Mike Wesson, Brad O’Neil, and Charlie Phillips, walked into the First National Bank in downtown Omaha, off Seventh and Dodge. Each man carried sawed-off .30-.30’s under their long coats. Their plan was to get in and out in under three minutes with as much cash as they could. It almost worked.
What they couldn’t have foreseen were two police officers who happened to walk in behind them and that was when all hell broke loose.
Brad and Charlie were gunned down before they had too much time to react. Mike made a break for a side entrance/exit and barely escaped a bullet.
Running blindly, Mike turned left on Eighth Avenue, running like devil was hot on his ass. He could hear the sirens all around him. He knew if he didn’t disappear fast, he would get nailed and this time it would be his third fall: a life sentence. No parole.
The dark rumbling clouds suddenly broke apart and rain started falling heavily. Mike was thankful for that, as it would give him some kind of cover as everyone on the street was running indoors to stay out of the heavy downpour.
Ditching his .30-.30 sometime ago, Mike raced Leavenworth off fourteenth when a lightning bolt arced from ground to sky and hit Mike like he had never been hit before.
What few people who saw what happened, said it sounded like a soft crackle. Other people said the man just evaporated as if he was never there.
Cody Martin had just escaped from a state prison in Nebraska. The horse he had wasn’t the fastest in the world, but he would make-due the best he could. At the moment, he had about a five-minute lead on a posse who was steadily gaining on him.
Cody had one gun with no extra ammo that he took off the fellow who owned the horse, and there was a fully-loaded Winchester in the scabbard.
He knew when it would come time to shoot it out with the six or seven men breathing down his neck, he would have to make every shot count.
Cody was in prison for bank robbery and murder. All the wanted posters always said the same thing: consider him dangerous.
He caught a break when a prison guard started nodding off while he was on a work detail. He saw his chance and knocked the guard out, took his gun and horse and took off, but it took no time at all before a posse was put together and now he was riding hell-bent for his life.
As the horse labored under him, looking back over his shoulder, he saw they were gaining, and he could hear the hunk of horse flesh under him whining and wheezing every ten feet or so. The horse was near ready to fall over. Cody knew there was no way he could outrun them.
Up ahead, he spotted a small ravine that would provide some cover. It was there he planned to make his stand. He would either kill all of them or be killed, but either way, he wasn’t going back to that hell-hole in Lincoln.
In the distance, thunder roared, and the winds began to pick up as dirt and dust started swirling in the air. In a few more seconds, the sky overhead became darker and more menacing.
Just as he made his way to the ravine, he pulled the Winchester out of the scabbard and slapped the horse’s rump, so he wouldn’t get shot, or shot at. The horse did a slow trot about a hundred yards away.
Cody dived behind a couple small boulders as bits and pieces of rock and dirt kicked up all around him from the bullets coming his way. Cody sized up the situation in a hurry. He had plenty of cover. They had none. He had no food. They probably had plenty.
Just when he knew they were in range, he aimed the rifle and quickly shot two of them off their horses. The others fired back at him before they spread out and took positions behind their horses they had lie down on their sides. Not even Cody would shoot a horse.
The winds picked up even more and a few drops of light rain began falling. Taking his time, Cody found another target and was about to squeeze the trigger when a lightning bolt came up from the ground to meet the sky and hit Cody Martin like he had never been hit before.
Later, back at the prison, the posse told the Warden they had never seen anything like it. One man said the lightning must have centered on the rifle he had, but after they went up into the ravine to check to make sure he was dead, all they could find was the Winchester, and the horse he stole about eighty yards away.
Cody Martin was gone. He simply vanished.
“What in the … where the hell am I? How’d I get here, wherever here is? Last thing I remember, cops were chasing me and then I was hit by lightning that nailed me bigger than shit. I have to be dead because none of this looks right to me.”
Taking in the room he was in, Mike Wesson saw four rough-hewed logged walls, a single cabinet about five-foot tall, a smaller table with a white tin basin resting on top, and to his left sat a straight back wooden chair where his clothes were laying. Behind him was a window but he couldn’t turn around to look outside. His body was still sore from what happened.
The door to his right opened and a voice spoke out.
“Mister, no need to move around so much, you need to save your strength. One of my ranch hands found you out along the side of Pitch-Fork Road about four days ago. You were looking pretty bad. We almost lost you once.”
“Four days! I’ve been here that long? And where exactly am I?”
“You’re on my spread, The Barrows. Ny name’s Dan Barrows. I took the liberty of going through what few belongings you have to find out who you might be, and I got a few questions that need some answers, Mike Wesson, or whoever you really are.”
“That’s my name. What kind of questions do you have?”
“Well, for one thing, those clothes hanging on that chair. I ain’t never seen duds like them before. Another thing—is this.”
Dan threw Mike, his driver’s license.
“Yeah, so what about it? It’s my driver’s license. You’ve seen them before, haven’t you?”
“Nope. You say it’s a drive-hers license? Okay, because I can read. I know’d what it said; what I can’t figure out is two things. One, how’d you get yer picture on it so small, and according to the date, the way I figured it up, you would be over a hundred years old. It don’t add up right in my head.”
“You can’t be serious, Mr. Barrows. Don’t you have a car? How did your ranch hand get me here, by horse and buggy?”
“Nope. He threw you across his saddle and rode you in. My wife, Betsy, looked after your wounds and that. Too far to send for the doctor, she said. What in blazes is a car, anyway?”
Mike looked at Dan and realized this man wasn’t joking with him. He knew absolutely nothing about a car, a driver’s license, or for that matter, anything period.
A single thought ran through Mike’s head, but he shook it off. No way, he thought, that’s just in the movies. This kind of stuff comes out of science-fiction books.
“If you’ll answer one question for me, it might explain a few things.”
“What year is it?” Mike closed his eyes and prayed he heard 1980.
“That’s a funny question. It’s 1880, why?”
Mike let out a groan and a heavy sigh.
“That’s what I was afraid of. That explains why the lightning bolt didn’t kill me. Those clothes over there were made in a factory and sold in a men’s clothing store. I paid almost a hundred bucks for those threads and they look ruined now.”
“A hundred dollars! That’s just a little more than three months wages I pay to a cow puncher. And you’re saying you got hit by lightning? You sure you ain’t pulling my leg, mister?”
“Mr. Barrows, this is harder for me to believe that it will be for you, but you have to believe me when I tell you I was struck by lightning and somehow I’ve traveled from 1980 to 1880. I’m from the future.”
“Sure you are. Tell you what I think. I think you best get a little more rest. I’ll have my wife bring you some of her stew. You’ll like it fine. Then get yourself some sleep. We’ll talk more later.”
Mike laid his head and settled into an all too soft pillow and could just barely hear the conversation on the other side of the door between Dan and his wife. What he heard, he didn’t like.
“Betsy, after dinner, I’m gonna ride into town and talk to the marshal about that stranger in there. Whoever he says he is ain’t important. It’s all his crazy talk about some contraption called cars, whatever they are and the year 1980. He claims he’s from the future but if you ask me, I think he escaped from some looney-silum.”
“Dan,” said Betsy, “he looks harmless and he doesn’t look dangerous. I think all he needs is plenty of rest until Doc Samms gets back from across the river. Then he can take a look at’em and he’ll know if he’s techted in the head or anything. My thinking is, after the way he looked when he was brought in, he must’a have had some kinda fever or something.”
“You can wait for Samms if you want, but I’m not. I’ll have Saul and Andy keep a close watch on him until I get back from seeing Marshal Teachey.”
Mike struggled to get out of bed and gently walked over to where his clothes laid. He took one look at them and knew they were unfit to wear. He would be spotted anywhere with those rags.
