Goble City wasn't actually a city. It was a rather big village, but not a city. It was in the middle of a desert, but there were enough oases nearby for the people to survive. A few farms and ranches were just outside of town so food was not an issue either.
The Bounty Hunter rode into Goble City as slowly and inconspicuously as he could. This meant, of course, that he really stood out. Normally, drifters rode into town in bands of at least three and made as much noise as possible. Most who rode into town were either drunk or just plain stupid and first thing most drifters did was hitching their horses in front of the saloon and stumble inside to order some of the local brew. But the Bounty hunter just rode into town slowly, his head shoved a bit forwards and without wearing his duster. He had his revolver in it's holster at his side. That was the first thing most citizens of Goble saw. The second thing were his spectacles. Spectacles were uncommon this far west. He saw how most people were gazing at him, and how most quickly averted their eyes if he looked back. This way, being looked at everybody and sometimes looking back, he rode his horse towards a horse trough. He dismounted his horse and let it drink, patting it on it's side.
He thought about his encounter with Clarke, which had happened four days ago. Between then and now he had heard his mentor's voice a few more times while he was riding through the desert, a bunch of vulture's circling above his head as if they expected him to die. Not that it was uncommon for people to die in the desert. But not him. Not a Bounty Hunter.
His horse had almost emptied the trough now and the Bounty Hunter went to the pump to fill it again.
''That's a mighty fine horse you got there, stranger.'' a voice behind him said.
The Bounty hunter stopped pumping and turned his head. Behind him, an old man was standing, his hands on his back. The old man had a broad smile on his face, revealing a mouth full of yellow teeth. It weren't the worst teeth the Bounty Hunter had ever seen though.
''Well, thanks, mister.'' The Bounty Hunter answered, also smiling, and started pumping again.
The old man walked up next to him and his horse and patted the horse on it's side, just like the Bounty hunter had done. '''What's her name?'' he asked.
''Oh.'' the Bounty Hunter couldn't hide his surprise. ''You know it's a her. Most people take a while to notice.'' he said.
''Well, I'm not most people. See, I tend the stable and the corral around here. The name's Jeb, but most call me the Horseman, because I like horses more than people.'' the old man said.
''Well, I understand you like horses more.'' The Bounty hunter said. ''They're a lot nicer than people in general.''
The old man burst out in a loud roar of laughter and slammed the Bounty Hunter on his back. The Bounty Hunter felt how some of the air in his lungs was squeezed out of his body. The old man was surprisingly strong.
The Bounty Hunter stopped pumping. The trough was almost full again. ''Say, uh, Jeb, was it right?'' he asked. The old man smiled and nodded. ''Or Horseman if you prefer.'' He laughed again.
''Nah, Jeb's alright.''
''Alright, Jeb. Could you take care of my horse for today?'' The Bounty Hunter asked.
''Sure I can. I'll take her to the stables right now.'' Jeb said.
''Thanks, Jeb. How much do I owe you?''
''You can pay me tomorrow.'' was all Jeb said. He took the horse by the reins and led it away.
The Bounty hunter also walked away, headed for the saloon.
''Ah darn it. Damn bastards.'' He heard Jeb curse behind him. He turned around and said: ''Something wrong, old man?''
''Those darned bastards are doing it again.'' Jeb said, looking at two men who were talking behind the saloon. ''That bastard Flint is at it again.'' he said.
The Bounty hunter walked to Jeb. ''What's going on?'' he asked.
''Bastards. See, that guy.'' he pointed at the man who was talking the most. ''He works for Flint. Flint runs the General Store here and he owns almost everything in town... and everyone.'' Jeb said grimly. ''That other man. He's a farmer. A peon named Juan. But the man's poor and the harvest hasn't been particularly good this season.'' Jeb stopped talking.
The debt collector started yelling now and making wide gestures.
Jeb took a step towards the two men, but felt a hand on his shoulder stopping him. He turned his head to The Bounty Hunter and said, angrily: ''Let me go. Let me go!''
The Bounty Hunter shook his head and pulled Jeb back. His glasses reflected in the sun. ''Let me take care of it.'' he said.
