“Question is, where did he take her,” said Crawford. “We might comb the hills a week and not find his hole. I wish to God Shorty was still here. He might know.”
“He’s our best bet, Bob,” agreed Dave. “Find him. He’s gone off somewhere to sleep. Rode away less than half an hour since.”
“Rode toward Bear Canon,” said Crawford.
“That’s a lead for you, Bob. Figure it out. He’s done—completely worn out. So he won’t go far—not more than three-four miles. He’ll be in the hills, under cover somewhere, for he won’t forget that thousand dollars reward. So he’ll be lying in the chaparral. That means he’ll be above where the fire started. If I was looking for him, I’d say somewhere back of Bear, Cattle, or San Jacinto would be the likeliest spot.”
“Good guess, Dave. Somewheres close to water,” said Bob. “You goin’ along with me?”
“No. Take as many men as you can get. I’m going back, if I can, to find the place where Otero and Miss Joyce left the road. Mr. Crawford, you’d better get back to town, don’t you think? There may be clues there we don’t know anything about here. Perhaps Miss Joyce may have got back.”
“If not, I’ll gather a posse to rake the hills, Dave. If that villain’s hurt my li’l’ girl or Keith—” Crawford’s whisper broke. He turned away to conceal the working of his face.
“He hasn’t,” said Bob with decision. “Dug ain’t crazy even if his actions look like it. I’ve a notion when Mr. Crawford gets back to town Miss Joyce will be there all right. Like as not Dug brought her back himself. Maybe he sent for her just to brag awhile. You know Dug.”
That was the worst of it, so far as any allaying of their fear went. They did know Doble. They knew him for a thorough black-hearted scoundrel who might stop at nothing.
The three men moved toward the remuda. None of them had slept for forty-eight hours. They had been through a grueling experience that had tried soul and body to the limit. But none of them hesitated for an instant. They belonged to the old West which answers the call no matter what the personal cost. There was work to do. Not one of them would quit as long as he could stick to the saddle.
SHORTY IS AWAKENED
The eyes that looked into those of Joyce in the gloom of the cabin abruptly shook off sleep. They passed from an amazed incredulity to a malicious triumph.
“So you’ve come to old Dug, have you, my pretty?” a heavy voice jeered.
The girl writhed and twisted regardless of the pain, exerting every muscle of the strong young arm and shoulder. As well she might have tried to beat down an iron door with her bare hands as to hope for escape from his strong grip. He made a motion to draw her closer. Joyce flung herself back and sank down beside the bunk, straining away.