The bystanders scurried for safety while explosion followed explosion. Young Clanton, light-footed as a cat, side-stepped and danced about as he fired. The first shot of the red-headed man had hit him and the shock of it interfered with his accuracy. Hugh had disappeared, but above the smoke the youngster still saw the cruel face of Devil Dave leering triumphantly at him behind the pumping gun.
The boy kept moving, so that his body did not offer a static target. He concentrated his attention on Dave, throwing shot after shot at him. That he would kill his enemy Clanton never had a doubt. It was firmly fixed in his mind that he had been sent as the appointed executioner of the man.
It was no surprise to Jim when the face of his sister’s betrayer lurched forward into the smoke. He heard Roush fall heavily to the floor and saw the weapon hurled out of reach. The fellow lay limp and still.
Clanton did not waste a second look at the fallen man. He knew that the other Roush, crouched behind the bar, had been firing at him through the woodwork. Now a bullet struck the wall back of his head. The red-headed man had fired looking through a knot-hole.
The boy’s weapon covered a spot three inches above this. He fired instantly. A splinter flew from a second hole just above the first. Three long, noiseless strides brought Clanton to the end of the bar. The red-headed man lay dead on the floor. The bullet had struck him just above and between the eyes.
“I reckon that ends the job.”
It was Jim’s voice that said the words, though he hardly recognized it. Overcome by a sudden nausea, he leaned against the bar for support. He felt sick through and through.
Billie Stands Pat
Clanton came back out of the haze to find his friend’s arm around his waist, the sound of his strong, cheerful voice in his ears.
“Steady, old fellow, steady. Where did they hit you, Jim?”
“In the shoulder. I’m sick.”
Billie supported him to a chair and called to the bartender, who was cautiously rising from a prone position behind the bar. “Bring a glass of water, Mike.”
The wounded man drank the water, and presently the sickness passed. He saw a little crowd gather. Some of them carried out the body of Hugh Roush. They returned for that of his brother.
“Dave ain’t dead yet. He’s still breathing,” one of the men said.
“Not dead!” exclaimed Clanton. “Did you say he wasn’t dead?”
“Now, don’t you worry about that,” cautioned Prince. “Looks to me like you sure got him. Anyhow, it ain’t your fault. You were that quiet and game and cool. I never saw the beat.”
The admiration of his partner did not comfort Jim. He was suspiciously near a breakdown. “Why didn’t I take another crack at him when I had the chance?” he whimpered. “I been waitin’ all these years, an’ now—”