Jimmy Leary Returns to the Sky: Part 1

Jimmy Leary Returns to the Sky

By Rev DiCerto

Part 1

Brady Creek, Texas, Confederate States of America, 1872

Jimmy Leary removed his slouch hat and wiped the sweat from his brow with the sleeve of his frock coat. Sure, and the July heat down in the CSA was a bitch. No doubt about it, Jimmy could use a drink. A tall beer would be a fine thing, followed by a dram or two of whiskey. A creek flowed lazily beside him, its brown surface dappled with sunlight through the leaves of the trees. Jimmy was in luck; there were a couple of buildings on the bank half a mile ahead, and one of them looked to be a store or a saloon, with a swinging door that opened upon cool darkness.

He tied his horse, Billy (sure, and wasn’t that a fine joke?), to a post outside the whitewashed wooden building and stepped onto the boardwalk, then parted the swinging doors and entered. His riding boots rapped against a hard wood floor. Without the blasting Texas sun on his shoulders and head, he immediately felt cooler.

He looked about the room, his eyes adjusting to the dimness. The place appeared to be less of a saloon and more of a tiny cantina, a little room that sold a handful of foodstuffs and a few dry goods. The walls were bare wood, the floor planks nearly new. The building must be less than a year old. Three square tables sat at the center of the room, each surrounded by four bare wooden chairs. In one corner were rolls of what looked like different types of cloth, with scissors, a tape measure, and various types of needle and thread lying on a table. On a counter along the south wall stood four large glass jars containing sweets: one held peppermint sticks, one horehound, the third rock candy, and the last sticks of black and red licorice. Beside that was a table with jars and tins of tobacco, packets of rolling papers for cigarettes, cigars in wooden boxes, and a few different models of pipe. Along the back wall, a lower counter appeared to be a bar; Jimmy saw a beer keg with a few glass mugs and a couple of whiskey bottles — and also several loaves of bread and what looked like some cured meats, lying on a table and hanging by cords from the low ceiling.

An old woman sat at one of the tables, listlessly nursing a cup of coffee. She glared up at Jimmy as though he was unwelcome. Jimmy remembered his hat. He removed it, and the woman’s scowl lessened a fraction. A thin man in waistcoat and shirtsleeves was stocking tins of fruit and vegetables on a small shelf.

“Top o’ the day!” Jimmy crooned, in his brightest tone.

The old woman’s face turned bitter again. The thin man looked up from his shelf.

“Do something for you?” he asked, in a tone that implied that he would rather not.

“I’m after thinking that’s a fine little bar ye’ve got back there, I am,” said Jimmy. “Pour us a beer, would ya?”

The man straightened up, a tin still in his hand. He wiped his free hand on his apron and eyed Jimmy warily.

“Show me your coin, first.”

Jimmy stuck a hand into the pocket of his trousers and produced a handful of coins. The man craned his neck over for a better look.

“There’s some Union coin in there.”

“Aye, so there is. A visitor here, I am, just passing through on me way to the territories further west.”

“You after silver, or gold?”

Jimmy gave the man his best grin. He’d long since forgotten how crook-nosed he was.

“Neither. It’s ranch work I’m seeking.”

“Ranch work? You’re dressed like a dude. You’re no cowhand.”

“Sure, and that’s true enough. But I’m a dab shot with a pistol or a rifle, I am, and I’ve heard as how some o’ the ranchers pay good money for men who can help defend their land and their beasts.”

“Then I reckon you served in the war.”

“Aye, it was there where I come by me training with firearms.”

The man stiffened, his eyes narrowing. “Probably fought for the Union.”

“In case you’ve not been informed, sir, the war ended two years back. The Confeds got what they wanted. Now, I’m here to buy a drink while me nag rests out front. I’ve Confederate coin as well as Union, I have, and I’m here to spend it. Do you want it or not?”

Reluctantly the man set down the tin and stepped around the bar. He set a mug under the tap and filled it, then plunked it down on the bar in front of Jimmy with an unfriendly look on his face.

“Anything else you’ll be wanting?” he asked.

“I’ll also be having a bottle o’ yonder whiskey. Scots whiskey if you have it. If not, bourbon.”

“Scots whiskey?” the man said. “Where the hell do you think you are?”

Jimmy smiled again. “Like I was sayin’, bourbon would go down a treat.”

The man set a brown bottle next to the beer. Jimmy dropped a handful of coins. He picked up the bottle and the glass, taking a sip of the beer. It was nearly room temperature, but after the morning’s ride in the hot sun, it was refreshing enough, and at least it was fresh. He set the bottle down on one of the tables, as far from the old woman as possible, and walked over to the tobacco counter.

Jimmy hadn’t had a smoke in a few days. The last one he had had was in Austin, a fine hand-rolled cigar. In the United States Aero Corps, where he had served as a marine, he had mainly smoked hand-rolled cigarettes and, when he could get them, cigars. But he had decided cigarette smoke was too harsh, with too little flavor besides just the smoke, and cigars could be overbearing — plus, if you couldn’t finish one, it was awful when relit after it had gone out. He’d seen a few of the Union officers smoking pipes, and had decided that it gave a man a sophisticated look. He recalled his da’ smoking a short-stemmed pipe in the parlor of the family’s inn, the Cloven Hoof, back in Ireland. He bent down to survey the store of pipes.

Jimmy was in a fair amount of cash. He had spent three nights gambling in a saloon in Austin, and come out ahead far more than usual. He’d mustered out of the USAC in December of 1870, just a day after his twentieth birthday, with four months’ pay, and since that time, between gambling, the occasional application of his light and dexterous fingers, and participating in a few shakedowns and hand-breakings for youth organizations in the various cities he’d passed through, he had only needed to actually work about ten days.

He’d made his way west, stopping in a town or a city for a few days, then riding on, without a specific destination in mind. When asked, he’d told people he wanted to work on a ranch, as he’d just told the shopkeeper, or to mine or work timber. He reckoned as how the ranch work, assuming it was gun work, appealed to him best, but in truth none of it appealed at all. He wasn’t what you’d call industrious, was Jimmy Leary. At least, not if industriousness meant slaving for some other person’s good for a pittance a day. What Jimmy was really seeking, he was occasionally at peace enough or drunk enough to admit to himself, was freedom, some vague concept of a life in which he could make his own rules and answer to neither man nor woman nor government. The best bet for that, so far as Jimmy could see, were the American Territories. He just hoped once he got there something would present itself. He’d hate to make it all the way to the Pacific ocean without finding himself. Sure, and it’d take a raft of whores and whiskey to get him over that bad break.

The selection of pipes was not extensive. There were several corncob pipes with short, straight stems, and a few briar pipes of similar construction but with smoother, sleeker lines. Jimmy figured he wouldn’t care for a short stem, with the bowl of burning tobacco right in front of his nose. Several of the pipes had slightly longer stems that curved, so that the bowl hung near or below the smoker’s jaw. Those weren’t so bad, he reckoned. Then his bright blue eye lit upon the one.

It was a clay pipe, light gray, nearly white. The stem was just over six inches long, and it curved gently, so that the bowl, which was small and acorn-shaped, sat slightly below the jawline. It reminded Jimmy of pipes he’d seen some of the more high-toned gentlemen smoking back at the Cloven Hoof.

He picked it up. The bowl fitted his hand as though it had been shaped for him. He stuck the stem into his mouth and gripped it in his teeth, then let go of the bowl. The unglazed clay was gritty to his teeth, but it tasted clean. He could see over the bowl with no problem, and the pipe felt weightless against his teeth and jaw. He removed it from his mouth and turned to face the shopkeeper, who had returned to stocking his tinned vegetables, holding it above his head.

“How much for the pipe, then?” he asked.

“A dollar,” the man said, his eyes flashing over Jimmy as though he would rather not see him standing there. “Tobacco a penny an ounce. One ounce free if you buy the pipe.”

Jimmy felt his accustomed smirk spread over his lips. He pulled several coins out of his pocket and slapped them onto the countertop.

“I’ll take the pipe, and five ounces of tobacco,” he said. “There’s a buck and a half. Keep the change. But I’ll be wantin’ a few boxes o’ lucifers.”

The shopkeeper’s eyes widened and he rushed over to the counter to fill a bag for Jimmy. Jimmy sat at the table where he had set his whiskey bottle and took a long pull of his beer.

“What’d you say was the name of this town?” he asked the shopkeeper over his shoulder.

“No town,” the man said, his tone appreciably softer. “Not yet. The crick is Brady Creek. There’s just a handful of families and a few small ranches around here. We’re hoping some more folks will settle soon.”

“The name’s James Leary,” Jimmy said. “Thanks for your help.”

