Like mine. Bill took it off a stage.

Wyatt gently eased the front sight down on the middle of Curley Bill’s mass. Bill fired and the shot sang around him. A shotgun wasn’t so good at this range. But it was what they had. As Curley Bill broke the shotgun to reload, Wyatt squeezed off one barrel, then the other. Curley Bill seemed to shrink in on himself. Wyatt could see the blood suddenly brighten Bill’s shirt, then he sank from sight into the low growth under the trees along the water. Behind him Wyatt heard the loud sharp sound that Winchesters make coming from the cover of the cottonwoods behind him. He could hear Doc’s voice mixed in with the rifle fire.

“Wyatt, get the fuck out of there.”

Covered by the rifle fire, Wyatt dropped the shotgun, hitched up his gun belt, got hold of the roan’s mane, and heaved himself up onto the frantic horse. Something hammered the heel of his right boot. His leg went numb. He yanked the roan’s head around and rammed him into the trees on a dead run. In the shelter of the trees he dismounted, hitched the still-panicky roan to a tree, and, crouching, moved back toward the water with a Colt in his hand. His posse was on the ground, spread out, each with a Winchester. The levered shells scattered brightly on the leaf mold around them. The gunfire stopped. There was uncertain movement across the water, then the sound of horses, and then silence and the reek of spent ammunition. The silence seemed to spiral around them. Wyatt could hear Doc’s breathing.

“They’ve scooted,” Texas Jack said.

His voice was hoarse. So was Sherman McMasters’s.

“You see who it was?” McMasters said.

“Curley Bill was one of them,” Wyatt said.

“You hit anyone?” Doc said.

“Curley Bill, straight on in the chest,” Wyatt said. “Both barrels.”

“Curley Bill’s dead?”

“Be surprised if he wasn’t,” Wyatt said.

“Shit!” Turkey Creek Jack Johnson said. “I always kind of liked Bill.”

“Fuck him,” Doc said. “Let’s take a look.”

“You and I’ll look, Doc,” Wyatt said. “The rest of you boys stay ready in case they didn’t all scoot.”

Doc and Wyatt walked around the water hole. The cowboys were gone, including Curley Bill. At the spot where Wyatt estimated that he had dropped Curley Bill, there was blood on the ground, and some splattered on the leaves near the spot.

“You think the sonova bitch is alive?” Doc said.

“No. He took both barrels. They must have hauled him off to bury him.”

They were quiet under the trees, near the still water of the spring. Doc looked thoughtfully at Wyatt.

“When they opened fire on us,” Doc said, “you rode right in on them, ’stead of taking cover.”

“I saw Curley Bill,” Wyatt said.

“I done that, you’d have said I was a drunken fool,” Doc said.

“Curley Bill shot my brother,” Wyatt said.

“And you don’t drink,” Doc said.

Hooker’s ranch was in the Sulfur Springs Valley near the San Simon River. There was a central fortified house and outbuildings, and grazing land spread out around the house to the horizon.

“Sierra Bonita,” Wyatt said to Warren as they rode down the slow slope toward the main house. “Henry was a general in the war, came out here from back east after, found the best water around, and built a ranch on it.”

“We going to be welcome?” Warren said.

“Henry’s very hospitable,” Wyatt said. He smiled. “And the cowboys been hitting his stock pretty hard.”

“I’ll be glad to get off this animal,” Warren said. “Maybe sleep in a bed.”

“Maybe have something but fried pork and biscuits for supper,” Doc said.

The horses had been watered and fed and washed down and turned out to graze by two of Hooker’s stable hands. The men had washed and changed clothes and sat on the wide front porch in the encroaching April night to drink before dinner.

“I’ll have a little whiskey myself, Henry,” Wyatt said. Doc hooted.

“Watch out for this,” he said. “Earp’s having a drink. Be hell to pay for this.”

Wyatt smiled and sipped at the whiskey. He still didn’t like it, but he took pleasure in the warm spread of it through his chest and stomach.

Hooker sat with them and his foreman, Billy Whelan.

“Understand Behan’s chasing you boys,” Hooker said.

“Carefully,” Wyatt said, “so’s he won’t actually catch us.”

“I hear that Ringo’s with him, and Pony Diehl, and Curley Bill.”

“Curley Bill’s not with him,” Wyatt said.

Hooker looked at Wyatt thoughtfully for a moment.

“Well,” he said, “whoever’s with him, one of my drovers says they’re coming along this way. Expect they’ll show up here around midday tomorrow, looking for a meal.”

“There won’t be any trouble, Henry,” Wyatt said. “I’ll have my people out of here ’fore then.”

“If you want trouble we’ll back you,” Hooker said. “I got fifty tough hands that can shoot.”

“Behan won’t fight,” Wyatt said.

Doc poured himself another drink and gestured at Wyatt with the bottle. Wyatt shook his head. Doc laughed and put the bottle back on the table.

“Ringo will fight,” Doc said.

“There’s no reason to get Mr. Hooker’s ranch shot up and maybe some of his hands hurt,” Wyatt said.

“We could end it right here, Wyatt,” Doc said. “Behan, Ringo, Pony Diehl, Ike Clanton, here altogether. We could finish the goddamned thing.”


“You already got Brocius, why not clean the rest of it up.”

Again Hooker looked at Wyatt without saying anything.


“You won’t fight Behan, will you?” Doc said. “Because he used to be with Josie. You can’t, can you?”

Wyatt turned his gaze on Doc for a long moment and Doc went quiet.

“In the morning,” Wyatt said, “I want all of you up on the top of that hill.” He pointed at the hill on the opposite side of the valley. “You can see in all directions, and if somebody wants to rush you, there’s no cover from them on the hillside.”

“What are you going to do?” Warren said.

“I’m going to stay here and see what Behan wants.”

“He wants your fucking ass,” Doc said. “You stay, I stay.”

“No,” Wyatt said.

“Who’s going to cover your back?”

“We can arrange for that,” Hooker said.

“At least lemme stay,” Warren said. “I’m your brother.”

“That’s the plan,” Wyatt said. “What’s for supper?”

“Boiled beef tongue,” Hooker said. “And some dry corn dumplings, and stewed gooseberries.”

Doc finished the drink in one long swallow.

“Hell,” Doc said, “I was hoping for fried pork and biscuits.”

Вы читаете Gunman's Rhapsody
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату