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This is the 2nd chapter of my book, The Assassin.
Beck was already dressed by the time the sun rose. He figured to try and talk to the doctor about his shoulder without anybody in town being suspicious of it. He walked down the street to where the doctor’s office was located. He saw a chair located directly across the street from it, so he took a seat to wait. He also could keep an eye on anything that might happen in town, as it wouldn’t have been the first time that he caused a panic.
After a few hours had passed, everything in town still seemed quiet. Nobody had come near him, and most went out of their way to stay clear away from him. He finally noticed a man walking up to the doctor’s office. The man was well dressed, in his early 30’s, about 6 feet tall, and carrying a black bag. Sure looked like a doctor to him. As the man went inside, Beck stayed seated a few minutes longer. He had to think of how to bring up the subject of his injury without immediately asking about it. He had to know whether he’d be able to trust him first. He finally walked over and knocked on the door.
“Are you the doctor here?” Beck asked, as the man opened the door.
“Well, most people come to me when they’re ailing, so I guess that would make it unanimous,” the doctor quipped. “What can I do for you, Mister Beck?”
“I see you know my name already.”
“News travels fast here. Everybody in this town knew who you were five minutes after you checked into your hotel last night. A man like you, I imagine it’s quite difficult to pass through a town quietly and unnoticed.”
“I reckon that’s true .”
“So what brings you to my office at this time of day?” the doctor asked.
“I usually make it a practice to talk to the doctor of every town I come across. I find their workload usually increases when I arrive.”
“I’ve heard a rumor or two to that effect, I believe,” the doctor joked.
Beck was becoming intrigued by this doctor. He seemed to be unafraid, or didn’t care about his reputation, something he didn’t find among most men he’d met. He also seemed to be light hearted and quick with the jokes. All of which was a refreshing change for him.
“You don’t seem to have much fear,” Beck quizzed.
“Should I have?”
“Most men do. They know my reputation and what I do.”
“I would think the only reason to fear you would be if they had something to hide. I have nothing to hide, and no enemies that I know of, so I don’t believe I have a reason to fear you. But if that should change, I’ll let you know promptly, I assure you.”
“Every man has enemies, whether they know it or not.”
“I guess that’s so. Be that as it may, there’s not much a man can do to change that, is there?” the doctor asked without needing a reply.
“You’re right about that. You have an intelligent wit about you. Can’t say that I’ve come across that too often in my travels.”
“Well, a man in your profession, I can’t say that I’m surprised. If I may be so bold, why have you come to this town?”
“Doesn’t take you too long to get to the point, does it?”
“Not usually. I don’t believe in dancing around subjects if you have to talk about them anyway.”
“What if I were to tell you I was just passing through. Would you believe that?” Beck asked curiously.
Pausing a moment to think, the doctor replied, “Well I guess if you were to give me your word, I supposed I’d believe it.”
Beck seemed a little shocked to hear such a thing. It was the first time he could ever recall meeting someone who would actually take him on his word for something.
“So are you just passing through, Mister Beck?”
“I can’t really say one way or the other,” Beck stated.
“I’m guessing that answers my question.”
“So what’s your name, doctor?”
“Most people call me Doc Henston. And no, Doc’s not my real first name. But, people have called me that for so long....I can’t seem to recall what my real first name is anymore!,” he said laughing.
Beck began smiling at the humor of Henston, forgetting about the bullet still lodged in his shoulder.
“So what made you become a doctor?”
“Oh, I dunno....when I was a youngster, I took a bullet out of my older brother’s leg. And people have been coming to me ever since. I didn’t have much choice in the matter. What persuaded you to become a gunfighter?”
“I killed a man in self defense. He had friends who didn’t much like me for that. So, they came after me, and I killed them too. There was a man who saw all this...a gunfighter. He took me aside and said, “Boy, if you’re gonna go around killing folks, you might as well get paid for it.” So, I rode with him for about a year. He took me under his wing and taught me the profession.”
“Don’t you ever get tired of going around the country putting a bullet into people?”
“Do you ever get tired of taking them out?”
“That’s certainly a different way of looking at, Mister Beck.”
