I don’t bother shouting. If that’s a repeater and the man holding it knows how to use it there’ll be four men down before they can so much as squawk.
Instead, almost like my Colt’s a living thing and it knows what I want, suddenly my gun’s in my hand. In the same instant I squeeze the trigger and the gun bucks smoothly. Behind the explosion of gunpowder is the ting of metal on metal and the rifle barrel jerks to the side and goes off.
The rest of the gang starts shouting, horses trample around, ropes get tangled up in legs, someone falls off, someone else fires his gun wildly. I nudge Coyote forward and he moves fast, bringing me up to where I can get a hold of that door with my free hand and slide it open.
What do you know? I just found the marshal.
He’s just drawing leather when the door comes open and he looks up and right down the barrel of my gun. “Hold it right there,” I say. “No one needs to get hurt.”
He lets go of the pistol and moves his hand away.
“Why don’t you unbuckle that gun belt and just throw it on out here, nice and slow?”
He tosses his gun belt out and just about then Boyce and a couple of the others get their horses under control and out of the mess and crowd around the open freight car. The marshal has his hands up in the air. He’s got a bushy gray mustache, a leathered face and eyes that have seen a lot in his days. Those eyes are wary, but not exactly scared. He’s been here before and survived.
“Someone dig out a piggin’ string and truss him up, while I keep him from getting any ideas,” I say without taking my eyes off the marshal. I’d bet a two-dollar bottle of whiskey he’s got another gun under that coat somewhere.
I don’t know if it’s the stress of the day where’s nothing’s going quite right or Boyce just hates me that much and can’t stand the idea of a half-breed giving orders but the next thing that happens is there’s the sound of a gun real close by and a little red hole appears in the center of the marshal’s chest. He topples forward slowly and spills out of the freight car.
I spin on Boyce. “What did you go and do that for?”
“Are you questioning my judgment now, half-breed?” His voice is low and rough and now his pistol is pointed at me.
Everyone goes very still, like there’s a cougar in the room and no good route for the door. Careful to make no sudden moves, I lower my gun. He’s got me dead to rights. I just have to hope shooting one man’s enough to get it out of his system. “You said we weren’t going to kill him.”
“He’s right,” Grady puts in. “Killing a marshal does nothing but make us a whole lot hotter.”
“What’s done is done.” Boyce gives me a look full of crow so big I’m surprised he doesn’t start laughing and puts his gun back in his holster. “He could have identified us.”
“Let’s get out of here!” Slow Eye yelps, his head darting around as if the posse’s already coming for us.
I look down at the marshal’s body while they others get horses and ropes untangled. That bad feeling in my gut just grew another head and it’s got teeth. I turn and look at the passenger car. Everyone’s crowded up and pressed against the windows. For some reason my attention is caught by a stout woman on the other side of fifty, wearing a thick wool dress buttoned up under her ample chin and sporting a lacy bonnet. Her eyes are as big around as silver dollars and she has a hanky pressed up to her mouth as if to keep herself from screaming.
She’s staring straight at me.
Hell, they all are.
Right away I realize something. They all think I did it. From the angle, and the way everyone was standing, they probably couldn’t actually see Boyce pull the trigger. Is that why he killed the marshal? Did he realize they couldn’t see him?
Even if they did see him, what difference does it make? I’ve got my kerchief up over my face, but the passengers can all see my hair, straight and black as a raven’s wing and spilling down to my shoulders. They can see my skin, enough to tell I’m not white. No matter what they actually saw, in their minds it has to be the Injun that killed that lawman.
They’ll cheer at my hanging.
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