“Since then I’ve been on a still-hunt for the girl and Sandy McTrigger,” he added. “And they’ve disappeared, Kent. I guess McTrigger just melted away into the woods. But it’s the girl that puzzles me. I’ve questioned every scow cheman at the Landing. I’ve investigated every place where she might have got food or lodging, and I bribed Mooie, the old trailer, to search the near-by timber. The unbelievable part of it isn’t her disappearance. It’s the fact that not a soul in Athabasca Landing has seen her! Sounds incredible, doesn’t it? And then, Kent, the big hunch came to me. Remember how we’ve always played up to the big hunch? And this one struck me strong. I think I know where the girl is.”
Kent, forgetful of his own impending doom, was deeply interested in the thrill of O’Connor’s mystery. He had begun to visualize the situation. More than once they had worked out enigmas of this kind together, and the staff-sergeant saw the old, eager glow in his eyes. And Kent chuckled joyously in that thrill of the game of man-hunting, and said:
“Kedsty is a bachelor and doesn’t even so much as look at a woman. But he likes home life—”
“And has built himself a log bungalow somewhat removed from the town,” added O’Connor.
“And his Chinaman cook and housekeeper is away.”
“And the bungalow is closed, or supposed to be.”
“Except at night, when Kedsty goes there to sleep.”
O’Connor’s hand gripped Kent’s. “Jimmy, there never was a team in N Division that could beat us, The girl is hiding at Kedsty’s place!”
“But why hiding?” insisted Kent. “She hasn’t committed a crime.”
O’Connor sat silent for a moment. Kent could hear him stuffing the bowl of his pipe.
“It’s simply the big hunch,” he grunted. “It’s got hold of me, Kent, and I can’t throw it off. Why, man—”
He lighted a match in the cup of his hands, and Kent saw his face. There was more than uncertainty in the hard, set lines of it.
“You see, I went back to the poplars again after I left you today,” O’Connor went on. “I found her footprints. She had turned off the trail, and in places they were very clear.
“She had on high-heeled shoes, Kent—those Frenchy things—and I swear her feet can’t be much bigger than a baby’s! I found where Kedsty caught up with her, and the moss was pretty well beaten down. He returned through the poplars, but the girl went on and into the edge of the spruce. I lost her trail there. By traveling in that timber it was possible for her to reach Kedsty’s bungalow without being seen. It must have been difficult going, with shoes half as big as my hand and heels two inches high! And I’ve been wondering, why didn’t she wear bush-country shoes or moccasins?”
“Because she came from the South and not the North,” suggested Kent. “Probably up from Edmonton.”