Robert R. McCammon's "Black Boots"

Black Boots
by Robert R. McCammon
Cover art

Under the hard green sky, Davy Slaughter ran from Black Boots.

He glanced back over his shoulder, his face shadowed by the brim of his sweat-stained hat. Gritty sand and stones shifted underfoot, and his horse nickered with thirst. He had been leading the roan for the better part of an hour across the no-man's land between Jalupa and Zionville. The sun, white as a pearl in the emerald air, was burning the moisture out of both man and beast. Davy thought he could hear his skin frying. He reached for his canteen slung around his shoulder, uncapped it and took a drink. Then he poured a little in his hand and gave it to the horse. The roan's tongue scraped his palm. Davy swigged once more from the precious canteen, and something writhing oozed into his mouth.

Davy gagged and spat. White worms trailed from his lips and fell to the sand. He watched with almost a bland curiosity as they squirmed around his feet. One was caught between his cheek and gum, like a little plug of tobacco. He picked it out and let it fall. The worms were bleeding into the sand. They were becoming less solid and more liquid with each passing second. And then they were gone, just a wet blotch where they'd been. That was a new one, Davy thought. His tongue roamed his mouth, but found no more invaders. He shook the canteen, and a measly amount of remaining water sloshed faintly inside it. He capped the canteen, wiped his mouth with the back of his sweating hand, and looked toward the shimmering horizon in the direction of Jalupa.

Scraggly cacti, as purple as bullet holes on the body of a dead man, stood on the desert's floor. Furnace heat undulated before him like banners of misery. But of Black Boots there was no sign. That didn't matter, Davy knew. Black Boots was back there, somewhere. Black Boots was always back there, coming after him. Getting closer and closer, as the white sun beat down and the desert was hot enough to cook lizards in their skins. Black Boots was always back there.

Davy should know. He'd killed Black Boots yesterday afternoon, at just after four o'clock, in a barroom in Cozamezas. Two bullets had done the job: one to the chest, one to the skull. Black Boots had gone down, spewing blood onto the dirty boards.

But Black Boots—the crafty bastard—had gotten off a single shot. Davy looked at the back of his gunhand, where the slug had left a burned streak. His fingers were still stiff from the shock. Crafty bastard, Davy thought. Softening me up for the next time. Used to be I could cut him down before he drew his pistol. Used to be I could send him to Hell in an eyeblink. But Hell couldn't hold Black Boots. He was back there, crossing the no-man's land, getting closer all the time.

Davy worked his fingers, his eyes scanning the horizon. No sign of Black Boots. There never was, until it happened. He turned away from Jalupa and, holding the horse's reins, continued walking toward Zionville. His stride was a little faster than before. He glanced at his gunbelt fastened around the roan's saddlehorn. His Colt pistol had a handle of yellow ivory, and in that ivory were twenty-two notches. He'd stopped notching it the fifth time he'd killed Black Boots.

The horse made a nervous, rumbling noise. Davy saw a vulture circling overhead. It swooped down low, smelling him. And then it climbed again into the green sky, and as it flapped its wings it began to fall to pieces, drifting apart like dark whorls of smoke. Davy looked away from it, and went on.

His real name was not Slaughter. It was Gartwood. He was twenty-four years old, and he had been born with the eyes of a rattlesnake. Speed was his mistress, and gunsmoke his god. When he'd run with the Bryce Gang three years ago, they'd called him "Slaughter" after the bank job in Abilene. That had a better ring than Gartwood. Gartwood was the name of a grocer, or a shoe salesman. Slaughter was his name now, and he was proud of it. He'd shot down four people in a two-minute gun battle in Abilene. So Slaughter it was.

A sidewinder moved across his path, leaving a trail of fire that dwindled to cinders as he passed. He stared straight ahead, toward unseen Zionville. He knew this country, with the true knowledge of a predator. Another glance over his shoulder; Black Boots was still not in sight. Davy felt tight inside, full of rusted springs. His bones were melting under this terrible heat. He touched his Colt to make sure it was still real. It was, mercifully. In this day and age, a friend was hard to find.

How Black Boots had gotten onto his trail, he didn't know. The Wanted Dead Or Alive posters were up all over Texas and Oklahoma. Maybe that was it. Black Boots had seen the posters, and he wanted the fifty dollar bounty. A man who could get killed so many times and come back again with a cold hand must need money mighty bad, Davy figured. Hell, if I had fifty dollars I'd give it him, just to let me be. But Black Boots wanted to earn his money, that much was crystal clear.

