The Project Gutenberg EBook of The High Hander, by William O. Turner

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere in the United States and most
other parts of the world at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of
the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at  If you are not located in the United States, you'll have
to check the laws of the country where you are located before using this ebook.

Title: The High Hander

Author: William O. Turner

Release Date: January 16, 2016 [EBook #50939]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII


Produced by Greg Weeks, Mary Meehan and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at



1120 Avenue of the Americas
New York 36, N.Y.


Copyright 1963,
by Ace Books, Inc.

All Rights Reserved

Printed in U.S.A.

[Transcriber's Note: Extensive research did not uncover any
evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


Tesno was a troubleshooter. That's why the railroad construction company had hired him. His job was to make sure that nobody interfered with the tunnel that they were digging through that frontier region mountain. Tesno knew one thing for sure—if they had called him in, there must have been plenty interference—and the kind that didn't stop at murder.

Frontier towns and frontier wilderness didn't pay much attention to city-made laws. Tesno carried his own law with him and he knew he'd have to make it respected. It was the law of the six-gun and the firm high hand. Take no guff, keep your powder dry, and don't give an inch. One moment of uncertainty, and it would mean his end!


Jack Tesno

Trouble was his business, and he'd never run from it, but a beautiful woman could mean more trouble than Tesno had ever seen!

Willie Silverknife

A half-breed kid with a stutter, he had everything against him, except his own personal courage.

Persia Parker

Blonde, beautiful, and a lady too, she could make a man forget everything else—even danger.

Ben Vickers

He'd staked everything he owned on a single contract, and he was depending on Tesno to make it good.

Pete Madrid

He was a trained and instinctive killer, who also wore the badge of a town marshal.

Mr. Jay

He wanted Ben Vickers' contract, and he'd get it—any way he could.




Jack Tesno had been riding into the timbered Cascade Mountains since dawn. Now, consulting a biscuit-thick Raymond watch, he reined off the writhing new supply road and followed a creek through the pines till he found a sun-freckled ellipse of grass that would make a suitable nooning place.

Knowing that his blue roan wouldn't stray from this spot of pasture, he unsaddled the animal and turned it loose, reins dragging. He dug cold biscuits and a wedge of cheese from his saddlebags and lunched stoically; a lean, catlike man with eyes the color of blue agate and a splash of gray in his black hair that made him look older than his thirty-two years. He lay on his belly to drink of the flashing mountain water. Then, impulsively, he peeled off his clothing and plunged into the stream. He bathed himself, splashing and rolling like a boy, lying still in the icy current till he began to feel numb. Teeth chattering, he found a sunny place on the bank and stretched out in faintly warm grass. After a while he felt a part of something big and good, and the affairs of man seemed of little consequence.

It didn't really matter much of a hoot, if the railroad got pushed across these mountains on schedule, he decided. Not when you lay with the earth against your skin and the sun drying you from a pine-fringed patch of sky. What mattered was that you made up your mind to see the job through—to lay your life on the line, if necessary, to do your part in pushing it through. That was the difference between you and weaker men.

When you come right down to it, he thought, that's all I get paid for—making up my mind.

Troublebuster, the contractors called him. The job embraced a score of delicate and dangerous tasks, but on the whole he thought of himself as a peace officer without legal status. He found himself forever laying down the law to tough and often influential men: usually when there was no law to lay down except what he made up to fit the circumstances. He had long since ceased to be surprised that he could get away with this. Yet he knew he could not get away with it forever.

Making up my mind, he thought. A strange process. He knew what he would decide, he guessed, but it took a little time and a little solitude to do it.

He was on his way to see old Ben Vickers about a job. It was a top-paying job. That meant it would be a tough one. Yet he didn't need the money badly. He had stashed away enough for the start in the cattle business he had always wanted. I ought to quit, he thought. Now, before I get a bullet in the guts or a pick-point between the shoulder blades, or maybe just crack under the strain and wind up in the foolish house....

The sound of hoofs, muffled on the soft forest floor, brought him to his feet. He reached for his clothes as a rider wove through the trees and reined to a halt. The man was young, round-faced, and freckled. He wore boots, jeans, and a faded checked shirt. He was plainly startled by Tesno's nudity. He pushed his Stetson to the back of his head to reveal a shock of dark red hair.

"You t-taking a bath or s-something?"

Tesno picked up the gunbelt that lay on top of his clothes. Feeling ridiculous, he swung it aside and began to struggle into his underwear. "What if I am?" he said irritably.

"D-didn't mean to intrude on your p-privacy."

Tesno continued to get dressed. The young man eased down from his saddle and dropped the reins. He produced a pint flask from a hip pocket and took a drink. He offered the flask to Tesno, who shook his head.

"T-too early in the d-day," the young man admitted. "I only take the stuff account of this d-damn stuttering. Like medicine."

Tesno flicked him with amused appraisal. "It helps?"

"S-some. Only if I get too much, I s-stutter worse than ever. Only I d-don't give a d-d-damn." He returned the bottle to his pocket and extended his hand. "Name's William Silverknife. Folks call me Whisky Willie."

Tesno sat down to pull on his boots. He reached up awkwardly and shook hands. He said, "I can see why."

"Hell, I t-take it like medicine. I only been what you'd call drunk once in my life. Stole a loco-m-motive on the Coeur d'Alene spur and run it plumb off the end of the track."

"Seems like I heard about that. But the way I got the story, it was some crazy Indian."


"You're Injun?"


Tesno studied him closely now, matter-of-factly. Under the freckles, the kid's skin was maybe a bit darker than you noticed at first, and the cheekbones in the round and boyish face were maybe a trifle prominent. But it was the steady little black eyes that confirmed the touch of the moccasin.

"That's a hell of a percentage," Tesno said.

"Pa was half Yakima. Ma was a q-quarter-breed Cayuse. It figures out."

"Nobody'd know it if you didn't mention it," Tesno said.

"I g-generally mention it. What did you say your name was, mister?"


"Jack Tesno? Hell, you headed for Tunneltown?"

"This road go any place else?"

"J-just my luck. I heard Ben Vickers is looking for a troublebuster. I f-figured to hit him for the job. Reckon I wouldn't have a chance against you."

No, Tesno thought, you wouldn't have a chance. Even if Ben hadn't already made me an offer, he would never trust a stammering, whisky-sipping breed kid to tie on a gun and do his tough-work. But he found himself clapping Willie on the shoulder as he moved past the boy to pick up his saddle. He caught the blue roan and stroked its neck with the saddle blanket.

"I haven't signed on yet," he said.

"Hell, I'll wind up as water boy or some d-damn fool thing," Willie said. He grinned and added, "As usual."

"Maybe you could charm that town boss-lady into giving you a job. That Persia Parker they talk about."

Willie blushed at the mere idea. "Ch-charming ain't among my talents. Not that I wouldn't l-like to. You ever seen her?"

"No, but I'll lay odds she isn't the looker the rumors have her. She's probably a fat, mannish type or a tired-faced little tart with dollar signs for eyes."

"You'd lose the bet," Willie said. "I saw her down to Ellensburg. She's a kn-knockout. And a real lady."

"How do you tell that?"

"Well, she ain't no honky-tonk gal or anything like that. She was a lady married to Duke Parker, who was a gentleman. He t-took out townsite papers and built that town up there. Then he got k-killed in an accident and she's been running things."

"That's about the way I heard it, too," Tesno said. "But I knew Duke Parker at Sandpoint, before he got married. He might have been a gentleman by education, but he was about as slippery a cuss as I ever met."

"That don't make her a non-lady," Willie persisted. "Wh-what k-kind of a job you think she might give me?"

Tesno saddled up, and they rode together the rest of the day, following the raw new road that looped and plodded through rock and timber to the very backbone of the range. They passed a slashers' ragcamp, a supply train of a dozen heavy wagons, a stagecoach stalled with a broken wheel and loaded with laborers. With the sun haloing snow-veined peaks ahead and the chill of an early-May twilight lurking in the shadows of the pines, they topped a writhing, ragged ridge and looked down on the place called Tunneltown.

It lay in a stump-studded gulch, a double row of log buildings neatly toeing boardwalks along a wide, rut-scribbled street. Tesno whistled through his teeth. He hadn't expected a solid-looking town here eighty-five miles ahead of track—though the why of it was plain enough when a man stopped to think. The workmen here had a tunnel to ream through the rock of Runaway Mountain, two miles of it. They would be here two years, more or less. For that long, Tunneltown was assured of a population with money to spend. And it was assured of a steady stream of transient spenders—freighters, engineers, inspectors, salesmen.

The horses had fallen into an eager trot on the down-grade, sensing food and rest ahead; now they slowed to a walk in the heavy mud of the short, broad street. Tesno made out another cluster of buildings now, six or eight large ones among the pines on the far slope of the gulch. That would be Ben Vickers' camp, he concluded. He reined toward a hitchrail in front of a long, false-fronted building from which floated the tinny notes of a piano. Above the doorway a sign bore the words PINK LADY, painted in red letters against a black background.

"I'll buy a drink," he said to Willie.

"N-no, thanks," Willie said. "D-drinking for pleasure don't agree with me." He nodded toward a livery barn at the head of the street. "You want me to s-stable your horse for you? He'll get better care there than in a construction camp corral."

Tesno dismounted and handed him the reins. "Buy him a quarter's worth of oats. See you around."

He pushed through the batwing doors into the saloon. Men near the end of the long bar turned to look him over, their eyes darting from his face to the Colt on his hip and back again. Gambling tables, mostly faro layouts, were scattered about the large, smoke-layered room. Tesno moved along the bar to a place near the second of two bartenders, who started toward him, then stopped to stare. He was a plump, red-faced man with a white scar on one cheek. He spoke one word, making a question of it.


"Howdy, Pinky," Tesno said tonelessly.

"I'll serve you liquor like anybody else," Pinky Bronklin said. "I don't have to say howdy to you."

"Whisky," Tesno said.

Pinky set a bottle and a glass on the bar. His bloodshot little eyes combed Tesno with a look of pure malice.

"This your place?" Tesno asked.

Pinky nodded. "I own a share of it."

"Quite a come-up from the tent saloon you had over in the basin."

Pinky laid a hand on the bar, a hand that was missing the three fingers between the little one and the thumb. The bloodshot eyes were fixed on Tesno's face. "You'd like to bust me down to nothin' again, wouldn't you, Mr. Tesno?"

"Depends," Tesno said.

"You wouldn't do it here. This is a patented town. I got important people behind me. The authorities will protect me."

"You're rushing things," Tesno said. "I haven't hired out yet."

"You will," Pinky said. "Vickers will meet your price and you'll hire on. I hope you do. You've been riding for a fall for a long time."

The bloodshot eyes shifted briefly. Tesno was aware of a man standing a few feet to his left. He turned slowly and saw a lean, dark-eyed young man dressed to present the general aspect of a barber pole. He wore black boots, trousers, and hat, and a silk shirt with wide pink stripes. The ivory handle of a revolver curved out from his hip like a misplaced tusk. A badge gleamed on his chest. He took a step forward, right hand resting on gun handle.

"You can't wear a gun in this town, cowboy," he said sternly.

Tesno squarely turned his back and picked up his drink. Pinky Bronklin looked faintly amused now.

"This here is town marshal Pete Madrid," Pinky said. "Meet Jack Tesno, Pete. The famous bully-boy."

"I don't care who he is," Pete Madrid said with an ugly purr in his voice. "He's got ten seconds to shuck that gun."

Tesno tossed down his drink and set the glass on the bar. "Town ordinance?"

"You might say so. Five seconds, cowboy."

Tesno had a lopsided grin that brought a dimple to his left cheek and none to his right. He flashed it on Pinky now and moved his hands to the buckle of his gunbelt. He let the belt fall free and swung it toward Madrid, still not looking at him. The marshal caught the belt with a little flourish and stepped up to the bar.

"How about the house buying, Pinky," he said in a new tone. Hostility seemed to have left him.

"No thanks," Tesno said.

"No hard feelings," Madrid said.

"None. When I start drawing Ben Vickers' pay, I'll be around for that gun."

"Sure," Madrid said. "Just don't wear it in town."

"Depends," Tesno said.

"I'd just take it off you again."

"No. If I put it on again, you won't take it off me." Tesno flashed the lopsided grin and walked out of the saloon.

Pinky poured Madrid a drink. "Congratulations, Pete. It takes a man to face down that ringtail."

Madrid laid Tesno's gunbelt on the bar, trying not to seem too pleased with himself. "Wish the man had been friendlier. I like to get along with everybody. Makes my job easier."

"He ain't the friendly kind," Pinky said.

"You tangled with him before?"

"Idaho. I had a tent saloon; big wall tent, cost me four hundred dollars. Had another thousand in liquor and gambling equipment. Set up close to a construction camp. Tesno come along, said to move. I had a territorial license and wouldn't do it. He knocked down the tent and worked it over with a disc harrow. Nothing left but a pile of whisky-soaked rags."

"You should have blasted him," Madrid said. "Law would have been on your side."

"It would? Listen, four reservation bucks come along, wrung out the rags, and got crazy drunk. Tesno brought out the sheriff, and I got arrested for peddling booze to Indians!"

"Hell of a thing," Madrid said, picking up the gunbelt and moving away. "Well, I got work to do."

Pinky knew what he meant. There were folks who ought to be notified that Tesno was in town.


Tesno turned into a pine-wrapped road that wound the short quarter-mile to the construction camp. The cool and fragrant solitude touched some deeply hidden need in him and pulled at him, but he shook off the mood and strode ahead, tense and swaggering, eager to see Ben Vickers.

He found him in a cabin behind the bunkhouse, hunched over a table cluttered with papers held down by rocks. Ben was talking with a dapper, white-bearded man who paced the room. When he saw Tesno, Ben snatched off bent spectacles and leaped to his feet.

"Never was so glad to see a man!" he exclaimed, bouncing around the table to shake hands. He had a bland face and a topknot of gray hair that gave him the look of a kewpie doll. This look, Tesno knew, was deceptive. Ben Vickers had his failings, but blandness wasn't one of them. "You can start in the morning."

"Not so fast," Tesno said, grinning. "I'm not sure I'll like the work. Your letter gave no details."

"I've no time to chit-chat." Ben nodded toward the white-bearded man. "You ever met Jack Tesno, Mr. Jay?"

"Never had the pleasure." Clear blue eyes measured Tesno as they shook hands. Tesno had known of Jerome J. Jay for years. The man had made a reputation by taking over jobs other contractors had found too tough to finish. His being here might be a bad sign.

"If I barged in on something, I'll come back," Tesno said.

"I think we've finished our talk," Mr. Jay said, turning to Ben. "I'll see you again in a few days."

"If you can make better sense," Ben said.

"I've offered you a chance to get out with your shirt. Think damned good and hard about it." Mr. Jay touched his gray derby, nodded to Tesno, and strode out of the cabin.

"Sounds like he's trying to move in on you," Tesno said.

Ben strolled to his chair and sat down heavily. "I never cut a tunnel before. He has."

"He wants to buy your contract?"

"You could call it that. I'd lose what I've already sunk into the job—which is a fortune."

Tesno sat down and tilted his chair back against the log wall, his boot heels hooked over a rung.

"This job is do-or-die," Ben said. "I've mortgaged every horse, wagon, and harness snap I own. On top of everything else, I guaranteed the railroad I'd dig their damn tunnel in twenty-eight months. I backed up the guarantee by posting a one-hundred-thousand-dollar bond; cash money. If I hit daylight one hour late, I forfeit the bond.

"Mr. Jay offered to buy the contract for a hundred thousand, the amount of the bond. He would also take over my debts, but he'd save the cost of building the camp and a road and hauling men and equipment up here." Ben sighed, blowing upward at his kewpie-doll topknot. "He knows I'm forty days behind schedule and maybe can be tempted to pull out before I'm a complete pauper."

"Forty days!" Tesno said. "What cost you that much time?"

Ben made a sweeping gesture. "I had to build forty-five miles of mountain road. Had to build an all-weather camp. Set up an electric plant so we can light the bore with arc lamps. Got a sawmill going. Then there's the tunnel itself. Right at the exact spot marked on the map for the east portal, there was a damn waterfall. Had to move it—the waterfall. That cost me a week."

"You working from both ends toward the middle?"

"Naturally," Ben said. "But we're drilling by hand and the daily footage isn't half what it should be.... I've ordered a seven-ton boiler from Connecticut, Jack. With that, I can get compressors working and use Ingersoll drills. If it gets here soon enough, I might make it. If you can get the town in line...."

"I wondered when you'd get around to the town."

Ben wagged his head sadly, then smoothed his topknot. "Duke Parker got the jump on me there. Took out a townsite claim before I ever thought of such a thing. Jack this is the only spot within five miles that isn't practically straight up and down!"

"What happened to Duke, Ben?"

"The fool tried to skid a log down an icy slope. It ran over him. I guess they picked him up in a bucket."

"Seems like you might buy out his widow, run the town to suit yourself."

"Persia. She's got some kind of grudge against me, won't even set a price. Anyhow, it would be sky high. The saloons and faro tables are making her rich."

"And ruining you."

"You know what booze and gambling will do to a construction gang, Jack. And you've seen it bad, I know, but you've never seen anything like what I've got right now. Short crews every day: fights, accidents. Men broke all the time and grumbling. Best foreman I ever had got lucky at faro and got stabbed on his way back to camp. I've got a Swede tool-dresser in the hospital in Ellensburg, shot by a blackleg in a gambling argument."

"I don't know," Tesno said, scowling into the brightness as Ben lighted a lamp. "If this was the usual fly-by-night, tent-city type of operation, I'd know what to do. But a patented town with its own officials is a different animal."

"You cleaned up Spokane Falls."

"Sure, with a sizable group of decent businessmen to back me up. I'd guess there are precious few of those in Tunneltown."

Ben smiled mirthlessly. "You looked it over?"

"I ran into Pinky Bronklin and that candy-striped marshal."

"Madrid? He made a reputation as an express guard on the OR & N. Killed two bandits who tried to rob his car."

"I've heard the story," Tesno said. "I also heard they were half-frozen hoboes looking for a place to get warm."

Ben nodded grimly, then he spread his palms above the littered tabletop. "I'm not asking for miracles, Jack. I'll settle for midnight closing, no Sunday sales, no sales to drunks. Get rid of the knockout-drop artists and the drunk rollers. And the gambling. It causes as much trouble as the booze. There's a territorial statute that forbids casino gambling, but the county sheriff is the nearest law officer—sixty miles away at Ellensburg. The best he could do was agree to deputize any troublebuster I hire."

"Damned if I'll ride down there just to get a badge."

"Suit yourself. I'll put you on the payroll as of tomorrow."

"I figure to start tonight," Tesno said.

"What you going to do tonight?"

Tesno grinned one-sidedly. "Call on Persia Parker."

Ben pursed his lips and made a little gesture of resignation. Both men got to their feet.

"There's room in the east bunkhouse," Ben said.

"How's that hotel in town?"

"Fair enough. No bugs."

"I'll stay there, send you the bill."

"Now hold your horses," Ben said. "When did you get too persnickety to sleep in a bunkhouse?"

"Hotel's handier."

Ben glared. "All right, you damn bandit. Anything else?"

"Just tell me where to find the Parker woman."

"Lady," he corrected. "She runs a rotten town, she hates my liver, but she's a lady." Ben appraised Tesno narrowly. "If you don't know what that is, Jack, you're damn well going to get educated."


Tunneltown had only one thoroughfare that attained the stature of a street. It had a network of lanes, wagon tracks, and alleys. They slid between buildings, twisted around woodpiles, lumbered over ditches on makeshift bridges. Many of these wound back to the main drag or meandered off into the woods. Others converged on a large log building of chalet-like aspect known as "the townhouse." This structure had two identical front entrances, one near each end. The southernmost of these led to the town offices and a small courtroom. The other end of the building provided a spacious residence for Duke Parker's widow.

Tesno's thump of the ornate, pear-shaped knocker was answered by a trim young woman in a maid's cap. As soon as she heard his name, she swung the door wide and stepped back as if she had been expecting him.

Surprised, he followed her into a large living room. Simple maple furniture and light blue draperies gave the room a touch of luxury without seeming out of place up here in the wilderness. A wide doorway led to the dining room, where he glimpsed two persons seated at a table.

"I vill tell Mrs. Parker you are here," the maid said. She had a slight Swedish accent.

"Have him come in, Stella," a feminine voice called.

Tesno followed the maid into the dining room. Persia Parker was having dinner with Sam Lester, the town treasurer, whom she promptly introduced.

"Will you join us, Mr. Tesno?" she said. "We're having duck."

Silverware and stemmed goblets glistened on a snow-white tablecloth. Red wine sparkled in the goblets. The duck looked delicious.

"Thanks," Tesno said, "but this is a business call, Mrs. Parker. I'm sorry to interrupt...."

"You haven't had dinner; I can sense it. Sit down, Mr. Tesno."

Persia Parker smiled deliciously, and he sat down. Stella immediately set a place for him. He grinned and said, "You have a sixth sense, Mrs. Parker."

"At breakfast and lunch I just grab and gulp," she said, "so I like to make a little ceremony of the evening meal. So it's a treat to have a guest—oh, Sam doesn't count."

Thin-haired, hunch-shouldered Sam Lester looked up from his plate. He wore shot-glass-thick lenses that hid his eyes and gave his face a froglike placidity.

"She feeds me," he said. He put down his fork and reached for a wine bottle. Persia shook her head in refusal. He filled Tesno's glass and then his own.

"Sam lives above the offices in the other part of the building," Persia said, smiling again.

She had white, even teeth, the complexion of an angel, and hair as pale as Montana gold. Her eyes were a mysterious shade that Tesno couldn't decide about, but they were frank and friendly.

"I drag him in to dinner most every night," she went on. "Sometimes I think he would prefer to bolt down a sandwich and get back to his precious bookkeeping. What part of the country are you from, Mr. Tesno?"

The wine was mellow, fragrant with the scent of some fertile, faraway valley. "I was born in New Mexico Territory," he said. "Got into railroading when the Santa Fe was fighting the Denver & Rio Grande for Raton Pass."

Stella set a plate before him with half a roasted duck on it. He was hungry, but he ate without tasting, captivated by the charm of Persia Parker.

She pried him with questions about himself, touching him with eyes that were green or gray or hazel, smiling when he smiled, making him feel that every word he said was important to her. He was not a talkative man, but now he talked as he seldom had before.

He told about his parents being killed by Comanches when he was a few months old, about the whisky-running renegade who had bought him from the Indians and raised him. He told how he had hired out as a wrangler when he was twelve, how a rancher's wife had taught him lessons and lent him books to read. And Persia Parker laughed and frowned and touched him with her eyes, warily now, as if afraid of the tenderness he saw there, afraid he might misunderstand.

Sam Lester seemed content to be ignored. He finished his coffee quickly, muttered that he had paper work to do, and left them alone.

Persia lead Tesno into the parlor. She was taller than he had expected. She wore a simple, black, ankle-length dress, and he remembered that her husband had been dead less than three months. Yet black set off her pale hair, and he couldn't picture her in anything more becoming. She indicated a chair for him and sat down on a sofa two feet away.

"I expect you're a busy woman," he said. "I'd better get to the point."

"I'm not half as busy as you'd think, Mr. Tesno," she said. "The town pretty much runs itself. And my position is entirely unofficial, you know. My husband was mayor, and after his death, I took over some of the more ceremonial duties of the office—temporarily, I thought. But the town council likes the novelty, and I'm afraid, the notoriety, of having a 'lady mayor.' This is no ordinary community, and they seem to feel that anything that adds to its uniqueness is good for business. So they keep postponing the election of Duke's successor."

"You also own most of the business property in town," he said. "Isn't that true?"

She nodded readily. "Duke didn't try very hard to sell lots because when the tunnel is finished, the town will fade away. At least, that's the probability. So he put up buildings and leased them to businessmen on a percentage basis. A few businesses he operated himself, of course."

"So as heir to his estate, you're in a position to tell the town council what to do."

"Not exactly," she said, frowning. "At least, I don't. In fact, it seems as if somebody is always telling me what to do. Sometimes I feel a bit trapped, Mr. Tesno."

"You know I work for Ben Vickers?"

"I presumed you did."

"You must know what the town is doing to his men. A booze town and a construction job don't mix."

"It isn't a nice town," she admitted soberly. "But it makes money. And I owe Ben Vickers nothing."

Tesno's eyebrows went up. "Without him there'd be no town."

"He's fought us every step of the way," she said, emotion creeping into her voice. "If it hadn't been for Ben Vickers, my husband would be alive today."

Tesno was startled. "I didn't know that."

"Duke brought a crew of workmen up here to build Tunneltown. Ben Vickers coaxed most of them away by offering them a bonus to work for him. That left us awfully short-handed, and Duke pitched in himself. He wasn't used to that kind of work, and he got killed.... Oh, I know that Vickers was only playing a rough game the way it's played. I don't want to be bitter. I'd give a good deal to have a cleaner town."

"You could clean it up."

"Me?" She seemed genuinely surprised.

"You and the town council. And the marshal. Maybe he'd need a deputy or two."

"I don't know. The trouble is that we're making money."

"That's always the trouble. At least, it's always the argument. But there's a good deal of honest business in town. There's a livery barn and smithy, a general store, hotel, barber shop, restaurant...."

"Most of those aren't doing very well, Mr. Tesno."

"Has it occurred to you that the saloons and gambling tables are hurting them?"

"No," she said thoughtfully. "I suppose there's money spent in the saloons that could be spent elsewhere. But, Mr. Tesno, three of the members of the council are saloonkeepers. The other is the hotel man."

"Is Pinky Bronklin on the council?"

"Mr. Bronklin? Yes."

"Mrs. Parker, would you call a meeting of the council and tell them what I want?"

"There's a meeting of the council tomorrow night."

"Fine. On second thought, I'll tell them myself."

"That's probably best. But what do you want, Mr. Tesno?"

"Midnight and Sunday closing. No booze sold to drunks. No gambling. That will do for a start."

