Part 5 out of 7
and stared across the pulsing flame straight into the eyes of the
Marysville lawyer. Tweezy's gaze wavered and fell away. Racey inhaled
strongly, then got to his feet and lazed across to the bar where Jake
Rule, with Kansas Casey at his elbow, was perfunctorily questioning
McFluke. The latter's hard, close-coupled blue eyes narrowed at
Racey, as he draped himself against the bar, was careful to nudge
Casey's foot with a surreptitious toe.
"Jake," said Racey, "would I be interruptin' the proceedings too much
if I made a motion for us to drink all round?"
"Not a-tall," declared the sheriff, heartily.
Racey turned to McFluke.
When their hands had encircled the glasses for the third time, Racey,
instead of drinking, suddenly looked across the bar at McFluke who was
industriously swabbing the bar top.
"Mac," he said, easily, "when that stranger ran out the door how many
gents fired at him?"
"Punch Thompson," replied McFluke, the sushing cloth stopping
abruptly. "You heard him tell the coroner how he fired and missed,
"Oh, I heard, I heard," Racey answered. "No harm in asking again, is
there? Can't be too shore about these here--killin's, can you? Mac,
which door did the stranger run through--the one into the back room or
the one leadin' outdoors?"
"Why, the one leadin' outdoors, of course." McFluke's surprise at the
question was evident.
"Jake," said Racey, "s'pose now you ask Punch Thompson what the
stranger was doing when he cut down on him."
The sheriff regarded Racey with his keen gray gaze. Then he faced
about and singled out Thompson from a conversational group across the
"Punch," he called, and then put Racey's question in his own words.
"What was he doin'?" said Thompson, heedless of McFluke's agonized
expression. "Which he was hoppin' through that window there"--here he
indicated the middle one of three in the side of the room--"when I
drawed and missed. I only had time for the one shot."
At this there was a sudden scrabbling behind the bar. It was McFluke
trying to retreat through the doorway into the back room, and being
prevented from accomplishing his purpose by Racey Dawson who, at the
innkeeper's first panic-stricken movement, had vaulted the bar and
grabbed him by the neck.
"None of that now," cautioned Racey Dawson, his right hand flashing
down and up, as McFluke, finding that escape was out of the question,
made a desperate snatch at the knife-handle protruding from his
The saloon-keeper reacted immediately to the cold menace of the
gun-muzzle pressing against the top of his spinal column. He
straightened sullenly. Racey, transferring the gun-muzzle to the small
of McFluke's back, stooped swiftly, drew out McFluke's knife and
tossed it through a window.
"You won't be needing that again," said Racey Dawson. "Help yoreself,
Which the deputy promptly proceeded to do by snapping a pair of
handcuffs round the thick McFluke wrists.
"Whatell you trying to do?" bawled McFluke in a rage. "I ain't done
nothing! You can't prove I done nothing! You--"
"Shut up!" interrupted Kansas Casey, giving the handcuffs an expert
twitch that wrenched a groan out of McFluke. "Proving anything takes
time. We got time. You got time. What more do you want?"
The efficient deputy towed the saloon-keeper round the bar and out
into the barroom. He faced him about in front of Jake Rule. The
sheriff fixed him with a grim stare.
"What did you try to run for, Mac?" he demanded.
"I had business outdoors," grumbled McFluke.
"What kind of business?"
"What's that to you? You ain't got no license to grab a-hold of me and
stop me from transacting my legitimate business whenever and wherever
I feel like it."
"You seem to know more about it than I do. Alla same unless you feel
like telling me exactly what all yore hurry was for, we'll have to
hold you for a while. Yo're shore it didn't have nothing to do with
yore saying the stranger run out the door and Thompson saying he
jumped through the window?"
"Why, shore I am," grunted McFluke.
"Glad to hear that. But how is it you and Thompson seen the same thing
different ways? It's a cinch the stranger, not being twins, didn't use
_both_ the door and the window. Yo're shore he run out the door, Mac?"
"Shore I am. I seen him, I tell you." But McFluke's tone rang flat.
"Punch," said the sheriff to Thompson who, in company with everyone
else in the room had crowded round the sheriff and the prisoner,
"Punch, how did the stranger who shot Dale leave the room?"
"Through the window, like I said," Thompson declared, defiantly. "Ask
anybody. They all seen him. Mac's drunk or crazy."
"Yo're a liar!" snarled McFluke. "I tell you he run out the door."
"Aw, close yore trap!" requested Thompson with contempt. "You ain't
packin' no gun."
"Lanpher," said the sheriff, "how did the murderer get away."
"Through the window," was the prompt reply of the 88 manager.
The sheriff asked Harpe, Coffin, Tweezy, and the others who had been
present at the killing, for their versions. In every case, each had
seen eye-to-eye with Thompson. The evidence was overwhelmingly against
the saloon-keeper. But he, a glint of fear in his hard blue eyes,
stuck to his original statement, swearing that all men were liars and
he alone was telling the truth.
Racey, standing a little back from the crowd, pulled out his
tobacco-bag. But his fingers must have been all thumbs at the moment
for he dropped it on the floor. He stooped to retrieve it. The
movement brought his eyes within a yard of the body of Dale. And now
he saw that which he had not previously taken note of--an abrasion
across the knuckles of Dale's right hand. Not only that, but the hand,
which was lying over the left hand on the body's breast, showed an odd
lumpiness at the knuckles of the first and second fingers.
Racey stuffed his tobacco-bag into his vest pocket and knelt beside
the body. It was cold, of course, but had not yet completely
stiffened. He laid the two hands side by side and compared them.
The left hand was as it should be--no lumpiness, bruises, or any
discolouration other than grime. But now that the two hands were side
by side the difference in the right hand was most apparent.
Certainly it was badly bruised across the knuckles and the skin was
broken, too. Furthermore, there was that odd lumpiness about the
knuckles of the first and second fingers, a lumpiness that gave the
knuckles almost the appearance of being double.
He picked up the dead hand and gingerly fingered the lumpy knuckles.
Then, in a flash of thought, it came to him. The hand was broken.
He raised his head and looked across the room. And as it chanced he
looked across the packed shoulders and between the peering heads of
the crowd straight into the face of McFluke and the black eye adorning
He rose to his feet and pushed his way through the crowd to the side
of the sheriff.
"Can I ask a question?" said he to the officer.
"Shore," nodded the sheriff. "Many as you like."
"Thompson," Racey said, but watching McFluke the while, "did Dale have
any trouble here with anybody besides the stranger?"
"Not as I know of," came the reply after a moment's hesitation.
"He didn't have any fuss with anybody," spoke up Luke Tweezy.
"I was talking to Thompson," Racey reminded the lawyer. "When I want
to ask you any questions I'll let you know."
"Huh," Luke contented himself with grunting, and subsided.
"No fuss a-tall, Thompson?" resumed Racey.
"Nary a fuss."
"And you was here alla time Dale was here?"
"I was here before Dale come, and I was still here when Dale--went
"In the same room with him?"
"In this room, yeah. In the same room with him alla time. Shore."
"Then if Dale had had a riot with anybody else but the stranger man
you'd 'a' knowed it."
"You betcha. He didn't have no trouble, only with the stranger."
"Did anybody else have any trouble with anybody while you was here?"
At this Thompson frowned. Where were Racey's questions leading him?
Was it a trap? Knowing Racey as he did, he feared the worst. He
would have liked to leave the questioned unanswered. But this was
impossible. As it was, he was delaying his answer longer than good
sense warranted. Both Jake Rule and Kansas Casey were staring at him
fixedly. Racey regarded him steadily, a slight and sinister smile
lurking at the corner of his mouth.
"Well," prompted Racey, "you'd oughta be able to tell us whether there
was any other fights while you was here?"
"They wasn't," plunged Thompson. "Everything was salubrious till Dale
started his battle."
"And when did you get here?" pursued Racey.
"Oh, I'd been here all night."
"And you dunno of any other brush except the one between Dale and the
"I done said so forty times," Thompson declared, peevishly. "How many
times have I gotta repeat it?"
"As many times as yo're asked," put in the sheriff, sharply.
"Didja see anybody get hurt--have a accident or something while you
were here, Thompson?" Racey bored on.
Thompson shook an impatient head. "Nobody got hurt or had a accident."
"Then," said Racey, turning suddenly on McFluke, "how did you get that
McFluke's eyes flickered at the question. His body appeared to sink
inward. Then he straightened, and flung back his wide shoulders, and
glowered at Racey Dawson.
"I ran into a door this morning," said the saloon-keeper in a tone of
the utmost confidence.