Moving over to the cabinet, he opened both doors and saw some shirts and corded jeans and a pair of boots on the floorboard of the cabinet. He tried on a blue shirt, a bit snug but it would have to do. The jeans fit except for the length which he rolled up into three-inch cuffs. Grabbing his own socks and putting them on, he then slipped his feet into the boots that were about a half-size too big but right then, he couldn’t be picky.
Okay. Now I need to get a gun and a car and I’m outta here. Then he gave a dry, deep chuckle. “Car? Maybe I am crazy. I need a horse. Damn, I don’t even know how to ride one. This is just so wrong.”
Mike looked at himself in the dresser-mirror and was amused by what he saw. He felt like he looked like a guy from the city going west to a dude ranch for a vacation.
Walking to the window behind the bed, he saw a corral with half a dozen horses. To the left sat a barn, to the right, a long building Mike figured might be a bunkhouse. It was in front of the bunkhouse he saw three horses tied to a hitching rail. He also took in a rifle attached to one of the saddles.
Make it to that one, I’m home free.
Moving the wooden bed as quietly as he could, he opened the window and slipped out onto dirt about five feet below him. He started running toward the horses but slowed to a fast walk as he could still feel the effects of the lightning strike. He was still a little weak and even though the thought of beef stew sounded good, he needed to get away, and fast.
Coming up to one horse, it had a deep midnight color and looked to have strong legs with a huge barreled chest and a white blaze on its face. It was the same horse with the rifle.
Mike untied the horse and whispered, “You and me, are taking a little ride. Just do me two favors. Be kind to my ass and don’t throw me. This is a first for me.” Mike grabbed the pommel of the saddle, put his foot in the stirrup and swung his other leg over. Just like in the movies, thought Mike. So far, so good.
The horse steadied himself, realizing this was a new rider on his back. When Mike said, “Let’s go,” the horse just stood in place. Mike didn’t understand why the horse wouldn’t move. Then he remembered all the westerns he watched as a kid. He pulled the reins to his left and the horse did a complete turnaround. Next, he kicked his feet into the sides of the horse and before Mike knew what was happening, the horse took off at a dead run.
Mike had no idea which direction he was headed until he looked up into the sun and saw it was leaning toward the east but that could mean it was still early morning or mid-morning. He couldn’t tell for sure.
“I guess I’m going east. But east to where? What the hell city will I come to? Damn, this horse can move fast, but I have to slow him down pretty soon. He’s rubbing my ass the wrong way.”
Mike had ridden about another four miles. A mile before that, Betsy had alerted her husband that Mike was gone.
Dan returned back to the bunkhouse, rounded up a few more of his hired ranch hands, who, all but Monte, had their horses saddled and ready to ride.
“Dan, that stranger took Midnight. Must have been awfully quiet for me not to hear him, but I’ll have to get one of the other horses out of the corral and mount up. You go on and I’ll catch up with you.”
Dan and five others rode off. From what they could see, the tracks from Midnight appeared to be headed west toward Lincoln, about ten miles away. At best, the now horse-thief, probably had a two to three-mile head start on them.
Meanwhile, Mike had managed to slow Midnight down but only because they were crossing over a section of rocks that led to Blaine Point, an older, run-down waystation for the stage lines.
Looking back, Mike could barely see a plume of dust headed his way. He knew it had to be Dan Barrows and some of his men.
“This isn't good. Wish I had a car, so I could put some real distance between me and them. I have the strangest feeling things are going to be a lot different from now on. I almost wish I was back at the bank right now. At least I’d have an idea of what to do and where to go. Here, I’m in a world of trouble, I do believe.”
Looking around, he spotted the waystation which resembled a small shack, but he also saw someone walking around.
“Okay, horse, that’s where I think I need to go. Let’s get going. If those people behind me, catch me, I’m in a world of hurt.”
As they bypassed a layer of rocks on the road, Mike kicked his heels gently this time against Midnight’s flanks, and again, Mike was cursing under his breath as his ass began to throb from the bouncing it was taking. Better my ass than a rope around my neck. “I might be from 1980, but I know in 1880, they hang people for horse theft.”
As he approached the rundown shack, he plainly saw a man who looked to be in his mid-sixties, wiry, bushy beard, also dressed in cord jeans, button-down suspenders, calico shirt and a wide-brimmed hat that had seen better days. Mike didn’t think he would have too much trouble from him. As he rode up and then pulled back on the reins a bit too fast, Midnight reared up and Mike lost his balance and grip and fell hard to the ground. The old man laughed as he grabbed hold of Midnight’s reins and steadied him.
“That’s what ya git, Monte, fer bein in such a dad burned hurry to git here, boy. Now, what’s all the fuss about—what! You ain’t Monte!”
As Mike was getting up from the hard-packed dirt, he saw the old man reaching for his hand gun strapped to his side. Reacting quickly, regardless of the pain he was feeling, Mike raced to the old man and hit him flush on the chin, knocking the old man out.
Looking around for Midnight who had wandered off, Mike saw he was too far away to chase down and time was running out.
Mike unbuckled the old man’s holster, checked the gun to make sure it was loaded, then ran over to a broken-down corral where the old man’s horse stood. He grabbed a blanket and saddle that hung across the top fencepost and muttered, “I hope I get this right. Those other men will be on me before much longer.”
Five minutes later, Mike felt as certain as he could that the saddle was on the right way and was cinched underneath tight enough. Swinging up onto the saddle, he kicked his legs into the horse’s sides and off he went again,
He could still feel that stinging pain in his ass. As far as he was concerned, better the pain than his neck being stretched.
Within five minutes of Mike leaving the old man behind, Dan and the other men rode up and saw the old man getting to his feet. Dan rode up fast, pulled in the reins and dismounted amidst a swirling dust surrounding them both.
“Jesse, you all right? What happened?”
“It all happened kinda quick, Dan. Stranger came in here ridin' Monte’s horse. Thought it was Monte at first, but I know’d somethin' was wrong when that stranger fell off when he pulled back too quick on Midnight. I was goin' fer muh gun when that stranger came up real quick-like and bopped me one. I tell yuh, if’n I git another chance at’em, I’ll take my gun and, and—why that no good thief! He stole muh damn gun!”
One of the other men rounded up Midnight and brought him back and tethered him off to a hitching rail in front of the shack that was now Jesse’s home.
“En to top it off, he stole Abner. He’s got muh horse! Just wait’ll I git muh hands on that horse thief, I’ll string’em up twice!”
Monte rode in and stopped next to Dan.
“Any sign of him yet?”
“Looks like we missed him by minutes, Monte. Your horse is over there tied up in front of Jesse’s place.”
“Wonder why he left him behind,” said Monte. “He’d have been better off he had stayed with Midnight. He’s one of the fastest ponies around.”
“Your guess is as good as mine.” Turning to Jesse, Dan said, “You going to be okay? We’re going after him.”
“I’ll be fine, Dan, but hold on just a bit, somethin’s just come to me. There’s still some old wanted posters in a box from a year ago inside, when the stagecoach last came through here. If’n I remember right, I think that stranger is on one of them posters.”
“Let’s take a look.”
Dan, Jesse and Monte walked inside the shack and watched as Jesse rummaged through a couple boxes he saved and finally found what he was after and went to the table and slapped it down hard.
“Yep. Here it is. Knew it was him. Says here he escaped from a prison over in Lincoln. He’s wanted for escape, bank robbery and murder. We can add horse thief to that list.”
“I remember reading about him in the Gazette when I went to Loadstone a while back,” explained Monte. “Seems like the posse had him cornered and then he simply vanished into thin air. I heard stories that the ground swallowed him up, and that lightning hit him so hard he just disappeared.”
