'How 'Bull Dog' Andrews Came and Went'
By Phineas Redux
Summary:— Henrietta 'Harry' Knappe and Sally 'Snapshot' Nichols, lovers in 1870's Red Flume, Arizona Territory, USA, face up to a notorious shootist.
Note:— Influenced by the 'Wolfville' stories of Alfred Henry Lewis.
Copyright:— All characters are copyright ©2019 to the author, and are wholly fictitious representations: the overall local geography may be questionable, too.
"I won't have it, is all."
Sheriff Charles Donaldson, head of all that was lawful and legal in the town of Red Flume, Arizona Territory, stood his place like a giant redwood tree.
"What kin ya do about it, if'n he shows face, Sheriff?" Sally seeking for information as was her usual habit.
"I kin tell him t'kindly quit the precincts o'the fair town o'Red Flume, leavin' a mighty fine dust-trail in his r'ar as he goes." Donaldson ground his teeth loudly in the confined space of his office on Main St. "Barring which, I opens up on him promis'cus, let the consequences be what they will."
"Ah, an' Sal here an' I gets ter read yer will ter yer grievin' widow, afterwards?" Henrietta taking the high moral ground.
"I ain't married."
"A mere technical'ty." Sally up for this like a good 'un. "Ye'll be jest as dead, anyway. Thet bein' the only possible outcome ter standin' off Bull Dog Andrews face ter face."
"Ya wouldn't have a chance, Charlie." Henrietta putting in words what was the general feeling of the majority present. "He'd bowl ya over afore ye'd cleared yer holster with that antiquated Compton single-fire point thirty-eight ya chooses ter call yer defensive weapon. Why, when was the last time it was fired in anger, anyhow? The Battle of Picacho Pass of 'Sixty-Two?"
"Very funny, ladies." Donaldson had obviously reached the limit of his patience regarding the matter in hand. "So Andrews' is a famous shootist, comin' rather further east than's his usual pickings—"
"Solely t'face Sal here, an' take her down." Henrietta pinpointing the heart of the matter. "He seemin' ter think she's got some sort'a fame as a shootist hersel'—though God knows how he came t'that crazy notion, she famously not bein' able t'hit a barn door if'n placed five feet in front o'her nose, she firin' a Gatlin' gun the whiles."
"Hey, thet ain't no-ways fair, leddy."
On this cool morning of March, 187- and something, the three dignified residents of the town were holding a conference in the Sheriff's office to consider the letter which had reached the ladies' the day before. The gist of which contained the news that Tom 'Bull Dog' Andrews, the most infamous and or'nary shootist of the present times, had decided that his next exploit would be to take down the noted shootist Sally 'Snapshot' Nichols, to add to his ever growing fame.
There was some basis in fact for his desire, Sally being duly noted as capable of shooting the centre out of the Ace of Spades at thirty yards with her Smith and Wesson .38 revolver. While her companion, and more or less publicly acknowledged lover, Henrietta 'Harry' Knappe, was certainly the best bear hunter west of the Pecos; she being able, with her Henry .50 rifle, to take down her target at anything up to eight hundred yards on a calm windless day. Whether Andrews quite understood these facts was up for debate, though Donaldson took the righteous path in declining to have the man infect the streets of his town under any conditions.
"The trouble is," He went on, addressing a major complaint. "he ain't actil wanted fer any crime—there bein' no wanted notices out fer him. Oh, he's shot a fair passel o'victims over the last few years; but they've all been counted as self defence when the shoutin' an' dust has settled over each an' every one o' said shootin's. So what kin I do, but warn him off."
"An' hope fer the best, eh?"
"Now, come on, Harry," Donaldson shook his head wrathfully. "I got'ta take all due notice o'the law, I bein' the Sheriff, an' all. Kind'a ties my hands somewhat, y'see."
"What if we goes out in'ta the desert an' waits his callin'?" Sally up for the dirty trail, if necessary. "We hunkers down in the brush, hold off till we sees the whites o'his eyes, then bushwhacks the varmint, fair an' square? Buries his remains in the dirt, an' throws the shovel away—no-one'll ever know. Sounds good ter me."
"An' me." Henrietta sticking up for her lover, as always.
