The little man got to his feet in great excitement. “My dear young woman, you’re the very person I’ve been wanting to see. He told me he was going calling, but I’m such a darned chump I didn’t think to ask where. Is Dick a friend of your family?”
“No, hardly that. I met him when he came to our office in the State House to look up the land grant papers. We became friendly and I asked him to call because we own the old Valdes house, and I thought he would like to see it.” She added, rather dryly: “You haven’t answered my question.”
“I’ll say that so far as I know you are the last person who ever saw Dick alive except his murderers,” Davis replied, a gleam of tears in his eyes.
“Oh, it can’t be as bad as that,” she cried. “They wouldn’t go that far.”
“Wouldn’t they? He was shot at from ambush while we were out riding one day in the Chama Valley.”
“By a young Mexican—one of Miss Valdes servants.”
“You don’t mean that Valencia——?”
She stopped, unwilling to put her horrified thought into words. He answered her meaning.
“No, I reckon not. She wanted Dick to tell her who it was, so she could punish the man. But that doesn’t alter the facts any. He was shot at. That time the murderer missed, but maybe this time——”
Miss Underwood broke in sharply. “Do you know that he has been followed ever since he came to town, that men have dogged his steps everywhere?”
Davis leaned across the table where he was sitting. “How do you know?” he questioned eagerly.
“I saw them and warned him. He laughed about it and said he knew already. He didn’t seem at all worried.”
“Worried! He’s just kid enough to be tickled to death about it,” snapped the miner, masking his anxiety with irritation. “He hadn’t sense enough to tell me for fear it would disturb me—and I hadn’t the sense to find out in several days what you did in five minutes.”
Davis and Miss Underwood went together over every foot of the road between her home and the hotel. One ray of hope they got from their examination of the ground he must have traversed to reach the El Tovar, as the hotel was named. At one spot—where a double row of cottonwoods lined the road—a fence had been knocked down and many feet had trampled the sandy pasture within. Steve picked up a torn piece of cloth about six inches by twelve in dimension. It had evidently been a part of a coat sleeve. He recognized the pattern as that of the suit his friend had been wearing.
“A part of his coat all right,” he said. “They must have bushwhacked him here. By the foot-prints there were a good many of them.”
“I’m glad there were.”
“For two reasons,” the girl explained. “In the first place, if they had wanted to kill him, one or two would have been enough. They wouldn’t take any more than was necessary into their confidence.”