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The Night Herd








From: Kid Wolf Of Texas

By the time the Hardy faction had given up the chase in disgust,
Caldwell, White, and Scotty had joined Tip and the Texan some miles
below Midway on the Chisholm Trail. The former three were jubilant
over their unexpected release from the fire trap, but they agreed with
the Texan's first proposal.

"We've got mo' work to do, boys," he drawled. "If we wanted to, we
could give that gang the slip fo' good and make ouah get-away. I
think, though, that yo' feel as I do. What do yo' say we rustle back
that herd o' longhorns that Hardy stole from Tip's dad?"

It meant running into danger again, and lots of it, but none of them
hesitated. Kid Wolf had made his promise, and the others vowed to see
him through. It took them but a few moments to plan their reckless
venture and get into action.

The Kid hated Hardy now, just as heartily as did Tip McCay. And even
if he had not given his word to the dying cattleman, he would not have
left a stone unturned to bring the rustling saloon keeper to justice.
More than once before, Kid Wolf had used the law of the Colt when other
measures failed to punish. And now, even although handicapped and
outnumbered, he planned to strike. The stolen herd represented a small
fortune, and rightfully belonged to Tip McCay and his mother. But
where were the longhorns now?

Tip's suggestion was helpful. He thought the cattle could not be more
than a few miles below. They quickly decided to ride south, and Tip
and The Kid led the way. The moon was up now, and it lighted the open
prairie with a soft glow. The five riders pounded down the old
Chisholm cattle road at a furious clip, eyes open for signs. Presently
Tip cried:

"We'll find 'em down there at Green Springs! I see a light! It's a
camp fire!"

On the horizon they made out the feathery tops of trees against the
sky, and riding closer, they could see a dark mass bunched up around
them--little dots straying out at the edges. It was the stolen McCay
herd!

No general on the field of battle planned more carefully than the
Texan. The party came closer, warily and making no noise. As they did
so, they could hear the bawling of the cattle. Some were milling and
restless, and the cattleman could see four men on horses at different
points, attempting to keep the animals quiet and soothed. At the camp
fire, several hundred yards from the springs, were four other men. Two
of these seemed to be asleep in their blankets; the other pair were
talking and smoking.

"The odds," drawled Kid Wolf in a low tone, "are eight to five in theah
favah. Tip, yo' take the man on the no'th. Scotty, yores is the
hombre on the west, ridin' the pinto. Caldwell, take the south man,
and yo', White, do yo' best with the gent ovah east."

"How about those four by the fire?" whispered White.

"I'm takin' them myself." The Texan smiled. "We must all work
togethah. They won't know who we are at first, probably, and will
think we're moah of Hardy's men. Don't shoot unless yo' have to."


One of the two bearded ruffians by the camp fire clutched his
companion's sleeve. Two other men lay snoring on the other side of the
crackling embers, and one of them stirred slightly.

"Bill," he muttered, "didn't yuh hear somethin'?"

"I hear a lot o' cows bawlin'." The other grinned. "But what I was
tryin' to say is this: If Jack Hardy splits reasonable with us, why
we----"

He was interrupted. Both men glanced up, to see a tall figure
sauntering toward them into the ring of red firelight. Both stared,
then reached for their guns.

"Sorry, gents," they were told in a soft and musical drawl, "but yo're
a little late. Will yo' kindly poke yo' hands into the atmospheah?"

The two outlaws experienced a sudden wilting of their gun arms. It was
quick death to attempt to draw while the round black eyes of this
stranger's twin Colts were on them.

With a jerk, both threw up their hands. One gave a shout--a cry meant
to warn his companions.

A shot from the direction of the herd told them, however, that the
other outlaws were already aware of something unusual.

The two bandits in the blankets jumped up, rubbing their eyes in
amazement. A kick from Kid Wolf's boot sent the .45 of one of them
flying. The other, prodded none too gently with a revolver barrel,
decided to surrender without further ado.

