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Big-game Hunters At Work

From: The Fighting Edge

Bob and his partner did not rush out of the hotel instantly to get into
the fray. They did what a score of other able-bodied men of Bear Cat were
doing--went in search of adequate weapons with which to oppose the bank
robbers. Bear Cat was probably the best-equipped town in the country to
meet a sudden emergency of this kind. In every house, behind the door or
hanging on the wall, was a rifle used to kill big game. In every house
was at least one man who knew how to handle that rifle. All he had to do
was to pick up the weapon, load it, and step into the street.

June was in the kitchen with Chung Lung. The Reverend Melancthon Browning
had just collected two dollars from Chung for the foreign missionary
fund. Usually the cook was a cheerful giver, but this morning he was
grumbling a little. He had been a loser at hop toy the night before.

"Mister Blowning he keep busy asking for dollars. He tell me givee to the
Lord. Gleat smoke, Lord allee timee bloke?"

The girl laughed. The Oriental's quaint irreverence was of the letter and
not of the spirit.

Through the swing door burst Bob Dillon. "Know where there's a rifle,

She looked at him, big-eyed. "Not the Utes again?" she gasped.

"Bank robbers. I want a gun."

Without a word she turned and led him swiftly down the passage to a
bedroom. In one corner of it was a belt. Bob loaded the gun.

June's heart beat fast. "You'll--be careful?" she cautioned.

He nodded as he ran out of the door and into the alley behind.

Platt & Fortner's was erecting a brick store building, the first of its
kind in Bear Cat. The walls were up to the second story and the window
frames were in. Through the litter of rubbish left by the workmen Bob
picked a hurried way to one of the window spaces. Two men were crouched
in another of these openings not fifteen feet from him.

"How many of 'em?" he asked in a loud whisper.

Blister answered from the embrasure opposite. "D-don't know."

"Still in the bank, are they?"


Some one peered out of Dolan's through the crack of a partly opened door.
Bob caught the gleam of the sun upon the barrel of a gun. A hat with a
pair of eyes beneath the rim of it showed above the sill of a window in
the blacksmith shop opposite. Bear Cat was all set for action.

A man was standing beside some horses near the back door of Platt &
Fortner's. He was partially screened from Bob's view by one of the
broncos and by a freight wagon, but the young cattleman had a fleeting
impression that he was Bandy Walker. Was he, too, waiting to get a shot
at the bandits? Probably so. He had a rifle in his hands. But it struck
Dillon he was taking chances. When the robbers came out of the bank they
would be within thirty feet of him.

Out of the front door of the bank a little group of men filed. Two of
them were armed. The others flanked them on every side. Ferril the
cashier carried a gunnysack heavily loaded.

A man stepped out upon the platform in front of Platt & Fortner's. From
his position he looked down on the little bunch of men moving toward the
horses. Bandy Walker, beside the horses, called on Houck to hurry, that
they were being surrounded.

"I've got you covered. Throw down yore guns," the man on the platform
shouted to the outlaws, rifle at shoulder.

Houck's revolver flashed into the air. He fired across the shoulder of
the man whom he was using as a screen. The rifleman on the store porch
sat down suddenly, his weapon clattering to the ground.

"Another of 'em," Houck said aloud with a savage oath. "Any one else
lookin' for it?"

Walker moved forward with the horses. Afraid that general firing would
begin at any moment, Ferril dropped the sack and ran for the shelter of
the wagons. His flight was a signal for the others who had been marshaled
out of the bank. They scattered in a rush for cover.

Instantly Houck guessed what would follow. From every side a volley of
bullets would be concentrated on him and his men. He too ran, dodging
back into the bank.

He was not a tenth part of a second too soon. A fusillade of shots poured
down. It seemed that men were firing from every door, window, and street
corner. Bandy Walker fell as he started to run. Two bullets tore through
his heart, one from each side. The big cowpuncher never stirred from his
tracks. He went down at the first volley. Five wounds, any one of which
would have been mortal, were later found in his body and head.

All told, the firing had not lasted as long as it would take a man to run
across a street. Bear Cat had functioned. The bank robbers were out of

The news spread quicker than the tongue could tell it. From all
directions men, women, and children converged toward the bank. In the
excitement the leader of the bandits was forgotten for a minute or two.

"What about the third fellow?" a voice asked.

The question came from Dud Hollister. He had reached the scene too late
to take any part in the battle, much to his chagrin.

"Went into the bank," Blister said. "I s-saw him duck in just before the
shooting began."

The building was surrounded and rushed. Houck was not inside. Evidently
he had run out of the back door and made for the willows by the river. A
boy claimed that he had seen a man running in that direction.

A crowd of armed men beat the willows on both banks for a distance of a
mile both up and down the stream wherever there was cover. No trace of
the outlaw could be found. Posses on horseback took up the search. These
posses not only rode up and down the river. They scoured the mesa on the
other bank all day. When night fell Houck was still at large.

Next: In A Lady's Chamber

Previous: Bear Cat Awake

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