The Lancer Fanfiction Archive

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SandySha

 

Tombstone Territory - Riding The Silver Trail

* A Crossover Story: Lancer/Tombstone Territory
Inspired by the television series Tombstone Territory, which aired for three seasons from 1957 to 1960. The most memorable part of the show was the theme song, Whistle Me Up A Memory. Here’s a link to the song: Press Ctrl and then click:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5WED9j9ZnE

**Note: Literary license taken as Tombstone was actually founded as a mining town in 1879
**Thanks to Alice Marie for help with the beta

Whistle me up a memory
Whistle me back where I want to be
Whistle a tune that will carry me
To Tombstone Territory

An actual account from the pages of my newspaper, the Tombstone Epitaph.

*****

Stepping out of my office, I looked around and took a deep breath. The clear early morning air was fresh and crisp, but I knew it wouldn’t last.  August in the Arizona Territory was always hot and humid and this year was no exception. What was called the Arizona Monsoon season was upon us.

Lately, news for the Epitaph had been slow. The highlights of the paper had been the Ladies Sewing Bee, the Church Social, Mrs. Dancy’s cat once again up a tree, Jack Felton’s arrest for being drunk and disorderly… again, and of course, the weather; always the weather.

In trying to bring more exciting and colorful stories to the paper, I’d been working on a series of articles about the most dangerous men in the west, both outlaws and gunfighters. Never would I have imagined one of those men would pick today to ride into Tombstone and into the chronicles of the Epitaph.

My name is Harris Claibourne, and this is the way it happened in the town too tough to die.

*****

Tombstone - Arizona Territory, the morning of August 3rd, 1868

The town was coming to life as I began a leisurely stroll towards the Sheriff’s office to see if my friend, Clay Hollister, wanted to join me for breakfast. I hadn’t taken two steps before drawing up short.

A lone rider, silhouetted by the rising sun, was making his way down the street. I didn’t know who he was, but I had a feeling my business was about to pick up.

I wasn’t the only one who had seen the rider.

Standing outside his office, Sheriff Clay Hollister watched the stranger as he moved further along the street.

At 6’ 3”, Clay Hollister made an imposing sight as his hands rested on the butts of his guns. The Sheriff of Tombstone was one of the few men I knew who wore two guns and was an expert with both.  

Joining Clay on the boardwalk, I waited until the stranger stopped in front of the saloon before asking, “You know who he is?”

I spoke without taking my eyes off the man who was now taking his time stepping down from his horse. In its short history, Tombstone had seen its share of trouble, and somehow, I knew the dark-haired man wearing the red shirt and silver conchos on his pants was bringing more with him.

“I know who he is. I just wonder what he’s doing in Tombstone?”

I was able to get a closer look at the man when he turned to look our way. A slight smile crossed his face.

“He’s just a boy,” I observed in a whisper.

“Don’t let his looks fool you, Harris. He’s no boy.”

I waited for Clay to tell me who our visitor was, but he didn’t say another word. Impatiently, I asked, “Well, don’t keep me in suspense, who is he?”

Clay didn’t answer; just kept his eyes fixed on the young man.

A few seconds passed and I saw the stranger start towards us. Watching him saunter across the street, his right hand hanging loosely near the gun tied low on his hip, I noted his air of confidence.  

When he stopped in front of us, the gunfighter, for there was no doubt that was what he was, tipped his hat.

“Sheriff.”

“Madrid.”

Madrid? I did a double-take. Could this be one of the men I’d been gathering information on for the Epitaph?

“What brings you to Tombstone?” Clay’s hand hung loosely near his holster.

Madrid smiled and stepped onto the boardwalk next to Clay. Unlike other pistoleros I’d seen, Madrid’s smile made it to his dark blue eyes, making him look even younger. I guessed that the gunfighter standing in front of me was no more than seventeen, perhaps eighteen years old.

“I’ve got business in town.”

“As a gunfighter?” Clay glanced down at the Colt on Madrid’s hip. “We don’t need your kind of business here.”

“You see any wanted posters on me, Sheriff?”

“No.”

“And you won’t,” Madrid drawled. “I’m not here for trouble.”

“You still haven’t answered my question. What’s your business in Tombstone?”

Clay’s fingers tapped his holsters. The slight movement hadn’t gone unnoticed by the gunfighter.

“I’m here to see someone.”

“Who?”

“A fellow by the name of William Griffith.”

“Griffith, of the Tombstone Gold and Silver Mining Company?”

Madrid nodded. “That’s the one. He sent word he was looking for someone to guard his silver shipments.”

Clay raised an eyebrow. “Griffith wants to hire you?”

Madrid grinned. “Don’t look so surprised, Sheriff, I don’t just hire my gun out for range war.”

Clay was quiet long enough for me to jump in.

“Mr. Madrid, I’m Harris Claibourne, owner and editor of the Tombstone Epitaph.” Extending my hand, I saw a slight hesitation on Madrid’s part in accepting it.

“Mr. Claibourne.”

“Call me Harris, Mr. Madrid.”

Madrid tilted his head as if thinking and then replied, “The name’s Johnny. Not used to being called mister.”

I had to admit to myself I was slightly impressed with meeting Johnny Madrid. The journalist in me wanted to know more about the famous pistolero. Of course, I’d heard the stories and read most of the poorly written dime novels expounding on his exploits.

So far, none of those accounts were reflected in the man standing in front of me. For one, he was far too young to have done all the things he was supposed to have done.  For another, there was something about his eyes; eyes that lacked the dead, lifeless look I’d seen in other gunfighters.

“So,” Madrid’s voice brought me out of my musings, “William Griffith?”

Clay answered, shifting so that he leaned against a post and nodded toward the Mining Company offices.

“Over there, across the street, but it’s a bit early for him.”

Madrid looked toward the mining office and sighed.

Once again, I interjected into the conversation.
 
“I was just going to ask Sheriff Hollister if he wanted to join me for breakfast.” Not sure if I was doing the right thing, I hesitantly asked, “Would you like to join us?”

It was Madrid’s turn to look surprised before he gave me another smile. “Yeah, I’d like that.  Haven’t had much except trail rations since El Paso.”

Madrid looked at Clay to see if he was going to object.

“I think that’s a good idea, Harris.” Clay waved Madrid down the boardwalk. “Maude Jennings’ cooking is the best in town.”

Clay and Madrid walked side by side ahead of me, which allowed me to spend a few minutes scrutinizing the gunfighter.

I noticed Madrid made a point of walking to Clay’s right so that he was closest to the street. His stride matched Clay’s, or was it the other way around? Although Clay was taller than Madrid, I had the distinct feeling Clay was trying to keep up with the gunfighter.

While his left arm swung freely, Madrid’s right hand stayed close to his holster. There were slight movements to his head. I soon realized he was glancing left and right as we walked and once, he glanced over his shoulder at me. This was a man who was aware of his surroundings at all times.

When we reached the restaurant, Clay opened the door, waving me to enter ahead of them.

Madrid shook his head. “If you don’t mind, Sheriff, I’ll go first.”

Clay shrugged and moved aside.  

Madrid peered over his shoulder, scanning the street, then turned back to the door. He stepped inside the building and paused. I noticed he took a deliberate step to his right before moving across the room to a table in the back.

Clay and I walked in. We watched Madrid pull a table away from the wall, move a chair around so that he faced the door, and then sit down. We looked at each other and then moved across the room to join him.

Maude Jennings stood aside and watched the three us for a moment before approaching the table.

“Sheriff Hollister, Harris, good morning.” She turned to peer down at Madrid. “And who do we have here?”

Before either Clay or I could answer, Madrid quickly took off his hat and spoke up, giving her a brilliant smile, “Johnny, ma’am. Just Johnny.”

Maude smiled.  “Well, Johnny, you look like you could stand a decent meal. What do you say I bring steak and eggs with a side of fried potatoes?”

“That sounds fine, ma’am, just fine.”

Maude smiled and I almost laughed when I heard the gunfighter’s stomach growl. She turned away from Madrid and looked at Clay and me.

“Sheriff, what would you like?”

“Ham and eggs, Maude.” Clay leaned back, relaxing in his chair.

“Harris?”

“The same, Maude… and coffee.”

“Well, of course, coffee,” she responded with a smile.

As Maude started to turn away, Madrid spoke up again.

“Ma’am, I’d like milk, that is if you have any.”

Maude nodded. “Milk it is.”

Madrid looked at the expression on Clay’s face.

“What? Didn’t get much milk where I came from as a kid. Can’t get enough of it now.”

For the next half hour, I had one of the most unusual meals I’d ever had. I was actually sitting with Johnny Madrid eating breakfast. While Clay and I talked about what was happening in town, Madrid ate with gusto and listened. We didn’t ask any questions and he didn’t offer anything of himself.   

It was when we were telling him about the exploits of Mrs. Dancy’s cat he laughed, choked, and spewed milk across the table. Grabbing a napkin, he covered his mouth and uttered an apology, “Lo siento.”

I knew it meant ‘sorry,’ but it didn’t fit the image of the man I’d formed.  My mind was working overtime on the story I wanted to write about Johnny Madrid. The contradictions were building. Legendary pistoleros didn’t apologize or laugh or spew milk out of their mouths.

No, Johnny Madrid wasn’t like any gunfighter I’d ever seen or met.

When we stood to leave, Clay laid money on the table for the three of us and started for the door. Madrid reached out, grabbing his left arm.

“I pay my own way, Sheriff.”

Clay and Madrid were facing off over the tab when Maude intervened. She held out her hand, placing it over Madrid’s.

“This one is on me, Gentlemen.” She reached down and picked up the money on the table and handed it back to Clay. While Clay accepted the cash, Madrid shook his head and reached into his pocket.

“Ma’am, you don’t have to do that.”

“It’s my treat, Johnny. You come back and see me. I bake a mean apple pie, just ask Harris. You come back at lunch and I’ll save you a piece.”

Madrid gave her one of those warm smiles we’d become accustomed to over the last half hour. “Yes, ma’am, I’ll do that.”

We stepped out of the restaurant and onto the boardwalk. I looked at Madrid and, in a split second, saw the young man who had been relaxed in the restaurant turn into a gunfighter, ready to defend himself at a moment's notice.

Madrid’s eyes went to the office building across the street.

“Looks like the mining office is open.”

I extended my hand. “It was good meeting you, Johnny.”

“You too.”

Madrid shook my hand, tipped his hat to Clay and turned away. We watched until he entered the Mining Company office.

Clay waited a moment, still watching the door. As if making up his mind, he looked at me.

“I think I’ll see what Bill Griffith has in mind.”

I stood alone watching Clay Hollister cross the street and disappear through the door.

 

*****

Johnny Madrid stepped into the small, dimly lit outer office of the Tombstone Gold and Silver Mining Company. A low counter ran almost the full width of the room and there was a door in the back that looked like it went to another office, most probably that of William Griffith.

Looking around, he noted three people in the room. A pretty, petite, blond-haired woman sat at a desk just inside the front door. She looked up when he stepped in and closed the door.

“May I help you?” Doris Barnes asked. The woman had worked for William Griffith for over a year doing the Mining Company books and acting as a receptionist.

Johnny eyed the two other people in the room, both men, both in their mid-thirties.

He noticed the clean-shaven man with light brown hair closest to him was wearing a gun. One look told him it wasn’t tied down or low on his hip, the man who was no threat.

The other man, tall dark-haired with a mustache, was wearing a suit, complete with vest and tie, similar to the one Harris Claibourne wore. Johnny noticed he wasn’t wearing a sidearm. This he assumed was William Griffith, the man he’d come to see.

Johnny turned back to the young lady.

“Yes, ma’am. I’m looking for William Griffith.”  

He pushed his hat off his head so that it hung by the stampede string and then smiled.

“Yes…” Doris blushed slightly and cleared her throat, “may I ask your name?”

“Madrid, ma’am, Johnny Madrid.”

Doris’ eyes widened, while her hand went to her throat, suddenly at a loss for words.

Knowing from experience, the effect his name had on most people, he asked, “Is he in?”

Overhearing the conversation between Doris and Madrid, the man in the suit stepped forward.

“I’m Bill Griffith.” Then turning to the woman. “I’ll take care of Mr. Madrid, Doris.”

“Yes, sir,” she replied, but couldn’t take her eyes off the handsome young man standing in front of her desk.

Johnny looked at Griffith’s extended hand and took it.

“I’ve been expecting you.”

“Is the job still open, Mr. Griffith?”

“Yes, the job is still available. Won’t you come to my office so we can talk?”

Griffith motioned Johnny into a smaller office at the rear of the building. He’d taken only a step when the door to the building opened. Johnny spun around, his hand on the butt of his gun, ready to draw.

Clay Hollister walked inside and froze, knowing he’d startled the young gunfighter.

Bill Griffith took control of the situation. “Sheriff, this is an unexpected pleasure. What can I do for you?”

Clay closed the office door and walked over to stand beside Griffith.

“I understand you’re going to start shipping again. Are you going to hire Madrid to guard the shipments?”

“I planned to hire him. Is there a problem?”

“No, no problem. I think you’ve got the right man for the job. I just wanted to let you know I’m available to help in any way I can.”

At the Sheriff’s answer, Griffith relaxed his shoulders. However, Johnny noted the other man in the room remained tense.

“I was about to discuss the job with Mr. Madrid. Would you like to join us, Sheriff?”

“No, that won’t be necessary, Bill. I have rounds to make.” Turning to Johnny, Clay smiled. “Lunch?”

Johnny nodded. “What time?”

“Say 12:30.”

“12:30 sounds good. Harris going to join us?”

“I’ll check with him. He likes Maude’s apple pie, and now that he knows she’s baking one just for you, I can’t imagine he’d miss it.”

Clay tipped his hat to the others and walked to the door, opened it, and stepped outside.

Bill Griffith cleared his throat. “You know the Sheriff?”

Johnny nodded. “Had breakfast with him and Harris Claibourne, nice fellows.”

Griffith smiled. “Well, then shall we discuss the job?”

Griffith led the way. Johnny hesitated, wondering if the other man was going to join them.  When the man didn’t move, Johnny followed Griffith into his office and closed the door behind him.

Griffith walked behind his desk and sat down.

“Mr. Madrid, I have to be honest with you; the job won’t be easy. We’ve had a series of robberies of late and … two of my shotgun guards were killed.”

Johnny understood. He’d had jobs as a guard before and knew the risks involved.

“You ship from Tombstone to Tucson?”

“Yes.”

“Always take the same route?”

“Yes, it’s the most direct, and frankly, the only road a heavily loaded wagon can travel over.”

Johnny dropped his head, thinking.

“You have a shotgun guard for this shipment?”

“I do. His name is Webb Pickard. He’s the man I was with when you came in.”

“Mr. Griffith, how many people know when your shipments go out?”

Thinking for a moment, he answered, “Me, of course, and Doris, the driver, the shotgun guard, and the office in Tucson waiting for the shipment.” Griffith took a deep breath and exhaled. “I see what you mean. There are a lot of people who know.”

Johnny’s eyes fixed on Griffith until the man looked away.   

“How much does the job pay?”

Bill Griffith returned his gaze to the young man in front of him, forgetting for a moment to who he was talking.

“One hundred dollars.”

Johnny chuckled, while at the same time shaking his head and shifting his right hand to the butt of his gun.

“Five hundred.”

Bill sputtered. “Five hundred? Why that’s….”

He’d started to say ‘highway robbery’ then he remembered the reputation of the man he’d sent for to help him. Five hundred dollars was a lot of money, but the gunman was putting his life on the line to get thousands of dollars of silver through.

“Five hundred, it is.”

“For each shipment.”

Bill briefly hesitated and then nodded. “Agreed.”

“Two fifty up front and the rest when I get the shipment through. I’ll expect the rest when I get to Tucson.”

“And if you don’t get the shipment through?’

“Then, I won’t need the rest, will I?” The faint smile on Johnny’s face slid away as he stood. Picking up the money his new boss tossed on the desk, he folded the bills and put them in his pocket. Looking Griffith in the eye, he finished, “If I don’t get the shipment through, I’ll be dead.”

“Aren’t you going to count it?”

“Oh, I trust you, Mr. Griffin,” Johnny stated, giving Bill a cold stare. “I know you wouldn’t try and cheat me.”

Slightly unnerved, Griffith stood.

“Well, then let me introduce you to the others.”

Leading the way out the door, Bill Griffith stopped in the outer office.

“Webb. Doris. This is….”

“We know who he is, Bill,” Pickard interrupted. Walking forward, Pickard extended his hand. “I’ll be riding shotgun on the next shipment, Madrid.”

Johnny took the hand and felt it slip away almost immediately.

Turning back to Griffith, Johnny asked, “When is the next shipment due to leave?”

“Now that you’re on the payroll, I’d like to ship tomorrow. Is that alright with you?”

“Fine by me. I’ll be here at ….?”

“6:00.”

Putting his hat on his head, Johnny nodded and then turned to the door.

“See you in the morning.”                                                                                

Walking outside, Johnny smiled. It always felt good to have money in his pocket. His last job in El Paso hadn’t paid all that much and he was down to his last few dollars when he rode into Tombstone. He was surprised Griffith hadn’t balked at the amount. $500 was a lot for riding guard, but he knew he was worth it. William Griffith was paying for his reputation as well as his gun.

Heading for the hitching rail where he’d tied his horse, he looked around for the livery stable. That would be his first stop. After that, he needed a place to stay and get supplies for the trip to Tucson.

*****

At 12:30, Clay Hollister walked into Maude Jennings’ Cafe, where I was already seated.  He laughed when he saw where I was sitting; the back-corner table.

“Harris,” Clay said as he sat down and looked at the vacant chair between us, the chair that would put Madrid’s back to the wall and give him a good view of the front door.

Clay tossed his hat on the table and turned his head toward the front door. “You believe he’ll come?”

“Maude does. She had the table set when I got here.”

The sound of the restaurant door opening drew not only our attention but the others in the room. Standing in the doorway, backlit by the sun, was our gunfighter.  I’ll admit a slight shiver ran down my spine at the sight of him.  

With a slight smile on his face, Madrid moved across the room towards us. Just as quickly as the shiver came, it was gone and replaced by a feeling… I’m not sure exactly how I felt, but it was almost a feeling of meeting a close friend.

Johnny, (that’s what I’d decided to start calling him) slipped into his seat and hung his hat on the chairback. Addressing him as Madrid was too formal for the young man I was beginning to know and admittedly like.

Maude approached the table with a coffee pot in her hand.  She poured a cup for Clay and Harris and then looked at Johnny.

“Milk?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Our special today is chicken and dumplings. Will that be alright with everyone?”

Getting nods from everyone, Maude hurried to the kitchen. She returned within minutes with three plates of the house special and a glass of milk.
 
I couldn’t contain my curiosity any longer and finally spoke up, “Johnny, I take it you got the job?”

We were rewarded with another of the young man’s single word responses. “Yeah.”

“When do you start?”

Johnny had started to take a bite of his meal and stopped with the fork halfway to his mouth.

“Now, Mr. Editor, it wouldn’t be good business on my part to talk about the particulars of the job, especially with a newspaperman. Now, would it?”

“Point taken,” I laughed. “Although I was asking out of curiosity and not as a reporter.”

“You know what they say about curiosity and the cat, don’t you, Harris?” Clay pointed out as he started his meal.

“Alright, I won’t ask any questions about the Mining Company. I’m just glad Bill Griffith has come to his senses and hired someone to guard his shipments. The shotgun guards alone aren’t enough.”

Johnny didn’t say anything.

“You found a place to stay?” Clay asked.

“The hotel. They had a room overlooking the street. It’s got a good view of your office, Sheriff.”

“Keeping an eye on me, Madrid?”

Johnny laughed. “No, but figured it would be easier for you to keep track of me if you knew all you had to do was look up.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

We concentrated on the meal, which was delicious as usual. It wasn’t until Maude came to clean the table that we sat back with a collective sigh.

“That was real good, Miz Maude, real good.”

Madrid’s distinctive drawl brought a smile to Maude’s face.

“Thank you. Now, are you ready for pie?”

Another smile had Maude shaking her head.

“You know, young man, you are a heartbreaker. I bet every young filly on both sides of the border has her hat set on you.”

Johnny’s smile disappeared.

“Oh, don’t you worry, Johnny. I know who you are; knew this morning. You’re more than welcome here. I have a lot of friends across the border who you’ve helped out over the years. I can’t wait to tell them I’ve finally met you. Now, you relax and I’ll get that pie.”

Maude started to turn away and then as if an afterthought she looked at Clay and me. “Would you two like pie?”

“That would be nice, Maude,” I answered for both of us.

Clay shook his head. “Madrid, do you have that effect on all women?”

Johnny shrugged and gave us a slight smile. “Women just like me.”

‘I’m sure they do.’ I didn’t say it aloud but took a closer look at the handsome young man. I could see why women would be attracted to the boyish face with his tan complexion and blue eyes.

It was obvious he was part Mexican, part American; what the Mexicans called a mestizo. An unpleasant term used for those of mixed blood. I could only imagine what kind of life he’d had growing up along the border where mestizos were treated like animals, sometimes less than animals.

Watching as Johnny talked to Clay, I saw faint smiles and an occasional laugh. From what I knew of mestizo life, I was amazed the boy was even able to smile. I’d heard stories that when a mestizo child was born, the mother or her family would take the newborn and drown it in the closest river.  That was the life he’d grown up in, fighting just to exist.

Johnny suddenly broke off the conversation with Clay and turned to me.

“Harris, you’ve been quiet.”

“Just thinking.”

“About me?”

I nodded.

“So, what do you want to ask? I know you’re just aching to ask me something.”

I sat back and looked into the blue eyes of the man sitting next to me. I’d decided I liked the young gunfighter and the time we’d spent together thus far. Maybe, I didn’t need to know more than I already did, at least not yet.

“Yes, I have questions, more than you can imagine, but I’ve decided I’m enjoying you more as a new friend than as a story.”

“Is that right?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“You’re not from around here, are you?”

I laughed. “No, I’m from Boston originally.”

Johnny leaned back. I could predict his next question.

“Boston? Where’s that?”

“On the east coast, about as far from Tombstone as you can get, a different world.” I suppose my answer reflected the longing I felt whenever I spoke of home.

“You miss it?”

“Sometimes. I miss the city life and the ocean. I miss my family and friends….”

“What’s that ocean called? I’ve seen the one west of here, the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico. I didn’t know there was another.”

“It’s called the Atlantic.”

We were silent while Johnny thought about it.

“I bet it gets cold back there, in Boston.”

“Yes, very cold. There are times when I do miss the cooler weather and even the snow.”

Johnny visibly shivered. “Never seen snow. Never been that far north, but I heard about it from gringos that crossed the border. Don’t think I’d like it much.”

Both Clay and I laughed.

“I bet you went to one of those fancy schools back east?”

“I did. I went to Harvard. That’s where I learned about journalism.”

“That word, jour…”

“Journalism. It means writing for newspapers or magazines.”

Johnny nodded. I could see he was captivated by the idea of learning a new word.

“Where did you go to school?”

I saw a slight blush on Johnny’s face and knew I’d brought up a touchy subject.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have…”

“It’s alright. I haven’t had much learning. Went to school when I could, but, well…, I learned more from life than I did from books.”

“You have a family?”

When he dipped his head, I knew I’d hit another touchy subject.

“No. My Mama died when I was eight. I’ve been mostly on my own ever since.”

“And your father?”

The boy’s head shot up, eyes blazing, he spat the words out.

“A rich gringo rancher in California, somewhere in the San Joaquin Valley. Turns out, he didn’t want a Mexican wife or a mestizo son. Kicked us both out when I was two.”

With that, I knew all subjects of Johnny’s personal life were closed.

Maude’s timing couldn’t have been better when she brought the pie and set an extra-large piece down in front of Johnny. I watched his eyes soften as he looked up at her.

“Miz Maude, I can’t eat all that. I’ll make myself sick. I’m not used to this much food at one time.”

“You eat what you can of it, honey. I’ll wrap up what you don’t eat and you can take it with you.”  

Maude went back to the kitchen and returned with another glass of milk for Johnny and coffee for Clay and me.

As we ate, it was Johnny’s turn to ask questions.

“Sheriff, what can you tell me about the silver robberies?”

Clay sat his fork down and took a sip of the coffee.

“Only that they’ve all been daylight robberies on the trail between Tombstone and Tucson. They’ve hit four of the last six shipments that went out.”

“Closer to Tucson or Tombstone?”

“Tucson.”

Johnny nodded. “How many men?”

“The drivers say they saw seven, but there could have been more.”

“So, the drivers have made it through each time?”

“That’s right. The drivers were alright, but two of the shotgun guards were killed.”

“Different drivers each time?”

“Yes and no. Doug Barnett was the driver for the first three and Harvey Cantrell drove the last run.”

“Who were the shotgun guards?”

