broke, and listening to his big brother, Milt, belittle him was not how
Lamar Wainwright had intended to start his day, but there he was anyway. Milt
had drifted into his gang’s campsite early in the morning, mooching
breakfast and mouthing off. He had a captive audience since a groggy Lamar was
swaddled in his blankets, empty Green River Whiskey bottle beside him.
“Concho tells me that you let this sawed-off storekeeper hold onto
his Bible and his life? And all you got was a tote bag of silver church
ornaments? Seems like slim pickings, if you ask me,” complained a scowling
Milt Wainwright. He was not only taller than Lamar, he was wider – and truth
be told – a whole lot meaner.
Nobody ever asks you, but that never stops you from giving your opinion
anyway, thought Lamar, squinting at his older brother through red-rimmed eyes.
Man has more opinions than a raisin has wrinkles.
yourself a new six-gun, I see,” said Lamar, going for a change of subject.
“Saw it in a Laredo gunsmith’s shop one day. Went back that night
and stole it. It’s Colt’s Army Model in .38 Long Colt,” said Milt,
preening a bit. “Double action, so you can shoot it just by pulling the
trigger. Holds six cartridges, not just the five you got in that old
Peacemaker of yours. Reloads lots faster, too. Looky here.”
pivoted and drew the revolver, firing six quick shots into the morning air,
smiling as his younger brother winced at each explosion. He thumbed the
gun’s side latch and flicked the revolver hard to the left. The cylinder
snapped out. He flipped the gun up and slammed the ejector rod down with his
left palm, spilling empty shells onto the ground. Milt reloaded six more
cartridges from his belt and flicked the gun to the right, listening as the
cylinder clacked into place. He grinned at the sound of the mechanism, then
flicked the cylinder out and back again -- click,
lead pills look a mite puny compared to a .45,” said Lamar. “Didn’t the
Army have man-stopping problems with them in the Philippines? Them Moros they
was fighting soaked up a whole bunch of them little bullets and then still
lopped body parts off of the soldiers who shot them, didn’t they?”
glared at him. “Tell you what, brother. Why don’t you dig up Arty Ryan and
ask him if these puny bullets killed him fast enough? I put three of them in
him and he dropped dead right quick.”
the front or the back?” asked Lamar, surprising himself with his boldness.
Must be the hangover, he thought, muzzling his usual caution around his
brother, whose temper even on a good day was about as short as the distance
between a Gila monster’s belly and the dirt. And he didn’t have many good
days at that.
shrugged. “Well, since Arty was facing away from me, in the back, of course.
Threw some insult at me over his shoulder, he did, so I unlimbered this here
Colt and plugged him -- pow, pow, pow.” He pantomimed with the revolver,
snapping its barrel like a whip three times as he spoke.
did he say, exactly?”
if I can remember. Must have been something real bad, though,” Milt
about that Jew couple. Concho says they was ready to lay down their lives for
them holy words. Little brother, did you ever think that if they were going to
sell their lives for that thing, that they would also pay a lot of money for
it? You should have taken it and told them that if they wanted it back,
they’d have to pay a lot, savvy?”
always hated it when his big brother was right. “Too late, though,” he
said. “We let them have it and they already took it to Panacea.”
we steal it back from them and hold it for ransom, make the whole town pay for
it,” answered Milt, holstering his revolver. “Let’s ride. We can make it
to Panacea by evening.”
that Milt was determined, Lamar grunted “OK” as he stood up even though it
felt as if the ground was tilting like a ship’s deck in a stormy sea. “Concho!”
answered the Mexican-Apache outlaw. He was pouring himself a cup of coffee
from a blackened pot that he lifted from the campfire.
me that java, pronto.”
outlaw took his time walking over to his boss and handing him his tin cup, its
handle wrapped with a bandanna for protection against the heat.
amigo,” said Lamar, taking it from him with his left hand and,
right-handed, smacking him along the side of his head with his Peacemaker’s
barrel. With a look that stunned steers get right after being smacked between
the horns, Concho dropped to his knees, cradling his head. Lamar knocked him
over with a boot to the ribs.
but I just can’t stand a blabbermouth in my gang running me down to my own
brother,” Lamar said as he took a sip of the black and bitter brew.
laughed and clapped him on his shoulder. “Now that’s taking care of
business, little brother. And didn’t even spill a drop. Hey, Dwight, let’s
Tolliver, shotgun cradled in the crook of his right arm, smiled his death’s
head grimace. “Sure,” he said.
the men readied their horses for riding, Tolliver whispered to Lamar, “So
what was the real reason you buffaloed Concho?”
might think I’m going soft, me letting that Jew couple live and all.
