Hudson remarks, “That’s right, Burke…prices are real good right now. $0.06 per pound.”
George Burke looks pleased, “Well, it’s a good thing we decided to sell this month then isn’t it?”
Hudson, a stout little man with a heavy beard, laughs, “Sure is! We’ve got an influx of ne’er-do-well’s attempting to sell other peoples cattle. I tell you—the jail is fillin’ up fast with rustlers. Say, that reminds me—there’s a undersized steer in your bunch with a different brand on him.”
George nods, “Our neighbors asked us to bring him in. Mr. James is really more of farmer, but he’s a good man and I’m proud to call him my friend.”
Hudson runs his hand through his beard, “He must be new in them parts—never heard of him before.”
“Moved into the old Wright place earlier this year,” George explained easily.
“Why did ol' Tom Wright pull up stakes anyhow? He was a good rancher—leastwise as I could tell.” The man's fingers continue to traverse his beard while he speaks.
George shook his head, “Not sure really. It was rumored his wife hated it--being an eastern-bred lady; but I don’t know.”
The men start to meander towards the office, when Hudson asks, “Oh, and by the way—just for legalities sake—but do you have anything proving that Mr. James’ wrote you over the steer to sell?”
George screws around to look up at his son, who was comfortably seated on the railing, “Andrew? Did you get that paper?”
The young man reaches for his pocket, but stops in mid-air. He gets this funny look on his face.
Hudson demands, “What’s wrong, boy?”
Andrew's face takes on a slighly darker hue. Turning to his father, he stammers, “Er…Pa, it slipped my mind. I guess I was too busy talking to-to…”
Aaron finishes for him, “Carrie.”
Andrew blushes deeper and Hudson bellows with laughter.
“Ya gotta watch them girls, son. Why, when I first met my wife, I was so distracted I walked smack into a post! Cut my forehead open, too, I did…”
Amused, George shakes his head and asks, “Well, Hudson, does this mean we can’t sell the steer?”
Hudson looks around conspiratorially then leans closer, “If it were anybody I didn’t know like I know you, I’d tell ya to take that animal home—and send somebody after you to make sure it was legit. However, knowing ya from old times, Burke, you can sell the animal. Just next time," here he casts a facetiously grumpy look at Andrew, "make sure ya pick up the paper, pal.”
Andrew nods, “Yes, sir.”
The boys walk down the street. Andrew turns on Aaron half-accusatorily, “You quit laughin’ at me, ya hear? What right have you got to laugh at me for talking to Carrie while you’re carryin’ some gal’s picture in your
Aaron stops short and grabs his brother's shoulder, turning him to face him. Astounded and slightly angry, Aaron demands, “How’d you know that?”
Andrew retorts, “That mangled piece of metal used to be a locket—I ain’t blind, Aaron. I just put two and two together.”
Suddenly, Aaron's irritation melts and he admits, “Maybe that’s why I’m laughin’ at you. I could see myself doin’ the same thing.”
Not quite comprehending, Andrew just shakes his head while they move out of the road as another herd comes bawling into town.
Aaron puts his arm around his brother, "How about a drink?"
Andrew grins, "Okay--a short one."
Walking into the saloon, the brothers jostle their way through the crowd up to the bar. Aaron winds up wedged between his brother and a stranger, who introduces himself as Harry Black.
After the preliminaries, Black leans in closer, “Hey, sonny…you look like a nice strong young feller.”
Aaron gives him a curious glance, sizing the small, weasel-like man up. He leans on the bar, not answering, but not looking exactly bothered either.
The man gets real close, “How’d ya like to earn some quick money, eh?”
As Andrew shifts in response to this strange goings on, Aaron jabs his brother warningly in the ribs and plays along. The younger brother makes a wry face at the bartender, who asks, “Another one?”
“Why not?” Andrew tries to seem totally unsuspicious and unperturbed by the activity beside him.
Aaron inquires, “Quick money?”
Black snickers, “Heh...heh...Yeah, but not in here. Come outside where we can talk private.”
