1 April, 1867 — 3 April, 1867
April Fool’s Day was an appropriate day for these four strangers to arrive on the late afternoon stage in Lazarus. After four days together they had become friendly acquaintances, parting ways in front of the Palace Hotel with friendly handshakes and promises to share a drink in the future. ‘Buckshot Truth’ Jones, a medical student turned tracker in search of the man who violated and murdered Mr. Jones’ thirteen year-old sister acted as cold as the steel he carried, and holding as much indifference to the problems of others. John Deth, a young bounty hunter in search of a Confederate criminal that burned the family farm was hardened no doubt due to the carnage he’s seen, but his youth still shown through in his friendly and suave demeanor. Liberty, a beautiful red-haired lass, suffering from amnesia but courageously pushing herself onward towards the truth about her past. And Winnifred Willowby, an aristocrat in search of herself and discovery of the real world before taking over the family empire eagerly coming out west to help her uncle run his general store.
Upon disembarking from the stage they bid farewell, Winnie going off to find her uncle’s store, John heading to one of the saloon’s to search for information on the Confederate Major Cosby, Liberty to check in to the Palace Hotel for a bath and Buckshot heading to the livery to stable his horse. John finally found the trail of Major Cosby, but it was a week old and the direction it headed was uncertain. Liberty wound up at the jail questioning the sheriff about a newspaper clipping she carried discovered the woman mentioned in it had moved on while the man that had been arrested had been set free just before being hung; the sheriff warned Liberty that she should avoid getting involved with anything dealing with Brett Billingsly due to his reputation as being a major criminal despite legitimate business dealings in public. Buckshot wound up a the Lynched Ox Saloon and nearly got into a gunfight with three of the Calderon brothers of the Calderon Brothers’ Gang but fancifully talked his way into sharing a bottle of whiskey with them. Winnie met her uncle’s new Apache wife, Udaya, and headed out to a welcome dinner her uncle wanted to buy in celebration of Winnie’s arrival.
Happenstance brought them all together at the Desert Star Gambling Saloon, a lavish hall of entertainment for both the mind and body. They all shared in the joys of gambling away their money at a game of craps, with Winnie and Liberty walking away a few dollars richer, John and Buskshot a dollar a piece poorer. Winnie’s Uncle Garret and his wife Udaya were introduced to her stage coach companions and, upon discovering they were all cash shy, offered them all an easy job of transporting goods to Black Horse’s general store for him. A price of $100 was agreed upon for the job, and they all departed the gambling hall to get a good night’s sleep. Buckshot and Liberty walked back to the hotel together, parting at the door to her room but exchanging words dripping with the tension of their blossoming attraction to one another. Winnie’s return to her uncle’s store for the night was less pleasant, with Udaya becoming visibly shaken upon seeing the three Calderon brothers Buckshot had met earlier in the evening, but no answer was divulged as to why she was frightened.
Leaving at first light the next day the four travelers had an uneventful ride through the colorfully vibrant but blistering desert until midmorning when John spotted a lone rider on horseback watching them from atop a distant hill. Warning his companions alerted them to the lookout, and Buckshot narrowed his 100 foot lead to 25 feet in case of ambush. They entered a gulch the trail they followed wound through only to have a dead tree pushed from the ridge above between Buckshot and the other three on the goods-laden wagon. Two Mexican banditos appeared on the ridge above while two more were seen closing the distance on horseback from both ends of the gulch. Quickly raising his cradled shotgun Buckshot took out the two bandits on the ridge in a display of experienced gun-fighting ability both blasts tearing through their upper bodies and heads. Liberty through herself prone in the wagon bed and fired her Winchester 1863 at the rider approaching from the rear, but hit the walls of the gulch. John drew his revolver and turned around on the bench of the wagon to fire at the man Liberty had missed, wounding the man’s horse instead in the right hindquarter. This sent the horse rearing, but the man stayed mounted. Winnie drew her revolver and fired at the man approaching from the front, missing her mark in a fashion similar to Liberty. The two bandits then fired simultaneously, the one in front missing Buckshot and the one in the rear sending splinters flying from the wagon just to the side of Liberty’s head. Buckshot drew his revolver and fired at the man in front of him, hitting the horse instead which caused it to rear, throwing it’s rider to the ground. John fired at the man in the rear again and this time struck the horse in the back right side of the head, sending both horse and rider to the ground; the horse was stunned and momentarily rose and ran away in fright, but the rider’s left leg was crushed and he lay helpless in the center of the gulch with his revolver out. Winnie fired at the man in front again and missed once more, while simultaneously John shot the man with the broken leg in the inside of the upper left thigh and Liberty shot him in the groin—dead center of where she had aimed! His weapon went flying and the man screamed in agony as he clutched at the remains of his manhood. The man in front fired at Buckshot again, barely missing his head as the shot went high and to the left. Fire was returned as Buckshot, John and Winnie all fired at the remaining man; Buckshot’s hit to the center of his chest sent the man sprawling on his back and his gun flying several yards through the dusty gulch.
Before ending the misery of both men interrogation garnered that one of the men killed was Diego “Little Snake” Calderon of the Calderon Brothers’ Gang. They bandits claimed to have been hired by William Brockway of Lazarus to rob them of their gold shipment, an obvious lie told to the bandits to get them to accept the job. The other Calderon brothers were supposedly waiting in Rancho Bucareli for the four bandits just brought down, and that if they didn’t show up by noon they would ride south of Rancho Bucareli to ambush the wagon. The dying bandits were put out of their misery, their bodies looted then placed in the wagon for any bounties that might exist for them.
Fearing another ambush Winnie advocated pushing through Rancho Bucareli without stopping and looking for bounties in Black Horse in order to get south of the ambush point before noon. The others agreed; they covered the bodies and pushed on through, making it safely to Black Horse unmolested any further.
Their return to Lazarus was uneventful but prosperous for the bounties of the four men totaled $175 and they garnered the $100 from Winnie’s Uncle Garret for the delivery of the ordered goods and safe return of his wagon. However, upon hearing of what had happened and whom they had learned was behind the ambush, Garret became irate and briefly exchanged words with his wife Udaya about putting an end to their troubles before they ended them. He locked himself in their room in anger at her insistence he not do anything foolish. This prompted inquiries from the four road-weary friends that had just returned. Udaya ultimately acquiesced to their requests for information, revealing the story of how she and Garret had met and how he had rescued her from the Calderon brothers as they prepared to rape her, Garret’s caring for her and their eventual marriage. She also revealed the struggles that Garret had had in competing and dealing with William Brockway’s General Store on Main Street. No sooner had Udaya mentioned this and William Brockway appeared at the door to the store claiming he had just heard the terrible news about the ambush.
The friends began threateningly questioning Mr. Brockway who stammered answers until Liberty asked how he had heard so quickly. Upon seeing whom had asked him the question recognition was evident on his face and he quickly fled form the store. The four wanderers chased after him and surrounded him in the middle of Langdon street, drawing weapons and demanding he answer their questions. Fear filled Mr. Brockway’s eyes as he realized these four recently met friends would be the last people he ever saw.