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Dedicated to Clint & Sergio

Chapter One

He woke up drunk and reckoned he’d go ahead and stay that way.

It took Johnny Pearl a second to remember where he was. For one brief, sweet moment, he imagined he was dozing on the summer porch, listening to the clatter of buckboards on the cobblestones as they headed for market. But then he opened his eyes and found himself in the shabby backroom of a frontier bar.

Charleston was far away and long ago, replaced by yet another starved-dog town, this one clinging to the edge of the Wyoming territory like a tick. He wasn’t sure if it had a name, or even needed one. But at least it had a saloon.

He’d ridden into town two days back, covered in trail dust so thick that from a distance it looked like he was still wearing his old uniform. The first thing he did upon setting foot between the swinging doors of the saloon was call for a bottle of rotgut and a hot bath, which he got toot-sweet.

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