This is a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in this short story are entirely fictional and of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or organizations or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.

 

I first met Percy Ingovoll at a saloon called the ‘Devil’s Watering Hole’ outside of Cisco, Texas in the fall of Eighteen Hundred and Ninety. I had just been discharged from the U.S. Army Cavalry after spending five miserable damn years in Mexico hunting renegade indians and mexican bandits.

I had six months worth of Army wages in my pocket and was well on my way to an epic drunk and maybe a poke or two with some of the sportin’ girls when a gunshot rang out behind me at one of the poker tables.

Looking over my shoulder I saw Percy Ingovoll holding a smoking Remington Single Action with a local gambler and lowlife name of Wally Steven’s sitting across from him with his face and head damn near missing. Before anybody could begin to ask questions, Percy walked over to Wally’s corpse and held up his right arm. Rolling back Wally’s shirt sleeve he removed an ace of diamonds.

“I want everybody to see why this bastard got killed. He’s a cheat!” There was a low murmuring among the crowd as Percy held up the card for all to see.

Percy then removed his hat and began raking the large pot of cash in the middle of the table into it. About this time, the bartender, a barrel chested Irishman with a thick brogue and even thicker mustache produced a coach ten gauge from behind the bar and cocked both hammers.To this day I don’t know why I decided to intervene. Maybe it was the fact I did not like seeing a man shot in the back or maybe I just did not like irish bartenders, but before you could say boo I skinned my Model 3 and walloped that bartender upside the head with its heavy barrel, knocking him out cold.

Upon hearing the commotion, Percy instinctively spun around and drew down on me.

“Whoa partner!” I said, laying my Model 3 down on the bar next to a collection of the bartender’s bloody teeth.

“This fat Irishman was about to shoot you in the back, I just helped him change his mind.”

A wide grin came across Percy’s face as he eased the hammer down and holstered his gun.

Taking a look behind him to check for any more would-be bushwhackers, he approached me at the bar.

“Appreciate what you did.” he said, extending his hand and introducing himself. I shook it and returned the courtesy.

“Logan Chandler. Originally from Lampasas.” I replied.

After talking for a while, four men, all half-drunk and armed approached and began asking questions about the toothless, unconscious bartender. Percy quickly grabbed my arm and led me outside.

“Listen, both Wally and that bartender are locals and I am just some stranger from out of town.These peckerwoods are all drunk as hell and it won’t take long before they decide to lynch both of us for fun and split up the money I got on me. Whatta’ you say we haul ass out of here before that happens?”

Hearing the men getting more riled up and drunk in the saloon it did not take long for me to agree with Percy’s wise suggestion.

The night was clear and cold, with a three-quarter moon and a breeze from the east carrying the smell of rain. We decided to ride south for a few miles and then checked up off the trail into a small stand of cedar trees and waited to see if we were being followed.

“So why did you do it?” Percy asked as we watched the dark trail behind us.

“Do what?” I replied.

“Whack that big Irish bastard across the head that was gonna shoot me.” Percy spat tobacco juice and glanced over at me.

“Hell I don’t know, I guess I just don’t like seeing men get shot in the back.” My answer must have amused the hell out of Percy because he laughed like I had just told the funniest damn joke you had ever heard.

We rode a few more miles up the trail and finding a small creek, decided to make a cold camp for the rest of the night. The next morning I was awoken to the smell of bacon and Percy feeding our horses with a bag of oats. As I wiped the sleep out of my eyes Percy came over and poured me a cup of coffee.

“Did you hear them coyotes yippin’ it up last night?” he asked smiling as he squatted down by the fire like an indian to tend the bacon.

“I would not have heard a damn buffalo crash through the woods last night I was so tired.” I replied. Percy smiled.

“You think them boys at the saloon are still looking for us?” I asked, sipping my cup.

“Hell, I bet them boys are more worried about nursing their hangovers right about now.” Percy replied, turning the bacon over with a fork.

“I don’t know, you did kill a man.” I replied looking at him sideways.

“Shit! The day it is a crime in this country to kill a card cheat or whack a surly bartender will be the day I move to Mexico permanently!” I could tell Percy was still half drunk as he stood up to stretch his back and wobbled some.