Clay had to think. “The first robbery, the guard was Ike Jenkins. He was killed. The second robbery was Steve Barnett. The….”

Johnny interrupted. “Steve Barnett, any kin to Doug?”

“Yes, Steve and Doug are brothers.”

Johnny nodded. “Go ahead.”

“The third robbery Doug Barnett drove and Stan Fielding was the shotgun. Stan was killed. The fourth robbery Harvey Cantrell drove and Steve Barnett rode shotgun.”

“No one was killed on the second robbery or the last?”

“That’s right.”

“So, four robberies, different drivers, different shotgun guards. It don’t look like they had anything in common.”

Clay hesitated before saying, “They did get the silver each time.”

“How much do you figure they’ve got so far?”

“Right at two hundred thousand dollars from what Bill Griffith’s told me.”

Johnny whistled at the amount. 

“I can’t do it,” he took a deep breath and pushed the pie away. “With breakfast and now lunch and the pie, my stomach isn’t used to being this full.”

He’d eaten only a quarter of what Maude served him.

“I’ve got some things to take care of today and get ready….”  He stopped himself, realizing he was going to say something he shouldn’t.

Pushing back from the table, Johnny stood and picked up his hat. Reaching in his pocket, he pulled out enough coins to pay for the three meals and a generous tip for Maude. Clay and I somehow knew not to argue with him this time.

Maude rushed over and picked up Johnny’s pie dish. “I’ll wrap this for you, Johnny, in case you get hungry later.”

“Thank you, Miz Maude, it’s too good to let go to waste.”

It didn’t take Maude long before she returned and handed Johnny the pie she’d wrapped. He hefted the gift, noting it weighed more than he thought it would.

“Seems to me that pie got a lot bigger.”

Maude laughed, patted him on the cheek, and turned back to the kitchen.

Clay and I looked at the surprised expression on Johnny’s face.

“Told you women like me.” There it was again, a boyish grin that made him look younger than I guessed he was. He put his hat on and tipped the brim. “I’ll be seeing you both around. Sheriff. Harris.”

I’d made up my mind. I liked the young man, gunfighter or not, and I think Clay did as well.

*****

Tuesday, August 4th, 1868

Beginning my day as usual, I started for Maude Jennings Café for breakfast. I’d spent the afternoon the day before writing an article about … you guessed it, Johnny Madrid. I hadn’t completed it though, because I really didn’t know enough about him as yet to give my readers a clear picture of the man.

A wagon moved down the street and stopped in front of the Mining Company offices. I stopped to watch as Johnny stepped out of the door, paused, looked both ways, then waved two men forward. I recognized the men as Webb Pickard and Harvey Cantrell.

The men carried a wooden box with rope handles between them. I could tell it was heavy from the way the men strained to carry it.

‘So, Bill Griffith was going to ship his silver today.’

The young gunfighter scanned the street, his eyes falling on me. I smiled and raised my hand to wave and started to move to him. Without returning the smile, he shook his head ‘no’ and with his left hand indicated for me to stay where I was.

From where I stood, I could see Clay coming from the opposite direction toward Johnny and the wagon.

*****

While Pickard and Cantrell went back inside the office, Johnny Madrid stood, feet parted, hand on the butt of his gun. He was wearing the same red shirt as the day before only now he’d added a black bolero jacket which matched his pants. A silver concho belt and silver spurs gleamed in the morning sun. He looked every bit the notorious gunfighter I’d imagined when I started the article about him.

“Sheriff,” Johnny greeted Clay Hollister without taking his eyes off the street.

Clay stopped behind the wagon, looked in the bed, and then back to the gunfighter.

“How much are you carrying?”

Johnny didn’t answer.

“I get it. I should be asking Griffith, right?”

I could see Johnny turn his head, giving Clay one of his faint smiles.

The two men helping with the wagon came out of the office again, carrying another box. Bill Griffith followed them.

“Clay, it’s good to see you,” Griffith said as he handed Johnny the paperwork that went along with the shipment he’d be protecting.

“Bill, you’ve decided to ship?”

“Now that I have someone to protect the shipments, yes.”

“How much are you shipping?” Clay asked, cutting his eyes to Johnny.

Bill Griffith looked around and then lowered both his head and voice. “Eighteen boxes with 10 bars of bullion each.”

“One hundred eighty bars? What’s the going rate?”

“$2.00 an ounce the last I checked.” Griffith quickly answered the question Clay was going to ask. “Each bar is 100 ounces or $200.00. This shipment has 180 bars worth $36,000.”

Clay frowned. “Are you sure one guard’s enough?”

“From what I know of Mr. Madrid’s reputation, I think this shipment will make it through without much trouble.”

Clay turned to face the gunfighter.

“How do you feel about it, Madrid?”

“With the driver and shotgun guard to handle the wagon, I’ll take care of watching their backs. We’ll get through alright.”

After the last box was loaded, Pickard climbed into the driver’s seat of the now low riding wagon.

“You’re set to go, Mr. Madrid. I’ll wire Tucson to let my partner Gabe Stinson know you’re on the way,” Bill announced.

Johnny frowned.

“Hold on, Mr. Griffith. I don’t want you wiring anyone. The fewer people that know we’re on the way, the better.”

Griffith paused, started to protest and then relented.

“If you say so, I’ll hold up.”

Johnny looked directly at Griffith, motioning him to move closer to the wagon.

Clay took a step forward. “What wrong, Madrid?”

“Mr. Griffith, how many shipments have you lost?”

Griffith sighed. “Four.”

“How many of those shipments did you wire ahead to let Tucson know they were on the way?”

Griffith swallowed hard. “All of them.”

Johnny’s eyes went to Clay. “Sheriff….”

“I know where you’re going with this, Madrid. Someone either on this end or in Tucson is tipping off the robbers.”

“That’s right.” Johnny surveyed the street once more. “Mr. Griffith, don’t say anything to anyone and don’t send that wire. I’ll let you know when we get to Tucson.”

“You really believe someone who works for me is behind the robberies?”

“I don’t know for sure, but I’d just rather not take any chances.”

Johnny walked to the hitching rail and untied his horse. Swinging into the saddle, he called down to the driver and shotgun guard.

“Let’s go, boys. Daylights burning here.”

Harvey Cantrell flicked the reins and the wagon jerked forward while Webb Pickard made himself comfortable. As the wagon moved out, Johnny tipped his hat.

Griffith raised a hand. “Good luck, I’ll wait to hear from you.” 

As Johnny rode passed me, he raised two fingers to his hat and nodded. “I’ll see you in a few days.”

Watching my young friend ride out of town, I had an ominous feeling and hoped I would, indeed, see him in a few days.

*****

Tucson, Arizona -Tuesday, August 4th, 1868 - mid-morning

Gabe Stinson, sat at his desk, thumbing through papers and invoices. He’d been with the Tucson branch of the Tombstone Gold and Silver Mining Company since the beginning. Originally, he and his partner Bill Griffith had owned the company.

Four years ago, they’d been approached by a Consortium out of Boston wanting to buy the company. The offer they received was too good to resist. For fifty thousand dollars each, they’d sold the company, with the understanding they would stay on as managers with a sizeable salary.

For four years, he’d worked hard, kept his nose to the grindstone, and moved more silver and gold through the office than anyone thought possible. Business had been good, very good.

The door to the office opened, drawing Stinson’s attention.

“Mr. Stinson,” Barry Finch said, “I have a telegram for you.”

The young runner for the telegraph office approached the desk and handed over the message.

“Thank you, Barry.” Stinson took the telegram and handed the boy a quarter. He then opened the envelope and smiled.

Finally, another shipment was coming through to Tucson. Bill Griffith had stopped the silver shipments until he hired a gunfighter to ride protection. Madrid must have arrived in Tombstone.

Standing, Stinson was still smiling as he headed for the door. There were things he needed to do to get ready for the silver shipment.

******

Later that same day on the trail to Tucson

Tucson, the current capital of the Arizona Territory, lay seventy miles northwest of Tombstone. The land between the two was mostly arid desert and made for easy travel. So much silver was transported between Tombstone and Tucson that the route became known as The Silver Trail.

*****

The morning had gone by quickly and quietly. Thus far, it had been easy going and they’d crossed the San Pedro River at its narrowest point close to an hour ago without any problems.

Johnny spent the morning scouting the trail ahead and then circling around, back-trailing. There hadn’t been any signs of trouble.   

Catching up with the wagon, he called out, “Cantrell, time for a break.”

The heat of the day had steadily built as the morning passed and he knew both the men and horses needed a breather.

Harvey Cantrell stopped the wagon and jumped down. Webb Pickard did the same. Both men headed to the bushes to take care of their needs. Johnny dismounted and stretched. Giving his surroundings a quick once over, he reached in his saddlebags for a piece of jerky.  He hadn’t eaten much breakfast, never did when he was on the job.  

Johnny didn’t trust either Cantrell or Pickard; then again, Johnny Madrid didn’t trust most men. He had no proof, but deep down, his instincts told him one or both of the men had to be involved with the silver robberies and the murders of Griffith’s men.  

After resting the team for thirty minutes, Johnny motioned for Cantrell to move out.

*****

Riding alongside the wagon, Johnny craned his neck, trying to look in all directions at once. He’d had a bad feeling for the last five miles that something was wrong.

The sound of a horse coming up fast from behind caused him to draw his gun and rein his horse around.

“Keep going,” he called out to the wagon driver.

Cantrell looked over his shoulder, nodded, and flicked the reins causing the horses to move faster.  The shotgun guard swung around, aiming at the advancing rider.

It wasn’t long before the rider was close enough for Johnny to recognize who it was. Johnny motioned for Pickard to stop the wagon.  

“Slow it down,” Johnny yelled, “it’s the Sheriff.”

The wagon slowed to a stop as Clay Hollister pulled up alongside.

“Problem, Sheriff?” Johnny asked as he holstered his Colt.

“The telegraph operator came to me after you left. He told me he’d sent a wire to Tucson telling them you were on the way.”

“Damn,” Johnny cursed, “I told Griffith not to send that wire.”

“Bill Griffith didn’t send it. It was his assistant.”

“Doris?”

Clay nodded.

“You think she’s in on it?”

“I’m not sure, but it seems strange that she’d telegraph Tucson.”

Johnny caught the expression on Pickard’s face and the way he kept gripping his shotgun.

“What do you want to do, Madrid?” Pickard asked in a shaky voice.

“We go on. Not getting paid to turn back. Move out.”

Clay’s horse pranced as he waited for the wagon to move. As soon as it was underway, he saw Johnny turn in the saddle to look behind them and then ahead. He gave Johnny a questioning look.

“Pickard knows something.”

Clay’s brow furrowed. “How do you know?”

“When you’ve lived the way I have, as long as I have, you develop an instinct. Pickard’s too nervous. I’ve noticed it since we left town but figured he was just keeping alert. When you said the telegram was sent, I saw his reaction.”

“What do you want to do?”

Johnny stared at Clay.

“You staying for the fun or riding back?”

Clay smiled. “Thought I’d stay. Not sure how much fun it’ll be, though.”

“Alright, we let it play out, but keep your eyes on Pickard.”

Johnny reined his horse around and kicked its sides.  It didn’t take long to catch up with the
wagon.

*****

Looking to the south, Johnny took his hat off and wiped the sweat from his brow. He could see white puffy clouds building on the horizon and knew by afternoon the rains would come along with lightning and thunderstorms. It was the same almost every day this time of year.

“We’re going to have to set up camp,” Johnny reluctantly announced.

He knew they were going to have to spend one night camping on the trail, but now they were going to have to stop earlier than expected. The wagon was carrying over a thousand pounds of silver. If it rained, there was sure to be mud. He couldn’t take a chance of the wagon bogging down.

Clay, who had been scouting ahead, came into view.

“We’re going to set up camp early,” Johnny repeated what he’d told Cantrell and Pickard.

Clay nodded his understanding. “Figured as much. There’s a place up ahead near the rocks. We’ll have protection at our backs, at least.”

“Lead the way,” Johnny answered and waved his arm, motioning Cantrell to follow Clay.

*****

August 5th, 1868 -Thirty miles southeast of Tucson

The rain had ended in the early hours and the morning sky was turning varying shades of blue and turquoise. The storm had cleared the air, and for now, the temperature was bearable.

Johnny had spent most of the night standing watch, relenting to Clay for only a few hours before the sun started to come up.

They’d been on the road close to two hours, and still, there was no sign of trouble. It was late in the morning when Johnny saw a flock of birds flush from the scrub to their right. The road dipped down into a wash ahead, and rocks lined both sides.  He waved to Clay and got his attention.

Clay nodded. He’d seen the birds and saw the wash that was coming up.

Clay rode up beside Johnny.

“Sheriff, whoever’s waiting for us is expecting the shotgun and one guard. If I’m right and someone working for the Mining Company is on the robberies, they also know about me.”

“What do you want me to do?”

Johnny rode up beside the wagon on the driver’s side, motioning for Cantrell to slow down.

“There’s trouble ahead.”

It was Pickard who responded, “How do you know?”

“I just know.”  Looking at Harvey Cantrell, Johnny ordered, “You keep this wagon going no matter what. Don’t slow down for anything. They’ll hit us in the wash ahead or just on the other side. Don’t stop, you understand? Don’t stop.”

Harvey paled slightly but nodded.  

Johnny’s gaze fell on Pickard.

“Pickard, you have anything you want to tell us?”

“What do you mean?”

“Just asking, but I’ll tell you something, if you know anything about what’s about to happen, you’d better let us in on it now. When the shooting starts, I’d hate to get blindsided. It could get me killed. More importantly, it will get you killed.”

“Look, Madrid,” Pickard started to object and then saw Clay move to his side of the wagon.

“Webb, if you know something, you need to tell us,” Clay stated, watching Pickard to see if he was going to reach for his shotgun.

Pickard looked between Johnny and Clay and then stared at Cantrell.

Cantrell pulled back on the reins and brought the wagon to a stop.

“Why are you looking at me? I’m not in on the robberies.”  Cantrell could see all three men glaring at him. “I swear it. I thought it might be Pickard.”

“It’s not me. I thought it was you.”

Johnny’s eyes went first to Cantrell and then to Pickard. Both men were telling the truth.

“It’s not them.” Johnny heaved a deep sigh. “If they aren’t in on it, then who?”

“I have a guess,” Pickard spoke up, “but we need to get moving. It’s not safe here. If Madrid’s right, they’re waiting up ahead.”
 
*****

Johnny quickly decided for their ace in the hole, Clay Hollister, to ride out and then get ahead of them and wait. If the outlaw gang knew Johnny Madrid was riding guard on the silver shipment, and Johnny suspected they did, the thieves didn’t know about the Sheriff of Tombstone.

When the first crack of a rifle was heard, the wagon had just crossed the wash and leveled out on the other side. Harvey Cantrell did as he was instructed and didn’t slow down.

Bullets were flying as the wagon tore along the road. Pickard was firing at the seven masked riders coming at them from both sides. Johnny, leaning over his horse’s neck, was trying to pick off anyone within range.  

Clay had just gotten into position when he heard the first shots. Within seconds the racing wagon shot by, followed by Johnny. Once the would-be robbers passed, Clay fell in behind and took chase.

By the time Clay started firing, the robbers had already lost a man. Clay winged another before they knew he was behind them.

“Keep going,” Johnny called out as he reined his horse around coming face to face with the remaining five bandits.

With Johnny Madrid ahead of them and Clay Hollister behind, the robbers didn’t have a chance. They split up and took to the hills.

Johnny took after one of the men who’d decided to make a stand in an outcropping of rocks.

Dismounting, Johnny took cover behind a rock. The two men were exchanging fire when Johnny heard a horse coming up behind him. Turning, he relaxed when he saw Clay jump from the saddle and join him.

“The others got away?”

Clay nodded and gave Johnny only a quick look, before firing again at the man they had pinned down.

“Madrid, I want to take him alive.” Clay gave Johnny an appraising look.  “Understood?”

“Sure, whatever you say.”

There was no emotion in the young man’s voice. The two could just as easily have been sitting in a saloon sharing a drink, instead of being in the middle of a gunfight.
 
Clay turned his attention back to the outlaw as another shot came their way.

Both Johnny and Clay returned fire.

Clay yelled out, “Give it up! You don’t have a chance!”

The reply came in the form of a single shot slamming into the rock in front of Clay.

“Keep him busy. I’ll circle right.” Johnny didn’t wait for a response as he pushed off the rock he was behind.

Clay fired a shot in the direction of the bandit and tried to see what progress Johnny was making. Another shot was fired toward Clay as he ducked down again. Several seconds passed before he heard two shots not directed at him.

Peering around the rock, Clay saw a man stumbling forward with his right hand covering a bloody left arm. Johnny trailed behind with his gun pointed at the man’s back.

Clay stood up and walked forward.

The wounded man stopped, looked at Clay, and then over his shoulder at Johnny.

“I need a doctor,” he groaned.

“You’ll get a doctor, but you’re going to answer some questions first.”

“What kind of questions?”

“For starters, what’s your name and who hired you?”

The man shook his head. “Sherriff, I don’t know who…”

Johnny stepped forward and rammed the gun barrel of his Colt in the man’s back.

“Answer the Sheriff, and then we can get to Tucson and a doctor,” The words came out in a soft, but deadly drawl. “Think real hard about what you’re about to say. I don’t take kindly to being shot at, and right now, it wouldn’t take a hell of a lot to put a bullet in you…another bullet.”

Clay peered into the pistoleros eyes. There was no hint that the gunfighter was bluffing.

“Madrid!”

“Stay out of this, Hollister. This is between me and him.”

As if the wounded man knew there was no hope of getting out of the mess he was in, he decided to answer.

“My name’s Baskin, Frank Baskin.” He hesitated. “Look, I’m just one of the hired hands.”

Now, Clay held hope they were getting somewhere.
 
“Alright, who hired you?”

The man remained silent.

The sound of Johnny’s Colt cocking brought the man up short.

“Parker, Dave Parker. He’s the one that was giving the orders, but he’s not the head man. That’s all I know.”

Clay looked at the stricken man and threw a glance at Johnny.

“Well, if you don’t know anything, you’re no help to me. I’ll let Madrid handle things here and I’ll go find out where that wagon got to.”

Clay turned and walked away.

“NO! Don’t leave me with Madrid. He’ll kill me.”

Clay turned and looked back. “Probably, but like I said, you’re no help to me. I need to know who’s behind the robberies.”

“You’re the law, you’ve got to take me in.” When Clay kept walking, Baskin called out, “They’ll kill me.”

“I’ll kill you if you don’t talk,” Madrid’s voice sent chill bumps up even Clay’s spine.

“You’ll have to protect me.”

Clay turned back and walked to within inches of the man.

“Who’s behind the robberies?”

“Parker dealt with the main man. I don’t know his name and only saw him once from a distance. From what Parker said, he has something to do with the Tombstone Mining Company.”

“Something to do with it … like what?”

Baskin grimaced, still holding his arm. “Look, I’ve told you what I know.”

“You’d recognize him if you saw him again?”

“Yeah, I’d recognize him.”

“Wait a minute,” Madrid interrupted. “Where did you see him, Tucson or Tombstone?”

“Tucson.”

Clay noted the answer seemed to satisfy Johnny.  He waved the man ahead of him.

“Alright, let’s go.”

The sound of the wagon coming drew their attention.

“Are you two alright?” Pickard asked as he jumped from the wagon before it came to a complete stop.

Johnny stomped forward. “I thought we told you to keep moving.”

“We did until we saw them break off, and you go after them. Do you want us to go pick up the bodies?”

“No.” This from Johnny. “We have a shipment to deliver. The Sheriff in Tucson can send someone out for them.”

“Madrid’s right, we need to get this one locked up and the shipment delivered.”

Johnny helped Baskin into the wagon and turned to his horse. When Clay joined him, he asked, “Do you believe Baskin?”

“I don’t know. Once we have Baskin in a cell and the doctor looks at him, I’ll talk to him again. You ready to go?”

Johnny nodded. “Let’s get moving. We’re only about 10 miles from Tucson. I’ll feel a lot better once we have the silver in town.”

Mounting his horse, Johnny nodded to Cantrell and watched as the wagon jerked forward. Falling behind, Johnny Madrid and Clay Hollister continued to look for trouble as they made their way into Tucson.

*****

Tucson, Arizona- the afternoon of August 5th, 1868

Tucson’s streets bustled with activity as the wagon containing the silver bullion rolled down its Main Street.  Only a few people stopped what they were doing and watched before going about their business.

When the wagon stopped in front of the Mining Company office, Harvey Cantrell set the brake and jumped down from the driver’s seat.

Webb Pickard stepped down to the boardwalk and waved his shotgun at Baskin.

“Out.”

Jumping down from the bed of the wagon, Baskin winced. “I need a doctor.”

“We’ll get you a doctor once you’re locked up,” Clay replied as he dismounted and tied his horse off at the hitching rail.  

Clay started to tell Pickard to go for the sheriff when he saw Tucson’s Sheriff, Carl Wilson, making his way towards them.

“Clay,” Wilson extended his hand, “I saw you riding in. What brings you to Tucson?”  

“Carl,” Clay accepted Wilson’s hand, “I rode in with the Mining Company’s silver shipment. We had trouble about 10 miles out of town. I’m afraid there are two bodies out there that need to be picked up.”

“A holdup?” Wilson looked closer at Baskin. “You caught one of them?”

“Yes. We need to lock him up and then get a doctor to take a look at his arm.” Clay turned to look at Johnny, who was stepping down from the saddle.

Carl Wilson turned to glare at the young gunfighter. Johnny Madrid was no stranger to Tucson or Sheriff Wilson.

“Madrid, what do you have to do with this?”

Before Johnny could answer, Clay did it for him.

“Carl, Bill Griffith hired Madrid to ride guard for the silver shipment.”

“Is that right?”

“You heard the Sheriff… Sheriff,” Johnny gave Wilson a crooked smile. “My job was to get the shipment to Tucson. We’re here. I want to get the silver locked up before anything else happens and collect my pay.”

The door to the Mining Company suddenly opened.

Johnny’s hand shot to the butt of his Colt. Seeing an unarmed man in the doorway, he relaxed.

“Good, you’re here. I was worried you’d run into …” The man stopped mid-sentence and stared at the wounded outlaw, now standing in front of Sheriff Wilson.

Johnny walked forward.

“Are you Gabe Stinson?”

“I am. You must be Mr. Madrid.” Johnny noticed Stinson didn’t offer his hand.

Johnny glanced over his shoulder at the wagon. Both Cantrell and Pickard were waiting for orders.

“I’d like to get the shipment locked up, Mr. Stinson.”

“Of course,” Stinson replied, looking passed Johnny.

Johnny didn’t miss the look Stinson gave Baskin as the Sheriff took him away. More importantly, he didn’t miss the way Baskin stared at Stinson. Was Stinson the man Baskin had seen with the outlaw leader?  

Pickard and Cantrell didn’t move until they saw Johnny glance at them and nod. Together they lifted the boxes one at a time from the wagon and carried them into the Mining Company office. Once the silver was safely locked up, the two men walked back onto the boardwalk.

“Madrid, I can’t say it’s been a pleasure, but I’m glad you were with us today,” Pickard said.

“How about a drink?” Cantrell’s eyes went to the saloon down the street. “I’ll buy.”

“If you’re buying, I wouldn’t miss it. How about you, Madrid? Harvey doesn’t buy very often.”

Johnny thought for a moment. If he was going to keep this job and work with Cantrell and Pickard, he wanted to know more about them.  

“Sure, why not.”

*****

When Clay Hollister walked into the Tucson saloon, the first thing that struck him as strange was how quiet it was. He’d been in this saloon many times and it had never been quiet.

Men sat at tables, heads close together, whispering. Occasionally, they would turn their heads and take quick glances at a table at the back of the room.  Clay knew who they were watching. Smiling, he made his way to the corner table. He could see Pickard and Cantrell looking nervously around the room.

“Have a seat, Sheriff.” Johnny kicked a chair out with his foot.

Sitting down, Clay leaned back, scanned the room, but didn’t say anything aloud. ‘The boy sure knows how to quiet a room.’ Seeing the bartender looking his way, Clay said, “Beer.”

The bartender nodded. Within a minute, a cold beer was sitting in front of Clay.

“You have Baskin locked up?” Johnny lifted a glass of tequila to his lips.

Clay took a long, deep drink of his beer before answering, “Yes, and as soon as the doctor finishes, I plan to talk to him again. I was wondering if you wanted to come along?”

Johnny set his glass down and nodded. “Yeah, I’d like to hear what he has to say. If I’m going to make another run out of Tombstone, I want to find out who’s behind the robberies.”

Turning to Pickard, Johnny leaned closer to the man and in a quiet voice, “You said something out there on the trail about having an idea about who’s behind the robberies. Want to tell us about it now?”

