Six Feet of Cold Earth
By Joel Jenkins
The summer heat was stifling, sticky, and oppressive as Temple Houston stepped into the welcome shade of the Woodward County jail house. It was a squat gray construction of sun-hardened brick and mortar that doubled as the office of City Sheriff Bob Benn, with whom Temple had a tenuous relationship since Benn had arrested him last year on a first degree murder charge.
Temple paused on the small porch of the jail, under the sturdy veranda, and a whisper of wind rustled across the high plains grasslands of the Oklahoma Territories, whipping back Houston’s long brown hair as it pushed down the baked streets of Woodward. A dirt devil coiled in the street, stretching dusty plumes into the air before dying on the faltering wind, and being cast back to the earth.
A thin roan-colored horse pulled a weathered cart filled with hay down the street. Two young children clambered about the bales in back, frolicking in the stiff bristles, as their father guided the hack. The children immediately recognized the lawyer standing upon the jail’s veranda and raised their hands, hollering out a greeting. Six feet tall, and dressed in a white fedora, a dark Prince Albert overcoat, Mexican-style trousers, and brocaded vest, Temple cut a rather ostentatious figure in a town populated by farmers and ranchers. In all of the Oklahoma Territories there was only one man who dressed as he did, and as a result he was rarely mistaken for anyone else.
“Hallo Temple!” they cried.
Temple smiled and returned the wave before entering the relatively cool interior of the sheriff’s office. A round-faced man wearing a dusty vest studded with a tarnished sheriff’s badge sat uneasily behind a rough-hewn wooden desk, mopping at the perspiration that formed at his brow.
He glanced up with sharp hazel eyes when the lawyer entered, but the interest that had momentarily shone in his eyes faded into a disgruntled resignation. “I thought that you were my deputy.”
“Are there sinister doings afoot?” asked Temple as he glanced about the sparsely furnished room.
“Sinister enough,” grunted Benn, scratching at the white-speckled stubble that grew thick on his face. “Grave robbers have been raiding the cemetery outside of town, digging up the graves and making off with entire corpses.”
“I’ve heard of people stealing the boots from a dead man, but what would they want with a corpse?”
Sheriff Benn shrugged his meaty shoulders. “Rumor is that Hermit McRae is using the bodies to feed the wolves, but that sounds like some sort of wives’ tale to me.”
Temple’s gray eyes sharpened. “You know why I’m here?”
Benn nodded laconically. “I’ve heard. You’re taking over the Alfred Son case. I’m telling you right now, it’s a lost cause. This is his second appeal. He lost the first two trials because he was guilty, and no amount of fancy talk is going to save him from the hang man’s noose.”
“The evidence that he killed Fred Hoffman is purely circumstantial, and I plan to point out just how flimsy the prosecution’s case is,” replied Temple, his combative spirit already kicking up at Benn’s proclamation of Alfred Son’s guilt.
Bob Benn dismissed all this with a wave of his hand. “Yeah, yeah. If you want to see him, he’s in the back- but you’ll have to talk through the bars because I ain’t letting you in.”
Temple bit back a sharp remark, thinking better of antagonizing the sheriff. He passed back into the dim recesses of the jail, turning a corner so that Benn was no longer in sight. He nodded to Eddie Hammond who inhabited the second cell, sitting on his cot and holding his head between his hands.
“A little too much to drink last night?” asked Temple.
Eddie nodded painfully. “You know me. I get drunk, and I get belligerent.”
Temple noted Eddie’s freshly scabbed knuckles. “You give somebody a pounding?”
The prisoner frowned ruefully. “The bad thing is that I don’t remember who or why.”
“If you need help straightening things out let me know.”
“The sheriff said he’d let me out tomorrow morning if I promise to stay away from the whiskey.”
“You’ve been in here so many times that you actually may want to consider it.”
Temple passed on until he came to the fourth and last cell. Alfred Son sat disconsolately on his cot, his back propped against the corner of his cell, his legs crossed and a worn deck of cards laid out before him in a game of solitaire.
“Alfred! Your brother came to me with word that you would like me to take over your case.”
Alfred looked up from his game, his face scarcely touched with a downy stubble. Not much older than sixteen years, he had taken a trip to visit Holly Speckles in Enid, and his path had taken him near to the spot where Fred Hoffman had been murdered. The fact that he had been in the area during the time when Hoffman had been shot down, was enough to convict him twice in a court of law.
Alfred continued distributing the faded cards to the stacks on his cot. “Will it do any good? It seems that everyone in town has already decided that I killed the man. I’m not even sure I should bother with a third trial. They should just hang me and get it over with.”
“That’s the wrong attitude to have,” said Temple. “I can understand why you feel that way; why it was only last year that I was sitting in that same cell on a murder charge. Let me tell you now, I’ve looked at the facts in your case- I’ve gone over them in minute detail- and if you do exactly as I tell you I’m going to guarantee you that you’ll soon be a free man.”
Alfred Son was a man grasping for hope, and at Temple’s words he sprang to his feet and came to the bars, upset cards fluttering the floor of his cell. He wrapped his thick fingers around the iron bars, and spoke face to face with the lawyer.
“A free man!” he breathed. “And Holly? Will she visit me?”
“I’ve been a senator for the great state of Texas, and a lawyer in Kansas, Texas, and the Oklahoma territories,” said Temple. “I know the law, but don’t ask me to predict what a woman will do. I’ve been married for fourteen years and I still can’t always know what Laura is thinking.”
Alfred’s young face fell.
Temple put a hand between the bars and placed it on the boy’s shoulder. “There will be time enough for the courtship of Holly Speckles once we’ve proven your innocence. She’ll likely have a much better opinion of you once she knows that you’re no murderer.”
Alfred nodded, his face twisted tightly so as to avoid shedding tears.
“One step at a time,” said Temple. “Your case is coming to court in two months. I want you to put up with your confinement the best that you can, and in the meantime I’m going to do some things to ensure that you come out on the winning end.”
“Like what?” asked Alfred eagerly.
“Someone killed Fred Hoffman,” answered Temple. “And I aim to find out who.”
The kerosene lanterns flared as Temple Houston entered Jack Garvey’s Cabinet Saloon. A mustachioed pianist banged out a rousing rendition of The Bonnie Blue Flag on a piano that still bore the scorched holes that witnessed of the Jennings ambush.
