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The Governor's Answer








From: Kid Wolf Of Texas

Judging that it was almost time for his interview with the governor,
Kid Wolf saddled Blizzard in the public establo, or stable, and rode
at once to the governor's palace.

Although it did not occur to him that Quiroz would reject his plea for
aid, he was filled with foreboding. He had a premonition that made him
uneasy, although there seemed nothing at which to be alarmed.

Dismounting, he walked up the stone flags toward the presidio
entrance--a huge, grated door guarded by two flashily dressed but
barefooted soldiers. They nodded for him to pass, and the Texan found
himself in a long, half-lighted passage. Another guard directed him
into the office of Governor Quiroz, and Kid Wolf stepped through
another carved door, hat in hand.

He found that he had entered a large, cool room, lighted softly by
windows of brightly colored glass and barred with wrought iron. The
tiles of the floor were in black-and-white design, and the place was
bare of furniture, except at one end, where a large desk stood.

Behind it, in a chair of rich mahogany, sat an impressive figure. It
was the governor.

While bowing politely, the Texan searched the pale face of the man of
whom he had heard so much. By looking at him, he thought he discovered
why Quiroz was so feared by the oppressed people of the district. Iron
strength showed itself in the official's aristocratic features.

There was something there besides power. Quiroz had eyes that were
mysterious and deep. Not even the Texan could read the secrets they
masked. Cruelty might lurk there, perhaps, or friendliness--who could
say? At the governor's soft-spoken invitation, Kid Wolf took a chair
near the huge desk.

"Your business with me, senor?" asked the official in smoothly spoken
English.

Kid Wolf spoke respectfully, although he did not fawn over the
dignitary or lose his own quiet self-assertion. He was an American.
He told of finding the tortured prospector and of the plight of the
approaching wagon train.

"If they continue on the course they are followin', guv'nor," he
concluded, "they'll nevah reach Santa Fe. And I have every reason to
believe that The Terror plans to raid them."

"And what," asked the governor pleasantly, "do you expect me to do?"

"I thought, sah," Kid Wolf replied, "that yo' would let me return to
them with a company of yo' soldiers."

"My dear senor," the governor said with suave courtesy, "the people you
wish to rescue are not subjects of mine."

Kid Wolf tried not to show the irritation he felt. "Surely, sah, yo'
are humane enough to do this thing. I thought I told yo' theah's women
and children in the wagon train."

Quiroz rubbed his chin as if in thought. His eyes, however, seemed to
smolder with an emotion of which Kid Wolf could only guess the nature.
The Spaniard's face was that of a hypnotist, with its thin,
high-bridged nose and its chilling, penetrating gaze.

"Your name, senor?"

"Kid Wolf, from Texas, sah."

Spanish governors of that day had no reason to like gunmen from the
Lone Star State. From the time of Santa Anna, Texas fighters had been
thorns in their sides. But if Quiroz was thinking of this, he made no
sign. He smiled with pleasure, either real or assumed.

"That is good," he said. "Senor Wolf, to show your good faith, will
you be kind enough to lay your weapons on my desk? It is a custom here
not to come armed in the presence of the governor."

Suspicion began to burn strongly in the back of the Texan's brain. Was
Quiroz playing a crafty game? He was supposed to be friendly toward
those from the States, but once before, in California, Kid Wolf had had
dealings with a Spanish governor. Instantly he was on his guard,
although he did not allow his face to show it.

"I am an American, sah," he replied. "Some have called me a soldier of
misfohtune. Anyway, I try and do good. What good I have done fo' the
weak and oppressed, sah, I've done with these." The Kid tapped his
twin Colts and went on: "I've twelve lead aces heah, sah, and I'm not
in the habit of layin' 'em down."

"We're not playing cards, senor." Quiroz smiled pleasantly.

"No." Kid Wolf's quick smile flashed. "But if a game is stahted, I
want a hand to play with."

