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From: Kid Wolf Of Texas

At the prison door, Kid Wolf was met by a squad of ten soldiers. It
was the firing squad. The Texan fell in step with them and was marched
around the building to the bullet-scarred wall. Kid Wolf faced the
rising sun. Was he now seeing it for the last time?

If he was afraid, he made no sign. His expression was unruffled and
calm. He was smiling a little, and his arms, as he folded them on his
breast, did not tremble in the slightest.

The officer who was to have charge of the execution had not yet
appeared on the scene, and the soldiers waited with their rifle stocks
trailing in the sand.

Then there was a quick bustle. The officer sauntered around the corner
of the building, his bright uniform making a gay sight in the early
sun. He was a captain--the captain whom Kid Wolf had humiliated the
afternoon before! The eyes of the Spanish officer, when they fell upon
his victim, widened with surprise which at once gave way to exultation.

"Ah, it is my amigo--the senor of the two guns!" he cried.

It was his day of revenge! The captain could not conceal his joy at
this chance to square things with his enemy for good and all. He did
not try to. His laugh was sneering and amused.

"And to think it will be me--Captain Hermosillo--who will say the word
to fire!" He turned to his soldiers in high good humor and waved his
sword. "At twenty paces," he ordered. "We shall soon see how bravely
the senor dies. Ready!"

The rifle mechanisms clattered sharply.

Then the captain turned to his victim, an insolent smile on his cruel
features. "Will the senor have his eyes bandaged? Blindfolded, yes?"

Kid Wolf returned the smile. "Yes," he replied quietly. "Maybe yo'
better blindfold me."

Hermosillo laughed tauntingly and turned to wink at his men. "He is
brave, yes!" he mocked. "He cannot endure seeing the carabinas aimed
at his heart. He wants his eyes bandaged--the muchos grande
Americano! Ah, the coward!" He spat contemptuously on the sand. "He
does not know how to face the guns. Well, we will humor him!"

The captain whipped a silk handkerchief from his pocket and stepped
forward. Kid Wolf's eyes were gleaming with icy-blue lights. This was
the moment he had been waiting for! That handkerchief was a necessary
cog in his carefully laid plans. Captain Hermosillo was soon to learn
just how cowardly this young Texan was. And the surprise was not going
to be pleasant.

Kid Wolf's hole card was a big bowie knife--the same weapon that had
played such havoc at the Alamo. He carried it in a strange hiding
place--tucked into a leather sheath sewn to the inside of his shirt
collar, between his shoulder blades. That knife had rescued Kid Wolf
from many a tight situation, and he had practiced until he could draw
it with all the speed of heat lightning.

When the captain placed the handkerchief over his eyes, Kid Wolf
reached back, as if pretending to assist him. Like a flash, his
fingers closed over the bone handle of the knife instead. Hermosillo
found himself with the cold point of the gleaming bowie pressed against
his throat!

At the same time, Kid Wolf whirled his body about so that the officer
was between him and the firing squad. His left hand held the captain
in a grip of steel; his right held the glittering blade against
Hermosillo's Adam's apple!

"Throw down yo' rifles and back away from 'em!" Kid Wolfe called to the
soldiers. "Pronto! Or I'll kill yo' captain!"

Hermosillo gave an agonized yell of fear. In a voice of quaking
terror, he ordered his men to do what Kid Wolf had commanded them. His
breath was coming in wheezing gasps.

The firing squad, taken aback by this sudden development--for only a
few seconds had passed since The Kid had drawn the knife--hesitated,
and then obeyed. At best, they were none too quick-thinking, and they
saw that their leader was in a perilous plight. Their carabinas
thudded to the sand.

"Bueno!" laughed the Texan boyishly.

He pushed the captain just far enough away for him to be in good
hitting range. Then he lashed out at him with his hard fist, catching
the fear-crazed officer directly on the point of the jaw. Many pounds
of lean muscle were behind the blow, and Hermosillo landed ten feet
away in a cloud of dust.

The Texan lost no time in whirling on his feet and sprinting for the
corner of the building. He reached it just in time to bump into
another officer, who was just then arriving on the scene. Kid Wolf
snatched the pistol from his belt and sent him up against the wall with
a jar. Before the disarmed Spaniard knew what had happened, he was
sitting on the ground, nursing a bruised jaw, and Kid Wolf was gone!

The Texan found the streets deserted at that early hour. Racing across
the plaza, he raised his voice in a coyote yell:

"Yip, yip, yipee-e-e!"

It was answered by an eager whinny. It was Blizzard! The horse,
waiting patiently in the vicinity, knew that signal. It came running
down another street like a white snowstorm.

