The Holts… Chapter 7
Chapter 7, Donni
Luke was a few steps behind him as Kelvin ran up the street, both drawing their pistols. They rounded a corner and stopped. Donni stood there, holding his .45 and looking down in some surprise at the dusty cowboy laying at his feet. Another cowboy stood there, hands well away from his sixgun, strapped to his thigh. Phoebe Gatlin stood a couple paces behind Donni, her hands over her face. Crying. They could hear people coming out of the buildings behind them.
“What happened, Donni?” Luke said quickly, his eyes on the other man, his gun leveled at his chest. The cowboy straightened up, eyes wide, and stood very still.
Donni rubbed his face, “We was walkin’ down the street and these two walked up and started giving the girl a hard time. I think that they’re from some other spread, at least that is all I could figure out. Next thing I knew he was grabbin’ at his gun. So I shot him… in the head.” The violet exchange that Donni described was well laid out in the sprawl of the cowhands body.
Kelvin groaned and pointed his gun at the corpse, “Dammit Donni, you killed him!”
Donni glanced at him puzzled, “Sure as hell did. I intended to. No lady should have to listen to talk like he was dishin’ out. Besides he pulled his gun.”
Luke sighed and looked at Kelvin, “I see what you mean.” as he slid his gun back in his holster and began to scan the crowd. Wondering where Carlton was.
Townspeople came running up, now that the gunfire was over. A large crowd was gathering quickly. This could get out of hand. Where the hell was Carlton, Kelvin thought, we need Carlton now…
Carlton had just stepped out of the telegraph office, rolled a cigarette and placed it in his mouth when he heard the gunshots. There could be no question, that was Donni doing the shooting. Two quick shots a slight pause then a third, he always put his last one in the head, said they tended to stay dead better that way. When your fighting outlaws it was the best way, but not in town, with townsfolk.
Carlton knew there were a lot of men faster than Donni Holt but he never missed, at least not with his eyes open. So that made him deadlier than most, deadlier even than many of the faster men. Carlton spit his cigarette out without lighting it and ran down the street. A crowd was gathering when he rounded the corner by the stables. As he could have guessed Donni was standing over the body of a grimy cowhand while a pretty young girl stood a few paces away looking appropriately horrified. Of course there was a girl. Luke and Kelvin standing around looking dumbfounded as the crowd closed in around them. Carlton impatiently shoved his way through the crowd. Time to take control of the situation before it got out of hand. That meant making sure he was in control of the participates in the center of the crowd.
Quickly scanning the scene in front of him he could see right away that Donni had killed a cowhand. Two holes in him as he laid on the ground. Good… there wasn’t three holes in him. His pistol laying by his side, out of his holster.
“Donni! Five minutes, five minutes, I leave you alone for five minutes and you go killing somebody!” Carlton turned to Kelvin “And just where the hell were you? I thought I told you to stay with your brother!”
“I…I… You…Luke… Ugh.” Kelvin stammered, and then turned and looked at Luke with a martyred expression. “See?” Luke gave him a slight smile with sympathetic eyes.
The girl ran up to Carlton, tears running down her face, “It wasn’t Donni’s fault mister, he was trying to protect me.” Carlton wrapped his arm around her in a fatherly way.
Carlton looked up to see Donni nodding agreement with that same dumb innocent look he’d used with little success all his life. “I assume you’ll say the same thing to the sheriff” Carlton’s eyes trailed back to the upturned face in front of him. He could see why Donni had been following her around. She was a beauty. She nodded into his chest.
“Phoebe, get away from him” Carlton turned at the sound of the sheriff’s voice. “How did I know I’d find you here?”
“Just lucky I guess” Kelvin mumbled to no one in particular and getting a sharp look from Carlton.
The sheriff glared at the Holt clan standing there with an obviously dead cowboy between them. “Did it really take all four of you to handle him?” he said. It was easy to see that the cowboy had been shot by one of the Holt boys. This was going to be a mess. They were not going to like it either.
Donni bristled but Carlton reached out and put a hand on his arm. Time to take control of his brothers and get this over with. “Why don’t we all just settle down and take this back to your office sheriff.”
Ah, the tall one, the gunslinger of course he had been the one to do the killing, Morgan thought. His gun rig was well worn from practice. Much more than the others. Still all four were here and all four ready for a fight.
The sheriff was a little disappointed that he hadn’t been able to bait these troublemakers into losing their cool. He was sure with the townsfolk around and the fact that he had his rifle trained on the gunslinger he would have had backup if something went wrong. He didn’t like these type of men in his town and as always trouble happened with men such as this. Even if they were just riding through. Someone would always want to prove they were the bigger man, the drifter or some town folk trying to be impressive. Never a good mix. Best to just get this locked down quick, still he wasn’t about to jump on doing what that Carlton Holt fellow wanted right away.
