“Mr. Rutherford dropped in to give us the latest about Meldrum,” explained Dave. “Seems he had warned our friend the crook to lay off you, son. When Dan showed up again at the park, he bumped into Miss Beulah and said some pleasant things to her. He hadn’t noticed that Jeff was just round the corner of the schoolhouse fixing up some dingus as a platform for the last day’s speaking. Jeff always was hot-headed. Before he had got through with Mr. Meldrum, he had mussed his hair up considerable. Dan tried to gun him and got an awful walloping. He hit the trail to Jess Tighe’s place. When Mr. Rutherford heard of it, he was annoyed. First off, because of what had happened at the depot. Second, and a heap more important, because the jailbird had threatened Miss Beulah. So he straddled a horse and called on Dan, who shook the dust of Huerfano Park from his bronco’s hoofs poco tiempo.”
“Where has he gone?” asked Roy.
“Nobody knows, and he won’t tell. But, knowing Meldrum as we do, Rutherford and I have come to a coincidentical opinion, as you might say. He’s a bad actor, that bird. We figure that he’s waiting in the chaparral somewhere to pull off a revenge play, after which he means pronto to slide his freight across the line to the land of old Porf. Diaz.”
“Revenge—on Jeff Rutherford—or who?”
“Son, that’s a question. But Jeff won’t be easily reached. On the whole, we think you’re elected.”
Roy’s heart sank. If Meldrum had been kicked out of Huerfano Park, there was no room for him in New Mexico. Probably the fear of the Rutherfords had been a restraint upon him up to this time. But now that he had broken with them and was leaving the country, the man was free to follow the advice of Tighe. He was a bully whose prestige was tottering. It was almost sure that he would attempt some savage act of reprisal before he left. Beaudry had no doubt that he would be the victim of it.
“What am I to do, then?” he wanted to know, his voice quavering.
“Stay right here at the ranch. Don’t travel from the house till we check up on Meldrum. Soon as he shows his hand, we’ll jump him and run him out of the country. All you’ve got to do is to sit tight till we locate him.”
“I’ll not leave the house,” Roy vowed fervently.
Roy Rides his Paint Hoss
But he did.
For next day Pat Ryan rode up to the Lazy Double D with a piece of news that took Roy straight to his pinto. Beulah Rutherford had disappeared. She had been out riding and Blacky had come home with an empty saddle. So far as was known, Brad Charlton had seen her last. He had met her just above the Laguna Sinks, had talked with her, and had left the young woman headed toward the mountains.