“If Cosetta has his men with him, they are doubtless sleeping outside, on their arms, tonight,” Lieutenant Trent explained, after a softly ordered halt. “When we attack, Cantor and perhaps Cosetta, will try to escape from the rear of the house, making a quick dash for the interior, while Cosetta’s men try to hold us in check. Therefore, Darrin, I am going to let you have fifteen men. You will make a wide detour of the house, and try to work to a position in the immediate rear. You will have your men lie flat on the ground, and I will take every precaution that my men do not fire upon you. If you see Cosetta or Cantor, you will know what to do.”
“Aye, aye, sir,” responded Ensign Darrin.
With the stealth of a cat Dave advanced, revolver in hand. He was behind the house, and within forty feet of the back door, when a crashing fire ripped out in front.
Cosetta’s men, lying on the ground, had failed to note Darrin’s flanking movement, but had discovered Trent’s advance.
Suddenly the rear door flew open, and two men dashed out.
“Halt!” shouted Dave, dashing forward.
Cosetta reached for a revolver. Before he could produce it Darrin’s bullet laid him low.
But Cantor sprang at the young ensign with such force as to bear him to earth.
One of Cantor’s hands gripped at Dave’s throat. In the traitor’s other hand flashed a narrow-bladed Mexican knife.
“The score is settled at last!” hissed Cantor, as he drove the weapon down.
It’s the thought that can take shape in the hundredth part of a second that saves human life at such a crisis.
The instant he felt the hand at his throat there flashed into Dave’s mind a sailor’s trick that had come to him, indirectly, from Japan.
Clasping both of his own hands inside of Cantor’s arm, and holding both arms rigidly, Darrin rolled himself over sideways with such force as to send the traitor sprawling.
Dave got to his feet with the speed of desperation that rules when one is in danger.
Yet the traitor was hardly a whit behind him in rising.
Crouching low, with the knife in his hand, Cantor watched his chance to spring.
Ensign Dave’s revolver lay on the ground. To take the second needed to recover the weapon would cost him his life at the point of the knife.
Cosetta, lying desperately wounded, tried to crawl over the ground a few feet in order to reach his own pistol.
“Take it!” hissed Cantor, leaping forward, panther-like, and making a sudden lunge.
Throwing up his left arm to ward off the weapon, Dave felt the sharp sting of steel in his forearm.
Heedless of his wound, Dave, with his right hand, gripped the wrist of the traitor.