Prince recognized a weakness in his theory. If Roush was the man who had tiptoed toward the horse in the pines, why had he not made sure first by shooting Albeen while he slept? There was no absolute answer to that. But it might be that the one-armed man had been dozing lightly and that Roush had not the nerve to take a chance. For if his first shot failed to kill, the betrayed man could still drop him.
The trailer had no doubt in his mind that Roush was the man who had tried to slip away to the horse. Albeen was a gun-fighter, quick on the shoot, hasty of temper, but with the reputation of being both game and stanch. It would not be in character for him to leave a companion in the lurch.
In the scrub pines at the foot of the arroyo Prince found the place where a horse had been tied. The footprints had diverged sharply toward a duster of big boulders that rose in the grove. Billie did not at once follow them. He wanted to make sure of another point first.
Every sense alert against a possible surprise, he studied the ground around the spot where the bronco had been fastened. One set of tracks came straight from the big rocks to the hitching tree. Here all tracks ended, except those of a galloping horse and the ones made by the man who had originally left the animal here.
One man had gone up the arroyo to slip through or to fight his way out of the trap. The other man had stayed here. The officer knew what he would find lying among the big rocks.
The body lay face down, a revolver close to the still hand. Three chambers of it had been fired. Prince turned over the heavy torso and looked into the contorted face of Dave Roush.
The man had fallen a victim to his own treachery.
When Billie Prince had finished the job that had been given him to do, he went back quietly to Live-Oaks without knowing that he had led the last campaign of a revolution in the social life of Washington County. Because a strong, determined man had carried law into the mesquite, citizens could henceforth go about their business without fear or dread.
The rule of the “bad man” was over. Revolvers were no longer a part of the necessary wearing apparel of gentlemen of spirit. Life became safe and humdrum. The frontier world gave itself to ploughing fields and building fences and digging irrigation ditches and planting orchards. As a corollary it married and reared children and built little red schoolhouses.
But before all this came to pass some details had to be arranged in the lives of certain young people of the country. In one instance, at least, Lee Snaith appointed herself adjuster in behalf of Cupid.
Goodheart reached town a few hours earlier than his chief. Lee met him just before supper in front of the court-house.
“Where’s Billie?” she asked with characteristic directness.