Hardly had Comanche Bend fallen into complete darkness when Jerry left the hotel porch and began to stroll leisurely down the town’s only street, his hands in his pockets, a long, black cigar in his teeth, and an auspicious bulge in his upper vest pocket. As soon as he left, two shadowy figures slipped out from the side of the same porch and started creeping after him. Except for these three creatures, nothing was heard or seen in the whole street, for dinner had just been eaten, and after dinner the inhabitants of Comanche Bond sat on the front porches, smoking or telling stories.
Streaks of yellow light streamed into the street from the open doors and windows, but the contrast made the distances even blacker. In one such dark moment, a hand landed on Jerry’s shoulder. He spun around to find himself facing two masked men and staring down the flashing barrel of a five-fifty revolver. The men were very tall. It was insane for Jerry to even think about fighting with them.
»Put your hands up and do it damn fast!» commanded by the thinner of the bandits.
Jerry’s arms swung above his head and the stronger fireman’s hand slipped into his bulging vest pocket.
»All brand new,« he said good-naturedly to his partner.
»Stiff and smooth. You can hear how they rustle like a bell.»
»Good God, good gentlemen!» pained Jerry.
»Shut up, you dog!» warned the skinny bandit. »Speak quietly; otherwise I will send you on a long journey without giving you a return ticket. Would it not be according to pity and general charity to put an end to his accursed life in any case; or what, partner?”
»Gentlemen», complained the whining victim, »you are stealing everything from me».
»It’s come easily», scoffed Red Mack with a giggle, »and it goes easily».
“Twenty years’ work—” began the polonaise.
“Do not lie!” snarled Pete. »You don’t look that old.»
»Gentlemen, because of this incident, a trusting wife and two small children are on the brink of starvation.»
“What?” growled the Dwarf.
»Shut up!» said Red Mack. »And now listen; turn around and sneak back to the hotel!»
»Think of their complaints—think of their thin, pale faces, as they sit around the cold hearth and gaze at their mother, suffering, sad, uncomplaining! Think of their silent plea, their request for bread when there is no bread! Gentlemen, think about it and let that image gnaw at your mind! The curse of a widowed mother would be enough to send an angel to the fires of hell forever.»
»Widow mother?» wondered Red Mack coldly.
»I can’t live after tonight’s robbery», assured Jerry with a calm sadness. »Yes, if my entire life’s savings are mercilessly taken away from me — that’s too much! I don’t want to see a joyless morning.”
»Um,» called Pete. »Listen, partner —»
“Beyond that,” interrupted heartless Mack. »Well, my friend, put your paws down and clap! If you let even a little movement out of your face before you get to the hotel, I’ll send a lead ball to bring you a kiss good night. Begone!”
With a start, Jerry turned and began to dash back towards the hotel without looking. For a moment the robbers watched him. Far down the street they saw him running to the hotel steps and heard him shouting from a long way off. A crowd immediately gathered around him, and judging by the gesticulations, he seemed to be filming a robbery. Immediately, a whole chorus of shrill cowboy gallops followed; Down the porch steps came running men who mounted their horses and galloped toward Mack and Pete. The latter did not wait for the avengers to arrive.
It was a very simple trick to slip aside, go around through the vanias and enter the hotel through the back door. As they hurried to their room, the last of the pursuers in the street below sprang into the saddle, and hurried screeching past them to the manhunt.
Grinning, Red Mack watched her from the window.
“I’ve dabbled in something, I’ve been a miner, a pump operator, a brakeman, a bell ringer in competitions, but this is the easiest money I’ve ever gotten my hands on,” he remarked. »Where do we hide the booty in case our room is searched?»
»Would you like to check it out?» boomed Pete. »Don’t you know me? No; this room will not be inspected. And who else would be crazy enough to pull off a hijacking and then stay in town? And the customs boy does say that we haven’t used our horses all this evening. E—no; there is not the slightest fear that such a thing would be suspected. But what that swordsman said about his wife and children really bothers me.»
“Fuck,” said Red Mack cheerfully. »I’ve heard such talk before. I’m no fool, Dwarf. It’s your fault that you don’t understand humor at all. You don’t understand what is fake and what is fake.»
»But his words seemed believable to me. There was a sound of crying in his voice, I could hear it. I’m telling you, this is no good!”
“Pooh!” said Red Mack. »He has never seen his wife!»
“Yes he is,” claimed Pete. »Remember how simply he spoke. Just watch any man with a wife and children. His habit is to make an insane amount of noise — just like Jerry talks. Yes, Mack, she’s got kids, that’s all.”
»Then what is he doing here, away from them?» asked Red Mack, beginning to be shaken by this unusually persistent harassment.
»Even if the man is a dog and a cheap skunk,« answered the Dwarf gently, »his wife and little polos still wouldn’t have to suffer from hellish deprivation. Look, Mack, I don’t want to be responsible for that. Imagine them sitting at home, their little, pale faces turned towards their mother, who doesn’t have a loaf of bread in the whole house. Truly—» His voice cracked heavily. “Truly,” he continued, “let him have my share.” I’m tough-minded, I’m cheap, but no one in the whole cattle pasture can claim that Pete has ever cheated on a partner, woman or child. My share goes back to Jerry. I don’t want his money.»
Red Mack wiped away the moisture that had suddenly sizzled in his eyes.
»Dwarf,« he cooed, drying his tears and lowering his voice, so that the other would not distinguish it from the quivering Akkaian excitement, »you have a good heart, you really do. I’ve always known it, and this is proof of it. I don’t want to be a child killer either, any more than you do. I tell you what we do; we split the money in half. The other half we secretly slip into the tender room. The other side is rightfully ours, isn’t it?’
“It does feel as if we could stand to get something from our work,” admitted Kääpiö, noticeably relieved. »Count the money, Red!»
Red Mack pulled a green, stiff roll of bills from his pocket and folded it open.
»One, two,» he counted, separating the bills with his finger.
“What happened to the twenty dollar bills that were on the surface of the log when we last saw it?” godfather, Kääpö.
»He must have changed one of them and put the small change on the outside,« thought Red Mack. “Three, four,” he continued counting, “five, six—”
He stopped counting, his hands shaking, and his eyes widened dangerously.
»What’s wrong?» of course Kääpö restless.
It took a moment before his partner could answer. Finally
, Mack moistened his dry lips.
“Look!” he ordered hoarsely and shoved a wad of bills into Pete’s hands. And Pete found himself looking at the half-ferocious, half-calm face of Porfirio Diaz depicted in the corner of the seventh bill. He stood up from his chair.
“Mexican money!” he snapped.
Then he slumped back into a sitting position as if weighed down by a giant hand.
“Dear God!” supatti Red Mack has a tone of almost religious reverence in his voice. »He tricked us, Dwarf. Hälläjala — you embarrassed — us!»
The dwarf slowly wiped his forehead with his handkerchief, not saying a word for a while.
“His little child-polos,” he began then, still speaking in a daze.
»Hey, damn it!» interrupted Red Mack.
And completely silent they then sat, staring rigidly at each other.
“Mack”, the Dwarf suddenly started to speak, “I’ll get down to it”.
“Dwarf,” replied Mack solemnly, “those words you uttered as if from my own mouth.” To be sure, I’m also going to do it to get the opportunity to get my hands on the tender foot one more time.»
»And when we get him,» Pete began quietly and finished his sentence by squeezing the void with his big hands and slowly twisting it across.