The Arizonan looked at him with the level, unafraid eyes of the hills.
“I reckon I’ll not talk till I’m ready,” he said in his slow drawl.
The handcuffs clicked on his wrists.
Colin Whitford came into the room carrying a morning paper. His step was hurried, his eyes eager. When he spoke there was the lift of excitement in his voice.
“Bee, I’ve got bad news.”
“Is the Bird Cage flooded?” asked Beatrice. “Or have the miners called a strike again?”
“Worse than that. Lindsay’s been arrested. For murder.”
The bottom fell out of her heart. She caught at the corner of a desk to steady herself. “Murder! It can’t be! Must be some one of the same name.”
“I reckon not, honey. It’s Clay sure enough. Listen.” He read the headlines of a front-page story.
“It can’t be Clay! What would he be doing in a gambling-dive?” She reached for the paper, but when she had it the lines blurred before her eyes. “Read it, please.”
Whitford read the story to the last line. Long before he had finished, his daughter knew the one arrested was Clay. She sat down heavily, all the life stricken from her young body.
“It’s that man Durand. He’s done this and fastened it on Clay. We’ll find a way to prove Clay didn’t do it.”
“Maybe, in self-defense—”
Beatrice pushed back her father’s hesitant suggestion, and even while she did it a wave of dread swept over her. The dead man was the same criminal “Slim” Jim Collins whom the cattleman had threatened in order to protect the Millikan girl. The facts that the man had been struck down by a chair and that her friend claimed, according to the paper, that the gunman had fired two shots, buttressed the solution offered by Whitford. But the horror of it was too strong for her. Against reason her soul protested that Clay could not have killed a man. It was too horrible, too ghastly, that through the faults of others he should be put in such a situation.
And why should her friend be in such a place unless he had been trapped by the enemies who were determined to ruin him? She knew he had a contempt for men who wasted their energies in futile dissipations. He was too clean, too much a son of the wind-swept desert, to care anything about the low pleasures of indecent and furtive vice. He was the last man she knew likely to be found enjoying a den of this sort.
“Dad, I’m going to him,” she announced with crisp decision.
Her father offered no protest. His impulse, too, was to stand by the friend in need. He had no doubt Clay had killed the man, but he had a sure conviction it had been done in self-defense.
“We’ll get the best lawyers in New York for him, honey,” he said. “Nobody will slip anything over on Lindsay if we can help it.”