“I heard he ran off with an Apache squaw. Livin’ with the indians up in Purple Rock.” Jack Smithers poked at the campfire.
“Nah … what I heard was that he headed back east to work for the railroad again.” Pete Thomas stroked crumbs from his mustache.
“I told you scoundrels before and I’m tellin’ you again — ain’t no way Andy Fuson woulda left us high and dry.” Caleb Martin pointed at each of the men around the pit as he spoke. “This was Andy’s posse. None of you would be here if it wasn’t for him.”
A few faces flashed guilty expressions. Blake Meyers wasn’t quite ready to give it up, though.
“So what do you think happened to him then, Caleb? How do you explain Andy just up and disappearin’ after that job in Holton?”
Caleb scratched his chin. “Well, the way I figure it …”
Just then, thunder cracked in the clear night air, and a comet streaked across the sky.
The men jumped, but Caleb continued on. “The way I figure it, Andy must’ve got jumped that night the judge let us out. Wouldn’t be surprised if the sheriff himself decided to make his own justice.”
“So you’re sayin’ Andy’s dead?” Blake asked.
A second comet lit up the sky like high noon and crashed into a fiery plume just on the other side of the rockwall that protected the men from the desert night.
They scrambled to their feet, drawing their six-shooters and pointing them at the fireball.
“You’re all wrong,” a gravelly voice called out from the night. A silhouette appeared from the orange glow and walked their way.
“I’m not dead, and I didn’t desert you lily-livered bunglers,” Andy said. “But boy, do I have a story to tell!”