Same as the night of the shooting, the place was bustling with ranchers, and farmhands looking for a few hours of diversion. Whiskey-stained cards were shuffled, and silver dollars clinked on the beer-soaked tables. Mary Anne O’Connell circulated through the tavern, displaying her ample wares in a low cut gingham dress, while the more honorable barmaids took orders of only alcoholic beverages, and the occasional sarsaparilla.
Temple nodded to Jack Garvey whose bald head glinted lantern light from behind the bar. He wiped a bar glass clean, and returned the nod with a slight grin.
“You expecting any more of your lawyer friends in here tonight?”
“No, sir,” answered Temple with a broad smile.
Jack blinked his close-set brown eyes. “Good to hear it. There’s been enough ruckus in here for one evening.”
“Did I miss a brawl?”
“No brawl,” answered Jack, “but Deputy Birnham came in earlier and told us about finding Knuckles Johnson’s corpse out near the boiling springs. He was pretty much unrecognizable, I guess he’d been out there a while. The birds had been at him, and his body was pretty foul.”
“How did they know it was him?”
“He was carrying some letters, not to mention a pistol engraved with his initials.”
Temple’s gray eyes shifted toward the door of the tavern. “There’s been at least two bounty hunters through here in the last month looking for Knuckles. He had a two thousand dollar reward on his head for robbing those banks in Wichita. Those bounty hunters are going to be mighty disappointed that something else got to him first. Did Deputy Birnham give any idea what might have been the cause of death?”
“Four bullet holes.”
Temple pushed back a stray lock of wavy brown hair. “Interesting,” he muttered. “You’d think that whoever shot him would scoop up the body and turn it in for the reward.”
“Well, you know Birnham. I’m sure that hasn’t occurred to him, yet- but if it means one less criminal roaming these parts I say why look a gift horse in the mouth?”
Temple glanced around the denizens populating the tavern and found the man that he was looking for holed up in a dim corner, and nursing a bottle of beer.
“I’ll talk to you later, Jack,” said the lawyer. He paid for his drink and toted it along to the table where his quarry hunched, clutching at his dark bottle with ashen, skinny fingers.
“What is it you want?” asked the man hoarsely. He looked up, and his face was as pale and gaunt as the rest of his body. He wore an overcoat that hung as loosely as if it had been draped on a skeleton, the worn fringes hanging down to his mud-clotted boots. The sallow, unhealthy skin of his face suggested that he was in the middle stages of tuberculosis.
“Hey Andy, I’d think that you’d be a little more friendly toward the man who got you off the noose on a horse thieving charge. You do still owe me for representing you.”
“I know, I know,Temple; but things have been lean- mighty lean.”
“So you’ve been saying for the last year, but you always seem to have enough cash to spend on prostitutes and whiskey.”
“Things have been lean, but they are looking up. I’ve forsaken horse-thieving and gotten into a new line of business. I should have a fair chunk of money coming in next week,” said Andy with an off-kilter twist of his lips that he passed off as a smile. “Can you hold off that long?”
“I can do better than that,” said Temple. “If you do something for me I’ll wipe the slate clean.”
Andy peered out from heavily lidded eyes that were veined with red. “And what might that be?”
“I need word on Fred Hoffman’s killer.”
“Is that all?”
“No. I need you to take him a message that someone else is about to swipe credit for Hoffman’s killing. I’m not asking the killer to turn himself in or anything, I just want to see that the right person is given his due for the murder, and that the other isn’t hanged for a crime he didn’t commit.”
“I’ve heard rumor that Red Buck Weightman did the deed. I’ll check into it for you.”
“I’d appreciate it, and so would Alfred Son.”
Andy drained the last of his drink, and smiled blandly at Temple- his bloodshot eyes roved briefly to the left and to the right. “Since we’re such good buddies and all, and I may need your lawyering services again sometime, I’m going to throw in a free rumor. Remember Al Jennings?”
“The Half-pint Bad Man, how could I forget?”
“He’s not as forgiving as his old man, and ever since you did his brothers in he’s been nursing a grudge. Word is that he’s hired some local talent to throw some lead at you. You might want to keep an eye out for trouble.”
Temple couldn’t suppress a laugh. “Have you seen a copy of his book? He claims to have shot Jack Love and I dead.”
“Yeah, a real riot,” agreed Andy, who couldn’t read, with a half-smile. “He’s aiming to make the book come true- at least the part about you being dead. Though he’s not planning to be anywhere near you when the killing takes place.”
Temple snorted. “At least his brothers had enough guts to try shooting me in the back.”
The lawyer got up from the table, and frowned suddenly as he was about to turn and leave. “What is this new line of business, Andy?”
Andy flashed a set of rotting teeth at Temple. “I got me a plot of land and started tilling the earth. You’re talking to Woodward’s newest farmer.”
Andy Riggins showed up late one evening, three weeks later, at Temple’s office. He seemed sober enough, but when Temple opened up the door to the urgent rapping he immediately caught the scent of alcohol on the former horse thief.
Temple had been going through some law books, and was about ready to go home to his wife and kids, but the sight of Andy woke him from his drowsy state. “You find out something for me?”
Andy nodded his gaunt face excitedly. “But the next time I need your services it’s going to be on the house.”
“I’ll be the judge of that,” said Temple. He heard the hollers of some drunk cattlemen wafting down the moon-painted streets. “Let me hear what you’ve got to say.”
“I sent message to George Red Buck Weightman, and he’s sent word that he’ll meet with you if you come without the escort of the law. He’s holing up at Quartz Mountain. Do you know the place?”
Temple nodded. “I do. It’s at least a two day trip by horseback. You’ve certainly settled your debt to me. Though I’m not quite ready to give you free representation next time you happen to transgress the law.”
“Oh, but I’m not finished,” said the emaciated man with a hollow cough. “I’ve got three names for you: Blowfly Brannock, Knuckleduster Carson, and Timmy Mickelson.”
Temple had made the acquaintance of Blowfly Brannock and Timmy Mickelson during his sojourn in Dodge City before he had been married. Blowfly was a sharp-tempered gunslinger with pinpoint accuracy, which he demonstrated by shooting flies from the wall of a barn at thirty paces, and Timmy Mickelson had been a young punk following in his footsteps.
“What about them?”
“They’re gunning for you, courtesy of Al Jennings.”
Temple squinted his gray eyes, furrows forming at the corners. “I’ll keep an eye out for them.”
“You representing me at no charge next time?” pushed Andy.
“We’ll see,” said Temple noncommittally. “If they actually show up, I’ll strongly consider it.”
