Read Blue-Eyed Devil Online

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

Blue-Eyed Devil (9 page)

34

V
IRGIL AND I were at our post out front of the Boston House when Chauncey Teagarden strolled past us, wearing his ivory-handled Colt.

“Afternoon, Virgil,” he said. “Everett.”

I nodded.

Virgil said, “Afternoon.”

Chauncey stood for a moment looking at Virgil. Virgil had no reaction. Chauncey shook his head slightly.

“The great Virgil Cole,” he said.

“You’ll be checking that Colt with Fat Willis,” Virgil said.

“Of course,” Chauncey said.

He looked another moment at Virgil and then went i nside.

“You sure do impress him,” I said.

Virgil smiled.

“More important I am,” Virgil said. “Better he’ll feel when he kills me.”

“If he kills you,” I said.

“If he don’t, won’t matter to him one way or other,” Virgil said.

“’Cause you’ll have killed him.”

“Yep.”

“It’s like he’s . . . flirting,” I said.

“Is, ain’t it,” Virgil said.

“Like he wants to get to know you,” I said.

“Some fellas like that,” Virgil said.

“Enjoy the work more if they know you well,” I said. “’Fore they kill you?”

“Something like that,” Virgil said.

“Heard he was from New Orleans,” I said. “Won some duels down there.”

“Heard that, too,” Virgil said.

“Means he got self-control,” I said. “Being quick don’t make no difference in a duel.”

“And he can shoot,” Virgil said. “You can’t, you don’t win many duels.”

“So, what we don’t know is how fast?” I said.

“Killed Burleigh Ouellette,” Virgil said.

“Burleigh was quick,” I said. “Chauncey got him?”

“Did,” Virgil said.

“And you figure he’s here to get you,” I said.

“That’s what he’s here for,” Virgil said.

“You figure the general hired him?”

“Be my guess,” Virgil said.

“So, what’s Teagarden waiting for?” I said.

“Needs a situation where it’s just me and him. He ain’t gonna fight us both at the same time.”

I nodded.

“Needs me to draw first, and he’s figuring how to do that,” Virgil said.

“And maybe he’s enjoying the game,” I said.

“Probably,” Virgil said.

“You think he can do it?” I said.

“Kill me?” Virgil said.

“Yeah.”

“No,” Virgil said. “I don’t.”

“You never do,” I said.

“Correct,” Virgil said.

“And you been right, so far,” I said.

35

L
AUREL, holding her skirt up, came along Main Street at a dead run. When she reached us, she whispered to Virgil. Virgil nodded.

“Pony came to the house,” Virgil said to me. “Wants us to meet him west of town at Red Castle Rock.”

“I know where that is,” I said.

Laurel whispered again to Virgil.

“We won’t see him, but if we sit our horses by the rock, he’ll find us,” Virgil said to me.

“Now?” I said.

Virgil looked at Laurel. She nodded hard.

“Now,” Virgil said.

He patted Laurel on the shoulder, and we set out for the livery to get our horses.

We followed the stage road west.

As we rode I said to Virgil, “I noticed something ’bout Laurel today when she come running up to tell us ’bout Pony.”

“With her tits bouncing?” Virgil said.

“You noticed it, too,” I said.

“Yep.”

“She ain’t a little girl,” I said.

“Nope.”

“What are we gonna do ’bout that?” I said.

“Don’t know,” Virgil said.

The road began to rise gently ahead of us. The horses adjusted to it.

“She know the facts?” I said.

“Hope so,” Virgil said.

He grinned.

“Allie sure ’nuff is qualified to tell her ’bout them,” he said.

“Virgil,” I said. “Laurel don’t talk to anybody, ’cept whispering to you.”

“I know.”

“You can’t go round the rest of her life translatin’ for her,” I said.

“Probably could,” Virgil said. “But don’t seem like I ought to.”

“So, what do we do?” I said.

“Don’t know,” Virgil said.

“What’s Allie say?”

“Allie don’t like me talkin’ ’bout Laurel to her,” Virgil said.

“She don’t?”

“Nope. Says I spend too much time thinkin’ ’bout Laurel.”

“Jesus Christ, Virgil,” I said. “She’s jealous of Laurel?”

“’Pears so,” Virgil said.

“Well, we got to do something about Laurel,” I said.

“We do,” Virgil said.

“What?” I said.

“Was hoping you’d come up with something,” Virgil said.

Ahead of us, with late sun shining from behind it, was the high remnant of ancient red rock that looked a little like the tower of a castle.

We stopped close to its base and sat our horses in its shadow, and pretty soon Pony Flores rode around the base and stopped beside us.

