“The hoss alone is worth fifty dollars easy,” volunteered Mr. Crow triumphantly. The detective’s badge on his inflated chest seemed to sparkle with glee.
“Say, Anderson, isn’t it a little queer that he should sell out so cheap?” asked Harry Squires, the local reporter and pressfeeder.
“What’s that?” demanded Anderson Crow sharply.
“Do you think it’s really true that he bought the nag up at Boggs City?” asked the sceptic. Mr. Crow wallowed his quid of tobacco helplessly for a minute or two. He could feel himself turning pale.
“He said so; ain’t that enough?” he managed to bluster.
“It seems to have been,” replied Harry, who had gone to night school in Albany for two years.
“Well, what in thunder are you talking about then?” exclaimed Anderson Crow, whipping up.
“I’ll bet three dollars it’s a stolen outfit!”
“You go to Halifax!” shouted Anderson, but his heart was cold. Something told him that Harry Squires was right. He drove home in a state of dire uncertainty and distress. Somehow, his enthusiasm was gone.
“Dang it!” he said, without reason, as he was unhitching the horse in the barn lot.
“Hey, Mr. Crow!” cried a shrill voice from the street. He looked up and saw a small boy coming on the run.
“What’s up, Toby?” asked Mr. Crow, all a-tremble. He knew!
“They just got a telephone from Boggs City,” panted the boy, “down to the Banner office. Harry Squires says for you to hurry down—buggy and all. It’s been stole.”
“Good Lord!” gasped Anderson. His badge danced before his eyes and then seemed to shrivel.
Quite a crowd had collected at the Banner office. There was a sudden hush when the marshal drove up. Even the horse felt the intensity of the moment. He shied at a dog and then kicked over the dashboard, upsetting Anderson Crow’s meagre dignity and almost doing the same to the vehicle.
“You’re a fine detective!” jeered Harry Squires; and poor old Anderson hated him ever afterward.
“What have you heerd?” demanded the marshal.
“There’s been a terrible murder at Boggs City, that’s all. The chief of police just telephoned to us that a farmer named Grover was found dead in a ditch just outside of town—shot through the head, his pockets rifled. It is known that he started to town to deposit four hundred dollars hog-money in the bank. The money is missing, and so are his horse and buggy. A young fellow was seen in the neighbourhood early this morning—a stranger. The chief’s description corresponds with the man who sold that rig to you. The murderer is known to have driven in this direction. People saw him going almost at a gallop.”
It is not necessary to say that Tinkletown thoroughly turned inside out with excitement. The whole population was soon at the post-office, and everybody was trying to supply Anderson Crow with wits. He had lost his own.