The Doctor and the Rough Rider - By Mike Resnick Page 0,1

stared long and hard at Holliday, and finally cursed and tossed his cards onto the table.

“Okay,” he said unhappily. “It's yours.”

“Thanks,” replied Holliday.

“So did you pull your full house, or was it a bluff?”

“Full house?” repeated Holliday. “Maybe I was drawing to an inside straight.”

“Were you?”

Holliday shrugged. “Anything's possible.”

“Aw, come on, Doc,” persisted the man. “I'm tapped out. At least let me know what you had.”

Holliday allowed himself the luxury of a small smile. “Tapped out? What were you going to bet with if you'd pulled whatever it is you'd hoped to pull?”

The man grinned. “I thought I'd borrow it from you.”

Holliday laughed—or at least it began as a laugh, but ended as a bloody cough. “You've got a fine sense of humor, Mr. Richardson. I'll give you that.”

“Show me your cards so I can see whether I had you beat or not,” said Richardson. He reached his hand toward Holliday's cards, and an instant later Holliday jerked at the knife he wore on a string around his throat, broke the string, and brought the point of the knife down hard into the table, just between Richardson's index and middle fingers.

“After you pay to see them,” said Holliday. His voice wasn't raised, his smile wasn't hostile, but there was something in the tone of his voice that said that this wasn't a party trick, that he was fully prepared to kill any man who tried to see his hand without paying the price.

Richardson pulled his hand back quickly.

“All right, Doc,” he said quickly. “Whatever you say. No offense meant.”

“None taken,” replied Holliday, pulling his knife out of the table with an audible grunt.

“Maybe I'll see you at Kate's one of these days,” said Richardson, getting to his feet.

“Better be soon,” said Holliday. “I'll be moving into the sanitarium any day now.” He grimaced. “And once I move in, I'd give mighty long odds on my ever moving back out.”

“Soon, then,” promised Richardson and headed out into the street.

“So he's too broke to call, but he's not too broke to rent one of Kate's metal chippies for the night,” announced Holliday with an amused smile. “I'll offer three-to-one that he stops to make a few bets at the Silver Bullet along the way.”

There was general laughter, and Vermillion returned to the table, carrying two beers and placing one of them in front of Holliday, who gingerly touched the glass.

“Hot,” he remarked.

“I don't recall Tombstone ever being any hotter,” agreed Vermillion.

“Not only that, but the air there was thick enough to breathe,” added Holliday. “Up here in the mountains, even the birds have to walk.”

“Maybe you should have stayed in Tombstone,” said a man at the bar.

Holliday shook his head. “I should have stayed in Georgia.”

“Why the hell didn't you?”

Holliday turned to see who was speaking to him, and his gaze fell on two young men in nondescript clothing, neither cowboys' nor miners' outfits.

“Do I know you?” asked Holliday.

“Indirectly,” said the younger of the two men. “You knew some friends of mine.”

“Oh?” said Holliday, refusing to ask who the friends were, since the young man seemed so eager that he should ask.

“That's right,” said the other man. “At least we'd like to think you knew them. We'd hate to think you gun strangers down in cold blood.”

Sounds pretty damned tempting, thought Holliday. Aloud he said, “I take it that whoever we're talking about were friends of yours?”

“Frank and Tom McLaury. You killed them at the O.K. Corral.”

“May I suggest that you have very poor taste in friends?” said Holliday.

“We liked them well enough,” said the younger man.

Holliday shrugged. “You were welcome to.”

“I don't like your attitude, Holliday,” said the younger man.

“A lot of people share your opinion of it,” agreed Holliday with a pleasant smile. Suddenly the smile vanished. “And it's Doc Holliday to you.”

The younger man tensed, and his fingers poised over the handle of his pistol.

“Don't do that, son,” said Holliday, still not raising his voice.

“Or you'll make me regret it forever?” came the sarcastic reply.

“Try it, and your forever ends in about half a second.”

The young man's friend grabbed him by the arm and tried to lead him away.

“Come on, Billy!” he urged. “Look at him, nothing but a skinny old lunger. He's not even worth a bullet.”

“Listen to your friend,” said Holliday. “He makes sense.”

The young man pulled back for a moment, then uttered an obscenity and pointed his finger at Holliday. “I'll see you again!” he promised.

Holliday pointed back, and pretended that his finger was a gun

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