Tom Reade’s face turned deathly white.
’Gene Black stood before him, gazing tauntingly into the eyes of the Young Chief engineer.
BLACK’S TRUMP CARD
“You scoundrel—–you unhung imitation of Satan himself!” gasped Reade, great beads of perspiration standing out on his face.
“Oho! We’re fools, are we?” sneered Black “We’re people whom you can beat with your cheap little tricks about a different signature for each station on the line, are we? For that was why the conductor refused the false order at Brewster’s. He has a code of signatures for train orders—–a different signature to be used for messages at each station?”
Black’s keen mind had solved the reason for the conductor’s refusal to hold his train on a siding. The conductor had been supplied with a code list of signatures—–a different one for each station along the line.
“Now, you know,” mocked Black, enjoying every line of anxiety written on Tom Reade’s face, “that we have you knocked silly. You know, now, that your train can’t get through by tonight—–probably not even by tomorrow night. You realize at last—–eh?—–that you’ve lost your train and your charter—–your railroad?”
“I wasn’t thinking of the train, or of the road,” Tom groaned. “What I’m thinking of is the train, traveling at high speed, running into that blown-out place. The train will be ditched and the crew killed. A hundred and fifty passengers with them—–many of them state officials. Oh, Black, I wouldn’t dare stand in your shoes now! The whole state—–the entire country—–will unite in running you down. You can never hope to escape the penalty of your crime!”
“What are you talking about?” sneered Black. “Do you think I’m fool enough to ditch the train? No, sir! Don’t believe it. I’m not running my neck into a noose of that kind. A cluster of red lights has been spread along the track before the blow-out. The engineer will see the signals and pull his train up—–he has to, by law! No one on the train will be hurt, but the train simply can’t get through!”
“Oh, if the train is safe, I don’t care so much,” replied Reade, the color slowly returning to his face. “As for getting through tonight, the S.B. & L. has a corps of engineers and a full staff in other departments. Black, you’ll lose after all your trouble.”
“Humph!” muttered Black unbelievingly. “Your train will have to get through in less than three hours, Reade!”
“It’ll do it, somehow,” smiled Tom.
“Yes; your engineers will bring it through, somehow,” taunted Black. “We have the chief of that corps with us right now.”
“That’s all right,” retorted Tom. “You’re welcome to me, if I can be of any real comfort to you. But you forget that you haven it my assistant. Harry Hazelton is at large, among his own friends. Harry will see the train through tonight. Never worry.”