Davy started to look back again, but he checked himself. I don't need to, he told himself. "I ain't scared of him," he said aloud. The roan's ears twitched. "I've killed him eight damn times. I can kill him again. I ain't scared of him, no sir."

A half-dozen more steps, and his head swiveled back over his shoulder.

Davy Slaughter stopped in his tracks.

There was a figure on the horizon. A man on horseback? Maybe. It was hard to tell, because the heatwaves were tricky. They made you see things that weren't there. Davy reached for his Colt, twisted his stiff fingers around the notched handle, and lifted the gun from the supple leather. Davy's heart was beating harder, and his throat was dry. His mouth tasted of white worms, and there was a hurting in his skull. He eased the Colt's hammer back, then he stood and watched the faraway figure coming as drops of sweat trickled through his beard.

The figure had stopped too. Whoever it was, they were a long ways off. Davy squinted in the green glare. The figure was just sitting there, watching him. Davy felt one of the rusted springs inside him break, and his mouth opened. "You after me?" he shouted. The man jumped, startled. "You after me, you sonofabitch?" He took aim, his gunhand trembling. Green fire glinted off the barrel. Steady! he told himself. Damn it, steady!. He let go of the horse's reins, and grasped his wrist with his other hand.

Behind a haze of rising heat, the figure neither retreated nor advanced.

"How many times do I have to kill you?" Davy shouted. "You want another bullet in your damned head?" The calmness of the figure enraged him. If there was anything he couldn't stand, it was when somebody had no fear of him. "All right!" he said. "All right, then!" He squeezed the trigger, a motion he'd performed so many times that it was as instinctive as breathing and just as sweet. The solid, balanced weapon gave a little kick, but it was a tame beast. The noise of the shot made his eardrums crack. "All right, have another one!" he cried out, his voice getting ragged. A second, almost loving squeeze of the trigger, and another bullet left the Colt's barrel.

He was about to fire off a third shot when it came to him, quite clearly. He was shooting at a cactus.

Davy blinked into the distance. He laughed, a croaking sound. It wasn't Black Boots after all, was it? Hell, no! He rubbed his eyes with grimy fingers and looked again. The cactus was still there, and Black Boots was nowhere in sight. "Wasn't him," Davy said to the roan. "Oh, he's scared of me, is what he is. Keepin' his distance. He knows I'll kill him again, stiff hand or not. Hell, I'll drill him right straight through the eye next time." He returned the hot Colt to the gunbelt and grasped the horses's reins again. He began walking, leading the roan across the tortured land to Zionville. Davy looked back a few times, but Black Boots wasn't there. Not yet, anyway. It occurred to Davy that this was the type of day his father would've liked. The elder Gartwood, in his last years, used to like to strip naked and lie out in the sun, reading his Bible. The elder Gartwood burned raw, was covered with blisters and boils, and he read the Good Book aloud as the sun ate him alive. Not Davy nor his mother nor his sister could get the elder Gartwood to find some shade. He wants to die, Davy remembered his Ma saying. And something else, too, she used to proclaim in her righteous voice: Those whom the Lord would destroy, He first makes insane.

Davy's gunhand was aching. He worked the fingers. The knuckles felt bruised. He gazed at the burned streak of the bullet's kiss, and he recalled that the first time he'd killed Black Boots the sonofabitch hadn't even been fast enough to clear leather. The second time, Black Boots had died with his gun just barely out of the holster. In their third encounter, Black Boots had fired into the ground as he'd stumbled backward with a Colt slug in his throat. Davy licked along the bullet's track, tasting the salt of his sweat.

No doubt about it, Davy thought. No doubt at all. Black Boots was getting faster.

It stood to reason. A man couldn't die eight times without learning something.

Davy was thirsty again. He uncapped the canteen, opened his mouth, and drank.

Warm liquid trickled over his tongue. It tasted coppery. Water's gone bad, he thought. He spat it out in his palm, and watched as the crimson blood oozed through his fingers and dripped to the sand.

Davy walked on, leading the roan, as the white sun burned down from an emerald sky and blood dribbled over his chin. Black Boots was on his mind.

