The foreman traveled fast, but the first streaks of morning were already lighting the sky when he reached Rabbit Ear Creek, upon which was the Flying V Y Ranch No. 3 of which he was majordomo. He unsaddled, threw the bronco into the corral, and walked to the foreman’s bunkhouse. Without undressing, he flung himself upon the bed and fell asleep at one. He awoke to see a long slant of sunshine across the bare planks of the floor.
Some one was hammering on the door. Webb opened it and put in his head just as the Segundo jumped to his feet.
“Makin’ up some lost sleep, Joe?” inquired the owner of the ranch amiably.
“I been out nights a good deal tryin’ to check the rustlers,” answered Yankie sullenly. He had been caught asleep in his clothes and it annoyed him. Would the old man guess that he had been in the saddle all night?
“Glad to hear you’re gettin’ busy on that job. They’ve got to be stopped. If you can’t do it I’ll have to try to find a man that can, Joe.”
“Mebbe you think it’s an easy job, Webb,” retorted the other, a chip on his shoulder. “If you do it costs nothin’ Mex to fire me an’ try some other guy.”
“I don’t say you’re to blame, Joe. Perhaps you’re just unlucky. But the fact stands that I’m losin’ more cattle on this range than at any one of my other three ranches or all of ’em put together.”
“We’re nearer the hills than they are,” the foreman replied sulkily.
“I don’t want excuses, but results, Joe. However, I came to talk about that gather of beeves for Major Strong.”
Webb talked business in his direct fashion for a few minutes, then strolled away. The majordomo watched him walk down to the corral. He could not swear to it, but he was none the less sure that the Missourian’s keen eye was fixed upon a sweat-stained horse that had been traveling the hills all night.
Murder from the Chaparral
Webb was just leaving for one of his ranches lower down the river when a horseman galloped up. The alkali dust was caked on his unshaven face and the weary bronco was dripping with sweat.
The owner of the Flying V Y, giving some last instructions to the foreman, turned to listen to the sputtering rider.
“They—they done run off that bunch of beeves on the berrendo,” he explained, trembling with excitement.
“I don’t know. A bunch of rustlers. About a dozen of ’em. They tried to kill me.”
Webb turned to Yankie. “You didn’t leave this man alone overnight with that bunch of beeves for Major Strong?”
“Sure I did. Why not?” demanded the foreman boldly.
“We’ll not argue that,” said the boss curtly, “Go hunt you another job. You’ll draw yore last pay-check from the Flying V Y to-day.”
“If you’re loaded up with a notion that some one else could do better—”