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The Man Who Killed Dan Odams
by [?]

At daylight the horse could go no farther without rest. The man led it up a coulee — safely away from the road — and hobbled it beneath a clump of cottonwoods.

Then he climbed a hill and sprawled on the soggy ground, his lashless red eyes on the country through which he had come: rolling hills of black and green and gray, where wet soil, young grass, and dirty snow divided dominion — the triple rule trespassed here and there by the sepia ribbon of county road winding into and out of sight.

He saw no man while he lay there, but the landscape was too filled with the marks of man’s proximity to bring any feeling of security. Shoulder-high wire fencing edged the road, a footpath cut the side of a near-by hill, telephone poles held their short arms stiffly against the gray sky.

At noon he saddled the roan again and rode on along the coulee. Several miles up he came to a row of small poles bearing a line of telephone wire. He left the coulee bottom, found the ranch house to which the wire ran, circled it, and went on.

Late in the afternoon he was not so fortunate.

With lessening caution — he had seen no wires for more than an hour — he rode across a hill to stumble almost into the centre of a cluster of buildings. Into the group, from the other side, ran a line of wire.

The man who had killed Dan Odams retreated, crossed to another hill, and as he dropped down, on the far side, a rifle snapped from the slope he had just quit.

He bent forward until his nose was deep in the roan’s mane, and worked upon the horse with hand and foot. The rifle snapped again.

He rolled clear of the horse as it fell, and continued to roll until bunch grass and sagebrush screened him from behind. Then he crawled straight away, rounded the flank of a hill, and went on.

The rifle did not snap again. He did not try to find it.

He turned from the south now, toward the west, his short, heavy legs pushing him on toward where Tiger Butte bulked against the leaden sky like a great crouching cat of black and green, with dirty white stripes where snow lay in coulee and fissure.

His left shoulder was numb for a while, and then the numbness was replaced by a searing ache. Blood trickled down his arm, staining his mud-caked hand. He stopped to open coat and shirt and readjust the bandage over the wound in his shoulder — the fall from the horse had broken it open and started it bleeding again. Then he went on.

The first road he came to bent up toward Tiger Butte. He followed it, ploughing heavily through the sticky, clinging mud.

Only once did he break the silence he had maintained since his escape from the Jingo jail. He stopped in the middle of the road and stood with legs far apart, turned his bloodshot eyes from right to left and from ground to sky, and without emotion but with utter finality cursed the mud, the fence, the telephone wires, the man whose rifle had set him afoot, and the meadow larks whose taunting flutelike notes mocked him always from just ahead.

Then he went on, pausing after each few miles to scrape the ever-accumulating mud from his boots, using each hilltop to search the country behind for signs of pursuit.

The rain came down again, matting his thin, clay-plastered hair — his hat had gone with his mount. The ill-fitting slicker restricted his body and flapped about his ankles, impeding his progress, but his wounded shoulder needed its protection from the rain.