“Did you say that Beulah Rutherford sent you up here?” asked Roy.
“She asked me to come. Yis.”
“I can only guess her reasons. She didn’t want you to come and she couldn’t ask Ned for fear he would gun the fellow. So she just picked on a red-headed runt of an Irishman.”
“While we’re so close, let’s ride across to Huerfano Park,” suggested Dave. “I haven’t been there in twenty years.”
That suited Roy exactly. As they rode across the hills his mind was full of Beulah. She had sent Ryan up so that he could get Meldrum away before her lover arrived. Was it because she was afraid Roy might show the white feather? Or was it because she feared for his safety? He wished he knew.
A New Leaf
Hal Rutherford himself met the three riders as they drew up at the horse ranch. He asked no verbal questions, but his eyes ranged curiously from one to another.
“’Light, gentlemen. I been wanting to see you especially, Mr. Beaudry,” he said.
“I reckon you know where we’ve been, Hal,” answered Dave after he had dismounted.
“We got a little news for public circulation. You can pass the word among the boys. Dan Meldrum was shot three hours ago beside the pit where Miss Beulah was imprisoned. His body is in the prospect hole now. You might send some lads with spades to bury him.”
“One of you shot him.”
“You done guessed it, Hal. One of us helped him out of that pit intending to see he hit the dust to Mexico. Dan was loaded to the guards with suspicions. He chose to make it a gun-play. Fired twice. The one of us that took him out of the pit fired back and dropped him first crack. All of us saw the affair. It happened just as I’ve told you.”
“But which of you—?”
“That’s the only point we can’t remember. It was one of us, but we’ve forgotten which one.”
“Suits me if it does you. I’ll thank all three of you, then.” Rutherford cleared his throat and plunged on. “Boys, to-day kinder makes an epoch in Huerfano Park. Jess Tighe died yesterday and Dan Meldrum to-day. They were both bad citizens. There were others of us that were bad citizens, too. Well, it’s right-about face for us. We travel broad trails from now on. Right now the park starts in to make a new record for itself.”
Dave offered his hand, and with it went the warm smile that made him the most popular man in Washington County. “Listens fine, Hal. I sure am glad to hear you say so.”
“I niver had any kick against the Rutherfords. They were open and aboveboard, anyhow, in all their diviltry,” contributed Ryan to the pact of peace.
Nobody looked at Roy, but he felt the weight of their thoughts. All four of them bore in mind the death of John Beaudry. His son spoke quietly.