CHAPTER 4

Five Years Ago
Tombstone, Arizona

Sullivan was too stunned to move as Sara leaped to her feet and headed for the door. Robbed the train?

"You comin'?" she called in his direction as she tossed cash to the girl at the register. She didn't wait for a reply. It took him several strides to catch up.

Now he understood why she'd insisted on driving when the Marshal's Office was a scant two blocks away. She was behind the wheel with the engine running before he yanked open the passenger door.

She executed a precise U-turn in the middle of Allen Street and hit the roof-lights. Pedestrians scurried from their path. At the west end of town, she made a left turn, opened up the siren and tromped on the gas.

"CCSO?" Sullivan asked as he buckled his seatbelt.

"Cochise County Sheriff's Office," Sara said above the siren's whoop. "They have jurisdiction over unincorporated areas. We have a mutual assistance agreement with them. Most of the smaller towns do. Their nearest unit is blocking Charleston Road at the river. Anyone else is way too far away to run these guys down. So we'll give 'em a hand."

"We have any back-up?"

"I'll need my deputy to stop traffic from our end. So…looks like you're it. Raise your right hand. Do you solemnly swear…."

As the patrol unit bounced over the pot-holed roadway, Sullivan repeated the oath, wondering what in the world he'd gotten into.

At the city limits line, Sara positioned the cruiser diagonally across the roadway. They got out. Sara stood at the front wheel-well, arms folded across her chest, ankles crossed. Some roadway, Sullivan thought, eying the potholes like moon craters on its surface, mesquite and prickly pear growing along the verge. On one side, a crumbling escarpment looked like it could avalanche onto the road any moment. On the other, an arroyo so deep Sullivan couldn't see the bottom waited for the careless motorist to plunge over the edge.

In the few short minutes it took to reach the city limits, more information had come in. The tourist train he'd seen on his way into Tombstone had made its afternoon picnic stop just past the old Charleston Bridge. Passengers disembarked to stretch their legs, let the kids on the ride burn off some energy, and enjoy a meal prepared over a campfire. When the two six-gun-toting 'cowboys' with bandanas pulled over their faces circulated among them requesting they drop their wallets and purses into the burlap bag one carried, many of the passengers assumed it was all part of the show and cheerfully turned over their valuables. The 'hold-up' men didn't seem to object when someone chose not to participate. Soon the bag bulged with loot.

It wasn't until the conductor spotted the men and started yelling that anyone realized they were being robbed for real. The bandits sprinted into the surrounding mesquite and made their escape on dirt bikes. They'd headed up Charleston Road toward Tombstone.

Sullivan and Sara stood for a time, gazing out across the quiet land. He tried to imagine how it must have looked in the 1880s, twenty mule teams pulling ore wagons, stamp mills' thunderous pounding. Indians taking pot-shots at lone travelers. He kept a wary eye open for tarantulas. And some kind of lizard called a Gila Monster.

Then, in the distance, they heard a rumbling sound. Minutes later, two bikes came into view.

Sara straightened. She reached inside the patrol unit to remove a Mossberg 590 riot gun from its mount. She passed it to Sullivan. "I'll handle it," she said. "You back my play."

Sullivan didn't care much for the idea of letting a woman take the forefront of a confrontation, no matter what Women's Lib had to say. That wasn't Kevlar under her five-pointed star. But what could he do? This wasn't his bailiwick, and he'd only been sworn in as a matter of exigent circumstances. If she trusted him to back her play, that's exactly what he'd do.

"You got it."

He checked the load and stood beside the cruiser with the riot gun cradled in the crook of his arm. Sara resumed her nonchalant stance as if she were waiting for the ice-cream truck, and waited for the bikes to arrive.

Suddenly she gave a snort of disgust. "Ike and Billy. I might have known. Stand down, Sullivan. These two are only dangerous if you turn your back on them."

"I'm almost afraid to ask: Ike and Billy? As in Clanton? As in OK Corral?"

"As in horse-manure-for-brains Avery. The Avery family's been around almost since the town was founded. They used to own mineral rights to half the Tombstone Mining District. Now they run that little milling and assay operation a few miles down the road. When they're not visiting the bail bondsman to get these two out of jail."

"Trouble-makers, huh?"

"These two've been in and out of trouble since third and fourth grade. They'll take anything that isn't nailed down, but they like stealing cars the best. Their last job was a brand new, custom-painted, pink Jeep Cherokee. Idiots left it sitting on the railroad tracks while they got out to take a leak, and a freight train demolished it. That got them five years and probation." She glanced at him. "If you have to hit one, hit Ike. He's twenty-one now."