Kid Wolf ran to meet the horse. A sharp rattle of rifle fire rang out
behind him. The soldiers had given chase! A bullet zipped the stone
flags under his feet; another smacked solidly into the corner of an
adobe house.

The alarm had been given. Two gayly uniformed officers ran into the
street from the direction of the presidio. They were trying to head
the Texan off, attempting to get between him and his horse.

But Blizzard was coming at too hot a pace. The two Spaniards cut in
just as Kid Wolf leaped to the saddle. He fired the pistol's single
barrel at one of the officers, and hurled the useless weapon into the
other's face.

"Come on, Blizzahd!" Kid Wolf sang out. "Let's go from heah!"

The powerful animal's hoofs thundered against the flagstones, leaped a
stone wall, and charged down the street. Behind them, already
organized, came the pursuit. To Kid Wolf's ears came the whine of
bullets.

"From now on," he cried to his plunging horse, "it all depends on
yo'-all! Burn that wind!"

Once Blizzard had hit his stride, Kid Wolf knew that no horse in Santa
Fe could catch him. Striking off to the eastward in the direction of
the Staked Plains, the Texan gave his animal free rein.

The pursuit was dropping behind, a few yards at a time. Instead of
buzzing around his ears now, the bullets were falling short, kicking up
spurts of dust. The cries in angry Spanish grew fainter until they
died into a confused hubbub. Kid Wolf had left the town behind him and
was racing out over the level plain. Looking back, he could see a
score or more of brown clouds--dirt stirred by the horsemen who were
now almost lost from view. These dwindled. In an hour only half a
dozen riders remained on his trail. Blizzard was still going strong.

Out on the great Llano Estacado, The Kid managed, by superior
horsemanship, to give the balance of his pursuers the slip. When he
had succeeded in confusing them, he slowed his faithful mount down for
a needed rest. And now where was the wagon train? Where was he to
find it? A chill raced down his spine. Had The Terror already struck?
The thought of the women and children in the hapless outfit filled him
with a feeling akin to panic. He must find the wagon train. It might
not yet be too late.

Kid Wolf was a plainsman. He could locate water where none appeared to
exist; he could discover game when older men failed; and he could
follow a course on the limitless prairie as surely as a sailor could
navigate the seas by means of his compass. By day or by night, he was
"trailwise."

Carefully Kid Wolf estimated the route the wagon train had been taking.
Then he figured out the progress it had probably made since he had left
it. In this way he fixed a point in his mind--an imaginary dot that he
must reach if he meant to find the prairie schooners. If Modoc--the
leader of the outfit--had kept to his original course, The Kid could
not fail to meet them.

Accordingly, Kid Wolf traveled all the rest of that day in a straight
line, marking his course by the sun. He stopped only once at noon for
water and a short rest, going on again until dusk.

At nightfall, he made camp and lay awake, looking at the stars
overhead. His thoughts were of The Terror and of his intended victims.
Strangely enough, the face of Modoc came into his reflections, also.
He could not dismiss him. Was he really insane, or was it just
obstinacy? If the latter, what had he meant by his strange expression:
"What color will the moon be to-night?" Kid Wolf thought for a long
time and then gave it up.

He did not fear any further pursuit by the Spanish soldiers. The trail
he had left behind was too puzzling; he had taken care of that.
Besides, he knew that the average Spaniard feared the Apache and the
other Indian tribes that infested portions of the Staked Plains. If
there were any danger during the night, Blizzard would give him warning.

He was up with the dawn. At its first faint, pinkish glow, he was in
the saddle again. The day promised to be hot. The midsummer sun had
burned the grass to a crisp brown. By midday, mirages began to show in
hollows. Heat flickered. Both horse and rider drank at a pool of
yellow-brown water and pressed on.

Late in the afternoon, Kid Wolf made out a faint white line on the far
horizon. It was the wagon train! He sighed with relief. The Terror,
then, had not yet raided it. For The Terror left only destruction in
his wake. Had he already plundered it, he would have burned the wagons
to the ground.

Increasing his speed, Kid Wolf rapidly approached it. As he came
nearer, he saw that the outfit was in the center of a field of alkali
and making slow and painful progress. He did not see the beef herd.
Plainly, something had happened during his absence.

Kid Wolf rode in, waving his hat. Would he get a bullet for his pains?
He kept his eyes open as he drummed in over the alkali flat.

