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Tucumcari's Hand








From: Kid Wolf Of Texas

Jack Hardy was annoyed. He had planned carefully, expecting to have no
difficulty in wiping out the hated McCays and those who sympathized
with them.

His plans had only partially succeeded. The elder McCay was dead, but
Tip and some of the others had slipped through his clutches. To have
the McCay faction wiped out of Midway forever meant money and power to
him. And now his job was only half finished.

"They'll get 'em," he muttered to himself.

He was alone in his place, the Idle Hour. He had sent every available
man, even his bartender, out on the chase. He wanted to finish, at all
costs, what he had begun.

"It was all due to that blasted hombre from Texas!" he groaned. "I
wish I had him here, curse him! It would've all gone smooth enough if
he hadn't meddled. Well, he'll pay! The boys will get him. And when
they do----" Hardy thumped the bar with his fist in fury.

He paced the floor angrily. The deserted building seemed to be getting
on his nerves, for he went behind the bar several times and, with
shaking fingers, poured stiff drinks of red whisky. Then he walked to
one of the deserted card tables and began to riffle the cards aimlessly.

There were two reasons why the rustling saloon keeper had not joined in
the search for his victims. One was that he hated to leave unprotected
the big safe in his office, which always contained a snug sum of money.
The other was that Jack Hardy was none too brave when it came to gun
fighting. He was still seated at the card table, laying out a game of
solitaire, when the swinging doors of the saloon opened quietly. The
first inkling Hardy had of a stranger's presence, however, was the soft
drawl of a familiar voice:

"Good mohnin', Mistah Hahdy! Enjoyin' a little game o' cahds?"

Hardy's body remained stiff and rigid for a breathless moment, frozen
with surprise. Then he turned his head, and his right hand moved
snakelike downward. Just a few inches it moved, then it stopped.
Hardy had thought he had a chance, and then he suddenly decided that he
hadn't. At his first glance, he had seen Kid Wolf's hands carelessly
at his sides; at his second, he saw them holding two .45s!

Kid Wolf's smile was mocking as he sauntered into the room. His thumbs
were caressing the gun hammers.

"No, it wouldn't be best," he drawled, "to monkey with that gun o'
yo'n. They say, yo' know, that guns are dangerous because they go off.
But the really dangerous guns are those that don't go off quick enough."

The rustler leader rose to his feet on shaking legs. His face had
paled to the color of paper, and beads of perspiration stood out on his
pasty forehead.

"Yuh--yuh got the drop, Mr. Wolf," he pleaded. "Don't kill me!"

"Nevah mind," the Texan said softly. "When yo' die, it'll be on a
rope. It's been waitin' fo' yo' a long time. But now I have some
business with yo'. First thing, yo'd bettah let me keep that gun o'
yo'n."

The Kid pulled Hardy's .44 from its holster beneath the saloon man's
black coat.

"Next thing," he drawled, "I want yo' to take that body down from in
front o' yo' do'."

Kid Wolf referred to the corpse of the unfortunate McCay spy whom Hardy
had hanged. It still hung outside the Idle Hour, blocking the door.

The Texan made him get a box, stand on it and loosen the rope from the
dead man's neck. Released from the noose, the body sagged to the
ground.

"Just leave the noose theah," ordered The Kid. "It may be that the
sheriff will have some use fo' it."

"The sheriff!" Hardy repeated blankly.

"Yes, he'll be heah soon," murmured Kid Wolf softly. "I have some
business with yo' first. Maybe we'd bettah go to yo' office."

Jack Hardy's office was a little back room, divided off from the main
one of the Idle Hour. In spite of his protests, Hardy was compelled to
unlock this apartment and enter with his captor.

"Tip has recovahed his fathah's cattle," The Kid told him pointedly,
"but theah's the little mattah of the burned sto' to pay fo'. In
behalf of Tip and his mothah, I'm demandin'--well, I think ten thousand
dollahs in cash will just about covah it."

