Two hours past noon the Arizona Diablo Saloon had its usual customers of miners and drifters. They draped against the bar and their voices for the moment were clamorous. This round of beer was on the house because Big Johnny Ubanks had uncovered another vein of silver along Ghost Hill Range. He was here to brag and celebrate. Two whores were sparsely clad and waiting for customers, sitting at the middle poker table along with Pick Dryson, watching him deal another hand.
* * *
The smell of hot air in the saloon was equal to that outside. But it was the smell of whiskey and cigarette smoke that made the difference.
"Five cards, ladies?" Pick said. His hands moved around the table and the delivery was clockwise. The remaining deck rested to his left.
Cards fanned open and heads lowered as if to pray. Abigail Morris put the cards face down. Her fingers went inside a tight silk belt to retrieve a tobacco pouch. She rolled a smoke and slid the pouch over to Mary Barton. Their gray smoke slowly drifted above the table. Pick was offered the same pouch and he shook his head no.
"Business is slow, Pick," Abigail said. She glanced at her cards and let the cigarette rest in the corner of her mouth.
"Meaning?" His eyes lifted from his pair of nines.
"Ain't got no money to bet," she said.
"A shot of whiskey then," he said.
"Cheap bet, but I'll agree with that wager."
"And what about you, Mary?" he asked.
Mary took a long drag and released a cloud of drawn-out smoke. "If Abigail and me lose, you get two shots o' whiskey?"
"That's the rules," Pick said.
"And if Abigail or me wins, we each get that whiskey at your expense?"
Abigail laughed, nodding her head. "That's the rules."
Pick took his time to look at both women. His head slowly moved up and down. "Anybody to discard?" he asked.
"Gimme two," Abigail said. The cards were dealt and replaced.
"I'll take three," Mary said, keeping her pair of queens.
"And the dealer wants three." Pick's new cards didn't help his hand.
Jovial ballyhoo at the far end of the bar was coming from Laird Sears. He was the bully in town, a fast talker and even faster with his Smith & Wesson. The holster was tied tight to his right leg. Laird told the same joke again and wanted Darby Fitch and Jud Hart to laugh at his stupidity.
They were old miners who wanted to be left alone. And the joke wasn't funny.
Laird took another sip of warm beer and started to press his weight against the two ragged-looking gents.
The hot afternoon was to the backside of a stranger when he pushed open the saloon door. His face was in shadow beneath a brim hat and his bronze skin was lathered with salty sweat. His spurs barely jingled when he walked forward.
The newcomer created a hush that swept around the room. The hard-set bully continued to smirk after telling the joke again to a silent audience. Mary Barton kept her pair of queens hidden and knew that Pick would pay up on the whiskey bet.
"Laird Sears," the stranger said.
The room's laughter ended and Laird pushed away from the bar.
"I'm Clancy Hobbs. You run some horses away from Carl Spartan that you did not intend to buy. When you returned, you paid him back with a bullet to his gut. Before he died, he mentioned your name."
Laird smiled. "You the law?"
"A good friend," Clancy said. "Related, if that's your business."
"Friend, if I were you, I'd mosey on away from here. Take your ideas further down the trail. I ain't fixin' to fear you or nobody."
Silence filled the Arizona Diablo.
"Mister," Clancy said. "You're heeled and ready to kill me. Ain't gonna happen 'cause fear never crossed my mind."
"I got Pa and twin brothers all around," Laird said. "If I ain't back for evenin' supper, they'll be on your trail, no matter how far you run."
Clancy touched his Colt and showed a faint smile. His lips widened and his teeth were white.
Laird lost his smile and his expression was cold. "Laugh at me, you sonova bitch? You ain't got the guts to lift that Colt. By the time you do, this Smith & Wesson 'ill unload on you, fast as possible."
A hidden voice near the piano introduced the stranger. "Laird, you best back off. That's Clancy Hobbs. I heard tell that he's lightnin' fast, and . . . "
Laird ignored the comment and a swift hand lifted his gun.
Clancy quickly responded and a single shot landed in Laird's chest. Laird momentarily staggered and his muscular body fell with a heavy thud to the floor. Blood formed into a puddle atop the wooden planks.
Gun smoke lifted.
"Mister Sears," Clancy said. "You had your chance to fear me, and now your chance ain't no more."
Clancy returned to the afternoon sun and mounted up. Following him from behind out to the street was Darby Fitch.
"Douglas is the next town over?" Clancy said.