Lining them up, The Kid disarmed them. He was joined in a few minutes
by Tip, White, Caldwell, and Scotty, who were driving two prisoners
before them.

"Bueno!" said The Kid. "I see yo' got the job done without much
trouble. But wheah's the othah two?"

Scotty smiled grimly, spat in the direction of the fire and said simply:

"They showed fight."

In five minutes, the six outlaws were tied securely with lariat rope,
in spite of their fervent and profane protests.

"Jack Hardy will get yuh fer this, blast yuh!" snarled one.

"Maybe," drawled The Kid sweetly, "he won't want us aftah he gets us."

They planned to have the cattle moving northward by dawn. Once past
Midway, the trail to Dodge was clear. But there was plenty of work to
do in the meantime.


An hour after sunup, the herd of fifteen hundred steers was moving
northward toward Midway. Kid Wolf and his four riders had them well
under control, and had it not been for a certain alertness in their
bearing, one would have thought it an ordinary cattle drive.

Kid Wolf was singing to the longhorns in a half-mocking, drawling
tenor, as he rode slowly along:

"Oh, the desaht winds are blowin', on the Rio!
And we'd like to be a-goin', back to Rio!
But befo' we do,
We've got to see this through,
Like all good hombres do, from the Rio!"


The prisoners had been lashed securely to their horses and brought
along. Already several miles had been traveled. And thus far the
party had seen no signs of Jack Hardy's rustler gang. They were not,
however, deceived. With every passing minute they were approaching
closer to Midway, the Hardy stronghold. And not only that, but the
outlaws were probably combing the country for them.

Reaching a place known as Stone Corral, they were especially vigilant.
The place was a natural trap. It had been built of roughly piled stone
and never entirely finished. Indians sometimes camped within the
inclosure. It was, however, empty of life, and the adventurers were
about to push on with the herd when the keen, roving eyes of Kid Wolf
spotted something suspicious on the north horizon. He held his hand
aloft, signaling a stop.

"Heah they come, boys!" he cried. "We'll have to stand 'em off heah!"

They had been expecting it, and they were hardly surprised or
unprepared. They were favored, too, in having such a place for
defense. Save for the low walls of the abandoned corral, there was no
cover worth mentioning for miles. Among the cool-eyed five who
prepared to make their stand, there was not one who hadn't faced death
before and often. But never had the odds been more against them. They
had slipped through the toils before, but now they were tightening
again.

Watching the riders as they grew larger against the sky, they could
count two dozen of them. There was no use to hide. They could not
conceal the cattle herd, and the Hardy gang would surely investigate.
Already they were veering in their course, riding directly toward the
stone corral.

"Aweel," muttered Scotty, lapsing into his Scotch dialect for the
moment, "there isn't mooch doot about how this thing will end. But I'm
a-theenkin' we'll make it a wee bit hot for 'em before they get us!"

"Right yuh are, Scotty," said Tip savagely. "I'm goin' to try and pick
Hardy out o' that gang o' killers, and if I do, I don't care much then
what happens."

The prisoners had been herded within the corral, and their feet were
lashed together.

"Yuh'll soon be listenin' to bullets," Caldwell told them. "Yuh'd
better pray that yore pals shoot straight and don't hit you by mistake."

The Hardy gang had seen them! They saw the riders check their horses
and then spread out in a cautious circle.

"Hardy ain't with 'em," sang out White, who had sharp eyes.

"They seem to be all there but him!" snapped Tip in disappointment.
"The coward's stayed behind!"

A bullet suddenly buzzed viciously over the corral and kicked up a
shower of clods behind it. And as if this first shot were signal, a
shattering volley rang out from the oncoming riders. Bits of stone and
bursts of sand flew up from the low stone breastworks.

"We got yuh this time!" one of the rustlers shouted. "We're givin' yuh
one chance to come out o' there!"

"And we're givin' yuh all the chances yo' want," replied Kid Wolf, "to
come and get us!"