"Oh, you ran into a door, did you," Racey observed, sweetly. "And what
particular door did you run into?"
"The front door."
"That one?" Racey indicated the door of the barroom.
"We'll just take a look at that door."
Accompanied by the deeply interested sheriff, who was beginning to
sniff his quarry like the old bloodhound he was, Racey crossed to the
barroom door. He looked at the door. He looked at the sheriff. The
sheriff looked only at the door.
"Door's opened back flat against the wall, Mac," said the sheriff.
"Was she like this when you ran into her?"
"Course not," was the heated reply. "She was swingin' open."
Racey squatted down on the floor. "Lookit here, Sheriff."
The sheriff stooped and regarded the wooden wedge under the door that
jammed it fast. Racey drew a finger across the top of the wedge. He
held up the finger-tip for the sheriff's inspection. The tip was black
with the dust of weeks.
"That door has been wedged back all this hot weather," said Racey,
gently. "Look at the dust under the door on both sides of the wedge,
too. Bet that wedge ain't been out of place for a month."
Softly as he spoke McFluke heard him. "---- you! I tell you that
door was opened this mornin'! I hit my head on it! Ask 'em all! Ask
anybody! Jack, lookit here--"
"I didn't see you hit yore head on the door," interrupted Jack Harpe.
"Maybe you did, I dunno."
Racey raised a quick head as Jack Harpe spoke. Quite plainly he saw
Jack Harpe accompany his words with a slight lowering of his left
eyelid. Racey glanced at McFluke. He saw the defiant expression depart
from the McFluke countenance, and a look of unmistakable relief take
Racey dropped his head. The sheriff was speaking.
"Mac," he was saying, "yo're lyin'. Yo're lyin' as fast as a hoss can
trot. You never got yore black eye on this door. I dunno why yo're
sayin' you did, but I'm gonna find out. Till--"
"You won't have far to go to find out," struck in Racey Dawson. "I
know how he got his black eye."
"How?" demanded the sheriff, his grizzled eyebrows drawing together.
"Dale gave it to him," was the answer pat and pithy.
"He did not!" The saloon-keeper began to roar instantly, and had to be
quieted by Kansas Casey.
When order was restored Racey explained his deductions. The sheriff
listened in silence. Then he went to the body of the dead man, and
examined the bruised and broken right hand.
"I'm tellin' you," declared Racey with finality, "he hit somebody when
he broke that hand."
"He might 'a' broke it when he fell after being shot," put in Luke
The sheriff shook his head. "He couldn't fall hard enough to break
them bones as bad as that. It's like Racey says. Question is, who did
he hit? McFluke's eye and McFluke's lies are a good enough answer for
"You'll have to prove it!" snapped Luke Tweezy.
"I expect we'll do that, Luke," the sheriff said, calmly. "Have you
agreed on a verdict, Judge?"
"We had," replied Dolan. "We was about satisfied that a plain 'killin'
by a person unknown,' was as good as any, but I expect now we'll
change it to murder _with_ the recommendation that McFluke be arrested
on suspicion. Whadda you say, boys?"
"Shore," chorussed the "boys," and hiccuped like so many bullfrogs.
"Whu-why not lul-let the shush-shpicion shlide," suggested one bright
spirit, "an' cue-convict him right now an' lul-lynch him after shupper
whu-when it's cool?"
"No," vetoed Dolan, "it can't be done. He's gotta be indicted and
held for the Grand Jury at Piegan City. I ain't allowed to try murder
"Tut-too bad," mourned the bright spirit, and refused to be comforted.
"Can I take him now, Judge?" inquired Chuck Morgan, referring to the
"Any time," nodded Dolan.
Racey Dawson, whose eyes that day were missing nothing, saw that Jack
Harpe was looking steadily at Luke Tweezy. Luke's nod was barely
"Where were you thinking of taking him, Chuck?" was Tweezy's query.
"Moccasin Spring," Chuck replied, laconically.
"I wouldn't if I were you," said Luke Tweezy. "Better save trouble by
taking him to yore house."
It was coming now--the answer to one puzzle at least. Racey was sure
of it. He was not disappointed.
"And why had I better take him to my house?" demanded Chuck.
"Because the ranch at Moccasin Spring don't belong to the Dale family
any more," Tweezy explained, smoothly. "Dale has turned over the place
to Lanpher and me."
"It's a damn lie!" declared Chuck.
Tweezy smiled. He was a lawyer, not a fighter. Names signified nothing
in his greasy life. "It's no lie," he tossed back. "You know Lanpher
and me bought the mortgage on the Dale place from the Marysville bank.
The mortgage is due in a couple of days. Dale didn't have the money to
satisfy the mortgage. We was gonna foreclose. In order to save trouble
all round he made the ranch over to us."
"You mean to tell me Dale did that just to save trouble?" burst out
Racey. "Just because he liked you two fellers and wanted to make it as
easy as possible for you? Aw, hell, Tweezy. Aw, hell again. Yo're as
poor a liar as yore side-kicker McFluke."
Tweezy smiled once more and drew forth a long and shiny pocket-book
from the inner pocket of his vest. From the pocket-book he extracted a
legal-looking document. Which document he handed to Sheriff Rule.
"Read her off, Jake," requested Luke Tweezy.
The sheriff read aloud the lines of writing. Shorn of the impressive
terms so beloved of law and lawyers, the document set forth that in
consideration of being allowed to retain all his live-stock, wagons,
and household goods, instead of merely the fixed number of cattle,
horses, and wagons, and those specified household articles, exempt
from seizure under the law, Dale voluntarily released to the
mortgagers, without the formality of foreclosure proceedings, the
mortgaged property comprising six hundred and forty acres as described
The document was signed by Dale and witnessed by Doc Coffin and Honey
The sheriff held the paper out to Chuck Morgan. "This Dale's
Chuck Morgan examined the signature closely and long.
"Looks like it," he said, hesitatingly.
"It's his signature, all right," spoke up Honey Hoke. "I saw him sign
"Me, too," said Doc Coffin.
"Paper's dated to-day," said the sheriff. "How long before he was
killed did Dale sign it, Luke?"
"About a hour," replied Tweezy.
"It's made out in yore writin', ain't it?" went on the sheriff.
"Shore," nodded Luke. "All but the signature. So, you see, Chuck,"
he continued, turning to Morgan, "you might as well pack him to yore
house. We intend to take possession immediately."
"You do, huh," said Chuck. "You try it, thassall I gotta say. You try
"I'd admire to see you drive those women out of their home on the
strength of that paper, Tweezy," remarked Racey.
"Sheriff, I'll make out eviction papers immediately and Judge Dolan
will have you serve them on the Dale family." Thus Luke Tweezy,
"That's yore privilege," said the sheriff, "and I'll have to serve
'em, I suppose. But only in the regular course of business, Luke.
I'm mighty busy just now. Yore eviction notice will have to take its
"My punchers will throw 'em out then," averred Lanpher.
"They ain't nary a one of 'em would gorm up their paws on a job like
that for you, Lanpher," Alicran stated in no uncertain tones. "If you
got any dirty work to do you'll do it yoreself."
"Yo're--" began the 88 manager, and stopped suddenly.
"What was you gonna say?" Alicran's voice cut sharply across the
Lanpher controlled himself by an effort. Or perhaps it was not such
an effort, after all. It may have been that he remembered the object
lesson of the severed branch of the wild currant bush. At any rate,
he did not pursue further the subject of the 88 cowboys cast as an
"I'll talk to you later, Alicran," said he in a tone he strove to make
grimly menacing, but which actually imposed upon no one, least of all
the truculent Alicran.
"We won't need yore boys, Lanpher," said Racey. "The sheriff will
attend to it."
"Lookit here, Tweezy," said Judge Dolan, slouching to the front of the
crowd, "are you gonna run them women off thataway after _this_?" Here
the Judge jerked his head backward in the direction of the body.
"Why not?" Tweezy demanded, sulkily. "We got a right to."
"It don't always pay to stand on our rights, Luke," suggested the
Judge. "I'd go a li'l easy if I was you."
"You ain't me," said Tweezy, rudely.
"Which is something I gotta be grateful for," the Judge returned to
the charge. "But alla same, Luke, I'd scratch my head and think how
this here is gonna look. Here Dale gives you this paper, and a hour
later he's cashed. Of course, it looks like his signature, and you
got witnesses who say it's his signature, but--" The Judge paused and
gravely contemplated Luke Tweezy.
