SYNOPSIS: Slim Loyale is pa
roled from prison after serving 18
months for a crime he did not
commit. He returns to his Circle
L ranch to find his father dead
and sinister forces at wort trying
to make him violate his parole so
that he can again be railroaded
to prison. /
Starbuck nodded, and poked a
legal looking envolope lying on
the desk. "Got word yesterday.
What yuh aimin* to do Slim?"
"Go out to the Circle L an' get
"Glad to hear that. Was afraid
yuh'd come back with the idee of
startin' trouble. An' that'd be bad
—with yuh on parole."
Slim's lips tightened. "I ain't
aimin' to turn the other cheek,
Jigger," he said softly. "Remem
ber, I'm human. Certain folks in
this neck of the woods gave me a
dirty deal. I ain't exactly gonna
kiss 'em when I run into 'em, but
I know what that parole means.
"At the first sign of trouble I go
back to—hell. Well, I aim to do
the best I can. But if some folks
start trompin' on my toes, I'll see
that they get off. Yuh cain't
blame me for that?"
"I ain't blamin' yuh for nothin'.
Slim. But my personal feelin's
ain't matterin' one little bit in
this. It's the law you're beholden
to. So yuh wanta watch yore
Slim laughed a little harshly.
"Yuh still got ice water for blood,
ain't you? Yo're a funny guy. Jig
ger. Sometimes I think yo're
white, an' sometimes I ain't so
Starbuck shrugged without of
fense. "I took my oath to uphold
an' enforce the law. It ain't me to
question how it works. I aim to do
"Yuh would," retorted Slim
tersely, "even if it broke yore own
heart an' ruined yore best friend.
Well, I didn't come in here to get
into a argument. I was told to re
port here to yuh every two weeks,
and I'll do it—for the next eigh
"After that, I'm my own boss
again. An' after eighteen months
certain folks in these parts are
gonna find that a woolly wolf has
come back to live with 'em. No
body can steal a year an' a half of
my life, blast my reputation, an'
get away it. Now I'll thank yuh
for my guns, Jigger. I suppose yuh
still got "em?"
"I've got 'em," nodded Star
buck. "But I'd rather yuh would
n't wear em, Slim. They'll be a
temptation—a bad temptation, as
long as they're hangin' on yore
hip. If yuh go to throwin* 'em,
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"That's my pie," said Slim
grimly. "I want 'em."
Starbuck shrugged again, cross
ed to a little clothes closet and
lifted down a pair of cartridge
belts, carrying two heavy, hols
tered Colts. He handed them to
Slim, who buckled them about
his waist, as he stepped to the
door. "Much obliged, Jigger," he
said over his shoulder. "See yuh
two weeks from now."
Loyale left the sheriff's office
and started to cross the street. A
buckboard was whirling up from
the south end of the street, drawn
by a fast stepping pair of bang
tail mustangs. A girl was driving
it alone, but on either side jogged
two mounted men. Slim recogniz
ed the trio immediately. The girl
was Mona Hall. The two men
were Sarg Brockwell and his son,
siim stiffened and he went a
little white about the lips. For a
moment his impulse was to pull
his hat low over his eyes, lower
his head, and hurry across the
street. But a surge of burning
defiance forestalled this truant
weakness. So he watched them
quietly, rolling and lighting a cig
arette with a steady hand.
They were almost opposite him
before the girl saw him. For a
moment she stared. Then with one
lithe twist of her slender shoul
ders, she set the bang-tails up
short, locked the brake, looped
the reins about it and jumped to
the ground. She ran to him, light
footed as a fawn, a pliant little
figure in khaki blouse and divided
Her hair, where it escaped in
truant tendrils from beneath her
dusty Stetson, was crisply brown.
Her eyes were blue and heavy
lashed, her nose short and
straight, her lips generous and
soft. And the blood flushed rich
in cheeks and throat of a smooth,
"Slim!" she exclaimed. "Slim
Loyale—oh, but it's good to see
SUm, a little shaky, took both
her outstretched, gauntleted
hands in his. "Yuh really mean
that, Mona?" he muttered husk
"Mean it?" she cried. "Indeed,
I do mean it! If you need furth
Before Slim could think, she
had stepped close to him, risen
on her tiptoes and kissed him.
"Satisfied?" Her smile was a lit
For a moment Slim could not
answer. "It's worth goin' through
hell—to come back to heaven,"
he muttered finally. "Mona you're
a little thoroughbred, same as al
ways. But yuh'll be ruinin' yore
reputation, kissin* a ex-convict."
Mona stamped one little, boot
ed foot. "Bosh! Don't mention
that word to me again. You are
just an innocent man who has
gotten a mighty shady deal. And
if I can't kiss my old pal hello, I
want to know why."
"I—l'm glad yuh feel that way
about the innocent part, Mona.
Some folks don't agree with you."
"Other folks be hanged!" she
retorted spiritedly. "I know you,
Slim Loyale, better than anybody
else. I ought to; we grew up to
gether. Now let's talk of other
things. You'll be going out to the
Circle L, I suppose."
Slim nodded. "Soon as I can
rustle up Dakota Blue. He's over
in the Wild Horse Saloon."
"Then I want you to come over
home and see me this evening,
Slim. There's a lot to talk about.
You'll come, won't you?"
"Try an' keep me away," grin
ned Slim. "I reckon I ain't forgot
She gave his hands a squeeze.
"That's better," she said softly.
"I was afraid you would be
changed in some terrible manner.
I want to see my old pal, Slim
Loyale, not some hard-boiled
stranger. Now I'll be getting along.
Don't forget—seven o'clock."
Again her slim, strong little
fingers tightened. Then she went
back to the buckboard, climbed in
and kicked off the brake. She
waved to him as the broncos
broke into a rim.
