thurston across the street. They’d evidently come running up and got caught in the crossfire of what appeared to be Hill’s men. He heard boots behind him and spun raising his gun. Sheriff Morgan stood there with his deputy.

    Morgan looked frightened. “What happened here?” he asked hoarsely,” There’re bodies all over the place!”

    Carlton’s lip curled slightly, “The fine citizens of your fine city decided to take matters into their own hands and ambushed us.  Look’s like you’re the sole legal authority in town right now, Sheriff.” Carlton continued, ignoring the badge on his own this chest. “Unless you can find Don Mathers. I haven’t found his body yet.” Pointing out the bodies in the street he continued., “Wainright, Thornton and Marshall, damn good men. Looks like Thornton and Marshall gave as good as they got.  There are a number of other bodies over there, the ambushers. There are a bunch of bodies in and around the saloon too.  Becareful if you go in there, I left my brother Kelvin and he is a bit jumpy right now, understandablely.  I have to find the rest of my family, Sheriff. I’ll leave you to straighten this out.” Carlton turned and walked off down the street with his pistol in his hand, disappearing in the shadows.  The Sheriff and Deputy stared dumbfounded at his back, watching him go.

 

    …Luke looked at Donni, “Well?” he asked quietly, “Here’s your chance to kill him. His gunslinger’s gone.”

    Donni wasn’t smiling, “You want Buck Trent?”

    Luke grinned with very little humor, his teeth white in the night, “Sure do. You heard what he said about killing Carlton, Kelvin and the others. I figure we can at least even it and finish this up.”

    The two Holts stepped through the Silver Dollar’s swinging doors and stood there, pistols drawn.

   Ben Hill, Sr. raised his eyes as he heard the doors swing open. He froze. He saw two Holts standing there with badges pinned to their chests and death in their eyes. One had a large blood stain on his right shoulder. He was wearing a left handed tied down gun and a reversed holster on his right hip. The other was a right-hander and his left leg was bloodstained. Both had their guns pointed unwaveringly at the Hill’s and Trent.  The bartender continued wiping a glass behind the bar.

    Hill’s eyes narrowed focusing on the badges, “What do you want, lawmen?”

    “Oh yeah, lawman,” Donni said has he reached up with his free hand and removed the badge , throwing it on the floor in front of him. “I’m here to kill you, old man,” he continued with a slight smile.

    Trent shifted slightly and Luke shook his head, “Make another move ya little runt and I’ll splatter your chest all over the wall behind you,” his voice was flat and cold.

    “So,” Hill blustered, “You’re just going to shoot us… in cold blood?”

    Donni shrugged, “I could… just like you did my brothers and tried to do to us. But that would be too easy now, wouldn’t it?”

    The bartender reached under the bar but Luke shifted his .45 and fired twice, driving him back into the glass behind the bar and breaking it. Blood gushed from the two gaping holes in his chest and he fell behind the bar. Luke quickly aimed his gun at Trent again.

    “Stand up, Colonel,” Donni said and thumbed back his hammer. Ben Hill stood and stepped away from the table, his eyes never leaving Donni’s gun.

    Ben Hill, Jr. suddenly grabbed at his gun and pushed away from the table. Donni fired once, moving his gun just a fraction. The boy screamed as a hole appeared in his forehead and blood and brain splattered the wall behind him. His gun fell from his hand and he pitched backwards. Trent looked horrified and sick but didn’t move. Donni cocked his gun and waited.

    Ben Hill, Sr. took a step towards his boy’s body, “Benny?” he said.

    Donni waited. He knew the man would draw now. Ben Hill turned back towards Donni.

    “You…,” his face contorted with fury he clawed at his gun. Donni shot him through the shoulder, knocking him back over a table. He walked towards him.

    Buck Trent jumped to his feet but Luke shook his head, “It ain’t your turn, runt.” Trent’s hand fell away from his gun as Luke stared at him.

    “Not quite like shooting a man from behind is it?” Luke said softly.

    Ben Hill rolled over and reached for his gun. Donni shot him in the stomach twice, then kicked his gun out of reach. “So ends your legacy.  Now you take your time dying now, Colonel. I wouldn’t want it to be too quick. That’s for my brothers, you son-of-a-bitch.  Don’t worry I will still put a bullet in your head after you pass out and before I leave.” He holstered his pistol and leaned against the wall, “Your turn, cousin Luke.”

    Luke holstered his gun and waited. “Go ahead, Buck. Let’s see how fast you are. I’m giving you a chance.”

    Trent began sweating and shook his head, “I ain’t a gunslinger like you… what kind of chance is that?”

     Luke smiled, “About the same chance you gave us. Go for it.”

    Trent suddenly grabbed at his pistol and frantically tried to get it out of his holster. Luke cleared his holster and cocked his gun. Trent froze, his gun half out. Luke pulled the trigger and Trent buckled, clutching his stomach. He fired twice more, hitting him in the chest.

