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Battle On The Mesa

From: Kid Wolf Of Texas

"Oh, the cowboy sings so mournful on the Rio!
To the dark night herd, so mournful and so sad,
And I'd like to be in the moonlight on the Rio,
Wheah good men are good, and bad men are bad!"

Kid Wolf sang the tune softly to the whispering wind, as the trio
climbed under a New Mexican moon to the top of a vast mesa.

"Guess yuh'll find some plenty bad ones here in Skull County, eh, Kid?"
laughed Red grimly.

The Texan, brightly outlined on his beautiful horse in the moonlight,
looked like a ghost on a moving white shadow.

"Bad men," mused Kid Wolf, "aren't so plentiful. Usually theah's some
good in the blackest. The men we're goin' to fight to-night, fo'
instance, are probably just driftahs who've drifted the wrong way. But
Gentleman John--well, he's one of the few really bad men I've met.
He's really the one we want."

The splendor of the night had a sobering effect on them. To be
thinking of possible bloodshed in all that dream beauty seemed
terrible. Yet it was necessary. It was a hard land. A man had to be
his own law. And in Kid Wolf's case, he had to be the law for others,
in a fight for the weak against the strong.

"Listen!" cried Lefty suddenly.

"And look!" whispered Red. "See those black dots against the sky over
there? And there's a camp fire, too."

He was right. The glow of a fire reddened the horizon and the distant
bawling of uneasy cattle could be heard on the night wind.

The rustlers had made a camp on the mesa until the dawn. The big herd
was shifting, restless and milling.

"A gun fight will stampede that herd," observed Red.

"Then," said The Kid, "we'll be sure to stampede them in the right
direction. Let's make a wide circle heah."

They rode to the west, so that they would not be outlined against the
moon. A full, curving mile slipped under their horses' pounding hoofs
before The Kid gave the signal for the turn. He had the outlaws
spotted, every one, and all depended now on his generalship. He knew
that the two riders on the far side of the night herd would be out of
it--for the time, at least. When the herd started their mad stampede
toward the Diamond D, they would have a high time just taking care of
themselves. The others, five in number, would be dealt with first.

The trio slipped closer as silently as moving phantoms. The Kid saw
three mounted men--two blocking their path, and the other on the far
wing. Two other outlaws were at the fire. The Texan sniffed and
smiled. They were making coffee.

"The two at the fiah make excellent tahgets," murmured Kid Wolf. "I'll
leave them to yo', Red. Lefty, start now and ride toward the fah
ridah. I'll try mah hand with these two. We'll count to fifty, Lefty;
that'll give yo' time to get in range of yo' man. And then I'll give
the coyote yell, and we'll start ouah little row. Don't kill unless
necessary, but if they show fight, shoot fast."

Lefty grinned in the moonlight, roweled his horse lightly and drifted.
Red and the Texan waited--ten seconds--twenty--thirty--forty----

"Yipee yip-yipee-ee!" The coyote cry rose, mournful and lonely.

Then came a terrific rattle of gunfire, with the dull drum of horses'
hoofs as a bass accompaniment. Red spurred his horse toward the fire,
shouting his battle cry and throwing down on the two startled men who
leaped to their feet, reaching for their guns. Kid Wolf's great white
charger burned the breeze at the two guards on the west wing.

"Throw up yo' hands!" The Kid invited.

But they didn't. Lead began to hum viciously. Bending low in their
saddles, they drew and opened up a splattering fire. Their guns winked
red flashes.

Lefty's man had shown fight, Lefty had bowled him over with a double
trigger pull, and Lefty came racing back to help Red with the two
rustlers at the camp fire.

There were fireworks, and plenty of them! The herd, mad with fear,
started moving away--a frantic rush that became a wild stampede. Their
plunging bodies milled about, and with uplifted tails and tossing
horns, they were on the run northward toward the home range--the
Diamond D!

