Read The Doctor and the Rough Rider Online

Authors: Mike Resnick

Tags: #Fiction, #Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Westerns, #Historical, #Steampunk, #Alternative History

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BOOK: The Doctor and the Rough Rider
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“Holliday, Geronimo,
Edison?” said Roosevelt excitedly. “What are we waiting for?”

“You sound like a hero-worshipping kid at the ballpark,” commented Masterson.

“There are very few exceptional men in this world, Bat,” replied Roosevelt seriously.
“I'm willing to ride halfway across the continent to meet three of them.” Suddenly
he began pacing back and forth. “I'll take Manitou, of course, and—”

“Manitou?” repeated Masterson curiously.

“My horse. Meanest bronco you ever saw—or he was when I first encountered him.” Another
grin. “He must have thrown me twenty times before we finally reached an understanding.”
He continued pacing. “I'll need a few blank notebooks and some pencils, and my telescope,
and—” He stopped and suddenly turned to Masterson. “What kind of game do you have
out there?”

“In Tombstone?” said Masterson. “An occasional snake or jackrabbit. And once in a
while a hawk.”

Roosevelt nodded, more to himself than to Masterson. “The Winchester will do. And
I'll have to prepare a pack for a second horse.”

“Just to carry a Winchester?” asked Masterson, puzzled.

“No, of course not,” answered Roosevelt. “But I can't be without my books. Let me
see now. For this trip I think Tolstoy, and Jane Austen, and…” He spent the next five
minutes deciding on the books
he wanted, then rummaging through the six rooms of the house until he'd found them

In another hour he had packed his weapons, books, clothes, everything he thought he
might want or need, even a spare pair of spectacles.

“Okay, Bat, help me load Manitou and the pack horse and we can be on our way.”

“It's going to be dark in half an hour,” noted Masterson. “We can start tomorrow.”

“Now,” said Roosevelt firmly.

Masterson shrugged. “Okay, mount up.”

As they were leaving Elkhorn, Masterson remarked that without encountering any serious
obstacles, he thought they could reach Tombstone in ten days.

“Nonsense,” said Roosevelt, clicking to Manitou. “We'll do it in seven.”

self-propelled heavily armored brass stagecoach came to a stop on Third Street in
early evening, and Holliday climbed down, then waited for the driver to unsecure his
small suitcase and pass it down to him.

He turned and walked half a block to the Oriental Saloon, which had been his home
away from home when he'd been living in Tombstone with Kate Elder. He was surprised
to see how dilapidated it had become in just three years.

It was still open for business, though, and he entered, walked over to a table, laid
his bag on it, and sat down.

“Well, I'll be damned!” said the bartender. “Look who's back!”

Suddenly all eyes turned to Holliday, who touched the brim of his hat with a forefinger.
“Bring a bottle and a glass,” he said.

“What are you doing back in town, Doc?” asked the bartender as he grabbed a bottle
of whiskey, found a mildly clean glass, and approached the table. “The Earps are long
gone, and the silver mines are pretty much played out. If it wasn't for your pal Edison,
this place'd be a ghost town.”

“I'm just passing through,” replied Holliday noncommittally.

“You're here to kill Johnny Behan!” said the bartender suddenly.

“You mean someone hasn't done it already?” said Holliday. “What's the matter with
you people?”

“He's still around,” was the answer. “But we threw him out of office a year after
you left town. Caught him stealing five thousand dollars of the county's money.”

“Yeah, that's Behan, all right,” said Holliday.

“When are you going after him?” persisted the bartender. “Tonight? Tomorrow?”

“I'm really and truly not here for him,” said Holliday.

“Good!” said a man sitting a couple of tables away. “He owes me money. I'd like him
to live long enough to pay me.”

Holliday gave him a look that said,
You still haven't figured out who you're dealing with, have you?
He poured a drink, downed it in a single swallow, and made a face. “That's pretty
awful stuff.”

“It's the best we got, Doc,” said the bartender.

“Somehow I'm not surprised,” said Holliday, pouring another glass. He remained seated
at the table until he'd killed half the bottle. Then he got to his feet, grabbed his
suitcase in one hand and his bottle in the other, and walked out into the twilight.

He turned on Fremont Street, passed a pair of rooming houses, and headed toward the
Grand Hotel. When he arrived he took a room, left his bottle on a table and his carpetbag
on the floor, and then walked back out the front door. It had grown a little darker,
and now the streets were illuminated by Edison's electric streetlamps.

He considered lighting a cigar, decided he didn't need to bring on a coughing fit,
and instead began walking toward Edison's and Buntline's side-by-side buildings. He
tried to spot all the protective devices as he approached Edison's front door, saw
four and was sure he'd missed
at least two or three others, and was about to knock when the door suddenly swung

“Come on in, Doc,” said Edison's voice, and he entered as the door silently closed
behind him. He knew his way around the house, and walked directly to Edison's office,
which was at least as much laboratory and workshop as office.

