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
AUREL’S SO QUIET,” Virgil said. “Folks forget she’s there, and they say things in front of her.”
“Think she’ll ever talk?” I said to Virgil.
“Talks to me,” Virgil said.
“Think she’ll ever talk to anybody else?” I said.
“Don’t know,” Virgil said.
We were riding easy down a low slope. The horses had settled in for the ride, and picked their way comfortably through the prairie grass. It was warm. The sun was at our backs. And we had a ways to go before we got to Resolution.
“Know why she won’t talk to anybody but you?” I said.
“No more’n you,” Virgil said.
“Had to do with what happened to her,” I said. “But Pony and me saved her, too. How come she only talks to you.”
“Knows I’m the smart one,” Virgil said.
“Probably it,” I said. “I wonder if we took her back east. Boston. Philadelphia. Someplace like that. Maybe a doctor could fix her, or a school, something.”
“She don’t want to go,” Virgil said.
“She said so?”
“She did,” Virgil said. “I asked her and she said no.”
“Maybe she oughta go anyway,” I said. “For her own good.”
Virgil shook his head.
“Child’s sixteen years old,” I said. “How she gonna meet a husband? Have children? Live a life? She won’t say nothing.”
“Allie’ll work with her,” Virgil said.
I didn’t say anything. Ahead of us a sage hen flurried up and canted off with a lot of wing flapping before she resettled maybe a hundred yards from us.
“We both know Allie got her problems,” Virgil said after a while.
“We do,” I said.
“Allie’s had a lot of hard times of her own,” Virgil said.
“And you and me can’t do it.”
“That monthly stuff, and all,” Virgil said.
“We can’t do it,” I said.
“So, we got to let Allie do it,” Virgil said. “She’s trying.”
“And we got no one better,” I said.
“Maybe we can find a way to send Allie back east with her.”
“Ain’t gonna make Laurel go,” Virgil said.
“Maybe we should.”
“Done too much she don’t want to do,” Virgil said. “She don’t want to talk, she don’t have to.”
“No,” I said. “I s’pose that’s right.”
“Make it our business to see to it she don’t have to do what she don’t want to,” Virgil said.
“Her whole life?”
“Long as is needed,” Virgil said.
“Might mean in the end she don’t get to do things she does want to,” I said.
“I can see to that, too,” Virgil said.
“Not so sure you can,” I said.
“Hell,” he said. “Talking ain’t worth so much, anyway.”
AW IN RESOLUTION was still Cato and Rose. Frank Rose was a big, showy guy with a handlebar mustache and two pearl-handled Colts. Cato Tillson was small with droopy eyes and a sharp nose. He carried one Colt, with a dark walnut handle. They were both good with Colts. Cato maybe a little better.
“Fella we know got a small place outside of town,” Rose said. “Your Indians are sleeping in his hayloft.”
“Ain’t mine,” Virgil said. “And Pony’s a breed.”
“Well, they ain’t give us no trouble,” Rose said.
We were in the Blackfoot Saloon, sitting at a round table in the rear, sipping whiskey. Whatever the conversation, as they sat together, Virgil and Cato Tillson always eyed each other. No hostility, just a kind of professional carefulness.
“Anybody else know that?” Virgil said.
“Sure,” Rose said. “You used to be here. Town’s still ’bout the size of a corncrib.”
“There’s a bounty on them,” I said.
“Didn’t know that,” Rose said. “You know that, Cato?”
“Make a difference?” Virgil said.
Rose looked at Cato. Cato shrugged.
“Not to us,” Rose said. “Might to some folks.”
“Police chief in Appaloosa probably knows, by now, that they’re here,” I said.
“He gonna come after them?”
“Probably will,” Virgil said.
“He’s the law in Appaloosa,” Rose said.
Virgil said, “Yep.”
“We the law here,” Cato said.
“Bounty hunters out?” Rose said.
Virgil nodded again.
“Might be some Pinkertons, too,” he said.
“Might have to hire us couple of deputies,” Rose said. “Fellas with experience, say, like you boys.”
“Could arrest them,” Cato said.
“Cole’s Indian?” Rose said.
“Can’t make us give up our prisoners,” Cato said.
“’Course they can’t,” Rose said.
Virgil shook his head.
“Indian won’t go for it,” he said.
“The breed’s brother?” Rose said.
“He won’t go to jail,” Rose said.
Virgil shook his head.
“We leave the cell unlocked,” Cato said.
“He won’t,” Virgil said.
“Don’t make no sense,” Rose said. “You think Virgil’s right, Everett?”
“Might be,” I said. “Often is.”
“Well,” Rose said. “Let’s go talk to them. They don’t want to come in, least we can give them a running start.”
“Maybe they don’t want to run,” Virgil said.
Rose looked at Cato again, and leaned back a little in his chair and smiled.
