Bartley peered out over Cheyenne’s shoulder. From up the street in the opposite direction came the distant click of boot-heels. A figure strode swiftly toward the patch of white light in front of the gambling-hall.
“Just stand back a little, pardner,” said Cheyenne.
Bartley felt his heart begin to thump as Cheyenne gently loosened his gun in the holster.
“It’s Panhandle!” whispered Bartley, as the figure of Sears was silhouetted against the lighted windows of the place opposite.
Out of the shadows where the riders waited came a single, abrupt word, peremptory, incisive: “Panhandle!”
Panhandle, about to turn into the lighted doorway, stopped short.
Sneed had called to Panhandle; but it was Posmo the Mexican who rode forward to meet him. Sneed, close behind Posmo, watched to see that the Mexican carried out his instructions, which were simply to tell Panhandle to get his horse and leave town with them. Seeing the group behind the Mexican, Panhandle’s first thought was that Posmo had betrayed him to the authorities. It was Posmo. Panhandle recognized the Mexican’s pinto horse.
Enraged by what he thought was a trap, and with drunken contempt for the man he had cheated, Panhandle jerked out his gun and fired at the Mexican; fired again at the bulky figure behind Posmo, and staggered back as a slug shattered his shoulder. Cursing, he swung round and emptied his gun into the blur of riders that separated and spread across the street, returning his fire from the vantage of the shadows. Flinging his empty gun at the nearest rider, Panhandle lurched toward the doorway where Cheyenne and Bartley stood watching. He had almost made the curb when he lunged and fell. He rose and tried to crawl to the shelter of the doorway. One of Sneed’s men spurred forward and shot Panhandle in the back. He sank down, his body twitching.
Bartley gasped as he saw the rider deliberately throw another shot into the dying man. Then Cheyenne’s arm jerked up. The rider swerved and pitched from the saddle. Another of Sneed’s men crossed the patch of light, and a splinter ripped from the door-casing where Cheyenne stood. Cheyenne’s gun came down again and the rider pitched forward and fell. His horse galloped down the street. Again Cheyenne fired, and again. Then, in the sudden stillness that followed, Cheyenne stepped out and dragged Panhandle into the hallway. Some one shouted. A window above the saloon opposite was raised. Doors opened and men came out, questioning each other, gathering in a group in front of the Hole-in-the-Wall.
Stunned by the sudden shock of events, the snakelike flash of guns in the semi-darkness, and the realization that several men had been gravely wounded, perhaps killed, Bartley heard Cheyenne’s voice as though from a distance.
Cheyenne’s hand was on Bartley’s arm. “Come on. The game is closed for the night.”