VIEW THE MOBILE VERSION of Informational Site Network Informational
   Home - Science Fiction Stories - Western Stories

One Game Hombre

From: Kid Wolf Of Texas

Hardy's gang did not attempt another rush. They had learned their
lesson. Keeping under cover, they continued firing steadily, however,
and their bullets began to do damage. Every crack and chink was a

In the afternoon, more riders arrived to swell the Hardy faction. Some
were ugly, half-clothed Indians, armed with rusty guns and bows and
arrows. The odds were steadily increasing.

As there was ample food and water in the storehouse to last for several
days, the besieged had no worries on that score. McCay knew, though,
and Kid Wolf realized, that nightfall would bring trouble. Hardy was
stung now by the loss of several men, and he would not do things by
halves. He would show no mercy.

The first casualty took place in midafternoon. Anderson, in the act of
aiming his revolver through a loophole, was hit between the eyes by a
bullet and instantly killed. The number of men defending the store was
now cut down to seven.

Toward nightfall, tragedy overtook them, full force. Old Beef McCay
was in the act of reloading a gun when a treacherous bullet zipped
spitefully through an opening between two logs and caught him low in
the chest. The impact sent him staggering against the wall, his round,
moonlike face white and drawn.

"Dad!" called out Tip, in an agony of grief.

He and Kid Wolf rushed to the wounded man, supporting his great weight
as it slowly sagged.

"Got me--son!" the cattleman jerked out.

Quickly the Texan tore away his shirt. He did not have to examine the
wound to see how deadly it was; one glance was enough. Shot a few
inches under the heart, McCay was dying on his feet.

"I'm done--all right," he grunted. "Listen, Tip. And you, Kid Wolf.
I know yo're a true-blue friend. I want yuh to recover those cattle,
if yuh ever get out of here alive. Yuh promise to try?" He turned
glazing eyes at the Texan. "The cattle should go--to Tip's mother.
She's in Dodge City."

"Believe me, sah," promised Kid Wolf earnestly, "if we evah get out of
this trap alive, Tip and I will do ouah best."

The stricken man's face lighted. He grasped his son, Tip, with one
hand, the Texan with the other.

"I'll pass on easier now."

Suddenly he drew himself up to his full height of well over six feet,
squared his enormous shoulders, and with crimson welling from his
wound, walked firmly and steadily to the door and began kicking the
barricade aside.

"What are yuh doin'?" one of the defenders cried, thinking he was
delirious from his hurt.

McCay, fighting against the weakness that threatened to overcome him,
turned with a smile, grim and terrible.

"I'm goin' out there," he said, "to take some of those devils--with me!"

In vain Kid Wolf and Tip attempted to restrain him. The old man waved
them back.

"I'm done for, anyway," he said. "I haven't got ten minutes to live.
What if they do fill me with lead? I'll get one or two while they're
doin' it!"

He seemed stronger now than ever. Sheer will power was keeping him on
his feet. Seizing two revolvers, one in each big fist, he wabbled
through the door.

With horror-widened eyes, they watched his reeling progress. He
faltered to the hitch rack with bullets humming all around him. He
clung to it for a moment, then went on, stalking toward the Idle Hour
like grim vengeance! His guns sputtered red fire and bursts of black
powder smoke. Hit time after time--they could see the dust fly from
his clothing as he staggered along under the dreadful impacts--he kept
going. It was glorious, terrible!

Tip hid his eyes, with a despairing cry. Kid Wolf watched, his face
white under his sunburn.

Up to the very door of the Hardy refuge, the old man walked, his guns
hammering claps of thunder. Hit several times in the body, he sprawled
once and fell, but was on his feet again before the smoke drifted away.
He plunged through the door, and The Kid saw two men drop under his
blazing guns. Then McCay, too, fell--for the last time.

"Yo' dad was one game hombre, Tip," murmured the Texan, putting a
comforting hand on the boy's shoulder. "Let's hope that when ouah turn
comes, we can go as bravely."