“You do that,” chattered Andy. “Just be sure that you shoot them before they shoot you.” The horse thief launched into a coughing attack that threatened to wrench his lungs out and deposit them on the front porch. When he finally departed, Temple gazed out the glowing windows of Woodward; the chill of night began to set in and the lawyer grabbed his Prince Albert overcoat off the hook near the door and pulled it on before jamming his white fedora down over his ears.
If Blowfly Brannock showed up he might not be around to offer free representation to Andy. Blowfly had been a lick slower than Temple on the draw, but he had been sweeter with his aim than the lawyer. Temple vowed to keep quiet about the three gunslingers who might be coming for him. His wife, Laura, didn’t need the extra worry. She had his kids to take care of, and that was more than enough worry for any woman.
As the sun rose the following morning, Temple sought out the Blackjack stables and spoke briefly with the former slave that owned them. Old Jeffrey was getting on in years, but that hadn’t kept him from running at the opening of the Cherokee Strip and staking out a claim in the Oklahoma Territories.
“I need a wagon for a trip to Quartz Mountain,” said Temple.
Jeffrey nodded his hoary head and lifted a lean arm, pointing toward the back of the stables. “Talk to my boy, Johnny. He’ll drive you.”
“There might be some danger.”
Jeffrey poked a bony finger into the lawyer’s broad chest. “You’re Temple Houston, best shot in the Oklahoma Territories. You’ll see that my boy comes to no harm.”
One look at the confidence that brimmed in Jeffrey Watkin’s brown eyes, and Temple couldn’t bring himself to argue with the stable owner. “We’ll be gone a week at most. He pressed a ten dollar bill into Jeffrey’s brown palm.”
“You’re a generous man, Mr. Houston,” he said with a crooked grin.
“Not so generous as you,” answered Temple. “I’m giving you ten dollars, you’re loaning me your son.”
Johnny was a young man just outside of seventeen years. His dark eyes sparkled with mischief, but his hands were callused from hard work. He wore a plaid wool shirt and breeches that were long past broken-in.
“Mr. Temple! Where am I driving you?”
“We’re going to visit Red Buck Weightman.”
Johnny’s face fell, and then the skin around his eyes tightened. “That man kills for fun, what if he decides to shoot us?”
“He won’t,” assured Temple. “This will be strictly a friendly visit.”
“Why do you want to have a friendly visit with a wanted murderer?”
“That wanted murderer just might be able to save a client of mine.”
The sun had yet to reach its zenith in the sky when they set out, their strong hack eagerly pulling the cart and its two passengers along rutted roads that passed through recently harvested wheat fields still glinting with morning dew, and across the wide plains that waved with the golden fronds of seeding grass, and was grazed by great herds of cattle.
For many hours the plains stretched for as far as their eyes could see. Eventually the road ended and they drove across prairie land that was unrutted by the rim of a wagon wheel. Johnny laughed and joked jovially with Temple as he guided the horse, but occasionally the lawyer could see a worrisome thought register on the boy’s face, and Johnny would glance to the rear of the cart, toward some loose hay that hadn’t been removed before the trip.
“Are you sure that we’re on the right path?” asked the driver.
“Outlaws don’t strive to be accessible, son. They don’t care much for unexpected visitors.”
“That’s what worries me,” said Johnny grimly.
“There is no need to worry. We’re going there to talk, nothing else. You won’t need that gun that you hid beneath the hay.”
Johnny looked at Temple with raised eyebrows and open mouth.
“No need to look so surprised. If I were in your position I might have done the same.” Temple opened up his Prince Albert jacket and showed Johnny that he wore no guns at his waist. “But I’m depending upon the eloquence of my words to see us through this one. It’s a skill I’ve spent much time developing, and I won’t let you down. I promised your father that I’d bring you back unharmed.”
Night set in, inky blackness seeping into the sky- to finally be relieved by a waning moon, and a profusion of stars that splattered the skyscape. They camped out on the open prairie beneath the wagon, after building a fire to fend off the chill of the night. Their gray horse grazed on a long tether, and they swapped ghost stories as the howling of wolves reached across the high plains.
The fire crackled and the lawyer and the driver pulled their bedrolls up around their heads to keep their body heat, finally drifting off into the sweet embrace of sleep. When the light of morning leaked into the sky they brewed up some coffee on the fire, and chewed some jerked beef for nourishment as chill morning gnawed at their bones.
Johnny watered the gray hack, and hitched it to the wagon, and they were once again on their way. The plains seemed unceasing, but in late afternoon they finally gave way to rolling hills dappled with the white splashes of fall flowers. The buckboard bounced as they rolled across the uneven terrain, leaving furrows of trampled grass in their wake.
Once again the sun began to sink behind the horizon, casting the sky a bloody red that bathed the buffalo grass in crimson hues. The wind whispered through the grass so that it undulated around them as they came into sight of Quartz Mountain; it rose from the plains, its jagged peaks and slope thrusting against the ruddy heavens.
Johnny shifted nervously in his seat, his mischievous eyes palling with worry. “How much further?”
Temple produced one of his rare cigars and struck a match. He sucked at the stogie until the leaves ignited and turned a cherry hue. “Make for the mountain, and keep on course. We won’t make it until after dark.”
“What if Red Buck mistakes us for a posse and shoots us?”
Temple exhaled a lungful of smoke. “He’s expecting us, there’s nothing to worry about.”
Night fell, shrouding Quartz Mountain in a cloak of stretching shadows until all that remained was a black mass barely visible against the reaches of the star spun sky. They continued on, more slowly now, the hack carefully choosing his steps as he pulled the buckboard through the darkness. The grass rustled around them, and the moon guided them with its wan light.
Johnny searched the darkness around them as if expecting an ambush at any moment, but Temple leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes, catching a few minutes of sleep as the cart jounced along.
He awoke when Johnny nudged him hard with an elbow. “Temple!” he whispered fiercely. “There’s a fire burning up ahead.”
The lawyer opened his eyes and peered into the night. He saw the flickering of a campfire, and sparks carrying on an updraft into the sky.
“Good job,” said Temple. “You’ve found him.”
As their cart neared the fire the horse snorted and a voice called out to them from the darkness at their right. “Hold it there! Are you Temple Houston?”
The lawyer sat up straight. “Correct,” he answered. “And I suppose that I am addressing Mr. George Weightman?”
“You suppose right. Got a gun on you?”
