Fort Sumner, New Mexico Territory, July 14, 1881
* * *
Pat Garrett was startled out of his reverie and looked up as he reached for his gun. When he saw that he was already looking down the barrel of the Kid's double-action revolver, he gave up on the gun idea.
The two men were physical opposites. Garrett was very tall and lean, with dark hair and a large moustache, while the Kid was a good head shorter and fair-haired, with peach fuzz on his upper lip.
"You can go ahead and get that pistol, Pat, but get it with your left hand and slide it across the table butt first." Garrett did as he was told as the Kid pulled back a chair and sat down on the other side of the small round table. There were two doors in Hargrave's saloon. Garrett nervously eyed both doors as the Kid picked up the Colt. "If you're looking for Poe and McKinney, they aren't going to be of much use."
Garrett tensed and gripped the arms of his chair. "Damn you, Billy!"
"Oh, relax, Pat. They're fine. They'll remain fine, and more to the point, you and I will be fine, if you're willing to listen to reason." The Kid called over his shoulder, "Paco, can we get another glass over here? I need to help Pat with this bottle."
The barman brought the glass, left immediately, and the Kid said, "I never knew you to drink so early. Did you have a bad night or something?" He grinned. It was a toothy grin, with slightly protruding front teeth, but his teeth weren't crooked, and because he was so young, they were still mostly white. "But since you are drinking your breakfast, pour us a couple, Pat. My hands are full. I've got my Colt .41 Thunderer in one hand, and in the other, the famous . . . " (he paused and looked at the markings on the barrel of Garrett's revolver) " . . . the famous Colt's Frontier Six-Shooter .44 that was used to kill William Bonney."
Garrett poured the drinks. "You're not all that funny. How long are you gonna play with me before you kill me?"
"Well," said the Kid, "in fairness, you tried to kill me last night in Pete's bedroom, didn't you? You even thought for a while you'd got it done, and the way I hear it, you were kind of whooping it up until somebody lit a candle and spoiled the party." He slowly laid down both revolvers and pushed them to the middle of the table. Garrett's gun was on its left side, with the handle toward the lawman. The Kid pulled back his hands, put the left in his lap, and picked up a glass of whiskey with the right. "Even considering all that," he said, "I don't want to kill you, Pat, now or ever."
Garrett stared at the guns on the table for a moment, then looked up into the Kid's eyes. "You know, with that glass in your gun hand, I believe I can beat you."
The Kid grinned again. "Well, probably. But if you do, you won't make it out of this saloon alive, so why would you want to do that?"
"You really think these Mexicans are going to kill the county sheriff and two deputies over you?"
"Oh, I know damn well they will. I can't figure out what made you think you could kill me last night and just sashay out of Fort Sumner in the first place. These are my folks, Pat."
Garrett shook his head. "Since you bring it up, I never understood what these pepper bellies see in you."
"Well, there you go," said the Kid. "To start off, I don't call them names. I treat them like people. I learned their language, and it means something to them that a white man will take the time. I'm decent with them, and they give it back. As for the senoritas, well, they can't help themselves, can they, Pat?''
Garrett almost smiled in spite of himself. "I wouldn't know. You're not my type."
"Well," said the Kid, "that's good to know. Now, will you drink with me?" He held his glass head high, at arm's length across the table.
"I'd kinda like to know what I'm drinking to."
"If you would pick up your goddamn glass, I'm about to tell you."
Garrett picked up the glass as the Kid cleared his throat. "To Pat Garrett, fearless Lincoln County Sheriff, who faced down and shot dead the notorious man-killer and scourge of the southwest territories, Billy Bonney, alias the Kid, alias Kid Antrim, alias Henry McCarty; and also to the unknown peace-loving stranger who will soon take up residence somewhere in Texas, or California, or Missouri, or Jalisco—any place but god-forsaken Lincoln County, New Mexico Territory."
The Kid bumped glasses and downed his whiskey as Garrett sat motionless. "What the hell does all that mean?"
"What it means, Pat, is if you want to be a hero, and you want to collect the reward that's on my sorry head, and you want Billy the Kid gone for good, and you want to be re-elected sheriff, drink your goddamn whiskey!" He poured himself another drink and clicked glasses again. Garrett hesitated, but this time, he drank.
The sheriff put down his glass, poured another round, and shook his head. "Everybody in Fort Sumner knows the man in Pete Maxwell's cool cellar isn't you."
"That they do. It's Tom Smith, or so he said. It sorta has an alias ring to it, if you ask me, but what do I know about made up names? Anyway, he was around my age. He showed up on foot two or three months ago, no shoes, wearing rags and starving, looking for something to eat. He wouldn't say where he was from, or how he wound up in such a distressed state. Pete fed him and hired him to do whatever nasty work nobody else wanted to do, for room and board. Now it was just his bad luck that last night he walked by Pete's door on his way to the kitchen to find something to eat. I guess he heard voices, and thought maybe somebody was annoying Pete. As it turned out, somebody was, namely one Sheriff Pat Garrett, and poor old Tom got killed for looking in on Pete."