He had never seen such an exhibition of undaunted courage. Although
the tragedy had clutched at his heart, the spectacle had thrilled him,
too. He knew that if he should escape, he would do his best to make
good his promise to Old Beef McCay!

The McCay store was surrounded on all sides, and its four walls were
scarred and pitted with bullet holes. And night was coming on rapidly.
Kid Wolf saw the peril of their position. He knew, only too well, that
the darkness would add to their troubles.

Twilight was deepening into dusk. Soon it became dark, and the moon
would not be up for an hour. Kid Wolf, Tip McCay, and their four
companions were never more alert. But even their keen eyes could not
watch everything.

Young McCay was very pale. His father's death had touched him deeply,
and fury against his killers burned in his glance. The others, too,
were grim, thinking not of their own peril, but of the murderous Hardy
gang. Thirsty for vengeance, they kept their eyes glued to their
peepholes, fingers on gun triggers.

Tip had found a friend in Kid Wolf. No words were wasted on sympathy
now, or regrets, but Tip knew that the drawling Texan understood.

There was little shooting being done now, and the suspense was telling
on the nerves of all of them. What was Hardy up to? Would he again
attempt to batter down the door and force a way in, under cover of
darkness this time? But they were not left long in doubt.

"I smell smoke!" cried Blake.

Immediately afterward a sharp, crackling sound came to their ears.
Hardy's gang had set fire to the store! Under cover of darkness, one
of the slinking Indians had crept up and ignited a pile of oil-soaked
rags against the logs of the building. The flames rose high, licking
hungrily upward.

"Get water!" some one shouted.

A bucketful or two from their supply tossed accurately through a
loophole by Kid Wolf extinguished the blaze before it could rise
higher. It was a close call, and it showed them what to expect now.
The Indian's mistake had been in setting his fire where it could be
reached by the defenders.

"We were pretty blamed lucky," Caldwell began. "If thet fire----"

"Not so lucky," sang out the Texan. "Look at that!"

From the direction of the saloon, a half dozen streaks of flame shot up
into the sky like so many rockets. Fire whistled in the wind. The
streaks were burning arrows, fired by Hardy's red-skinned cutthroats!

"That settles it!" groaned Tip resignedly. "They're fallin' on the

It was a wonder Hardy's evil brain hadn't thought of it before.
Possibly some of his savage recruits had suggested it. At any rate, it
was more to the rustler chief's purpose than smashing in the door. It
would soon be all over for the defenders now.

In a breath, the roof was afire. Little jets of smoke began to spurt
down from the beams over their heads, and the flames were fanned into a
roar by the wind. Desperately the little handful of fighters exchanged
glances. Things looked black indeed. They could not remain long in
the burning death trap, and outside was Hardy's gang, waiting in the
darkness to shoot them down if they ventured to escape.

"Steady, boys!" encouraged the Texan. "Theah may be a chance fo' us

But one of them--Blake--was overcome with terror. In spite of what the
others did to restrain him, he ran outside, tearing his way through the
barricade. His hands were raised wildly over his head in token of
surrender. But that made no difference to Hardy. There was a dull
spat, and Blake went sprawling, shot through the heart.

"I hope nobody else tries that," drawled The Kid. "When we go, let's
go togethah. By the light of this fiah they can see the colah of ouah
eyes. We haven't a chance in the world to escape that way."

"We can't stay here and burn to death!" groaned Terry White.

The heat and smoke were driving them out of the main room. Already
flames were creeping down the walls, and the air was as hot as the
breath of an oven. Their faces were blistered, their exposed hands
cooked. Tip's coat was afire, as all five of them made a dash for the
smaller room, taking the extra guns and ammunition with them.

This gave them a short respite. As yet the fire had not reached this
apartment, although it would not take long. The smoke was soon so
thick as nearly to be blinding. Stationing themselves at the
loopholes, they began to work havoc with their rifles and revolvers.
For the outlaws, bolder now, had ventured closer and made good targets
in the glare of the burning building.