Temple stood on the cart and opened up his Prince Albert jacket, letting the tails flap behind him in the breeze, revealing a belt that was empty of holsters. “No gun.”
A large form materialized from the darkness holding a carbine- a rifle with a short barrel- pointed in their general vicinity. George Red Buck Weightman stood nearly six-foot-two, his head looked like a misshapen boulder placed atop a mound of lumpy body. His massive shoulders rolled beneath a buckskin jacket that strained at the seams, and his thick waist and legs also threatened to burst the riveted denim pants that he wore.
He saw Johnny and swung his carbine so that it was aimed at Johnny’s chest. “Who is he?”
“Just the young man I commissioned to drive me. If you are through with your inquisition, kindly put your gun down. It makes the boy nervous.”
Weightman grunted and lowered the barrel of his carbine so that it was no longer pointed at them, but he did not entirely put his gun down as Temple had suggested.
“Climb down and have some coffee,” he ordered.
Temple stepped down from the buckboard. Johnny leapt down and retrieved a handful of oats for his horse. He scratched the hack between his ears, as he horse quickly devoured the feed.
“Strap a feedback on your horse, and meet me by the fire,” said Temple. “I want you there as a witness.” Temple turned as if to leave, but stopped as he remembered something. “And leave your pistol where it is. Mr. Weightman is a jumpy fellow and I don’t want to give him any wrong ideas.”
Temple followed Red Buck Weightman into the flickering circle of light around the campfire. A flame-blackened coffee pot stood on a stone in the fire, and the murderer crouched beside it and grabbed a hold of it with a gloved hand. He poured some coffee out into some tin cups.
He handed one to Temple, who graciously accepted it.
“I’ve got another here for your driver as soon as he’s done tending to his horse.”
“Thank you, kindly,” said Temple. As he watched, a motley assemblage of horse thieves and murderers melted from the shadows, taking up various positions around the fire. By the assortment of bed rolls and saddles that lay in jumbled heaps about the clearing, Temple had already suspected that Red Buck Weightman hadn’t been camping alone.
Temple recognized some of the faces; Anthony Weyland, a squirrelly fellow with a massive overbite, and Dan Tannaman, a rawboned cattleman with overhanging brow. Both were known to have run with Knuckles Johnson, in fact, they were reputed to have been with them the day he shot two ranchers on a cattle raid.
It didn’t surprise Temple that Red Buck Weightman was running with this pack of criminals. Dan Tannaman threw a log on the fire, and the flames momentarily flared. The lawyer did his best to keep his jaw from dropping when the handsome face of blonde-haired Knuckles Johnson was revealed standing outside the encampment. Knuckles sat down at the edge of the firelight, his face still masked in the umbra of the night- probably sure that his identity hadn’t been compromised.
Naturally, Temple had a strong curiosity as to why a dead man might be found so alive and so well, but he had to focus on the most important issue- the life of Alfred Son.
Temple ignored the newcomers and spoke directly to Red Buck Weightman. “I suppose you know why I’m here.”
“Yeah, I heard that they’ve got some poor sap in jail for shooting Fred Hoffman.”
Johnny apprehensively came in from the darkness, and sat himself on a stone near the fire, but not too close to the criminals that also ringed the blazing wood.
“Alfred Son,” nodded Houston. “I’m doing my best to defend him.”
Red Buck stirred the coals, watching the spirals of ash. “Son never killed Hoffman.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because I done it.” An evil light shone in Weightman’s eyes, and a crooked grin formed on his face. “I shot him right between the eyes.”
“Would you care to swear to that here and now?”
George Weightman chuckled, a deep rumble that emanated from the cavity of his chest. “I swear to it.”
Temple glanced at Johnny to make sure that he was following everything that Weightman had said. He needed have bothered, because Johnny was registering each detail of the conversation- enraptured by the criminal, a mix of fear and loathing registering on his face.
The lawyer drained the last of the bitter coffee, and the tin cup clanked as he set it on a nearby stone. “Thank you, sir, for your kind hospitality and help on my case.”
“Will my oath get him off?”
“I think Mr. Son will live now; soothe your troubled soul.”
Weightman chuckled again. “Troubled soul? I just didn’t want anybody taking credit for a man that I killed. I’ve got five notches in my pistol, and Hoffman was the fifth.”
Temple stood, the dark tails of his coat flapping around his legs. “I’ll see to it that you are given the credit you are due.” He halted. “Out of curiosity, why did you kill Fred Hoffman?”
Red Buck Weightman lifted an eyebrow. “Just for the fun of it.”
The lawyer nodded his head in the direction of the thieves and murderers. “Good evening gentlemen, we’ll trouble you no further.”
Temple turned and Johnny, who needed no urging, walked right alongside of him as they retreated to the wagon. Johnny leaped into the buckboard and was already urging the horse to turn as Temple pulled himself onto the wagon and seated himself alongside.
As they sped from the edges of Quartz Mountain Johnny apprehensively glanced behind them, checking to see if the pale moonlight revealed any criminals that might be pursuing them.
“Don’t worry,” said Temple. “They’ve got no reason to pursue us.”
“Maybe not,” said Johnny, “but I noticed that you didn’t have us stick around their camp any longer than was necessary.”
Temple chuckled because he thought that maybe Johnny had him on that one. “That,” he admitted, “would have been rather imprudent.”
Johnny snapped the reins. “Mr. Houston, you’ve got some interesting acquaintances.”
The buckboard bounced terribly across the uneven plains, and they followed the furrows that marked their journey to Quartz Mountain. To a distant eye they appeared to be swimming through the swaying, moon-washed fields of buffalo grass, afloat on their cart, with only the broad chest and head of the horse rising above the grass. They hadn’t retreated more than two hours back into the darkness when a sharp crack rang out from somewhere amid the buffalo grass at their right.
A bullet tugged at Temple’s white fedora and lifted it from his head, carrying it into the field beyond. Immediately a fusillade of shots rang from the concealment of the high grass at either side of them. Bullets tore at the cart, throwing splinters, and Temple could hear the whine as they flew past, narrowly missing the two of them. Only the bounce of the buckboard had kept him from taking a bullet in the head. At the moment that the first shot had been fired the buckboard had dipped just enough to save Temple from a shot that had undoubtedly been aimed at his skull.
Johnny didn’t waste any breath crying out to Temple. He ducked low, whipped the reins hard and called to the horse, who needed little extra urging to redouble his efforts. Temple dove into the back of the cart, his hands sliding beneath the hay and finding the cold reassurance of Johnny’s double-action revolver hidden beneath.
