Francis Lynde.

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he hushed me up, called me out to the sidewalk, and started me home.
Mac, I don't remember a single wheel-turn of all that, and it makes me
scary about the other part."

McCloskey relapsed into his swing-chair.

"You said you thought you recognized the other man by his voice. It
sounds like a drunken pipe-dream, the whole of it; but who did you think
it was?"

Judson rose up, jerked his thumb toward the door of the superintendent's
business office, and said, "Mac, if the whiskey didn't fake the whole
business for me - the man who was mumblin' with Bart Rufford
was - Hallock!"

"Hallock?" said McCloskey; "and you said there was a woman in it? That
fits down to the ground, John. Mr. Lidgerwood has found out something
about Hallock's family tear-up, or he's likely to find out. That's what
that means!"

What more McCloskey said was said to an otherwise empty room. Judson had
opened the door and closed it, and was gone.

Summing up the astounding thing afterward, those who could recall the
details and piece them together traced Judson thus:

It was ten-forty when he came down from McCloskey's office, and for
perhaps twenty minutes he had been seen lounging at the lunch-counter in
the station end of the Crow's Nest. At about eleven one witness had seen
him striking at the anvil in Hepburn's shop, the town marshal being the
town blacksmith in the intervals of official duty.

Still later, he had apparently forgotten the good resolution declared to
McCloskey, and all Angels saw him staggering up and down Mesa Avenue,
stumbling into and out of the many saloons, and growing, to all
appearances, more hopelessly irresponsible with every fresh stumble.
This was his condition when he tripped over the doorstep into the
"Arcade," and fell full length on the floor of the bar-room. Grimsby,
the barkeeper, picked him up and tried to send him home, but with
good-natured and maudlin pertinacity he insisted on going on to the
gambling-room in the rear.

The room was darkened, as befitted its use, and a lighted lamp hung over
the centre of the oval faro table as if the time were midnight instead
of midday. Eight men, five of them miners from the Brewster copper mine,
and three of them discharged employees of the Red Butte Western, were
the bettors; Red-Light himself, in sombrero and shirt-sleeves, was
dealing, and Rufford, sitting on a stool at the table's end, was the
"lookout."

When Judson reeled in there was a pause, and a movement to put him out.
One of the miners covered his table stakes and rose to obey Rufford's
nod. But at this conjuncture the railroad men interfered. Judson was a
fellow craftsman, and everybody knew that he was harmless in his cups.
Let him stay - and play, if he wanted to.

So Judson stayed, and stumbled round the table, losing his money and
dribbling foolishness. Now faro is a silent game, and more than once an
angry voice commanded the foolish one to choose his place and to shut
his mouth. But the ex-engineer seemed quite incapable of doing either.
Twice he made the wavering circuit of the oval table, and when he
finally gripped an empty chair it was the one nearest to Rufford on the
right, and diagonally opposite to the dealer.

What followed seemed to have no connecting sequence for the other
players. Too restless to lose more than one bet in the place he had
chosen, Judson tried to rise, tangled his feet in the chair, and fell
down, laughing uproariously. When he struggled to the perpendicular
again, after two or three ineffectual attempts, he was fairly behind
Rufford's stool.

One man, who chanced to be looking, saw the "lookout" start and stiffen
rigidly in his place, staring straight ahead into vacancy. A moment
later the entire circle of witnesses saw him take a revolver from the
holster on his hip and lay it upon the table, with another from the
breast pocket of his coat to keep it company. Then his hands went
quickly behind him, and they all heard the click of the handcuffs.

The man in the sombrero and shirt-sleeves was first to come alive.

"Duck, Bart!" he shouted, whipping a weapon from its convenient shelf
under the table's edge. But Judson, trained to the swift handling of
many mechanisms in the moment of respite before a wreck or a
derailment, was ready for him.

"Bart's afraid he can't duck without dying," he said grimly, screening
himself behind his captive. Then to the others, in the same unhasting
tone: "Some of you fellows just quiet Sammy down till I get out of here
with this peach of mine. I've got the papers, and I know what I'm doin';
if this thing I'm holdin' against Bart's back should happen to go
off - - "

That ended it, so far as resistance was concerned. Judson backed quickly
out through the bar-room, drawing his prisoner backward after him; and a
moment later Angels was properly electrified by the sight of Rufford,
the Red Desert terror, marching sullenly down to the Crow's Nest, with a
fiery-headed little man at his elbow, the little man swinging the weapon
which had been made to simulate the cold muzzle of the revolver when he
had pressed it into Rufford's back at the gaming-table.

