“Yes, I have,” announced Bart—“that trunk was taken away from here in a wagon.”
“How do you know?”
“Look at those fresh wheel tracks,” directed Bart, pointing to the road. “They sided a wagon up to the platform, right here. So close, that a wheel or the body of the wagon scraped along the edges of the boards. The paint was fresh. And it was bright red,” added Bart.
“You’re a good one to guess that out,” muttered the watchman. “Why, say—”
McCarthy gave a prodigious start and put his hand up to his head, as if some idea had occurred to him with tremendous force. “You mentioned Lem Wacker. It’s funny, but last week Wacker bought a new wagon.”
“Are you sure of that?”
“Yes, it was the same one that his scapegrace nephew, Dale Wacker, was caught peddling the stolen pickles in. I saw Lem painting it fresh out in his shop only two days ago. You know I live just beyond him.”
“Then Lem Wacker must know something about this burglary!” declared Bart.
“I am sorry,” again said the night watchman, after a long thoughtful silence on the part of Bart.
“I know you are, Mr. McCarthy,” returned Bart, “but nobody blames you. I’ve got to get back that trunk, though! you are positive about Lem Wacker’s wagon being newly painted?”
“Yes, a bright red. Wacker lives near us, as I said. I strolled down the alley day before yesterday. I saw his shed doors open, and Wacker putting on the paint. I remember even joking him about his experience in painting the town the same color once in awhile. He took that as a compliment, Lem did. It seems he traded for the wagon some time ago. He told me he was going to start an express company of his own.”
“He seems to have done it—so far as that trunk is concerned!” murmured Bart. “Mr. McCarthy, you and I are friends?”
“Good friends, Stirling.”
“And I can talk pretty freely to you?”
“I see your drift—you think Lem Wacker had a hand in this burglary?”
“I certainly do.”
“Well, I’ll say that I don’t think he’s beyond it,” observed the watchman. “You’ll find, though, he only had a hand in it. His way is generally using someone else for a cat’s-paw.”
“I am going to ask you to do something for me,” resumed Bart seriously—“I’m going to get back that trunk—I’ve got to get it back.”
“The company ought to provide you with a safe, decent building.”
“That will come in time.”
“No one can blame you. They can’t expect you to sit up watching all night, nor carrying trunks to bed with you for safe-keeping.”
“No, but the head office, while it might stand an accidental fire, will not stand a big loss on top of it. My ability to handle this express proposition successfully is at stake and, besides that, I would rather have almost anybody about my ears than Mrs. Harrington.”