Nonchalantly, Aaron pushes off the counter and follows the man outside. In the meantime, he cautiously slips the loop off his pistol's hammer.
Andrew finishes his drink and starts just as nonchalantly for the door.
The bartender, sensing something, leans forward, “Hey, boy…”
The bartender continues, “If you’re looking for trouble…go right ahead. But Harry Black is a mean old snake…”
Andrew smiles, “Thanks…I’ll remember that.”
He settles his hat firmly on his head and steps out the doors.
Aaron and Harry Black stand on the porch, talking.
“Private enough?” Aaron looks around carelessly, though actually on high alert.
Black nods, “Yeah…this’ll do." After a pause, he goes on, "Look, the stage is comin’ through in three hours. It’s goin’ to pick up the bank roll…heh, heh…get my meanin’?”
Aaron raises an eyebrow and leans against a post, “Hold up the stage?”
Black looks tickled, “Now yer a sharp un. That’s right.”
Aaron thoughfully taps his chin, “Where I to join you, what’d my cut be?”
The small man seems to be figuring in his head. Finally, he gets it all sorted out, “$2… $3,000.”
Aaron whistles, “I’m in.”
They go their separate ways. Andrew waits til Black has disappeared before catching up with his brother.
"What was that all about?” he demanded.
Aaron grins in expectation of his younger brother's reaction, “Andrew...I’ve just signed on with a stage-robber.”
“Yeah…here’s the plan…”
As they continue down the street, the two heads get closer and the voices lower.
Hudson and George are watching cattle mill around and getting loaded onto a train.
Hudson remarks, “I reckon you’ll be pulling out tomorrow morning?”
George removes his hat, scratches his head, and replaces the hat while talking.
“I was planning on it, but the boys seem to have something up their sleeves. Aaron told me that he has to stay an extra day…Andrew looked like he knows why but didn’t say…”
Hudson stretches, “Well, I hope it ain’t stupid whatever it is. Why, I remember when I was a young man…”
George grins as his friend starts in on one of his famous tales.
Aaron rides up to where several men, headed by Harry Black are mounted and ready.
One of the men hoots, “Aw, come on Black! Don’t tell me this is him…he looks like a fresh-faced choir boy!”
Black snaps, “Shut yer trap! Maybe it’s a good thing to have an unsuspicious lookin’ charactree once’n a while!”
While the other men snort with laughter, the speaker looks rather irritated. Aaron says nothing, but fondles his pistol with a half-smile.
After riding a ways, they set up in an ambush. The road is peaceful and calm for a while, but soon a rumble is heard…
One of the men whispers loudly, “Here it comes!”
Black orders, “Get ready…”
The stage appears. Though the bandits cannot see this, both of the men on the driverseat have deputy badges on and hold their weapns at the ready.
Black shouts, “Now!”
The robbers spur out into the road, shooting. Aaron, who had positioned himself behind the stage, gallops into the melee and jumps from his horse, standing at the wheel and firing into the bandits. The stage had erupted with gun-shots as soon as the first bandit made his appearance.
Black yells furiously, “We’ve been betrayed!”
He tries to escape but is shot down—as are all his men. Aaron's hat flies from his head, carried off by a bullet. One of the ‘drivers’ is wounded in the shoulder. No other casualites were counted as the lawmen had the element of surprise. The job done, they load the dead men onto their horses and head back for town.
The three Burke men stand in front of the Sheriff, a tall man named Daly.
“Mr. Burke, if it hadn’t been for your boys we wouldn’t have caught those robbers. At least not this time around.”
George looks stunned. He places a hand on either lad's shoulder and looks from one to another.
"Aaron," at last he found his voice, "don’t do too much more of this…you hear?”
Aaron winks as his brother, “Sure, Pa…”
The tention broken, the men laugh together. George shakes his sons, “Come on, fella’s, let’s go home.”
Daly walks to the door with them and as they mount, says, “Ride careful now!”
“Thanks, Sheriff," Mr. Burke has returned to his normal state of existance.
The close of the day sees the three Burke men, accompanied by their hired hands, riding in the sunset.