Black clouds of gun smoke hung thick in the air, revealing the hiding spots of the assailants among the grasses. The telltale glint of moonlight against gunmetal showed Temple a spot to fire, and, the cart careening and bucking beneath him, he fired three times. Even over the squeak of the wheels and the buckboard springs, Temple could hear the meaty smack as at least one of his bullets slammed home, followed by an ear rending cry of pain.
Even though Johnny was putting some distance between them and the men who had ambushed them, the storm of lead did not end. Bullets skipped across the grass, removed the spoke of a wagon wheel, and pounded into the backboard of the wagon bed in which Temple lay. The thick board trembled with each impact, but shielded the lawyer.
Peering out, Temple could see the flashes of gunfire, and hear the percussion rolling across the high plains like thunder. He picked out a flash and fired twice, but the distance was so great he could not tell whether his bullets had found a target or not. The pull of the hammer was stiffer than the Colt Peacemakers that Temple habitually wore, so he couldn’t be sure of his aim- not to mention the fact that he was riding a cart that was hurtling at breakneck speed through the buffalo grass. There was one bullet left in the cylinder of Johnny’s Colt Frontier .45, but he was loath to spend it.
A few more shots rang out from the ambush, but the distance had grown and the bullets ranged wide of their target. There was no sign of pursuit. Temple guessed that the ambushers had tethered their horses some distance away from the ambush so as not to give away their position among the grasses.
“You’d better slow this cart down some,” called Temple to Johnny, “or we’re going to lose a wagon wheel.”
Johnny showed some reluctance, but he finally pulled back and let the poor horse relax his frenzied pace.
“Do you have any more cartridges for the pistol?”
Johnny shook his head. “Only the ones that were in the gun.”
“We’ve got a way to go before we hit Woodward. It’s possible that they might catch up with us.”
Johnny screwed up his face. “And just how many cartridges do we have left?”
“What about Busch?” asked Johnny.
“Hmm. Not much more than a mercantile and a tavern there, but if we can make it across the Sweetwater we might be able to pick up some more ammunition there.”
“Any chance that we might be able to lose them?”
“Not unless we ditch the buckboard. A three year-old could follow the tracks of a horse-drawn wagon.”
“I guess you were wrong about Red Buck Weightman. It looks like he had it in for us after all.”
Temple shook his head. “That wasn’t Red Buck Weightman or any of the men we saw at his encampment. They wouldn’t have had the time to follow us and set up an ambush.”
Johnny frowned. “Then who was it?”
“I’ve got a strong hunch that it was some gunslingers looking to win a bounty on my head.”
“You’re no outlaw,” said Johnny. “Why would there be a bounty on your head?”
“It doesn’t take the law to put a bounty on someone’s head,” replied Temple. “It just takes money, and someone with money doesn’t like me very much.”
The horse was tired and so were Johnny and Temple, so they pulled off the path they had made on their way to Quartz Mountain and did their best to conceal the wagon by parking it in a long divot, which the high grasses concealed. Johnny brushed, watered and fed the horse while Temple climbed an oak and watched for signs of movement on the tenebrous plains.
He saw nothing and finally he climbed down and joined Johnny beneath the cart where they both fell fast asleep before they could even talk of setting a watch.
Dawn broke, spilling light into the heavens and across the high plains. As Temple awoke, a jack rabbit skittered through the grass. The lawyer reached for Johnny’s Colt Frontier, intending to make a breakfast out of the hare, but letting the creature escape when he remembered that they needed to conserve their ammunition.
They ate a cold repast of jerked beef and drank from their canteens. Temple went out to the path that they had plowed through the grass and but could find no marks from horses’ hooves, other than that of their own gray hack who had so dependably pulled them through the ambush the previous night.
Johnny joined him as he gazed at the tracks. “No sign of them?”
Temple shook his bare head, his long brown locks flowing in the breeze. “My guess is that they stayed put to take care of an injured man. I can’t think of any other reason they didn’t overtake us.”
“Maybe they’re afraid to attack you when they don’t have the advantage of surprise,” suggested Johnny.
“Having a reputation of being good with the gun does go a long way in discouraging challengers. In fact, it’s often more effective than using your gun.” Temple lifted Johnny’s pistol. “I can show you how to use this weapon, and with enough practice you’ll be able to make a reputation that will discourage most anybody from messing with you.”
“I’ll take you up on that,” said Johnny. “We can start as soon as we get back to Woodward.”
“I figure that I owe you at least that much,” said Temple. “You kept a level head during the ambush and got us out of there, and with your testimony I just might have a shot in saving Alfred Son from the hangman’s noose.”
Three feet of November snow lay on the ground, and the El Reno Oklahoma courtroom was packed when Temple Houston rose to give his summation in defense of Alfred Son. Despite the chill bite of winter outdoors, the courtroom was sweltering - women fanned their faces and men doffed their jackets as they prepared to hear the silver-tongued orator speak in defense of his client.
Because of the heat of the room, Temple had also shed his jacket, but still wore his embroidered vest, and his Mexican-style pants were cinched at the waist with a finely worked belt of leather that supported two pearl-handled Colt .45 Peacemakers. His boots were polished to a gleam.
His testimony about Red Buck Weightman’s confession of guilt already weighing heavily on the jury’s minds, Johnny Watkins stood at the back of the courtroom, his Colt Frontier weighing heavily at his belt- freshly cleaned from a regular bout of target shooting earlier that morning.
Temple took a long pause before he launched into his summation, his eyes swept the crowd, and then studied the jury- hoping to find receptive faces to the message that he was about to deliver. However, as he took in the crowd his eyes caught a disturbing sight. Sitting among the throng of El Reno citizens were several faces that didn’t belong. The dour and pinched face of Blowfly Brannock stared coldly at him, as if sizing up a tree before cutting it down. Next to him sat a fellow that Temple recognized just from his description; Knuckleduster Carson, a steel-spring of a man with a scar that cleft his lower lip and jagged down to the point of his chin. Next to him was Timmy Mickelson, over a decade older than when Temple had last seen him, and no longer a young man. Once vociferous and eager, Mickelson now bore a stern and hollow visage, his speckled eyes were haunted by the killings in which he had participated. Next to this trio was a fourth killer, which Temple did not know- but he bore the mark of Temple’s bullet- a caved cheek bone and a wide, livid scar tracing a path across his face.