"Not ter me, it don't." Donaldson coming the square-dealer, such being his official position in the unfolding drama. "Bushwhacking bein' illegal always, I'd jest have ter corral ye both in chains, send ye both ter the court-house in Phoenix, an' in the due fullness of time watch yer bein' hanged all right an' proper in the town square."
"Huumph!" From a sadly under-appreciated Sally.
"Iirph!" from an equally disappointed Henrietta.
"So, take a hike, leddies—I got me some serious thinkin' ter do, hereabouts."
Taking the gentle hint Sally and Henrietta moved to the door, if unwillingly.
"See ya around, Charlie."
"Hopes ye'll still be on yer feet an' alive this time next week, Sheriff." Sally taking a more morose outlook on events than her partner.
"Hit the trail, leddies, yer nat'ral daily lode o'botherin' the hell out'ta me has outrun its course, a'ready. Don't slam the door, my ears' is delicate this mornin'."
"Keep safe, ol' timer."
The hour of one o'clock in the afternoon had just struck, back in Red Flume, though neither woman riding their horses out into the nearby desert landscape precisely knew this, Henrietta having forgotten once again to wind her solid silver half-hunter and now bearing the brunt of her companion's sarcastic nature re such.
"What's the use of a watch thet ain't wound, anyways?" Sally hunched in her saddle, waving a gloved hand delicately in front of her mouth to ward off the clouds of sandy dust as they rode on. "It cain't no-how tell the time; it ain't no use as a compass or sich; why, it ain't got no useful value at all—jest a dead weight in yer pocket. Wind the dam' thing, fer God's sake, gal."
"And why not, darlin'?" Sally glancing over to her right where Henrietta rode by her side. "It's easy, yer jest takes the little dinky key, inserts it in the hole on the back o'the watch, an' does the necessary. What's hard about thet?"
"I doesn't know what the exact time is."
This was too much for the sharpshooter, who sighed melodramatically at such amateurishness.
"Well, lover, ye would if'n ye'd jest dam' well wind the dam' watch. It's what's called a logical conclusion."
"But I don't know what the exact time is, d'ya see?"
"No, I doesn't." Sally losing her cool entirely at such obfuscation. "What in hell'r ye talkin' about? Watches is fer tellin' the dam' time; wind the bloody thing, an' ye'll be able t'tell same, stands ter reason. What part o'thet reasonin' flies over yer head, darlin' o' my heart?"
Well used to her lover's often tenuous grasp of reality and logic Henrietta took on her school-marm personality.
"Sal, tellin' the time ain't jest the simple act o' windin' a watch, then tellin' off the numbers on the face—"
"—it dam' well is—"
"—no, it ain't." Henrietta's patience, as was so often the case in these kinds of arguments, rapidly began to lose ground. "Ya got'ta know what the dam' time is, in order ter set yer watch ter same, young 'un. If'n ya don't know what o'clock it is, how in tarnation can ya set yer watch ter some hour or minute ya have no idee of it's actilly bein'?"
Faced with this cold hard logical paradox—and Sally never being one for deep thinking at the best of times—she now began to frown horribly as she attempted the impossible, trying to reclaim clarity from a fog of unknowing.
"Aah, aah," The steps in reasoning necessary to a clear understanding of the argument in hand proving insurmountable Sally, as usual in similar circumstances, gave in to her lesser nature. "Well, it's a dam' shame, is all I's got ter say on the matter. Ye sure ye jest cain't wind the dam' thing, anyways? Who knows till ye tries? Meb'be it'll come up trumps, an' show the real time, after all. Go on, try darlin'."
Further discussion on this knotty problem was side-tracked as the riders reached the ridge of a long slow incline, providing a wide view of the rolling desert landscape sheer to the far horizon.
"Look, there's Butterfield's way station, not more'n three mile distant." Henrietta peering from under the brim of her wide hat, helped by a flattened palm over her eyes. "Not more'n an hour an' we'll be there."
"So, ye really thinks Andrews'll ride this-away?"
"Stands ter reason, it bein' the major route from Phoenix, an' all." Henrietta jiggled her spurs, heading her mount on along the dusty trail. "No reason fer him ter sashay in behind our backs, is there? He wants yer hide fer a handbasket, don't he; an' ain't shy about who knows sich? Yeah, this'll be the way he comes, an' this'll be the likely day, too."
