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At Don Floristo's

From: Kid Wolf Of Texas

In the moonlight, behind the El Chihuahense Saloon, Kid Wolf and the
gambler met. The latter found The Kid leaning silently against a
ruined adobe wall in the deserted alleyway. The sound of the music
from within the gambling hall could be heard faintly. There was a
silence after the two men faced each other. Harry Thomas finally broke

"How did yuh know me? I go by the name of Phil Hall here. And who are

"Just call me The Kid," was the soft answer. "I knew yo' by yo' one
brown and one black eye."

"What did yore note mean?"

"Harry, the S Bar is in great danger. Yo' father is dead, and yo'
mothah----" And then Kid Wolf told the story in full.

Harry Thomas listened in agitation. He was overcome with grief and
remorse. His voice trembled when he spoke:

"I've been a fool," he blurted, "worse than a fool. Poor mother! What
can I do now?"

"It isn't too late to help her," The Kid told him kindly. "Yo' mothah
needs yo' badly. Findin' those stolen cattle wasn't so hahd, aftah
all. Theah on Don Floristo's ranch just below heah. I've talked to
the don, and let the remahk drop that I'm interested in cattle. So I
am, but the don doesn't know in what way. He thinks I'm a rich gringo
wantin' to buy some."

"Kid, I've learned my lesson. I'll never gamble again," said Harry

Kid Wolf took his hand warmly.

"Don Floristo has already given orders that the six hundred head of S
Bar steers are to be driven to Mariposa to-night. I am to ride south
to his ranch and close the deal. Early manana the three loyal S Bar
men will seize the cattle and drive them home. Yo' and I must help."

"Yo're riskin' yore life for strangers, Kid. Floristo is a
dyed-in-the-wool villain. If he suspects anything, he'll cut yore
throat. But I'm with yuh! Yuh've brought me to myself. I didn't
suppose they made hombres like you!"

"Thanks, Harry. Now listen carefully and I'll tell yo' exactly what to

For a few minutes The Kid talked earnestly to young Thomas, outlining
their night's work. Then Kid Wolf took leave of the young
man--slipping back through the shadows to the street again.

Harry Thomas walked quickly to the Establo--Mariposa's biggest livery
stable. Kid Wolf mounted his horse Blizzard. He struck off through
the town at an easy trot and headed southward through the darkness.

Don Manuel Floristo's rancho was the largest in that part of Mexico.
Several thousand steers roamed his range--steers that for the most part
bore doubtful brands. Don Floristo's reputation was not of the best.
His rancho was suspected of being a mere trading ground for stolen
herds. Rustlers from both sides of the line made his land their

Kid Wolf had found the S Bar cattle easily enough. The brands had been
gone over, being burned to an 8 Bar J. The work had been done so
recently, however, that he was not deceived. He had called on the don
and told him that he was "interested in cattle," which was true. The
don's lust for gold had done the rest. He supposed that Kid Wolf was
an American who desired to go into the ranching business near the
boundary. A good chance to get rid of the "hot" herd of six hundred!

"Just the size of herd the senor needs to start," Floristo had said.
"Six hundred head at ten pesos--six thousand pesos. Ees it not cheap,

"Very cheap," The Kid had told him. "Now if these cattle were
delivered at Mariposa----"

"Easy to say, but no harder to do, senor," was the don's eager reply.
"I will give orders now to have them driven there. Do you wish to buy
a ranch, senor? Or have you bought? Perhaps I could help."

"Perhaps. But I want cattle right now. I have friends just no'th of
the bordah."

The don had smiled cunningly. This fool gringo would have trouble with
those stolen cattle if he drove them back into the States. That,
however, was no concern of Floristo's.

"Come back to-night, senor," he had begged. And now The Kid was on his
way to the don's hacienda. He had purposely timed his visit so that he
would reach Floristo's rancho at a late hour. Already it was after

Blizzard was unusually full of spirit. The slow pace to which The Kid
held him was hardly an outlet for his restless energy.

