I’D JUST POPPED BOB a quick jab to the face. Square on the nose, actually. Most guys would be seeing stars about now. Or not much at all, really, not through the tears.

Bob Claiborne, on the other hand, did the one thing I did not expect.

He screamed (in rage, not in pain), and then he jumped on me. Took me completely by surprise I can tell you.

Bob had about six inches and a hundred pounds on me, so he took me down easily. We rolled about in the dirt as he tried to subdue me. He didn’t have an easy time of it. He may have been bigger than me, but I’m squirrelly. He’d get a hold of me, I’d pull free. He’d grab hold another way, I’d slip through. So far I’d managed to avoid being seriously injured, but then he managed to get on top of me. He wrapped his hands around my neck and squeezed.

He didn’t say much. Didn’t have to. His eyes said it all. His were the eyes of a man at the end of his rope. The bulging, manic, bloodshot eyes of a man out of his damn mind. He was going to kill me there in the dirt, no doubt about it.

This was not the plan. I could have gone the traditional route and pulled my gun and taken the man in. But I’d been angry. I was still sore over the rifle butt to the face, and now I catch him trying to steal my horse. The anger had clouded my judgment. But most of it had been my own arrogance. My pride wouldn’t allow me to handle this using the safe route. So I’d picked an unnecessary fight and now I was paying the price.

But I’m someone who can roll with the punches when life throws me a few. I tried not to panic, not at easy thing to do as your life is being squeezed out of you. So, as I struggled to breath, I slammed my fist into Bob’s kidney. Not once. Not twice. But three times in rapid succession. He grunted in pain, let go of my throat, and rolled off of me.

I tasted air for what felt like the first time there in the street in front of Hafford’s saloon, on my hands and knees in the dirt, coughing as I tried to take in as much air as I could. There’s nothing like the feeling, the rush, that coarses through you when you escape death. There’s no better feeling in the world.

It didn’t last long.

Bob was on his feet.

“You just couldn’t leave me alone, could you,” he said, and then kicked me in the side.

I rolled away from him, trying to gain enough space so that I could pull myself to my feet.

“You just had to keep coming at me,” Bob said with a growl. He kicked me again.

My ribs weren’t going to hold out much longer.

“It’s my family, we’re talking about,” Bob shouted. He swung a foot my way a third time, but I was ready for this one.

I caught his leg and yanked it out from under him. He fell like a tree to Paul Bunyan’s ax.

I pulled myself to my feet and dusted off. My saddle bag and it’s contents were strewn about around us. I looked for my pistols but couldn’t find them.

“Dammit, Bob,” I said, standing over him. “You’re the one who came back into town. Then you tried to steal my horse. What did you expect me to do?”

Bob began to laugh. Or was he crying. Sounded like a little of both.

“Your horse?” He said, sitting up and wiping tears from his eyes. He was smiling, but there was a resigned sadness in his eyes.

“My horse,” I said and threw a thumb over my shoulder in the direction of said horse. I kept scanning for my guns, I just needed one, but I tried not to look too obvious.

“Mine threw me,” Bob said, then laughed. “Just outside of town and the beast threw me from it’s back. Walked into town and took the first horse I saw, or tried to.”

Bob rose, still laughing, still crying.

“I just wanted to do right by my family,” he said. “Help restore the family name.”

“Come on, Bob,” I said. “Be fair. There wasn’t much to the family name to begin with and you know it.”

Bob moved like a snake and struck. His big fist caught me just above the right eye.

“Dammit, Bob,” I shouted. “Stop hitting me.”

Bob wasn’t listening. He took another swipe at me. I ducked under it and threw a fist into his stomach. The breath wooshed out of him but that didn’t stop him from bringing an elbow down on the back of my head.

I bit my tongue. Then I tasted blood. Something dripped into my right eye and for a moment, I was blind. More blood. Bob’s fist must have broken skin.

Bob took advantage and came at me from the right. Another big fist connected with my temple and I dropped, my face slamming into something hard and unmoving in the dirt.

I found myself once more on my hands and knees in the middle Allen Street. I could do nothing but cough and spit blood.

Bob didn’t move.

“You need to leave,” he said. “Go back to the Phoenix Initiative and tell them you couldn’t find me. Tell them or die here.”

“Okay,” I said, stalling. I wasn’t about to let this guy go. “Okay, I’ll go back.”

I tried to locate what my face had connected with when I’d fallen and found it almost at one. It was a revolver. My Colt .41, the model they called the Thunderer. I crawled toward Bob so that the gun was underneath me and out of his line of sight.

“Just don’t kill me,” I said. “Please.”

He laughed.

“You turned really pathetic really quick,” he said.

I snatched up the gun and rose quickly like one of them Jack in the Boxes. I pointed the pistol at him and smiled.

“Sorry, Bob,” I said. “I lied. I’m taking you back with me.”

Bob only grinned in return. That was until I help up his deflector shield box and showed it to him. The grin, at that point, slid right off his face and fell into the dirt at his feet. That manic, desperate look dropped once more into Bob’s eyes and he lunged at me.

I was ready for him this time and was through messing around. I stepped to the side and brought the butt of the gun down on his head. This time it was his turn to spend a little time in the street.

“I’m sorry it had to come to this Bob,” I said, then gave him a hard kick to the ribs. “But honestly, what the hell were you thinking with all this?” I kicked him again. “The plan was just plain stupid.”

I crouched next to him as he writhed and moaned in pain.

“I mean come on, Bob. Did you really think that the future of the Claiborne family hinged on Billy? Truth is, Billy Claiborn was an idjit. He carried himself around like he was some kind of dangerous man, but in the end, he was just a coward. Anything that you, or any Claiborne that came before you, did wrong in life they only have themselves to blame. To lay it all on Wyatt Earp only proves how damn stupid your family is.”

I pulled the watch from my vest pocket.

“Of course,” I continued. “I’m a bit biased when it comes to your Great Grandfather. Did you know that at one point your grand dad wanted folks to call him Billy the Kid?”

Bob continued to focus on his pain rather then my story. I didn’t care.

“Yeah, true story,” I said. “Of course, being the coward that he is, he waited until the real Billy the Kid had been shot and killed before he tried to take over the moniker.”

I clicked open the watch.

“I have to say, Bob, I took some offense to that. A lot, actually. So much so that there’s a small part of me that wants to ignore the rules and go find Billy Claiborne and shoot him myself. Knowing that Buckskin Leslie will do it for me in a year is about the only thing stopping me.”

“Why do you care?” Bob asked, spitting the words out.

“Well hell, Bob. Don’t you know who I am?” I stood. “Why I’m William McCarty, also known as William H. Bonney, but more famously known as Billy the Kid, and you, my stupid friend, are under arrest.”

With that I clicked the watch six more times. One short, three long, two short.

“Report,” said Phil from the watch.

“Target aquired,” I said. “Take him in.”


A light surrounded Bob for just a moment and then suddenly he was gone.

“And you?” Phil said. “You set for the time jump or you still need to take care of your horse?”

“Still gotta deal with the horse,” I said. “Besides, I’m not quite ready to leave just yet.”

“Why? What else is there to do back there?”

“Well,” I said. “I thought I’d go find Buckskin Leslie and buy the man a drink.”