"Ya don't sound any too happy about the sity'atin, lover?"
"Ridin' cold-blooded in'ta a pre-destined gunfight wherein ye might have yer head shot off ain't my idee of a sociable afternoon's picnic among friends, Harry."
Henrietta, however, was up for this shilly-shallying in the face of destiny.
"What's ter worry about? Ye've got me coverin' yer r'ar, ain't ya?" She grinned widely, chuckling deeply at the coming events she saw in her mind's eye. "You face him off outside the station, by the corral; meanwhile's I'm set low on the ground say two hundred yards off in the scrub where no-one kin see me; I waits till yer both twenty yards apart, facin' each other, then I puts a point fifty slug right through his back neat as nine cents—job done, an' nobody ter cry over said remains."
There was a pause as Sally considered the offered plan, clearly not much encouraged by her partner's take on the upcoming meeting of opposed views.
"Ye sure this here bushwhackin' without the benefit o'clergy's all accordin' t'Hoyle, lover? What about Sheriff Donaldson?"
"What Sheriff Donaldson don't know about or see won't worry said individual, will it?" Henrietta clear on the legal details of the matter. "We're here by ourselves; you face up ter Bull Dog like a good 'un; I shoots him in the back, uninvited an' unwanted; we bury him some ways off in the desert'n no-one ever remarks on the matter ever agin—sounds perfec' t'me. Stop worryin'."
The Butterfield stage-coach way station lay 12 miles to the north-west of Red Flume, surrounded by scrub and desert. A single dusty trail led in from the direction of Phoenix, far distant; continuing on to Red Flume. While common-sense would dictate it being mostly abandoned, in fact it was a hive of activity. The thrice weekly stage stopping there for refreshment and change of horses necessitating a large organisation to cover the station's needs. There were several persons acting as kitchen workers, providing a hot meal for the parched inmates of each passing coach; there were ranch-hands to make sure the exchange of motive power was smoothly covered; and finally there were all those needed to make sure everything else operated with smooth efficiency.
There were two main buildings; also two large barns where the horses were kept; and several smaller subsidiary structures scattered independently across the immediate landscape, not forgetting two large long structures having the responsibility for being lavatory facilities for each sex. In short the station was a hive of busy action from morn to even; it supplying the dual purposes of ranch, way-station, and general store, as well as having several beds for overnight guests.
Henrietta and Sally had timed their arrival, even minus accurate time-piece, to haul up by the large fenced corral half an hour before the stage was due.
"I'll hide my hoss in the barn, you go on in an' say hallo ter the inhabitants, without lettin' on exactly as ter who ya are—got thet, baby?"
"Yeah, yeah; the whole thing's rapidly losing any level o'interest fer me, I got'ta tell ya, baby."
"Stop bein' so negative, lover, I can feel the negative waves from here."
"You're losing your mind, Harry; jest a fac' needs attention, I feels."
"Fool, go on, I'll settle myself somewhere out'ta sight in the long grass aways off fer when the show starts. Jest remember, bring the ideet out ter the side o'the corral when it all goes down; got thet?"
"Yeah, leave me in peace, woman. Go on, I got it all clear; see ye later."
Henrietta heading towards the barn nearest the women Sally walked off to the main building; the pulsing heart of the establishment.
Inside the interior showed itself as much like a large saloon; the single room was immensely long, maybe thirty-five feet; a long table with benches sat in the centre of the room, already loaded with plates and mugs and loaves of bread, while from some distant corner floated tasty aromas of fresh stew and soup. A short bar took up part of the opposite wall, with rows of bottles behind on shelves; and the whole place was alive with people of indeterminate business sitting or standing about mulling the news of the world between them.
On Sally entering there was a slight lowering of the level of talk, then the general tone rose to its original height again, no-one being interested in the slender female form, dressed in trousers, shirt, and jacket though she was; her dual .38 Smith and Wessons' on her hips probably having something to do with this wholesale uncritical acceptance.
Strolling up to the bar she leaned on the counter as the heavy-set aproned man behind siddled up to give her an enquiring eye. Somewhere in the late '40's, or perhaps early '50's, he sported a scratchy set of short whiskers which only made him seem more unkempt than he already was.