It was nothing more formidable than a short, thick "S"-wrench, of the
kind used by locomotive engineers in tightening the nuts of the
piston-rod packing glands.




X

FLEMISTER AND OTHERS

The jocosely spectacular arrest of Barton Rufford, with its appeal to
the grim humor of the desert, was responsible for a brief lull in the
storm of antagonism evoked by Lidgerwood's attempt to bring order out of
the chaos reigning in his small kingdom. For a time Angels was a-grin
again, and while the plaudits were chiefly for Judson, the figure of the
correctly clothed superintendent who was courageous enough to appeal to
the law, loomed large in the reflected light of the red-headed
engineer's cool daring.

For the space of a week there were no serious disasters, and Lidgerwood,
with good help from McCloskey and Benson, continued to dig persistently
into the mystery of the wholesale robberies. With Benson's discoveries
for a starting-point, the man Flemister was kept under surveillance, and
it soon became evident to the three investigators that the owner of the
Wire-Silver mine had been profiting liberally at the expense of the
railroad company in many ways. That there had been connivance on the
part of some one in authority in the railroad service, was also a fact
safely assumable; and each added thread of evidence seemed more and more
to entangle the chief clerk.

But behind the mystery of the robberies, Lidgerwood began to get
glimpses of a deeper mystery involving Flemister and Hallock. Angelic
tradition, never very clearly defined and always shot through with
prejudice, spoke freely of a former friendship between the two men.
Whether the friendship had been broken, or whether, for reasons best
known to themselves, they had allowed the impression to go out that it
had been broken, Lidgerwood could not determine from the bits of gossip
brought in by the trainmaster. But one thing was certain: of all the
minor officials in the railway service, Hallock was the one who was best
able to forward and to conceal Flemister's thieveries.

It was in the midst of these subterranean investigations that Lidgerwood
had a call from the owner of the Wire-Silver. On the Saturday in the
week of surcease, Flemister came in on the noon train from the west, and
it was McCloskey who ushered him into the superintendent's office.
Lidgerwood looked up and saw a small man wearing the khaki of the
engineers, with a soft felt hat to match. The snapping black eyes, with
the straight brows almost meeting over the nose, suggested Goethe's
_Mephistopheles_, and Flemister shaved to fit the part, with curling
mustaches and a dagger-pointed imperial. Instantly Lidgerwood began
turning the memory pages in an effort to recall where he had seen the
man before, but it was not until Flemister began to speak that he
remembered his first day in authority, the wreck at Gloria Siding, and
the man who had driven up in a buckboard to hold converse with the
master-mechanic.

"I've been trying to find time for a month or more to come up and get
acquainted with you, Mr. Lidgerwood," the visitor began, when Lidgerwood
had waved him to a chair. "I hope you are not going to hold it against
me that I haven't done it sooner."

Lidgerwood's smile was meant to be no more than decently hospitable.

"We are not standing much upon ceremony in these days of
reorganization," he said. Then, to hold the interview down firmly to a
business basis: "What can I do for you, Mr. Flemister?"

"Nothing - nothing on top of earth; it's the other way round. I came to
do something for you - or, rather, for one of your subordinates. Hallock
tells me that the ghost of the old Mesa Building and Loan Association
still refuses to be laid, and he intimates that some of the survivors
are trying to make it unpleasant for him by accusing him to you."

"Yes," said Lidgerwood, studying his man shrewdly by the road of the
eye, and without prejudice to the listening ear.

"As I understand it, the complaint of the survivors is based upon the
fact that they think they ought to have had a cash dividend forthcoming
on the closing up of the association's affairs," Flemister went on; and
Lidgerwood again said, "Yes."