Persia sighed heavily, then quickly smiled as if amused at herself. "I've heard those words so often from Ben Vickers. The council has heard them, too. What makes you think you'll get them to listen?"

"They'll listen," he said.

"Maybe they will," she said soberly. "I guess if they'll listen to anyone, it will be you. I wish you luck."

He grinned his lopsided grin and started to rise, but she was on her feet ahead of him. She brushed past him, laying a hand on his shoulder to keep him in his chair.

"I'll get you some brandy," she said. Before he could protest, she was gone, and he chided himself for the surge of warmth that her casual touch aroused in him.

She was back at once with a brandy bottle and a glass, saying that she had neglected her duties as a hostess. She poured him a drink and sat down again, not having one herself.

"I'm taking up your evening," he said.

"Mr. Tesno, you have a cigar in your pocket. I wish you'd smoke it."

He smoked it, remembering not to chew the end. They talked and laughed softly and got acquainted. She told him about herself; how she had grown up in her aunt's Tacoma boarding house, how she had met Duke Parker there and run away with him. She would have married anyone, she said (curiously, he thought), who would take her away from the dawn-to-after-dark routine of cooking, cleaning, and table-waiting. She spoke, too, of the house Duke had built on the bluff above Commencement Bay, of sailing parties and picnics and clam-digging at Gig Harbor.

He might have wearied of such talk from another woman, but he cherished every word Persia Parker spoke, weighing it for the subtle, personal message that seemed to be hidden in it. It was as if some strange, almost mystic accident were giving him a glimpse of a world he had never known could exist—not the world she spoke about, but the lovely mysterious world of herself.

At last he rose to leave, reluctantly, the cigar long since discarded. She went to the door with him. When he had walked a few steps into the night, he turned, and she was a waving silhouette in the bright frame of the doorway. Jauntily, he threw her a kiss, wondering if she could see him plainly enough to make out the gesture. She waved again. The door closed. Picking his way in the thick darkness, he moved along an unfamiliar path toward the scattered lights of the main street.

Persia stood frowning at the white surface of the closed door. Footsteps in the parlor told her that Sam Lester had come in from the other part of the building. After a moment, she went to meet him.

"I didn't expect he'd be quite so ... nice," Persia said.

"What did he say?" Sam seemed an emotionless little robot as his thick lenses caught the light from a lamp.

"He's going to be at the council meeting tomorrow night."

"I don't think so," Sam said.

"Why not? It's best to have him dealing with the council."

"He has to go. It's been decided."

"Why? Is he so fierce? Mr. Madrid took his gun."

"Mr. Jay wasn't impressed," Sam said. "He said Vickers has hired himself a he-coon." Sam sat down beside the brandy bottle and poured himself a stiff drink.

"Sam," Persia said, "I wish I owned this town as everyone thinks I do. I'd cash in and get out. Ben Vickers would pay a pretty price for it."

"Get out anyhow, Persia."

"No!" she said emphatically. "Not till I can take a lot of money with me."

"I'd take care of you. You know that."

"Please, Sam. Don't start that."

She sat down at the far end of the sofa to avoid looking into the thick lenses. She didn't want to hurt his feelings. He was forty—an old forty—and she was twenty-three. He was a dull, ugly little man; a twenty-dollar-a-week bookkeeper when Duke had picked him up. But he was smart about accounts and legal documents. And he was loyal. He protected her from any shenanigans Mr. Jay might have in mind.

Mr. Jay and Duke had been partners of a sort, although this had been a tightly kept secret. The townsite papers were in Duke's name; but it had been Mr. Jay's money that had built the town and he had put himself firmly in control by tying Duke up with notes and contracts and such. Duke had found himself a mere front—just as she was now, passing Mr. Jay's decisions on to the council as if they were her own. She, Sam, and Mr. Madrid, and possibly Mr. Pinky Bronklin, were the only ones who knew this.

Mr. Jay's determination was sometimes frightening. He meant to take over Ben Vickers' contract, and he wanted as wild and dirty a town as possible in order to slow down the work. Some of Vickers' key men had been drugged or beaten. Without coming right out and saying so, Sam had made it clear that Mr. Jay had arranged these incidents. Oh, it was all a pretty rotten business, but there was a chance to make money here, a chance a woman didn't often get. She thought of that boarding house in Tacoma and shuddered. She would die before she went back there.

All the income from rents, leases, and the sale of real estate was going to pay off Duke's debt to Mr. Jay. The only thing in the clear was a three-quarter interest in the Pink Lady, which was in Persia's name and not part of Duke's estate. Since the town paid her living expenses out of tax money, she was able to put aside this income from the saloon each month. It was a tidy little sum but not enough to make a person rich—not in the year or so of existence the town had left.

Her great hope was that Mr. Jay would take over the tunnel contract soon. He could then come out in the open and he would buy the township proprietorship from Duke's estate, writing off the debts and putting up a tidy bit of cash besides. He would also buy the Pink Lady. And thanks to Sam Lester, Persia had this agreement in writing.

Sam set down his glass and refilled it. "You're honest enough with me, Persia. I'm grateful for that."

Before he could go on, she switched the subject back to Tesno. "Sam, how are they going to get rid of him?"

"There's nothing we can do about it."

"Sam, I want to know."

"They're going to put him in the hospital."

"I won't have that!" Persia sat up straight. "I ... I'll see Mr. Jay first thing in the morning!"

Sam sipped his drink. "Persia, I never wanted to marry, but now—"

"Sam, please!" She spoke harshly, sharply. Then she smiled and said softly, "Please."

Sam sighed, drained his glass, and looked speculatively at the bottle. "Forget about seeing Mr. Jay in the morning. It will happen tonight. It's probably happening right now."

Persia found herself on her feet, hurrying to the door. There she stopped, frowning thoughtfully.

"There's nothing anybody can do," Sam said from the parlor.

Then she went back to the sofa and sat down. Sam spoke tonelessly.

"Madrid took his gun; now some money fighter is going to put him in the hospital. It will be a joke around town, Mr. Jay said, all that happening to the big troublebuster the first night he gets in town. It won't be too bad, I guess, Persia. Maybe it's all over by now. Put it out of your mind."

"Yes." She gave a curious little shrug. "Put it out of my mind. There's nothing else to do."

They sat in silence for a time. Then she said, "Sam, if we went away from here, where would we go?"


The main street was an empty, lonely place in spite of the humming bright tunnels of the town's saloons. Tesno stepped off the boardwalk into the dark river of the street, angling toward a dim white globe with HOTEL lettered on it. The pasty-faced night clerk looked up from a game of solitaire as he entered the cluttered lobby. The air was heavy with stale smoke and the smell of unpainted wood.

"I had your saddlebags and blanket roll brought down from the livery," the clerk said, slapping Tesno's key on the desk. "And, oh, a Mr. Warren wanted to see you. He said to tell you he'd be at the Pink Lady. That's a saloon."

"Warren? Did he say what he wanted?"

"He said Mr. Vickers' sent him."

Tesno muttered thanks. He stood toying with his key, then dropped it on the desk and wheeled back into the night. He quickly walked the short block to the Pink Lady, passing no one, not liking the darkness of the town.

The saloon was full, the jangle of the piano half-smothered by the roar of voices, the clink of glasses and faro checks, the whir and clatter of a wheel of fortune. But as he paused inside the batwings, squinting against the stale brightness, the noise ebbed. Heads turned toward him, then cautiously away. And he knew at once something was in the air.

He sauntered on into the place. A little Irishman turned away from the bar and hissed at him as he passed.

"Watch it, Bucko."

Tesno nodded at the man, who looked vaguely familiar. So I walked into it, he thought. They set me up, and I walked into it. It would be a fight, he guessed. Otherwise the crowd wouldn't know, wouldn't be waiting for a show. Some hired tough had been bragging himself up to it, probably, mouthing off about some pretended grudge.

Men made a place for him at the bar, and he took it. Pinky Bronklin slid up and laid his pincerlike hand on the wood. He looked downright cheerful.

"Man named Warren asked me to meet him here," Tesno said. "You know him?"

Pinky shook his head. The white scar glistened on his flushed face. "You want a drink?"

"I'll have a cigar."

Pinky moved away. Tesno turned casually away from the bar. A huge blond man with a broken nose got up from a table and swaggered toward the bar. Tesno made room for him but still got an elbow in the ribs. The man was half a head taller than Tesno's six feet, outweighed him by forty pounds.

Silence clamped the room now. Even the piano had stopped. Pinky came up with a box of cigars. Tesno took five, laid a quarter on the bar.

"Beer," the big man said. He turned to Tesno, looked him over, grinned. There was a tooth missing from the grin.

"Your name Warren?" Tesno said, biting off the end of a cigar.

"This here is Hobo Hobson," Pinky said, setting a bottle of beer on the bar. "Hobo, meet Mr. Tesno."

"I figured this was him," Hobson said loudly. "He killed a friend of mine at Pend Oreille. Shot him in the back."

"Not so!" A high-pitched voice came from near the door, and Tesno saw that the little Irishman had stepped out from the crowd. "I was there. Ace Gandy was blazing away with a revolver when he died. Tesno took a slug in the leg before he even fired."

Someone pulled the man back. Hobson faced the bar as if to pick up his beer; instead, he swung at Tesno's head with a vicious backhanded blow. Tensed for something of the kind, Tesno stepped back. Hobson's hand missed its target but sent the cigar flying from Tesno's mouth.

"My fault," Tesno said mildly, giving the man room.

Hobson's grin was broader than ever. A shock of blond hair had fallen across his forehead, and he seemed more animal than man. A stand-up-and-swing, stomp-a-man-when-he's-down fighter, Tesno thought. A bear-hugger and an eye-gouger. But a man who depended on his own monstrous strength and fighting knowledge rather than on weapons. Not the sort to pull a knife or a Henry D.

"It seems this Tesno backs away from a fight when he ain't got a gun," Hobson said.

"Depends," Tesno said. He sent his glance over the crowd, which had coagulated into a half circle. In front of a faro table near the far wall, he spotted Madrid's barber-pole shirt. He raked a match across his rump and lighted another cigar.

"Who sent you?" he asked Hobson.

"Sent me? Sent me where?"

"I've seen back-country pros before. You're a Sunday-afternoon pug, a winner-take-all man who doesn't fight for fun. Who's paying you?"

"You killed a friend of mine. That's enough."

Hobson tipped up the bottle of beer, drank deeply, set it down. Tesno laid his cigar on the edge of the bar.

Hobson took one leisurely step forward, then charged, lashing out with his great fists. Throwing up his hands to guard his head, Tesno turned sideways and aimed his left foot at Hobson's left knee. He took a sledgehammer blow on the shoulder that knocked him off balance, but not till he had got his boot sole against the knee. Twisting with his weight against it, he felt the kneecap slide out of place.

Hobson gave a strange little yelp of pain. Stumbling, he grabbed his knee with both hands. Tesno was on him like a cat, seizing him by the hair, hauling him forward. Then he plunged his own knee into the man's face to send him careening into a poker table and off it to the floor in an avalanche of cards and chips. Dazed and awkward, bleeding from his mouth, Hobson struggled to get to his feet. Tesno caught him at the base of the skull with a short brutal rabbit-punch that dropped him open-mouthed and motionless in the filthy sawdust of the floor.

For a moment, nothing broke the silence. Then someone cursed reverently. "God! God almighty damn!" And a rooster cry rose from the end of the bar—the little Irishman, no doubt.

Tesno sauntered to the bar and stuck the cigar between his teeth. "Some of you boys pick him up," he said. "Lug him to the jail."

The little Irishman broke from the crowd, gesturing to others. Four of them turned Hobo Hobson on his back preparatory to lifting him. But Pete Madrid stood over them, muttering something, and they straightened. Madrid faced Tesno tensely.

"Who in hell do you think you are?" Madrid said. "You've no authority to jail a man."

"I want him locked up for the night. And a doctor had better look at him. We'll use the town jail, Marshal."

"You'll use it. You and Hobson both."

"Maybe you haven't got the straight of it," Tesno said. "I tried to back off. Every man here witnessed it."

Madrid's hand made a snake-strike at his hip and came up with his revolver. He gestured toward the door with it and said, "Get moving, cowboy."

The cigar had gone out, and Tesno relighted it. Madrid aimed the gun at Tesno's feet. "Walk to jail or go there crippled. It makes no difference to me."

Tesno headed for the door, swaggering a little, puffing the cigar. As he passed Madrid, he said, "This is the second mistake you've made today, Marshal."

The marshal's office was in a squat log building at the foot of the street. Tesno entered it first. Madrid followed and turned up a low-burning lamp in a wall bracket. The jail was a single cell at the rear of the office. Its iron-bound wooden door stood open. Tesno stopped beside a flat-top desk in the center of the room. The men from the saloon lugged Hobson past him and deposited him on a bunk in the cell. He was still out cold.

"He needs a doctor," Tesno said.

Madrid still held the revolver. He made no reply except to gesture toward the cell with it. Tesno stepped inside the cell and pulled the door shut behind him. He peered out through the small barred window in the door.

Madrid waved the men who had carried Hobson to one side. "Step back from the door," he said to Tesno.

Tesno backed up two short steps. Madrid holstered his gun and moved forward to lock the cell, which was fitted with a hasp and staple. A huge padlock with the key in it hung from the staple.

Tesno raised his hands and plunged into the door. It smashed into the marshal, knocking the padlock from his hand as he staggered backward. Tesno dived into him, seizing his gun hand as it flashed to his hip, driving him hard into a corner of the desk, falling on top of him as he hit the floor.

Tesno was quickly on his feet, the marshal's gun in his hand. Madrid lay on his back, hurt by his collision with the desk, struggling noisily for wind. Tesno seized him by the heels, dragged him roughly into the cell, snapped the lock into place. The little Irishman burst into a high-pitched laugh.

"Now who ever heard of such a thing? He jailed the marshal."

"Get a doctor, Mike."

"Only one's at Vickers' camp."

"Get him. I'll be back at the Pink Lady."

He yanked open desk drawers till he found his own revolver and gunbelt. He buckled it on, feeling weariness rise in him like a quick-acting drug, wanting nothing so much as his hotel room and its bed. But it was necessary now to show himself back at the saloon, to buy these men a drink. That was the way the game was played. You came in tough. And you swaggered a little for the crowd.


"Stupid, stupid, stupid!" Mr. Jay said when he answered the knock on the door of his suite at the hotel.

"Take it easy," Pete Madrid said, pushing past him. "I'm the one who got hurt."

Mr. Jay's beard jerked angrily. "Did you have to come straight here? Don't you know he'll be watching you?"

"I'm not that stupid. He's having breakfast at the restaurant."

They went into Mr. Jay's little parlor. Madrid eased himself into a chair. Mr. Jay stood glaring at him.

"So he let you out. Hobson too?" Mr. Jay said.

"He and Hobson are having breakfast together."

"Will Hobson talk?"

"Maybe. But all he can say is that Pinky promised him ten dollars if he'd break some bones. Pinky had a grudge from back in Idaho, so there's nothing to point to anybody else."

Mr. Jay considered that. When he spoke, his tone was milder. "We've all been stupid. We underestimated the man. How bad are you hurt?"

"Busted rib. It isn't so bad since Doc strapped me up."

"Vickers' doctor?"

Madrid nodded. "I can still draw a gun."

Mr. Jay's beard jerked sternly. "We won't have any of that."

"Seems like the only way left."

"It's what we should have done in the first place, maybe. But after what's happened it would be too raw. We'd have the railroad down on us, the county sheriff up here. No, for the time being well play Tesno's game."

"That means a clean-up."

"We'll go through the motions. We'll enforce a curfew for a while, send a few gamblers packing. The important thing is for us to do it, not him."

Madrid scowled, as if he didn't understand or didn't agree. Mr. Jay walked to a window and stared out, hands behind his back.

"In the meantime," Mr. Jay said, "you're to get along with him. He's top-dogged you, and you're going to have to live with it. Do you understand that?"

"I try to get along with everybody," Madrid said. "It makes things easier."

Mr. Jay turned his back to the window, moving in the quick irritable way that he had. He studied the marshal a moment, then he sighed. His manner suddenly became paternal.

"You're young, Pete—which is a polite way of saying you're a fool. Pride, being top dog, paying off a grudge, these things are a waste of energy unless there's money involved. Maybe you'll learn that some day." Mr. Jay faced the window again, looking across the patch of woods toward Vickers' camp. "If you live long enough."

Tesno found Ben Vickers at the tunnel. Ben had heard about his jailing the marshal and was in a jubilant mood. After he had slapped Tesno's back innumerable times, they entered the portal and he enthusiastically explained his method of tunneling.

There were a lot of niceties to it, but the basis was the digging of an eight-foot heading in advance of the lower part of the bore. Shoring was put in behind the heading crew, then replaced by another set of timbers as the bench was removed.

"Most expensive procedure ever devised for tunneling through rock," Ben said, grinning. "But damn it, it's the fastest, too. At least in theory. In practice—well, we have to get those Ingersoll drills working, that's all."

When they emerged from the dim, dust-filled chamber, the world had taken on a strange new vividness, Tesno thought. The panorama of men and horses at work on the side cuts seemed a distant creation. The sunlight itself and the nagging mountain wind had a foreign quality. It was as if he had strayed onto some unsuspected reality that he could observe but never be a part of.

He noticed that the slashing was in progress in the timber high above, and he remembered hearing that the railroad would use a switchback over the mountain till the tunnel was completed. He asked Ben who was building it.

"Three different contractors," Ben said. "I have a piece on this side. Mr. Jay has one of the far sections."

It seemed a cumbersome, impatient bit of railroading. And in that curious moment of detachment, Tesno felt that he was watching a race of madmen at play. Obsessed with money and mechanics, they wouldn't rest till they had driven steel toys over this ragged sea of mountains to a remote corner of the land. And why? Was it really an accomplishment to bring the thing called civilization to Puget Sound? "All this to reach a little bay tucked away between the fingers of land on the West Coast." The thought amused him and he laughed aloud.

"What's funny?" Ben demanded.

Tesno grinned uncomfortably. "Sort of a private joke."

Ben shot him an impatient look and went to consult with a pair of engineers who were studying a diagram, holding it between them with their backs to the wind. Hearing a chuckle behind him, Tesno turned and found himself confronting a tall, hawk-faced man leaning on a shovel.

"A gun tough who's a philosopher," the workman said. "Now that is something."

"And a shovel bum with educated diction. That's something, too."

The man hesitated, then extended his hand. He was bone thin, a little stooped, and his smile was sad. "Name's Dave Coons. Itinerant actor, confidence man, peddlar, phrenologist, and what have you. Currently a shovel bum, doing a bit of soul-saving on the side."

Tesno shook hands without heartiness. "A preacher?"

"Somebody has to carry the word to these poor bastards." Coons waved a hand to indicate the workmen around him.

"And take up a collection?"

"No. I sweat for my pay like everybody else. Mostly I just sit in a corner of the bunkhouse and talk about God. Those who want to listen join me. There are damn few, of course."

"You don't talk like a preacher."

"I make it a point not to. I've been known to get a snootful, too, and last week, I had a fist fight with a heckler. He thumped the daylights out of me. You here to boss Tunneltown?"

"Depends," Tesno said.

"The booze is rotten and the games crooked. The town brings Vickers' payroll right back to him."

"What do you mean by that?"

"He and the Parker girl are in together, aren't they?"

"Then why would he hire me?"

"How do I know? He's a cagey man."

"You're badly informed," Tesno said. "Tunneltown is a thorn in his side. It's slowing down his operation and he wants it cleaned up."

Coons' hollow-set black eyes were skeptical. "I'll believe it when I see it," he muttered.

"Believe what you please," Tesno growled.

He started to turn away, but Coons drew himself up with mock solemnity, placed a hand against his chest and recited:

"'Oh, it is excellent To have a giant's strength; but it is tyrannous To use it like a giant."

He smiled and said, "Nice to meet you, Mr. Tesno. I have a feeling I'll be seeing you later." He wandered off, shovel on his shoulder, and joined a crew working on a small fill.

Ben came up, his eyes following Coons.

"What did that crackpot want?"

"I don't know," Tesno said.

"He usually has complaints about the food or working conditions. He considers himself a spokesman for the men. That kind can make trouble."

"I liked the man," Tesno muttered.

He rode back to camp alone, letting the company mule pick its way down a steep trail that clung to the gulch wall. Ben was a slave-driver, he thought. What successful contractor wasn't? Somewhere in the process of clawing and gambling his way up from the ranks, he had lost the capacity to understand a man who sat around the bunkhouse and talked about God. We were all crackpots, Tesno thought, each man in his own way.

He left the mule at the company corral, lunched at the cookhouse, and made the short walk to town. He found the saloons already busy with cooks, freighters, and a few night-shift men having a midday drink or a try at the games. He counted fifteen faro tables in town, not all of them operating at this hour. He spotted one game that was definitely crooked and he suspected there were more.

He visited the Pink Lady last, finding Madrid at the bar in conversation with Pinky Bronklin. They drew apart as he approached, and customers turned to watch.

Tesno stepped a few feet away, glad of a chance to face the marshal before witnesses. Madrid was freshly shaved and had put on a clean shirt. This one had broad green stripes. Its sleeves were encircled by red garters.

"My god," Tesno said. "You look like a Christmas tree."

"What's the matter with a little style?" Madrid said defensively. His tone was not that of a man looking for a showdown.

"Black is for corpses," Pinky muttered. His eyes raked Tesno. "It will look nice on you."

"Hobson sang, Pinky," Tesno said, stepping up to the bar.

"What's that to me?"

"You know what it is, but I'll say it. You paid him to pick a fight."

"He said that? He's a liar," Pinky said.

"I'll bring him in here. You can say it to his face."

"No chance of that," Madrid put in. "Hobson left town. Took the Ellensburg stage." The marshal swung away and idled over to a faro game.

Tesno eyed Pinky silently.

"Hobson lied," Pinky said desperately. "He must be covering for somebody else."

"You protest too much," Tesno said.

He caught Pinky by the hair, pulled him forward, and slapped him resoundingly on one cheek and then the other. He suddenly shoved him away and Pinky staggered into the back bar.

The customers watched in silence. Madrid made no move; he scarcely looked up from the faro game. Pinky glared, his face flushed. There would be a gun behind the bar somewhere, Tesno thought. But the saloonkeeper made no attempt to go for it. Tesno spun on his heel and walked out of the saloon. As he pushed through the swinging doors, there was a tide of low talk and uneasy laughter. A muffled comment met his ears:

"Damned high-handed troublebuster! Due for a takedown."

Loneliness stung him like a mountain wind as his bootheels drummed the boardwalk. Pinky had got off easy. Didn't the crowd understand that? The words Dave Coons had quoted rang in his memory:

Oh, it is excellent
To have a giant's strength; but it is tyrannous
To use it like a giant.

Tyrant, he called himself. Damned high-hander! And Ben Vickers is a slave-driver. And Coons a crackpot. And we are all working hard at it.

As he reached the hotel, someone called his name from across the street. It was Whisky Willie Silverknife, who fell into a dog-trot and arrived waving a folded paper.

"M-m-message for you. From M-Miss Persia."

Tesno had the note unfolded by the time Willie got the words out.

Dear Mr. Tesno:

The council meeting is at seven. Will you join me for dinner afterward?

Persia Parker

"S-she s-said to t-tell me yes or n-no," Willie said.

"How come you're running her errands?"

"I hit her for a j-job, like you s-said." Willie blushed under his freckles. "She d-didn't have one, not right away, b-but she s-said maybe she'd think of s-something. She s-said if I was b-broke, which I am, to come around to the k-kitchen for m-meals. After l-lunch she g-gave me that n-note."

Willie slid the flask from his hip pocket and took a short drink. Tesno re-read the note, searching for the sound of Persia's voice in every word.

"Tell her yes."

Willie nodded, taking a deep breath to chase the whisky. "She's r-right interested in you. When she found out I rode up here with you, she asked all about you. I told her when I first s-seen you, you was laying in the grass naked as a p-pup p-possum."

Tesno gave him a murderous look. Willie grinned.

"She l-laughed like hell," he said.


The council meeting took place in a large, unpainted room in the townhouse. Persia presided, just as if she were the legitimate mayor. She sat at one end of a table, wearing a dark serge suit and looking both businesslike and beautiful. Sam Lester sat at the other end, inscrutable behind the crystal mask of his spectacles. The four council members sat in between. Tesno drew up a chair to one side of Persia.

He listened impatiently while the members quibbled over the location of a town watering trough. A rasp-voiced man named Parris, who operated the hotel, did most of the talking. The three saloonkeeping councilmen kept glancing at Persia as if she would make the decision and the debate was a mere formality. Pinky Bronklin sat with his talonlike hand on the table where all could see it and said hardly a word.

Persia introduced Tesno with some little formality. He stated his demands as concisely as possible. He tried to avoid a dictatorial tone, yet he made it clear that one way or another he intended to see a drastic change in the town. When he had finished, the saloonkeepers sat sullenly quiet. It was Mr. Parris who spoke up, and he was angry.

"I agree that we could stand some improvement around here," he said. "But to request co-operation is one thing, to tell us what to do, another. Begging your pardon, Persia, I move that we tell Mr. Tesno to go to hell and then face our problems in our own way."

"That'll suit me fine, if you will face them," Tesno said. "But you'll clean up or I will. Take your choice."

"You'll clean up! Have you forgotten there's law in the land—and in this town. And it's on our side!" Mr. Parris slapped the table and glared.

"Law?" Tesno said icily. "You were elected by the drifting labor that built this town. You run a town full of thugs and card sharks. And you talk about law! Bring it on, Mr. Parris. While you're doing it, I'll close your town down tight. And I'll guarantee you you'll wind up with your charter pulled out from under you!"

"This won't do," Persia said. "You two agree that we ought to do something. Mr. Tesno is willing to let us do it in our own way—provided we do get results. Right, Mr. Tesno?"

"Right," he said.

"Then I don't see what you are arguing about. Mr. Tesno, now that you've told us what you want, would you mind leaving us and letting us thrash this out?"

"Fair enough," he said.

