“Course we can! We ain’t fools, an’ we all can shoot as well as them,” snapped Laramie Joe, the most courageous of the lot. Laramie had taken only one drink, and that a small one, for he was wise enough to realize that he needed his wits as keen as he could have them.
“We can do it easy, if Edwards goes under first,” hastily replied Harlan. “An’ me an’ Laramie will see to that part of it. If we don’t get him, you all can hit the trail an’ we won’t be sore about it. That is, unless you are made of the stuff that stands up an’ fights ’stead of running away. I reckon I ain’t none mistaken in any of you. You’ll all be there when things get hot.”
“You can bet the shack I won’t do no trail-hitting,” growled Boston, glancing at Slivers, who squirmed a little under the hint.
“Well, I’m glued to the crowd; you can’t lose me, fellers,” Slivers remarked, re-crossing his legs uneasily. “Are we going to begin it from here?”
“We ought to spread out cautions and surround Jackson’s, or wherever Edwards is,” Laramie Joe suggested. “That’s my—”
“Yo’re right! Now you’ve hit it plumb on the head!” interrupted Harlan, slapping Laramie heartily across the back. “What did I tell you about our brains?” he cried, enthusiastically. He had been on the point of suggesting that plan of operations when Laramie took the words out of his mouth. “I’d never thought of that, Laramie,” he lied, his face beaming. “Why, we’ve got ’em licked to a finish right now!”
“This is a hummer of a game,” laughed Slivers. “But how about the Bar-20 crowd?”
“I’ve told you that already,” replied the proprietor.
“You bet it’s a hummer,” cried Boston, reaching for the whiskey bottle under cover of the excitement and enthusiasm.
Harlan pushed it away with his foot and raised his clenched fist. “Do you wonder I didn’t think of that plan?” he demanded. “Ain’t I been too mad to think at all? Hain’t I seen my friends treated like dogs, an’ made to swaller insults when I couldn’t raise my hand to stop it? Didn’t I see Jerry Brown chased out of my place like a wild beast? If we are what we’ve been called, then we’ll sneak out of town with our tails atween our laigs; but if we’re men we’ll stay right here an’ cram the insults down the throats of them that made ’em! If we’re men let’s prove it an’ make them liars swaller our lead.”
“My sentiments an’ allus was!” roared Slivers, slapping Harlan’s shoulder.
“We’re men, all right, an’ we’ll show ’em it, too!”
At that instant the door opened and four guns covered it before it had swung a foot.
“Put ’em down—it’s Quinn!” exclaimed the man in the doorway, flinching a bit. “All right, Jed,” he called over his shoulder to the man who crowded him. After Quinn came Big Jed and Harper brought up the rear. They had no more than shaken the water from their sombreros when the back door let in Charley Rich and his two companions, Frank and Tom Nolan. While greetings were being exchanged and the existing conditions explained to the newcomers, Harper and Quinn led Harlan to one side and reported, the proprietor smiling and nodding his head wisely. And while he listened, Slivers surreptitiously corralled the whiskey bottle and when the last man finished with it there was nothing in it but air.