Colonel Pennington did not at once return to his home, however. Instead, he drove up to the business centre of the town. The streets were deserted, but one saloon—the Sawdust Pile—was still open.
Pennington strode through the bar and into the back room, where a number of poker-games were in progress. For a moment he stood, his cold, ophidian glance circling the room until it came to rest on no less a personage than the Black Minorca, an individual with whom the reader has already had some slight acquaintance. It will be recalled that the Black Minorca led the futile rush against Bryce Cardigan that day in Pennington’s woods.
The Colonel approached the table where the Black Minorca sat thumbing the edges of his cards, and touched the cholo on the shoulder. The Black Minorca turned, and Pennington nodded to him to follow; whereupon the latter cashed in his chips and joined his employer on the sidewalk. Here a whispered conversation ensued, and at its conclusion the Black Minorca nodded vigorously.
“Sure!” he assured the Colonel. “I’ll fix ’em good and plenty.”
Together Pennington and the Black Minorca entered the automobile and proceeded swiftly to the Laguna Grande Lumber Company’s mill-office. From a locker the Colonel produced a repeating rifle and three boxes of cartridges, which he handed to the cholo, who departed without further ado into the night.
Twenty minutes later, from the top of a lumber-pile in Cardigan’s drying-yard, Bryce Cardigan saw the flash of a rifle and felt a sudden sting on his left forearm. He leaped around in front of the cowcatcher to gain the shelter of the engine, and another bullet struck at his feet and ricocheted off into the night. It was followed by a fusillade, the bullets kicking up the freshly disturbed earth among the workers and sending them scurrying to various points of safety. In an instant the crossing was deserted, and work had been stopped, while from the top of the adjacent lumber-pile the Black Minorca poured a stream of lead and filthy invective at every point which he suspected of harbouring a Cardigan follower.
“I don’t think he’s hurt anybody,” Buck Ogilvy whispered as he crouched with Bryce beside the engine, “but that’s due to his marksmanship rather than his intentions.”
“He tried hard enough to plug me,” Bryce declared, and showed the hole through his sleeve. “They call him the Black Minorca, and he’s a mongrel greaser who’d kill his own mother for a fifty-dollar bill.”
“I’d like to plug him,” Buck murmured regretfully.
“What would be the use? This will be his last night in Humboldt County—”
A rifle shot rang out from the side of B Street; from the lumber-pile across the street, Bryce and Ogilvy heard a suppressed grunt of pain, and a crash as of a breaking board. Instantly out of the shadows George Sea Otter came padding on velvet feet, rifle in hand—and then Bryce understood.