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Sixteen

It was early evening after dark. Wyatt was with Morgan in the Wells Fargo office. Wyatt, in from Bisbee, and Morgan, from Benson, were standing by with their shotguns while the strongbox was opened and the money locked in the safe.

Virgil came into the office with a boy, maybe nineteen. The boy looked frantic.

Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce, Virgil said, nodding at the boy. Shot a man in Charleston, they want to lynch him.

The Wells Fargo clerk swung the door shut on the big black safe and straightened up.

You cant keep him here, the clerk said.

None of the three brothers looked at him.

Whod he shoot? Wyatt said.

Mining engineer named Schneider.

Hell, I know him, Morgan said. He manages the smelter over in San Pedro.

Well, now he dont, Virgil said.

You gotta hide me, Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce said. Theyre gonna kill me. His eyes were damp as if he had been crying, and his voice sounded thick.

No, Virgil said. They aint going to kill you.

You got to get him out of this office, the clerk said.

Well take him across to Vronans, Virgil said. Jims there. Morgan, you go down and tell Ben Sippy where we are. Have him bring Behan and anybody else he can get, and meet us there. Tell them to bring a buggy.

You see Doc, Wyatt said, bring him along.

Morgan nodded. He gave Virgil his shotgun and left, running.

We dont need Doc, Virgil said.

Good gun, Wyatt said.

Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce was crying again.

Theyre gonna find me, he sobbed. We cant stay here. Theyre gonna find me.

Without looking at him, Virgil patted Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce on the shoulder.

Get him outta here now, the Wells Fargo clerk said. I dont want to have to report you to the regional manager.

Hes a good gun, Virgil said. But hes crazy.

Thats right, and it scares hell out of the kind of citizens who might want to string up Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce.

You got a point, Virgil said. Cmon.

He put an arm around Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce and turned him toward the door.

I aint going out first, Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce said.

Tears were running down his face.

Wyattll go first, Virgil said.

You crying when you jerked on Schneider? Wyatt said.

Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce cried harder. Wyatt shook his head and went out the front door onto Allen Street with his shotgun. His left arm around Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce, and Morgans shotgun in his right hand, Virgil followed him. Up Allen Street at the east end of town, a group of miners was gathered. Both Wyatt and Virgil walked with the shotguns by their side, muzzle down and aiming at the ground. The miners saw them. A guttural mass murmur came from the miners, and one voice above the rest said, There he is.

Virgil and Wyatt kept walking across Allen. Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce would have run, but Virgils grip on his shoulders kept him in check.

Walk easy, Virgil said.

Like dogs, Wyatt said to Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce. You run, theyll chase you.

Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce continued to sob. He was much shorter than Virgil and slight. And he was shaking with fear.

Whered you get him? Wyatt said.

Constable from Charleston, tall skinny fella, big Adams apple, I cant remember his name, was trying to get him out of town ahead of the mob. I was out on the Charlestown Road running the stallion, and the constable recognizes me and says, You got a fast horse, you take him into Tombstone. So I put him up behind me, and here we come.

That stallionll run away from anything in Arizona, Wyatt said. Less, a course, he stops to kill it.

Just got to step careful when you come up on him, Virgil said.

The mob was beginning to move down the street toward them when they reached Vronans. There were several townspeople bowling, and the bar was crowded.

Might be a fight here pretty quick, Virgil said loudly. You dont want to be in it, you might head out now.

Behind the bar, Jim Earp said, Dont worry about the tabs, drinks on the house.

The building emptied at once.

Vronan going to like that? Wyatt said.

No, James said.

Wyatt went to the front door and stood leaning on the left jamb, looking up the street, the shotgun hanging against his right leg. James took a big Navy Colt from under the bar. He held it in his left hand in a way that said he was right-handed.

Cant do much at a distance anymore, he said to Virgil. But up close I can still do damage.

Got a lynch mob after this child, Virgil said. Ben Sippys on the way with Morgan and some others. Got a back door?

Yes, but Vronan keeps it locked, dont want anybody sneaking in and rolling a couple of strings.

Okay. Sit with Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce. Ill go out front with Wyatt and wait for Morgan.

Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce was sniffling. He had come to view Virgil as his only safety.

I want to go with you, he said.

No you dont, Virgil said. Im going out and stare down the miners.

Your brother can do that.

Probably can, Virgil said. But Im going to help him.

Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce started to cry again.

This here is my brother, James, Virgil said. You stay with him.

