“He’s got the rest of the cowboys to rile. Brocius, and John Ringo, for instance, are a little different than Ike and the McLaurys.”

“Are you afraid of them?”

Wyatt shrugged.

“Thinking about that doesn’t do me much good one way or the other,” he said.

“And you have friends,” Josie said.

“I do,” Wyatt said and smiled. “And my brother Warren came in from California. He’s planning to stay awhile.”

“Is he like you?” Josie said.

“He’s more like Morgan.”

“Kind of likes trouble?” Josie said.

“Kind of.”

“If only Johnny would just come out in the open,” she said.

Wyatt shook his head.

“It’s not Johnny’s way,” Wyatt said.

“I don’t know what to wish,” Josie said. “I can’t wish that we hadn’t met.”

“No, you can’t wish that,” Wyatt said. “Whatever comes of all this, we are worth whatever it costs.”

“Then I wish someone would kill Johnny.”

“Someone would have to murder him,” Wyatt said. “He won’t come at you straight on.”

“Could you murder him?”


“You’ve shot men before.”

“It’s not just what you do, it’s how you do it,” Wyatt said. “And I think I promised you I wouldn’t.”

“I know,” Josie said. “I know.”

“Shooting the sheriff is serious business. There’s some law out here now. Hell, I’m supposed to be part of it sometimes.”

“Maybe Doc,” Josie said.

“That’s up to Doc,” Wyatt said. “I won’t ask him to do my shooting for me… And I don’t want you asking him.”

She rubbed her cheek against his shoulder.

“You know me quite well, don’t you?” she said.

“I know you’re talking different than you did when you made me promise not to shoot him.”

“I didn’t know it would get down to you or him.”

“Things do,” Wyatt said.

“And you knew they would.”


“And you promised me anyway.”

“I love you,” Wyatt said.

“God, I’m such a little girl.”

“You appear to me to be growing up fast,” Wyatt said.

“What if I talked to Johnny?” Josie said.

“I don’t like that, but even if I did, it don’t really matter anymore. Thing like this has got a life all its own. The balls been opened. It’ll run until it’s done running.”

“And we just wait for it to happen?”

“We can do a little better than that,” Wyatt said. “We can be ready for it.”

It was a Wednesday night, three days after Christmas. Wyatt and Virgil were at the bar in the Oriental. Virgil had a glass of beer. Wyatt was drinking coffee.

“Allie was wondering when Mattie was going to move into the hotel with the rest of us,” Virgil said.

“Allie’ll have to ask her direct,” Wyatt said. “Mattie ain’t got much to say to me.”

“You ask her to come with you?” Virgil said.

“I told her she could.”

“And she said no?”

“She didn’t say anything,” Wyatt said. “Mostly she just cries.”

“Nobody’ll bother her anyway,” Virgil said.

“I know,” Wyatt said.

“How about Josie?”

“Allie asking about her too?” Wyatt said.

“Nope, me.”

“Hell, Virgil, this whole thing is about Behan wanting her back,” Wyatt said. “He’s not going to kill her?”

“Be a way to get at you,” Virgil said.

“No, Johnny ain’t much. But he won’t hurt her.”

“I agree he ain’t much,” Virgil said. “But since the fight and the trial he got a lot of people on his side now. And some of them are much.”

“Curley Bill?”

“Yep, and John Ringo. Billy Breakenridge is a pretty good man. And Dave Neagle.”

“And none of them would hurt Josie,” Wyatt said.

“How ’bout Ike?” Virgil said. “Frank Stilwell? Pete Spence?”

Wyatt nodded.

“Okay. Maybe they would,” he said.

“So whyn’t you send her to San Francisco, let her father look after her, until we clean this up?”

Wyatt drank some of his coffee, holding it in both hands, looking over the rim through the ribbon of steam that rose from the cup. He put the cup down and grinned at Virgil.

“ ’Cause she won’t go,” Wyatt said.

Virgil grinned back at him.

“I understand that,” he said.

Virgil finished his beer.

“Well,” he said, “time to go home.”

“The Cosmopolitan Hotel is not home,” Wyatt said.

“No, but the perimeter’s a hell of a lot easier to secure.”

“Home sweet home,” Wyatt said.

Virgil said good night and turned and walked out of the front door of the Oriental.

Wyatt gestured at the bartender for more coffee, and watched as it was poured. From the street came the sound of gunshots. Wyatt thought there were four. Shotguns, he was pretty sure. Two guns, both barrels? He turned toward the door as Virgil pushed into the saloon. The left side of him was bloody.

“I’m hurt, Wyatt,” Virgil said.

He seemed calm enough, but Wyatt knew that the first shock of injury often left you calm. It hadn’t yet started to hurt like it was going to.

“Where?” Wyatt said.

He stepped to his brother’s side and put his left arm under Virgil’s right arm and held him upright. Wyatt held a Colt.45 in his right hand, pointing at the floor with the hammer thumbed back.

“Empty building across the street,” Virgil said.

“I meant, where are you hurt?”

“Left side, left arm,” Virgil said.

“Can you walk to the hotel?”

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