He felt how Jeb relaxed a bit. Jeb knew that his old appearance wouldn't really intimidate the debt collector, but the big figure of the Bounty Hunter would.
Jeb stepped back and The Bounty Hunter walked towards the debt collector, his hand resting close to his revolver. He approached the two men. The debt collector was really shouting now. ''...What'd ya think happens when Mr. Flint hears of this, ya sonofabi...'' he stopped talking as the Bounty Hunter approached them. ''What do you want?'' he asked, looking suspiciously at the stranger.
The Bounty Hunter smiled. ''I heard you trying to shake down this poor man.'' he said. His face nothing of the anger inside him and he could hardly control the urge to hit the debt collector in the face as a smug expression came upon the latter's face.
''And what about it?'' the debt collector asked, still smiling smugly.
''Well,'' The Bounty Hunter said, pausing for a moment. ''I don't like people intimidating poor farmers.'' he said.
''Well, this man hasn't paid his debt to Mr. Flint. I'm just the collector.''
''I know. And because of that you're in harm's way. If you catch my drift.'' The Bounty Hunter said, his hand slowly going downwards to his revolver as he said the last sentence.
The debt collector looked at his revolver for a while and his confidence diminished. He knew the revolver was from the East and there were only two kinds of people who'd travel this far from the East. Hardened criminals and Bounty Hunters. He didn't know which one he was dealing with here, but he knew he probably couldn't draw faster than him.
The Bounty Hunter touched the grip of his revolver and the debt collector took a step backwards.
''Uh... You know... I can go... uh... talk to, uh, Mr. Flint. Maybe we can arrange something.'' he said to thefarmer, reluctantly. He walked away past the saloon. Gonna warn his boss, I bet ya, boy, Clarke said inside his head.
The farmer, who had said nothing so far just started smiling and looked at the Bounty Hunter. Then, a whole load of words, half in his own language and half in what the Bounty Hunter called the vaquero language came, came out of his mouth. The Bounty Hunter did not speak the guy's language, but he knew they were probably words of gratitude. ''Muchas Gracias, Senõr! Thank you, thank you!'' the farmer continued.
The Bounty Hunter held his hand up and nodded. ''That's alright, mr...'' Jeb had told him the name of the farmer, but he had forgotten it.
''Juan, Señor. Juan Cortez.''
''Alright, Juan. Look. That Mr... uh... Flint... He isn't going to leave it at this. He'll send some guys over. So, my idea is we go to the saloon and wait it out. There'll be witnesses there. They might hesitate.'' The Bounty Hunter. ''I mean, they have a sheriff here, right?''
Juan nodded. ''Si, Señor. We also have a judge.''
''Good, then they can't act completely freely.'' The Bounty Hunter felt a bit relieved. ''Come on, let's go to the saloon.'' he said. He gestured at Jeb, who had watched the events in front of him, to follow.
The three men went to the saloon.
The debt collector felt uneasy as Flint stood up. Murphy Flint had the reputation of being completely calm at first before bursting out against his subordinates. He was very calm now. He started pacing around behind his desk, his hand on his back and his other hand rubbing his clean-shaven, broad chin. His red hair wavered around a bit as he paced around. Music was playing on a phonograph. The phonograph had imported all the way from Eastfield, travelling first by train and then by stagecoach all the way. That it had come that from far meant that Flint had had to pay a lot of money for it, but it had been worth it. Flint was a big appreciator of music and normally he would have relaxed at the sound of an opera coming out of his phonograph, but now he just went towards it and turned it off. He had his back to the debt collector now, who stood in the middle of the room, his hat taken of and being turned around in his hands.
''So... this guy came up to you, told you to go away. And you did, Tex?''
He heard Tex shuffle his feet behind him. He turned around and looked at his debt collector. ''You did?'' he repeated his question sharply.
Slowly, Tex' face went up and down once.
''So, some... drifter walks up to you and asks you to stop doing what I, your boss, told you to, and you listen to him. That guy took precedence over me, your boss, I guess.'' Flint said softly.
Tex opened his mouth. ''Well, boss... That guy... he had a... uh... a gun.''
