“Where were you walking?” asked Mr. Rollins quickly.
Jack found lying distasteful, but decided it would not do in this case to tell the whole truth. Fortunately, on leaving the radio station, he had swung about in a circle, so as to approach the house from an almost opposite direction.
“Over there,” said Jack, indicating the direction from which he had come. “There’s a little rise some distance beyond there, but in this feeble moon-light you can’t see much, so I came back. Then I heard the flivver.”
“Do you think that fellow Remedios came here himself and drove it off?” asked Frank.
“He certainly had his nerve, if it was he,” said Bob.
Jack noticed that while Rollins was watching him keenly Mr. Temple, who had not taken part in the conversation, was studying Rollins.
“Oh, it must have been Remedios,” Jack said boldly. “Did anybody get close enough to see him? Who came out first? Did you notice, Mr. Rollins? You must have just arrived. I see you are still dressed.”
“Yes, I had put my horse up in the corral,” said Rollins, calmly, “and was walking over here to the house, when I heard the car. I came around to see who was calling at this late hour, but all I could see was the disappearing car. Of course, I knew nothing of your day’s adventures until your friends came out, when we introduced ourselves and explanations followed.”
THE NET IS DRAWN TIGHTER
That obvious lie on Rollins’s part gave Jack the final assurance that the man was in the plot against them. Burning with indignation, he wanted to expose Rollins but with an effort of self-control he choked back the hot words and also managed to keep his anger from showing in his face.
But it was an effort. Fortunately the others came to his rescue. Frank began to shiver in his pajamas and called attention to the fact that the night air was chill.
“Yes,” said Jack, glad of the change in subject, “no matter how warm the days out here, the nights are always cool. Let’s go inside.”
All trooped into the living room, which was dining room, too. In the big fireplace they found a wood fire laid by the thoughtful Gabby Pete, ready to be touched off in the morning. The talkative camp cook slept in the bunkhouse some distance away, in the opposite direction from the radio plant. While the others dragged blankets from their beds and returned to the living room, wrapped up in them like Indians, Jack touched a match to the wood and the fire soon was blazing merrily.
Rollins would have excused himself on the plea of fatigue after a long day’s ride, but Mr. Temple halted him.
“So long as we are here altogether,” he said, “it won’t hurt matters, and may help them, to have a little talk.”
From his chair in front of the fire, Mr. Temple looked up inquiringly at Rollins, who stood to one side of the fireplace, his face in the shadows. The latter did not speak. Jack thought quickly. Was it wise for Mr. Temple, unaware of Rollins’s duplicity, to discuss matters with him? He decided not. He was bending down to throw more wood on the fire and without rising he interposed an objection.