The bikers were weaving a serpentine path with each other down the center of the roadway. They showed no indication of slowing or turning off.

"Why are they still coming?" Sullivan asked. "You'd think they'd split up. Take off cross-country where a squad car can't follow."

"Did you hear anyone use the word 'genius' to describe these two?"

He hadn't.

Revving the engines, Ike and Billy rolled to a stop ten inches from the toes of Sara's boots.

"Turn 'em off," Sara ordered.

Both bikers shut down the engines, pulled off their helmets, and grinned like two Halloween jack-o-lanterns. Sullivan was relieved to see that their battered leather jackets bore no gang insignia. They wore jeans worn out at the knee and biker boots that hadn't seen polish since coming out of the box. Both had long, greasy hair and tatts. The shorter one - Billy - had a severe case of acne. The taller one - Ike - wore a gold stud in his nose. Matching chin whiskers failed to hide their identical weak chins.

"Heard there was a new marshal," Ike said. "Didn't know it'd be a hot li'l honey like you. Want me to polish yer badge?"

"You two must really enjoy institutional food," Sara said. "You haven't been out ten days and you're already headed right back to the slammer."

"Who's gonna put us there - you?" Billy sneered.

"Your choice. I'd just as soon shoot you both and drop your sorry carcasses down a mine shaft."

Sullivan's head snapped around. It sounded like she meant that.

"O-o-o-o-o-o-ooh, I'm scared," Ike said. He raised his hands as if warding off a blow, and brayed a laugh. His brother giggled and scratched his crotch.

Sullivan racked the Mossberg, the distinctive sound of the slide action sharp and clear. "You'd better be," he said, just loud enough to be heard in the sudden silence.

"Which one of you has the loot?" Sara asked.

Each of the brothers pointed at the other.

"So you've divvied it up already. Billy, did Ike give you your fair share, or keep all the good stuff for himself?"

"I got three of the watches - "

"Shut up, you moron!" Ike shook his fist at his brother. "Now she knows for sure it was us pulled the heist."

"I already knew anyhow." Sara 'tsked' in disgust. "Okay, boys, my deputy will take charge of the loot. Hand it over and then go sit in my patrol car."

Grumbling under his breath, Billy dismounted, booted the kickstand into position and leaned the bike onto it. Sullivan was amazed the brothers offered so little resistance. He'd been ready for a free-for-all. Billy removed a feed sack with the faded image of a Rhode Island Red rooster on it from a saddlebag.

Lower lip protruding like a pouting kindergartner, Billy thrust the bag at Sullivan. "Here."

A peek in the bag revealed no more than a dozen items, three watches, several wallets, someone's cell phone, some jewelry.

Billy trudged over to the patrol car and opened the front passenger door.

"Huh-uh," Sara said without turning around. "The back seat."

"Shouldn't we pat him down first?" Sullivan asked, appalled. "Cuff him?"

"Unnecessary. Okay, Ike, we're waiting."

"What about our bikes?" Ike asked as he dismounted. "Someone might come along and steal them. We can't just go off and leave them here."

"Sure you can. Who'd want to bother hauling off two dented up beaters like those?"

"Anybody! Anybody'd want 'em! They're not beaters, they're classics. Worth at least three, maybe five hunnert each!" Ike looked about ready to cry.

"Then you should've sold them instead of robbing tourists. Now hand over the rest of what you took. Then you can move your bikes off to the side of the road. I'll radio Barnnett's to come pick them up."

Muttering something about impound fees, Ike handed over his share of the loot in a burlap bag. It contained twice or three times what was in Billy's feed sack. Sullivan never took his eyes off Ike as he walked the bikes one by one to the edge of the roadway.

He started to suggest it might be smarter to park them on the opposite side of the road from the arroyo, but Sara gave him an elbow-nudge and shook her head.

With both Averys behind the partition cage separating detainees in the back from lawmen in the front, Sullivan reclaimed the front passenger seat. Sara radioed Base she was 10-19 back to Tombstone with two in custody. "Notify CCSO to release his traffic and come get them," she added.

As Sara was maneuvering the big Crown Vic on the narrow road to return to town, the vehicle suddenly lurched forward.

"Look out!" Sullivan yelled.

"Oops!"

Sara stomped the brakes, but it was too late. The front bumper plowed into the first bike, smashing it into the second. Momentum tumbled both bikes over the drop-off as the Averys howled and pounded on the cage.

"Oh, what a shame," Sara said . "But you know, it just goes to show, crime doesn't pay."

"You did that on purpose," Sullivan said as Sara backed up and finessed a perfect Y-turn.

"You're damn right I did. That was my pink Jeep Cherokee."

- to be continued if there is sufficient interest. If you want more, please review.