She had spoken crisply, almost hostilely. Now she said with a smile and in an entirely different tone, "Wait in my parlor."

He followed a long hall that led to the other part of the house. He entered the parlor and sat down to wait, musing about his abrupt dismissal. He had the impression that Tunneltown council meetings were little more than a mockery, that the members gathered to receive instructions rather than to make their own decisions. Even Mr. Parris had seemed to be arguing out of mere cantankerousness and not with any real hope of seeing his views prevail if Persia was against them.

Probably Persia was now telling them exactly how far they would go in co-operating with him. Or would it be Sam Lester who was doing the telling? That Lester was a power behind the throne seemed a real possibility. In any case, the council was a convenient device to avoid the pinpointing of responsibility on an individual.

Annoyed, he strolled into the dining room and poured himself a glass of brandy from a bottle on the sideboard. He could hear voices in the kitchen—Stella's and a stammering tenor that could belong only to Willie Silverknife. Returning to the parlor, he lighted a cigar and sat sipping the strong and fragrant liquor.

Persia appeared sooner than he expected. She was alone, and he wondered if Sam Lester would join them later. She insisted on getting him another brandy, and she poured herself a glass of wine, which she scarcely touched.

"You're going to get your blue-nosed town," she said gayly. "All I ask from you, Mr. Tesno, is a small amount of patience."

He frowned, but before he could reply she went on.

"We passed a couple of ordinances. Midnight closing. No liquor sold to drunks. We also agreed that a one-man police force isn't adequate, so we're going to hire a deputy. Satisfied?"

"How about the gambling?"

"That's where the patience comes in."

He shook his head. "The gambling has to go, Persia."

She smiled at him very slightly, as she might at a stubborn child. "I suppose you'll have your way, but, I shouldn't tell you this, Jack, but I will." She used his first name so naturally that he didn't notice for an instant. "Duke had to borrow heavily to build Tunneltown. He left me broke and in debt. The town brings in quite a little money now—though maybe not as much as most people think. But when I've made a monthly payment on the debts, there's very little left. If the town didn't give me my living expenses, I could scarcely get by. Now if the gambling goes, at least two saloons will have to close. If I lose the money from those leases, I'm ruined. There won't even be enough even to make the payments to my creditors."

He made a small gesture of helplessness. "The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But the gambling...."

"If we could just have a little time, we might find other kinds of business that would lease those buildings."

"It isn't my time to give away," he said. "It's Ben's. And he hasn't got much of it. How much do you need?"

"I've no idea."

"The crooked gamblers have to go right now along with the rest of the riffraff. There can be no delay about that."

She nodded to this. "If I'd had my way, they'd have gone long ago."

"Don't you always have your way, Persia?"

She seemed mildly startled. She gave a little shrug. "How do you tell which are crooked?"

"I can spot them for you."

"Jack, please. Keep out of it entirely. I ... I can't have Vickers' man butting in. You can understand that."

"Yes." It stung him to have her call him somebody else's man, though it wouldn't have bothered him if another person had said it.

She seemed to sense that he was hurt, and she gave him a long, sympathetic, almost maternal look. She didn't speak, and it pleased him to feel a communication between them that needed no words. They would put aside their differences now and speak of other things.

"I'll tell Stella we're ready for dinner," she said.

As she passed his chair, she laid her hand on his shoulder as she had the night before. Now he laid his over it. She stopped beside him, and her eyes were gold-flecked as they caught the lamplight, and she squeezed his fingers and moved away.

Hours later when she had gone to the door with him, he touched her arms and drew her to him. She came against him willingly, her arms slid around him, but she turned her head to avoid his kiss. She buried her face against his shoulder, and he laid his cheek against her hair.

"Persia," he said, "I've known little in life except roughness. You represent something that I didn't know could exist for me."

She pushed firmly away. "I've been a widow less than three months, Jack. I've no right to listen to such talk. Not now."

Her face was faintly flushed, her eyes dancing. Her smile carried a reprimand and a promise that was as old as womankind.

"You leave right now, Mr. Tesno," she said.

"I'll see you tomorrow?" he said.

"Yes!" she whispered. "Yes!"

She closed the door the instant he was over the threshold. He stood there a long moment, sure that she, too, was waiting only inches away. His fingers touched the doorknob, then fell to his side. He drew the restless night air deeply into his lungs and walked into the darkness.

Off to the west, lightning shattered the sky, and the town leaped fleetingly into being. Thunder pulsed distantly, and, swelling, rolled into the gulch.


Tesno circled the buckboard in the wide street and pulled it up parallel to the hitchrail in front of the Pink Lady. Not liking his errand, he swung slowly out of the seat and fussed over the tying of the team.

As always, Tunneltown depressed him. Midnight closing was observed now, but rather loosely. As far as he knew, only one gambler had been invited to leave, and he, Tesno suspected, had been cheating the house. Aside from a sarcastic quip or two about the council's half-hearted progress in doing what it had agreed to do, Ben Vickers had said nothing. But there were signs that his patience was nearing its end.

Tesno vaulted the hitchrail and moved toward the open doorway, the hum and stench of the saloon setting his nerves on edge. A voice called his name, and he found himself gaping at the figure approaching along the boardwalk.

"Howdy," Whisky Willie Silverknife said. He was wearing a black vest with a star pinned on it. He was grinning from ear to ear. The star flashed mirror-bright in the afternoon sun.

"Howdy," Tesno said.

"I got me a d-d-deputy m-marshal job."

"I see. When did you start?"

"L-last night. Not that I arrested anyb-body yet."

"Madrid hire you?"

"Yes. Miss P-Persia had it all fixed." Willie frowned. "I d-don't know how I'm going to get along with Madrid. I mean, he d-don't give me instruction or anything. He says, 'Sit on your d-duff, d-draw your p-pay, k-keep your mouth shut and your nose c-clean.' Mr. Tesno, c-could I have a t-talk with you?"

"About what?"

"I want to l-learn this b-business of b-being a p-p-peace officer."

"I've got a chore to do right now," Tesno said. "How about tomorrow?"

"F-fine. I'm off d-duty in the morning."

Willie's hand slid around to his hip and came up with the flask he carried there. It was filled with a colorless liquid, of which he took a long swig.

"Lemon soda," he said, licking his lips. "Miss Persia says st-stammer or not, a deputy can't go around nipping whisky all day."

He seemed to be completely serious, and Tesno suppressed a laugh. "Does it work as well?"

"Miss Persia says it will. She says the important thing is to w-wet my wh-wh-whistle."

Persia hand-picked this kid for the job, Tesno thought. Why? He said, "See you tomorrow," and pushed on into the saloon. He stood blinking after the bright sunlight of the street, searching the big, dim room till he spotted Vickers' general superintendant, Keef O'Hara, who was seated alone at a back table behind a bottle and glass.

O'Hara was a tall, muscular man with wild gray hair and wild blue eyes. When he was sober, he had an air of competence and of bouyant energy that commanded respect. Now he sat slumped forward on one elbow, slack-faced and limp.

"And what'll the trouble-man be wanting?" he said when Tesno approached. "Surely it'll not be whisky with the dew still on the grass and the sun scarce clear of the ridgetops. Only the Irish drink at this hour."

"It's three in the afternoon, Keef," Tesno said. He pulled out a chair and sat down across the table.

O'Hara sighed alcoholically and poured himself a fresh drink. "And ye've come to sober me up for the night shift, eh, laddy-buck? I might've expected it. What Ben Vickers can't do himself, he sets his man to."

"Ben didn't send me, Keef. Far as he knows, you're asleep in your cabin." Tesno extended a hand to restrain O'Hara from lifting his glass. "Time to break it off now, get some coffee."

"I can stand another nip or two, lad." O'Hara slyly transferred his drink to his other hand and sloughed it down. "Don't ye know I've been working all night?"

"I know. You and a bottle. You're due back on the job in three hours, and you've had no sleep."

O'Hara stared belligerently and reached for the bottle. Tesno beat him to it and kept it out of his reach. The superintendant seemed about to leap for Tesno's throat, then he was suddenly meek.

"Keef O'Hara a slave to the demon rum! 'Tis a sad end for a man."

"Keef, you've bossed tricky construction jobs all over the world. If your skill was ever needed, it's here and now. You know what Ben's up against. Now let's get out of here and sober up."

"Lad, why do you think I signed on with Ben Vickers?... For the same reason half the terriers came up here. We're a breed apart, lad—superintendant or shovel bum. We can't live with civilization. We're boozers or fighters or skirt-chasers or wife-beaters or all of those. Try to live in a town and we wind up in jail or sick or dead. So we seek out a camp where there's work and good air and no temptation, where a man can sweat off the blubber and save his pay and be at peace with himself. And what did they do to us here amidst the wildest mountains in the land? They built a town! A fine manner of town with all the temptations...."

Tesno stood up impatiently. "We've finished with the preliminaries, Keef. Now we're going back to camp."

O'Hara got to his feet, drawing himself up straight. His big frame teetered and he almost fell. "I'll fight ye another day, Bucko," he said. "When the spirits are better and I've not been the night on the job."

He allowed himself to be led away.

At the far end of the bar a nattily dressed little man drained his glass of buttermilk and dabbed at his beard with a silk handkerchief. Pinky Bronklin removed the empty glass.

"J. Keef O'Hara," Mr. Jay said, tucking the handkerchief into his breast pocket. "He's still the best engineer in the Northwest. I'll wager he's the only man here who's had experience with compressed air drills."

"Except you, Mr. Jay," Pinky said.

"Except me," Mr. Jay said.

That evening Tesno had dinner with Persia, as he often did now. Sam Lester was there, too, and he spent the whole time with them instead of returning to his office when the meal was finished. He sat, sipped brandy, read a newspaper; once in a while he even entered the conversation. When they had moved into the parlor and were sipping brandy, Persia mentioned that they had put on a new deputy.

"I know," Tesno said. "I'm wondering why you picked Willie."

"The council thought him suitable."

"He said you recommended him."

Persia shrugged. "He's a nice boy. He seems qualified."

"A breed kid who stutters?"

"What do you mean?"

"He's part Indian."

"He's not a reservation Indian. He's a citizen, and—"

"Then you did know," Tesno said.

"He doesn't look Indian," Sam put in. "He'll be all right if he keeps his mouth shut."

"If you know him at all, you know he won't," Tesno said. "And that bottle of lemon pop! Seems to me you went out of your way to pick a man nobody will listen to."

"You wanted a deputy," Sam grumbled. "The town will be better patrolled. Aren't you ever satisfied?"

"Never!" Persia said, laughing. "That's one of the things I like about him." Her eyes sought his, and they were amused and affectionate and possessive. "How about a game of three-handed euchre?" she said.


Tesno was rousted out of bed the next morning by Ben Vickers, who had spent a good part of the night translating his troubles into arithmetic. He was waving a sheaf of papers which recorded exactly how bad things were going in terms of dollars and cents, mean feet, and work days.

Among other things, the figures spelled out what everybody knew already: with every day of hand drilling, the odds against the tunnel being finished on time went up. The huge boiler necessary to the use of compressed air still hadn't arrived at end of track. Even when it did, there would be the slow and tricky problem of dragging it forty miles into the mountains.

"What I want you to do is get down to Ellensburg and get on the telegraph," Ben said. "Find out where that thing is. And on the way, study the road. Figure out where the trouble spots are going to be. Maybe we can save time by doing some grading, building a bridge or two."

Tesno agreed grumpily, wondering why Ben couldn't send somebody else. When Ben had left, he dressed leisurely and went down to the restaurant for a late breakfast. The thought of the long ride and several days away from Tunneltown didn't appeal to him. He lingered for a time over coffee and a cigar, wondering at his own reluctance to get started, thinking that he might stop by and see Persia before he left.

He had returned to his room and was shaving when Whisky Willie came in. Willie turned a chair around backwards and straddled it.

"That Madrid p-p-protects crooks," he asserted.

Tesno beat up a lather in his shaving cup. "For instance?"

"There was this feller b-bucking the t-tiger in the P-Pink Lady. He called me over real polite and orderly and said the dealer was double-dealing and that he could prove it by the case board. Before you could say J-J-Jack R-R-Robinson, Pinky had him by one arm and a barkeep had him by the other and he was out in the s-street. Nobody paid any at-t-tention to me. I told Madrid about it. He cussed me and said we leave the dealers alone."

"Which table was this?"

"S-second from the d-door. The d-dealer's name's Cardona."

Tesno stropped his razor vigorously. "A mechanic. He uses an odd-even setup."

"A what?"

"I'll demonstrate," Tesno said. He waved the razor toward the saddlebags that hung over the foot of his bed. "There's a pack of cards in there. Get it and separate the odd cards from the even. This afternoon we'll call on Mr. Cardona."

"What we g-g-going to do?"

"Not we, you. I'll show you the trick. Then you'll expose Cardona and run him out of town. In order to pull it off you're going to have to be well rehearsed. Got anything to do for an hour?"

"Not till three this afternoon. I'm on d-duty from then till eight in the morning."

By the time Tesno finished shaving, Willie had the cards separated. Tesno squared up the two packets and pressed their ends together, interlacing the cards evenly.

"You shuffle like a dealer," Willie said.

"Not quite so well. A good mechanic can get a perfect dovetail. That means the odd and even cards will alternate all the way through the deck...."

As it turned out, the marshal was among the players at Cardona's table when Tesno entered the saloon. Pinky Bronklin gave Tesno an evil look and sent the other barkeep to wait on him. Tesno ordered a cigar and stood smoking it with his back to the bar, watching the game.

Madrid was standing behind the seated players. He was wearing the pink shirt and a black bow tie. After a few turns, he won a bet on the queen and placed another on the four. When this also came up a winner, he played the ten.

He was playing only even cards, and Cardona was letting him win. It seemed plain that he was onto the grift and was collecting a payoff. This is going to be interesting, Tesno thought grimly.

The marshal collected another bet, cashed his checks, and dropped his winnings into his pocket. He saw Tesno, nodded, and after an instant of hesitation came over and joined him.

"Quitting while you're ahead?" Tesno said.

"A man can beat the game sometimes if he isn't greedy," Madrid said. He signaled the barkeep. "How about the house buying a couple, cowboy?"

"Not for me," Tesno said.

The barkeep slid Madrid a bottle and glass, saying nothing. The marshal muttered an obscenity about the man's surliness and poured himself a drink.

Whisky Willie came in then. He walked straight to Cardona's table and drew himself up importantly.

"Th-th-this is a c-crooked g-g-gug-game," he announced. He had a terrible time getting the words out, and Tesno winced for him. The players looked amused and then startled. Cardona, a little bald man with a handlebar mustache, stood up. Willie went on doggedly, "I'm c-c-closing it d-down. P-pick up your b-b-buhuh-bets."

"What the devil does he think he's doing?" Madrid said.

He slammed his glass on the bar and started for the table. Tesno restrained him firmly with a hand on his shoulder. "Let's see what's on the kid's mind," he said.

Cardona was speaking to Willie, his tone jocular. "You better take a swig of that word medicine you carry and calm down."

Willie slapped the layout with his palm. "R-right n-now! This g-game is closed, Cardona. And you'll be out of town in t-twenty-four hours or you'll be in j-jail. P-pick up your b-b-bets, men."

"Hold it!" Madrid said, striding forward now. "This is an honest game, kid. I told you that the other night. Now for—"

"The g-game is crooked!" Willie said. "I can prove it."

Cardona moved toward the card box, but Willie beat him to it and slapped his hand over it. Madrid caught Willie's arm and tried to pull him away, but Willie shook him off. Customers from other parts of the saloon moved in to see the show. Madrid swore violently.

"Get out of here, kid! Clean out of the place," he said.

He stood with his jaw thrust forward, his pink-striped elbow bent as his hand gripped the handle of his pistol. Tesno was suddenly close behind him with one hand on Madrid's shoulder and the other on the wrist of his gun hand.

"Let the kid make his play," Tesno said. His grip tightened as the marshal started to pull away. "Go ahead, Willie."

"The cards in this deck alt-t-ter-n-nate odd and even," Willie announced. He slid the top card out of the box and turned it face up. It was an eight.

"The n-next will be odd." Willie turned a three. "The n-next, even ... the next, odd." He turned a four and a jack. He went on, calling another half dozen cards correctly.

The spectators stared in fascination, muttering ugly, barely audible phrases. Tesno released Madrid. The marshal had no choice now but to watch quietly as if he were as surprised as everyone else.

"This is a frame up!" Cardona asserted. "Somebody planted that deck!"

"You put it in the box your own self," a spectator snarled.

"You can s-see how it works," Willie continued. "If most of the money happens to be on odd cards, the even ones c-come up winners. The dealer can ch-change this any time he wants by d-double-d-dealing."

Willie brought a card out of the box and showed that it was a king. Squeezing it between his thumb and finger, he slid a deuce out from behind it. He dropped the cards on the table.

"Twenty-four hours," he said to Cardona.

"Marshal," Cardona said, appealing to Madrid, "I swear this is a trick. You know I've always run an honest game. You—"

"You do like he says," Madrid said. "Get out of town."

One of the players suddenly dived over the table and crashed into Cardona, falling to the floor with him. Madrid drew his gun and ran around the table. Another player grabbed the cash box, dumped its contents on the table and tried to preside over a fair distribution of the money to Cardona's victims; but it was scramble and grab. The money was gone by the time Pinky Bronklin got there, striking out in all directions with a beer bottle.

Tesno pulled Willie out of the melee as the table collapsed, Pinky Bronklin being among those who went down with it. Madrid had gotten Cardona to one side and was standing in front of him, gun in hand. He fired into the ceiling.

"Break it up!" he kept bellowing. "Break it up!"

Men began to hurry out of the saloon now, some with their hands full of money. Several stopped to slap Willie on the back on the way.

"I'm for firin' the marshal and givin' you the job!" one said.

The last man on his feet was Pinky Bronklin. His nose was bleeding, and he clutched his apron to it. He started for a small stairway at the back of the saloon, then he saw Tesno and came close.

"You set this up," he said, lowering the apron from his blood-smeared face. "I know you. I know you, Tesno."

Tesno threw back his head and laughed. He clapped Pinky on the shoulder and spun him toward the stairway. "I'll make an honest man of you yet, Pinky," he said.

Cardona followed Pinky up the stairs. Madrid holstered his gun and came over. He was grinning, but his black eyes held Tesno's coldly. "I'll take it from here. My job."

Tesno matched the marshal's grin. He touched Willie's arm and they walked out of the saloon. Willie reached for the lemon soda.

"Whew! You th-think he'll f-fire me?"

"No chance of it," Tesno said. "Everybody in town would know the reason. He's got to pretend he thinks you did a good job."

Willie laughed aloud. "I g-guess you're right."

"Right now this is more your town than his. But make one mistake and the same men who slapped your back in there will talk against you. And Madrid will land on you with both feet."

"I don't see why Miss P-Persia p-puts up with him," Willie said. "I got no respect for the man."

"You'd better have. He has to play the politician now, but he belongs to a special race that lives in a different world from other men. You stay in this business, you'll learn to recognize them quick enough. They are not only capable of killing, they not only enjoy it, they think in terms of it."

Willie took a moment to digest that. "I g-guess I see what you mean. He's c-c-cougar-fast with that gun. And his first in-st-stinct is to reach for it."

They had reached the hotel. Tesno clapped Willie on the shoulder and halted in front of the doorway.

"I'm going to be in Ellensburg for a few days, Willie. You walk easy, and stay alive. And stick to the lemon pop."

"I'm s-sick of the s-stuff."

"There's a favor you can do for me," Tesno said. "You know Ben's superintendant, Keef O'Hara? He gets on the booze, and I've been nursemaiding him. I'd like you to take over."


Five nights later, Tesno returned, riding into the town shortly before midnight. He dismounted wearily across the dark street from the Pink Lady and entered the Big Barrel, needing a drink before going on to the camp and getting Ben out of bed.

The saloon was smaller than the Pink Lady and crowded. He found a place at the end of the bar, ordered cigars and whisky, and was immediately joined by Willie, who had been in the street and had seen him arrive. Tesno poured a drink, sniffed it, tasted it.

"You're still wearing the badge," he said.

"I just delivered Mr. O'Hara back to the j-job," Willie said. "He's s-sure kept me busy."

"He left the job?"

"He d-does it every night. Sneaks into town to wet his wh-whistle, he says. The first night you were away, he g-got soaked g-good. I had to t-take him b-back in a wagon. Since then I b-been w-watching for him and c-catching him before he's had more'n a couple of b-belts. I've t-told every barkeep in town not to s-serve him, but most of 'em do when I'm not around."

"Hell of a thing," Tesno said. He bit off the end of a cigar and held a match to it. He wondered if Ben knew about Keef's boozing. "How you getting along with Madrid?" he asked Willie.

"J-just the s-same. He c-closed two more games."

"Madrid did?"

Willie nodded.

"He's smarter than I took him for," Tesno muttered. "He's not going to let you be the big duck in the puddle."

"I th-think Miss Persia t-told him to close those games," Willie said thoughtfully. "Or S-Sam Lester. Madrid d-don't t-take a deep breath unless somebody tells him. Anyhow, he and Pinky had a m-meeting with Miss Persia and Lester the d-day after you left. Stella t-told me."

"Who really calls the tune, Willie? Sam or Persia? What does Stella say about it?"

Willie frowned painfully. "It s-seems like there's s-somebody else. S-somebody who t-tells them all what to d-do."

"Stella said that?"

"She says there's s-somebody mysterious whose name is never mentioned when she's around. They c-call him 'Mr. You-know' or s-something like that. Sam Lester c-contacts him, Stella thinks."

Tesno found Ben sitting behind his desk in his nightshirt, sleepily staring at a paper covered with figures. When he saw Tesno, he snatched off his glasses and tipped back in his chair.

"You sure took your time. Is the news good or bad?"

"Bad." Tesno sank into a chair. "I telegraphed the boiler factory in Connecticut as soon as I got to Ellensburg. Your damned boiler still wasn't shipped yet."

Ben looked as if he had been struck. He got slowly to his feet. "Hadn't been shipped!"

"I was on the telegraph for three days getting it straightened out. It seems they had a wire a couple of weeks ago, signed with your name. It requested that they hold up shipment till they got further word from you."

Ben leaned heavily on the table. For a moment Tesno was afraid he was going to collapse. Then he thumped his fist on the table, began to swear, and they both felt better.

"Somebody deliberately tried to delay you, Ben. Who would it be?"

"How would I know?"


"I don't know. I've heard he's shifty—but a stunt like that! If I could pin it on him, I could get him blacklisted by every railroad in the West."

"The message was sent from North Yakima, so I rode down there. The operator had the original copy. It was printed in block letters on plain paper. As he remembers, the man who brought it in was dressed like a rancher or a cow hand."

Ben sank into a chair. He wagged his head sadly. "Is that boiler on the way now?"

"It is."

"It'll be at least two weeks before it gets across the country," Ben said. "Then we've got to drag it up here from the end of track."

Tesno extracted a thick fold of paper from his shirt pocket and began to open it up. "Made a map of the supply road with the bad spots marked. There are a dozen places where we'll have to use block and tackle, Ben."

"I suppose we'll do well to make five miles a day," Ben said wearily. "Even with twenty-horse teams.... This is going to be your kettle of stew, Jack, from the time that boiler hits end of track till it's unloaded at the portal."

Tesno walked back to the town through the heavy darkness of the forest road. Reaching the street and turning up the walk toward the hotel, he had a glimpse of the townhouse a hundred yards away. Forgetting that he was dirty and unshaven, he swung instinctively toward the soft invitation of its lighted windows.

Sam Lester answered his knock and grumbled for him to come in. Persia sprang up from the sofa to meet him, taking both his hands. They both sat down. She looked him over possessively.

"Jack, it seems like ages. Was it a rough trip?"

"Lots of riding, not much sleeping."

Sam asserted petulantly that he was going to bed. He slammed the door behind him as he stalked off to the other part of the house.

"I interrupt something?" Tesno asked.

"The usual evening overture," Persia said tiredly. "He thinks he's in love with me. Friendship isn't possible. Why can't we be like—well, you and me, for instance?"

"And how is that?"

They had never sat so close before. He touched her hand. She squeezed his fingers and smiled. Then she withdrew her hand.

"I want to talk, Jack. Everything is going so badly. Income has fallen off and my debts are just overwhelming. It seems that by trying to clean up the gambling games we've given the impression that they are all crooked. Play has fallen off terribly and...." She broke off and smiled suddenly. "I keep forgetting that you're really the one responsible for my troubles. I promise I shan't say another whining word."

"Say all you like."

"Oh, Jack, it's such a ridiculous thing to be a woman!"

He took her hand again and reached across her and embraced her shoulder. Their eyes met and she came against him and her lips were warm and fervent. Far away in the other part of the building, a door slammed and they were alone in the night and in the world.


Willie Silverknife sat in Tesno's room with eight slips of paper fanned out in his hands. Tesno lounged on the bed with his hands behind his head. Willie was doing the talking.

"This d-dealer don't fool around with anything so easy as that odd-even arrangement. He can bring up any one he wants by shuffling the way you showed me. I watched him for d-days and wrote down the cards as they come up. I d-did it with a stub of pencil inside my c-coat p-pocket. I g-got all eight arrangements here."

"And you figure to bust him."

"I'll p-prove the g-game is crooked by dealing out the deck and calling every card—exact, not just odd or even. I figure to d-do it when the place is crowded."

Willie tapped the papers into an even packet and buttoned them into a shirt pocket. Tesno regarded the ceiling in silence.

"I wanted to ch-check with you," Willie said. "I want to be s-sure there's nothing wrong with the way I got this s-studied out."

"It's a fine piece of studying. But hold off, Willie."

"Wh-why? If I show up another c-crooked g-game in the Pink Lady, it ought to just about f-finish the p-place."

"Hold off," Tesno said irritably. "The town is running pretty tame—compared to what it was."

"T-tame? You sh-should s-see what I s-see. Last night—"

"All right! But don't put on a show this time." Tesno swung his feet off the bed and sat up. "Go to Pinky quietly and tell him to get shed of that dealer. He probably doesn't know he's got a card mechanic there."