"As Hallock has probably told you, I had the misfortune to be the
president of the company. Perhaps it's only fair to say that it was a
losing venture from the first for those of us who put the loaning
capital into it. As you probably know, the money in these mutual benefit
companies is made on lapses, but when the lapses come all in a
bunch - - "

"I am not particularly interested in the general subject, Mr.
Flemister," Lidgerwood cut in. "As the matter has been presented to me,
I understand there was a cash balance shown on the books, and that there
was no cash in the treasury to make it good. Since Hallock was the
treasurer, I can scarcely do less than I have done. I am merely asking
him - and you - to make some sort of an explanation which will satisfy the
losers."

"There is only one explanation to be made," said the
ex-building-and-loan president, brazenly. "A few of us who were the
officers of the company were the heaviest losers, and we felt that we
were entitled to the scraps and leavings."

"In other words, you looted the treasury among you," said Lidgerwood
coldly. "Is that it, Mr. Flemister?"

The mine-owner laughed easily. "I'm not going to quarrel with you over
the word," he returned. "Possibly the proceeding was a little informal,
if you measure it by some of the more highly civilized standards."

"I don't care to go into that," was Lidgerwood's comment, "but I cannot
evade my responsibility for the one member of your official staff who is
still on my pay-roll. How far was Hallock implicated?"

"He was not implicated at all, save in a clerical way."

"You mean that he did not share in the distribution of the money?"

"He did not."

"Then it is only fair that you should set him straight with the others,
Mr. Flemister."

The ex-president did not reply at once. He took time to roll a
cigarette leisurely, to light it, and to take one or two deep
inhalations, before he said: "It's a rather disagreeable thing to do,
this digging into old graveyards, don't you think? I can understand why
you should wish to be assured of Hallock's non-complicity, and I have
assured you of that; but as for these kickers, really I don't know what
you can do with them unless you send them to me. And if you do that, I
am afraid some of them may come back on hospital stretchers. I haven't
any time to fool with them at this late day."

Lidgerwood felt his gorge rising, and a great contempt for Flemister was
mingled with a manful desire to pitch him out into the corridor. It was
a concession to his unexplainable pity for Hallock that made him
temporize.

"As I said before, you needn't go into the ethics of the matter with me,
Mr. Flemister," he said. "But in justice to Hallock, I think you ought
to make a statement of some kind that I can show to these men who, very
naturally, look to me for redress. Will you do that?"

"I'll think about it," returned the mine-owner shortly; but Lidgerwood
was not to be put off so easily.

"You must think of it to some good purpose," he insisted. "If you
don't, I shall be obliged to put my own construction upon your failure
to do so, and to act accordingly."

Flemister's smile showed his teeth.

"You're not threatening me, are you, Mr. Lidgerwood?"

"Oh, no; there is no occasion for threats. But if you don't make me that
statement, fully exonerating Hallock, I shall feel at liberty to make
one of my own, embodying what you have just told me. And if I am
compelled to do this, you must not blame me if I am not able to place
the matter in the most favorable light for you."

This time the visitor's smile was a mere baring of the teeth.

"Is it worth your while to make it a personal quarrel with me, Mr.
Lidgerwood?" he asked, with a thinly veiled menace in his tone.

"I am not looking for quarrelsome occasions with you or with any one,"
was the placable rejoinder. "And I hope you are not going to force me to
show you up. Is there anything else? If not, I'm afraid I shall have to
ask you to excuse me. This is one of my many busy days."

After Flemister had gone, Lidgerwood was almost sorry that he had not
struck at once into the matter of the thieveries. But as yet he had no
proof upon which to base an open accusation. One thing he did do,
however, and that was to summon McCloskey and give instructions pointing
to a bit of experimental observation with the mine-owner as the subject.

"He can't get away from here before the evening train, and I should like
to know where he goes and what be does with himself," was the form the
instructions took. "When we find out who his accomplices are, I shall
have something more to say to him."

"I'll have him tagged," promised the trainmaster; and a few minutes
later, when the Wire-Silver visitor sauntered up Mesa Avenue in quest of
diversion wherewith to fill the hours of waiting for his train, a small
man, red-haired, and with a mechanic's cap pulled down over his eyes,
kept even step with him from dive to dive.

Judson's report, made to the trainmaster that evening after the
westbound train had left, was short and concise.

"He went up and sat in Sammy's game and didn't come out until it was
time to make a break for his train. I didn't see him talking to anybody
after he left here." This was the wording of the report.

"You are sure of that, are you, John?" questioned McCloskey.