In the daylight I realized he was taller than I thought, with long, lean, muscled arms that resembled thick braided ropes. His hair was sandy brown with hints of red and the week’s worth of stubble on his face was burnt amber like the midday sun. He had eyes that were a strange deep shade of green, almost the color of fresh cedar with small specks of brown.

After finishing our bacon and coffee we broke camp. As I was rolling up my bed roll, Percy walked over and handed me a hundred dollars.

“What is this for?” I asked looking at the money.

“For saving my ass last night.” Percy replied smiling.

“Shit Percy this is too much!” I said, shaking my head and handing it back to him.

“The hell it is!” he replied pushing my hand back.

“Besides, I got plenty more where that came from.” Percy replied with a wink.

He then cinched up his saddle straps and got on his horse. I did the same and we both rode out of the woods to the main trail.

“Well Percy, what do you plan on doing?” I asked looking both ways up and down the trail.

 

“Oh, I don’t know, maybe head over to Abilene for a friendly game or two and then catch a train to New Mexico. A friend of mine just opened a saloon near Four Corners and invited me to help run it. How about you?” Percy asked as he placed a chaw of tobacco into his mouth.

“I was thinking of riding south to my old home place in Lampasas, see who I can find.” I replied.

“Well hell, why don’t you ride with me over to Abilene and at least let me treat you to a nice meal and a bath? I sure could use the company.” Percy replied smiling.

I thought about it for a second, looking up the empty trail and watching the trees sway in the gentle breeze. Hell, I knew there was nobody in Lampasas waiting for me. Both my folks died from scarlet fever five years back and my younger sister, Clara, had gotten married and moved to California with some tin pan chasing his dreams of riches.

“Sure, why the hell not!” I replied, reigning my horse west toward Abilene.

After going a few miles, and listening to our horses fart in rhythmic time and watching some buzzards circle high above us, Percy spoke up.

“So if we are going to be traveling companions, we best know a little about each other in case one of us is killed. That way we can say something meaningful at the funeral.” I smiled at the odd comment without looking at Percy.

“Okay, where do you want to start?” I asked.

“Were you ever married? Have any children?”

“Came damn close to getting married once to a gal in Durango. She was mexcan’ of course and did not speak a word of English, but damn that gal could…”

My story was interrupted by several gunshots up ahead of us.. We both spurred our horses and as we came around a wide right bend in the trail we spied a covered wagon about a hundred yards ahead of us under attack by three men with masks on horseback.

The wagon had come to rest near the side of the road after both of its horses had been killed. Near as I could tell there was one person inside the wagon returning fire with a rifle at the bandits as they circled.

“Whatta you say we even up the odds?” Percy said pulling out his repeater from its scabbard.

Before I could reply that maybe we should find cover before engaging three armed men in the open, Percy let off three quick shots, none of them finding its intended target, but all of them letting the bandit’s know our location.

“Dammit Percy!” I said spurring my horse into the brush off the trail. By the time I had dismounted and pulled my Winchester, the bandits had decided not to fight it out and hauled ass, leaving a plume of brown dust in their wake.

“What are you doing down there in the brush?” Percy asked me, sitting tall and smiling from his horse.

“You crazy sumbitch” I spat, mad as a wet hornet.

We both were cautious approaching the wagon, as nobody had shown themselves yet.

“Hello! In the wagon there! Don’t shoot! We both come in peace!” Percy called out.

Nothing was heard in return. We stopped ten yards shy of the flap and Percy dismounted while I held his reins .

“Hello in the wagon!” Percy called out again.

This time we could both hear somebody inside breathing hard. Percy drew his pistol and pulled back the flap. There laying down inside was a man of around thirty with dark blonde hair. His face was pallid and his sky blue eyes were bloodshot and haggard. He had one hand on his stomach with blood leaking out around it and in the other hand a cocked Double-Action Colt Army.

“Help me, I have been shot…” the man whispered weakly.

Percy turned and gave me a concerned look and I quickly dismounted and jumped up into the wagon.

“Whoa there partner” I said trying to soothe him.

Before looking at the wound, I carefully took the Colt out of his hand and let down the hammer, placing it back in the man’s holster. I then moved his bloody hand aside and examined the wound. The Bullet had entered three inches right of his naval. Rolling him over slightly on his side, I could not see or feel an exit wound.

“I’m so damn cold.” the man said looking at me with scared eyes as sweat poured from his forehead and his teeth began to chatter.