Smacking Concho around like that was my way of telling him I ain’t.”
eyebrows shot upward. “You think he’d try you if he thought you were
be. Hard to say what a man won’t do, especially if he’s the one that shot
his own daddy. Oh, and Dwight?”
that shotgun real handy when we’re around Milt, would you? Just in case.”
on doing it, anyway,” answered Tolliver, rubbing his stubbly cheek with one
finger and his thumb. “This here Remington is the one thing in life that
ain’t never let me down. Nothing personal, but that means you, too,
have it any other way, Dwight.”
Ranger Elijah “Eli” Weiss was busy saddling his horse, Golem, in the
stable near the ranger barracks in Douglas, and thinking about the telegram he
had received from his friend and mentor Solomon Pliskin. He had asked Captain
Tom Rynning for a leave of absence, but his boss had decided that since the
theft of the Torah’s decorations was a crime that affected people in two
towns, it was a legitimate reason to dispatch Weiss to bring in the
Lamar Wainwright behind bars would be a favor to all lawmen throughout the
territory,” Rynning had said. “And if you could snag his brother, so much
the better. Besides, a leave of absence would strip you of your official
powers of arrest – and you’ll be needing them when you run into those two
was making sure he had enough supplies packed into his saddle bags when he
heard a voice right behind him. “I can go, too?”
Cherokee kid can sure ghost up behind you, he thought. He turned around to
face a smiling lad by the name of Tom Threepersons. Though only 16, the slim,
dark youth was already taller than Weiss’ 5-foot-8. He had worked as a horse
handler for some of the local ranches, but had attached himself with the
Rangers because of his wish to be a lawman.
was a fair hand with a gun, too, beating Weiss a couple of times when it came
to plinking tomato cans with a revolver. Loser paid for a box of ammo that was
soon burned up in practice by Threepersons.
captain would take a dim view of me letting you tag along, Tom. The Wainwright
brothers won’t be playing pat-a-cake, you know. Besides, I’ve already got
help – Marshal Hubbard.”
has more men than you. Captain say maybe his brother join him.”
I heard that, too. Seems like he gunned down Arty Ryan in Valverde. Ryan’s
cousin, Frank Pierce, is looking to even things up, and Milt might be looking
for help from his brother until things cool off a bit.”
can help. Track. Shoot, too.”
tin cans off a fence is one thing, Tom. They don’t shoot back. They won’t
sneak up behind you either and blast you in the back. Besides, they need you
here, tending to the stock.”
stalked off, eyes aimed at the ground.
ranger mounted up and pointed Golem toward Panacea.
If the youth’s pride was the only thing hurt, he could count himself
lucky, he thought. Young blood was hot blood and too easy to spill. He
didn’t want that on his conscience.
and Hannah Pliskin had been busy packing, too. They had stored the twin
scrolls of the Torah in a stout canvas bag in preparation for the return trip
to Tucson. The Pliskins also were taking back a down payment for the Torah’s
sterling silver decorations – the crown, the breastplate and the pointer.
things considered, the Simchat Torah went well enough,” said Solomon.
there was just a little … something else under the surface.”
people being sad because of the robbery and our lives being threatened,” he
said. “And knowing that they would have to pay for our mistake.”
did not know that we would be robbed by outlaws. It was not our fault,”
knock at the door of their cottage interrupted their conversation.
somebody wishes to contribute more money,” said Hannah, opening the door.
gasped as a leering Concho shoved her aside, showing her his knife.
us?” said Lamar. “We came back for that Torah thing.”
you already took the silver ornaments,” sputtered Solomon, reeling from the
shock of the outlaw’s reappearance in his life.
big brother, Milt, had this idea that we could hold it for ransom. So here we
it over,” snarled Milt, Colt revolver aimed at the Pliskins.
…” As Solomon began to protest, the barrel of Milt’s revolver crashed
into his head. The Jewish shopkeeper crumpled to the floor.
screamed Hannah, struggling in Concho’s embrace. “You cowards!”
tucked the scrolls holding the five books of Moses under his arm. “Heavy
thing. Maybe we should make ‘em pay by the pound.”
glanced down at the fallen Solomon. “Ma’am? We’re leaving, but we want
you to tell the people here that if they want this Torah back in one piece,
they better come up with a thousand bucks.”
thousand dollars! But that’s too much! Where could we possibly find that
much money in this town?” asked Hannah.
them Jews in Tucson, too. It’s their’s also, ain’t it?” said Milt.
