Dark Canyon

When Jim Colburn rode into the hide-out at sundown he was not alone. There was a gangling youngster riding with him, a kid with narrow hips and wide, meatless shoulders and chest. The old Navy .44 looked too big for him, despite his height.

Jim Colburn stepped down from the saddle and looked around at Kehoe, Weaver, and Parrish. He was a tough man with no nonsense about him, and he was their acknowledged leader.

"This here is Gaylord Riley," he said. "He's riding with us." Parrish was stirring beans, and he merely glanced up and offered no comment. Weaver started to object, but at the expression in Colburn's eyes he decided against it. From the beginning there had just been four of them, no outsiders invited. What they had to do they did with four men, or they left it alone. Kehoe dropped his cigarette and toed it into the sand. "Hoddy, boy," he said.

They ate in silence, but when they had finished eating the kid moved over and helped Parrish clean up. Nobody said anything until Colburn had one boot off and was rubbing his foot, then it was he who spoke.

"I got myself in a corner. He pulled me out of it."

At daybreak they moved out, taking the trail warily at first. Weaver's irritation at the stranger's presence was obvious, but nothing was said until they paused at the stream on the outskirts of town.

"We'll handle it the same as always," Colburn said. "Parrish with the horses, Weaver and Kehoe with me."

Weaver did not even turn his head. "What does he do?"

"He'll ride to that big cottonwood and dismount. He will stand right there until we come by, and if there's shooting, he'll cover us."

"That'll take nerve."

Gaylord Riley looked at Weaver. "That's what I got," he said.

When Colburn, Weaver, and Kehoe came out of the bank and stepped into their saddles the street was still empty.

They had covered almost half the distance to the spot where Gaylord Riley waited, when the banker ran from the bank shouting. He carried a rifle, and he swung it up to fire.

Gaylord Riley had his choice and took it. He aimed at the hitch-rail in front of the banker. Splinters flew at his shot, and the banker leaped wildly for the shelter of the doorway.

Their take was small, and Weaver showed his irritation when an equal share was counted out for Riley.

Kehoe dropped his share into a pocket. "You could have killed that banker," he commented.

"There was no need."

Riley helped around camp, and talked little, but his presence continued to irritate Weaver. Loafing on the street at Bradshaw, studying the bank there, Weaver said suddenly to Kehoe, "I've had about enough of that kid."

"He ain't a bad kid. Leave him alone."

"Something about him gets on my nerves," Weaver insisted, "and we don't need him."

"Don't brace him," Kehoe advised. "You'd get your tail twisted."

"Huh?" Weaver was contemptuous. "He ain't dry behind the ears yet."

Kehoe brushed the ash from his cigarette. "The kid's a gunfighter."

"Him? For two bits I'd--"

"You'd get killed."

Weaver was angry, but curious. "What makes you say that?"

"Watch him. Nobody makes a move that he doesn't see, and he never gets that right hand tangled up. When he takes hold of anything it's always with his left. You watch."

Grudgingly, Weaver accepted him.

One morning, three miles south of Nogales, in Sonora, Weaver crawled out of his blankets with a hang-over. Parrish was cooking, Riley was cleaning his rifle. Colburn and Kehoe were not there.

"I took in too much territory," Weaver said. "You got a drink, Parrish?"

Parrish shook his head, but Riley turned to his blanket roll and fished out a bottle. "Hair of the dog," he said, and tossed the bottle to Weaver.

Weaver pulled the cork and drank. "Thanks kid," he said.

"Keep it," Riley said. "The way you headed into it last night I figured you could use that today."

Later, after Riley had ridden off, Weaver said, "Maybe I got that kid wrong."

"You sure did. He's all right. He's a good kid."

Weaver took another drink, then corked the bottle and put it away. He seemed to be considering what Parrish had said.

"That's it," he said at last. "That's just the trouble. He's a good kid."