Percy climbed up beside me and gave him a drink of water from the canteen while I looked around for something to make a dressing out of. Rummaging around inside the wagon, I could tell right away the man was a tin pan. Picks, pans, shovels, spades and other digging implements littered the back of the wagon. Finally finding an old shirt, I began ripping it up into strips for the dressing. The blood was almost black and I knew right away he had been shot in the lower bowels, which was never a good sign. I dressed the wound best I could, trying to staunch the bleeding.

“You keep your hand here as tight as you can.” I told him plainly. He nodded while his teeth chattered so violently I was scared he would chip a tooth. I covered him up with my wool blanket from my bed roll and then me and Percy went outside to talk.

“We gotta get him to a Doctor Percy. He’s burning up with fever.” The man was loudly mumbling incoherently about something while we talked.

“Since when are we responsible for bushwhacked travelers?” Percy asked with a confused look on his face.

As I was thinking up a keen response the man yelled out with a concerning tone so much that me and Percy both immediately jumped back up in the wagon. The man’s eyes were large and he was pointing to the back of the wagon as if his life depended on it. Through chattering teeth he mumbled:

“In the trunk, please hand me the small leather satchel in there.”

Not thinking anything of it I went over to the trunk and opened it and retrieved a small, well-worn brown leather bag. As I was about to hand it to him Percy intercepted me.

“Let’s see what he is so anxious to get at.” Opening the bag Percy found ten soup can tins with a piece of cloth stuffed down into them.

“Whatcha got in here partner?” Percy asked smiling , looking over at the man, who by now had a look of extreme anxiety on his face.

As Percy removed one of the cloths covering the can, both his eyes and mine almost popped out of our heads. Inside the can were dozens of chunks of gold as big as a man’s thumb.

“Holy shit on a shingle!” Percy said laughing.

As a huge grin began to spread over my face I will never forget how loud the sound of that Colt’s hammer was when it was cocked. Me and Percy turned around at the same time to see the wounded man had drawn down on us and that anxious look had turned into one of pure anger. The smile disappeared from Percy’s face as he looked at me and said

“Well Damn Logan! Don’t you wish now you had disarmed the sum-a-bitch!”

After me and Percy had stared down the barrel of that cocked Colt for a long few seconds with our hands in the air, the man motioned for us to hand over the bag, which we did. Once the man had the bag he motioned with the gun barrel for us to get out of the wagon. Standing there with our hands up, Percy had the presence of mind to state the obvious.

“Looks like to me you are in quite the pickle feller. Yeah, you have your gold, but you are also gut shot and dying. Without someone helping you to a Doctor, you are certainly going to lie there and bleed to death.”

Percy’s words hung in the air for a long few seconds while the wounded man surmised his terrible situation with a look of agony and anxiety I have yet to see duplicated on another man’s face since. The miner took a deep breath and spoke.

“You get me a Doctor and I will give you one can.”

Immediately me and Percy did the math. There were at least a dozen chunks of gold in that can, each chunk weighing around 6 ounces, maybe more. With gold currently at around twenty dollars an ounce, one can was worth around fourteen hundred dollars minimum. With around ten cans in the bag, this gut shot miner had around fourteen thousand dollars in his possession.  No damn wonder those bandits were after him so hard!

With his arms still raised in the air, Percy, to my absolute horror, began to haggle with the miner.

“I think the going rate for saving a gut shot tin pan is two cans.” Percy replied with a straight face.

“The fact that you would argue with a dying man holding a gun on you shows your character sir.” The miner replied, glaring at Percy.

Un-phased by the insult, Percy continued in the horse trade.

“Still, being things as they may, you need us more than we need you.”

Seeing my chance I gently moved over next to Percy and whispered.

“Percy, let’s take the one can and get him to a Doctor.”

The look Percy gave me reminded me of the look my mother used to give me when she found me in my fathers tobacco. Pure scorn and anger. Before he could reply I continued.

“The man’s dying Percy! Now let’s stop farting around and get going!”

Percy finally relented.

“OK tin pan. One can paid right now and we will get going.” Percy switched his gaze from me to the miner. The miner shook his head in disgust and took out one can and handed it over.

“By the way” the miner said through gritted teeth.

“In case I die on the way to town my name is Arthur Wingate and I have relatives in St. Louis. I would be much obliged if you contact them.” Percy shot me a confused look as if the information had confounded him.

