Marshal Heck Stryker grunted.
“I’ll get rich charging folks four bits a head to watch you hang.”
“Chicken feed,” Walt said. “I’m talking about millions in Spanish gold. You’ll live like the Duke of Prussia.”
Arnside sighed. “No matter. What matters is I can find that treasure ship. Throw in with me and you share the bounty.”
Stryker screwed his face into a contemplative mask, which made him look dumber than usual.
“If you’re worried about Zack Roden,” Walt said, “we can sneak away tonight. By the time he learns we’re gone he’ll be picking breakfast from his teeth. Besides, he won’t know where we’re headed.”
Stryker smiled like a bullfrog who’d speared a fly. “It’s a deal, but heed me. I’ll tote your gun. If you even think about crossing me I’ll sink you with your own lead.”
“Done. Now, loose me from this stink hole.”
Stryker led Walt to the rear of Choo How’s Mortuary, cutting through back alleys in order not to be seen. They entered the unlocked rear entrance. Choo was in the room where he built caskets, laughing .
“Evening, Choo,” the burly marshal said.
Choo jumped up. The laughter ceased. An expression of wide-eyed shock replaced his normally inscrutable countenance. Choo quickly pasted on a smile and kowtowed to the occidentals.
“Ah, marshal, you scare Choo.”
Walt stepped forward. “Where’s the body of Silas Bartlett. He was killed in the attack on the train, burned up pretty bad.”
Choo’s smile widened. “Poor man. Back side all black. Front not so bad.”
“Where’s is he?” Stryker demanded.
Choo indicated a plank coffin, nothing like the opulence Bartlett enjoyed in life. Stryker and Arnside pried the lid off. Bartlett was sunk deeply into rough batting obviously arranged to hide charred flesh. He wore a broadcloth suit, white shirt with celluloid collar, and red vest. Shined boots covered his feet.
Stryker rifled Bartlett’s pockets. Nothing.
“Where’s his goods, Choo?”
Choo fetched a small wooden box.
Walt went through this. Empty wallet, turnip watch, insignificant papers.
“Something wrong?” Stryker asked.
“There’s no map.”
Stryker turned on Choo. “Well, Chinaman?”
“Choo no see.”
Stryker grabbed Choo’s left hand and bent the pinkie finger back. A sharp snap brought an agonized scream from the smaller man.
Give Choo credit, he didn’t surrender the map easily. Stryker broke three of Choo’s fingers and a thumb first.
Outside, Stryker and Arnside made their way to the livery stable. The dead drunk hostler was deaf to the sounds of the men saddling their horses.
“We’ll tie the horses behind the jail. I got supplies in there I keep handy,” Stryker said.
Ten minutes later, with a sack of provisions tied to Walt’s saddle, Stryker turned to his new partner and smiled his ugly smile. “No use waiting,” he said. “Time to dissolve the partnership.”
Walt looked at the .44 aimed at his gut. “Knew you’d show your colors, just didn’t expect it so soon. Go ahead and shoot. Wake Roden.”
Stryker held the revolver steady as he slid a Green River knife from a sheath on his belt.
“Reckon this’ll take you out quieter.”
He took a step towards Walt. The leering lawman’s advance stopped when he heard a wet splat. Then he felt what caused it. His knees buckled and a moment later he was face down in the dust.
Walt looked at the marshal’s recumbent form, then beyond it. There stood Lola, a length of lumber in her hands dripping goo.
“Okay, cowboy, let’s ride.”
Walt gathered Stryker’s weapons and mounted up. Lola climbed aboard Stryker’s horse.
“Like you said, lady, let’s ride.”