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Harlan Strikes

From: Bar-20 Days

Joe Barr laughingly replied to Johnny Nelson's growled remarks about the
condition of things in general and tried to soothe him, but Johnny was

"An' I've been telling him right along that he's got the best of it,"
complained Jackson in a weary voice. "Got a measly hole through his
shoulder--good Lord! if it had gone a little lower!" he finished with a
show of exasperation.

"An' ain't I been telling you all along that it ain't the measly hole
in my shoulder that's got me on the prod?" retorted Johnny, with more
earnestness than politeness. "But why couldn't I go with my friends
after Jerry an' get shot later if I had to get it at all? Look what I'm
missing, roped an' throwed in this cussed ten-by-ten shack while they're
having a little excitement."

"Yo're missing some blamed nasty weather, Kid," replied the marshal.
"You ain't got no kick coming at all. Why, I got soaked clean through
just going down to the Oasis."

"Well, I'm kicking, just the same," snapped Johnny. "An' furthermore, I
don't see nobody big enough to stop me, neither--did you all get that?"

The rear door opened and Fred Neal looked in. "Hey, Barr; come out an'
gimme a hand in the corral. Busted my cinch all to pieces half a mile
out--an' how the devil it ever busted like that is--" the door slammed
shut and softened his monologue.

"Would you listen to that!" snorted Barr in an injured tone. "Didn't I
go an' tell him near a month ago that his cussed cinch wouldn't hold no
better'n a piece of wet paper?" His complaint added materially to the
atmosphere of sullen discontent pervading the room. "An' now I gotter
go out in this rain an'--" the slam of the door surpassed anything yet
attempted in that line of endeavor. Jackson grabbed a can of corn as it
jarred off the shelf behind him and directed a pleasing phrase after the
peevish Barr.

"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?"

"Must be a dozen," hastily replied Neal, who had not remained idle. Both
he and Barr were working like mad men moving boxes and barrels against
the walls to make a breastwork capable of stopping the bullets which
came through the boards.

"I reckon--I'm bleeding inside," Jackson muttered, wearily and without
hope. "Wonder how--long we--can hold out?"

"We'll hold out till we're good an' dead!" replied Johnny, hotly. "They
ain't got us yet an' they'll pay for it before they do. If we can hold
'em off till Buck an' the rest come back we'll have the pleasure of
seeing 'em buried."

"Oh, I'll get you next time!" assured Barr to an enemy, slipping a fresh
cartridge into the Sharps and peering intently at a slight rise on the
muddy plain. "You shoot like yo're drunk," he mumbled.

"But what is it all about, anyhow?" asked Neal, finding time for an
immaterial question. "Who are they?--can't see nothing but blurs through
this rain!"

"Yes; what's the game?" asked Barr, mildly surprised that he had not
thought of it before.

"It's that Oasis gang," Johnny responded. He fired, and growled with
disappointment. "Harlan's at the head of it," he added.

"Edwards--told Harlan to--get out of--town," Jackson began.

"An' to take his gang with him," Johnny interposed quickly to save
Jackson from the strain. "They had till dark. Guess the rest. Oh, you
coyote!" he shouted, staggering back. There was a report farther down
the barricade and Neal called out, "I got him, Nelson; he's done. How
are you?"

"Mad! Mad!" yelled Johnny, touching his twice-wounded shoulder and
dancing with rage and pain. "Right in the same place! Oh, wait! Wait!
Hey, gimme a rifle--I can't do nothing with a Colt at this range; my
name ain't Hopalong," and he went slamming around the room in hot search
of what he wanted.

"There ain't--no more--Johnny," feebly called Jackson, raising slightly
to ease himself. "You can have--my gun purty--soon. I won't be able--to
use it--much longer."

"Why don't Buck an' Hoppy hurry up!" snarled Johnny.

"Be a long time--mebby," mumbled Jackson, his trembling hands trying
to steady the rifle. "They're all--around us. Ah, missed!" he intoned
hoarsely, trying to pump the lever with unobeying hands. "I can't
last--much--" the words ceased abruptly and the clatter of the rifle on
the floor told the story.

