Fraser waited till his five minutes was nearly up, then plunged across the road into the sagebrush growing thick there. A shot or two rang out, without stopping him. Suddenly a man rose out of the sage in front of him, a revolver in his hand.
For a fraction of a second, the two men faced each other before either spoke.
“Who are you?”
Fraser’s answer was to dive for the man’s knees, just as a football tackle does. They went down together, but it was the Texan got up first. A second man was running toward him.
“Hands up, there!” the newcomer ordered.
Fraser’s hand went up, but with his forty-five in it. The man pitched forward into the sage. The Southerner twisted forward again, slid down into the dry creek, and ran along its winding bed for a hundred yards. Then he left it, cutting back toward the spot where he had lain behind the dead horse. Hiding in the sage, he heard the pursuit pouring down the creek, waited till it was past, and quickly recrossed the road. Here, among the cow-backed hills, he knew he was as safe as a needle in a haystack.
“I had to get that anxious guy, but it might have been a whole lot worse. I only plugged his laig for him,” he reflected comfortably. “Wonder why they wanted to collect the old man’s scalp, anyhow? The little girl sure was game. Just like a woman, though, the way she broke down because she hit that fellow.”
Within five minutes he was lost again among the thousand hills that rose like waves of the sea, one after another. It was not till nearly morning that he again struck a road.
He was halted abruptly by a crisp command from behind a bowlder:
“Up with your hands— quick!”
“Who are you, my friend?” the Texan asked mildly.
“Deputy sheriff,” was the prompt response. “Now, reach for the sky, and prompt, too.”
“Just as you say. You’ve ce’tainly got the crawl on me.”
The deputy disarmed his captive, and drove him into town before him. When morning dawned, Fraser found himself behind the bars. He was arrested for the murder of Faulkner.
After the jailer had brought his breakfast, Fraser was honored by a visit from the sheriff, a big, rawboned Westerner, with the creases of fifty outdoor years stamped on his brown, leathery face.
He greeted his prisoner pleasantly enough, and sat down on the bed.
“Treating you right, are they?” he asked, glancing around. “Breakfast up to the mark?”
“I’ve got no kick coming, thank you,” said Fraser.
The sheriff relapsed into sombre silence. There was a troubled look in the keen eyes that the Texan did not understand. Fraser waited for the officer to develop the object of his visit, and it was set down to his credit. A weaker man would have rushed at once into excuses and explanations. But in the prisoner’s quiet, steely eyes, in the close-shut mouth and salient jaw, in the set of his well-knit figure, Sheriff Brandt found small room for weakness. Whoever he was, this man was one who could hold his own in the strenuous game of life.