Read The Doctor and the Rough Rider Online
Authors: Mike Resnick
Tags: #Fiction, #Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Westerns, #Historical, #Steampunk, #Alternative History
: A L
OCTOR AND THE
Published 2012 by Pyr
, an imprint of Prometheus Books
The Doctor and the Rough Rider
. Copyright © 2012 by Mike Resnick. All rights reserved. No part of this publication
may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by
any means, digital, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise,
or conveyed via the Internet or a website without prior written permission of the
publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and
Cover illustration and interior illustrations © J. Seamas Gallagher
Cover design by Nicole Sommer-Lecht
Inquiries should be addressed to
59 John Glenn Drive
Amherst, New York 14228–2119
16 15 14 13 12 5 4 3 2 1
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Resnick, Michael D.
The doctor and the Rough Rider / by Mike Resnick.
p. cm. — (A weird west tale)
ISBN 978–1–61614–690–0 (pbk.)
ISBN 978–1–61614–691–7 (ebook)
1. Holliday, John Henry, 1851–1887—Fiction. 2. Geronimo, 1829–1909—Fiction. 3. Roosevelt,
Theodore, 1858–1919—Fiction. 4. West (U.S.)—Fiction. I. Title.
Printed in the United States of America
From the pages of the August 19, 1884, issue of the
This is the first issue of the
to be published, which is to say powered, entirely by electricity, thanks to the help
of Mr. Thomas Alva Edison and Mr. Ned Buntline. The electronic genius and the inventor
have essentially re-invented the publishing business, because now the presses can
run night and day without anyone manually working them. We've no idea why Messrs.
Edison and Buntline have chosen to set up shop in our town, but we are incredibly
grateful. First electric street lights, and now this!
NTEREST IN THE
Famed gambler John H. “Doc” Holliday has sold his share of the Monarch Saloon and
Casino, though he will still be retained as a dealer for poker and faro.
Ned Buntline, claiming that the local silver mines are played out, has sold his Brass
Mole, the remarkable machine that can dig through solid rock, to the McGraw Mining
Company of Northern California.
Yesterday's baseball game against Denver drew almost two thousand spectators, a truly
remarkable total given the heat and most people's unfamiliarity with the game.
From the pages of the August 19, 1884, issue of the
Young Theodore Roosevelt, formerly the Minority Leader of the New York State Assembly
and currently the owner and resident of Elkhorn Ranch, was involved in an altercation
last night in the town of Mingusville, some 35 miles west of here.
Mr. Roosevelt was after some lost horses and stopped at Nolan's Hotel at nightfall.
He was in the restaurant when a local bully began teasing him, calling him “Four-Eyes”
because of his eyeglasses, and challenging him to a fight, little knowing that he
was challenging the lightweight boxing champion of Harvard University. Mr. Roosevelt
made swift work of the bully and summoned the sheriff to take testimony as to what
had occurred before the diners and drinkers dispersed. The bully broke loose from
the sheriff and his deputies and was last seen clambering onto a moving freight train
that was headed for Chicago.
The Marquis de Mores had gone to court, claiming that he is in fact the owner of Elkhorn
Ranch, and that Theodore Roosevelt has no title to it.
“This could take months to resolve in a court of law,” said the Marquis to your reporter,
“and while I have no doubt as to the outcome, if Mr. Roosevelt would like to settle
the matter sooner on the field of honor, with either pistols or swords, I stand ready
From the pages of the August 19, 1884, issue of the
PACHES ON THE
Observers report that Geronimo, the leader of the Apaches in the Arizona Territory,
has broken camp and is headed in the general direction of Tombstone. There is no evidence
that Tombstone is his destination, or that he is on the warpath, but former Sheriff
John Behan has been placed in charge of preparing our defenses, just in case.
EXPECTED THIS WEATHER IN
, but not up here in Leadville,” said Texas Jack Vermillion as he fanned his face
with his cards in the Monarch Saloon. “I do believe it's hotter than hell today.”
“I expect I'll find out soon enough,” replied Holliday. He pushed some cash to the
middle of the table. “I'll open for fifty.”
Three men matched his money. Vermillion looked at his cards once more, then laid them
face down. “Too damned hot for me to think,” he muttered. “I'm off to get another
“Why?” asked Holliday. “The beer here's as warm as the water you shave in.”
“Then I'll pretend it's cold. I just can't think straight in this heat.” Vermillion
got up and trudged over to the bar.
“Pity,” remarked Holliday. “There goes some easy money. He's not much of a poker player
even when he's thinking.” Suddenly he reached into a pocket, withdrew a bloodstained
handkerchief, held it to his mouth, and coughed into it, covering it with even more
blood. It was such a common occurrence that no one paid any attention to it.
“Cards, gentlemen?” said the dealer.
“Three,” said the man on Holliday's left.
The two others took two apiece, and then it was Holliday's turn.
“Just one, I think,” he replied.
The cards were dealt, and Holliday took a tentative peek at the new addition to his
“Up to you, Doc,” said the dealer.