    Luke holstered his pistol and looked at Donni, “Should we get out of here before the fancy pants gunfighter comes back.”

    “Probably won’ t matter since his boss is going to be dead soon.” Donni replied as a feeble moan escaped Ben Hill’s lips and he began to shake.

    “How many times have I told you boys to watch your back?” Carlton said quietly from the doorway. Donni and Luke both spun drawing their guns. Carlton stood there with a scowl, his thumbs tucked in his gunbelt.

    Donni slowly broke into a grin, “You ain’t dead!” he said happily.

    Luke thumbed his hammer down and looked pissed, “You shouldn’t sneak up on us like that, Cousin Carlton. I could’of shot you!” Carlton just gave him a hard look.

    Donni grabbed his brother and shook him, “You ain’t dead… well I’ll be damned!” Carlton winced slightly. “Hey you’ve been shot.”

    “Don’t worry about that yet.  What about the gunslinger I heard you mention?” Carlton asked.

The Holts… Chapter 27

Chapter 27, The Dead

Click here to read Chapter 26…

    …The backdoor of the saloon banged open and a man came running out. Kelvin spun and leveled his gun. The man stopped and stared at them in shock. He was holding a smoking rifle. He whipped it up but Kelvin fired, hitting him twice in the chest. He cried out and fell backwards, clutching at his chest.

    Carlton coldly aimed and shot him in the head, “Don’t take any chances,” he said as the man twitched then went still. “Let’s check inside,” Carlton ordered and went in through the back door.

    “What about Donni and Luke?” Kelvin asked wide-eyed as they were standing in the doorway..

    Carlton snarled at Kelvin, “We can’t do anything about them now, dammit!” Carlton paused and took a deep breath before continuing, “They’re on their own.  We will go find them once our back is covered.”  He shoved his concern for his brother and cousin out of his mind and concentrated on keeping himself and Kelvin alive.  This was far from over.  He thought as he and Kelvin headed on into the saloon.

    They crept down the dark hallway and stepped over a body on the floor. It was another one of their unknown attackers. He’d taken a shotgun blast in the chest and managed to drag himself out of the bar towards the back. It was finally quiet outside as they came around the door and looked over the main room of the saloon. It was a mess, most of the glass was shattered and bullet holes riddled the walls. Another body was laying by the bar, it’s face and chest almost gone. A third lay face down in front of the bar, un-moving. It was the cowhand with the fancy gun rig. Kelvin’s face fell as he saw Joe Stokes laying near the door.

    “Shit, Carlton… he’s dead,” he stammered.  The danger they were in was coming home to Kelvin.

    Carlton grunted, “unh huh. And there’s Pierre by the door. I’d say he’s dead too.” Carlton moved on into the room keeping the wall at his back. He could make out another body behind a table. It wasn’t anyone he knew. He saw a thick boot sticking out from behind an overturned table and felt a sick sensation hit his stomach. That would be Bear.  Shit was anyone alive in here?

    The drummer was laying against the wall, riddled, his dinner all over the floor. Glass crunched underfoot as he moved on into the room and knelt beside Bear. He was dead.

    “Where’s Dan?” Kelvin whispered slowly turning in a circle, his gun held stiffly in front of him.

    “I’m up here,” a familiar voice, laced with pain, came from the top of the stairs.

    Kelvin looked up at Dan’s pinched face, “What are you doing up there?”

    Dan grimaced, “Playing cards… what the hell do you think I’m doing up here!?”

    “Have you been shot?” Carlton asked.

    Dan nodded, “Yep. Got hit in the leg. I can’t walk anymore. Is everyone else dead?”

    Carlton fought down his anger, “We don’t know about Donni and Luke. The rest here are. This was a planned action against us.”

    Kelvin suddenly noticed the broad red stain on Carlton’s vest, “You’re hurt!” he accused.

    Carlton glanced at it, “Don’t worry about it. It’s numb. Happened before we went under the boardwalk.”  He motioned Kelvin to head upstairs and started that way himself.

    Dan pulled himself to the edge of the stairs, “Who the hell are these guys?”

    Carlton came up the stairs with Kelvin, “The couple of the faces look familiar. From what the rangers told us and the problems we had with the Perkins’ men, I’d say that they’re Ben Hill’s men.”

    Dan’s face darkened, “That sonofabitch! I wonder where that little sawed-off fucker of a foreman is?”

    The Holts checked their guns and reloaded the few spent rounds. Heavy gunfire broke out again outside, but from further down the street. The three looked at each other, their thoughts plain on their faces.  Donni and Luke were still unaccounted for.

    Carlton stood, “Watch out for Dan. I’m going to go look for Donni and Luke.”