“Hogwash,” said Jesse. A man can’t just disappear in front of half a dozen men. My guess is that he fooled’em so bad they made up that story, so they wouldn’t look bad for losin’em.”
“That sort of explains part of the story he was trying to tell me,” said Dan. “Can you imagine him saying he was from a hundred years in the future where they ride cars instead of horses?”
“Kers? What’s a ker?”
“I wouldn’t have any idea, Jesse.” Turning to the men he said, “Boys, we’d best to get to getting him before it gets dark.”
“Be careful, Dan. Accordin to this here poster, he’s kilt more’n thirty men and he’s quick-mean.”
“Jesse’s right, Dan,” followed up Monte. “From what I’ve read on this Cody Martin fella, he’d just as soon shoot you as to look at you.”
“We’ll just need to be more careful is all. Let’s mount up and get after him.”
By that time, Mike had a five-mile lead and felt more at ease about things, although the horse wasn’t as fast as the other one; at least his ass wasn’t feeling the pain it was earlier.
What he didn’t know was that Dan Barrows and the men who rode with him, had him confused with a dangerous outlaw with a bad reputation.
Mike rode for another hour before he pulled the reins in on the horse he was riding. This time he didn’t pull as hard. He didn’t want to take another fall like he did back at the old man’s place.
After he dismounted, he grabbed the canteen from the saddle and drank heartily. Then he looked over his surroundings. It was still hard for him to believe he wasn’t in Omaha and in 1980, not 1880. The only explanation he could come up with is that somehow when that lightning struck him, it did the impossible and took him back in time; but why here?
Sitting under a small shady tree with a small watering hole the horse walked up to, Mike tried to figure out what to do next. That Barrows fellow and the other’s who were following him, or so he felt, were far enough behind him he didn’t have to worry.
Rubbing his butt, he winced when his hand rubbed over what felt like the beginnings of blisters. Getting up, he walked to where his horse was drinking and took the canteen and dipped it into the water to fill it. Then, he scooped up some water and splashed it over his face and behind his neck. Standing, the coolness of the water made him feel a little better. Turning, he decided he had rested long enough when he saw a poster tacked to the side of the tree he didn’t notice before.
Let’s see; wanted: Cody Martin. Robbery, murder, runs with a gang of thieves and cutthroats. Considered dangerous. $2,000 reward. Dead or Alive. Underneath the words, Mike looked at the drawing of Cody.
“You have got to be joking! That looks like a drawing of me, not this Martin guy. I don’t get it. How the hell would anyone here know what I look like? I don’t even know exactly where I’m at to begin with.
None of the makes any sense. No cars, no buildings, no women, no nothing. Cops ride horses and if I get caught for stealing this horse, and that other one, there won’t even be a trial, just a hanging. I know I don’t like where I am, that much is certain. This is just too crazy to be happening. 1880—son-of-a-bitch.
Turning his head to face the way he rode from, he could hear, as well as see a group of riders coming.
Must be Barrows and his men. I better move it. I’m not really wanting to be the guest of honor at my own lynching. This sucks. Having a horse isn’t any more of an advantage than having a car!
Getting back on the horse, gently, Mike continued riding, keeping a distance of a mile or two between him and those chasing him. After another hour of hard riding, he spotted another group of riders heading toward him.
Damn! I can’t tell if their the law or not. If they are, I’m dead in the water because of that poster. If they are, I hope they haven’t seen that poster and try to collect the reward. Being a criminal here isn’t my idea of a fun time, I can see that already.
Mike checked the gun he took from the old man. At least its loaded. Jeez, what a deal. Four or five riding behind me and three coming at me, and me with six bullets and another twelve on the gun belt. Even if I tried to make every shot count, I’d probably still be shy a few and probably end up dead. I need some luck in the worse kind of way.
Veering to his right (and feeling ever saddle rub on his ass), Mike kicked the sides of the horse into high gear. His backside near forgotten as he tried putting needed space between him and these new riders or face almost certain death.
It didn’t work.
The three new riders cut off in the same direction as he did, and their horses were bigger and faster. In nearly five minutes, the rider’s cut off Mike’s escape and had him surrounded on three sides. Even though the distance was still twenty yards or so, the riders had their guns drawn and were prepared to kill him.
Mike drew his gun.
If I have to die, wherever the hell I am, I’m taking some of these local-yokels with me. They ain’t taking out no chump here.
As Mike pulled the hammer back, one of the riders yelled out, “Hey, guys, you see who that is? That’s Cody! Don’t shoot at’em or he’ll put us all in the ground!”
Mike watched with wary eyes as he saw them put away their guns. The one who spoke mistook me for that outlaw, Cody Martin. They must be friends of his. As Mike got closer, he decided to play along with them and see what he could find out.
“Cody! How the hell are ya, pardner? It’s me, Brent. Remember?”
“Yeah, I remember.”
“I swear, Cody, thought you’d never get outta that pillbox for a prison. I thought when that judge sentenced you to life on the rock pile; you’d be there until ya croaked, but it looks like ya outsmarted all of us. Don’t ya worry none. I still got yer share of the loot from the bank we hit before they cornered ya.”
“Good. What’s my cut and it better be good.”
“Same as always, Cody. Half, what else would it be?”
“I’ve been gone a while, Brent. Had a lot of stuff on my mind if you catch what I’m saying.”
Brent, along with the other two men were rangy in size, mean-looking and they all looked like they could handle themselves in a fight but from what Brent first said, he guessed Cody Martin was deadly with a gun.
“Shucks, where’s muh manners. Cody, this here is Jasper Warner and Clint Sykes. I hooked up with them about five months after you went inside. Wade, Jake, and Ely, took off after you were arrested. Don’t know if their dead or alive and,”
“We got riders coming from the southeast, Brent,” drawled Jasper.
“They’ve been after me more than an hour. I stole this horse and they plan on turning me into the po—I mean the marshal or hang me, whichever comes first.”
“Is that right? Don’t worry none, Cody. The way I see it, the odds are about even now, and all we have to do is sit ourselves by those rocks over there and we can pick’em off like bees take to honey.”
Mike nodded his head, and Mike, along with the rest of the men, steered their horses, to the right, behind a clump of ricks and waited for Dan Barrows and the other riders to come into their sights of three Winchester’s and his .45.
Mike could feel the intensity coming off each man as they lined up their rifles on the approaching riders. He knew that in a few more minutes, gunfire would explode around him like nothing he ever heard before.
Mike knew if were back in Omaha and this were to happen downtown; there would be at least ten cop cars and a SWAT team surrounding the area in minutes. Out here in the wide-open spaces, Mike knew that wasn’t going to happen. But Mike had never shot and killed a man in cold blood before, not that he hadn’t thought about it before. Granted, there were a few times he wanted to. Mike had always believed if he had to kill someone, it would be face-to-face, not from a distance or in the back. What was about to happen was new for him but if he had to be this Cody Martin fellow, he had no choice but to play the part.
“Okay, boys, a few more seconds and they’ll be dog meat. Just say the word, Cody.”
Mike wasn’t prepared for that. He thought they would just start shooting the second they were in range. Now, he had to give the order to kill them. He looked over to where they were riding and could see they were in range. It was all or nothing. He nodded his head.
The shooting echoed all around him as puffs of blue-black smoke filled the air as the smell filled his nose. Mike almost swore he could see the heat rising from the rifles being fired in the heat of the afternoon as he fired his gun as well.
Dan Barrows and his men were caught by surprise. They were expecting to just find Mike, but instead, they ran into a small army. A piercing scream came as one man tumbled off his horse and fell roughly to the dirt as dust kicked up from his fall and lifted a few feet into the air before settling back down unnoticed. Dan had already fallen after being hit by two bullets, one in the chest, the other in his neck. Monte also fell along with the remaining men. None of the men had any time to find any sort of cover and only Monte and Dan were able to fire a few shoots back before they fell. In less than a minute, the shooting stopped and the men below from where Mike and his (now) men were protected, laid on top of their unopened graves.