"Yes, Sir. Borders with New Mexico Territory."
"Tell Laird's Pa the truth. He's a damn horse thief and nobody has cause to chase me."
"Yes, Sir. I'll mention your name and what you said."
"If you see the law, you tell 'em the same story," Clancy said.
Fitch gave a faint smile. "You know somethin', Mister," he said. "I was from Hockley, Texas before I started mining here. There's this marshal that you might face sometime, and I reckon that you could whip his ass good in a gunfight."
"They call him Crow," Fitch said. "I never heard a first name, just Crow. He sure is a wicked ol' bastard. You might wanna fear him."
Clancy's laugh was curt and terse. "Fear ain't a part of my life," he said. "I'll run my challenge up against anybody, lawman or not. I got more business ta tend to in Steins."
"You're on the right trail, Mister. Just the other side of Douglas."
Arizona Territory dust kicked up and the stranger disappeared to the east.
The torrid afternoon heat intensified across the old Reb's wrinkled skin. Stains of sweat soaked into what remained of a whitened Confederate uniform. Two decades ago, Charlie Yetter lost a lower leg at Vicksburg. In the same struggle another bullet sliced the right of his face into partial blindness. After the war he drifted west, roaming through various towns, settling in Steins, New Mexico Territory, near the story border with Arizona. He was a loner, sometimes a vagrant, living on odd jobs and begging. The meager amount he collected he spent on cheap whiskey and warm beer. His appearance was disfigured to the extent that only the white of a right eye was visible. Town folk of Steins gave him their insults and slurs, calling him the Mississippi ghost.
Charlie stood in the sunlight facing the stage depot with a ring of perspiration under his left armpit, pressing hard against an awkward wooden crutch. Droplets of sweat formed beneath his faded hat, trickling over an unshaven and scarred face. Circles of body moisture dampened the front and back of his ragged gray uniform.
Those boarding the Butterfield had been warned of the impending danger and were impatient, wanting to leave Steins before the arrival of the wandering stranger. Gossip increased and voices around the stage spoke their owners' frightened opinions.
"Harvey Werner says he saw 'im ride from Douglas, 'bout a' hour ago."
"That means he should be here, pert soon."
"What was he doing in Douglas? And why's he coming this direction?"
"I heard tell that he was letting his horse cool. At the same time buying some ammunition at Red Meyes' mercantile."
"Who is he? He ain't no lawman. Maybe a bounty hunter?"
"I think he's a gunslinger for hire."
"How do you know?"
"I was near enough to see his Pearl Handle Colt. One-of-a-kind that's made special."
"That still don't answer the question of why he's riding here. What's his business in Steins?"
"Maybe he had a run-in with the Bishop kin. They're in the saloon right now."
"But there's four o' them, an' one o' him."
"He ain't gonna live too long if he goes up against those brothers."
"We all 'member Elliot Stewart. He tried to do the same thing. They cut him to shreds."
"And when Elliot was face-up on the ground and full of bullets, they thought he looked to be damn funny. Those brothers didn't let up with laughing and carrying on afterwards. Elliot was barely alive and Matthew Bishop slowly come up, standin' over him, and shot him straight into his face. That was a real shameful sight. I 'member the undertaker had to pick Elliot up in pieces."
"So who's this driftin' stranger?"
"I have a hunch, but I ain't for sure. You said he was armed with a special lookin' Colt, havin' a pearl handle?"
"Yes, Sir. That's what I was hearing. I ain't to be guessin', but I'll wager it's the same man who wasn't afraid to take care of business over in Tidemore."
"Your story is straight fact. I hear he rode through that town like he owned the whole damn place."
"Yep. That'd be Clancy Hobbs."
Caleb Fenske looked to Tiny Joe Bushig, and both men agreed. Others in the crowd were tense, and talk was minimal. The stage began to quickly fill with apprehensive customers. The remaining town folk rapidly departed in various directions.
After hearing the name Clancy Hobbs, Charlie Yetter pushed hard against his wooden crutch. He crossed the dusty main street in front of the Butterfield and hobbled to the opposite boardwalk.
The stage was already behind schedule and the road east suddenly cleared of people and wagons. Tiny Joe climbed to the wood bench seat, released the brake and slapped hard on the reins. Four horses jerked the Butterfield from the depot, leaving a cloud of scattered pebbles and debris.
Charlie limped past the saloon, listening to a chorus of sots and whores bellow a familiar tune at the piano. Both doors to the Royal Queen remained open and the aroma of whiskey and smoke lingered beyond the entryway.
