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The Big-Town Round-Up by William MacLeod Raine

Why don't you pull yore picket pin and travel to a new range


Clay

blushed. In spite of the slangy impudence that dropped from the pretty red lips the girl was slim and looked virginal.

"You're 'way off. I wasn't callin' on her to--" He stuck hopelessly.

"Whadya know about that?" she came back with obvious sarcasm. "You soitainly give me a pain. I'll say you weren't callin' to arrange no Sunday School picnic. Listen. Look at that wall a minute, will you?"

When he turned again at her order she was sitting on the side of the bed wrapped in a kimono, her feet in bedroom slippers. He saw now that she was a slender-limbed slip of a girl. The lean forearm, which showed bare to the elbow when she raised it to draw the kimono closer round her, told Clay that she was none too well nourished.

"I'll listen now to your fairy tale, Mr. Gumshoe Guy, but I wantta wise you that I'm hep to men. Doncha try to string me," she advised.

Clay did not. It had occurred to him that she might give him information of value. There was something friendly and kindly about the humorous little mouth which parroted worldly wisdom so sagely and the jargon of criminals so readily. He told her the story of Kitty Mason. He could see by the girl's eyes that she had jumped to the conclusion that he was in love with Kitty. He did not attempt to disturb that conviction. It might enlist her sympathy.

style="text-align: justify;">"Honest, Annie, I believe this guy's on the level," the young woman said aloud as though to herself. "If he ain't, he's sure a swell mouthpiece. He don't look to me like no flat-worker--not with that mug of his. But you never can tell."

"I'm not, Miss. My story's true." Eyes clear as the Arizona sky in a face brown as the Arizona desert looked straight at her.

Annie Millikan had never seen a man like this before, so clean and straight and good to look at. From childhood she had been brought up on the fringe of that underworld the atmosphere of which is miasmic. She was impressed in spite of herself.

"Say, why don't you go into the movies and be one of these here screen ideals? You'd knock 'em dead," she advised flippantly, crossing her bare ankles.

Clay laughed. He liked the insolent little twist to her mouth. She made one strong appeal to him. This bit of a girl, so slim that he could break her in his hands, was game to the core. He recognized it as a quality of kinship.

"This is my busy night. When I've got more time I'll think of it. Right now--"

She took the subject out of his mouth. "Listen, how do you know the girl ain't a badger-worker?"

"You'll have to set 'em up on the other alley, Miss," the Westerner said. "I don't get yore meanin'."

"Couldn't she 'a' made this date to shake you down? Blackmail stuff."

"No chance. She's not that kind."

"Mebbe you're right. I meet so many hop-nuts and dips and con guys and gun-molls that I get to thinkin' there's no decent folks left," she said with a touch of weariness.

"Why don't you pull yore picket-pin and travel to a new range?" he asked. "They're no kind of people for you to be knowin'. Get out to God's country where men are white and poor folks get half a chance."


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