A voice called to her. “Run, Kittie.”
To the casual eye the child was all knobby legs and hair ribbons. She scudded for the stable, sobbing as she ran.
At sound of that voice Mysterious Pete leaped to the saddle and whirled his horse. He was too late. The man who had called to Kittie slammed shut the gate of the corral and laughed tauntingly.
“Better ’light, Mr. Champa. That caballo you’re on happens to be mine.”
Pete needed no introduction. This slight, devil-may-care young fellow at the gate was Clanton. He was here to fight. The only road of escape was over his body.
The gunman slid from the saddle. His instinct for safety still served him, for he came to the ground with the horse as a shield between him and his foe. The nine-inch barrel of his revolver rested on the back of the bronco as he blazed away. A chip flew from the cross-bar of the corral gate.
Clanton took no chances. The first shot from his forty-four dropped the cowpony. Pete backed away, firing as he moved. He flung bullet after bullet at the figure behind the gate. In his panic he began to think that his enemy bore a charmed life. Three times his lead struck the woodwork of the gate.
The retreating man whirled and dropped, his weapon falling to the dust. Clanton fired once more to make sure that his work was done, then moved slowly forward, his eyes focused on the body. A thin wisp of smoke rose from the revolver lying close to the still hand.
Mysterious Pete had died with his boots on after the manner of his kind.
Jim Receives and Declines an Offer
From the moment that Clanton walked out of the corral and left the dead gunman lying in the dust his reputation was established. Up till that time he had been on probation. Now he was a full-fledged killer. Nobody any longer spoke of him by his last name, except those friends who still hoped he might escape his destiny. “Go-Get-’em Jim” was his title at large. Those on more familiar terms called him “Jimmie-Go-Get-’Em.”
It was unfortunate for Clanton that the killing of Champa lifted him into instant popularity. Mysterious Pete had been too free with his gun. The community had been afraid of him. The irresponsible way in which he had wounded little Bud Proctor, whose life had been saved only by the courage of Lee Snaith, was the climax of a series of outrages committed by the man.
That Jim had incidentally saved Kittie McRobert from the outlaw was a piece of clean luck. Snaith came to him at once and buried the hatchet. In the war just starting, the cattleman needed men of nerve to lead his forces. He offered a place to Clanton, who jumped at the chance to get on the pay-roll of Lee’s father.
“Bring yore friend Billie Prince to the store,” suggested Snaith. “He’s not workin’ for Webb now. I can make a place for him, too.”