"Steady, boy," The Kid whispered. "We're savin' our strength--they'll
be plenty of fast ridin' to do latah."

The Kid could not resist the temptation to break into song. His soft
chant rose above the faint whisper of the desert wind:

"Oh, theah's jumpin' beans and six-guns south o' Rio,
And muy malo hombres by the dozen,
We're a-watchin' out fo' trouble south o' Rio,
And when it comes, some lead will be a-buzzin'."

He smiled up at the stars, and turned Blizzard's head to the eastward.
Before them loomed the low, white adobe walls of Don Floristo's

A dark-faced peon on guard outside, armed with a carbine, opened the
door for him. Late as the hour was, lights were shining inside and he
heard the welcoming sound of Don Floristo's voice as he passed through
the entrance.

"Ah, come in, come in, amigo. I was afraid the senor was not coming.
Como esta usted?"

"Buenas noches," returned The Kid, with easy politeness. "I trust
yo' are in good health?"

The conversation after that was entirely in Spanish, as Kid Wolf spoke
the language like a native. His Southern accent made the Mexican
tongue all the more musical. He followed his host into a rather large,
square room with a beautifully tiled floor. The don motioned The Kid
to a chair.

"The cattle of which we--ah--spoke, senor," said the don, as he lighted
a long brown cigarette. "They are on the way to Mariposa. Are
probably there even now, amigo."

"Yes?" drawled Kid Wolf.

"You will have men there to receive them?"

"Without fail," replied the Texan, a strange inflection in his tones.

"It is well, my friend. With the cattle are four of my men. They will
not turn over the herd, of course, until"--he paused
significantly--"the money is paid."

Kid Wolf smiled. He leaned back in his chair and crossed his legs.

"One does not pay for stolen cattle, Don Floristo," he drawled.

The muscles of the don's body stiffened. Kid Wolf's face was a smiling
mask. The show-down had come. There was a long pause. The Kid's arms
were folded easily on his breast.

"Who are you?" the don snarled suddenly.

"Kid Wolf of Texas, sah," was the quiet reply.

A cold smile was on the sallow face of the don. He made no move to
draw the jeweled revolver that hung at his hip. He sneered as he spoke:

"You will never escape from here alive, my friend," he leered. "What
you have told me is not exactly news. At this moment you are covered."

"Yes?" mocked The Kid.

"Come in, major!" cried Don Floristo.

A door at one end of the room, which had been standing half ajar, now
opened. Framed in the doorway was the bloated, fat figure of Major
Stover. In his hand was a derringer. Its twin black muzzles were
leveled at Kiel Wolf's heart.

The major's face twisted into an exulting grin as his piglike eyes fell
on Kid Wolf.

"We meet again," he grated.

"You see, Senor Keed Wolf," said Don Floristo, "that we have you. By
accident, Senor Wolf, your plans miscarried. Thinking I could sell you
a ranch, as you were buying cattle, I sent a rider al instante for my
friend, the Major Stover. He came at once, and when I described
you----" He laughed harshly.

The Don removed The Kid's revolvers and threw them on the table. The
major's derringer did not waver.

"I see that yo' have prepared quite a surprise pahty fo' me," said The
Kid calmly. "Remember that theah are all sorts of surprises. I didn't
have to come back heah, yo' know. The cattle I want are at Mariposa."

"Then why are you here, fool?" the don sneered.

"To find out who is at the bottom of the cattle stealin'--this
persecution against Mrs. Thomas' ranch!" Kid Wolf snapped.

"What good is it to know?" asked Stover, laughing. "Yo're goin' to

"Shoot him, major," said the don, baring his white teeth.

"There's no hurry," replied the major. "I want to see him pray for
mercy first. I've got a score to settle with him."