"I haven't got ten thousand!" Hardy began to whine.

But The Kid cut him off. "Open that safe," he snapped, "and we'll see!"

Hardy took one look at his captor and decided to obey and to lose no
time in doing so. The Texan's eyes were crackling gray-blue.

A large sheaf of bills was in an inner drawer, along with a canvas bag
of gold coins. Ordering Hardy to take a chair opposite, Kid Wolf began
to count the money carefully. To allow himself the free use of his
hands, he holstered both his guns.

"When this little mattah is settled," the Texan drawled, "I have a
little personal business with yo', man to man."

Jack Hardy moistened his lips feverishly. Although he was not now
covered by The Kid's guns, he lacked the courage to begin a fight. He
knew how quick Kid Wolf could be, and he was a coward.

The Texan was stacking the gold into neat piles.

"Fo'teen thousand two hundred dollahs," he announced finally. "The odd
fo' thousand, two hundred will go to the families of the men yo'
murdahed yestahday. And now, Mistah Jack Hahdy, my personal business
with yo' will be----"

He did not finish. The door of the little office had suddenly opened,
and Tucumcari Pete stood in the entrance! His evil face was gloating,
his snaky eyes glittering with the prospect of quick revenge. In his
dirty hands was a rifle, and he was raising it to cover The Kid's heart!

Kid Wolf's hands were on the table. There was no time for him to draw
his Colts! It seemed that the half-breed had taken a hand in the game
and that he held the winning cards! In a second it would be over. The
half-breed's finger was reaching for the trigger; his mouth was twisted
into a gloating, vicious smile.

But while The Kid was seated in such a position at the table that he
could not hope to reach his guns quickly enough, he had his hole
card--the bowie knife in a sheath concealed inside his shirt collar.
The Kid could draw and hurl, if necessary, that gleaming blade as
rapidly as he could pull his 45s. His hand darted up and back.
Something glittered in the air for just a breath, and there was a
singing twang!

Tucumcari Pete gasped. His weird cry ended in a gurgle. He lowered
his rifle and teetered on his feet. The flying knife had found its
mark--the half-breed's throat! The keen-pointed blade had buried
itself nearly to the guard! Clawing at the steel, Tucumcari staggered,
then dropped to the floor with his clattering rifle. His body jerked
for a moment, then stiffened. Justice had dealt with a murderer.

"The thirteenth ace," The Kid drawled softly, "is always in the deck!"

But Hardy had taken advantage of Tucumcari's interruption. Jumping up
with an oath, he hurled the table over upon The Kid and leaped for the
door. The Texan scrambled from under the heavy table and darted after
him. Hardy was running for his life. He raced into the main room of
the Idle Hour with The Kid at his heels.

Kid Wolf could have drawn his guns and shot him down. But it was too
easy. Unless forced to do so, that was not the Texan's way.

Snatching open a drawer in one of the gambling tables, Hardy seized a
large-bore derringer and whirled it up to shoot. But The Kid's steel
fingers closed on his wrist. The ugly little pistol exploded into the
ceiling--once, and then the other barrel.

"There'll be no guns used!" said The Kid, with a deadly smile. "I told
yo' we'd have this out man to man!"

Hardy's lips writhed back in a snarl of hatred. He sent a smashing
right-hand jab at the Texan's heart. Kid Wolf blocked it, stepped to
one side and lashed the rustler king under the eye. Hardy staggered
back against the table, clutching it for support. The Kid pressed
closer, and Hardy dodged around the table, placing it between him and
his enemy. The Texan hurled it to one side and smashed his way through
the saloon owner's guard.

Hardy, head down to escape The Kid's terrific blows, bucked ahead with
all his power and weight advantage and seized him about the waist. It
was apparent that he was trying to get his hands on one of the Texan's
guns. At close range, Kid Wolf smashed at him with both hands, his
fists smacking in sharp hooks that landed on both sides of Hardy's jaw.
To save himself, Hardy staggered back, only to receive a mighty blow in
the face.