    Kelvin frowned stubbornly, “Not without me you aren’t!”

    Carlton turned on him, “You do as you are told! I haven’t got time to worry about you. Someone’s got to watch out for Dan… he’s hurt. What if they come back?  There is no one else left here.” Kelvin subsided and squatted beside his friend.

    Carlton ran down the stairs and headed towards the back door. He spotted the bartender laying behind the bar. A shotgun lay beside him, broke open and empty. He was shot-up and very dead. Carlton felt a momentary pang. Probably helped to save their lives, what ones still lived.  Damn-fool, he thought, as he slipped out the back.

 

    …Donni and Luke followed in the direction the two they had seen head, deeper into town.  They spotted them talking in the street.  It looked like they were arguing. Donni and Luke held back in the shadows watching and staying out of sight. Looked like one of them wanted to get on their horses and head out.  The other kept pointing at the Silver Dollar saloon they had stopped in front of.  Soon the argument died down and the one wanting to leave followed the other.  They ducked into the saloon. With no one else out front the two Holts moved quickly and quietly up to the door, keeping in the shadows, and listened to what was happening inside.

    “You what?” Ben Hill said incredulously.

    His man shifted and rubbed his face, “Honest ta god, Colonel! Them two is slicker than foxes… they killed Whitey and Frank, we heard shots from behind the stable where Joe was… they probably got him too. When we saw Matt and Billy get shot… we took off. They’re gunmen, Mr. Hill, we just couldn’t handle them! We all heard how that one gunned one of Perkins’ hands down before he even cleared leather…,” the man whinned.

    Ben Hill’s face was red, “Shut up,” he ordered.

    Clayton Forrest idly poured himself another whiskey. He stared at Hill, waiting. The back door opened. In a fluid motion, Clayton drew and leveled his gun, thumbing back the hammer. The bartender, ignored what was going on and continued to wipe down the bar. Buck Trent walked in, his face flushed and angry. He sat down beside the Colonel, pointedly ignoring Clayton.

    “We gotta git outa here, Colonel. Marshall Thurston and those rangers ran up and got in on the fight. I don’t know whose alive. I did see a couple of those Arizona badges go down, though. I think I got Thurston but I’m not sure. Tom and Gomez are out back getting the horses.”

    “How many?” Ben Hill, Sr. said softly staring at his whiskey.

    Buck looked blank, “How many what, sir?”

    “How many of my men dead,” the Colonel said, his lip working.

    Trent looked uncomfortable, “Tom and Gomez are the only two that made it back so far.”

    Hill’s eyes riveted on Trent, “Four. Four out of nineteen!”

    He turned to Clayton, “Can you take the Sheriff and the others?”

    Clayton smiled, “I’ll need some help if there is more than one.”

    Hill pointed at the two before him, “Take these two and get Tom and Gomez. Make sure that all the Rangers and the lawmen are dead. Make sure that all the Holts are dead too.”

    Clayton stood and adjusted his guns, “You’re the boss.”  Ben Hill, Jr stood to go with him also.

    Ben Hill, Sr. turned on him, “Sit your ass down.”

    “But pa…”, he complained as he sat back down.

    The two gunhands fell in behind Clayton and they left by the back door to get Gomez and Tom.  Neither appeared happy to be going back out.

The Holts… Chapter 26

Chapter 26, Gunfight, cont.

Click here for Chapter 25…

      …Dan Greene lay behind the overturned card table and held his leg. Blood coursed freely from under his hand. Two more shots rang out and two holes appeared just a little above his head in the green felt. He tore a strip off of his shirt and tied it around his leg, just above the gunshot wound. The blood flow slowed a little. He flipped open his pistol and dumped the spent cartridges on the floor. He quickly reloaded, listening for any movement. He spared a quick glance towards the door but couldn’t see much with most of the view blocked by overturned furniture. Gunfire was still coming sporadically from outside. He hoped that Pierre, Carlton and Kelvin were all right. From the sounds of it there was a least one of them alive out there. He looked at Joe Stokes again. He was laying on the floor a few feet away, his sightless eyes wide open. There was a spreading pool of blood from beneath his body. His revolver lay a few feet from his clenched hand. Dan hadn’t even seen him get hit. Joe, Bear and he had ran back into the bar and four men had opened up on them. Dan had emptied his gun then dropped behind a table, knocking it over on his way down. It was then that he became aware of the hole in his leg. He heard a wet cough and “Bear” crawled from around a second overturned table and collapsed beside him. He had two bullet wounds in his chest and a pink froth was bubbling from his mouth. Bear broke open his sawed off and fumbled the empty shells out. He reloaded and shut it.

    Bear grinned weakly at him, “You ready to get this sonofabitch?”

