“Humph!” muttered Black. “Only an engine, a baggage car and one day coach. That kind of train can’t carry much in the way of relief.”
As the train passed out of sight the engine sent back a screeching whistle.
“The engineer is laughing at you, Black,” jeered Tom.
“Let him,” sneered the other. “I have the good fortune to know where the laugh belongs.”
Toot! toot! too-oot-oot! Something else was coming down the track from Lineville. Then it passed the beholders in the thicket—–a full train of engine and seven cars.
“Good old Harry Hazelton!” glowed Tom Reade. “I’ll wager that was Harry’s thought—–a pilot ahead, and then the real train!”
“Small good it will do,” laughed ’Gene Black disagreeably.
Then, a new thought striking him, he added:
“Bill Hoskins, you and some of the men get the dynamite under the track opposite here. You know how to do it! Hustle!”
“You bet I know how,” growled Bill eagerly, as he stepped forward, picking out the fellows he wanted as his helpers. “I’ll have the blast against the roadbed here ready in five minutes, Black.”
“Now, you’ll have three trains stalled along the line tonight, Cub Reade,” laughed Black sneeringly. “Getting any train as far as this won’t count for a copper’s worth! Your road has to get a through train all the way into Lineville before midnight. We’ll blow out the roadbed here, and then where are you?”
At these words even the brief hope that had been in Tom Reade’s mind, died out.
With the roadbed gone at this point also, he did not see the slightest chance for the S.B. & L. to save its charter or its property rights.
“Here’s the racketty stuff,” went on Hoskins, indicating the boxes. “That small box has the fuses. Get the stuff along, and I’ll lay the magneto wire.”
“Not quite so hastily!” sternly broke in a new voice.
Tom Reade fairly yelled for joy, for the new speaker, as he knew at the first sound, was Dave Fulsbee.
The amazed and dismayed scoundrels huddled closer together for a moment in the middle of the thicket.
“Spread, men! Don’t let one of ’em get out alive!” sounded Dave Fulsbee’s voice.
The scurrying steps of Fulsbee’s men could be heard apparently surrounding the thicket.
With an exclamation of rage, Black made a dash for freedom.
“Stand where you are, Black, if you want to live!” warned Dave. “No use to make a kick you rascals! We’ve got you covered, and the first man who makes a move will eat his breakfast in another world. Now, listen to me. One at a time you fellows step up to me, drop your weapons on the ground, where I can see you do it, and then come out here, one at a time. No tricks—–for, remember, you are covered by my men out here. We don’t want to shoot the whole lot of you up unless we have to, but we won’t stand for any fooling. Reade, you come through first. Any man who offers to hinder Mr. Reade will be sorry he took the trouble—–that’s all!”