"You know b-better than that!" Willie stood up and gripped the back of his chair. "That Pinky never does anything honest if he can do it crooked. That place is rotten as hell's swill b-bucket, and I should th-think you'd be glad to s-see it go b-bust!"

Tesno got slowly to his feet and stretched. "I have no love for Pinky. But he owns only a small chunk of that place."

Tesno threw an arm around Willie's shoulders and led him to the door. "For the time being, Willie, keep your eyes open and don't stir up trouble."

Willie turned in the doorway with hurt written on his face.

"I'll be d-damned if you don't sound exactly like M-Madrid!"

Tesno laughed and closed the door. Turning to the washstand, he soberly regarded himself in the small square mirror above it.

Nobody ever knew exactly what happened that night or exactly who was to blame. But it seemed clear that dynamiter Heinie Hinkleman got his fuses fouled up and also that the foreman of the shoring crew was lax about getting his men to safety. The heading crew got clear in plenty of time and warned the bench gang on the way out; but when Heinie came jogging along in his leisurely flat-footed way, half a dozen workers were still putting up shoring. Heinie told them for cripes sake the fuses were lit, and he herded them ahead of him toward the portal.

The fuses were cut for six minutes, he said, which would have been more than enough time to get the hell out of there. But Heinie had miscalculated for the first and last time in his career, and the blast caught them before they had gone a dozen yards. Rock hurtled out of the heading like shot from a gigantic gun barrel. An egg-sized splinter caught Heinie in the back of the skull and buried itself in his brain. Two of the others were dead when the dust cleared enough for rescuers to get to them. The other four were carried out stunned and just a whisper away from suffocation.

Dawn was flaring over the hills to the east when Ben Vickers reached the scene, wild-eyed and half dressed. Keef O'Hara, who said he had been over the mountain at the other portal, arrived a few minutes later. Together, they questioned the heading crew, who were scared and mad and eager to blame somebody. Heinie, one of them volunteered, had lost two months' pay at faro that afternoon, which might account for his mind not being on his work, even if he hadn't taken a few nips to console himself.

This, along with the fact that O'Hara's breath would back off a polecat, was enough for Ben. When he had seen the injured men to the camp hospital and got the doctor's report, he summoned Tesno to his cabin and read the riot act.

Except for some rump-blistering profanity, which got monotonous, Ben spoke in a flat, controlled manner—which was a bad sign. Tesno sat with his chair tipped back and listened.

Briefly, Ben said that he had jumping-well expected Tesno to establish authority in Tunneltown and kick it into line, and Tesno had jumping-well expected to do that, too, judging by the way he had started out. But he had changed his mind and had left the clean-up to the town itself, which was nothing but a jumping booze camp, and what booze camp ever cleaned itself up? Nevertheless, Ben had kept hoping for the best until this morning. With three men dead and another probably dying, his patience had run out, and there jumping-well was going to be a change....

"Now hold on," Tesno said, when Ben showed signs of running out of wind. "You said you'd settle for regulation, and you're getting it. It's come slowly, but—"

"Don't recite your list of half-butt improvements to me," Ben said. "I know it by heart—right down to that stuttering clown of a half-breed deputy, who has done his job a jumping lot better than you have, at that!" Ben poked the tabletop with a forefinger. "And as for what I said I'd settle for, I told you clearly that the gambling had to go—all of it."

"Damn it, Ben, you blame the town too much. If that dynamiter hadn't lost his stake at faro, he probably would have dropped it to some bunkhouse sharp at poker."

"I'm not going to argue about it," Ben said icily. "I want the gambling stopped. Altogether."

"That will close at least a couple of the saloons."

"That would break my heart," Ben said. "Now do I get it or not?"

Tesno stood up and sauntered toward the door. Anger, guilt, a sense of injustice, rose in him and laid harsh words on his tongue, but he did not speak them. He needed time to calm down, to think things out.

"You'll get it," he said through clenched teeth, "or you'll get my resignation."

He put his back to Ben and trudged out of the cabin and through the camp toward the town road. Dave Coons stepped out of one of the bunkhouses and fell in beside him.

"Johnny Favery just died," Coons said.

Tesno closed his eyes briefly. "That's four," he said.

"He was just a kid," Coons said. "Just here a few months from the old country. He had nineteen cents in his pocket."

"Hell of a thing," Tesno said.

"Can you tell me where the blame lies?" Coons said. "The men have a right to know. So it won't happen again."

"Ask Ben."

"Thought I might get a straight story from you. O'Hara wasn't at the west portal as he claimed, I know that. He was at the cookhouse trying to sober up on coffee."

"No reason why he should be on hand for every blast," Tesno grumbled.

"Vickers is, during the day shifts. If O'Hara had been there, he probably would have seen that Hinkleman had the fuses wrong. Even if he hadn't, he'd have got that shoring gang out of there earlier."

"All right," Tesno said. "Blame O'Hara."

"I do blame the town. If it weren't so handy and so wild, O'Hara wouldn't have been drunk and Hinkleman broke and upset."

Tesno made no reply. They had walked a little way along the forested road, chilly and damply fragrant at this hour. "When are you going to do something about the town, Jack?" Coons said, and abruptly turned and headed back toward the camp.

Tesno lingered over eggs and coffee at a restaurant counter, then he went to his room and stretched out on the bed. He wanted to be alone an hour or so; after that, he wanted to see Persia. Her company would dull the shock and ugliness of the accident, he told himself, and he would be able to think clearly.


Persia sat primly at the secretary which stood in a corner of her parlor. She frowned, checked her addition. It was nice to have bank accounts in three different towns, but she wished that just once they would total as much as she had expected. The town was busier than it had ever been and on paper she was making a good deal of money; but it was all going to pay off Mr. Jay.

She shifted her chair to face Sam as he came into the room. He regarded her as placidly as ever through his lenses, but she knew him so well that she could sense a mild urgency about him.

"Mr. Jay is in my office," he said shortly.

"Oh?" Mr. Jay never visited the townhouse unless his business was very urgent indeed. "Sam, is anything wrong?"

Sam moved his head negatively. "He has some instructions he wants to give you personally. It's a simple matter, but he wants it done just right."

They went at once to the office. Mr. Jay sprang up to take Persia's hand in both of his. "Charming! More charming than ever!" he said, throwing his head back to look her over. His alert little eyes danced and his beard framed a smile as he devoted a second or two to looking charmed. He led her to a chair as Sam slid into another. Mr. Jay stood between them, hands clasped behind his back. He glanced from one to the other and drew in his breath noisily.

"There are two men upstairs in Sam's rooms that I don't want seen around town. They have been riding all night and are hungry. Now—" Mr. Jay paused to smile crisply at Persia—"I want you to feed them. Have your maid throw together a meal; soup, ham and eggs, left-overs—anything that can be prepared quickly. You might say that Sam has some old friends visiting him, something like that. Then you or Sam take the food up to them—not the maid. In the meantime, Pinky Bronklin will bring a bag of supplies here. These two men will take it and leave. Their horses are tied out back."

Persia smiled faintly. "Aren't you going to tell me what nefarious connivance I'm a party to?"

"Oh, it's underhanded," Mr. Jay said, "completely underhanded. If I were suspected of being connected with it, my career would be finished. But you'll guess it anyway, in the light of future developments; so you might as well know now. Ben Vickers' big boiler reached Ellensburg yesterday. He had a crew and a huge wagon waiting for it, so I expect that by this time it's on the road. I—well, there's going to be an accident."

"I wish now I hadn't asked," Persia said. "No one will be hurt, I hope."

"I certainly hope not."

"I don't like this, Mr. Jay."

"Of course not. I don't like it either."

"Does Vickers know the boiler's arrived?" Sam asked.

"Not yet, I think," Mr. Jay said. "My information is that his messenger was delayed. I dare say that he will get word, though, before the day is out. And I dare say he will send Mr. Tesno down there at once."

Finding no comfort in the solitude of his room, Tesno left the hotel and strolled aimlessly up the street. His big Raymond watch showed only a little after eleven. He would wait till noon, he decided, before dropping in on Persia.

He stopped at the new tobacco store and bought a handful of cigars. Lighting one, he sauntered past the livery barn and up the slope behind it. Most of the timber had been logged off here, and brush and ferns were already claiming the ground. Finding a degree of solace in the faint warmth of the sun, he pulled himself up on a stump and found he had a view that drew him out of himself.

It was a cloudless day, and the range jutted its ragged vertebrae into a sky as blue as a mountain lake. Below him, the town seemed a naked, ugly fungus sprung newly from the earth. The camp, almost hidden by pines, was less intrusive. Beyond the gulch, above it, the crisp black arch of the tunnel scarred Runaway Mountain.

Here it all is, he thought, spread out in front of me. I've either got to become a part of it or get the hell out. He tried to plan what he would say to Persia. He would tell her flatly that the time had come for the gamblers to go, he guessed. He would ask her to have Madrid clear them out, all of them. If she stalled or refused—well, he would do it himself. Or resign.

The townhouse lay off to his left, and he found himself staring at it, thinking that she was in there somewhere, wondering what she did with her mornings. He watched two men come out of the back of the far part of the building, each carrying a small bundle. At this distance he could tell little about them except that they must have come up from the cattle country east of the mountains. One wore woolly chaps. Both wore Stetsons and walked with the peculiar swagger of men in high-heeled boots. They disappeared behind one of the outbuildings, and when they came into sight again, they were mounted on horses. He watched them ride eastward out of the gulch. He supposed they had come to sell beef or hay, or on some such business, and he quickly forgot them.

When his watch read almost noon, he started downhill, avoiding the street and heading for the townhouse. Persia answered his knock, smiling when she saw him. It wasn't the polite and pretty company smile now but a special one, personal and tender, an eager doorway closed quickly behind him as she came into his arms.

"I'm glad you came," she said. She drew him into the parlor.

"It's been a bad morning."

"I heard about the accident," she said. She detached herself from him and sat down on the sofa, crossing her long legs and smoothing her skirt over them. "Is there anything anyone can do?"

"Not for the dead men."

Her eyes touched him warily. She said, "For you then? You ought to get your mind off it."

"No," he said. "I ought to think about it. I ought to think a great deal about it."

She nodded slowly, frowning. He seized the back of a chair and leaned over it moodily. After a moment, she said, "I've been wishing all morning you'd drop by. Jack, it's such a beautiful day. Could we—I suppose it isn't a good idea, but couldn't we pack a lunch and have a picnic? I know a spot where there's a creek and a little waterfall. We'd be a million miles away from everything."

"It sounds fine," he said.

"We'll have to sort of sneak away," she said. "I wouldn't want Sam to know. He'd want to come, too, I'm afraid."

It was after sunset when they came back into the gulch along a forgotten skid road. They reached the kitchen door of the townhouse at a remarkable moment when the entire sky was aglow, burning scarlet beyond the bleak western peaks and cooling down to a grayish pink in the east as night seeped into it. The buildings of the town, the trees, the earth itself were suspended in a pinkish haze. Persia caught Tesno's hand and halted him.

"It's almost frightening!" she said. "It gives you the feeling something strange is about to happen."

He knew what she meant, but he grinned and said artlessly, "It will be a clear day tomorrow."

Stella was at the back door then, saying dinner was ready and going stale. Sam Lester met them in the kitchen. He gave Persia a questioning look and turned to Tesno.

"Vickers is in there," Sam said, jerking his head toward the parlor. "He's been combing the town for you. He finally learned from Stella that you'd gone off somewhere with a basket of food—she didn't know where. He's been camped in there ever since."

Tesno found Ben dozing in a chair. He leaped to his feet wild-eyed when he heard his name.

"The boiler's on it's way up here!" Ben said. "It will move fast enough until the road hits the mountains, and I expect it's damn near to Cle Elum by now. If you ride all night, you can be there by dawn. Where in the merry hell have you been?"

"Picnic," Tesno said.

"You could leave word where I could find you."

"I've been trying to think things out, Ben. I've decided to quit."

Ben clapped a hand to his forehead. "Not now! Not with that boiler down there!"

"You could send somebody else."

"This job might need special talent, Jack. It just might be a dirty one." Ben fell silent as Persia and Sam came into the room. He nodded curtly at Persia. Suddenly he gestured violently and continued. "The thing arrived yesterday. I had a crew standing by to unload it and start it up here. A man left at once to bring me the news—should have been here before daylight this morning. But he was overtaken by a pair of toughs who beat him up, tied him to a tree, shot his horse. He worked loose and walked eight miles in the middle of the night to a ragcamp, where he borrowed another horse. He didn't get here till well after noon."

"You think they did this just to delay the news?"

"Seems like it. And when you remember that phoney telegram—well, that boiler needs you down there alongside of it, night and day, a gun in your hands."

"All right," Tesno said. "I'll chaperone the boiler for you. After that...."

"We'll see, we'll see," Ben said quickly. "Once I get that thing up here and the compressors working, life ought to be a little easier for everybody. I've got your blue roan saddled and waiting outside. You can start right now."

"Not till he's had something to eat!" Persia said. She stepped up and grasped Tesno's arm possessively.

Ben grunted. "Just so he's at Cle Elum by daylight." He located his hat, clamped it on his head, and headed for the door. Sam Lester went with him.

"Actually," Persia said, "I think that man is mad. Sit down and have a drink, Jack. I'll have Stella get dinner on the table. Sam has already eaten."

"I'll have to hurry," Tesno said. "Maybe...."

"Nonsense. Sam has work to do, and I refuse to be left alone. Not tonight, Jack."


The first dozen miles lay in relatively flat sagebrush country. The twelve-man, thirty-horse boiler-hauling outfit covered them the first day, reaching the first real grade at dusk and halting there to spend the night and give the boss time to figure out what he was going to do in the morning.

He was a glary-eyed man named Rejack, who treated his horses with a kindness rare among teamsters and was consequently considered a simpleton by his crew. His problem was to get his huge wagon over a bridge almost exactly as wide as its wheel spread and then up a road with hairpins in it so sharp and steep that the top-heavy load was almost sure to overturn. He finally decided that it couldn't be done. The only chance was to ford the creek and pull the wagon straight up the hillside with block and tackle.

Shortly after sun-up, the crew dragged it across the creek without too much trouble. Rejack then anchored his pulley block on a big cedar, put six men on the wagon tongue to steer, and had ten span of horses hitched to pull down-grade as the wagon moved up. He inspected the teams, the rope, the lashings on the boiler and finally gave the order to start. The wagon moved along nicely for the first hundred feet. Then a man walked out of a clump of trees with a shotgun, aimed at the rope from four feet away, and fired both barrels.

The wagon reversed its direction so suddenly that the man walking near the rear of it with a wheel block had time only to toss it and jump. The wheel missed it. The wagon hurtled down the hillside, skidded sideways, made one complete roll, stopped abruptly in the creek, and collapsed under its load like a berry box.

In the confusion, the man with the shotgun had disappeared into the pines. Some of the crew considered going after him but were promptly discouraged when a rifle cut loose from somewhere above, its bullets ricocheting through the brush between them and the trees. It was plain to everybody that the saboteur had a partner up there covering him.

Rejack took off his hat, scratched his head, and reacted to catastrophe with casual acceptance that the crew later recounted with hilarity.

"If that isn't one hell of a way to cut a rope!" he grumbled. "Did any of the buckshot hit the horses?"

The rifleman fired three rapid shots, obviously not trying to hit anybody, and called it a day. Rejack jounced down the slope to inspect the damage, followed by most of the crew. As far as anybody could tell, the boiler, for a wonder, wasn't even scratched. The wagon was beyond repair. Rejack sat down on the creek bank to figure out what to do next.

It was midmorning and Tesno was five miles above Cle Elum when he met the rider on his way to report the disaster to Vickers. Tesno would have passed with a nod and greeting, but the other recognized him and stopped to pour out the story.

"The boiler isn't damaged?" Tesno demanded.

"Sound as a dollar," the hard-faced little teamster said. "The boss started back to Ellensburg to try and scare up another wagon big enough to haul the damn thing. In the meantime it's setting in a crick about a mile and a half below Cle Elum."

"Somebody's guarding it?"

"Well, yes. The boss ordered a four-man guard on it, but there didn't seem much sense in that since there was only one gun in the whole outfit. So one man's there now. The rest went on up to Cle Elum."

"All right," Tesno said. "Now the first thing you tell Ben is that the boiler is in good shape. That might save him from apoplexy. Then tell him I said not to worry. I'll get the thing up to him."

Guilt welled up in him as he jogged on down the road. If he had left Tunneltown when Ben wanted him to—or even immediately after dinner—he would have been on the scene when calamity struck. With a little luck, he might have prevented it. At least, he would have bagged the hooligan who severed the rope.

Cle Elum consisted of a sawmill, a pond full of logs, and one of the temporary camps Ben Vickers had set up here and there along his supply line. Tesno passed without stopping and rode on to the scene of the wreck. Here he found the guard sitting against a tree sound asleep—a sixteen-year-old kid armed with an ancient revolver with two shells in it. He jerked the boy to his feet and shoved him toward the boiler.

"You keep your eye on that thing every minute," he snapped.

After questioning the kid about what had happened, he made a quick scout through the pines and found where the vandal had tied his horse. Following the hoofprints upgrade, he soon came to a place where they were joined by another set. The two riders had headed straight into the timbered hills without so much as a deer trail to guide them. Apparently, they were men who knew the country well.

He rode back to Cle Elum then, where he found the boiler crew lounging around the mess tent, sipping coffee and playing poker.

"Holiday's over," he announced. "We'll go down there and get the boiler ready to load when the wagon arrives. We'll need about twenty horses to drag it out of the creek."

"Morning will be time enough," a bull-necked, bullet-headed freighter growled, clutching his poker hand close to his stomach. "You were sent down here to guard that damn teakettle, not to give orders. Rejack left me in charge, and I say you can go hang yourself. Where in the black damnation were you when those rascals surprised us, anyhow?"

Tesno remarked that he was in no mood to quibble. Placing the sole of his boot against the edge of the table, he kicked it into the man's stomach, got an armlock on him, and pitched him out of the tent on his face. The crew laughed uneasily and drifted off toward the corral to get harness on the horses.

After several hours of preparatory work, they maneuvered the boiler out of the creek on logs that had been peeled and greased. When they had skidded it onto two logs set along the bank like rails, they dug a cut under one end of these for the wagon to back into when it arrived. It was dark when they finished.

In the meantime, Tesno borrowed a Winchester from the camp 'general' at Cle Elum and another from the mill owner. He also found a Klickitat mill hand who knew the country and whom he set off on horseback to trail the saboteurs.

When the digging was finished and the boiler ready to load, Tesno announced that they would camp on the spot. He divided the men into pairs and assigned them to watches.

"Just don't get jumpy and shoot each other," he said, handing the rifles to the men on the first watch. "If you see or hear anything unusual, let me know. I'll be within calling distance all night."

Supper consisted of stew made of bacon, jerky, onions, and potatoes, chased by black coffee. When he had wolfed his down, he settled himself at one end of the boiler with a blanket over his shoulder and his own rifle beside him. From time to time, he rose to check on the guards, but mostly he sat and smoked, dozing very little.

He was restless and uncomfortable, his supper heavy in his stomach, and his thoughts were like a windblown deck of cards he tried to sort out and put in order. He looked back at his life, at the callousness of it, the probing out of human weakness that could be turned to his advantage, the careful building of a reputation among the contractors. What had he been seeking all these years? Money? A stake that would buy and stock a ranch? Of course. But there had been more to it than that. There had been the satisfaction of seeing steel push into the wilderness. Even if he sometimes had doubts about the true importance of the railroad, it had been something a man could give his life to. It was the giving that had been important.

And now it was not important. Not since that long-ago night in May when he had interrupted Persia Parker's dinner. Gray-green eyes, a soft voice, an eager smile, a lithe body—these were Persia. But what else was she? And in this black and lonely time with his back against the cold bulge of a boiler that was a key piece in a wild game of steel and gold, he dared to doubt the thing he wanted most. To doubt in order to prove. He had to know.

There had been a nervousness in her last night, he thought. She had smiled even more often than usual, had touched him at every opportunity, as she had stubbornly insisted that he stay with her. She had known about the boiler, of course; she had been there when Ben told him of its arrival. But could she have known earlier—before the picnic? No, he told himself, it wasn't like that. It couldn't have been....

A voice rang out in the blackness, a challenge, and another answered bluntly. Tesno was on his feet, working the lever of his rifle. Two figures up in the liquid forest night—one of the guards with his gun on the Klickitat mill hand.

"It's all right," Tesno said to the guard. "Go back to your post."

The Indian, who answered to the name of Muckamuck Charlie, gave his report in a mixture of reservation English and Chinook jargon.

"Them son-of-a-gun cooley over mountain. Split up. One come back to hooihut. Nika till. You got whisky?"

"One of them circled back to the road?" Tesno said, trying to get it straight.

"Damn right. Maybe go by here, take look. Halo nika money. You pay now?"

"Where did the other one go?"

"Halo chako. Him wait. By and by come together. Go to tenas house ipsoot in woods." Charlie made a gesture toward the southwest. "Four-five mile."

As near as Tesno could make it out, one of the men—no doubt the one who had shown himself—had waited while the other rode up the road like any honest traveler, passing the boiler to see how much damage had been done. This could have happened soon after the smash-up, likely as not while that sleepy kid was on guard. Then the pair had joined up again and ridden to a cabin hidden in the woods four or five miles away.

"They're at the cabin, tenas house, now?"

"I listen," Charlie said. "They make sleep noises. I smell whisky."

"Can you take me there? Right now?"

Charlie grunted. "You pay now. Two dollar. We go tenas house, you pay more."

Tesno drew two silver dollars from his pocket and passed them over. "Two more when you take me to the cabin."

Charlie studied the coins in his palm. "Nika till. I sleep now. Eat. Drink some whisky. Pretty soon daylight. We go then."

"We go right now," Tesno said.

As it turned out, they were delayed by the arrival of Rejack, who came rumbling up the road with a new freight wagon as Tesno was saddling his horse. He inspected the boiler and then backed the wagon into the cut by lantern light before he unhitched the team.

"We'll be loaded and moving by sun-up," he said, looking pleased.

"No," Tesno said. "Load, but don't start the boiler up that grade till I get back. Those rascals know it wasn't damaged, and if I should happen to miss them, they might try the same stunt all over again."


Dawn crept into the world drearily and then lavishly as they made a slow and sinuous ride through tangled gulches and trailless forest, up horse-crippling grades and down shale-slippery slopes. After a good hour of this roundabout traveling, Muckamuck Charlie halted at the foot of a rounded, thickly timbered hill. He sniffed the air and announced that the tenas house, the cabin, was on the far side of this.

"Them son-of-a-gun wake up," he said, sniffing again. "Cook breakfast. When we gonna eat?"

As they wound up through the trees, Tesno, too, could smell smoke. When they were over the crest, had tied the horses and were proceeding on foot, it was visible, lying in motionless layers among the pines.

"Fire out now," Charlie said.

They were within a few yards of the cabin before Tesno saw it through the foliage, a ten-by-twelve log shack set into the hillside. It was weathered and saggy-roofed, built by some trapper or prospector heaven knew how many years ago.

Charlie drew Tesno behind a tree, pointed a finger at the ground as an indication that he was to wait, and angled off on a scout. After a few minutes he walked around the end of the cabin, eating a biscuit with a piece of raw bacon draped over it.

"Them son-of-a-gun wake up early. Go 'way," he said.

The air in the dark interior of the cabin was still warm from a fire in the crumbling clay fireplace. It had been doused with water but was still smoking faintly. The occupants couldn't have left more than a few minutes earlier. Gear and supplies piled along the walls indicated that they expected to be back.

Charlie led the way down the hillside to a little open place where they had picketed their horses. After circling around and studying several old sets of tracks, he announced that he had found the fresh one.

As he and Charlie strode upgrade toward their own horses, Tesno grew increasingly anxious. This pair of hooligans knew that the boiler wasn't damaged. It stood to reason that they would make another try at it. He said as much to Charlie.

"You keep on their trail, Charlie. Try to get a look at 'em. I'll be with the boiler. If they come anywhere near it, you let me know. You got all that?"

"Two dollar," Charlie said.

"Five dollar, Charlie. Five dollar, you stay with 'em till I catch 'em."

Rejack had the tackle rigged, the teams hitched, and was impatient to begin the haul. Tesno had him wait till he had scouted out the pine clusters that dotted the lower part of the hillside, then told him to go ahead. The wagon groaned and inched upward. Two men walked behind it now, swinging a squared timber on ropes between them. They held this close behind the wheels so that they had only to drop it to block them. Rifle in hand, Tesno took a position where he could cover the rope on both sides of the tackle blocks.

Slowly, protestingly, the great wagon and its monstrous load crept up to the anchor tree and was lashed to it. Rejack had already chosen the course for the second leg of the ascent and had had brush and saplings cleared away. This would be a longer haul than the first. There were two or three trees that the men on the tongue would have to guide the wagon around, and the slope was uneven, mottled with rock outcroppings. Moreover, the forest pressed in from both sides before claiming the top of the hill entirely, just beyond the place where the wagon would rejoin the road.

"If they'd waited yesterday and hit us up here, there wouldn't be enough left of the boiler to hold a drink of water," Rejack said.

Tesno scouted the trees as best he could. But this was deep woods. A wary man could easily avoid being seen or heard among the maze of trunks growing out of carpetlike duff.

Again, the long double file of horses pulled slowly down the mountainside and the wagon groaned upward. It had climbed barely twenty yards when Muckamuck Charlie appeared below, working his horse zigzag up the slope. Tesno yelled for the team to halt and the men behind the wagon to block its wheels.

Charlie slid off his winded horse. "Them son-of-a-gun close by," he grunted. "They watch."

"Where?" Tesno demanded.

They moved a few steps into the woods. Charlie pointed to a little butte that rose out of the pines half a mile to the west. Its face was sheer rock cliff, but it could well have a sloping approach on its far side.

"They go up there," Charlie grunted. "Halo chako. Wait. Watch. By and by one go 'way. Come down here someplace. One stay."

