“I guess not. They had all gone to bed in the Nadia when the grievance committee came up.”
“That’s good; he needn’t know it. He is going over to the Copperette, and we must arrange to get him and his party out of town at once. That will eliminate the women. See to engaging the buckboards for them, and call me when the president’s party is ready to leave. I’m going to rest up a little before we lock horns with these pirates, and you’d better do the same after you get things shaped up for to-night’s hustle.”
“I’m needing it, all right,” admitted the trainmaster. And then; “Was this passenger wreck another of the ‘assisted’ ones?”
“It was. Two men broke a rail-joint on Little Butte side-cutting for my special—and caught the delayed passenger instead. Flemister was one of the two.”
“And the other?” said McCloskey.
Lidgerwood did not name the other.
“We’ll get the other man in good time, and if there is any law in this God-forsaken desert we’ll hang both of them. Have you unloaded it all? If you have, I’ll turn in.”
“All but one little item, and maybe you’ll rest better if I don’t tell you that right now.”
“Give it a name,” said Lidgerwood crisply.
“Bart Rufford has broken jail, and he is here, in Angels.”
McCloskey was watching his chief’s face, and he was sorry to see the sudden pallor make it colorless. But the superintendent’s voice was quite steady when he said:
“Find Judson, and tell him to look out for himself. Rufford won’t forgive the episode of the ’S’-wrench. That’s all—I’m going to bed.”
Though Lidgerwood had been up for the better part of two nights, and the day intervening, it was apparent to at least one member of the head-quarters force that he did not go to bed immediately after the arrival of the service-car from the west; the proof being a freshly typed telegram which Operator Dix found impaled upon his sending-hook when he came on duty in the despatcher’s office at seven o’clock in the morning.
The message was addressed to Leckhard, superintendent of the Pannikin Division of the Pacific Southwestern system, at Copah. It was in cipher, and it contained two uncodified words—“Fort” and “McCook,” which small circumstance set Dix to thinking—Fort McCook being the army post, twelve miles as the crow flies, down the Pannikin from Copah.
Now Dix was not one of the rebels. On the contrary, he was one of the few loyal telegraphers who had promised McCloskey to stand by the Lidgerwood management in case the rebellion grew into an organized attempt to tie up the road. But the young man had, for his chief weakness, a prying curiosity which had led him, in times past, to experiment with the private office code until he had finally discovered the key to it.