Chapter Four—Hannibal Landers, Number Two

     Frankly, I was a little surprised that people as far north as I now was—back to Pine Valley—had heard of me. The goings-on in New Mexico were a little peculiar, but I didn’t think they were so out of the ordinary as to create a reputation all over the West. But apparently such had happened. And, as noted, I had been using aliases ever since I left New Mexico, just in case. I had wandered around for over year, bouncing from place to place, not sure what I wanted to do, mainly avoiding lawmen. I heard my name mentioned a couple of times, which pleased me none too well, but I hoped the whole thing would eventually blow over. But apparently, the saga of Hannibal Landers had grown with the telling, for now I had “kilt half of New Mexico and eight or nine men since then,” both of which were far from the truth. Davey Gordon was the only other man I had killed since leaving home, but from all indications, nobody knew that it was Hannibal Landers who had done that deed. To be honest, I was sick of killing—I never wanted to do it in the first place; spiders and snakes were enough for me. But I did what I thought I had to do in New Mexico, and Gordon forced my hand. Hopefully, it would be the last time.
     And with that hope in mind, I took off my gun in Pine Valley, which is why Caroline saw me without it. I still had both holsters—the one gun and two gun belts—with two pistols and a rifle. The pistols and the money I’d taken from the bank were in my saddle bags or in various money belts on my person. I kept a couple wrapped around my ankles inside my boots. I was getting tired of drifting and truly hoped that, if I came far enough north, nobody would have heard of me. That obviously was a hope deferred.
     But again, there was no way I could leave Pine Valley now, not with a man coming who was using my name and very likely would further tarnish my reputation. In fact, I figured it might have been that fellow who had added the extra “eight or nine men” since New Mexico to the list of my grave plottings. That guy had to be stopped, one way or another, and I wasn’t going to count on Benny Freitus to do it.
     But then…if Freitus did kill “Hannibal Landers,” that would free me entirely. I could decide what name I wanted to use for the rest of my life and not have to worry about the law chasing me any more. That didn’t exactly put a good taste in my mouth. My name was Hannibal Landers, I was proud of it, and I wanted to use it. At the moment, however, I couldn’t see any way to do it. So I’d remain “Frank Pierce” in Pine Valley, and if I moved on, I’d probably use another alias. I’d never been “Tom Jefferson,” but I’d run out of Presidents eventually.
     All of this stuff was going through my head as I ate my meal at Wiggly’s and then left. My mind was still in a whirl as I walked down the boardwalk towards the hotel, so I didn’t see the two fellows who were coming the other way. So naturally I bumped into them. And just as naturally, they were the kind to take offense.
     “Oh, excuse me,” I said, rather idly, and made to pass on, thinking it a small matter.
     But I was dealing with a couple of young toughs who liked to parade that toughness every chance they got. The red-headed fellow with a face full of freckles said, “Hey, watch where you’re going, mister,” and gave me a hard shove into his companion, a blond haired freak with his two front teeth missing and a nose that had obviously been broken recently in the past.
     Missing Teeth grabbed me and hurled me a few feet down the boardwalk. I stumbled, but kept my feet, and then looked at them. “Ok, fellows, I’m sorry, all right? It was an accident. No sense in making a scene out of it.”
     But they wanted to. They both came up to me, sensing that maybe I was an easy touch. Freckles stood in front of me with a confident, surly expression on his face, and said, “Well, maybe it wasn’t an accident. Seems to me like maybe you was spoiling for a fight.”
     “Oh, good grief,” I said, and threw up my hands in disgust. “I’m not looking for a fight, ok? I just wasn’t paying very close attention to where I was going at the moment and bumped into you fellows. I meant no harm. Let it go.”
     Freckles turned his head and spat. “How much is it worth to ya?”
     “Huh?” I looked at him, puzzled.
     “Give each of us, say, 20 bucks, and we’ll let it slide. This time.”
     This was ridiculous, of course. I could have wiped the street with these two yahoos in five seconds, but that was the very thing I was trying to avoid—calling attention to myself. And I was willing to go a long way to avoid doing that. “All right,” I said. “I’ll keep the peace,” and started to reach for my wallet.