“Between the two towns, they should be able to find the money. And fast,
too. We don’t see anything in three days, we use this thing for target
practice and then burn it up.”
how can we find you, even if we could raise that much money so quickly?” she
Mount is where we’ll be,” answered Lamar. “We’ll be able to see for
miles in every direction. You and your husband can bring the money to us
there. Nobody else. We see anything we don’t like, the deal’s off.”
let her go,” he added. “She won’t be doing anything else but taking care
of her husband while we leave.”
turned back to Hannah. “Raise the alarm, and we’ll torch this place with
you and him in it, OK?”
nodded her understanding and knelt to her fallen husband, whose blood was
staining their carpet. Tearing off a strip of petticoat, she started to
bandage his head. She tried hard not to cry, concentrating on helping Solomon.
to go,” urged Milt.
men left. Tolliver had been holding their horses, on the lookout for curious
neighbors, shotgun at the ready. The outlaws grabbed for the reins of their
smooth enough,” grunted Milt as he swung into the saddle.
have to conk her husband,” muttered Lamar. “All we had to do was scare
scare better when they’re bleeding.”
stopped talking as they galloped out of Panacea.
tried to control her sobbing as she worked to stem the bleeding from her
husband’s wound. She concentrated on her task so much that she did not
notice when another stranger entered her home that evening.
up, she almost shrieked in surprise. The man was short like Solomon, but
thinner and burned dark by the desert sun. He carried a gun in his right hand,
but it was not pointed at her. She was struck by the look in his eyes –
the gaze of a predator seeking prey.
that was here, they were the Wainwright brothers, right?”
Missed my chance, but maybe that’s for the best. Don’t want no bystanders
catching any stray lead.”
who are you?”
not important, ma’am. I’m just a man seeking to right a wrong. To do that,
I need to put Milt Wainwright six feet under. Here, let me help you with your
two of them picked up Solomon and trundled him into his bed.
are not the law,” said Hannah.
ma’am far from it. Milt Wainwright killed my cousin and I aim to do the same
for him. Been tracking him ever since I got word. He’s joined up with his
brother’s gang for protection.”
you can help us. Those men, they stole something very valuable and precious
from us. They say they will not return it unless we pay them a lot of
I can’t help you. Hell, I’ve done much the same, stealing from decent
folks. And worse, too. Like I said, all I want is a clear shot at Milt. Any
one of them gets in the way, that’s their fault and no one, believe me, no
one will weep for them if they fall with my lead in them.”
are trying to help us like the town marshal and even an Arizona Ranger. You
could join forces,” suggested Hannah.
riding for the law? No thanks,” he scoffed. “They’re just as likely to
put me in the hoosegow first and then go looking for whatever those yahoos
stole from you. I ride alone.”
reached out and touched his sleeve. “They want to arrest the Wainwrights,
not you. Together, you all stand a better chance of catching them.”
hesitated, thinking it over. “Tell you what. We meet up on the trail, being
as how we are all after the same thing, then maybe we’ll talk. But I’m not
waiting for anyone tonight. I’m hitting the trail and looking for my chance
to settle up with Milt.”
left with the same stealth with which he had arrived.
making sure that her husband was comfortable, Hannah went to find Ari
Abramowitz, the new town doctor, and to notify the marshal about the theft of
Mount?” said Marshal Verdell Hubbard at the war council being held in his
office with Weiss. They had met with Abramowitz and Hannah for an update on
Solomon’s condition and knew about the theft of the Torah.
not listed that way on any map, but I know about it,” he continued.
“It’s a plateau. Got its name from when the Miller family, a group of
settlers who fought off a horde of Apache there years ago. They grabbed the
high ground and that’s what saved them. You can see for quite a distance,
the better part of a mile. Makes ambushing hard work for attackers, and a
frontal assault like the Army prefers is plumb out of the question. Too much
open ground to cover with folks shooting at you from covered positions. We
rush them, they got plenty of time to destroy the Torah and hightail it.”
picked a defensible site well,” agreed Weiss. “And they’re expecting
payment in three days? Likely that they’re camped out there already, waiting
for the delivery. Sneaking up on them would be impossible.”
almost jumped out of his chair at the sound of the tall Cherokee youth who
appeared in the jail’s doorway without notice.
