Chapter 1, Arrival
The sun beat down mercilessly from the Arizona sky, keeping most folks inside unless they had business to attend to. Four horsemen dragged into town and headed for the nearest watering trough. The air was still, only a little dust kicked up around the horse’s hoofs, as they plodded toward the hitching posts next to the watering trough, in front of a saloon. One of the strangers looked around with keen eyes and spotted a stable boy lounging in the shade between the saloon and the stable next door. He motioned for the boy to come closer. As the riders dismounted he pulled out a 2-bit coin and flipped it to the boy saying. “Water the horses. Then hitch them up here, in front of the saloon. Don’t let them drink too much. If we are still here in a couple of hours take them to the stable.” As he pointed toward the building next door. “We will be by later to collect the saddle bags and rifles. You understand? That good?” The stable boy nodded his affirmative to both questions. You could tell the man liked to have things planned out and for those around him to follow his instructions to the letter.
The town was a small stop in the middle of nowhere, and at first look law-abiding, peaceful. Of course if someone was willing to steal a man’s horse and gear they wouldn’t last long in an area like this. More likely they would have to be moving through pretty fast to not get caught and strung up. He was thinking that they could use peaceful now. A lot of peaceful after the past couple of months they had. It had been some hard riding to get to this point, and the wear and tear was working hard on him. Looking at the others he didn’t think it would be bad for everyone to get some rest.
Then to the other riders he said, “We will stay here a little while if things work out.”
The others looked at him, nodding their heads in agreement. They knew from the past, first-things-first, take care of the animals that would keep them alive. Especially if they needed to get out-of-town quick. They also knew to follow the lead of Carlton when he started giving orders to those they met. Not that they cared for the orders he would give them, but they would let him take the lead when taking care of them with others.
“God, it’ll be good to be out of this damned heat”, Donni said as he handed the reins to the stable boy, looking up at the front of the Wagon Wheel Saloon.
Carlton, after handing the reins of his horse over, moved towards Donni saying quietly, “Watch you’re mouth Donni Holt”.
The third rider, Kelvin, pushed his hat up to wipe sweat from his forehead to see Donni’s beaming smile now behind Carlton’s back. Carlton, who had turned, saw the reaction on Kelvin’s face, knew they were having an internal laugh at his expense, let it slide. To any casual observer, it was obvious that these three were brothers. All wore the same flat black wide rim hats that were popular among the Mormon community, white ruffled shirts, black brocade vests, a small black string tie with a gold trinket clasp and caps, black pants, and topping it all off was a black long-coat. It appeared they had been on the road for some time. Dust coated their clothes enough so that when they moved small clouds of it would settle around them. The three brothers did not seem to take any notice. Upon close inspection, each had a tied down six-shooter. Each of the holsters appeared to be in various stages of wear, but all perfectly functional.
They all had black hair, cut to the same length, short, and about the same 6 ft. build. Carlton was exactly 6 ft tall and obviously the oldest. Donni about an inch taller and Kelvin an inch shorter. Carlton looked even older due to his sharp black eyes constantly moving to observe the environment around them. Constantly looking for danger. Stress and worry lines marked his face giving him a more mature countenance than his brothers. Mostly it was his mannerisms of being the responsible leader that added to his age. A burden he took serious and wore on him most of the time. When he relaxed and the stresses were gone, his appearance of youth would return to him. His almost, but not quite, barreled chest told of a virile man in his prime of life. Despite the lines in his face and manner he was actually only one year older than Donni at 28, who was several years older than Kelvin, 20. Donni was a bit taller and leaner than them all. He had the distinction of getting his mother’s blue eye color, where as the others all had the predominate black of the Holt clan. They all had been out in the sun of the Arizona territory long enough to be well tanned about the face and hands.
The fourth riding with them, dressed much like the others, but he had an “Easterner” feel about him. Just a little too straight and a bit cleaner in his movement and clothing. He was fussing with his clothes as soon as he was off the horse, beating the dust off in a futile attempt to be dust free. He didn’t fully match his companions in appearance or mannerisms, but was close, very close. Looking around he spotted a boarding house across the street and started in that direction. The Easterner called back as he was walking across the street, “I’ll go get us rooms, Donni get me a whiskey”. Every-time Carlton would look at him, he would ask himself, why was he here? Of course he headed to the boarding house first, Carlton thought, probably going to get a bath before anything else.
“Sure thing Cousin Luke”, Donni called to his back. Thinking he can get his own God damn whiskey, but keeping the remark quiet after being chastised earlier by Carlton.
Carlton pulled his hat off and wiped his sweating forehead, He watched the exchange between his brother and cousin showing only slight interest on the outside, he wanted to say something because he could feel an eventual outcome, but let it set. He would have to deal with it later, he was sure. He took a moment to catch Kelvin’s attention and give him a stern look. One that conveyed the desire that Kelvin be serious and to keep the brothers out of trouble while he was gone. The younger brother having a little more sense than Donni. “I’m going to check the sheriff’s office to see who’s been seen in this area… Maybe find us some work.” He called back at his brothers as he moved away. “You two stay out of trouble until I get back. Get ‘A’ drink or something.” as he held up his index finger. He hoped that his direction to only have one drink would hold, but doubted it would. He had almost given up trying to control the actions of this brothers, unless it was for their own good. Which usually meant his own good.
Donni blinked and assumed an innocent blank expression, “Sure Carlton.”
Carlton stopped, turned, and leveled a dark look at his middle brother, “Stay away from the girls, Donni.” Before turning back towards the sheriff’s office.
Donni looked wounded unable to keep the disappointment off of his face, and Kelvin grinned at his two older brothers. Watching Carlton stroll away down the boardwalk towards a sign showing a crudely painted star on it, muttering to himself as we went.
Kelvin grinning at Donni, “Stay away from the girls, Donni,” he mimicked Carlton’s deep steady voice.
Donni grinned back, his blue eyes sparkling, and headed towards the Wagon Wheel’s entrance…