Zionville wasn't much. There was a stable, a general goods store, a saloon, a church and graveyard and a few ramshackle houses, all bleached white as old bones. A red dog with two heads ran circles around Davy and the roan, both mouths yapping, but a kick to its ribs taught it some respect. In front of the goods store, a gawky kid with a bowl-haircut was sweeping off the boards, and he stopped his work to watch Davy pass. Two elderly women stood in a slice of shade, speaking in whispers. Davy noticed a little stucco structure with SHERIFF'S OFFICE painted on the door, but the windows were boarded up and the way the sand had drifted against the bottom of that door told him Zionville's sheriff was long gone. That suited him just fine. He tied the roan to the hitch in front of the saloon, which had no name, and then he took his gunbelt off the saddlehorn and buckled it on. As he laced the holster down against his thigh, he felt himself being watched. He glanced around, his eyes narrowed in the glare, and saw a thin man wearing dungarees and a sodbuster's shapeless hat sitting on a bench in front of a small wooden building. A weatherbeaten sign identified the place as a Wells Fargo bank. Rathole wasn't worth robbing, Davy decided. Probably didn't have anything in there but a few sacks of change. Still, it might be nice to hear his pockets jingle when he left town.

He saw the kid in front of the goods store staring at him, leaning on his broom. The door opened with the clang of a cowbell, and a brown-haired woman in an apron peered out. She followed the kid's line of sight and saw Davy. "Joseph!" she said. "Come inside!"

"In a minute, Ma," the kid answered.

"Joseph, I said now!" The woman caught his sleeve and tugged at him, and the kid was reeled inside like a hooked fish. The door was firmly shut.

"Yeah, Joseph," Davy said under his breath. "You mind your momma." He gazed along the length of the street, saw a few more faces watching him through windows. Nobody was going to give him any trouble here. He walked into the saloon, his boots clumping on the boards. One drink of whiskey and a mulling over of whether to take the bank or not, and then he was going to be on his way.

Stale heat hung in the saloon. Sawdust had been scattered on the floor, and the light was gray through dirty windows. The bartender was a fleshy man with slicked-back black hair and a bovine face. He was swatting flies with a rolled-up newspaper when he looked into the cracked mirror behind the bar and saw Davy approaching. "Afternoon," he said to the mirror image.

Davy nodded. He leaned against the bar and propped one foot up on the bar rail. "Somethin' wet," he said, and the bartender pulled the cork from a brown bottle and poured him a shot. Davy had already seen the two middle-aged men who were playing cards at the back of the saloon. They'd paused only briefly, to note his laced-down holster, before they returned to their game. Over by a battered old piano, an elderly man slept in his chair as a fly buzzed his head. Davy accepted the shotglass and sipped fire.

"Hot day," the bartender said.

"Sure is." Davy scanned the shelves behind the bar. "Got any cold beer?"

"Got beer. No ice, though."

Davy shrugged and sipped at the whiskey again. There was more water in it than liquor, but that was all right with him. He'd killed a man for watering his whiskey once, when he was younger. Today it didn't matter so much. "Quiet town you got here."

"Oh, yeah. Zionville's real quiet." The bartender swatted another fly. "Where you goin?"

"Me? From here to there, I reckon." Davy watched the man's thick hands as they scraped the smashed fly off the bartop. "I just stopped to rest for a little while."

"You picked the right place. What's your name?"

Davy looked into the bartender's face. It was a mess of green flies, only the small dark eyes showing. Flies were crawling merrily in and out of the man's nostrils and they covered his lips. "Ain't that kinda uncomfortable?" Davy asked.

"Huh? What's uncomfortable?" The bartender's face was clear again, not a single fly on it.

"Nothin'," Davy said. He stared at the bullet crease on the back of his hand. "My name's Davy. What's yours?"

"Carl Haines. This is my place." The man said it proudly, as if talking about his child.

"I pity you," Davy told him, and Carl looked stung for a few seconds, but then he laughed. It was a nervous laugh. Davy heard that kind of laugh before, and it pleased him. "You got a sheriff in this town?"

Carl's laugh stopped. He blinked. "Why?"

"Just curious. I saw the sheriff's office, but I didn't see no sheriff." He took another taste of the watered-down whiskey. "I'd like to know. Do you have a sheriff?"

"No," Carl said warily. "I mean ... there's one on the way. He'll be here directly. Comin' from El Paso."

