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
IRGIL AND I took to sitting out on the porch in front of the Boston House, the way we used to sit on the porch outside the jail, when we were the law in Appaloosa. Mostly we sat and watched the life on Main Street. It was handy to everybody we were supposed to be protecting. It was pleasant, especially since Appaloosa hadn’t been all that rambunctious since we signed on. And now and then, Tilda would come out of the saloon to pour us some coffee.
“Appears to be a parade,” Virgil said.
I looked down Main Street and saw Amos Callico coming up the street with six policemen carrying Winchesters. The policemen stopped in the street and formed a semicircle facing Virgil and me.
“No drum,” I said to Virgil.
“Too bad,” Virgil said.
Callico came up the steps and sat next to Virgil on the porch.
“You boys are costing me money,” he said softly.
“I believe we are,” Virgil said.
“I want it back,” Callico said.
“I would, too,” Virgil said. “I was you.”
“I want you boys gone by Sunday,” Callico said.
Virgil shook his head.
“You’re telling me
?” Callico said.
“I am,” Virgil said.
“You’re here after Sunday, we’ll kill you first time we see you.”
“That sound legal to you, Everett?” Virgil said.
“Don’t,” I said.
“I’m the law in this town,” Callico said. “If I do it, it’s legal.”
“Might cause you a little trouble down the line,” Virgil said. “Sheriff’s bound to look into it. Most likely it’ll be Stringer, and he don’t like you much, anyway.”
“Fuck Stringer,” Callico said.
“Everett,” Virgil said. “You think shooting a couple of famous lawmen would look good, if you was gonna run for sheriff, or gov’nor, or God, or something?”
“Might not,” I said.
Callico looked silently at both of us.
Then he said, “You may have a point there, Virgil. Maybe there’s some way we can work this out more amicably.”
Virgil looked at me.
“ ‘Amicably’?” he said.
“Friendly,” I said.
“Not sure how amicable you and me can be, Amos,” Virgil said.
Callico looked at the six policemen in the street. They were far enough away so that they couldn’t hear what was being quietly spoken. He took a deep breath.
“There’s a nice life to be lived here. Pleasant, respectable, and money to be made. There’s enough for both of us. But not if we’re on opposite sides. I’ve just started to develop this arrangement, and there’s a lot more of it to come. If you just get out of the way. I’ll give you a piece of it.”
“How big a piece?” Virgil said.
“We can negotiate that,” Callico said. “Be a percentage, I would think. So, as I grow you get more.”
“You’re planning on growing,” Virgil said.
“I plan on owning this town,” Callico said. “Every goddamned citizen will be giving me money regular.”
“Got it all planned out?” Virgil said.
“I’m feelin’ my way along. But it can be done.”
“’Less we get in your way.”
“You’re right,” Callico said. “Be harder for me if I have to kill you. But if it gets even harder when I don’t kill you . . .”
Callico spread his hands, and raised his eyebrows, and shrugged.
“Don’t need an answer right now, Virgil,” Callico said. “Both you boys think on it.”
“Be glad to,” Virgil said.
“Be needing an answer by Sunday,” Callico said.
“Surely,” Virgil said.
We all sat for a moment. Then Callico stood, nodded to us, and headed back down Main Street. His men followed. Virgil and I sat quiet for a time, and then Virgil spoke.
“You know,” Virgil said. “Last time we was here we was lawmen. Now we appear to be outlaws.”
“I guess,” I said.
“Don’t seem much different,” Virgil said.
“Maybe it ain’t,” I said.
“Oughta be,” Virgil said.
“We gonna take his offer?” I said.
“We leaving town?”
“We gonna face it out with him?”
“Be my plan,” Virgil said.
“Why don’t we take his offer?”
“Don’t like the man,” Virgil said.
“Least you got a nice, strong reason,” I said.
“Don’t like him,” Virgil said.
ONY HAD BREAKFAST with us at Café Paris on Friday. The Chinaman who ran the café had some chickens, and they had been laying recently. So, with our beans and salt pork and biscuits, we each had an egg.
“Sick of cooking for me and Kha-to-nay,” Pony said.
“How is life out on the prairie,” I said.
“Quiet,” he said. “But Kha-to-nay wants to go back to war with white-eyes.”
“Ain’t gonna win that,” I said.
