I swear I didn't put those...
...bullets into Stillwell.
True, I went with Wyatt to the train station, to see Virgil off, and the others.
True we looked for him and I would have shot him if I had seen him.
But I never would have put so many bullets into him, so much lead. It was never my way.
On the other hand, it was not exactly like Wyatt either.
We had gotten them food, watching and guarding them in the relative open while they ate, and then we had put them on the train. Wyatt was watching them while I had gone to back to the lunch counter to get some dinner we could take with us, to eat as we rode. After the train left we intended to take a freight back to Tombstone.
And while I was gone - only a few minutes - Wyatt found Stillwell skulking between the tracks. He let Pete Spence go, not recognising him in the dark, with his unaccustomed town clothing. Ike Clanton - always Ike - got away as always, bullets fired after him that never seemed to strike him down. But Stillwell had killed Morgan and there he was. Wyatt shot him, threatened him, put a boot in his face and filled him with lead, as they say, firing and firing until he was riddled. A Winchester, then a Colt. He had killed Morgan.
I came out as soon as I hear the shots, but it was over. Wyatt's face. It was so full, transformed by rage, by triumph, by hate, by grief. Transported. I grasped him, shook him, brought him back, urgently. And he looked up at Virgil in the open window. "One for Morgan." One of his killers, killed.
And we killed the rest, their friends and accomplices, their associates. All of them. We killed and killed and killed, after that, warrants in our pockets from Welles Fargo.
Yet I swear I did not put those bullets into Stillwell.
They tried to arrest us all when we came back into town, even those who had stayed behind, who had not even gone with us into Tucson. Behan
tried to arrest us
, that dirty cowardly bug
. We laughed in his face and rode after his boys.
And yet, it was for Stillwell that I was arrested. It was his killing that took whatever freedom I had, in the end. After I left Wyatt, after Albuquerque, I went alone down to Pueblo. And there I met a man who had been sent after me by Behan, who could never do his own work. He made himself ridiculous to me claiming all kinds of strangeness. He partially undressed at dinner, stating he had been shot, but he had wounds of disease beneath his clothing. He was a confidence man by act and demeanour. He was strange and overexcited, so I sent him off. He was not a gentleman, and I honestly thought him insane. In Pueblo I was a ruin in any case, for what I had said to Wyatt, and I was not about to countenance any of his ilk.
I was absolutely honest, registering in Pueblo and when I left for Denver I registered there as well, with the sheriff's department. They had no problem with me. I offered my gun, as was correct in those days, thinking to enjoy a show, perhaps visit the saloons and gambling halls, make the acquaintance of old friends. The sporting life engenders fraternity, though not necessarily friendship. I was badly in need of diversion.
But lo, a gun in my back belonging to the lunatic from Pueblo. I was arrested on dubious warrants, and my extradition arranged. They meant to kill me as soon as we got into Arizona. Behan and his gang controlled the courts, the law. But there would never have been a trial. They would have murdered me in the jail or on the road. When I say we had killed them all, I exagerated perhaps. We killed the rough murderers but not the hangers-on, the more respectable corrupt ones.
Wyatt was holed up with the others on Gunnison, and I was the only one free and open. I took it all upon my shoulders. I deserved it, and I am sure Wyatt knew I needed to do so. Penance, maybe.
Our old friend Bob Paul came out from Arizona, but the extradition papers were not perfect, lacking the necessary signatures. While they wrangled that out and I sat in jail in Denver, Bat Masterson arranged false charges for me in Pueblo. For stagecoach robbing. I have of course never robbed a stage in my life, and furthermore, no stage had been robbed in the area. The charges took precedence over any from Arizona and they meant that as long as they were pending I could not be extradited. It was arranged that as long as I lived they would be continually held over, but as soon as I left Colorado or as soon as I was indicted for another crime, I could be taken back to Arizona. Bat stated categorically that he had done it for Wyatt, not for me.
I was never again able to leave Colorado, but I was otherwise free. It was ironic. The killing I surely did not commit kept me from ever returning to Georgia or the South.
I swear I didn't put those...
...bullets into Stillwell. Name: John H. Holliday, DDS.
Word Count: 992
Please comment if you wish.
Nulli Virtute Secundus