They continued chatting a little while longer. But Beck felt he should get to the point of why he came, and ask about that shoulder. But first he needed to find out if Doc would be able to keep quiet about such a thing.
“I’m curious about your work, Doc.”
“You’re curious about my work? That’s sort of an odd revelation, don’t you think?”
“Well, you must see quite a bit. Men coming to you with bullet holes, knife wounds, any other type of injuries you can imagine....must make you pretty curious as to what happened to them.”
“Curiousity may have killed the cat, Mister Beck, but it sure hasn’t killed me yet. My job is to fix what’s wrong with a man. Now if a man wishes to tell me how it happened, that’s his concern. But I don’t feel a need to butt into anybody’s business.”
“I imagine you could tell some stories about some of the things you’ve seen,” Beck asked getting closer to what he wanted to know.
“Yes, I suppose I could.”
“Care to talk about any of them?”
“I’m not in the habit of talking about my clients, Mister Beck.”
“Not one, eh?”
“I’ve never gossipped about somebody I’ve treated. Treating someone’s injury is not a matter to be gossipped about.”
That was exactly what he was hoping to hear. Of course, maybe he never had any patients that were as famous as he was. It was a chance he had to take though. He had to find out how bad that shoulder was. He couldn’t put it off any longer. But just to be safe, he wouldn’t tell him too much at first. If he found Doc could be trusted, he’d tell him the exact situation later.
“That’s kind of what brings me here, Doc. I have something that I need you to look at.”
“You?”, Doc asked, looking him up and down. “You certainly look healthy enough.”
“I have a bullet in me.”
“Well, where’s it at? Let me take a look at it,” Henston said.
“Not just yet. There’s a few other things I want to do in town first. How bout if you come up to my room in a few hours? I’d rather not spend too much time in here. Could lead people to talking.”
“I guess that could be arranged. These “few other things”, do they involve a gun?”
Beck smiled. “No, not just yet. I’ll let you know if you’re needed.”
So Beck left the doctor’s office reasonably sure that Henston would keep his mouth closed about him being shot. He deliberately didn’t tell him where he was shot, in case he did talk. Nobody would know exactly where he was injured, which would still give him the advantage. That’s part of what his tactics were all about, keeping the advantage.
Walking down the street, he noticed that he had a pair of eyes following him. The deputy had been instructed by Sheriff Hague to follow Beck around town to see what he was up to. That in itself was a risky proposition. Nobody knew exactly what kind of man Beck was, and for all they knew, he could snap at any moment if he thought he was being followed. And whoever was following him would have hell to pay. He wasn’t really concerned about it just yet though. He would take care of that later.
His next stop was the general store. It was time to start with the mind games he liked to play. It was an important part of his style. He’d found that it’s more beneficial to him if people think he could be after them, before he ever actually makes a move. Thinking about him too much made men make mistakes or act too hastily out of fear. Getting inside a persons head, and keeping them off guard, was the way he liked to go.
He walked up to the counter and began talking to the man working there.
“Hello John...Alston, right?”
The man’s eyes widened for a brief second. He was a little stunned to hear him called by his name. His hand started trembling on the counter.
“Hi..hi, Mister Beck. How umm...how did you know my name?”
“I make it my business to know everyone that I’ll be dealing with,” he said with a slight grin on his face.
“Oh. Well umm…what do you need to deal with me for?” he asked worridly.
“Well, you do own the general store, do you not?”
“Yeah. Oh, yes I do! So what uhh...what can I do you for?,”
With that, Beck reached into his shirt pocket, and pulled out a piece of paper. It was a list of supplies that he needed. He then handed it over to Alston.
“It’s a few things that I’ll be needin‘. The ammo I’ll take with me now. The food, blanket, and the rest of it I’ll pick up in a couple days.”
“Yes sir. Here’s your ammo, and the rest will be ready and waiting for you when you come back for it.”