We rode into the town of Abilene an hour later with Arthur Wingate barely clinging to life but damn sure clinging to his Fourteen Thousand dollars worth of gold and that Colt revolver.

Not seeing a sign for a Doctor’s office, Percy asked a man crossing the street where we might find one. We were directed to a fine-looking home not far out-of-town.

“Charles A. Kirkpatrick, MD.” a sign read outside a ranch style affair with a white picket fence and gate. The yard was well manicured with several rose trellis’ by the front steps. With me on one side and Percy on the other, we walked the wounded man up the steps and Percy banged on the door with a bloody hand. The curtain on the front window parted and the door was quickly opened. A balding man in his fifties with wire rim spectacles and bushy black eyebrows that resembled two caterpillars crawling across his head answered. Taking one look at the miner he motioned us inside. We dragged the miner through the entryway and parlor into some type of exam room.

“Get him on the table over there.” the Doctor instructed us brusquely.

The room smelled of antiseptic and mint. As we laid him on the table the Doctor felt the miner’s pulse on his neck and then went over to a cabinet and started preparing some kind of injection.

“Anna!” the Doctor called out loudly.

Immediately a large, round-faced woman with auburn hair who looked to be around forty or so entered the room. She was tying a large white apron around her ample waist as she approached us.

“You gentleman may wait in the parlor”  she said as she herded us out the door and shut it behind us.

The parlor, which sat just off the entrance hall, was decorated with fine china, a Persian rug and a large love seat upholstered in a pattern of dainty yellow roses.

“Damn! The Doctoring business must pay well!” Percy remarked looking around at the room. As we both sat down on the love seat I took notice of a large painting hanging on the wall opposite. It was a duel between two large man-of-war sailing ships.

“Battle of Baltimore – 1814” read the gold-plated inscription below it. As I stared at the painting I felt Percy’s heavy head collapse against my shoulder. It did not take long for my head to collapse the other way as both of our bodies surrendered to exhaustion.

Two hours later the Doctor was shaking us both awake.

“Your friend is alive. I got the bullet out but he lost an awful lot of blood. If he doesn’t get an infection in his colon, he should survive. He should stay here for the next few days so I can keep an eye on him.”

Me and Percy both got to our feet and followed the Doctor into the exam room where Wingate lay asleep.

“I just gave him a large dose of opium tincture so he will be asleep for the rest of the evening. Please feel free to come back in the morning.” With that the Doctor began to escort us to the front door. Before we walked out of the room. Percy stopped.

“Say, that leather bag he had, where is it? He would want us to take it with us.” The Doctor eyed Percy suspiciously.

“Well Mr. Wingate informed me and my wife that the bag was to stay here under our supervision until he was ready to travel, and when I give my word to a patient, I keep it.” Percy smiled back at the Doctor and just nodded his head. Before leaving I extended my hand to the Doctor.

“We appreciate all you have done Doc, what do we owe you?” The doctor smiled wearily.

“We can settle the bill when the patient is discharged.” I nodded understandingly and me and Percy turned around and walked out of the door.

Riding into town it did not take Percy long to say what I knew was on his mind.

“So when do you want to rob the good doctor and his plump wife?” I did not even look at him when he said it. I let a few moments pass just to aggravate him.

“Hey, shit for brains! Did you hear what I asked? When do you want to go get that fourteen thousand dollars just sitting in that sawbones house waiting on us?” We were just coming into town and I stopped my horse.

“Percy you really expect me to go along with you robbing an honest miner of his find? Hell, the man already gave us over a thousand dollars just to bring him to the Doctor! You remember that?” Percy stopped and swung his horse around to face me.

“Logan if you honestly think I am gonna give up an opportunity like this you are crazy! There is enough gold sitting in that house to set you and me up for life!”

It felt like I was talking to a brick wall.

“I will have no part of it and I will not stand by and watch you rob him either, so I am just letting you know.” Percy stared at me for a long minute as I returned the stare.

“You’re serious!” Percy asked, his mouth open.

“Damn right I am serious. We already got Seven hundred dollars worth of gold each! Shit man, be happy with that!” I spurred my horse and headed for town, leaving Percy sitting on the side of the road confused and angry.