The Mississippi ghost hobbled forward, across the boardwalk in front of the charred remains of the old land office. Sidewalk wood was split apart into deteriorated planks. The fire happened nearly five months earlier after a quarrel between Reese Underwood and Virgil Roberts. Reese ran the office and Virgil argued that his claim to the Shaker Mine shaft had first dibs, and didn't belong to Frank Roth. The argument persisted and Virgil wheeled a Bowie knife. Reese defended himself and killed Virgil in one shot. Virgil's brother had an earlier run-in with Reese, and the next evening Tred Roberts and two other miners showed up in town. Later that night Reese was found with a knife in his gut, alongside his burned-out building. Tred disappeared and nothing more was said of the issue.
Charlie hobbled again, his boot shuffling across new boardwalk, stopping in front of the barbershop. Shade from the tin roof overhang somewhat cooled the business front. He balanced his stance near the checker game between the two old-timers there.
"Don't bother us, you one-eyed drunk," Dawson Keys said. His tone was sarcastic, trying to ignore the single-leg veteran. "I got red kings all over the board, so it don't look good for you, Johnny Days. Ain't that right, Johnny Days?" Dawson pushed back in his chair, glanced across the makeshift table and his laugh was curt and insulting.
"You know who . . . who's g . . . gonna be h . . . here real so . . . soon?" When he was anxious, Charlie stuttered severely in a noticeable Southern drawl. "Clan . . . Clancy Hobbs, that's wh . . . who. You ain't to be pla . . . playing much long . . . longer, once Clan . . . Clancy Hobbs gets to tow . . . town. You bet . . . better listen up."
Both players turned a deaf ear to Charlie's broken talk. Dawson only shook his head and moved another king into a stalemate.
"Di . . . didja hear wha . . . what I was say . . . saying? I hear . . . heard he's gun . . . gunning for the Bish . . . Bishop broth . . . brothers."
After the game had ended the wooden red and black pieces returned to their beginning squares. Dawson retrieved a silver dollar and tossed it at Charlie. "Here, Reb," he said, watching the old soldier make a fist around the coin. "Don't tell me stories that ain't true. You tend to do that a lot. I've heard that Clancy Hobbs likes to hang around near the border, south of Tombstone. And that's miles from here."
"Them Bish . . . Bishop brothers bes . . . best be wah . . . watching out for tha . . . that gu . . . gunslinger."
Dawson made his first move of the next game and didn't look up as he spoke. "I gave you a silver dollar," he said. "Buy yourself a drink. When you see Matthew Bishop, you can tell him your crazy-soundin' story. Besides, what's the fast gun of Clancy Hobbs doing in this section of territory?"
"I ain't tell . . . telling no crazy soun . . . sounding story. May . . . maybe Mister Red . . . Redding might print a stor . . . story."
"You ain't too far from the newspaper office next door. I'm right sure that Grover Redding will make room on the front page."
Charlie slowly shuffled away, his weight heavy on the crutch. At the end of the barbershop the last board was slightly warped and gave out a creaking sound. Continual drops of sweat fell across his scarred face, his dirty hair was a tangle of perspiration, and his body odor reeked through the tattered and almost-white military shirt.
Reaching for the door handle to the newspaper office, Charlie had the entryway ajar and used his crutch to ease open the door. He hobbled far enough to stand halfway inside and saw Grover busy at his desk. "Mister Red . . . Redding. Tha . . . they was talking at the dep . . . depot, and don't prin . . . print noth . . . nothing 'till he get . . . gets here. You heard the new . . . news of—"
A sudden and forceful surge of wind entered from the west end of town. It swirled and danced in a vicious pattern, lifting and tossing dust and debris across the main road. This was a blinding storm that immediately swirled through Steins, and pelted the face of every building with endless fragments of desert powder. The savage wind increased and the town swelled with a blanket of soot and sage. Sounds of the twirling and forceful wind pounded against clapboard siding and tin roofs, hard-hitting and destructive, and both sides of Steins momentarily disappeared.
As thunderous as the storm was as it raged across the landscape, it suddenly vanished, fading away in a southeasterly direction, continuing to whirl and gyrate. At the opposite end of town, where the storm began, a serene blue sky filled the horizon.
