“That’s right,” Slade said, tying Stokely to the hitching rack, “And I got blisters on my trigger finger. Do you know where I could get some Solarcaine?”
Hart shook his head, and so Slade started down towards the hotel, his spurs jingling below the heels of his Bonanza cowboy boots (they had elevator lifts inside the heels, Slade was very sensitive about his height).
When old men and pregnant ladies saw him coming they took to the other side of the street. One small boy came up and asked for his autograph. Slade, who didn’t want to encourage that sort of thing, shot him in the leg and walked on.
At the hotel he asked for a room, and the trembling clerk said the second floor suite was available, and Slade went up. He undressed, then put his boots on again, and climbed into bed. He was asleep in moments.
Around one in the morning, while Slade was dreaming sweetly of his childhood sweetheart Miss Polly Paduka of Peachtree, Illinois, the window was eased up little by little, without even a squeak to alert Slade’s keen ears. The shape that crept in was frightful indeed – for if Jack Slade was the most feared gunslinger in the American Southwest, then Hunchback Fred Agnew was the most detested killer. He was a two foot three inch midget with a hump big enough for a camel halfway down his crooked back. In one hand he held a three foot Arabian skinning knife (and although Hunchback Fred had never skinned an Arab with it, he was known to have put it to work changing the faces of three U.S. marshals, two county sheriffs and an old lady from Boston on the way to Arizona to recuperate from Parkinson’s disease). In the other hand he held a large box made of woven river reeds.
He slid across the floor in utter silence, holding his Arabian skinning knife ready, should Slade awake. Then he carefully put the box down on the chair by the bed. Grinning fiendishly, he opened the lid and pulled out a twelve-foot python named Sadie Hawkins. Sadie had been Hunchback Fred’s bosom companion for the last twelve years, and had saved the terrifying little man from death many times.
“Do your stuff, hon.” Fred whispered affectionately. Sadie seemed to almost grin at him as Hunchback Fred kissed her on her dead black mouth. The snake slid onto the bed and began to crawl towards Slade’s head. Giggling fiendishly, Hunchback Fred retreated to the corner to watch the fun.
Sadie wiggled in slow S-curves up the side of the bed, and drew back to strike. In that instant, the faint hiss of scales on the sheet came to Slade’s ears.
A woman was in bed with him! That was his first thought as he rolled off the bed and onto the floor, grabbing for the sinister derringer that was always strapped to his right calf. Sadie struck at the pillow where his head had been only a second before. Hunchback Fred screamed with disappointment and threw his three-foot Arabian skinning knife, which nicked the corner of one of Slade’s earlobes and quivered in the floor.
Slade fired the derringer and Hunchback Fred fell back against the wall, knocking the picture Niagara Falls off the dresser. His sinister career was at an end.
Carefully avoiding the python (which seemed to have gone to sleep on the bed), Slade got dressed. It was time to go out to Sam Columbine’s ranch and put an end to that slimy coyote once and for all.
Strapping on the twin gunbelts of his sinister.45s, Slade went downstairs. The desk clerk looked at him even more nervously than before. “D-did I hear a shot?” He asked.
“Don’t think so,” Slade said, “But you better go up and close the window by the bed. I left it open – ”
“Yessir, Mr. Slade. Of course. Of course.”
And then Slade was off, grimly determined to find Sam Columbine and put a crimp in his style once and for all.
Slade shoved his way into the Brass Cuspidor where the foreman of Sandra Dawson’s Bar-T, Mose Hart, was leaning over the bar with a bottle of Digger’s Rye (206 proof) in one hand.
“Okay, you slimy drunkard,” Slade gritted, pulling Hart around and yanking the bottle out of his hand. “Where is Sam Columbine’s ranch?
I’m going to get that rotten liver-eater, he just sent Hunchback Fred Agnew up against me.”
“Hunchback Fred?!” Hart gasped, going white as a sheet. “And you’re still alive?”
“I filled him full of lead,” Slade said grimly. “He should have known that putting a snake in my bed was a no-no.”