"What's yer pleasure, gal?"
"Whisky, Barleymow, if'n ye has sich, fer preference."
"Ain't got sich; got Claiborne's Corn Gold?"
"Doesn't like it—how's about McClay's Honey?"
"We doesn't get enough meelee-on-airs passin' through these here parts ter justify thet expensive a throat medicine, leddy. How's about ye quells yer higher tastes an' comes out fer somethin' on a lesser, more viable, scale? I got most o'a bottle o'Kegg's Burley left? Burns as it goes down, I admits straight-off—but warms the innards afterwards, too. How's about it? Fifteen cents a glass."
Defeated by bad taste Sally gave in with a sweep of her hand, leaning more sorrowfully over the counter than ever. As the bar-tender busied himself in providing the required beverage Sally took a wide glance round, seeing what was ongoing in the long room.
"This gon'na be one o'yer busy days?" She fingering the short glass set before her; the man behind the counter snorting loudly and wiping his hands with a torn rag as he counted the money Sally had dropped on the uneven wooden surface.
"Phoenix coach arrivin' near enuf as we speaks." The bar-tender took a proud look up and down the room, clearly happy in his chosen profession. "Has some off-days, surely—but the stage-coach days makes up fer all, each an' every one. Ye wouldn't believe how much these coach passengers is capable o'spendin, all in one go, ma'am. Why often in one day I've taken in as much as fifty dollars—this place is a gold-mine, without the associated dangers an' tribulations."
"Har, I'm glad fer ye, I'm sure."
Henrietta had seen her mount safely placed in the control of the hand working in the barn, where several other horses already stood about being attended to. The transfer of a dollar saw to her horse's immediate needs and she left to go about her own business.
Outside she glanced over to where Sally had tied her mount to the rail outside the main building, then turned to walk some ways off into the surrounding dry sandy scrub which came up on all sides bordering the way-station. In her left hand she cradled her Henry .50 rifle, her jacket pocket full of the necessary extra ammunition, though she fully expected that one round would be sufficient.
Fifty yards or so out in the encroaching desert landscape she crouched down behind a patch of high grass; from which position she was immediately invisible to anyone more than ten yards distant. Satisfied with the density of the thick scrub she rose and continued out away from the buildings. Another couple of minutes found her at a distance commensurate with what she had decided was a reasonable range for her proposed deed.
Sweeping the now distant station with a sharp all-encompassing glance she made sure no-one was watching or had pinned her activities with a suspicious eye then crouched down, settling herself as comfortably as possible on the dusty ground. A few seconds squirreling around and she found the best spot giving a clear view of the wooden pole fences surrounding the corral in the distance. Laying her long-barreled rifle by her side she made herself as comfortable as the terrain allowed. A quick sharp-eyed search in her close proximity had made sure there were no snakes nearby, though she continued to keep the thought in the back of her mind, she not wishing to be bitten at the wrong moment in coming events. Then she settled down to wait for the arrival of the Phoenix coach; due, as far as she could tell, somewhere in the next half hour or so.
The Phoenix coach was of the Concord type—thick wide leather straps running down under the passenger cabin allowing of a free-swinging suspension and so more comfortable ride. The body being slightly wider than usual there was space for eight passengers rather than the usual six; a deep boot as well as wide roof-space allowing for a large quantity of luggage and baggage. Of course the long running sections meant that the passengers felt glad of the ease of comfort and were also mightily glad of the appearance of each way-station on the route—this allowing of stretching of cramped limbs, easing of bodily functions, and intake of refreshment, liquid or solid as the case might be. Each coach also being on a tight schedule, harshly adhered to by the coach driver, meant that arrival at each way-station inevitably gave rise to the outbreak of something close to Armageddon allied to an escape of inmates from Tartarus, all seeking refreshment and ease at all costs in the shortest time possible. In short, when the coach reached the station mayhem was bound to break forth unrestricted, and did.
"Haul yer ass's back, there. Make room, ye clowns—comin' through!"