Although it was a case of shoot or be killed now, The Kid was aiming to
cripple. A leaden slug burned a flesh wound just below his left
armpit, as he opened up on the two rustlers. His gun hammers stuttered
down, throwing bullets on both sides of him, as he drove Blizzard
between his two enemies at full tilt. One, raked with lead through
both shoulders, thudded from his pony to the ground. The other leaned
over his saddle and dropped his Colt. Two bullets, a few inches apart,
had nipped his gun arm.

The two rustlers at the fire were giving trouble. They had dashed out
of the dangerous firelight and had opened up on Lefty and Red. Kid
Wolf's heart gave a little jump. Red was down! Lefty and one of the
bandits were engaged in a hand-to-hand scuffle, for Warren's horse had
been shot under him. The other outlaw had lifted his gun to finish
Red, who was crawling along the ground. The range was a good fifty
yards, but Kid Wolf fired three times. The rustler standing over Red
dropped. Lefty broke away from his man, just as The Kid rode up with
lariat swinging.

"Don't shoot!" the Texan sang out. "I've got him!"

The rope hummed through the air, spread out and tightened. The last of
the outlaws went off his feet with a jerk.

"One of 'em's runnin' away!" yelled Lefty, pointing to the man Kid Wolf
had shot through the arm. He was making a hot race in the direction of

"Let him go," said The Kid. "We don't want him. See how bad Red's

Outlined against the eastern sky were three riders now, far away and
becoming rapidly smaller. The two north riders were making their
get-away, also. The victory was complete.

To their relief, Lefty and The Kid found that Red had received only a
flesh wound above the knee.

Kid Wolf tied the man he had caught with his lariat, then caught Red's
horse and one of the loose outlaw ponies for Lefty.

"Now yo' ought to be able to ease those Diamond D cattle on home," he
drawled. "I'll see how yo' are makin' it in the mo'ning."

"Why, where are yuh goin'?" Red asked in surprise.

"Goin' after Gentleman John." Kid Wolf smiled. "How far is it to his
headquartahs at Agua Frio?"

"About nine miles straight west, over the mesa. But say, yuh'd better
let one of us go with yuh."

The Texan shook his head. "I'm playin' a lone hand, Red. Yo' job is
to line out yo' steers and get 'em back to the Diamond D feedin'
grounds. Adios, amigos!"

And Kid Wolf, on his fleet white horse, swung off to the westward.

Gentleman John sat up suddenly in his bed and opened his eyes. The
moon had gone down, and all was pitch dark. It was nearly morning.

He had heard something--for Gentleman John was a light sleeper. He
listened intently, then sat on the edge of his bed to draw on his
boots. The sound came again from the direction of the patio. Had his
man, Jose, forgotten to lock the gate? Surely he had heard the chain
rattling! Some horse, no doubt, or possibly a mule, had strayed into
the little courtyard. Perhaps it was some of his men returning. And
yet hardly that, for they would not dare disturb him at such an hour,
but would go to their quarters behind the house until daybreak.
Tiptoeing to the door, he put his ear to it. He heard faint noises, as
if some one were moving about.

"Jose!" Gentleman John called angrily. "What are yuh fumblin' at in
there? What's the matter? Me oye usted?"

There was no reply, and Gentleman John went to one corner of his room,
scratched a sulphur match, and with its sputtering flame he lighted a
small lamp by his bedside. Then he slyly drew a derringer from under
his pillow. Again he went to the door, putting his hand on the knob.

"Jose! Come here!" he cried, with an oath.

The door swung open, and the lamplight shone on a human face--a face
that was not Jose's, but a stern white one with glinting blue eyes!

"Jose can't come," said a voice in a soft drawl. "He's tied up. But
if I will do as well, I am at yo' service, sah!"

The color fled from Gentleman John's amazed face.

"Kid Wolf!" he almost screamed, and at the words he whirled up his
black and ugly double-barreled pistol!

Span-ng-g-g-g! Br-r-rang! Both barrels of the derringer exploded in
two quick roars. The leaden balls, however, went wild. A steel hand
had closed lightning-swift on Gentleman John's right wrist.

"Be careful," the Texan mocked. "Yo' almost put out the lamp."

A terrific wrench made the bones pop in the cattle king's hand, and
with a yell of pain he let go. Kid Wolf took the derringer, empty now,
and tossed it contemptuously to one side.

