The Lawmen

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Authors: Robert Broomall
    “Well, I don’t want to interrupt you. Go on with your business. I believe you’ll be ready to accept my proposition before long.”
    Clay smiled thinly. “Don’t bet on it.” He kept going.
    At the end of Tucson Street, Clay turned back through the Triangle. As he walked down what passed for a plank sidewalk on Apache Street, he bumped into a woman coming out of a grocery.
    “Sorry,” he said, tipping his hat. Then he saw that the woman was Julie Bennett. “Oh, hello again.”
    “Good afternoon, Marshal,” Julie replied. She was carrying two baskets made of Mexican hemp, with her groceries inside. She wore a dress of navy-blue cotton, shiny in places from use. Her pillbox hat sported a drooping peacock feather that was supposed to be jaunty, but merely seemed forlorn. In the daylight, the terrible scars down her cheeks looked worse than they had last night—deep and ragged. It was hard for Clay to imagine the kind of man who would do that to a woman.
    Clay reached for the bags. “Here, let me take those.”
    Julie seemed almost embarrassed by the request. “Please, you don’t have to act the gentleman with me. ”
    “It’s no act,” he replied, taking the bags. “I’m happy to do it.” The bags weren’t heavy—she probably didn’t have much money to spend on food. “You going to your place? I’ll walk you back.”
    They started down the street. “Thanks again for helping me out last night,” Clay told her.
    “Stop making a big deal of it. I told you, I owed you— though I don’t know how much good I did you, considering the mess you got yourself into.”
    The few people on the street were staring at them. “We seem to be attracting a lot of attention,” Clay observed.
    The scar-faced prostitute blushed. “Yeah, well, I don’t come out much during the daytime. I guess you can figure out why.” Then she smiled faintly. “ ’Course I never been out walking with a dead man before, either. Maybe that’s got something to do with it.”
    “I’m not dead yet,” Clay protested. “I’ve still got a few tricks up my sleeve.”
    “It better be one hell of a sleeve. Wes Hopkins has at least two dozen men in town, waiting to come after you tomorrow. Why don’t you get out while you can?”
    “You mean run?” Clay asked.
    “Yes. There’s no shame in it. At least you’d still be alive.”
    “I ain’t much on running.”
    “Maybe you should start.”
    “I’ve got nowhere to run to. Even if I did, I’ve got no money to get there.”
    “I’ve got a few dollars put aside. I’ll give them to you.”
    Clay stopped and looked at her quizzically. “You’d do that for me? Why?”
    There was that embarrassed—almost shy—look again. “I don’t know. I shouldn’t, I guess, but like I said, you done me a good mm. That kind of thing doesn’t happen to me often, so I tend to remember it.”
    Clay smiled at her. She smiled back, dropping her eyes. Then she grew impatient. “Look, do you want the money or not?”
    “No, thanks. Like I said, I ain’t running.”
    They resumed walking, and Julie said, “I don’t understand. Why are you doing this?”
    “A lot of people have been asking me that lately.”
    “That should tell you how stupid you’re acting.”
    Clay thought for a second. “I guess I’m tired of being a failure, Julie. I intend to do something right for once, even if it kills me.”
    “Well, it’s certainly liable to do that.”
    “Vance Hopkins killed a man. I’m the marshal. I can’t just look the other way and pretend it didn’t happen.”
    “You don’t owe this town anything,” Julie told him. “You only got the job because they didn’t have anybody else to give it to.”
    “But I did get it, didn’t I? And that gives me a responsibility. A duty.”
    “What about your duty to yourself?”
    “Which is?”
    “To live.” There was a pleading tone in her voice. “Or do you want to die? Is that it?”
    Clay was silent for a moment. “I

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