The Phoenix Flyer, only a mere two hours and ten minutes over time, rattled up to the rail outside the station in a cloud of dust and profanity from the driver; old Dan Beggs, the meanest driver in Arizona. Knowing the coach's arrival as having been more or less imminent a group of workers and simple on-lookers had formed a welcoming group outside the station's main entrance; and the coach's arrival didn't disappoint. Hauled to a stop by the heavy-handed use of his reins Beggs brought the six-horse vehicle to a halt exactly outside the door of the station, the accompanying cloud of thick dust entirely blocking vision and getting in everyone's throat like a true dust-storm before dispersing in almost solid waves.
"All out—all out, twenty-three minutes fer comfort an' eats—anyone missin' the time gets left behind, promis'cus—no excuses allowed. Move it, people."
With this hearty, if less than polite, declaration Beggs climbed down from the eyrie of his high seat and slapped his dirty long yellow duster creating another, if lesser, sandstorm as the passengers struggled from their imprisonment into the light of day again.
Inside Sally had moved to a small table against one wall where she had an unrestricted view of the whole room; from which vantage-point she could oversee the doings of the latest arrivals. Of the two female passengers there was no sign, they having immediately headed for the lavatorial outhouse suited to their particular needs, in hopes of repairing some of the damages brought about during their latest experience of coach-driving a-la-carte, as it were. The six male passengers were, as Sally eyed them all intently, a mixed bunch; someone who looked like a bank manager, and probably was; a sixty-something store-owner, clear as daylight; a youngster no more than eighteen, probably paying a family visit; a nondescript quite tall individual in the early thirties, who might be anything; and two characters who immediately caught Sally's attention; they, under their short jackets, sporting a fine selection of artillery in the six-shooter line. One was tall, over six feet, thin of frame and mean-looking as a coyote that'd just been swindled out of its evening meal; the other five foot six or so, slightly rotund of build with a fattish jowly face and set grim expression.
These latter two, obviously known to each other, made a direct line for the bar counter; the shorter loudly calling for the liquid menu of the day.
"Two rotguts, an' make it snappy, time's awastin', an' we're bother here thirsty as jackrabbits."
A pause ensued as both men attended to the first fine flush of their thirst; then, satisfied for the moment if not wholly sated, they turned to conversation with the bar-tender and anyone else within hearing distance of their loud forthright voices.
"How far's Red Flume from here, bar-man?" This from the shorter of the duo.
"Some twelve mile, partner, this bein' the last section afore arrival. Got business there?"
"Don't know's as how ye might call same business," The short man sniggered with a cold menacing timbre in his deep voice. "more o'a personal entertainment, ye might say. Ye don't know me, does yer?"
The bar-tender, somewhat warily, took due cognisance of his two customers.
"Cain't say as I does, friend."
"Name's Tom Andrews, Bull Dog ter friends." Andrews, having made himself known to one and all, affected a wide sneer. "I tends ter shoot people, sich bein' in my natur', ye might allow."
"Oh, yeah?" The bar-tender now clearly wishing he was closer to the sawn-off shotgun he kept for just such eventualities, but which now lay at the far end of the bar under the counter.
"Don't take me wrong, pard, I got no mean idee's about ye, nor anyone else here." Andrews took a long slow turn, taking in the majority of the room's inmates. "I focusses my desires o'death an' destruction on those I considers my equals in my chosen field, ye sees."
"Which'd be—what, partner?" The bar-tender obviously considering a swift change of career in his near future.
"Shootin's the game, an' shootin's my hobby." Andrews bared his teeth, not thereby showing to the best advantage it must be admitted; his expression now clearly reflecting a delicate, not to say unhinged, mentality. "I am, and I admits ter same with some pride, the best shootist in the Eastern States an' Territories an' associated Badlands. I got me a right good repy'tation, I allows; me bein' quick on the draw, an' all. Lately I've bin feelin' the necessity o'facin' up ter yer own local high-shootin' indiveedul's, hereabouts."
"Yeah? Don't the Law have anything ter say about yer, er, choice o'career?"
"Hell, nah." Andrews let out a loud raucous laugh. "If'n ye has the sense ter allus stay on the right side o'self defence ye're set fair fer a long life without the likelihood o'any rope necklace in yer future. Say, ye ever heerd o'some leddy by the name o'Snapshot Nichols? I hear she's some way ter bein' kind'a useful with a six-shooter, in a fairish kind'a way, fer a gal, anyway."
