“Suppose they want to get out there to do away with you.”
“They wouldn’t ask all of you out there with me in that case.”
“That is where you are mistaken. They are too shrewd to excite your suspicions by inviting you alone. It will not be hard for them to get you away from the ranch to look at some cattle and then kill you. Ted, you are too dangerous to them to be let alone.”
“Well, it can’t be helped now, and being right in among them is a hope I did not expect to see realized so easily. But they will have no advantage over me, for none of the syndicate, I take it, know of the counterfeits as yet, except Norcross and the inevitable Checkers. But at that, I don’t think they will resort to violence. We are too strong for them, at the ranch, at least I believe they will use diplomacy.”
“Well, we can play at the game ourselves. There, perhaps, I can help you.”
“You bet you can. But let us go down to the station and see if the red motor car, 118, has arrived yet.”
When they reached the station, Ted went to the express agent and asked for the car.
“Yes,” said the agent, “the car arrived this morning, Mr. Strong, and I delivered it according to your instructions. The charges are not paid yet. Your messenger said you would call later and settle for them, and, knowing you by reputation, I let it go.”
Ted was staring at the agent.
“You delivered it according to my instructions?”
“I didn’t give any one an order for the car.”
“Why, you must have forgotten it. Here it is. I happened to see one of your boys down here, and called him to one side and asked him if it was your signature, and he very promptly identified it.”
“Let me see that order.”
The agent produced an order written on the note paper of the hotel.
Ted stared at it incredulously.
“It looks like my writing, but I didn’t write it. I’ll swear to that. Look at this, Stella. Is that my hand?”
Stella looked at the paper studiously for a minute or two, then handed it back.
“A casual look at it would deceive me, but you did not write it. It lacks several of your individualisms, and has others that are not yours.”
“That is right. This order is a forgery. I did not write it. The express-robber syndicate is getting bolder every minute. They’ll come in and steal you some day,” Ted said to the agent. “Notify your company that my car has been stolen, and that I want it restored to me.”
“Great Scott!” was all the agent could say.
“What sort of looking chap was it that presented the order?” asked Ted.
“Well, he was an ordinary-looking chap. He had on a—”
“Yes, sir. How did you know?”
“Checkers has come into his own at last,” said Ted, turning to Stella.