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Two Open Graves








From: Kid Wolf Of Texas

It was some time before the overturned stagecoach could be righted. It
took longer to provide a team for it. When the bodies of the
unfortunate white men had been loaded into the vehicle and the ponies
lined out it was late in the afternoon.

Kid Wolf had examined the contents of the express box and found that it
contained a small fortune in money. He decided to take charge of it
and see that it reached proper hands. Twenty miles west of Lost
Springs, he learned, were an express-company station and agent. The
Texan planned to guard the money at Lost Springs overnight and then
take it on to the express post, located at Mexican Tanks.

The two Robbinses, both father and son, were overcome with gratitude
toward the man who had saved them. They at once agreed to stay with
Kid Wolf.

The posse members that the Texan had drafted at revolver point were not
so willing. Although most of them were honest men, they feared
Garvey's gang and the consequences of their act. All of them suspected
that Garvey had a hand in the plot to rob the stagecoach. Most of them
made excuses and rode away in different directions.

"We beat the Apaches," explained one, "so I reckon I'll go back to the
ranch. Adios, and good luck!"

Kid Wolf smiled. He knew that the men were leaving him for other
reasons. Perhaps a man with less courage would have avoided Lost
Springs, or even abandoned the money. The young Texan, however, was
not to be swerved from what he believed to be the right.

"Look out for Garvey, Kid," begged Dave Robbins. "He hates yuh for
what yuh done."

"I've heard of him," the elder Robbins added. "If helpin' us has got
you into trouble, I'm sorry. He's a man without a heart."

"Then some day," Kid Wolf said softly, "he's liable to find a bullet in
the spot wheah his heart ought to be. I don't regret comin' to yo'
aid, not fo' a minute. And I guess Blizzahd and I are ready to see
this thing through to the end."

Kid Wolf was riding on his white horse alongside the rumbling stage.
The only member of the drafted posse who had stayed was driving the
vehicle, and beside him on the box rode the two Robbinses, father and
son.

The road to Lost Springs was not the direct route the Indian messenger
had taken. It led around steep side hills and high-banked washes in
which nothing grew but tough, stunted clumps of thirsty paloverde.
Near the tiny settlement, the trail climbed a long slope to swing
around a cactus-cluttered mound which served as Lost Springs' Boot
Hill. The stage trail cut the barren little graveyard in two, and on
both sides of it were headboards, some rotting with age, and others
quite new, marking the last resting places of men who had died with
smoke in their eyes.

It was nearly sundown when Kid Wolf and the party with the
bullet-riddled coach reached this point. They found a group of
hard-eyed men waiting for them. With Garvey were his five gunmen,
mounted, armed to the teeth, and blocking the road! Kid Wolf caught
the driver's eyes and nodded for him to go on. The stage rumbled up to
the spot where Garvey waited.

"Stop!" the Lost Springs ruler snarled. "I reckon we want some words
with yuh!"

"Is it words yo' want," drawled the Texan, drawing up his snowy mount,
"or bullets?"

"That depends on you!" Garvey snapped. "We mean business. Hand over
that express money."

"And the next thing?" the Texan asked softly.

"Next thing, we got business with that man!" Garvey pointed to Dave
Robbins' father.

"With me?" Robbins demanded in astonishment.

"The same. We want yuh to sign this paper, turnin' over yore claim in
the San Simon to me. Now both of yuh have heard!"

"But why should yuh want my claim in San Simon?"

"Yuh might as well know," Garvey sneered in reply, "there's silver on
it. And I want it. Hand over that express box now and sign the paper.
If yuh don't----"

"And if we don't?" Kid Wolf asked mildly. His eyebrows had risen the
merest trifle.

"Here's the answer!" Garvey rasped. He pointed at two mounds of
freshly disturbed earth a few feet from the road. "Read what's written
over 'em, and take yore choice."

Kid Wolf saw that two headboards had been erected near the shallow
graves. One of them had the following significant epitaph written on
it in neatly printed Spanish:

Aqui llacen restos de Kid Wolf.

This in English was translated: "Here lies in the grave, at rest, Kid
Wolf."

The other headboard was the same, except that the name "Bill Robbins"
had been inserted.

"Those graves will be filled," sneered Garvey, "unless yuh both come
through. Now what's yore answer?"

"Garvey," spoke up Kid Wolf, "I've known of othah white men who hired
the Apaches to do their dirty work. They all came to a bad end. And
so, if yo' want my answah--take it!"