Edison was seated at his stained and battered desk, scribbling in a notebook. There
were notes tacked to every available surface, vials of chemicals, batteries in various
stages of design and completion, and a huge electric light. When he saw Holliday,
he closed the book and put it in a drawer, then got to his feet, walked around the
desk, and shook Holliday's hand.

“I got your wire,” he said. “Is Mr. Roosevelt with you?”

Holliday shook his head. “He's coming with Bat. Truth to tell, I don't know what the
hell he looks like.”

“Neither do I,” admitted Edison, “but I know that he's the most accomplished young
man I've ever heard of.” A pause. “Can I get you a drink.”

“I don't recall ever saying no to one,” replied Holliday.

Edison walked to a cabinet and pulled out a bottle and two glasses. “I'll be interested
to try this out,” he said, handing a glass to Holliday and filling both. “Ned picked
it up the last time he took the Bunt Line to St. Louis.”

Holliday took a sip. “It's better than the horse piss they're serving at the Oriental,
I'll give it that.”

Edison smiled. “I'll tell him you said so.”

“He's not around?”

“Oh, he's in town,” answered Edison. “He's repairing one of the metal harlots at what
used to be Kate's establishment.”

“I'm surprised he's not fixing them all the time, given the use they get.”

“They're not in as much demand as they were when we created them three years ago and
the population was three or four times larger,” said Edison. “On the other hand, they're
machines, and they're three years old, and it's natural that some of them break down.”

Holliday brought his bloody handkerchief to his mouth and coughed. “I know all about
things breaking down,” he said sardonically.

“No better?”

Holliday shook his head. “I thought I was just a month or two away from entering the
sanitarium when Geronimo broke me out of jail.”

“Jail?” repeated Edison, surprised.

“It's a long story,” said Holliday, “but the usual one. The only good thing about
it is that sometimes stupidity is genetically self-limiting. Anyway, he got me out,
and that's why I'm here. In law offices and other criminal enterprises, they call
it a
quid pro quo

“And he
wants to lift the spell that's kept the country confined to the other side of the
Mississippi?” asked Edison.

“I don't know if he
to,” said Holliday. “But he's a realist. The United States gets bigger and stronger
every day. I know the Indians' magic is pretty powerful, but how long can they hold
us east of the river? It had to be a lot easier back in Washington's time, or even
Andy Jackson's…but how many millions do we total today?” He took another sip of his
drink. “We've got numbers, we have firepower”—he paused and smiled at Edison—“and
we have

“Me?” said Edison, surprised.

“Don't be modest. You're our greatest genius. That's why they sent you out here—to
find the weak spots in the medicine men's magic.”

“And I haven't accomplished a thing,” said Edison.

“You haven't accomplished what you wanted to accomplish,” agreed Holliday. “But you've
weakened them. You helped cause a rift between the two most powerful medicine men,
Geronimo and Hook
Nose, and now Hook Nose is dead. I think that's another reason Geronimo's ready to
deal. The other Indians blame
for Hook Nose's death.”

kill him,” noted Edison. “We were there.”

“Did they ever have a falling-out before you were sent out West?”

“How would I know?”

“Take a guess,” said Holliday.

“No,” admitted Edison. “Not an important one.”

“That's why you've got an artificial arm. They knew early on that you were the catalyst.
That's why they got Curly Bill Brocius to take that shot at you. You were just damned
lucky he was liquored up and couldn't see straight.”

“Let's not talk about it. It makes it very difficult not to hold a grudge against

“He's an honorable man,” said Holliday. “And there ain't too many of them in

“So when is young Mr. Roosevelt due here?” asked Edison, changing the subject.

Holliday shrugged. “Four, maybe five days.” He smiled. “If it was me, and I had to
ride horseback, it'd be a lot closer to a month.”

“So what do we do when he gets here?” continued Edison. “Take him to Geronimo's camp?
I mean, we can't have Geronimo walking or riding into Tombstone.”

don't do anything,” answered Holliday. “Geronimo never mentioned you. I imagine Roosevelt
wants to meet the great Tom Edison. The only person Geronimo wants to meet is Roosevelt.
I don't even know if he'll let Bat come along.” A grim smile. “I don't know if Bat'll
want to, either. You know what happened to him last time he rode out with me to Geronimo's

“So I just sit by and do nothing?” asked Edison. “If that's the case,
and the spell's going to be lifted, I suppose Ned and I might as well close up shop
and go back East.”

Holliday shook his head. “Oh, I think your services are going to be needed—and soon.”

“But if he's lifting the spell…” said Edison, frowning.

