Informational Site NetworkInformational Site Network
   Home - Science Fiction Stories - Western Stories

World's End

From: 'drag' Harlan

Barbara Morgan had fought Deveny until she became exhausted. Thereafter
she lay quiet, breathing fast, yielding to the nameless terror that held
her in its icy clutch.

The appearance of Deveny so soon after the end of the heartbreaking ride
down the trail had brought into her heart a sense of the futility of
resistance--and yet she had resisted, involuntarily, instinctively. Yet
resistance had merely served to increase the exhaustion that had come
upon her.

She had not known--until she lay passive in Deveny's arms--how taut her
nerves had been, nor how the physical ordeal had drained her strength.

She felt the strain, now, but consideration for her body was overwhelmed
by what she saw in Deveny's eyes as she lay watching him.

There were a dozen men with Deveny--she had seen them, counted them when
they had been racing down the shelving trail on the other side of the
valley. And she knew they were following Deveny, for she could hear the
thudding of hoofs behind.

Deveny's big arms were around her; she could feel the rippling of his
muscles as he swayed from side to side, balancing himself in the saddle.
He was not using the reins; he was giving his attention to her, letting
the horse follow his own inclinations.

Yet she noted that the animal held to the trail, that he traveled
steadily, requiring no word from his rider.

Once, after they had ridden some distance up the valley, Barbara heard a
man behind them call Deveny's attention to some horsemen who were riding
the shelving trail that Deveny and his men had taken on their way to the
level; and she heard Deveny laugh.

"Some of the Star gang, I reckon. Mebbe Haydon, goin' to the Rancho Seco,
to see his girl." He grinned down into Barbara's face, his own alight
with a triumph that made a shiver run over her.

Later--only a few minutes, it seemed--she heard a man call to Deveny
again, telling him that a lone rider was "fannin' it" up the valley.

"Looks like that guy, Linton," said the man.

"Two of you drop back and lay for him!" ordered Deveny. "Make it sure!"
he added, after a short pause.

Barbara yielded to a quick horror. She fought with Deveny, trying in vain
to free her arms--which he held tightly to her sides with his own. She
gave it up at last, and lay, looking up into his face, her eyes blazing
with impotent rage and repugnance.

"You mean to kill him?" she charged.

"Sure," he laughed; "there's no one interfering with what's going on

Overcome with nausea over the conviction that Deveny's order meant death
to Red Linton, Barbara lay slack in Deveny's arms for a long time. A
premonitory silence had settled over the valley; she heard the dull thud
of hoofs behind her, regular and swift, the creaking of the saddle
leather as the animal under her loped forward.

There was no other sound. For the men behind her were strangely silent,
and even Deveny seemed to be listening.

After what seemed to be a long interval, she heard a shot, and then
almost instantly, another. She shuddered, closing her eyes, for she knew
they had killed Linton. And she had blamed Linton for guarding her
from--from the very thing that had happened to her. And Linton had given
his life for her!

How long she had her eyes closed she did not know. The time could not
have been more than a few minutes though, for she heard a voice behind
her saying to Deveny:

"They got him."

Then she looked up, to see Deveny grinning at her.

"I reckon that's all," he said. "We're headin' for the Cache--my
hang-out. If you'd have been good over in Lamo, the day that damned
Harlan came, this wouldn't have happened. I'd sent for a parson, an' I
intended to give you a square deal. But now it's different. Then I was
scared of running foul of Haydon--I didn't want to make trouble. But I'm
running my own game now--Haydon and me have agreed to call it quits. Me
not liking the idea of Haydon adopting Harlan."

She stared up at him, her eyes widening.

"You and Haydon were--what do you mean?" she asked, her heart seeming to
be a dead weight in her breast, heavy with suspicion over the dread
significance in his voice and words. She watched him, breathlessly.

"I'm meaning that Haydon and me were running things in the valley--that
we were partners, splitting equal. But I'm playing a lone hand now."

He seemed to enjoy her astonishment--the light in her eyes which showed
that comprehension, freighted with hopelessness, was stealing over her.

He grinned hugely as he watched her face.

"Haydon is the guy we called 'Chief,'" he said, enjoying her further
amazement and noting the sudden paleness that swept over her face. "He's
the guy who killed your father at Sentinel Rock. He was after you,
meaning to make a fool of you. Hurts--does it?" he jeered, when he saw
her eyes glow with a rage that he could understand. "I've heard of that
chain deal--Haydon was telling me. When he shot your father he lost a bit
of chain. Harlan found it and gave it back to him, with you looking on. I
reckon that's why him and Harlan hit it off together so well--Harlan
knowing he killed your father and not telling you about it."

The long shudder that shook the girl betrayed something of the terrible
emotion under which she was laboring; and when she finally opened her
eyes to gaze again into Deveny's, they were filled with a haunting
hopelessness--a complete surrender to the sinister circumstances which
seemed to have surrounded her from the beginning.

"Harlan," she said weakly, as though upon him she had pinned her last
hope; "Harlan has joined you after all--he is against me--too?"

"Him and Haydon are after the Rancho Seco. Harlan's been playing with
Haydon right along."

Barbara said nothing more. She was incapable of coherent thought or of
definite action--or even of knowledge of her surroundings.

For it seemed to her that Deveny had spoken truthfully. She had seen the
incident of the broken chain; she had seen Harlan's hypocritical grin
upon that occasion--how he had seemed to be eager to ingratiate himself
with Haydon.

All were against her--everybody. Everybody, it seemed, but Red Linton.
And they had killed Linton.

She seemed to be drifting off into a place which was peopled with demons
that schemed and planned for her honor and her life; and not one of them
who planned and schemed against her gave the slightest indication of
mercy or manliness. The world became chaotic with swirling objects--then
a blank, aching void into which she drifted, feeling nothing, seeing

Next: The Ultimate Treachery

Previous: Converging Trails

Add to Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network

Viewed 318