   Dan cocked his pistol and tensed. Where was Donni and Luke, briefly flashed across his mind as he came up in a fast crouch and swung his pistol over the table. Bear heaved himself up and leveled his shotgun. Dan saw the man behind the bar and fired twice, hardly taking the time to aim. Bear fired, emptying both barrels. The glass behind the man shattered and he flew backwards, taking one of Dan’s bullets in the chest and most of Bear’s buckshot in the face. Dan frantically scanned the smoke-filled barroom for any other signs of life. Bear fell back behind the table heavily, coughing.

    Dan stood and limped towards the stairs refilling his pistol, “Cover the door, Bear,” he yelled as he painfully pulled himself up the steps. He’d just reached the top when the swinging doors in the front of the saloon flew open and two men ran in, guns blazing.

    Dan threw himself down and aimed his pistol. He yelled as he saw one firing rapidly at Bear. He fired, emptying his pistol, trying to hit both of them. He saw one drop his pistol and go down and the other fell behind a table. He drug himself away from the railing and reloaded again. He lay there gasping for several minutes. He heard boots running and the sound of the saloon doors banging open. Cautiously he raised his head, ready to fire at anything that moved. The saloon was blue with the smoke floating sluggishly around in lazy swirls. Outside an occasional shot echoed.  Nothing moved.

    Bear lay, sprawled out, still gripping his shotgun. He wasn’t moving, no struggled breaths. The last man who Bear and he had shot lay behind the bar, his face ruined. Three other men were scattered around the bar, unmoving.  It looked like two had run in from the back when the shooting started.  Laying behind the bar was the bartender with most of his face missing.  He finally saw Pierre LaForte, his body half-in and half-out of the doorway. His body was riddled with bullet holes. It didn’t look like he was able to get a gun out of his holster before he was cut down. There were the other men they had killed sprawled around the bar.  It was just lucky that he was alive.  It was just lucky that he was alive.  He wasn’t sure how he had survived.  All he could remember was what Donni always told him.  Just stay calm and make your shots. You don’t have to be the fastest just the better shot.  The last man that Dan had shot lay unmoving where he had fallen. Of the other one, that dropped behind the table, there was no sign. Dan groaned as the pain in his leg flared up. He wiped at the sweat on his face and waited. That was all he could do at this point. He knew that he couldn’t really walk anymore. Dark spots were coming and going in his vision every time he tried to move his leg.  All he could do was curse himself. What good was it being the best shot of the group when he was so damn slow…

 

    …Donni fired blindly at the figure as he fell with Luke on top of him. He felt a bad pain in his right shoulder as they hit the ground and cursed as he realized that he’d been hit. Damn it hurt. Luke rolled away from him, pointed his gun at the man, and fired three shots. Donni emptied his last three shots into the man as he was falling. Both he and Luke hastily reloaded.

   “You okay?” Luke asked.

    Donni grinned, adrenalin had surged back into him while firing, “I got hit.”

    Luke laughed, “Does it hurt?”

    Donni snarled at him, “Go to hell. Think we’re gonna make it?”

    Luke crawled over beside him, dragging his leg, “Don’t know. I just hope that the others are all right.”

    They looked at each other as they heard gunshots from the other side of town. The firing continued without let-up.

    “Shit,” Donni said disgustedly, “Where the hell are the rangers?” he asked as he got to his feet then helped Luke up. They paused to look at the body laying in front of them. He’d been hit at least four times and was quite dead. Donni pulled out his second pistol and cocked it. His shoulder was stiff but he was still able to move it. They moved cautiously up the alley towards the street. They stopped by the edge in the deepest shadows available and scanned the wide street.

    Two men were walking towards their alley, slowly with guns drawn. Donni aimed, “I’ll take the one on the left,” he whispered. Luke aimed and they both fired two quick shots. Both men dropped like sacks of grain and didn’t make a sound. Donni’s brow furrowed and looked at Luke, “I hope those weren’t Rangers.”

    Luke looked at him with dawning apprehension as his eyes got wider. Then two other figures ran across the street and quickly disappeared, headed back towards the center of town. Both were carrying rifles. “Well those two aren’t Rangers. Let’s check the bodies then get those bastards,” Luke said staying in the shadows.

   Donni carefully scanned the shadows around the street then headed over to the bodies while Luke covered him. They looked over the two they’d just shot. They weren’t rangers or lawmen. One looked familiar.

    “Isn’t that one of Ben Hill’s men?  One of the assholes with Buck we met in Tombstone?” Luke asked.

    Donni nodded, “I never forget a face that ugly. I’m gonna kill that asshole.”

    “Which one?” Luke asked.