“He's making peace with Roosevelt,” said Holliday. “But while he speaks for the Apaches,
he's not the king of all the Indians, and Roosevelt's not the president of the United
States. There are lots of Indians who
want to lift the spell, and that includes every medicine man and shaman on this side
of the Mississippi except Geronimo.”

“So you're saying that there may actually be a war coming…”

“Right,” said Holliday. “With Geronimo and Roosevelt on one side, and every other
Indian on the other.”

“Where do you fit in, Doc?” asked Edison.

“Me? I'm just a dying man who's putting two interested parties together.”

“Rubbish. For one thing, you're the best shootist alive.”

“Well, alive and free,” amended Holliday. “Don't forget John Wesley Hardin.”

“Is he still incarcerated in some Texas jail?” asked Edison.

“Last I heard.”

“Anyway, you're not the type to sit on the sidelines.”

“I may be so sick I'll have to lie down on the sidelines,” replied Holliday.

“I hope you're joking.”

“I hope so too,” said Holliday. “But if I were a betting man…”

“Enough,” said Edison. “For a dying man, you're as indestructible as any man I've
ever met.”

“Good,” said Holliday. “Then I'll be around to see what you bring to the battle.”

“Me? But Geronimo doesn't even want to see me.”

“He'll want to see what you can produce.”

“What makes you think I'll produce anything?” asked Edison irritably.

“Because if we're to have a country that extends to the Pacific, I have a feeling
Geronimo and Roosevelt are going to need all the help they can get.” Holliday smiled
at Edison. “And that means you.”

in the Oriental when Masterson entered the saloon, followed by his companion.

“Damn, but you made good time!” said Holliday, surprised to see them. He got to his
feet. “You must be Theodore Roosevelt.”

Roosevelt extended a hand. “I've been anxious to meet you,” he said. “I've heard and
read a lot about you.”

“Most of it lies, I'm sure,” said Holliday, taking his hand. “I've heard a bit about
you myself.”

“From Democrats?” said Roosevelt with a grin. “
of it lies.”

Roosevelt released Holliday's hand, and Holliday immediately began trying to shake
some life back into it. “That's quite a grip you've got there,” he said. “Shake my
hand three or four more times and I'll have to learn to shoot left-handed.”

Roosevelt laughed heartily. “I like you already!” he said. “But of course I knew I

“You have an affinity for dentists?” said Holliday sardonically.

“Not that I'm aware of. I hope you have one for politicians. Well, former politicians.”

“The only good politician is a former one,” said Holliday. “Or a dead one.”

“I wish I could offer more than a token disagreement,” said Roosevelt. He looked around
the interior of the Oriental, then pulled a chair over and sat down, and Holliday
and Masterson followed suit.

“Any problems along the way?” asked Holliday, offering his bottle to Roosevelt, who
shook his head, and to Masterson, who took a swallow.

“Nothing to speak of,” replied Masterson. “A couple of highwaymen tried to hold us
up on our way through the New Mexico Territory.” Suddenly he grinned. “The world is

“What happened?”

“Young Mr. Roosevelt got the drop on them with his rifle—they must have figured anyone
wearing spectacles is blind, because they weren't paying him any attention—so he disarmed
them, offered to go a few rounds of fisticuffs with them, beat the crap out of them,
then patched them up and treated them to dinner.” Masterson chuckled at the memory.
“Now I know how he wins the voters over. Those two volunteered to ride shotgun for
us as we passed through Southern Cheyenne country, and swore their eternal friendship
when we parted.” He shook is head in wonderment. “It's not like riding with Wyatt,
let me tell you.”

Holliday laughed. He expected Roosevelt to look uncomfortable, but the Easterner simply
looked pleased with the result of the story.

“Too bad Johnny Behan's not sheriff anymore. I'd love to see you run against him.”

“I'm through running for office, for a little while yet,” answered Roosevelt. “I'm
here to see Goyathlay.”

“You know his real name?” asked Holliday, surprised.

“Once I knew I was coming out here, I made sure I packed a couple
of books about the Apaches. I don't know how good his English is, so I thought I'd
better learn to speak his language.”

“Must be recent books,” remarked Holliday. “He's only been the boss since Victorio

“But he's been one of the leaders for twenty years now,” said Roosevelt. “An admirable
man, from all I've learned.”

“He's responsible for the death of thousands of white men,” said Masterson.

“He killed them while protecting his people,” responded Roosevelt. He turned to Holliday.
“You've spent time with him. What's your opinion?”

“He's an honorable man,” said Holliday. “On those occasions that he's a man at all.”

“I don't understand.”

Holliday smiled. “You will.” He paused. “You really speak Apache?”

“I'm not sure of the pronunciations,” answered Roosevelt, “but I'm pretty sure I can
understand it if it's spoken to me.”

“Geronimo will like that,” said Holliday. “He's not some ignorant savage, and he resents
being treated like one.”