     Fortunately, about that time, the sheriff came over. “What’s going on here?” A small crowd had also gathered, thinking they might see a good fight.
     Since Freckles and Missing Teeth weren’t too quick with their brains, I spoke first. “Sheriff, I accidentally bumped into these fellows on the boardwalk. I apologized, but they want to make trouble out of it. I’d appreciate you shooing them off so I can go about my business.”
     “That’s not what happened, sheriff!” Freckles said. “This sidewinder deliberately rammed us and we was gonna make him pay.”
     The sheriff looked skeptical. “Well, deliberate or not, Harley, he apologized. Now you and Hank get on home. I don’t want any trouble here today.”
     Harley—Freckles—grumbled and looked at me. “You owe us 20 bucks apiece, mister, and you’re gonna pay, one way or another, some time.” I just sighed and shook my head.
     “Get outta here, Myers,” the sheriff said, and Harley and Hank moved on, still grumbling.
     I glanced at the lawman. “Thanks, sheriff. I’m not looking for trouble.”
     He examined me. “You’re new here.”
     “Yeah. Just passing through. Staying at the hotel for a few days. Name’s Frank Pierce. You can check it out.”
     “I’ll do that.” He gave me one more close inspection and said, “We’ve got a few rotten apples in Pine Valley now, like the Myers. Try to watch where you’re going.”
     I nodded. “Sure thing, sheriff.”
     He walked away and the crowd started breaking up, disappointed that they weren’t going to see a good scrap. I happened to see Caroline standing near the back of the crowd. She was looking at me, and I could see disappointment like it was written in bold letters across her forehead. Then she turned and started to move off.
     “Nice earrings,” I said, just loud enough for her to hear, and with some obvious sarcasm. I didn’t wait to see if she turned and looked back or not. I headed for the barber shop I’d seen to get a haircut and a bath.

     Caroline was indeed disappointed and she wasn’t exactly sure why. She had seen almost the whole thing. Well, she didn’t see him—he said his name is Frank Pierce—bump into the Myers brothers, but she saw the rest—Harley push him, Hank toss him, and then the challenge, the demand for $40, and the obvious intent he had of giving it to them. He didn’t stand up to Billy and he didn’t stand up to the Myers. But his eyes…did I misread him that badly? When she and he looked at each other when it was over, Caroline thought she read disgust in his face. At her? What does he see in mine? She turned away, but heard the sarcastic remark about “nice earrings.” She looked back, but he was already headed in the other direction. She bit her lower lip and watched him a moment, then slowly walked away. She shook it off and her mind shifted gears. I need to get home. Then she thought of what Betty Anderson had told her—that her father had hired a gunman, and she knew that was a major reason she was upset. Hannibal Landers. Oh, he’s a murderer! How could father hire such a man as that?…

     I did all that I wanted to do at the barber’s and felt almost new when I left the place—I’d had him get my clothes laundered, too. It was mid-afternoon, and I didn’t have anyplace special to be any time soon—pardon the understatement—so I walked the streets of Pine Valley for a while. There were a lot of different businesses—I saw a ladies’ clothing store and one for men, a grocery store, a general store, a pharmacy with a doctor’s office above it, a lawyer’s office, a land agency, book store, two more restaurants, etc. etc. and then I happened upon the northwest district where the saloons, dance halls, and whorehouses were. I did an abrupt U-turn because Ma was back on my shoulder, but then heard a roar coming from one of the saloons across the street and two men came flying out backwards and landed in the street. A moment later, Billy Williams, Caroline’s beau—at least that’s how I thought of him—came storming out of the place. He picked the two men up off the ground, butted their heads together, and proceeded to pound each of them into utter insensibility. It was brutal and I thought he was going to kill them. But he didn’t. He just left them on the ground as bloody pulps.
     “If I ever see either of you two again, I’ll twist you into th’ ground, head first,” Billy shouted at them, though neither one of them could hear him since they were both unconscious. He cursed them a few more times, gave each of them one last kick, and then looked up and saw me. I was still across the street. He snarled at me, but I held up my hands in a surrendering gesture, and he just spat, then turned and went back into the saloon. I watched him with a thoughtful expression on my face.