“Ezra Samson. Glad you stopped in.”

“Pleasure, Mr. Samson.”

The shopkeeper set a paper sack on the table. Next to it he set Jimmy’s new pipe and three boxes of matches. Jimmy gave him one of his heart-melting grins, and the shopkeeper actually smiled back before returning to his tinned vegetables.

Jimmy set his pipe in his mouth and stuffed the bowl with some of the slightly stale cavendish flake from the sack, then tamped it down with his thumb. He struck a lucifer against the table and lit the pipe, then sat back, letting the silky smoke drift up from his lips. He smirked just for himself, then took a sip of beer.

The swinging doors parted and a man stepped inside. He was black — a truly black man, his smooth skin shiny with sweat. He wore a blue Union infantryman’s coat, which had clearly seen much use, and an infantryman’s kepi with a curved horn insignia in stamped brass on the crown. The white shirt under his coat was streaked brown with dirt and sweat, and his black trousers were threadbare. He was thin, in the way that only a person who works hard every day and eats little can be, with a pronounced jawline that hadn’t seen a shave in a few days. His eyes were clear, but he wore a look of distress. He glanced at Jimmy, then about the room.

“Say, mister,” he said to the shopkeeper, “what can I get to eat for a nickel?”

The shopkeeper glanced up from his tins, then immediately back down.

“You can’t buy nothing in here, boy. Don’t you know where you are?”

Jimmy sat up straighter, his teeth clamping down on the stem of his pipe. He felt his grip intensify on his beer mug.

“I got thirty cents,” the Negro said. “I lost my mule a day back. I’m starving.”

“Go on out to the crick and spear yourself a fish, then,” Samson said, without looking up. “You ought to be a slave, anyhow.”

The Negro stepped toward him. “You don’t understand, sir. I’m hungry. Really hungry. And I’m a free man. I done my service. I got papers.”

The shopkeeper set down his last tin. He looked the Negro up and down.

“Black bastard comes in here begging food, wearing a fucking Yankee uniform. How goddamned stupid are you, boy?”

“Sir, I ain’t begging. I mean to pay.”

“Your money ain’t worth shit here,” the man said.

Jimmy turned in his seat to face Samson. He set down his beer, but left the pipe in his mouth. He was finding he liked the way he looked — or at least fancied he looked — smoking it. He imagined it gave him a bit of dash, something the colleens would find sophisticated and alluring.

“Now, then, Ezra,” he said. “The gentleman’s hungry, he is. Sure, and I can understand how you might feel about us Union servicemen, you know. And I understand you feel a certain way about folks of color here, even if I’m not inclined to agree. Tell you what, Ezra. Let me buy the man a meal. For I know well what it is to go without, and I’d not see a fellow veteran suffer so, with coin in me pocket.”

“You don’t understand,” Samson said. “He’s a –”

“A hungry man,” Jimmy said. He twitched his frock coat away from his right thigh, revealing a polished leather holster and the bright Smith & Wesson Schofield revolver it held. “And before you go usin’ terms that start with the letter ‘n’ and aren’t the word ‘nice,’ or perhaps ‘noteworthy,’ allow me to say that I insist upon buyin’ me fellow vet a bite and a drink. Get him a slab o’ meat and a beer. And two glasses to go with this bottle.”

Ezra Samson stared at Jimmy for a moment. His eyes went from Jimmy’s — bright and blue, usually filled with mirth, but at the moment cold as diamonds — to the holster and the pistol, and the no doubt practiced hand that sat on his thigh an inch away.

“Right,” he said, standing. He stepped around the tiny bar, cursing under his breath.

Jimmy looked up at the black man. He gave his best Jimmy grin, and watched the man’s expression turn from desperation and horror to amusement. He gave a slight wink. With one foot he kicked one of the chairs away from the table.

“I’m hoping you’ll take a seat, I am,” he said. “It’s the polite thing to do, when a man buys you a meal.”

The black man gave Samson a nervous look. “I can pay,” he said.

“That’s not been disputed,” said Jimmy. “But today it’s my turn, it is. Sure, and I’d be right glad if you’d set down a bit and regale me with tales of your days in the United States Army.”

The man sat gingerly upon the chair, as if it might break beneath his weight — which was ridiculous; though he was over six foot tall, he was rail-thin. He looked up nervously as Ezra Samson set a mug of beer and two empty whiskey glasses on the table.

“Your chop will be up in a few,” Ezra said sullenly.