Flint turned around now, his face was starting to get as red as his hair. ''He had a gun? A GUN? AND THAT SCARES YOU AWAY?'' Flint was shouting now. Tex shrivelled a bit, his hat twisting around in his hands at a high speed now.
''WHY DIDN'T YOU JUST BLAST HIM AWAY? NO WITNESSES! NOBODY! YOU COULD HAVE SHOT HIM!'' Flint shouted.
''Well, boss... his gun... it was an Eastfielder .47.'' Tex answered.
Flint looked surprised at the hearing of the name of the gun. He also knew that only the most hardened criminals and Bounty Hunters carried such guns this far West.
Flint looked as if he had calmed down a bit. ''An Eastfielder?'' he asked as if he hadn't heard it.
Tex just nodded, his hat still twisting around in his hands.
Flint sat down behind his office again, the only sign of his anger visible in the vein on his forehead which was throbbing quite fast. He stared down at his desk for a moment, then looked up at a man who had quietly been sitting in the corner of his office for the duration of his conversation with Tex.
''Go with Tex and go get my brother. Then, you find the stranger and teach him a lesson.''
Tex opened his mouth to protest, but Flint cut him off. ''don't kill him, just teach him a lesson.''
The other man said nothing, but nodded and stood up. He went walked towards the back door. Tex hesitated for a moment and then followed.
The Bounty Hunter, Jeb, the horseman and Juan, the farmer sat in the corner of the saloon. Jeb and Juan both had a glass of tequila in front of them and the Bounty Hunter a glass of milk. He took another gulp from it. ''So, this Flint, eh Murphy Flint you said?'' he said, looking at Jeb. Jeb nodded.
''He controls the town and most people are on his payroll you say. Even the Sheriff?'' he asked.
Jeb sighed and nodded again. ''Yeah, mister, it's darned unlucky, but it's been a good long while since we had any decent law 'round here.''
Juan said nothing.
The Bounty Hunter finished his milk and gestured at the bartender, an unsavoury figure wearing a bowler hat, to bring him another. The bartender, who had been cleaning his bar like all bartenders seem always seem to do, nodded and soon a new glass of milk appeared in front of the Bounty Hunter. He smiled at the bartender and gave him a coin. ''Well, I guess it won't be long 'till they come for us.'' he turned his head towards the entrance. ''Hmm, I'd already expected to come here by now, but nothing. He turned his head back and focused on his milk. For a while none of the three said anything and all went up in their own thoughts. The Bounty hunter listened to the murmur of the other patrons and the music the pianist played. It was a song he knew from many other saloons he had visited throughout the West. He took a gulp from his milk and waited.
When Tex and the other man left the saloon, the guy finally opened his mouth. ''So why didn't you just shoot the guy? I mean, there were no witnesses and you could just claim self-defence. We'd be getting no trouble at all. You know we got everybody on the payroll here, right?'' he said, shoving his black hat a bit backwards.
Tex scratched his chin and felt the stubble on it. ''Well, there was a witness. The Horseman was there. No way we could pay him off. And Judge O'Hara may be on our payroll, but he ain't stupid. A witness would ruin everything.''
''So? You could've shot him too.'' the other man replied.
''You think Flint would want to bust my ass out of begin sent North to one of those work camps if I'd created three corpses.''
''Three? I thought it was only the Horseman and the stranger?''
''Nah, That peon Juan was there too.'' They approached a house at the end of town.
The other man stepped forward and knocked on the door. After waiting for a while, he knocked again.
The door opened and a broad, red-haired man opened up. ''What'd ya want?'' he asked. His voice was sharp and a bit nasal.
Tex said: ''Mr. Flint wants us to teach a stranger a lesson.''
The man frowned. ''What did he do?'' he asked. Swiftly, Tex told him what had happened behind the saloon. When he finished the man in the door opening nodded. ''And now Cousin wants me to teach him a lesson.'' He took a step back. ''Okay, I'll be back in a minute.'' He disappeared into the house.
A few minutes later, he came back, this time carrying a revolver belt around his normal belt.
''Hey, we don't kill him, okay?'' the other guy said. ''We just teach him a lesson. Maybe we kick him outta town, but we don't kill 'em. Boss told us not to.''
