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“I took the horse from McGurk.”

“You!”

She nodded. After all, it was not a lie. “You killed McGurk?”

She said coolly: “I let him go the way he let you, Dick. He's on foot in the mountains without a horse or a gun.”

“It isn't possible!”

“There's the horse for proof.”

He looked at her as if she were something more than human.

“Our Jack—did this?”

“We've got to start on. Can you walk, Dick?”

“A thousand miles now.”

Yet he staggered when he tried to rise, and she made him climb up to the saddle. The white horse walked on, and she kept her place close at the stirrup of the rider. He would have stopped and dismounted for her a hundred times, but she made him keep his place.

“What's ahead of us, Jack? We're the last of the gang?”

“The last of Boone's gang. We are.”

“The old life over again?”

“What else?”

“Yes; what else?”

“Are you afraid, Dick?”

“Not with you for a pal. Seven was too many; with two we can rule the range.”

“Partners, Dick?”

How could he tell that her voice was gone so gentle because she was seeing in her mind's eye another face than his? He leaned toward her.

“Why not something more than partners, after a while, Jack?”

She smiled strangely up to him.

“Because of this, Dick.”

And fumbling at her throat, she showed him the glittering metal of the cross.

“The cross goes on, but what of you, Jack?” A long silence fell between them. Words died in the making.

The great weight pressing down on that slender throat was like the iron hand of a giant, but slowly, one by one, the sounds marshalled themselves:

“...God knows...” It was the passing of Judgment. “God knows...not I.”

Epilogue

But what of the legendary gunfighter, McGurk? How could the spirit of any man survive that terrible defeat at the hands of Red Pierre?

After that night, when he had walked from the dark heart of the mountain without horse or gun, head bowed, eyes glazed, it seemed that the life of Bob McGurk had burned down to black ash.

Indeed, no one heard of him for five long years. Then, phoenix-like, he was reborn in fire, emerging in the raw border country of Texas. His rebirth was spectacular. No longer the lone phantom fighter of past days, he led a gang of coldhearted thieves and killers that became the scourge of the Rio Grande.

But McGurk never returned to the mountain-desert country of his shame and defeat. And only he knew that the face of Red Pierre never left him; it blazed in his mind by day and haunted his nights.

Then, as suddenly as he had reappeared, after proving his skill and courage afresh in a score of wild, bullet- filled encounters, the great gunfighter vanished from the world of civilized men. His gang dispersed and the border country saw no more of him.

McGurk was finally gone.

Only the legend remained.

Вы читаете Riders of the Silences
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