But the real lucky thing was that these fools didn’t know the first thing about spying. It took Bailey a good minute before he figured out that they weren’t gonna ask him for a sign or code phrase! Not that Bailey knew it, because he’d shot Jimmy and everything, but who the hell just nods their heads and grins when you come up to them and tell them you’re their contact? Although at least he knew now he wasn’t just bushwacking three nobodies out in the desert. That’d be low of him.

A part of Bailey was tempted to ride this out and see where it could take him — but he wasn’t really there to get information. He was there to get their damn horses. So he started up the festivities by suddenly stopping, then pointing out with his right hand. “Crap!” he shouted. “What’s that?” All three of ‘em looked, the idjits — and Bailey promptly drew with his left hand and shot the Virginian, on the principle that anybody fresh from the manumission fight in that state had to be a hard man and a fanatic. Three quick shots and one hit, but the one was right in the throat and made the Virginian drop like… a dead man. The dime novels lie: there ain’t nothing that falls to the ground quite like a dead man.

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