“When do we meet him?” asked Roosevelt.

“Tomorrow we'll ride down to his lodge,” answered Holliday. “I'm sure he knows you're

“I'll stay here,” said Masterson.

Roosevelt turned to him. “Why?” he asked curiously.

“Bat had an unpleasant experience the last time he paid a visit to Geronimo,” said
Holliday with an amused smile.

“Stop grinning!” snapped Masterson. “There was nothing funny about it!”

“It sure as hell wasn't funny while it was happening,” agreed Holliday.

“I have no idea what you're talking about,” complained Roosevelt.

“Bat killed one of his warriors, and Geronimo, who speaks enough English to know what
a bat is, turned him into a huge one every night from sunset to sunrise.” Suddenly
Holliday smiled again. “So if you've got a nickname like Bull or Hawkeye, I'd suggest
you keep it to yourself.”

“It wasn't funny,” growled Masterson. “It was a living hell.”

“Clearly it ended,” said Roosevelt. “You kept me awake half of each night with your

“I did a service for Geronimo and he lifted the curse,” said Holliday.

“Ah!” said Roosevelt with a smile. “A
quid pro quo

“Damn!” said Holliday happily. “Latin! I
I was going to like you. Have a drink!”

“No offense, but I want to keep a clear head until this business is over. The results
are too important.”

“Fair enough,” said Holliday. “You got a room yet?”

“Yes, we took out a pair of rooms at the Grand Hotel,” said Roosevelt.

“Yeah, we took a quick tour of the town—well, what's left of it—before we came over
here,” added Masterson. “I see you've got a baseball diamond outside town.”

“I thought it was just a flash in the pan when it came to Denver,” said Holliday,
“but then it spread to Leadville, and damned near every town between there and here.”
He shook his head. “Doesn't make any sense, a bunch of people paying to watch other
people trying to hit a ball with a stick.”

“I prefer prizefighting myself,” said Roosevelt.

“Is this John L. Sullivan all he's cracked up to be?” asked Holliday. “We've heard
about him all the way out here.”

“He's a drunkard and a braggart, but he's as good as they say,”
replied Roosevelt. “I wish I was about thirty pounds heavier. I'd like to take him
on myself.”

“And Bat would write the story,” said Holliday.

“And the obituary,” added Masterson. “I've
the great John L. Best athlete around, now that Hindoo's retired.”

“Hindoo?” asked Holliday.

“Best racehorse in American history,” said Masterson. “He'd run down the backstretch
at Belmont Park and the trees would sway.”


Masterson smiled. “Well, they would if there were any trees there.”

“You really don't miss being a lawman at all, do you?” asked Holliday.

“It cost me a brother, got me shot at pretty regularly for seven years, and kept me
broke all the time,” answered Masterson. “What do you think?”

“Well, I'm glad you're finally happy.”

“I hope I still am after tomorrow,” said Masterson without smiling.

“Of course you will be,” said Roosevelt. “He sent for us.”

“He sent for
,” replied Masterson. “He and I are not each other's favorite people.”

“You're staying in town,” Roosevelt reminded him.

“Tell him, Doc,” said Masterson. “He could appear right next to you right now if he
wanted to.”

“From what I understand, once he and Theodore make their deal, whatever it is, we're
all in a lot more danger from every Indian who
an Apache,” said Holliday.

“I take very little comfort in that,” said Masterson.

“Once we leave for Geronimo's lodge, go over to Tom Edison's place,” suggested Holliday.
“You'll be safer there than anywhere else.”

“I almost forgot!” said Roosevelt so loudly that he startled a couple
of men at the next table. “I want to meet the fabulous Thomas Edison before we leave
town. Do you think he's available right now?”

“He'll be in his office, which doubles as his lab,” affirmed Holliday.

“Then what are we wasting our time here for?” demanded Roosevelt, getting to his feet.

“Just a second,” said Holliday. He pulled a pencil out of his pocket, scribbled
on the bottle, and carried it over to the bar, where he handed it to the bartender.

“I don't suppose Wyatt Earp's in town?” asked Roosevelt as they walked out into the

“Not for a couple of years,” answered Holliday.

“How far are we from the O.K. Corral?”

“A four- or five-minute walk,” said Holliday. “At least, at the speed I walk at.”

“Let's stop there on the way to Edison's,” said Roosevelt.

“Any particular reason?” asked Holliday.

“You've no idea how famous it is, even in New York. I'd hate to be in Tombstone even
for a day and miss the chance to see it.”

“Or Edison,” said Holliday. “Or probably Buntline, too.” He paused. “Is there anything
you're not enthused about?”

“Ignorance,” answered Roosevelt. “Now, which way is the Corral?”

BOOK: The Doctor and the Rough Rider
6.48Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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