Pickard suddenly became more nervous, “Well, as you know, Doug Barnett drove three of the wagons and….”

“And I drove the last one,” Harvey Cantrell joined in. “I can tell you I was scared to death when they jumped us.”

“Who was your shotgun?” Johnny asked, trying to refresh his memory.

“Steve Barnett.”

“Doug’s brother.” It was a statement, not a question.  

The others knew where Johnny was going with his questions.

Cantrell hesitated. “Yeah, his brother.”

“Coincidence?” Pickard asked.

“I don’t believe in coincidence, Pickard,” Johnny replied.

“Neither do I,” Clay commented. “Madrid, I see what you’re saying, but the fact they jumped this shipment disproves the theory the Barnett’s were in on it. They were both in Tombstone when I left town to catch up with you.”

Johnny sat quietly thinking for a minute.  “Besides the Barnett’s, what else do the robberies have in common?”

Cantrell shook his head. Johnny noticed Pickard was still thinking.

“Pickard, you know something, you just don’t know it.”

Pickard looked up, surprised at the statement. “I do?”

Johnny nodded. “Don’t worry. We’ll figure it out.”

Clay pushed back from the table. “If you’re ready, Madrid, the doctor should be finished with our prisoner by now.”

Johnny pushed back and stood up.  At the same time, the sound of distant thunder reminded them that it would soon be raining.

As the two men walked out of the saloon and onto the boardwalk, they were meet by a man Johnny knew well.

“Sheriff Hollister?”

“Yes.” Clay looked at the man wearing a suit coat and carrying a medical bag.

“I’m Doctor Jerome Spencer. I was just coming to find you.”

Doctor Spencer looked at Johnny and nodded. “Madrid.”

“Doc.”

Clay looked between Doctor Spencer and Madrid. “You two know each other.”

Johnny dipped his head.

“Yes,” Doctor Spencer responded, “Mr. Madrid and I are old friends. It’s good to see you without a bullet hole in you, young man.”

Not being able to help himself, Clay chuckled. Though with one look at the expression on the gunfighter’s face, he stifled the laugh.

“Baskin all fixed up, Doc?” Johnny asked.

“He is. I was surprised the wound wasn’t that bad. When I heard it was you who shot him, I expected to see something worse.”

“It wasn’t my choice, Doc. Hollister here wanted the man alive. I did the best I could.”

“Yes, well, you can see him if you want.”  

“We’re on our way over to talk to him now.” Clay turned towards the jail.

“I have other patients to see. If Sheriff Wilson needs me again, just….”

The doctor’s sentence was cut short by the sound of a gunshot coming from the direction of the jail.

Guns drawn, Clay Hollister and Johnny Madrid ran towards the jail.  They’d gotten as far as the door when Carl Wilson stormed out.

“Baskin’s been shot!”

“How?” Clay asked.

“Someone fired through the bars at the back window,” Wilson called over his shoulder as he ran to the alley behind the jail. 

Clay and Johnny followed Wilson. They hadn’t expected to find anyone, so it came as no surprise when they saw the alley was empty.  

Johnny holstered his gun and scanned the area. Against the rear of the jail, someone had stacked two large wooden crates. Climbing onto the boxes, he looked through the small window to the inside of the cell. Doctor Spencer was kneeling next to the still form of Frank Baskin.

Spencer’s eyes caught the movement at the window and looked up at Johnny.

“He’s dead. Single-shot to the head.”

Johnny nodded. Turning his attention back to the outside of the building, Johnny scanned the ground. He saw a footprint in the dirt at the base of the bottom crate he was standing on.

“Hollister,” Johnny called out.

Clay took a step closer to Johnny, who halted him with the wave of a hand.

“Hold up, Sheriff. There’s a print in the dirt down there.”

Clay knelt to get a better look at where Johnny was pointing.

“Boot print?” Wilson said as he moved to Clay’s side.

Clay stood and put his foot next to the one in the dirt. The boot print was slightly smaller. He stepped back while Johnny jumped from the top of the crates and landed a few feet away.  His eyes went to the footprints that lead away from the jail.

Johnny took a few steps forward. “There’s another one here. He was running.”

Clay and Wilson followed Johnny, who tracked the boot prints until they reached the street. Once there, any further prints were lost. Horses, wagons, and foot traffic obliterated all signs of the man they were following. To make matters worse, the sky suddenly opened up; the daily rain poured down on them.

The three men walked back to the jail just as Doctor Spencer was coming out the door. He stepped back inside as Johnny, Wilson, and Clay followed.

Johnny was the first to speak, “Doc?”

“He died instantly. As I said, a single shot to the head.”

“Anything else?” Wilson asked, looking passed the doctor and into his empty cells.

Spencer shook his head. “Nothing, except it appears to be close range.”

“You think Baskin was standing on the bunk looking out the window when he was shot?”

“Possibly.”

“That figures,” Clay interjected. “Someone he knew and trusted could have climbed up there and got him to the window. At least four of the gang got away earlier today. It could have been one of them.”

“Or the man who’s running the operation,” Johnny added. “We know Baskin could identify the man even if he didn’t know his name.”

“So, we don’t know anything.” Carl Wilson turned and looked out his office window at the falling rain.

“We know one thing we didn’t know before,” Johnny drawled. “We know whoever it is will go to any lengths not to be found out. It takes a special kind of snake to kill one of his own.”

“Sends a message to anyone else working for him, too.” Clay moved to stand next to Wilson, looking out the window.

“Yeah,” Johnny said over his shoulder as he walked back to where Baskin lay sprawled on the blood-covered floor, “don’t get caught.”  

Johnny knew the men they were dealing with were dangerous and desperate. Killing one of their own proved it.

Turning, Johnny walked to the front door, pulling his hat down over his eyes. “I’m going over and talk to Stinson and get the rest of my money.”

“Are you going to keep the job?” Clay asked as Johnny opened the door to be met by wind and blowing rain.

Johnny lifted his head so the two Sheriffs could see his eyes.

“I don’t take kindly to being shot at by anyone, especially a coward. I’m headed back to Tombstone tomorrow morning. You want to ride along, Hollister?”

Clay nodded. “Yes, I need to get back and I think I’d like to talk with Doris Barnes.”

Carl Wilson gave Clay a questioning look. “Who’s Doris Barnes?”

“She works for Bill Griffith at the Mining Company office in Tombstone. She’s also the one who telegraphed Gabe Stinson that the shipment was on its way to Tucson.”

“You think she has something to do with the robberies?”

“Possibly, either that or someone used her to get word to the gang in Tucson. Either way, I plan to find out. I’m headed back to Tombstone in the morning with Madrid.”

When Jerome Spencer spoke up, it was apparent the other three men had forgotten he was in the room. 

“I’ll have the undertaker remove Baskin’s body and see to his burial.”

“That’s fine, Doc,” Wilson responded. “Have the bill sent to me. The town will pay for his burying.”  Then turning back to Hollister, “I’ve already sent men out to bring back the bodies of the men you and Madrid took down earlier today.  I don’t know if Tucson can afford to have you two in town.”

Johnny smiled as he stepped out of the office.

*****

Tombstone, Arizona – noon - August 7th, 1868

Standing on the boardwalk outside the Epitaph office, I held a copy of The Arizona Citizen, Tucson’s newspaper. It had arrived on the early morning stage from Tucson. The front page heralded a headline that should have first appeared in my publication and an editorial I should have written.

It was no wonder when I saw the subjects of the news article riding towards me, I had mixed emotions. Yes, I was glad my old friend, Clay Hollister, and new friend, Johnny Madrid, were back in Tombstone. Yes, I was pleased that both men were unhurt.  However, I was unhappy the Arizona Citizen had scooped a story on both men that should have been mine.

The Mining Company wagon rolled passed while Clay and Johnny stopped directly in front of me.

“Harris.” Clay dismounted.

“Clay, it’s good to see you.” I turned to look at Johnny, who was also tying his horse to the rail. “Johnny, it’s good to see you back.”

Johnny didn’t say anything, only nodded and stretched his back. I could see that both men were tired from their journey.

“I expected you earlier,” I remarked as Clay stepped onto the boardwalk and stood next to me.

“We left Tucson yesterday morning but had to set up camp early because of the afternoon thunderstorms. I can tell you I’m glad to be home.”

I slapped my left hand with the rolled-up newspaper I was holding in my right and gave both men a scowling look.

“Something wrong?” Johnny joined Clay and me on the boardwalk.

“Oh, nothing a telegram wouldn’t have solved.” Both men looked at me. I could see the confusion on their faces.

“This, gentleman, is a copy of Tucson’s Arizona Citizen.”

I unrolled the paper and held it up for both of them to read the headline.

‘Tombstone Sheriff Clay Hollister and Pistolero Johnny Madrid
Foil Robbery of Silver Shipment.’

“Well, will you look at that,” Johnny laughed, pointing at the page. “Don’t think I’ve ever made the front page of a paper for doing something good.”

Clay could see I still wasn’t smiling.

“So, what did you want me to do, Harris? I couldn’t very well send a telegram with all the details, and I bet whatever the Citizen wrote doesn’t have one quote from either me or Madrid.”

Johnny nodded. “That’s right. No one talked to me about what happened except the Sheriff in Tucson.”

I smiled, realizing the story the Arizona Citizen had published wasn’t a complete account of the events surrounding the robbery attempt.

“Can I count on both of you to give me an exclusive interview?”

“Sure,” Johnny replied, “but first, I need to go over and see Mr. Griffith, then I’m going to get something to eat and get cleaned up.”

I cleared my throat. “I suggest you take a bath and get cleaned up before you eat, Johnny. I don’t believe Maude Jennings will let you sit down in her Café smelling like that.”

Johnny sniffed his shirt and cringed.

“Suppose your right. I’ll see you two later.”

I gave Clay the same look I’d given Johnny. He raised his hands in surrender and backed away from me.

“Alright, I’ll go get cleaned up, too.”

As Johnny walked away, he turned to look over his shoulder.

“Thanks for the help, Sheriff.”  

“Any time, Madrid. Any time.”

Clay walked towards his office while Johnny made his way to the Mining Company office. I was already writing the news story in my head.

*****

Saturday, August 8th, 1868

I’d sat down with Clay and Johnny the night before and gotten the details of what happened during the attempted robbery. As I made notes, piecing the story together, the three of us theorized as to who the mastermind of the operation was.

The longer we discussed the robberies and the attempted robbery, one thing became clear. Clay needed to talk to Doris Barnes.  

Now, in the light of day, I made my way to the Tombstone Mining Company office on the pretense of getting Bill Griffith’s side of the story for my article.  While there, I spoke to Doris and asked her to join me for lunch, however, I didn’t tell her Clay and Johnny would be with us as well.

Doris readily accepted the invitation. Walking to the Café, she chatted away, but I wasn’t listening. My mind was on all the questions that needed answering and wondering how Doris fit into the equation.

When I opened the door to the Café, and we stepped inside, Doris hesitated.

“Oh, I forgot to mention Sherriff Hollister and Mr. Madrid were joining us. I hope that’s alright, Doris.”

Doris looked flustered, but what could she do now that she was inside the Café.

I escorted her to the table in the back corner of the room that had now become the established dining table for Johnny Madrid. Maude Jennings hurried over to take our orders and then hurried away. Whether she knew we wanted privacy or not, I couldn’t tell but felt she knew we did.

Doris seemed quite nervous and held her hands on her lap, wringing a napkin. It was Johnny who broke the ensuing silence and brought a smile to the young lady’s face.

“Miz Barnes, I’m glad you could join us. You’re looking right pretty today. Is that a new dress?”

Clay and I looked at each other while Doris blushed and lowered her head. How in the world had Johnny Madrid known the lady was wearing a new dress?

“Yes. Yes, it is Mr. Madrid.”

“Now, Miz Barnes, por favor, call me Johnny.”

That brought another blush Doris’s face.

“Well then… Johnny, only if you call me Doris.”

Johnny smiled at her, while Clay and I rolled our eyes, and Doris lowered her gaze.

In my opinion, the food arrived just in time.

Doris took a few small bites and then looked at Johnny.

“I read about what you did in the Tucson newspaper, Johnny. It was very brave of you to fight off all those bandits.”

Johnny smiled, and again Doris seemed to fall into a dream-like state.

“Well, you know, Doris, I wasn’t alone out there. The Sheriff here was helping me and then there was Pickard and Cantrell.”

“Yes, of course, but if you hadn’t been riding guard, there’s no telling what would have happened.” Doris glanced at Clay. “I’m sure Sheriff Hollister was a great help to you, Johnny.”

I wanted to laugh out loud at the expression on Clay’s face but held my composure.

“Doris, can I ask you something?” Johnny laid his fork down and placed his hand over Doris’s.

While Doris didn’t look at Johnny, she answered, “Oh, yes, Johnny, anything.”

“You sent the telegraph to Tucson, letting them know we were on the way, is that right?”

“Yesss.” She drew the word out with a panicked look on her face. “Did I do something wrong?”

“No, ma’am, you didn’t. You didn’t do anything wrong. I was just wondering who told you to send it?”

Doris relaxed and smiled. “It’s my job. I record the time a shipment leaves and the amount we ship.  I then send a telegram to Tucson telling Mr. Stinson so he can be ready for the shipment’s arrival.”

Clay leaned forward. “Doris, on this last shipment, did Mr. Griffith tell you not to send the telegram.”

Doris dipped her head. “He did, but it wasn’t until after I’d sent it.”  She looked at Johnny with tears in her eyes. “I did do something wrong, didn’t I?”

“No, Doris, you didn’t. It’s alright.”

“Do you think that someone is finding out about the shipments from the telegrams I’m sending?”

When Johnny didn’t say anything, Doris sighed. “They did, didn’t they? Oh, Johnny, you could have been hurt or killed. If that happened because….”

“I’m alright, Doris, and so are the Sheriff and Pickard and Cantrell.”

“Doris, who instructed you to send the telegrams in the first place,” I asked. “I mean, have you always sent them even before the robberies started?”

“Oh, Harris, I’ve always sent a telegram to Tucson when a shipment went out, but it was always the day after until… I mean…,” Doris stopped and cocked her head. “When Mr. Griffith and Mr. Stinson were in Tucson a few months ago, they decided the telegram needed to go out as soon as the shipment left Tombstone. Until then, I’d wait until the next morning to send the wire.  Mr. Stinson told me when he hired me, there was no need to be alerted until the day the shipment was supposed to arrive. He said it would be safer that way.”

“So, what changed?” Johnny asked.

She shook her head. “I don’t know.”

“Doris, I don’t know much about mining,” Johnny cajoled. “Can you tell me how the silver gets delivered to the Mining Company?”

Clay and I sat back and let Johnny work his magic on Doris.

“Well,” she cleared her throat, “it’s simple actually. The local mines bring their ore to our mills on the San Pedro River, where it’s refined.  You see, silver ore contains several other metals. The way Mr. Griffith explained it to me is that the other metals melt at lower temperatures than silver. So, they heat the ore until the only thing left is the silver. Then the liquid silver is stamped into bars and sent to our office to be shipped to Tucson.”

Doris smiled, seemingly proud of herself for remembering the process.

Johnny nodded his head. “You said that after the silver bars were stamped, they’re brought to the office here in Tombstone. It sounds like there should be a lot of silver going out. I mean, this whole area is covered with silver mines.”

Doris nodded. “Yes, there are. Some are large mines like The Lucky Cuss and the Tough Nut, but there are thousands of small mines.”

“And the Mining Company refines all the ore in the area?”

“As far as I know, but only the silver bars from the mines owned by the Tombstone Gold and Silver Mining Company come through the office in town.”

Both Clay and I were doing the math.

I seemed it as my turn to question the young lady.

“Is the shipment that went out the other day, typical?”

“Well…no. Now that I think about it, the shipments have dropped off in the last month, but I assumed it was because of the robberies.”

“What do you know about Doug and Steve Barnett?” The question Johnny asked seem to come out of nowhere.

The hesitation was so slight I almost missed it, but I knew Johnny hadn’t. Doris blushed.

“Oh, those two boys are such sweethearts. They’re always around offering to help when they aren’t bringing silver in from the mines or going to Tucson.” Taking a breath, she continued, “I know they feel as if they need to help in the office, what with them being related to Mr. Griffith.”

“Steve and Doug are related to Bill Griffith? I quizzed.

“Yes, they’re Mr. Griffith’s cousins on his father’s side, I believe.” She paused and looked panicked. “You don’t think they have anything to do with the robberies, do you?”

Clay and I were still leaning forward while Johnny was now tilted back in his chair, balancing it on the two back legs.  Doris looked around the table, clearly upset.

“Doris, are Bill Griffith and Gabe Stinson the only owners of the Mining Company?” Johnny asked in a soft voice that seemed to calm Doris again.

Doris looked surprised. “Why, neither.”

“What do you mean?” Clay asked.
 
“Just what I said. Neither of them owns the company. A Consortium from back east owns it. I believe they’re in Boston. Mr. Griffith and Mr. Stinson manage the offices here and in Tucson.”

Now the look of surprise was on my face and Clay’s.

Johnny settled his chair and once again covered Doris’s hand with his.

“You’ve been a big help, Doris.” His voice could have melted butter. I noted he gave her hand another squeeze.

She dipped her head again, not meeting his eyes as a blush started up her neck and flushed her cheeks.

“I’d better get back to work” Doris pushed back from the table and stood up. “Thank you so much for lunch.”

Clay, Johnny, and I also stood as she started for the door. I looked at Johnny’s face and saw a faint smile. I had the feeling he’d already figured out who was behind the robberies and murders.

*****

With lunch over, I escorted Doris back to the Mining Company office and then hurried to the Sheriff’s office where Clay and Johnny were waiting for me.

Stepping inside the office, I found Clay sitting at his desk. As I moved across the office, I saw Johnny was standing near the window, his right hand resting on the butt of his Colt.

As I sat down, Johnny turned and walked towards me.

“So, Mr. Editor, what do you think?” Johnny asked as I gathered my thoughts.

“We seem to have a lot of suspects.”

Clay nervously tapped a pencil on the desktop.

“Yes, we do. I had no idea that Bill Griffith didn’t own the Mining Company.”

“And I had no idea the Barrett brothers were related to him. So, what do we know?” I asked as Johnny leaned against the wall, crossing his arms over his chest.

I’d taken out a piece of paper and pencil and started jotting down some notes when Johnny moved to stand behind me, looking over my shoulder. Glancing at the young man’s face, I could see he found my note taking humorous.

“What? It helps me keep my thoughts straight.”

“Whatever works for you.”

“What works for you, Johnny?” I asked, laying my pencil down.

“Don’t need a pencil and a piece of paper to figure out what’s right in front of me.”

“You know who’s behind it already, don’t you, Johnny?”

He nodded. “Yeah, I figure I do, but proving it is another thing.”

I looked at Clay, seeing he hadn’t figured it out as yet. Peering back at Johnny, I asked, “Alright, tell me. Who do you think it is?”

Johnny laughed and shook his head. “Nope, I’ll wait until I have proof.”

“And how do you plan to prove it?”

“We’re going to have to flush them out.”

“Them… so you believe there’s more than one?”

“The operation is too big for only one person.” Johnny paced back to the window.

“How do you bring them out into the open?”

I watched Johnny’s back and noticed his fingers were tapping the side of his holster. When he turned to face me, I caught a glimpse of the hardened gunfighter I’d heard stories of in the last few years.

“Haven’t worked that out as yet, but I will.”

“When does the next shipment go out?” Clay asked.

“Griffith hasn’t said. I’ll check with him in the morning. Just hope I can get a couple more trips in before Griffith decides he don’t need extra protection.”

“I take it the pay’s good?”

Johnny smiled. “Good enough.”

Changing the subject, I found an opening to ask the young gunfighter a few questions and hoped he’d answer.

“When Griffith doesn’t need you any longer, where will you go?”

Johnny shrugged. “Not sure, Mexico, probably.” Johnny shrugged.

“I heard you were riding with a partner.”

I could see a brief moment of sadness flash in the young man’s eyes. I’d hit a nerve. For several seconds I didn’t expect him to answer.  Then a smile spread across his face.

“Yeah, I had a partner. Val Crawford. We rode together for a long time, but then he decided to get out of the game and get a real job. He’s the Sheriff in a small town in California now.”

“That’s quite a change, gunfighter to Sheriff.”

Clay laughed. “It’s not as unusual as you would think, Harris. Some of the best lawmen in the west once made their living with a gun.”

Out of nowhere, Johnny suddenly said, “Follow the money.”

The statement so sudden it took a moment to register Johnny had changed the subject.

“What?” Clay asked.

“Follow the money. That’s what Val always said. That’s how we find out who’s behind the robberies. They have to sell the silver somewhere, and the money’s gonna end up in a bank.”

I jumped in. “So, we check banks in the larger cities?”

“I’ll send some telegrams and see what I can find out,” Clay added.

Johnny turned to the door. “I’m going to go talk to Griffith and see when the next shipment goes out. I’ll see you later.”

Without another word, Johnny walked out.

I turned back to Clay. “Do you think he knows who it is?”

“I don’t know, Harris. What is it they say, it takes a thief to catch a thief?”

“You’re not suggesting Johnny’s a thief?”

“No, in Madrid’s case, it takes a killer to catch a killer.”

I didn’t know how to respond to Clay’s comment. Suddenly, surprised by my loss of focus when it came to Johnny Madrid, I realized Clay was right. Madrid was a killer, and if anyone knew what a killer would do, it would be him. But no, Clay’s implication was wrong.

“Johnny may have killed, but he’s not a murderer, and that’s who we’re after here. The men who killed the shotgun guards and Frank Baskin are murderers. That’s not who Johnny Madrid is.”

“You’re sure?”

“Yes, Clay, of that, I am sure. I know I don’t know the boy well, but I know that much.”

*****

Tuesday, August 18th, 1868 - early afternoon

I was at my desk in the Epitaph office when the door opened. I put the newsprint I was working on aside and turned to see Sherriff Clay Hollister stroll into the office.

It had been ten days since the meeting in Clay’s office. In that time, the Tombstone Gold and Silver Mining Company had made four shipments. Bill Griffith continued to hire Johnny Madrid, and all four shipments made it to Tucson without incident.

“Clay, you look like you’re looking for something to do.”

Clay chuckled. “It’s been quiet. I have to admit I’m enjoying it. It seems that no one wants to bother with Tombstone since Madrid came to town.”

“Speaking of our resident gunfighter, when is he due back from Tucson?”

“If everything went as planned, he should be back today.”

“I’m looking forward to dinner tonight, Maude promised Johnny….”

The sound of a wagon tearing down the street and men yelling, cut the rest of my sentence off.  Clay was first out the door and I was a step or two behind him.

Harvey Cantrell, driving the Mining Company wagon, raced by my office. In the wagon bed, we could see Webb Pickard with his back to the seat. Tied to the rear of the wagon and trailing behind, I recognized Johnny’s horse.

Webb stopped in front of the doctor’s office and jumped down from the wagon seat.  

“What happened?” Clay asked as he circled the wagon and peered into the bed.

“Someone tried to hold us up. Madrid fought them off.” Harvey answered. “We didn’t even know he’d been hit until it was all over.”

Standing beside the wagon, I looked inside. Johnny was lying with his head in Harvey’s lap, blood saturating his shirt.

Clay lowered the tailgate and jumped into the wagon.  “Why would someone hold up an empty wagon?”

“We have the mine payroll with us. It’s under the seat.” Webb nodded toward the wagon seat.

Clay started to ask something else when Doctor Frank Somerville pushed his way through the crowd and looked into the wagon bed.

“Sheriff, we need to get him to my office.” The doctor looked around. “Some of you men lend a hand.”

Johnny, still holding his Colt, stirred as Harvey moved to get out from under him.

Harvey settled back and pushed Johnny’s hand down. “It’s alright, Madrid, we’re in Tombstone. We’re going to get you to Doc’s office.”

“No,” Johnny groaned, struggling to sit up. “Payroll…have to get payroll….”

It was Clay who reassured Johnny.

“I’ll take care of the payroll, Madrid. Don’t worry. You got it this far. I’ll make sure it makes it the rest of the way.”

Johnny starred at Clay for a moment and then decided either he would trust Clay with the payroll or he was too weak to do anything about it. Whichever it was, Johnny sighed, closed his eyes, and passed out.

*****

In 1861, Frank Somerville graduated from the St. Louis Medical College. The 24-year-old, 6’1” slender blond went directly into the Union Army and spent the next four years as an Army Surgeon.

At the end of the war, Frank chose to return to Springfield and set up practice. It hadn’t taken him long to realize a sedate practice in a quiet town wasn’t what he wanted. Deciding to go west, he stumbled upon an advertisement seeking doctors for the Arizona Territory. A few weeks later, he moved to Tombstone, and his life hadn’t been the same since.

