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cool forty thousand a year, easy. Not satisfied with that, Behan was up to his neck with the Clanton-
Curly Bill gang. Just a couple of weeks earlier, the Bisbee Stage had been robbed, and two of the gunmen had been
identified as Frank Stilwell and Pete Spence, both pals of the Clantons ... and Stilwell was one of Behan's deputies. The
Earps had brought both men in, and everyone knew that Behan and the Clantons were mixed up in the affair. There
wasn't any way of proving it, though. Things were coming to a head, right enough, with Behan and his Clanton
buddies running the county, and the Earps maintaining the peace inside Tombstone. So far.... What Virgil couldn't
figure, though, was why Behan had called him out here. Perkins had ridden into town half an hour ago, out of breath
and bug-eyed, claiming the Carter stead had burned to the ground, and Sheriff Johnny wanted the law, the town law,
out there right away. Max Carter's place was outside the Tombstone city limits-clearly in Behan 's jurisdiction, but it
was close enough that you could argue there was some overlap. Virgil-despite Morgan's and Wyatt's protests, and
Wyatt's warning to "watch that buzzard and don't turn your back to him"-had ridden out to the Carter place with
Perkins to see what was going on. "You have any ideas, Sheriff?" Virgil asked finally. "Yeah," the man said. He licked
his lips. "Apaches. Gotta be. I figure they rode down outta the Dragoon Mountains . Probably caught Max and his
family sleeping. They would've killed Max. Probably took Emma and the kids with 'em and torched the place on the way
out." "That doesn't seem too likely, does it?" "Why not? It's happened before." "To start with, there haven't been any
problems with the Indians lately. Not with the Apaches. Not with any of the others. We'd have heard something."
"But-"
"Besides ... see those?" He pointed at a pair of charcoaled lumps still smoking beneath the tumbledown wrack of what
had once been the barn's roof. "Yeah ..." "Horses. And . . . " He pointed again, this time indicating a corral twenty
yards from the barn. A single mare was pacing and fretting inside, her eyes rolling wildly, her nostrils flaring. The
animal was terrified, clearly, but still very much alive. And still here. "If Apaches had raided this place," Virgil said,
"don't you think they'd have taken the horses before setting the place on fire?" "Well... mebee they was drunk. Or
crazy." "Sheriff," Virgil said patiently. "Why did you call me out here?" "If we got Injun trouble, Earp, you Federales
have to be brought in. You're Deputy Marshal for the southern Arizona Territory, and that makes this sort of thing
your job. We may need to notify the Army, out t' Fort Huachuca." "John! Johnny!" Perkins screamed. He dropped the
blackened piece of timber he'd been lifting and stumbled back a few feet, his face white. Then he turned suddenly and
vomited noisily into the ash. Virgil and Behan joined him a moment later and stared at what he'd found. There wasn't a
lot left. It looked like it might have been a woman-you could still see her breasts and one black arm was still clutching a
smaller figure that had died beside her. Both bodies were charred black; the stink was indescribable . Despite the
cooked flesh, it was possible to make out one horror farther. Both the woman and the little girl had had their throats
slashed so deeply that the heads of both of
them had nearly been torn off. It was hard to tell, but it looked like their bellies had been slashed open, too. Their jaws
gaped wide open, teeth shockingly white against charred muscle; rather than having passed out from smoke, the way
most fire victims did, it looked like both of them had died in agony. "Oh, Jesus Christ.. ." Behan said, before himself
turning and vomiting. Virgil pulled a handkerchief out of his frock coat pocket and pressed it against his nose and
mouth. His eyes were watering. His stomach twisted in painful knots, but he fought back the gorge and managed to
walk away, his cold dignity intact. No. An Apache war party would have taken the horses. They would have taken the
woman and the little girl, too, for some sport up in their mountain hideaway before they finally finished them off. Or
maybe the kids would've just been taken and raised as part of the tribe. No, this filthy business wasn't the work of
Indians. But if not Indians, who? Virgil was tempted to blame Behan himself... or maybe his Clanton pals ... but that
didn't make sense. Behan didn't want the Earps poking around in his territory, out in the county, and he sure as hell
didn't want the governor calling in troops. Besides, much as he hated the bastards, Virgil didn't think that even
someone as mean as Ike Clanton could've been guilty of this. And from the way Behan and Perkins were retching back
there, well ... Virgil was pretty sure that that wasn't an act. He started poking around, searching the ground between
the wreckage of the house and the barn. Yeah. There was something.... Virgil knelt to study a patch on the ground.
There were
ashes scattered all about from the fire, an inch thick and still pretty hot, but here was a patch of mud next to the
watering trough that hadn't been covered over. And sure enough, something had stepped here, leaving a couple of
good, clear prints. The question was, what the hell kind of varmint made tracks like that? Virgil Earp had considerable
experience with tracking and knew the look of tracks for every varmint in the region, two-legged and four. This one,
though, just plain had him stumped. It looked something like the letter "H," with two toes sticking out ahead and two
sticking out behind, with a kind of oval shape in the middle, forming the crossbar. If you looked real close, at the oval [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]