That night, by prearrangement with the Laramie Sheriff, Nick and Lincoln were at a side table in the Bucket of Blood Saloon, each sipping their second whiskey. One of the half-brothers terrorizing the town had been tending bar when they arrived. There were eleven other men drinking at the other tables.
Now, the other two half-brothers walked in with three girls. Lincoln recognized two of them from the Gilded Lily, both staring at Nick. The third girl said something to the taller of the two brothers, looking at Lincoln. All five looked over. Lincoln tipped his cap to the girl.
The two brothers walked over.
“You looking for girls?” the taller one said.
“No,” Lincoln said. “I was. But it was a bad idea. Didn’t work out.”
“Who sent you?” It was the other brother. The bartender was leaning on the bar, watching them. As was practically everyone in the bar.
“The rancher I work for. Over near Cheyenne.”
“What do you need girls for?” The second one again. “Not enough in Cheyenne?”
“I said it was a bad idea. We need girls and we need cowboys to work the ranch.”
“Cows too, I’d bet,” said the taller one.
“No. Plenty of cows to buy in Cheyenne. More coming up from Texas through Colorado. Why do you ask? You three looking for work?”
They both ignored the question. “Who’s this young fellow with you?” the taller one said, either trying to be the meaner of the two, or actually maybe he was. “He the ranch foreman? Does he talk?”
“Nick? He usually answers direct questions. You got something to ask him, I’m sure he’ll answer you.”
“Hey, Nick. When are you and your Buffalo Soldier, here, planning on leaving Laramie?”
The saloon had become very quiet.
Nick looked at his drink. Looked over at the bartending brother.
“Well,” he said. “As Mr. Lincoln has explained to you, our plan failed. Our boss will want to hear soon as we get back. We were pretty much thinking of riding back in the morning. But now I think after our next drink will be a good time to leave instead. Unless your brother doesn’t want to sell us any more whiskey.”
The bartender held up an empty whiskey bottle. “I think my brothers are suggesting that the time for you two to move on has arrived.”
At that moment, four men walked into the saloon. They nodded to the brothers, then the girls, and walked over to the bar.
The two brothers left Lincoln and Nick’s table and approached the four men.
“What do you want Jim?” the taller brother said. “You know you’re not welcome here at the Bucket of Blood. All four of you get out. Now.”
The two brothers drew their Remington revolvers.
“You going to shoot us down in cold blood right here in your saloon? That can’t be good for business. Word’ll get back all through the Territory.”
At that moment, three more men walked in the swinging door. They carried shotguns. The girls retreated behind the bar. The bartender pulled out a shotgun and placed it on the bar. It was pointed at Lincoln.
“I’m giving you fair warning,” the taller brother said to the man he had called Jim, ignoring the three newcomers. “You get out of here now and take your six friends with you. We’ll forget this ever happened the minute the doors slaps your butt.”
“It’s you three who are leaving” Jim said. “Put your guns down there. On the table.”
“You don’t leave right now, I’ll shoot you right where you stand. Self-defense. Creating a public disturbance. Threatening us. I assumed you were armed like your friends.” He shrugged. Said, “Your choice.”
“Actually,” Lincoln said, “The choice is yours, friend.”
The bartender reached for the shotgun. Nick waved him a warning gesture with his left palm as he aimed his gun at the bartender’s chest.
The other two brothers looked over their shoulders at Lincoln.
“You going to shoot both of us?”
“Like I said, and I just hate to have to repeat myself, it’s your choice. If one of the three of you pulls a trigger or even turns around, then the next three shots will kill you all. I know you’re armed, I don’t have to assume.”
The bartender stepped away from the bar. The other two brothers holstered their pistols. The man with the shotgun nearest the door motioned the girls and the other eleven patrons out of the bar. The two girls looked expectantly at Nick as they backed out the door.
“What now?” said the taller brother after everyone had left.
Under the cover of the three shotguns, the four men who had entered first disarmed the three half-brothers and handcuffed them behind their backs.
“Now we’re going to kill you.”