Table of Contents
Caught Off Guard
Clint nodded, and the three of them went out the door. They were halfway down the stairs when the shots started. Clint heard them, then pushed Bethany to the side and hit the ground. He rolled down the steps the rest of the way, banging his left elbow painfully, but producing his gun with his right hand.
He came up on one knee, looking for the shooter or shooters, but they were gone. One barrage was all they had the nerve for.
He looked up the stairs at Appo, who seemed to be in shock. His face was white as a sheet.
“You okay?” Clint asked.
“I think so.” Appo patted his body. “I'mâI'm not shot.”
“Where's Bethâ” Clint said, looking around and stopping short when he spotted her . . .
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
A Jove Book / published by arrangement with the author
Jove edition / June 2008
Copyright Â© 2008 by Robert J. Randisi.
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Clint Adams sat back in his chair and stared across the table at his friend Talbot Roper. Roper was an ex-Pinkerton who had gone out on his own ten years ago and had made a name for himself as possibly the best private detective in the countryâperhaps the world. But they were about to get into a debate on that subject.
Also seated at the table was a mutual friend, Bat Masterson. They had all just finished a sumptuous meal in the dining room of the Denver House Hotel, where Clint was staying, and were now waiting for their coffee and desserts to be served.
“How long are you staying this time?” Roper asked Clint, who had just arrived in Denver the day before.
“I don't know,” Clint said. “I just thought it was time to soak up some Denver culture.”
“That means he's lookin' for a poker gamer,” Bat Masterson said with a laugh.
“I'm shocked to find you in town,” Clint said to Roper. “Usually you're out on some big case.”
“At the moment I'm out of big cases,” Roper said.
“Maybe the best detective in the country has solved them all?” Clint asked.
“I don't know about the best detective in the country, ” Roper said.
“You sayin' you're not the best?” Masterson asked. “Humility from the great detective?”
“No,” Roper said. “I'm just saying that maybe I'm the best private detective in the country, but not the best detective.”
“What other kind is there?” Bat asked.
Roper took the time to light up a cigar before he answered. He offered his two friends one, but they demurred.
“There's a friend of mine in New York by the name of Thomas Byrnes. He's a police detective, and it seems he's making quite a name for himself whipping the New York City Police Department into shape.”
“Ah,” Bat said. “So you're sayin' he's a better organizer than you are.”
“That's for sure,” Roper said. “But he's a pretty damned good detective as well.”
“And what about your old friend Mr. Pinkerton?” Bat asked.
Clint rolled his eyes and said, “Don't get him started on ol' Allan.”
“Me?” Roper asked. “You're the one he doesn't like.”
“You're the one who worked for him, learned everything you could, and then went out on your own. He's hated you ever since.”
“Hates me because I left his agency and took some big clients with me,” Roper pointed out. “What's your excuse?”
“Maybe,” Clint said, as the waiter arrived with the coffee and pie, “because I would never work for him in the first place.”
“Smart man,” Bat said. “That sonofabitch wouldn't know how to tell the truth if his life depended on it.”
“Probably because of all the lying he had to do during the war,” Roper said.
“Oh yeah,” Bat said, “the war's a good reason for everythin', isn't it?”
“How did we get on this subject?” Clint asked, cutting into his peach pie. “I thought we were talking about the best detectives in the country?”
“I still say it's our friend here,” Bat said. “Although, if you had worked for Pinkerton and got yourself some trainin', Clint, I'd put my money on you.”
“Bat has a point,” Roper said. “You have all the instincts, Clint, and we've worked together often enough for me to know that you'd make a hell of a detective.”
“Same with poker,” Bat said. “If you devoted all your time to that, you'd be better at it than Luke Short.”
“Better than you, Bat?” Roper asked.
“Let's not get carried away.”
They all laughed and enjoyed their desserts.
In the lobby of the hotel, Clint asked Roper, “Are you in town for long?”
“I told you,” Roper said. “I've got nothin' to do. If you want to go to the theater, just let me know.”
“If I wanted to go to the theater, it wouldn't be with you, my friend,” Clint said. “It would be with a woman.”
“Okay,” Roper said. “If you want a woman, let me know.”
“I think I can get my own women, Tal,” Clint said, “but thanks.”
“Bat,” Roper said, “you going to be in town gambling? Or writing?”
“Maybe neither, maybe both,” Bat said. “I haven't decided.”
“Well, let me know if you fellas want to have dinner again,” Roper said. “Good night, and good luck with the cards.”
“He doesn't gamble, does he?” Bat asked Clint.
“Not a lick,” Clint said. “It never interested him.”
“Too bad,” Bat said. “He would've been good at it.”
“You know, Bat,” Clint said. “He's good at what he's good at, you're good at what you're good at, andâ”
“I get the picture, Clint,” Bat said. “We should all just keep doin' what we're good at.”
“Do you want to go and find a poker game?”
“No,” Clint said. “I think I'll take a walk and maybe have a drink.”
“I've got a game if you want one,” Bat said. “Some fellas over at
“Newspapermen?” Clint asked. “They should keep doing what they're good at. You going to fleece them?”
“What a terrible word,” Bat said. “I'm gonna
When Clint came downstairs the next morning, the desk clerk called him over.
“This came for you, sir,” the man said, handing Clint an envelope.
“Who brought it?”
“A runner, sir,” the man said. “Just a dirty street urchin.”
Must have been from Roper, he thought. The detective often used street kids to run errands.
He walked away from the desk, opened the envelope, and fished out the contents. He was looking at two tickets to a show at the Palace Variety Theater. And there was a handwritten note:
Find yourself a girl and have some fun. Tal