Ben Harrow had no reason to think riding into Old Tucson was a mistake. He fully believed no one would match him up with any two-sentence description given by a hysterical woman. Still, what good sense he possessed convinced him that waiting a day was a better idea. So early Wednesday morning, he boldly rode into town. He entered the Swinging Door Saloon with a smiling countenance. He had been thinking about whiskey, cards, and whores too long already.
Seth watched Harrow approach a table and join in a poker game. Frieda walked over to the table to see what the stranger wanted to drink. She told Seth he wanted a bottle of whiskey. Seth frowned; that was a sure sign of an impending brawl. Frieda brought a glass and the bottle to Harrow. He pulled over a chair.
“Come on, honey, sit it down. You’re gonna be my lucky charm this game.” Frieda smiled and sat. He poured her a drink, which she ignored. Rule One: Never drink with a customer if you don’t know him very well. “What’s your name, little lady?”
“Frieda. Frieda Larson.” She smiled as she tried to watch the game. Rule Two: Keep one eye on the game so you can be a witness should there be trouble.
“Well, Frieda, I’m Ben. When I’m done taking these gentlemen for all their money, I’m gonna show you the best time of your life. Then I’m gonna take you to my hotel room and you’re gonna show me the best time of my life.” She looked over at Peaches. Frieda had only been there a week and wasn’t as experienced as the other girls. Still, she was pretty sure what this man was proposing wasn’t something she was required to do.
Peaches caught her glance and moved to the table next to her. Frank Myers was sitting there with another poker group of five. They exchanged a few pleasantries while she kept an eye on Frieda.
In no time, Ben Harrow had downed almost half a bottle of whiskey. Seth sent one of the bar boys to fetch some deputies.
“You get ready, Frieda. You and me,” Harrow said, almost falling over. Frieda tried to remain calm.
“My, such plans, Ben; and you haven’t even won yet.”
“Oh, I will!”
Just then, Lewis Jerrod walked in and approached the bar.
“Seth, this is downright embarrassing; but I think I left my hat here a few hours ago. I’ve never done that.” Seth laughed and produced a hat from under the counter.
“It happens to us all at least once,” Seth grinned, still watching Ben.
Lewis was about to leave, when he saw the look on Peaches’ face. She was sitting next to Frank Myer. He was a decent sort; Lewis didn’t believe he was making her nervous. Then he realized she was watching Frieda, the new girl. It looked as though the poor thing was seated next to a dilly. Lewis changed his mind about leaving. He wasn’t any sharp shooter like Seth and the deputies; but sometimes any gun would help.
Bart Townson had kept an eye on Ben from a distance. When he saw Ben head for town Wednesday morning, he did likewise–only he took a back road. The first buildings at that end of town were the stables. He snuck in the back of the barn and walked out the front door. Keeping his gaze down and his collar up, he blended in with some passing townspeople. Bart slid into Bonner’s Restaurant where he got a window table. All he wanted was a few hours to watch things.
It wasn’t long before he saw what he wanted—Lorraine McGintry walking with another woman. As luck would have it, they entered the same restaurant and sat to eat. He sneered watching the two women. They thought they were safe in town. They would soon feel differently.
Bart saw Ben enter the saloon. He knew trouble would erupt soon. He looked around the restaurant. There were no other customers.
“You cheated!” Ben slurred. “I had a winning hand!” Seth’s shotgun was out as he stepped from behind the counter. Some of the men slowly backed away from the table. Frieda got up and tried to walk away. Ben grabbed her arm. “Oh, no, you don’t. You little whore! You were in on it.”
“No, I wasn’t—“. A sharp slap to her face cut her off. She fell in a heap to the floor as Peaches jumped to her defense.
“Peaches, don’t!” Lewis called out.
“You’re all cheaters, and you’re gonna pay!” Ben yelled. He pulled Peaches off her feet and tried to drag her to the door. Ben’s gun was unholstered and he was shooting it randomly. Seth dropped his shotgun and raised his Colt just as Lewis raised his gun and fired. The bullet slammed Ben’s shoulder and he screamed, releasing his hold on Peaches. Ben pointed his gun at Lewis, who stood frozen.
“No!” Peaches yelled. But the shot she heard came from Seth. She turned around to see blood streaming from Ben’s chest. He fell over, crashing onto an empty table.
By the time Cort and Jim pushed through the saloon doors, it was over.
When Bart Townson heard the gun fire from the saloon, he chuckled softly and made his move. He covered the space between his table and Lorraine in two strides.
“Ladies, don’t think about going anywhere,” he said, smiling broadly.
“What do you want?” Mattie demanded.
“Actually, I don’t want anything from you. Unfortunately, you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now, if both of you ladies would stand and calmly walk to the door. I have a gun in my pocket; so, don’t try anything.” The three of them headed to the door and stepped outside. “We’re going to head for the alley that’s coming up on the right.” Lorraine looked around, but most people were watching the saloon where the commotion was coming from. “All right, stop. Now I’ll end the mystery. Mrs. McGintry, I used to work for your dead husband. He fired me because of a minor incident.”