His time in the Army had prepared him well for the position of Tombstone’s one and only doctor and one of only six doctors in the territory. He was no stranger to bullet wounds. Lord knows he’d seen enough of them in his career.

“In here.” Frank directed the men who were carrying the unconscious gunfighter. “On the table.”

Quickly ushering everyone out of the room, he moved to his patient’s side. A quick look and he knew the wound was bad.

A movement near the door caught his eye.

“Doc?”

“Sheriff, please wait outside. I’ll let you know how he is when I know.”

Clay Hollister nodded and walked out of the room.

Turning back to the examination table, Frank leaned over and began cutting Johnny’s bloodied shirt off of him.

“What can I do?” Millie Ellis, Frank’s assistant, hurried into the room.

“We’ll need to get his shirt off of him.”

When they exposed the young man’s upper torso, Millie gasped.  The doctor’s eyes followed hers to the multitude of scars on the gunfighter’s chest.  

“Doctor….”

“I know, Millie, I don’t think I’ve seen so many scars on one person since my days in the army.”

The young lady nodded and, without another word between them, spent the next two hours removing a bullet from the boy’s shoulder and stabilizing him.

Only when they finished did Millie speak again, “Doctor, he’s just a boy. He can’t be more than 17.”

“I agree, but I suspect that is something we shouldn’t say in front of him when he wakes up. From what I know of Mr. Madrid, he stopped being a boy a long time ago.”

“Still…”

The doctor looked at his assistant. “Yes, still…”

*****

Stepping into his outer office, Frank Somerville came face to face with Clay Hollister, along with Bill Griffith, Doris Barnes, Webb Pickard, Harvey Cantrell, and me. We’d all been waiting impatiently for word of Johnny’s condition.

“Doc,” Clay stepped forward, “how…”

Frank held up a hand, silencing the Sheriff and the others who were about to speak.
                                                                                                                   
“He’s lost a great deal of blood, he’s weak right now, but he’s also young and healthy. From what I can see from his prior injuries, he has a strong will to live.”

“But, Doctor,” Doris choked out with a sniffle, “is Johnny going to be alright?” She was wringing her hands as she’d done in the café.

Doctor Somerville paused, not expecting emotions such as these from the woman. “Barring infections, I would think so.”

There was a collective sigh in the room.

“Millie is with him right now. He should sleep throughout the night. I’ll need two of you to help me move him to a bed. After that, I suggest you all go home.”

Pickard and Cantrell followed Frank into his examination room. A few minutes later, they carried Johnny to a room down the hall. Once his patient was situated, the doctor escorted everyone out of his office.

*****

August 18th, 1868 – later that afternoon

Frank Somerville stood up and stretched his aching back. It had been a long day and it wasn’t over yet.

Walking over to the bed, he looked at the young man he’d operated on and wondered the why of it. In his time in Tombstone, he’d taken bullets out of many men, both young and old. There was never a rhyme nor reason to shooting someone and, in his opinion, this time was no different.  

From what he knew, this boy had been making a living using his gun for many years? Why? Why would someone so young become a gunfighter?

Frank Somerville knew it was futile to think he’d ever get answers to those questions, he seldom did.

Bending over, he checked the bandage on his patient’s shoulder. The movement caused the boy to stir slightly. Frank put his hand on Johnny’s forehead. Smiling, he was satisfied there was no new bleeding or sign of fever.

Straightening, he walked to the window and looked out. It had been raining heavily for over two hours. He didn’t think he’d ever get used to Arizona’s monsoon season. The constant afternoon storms came with blinding lightning, thunder that shook both the ground and buildings and rain that came down so fast at times the streets turned to rivers of mud.

The first year he’d been in Tombstone, he considered the daily storms a relief from the heat, but soon learned it was only a temporary reprieve. The rain only made the humidity worse.

He heard a noise coming from the kitchen. Smiling, he knew Millie was still in the house. Taking one more look at Johnny, Frank quietly opened the door and walked down the hallway. Entering the kitchen, he saw Millie pour two cups of coffee.

“Is one of those for me?” 

The young blond turned, almost dropping the coffee pot.

“Shame on you. You startled me.” She smiled at the man she loved.

Yes, she and Frank Somerville were in love. Frank had proposed to her two weeks ago and she’d said ‘yes.’ It wasn’t something they’d let people in town know about as yet, but they would make the announcement soon. The only thing holding up the official announcement was letting her parents know before anyone else, and they were visiting friends in Phoenix until next week. Once they returned, the entire territory would know that Doctor Franklin James Somerville was going to marry Miss Millicent Elizabeth Ellis.

Frank walked across the room and held out his hand.

“I was just going to bring you some.”  

“Thank you,” he said, taking the cup.

“Is he still unconscious?”

“Yes, I don’t expect him to come around until morning.”

“Frank…” she paused.

“Yes.”

“You know what they say about Johnny Madrid. He’s a dangerous man. Should you keep him here? Perhaps he’d be better…”

“Millie.” Frank sat his cup down and moved to stand directly in front of her. Putting a hand under her chin, he lifted her head.  “That young man is no danger to anyone right now. He’s lucky to be alive. Besides, I’ve spoken to Harris Claibourne. He says he’s gotten to know Madrid in the last few weeks and trusts him. I trust Harris and his instincts and you, young lady, need to trust me.”

“Alright, darling,” she sighed.

Frank leaned down and kissed her gently. He raised his head and looked into her eyes. Leaning in again, the kiss this time was longer; much longer.

Finally, straightening up, the doctor cleared his throat.

“If we keep this up, we’ll have to make the announcement and get married before your parents are back in town.”

“I can’t wait to be your wife, Frank.”

“And I can’t wait for you to be my wife.”

A knock at the door made them jump away from each other.

“I’ll get it, Millie. Can you go sit with Johnny?”

Millie picked up her cup of coffee and went down the hall to the bedroom while Frank went to the front door.

*

As Millie sat down, she looked closely at the man’s face. He looked so young, much younger than his reputation would indicate. He didn’t look like he could hurt anyone and certainly, at that moment, didn’t look like the hired killer she’d read about in dime novels.

From the front of the house, where the outer office was, she could hear voices. Thinking nothing of it, she picked up a book she’d been reading earlier. It wasn’t unusual for someone to come to get Frank for medical help at all hours of the day or night.

The door to the bedroom opened and Millie looked up. Frank’s head peeked into the room.

“Miss Ellis, I …I have to go out. There’s been an accident at the Quinton Ranch and they need a doctor.” Frank paused and looked back into the hallway behind him. “I’ll be back as soon as I can. You’ll watch our patient for me, won’t you?”

Millie nodded. “Yes, Doctor Somerville, I’ll watch…”

“Thank you. As I said, I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

With that, Frank closed the door. Millie settled back into her chair and took a deep breath.  No, it wasn’t unusual for someone to come for Frank, nor was it uncommon for him to address her as Miss Ellis in front of others, but she had an uneasy feeling.

Pulling her shawl tightly around her shoulders, she shivered as outside the sky lit up with lightning and thunder rattled the windows. She didn’t like the idea that Frank would be out in the storm.

*****

Wednesday, August 19th, 1868- the early hours of the morning

It was 1:00 in the morning when I heard someone pounding on my door. Dragging myself from the bed, I found Millie Ellis standing outside with a look of distress on her face.

“Harris, I need help with Mr. Madrid. He has a fever and Frank…I mean, Doctor Somerville was called away earlier and he hasn’t come back. The young man is restless and I’m afraid I’ll need help keeping him in bed. Can you please help me with him?”

There was no way I could refuse her pleading voice.

“Of course, Millie, I’ll be right there. Give me time to dress.” As I started to turn back to my bedroom, I thought of someone else who would be willing to help. “Millie, can you go over to the Sheriff’s office and see if Clay’s there. It might take both of us to keep Johnny down tonight.”

Without another word, Millie turned and quickly walked down the boardwalk towards the Sheriff’s office.

I was already at the house that doubled as Frank Somerville’s home and office when Clay arrived. One look is all it took for both of us to know Millie had been right to seek help.

Clay placed a hand on Johnny’s forehead. “He’s burning up.”

Millie rushed to the bed. “He’s worse than he was when I went to get you.”

“Where’s the Doc?” Clay reached for a washcloth, wet it, and began to wipe Johnny’s fevered brow.

“I…., I don’t know.” Millie collapsed in a chair and looked at Clay and me with tears in her eyes. “I don’t know.”

“When was the last time you saw him?” I moved across the room and put a hand on her shoulder.

“It’s been hours. Someone came to the door and Frank went to see who it was. I came in here to sit with Johnny. A few minutes later, Frank stuck his head around the door and told me he was going out. That’s the last time I saw him.”

“Did you see who came for him?  Did he say where he was going?”

“No, I didn’t see who it was.” Her eyes locked on the door. I could see she was thinking hard. “Come to think of it, Frank made sure I didn’t see who was behind him. He only opened the door enough to stick his head in.”

A moan from the bed drew our attention away from the topic of Frank Somerville.

Johnny started tossing. Mumbling in Spanish, his unseeing eyes opened, his right hand reaching for a gun that wasn’t there. He threw aside the thin sheet that covered him, and he tried throwing a leg off the bed.

I moved to the other side of the bed. While Clay fought to keep the boy in bed, my eyes went to Johnny’s back. I was shocked by the scars that were more numerous than the ones on his chest.

“Harris,” Clay’s voice drew me back to his struggle with Johnny, “a little help here!”

While Clay pushed Johnny back into bed, I held his right shoulder down.

“It’s alright, Johnny, you’re safe.”

Johnny looked at me with glassy eyes. “Safe, no…, not safe…never safe.”

“Madrid…Johnny,” Clay spoke up, “this time you’re safe. We’ll watch your back. No one will get near you. You can relax.” Clay paused, “I’ll protect you.”

Johnny stopped struggling, seeming to hear what Clay was saying.

“You’ll protect…?”

Clay nodded. “Yes, I’ll protect you.

Those few words seemed to have done the trick. Johnny relaxed back into the bed and let his head settle.

The long night passed, along with the rain. As the sun started to rise, Johnny’s temperature dropped.  By 9:00, our worry about Johnny was passing; however, our concerns over Frank Somerville’s whereabouts were mounting.

Clay and I were in the kitchen, downing a much needed cup of coffee when Millie stepped through the door with a smile on her face.

“He’s awake and he’s hungry. You two go stay with him and I’ll get some broth.”

I smiled and looked at Clay. “We have our orders, Sheriff.”

Johnny’s eyes were open when we entered his room. “Morning.”

I moved to the side of the bed as Johnny tried to sit up. “No, you stay down.” 

He collapsed back, wincing in pain. Taking a few deep breaths, he looked around.

“How long have I been here?”

“Since yesterday,” Clay answered. “From what Webb Pickard said, you ran the bandits away by yourself.”

Johnny nodded. “There were only five of them. I dropped one and winged another. That’s when I took a bullet.  They cut and ran about that time.”

“That’s what Pickard said. Did you recognize any of them?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I did. The leader…” Johnny took a breath, grimacing. “The leader was the same man who hit us before.”

“You’re sure?”

“I’m sure. I recognized ….,” Johnny faltered, closing his eyes.

“Sheriff, he needs to rest.” Millie moved to the bed and lifted Johnny’s wrist. “His heart rate is too fast.” Putting the wrist down, she looked towards the door. “I wish Frank were here.”

Clay and I looked at each other.

“Who’s Frank?” Johnny seemed confused.

“Frank Somerville. He’s the doctor who took the bullet out of you. You’re at his home,” I answered, remembering Johnny had never met Frank and had been unconscious until a short while ago.

“What about the Doc?”

“The Doctor was called away last night and hasn’t come back,” Clay responded.

Johnny shifted and tried to move up in the bed. “Help me to sit up.”

As Johnny struggled up, I put a hand under his arm while Millie put pillows to his back. Settling back, he took a moment before speaking.

“I told you I hit one of the men who tried to rob us. If he’s still alive, he’s going to need a doctor.”

Millie’s eyes widened in horror. “They’ve taken Frank. My God, if they….”

As I tightened my hand on Millie’s shoulder, Clay shook his head and said, “They could be anywhere.”  

“I can tell you where they were.”

We all turned to see Frank Somerville standing in the doorway, looking a little tired but unhurt.

Millie sprang to her feet and ran to her fiancé, throwing herself into his arms. “I was so worried. Darling, are you alright?”

“Frank, what happened?” I asked.

“Where were they?” Clay wasted no time in getting to the point.

Frank held up a hand. “Hold on, one question at a time. I’ll answer all of you, but first I want to check my patient.” Turning to the bed, he gave Johnny an appraising look.  “How is he?”

“Why don’t you ask me, Doc?” Johnny chimed in. “I’m right here.”

As if not hearing Johnny, Millie answered, “He had a terrible fever last night. I had to go to get Harris and Sheriff Hollister for help.”

Before Johnny could react or pull away, Frank placed a hand on his forehead.

“You still have a fever. Let me check your wound.”  He turned to address Clay and me. “If you’ll wait outside, I’ll let you know once I’ve changed his bandage, then I’ll tell you all about last night.”

Several minutes passed before we were called back into the room. We found Johnny lying flat in the bed, pale and covered in sweat. I suppose concern showed on my face because Frank put them to rest.

“He’s alright. Changing the bandage wore him out. There’s some sign of infection, but all in all, he’s doing well.”

I looked at the expression on Johnny’s face and flinched. He was glaring at the doctor, and I’m sure it was that look alone that had made men, as I’d heard some say, ‘piss their pants and run for the hills.’ I don’t know if I’d ever want Johnny Madrid looking at me in the same manner.

“Now, can you tell us about last night?” Clay asked of Frank after also glancing at Johnny and wanting nothing to do with the young man’s mood at the moment.

Frank wiped his hands on a towel and nodded.

“Millie and I were sharing a cup of coffee around 6:00 last evening when there was a knock at the door. I asked Millie to sit with Johnny while I saw who it was.  The moment I opened the door, I was greeted by a gun pointed at my chest.

“Two masked men pushed their way into the outer office and told me to get my bag, that I was going with them. When I asked why they said they had a friend who was wounded and needed my help. I told them, of course, I’d go, but first I told them I had to let my assistant know.

“They didn’t want me talking to anyone, but I convinced them if I didn’t tell Millie that she would have the Sheriff looking for me within the hour. They conceded and I was able to stick my head into the room and let Millie know I was going out.”

Frank looked at Johnny.

“Mr. Madrid, I made sure they didn’t know it was you in here. I didn’t know who those men were, but I was fairly sure that if they knew Johnny Madrid was in the house, they would have killed you.”  

“I appreciate that, Doc.”  

Millie moved to the bedside and was wiping the sweat off Johnny’s face.

“We went outside where they had horses waiting. We rode south out of town to the old Denton farm.  It’s abandoned and has been for years, but they’d made themselves to home.

“I only saw the face of the wounded man. He had a bullet in his shoulder and was unconscious. I removed the bullet and bandaged him. They made me stay the night. This morning they tied me up, took my patient, and left.

“As they were leaving, they said I could work myself loose in about an hour and they were leaving a horse for me.” Frank took a breath. “It took me almost two hours to get free and come back to town.”

“Can you tell us what they looked like?” Clay asked, insistently.

“Just the man I was tending. The other two kept their faces covered the entire time. The man who was wounded was in his early 20’s, average height I’d say, but he was laying down the entire time.  No one used any names. I’m afraid I’m not much help, Sherriff.”

“At least you’re alright.”

“Yes, but the young man I was treating won’t be unless he’s allowed to rest. He’d lost a lot of blood and was in no condition to be moved this morning.”

“I figure he’s the one I hit yesterday,” Johnny spoke up. “Yeah, Doc, I’m sure glad you didn’t mention me to the men who came here last night.”

“We’ve got to do something about these robberies.” I turned to Clay and saw he agreed.

“I’d like to, Harris, but we’ve got to figure out who’s behind them first.”

Everyone quieted.

“I have an idea that might work,” Johnny broke the silence in the room. “Does anyone know how I’m doing? I mean outside this room?”

Clay shook his head. “No, only the people in this room. Why?”

“What if you spread the word that I came to long enough to say I recognized who was leading the outlaws yesterday and I know who hired them. Before I could say any more, I passed out again. Say the Doc don’t know when I’ll come around again.”

“Madrid, you want us to set you up as a sitting duck.”

“That’s right. Someone would want to shut me up. That someone would be the person behind the robberies.”

“I don’t like it.” Frank turned to Clay. “If you make that announcement, you’re putting not only Mr. Madrid at risk but also Millie and me.”

“Frank, I can take care of myself.” Millie put her hands on her hips and gave her intended a stern look.

“Millie, I won’t have the woman I intend to marry put in harm’s way.”

Frank and Millie looked around the room. Millie blushed. “You know, dear, you’ve just announced our engagement.”

Now, it was Frank’s turn to blush.

I stepped forward, hand extended. “Congratulations, it’s about time.”

“Thank you, Harris, but we don’t want anyone else to know until we can tell Millie’s parents next week.”

“We understand and it won’t go past these walls.”  

A look around the room and nods from Clay and Johnny confirmed my statement.

“Doc, I know these could be dangerous, but…”

Johnny was cut off by Frank.

“I ….” He looked at Millie with her hands still on her hips. “Very well, I was going to suggest we move you to your room at the hotel, but for what you have planned to work, you’ll need to be here and close to death’s door. Am I correct?”

Johnny smiled. “That’s right.”

“I suppose it would be easier to guard you here than at the hotel, and actually, you aren’t ready to go anywhere.  Alright, what do you want me…us to do?”

Johnny looked at Clay. Clay looked back.

Johnny laughed, “I came up with the idea, lawman. You figure out how to make it work and don’t forget I plan to come out of this alive.”

“I’ll do my best to make sure you do.”

“You do that.” Johnny closed his eyes and grunted. “Now, if you’ll all get out of here, I need to get some sleep.”

As if prompted by Johnny’s words, Frank motioned for everyone to leave. Just as the door was about to close, Johnny raised his head and said, “And, Sheriff, make sure Bill Griffith and Doris Barnes find out I know who’s behind the robberies.”

Clay and I stopped in our tracks.

“Johnny, you suspect one of them?”

He didn’t respond, but we got the message.

******

Tombstone - The Oriental Saloon - the afternoon of August 19th, 1868

The piano player was pounding out a tune I recognized as ‘Oh, Them Golden Slippers.’ It had never been one of my favorite pieces of music; however, for some reason seemed to be favored in saloons throughout the west.

Clay and I sat at a table in the middle of the room. We’d been there for only a few minutes when Frank Somerville strolled in and made his way to the table.

“Sheriff, Harris, mind if I join you?”

“Frank, sit down,” I responded. “You look like you could use a drink.”

“Yes, thank you.”

Clay motioned for the bartender.

“Doc, what will it be?”

“A beer, Jake, thank you.”

Jake nodded and went to get Frank’s drink.

“How’s Madrid doing,” Clay asked in a voice slightly louder than he’d usually use.

Frank shook his head. “It’s touch and go, Sherriff. He woke up only the one time, but nothing since.”

“He woke up? Did he say anything about the robbery?” I asked as Jake set a beer on the table in front of Frank.

“He only said he recognized one of the men who’d try to steal the payroll and that he knew who was behind the robberies. He passed out again before he could say any more.”

Clay sat forward. “Frank, the moment he comes to again, send someone for me. If Madrid knows who’s behind the robberies….”

Clay stopped talking and looked around the room.  The men at the next table, who’d been listening, quickly turned their attention back to their drinks.

“Clay, do you know what this means?” I asked loud enough for the next table to hear.

Clay raised a hand to quiet me. “Not here, Harris. Let’s go to the Mining Company office. I need to talk to Bill Griffith.”

Frank drained his beer. “I’m going back to my office. I’ll let you know when Madrid wakes up…if he wakes up.”

Frank pushed back from the table and walked out with Clay and me following.

*****

Once we were outside, I could see a smile on Clay’s face.

“It’ll be all over town in an hour that Madrid knows who’s behind the robberies.”

“One more stop?” I asked.

He nodded. “Yes, the Mining Company office and then we set up guards on Madrid and wait.”

*****

Bill Griffith had his gaze firmly planted on Clay.

“You believe Madrid knows who’s been robbing us?”

“That’s what Doctor Somerville said. Madrid came to for only a few moments but said he knew who it was,” Clay replied. “The doctor will let me know when he wakes up again.”

“Is Johnny going to be alright?” Doris asked, the apprehension evident in her voice.

“Frank said he’s running a fever and he’s concerned Johnny hasn’t woken up yet. To tell the truth, Doris, I’m worried. I’ve come to consider the young man a friend. I know who he is and what he’s done, but beneath it all, I believe he’s a good man.”

“Yes,” Griffith interjected almost absentmindedly. “He is a likable young man, once you get to know him and get past the fact that he’s a hired gun. Well, we can only hope he pulls through. Now, I need to get back to work. Doris, can you…”

“Yes, Mr. Griffith, I have the reports you need. Harris, will you let me know when Johnny is awake and can have visitors? I’d like to see him.”

“Of course.”

“I need to get back to my office.” Clay was already heading for the door.

“And I need to get to the Epitaph.”

As Clay opened the door, he turned to look at Griffith and Doris. “Be sure you tell no one about what Madrid knows. His life could be in danger if the wrong people found out.”

“You can count on us, Sheriff,” Bill Griffith replied and then turned to his office.

Once on the boardwalk, Clay walked with me partway to the Epitaph.

“I think that went well. Now, we wait.” Clay tipped his hat back and scanned the street.

I also looked up and down Tombstone's main street. People were going about their business as usual. It was hard to believe somewhere in our town was the head of a gang of outlaws that had robbed and murdered. Tonight, we would begin the surveillance of the doctor’s house and hope we could catch the killers before they struck again.

******

Later in the evening of August 19th, 1868

Knocking on Doctor Frank Somerville’s door, I waited, hearing footsteps inside. A decision was made that the doors would be locked until our plan went into action. I saw the curtain move aside and Millie peer out at me. Then hearing the lock turn, I looked up and down the street to see if anyone was watching me.

“Harris, please come in.” Millie stood aside to allow me entry.

“How is he doing?”

Millie shook her head and smiled. “I’ll never understand men, especially young men. Keeping this one in bed is a full-time job. I believe controlling Mrs. Tate’s four-year-old is easier.”

“Giving you a hard time?”

I followed her down the hallway and as Millie moved on to the kitchen, I opened the bedroom door.  I was greeted by the sound of a gun being cocked and the sight of a Colt .45 pointed at my chest. I came to a standstill.

“Damn it, Harris, you could have gotten yourself shot. Don’t ever barge into a room like that again.”

While I tried to control my breathing and pounding heart, I watched Johnny lower his gun and lay back in the bed.

“Sorry.”

Johnny closed his eyes and I could tell he was also trying to control his breathing. It dawned on me that the sudden movement on his part had caused him pain.  I walked across the room, slowly, I might add. I’d only caught a glimpse of Madrid, but it was enough to know I didn’t want to see more.

“Do you want me to get you something for pain?”

He shook his head. “No, I’m alright. It’s easing up now.”

It took a few moments, but when Johnny took a deep breath and relaxed, so did I.

“So, did you get the word out?”

I nodded. “Yes, all we had to do was say something in a couple of places. The word is now all over town that you know who is behind the robberies….”

“And that…?”

“Yes, and that you are still unconscious. Doctor Somerville did well in expressing his concern that you wouldn’t wake up.”

I watched the expression on Johnny’s face. For a fleeting moment, I saw what I thought was sadness. Maybe he was thinking about how close it had been.

“What’s the plan?”

I sat down, noting the Colt laying across Johnny’s lap. It was the first time I’d had an opportunity to see the man and the gun together. There was no doubt the weapon was modified to serve one purpose and one only; killing. The barrel had been shortened, the sites filed off, and the grip seemed to be molded to the hand holding it.  I was captivated by the way Madrid held the gun, almost lovingly.   

I did a mental slap. I’d called him Madrid. When did I revert from Johnny to Madrid? I suppose it was when he’d pointed the gun at me earlier.

As if knowing what I was thinking, Johnny cleared his throat.

“Look, I’m sorry. I….”

“Don’t worry. I know it was foolish of me to rush in. Sometimes I forget….”

A dark look crossed his face.

“You forget what?” he drawled, his voice low and menacing. “You forget I’m a hired killer?”

“Now, don’t go giving me that look, young man.  I forget you have a gun with you at all times and know how to use it.” I could see my words weren’t working. “Johnny, I stopped thinking of you as a hired killer, your words, not mine, some time ago. I consider you a friend, a good friend, and I hope you feel the same way.”

Johnny’s face lightened with a brief smile and then it was gone.

“I don’t have many friends in my line of work, and the ones I do, well… they don’t last long. Not sure I know how to be a friend to anyone and don’t expect it of others.”

