It was not long ere Tom reined in, holding up a hand as a signal to Harry to do the same thing.
“Here, hold my horse, and stay right here,” ordered the young chief.
“Tom, what on earth-----”
Tom Reade was already a hundred yards away, running in amid the brush. At last he halted, studying the ground earnestly. Then Reade disappeared.
“One thing I know, anyway,” muttered the puzzled Hazelton, “Tom is not crazy, and he doesn’t dash off like that unless he has something real on his mind.” The minutes passed. At last Tom came back, walking energetically. He took his horse’s bridle and leaded into saddle.
“Harry, ride back, hard, and send me two or three of the railroad detectives, unless you happen to meet some of them this side of the camp. I want the men on the rush. Don’t fail to tell ’em that.”
“Any—–er—–explanations” queried Hazelton.
“For you—–yes—–but don’t take the time to pass the explanation on to the men. Just hustle ’em here. When I started my horse forward it was because I caught sight of ’Gene Black’s head over the bush tops. I found a few of his footprints, then lost the trail. Send Dave Fulsbee along, too, if you have the luck to see him. I want ’Gene Black hunted down before he does some big mischief. Now—–ride!”
Harry Hazelton went back over the trail at a gallop.
Not until he reached camp did he come upon Fulsbee’s men. These he hustled out to find Tom.
Two hours later Reade came back over the trail, at a slow jog. The young chief engineer looked more worried than Hazelton had ever seen his chum look before.
THE TRAP AT THE FINISH
A number of days passed, days full of worry for the young chief engineer. Yet, outwardly, Tom Reade was as good-humored and cheery as ever.
He was sure that his eyes had played him no trick, and that he really had seen ’Gene Black in the brush.
The presence of that scoundrel persuaded Tom that someone working in the interests of the W.C. & A. Railroad Company was still employing Black in an attempt to block the successful completion of the S.B. & L.
Moreover, the news that Dave Fulsbee received from Denver showed that two of the officials of the W.C. & A. were in that city, apparently ready to proceed to get possession of the rival road.
Politicians asserted that it was a “cinch” that the new road would fall short of the charter requirement in the matter of time.
“All this confidence on the part of the enemy is pretty fair proof that the scoundrels are up to something,” Tom told Mr. Newnham.
“Or else they’re trying to break down our nerve so that we’ll fail through sheer collapse,” replied the president of the S.B. & L., rubbing his hands nervously. “Reade, why should there be such scoundrels in the world?”