Charlie and Grover stood in the doorway, gazing at the calm to the west, and listened to the faint approach of a single horseman. Where the incoming trail widened to form the main road through Steins, the sound of clopping hoofs came forward in a gradual and steady pace. The lone rider continued to coax the bay. His advance moved through the center of town. A brim hat kept his face in shadow, and his dark eyes were watchful on the exterior of every building.
Town folk hid behind windows and doors. From those panes of glass, terrified faces peered out to the street and with hushed tones, whispered that the stranger had arrived. Charlie and Grover stood silent on the boardwalk and both sides of Steins were vacant and still. The once-set checkerboard tipped over and the wind scattered the red and black pieces beyond the barbershop.
The Reb jabbed at Grover, keeping his one eye fixed on the newcomer. "If tha . . . that be Clan . . . Clancy Hobbs, he . . . he sure don . . . don't loo . . . look that mea . . . mean to me. They sa . . . say he's com . . . coming from Doug . . . las and rid . . . riding through thi . . . this bad heat. I rec . . . ken that his mouth is aw . . . awful dr . . . dry of trail dus . . . dust. If he . . . he come thr . . . through that sto . . . storm, I'm sure tha . . . that he's nee . . . needing a beer to fe . . . el more bet . . . better. Dawson, gim . . . gimme a silver dol . . . dollar, and may . . . maybe him and meeee can ha . . . have a drink to . . . gether. What you thin . . . think of that, Grov . . . Grover?"
"Charlie," Grover said. "Stay your distance from that man. He's gunnin' for somebody, and if you ain't too careful, his business might include you."
"But I ain . . . ain't got no gun to shoo . . . shoot nobody. Ol' Char . . . Charlie ain . . . ain't afraid to as . . . ask."
"Don't be a damn fool. He ain't concerned with you. If you get in his way, there's no telling if you'll end up dead."
Charlie ignored the warning. He continued to hold the coin inside his curled fingers and slowly moved across sections of boardwalk.
Clancy pushed forward, vigilant and cautious, pulling right on the reins and bringing the bay to a stop in front of the Royal Queen. Dismounting from a hard saddle, he remained observant of the ghostly town as he threw the reins around the hitch rail. His duster was noticeably wrinkled and the shirt inside the open front hosted a layer of dust over stains of sweat.
The only sound of activity was the piano player inside the saloon, busy at the keyboard, joined by a festive crowd of miners and barroom prostitutes. Clancy started to cross the boardwalk and his spurs pinged against the weathered wood. Out of the corner of his eye he spied Charlie, hobbling forward toward his location.
Charlie stopped and gazed at the stranger. An increasing smile revealed a black hole of missing teeth. He held out an open hand to show his financial gift. "D . . . Dawson gimme a dol . . . dollar to ha . . . have me a shot a whis . . . whiskey. I'd sur . . . sure enjoy your com . . . company to shar . . . share my whis . . . whiskey money, 'cause I bel . . . believe you to be Mister Hob . . . Hobbs. Sir."
Clancy's eyes remained in shade, looking at the old Reb, glancing at the coin that had lost its shine. He slowly opened the long duster, and with his left hand proceeded to remove an identical dollar from inside a waist tight gun-belt. "You wanna make another piece of silver equal to what you're holding?"
Charlie continued to smile as he eased his crutch ahead and felt the second coin drop atop the first. "Yes, S . . . Sir, Mister Hob . . . Hobbs! You got a cho . . . chore for Char . . . Charlie to be don . . . done? Most fol . . . folks just call me Ol' . . . Ol' Reb."
"Ol' Reb, take my bay to the livery. Tell whoever's in charge there to feed and water him. He's lathered and needs shade to cool a spell. I won't be in town very long. Right now I got business ta tend to, and from what I've been hearing, pert soon I'll be heading east again."
"Yes, S . . . Sir! Right away f . . . for you, S . . . Sir!" Charlie closed his fingers around the two coins. His limp was noticeable as he hobbled to the hitch rail, where he untied the reins and the bay followed in tow.
Clancy pushed open the swinging door and entered the Royal Queen. Those around the piano suddenly ended their entertainment, as did the keyboard player. The stale air heavy with smoke filled the room and the odor of whiskey was ever present. A handful of customers lined the bar and one man was too drunk to lift his head. A single table of four poker players abruptly lowered their cards face down.
"I'm looking for three people." Clancy's voice was loud and demanding. "Two of them have the name of Bishop. The other fella is Joshua Riddle."
The room began to clear of customers. Three men remained standing at the bar and each continued to enjoy their glass of beer. They gave no credence to the stranger's statement.