Slim watched her until she had
heated the rig in front of Ase
Langley's big general store and
disappeared from sight through
its shadowy doorways. Then he
sighed deeply and relit his cig
arette which had gotten cold dur
ing her greeting.
Suddenly he remembered the
men who had been riding with
Mona. When he looked for them,
he saw that they had dismounted
in front of the Wild Horse Saloon
and were just entering it. Slim's
lips tightened and his eyes grew
bleak. But he crossed the street
and entered the place himself.
There were Just five men in the
Wild Horse when Slim entered.
Dakota Blue was there, talking
across the bar with Spud Dillon,
the short, fat, red-faced. Jolly
proprietor. Then there was old
Joe Rooney. a broken-down old
mule-skinner who did the swamp
ing for Dillon. Joe was sanding
down the cues behind the pool
Sarg Brockwell and his son had
swung up to the bar near the door
and Spud Dillon was just movlhg
down toward then when Slim en
tered. But at sight of Slim, Dil
lon seemed to forget all about the
Brockwelis. His fat, red face
broke into a wide, delighted grin
and one pudgy hand shot across
"Slim," he cried out delighted
ly. "Slim Loyale, yuh danged
young whelp, how are yuh, boy?
Put her there! Gosh, I'm glad to
see yuh." /
Slim knew Spud Dillon well,
and he knew that Spud meant
every word of his greeting. So he
wrung Dillon's hand heartily and
smiled. "An' I'm shore glad to see
yuh, Spud, yuh fat ole duffer. I
do believe yuh've been losin*
Spud guffawed. "Oh, shore I
am. I've only taken on twenty
more pounds since I saw yuh
last. Slim. Have a driiik. I'm
As Dillon turned for bottle and
glasses, a silver dollar was rung
on the bar. Then a cold, sneering
voice sounded. "When ' yuh get
through makin' over yore jailbird
friend, Dillon, we'd like some ser
Slim eaught his breath in a lit
tle hiss and whirled. His face was
white, and his lips a tight,
straight line. He made a queer
rasping sound in his throat and
he stepped away from the bar,
"Brockwell," he grated thickly,
"Shut up, Slim!" It was Dakota
Blue who spoke. His hand locked
on Slim's shoulder and he pulled
the young fellow back, stepping
between him and the Brockwell's.
"Remember yore parole, kid," he
muttered. "I'll handle this."
Dakota walked toward the
Brockwells. Sarg Brockwell was a
big man, dark of hair and swar
thy of skin. His face was broad
with high cheek bones and little,
glinting black eyes. His lips were
thick and in repose wore a con
tinual, confident grin, disclosing
two rows of teeth, startling in
their size and whiteness. As Spud
Dillon had said one time, "I never
look at them teeth of Sarg Brock-
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well's but what I think of a
Leo Brockwell was smaller than
his father, with the Bame swarthy
coloring and black eyes. But Leo's
mouth was thin, sarcastic and
sneering, twisting up at one cor
ner. He was built on the lithe
feline lines of a panther, and he
moved with the same slinking
His hands on his hips, Dakota
Blue stopped a yard from the
Brockwells. "Which one of yuh
made that crack?" he demanded
"Yes, by Jimihy," yelped Spud
Dillon, his round face scarlet with
anger, "lemme tell yuh somethin'
Sarg Brockwell! I don't like yuh
or yore no-good son or nothin'
about yuh, savvy? I choose my
own friends an' to hell with yuh!
Yuh've had your last drink over
this bar. Yore money ain't worth
a damn here, from now on. Chaw
Neither of the Brockwells paid
any attention to Dillon. They
were watching Dakota Blue. "Well
I'm waitin'," drawled Dakota.
"Which one of yuh made that
Leo's lips twisted. "I did," he
snarled. "What's it to yuh?"
Dakota's fist moved with start
ling speed. It landed with a spat
on young Brockwell's mouth and
he went over backward, clawing
at his. gun. At Dakota's movement,
Sarg Brockwell had jumped back,
his right hand flashing to his hip.
Thrown a little off balance by his
blow, Dakota lagged on his draw,
and it looked as if Sarg Brock
well had him dead to rights.
Here Joe Rooney stepped into
the game. At the first hint of hos
tilities. Joe had slipped away from
the pool table, a cue gripped in
his hands, his faded old eyes
glinting purposefully. And now, as
Sarg Brockwell threw down on
Dakota, Joe jammed the cue be
tween Sarg Brockwell's ankles and
gave it a violent twist.
Brockwell, his feet cut from un
der him. cursed raucously as he
fell forward, and his gun ram
med flame and smoke into the
floor. Dakota's return shot, loos
ed as Brockwell was falling cut
through the shoulder of Brock
well's shirt, just nicking the heavy
Before Brockwell could straight
en himself, Dakota stepped for
ward and kicked the gun from
Leo Brockwell. dazed and bleed
ing, was mumbling curses and
fumbling at his gun. As he raised
it. Joe Rooney slammed him
across the wrist with his cue. The
gun thumped to the floor, where
Dakota Blue snapped it up.
Dakota stepped back. "A'right,
Joe," he drawled. "Let em up. I
got their stingers. An' much oblig
ed, Joe. That was quick, heady
Sarg Brockwell lunched to his
feet and dragged Leo up beside
hini. A little smear of blood show
ed on Sarg's shoulder. And before
anyone could speak further, Jig
ger Starbuck came lunging
through the swinging doors, a
drawn gun in his hand.
"What's going' on in here?" he
snapped. "Loyale, are yuh in
"Hardly," answered Dakota,
smiling thinly. "Not quite so fast,
Starbuck. Damned if yuh don't
act like yo're just waitin' a chance
to try an' hang somethin' on
Continued Next Issue
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