    “Both,” Donni replied as they turned and headed back into town.  Heading in the direction of the two they had seen fleeing. They made the best speed they could with Luke’s limping…

The Holts… Chapter 25

Chapter 25,  We’re in Trouble

Click here for Chapter 24…

    “Drop’em or I’m gonna blow your damn heads off,” Donni said angrily. The one called Whitey fired blindly, fanning his gun. The flash of his gun momentarily blinded the Holts in the dark alley. Donni fired twice, frantically trying to blink the spots from in front of his eyes. Why did he even say anything?  Should have just shot them.  They were following them and whispering with guns drawn.  Damn Carlton and all his talk about wearing a badge.  Doing it the right way.  He saw Whitey’s hat fly off as he pitched backwards. There was a roar as the man with the shotgun fired towards the alleyway. Donni heard Luke curse as he fired three quick shots toward the man. The man with the shotgun staggered and fell. “Whitey” was laying face up, still thrashing.  Two down one to go.  He would probably hightail it out of there before facing the two of them in the fading light.  That should give them a couple of minutes to catch their breath before going to find him.

    “You okay?” Donni asked, scanning the dark for signs of the third man.  There was no movement out in the street at all.

    “Bastard hit me in the leg!” Luke rasped.

    Donni knelt beside him and vainly tried to see in the quickly deeming light and even darker shadows of the alley, “Can’t see a damn thing. Sorry. How does it feel?”

    “It hurts,” Luke said sarcastically, “How the hell do you think it feels?”

    Donni laughed wildly, his heart pounding from adrenaline, “You’ve been hit before… ease up. I’ll get you to a doctor.  Can you stand on it?  Can you move?”

    “I oughta shoot you,” Luke gritted between clenched teeth, “Just once, I’d like to see you get winged.  Yeah, I think I can get along fine.  We need to get moving.”  He sucked in a large lungful of air as he lifted and stepped back down on his leg.  Everything was still moving fine but he could feel blood running down his leg into his boot.

    Donni slapped him on the shoulder and grinned big, “You can make it. We still got that third man to worry about too.”

    Luke wobbling a little on his feet, “Don’t worry about me, cousin. Let’s get the hell out of here.” As they ran/hobbled down the alley as fast as they could.

    Both ducked down into the darkened shadows of the building as they heard a shot behind them and a voice yelling, “They got Whitey and Frank!” Donni heard wood splinter beside him as more shots rang out. He broke into a cold sweat. There was more than just one man after them.  How many?

    “Damnation,” Luke yelled and threw himself against Donni.

    Donni saw a darker shadow step away from the building ahead and across the street from them, then saw a blinding flash and heard the shotgun blast just as Luke slammed into him…

     Carlton opened his eyes wide as he faintly heard several quick shots then a shotgun blast. He felt a rush of cold fear. Donni and Luke were out there by themselves. He pulled his gun, catching the eyes of the others at the table as he stood, and then ran for the door.  It sounded like Kelvin and Dan were right behind him. He ran outside and stopped down by the horses. There had been a bit of a pause from the gunfire just as he got out, he wanted to make sure which way to go and then the shooting started up again. Out of the corner of his eye he just caught movement in the heavy shadows by the horses and turned to look. A bearded grizzly looking man was leveling a sawed off shotgun at him. “Get down!” he yelled and threw himself down by the trough in front of the saloon.

    The night exploded as a volley of shots rang out punctuated by deep shotgun blasts. Carlton groaned as he felt a burning pain lance his side. He rolled behind the watering trough and tried to see what was going on. On the balcony across the street and up on the roof above it he could see muzzle flashes. Wood splintered and water splashed on him as the trough was hit again and again. One of the horses was screaming, it was down in the street, thrashing. He rolled over and crawled as fast as he could under the boardwalk, trying to ignore the pain in his side.  As he got a few feet under the boardwalk he ran into Kelvin.

    Kelvin, his face white, gaped at Carlton, “What the hell’s going on?” he gasped. His breath was coming hard and fast.

    “You been hit?” Carlton asked shortly. Kelvin shook his head. “What about the others?” Carlton spat out, “What happened to Dan and the rest? Did you see?  How did you get down here?”

    The gunfire was deafening.  Carlton knew that they needed to move quick.  Get to the alley and assess the situation.  He had no idea how many where out there or where they were at.  No time to wait for the answers from Kelvin.  Plenty of time to figure out answers to his questions later.  If there was a later.

    “We’ve got to get out of here,” Carlton pushed at his little brother, “move.” They crawled back towards the building under the boardwalk, trying to get as far from the street as possible and towards the alley. Carlton stopped as the wood above them begin to splinter.

    “Bastards,” he hissed. He rolled up against the building and pulled Kelvin with him.

    “What about snakes?” Kelvin yelled urgently. Carlton didn’t bother replying he just crawled faster down towards the far corner of the building. He tensed as the shooting stopped. Someone was yelling loudly.

    “There’s a couple under the boardwalk… Joe, you and Bob get’em.”

