“CAN YOUR ROAD SAVE ITS CHARTER NOW?”
“Oh, I guess the train will go through, all right,” replied Tom Reade, with much more confidence expressed in his tone than he really felt.
“Stay with us and see it go through,” mocked ’Gene Black.
“If it’s just the same to you I’d rather ride on,” Tom proposed.
“But it isn’t all the same to us,” Black chuckled.
“Then I guess I prefer to ride on, anyway.”
“You won’t, though,” snapped Black. “You’ll get off that horse and do as we tell you.”
“Eh?” demanded the young chief engineer. He appeared astonished, though he was not.
“You came down the line to meet your railroad detective, Fulsbee,” Black continued sneeringly. “You’d better give it up.”
“You seem to think you know a good deal about my business,” Tom continued.
“I know all about the telegram,” ’Gene retorted. “I sent it—–or ordered it sent.”
Tom started in earnest this time.
“Did you ever hear of ways of cutting out a telegraph wire and then attaching one of the cut ends to a box relay?” queried the scoundrel.
“I—–I believe I have heard of some such thing,” Reade hesitated. “Was that the trick you played on me?”
“Yes,” nodded Gene Black. “We cut the wire just below here. We’ve got a box relay on the wire going both ways. Your operators can’t use the wire much tonight. Your company can’t use it from Lineville at all.”
Tom’s face showed his dismay. ’Gene Black laughed in intense enjoyment.
“So you cut the wire, oh, and attached box relays?”
“Surely,” Black nodded.
“I’m glad you confess it,” replied Tom slowly. “Cutting telegraph wires, or attaching box relays without proper authority is a felony. The punishment is a term in state’s prison.”
“Bosh!” sneered Black. “With all the political pull our crowd has behind it do you suppose we fear a little thing like that?”
“I’ll talk the crime over with Dave Fulsbee,” Tom continued.
“A lot of good Fulsbee will do you,” jeered ’Gene. “We have him attended to as well as we have you.”
“That’s a lie,” Reade declared coolly.
“Do you want us to show him to you?”
“Yes,” nodded Tom. “You’d have to show me Dave Fulsbee before I’d believe you.”
“Yank the cub off that horse!” ordered ’Gene Black harshly.
Three or four men seized Reade, dragging him out of the saddle and throwing him to earth. Tom did not resist, for he saw other men standing about with revolvers in their hands. He did not believe that this desperate crew of worthless characters would hesitate long about drilling holes through him.
“Take the horse, you, and ride it away,” directed Black, turning to one of the men, who promptly mounted and rode off into the darkness. “Tie that cub’s hands behind him,” was Black’s next order. “Now, bring him along.”