"I'll tell you what it looks like to me," announced Racey in a loud,
unsympathetic tone. "The whole deal's too smooth. She's so smooth
she's slick, like a counterfeit dollar. You and Lanpher are a couple
of damn thieves, Tweezy."
But the sheriff's gun was out first. "None of that, Lanpher," he
cautioned. "They ain't gonna be no lockin' horns _here_. That goes for
you, too, Racey."
"I don't need to pull any gun," Racey declared, contemptuously. "All
I'd have to use is my fingers on that feller. He never went after his
gun till he seen you pull yores. He ain't got any nerve, that's all
that's the matter with him."
Lanpher snarled curses at this. He yearned for the daredevil
courage sufficient to risk all on a single throw by pulling his gun
left-handed and sending a bullet smack through the scornful face of
Racey Dawson. But it was precisely as Racey said. He did not have the
nerve. With half-a-dozen drinks under his belt he undoubtedly would
have made an attempt to clear his honour. But he was not carrying the
requisite amount of liquor. Lanpher snarled another string of oaths.
"If I didn't have my right arm in a sling--" he began.
"I guess," interrupted the sheriff, "this will be about all. Lanpher,
yore hoss is outside. Git on and git out."
"Lookit here, Judge," said Racey, earnestly, "do you mean to say yo're
gonna let the sheriff serve them eviction papers?"
Judge Dolan elevated his feet upon his desk and tilted back his chair
"Racey," he said, teetering gently, "I gotta do what the law says in
"Then yo're gonna sic the sheriff on, huh?"
"I ain't doin' no sicin', not me. Luke Tweezy's the boy you mean."
"But the law makes you back up Luke."
"In this case it does."
"Then it's a helluva law that lets a feller take away the home of two
"They's lots of times," observed Dolan, judicially, "when I think
she's a helluva law, too. But what you gonna do? Under the law one
man's word is as good as another's till he's proved a liar. And two
men's words are better than one, and so on. And so far nobody ain't
proved Doc Coffin and Honey Hoke and Luke Tweezy are liars."
"Of course we know they are," protested Racey.
"Not legally. You gotta remember that knowing a man is a liar is one
thing, and being able to prove it is another breed of cat."
"Then they ain't nothing to be done short of rubbing out Lanpher and
"And what good would wiping out either or both of them do? Beyond
Lanpher and Tweezy are their heirs and assigns, whoever they may be.
You can't go down the line and abolish 'em all."
"I s'pose not," grumbled Racey.
"Of course not. It ain't reasonable. You don't wanna bull along
regardless like a bufflehead in this, Racey. You wanna use yore brains
a few. They'll always go farther than main strength. You got brains,
and you can bet you'll need every single one of 'em if you wanna get
to the bottom of this business."
"Under the circumstances, then, what's yore advice, Judge?"
"I ain't got no particular advice to give," replied Dolan, promptly.
"I'm a judge, not a lawyer, but I'm free to say even if I was a
lawyer, I dunno exactly what I'd do, or where I'd begin."
Racey nodded. He didn't see exactly where to begin, either.
"Lookit, Judge," he said at last, "can't you sort of delay the
proceedin's for a while?"
"I'll do what I can," assented Dolan, "but I can't keep it up forever.
I'm sworn to obey the law and see that it is obeyed. And if Luke
Tweezy's paper can't be proved a forgery certain and soon, they's only
one thing for me to do and one thing for the Dales to do. I'm sorry,
but that's the way it stands under the law."
It was then that the door-latch clicked and one entered without
knocking. It was Luke Tweezy. Beyond the merest flicker of a glance
he did not acknowledge the presence of Racey Dawson. He nodded
perfunctorily to Dolan.
"Mornin', Judge," said he, "are the papers ready for the sheriff yet?"
"Not yet, Luke, not yet," Dolan assured, him blandly. "I ain't had
time to get at 'em."
"When you gonna get at 'em?"
"Soon as I get time."
"But lookit here, Judge. We're bein' delayed. We wanna get the Dales
off their ranch soon as we can."
"Off _their_ ranch is shore the truth," struck in Racey. "You do tell
it sometimes, don't you, Luke?"
But Luke Tweezy was not to be drawn that morning. He focussed his eyes
and attention steadily on Judge Dolan.
"We wanna take possession soon as we can," persisted Luke Tweezy.
"Shore you do," said the Judge, heartily. "No reason why you shouldn't
wanna as I know of."
"If you can't see yore way to getting at this business within a
reasonable time I'll have to sue out a mandatory injunction against
you, Judge, and--"
Dolan smiled wintrily. "What judge are you figuring on to grant this
Luke Tweezy was silent.
"You don't expect me to grant a mandatory injunction against myself,
do you?" pursued Dolan.
"I can go to Judge Allison at Marysville or to Piegan City, and I
"I guess not," interrupted the Judge. "Judge Allison, as you know, is
a Federal Judge, and these here eviction proceedin's are territorial
business. And, furthermore, lemme point out that the Piegan City court
ain't got any jurisdiction in this case."
"Because the case ain't come to a hearing yet. That's why. You oughta
know that, Luke. Yo're a lawyer."
"Alla same--" began Luke.
"Alla same nothing!" declared Judge Dolan. "_After_ eviction
proceedin's have been started, and if you don't have any luck in
getting them women off the place, then you can apply to this court for
redress. I'll set a date for a hearing. _After_ the hearing, if you
got a notion in yore numskull that I ain't doing you right, you can
apply to the Piegan City court for all the ---- mandatory injunctions
you feel like and be ---- to you. Is they any further business you got
with me, Luke, or any more points of law you wanna be instructed on?
'Cause if they ain't, here's you, there's the door, and right yonder
Luke Tweezy departed abruptly.
Dolan laughed harshly as the door slammed. "He can't bluff me, the
chucklehead. He knew he couldn't sue out a mandatory injunction yet,
knew it damn well, but he didn't think I knew it, damn his ornery
"Oh, he's slick, Luke Tweezy is," said Racey Dawson, "but like most
slick gents he thinks everybody else is a fool."
"He makes a mistake once in a while," grunted Dolan.
At which Racey looked up sharply. "A mistake," he repeated. "There's
an idea. I wonder if he has made any mistake."
"Who ain't?" nodded Dolan. "Luke's made plenty, I'll bet."
"I dunno about plenty," doubted Racey. "One would be enough."
Dolan rasped a hand across his stubbly chin. "One would be enough," he
admitted. "If you could find the one."
"It wouldn't have to be a mistake having to do with this particular
case, either, would it?"
"Not necessarily. Of course it would be better to trip him up on this
case, but if you can get hold of something else Luke has done that
can be proved anyways shady it would be four aces and the joker. Luke
would have to pull in his horns about this mortgage. And if I know
Luke, he'd do it. He's got nerve, but it ain't cold enough nor witless
enough to go up against the shore thing."
"If only McFluke would talk. He knows the ins and outs of this
Dolan nodded. "Shore as yo're a foot high Dale gave him that black
"And shore as _yo're_ a foot high he downed Dale."
"I guess likely. But circumstantial evidence is amazing queer. You
can't ever tell how the jury's gonna take it. But anyway we got
McFluke, and he'll do to start in on."
Entered then Kansas Casey with a serious face. "McFluke has sloped,"
said he without preliminary.
"What!" cried Judge Dolan.
But it was characteristic of Racey Dawson that he did not say "What!"
He asked "How?"
"Because the jail was burned down," said Kansas; "you know we had to
put him in yore warehouse, Judge, as the next strongest place, and
they dug him out."
"'Dug him out?'" Thus Judge Dolan.
"That's what they did."
"'They!' 'They!' Who's 'they?'" Again Judge Dolan.
"If I knowed who they was," Kansas replied, "I'd dump 'em just too
quick. Way I know it's a 'they,' is because the job of diggin' is
bigger than a one-man job."
"We'll go look into this," Dolan exclaimed, wrathfully, and reached
for his hat.
"He'd never 'a' been pulled out of the calaboose so easy," said
Kansas, as he led Dolan and Racey up the street to the rear of the
Dolan warehouse, "but yore foundation logs ain't sunk more'n six
inches, and diggin' under and in was a cinch."
"But why didn't you handcuff this sport to a roof stanchion inside?"
demanded the Judge.
"We did, man, we did. We got a log chain and the biggest pair of
handcuffs in our stock and we ironed McFluke by the ankles to a
stanchion in the middle of the warehouse. Besides that his hands was
handcuffed, and no matter how he stretched he couldn't reach nothing.
We seen to that."