The miners were gathered in the street outside the bowling alley. Behind them, across the street, was a larger group of townspeople watching. Virgil stood on the other side of the doorway from Wyatt and leaned his back on the wall with the butt of the shotgun resting on his hip, the barrels pointing toward the sky. Both men looked straight at the miners.

One of the miners said, We want the murderous little bastard, Virgil.

He was a squat man, with a sparse beard.

Virgil shook his head.

You better give him to us, Virgil, or well, by God, take him.

Virgil shook his head again, and Wyatt brought the shotgun up and aimed it quite carefully at the miner.

Ill shoot him, Virgil, Wyatt said. Who you going to kill?

Virgil scanned the miners slowly without answering.

From the back of the mob someone yelled, You cant kill us all.

Virgil let the muzzle of the shotgun drop so that it leveled at the miners.

Might, Virgil said.

How many people you think you can hit? Wyatt said, staring at the group of miners. His voice was loud enough to be heard across the street. You let fly both barrels at this distance?

Always wondered, Virgil said.

The miners were silent for a moment. They knew who the Earps were. Several of the men had rifles. But the mob was different from the men who made it up. The mob was edgy and full of repressed movement.

We aint going to let him go, Virgil.

It was the squat miner again. Virgil said nothing. He cocked both hammers on the shotgun. The sound crackled through the tension.

This the day you want to die? Wyatt said.

Without looking, Wyatt could feel his brother James in the doorway. James couldnt shoot much since he got crippled up in the war. But he had the big Navy Colt, and at this range he could do damage.

Ben Sippy, the city marshal, rounded the corner at Fifth Street with Johnny Behan, the deputy sheriff. Both of them had Winchesters. Both of them were on foot. Behind them was a group of deputized saloon men on horseback. Driving a light spring wagon was Morgan. His revolver was on the seat beside him.

All right, you men, Sippy shouted, clear the street.

Morgan drove the wagon directly at the gathered miners, who gave way as the two-horse team passed through. The deputies fanned out across Allen Street on their horses directly between the miners and Vronans.

Whynt you bring the prisoner out, Virgil, Sippy said as he reached the doorway where the Earps were standing.

Still looking straight at the miners, now partly shielded by the horsemen, Virgil leaned his head back in through the doorway and said, Send him on out, James.

James Earp half pushed, half led Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce out of Vronans bowling alley.

Get in the wagon, son, Sippy said.

Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce looked at Virgil, his eyes red and swollen. Virgil nodded and jerked his head at the wagon. Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce hung back.

Get up there, boy, Virgil said, beside my brother.

Morgan picked up his revolver and stuck it into his belt, and Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce climbed up on the wagon and sat beside him. Standing in front of the mounted deputies, Sippy spoke to the miners.

Deputy Morgan Earp and the other deputies are going to take this boy down to Benson and get on a train with him and take him to Tucson, where he will be tried for the murder of W. P. Schneider.

Save a lot of trouble, Ben, we just hang him here, the squat miner said in a conversational tone.

Trouble aint the issue, Sippy said. I want all you men to go back to whatever you was doing before you almost made a bunch of damn fools out of yourselves.

Hell, Ben, one of the miners shouted, I was up at Nosey Kate Lowes.

Well, we know what you was doing, dont we? Sippy answered, and the miners laughed.

Morgan clucked at the team, and the wagon began to move. With the deputized gunmen riding on either side of it, the wagon picked up speed as it went down Allen Street. It turned right at Fourth Street and disappeared. Many of the miners watched it and then when it was gone began to drift away from in front of Vronans. The onlookers went back into the saloons, and after a time the street was empty. Virgil eased the hammers down on the shotgun and looked at his brother. Wyatt was still staring after the last miner, the shotgun still leveled.

Well, thats over, Virgil said.

Wyatt looked startled, then he took a deep breath and let it out and slowly lowered the shotgun. He eased the hammers off cock. James spoke from the doorway.

Vronan can afford a couple more on the house, I figure.

Whiskey sounds right, Virgil said.

James said, You want coffee, Wyatt?

Coffeed be good.

And the three brothers went in and stood together at the dimly lit bar in the empty bowling alley and drank and didnt say much.


CHRONICLE

In New York City, James Garfield is shot and badly wounded by Charles Guiteau. The President dies of his wounds in September In New Mexico, William Bonney is shot to death by Pat Garrett In Canada, Sitting Bull surrenders The Boston Symphony Orchestra performs its first concert In Germany the first electric tramway begins operations in Boston Walt Whitmans publisher withdraws Leaves of Grass, after widespread charges that the poem is indecent.



Fifteen | Gunman`s Rhapsody | * * *