"Well, that's a far piece from here, ain't it?" Davy turned the shotglass between his fingers. "An awful far piece."

"Ain't so far," Carl said, but his voice was weak. He cleared his throat, glanced at the card players and then back to Davy. "Uh ... you wouldn't want to cause any trouble now, would you?"

"Do I look like the kind of fella who'd want to cause--" Davy stopped speaking. He noticed that Carl Haines had only one eye. There was a black, empty socket in the bartender's face. And from that socket began to slide the snout of a rattlesnake, forked tongue flicking out to taste the air.

"We're peaceful folks here," Carl said, as the rattler slowly emerged from his eyehole. "We don't quarrel with nobody. Honest to God."

Davy just stared, fascinated. The rattler's wedge-shaped head was all the way out now, and its eyes were bright amber. Davy's skull hurt. It felt about to burst open, and the thought of what might spew out terrified him. He had an image of a withered skeleton lying in the burning sun, reading aloud from the Book of Job.

"Nothin' around here worth takin'," Carl went on. "Zionville's about dried up."

The bartender had two eyes again. The rattlesnake was gone, Davy set the shotglass down and pushed it aside with trembling fingers. Something wanted to scream inside him; he almost released it, but then he smashed it down and it shrank to its dark place.

"What's wrong?" Carl asked. "How come you're lookin' at me like that?"

"My last name," Davy said, his voice husky, "is Slaughter. Do you know that name?"

Carl shook his head.

"Anybody been around here, askin' for me?"

Again, a shake of the head.

"You ever see a man," Davy said, "who wears black boots?"

"I don't know. Hell, a lot of drifters pass through. I can't remem--"

"You'd remember him, if you saw him." Davy leaned forward slightly, staring into the bartender's eyes. He was looking for the rattlesnake again. It was hiding inside Carl's head. Hiding there, coiled up and waiting. "This man who wears black boots is tall and skinny. He looks like he ain't had a good meal in a long time. He looks hungry, His face is dusty-white, but you can't set eyes on him very long because you feel cold inside, like your bones are freezin' up. Sometimes he'd dressed like a dandy. Sometimes he's ragged. Have you ever seen a man like that?"

"No." The word was soft and strained. "Never."

"I have." Davy's fingers played on the handle of his Colt, where the notches were. "I've killed him eight times. The same man. Ol' Black Boots. See, he's stalking me. He figures he can catch me when I'm not ready for him. But I was born ready, Carl. You believe that?"

Carl made a choking sound, and a bead of sweat ran along his hooked nose.

"He's got nerve, I'll say that for him," Davy continued. "Not many men would face me down eight damned times, would they? No sir." He smiled faintly, watching a nerve tick at the corner of Carl's mouth. "Oh, he won't give up. Nope. But I won't give up neither." He took his hand off his gun, and worked his fingers. "He's gettin' faster, Carl. Everytime I kill him, he gets a little faster." Davy heard the soft crackling of flames. He looked toward the piano, and saw the old sleeping man ablaze with blue fire. In the old man's lap was an open Bible, and black pages were whirling out of it like bats at twilight.

"I swear," Carl managed to say, "I ... ain't seen nobody like that."

There was the scrape of a boot on timbers. Davy saw Carl glance quickly toward the saloon's swinging doors. Davy felt the presence behind him, and fear like a streak of lightning shot through his bones. As he twisted toward the door, he had his hand on the Colt and had drawn and cocked it before the movement was complete. He brought the gun up to fire at chest-level, his finger tightening on the trigger.

"No!" Carl shouted. "Don't!"

Davy hesitated, ready to blast Black Boots to Hell again. But it wasn't Black Boots. It was the lanky kid who'd been sweeping in front of the goods store, his eyes wide as he peered over the doors at the gunfighter. The seconds stretched, Davy's finger touching the trigger. The kid lifted his hands. "I ain't got a gun, mister," he said in a reedy voice. "See? I'm just lookin'."

Davy scanned the other men in the bar. The card players had stopped their game, and the old man by the piano was awake and had ceased burning. Carl said, "It's just Joey McGuire. He don't mean no harm. Joey, get on away from here! You know your Ma don't like you hangin' around!"

The kid stared at the Colt in Davy's hand. "You ain't gonna shoot me, are you?"

