“Fat chance,” speculated Tom.
“That’s where you come in.”
“Oh, I come in there, do I? I begin to hear Old Man Trouble knockin’ at my door like you promised. Break it kinda easy. Am I to go up an’ ask Bully West where he keeps his fire-water cached? Or what?”
“Yes. Only don’t mention to him that you’re asking. Your firm and his trade back and forth, don’t they?”
“Forth, but not back. When they’ve got to have some goods—if it’s neck or nothing with them—they buy from us. We don’t buy from them. You couldn’t exactly call us neighborly.”
Beresford explained. “West’s just freighted in a cargo of goods. I can guarantee that if he brought any liquor with him—and I’ve good reason to think he did—it hasn’t been unloaded yet. To-morrow the wagons will scatter. I can’t follow all of ’em. If I cinch Mr. West, it’s got to be to-night.”
“I see. You want me to give you my blessin’. I’ll come through with a fine big large one. Go to it, constable. Hogtie West with proof. Soak him good. Send him up for ‘steen years. You got my sympathy an’ approval, one for the grief you’re liable to bump into, the other for your good intentions.”
The officer’s grin had a touch of the proverbial Cheshire cat’s malice. “Glad you approve. But you keep that sympathy for yourself. I’m asking you to pull the chestnut out of the fire for me. You’d better look out or you’ll burn your paw.”
“Just remember I ain’t promisin’ a thing. I’m a respectable business man now, and, as I said, duckin’ trouble.”
“Find out for me in which wagon the liquor is. That’s all I ask.”
“How can I find out? I’m no mind reader.”
“Drift over casually and offer to buy goods. Poke around a bit. Keep cases on ’em. Notice the wagons they steer you away from.”
Tom thought it over and shook his head. “No, I don’t reckon I will.”
“Any particular reason?”
“Don’t look to me hardly like playin’ the game. I’m ferninst West every turn of the road. He’s crooked as a dog’s hind laig. But it wouldn’t be right square for me to spy on him. Different with you. That’s what you’re paid for. You’re out to run him down any way you can. He knows that. It’s a game of hide an’ go seek between you an’ him. Best man wins.”
The red-coat assented at once. “Right you are, I’ll get some one else.” He rose to go. “See you later maybe.”
Tom nodded. “Sorry I can’t oblige, but you see how it is.”
“Quite. I oughtn’t to have asked you.”
Beresford strode briskly out of the store.
Through the window Morse saw him a moment later in whispered conversation with Onistah. They were standing back of an outlying shed, in such a position that they could not be seen from the road.
THE CONSTABLE BORES THROUGH DIFFICULTIES