Being alone that afternoon, I felt good about things for the first time in a long time. Instead of killing and maiming I had helped to save a decent man’s life, and had been rewarded handsomely for it. Perhaps this is something I could do on a more regular basis I thought to myself. Riding this strange wave of euphoria I decided to get a haircut, shave and a bath and then went next door to the tailor’s and bought me a brand-spanking new outfit. I had to laugh at the tailor when he asked me what I wanted to do with my old clothes.

I  told him to promptly “burn them” and without missing a beat he replied “My thoughts exactly sir.”

Suited up in my new duds I went to the hotel and had a steak dinner complete with peach cobbler for dessert and then got me a room with a big soft bed where I slept like the dead. At breakfast the next morning however, Percy was nowhere to be found. My first thoughts of where Percy might be scared the living shit out of me I don’t mind telling you. I imagined in my mind’s eye the miner and the good doctor and his wife laying dead in pools of their own blood with Percy riding hard for Old Mexico with that brown leather satchel in tow.

It did not take long however for the reality of Percy’s plight to be revealed.

Walking down main street, I spotted his chestnut mare tied outside the city jail. Shaking my head with disgust, I walked over, took a deep breath, and entered the jailhouse.

A man in his fifties with a head of white hair and a matching waxed handlebar mustache sat behind a desk with a name placard that read “Arthur T. Roberts, City Marshal”. The marshal did not get up when I entered and made sure I saw the double barrel ten gauge in his lap.

“Yes sir can I help ya?” he asked, eyeing me suspiciously.

“Yes, I have come to fetch my friend, Percy Ingovoll, I believe you have him locked up in your jail.” The lawman grinned and took his boots off the desk.

“If you are referring to the gentleman who was trying to fight the entire saloon last night, yes we have him.” There was a long pause as the lawman continued to size me up.

“OK, so let’s have him.” I said impatiently.

The lawman gave a smirk and reached over on his desk and picked up a piece of paper. Taking time to remove his spectacles from his front shirt pocket, he then studied the paper.

“He is scheduled to go before Judge Tillford at 10 o’clock this morning.” The lawman answered.

“For fighting in a saloon?” I asked.

The lawman stood up. He was a tall, gangly man with long slender arms and almost no waist to speak of. I also noticed as he stood he wore a tie-down rig, which told me he fancied himself a gunfighter.

“Disturbing the Peace, Drunk and Disorderly and Destruction of Private Property are charges we take very seriously here in Abilene, Mr.? I did not catch your name.”

The atmosphere was getting tense so I decided to cut through the bullshit and talk a language all  corrupt lawmen know. Money.

“I did not give my name. How much are the fines for those three charges?” I asked. The lawman’s expression turned smug as he walked over to the gun rack and stowed the ten gauge.

“Well let’s see for those three charges plus court costs, and the cost of stabling the man’s horse, let’s call it what we took off him in gold last night as payment in full.” He reached into his shirt pocket and laid out four thumb sized gold nuggets wrapped in cloth. My temper flared at that moment and I felt like the top of my head was gonna blow off.

“That seems a bit excessive since that gold is worth well over seven hundred dollars.” I replied, my face feeling hot and most likely the color of crimson from anger.  The lawman walked over and sat on the edge of his desk. He removed makings for a cigarette and began rolling one up.

“Well sir, it very well may seem excessive, but that is the price if you want to walk out of here with your friend this morning. Of course you are more than welcome to let him have his day in court but let me caution you, Judge Tillford is not as lenient as I am.” The marshal smiled a shit eating grin as he lit his cigarette with a match.

“And by not as lenient you mean more expensive?” I replied looking at him coldly. The marshal shot me a look of pure cruelty through the haze of smoke. I thought for a brief moment before I spoke again since my anger was at the fine point of boiling over.

“Very well, let’s have him then.” I said. The marshal hesitated as if he had not heard me and then stood up, making a big show to pocket the gold. He then slowly reached over and retrieved a set of keys.

A few minutes later he returned with what was left of Percy. My mouth fell open when I saw him. Percy literally looked like death warmed over. Both eyes were black and swollen and his lip had been split in several places. A deep gash on his scalp was leaking blood down the side of his head and to top it all off he could barely walk.

“My God! What the hell happened to him?” I asked taking hold of Percy’s arm.

“Like I said he tried to fight the entire saloon.” The Marshal responded nonchalant. Percy gave me an incredulous look that confirmed that statement was pure bullshit. As we left the marshal handed me Percy’s gun belt.