“That takes care of that, Cody. Their deader than a doornail. Ya can rest easier knowin they ain’t on yer tail no more.”
Mike nodded. “You’re right, Brent. Let’s get out of here and head back for my share of the money you mentioned before. I’m thinking about using some of that to get me some new clothes, a better gun and another horse and then staying low for awhile until the heat is off of me.”
“Sounds good. Me’n the boys could use a rest anyway.”
The four men remounted their horses and started heading south. Mike rode next to Brent, following his lead, but acting like he knew where he was going. Looking back over his shoulder one time, he could see the bodies sprawled out on the ground. Mike felt a lump in his throat for what just happened. Now, he really was a murderer, just like the real Cody Martin.
What Mike or the other’s didn’t see, was a slight movement by Montie.
Montie was shot up pretty bad. Once in the leg, the right shoulder, and another bullet entered his chest three inches to the right of his heart. He made a whimpering motion in pain for his horse, Midnight, who came over and gently nudged him, hoping his master as all right.
Monte knew it was an almost ten-mile ride back to the ranch and he wasn’t sure he could survive the ordeal, but he had to try. Trying was all he had left.
Deep down, Monte prayed he lived because he had a score to settle with Cody Martin. He had just killed Dan and the rest of the men, all close friends of his. At the moment, all Monte knew was if he could mend good enough, he was going to chase Cody down if it took him the rest of his life.
Slowly getting to his feet by first grabbing the stirrup, Monte managed to pull himself upright until his hand grabbed the pommel. The intense pain and bleeding along with near-blackness, settled over him twice before he found hidden strength to pull his body up and onto the saddle.
Having the presence of mind, he undid his saddle rope, placed the looped end around his waist and wrapped the rope around him six more times before he tied the other end onto the pommel. Monte knew that dead or alive he would get back to the ranch. Hopefully he would be alive to deliver the bad news to Dan’s wife.
Midnight started walking, seemingly very aware of Monte’s injuries. It was slow moving, but it was the only way. Even in the late afternoon, the sun beat down on him without favor or concern. Nature plays no favorites. Every few minutes, Monte would fade in and out of never-never-land.
It wasn’t until early evening before Midnight and Monte pulled up into the ranch, but Monte never knew it. He had passed out hours before. Surprisingly enough, being tied like he was to the saddle did keep him from falling off.
The whole time Monte lay in a coma, fighting for his life, he had no way of knowing that Dan’s wife, Betsy, had made it possible for him to live. He had no way of knowing she had gone into town, gotten Marshal Teachey and rode out to where the others were killed. They used Midnight to find them. He even seemed insistent for them to follow if that could be believed. But Monte had no way of knowing the funeral was over. Between Betsy and Doc Samms, keeping him alive was their priority. He had been out nearly five weeks with the wounds and a bad fever before his eyes finally fluttered open.
From there, it was another month before he was strong enough to walk and another week before he was out behind the barn target practicing. Monte had a score to settle.
Then came the day he thought he’d never see.
“Monte,” said Betsy, “with all that’s happened, I can’t stay here any longer. I only stayed this long because I owed you that much. You were Dan’s best friend and he thought highly of you. You know that, don’t you?”
“Yes, ma’am. I hate to see you up and leave. Dan put a lot of hard work into making this place work itself into a profit.” Monte swallowed hard. “Even though Dan’s gone, it ain’t gonna be the same after you leave.”
“And it isn’t the same for me with Dan gone, Monte. I’ve already sold the place and I’m going back east. Without Dan, living out here is pointless.
“I want to ask you to come back with me. My parents can get you a well-paying enough job and,”
“Ah, no thanks, Mrs. Barrows. I was born out here and the big city life ain’t what I fancy. Besides, I have something to do.”
“I know. That’s why I’m asking you to leave with me. You plan on getting this Cody Martin and his outlaw gang. Monte—the chances of you succeeding are practically zero. You are lucky enough just to be alive; you lost so much blood. I couldn’t stand to hear you were killed if you go after him a second time, and this time, without help. And this time, you may not come back alive.”
“I thank you for your concern, I really do. But this is something I have to do. Dan gave me a job when no one else would. He treated me with respect and in a lot of ways was like a father to me. I wouldn’t be a man if I didn’t at least try. This is for Dan, for my friends, for you, and for me. If I can stop him before he can do even more harm against people, then this country can be a safer place to live for people like you, ma’am.”
“I thought you would say no. It’s just like a man, to let his pride get in the way. Dan was the same way, you know. When we first came out here, he said there was nothing going to stop him from getting what he wanted from this land. Now, he’s become a permanent part of it.
“Please, be careful, Monte. If you—if you do survive, please, come back and at least visit with me.”
“That I can do, Mrs. Barrows,” smiled Monte.
They hugged each other as a mother and son would, and deep down inside each other, they both knew they would never see each other again.
During Monte’s recovery, Mike, playing the part of Cody, was playing the role for all it was worth. His riding skills quickly improved, and he even began to believe he was Cody Martin. He and his outlaw gang had robbed two stagecoach’s, one train, and a bank.
Mike couldn’t believe how easy it was. He didn’t have to contend with alarm systems, helicopters, cop cars or cameras. Since televisions and telephones hadn’t yet been invented, he didn’t have to worry about people calling a hot-line number to tell the law where he might be. As long as he had a fast horse and shot straight; Mike Wesson ruled Nebraska’s flatlands and was enjoying every second of it.
Most of the smaller towns didn’t even have any law which meant he and his gang could do what they wanted, when they wanted, and with who they wanted. There wasn’t anyone who would dare stand up to one of the fastest gun within a hundred miles.
Besides, if things did get too hot for them, they would swing south into Kansas or southeast into Missouri or even go east into Iowa if need be. Plus, they had dozens of places they could hide out as well.
Mike was getting used to the idea that the wild west was his real calling card. What he didn’t and couldn’t know was that Monte would be on his trail and would hunt him down if it took a lifetime.
Several weeks had passed since Cody first became aware of his new environment. From that first night in the alley to now, Cody had been hiding in the very city that was looking for him, or rather the person who looked like him—Mike Wesson.
He thought it very strange that back in his time, he would have to ride fifty, sometimes a hundred miles to avoid the law, but here, he could hide right under their noses.
His money was starting to run low and he knew before too long, he would have to rob a bank, or someone. The cost for the hotel room for as shabby as it was, was expensive. Sixty dollars a week. Back in his time, he could get a room for that price for a good three months and that would include a bath and the price of a hot meal every day.
Remembering his first night when he wanted to take a much-needed bath, he left his room to go down the hall to the public bath-house and couldn’t find one. When he went back to his room, he found a contraption on the wall with handles. When he turned them, water came gushing out, and he thought that was the greatest thing he had ever seen, and the water was hot as hell.
Cody stayed in a hotel above a bar for three nights before he had to do something. After being cooped up, hiding out, he decided it was time to have some enjoyment. Putting his gun inside his shirt, he went downstairs and walked past the desk clerk who fell asleep in his chair and was snoring loudly. So much for security. Cody looked around the shabby lobby at a few of the other faces who lived there, and he shook his head when he saw the abject despair written across the faces of all these tired and seemingly forgotten men.
Cody believed he would kill himself before he ever let himself get like that. Looking like they do, makes my skin crawl, he thought.
Entering the bar by way of a side entrance from the lobby, Cody’s eyes took a few seconds to adjust to the darkness. What he saw wasn’t much different from the lobby; three old men sitting at a bar, a stout, middle-aged woman tending bar, they let women do anything these days, and a couple in their sixties sitting at a nearby table.
