In the lobby, Patrick and the three others were all standing at the window watching the departing McNeil when the three riders walked into the hotel. The big, well-dressed man strode right to the counter. He spun the guest register around and peered down at it. The desk clerk sidled over to the desk and stopped beside him.
“That’s all I know about him, Mr. Sommers. He rode in this afternoon and made me rent him a room even after I told him we were full up.”
Ignoring the clerk, the man turned and looked at the backs of Patrick and the other cowboy as they continued staring out the front window. The big man’s eyes hardened almost imperceptibly as the older man approached him.
“Sit down, Grover.”
The hefty cowboy turned and said, “I was only—”
“I said sit down. You too, Cotton.”
The men moved from the window and reclaimed the chairs where they had sat earlier before McNeil’s exit. The two cowboys who had arrived with Sommers leaned against the wall near the front door with their arms crossed, snickering.
“How are you, Doc?” the big man said, acknowledging the older man.
“Can’t complain, Bull. How are you?”
“Passably well, thanks.”
Then Bull Sommers turned his attention to Cotton Patrick. Patrick spoke up without prompting.
“He’s one cool customer.”
“He doesn't push easily?” Sommers said.
“That’s the thing. He pushes too easy. I took a run at him upstairs in his room. He was all polite like and wouldn’t rise to the bait I was using. But I saw it in his eyes.”
“No fear, not a mite. He doesn’t strike me as a man who runs from a fight, and I expect he’s handy with the tied-down Colt he wears. Despite his words, he stood there looking amused the whole time. He put me in mind of a coiled rattlesnake ready to strike. Maybe we ought to—”
Sommers waved a hand impatiently and turned back to the older man.
“What do you think, Doc?”
“Nothing. I’m just wondering why you are all so lathered up about one stranger? He seems to me like a common drifter just passing through.”
Sommers eyed the man coldly. “You wonder too much, and you ask too many questions. That’s not a winning hand, Doc.”
“It’s just that there seems no cause for concern about that stranger unless you only look at him from a certain point of view.”
“How do you look at him?”
“With the innocence of a freshly born calf,” Doc said.
“Keep it up, Doc,” Sommers said. “Maybe you’ll say something funny one day. Or, maybe I’ll have Grover Rhodes wash your mouth out with soap.”
Chastened, Doc made no reply. Sommers brushed past him, crossed the room to the window, and looked out.
“He’s going into the jail,” Sommers said with irritation.
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