His eyes were fixed on the carved front of the governor's desk. There
seemed something strange about the carved design. He was seated
directly in front of it, in the chair Quiroz had pointed out to him,
and for the last few minutes he had wondered what it was that had
attracted his attention.

The desk was carved with a series of squares chiseled deep into the
dark wood. In one of the squares was a black circle about the size of
a small silver piece. Somehow Kid Wolf did not like the looks of it.
What it could be, he could hardly guess. The Texan had learned not to
take chances. Slowly, and with his eyes still on the official's
smiling face, he edged his chair away from it, an inch at a time. His
progress was slow enough not to attract Quiroz's attention.

"Then," asked the governor slowly, "you refuse, senor?"

"Yo'-all are a fine guessah, sah!" snapped the Texan, alert as a steel
spring.

The governor moved his knee. There was a sharp report, and a streak of
flame leaped from the desk front, followed by a puff of blue smoke.
The bullet, however, knocked a slab of plaster from the opposite wall.
Just in time, Kid Wolf had moved his chair from the range of the trap
gun.

Quiroz's death-dealing apparatus had failed. The Texan's cleverness
had matched his own. Concealed in the desk had been a pistol, the
trigger of which had been pressed by the weight of the official's knee
on a secret panel. Quick as a flash, Kid Wolf was on his feet, hands
flashing down toward his two .45s!

The governor, however, was not in the habit of playing a lone hand
against any antagonist. Behind Kid Wolf rang out a command in curt
Spanish:

"Hands up!"

Kid Wolf's sixth sense warned him that he was covered with a dead drop.
His mind worked rapidly. He could have drawn and taken the governor of
Santa Fe with him to death, perhaps cutting down some of the men behind
him, as well. But in that case, what would become of the wagon train,
with no one to save them from The Terror? A vision of the little
golden-haired child crossed his mind. No, while there was life, there
was hope. Slowly he took his hands away from his gun handles and
raised them aloft.

Turning, he saw six soldiers, each with a rifle aimed at his breast.
In all probability they had had their eyes on him during his audience
with the governor. Quiroz snarled an order to them.

"Take away his guns!" he cried. Then, while the Texan was being
disarmed, he took a long black cigarette from a drawer and lighted it
with trembling fingers.

"You are clever, senor," said the governor, recovering his composure.
"I am exceedingly sorry, but I will have to deal with you in a way you
will not like--the adobe wall." Quiroz bowed. "I bid you adios." He
turned to his soldiers. "Take him to the calabozo!" he ordered
sharply.


The building that was then being used as Santa Fe's prison was
constructed of adobe with tremendously thick walls and no windows. The
only place light and air could enter the sinister building was through
a grating the size of a man's hand in the huge, rusty iron door.

Kid Wolf was marched to the prison by his sextet of guards. While the
door was being opened, he glanced around him, taking what might prove
to be his last look at the sky. His eyes fell upon one of the walls of
the jail. It was pitted with hundreds of little holes. The Texan
smiled grimly. He knew what had made them--bullets. It was the
execution place!

The door clanged behind him, and a scene met The Kid's eyes that caused
him to shudder. In the big, dank room were huddled fourteen prisoners.
Most of them were miserable, half-naked peons. It was intolerably hot,
and the air was so bad as almost to be unbreathable.

The prisoners kept up a wailing chant--a hopeless prayer for mercy and
deliverance. A guttering candle shed a ghastly light over their thin
bodies.

So this was what his audience with the governor had come to! What a
tyrant Quiroz had proved to be! Strangely enough, The Kid's thoughts
were not of his own terrible plight, but of the peril that awaited the
wagon train. If he could only escape this place, he might at least
help them. What a mistake he had made in going to the governor for aid!

His next thought was of his horse, Blizzard. What would become of him,
if he, Kid Wolf, died? The Texan knew one thing for certain, that
Blizzard was free. Nobody could touch him save his master. He was
also sure that the faithful animal awaited his beck and call. The
white horse was somewhere near and on the alert. Kid Wolf had trained
it well.