“Two hundred,” announced Holliday, counting off the bills and tossing them in.
Two men immediately folded. The third studied his cards, frowned, stared long and
hard at Holliday, and finally cursed and tossed his cards onto the table.
“Okay,” he said unhappily. “It's yours.”
“Thanks,” replied Holliday.
“So did you pull your full house, or was it a bluff?”
“Full house?” repeated Holliday. “Maybe I was drawing to an inside straight.”
Holliday shrugged. “Anything's possible.”
“Aw, come on, Doc,” persisted the man. “I'm tapped out. At least let me know what
Holliday allowed himself the luxury of a small smile. “Tapped out? What were you going
to bet with if you'd pulled whatever it is you'd hoped to pull?”
The man grinned. “I thought I'd borrow it from you.”
Holliday laughed—or at least it began as a laugh, but ended as a bloody cough. “You've
got a fine sense of humor, Mr. Richardson. I'll give you that.”
“Show me your cards so I can see whether I had you beat or not,” said Richardson.
He reached his hand toward Holliday's cards, and an
instant later Holliday jerked at the knife he wore on a string around his throat,
broke the string, and brought the point of the knife down hard into the table, just
between Richardson's index and middle fingers.
you pay to see them,” said Holliday. His voice wasn't raised, his smile wasn't hostile,
but there was something in the tone of his voice that said that this wasn't a party
trick, that he was fully prepared to kill any man who tried to see his hand without
paying the price.
Richardson pulled his hand back quickly.
“All right, Doc,” he said quickly. “Whatever you say. No offense meant.”
“None taken,” replied Holliday, pulling his knife out of the table with an audible
“Maybe I'll see you at Kate's one of these days,” said Richardson, getting to his
“Better be soon,” said Holliday. “I'll be moving into the sanitarium any day now.”
He grimaced. “And once I move in, I'd give mighty long odds on my ever moving back
“Soon, then,” promised Richardson and headed out into the street.
“So he's too broke to call, but he's not too broke to rent one of Kate's metal chippies
for the night,” announced Holliday with an amused smile. “I'll offer three-to-one
that he stops to make a few bets at the Silver Bullet along the way.”
There was general laughter, and Vermillion returned to the table, carrying two beers
and placing one of them in front of Holliday, who gingerly touched the glass.
“Hot,” he remarked.
“I don't recall Tombstone ever being any hotter,” agreed Vermillion.
“Not only that, but the air there was thick enough to breathe,” added Holliday. “Up
here in the mountains, even the birds have to walk.”
“Maybe you should have stayed in Tombstone,” said a man at the bar.
Holliday shook his head. “I should have stayed in Georgia.”
“Why the hell didn't you?”
Holliday turned to see who was speaking to him, and his gaze fell on two young men
in nondescript clothing, neither cowboys' nor miners' outfits.
“Do I know you?” asked Holliday.
“Indirectly,” said the younger of the two men. “You knew some friends of mine.”
“Oh?” said Holliday, refusing to ask who the friends were, since the young man seemed
so eager that he
“That's right,” said the other man. “At least we'd like to think you knew them. We'd
hate to think you gun strangers down in cold blood.”
Sounds pretty damned tempting
, thought Holliday. Aloud he said, “I take it that whoever we're talking about were
friends of yours?”
“Frank and Tom McLaury. You killed them at the O.K. Corral.”
“May I suggest that you have very poor taste in friends?” said Holliday.
liked them well enough,” said the younger man.
Holliday shrugged. “
were welcome to.”
“I don't like your attitude, Holliday,” said the younger man.
“A lot of people share your opinion of it,” agreed Holliday with a pleasant smile.
Suddenly the smile vanished. “And it's
Holliday to you.”
The younger man tensed, and his fingers poised over the handle of his pistol.
“Don't do that, son,” said Holliday, still not raising his voice.
“Or you'll make me regret it forever?” came the sarcastic reply.
“Try it, and your forever ends in about half a second.”
The young man's friend grabbed him by the arm and tried to lead him away.
“Come on, Billy!” he urged. “Look at him, nothing but a skinny old lunger. He's not
even worth a bullet.”
“Listen to your friend,” said Holliday. “He makes sense.”
The young man pulled back for a moment, then uttered an obscenity and pointed his
finger at Holliday. “I'll see you again!” he promised.
Holliday pointed back, and pretended that his finger was a gun and he was firing it.
Most of the gamblers laughed, and finally the two men left the saloon.
“You know who they were, don't you?” asked Vermillion.
“Sure,” answered Holliday. “But I wasn't going to give them the pleasure of saying
I knew. The kid's Billy Allen, and the bigger kid is Johnny Taylor—and I'll lay fifty-to-one
that neither of 'em ever saw either McLaury brother or got within two hundred miles
“Then what was that all about?” asked one of the poker players.
“Just a couple of kids looking to make a reputation,” said Holliday.
“Happens a lot,” added Vermillion. Suddenly he grinned. “Never the same kid twice,
though. Doc keeps his fair share of undertakers in business.”