Tesno squinted thoughtfully up at the butte. "You get a look at 'em, Charlie?"

"Damn right. Jim Palma. Cultus no good son-of-a-gun."

"You know 'em?"

"Know one," Charley said with stubborn serenity. "Jim Palma. Stomp Umatilla boy down to Selah, one-two year ago. Boy die. Don't know other one."

Rejack came trotting through the trees and demanded to know what was going on. "Maybe we ought to back the thing down, lash it to that cedar," he said when Tesno had explained.

Tesno considered this, then shook his head. "Go ahead with the haul. Let them make their try. Just be sure those boys with the wheel block are on their toes. If—"

A rifle shot rang out from the butte, not much louder than a finger snap, and a ricochet screamed its weird song above them.

"Damn fool," Rejack muttered. "He's giving us a warning. I don't get it."

The rifle cracked again, and now a horse whinnied, plunged in his harness, went down.

"My god," Rejack gasped. "He's shooting at the horses!" He dashed out of the woods, waving his arms and yelling to get the team to cover. As he did so, another shot sounded, and another horse plunged and went down.

Tesno studied the butte, estimating that its top was at least six hundred yards away. Even at that range, it didn't take an expert to hit a twenty-horse team. As he watched, a man stepped into sight at the very brink of the cliff, fired a quick shot which hit nothing, and disappeared into brush and scrub timber.

"Jim Palma," Muckamuck Charlie grunted.

"He didn't have to show himself," Tesno muttered. He began to understand the plan now.

Another shot rang out. A horse screamed and started to buck, a brilliant red streak across his rump. Rejack barked orders and waved his arms as teamsters jumped around frantically, trying to quiet down the horses and unhook the harness of those that were down. The men who had been posted on the wagon tongue to steer now were streaking up the slope to help with the animals.

Jim Palma could sit up there and pot horses till confusion reigned completely, Tesno thought. But of course, the man had an additional purpose. He meant to draw whoever was guarding the boiler up there after him to give his partner a chance to strike. He stepped into the open to fire a quick shot again now. And this time Tesno was ready for him with his rifle rested against the trunk of a tree. He aimed and fired. Palma faded from sight.

"You gottem!" Muckamuck Charlie said.

"I doubt it," Tesno said. "Not at this distance. But he knows we've seen him. Let's go, Charlie."

He hurried down to his horse, mounted, and joined Charlie at the road. They rode down it a few yards and were out of sight of the butte.

"You keep after him," Tesno said, waving Charlie on as he reined off the road. "I'll maybe catch up to you later."

Palma's partner would certainly have been watching, would have seen them leave and would assume they had been decoyed after Palma. He would make his move now—any second, Tesno thought as he worked his horse up through a stand of trees toward the suspended wagon. When he came to more open ground, he dismounted and continued afoot. Within a hundred yards of the wagon he knelt in brush cover.

He waited, wondering why Palma's partner didn't make his play. Then he realized that the man would wait for the horses to be unhitched and moved to cover so the rope would have only the weight of a doubletree at its end. There would be only the wheel block to deal with.

The shooting from the butte came rapidly now, badly aimed. The crew frantically untangled harness and ran the horses into the woods in pairs. Tesno kept his eyes on the wagon. Only the wheel blockers were left with it, and they were standing together watching the pandemonium above them.

A man was suddenly crossing the hillside a few yards from the rear of the wagon. He was a lean, quick-moving man in woolly chaps, and he carried a shotgun. His appearance was so sudden that he could only have been lying in the brush there, not far above Tesno.

He barked something at the pair near the rear of the wagon, covering them with the shotgun as they turned. He gestured with the gun toward the wheel block. The men hesitated, then one stooped to remove it.

"Hold it!" Tesno yelled. "Drop the gun!"

He fired as the man whirled toward him. A sickening weakness seized him as the man flounced and the shotgun discharged wildly at the sky. The boiler-wrecker rose on his toes and pitched forward on his face. The man who had stooped over the wheel block straightened without touching it.

Tesno walked swiftly up the hillside, reaching the scene as the crewmen rolled the body on its back.

"He was dead when he hit the ground," one of them said weakly.

Tesno studied the gaping, vacant face, the blood-stained denim shirt, the shaggy, stained chaps. Here was the end of a life. However shabby, there must have been good in it somewhere, he thought, and regret seized him like a sickness. Yet he hid it, denied it, and as men gathered round he said roughly, "Anybody know him?"

Nobody did. Tesno continued to stare, frowning. The limp, long-legged form stirred a slippery memory that he couldn't quite get hold of.

A bullet rang dully against the boiler, spattering harmlessly against the heavy iron. An instant later, the bark of the distant rifle reached them.

Tesno motioned to the men to move around the boiler so it would shield them from the rifleman. As he did so, another bullet made a little explosion of dust two yards below him. He turned his eyes toward the butte and said, "He saw what happened. He's out for blood now."

Rejack bustled up, red-faced and wild-eyed with anger. He took a quick look at the dead man and seemed to grow calmer. He said, "We can't hitch up till that murdering devil stops shooting. Aren't you going after him?"

"I think I know where he'll head for," Tesno said. "I can get there first, I guess. Maybe I can take this one alive."

He strode down-grade to his horse and headed over the hill in the direction of the hidden cabin. He followed the same course he and Charlie had taken that morning, annoyed at its tedious winding and thinking that there might be a shorter way.

When he was near the cabin, he hid his horse well back in the woods and approached on foot.

Everything was just as he had left it. He closed the door behind him and sat down to wait, rifle on his knees. His lack of sleep caught up with him now, and several times in the space of a few minutes he got up to stretch and move about to ward off drowsiness. He couldn't get the dead man out of his mind. He was reasonably sure he had never seen the face before; yet something about that figure sprawled out on the hillside nagged him.

His eye fell on two canvas bags of supplies resting against the wall. And it all came to him then. Two bags of supplies. Two men. One in woolly chaps. The dead man and Jim Palma were the pair he had seen come out of the back of the townhouse two days ago! It seemed a long guess, on the face of it; yet he was sure.

All right, he told himself. They came out of the far end of the building, the office end. That means that Sam Lester is involved, not Persia.

But why Sam? What did he have to gain by wrecking Ben Vickers' boiler? A little longer life for the town, no doubt. But Persia would profit by that as much as Sam. And it was after the men had left that she had suggested a picnic....

There was the soft sound of hoofs outside. He rose and moved quietly to one side of the door. A saddle creaked as a man dismounted. The door was pushed quietly open.

"You here, Boss?" Muckamuck Charlie asked.

Tesno groaned and stepped forward. "Where's Palma?" he demanded.

Charlie stepped into the cabin, looking past Tesno at the canvas bags. "Cooley tenas house. Come this way. See you elip siah. Far ahead. Watch. You come to cabin. Him go 'way."

Charlie pushed past and began to rummage in the bags. He extracted a can of beans and held it up admiringly. "Bullet hittum," he said.

"Hit who?"

"Jim Palma. You shoot. Hittum."

"I couldn't have," Tesno said. "He went right on shooting at the horses."

"Pil-pil. Him bleed. Maybe just scratchum. You catch other one?"

"He's dead."

Charlie nodded approvingly. He produced a hunting knife from somewhere under his coat and jabbed the blade into the can of beans. He pried back the metal untidily, poured out a handful of beans and tasted them. He drew another can out of the bag and shoved it into a coat pocket.

"We'll go after Palma," Tesno said. "You find trail?"

"Damn right," Charlie said.

Eating beans as he rode, Charlie found the trail a few minutes later. It wound down one gulch and up another, over the spur of a mountain and back through still another gulch.

"Where's he headed, Charlie," Tesno asked finally.

"No place. Him know country. Work into mountains. Maybe by and by go back to tenas house, get food."

A little later the tracks led into a shallow creek and disappeared. After several minutes of scouting, Charlie announced that Palma had gone upstream.

"Him know we follow," he said. "Maybe wait, shoot you."

Tesno nodded. There were a dozen places for an ambush every way you looked. He grinned. "Maybe miss me. Hit Charlie."

For the first time since Tesno had known him, Charlie grinned. "Cultus he-he," he said, reining upstream along the bank. "Bad joke."

Tesno laughed and followed, grateful for the luck that had provided his guide. Here in this brutal and majestic wilderness the ten thousand years between white civilization and savagery had no meaning. He and Charlie were just two hunters, friends now, following a trail. It was going to be a rough one, but Muckamuck Charlie would do to ride it with.


Pinky Bronklin unlocked the door of the storeroom on the second floor of the Pink Lady, lighted a candle, and went in. Pushing a wooden box close to a tier of cluttered shelves, he climbed up to examine an array of bottles on the top one; carbolic acid, cough syrup, Dr. Partrey's Male Restorative and Blood Tonic, toothache remedy, Princess Cleopatra's Egyptian Love Stimulant, iodine, linament.... He selected a small blue bottle without a label, uncorked it, sniffed it. Holding it delicately in his crab-claw of a hand, he dribbled two drops into a shot glass. Two drops was the dose. It would hit quick, put a man out for hours. Pinky tipped the bottle again and added three more.

Climbing down from the box, he inserted the shot glass into one of the special pockets sewn to the back of his bartender's apron. There were two of these, a small one inside a larger one. The small one was just the size of the doped glass and held it upright. You took a glass from the back bar and pretended to polish it on the apron. What you really did was drop it into the large pocket and bring out the doctored glass.

Pinky snuffed the candle, locked the storeroom door, and went back down to the bar. It was the busiest part of the night with a fair crowd at the bar and a nice little business at the tables. Pinky motioned to the other two bartenders to move down and began to work the back end of the bar.

After a few minutes, Pete Madrid came in and had a drink. As usual, he didn't pay.

"You sure he'll come in?" Madrid asked, keeping his voice down.

"No, I'm not sure," Pinky said irritably. "How can I be sure? But he almost always does. You got that crazy Willie out of the way?"

"Gave him the night off."

"Only thing is, Mr. O. might go to the Big Barrel. They serve him in there in spite of Willie told 'em not to."

Madrid pursed his lips thoughtfully. "I'll drop in there," he said. "I'll see that they give him a couple of drinks and then cut him off. That'll bring him over here."

Pinky's eyes followed Madrid as he sauntered to the door, his blue silk shirt shimmering in the lamplight, his fingers touching the ivory handle of his low-slung gun with every step. A dangerous man to have for an enemy, Pinky thought—and maybe dangerous to have for a friend, too. Not what you'd call a bright man, he was sure of his ability to kill, and of not much else. He needed somebody else to do his thinking for him, even about small matters, and so far he had seemed to realize this. God help us if he ever starts thinking for himself, Pinky mused.

Half an hour later, Keef O'Hara showed up, and Pinky sighed inwardly. He didn't much like what he was going to do to O'Hara; but Mr. Jay wanted it done, and it would be. O'Hara came directly to Pinky's end of the bar.

"Slip me a pint, ye black scoundrel," he said, "before Deputy Willie catches up to me."

"I hear Willie's off duty tonight," Pinky said. O'Hara must have visited the Big Barrel first, he thought. The big Irishman had had a drink or two.

"Willie off duty?" O'Hara looked alarmed. "First time that's happened."

Pinky took a glass off the back bar and appeared to polish it on his apron. "It's a night to celebrate," he said. He made the switch and set the glass in front of O'Hara, along with a bottle.

O'Hara looked uncertainly at the table in a far corner where he usually did his drinking. "Sure, if I've got the sense God gave geese, I'll walk out this minute while I've still got the use of my legs. Give me that pint, Pinky m'lad, and I'll be gone. With Willie off duty, I don't trust myself in this den of iniquity."

Pinky looked under the bar and shook his head. "I got no pints out here. Have to get one from the back room. Sit yourself down, Mr. O'Hara, and I'll bring it to you."

As he left the bar, he saw with relief that O'Hara was filling the glass. He entered the small downstairs storeroom and watched from its dark interior as the Irishman sloughed down the drink and then another. O'Hara looked vacantly around the saloon, started for a table, and just barely made it. He sat for a few seconds with his head in his hands, then slumped forward with his face against the tabletop.

Pinky returned to the bar with a pint of whisky in hand. Nobody was paying any particular attention to O'Hara. Pinky gave him a glance and stowed the pint under the bar. "I guess he ain't going to need that," he said loudly.

He busied himself with the customers, apparently giving no more thought to the unconscious O'Hara. After a few minutes, he consulted a watch that lay on the back bar. "Fifteen minutes to closing time, gents," he announced, chuckling. "Official closing time, that is. I reckon we'll run a bit over tonight."

There was a low cheer of approval from the customers in the immediate vicinity. Pinky stared past them at O'Hara, making a little show of it. "Still here," he muttered and walked around the end of the bar.

He shook O'Hara, spoke to him, shook him again. Finally, he gestured to a couple of the men who were watching.

"Give me a hand, boys, and we'll tote him upstairs to my room, lay him on my bed."

The bystanders set down their glasses and came over. Pinky helped them lug two hundred pounds of sagging Irishman up the narrow stairway. They took him to the large room that served Pinky as living quarters and laid him on the bed. Pinky lighted a lamp, turned it low. He muttered something about the need for air and opened a window wide.

"He's a nice gentleman," Pinky said. "Just drinks too much sometimes."

"He sure musta took on a hell of a load this time," one of the assistants said. "He don't even move."

"He'll sleep it off," Pinky said. He herded the men back downstairs and bought them a drink, secure in the knowledge that O'Hara wouldn't move for hours.

Whisky Willie woke and sat erect, panicked by the thought that he should be on the job. Then he remembered that Madrid had told him to take the night off, and he sank back with a sigh. A sixteen-hour night shift caught up with you, all right. You could doze a bit in the marshal's office between rounds, but that kind of sleep didn't do a man much good.

Now, however, sleep failed to return. His room was above the stage office, smack in the middle of town, and the sounds of the saloons drifted up through his window. He consulted his watch and saw that it was after closing time. Peeved, he went to the window and leaned out. All the saloons were still showing lights. The piano in the Pink Lady was jangling merrily. Well, he decided, he wasn't going to make a fuss about it. He would close the window and.... His train of thought was interrupted by the sight of the mule at the Big Barrel hitching rack. O'Hara was down there, somewhere. He would be soused to the gills by this time, no doubt. Somebody had to see that he got back to the job.

Willie dressed quickly and went down to the street. O'Hara wasn't in the Big Barrel, although a bartender said he had been in earlier. Willie gave orders to close up and crossed the street to the Pink Lady. As he pushed through the batwings, Madrid came clumping up the boardwalk and called to him.

"What the hell?" he said, following Willie inside. "I gave you the night off so you could catch up on sleep."

"I'm l-looking for Mr. O'Hara," Willie said.

"That whisky-head engineer? I'll keep an eye out for him. You get your tail into bed."

Willie surveyed the line at the Pink Lady bar. O'Hara wasn't there. He wasn't at any of the tables. Willie turned and walked into the street.

Madrid ambled up to the bar and beckoned to Pinky. "You better close up, pronto."

Willie checked the Silver Slipper and then the Western Star. O'Hara was at neither one. Pausing in the shadows, he watched Madrid saunter down the street to his office. Willie had a growing conviction that something was wrong and that the marshal knew what it was.

The Pink Lady was closing, and little knots of men straggled out of it, making their way to other saloons or toward the road back to camp. Willie stopped several men and asked if they had seen O'Hara. Finally, he found one who had.

"Hell, he's at the Pink Lady," the man said. "He passed out in there. Bronklin and some others carried him upstairs."

By the time Willie reached the Pink Lady it was locked and dark. He rattled the door and got no response. He made his way round in back and had no better luck at the door there. There was a light in an upstairs room, and the window was wide open. Willie cupped his hands to his mouth to call but something warned him not to.

He ran back to the street, crossing it to the Big Barrel, where O'Hara's mule still stood at the hitch rail. He untied the animal, mounted, and rode back to the alley behind the Pink Lady. Shadows crossing the lighted window told him that somebody was moving around up there. Gently, he worked the mule close to the wall, directly under the window. He carefully knelt and then stood in the saddle. This brought the windowsill within reach. He grasped it, and as quietly as possible he pulled himself up.

When the last customer was out of the Pink Lady and the bartenders were washing glasses and tidying up, Pinky checked in the dealers. Each brought his cash in a canvas bag, which Pinky stowed into the heavy safe under the back end of the bar. First thing in the morning, Sam Lester would be in to count up.

Pinky unbarred the heavy front door to let the dealers and bartenders out, then he swung this closed behind the batwings and slid the bar into place. Alone now, he returned to the bar, tipped up a bottle and took a long drink. He picked up a lamp, the last light in the place, and trudged up to his room.

Keef O'Hara was breathing raspingly. He hadn't moved an inch, and Pinky chuckled softly at the potency of those knockout drops. Setting down the lamp, he moved to the end of the bed and took off O'Hara's shoes. This was a perfectly natural thing to do for a drunk you were taking care of, he assured himself. If the drunk happened to get crazy ideas in the night and wander around and fall out a window and be found with no shoes, well, nobody could criticize the man who had tried to make him comfortable.

Pinky edged around to the side of the bed and rolled O'Hara off it on his face. Dragging so big a man to the window and stuffing him through it was going to be heavy work, but he guessed he could manage it. First, though, there was the other matter to be taken care of. A man falling from a second story window might injure himself quite a bit, but you couldn't quite count on it.

"I don't want him killed," Mr. Jay had said. "There's no need for that. But I want him knocked off that job. Vickers' doctor isn't equipped to deal with anything complicated and he ships bad cases off to the Ellensburg hospital. That's where I want O'Hara to go."

Mr. Jay had gone on to explain that it would take weeks for Ben Vickers to find another man who knew how to set up a compressed-air operation properly. Well, you had to hand it to Mr. Jay for seeing a thing through. Soon as he got word that his hired hooligans had failed to wreck the boiler, he had come up with this plan to knock O'Hara off the job. A smart, smooth operator, Mr. Jay. A good star to hitch your wagon to. Only Pinky wished he hadn't looked so tired and upset....

Pinky made a trip to the storeroom and came back with a two-foot length of iron pipe. He bent over O'Hara's feet, feeling the bones around the ankles. It wouldn't take much of a blow to break some of these. Two broken ankles plus any injuries that might be caused by the fall ought to put O'Hara in that Ellensburg hospital for a good long time. Probably be a good thing for the man, too, when you came to think about it. Keep him off the booze.

Pinky slipped his claw of a hand under one of O'Hara's heels and lifted the foot. He raised the pipe over his head, and he about jumped out of his skin as a voice rang out behind him.

"Hold it, you b-bastard!"

Whisky Willie had one leg over the windowsill. Pinky flung the length of pipe. He flung it backhanded and it caught Willie on the shoulder as he dived into the room, falling flat. The pipe crashed to the floor and rolled toward Pinky, who scrambled after it. Willie reached a chair, flung it against Pinky's shins, and bounced to his feet. Pinky stumbled forward, reached for the pipe. Before he could get his balance, Willie was on him, knocking the pipe aside and aiming a blow at Pinky's head with the only weapon he carried. The bottle of lemon pop caught Pinky neatly behind the ear and dropped him like a bundle of rags.


Judge Badger, who kept the general store and acted as town magistrate on the side, was tall, bespectacled, and busy-browed. He gave the impression of being a thoughtful and scholarly man, which he was not. He was, however, reasonably honest. Consequently, as Mr. Jay pointed out to Pete Madrid, he was not to be trusted. He was to be managed rather than conspired with.

This morning he entered the small townhouse courtroom and took his seat with great dignity. He surveyed the half dozen persons present and addressed himself to the marshal.

"Pete, what in tunket is this all about?"

"The marshal's office is guilty of an embarrassing mistake," Madrid said, reciting the words as if he had memorized them carefully. "As you know, I have an inexperienced deputy. Last night he...."

"If you made a mistake why don't you correct it?" the judge demanded. "Why waste the time of this court?"

Madrid pointed at Willie with his thumb. "Because this mule-head won't admit it. He insists on this hearing."

The judge turned sternly to Willie.

"I want P-Pinky B-Bronklin ch-charged and t-tried," Willie said.

"Charged with what?"

Willie told what had happened the night before. The judge asked a question or two and then told Pinky to tell his side of it.

Protesting that he was in this trouble because of his kindness to a drunk, Pinky rattled off a remarkable story. When he went up to his room after closing the saloon, he said, he had forgotten about O'Hara's being there. He had maybe had a nip too much himself, he admitted, and he had been given a scare by something or somebody crawling around in the dark. He had grabbed a length of pipe which happened to be handy and had cautiously approached the crawler, who was now lying still. Just then Willie had come through the window.

"There were t-two l-lamps burning in that room," Willie put in.

"You're a liar!" Pinky said.

"Now, now, now!" Judge Badger said. "We won't have any more of that."

"You're another," Willie said.

The judge struck an angry blow with the wooden nutcracker he used for a gavel. He appraised Willie witheringly, then he asked quietly if Willie had any concrete evidence that a crime had been committed, and if so, what it was.

Willie had brought Vickers' doctor to the courtroom, and he now stepped forward and said that in his opinion O'Hara who was too sick to appear, had been drugged. He couldn't say for sure what the drug was.

The judge asked a few more questions and then pointed out that there was no evidence that the drug had been administered in the Pink Lady and no grounds for a charge against Pinky.

"Howsoever," he said, "surreptitious administration of drugs is a serious offense, and this court directs the marshal's office to further investigate this matter with a view to discovery of guilty party or parties. Upon presentation of evidence that will warrant a bill of indictment, this court will order the arrest of said guilty party and he will be taken to Ellensburg and the matter will be prosecuted in district court."

Willie left the courtroom with anger a seething molten pressure in him. He trudged toward the main street beside the doctor.

"The marshal cooked your goose at the very beginning when he told the judge you'd made a mistake," the doctor said. "If he'd backed you up, the judge might have agreed to a charge."

"I kn-know," Willie said bitterly. "They're all in together."

Pinky and the marshal reached the street ahead of them, Pinky angling off toward the Pink Lady and Madrid going into the hotel. It was the second time that morning that he had visited the hotel.

Willie went to his room and stretched out on the bed. After a few minutes, Madrid barged in without knocking. Willie didn't move from the bed.

"All right, cowboy," Madrid said. "I'll take that badge."

Willie unpinned it and handed it over. Madrid stuffed it into the pocket of his bright blue shirt.

"You're all in together," Willie said. "You're a b-bunch of crooks in together."

"Now don't get me mad," Madrid said. "You're getting out of this lucky. Get over and get your pay from Sam Lester. Then get your tail out of town. Today."

Willie said nothing. Madrid glared and said, "Do you understand that? Today."

Willie nodded.

"If you aren't gone by dark, you'll get hurt. Hurt bad." Madrid turned on his heel and went out.

After a while Willie got up, walked to the townhouse, and knocked on the door of Sam Lester's office. Sam seemed to be expecting him. He plunked a little pile of gold and silver on his desk.

"Sixty-six dollars," he said. "That includes a full day's pay for today. Sign this, please."

While Willie was signing the receipt, Sam added a double eagle to the pile of money. "I understand you're leaving town," he said. "This is for traveling expenses."

Willie silently pocketed the money. He left the building and walked around back to Persia's kitchen. Stella was dividing a batch of bread dough into loaves and putting it into pans. He asked if Miss Persia was in, and Stella said she was in the parlor.

Willie found her seated at the secretary. "I been f-fired," he said.

"I'm sorry," Persia said. "But there's nothing I can do, Willie. You made a serious mistake."

"You're in it, t-too! You're all in t-together!"

"Would you like a letter of recommendation?" Persia said. "I'd be glad to give you one. It might help you get another job."

"I hoped you'd l-listen to my s-side of the s-story," Willie said.

"Willie, you accused a member of the town council of a serious crime without one speck of evidence. I'm sure it was an honest mistake, but...."

Willie put his back to her and walked out. Stella offered him a cup of coffee and a piece of pie, and he ate silently, thanked her, and left.

He marched straight across town and took the road to Vickers' camp.


They had nothing to eat except the can of beans Muckamuck Charlie had pocketed, some rock-hard biscuits from Tesno's saddlebags, and a few trout snagged with a hook made from a horseshoe nail. Palma's trail circled, zigzagged, doubled back. Surprisingly, he made no attempt to ambush them—although they were slowed again and again as they made roundabout approaches to places where he might be lying in wait. Finally, it seemed a safe conclusion that he had used up his ammunition sniping at horses and the boiler crew.

On the afternoon of the second day, Charlie announced that Palma had doubled back toward the road. He had entered a deep, cliff-guarded valley that led nowhere else, Charlie said.

Tesno felt a little stab of alarm. Could Palma plan to take another crack at the boiler? Alone and without ammunition?

Charlie didn't think this likely. "Hit road high up now," he said. "Boiler siah. Far away."

Still, the possibility couldn't be ignored. Tesno decided that they would graze the horses for an hour and then ride all night.

They came upon the road at midmorning. They had given up trying to follow Palma's trail; they didn't know if he was still ahead of them or if they had passed him in the night. Since Charlie knew Palma by sight, Tesno sent him on up to Tunneltown.

"If he shows up there, go see Ben Vickers," Tesno said. "Vickers. Nobody else. He'll get word to me."

He turned his tired horse down-grade as Charlie jogged off in the other direction. He came upon the boiler two hours later, only a few miles above Cle Elum. It was pulled off the road preparatory to another haul by block and tackle. It had made only three miles the day before, Rejack reported, and he guessed that was going to be about the average.

"You look like you need a meal and a bed," he told Tesno.

"The meal will help," Tesno said.

He felt as if he were in danger of dropping in his tracks, but he couldn't sleep—not yet. Even if Palma weren't lurking in the woods, waiting his chance, there was the possibility that he would come riding boldly down the road on his way to Ellensburg, believing himself still ahead of Tesno. Of course, he might already have done that....

A few minutes later, Tesno got a chance to check this latter possibility. He was eating a plate of beans at the cook wagon when Whisky Willie Silverknife came riding up the road from the direction of Ellensburg. Tesno hailed him, and he rode over, not getting out of the saddle.

