With a perseverance that spoke well for the detective’s endurance, but ill for his intelligence, the “bob” sped along aimlessly. It was ridiculous to think of tracking a sleigh over a well-travelled road, and it was not until they reached the cross-roads that Harry Squires suggested that inquiries be made of the farmers in the neighbourhood. After diligent effort, a farmer was discovered who said he had heard the sleigh bells at midnight, and, peering from his window, had caught a glimpse of the party turning south at the cross-roads.
“Jest as I thought!” exclaimed Anderson. “They went south so’s to skip Boggs City. Boys, they’ve got her body er ’Rast’s body er that other feller’s body with ’em, an’ they’re skootin’ down this pike so’s to get to the big bridge. My idee is that they allowed to drop the body in the river, which ain’t friz plum over.”
“Gee! We ain’t expected to search all over the bottom of the river, are we, Anderson?” shivered Isaac Porter, the pump repairer.
“I ain’t,” said the leader, “but I can deputise anybody I want to.”
And so they hurried on to the six-span bridge that crossed the ice-laden river. As they stood silent, awed and shivering on the middle span, staring down into the black water with its navy of swirling ice-chunks, even the heart of Anderson Crow chilled and grew faint.
“Boys,” he said, “we’ve lost the track! Not even a bloodhound could track ’em in that water.”
“Bloodhound?” sniffed Harry Squires. “A hippopotamus, you mean.”
They were hungry and cold, and they were ready to turn homeward. Anderson said he “guessed” he’d turn the job over to the sheriff and his men. Plainly, he was much too hungry to do any more trailing. Besides, for more than an hour he had been thinking of the warm wood fire at home. Bill Rubley was putting the “gad” to the horses when a man on horseback rode up from the opposite end of the bridge. He had come far and in a hurry, and he recognised Anderson Crow.
“Say, Anderson!” he called, “somebody broke into Colonel Randall’s summer home last night an’ they’re there yet. Got fires goin’ in all the stoves, an’ havin’ a high old time. They ain’t got no business there, becuz the place is closed fer the winter. Aleck Burbank went over to order ’em out; one of the fellers said he’d bust his head if he didn’t clear out. I think it’s a gang!”
A hurried interview brought out the facts. The invaders had come up in a big sleigh long before dawn, and—but that was sufficient. Anderson and his men returned to the hunt, eager and sure of their prey. Darkness was upon them when they came in sight of Colonel Randall’s country place in the hills. There were lights in the windows and people were making merry indoors; while outside the pursuing Nemesis and his men were wondering how and where to assault the stronghold.