In July, Charlie Shibell, who was the Pima county sheriff, came over from Tucson and they ate antelope steaks, beans, and biscuits in the Can Can.

“Need a deputy,” Shibell said. “You got the background and I hear you got the temperament. You want the job?”

“How much?” Wyatt said.

“Pay ain’t the thing,” Shibell said. “Part of the job is to collect taxes; most of it’s easy collection-mining companies and the railroad. You keep a percentage.”

“Of everything I collect?”


“Got to shoot anybody?”

“Not so often,” Shibell said. “When you do, you give me a voucher for the ammunition.”

“I got to keep regular hours?” Wyatt said.

“You mean, go to the jail and sit there every day? Hell no. You get them taxes collected, we’ll be happy over in Tucson.”

“I’m your man,” Wyatt said.

An hour later, with a star on his shirt, he walked up Allen Street to Vronan’s bowling alley, where his brother James tended bar. Wyatt had a badge again, like Virgil.

Behind the bar James poured his younger brother some coffee. He did it with his left hand. Wyatt knew he did almost everything with his left hand. He had taken a Rebel miniball in his right shoulder at Sharpsburg. And eighteen years later, his right arm still wasn’t much use. He could use it as a kind of support for his left hand, and he had learned to compensate so that most people didn’t notice that he was mostly one-handed until they had gotten to know him well.

“Morgan will want one too,” James said.

“He can do special deputy work for us,” Wyatt said.

“Virgil gets to be city marshal,” James said, “be a lot of special deputy work.”

Wyatt grinned.

“Better send for Warren,” he said. “Be work for all of us.”

Jim shook his head.

“Not my kind of work.”

“Got plenty of Earps for shooting,” Wyatt said. “We need you to manage our affairs.”

“Soon as we get some,” James said.

“We’re building the houses,” Wyatt said. “Some of our mining claims could work. We make some money dealing cards. Virgil’s a deputy marshal, and now I got this tax-collecting job and Virgil’s going to run for city marshal. Morgan got his shotgun work for Wells Fargo. And he and I do some private work for them, too. Things are looking up for the Earp brothers.”

“In a little while,” James said, “they’ll probably be changing the name of this place to Earpstone.”

Wyatt smiled. He was holding his coffee cup in both hands, as if to warm them. When he drank he raised the cup only slightly and sipped by dipping his head down to it, his eyes moving slowly as he looked about him. Always on the lookout, James thought. All the time looking for the main chance.

“Things are looking up,” Wyatt said, “for the Earp brothers.”

He drank again from his coffee cup, his eyes looking out over the rim at the few miners who were bowling at midday, at the rough bar, at the door that opened onto Allen Street, looking at everything there was to see… and more.

“You got no goddamned right rummaging around in my shed,” Frank McLaury said to Virgil Earp.

“Tracked them Army mules to here, Frank.”

Virgil was dismounted, holding a running iron he’d picked up from among the McLaury irons in the shed. Behind him, still mounted, were Wyatt and Morgan. To their right was an Army lieutenant named Hurst and a cavalry squad from Camp Rucker.

“You see any mules, Virgil?”

Behind Frank was his brother Tom and a group of cowhands, most of them armed. His neighbor Frank Patterson stood with Tom, though he showed no weapon.

“They had ‘U S’ on their shoulders, Frank. What’d you change it to? Something with an eight in it? Every damn rustler in Arizona changes an S to an eight.”

“You calling me a rustler, you sonova bitch?”

Virgil shifted the running iron to his left hand. Wyatt kicked his feet free of the stirrups so he could go fast off the horse to his left and keep it between him and the cowboys. To his right he could see Morgan smiling. Morgan loved trouble.

“Frank,” Patterson said to McLaury, “let’s you and me just step over here and talk with the lieutenant.”

“My name’s known all over the goddamned state,” McLaury said. His face was red. His eyes seemed large. He had a mustache and a tricky little goatee that Wyatt thought made him look foolish.

“Sure it is,” Patterson said. “And everybody knows you’re dead honest. No point making a fight over nothing. Let’s talk with the lieutenant.”

“Go ahead, Frank. No need for trouble,” Tom McLaury said. “Talk with the lieutenant.”

With a hand on McLaury’s arm, Patterson moved him away from the Earps, past the cavalry squad, and into the thin shade of a single mesquite tree.

“Hey, Virg,” Morgan said. “I’m betting he run the ‘U S’ into a D eight.”

Virgil smiled slightly and didn’t answer.

“Am I right?” Morgan said to the cowboys. “I mean, what else you going to make it into?”

“Could be an O eight,” Wyatt said.

They were facing west, into the sun, and Wyatt had his hat tipped forward so that the brim shadowed his eyes. He would not have chosen this position. He’d have liked the sun behind him, in their eyes. But you didn’t always get to choose. Especially with Virgil. When Virgil went at something, he went straight at it and didn’t maneuver much.

“Or maybe a ‘Q B,’ ” Morgan said. “You think these cowboys are smart enough to make a ‘U S’ into a ‘Q B’?”

“You boys quiet down,” Virgil said, without taking his eyes off the cowboys. “We’re just after some stolen mules. Don’t need to get these fellas all riled up about whether they’re smart or not.”

Morgan grinned.

“Just passing time, Virg.”

“Well, pass it quiet.”

Morgan grinned again. He sat silently astride his big chestnut horse, lightly rubbing the fingertips of his right hand slowly up and down his shirtfront. Everyone was silent, facing each other in the hot dirt yard of the ranch. One of the Army horses snorted and tossed his head to clear a fly. It made his harness creak, and some of the hardware jangled briefly. Then it was silent again. There was no wind, and the desert smell mingled with the smell of horses.

Lieutenant Hurst rode back from the mesquite tree alone. Patterson and McLaury stayed there watching.

“We won’t be needing you boys anymore,” Hurst said. “Patterson knows where the mules are.”

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