"I'm in a huh-hurry," he said. He was red-eyed and looked as sleepy as Tesno felt. Three pairs of handcuffs dangled from his saddlehorn.

Tesno asked if he had met anyone on the road who might be Palma. "I don't rightly know what he looks like," Tesno said. "He's dressed like a cowhand, and he might be wounded. Nothing very serious, but he might have a bandaged arm, something like that."

Willie hadn't seen him.

"What are the handcuffs for?" Tesno asked. "Where have you been?"

"I'm m-mad," Willie said. "M-Madrid fired me."

"You're still wearing a badge."

"T-take a g-good look at it. It's a county deputy's badge. Mr. Vickers gave me a letter to the sheriff, and I rode down and g-got s-sworn in this morning."

"And you're going back and get even. Is that it?"

"I'm going to close that Pink Lady up tight. I'm going to send Pinky to p-prison. If Miss P-Persia gets hurt, too, I c-can't help it. She wouldn't b-back me up."

"Willie, you get off that horse and have some food," Tesno said. "I want to hear about this."

Willie sullenly dismounted and accepted a plate of beans. He gave Tesno an account of his rescue of O'Hara, the hearing before Judge Badger, his appeal to Persia. He pulled a folded paper from a hip pocket and waved it in Tesno's face.

"This is a wuh-huh-warrant for Pinky Bronklin's arrest, issued by the district court."

Tesno took the warrant and unfolded it. Willie produced an inch-thick bundle of similar papers from the other hip pocket.

"I got some m-more d-documents," Willie said. "Closing orders, warrants, subpoenas. Some of them are b-blank. The district attorney said to fill them in ac-c-cording to my j-judgment."

Tesno muttered an exclamation as he read the warrant. "Looks like you've got Pinky dead to rights," he said. "This charges him with illegal possession of drugs, illegal administration of drugs, operating a gambling hall.... That must have been some letter Ben wrote!"

"The p-people down in Ellensburg are beg-g-ginning to take an interest in Tunneltown," Willie said. "Teamsters and drummers and such have been complaining."

"How do you figure to prove this drug charge?"

"J-jail Pinky, then search the place. I'll take Vickers' doctor with me. Ch-chances are we'll find the kn-knockout drops."

"Willie, you wait till I get back there before you start closing saloons," Tesno said.

"N-not much. I figure to d-do it tonight. I'm m-m-mad."

"You know that Persia is the principal owner of the Pink Lady?"

"I can't help that. It's a rotten p-place and I'm going to sh-shut it up."

"Damned if I don't believe you're a bluenose," Tesno said. He said it jovially; then reproach crept into his voice. "Damn it, Willie, it's not a small thing to sit in judgment of others. You're mad. You've got yourself some official backing. But you've no right to be high-handed."

"My g-god! That from you?"

"From me," Tesno said.

"You t-took it on yourself to judge everything and everybody in Tunneltown the day you arrived."

"I judged nobody," Tesno said. "I was just doing a job for pay."

"You said this was a rotten town preying on Vickers' c-crew. You even jailed the marshal. You said the hell with authority. Then Miss Persia wrapped you around her f-finger like a Christmas ribbon. N-now you're in with the rest of them!"

"The town council agreed to go along with me, Willie. That changed things."

"M-maybe you don't know it," Willie said. "B-but it was the other w-way around. Miss Persia rustled her skirts at you and you w-went along with the town."

"We'll leave Persia out of this," Tesno said with a steel edge of anger in his voice.

"We c-can't—even if you beat the peewallopus out of me. I g-guess you could do it easy enough. You're tougher than anybody I kn-know." Willie laid his plate on the tailgate and looked Tesno squarely in the eye. "And you've g-got no more spine than a rag d-doll!"

He put his back to Tesno, caught up his reins, and swung into the saddle. He poised a rein end above his horse's rump and said, "I'm m-mad. M-maybe I didn't m-mean all that."

Tesno wanted to tell him to come back and finish his dinner. Instead, he found himself saying gruffly, "You meant it. And be damned to you."

The handcuffs hanging from Willie's saddlehorn clinked dully as he pivoted the horse and headed back to the road at a trot.

An hour later the boiler had been inched up the hillside and was back on the road. Rejack called a halt just above a small bridge, and the crew clustered around the cook wagon for a late dinner. Something about the bridge interested Tesno; then suddenly he recognized it. He turned his horse up the creek and followed it to the grassy place where he had nooned on his first trip to Tunneltown, the place where Willie had surprised him.

He got off his horse and washed his face in the chill, singing water. He stretched out in the soft grass then, knowing that he had to sleep if only for an hour. Yet sleep did not come at once, and he lay staring at a ragged patch of sky.

I can stay till this boiler gets up to the job, he thought. I can do that much for Ben. Then there's nothing to do but quit. I'm finished as a troublebuster. Willie made me see that clearly enough.

He had never really believed in the railroad; but he had taken his living from it, and he had given what it asked in return.

Willie had said he was tough. I've made a profession of toughness, he thought, but I've made it an honest profession. I've laid my life on the line to do what I've been paid to do. That's all I've ever been, an honest tough. It wasn't much, but it was something. Now I am a man in love. And I am nothing at all.

There was still the ranch he had dreamed of for so long—or was there? Persia had spoiled that for him, he realized. In spite of her show of interest, she would want no part of the modest spread he would have, of the years of frugal living while he built up a herd. No, there was not even that now. There was only the soft dream of a lovely woman whose eager tenderness absorbed a man ... and left him nothing of himself.

It was tenderness itself that was his enemy, he thought. He had toughened the shell around his loneliness to the point of brittleness; he had made himself defenseless against love for a woman when it had finally come to him....

He slept and woke and overtook the boiler a mile on its way. It was in little danger, he judged, as long as it was rolling along the road. And after another short pulley haul had been made with no attempt at interference, he decided that Palma probably was not in the vicinity.

That night he rolled up in his blankets under the wagon with the great weight of the boiler above him. He slept deeply and was wakened by one of the guards shining a lantern in his face. A messenger had arrived with a note from Ben Vickers:


Some drunken Indian says I got to get a message to you, I can't make out why. Something to do with a man named Palma.


Persia Parker sat in her usual place at the head of the council table and listened demurely while Sam Lester outlined a plan for the town to issue scrip. She didn't know if the plan had originated with him or with Mr. Jay. She didn't thoroughly understand it, but Sam had assured her that there would be considerable advantage in it, if it was done right.

When Sam had finished speaking, she turned the meeting over to him and left the room. This had been agreed on beforehand—there seemed to be certain hidden profits in the plan that were best discussed in her absence.

She walked along the long hall and entered her parlor, halting in surprise as a man rose slowly from the sofa.

He was stocky, brute-faced, and wore a pointed blond mustache and several days growth of pale stubble. He was dirty and looked exhausted. There was a large dark stain on his jeans—a bloodstain. She felt a little stab of panic.

"There's a meeting in there," he said, gesturing with his hat toward the other part of the building. "The door was open and I couldn't get past to Lester's rooms, so I come in here."

She recognized him now as one of the pair who had hidden in Sam's rooms a few days ago. She had taken food up to them.

"I got a bullet scratch on my leg," he said. "It wouldn't amount to nothing if it had been took care of, but I been on the run three days. It's got to be dressed. I got to have some food."

He sank down heavily. A blood-stained bandage showed through a tear in the faded cloth of his jeans. He would get the sofa dirty, she thought, and she frowned her annoyance.

"I'll go back to the meeting and close the door so you can get up to Sam's quarters," she said.

"My horse has got to be took care of. He's out back."

"Tell Sam about it." She turned back toward the hall.

"It's got to be done quick. I got two men on my tail."

"Two men?"

"I take one to be a Injun, the other Vickers' troublebuster."

Whisky Willie reached Tunneltown shortly after dark. He left his horse at the livery, unhooked the handcuffs from his saddle and walked stiffly to the marshal's office.

Madrid was at his desk behind an oil can and a mound of rags, cleaning his revolver. He leaped to his feet as Willie walked in and dumped the handcuffs on the desk.

"I told you, cowboy," Madrid said, swallowing his amazement. "I warned you."

"This is a c-c-county badge I'm wearing," Willie said.

Madrid gaped at the badge. "What the hell are you trying to pull?"

Willie drew the stack of papers from his hip pocket, selected one and slapped it on the desk. "That's the document that goes with the badge, Marshal. You better read it. The sheriff of Kittitas County requests that you give me the use of your jail and your c-co-operation."

Madrid made a shaky try at seeming amused. "You really pulled this off, kid?"

"You know what c-co-operation means? It means you try to interfere j-just once and I'll jail you like T-Tesno did."

Madrid slid shells into his revolver and dropped it into his holster. Grabbing his hat from a peg in the wall, he left the office without another word. Willie watched him from the doorway till he entered the hotel, then followed.

When Willie entered the lobby, it was empty except for the clerk, who was sorting mail.

"Where d-did the m-marshal go?" Willie demanded.

"I thought you got f-f-fired," the clerk said insolently.

Willie picked up an inkwell and smashed it on the floor at the clerk's feet. The clerk opened his mouth in outrage, but he saw Willie's hard little black eyes and said nothing at all.

"I asked a q-qu-question," Willie said. "I want a b-better answer."

"Third floor, I guess. That's where he usually goes."

"Who's on the th-third floor?"

The clerk consulted a chart. "Jackson, Dockeray, Smith, Jay, Lewis, Mann, Parce, Oliver...."

"Who's permanent?"

"Mr. Jay keeps his rooms on a monthly basis. He's the only one on that floor who does."


Willie marched out of the hotel and made straight for the Pink Lady. Pinky Bronklin, who was working the far end of the bar, called loudly to the barkeep who stepped up to serve Willie.

"Tell him we don't serve Injuns!"

"You an Injun?" the barkeep said and immediately moved away.

Feeling the eyes of the crowd center on him, Willie pushed away from the bar and walked down to where Pinky was.

"Get the hell out of my place," Pinky said.

"T-take a good l-look at my badge," Willie said. "You're t-talking to a county deputy."

Pinky scowled at the badge. His eyes lifted to Willie's face. He opened his mouth to speak, thought better of it, and abruptly turned his back.

Willie moved up the bar, pulled the wad of papers from his pocket, and threw one of these on the bar with a slap that brought Pinky around.

"The Pink Lady is closed as of right now!" Willie proclaimed. "Everybody out!"

Pinky unfolded the paper and dropped it like something hot. He motioned to the barkeep nearest the door. "Get Madrid here! Quick!"

"B-bring Mr. Jay with him," Willie said.

Pinky gave Willie a sick, sagging stare. Willie began to herd customers into the street. Two minutes later the place was empty except for Pinky, one barkeep, and the dealers. Willie waited while Pinky checked in the cash and stowed it into the safe. Then he dismissed everybody except Pinky.

"J-jail for you t-tonight. T-tomorrow I'm taking you to Ellensburg."

He marched the saloonkeeper into the marshal's office, finding that Madrid hadn't returned. He locked him into the cell, pocketed the key, and returned to the street.

A weariness rose in him now. The worst was over, he guessed. In the morning, he would take Vickers' doctor to the Pink Lady and they would search it for knockout drops....

Something moved against the dark wall ahead of him. He stopped stark still. A man stepped out of the shadows, staggering a little. Willie brushed past, smelling whisky; then he whirled in surprise at hearing himself addressed in the Yakima tongue.

"It is Silverknife, the grandson of my mother's brother."

Willie peered closely at the dark face. He, too, spoke in Yakima, stuttering not nearly so badly as he did in English.

"It is Red Iron of the Kilickitats. He sees better in the darkness than I, even when he is drunk."

Muckamuck Charlie touched Willie's badge admiringly. "It seems you have become a tyee among the white men. But then you have their blood."

"What are you doing here?" Willie asked.

"I am to be given chikamin for watching a man...."

Willie listened tensely while Charlie explained about being hired by Tesno, their pursuit of Palma, and his coming alone to Tunneltown. Charlie had taken it upon himself to examine the hoofs of all the horses in the livery barn, and he had found the animal whose shoe marks he had been following for three days. So Palma was here, and Charlie had been watching the street for him. He had discovered a place where an Indian could buy whisky, so he had been able to keep his stomach warm while he watched.

"Did you ask the man at the livery about the horse?" Willie said.

"It was not brought in by Palma but by a tyee of the town who lives in the big house with two doors. The one called Sam Lester. You got whisky?"

Willie took him to a restaurant and bought him a meal, tapping his badge when the waitress protested about serving Indians. Charley said he would sleep in the livery barn, where he could keep an eye on the horse. Reluctantly, Willie lent him a dollar for a stomach-warmer.

Willie went to his room and crawled into his sagging cot. He sank almost at once into thick slumber. The door to his room was without a lock, and he did not hear it open. Nor was he disturbed by the dark, cat-careful figure that stole about the room.

When he woke at daylight, his badge was missing—along with his precious stack of court papers.

He went at once to the marshal's office and found it deserted. The cell door stood open. Its padlock—picked or forced—lay on the floor. Pinky Bronklin was gone.

Willie sank down at the desk, feeling foolish. Without evidence of authority, he was nothing. Pinky Bronklin would laugh in his face. If he rode back to Ellensburg and reported what had happened, they were likely to laugh at him there, too. He asked himself what Tesno would do. Damn it, he would go ahead anyway. He never did have authority.

When Willie returned to the street, the town was coming to life. Stores and saloons were opening. Workers from the night shift trudged the boardwalk, hunched against the early chill. The big door behind the Pink Lady's batwings had been swung wide....

Willie found Ben Vickers at the cookhouse, bent over a stack of flapjacks. Ben listened eager-eyed as Willie outlined a plan.

Ten minutes later Willie entered the supply building and handed the clerk a note signed by Ben. The clerk issued one stick of dynamite, one cap, one fuse. Willie fitted on the cap and fuse, shoved the dynamite into a hip pocket and walked back to town.

There were two customers at the Pink Lady bar. One faro game was going with three players at the table. Pinky Bronklin sat nearby and sipped coffee. "We don't serve Injuns!" he called when he saw Willie.

Willie stepped up to the bar. "I want a cigar," he said. He faced Pinky. "Two more charges against you. J-jailbreaking. Failure to obey a c-c-closing order."

"You b-been warned," he said.

Customers, faro dealer, and barkeep plunged for the door, colliding as they reached it, careening into the street. Pinky Bronklin seemed petrified. When he managed to speak, he stuttered worse than Willie.

"Y-you c-can't b-bluff me," Pinky said.

"Who's b-bluffing?" Willie said.

He touched the cigar to the fuse, which began to sputter merrily. He gave the stick of dynamite another flip in the air as Pinky tore for the batwings with hands straight out in front of him and hit the street screaming for Madrid.

Willie waited till the fuse had burned down a bit; then he laid the dynamite on the bar and strolled through the door. A crowd was gathering a little way down the street. Pinky had almost reached the marshal's office and was gesturing wildly to Madrid, who was coming out of it. They both started toward the Pink Lady at a trot.

Willie met Pinky head on and spun him around.

"B-back to that cell," Willie said. "This t-time, I'm going to handcuff you to the b-bunk."

The roar shook the town. Afterward, there was a lingering tinkle of falling glass. Kind of like music, Willie thought.


Stella stood by the swinging door that led from the kitchen into the dining room and pushed it open a few inches. This enabled her to hear much of what was said in the living room.

She didn't often eavesdrop. But judging from the way Mr. Jay, Mr. Madrid and Mr. Lester had descended on Persia all at once, they considered themselves up against crisis, which was almost certain to concern Willie. Stella had sort of a crush on Willie, even though he never gave her any real encouragement.

Mr. Jay was doing most of the talking. The way his voice rose and fell, Stella judged he was pacing the floor.

"I have failed completely in my efforts to buy the tunnel contract," he was saying. "This is due largely to the stupidity of people I have paid to help me. I have spent a tidy sum on the project, and I'm not giving up. If I don't get the contract, at least I have the town, and I will make it pay as never before. I don't intend to be stopped by this ridiculous little clown who has got the authorities in Ellensburg interested in us."

Stella snorted softly. Mr. Jay talked as if he were God, she thought.

"I have a plan for getting those authorities off our backs," he went on. "It is simple enough. Persia and the council will publicly recognize that Tunneltown has got out of hand. They will ask a man of position and integrity to take over and clean up the mess. This man will be me. The council will call the election that it has postponed. I shall be elected mayor.

"Of course, it must not be known that I am—for all practical purposes—the proprietor of the town. I will confer with the politicians as an outsider brought in in an emergency. I assure you I can handle them. The sure way to make a politician lose interest in anything is to try to interest him in it." Mr. Jay paused and there was a low, dutiful surge of laughter.

"What about Pinky?" Mr. Madrid asked. "Like I told you, Willie means to take him to Ellensburg for trial."

"We can't permit this to happen. With his jail record and all those charges against him, the prosecuting attorney is likely to offer him a deal—and Pinky will tell all he knows about me."

Persia spoke now for the first time. "How can we avoid this, Mr. Jay?"

"Willie has shown himself to be a reckless fool," Mr. Jay said. "A regrettable accident is quite within the realm of possibility."

"He's lost his badge and papers," Madrid said. "As far as I'm concerned, he has no business taking Pinky out of town, I'll stop him—for good."

"No," Persia said. "I don't want that."

"It mustn't happen in town," Mr. Jay said. "That would require a great deal of awkward explaining. It must happen on the road. Pinky Bronklin will have a concealed gun and will make his escape."

"What will happen to Willie?" Persia asked.

"That's in the lap of the gods," Mr. Jay said quickly.

"I don't think you mean that," Persia said. "You mean to have Willie killed. I won't agree to that."

"My dear." Mr. Jay's tone was tiredly patient. "Must I remind you that you are the principal owner of the Pink Lady? A few repairs, a new stock of liquor, and you'll be in business again—if Willie does not get to Ellensburg. If he does you'll lose your license—and that'll be the least of it. You'll quite possibly have to face charges yourself."

A door slammed and there was the clump of boots as newcomers came in from the other part of the building. There was a great deal of stirring around and exclaiming. Then Stella gasped as Willie's voice rose above the others.

"I found this r-rascal upstairs in Mr. Lester's rooms. I'm t-told he's wanted for b-boiler-wrecking and such. I'm arresting him and taking him to Ellensburg along with Pinky."

There was a great deal of confused talk then, and Stella could sift nothing out of it. She knew that a stranger had spent the night in Sam Lester's quarters, but she had not seen him. Willie must have barged up there and arrested him, she realized.

She got a glimpse of Willie and his prisoner as they passed the dining room doorway on their way to the front door. Madrid and Mr. Jay came into view behind them. Madrid had his hand on his gun, but Mr. Jay gave him a look and a quick little shake of the head. The front door slammed heavily, and Willie and his prisoner were gone.

"He's gone crazy!" Madrid said. "Plumb paper-doll crazy!"

"Actually, it's working out well," Mr. Jay said. "With two prisoners to guard, Willie will be taking a foolish risk. A break will be that much more plausible. Don't you agree, Persia?"

"I don't want anything to do with it," Persia said, a languid thickness in her voice. "I don't even want to hear about it."

Mr. Jay and Madrid walked together to the main street.

"I've already got a horse for you," Mr. Jay said. "It's tied behind the hotel."

"Must say you think of everything," Madrid muttered.

"This must look like a break—surely you understand that. Don't forget to take an extra gun."

"What for? If one of the prisoners had a hidden gun, he'd take it away with him, wouldn't he?" Madrid protested.

"Palma and Bronklin have to go, too, Pete."

They walked in silence for a few yards, Madrid staring at the ground. "I guess I can do it," he said somberly. "But three of 'em!"

Mr. Jay halted suddenly and pointed at a rider who had just entered the town and was swinging into the road to Vickers' camp. "Tesno!" Madrid said.

"He's headed for the camp," Mr. Jay said. "If Willie gets out of here with his prisoners without meeting him, there's no need to change our plan."

Five minutes later, wearing a coat over his blue and white silk shirt, carrying an extra revolver in his pocket, Madrid rode quietly out of town.

Muckamuck Charlie woke to the sound of an argument below him. He lay almost completely submerged in hay. His head ached. He was feeling sick tumtum. He felt around in the hay for a bottle and found none. He asked himself where he was and what he was doing here. After a moment, he remembered he was watching a horse.

Slowly, stifling groans, he worked himself out of the hay to his hands and knees and peered over the edge of the loft. He saw with satisfaction that Palma's horse was still in its stall. Nearby, two men were arguing. One was the stableman. The other was Willie Silverknife.

As near as Charlie could make it out, Willie wanted to take the horse, but the stableman wouldn't let him without permission from the man who had brought it in. Charlie got to his feet. Teeteringly, he worked his way along the edge of the loft to a ladder. By the time he reached its bottom, the argument had stopped. Willie seemed to have settled for three other horses, which he and the stableman were saddling.

When he saw Charlie, Willie said, "Ho!" and made a joke in English which Charlie didn't understand.

"Sick tumtum," Charlie said. "You got whisky?" Willie swung a saddle to the back of a horse, and Charlie saw that his hip pockets were empty. "You got dollar?"

"I have taken your man, your Palma," Willie said, speaking now in the Yakima tongue. He gave the horse a punch in the ribs to make him deflate himself, then he tightened the cinch. "He is in the jailhouse. I will take him to Ellensburg."

Charlie absorbed this silently. Willie went on to say that he expected to meet Tesno on the road. He said Charlie ought to ride along with him, if he was able, and rejoin Tesno.

Charlie replied that he had a great sickness in his head and stomach, was having trouble seeing clearly, and was quite likely going to die unless he could get hold of some whisky. Besides, Willie's capture of Palma put an end to Charlie's responsibility in the matter, and he might as well get drunk.

Willie said crisply that he would lend no more money. Charlie retired to an empty stall and sat down. The livery man caught the reins of Willie's horse and led it outside. All at once, Charlie was aware of a young white woman in the barn. She had appeared so miraculously that Charlie considered the possibility she might be a spirit, but Willie seemed to know her.

"Stella!" he said.

"Villie," she said in strangely accented English, "you must not leave. They vill kill you. I heard them."

"Now just c-calm d-down," Willie said. "What did you hear?"

"Marshal Madrid said he vould stop you from leaving town. I think he meant he vould kill you. Mr. Yay, he said no. He said it vould happen on the road. The prisoner vould have a gun and escape. You vould be dead, I think. At first, it vas only vun prisoner. Then you took the other vun. Mr. Yay said so much the better...."

Stella was extremely excited, and her accent made it doubly hard for Muckamuck Charlie to understand what she was talking about. He gathered that she was warning Willie someone would kill him if he tried to take Palma to Ellensburg, but Charlie doubted that this could be taken literally. She probably wanted to keep Willie in town for reasons of her own. It was disappointing to see that Willie was sobered by her jabbering.

"Thanks, S-Stella," Willie said.

"You'll not go?"

"I g-guess I'll go. I'll be as safe on the road as I am in t-town. But I'll search those prisoners before I start out, Stella."

Willie touched her elbow and they walked together through the big barn door into the sunlight. Charlie got up and watched Willie ride to the marshal's office, leading the two extra horses. Stella hurried off toward the big house behind the town. Willie went into the office and reappeared with two handcuffed prisoners. All three mounted and rode out of town.

The sight of Palma stirred an ugly hatred in Charlie and a fear for Willie. True, Willie had a gun in his belt and the prisoners were handcuffed. But Jim Palma was a strong and wily man. He had stomped that Umatilla boy to death down at Selah, and Charlie had heard other bad things about him. He wasn't sure that Willie was a match for Palma. Maybe that jabbering squaw was right, after all, Charlie thought.

He made his way up a cleared hillside above town, feeling a little better as he walked. He had staked his horse up here—no sense in wasting whisky money on a livery fee. After a day's grazing, the animal looked to be in fair condition. Saddle and bridle were in a clump of brush where Charlie had cached them. He fought a brief battle with the temptation to sell these for whisky money; then he saddled up and cut behind the town to the Ellensburg road.


Tesno made his report to Ben, listened in amazement to the contractor's account of Willie's closing of the Pink Lady, and they rode to the town and the townhouse.

Stella answered his knock. Instead of her usual dignified reception, she greeted him with emotion.

"Mr. Tesno! Did you meet Villie? He has gone to Ellensburg."

"Jack!" Persia darted into the hall and threw herself into his arms. She led him into the parlor, asking Stella to leave them alone.

Stella went into the dining room—Tesno had a feeling that she did not go on to the kitchen. Persia pulled him down beside her on the sofa, and he found himself holding her hand.

"So much has happened!" she said. "Did you hear about Willie? They say he has lost his mind. After all I did for him, Jack, he—"

"Persia, I'm looking for a man named Palma. Is he here?"

"That must be the man Willie arrested," she said quickly. "He came barging in here with a stranger and did some wild talking. I was meeting with ... some people. Willie said something about taking this man to Ellensburg with Mr. Bronklin."

"And they have already left?"

"I'm sure I don't know."

"They have left," Stella said, appearing in the dining room doorway. She drew herself up very straight. "I varned him, Mrs. Parker. I told him that Mr. Yay planned to have him killed. He said he vould be all right, but I am afraid. Vill he be all right, Mr. Tesno?"

"Stella, you have apparently been eavesdropping!" Persia said with an icy anger in her voice. "That is bad enough. But you've twisted everything you heard into a perfectly outlandish story. Stella, have you a crush on Willie? Is that why—"

"I have twisted nothing," Stella asserted. "It vas a plan they vere making, Mr. Tesno, Mr. Yay and the marshal. Mrs. Parker said no, she didn't vant it. I give her credit for that. After vile, she said she didn't vant to hear about it. She don't really care what they do, Mr. Tesno."

"Stella, you liar!" Persia was on her feet. Her eyes were blazing. There were shocking angry lines in her face. "You get out of this house! Immediately!"

"Yes, ma'am," Stella said.

"Wait," Tesno said.

Rising, he touched Persia's elbow, and she flounced violently away from him. For just a second or two, she pressed both palms to her face. Then she made a desperate effort at control, composing her voice but not getting the searing anger out of her eyes.

