The Doctor and the Rough Rider
but you must remember that he is the creation of
     more than fifty medicine men, and each will have his own ideas, and each will have
     some input, some trait to add or change or eliminate.”
    “All right,” said Roosevelt after a moment's consideration. “I have another question.”
    Geronimo stared at him. “Ask.”
    “Is this creature being created just to kill you and me, or to conquer the whole damned
     continent?”
    A smile of approval crossed Geronimo's face, as if to say, It's about time you thought to ask that. “We are his first challenge, not his last. He is being created solely to battle you
     and myself, but if he wins, be assured that they will find more for him to do.”
    “Wrong,” said Roosevelt firmly.
    “Wrong?” repeated Geronimo, frowning.
    “We're going to be his first and his last challenge, because we're going to put an end to him.”
    “The spirit is strong within you. I approve.”
    “Well, I wish I'd found out a little more about him, but at least you gave me a few
     facts.”
    Geronimo looked surprised. “I did?”
    Roosevelt nodded.
    “What?” asked the Apache.
    “They're creating him to kill you and me. So his strengths will be those strengths
     that work against us, and his weaknesses—and everything has weaknesses—will be those
     we're not likely to take advantage of.”
    Geronimo frowned. “And you find that useful?”
    “It could be.”
    “How?”
    “Our friend Holliday is just about the best shootist still alive and unjailed. You
     don't use a pistol, and I freely admit that I'm not very good with one. The medicine
     men must know that, so it's possible that War Bonnet will be susceptible to Doc's
     six-gun.” Geronimo gave a noncommittal grunt, and Roosevelt continued.
    “Or perhaps if I were to train a couple of large dogs to attack, it might be that
     War Bonnet has no defense against them.”
    “Other than his size and strength, you mean?” said Geronimo, looking unconvinced.
    “At least these are possibilities. And there are others. For example, if there's any
     quicksand around here, and I can lure him into it because he's chasing me…”
    “What do you think will happen?” asked Geronimo.
    “He'll sink into it,” answered Roosevelt, surprised at the question.
    “And then what?”
    Roosevelt frowned. “I don't understand.”
    “It will not suck him all the way through to the other side of the world. There is
     a floor to every quicksand pit, and if he does not have to breathe—and he may not;
     that is certainly a trait I would give him—he will come to the floor, and walk through the quicksand to the edge
     of it and then climb out.”
    “All right,” said Roosevelt. “I haven't seen any quicksand around Tombstone anyway.
     But the principle is still valid: everything has weaknesses. I just have to figure out what War Bonnet's are—and if I can figure
     them out soon enough, then Tom and Ned might be able to help me devise a weapon that
     will work against him.”
    “It is important that you find a way,” said Geronimo. “Because if our treaty does
     not come to pass, there will be lakes of blood spilled when your armies finally cross
     the river and confront our armies. As thirsty as the earth is, even it cannot drink all the blood that will
     be shed on both sides.”
    “I know,” said Roosevelt. “I won't let you down.”
    “It is not me you will let down,” answered Geronimo. “I am an old man. It is your unborn children
     and grandchildren you will betray if our agreement is broken by War Bonnet or any
     other.”
    “It won't be,” said Roosevelt. He turned and waved a hand in the direction of the
     distant Mississippi. “We will cross that river, in peace and friendship, in both our
     lifetimes.”
    “That depends on the coming days,” said Geronimo.
    Roosevelt turned back to argue, but all he saw was a small bird climbing higher and
     higher in the sky, and then heading south toward Geronimo's Arizona lodge.

H OLLIDAY

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