     “He got somethin’ agin you, mister?” I heard somebody say, and I turned and saw an old man watching me.
     I gave him a whimsical smile. “Yeah. I made the mistake of saying hello to his girl.”
     He grunted. “Don’t do that again. Billy Williams is plumb poison mean, and he can lick any five men in town all at the same time. You saw what he just done to those two fellers, and them boys is fightin’ mean theirselves. If’n yore on Billy’s bad list, you’d be wise to stay outta his way. ‘Specially since you ain’t packin’ no armor.” He meant that I wasn’t wearing a gun.
     I nodded and looked back at the saloon. “I’ll do that. Thanks.” After another moment’s reflection, I just shook my head and headed back to the safer districts of Pine Valley.
     If “Hannibal Landers” hadn’t been on his way to Pine Valley to be Art Barker’s hired killer, I would have left the place the next day.
     But…I had to stay.

     Wiggly’s was close enough to the hotel that I decided to eat supper there as well. I arrived a little after 6, and it was pretty crowded again, but I did get a table this time, in the back. I sat facing the front entrance, just so I could see who came in. There was a window behind me in case Billy Williams showed up and wanted to throw me through it.
     Billy didn’t come, but halfway through my fried chicken meal—and the old timer had been right, the chicken was better than the steak—a big man entered the restaurant who looked like he thought he owned the place. Carried himself with authority. He was older, maybe late 40s, but built like a rock. He had narrow eyes, a square chin, thin lips, and rugged complexion. Tough looking dude, but not an outlaw. I know them when I see them.
     “Howdy, Art,” somebody hollered, and my eyebrows shot up. This must be Art Barker of Rocking AT fame—the fellow who had hired…Hannibal Landers.
     He didn’t respond to the greeting. “Anybody seen Hannibal Landers in town?”
     Somebody else spoke up. “Wouldn’t rightly know him if we seen him, Art. Got a description of him?”
     “Yeah, medium height, dark hair, blue eyes, ugly.” Well, that was pretty close, especially the ugly part.
     “Lots of men fit that description, Art.”
     Barker threw the fellow a withering glance. “Well, I’m sure he’ll make himself known when he gets here. Tell him to head out to my place pronto.” Then he looked around the room. “Anybody here who wants to try and bust a bronc? I got one that refuses to break. He’s tossed my best riders and broken two of their legs. I’m going to shoot him if he throws the next fellow. Ten dollars for the man who can tame him.”
     “You wouldn’t be talkin’ about Diablo, would you, Art?”
     “That’s the critter.”
     “No, thanks.”
     I whispered to the fellow at the table next to mine: “Who’s Diablo?”
     “He’s the horse Barker’s talking about. Everybody knows he’s the orneriest, meanest caballo this side of Mexico. Nobody can break him. I guess Barker’s tired of trying.”
     Barker spoke up again. “Nobody want to try?”
     “I’ll do it.” That was me. I’d broken lots of horses for Pa before, including Raven, and he was as wild as they came.
     Barker looked at me. “Who are you?”
     “Pierce,” I said. “Got into town today. Just passing through, but my horse is tired and thought I might hole up for a few days. Whorehouses and bars don’t appeal to me so I’ve got some time on my hands. I’ll take a shot at breakin’ that outlaw for you.”
     He nodded. “All right. Ten bucks if you can do it.”
     “No, that’s not enough,” I said.
     He looked at me quizzically. “Then how much?”
     I looked him up and down. There was no sound in that diner now. Everybody was looking at me. “I want the horse,” I said.
     Barker’s eyes narrowed and he started to say something, but I interrupted. “He’s not doing you any good unbroken and you apparently haven’t got anybody who can break him. I tame him, he’s mine.”
     He shook his head. “You don’t look like the type that can break a horse like Diablo.”
     I smiled at him. “You wanna bet?”
     He actually smiled back, but it didn’t reach his eyes. “The horse?”
     Still smiling, I just nodded my head.
     “And if you don’t break him? What’s your end of the bet?”
     “I’ll provide the bullet for you to shoot him with.”
