“I resent that,” Ryker retorted. “I ain’t that old.” “Ya ain’t…Huh?” While Ingamar puzzled this one out, Ryker made a fist and bashed him square in the face. “Take that.
I might be a turd, but I ain’t that old.” Although the stocky Swede reeled backward, he did not lose his balance and topple over.
Bright red blood exploded from his nose and ran freely down onto his checkered flannel shirt as he gritted his teeth, moved toward Ryker, and planted his two big hams on him.
Before Ryker could react, the Swede swung him around and put a bear hug on him, squeezing his ribs until they hurt and forcing the breath from his lungs. Throwing an elbow backward with all the strength he could muster, Ryker caught Ingamar in the side just long enough to break the hold.
Then he put a headlock on the shorter man and headed toward the honky-tonk, determined to deposit his sparring partner inside the instrument.
He never made it there with Ingamar, for two cowpokes stepped into their path, blocking them.
Ryker whirled and threw the only thing he was holding, which happened to be Ingamar, clear into the air and square into the two pokes.
All three went crashing to the floor, with the pokes thinking better of the situation and staying down.
He jumped up, unfazed, and headed for the mountain man again.
Just then Ryker caught the glint of a blade out of the corner of his eye and saw another cowboy rushing him from the right side. “A knifer!” Ryker roared. “Never did like knifers! They’re lower than the belly on a swayback snake!” “You talk tough, you old goat!” The cowboy was as angry as he was drunk. “Let’s see how easy you bleed.” He lunged forward as he spoke, thrusting the knife toward Ryker’s belly.
The old man sidestepped and dropped his arm on the man’s knife hand, knocking the weapon to the floor as the fellow moved past him and right into Ingamar.
The Swede grabbed him and moved behind him, pinning his arms and turning him back to face Ryker. “Do-on’t like knifers edder, by yiminy,” Ingamar said. “Here, I’ll hold him while ya rearrange hiss face, ah…Say, vat in da dickens iss yer name, anyvays?” “Ryker.
Toby Ryker’s my handle.” “Val, Toby Ryker, giff him vhat for.” Ryker obliged, pounding the man with a rough one-two action to the gut until he hung limply in Ingamar’s arms.
The Swede dropped him unceremoniously on the floor, placed a boot on his chest and stepped onto him, growing a foot in height as the poke let out with a groan.
He slapped his hands together like one does after a job well done and stepped down to face Ryker again. “Ya vant to go at it some more?” He said it with an easy voice. Breathless after the fight, Ryker wheezed like a rusty pump.
He was amazed at the stamina of the Swede.
That Ingamar was one tough old bugger! He wasn’t even breathing hard! If it wasn’t for the blood all over him, he’d look like he just awakened from a siesta.
Ryker wanted to call it quits, but before he could form a reply, a chair splintered over him from behind.
A second later, the lights in his head began to flicker, and he sank from view under the rubble as the fighting continued around him. “Vell, shut my mout’, I reckon he’s had enough,” Ingamar said as he turned and headed back toward what was left of his table. Ryker wasn’t sure how long he lay there, but it didn’t seem like more than a few seconds.
When he opened his eyes, there was a broken table covering him.
He pushed it to one side just in time to see the batwing doors fly open and a man wearing a badge come in.
He decided to stay down and see how efficiently Laramie’s lawman handled this mess. A tall wiry man, the lawman seemed to have and a knack for breaking up brawls.
Although he packed a .45 Colt, it remained in his holster.
In his hand he held a stubby wooden nightstick that he knew very well how to use.
One of those things came in mighty handy for clubbing a bar full of fighting men and usually was all the persuader a handy bouncer needed to restore order.
One crack aside the head with a nightstick was guaranteed to raise a welt the size of an onion, and the lawman demonstrated how to deliver a blow that would bring a fighting man to his knees.
He dove right into the thick of it, whacking heads and tossing people to the right and left as they crossed his path.
He put down eight of them as he worked his way toward the center of the saloon.
Once there, he drew the Colt and fired a round through the plank floor. The effect was instantaneous.
Closed fists raised high froze in mid-air, men strangling each other released their grips, and curses fell silent as all turned to stare at the lawman. Glaring back at the pack of rowdies, gun in hand but hanging loosely at his side, the lawman muttered, “Not a night can go by,” more to himself than to anyone else. “Kelly,” he hollered at the bartender, “this is getting old!” He returned his gaze to the men surrounding him. “All right, which one of you hell-raisers started this ruckus, anyway?” Ryker knew that the chance of the lawman getting an honest answer was about the same as if he was talking to himself in an empty room.
The fighters stood quietly now, subdued, shifting uneasily under the lawman’s steady gaze.
Their reactions were mixed.
Some stared back, stupidly.
Others looked indignant, like the lawman, as they wiped bloodied lips and glared at those who had pounded on them.
Still others looked sheepish, embarrassed.
For them, the only comfortable thing to do was to look down quietly at the floor. “Hello, sheriff.” The pretend cowboy with the thick wire-rimmed glasses pushed through the crowd, ran up to Jesse, and hugged him. “Why, Pudge Bumper! Does your mama know you’re in here?” “I’m on a job for my Mama to get some groceries, but I didn’t get to Mister Jonas’s yet,” Pudge said. “I didn’t start this fight, honest.
There is a giant Davy Crockett man that did it.” Glancing around, he didn’t see Ryker lying on the floor. “He’s gone now.” “I’m sure you didn’t start this, Pudge,” the sheriff said, putting his arm protectively around the Mongoloid man and pointing him toward the batwings. “I’m obliged to you for telling me about the giant man.
Now, you best run on to the mercantile so you don’t get hurt.” “Okay, sheriff,” Pudge said as he hugged Jesse again. “Bye,” he waved as he banged through the batwings and disappeared out the saloon. As he watched the harmless, perpetual child leave, Ryker was saddened to know that when no one was left to care for him, he would undoubtedly end up in the Insane Asylum they were building when he passed through Evanston.
Taking a deep breath, he reckoned it was time to face the music. “Just working off a little steam, sheriff, that’s all.” His voice was uncommonly chipper and seemed quite out of place amongst the wreckage. Turning to identify the speaker, the sheriff saw Ryker, grunting and wheezing, appear from under a pile of broken furniture and glass.
He managed to crawl to his feet, a bloody, dirty mess, but grinning from ear to ear.
The sheriff’s jaw dropped.
What manner of man was this? “What’s the matter, sheriff?” Ryker said, bursting out with a roar of laughter and motioning to the shambles about him. “Don’t you approve?”
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