There was a sudden crashing thud at the back of the room. Honey Hoke had fallen out of his chair. Now he lay on the floor, his legs drawn up and the back of his frowsy head resting against a rung of the chair in which still sat the dead body of Doc Coffin.
Racey went to Honey and spread him out in a more comfortable position.
Calloway and Judge Dolan entered the saloon together.
“We thought we heard shootin’—” began Galloway, staring in astonishment at the grotesque posture Rack Slimson had assumed the better to endure the ministrations of the bartender.
“We heard shootin’, all right,” said Judge Dolan, his glance sweeping past Slimson and the bartender to the rear of the room.
“What’s happened, Racey?” queried Dolan, striding forward. “Both of ’em cashed?”
Racey shook his head. “Doc Coffin passed out,” said he in a hard, dry voice. “But Honey Hoke’s heart is beatin’ regular enough. Guess he’s only fainted from loss of blood.”
The Judge nodded. “They do that sometimes.” Here he looked at Doc Coffin’s body lying humped over the table, an arm hanging free, the head resting on the table-top.
“Were they rowin’ together?” was the Judge’s next question.
Racey gave him a circumstantial account of the shooting and the incidents that had led up to it. The Judge heard him through without a word.
“They asked for it,” said he, when Racey made an end. “’Sfunny Punch didn’t pick up a hand. Tell you what you do, Racey: You come to my office in about a hour. Nothing to do with this business. I got no fault to find with what you done. Even break and all that. Something else I wanna see you about. Huh? What’s that, Piggy?”
The place was beginning to fill up with inquisitive folk from the vicinity, and Racey decided to withdraw. He went out the back way. Closing the door, he set his shoulders against it, and remained motionless a moment. His eyes were on the distant hills, but they neither saw the hills nor anything that lay between.
“I had to do it,” he muttered, bitterly. “I didn’t want to down him. But I had to. They were gonna down me if they could. And he—they—they asked for it.”
“Lo, Peaches, ain’t you afraid of gettin’ sunburnt?” Peaches Austin, gambler though he was, flickered his eyelashes. He was startled. He had not had the slightest warning of Racey Dawson’s approach.
“Didn’t hear me, did you?” Racey continued, conversationally. “I didn’t want you to. That’s why I kept my spurs off and sifted round from the back of the blacksmith shop. And you were expecting me to come scampering down the trail over Injun Ridge, weren’t you? Joke’s on you, Peaches, sort of.”
Still Peaches said nothing. He sat and gazed at Racey Dawson.
“Don’t be a hawg,” resumed Racey. “Move over and lemme sit down, too. That’s the boy. Now we’re both comfortable, Peaches, you mean to sit there and tell me you didn’t hear any shooting up at the Starlight a while back?”