The Holts… Chapter 27
Chapter 27, The Dead
…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.