“Sure I do.” And Dave discovered that his argument or his hopes had for the moment convinced him. “Now the question is, what’s to be done?”
“Yes,” she admitted, and the tremor of the lips told him that she depended upon him to work out the problem. His heart swelled with glad pride at the thought.
“That man who jus’ passed is my friend,” he told her. “He’s trailin’ that duck Shorty. Like as not we’ll find out what’s stirrin’.”
“I’ll go with you,” the girl said, vivid lips parted in anticipation.
“No, you go home. This is a man’s job. Soon as I find out anything I’ll let you know.”
“You’ll come, no matter what time o’ night it is,” she pleaded.
“Yes,” he promised.
Her firm little hand rested a moment in his brown palm. “I’m depending on you,” she murmured in a whisper lifted to a low wail by a stress of emotion.
BY WAY OF A WINDOW
The trail of rice led down Mission Street, turned at Junipero, crossed into an alley, and trickled along a dusty road to the outskirts of the frontier town.
The responsibility Joyce had put upon him uplifted Dave. He had followed the horse-race gamblers to town on a purely selfish undertaking. But he had been caught in a cross-current of fate and was being swept into dangerous waters for the sake of another.
Doble and Miller were small fish in the swirl of this more desperate venture. He knew Brad Steelman by sight and by reputation. The man’s coffee-brown, hatchet face, his restless, black eyes, the high, narrow shoulders, the slope of nose and chin, combined somehow to give him the look of a wily and predacious wolf. The boy had never met any one who so impressed him with a sense of ruthless rapacity. He was audacious and deadly in attack, but always he covered his tracks cunningly. Suspected of many crimes, he had been proved guilty of none. It was a safe bet that now he had a line of retreat worked out in case his plans went awry.
A soft, low whistle stayed his feet. From behind a greasewood bush Bob rose and beckoned him. Dave tiptoed to him. Both of them crouched behind cover while they whispered.
“The ’dobe house over to the right,” said Bob. “I been up and tried to look in, but they got curtains drawn. I would’ve like to ’ve seen how many gents are present. Nothin’ doin’. It’s a strictly private party.”
Dave told him what he had learned from the daughter of Emerson Crawford.
“Might make a gather of boys and raid the joint,” suggested Hart.
“Bad medicine, Bob. Our work’s got to be smoother than that. How do we know they got the old man a prisoner there? What excuse we got for attacktin’ a peaceable house? A friend of mine’s brother onct got shot up makin’ a similar mistake. Maybe Crawford’s there. Maybe he ain’t. Say he is. All right. There’s some gun-play back and forth like as not. A b’ilin’ of men pour outa the place. We go in and find the old man with a bullet right spang through his forehead. Well, ain’t that too bad! In the rookus his own punchers must ‘a’ gunned him accidental. How would that story listen in court?”