Authors: J.T. Edson
Tags: #the old west, #texas rangers, #western pulp fiction, #floating outfit, #jtedson, #waxahachie smith
Doing so proved to be unnecessary. Footsteps
sounded outside, approaching on the run. Satisfied that he would
have no further need for it, Smith returned his Peacemaker to its
holster. Then he thrust the glove into his left hip pocket, picked
up and was knocking the sawdust from his jacket when the door burst
open. Gilpin came through, followed by the sheriff. Significantly,
Smith noticed, the stationmaster held a gun while McCobb arrived
with empty hands.
been happening?’ Gilpin asked, after staring around for nearly half
At least six voices started to
give as many different versions in answer to the
’s question. Neither Smith nor Burbury offered to comment,
but the burly man joined the Texan.
all talk!’ Gilpin bellowed, restoring order. He thrust the revolver
into his waist-band and continued, ‘All right, Dad, you tell
that much to tell,’ Derham replied. ‘Them two in front of the bar
tried to gun Mr. Smith down, helped by the jasper over there on the
floor. Only things went wrong for ’em, like you see.’
started it?’ McCobb put in, suddenly realizing that, as sheriff, he
should be conducting the inquiry. ‘Did you see it,
didn’t do anything to
it,’ Burbury put in.
Darting a scowl at the burly
man, Billy turned his gaze to Smith. The deputy hesitated. Much as
he wanted to try to blame the Texan for the shooting, Billy also
remembered his uncle
’s instructions. It might go hard for him if he lied, or
made unnecessary trouble for a person of that big jasper’s
having a game of put-and-take,’ Billy explained.
—fell—gent didn’t want to play, but
the cowhand had liquor in him and got mean about it.’
yelped Angus, pointing at Smith. ‘Look at his gun-hand. He
you,’ Derham interrupted, ‘I’d stop talking right there. Boss,
this-here’s Waxahachie Smith.’
Every eye in the room had turned
to stare at Smith
’s right hand. Talk welled up as the old timer made his
announcement. Glaring up at the Texan’s face, McCobb opened his
mouth. A flush of red rose to the sheriff’s cheeks and several
seconds went by before he could speak.
said you was on a special assignment for the Governor!’ McCobb
accused indignantly when he regained control of his vocal
Happened you think back real careful,’ Smith drawled. ‘I
didn’t say no such thing.’
not a—a—!’ the sheriff spluttered. ‘Damn it! You’re just
what, sheriff?’ prompted Burbury.
and blast it!’ McCobb blustered, ignoring the question. ‘I want to
know what happened, all of it.’
off,’ Burbury answered, before anybody else could speak. ‘Those
three come here figuring to kill Wax Smith.’
that’s a right good question,’ Burbury praised with blatant mockery
and looked at the Texan. ‘How’s about a right good answer,
you think of one, let me know it,’ Smith replied. ‘I never saw any
one of ’em afore they walked in here tonight.’
mean they were perfect strangers?’ yelped McCobb.
know about the others,’ Burbury put in dryly. ‘But Arney Moxley was
a long ways from perfect. You’ll find a wanted dodger on him out of
Butte, Montana. Eight hundred dollars, walking or flat on a
know him?’ asked the sheriff.
got a good memory for faces,’ Burbury answered.’ Feller in my line
of work needs one.’
sheriff!’ Gilpin put in. ‘Let me have the bodies moved down to the
barn, then get the blood washed away.’
it, Bert,’ McCobb assented. ‘Maybe I should search them
say that’s a smart notion,’ Burbury said. ‘Only I’m betting you’ll
not learn much.’
the sheriff wanted to know.
boys’re top-grade stock, way they handled things. They’ll not be
carrying anything to say who hired ’em to kill Wax.’
my civic duty to look, anyways. Billy, Angus, come lend a
words, the brothers exchanged startled, nervous glances. Up to that
moment, they had only been employed upon unimportant duties like
riding escort for stagecoaches. Travelling self-importantly around
the county was poor training for the unpleasant task ahead. More so
when the sheriff gave no sign that he would take other than a
verbal part in the search.
Perhaps I could be of assistance, sheriff?’ suggested the
small, soberly-dressed man. ‘I am by profession an
ahead,’ McCobb authorized, showing relief. ‘If you need help, my
deputies will give it.’
you,’ the undertaker said. ‘Perhaps you could lift the gambling man
off the other, gentlemen.’
Making a wry face, Billy bent
and took hold of Hardy
’s left sleeve. As the deputy tugged, the
gambler’s left hand opened and a small metal object fell from
that thing?’ the sheriff demanded.
put-and-take top we was using,’ Billy replied.
one’s still on the bar,’ Burbury pointed out. ‘He must’ve had
another palmed, Wax.’
that way,’ Smith agreed.
Obviously the sheriff attached
no importance to the extra top, or its mate. Instead he picked up
the dead gambler
’s wallet, which had been laying on the counter during the
game, and examined its contents. Without taking an active part in
the search, he supervised it to the extent of checking each item
produced from the bodies pockets.