     Barker laughed. “All right, you’ve got a deal. You be out at my place at 9 AM tomorrow and I’ll watch Diablo stomp you into the dirt.” He told me how to get to his ranch.
     “I’ll be there. I want a new saddle, too.”
     "That's not much of an even bet, Pierce."
     "Would you rather shoot the horse?"
     I could tell by his eyes that "no," he didn't want to do that.  No rancher ever wants to shoot a horse, regardless of how ornery the critter is, and a well-to-do horse man, like Barker, would be willing to pay almost any price not to kill one.  I knew that because we had run horses on our ranch in New Mexico. 
     But Barker only laughed again, and said, “Cocky tinhorn, aren’t you.”
     I nodded, but somebody else spoke up.
     “Art, you’re wasting your time. The man is a first rate coward. He won’t even show up.”
     Barker looked at the fellow who had spoken. “You want to explain that?”
     The man had seen my…confrontation…with the Myers brothers that day. “He wouldn’t fight his own mother. Was going to give each of ‘em 20 bucks to save his hide.” Heads turned towards me and there were a lot of scornful looks.
     Barker said to me, “Is that true?”
     I shrugged. “I try to avoid trouble when possible.”
     “He’s sich a cow’rd he ain’t even wearin’ a gun.”
     I made a disgusted sound. “Mr. Barker, that doesn’t mean I can’t break a horse.”
     He scrutinized me closely. “I don’t like cowards.”
     “What do you care what I am if I can break that horse of yours?”
     “Then why did you back down to the Myers?”
     “I told you. I avoid trouble if I can.”
     He looked skeptical, but he said, “Be at my ranch at 9.” And he left.
     Everybody was looking at me now. I paid no mind. I finished my chicken, tossed a few coins on the table, and started to leave.
     “You’ll never break that horse, stranger,” somebody said to my back.
     I turned and smiled again. “You wanna bet? I’ll take your horse, too,” and that actually got a few laughs.

     Caroline, because she was the only female left in the Barker family, did most of the household work, like cooking and cleaning. She fed the chickens and dogs, too, but left most everything else up to her father and uncle Rafe—and their hired hands, of course. She liked to ride, and had a good horse named Butter, because that was her color. Caroline had to admit that Butter was ugly, but she was a dandy steed. Her father had given her to Caroline for her 21st birthday the year before, and he wouldn’t have given his only daughter a rogue. Art doted on Caroline, but he was pretty strict with her, too. A little too much so now, Caroline thought, but she put up with it because he’d always been that way, and she was his only child.
    Usually her father, uncle, and the ranch foreman, Trace Newsome, ate breakfast together in the dining room of the ranch house, mainly so they could discuss the day’s business. And that was true today. Caroline was still a little upset about the news she’d heard yesterday and, since she hadn’t had a chance the previous evening, decided to confront her father with it now.
     She had everything on the table—eggs, biscuits, sausage, gravy, and coffee—and the men were digging in. Caroline spoke up. “Father, I heard yesterday that you had hired Hannibal Landers.”
     Her father paused just a moment with the fork on his way to his mouth, then he took the bite, chewed a moment, and said, “It’s none of your concern, Caroline.”
     Caroline was pretty mild-mannered, but she could be aroused. “Yes, it is, too, Father. I live on this ranch, too, and having an outlaw and a murderer like that here is frightening. And it’s wrong. You know Mother would never approve of such.” Caroline’s mother had been a saint, but had died 10 years ago. Her daughter still missed her, and Art did, too.
     And he winced. “Caroline, don’t you be bringing your mother into this. I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do. Ridenour has hired a man and I have to protect my property as well. It’s just the way it is.”
     “You’re going to get killed, is what you’re going to do,” Caroline said hotly. “And a lot of other good men, too. Why can’t you talk to Mr. Ridenour? You two used to be the best of friends.”
     Her uncle Rafe and the foreman, Newsome, hadn’t raised an eyeball during this exchange, but were conspicuously stuffing food into their mouths. Art put his fork down and stared at his daughter. “Giles Ridenous is a thief, a liar, a swindler, a deceiver, and would rob a widow of her inheritance. I’ve tried to talk to him, but he’s beyond reason. He’s bringing this on. He hired his man first. What do you expect me to do, sit here and let him run roughshod over me? Girl, I’m protecting this land for you. Maybe a show of appreciation would be more appropriate.”