"That there'd be me, traveler."
Sally, having had quite sufficient time to assess her opponent, rose from her chair to face the gunman. He, in turn, looked across the room at the person he had so loudly and publicly called out. At first a frown had darkened his brow but now, clearly deciding the young woman in front of him posed no threat to his reputation or capability whatsoever, he relaxed and set-to being mean and ornery as was his nature.
"Well, well, who'd a'thought." He grinned widely, no way put out by the public forum avidly listening to their conversation. "Ye has a repy'tation, I gives yer thet; but, I has ter say, I'm not overwhelmed by yer presence, leddy. Ye sure ye can take on a cold hard killer sich as I represents? How'd ye get yer repy'tation, anyhow's? Shootin' at paper targets, or the sides o'barns, or what?"
"I can take the eye out'ta an Ace o'Spades at thirty yards." Sally deciding that a recital of her capabilities might take some of the starch out of the reprehensible individual across the room from her. "In the last year alone I've shot three men, all at less'n twenty yards. I kin shoot a bear at one hundred and fifty yards with my Henry point fifty. Lookin' ye over, partner, I kin state without arrogance I kin take ye at any distance ye cares t'state. What'll it be, time's a'wastin'?"
Having come all the way from distant Phoenix to call out a woman, and now finding himself called out in person by the very same lady Andrews paused to take stock of the present situation. His plan of instilling the fear of death into his target from a distance had clearly gone astray, Sally being harder than he had anticipated. The only course now was—what to do? He still had an overbearing belief in his own capacity, absorbed from years of targeting opponents of lesser experience and expertise, not to say lesser evil coldness in killing. But still, the woman on the far side of the room was only a young girl; what could be the danger here? The fact he had never actually faced a female before in his long years of gun-fighting suddenly occurred to him, causing an unaccustomed necessity to question his capabilities generally—but this passed seconds later as he grinned meanly again, once more commander of his desires, corrupt though they were.
"Where's yer pleasure, leddy? Here, or outside? I'm easy."
"Hey, this's no place fer gunplay." The bar-tender interjecting angrily as the very foundations of his monetary dependency was questioned. "I got a business t'run here. Take yer gripes outside, fer God's sake."
Amid a general rustle of customers making the first motions to leave the vicinity Sally grinned in her turn. She had been wondering just how to inveigle the man out to the nearby corral; now this problem had been solved by Andrews himself.
"Outside it is, there's a corral not far off; we kin do it there."
"Fine by me; yer doesn't disagree ter my mate Joe, here, accompanyin' me? He bein' sich a close friend, an' all?"
"The more the merrier." Sally holding off to make sure Andrews, and his still silent partner, walked out the door ahead of her.
The customers from the station's refreshment room had mostly come out to watch the impending event, though they showed respectably careful control of their health by staying by the station's main entrance, far from the corral some fifty yards or so off.
Sally, not being by any standards a fool, kept a close eye on Andrews's companion as the trio approached the corral; she having nothing but suspicions about what was about to go down. Andrews and his partner walking some ten feet ahead, Sally bringing up the rear; she watching every move of the two men with a gimlet eye, the possibility of sudden bushwhacking on their part being obvious and clear. But all passed off without incident as they reached the tall pole fence surrounding the corral.
"So, what's yer pleasure, leddy?" Andrews coming the dandy as he turned to grin at his opponent.
"Here's fine." Sally suddenly realising what the two mens' plan was. "You stay right there; ye're partner kin shuffle off, oh, say another twenty yards thet-away."
"Ye heerd the leddy, Joe."
With this command the tall man scowled fiercely at Sally, then turned to walk off the stated distance; this still, as Sally well knew, leaving him within easy shooting range of her all the same.
Several differing scenarios now passed through her mind as they prepared for action. Firstly, was she covering Harry's line of fire; either of Andrews, or his partner? Second, obviously the men were going to open up on her together so who should she aim for first? Third, would Harry smoke the situation, and lend a hand to best effect; and again, if so, who should she, Sally, hit first?
The tall man had reached his mark and turned to face Sally, who now pinned Andrews with her green eyes.