"But, my Gawd, hownell did they have time to file through that log
chain or them cuffs? A log chain ain't made of wire an' them cuffs is
all special steel."
"They didn't file neither the chain nor the cuffs," explained Kansas,
wearily. "They unlocked the cuffs."
"Unlocked 'em, huh? Where'd they get the key? Lose one of yores, did
"Ours is all safe. They must 'a' had a key. Anyway, there's the
handcuffs wide open when I found McFluke gone this mornin'."
Dolan pulled out his watch. "Nine o'clock," said he. "When did you
first find Mac was gone, Kansas?"
"When I took his breakfast in less'n five minutes ago."
"Howcome you went to the warehouse so late?"
"Well," said Kansas, somewhat shamefacedly, "we didn't lock him up
in the warehouse till one o'clock this morning, and I figured a li'l
extra sleep wouldn't do him any harm."
"Or a li'l extra sleep wouldn't do yoreself any harm neither, huh?"
"Maybe I did sleep later than usual," admitted Kansas.
"I guess you did," said Dolan. "I guess you did. And Jake, too. Told
anybody else about this?"
They had left the street while they talked, and walked down the long
side wall of the warehouse. Now they turned the corner and saw, heaped
against a foundation log, a pile of freshly dug dirt. Beyond the dirt
pile gaped the mouth of a hole leading beneath the log. The hole was
quite large enough for an over-size man to crawl through without
Judge Dolan got down on his hands and knees and peered into the hole.
Then he eased down into it headfirst and pawed his way through.
"That's what you get for not walking in by the front door in the first
place, Kansas," grinned Racey. "Root hog or die, feller, root hog or
Swearing under his breath Kansas went to ground like a badger. His
broad shoulders did not scrape the sides of the hall. Observing which
Racey knew that it must have been an easy matter for McFluke to crawl
through, for the saloon-keeper's shoulders, wide as they were, were
not as broad as those of Kansas Casey by a good inch and a half.
"That hole is four or five inches wider than necessary," ruminated
Racey, preparing to follow the deputy. "I wonder why. Yep, I shore
wonder why. Here they are in a harris of a hurry and they take time
to make a hole big enough for two men almost. Maybe they robbed the
He suggested as much to Dolan when he joined the latter within.
"No," said Dolan, sweeping with a glance the stacks of cases and
crates that half filled the single floor of the warehouse. "No, I
don't think they's anything missing. Who'd steal truck like this here,
anyway? It ain't valuable enough. Where's Jake, Kansas?"
"I left him here when I went after you," replied the deputy. "Guess
this is him," he added, as the front door opened.
It was the sheriff. He shut the door behind him and advanced toward
the little group gathered about the stanchion. "This is a great note,
Jake," said Dolan, eyeing the sheriff severely. "Can't you make out to
hang onto yore prisoners no more?"
"Hang onto hell!" snapped back the sheriff. "Short of sleeping in here
with him, I done all that could be expected. I put Shorty Rumbold on
as guard, and Shorty--"
"Went to the Starlight for a drink. He'll be along in a minute."
"Maybe he went to sleep," suggested Dolan.
"Not Shorty," denied the sheriff, with a decisive shake of his head.
"I've used Shorty before. He don't go to sleep on duty, Shorty don't.
Here he is now."
Entered then Shorty Rumbold, a tall, lean-bodied man with a twinkling
eye and a square chin.
"Shorty," said Dolan, "Jake says he put you on guard here last night."
"Not here," said Shorty, always painfully meticulous as to facts.
"Just outside. I sat on the doorstep all night."
"And didn't you go round to the back once even?"
"I didn't think they was any use. They's no door in the back, and the
logs are forty inches through, some of 'em. I never thought of 'em
gopherin' under this away."
"I guess the sheriff didn't, either," said Dolan, with a glance of
strong disapproval at the sheriff. "You didn't hear anything, huh?
Yo're shore of that?"
"Shore I am. If I'd heard anything I'd 'a' scouted round to see what
made the noise."
"Maybe you went to sleep."
"Not me." The twinkle in Shorty's eyes was replaced by a frosty stare.
"I don't sleep on duty, Judge."
"That's what the sheriff said, Shorty. But, hownell they could dig
that tunnel and not make _some_ noise I don't see."
"I don't, either," Shorty Rumbold admitted, frankly. "But I didn't
hear a single suspicious sound either inside or outside the jail the
"Did you hear any noise a-tall?" asked Racey Dawson.
"Only when some drunk gents had a argument out in front of the dance
hall. You couldn't help hearin' 'em. They made noise enough to hear
'em a mile."
"How long did the argument last?"
"Oh, maybe a hour--a long time for a plain argument without any
"Did they call each other any fighting names?" pressed on Racey.
"And no shooting?"
"Nary a shot."
"Didn't that hit you as kind of odd?"
"It did at the time sort of."
"Recognize any of the voices?"
Shorty Rumbold shook his head. "They was all too hoarse an' loud."
"That's the how of it, Judge," said Racey to Dolan. "That's why Shorty
didn't hear any sounds of diggin'. The drunk gents a rowing together
for a long time like that without any shooting proves they were doing
it on purpose to keep Shorty from hearing anything else."
The sheriff swore. "I heard them fellers, too," he said. "They woke
me up with their bellerin' and I had a job gettin' to sleep again. I
guess Racey's right."
"I guess he is," assented the Judge. "Now we know how they managed
that part of it, where did they get the key to open the cuffs? Kansas
says you ain't lost any keys, Jake."
"We got 'em all, every one. I don't believe they used a key. Them
handcuff locks was picked."
"Picked. After Kansas went for you I found these here on the
floor." Here he produced from a pocket a bent and twisted piece of
baling-wire, and a steel half-moon horse-collar needle.
"That's a Number Six needle," observed the sheriff, who invariably
scented clues in the most unpromising objects. "And the point's broke
"Number Six is a common size," said Racey. "Most stores carry 'em. And
if the point didn't get broke off wigglin' round inside the lock it
would be a wonder."
"Still it would take a mighty good man to open them locks with only
bale-wire and a harness-needle," said the sheriff, hurriedly. "A
expert, you bet."
"It don't matter whether he was a expert or not," said Dolan. "He
opened them, and the prisoner has skedaddled. That's the main thing.
Jake, how about trailin' him?"
"How? They's tracks, a few of 'em, leadin' from the pile of dirt
straight to the hard ground in front of the stage corrals. Beyond
there they ain't any tracks. Trail 'em! How you gonna trail 'em?"
"I dunno," replied Dolan, promptly passing the buck. "Yo're the
sheriff. She's yore job. You gotta do _something_. C'mon out."
The five men, Dolan and the sheriff arguing steadily, went out into
the street. Racey walked thoughtfully in the rear. He was revolving in
his mind what the sheriff had said about an expert. Of course it had
been an expert. And experts in lock-picking in the cattle country are
few and far between.
Racey decided that it would be a good idea for him to have a little
talk on lock-picking with Peaches Austin. Not that he suspected the
excellent Peaches of having picked those locks. But Peaches knew who
had. Oh, most certainly Peaches knew who had.
Peaches Austin, standing at the Starlight bar, was raising a glass to
his lips. But at the greeting he set down the liquor untasted, turned
his head, and looked into the face of Racey Dawson.
"Whatsa matter, Peaches?" inquired Racey. "You don't look glad to see
"I ain't," Peaches said, frankly. "I don't give a damn about seein'
"I'm sorry," grieved Racey, edging closer to the gambler. "Peaches,
yo're breaking my heart with them cruel words."
At this the bartender removed hastily to the other end of the bar. He
sensed he knew not what, and he felt instead of curiosity a lively
fear. Racey Dawson was the most unexpected sport.
Peaches looked nervously at Racey. A desperate resolve began to
formulate itself in the brain of Peaches Austin. His right arm tensed.
Slowly his hand slid toward the edge of the bar.
"Why, no," said Racey, who had never been more wide-awake than at that
moment, "I wouldn't do anything we'd all be sorry for, Peaches. That
is, all of us but you yoreself. You might not be sorry--or anythin'
This was threatening language, plain and simple. But it was no bluff.
Peaches knew that Racey meant every word he said. Peaches' right hand
moved no farther.
"Peaches," said Racey, "le's go where we can have a li'l private
"All right," Peaches acquiesced, shortly, and left the saloon with
On the sidewalk they were joined by Swing Tunstall. The latter fell
into step on the other side of Peaches Austin.
"Is he coming, too?" queried the gambler, with a marked absence of
cordiality in expression and tone.
"He is," answered Racey.
"I thought this talk was gonna be private."
