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It took me most of an hour to track down Ransome. The saloon where I found him was a nicer one, uptown, such as it was in Aurora. He was at a table, playing cards and talking with some men in fancy black suits with frilly white shirts, gold cuff links and all that, the whole package.
At the bar, just to make it interesting, I ordered a drink. I sipped it. Then I wrinkled my nose and sipped again. "Not the whiskey, that's okay," I said. "Must be the company."
Openly, I surveyed the room. "Comes from that table, right there." I pointed at it.
Every back at the table stiffened. My gaze locked on the crooked marshal. "I see why. Ransome, your smell is enough to sicken a coyote, and they'll eat damn near anything."
"What's your problem, mister?" One of the well-dressed men stood up.
"It's not you, mister. It's that thing at the table with you. How can you stand it?"
"I don't know you." Ransome stood up, finally.
"You will." I sipped again. "You will. Opal is a friend of mine."
"Opal? That whore?"
"She gives what she gets paid for, good service. She doesn't charge, then back down. Like a crooked marshal who takes protection money, then beats the hell out of his customers. Especially, pretty female customers."
The well-dressed man's eyebrows went up. I suspected he was paying Ransome, but I think he was surprised someone would bring up the subject.
"Listen," Ransome put his hands on his hips, "I figure you're drunk. Get out!" He swaggered around the table like he expected me to tuck my tail and run. He stopped when I didn't move.
"No." I sipped my whiskey. "You get out. Only take off your badge first. Leave it on the table."
Hewas big and tough and used to walking over anyone who gave him trouble. Now he was afraid, and had to brag to show he wasn't. "I buried two men to get this badge."
"Maybe it's because I don't think you deserve it. Maybe because I just plain don't like badges. Maybe I want to put a hole through it just for fun, whether you're wearing it or not." I set the glass on the bar and nodded for a refill.
"Take off the gun, too, and lay it on the table beside the badge." I lifted my fresh drink, in my right hand. "Then ride out of town and don't look back."
"I'm Ransome. Who the hell do you think you are?"
"I'm Billy Killdeere. I don't care one way or the other about lawmen, but some things make me see red." I kept the glass in my right hand. "One of them is beating a woman near to death because a feller isn't man enough to get it up."
His hand had touched his gun butt, but now it drifted away. The businessmen who'd been at his table got up and backed away.
"He did that?" said another of the well-dressed men. "Beat a woman? Opal? He beat sweet Opal almost to death? That son of a bitch. He's all yours." He walked to the door and left. One of the other men from the table followed him.
"The gun and the badge, Ransome. On the table. Then you can run for it."
From the expressions on their faces, every man in that room knew Opal. If not in bed, then by reputation. Ransome looked around. Not one friendly face. He swallowed. "Okay," he said, "okay. Only it was her fault."
"Badmouth her, Ransome, and I won't give you a chance to run."
He unpinned the badge and dropped it on the table. He looked at the glass in my right hand as he touched his belt buckle. His hand drifted toward his gun, and the room got real quiet. "I could kill you."
"Men have thought that before." I'm not one to boast, but this man had made me angry. I wanted him to sweat. "I'm still here."
"To hell with it. To hell with you. To hell with the whole damn town." He unbuckled the gun-belt and dropped the rig on the table beside the badge. He picked up his drink and tossed it down. Stiff-legged, he started for the door. Halfway there his shoulder dropped. He turned around, his left hand out beseechingly. "Killdeere, listen. You don't know what you're doing."
His other hand held the .38 belly gun that he kept in his belt.
Left-handed, I pulled the .44 from under my vest and fired into his body, an inch above his belt buckle. His shot went into the floor. His eyes got brittle, but he wanted to take me with him. He forced the .38 up for a second try and I fired again, this time an inch above the first bullet.
He lowered his gun, but stood there. "She's a cold bitch."
After what he'd done to her? I emptied the .44 into his groin. He screamed with each shot. He folded his hands over his wounds and fell. He lay on the floor moaning, his eyes shut. His left leg kicked twice and he was still.
Just so no one would get any ideas, I finished the whiskey, then reloaded my belt gun and put that pistol back. Ransome was no longer breathing.