In the distance on the far side of the bar, Cody could hear the sound of a pool stick striking a white cue ball as it slammed into another ball. He saw just a lone player. At the dar end of that bar sat a woman, who, upon closer inspection, he saw that once upon a time she must have been a real fine-looking woman. She still had some pretty in her, but he could see the tired in her eyes, that look that said why bother with anything anymore. Cody decided to sit down three bar stools from her.
“What can I get for you?” asked the bartender.
“A glass of beer.”
“What kind? I got Bud, Falstaff, and Coors on tap.”
“Ah, let me try that Falstaff.”
Cody watched as she flipped a handle and beer poured into the glass and he couldn’t help wondering why there were so many names for beer. A beer’s a beer where he came from.
The lone man who had been playing pool walked over in between Cody and the lady.
“Say, Millie, why don’t you and I go upstairs and get familiar again?”
“Charlie, why don’t you just put your hands in your pants. That ought to be familiar enough for you.”
The bartender sat the beer in front of Cody.
“That’ll be a dollar-fifty.”
Cody reached into his pocket and threw a five-dollar bill on the bar top and listened to the conversation.
“Don’t be like that, Millie. You know you give the best head on the block, and you know you love it when I put it up inside you. You scream like the bitch-in-heat you are, so don’t play games with me. Let’s go.”
“Charlie, I’m not in the mood, okay? Just go back to your game and leave me alone.”
Charlie laughed out loud and reached from behind and brought both hands around front and grabbed both of her breasts.
Millie squirmed and slapped at his hands. “Stop that, Charlie! Dammit! I ain’t in the mood I said!”
“I’ll get you in the mood. Fifty bucks says you’ll be in the—”
“Say friend, the lady said she doesn’t want your company.”
Charlie let go of Millie and stared cold-eyed at Cody. He had seen Cody around once or twice but never gave him a second thought until now.
“I don’t know who the fuck you are, but this ain’t none of your fucking business. Just go back to drinking your beer and mind your own business.”
“Charlie, you just made it my business. Where I come from, if a lady doesn’t want her affection abused, that means you leave her alone. Now, I’m asking real friendly like, leave the lady alone and walk away.”
Charlie looked at Millie.
“Hear that, Millie. He thinks you’re a lady. Ain’t that a kick in the ass.”
Charlie turned and looked at Cody.
“And what happens if I don’t leave her alone?” Charlie smiled his smile. He felt inside himself he could take Cody.
“Then I’d be forced to do something you wouldn’t like.”
“What’s that?” Charlie’s smile broadened. Yeah, he thought, this guy was going to be easy.
“Break both your hands or kill you.”
Except for the music blaring out of a tall box in a corner, the entire bar became silent. For ten long seconds, Cody and Charlie’s eyes were riveted to one another. Cody never stood up from his bar stool until Charlie backed away from Millie; then he stood.
“Mister, I don’t know who the fuck you are, or who you think you are, but you ain’t gonna be around here much longer.”
Charlie lunged at Cody like a huge bear, swinging away with powerful lefts and rights. Charlie was as tall as Cody but outweighed him by a good seventy pounds.
Cody ducked under the savage swings, putting his shoulder into Charlie’s stomach and flinging him over, high into the air where Charlie landed with a resounding crash to the floor.
The bartender yelled at both of them to stop but neither man listened. She went over to Millie and said, “You know something? I think Charlie’s about to get his ass kicked.”
“About time,” said Millie. She took another sip of her Jack Daniels and coke and gave her a wry smile.
Dazed from the fall, Charlie reached down into his boot and whipped out his hunting knife. As he turned on his side to vault into a standing position, Cody saw the knife and kicked out with his leg, sending the knife skittering across the floor. Cody kicked out a second time, hitting Charlie squarely on the jaw, sending him flat on his back, both arms sprawled away from his body.
Cody walked over to Charlie’s hands, looked down and said, “A promise is a promise, Charlie.”
Raising his right boot; he slammed it down hard on Charlie’s right hand bringing a loud scream from his mouth. Holding his broken hand with his left, that’s when Cody kicked his unbroken hand away and then slammed down even harder than before. Pain like Charlie never felt before coursed through his hands, his entire body feeling the rupture of bone and muscle tissue as his body tremored from the pain.
Cody walked over to Millie.
“I don’t think he’ll be messing with you for a long time, ma’am.”
Millie looked into Cody’s eyes.
“What’s your name?”
“Well, thank you for getting him off me, Cody, but I’d watch my back if I were you. Charlie has a few friends.”
“Don’t bother me none. Where I come from, I’ve seen people try and watched all of them die. Him and his friends won’t be much different.”
Millie looked closer at Cody.
“Come to think of it, you do look familiar. I’ve seen your face somewhere else. I just know I have.”
Cody thought back to that box Jackson called a television that showed his picture, well not exactly him but of Mike Wesson.
“I’ve heard everyone has a twin somewhere.”
“Maybe so, but I remember seeing your face before. I just can’t remember where.”
Cody reached for his glass of beer, drank what remained in two rushing gulps and set the glass back on top of the scratched bar top. For a brief second, he looked at the bartender and smiled.
“Don’t worry none. I won’t be making anymore trouble for you tonight. I’m going back to my room where is safe—and quieter.”
Cody turned to leave when Millie grabbed at his arm.
“Want some company tonight, Cody.”
He looked at Millie and saw the tired look was gone from her eyes. She looked ten years younger than her forty-some years and he suddenly felt the need of a woman just then.
He realized it had been too long since he had had a woman and tonight he knew he didn’t want to be alone.
She looked at Cody and gave him a wink. “Don’t worry. No charge.”
He grabbed her outstretched hand and they walked out of the bar and went to his room. The rest of the people watched them leave. No one could believe what they had just seen, even though they had seen it happen with their own eyes.
Except for the jukebox playing and the still-wracking sobs coming from between Charlie’s lips, the bar was dead quiet.
… and the night moved on.
In Cody’s room could be heard the thrashing sounds of two bodies. The squeals of a woman delighted in her choice of male company for the night, and the heated sweat of a man who had gone far too long without pleasure. For Cody and Millie, a dull night turned into a well-deserved need beyond either of their expectations.
Across town at City Medical; Charlie was getting his hands put into plaster splints. Between all of the pain he was feeling, as well as being ridiculed at the bar, Charlie was consumed by anger and hatred. If it was the last thing he would do, he would make that stranger pay for what he did to him. And payback, like they say—is a bitch.
Mike Wesson and his gang had just cleaned out the Adamsville National for $15,000. The town had about six-hundred people and they did have a sheriff—did. Not any longer. When they made their escape, the sheriff, along with half a dozen townspeople tried to stop them but when Mike put a bullet in the sheriff’s chest, the other folks scattered. Now, they were on their way to Brimstone Gulch, where they had one of five places they could hide out.
Two miles south of there was a smaller town where they would go to drink and raise hell since they had no law, but they did have women, and Mike made sure his men got what they wanted, or else he’d shoot a son of a bitch dead without so much as a blink of an eye. Fear has a way of getting the respect you demand.
Looking back on the last several months, Mike’s thoughts would sometimes go back to the future, a future he would never see again. There was one thing he did miss and that was good music. Here, the best he could hope for was maybe some Mexican or stray cowpoke playing a guitar or piano, and none of it had rhythm. If nothing else, Mike was a Blues man. In this era, it was all country, and he couldn’t stand that nasal twining.
Other than that, he had all he wanted here. Steal when he wanted, and no cops to hunt him down. No 911 calls from nosey or do-gooder neighbors, and since fingerprinting hasn’t been invented yet, he could leave his gloves off and touch anything he wanted without worrying that it would come back to haunt him. Yeah, Mike was content and in control with nothing to worry about.