Clancy rapidly scanned the room and saw faces pale with fright. Again he focused on the backside of those who didn't move away from the bar. His right hand slowly pushed back the duster to expose a pearl handle Colt. The stranger's statement was hard-set and cutting. "I'm looking for—"
"I heard you the first time." The response came from the middle man facing the bar. "You said the name was Bishop? Which one are you calling out? I do believe that three are here. One more across the street in the barbershop. That other name you mentioned was Joshua Riddle. I ain't for certain that I recall him mentioned before. Maybe you best ride on out because there ain't nobody here with that name." Their laughter was in unison and each glass they lifted was in tandem as they finished their separate drinks.
"I'm lookin' for Stratton an' Russell." Clancy's tone was snarling and nasty. "Those Bishop kin done a vicious killing in Arizona Territory. I reckon that two of you sonsa bitches are who I'm after. Turn around and each of you speak your name."
The middleman slowly turned first, and the other two gradually moved in separate directions, only a short distant apart. All three had tough features. They were range riders with grungy outfits, collar-length dirty hair, and sun-baked faces that remained in shade beneath soiled hats. Their grimy hands edged away from their now-empty beer glasses, sliding down hard to leather holsters. Their palms began to touch separate gun butts.
"We're all Bishop-related, you bastard! I'm Matthew, the oldest. Over here is Kendall. And to this side is Stratton. 'Cross the street is Russell. Like I told you before, Mister, none of us here ain't knowin' that fella Riddle. Perhaps you ain't hearing so good to get what I said. You look like you been on the trail a while, and I'm suspecting that desert dust has filled your damn ears. We ain't to be rememberin' that other name."
"Killin' o' who?" Stratton said. He had squared around to face Clancy.
"Remember passin' through Coyote Ridge?" Clancy said. "It was well into darkness and you two were running hard with Riddle. Your horses were wet and you wanted shelter for the night. On the far outskirts of town is a farmhouse. They're a nice family and she happened to be real pretty."
Each brother shook his head.
Clancy's voice turned wicked. "You were thinking that they had some money to steal, so you shot the man and took a Bowie knife to cut up the woman. That was after you ripped off her clothes off to enjoy a free fuck. You bastards! By the time I got there, she was dead. James lived, but can't walk anymore. Your bullet dug into his back so bad that he's bedridden forever. James is my brother."
"You ain't nothin' but a damn liar," Stratton said. "I never been that far into Arizona Territory."
"James said that you and Russell talk too much. You told him who you were in the beginning. Riddle was there with you. You three had it planned to shoot him dead and knife her from screaming. But James didn't die like you planned. He lived to tell me who you were. The woman you knifed, her name was Kate, and she's my sister-in-law. Now do you remember? How 'bout Joshua Riddle? Do you finally remember who he is? Don't lie because you three were right there together."
In front of the Royal Queen the sound of a swishing boot and crutch crossed the boardwalk, returning from livery chores. The movement outside the saloon ended and Charlie angled his head around the corner of the left door.
"You're accusing my brothers?" Matthew said. "If Stratton can't remember, then I reckon he's tellin' the truth. If you wanna push this argument, there's four of us. You'd be damn good to get one shot off before we come back to kill you. Somebody was passin' the word that a stranger comin' to Steins was Clancy Hobbs. He's the known gunfighter from Arizona. Is what I'm sayin' to be true?"
Clancy tossed glances at each man and his lips barely moved as he spoke. "True is what you heard, and true is who I am."
All three stepped away from the bar. Hands were already nudging Colt stock and their eyes never wavered from their hold on Clancy.
Instantly Matthew lifted his gun. This was the cue for Stratton and Kendall. Hardware was almost out of each holster when they were met by immediate revenge.
Clancy retaliated with a fast-action response. The Pearl Handle Colt he held chest level and fanned the hammer with rapid accuracy. Each brother was struck once and instantly fell dead to the floor. There was no movement between them and blood began to flow across the saloon floor.
After hearing the repeated gunfire fill the room, Russell yanked away the barber apron and left the shop, running to the batten doors of the saloon. He pushed opened the left half and entered the saloon with his sidearm already drawn. He took several steps forward, glancing a moment at the remains of his brothers. His finger had curled around the trigger of a .45 as he stood ready to retaliate.
Clancy didn't hesitate to retort. He spun around to face the fourth brother. His reaction was straightaway, empting three slugs into Russell's upper body. Each shot had on-target effectiveness. Red stains spread across Russell's shirt and his weight went limp. He collapsed backwards and his eyes were hollow in their fixed vision turned toward the ceiling.