“Ezra, make sure there’s some greens with that,” Jimmy said. “Civilized folk like a little greens with their meat. Least, that’s what I’ve been told.” He turned toward his new companion and extended a hand. “Jimmy Leary’s the name.”

Nervously, the man took his hand. “Clovis,” he said. “Clovis Washington.”

“A fine name that is!” Jimmy said. “Would ye think it impolite if I was to ask whether your family were affiliated with the father o’ the country?”

“No,” said Clovis.

“No, you’re not affiliated?”

“Both. Not affiliated, and I don’t think it’s impolite to ask. We meet new people, we don’t learn about them unless they tell or we ask, right?”

Jimmy smirked and raised his mug. “So fuckin’ true!”

“You served too?” Clovis asked.

“Aye. USAC. An airship marine, I was. And I can see from your coat you were an infantryman.”

“That’s right.” Clovis took a pull from his beer. “Listen, Mister,” he said.

“Jimmy,” said Jimmy. “No officer am I!”

“Okay. Listen, Mr. Jimmy, you oughtn’t throw in with me.”

“It’s just Jimmy, Clovis. And why oughtn’t I do that?”

“Jimmy. And you can call me Clo. There’s a gang of men after me. Four of them. I hadn’t intended to stop for a whole meal. I just thought I’d get me a loaf of bread or something.”

“And why is it they’re after you?”

“I walked across a ranch,” Clo said. “My mule died, and I was walking across country. Most of the land out here, it’s not even marked. They saw me and started yelling about runaway slaves and thieving… you know the word. They took a few shots. I ran. They’ve been following me since yesterday. Got a rope. They keep talking about lynching me, whenever they get within earshot. I’ve got an old Remington revolver, and I’ve waved it a few times, but they never gave up. I don’t want to shoot no white man in Texas. I do that, lynching’s going to look nice compared to what they do to me.”

“If they’re so far behind you, what makes you think they’ll be catching you up?”

“They got a hound. The bitch sniffed me out as I slept this morning. Lucky thing I woke up while they was still a ways off.”

“Why didn’t you try wading through the crick?”

“I did that in a few smaller cricks, but I only struck this here one a short time back.”

“Then if these boys know there’s a cantina here, they’ll know where to look.”

Ezra Sampson slammed a tin plate down before Clo, clattering the fork and knife that rested on it. A few peas rolled across the table. On the plate was a large pork chop, steaming hot, and a mix of string beans, peas, and small red potatoes.

Ezra glared at Clo. “You eat that, boy, and you get the hell out of my shop.”

Jimmy leaned back, running his hand down his thigh. “Easy, now, Ezra,” he said. “You’ve made your point, you have. I can’t fancy why Clo here’d want to stay a minute longer than he needs to.” He turned toward Clo. “Tuck in, lad. Once you’ve finished, we’ll leave Ezra here in peace, and see if we can’t figure out a solution to your redneck problem.”

Ezra’s face went red. “You’re fucking trouble,” he said, jabbing a finger at Jimmy.

“Sure, and if you only knew the half of it.”

Ezra stormed off, leaving Jimmy facing the elderly woman. She was staring at him as if he was something especially fetid from the sole of her shoe that had wound up on her favorite carpet. She shook her head.

“You should be ashamed,” she said, “talking like that to my boy.”

Jimmy’s face lit up with a bright grin. “Ezra’s your boy?” he said. “Pleased as punch, I am, to make your acquaintance, Mother Samson! Sure, and I’d never have guessed it. Well, not until you spoke up. Where I come from, the shame belongs to them as don’t feed the hungry.”

Clo had been telling the truth about his hunger. He was already nearly finished with his pork chop, and most of the greens had vanished, as well.

“It’s a fine appetite you’ve got on you, lad!” he said.

Clo nodded with a mouth full of food. He shoved the last morsels into a mouth that was already full to overflowing, chewing rapidly. He swallowed as he stood, replacing his kepi.

“It was sure nice to meet you, Jimmy,” he said around half a mouthful of food. Jimmy saw Mother Sampson shake her head in disgust. “I reckon I’d best be going now.”

“And where is it you’re heading, Clo?”

“First, anywhere that ain’t Texas. I’m bound for the New Mexico territory. Thought I might find some work as a cowhand.”

Jimmy placed his hat back on his head, walking beside Clo toward the swinging doors.

“That’s just the way I’m going, it is,” he said. “I reckon we ought to travel together.”