“How ‘minor’?” she asked.
“I stole a few horses. It doesn’t matter! I haven’t been able to find a job since.”
“And that was Robert’s fault?”
“Shut up!” he spat. “This is what you are going to do, Mrs. McGintry. I figure he owes me about $1,000 for lost work.”
“A thousand dollars? You wouldn’t make that amount if you worked the rest of your life!” Bart Townson laughed.
“I’m always thinking ahead. You are going to the bank and withdraw that amount. Then you will bring it back here to me. Maybe I’ll let you both walk away. And, if you haven’t guessed, this young lady will remain with me while you are gone. SO NO TRICKS! I have no qualms about putting a bullet in her.”
“All right,” Lorraine said. “I will do exactly what you want. It may take a little extra time given the large amount of money.”
“I’m in NO hurry, honey. Just do what you’re told.” He grabbed Mattie by the arm roughly. “Now GO!” Lorraine hurried out of the alley. She crossed the street and entered the bank. She didn’t see Frank Myers, the head teller. But Mr. Brewster was there and he smiled when she walked in.
“Why, hello, Mrs. McGintry! How are you this morning?”
“Uh..fine, Mr. Brewster.”
“Sounds like a ruckus over at the Swinging Door. Nothing new, though. I’m sure the law will take care of it.”
“Y-yes, I saw Cort and Jim heading over that way.” She smiled nervously as she walked to the teller’s window.
“What can I do for you this morning?”
“Uh…I’d like to withdraw some money.”
“Of course! How much would you like?”
“One thousand dollars.” Under different circumstances, Lorraine would have found his reaction humorous.
“My word, Mrs. McGintry! What are you doing, buying up land?” It hadn’t occurred to her that she should think of an explanation to justify needing $1,000. She paused for a second.
“Yes, I am. Is getting the money a problem?”
“No. Not at all. You do have the money in your account. It’s just a lot to get together. I will have to go into the vault. Would you mind waiting?”
“That’s fine, Mr. Brewster.” He disappeared in the back room. Lorraine peered out of the front bank window. She could see Bart Townson in the alley. She tried to slow her breathing down and pretend nothing was wrong.
“Okay, Mrs. McGintry! Here we go!” He handed her a green cloth bag containing her money. “We are lucky yesterday was a busy day! Was there anything else I can do for you today?” Lorraine practically tripped on her own feet trying to get out of the bank.
“Thank you so much, Mr. Brewster,” she called over her shoulder. When she got outside, she slowed a bit and looked around. There were people pouring out of the saloon, and the coroner’s wagon was outside. No one paid any attention to her as she entered the alley.
“Did you get it?”
“Of course, I got it,” she snapped. She could see Mattie was all right. He grabbed the money bag out of her hand and ripped it open. “It’s all there.” He wasn’t a handsome man at all. But when he smiled, he looked positively evil.
“You are correct, Mrs. McGintry. It’s all here. Now we are going to take a short walk.” He motioned with his gun indicating that he wanted them to walk farther down the alley.
“Wait, you said you’d let us go,” Lorraine exclaimed.
“No-o-o. I believe I said maybe I’d let you go. As it happens, I’ve decided I won’t.”
“Then I’m not moving!” she said as calmly as she could. Lorraine was tired of being pushed around and having guns pointed at her. “You can just shoot me right here.” Bart’s eyes narrowed.
“You forget, your friend is behind me.” He raised his gun and aimed it at Mattie. Lorraine was steaming mad; but he did have the upper hand.
“Don’t listen to him, Lorraine! He can only shoot one of us at a time.” Bart turned to face Mattie. She was smiling and not afraid at all. “Go ahead, run! The street is only a few feet away.” Lorraine turned to look. Mattie was right.
“Shut your mouth!” Bart warned. “I can shoot her just as well.”
“But then you have no control over me,” Mattie observed. “Run, Lorraine!” Bart wasn’t used to being challenged—certainly not by a woman. It temporarily confused him. But he recovered quickly. He grabbed Mattie’s wrist in order to strike her with the gun; she was quicker. She raised her foot, and with all her might, kicked him where a man shouldn’t be kicked. A scream of mammoth proportions escaped him and he lowered his gun long enough for Mattie to run down the alley. Lorraine didn’t know what to do; she was frozen with terror. Bart straightened up, still in agony. Oh, he was going to teach that wretched creature a lesson she wouldn’t soon forget! Lorraine started screaming. It was all she could think of to do. Bart turned and aimed his gun at her. Lorraine heard a shot and saw him fall. Then she saw Mattie holding a small pistol.
“We’re okay, Lorraine,” Mattie smiled. “I had to get the stupid gun out from under my dress and needed a minute or so to do it.” Lorraine didn’t know how to react—so she laughed. They hugged each other and laughed. Cort and Jim entered the alley. They looked at each other and Cort shook his head.
“I’m beginning to feel we aren’t needed anymore,” he drawled. That only made both women laugh harder.