Lefty tightened his grip on the gun as Malone reached deeper into the hutch, but he straightened again, and appeared carrying a large concert banjo.”

“That fellow had taste,” he continued, crossing the room and laying down the banjo carelessly on the chair: “just run your eyes over that banjo.”

“Some banjo, all right,” said the sheriff, “but hurry up with your drink. Malone. We’ve got to be on our way.”

Malone uncorked the bottle and held it under his nose while he inhaled a whiff.

“The old aroma, all right,” he pronounced with the air of a connoisseur; “must be a vintage as far back as the eighties. You won’t join me?”

Now the heart of the sheriff was a human heart, but his will was adamant.

“Not me, Malone,” he answered, “I’ve been in the game too long. Can’t drink on this sort of a job.”

“Guess you’re right,” murmured Malone, letting the amber stream trickle slowly into the glass; “but it’s too bad.”

He raised the glass to his lips and swallowed half of the contents slowly.

“The stuff is so oily,” he mused, “that you don’t need a chaser. Just sort of oils its own way down, you know.”

The sheriff moistened his lips.

“It certainly is a shame that you can’t taste it,” continued Malone, as he drained the glass.

The sheriff hitched his belt with his customary gesture.

“It looks like the real thing,” he said judicially.

“It is,” pronounced Malone with decision, “and after the sort of poison they serve you around here—”

The sheriff shuddered with sympathy.

“I reckon,” he said hesitatingly… chevronRight icon