“He's not gonna get away with this,” Roman said for the hundredth time. He'd started at the doctor's office while the man put his arm in a sling, and he had repeated himself many times since then.
“We can get 'em when they come back this way, Roman,” Donnie said.
Roman glared at him, and Donnie wished he hadn't spoken.
“When they come back? I ain't waitin' that long,” Roman snapped.
“Butâ” Lefty started, then stopped himself, hoping Roman hadn't noticed.
“But what?” Roman demanded.
“Um, we don't know where they went.”
“Well, we're gonna find out.”
“That fella with the ax handle, he went into Doyle's tent, right? If he bought somethin', maybe it's bein' delivered.”
“Yeah, maybe,” Donnie agreed.
“Well?” Roman said.
Donnie and Lefty stared at him.
“Go and find out,” Roman said, crashing his left fist down on the table.
Both men jumped to their feet and ran out of the tent. “Naw,” Doyle said. “He didn't buy nothin', and wasn't sellin' nothin'.”
“Well then,” Donnie said, “what was he doin' in here, Doyle?”
“Look, fellas,” Doyle said, “I don't want no trouble. I just wanna sell my supplies.”
“There ain't gonna be no trouble, Doyle,” Lefty said. “Not if you tell us what you know.”
“I don't know nothin',” Doyle said. “I tolja.”
“He didn't come in here for no reason,” Donnie said. “All he left with was that ax handle.”
“You mean to tell us he came in here just for an ax handle?” Lefty said.
“Well, no butâ”
Donnie reached out and grabbed the front of Doyle's shirt and said, “But what?”
“H-He did say somethin' about Gunnison.”
“What? They were goin' to Gunnison?”
“IâI don't know,” Doyle said. “H-He asked me how much farther it was to Gunnison.”
Donnie looked at Lefty, released Doyle's shirt. The two men walked out.
“Gunnison?” Roman said.
“That's what Doyle said,” Donnie answered.
“That they were goin' to Gunnison?”
“He said the fella with the ax handle asked how much farther it was to Gunnison.”
“So they're headed that way,” Roman said, “but we don't know if that's their last stop.”
“I guess,” Lefty said.
“We ain't guessin', Lefty,” Roman said.
“Then what are we doin'?” Donnie asked.
“We're goin' to Gunnison,” Roman said. He indicated his right arm. “Nobody gets away with this.” He poured himself a whiskey and downed it. “Find Givens.”
“Givens?” Lefty said, swallowing.
“What do we need him for?” Donnie asked doubtfully.
“What does anybody need Givens for,” Roman said. “Ever?”
“Well . . .” Donnie said, “killin'.”
“And I need him to back me up.”
“You got us,” Lefty said.
“Yeah,” Roman said, moving his damaged arm, “you fellas backed me up real good against a man with an ax handle.”
“H-He had a gun,” Lefty said.
“And he looked like he knew how to use it.”
“Yeah, right,” Roman said, standing up. “That's why I need Givens. Find him for me.”
Roman left the tent. Donnie and Lefty exchanged a look, then Donnie grabbed the bottle.
“If we're gonna talk to Givens, I need a drink.”
Lefty pushed his glass over and said, “Yeah, me, too.”
Clint was surprised at Gunnison as they rode in there two days later. It had a hotel, saloon, and jailhouse, all built of wood. Many of the other structures were tents, but they could smell the newly cut wood as they drove in. The town was growing.
As they drove farther, they saw a restaurant, and the general store.
“Let's get something to eat here,” Clint suggested.
“Exactly what I was thinking,” Tesla said.
They stopped the buckboard in front of the restaurant and went inside. Although they didn't sit near a window, Clint was still able to keep an eye on the buckboard while they ate.
Either the beef stew was delicious or they were simply sick of beans after three nights on the trail.
“Why don't we stay in the hotel and move on in the morning?” Tesla suggested.
“Do you know how much farther the house is?”
“Three, four hours,” the scientist said. “Perhaps more.”
“Then we'll camp on the trail. We still have some daylight left.”
“If we stay in the hotel, who's going to watch the buckboard?”
“We can be on watch, as we have been doing.”
“Then one of us will be paying for a hotel bed he's not using.”
“I can payâ”
“I'd much rather sleep on the trail, close to the buckboard.”
Tesla opened his mouth to protest, then realized it would do no good.
“Very well,” he said. “I suppose I will have to be satisfied with this beef stew.”
“Once we get situated and I go hunting, I'll fix you a stew you won't believe.”
“You will go out and shoot a cow?” Tesla asked.
“It won't be beef stew,” Clint said. “It'll be venison.”
“I have never eaten a deer.”
“You're in for a treat.”
They finished their meal and went out to the buckboard. They stopped when they saw someone leaning against it.
“Who is that?” Tesla asked.
“I don't know.”
“She's very attractive.”
“Yes, she is.”
She was tall, wearing men's jeans and a man's shirt beneath a fur jacket, and looked to be in her early thirties.
“Hello, gents,” she said when they'd reached her.
“Hello,” Tesla said.
“Can we help you with something?”
“Nothing in particular,” she said. “I was just curious about two strangers in town.”
“Are you curious about all strangers?” Clint asked. “Or just us.”
“Pretty much all strangers in Gunnison,” she said. “Ya see, that's my job.” She pulled her jacket open to display the sheriff's badge pinned to her shirt.
“A lady sheriff?” Tesla blurted out.
“You see somethin' wrong with that?” she asked.
“Why no,” Tesla said. “Unusual, perhaps, but not wrong.”
“You got a problem with a female sheriff?” she asked Clint.