Judson hung his head. "Maybe I ain't as sure as I ought to be. I saw him
go into Sammy's, and saw him come out again, and I know he didn't stay
in the bar-room. I didn't go in where they keep the tiger. Sammy don't
love me any more since I held Bart Rufford up with an S-wrench, and I
was afraid I might disturb the game if I went buttin' in to make sure
that Flemister was there. But I guess there ain't no doubt about it."

Thus Judson, who was still sober, and who meant to be faithful according
to his gifts. He was scarcely blameworthy for not knowing of the
existence of a small back room in the rear of the gambling-den; or for
the further unknowledge of the fact that the man in search of diversion
had passed on into this back room after placing a few bets at the silent
game, appearing no more until he had come out through the gambling-room
on his way to the train. If Judson had dared to press his espial, he
might have been the poorer by the loss of blood, or possibly of his
life; but, living to get away with it, he would have been the richer for
an important bit of information. For one thing, he would have known that
Flemister had not spent the afternoon losing his money across the
faro-table; and for another, he might have made sure, by listening to
the subdued voices beyond the closed door, that the man he was shadowing
was not alone in the back room to which he had retreated.




XI

NEMESIS


On the second day following Flemister's visit to Angels, Lidgerwood was
called again to Red Butte to another conference with the mine-owners. On
his return, early in the afternoon, his special was slowed and stopped
at a point a few miles east of the "Y" spur at Silver Switch, and upon
looking out he saw that Benson's bridge-builders were once more at work
on the wooden trestle spanning the Gloria. Benson himself was in
command, but he turned the placing of the string-timbers over to his
foreman and climbed to the platform of the superintendent's service-car.

"I won't hold you more than a few minutes," he began, but the
superintendent pointed to one of the camp-chairs and sat down, saying:
"There's no hurry. We have time orders against 73 at Timanyoni, and we
would have to wait there, anyhow. What do you know now? - more than you
knew the last time we talked?"

Benson shook his head. "Nothing that would do us any good in a jury
trial," he admitted reluctantly. "We are not going to find out anything
more until you send somebody up to Flemister's mine with a
search-warrant."

Lidgerwood was gazing absently out over the low hills intervening
between his point of view and the wooded summit of Little Butte.

"Whom am I to send, Jack?" he asked. "I have just come from Red Butte,
and I took occasion to make a few inquiries. Flemister is evidently
prepared at all points. From what I learned to-day, I am inclined to
believe that the sheriff of Timanyoni County would probably refuse to
serve a warrant against him, if we could find a magistrate who would
issue one. Nice state of affairs, isn't it?"

"Beautiful," Benson agreed, adding: "But you don't want Flemister half
as bad as you want the man who is working with him. Are you still trying
to believe that it isn't Hallock?"

"I am still trying to be fair and just. McCloskey says that the two used
to be friends - Hallock and Flemister. I don't believe they are now.
Hallock didn't want to go to Flemister about that building-and-loan
business, and I couldn't make out whether he was afraid, or whether it
was just a plain case of dislike."

"It would doubtless be Hallock's policy - and Flemister's, too, for that
matter - to make you believe they are not friends. You'll have to admit
they are together a great deal."

"I'll admit it if you say so, but I didn't know it before. How do you
know it?"

"Hallock is over here every day or two; I have seen him three or four
times since that day when he and Flemister were walking down the new
spur together and turned back at sight of me," said Benson. "Of course,
I don't know what other business Hallock may have over here, but one
thing I do know, he has been across the river, digging into the inner
consciousness of my old prospector. And that isn't all. After he had got
the story of the timber stealing out of the old man, he tried to bribe
him not to tell it to any one else; tried the bribe first and a scare
afterward - told him that something would happen to him if he didn't keep
a still tongue in his head."

Lidgerwood shook his head slowly. "That looks pretty bad. Why should he
want to silence the old man?"

"That's just what I've been asking myself. But right on the heels of
that, another little mystery developed. Hallock asked the old man if he
would be willing to swear in court to the truth of his story. The old
man said he would."

"Well?" said Lidgerwood.

"A night or two later the old prospector's shack burned down, and the
next morning he found a notice pinned to a tree near one of his
sluice-boxes. It was a polite invitation for him to put distance between
him and the Timanyoni district. I suppose you can put two and two
together, as I did."

