“Come on, then,” and Sneed indicated Posmo.
“And don’t make any mistakes,” threatened Lawson, riding close to the Mexican. “If you do—you won’t last.”
Posmo had not counted on this turn of affairs. He had supposed that his news would send Sneed and his men in to have it out with Panhandle, or that one of them would ride in and persuade Panhandle to join them. But he now knew that he would have to ride with Sneed, or he would be suspected of double-dealing.
At the fork of the road leading into Phoenix, Sneed reined in. “We’re ridin’ tired horses, boys. And we ain’t lookin’ for trouble. All we want is Panhandle. We’ll get him.”
Sitting his big horse like a statue, his club foot concealed by the long tapadero, his physical being dominating his followers, Sneed headed the group that rode slowly down the long open stretch bordering on the east of the town. They entered town quietly and stopped a few doors below the lighted front of the Hole-in-the-Wall.
“Just step in and tell Panhandle I want to see him,” and Sneed indicated one of his riders.
The man went in and came out again with the information that Panhandle had left the saloon about an hour ago; that he had told the bartender he was going out to get some money and come back and play the wheel.
“Get on your horse,” said Sneed, who had been gazing up the street while listening to the other. “Here comes Panhandle now. I’ll do the talking.”
CHEYENNE PLAYS BIG
Watching from his darkened window, Cheyenne had seen Panhandle leave the Hole-in-the-Wall, and stride up the street alone. It was the first time Cheyenne had seen Sears since he had taken the single room opposite the gambling-house. Cheyenne stepped back, drew down the curtain, and turned on the light. The bare board floor was littered with cigarette stubs. A pair of saddle-bags hung on the iron bedstead. Other furniture was a chair, a scratched and battered washstand, a cracked mirror. Standing by the washstand Cheyenne took his gun from its holster, half-cocked it, and punched out the loaded cartridges. He pulled the pin, pushed the cylinder out with his thumb, and examined it against the light. Carefully he cleaned and replaced the cylinder, reloaded it, held the hammer back, and spun the cylinder with his hand. Finally he thrust the gun in the holster and, striding to the bed, sat down, his chin in his hands.
Somewhere out there on the street, or in the Hole-in-the-Wall, he would meet his enemy—in a few minutes, perhaps. There would be no wordy argument. They understood each other, and had understood each other, since that morning, long ago when they had passed each other on the road—Panhandle riding in to Laramie and Cheyenne and Little Jim riding from the abandoned home. Cheyenne thought of Little Jim, of his wife, and, by some queer trick of mind, of Bartley. He knew that the Easterner was in town. The stableman at the Top-Notch had told him. Well, he had seen Panhandle. Now he would go out and meet him, or overtake him.