“Hunchback Fred Agnew,” Hart whispered, still awed, “There was talk that he might be the next Vice President of the American Southwest.”
Slade let go of a grating laugh that even made the bartenders dog, General Custer, cringe.
“Well I reckon that now he can be Vice President of Hell!” Slade proclaimed. He motioned to the bartender, who was standing at the far end of the bar reading a western novel.
“Bartender! What have you got for mixed drinks?”
The bartender approached cautiously, tucking the dog-eared copy of Blood Brides of Sitting Bull into his back pocket. “Wal, Mr. Slade, we got about the usual – The Geronimo, The Fort Bragg Backbreaker, Popskull Pete, Sourdough Armpit – ”
“How about a shot of Digger’s Rye (206 proof)?” Mose Hart said with a glassy grin.
“Shut up,” Slade growled. He turned to the bartender and drew one of his sinister.45s.
“If you don’t produce a drink that I ain’t never had before, friend, you’re gonna be pushing up daisies before dawn.”
The bartender went white, “W-well, we do have drink of my own invention, Mr. Slade. But it’s so potent that I done stopped serving them.
I got plumb tired of having people pass out on the roulette wheel”
“What’s it called?”
“We call it a zombie,” the bartender said.
“Well mix me up three of them and make it fast!” Slade commanded.
“Three zombies?” Mose Hart said with popping eyes. “M’God, are you crazy?”
Slade turned to him coldly “Friend, smile when you say that.”
Hart smiled and took another drink of Digger’s Rye.
“Okay,” Slade said, when the three drinks had been placed in front of him. They came in huge beer steins and smelled like the wrath of God.
He drained the first one at a single draught, blew out his breath, staggered a little, and lit one of his famous Mexican cigars. Then he turned to Mose.
“Now just where is Sam Columbine’s ranch?” He asked.
“Three miles west and across the ford,” Mose said. “It’s called the Rotten Vulture Ranch”
“That figursh,” Slade said, draining his second drink to the ice-cubes.
He was beginning to feel a trifle woozy. It probably had something to do with the lateness of the hour, he thought, and began to work on his third drink.
“Say – ” Mose Hart said timidly, “I don’t really think you’re in any shape to go up against Sam Columbine, Slade. He’s apt to put a crimp in your style.”
“Doan tell me what to do,” Slade, swaggering over to pat General Custer. He breathed in the dog’s face and General Custer promptly went to sleep. “If there’sh one thing that I can do, it’s lick my holder, I mean hold my liquor. Ho get out of my way before I blon you in to.”
“The door’s out the other way,” the bartender said cautiously.
“Coursh it is. You think I doan tinow where I’m goin’?”
Slade staggered across the bar, stepping on General Custer’s tail (the dog didn’t wake up) and managed to make his way out through the batwing doors where he almost fell off the sidewalk. Just then a steely arm clamped his elbow. Slade looked around blearily.
“I’m Deputy Marshall Hoagy Carmichael,” the stranger said, “and I’m taking yuh in – ”
“On what charge?” Slade asked.
“Public intoxication. Now let’s go.”
Slade burped. “Everything happen’sh to me,” he groaned. The two of them started off for the Dead Steer Springs jail.
After Slade was sprung from the pokey, Sandra Dawson’s top hand, Mose Hart, went his bail. Slade filled both Hart and Deputy Marshall Hoagy Carmichael full of lead (blame it on his terrible hangover). Then, mounting his huge black stallion, Stokely, Slade made it out to the Rotten Vulture Ranch to have it out once an for all with Sam Columbine.
But Columbine was not there. He was off torturing ex border guards, leaving Sandra Dawson under the watch of three trusted henchmen –
Big Fran Nixon, “Quick Draw” John Mitchell, and Shifty Ron Ziegfeld.
After a heated shootout, Slade dropped al three of them in their slimy tracks and freed the fair Sandra.
The acrid, choking smell of gunsmoke filled the room where the lovely Sandra Dawson had been held prisoner. As she saw Slade standing tall and victorious, with a sinister.45 in each hand and a Mexican cigar clenched between his teeth, her eyes filled with love and passion.