Exit Mysterious Pete
In the cold, gray dawn of the morning after, Mysterious Pete straddled down the main street of Los Portales with a dark-brown taste in his mouth. He was feeling ugly. For he had imbibed a large quantity of liquor. He had gambled and lost. He had boasted of what he intended to do to one James Clanton, now generally known as “Go-Get-’Em Jim,”
This last in particular was a mistake. Moreover, it was quite out of accord with the usual custom of Mr. Champa. When he made up his mind to increase by one the number of permanent residents upon Boot Hill he bided his time, waited till the suspicions of his victim were lulled, and shot down his man without warning. The one fixed rule of his life was never to take an unnecessary chance. Now he was taking one.
Every chain has its weakest link. Mr. Champa drunk was a rock upon which Mr. Champa sober had more than once come to shipwreck. No doubt some busybody, seeking to curry favor with him, had run to this Clanton with the tale of how Mysterious Pete had sworn to kill him on sight.
The bad man was sour on the world this morning. He prided himself on being always a dead shot, but such a night as he had spent would not help his chances. There could be no doubt that his nerves were jumpy. What he needed was a few hours’ sleep.
He would have taken a back street if he had dared, but to do so would have been a confession of doubt. The killer can afford to let nobody guess that he is afraid. When such a suspicion becomes current he might as well order his coffin. The men whom he holds in the subjection of fear will all be taking a chance with him.
So Mysterious Pete, bad man and murderer, coward at heart to the marrow, strutted toward his rooming-house with a heart full of hate to everybody. The pleasant morning sunshine was an offense to him. A care-free laugh on the breeze made him grit his teeth irritably. Particularly he hated Dave Roush. For Roush had led him into this cunningly by bribery and flattery. He had fed the jealousy of Pete, who could not brook the thought of a rival bad man in his own territory. He had hinted that perhaps Champa had better steer clear of this youth, whose reputation as a killer had grown so amazingly. Ever since Clanton had killed Warren the bad man had intended to “get him.” But he had meant to do it without taking any risk. His idea was to pretend to be his friend, push a gun into his stomach, and down him before he could move. Now by his folly he had to take a fighting chance. Dave Roush, to save his own skin, had pushed him into danger. All this was quite clear to him now, and he raged at the knowledge.
Champa, too, was at another disadvantage. He was not sure that he would know Clanton when he saw him. He had set eyes on the young fellow once, on that occasion when he had gone with Warren to demand an inspection of the Flying V Y herd. But he had seen him only as one of a group of cowpunchers and not as an individual enemy, whereas it was quite certain that Go-Get-’Em Jim would recognize him.