“Say, won’t somebody please smile?” gravely asked Edwards. “I never saw such a happy, cheerful bunch before.”
“I might smile if I wasn’t so blamed hungry,” retorted Johnny. “Doesn’t anybody ever eat in this town?” he asked in great sarcasm. “Mebby a good feed won’t do me no good, but I’m going to fill myself regardless. An’ after that, if the grub don’t shock me to death, I’m shore going to trim somebody at Ol’ Sledge—for two bits a hand.”
“If I could play you enough hands at that price I could sell out an’ live high without working,” grinned Jackson, preparing to give the reckless invalid all he could eat. “That’s purty high, Kid; but I just feel real devilish, an’ I’m coming in.”
“An’ I’ll go over to my shack, get some money, an’ bust the pair of you,” laughed Edwards, again buttoning his coat and going towards the door. “Holy Cats! A log must ‘a’ got jammed in the sluice-gate up there,” he muttered, scowling at the black sky. “It’s coming down harder’n ever, but here goes,” and he stepped quickly into the storm.
Jackson paused with a frying pan in his hands and looked through the window after the departing marshal, and saw him stagger, stumble forward, then jerk out his guns and begin firing. Hard firing now burst out in front and Jackson, cursing angrily, dropped the pan and reached for his rifle—to drop it also and sink down, struck by the bullet which drilled through the window. Johnny let out a yell of rage, grabbed his Colt, and ran to the door in time to see Edwards slowly raise up on one elbow, fire his last shot, and fall back riddled by bullets.
Jackson crawled to his rifle and then to the side window, where he propped his back against a box and prepared to do his best. “It was shore a surprise,” he swore. “An’ they went an’ got Edwards before he could do anything.”
“They did not!” retorted Johnny. “He—” the glass in the door vibrated sharply and the speaker, stepping to one side out of sight, with a new and superficial wound, opened fire on the building down the street. Two men were lying on the ground across the street—these Edwards had shot—and another was trying to drag himself to the shelter of a building. A man sprinted from an old corral close by in a brave and foolhardy attempt to save his friend, and Johnny swore because he had to fire twice at the same mark.
The rear door crashed open and shut as Barr, closely followed by Neal, ran in. They had been caught in the corral but, thanks to Harlan’s whiskey, had managed to hold their own until they had a chance to make a rush for the store.
“Where’s the marshal?” cried Barr, catching sight of Jackson. “Are you plugged bad?” he asked, anxiously.
“Well, I ain’t plugged a whole lot good!” snapped Jackson. “An’ Edwards is dead. They shot him down without warning. We’re going to get ours, too—these walls don’t stop them bullets. How many out there?”