36

H
OW IS CHIQUITA?” Pony said. “She’s fine,” Virgil said.

“She talk yet?” Pony said.

“Just to me,” Virgil said.

Pony nodded.

“Kah-to-nay has gone to fight Blue-Eyed Devil,” he said.

Virgil nodded.

“Never could abide us,” Virgil said.

Pony shook his head.

“Kha-to-nay think you betray him,” Pony said.

“You know we didn’t,” I said.

“I know,” Pony said. “Kah-to-nay not know.”

“Kha-to-nay fighting white men by himself?” Virgil said.

“No, go back to reservation, get others. Maybe fifteen, they leave reservation, keep moving.”

“Raiding?” Virgil said.

“Sí.”

“Live off what they take in a raid?”

“Sí.”

“So they got to keep raiding.”

Pony nodded.

“Where?” Virgil said.

“Come this way,” Pony said. “Appaloosa.”

“He’d attack the town?” I said.

“Maybe not,” Pony said. “Maybe small ranch, maybe homesteader. Maybe posse come out after them; maybe they attack town.”

“While the posse’s out roaming the plains,” I said.

“Sí.”

“He ask you to join him?” I said.

“Sí.”

“And you didn’t,” I said.

Pony shook his head.

“How’d he take that?” I said.

“He say I am traitor to Chiricahua people,” Pony said. “I say I go with him, I am traitor to myself.”

“So, how you want to handle this,” Virgil said.

“I cannot kill my brother,” Pony said.

Virgil nodded.

“He kill you?” Virgil said.

“No,” Pony said.

“So, we stop him and don’t kill him,” Virgil said.

“Cannot go to jail,” Pony said.

“Stop him, don’t kill him, turn him loose,” Virgil said.

“Won’t he go right back to it?” I said.

“Maybe will,” Pony said.

“What do we do ’bout that?” I said.

“Be Pony’s call,” Virgil said.

“How bad is the raiding?” I said.

“Burn, torture,” Pony said. “Scare white men.”

“Don’t abide no torture,” Virgil said.

The sun had set. But the western sky was still light, and it was still darker in the shadow of the rock than it was on the prairie. We sat silently in our saddles. The horses were cropping the meager grass near the rock.

“You with them for any raids?” Virgil said.

“With them, not raid,” Pony said.

“Army after them?” Virgil said.

“Yes, but not close,” Pony said.

The horses moved slowly, looking for grass. We let them move. The sky to the west continued to darken very slowly.

After a time Virgil said, “How soon you figure they’ll get here?”

“I left them two days ago,” Pony said.

Again we were quiet. The only sound was the movement of the horses as they grazed.

“We can’t let them do it,” Virgil said.

“What about Kah-to-nay?” I said.

“We do what we can for him,” Virgil said. “But we need to stop him.”

Neither Pony nor I said anything.

“You okay with that, Pony?” Virgil said.

“Sí.”

“You gonna be involved?” Virgil said.

“Spring in hollow near rock,” Pony said. “I stay here. See them come, I ride in, tell you.”

“You gonna be with us when the balloon goes up?” Virgil said.

“Be with you,” Pony said. “Not kill Chiricahua.”

“So, what will you do?” I said.

“Maybe keep Chiricahua from kill you,” Pony said.

37

Y
OU HELP these two renegades escape,” Callico said. “And now you come asking me to round them up for you?”

“Giving you information,” Virgil said.

“Which I take to be bullshit,” Callico said. “Who are we fighting here? Alexander the Great?”

“They’ll lure the fighters out of town,” I said. “And come in behind you, and tear the place up.”

“Sure thing,” Callico said. “So we stay in here and let them loose on the farms and ranches. Won’t that look good.”

“Bring the small outfits in,” Virgil said. “Big ones, like Laird, can take care of themselves.”

“Well, isn’t that dandy,” Callico said. “I hide here in town with the homesteaders, and let the important land-owners fight their own battles.”

“For crissake, Callico,” I said. “This ain’t about the next election.”

“You hadn’t gone up to Resolution and warned ’em,” Callico said, “wouldn’t be having this problem.”

Virgil stood.

“Nice talking with you, Amos,” he said.

He turned and left, and I went with him.

As we walked up Main Street, Virgil said, “Horse’s ass.”

“Thinks it’s his chance to be a hero of the Indian wars,” I said.

“Like Custer,” Virgil said.

“Just like that,” I said.

“Couple ways this could go,” Virgil said.

I nodded.

“They can lure Callico out of town and come in and chew up what he’s left behind.”