“I told you, Jimmy, you can’t do that. It ain’t safe. You’re liable to get yourself lynched.”

“I like me odds, I do,” Jimmy said. “And I’m much fonder of yours if you’re with me.” He turned to face the room. Ezra Sampson stood beside Mother Sampson’s seat. They both wore scowls of disgust. Jimmy removed his hat and waved it, then bowed gracefully. “Mighty grateful we are for your hospitality and the fine conversating,” he said. “Y’all be good, now.” This last was in his approximation of a southern accent, though in combination with his own accent it made him sound more like a New Yorker.

The two men stepped out onto the boardwalk. The sun had moved on since Jimmy had entered the cantina; it was now midafternoon. Billy the horse stood in a shady patch beside the cantina, his head down in a water trough.

“You sure you want to travel with me?” Clo asked.

“Sure, I’m sure,” Jimmy said. “It’d be an honor and a privilege, sharin’ the road with a fellow veteran.”

“What about your horse? I’m on foot.”

Jimmy eyed Billy. “I reckon I can hoof it with ye, Clo, until such time as we sort out another means of transport for you. You wouldn’t be a religious sort, would you?”

“Meaning what?”

“Meaning, are ye a strict adherent to those Ten Commandments I learned about as a lad, or are you of a mind to view them more as helpful suggestions?”

“I ain’t above stealing in need,” Clo said, his teeth showing in a broad grin.

Not far off, a dog barked. “There’s the son of a bitch,” said a man’s voice in a lazy southern drawl.

Coming along the path that Jimmy had taken were four men. The man in front held a flop-eared hound, red and brown and black, leashed on a short length of fraying rope. He wore a pair of bib overalls under a tattered brown jacket. His eyes were red, as though he had been drinking all night, and his ruddy face was unshaven, the black hair that stuck out from under his tattered slouch hat wild. In his other hand he held a battered rifle. He looked to be around forty or forty-five, though his lined face could be the product of too much work outside in the elements. Two younger men followed him, barely out of their teens. Their faces were smooth. One wore overalls like the first man’s, though newer, over a white shirt, and a dusty derby hat. In his right hand he held a long pistol, a Remington by the look of it. The other wore dungaree pants, with a waistcoat over the top of his union suit and a gray jacket with the sleeves rolled up, and had no hat. His sandy hair was shaggy, nearly down to his jacket collar, with a pronounced cowlick on the top. In one hand he carried a stone jug, in the other a coiled rope. The fourth man was old, with a shaggy gray beard. He was dressed less like a field worker, more like a land owner, with brown trousers, tweed waistcoat, and brown jacket, though he wore a straw hat on his head. Over his shoulder was slung a musket that must have dated to the very earliest days of the War of Confederate Independence.

It had been the first man who had spoken.

Jimmy straightened up and plucked the pipe from his mouth. With his other hand he swept his hat off of his head. Then he bowed theatrically.

“A fine afternoon to ye, gentlemen,” he said, “though I’m after thinking it’s hardly fair to call me a son of a bitch without even gettin’ to know me first. I’d offer to buy ye a drink, so I would, only I can see ye’ve already taken care o’ that yourselves, and me welcome within yonder cantina has grown rather doubtful, more’s the pity.” He placed his hat back on his head.

“What the fuck’s this Irish jackass talking about?” one of the young man asked.

“Who the fuck are you?” the man leading the hound said, eyeing Jimmy warily.

“Excuse my manners,” Jimmy said. “Jimmy Leary’s the name. I’ve just come from Austin, though Kilrush in the county of Clare is where I was born. And who do I have the pleasure of addressing?” He could sense the tension in Clo beside him on the boardwalk.

“Quit your shillyshallying, and give us the black,” said the old man, in a voice that was surprisingly strong and deep, given his apparent age.

“Give him to you?” Jimmy said. “I can’t do that, gentlemen. He doesn’t belong to me, you see, nor to any on God’s green earth.”

The two younger fellows stepped forward, moving past the man with the hound.

“I really wouldn’t do that,” Jimmy said. “This man is my friend.”

The young men stopped. They turned to look back at the two older men.

“I said to take him,” the old man said. He lowered his musket and aimed it at Jimmy.

“Kill the Mick if you have to,” said the other, still gripping the leash with one hand, which prevented him from aiming his rifle.

The two boys stepped forward. At Jimmy’s side, Clo began to sidle down the boardwalk.

