“Watch him closely, old man, and report to me everything that happens. Find out more about Kedsty, if you can. I shall advise you how to act. It is rather ticklish, you know—for you! And”—he smiled at Mercer—“I’m unusually hungry this morning. Add another egg, will you, Mercer? Three instead of two, and a couple of extra slices of toast. And don’t let any one know that my appetite is improving. It may be best for both of us—especially if Mooie should happen to die. Understand, old man?”
“I—I think I do, sir,” replied Mercer, paling at the grimly smiling thing he saw in Kent’s eyes. “I shall do as you say, sir.”
When he had gone, Kent knew that he had accurately measured his man. True to a certain type, Mercer would do a great deal for fifty dollars—under cover. In the open he was a coward. And Kent knew the value of such a man under certain conditions. The present was one of those conditions. From this hour Mercer would be a priceless asset to his scheme for personal salvation.
That morning Kent ate a breakfast that would have amazed Doctor Cardigan and would have roused a greater caution in Inspector Kedsty had he known of it. While eating he strengthened the bonds already welded between himself and Mercer. He feigned great uneasiness over the condition of Mooie, who he knew was not fatally hurt because Mercer had told him there was no fracture. But if he should happen to die, he told Mercer, it would mean something pretty bad for them, if their part in the affair leaked out.
As for himself, it would make little difference, as he was “in bad” anyway. But he did not want to see a good friend get into trouble on his account. Mercer was impressed. He saw himself an instrument in a possible murder affair, and the thought terrified him. Even at best, Kent told him, they had given and taken bribes, a fact that would go hard with them unless Mooie kept his mouth shut. And if the Indian knew anything out of the way about Kedsty, it was mighty important that he, Mercer, get hold of it, for it might prove a trump card with them in the event of a showdown with the Inspector of Police. As a matter of form, Mercer took his temperature. It was perfectly normal, but it was easy for Kent to persuade a notation on the chart a degree above.
“Better keep them thinking I’m still pretty sick,” he assured Mercer. “They won’t suspect there is anything between us then.”
Mercer was so much in sympathy with the idea that he suggested adding another half-degree.
It was a splendid day for Kent. He could feel himself growing stronger with each hour that passed. Yet not once during the day did he get out of his bed, fearing that he might be discovered. Cardigan visited him twice and had no suspicion of Mercer’s temperature chart. He dressed his wound, which was healing fast. It was the fever which depressed him. There must be, he said, some internal disarrangement which would soon clear itself up. Otherwise there seemed to be no very great reason why Kent should not get on his feet. He smiled apologetically.