Burbury picked up the top which
had fallen from Hardy
’s hand. Watched by Smith, he spun it half-a-dozen times
using the awkward-looking anti-clockwise twirl of the gambler. The
results varied, wins and losses coming up. Setting the top aside
Burbury took the other one and repeated the tests employing a
Put-three,’ Burbury said quietly and continued to call the
other results. Tut-All, Put-Four, Put-Three, Put-All,
’re all “put” and no “take”,’ Smith
said quietly. ‘Try spinning it the other way, Ric’
that’s all,’ the sheriff announced before the experiment could be
carried out. Two hundred dollars each, wallet on the bar packed out
with paper. Gambler had a deck of cards and the other a
been drinking from it, Uncle—’ Billy began. He paused, knowing that
the sheriff disliked references to the deputies being kin-folk.
That’s what made him mean.’
ornery if he thought anybody was disrespecting the gambling man,’
Angus went on. ‘And with the liquor in him—’
wasn’t drunk,’ Smith put in.
like he was drinking,’ Burbury finished for Billy. ‘You see what’s
in that flask, sheriff.’
good time,’ McCobb answered. ‘First, I’d like to hear exactly what
came off here.’
wish me to search the other man, sheriff?’ asked the
McCobb grunted. ‘Oh, sure. Go help the gent, Billy, Angus. Bring
all you get to me.’
Billy replied, with no great enthusiasm.
Dad,’ the sheriff went on, turning to the bar. ‘What
Derham told his story at greater
length with more attention to detail. Much to
thinly-concealed annoyance, it proved favorable to Smith. While the
old timer was declaring vehemently and profanely that the Texan had
been provoked, Burbury picked up and opened the dandy’s hip-flask.
Ignoring the sheriff’s obvious, if unspoken, disapproval, the burly
man sniffed at the flask’s neck.
don’t smell like Bourbon,’ Burbury stated, when Derham had stopped
speaking. Pouring the remaining spots of liquid on to his palm, he
held them for Smith and the sheriff to see. The small pool in his
hand was colorless. He tested it with the tip of his tongue and
went on, It don’t look nor taste like Bourbon, neither, Water,
maybe, but not Bourbon. Want to try a lick, sheriff?’
take your word for it!’ McCobb said coldly and swung on his heel to
face the trio of drummers. Indicating the largest of them, he
asked, ‘How did you see it, mister?’
By the time the sheriff had
interrogated two of the drummers, he knew there was no case against
Smith. Nor did the third travelling salesman change the pattern.
All of the trio corroborated the old hostler
’s statement that the Texan had gone
out of his way to avoid trouble, in the face of vicious insults and
threats. Even more damning to McCobb’s hopes had been the fact that
Hayward not only instigated the fight but tried to take an unfair
advantage. The drummers also verified that Hardy had drawn before
the dandy was shot and so menaced Smith’s life to such an extent
that the Texan had been justified in shooting him.
During the giving of evidence,
Billy had brought the third dead man
’s belongings to his uncle. They did not
prove any more informative than the items found on Hardy or
Hayward. Telling his nephew to have the bodies removed to the barn,
the sheriff turned back to the Texan.
have a word with you, S— Mr. Smith?’
your county, sheriff!
private,’ McCobb hinted, looking pointedly at Bur-bury.
if I hear what’s said, Wax?’ the burly man asked.
mind!’ McCobb yelped.
don’t,’ Smith drawled. ‘And I’m allowed to have a witness
any time I’m talking to a lawman. You’ll know Supreme Court Ruling
Eleven, Decision Twenty-Three, Clause Sixty-One, I reckon,
yes. Of course I know it,’ McCobb replied.
He did not, but felt sure that a
man like Waxahachie Smith would be fully conversant with any ruling
or decision which gave him an advantage when dealing with an
officer of the law. Already the Supreme Court had earned a
peace officers for producing rulings which made their work
more difficult. So McCobb did not doubt that Smith was within his
legal rights to have Burbury present.
For his part, Smith wondered why
he had agreed to Burbur
y’s request. Sure he was grateful to the burly man
for saving his life, but he felt that Burbury was taking a whole
heap too much interest in his doings. However, the decision had
been made and there was no going back on it.
drinks for these three gents, barkeep,’ Burbury instructed,
indicating the drummers who, having given their evidence, were
eyeing Lily Shivers with interest. ‘They’ll need it while they’re
helping tote the bodies out of here.’
grunted the largest drummer.
was playing with them two,’ Burbury pointed out. ‘And they’ve got
to be moved. Sheriff can deputize you to do it.’
can,’ McCobb agreed, looking his most pompous. ‘And I’m doing
can get jailed for refusing due and lawful deputization by a sworn
officer of the county,’ Smith warned as the drummers seemed on the
verge of protesting. ‘Sheriff’d be in his legal rights to do that,
Muttering to themselves, the
trio accepted McCobb
’s orders that they should help remove the bodies. With
that matter under control, the sheriff suggested that he, Smith and
Burbury should conduct their business away from the bar.
looks better,’ McCobb explained. ‘Let’s go sit at the big
Before following Smith and the sheriff,
Burbury picked up the first of the tops with which he had
experimented. Dropping it into his right side pocket, he put its
mate into the left. Then he walked after the two men in the
direction of the big table.