Oliver Strange - Sudden Westerns 01 - The Range Robbers(1930) (9 page)

BOOK: Oliver Strange - Sudden Westerns 01 - The Range Robbers(1930)
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Ginger
held out his hand and they gripped. Then, turning to the blanketed form, he
muttered thickly, ‘I’ll get him for yu, Buddy, don’t yu worry,’ and strode
away.

 
          
Green
followed, mounted his horse, and joined the others.

 
          
The
trail of the riders had soon been found, and also the ‘spot where, behind a
clump of cottonwoods near the cabin, they had waited in ambush for the approach
of the two cowboys. Beyond the fact that the horses were all shod, the ground
told them nothing, and Blaynes wasted little time over it.

 
          
“Come
on, boys, let’s get after the damn thieves,’ he cried, and spurred his mount
into the broad trail left by the stolen beasts. “Pretty good gather,’ muttered
Larry, scanning the hoofprints over which they were galloping. “Three to four
score, I reckon.’

      
 
“Over four,’ replied Green. “They pushed ‘em
hard too.’

 
          
This
was evident from the depth of the indentations, but the pace must have
decreased as the trail plunged deeper into the broken country. At the end of an
hour the pursuers found themselves threading a labyrinth of gullies,
brush-covered slopes, and thickets of cottonwood and spruce. The speed was not
great, but they had the satisfaction of knowing that they must be travelling
very much faster than the herd. Then
came
the danger
signal: fitful puffs of wind, growing stronger and more frequent, told them what
to expect. The sky grew black and the air cold.

 
          
“Damned
storm a-comin’, boys,’ Rattler growled. “Reckon we’d better hole up here.’

 
          
Hurriedly
the men dismounted, donned their slickers, hobbled and tied the horses, turning
them with their rumps to the wind, and sought shelter for themselves. Huddled
close against rock or tree-stump, they awaited the misery they could not
escape. Another moment and the storm
was
upon them; a
terrific wind snatched at their garments, and drove millions of stinging grains
of sand upon and through them. Muffled up as they were, the devilish particles
penetrated, and the horses squealed, while the men swore under the torture of
thousands of pricking needles. For nearly an hour they endured the agony of
hell itself, and then the storm passed; the maddening patter of sand on saddle
and slicker ceased, and the men arose and sought avidly for their canteens.

 
          
“She
was shore a fierce little blow,’ remarked
Dirty
, his
throat having become usable again. “Wonder where she picked up the sand?’

 
          

Huh !
Not much doubt about that,’ growled the foreman.
“She’s come right across Sandy Parlour, an’ if this trail leads to it—an’ I’m
bettin’ it does—every blasted track’ll be wiped out.’

 
          
Half
an hour’s riding proved that Blaynes had surmised correctly. The cattle-tracks
ended on the edge of a broad stretch of desert, the face of which had been
swept smooth by the storm. The foreman shrugged his shoulders in disgust.

 
          

Don’t
it beat all, the luck they has?’ he asked. “Well,
boys, it ain’t no use agoin’ on.
To search Sandy Parlour
without a trail’d be wuss than lookin’ for a nigger on a pitch-black night, an’
we don’t know where they’re a-comin’ out.’

 
          
The
men looked at one another; it was evident that some of the younger men did not
like the idea of giving up the pursuit, but the foreman’s contention was sound.
Green alone spoke:

 
          
“See
here, Blaynes : I admit it looks a pretty hopeless proposition, but why not let
me an’ one o’ the boys snoop around for awhile an’ see if we can pick up a trail?’

 
          
The
foremen grinned unpleasantly as he replied, “Well,
it’s
yore job, ain’t it? What’s the idea o’ yu wanting help? Ain’t gettin’ modest,
are yu?’

 
          
Green
chose to ignore the sneer. The idea is that if we do hit on the trail, I can
send for yu an’ the boys while I foller it up,’ he said quietly. “I’ll take
Barton—he’s got a fast hoss.’

 
          
Blaynes
nodded sulkily. Two fellers wastin’ time ‘stead o’ one, an’ we’re
short-handed,’ he growled.

 
          
He
made no further protest, however, and in a few moments Green and Larry were
alone. Perhaps of
all the
posse, Ginger alone envied
them their task. His parting words were, “Yu find that trail, boys, an’ we’ll
come a-bilin’.’

 
          
“Good
Injun trick, crossing the Sandy,’ remarked Larry. “Good Injun nothin’,’
retorted his companion. “Yu ain’t swallowin’ that redskin rubbish, are yu?’

 
          
“But
Durran said

 
          
“An’
Durran’s
christian
names are George Washington, ain’t
they? An’ he looks a truthful man. Come awake, feller, an’ ask yoreself if
Injuns are likely to leave a couple o’ rifles, an’ all the ammunition an’
stores in the hut when they’d all the time there is to take ‘em away?’

 
          
Larry
looked thoughtful. “It certainly
don’t
seem to fit
in,’ he admitted.

 
          
“An’
here’s somethin’ else that don’t fit in,’ Green went on, fishing out the object
he had picked up near the body. What the blazes is that?’ queried Larry.

 
          
“She’s
a pocket machine for making smokes—I seen ‘em when I was East a while ago. Here
is how she works.’

 
          
He
got out his makings and in a few moments produced a cigarette, while Larry
looked on in undisguised amazement. “Didn’t belong to Bud, I reckon?’ Green
asked.