     Caroline didn’t back down. “There’s got to be a better way than hiring murderers and gunmen.”
     “You tell me what it is.”
     Caroline groped. “Can’t you get the sheriff involved? Isn’t he supposed to uphold the law? Prevent this sort of thing?”
     “How much confidence do you have in Chet Miller?”
     Caroline closed her eyes and dropped her head. She knew what her father meant. Chet Miller was a good man, but he was way out of his league on this one. And besides, he couldn’t do anything until somebody broke the law. Which nobody had yet. “There’s just got to be a better way, Father. There has to be.”
     Art Barker went back to eating. “Well, if you figure out what it is, you let me know. Otherwise, stay out of it. This is a man’s job and me and my boys will handle it.”
     Caroline knew it was useless to argue any further, so she just sighed and went back into the kitchen. The men started discussing the day’s needs; Caroline could hear them, but wasn’t paying much attention until she heard her father say, “Oh, Trace, I’ve got a fellow coming out about 9 who’s going to try to break Diablo. Name of Pierce. Told him I’d give him $10 if he could do it, but he made me bet the horse. So if he breaks him, let him have him. A new saddle, too.”
     “He’ll never do it,” Trace said.
     “Well, he’s a cocky so and so, I’ll say that for him, so we’ll give him a chance. It’ll make him eat a piece of humble pie, that’s for sure,” and the three men laughed.
     When Caroline heard the name “Pierce,” she froze. Is that Frank? Then, a little aggravated at herself, she thought What do I care? He’s just a spineless worm. Diablo will probably kill him. That thought frightened her a little. Why would Frank even try? Does he need money that badly? But he wants the horse? To sell? Probably. But he said he wanted to buy some land. He must have money…She sighed again, and wondered why she was even thinking about it. But, in her head, she still saw his eyes, and she just couldn’t believe he was what she saw yesterday—a man with no courage, a man who backed down twice, a man who was prepared to humiliate himself by buying off the Myers brothers.
     And then she knew. She just knew. He’ll break Diablo

     I arrived at the Rocking AT a little before 9. And received a shock of my own. I saw Caroline at the side of the house, feeding chickens. I gave her a quizzical look and she gave me what appeared to be an embarrassed smile.
     “I live here, too,” she said.
     “You’re a Barker?”
     Art Barker came out of the house and heard the exchange. “You two know each other?”
     Caroline explained. Art’s countenance towards me didn’t improve. “You backed down to Billy Williams, too. Is there anything you’ll fight for?”
     Mister, if you only knew…I didn’t bother responding. “Where’s the horse you want broken?”
     He motioned with his head. “Over in the corral.” He headed that way. I started to follow.
     I turned. It was Caroline. Her eyes were searching mine. “Be careful,” she said.
     I didn’t smile at her. I simply said, “Nice earrings.” I saw her wince and turn away. I followed Barker. I didn’t know why I was being mean to her, I guess because I didn’t like Billy Williams and apparently she did. If she hasn’t got any more sense than that, then why should I give her any respect? At least that’s how I rationalized my conduct towards her.
     Trace Newsome was standing at the corral gate. He held out his hand. “Newsome,” he said, and I shook and introduced myself. The foreman was a tall, thin fellow with dirty blond hair, sallow eyes, and a droopy mustache that covered his upper lip. Probably about 30. But he looked competent.
     “You really think you can bust that outlaw?” he asked me.
     I gave him half a grin. “Worth a shot.”
     “He’s liable to kill you.”
     “He won’t be the first horse that’s tried.”
     Newsome shrugged. “Your hide. There he is,” and pointed.
     I looked at Diablo, studying him for several moments. It was a beautiful horse, a bay gelding, powerful but sleek, light brown with four white stockings. He was prancing and jostling around the corral, tossing his head, whinnying. It was like he knew somebody was going to test him again—and that he—Diablo—would win again. Nobody can break me, was the horse’s whole demeanor.
