A cool night breeze squeezed through the gaps in the wall boards at the livery stable. It caused the oil lantern's flame to flicker slightly as it hung off the post. Louie Pheeters watched the old doctor stand up from his kneeling position. Doc ticked his head, "I don't think there's much more you can do for her, Louie," he said casting his eyes down at the town drunk. Louie was stone cold sober, for a change and tears welled up in his blood shot eyes.
Pheeters' hand lightly swept over the coat of the old barn cat and he could feel her gentle purr. She'd just given birth to three kittens and only one survived. At her age, Doc feared that she too would die, but that he couldn't say for sure. He didn't' know animals that well and could only compare their health to humans.
"What should I do now?" Louie quietly asked.
"Just keep her warm. See if Ma Smalley has any milk and scraps you can give her. Cats are tough and she might surprise us both and pull through," Doc said as he ran his right hand across the back of his neck.
Louie pushed himself up from the hay-covered stable floor, "I've looked after her for a long time," he said solemnly, looking down at the cat and her kitten.
Doc nodded, "I know," he said patting Louie on the back between his shoulders as he watched Pheeters shuffle to the door in search of milk of scraps of food for the cat.
Doc ticked his head and took another look down at the cat and lone kitten, "Hang in there, cat," he said before he left the livery stable. Doc took his time walking up the street. It wasn't busy for the time of night, and as he passed under a lamp he paused long enough to check his pocket watch. It occurred to the doctor that he hadn't seen any of his friends all day, having been out on calls. He smiled to himself as he thought of a nice glass of whiskey at the Long Branch. With a quick swipe of his right hand across his moustache, Doc ambled along the boardwalk toward the saloon.
The physician stepped up onto the boardwalk in front of the saloon and noticed the two male riders slowly coming down the street. He could tell they'd been in the saddle for a long time as their shoulders sagged. Their horses' heads hung low; they too were tired.
The men pulled their mounts to a stop in front of the Long Branch and slowly dismounted. They both looked up to see the doctor watching them, but shrugged it off after the doctor pushed his way through the swing doors of the saloon.
"It will be good to wash this trail dust down," Jared Baker stated.
"I couldn't agree more," huffed Len Wilson. "I'm glad we made it here tonight," he said whipping his hat off his head and smacking against his dust covered pant. He plopped the hat back on his head and stepped up to the doors of the saloon, "Now I just hope we don't run into any one we know," he said looking over to Baker. Both men scanned the street before they pushed through the doors.
Several heads turned as Baker and Wilson entered the establishment, however, everyone went back about their games or conversations. The two men cut an imposing picture, both wearing gun belts worn to be used, and by the looks of them they had been.
The men walked to the bar, where Sam Noonan greeted them, "What can I get you?" he asked with his velvet coated baritone voice.
"A bottle and two glasses," Baker said as he flipping a coin onto the bar top. Sam nodded and gathered the bottle and glasses and placed them onto the bar. Baker scooped the items up and walked to the only empty table at the back of the room. Wilson followed.
Doc and Kitty were seated at Kitty's regular table near the back – they both watched the men settle in at their table, "I wonder where they're from," Kitty said over her glass.
Doc ticked his head, "They came in on two very tired horses," he said looking back at Kitty. "In fact they both look like they could go to sleep right where they are sitting," he scoffed.
Kitty reserved her comment about the way they wore their guns; she knew that they could be trouble if they were tangled with. "Hopefully they are just passing through," she forced a smile.
Doc's eyebrows knitted together, "What's that supposed to mean?" he asked.
"I think they are trouble," Kitty said in a hushed voice.
Doc wanted to take another look at them, but refrained from doing so. "Why do you say that?" he questioned.
"You know as well as I do, Doc. Those guns aren't just for personal protection," Kitty stated. Doc now had to have a better look at the men and looked over his shoulder.
Baker watched the old man from under his hat, "Why do you suppose they keep looking at us?" he asked with a growl in his tone.
Wilson, sat with his left side to Kitty and Doc, shrugged. "I'm too tired to care right now," he state throwing back his drink and refilling his glass.
"Do you think they know who we are?" Barker said leaning forward resting his elbows on the table.
"I doubt it," Wilson smiled. "Anyone that knows us is dead," he said swilling back another drink. The comment made Baker laugh out loud.
Doc nervously looked back at Kitty, "You could be right," he said as he picked up his glass and sipped on the amber liquid.
"Doc, I have a bad feeling about them," Kitty whispered.
The doctor frowned, "I get a bad feeling when you say things like that," he stated. "I wish Matt would get back."
Kitty's eyebrows lifted, "I thought he was back! He said he was going to be in later today," she sighed.
"Well, I've been go most of it and when I got in, Louie asked me about his cat," the doctor snorted. "I have seen him," he added.
"I haven't either," Kitty acknowledged with a frown. "Maybe the trial ran longer than he expected."
Doc sipped on his drink, "Well if he isn't back later tonight, I'm sure he'll send a telegram," he reasoned and continued with his drink. Kitty frowned, "Well, I hope he's back tonight," she sighed. Doc nodded his head in agreement.
With another drink under his belt, Wilson looked over to Baker who seemed to be nursing his drink, "When did you say the others will get here?"
Baker swallowed the last gulp and refilled his glass, slowly. "I told them to come in at different times. I don't want to spook lil' old Dodge," he smiled and drank from the glass.
"How long do you think it will take?" Wilson asked in an even more hushed voice.
"We should be done in a day or two, depending on how much cooperation we get," Barker smiled.
"I've heard a lot about the marshal here," Wilson stated in a whisper.
In a quiet voice, Baker leaned toward Wilson, "Don't worry. I told Calder to take care of him," Baker smiled and took another drink.
Satisfied with the answer, Wilson resumed drinking - now it was time to relax.