“And who would you be?” he asked, irked to have been taken by
surprise by someone so young.
smiled. “Let me introduce you to Tom Threepersons. Works for the rangers as
a stable hand. Wants to wear a badge one day. My guess is that he trailed me
from Douglas despite me telling him to stay behind.”
need me,” insisted Threepersons.
may be right. What I do need is someone who can sneak across a mile or so of
open ground without being seen and help us catch those hombres in a cross
can do. Take me all night, moving slow and quiet.”
knocked on the door. A question in his eyes, Hubbard opened it and saw the
small stranger who had helped Hannah.
my mind. Maybe we could join up after all.” The man’s hand hovered close
to his Colt, just in case anyone disagreed.
would make you Frank Pierce,” said Weiss, keeping his hands in plain sight.
“Thanks for helping Hannah and Sol.”
here because of Arty Ryan. Being so short and skinny, I was always picked on
when I was a kid. Arty, my cousin, he’d always be picking bullies off my
back. Until I learned how to use a Colt, that is. We partnered up later.”
apologies for my choices, lawman. Right now, my guess is that you’ll look
past that for the time being. We’re after the same thing, sort of. I’ve
got something to settle with Milt Wainwright and you need someone who won’t
wilt like a daisy when the shooting starts.”
want to make arrests. You want to kill. No, we are not after the same thing at
all,” said Weiss.
not trying to kill the whole gang. Just one man. And Milt boasted that he’ll
go out fighting, not swinging at the end of a rope or looking at sunsets
through the bars of a cell. He’s mean enough to make it stick, back-shooter
that he is.”
room fell silent.
might be able to use him at that,” said Hubbard, tugging at his mustache.
“I’ve got the glimmer of a plan. Want to hear it?”
days later, Lamar Wainwright was sweeping the area surrounding Miller’s
Mount with a pair of stolen Army binoculars. He was less than 100 feet above
the sandy plains, but the vantage point made it easy to spot intruders at a
distance. Got to admit, Milt was thinking right when he decided to make a
stand here, he thought.
member of the gang had built up fortifications of rock and brush to shoot from
cover. Their horses were picketed, saddled and ready to ride. The Torah was in
a central location so it could be destroyed by any of them in the case of a
spotted dust on the horizon. “Riders!” he called out and tried to focus
people, he thought. Squinting, he made out the lead rider as Pliskin, head
down and his body draped over the neck of his mount. A derby perched on his
bandaged head. Looks downright woozy, but what do you expect from a man who
stood up to Concho with prayer as his only weapon, Lamar thought. Man’s got
sand. Even injured, he’s trying his best.
him was Hannah, wearing the same wide-brimmed bonnet that he had first seen
when his gang stole the Torah’s decorations. A large purse was attached to
the pommel of her saddle. And she’s sticking with her man, seeing it through
to the end, he thought. Pliskin’s a lucky man to have her.
checked the area behind them and saw nothing to indicate there were any other
heard the click, clack of Milt
checking the loads of his new revolver. “Looks like they followed
directions,” said the older brother as he approached.
they came alone.”
they brought us fresh mounts.”
brother, they are the only witnesses to us taking that scroll thing from them.
They give us the money, we make them dead, and take the horses for
turned toward his brother. “I don’t hold for murder. I’ll drop the
hammer on any man who’s trying to stop me from being free. But shooting
unarmed folks is something else. We can take their horses, leave them afoot.
There’s no need for more killing.”
held his hands out, palms facing forward. “OK, OK, no need to get your
feathers flying. I’m just saying, is all.”
were wanted men long before we stole from them, with posters on us throughout
the southwest. This don’t hold a patch on what we’ve done. They can’t
harm us by telling the law about us.”
went back to scanning the riders as they began their slow ride uphill, but
made sure that Milt did not get behind him.
riders were just yards away when Concho stepped forward. “Hold it, right
rest of the gang came closer, greed flaring as their payday approached.
missy, you got the loot?” asked Milt, trying to peer beneath the bonnet’s
brim as the rider’s hand reached into the purse.
but I got you,” answered Pierce, firing his Colt from the inside of
Hannah’s handbag. Driven back a step by the shock of the bullet, Milt
leveled his revolver at Pierce, who fired again. Milt fell, his gun flying out
of his hand.
under arrest!” yelled Weiss as he straightened out from his cramped position
atop his horse, the derby falling off his head. He drew his Peacemaker from
his waistband, covering Lamar and Concho in front of him.
forgetting me and this shotgun,” said Tolliver from behind them, raising the
Remington and thumbing back its twin hammers. Concho took advantage of the
surprise, leaped atop his horse, and took off.
