“Thank the Lord! That means that there’s somebody left to fight ’em,” exclaimed Red. “Hope it’s the Kid,” he muttered.
“They can’t rush the store till they get Lacey, an’ they can’t rush him till they get the store,” shouted Neal over his shoulder. “They’d be in a cross fire if they tried either—an’ that’s what licks ’em.”
“They’ll be in a cross fire purty soon,” promised Pete, grimly.
Hopalong and Red reached the edge of the arroyo first and plunged over the bank into the yellow storm-water swirling along the bottom like a miniature flood. After them came Buck, Neal, and the others, the water shooting up in sheets as each successive horse plunged in. Out again on the farther side they strung out into single file along the narrow foot-hold between water and bank and raced towards the sharp bend some hundreds of yards ahead, the point in the arroyo’s course nearest the town. The dripping horses scrambled up the slippery incline and then, under the goading of spurs and quirts, leaped forward as fast as they could go across the level, soggy plain.
A quarter of a mile ahead of them lay the scattered shacks of the town, and as they drew nearer to it the riders could see the flashes of guns and the smoke-fog lying close to the ground. Fire spat from Jackson’s store and a cloud of smoke still lingered around a window in Lacey’s saloon. Then a yell reached their ears, a yell of rage, consternation and warning. Figures scurried to seek cover and the firing from Jackson’s and Lacey’s grew more rapid.
A mounted man emerged from a corral and tore away, others following his example, and the outfit separated to take up the chase individually. Harlan, wounded hard, was trying to run to where he had left his horse, and after him fled Slivers Lowe. Hopalong was gaining on them when he saw Slivers raise his arm and fire deliberately into the back of the proprietor of the Oasis, leap over the falling body, vault into the saddle of Harlan’s horse and gallop for safety. Hopalong’s shots went wide and the last view any one had of Slivers in that part of the country was when he dropped into an arroyo to follow it for safety. Laramie Joe fled before Red Connors and Red’s rage was so great that it spoiled his accuracy, and he had the sorrow of seeing the pursued grow faint in the mist and fog. Pursuit was tried until the pursuers realized that their mounts were too worn out to stand a show against the fresh animals ridden by the survivors of the Oasis crowd.
Red circled and joined Hopalong. “Blasted coyotes,” he growled. “Killed Jackson an’ Edwards, an’ wanted the Kid! He’s shore showed ’em what fighting is, all right. But I wonder what got into ’em all at once to give ’em nerve enough to start things?”
“Edwards paid his way, all right,” replied Hopalong. “If I do as well when my time comes I won’t do no kicking.”
“Yore time ain’t coming that way,” responded Red, grinning. “You’ll die a natural death in bed, unless you gets to cussing me.”