âLive around here?â Fallon asked.
The taunting eyes surveyed Fallon with care as the man touched his tongue to his cigarette, and then drawing his fingers along it, he said, âDown the road a piece.â
âI didnât figure youâd come far,â Fallon replied pointedly, his glance shifting to the manâs horse.
The man looked around, getting out a match. âRed Horse? Now, thatâs odd. I donât recall ever hearing of such a town around here.â
âYou have now.â
The man took his time with the match, his eyes noting Fallonâs gun. âYouâll be this Fallon gentâ¦Macon Fallon. The name has a familiar sound.â
âSo does Bellows.â
The man chuckled. âYou lay it right on the line, donât you? Well, Iâm not Bellows, although he did suggest I drop around and offer our services.â
âThey arenât needed.â
âBellows will decide that.â Coolly, he looked around. âSeems to me thereâs only four or five of you here. Thatâs not very many, is it?â
Fallon stepped down from his horse. âDo you see that bridge down there, my friend? You tell Bellows that every man he sends to Red Horseâevery one who doesnât die with lead in himâwill hang from that bridge.
âYou can also tell him that if he sends so much as one man down here to make trouble, Iâll come after him.â
âYouâre carrying a high hand there, friend. It sounds like youâre running a bluff.â
Fallon felt anger mounting within him. Also, he knew that at the first sign of weakness the Bellows outfit would come down upon them.
âYouâre wearing a gun,â he said.
The man looked at him thoughtfully, his eyes suddenly wary. âIâd say that sounds like youâre pretty sure of yourself.â He shook his head. âIâll not call, Mr. Fallon.â
Standing on the street, Fallon watched the man ride slowly out of town, and then he turned on his heel and went into the store.
âAnother customer,â Damon said cheerfully, âbought tobacco.â
Fallon indicated his hip. âWhereâs your gun?â
âLook,â Fallon said, showing his irritation, âthat man you just had in here is a killer. Heâs one of the Bellows outfit. You put on a gun and wear it, and you be ready to use it.â
âSeems like tomfoolery to me,â the older man said testily. âI never heard of any Bellows gang.â
âNor I,â Jim Blane said. âI think those men out on the road were just passing through.â
âIf it wasnât for your womenfolks Iâd ride out of here and let you take the consequences. You people think of the West as if it was Philadelphia.â
He rode away, and Damon shrugged. âWhatâs he so touchy about? That seemed a right nice feller. Pleasant as all get out.â
âMr. Damon,â Ginia interposed, âmaybe heâs right. After all, they did tie Jim up, and they hit him.â
âThey were drunk!â Jim scoffed. âJust drunken cowhands carrying on. There was no need to shoot that man like he did, no need at all.â
Ginia walked up the street. Dislike him as she would, there was no getting around the fact that he had worked harder than any of them, and he had asked for no help in cleaning up the street, painting the signs, or repairing the boardwalk.
Not that she trusted himâ¦not one bit. But so far as she could see, he had not lied.
He was polishing glasses when she walked into the saloon. âI donât know why you do that. Youâve nothing to sell.â
He gestured toward the barrel. âYou underestimate me. Thatâs full of whiskey. Indian whiskey, Iâll admit, but whiskey.â
âBut where could you get it?â
âIt depends on what a man has handy, but the formula was worked out by the Indian