Bob slightly in the lead reached the top of the bank overhanging the road ahead of his comrade and experienced a thrill of triumph as he heard the roar of the approaching car and realized he had arrived first. The car slowed down as it entered the Gut. Evidently the driver remembered the perilous place from when he had driven through on approaching the house.
The car passed below going at a snail’s pace while Frank was still a short distance in the rear and Mr. Temple and Tom Barnum were not yet in sight. It was an open touring car with the top folded back. There were three men in it, one on the seat beside the driver and the third in the rear. He was the man who had entered the Hampton house. The driver appeared to be a New York taxi chauffeur, and probably had been employed for the trip. The others were swarthy men, foreign in appearance.
The man beside the driver, looking up, saw Bob, and shouted. At that moment the car passed directly beneath him, and Bob leaped. He landed on the running board beside the rear seat. Steadying himself as the car lurched from the impact of his weight, Bob reached in and grasped the man on the rear seat by the coat collar and half pulled him from the car, so that his body lay across the door.
Then the unexpected occurred. The driver opened his throttle and the car leaped ahead, and at the same time the man beside him stood up and struck at Bob.
Bob leaned back to avoid the blow, and the next moment found himself flat on his back in the road, with the car disappearing around the curve.
Frank, who by now had reached the top of the bank, dropped to the road beside him and bent over him with real anxiety in his voice as he said:
“Bob, Bob, are you hurt?”
Ruefully rubbing the back of his head, Bob sat up.
“No,” said he, “But they got away, Frank.”
Again there was a crashing in the underbrush on the top of the bank, and Mr. Temple and Tom Barnum came into view, red and perspiring.
“Escaped you, hey?” said Mr. Temple, leaping to the road, as Bob scrambled to his feet. “But, say, I see you captured something all right.” And he pointed to a coat clutched fast in Bob’s hand.
Then for the first time Bob noticed that in falling from the car he had dragged his victim’s coat with him. He held it up and looked at it curiously.
“He must have been wriggling out of his coat when he found you wouldn’t let go,” surmised Frank. “I could see him threshing around just as I came up to the top of the bank. Then you fell and held on tight and the coat was pulled from him.”
“Yes, I guess that’s the way it happened,” assented Bob. “Well, I’d rather have had the fellow. This isn’t any good to me.” And he tossed the coat away contemptuously.
“Not so fast, Bob,” said Frank, stooping to pick up the garment. “Let’s see what’s in the pockets. There may be a clue as to the man’s identity.”