"It is--only the three of us. We wouldn't think of letting anybody
else horn in. You can rest easy, Peaches. We'll take care of you."
The gambler didn't doubt it. His wicked heart sank accordingly. He
knew that he had been a bad, bad boy, and he conceived the notion that
Nemesis was rolling up her sleeves, all to his ultimate prejudice.
He perceived in front of the dance hall Doc Coffin and Honey Hoke, and
plucked up heart at once. But Racey saw the pair at the same time, and
said, twitching Peaches by the sleeve, "We'll turn off here, I guess."
Peaches turned perforce and accompanied Racey and Swing into the
narrow space between the express office and a log house. When they
came out into the open Racey obliqued to the left and piloted his
companion to a large log that lay among empty tin cans, almost
directly in the rear of and about fifty yards away from Dolan's
"Here's a good place," said Racey, indicating the log. "Good seats,
plenty of fresh air, and nobody round to bother us. Sidown, Peaches."
Peaches sat as requested. The two friends seated themselves one on his
either hand. Racey laughed gently.
"Doc Coffin and Honey looked kind of surprised to see you with us," he
remarked with enjoyment, "didn't they, Peaches?"
"I didn't notice," lied Peaches.
"It don't matter," nodded Racey. "See that pile of dirt over against
the back wall of Dolan's warehouse, Peaches?"
"I ain't blind."
"No, then maybe you've heard how and why it come to be dug and all?"
"I ain't deaf, neither."
Racey smiled his approval. "I always said you had all yore senses
except the common variety, Peaches."
"Hop ahead with yore private talk," grunted the badgered gambler.
"Gimme time, gimme time. It don't cost anything. Whadda you think of
that hole, Peaches?"
"Good big hole," replied Peaches, conservatively.
"Too big--that is, too big for just McFluke, or for any other feller
the size of McFluke."
"What of it?"
"Don't be in a hurry, Peaches, and you'll last longer. Did you know
Mac's handcuffs were picked open?"
"Whoever opened 'em didn't use a key," Racey explained. "They were
picked open with a piece of bale-wire and a collar-needle."
"I heard that."
"I thought maybe so. But did you ever think that a feller has got
to have a good and clever pair of hands to pick a lock with only a
collar-needle and bale-wire?"
"All that stands to reason," admitted Peaches.
"There can't be a great many fellers like that. No, not many--not
around here, anyway. You'll find such sports in the big cities
"Yeah," chipped in Swing Tunstall, staring hard at Peaches, "I'll bet
you a hundred even they ain't more than one or two such experts in the
"Whadda you think, Peaches?" inquired Racey.
"Swing may be right," said Peaches, preserving a wooden countenance.
"Shore about that?" Sharply.
"Shore I'm shore. Why not?"
"You looked sort of funny when you said it. Well, then, Peaches, we'll
go back to our hole yonder. It's reasonable to suppose that fellers
hustlin' to dig it and without any too much time wouldn't make it any
bigger than they had to. How about it, huh?"
"Guess so, maybe."
"Aw right, I told you a while ago the hole was too big for McFluke.
Why was it made too big for McFluke?"
"So as to let in the feller who was to pick open Mac's handcuffs."
"Well, what does that prove?"
"It proves that the expert who set Mac loose was a bigger man across
the shoulders than McFluke. Now who all around here, besides Kansas
Casey, is wider across the shoulders than McFluke?"
Peaches wrinkled his forehead. "I dunno," he said after a space.
"Think again, Peaches, think again. Don't you know anybody who's
bigger sidewise than McFluke?"
"I don't. Mac's the biggest man across the shoulders I ever seen."
"Good enough, Peaches. I've found out what I wanted. I had a fair idea
before, but now I know. I hear you were acting boisterious and noisy
out front of the dance hall last night?"
"What of it?"
"Oh, nothin', nothin' a-tall. Only I'd think it over--I'd think
everythin' over good an careful, and after I'd done that I'd do what
looked like the best thing to do--under the circumstances. That's all,
Peaches. You can go now. I think yore friends are looking for you. I
saw Doc Coffin peekin' round the corner of the dance hall a couple of
Peaches arose and faced Racey Dawson and Swing Tunstall. "I--" he
began, and stopped.
"I--" prompted Swing.
"I what?" smiled Racey. "Speak right out, Peaches. Don't you care if
you do hurt our feelin's. They're tough. They can stand it. Say what's
on yore mind."
But Peaches did not say what was on his mind. He turned about and
walked hurriedly away.
"So it _was_ Jack Harpe who picked the cuffs," murmured Racey.
"Peaches, old timer, I didn't think you'd be so easy."
"Neither did I," said Swing. "And him a gambler. No wonder he ain't
doin' so well."
Worried Mrs. Dale raised a work-scarred hand and pushed back a lock of
gray hair that had fallen over one eye. "It's a forgery," she said,
wretchedly. "I know it's a forgery. He--he wouldn't sign such a paper.
I know he wouldn't."
Molly Dale, all unmindful of Racey Dawson sitting in a chair tilted
back against the wall, slipped around the table and slid her arm about
her mother's waist.
"There, there, Ma," she soothed, pulling her mother's head against
her firm young shoulder. "Don't you fret. It will come out all right.
You'll see. You mustn't worry this way. Can't you believe what Racey
says? Try, dear, try."
But unhappy Mrs. Dale was beyond trying. She saw the home which she
had worked to get and slaved to maintain taken from her and herself
and her daughter turned out of doors. There was no help for it. There
was no hope. The future was pot-black. She broke down and wept.
"Oh, oh," she sobbed, "if only I'd watched him closer that day. But I
was washing, and I sort of forgot about him for a spell, and when I'd
got the clothes on the line he wasn't anywhere in sight, and--and it's
all my fuf-fault."
This was too much for Racey Dawson. He got up and went out. Savagely
he pulled his hat over his eyes and strode to where his horse stood in
the shade of a cottonwood. But he did not pick up the trailing reins.
For as he reached the animal he saw approaching across the flat the
figures of a horse and rider. And the man was Luke Tweezy.
With the sight of Mrs. Dale's tears fresh in his memory and the rage
engendered thereby galvanizing his brain he went to meet Mr. Tweezy.
"Howdy, Racey," said the lawyer, pulling up.
"Whadda you want?" demanded Racey, halting a scant yard from Luke
Tweezy's left leg.
"I come to see Mrs. Dale," replied Tweezy, his leathery features
wrinkling in a grimace intended to pass for a propitiating smile.
Racey's stare was venomous. "Tweezy," he drawled, "I done told you
something about admiring to see you put these women off this ranch,
"Oh, you was just a li'l hasty. I understand. That's all right. I've
done forgot all about it."
"So I see. So I see. I'm reminding you of it. After this, Luke, I'd
hobble my memory if I was you, then it won't go straying off thisaway
and get you into trouble."
Racey did not deign to repeat. He nodded simply.
"I ain't got no gun," explained the lawyer.
"Alla more easy for me, then. You can't shoot back."
Luke Tweezy choked. Choked and spat. "---- ----" he began in a violent
tone of voice.
"Careful, careful," cautioned Racey, promptly kicking the lawyer's
horse in the ribs. "There's ladies in the house. You get a-holt of
Luke Tweezy obeyed the command literally. For, his horse going into
the air with great briskness at the impact of Racey's toe, even as the
puncher had intended it should, he, Luke Tweezy, bit his tongue so
hard that he wept involuntary tears of keenest anguish.
"You stop that cussin'," resumed Racey, seizing the bridle short and
yanking the bouncing horse to a standstill with a swerve and a jerk
that almost unseated its rider. "You be careful how you talk, you--hop
"Leggo that bridle!" yammered Tweezy, almost distraught with anger.
His tongue pained him exquisitely and he was otherwise physically
shaken. "Leggo that bridle!"
"I'll let it go!" Racey grated through set teeth, and he let it go
with a backward flip to the lower branches of the severe curb bit that
instantly sent the horse on its hind legs. If Luke Tweezy had not
quickwittedly smacked the animal between the ears with the butt of his
quirt it would have continued the motion to a backfall and rolled its
"Tough luck," mourned Racey, sorry to observe that Luke had contrived
to ward off an accident. "I was expecting to see that horn dislocate
yore latest meal. If you ain't quite so set on going to the house you
"I wanna see Mrs. Dale," persisted the lawyer in a strangled voice.
"I come to offer her money. I wanna do her a favour, can't you
"I can't," was the frank reply. "I can't see you doing anybody a
favour or giving away any money. C'mon, get a-going."