Beck took the ammo, and walked out of the store. Alston took a rag and wiped his forehead. He sat down and tried to stop shaking. Beck, still standing in front of the store, noticed that Morrissey was still watching him. He decided to walk around the side of the store through the little alley between the store and the building next to it. As he got around to the back of the building, by the edge, he just clung to the wood. Then he waited. Then he heard the footsteps of the man following him. Just as the man turned around the corner, Beck gave him a punch that knocked him flat on his back. Beck then pulled his gun and placed it right against Morrissey’s head, between his eyes. Morrissey thought for sure that his life was over.
“Next time you follow a man, you better learn how to do it without being noticed. I don’t much like people following me. I get real jumpy and nervous. And when that happens I keep my hand on my gun, and could pull it at the slightest provocation. You understand what I’m saying?”
“I understand,” the deputy said timidly.
“That’s good. Now, who told you to follow me? The sheriff?”
Morrissey just slightly, and ever so gently, nodded his head in agreement.
“Well, I’m gonna do you a favor and let you live...for today anyway. You take this message back to the sheriff, got me? Tell him the next time he wants someone followed, I suggest he does it himself. And if he wants to know what my plans are, to come ask me. I’m not a hard man to find. And the next person that does follow me, will get a bullet right through his heart. Now go tell him.”
And with that, Beck stepped back and uncocked his gun, and let him up. Morrissey slowly walked back down the alleyway, and towards the sheriff’s office, careful as to not do anything that might provoke Beck further. He knew the sheriff would not like the message that he’d deliver. Beck stood there with a devilish grin on his face. Things were beginning to fall in place exactly how he wanted it too. People were getting nervous and jumpy with him around. They didn’t know what to expect from him next. He couldn’t have planned it any better.
The deputy walked into the office hurridly, and found Hague sitting at his desk. The sheriff immediately knew something was wrong, when he saw the big red welt on Morrissey’s face.
“Looks like you ran into somebody’s fist, Cal.”
“Beck caught me following him. I’m lucky he didn’t kill me. He had me on the ground with that Colt flush against my face.”
“What’d you find out?”
“Not much of anything. Saw him coming out of Doc’s office, then he went into the general store. Then he went around back and belted me.”
“Doc’s and the store, eh? I wonder what he wanted there. I can understand him going to the store. Probably getting some supplies. Why would he go to Doc’s though? How long was he there for?”
“Seemed to be there a decent amount of time. Want me to go ask Doc what he was doing there?”
“Not right now. First things first. Go tell the mayor that Beck’s sticking around. Find out what he wants to do. Then go tell Doc I want to see him here. And do me a favor, try not to run into Beck again. I really don‘t want to look for a new deputy just yet.”
“Don’t worry, I’m not planning on it,” Morrissey stated as he was leaving. “Oh yeah, he said that nobody better follow him again. If somebody did, he’d put a bullet through his heart.”
Hague just sat there at his desk thinking about the situation. He wondered if maybe Beck was here for him. He’d done a lot of things in his past that he was sure people would want him dead for. Both before and since he’d been a lawman. He took out his gun and started cleaning it. He began thinking of every questionable thing he’d ever done and if it had finally caught up with him. One thing about Hague was that he knew his limitations. He was pretty good with a gun, but he wasn’t quite in Beck’s league. Maybe he’d get lucky in a fight, but it wasn’t likely. If it came down to a fight between them, he’d have to pull something out of his sleeve. Nonetheless, he wasn’t afraid of Beck. He’d be very cautious and careful about what he said and did with him in town, but fear didn’t come to Hague very easily.
They mayor was already waiting for Morrissey, as he had seen him coming, while he was looking out his window. They talked a little about Beck, what he’d done so far, and how it didn’t look like he was leaving anytime soon. While trying to think of some way to get Beck out of town, the mayor came up with an idea.
“Cal, take a note down to the telegraph office and tell them to wire Carsonville. There’s a man there named Brett Owens, who could get here in about a day’s hard ride. If there’s one man who could get rid of Beck, it’s him. He’s a gunfighter for hire too...I’ve used him in the past. He’s definitely the man for the job.”
Morrissey followed the mayor’s directions and went down to the telegraph office to wire Owens in Carsonville. The message said:
Owens...Your expertise is urgently needed. If you can make it here within a day, you will get quite a handsome sum. Spare no time in getting here...Hobbs.
