The youngster roused the man at last by throwing water in his face. Shorty sat up, at the same time dragging out a revolver. His gaze fastened on the boy, after one swift glance round.
“Who’s with you, kid?” he demanded.
Keith began to sniffle. “Nobody.”
“Whadya doin’ here?”
“I want my daddy.”
“Who is yore daddy? What’s yore name?”
Shorty bit off an oath of surprise. “Howcome you here?”
“A man brought me.”
The rustler brushed the cobwebs of sleep from his eyes and brain. He had come up here to sleep undisturbed through the day and far into the night. Before he had had two hours of rest this boy had dragged him back from slumber. He was prepared to be annoyed, but he wanted to make sure of the facts first.
As far as he understood them, the boy told the story of the night’s adventures. Shorty’s face grew grim. He appreciated the meaning back of them far better than the little fellow. Keith’s answers to his questions told him that the men figuring in the episode must be Doble and Otero. Though the child was a little mixed as to the direction from which Otero had brought him, the man was pretty sure of the valley where Doble was lying hid.
He jumped to his feet. “We’ll go, kid.”
“Not right away. We got hurry-up business first.”
“I wanta go to my daddy.”
“Sure. Soon as we can. But we’ll drift over to where yore sister’s at first off. We’re both wore to a frazzle, mebbe, but we got to trail over an’ find out what’s bitin’ Dug.”
The man saddled and took the up-trail, Keith clinging to his waist. At the head of the gulch the boy pointed out the way he and Otero had come. This confirmed Shorty’s opinion as to the place where Doble was to be found.
With the certainty of one who knew these hills as a preacher does his Bible, Shorty wound in and out, always moving by the line of least resistance. He was steadily closing the gap of miles that separated him from Dug Doble.
JUAN OTERO IS CONSCRIPTED
Crawford and Sanders rode rapidly toward Malapi. They stopped several times to examine places where they thought it possible Otero might have left the road, but they looked without expectation of any success. They did not even know that the Mexican had started in this direction. As soon as he reached the suburbs, he might have cut back across the plain and followed an entirely different line of travel.
Several miles from town Sanders pulled up. “I’m going back for a couple of miles. Bob was telling me of a Mexican tendejon in the hills kept by the father of a girl Otero goes to see. She might know where he is. If I can get hold of him likely I can make him talk.”
This struck Crawford as rather a wild-goose chase, but he had nothing better to offer himself in the way of a plan.