“You boys working or just enjoying the atmosphere?”

“Enjoying,” Wyatt said.

“How’s Mattie?” Doc said.

His eyes were restless as he talked, always moving, looking at the room, looking at everyone, never settling on anything.

Wyatt shrugged.

“You still trailing Big-Nose Kate along?” Virgil said.

Doc laughed.

“A man will do a lot for a small dose of free poontang,” he said. “Look at your brother.”

“That’s not Wyatt’s problem,” Virgil said.

“No? So what is it? A weakness for hopheads?”

Wyatt looked at Holliday silently, and for a moment Doc saw what Clay Allison had seen on the street in Dodge.

“No offense, Wyatt. You know me. I’m a drunk. I say anything.”

“No offense, Doc.”

“But how come you stay with Mattie, Wyatt? Hell, you don’t even like her.”

“We all got women,” Wyatt said.

“And you don’t want to be the only one,” Doc said.

“I brought her down here,” Wyatt said. “She wouldn’t get along well on her own.”

Doc looked at Virgil.

“You understand your brother?” he said.

Virgil smiled slowly.

“Yeah,” he said. “I guess I do.”

Doc shrugged and shook his head. He went to drink and realized his glass was empty. He stood.

“Be right back,” he said. “You boys want anything?”

Both Earps said no. At the bar, Doc got two glasses of whiskey. As he turned from the bar, a big man in a black jacket with velvet lapels jostled him and Doc spilled one of the drinks onto the triangle of white shirt that showed above the last button of the black coat.

“You better be careful what you’re doing, skinny,” the man in the black coat said.

Doc stared at him for half a second and then threw the other drink into his face, glass and all. In a continuation of the gesture his hand continued on under his own coat and came out with a short silver Smith amp; Wesson revolver. He thumbed the hammer back as he drew the gun.

“Are you ready to die today?” Doc said.

There were red smudges on his cheekbones and his voice was high and metallic. He held the gun straight on the big man’s face.

The big man wiped the whiskey from his face and stared at Doc’s gun.

“You scrawny little bastard,” he said. “I ought to take that thing ’way from you and wring your goddamned neck.”

“Do it.” Doc’s voice had dropped to a shrill whisper. “Go ahead and do it, you sonova bitch.”

The space around the two men had cleared; one of the bartenders leaned across the bar and spoke to Doc.

“No sense to this, Doc, it was just an accident.”

Without taking his eyes off the big man, Doc swatted at the bartender with the back of his left hand. The bartender pulled his head back out of the way. Wyatt and Virgil got up from their table and walked over. They reached Doc at about the time the owner of the Oriental, Bill Joyce, appeared around the end of the bar.

“Goddammit, Doc,” Joyce shouted.

“You can be next,” Doc said.

The big man wasn’t backing down. He kept staring at Doc, his hand lingering close to his right hip.

Wyatt stepped in front of Doc, and Virgil stepped in close against the big man, pressing his own hip against the big man’s right hip.

“Enough,” Wyatt said. “Enough.”

“Get out of the way, Wyatt.”

Wyatt shook his head and with the palm of his open left hand gently pushed Doc’s gun away from the big man and up so that it pointed toward the pressed-tin ceiling of the bar. Then he closed his hand around the gun with two fingers between the hammer and the cartridge. They stood motionless for a moment in that posture and then Doc slowly opened his hand and Wyatt took the gun. He eased the hammer down and handed it to the bartender, who stowed it behind the bar.

Looking at the big man in the black coat across Wyatt’s shoulder, Doc said, “What’s your name?”

“John Tyler,” the big man said. “You better remember it.”

Doc smiled. “What’d you say it was?”

The two men looked at each other for another moment, each restrained by an Earp, then Tyler shrugged and turned and left the bar. He shrugged the collar up on his black coat and went outside without looking back. There was a brief surge of cold air as he opened the door and went out onto Allen Street.

By the time they got Doc back to the table the red smudge on his cheekbones had faded and the shrillness had left his voice. Bill Joyce sent him two fresh drinks. Doc picked up a glass of whiskey and held it up to the light. He examined it closely and smiled and nodded his head and drank it and put the empty glass down. Virgil had a sip of beer. Wyatt drank some coffee.

“Ought to drink more whiskey, Wyatt,” Doc said. “It’s very liberating.”

“Be liberating you right out of this world, one of these days,” Virgil said.

“Worse ways to go,” Doc said and drank from the other glass.

Before he went to bed Wyatt put some wood into the big iron stove in the parlor. He left the bedroom door open so that the heat would spread. He put his revolver on the floor beside his bed and got in under the heavy quilt where Mattie lay on her back. He could smell the whiskey on her breath. As he settled in, she turned away from him on her side, her back to him. He didn’t mind. He felt no desire. When he was with her he felt leaden.

Helps keep the bed warm, he thought. Good for something.

She’d been fun once. A good-natured whore with an easy temperament when he’d met her in Dodge. His brothers had women with them, and Mattie Blaylock was eager to accommodate the man who’d run Clay Allison. But the fun had been mostly saloon fun. At home ironing his shirts, Mattie had lost much of the brightness that had gleamed in the gaslit cheer of the Long Branch. In truth, he realized, much of the brightness and the good nature had come from alcohol, and, domesticated, she could no longer consume enough of it, even boosted with laudanum, to be much more than the petulant slattern that was probably who she really was. Still, she could cook and her sewing brought in some money. And he didn’t have to spend much time with her. His brothers were here. There were prospects in Tombstone. There was money to be made. And he could use up most of his time trying to make it. Only at night did he feel loss, at night, or in those moments when she tried to make of their situation something more than it was. He hated her attempts to be affectionate, and he hated much worse her attempts to elicit affection from him. If she would merely provide him the domestic service he needed, he would ask for little more. A man needed a woman at home. Virgil had Allie, whom he considered a mouthy little bitch, but Virgil liked her. James and Jessie, Morgan and Lou, Wyatt and Mattie. He made a face in the cold darkness. Still, there was a symmetry to it, all the Earps, all their women. He thought about Josie Marcus with the big dark eyes whom he’d seen on stage. He knew she would be different. He felt his throat thicken, and the center of himself fold inward. He felt Mattie’s backside pressed against his under the comforter. He inched away, so that there was space between them, and thought no more of Josie Marcus, and lay leaden until he fell asleep.

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