Suddenly there was a tremendous crash. The roof over the main room had
come smashing in! Instantly the fire roared louder; tongues of it
began to lick through the walls. Wood popped, and the heat became
maddening. One side of the room became a mass of flames. The
imprisoned men began to wet their clothing with the little water that
was left.

"The stable!" ordered Kid Wolf. "Quick!"

The stable was built against the side of the store in the rear, and a
door of the smaller room opened into it. There they must make their
last stand.

The horses--and among them was Kid Wolf's white charger, Blizzard--were
trembling with fear. They seemed to know, as well as their masters,
that they were in terrible danger.

"We'll make ouah get-away with 'em, when the time comes," drawled the

"Not a chance in the world, Kid!" Tip groaned.

"Just leave it to me," was the quiet reply. "We've got a slim chance,
if mah idea works."

Fanned by the wind, the flames soon were eating at the stable. And
once caught, it burned like tinder. The horses screamed as the fire
licked at them, and all was confusion. To make matters worse, bullets
ripped through continually.

The Hardy band had gathered about the burning buildings in a close
ring, ready to shoot down any one the instant he showed himself. The
situation looked hopeless.

"Stay in there if yuh want to!" a voice shouted outside. "Burn up, or
take lead! It's all the same to us!"

The heat-tortured Scotty staggered to his feet and groped toward one of
the plunging, screaming horses.

"Lead is the easiest way," he choked. "They'll get me, but I'm goin'
to try and ride this hoss out o' here!"

"Wait a minute!" Kid Wolf cried. "All get yo' hosses ready and make
the break when I say the word. But not until!"

Gritting their teeth, they prepared to endure the baking heat for a few
minutes more. They did not know what Kid Wolf was going to do, but
they had faith that he would do something. And they knew, as things
stood, that they could not hope for anything but death if they tried to
escape now.

The stable was a mass of flames. The walls were crumbling and falling
in. The Texan gave his final orders.

"If any of us get through," he gasped, "we'll meet on the Chisholm
Trail--below heah. Ride hard, with heads low--when I say the word!"

Then Kid Wolf played his trump card. Upon leaving the store itself, he
had taken a small keg with him--a powder keg. Until now, none of the
others had noticed it. Holding it in his two hands, he darted through
the door into the open! Bits of burning wood were all about him;
flames licked at his boots as he stood upright, the keg over his head.

"Scattah!" he shouted at the astonished Hardy gang. "I'm blowin' us
all to kingdom come!"

The Texan made a glorious picture as he stood there, framed in red and
yellow. Fire was under his feet and on every side. The glow of it
illuminated his face, which was stained with powder smoke and blackened
by the flames. His eyes shone joyously, and a laugh of defiance and
recklessness was on his lips as he swung the poised keg aloft.

The Hardy gang, frozen with terror for an instant, scattered. They ran
like frightened jack rabbits. To shoot Kid Wolf would have been easy,
but none of them dared to attempt it. For if the keg was dropped, one
spark would set it off. Overcome with panic, the ring of outlaws
melted into the night.

The Texan gave the signal, and Tip, Caldwell, Scotty, and White tore
out of the doorway on their frightened horses, heads low, scattering as
they came. Kid Wolf whistled sharply for Blizzard and pulled himself
effortlessly into the saddle as the big white horse went by at a mad
gallop. He tossed away the keg as he did so.

The Hardy faction began shooting then, but it was too late. Bullets
hummed over the heads of the escaping riders, but not one found its

Kid Wolf found himself riding alongside Tip McCay. The others had
taken different routes. The sounds of guns behind them were rapidly
growing fainter, and they were hidden by the pitch darkness. Kid Wolf
heard Tip laughing to himself--a rather high-pitched, nervous laugh.

"Are yo' all right, Tip?" sang out the Texan.

"Great! Yore plan worked to a T! But do yuh know what was in that
powder keg yuh used?"

"Yes, I knew all the time," chuckled The Kid. "It wasn't powdah at
all. It was lime. I found that out when I tried to load a Sharps
rifle from it. But just the same, Tip, the bluff worked!"

Next: The Night Herd

Previous: M'cay's Recruit

Add to Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network

Viewed 305