“Frankly, James, I think you were partly to blame,” he said. “You must have laid the writing very close in the safe to the other papers. Hadn’t you better give Hudson another chance before you fire him?” His disarming smile robbed both the criticism and the suggestion of any offense they might otherwise have had.
In the end he persuaded Cunningham to withdraw his discharge of the clerk.
“He doesn’t deserve it,” James grumbled. “He’s maybe spoiled our chance of laying hands on the man who killed Uncle. I can’t get over my disappointment.”
“Don’t worry, old man,” Lane said quietly. “We’re goin’ to rope an’ hogtie that wolf even if Horikawa can’t point him out to us with his dead hand.”
Cunningham looked at him, and again the faint, ironic smile of admiration was in evidence. “You’re confident, Kirby.”
“Why wouldn’t I be? With you an’ Rose McLean an’ Cole Sanborn an’ I all followin’ the fellow’s trail, he can’t double an’ twist enough to make a getaway. We’ll ride him down sure.”
“Maybe we will and maybe we won’t,” the oil broker replied. “I’d give odds that he goes scot free.”
“Then you’d lose,” Kirby answered, smiling easily.
“ARE YOU WITH ME OR AGAINST ME?”
Miss Phyllis Harriman had breakfasted earlier than usual. Her luxuriant, blue-black hair had been dressed and she was debating the important question as to what gown she would wear. The business of her life was to make an effective carnal appeal, and she had a very sure sense of how to accomplish this.
A maid entered with a card, at which Miss Harriman glanced indolently. A smile twitched at the corners of her mouth, but it was not wholly one of amusement. In the dark eyes a hint of adventure sparked. Her pulses beat with a little glow of triumph. For this young woman was of the born coquettes. She could no more resist alluring an attractive man and playing with him to his subsequent mental discomfort than she could refrain from bridge drives and dinner dances. This Wild Man from Wyoming, so strong of stride, so quietly competent, whose sardonic glance had taken her in so directly and so keenly, was a foeman worthy of her weapons.
“Good gracious!” she murmured, “does he usually call in the middle of the night, I wonder? And does he really expect me to see him now?”
The maid waited. She had long ago discovered that Miss Phyllis did not always regulate her actions by her words.
“Take him into the red room and tell him I’ll be down in a minute,” Miss Harriman decided.
After which there was swift action in the lady’s boudoir.
The red room was scarcely more than a cozy alcove set off the main reception-room, but it had a note of warmth, of friendly and seductive intimacy. Its walls whispered of tete-a-tetes, the cushions hinted at interesting secrets they were forever debarred from telling. In short, when Miss Harriman was present, it seemed, no less than the clothes she wore, an expression of her personality.