“You figure to stay in town a spell, don’t you? Well, I figure to leave, right soon. I’m tryin’ to dodge trouble. It’s your chanct to help out.”
“Why can’t we both walk out?”
“’Cause they’d follow us. They won’t follow you.”
Bartley glanced at the men ranged along the bar, rose, and, shaking hands with Cheyenne, strode out, nodding pleasantly to the one-eyed proprietor as he went.
Sneed eyed the Easterner sharply, and nudged one of his men as Bartley passed through the doorway.
“Just step out and see where he goes, Hull,” he ordered in an undertone. “Keep him in sight.”
The man spoken to hitched up his chaps, and, turning to finish his drink, strolled out casually.
Bartley saw a row of saddle-horses tied at the rail. He noticed the slickers on the saddles and the carbines under the stirrup leathers. It was evident that the riders were not entirely on pleasure bent. He crossed the street, wakened the stableman, paid the bill, and saddled Joshua. Then he took the tie-rope off Filaree, as Cheyenne had directed. Bartley led Joshua through the barn to the back, where he was tying him to a wagon wheel when a figure loomed up in the semi-darkness.
The figure struck a match and lighted a cigarette. Bartley at once recognized him as one of Sneed’s men. Resenting the other’s question and his attitude of easy familiarity, Bartley ignored his presence.
“Hard of hearin’?” queried Hull.
“I said: Was you ridin’?”
“Yesterday,” replied Bartley.
Hull blew a whiff of smoke in Bartley’s face. It seemed casual, but was intended as an insult. Bartley flushed, and realizing that the other was there to intercept any action on his part to aid Cheyenne, he dropped Joshua’s reins, and without the slightest warning of his intent—in fact, Hull thought the Easterner was stooping to pick up the reins—Bartley launched a haymaker that landed with a loud crack on Hull’s unguarded chin, and Hull’s head snapped back. Bartley jumped forward and shot another one to the same spot. Hull’s head hit the edge of the doorway as he went down.
He lay there, inert, a queer blur in the half-light. Bartley licked his skinned knuckles.
“He may resent this, when he wakes up,” he murmured. “I believe I’ll tie him.”
Bartley took Joshua’s tie-rope and bound Mr. Hull’s arms and legs, amateurishly, but securely.
Then he strode through to the front of the barn. He could hear loud talking in the saloon opposite and thought he could distinguish Cheyenne’s voice. Bartley wondered what would happen in there, and when things would begin to pop, if there was to be any popping. He felt foolishly helpless and inefficient—rather a poor excuse for a partner, just then. Yet there was that husky rider, back there in the straw. He was even more helpless and inefficient. Bartley licked his knuckles, and grinned.