"I didn't mean that, Stella," she said. "You misunderstood what you heard, and you've let your imagination run away with you."

"No, ma'am, I heard it straight. It vas a plan."

Persia turned away in exasperation. "What a day!" she said.

Tesno took her firmly by the shoulders and met her eyes. She lowered them and would have come against him, but he held her off. "Persia, I want the truth. From you. Is there a plan to kill Willie?"

"How do I know? They're hard men. There's a great deal at stake and—I told them I would have nothing to do with it!"

"Yes," Stella said. "She told them that. She said she didn't even vant to know about it."

Persia whirled and walked to the stairway. She halted there, face in hands; but he did not follow.

"I am afraid for Villie, Mr. Tesno," Stella said.

"How long ago did he leave?"

"Yust before you came. Ten, fifteen minutes."

Tesno regarded her gloomily. "I'll go after him," he said. He strode swiftly to the front door, and it closed heavily behind him.


Willie's prisoners rode half a length ahead of him up the steep road out of the gulch. He had searched them both and found no hidden weapon. Both were handcuffed. He had assured them that if either made a false move, he was going to shoot. He meant it and they knew he meant it.

Still, the fact that he had got out of town with no challenge from Madrid seemed to confirm Stella's warning that there would be an escape try on the road. The marshal and Mr. Jay weren't going to let him get this pair of dandies to Ellensburg if they could stop it.

They crossed the first ridge and began a long, angling descent. Willie's eyes scoured the timber ahead for any sign of life. Now and then he raised himself in the saddle and glanced back. As they neared a bend in the road after a long straight stretch, he saw that a rider was following them.

He was a good quarter-mile away, and he was keeping his horse at a fast trot. He didn't look like Madrid, but Willie was afraid to take his eyes off his prisoners long enough to study him carefully. As they rounded the bend, Willie concocted a plan.

The road bore sharply to the right here. Half a mile below, it crossed a creek and then slanted back up the side of a massive range of hills and through a little saddle between peaks. Out of sight of the man behind them now, Willie ordered Palma and Bronklin to pull into the trees to the left.

It seemed to him that they could cut cross-country and reach the road again as it climbed the hills ahead. The riding would be rough, steep, and slow; they would gain no time by the shortcut. But the chances were that the man behind them wouldn't see their tracks leaving the road here—only Indians were apt to notice such things along a well traveled road. He probably wouldn't miss them till he had reached the bottom of the valley and crossed the creek. There was a straight piece of road there and he would suddenly find that they were no longer ahead of him. He would turn back to discover where he had lost them. At least, Willie hoped he would. He would eventually find their sign and follow it. But by that time Willie and the prisoners would be back on the road a mile and a half ahead. There was a ragcamp a bit farther along which they could reach without fear of being overtaken. Willie planned no further ahead than that.

Weaving through the big evergreens made keeping an eye on both prisoners difficult. When they were well off the road, Willie called a halt. While Palma and Pinky jeered and grumbled, he quickly cut a length of picket rope and tied the bridle of one of their horses to the tail of the other. Thus they were forced to travel pack-train fashion and keep together.

They wound sharply down-grade, dodging branches, holding the horses to a walk on Willie's order. The creek was deep and its banks were thick with brush and jutting dead-falls, but they finally found a ford and crossed. Then they worked up through forest again and came suddenly upon the road. They rounded the first bend and ran smack into Madrid, who was sitting his horses and waiting.

He was a scant ten yards away. He had been watching, had seen them first, and had his revolver in hand. If they had hit the road a hundred yards beyond this bend, they would have avoided him, Willie thought. As it was, he was beaten, and he knew it. He thought of wheeling his horse around and making a run for it. But he knew he would never make it. That revolver in Madrid's hand would drop him at twice the distance.

Pinky and Palma, still riding in file with Pinky ahead, had reined up. Willie kicked his horse forward and jumped it into Palma's. This sent the horses of both prisoners into a dance, and Madrid had to rein out of the way. Willie made a grab for his gun but barely got it clear of his belt. Swinging his horse aside with one hand, Madrid pointed his gun at the sky with the other, leveled it with a gentle chopping motion and fired. Willie coughed and teetered out of the saddle to the road. His startled horse trotted ahead of the others, and Madrid casually leaned over and caught the reins.

Pinky and Palma calmed their horses and regarded the motionless figure below them. Palma was the first to speak.

"And that'll be that," he said. He got down from the saddle with his manacles hands held awkwardly in front of him and unfastened the rope that held his horse to Pinky's. "I'll get the key off him," he said then and walked toward Willie's body. Madrid made the chopping motion with the gun again and shot him squarely between the shoulder blades.

Pinky stared in open-mouthed astonishment. He grinned shakily and said, "What's my move, Pete? Go back with you or skidoo?"

"Neither," Madrid said, speaking for the first time. He raised the gun again, and Pinky understood.

"Pete ... wait...."

"So long, cowboy," Madrid said as he pulled the trigger.

He drew the extra gun from his coat pocket, fired it in the air, and tossed it to the ground near Pinky. Dismounting he recovered Willie's gun, fired it twice, and dropped it near Willie. In the saddle again, he led the horses up and down the road past the bodies several times to assure a hopeless confusion of tracks. He then rounded the bend, left the road and headed through the forest toward Tunneltown. It wouldn't do to be seen on the road.

As soon as he was out of sight, Muckamuck Charlie emerged from the trees, leading his horse. He walked round the bend and, having heard the shots, was not surprised by what he found there. Mumbling to himself, he bent over each man and assured himself they were all dead.

Lifting Willie's body under the arms, he dragged it to the side of the road and straightened it out so it looked comfortable.

"You were a tyee among them," he said in Yakima.

He climbed on his horse thinking that it was a bad business for an Indian to get mixed up in white men's quarrels. He knew of only one white man who would believe him when he told what he had seen. Tesno, as far as he knew, was still with the boiler—or maybe on his way to Tunneltown in response to Vickers' message. Charlie headed his horse eastward—toward Ellensburg—and rode away.

Prodding a tired horse, Tesno heard the shots distantly. He kicked the animal into a lope, couldn't hold him there, settled for a wobbly trot. A few minutes later, he met a riderless horse jogging along toward Tunneltown, head held high to keep dragging reins from underfoot. He waved an arm, turning the horse, and hazed it ahead of him. Almost at once, two more horses appeared with empty saddles. With a sense of disaster gnawing at him, he turned these, too.

He had an instant of hope when he first saw Willie stretched out beside the road; but even before he dismounted and knelt beside the boy, this faded. Willie was dead. Mr. Jay and Madrid had planned it. Persia might have stopped it and didn't....

He had seen his share of death; mostly, he had turned away from it with a shrug and maybe a muttered prayer, as a man must. Now he remembered the first he had seen, that of a childhood playmate, how he couldn't believe it, and this was like that. He brushed mud from Willie's face with his fingers; he looked around at the road and the forest and the sky. Willie was gone; but the world that he was a part of went on, and he was not gone. It seemed as if the cloak of Time were lifted momentarily and the illusion of past, present, and future dispelled.

Nobody ever dies, he thought. Everything we are, everything we do, everything we've ever done, good and bad, goes on forever.

This struck him sharply, fleetingly. The cloak fell again, and he was angry.

He searched the ground, examined the guns. It looked as if one of the prisoners had had a hidden gun. He had pulled it and shot Willie, who had lived long enough to kill them both. That was how it looked, Tesno thought, but that wasn't how it was. There were three empty shells in the two guns. He had heard six shots.

He spent another half hour at the scene, studying it, learning little from the hodgepodge of tracks but fixing every detail in his mind. A train of freight wagons came lumbering along the road then, bound for Tunneltown. The crew found tarpaulins in which to wrap the bodies and stowed them on top of their loads.

When Tesno asked if they had met anyone within the last few miles, several of the drivers shook their heads. Then one remembered.

"Just an Injun," he said. "Old Muckamuck Charlie who works at the Cle Elum mill."


Tesno herded the riderless horses through town to the livery barn. He briefly questioned the attendant, then rode back down the street. He intended to go at once to Vickers' camp; but in front of the marshal's office, a thing happened that changed his mind.

The freighters were unloading the canvas-shrouded bodies here, carrying them into the office. A little crowd was gathering on the walk, and Madrid stood at the front of it. Tesno maneuvered his horse between wagons and stopped directly before the marshal. Silence washed over the crowd. For a moment neither man spoke. Then Tesno said, "I found the bodies."

"Why tell me?" Madrid said. "It didn't happen in my jurisdiction."

"Not interested?"

Madrid shrugged. "It's all plain enough. One of the prisoners had a gun. They shot it out. They—"

Mr. Jay stepped out of the crowd. He touched Madrid's elbow without looking at him, and the marshal fell silent.

"Is that what it looked like to you, Mr. Tesno?" Mr. Jay asked.


"Mr. Tesno I have been asked to run for mayor of this town." Mr. Jay raised his voice for the crowd. "Before I accept, I shall visit Ellensburg and assure myself of the support and the co-operation of the authorities there. I should like to be able to give them the facts about this tragedy. Will you step into the marshal's office and tell me everything you know?"

"It was an ambush. That's all I'll say now."

"Can you prove that, Mr. Tesno?"

"When the time comes, Mr. Jay."

"I was under the impression that you wanted to give the marshal details."

"I wanted to see if he was interested," Tesno said. "He wasn't."

Mr. Jay threw back his head so that his trim little beard seemed to be pointed up at Tesno. There were hollow circles about his eyes, and Tesno thought that the brilliance in them was not entirely the result of emotion. He realized suddenly that the man was under a strain that amounted to illness. Yet his brazen assurance was a formidable thing.

"I don't understand your hostility, sir," Mr. Jay said.

"Willie Silverknife is dead, Mr. Jay. The men who killed him will answer to me."

Mr. Jay glared. "Did you kill him, Mr. Tesno?"

You had to give the man credit. All he had left was a desperate bluff—and a steely confidence in himself.

"You know better," Tesno said.

"My information is that this man Palma tried to wreck Vickers' boiler a few days ago," Mr. Jay said loudly. "You killed his partner. You were trailing him. You and Pinky Bronklin were old enemies. Willie Silverknife wanted these men alive. Did you want them dead, Mr. Tesno?"

"I'll have my proof when I need it," Tesno muttered.

"I have no authority yet," Mr. Jay went on. "But let me warn you. Keep out of the town and its affairs. If I hear of any more of your blustering and bullying here, I'll insist that the marshal stop it."

Tesno grinned and gave a little toss of his head. He understood that Mr. Jay was offering a challenge rather than a warning.

"I'm going to close your town down tight, Mr. Jay," he said.

He backed his horse from between the wagons and jogged down the street to the Silver Slipper. He tied the horse and went in, knowing that Madrid and Jay were watching.

The proprietor, who was a member of the town council, was sitting in a poker game. Tesno stood behind him till a hand was finished.

"You want something?" the saloonkeeper asked testily. He was a bald man with a vacant, puppy-dog face.

"I'm closing the Silver Slipper," Tesno said mildly. "You have until tomorrow noon to move out."

"You're what?"

"I'm not going to argue about it. Get your stock out by then or it will be smashed."

The man spread his hands and looked appealing at the others at the table. He turned his eyes up to Tesno again and said, "Look, I've got a territorial license. You can't—"

"Tomorrow noon."

Tesno pivoted and walked out. He rode up the street toward the Big Barrel, passing the marshal's office again. The freight wagons had moved on, but a little crowd was still there. Mr. Jay stood in the doorway of the office.

Tesno delivered similar ultimatums to the proprietors of the Big Barrel and the Western Star. Then he rode to the townhouse.

He dismounted at the back of the building and entered the kitchen. Stella was sitting at the table, staring vacantly at the raw materials for dinner. The news of Willie's death had already reached her.

"I was too late," Tesno said.

"He vas a decent man," Stella said, speaking very slowly. "Maybe a little crazy, like they say, but decent."

"Stella, I want you to come with me."

"Mrs. Parker says I am not to leave the house. I am scared by the vay she said it."

"You're leaving right now," he said. "We'll send somebody for your things later."

She took his hand dazedly, and he led her outside. He mounted his horse, swung her up behind the saddle, and took her straight to Vickers' camp.

Keef O'Hara was with Ben Vickers in his cabin. They had just heard of Willie's murder and were full of angry questions. They nodded politely to Stella, not guessing the purpose of her presence and plainly considering it an intrusion. Tesno held a chair for her and explained.

"Ben, I want you to put her up here at the camp. She isn't safe in town."

"Here?" Ben said doubtfully. "There isn't a woman in camp. We have no suitable place."

"Then make one, Ben. She heard Jay and Madrid planning to kill Willie."

Ben whirled to confront her. "You heard them?"

Frightened and ill-at-ease, Stella haltingly told what she had heard. When she had finished, Ben Vickers was grimly silent. He turned to his work table and stood toying with some papers there, his back to the others.

"Good lass!" Keef O'Hara said. "Say that in court and we'll see Jay and Madrid hang as high as Mount Tacoma."

"It won't be that easy," Tesno said. "There were other witnesses to that conversation. They would probably swear to a different version, make it seem that Stella misunderstood."

"Jay didn't have to kill," Ben Vickers said darkly. "He was a good engineer. This is a rough business. We've all been ruthless at times, I guess. But outright murder...."

O'Hara nodded sharply. "Sure, it makes a man wonder."

"Jay got his start in Dakota," Ben said. "Worked for a man whose team ran away and took him over a cliff. Jay took over the contract. In Idaho he had a partner who was killed in a fall from a trestle. Nobody ever figured out what he was doing up there in the middle of a snow storm."

Ben turned away from the table, and the three men exchanged startled glances. It seemed to Tesno that they were all thinking about the same thing.

"About the only way you can get a man like Jay is in court," Ben said. "And then you're likely not to get him. I hate to think of what a smart lawyer might do to Stella on the stand."

"I vould tell only the truth," Stella said.

"Another thing," Ben said. "You never saw this boiler-wrecker up close, Jack. How could you swear it was Palma?" He shook his head dismally. "Fact is, we have precious little on Jerome J. Jay."

"Come, lass." O'Hara held out a hand to Stella. "I'll see you to my cabin, which is yours for the night. I'll move into the bunkhouse."

"I'll go along," Tesno said. "There's more that I want Stella to tell me. A whole lot more."

He ate a late supper at the cookhouse and got back to town well after dark. He went to the hotel, bolted the door of his room, and went to bed.

Toward midnight, he was awakened by a persistent rapping. It turned out to be Parris, the hotel owner and town councilman. He helped himself to a chair and seemed to settle himself for a long talk.

"Just came from a council meeting."

"I figured there'd be one," Tesno said.

"I don't like what's happening," Parris said. He had a loud, harsh voice. "I don't like wide-open saloons. I don't like gambling. But most of all, I don't like your barging in like God Almighty and pushing people around. The town ought to handle its own problems."

Tesno, tousled, sleep-eyed, in his underwear, was in no mood to listen to complaints. "Willie Silverknife is dead," he growled.

"Yes, and you're likely to be if you try to enforce that noon deadline you laid down. That's a friendly warning, Tesno, not a threat. They'll be ready for you tomorrow. Madrid has organized every barkeep and every gambler in town into what he calls a vigilance committee, and the council is backing him up. Every man will be armed and waiting for you. The first violent move you make, they'll drop you. Try Willie's trick with the dynamite, and they'll kill you before you can light the fuse. I don't like it and I spoke against it. I don't want any more killing."

"Was Persia at the meeting?" Tesno asked.

"She was not, but I assume she knows what's going on."

"Was Mr. Jay there?"

"Jay? Hell, no. I understand he will run for mayor, which will be a fine thing. But he has nothing to do with the council now."

"Parris, Jay has been in control of Tunneltown since the beginning. He's been running it wide open in an effort to put Vickers behind schedule."

Parris wouldn't believe it, and Tesno was in no mood to argue. Finally, he opened the door and said, "Stop talking for a while and think. Think about what I've said. Good night and thanks for the warning."

Parris snorted and walked out. Tesno had no more than blown the lamp and got into bed when he knocked on the door again.

"I got some siwash here who's been pestering the night clerk," he called. "Claims he's got business with you. Won't go away."

Tesno got the lamp going and opened the door.

"Hello, Charlie," he said. "You come in, too, Parris."

Charlie came in and looked around the room slowly and unblinking. Parris followed and closed the door. Charlie decided he would be comfortable on the bed, smoothed back the covers, and sat down.

"Nika cooley hyas tsik-tsik," he said.

"He says he went to the big wagon," Tesno said. "To the boiler."

"I savvy Chinook," Parris said.

"Mika ko," Charlie said to Tesno. "You here all a time." He seemed to consider this a joke.

"You found those dead men," Tesno said.

Charlie grunted. "Kely tum-tum. I cry in my heart. Silverknife my cousin."

"Willie was your cousin?"

Charlie grunted affirmatively. He explained that he had seen Willie leave town with the prisoners and that he had followed. Willie had seen him in the distance, hadn't recognized him, and had tried to lose him by leaving the road. Charlie had seen the tracks leading into the woods, however, and had followed. Willie had rejoined the road and Charlie had just reached it when he heard the shots. Not having a gun, he had hidden in the trees and waited.

"Son of a gun chase horses up and down. Go into trees."

"Who, Charlie?" Tesno demanded.

"Hyas tyee," Charlie said. He tapped his chest. "Chikamin star. Big boss of town. Bright shirt."

"Madrid!" Parris said. "Madrid murdered the three of them!"

"Madrid," Tesno said.


Late in morning the town began to fill up. By eleven-thirty the saloons were doing a jumping, three-deep-at-the-bar business. Extra bartenders, armed and on hand as guards, were pressed into service. Gambling tables that usually didn't open till evening were solidly ringed with players and kibitzers. Other men stood in little groups out of the flow of traffic, talking softly or just waiting.

Sid Saul, owner and operator of the Silver Slipper, remarked cynically that he wished some bull-ragging troublebuster would threaten a shut-down every day. But even as he said it, he dabbed at his bald head with a handkerchief and kept his big, vacant, puppy-dog eyes on the door.

Over the next half hour it came to Sid gradually that something more than curiosity was responsible for this crowd. First, he overheard some of the talk and gathered that Ben Vickers had given the whole crew several hours off and had meted out fifty cents apiece drinking money to boot. Second, he realized with a shock that this was not a drunken crowd; the hum of steady talk was not punctuated by song, raucus laughter, or quarreling. Third, by the time Sid's big gold watch told him it was four minutes till noon, the jam had swollen beyond reason. Men stood almost solid from wall to wall, and Sid could scarcely see the door. He tossed his sweat-soaked handkerchief into a cuspidor and took a place behind the bar.

"Where's Madrid?" he demanded. "He ought to be down here. Eddie, go find Madrid."

Sid served no drinks. He just stood with one hand on the bar and the other within reaching distance of a sawed-off shotgun stashed under it. Except for a quick glance at his watch every minute or so, he kept his eyes on the door.

"Where's Madrid?" he demanded again at one minute to twelve. "Where's Eddie?"

The batwings eased open, but it was only another knot of workmen crowding in. They shoved up to the bar directly in front of Sid. They were all big men, and he couldn't see the door at all now without moving out of reach of the gun.

It was noon by his watch, a minute after. His fingers touched the stock of the shotgun. He craned his neck and found himself looking into the grinning Irish face of Keef O'Hara.

"Take care with that trigger finger, lad," O'Hara said. "Blast one of these terriers, accidental or not, and the rest will decorate a rope with you."

The truth of this struck Sid like a blow, and he took his hand off the gun. He knew now that he wasn't going to use it. You couldn't shoot anybody in this mob, terrier or troublebuster, and hope to live. The crowd was pressing around the ends of the bar. He whirled, making a pushing gesture with his hands; then he whirled the other way, astonished to find himself alone; the bartenders had been swallowed by the crush and passed from hand to hand.

Then someone was reaching past him, taking the sawed-off shotgun from under the bar. It was Tesno. He said, "Get out of town, Sid."

Sid went weak and sick and then into a blind rage. He knocked the gun aside and drove a fist into Tesno's stomach. Tesno took the punch, stepping back with it; his bootheel caught and he went down, turning sideways and landing on one knee. Sid strode forward, starting a kick, but Tesno rolled into his legs, grasped one of them, drove a shoulder into Sid's groin. Sid lit flat on his back, got an elbow in the stomach that took the wind and the fight out of him.

He was hoisted to his feet, spun around the bar and through the crowd to a group in the center of the saloon. These were the bartenders and the gamblers, ringed by a little cordon of guards.

"They kept pressing in till they swallowed us up," one of the dealers moaned. "I reached for the revolver I had in my pocket and there was already a hand on it...."

The crowd was briefly unruly now, scrambling for the contents of the cash boxes and the liquor on the back bar. A half dozen men with axes on their shoulders filed through to the back rooms. There was a prolonged crash of glass from the storeroom.

Dave Coons wove through the crowd then, saying, "Drift down to the Big Barrel, boys.... The Big Barrel next...."

Mr. Jay and Pete Madrid stood at a window of Mr. Jay's hotel suite and looked down at the street, which was nearly empty. They had watched the mob pour up the street from the Silver Slipper to the Big Barrel to the Western Star, which had completely swallowed it now. The window was open. Madrid held a rifle in his hands.

"It'll be over in a moment," Mr. Jay said tiredly.

Almost at once, the splash of shattered glass came to their ears. Mr. Jay closed the window.

"He's got to show himself sometime," Madrid protested.

"He's keeping to the alleys," Mr. Jay said, "taking no chances. Anyhow, the confusion is over and the chance is gone. The mob will mill around town for a while, then go back to camp."

Madrid put the rifle into a corner and loosened his revolver in its holster. "Then I'll go down and find him. Face to face, I can out-gun him, Mr. Jay."

"Pete, that mob would pick you to pieces."

Madrid stared absently at the street. Men were beginning to trickle out of the Western Star.

"Then the town is his—and Ben Vickers'. I'm getting out, Mr. Jay. If I were you...."

"Just listen," Mr. Jay said. "He's going to be looking for you. I want you to run. He'll follow. Draw him out of town away from the mob. Then turn on him."

Madrid squinted thoughtfully. "But in town I have authority, the right to kill him."

"Do it my way once more, Pete. And when you've killed him, keep going. Go over Runaway Mountain and down the Green River to Tacoma. Sell your horse and take a ship to San Francisco." Mr. Jay extracted a sheaf of bills from a wallet and passed them to Madrid. "This is expense money. Go to the Palace Hotel. Register under a false name—Williams, George Williams. Stay sober and do nothing to attract attention. In a few weeks, I'll contact you. There'll be a payoff."

"I want five thousand, Mr. Jay."

"You shall have it, provided you kill Tesno. Now get some gear together and ride out of here. See that somebody gets word to Tesno just as you're leaving."

"You'll be—all right?" Madrid said. He stuffed the bills into a pocket.

"Of course I'll be all right! They have nothing on me but accusations they can't make stick—not with Tesno out of the way."

They left the hotel together. Madrid hurried off to throw a blanket roll together and get a horse. Mr. Jay made his way to the townhouse.

This was going to be an expensive business, this saloon-wrecking. But perhaps it was for the best. He would be elected mayor and would build a tight town organization that could stand up to Vickers, the Ellensburg politicians—anybody. Tesno would be dead. When he, Mr. Jay, had things solidly under control again, the saloons would open. He would go ahead with the plan to issue scrip....

A dozen men idled in front of Persia's end of the townhouse. Two saddlehorses and a mule browsed nearby. Mr. Jay thumped the knocker once and walked in. He came to a stop as he entered the parlor, startled to see that Tesno was here, standing at the center of a group scattered around the room. The others were Dave Coons, Judge Badger, Keef O'Hara, and Mr. Parris. Persia sat beside Sam Lester on the sofa.

Judge Badger stepped forward to greet Mr. Jay. "I'm glad you're here, sir. Perhaps you'll reply to some of the charges—very extravagant charges—that Mr. Tesno has made against you."

Mr. Jay threw back his head and pointed his beard at one and another of the gathering.

"Charges? Be damned to Mr. Tesno and his charges! He has no authority to make charges!"

"I'm accusing you of conspiring to murder Willie Silverknife and his prisoners," Tesno said in a snow-soft voice. "Tomorrow I'm taking you and Madrid and my witnesses to Ellensburg."

Mr. Jay drew himself up even straighter. "Slanderous nonsense! I assure you that you are taking me nowhere."

"He claims he has found an Indian who saw Madrid at the scene of the murder," Judge Badger said, "and a maid-servant who overheard you planning the crime."

Sam Lester got to his feet. "That will be Stella, Mr. Jay," he said. "She overheard you say that Willie was taking a dangerous chance—something like that. She misinterpreted it to mean that you wanted him killed. But there's nothing to worry about. Persia and I were present at that conversation. We know that there was no such implication."

"I should hope you do," Mr. Jay said.

"We will both testify to that—if necessary," Sam said.

Tesno's eyes swung to Persia. She met them defiantly and said, "We certainly will."

"And you'll be perjuring yourself to protect a murderer you ought to be doing everything possible to expose," Tesno said.

"Really, Jack, you're being unbearably sanctimonious," she said. "You killed a man less than a week ago. And you have the gall—"

"You don't understand," he said. "Mr. Jay, shall I tell her how you got your first contract—how you took over when the contractor went over a cliff? How many other associates of yours died suddenly and without witnesses, Mr. Jay? How about that partner of yours who fell off a trestle in Idaho?... Persia's husband was your partner, too, wasn't he, Mr. Jay?"

Silence smothered the room. Mr. Jay seemed too outraged to speak at once. He glanced toward the door as if he would like to leave. Keef O'Hara and Dave Coons moved squarely into his way. Tesno watched Persia. She had paled. There was a noticeable pulsing in her throat. Mr. Jay's nostrils flared as he drew in a deep breath.

"Judge Badger," he said, "I appeal to you as a man dedicated to justice. This man is making crude, slanderous insinuations. Will you warn him of the consequences?"

