Racey Dawson gazed dumbly down at the muzzle of his sixshooter from which a slim curl of gray smoke spiralled lazily upward. Then his eyes veered to the man he had shot and to the man’s sixshooter lying on the edge of the sidewalk. It, too, like his own gun, was thinly smoking at the muzzle. The burly youth put a hand to his shoulder. The fingers came away red. Racey was glad he had not killed him. He had not intended to. But accidents will happen.
He stepped forward and kicked the burly youth’s discarded sixshooter into the middle of the street. He looked about him. The girl and her dog had vanished.
Kansas Casey had taken her place apparently. From windows and doorways along the street peered interested faces. One knew that they were interested despite their careful lack of all expression. It is never well to openly express approval of a shooting. The shooter undoubtedly has friends, and little breaches of etiquette are always remembered.
Racey Dawson looked at Kansas Casey and shoved his sixshooter down into its holster.
“It was an even break,” announced Racey.
“Shore,” Kansas nodded. “I seen it. There’ll be no trouble—from us,” he added, significantly.
The deputy sheriff knelt beside the wounded man. Racey Dawson went into the Happy Heart. He felt that he needed a drink. When he came out five minutes later the burly youth had been carried away. Remained a stain of dark red on the sidewalk where he had been sitting. Piggy Wadsworth, the plump owner of the dance-hall, legs widespread and arms akimbo, was inspecting the red stain thoughtfully. He was joined by the storekeeper, Calloway, and two other men. None of them was aware of Racey Dawson standing in front of the Happy Heart.
“Was it there?” inquired Calloway.
“Yeah,” said Piggy. “Right there. I seen the whole fraycas. Racey stood here an’—”
At this point Racey Dawson went elsewhere.
THE TALL STRANGER
“You’ll have to manage it yoreself.” Lanpher, the manager of the 88 ranch, was speaking, and there was finality in his tone.
“You mean you don’t wanna appear in the deal a-tall,” sneered his companion.
Racey Dawson, who had been kneeling on the ground engaged in bandaging a cut from a kick on the near foreleg of the Dale pony when the two men led their horses into the corral, craned his neck past the pony’s chest and glanced at Lanpher’s tall companion. For the latter’s words provoked curiosity. What species of deal was toward? Having ridden for Lanpher in the days preceding his employment by the Cross-in-a-box and consequently provided with many opportunities for studying the gentleman at arm’s-length, Racey naturally assumed that the deal was a shady one. Personally, he believed Lanpher capable of anything. Which of course was unjust to the manager. His courage was not quite sufficient to hold him abreast of the masters in wickedness. But he was mean and cruel in a slimy way, and if left alone was prone to make life miserable for someone. Invariably the someone was incapable of proper defense. From Farewell to Marysville, throughout the length and breadth of the great Lazy River country, Lanpher was known unfavourably and disliked accordingly.