Deputy Morrissey then went over to Doc Henston’s office to fetch him to the sheriff. When they got back to the jail, Hague was ready with some questions.
“Doc, I understand Matt Beck was in your office this morning. What was he doing there and what’d you talk about?”
“He didn’t want anything specifically. We just basically made some small talk.”
“C’mon Doc, a man like Beck doesn’t go up to a man just to make small talk...less he was planning to kill him.”
“He said he usually makes it a practice to talk to the doctor in every town he visits.“
“Why’s that?“ Hague asked.
“To tell him to expect his business to pick up.”
“An amusing man, Beck is. So, he didn’t say anything else to you at all? No hints about what his plans were, who he was after, anything like that?”
“No,” Doc said shaking his head. “I asked him if he was here for somebody. He asked if I’d believe him if he said he was just passing through.”
“Passing through? The only place he’d just be passing through would be Boot Hill. And that’d probably be just to visit, seeing as how he’s probably put half the men in there.”
The three men just stood there for a few seconds silently. Hague was just staring into nothingness. Doc hadn’t provided any new answers, or given any kind of clue as to who Beck was after.
“Alright Doc, you can go now. Cal, go talk to Alston...see what Beck wanted. He was probably just there for supplies, but check anyway.”
So Morrissey went back to the general store to talk to John Alston. He couldn’t provide any new leads as to what Beck was after either, though. He informed the deputy that he’d just given him a list of supplies that he needed, and that he’d pick them up in a few days. But, they now knew he was at least planning to stay a couple days.
After finishing being the errand boy for the day, Morrissey went back to tell Sheriff Hague about the mayor’s plans. Hague put a chaw of tobacco in his mouth to relax himself.
“Alright, what do you got for me Cal?”
“Well first, Alston said Beck’s gonna pick up some supplies in a couple days. That means he’s planning on staying a while.”
“Yeah, that’s what it means,” Hague replied while spitting in a spitoon.
“And the mayor’s got a plan. He had me wire somebody in Carsonville.”
“Carsonville, eh? Who the devil’s in Carsonville?”
“I don’t know. Somebody named Brett Owens. Told him to make it here in a day or so, and he’d make it worth his while.”
“Brett Owens, eh? Well this should be mighty interesting.”
“Who’s Brett Owens?”
“He’s basically the same as Matt Beck. He kills people for money. Not quite as well known as Beck, though. He generally likes to work on a quieter level. Make no mistake though, he’s just as dangerous and handy with a gun. Yessir, this should be mighty interesting indeed,” Hague said with a slight smile coming over his face.
From there, Hague and Morrissey figured the best thing to do would be to stay a step ahead of Beck. To try and already be waiting in the next place he’d be. It was basically an impossible task, as nobody could have an honest idea as to what Beck was thinking. He’d been to the store, and to Doc’s, so they’d try to wait in places he hadn’t been yet. At worst, they could sit in the lobby of his hotel. All of which was risky considering Beck’s reputation as a vicious killer, who’d kill anybody who irritated him.
Beck was sitting in front of the barber shop when he saw Hague and his deputy come out of the jail. He watched as they both walked over to the saloon. He had a feeling he knew what they were doing. He got up and walked over to the saloon. He stood outside the doors just looking inside. He spotted where the sheriff was sitting. They seemed to be waiting for him. He walked in, and Hague and Morrissey immediately sat at attention staring at him. Beck briefly looked over at them while walking up to the bar. He asked for a bottle of whiskey. He took the bottle in his hand, paid for it, then turned around to walk out. As he turned around, he gave another brief glance towards the table where the two lawmen were seated.
Beck walked out of the saloon, and headed over to the hotel. He then went up to his room to wait for Doc Henston to come take a look at his shoulder. He sat on the bed and started drinking his bottle. He took out another piece of paper from his shirt pocket. He just stared at it. He began to get that evil glare while staring at the paper. He slowly took his gun out of his holster, and pointed it at the paper.
“Bang,” he softly whispered.
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