Johnny stumbled over to him and dragged him aside, covering the upturned
face with his own sombrero, and picked up the rifle. Rolling a barrel of
flour against the wall below the window he fixed himself as comfortably
as possible and threw a shell into the chamber.

"Now, you coyotes; you pay me for that!" he gritted, resting the gun
on the window sill and holding it so he could work it with one hand and

"Wonder how them pups ever pumped up enough courage to cut loose like
this?" queried Neal from behind his flour barrel.

"Whiskey," hazarded Barr. "Harlan must 'a' got 'em drunk. An' that's
three times I've missed that snake. Wish it would stop raining so I
could see better."

"Why don't you wish they'd all drop dead? Wish good when you wish
at all: got as much chance of having it come true," responded Neal,
sarcastically. He smothered a curse and looked curiously at his left
arm, and from it to the new, yellow-splintered hole in the wall, which
was already turning dark from the water soaking into it. "Hey, Joe; we
need some more boxes!" he exclaimed, again looking at his arm.

"Yes," came Johnny's voice. "Three of 'em--five of 'em, an' about six
feet long an' a foot deep. But if my outfit gets here in time we'll want
more'n a dozen."

"Say! Lacey's firing now!" suddenly cried Barr. "He's shooting out
of his windy. That'll stop 'em from rushing us! Good boy, Lacey!" he
shouted, but Lacey did not hear him in the uproar.

"An' he's worse off than we are, being alone," commented Neal. "Hey! One
of us better make a break for help--my ranch's the nearest. What d'ye

"It's suicide; they'll get you before you get ten feet," Barr replied
with conviction.

"No; they won't--the corral hides the back door, an' all the firing
is on this side. I can sneak along the back wall an' by keeping the
buildings atween me an' them, get a long ways off before they know
anything about it. Then it's a dash--an' they can't catch me. But can
you fellers hold out if I do?"

"Two can hold out as good as three--go ahead," Johnny replied. "Leave me
some of yore Colt cartridges, though. You can't use 'em all before you
get home."

"Don't stop fer that; there's a shelfful of all kinds behind the
counter," Barr interposed.

"Well, so long an' good luck," and the rear door closed, and softly this

"Two hours is some wait under the present circumstances," Barr muttered,
shifting his position behind his barricade. "He can't do it in less,

Johnny ducked and looked foolish. "Missed me by a foot," he explained.
"He can't do it in two--not there an' back," he replied. "The trail is
mud over the fetlocks. Give him three at the least."

"They ain't shooting as much as they was before."

"Waiting till they gets sober, I reckon," Johnny replied.

"If we don't hear no ruction in a few minutes we'll know he got away all
right," Barr soliloquized. "An' he's got a fine cayuse for mud, too."

"Hey, why can't you do the same thing if he makes it?" Johnny suddenly
asked. "I can hold her alone, all right."

"Yo're a cheerful liar, you are," laughed Barr. "But can you ride?"

"Reckon so, but I ain't a-going to."

"Why, we both can go--it's a cinch!" Barr cried. "Come on!"

"Lord!--an' I never even thought of that! Reckon I was too mad," Johnny
replied. "But I sort of hates to leave Jackson an' Edwards," he added,

"But they're gone! You can't do them no good by staying."

"Yes; I know. An' how about Lacey chipping in on our fight?" demanded
Johnny. "I ain't a-going to leave him to take it all. You go, Barr; it
wasn't yore fight, nohow. You didn't even know what you was fighting

"Huh! When anybody shoots at me it's my fight, all right," replied Barr,
seating himself on the floor behind the breastwork. "I forgot all about
Lacey," he apologized. At that instant a tomato can went spang! and
fell off the shelf. "An' it's too late, anyhow; they ain't a-going to
let nobody else get away on that side."

"An' they're tuning up again, too," Johnny replied, preparing for
trouble. "Look out for a rush, Barr."

Next: The Bar-20 Returns

Previous: Edwards' Ultimatum

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