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Fifty-one

Morgans body went to Benson in the horse-drawn hearse at the head of a funeral procession. The casket was loaded into a boxcar at Benson and taken to Tucson, where it was transferred onto the train to California. James and Bessie, Virgil and Allie would take it from there to their parents home in Colton.

The Earp men were armed. Virgil and James with handguns. Wyatt and Warren with handguns and shotguns. Doc Holliday was with them, and Sherman McMasters and Turkey Creek Jack Johnson. A telegraph clerk at Tucson wired reports of men, searching all incoming trains, striding through the cars with sawed-off shotguns under their coats. Armed men gathered and dispersed near the Tucson Railroad Station. Everyone talked of the Earps coming in with Morgans body. Frank Stilwell was there, to meet a deputy sheriff, he said.

At 6:45 in the evening everybody that was going aboard was on the California train except the Earp party. Doc Holliday and Turkey Creek Jack Johnson boarded the train, walked in opposite directions through the car where the Earps would sit, and posted themselves in the adjacent cars by the doors on either side of the Earps car. Doc carried a 10-gauge. Turkey Creek Jack Johnson had a Winchester. Sherman McMasters got on with them and walked through the entire train with a shotgun. At the back he leaned out and yelled Clear to Wyatt, who stood with his family.

James and Bessie, Virgil and Allie climbed up onto the train from whose stack the smoke was already pouring. Wyatt and Warren stood on either side of the train steps with shotguns, then followed them. When the departing Earps were seated, Doc and Turkey Creek Jack stepped down onto the platform on either side of the train and watched in both directions to see that no one else got on.

Once the doors close and youre underway, youre out of it, Wyatt said.

Sure thing, Virgil said. Besides, I can still shoot.

But you cant reload in anything under an hour, Warren said.

Means I can get the first six, Virgil said. If theres more, James will have to clean up.

James smiled. But it was a thin smile. He was brave enough, Wyatt thought, but whatever happened in the war had taken it out of him. He wasnt a shooter. Still, hed do what he had to. Wyatt was sure of that.

Hell, Id turn Allie on them, Wyatt said.

Allie smiled at him.

We aint always got along, Wyatt. And Ive been ready to tell you when I didnt like what you done.

Thats true, Wyatt said.

But you take care of yourself doing what it is youre going to do.

I will, Allie.

Her eyes were teary.

I dont want to lose you too, Allie said and stood and put her arms around Wyatt. He patted her back.

You too, Warren. You be very damned careful.

Its the cowboys, Warren said, that need to be careful.

The conductor stopped in front of Wyatt.

Trains all locked down, he said. Cept this car. Time to go.

Wyatt nodded and looked at his brothers.

See you in a little while, Wyatt said.

He looked at Virgil. Virgil nodded. He put the Colt in his lap and put out his working hand. Wyatt took it. Then he and Warren left the train and watched as the conductor bolted the door. The engine whistled and the boiler huffed faster. McMasters jumped off the rear of the last car. Turkey Creek Jack Johnson walked back toward him. Warren followed. Doc began to walk along the train toward Wyatt. Across the next set of tracks, near an empty train at rest on its siding, there was a flurry of movement. Two men disappeared behind the train, but the third man stood there and Wyatt saw him.

Stilwell, Wyatt said and began to move toward him. Stilwell ran. Wyatt followed. Suddenly, as he came up against the engine of the silent train, Stilwell stopped and turned. Wyatt was fifteen feet away. He kept coming. Stilwell seemed frozen. At three feet, Wyatt stopped. The shotgun was level with Stilwells chest. Both hammers were back.

Stilwell said, Morg.

And again, Morg, and grabbed at the shotgun. Wyatt pulled the trigger, and the right barrel pounded a near-solid cluster of shotgun pellets into Stilwells chest. He was probably dead before the second barrel went off. Doc Holliday came up behind Wyatt at a dead run. Wyatt was already reloading the shotgun. Doc looked down at Stilwells body and drew his Colt and fired five shots into it. Then he, too, began to reload.

Behind them, the wheels of the train to California began to turn. The train strained into motion. Wyatt ran alongside it, and as Virgil peered out the now moving window Wyatt held up his right hand with one finger raised. Inside the train Virgil nodded. He understood. Wyatt had gotten one of them. For Morg.


Fifty | Gunman`s Rhapsody | Fifty-two