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Two-Hundred Thousand Disinterred Men

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The town was completely quiet as he spurred his horse to the post outside of the general store.  Stepping off of the creature and hitching it, he surveyed the town, silent except for doors blowing in the wind.  He lit a cigar and stomped the match out, straining to hear anything.  The hairs on the back of his neck were standing up.

The townspeople probably abandoned the place when they heard about the fighting.  Or it had been abandoned earlier, it was a dusty little township he hadn’t been expecting to find on the trail.  Made sense.

He had his hand on his Colt when he pushed through the door of the store.

“Good evening, Mister.” A cleanshaven man of indeterminate but decrepit age with a New England accent said behind the counter, grinning broadly.  “What can I do for you?”

He gestured at a bottle of whisky behind the counter, and added matches, jerky, and tobacco.  The shopekeeper set them all on the counter for his perusal, chatting all the way.  When his customer set the piece of gold on the counter to pay for his selection, the man’s tilted his head.  “Whose coin is that?”

“Mine.” He said, inhaling tobacco.  His eyes narrowed.  New England accent… maybe he had a problem with being paid Confederate gold?  The shopkeeper held up the coin and scrutinized it very carefully.  Outside, voices were starting to ring out.  “Gold is gold, don’t matter whose face is on it.”

“Don’t look like a soldier, son.  And the front is that away.” The shopkeeper said, apparently unaware that his customer wasn’t paying attention to where he was pointed, instead looking out the window at the men milling about.

“Ain’t a soldier, and I’m headed away from the front.” He’d had enough of the war, and of bounty hunting for now.  With a little gold he appreciated peace.  With one-hundred thousand dollars… he wanted to be as far from the front as possible.

“Way you carry the gun, I think you’re not a pacifist.  Outlaw, maybe?  That’ll get you hanged, son.”  The shopkeeper grinned.  The customer uncorked the whisky and took a swig.  He’d had enough hangings for a while, too.  That stunt at the graveyard was the last one he planned on seeing for a long, long time.  “Not an outlaw then?  Maybe a bounty hunter?”

“Somethin’ like that.” The customer replied.

He was just about to ask which of the nondescript buildings in town was an inn, but the shopkeeper added.  “Lotta hanged men at the Sad Hill Cemetary.  Shot men, too.  Word is some walk away now and again.”

The customer narrowed his eyes.  “You don’t say.”

“Two-hundred thousand of ‘em.” The shopkeeper said, holding the coin he had been paid with between his thumb and forefinger, face side to the customer.  There was yelling outside now.

“Now who says that?” The customer asked, shifting his full attention to the shopkeeper now.  Tuco couldn’t have gotten this far this fast.  He had a horse, had been travelling in a straight line, and Tuco would be wasting hours trying to get out of his binds. 

The shopkeeper flipped the coin and caught it.  “Maybe a certain Angel-Eyed young man, maybe Arch Stanton.”

The customers scowl widened.  The corrupt Union Army Official couldn’t have come this way, and even if he did, would not be spilling any secrets.  Arch Stanton was a skeleton by the time they got to the cemetery.  There was no way the shopkeeper could’ve known.

But he did.

“Y’see, Arch was a greedy old sinner.  Not quite unlike your friends; and please forgive my impertinence, but not unlike you, ‘Blondie’.”  The old man flipped the coin again, only for Blondie to snatch it out of the air.  “Now that’s rude.”

“How do you know all of this?”

“Like I said, I have very informative friends.  A lot of friends came my way thanks to you, actually.” The old Man grinned, lips pulled back to reveal teeth without a hint of decay or wear.  “I must say, I am a little disappointed at how you dealt with Tuco.”

“Oh?” The customer asked, hand shifting to the revolver again.  Hoofbeats down the street, pounding incessantly.  He looked out the window, and bit down on his cigar.  A pack of riders were chasing a man down the street; the riders were frightful, but their quarry was moreso.  He could see the black coat, mustached face, and even at the distance, those beady eyes.

“Two-hundred thousand, and you gave half of it away.”  The old man sneered.  “You could’ve had it all, all of that gold, and all it would’ve taken was one piece of lead and one pull of the trigger.”

The customer said nothing.

“And you may be a sinner, but Tuco is a sinner and an idiot.” The man growled. 

“I agree wholeheartedly.”

“How long do you think it’ll take for him to waste all that money?  Before he runs afoul of someone else?  Or, how long for this world do you think he is?”

“You’d be surprised.” The customer said with a shrug.  Had he ever bet on how long it would take Tuco to get himself killed by being an idiot, he would’ve been bankrupt long ago.  The man was like a cockroach.

“And you still gave him one-hundred thousand.” The shopkeeper grabbed the bottle of whisky and took a swig.  “And don’t pretend that you actually gave a damn about the deal you had with him.  A promise from you is barely worth the air it took for you to say it.”

“So I’m as good at wasting money as Tuco is.”

“He’s actually stumbling this way now.  With the gold.”  The man whispered, smiling again.  “On foot, tired, and he still doesn’t have any bullets left.”

“So?” The shopkeeper was clearly suggesting Blondie double back, kill Tuco, and get all of the gold. Which... if he really wanted the gold he could done as the man said and killed Tuco in the cemetery. He had enough of it, gold and killing. For now. And if the shopkeeper had any more helpful ideas, Blondie didn't really care to hear them. Because he had a feeling doing what the shopekeeper wanted was a bad idea, worse then letting Tuco live.

“Just head south a little, and you’ll get…”

“I told you, I’m heading North.  Getting away from the frontlines.”  Blondie said, scowling.  He turned to leave.  The hustle and bustle began to die down.

“Wait!” The man shouted, and Blondie paused, if only to dismissively look over his shoulder.  “I sell bullets here.  What do you think will happen if I give Tuco the same pitch?”

Blondie shrugged. Maybe he was right and Tuco would meet him, and go after Blondie again. He'd deal with that if it happened.  “If it’s the Tuco I know, then the answer is ‘what’s the dumbest thing he can do’, and then he’ll surprise me nonetheless.”

“I will get him, you know!  You too!  You think I won’t, just because you’re ignoring me this time?  Like I said, you are both sinners!  It’s only a matter of time!”

“Well then, guess you’ll have to wait.” He replied stepping out of the store and untying his horse.  He didn’t push it hard, only got it to walk north, through the derelict town.  By the time he crested a hill in the distance, he looked back and saw nothing except trackless desert cut only by the trail he was riding.