Garvey's gang found themselves staring into the muzzles of two .45s!

The draw had been magical, so swiftly had the Texan's hands snapped
down at his hips. Al Arnold, alone of the six riders, saw the movement
in time even to think about drawing his own weapon. And perhaps it
would have been better if he had not seen, for his own gun pull was
slow and clumsy in comparison with Kid Wolf's. His right hand had
moved but a few inches when the Texan's left-hand Colt spat a wicked
tongue of flame.

Before the thunder of the explosion could be heard, the leaden slug
tore its way through Arnold's wrist. Before the puff of black powder
smoke had drifted away, Arnold's gun was thudding to the ground. The
others dared not draw, as Kid Wolf's other six-gun still swept them.
They knew that the Texan could not fail to get one or more of them, and
they hesitated. Garvey himself remained motionless, frozen in the
saddle. His lips trembled with rage.

"I'm not a killah," Kid Wolf drawled. "I nevah take life unless it's
forced on me. If I did, I'd soon make Lost Springs a bettah place to
live in. Now turn yo' backs with yo' hands in the air--and ride! The
next time I shoot, it's goin' to be on sight! Vamose! Pronto!"

Muttering angrily under their breath, Garvey and his gunmen obeyed the
order. Yet Kid Wolf knew that the trouble had not been averted, but
merely postponed. He was not through with the Lost Springs bandit gang.


The driver of the coach--the only member of the posse who had remained
loyal in the face of peril--was a man of courage. Johnson was his
name, and he offered his adobe house as a place of refuge for the night.

"I'm thinkin' yuh'll be needin' it," he told the Texan. "We can stand
'em off there, for a while, anyway. Garvey will have a hundred Mexes
and Injuns with him before mornin'."

Kid Wolf accepted, and the coach was deserted. They buried the bodies
of the men they had brought in the stage, not in the Lost Springs
graveyard, but in an arroyo near it. Then they removed the valuable
express box and took it with them to the Johnson adobe.

The house was a two-room affair, not more than a quarter of a mile from
the Springs, and still closer to Boot Hill. On the side next to the
water hole, the grass and tulles grew nearly waist-high. On the other
three sides, barren ground swept out as far as eye could reach.

Kid Wolf placed the express box in the one living room of the hut. As
a great deal might depend upon having horses ready, Blizzard, along
with two pinto ponies, was quartered in the other apartment. This
redone, and with one of the four men standing watch at all times, they
prepared a hasty meal.

"One thing we lack that we got to have," stated Johnson. "It's water.
I'll take a bucket and go to the spring. I know the path through the
tulles."

They watched him proceed warily toward the water hole. The landscape
was peaceful. Not a moving thing could be seen. In a few moments,
Johnson was swallowed up in the high grass. He reappeared again,
carrying a brimming bucket. They could see the setting sun sparkling
on the water as he swung along. Then suddenly a shot rang out
sharply--the unmistakable crack of a Sharps .50-caliber rifle! Without
a cry, Johnson sank into the tulles, the bucket clattering beside him.
He had been shot in the back!

A cry of horror burst from the lips of the watchers in the adobe. It
was all that Kid Wolf could do to hold back the excitable younger
Robbins, who wanted to avenge their friend's death immediately.

"No use fo' us to show ouahselves until we know how the cahds are
stacked," the Texan said grimly. "Nevah mind, Dave. They'll pay fo'
it!"

It was hard to tell just how many of their enemies might be lurking in
the tulles or beyond them. They were soon to find that there were far
too many. Gunfire began to blaze out in sharp, reechoing volleys.
Bullets clipped the adobe shack, sending up spurts of gray dust.

"Don't show yo'selves," Kid Wolf warned.

His keen eyes lined out the sights of his own twin Colts, and he fired
twice, and then twice again. As far as the others could see, there was
nothing in view to shoot at; but agitated threshings about in the
tulles showed them that at least some of his bullets had found human
lodging places.

Garvey had evidently succeeded in adding men to his gang, for more than
a dozen gun flashes burst out at once. The attackers soon learned,
however, that it wasn't healthy to attempt to rush the adobe.
Surrounding it was impossible, and for a while they contented
themselves with sending lead humming through the small window on the
exposed side of the hut.

"We're in fo' a siege," Kid Wolf told the elder Robbins.

"Maybe we'd better give in to 'em," said the other.

Kid Wolf smiled and shook his head.

"That wouldn't save us. They'd butchah us, anyway. Nevah yuh worry.
Before they get us, they'll find that The Wolf, from Texas, has teeth!"

