Authors: Robert B. Parker
Tags: #Parker, #Everett (Fictitious character), #Westerns, #Fiction - Western, #Fiction, #Robert B. - Prose & Criticism, #General, #Virgil (Fictitious character), #American Western Fiction, #Westerns - General, #Hitch, #Cole
T WAS A DARK gray day, when Amos Callico came into the saloon, with four of his policemen. The four policemen all carried Winchesters.
“Like to sit with you boys for a minute,” Callico said.
We sat at a table up front near the bar. The four policemen ranged along the walls near us. The tables around us were empty. One of the bartenders brought a bottle and three glasses.
“Understand you hired on here,” Callico said.
He poured himself some whiskey and offered the bottle toward us. Virgil and I declined.
“That right?” Callico said.
“It is,” Virgil said.
“Bouncers,” Callico said.
“Correct,” Virgil said.
“Got you a big list of rules,” Callico said, and nodded without looking at the rules posted on the wall.
“We do,” Virgil said.
“Pretty much same rules you had for the town when you was marshal,” Callico said.
“Pretty much,” Virgil said.
“Just want to be sure you remember that you ain’t marshal now,” Callico said.
“I remember,” Virgil said.
Callico looked at me for the first time.
“You?” he said.
“I remember, too,” I said.
He looked at the eight-gauge leaning against the edge of the table.
“You haul that fucking blunderbuss around with you everywhere?” he said.
“I do,” I said.
“For God’s sake, why?” Callico said.
“Same reason you have your boys carry Winchesters in a saloon,” I said. “Folks get the idea you’re serious.”
Callico looked at me without expression for a moment. Then he turned back to Virgil.
“Why do you suppose Speck hired you?” Callico said.
“Keep order,” Virgil said.
“I’m the one keeps order in Appaloosa,” Callico said.
“Well, that’s by-God comforting,” Virgil said. “We run into trouble we’ll be sure to holler for you.”
“You should have hollered for me already,” Callico said. Virgil looked at me.
“You know any reason we should have hollered for the police?” Virgil said.
“You threw Nicky Laird out of here, couple days ago, for a damn whore.”
“Several damn whores,” Virgil said.
“He’s a highly regarded citizen of this town, and his father is a close personal friend of mine.”
“Nice,” Virgil said.
“You embarrassed him in public,” Callico said.
“Man embarrassed himself,” Virgil said.
“Boys,” Callico said, and poured himself more whiskey. “This is exactly why I don’t want no vigilante law enforcing going on. There’s a distinguished citizen being insulted by some whores and you side with the whores.”
He stopped, drank some of his whiskey, and shook his head slowly.
“You boys know the county sheriff’s chief deputy,” Callico said.
“Stringer,” Virgil said.
“He was in town picking up a prisoner. Got a lot of regard for you boys.”
“Stringer’s a good man,” Virgil said.
“And I got a high regard for you both. I know your reputation,” Callico said. “But you can’t run a town with two different sets of law.”
“Welcome to borrow ours,” Virgil said.
Callico slammed his hand loudly on the table. Virgil didn’t appear to notice.
“Goddamn it,” he said. “I don’t want either one of you working here. That put it plain enough?”
“I’d say it was,” he answered. “You say so, Everett?”
“I do,” I said.
“Then you’ll quit,” Callico said.
“No,” Virgil said.
“No?” Callico said. “I won’t take no.”
“Everett,” Virgil said, “I think Chief Callico is trying to intimate us. . . .”
Virgil paused and frowned and shook his head.
“No,” he said. “That ain’t right. What am I trying to say, Everett?”
“Intimidate?” I said.
“That’s it,” Virgil said. “I think the chief is trying to intimidate us.”
As quietly as I could, I cocked both hammers on the eight-gauge.
“Goddamn it, I’m telling you plain what I want,” Callico said.
“Amos,” Virgil said. “Me ’n Everett don’t much care what you want.”
“You defying me?” Callico said.
“By God,” Virgil said. “I believe we are.”
“There’s five armed men here,” Callico said.
Virgil said nothing.
“You’re willing to die rather than let me run you off ?” Callico said.
Virgil shook his head.
“Don’t expect to die,” he said.
“Against five men?” Callico said.
“Expect me and Everett can kill you all,” Virgil said.
Everyone was still, except Callico. I could hear him breathing in and out, his chest heaving slowly. Then he, too, quieted. Very slowly he put both hands flat on the tabletop.
“Don’t get ahead shooting people up in a saloon,” he said, and looked at us.
Then he stood and jerked his head at the officers along the wall.
“We’ll talk again,” he said to Virgil.
