There was a job to be done. Somebody had to go to do it. That much had been obvious ever since Sim Sebastion had brought the bloody, battered, and barely alive Cal Jones into the cabin. Jorgenson had never for a moment questioned that he was the man to do the job.
Ever since he had seen Cal Jones and had heard his story, he had been thinking about the job to be done. There were two problems to be solved. One of them was how to do the job. The other was how to stay alive while he was doing it.
A sawed-off shotgun solved the first problem. Boldness solved the second.
“I’ll go to Tascosa,” Jorgenson said. “And get our money back.”
He rose to his feet.
Jorgenson stood six feet two in his bare feet. He was as strong as two ordinary men. Because he was stronger, and maybe a shade smarter, than most, he was something of a lone wolf. Having never found a job he couldn’t do alone, he had never learned how to let anyone help him. Nor had he really learned the meaning of the word partner even though he had three of them.
Sim Sebastion, Ron Carter, and Cal Jones, his three partners, watched him as he strode across the room and took the double barrel sawed-off shotgun from the antler prongs on the wall. Opening the breech, he slipped two buckshot-loaded shells into the barrels, put four more shells into his pockets. He took two blankets from the empty bunk and wrapped them around the shotgun. Then, using slip knots, he tied both ends of the blankets with a piece of rope, slipped them over his back, the rope coming across his chest.
The blankets looked like an ordinary bedding roll. A buffalo hunter, a wandering cowboy, even an outlaw riding the long trail, might carry a bedroll like this. The shotgun in the blankets was completely concealed.
His partners watched him in speculative silence. He took a box of .45 caliber pistol cartridges from the shelf over the fireplace and filled the empty loops in his pistol belt. He checked his gun, made certain that the barrel was perfectly clean and that the cylinder turned smoothly and easily. Then he stepped out the door. When he returned a few moments later he was rubbing mud on the walnut grips of his pistol.
THE mud was an artistic touch. He smeared it liberally on the handle of the gun, slid the pistol into its holster, looked at Jones lying on the bed.
“What was the name of that gambler who held you up?”
Cal Jones tried to lift his bandaged head from the pillow. The effort was beyond his strength. His left arm was broken and there was a slug through his right lung, both relics of the town of Tascosa.
“Hewitt,” Cal Jones whispered. “He’s a—little man—with a crooked nose.”
“Where does he hang out?”
“When I first saw him—he was playing for the house—in the Red Dog saloon. I guess that’s his hang out.”
“You sure he’s the man?”
“I’m—dead certain of it. His first shot—knocked me off my horse and broke my arm. He came out from behind the bushes—and I got a good look at him—before he shot the second time. He’s the man all right.”
“And how much did he get?”
“Thirty-eight hundred. It was all— in twenty-dollar gold pieces. That’s the way—the construction gang at Trinidad paid me—when I delivered the steers to them.”
“Thanks,” Jorgenson said. He picked up his hat, turned toward the door.”
“Wait,” Cal Jones whispered from the bed.
Jorgenson hesitated. “What is it, Cal?”
“Wait until tomorrow,” Cal Jones begged. “I’ll have some of my strength back then—and I’ll go with you.”
Cal Jones must have known that tomorrow might never come for him. He had been left for dead in the road and his life still hung in the balance. In spite of this, he wanted to go to Tascosa with Jorgenson.
Jones’ request startled Jorgenson. More than that, it somehow sent a warm glow through the big man. Near death, Jones was still trying to help him. Jorgenson appreciated the effort, but he shook his head.
“Tomorrow may be too late, Cal,” he said gently. “Hewitt may be gone by then. I can’t wait, Cal. I’ve got to go today.”
“Then—I’ll go with you, now.”
Jones tried to sit up in bed. Sim Sebastion and Ron Carter, sitting beside him, hastily but gently grabbed his shoulders. Jones thrust a foot over the edge of the bed.
“No, Cal,” Jorgenson said.
“I got us into this,” Jones argued.
“You can’t help an ambush, Cal.” Although Jorgenson didn’t say it, he had the feeling that anybody who ran into an ambush was not up on his toes.
“But we need that money bad,” Jones argued.
“And I’ll get it for us, Cal.”
“I’m your partner. It’s my right to help you.”
Jorgenson shook his head. Jones tried to thrust his other foot over the edge of the bed. The effort was too much for him. He coughed heavily, his strength failed. Sebastion and Carter hastily helped him to lie back down. Jorgenson went quickly out of the cabin, closed the door behind him.
He knew Cal Jones was a hopeless fool for trying to help him in his present condition but Jones’ desire to help was a warm and friendly thing.
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