“If you or your friend make trouble around these parts again, I am going to do more than fine you next time, is that understood?” I was so mad at that point I did not even turn around to acknowledge the smug bastard. Once we were out the door and to our horses I asked Percy if he was alright to ride. He nodded that he could and I followed along as he swayed back and forth in the saddle like a drunkard.

“What the hell happened!” Dr. Kirkpatrick exclaimed as me and Percy came through the door.

“Your town marshal’s handiwork” I replied angrily.

“Oh my God! Bring him into the exam room” The doctor’s wife came running from the parlor and took Percy’s other arm as we both helped him up on the exam table. Wingate sat up in his bed as we came in.

“Bandits?” Wingate asked with a weak voice.

“No, worse, the town law.” I replied sarcastically.

“Ain’t nothing worse than crooked law.” Wingate fumed, his face turning three shades of scarlet.

“Looks like they broke two ribs and fractured his arm. He has a slight concussion and this cut on his scalp is gonna need a couple of stitches too.” I walked back over and gripped Percy’s hand.

“Hang on pard, Doc is gonna put you back together.”

The next day Percy was awake, but only for a little while. As I was sitting there next to Percy Anna came in to check on him. I suppose she could see the concern on my face.

“His body is repairing itself, we just need to let him rest.” She told me checking his pulse. I walked out on the porch where Wingate was sitting in a rocking chair smoking his pipe.

“How is he?” he asked through the blue-grey smoke. I shrugged and leaned up against the porch post.

“Don’t you worry yourself Logan. I once saw a man get the living shit kicked out of him by three other miners for poaching a claim. They worked him over good with shovels. He did not get out of bed for a damn week. He could take only broth and water. But you know what? After a week and a half he got right up and went back to work. Of course he did not learn his lesson too well and a week later he was shot dead for poaching another man’s claim. Some men are just dumb beast.”

I had to laugh at Wingate. The man always had an entertaining story to tell, even if it was depressing as hell.

Early the next morning before sun-up somebody shook me awake. Looking up through bleary eyes I saw Percy standing there.

“We need to talk.” he whispered.

I pulled on my pants and followed him quietly through the dark house and out to the front porch. The early morning was cool and damp and the smell of honeysuckle floated on the air while a Whip-poor-will cooed from a tree out in the yard. Percy sat down in a rocking chair and lit a coal oil lantern on the table beside him. I could tell he had something serious on his mind.

“We need to get Wingate and get the hell out of here come first light.” Percy said matter of factly, sitting back in the chair. I gave Percy a puzzled look.

“What are you talking about? Why? I thought you might want to get back at the son-of-a-bitch marshal for what he did to you!” Percy shook his head.

“You don’t understand Logan. That marshal knows everything about Wingate and his gold.” I stared at Percy for a long moment, my mouth agape.

“Wait a minute, so is that the reason they questioned and beat you like they did? They think we are all in cahoots or something?” I asked amazed.

Percy nodded.

“Yep they think we know something. And the reason they think that is what happened out on the trail when Wingate got shot. Us accidentally finding him being ambushed out on the road and driving those deputies away that were trying to kill him was proof to the marshal that we are indeed in cahoots! Can you believe it!” Percy leaned over and lit the cigarette with the flame from the lantern.

I put my head in my hands. This was just too much for my foggy brain this early in the morning.

“So why not just me and you cut and run and leave Wingate to deal with this Marshal by himself? I mean you said the other day we are not responsible for helping every poor pilgrim we come across, right?” Percy sat forward in the rocking chair and looked at me.

“Normally I might agree with you, but now, like it or not we are involved in this thing up to our necks and we owe it to Wingate to get him somewhere safe. It may not be the smartest move, but it is definitely the right one.”

A half-hour passed and the soft light of dawn began to break. I went into the kitchen to put some coffee on and then went and woke up Wingate. After Percy had explained everything to him and we agreed the best thing to do was leave town as soon as we could, Percy asked Wingate a question that made me do a double-take.

“That marshal knew an awful lot about you Wingate. How is that, being you are not from around here?” Wingate let out a long breath and shook his head.

“I sure am sorry you boys got mixed up in this thing.” Wingate said looking at us.

“Enough of the bullshit Wingate. Answer the question!” Percy said flatly.