And they filed out.
“Be my guess it ain’t over,” I said.
“When he finds an excuse,” Virgil said.
F WE STAYED around the house in the morning until Allie got up, she set right in cooking us breakfast. So we tried to get out, before she woke up, and went to eat at Café Paris. Since I wasn’t a lawman these days, and I didn’t expect to shoot anybody, I left the eight-gauge in the house.
“We got to eat supper with her sometimes, so’s not to hurt her feelin’s,” Virgil said. “But I can’t face her cooking in the morning.”
“How’s the rest of it going,” I said.
“She don’t seem so crazy,” Virgil said.
“Maybe ’cause she got Laurel to take care of,” I said.
“Maybe,” Virgil said.
“Makes her feel important,” I said.
“She’s important to me,” Virgil said.
“I know,” I said.
“Sex life be better, though,” Virgil said, “Allie wasn’t sleepin’ with Laurel.”
“Maybe I could arrange for Laurel and me to take long walks in the evening,” I said.
“Might help,” Virgil said.
“And,” I said, “soon as we settle in, I’ll get a place of my own.”
“I know,” Virgil said. “But I ain’t sure Laurel can sleep by herself.”
“No,” I said. “Probably can’t.”
Virgil paid for breakfast.
“So we’re back to the long walks,” I said.
“Thing is,” Virgil said as we left Café Paris, “Allie says she feels funny doing it now that there’s a child in the house.”
“Even if the child is out for walk?” I said. “With me?”
Virgil shrugged. We strolled along Main Street to the Boston House and sat on the front porch and looked at the town.
“Be worth a try,” Virgil said.
We sat without talking. There was nothing uncomfortable in the silence. We could sit quiet for a long time. And we’d shared a lot of silences in the years we’d been together.
The land north of Appaloosa rose gradually through the mesquite. A wagon road ran up the rise to the edge of town, where it became Main Street. From town, unless you were at the very northern edge, you couldn’t see the road. It was as if Appaloosa stood long at the edge of a cliff, and when anything entered town from that direction it seemed simply to appear. There wasn’t a lot of traffic yet on Main Street. Two freight wagons appeared, each hauled by four big draft horses, their wide hooves kicking up little scatters of dust as they came. The early stage to Blue Rock went past us, heading north with two passengers and the driver up top next to the shotgun messenger.
“Town don’t bustle much,” Virgil said, “this early.”
“Later,” I said. “It’ll bustle later.”
Virgil nodded toward the north end of Main Street.
“Couple riders,” he said.
“So?” I said.
“Recognize anybody?” Virgil said.
“Not yet,” I said.
“One on the left’ll be Pony Flores,” Virgil said.
I studied the riders.
Then I said, “I believe it will.”
HE RIDERS pulled up and sat their horses in front of the Boston House.
“Pony,” Virgil said.
Pony nodded at him. His Stetson was tipped forward, shading his face.
“Thought you was going to live Chiricahua for a spell,” I said.
Pony shrugged and tipped his head toward the rider beside him.
“My brother,” he said, “Kha-to-nay.”
We said, “Hello.”
Kha-to-nay had no reaction.
“He speak English?” Virgil said.
“Can,” Pony said. “Won’t.”
“Don’t like English?” Virgil said.
“He raised Chiricahua,” Pony said. “Don’t like white men.”
“He understand what we say?” I asked.
“Sure,” Pony said. “But only listen Chiricahua. Only talk Chiricahua.”
“Should introduce him to Laurel,” I said. “She only talks Virgil.”
“Chiquita,” Pony said. “She is well?”
“Doin’ fine,” Virgil said. “Kinda quiet, is all.” Kha-to-nay was motionless on his horse. As far as I could tell, watching him sit a horse, he was a little shorter than Pony, and a little wider. Pony had on buckskin leggings and high moccasins. The handle of a knife showed at the top of the right moccasin. He had on a dark blue shirt that might have once belonged to a soldier, and a big horn-handled Colt on a concho-studded belt. There was a Winchester in his saddle scabbard. Kha-to-nay wore a dark suit and a black-and-white striped shirt buttoned up tight to his neck. His black hair came to his shoulders. He, too, had a Winchester, and he wore a bowie knife on his belt.
“You lawmen again?” Pony said.
“Not at present,” Virgil said.
“Need help,” he said.
“Okay,” Virgil said.
“How the law in this town?” Pony said.
“Got a police chief,” I said. “Name of Amos Callico. Seems pretty set in his ways.”
Pony looked at Virgil.
“Don’t like him,” Virgil said.
“You live someplace?” Pony said.
“Got a house,” Virgil said.