arrow whizzed through the air, striking Tolliver in the side. Screaming in
pain, the outlaw dropped the shotgun.
to his feet, the lanky Threepersons rose from the ground where he had lain
concealed after crawling for hours. Bits of brush were tied to his
dust-covered body with rawhide thongs. He was ready to let fly with another
arrow from his bow at the retreating Concho.
in the back,” cautioned Weiss. “He’s not going far.” Threepersons
lowered the bow without question.
only move had been to kneel by his dead brother. “Can’t say I’m all
broken up by the way things turned out. Guess I never did forgive you for
shooting our daddy. But what the hell, you were still my brother, you ornery
new revolver lay just beyond his outstretched hand. Weiss picked it up and
looked at the disguised Pierce. “He had this out when you plugged him, so I
guess that could make it a case of self-defense.”
saw him tugging the trigger, but nothing happened,” replied a puzzled
Pierce. The small man dismounted, stepped out of the dress and removed the
bonnet. He wore range clothes underneath.
examined the gun, while Pierce and Threepersons kept an eye on the prisoners.
“I’ve seen this happen in guns with swing-out cylinders. Slamming them
back into place bends the cylinder crane. Do that often enough and one day
they won’t close all the way. Then the gun won’t fire with the cylinder
out of alignment. But Milt didn’t know that. Too bad for him.”
Half an hour later, Hubbard, astride his mule, Hannibal, rode up to the
outlaw camp with a wounded Concho in tow.
see our plan worked. Tom snuck up on them overnight and our two disguised
riders approached them without giving anything away. Me, I got to bring up the
rear from a long ways back, and not just because I came up with the idea.
Caught up with this here bandito,
who bet he was faster with a knife that I was with a gun. He came in second
“Smart generals always stay behind and send the brave troops
forward,” said Weiss, rubbing it in. “Good thing Tom showed me that Indian
trick of how to pretend to make yourself look smaller while on a horse,” he
added, stretching to work out the kinks from riding in a cramped position for
“Use that to make soldiers think children are riding, not
warriors,” said Threepersons. “Until it is too late.”
Weiss spotted a sack near one of the saddles and shook it open.
“Looks like they never did pawn the keter,
tas or yad,” he said
with a smile. The silver ornaments were still there.
The posse put their prisoners in handcuffs and then tended to the
wounded outlaws, binding their injuries in crude bandages of neckerchiefs.
They buried Milt Wainwright under a pile of loose rocks without ceremony or
regret. When those tasks were done, they packed the Torah for its long
trip back to its rightful owners.
“Guess I’ll be taking my leave,” announced Pierce, making it more
of a challenge than a statement.
“There’s a reward for Milt, but they’d arrest you before they’d
give it up,” answered Hubbard, making sure he made no sudden moves. Standing
off to the side, Threepersons nocked an arrow, but the ranger shook his head,
and the Cherokee youth relaxed.
Pierce shrugged. “Wasn’t in it for the money. That Pliskin fellow
has a doctor’s bill to pay. What’s left over, donate to something in your
toward his horse, he stopped. “Wouldn’t like to be hearing from strangers
about the time I was dolled up in women’s clothes, neither,” Pierce
warned. “I was just doing my part.”
think of spreading that tale,” promised Hubbard, fingers crossed behind his
one made a move to stop him as Pierce rode off.
“Time for us Maccabees to head back,” said Weiss.
“Maccabees? Weren’t they Jewish warriors?” said Hubbard.
“Yup, guerilla fighters who fought the ancient Greeks and took back
the temple at Jerusalem, restoring it for their people. I guess we followed
their example by restoring the Torah to the good folks of Panacea and Tucson.
‘Maccabee’ in Hebrew means ‘hammer.’ You could say we hammered the bad
guys real good today. And if fighting in disguise doesn’t make us guerilla
warriors, then I don’t know what does,” Weiss said.
“You know, Tom,” he continued, “you got a real future in being a
lawman. Once you get into the habit of following orders, that is.”
Threepersons smiled. “You bet,” he said.
“My next order is for us to return to Douglas with these prisoners.
Along the way, we’ll try to think about a way to explain to Captain Rynning
just how you turned up at such a fortunate time.”
“I’ll tell Sol and Hannah the good news. And return their clothes
to them, along with the Torah,” said Hubbard. “This time, I’ll escort
them to Tucson when they return it.”
With Weiss reciting the Shema,
the Maccabee posse men pointed their mounts homeward.