“He was then. Yep.”
“Any one might’a’ been there. You might. I might. That don’t prove a thing.”
“Hell, I know Em Crawford’s not mixed up in any hold-up, let alone a damned cowardly murder. You don’t need to tell me that. Point is that evidence is pilin’ up. Where did Em get the ten thousand to pay the bank? Two days ago he was tryin’ to increase the loan the First National had made him.”
Dave spoke. “I don’t know where he got it, but unless he’s a born fool—and nobody ever claimed that of Crawford—he wouldn’t take the money straight to the bank after he had held up the stage and killed the driver. That’s a strong point in his favor.”
“If he can show where he got the ten thousand,” amended Russell. “And of course he can.”
“And where he spent that two hours after the hold-up before he came to town. That’ll have to be explained too,” said Bob.
“Oh, Em he’ll be able to explain that all right,” decided Steve cheerfully.
“Where is Crawford now?” asked Dave. “He hasn’t been arrested, has he?”
“Not yet. But he’s bein’ watched. Soon as he showed up at the bank the sheriff asked to look at his six-shooter. Two cartridges had been fired. One of the passengers on the stage told me two shots was fired from a six-gun by the boss hold-up. The second one killed old Tim Harrigan.”
“Did they accuse Crawford of the killing?”
“Not directly. He was asked to explain. I ain’t heard what his story was.”
“We’d better go to his house and talk with him,” suggested Hart. “Maybe he can give as good an alibi as you, Dave.”
“You and I will go straight there,” decided Sanders. “Steve, get three saddle horses. We’ll ride out to the Bend and see what we can learn on the ground.”
“I’ll cash my chips, get the broncs, and meet you lads at Crawford’s,” said Russell promptly.
NUMBER THREE COMES IN
Joyce opened the door to the knock of the young men. At sight of them her face lit.
“Oh, I’m so glad you’ve come!” she cried, tears in her voice. She caught her hands together in a convulsive little gesture. “Isn’t it dreadful? I’ve been afraid all the time that something awful would happen—and now it has.”
“Don’t you worry, Miss Joyce,” Bob told her cheerfully. “We ain’t gonna let anything happen to yore paw. We aim to get busy right away and run this thing down. Looks like a frame-up. If it is, you betcha we’ll get at the truth.”
“Will you? Can you?” She turned to Dave in appeal, eyes starlike in a face that was a white and shining oval in the semi-darkness.
“We’ll try,” he said simply.
Something in the way he said it, in the quiet reticence of his promise, sent courage flowing to her heart. She had called on him once before, and he had answered splendidly and recklessly.