As the day wore on and the chloroform wore off, Silas Capper regained consciousness. He wanted to rub the bump on his head but found he couldn’t move his hands. He shook his head to clear it and felt something around his neck that brought him fully awake.
He opened his eyes and looked down to see three former associates standing near the horse he sat atop. This forced a great bellow of laughter from Silas.
“Well, now! Haven’t the three of you gone to some kind of trouble for this reunion. I’d been thinking just last month that it’d been too long since I’d seen any of you. And now, here we are, with me on my horse, hands tied behind my back, the guest of honor at a necktie party. You sure gone and arranged quite a meeting, I’ll say!”
Capper’s former associates – Juan, Luther, and Beak – stared up at him silently.
“Well, shoot!” Capper said. “After all this work, I’d think there was something maybe you wanted to talk about. And I’ll bet, I’ll just bet I know what it is.” He winked at them conspiratorially. “You’d all like to know where the money from the Carson City job is. Well, I’ve got it! I surely do. We can go riding off right this minute and I’ll take you to your share of that money.”
His offer was met with more silence. He laughed again.
“I know, I know. I could have done that three years ago when we stole that money. Y’know, they’re still talkin’ about us in Carson. They are! I went there not more’un six months ago – had a beard, then, for disguise – and people are still talkin’ about the daring heist the Capper Gang pulled off. There’s still wanted posters up with all our faces. We’re famous, boys! Ain’t that somethin’?”
A dry breeze ruffled the prairie grass and shifted the leaves in the tree that Capper was annexed to.
“Aw, now, don’t tell me you think I done went and spent all that money by my lonesome!”
Luther spoke for the little group when he raised a questioning eyebrow.
“Why, no! I’ve still got it all, and I kept it safe from all sorts of prying eyes. When a man’s carrying that sort of ready cash around, he suddenly develops friends he never knew he had. And the women! Man like that suddenly gets handsome, too!” He laughed heartily. “But, now … well, I’ll confess that I might have spent down just a little bit of what you have coming’ to you. But I can make it up! See, I’ve got’n ideah. I’ve got a little ideah about taking the bank in Milford. I done a little investigatin’, I have, and there’s a whole lot more money there than you might think. It’ll be like the old days again, us ridin’ together.”
Beak detached himself from Juan and Luther and positioned himself a few paces in front of Capper’s horse. He drew a carrot from a pocket of his duster and held it up. The horse took a step forward.
“Whoa! Chester, whoa!”
Beak waved the carrot back and forth, effectively hypnotizing Chester. Chester took two more steps forward and Capper was pulled backward.
“Now, Beak,” Capper said, his voice a bit strangled, “it’s not nice to tease a horse like that, make him work so hard for a mere carrot. Chester!”
Chester took two more steps. Capper’s boots were about to come out of the stirrups.
Chester took the carrot between his teeth, and Beak let him have it.
“Now that you’ve been kind enough to feed my beloved horse,” Capper croaked, “perhaps you could also be kind enough to walk him back a few paces. I’d hate for our conversation to end like this.”
Beak waited until Chester had finished his carrot. Then he led the horse back a few feet so that Capper was once again comfortably seated.
“Thank you so much,” Capper said. “Now, boys, this has all been good fun. I’m pleased to see you all, and I don’t deny you the pleasure you’ve had in kidnappin’ me and settin’ me up like this. I have done you some wrong by not forking over your money, and I’m just as powerful sorry about that as I can be. But if you’ll undo all these knots you’ve got me tied into, I’ll be pleased as punch to set things to rights. You got my word on that.”
“Your word?” Luther asked. “What word is that, Silas? Your word when you told us we’d share equally in the Carson City haul? Your word when you said you’d meet us at the hideout and parcel out the money? Your word when you said we was partners and friends? Your word that set the posse on us that we just barely got away from?”
Silas’s mouth dropped open in a big O. “I can’t believe you think I set a posse on you! That I would be a lowdown skunk of a man to do such a thing.”
“¡Cállate!” Juan yelled. “It was in the papers. Everyone knew. People laughed.”
“That was a dad-blamed lie,” Capper asserted. “I would never –”
“He said, ‘shut up,’” Beak reminded Capper.
“Now, look, boys. I’ll get you your money. I will. But you gotta let me go. You’ll never see it if you do me in.”
“Maybe after three years we don’t care about the money anymore, Silas,” Luther said.
“Of course you care about the money! Every man cares about money. It’s lotsa money. You … you gotta care about that. You gotta. And I’ll give it to you. Come with me, and we’ll go right now and get it. All that money of yours, just waiting for you.”
“We’d rather see you swing, Silas,” Beak said.
Capper finally began to sweat. “Beak … after all we’ve been through together. After all the good times.”
“After three years. After you set a posse on us,” Luther reminded him. “Even if you had the money – which we doubt – it’s not enough anymore. We haven’t stayed broke for three years, but we’ve stayed mad. Anything you might care to say to us – or to the Lord – say it now.”
Capper looked in turn at his former associates and saw nothing but vengeance written on their faces. He drew a deep, sorrowful breath. “I’ve said all I can to you boys. And I don’t have nothin’ to say to the Lord that I can’t say to His face in a minute. He knows I haven’t mistreated you. Just … make it quick, okay?”
Luther shook his head. “You could have saved yourself, Silas. If you’d owned up to your misdeeds, we’d have let you go with nothin’ worse than a couple’a shot-off kneecaps. But you were born a liar, and you’re gonna die a liar.”
Juan drew his pistol and fired a shot underneath Chester. The horse reared and ran.
The bandits were not professional hangmen, and it was not quick for Silas Capper. The men watched impassively until their victim’s struggles ended.
Beak produced another carrot from his duster and went to retrieve Chester.
“Now what?” Juan asked.
Luther thought a moment. “The Milford bank? Ol’ Silas always did have a good sense about those things.”
“He may have been lying about that, too.”
Luther regarded the dead man swinging gently in the breeze. “Let’s give him one last chance. For old times’ sake.”