    Kelvin winced as the sounds of gunfire rang out rapidly from inside the saloon.  “Tarnation, Carlton! We’re in trouble!”

    Carlton looked over his shoulder quickly, “No shit! Shut up and follow me!”

    He stopped as he saw boots step down in the street at the end of the walk. Without thinking he leveled his pistol and sighted on the boots. He fired twice and held his breath, steadying his gun. The man fell heavily and Carlton quickly sighted at his chest and fired twice more. The man rolled on his back and was still.

    “Moron,” Carlton said with a feral grin. He crawled faster as the gunfire resumed and the wood began flying to pieces around them. “At least they catch on quick,” Carlton said dryly. He crawled around the corner of the building and Kelvin scrambled behind him.  Luckily the boardwalk turned and went down the alley partway on this side of the saloon. Of course he remembered that and it was why he headed that way. Carlton looked at Kelvin, “You ready?”

    Kelvin nodded and cocked his pistol, “Sure Carlton, what are we doing?”

    Carlton shook his head, “Just follow me.” He rolled out from under the walkway and went into a crouch fanning his gun rapidly around, looking for targets. He ran, in a crouch, to the edge of the building. Kelvin was a split second behind him and slammed into him, panting. They crouched in the darkness and waited…

 

The Holts… Chapter 24

Chapter 24,  Old Friends

Click here for Chapter 23…

    “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.

The Holts… Chapter 23

Chapter 23, Set the Stage

Click here for Chapter 22…

    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.”

 

The Holts… Chapter 22

Chapter 22,  Rivers-Edge, Waiting

Click here for Chapter 21…

    Jed Thornton shook his head while surveying the men in the river, slowly holstered his revolver, and pushed his hat back. “So much for talk’in them out of it,” he said ruefully. “Anyone hurt?”

    Each did a quick once over on themselves. Jim Wainright was the only one who had taken any damage.  He had been grazed on his left thigh. The bleeding had already stopped by the time he realized he had been hit.  Each of the Rangers had at least one new hole in their clothes.  It was a closer gun battle than they cared to admit.  This could have easily went the other way.  If it had lasted a little longer the rangers were sure it would have.  Things just seemed to break right for them today.

    Don Mathers dumped his empty shells and slowly reloaded his guns. “What do you think? Is this gonna end it?”

    Thornton shook his head, “Nope, only for the four left here. I figure this is shaping up into a real beaut. We’d better get back to town while the Perkins’ are still licking their wounds. We’re gonna need the sheriff and the Marshall and as many men as they can deputize. If these boys get the rest of their men, from all accounts I’ve heard this wasn’t all of them, and combine that with the guys from the Hill spread, we’re gonna need every gun we can get.”

    Kelvin and Luke joined the Rangers at the water’s edge. Thornton continued, “While we wait for Carlton and Donni to climb down off of the hill. Let’s get these bodies out of the water and up on the bank.  We will send the undertaker out here to pick them up once we get back to town.  Besides we need to see if we can identify any of them.  In case they have any warrants out on them.” Jed said and winked at Kelvin.  Kelvin was unsure why he did that but figured Carlton would understand once he got here.  The five of them waded into the river to retrieve the bodies.

 

    They had just finished hauling the bodies out and inspecting them when Carlton and Donni walked up leading the horses from where they had staked them out-of-the-way.

    Jed welcomed them, “Well boys it looks like we will be around for another day.  It was good having you guys up on the hill.  I think it took the wind out of their sails right away.  It discouraged some of them from even joining the fight.”

    “About that Jed,” Carlton started, “four of the men that turned and fled early are our friends.  We noticed that they hung back before the shooting started and then once it started they took off.  I’m pretty sure they recognized Kelvin and Luke so didn’t join in.  I am looking forward to hearing from them once we catch up to them again.”

    “Well as long as they are not riding for Perkins’ ranch any longer I won’t hold it against them.  So it seems that it is good fortune that we ran into you boys again.”  Jed replied.  “The plan is to head back to town and deputized as many men as we can to shut this down.  I expect we will need to go out in force to the spreads around here and make sure we run off as many of the hired regulators as we can.  With luck we will shut this down before it get’s much worse.  We’ll send the undertaker out here to collect up this bunch,”  he finished as he waved toward the bodies.

    “We need to go to the Gatlin’s and make sure they are ok.” Donni spoke up, interjecting his concerns into the conversation.

    “Donni we need to get back to town like Jed said,” Carlton replied.

    “Actually Carlton,” Jim Wainright interjected, “it might be good to have you boys go and warn them.  Tell them to send riders to the other ranchers around that are on their side, spread the word, and to send any men they can spare to town to be deputized.”

    After a brief discussion all agreed that the Holts would swing by the Gatlin’s place before returning to town.  The Rangers would go on back to town and make preparations there.

