The thing is, Harry de Vries was all show. Oh, he looked mean, and he was big enough, and long hours under the hot frontier sun had given him the leathery consistency one expects of a shootist. But the fact was, de Vries was myopic, with everything more than four feet away rapidly fading rapidly into colored blurs. Spectacles were out of the question–who’d ever heard of a shootist using spectacles for anything but reading, and de Vries was illiterate.

Nevertheless, through intimidation, bluff, and bravado, de Vries had been able to establish a fearsome reputation in the territories. Not enough that he could completely do as he pleased, but enough that free drinks were often poured, free nights in the bordellos were not unknown, and anyone who knew his name would think twice about irking him. Few had the stones to challenge someone so ornery-looking and weathered; fewer still had cajones enough to stand de Vries down when that big Schofield came out of its holster; no one had noticed that the aim behind it wasn’t true. So Harry de Vries was a big man about the mining settlements.

All without firing a shot.

Then there was Hanson Everett. He could see clear as an eagle on a sunny day, but something wasn’t quite right upstairs. His own mother had said so after finding Everett hunting for rattlesnakes as a boy, letting them jump out and bare their dripping envenomed fangs before bringing a rock down on their skulls. As an adult, he recklessly sought out danger wherever it presented itself–rustling single cows from the largest and best-guarded herds, picking barroom fights, and generally flapping his gums.

Oh, there had been beatings aplenty, and more than a few stints in local jails. But Everett was smart enough to lie his way out of many predicaments, and he was good-looking enough to disarm many would-be antagonists with a smile (any attempt to refer to him as “Handsome” Everett inevitable led to bloodshed, however). The way Everett figured it, he was like a piece of pig iron in the forge, with each hammer blow making him stronger and bringing him closer to being something to really be feared. And then…well, watch out, territories.

Everett and de Vries met in the Holyoke Saloon in Dunn’s Crossing just short of midsummer; neither would walk away from the confrontation.