“We go there and talk,” Pony said.
“Sure,” Virgil said. “Allie be glad to see you.”
We stood, and with Pony and Kha-to-nay walking their horses beside us, we went down Main Street toward Virgil’s house.
“What’s Kha-to-nay mean, in English?” I said to Pony. Pony thought a minute.
“Sees a Snake,” he said. “I think.”
“You think?” I said.
Pony pointed to his head.
“Change into Spanish,” he said. “Then Spanish to English.”
We could have been speaking Egyptian for all the attention Kha-to-nay paid. He rode silently, his eyes shifting left and right as he rode. We went down to First Street and turned right and walked a block to Front Street, where Virgil’s house was.
Allie was on the front porch in a rocker, reading to Laurel. I knew what she was reading. It was a book called
Ladies’ Book of Etiquette, Fashion, and Manual of Politeness.
She’d been reading a chapter a day to Laurel since we left Brimstone. I didn’t know if it was doing Laurel any good, but Allie appeared to be soaking it up.
They both looked up as we came into the small yard. Neither of them said anything for a moment. Then Laurel stood up abruptly and stepped off the porch. She walked to Pony, being careful not to look at Kha-to-nay, and took the derringer out of her apron pocket, and held it out so Pony could see it. Pony smiled, threw a leg over the pommel of his saddle, and slid fluidly off his horse.
“Chiquita,” he said.
She jumped into his arms, and he held her, rocking gently side to side. Kha-to-nay sat silent as a stone.
“Pony Flores,” Allie said. “How perfectly lovely. Come sit on the porch, you and your friend.”
Pony said something to Kha-to-nay in Apache. Kha-to-nay shook his head. Pony spoke again. Kha-to-nay did not answer, nor did he look at any of us.
“My brother is a donkey,” Pony said. “But he is my brother.”
E SAT on the porch and passed around a jug of corn whiskey. Allie put a marker in her etiquette book, went to get small glasses for herself and Laurel.
“Ladies don’t drink from jugs,” Allie said.
Virgil poured a little for each lady, and took a pull from the jug before he handed it to Pony Flores. Laurel sat close beside Virgil and did not look at Kha-to-nay.
Kha-to-nay would not touch the jug or even acknowledge that it existed. But he did finally get off his horse and lean on the porch railing, with his Winchester, looking toward town, standing as far away from the rest of us as possible.
“For true Chiricahua, Blue-Eyed Devil not exist,” Pony said. “What Kha-to-nay believe.”
“You’re a half Mex,” Virgil said. “Ain’t he?”
“All Chiricahua,” Pony said. “Same mother. Different father.”
“He hate us all?” I said.
“Like only Chiricahua,” Pony said.
“We take away his land?” I said.
“Take away everything,” Pony said.
“How you feel about that?”
“You come, take away what Chiricahua have,” Pony said.
“While ago Chiricahua come and take away from other people. Other people come long time ago, take away.” Pony shrugged. “Somebody probably come one day, take away from Blue-Eyed Devil,” Pony said. “Happen always.”
“S’pose it does,” I said. “Kha-to-nay know you feel like that?”
“You talk about it?” I said.
Pony said. “I think man live now, do what need to be done, keep word, don’t think how things be before.”
“And Kha-to-nay?” I said.
“Say I am only half Chiricahua.”
I nodded. Kha-to-nay stared into the middle distance. Pony took a pull on the whiskey jug.
“What kinda help you need?” Virgil said.
“I know you come back to Appaloosa. I think you be the lawman here,” Pony said.
“Kha-to-nay kill an Indian agent and rob train,” Pony said.
Without looking at us, Kha-to-nay said something in Apache. Pony answered. Kha-to-nay said something else. Pony nodded.
“Kha-to-nay say he not rob train. He destroy train. He say Chiricahua people at war with white-eyes. Say destroy train is act of war.”
“How ’bout the Indian agent?” Virgil said.
“Kill white-eye . . .
?” Pony said, and looked at me.
“Tyrant,” I said.
“Kill white-eye tyrant,” Pony said. “Free Chiricahua people.”
“So, the government is after him for the Indian agent,” Virgil said. “And the Pinkertons are after him for the railroad.”
“U.S. Marshals arrest Kha-to-nay,” Pony said. “Put him in jail. I get him out. We come here.”
“How’d you get him out of Yaqui?” Virgil said.
Pony smiled and patted his Colt. Virgil nodded.
“There a bounty on him?” Virgil said.
Virgil rocked back a little in his chair and took the jug from me and took a pull.
“Well,” Virgil said. “We can’t let ’em take you.”