Modoc and three others were at the head of the outfit. They recognized
him at once. Modoc started to raise his rifle. One of the others
struck the weapon down. Obviously the train commander had lost some of
his influence. Another of the pathfinders shouted for Kid Wolf to come
on. A dozen of the travelers left their wagons and came forward. This
time they seemed glad to see Kid Wolf.

"Yuh was right, after all!" one of them cried. "Modoc led us out of
the way. We're lost!"

"I meant all right," Modoc grumbled. "I did my best--must have made a
mistake somewhere. I'll find the trail, never worry. And if yuh take
my advice, yuh'll drive this four-flusher away from here! He don't
mean us any good. What business is it of his?"

Kid Wolf sternly pointed back to the wagons.

"Those women and children theah," he snapped, "is mah business."

"Shut up, Modoc!" ordered one of the men. "We trust this man, and we
believe he's our friend." He turned to the Texan. "Yuh can consider
yoreself in command here now," he added.

Modoc trembled with ungovernable anger, but, outnumbered as he was, he
could say nothing. Sulkily he returned to his own wagon.

From the drivers, Kid Wolf learned a story of hardship and semi
starvation. Indians had driven away their beef herd, leaving them
without food. All day they had had nothing to eat, and were at the
point of killing and devouring prairie dogs. The water, too, was
bad--so full of alkali as nearly to be undrinkable, and as bitter as
gall.

Kid Wolf lost no time in taking the situation in hand. His own
provisions he turned over to the women and children of the outfit.
Then he changed the course of the train so that it led toward
civilization. At nightfall they made camp by a pool of fair drinking
water. The outfit told him that as yet they had seen no sign of The
Terror.

"Probably we won't," said one.

Kid Wolf was not so optimistic. That night he borrowed two .45 Colt
revolvers from the wagon-train supplies. He selected them with extreme
care, testing them by shooting at marks. So accurate was his shooting
that the men of the outfit could not conceal their admiration. The
first weapon he tried threw the shots an inch or two to one side, but
he finally obtained a pair that worked perfectly. Then he sanded the
wooden handles of the guns to roughen them slightly.

"It nevah pays to have yo' hand slip when makin' a draw," he explained.

The outfit's camp fire was shielded with canvas that night, at Kid's
suggestion. On that wide plain a light showed for many miles, and it
was poor policy to advertise one's position.

Tired as he was, Kid Wolf rose at midnight, after sleeping a few hours.
He wanted to be sure that everything was well. Making a tour of the
wagon train, he suddenly stopped in his tracks and sniffed. There was
no mistaking the delicious odor. It made Kid Wolf hungry. It was
frying meat. The Texan quietly aroused some of the men and led them to
one of the wagons.

"I want yo'-all to see fo' yo'selves," he explained.

The wagon was Modoc's own, and they entered it. The ex-wagon-train
commander had a shielded lantern burning inside, and he was in the act
of eating a big supper! When he saw that he had visitors, he tried to
reach the gun belt he had hung up at one end of the wagon. Kid Wolf
was too quick for him.

"Yo' call yo'self a man!" he murmured in a voice filled with contempt.
"Why, a low-down coyote is a gentleman alongside of yo'. I wondered
why yo' looked so well fed, while the rest of the camp was starvin'.
Men, search this wagon!"

While Modoc swore, the search was made. It disclosed many pounds of
dried beef and other provisions. It was Modoc's little private supply.

"We'll divide it up with everybody in the mohnin'," suggested the
Texan, "with a double allowance fo' the children and the women."

The wagon men were so furious at Modoc's selfishness that they could
have torn him to pieces. Kid Wolf, however, prevented the trouble that
was brewing.

"Every one to their blankets, men," he said. "We can't affohd to fight
among ouahselves just now."

When the camp was asleep again, he took up his lonely vigil. The night
was pitch black, without moon or stars. A wind whispered softly across
the great Llano.

Suddenly The Kid's attention was attracted by something on the western
horizon. It seemed to be in the sky--a faint red glow, across which
shadows appeared to move like phantoms. Like a picture from the ghost
world, it flickered for a few minutes like heat lightning, then
disappeared, leaving the night as dark as before. It was a night
mirage, and something more than an optical illusion. It was a rare
thing on the plain. The Kid knew that it meant something. That glow
was the reflection in the sky of a camp fire! Those shadows were men!
The Texan quickly told his sentinels.

"I'm ridin' out to see what it is," he said. "Keep a close watch while
I'm gone. I'm on a little scoutin' pahty of mah own. It might be that
Quiroz has followed me--which I doubt. And it might be--The Terror!"

Mounting Blizzard, he was quickly swallowed up in the darkness.





Next: The Camp Of The Terror

Previous: The Governor's Answer



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