"Then we'll play out the hand," agreed Robbins.

"To the last cahd," Kid Wolf drawled. "I have two hands heah that can
turn up twelve lead aces fo' a show-down. And I have anothah ace--a
steel one, that's always in the deck."

The Texan saw as well as the others how desperate the situation had
become. He knew that death would be the probable outcome for all of
them.

Kid Wolf, however, was not a type of man who gave up. If they must go
out, he decided, they would go out fighting.

The sun climbed the sky and disappeared over the distant blue range to
the west, leaving the desert behind bathed in warm reds and soft
purples. Then the shadows deepened, and night fell.

With it came a full moon, riding high out of the southeast--a
pumpkin-colored, gigantic Arizona moon that changed to shining silver.
Its light illuminated the scene and turned the landscape nearly as
bright as day. This was a fact in favor of the three men cornered in
the adobe. The attackers dared not show themselves in a rush. All
night long their guns cracked, and they continued to do so when the
east was beginning to lighten with the dawn.

Another day, and it proved to be one of torment. There was no water.
Before the hour of noon, the three besieged men were suffering from
intense thirst. The little adobe was like an oven. The sun burned
down pitilessly, distorting the air with waves of heat, and drawing
mocking mirages in the sky. Bullets still hummed and buzzed about
them. Every hissing slug seemed to whistle the mournful tune of
"Death--death--death!" Late in the afternoon, the elder Robbins could
endure the torture no longer.

"I'm goin' after water!" he cried.

Neither his son nor Kid Wolf could reason with him. He would not
listen. He reasoned that although it was death to venture to the
spring, it was also death to remain. He was nearly crazed with thirst.

"Let me go, then," said the Texan.

"No!" gasped Robbins. "Yuh stay with Dave. I'm old, anyway. Promise
yuh'll stick with him, no matter what happens to me!"

"I promise," said The Kid, and the two men shook hands.

Getting to the water hole and back again was a forlorn hope, but
Robbins was past reasoning. Lurching through the door, he ran outside
the hut and toward the tulles. Young Robbins cried after his father,
and then covered his eyes.

There was a sudden crackling of revolver fire. Spurts of bluish smoke
blossomed out from the high grass--half a score of them! Bill Robbins
staggered on his feet, reeled on a few steps, and then fell. His body
had been riddled.

Kid Wolf's touch was tender as he took the orphaned youth's hand in his
own. But his voice, when he spoke, was like his eyes--hard as steel:

"Garvey will join him, Dave, or we will! And if we do, let's hope
we'll meet it as bravely. I have a plan. If we escape, we must do it
to-night. Can yo' stick it out till then?"

Young Robbins nodded. The death of his father had been a great shock
to him, but he did not flinch. In that desperate hour, Kid Wolf knew
that he no longer had a boy at his side, but a man!

How the day wore its way through to a close was ever afterward a
mystery to them. Their throats were parched, and their eyes bloodshot.
To make matters worse, their horses, too, were suffering. Blizzard
nickered softly from time to time, but quieted when Kid Wolf called to
him through the wall.

Night brought some relief. Again the moon rose upon the tragic scene,
and it grew cooler. Before the twilight had quite faded, Kid Wolf and
Dave Robbins saw something that made them boil inwardly--the burial of
Bill Robbins on Boot Hill!

Out of revolver range, a group of the bandits was filling up the grave.
Garvey had made half of his threat good. And he was biding his time to
complete his boast. The Texan's grave still waited!

A thin bank of clouds rolled up to obscure somewhat the light of the
moon. This was what Kid Wolf had been waiting for. It was their only
chance.

"I'm goin' to try and get through on foot," he whispered. "Befo' I go,
I'll unloose Blizzahd. He's trained to follow, and he'll find me
latah, if I make it. I don't dare ride him, because he's white and too
good a tahget in the moon. I'll have to crawl toward Boot Hill. It's
the only way out. In half an houah, yo' follow. Savvy?"

Dave nodded. Then The Kid added a few terse directions:

"I'll show yo' the way and meet yo' on the hill. Be as quiet and
careful as an Indian, and take yo' time. If anything should happen to
me, strike fo' yo' place on the San Simon. The reason I'm goin' first
is so that yo' can escape in the excitement if they spot me. Heah's
luck! I'll turn my hoss loose now."

They shook hands. Then, like a lithe moving shadow, the Texan crept
out into the night.





Next: Pursuit

Previous: The Rescue



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