“The claim in which I found the gold belonged to the Marshal’s brother. He was killed in a saloon brawl in Austin almost a year ago. When his claim came up for sale at the land office I snatched it up and began mining it.

Of course this was before anybody knew the man had a will and had left the claim to his brother, the Marshal of Abilene, Arthur T. Roberts.” Wingate said lighting his pipe.

“Well I’ll be damned!” Percy said getting up out of his chair.

“It all makes sense now. He thinks you cheated him!” Percy exclaimed.

“Yeah what caused the confusion was Roberts had not filed the will with an attorney or any next of kin, he had left it with a whore in Austin he frequented. Once he died and the whore came forward to a judge, the land and mine had already been sold to me, so the marshal had no legal recourse, so he resorted to trying to rob and kill me out on the road when you boys found me the other day.” Wingate replied.

“Why the hell didn’t you tell us this earlier?” I asked.

“I did not want to get you boys anymore involved than you already were, I guess.” Wingate said looking at the floor sheepishly.

“Well there’s one thing we know for sure. That marshal intends to kill you to get that claim.” Percy said matter-of-factly.

“Yeah and the only reason he has not done so by now is because you are here, at the Doctors house. I reckon at any moment he is going to ride out here to arrest you for something and then take you back to that jailhouse and kill you for any number of reasons” I replied.

Wingate leaned back in his chair and took a deep breath.

“Hell, there ain’t no way the three of us can hold off that marshal and all the deputies he has! What should we do?” I asked, my eyes wide.

“Only thing to do is to take the fight to the marshal before he brings it to us. We kill the head of the snake, the rest will die.” Percy replied, his eyes bright and focused.

A smoky silver haze floated just above the ground while two whitetail deer, a doe and a spike buck, grazed on the lush green grass. Uncertainty and fear coursed through my body at that moment like no other time in my life. Glancing over at Wingate I could tell the same was true for him.

“So we go in there and kill him? That is our plan?” Wingate asked looking at both of us. There was a long pause.

“That or we wait and let him come out here and kill you, which sounds better Wingate?” Percy asked, still looking at the deer grazing peacefully.

After breakfast and a long discussion with the Doctor, it was decided all three of us would go into town that evening and murder the Marshal. I could tell the Doctor was troubled by our plan.

“Doctor if I am killed, I am signing off ownership of the claim and the gold I currently have in my possession totaling fourteen thousand dollars worth to be equally split three ways between You, Percy and Logan.” Wingate said as he signed a piece of paper and slid it over to the Doctor.

“Would you please witness this Doctor?” Wingate asked.

The Doctor put on his spectacles and read over the document. After reading it he paused for a long moment and took off his spectacles.

“Mr. Wingate are you sure this is what you want to do sir?”

Wingate paused for a moment, thinking.

“I am sure.” he replied.

“I would like to ask one more thing.” Wingate said as he stood up from the table.

“If I shall be killed in this mis-adventure, I would like my body to be shipped back to Missouri and be buried next to my mother and father in our family cemetery outside of House Springs. Here is a hundred dollars to see to the cost.” Percy, me and the doctor all looked at one another with a sense of sincere sadness.

Then Percy did something shocking and totally out of character.

“You can count on me Wingate!” the two men shook hands and smiled as if they were long lost brothers.

That evening as we were preparing to leave, the doctor and his wife asked us into the parlor.

“I called all of you here to make a suggestion that I think can solve your problem much simpler than your current plan.”

As the doctor said this his wife entered with a freshly baked apple pie. A smile spread across Wingate’s face as he realized what he was about to say.

“You intend to poison him!” Wingate said jumping up from his seat like a man who had been touched in the head.

“Indeed we do. Anna has dosed this pie with enough hemlock to kill five men easily.” The doctor replied with a sly grin.

I sat back and admired the simplicity of the plan while Percy just shook his head in amazement and poured himself a brandy.

“Anna will deliver the pie first thing tomorrow before lunch and I expect you shall have the desired result shortly thereafter, depending of course if he eats it right then or later that evening.” The doctor’s tone was both proud and strangely enthusiastic.

After the meeting, we all moved into the dining room where Anna had prepared a lovely fried chicken dinner with all the trimmings. Everybody ate and drank until they were full as ticks. It was an overall jovial occasion. When we were finished, Wingate, now fully drunk, stood to make a speech.