I didn’t get a chance to respond to Johnny’s admission, as the door swung open. Johnny jerked forward, gun cocked and pointing at none other than Tombstone’s Sheriff. I almost laughed at the expression on Clay’s face and wondered if that was the way I’d looked a few minutes earlier.

“Doesn’t anyone around here know how to knock?”

Johnny collapsed back in the bed once again, regaining control of his breathing and pain.

Clay stepped into the room without a word of apology. He waited until it looked like Johnny was ready to talk.

“I made my rounds and went to the office and then out the back door. My deputy will close up in about an hour and then go to the Mercantile across the street and keep watch.”

Clay turned to me.

“Don’t worry, I know what to do. I’ll go to the newspaper and then home. I’ll wait an hour, turn out the lights and then I’ll go out the back way and come here.”

“Be sure to come in the back way.”

I nodded.

“Madrid….”

Johnny cut him off.

“I know what to do. You just make sure no one gets trigger happy and starts anything until…”

“Until someone tries to kill you or succeeds?” I rebuked.

Johnny smiled. “Something like that, but look at the bright side, if I do catch a bullet, you’ll be the first to report the death of Johnny Madrid.”

“I prefer not to write that story and don’t joke about getting killed.” I stood and stretched. “I’ll be back in an hour.”  

A soft knock on the door caused us to turn in time to see Frank stepping into the room. I couldn’t help myself.

“You knocked.”

Frank chuckled. “I learned the hard way as I imagine you did. Now, if you’ll excuse us, I need to check Johnny’s bandages. Millie is getting him something to eat. I have a feeling it’s going to be a long night, so.” Looking at Johnny, he said, “After you eat, I want you to try and get some sleep.”

When Johnny didn’t argue, I knew it was time to leave. I could tell he was tired and needed to rest.

*****

Frank Somerville’s Home/ Office - August 19th, 1868 - 9 p.m.

After leaving Frank’s office, I’d gone to the Epitaph and then home. An hour later, I turned out the light and waited another fifteen minutes before going out the back door, down the alley, and then worked my way to the back of Frank’s office.

By the time I tapped on the back door, a light rain had started to fall. I looked skyward and could see dark clouds overhead, blocking out the stars.

A moment later, the door opened. Clay stood to the side while I slipped inside.

“How are things out there?” Clay asked as he locked the door behind me.

“Quiet. I made sure no one followed me. How are things here?”

Clay had his back to me when he answered, “Quiet,” but I could tell he was irritated.

Clay didn’t stop at Johnny’s bedroom, but I did. Without thinking, I opened the door and came to a dead stop when I saw the gun pointed at me.

Johnny rolled his eyes and without a word laid back.

I raised my hand. “Just wanted to say I was here.”  

“Yeah, I can see that.” Johnny hissed. “Why don’t you and the Sheriff go have a long talk about coming in here without giving me some warning?”

I eased out the door, closing it behind me. When I got to the living room, Clay was standing at the fireplace with a scowl on his face. Frank and Millie looked at me and laughed.

“I take it the patient isn’t in a good mood?”

Frank laughed again. “I would think you two would have learned by now not to go barging into that room without knocking, and the answer to your question is, no, he’s not in a good mood. I can’t get him to rest and his fever’s spiked again. The boy won’t relax until this is over.”

“If he points that damn gun at me one more time, I’m going to…,” Clay spouted off.

“You’re going to do what, Clay? Take it away from him. That I’d like very much to see.” It was my turn to laugh.

“Gentlemen, I’d like to see if I can get my patient to rest even for a short time before, if you’re right, someone comes in here to try to kill him.”

“You do that, Doctor,” Clay responded.

A few seconds later, we heard a soft knock on the bedroom door.

“It’s me, Johnny.”

Frank opened the door, stepped inside, and closed the door behind him.

We looked at Millie. “Gentlemen, that’s how it’s done.” She stood up. “I’m going home now. Frank has made it plain he doesn’t want me here tonight.”

“Do you need someone to walk you home?”

“Frank will do it when he finishes with Johnny and then he’ll come back here.” Millie walked over to stand in front of Clay. “Sheriff, please take care of Frank. I don’t know what I’d do if anything happened to him. Not now that we’re one step closer to getting married.”

“Don’t worry, Miss Millie, I’ll do my best to make sure he’s out of the line of fire.”


*****

August 20th, 1868 - 2:00 a.m.

I sat in one of the shadowed corners of Johnny’s room. In the opposite corner, Clay sat with his legs stretched out in front of him. Between us was the bed with Johnny Madrid, giving the appearance of sleeping. I say ‘giving the appearance’ because the soft breathing we heard was deceptive. 

The only light in the room came from a lamp, turned down low, on the table next to the bed. Johnny had suggested it so that whoever came for him would be able to find their target. I wasn’t convinced it was a good idea but wasn’t going to disagree with the young man who was putting his life on the line tonight.  

I’d been sitting so long, my backside hurt and legs were stiff, but I didn’t dare move. The first time I’d moved and the chair squeaked, Johnny’s hand shot out from under the covers with his gun at the ready.  

I’d said a whispered, “Sorry,” and he relaxed. It wasn’t long before his breathing leveled out, but I knew he wasn’t sleeping.

The sound of lightning cracking overhead and thunder rumbling set my nerves on edge. Wind pounded against the side of the building as we waited. The room was stifling, but we didn’t dare open the door or crack a window.  

The sound of glass breaking brought me upright in my chair. I saw Clay pull his legs in and stand up. He moved as far back in his corner as he could, waving for me to do the same.

I heard footsteps in hallway and the creaking of a floorboard. I glanced at Johnny and saw him slide off the bed away from the light. The bedroom door slowly opened.  A hand holding a revolver appeared pointing at the lamp illuminated bed. The door opened a little more.

The next few seconds were deafening.

The first shot from the intruder resounded around the room. I stood frozen in my spot against the wall as the pillow where Johnny’s head had lain exploded into a cloud of down feathers. A second shot, this one from Johnny’s gun, seemed to echo off the walls.

As the acrid smell of gunpowder filled the small room, I heard a scream coming from the other side of the door.

Clay pulled the door completely open and rushed out of the room. A man was staggering down the hall towards the back door.

“Stop right there, or I’ll shoot.”

The man turned and fired. Clay fell to the floor, leveled his gun and fired.  The would-be assassin crumpled to the floor, dead.

Clay picked himself up and walked to the fallen man. Kicking the gun from the man’s hand, he knelt and felt for a pulse. Turning, Clay looked at me and then at Johnny, who was standing behind me.

Frank pushed by us and went to check the man himself. When he stood up, he shook his head.

“Do we know who he is?”

Johnny walked down the hall using the wall and one hand to support himself. He looked down at the dead man and nodded.

“I recognize him. He was leading the men who tried to take the payroll. Probably the man Frank Baskin said gave him his orders, Dave Parker.”  Johnny turned and placed his back against the wall.  “Damn.”  

 “It’s over.” Frank went to check on Johnny. “Now, will you rest?”

Johnny looked down once again at the man lying on the floor.

“Yeah, it’s over, for tonight and we’re no closer to proving who’s behind any of this.”

“What do you mean, ‘for tonight’?” Frank looked between Johnny and Clay.

“He means they didn’t silence the witness. They’ll try again,” Clay answered.  

The back door flew open.

Johnny’s gun came up as did Clay’s. Standing in the doorway with a rifle in his hand and a petrified look on his face was Clay’s Deputy, Charlie Riggs.

“Sheriff?” Charlie choked out.

Glaring at the deputy, Johnny lowered his gun. Turning to look at Clay, he shook his head.

“Dios, does everyone in this town have a death wish!?”

Clay holstered his gun. “No.”

Johnny slumped back against the wall. “Well, you could have fooled me.”

Looking back at his deputy, Clay tried to reassure him.  “It’s alright, Charlie. Did you see anyone else out there?”

Fred shook his head. “To tell the truth, Sheriff, with the storm, I didn’t see this one. He got right by me.”

Clay shook his head. “With the way it’s raining out there, I’m surprised our friend here found the house. Fred, help me get him out of here.”

While Clay and Fred removed the body from the hallway, I helped Frank guide Johnny back to the bedroom. We stopped just inside the doorway. Feathers from the now mutilated pillow covered the room.

Johnny turned to look at Frank, a frown on his face.

“Doc, no offense, but I don’t like this room much anymore. You got someplace else I can lay down?”

“Next door on the left.”

Johnny took a halting step and started to slump. I grabbed one arm while Frank took the other. By the time we got Johnny into bed, he was pale and sweating.

“Let me see your wound.” Frank began his examination while I stood back. “You’ve torn some stitches and you’re bleeding again. I’ll get what I need and be right back.”

While we waited for Frank to return, Johnny looked at me.

“You alright, Harris?”

“I am; you’re not. It was close wasn’t it?”

“Yeah, damn close. Next time…”

“You really believe they’ll try again?”

“They have to. They’ve shown their hand now. It’s either them or me.”

Frank made his way back into the room and I stepped out. I didn’t want to watch my friend in pain.  

The rear door opened again and Clay entered.

“Madrid?”

“We had to move him.” I pointed at the door to my left. “It appears he tore his wound open. Frank is taking care of him now.”

Clay glanced into Johnny’s previous room, he whistled. “Close.”

“Very close.” I stared at the hole in the headboard and the remains of the pillow. “Clay, that could have been Johnny.”

“It could have been, but it wasn’t. Madrid called it right.”

“What about Parker?”

“Charlie is taking him to the undertaker.”

“How are you going to explain the bullet holes?”

“Harris, this is Tombstone. Harold Givens doesn’t ask questions and his customers don’t talk.”
 
I laughed, knowing he was right.

We could hear through the door and it sounded like Frank was almost done.

“Harris, why don’t you go home and get some rest. I don’t think anyone is going to try anything again tonight, but I’ll stay here and keep watch over Madrid.”

I wasn’t going to argue with him. I was tired and had to admit a little in shock. It seemed to have been so easy for Clay and Johnny to use their guns. Although I’d seen many gunfights in my time in Tombstone, it still shook my Boston sensibilities when gunplay was used.

Exiting the back door, I made my way home, looking forward to a soft bed and the hope of pleasant dreams.

*****

Friday, August 21st, 1868 - Late morning

A blazing sun burned overhead, rapidly drying out the rain-sodden ground. The temperature was rising and the day promised to be another scorcher.

Doris Barnes strolled along the boardwalk heading for the Epitaph office. She nodded her head to passersby, broadening her smile each time. Peering through the Epitaph’s glass door, she saw the object of her visit. Straightening her shoulders, the young woman opened the door and stepped inside.

*****

“Doris, good morning.”

“Good morning, Harris. I hope I’m not disturbing you.”

I shook my head. “No, not at all. Come in. What can I do for you?”

“Well…” she stammered. “I…”

“Doris?”

I could see her blush. She took a deep breath and gathered her thoughts. “I was wondering how Johnny was doing this morning?”

I dipped my head, trying to hide a smile. Johnny did have a way with women.

“I’m not sure. I’ve been busy getting the paper ready for print. I haven’t checked with Doctor Somerville this morning.”

“Oh, I see.” She looked away, disappointed. When she looked back at me, there was a smile on her face. “Do you think I can go see him?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know if he’s woken up yet. He was still unconscious last night when I visited Doctor Somerville.”

“So, he hasn’t regained consciousness?”

 “As I said, I don’t know. I’m sure Sheriff Hollister would have told me if he had. We’ve been waiting for him to tell us what he knows about the robberies.”

“Harris, can you talk to the doctor and see if I could just see Johnny. I promise I won’t disturb him. I just want….” She hesitated. “I just want to reassure myself he’s …”

“I think I understand. You want to see for yourself he’s still alive?”

The incident with Dave Parker was still fresh in my mind and as far as I knew, no one was aware of the attempt on Johnny’s life. Or did they?

“Yes, that’s it. Please, talk to the doctor for me. Won’t you?”

The sweet expression on her face removed my doubts.

“Alright. I’ll go over right now and talk to Doctor Somerville.”

A brilliant smile spread across her face. “Thank you. Should I go with you?”

It was now my turn to pause. I needed to talk to Frank and Johnny before committing to letting Doris set foot in the Doctor’s office.

“No, go back to work. If Doctor Somerville gives his permission, I’ll come to get you.”

“Thank you so much. I’ll be waiting.”

Doris turned and hurried out the door. I stepped to the window and watched as she made her way down the boardwalk towards the Mining Company office.

Picking up my hat, I left the Epitaph and headed to the doctor’s office. Tapping on the front door, I waited for it to open. Millie Ellis greeted me.

“Good morning, Harris.”

“Good morning to you too. You’re looking lovely this morning Millie.”  I stepped inside and took off my hat. “How are things here?”

Millie closed the door and locked it before answering.  

“Johnny’s asleep and Frank had to go out on a call. I’m here by myself.”

“Did Johnny have any problems from our early morning adventure?”

Millie shook her head. “No. Frank said he was running a slight fever, but other than that nothing.”

“I was hoping to talk to him.”

Millie paused. “Let me just check to see if he’s awake.”

I followed her down the hall. She tapped on the bedroom door, waited a few seconds, and then opened it. She stepped inside. I heard her say, “Good, you’re awake. Harris is here to see you.”

I didn’t hear the response, but Millie waved me inside.  I smiled at the look of the boy. Yes, it was a young boy, not a hardened gunfighter who greeted me.

“Good morning, Johnny.”

I received a mumbled “morning” as he struggled to sit up in bed, dark hair sticking up on all directions and sleep in his eyes.

Millie hurried forward to put pillows behind his back. I waited until he was situated before speaking again. “Doris Barnes came to see me this morning.” I could see a questioning looking in his eyes and continued, “She wants to come to see you.”

“You told her I was awake?”

“No.” I shook my head. “No, I didn’t. I even told her you were still unconscious, but she seems worried about you and just wants to see you for herself.”

 Nodding, he turned his head towards the window. Finally, he looked at me.

“She wants to see for herself?” he repeated what I’d said. “Why?”

“You seem to have made an impression on her, young man.”

I could swear he smirked.

“Alright, bring her over, but…only to the doorway.” He turned to Millie. “I’m still unconscious…with a fever, which is true. She can see me but no closer than the door. Understood?”

“I understand, but what will that accomplish?”

“You’ll see. Harris, I want you to stay with Doris the whole time she’s here. Make sure she doesn’t come inside the room.”

I was at a loss as to what Johnny had in mind but agreed.

*****

I made my way to the Tombstone Gold and Silver Mining Company office. Within minutes, Doris and I were walking back to Frank Somerville’s. Millie was waiting for us and opened the door before I had an opportunity to knock.

“Good morning, Doris.”

“Millie, it’s good to see you.”  

Doris strained her neck to look down the hallway to the bedrooms.

“This way.” Millie led the way. “Doctor Somerville isn’t here right now, and I can’t let you into Johnny’s room, but I agreed to let you see him. You can’t go any further than the doorway.”

“But…,” Doris stuttered.

Millie held up a hand. “It’s the doorway or nothing.”

“Alright. I just want to see for myself that he’s alright. I’ve been so worried.”

I could see Millie weakening with the pleading tone in Doris’s voice. Knowing I had to strengthen her resolve, I jumped in, saying, “We understand.”

Millie opened the door. Johnny lay in the bed with his head turned towards us. There was a slight sheen of sweat on his forehead. He still looked young to me, but I knew it was nothing more than a façade, hiding the truth of Johnny Madrid.

I watched Doris. She put her hand to her mouth and gasped.

“Poor, Johnny. He looks so pale, so helpless.” She turned to Millie. “Can’t I just….?”

“No. This is as far as….”

We heard a moan from the bed. Three heads turned as one to see Johnny’s head roll from one side to the other. Then a soft mumbled word, “Payroll.”

Millie looked at me, surprise written all over her face. She moved across the room and put a hand on Johnny’s forehead.

Johnny rolled his head again. “Gotta tell…”

“Tell what, Johnny?” Millie took a wet cloth and wiped the young man’s face.

“Sheriff.” Rolling his head again, Johnny mumbled, “Tell Sheriff…payroll.”

“Tell the Sheriff, what about the payroll? Johnny?”

She wiped his face again. Johnny sighed, his head sank into the pillow, and he was quiet.

Millie came back to the door. “I hope Doctor Somerville comes back soon. That’s the first time he’s spoken since that first day.” She looked at Doris and then at me. “He sounded as if he needed to talk to the Sheriff about the payroll. Do you think it’s true he knows who’s behind the robberies?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know. Doris, let me take you back to your office, and then I need to find Clay Hollister. Millie, keep an eye on Johnny, and if he comes to again, listen carefully to what he says.”

“I will.”

Millie escorted us to the door and locked it behind us.

Doris didn’t say anything as we walked back to the Mining Company. Steve Barnett met us in front of the office.

“Doris, I was looking for you.”

“I only stepped out for a minute, Steve. I went to see Johnny.” She took Steve’s arm and squeezed it. “He’s so sick, but he did come to for a moment while I was there. Harris is on his way to get the Sheriff. We think Johnny’s waking up and can tell Sheriff Hollister who’s behind the robberies.”

Steve smiled. “That’s good news.”

Doris turned to me. “Thank you for taking me, Harris. I’d better get back to work.”

Steve and Doris went inside, leaving me standing alone on the boardwalk. I wondered what Johnny was up to and I knew I needed to get Clay.

*****

It took me almost half an hour to find Clay Hollister. He was coming out of the hotel when I spotted him. Waving, I hurried over.

“Clay, you need to get over to Frank’s office. Something is about to happen and ….”

The sound of gunfire stopped me mid-sentence.  Suddenly, men and women were running down the street, all in the direction of the doctor’s office.

Clay jumped off the boardwalk and ran down the street. I followed close behind him.  The gunfire stopped as quickly as it started.

Clay pushed his way through the crowd of people outside the doctor’s white house. Laying in the doorway was a man, his face covered with a bandana, and a gun clutched in his still hand.

Drawing his gun, Clay slowly edged onto the porch. He waved for me to stay where I was. I nodded and watched as he knelt and felt the man’s neck. I could tell from his reaction; he’d found no pulse. Clay then stepped through the doorway.

Knowing Clay wanted me to stay back, of course, I didn’t. I moved onto the porch and stood to the side, waiting a moment before peering around the door frame. Clay was slowly making his way down the hallway. I could see the legs of another man sticking out of Johnny’s room.

When Clay got to the doorway and looked inside, I could see him inhale. As he disappeared into the room, I moved into the house.

At that moment, Frank returned. Frantically, he pushed passed the crowd outside and then me. I tried to grab his arm and pull him back, but there was no stopping the young doctor.

Together, Frank and I inched down the hallway and stopped at Johnny’s door. Inside was a scene I wouldn’t soon forget.  

The pungent smell of gunpowder filled the small house. A haze hung close to the floor but was slowly rising as we tried to take in what had happened.

One masked man lay face down at the door, blood spreading from under his body. A second man, without a mask, lay on his back further in the room, a bullet wound between the eyes.  Near the bed, Johnny lay, also face down, his right arm stretched out in front of him still holding his gun. A pool of blood crept from under his left side.

Frank ran into the room, eyes wide. He looked around and then called out, “Millie?”

From down the hall came a whimper. It was hard to see in the dark hall, but finally, we were able to see Millie sitting on the floor near the back door, clutching her knees to her chest. Her head was buried in her arms. A gun lay beside her. She looked up only when Frank used her name.

“Fra…Frank,” she sobbed out as he moved to her. Grasping her shoulders, he lifted her to her feet and pulled her close to his chest. Tears streamed down her face

“Oh, Millie, sweetheart. Are you alright?”

She nodded. “I’m alright, but …oh Frank, I shot him. I shot that awful man. He was trying to …. oh, God…. Johnny!”

She collapsed against him sobbing.  

Frank led her back to Johnny’s room, where Clay was still kneeling next to the young pistolero. Nudging Clay aside, Frank took his place. Hesitatingly, Frank turned Johnny over.

I was surprised to see the blood on the floor was coming from the shoulder wound and there didn’t appear to be any new holes in our young friend.

“Help me get him back on the bed,” Frank ordered.

With my help, Clay and Frank put Johnny back to bed. As soon as we had him settled, Frank began to cut the old and bloodied bandage away.

“Sheriff, will you see if you can get some help to get those men out of the house?” He looked at me. “Harris, will you see to Millie? Take her to my room and see if she’ll lie down.”

Clay shook his head. “Doctor, before we do anything, I need to know what happened.” He turned to Millie, who leaned against the wall. “Millie?”

Millie looked at us, sniffling and visibly shaking.  She straightened and took a deep breath.

“It wasn’t long after Doris and Harris left. Johnny sat on the side of the bed and looked at me. I’d never seen him like that before. He said someone was coming for him and he had a feeling it would be any minute.

“I didn’t believe him and told him to get back into bed. His eyes were cold and his voice got soft and low. I can still hear his words and I swear his voice gave me chill bumps.”

*****

“Listen to me, Millie. I know what I’m talking about. They’re coming and soon. Does the Doc have a gun in the house?”

I nodded ‘yes.’

“Good, now go get it and bring it to me.”

I went for the gun and when I returned, Johnny had pulled on his pants and was trying to button them up. I knew it was no use trying to reason with him, so I helped him. I handed him Frank’s gun. He looked it over, checked that it was loaded and handed it back to me.

“Do you know how to use a gun?”

“I’ve never fired one, but I believe I know how it works, point and shot. Right?”

Johnny smiled. “Right. Now, Millie, I want you to go down the hall to the back of the house. Watch the back door. If anyone comes in, you stay hidden until they’ve passed by you. They’ll be coming for me, not you.”

“Johnny, you’re too weak, I….”

“You’ll do like I say. Understand? You go down there and stay hidden. Once they get to the door here, I’ll take care of them, but Millie, if they get by me, they’re not gonna’ want to leave any witnesses. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

“I understand. If they get by you, I need to protect myself.”

“That’s right and don’t be afraid to shoot them. Cause they sure ain’t gonna’ feel nothing about killing you.” 

*****

“That’s what I did. I was in the last room down the hall when I heard someone turn the doorknob on the back door. I had it locked, but since the glass was broken last night and all we had over the window was a board, it wasn’t hard for him to pull it away and unlock the door.

“I could tell there were two of them. They moved down the hall and I did just what Johnny told me to do. I waited and then stepped into the hall, that’s when a man kicked in the front door and started coming inside.

“He saw me and lifted his gun. I knew he was going to shoot me, so I…. I shot him and then I heard shooting from Johnny’s room. I saw one of the men who’d come in the back door fall just inside his doorway and then there were two more shots.

“I was so scared… so scared.”

She broke down crying as I put my arm around her and guided her down the hall to another room.

After getting Millie settled, I went back to see how Johnny was doing. That’s when I stopped to look at the man still lying in his doorway. Leaning down, I moved the bandana from his face and took a good look. I was surprised to see that it was Doug Barnett.

Next, I retraced my steps to the front door. Bending down, I removed the bandana from the man’s lifeless face. It was Doug’s brother, Steve.

So, the Barnett brothers were part of the gang after all.

That left the third man, the man who lay in Johnny’s room with a bullet between his eyes. I hurried over to see if I knew who he was; I didn’t.

While I’d taken care of Millie, Clay had gone outside to get help moving the bodies out of the house. When he returned, I pulled him aside.

“Steve and Doug Barnett.”

Clay nodded.

“Do you know who the third man is?”

Clay again nodded and I waited.

“Well?”

“His name is Caleb Dawson. He’s wanted in Texas for armed robbery and murder.”

“Well, that fits.”

“He’s also a hired gun.”

“A hired gun, like…. like Johnny Madrid?”

“That’s right.”

“What kind of reputation does he have?”

“He’s good. One of the best in Texas.”

“So….”

“So, Johnny Madrid killed Caleb Dawson. I’d say Madrid’s reputation just jumped up a notch or two.”

“Do you think Johnny knows who Dawson was?”

“Probably.”

I turned and looked into the room where Frank was still working on an unconscious boy. The events of the last twenty minutes finally came crashing down on me as I found a chair and collapsed into it. In the space of that twenty minutes, three men were dead, Millie was hysterical, and Johnny… Johnny Madrid’s reputation had just grown by leaps and bounds.

When I finally found my voice, I looked at Clay and commented, “We still don’t know who’s behind the robberies; who hired the Barnett brothers and Dawson.”

“I believe Madrid knows; otherwise, he wouldn’t have been ready for these three.”

“You think he’s put all the pieces together?”

“Yeah, I do. Now, all we need is to wait until he can talk.”

Together, Clay and I watched a few of the town’s men move through the house, first picking up Doug Barnett and then Steve and carrying them away.  We stepped aside as they took Caleb Dawson away.

I turned to look outside the front door. Bill Griffith stood with an arm around Doris Barnes. When Steve Barnett’s body passed Doris, she looked at his lifeless body and then back at the open door. I’m not sure what I saw in her eyes, but it sent a shiver up my spine.