“Or,” Virgil said, “they can lure him out and cut him to ribbons like they did to Custer up in Montana.”

“Or both,” I said.

Virgil stopped and looked at me and thought about it, and nodded.

“Yeah,” he said. “I was Kah-to-nay I’d do both. While I had them chasing after me out on the plains I’d come in here and fuck up the town. I’d let a few people escape so they’d run to Callico.”

“And when Callico come roaring back into town with blood in his eye, you’d have a spot picked out, and you’d ambush him,” I said.

“Both birds with one shot,” Virgil said.

“If Kha-to-nay’s that smart,” I said.

“Don’t know ’bout Kah-to-nay,” Virgil said. “But Callico’s that stupid.”

“He is,” I said. “So, what do we do?

“We stay in town,” Virgil said. “Can’t be leaving Allie and Laurel alone.”

“Might take more’n you and me,” I said.

Virgil grinned.

“Most things don’t,” he said.

“Two dozen Apache warriors?” I said.

“Might be time to have a talk with General Laird,” Virgil said.

“Providing he don’t shoot us on sight,” I said.

“He’s got Chauncey Teagarden for that,” Virgil said.

“And Chauncey ain’t ready yet.”

“How do you know he ain’t ready?” I said.

“Know boys like Teagarden all my life,” Virgil said. “He likes to play with it first.”

“And he might want us around to help with the two dozen Apaches,” I said.

38

T
HE LAZY L still had the layout it had when it was Randall Bragg’s place. But a lot of sprucing had been done since Bragg’s rat pack had moved on. We sat in the big front room of the main ranch building while we waited for General Laird, and drank scotch whiskey that a Chinese houseboy poured for us from cut-glass decanters.

“They sell the stuff in them bottles?” Virgil said.

“Nope, sell it in regular bottles,” I said. “Those are decanters.”

“Don’t look like they’d travel good,” Virgil said.

“No,” I said. “They don’t.”

General Laird came in through a side door. Teagarden was with him. Chauncey wasn’t wearing a hat indoors. He had on a ruffled white shirt and a black silk vest. The ivory handle of his Colt gleamed on his hip. Virgil and I both got to our feet.

“Enjoy my whiskey?” the general said.

“Surprised you offered it,” Virgil said.

“No man comes to my home without the offer of a drink,” the general said. “Even you.”

A little off to the general’s right, and a step behind him, Chauncey smiled at us.

“Virgil,” he said. “Everett.”

We both nodded.

On the wall over the big fireplace at one end of the room was a painting of General Laird in full CSA uniform. There were photographs of the general alone and with his troops. On the buffet at the other end of the room was a painting of a good-looking young woman, probably the general’s wife when they were young. And beside it, ornately framed, was a recent photograph of Nicky Laird.

“No reason to pretend we’re friends,” Virgil said. “Got some renegade Apaches jumped the reservation. Coming this way.”

“Riders?” the general said.

“Yep.”

“How many?”

“Maybe fifteen, twenty,” Virgil said. “Maybe a few more.”

“Hell,” the general said. “We got ’em outgunned on this ranch.”

“Ain’t gonna fight ’em on this ranch,” Virgil said.

“They gonna chop up some of the small spreads outside Appaloosa.”

The general nodded.

“Till they form a posse and go chasin’ them,” the general said. “And the Apaches swing in behind ’em and hit the town.”

“Yep.”

“Callico ought to bring in all the folks can’t defend themselves,” the general said. “And stay in the town.”

“Yep.”

“He won’t,” the general said.

“Nope,” Virgil said.

“Callico’s a horse’s ass,” the general said.

“I thought he was your man,” I said.

“Best I’ve got,” the general said. “How you know all this ’bout the Apaches?”

“Fella told me,” Virgil said.

“Ever fight Indians?” the general said.

“Some,” Virgil said. “Everett here’s fought a lot of them.”

“Army?” the general said.

I nodded.

“Everett’s been to West Point,” Virgil said.

“Went there once myself,” the general said, “when it was all the same country.”

“Still is,” I said.

The general shrugged slightly.

“Never owned a slave,” he said. “Don’t believe in it. You boys can’t explain things to Callico?”

“Wants to be a hero of the Indian wars,” Virgil said.

“Against fifteen reservation Apaches,” the general said.

“Yep.”

“Can’t give you none of my boys to protect the town,” the general said. “They gotta protect the ranch.”

“Know that,” Virgil said. “But I figured you could give me Chauncey.”

The general stared at Virgil for a considerable period. Then he looked at Chauncey.

“Sure,” Chauncey said. “I can give you a hand.”

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