The Doctor and the Rough Rider
WALKED DOWN THE STREET , shading his eyes against the setting sun and wondering once again why he wore a
     derby instead of a broad-brimmed hat. It was more stylish than a Stetson, but totally
     useless in these bright desert surroundings. He doffed the derby to a pair of women
     who were walking on the raised wooden sidewalk in the opposite direction. One smiled
     at him, the other pretended he wasn't there. He felt pretty good about that; he'd
     settle for half the people not hating him.
    He passed a tobacco store, looked longingly at a box of cigars, decided as always
     that he coughed more than enough without any help from tobacco, and kept walking.
    He realized that he hadn't eaten all day, so he stopped in at the Lazy Bull, ordered
     a rare steak, thumbed through a dime novel that had him teaming up with Jesse James
     (who he had never met), put it aside long enough to eat about half the steak, left
     a quarter on the table, then added a dime for the tip (he was feeling generous), and
     continued making his way to the Oriental.
    When he got there he went over to what had become his usual table, and didn't even
     have to ask for a bottle. The bartender brought him a glass and what was left of the
     previous night's bottle, with the word “Doc” still visible where he'd scrawled it
     with a pencil. He poured himself a drink, considered playing solitaire, decided against
     it, and simply sat and stared at the patrons, seeing how many of them he could recognize
     from previous encounters or Wanted posters.
    Then a dapper little man entered, looked around, saw Holliday, and promptly approached
     his table.
    “Hi, Doc,” said Henry Wiggins. “I heard you were back in town, but we just haven't
     connected.”
    “Hello, Henry,” said Holliday. “I thought I'd see you over at Tom's or Ned's place,
     or aren't you working for them any longer?”
    “Oh, I'm still with them. I gave up traveling around selling their inventions. They're
     doing so well that now I run a team of half a dozen salesmen from St. Louis to California.”
    “Sell enough metal chippies and you might put real women right out of the oldest profession,”
     remarked Holliday.
    “They're awfully expensive,” replied Wiggins. “These days mostly I sell protection.”
    “Protection?” repeated Holliday, frowning. “You mean like armed guards?”
    Wiggins smiled and shook his head. “Like Tom and Ned have installed around their houses.
     You know, machines that let them know who's approaching, what they look like, if they're
     armed. Just about every bank has ordered at least one. So have a bunch of stores,
     and even some rich ranchers.”
    “I hope you're getting rich yourself,” said Holliday.
    “I was, but then Matilda left me, and I don't want the kids to grow up poor, so I
     give most of it to her.”
    “ Left you?” repeated Holliday. “I've known you for three or four years, and I don't recall
     her ever being with you.”
    “That never bothered her much,” said Wiggins. “It was when…ah…well, when…”
    “When she found out you were testing the merchandise?” suggested Holliday.
    Wiggins nodded. “Damn it, it gets lonely being on the road for months on end.”
    “Not like being home alone with a pack of kids for months on end, right,” said Holliday
     wryly.
    “Whose side are you on, Doc?” said Wiggins irritably.
    “Mine.”
    “Ah, what the hell, why am I telling you my problems?”
    “Here,” said Holliday, shoving the bottle toward him. “Have a drink or two and they
     won't seem so major.”
    “Thanks,” said Wiggins. “I think I will.” He raised the bottle to his lips and took
     a long swallow, then made a face. “Man, that stuff'll burn a hole in your throat!”
    “I've tasted better,” agreed Holliday. “But never in the Oriental.”
    “How have you been, Doc?” said Wiggins, pushing the bottle back to Holliday's side
     of the table. “I don't mean any insult, but I've seen you looking better. You

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