The Vultures of Whapeton - Robert E. Howard - ebook
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This is a good book of four Western stories. The title story, however, is the longest. „The Vultures of Whapeton” suffers from a protagonist who is just a bit too manly and effective to be believed. Everyone who meets Steve Corcoran seems to instantly know he’ll just prevail in any kind of gunfight, no matter how outnumbered he is -- and then, of course, Corcoran goes on to do use that.

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Liczba stron: 151

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Contents

I. GUNS IN THE DARK

II. GOLDEN MADNESS

III. GUNMAN'S TRAP

IV. THE MADNESS THAT BLINDS MEN

V. THE WHEEL BEGINS TO TURN

VI. VULTURES' COURT

VII. A VULTURE'S WINGS ARE CLIPPED

VIII. THE COMING OF THE VIGILANTES

IX. THE VULTURES SWOOP

X. THE BLOOD ON THE GOLD

I. GUNS IN THE DARK

THE bare plank walls of the Golden Eagle Saloon seemed still to vibrate with the crashing echoes of the guns which had split the sudden darkness with spurts of red. But only a nervous shuffling of booted feet sounded in the tense silence that followed the shots. Then somewhere a match rasped on leather and a yellow flicker sprang up, etching a shaky hand and a pallid face. An instant later an oil lamp with a broken chimney illuminated the saloon, throwing tense bearded faces into bold relief. The big lamp that hung from the ceiling was a smashed ruin; kerosene dripped from it to the floor, making an oily puddle beside a grimmer, darker pool.

Two figures held the center of the room, under the broken lamp. One lay facedown, motionless arms outstretching empty hands. The other was crawling to his feet, blinking and gaping stupidly, like a man whose wits are still muddled by drink. His right arm hung limply by his side, a long-barreled pistol sagging from his fingers.

The rigid line of figures along the bar melted into movement. Men came forward, stooping to stare down at the limp shape. A confused babble of conversation rose. Hurried steps sounded outside, and the crowd divided as a man pushed his way abruptly through. Instantly he dominated the scene. His broad-shouldered, trim-hipped figure was above medium height, and his broad- brimmed white hat, neat boots and cravat contrasted with the rough garb of the others, just as his keen, dark face with its narrow black mustache contrasted with the bearded countenances about him. He held an ivory-butted gun in his right hand, muzzle tilted upward.

What devil’s work is this?” he harshly demanded; and then his gaze fell on the man on the floor. His eyes widened.

Grimes!” he ejaculated. “Jim Grimes, my deputy! Who did this?” There was something tigerish about him as he wheeled toward the uneasy crowd. “Who did this?” he demanded, half-crouching, his gun still lifted, but seeming to hover like a live thing ready to swoop.

Feet shuffled as men backed away, but one man spoke up: “We don’t know, Middleton. Jackson there was havin’ a little fun, shootin’ at the ceilin’, and the rest of us was at the bar, watchin’ him, when Grimes come in and started to arrest him–”

So Jackson shot him!” snarled Middleton, his gun covering the befuddled one in a baffling blur of motion. Jackson yelped in fear and threw up his hands, and the man who had first spoken interposed.

No, Sheriff, it couldn’t have been Jackson. His gun was empty when the lights went out. I know he slung six bullets into the ceilin’ while he was playin’ the fool, and I heard him snap the gun three times afterwards, so I know it was empty. But when Grimes went up to him, somebody shot the light out, and a gun banged in the dark, and when we got a light on again, there Grimes was on the floor, and Jackson was just gettin’ up.”

I didn’t shoot him,” muttered Jackson. “I was just havin’ a little fun. I was drunk, but I ain’t now. I wouldn’t have resisted arrest. When the light went out I didn’t know what had happened. I heard the gun bang, and Grimes dragged me down with him as he fell. I didn’t shoot him. I dunno who did.”

None of us knows,” added a bearded miner. “Somebody shot in the dark–”

More’n one,” muttered another. “I heard at least three or four guns speakin’.”

Silence followed, in which each man looked sidewise at his neighbor. The men had drawn back to the bar, leaving the middle of the big room clear, where the sheriff stood. Suspicion and fear galvanized the crowd, leaping like an electric spark from man to man. Each man knew that a murderer stood near him, possibly at his elbow. Men refused to look directly into the eyes of their neighbors, fearing to surprise guilty knowledge there–and die for the discovery. They stared at the sheriff who stood facing them, as if expecting to see him fall suddenly before a blast from the same unknown guns that had mowed down his deputy.

Middleton’s steely eyes ranged along the silent line of men. Their eyes avoided or gave back his stare. In some he read fear; some were inscrutable; in others flickered a sinister mockery.

The men who killed Jim Grimes are in this saloon,” he said finally. “Some of you are the murderers.” He was careful not to let his eyes single out anyone when he spoke; they swept the whole assemblage.

I’ve been expecting this. Things have been getting a little too hot for the robbers and murderers who have been terrorizing this camp, so they’ve started shooting my deputies in the back. I suppose you’ll try to kill me, next. Well, I want to tell you sneaking rats, whoever you are, that I’m ready for you, any time.”

He fell silent, his rangy frame tense, his eyes burning with watchful alertness. None moved. The men along the bar might have been figures cut from stone.

He relaxed and shoved his gun into its scabbard; a sneer twisted his lips.

I know your breed. You won’t shoot a man unless his back is toward you. Forty men have been murdered in the vicinity of this camp within the last year, and not one had a chance to defend himself.

Maybe this killing is an ultimatum to me. All right; I’ve got an answer ready: I’ve got a new deputy, and you won’t find him so easy as Grimes. I’m fighting fire with fire from here on. I’m riding out of the Gulch early in the morning, and when I come back, I’ll have a man with me. A gunfighter from Texas!”

He paused to let this information sink in, and laughed grimly at the furtive glances that darted from man to man.

You’ll find him no lamb,” he predicted vindictively. “He was too wild for the country where gun-throwing was invented. What he did down there is none of my business. What he’ll do here is what counts. And all I ask is that the men who murdered Grimes here, try that same trick on this Texan.

Another thing, on my own account. I’m meeting this man at Ogalala Spring tomorrow morning. I’ll be riding out alone, at dawn. If anybody wants to try to waylay me, let him make his plans now! I’ll follow the open trail, and anyone who has any business with me will find me ready.”

And turning his trimly-tailored back scornfully on the throng at the bar, the sheriff of Wahpeton strode from the saloon.

* * * * *

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This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.