    As they were leaving the river’s edge Kelvin asked Carlton, “What about Dan and the others?”

    “I imagine that they’ll be showing up in town sooner or later,” Carlton said as he swung into his saddle.

 

    It had been an uneventful afternoon.  They warned the Gatlins and headed straight back to town.  Donni was none to happy that Carlton had drug him away from the ranch quickly.  They got back at dusk. The Holts waited in the saloon, waiting for Thornton and the other rangers, who were still out rounding up the law and deputies. They were not having much luck getting any of the townsfolk to join in on the fight. Luke lit up a cigarette and left, saying something about taking a stroll. Kelvin sat quietly and shuffled his ever-present deck of cards. Carlton sat and drank his whiskey, sparing occasional glances at Donni, who was cleaning his pistols.  The others, Dan, et.al. had not arrived and Carlton was beginning to wonder if something had happened to them.  There were a lot of things beginning to worry Carlton.  Was this really what he wanted for himself and his brothers?

    “Donni,” he said finally.

    Donni looked up and raised his eyebrows, “Yeah Carlton?”

    Carlton sighed heavily. “I’d always kind of hoped that you’d grow out of this wild streak. But it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.  At least not before it gets one of us killed.”

    Donni looked mystified, “What do you mean, big brother?”

    “All I’m saying is that you need to settle down some. I mean it this time, Donni. I’ve got a bad feeling about this one.”

    Donni poured himself a whiskey, “Sure Carlton. I’ll do whatever you say.”

    Carlton smiled slightly, “Leave the girl alone, little brother. Keep your mind on business. We’re caught in the middle on this one, in many ways we’ve got guns from both sides aiming at us. This isn’t the time to be fooling around.”

    Donni drained his glass and smiled at Carlton, “Okay.” he replied with as blank of an expression on his face that he could maintain.

    Carlton stared at him for a few moments longer trying to tell if he was serious or not. Donni stood up and stretched, “I’m gonna go find Luke.”

    Carlton watched him leave, frowning. Kelvin looked away when his older brother’s attention returned to the saloon. “Uh, Kelvin…,” Carlton began.

    Kelvin slammed his cards down, “No. I ain’t gonna do it. If something happens all I’ll do is mess it up and you’ll blame me for not watching out for Donni!” Carlton blinked in surprise and then began laughing.

    Kelvin watched him suspiciously, “What’s so funny?”

    Carlton shook his head and poured himself another whiskey, “Sorry, little brother. I see you are finally beginning to think. How about a game of cards?”

    Kelvin broke into a big smile, “That sounds like a good idea. You want to wager some money?”

    Carlton rolled his eyes, “You take me for a fool? I said play cards, not loose my shirt.”

 

    Donni crossed the street looking for Luke. He spotted the tall lean figure of his cousin leaning against the General Store. He stopped beside him and began rolling a smoke. Luke exhaled a large cloud of smoke and looked at Donni.

    “Some excitement today, huh?”

    Donni nodded, “How’s does it feel to be a U.S. Deputy Marshall?” ‘

    Luke shrugged, “Don’t feel much different to tell the truth. Though I did notice some people looking at me kinda funny when they saw my badge.”

    “Let’s take a walk,” Donni suggested.

    The two Holts slowly strolled down the main street towards the southern end of town. They walked by the Silver Dollar, the second and usually quieter saloon in town.  It was doing a roaring business tonight. Neither one noticed the short, bearded man who was leaning against the hitching post straighten and walk inside after they’d passed. A few minutes later a large group of men left the saloon and congregated on the street.

The Holts… Chapter 21

Chapter 21, Shootout

Click here for Chapter 20…

    “You boys might just as well turn around and head on back,” Jed Thornton yelled across, “Ain’t gonna be no party today.”

    A big, burly man, a couple of riders to the left of Dan, stood in his stirrups and answered back, “You badges just get outa the way. We mean to settle things our way. The governor’s authority is mighty thin in these parts. The Gatlin’s shot up some of our guys last night and we mean to ‘talk’ to them today.”  He and Jed continued to discuss the situation in louder and louder ways…

 

    Dan Greene shifted in his saddle. He hadn’t signed on to face down lawmen. This was getting out of hand.  He was beginning to wonder if it was a good idea to have singed on with the Perkins’ spread.  It was just an opportune time that they had come across the spread and they were hiring.  So they joined up before making it to the town they were headed too.  Carlton had said to lay low for a while and they figured this was just as good a place as any when they came across it.  He wasn’t too worried when they took the job.  This little standoff wasn’t very troubling either.  Even though they were facing down Rangers there were fourteen of them and it looked like only five lawmen.  It should be over pretty quick if they could take out a couple of the Ranges early.  The two back behind would probably have rifles and be supporting the three up front. That might have been a problem, but he could take them out with his rifle before they could do much damage.  He stared hard at the two lawmen further back behind the Rangers, picking out his targets. Something didn’t seem right though, leaning to his right he asked “Hey, Pierre. Do you recognize those two back there in the shade of that tree? Behind the rangers, I want to make sure I am see it right.”