“Not at all,” he said. “Providing you tell us your name.”
“Sheriff Miranda Lawson,” she said. “And you?”
“My name is Clint Adams,” he said. “This is Nikola Tesla.”
“Hello, Nick,” she said. “I don't know who you are, but I sure know your friend here. What's the Gunsmith doin' in Gunnison?”
“On the way to where?”
“There's a house a few hours north of here,” Clint said. “That's where we're going.”
“That's pretty high up,” she said. “What are you gonna do there?”
“I am a scientist,” Tesla said. “I'll be doing some experiments when we get there.”
“What kind of experiments?”
“Don't know much about that,” Sheriff Lawson said. “I just wanted to make sure you weren't here to start any trouble.”
“No trouble,” Clint said.
“You boys like to have a drink before you go?” she asked. “A beer?”
“We just ate,” Clint said. “We were about to be on our way.”
“The saloon's right there,” she said, pointing across the street. “You can see your buckboard from there.”
“A beer?” Clint asked, looking at Tesla.
“A cold one?” Tesla asked the sheriff.
“Cold as ice,” she said.
“That sounds good to me,” Tesla said.
“Okay, then,” Clint said, “let's go.”
“Follow me,” Miranda Lawson said.
In moments they were set up at the end of the bar with a beer each. She was right. Clint could see the buckboard through the window.
“To electricity,” she said, lifting her mug.
“How long have you been the law here?” Clint asked.
“About a week,” she said. “Our last lawman was killed in the street. Folks left him lying there with the badge on. So I picked it up and pinned it on.”
“You elected yourself sheriff?” Clint asked.
“Nobody else wanted it, and nobody has since stepped up to take it.”
“Why don't you leave?” Tesla asked.
She looked at him.
“And go where? I've been here for years. Used to be a whore, now I'm a sheriff. Where else could I go and do that?”
“You've got a point,” Clint said.
“You fellas gonna be doin' your experimentin' long?” she asked.
“Ask my friend,” Clint said.
“I'm not sure,” Tesla said. “Could be weeks, or months.”
“Well, either way you'll be coming back here for supplies,” she said. “So we'll be seeing each other from time to time.”
“I suppose so,” Clint said.
She finished her beer and set the empty mug down on the bar.
“Stop in and see me then.”
“Think you'll still be wearing that badge?” he asked.
She smiled and said, “I don't know. I guess you'll just have to wait and see.”
She walked them back out to their buckboard.
“See? Safe and sound.”
“That was not the case yesterday, at a settlement we passed through.”
“You gotta watch where you stop around here,” she said. “Lots of men around here think they take whatever their guns let them take.”
“Well, Clint stopped them and didn't even use his gun, just an ax handle.”
“Expecting more trouble?” she asked.
“You never know,” Clint said. “Actually, you might be able to help us.”
“We've got a wagon coming through with a delivery.”
“What kind of delivery?”
“Some equipment,” Tesla said, “that would be of no use to anyone but me.”
“When's it comin'?”
Clint looked at Tesla.
“Should be here in the next couple of days.”
“Well, I'll be on the lookout for it,” she said. “Make sure it gets to you. In fact, maybe I'll ride along.”
“Whatever you can do would be appreciated,” Clint said, then added, “Sheriff.”
“Miranda will do,” she said. “I expect a hot meal if I ride up there.”
“You'll get it.”
“Clint has promised me some venison stew,” Tesla added.
“That suits me.”
“Then maybe we'll see you then,” Clint said as he and Tesla climbed into their seat.
“Look forward to it,” Miranda said.
Clint and Tesla left Gunnison, with Sheriff Miranda Lawson waving them away.
“She likes you,” Tesla said.
“Oh, yes,” Tesla said. “She will not come up to the house just to see that my equipment is delivered.”
“You an expert on women?”
“Not at all,” Tesla said, “I am just telling you what I observed.”
“Well, whatever the reason,” Clint said, “maybe she'll see to it your equipment arrives. This trip wouldn't be worth much if it didn't.”
“I wouldn't be able to do much at all,” Tesla said.
“We should have talked about this in Denver,” Clint said. “We could have gotten a couple of guards to accompany the wagon. Who's delivering it?”
“A reputable firm,” Tesla said, “I assure you.”
“Well,” Clint said, “I guess we'll find out just how reputable.”
Roman didn't like that he had to go to Givens, but it was probably the only way he'd get the man to work with him.
Donnie and Lefty had found Givens in one of the whores' tents, and the man told them to send Roman over.
“I'll be here all day,” he'd said, slapping the skinny whore on her naked rump.
Now Roman stepped up to the tent flap, heard the sounds from inside of two people grunting. He peered through the flap, saw Givens on top of a whore, hairy ass pumping away at her. She had her thin legs wrapped around him, and at that moment her eyes caught Roman's over Givens's shoulder, and she stuck her tongue out at him. He dropped the flap and stepped back quickly.
He decided to stand there and wait for the grunting and moaning to stop before trying to get the attention of Givens.
It took about fifteen more minutes before he heard the man roar. He kicked the dirt uncomfortably, thought about leaving, but then stepped up to the flap and shouted, “Hey, Givens!”
“That you, Roman?”
“Yeah, it's me.”
“Come on in.”
As he entered, he saw Givens pulling his long johns on over his wilting dick. The girl pulled her knees up to her chest and stared at Roman. Givens was a huge man, in more ways than one. Roman wondered why he always got such skinny whores.
“You wanna ride?” Givens asked, jerking a thumb at the whore. “I got her all ready for ya.”