*****

Sunday, August 22nd, 1868

I heard the voice long before reaching the bedroom door.  I had to admit it brought a smile to my face. If Johnny was strong enough to complain, I knew he was on the mend.

I’d stopped by to check on Johnny several times the day before, but Frank refused him visitors. Everyone was barred, even Clay and me.

“This time, he’s going to stay in that bed and rest, even if I have to tie him down.” Frank was adamant. “No one is going in there and that means Sheriff Hollister and especially you, Mr. Claibourne. Johnny Madrid won’t be giving you an interview until I say he’s well enough to do so.”

Clay and I backed off and bided our time. This morning we’d received word that Doctor Somerville was going to give us access to our friend.

“I ain’t taking no more of that stuff,” Johnny growled. “And where the hell are my pants?”

I heard a quieter voice, I knew was Millie’s answer him, “Johnny, you know you’re not strong enough….”

“I’m fine.”

I stepped to the open bedroom door and looked inside.

“Sure, you are,” I laughed. My words caused Johnny’s head to shoot up and his hand reached for his Colt.

I raised both hands in surrender.

“I come in peace. Do I need to wave a white flag?”

“Harris, tell her to give me my pants.”

“Where do you plan on going?”

Johnny gave me a hard look and I saw a slight blush to his face.

“Millie, I believe your young patient requires the outhouse.”

Now, it was Millie’s turn to blush. She reached down and slid a chamber pot from under the bed and held it out.

“No.” Johnny shook his head. “I’m going outside. Now, you can give me my pants, or I’ll go out like I am.”

He lifted the sheet covering his lower extremities and started to throw it aside. I knew he had long john bottoms on the last time I’d seen him but had no idea what, if anything, he was wearing now.

Millie shook her head, placed her hands on her hips, and uttered under her breath, “Men.” Then turning, she went to the wardrobe and found the item of clothing Johnny wanted. She handed it to him and stomped out of the room, saying, “Don’t come to me when you fall flat on your face. Harris, will you help him put those on?”

Johnny sat on the side of the bed, wrestling with his pants. I finally took pity and helped him dress.

“Boots.”

I looked around the room. Spotting the well-worn boots lined up against the wall, I retrieved them and helped Johnny put them on. He took a deep breath and I could tell he was gathering his strength. Pushing himself to his feet, Johnny got his balance and started for the door.  I thought it best to stay close at hand until he’d reached his destination.

“Need any help?”

He looked and me and snorted, “I think I can handle it by myself.”

Chuckling, I replied, “I’m sure you can.”

I waited until he was ready to go back inside, but Johnny had other ideas.

“Where’s Hollister?”

“At his office, I would imagine. Johnny, don’t you think you should go back to bed?”

“Been in bed too long now. Besides, I need to see Hollister.”

“Alright, I’ll take you.”

“I need my gun belt and my hat.”

Once I had him dressed, I walked beside Johnny down the boardwalk to the Sheriff’s Office.

*****

Finding Clay exactly as I thought he’d be, working at his desk, Johnny preceded me into the office.

Clay came to his feet.

“Madrid, what are you doing here?” Clay’s greeting was pretty much what I’d expected when he saw Johnny.

“Good morning to you, too, Sheriff.”

Clay stood up and moved a chair around for Johnny, motioning him to sit.

“He had to see you and wouldn’t take no for an answer.” I pulled a chair up for myself and sat down, stretching my legs out in front of me and waited.

The dynamics between Clay and Johnny interested me no end. Both were strong-minded, stubborn, and unwavering in their resolve. When they were together, you could feel the electrical charge in the room, like lightning bolts shooting across the sky.

I once believed as Clay Hollister, that gunmen like Johnny Madrid walked the line between two worlds. One world where the law ruled supreme and the other where only a gun and a man’s speed with it determined his fate, the gun winning out more times than not.

Now, after meeting and getting to know Johnny, my feelings had changed. Johnny Madrid was different. He walked that thin line Clay saw, but I believed he was more on the side of the law than not.

“Well!?” Clay leaned back in his chair, waiting for Johnny to speak.

I saw the fire in the young man’s eyes in response to Clay’s abrupt question and thought for a moment Johnny had changed his mind about needing to talk to Clay. Forestalling a confrontation, I pulled my legs back and leaned forward.

“Johnny, about the other day, the three men who broke into Frank’s house. What can you tell us?”

Johnny looked at me and I saw the smoldering fire in his eyes go out.

“Millie told you what happened?”

Clay nodded. “She did, but I’d still like to hear it from you, now that you’re here. How did you know they were coming when they did?”

Johnny told them much the same story Millie had about the events two days earlier in Frank Somerville’s home.

“You know that was Caleb Dawson you shot?”

Johnny dipped his head before raising it and looking Clay straight in the eyes.

“Yeah, I knew it was Dawson. We worked a couple of range wars together over in Texas.” Johnny laughed. “You know, when he barged into that room and he came face to face with me and my gun, he sure looked surprised. He probably thought he’d have me dead to rights.”

“Words already spreading about you taking Dawson down.”

Johnny looked at me.

“So, Mr. Editor, I make your front page again?”

“Yes, I afraid you did.” I defended my actions. “Johnny, it was news and, I’m afraid that’s what I deal in, news.”

“Hold up there.” He held up his left hand. “I ain’t mad, just the opposite. I was able to get a good price for my gun before this. Hell, because of you and that story, I can ask any amount I want now and get it.”

I stared at him, not sure how to respond.

 Before I could say anything, Johnny himself said, “Look, Harris, it’s who I am, what I do. I hire my gun out. The bigger the reputation, the more money I get. It’s just the way it is.”

I saw Clay close his eyes. Every lawman had something that plagued their exitance. Pistoleros were his worst nightmare and he had the best of them sitting in his office right now. I also knew Clay probably thought he needed to get Johnny Madrid out of his town as soon as possible. But right now, he needed Johnny and that would keep him from saying otherwise.

“You know who’s behind the robberies, I mean besides Steve and Doug Barnett and Caleb Dawson?”

“Dawson wasn’t in on the robberies. I figure he was hired for one reason only and that was to take me down.”

“So just the Barnett’s were in on it?”

Johnny leaned back in his chair and smiled. “Sheriff, how do you feel about arresting a woman?”

Both Clay and I leaned forward. Johnny had our attention.

“A woman? Who?”

“Doris Barnes.”

It was my turn to question Johnny. “Doris, you can’t…. you…you’re serious?”

“I’m serious. I knew when she walked out of my room the other day that she was in on the robberies.”

“So, that’s why you put on an act mumbling about the payroll and needing to talk to Clay?”

Johnny nodded. “That’s it. I’ve suspected her since that day in the café, but it wasn’t until you told me she wanted to see me, was worried about me, that I figured something was wrong with the picture. I’d seen her and Steve Barnett a couple of times in the Mining Company office. They seemed like they were more than friends.

“I figured the Barnett’s were in on the robberies from the beginning. I just didn’t know who else was helping them.”

The pieces were starting to fall into place, but still, there was something or should I say someone missing.

“But Doris always wired the Tucson office when the shipments went out. The Barnett’s weren’t in Tucson.”

“That’s right, Harris.” Johnny nodded.

“So, what happened that day in the Café for you to suspect Doris?”

“She wouldn’t look at me. The lady pretended to be interested in me, blushed at all the right moments, but not once would she look me in the eye.”

“That’s it? That’s all you’ve got; she wouldn’t look you in the eye?”

Johnny laughed. “Women always look at my eyes, Harris. They can’t help themselves. Every woman looks at my eyes, everyone except Doris Barnes.”

Both Clay and I laughed at the statement.

Johnny’s head was dipped, but to make his point, he looked at me through long dark lashes. The sapphire blue of his eyes stood out against his tan complexion. I could see why women wouldn’t be able to look away.

“Well, let’s go arrest Doris.” I pushed to my feet.

 “No.” Johnny shook his head. “There’s one more person we have to throw a rope around.”

“Who?” I asked and looked at Clay.

Clay smiled.  “Someone in Tucson who could organize the robberies from that end and who could handle the sale of the silver without raising suspicion. Someone who could give the orders without getting his hands dirty himself. The Barnett’s, Frank Baskin, Dave Parker, and Caleb Dawson were nothing more than hired help. Isn’t that right, Madrid?”

“Now you’re catching on, Hollister. Hired help, all of them.”

I looked between Clay and Johnny and back again. “Who is it?”

“You want to tell him, Sheriff?”

“You figured it out, you tell him.”

Johnny shifted in his chair and put his right hand to his left shoulder. A flicker of pain shot across his face. I cringed, knowing that Frank Somerville was going to kill me for walking out with his patient.

“You’re in pain? I need to get you back to bed.”

“No, just another minute. You want to know who the mastermind of this whole thing is, don’t you?”

“Yes, I do. So, who is it?”

*****

Monday, August 31st, 1868

Once Johnny said the name, Gabe Stinson, the final piece of the puzzle dropped into place. We now knew who all the players were; however, I still wanted to know the why of it.

Why would someone turn from a respectable, upstanding member of the community, a businessman, to an outlaw? I knew I wouldn’t have all the information for a story until I had an answer to that question.

It’s been almost two weeks since the attempted payroll robbery and Johnny was wounded. After four days of trying to keep him in bed, Frank Somerville finally threw his hands in the air and let the boy do what he wanted.

And what the boy wanted was to find a way to throw that rope around the man who’d orchestrated four robberies, two attempted robberies, killed three men, and put a bullet in him.

I watched Johnny during his recovery, which, once on his feet, hadn’t taken long. Two days after being released by Frank, Johnny was on the edge of town practicing with his gun.

One day I asked him if I could observe, strictly for research purposes, I’d told him. He laughed and agreed to let me go along with him. It was the first time I’d considered what a gunfighter had to do to perfect his trade.  For an hour, I watched, fascinated by Johnny Madrid’s skill with a gun. With each draw and fire, he became faster and more accurate.

By the time we returned to town, I felt sorry for anyone who would be considered Johnny Madrid’s enemy.

When he wasn’t practicing, Johnny was with Clay trying to come up with a way to get the evidence to arrest and convict Doris. They also had to prove the manager of the Tucson office of the Tombstone Gold and Silver Company, Gabe Stinson, was behind the robberies. 

It was on this day I walked into Clay’s office and into the middle of a conversation between Clay and Johnny. I say conversation, but it was more a … very loud, vocal, difference of opinions.  

It had come down to that thin line once again—the line between what would be considered lawful and unlawful. Clay, of course, would stay on the right side of the law come hell or high water. Johnny, on the other hand, contended the best way to resolve the problem was just to shoot Stinson and be done with it. As for Doris, Johnny didn’t care one way or the other.

“Shoot him?” Clay stomped across his office and dropped into a chair. “Listen to yourself, Madrid. You can’t just walk up to the man and shoot him. That’s called murder.” 

“Won’t be murder, Sheriff,” Johnny drawled with a slight grin. “I’ll make sure he has a gun and draws first.”

“I know what you’d do. You’d provoke Stinson until he had no other choice than to draw on you and then you’d quickly and efficiently shoot him.
 
“I can go slow if that’ll make you feel better.”

“Madrid, not everything can be solved by killing. Stinson has to be brought to justice. The courts will decide if he ends up at the end of a rope or goes to Yuma Prison. *”

Johnny’s movement was a blur, as his Colt appeared in his hand so fast, I hadn’t realized he’d drawn it.

“This is my justice!” The voice was soft but deadly.

At that moment, the young man I was beginning to know disappeared and, in his place, stood the pistolero who’d burned his name into the annals of the American West. One of the most dangerous and infamous men alive. Johnny Madrid had earned his reputation.

I thought of an article I’d read about lawlessness in the west and, in particular, the Arizona territory. One phrase had stuck with me. ‘Your future is just as fast as your draw.’  In Tombstone, that was true for men like Johnny Madrid and Clay Hollister.

As much as Clay would want to deny it, his life depended on the guns he wore and the speed of his draw. Another thought flashed through my mind. ‘Who would be faster, Hollister or Madrid?’

I’d seen both men draw and had a sinking feeling knowing while Clay was fast, Johnny was faster by far.

Standing frozen in place, I waited to see what Clay would do and let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding when he stood up and said, “Well, it’s not my justice, now put that away.”  

Clay walked across the room, turning his back on Johnny.

I watched Johnny’s reaction. A faint smile crossed his face as he twirled his gun once and then holstered it. Glancing at me, he winked. That’s when I knew he’d been playing with Clay.

“I see you two have finally lost your minds.” I sank into a chair near Clay’s desk.

Clay turned to look at me and then at Johnny. The smile on Johnny’s face told our Sheriff he’d been had.  

“Me?” Johnny laughed. “I ain’t lost anything. The Sheriff now, he can’t take a joke worth a damn.”

Clay growled, “A joke? You call pulling your gun on me a joke?”

“Didn’t shoot, did I?”

I decided it was my place to act as a mediator between the two men. 

“Now that’s settled, have you come up with a way to catch Stinson?”

Clay went back to his desk and picked up a stack of telegrams, handing them to me. They were from banks all over the south and mid-west.

“Nothing? They’ve found nothing. You haven’t found out where the money is going?”

It was Clay’s turn to smile. “Not exactly. Got this one late yesterday.”

He handed the piece of paper to me. I read it twice and chuckled.

“Boston! He’s putting the money in an account in Boston.”

“That’s right. It looks like Stinson’s having the money wired to Boston as he’s always done. However, instead of sending it to one account, it’s going into two different accounts at the Massachusetts National Bank.  One account has the Consortiums name on it; the other account is in his name and that of Doris Barnes.”

“That’s it then. You’ve followed the money. You can prove he’s stealing from the Consortium. By the way, what’s the name of the Consortium?”

Clay shook his head. “I don’t know. We’ll have to ask Bill Griffith, which brings me to a question. Do we talk to Griffith and let him know what’s going on?”

I looked at Johnny for an answer, as did Clay. Johnny’s chin was down, making it hard to see his eyes or the expression on his face. We waited a few moments in silence. When Johnny raised his head, he was nodding.

“I don’t think Griffith has anything to do with the robberies; otherwise, he never would have hired me. We need to talk to him, but it has to be somewhere Doris isn’t.”

I stood up. “I’ll take care of getting Bill here.”

“No.” Johnny shook his head. “Not here, somewhere else. How about over at Doc’s place? Bring him in through the back door.”

I looked at Clay for his approval. When he nodded, I picked up my hat and left the office.

*****

As I made my way down the boardwalk, I noticed clouds building in the northeast.  Thankfully, we’d had a few days without rain. We always paid for those days with higher temperatures, but now I could feel the air cooling, signaling another storm was on its way.

Opening the heavy oak door to the Mining Company office, a sudden gush of wind pushed me into the building faster than I’d planned. Hurriedly shutting the door, I turned and came face to face with Doris Barnes.

I quickly composed myself and looked around, hoping to see Bill Griffith.

“Harris, how are you today?”

Doris’s smile was so deceiving. Now that I knew what she was, that smile made my skin crawl.

“Good morning, Doris. I’m looking for Mr. Griffith.”

Doris turned and looked towards the back of the building.

“Mr. Griffith is in his office. I don’t think he’d mind you going back.”

Starting to walk to the office, I was only a few feet away when the door opened and Bill Griffith stepped out.

“Harris, it’s good to see you.”

“Bill, could I interest you in lunch today?”

Griffith didn’t hesitate before nodding his acceptance.

It was misting rain by the time we made it out of the office and were walking towards the Café.  As soon as we cleared sight of the Mining Company, I took the man’s arm and guided him across the street and to Frank Somerville’s home/office.

Griffith started to hesitate.

“We have a quick stop to make.”

Circling the building, Griffith eyed me carefully as we approached the back of the house and I tapped on the door. When it opened, I ushered him inside and looked around to make sure no one was watching us.

Adjusting our eyes to lower light inside, the first person we saw was Johnny, with gun drawn.

“Madrid?” Bill said in surprise.

As the door closed and was locked, Johnny lowered his Colt, then twirled it once before sliding it back into his holster. He turned aside to let Bill and me walk by him.

“Harris, what’s this all about? Why is Madrid here?”

Clay stepped out of a bedroom down the hall.

“Sheriff?” Bill looked at each of us, and then a second later, Frank Somerville joined Clay. “Alright, what’s going on?”

“Perhaps it’s better if we go into my office.” Frank led the way without another word.

Frank sat in a chair at his desk and motioned for Frank to sit down. I took a chair beside the desk while Clay and Johnny stood.

“You can close the door, Johnny. The front door is locked and Millie is out there if anyone knocks.”

Johnny kicked the door closed and then reached down and locked it.

“I’m waiting,” Bill queried.

Clay moved so that he was in Bill’s line of vision.

“Bill, what I’m going to say stays in this room with just the five of us. Understood?”

Hesitantly, Bill nodded. “Alright.”

“We know who’s behind the robberies and we need your help.”

Bill Griffith’s eyes widened. He looked around the room; I’m sure expecting someone to tell him it was a joke.

“It’s not a joke. We know who it is.”

“Alright, I believe you. So, tell me.”

Clay looked at me before continuing. “Gabe Stinson.”

“Gabe!?” Bill was stunned. “No. No, you’re wrong.”

“We’re not wrong,” I assured him. “Gabe is behind it all; the robberies, the murders, and the men sent to kill Johnny.”

Bill sat with his head down.

“We need your help, Bill.” Clay put a hand on Bill’s shoulder.

He took a deep breath and let it out. “How…how can I help?”

“We need to catch Gabe with his hand in the till. We know he’s been stealing the silver and selling it off just like he would any other shipment that went through Tucson. We found out he’s got a bank account in Boston at the Massachusetts National Bank. The account is in the name of Gabriel Stinson and… Doris Barnes.”

Bill paled and shook his head. “Maybe you’d better tell me the whole story.”

For the next few minutes, Clay told Bill everything we knew or that we’d figured out about the robberies and murders, and who was involved. When he finished, we sat back and watched Bill Griffith as it sank in.

“So, Doris was letting Gabe know when a shipment, with either Doug or Steve riding with it, was on its way. Gabe would have his men steal the silver and then sell it. No one would suspect Gabe, of course, they wouldn’t. He sells silver to the mint all the time.”

Shaking his head, Bill walked to the window and looked out. We could hear a clap of thunder off in the distance and the sound of rain hitting the side of the house.  When he turned to look at us, he was backlighted by bolts of lightning crisscrossing the sky.

“Is there anyone who works for me that wasn’t involved in the robberies? Is there anyone I can trust?”

His eyes went to Johnny.

“Mr. Madrid…Johnny. May I call you Johnny?”

Johnny nodded.

“Johnny, I’m sorry I got you into the middle of this. You were almost killed. If I hadn’t….”

“You have nothing to be sorry for, Mr. Griffith. In my line of work, it comes with the territory.”

“Still…”

“No, it’s Gabe Stinson who’s to blame for me catching a bullet.”

“You’ve been quiet during this discussion. What do you think we should do?”

Clay interjected, “Madrid has his own idea of how to handle Stinson.”

Johnny gave Clay a crooked smile.

I saw Bill’s eyes drop, watching Johnny caress the butt of his Colt.

“I see.” Bill cleared his throat. “Under the circumstances, I can’t blame you.”

Clay glared at Johnny.

“Madrid’s form of justice isn’t an option unless it’s as a last resort. I want to see Gabe brought to trial for what he’s done.”  

“Don’t worry, Hollister, we’ll do it your way. I’ll play nice…for now.”

I could feel the tension in the room building and felt a need to defuse it.

“What are we going to do? Johnny?”

“Not sure. We’ve pretty much wiped out his hired help, what with the ones I got during the robbery attempts and him having Baskin killed.”

“Don’t forget Steve and Doug Barnett are gone as is Dave Parker,” I added. “Who else could he have working for him?”

“Johnny, you didn’t answer me earlier. Is there anyone working for me I can trust besides you?” Bill asked.

“Pickard and Cantrell are both good men. If they’d been in on the robberies with Stinson, they wouldn’t have brought me back to town the day I was shot.”

Bill smiled. “At least there is someone I can trust.”

We were silent for a few minutes, the sound of the storm outside seeming to mimic the emotions in the room.

I still didn’t have the answer to my question as to why Gabe Stinson had turned outlaw. There was also something else I needed clearing up.

“Bill, are you related to Steve and Doug Barnett?”

Bill shook his head. “No. Why would you think that?”

“Doris told us you were cousins on your father’s side of the family.”

“My father didn’t have any siblings, so no, they weren’t cousins and as far as I know no relation at all. Why would she say something like that?”

“I think she was trying to throw us off Stinson’s trail,” Clay answered.

“Bill, why would Gabe Stinson resort to stealing? I thought the Mining Company was doing well.”

“It is doing well. We’ve moved more bullion, both gold and silver, through our offices than we ever thought possible. When the Consortium bought us out four years ago, they gave us a very good price for the company. Part of the deal was that we would manage it for a salary that is more than generous. I can’t imagine what could have happened to change Gabe; to make him become a thief and a murderer.”

“Whatever the reason, we need to stop him before anyone else is hurt or killed. We still don’t know if Stinson has any more men working for him,” Clay said.

Johnny pushed off the wall he’d been leaning against and crossed his arms over his chest. “One way to find out is to make another shipment. See if it goes through without a problem.”

“I was holding off on making any more shipments until you were back on your feet,” Bill announced.

“I’m…,” Johnny started to say and was cut off by Frank Somerville.

“If you were about to say you’re ‘fine’ and ready to go back to work, I’ll have to differ with you. You’re still not well enough to make a trip to Tucson on horseback.”

“I’ve had worse, Doc. I’m ready to go back to work any time Mr. Griffith is ready to ship.”

Frank threw up his hands and looked at me. “Can you talk some sense into this young man, because obviously, he isn’t listening to me?”

Before I could answer, Bill jumped in, “I won’t have a shipment ready for another few days.”

“That’s settled then.” Thinking he’d won this round, a smile spread across Frank’s face.

I looked at Johnny, whose head was down. From where I sat, I could see Johnny’s faint smile. Frank hadn’t won anything. Johnny just let him believe he had.

“What will it prove if the shipment goes through?” Bill asked, drawing the attention away from Johnny.

“If it goes through without a problem, it means Stinson doesn’t have any more men working for him,” Clay replied.

“If there are no more robberies, how do we prove Gabe and Doris were involved?”

Bill Griffith’s question hung in the air. I’d thought the same thing.

“We make the biggest shipment since before the robberies began,” Johnny announced as he crossed the room to look out the same window Bill had peered out of only a short while ago. The storm outside was still raging.  Turning, he looked back at us.

“Doris told us she logs in the silver and keeps track of the shipments. I wouldn’t be surprised if she had two sets of books. One that shows what was actually shipped and one she shows to anyone auditing the company. She’ll report less silver than was shipped. We let her send the telegram like before. If I’m right about Doris, and I am, she’ll tell Stinson how much to skim off the top when he gets it.”

Bill tried to sum it up for us.

“So, say we ship 100 bars of silver. On our end, we see 100 bars, but she only logs in 75 in the official log.  When Gabe gets the telegram…” He stopped and looked at us. “How will Gabe know how much was recorded?”

I came up with the answer.

“We’d have to see what she says and how she says it.”

“That’s right,” Johnny agreed.

“If it was that easy, why even bother with the holdups? They could have just shorted the shipments all along,” I asked, still trying to wrap my mind around the conspiracy.

Johnny walked back across the room, then suddenly pivoted and turned back to look at us.

“They got greedy,” he stated. “They weren’t getting enough by skimming it off the top. For some reason, they needed more and fast.”

“How is Stinson accounting for the stolen silver?” I asked.  

“The shipments they shorted would be easy. I’ll wager the official ledger shows a hell of a lot less than there actually was. The shipments I guarded had 18 to 20 boxes.”

“And Doris would have logged in what…15 or 16?”

“That’d be my guess.”

“Alright, so we get Doris. How do we get Gabe?”

“Stinson should have two sets of books, too. He’d sell the silver and split the money between what went to the Consortium and what went into his own account.”

“And no one’s the wiser,” Clay spoke up.

“And the silver taken in the robberies?” Bill asked.

It was Johnny who again provided the answer.

“Mexico. They’re taking it across the border and selling it to the Mexican Government. They’ll get a lot more from Maximillian than they would the Denver Mint.”

“What about the Juaristas? Wouldn’t Stinson be selling to them as well?”

Johnny laughed. “Juarez doesn’t have enough money to pay his troops, let alone buy silver. I should know I was in his army for a spell.”

Surprised, I started to ask a question when Johnny raised a hand. “It’s a long story for another time, Harris. Some night we’ll sit down, have a drink, and I’ll tell you all about it, but right now we need to worry about Stinson.”

“I look forward to it,” I replied and meant it. I couldn’t wait to have that conversation. Johnny Madrid in the Mexican Army? There was no way those two were compatible.  I stared at Johnny a few moments and wondered how old the boy had been when he’d been in the army?