Adamsville has a train depot. The train though, only stops long enough to drop passengers and mail off, pick up any new passengers, then takes off. Ten minutes is about all it takes.
On this day, a man stepped off a train and headed back to one of the freight cars to get his horse, Midnight. Once Midnight was led down the ramp, he reached up inside the car and pulled out the blanket and saddle.
Throwing the blanket over Midnight’s back, he then swung the seventy-pound leather saddle over his back next. Grabbing the cinches underneath, he pulled them taut, and then belted them in.
Walking, holding the reins loosely. Midnight by his side, the first place he went to was the sheriff’s office. Tethering Midnight to a hitching rail, he stepped inside the office and saw a man sitting behind a small desk, sleeping.
“Excuse me, sheriff? Sherriff!”
The man in the chair stumbled awake, more frightened by the sound of the words.
“Yeah, mister. What’cha want?”
He didn’t see a tin star on the man. “You the sheriff?”
“Sorta. Ben Hanson got hisself killed a few days ago during a bank robbery. I was put in his place. Why?”
“I’m looking for this man.” He handed him a piece of folded paper.
Opening it, the acting sheriff said, “I know this man. He’s the one who kilt the sheriff. Cody Martin.”
“Then Martin was here a few days ago?”
“Let’s see; today’s Thursday and the sheriff got hisself kilt Friday if I recollect.” He started counting on his fingers when he said, “So, that would make it seven days ago he was here.”
“Any idea which direction he was headed?”
“Beats me, mister. There’s a lot of open territory out here. Could be anywhere.”
He thought, seven days. This is the closest he’s been to Cody Martin yet.
“But if it helps at all he went north but after that, it’s anyone’s guess where he went from there.”
“Thanks. Thanks for your help.” He started to turn to go to Midnight.
“Hey stranger, what’s yer interest in this Martin fella?’
Monte turned and with steely ice-blue eyes he said, “He killed my boss and several good men and when I find him, I’m going to kill him.”
That very night, Mike was in a rundown, cheap and smelled too much like stale perfume and sweat boarding room with a Spanish girl maybe twenty. She did all she could to please him and he really liked what she did for him. Of course when she opened her mouth and talked, he didn’t understand one word she said.
Tonight, it was about doing what any real man would do. Fuck a woman until she couldn’t walk straight, then get some sleep. After all, tomorrow, he and the boys will ride over to Grand Island and check out their bank. It was time to get back to work.
Thanks to the help of Jackson, Monte at least had proper identification though it was illegal. Looking it over again, he still marveled over the idea they could make him look so small in the picture. But the ID gives him a new name and a new birthdate. Monte was born in 1859, just five months shy of the start of the Civil War. Now it says he was born in 1959, just a few weeks shy of being in this godforsaken future he can’t stand.
Jackson told him that sooner or later he would have to get a job when his money got low or start robbing people. And that was where Monte started thinking.
I could hold up people, but I can’t get away so easy here as I could in my own time. This here place has all sorts of do-dads I ain’t never heard about before. Tail-e-phones, cars, tell-e-vision, ray-dios, walky-talky’s, and something Jackson called a CB. Then there’s that thing they call a come-puter, whatever the hell that is. It’s just too easy to be called on one of those things, my ass would be back in prison in no time. But a job? Never worked a day in muh life, I can recollect. But guess now is good as time as any.
One thing did help Monte before he broke out of prison; there was an old man called Jenkins who helped him learn how to read. It was probably the only good thing that came from being there. Otherwise it was either busting big rocks to make smaller rocks or digging ditches to fill up the next day and start over, two meals a day, and a cell with a bed just as hard as the rocks he broke.
Reading the newspaper he saw where some place called Manpower was looking for people to work and they paid daily. He had heard about them from somewhere, he couldn’t remember where. They hire anybody and most of the work is hard labor, something Monte knew all too well about.
Walking around town, mostly at night, he knew where this place was and decided to go there first thing in the morning.
Getting up out of a chair in the hotel lobby, he made his way for the stairs when a gruff voice said, “Hey! Ain’t you the one that roughed up my friend?”
The hair on the back of Monte’s neck stood up. Turning slowly, he knew this was going to be trouble. He still had his gun tucked inside his pants, shirt hanging out to hide it, but he knew better than to reach for it and shoot this son of a bitch.
“Don’t right know who your friend is, friend.”
“I ain’t your friend, mother-fucker. Me and my friend here are gonna beat the shit out of you.”
“Wouldn’t be a good idea. Somebody could get hurt and I can tell you, it won’t be me.”
Monte stood his ground, his eyes turning to steel, vacant of any emotion.
The two men, about five feet from each other started walking toward him.
The desk clerk shouted out, “I don’t want any trouble here. I’ll call the police if you don’t get out right now.”
One of the two men turned and looked at the clerk, brandishing a knife and said, “If you do, it’ll be the last thing you ever do, old man. Just keep your fucking mouth shut.”
It was then, Monte took advantage of the conversation and quickly rushed the man with the knife and hit him flush in the face, once in the stomach and kneed him in the head as the man went to the floor. Turning abruptly, he faced the other man who now had a look of disbelief and fear written across his face.
Throwing his hands in the air, he exclaimed, “Hey, mister, you’ll get no trouble from me. If you can take Badger down that quick, I don’t want no part of you!”
Monte stood a little taller, nodded his head and said, “Then you better pick up your friend and get outta my sight before I do something I know I won’t feel bad about.”
In less than a minute, both he and Badger were out of the lobby.
Monte walked over to the clerk.
“You all right, Jimmy?”
“I’m-I’m fine. I’ve been here doing my job thirty-six years and that’s the first time my life’s been threatened. Thank you.”
“Think nothing of it. Just good to know yer okay.”
Going back to the steps to get back to his room (he still didn’t trust that l-e-vator none), he surprised himself before he laid day to get some shut-eye, that he actually had feelings for someone.
Mike Wesson and his gang walked into Braintree’s National Bank brandishing guns.
“Make this easy for you to understand. Fill up these bags quick and no one gets hurt. And don’t be a hero.” Mike three four large canvas bags to a teller. “Well, stupid, don’t look at me like I’m an alien, fill up the bags!”
Holding his gun waist high, he surveyed the lobby and could see an older couple, one man and an attractive woman maybe in her thirties. Looking closer, he saw a necklace around her throat. Walking over to her, he reached out with his left hand and ripped it away from her neck.
“Give that back! Please!”
“Why should I?”
“It belonged to my mother before she passed on. It’s all I have left to remember her by.”
“Pity. Looks expensive though, no, nope, not giving it back but let me give you a new memory.”
Mike reached behind her neck and kissed her hard and deep. He could feel her struggling against him but that only made him keep going until he heard a voice call out his name, well, Cody’s name.
“Cody, Cody! Bags are full. We need to ride out of here,” yelled out Brent, as he, Jasper and Warner left the bank.
Releasing the woman he smiled at her and said, “Compliments of Cody Martin,” then he turned on his heels and followed the rest of the men out of the bank and with the four, they mounted their horses and rode out of town.
As they were halfway down the main part of the street, several bullets were fired from behind them, with one of them hitting Warner, who fell off his horse and lay in the upturned dirt, dead. The only thing Mike could think was that means a three-way, not four-way split.
One of the things Mike thought about as they rode to their latest hideout is here, everyone practically carried guns whether they were the law or not. One had to be careful when looting and this hadn’t been the first time they’ve been shot at.
After they reached their hideout and split the money, Mike said to Jasper and Brent, “We need to think this out better. This makes the fifth time in the last couple months we’ve been shot at. Next time we hit a bank, we do it before it opens.”