     Well, it took four of Barker’s men to get that horse ready for me to mount him. They were holding him, had him saddled with blinders on. I had a feeling Diablo wasn’t fooled, he knew what was about to happen and couldn’t wait for the challenge to begin. Before I mounted him, however, I walked up to him and whispered something in his ear. I could see the horse shiver. I climbed on his back and took the reins. I glanced around. At least 20 men were leaning on the corral railing, watching. And I saw Caroline. She had a very worried expression on her face and was biting her lower lip. I thought I’d be nice, so I smiled at her this time and lipped “nice earrings.” If a person could smile and frown at the same time, that’s the response she gave me.
     Before Trace let Diablo loose, he asked me, “What did you say to him?” meaning, what had I whispered in the horse’s ear.
     I just smiled. “Let him go, Trace, and get out of the way.”
     “Good luck.” The foreman removed the blinders and ran. Diablo immediately threw a fit.
     I’ll admit, that horse was the worst bucker I’d ever seen. I think he turned two or three flips, and jumped over a few clouds. He could bounce and twist one way, and then when he hit the ground, immediately bounce and twist in the exact opposite direction. He almost threw me once doing that, but I caught his pattern. But he was no dummy. He did the bounce and twist to his right, and then when I expected him to immediately bounce and twist left, he did a B and T to the right again. And I went flying.
     I hit the ground hard, but it didn’t hurt. Much. Diablo was running around the corral, tossing his head, laughing at me. I looked over at Newsome.
     “Get him,” I said. “I know what he’s doing now.”
     Trace’s eyebrows shot up, but he said, “Ok. But we ain’t payin’ for your funeral.”
     Before getting back into the saddle, I whispered in Diablo’s ear again. I shot a glance at Caroline. She wasn’t looking at me; she was talking to some cowboy.
     Newsome let Diablo go, and the horse took off again. I was a little bit weary of this stubborn mule, so every time he went up, I pounded a fist between his ears. That made him madder, but I just pounded all the harder. He bucked and bucked but I wouldn’t turn loose. Finally, I shouted, “Open the gate! He’s coming through!” And sure enough, Diablo headed in that direction. Barker’s men barely got the gate open before the horse burst through it like he’d been shot out of a cannon.
     And, man, that horse could run. He took off down the trail and he didn’t slow down until I thought he would drop dead. He was faster than any horse I’d ever ridden—or seen ridden—and that included Raven. Diablo finally stopped near a stream, panting and soaked with sweat, so I dismounted and led him to the water. He didn’t fight me at all. While he was drinking, I removed the saddle and blanket, grabbed a handful of grass, and gave him a good rubdown. He liked that. The bits of apple I put to his lips didn’t disagree with him, either. He nuzzled me and I knew I had a new friend. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with him yet, though. I certainly wasn’t going to sell Raven. Well, having two of the best horses in the country wasn’t the worst thing in the world.
     We rode back to Barker’s ranch and Diablo was still feisty but under control. Everybody was watching me as I turned him loose in the corral. He rolled in the dirt for a moment, then came over and nuzzled my shirt pocket. I knew what he wanted so I pulled out another piece of apple and gave it to him. He stood there and let me rub his nose.
     Barker’s men were still standing around. “Never thought I’d see that,” one of them said.
     Barker said, “I was ready to kill him.”
     “What did you do to him?”
     General comments like that.
     Trace Newsome asked me, “What did you whisper to him before you mounted him?”
     I grinned at him. “I told him that, if he threw me, I’d beat his head in. He didn’t believe me the first time, but he did the second.”
     He laughed. “Well, it worked. He’s sure taken to you.”
     I spoke to Art Barker. “My horse now, right?”
     He nodded. “A deal’s a deal.” Then he shook his head. “I don’t understand. What you just did took more guts…why did you back down to Williams and the Myers boys yesterday? Something doesn’t fit here.”
     I looked at him for a few moments. “It’s a long story, Mr. Barker. I don’t need to go into it now.”
     He returned my gaze for several seconds, and nodded. “I’m sure you’ve got your reasons. You want a job?”