After the smoke had cleared, one of the poker players at a far table was anxious to resume the game with those playing the same hand. He lifted and shaded his cards that revealed a full house.
Charlie disappeared momentarily from the doorway, hobbling the short distance across the street. "Mister Red . . . Redding," he said. "I see . . . seen what hap . . . happened. You ain' . . . ain't gonna bel . . . believe this stor . . . story."
Clancy slowly shifted his eyes around the saloon. In the same span of time, without looking down, his fingers opened the Colt and the sound of empty shells fell to the floor. Six more bullets those fingers shoved inside the cylinder and the Pearl Handle he lowered into the fancy-designed holster. He came full circle in commanding the attention of everyone in the room. "I'm still looking for Joshua Riddle," he said. "Anybody here claim ta seein' that bastard? One of you better speak up and say something. If he was ridin' with the Bishop brothers, I reckon that his name was mentioned when passin' in this direction. Who's ta knowin' of this sonova bitch?"
The room remained Sunday church service quiet.
"All o' you hard o' hearin'?" Clancy said. "You ain't got nothin' to say?"
Adam Voss, the bartender, remained at the end of the long counter. "We ain't seen no stranger with that name, Mister. Them Bishop brothers kept quiet about their doin's. Sure sorry for what you say was done to your kin. If they were guilty, they got what they deserved. They had their chance to come straight with you. Ya best ride on 'cause that Riddle fella ain't here."
Those around the room mumbled in agreement and returned to their separate entertainment.
Clancy turned, walked into the sunlight and headed toward his bay in front of the livery. He untied the reins at the hitch rail and was ready to foot the stirrup. Coming in his direction was the limping Reb. Not afraid of his new friend, Charlie made sure the horse was cared for and allowed to cool down.
"Mis . . . Mister Hobbs, you ain't leav . . . leaving already? I ain . . . ain't nev . . . never seen a fas . . . faster gun . . . gunslinger in all my lif . . . life! You sur . . . sure do kno . . . know how to han . . . handle that Colt fas . . . faster than an . . . anybody I kno . . . know'd. I told Mister Red . . . Redding at the new . . . newspaper to wha . . . what I see . . . seen, and he sai . . . said you . . . you's to be . . . being on the fron . . . front page. Them fol . . . folks around thi . . . this territory ain't gon . . . gonna be . . . believe that you . . . you went up . . . up agains . . . against the Bish . . . Bishop brothers, and they . . . they're all dead. Fair and squa . . . square, I see . . . seen it."
Clancy was saddled and ready to ride east. "I'm looking for Joshua Riddle. He's out there somewhere and eventually I'll find him. He ain't gonna run too far."
Charlie moved to face Clancy, with his back toward the saloon. "I'm guess . . . guessin' that them . . . them fol . . . folks in the sal . . . saloon were scar . . . scared and said noth . . . nothing to you."
"The bartender claims he doesn't know Joshua Riddle," Clancy replied. "When I looked around, ever'body took sides with the bartender."
"Wha . . . what about Col . . . Colin Bor . . . Borrens?"
"I never heard that name mentioned."
"He . . . he was in the . . . the sal . . . saloon. Up near . . . near the bar. I see . . . seen him and he did . . . didn't turn arou . . . around to fa . . . face you."
"Him an . . . and Rid . . . Riddle, they . . . they run toge . . . together."
"So the bartender was lying to me."
"I rec . . . reckon so, Mis . . . Mister Hobbs."
"Where's Riddle right now?"
"I ain . . . ain't for cer . . . certain 'cause I kno . . . knowd I'm being wat . . . watched. If I . . . I say any mor . . . more, they . . . they'll be af . . . after me for squaw . . . squawking."
Clancy lifted into the saddle to throw a glance at the saloon. Several faces appeared, peering out from a far window. "My guess is they'll be at Shakespeare, the next town over from here."
Charlie nodded and said nothing more.
The gunman removed another silver dollar from his belt and gave it a twirling toss. Charlie was off balance when he caught the coin and a wide smile of missing teeth indicated his thanks.
The Reb turned, watching Clancy ease through town. In front of the barbershop the checkerboard tipped over in the players' scramble to watch the stranger's exit. Faded wood game pieces scattered onto the road. When the slow-moving bay passed ahead, dust in the wind spread across remnant colors of red and black.