It was then that the lawyer lifted up his voice and shouted aloud for
Mrs. Dale. Undoubtedly Racey would have done Tweezy a mischief had he
been given time. But unfortunately Molly Dale came to the lawyer's
rescue precisely as she had once come to the rescue of his partner in
evil, the bulldozer Lanpher. As it was Racey had contrived to pull
Luke Tweezy partly from the saddle when Molly arrived and forced her
defender to release his victim.
Reluctantly Racey dropped the leg he held and allowed Tweezy to come
to earth on his hands and knees.
"What do you want?" inquired Molly, regarding Tweezy much as she would
have regarded a poisonous reptile.
"I want to see yore mother," snuffled Tweezy, applying his sleeve to
his nose. He had in the mixup smote his swell fork with the organ in
question and it had begun to bleed.
"I want to pay her money to go away quietly," said Tweezy, switching
from his sleeve to his handkerchief. "I--"
"Here she is," interrupted Molly. "Tell her."
"How do, ma'am," said Luke to the wet-eyed widow. "I guess it ain't
necessary for me to go through a lot of explanations with you. You
know what's what, and you know we'll take possession just as soon as
the sheriff serves the eviction papers on you."
At this Racey Dawson made a noise in his throat. Molly laid cool
fingers on his wrist.
"Steady, boy, steady," she whispered under her breath.
Despite the seriousness of the moment Racey's heart skipped a beat and
the pleasantest shiver in the world ran about his body. "Boy!" she had
called him. "Boy." Her hand was actually touching his own. He--
"I don't want to be hard on you, Mis' Dale," resumed Luke, after an
apprehensive glance at Racey Dawson. "I don't like to be hard on
anybody that's sittin' into a run of hard luck, but business is
business, ma'am. You know that. And after all I'm--we're only asking
for what we're by rights entitled to. We got title to this place fair
and square, and--"
"Title, huh?" struck in Racey, unable to keep silent. "Not yet you
"S-s-sh," breathed Molly, tightening her grip on his wrist.
"It's like I say, Mis' Dale," Luke Tweezy burred on from behind his
handkerchief, "I ain't got any wish to add to yore troubles, and so I
got my partner to agree for me to give you five hundred dollars cash
money if you'll pack up and clear out quiet and peaceful."
"Don't you do it, Mis' Dale!" urged Racey. "There's a trick in that
"They ain't any trick!" contradicted Luke Tweezy, vehemently. "I just
wanna save trouble, thassall."
Save trouble! That had been Lanpher's reason for coming the day he
rode through the garden. Save trouble, indeed.
"If yo're so shore the sheriff is going to serve those eviction
papers," said Racey as calmly as he could because of the warning
pressure on his wrist, "if yo're so shore why are you giving away five
"Because I don't like to be hard on Mis' Dale. Then, again, I'll admit
we wanna get in here soon as we can."
"You admit it, huh? That's a good one, that is. Don't you do it, Mis'
Dale. You stand pat."
"I don't want your five hundred dollars," said Mrs. Dale.
"Seven-fifty," climbed up Tweezy.
Mrs. Dale shook her head. "No."
"One thousand," Tweezy raised his ante.
"Lemme throw him out, Mis' Dale?" begged Racey Dawson. "Just lemme
throw him out, and I'll guarantee he'll never bother you again."
Again Mrs. Dale shook her head, and the pressure on Racey's wrist
increased. "You mustn't touch him," said Mrs. Dale. "He'll go."
"Think it over," Tweezy blundered on. "One thousand dollars gratis
cash money in yore hands if you'll leave at once."
"I'll wait awhile," said Mrs. Dale. "Please go."
Luke Tweezy opened his mouth to speak. Racey broke from Molly's
detaining grasp and stepped between him and Mrs. Dale, and Tweezy
closed his mouth without speaking.
"You heard what she said," Racey drawled, softly. "Git."
And Tweezy got.
"Do you think the sheriff will put us out?" asked Mrs. Dale, twisting
a corner of her apron between her hands.
"He'll take all the time to it he can," Racey evaded the direct reply.
"But whatever happens don't think of taking any offer like that of
Tweezy's. It's a trick, thassall. No matter who comes to you nor what
he offers don't you move till--Well, anyway, Judge Dolan and Jake Rule
are with you from soda to hock, and they'll do all they can to hold
things at a stand-still till I can fix it all up. You must remember
that I know what you dunno, and when I say that everything will end
fine and daisy you better believe I know what I'm talking about."
Molly looked at him keenly. "Racey, that's the third or fourth time
you've said that. I wonder if you really have something up your
"Of course I have," Racey insisted. "You wait. You'll see."
"What do you know? Tell us."
"Never mind, and I won't. It might spoil everything if I told you. You
just leave it to me."
He had definitely made his bluff. He would have to make good. And he
no more knew how to make good in the business than the year-old baby
busy with its toes. But ere this men have killed dragons and made
wonders come to pass all for the sake of their ladies' eyes. Men as
prosaic and matter-of-fact as the puncher, Racey Dawson. Quite so.
Half-an-hour after the departure of Luke Tweezy Mr. Saltoun and Tom
Loudon rode in on lathered horses. They were, it seemed, journeying
homeward from the 88 whither they had gone in an endeavour to persuade
Lanpher and Tweezy to sell the Dale mortgage.
"Tweezy, huh?" said Racey. "He's just left here."
"He must 'a' rode like the devil," said Mr. Saltoun. "He was in the
office with Lanpher when we left."
"I thought I noticed a feller off to the south of us as we come
along," observed Loudon. "He was just a-boilin'. I only saw him the
once as he slid by the mouth of a draw. Looked like he was trying to
keep out of sight. Rode a gray hoss."
"Tweezy rode a gray," nodded Racey.
"Him, all right. What did he want here, Racey?"
"Offered Mis' Dale one thousand cold if she'd pull her freight."
"She ain't gonna do it, is she?" demanded the alarmed Mr. Saltoun.
Racey shook his head. "She's gonna stick."
"She must. Hell, yes. Those papers of Luke's are forged. I know they
"So does everybody else," put in Tom Loudon, "but if something don't
turn up damn quick--" He broke off, shaking a dubious head.
"Something will," declared Racey, making his bluff a second time with
an air of supreme confidence.
"You know something, Racey," prodded Mr. Saltoun who prided himself on
his perspicacity. "Whadda you know?"
"I ain't telling it," answered Racey, coolly. "I ain't coming back to
the ranch to-day, neither."
"Oh, you ain't. Listen to the new owner, Tom."
"That's all right," said Racey. "If I'm going to do the world any good
I've got to have a free hand."
"You can have two of 'em," conceded Mr. Saltoun. "The bridle's off."
"Aw right, I'll take Swing Tunstall," Racey hastened to say.
"I meant yore own two hands," demurred Mr. Saltoun.
"I know you did, but I meant the other kind. Listen, do you want
Lanpher and Tweezy to get this ranch?"
"---- it, no!"
"Then gimme Swing Tunstall."
"Take him. Need anybody else? Wouldn't you like all the rest of the
outfit, and me, too?"
"My Gawd, no. This is a job requirin' brains."
"Say, lookit here, Racey--"
"When you get to the ranch tell Swing to come along soon as he can,"
interrupted Racey. "I'll be expecting him."
Tuckety-tuck! Tuckety-tuck! Somewhere beyond the cottonwood grove
surrounding Moccasin Spring a galloping horse was coming in. A moment
later horse and rider shot past the tail of the cottonwood grove, and
bore down on the house.
"Marie!" exclaimed Racey.
"And riding one of my hosses," observed Mr. Saltoun.
At that instant Marie caught sight of the three men and swerved her
mount toward them.
"They said at the Bar S you was here," panted the lookout, pulling up
in front of Racey Dawson. "So I borrowed a fresh hoss and kep' on.
Somethin's happened in Farewell, Racey. Swing Tunstall's shot."
"Downed?" Racey did not usually jump at conclusions, but Swing
Tunstall was his friend.
Marie shook her tousled head. "Nicked--shoulder and leg. But it ain't
their fault he wasn't rubbed out."
"Who's responsible?" demanded Racey.
"You said 'their'."
"Honey Hoke bumped into Swing just as he went after his gun, so Swing
couldn't get his gun out a-tall. Swing said Honey grabbed his wrist,
but Peaches Austin and Punch-the-breeze Thompson was on the other side
in the way so none of the boys seen what happened to Swing exactly
till after it had."
"Austin, Thompson, Hoke, and Coffin," said Racey. "What began the
"Doc Coffin upset a glass of whiskey over Swing's arm, and then cussed
him for getting his arm in the way."