"I'll kill yuh for that, blast yuh!" he cried with a snarl.

Hardy was strong and heavy, but the punishment he was receiving was
telling on him. His breath was coming in jerky gasps. Seizing the
high lookout stool from the faro layout, he advanced toward The Kid,
his eyes glittering with fury.

"I'll pound yore head to pieces!" he rasped.

"Pound away," Kid Wolf said.

Hardy whirled it over his head. Kid Wolf, however, instead of jumping
backward to avoid it, darted in like a wild cat. While the stool was
still at the apex of its swing, he struck, with the strength of his
shoulder behind the blow. It landed full on the rustler's jaw, and
Hardy went crashing backward, heels over head, landing on the wreckage
of the stool. For a moment he lay there, stunned.

"Get up!" snapped The Kid crisply. "Theah's still mo' comin' to yo'."

Staggering to his feet, Hardy made a run for the front door. Kid Wolf,
however, met him. Putting all the power of his lean young muscles
behind his sledgelike fists, he hit Hardy twice. The first blow
stopped Hardy, straightened him up with a jolt and placed him in
position for the second one--a right-hand uppercut. Smash! It landed
squarely on the point of Hardy's weak chin. The blow was enough to
fell an ox, and the rustler chief went hurtling through the door,
carried off his feet completely.

What happened then was one of those ironies of fate. The rope on which
Hardy had hanged the McCay spy, George Durham, still hung before the
door, its noose swaying in the wind some five feet from the ground.
Hardy hit it. His head struck the rope with terrific force--caught in
the loop for an instant. There was a sharp snap, and Hardy dropped to
the wooden sidewalk. For a few moments, his body twitched
spasmodically, then lay still and rigid. His neck had been broken by
the shock!

For a minute Kid Wolf stared in unbelief. Then he smiled grimly.

"Guess I was right," he murmured, "when I said it was on the books fo'
Hahdy to die by the rope!"


Cattle were approaching Midway on the Chisholm Trail--hundreds of them,
bawling, milling, and pounding dust clouds into the air with their
sharp hoofs.

The Texan, watching the dark-red mass of them, smiled. McCay cattle,
those! And there was a woman in Dodge City who was cared for
now--Tip's mother.

"I guess we've got the job done, Blizzard." He smiled at the big white
horse that was standing at the hitch rack. "Heah comes the boys!"

It was a wondering group that gathered, a few minutes later, in the
ill-fated Idle Hour. They listened in amazement to Kid Wolf's recital
of what had taken place since he left them.

"And so Hardy hanged himself!" the sheriff from Limping Buffalo
ejaculated, when he could find his voice. "Well, I must say that saves
me the trouble o' doin' it! But there's some reward comin' to yuh, Mr.
Wolf."

The Texan smiled. "Divide it between Scotty, Caldwell, and White," he
drawled. "And, Tip, heah's the ten thousand Mistah Hahdy donated.
Present it to yo' good mothah, son, with mah compliments."

Tip could not speak for a minute, and when he did try to talk, his
voice was choked with emotion.

"I can't begin to thank yuh," he said.

Kid Wolf shook his head. "Please don't thank me, Tip. Yo' see, I
always try to make the troubles of the undah dawg, mah troubles. So
long as theah are unfohtunates and downtrodden folks in this world,
I'll have mah work cut out. I am, yo' might say, a soldier of
misfohtune."

"But yo're not goin'?" Tip cried, seeing the Texan swing himself into
his saddle.

"I'm just a rollin' stone--usually a-rollin' toward trouble," said the
Texan. "Some time, perhaps, we'll meet again. Adios!"

Kid Wolf swung his hat aloft, and he and his white horse soon blurred
into a moving dot on the far sweeps of the Chisholm Trail.





Next: A Buckshot Greeting

Previous: The Night Herd



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