Again Lidgerwood said: "It looks pretty bad for Hallock. No one but the
thieves themselves could have any possible reason for driving the old
man out of the country. Did he go?"

"Not much; he isn't built that way. That same day he went to work
building him a new shack; and he swears that the next man who gets near
enough to set it afire won't live to get away and brag about it. Two
days afterward Hallock showed up again, and the old fellow ran him off
with a gun."

Just then the bridge-foreman came up to say that the timbers were in
place, and Benson swung off to give Lidgerwood's engineer instructions
to run carefully. As the service-car platform came along, Lidgerwood
leaned over the railing for a final word with Benson. "Keep in touch
with your old man, and tell him to count on us for protection," he said;
and Benson nodded acquiescence as the one-car train crept out upon the
dismantled bridge.

Having an appointment with Leckhard, of the main line, timed for an
early hour the following morning, Lidgerwood gave his conductor
instructions to stop at Angels only long enough to get orders for the
eastern division.

When the division station was reached, McCloskey met the service-car in
accordance with wire instructions sent from Timanyoni, bringing an
armful of mail, which Lidgerwood purposed to work through on the run to
Copah.

"Nothing new, Mac?" he asked, when the trainmaster came aboard.

"Nothing much, only the operators have notified me that there'll be
trouble, _pronto_, if we don't put Hannegan and Dickson back on the
wires. The grievance committee intimated pretty broadly that they could
swing the trainmen into line if they had to make a fight."

"We put no man back who has been discharged for cause," said the
superintendent firmly. "Did you tell them that?"

"I did. I have been saying that so often that it mighty nearly says
itself now, when I hear my office door open."

"Well, there is nothing to do but to go on saying it. We shall either
make a spoon or spoil a horn. How would you be fixed in the event of a
telegraphers' strike?"

"I've been figuring on that. It may seem like tempting the good Lord to
say it, but I believe we could hold about half of the men."

"That is decidedly encouraging," said the man who needed to find
encouragement where he could. "Two weeks ago, if you had said one in
ten, I should have thought you were overestimating. We shall win out
yet."

But now McCloskey was shaking his head dubiously. "I don't know. Andy
Bradford has been giving me an idea of how the trainmen stand, and he
says there is a good deal of strike talk. Williams adds a word about the
shop force: he says that Gridley's men are not saying anything, but
they'll be likely to go out in a body unless Gridley wakes up at the
last minute and takes a club to them."

Lidgerwood's conductor was coming down the platform of the Crow's Nest
with his orders in his hand, and McCloskey made ready to swing off. "I
can reach you care of Mr. Leckhard, at Copah, I suppose?" he asked.

"Yes. I shall be back some time to-morrow; in the meantime there is
nothing to do but to sit tight in the boat. Use my private code if you
want to wire me. I don't more than half trust that young fellow, Dix,
Callahan's day operator. And, by the way, Mr. Frisbie is sending me a
stenographer from Denver. If the young man turns up while I am away, see
if you can't get Mrs. Williams to board him."

McCloskey promised and dropped off, and the one-car special presently
clanked out over the eastern switches. Lidgerwood went at once to his
desk and promptly became deaf and blind to everything but his work. The
long desert run had been accomplished, and the service-car train was
climbing the Crosswater grades, when Tadasu Matsuwari began to lay the
table for dinner. Lidgerwood glanced at his watch, and ran his finger
down the line of figures on the framed time-table hanging over his desk.

"Humph!" he muttered; "Acheson's making better time with me than he ever
has before. I wonder if Williams has succeeded in talking him over to
our side? He is certainly running like a gentleman to-day, at all
events."

The superintendent sat down to Tadasu's table and took his time to
Tadasu's excellent dinner, indulging himself so far as to smoke a
leisurely cigar with his black coffee before plunging again into the
sea of work. Not to spoil his improving record, Engineer Acheson
continued to make good time, and it was only a little after eleven
o'clock when Lidgerwood, looking up from his work at the final slowing
of the wheels, saw the masthead lights of the Copah yards.

Taking it for granted that Superintendent Leckhard had long since left
his office in the Pacific Southwestern building, Lidgerwood gave orders
to have his car placed on the station-spur, and went on with his work.


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