 
          
“No,
Bud rolled his own pills,’ Larry said, and then, “Ain’t it the lady’s pet now?
If we can spot the dude that lost it…

 
          
“We
got the feller that Ginger’s wantin’ bad to meet,’ interrupted his friend. “But
we got to find that trail first. Know anythin’ about this Sandy Parlour?’

 
          
“Yeah.
I’ve crossed her once. She ain’t as big as some, but
there’s too much of her to search. Our best bet is to keep along the edge to
the right, an’ watch for a trail comin’ out.’

 
          
‘An’
the quicker we start, the sooner we get there,’ said Green. “C’mon.’

 
          
Hugging
the border of the desert as closely as possible, they rode along. The elder
man’s thoughts were milling round the slaying of the cowboy. Had he been shot,
it might have figured as a likely enough incident of the raid, but the
knife-wound told a different story. Green believed that the boy had recognised
one of the marauders, and incautiously betrayed the fact. Durran’s tale was he
had seen Bud fall from his horse at the first discharge, and concluding that he
was done for, had shifted for himself, with the one idea of carrying the news
to the ranch as soon as possible. Green could find nothing to disprove this, and
yet he did not believe it.

 
Chapter
VI

 
          
IN
the big living-room of the Y Z ranch Old Simon and his daughter heard the
foreman’s account of the day’s happenings. The girl’s eyes filled with tears
when the finding of Bud was related, for the boy was the youngest and one of
the gayest in the outfit. The ranch-owner mumbled oaths in his beard and
listened with a darkening face.

 
          
“What
do yu make of it, Blaynes?’ he asked, in perplexity.

 
          
“It’s
just what I’ve allus told yu,’ replied the other, trying to keep a note of
triumph out of his voice. “Durran said as how they were “whoops”—every mother’s
son of ‘em.’

 
          
“Funny
they didn’t loot the cabin,’ mused the old man. “It ain’t like Injuns to miss a
bet like that.’

 
          

Huh !
Reckon they didn’t think of it. They was doin’ pretty
well to get away with the herd,’ Rattler rejoined.

 
          
“Biggest
loss we’ve had. ‘Bout eighty head, yu say?’

 
          
The
foreman nodded. “All that,’ he said.

 
          
“An’
yu left Green an’ Barton to search a piece further?’

 
          
“Yes,
nothin’ else for it; no use all of us a-foolin’ around. I’d say it was a good
chance for the new feller to do somethin’, if he ain’t a-doin’ it already.’

 
          
Old
Simon looked up sharply. “Speak plain,’ he said. “What’s yore idea?’

 
          
“Well,
o’ course, I ain’t sayin’ it’s so,’ Blaynes replied slowly; “but look it over.
We don’t know nothin’ about this feller.
Yu take him on an’
give him a free rein, an’ ‘stead of the rustlin’ stoppin’, it gets wuss.’

 
          
“Yu
mean he’s workin’ with ‘em?’

 
          
The
foreman shrugged his shoulder and shot a glance at the girl.

 
          
“I
don’t say so,’ he temporised. “I’m on’y suggestin’ what might be.’

 
          
“In
that case he must be working with the Apaches,’ said Noreen quietly. “I shouldn’t
have thought he was a mean enough white to do that.’

 
          
Blaynes
instantly saw the trap into which his eagerness to discredit Green had led him.

 
          
“It
shore don’t seem likely, I admit,’ he said. “But yu
can’t
never
tell. An’ yu got to agree he ain’t done much, so far.’

 
          
“Let
us hope he finds the trail again,’ the girl said. “Surely a big bunch of cattle
like that cannot be spirited away without leaving a trace.’

 
          
“That
darned sandstorm come just at the right time for ‘em,’ grumbled the foreman.
“I’ve told the boys to be ready to start the minit we hear from Green.’

 
          
He
went out, and for some time there was silence. Then the girl said
impulsively :

 
          
“I
don’t believe it.’

 
          
“Don’t
believe what, honey?’ asked her father.

 
          
“That
Green is working with the Indians,’ she replied. “He doesn’t look that sort of
man.’

 
          
“This
is a tough country, an’ looks don’t tell yu much,’ commented Simon; “but I
don’t hardly think it’s so myself. Anyways, it is shore up to him to get busy
an’ prove himself.’

 
          
The
day was far advanced when a shout from Green brought Barton, who had been
riding a piece away, to his side, on the brink of a small draw which formed an
outlet from the desert. On the sandy floor, protected from the wind by a
highish bank, were the hoof prints of cattle and horses.

 
          
“Whoopee!’
cried Larry. “This must be where they come off the Parlour.’

 
          
“Pears
so,’ Green agreed, and walked his horse down to examine the trail more closely.
“What do yu make o’ that?’

 
          
Larry
looked where his companion pointed, and gave vent to a low whistle. “One of ‘em
has got off, an’ he’s wearin’ boots—our kind o’ boots,’ he said.

 
          
In
fact, the prints showed plainly that the footwear in question were of the
narrow-soled variety affected by the cowboy, not out of vanity, but because
they are of practical use to him in his work; roping on foot would be well-nigh
impossible without them.

 
          
“There’s
a white man with ‘em,’ Larry decided.

 
          
“On’y
one?’ queried Green, a glint of humour wrinkling the corners of his eyes. “
Huh !
they
ain’t as clever as I
figured. If I wanted to play at Injuns, boots is the first thing I would throw
into the discard.’

BOOK: Oliver Strange - Sudden Westerns 01 - The Range Robbers(1930)
9.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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