“With their bronchs loaded they can’t make it in much less than five hours. That gives us most three hours to reach the Pass and stop them. What think, Brill? Can we make it?”
“We’ll try damned hard. I’m not going to let Mr. Rustler Keller slip through my fingers again!” Healy cried triumphantly.
“I don’t believe it was Bear Creek men at all. I’m sure it wasn’t Mr. Keller,” Phyllis cried, with a face like parchment.
There was an unholy light of vindictive triumph in Healy’s face. “We’ll show you about that, Miss Missouri. Get the boys together, Cuffs. Call up Purdy and Jim Budd and Tom Dixon on the phone. Rustle up as many of the boys as you can. Start ’em for the Pass just as soon as they get here. I’m going right up there now. Probably I can’t stop them, but I may make out who they are. Notify Buck Weaver, so he can head them off if they try to cross the Malpais. And get a move on you. Hustle the boys right along.”
And with that he put spurs to his horse and galloped off.
THE ROAN WITH THE WHITE STOCKINGS
Unerringly rode Healy through the tangled hills toward a saddle in the peaks that flared vivid with crimson and mauve and topaz. A man of moods, he knew more than one before he reached the Pass for which he was headed. Now he rode with his eyes straight ahead, his face creased to a hard smile that brought out its evil lines. Now he shook his clenched fist into the air and cursed.
Or again he laughed exultingly. This was when he remembered that his rival was trapped beyond hope of extrication.
While the sky tints round the peaks deepened to purple with the coming night he climbed canons, traversed rock ridges, and went down and up rough slopes of shale. Always the trail grew more difficult, for he was getting closer to the divide where Bear Creek heads. He reached the upper regions of the pine gulches that seamed the hills with wooded crevasses, and so came at last to Gregory’s Pass.
Here, close to the yellow stars that shed a cold wintry light, he dismounted and hobbled his horse. After which he found a soft spot in the mossy rocks and fell asleep. He was a light sleeper, and two hours later he awakened. Horses were laboring up the Pass.
He waited tensely, rifle in both hands, till the heads of the riders showed in the moonlight. Three—four—five of them he counted. The men he saw were those he expected, and he lowered his rifle at once.
“Hello, Cuffs! Purdy! That you, Tom? Well, you’re too late.”
“Too late,” echoed little Purdy.
“Yep. Didn’t get here in time myself to see who any of them were except the last. It was right dark, and they were most through before I reached here.”
“But you knew one,” Purdy suggested.
Healy looked at him and nodded. “There were four of them. I crept forward on top of that flat rock just as the last showed up. He was ridin’ a hawss with four white stockings.”