The rear door opened slightly and one of the loungers looked up and nodded. “It’s all right, Jerry. But get a move on!”
“Here, you!” called Harlan, quickly bending over the trap door, “Lively!”
Jerry was half way to the proprietor when the front door swung open and Hopalong, closely followed by the marshal, leaped into the room, and immediately thereafter the back door banged open and admitted Johnny. Jerry’s right hand was in his side coat pocket and Johnny, young and self-confident, and with a lot to learn, was certain that he could beat the fugitive on the draw.
“I reckon you won’t blot no more brands!” he cried, triumphantly, watching both Jerry and Harlan.
The card-players had leaped to their feet and at a signal from Harlan they surged forward to the bar and formed a barrier between Johnny and his friends; and as they did so that puncher jerked at his gun, twisting to half face the crowd. At that instant fire and smoke spurted from Jerry’s side coat pocket and the odor of burning cloth arose. As Johnny fell, the rustler ducked low and sprang for the door. A gun roared twice in the front of the room and Jerry staggered a little and cursed as he gained the opening, but he plunged into the darkness and threw himself into the saddle on the first horse he found in the small corral.
When the crowd massed, Hopalong leaped at it and strove to tear his way to the opening at the end of the bar, while the marshal covered Harlan and the others. Finding that he could not get through. Hopalong sprang on the shoulder of the nearest man and succeeded in winging the fugitive at the first shot, the other going wild. Then, frantic with rage and anxiety, he beat his way through the crowd, hammering mercilessly at heads with the butt of his Colt, and knelt at his friend’s side.
Edwards, angered almost to the point of killing, ordered the crowd to stand against the wall, and laughed viciously when he saw two men senseless on the floor. “Hope he beat in yore heads!” he gritted, savagely. “Harlan, put yore paws up in sight or I’ll drill you clean! Now climb over an’ get in line—quick!”
Johnny moaned and opened his eyes. “Did—did I—get him?”
“No; but he gimleted you, all right,” Hopalong replied. “You’ll come ’round if you keep quiet.” He arose, his face hard with the desire to kill. “I’m coming back for you, Harlan, after I get yore friend! An’ all the rest of you pups, too!”
“Get me out of here,” whispered Johnny.
“Shore enough, Kid; but keep quiet,” replied Hopalong, picking him up in his arms and moving carefully towards the door. “We’ll get him, Johnny; an’ all the rest, too, when——” The voice died out in the direction of Jackson’s and the marshal, backing to the front door, slipped out and to one side, running backward, his eyes on the saloon.
“Yore day’s about over, Harlan,” he muttered. “There’s going to be some few funerals around here before many hours pass.”