"This seems all kosher; what say—"
But events now outran Sally's questions; without any signal on his part Andrews' left hand dove for his weapon in its holster round his wide waist; his partner doing the same, except with his right hand. Then the quiet vicinity of the way-station echoed to the deep thunder of gunfire from several quarters and directions.
A cloud of grey smoke embraced the trio by the corral, single shots sounding like whips snapping over the heads of recalcitrant steeds. Somewhere over in the unattended scrub surrounding the station another loud booming crack came; while, standing by the station's main entrance, the bar-tender—now fully armed with his short-barreled shotgun—entered the fray on his own terms, aiming for the shadowy form of Andrews in the distance.
The entire event lasted, taking the sound of sustained gunfire as a rule of thumb, no more than twenty seconds, then all was silence again. There was a cloud of smoke by the station's door, where the bar-tender's shotgun had got off both barrels; there was an accompanying cloud of smoke hanging over the distant scrub, where some unknown and unseen assailant had, unexpectedly to the spectators, opened fire getting off at least three shots: and by the corral, the wider pall of smoke now clearing, could be seen one standing form and two bundles of clothes on the ground, wisps of smoke still rising from their inert forms as if they were about to catch fire. The Gunfight at Butterfield's Station was over.
"Nice shootin', Harry. Fancies ye might'a saved my hide."
"Ah, nuthin' to it, leddy." Henrietta blushing as they all stood by the side of the corral, inspecting the dead forms of the former shootist and his companion. "Once I see's both men comin' out along'a ya I knew straight what the play was gon'na be. Jest a matter o'watchin' fer the first sign, then I let off straight an' sure. It was my first bullet thet hit Andrews, in course."
"Nah, ye're wrong there, my friend." Sally having no agreement whatever with this announcement. "I put three in Andrews well afore yer bullet took his right arm near clean off at the shoulder. But I must say the way ye dealt with the tall guy was nice; that bullet low in the hip near cut him in half."
"Weren't my bullet did thet, dear; the bar-tender's shotgun's responsible fer same." Henrietta giving honour where it was due. "Dam' fine shootin', especially with a shotgun at thet distance. So, it's all over, then?"
"Seems thet-away, 'cept fer the buryin', of course." Sally considering the mundane details now the drama was over. "Think this station kin ante-up a coupl'a shovels? Where'd we better take the remains, d'ye think?"
In the last few minutes, unexpected gunfight notwithstanding, ordinary life had carried on regardless around the purlieus of the station. The Phoenix stage, under the control of Dan Beggs, had departed on its way to Red Flume on time now carrying a parcel of excited passengers. The other customers of the station had returned to their affairs inside the main room of the building; and the surviving participants of the late gunfight stood, considering what to do next.
"Far as I'm concerned, leddies, ye can do as yer please with this scum." The bar-tender and owner coughing deep in his throat before expectorating mightily, his cargo landing a respectable twelve feet off in the dust. "Nuthin ter me where they're carcasses is buried. Ye sez ye have sich under control? Well, go to it, I sez. Shovels, yeah, I got some somewhere's, gim'me a minute."
"Talkin' o'minute's, partner, ye happen t'know what the present time is, anyways?" Sally returning to an earlier matter of some import to her.
"Sally, fer God's sake—"
"Time, yeah, I got a clock back in my office keeps railway time; each stage-coach driver brings it as a matter o'course. Dan Beggs's jest set my chronometer t'rights five minutes since. Wan'na set yer watch, or what?"
Two hours later, well out in the wastes of the surrounding scrub and desert far from the way-station, the women had picked their spot; two borrowed horses from the distant station bearing the necessary cargo.
"This here look's as if it'll do fine." Henrietta casting an experienced eye around the spot chosen. "Scrub all about; dry sand underfoot; an' no nat'ral detail o'significance anywhere's by ter pinpoint the place—couldn't be better. Here, I'm feelin' weary, you start the diggin', lover."
"In a pig's eye, darlin'." Sally being way sharper than to fall for this old chestnut. "We digs t'gether, or we don't dig at all. Here, this shovel's got a longer handle, you kin take it. Well, don't jest stand around like a bride at a wedding where the groom's had second thoughts—these here remains ain't about t'inter their-sel's ye know."
"Get on with it, woman."
Another 'Red Flume' story will arrive shortly.