THE OTHER GUNFIGHT - CHAPTER FOUR





LIKE I’D SAID, I wasn’t that great of a shot. But to be fair, not that many are with a hand gun. But I was standing five, maybe ten feet from Bob Claiborne. He either had one of them little boxes that deflect bullets or my guns were bent.

The moment Bob smiled and thumbed back the hammer of the Spencer, I’d had my answer. But, because he was a Claiborne, he felt the need to explain it to me anyways.

“Deflector shield,” he said. “Never leave home without it.”

Well, I didn’t have much of an option at that point. Before he could pop off a couple of shots in my direction, I tossed both my pistols in his direction. He, of course, flinched, and I used his hesitation to my advantage.

I went straight for the rifle, taking it in both hands and jerking the barrel up as it went off, blasting a hole in the ceiling. Then I tried pulling the rifle from Bob’s grip, but instead he used the momentum of my pull to crack me a good one across the face with the rifle’s butt.

First I saw stars, and little birds, and then spiders. Then I fell. Straight down on my ass.

To his credit, Bob must’ve decided not to add the killing of an Agent of the Phoenix Initiative to his list of crimes, and so he ran for it.

It took me a moment or two to shake the spiders from my head, but soon I had retrieved my pistols and was stumbling down the stairs. By this point the shooting outside had stopped. It was over. Bob had missed his window.

Time, from what I’m told, is fluid. But, that doesn’t make it easy for anyone to go back and change it. Hell, my job would be much harder if it was. No, there are certain points in a person’s life where the rules of time take a breather. For example. Wyatt Earp was meant to die at the ripe old age of eighty from a chronic bladder infection. That’s what the Universe put in place, and in most cases, the Universe won’t be put off. But, for a man like Wyatt Earp, who was known to put himself in dangerous situations from time to time, had moments in which what the Universe planned didn’t mean squat. And that would be any of those dangerous times.

Meaning, Bob couldn’t just pick any moment in Wyatt’s life to kill him. If he could’ve done that, then logically it would have made more sense for Bob to kill Wyatt in his sleep. In order to go back in time and kill a man like Wyatt Earp, you had to choose a time when Wyatt’s life was in danger, such as the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

But, as I said, Bob had missed his window. He’d no choice at this point but go back to his own time or wait for another moment to arise. If he went back to his own time, he’d have to purchase another time jump, and those, from what I’m lead to understand, ain’t cheap. Based on the man’s complaint, his reason for being here in this moment of time, I didn’t take him for a man of wealth. He must have cashed in everything he had for this, hoping that he’d return to a much more prosperous life. That was, of course, preposterous, but desperate people aren’t always known for their logic. So, if Bob wanted to see this done, he’d stay and find a place to lay low and wait. That’s why, I’m assuming, the man ran rather than just pop out of time.

My job, of course, was to stop him killing Wyatt Earp, and while I’d succeeded here, if he was going to try again, I’d need to make sure that didn’t happen. So I gave chase.

I found Bob on Freemont Street. He was doing his best to climb onto a horse. He’d obviously never even sat astride one the way he kept falling off. I could’ve laughed had I not been so damn angry.

Before I’d gotten within spitting distance, Bob had managed to get on the horse and was off like a shot. Well, not quite a shot. Not unless the shot was drunk. Regardless, he was on horseback while I was on foot, and still a little dazed and shaky.

The Gunfight was officially over, but there was still some amount of chaos out by Fly’s as the people of Tombstone attempted to sort through what had happened. Tom McLaury, his brother Frank, and Billy Clanton were dead. Both Virgil and Morgan had been shot, but both would survive. Doc Holliday had been bruised by a bullet that grazed his hip. Wyatt walked away without a scratch. In fact, during my briefing on this particular case, I learned that while Wyatt would go on to be in a few more scrapes before he gave it all up for the quiet life, he would never once be so much as grazed by a single bullet. I found that fact amazing considering the bullets I’ve taken in the line of fire.

With everyone milling about, I couldn’t exactly open up on Bob as he fled. I’d probably be gunned down myself if I tried. I couldn’t have that. Not the death part, I was ready to die. But it wouldn’t do for the authorities to find my body in the streets of Tombstone three months after I was shot and killed in Fort Sumner. I was taking a chance as it was standing out here armed.

Meaning I had no other choice but to head back to Allen Street, Hafford’s Saloon, and my horse.

But first, I ducked back into the dress shop. It was still empty. The entire town was out there on Freemont Street by this point. I climbed the steps once again, and made my way to the window that looked out on Freemont. The wounded had already been taken away. Now the covered bodies of Frank and Tom McLaury, and Billy Clanton were being loaded onto wagons. I took the watch from my vest pocket and clicked it open. I wasn’t interested in the time, however. I clicked it six more times. One short, three long, two short.

“Report,” said a small voice from within the watch.

Yeah, it wasn’t really a watch. It was some kind of crazy communication device from the future. Like a telegraph but without the wire, and with voices instead of dots and dashes. It was like magic to me when the Phoenix Initiative first brought me on board. Still is, honestly, but I’ve gotten used to it the last few years.

“Primary objective accomplished. The Marshall is alive,” I said, speaking into the watch face.

“And the target?”

“In the wind,” I said. “He rode off on a horse. Looks like he’s staying to finish the job. When’s his next likely window?”

There was a pause as my contact scoured the database.

“March 18,” the watch said. “1882. It’s a Saturday. Looks like Morgan Earp is shot and killed at 10:50 PM while playing a game of billiards at the Campbell & Hatch Billiard Parlor. It was an ambush killing. Wyatt was there but wasn’t hit. That’s the next likely place and time.”

“That’s almost five months from now,” I said.

“Correct,” my contact said. “Come on home, rest up, and well put you back on the day of.”

“Roger,” I said, though I have no idea why. I had no idea who Roger was, my contact’s name was Phil. “I just need to make arrangements for my horse.”

“Your horse?”

“Yeah, the horse I bought. I can’t just leave him. I’ll sell him to one of the local outfits and then I’ll be ready for the jump back.”

“OK, I think you’re wasting your time, but do what you have to do. See you soon,” said Phil from the watch.

“Over and out,” I said.

Before I went back out, I took my guns and belts and put them back in the saddle bags I’d left in the front of the shop.

Back on Freemont there were still a number of people milling about. The Earps, along with Doc Holliday, were nowhere to be seen.

My mouth had suddenly gone dry and I thought about that bottle of whiskey I had in the bag on my shoulder. That’s one thing the future simply does not have over my present. We knew how to make whiskey. Maybe I wouldn’t go back right away. Maybe instead I’d spend a little more time at Hafford’s with that bottle of whiskey.

But, as I moved on up Allen Street I noticed someone trying to climb onto the back of my horse there in front of the saloon.

I blinked.

It was Bob Claiborne.

What they hell was he doing back in town, and why was he trying to steal my horse?

The man’s back was to me, and he was busy cussing the horse left to right, so he hadn’t noticed my approach. Better yet, the box that projected the deflector field was clipped to his belt on his right hip, just within reach.

I took a quick look around. We were alone. Not that it mattered. If I gunned him down now I would be well within my right. The man was trying to steal my horse. That was a hanging offense around here. A man’s horse was a man’s life.

But, like I’d said earlier, it wouldn’t be in my best interest to kill the man. While I had the authority, it would generally complicate things. So, Instead, I crept up all subtle-like. He’d fallen from the horse and as he pulled himself from the ground I reached out, pulled the box from his belt and then spoke.

“Morning, Bob,” I said.

He spun.

I made a fist and punched him in the face.

To be continued . . .




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