All this, Temple took in at a moment’s glance, but he shoved his apprehension aside. These killers would not be so bold as to attack him in a crowded courtroom where a hundred witnesses would see their foul deed. They would bide their time- and so would Temple.
He glanced at the young man who sat nervously at the defense’s table. This was his time, and Temple would give his utmost to see Alfred Son cleared of the murder charge that had been so injustly laid at his feet.
“Gentleman,” began Temple. “As I told you in the beginning, the territory of Oklahoma, who is prosecuting this case, has shown no motive for the commission of such a crime, and we have given you a reasonable- a true- explanation of every act and utterance of the defendant- even for his trip in that fatal direction. He went only to woo, and win, one of the daughters of the land, tender-eyed, and fair to look upon; and how like a boy, to take the shortest route to see his sweetheart, and seeing her, take her back by the longest route.”
Temple appraised the jury. They were leaning forward, attentive to his words, with no frowns of skepticism upon their faces.
“The life of this boy, up to the instant of his accusation, has been faultless; and do you believe that he took this sudden and awful plunge from innocence into fathomless depths of crime- from childlike purity into hideous murder? You came into that box with light hearts and conscience clear. Oh, may you leave there thus- untortured with the curse of having wrecked the life of him whose life you hold in the hollow of your hands. Boyhood’s down still softens upon his childlike face. Gentlemen, be just; heed not the perjured fiends who thirst for this boy’s blood, judge with justice and in the spirit of Him who said, ‘Even as you did it unto the least of these, so you did it unto me’. Free this innocent man, and- your noble duty done- recall this moment with proud recollection.”
Tears glistened in the eyes of some of the jurors as they retired to deliberate, and in the eyes of Alfred Son as he listened to this defense of his character. Young Holly Speckles openly wept, tears staining her porcelain cheeks as they rolled unchecked to her rose-petal lips.
In under twenty minutes the jury reached a decision and they returned the veniremen’s box, their faces light and unhardened by the verdict that they must render. Temple read all this in their faces, and he nodded to Alfred with a smile on his lips.
The judge turned his severe face to the jury. “Jury foreman, what is your verdict?”
The foreman stood, his bland oval face beaming as he returned the verdict. “Not Guilty, Your Honor.”
The judge slammed the gavel down, the sound resonating through the courtroom as if it were a gunshot. “So be it.”
Alfred leapt to his feet and caught Temple in a hug that threatened to break the lawyers back. His family came to their feet and rushed forward with shouts of joy on their lips, and even Holly Speckles pushed through the crowd and Alfred caught her in a long embrace that ended with fervent, unashamed kisses.
In the resulting turmoil Temple caught Johnny’s eye, and they slipped through the crowds and out the back door of the courtroom, exiting into the icy chill of the rear alley. Night was upon El Reno, the alleys thick with shadows. A clear sky shown coldly down, the frosty moon flecking the heavens with chill beams of light. Temple pulled on his Prince Albert jacket, and then a thicker winter coat sewn from beaver pelts.
“How was your shooting practice this morning?” Temple asked his driver.
“I drilled a tin can from thirty paces,” said Johnny.
“If we don’t get out of town quickly, you may get a chance to show what you’ve learned.”
Johnny stood stock still in the alley, his legs spread wide as he surveyed the opening onto Main Street with level, brown eyes. “So are we fighting or are we fleeing?”
“We’re going to do both,” said Temple. “They don’t know you’re with me, so I want you to head for the graveyard and take up position behind Mason’s tomb.”
“What about you?”
“I’ll be coming along shortly,” answered the lawyer, “but I’ll be bringing company so be prepared to shoot.”
Johnny took off at a run down the alley, he skidded to a stop and took a sharp left toward the graveyard, unimpeded.
Temple figured that the hired guns had seen him slip from the courtroom after the verdict; they just hadn’t managed to fight through the crowds to follow him out the back door, yet. Or maybe, he wasn’t giving them enough credit. They had set up a respectable ambush near Quartz Mountain, maybe they were attempting an ambush right here in El Reno. It occurred to Temple that they might have left through the front door, and were even now watching the entrances to the alley. There was only two ways out, and they had the manpower to watch both routes.
They hadn’t harmed Johnny when he emerged from the alley because they didn’t know that he was connected with Temple, but they would likely shoot Temple on sight, jump on their horses, and ride out of town before the law could figure out what had happened. If this was the tactic that the gunslingers were using, and Temple was becoming more and more convinced of this as each moment passed, then it was going to be difficult for him to leave the alley alive, let alone lead the hired guns to their makeshift ambush in the graveyard.
The courtroom alley backed on some storage buildings belonging to the Rock Island Railroad, which had pounded a line through central Oklahoma in 1889. A barred back window looked out on the mud-splattered churn of the alley. At first Temple discounted this as a possible means of leaving the alley, but when he saw no doorways other than that of the courthouse, he examined the bars more closely.
They were constructed of wrought iron and nailed into the framework around the window. Though he was a robust man of six feet, Temple knew that he didn’t possess the strength to bend the bars, however he might be able to more easily pull the entire grill of wrought iron from the very framework to which it was attached.
His hands were small for a man of his height and size, but they possessed ample strength, and he grabbed hold of the iron latticework and pulled. One portion of the bars yanked free from the window, and with a few more tugs Temple was able to pull the grill of bars away, and drop it into the snow.
With the butt of his gun he broke out the glass of the window. The milky pane broke easily and sliced silently into the snow. Temple cleared away the clinging shards from the window frame with the barrel of his Peacemaker and he squeezed through into the pitch interior beyond.
Just as he slipped his bulk through the opening, he heard a gunshot echo against the walls of the warehouse and courthouse. Splinters flew from the window frame where the bullet impacted.
“Come back here, you coward!” came a raspy voice that Temple recognized as that of Timmy Mickelson.
Temple snorted to himself. If his pursuers could be trusted to take their turns dueling with him one at a time, he would have been happy to meet them in the open. However, he knew that gunfights rarely followed any set of rules. Most of them started when one group tried to unfairly ambush the other. Most criminals wanted every advantage on their side before they pulled a gun- and they weren’t about to give up those advantages for the sake of a fair fight.
The lawyer scrambled into the darkness, climbing over piles of crates, and slipping through narrow alleys formed by teetering boxes. When the rays of the moon no longer filtered enough light into the warehouse, Temple struck a match and navigated the darkness until he found a doorway emerging on Main Street.