“Don’t come another step, ye brigands,” Jimmy said.

The young men paused and exchanged a look, then surged forward. The one with the revolver cocked the hammer back.

Jimmy drew his Schofield as quickly as he could and fired just as the boy with the rope set foot on the boardwalk. The Schofield reported loudly, setting up a cloud of gray smoke.

The boy with the pistol spun in place, letting out a howl of pain, and the gun skidded across the packed earth beside the boardwalk. The boy with the rope stopped walking and looked at his friend.

Jimmy’s shot had passed clean through the boy’s right forearm. Blood gushed down his arm and wrist, coating his hand and dripping onto the ground.

The old man let off his musket as the other man released the hound’s leash and raised his rifle. The musket shot zipped past Jimmy’s head — he heard it — and through the open doorway of Ezra Sampson’s cantina. Somewhere behind Jimmy there was a sound of breaking glass.

A third shot went off, to Jimmy’s left, and the man with the rifle staggered backward, dropping the gun and gripping his thigh. Blood welled over his fingers, nearly black in the brilliant Texas sunlight.

Jimmy glanced at Clo. The black man was holding a smoking revolver, his arm fully extended, his back as straight as a fencer’s. Without looking away from their assailants, Clo turned to the right a few degrees, training his gun on the old man, who was fishing in his pocket for another musket ball, and thumbed back the hammer.

The shot boy sunk to his knees, several paces from where his pistol had landed. The boy on the boardwalk was nearer to Jimmy than to Clo. He stared up at Jimmy wide-eyed, white-faced. His left hand still clutched the stone jug by its ring; his right still held the rope, though it had come uncoiled and was trailing along the ground.

“Hand me that jug, lad,” Jimmy said, “then back away. It’s over. It’ll take the old man thirty seconds to load another ball. We could kill the lot o’ ye in that time, we could.”

The two older men stopped moving. Clo had the drop on them. The old man had not yet set the fresh ball to the barrel of his musket. The younger man would scarcely be able to walk, and his rifle was several paces away. They truly were helpless.

The hound, meanwhile, was lying in the shade of the boardwalk, chewing on the end of a stick she had picked up.

The boy handed Jimmy the jug with shaking fingers. Jimmy tucked his whiskey bottle under his left arm, keeping his cocked Schofield raised in his right hand. He took the jug and yanked the cork out with his teeth, then tipped it up to his lips.

He spat, spraying clear liquid over the moaning, bleeding boy on the ground.

“Saint Jerome’s hairy arse cheeks!” he cried. “What the fuck is this swill?” He shoved the jug toward the boy.

“Moonshine,” the boy said, his voice weak.

“What’s it made of? Orangutan piss?”

“Corn mash. Malt sugar.”

Jimmy wiped his mouth with the sleeve of his frock coat and removed the whiskey bottle from under his arm. To his left, Clo had still not moved: a true soldier.

“Right, now,” Jimmy said. “You four, me friend and I, we’re going to climb on my horse, and we’re going to ride the fuck away from here, we are. And you lot aren’t going to follow us. And I want you to remember, we could have killed all four of ye, but instead we winged you and disarmed you, just so as to defend ourselves. We see you again, and we’ll not be so kind by half.” He holstered his pistol.

He stepped behind Clo, unwound Billy’s reins from the post, and climbed into the saddle. He swung Billy’s head around and came up beside Clo, who still had not moved.

“Come on, Mr. Washington,” he said.

“Maybe I ought to shoot them,” Clovis said through clenched teeth.

“Sure, and maybe you ought to, but it won’t end well for you. If you let ‘em go, they’ll tend their wounds, and if we’re lucky they’ll sober up and decide they don’t want to go telling anyone about this little adventure. Kill ‘em, you might as well go in and kill Ezra and his mother, too, or it’ll be wanted posters with both our faces on them that’ll be spreading near and far.”

“Maybe Ezra and his mother deserve it, too.”

“Aye, they may. And I’ve no qualms about shooting them as have a mind and the sand to try and gun for me. But I’m not after wanting to go shooting them as don’t need to be shot. I’ve seen enough of that kind of thing. Come on, Clo. Climb on.”

Slowly Clo lowered his pistol. He looked up at Jimmy. “Alright,” he said. Pistol still in his hand, he climbed onto Billy’s back. Jimmy gave the horse the spurs, and they charged away, heading northwest.

End of Part 1

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