Sipping steaming mugs of coffee, Cooper Smith and Otis Fuller looked up from the desk when Roy Hickman and Early Grimes walked through the cellblock door.
“Sure am glad I’m a law abiding citizen,” said Hickman, stretching his back, “I couldn’t sleep on those beds too many nights.”
Hickman and Grimes wandered over to the stove, taking mugs from the rack on the wall, and filled them from the coffee pot.
“When’s all this supposed to happen?’ asked Grimes, going to the window.
“Noon,” replied Cooper Smith.
“Ol’ Becker sure didn’t do you boys no favor, did he? Makin’ you wait a week to hang Gilson at high noon,” said Hickman.
“Folks is already started to line up outside,” commented Grimes, from the window.
“You boys hear anythin’ last night?” asked Otis Fuller.
Hickman and Grimes looked at each other, shaking their heads.
“Not that I recollect,” answered Roy Hickman.
“Gilson had a coupla visitors last night,” said Cooper Smith.
“Hap?” asked Grimes.
“And his sidekick,” added Fuller.
“Think they’ll try somethin?” asked Hickman.
“I’m sure of it,” said Cooper, “only they’ll wait until we take him outside.”
Early Grimes stood at the window looking at the gallows across the street. “You know, it sure seems funny Ol’ Hancock ain’t out testin’ his rope. Here it is, four hours ‘til the hangin’ and he ain’t been out there once. Usually ‘bout this time he’s trying to wear out that trap door.”
Roy Hickman went over to the window and stood beside Grimes.
“You know, Early’s right,” agreed Hickman, “he ain’t even got a noose hangin’ up there. Ain’t like Hancock not to be ready.”
“Maybe he thought, after seein’ Gilson, he figgered to just add a little extry weight,” said Otis.
Hickman shook his head. “Ain’t the way Hancock works, especially with a brand new gallows. He should be out there.”
Cooper Smith rose from behind his desk and went to the gun rack, grabbing a Winchester. “Otis, maybe we ought to go check on Hancock.” Otis rose from his chair, picking up the shotgun leaning against the desk and following Cooper Smith out the door.
Sorting mail, Lester Hasgood turned from the pigeonholes behind the registration desk when Otis Fuller and Cooper Smith walked into the lobby.
“Mornin’ Lester,” said Cooper.
“Marshal, Otis, what can I do for you this morning?”
“You seen Harlan Hancock today?”
Lester thought for a moment, shaking his head. “No sir, I don’t believe I have.”
“What room is he in?”
“Two fourteen,” said Hasgood, grabbing a ring of keys from the desk. “I’ll go with you.”
Cooper Smith and Otis Fuller followed Lester Hasgood up the stairs to Hancock’s room. “Mister Hancock,” said Hasgood, knocking on the door.
Not receiving an answer, Hasgood tried the doorknob, opening the door. Giving a surprised look to Cooper and Otis, Hasgood pushed the door open. Hancock’s carpetbag lay on the bed unpacked.
“It appears Mister Hancock is not here,” said Hasgood.
“We can see that, Lester,” said Otis, “but, where is he?”
Roy Hickman and Early Grimes watched Cooper and Otis Fuller step off the boardwalk and come back to the jail. “Hancock’s gone,” said Cooper.
“Gone where?” asked Hickman.
Cooper shrugged his shoulders, shaking his head. “Beats me.”
“Bet if we find Hap Gilson, we’ll find Harlan Hancock,” said Otis.
Hap Gilson put his ear to the door of Ainsley’s room when he heard Hasgood knocking on Hancock’s door. He looked at Harlan Hancock who sat bound and gagged in a corner of the room.
“They’re lookin’ for you, hangman,” said Gilson after Smith and Fuller went back down the stairs. “Maybe, it’s time we give ‘em what they’re lookin’ for.”