Without hesitating, he snuffed out his match and opened the door, plunging into the thick snow that lay shoveled up along the sides of the street. Already the courtroom gawkers had cleared and only a few far off carriage lanterns, and the soft slashing of hooves against the icy snow gave evidence to the great crowd that had witnessed the trial. The air was cold, and night had fallen quickly. Most people were anxious to get home to the warmth of their fires. Even the more venturesome had already sequestered themselves at the local tavern, enjoying the warmth of boisterous company and many imbibings of brandy.
Fort Reno stood looming in the distance, its stockades rising above the hub of buildings that had grown up nearby. Temple, however, had seen El Reno before, and by daylight, many times, and now he sprinted across Main Street, uninterested in the city’s architecture.
The rangy, steel-spring figure of Knuckleduster Carson flitted out from behind the court house, his feet throwing up frosty granules of snow. His revolver boomed twice, lighting up his cleft lip and chin. The first bullet went low, skipping across the icy road. The second shot punched a hole through the flapping tail of Temple’s Prince Albert. Temple had been out in the open, and he was fervently grateful that Blowfly Brannock had not been the one to fire those shots, because they surely would have struck their target.
Temple spun sideways, his feet sliding on the ice, his hands appeared with guns in them- so quickly, that Knuckleduster Carson didn’t see the lawyer make the draw. Houston fired a bullet from each gun. The first one tugged at Carson’s jacket, slicing through fabric and flesh. The second spun Carson’s head, tugging at his chin, and leaving a bloody gash that would make an impressive addition to his collection of scars.
The lawyer’s momentum sent him sliding backward into a snowdrift that was mounded in front of the alley across Main Street. Temple rolled backward, and came to his feet in the safety of they alley behind the hatmaker’s shop. Snow cascaded from his coat, cold granules sliding down his collar. The sweet scent of gun smoke hung in the air, leavening the bracing chill of the night with its dangerous perfume.
Adrenaline was pumping fast in Temple’s veins, heightening his senses to a clarity that only those who have experienced danger know. Still, his mind fought for dominance over the animalistic instincts of the body. If he didn’t play this right, his corpse would end up littering the snow come morning.
He turned and ran, weaving through the alleyways, and cutting toward the cemetery on the outskirts of El Reno. He had injured Knuckleduster Carson, to be sure, but he sincerely doubted that he had wounded him severely. Knuckleduster would be following him, and he would be bringing his three gunslinging friends along with him.
El Reno had received a fresh dusting of snow that afternoon, and Temple left a plain enough trail through the little-traveled back alleys. His pursuers would have no trouble following it. His boot bit into the snow as he scrambled through the open fields that separated the graveyard from the rest of town.
The carven gravestones and wooden crosses beckoned to him, and Temple did his level best to get to their concealing shadows. If the hired guns that followed him reached the edge of the town before he got to the safety of the graveyard they would gun him down from behind as he ran. That was not the way that Temple wanted to die.
Cold air stabbing at his lungs, Temple staggered through the sagging gate of the graveyard and threw himself behind the nearest gravestone. He did this none too soon, because immediately a volley of shots erupted from the edge El Reno, the gun flashes lighting up the walls of the nearby buildings beneath their steep, snowy eaves.
The reverberation of sound sent snow sliding down upon the gunmen beneath, temporarily engulfing them in an avalanche of white. Temple couldn’t help but laugh, but he used the opportunity to move further into the graveyard. He could have fired upon the gunmen as they floundered about in the snow, but the distance was too great for a pistol, and probably it would have been little more than a waste of bullets to fire at such a long range.
Temple turned and immediately fell into an open grave. He landed hard upon the unearthed coffin within, splitting the pine lid with his shoulder, and releasing a noxious stench. The lawyer scrambled to his feet, and quickly realized that he was not alone in this six feet of cold earth; Andy Riggins stared back at him, cadaverous face pale and surprised, eyes wide, and fingers white upon the handle of his shovel.
Already, before he had realized with who he was face to face, Temple had thrust the barrel of his pistol up against Andy’s forehead.
“It’s me, Temple!” Andy said weakly. “Don’t shoot. It’s just me.”
Temple pulled the gun back, and Andy’s face returned to its normal pallor.
“So grave robbing is your new line of work,” said Temple. “It’s not quite what you led me to believe.”
“You wouldn’t believe how many people want to buy corpses,” hissed Andy. “I’m making more money than I ever was horse stealing.”
“Whatever happened to grave robbers waiting until after midnight to raid the graveyard?”
Steam rose from the grave robber’s mouth. “It’s too cold that late in the night.”
“So why here in El Reno, did things get a little hot for you in Woodward?” asked Temple as he peered from the snow-edged grave, and saw the gunslingers running across the icy plains one at a time while the others watched and waited with their guns at the ready. One gunmen would run about thirty feet, then plop down in the snow, until all four were side by side, and then they would repeat the process all over again.
“You might say that. Sherrif Benn was starting to breathe down my neck, so I thought I’d better change my base of operations. You wouldn’t believe the racket I’ve got going!”
Temple’s eyes searched the dark gravestones that grew up around him, until he found the thrusting, conical mass of Mason’s tomb. He searched the deep umbra that lay around it, but could not penetrate the tarry black to find his young friend.
“I know what your racket is,” said Temple. “It’s clever, but it’s not going to take that long before people start to figure out what’s going on.”
Andy shifted his skeletal frame, and Temple wondered at how the former horse-thief seemed to fit right in with his surroundings.
“And just what is my racket?” coughed Andy.
Temple raised two fingers in a signal to Andy to quiet his voice, then he spoke in low tones as his hunters once again took turns rabbiting across the field. This time they fell only a dozen feet from the gate, ensconcing themselves in a wind blown drift.
“Your racket is that you sell bodies to wanted men like Knuckles Johnson who place some of their personal belongings on the corpse and then put it somewhere it will be found. When they are pronounced dead they don’t have to worry about bounty hunters dogging their steps.”
Andy’s jaw dropped. “How did you know I sold a body to Knuckles Johnson?”
“After finding you in this grave it didn’t take a genius,” snapped Temple.
Emboldened by their success thus far, Timmy Mickelson rose from the snow, his bony jaw set firm, his hollow cheeks sucked in. He strode up to the gate and walked through, a gust of wind carrying a light powder of snow between his thin legs. Still, Temple held his fire. He wanted the entire group to leave cover before springing the trap.