"I'm ashamed of yo'," he drawled, with a slow smile. "Yo' ought to
know bettah than to use a toy like that. Sit down on the bed, sah. I
have a few things to say to yo'."

In his left hand The Kid held a big Colt .45. Gentleman John obeyed.

"My men will kill yuh fer this!" he raged.

"Yo' haven't any men, sah. They're done. And now yo' are done." Kid
Wolf rolled a cigarette and lighted it over the lamp chimney.
"Gentleman John," he drawled, "whoevah named yo' suah had a sense of
humah. Yo' are a murderah, and a cowardly one, because yo' have othahs
do yo' dirty work."

"Kill me and get it over!" jerked Gentleman John.

"Really, yo' shouldn't judge me by what yo' would do yo'self undah the
circumstances," said The Kid mildly. "I'm not heah to kill yo'. I'm
heah to take yo' back to Skull fo' trial and punishment."

"Fer trial!" repeated the cattle king. "Why, there ain't any law----"

"I hope yo' don't think," drawled the Texan, "that I wasted the time I
spent in town. Theah's a new cattlemen's organization theah--and
they've decided on drastic measures."

"Yuh can't prove a thing!" Gentleman John shot at him loudly.

The Kid raised his eyebrows.

"No?" he said softly. "Yo' men slipped up a little and left evidence
when they murdahed Joe Morton. They left the bill o' sale he wouldn't
sign! It'll go hahd with yo, but I'm givin' yo' one chance."

Kid Wolf glanced around the room, and his eyes fell on paper and pen
near the lamp. Placing his gun at his elbow, within easy reach, the
Texan wrote steadily for a full minute. Then he turned and handed the
cattle king the slip of paper.

"Yo' through in Nueva Mex, Gentleman John," The Kid drawled. "It's
just a question of who falls heir to yo' holdin's. Read that ovah."

The cattle king read it. It was brief, but to the point:

I, Gentleman John, do hereby give and hand over all my estates, land,
holdings, and live stock to Red Morton, of Skull County, New Mexico,
for consideration received.

"Theah's a bill o' sale fo' yo' to sign." The Texan smiled grimly.

"If I sign under pressure, it won't hold good," blustered Gentleman

"Yo' won't be in this country to contest it," Kid Wolf drawled. "This
won't in any way repay Red fo' the loss of his brothah, but it's
something. Yo' can do as yo' like about signin' it."

"Then of course I won't sign!" snarled the other.

"The honest cattlemen at Skull will probably hang yo'," reminded The
Kid softly.

Beads of sweat suddenly stood out on Gentleman John's forehead. His
own guilty conscience told him that what The Kid said was true. His
gimlet eyes grew big with fear. There was a long silence.

"If--if I sign, yo'll let me go?" he quavered.

The Texan's face grew hard and stern.

"No," he said. "I haven't any right to do that. Justice demands that
yo' face the ones yo' have wronged. And justice has always been my
guidin' stah. I'm a soldier of misfohtune, fightin' fo' the undah
dawg. I'm takin' yo' to Skull, sah."

Gentleman John groaned in terror. All the blustering bravado had gone
out of him.

"I can't promise yo' yo' life," Kid Wolf went on. "I can, howevah,
recommend banishment instead of death, and mah word carries some weight
in Skull, undah the new ordah of things. If yo' sign--thus doin' right
by Red Morton, whom yo' wronged--I'll do what I can to save yo' from
the rope, but I can't promise that yo'll escape it. Are yo' signin'?"

Gentleman John moistened his lips feverishly, and his hand trembled as
he reached for the pen.

"I'll sign," he groaned.

When he had scratched his signature, Kid Wolf took the paper, folded it
carefully and put it in his pocket.

"Bueno," he said softly. "Now get yo' hat and coat. I hate to rob
yo' of yo' sleep, but I have some othah prisonahs to round up to-night."

And while binding Gentleman John's wrists, Kid Wolf hummed a new verse
to his favorite tune, "On the Rio."

Next: Apaches

Previous: The Fang Of The Wolf

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