Reluctantly, I turned my attention back to the subject of Stinson and the silver.

“Alright, so, what Stinson took in the robberies went to Mexico. The silver they shorted on the shipments went to the mint just as it was supposed to.”

“That’s right.”

“How much have they gotten away with?” Bill questioned. “They must have been doing this for months.”

Clay pulled out the telegram he’d received from the Massachusetts National Bank.  

“According to this, the balance as of two weeks ago was $384,452. From what Madrid just figured out, that amount wouldn’t include the money he got from selling to Mexico.”

Bill Griffith wasn’t the only one surprised at the amount, but it didn’t stop him from asking the question, I’d asked myself.

“Why? I don’t understand. I’ve known Gabe for years. I trust…trusted him.”

“Something changed. We just don’t know what.”

Clay wasn’t much help. He hadn’t answered the question; just created more. What had changed?

*****

Monday, September 7th, 1868

For over a week, Clay Hollister and Johnny Madrid discussed the best way to trap Doris Barnes and Gabe Stinson.  Bill Griffith stood back, giving input when they asked. He was content to go along with whatever plan they thought would work.  It wasn’t long before they’d worked it out.

For the next week, Bill Griffith had silver bullion brought in from the refineries.  When he had enough built up, Clay and Johnny decided on the day the shipment would go out.

Today was that day.
  
I stood outside the Mining Company office as the wagon driven by Webb Pickard stopped in front of the building. Harvey Cantrell was riding shotgun on the run and Johnny would again guard the shipment.

Walking out of his office, Bill Griffith handed Johnny an inventory of the shipment.

“All counted and logged in, Mr. Madrid.”

Johnny looked at the paper, taking note of the amount indicated, ‘260 bars.’ Looking at the bed of the wagon, riding low under the weight of the load, he’d already counted 26 boxes.

Johnny folded the invoice and put it in the waistband of his pants. Turning, he mounted his horse and motioned for Pickard to move out.

“I’ll see you in a few days,” Johnny said to Griffith; however, I knew he was also talking to me.

I looked around the quiet street. No one was paying much attention to the wagon. Bill Griffith walked over to stand next to me. Together, we watched the wagon make its way out of town.

“Clay?” Bill whispered.

I nodded. “He’s at the telegraph office waiting for Doris.”
 
“I’ll tell her to go ahead and send it.”                                                                                                

“I’ll be at the Epitaph when you and Clay are ready to confront her.”

Bill went back into his office while I went to mine.

*****

Bill Griffith entered the Mining Company's office and tried to relax. It had been hard working with Doris this last week knowing what she’d done. Today would be the test, the test to see if she was involved. It was still hard for him to believe.

“Doris, be sure to send the telegram to Tucson. This is the largest shipment we’ve had in a while and Gabe needs to be ready for it.”

“I’ll take care of it right away, Mr. Griffith.” Doris smiled the way she always did. Standing, she took her shawl and bag and headed for the door. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

Bill breathed a sigh of relief when she went out the door and closed it behind her.

*****

Clay stood around the corner of the telegraph office, bidding his time and waiting for Doris to appear. When he saw her coming down the boardwalk, he ducked out of sight.

Five minutes later, he watched the lady retrace her steps.

Grant Stevens, the telegraph operator, was in the process of sending the Mining Company telegram to Tucson when the door opened. Looking up from the key, he saw Clay Hollister walk in and close the door behind him.

“Sheriff, is there anything I can do for you?”

“There is. I want to see the telegram Miss Barnes just gave you to send to Tucson.”

Stevens looked perplexed and started to shake his head.

“Bill Griffith has asked that I make sure Doris got the wording right.”

“Alright, Sheriff, but it’s highly unusual.”

Stevens hesitantly handed the paper to Clay and watched while a seemly satisfying smile appeared on the Sheriff’s face.

“Grant, I’m going to need the original of this. Make a copy for yourself and send the wire. Let me know if there’s a response.”

Clay walked outside and stood on the boardwalk with the telegram in his hand. Taking a deep breath, he headed to the Epitaph office.

*****

Tucson, Arizona -Monday morning- September 7th, 1868

Frowning, Gabe Stinson looked once again at the letter he’d received three months ago. A letter from The Boston Bay Consortium advising him that they were going to put the Tucson office under new management at the end of the year. They had agreed to let Gabe Stinson stay on until then.
 
“Let me stay on,” he huffed. “After all I’ve done for this company, they’re going to send me on my way without even a thank you.”

He didn’t have any more men; Madrid had seen to that fact. One by one, the gunfighter had taken them all down. The few that weren’t killed ran like rats from a sinking ship. There was only him and Doris left now.

Bill had notified him there would be another large shipment coming through but hadn’t provided a date as yet. With this last shipment, they’d have enough to leave all of this behind and disappear. He imagined somewhere near Mexico City would fit the bill.

He’d patiently waited for days to hear from Tombstone that another shipment of silver bullion was on its way. When the door to his office opened and the runner for the telegraph operator came in, Gabe smiled.

*****

Tombstone - Later that day- Monday, September 7th, 1868 - the Epitaph office

Waiting for Clay, I tried to keep busy, but my mind wasn’t on the newsprint that was supposed to be the next edition of the paper.  I was thinking of the events that were going to unfold today. Would the telegram Clay intercepted be enough to prove Doris was a member of the gang of outlaws who were responsible for robbery and murder?

My eyes fell on the notepad at the side of the desk. The articles I’d planned for the most notorious gunfighters in the west were still unfinished. I’d written and completed them all, all except for the article on Johnny Madrid.  

Johnny was a puzzle I hadn’t found all the pieces to yet. The stories I’d heard about him being a cold-hearted, cold-blooded murderer didn’t ring true with the man I knew and liked. Deep down, I believed Johnny wasn’t like the other pistoleros I’d written about for my article.

There were times, many times; I caught glimpses of a man who was still a boy.  When Johnny smiled, he could light up a room. When the smile vanished, and his eyes hardened, you could feel the air chill and the hairs on your arms stand up.  The transition between the two could take mere seconds.

Then when you felt like the fires of hell were going to explode around the man, he would relax his shoulders, take a breath, and the smile was back. It was as if dark clouds were parting and the sun shone again.

I thought about what Johnny had told us about his father in California and wondered how a man could be so heartless as to throw away a wife and a son. I’d learned, however, that there was always more than one side to every story. I wondered what the ‘gringo’ rancher in California really did or didn’t do and what he really felt for his son.

Yes, the puzzle wasn’t complete, and until it was, I couldn’t finish my story on the pistolero, Johnny Madrid.

The door to the office opened and Clay stepped inside, followed by Bill Griffith.

“Well?” I anxiously asked before the door closed behind them.

Clay nodded. “This is what she sent.”  

He handed me the telegram. I read it aloud.
.
Tombstone Gold and Silver Mining Company
Tucson, Arizona
Attention: Gabe Stinson

Expect shipment no later than 1:10 on September 8. STOP

Bill Griffith
.
Looking up, I shrugged. “So…?”

“She’s specified a time. If I’m right, she’s recorded the shipment as 110 bars less than was actually shipped.” Clay turned to Bill. “What amount did she put on the invoice she gave to Madrid?”

“The invoice said 260 bars. That’s 26 boxes and that’s what I counted.”

“Now we need to look at her ledger and see how many she logged in for the shipment. I’ll bet a month’s wages it shows 150 bars.”

“If that’s true, they plan to steal 11,000 ounces. At $2.00 per ounce, that will bring them $22,000. If they’ve been doing this for months, then….”

“That’s right,” Clay quickly answered. “How many shipments have gone through in the last three months, not counting the ones stolen?”

“We were doing two a week, large shipments like the one today.”

“That’s a lot of money to skim off the top.” I shook my head. The amounts were staggering.

“When do we check her ledger?”

Bill walked to the door and looked out onto the street. I knew he was looking towards the Mining Company. Turning back to us, he answered, “Tonight, after the office closes and Doris has gone home.”

“Tonight, it is.” Clay started for the door. “I’ll see you both at 9:00. The back door of the Mining Company?”

“9:00 and yes, the back door. I’ll be waiting for both of you,” Bill replied, following Clay out.

I turned back to my desk, picked up the newsprint I’d been working on and started to scan it again. I was halfway through the page when my attention wavered and my thoughts went to Johnny. I wondered how the trip to Tucson was going and prayed we were right in that Stinson had lost all his men and the trip would be quiet.

*****

September 7th, 1868- on the trail to Tucson

Johnny rode alongside the wagon. They were making good time, better than he’d expected.

He’d spent the morning riding flank on both sides and scouting ahead. Finding no signs of a threat, he dropped back to ride drag until he was sure no one was following. He didn’t expect trouble until they were closer to Tucson, but he wasn’t taking any chances.

“Madrid,” Pickard called out.

Johnny looked at the driver.

“Horses need a break.”

Johnny nodded. “There’s water ahead. We’ll stop there.”

“Cantrell, keep your eyes open,” Johnny ordered as he rode ahead to check out the small stream they were coming up on.

Stopping at the stream, he turned in the saddle and looked to the east and then west, relieved at seeing no sign of storm clouds. It was early September and Arizona didn’t usually see an end to the monsoon season until the middle of the month, but this year felt different. This year, there was a feeling the season was nearing its end.

Johnny waited until the wagon arrived before dismounting and leading his horse to the stream. Stooping down, he scooped a handful of water and drank.

“Quiet, isn’t it?” Cantrell remarked as he moved to stand next to Johnny.

“Yeah, but I like it quiet.” Johnny smiled.

Cantrell returned the smile. “Me, too.”

“You two ready?”

Both Cantrell and Pickard nodded.

“Mount up. Let’s move out. We’ll set up camp just before sundown.”

“The usual place?” Cantrell asked as he flicked the reins and the wagon began to roll.

The usual place for them was an outcropping of rocks a little over halfway between Tombstone and Tucson. The rocks provided protection from the wind and rain, that combined with a small seasonal spring-fed pond made it a perfect place to rest for the night.

Johnny thought for a moment then answered, “Yeah, might as well.”

It wasn’t like him to be predictable when on the trail. Even as he said the words, he wondered how they’d gotten into the habit of stopping at the same place each time they made this trip. If there was to be another run to Tucson, he swore he’d find another place to camp.

No, that wouldn’t work. The more he thought about it, he knew the location where they stopped was chosen for the advantages it presented. It had water, protection from the weather and attack, and was a little over halfway to Tucson. He didn’t know of a better place to lay over on the long trips.

Bringing his attention back to the trail ahead, Johnny decided it was time to range ahead and see if there were any signs of trouble.

*****

Tombstone – September 7th, 1868 – 9:00 P.M.

Clay and I met at the Sheriff’s office and walked together to meet Bill Griffith. I glanced at him as we rounded the building and started to the back.

“You know we spend more time going through back doors lately than we do the front.”

Clay laughed. “I was just thinking the same thing.”

Tapping on the back door of the Mining Company office, Bill opened it and we stepped inside.

“This way.”

We followed Bill into his office, where a lamp was lit but turned down low. Once we were inside, he pulled the blind on the window and then raised the wick on the light.

“I found the daily ledger a few minutes ago. I haven’t had time to look at it yet.”

Bill opened the book and thumbed it to today’s entries. Taking a quick look, he stood back, frowning.

“It shows we shipped 260 bars.”

“I wonder where she keeps the other ledger? The one she’d show an auditor. The one that will match Stinson’s,” Clay asked.

Bill shook his head. “I searched her desk. If there is another ledger, she must take it home with her at the end of the day. If anyone found two ledgers in the office, it would be suspicious.”

“What about Stinson? We need to look at his ledger,” I voiced the obvious. “We’ll have to go to Tucson.”  

“Yes, we’ll have to go to Tucson,” Clay replied, “but not right away. When Madrid gets back, we’ll talk it over with him.”

I thought for a moment. “What we need is an audit. Doris will have to produce the fake ledger for them.”

“That won’t work unless both offices are audited at the same time before she has a chance to switch the books.”

Bill looked at the ledger again. “Maybe we’re complicating things. What’s in this ledger is here only until the shipment makes it to Tucson? Once Gabe records the erroneous amount of silver, there is no need for this ledger to be in plain sight.”

I immediately understood what he was saying. “You’re saying that tomorrow night after the shipment is received in Tucson, she’ll switch to the other ledger?”

“How will she know that the shipment gets there?”

“Gabe will wire us that he has it.”

“Alright,” Clay said, “we’ll meet back here tomorrow night and take another look at the ledger.”

“I’m going to copy down the information that’s in it now.” Bill took a pen and dipped it into the ink well. “We’ll have something to compare it to.”

Clay and I waited while Bill copied all the entries for the day onto a separate sheet of paper. When he finished, he put the ledger back where he found it.  

We left the Mining Company office and went our separate ways.  We were closing in on Doris Barnes and Gabe Stinson. Only a few more hours, and at least one of them would be behind bars.

*****

Tucson, Arizona – Tuesday afternoon, September 8th, 1868

The wagon with the silver shipment from Tombstone pulled up in front of the Mining Company’s Tucson office. An eager Gabe Stinson stepped out of the building and waited while Johnny dismounted.

“Madrid, any trouble?”

Johnny tied off his horse and stretched his back.

“None. It was a quiet trip. Are you ready for us?”

“Everything’s ready? You can bring it in.”

Pickard and Cantrell hopped down from the wagon. While Johnny stood guard, they unloaded the wagon and carried the boxes inside.  Once the men finished taking the last box into the office, Johnny handed the invoice to Stinson.  

Johnny waited a moment while Stinson looked the invoice over and then started to turn away.

Johnny cleared his throat, getting Stinson’s attention.

“My pay?”

“Oh, yes, one moment.”

Stinson went back to his office and returned a few minutes later, handing Johnny $250. Then as an afterthought, “Thank you, Madrid.”

“Nice doing business with you. I’m headed back to Tombstone tomorrow.” Johnny started to turn away and then stopped. “Be sure to let Mr. Griffith know we got here in one piece.”

“I’ll send a wire right away.”

Watching Johnny gather his horse’s reins and walk towards the livery, Gabe Stinson couldn’t help but feel relieved that he’d soon be leaving Tucson. Hiring Johnny Madrid had been Bill Griffith’s doing. It was an act that had been Stinson’s ultimate downfall as the leader of the outlaw gang.

Hurrying back inside his office, Stinson wasted no time drafting a telegram to Tombstone and walking it across the street to the telegraph office. While Bill Griffith had found an assistant in Doris, Gabe Stinson refused to let anyone else work on or even look at the Tucson office books.

With that out of the way, he headed back to his office to officially log in the silver shipment and make arrangements to sell it.

Just one more week, that’s all he needed. One week before he and Doris would cross the border into Mexico and disappear forever, no one the wiser.

*****

Tombstone- Tuesday afternoon, September 8th, 1868

The telegram from Tucson arrived shortly after 3:00. Doris read it once before walking it into Bill Griffith’s office.

Minutes later, Bill made an excuse to leave the office and went straight to the Sheriff’s office. Stepping inside, he blurted out, “The shipments there. I just received the telegram.”

“Alright, now send one to Madrid and tell him to stay in Tucson until he hears from you.”

“We’re going to Tucson?”

“Not we, me. I’m going. Someone needs to stay here and make sure Doris doesn’t go anywhere.”

“You’re not going to arrest her?”

“I want Stinson, more than Doris right now. He ordered the robberies and the murders. If Doris switches ledgers, then I’ll go to Tucson.”  

Bill left Clay and went directly to the telegraph office. Once the message had been sent to Johnny to stay in Tucson, he went back to the Mining Company. Doris was still at her desk doing paperwork.  

Settling in the chair at his desk, Bill Griffith watched her as best he could the rest of the afternoon. Not once did she do anything out of the ordinary.

*****

At 9:00 that night, Bill Griffith opened the back door to the Mining Company and let Clay and me in. Just as we’d done the night before, we entered Bill’s office and closed the door.

Bill produced the ledger Doris left in her desk. Opening it to the entries for yesterday, Monday, September 7th, he read them silently. Stepping back, he shook his head.

“I was hoping we were wrong.”

Clay and I stepped forward and looked at the page. The first entry was for the shipment of 15 boxes of silver bullion with a total of 150 bars.  

“Let me see the copy you made of the ledger last night.” Clay held out his hand.

Bill reached into his jacket’s pocket and produced the copy, handing it to Clay.

Clay smoothed the paper and placed it next to the current ledger.

“Every entry is identical except for the one for the silver shipment.”

Bill seemed to be in shock. People he’d trusted were now proven thieves and murderers.

“I want to get an early start in the morning,” Clay said. “Would you telegraph Carl Wilson in the morning and let him know I’m coming. He’ll need to keep an eye on Stinson.”

I looked at Clay. “I’m coming with you.”

“No, Harris, you’re not. This is my job, not yours. I’ll be riding hard and fast. I want to get to Tucson by tomorrow night.”

Before I could object, Clay raised a hand.

“I’ll make sure you get an exclusive story. You just make sure Wilson gets that telegram.”

“What about Johnny?”

“Bill telegraphed him this afternoon and told him to stay in Tucson. Pickard and Cantrell should still be there as well.”

I didn’t like the idea of being left behind but had no other choice in the matter. I wanted to be there for Stinson’s arrest, but also to see Johnny’s reaction when it happened.

The young man had been wounded and almost died because of Gabe Stinson. I remembered the way he’d pulled his gun when talking about Gabe Stinson.  I imagined a man like Johnny Madrid would deal out his own brand of ‘justice’ regardless of what Clay Hollister said.

*****

Tucson, Arizona- the morning of Wednesday- September 9th, 1868

Carl Wilson paced his office, holding Clay Hollister’s telegram in a clutched hand. He had enough trouble in Tucson without having to deal with Tombstone’s problems.

Stopping on the next pass by the window, he looked outside. Across the street, sitting in front of the saloon in a rocking chair, like a bad dream he couldn’t wake up from, was Johnny Madrid. It never boded well when Madrid was in town.

Carl watched as Madrid slowly rocked, looking relaxed as if he didn’t have a care in the world, and knowing Madrid was never relaxed.  He’d often wondered how someone so young, someone who looked so innocent, could be as coldhearted as the man he was watching.

‘Alright, Madrid can take care of himself. All I have to do is watch Stinson.’

Wilson huffed. “Hell, who are you kidding,” he said aloud. “All I have to do is watch Stinson and watch Madrid and watch every other gunhawk in town. Madrid was trouble by himself.”

Wilson turned from the window, looked at the telegram again, and decided he needed a drink. Grabbing his hat, he headed for the door. It wasn’t until he was on the boardwalk, halfway to the saloon that he drew up short. He’d just realized it was 8:00 in the morning. Turning back, all he could think was it was going to be one hell of a long day.

*****

Gabe Stinson strolled to his office. The morning was cooler than it had been in weeks and the sun seemed less harsh. The monsoon season was ending…ending like many other things. Like he was ending his life in Tucson and making a fresh start.

Yesterday, he’d taken care to put the proper entries into the company’s ledgers. Tomorrow the silver would be picked up by a cavalry detachment, detailed to carry the bullion to the Denver mint.  

It was simple and it was all falling into place.

By this time next week, the money would be deposited in the proper bank accounts. Once he knew the money was secure, he’d send a telegram followed by a letter to the Boston Bay Consortium resigning his position. The same day, he’d send a telegram to Doris, telling her to meet him in Nogales. 

Doris would take the stage from Tombstone and he’d take one from Tucson.  They’d meet in Nogales and then…then they’d disappear.  Yes, it was all falling into place.

Stinson was so absorbed in his musings; he’d almost missed the man sitting in a rocker in front of the saloon.  On seeing Madrid, Stinson hesitated.  Steeling himself, he continued along until he was in front of the saloon.

“Mr. Madrid, I thought you were going back to Tombstone this morning?”

Johnny continued to rock, but gazed up at Stinson, giving him a slight smile.

“Decided to take a day or two off. The ride here took more out of me than I expected. Doc Somerville wasn’t happy about me making the trip in the first place. Guess he was right.”

Johnny rubbed his left shoulder. It wasn’t all for Stinson’s benefit. His shoulder still hurt from the bullet wound and he could feel the tightness when he moved.

“Do you need to see Doctor Spencer?”

“No. All I need is a little rest.”

Stinson looked around.

“What about Pickard and Cantrell?”

“They’re still in town, too. Who knows, by the time we get ready to go back we might pick up a job transporting another payroll like we did the last time we were in Tucson.”

Stinson nodded. It was true that transporting the payroll had come up as a last-minute job for Madrid.

“I’ll check with the bank if you want to see if they have anything planned.”

“I’d appreciate it.”

Johnny lowered his head and started rocking again, leaving Stinson standing with his mouth open.

“Well, then, I’ll see you later.”

Johnny didn’t reply, simply tapped the brim of his hat with his finger, dismissing the man.

For the rest of the day, two men watched Johnny Madrid, from a distance. Carl Wilson watched from his office and Gabe Stinson from his.  Both were nervous but for different reasons.

*****

When staying in Tucson, Webb Pickard and Harvey Cantrell, rented rooms at the hotel. It was quieter than bedding down over the saloon.  Both were exhausted from the previous two days and they’d slept in this morning. When Madrid told them the return trip to Tombstone was going to be delayed a couple of days, neither objected.

After having a late breakfast in the hotel dining room, the two men walked out onto the boardwalk. They were welcomed by a bright sunny day.

Pickard looked up and down the street. His eyes found Madrid sitting in front of the saloon. He tapped Cantrell’s arm and pointed his chin in Madrid’s direction.

“Looks like he’s taking it easy today, too.”

Cantrell shook his head. “I don’t think Madrid ever takes it easy.”

Pickard laughed. “You’re right. Want to go over and talk to him?”

Shrugging, Cantrell started to walk, only to come up short, changing his mind. He put a hand on Pickard’s arm, pulling him back. From further down the street, they saw a man they didn’t recognize riding towards the saloon.  He and Pickard had been around Madrid long enough to know when to stay out of the way.

*****

With a hat pulled down over his eyes, no one would have thought Johnny could see what was happening around him. They would have been wrong.

Johnny Madrid saw the rider coming long before Pickard and Cantrell started to walk across the street. He wouldn’t know who it was until the man got closer, but there was a feeling in the air that something was about to happen.

Horse and rider stopped in front of the saloon and the rider stepped down from the saddle. Wrapping the reins around the hitching rail, the stranger glanced up and down the street. Then his eyes fell on the man in the rocking chair.

Johnny raised his head, getting his first real look at the man, their eyes met. The tall, dark-haired newcomer turned out to be a young man, about his age, maybe a little older.

“Do I know you, mister?” the man asked.

“Nope.” Johnny didn’t take his eyes off the gun on the stranger’s hip; the gun that was tied down low.

“Should I?”

Johnny smiled but didn’t answer.

The stare down ended when Carl Wilson stepped onto the boardwalk between the two.

“I’ll not have any trouble in Tucson today.” Turning to the newcomer, he said, “You have business in town, boy?”

“I not a boy, Sheriff, and to answer your question, I’m just passing through on my way back to Missouri. Thought I’d stay in town a day or two. I’m tired of sleeping on the ground and eating trail rations.”

“Missouri? Mister, you’ve kinda’ gone out of your way getting to Missouri. You do know that’s a bit north of here?”

The stranger laughed, “Yes, I know. I’ve been hauling freight for the Union Pacific Railroad out of California for the last two years and wanted a change of scenery. I’ve never been this far south and wanted to see what it was like.”

Wilson looked at Johnny, who was still seated in the rocker and then back at the boy. He mentally shook himself; they were both boys.

“Alright, you go on about your business and leave Madrid alone if you know what’s good for you.”

The young man’s eyes got wide as he stared at Johnny again. “Madrid! You’re Johnny Madrid?”

“That’s right.”

“I’ve heard about you. Even in California, you’re famous. I’m not looking for trouble, Mr. Madrid.”

“That’s good,” Wilson said, “Now, move along, young man, and remember what I said about staying clear of Madrid.”

“Yes, sir.”

As the boy made his way into the saloon, Johnny settled back again into the rocker.

“Madrid, you plan to spend the day sitting there?”

“You have a problem with that, Sheriff?”

“No, no problem. I imagine the saloon will. You can’t be good for business.”

Johnny wanted to chuckle but didn’t.

“You’re waiting for Clay Hollister?”

Johnny nodded.

“You know what’s going on?”

“Yep.”

“You’re not going to tell me?”

“Ask Hollister when he gets here.”

Carl Wilson knew he wasn’t going to get any information out of the gunhawk. Deciding to give up, he turned and strolled back to his office.

*****

Wednesday- September 9th, 1868 – 7:00 P.M.

