“It’s because you’re afraid, and know that you can’t help yourselves,” Tom smiled.
“I’ll show you who’s afraid!” yelled Hawkins, again throwing his right hand back to his hip pocket.
This time Reade saw the unmistakable butt of a revolver. Without an instant’s hesitation. Reade leaped at the fellow. In a moment Tom had the revolver, springing backwards.
“Well—–shoot!” jeered Hawkins. “You don’t dare to.”
“You’re right,” assented Tom coolly. “I don’t dare to. Assassination belongs to the lowest orders of human beings. An honest man seldom has any need of concealed deadly weapons.”
Tom stepped still farther back, breaking the revolver and dropping the cartridges into one hand. Hawkins made a move as though to spring upon him, but Harry leaped into the room, confronting the gambler.
Thus shielded, Tom drew a combination tool-knife from one of his pockets, then coolly drew out the screw that held the trigger in place.
Dropping the trigger into his own pocket, Tom tossed the weapon back.
“Catch it, Hawkins,” he called. “You may want this to frighten some children with over in Blixton. Now, Mr. Renshaw, I believe you know what you’re to do.”
“Yes, sir,” nodded the superintendent, from the doorway, and vanished.
“We’ll take our leave, now,” sneered Hawkins, “unless you have some further humiliation in store for us.”
“Just one,” Tom declared, “so you can’t go just yet.”
“Oh, all right,” Hawkins laughed fiercely. “You’ll have to pay for this unlawful detention.”
“You can tell the officers all about that,” Tom suggested tantalizingly. “Mr. Renshaw has just gone to telephone for them.”
“The officers? Police?” snarled Hawkins.
“Yes. Did you imagine that you could keep on defying all the laws? You’ve just threatened me with a taste of the law. You may try a taste yourself, Professor Hawkins!”
“Let us out of this place!” insisted Hawkins angrily. “Come on, friends!”
He rallied his own force of seven men and started toward the door.
“Of course you can try to get away,” Reade warned the fellow. “But the effort will cost you all broken heads, to say the least. I have placed you all under arrest for breaking the laws of Alabama, and, before we’ll let you go, we’ll break a few bones for each of you.”
Outside the workmen of the camp were thronging by this time. Doubtless, had they dared, two or three score of these men would have fought in behalf of the gamblers and bootleggers, but far more than that number would have rallied under Tom Reade’s banner, for it is human nature to flock to the banner of the leader who is resolute and unafraid. Besides, there were the foremen, all of them good, hard hitting men.
“Oh, well,” sneered Hawkins, “let it go at that, Reade. We’ll have our day in court tomorrow, and then. I guess we’ll find our innings.”