Langton (9K)Chapter Two: The Dragon Lady

The spies of the Dragon Lady were quick to summon her to the secret hole that looked into the Lotus Flower. Who was the gunman? Why was he asking for the Fat Man?

The Dragon Lady did a brisk business in reward money. She had copies of current and not-so-current wanted posters from local sheriffs, detective agencies and the Wells Fargo express company.

If a man whose face was on one of these dodgers entered the Dragon Lady's den, he'd better not pass out drunk here. He wouldn't want to welch on his bar bill, either. There were three or four toughs on the Dragon Lady's payroll at any time in the bar who could drag out drunks, or come up behind a deadbeat and stick a gun in his back. The offender was likely to wake up behind bars, soon to face the music.

dragonlady (64K)

Otherwise, she left them alone. It would be bad for business if she busted every petty crook who came into her bar. They made up a sizable share of her clientele, after all. Just as long as they didn't cause trouble and cost her time and money.

But she made an exception for those men with a high price on their head. Sometimes the reward money was just too good to pass up. People had short memories, and if there was a reward out for those folks, they were fair game for her, or for anybody else for that matter. The regulars always came back for the booze, gambling, drugs and women without a second thought.

She put her eye to the spyhole just in time to witness the exchange between Langton and the barkeep. She recognized him right away. It was the gunman the Wells Fargo agent Dineen had spoken to her about.

« Don't do anything, » Dineen had cautioned. « Langton's slippery and dangerous. Send me a wire the moment he sets foot in your bar. I'll pay double whatever's on your poster if I can arrest him myself. »

The reward for Langton was more than she'd made off her last ten bounties. She could grab him now, but the temptation to hold out for double or nothing was too great. She watched him carefully, noticed he kept shifting around, casually but intently checking out the action up and down the bar and in the mirror. Maybe he wouldn't be all that easy to walk up to from behind after all.

She noted Langton's coal-black eyes, the hard line of his jaw, the cold set of his lips …. then she realized she had been staring too long. His eyes flicked over to meet hers for a split second, and she hurriedly drew the curtain back over the peephole. Her face was warm, and her breath caught in her throat.

She decided to send the wire to Dineen in Frisco first thing in the morning. But that meant Dineen wouldn't arrive for several days at the earliest. In the meantime, she decided to find out what he was up to. She might make a few plans of her own for the man they called Langton.

Chapter Three: The Piano Player