“This day has truly turned out to be a surprise. I thought for sure it would end with me either being wounded or killed.” Wingate grew more unsteady on his feet as he kept talking, slurring his words so badly it drew nervous laughter from everybody in the room.

Suddenly I began feeling light-headed and dizzy myself, even though I had not touched a drop of alcohol. As my heart began to pound in my chest at the thought that was forming in my mind, I remember seeing Wingate collapse on the floor in a heap and hearing the loud thud his head made when it hit the oak planks. Looking over at Percy I noticed he had collapsed sideways in his chair, his tongue rolling out of his head like a sick dog.

“What the hell?” was all I got out before the world turned upside down and then went black as midnight.

When I awoke I was lying in the exam room with my head busting wide open from the most terrible headache I had ever known. Looking over to my left I saw both Percy and Wingate lying in a bed together like they were asleep. Suddenly two men’s voices could be heard.

“So why is this one still alive?” I heard one of the men ask.

“Not sure, he ate the same as the rest.” I suddenly felt nauseous like I was going to throw up.

“Oh Jesus Anna! Come help us with this one!” One of the men called out.

“Turn over on your side Logan.” a woman’s voice instructed me curtly.

After I had retched, Anna wiped my mouth with a moist washcloth and then patted my head with it. As my eyes adjusted, I saw that we were not alone in the room. Standing there at the end of the bed was Dr. Kirkpatrick and Marshal Roberts. As I tried to raise my arm to draw my gun, I realized my arms were bound with leather straps and I was not even wearing any pants, much less a gun belt.

“Now now Logan, you need to take it easy.” Anna whispered. My blood was literally boiling in my head I was so mad.

“What the hell have you done!” I yelled out with a hoarse voice. Anna looked at me with abject pity and then turned around to her husband.

“Can’t we spare him?” she asked.

“Afraid not darling, he knows too much.” Dr. Kirkpatrick replied coldly. Anna gave a pouty look.

“Now Marshal our deal stands, we get all the gold and you get the deed to the claim, correct?” The Marshal gave her a look of disgust.

“Yes Anna, that was the deal.” The Marshal walked over to the bed where Wingate and Percy’s bodies lay.

“As for Mr. Chandler there, I figure a good story to tell the judge is these three had a falling out about the gold and Logan murdered them over it. Of course you two can be key witnesses as you saw the whole thing happen in your dining room, correct?”

As those words hit my ears a lightning bolt went through my entire body. Pure, seething anger emanated from every pore. As I jerked at the restraints the doctor and his wife backed up from the bed.

“Logan! You need to settle down!” The marshal yelled, taking out his pistol to whack me.

“You murdering, corrupt bastards!” I yelled out, spittle flying from my mouth in a rant. After a minute of my temper flaring I was spent, the poison in my body completely zapping me of all energy and willpower.

“So he will hang then?” The Doctor asked, setting the brown satchel containing Wingate’s gold on a table to inspect the contents.

“Oh yeah, the judge won’t hesitate on this one.” The marshal proudly replied looking at me.

“A double murder over gold? That is about open and shut as you can get in these parts.”

Hot tears rolled down my cheeks as I turned to look at my best friend’s dead faces as one of the marshal’s deputies lifted me from the bed and handcuffed me. A flood of memories washed over me. Percy’s infectious laugh. Wingate’s wild mining camp stories. I remembered them all.

As Anna watched from the window as I was loaded onto a horse, I was reminded when me and her helped carry Wingate into the house after he had been shot. I remember the Doctor taking such care sewing up Percy’s head after the Marshal had beat him. Now both Anna and the Doctor had murdered the same men they had cared for all these weeks in their own home!

Greed truly infects men’s and women’s souls and turns them into heartless beasts.

Arriving at the jail I was told it would most likely be tomorrow when I would be hung because they had to build a gallows and those things took time. I asked for some paper and a pencil to write a letter to my next of kin, trying to explain things.

I hope whoever reads this letter will seek out justice for me and my friends, Percy Ingovoll and Arthur Wingate. These men were murdered in cold blood by City Marshal John Roberts, Doctor Charles A. Kirkpatrick and his wife Anna Kirkpatrick.

Please let truth and justice avenge us!

Sincerely,

Logan Chandler

 

The End

 

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