The Fortune Hunters

The Fortune Hunters by J. T. Edson Read Free Book Online

Book: The Fortune Hunters by J. T. Edson Read Free Book Online
Authors: J. T. Edson
Tags: Western
again.
    The betting went briskly, for the girls wanted to get the game over and resume their normal work. Only Beegee and Joan seemed to take it seriously, for they alone had insisted that whatever they won from each other would be kept as in a real game.
    At last only three players remained. Joan, Beegee and a young red head. Having been told by their boss how far they could go, Beegee and the red head called Joan’s bet while still wearing their brief underclothes, although they had bet jewellery, hats, dresses, slips, shoes and stockings; removing them and putting them on the table used for the pot.
    ‘I’ll see it, three fives,’ the red head stated.
    Joan smiled. ‘I knew I had you beat, Red,’ she said. ‘But I was scared that Beegee might fill her straight.’
    ‘And I did,’ Beegee whooped delightedly, turning over her cards. ‘Five to nine, climbing up. Read them and weep.’
    ‘Oh, I beat that too,’ Joan put in as Beegee’s hands went towards the pot. ‘Three threes and two kings, full house. Hard luck, darling, anyway you ran a good second.’
    For a moment Beegee sat eyeing Joan, a flush climbing up her cheeks. Joan tensed herself ready for an attack. It would not be the first time she and Beegee had tangled.
    Two things stopped Beegee from jumping Joan; they were not dressed for a brawl; and the boss had given them definite orders. Not that Homer Trent had any scruples or dainty feelings to cause his objection to the girls fighting. He remembered the time he brought together a pair of lady gamblers in a saloon he owned down Texas way. Trent had not needed two gamblers, but hoped to gain some publicity by a fight between them. He succeeded, partially, in his wish. The girls put on a fight, but unfortunately it spread to the crowd and before Trent could stop it, his place had been wrecked.*
    So Homer Trent fought shy of such lusty entertainment as arranging, or allowing, spontaneous brawls between his female employees.
    Draping a cloak around her, which gave her some slight coverage in excess of her underwear, Joan scooped up what money had been used in the game. The other girls knew their property would be returned in the back room and so did not raise any objections as Joan yelled that she would buy drinks for the house. Beegee was the exception to the rule. Due to her boasting before the game, Beegee and Joan had insisted they would play for keeps.
    ‘Get your drink, boys!’ Joan called. ‘And you, girls. Then I’ll go put on my new hat and frock and come back to let you see how it looks.’
    Picking up the red dress and Beegee’s hat, Joan nodded to the waiters, who carried the rest of the pot into the back room to be collected by its owners. Joan headed for the bar, receiving congratulations and compliments from all sides.
    ‘Excuse me, ma’am,’ a soft drawling voice said behind her.
    Turning, Joan looked at the two tall young Texas men who stood side by side and clear of the crowd. She studied their trail stained clothes and their weapons with some interest. A woman did not work in saloons all her grown life without she gained a knowledge of men. Joan reckoned she could read the signs pretty well. Two cowhands, young men, yet handy and capable. They did not appear to be drunk, nor had they the look of a pair of men who wanted female company.
    ‘Everybody was included when I shouted for the house, boys,’ she said. ‘So belly up and call your poison.’
    ‘We were hoping you’d join us at a table, happen you’re Miss Joan Shandley, ma’am,’ the Ysabel Kid replied.
    ‘My, aren’t you the choosey one?’ she smiled.
    ‘There’s an empty table across there, ma’am,’ Waco drawled. ‘We’d like to talk to you.’
    ‘Go ahead.’
    ‘Away from the crowd,’ the Kid suggested.
    Once more Joan studied the lean, Indian-dark faced boy—or was he a boy? Her second look led her to believe that black dressed Texan was older than she had first imagined.
    ‘These boys wanting

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