Davy thought about it. Once his blood was stirred, it was hard to cool it down. But then he eased the trigger forward. "You came mighty close to playin' a harp, boy."

"Go on home, Joey!" Carl urged. "This ain't no place for you!"

"Do like he says," Davy told him. He returned the Colt to his holster. "This is a man's place."

"Hell, I'm a man!" Joey had pushed one of the doors partway open. "I can come in if I want to!"

The kid was fifteen or sixteen, Davy figured. Eager to set foot where it didn't belong. Eager to grow up, too. Like I was, Davy thought. He turned his back on the kid and finished off his shot of whiskey. It was time to be on his way, before Black Boots got here. He looked at Carl. There was a red-edged, jagged fissure across the bartender's forehead, and something gray was oozing out. "How much I owe you?"

"Nothin'," Carl said quickly, slime trickling down his face. "It's on the house. Okay?"

"Mister?" Joey had put a foot into the saloon. "You from around here?"

"Nope." Davy watched the fissure in Carl's head writhe. It was splitting open some more, and the brains were swelling out. "I ain't from nowhere."

"You know how to use that gun?"

"Maybe." Davy heard the kid's mother calling. Her voice echoed up the street: "Joseph! Joseph, come back here!" Twisted gray tissue was squeezing through the wound in Carl's forehead. Davy thought it was an interesting sight.

"I can come in if I want to," Joey said adamantly, turning a deaf ear to his mother. "Ain't no place I can't go, if it suits me."

"Your Ma's callin' you, Joey," Carl told him. "She'll raise hell at me again."

"I'm comin' in," the boy decided, and he pushed through the saloon doors. His boots clomped on the sawdusty boards.

"Don't that hurt?" Davy asked, and started to poke a finger at the oozing wound. Before his finger got there, he glanced up into the mirror behind the bar.

The kid who'd been sweeping in front of the goods store was not reflected there. The mirror told Davy Slaughter that someone else had entered the saloon.

The man was tall and skinny. He looked hungry, and his face had never seen the sun. Davy heard the black boots on the floor, saw the gunfighter who would not die reaching in a blur of motion toward the pistol slung low on his hip.

Black Boots, that crafty bastard, had gotten in wearing a kid's skin.

A surge of cold terror gripped at Davy's throat. He saw the shine of the man's black, fathomless eyes in the mirror, and then Davy shouted, "Damn you!" and was whirling as he shouted it, his stiff hand going for his Colt. Black Boots was drawing his own pistol out, was just about to clear leather. Davy's Colt slid out, quicker by far. He heard Carl shout something, but Davy was already lifting his gun. He thrust it toward Black Boots and squeezed the trigger. Black Boots was knocked backward, a hole appearing in his chest. He gripped his pistol, but hadn't been fast enough to take aim. Black Boots staggered back through the saloon doors with blood all over his chest.

"Are you crazy?" Carl screamed. "Are you crazy?"

"I got you, didn't l?" Davy jeered. His voice cracked. "I got you again, you bastard!" He strode to the swinging doors, his heart hammering but his mind clear and calm, and he stood there watching as Black Boots fell to the dust on his knees. A woman screamed. Davy saw the kid's mother about twenty feet away. She retreated a drunken step, her face bleached white and her hand pressed to her mouth. Her shocked eyes found Davy and seized on him. Black Boots was trying to get up, trying to aim his gun. "You sonofabitch," Davy said, and fired a shot into Black Boots' forehead. The woman screamed again, a nettlesome sound. Black Boots pitched over on his side, the back of his head burst open. "I got you," Davy told him. "Serves you right, sneakin' up on me like--"

Black Boots was no longer lying in the dust. Where Black Boots had been was a kid, maybe fifteen or sixteen. His face and chest were all bloody. The woman made a groaning sound, turned and ran toward the goods store with dust whirling up beneath her shoes. Davy's head was hurting something awful. He looked up at the green sky, and his eyes stung. Then he returned his gaze to the dead boy. What had happened to Black Boots? He was there just a minute ago. Wasn't he? Davy backed away from the corpse. Somebody else was shouting in the distance: "Get off the street! Get off the street!" Davy kept backing away, and he retreated through the swinging doors into the saloon, away from the blinding light and that dead boy somebody had shot.

He heard the click of a trigger being cocked.

He spun around, cocking his Colt at the same time, and that was when Black Boots rose up from behind the bar. Black Boots had a rifle this time, and as its barrel swung upon him, Davy shouted with rage and fired his pistol.

