As Clay slammed the door shut and the car moved forward he had an impression of something gone wrong, of a cog in his plans slipped somewhere. For Annie, standing in the rain under a sputtering misty street light, showed a face stricken with fear.
Her dilated eyes were fixed on the driver of the taxi-cab.
AT THE HEAD OF THE STAIRS
The cab whirled round the corner and speeded down a side street that stretched as far as they could see silent and deserted in the storm.
The rain, falling faster now, beat gustily in a slant against the left window of the cab. It was pouring in rivulets along the gutter beside the curb. Some sixth sense of safety—one that comes to many men who live in the outdoors on the untamed frontier—warned Clay that all was not well. He had felt that bell of instinct ring in him once at Juarez when he had taken a place at a table to play poker with a bad-man who had a grudge at him. Again it had sounded when he was about to sit down on a rock close to a crevice where a rattler lay coiled.
The machine had swung to the right and was facing from the wind instead of into it. Clay was not very well acquainted with New York, but he did know this was not the direction in which he wanted to go.
He beat with his knuckles on the front of the cab to attract the attention of the driver. In the swishing rain, and close to the throb of the engine, the chauffeur either did not or would not hear.
Lindsay opened the door and swung out on the running-board. “We’re goin’ wrong. Stop the car!” he ordered.
The man at the wheel did not turn. He speeded up.
His fare wasted no time in remonstrances. A moment, and the chauffeur threw on the brake sharply. His reason was a good one. The blue nose of a revolver was jammed hard against his ribs. He had looked round once to find out what it was prodding him. That was enough to convince him he had better stop.
Under the brake the back wheels skidded and brought up against the curb. Clay, hanging on by one hand, was flung hard to the sidewalk. The cab teetered, regained its equilibrium, gathered impetus with a snort, and leaped forward again.
As the cattleman clambered to his feet he caught one full view of the chauffeur’s triumphant, vindictive face. He had seen it before, at a reception especially arranged for him by Jerry Durand one memorable night. It belonged to the more talkative of the two gunmen he had surprised at the pretended poker game. He knew, too, without being told that this man and “Slim” Jim Collins were one and the same. The memory of Annie’s stricken face carried this conviction home to him.
The Arizonan picked up his revolver in time to see the car sweep around the next corner and laughed ruefully at his own discomfiture. He pushed a hand through the crisp, reddish waves of his hair.