There was general laughter, and then Holliday announced that he was there to play
poker, cards were dealt, and a moment later bets were made.
The game continued for another hour. Then Holliday was seized by another coughing
fit, and it left him weak enough that he relinquished his seat and walked slowly to
the bar, accompanied by Vermillion.
“I'd go outside for a bracing breath of cold, clear air,” he muttered, “but…”
“I know,” agreed Vermillion.
“Sometimes I wonder why the hell I ever left Arizona,” said Holliday.
Vermillion grinned. “It just might have had something to do with those arrest warrants
that were issued against you and Wyatt.”
“They were sworn out by Wyatt's political enemies,” said Holliday. Then he grinned.
“And all the men I beat at poker.”
you go back?”
“You know why,” replied Holliday. “This is where I've chosen to die of this damned
consumption. They've got the best facility west of the Mississippi, and I didn't live
in this airless town for two years so I could go back down the mountain now that it's
time to die.”
it time?” asked Vermillion.
“It's getting close. I'm coughing up more blood than usual, and even the whiskey doesn't
kill the pain. And when you drink as much of that poison as
do…” He let the sentence trail off.
“I'm sorry, Doc. I thought you had a few more years.”
“I thought so too,” said Holliday. “Oh, well, I've only got a couple of regrets.”
“That you didn't marry Kate?”
Holliday chuckled. “Hardly. She's made my life a living hell for more than ten years.
Think of what she could do if I married her.”
“She broke you out of jail, though,” noted Vermillion.
“Couldn't nag and badger me in jail,” said Holliday. “No, my greatest regret is that
Wyatt and I aren't friends any longer.”
“I know you're not, but I don't know why.”
A self-deprecating smile crossed Holliday's face. “Blame it on my aristocratic upbringing.
I said a few things about Josie I shouldn't have said.”
wife,” answered Holliday, emphasizing the subject he should have avoided. “I loved
her like a sister. I was just drunk, and drunks say mean, stupid things that can't
be taken back.”
“And your other regret?” asked Vermillion quickly, trying to change the subject.
“That it's going to be the consumption that takes me, slowly and inch by inch, instead
of a bullet.”
“I could backshoot you right now if you'd like,” said Vermillion with a smile.
“You're all heart, Jack.”
“That's not what Kate's chippies say,” laughed Vermillion.
“And they'll keep saying it as long as you keep paying them,” said Holliday. He straightened
up. “Well, I can lean on the bar all night, or I can go home and cough myself to sleep.
See you tomorrow, Jack.”
“I'll be here,” said Vermillion.
Holliday walked out into the sweltering heat of the night. His instinct said that
he should be able to take a deep breath of cool mountain air, but his brain told him
that there simply wasn't any cool air to be had within a hundred miles, even at this
He stood in front of the Monarch for a few moments, hoping for an errant breeze that
never came, then turned and headed off toward Second Street, where he shared living
quarters with Kate Elder at the back of her brothel. A small prairie dog suddenly
blocked his path, which was more than passing strange since there were no prairie
dogs at this altitude or in these mountains. Rather than walk around it or trying
to scare it away, Holliday stopped.
“You know they lie in wait for you?” said the prairie dog in a familiar voice.
“I figured it was a strong possibility,” answered Holliday.
“You are not afraid,” observed the prairie dog.
“Why should I be? I go up against kids trying to make a reputation from time to time.
But I'm the first shootist they've ever faced.”
“Why should you think so?”
“They're still alive,” said Holliday with a grim smile.
“Do not be careless,” said the prairie dog. “We have things to discuss—important things.”
“Soon,” said the prairie dog, and vanished.
Holliday had gotten about halfway to Kate's brothel when Billy Allen stepped out into
the street about twenty feet away from him.
“Been waiting for you, Doc,” he said. “It's gonna be a pleasure to kill you.”
“Be more of a pleasure if both of you faced me like men,” said Holliday with no show
of alarm or concern. “You can come out of hiding, Johnny. I can see you over there
in the shadows.”
Johnny Taylor walked out into the street and stood about fifty feet away from Billy
Allen. “How are you going to handle this, Doc?” he asked with a smile. “Which one
are you going to try to shoot while we're both drawing on you?”
“You think this is a contest?” said Holliday, pulling out his pistol, instantly putting
a bullet between a startled Billy Allen's eyes, and turning to aim at Taylor. “You
think I'm going to wait for a referee to ring the bell? You came here to kill me,
son. I'm going to let you in on a little secret. The graveyards are full of kids like
you who thought they could kill men like me.”
Johnny Taylor went for his gun, but it was too late. Holliday fired another shot before
his gun had cleared his holster, and he was dead before he hit the ground.
“Damn!” muttered Holliday, holstering his gun and pulling out his handkerchief as
he felt another coughing seizure coming on.
Isn't one of you ever going to be good enough to put me out of my misery?
“Don't turn around, Doc,” said a deep voice from behind him.
“Hands in the air. Reach for your gun and you'll still have one hand left to vote
for me come reelection time.”