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2

R.J. Bruckner showed the news reporters and anyone interested the little derringer that had saved his life. The gun, lying on the deputy's desk, looked like it had been hit with a hammer. Patting his belly, Bruckner said he kept the little pea-shooter right here, see, exactly where Moon's bullet had caught him. The bullet struck the derringer and embedded parts of it into his flesh the doctor had to pull out with tweezers.

Where had Moon got a gun to shoot with?, the newsmen wanted to know.

When his wife had visited, Bruckner said. He had taken Mrs. Moon's word she had no weapons on her person, so had not searched her.

Maurice Dumas, who was present, asked himself when Moon's wife had visited him in the eight hours Moon was in jail. Maurice thought about it and shook his head. She hadn't.

Bruckner said Moon had pulled the gun and locked him in the cell, not knowing-Bruckner patting his pocket now-he always carried a spare key. He had then grabbed his six-shooter, run out to the street and would have shot Moon dead had not Bren Early gotten in the way, Early having come just then to visit Moon.

The news reporters gave Bruckner narrow looks while some of them laughed out loud, which was a mistake. It shut off Bruckner's trust of them and willingness to talk. After that it was like pulling teeth to get information from him.

Grimly he stuck to his story that it was Moon's wife who'd given him the gun and had brought the horse some of the newsmen had actually seen running down Fourth Street toward Mill with Moon aboard. Yes, in fact Moon had sneered at him and actually told him, when he was being locked in the cell, that it was his wife had brought it. Also, he knew for a fact Moon's wife had left Mrs. Pierson's house about the time of Moon's escape. She was no longer in town, was she? Now get your asses out of my office. Bruckner didn't have any need for these grinning, smart-aleck out-of-towners. He had work to do. First thing, post the wanted dodger on Dana Moon. It showed Moon's face, taken from a C.S. Fly photo, and said:


$5,000


REWARD


(Dead or Alive)


for information leading to

the arrest or seizure of


DANA MOON


Escaped Fugitive


37 years of age, dark hair, dark-

complected. Former United States

Government Indian Agent at White

Tanks Sub-agency. Approach with

caution. If whereabouts known,

notify Deputy Sheriff R.J. Bruckner,

Sweetmary, Arizona Territory.


Brucker hung the dodger outside the jail on a bulletin board for all to see. On the same board were:

A LaSalle Mining Company notice warning hunters and prospectors to avoid posted areas where survey crews were working with dynamite.

And, a recruiting poster-HIGH PAY-INTERESTING WORK-calling for individuals who were experienced in the handling of firearms and owned their own horse to apply for a position with the LaSalle Mining Security Division. $20 A WEEK TO START. SEE P. SUNDEEN.

Maurice Dumas looked at the board for several minutes, the thought striking him, wasn't it strange the company posters were right there with the Moon wanted dodger? Like the company was footing the bill for all three enterprises. They surely looked alike in appearance. He could write an article about that, posing the question: Was the company paying for Dana Moon's arrestor death? (Bruckner had refused to answer that directly, saying it was county business.)

But first, locate Early, if possible, and see if he was willing to chat about things in general. Maurice Dumas was still feeling intuitive as well as pretty lucky.


Was it because he had not yet been pushy, but had politely given his name and said he was sorry to have disturbed her? Maurice couldn't believe it when she said come in. Look at that. The first news reporter to be invited into the house of the mysterious Mrs. Pierson. He entered hesitantly, cap in hand, looking around with an expression of awe, for this place could some day be of historical interest.

She did not invite him to sit down, but immediately said, You're the one he talks to, aren't you?

Well, we have spoken privately several times, yes, Maurice said. I mean he's told me things he hasn't told the other journalists, that I know of.

Like what?

Wellhow he feels about things.

He does? He tells you that, how he feels?

I don't mean to imply I have his complete confidence, no, ma'am. He didn't realize until now that she was upset. Judging from her tone, more than a little angry.

Well, the next time you see him, Janet Pierson said, tell him to quit acting like a spoiled brat and grow up.

Mr.Early?

Like he got out of bed on the wrong side every morning. Tell him to make up his mind what he's mad at. If it's me, if I'm to blame, I'll gladly move out. Ask him if that's what he wants. Because I'm not taking any more of his pouting.

Bren Early?

Or his silence. All day he sat here, he didn't say a word. Can I get you something?Would you like your dinner now? Like walking on eggs, being so careful not to bother him too much. He'd grunt something. Did that mean yes or no? He'd grunt something else. Finally I said, Well, if you're gonna act as if I'm not here, one of us might as well leave. No answer. Can you imagine living with someone like that?

She did not seem too mysterious now.

Bren Early? Maurice said, puzzled. No, I can't imagine him like that. He's socalm. Are you sure he wasn't just being calm?

God, Janet Pierson said, you don't know him, do you? You believe the one in the photograph with the revolvers is the real person.

Well, what I do know about him is certainly real and impressive enough to me, Maurice said.

It is, huh? Mrs. Pierson said something then that Maurice thought about for a long time after. She said, That C.S. Fly, he should take all pictures of famous people in their underwear, and when they're not looking.


He found Bren Early where he should have looked first, the Chinaman's: Early sitting in the quiet room, though near the front this time, by one of the windows. He was sipping whiskey. On the table in front of him was a handwritten menu, in ink, and one of the Dana Moon wanted dodgers, Moon's face in the photo looking up at Bren Early.

Maurice Dumas left his cap on and pulled up a chair. The Chicago Kid, some of the others were calling him now. Or Lucky Maurice. Lucky, hell, it was sensing a story and digging for it, letting nothing discourage or deter. Go after it.

Moon's wife didn't bring him the gun, Maurice said. He was going to add, flatly, You did, but softened it at the last second. I have a feeling it might have been you.

Bren Early was looking at the menu. He said, Did you know this place is called The Oriental?

No, I didn't think it had a name.

The Oriental, Early said.

Maurice waited a moment. I also believe the company put up the five-thousand reward. Because I don't think the county would spend that kind of money on something that's-when you get right down to it-company business. Am I right or wrong?

Early said, Are you gonna have something to eat?

No, I don't think so.

Well, if you aren't gonna eat, why don't you leave?

Maurice felt a chill go up the back of his neck. He managed to say, I just thought we might talk.

There's nothing to talk about, Early said.

Well, maybe I will have something to eat, if it's all right.

Maurice ate some kind of pork dish, sitting there self-conscious, feeling he should have left and tried the man at a better time. Though Early did say one thing as he sipped his whiskey and then picked up the Moon wanted poster. He said, A man who likes his front porch hasn't any business on one of these.

No, Maurice said, to agree.

Sometimes they put the wrong people on these things.

Early didn't say anything after that. He finished his whiskey and walked out, leaving the young reporter sitting there with his pork dish.


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