“You’ve had my last word, Hallock, and all this talk about consequences that you don’t explain is beside the mark. Get me that statement from Flemister, and do it soon. I am not going to have it said that we are fighting graft in one place and covering it up in another.”
Hallock straightened up and buttoned his coat.
“I’ll get you the statement,” he said, quietly; “and the consequences won’t need any explaining.” His hand was on the door-knob when he finished saying it, and Lidgerwood had risen from his chair. There was a pause, while one might count five.
“Well?” said the superintendent.
“I was thinking again,” said the man at the door. “By all the rules of the game—the game as it is played here in the desert—I ought to be giving you twenty-four hours to get out of gunshot, Mr. Lidgerwood. Instead of that I am going to do you a service. You remember that operator, Rufford, that you discharged a few days ago?”
“Bart Rufford, his brother, the ‘lookout’ at Red Light’s place, has invited a few of his friends to take notice that he intends to kill you. You can take it straight. He means it. And that was what brought me up here to-night—not that memorandum on your desk calendar.”
For a long time after the door had jarred to its shutting behind Hallock, Lidgerwood sat at his desk, idle and abstractedly thoughtful. Twice within the interval he pulled out a small drawer under the roll-top and made as if he would take up the weapon it contained, and each time he closed the drawer to break with the temptation to put the pistol into his pocket.
Later, after he had forced himself to go to work, a door slammed somewhere in the despatcher’s end of the building, and automatically his hand shot out to the closed drawer. Then he made his decision and carried it out. Taking the nickel-plated thing from its hiding-place, and breaking it to eject the cartridges, he went to the end door of the corridor, which opened into the unused space under the rafters, and flung the weapon to the farthest corner of the dark loft.
Lidgerwood had found little difficulty in getting on the companionable side of Dawson, so far as the heavy-muscled, silent young draftsman had a companionable side; and an invitation to the family dinner-table at the Dawson cottage on the low mesa above the town had followed, as a matter of course.
Once within the home circle, with Benson to plead his cause with the meek little woman whose brown eyes held the shadow of a deep trouble, Lidgerwood had still less difficulty in arranging to share Benson’s permanent table welcome. Though Martha Dawson never admitted it, even to her daughter, she stood in constant terror of the Red Desert and its representative town of Angels, and the presence of the superintendent as the member of the household promised to be an added guaranty of protection.