He soon saw that escape by ordinary means from the prison was quite
hopeless. There was no guard to overpower, the walls were exceedingly
thick, and the door impregnable.

Only one of the prisoners, Kid Wolf noted, was an American--a sickly
faced youth of about the Texan's own age. A few questions brought out
the information that all the inmates of the jail were under sentence of
death.

The hours passed slowly in silent procession while the dying candle
burned low in the poison-laden air. Kid Wolf paced the floor, his eyes
cool and serene.

His mind, however, was wide awake. When was he to be shot? In the
morning? Or would his execution be delayed, perhaps for days?

The Texan never gave up hope, and he was doing more than hoping now--he
was planning carefully. Kid Wolf had a hole card. Had the Spanish
soldiers known him better, they would have used more care in disarming
him. But then, enemies of Kid Wolf had made that mistake before, to
their sorrow.

Clearly enough, he could not help the wagon train where he was. He
must get out. But the only way to get out, it seemed, was to go out
with the firing squad--a rather unpleasant thing to do, to say the
least.

The tiny grated square in the jail door began to lighten. It grew
brighter. Day was breaking.

"It will soon be time for the beans," muttered the American youth.

"Will they give us breakfast?" asked the Texan.

The other laughed bitterly. "We'll have beans," he said shortly, "but
we won't eat them."

Not long afterward the iron door opened, and two soldiers entered,
carrying a red earthenware olla. "Fifteen men," said one of them in
Spanish, "counting the new one."

"Fifteen men," chanted the other in singsong voice. "Fifteen beans."

Kid Wolf's brows began to knit. At first he had thought that the beans
meant breakfast. Now he saw that something sinister was intended.
Some sort of lottery was about to be played with beans.

"There are fourteen white beans," the young American whispered, "and
one black one. We all draw. The man who gets the black bean dies this
morning."

The hair prickled on the Texan's head. Every morning these
unfortunates were compelled to play a grim game with death.

The prisoners were all quaking with terror, as they came up to the ugly
red jug to take their chance for life. As much as these miserable men
suffered in this terrible place, existence was still dear to them.

One soldier shook the beans in the olla; the other stood back against
the wall with leveled gun to prevent any outbreak. Then the lottery
began.

Kid Wolf viewed the situation calmly, and decided that to try to wrest
the weapon from the soldier would be folly. Other soldiers were
watching through the grated door.

One by one, the prisoners drew. The opening in the olla was just large
enough for a hand to be admitted. All was blind chance, and no one
could see what he had drawn until his bean was out of the jug. Some of
the peons screamed with joy after drawing their white beans. The black
one was still in the jar.

The two white men were the last to draw. Both took their beans and
stepped to one side to look at them. It was an even break. Kid Wolf
was smiling; the other was trembling.

The eyes of Kid Wolf met the fear-stricken eyes of the other. They
stood close together. Each had looked at his bean. The sick man's
face had gone even whiter.

"I'll trade yo' beans," offered the Texan.

"Mine's--black!" gasped the other.

"I know," The Kid whispered in reply. "Trade with me!"

"It means that yuh give yore life for mine," was the agonized answer.
"I can't let yuh do that."

"Believe me or not, but I have a plan," urged the Texan in a low tone.
"And it might work. Hurry."

The color returned to the sick youth's face as the beans were
cautiously exchanged. Then Kid Wolf turned to the soldiers and
displayed a black bean.

"Guess I'm the unlucky one." He smiled whimsically. He turned to the
sick boy for a final handshake. "Good luck," he whispered, "and if my
plans fail, adios forever."

"Come!" ordered a Spanish soldier.

Waving his hand in farewell, Kid Wolf stepped out to meet the doom that
had been prepared for him.





Next: Surprises

Previous: A Thankless Task



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