“Just how do you suppose we get into a bank that ain’t open?” asked Jasper.
“The first person who unlocks the door is where we come in. We get the money, lock him in the safe and get out. That gives us plenty of time before anyone even knows we’ve been there and gone.”
The next ten bank robberies went off without a problem.
Monte continued searching for Cody Martin. He had that glint in his eyes. That look that held no emotion and void of any compassion. He stayed on the trail after Cody but somehow always managed to fall short by just a few days, and everywhere he went, he would hear the same story.
Yes, I think it was him, but can’t swear to it. He was here and gone so quick.
He ran across one woman, where one of Cody’s men was shot and killed riding away from another robbery, and after he gave a description, she said, I remember him too well. The brute assaulted me inside the bank and took advantage of me and stole something of personal value to me.
That was three days ago. Taking into account everything he had heard since then, about the robberies happening before the banks opened for business, they were wiped clean. Monte started to do some thinking and came up with a plan.
Though it was a good four hour ride east of Lincoln, he rode over to Omaha. He would talk with the sheriff there and the bank president. It was a long shot but one worth trying.
Cody was still, after nearly three months, having a difficult time understanding this strange future he was in. Cars. Clothes. Language. People in general. It was still a hard thing to swallow seeing a black man with a white woman, but no one complained or was upset. Banks, all over the place and he dare not attempt to rob any one of them. He knew it would be his downfall as they would arrest him quicker than he could spit tobacco.
The place he worked out of: Omaha Temps, provided him with enough work to add hard-earned cash to his pocket. He was no stranger when it came to hard work, not after busting rocks six days a week or digging up holes just to fill them back in again. It was the only trade prison offered.
But Cody stayed to himself and rarely, if ever, spoke to someone he worked alongside with. Better to keep my mouth shut, that way no one gets the idea of calling the sheriff.
It was another Friday, and payday, of course when you do day labor, every day is pay day.
He took his cash, stuffed it in his pocket and headed back to the hotel. The day was beginning to overcast from dark clouds, and Cody knew if he didn’t quicken his pace, he could be caught in a downpour.
Just as he turned the corner of Farnum and Dodge, he stutter-stepped briefly, but it was enough to save his life.
A gun roared from the other side of the street from an alleyway and ricocheted off a brick wall just mere inches from where his head would have been.
Falling to the ground, seeing the small puff of smoke making its disappearance, Cody drew his own gun and fired back. He waited. Nothing came back at him. Maybe, whoever it was, took off after they realized they missed. Maybe his one shot, got the summabitch that tried to kill him. Another five minutes passed before he carefully went across the street and looked inside the alley. There wasn’t anyone there to be found. Just a few half-full garbage cans and a couple rats scurrying around. Uncocking the hammer, Cody put his gun behind his back, snugly inside his jeans.
Cody had an idea who did this or who was behind this and he would hunt the man down and beat him silly, that, or just put a bullet in him and be done with it. But right now, he couldn’t stand there thinking about it as he could hear sirens approaching and he knew he had to leave. There would always be another time and place.
Walking with more authority, Cody picked up speed as the rain began to fall, when suddenly—lightning came crashing down from the sky, and one of them found Cody.
He was gone.
Chapters Nine & Ten - Finis
“Sheriff, you said there hasn’t been a bank robbery here in over a year, and my hunch is that Cody and his gang is headed this way. It would be a big payday if they hit the First Central or the Bank of Omaha.”
Sheriff Benson looked at Monte, and said, “That it would be, but I have four good deputies that can shoot straight enough to stop any man. What makes you think we can’t?”
“Cody is a planner. A thinker. If he can find just one tiny crack, he’ll squeeze through it and be gone before you know it. And he’s mean. A killer. He wouldn’t think twice about shooting the first person that looked at him wrong.
“My idea is simple enough. Have two of your men in the safe during the day. I’ll be behind the teller’s station at the Bank of Omaha, hidden well enough not to be seen.
When they come in, we have them surrounded, and if they decide to shoot their way out, the other two deputies, along with yourself, will have the exits covered and open up on them. You just need to deputize four other men to cover the other bank.”
“That’s risky, son, but it could work. But if there are a lot of other people in the bank, I don’t want any gunplay. Last thing I need is innocent people getting hurt or killed.”
“I understand. Hopefully, we can get some of the customers in and out fast so when Cody and his gang hit, it would just be the teller and maybe the banking manager at best. But, for my part, I’ll do all I can to keep’em safe.”
“So when do we start doing this?”
“Since it’s after five now, I’d say first thing in the morning.”
“Okay, I’ll let my men know.”
Monte walked out of the Sheriff’s office into a day where the sun was slowing making its way toward darkness.
I’m waiting for you, Cody, he thought. You’re a dead man.
Mike Wesson waited almost two hours before Slim came back from Omaha to give him a layout of the banks.
“Cody, looks simple enough and they have two banks, and both are across the street from each other. The town has four deputies and a sheriff who looks to be in his sixties. I don’t see a problem with any of’em. Both banks got a front and back door and the safes are no more different than the ones we robbed before.”
“Then we do what we did in Hampstead a month ago. Three go into one bank, the rest into the other. Get in, get out quick, no more than three minutes, and shoot any man or woman that tries to stop us. We meet up at the river on the other side of Council Bluffs, and then we head south down into Kansas and lay low for a month.
“We do this tomorrow.”
Mike stood up and away from the campfire, sipping the last of his coffee before taking a walk around the arroyo that hid him and his men well.
Who would have ever known that he wasn’t this infamous Cody. But he had plans that even his men didn’t know about. When they met at the river, he was going to kill all of them and take the money for himself. Why split it any longer? He had been doing a great deal of thinking and had decided to settle down in Kansas, buy a ranch and live out his days as an honest rancher.
It had come to him that there were too many risks involved to continue this way. Yes, become an upstanding citizen, find himself a good woman and just enjoy the rest of his life.
Looking up at the sky which had suddenly become overcast, he decided to get back to where the others were and get inside one of the smaller alcove of caves and wait out the rain.
As he turned, a bolt of lightning came, hitting him directly, and he was gone.
Chapter Ten - It All Comes Together
“Hey, Cody? Are you okay? Man, I thought that lightning got ya good. It was do dang loud, it spooked the horses and the other men are trying to round them up.”
Cody shook his head, trying to clear the cobwebs. His eyes were again focusing on where he was. Looking at Jasper, and looking around him, he suddenly understood, he was back in his own time.
“Mighty glad to see you again, Jasper. Thought I never would again.”
Not catching his real meaning, Jasper said, “I can imagine after getting dang near fried. I’m as surprised as you are that yer still alive.”
For the first time in a long time, a real smile crept over Cody’s face. “You and me both, Jasper. So what have you and the boys been up to?”
Slim cocked his head.
“Guess the lightning did sumptin’ to yer memory. We’re gonna hit the banks in Omaha tomorrow.”
Not wanting to appear that he wasn’t aware, he said, “Oh, yeah. I remember now.” He couldn’t tell Jasper, couldn’t tell anyone what really happened to him. It would make him sound crazy as a loon. “Both banks, eh? That’ll give us a good haul.”
“Yep. I had heard both banks have close to two-hundred thousand in cash.”
“That’s a payday we all can live with, Jasper, but, my friend, you have no idea how good it is to be back.”
Still not catching on, Jasper replied, “Cody, since that day we rode up on you after a posse was after you, I was never in all my life so happy to see ya as I was that day. And once we killed’em all, we’ve been making a killing of our own.”
Getting to his feet, Cody followed Jasper back to camp, and as he arrived, he could see the rest of the boys, Brent, and two others he didn’t recognize, coming back with all the horses in tow.
