The rider was lean and hard, tanned the color of old oak by a life in the saddle. He had the quiet confidence
of a man used to riding the beef and getting the herd through on time. The dun colored sorrel he rode in on was
just as lean and muscled, the reins plaited by a practiced hand, Mexican style. Well worn bandoliers crisscrossed
his chest while a gun belt showed the handles of a pair of Colt Dragoons. There was Sharps carbine snug in the
He rode in from the west, reaching the outskirts of town along towards noon. It had been a hot and dusty ride and
he was looking forward to talking to someone other than himself. Riding herd was a lonely business, profitable to
be sure, but there was no one to talk to other than a thousand head of Texas longhorns and some Mexicali wranglers.
He reined in to slap some of the dust off and take a good first sniff of big city air. That, plus the prospect of some
hot food, and maybe even a bath, brought a thin smile to his trail-chapped lips. Yeah, that was Tombstone alright. Man
didn't need to be too particular about his looks or his manners, better he look to the condition of his sidearms, and
that they sat loose enough in their holsters. Last ride into town a couple years back had been a blur of riding, drinking,
That done, he chirruped and the sorrel trotted towards town, eager for a good feed and a rub down. They rode past a newer
wooden sign that had passel of writing on it. Right then a stranger stepped out into the street in front of him and held
up his left hand like he was about to swear an oath at the courthouse. "Hold up there mister, where do think you're going?"
"Who's the hell's askin'?"
"That would be me," said the stranger. He had all the confidence of a man who was in the right to be asking. The rider took
note of that and reined in before answering.
"Goin' into town to git me a beer and somethin' t'eat other than beans and beef. That against the law?"
"Might be. Seems to me you're packing a lot of iron there, friend, you expecting trouble?"
"Not unless somebody gets in my way. Don't allow for nobody to tell me what's what, 'cludin you."
The stranger stood his ground, left hand hanging down by his side, right hand shading the brim of his hat. "Yeah,
that's what I kinda figured. Don't recall seeing you around here before mister, you new to these parts?"
"Been a while. What's it to you?" His right hand moved to rest lightly on the carved bone handle of the Dragoon on his hip.
"Well, I'm kinda new here myself, mister, I've taken to wearing the star in this town. I'm the law hereabouts."
"That a fact." The fingers of the rider's right hand slowly stretched out over the holster, palm resting lightly
on the butt of the gun inside.
"That's a fact, says so right here." The stranger folded back the lapels of his frock coat to show off his own matched
Colt forty-fives. The metal pinned to the left side of his vest glinted brightly in the midday sun, it read Deputy U.S.
Marshal, and he looked every inch the part, dressed from head to toe in black, large mustachios curving cross his jaws,
dark flinty eyes staring out from under a black wide brimmed hat. As cold and as forbidding looking as any lawman might
want to be.
"Things have changed since you were last through these parts, mister. You might want to reconsider that," said the Deputy
Marshal, nodding at the gun belt. "In fact you kind of have to, we don't allow guns inside the town limits anymore. It's
the law and I'm bound to uphold that law. This here's a peaceable town and we want to keep it that way."
"That a fact?" The rider's brow furrowed, this was a new on him, towns without guns. How was man supposed to defend himself,
or his honor, if he couldn't shoot what was troubling him?
"Yessir it is, city council passed the ordinance some time ago."
"You're still packin'."
"So I am, but I got the right, you don't"
"Says you. Been packin' iron all my life, don't need no tin star saying I cain't no more. You don't got the right."
"That may be, out there on the trail, but in town here it's my say so, and I say you can't. Now, the way I see it,
we got two ways . . . "
At this point they were joined by an older, grey-haired man stuffed into badly scuffed brown boots, oversized grey
flannel pants and a red plaid shirt. He shuffled his way up to the Marshal's side, a double-barreled scattergun
crooked in his left arm. He had a bent and battered tin star pinned to worn black suspenders. This was Rufus,
former town drunk, now a town Sheriff.
"Sorry I'm late Marshal, plumb forgot where I put the shells for this darn thing. He causing you any trouble?"
"Not yet he isn't. I'm just telling him what's what." The Deputy Marshal never took his eyes off the stranger, his
polished black boots planted firmly in the ground. He'd stared down many a rider in his day, his steely nerves having
disarmed more than one cowpoke with a grudge and a gun. "Like that sign back there says, this is as far as you go with
those irons." The Deputy Marshal's hands moved closer to his own.
"That don't mean nothin', cain't read a lick," groused the rider. "Like I said, got everything I need right here,"
patting the well-worn handle of his Dragoon.
There were two loud metallic clicks and the scattergun came to life, aimed at the rider's chest.
"Like I said, this here's a law abiding town, mister. Got us street lights, faro tables, and a law that says you can't
wear a gun nor shoot a man just because you want to. Hell, we even got cold beer."
"Cold Beer? That a fact?"
"Hell, yeah. The barkeep down to the Grand Hotel just got load of ice last week. Man can't hardly hold
his glass it gets so froze up."
"Cold beer, eh? Ain't had one of them in a while."
"See you're packing a Sharps, haven't seen one of those in a while myself. Most cowpokes these days carry
a Winchester. Mind my asking where you got it?"
The rider paused for a moment before answering, as though the memory of it was more painful than he was willing to admit.
It had been a while since anyone had asked about his old friend.
"Yeah, I mind." He paused for a moment. "Got 'er off of one of Pickett's boys down to Gettysburg. Had me a
Springfield but I couldn't get no shells fer it."
The Deputy Marshal smiled. "Yeah, thought that coat was a little grey. Way I hear it, you Rebs had a pretty
rough time down that way. Some big battle or other?"
"Yessir, we did at that, scared them bluecoats half to death." He chuckled quietly to himself. "Sure as hell was
crazy what we done, but we got at 'em right quick and darn near broke 'em. Thought the war just might be over for
a minute, but they done chased us off." He paused, the tanned creases of his face turning into puzzled look.
"How'd you know about that?"
"Man in town over to the train station, ticket agent, he talks about it all the time. He was there too, Yankee,
though. Said it was the darndest thing he'd ever seen. Scared the pants off him."
"Yessir, it was that. Lost a lot of good men that day."
"I don't doubt it." The Deputy paused. "Tell ya what, mister. You hand over them irons to 'ol Rufus here and I'll
stand you a couple of cold beers over to the Grand Hotel. Might be I'll stop by later and you can tell me all about
it. Sounds like it was a helluva thing."
"Over to the Hotel, ya say?"
"Yup. Gotta pass by the Train Station to get to it. Just up ahead a little and off to your right."
The Dragoons, a LeMat revolver, a Bowie Knife and the Sharps made a deadly pile on the ground in front of Rufus. The
Marshal touched the brim of his hat in salute to the rebel who did the same in return, and then rode on in.
"Marshal, Marshal!" That was Jimmy, Miss Julia's boy. She ran the boarding house down near the jail. He ran up and stood
right in front of the Deputy Marshal, hopping up and down like he had ants in his pants.
"Whoa up there, cowboy. What's all the fuss?"
"Marshal, Marshal, you gotta come right away. Virgil's looking fer ya!"
"My brother Virgil? What does he want?"
"Yessir, he says to get along back into town quick as you can. The Clanton's are in town down to the corral. The OK.
They're asking fer ya."
"That a fact?"