“Enson Farley!” he yelled into the empty street. “Marshall Hart. I’ve a warrant for your arrest.”
He’d come for answers, but his questions were met with bullets. He crouched below the window of Rickett’s Place; saloon and gambler’s den. John Rickett lay behind him, eyes open, one arm flung to the side, stitches of lead across his chest.
Hart flicked a glance over the rooves across from him. Sooner or later, they’d think of them, and he’d be a sitting duck where he was. Movement across the street caught his attention. He waited a beat, took aim. When the head popped up, he squeezed the trigger, and ducked back down as three or four bullets punched holes in the sill above.
One less to worry about.
He took in the saloon behind him, thinking fast. He was on his own. Just a six shooter, and the shotgun at his feet. And few bullets for either. He hadn’t planned on this. He should have. It’d be a valuable lesson; if he lived long enough to practice it.
He crawled along the floor beneath the window to the door and stood up beside it. Keeping a low profile, he surveyed the street.
“He said his name was Farley, Enson Farley. He asked my brother if he wanted to play a few rounds. Robert was a damn good poker player. Farley turned out to be a sore loser.”
The memory of Jarred Miller’s bitter words bolstered Hart’s resolve. Farley and his gang were ruthless and bloodthirsty. A man who sat a table with him was bound to lose, one way or another. Miller stood over his dead brother as he set Hart on the trail.
A good tip that led him here; right to Enson Farley.
Taking a chance now, Hart made for the door beside the bar, which should lead to the back of the building. Pushing the outer door with his shoulder, he swept the area with the revolver. The shotgun in his other hand, he went out low, keeping to the wall, and entered the building next door.
Standing behind the front window of the General Store, he fired twice with the revolver; let his hands do the aiming, sprayed broken glass onto the boardwalk outside. Two fell; one of them, who’d been climbing the roof, landed in the street and was still, one arm tucked awkwardly beneath him.
Hart ducked back beside the window, expecting to be chased by bullets. When they didn’t come, he stepped out onto the walk.
Farley had gone east up the street with some of Hart’s lead in his belly. He’d either be in the livery or the boarding house. There were a dozen rooms on the second floor of the house; Farley could be at any one of them, aiming a rifle into the street.
Then again, he might have lit out into the plains after he saw things weren’t going his way.
Hart followed the walk, continuing up the street toward the livery. He didn’t know why, but he was betting on finding Farley there.
The livery was cool and well shadowed. He stepped inside out of the doorway where he’d be clearly visible, the sunlight at his back.
At his feet was a trail of blood.
He followed it cautiously toward one of the stalls at the rear. There was movement inside. He was out of ammo for the Colt; holstering it he readied the shotgun. He aimed it toward the stall and stepped out in front of the doorway.
Farley lay bleeding, and though he didn’t appear to be armed, Hart didn’t lower the shotgun. As he watched, Farley spat blood into the straw and glared at him.
“Who… who was it?” Farley wheezed.
“Who was who?”
“Who ratted me out?”
“The brother of the man you killed in Dartsfield.”
He’d been going to use Miller as a witness at Farley’s trial. He glanced down at the belly wound. Farley’s face was pale, haggard.
Farley looked at him curiously, “brother?”
“Saw his brother killed. Named you as the shooter.”
“Shit, we didn’t leave no witnesses,” Farley all but boasted. “We killed those two men, took the gold one of ‘em won from me the night before. Got me a nice new horse out of it too.”
He waited the half hour it took Farley to die. No point wasting a doctor’s time; there’d be no saving him. Hart bought four interments with his coin; he’d be reimbursed by Judge Green later.
Back-tracking his own trail, he reached the Miller campsite a couple of hours later. He figured Miller would’ve buried his brother while he was gone.
The dead man lay beside the fire, where Hart had left him.
He dismounted, surveyed the scene, hands on hips, shaking his head. Some brother. He examined the site, pieced together the details. Farley and company had come upon them as they were packing up, moving on.
The dead brother lay on his back, staring up at the sky, eyes glassy. A revolver lay beside his open right hand. A lot of good it’d done him. Hart tracked a scuffle in the dirt. Two men had spun, away from the fire, over toward the edge of an embankment.
He stood at the top and looked down.
In the bushes at the bottom of the hill; a man lay, face down. Hart skidded down the slope, keeping to the side so as not to land on the body. He struggled across the grade to grab the man’s shoulder. The body was cold and stiff. Definitely been dead a few hours, maybe most of the day.
Hart grunted as he rolled the man over, lost his breath when he saw the face.
He sat back on his haunches. Dead. For at least as long as Robert Miller.
A good tip was a good tip he supposed.
Belinda Rees writes in Western Australia.