The redhead patted the butt of his revolver. ''I won't kill him if ain't necessary. This is just in case. I mean, this guy comes all the way from Eastfield. He must have a good reason to be here and only two kinds of people come this far West from Eastfield.''
Tex nodded and said, irritated. ''Yeah, yeah we know. Let's just go.''
The three men went towards the saloon, ready to meet three other men.
The Bounty Hunter saw Jeb look up. Three glasses of milk since their conversations had ended and they had just been waiting for the Flint to send in the Cavalry. Now, they were there.
Jeb opened his mouth: ''uh...''
The Bounty Hunter didn't turn his head to look behind him. ''How many?'' he just asked. Jeb whispered: ''three.''
The Bounty Hunter heard a voice behind him. ''Scram, old man.''
Jeb opened his mouth to protest, but he saw the Bounty Hunter smiling at him: ''Do as he says, Jeb. I'll handle this.'' he nodded at Juan who now rose and walked away. Jeb waited for a moment longer before also standing up and walking away.
Flint's cousin, who was mostly called the Redhead, looked at the man in front of him who was sitting with his back to him. He saw that the man was not as scrawny as city fellas normally were.
This man, this outlaw or Bounty Hunter, the Redhead did not know which one, had a bigger figure than most.
The Redhead stuck out his arm and placed it on the stranger's shoulder. ''Hey, stranger. I've heard you've been causing a problem.'' he said.
The stranger did not turn his head, but said. ''You must have heard wrong. I have solved one.'' he said. Now, he turned his head and smiled at the Redhead. Somehow, the smile on the stranger's face sparked rage in the Redhead. ''Look, mister, I've been told by this man here.'' he gestured at Tex, ''That you prevented him from collecting money from one of my boss' clients.''
''What a nice way to name extortion, my friend. You almost sound like a lawyer.'' The stranger replied.
This really set of the Redhead. A vein started throbbing on his forehead, something that was really common in the family. He nodded at Tex, who had moved his hand in his coat. Tex took his hand out and revealed he had a large knife in it. He lifted the hand with the knife in it, ready to strike down onto the table, through the hand of the stranger. With all his strength and force he let the knife cut through the air into the table.
The Bounty Hunter had his instincts. He saw the knife coming out of the air and heading towards his hand. Just in time, he pulled his hand away. The knife struck the table and got stuck. Tex tried to pull it out, but stepped back when The Bounty Hunter stood up. Tex raised his hands in a surrendering motion.
The Bounty hunter's arm went back and went forward again with high velocity, smashing Tex' face.
Tex flew back a few centimetre's as his feet came off the ground from the blow that was dealt to him. He slammed into a table and fell down on the floor. He didn't move anymore. The Bounty Hunter fluttered his hand around a bit. Then, he turned his head to the other man who was accompanying the Redhead. The other man did nothing but throwing a contemptuous look at The Bounty Hunter. The Bounty Hunter smiled. ''Something wrong?'' he asked cheerfully.
The man just shook his head, but slowly his hand went down to his revolver.
The Bounty Hunter noticed this and in an instant the man looked right in the barrel of a large Eastfielder .47. The Bounty Hunter hadn't moved at all it seemed. The only difference was that between him and the man a large, cocked revolver was in his hand and aimed at the man.
The Redhead, the vein on his forehead still throbbing, placed his hand on the man's shoulder and started backing away. Together, they helped the downed Tex up and walked out of the saloon. The Bounty Hunter holstered his gun and sat down at the table again. The conversation of the patrons, which had ceased during the short encounter between the Bounty Hunter and the three men, started again and the pianist started playing a new song.
Jeb and Juan came back to the table.
The Bounty hunter looked up and saw that they were both smiling broadly.
''You handled that well, mister.'' his smile disappeared. ''But I'm afraid they might come back for you.'' he said.
The Bounty Hunter nodded. ''I know. And Normally I would move on as quickly as possible, but I think I might stay here for a few days, you know, see if I can do anything about the situation here.''
And as he said that he looked up and saw a red-haired man standing at the top of a flight of stairs.
End of Chapter 4