For him, it felt good, natural, to be back where he belonged. None of them cars, fancy-dressed harlots, or the loud noises. How could people stand all of that he would never understand.
Mike Wesson woke up in a hotel room. He was groggy. He had no idea where he was. But the room didn’t look like any of the rooms he had been in for a long time. Then he heard the noises.
People. Traffic. Screaming and yelling. Someone was arguing on the other side of the wall the backboard of the bed was touching.
Getting off the bed, he rushed to the window and looked out.
“Damn! I’m back! This is good, but not so good.”
Reaching for his handgun, he looked down and didn’t see one. He was dressed in the same clothes he was when the accident happened.
“My head hurts. My whole body hurts. Something happened again. Wait … last thing I remember was a storm approaching and then ….”
Looking out the window again, Mike looked up at the sky. A blue sky.
“It had to have been a lightning bolt that hit me. Like last time. The cops! I’m betting they are still looking for me.”
Reaching into his pockets, there was one thing that came back with him. Two-hundred dollars over a hundred years old.
“Hell, this isn’t going to get me anywhere. This cash is useless as tits on a bull. I need to get some quick cash. But how? No money, no gun, no nothing!”
There was a knock on his door.
“Cody, are you in there? This is Jimmy, the desk clerk. I need the rent money, or I’m afraid you’ll have to get out.”
He called me Cody. So the guy everyone thought I was, was here in my time. If that doesn’t beat all. We changed time periods so now we are back where it all started.
He went to the door and opened it and Jimmy took a step back.
“Where is Cody and how did you get into his room without me seeing you come in through the lobby?”
Without a thought, without a plan, Mike reached out and pulled Jimmy into the room and beat him senseless until he was out cold. Ransacking his pockets, he found eighty-five dollars and some change.
“Since he’s the desk clerk, there has to be some money behind the desk in the lobby.”
Leaving Jimmy who was sprawled out across the floor, Mike raced downstairs to the clerk’s area, and started opening drawers until he came across a lock-box. Finding a screwdriver in another drawer, he pried the top up and found another four-hundred plus in cash.
“Not much, but it’s enough to get me on a bus and out of the city.”
He started to make his way over to the Greyhound depot, making sure he avoided any police cars that would drive by.
Cody and his gang rode slowly along the dusty streets of Omaha. Looking around, it was hard for him to believe that everything his eyes took in would look so different one day.
“Which one you wanna take, Cody?”
“I’ll take the Bank of Omaha.” Cody felt it would be fitting after what he had experienced.
Walking quickly from Leavenworth over to Dodge, Mike stayed as close to the shadows as he could to avoid being spotted. He was nervous, sweating, and for the first time in a long time, he really didn’t have a plan on what to do other than getting on the first bus he could out of Omaha.
Just as he cross 10th and Dodge, that was when he heard a voice.
“You in a hurry, Cody.”
That stopped mike in his tracks. Turning around he was looking at someone he didn’t know.
“What’s the matter, Cody? You got nothing to say? You got awful damn lucky before but this time your luck has run out, sucker. Now, I’m gonna make you pay for breaking my hands.”
“Look, pal, I have no idea what you are talking about. I don’t know you and I don’t want to know you. I have a bus to catch, so just leave me—”
He stopped talking when the stranger before him pulled a gun from behind his back and pointed it at his face.
“Cody, you ain’t catching no bus. The only thing you’ll be catching is a bullet to your brain.”
“Look, man! I keep telling you, I don’t know you!”
“Sure you don’t. Just like you don’t remember the night you broke both my hands. The name is Charlie. Charlie Raynes. There, now you know me.”
“Look man, I swear to—”
And just that quickly, two bullets landed into Mike sending him into a sleep he would never wake from.
Cody, Brent and one of the new men, Saul, entered the Bank of Omaha. The only people Cody could see was the teller and he guess, the bank president. This was gonna be easy.
Brent stood by the door. Saul walked up to the teller with Cody, All three men held their guns in their hands.
“I’m gonna make this really easy for you. Open the vault and give us the money or yer a dead man. Ya got two minutes.”
The teller, a young Nicholas McFadden, gulped nervously, and briefly looked down to where Monte lay, then headed toward the vault.
“And you, you behind the desk, go with him. If he has problems, you open it for him.”
In less than thirty seconds the vault was opened, and just as it was, gunfire could be heard from the other bank.
Jasper yelled out. “Cody! Looks like a trap. There must be half a dozen men shooting at the boys!”
Cody turned his head a split-second, when a bullet whizzed by his ear and hit Saul in the chest. Turning back, he saw two deputies emerge from the vault. Without stopping to think, he fired at both of them, dropping them where they stood.
It was then, Monte stood and fired first at Jasper, then pointed the double-barrel shotgun against the side of Cody’s head.
“It’s over, Martin. Drop your gun to the floor.
“Your days of robbing and killing people are over. You’ll hang for your crimes this time and for the murder of my boss and best friend, Dan Barrows.”
“Never heard of him, mister.”
“LIAR! Dan put you up in a room in his home, his wife fed you, helped nurse you back to health, and you repaid his kindness by ambushing him. I ought to kill you where you stand.”
“Like I said, I don’t know the man,” but I think who did, thought Cody. ”So what’s stopping you from pulling the trigger right now.”
“Martin, you don’t know how many times I planned to do just that. But a woman’s voice kept coming back in my head these last couple weeks. Mrs. Barrows. Her words remind me that I’m not like you, a heartless thieving bushwhacking son of a bitch.
“I’ll stick around long enough for the trial and then watch you hang.”
“I don’t suppose if I told you a story and said it was the truth and—”
“I don’t care what you have to say, now get moving to the jail.”
The sheriff and two deputies walked into the bank as they were about to leave.
“So this is that Cody Martin fella.” His eye turned to Monte. “We can take it from here, and I want to thank you for your help. His outlaw friends are all dead across the street and we didn’t lose a man.…” his eyes went to the center of the bank vault. “Damn!”
Looking at Cody he said, “Killing an officer of the law will definitely get you hanged, Martin. I promise you that.”
As with most Cowtown justice systems, the trial was swift, and the verdict was unanimous:. Guilty. Cody was sentenced to hang the following day.
His last night in jail, Cody thought about all that happened and the way it all ended. If things didn’t go the way they did, he would have been just fine. That damned lightning twisted his life around—twice! Guess one could say that the past can meet the future or maybe it’s the other way around. Strangers then, and strangers now, changed his life, only this time for good.
He laid down on his cot trying to get some sleep as outside his cell window could be heard a lot of hammers being used to build the scaffold he’ll be dangling from tomorrow.
At 10:00 on the morning of August 15, 1880, Cody Martin dangled from a rope. He never faltered, never begged, or cried as he walked up the steps to have the noose placed around his neck. He even declined a sack cloth be placed over his head. He stood their defiant until the floor opened under his feet and then it was over.
The crowd that stood around to watch, slowly dispersed and went on about their daily business.
“Now that this is all over, Monte, I could sure use a good man like you as my deputy, and I also think you’d be a fine replacement for me when I retire come this fall.”
Monte somewhat smiled saying, “Thanks for the offer, Sheriff Benson, but I think I’ll just move along.”
“Going back to the ranch, then?”
“Nope. There ain’t nothing for me back there any longer. I’m headed east. I made a friend a promise I would visit her one day.”
“Well, you take care of yourself and if you ever change yer mind, the job’s yours.”
Monte nodded his head, walked over to Midnight, grabbed the reins, and then mounted.
“Midnight, we have ourselves a long journey ahead of us, my friend.”
Turning eastward, Monte thought it was about time he started thinking about new ideas and a new life.
Maybe Mrs. Barrows could help him along with both.