"And Swing called him a liar, huh?"
"And a ---- one, too," elaborated Marie.
"Put-up job." Gruffly Mr. Saltoun gave his opinion.
"Shore." Tom Loudon nodded gravely.
"Where are those four men now?" Racey asked, quietly, looking at
"They were in the Starlight when I left town--and _they weren't
"No, they wouldn't be."
"And the sheriff and Kansas went to Dogville this morning, and the
marshal is sick. I thought you ought to know. My Gawd, I thought you'd
hear the news from somebody else before I got here and go bustin' in
"I guess I'll go in all right," he told her with a slight smile, "but
it won't be regardless."
With that he turned on a spurred heel and crossed springily to where
his horse stood.
"Aw, the devil!" exclaimed Marie, looking helplessly at Tom Loudon and
Mr. Saltoun. "And he'll do it, too."
Then she "kissed" to her horse and rode into the cottonwood grove for
a drink at the spring.
Racey, sticking foot in stirrup, found Molly Dale at his elbow. She
was looking at him the way women do when they either don't understand
or think they understand only too well.
"Who is that woman?" asked Molly Dale.
"Huh?" Thus Racey, stupidly. He was thinking of his friend lying
wounded in Farewell. "What woman you mean?... Oh, her, that's Marie,
she's--she's lookout in the Happy Heart."
"Oh, yes, Marie. I--I've seen you with her--one evening when you and
she were crossing the street and I drove past. I--I, yes, indeed."
And as she spoke her eyes were very bright, and her figure was stiffer
than the proverbial poker. Which was odd. And at the tail of her words
she gave a stiff nod and hurried into the house. Which was odder. The
species of nod and the hurry--both.
But Racey was in no mood to speculate on the idiosyncrasies of woman.
Even _the_ woman. So he topped his mount and rejoined Tom Loudon and
Mr. Saltoun. They regarded him silently.
"I guess," said Racey, whirling an empty tobacco-bag by it's
draw-string, "I'll borrow some of yore smokin', Tom. I'm plumb afoot
for tobacco at the present writing."
Tom Loudon handed over his pouch without a word. But Mr. Saltoun was
fidgety. Unlike his son-in-law, he felt that he must speak.
"Lookit here, Racey," he said, hurriedly, "you ain't going to Farewell
alone, are you?"
"Why, no, certainly not," Racey replied, solemnly. "I'm going to send
word to Yardly for the troops. Hell's bells, there's only four of
"Yes, well--Who's this? One of our boys?"
But it was not one of "our" boys. It was Rack Slimson, the proprietor
of the Starlight Saloon. But he was riding in from the direction of
the Bar S.
He rode soberly, as one bound on a journey of length. Even as Marie
had done he glimpsed the three men and turned his horse toward them.
Ten feet from the flank of Racey Dawson's mount he pulled in and
nodded. There was spite--spite and something else--in the gaze he
fixed on Racey Dawson.
"Yore friend's hurt," said he. "Got in a fight."
"Hurt bad?" asked Racey.
"Not _too_ bad. I've seen worse."
"Where's he hurt?"
Rack Slimson merely corroborated what Marie had said. So far he seemed
to be telling the truth. And it was natural that there should be spite
in his eyes. He had no cause to feel affection for either man. But
there was the "something else" besides the spite in those eyes. That
was what interested Racey.
"You come here special to tell me this?" said Racey, staring.
"Not me," denied Rack Slimson. "I was just passing by, and I thought
I'd let you know."
"Just bein' neighbourly, huh?"
"I dunno as I'd go so far as to say that."
"Well, I'm obliged to you, Slimson. I'm shore a heap obliged to you.
Is Swing Tunstall being taken care of all right?"
"He's in Mike Flynn's house. Joy Blythe is a-nursin' him."
"Then I ain't needed in Farewell right now." Racey's tone was casual.
Rack Slimson rose to the bait immediately. "He's asking for you alla
time," said he.
"He is, is he? Why didn't you say so at first?"
"I didn't know it was necessary."
"Which is true more ways than one. Lookit here, Slimson, where might
you happen to be going when you run into me so providential here at
"I might be going most anywhere," Rack Slimson replied with a flash of
"No call to get het, Rack, no call to get het. What I'm asking is a
fair question: Where might you be going to-day."
"Ain't you off the trail some?"
"Shore I am, some. I remembered something I gotta see about at the
88 before I go to Marysville. That's how I'm going west instead of
"When did you first remember this here something of yores?"
"When I stopped at the Bar S for a drink of water."
"And after you'd just happened to remember this something, I s'pose
you just happened to ask where I was and they told you Moccasin
Spring. Is that the how of it?"
"Yo're a good guesser," replied Rack Slimson with sarcasm.
"Sometimes I do make a centre shot," Racey admitted, modestly.
It was then that Marie, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand,
rode forth from the cottonwood grove. At sight of her Rack Slimson's
eyes opened wide, then they narrowed.
"Hell," he muttered, turning a slightly worried look on Racey.
"What you hellin' about?" Racey inquired, pleasantly.
"You knowed about Swing Tunstall alla time," complained Rack Slimson.
"What makes you think so?" Racey sidled his horse closer to Rack.
"She told you." Thus Rack, bluntly.
"'She?' What she you mean?"
"Aw, her." Rack Slimson jerked his head toward the approaching girl.
"He's got 'em again," said Racey to Mr. Saltoun and Tom Loudon. "I
don't see any 'her' anywhere. Do you?"
"Not me," chorussed both men.
"You see how yo're mistaken, Rack," pointed out Racey. "Yore eyes are
deceivin' you. Don't you trust 'em. You don't see any girls round
here, exceptin' maybe Miss Dale over at the house. You might 'a' seen
her according to whether she came to the kitchen door or not. But you
ain't seen any other girl here. And you better be shore you ain't."
"Why had I?" blustered Rack Slimson, without, however, making any
hostile motion with his hands.
"Because I say so."
"Whatell's it to you?"
"All you have to do is say in Farewell that you saw Marie here at
Dale's and you'll find out. I'll even go farther than that. I'm
tellin' you, Rack, that if anybody finds out in Farewell that
Marie was here, or if any accident happens to her--any accident,
y'understand--I'll have to take it as evidence that you had to blat.
Fair enough, huh?"
"But supposing somebody else sees her and tells about it?" protested
"In that case yo're out of luck," was the unfeeling reply.
"But--" began again Rack Slimson.
"You might try prayer," Racey interrupted. "It would maybe help. You
The unhappy Rack Slimson looked toward Mr. Saltoun and Tom Loudon. But
there was no aid for him in that quarter. In fact, both men eyed him
with frank hostility.
"So you see Marie is kept out of it." Racey laid his final injunction
on Rack as the girl in question joined them. "You don't guess this
girl is her, do you?"
"Nun-no," declared Rack, hastily. "I don't. She's somebody else for
all I care."
"That's the way to talk," Racey said, nodding approvingly. "You keep
right on holding to those sentiments and I wouldn't be surprised if
you lived quite a long while."
Marie showed her teeth in a laugh. "I ain't a-scared of any such breed
of chunker as Rack Slimson," said she, calmly. "I can manage him my
own self. You goin' back to Farewell, Racey?"
"Then I'll be going with you."
"You'll do no such a thing. There's no sense in yore running into
trouble thataway. You'll come in to Farewell after me and from another
"Shore, I was going to. I was only gonna ride along with you part
Racey shook his head. "Wouldn't be sensible, that wouldn't. Somebody
might see you. You come along later like I told you. Me and Rack will
"I was goin' to the 88," protested Rack.
"Yo're mistaken," Racey told him, firmly. "Yo're going to
Farewell--with me. Ain't you?"
"I s'pose so," Rack Slimson capitulated.
"Then c'mon. Get a-goin'."
Marie watched the two men ride away together. "Ain't he the hellion?"
she said, admiringly, to Tom and Old Salt. "Bound to have his own way
if it kills him."
At this there was a slight sound from the direction of the garden.
Marie and the two men turned to look. Trowel in hand Molly Dale was
kneeling on one knee between the brook and a row of blue camass. But
she was not doing any weeding. She was staring fixedly at Marie. While
a man could breathe twice Molly stared at Marie, then she dropped her
head and became very busy with the trowel.
Marie's sniff was audible at thirty feet. She picked up her reins and
nodded to Tom Loudon and Mr. Saltoun.
"See you later," said she, and started her horse in the direction of
Farewell. But she whirled him back before he had taken three steps.
