Wyatt Earp rides the train to Tucson alongside his brother Morgan, who makes the trip in the comfort of a wooden casket. Earp comes from Tombstone, along with his two surviving brothers and Doc Holliday, on a mission of vengeance for his murdered kin. They suspect Frank Stillwell of being the shooter, and are not interested in the bandit's denials. Earp is hardly off the train before he kills Stillwell, and he's on his way north before the body is cold.
Unfortunately for the Earp gang, Stillwell had friends in high places. The governor issues warrants for their arrest, and sends a pair of lawmen north to Colorado to apprehend them. Jeremiah Tree, a sheriff nicknamed 'Sliphammer' for his choice of pistol, is given the unenviable task of arresting Wyatt and his brother Warren. It's a suicide mission, but Sliphammer is too cool to fear any gunman, legendary or not.
Ten minutes before the train arrived, a rider, cutting it fine, skewed his horse to a halt in piercing lemon sunlight at the crossroads store at Mountain View Junction. He could see the approaching Espee train straining up the long grade from Benson, where the Tombstone road made connections with the Southern Pacific. From this high point on the desert the weather-beaten plain dropped away in all directions except southwest, where brush-studded foothills staircased up toward the barren, dry range of mountains.
The rider had taken three hours to get here from Tucson; his horse was covered with a caked foam of lather and dust, evidence of hurry.
He dismounted, tossed one rein over the trading post's hitch rail, and loosened the single-rig cinch before he climbed three splintered steps to the porch. By that time the storekeeper had come to the door-a squat Mexican tradesman with too much belly and the cheekbones of a Yaqui.
The storekeeper said, "Bad to ride out a horse like that. Might get him windbroke."
"I got to meet that train, Miguel. They gonna stop here to take on water?"
"Always do," said Miguel. "It's a thirsty grade up to here from Benson. How you been, Kelly? Ain't seen you since that fuckup down to the OK Corral-when was that, before Christmas?"
"October. You got any cold beer?"
"No. I got a lot of warm beer. Where'm I gonna get ice this time of year?"
"I was just asking," Kelly said, but he did not turn to go inside. The train was within three miles, throwing back a rich plume of smoke. He could hear the rumble, or perhaps he was feeling it with his feet.
Miguel grunted and moved inside momentarily, walking with the slow care of a fat man who knows enough to conserve his sweat on a hot spring Arizona day. Kelly picked at his flannel shirt, pulling it away from the places where it stuck to him, turning his face advantageously into the tepid breeze, watching the train out of the corners of his eyes. He was a freckled, skinny man with a big Adam's apple, a bowler hat on his head, and a Wells Fargo badge sagging from his shirt. He was thinking it was a damn stupid-ass thing to do, riding that hard in this heat just to bring word to the Earps on the train. He didn't care much one way or the other about the Earps. But two of them-Wyatt and Virgil-had worked for Wells Fargo, and the dispatcher had reckoned Wells Fargo owed the Earps fair warning. Which meant somebody had to reach them before the train got to Tucson. Kelly wasn't brimming with enthusiasm; it wasn't as if the Earps were still working for Wells Fargo. That had been a while ago; since then, the Earps had had other things to do. Like running the whorehouse district in Tombstone, for instance. All the Earps, particularly Wyatt, were very big on whorehouses and gambling concessions, and of course politics, since one went hand in hand with the other.
Kelly took a wadded plaid handkerchief out of his hip pocket, removed his bowler hat, and wiped his face and ears and the back of his neck. Only late spring-what was summer going to be like?
Maybe reading his mind, the storekeeper spoke behind him, startling him: "Hot enough for you?"
Kelly turned. Miguel stood in the doorway shade, a clay mug in either fist. The fat brown hand proffered one of them; Kelly crossed the porch with two strides, took the mug, and swallowed half the beer from it. With foam on his lips he said, "You were right. Beer's warm."
"Ain't no place south of the Mogollon that ain't hot."
"Why do any of us stay in this miserable country?"
"Beats shit out of me," said Miguel.
Kelly squinted westward. The sun would be setting in a half hour or so; night would bring some relief. It occurred to him he hadn't stopped to pick up his jacket. It would be a cool ride back to Tucson. Of course he could ride the train, but then he'd just have to come back later for the