Stepping out onto the front porch of the Baldwin Hotel, I palmed my Colt to once again make sure it was fully loaded with six. Re-holstering my Colt, I then drew it again checking my speed. The Colt slid fast and easily into my hand. Re-holstering my Colt once again, I then jacked the lever on my Winchester to make sure I had a shell in the firing chamber. Now I felt ready for anything that I may encounter this evening.
Mutt was standing by my side, and he knew something was up. He was alert to everything around us. I took a minute standing there feeling the cold autumn night air. It also smelled like snow, and I would not be surprised by morning that we had a couple of inches, maybe more. The death of autumn was near as ole’ man winter was just down the road. Just as I was thinking that, a couple of snowflakes fluttered by my face.
Stepping off the front porch, I headed east toward the Lake Saloon. The saloon was not hard to find, for it was the only business of its kind on the north side of the road. Once I was on the boardwalk, I noticed two sets of doors for the saloon – one set of full double doors that opened inward and one set of batwing doors set in front of the double doors for when the weather was nice. Mutt and I had to open both sets of doors to enter the Lake Saloon this evening.
There were four men in the saloon besides myself. Biggers, of course, a bald headed bartender with a walrus mustache that was half asleep, and what looked like two older freighters that were too busy playing cribbage and drinking whiskey to really notice Mutt or myself.
Roger Baldwin was correct in that Herman Biggers was sitting just as Roger had described it. Herman had his back to the north wall with a half full bottle of bourbon in his right hand. He was in the middle of pouring as I walked in, and he took one look at me before finishing topping off his shot glass. What Roger failed to mention was that he had a 12-gauge Greener double barrel shotgun lying on top of his table with the barrels pointed toward the front door. I would bet my last dollar it was loaded with double-ought buckshot. He also had a shoulder pistol rig hung on his left shoulder with a Colt 44 in the holster with the grip pointed outward in a cross draw manner. Since he was sitting down, I could not see if he was also armed with a conventional holster.
The saloon smelled of stale tobacco, damp whiskey, and sweat. Walking slowly to the bar, but keeping Herman and the two freighters in my eyesight, I laid my Winchester on top of the bar pointed not at Biggers, but in his general direction. The sound of laying my weapon on the bar startled and woke up the bartender who asked me, “What can I do you for stranger?”
Not taking my eyes off of Biggers and in a level voice, “Whiskey if you have it and not the watered down version.”
The bartender set a clean shot glass in front and began to fill it with a generous amount of whiskey from a filthy bottle. “That will be 2-bits.”
Still keeping my eye on Biggers, I laid 4-bits on top of the bar and ordered another. Biggers was starting to get irritated that I was staring at him; Mutt was standing by my side and giving him the ole’ stink eye too. I did not get the feeling he remembered me, but he was eyeballing Mutt and myself something fierce. Biggers looked much the same since the last time I saw him, maybe a tad older with shoulder length almost pure white hair under what looked like a new black cowboy hat with a cattleman’s crease. I could see a blue flannel shirt that sported polished bone buttons under an ebony leather vest. His grizzled gray beard was cut way shorter than I remembered. Since he was glaring back at me, I got a good look at his eyes this time and saw the evil that lived there. His pupils were almost black; I had never seen black eyes before. Outside the pupils they were a dirty, milky white. I imagine that most folks would shy away from Biggers when he just gave them one look. On that day that Jace was murdered, I feared this man. On this day of Herman Biggers’ retribution, I no longer feared the man; I loathed him. Herman Biggers was going to die today.
Sipping my whiskey with my left hand, I left my right hand free so as to not impede the time when I drew my weapon. Biggers spoke first, “Do you and that flea bag dog got a problem with me, boy? I don’t reckon you are giving me the eye because of my beauty.”
With a clear and confident voice, “I was just thinking how you haven’t changed much since the last time I saw you is all. I reckon Mutt thinks much the same; we both recognized you right off.”
My mind focused on all that surrounded me at this moment in time. I could smell the whiskey in the shot glasses and the staleness of tobacco smoke that lingered in the air. I could hear and feel the stillness of the room as the bartender and the two cribbage players stopped what they were doing after feeling the tension mount in the closed room. Knowing what I knew about Biggers, the Colt pistol in his shoulder rig would not be his weapon of choice in this close up battle, but rather that Greener double barrel 12-gauge sitting in front of him on the table. I could see in his eyes that he was confident in his ability to use that weapon against me. I knew that he had no chance; yes, Herman Biggers was going to die today in that chair. All that matters now was the timing. I could hear the tick tick of the clock behind the bar and out of my sight. Little did Biggers know that clock was now counting down the last final minutes of his life!
