Cotter always wore the same clothes when confronting his opponents. He wore tan buckskin from head-to-toe. The sweatband on his hat had a single polished silver concho off center to the right but clearly sparkling to the person facing him. His buckskin blouse had bib buttons forming an upside down “L”. The buttons on the down stroke of the L on the right side of his chest were also highly polished silver conchos. The horizontal buttons were tan buckskin and almost invisible. His two Colt revolvers were the same models but his right gun was highly polished nickel. It glinted like the hat’s concho. His left hand gun had an unobtrusive matte gun-metal finish. Cotter’s tan buckskin pants had a row of polished conchos on the outer right leg seam only. His tan buckskin boots gave him almost silent under-footing. He had his photograph taken to help get the outfit just right. To anyone confronting Cotter, the man was off center. The bib buttons and the shiny silver conchos directed an opponent’s vision to the right. When Cotter drew his guns he moved slightly to the left. Even if his adversary was faster than he, the bullet usually missed and went off to the right. Usually, on two occasions he was shot superficially, once in the in the right shoulder and once in the right thigh. Every man who drew on him had died.
Cotter adjusted his hat and checked for the weight and balance of his two-gun holster. He went into the saloon.
“Morely.” Cotter spoke the name with a penetrating tone. He didn’t shout. He didn’t have to. Cotter’s baritone voice caromed around the saloon and could be heard above the voices at the bar and over the dialogue from the two card game tables. Cotter’s back was to the swinging saloon doors and the dirt street.
The suddenness of the silence was a shock to the Saturday night crowd. Within a second of the lack of noise all eyes turned toward Cotter and then focused on Morely.
“Yes, you Morely.” Cotter stood with hands on his waist. He reached into his bib top and removed a large sheet of paper and waved it at Morely and the general audience. “I’m taking you to the sheriff’s office–‘dead or alive’–just like this poster says.” Cotter was 6-foot-5-inches of fine-tuned muscle. His two-gun holster rig was three-inches below his beltline. Both buckskin-gloved hands went to his sides after he slid the poster back into his bib shirt.
“I don’t know you. Go away and you’ll go alive. The last three bounty hunters are under the dirt.” Morely pushed his slight beer-bellied form away from the bar to face Cotter. The rest of the men at the bar ran away from the rail, abandoning their positions and drinks. Some ran out the door past Cotter and others took cover behind furniture.
Morely wore one gun. His .44 was tied down two-inches above his right knee. He stroked his scruffy beard and scratched at his left ear. The gunman and murderer was almost as tall as Cotter. Morley’s black shirt had a mottled appearance–a result of stains from food and beer. According to the wanted-poster, Morely had killed five men. They were prominent ranchers spread throughout Arizona. The men were anonymous to Morely but he got paid a thousand-dollars for eliminating each one. Cotter had tracked him to the developing town of Cormel by checking with each sheriff from the townships of Morely’s victims. They all told the same story. Morely waited for each victim to come to town and provoked a confrontation. Sometimes it was a fraudulent accusation at card-cheating and other times it was outright insulting the person or a member of the person’s family. One thing the sheriffs’ stories held constant was the style of the showdown. Morely gave the victims to a count of three to draw and then shot them at the count of two.
“‘Dead or alive’ Morely.” The wooden grips of Cotter’s guns were black ebony with the bright shiny metal frame of the right .45 reflecting the light from the double chandeliers. Each chandelier held twenty oil lanterns. The hammer and the frame sparkled in the weapon’s black leather holster next to his right hand. Cotter opened and closed the fingers of his gloved right hand but did nothing with his left.
“Herman.” Morely motioned with his gun hand to the bartender. “Count to three when I tell you. And you, whatever your name is, you have one last chance. Get out of here and never come back or draw your gun and take me on the count of three.”
Cotters kept his gaze on Morely’s eyes and stood tall and clean in his tan buckskin shirt and pants. He moved slightly to his left to accentuate the reflection of the right side of his glinting conchos. His face was clean-shaven and his appearance was as neat as Morely’s was unkempt. “Herman, Morely’s asking you to count to three.”
The bartender named Herman was trying to maintain his cool by wiping some whiskey glasses. His hands were shaking. He looked from Cotter to Morely.
“Start counting Herman.” Morely moved his right hand in an arc from his belt buckle to the side of his .44.
“One.” Herman looked from man-to-man.
Morely looked liked he was developing a tick in his right eye. His right eyelid twitched twice.
The simultaneous explosion from the discharges of one .44 and two .45 caliber rounds made everyone’s ears pop and then ring with a high pitched ping. The shock wave brought about a cloud of dust from the saloon’s rafters to merge with the smoke from the firing pistols.
Morely stared at Cotter with a look of surprise and shock. The bounty hunter had fired on the count of two just as he did. Morely was thrown back three-feet by the two .45 rounds entering his breastbone. Morely’s pistol cleared the holster but didn’t reach an aim point. His .44 bullet blew apart a segment from a center pole that extended from floor-to-ceiling to Cotter’s right. Fortunately it was only one of eight such supporting structures.
“Five dollars goes to the man who drapes Morely’s body over his horse for me.” Cotter holstered his guns.
“Come in.” Sheriff Hanscom Gates sat at his pine log-crafted desk. The assertive three knocks pulled his attention away from a just delivered telegram. The office was only 8-by-12 feet and consisted of two sections partitioned by three-foot-high pine railings. Gates sat to the right. The deputy, who was absent, sat in an identical space to the left.
Cotter entered removing his tan gloves. He reached into his bib top and handed the poster to Gates.
“Morely? You gonna take in Morely? He’ll kill you first. He’s an outright killer.” Gates had a smile on his face.
“Why haven’t you collected on this?” Cotter’s baritone was friendly but critical.
“He hasn’t done anything wrong in Cormel.”
“The wanted poster applies to anywhere in Arizona.” Cotter would take this track no further. “But I have him draped over his horse outside. You can identify him and telegraph the statute office. They’ll wire the five-thousand dollars to my bank in Connecticut. When it’s confirmed, I’ll leave.”
Gates got up and went outside. He came back within a minute. “That’s Morely for sure–I can live easier now. Thanks. I’ll need identification of who you are.”
“Here are my identification papers.” Cotter handed Gates a military card and a banker’s affidavit attesting to its bearer.
“Have a seat.” Gates reviewed the credentials.
“Jake Cotter. I heard a you. Thought you was in Texas.” Gates wrote something on the back of the Morely wanted poster and began writing on a telegraph request card. “In my younger days, I woulda got Morely. Criminal like him, I woulda just gone up to him and shot him.”
“I was in Texas. Now I’m here and when I get the money I’m going back to Connecticut.” Cotter ignored the Sheriff’s excuse.
“What’s in Connecticut?” Gates rubbed his arthritic right shoulder.
“My family–what’s left of them–and school.” Cotter stood up and motioned with the signed documents to send the telegraph.
“School? Ain’t you kinda old for school?” He walked beside Cotter onto the dusty street.
“I was in school before the war got me and my father. He was killed at Nashville.” Cotter didn’t want to talk about war or the aging process. He felt ten-years older than twenty-five.
“The war’s been over for three years. Why you goin’ back now?”
“When my dad died my brother and sister grabbed the family estate and left me out. I needed my own money. With Morely’s bounty and what I’ve accumulated, I can go back to school now.”
“Yeah? What school did you say?”
“Medical School–Yale Medical School.”
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