“They want to stay and fight,” Rose said. “The least we can do is offer them some high-priced backup.”
IRGIL HAD BROUGHT some whiskey in his saddlebags, and we sat on a plank bench outside of the small barn and passed the bottle. Kah-to-nay declined to drink. A few dark red chickens scratched in the barnyard. A sow with a litter wallowed in a pen beside the barn. Two big-footed farm horses stood placidly in a corral, their heads hanging over the top rail. Our own horses were gathered at the watering trough.
“How long you think before Callico come here?” Pony said.
“Dunno,” Virgil said. “All I’m sure is that his wife knows you’re here.”
“Chiquita warned you,” Pony said.
“Chiquita doesn’t want anything to happen to Pony Flores,” he said.
“True,” Virgil said.
Pony said something in Apache to Kah-to-nay. Kah-to-nay made a faint shrug.
“If wife don’t gossip to him,” Pony said. “He maybe not come for weeks.”
“Maybe,” Virgil said. “Or maybe he’s waiting for us at the jail when we get back to town.”
“We can arrest you,” Rose said. “Put you in the jail. We wouldn’t lock the cell. That way, we can say you our prisoner and we won’t release you to him.”
Kah-to-nay shook his head sharply and spoke in Apache. Pony nodded and held his hand up at his brother.
“How many people Callico bring?” Pony said.
“Gotta leave some people to watch the town,” Virgil said. “Figure six or eight, plus himself.”
“He any good?” Pony said.
“Amos Callico?” Cato said. “Very good.”
“You are very good?” Pony said.
“Yes,” Cato said.
“You and Everett stay, too, Virgil?”
“Long as we need to,” Virgil said.
Kah-to-nay spoke again in Apache. Pony nodded.
“So, we all stay here maybe one, maybe two, three weeks, wait for Callico to come arrest me and Kah-to-nay. Maybe big fight.”
“Pretty much,” Rose said.
“Kah-to-nay not go to white jail,” Pony said.
All of us nodded.
“Better we go away,” Pony said.
“Where?” Virgil said.
“Apache places,” Pony said.
“That’s where they’ll be looking for you,” I said.
“Some Apache places white-eyes don’t go,” he said.
“Might depend a little on the white-eye,” Virgil said.
Pony grinned wider.
“Yes, Virgil, you go, maybe Everett go with you,” he said. “But mostly not.”
“You gonna stay on the run all your life?” I said.
“See tomorrow,” Pony said. “Don’t do Chiricahua good, think about long time from now.”
“No,” Virgil said. “I’d guess it don’t. You need anything.”
Pony shook his head.
“You know where me and Everett are,” Virgil said.
“Speak for Pony to Chiquita,” he said.
We all stood up.
“Thank you for help,” Pony said to Cato and Rose. “Kahto-nay know he should say thank you, but he not.”
“We know ’bout Kah-to-nay,” Rose said.
They shook hands.
Virgil handed the bottle to Pony.
“Take the rest of this with you,” he said.
Pony took the bottle. We swung up into our saddles and rode away from them, back toward town.
S WE CAME INTO TOWN, I could see a group of riders gathered at the far end of Main Street in front of the jail, where Cato and Rose kept office.
“Callico,” Virgil said.
“Gossip travels fast,” Rose said.
“Might be good,” Virgil said, “if me ’n Everett drift over and settle in across from the jail.”
“Have them between us,” Cato said.
Virgil nodded and pulled his horse left. We’d been riding together so long that my horse went with him without prompting. Virgil noticed.
“Smart animal,” he said.
“You figure to have trouble with Callico?” I said.
“He ain’t gonna be happy,” Virgil said, “that Pony and his brother flew the coop.”
“And Frank Rose will annoy him,” he said.
“Pretty sure,” I said.
“Besides,” Virgil said. “Better prepare for what your enemy can do, not what you think he’s gonna do.”
“True,” I said.
“Who was it said that? German fella?”
“Carl von Clausewitz,” I said. “Book called
“That’s a good one,” Virgil said. “Best book you ever give me.”
We turned down past the laundry and on past the buildings that lined Main Street. Past the slop barrels, and the privies, the busted wagon wheels and rusting leaf springs, the middens of trash and garbage where coyotes scavenged. We faced Main Street, where the buildings had false fronts. From here you could see that most had been made of green lumber that had split and warped as it dried in the sun. Most towns looked like this from the back side.
“Long way for the police chief of Appaloosa to come chasing a couple of Indians,” I said.
“Wants to be the man brought them fearsome savages to justice,” Virgil said.
“Like Custer,” I said.
“Just like him,” he said.
We turned up the alley between the Excelsior saloon and the feed store and came out on Main Street in back of Callico, where he and his men sat their horses. Cato and Rose had dismounted and spread out in front of the jail to the width of the building.