The Colt and the rifle spoke at the same instant. Davy was suddenly on the floor, though he had no recollection of how he'd gotten there. His left shoulder was wet and numb. Black Boots was chambering another slug, and behind him the mirror had been shattered to pieces. "Get him!" one of the card players hollered. The rifle took aim, but Davy had already found his mark and he shot Black Boots in the throat before another heartbeat had passed.

Black Boots slammed back into the shelves of bottles, his throat punctured, and the rifle went off, but the bullet whacked into the wall over Davy's head. With a rush of air through the hole in his throat, Black Boots slid down to the floor behind the bar. Davy got up. He glanced at the old man who'd been over by the piano; the man was hiding under a table, his flesh patterned with gray diamonds like the skin of a sidewinder. Davy walked to the bar, his head pulsing with pain, and he leaned over and shot Black Boots in the face.

Except it was not Black Boots. It was a man with slicked-back black hair, a rifle clenched in his twitching hands. Blood and air bubbled from the ruin of Carl's throat. Davy's legs felt weak. About to pass out, he thought. I'm shot. Sonofabitchin' Black Boots got me, didn't he? He staggered through the swinging door, leaving a trail of crimson, blue smoke wafting from the Colt's barrel. In the glare of the hard green sky, Davy saw that the horse he'd hitched in front of the saloon no longer had skin. It was a skeleton horse with a saddle and bridle. But it still had four legs, and in its cage of bones its red lungs and heart were still working. Davy pulled the reins free, swung himself up onto the skeleton horse, and turned it toward the way out of Zionville. He dug his heels into the bare ribs. The horse shot forward, but in the next instant Davy realized he was going the wrong way. He was heading back the way he'd come, toward Jalupa again. He tried to get the skeleton horse turned around, but it wheeled and fought him.

He heard the noise of a cowbell.

Black Boots had just emerged from the goods store, a pistol in his hand. Davy lost the reins. He saw Black Boots running toward him, and Davy tried to take aim but the horse wheeled again and then Black Boots was right there and the pistol was thrust out at arm's-length. He thought he saw Black Boots smile.

The first bullet grazed Davy's cheek. The second hit him in the side, and the third caught him in the stomach and knocked him out of the saddle. He fell into the dust, the horse's bony legs thrashing around him. Davy crawled away from the bucking skeleton, and a shadow fell upon him.

His eyes heavy-lidded and blood in his mouth, he looked up at Black Boots. The man was just standing there, dust swirling around him, the gun hanging at his side. Davy coughed up crimson, and he forced a crooked grin. "You ... never beat me," Davy whispered. "I was always faster. Always." And then he lifted his own gun, aimed it at Black Boots' chest and squeezed the trigger.

The hammer fell on an empty chamber. Six bullets had been fired: two in the no-man's land, four killing Black Boots. Davy laughed, a broken sound.

Black Boots shot Davy Slaughter twice, once in the belly and once at close range in the skull. Davy twitched a few times. The Colt fell from his fingers, and he lay staring up at the sky. Joey's mother stood there a moment longer. She was shaking, and tears had streaked her face. She dropped the pistol, wiped her palm on her apron, and then she began to walk toward her dead son as the people of Zionville emerged from shelter. Burning down from a fierce blue sky, the sun threw long shadows. Not far away, the roan horse had ceased its bucking and stood in the middle of the street waiting for a guiding hand.

No one knew the gunfighter. He was crazy as hell, old Braxton said. Shot Joey down for no reason at all. Crazy as hell, he was. Pine boxes cost money, and no one came forward to offer any. The gunfighter was wrapped up in a canvas sack, his pallid face showing through, and somebody leaned him up against a wall while a picture was taken. The new sheriff from El Paso would want to know about this. Then a hole was dug, way over on the edge of the cemetery away from where Zionville's own lay. The reverend said a few words over the gunfighter, but nobody was there to hear them. Then the corpse was laid down into the hole, the reverend went away, and the man who threw dirt on the gunfighter's face wore black boots.


Copyright © 1989 by Robert R. McCammon. All rights reserved. This story first appeared in the anthology Razored Saddles, edited by Joe R. Lansdale and Pat LoBrutto and published by Dark Harvest in 1989. Reprinted with permission of the author.
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