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Ten

John Tyler came in out of the late-afternoon glare of August, into the slightly cooler dimness of the Oriental. The early shift was out from the Toughnut, and the room was loud with miners. Tyler was carrying a gun butt forward in front of his left hip. Wyatt was laying out his faro spread, near the back of the long room. He saw Tyler as soon as Tyler came in, and jerked his head at Blonde Marie, one of the whores waiting for business at a table near the piano. She got up and came over.

Go get my brother, he said.

Virg?

First one you see, Wyatt said.

Is there going to be trouble? Blonde Marie said.

Probably, Wyatt said.

Blonde Marie turned and walked out the front door of the saloon. A blare of sunlight splashed briefly into the saloon as the door opened and swung shut behind her. Wyatt sat quietly behind the faro table, a deck of cards in his hands. Without looking, he cut the cards with one hand and shuffled them and cut them again. He seemed idle. If Tyler saw him, he gave no sign of it. Tyler pushed his way through the miners standing two deep at the bar. He was deliberately rough about it, making no effort to avoid stepping on toes and jostling drinks. Several of the miners looked at him, but no one complained. Tyler ordered whiskey, and when it came he drank it down in a long swallow. Then he turned to a miner next to him, and put his hand flat against the mans face and shoved. The miner staggered and fell backward, landing on the floor in a half-sitting position, catching the rest of his fall with his hands. He was a smallish man with a thick beard, his shoulders strengthened and bowed by labor underground. He seemed more startled than angry as he sat on the floor.

Hey, he said.

The miner could see the gun Tyler was carrying, and it made him careful.

You were in my way, Tyler said.

Hell I was, the miner said.

He got to his feet. His hands were clenched at his sides.

You saying to me that Im a liar? Tyler said.

I wasnt in your way, the miner said. His eyes kept shifting from Tyler s face to Tyler s gun. Thats all Im saying.

And I say you were, Tyler said. And I say youre in my way right now.

In your way for what?

You know me? Tyler said.

Yeah, I know who you are.

Well, I say you better get out of this saloon now, fore I get mad, Tyler said.

I got a right to be here, the miner said.

No, Tyler said. You dont. Not anymore. Go drink someplace else, less you want really bad trouble.

You got no right to push me, the miner said.

Get out of here now, Tyler said. He let his hand drift downward toward the gun. The miners friends began to back away, and stubborn though he was, the miner found himself stepping back.

I dont have no gun, the miner said.

I do, Tyler said.

Afternoon, Mr. Tyler, Wyatt said.

He was standing just to Tyler s right and slightly behind him. Tyler wheeled to face him, his shoulders hunching slightly. This was no miner.

What do you want? Tyler said.

Want you to stop causing trouble in my saloon, Wyatt said. He seemed relaxed. His left hand hung quietly by his side. His right rested lightly on his hip, just forward of his holster.

Your saloon?

Quarter interest.

Dont make you the owner, Tyler said. Joyce owns the rest.

Youre in my quarter, Wyatt said.

The room was quiet. A wide circle had formed around the two men, and it was in continuous flux as people kept shifting to get out of the line of fire.

You dont mean nothing to me, Earp.

Id like you to leave my saloon, Wyatt said. Now.

Dont prod me, Earp.

Now, Wyatt said.

The silence grew tighter. The front door opened and shut. Neither Tyler nor Wyatt looked at it. Someone whispered, Heres Virgil. The whisper seemed to take some of the tension out of Tyler. His shoulders sagged.

Thats the way you want it, Earp, he said and turned and started toward the door, where Virgil stood, his eyes adjusting. Tyler bent forward slightly, and his right shoulder tensed. In one smooth gesture Wyatt brought his revolver out from under his coat and hit Tyler across the back of the head with the barrel. Tyler staggered and fell forward, and the gun hed been pulling spun ahead of him on the wood floor of the saloon. Virgil picked it up. Tyler, on his hands and knees, shook his head trying to clear it, and Wyatt stepped forward and kicked him in the side. Tyler sprawled flat. Wyatt stepped up beside him and put the big Colt against his right temple, finger on the trigger, thumb on the hammer.

I dont want to see you in my saloon again, Mr. Tyler. You understand?

Tyler lay facedown, twisted sideways trying to ease the pain in his side. There was blood seeping through the long black hair at the back of his head. Wyatt banged the muzzle of his revolver against Tyler s temple.

You understand?

Yes, Tyler said hoarsely.

Good, Wyatt said. Now get out of my saloon.

Tyler tried to get up, and collapsed back down to his knees. Virgil stuck Tyler s Colt in the pocket of his coat and stepped forward and got hold of the back of Tyler s coat collar, and dragged Tyler to his feet. Wyatt holstered his revolver, then walked past Virgil and opened the front door and held it. The hot light poured in, bringing in with it the strong smell of dust and horses. Virgil half walked, half dragged Tyler into the street. Wyatt closed the door behind them and the room was dim again. He went back to his faro table and examined the layout carefully to make sure it was orderly. At the bar the miners began to talk again. And within moments the surface of saloon life had closed, unruffled, over the incident.


| Gunman`s Rhapsody | Eleven