"It was his voice. He sounded like you when he said "quien es. "
"Well, I never said more than "buenos dias" to him, or him to me, so I'll have to take your word for that, not that it gave you any damn right to start slinging lead around the room. But the point is he's nobody. No one on God's earth will miss him, or come looking for him. If you put poor old Tom in the ground today, and I tell my friends in this town to say it was me, that's the way they'll tell it. You can handle Poe and McKinney any way you see fit."
Garrett nodded. "Pete Maxwell's not your friend."
The Kid laughed out loud. "No, he tried to keep Paulita away from me, and now that I've got her in foal, I'm sure he likes me even less, if possible. But Pete's not as stupid as he looks. He'll tell it the same way, because he knows I'll shoot him if he doesn't."
"I can see where it could work," Garrett said. "But I don't like the part where you walk away from a sack full or murders. J.W. Bell was as good-hearted a man as I ever knew, just to mention one."
"I feel bad about Bell. I didn't want that to happen. But I'll tell you what. If Brady and Olinger were standing here right now, I'd shoot both of those bastards again. Besides, you've got no room to talk." The Kid poured two more drinks.
Garrett picked up his glass. "No room to talk? How so?"
"Tom O'Folliard and Charlie Bowdre for starters. Not to mention the fellow in the cellar."
"You forget I'm a duly authorized lawman."
"So was Brady, and he was in the House's pocket, so, naturally, he looked the other way when they gunned down John Tunstall, as good-hearted a man as I ever knew. The son-of-a-bitch might as well have pulled the trigger himself." The Kid pointed at Garrett's chest. "That badge isn't a license to do murder and you've done plenty of it, so don't get high and mighty with me." He swallowed his whiskey and set the glass down hard. "Do we have a deal, or not?"
Around noon Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid met again at the same table in Hargrave's saloon. The summation of the coroner's jury's report was written in Spanish, but the Kid translated as he read it out loud. "We of the jury unanimously find that William Bonney was killed by a shot in the left breast, in the region of the heart, fired from a pistol in the hand of Patrick F. Garrett, and our verdict is that the act of the said Garrett was justifiable homicide, and we are unanimous in the opinion that the gratitude of the whole community is due to the said Garrett for his act and that he deserves to be rewarded. " (Signed) Milnor Rudulph, President, Antonio Sabedra, Pedro Anto Lucero, Jose Silba, Sabal Gutierrez, Lorenzo Jaramillo.
* * *
"All of which information I bring to your notice. " Alejandro Segura, Justice of the Peace.
"Well," said the Kid as he returned the sheet of paper to Garrett, "if you're not embarrassed to file it, it should do the trick."
"It will put everything behind us. That's what we both want," Garrett said. He folded the paper and placed it in his shirt pocket. "The burial is at three, if you want to see yourself into the ground."
The Kid laughed. "You know, Pat, I think I'll pass. But I appreciate the fact that I have the option to skip my own funeral."
They scooted back their chairs and stood almost at the same time. "I don't expect I'll be so lucky." Garrett held out his hand.
The Kid recoiled slightly. "Let's not get stupid, Pat."
"Not as friends." He still held his hand out to the Kid. "To seal the deal."
Billy the Kid took Pat Garrett's hand and pumped it twice. "The deal is sealed. Forever."
It was around sundown when the Kid helped Paulita Maxwell onto the seat of the buckboard. He tousled the mane of the horse as he walked to the other side, then he climbed into the driver's seat beside Paulita. His saddle horse was tied to the back of the wagon, and his saddle, with his Winchester carbine in the scabbard, was close at hand behind the seat. Also in the bed were their belongings, which were few.
They spoke in a mixture of English and Spanish, a comfortable routine they had settled into early in their acquaintanceship. "Did you talk to Pedro?" the Kid asked.
He waited until he knew she wasn't going to volunteer any information, then went on. "Well, what did he say?"
"He said I am loco en la cabeza if I go with you. He said he would take care of me and the bebe. He said my child will want for nothing here, but with you, it will have nothing. You can see what he let me take. It all fits in this tiny wagon, with room left over."
"Well, how about I shoot the son-of-a-bitch, and we just take what we want?"
"You would not kill mi hermano." She turned her face toward his and he saw the tears.
"No, of course I wouldn't." He brushed a tear from her cheek. "Don't," he said. "Don't . . . do that." He leaned against the back of the seat and looked up into the gathering dusk.
"I am so sad, my heart breaks, Guillermo. I don't know what to do."
"Lo se," said the Kid. "I know what you should do."