“Alright then, who saw what happened?” He looked around to see Phoebe looking at him, tears streaming down her face, trying to get a breath, and taking a step away from Carlton toward him.
The second cowhand, looking scared and not too convinced, stepped forward meekly saying. “I saw it all, that f-fancy boy there just gunned Zeb down in cold …”
“Liar,” exploded out of Phoebe, as the girl fairly screamed and then began to sob uncontrollably.
Donni moved towards the girl but was stopped by the business end of the sheriff’s Winchester carbine. “I was just gonna…”, he mumbled.
The sheriff motioned him back with the rifle barrel, in line with the others in front of him. “I don’t care what you was gonna do. You just stand right there where I can keep an eye on you,” he turned his head but kept his eyes on the men in front of him. “Billy!” A younger man with a deputy’s badge edged through the crowd. “You take Miss Gatlin back to the office, I’ll be along with the rest of ’em in a minute.”
Sheriff Morgan looked at the body on the ground. The town doctor who had arrived a couple of minutes earlier stood next to him shaking his head. Anybody could see the two ragged holes made by Donni’s 45, one in the chest and one in the head. Either one would have been sufficient to kill the man, Zeb was it?, between them they just made a mess.
He glared at the Holts, “I told ya, if you tangled with me there was gonna be trouble! We’ll have to have a hearing. I wouldn’t give a silver piece for you brother’s chances on this one, Holt. Judge Harper will be here in about a week. Until then he’ll have to stay in the jail.”
“Now wait a minute,” Luke Holt spoke up.
The sheriff thumbed back the hammer on his Winchester with an audible click, “I ain’t gonna argue with you boys about it. That’s the way it is.”
Carlton waved Luke down, “Sure, sheriff. If that’s the way you want it. I’m sure a trial will turn up the facts. But we both know that it was a fair gunfight… this just seems like a useless formality.”
Morgan grimly shook his head, “Your brother is a gunfighter, Mr. Holt. That poor dead cowpuncher didn’t stand a chance against him. I don’t think a jury will see it in the favorable light that you want them to… and I think that you’d better put your pistol away son,” the sheriff said this to Kelvin who still had his .45 in hand, hanging at his side.
Kelvin looked down at it in some surprise then slid it back into his holster. Sheriff Morgan motioned at Donni with his carbine. “Now you untie that rig real nice and slow and hand it to one of the good townspeople. Just take your time… I’m not in the mood for surprises.”
Donni glanced at Carlton with a frown on his face, “It was a fair fight, Carlton! He drew first.”
Carlton nodded, “Just do like he says, Donni. Nothing’s going to happen to you… I’ll make sure of that.”
Donni untied his gun holster and handed the two gun belt to a convenient blacksmith. He glared at the other cowboy who was still white-faced, “You’d better not lie about this mister if you now what’s good for you.”
The sheriff shoved Donni with his gun, “Shaddup! Now move let’s get a move on to the jail. The rest of you stay here.” As they proceeded him toward the jail the sheriff called back to the other cowhand. “Take care of your friend’s body and then come over to the jail to give me your statement. Don’t leave town.”
Carlton motioned for Kelvin and Luke to stay there as he fell into step beside the sheriff. Kelvin moved to the blacksmith and took his brothers guns.
Morgan eyed Carlton distrustfully and kept the hammer on his rifle cocked. “Don’t go gettin’ any funny ideas, mister. I’m not a cowhand… I know how to use a gun pretty good. Why don’t you just take a step ahead if you want to come with us.”
Carlton grinned and shook his head, “Relax, sheriff. We both know that was a fair gunfight. Donni may be a little hot-headed at times but he’s no killer.” Staying in step with the sheriff.
Donni glanced back at his brother, a puzzled expression in his eyes. What the hell was Carlton talking about? He got the look, this is one of those times where he was just supposed to shut-up and let Carlton talk.
The sheriff shook his head and said determinedly, “Your brother is a gunman, Mr. Holt. Just like you and your other brothers. I’ve seen your type before. You always show up at the first sign of trouble, lookin’ to make some money. That dumb cowboy didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of pullin’ on your brother. I think that your brother started the whole thing and he’s maybe just got Miss Gatlin talking nonsense to protect him… he’s a mighty handsome boy… you just keep walking, “the sheriff prodded Donni as he stopped and started to turn around and protest. He couldn’t stand hearing someone talk mistruths about a lady. No matter who they were.
Carlton gave a disgusted snort, “You don’t believe that for a minute. Donni had no reason to pull on him unless he was causing trouble. Miss Gatlin said that the cowboy went for his gun first. Now in my opinion sheriff, if a man’s going to wear a gun then he ought to be sure he knows how to use it.”
Morgan sighed, “I told you I wasn’t going to argue about it. We’ll let Judge Harper decide. Save your breath for him.”