I couldn't stop thinking about Slim's words; "Something else is going on." I kept thinkin there was something I ought to be doin, but Slim said to just hold on and he'd let me know when he found out anything new.
So it was a waitin game....doin chores, goin to town to waste my pay, and watchin Shorty and Vernon pester each other. That was always our chief source of entertainment. None of us had the patience for TV. We were too far out from town to get what Shorty called 'the cables', and when we tried one of them satellite dishes all we did was argue about which one of four hundred channels to watch until Vernon, in his usual patient and gentle way, ripped it off the roof and threw it in a gully and called the company, telling them to come and get this infernal thing before somebody ends up wearin it for a hat.
Then came that Sunday morning. We were all recuperatin from Saturday night in town. Vernon was snoozin quietly on the porch with his chair tipped back against the wall. He'd been smokin his big fancy pipe, one of them with a curved stem and a big bowl that sort of sat there on his chest when he was kicked back that way. Shorty came out and saw him and went right over to his truck. He'd been sneakin off to a golf course, tryin to learn how to play, and I guess Vernon found out and gave him a pretty hard time while we were in town.
Shorty came back from the truck with his high dollar graphite driver club and positioned himself in front of Vernon. Of course, we all started payin real close attention then. He lined up the head of that club with Vernons pipe, pulled it back over his head and yelled "FOUR". Vernons eyes popped open just as Shorty swung and POW...that pipe and Vernons upper plate went flyin clear over the tool shed. Vernon came up off that chair like he was fired from a cannon. Shorty took off runnin like a scalded dog, gigglin like a school kid. They disappeared into the barn and as everyone took off to watch the fun I heard "Cyclone". I turned around and there sat Montana Slim in his pick-up.
"Get in" he said. He didn't look good, like he hadn't slept for a long while. When I got in, he just started drivin. I'd never seen Slim look quite so ragged. I figured he'd talk when he was ready, so I just kept quiet. When we'd passed through the gate and onto the road, he started to talk.
"We got a problem. Fact is we got lots of problems. The main thing right now is this." He handed me a piece of paper. At least it looked like paper. It kind of shimmered when I touched it, and it felt like...I don't know...snake skin I guess. On the paper were these words:
The game is on!
Your cowboy friend wounded me, and so he must pay. I shall dispatch him at my earliest convenience, and the rest of you shall follow him into the great abyss. Try and make it interesting for me. It's the least you can do.
Slim had stopped the truck and was watchin me read. After readin it two or three times I looked at him and said "This can't be good."
"I've dug up just enough information on this guy to figure out that I don't know nothin'." He sounded as rough as he looked. "Don't know who he is or where he's from or what he's up to. All I know is he's comin for you and the rest of us, and I've got a feelin we'd better be ready."
"Yeah, I believe you're right. But, ready for what?"
"I wish I knew" Slim said, "I can tell you this, though; Lilly don't know any more about him than we do. She thinks he's just somebody Eustis dragged into her deal, but it looks to me like she was doin something for him without even knowin it. This Toby guy's got something goin that's way beyond phony money and cattle rustling."
"So how do we find out what it is?" I asked.
"I wish I knew" he said, "I've got some friends in pretty high places...federal places, and they can't seem to find out any more than me. This guy's a ghost."
And then the world blew up.
END OF CHAPTER TWELVE