“What are you waiting for?” choked Andy. “Shoot him.”
As the grave robber spoke the wind momentarily died, and his words carried across the graves and to Timmy Mickelson’s over-large ears. Timmy immediately swung his pistol in the direction of the open grave and began firing. The light of the gunfire flickered across the grave markers as though lightening had erupted in the heavens, and bullets kicked up the ice and dirt around the grave.
The handle of the shovel that Andy was holding in front of him suddenly split in half as a bullet struck it, leaving the bewildered thief holding a splintered piece of wood about a foot long.
As if this were their cue Blowfly Brannock, Knuckleduster Carson, and the gunman with the caved cheek rushed through the gate of the graveyard, and took up positions behind gravestones. As soon as Timmy Mickelson had emptied the cylinders of one pistol he began firing with another in his left hand.
For the moment, Temple was effectively pinned down. Andy’s untimely outburst had ruined what slight advantage the lawyer might have possessed. Now, popping up to take a shot at Timmy Mickelson would probably mean taking a bullet- and with Blowfly Brannock lurking nearby it would probably mean taking another in the head.
Two shots suddenly rang out from the direction of Mason’s tomb, and Tommy Mickelson staggered, a look of shock crossing his face before blood began to pour from his lips. He twisted, staggered two steps, then fell, a plume of snow rising about him.
Temple smiled grimly. Johnny Watkins had learned his gun skills well; he was mighty glad that he had made an effort to work with him these past months. It had been time well spent.
Before the snow had finished settling, Temple popped a few inches above the grave. He could see the dark outline of Knuckleduster Carson’s leg protruding from behind a granite stone, and he fired, putting a bullet right into the hidden gunman’s knee.
Carson let out a stream of scathing curses, and howled in pain. Temple was about to fire again when Blowfly Brannock peeked over the top of his grave stone and fired once at the lawyer.
Only the Peacemaker that he held in front of his face, kept Temple from dying. A bullet slammed into the cylinder, mangling it and throwing it from his grasp. Temple staggered backward into the grave, and on top of the cracked coffin. Immediately he reached for his second pistol.
“We’re gonna die!” moaned Andy.
“Shut up before I decide to use you as a human shield,” snapped Temple.
Unfazed by this, Andy retorted. “I’m too skinny to be much of a shield.”
Temple’s gaze wandered down to the broken coffin. It was a gruesome idea, but it just might work.
Johnny continued to fire from the cover of Mason’s Tomb. His steady barrage of gunshots were the only thing that kept the remaining three gunman from creeping forward and finishing off Temple and the helpless Andy as they took cover in the open grave.
Even though Johnny had the advantage of concealment, Temple was worried that Blowfly Brannock might be able to get a read on his position by firing back at the muzzle flash of Johnny’s Colt Frontier. Brannock was not a gunman that should be messed with, but Temple was about to do just that.
Holding a festering corpse in front of him with his left hand, Temple leaped from the edge of the coffin and to the cold, crumbling edge of the grave. It took every bit of strength that Temple could muster to make the jump, but he flew forth as if he were the unencumbered soul of the dead man that he brandished.
Immediately, the wounded Knuckleduster Carson, and the gunman with the caved cheekbone opened fire, sending a storm of lead spattering into the reeking corpse that shielded Temple.
The lawyer could feel the tremor of the body as the bullets impacted, and though he was somewhat chagrined at the disrespect he was showing to the corpse he was happy that he was not the one taking the bullets. In his standing position, the gravestone cover that Carson and the gunman with the caved cheek were using, was less than adequate and Temple returned fire.
His first bullet took Carson through the top of the head, and the man nicknamed Knuckleduster fell backward, only a groan escaping his lips before death swallowed him. Crimson stained the snow.
Temple’s second and third bullet went into the back of the gunman with the caved cheek as he crouched behind his gravestone, vainly hoping that the lawyer didn’t have a clean shot at him. One bullet shattered his spine, the second ruptured his aorta, and death overtook him mercifully quick.
Blowfly Brannock had been homing in on Johnny Watkins’ hiding place behind Mason’s tomb when Temple had erupted from the grave. He wasted no time adjusting his aim as bullets flew in a deadly flurry about the graveyard.
As Blowfly shifted his aim Temple gunned down two of his compatriots, then the lawyer’s grip slipped, and the ghastly cadaver that he held in front of him fell from his grasp and into a wretched heap. Temple stood completely exposed and vulnerable to the gunman’s pistol.
Brannock smiled as his finger pulled back the trigger of his revolver. The smile died on his face as a single bullet punched through his temple and lodged in his brain. His gun flashed as he pitched to the icy landscape of the graveyard, and the bullet tugged at Houston’s pant leg, but left him unscathed.
Temple had been in the process of turning to fire upon Brannock, but he had never taken the shot. Someone had beaten him to it.
The pistol in his hand still smoking, Johnny Watkins emerged from the shadows of Mason’s tomb, his face abnormally pale, and his steps erratic, as though his knees had become unhinged. He looked at the four bodies that lay strewn among the gravestones, their blood spattered darkly upon the pristine whiteness the heavens had disgorged only that afternoon.
“So do you think this will give me a reputation?” he asked, his voice as unsteady as his steps.
Temple nodded. “I’m just glad that you’re on my side.”
Only now did Andy scramble from the grave where he had hidden the entire gunfight. Temple saw him eyeing the corpse, greed in his eyes.
“Don’t you dare,” said Temple. “You’re going to put this man back in his coffin, and rebury him.”
Johnny eyed the shattered handle of Andy’s spade. “There is another shovel leaning up against Mason’s tomb.”
“And since you’re going to be digging graves, I want you to dig one for these dead gunfighters.”
A protest was about to spring to the grave robber’s mouth, but he saw the fire that flashed in the lawyer’s eyes, and the smoke that still vented from Johnny Watkins’ lethal gun. At their feet lay a ghastly carnage, and the stench of death and gunpowder wafted thick in the cold night. Until now, the former horse thief had seen only the eloquent side of Temple, as he practiced his trade in the courtroom, and had considered Johnny little more than the Negro stable boy. Now Andy saw them both in an entirely different light, and he decided that it might be prudent to give these dangerous and terrifying men whatever cooperation they might ask.
One hundred years later, the bodies of four gunfighters still lay in an unmarked grave at the El Reno cemetery. During the Oklahoma summers the grass grows green over their resting place, a mute testament to what is hidden beneath- in six feet of cold earth.