“Out for the air, Reade?” asked the sneering voice of ’Gene Black.
“Hello, Black—–is that you?”
“Now, Black,” broke in the voice of Bad Pete, “you wanted this cub, and he’s all yours! What are you going to do with him?”
BLACK’S PLOT OPENS WITH A BANG
“Some mistake here, gentlemen,” interjected Tom Reade coolly. “Unless I’m very badly informed I don’t belong to either of you. If anyone owns me, then I belong to the S.B. & L.”
“I told you I’d make you settle with me for throwing me out of the camp,” remarked Black disagreeably.
“You’re not out yet—–more’s the pity,” Tom retorted. “You will be, however, as soon as the paymaster arrives.”
“You’re wrong,” jeered ’Gene. “You’re out—–from this minute!”
“What do you mean?” Tom inquired, looking Black steadily in the eye.
Yet the young chief engineer had a creepy realization of just what the pair did mean. Black must have confederates somewhere in the mountains near. It was evidently the rascal’s intention to seize Tom and carry him away where he would be held a prisoner until he had lost all hope of regaining his position at the head of the railroad’s field force.
“You say that I’ll be thrown out of camp very soon,” sneered Black. “The fact is, you are not going back to camp.”
“What’s going to stop me?” Reade inquired, with no sign of fear.
“You’re not going back to camp!” Black insisted.
“Someone has been giving you the wrong tip,” smiled Tom.
He started forward, brushing past Black. It was mainly a pretense, for Reade had no notion but that he would be stopped.
With a savage cry Black seized him by the shoulders.
Tom made a quick turn, shaking the fellow off. While he was thus occupied Bad Pete slipped about, and now confronted Reade. The muzzle of a revolver was pressed against the young engineer’s belt.
“Hoist your hands!” ordered Pete warningly.
Tom obeyed, though he hoisted his hands only as far as his mouth. Forming a megaphone, he gave vent to a loud yell of:
“Roo-rup! roo-rup! roo-rup!”
It was one of the old High School yells of the good old Gridley days—–one of the yells sometimes used as a signal of distress by famous old Dick & Co., of which Tom Reade had been a shining member.
On the still air of the mountain night that yell traveled far and clearly. It was a call of penetrating power, traveling farther than its sound would suggest.
“You do that again, you young coyote, and I’ll begin to pump!” growled Bad Pete savagely.
“I won’t need to do it again,” Tom returned. “Wait a few minutes, and you’ll see.”
“Shall I drop him, Black?” inquired Pete.
’Gene Black was about to answer in the affirmative, when a sound up the trail caught his attention.