"You're a killer, Mr. Jay," Tesno said. "Persia knows that. Sam Lester knows it. But why did you kill Duke Parker? You had already secretly taken control of Tunneltown away from him."

"Jack," Persia said in a strange voice, "what are you trying to do to me?"

"I'm making you see the truth," he said. He confronted Mr. Jay again and went on without pause. "Duke Parker was trying to blackjack himself back into control, wasn't he, Mr. Jay? Unless you wrote off the debt he owed you, he was going to expose your plan to operate Tunneltown in a wide-open way that would slow down Vickers' work. That would have ruined you in railroad circles. So you killed him—or had someone do it for you."

"No!" Persia made as if to rise. "I'm not going to listen to any more of this."

"Tell her, Sam," Tesno said. "You must know the truth."

"Sam...." Persia said.

Sam Lester sat down beside her, took her hand. He said nothing at all.

Tesno hammered on mercilessly. "Was Duke Parker killed by a bullet, Sam? Was a log skidded over him to conceal the wound?"

"Tesno, for god's sake, have a little consideration for her!" pleaded Sam.

"By letting her testify in behalf of her husband's murderer?" Tesno said, looming over him. "Suppose you have a little consideration for her! Duke Parker's body can be exhumed. Persia is going to want that now, unless you tell her the truth. Spare her that, Sam."

Persia sat with her head bowed, her eyes fixed on Sam's stubby hand that covered her own. "Tell me, Sam," she said faintly. "Was he murdered? Just say yes or no."

"Shut up, Sam!" Mr. Jay snapped. "Don't you see what he's trying to do?"

"I've tried to get you away from here," Sam said to Persia, "get you out of this—"

"Say it!" Persia demanded.

Sam turned his froglike face up toward Mr. Jay. "It's all going to come out, anyhow," he said. "Yes, Persia. Duke was murdered. Madrid shot him. I swear I didn't know about it till it was over. Mr. Jay sent me up into the woods where Duke's body was. He said to help Madrid run a log over it, make sure it was ... torn up."

Mr. Jay seemed almost unable to speak. "This is a conspiracy!" he said in a choked voice. "Everyone here is determined to ... to discredit me."

Persia had buried her face in her hands. Now she looked up at him in horror. "I shall tell the truth in court," she said, controlling herself with a great effort. "You planned to have Willie killed on the road, and I shall say so."

Mr. Jay merely glared in reply. He was tired and sick and weak with anger. He made a feeble effort to shake off Keef O'Hara and Mr. Parris, each of whom had taken him by an arm.

"Take him to his rooms," Tesno said. "See that there's a guard outside his door."

Persia had buried her head against Sam Lester. Tesno wanted to say something soft and sympathetic now, but he knew it would sound ridiculous. Sam Lester looked up at him expressionlessly.

"I'm going to take her away from here," Sam said.

Tesno nodded. "Don't either of you leave the county," he said tersely and turned on his heel.

Judge Badger caught his elbow. "This man wants to speak to you."

Tesno hadn't noticed the little rat-faced man, who must have just arrived. He stepped forward importantly.

"Madrid just bought a horse at the livery. Bought it, Mr. Tesno. He just rode out of town. Took the road to the camp. He's riding with saddlebags and a blanket roll."

Tesno hurried toward the door. As he reached it, Persia was suddenly behind him, calling to him, dabbing frantically at her face with a handkerchief.

"Jack wait. I was so wrong!"

"When you get hurt, you're wrong," he said, turning angrily.

"You're cruel," she said. "I'm glad you're cruel. You've made me see—"

"I'm in a hurry, Persia."

"Jack, don't let it end for us. I need you. I think you need me."

"What we need, we can't have," he said with soft and incisive bitterness. "We need Willie Silverknife alive."

He jerked open the door and strode into the sunlight.


Tesno seized one of the saddle horses in front of the building and swung across town at a canter. He got no glimpse of Madrid till he was through the woods and at the edge of Vickers' camp; then he saw him far ahead on the wide, slow-climbing road that led to Runaway Mountain and the tunnel. Madrid looked back, urged his horse ahead a bit faster, and jogged out of sight around a bend.

Tesno reined into the empty camp and rode through it at a gallop. By taking the steep mule trail up the side of the gulch, he would avoid the possibility of being ambushed at that bend. If Madrid waited there, Tesno could cut him off. If not, he would at least close up some of the distance and have a chance of overtaking him before he reached the timber on the mountain top.

He found the horse willing and sure-footed on the narrow, twisting trail, and he gave the animal its head. The climb took longer than he had expected. But when at last the horse strained up the final steep ascent onto graded roadbed, Madrid was a scant hundred yards ahead. Tesno yelled at him to halt, drew his revolver, fired a wild shot.

Madrid continued at a trot. He rode straight to the gaping black arch of the tunnel, then veered to the left into the road that began its climb to the summit here. Tesno prodded his horse forward at an easy lope. He reached the road with Madrid directly above him, hardly within effective revolver range. Madrid wheeled his horse around, whipping a Winchester from its boot. He quickly aimed and fired.

Tesno's horse dropped in its tracks, making a sort of uncompleted somersault, pitching him forward out of the saddle. He landed painfully on a shoulder, rolled to his feet. His revolver was gone; he combed the ground with his eyes, didn't see it. A bullet drove past his head close enough so he could hear its angry buzz. Madrid was plunging down the road toward him, firing the rifle as he came. There was nothing to do but run, no place to run but into the tunnel. Another bullet tore splinters from a shoring timber at the portal as Tesno darted inside.

The tunnel was deserted, the crew in town. The arc lights that usually lighted the shaft had been turned off. A lantern glowed just within the portal; Tesno stooped and turned it out. He ran on into the darkness. He looked back to see Madrid framed in the arch of the portal, getting down from his horse, stooping to pick up something. My gun, Tesno thought.

Madrid raised his rifle then and fired blindly, whimsically, into the tunnel. Tesno leaped to the left wall and threw himself headlong. Madrid rapidly emptied the Winchester and threw it aside. Tesno hurried on. The dead end of the tunnel in the middle of a mountain was a hell of a place to die, he thought. He was aware now of a light somewhere ahead, too dim and distant to silhouette him. It must be back a way on the bench, he thought. If he could get up there, find a weapon, that would be the place to make a stand.

He looked back again. Madrid had found a lantern and lighted it. He held it above his head as he walked forward. His revolver gleamed in his other hand.

A minute later, Tesno reached the bench. This rose fourteen feet above the floor of the tunnel. Above it, the eight-foot shaft of the heading extended another forty or fifty feet into the mountain. The timbers resting on the bench had to be replaced as it was removed; so it was cut away in slices and presented a vertical face. A ladder stood against this. Tesno scaled it and drew it up after him.

His first impulse was to put out the lantern that burned up here, but he decided against this. He turned it up brighter and moved it to the very edge of the bench against one wall. Using his hat and a tool box, he quickly rigged a shield so that light was thrown below the bench while the top of it was relatively dark. There were tools up here—picks, pry bars, drills, sledges—that could be used as weapons. He looked around for dynamite but saw none. Then he found a sixteen-foot pole, probably used in maneuvering timbers into place, and suddenly he had a plan.

He shoved the ladder forward so that two rungs projected over the edge of the bench. He then lowered the pole, leaning it against the face of the bench with its end in view beside the ladder.

Madrid had been approaching slowly, holding the lantern high, stopping every few yards to shine it from side to side. He saw Tesno now—or more likely the shadows he threw on the tunnel walls as he moved. Anyhow, he came forward swiftly now, the revolver raised for a shot whenever he saw a solid target.

Tesno retreated from the edge, bending low. He selected a percussion drill as a weapon—an eight-foot steel shaft with a sharp chisel point. Dragging this beside him, he crawled to a position near the ladder and lay parallel to it. He watched the light from Madrid's lantern move along the timbers at the top of the tunnel, saw it come to a halt a few yards in front of the bench.

Madrid wasn't likely to come barging up on the bench. A surer way would be to climb to the level of the bench a few yards in front of it. This would bring the whole upper surface into view—and easy revolver range. But in any case, he would have to have the ladder.

Tesno lay motionless, gripping the long, heavy drill, watching the three inches of pole that stuck above the edge of the bench. Moving shadows on the tunnel wall told him that Madrid had set down his lantern and was coming quietly forward.

The pole-end moved, disappeared, reappeared between the rungs of the ladder. Tesno rose to a crouch. This was the trap. Madrid was taking the bait. For this moment, Tesno knew exactly where the man was. Reaching with a sixteen foot pole is a two-handed job; Madrid's gun would be in its holster. Grasping the drill like a spear, Tesno leaped over the edge.

Madrid swung the pole awkwardly and too late. The sharp steel point of the drill was already at his chest with Tesno's weight and the force of a fourteen-foot drop behind it. He uttered a strange muffled cry as Tesno pitched past him.

Tesno sprawled flat on the uneven floor, rolled to one side, and got painfully to his feet. Madrid lay on his back with the drill pinning him to the tunnel floor. He was dead when Tesno reached him.

A great crowd filled the street in front of the hotel. Tesno tied Madrid's horse and elbowed his way to the entrance. Ben Vickers touched his elbow.

"Jay shot himself," Ben said. "Seems they didn't think to search his room. He had a gun in there. You overtake Madrid?"

"In the tunnel, Ben. Not a pretty sight."

Sam Lester came out of the lobby. He turned his thick lenses up at Tesno and said, "No reason for Persia and me to stay in the county now. I'm taking her away." He moved on.

"Seems like those two will get off easy," Ben said. "Then again maybe they won't. They have each other."


The big boiler finally reached the east portal. A compressor was set up. An air line was run over the mountain so that automatic drills could be used in the west bore, too. Ben Vickers paid a bonus to everybody who worked for him when progress exceeded the necessary daily footage. The work spurted ahead.

There were unforseeable problems and delays, of course. Snow fell to a depth of twenty feet. Snow sheds had to be hurriedly built over the dump trucks. A landslide carried away part of the approach to the east portal. Supply wagons bogged down on the way up from Ellensburg, first in snow, then in mud. Much of the road had to be paved with logs and planks. When enough track was laid so that supplies could be brought in by train, a bridge washed out and freight wagons had to be pressed into service again.

There were more accidents in the tunnel, mostly caused by premature or delayed blasts. A dozen more men lost their lives. Rock was loosened above the line of the cut, and days were lost. Fumes from blasting became unbearable, and there was more delay while the ventilating system was altered. Cloudbursts flooded first the east portal, then the west. A dump train engine jumped the tracks, and its boiler burst. The strata of the basaltic trap rock was unpredictable; in spite of every precaution, there were frequent cave-ins.

But morale was high. The weak and the discontented and the lazy were weeded out; the tough and the determined stayed on. A spirited competition developed between the crews working from opposite sides of the mountain. Slowly, hour by hour, foot by foot, the lost days were made up.

On a May morning eleven days before the deadline, Ben Vickers stood in the hazy saffron glow of the arc lights and watched the drilling crew come toward him from the bench, two hundred yards away. Ben studied his watch. For weeks, both crews had been jarred by blasts in the other bore; so it was necessary to schedule every shot now and alert the drillers on the other side.

The crew reached Ben and lined itself beside him along the timbered wall. The fuse man came jogging along a minute or two later. The charge roared and grumbled. The earth trembled. A cloud of dust and rubble tumbled out of the heading. Much of this was caught by the fans and pulled into vent pipes; but the acrid outer edges of it rolled down the bore to where the men stood. And then, while the area of the explosion was still obscured, the dust cloud began to spew human figures, running, coughing, cheering.

Ben Vickers gaped and blinked and tried to bring up a yell of triumph that came out a kind of tired sob. These were workmen from the west bore. The wall between had crumbled away with the blast. Runaway Mountain had its tunnel.

A few days later, Ben and Tesno stood together in a crowd gathered near the portal to watch the first train pull through. The train crew waved. The workmen and townfolk waved back and cheered. Then, sadly, they watched the cars gather speed on the down-grade toward Ellensburg.

"How do you feel, Ben?" Tesno asked.

"Old," Ben grumbled. "Too old even to go on a drunk. What will it be now for you, Jack? You finally going to get to that ranch?"

Tesno grinned his twisted, one-dimple grin. He pulled an envelope from a pocket. "Got this the other day. An offer from James J. Hill."

Ben was impressed. "The old Empire Builder himself?"

"He doesn't give details, but it seems he's going to be laying track up one side of a river while a rival road lays it up the other. Seems like it will be a race."

Ben twitched his head doubtfully. "Bound to be trouble."

"Bound to be," Tesno said.

End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of The High Hander, by William O. Turner


***** This file should be named 50939-h.htm or *****
This and all associated files of various formats will be found in:

Produced by Greg Weeks, Mary Meehan and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at

Updated editions will replace the previous one--the old editions will
be renamed.

Creating the works from print editions not protected by U.S. copyright
law means that no one owns a United States copyright in these works,
so the Foundation (and you!) can copy and distribute it in the United
States without permission and without paying copyright
royalties. Special rules, set forth in the General Terms of Use part
of this license, apply to copying and distributing Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic works to protect the PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm
concept and trademark. Project Gutenberg is a registered trademark,
and may not be used if you charge for the eBooks, unless you receive
specific permission. If you do not charge anything for copies of this
eBook, complying with the rules is very easy. You may use this eBook
for nearly any purpose such as creation of derivative works, reports,
performances and research. They may be modified and printed and given
away--you may do practically ANYTHING in the United States with eBooks
not protected by U.S. copyright law. Redistribution is subject to the
trademark license, especially commercial redistribution.



To protect the Project Gutenberg-tm mission of promoting the free
distribution of electronic works, by using or distributing this work
(or any other work associated in any way with the phrase "Project
Gutenberg"), you agree to comply with all the terms of the Full
Project Gutenberg-tm License available with this file or online at

Section 1. General Terms of Use and Redistributing Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic works

1.A. By reading or using any part of this Project Gutenberg-tm
electronic work, you indicate that you have read, understand, agree to
and accept all the terms of this license and intellectual property
(trademark/copyright) agreement. If you do not agree to abide by all
the terms of this agreement, you must cease using and return or
destroy all copies of Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works in your
possession. If you paid a fee for obtaining a copy of or access to a
Project Gutenberg-tm electronic work and you do not agree to be bound
by the terms of this agreement, you may obtain a refund from the
person or entity to whom you paid the fee as set forth in paragraph

1.B. "Project Gutenberg" is a registered trademark. It may only be
used on or associated in any way with an electronic work by people who
agree to be bound by the terms of this agreement. There are a few
things that you can do with most Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works
even without complying with the full terms of this agreement. See
paragraph 1.C below. There are a lot of things you can do with Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic works if you follow the terms of this
agreement and help preserve free future access to Project Gutenberg-tm
electronic works. See paragraph 1.E below.

1.C. The Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation ("the
Foundation" or PGLAF), owns a compilation copyright in the collection
of Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works. Nearly all the individual
works in the collection are in the public domain in the United
States. If an individual work is unprotected by copyright law in the
United States and you are located in the United States, we do not
claim a right to prevent you from copying, distributing, performing,
displaying or creating derivative works based on the work as long as
all references to Project Gutenberg are removed. Of course, we hope
that you will support the Project Gutenberg-tm mission of promoting
free access to electronic works by freely sharing Project Gutenberg-tm
works in compliance with the terms of this agreement for keeping the
Project Gutenberg-tm name associated with the work. You can easily
comply with the terms of this agreement by keeping this work in the
same format with its attached full Project Gutenberg-tm License when
you share it without charge with others.

1.D. The copyright laws of the place where you are located also govern
what you can do with this work. Copyright laws in most countries are
in a constant state of change. If you are outside the United States,
check the laws of your country in addition to the terms of this
agreement before downloading, copying, displaying, performing,
distributing or creating derivative works based on this work or any
other Project Gutenberg-tm work. The Foundation makes no
representations concerning the copyright status of any work in any
country outside the United States.

1.E. Unless you have removed all references to Project Gutenberg:

1.E.1. The following sentence, with active links to, or other
immediate access to, the full Project Gutenberg-tm License must appear
prominently whenever any copy of a Project Gutenberg-tm work (any work
on which the phrase "Project Gutenberg" appears, or with which the
phrase "Project Gutenberg" is associated) is accessed, displayed,
performed, viewed, copied or distributed:

  This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere in the United States and
  most other parts of the world at no cost and with almost no
  restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it
  under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this
  eBook or online at If you are not located in the
  United States, you'll have to check the laws of the country where you
  are located before using this ebook.

1.E.2. If an individual Project Gutenberg-tm electronic work is
derived from texts not protected by U.S. copyright law (does not
contain a notice indicating that it is posted with permission of the
copyright holder), the work can be copied and distributed to anyone in
the United States without paying any fees or charges. If you are
redistributing or providing access to a work with the phrase "Project
Gutenberg" associated with or appearing on the work, you must comply
either with the requirements of paragraphs 1.E.1 through 1.E.7 or
obtain permission for the use of the work and the Project Gutenberg-tm
trademark as set forth in paragraphs 1.E.8 or 1.E.9.

1.E.3. If an individual Project Gutenberg-tm electronic work is posted
with the permission of the copyright holder, your use and distribution
must comply with both paragraphs 1.E.1 through 1.E.7 and any
additional terms imposed by the copyright holder. Additional terms
will be linked to the Project Gutenberg-tm License for all works
posted with the permission of the copyright holder found at the
beginning of this work.

1.E.4. Do not unlink or detach or remove the full Project Gutenberg-tm
License terms from this work, or any files containing a part of this
work or any other work associated with Project Gutenberg-tm.

1.E.5. Do not copy, display, perform, distribute or redistribute this
electronic work, or any part of this electronic work, without
prominently displaying the sentence set forth in paragraph 1.E.1 with
active links or immediate access to the full terms of the Project
Gutenberg-tm License.

1.E.6. You may convert to and distribute this work in any binary,
compressed, marked up, nonproprietary or proprietary form, including
any word processing or hypertext form. However, if you provide access
to or distribute copies of a Project Gutenberg-tm work in a format
other than "Plain Vanilla ASCII" or other format used in the official
version posted on the official Project Gutenberg-tm web site
(, you must, at no additional cost, fee or expense
to the user, provide a copy, a means of exporting a copy, or a means
of obtaining a copy upon request, of the work in its original "Plain
Vanilla ASCII" or other form. Any alternate format must include the
full Project Gutenberg-tm License as specified in paragraph 1.E.1.

1.E.7. Do not charge a fee for access to, viewing, displaying,
performing, copying or distributing any Project Gutenberg-tm works
unless you comply with paragraph 1.E.8 or 1.E.9.

1.E.8. You may charge a reasonable fee for copies of or providing
access to or distributing Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works
provided that

* You pay a royalty fee of 20% of the gross profits you derive from
  the use of Project Gutenberg-tm works calculated using the method
  you already use to calculate your applicable taxes. The fee is owed
  to the owner of the Project Gutenberg-tm trademark, but he has
  agreed to donate royalties under this paragraph to the Project
  Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation. Royalty payments must be paid
  within 60 days following each date on which you prepare (or are
  legally required to prepare) your periodic tax returns. Royalty
  payments should be clearly marked as such and sent to the Project
  Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation at the address specified in
  Section 4, "Information about donations to the Project Gutenberg
  Literary Archive Foundation."

* You provide a full refund of any money paid by a user who notifies
  you in writing (or by e-mail) within 30 days of receipt that s/he
  does not agree to the terms of the full Project Gutenberg-tm
  License. You must require such a user to return or destroy all
  copies of the works possessed in a physical medium and discontinue
  all use of and all access to other copies of Project Gutenberg-tm

* You provide, in accordance with paragraph 1.F.3, a full refund of
  any money paid for a work or a replacement copy, if a defect in the
  electronic work is discovered and reported to you within 90 days of
  receipt of the work.

* You comply with all other terms of this agreement for free
  distribution of Project Gutenberg-tm works.

1.E.9. If you wish to charge a fee or distribute a Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic work or group of works on different terms than
are set forth in this agreement, you must obtain permission in writing
from both the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation and The
Project Gutenberg Trademark LLC, the owner of the Project Gutenberg-tm
trademark. Contact the Foundation as set forth in Section 3 below.


1.F.1. Project Gutenberg volunteers and employees expend considerable
effort to identify, do copyright research on, transcribe and proofread
works not protected by U.S. copyright law in creating the Project
Gutenberg-tm collection. Despite these efforts, Project Gutenberg-tm
electronic works, and the medium on which they may be stored, may
contain "Defects," such as, but not limited to, incomplete, inaccurate
or corrupt data, transcription errors, a copyright or other
intellectual property infringement, a defective or damaged disk or
other medium, a computer virus, or computer codes that damage or
cannot be read by your equipment.

of Replacement or Refund" described in paragraph 1.F.3, the Project
Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation, the owner of the Project
Gutenberg-tm trademark, and any other party distributing a Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic work under this agreement, disclaim all
liability to you for damages, costs and expenses, including legal

defect in this electronic work within 90 days of receiving it, you can
receive a refund of the money (if any) you paid for it by sending a
written explanation to the person you received the work from. If you
received the work on a physical medium, you must return the medium
with your written explanation. The person or entity that provided you
with the defective work may elect to provide a replacement copy in
lieu of a refund. If you received the work electronically, the person
or entity providing it to you may choose to give you a second
opportunity to receive the work electronically in lieu of a refund. If
the second copy is also defective, you may demand a refund in writing
without further opportunities to fix the problem.

1.F.4. Except for the limited right of replacement or refund set forth
in paragraph 1.F.3, this work is provided to you 'AS-IS', WITH NO

1.F.5. Some states do not allow disclaimers of certain implied
warranties or the exclusion or limitation of certain types of
damages. If any disclaimer or limitation set forth in this agreement
violates the law of the state applicable to this agreement, the
agreement shall be interpreted to make the maximum disclaimer or
limitation permitted by the applicable state law. The invalidity or
unenforceability of any provision of this agreement shall not void the
remaining provisions.

1.F.6. INDEMNITY - You agree to indemnify and hold the Foundation, the
trademark owner, any agent or employee of the Foundation, anyone
providing copies of Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works in
accordance with this agreement, and any volunteers associated with the
production, promotion and distribution of Project Gutenberg-tm
electronic works, harmless from all liability, costs and expenses,
including legal fees, that arise directly or indirectly from any of
the following which you do or cause to occur: (a) distribution of this
or any Project Gutenberg-tm work, (b) alteration, modification, or
additions or deletions to any Project Gutenberg-tm work, and (c) any
Defect you cause.

Section 2. Information about the Mission of Project Gutenberg-tm

Project Gutenberg-tm is synonymous with the free distribution of
electronic works in formats readable by the widest variety of
computers including obsolete, old, middle-aged and new computers. It
exists because of the efforts of hundreds of volunteers and donations
from people in all walks of life.

Volunteers and financial support to provide volunteers with the
assistance they need are critical to reaching Project Gutenberg-tm's
goals and ensuring that the Project Gutenberg-tm collection will
remain freely available for generations to come. In 2001, the Project
Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation was created to provide a secure
and permanent future for Project Gutenberg-tm and future
generations. To learn more about the Project Gutenberg Literary
Archive Foundation and how your efforts and donations can help, see
Sections 3 and 4 and the Foundation information page at Section 3. Information about the Project Gutenberg
Literary Archive Foundation

The Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation is a non profit
501(c)(3) educational corporation organized under the laws of the
state of Mississippi and granted tax exempt status by the Internal
Revenue Service. The Foundation's EIN or federal tax identification
number is 64-6221541. Contributions to the Project Gutenberg Literary
Archive Foundation are tax deductible to the full extent permitted by
U.S. federal laws and your state's laws.

The Foundation's principal office is in Fairbanks, Alaska, with the
mailing address: PO Box 750175, Fairbanks, AK 99775, but its
volunteers and employees are scattered throughout numerous
locations. Its business office is located at 809 North 1500 West, Salt
Lake City, UT 84116, (801) 596-1887. Email contact links and up to
date contact information can be found at the Foundation's web site and
official page at

For additional contact information:

    Dr. Gregory B. Newby
    Chief Executive and Director

Section 4. Information about Donations to the Project Gutenberg
Literary Archive Foundation

Project Gutenberg-tm depends upon and cannot survive without wide
spread public support and donations to carry out its mission of
increasing the number of public domain and licensed works that can be
freely distributed in machine readable form accessible by the widest
array of equipment including outdated equipment. Many small donations
($1 to $5,000) are particularly important to maintaining tax exempt
status with the IRS.

The Foundation is committed to complying with the laws regulating
charities and charitable donations in all 50 states of the United
States. Compliance requirements are not uniform and it takes a
considerable effort, much paperwork and many fees to meet and keep up
with these requirements. We do not solicit donations in locations
where we have not received written confirmation of compliance. To SEND
DONATIONS or determine the status of compliance for any particular
state visit

While we cannot and do not solicit contributions from states where we
have not met the solicitation requirements, we know of no prohibition
against accepting unsolicited donations from donors in such states who
approach us with offers to donate.

International donations are gratefully accepted, but we cannot make
any statements concerning tax treatment of donations received from
outside the United States. U.S. laws alone swamp our small staff.

Please check the Project Gutenberg Web pages for current donation
methods and addresses. Donations are accepted in a number of other
ways including checks, online payments and credit card donations. To
donate, please visit:

Section 5. General Information About Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works.

Professor Michael S. Hart was the originator of the Project
Gutenberg-tm concept of a library of electronic works that could be
freely shared with anyone. For forty years, he produced and
distributed Project Gutenberg-tm eBooks with only a loose network of
volunteer support.

Project Gutenberg-tm eBooks are often created from several printed
editions, all of which are confirmed as not protected by copyright in
the U.S. unless a copyright notice is included. Thus, we do not
necessarily keep eBooks in compliance with any particular paper

Most people start at our Web site which has the main PG search

This Web site includes information about Project Gutenberg-tm,
including how to make donations to the Project Gutenberg Literary
Archive Foundation, how to help produce our new eBooks, and how to
subscribe to our email newsletter to hear about new eBooks.