Clay Hollister entered Tucson, thankful the long trip was over. He’d left Tombstone well before the sun was up. Getting fresh mounts at the Butterfield-Overland Stage stations along the way helped him keep a steady pace. There was no way he could have made the seventy-mile trip in one day without changing horses.

Going straight to the livery stable, he handed the reins of his tired horse over the stableman.

“Give him a good rub down and double oats,” Clay instructed. “He deserves it.”

“I’ll take care of him, Sheriff. Where will you be?”

“The hotel.”

Pulling his bedroll, saddlebags, and rifle off, he turned and walked to the hotel. When he reached the front desk, he was surprised to find a room waiting for him.

Taking the key from the desk clerk, Clay started for the stairs.

“Hollister.”

The voice came from the doorway of the hotel restaurant. Clay turned to see Johnny walking towards him.

“Madrid.”

“You made good time. What time did you leave Tombstone?”

“Early, real early. All I want to do now is fall into a bed and sleep.”

“You want to eat first? I’ve got a table in the restaurant. Sheriff Wilson, Pickard, and Cantrell are in there.”

Clay looked at the gear in his hands and then back at Johnny.  The desk clerk solved his immediate problem by offering to take the saddlebags, bedroll, and rifle to Clay’s room.

His hands now empty, Clay followed Johnny through the doorway and to the table at the back of the room, where three men sat.  Johnny circled the table to take the chair in the corner where his back was to the wall.

Carl Wilson stood as Clay approached the table. Extending his hand, the two Sheriffs shook hands.

“Clay, are you going to let me know what’s going on? Madrid’s been tight-lipped all day.”

Clay glanced at Pickard and Cantrell, hesitating.

“It’s alright, Hollister, I trust them,” Johnny spoke up.

Clay nodded. “Well, if Madrid trusts you, so do I. Sit down, Carl, it’s a long story and I’m worn out. I’ll tell you the story while we eat.”

For the next thirty minutes, Clay Hollister explained what had happened in Tombstone. When he finished, Pickard shook his head in disbelief.

“I can’t believe Doris would have been in on the robberies,” he exclaimed. “She’s such a sweet girl.”

“Looks can be deceiving,” Clay responded, glancing at Johnny.

“Yeah, they can.” Johnny pushed his plate away. “So, what’s the plan now?”

Before Clay could respond, Wilson interrupted, “There’s supposed to be a cavalry detachment here in the morning to take the silver to Denver. You want to stop it?”

“No, it needs to go through as usual. We just confirm the shipment to Denver is for 260 bars of silver. Once we have that confirmation, we can look at his books. It’ll show he shipped 150 bars.”

“Sheriff,” Pickard spoke up, “I still don’t understand. Well, I do, but how has Stinson gotten the government to send payment to two separate accounts. That don’t make sense. Wouldn’t they know something was wrong?”

Clay leaned back in his chair, thinking. He looked at Johnny.

“Madrid, Pickard’s right. Why would they split the payment?”

Johnny laughed. “Hollister, you’re thinking too hard about this. The government don’t care who they pay for the silver.  All they need is an account number to wire the money to in Boston.”

“I suppose you're right.”

“I’m right. Now, it’s late and you look like you could stand a good night’s sleep.  What time do you want to meet in the morning?”

Turning to Wilson, Clay asked, “What time is the silver going to be picked up by the cavalry?”

“They usually come around noon.”

Clay nodded. “Alright, how about 2:00 tomorrow afternoon at the Sheriff’s office? I don’t want Stinson to see me in town.”

“2:00 it is.” Johnny pushed back, stood up, and dropped some coins on the table for his meal. “I’m headed for the saloon. Pickard, you or Cantrell want to join me?”

“No, thanks, I’m headed up to bed,” Pickard answered with a yawn.

“Me, too.” Cantrell hurriedly stood up.

“Oh, come on, Cantrell, keep me company.”

“No, really, I’m kinda’ tired tonight.”

Johnny put an arm around Cantrell’s shoulder.

Clay eyed the move, looked at the expression on Johnny’s face, and wondered…. ‘No, don’t tell me.’

“You know, Harvey,” Johnny drawled, “you’ve been quiet tonight. You didn’t ask one question about Doris or Stinson or the silver. Kinda’ like you already knew all the answers.”

*****

Thursday, September 10th, 1868

 Clay Hollister had waited in the Tucson Sheriff’s office while Wilson saw to the movement of the silver from the Mining Company to the cavalry detachment.

It was almost 2:00 when the door opened and Johnny strolled inside.

“Afternoon, Sheriff.” Johnny moved across the room and turned a chair around so he could sit down.

“Good afternoon, you don’t look like you got much sleep last night.”

Johnny huffed. “I didn’t. I spent the entire night sitting on Cantrell. He swears he didn’t have anything to do with the robberies. Said he was in shock over hearing about Doris. It seems he’s sweet on the woman.”

“You believe him?”

“Hell, I don’t know. I trusted Cantrell until I saw his reactions last night. He may be lovesick, then again, maybe he’s not. I didn’t want to take a chance of him running off last night to talk to Stinson.”

“Where is he now?”

“I left him a little while ago at the hotel. Pickard is watching him.”

The sound of the stage coming down the street drew Johnny to the window.  When it stopped in front of the stage depot, Johnny shook his head, looked back at Hollister and laughed.

“What’s so funny, Madrid?

“Nothing…nothing at all.” Johnny laughed again and leaned against the wall staring at Clay.

“What are you looking at?”

“I want to see your face when that door opens.”

Clay cocked his head and then turned to look at the closed door. A few moments passed and the door opened.

Clay shook his head. “What are you doing here?”

*****

“Clay, how are you?”

As I stood in the doorway of the office of the Tucson Sheriff, I could see a mixture of surprise and irritation. From my right I heard someone laughing.

Clay glared at Johnny before looking at me again. “I asked you a question. What are you doing in Tucson and how did you get here?”
 
“I came in on the stage from Tombstone and why I’m here has to be obvious. I wanted to be here to see you arrest Gabe Stinson.”

Clay took a deep breath and started to respond, but turned to look at Johnny again.

“Madrid, if you don’t stop laughing, I’m going to…”

The door to the Sheriff’s office opened again and Carl Wilson stepped inside. Wilson stopped, looking first at me and then Johnny.

“Am I interrupting something?”

“No,” Clay replied and then introduced me. “Carl, this is Harris Claibourne. Harris is the editor of the Tombstone Epitaph. He’s here to… help.”

“Alright,” Wilson nodded.  “They just left. The invoice said 260 bars of silver bullion.”

“Let’s go.” Clay started for the door and stopped. Turning, he looked at Johnny, “Madrid, keep that gun in your holster. I want Stinson alive.”

“Told you I’d do it your way, Sheriff.”

Satisfied, he had control of the situation. Clay led the way with Wilson, Johnny, and me following.

*****

Gabe Stinson sat back and took a deep breath. The silver was on its way to Denver and the ledgers were in order, well his order anyway. Everything was going as planned.

He’d spent yesterday afternoon drafting his letter of resignation to the Boston Bay Consortium. Pulling it out of his desk drawer, he read it over once more, nodding with satisfaction that it said what needed to be said.  It was short and straightforward, but the bottom line was ‘I quit.”

Placing the letter back in his desk, Stinson started to stand up when the door to the outer office opened and Carl Wilson stepped inside. He thought nothing of it until he saw Johnny Madrid. It was when he saw the Sheriff of Tombstone and Harris Claibourne walk across the threshold that panic set in.

Pulling himself together, Stinson walked out of his office to greet the men.

“Sheriff Hollister, what brings you to Tucson?”

Stinson spoke to Hollister, but his eyes were on Madrid’s right hand, a hand that rested on the butt of his Colt.

“Mr. Stinson, I think you know.”

“Know? Know what?”

Carl Wilson stepped forward. “Gabe, Hollister believes it was you behind the silver shipment robberies. It’s hard for me to believe, but the evidence he has so far has confirmed Doris Barnes, in Tombstone, is in on it too.”

“Doris in on what? Robberies? I can’t believe that. What proof do you have?”

“I need to see your ledger showing the shipment that just got picked up,” Clay replied.

“My ledger is private, Sheriff. You have no right to look at it.”

Johnny shifted position and walked a few feet to the right of the others, giving him a clear view of Stinson and a clear shot if he needed it.

“I’d show Hollister the ledger if I were you, Mister Stinson.” Johnny drew out the word ‘Mister.’

“Madrid, are you threatening me?”

Johnny didn’t answer, only smiled.

“Stinson, I suggest you let us look at the ledger.” Clay gave Johnny a stern look.

No one moved as Stinson thought about the situation. Not waiting any longer, Johnny stepped forward, pushing Stinson aside, picked up the ledger, and handed it to Clay.

Stinson stepped back, his hand finding the derringer he kept in the small pocket at the back of his pants.

Clay opened the book, looking at the entries for the last two days.

“Here’s the entry where you received the shipment from Tombstone. It says you got 150 bars of silver. Then here is today’s entry. You sent the same 150 bars to the Denver Mint.”

“So?”

“So, the number of bars sent out from Tombstone two days ago was 260 bars. Isn’t that right, Madrid?”

“That’s right. We carried 26 boxes from Tombstone to Tucson. I have a copy of the invoice showing your received 26 boxes.”

“Carl, how many boxes did you count this morning when the cavalry detachment loaded them?”

“26,” Wilson answered.

“Yet, you’re showing only 15 boxes received and shipped to the Denver Mint. That’s 11 boxes unaccounted for… on paper. I’ll bet you notified the owners of the same 15 boxes.”

Stinson wrapped his hand around the small derringer and pulled it out, aiming it at the men in the room.

“Stay where you are. All of you drop your gun belts.”

While Clay and Wilson did as they were told, Johnny didn’t move.

“I have to ask, why’d you do it, Gabe?” Wilson couldn’t believe his eyes. He’d known this man for years. “Why?”

“They were firing me. The letter came a few months ago telling me they were going to replace me. When Bill and I sold the company to the Consortium, they agreed that I would stay on as manager in Tucson and Bill would manage the Tombstone office.  But now, they said they were going to give me a nice severance package. Can you believe that? No, I was due more than a ‘severance package,’ and I got it.”

Stinson turned his attention to Johnny.

“Madrid, I said…”

It was as if everything happened at once.

Clay lunged for his gun. The shot that rang out was sudden and explosive in the confined space of the office. There was a surprised look on Stinson’s face when he looked down at the hole in his chest.

Gabriel Stinson, 47 years old and a long-time resident of Tucson, manager of the Tucson branch of the Tombstone Gold and Silver Mining Company, outlaw and murder, didn’t even know he was dead when his finger contracted on the trigger of the derringer.  

I didn’t realize until much later I was writing both my editorial and Gabe Stinson’s obituary in my head. Not to be redundant, I would leave out the part about him being an outlaw and murder from the obituary.  

Clay grabbed his bullet grazed arm. He spun around to see the still smoking gun in Johnny’s hand.

Carl Wilson reached down and picked up his gun belt, putting it on he looked at Stinson’s body.

Johnny holstered his Colt as I went to tend Clay’s arm.

Clay was silent for a moment and then said, “Thanks.”

“De nada. You’re not upset I had to use my form of justice instead of yours?”

Clay looked down at his arm.

“You did what you had to do. It didn’t’ turn out like I would have wanted it to, but…you probably saved our lives.”

Johnny smiled. “So, what… you owe me one?”

Clay huffed. “Yeah, I owe you one.”

*****

Tucson, Arizona – Friday, September 11th, 1868

Gabe Stinson was dead. Once Clay returned to Tombstone, Doris Barnes would be arrested and then transported to Tucson for trial. All the ends were tied up.

Anxious to get home, I took the morning stagecoach back to Tombstone and would be there long before Clay and Johnny returned. Spending the night before and into the early hours of the morning working on articles for the Epitaph, I looked forward to catching some sleep on the stage.

*****

Webb Pickard and Harvey Cantrell sat in the wagon, waiting.  The door opened to the Sheriff’s office, and Clay walked outside, followed by Johnny and Carl Wilson.

“I’ll telegraph you once I’ve arrested Doris,” Clay said as he untied his horse from the hitching rail. “I’ll bring her back to Tucson as soon as I can arrange a woman to travel with us.”

“I’ve already sent a message to the circuit judge. He’ll be in town in two weeks.” Wilson looked at Johnny. “Madrid, we’ll need you to testify.”

Johnny smiled. “Sure, Sheriff, I’ll be glad to testify.”

As they started to mount up, the young man who’d ridden into town two days earlier was making his way down the street. As he came abreast of Johnny, he stopped and tipped his hat.

“It was nice meeting you, Mr. Madrid.”

“You too. You got my name; I didn’t get yours.”

“The name’s Earp, Wyatt Earp. If you’re ever up Missouri way, look me up. It would be an honor to buy you a drink.”

“I’ll do that.” Johnny settled into the saddle.

The young man tipped his hat again and moved on.

“Who was that?” Clay asked, watching the young man ride out of town.

“No one, just some kid heading for Missouri. Said he’d been in California and wanted to see what it was like in Arizona. He said his name was Wyatt Earp.”

Thinking nothing else of the encounter, Clay looked back at Carl Wilson.

“Be seeing you in a few days.”

“I’ll be here.”

*****

Tombstone, Arizona- Monday, October 5th, 1868

I sat at my desk looking over the story I was putting the finishing touches on and shook my head. After everything we’d gone through to catch Doris Barnes, it just didn’t seem to be enough.

Upon returning from Tucson on September 13th, Clay had immediately arrested Doris for her part in the thefts of the silver and murders of the shotgun guards.  She was transported to Tucson two days later.

Harvey Cantrell went with her for moral support, he said. It appears Harvey was still having a hard time believing Doris was involved with the robberies.

The trial of Doris Barnes was held on September 28th, 1868. The prosecution called Clay Hollister to the stand along with Johnny Madrid, Webb Pickard, and Harvey Cantrell. In addition, a representative of the Boston Bay Consortium testified to the amounts of silver reportedly shipped.

Not surprisingly, no record was ever found of Gabe Stinson or Doris Barnes hiring the men who robbed the shipments and killed the two shotgun guards. Nor, was there a record of either of them hiring Caleb Dawson to kill Johnny. The testimony of a known gunfighter did nothing to help the prosecution’s case. All the gang was dead, and as they say ‘dead men tell no tales.’

In the end, Doris Barnes's sweet tear-stained face swayed the 12-man jury into believing she’d been coerced into helping Stinson and knew nothing of the murders. They found her not guilty on all charges.

Doris left town the following day for parts unknown. A smitten Harvey Cantrell went with her.

The Arizona monsoon season had come to an end and life in Tombstone was getting back to normal.  With the Boston Bay Consortium assigning a new manager for the Tucson office of the Tombstone Gold and Silver Company, the silver shipments had started up again.  Johnny rode guard on the first two that went through. When there was no trouble, Bill Griffith realized the gunfighter’s services were no longer needed.  

As Johnny told me one night over a drink, “No one wants a gunhawk around when the job’s done. That’s when I have to leave.”

Yesterday, Johnny told me he’d be moving on in a few days. I wasn’t ready for him to go. There was still more I needed to know about the young man, but I soon realized that no matter how long I knew Johnny Madrid, I’d never know the man…not really.

I took another look at the letter Clay received from the Boston Bay Consortium and, not for the first time, noted the address of the business was State Street. I knew it well. I’d grown up in Boston and knew every street and alley. I also knew the name of the firm that took care of the Consortium business, Garrett Enterprises.

It didn’t surprise me to see the signature on the letter, Scott Garrett Lancer. The name brought back fond memories of a time and life I’d left behind years ago. I wondered how Scott was doing. I’d heard he’d been an officer in the war and spent time in a Confederate Prison.

Although, younger than myself, I’d known him and his family for years. Of course, I knew the story of how he’d been born in California but raised by his grandfather in Boston after his mother’s death.  He’d told me once his father was a rancher somewhere in California. He wasn’t sure, but he thought it was the San Joaquin Valley. 

I paused for a moment, trying to remember something that tickled at the back of my memory, but I couldn’t grasp. Something to do with California and the San Joaquin Valley. I decided it was time to sit down and write a letter to my old friend. 

Hearing the door open, I turned around to see Clay.

“Have you got time for lunch? Maude Jennings has fried chicken today.”

I put down the letter from the Boston Bay Consortium and nodded.  “I wouldn’t miss Maude’s fried chicken for anything.”

I stood up and took my hat from the peg near the door.

“Have you seen Johnny today? He might like to join us.”

“No, not today. I understand Bill Griffith is letting him go.”                 

“That’s what Johnny told me. He’ll be leaving soon.”

“Good.”

Clay’s matter of fact tone took me back.

“Good? You want to see him gone, don’t you?”  

“It’s for the best, Harris. There’s no place here for a gunhawk when the job’s over, and now it’s over.”

“That’s what Johnny told me once. It’s a shame. He’s a good man to have around.”

Clay shook his head. “There’s no use talking about it. Men like Madrid bring only trouble to a town. Tombstone doesn’t need any more than we already have.”

I knew it would do no good arguing with Clay.

Five minutes later, we walked into Maude Jennings Café and found Johnny already there, sitting at a back table. He greeted us with a smile, a smile I was going to miss.

*****

Wednesday, October 7th, 1868

The day had come, I’d been dreading. Today Johnny Madrid was leaving Tombstone. I spent the morning in my office, hiding to some extent. Thinking perhaps if I wasn’t around to say goodbye to him, he wouldn’t go.

My heart sank when the door opened and I heard the sound of jingling spurs.

“Harris.”

I stood and turned around. Johnny was wearing the same signature red shirt and black concho pants he’d worn the first day we met.

“Time for me to move on, Mr. Editor.”

I extended my hand. “I hate to see you go, Johnny. Did you say goodbye to Maude?”

Johnny nodded and dipped his head. “Yeah, she was crying when I left. Didn’t stop crying the whole time she was loading me up with enough food to last a week.”

“That’s Maude for you,” I said. “She took to you like I’ve never seen her take to anyone else.”

“I told you I have a way with women.”

I was laughing as the door opened again and Clay walked in.

“Madrid, I saw your horse outside. You’re leaving today?”

“That’s right, Sheriff.”

“Where will you go?”

Johnny shrugged. “Wherever the wind takes me. I’ve been thinking about heading back to California to a small town where I left a friend a few months ago. I’ve kinda been missing him.”

“Your partner. The one you told us about? Crawford, wasn’t it?”

“That’s right. Val’s in Temecula.”

“Ever thought of joining him there, of getting out of the game yourself?”

Johnny shook his head. “No, there’s only one way for me to get out of the game. Besides, being a lawman is boring.”

Clay snorted.  “I wouldn’t exactly call my life boring.”

“With me leaving town, it will be.” Johnny looked toward the door. “You know, Sheriff, Tombstone isn’t what I expected.  I haven’t had one man call me out since I got here. From what I heard, a man’s future in the territory is only as fast as his draw.”

“Madrid, it still is, mostly, but law has come to the Arizona territory. Arizona is going to be a state someday. I don’t know when, but it’s coming. It won’t come until the territory can prove it’s civilized and men like….”

“Men like me, Sheriff?”

Clay smiled.

“Yes, men like you. When pistoleros that work both sides of the border are no longer making a living selling their gun to the highest bidder. Arizona will remain a territory until the last of the gunfighters are nothing more than footnotes in the pages of history books. The day of the pistolero is coming to an end. You might want to find another occupation, Madrid, or hang up your gun altogether.”

“I suppose that’s true, Sheriff, but as long as men are willing to hire men like me, I’ll put my faith in this,” he tapped his gun butt, “and my draw.”

“For how long, Johnny?  I’ve seen you draw; I know our reputation and from what I hear, you’re the fastest gun alive… for now, but for how long? You know as well as I do there’s always someone faster.”

“Ain’t it the truth,” Johnny responded with a sigh and a faint smile. “But you know Hollister, when it comes right down to it, we both make a living using our guns. I just get paid better than you do.”

Clay laughed and shook his head. “Well, Johnny, you’re right about the pay.”

I could see he hadn’t missed the fact that Clay called him Johnny instead of Madrid.

Johnny tipped his hat. “Take care of yourselves.”

“Johnny, you’re always welcome in Tombstone.”

I was surprised at Clay’s words, and then he surprised me again when he extended a hand to the young gunfighter.  

Johnny didn’t hesitate to return the gesture.

“Thanks, Clay. There aren’t many places I’m welcome.”

I, too, shook his hand. “It’s been a pleasure meeting you, Johnny Madrid. I’m going to miss you.”

“I’m gonna miss you too.”

As he started to turn away, I asked, “Can I ask you one question?”

He laughed. “I knew I wouldn’t get out of here without you asking something. Go ahead.”

“Johnny, how old are you?”

He turned away without answering. I will always remember the sound of his spurs ringing as he walked to the door, opened it, stepped through, closing it quietly behind him.

Clay and I followed him outside. In the distance, we could hear the mission bells ringing. I’d heard stories that in Mexico, the bells rang when Madrid rode out of a town. I wondered if they were ringing for him now.

Johnny stopped and cocked his head, listening to the sweet sound. 

Standing on the boardwalk, Clay and I watched Johnny swing into the saddle, giving us one more glance before starting to ride away.

Reining his horse to a stop, he wheeled back, looked down, and with a grin on his face, stated, “Eighteen.”

As Johnny rode out of Tombstone heading west, I wondered if I’d ever see my friend again.

 

Epilogue:

Little did we know that day in 1868, how right Clay had been about Arizona becoming a state. It took longer than expected, another 44 years to be exact, but on February 14, 1912, Arizona became the last of the 48 contiguous states to be admitted to the Union.

He was right about something else; the day of the gunfighter was slowly drawing to a close.

*****

I finished the series of articles about the most dangerous outlaws and gunfighters in the west. Johnny Madrid was included; how could I leave him out. He was after all one of the fastest and most notorious gunfighters of our time, but I couldn’t bring myself to write anything but the good I’d seen in the man.

From time to time, someone would pass through Tombstone with tales of Johnny Madrid and his growing reputation, or I’d read about him in another newspaper. Each time I smiled, remembering the raven-haired boy with brilliant blue eyes and a smile that, depending on how he intended it, could warm your heart or send a shiver straight through to your soul.

I was thankful, more than once, I’d had those few days in August and September of 1868 to get to know the real Johnny Madrid, not just the legend he’d become.

In December of 1869, a little over a year after he rode out of Tombstone, word spread crossed the border that Johnny Madrid was captured by the Rurales while helping in a peon Revolution in Chihuahua. Just two months later, in February of 1870, it was reported the young pistolero lost his life to a Mexican firing squad.

My heart ached as I mourned my friend’s passing.

Over the next six weeks, rumors began to filter into Tombstone that Johnny Madrid had escaped the firing squad, crossed the Rio Grande, and made his way into California.

Clay, at my urging, wired Val Crawford in Temecula to see if he knew anything of Johnny’s whereabouts; if the rumor were true. He received a reply that Crawford was no longer Temecula’s Sheriff. It seems he’d resigned and taken a job as the Sheriff of Green River in the San Joaquin Valley.

I remembered what Johnny told us about his father, a rancher in the San Joaquin Valley, and wondered if there hadn’t been another side to the story, after all. Had Johnny found his father and reconciled with him?

The answer came in the form of a telegram from the Sheriff of Green River.

I was overjoyed to hear Johnny was alive and had hung up his gun to become a cattle rancher.

Clay Hollister didn’t say so, but I knew he felt the same.

*****

Oh, and coincidentally, in late May of 1870, I received a long letter from my friend Scott Lancer, postmarked Green River. He wrote that he’d left Boston and was now living on his father’s ranch in the San Joaquin Valley of California. The letter went into some detail, and I was smiling by the time I’d finished.

For once in my life, there were no words to express the joy I felt when Scott said he’d not only met his father but also discovered a brother he didn’t know existed; his brother Johnny.

*****

And that’s the way it was in the town too tough to die.

 

 

~end~
March 2020
                            

TombstoneTerritory Characters

Taken from Wikapedia: Tombstone Territory Television Show:
The program took place in the boomtown of TombstoneArizona Territory, one of the Old West's most notorious towns and the site of the shootout known as the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Located south of Tucson, Tombstone was then known by the sobriquet "the town too tough to die." The program's theme song, "Whistle Me Up a Memory," was written and performed by William M. Backer.[1]
The series did not deal with real characters in the history of Tombstone in the 1880s, such as Wyatt EarpDoc Holliday, or the Clanton Gang. It was about fictional characters in the American Southwest. Pat Conway played Sheriff Clay Hollister. Richard Eastham, the only other actor besides Conway to appear in all the episodes, played Harris Claibourne, editor of The Tombstone Epitaph (an actual newspaper that still exists in limited form). Eastham also narrated the series in a deep baritone voice,[2] describing each episode as an actual report from the newspaper's archives.

* Again, literary license: Yuma Territorial Prison didn’t open until 1876


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