Rose was talking.
“Got no idea, Chief, where them Indians went,” Rose said.
“How long they been gone?” Callico said.
Rose shook his head slowly. “Hard to say. You know how it is. You notice when you see something. But if you don’t see something, you don’t notice you’re not seeing it.”
“For crissake, Marshal,” Callico said. “When’s the last time you saw them?”
“Week or so, maybe,” Rose said. “My work, one day’s pretty much like another one. Don’t you find it that way?”
“Where were they staying,” Callico said. “While they were here?”
“Guess they slept where they could,” Rose said. “You know how Indians are.”
“One of ’em’s an Indian,” Callico said. “Other one’s a breed.”
“Same thing, ain’t it?” Rose said. “Got Indian blood, they act like Indians. Never seen it to fail. You?”
Callico shook his head. Short, quick shakes like he had a fly in his ear.
“You got anything to tell me about the two fugitives?” he said.
“We lay eyes on ’em,” Rose said, “we’ll arrest them. Ain’t that right, Cato?”
“Sure,” Cato said.
Callico shook his head again, and wheeled his horse and looked at us.
“You men,” he said. “You seen . . . for crissake!”
“Afternoon, Amos,” Virgil said.
“What the fuck are you doing up here?” Callico said.
“Visiting, my ass,” Callico said. “You come up here and warned them fucking fugitives.”
“Can’t say we did,” Virgil said.
“I got a mind to by God take this town apart until I find them,” Callico said.
Rose’s voice became softer.
“You’re the law in Appaloosa, Callico,” he said. “Me ’n Cato are the law here. Here you ain’t worth lizard scat.”
Like Cato and Rose, we were spread out on our side of the street. I had the eight-gauge. Callico looked at us. Then back at Cato and Rose.
“Cato and Rose,” Callico said. “I heard of you.”
“Hell, Chief,” Rose said. “Everybody heard of us.”
Callico looked back at us.
“Thick as fucking thieves,” he said.
I said, “Sorry we can’t be more helpful, Amos.”
“I can shoot with any of you,” Callico said.
“Probably not sitting on a horse,” Rose said.
“Probably not,” Cato said.
“Come on,” Callico said to his men, and headed his horse up Main Street at a gallop.
HE GOING UNDERFOOT was slow on this stretch as we rode south toward Appaloosa. The horses knew they were going home and didn’t need guidance. We gave them their head and, with the reins hanging loose over the saddle horn, let them pick their way through the thorny ground runners and low sage.
“Funny thing,” Virgil said. “’Bout the law.”
On a long ride, Virgil, who often went hours without saying anything, was given to musing aloud.
“What’s that,” I said.
“Up in Resolution,” Virgil said. “With Cato and Rose, we was on the side of the law, and Callico was not. When we get back to Appaloosa, Callico’ll be the law, and we’ll be on the other side of it.”
“But we ain’t changed,” Virgil said.
“Did the law change?” Virgil said.
“People who decide what it is changed,” I said.
“Don’t seem right,” Virgil said.
“Hell, Virgil, you made the law in every town we marshaled.”
“I did,” Virgil said. “Didn’t I.”
“You did,” I said. “Will again.”
“But it didn’t keep changing once I made it,” Virgil said.
“No, it didn’t,” I said. “Still don’t. Never does. When we’re marshaling you make rules and we call it the law. When we ain’t marshaling, you make rules and we call it Virgil Cole.”
The horses waded halfway into a small stream and stopped to drink. While they drank, Virgil thought about that.
“And you don’t care?” Virgil said.
“Nope. Same rules.”
We moved on across the stream and back into the rough scrub.
“And it don’t bother you?”
“Hell, Virgil,” I said. “You know I don’t worry much ’bout such things.”
“You let me decide?” Virgil said.
“Generally I agree with you,” I said.
“And if you didn’t?” Virgil said.
“Depends,” I said. “Can’t recall you ever asking me to do something didn’t seem like I should.”
“But how you know if you should?” Virgil said.
“Most people know what they should do, most of the time,” I said. “’Specially if they ain’t married.”
“So, why you think I worry about it?” Virgil said.
“Couple things,” I said. “You talk about it, but you don’t really worry about it. You don’t worry ’bout much of anything, ’cept maybe Allie.”
“That’d be one thing,” Virgil said.
“And you’re a good gun hand,” I said.
“So are you,” Virgil said.
“Yeah, I am,” I said. “But you are the best gun hand I ever seen. Maybe the best there is. There’s some weight goes with that.”
Virgil was looking at some dragonflies hovering over a patch of flowers off to the right.
“Can’t just kill somebody ’cause you’re quicker’n them,” he said.
“No, you can’t,” I said.
Virgil was quiet for a time as the horses moved carefully along.
“And I don’t,” he said.
“No,” I said. “You don’t.”