Biggers’ eyes narrowed as he tried to figure out how I might know him. “I guess I don’t recall any asshole with a wolf. So if you got business with me boy, get on with it.”
With a smirk on my face and still in a clear and confident voice, “Do you think I admire your toughness in the wake of you are here all alone without those that do your robbing and killing for you? You still talk like a man in charge even though your boys are not here. I wish they were here in Grand Lake, because it would save me some considerable time in hunting them down. Where are they? Where have Alvardo, Hammond, and that idiot Burke ridden off to?”
That put a smile on Biggers as he spoke, “You speak boldly for a skinny no-account kid still wet behind the ears; must be that wolf dog that gives you courage. What are you, some wannabe bounty hunter looking to get killed by one of his betters?”
This was maybe escalating faster than I wanted, and I needed to know where Alvardo, Hammond, and Burke had gone. I needed to keep stringing it out some to get that information. The problem with that was I could see in Biggers’ eyes, he was tired of the talk and I might have to kill him prior to finding that out.
Looking him in his eyes and never wavering, “$1500 is a lot of money, Biggers. I have no doubt that I will collect that bounty on you, but what you need to know is that I am not here to collect the bounty. I am here for another reason. My name is Chance Bondurant, and the half wolf and half something else dog is named Mutt. Do you remember us?”
That knocked that smile off his face. “Oh Hell, I should have known it was you. My mind is not as clear as it once was due to the booze and age. You are that kid that killed Livingston and Edgar.”
Another smile started to spread across the man’s face I intended to kill this evening. Biggers said with a half laugh, “It seems I now have a couple of openings in the company. Are you and the dog applying for the job?”
Knowing that the other three outlaws were not in Grand Lake, pushing him again I asked in a stern voice, “All I need to know Biggers, is this between you and me, or is one of those other cowards hiding in the shitter out back or behind the bar?”
The smile quickly evaporated off Biggers’ face as he replied, “The others are heading toward Hot Sulphur Springs; it seems there is some Mexican gal with a shit load of gold looking to buy land hereabouts, and the boys are seeing how easy it will be to take it from her. Soooooo… I guess it’s just you and me and my Greener.”
Having said that, Biggers started for the shotgun, and I palmed my Colt with lightning speed. Biggers’ eyebrows raised as he saw the speed with which I drew my weapon – he had not counted on that.
I fired once with the bullet catching Herman dead center in his throat. With the advent of the bullet punching a hole in his throat, then out the back, Biggers instinctively stopped reaching for the shotgun, and his hands flew to his throat trying to stem the blood from flowing. His attempt to staunch the flow was to no avail. His blood was squirting through his fingers. I walked closer so he could get a good look at the man that had killed him. Herman’s eyes were wide open, and he was still alive when I spoke, “That was for my younger brother your boys killed, and this is for shooting my dog.” I placed a nice round hole in his forehead with my second shot. The momentum of the last shot sent Herman slamming into the wall behind him, his legs kicking out knocking the table over, dumping the Greener shotgun on the floor. Biggers, who was still holding his throat, but very much dead, did a slow slide down the wall into a growing puddle of blood on the floor.
Mutt had been standing by my side the whole time content to let me handle the situation. Seeing Herman Biggers down, Mutt paid tribute the only way Mutt could, and he promptly walked up and lifted his leg and peed on the now cooling body of the dead outlaw boss.
Looking at the man that I killed and knowing there was no man more deserving of dying a violent death than Herman Biggers, I once again felt nothing – no happiness or remorse – nothing at all. There was no sense of accomplishment. I again wondered if there was something wrong with me and how my mind worked. It was as if all the innocence of my youth had been sapped out that day when Jace had been murdered.
Biggers’ words were now starting to sink in. The rest of the outlaw gang was tracking down a Mexican woman with lots of gold looking to buy land and that could only mean that Senorita Kellie Shawn Arriaga and her bodyguards were in harm’s way. I would have to finish up any investigations into the shooting and make arrangements for the bounty to be received and be back on the trail. It seems my fate and what was to be with the remaining members of the Biggers and Hammond gang and my possible destiny with the beautiful Mexican bandit might now be in the same place. I needed to leave for Hot Sulfur Springs as soon as possible.
Kurt James © 2018
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