"I clean forgot he was yore hoss," she said, apologetically, to Mr.
Saltoun. "I'll have to go back to the Bar S first."
"Thassall right," Mr. Saltoun made haste to assure her. "You take him
right along. One of the boys can ride yore hoss to town on the next
trip an' ride this one back."
"That _will_ save me a lot of trouble," said Marie, turning her
bewildered mount a second time.
"She ain't ridin' straight toward Farewell," said Tom Loudon, rolling
a slow cigarette.
"Aw, she's sensible," yawned Mr. Saltoun. "She'll do like Racey says
all right. She must like him a lot. I--Whatsa matter with _you_?"
For Tom Loudon had contrived to make a long leg and give Mr. Saltoun a
vigorous kick on the ankle.
"I guess we'll be goin'," dodged Tom Loudon, and then took off his hat
to Miss Dale. "So long, miss. If you--uh--You know where the Bar S is
in case--just in case, y' understand."
He touched his horse with the spur and moved off with as much dignity
as a colonel of cavalry. Not so Mr. Saltoun. He had been kicked,
and the kick hurt, and he was very red and ruffled in consequence.
Swearing under his breath he followed his son-in-law.
"Here," he demanded, crowding his horse alongside, "what did yuh kick
Tom Loudon looked over his shoulder before replying. The ranch-house
was a hundred yards in the rear and Molly Dale was not in sight. He
deliberately turned his head and looked his father-in-law straight in
the eye. "What did I kick you for?" he repeated. "I kicked you because
you didn't have any sense."
This was too much. "Huh? Because I--Lookit here, you--"
"'Tsall right, 'tsall right. You didn't have any sense. Here's Molly
Dale thinks Racey is the only fellah ever rode a cayuse, and you have
to blat out so she can hear you, 'Marie must shore like him a lot'."
"Well, what of it? I don't see--"
"You don't? Wait till I tell Kate."
"It ain't necessary to tell my daughter," Mr. Saltoun remonstrated,
hurriedly. "I suppose my saying that about Marie might give Molly a
wrong idea maybe about Racey. But how do you know she likes Racey? You
been talking to her? Did she tell you so?"
"I ain't, and she didn't. I been talking to Kate. She told me. Don't
ask me how she knows. She says she knows, and that's enough for me.
You can't fool a woman in things like that."
"You can't fool 'em in anything," Mr. Saltoun corroborated, bitterly.
"I shore oughtn't to said that about Racey and Marie. I'll go right
back and tell Molly it ain't so."
Mr. Saltoun started to wheel his horse, but Tom Loudon halted that
"You gotta let it go now," said he. "If you tell her you didn't mean
what you said she shore _will_ think it's true."
"We-ell, if you think I'd better not, I won't," Mr. Saltoun assented,
doubtfully. "But I wouldn't say anything to Kate if I was you."
"Then I won't," said Tom Loudon, his tongue in his cheek.
"Where you think yo're going?" Mr. Saltoun queried presently. "This
ain't the way to the ranch."
"I know it ain't. It's the way to Farewell."
"It's just possible Racey may need a li'l help before he's through
with this job."
"You're right," Mr. Saltoun said, contritely. "I've been so took up
with this Dale mortgage and the idea of Luke Tweezy and that skunk
Lanpher getting this land that I ain't give much thought to anything
else. Of course Racey will need help, and you and I are the fellers to
give it to him."
Racey Dawson and Rack Slimson, rising a hill on the way to Farewell,
simultaneously turned their heads and looked at each other. Rack's
expression was dolefully sullen. Racey's was hard and uncompromising.
"Who was it put you up to this?" asked Racey.
"Coming out here after me."
"I didn't come out after you, I tell you!"
"Shore, shore," soothed Racey, "I know all about that. Who put you up
"I dunno what yo're talkin' about."
"The ignorance of some people," said Racey, recalling sundry occasions
when other folk had oddly failed to grasp his meaning.
They rode onward silently.
When they reached the southern slope of Indian Ridge, Racey headed to
the east. A spirit of unease lit heavily upon the sagging shoulders of
"You ain't goin' straight for Farewell," he remarked at a venture.
"I thought you was."
"I am--but not straight."
"Huh?" Rack Slimson wrinkled his forehead at this.
"We're goin' in town from the side," explained Racey Dawson.
This, too, was a puzzler. "Why?" queried Rack Slimson.
"So's nobody will know we're coming till we're there." The smile with
which Racey garnished his answer was chilling to the soul of Mr.
"But I don't see--"
"You wouldn't. I'll tell you how it is all in words of one syllable.
You and me are coming into town from the east where that draw is and
those shacks behind the dance hall. We'll leave our hosses in the
draw, and proceed, like they say in the army, on foot. Then you and
"But why me?" Rack Slimson desired to know. "What are you always
putting 'me' in for?"
"Because yo're a-going with me, Rack, that's why. Yo're a-going with
me while I'm hunting for Coffin and Honey Hoke and Punch-the-breeze
Thompson and Peaches Austin. Those four will likely be together, see,
and I wanna use you for a breastwork sort of."
"A breastwork!" cried the now thoroughly upset Mr. Slimson. "A
"Shore a breastwork. I'll shove you ahead of me into the saloon and if
they--there's four of 'em, y'understand--cut down on me you'll be in
"But they'll down me!"
"I'm counting on that."
"Aw, shut up, you ---- skunk! You come out to Moccasin Spring on
purpose to get me to come to Farewell and be peaceably shot by Doc
Coffin and his gang. Can't tell me you didn't. I know better."
"I didn't! I didn't! I--"
"Aw right you didn't. In that case you got nothing to scare you. If
Doc and his outfit ain't got any harsh thoughts against me they won't
shoot when we run up on 'em. That'll prove yo're telling the truth,
and I'll beg yore pardon. I'll do more'n beg yore pardon. I'll eat
yore shirt an' my saddle."
Racey's assurance that he would do the right thing if his suspicions
proved unfounded did not appear to cheer Rack Slimson.
"I--lookit here," he began, desperately, "can't we fix this here up
some way? I dunno as--"
"Shore we can fix it up," interposed Racey, heartily. "Go after yore
gun any time you feel like it. I been letting you keep it on purpose."
Rack Slimson did not accept the invitation. He had not the slightest
desire to go after his gun. He was not fast enough, and he knew it.
"It ain't necessary to do that," said he.
"Suit yoreself," Racey told him calmly. "Hop into action any time you
feel like it. Of course before we get to that draw outside Farewell
where we're gonna leave our hosses I'll have to take yore gun away.
Later I might be too busy to do it--and I can't afford to take _every_
chance. Not with four or five men. You can see that yoreself."
Rack Slimson saw. He saw other things too. Oh, there was no warmth in
the sunlight, and the sky was a drabby gray, and he was filled with
"We'll be at the draw some time soon," suggested Racey ten minutes
But Rack Slimson's hands continued to remain in plain sight, the while
Rack gnawed a thin and bloodless lip.
When at long last the draw opened before them Racey calmly reached
over and removed the saloon-keeper's sixshooter. After satisfying
himself that the weapon was fully loaded he stuffed it down inside the
waistband of his trousers. Then he buttoned the two lower buttons of
his vest and pulled the garment in question over the protruding butt.
For a space of time they rode the bottom of the draw. Where a few
heavy willows grew about a tiny spring Racey pulled in.
"We'll leave the cayuses here," said he. "We're right close in back of
They dismounted, tied the horses to separate willows, and climbed the
side of the draw.
"No hurry," cautioned Racey, for Rack Slimson was showing signs of a
nervous haste. "Besides, I want to pat you all over for a hideout."
Behind the blind end of Marie's shack Rack Slimson submitted to
being searched for concealed weapons. Racey found none, not even a
"Let's go," said Racey Dawson. "We'll go to yore saloon first. And you
pray hard that nobody sees us from the back window."
They diagonalled down past the stage company's corral to the house
next door to the Starlight.
"They haven't seen us yet," Racey observed, cheerfully, to Rack
Slimson whose wretched knees had been knocking together ever since he
had dismounted. "Slide over this way a li'l more, Rack. Now take off
Racey stooped and removed his own. And not for an instant did he lose
the magic of the drop. As a matter of fact, he had kept Rack covered
from the moment Rack set his boot-soles to earth. Rack's spurs jingled
on the ground. Racey let them lie. His own spurs he jammed each into a
"I'll have to be careful how I sit down now," he remarked, jocularly,
to Rack Slimson. "You ready? Aw right. You know the way to the
Starlight's back door."