    Pierre looked and broke into a grin, “That’s Kelvin and Luke. What the hell they doing over there?”

    Joe Stokes, to the right of Pierre, rubbed his whiskered chin, “I wonder where Carlton and Donni are?” Dan had an uncomfortable feeling and glanced at Pierre.  Pierre’s eyes were wide open as it dawned on him who was missing. Dan and Pierre both began scanning the hill on the far side, this changed everything.

    “I would bet they’re up there… yep, got’em,” Dan said softly as he saw a small glint of light and movement on top of the hill, “Looks like we’re on the wrong side of the river, boys. There isn’t any place to get under cover over here.  Besides I don’t want to be facing down no Rangers.  Especially if Donni is going to be firing down on us from the high ground.  Even with the numbers in our favor this is a bad bet now.”

    Pierre looked around and frowned, “I sure hope that Donni’s eyesight is good today. We’re sitting ducks here.”

    “Hopefully we get out of this before any shooting starts.  It is not sounding good though.” The yelling between the big man and the ranger was getting louder.  It was obvious that he was pumping up the other men to charge the Rangers.  Looked like the Rangers knew it too.  What none of the rest of them on this side of the river knew was that Donni and Carlton were on the hill.  That would change the numbers in the first few seconds of the fight. Dan turned in his saddle, feeling a cold trickle of sweat run down the middle of his back.  This was not the right place to be.  He caught Bear’s eye where he had reigned up behind them. “Sam… follow my lead. Donni, Carlton and the others are over there. If shooting starts we’re getting out.  Just hold back and go slow if we go forward.”  Bear nodded, placing a hand over his holstered gun. Dan gathered in his reins and waited.

 

    “Dan’s talking to them,” Donni said, “I bet he spotted Kelvin.  I know he was looking around the hills too.  He probably knows we are up here.  I bet when the shooting starts they get out of the way.”

    Carlton nodded, “Let’s hope so.  Shoot for the others. Try and cover them as best you can and hope that they do turn and leave.  If they hang back and don’t charge right away, the Rangers probably won’t shoot them.  Especially if they ride off.  Rangers won’t shoot them in the back.  Just hope that Kelvin and Luke know who they are shooting at.”

 

    “Looks like the shooting is going to start soon.  Get ready to get down behind some cover and shoot the guys that head into the river,” Kelvin said.  “They will have to get their horses rushing forward before and won’t be aiming well while firing.  Shoot at the ones in the lead, but Carlton said to let the Rangers shoot first.”

    “Got it pard,” Luke replied.  Kelvin grimaced.

    The big man and Jed Thornton had quit yelling at each other, instead he yelled a command to the riders, “Let’s go!” and motioned forward as the riders pulled out their rifles and ten horses spurred down into the water. Jed and the other two Rangers pulled out their pistols and spread out. Kelvin scrambled over behind a boulder and Luke crouched beside him.

    “What’re those damn Rangers waiting for?” Kelvin asked, “They oughta be shooting not waiting for them to cross the ford.”

    Luke shrugged, “Maybe they’re giving them a chance.”

    “That’s bullshit.” Kelvin said as he sighted in on a man entering the river.

 

    Carlton and Donni watched as the men on the other side of the river surged forward.  Four horses held back and only slowly advanced as the other ten charged at the Rangers, Kelvin, and Luke.  Looked like it was going to be ten against seven and they had much better position and cover.  This should be over quick, almost before it started. The Rangers were continuing to wait.

    Donni sighted the big, burly man before he was halfway across the ford and fired. Carlton fired at almost the same time. The only thought going through is mind was “Dammit Donni.” The big man threw up his arms and tumbled backwards off of his horse. The man beside him was thrown from his horse and disappeared in the water. The two Holts switched to their Henry’s and began firing in earnest. With gunfire having started the Rangers took their time and fired steadily, making their shots count.  Experienced in gun battles they were not easily rattled.  Kelvin and Luke fired sporadically at the edges of the group advancing.  Being careful to not hit the Rangers in front of them.  The quick loss of their leader and finding that they were not just facing five gunmen at the rivers edge, but an unknown force with snipers, quickly routed the remaining raiders. Under the heavy gunfire the group turned back and fled, leaving four bodies in the stream. At least four others were wounded but they had managed to leave with the other six.

    Jed and Jim stopped firing as soon as the raiders were routed and turn to flee.  Don Mathers continued to fire a couple more rounds at the retreating horsemen before remembering to stop.  One final shot from the hill could be heard after that and a man on a retreating horse slumped forward.