“I know,” Pony said. “Try to keep him alive long as I can. Balloon go up here on Sunday?”
Virgil shook his head.
“No?” I said.
Virgil shook his head again.
“He backed off the shooting,” Virgil said. “Soon’s we brought it up.”
“Scared?” Pony said.
Virgil shook his head.
“Ambitious,” he said.
“Afraid it would spoil his plan to be governor?” I said.
“He did shift the tone of the conversation,” I said.
“He tell you go,” Pony said. “He tell you, you not go he kill you.”
“True,” Virgil said. “But he won’t.”
“Think I come in town, anyway,” Pony said. “Stay with you Sunday.”
“ ’Preciate it,” Virgil said. “But I ain’t wrong ’bout this.”
“Wants to be known as the man who cleaned up Appaloosa,” I said.
“Yep,” Virgil said. “And he won’t get that reputation by shooting us.”
“Who actually did clean up Appaloosa,” I said.
“Maybe for a while,” Virgil said. “But Callico’s a politician. Don’t care nothing about actually.”
“He lie?” Pony said.
“How he knows he’s a politician,” Virgil said.
ONY WALKED with us up from Café Paris and sat with us in our spot in front of the Boston House. Tilda brought us out some coffee.
“This what you do every day?” Pony said.
“When we ain’t keeping order in our saloons,” I said.
“How much you do that?” Pony said.
“Not so much,” Virgil said.
“Mostly we do it from here. Anybody needs us, they send somebody.”
“Don’t seem too dangerous here,” Pony said.
“Don’t,” Virgil said.
“Seem boring,” Pony said.
“Is,” Virgil said. “Mostly.”
“Good for ladies,” Pony said.
“How is Chiquita?” Pony said.
“Doin’ fine,” Virgil said. He was watching four horse-men come up the street. All four wore dusters and black Stetsons.
“Hello,” I said.
Virgil nodded. Pony said nothing.
As the riders came abreast of us, they wheeled the horses and stopped in front of us.
“Looking for the police office in town,” one of the riders said. He had very pale blue eyes and a thick mustache peppered with gray.
I told him where it was.
“Chief’s name is Callico,” I said.
The man was eyeing Virgil.
“Ain’t you Virgil Cole?” the man said.
“I am,” Virgil said.
“Seen you in Abilene,” he said. “You were good.”
“Still am,” he said.
“You the law here?” the man said.
“Nope,” Virgil said. “Just a citizen.”
“Dell Garrison,” the man said. “I’m with the Pinkerton Detective Agency. We’re chasing an Indian. Run off from the Apache reservation. Held up a train. Killed a couple railroad employees.”
“What makes you think he’s here?” Virgil said.
“Folks in Van Buren spotted them, couple weeks back, heading south. This is the next town.”
Garrison looked at Pony.
“He’s traveling with a breed,” Garrison said.
“Know the breed’s name?” Virgil said.
“How ’bout the Indian?” Virgil said.
“Got it wrote down somewhere in my saddlebags,” Garrison said. “Indian name.”
Garrison looked at Pony some more.
“You a breed?” he said to Pony.
Pony said something in Spanish.
“He a friend of yours?” Garrison said.
“He is,” Virgil said.
“What’d he say?”
“Don’t know,” Virgil said. “Don’t speak Spanish. Everett, you know what he said?”
“No,” I said.
“You’re Everett Hitch,” Garrison said.
“Breed speak any English?”
“Never heard him,” I said.
“This fella’s a friend and you don’t speak Spanish and he don’t speak English.”
“We’re pretty quiet,” I said.
“He a breed?” Garrison said.
“Don’t know,” Virgil said.
Garrison nodded and looked at me.
“That an eight-gauge?” he said.
“It is,” I said.
“Don’t see them much,” Garrison said. “Wells Fargo issues them, I think.”
“That’s where I got it,” I said.
Garrison looked at Pony some more. Pony said nothing, showed nothing.
“You see my Indian,” Garrison said, “or the breed he’s running with, the railroad’s got a nice reward out.”
“Bounty hunters?” I said. “Sure . . . big reward.”
“They following you?” Virgil said.
“You know the trade,” he said. “Yeah, they let us do the finding and then try to slip in ahead of us and get there first.”
“You mind?” I said.