     I threw a quick glance at Caroline. She was looking at me, but I couldn’t read her face. I looked back at her father. “No, not at the moment. Thanks.”
     “All right. But you’ve got one any time you want it.”
     Right then we heard somebody yell, “Hello, the house,” and we all turned and saw a lone rider heading up the trail. He pulled up and eyeballed everybody. I’d seen a few human rattlesnakes in my day, and this fellow was the king cobra, if you’ll pardon me mixing vermin. Tall, lean but sturdy, mid-20s probably, narrow brown eyes, dark blond hair under a black, flat crowned hat. Blue shirt, Levis, gun on his hip, tied down low. Arrogance oozed out of this fellow. He was handsome and he knew it, but he was a lot more than that, and he knew that, too. His eyes rested on Caroline for a couple of seconds too long, and I glanced at her. She was staring at him, her eyes big, and it looked like she was barely breathing. Finally, the man said, “Art Barker here?”
     Art spoke up. “I’m Barker. Who are you?”
     The horseman pushed his hat back on his head, and gave a small smile that came nowhere near his eyes.
     “My name,” he said, “is Hannibal Landers.”

     Caroline didn’t realize, till she saw Frank’s surprise, that he hadn’t known her last name. She didn’t especially like the way he was looking at her; not lustful, by any means, in fact, just the opposite. A little bit cold. And when he said “nice earrings” and headed for the corral, she figured he probably hated her guts. It didn’t really take her long to figure out why. He probably thinks I AM Billy’s “woman” and that my “man” humiliated him yesterday. He probably doesn’t think I have much respect for him…and I saw him with the Myers brothers, too. She thought a moment. DO I have respect for him? She shook her head. Frank Pierce was an enigma. His eyes and his actions just didn’t seem to conform to each other.
     And then, sitting on Diablo, he smiled and mouthed “nice earrings” again. What was THAT all about? Caroline had smiled back, but was getting a little frustrated with the man. Well, he’ll probably leave Pine Valley before long and that’s well and good.
     Then…that other man rode up. He looks dangerous, too, but in a different sort of way. Her eyes locked with his for a moment. She was repulsed…yet fascinated. He’s…handsome…and he knows it…
     But then he said his name. Caroline gasped. He’s Hannibal Landers. The filthy swine…Her eyes blazed, and she muttered, “Murderer,” and then walked resolutely towards the ranch house.
     I think I’ll marry Billy after all. He’s got his faults, but he’s easy to understand. When she got to the front porch, though, she glanced back briefly. Nobody was looking at her, they were all talking to Landers. She looked at Pierce, then at Landers, then she went into the house. If those two tangled, I wonder who would win…
     And then a thought shot through her mind that caused her to tremble—and agonize—at her own feelings. And if I had to choose between the two, which one would it be?…Oh, Caroline, how can you think such a thing?…Then she sighed because she knew why. Billy Williams….

     I tried to mask my feelings when I heard the man say his name. And I had to bite my tongue to keep from shouting, “You’re a liar.” But I took my gaze off of him as if it really wasn’t any of my business and petted Diablo some more.
     “Landers”—what do I call him? The Fraud, I guess—anyway, he heard what Caroline said about him and then watched her storm off for a moment, then turned back to Barker with a wry grin. “Doesn’t like me, I guess.”
     “She has a problem with…men of your profession,” Barker said, “but she’ll give you no trouble. Glad you made it.” He spoke to his foreman. “Trace, take care of his horse.” Then to The Fraud. “Get cleaned up and come on into the house. I’ll have Caroline heat up the coffee and we’ll go to my office and I’ll fill you in on what’s going on.”
     “Sounds good to me,” The Fraud said, and he dismounted.
     I spoke. “Mr. Barker, if you don’t need me any more, I think I’ll head on back to town.”
     He nodded. “Ok. That offer of a job stands any time you want it.”
     “Thanks.” I was starting to do a slow boil. The Fraud. Using my name. Everybody thinking he was me. And Caroline thinking I—Hannibal Landers—was a murderer.
     I’m not sure why I cared what she thought about me. But I did. And all the way back to Pine Valley, it was hard to get out of my mind—she thinks I’m a murderer…