"The Llano Estacado . . . thousands of square miles of nothing, the Great Desert, big enough to hide a stolen herd of cattle and the secret of Coronado’s gold. Was it big enough to hold the passions of those within it or the Justice of Joshua Block, U.S. Marshal?"
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Josh figured he'd better get the supplies before word got around and things became difficult. If the business people felt as the blacksmith did, they might close the town to him, too. Burns Mercantile, the sign said. He entered to the tinkling of a bell.
Familiar smells assaulted him, tobacco, leather, and goods of all description. A thin man about Block's age approached and Josh handed him his list. While the clerk filled his order, Josh wandered around the store, trying to remember what he might need for himself. He ended up in front of a glass counter, in which several guns and knives were displayed. He eyed a small .32 caliber derringer, thinking it would make a nice piece for the ladies, an extra measure of protection. The smell of tobacco reminded him of something else. The shelf behind the counter held the tobacco and supplies, plug and pipe tobacco and rolling papers. Josh was eyeing the papers when the clerk returned.
"Let me see those papers, will you?" Josh asked. The clerk handed them over. They were the strange yellow ones Brock had seen before.
"Only kind I carry. Get 'em from Mexico," the clerk offered.
Josh sighed and handed them back. Another useless clue. He turned back to the gun case. "How much for the derringer?"
"Fifteen dollars, and I'll throw in a box of shells."
Block nodded, and added 200 rounds of .44's to his order.
"Startin' a war?" The clerk asked.
Josh merely stared at him. "The burro out front, please."
The clerk called a boy from the back and they started loading the goods on the burro. On a whim, Josh went to the shelf that held dry goods and bolts of cloth. He picked out a bolt of blue gingham and added it to the order. He watched them secure the load, then walked back inside to settle the bill.
The clerk added a column of figures, and then smiled at Josh. "That'll be forty-two dollars and eighty-nine cents."
Josh reached into the jar of candy on the counter and took a handful. "Round it off to forty-three dollars," he said. A sly grin crossed his face. "Charge it to Stedman," he added.
The clerk sharpened his gaze. "Mr. Stedman usually sends a wagon for supplies."
"You want to argue with Mr. Stedman?" Josh asked, innocently.
The clerk was in a quandary. He certainly didn't want to anger Mr. Stedman, but he had never seen this man before, and his order was a little odd. The bolt of cloth, for instance.
Josh watched the man squirm. "Okay, unload the burro, I'll tell Mr. Stedman you don't want his business." He turned to leave.
"Wait!" The clerk shouted. "Don't bother Mr. Stedman. I'll put it on his account."
Josh smiled and left the store. He smiled again at the heavily laden burro. Amy deserves a lot more than that, he thought, but it's a start