“We get paid either way, and we ain’t eligible for the reward, anyway.”
“Dead or alive?” Virgil said.
“Dead is easier,” Virgil said.
“Yep,” Garrison said. “And, hell, he’s an Indian.”
Nobody said anything.
“Well,” Garrison said. “Keep an eye out.”
“Surely will,” Virgil said.
Garrison backed his horse out a couple of steps away from us and turned him and headed on down toward Callico’s office. The three other riders followed.
When they were gone, Virgil turned to Pony.
“Place up north a ways, Resolution. Me and Everett worked there a while back. Last I knew, the law up there was a couple boys we worked with.”
“Cato Tillson,” I said. “And Frank Rose.”
“You tell ’em we sent you,” Virgil said. “Be a nice place to hunker down for a while.”
“What about police chief ?” Pony said. “Sunday.”
“Callico?” Virgil said. “On Sunday, Callico’s gonna let it slide.”
“Know enough,” Virgil said. “Don’t worry about Callico.”
Pony nodded slowly.
“We will go there,” Pony said.
Pony smiled and shrugged.
“I was Garrison,” Virgil said, “I’d turn that corner and send a man back along Front Street to see what you done. If you lit out, I’d have him follow you.”
“Ain’t going to light out,” Pony said. “Go home with you.”
“Then light out,” he said.
“I was you,” Virgil said, “and I was gonna light out anyway, I’d collect Kha-to-nay and light out ’fore Allie cooked you supper.”
“And tell your brother,” I said, “not to irritate Cato.”
Then the three of us got up and walked down Main Street toward Virgil’s house.
N SUNDAY MORNING Virgil was sitting where he sat, in front of the Boston House. He was heeled and his Winchester leaned against the wall beside his chair. I was across the street with the eight-gauge, standing on the boardwalk in the shade in front of the feed store. Above us the sky was a pale, even, uninterrupted blue that appeared to stretch clear west at least to California.
People were on the street, dressed up, the women especially, going to church. I saw Allie go by in her best dress, with Laurel. They were walking with a tall, handsome woman in clothes that looked like she’d shopped in New York. Allie waved at Virgil as she passed. Virgil touched the brim of his hat.
We waited. That was okay. We were good at it. Virgil and I could wait as long as we needed to. Around midday, Callico came down the street with his Winchester escorts. They stopped in front of Virgil. Callico looked around, saw me across the street, and murmured something to his escort. Three of the policemen turned and faced me. I nodded at them. Nobody nodded back.
“I’ve decided not to kill you, Virgil,” Callico said.
He had a big voice, and it carried easily from the Boston House to the feed store.
Virgil looked at the armed policemen.
“You ever go anyplace alone, Amos?” Virgil said.
“I’m not a violent man,” Callico said. “And I figure it’s easier to get along with you than kill both of you.”
“A sight easier,” Virgil said.
“Long as you don’t break the law,” Callico said.
Virgil didn’t comment.
“And I’ll be keeping my eye on you,” Callico said.
“Expect you will,” Virgil said.
“You break a law and I’ll come down on you like an avalanche.”
“Avalanche,” Virgil said.
“Like a mountain fell on you,” Callico said.
“Amos,” he said. “You got to stop trying to scare us. Ain’t effective. Me ’n Everett been doin’ gun work too long.”
“This is a small town,” Callico said. “And a big country. I’m not going to sacrifice the big for the small, you understand that?”
“Surely do,” Virgil said.
“So, you do your business, and I’ll do mine, and you stay clean, we won’t bother each other.”
“That sounds fine,” Virgil said.
He raised his voice.
“That sound fine to you, Everett?” he said.
“Fine,” I said.
“We think it’s fine,” Virgil said.
Callico looked at Virgil for a considerable time without a sound.
Then he said, “Mind your step, Virgil. Just mind your step.”
He turned and led his policemen on down the street. I strolled over to where Virgil was and sat down beside him.
“Pompous son of a bitch,” I said.
“Don’t mean he ain’t good with a Colt,” Virgil said.
“Stringer claims he’s one of the best,” I said.
“Stringer knows something about that,” Virgil said.
“On the other hand, we’re pretty good, too,” I said.
“We are,” Virgil said. “Ain’t we.”
Tilda came out with coffee and we settled in for another day.