For answer, the horsemen--two dozen strong--charged! In a breath, they
had struck and had been driven back. So quickly had it happened that
nobody remembered afterward just how it had been done. The Texan's two
Colts grew hot and cooled again. Three riderless horses galloped about
the corral in circles, and the thing was over!

It had been sheer nerve and courage against odds, however. Three of
the attackers fell from their horses before the stone walls had been
gained, and three others had met with swift trouble inside. The rest
had retreated hastily, leaving six dead and wounded behind. Only
Caldwell had been hit, and his wound was a slight one in the shoulder.
The defenders cheered lustily.

"Come on!" Tip shouted. "We're waitin'!"

Kid Wolf, however, was not deceived. The attacking party was made up
largely of half-breeds and Indians. The Texan knew their ways. That
first charge had been only half-hearted. The next time, the outlaws
would fight to a finish, angered as they were to a fever heat. And
although the defenders might account for a few more of the renegades,
the end was inevitable. Kid Wolf did not lose his cool smile. He had
been in tight situations before, and had long ago resigned himself to
dying, when his time came, in action.

"Here they come again!" barked Scotty grimly. But suddenly a burst of
rifle fire rang out in the distance--a sharp, crackling volley. Two of
the outlaw gang dropped. One horse screamed and fell heavily with its
rider.

The five defenders saw to their utter amazement that a large band of
horsemen was riding in from the east at a hot gallop, guns spitting
fire. As a rescue, it was timed perfectly. The rustlers had been
about to charge the corral, and now they reined up in panic, undecided
what to do. Two others fell. And in the meantime, the newcomers,
whoever they were, were circling so as to surround them on all sides.

"It's the law!" Kid Wolf smiled.

"The what?" Caldwell demanded. "Why, there ain't no law between here
an'----"

But the Texan knew he was right. He had seen the sun glittering on the
silver badge that one of the strange riders wore.

The rustlers themselves were outnumbered now. The posse included a
score of men, and they handled their guns in a determined way. The
outlaws fired a wild shot or two, then signified their surrender by
throwing up their hands. While the sullen renegades were being
searched and disarmed, the leader of the posse came over to where the
Texan and the others were watching.

"Who in blazes are you?" he shot out.

"That's the question I was goin' to ask yo', sheriff," returned The Kid
politely.

"Humph! How d'ye know I'm a sheriff?" grunted the leader.

"Yo're wearin' yore stah in plain sight."

"Oh!" The officer grinned. "Well, I'm Sheriff Dawson, o' Limpin
Buffalo County. I've brought my posse over two hundred miles to get my
hands on one o' the worst gangs o' rustlers in the Injun Nations. I
don't know who you are, but the fact that yuh were fightin' 'em is
enough fer me. I know yo're all right."

"Thanks, sheriff," said the Texan. "I'm leavin' Mr. Tip McCay heah to
tell yo' ouah story, if yo'll excuse me fo' a while."

"Where yuh goin', Kid?" demanded young McCay, astonished.

"To Midway," drawled the Texan, swinging himself into Blizzard's
saddle. "Looks like a clean sweep has been made of the Hahdy

gang--except Hahdy himself. I reckon I'll ride in and get him, so's to
make the pahty complete."

"Hardy!" the officer ejaculated. "I want that malo hombre--and
mighty bad, dead or alive!"

"Let us go along!" burst out Tip.

"No," laughed the Texan quietly. "Yo' boys have had enough dangah and
excitement fo' one day, not includin' yestahday. I'd rathah settle
this little business with Jack Hahdy alone. Yo' drive the cattle on
and meet me latah."

And lifting his hand in farewell, The Kid touched his white charger
with the spur. In a few minutes he was a tiny spot on the horizon,
bound for the lair of Jack Hardy, the rustler king.

There was one thing, however, that Kid Wolf was not aware of, and that
was a pair of beady black eyes watching him from behind a prairie-dog
hill! One of the renegade half-breeds had managed to slip away from
the posse unseen. It was Tucumcari Pete, and in a draw a few yards
away was his pony.





Next: Tucumcari's Hand

Previous: One Game Hombre



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