“Where you going?” demanded Swing Tunstall.
“Over the hills and far away to pick the wild violets,” chanted Racey. “You wanna come along? Better not. Them violets are just too awful wild. Dangerous. Yeah. Catch yore death.”
“You idjit! You plumb fool! Can’t you let well enough alone? Ain’t you satisfied till yo’re ticklin’ the mule’s hind leg? If yo’re crowded, hop to it. Make ’em hard to find. But why go a-huntin’ trouble? Whatsa sense? What—”
“Always get the jump on trouble, Swing. Always. Then you’ll find trouble don’t wear so many guns after all and is a heap slower about pulling ’em than you thought likely.”
“But if they’re all four of ’em together now, and you—”
“I ain’t said I was going to do anything, have I? Gawda-mighty, Swing, I only want to go and ask how Nebraska’s gettin’ along. Only tryin’ to be neighbourly. Yeah. Neighbourly.”
Racey Dawson nodded his head as one does when a subject is closed, hitched up his chaps, and started blithely round the hotel. Swing Tunstall followed in haste, caught up with his friend and fell into step at his side.
“This ain’t any of yore muss, Swing,” Racey said, mildly.
“It’s gonna be,” was the determined reply. “You shut up.”
Racey grinned at nothing and stuck his tongue in his cheek. A warmly pleasant glow permeated his being. It was good to have a friend like Swing Tunstall—one who would not interfere but who would be in alert readiness for any contingency. And Racey was well aware that in his impending visit to the Starlight the contingencies were apt to be many and varied.
“It’s so early in the day I don’t guess none of ’em will be in the dance hall yet,” murmured Swing Tunstall.
“I’m gonna drop in on the Starlight first, anyway,” said Racey. “It’s nearer.”
Through a side window they inspected the Starlight and the customers thereof. Only two customers were visible. These, a long man and a short man, stood at the bar, their backs to the window and their hands cupped lovingly round glasses of refreshment. The tall man was talking to the bartender.
“This getting up so early in the mornin’ is a fright,” they heard him complain. “But bunking with a invalid shore does keep you on the jump.”
He and his companion drank. Racey Dawson and Swing Tunstall glided rapidly along the wall to a side entrance. When the tall man and the short man set down their glasses Racey Dawson was leaning against the bar at a range of approximately six feet. Swing Tunstall stood at his back and slightly to the right. Thus that, should necessity warrant a resort to lethal weapons, Racey might not mask the latter’s fire.
“Liquor,” said Racey to the bartender.
The latter, an expert at his trade, with a jerk of both wrists slid two glasses and a bottle down the bar so that a glass stopped in front of each man and the bottle came to a standstill between them. Racey spun a dollar on the bar. The bartender nonchalantly swept the dollar into the cash drawer and resumed his chit-chat with the tall man. At which Racey’s eyes narrowed slightly. But he made no comment.