The Kid remained unmoved in the presence of this peril. He was still

"Yuh'll never live to get those cattle across the line, blast yuh!"
snarled Stover, trembling with rage. "It was a pretty little scheme,
but it failed to work. And we've got the S Bar where we want it, too.
No, yuh don't! Just keep yore hands over yore head."

"El Lobo Muchacho," the don sneered. "El Lobo Muchacho--Keed Wolf.
I think we have your fangs drawn now, Senor Wolf! The Wolf is in a bad
way. Alas, he cannot bite." He finished with a cruel laugh.

But The Kid could bite--and did! One of the fangs of the wolf, and a
deadly one, remained to him. He used it now!

Major Stover did not know how it happened. Kid Wolf's arms were
lifted. Apparently he was helpless. But suddenly there was a swish--a
lightning-like gleam of light. Something hit Stover's gun arm like a
thunder smash.

Kid Wolf has used his "ace in the hole"--had hurled the bowie knife
hidden in a sheath sewn inside the back of his shirt collar.

The major's hand went suddenly numb. He dropped the derringer. The
blade had thudded into his forearm and sliced deeply upward. Dazed, he
emitted a wild cry.

The don was not slow to act. He did not know exactly what had
happened, but he saw the major's gun fall and heard his frightened
yell. Floristo reached hastily for his jewel-studded revolver.

But the Texan had closed in on him. Kid Wolf hit him full in the face
and Floristo went sprawling down. He was still jerking at his gun butt
as he hit the floor.

The major had recovered somewhat. With his left hand he scooped up the
derringer and swung it up desperately to line the barrel on Kid Wolf's

"All right, Harry!" sang out The Kid.

Glass flew out of the window at the south wall and clattered to the
tiled floor as an arm, holding a leveled .45, broke through. It was
young Thomas.

"Put 'em up!" he cried.

Don Floristo, however, had also raised his gun. A report shook the
adobe walls and sent a puff of blue fumes ceilingward. But Harry
Thomas had fired first. Floristo collapsed with a moan, rolled over
and stiffened.

Kid Wolf sent Major Stover's derringer flying with a contemptuous kick,
just as the fear-crazed fat man pulled the trigger.

"Good work, Harry," The Kid approved.

He stepped to the table, returned his own six-guns to their holsters
and then reached out and seized Major Stover by the collar. He shook
him like a rat as he jerked him to his feet.

"Well, majah, as yo' calls yo'self," he drawled, "looks like the
surprise worked the othah way round!"

Stover's flabby face was blue-gray. His knees gave way under him and
his coarse lips were twitching. His eyes rolled wildly.

"Don't kill me," he wheezed in an agony of fright. "It wasn't my
fault. I--I--Goliday made me do it. He's the man behind me. D-don't

Suddenly his head rolled to one side and his bulky body wilted. He
sagged to the floor with a hiccupping sound.

"Get up!" snapped the Texan.

There was no response. The Kid felt of Stover's heart and straightened
up with a low whistle.

"Dead," he muttered. "Scared to death. Weak heart--just as I thought."

"Did yuh shoot the big brute?" asked Harry, who had pushed his body
through the window and slipped into the room.

"His guilty conscience killed him," explained the Texan. "Yo' saved my
life, son, by throwin' down on Don Floristo. Yo' got him between the
shirt buttons."

"I wanted to shoot long before," said Harry, "but I remembered--and
waited until yuh said the word. Yuh shore stopped that derringer o'

"Wheah's the guard?"

"Tied up outside."

"Bueno. I rode down heah slow, so yo'd have plenty o' time to get
posted. I suspected treachery of some kind to-night. But it was a
surprise to see the majah heah. What time is it?"

"After two. The moon's gone down. Where to, now?"

"To Mariposa. We can get theah by dawn, and if the boys are ready we
can turn the trick."

"Then let's go, Kid!"

Five minutes later the two were pounding the trail northward toward the
Rio Grande!

Next: Goliday's Choice

Previous: Desperate Measures

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