He crept up to the doorway and listened. Reason told him that the coast was clear; the necessity for a sentinel did not exist, so cleverly were the desperadoes under cover. After a few moments, he crawled into the room, holding his breath, as he made his way toward the cellar staircase. He had gone but a few feet when the sound of voices came to him. Slinking into a corner, he awaited developments. The sounds came from below, but not from the cellar room, as he had located it. A moment later, a man crawled into the room, coming through a hole in the floor, just as he had suspected. A faint light from below revealed the sinister figure plainly, but Bonner felt himself to be quite thoroughly hidden. The man in the room spoke to some one below.
“I’ll be back in half an hour, Davy. I’ll wait fer Sam out there on the Point. He ought to have some news from headquarters by this time. I don’t see why we have to hang around this place forever. She ought to be half way to Paris by now.”
“They don’t want to take chances, Bill, till the excitement blows over.”
“Well, you an’ your mother just keep your hands off of her while I’m out, that’s all,” warned Bill Briggs.
The trap-door was closed, and Bonner heard the other occupant of the room shuffle out into the night. He was not long in deciding what to do. Here was the chance to dispose of one of the bandits, and he was not slow to seize it. There was a meeting in the thicket a few minutes later, and Bill was “out of the way” for the time being. Wicker Bonner dropped him with a sledge-hammer blow, and when he returned to the cabin Bill was lying bound and gagged in the tent, a helpless captive.
His conqueror, immensely satisfied, supplied himself with the surplus ends of “guy ropes” from the tent and calmly sat down to await the approach of the one called Sam, he who had doubtless gone to a rendezvous “for news.” He could well afford to bide his time. With two of the desperadoes disposed of in ambuscade, he could have a fairly even chance with the man called Davy.
It seemed hours before he heard the stealthy approach of some one moving through the bushes. He was stiff with cold, and chafing at the interminable delay, but the approach of real danger quickened his blood once more. There was another short, sharp, silent struggle near the doorway, and once more Wicker Bonner stood victorious over an unsuspecting and now unconscious bandit. Sam, a big, powerful man, was soon bound and gagged and his bulk dragged off to the tent among the bushes.
“Now for Davy,” muttered Bonner, stretching his great arms in the pure relish of power. “There will be something doing around your heart, Miss Babe-in-the-Woods, in a very few minutes.”
He chuckled as he crept into the cabin, first having listened intently for sounds. For some minutes he lay quietly with his ear to the floor. In that time he solved one of the problems confronting him. The man Davy was a son of old Mrs. Rank’s murderer, and the “old woman” who kept watch with him was his mother, wife of the historic David. It was she who had held the lantern, no doubt, while David Wolfe chopped her own mother to mincemeat. This accounted for the presence of the gang in the haunted house and for their knowledge of the underground room.