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   Chapter 3 HATCHING A PLOT.

Owen Clancy's Happy Trail; Or, The Motor Wizard in California By Burt L. Standish Characters: 10304

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"Say, fellows, here's a how-de-do, and no mistake! You ought to have been at the corner of Sixth and Main about two hours ago. You'd have seen something that would have made a horse laugh–but there's something back of it that isn't so thundering funny, at that."

Gerald Wynn could smoke a cigarette and talk at the same time. He burst into the room in the cheap boarding house, where he and his friends had taken up their headquarters, and eased himself of the foregoing remarks.

Hank Burton and Bob Katz sat at a table playing cards. There were a bottle and two glasses on the table. Katz was smoking a pipe and Burton a cigar.

"Hanged if I care a hoot about anything, just now, but annexing a little kale," said Burton, turning in his chair to look at Gerald with a scowl. "Here I haven't a sou in my jeans, and I've got as much right to that fifteen thousand as you or Katz have, Wynn. Fork over a hundred! I'm tired of bein' broke."

"Nary, I don't fork!" Wynn answered positively. "You know what we're going to do with this money, Hank, and you know that if we start to break into it the whole will go and we'll be up a spout on this Tia Juana business."

"Blast the Tia Juana business! A bird in the hand beats a whole flock in the bush! Give me my share now, Gerald, and you and Bob can do what you blamed please with your own part of the swag."

"That won't go!" spoke up Katz. "The share we want in that gamblin' layout below the border will take all the fifteen thousand. You agreed to go inter it, Hank. Don't crawfish now!"

"I want somethin' to jingle in my pocket!" barked Burton.

"Take a couple o' nails," suggested Katz.

"I allow it's right funny to you," continued Burton sourly, "but it ain't pleasant to go around with nary a red in your pants."

"I'm paying your expenses, Hank," put in Gerald. "Staked to your three squares, your smoking and your travel pay, I don't see what more you need. If this Tia Juana scheme works out, we'll all of us get rich."

"I want a little loose cash now," cried Burton.

"Go out and work for it, then," said Gerald, out of patience. "If we put anything into the Tia Juana game it's got to be fifteen thousand, and I'd be mighty foolish to give you money out of our capital."

"Give it to me out of your own pocket if you don't want to give me any of the capital!"

"I've got just enough to get us to Catalina where we're to see Jack Lopez and clean up the Tia Juana business. Why don't you do a little something on the side, Hank? You're a champion swimmer–go to some natatorium and give swimming lessons. That would be easy money."

"Gammon!" snorted Burton.

In a fit of anger he jumped to his feet, and he would have left the room, but Gerald stood in front of the door and barred the way.

"Now, don't get ugly!" said Gerald. "I've got something to tell you that's mighty interesting. I think, fellows, that we have been trailed from Phoenix!"

That was more than interesting. Burton's flash of temper left him at once, and he and Katz showed their apprehension.

"Who trailed us?" demanded Katz.

"That cross-eyed, tow-headed freak, Hiram Hill."

"How do you know he trailed us?" asked Burton.

"Well, he's in Los Angeles. It isn't a happenchance that we're here at the same time."

"When did you see Hill?" went on Katz.

"About two hours ago, at the corner of Sixth and Main. He–he-" Gerald paused to laugh.

"I don't see anythin' humorous in this layout!" grunted Burton. "If we've been trailed to Los we'd better be diggin' out instead of enjoyin' the situation."

"What's funny about it, Gerald?" asked Katz.

"There was a chink dragon going down the Street–you know the kind–a dragon in sections, with a yellow boy under each section. Well, I was watching the procession when I heard some one yell 'Dad!' in a voice that sounded pretty familiar. The next minute, who but Hiram Hill knocked a hole in that chink snake. He was trying to get to a man who sat in an automobile on the other side of the street. In about two seconds there was the biggest kind of a rough-house. I kept out of it, and saw Hiram get to the automobile and begin hugging the chap in the tonneau. The fellow in the car didn't like it, and the driver started up and Hill was left behind.

"The crowd rolled over the place where Hill was lying and I saw him picked up by a couple of policemen and carried to a drug store. Naturally, I was in a good deal of a taking, not knowing but Hill had been following me, see? Well, I waited till he came out of the drug store, then I camped on his trail for a while. He went to a telegraph office and sent a telegram-"

"Who did he send it to?" cut in Burton apprehensively.

"What do I know about that? You don't think I was foolish enough to go close and try to get a line on what Hill was writing, do you? Well, after he left the telegraph office he went to the Renfrew House. I reckon that's where he stays."

"I don't like this a little bit," commented Katz. "I allow we'd better duck–and do it pronto. If Hill is really trailin' us, maybe he has sent a telegraft message to the sheriff, back in Phoenix.

We got to look sharp, Gerald, or we'll be pinched."

"That's my motion, Bob," said Burton. "Hanged if this Hill business hasn't got me on the run."

"Don't fret," continued Gerald reassuringly. "I've hatched a plot that will take care of Hill, all right."

"Plot?" said Burton. "What sort of a plot?"

"Listen, Hank. You know about this Hill. I've told you and Bob how he's got a fool bee in his bonnet, and is running around the Southwest looking for his father. The old man–judging from his photograph, which Hill totes around in his pocket–is a bigger freak than Hiram is. He's got a beak like a pelican, and is homely enough to stop a clock."

"You know plenty about Hill and his hunt for his dad," returned Burton. "You flimflammed Hill out of five hundred by offering to take him across the Mexican boundary and showing him where his father could be found," said Burton, with a laugh. "But you got the money, and Hill got the experience," he added.

"Which," said Gerald calmly, "is mainly the reason why Hill is trying to get even with me. I know enough about Hill's father, though, to put over a scheme that will get this cross-eyed buttinsky off our track."

"What's the scheme?" inquired Katz.

"It hinges on this point, that Hiram Hill would rather find his father than get even with me for that 'con' game I worked on him. I'm going to write Hiram a letter, Bob, and send it to him at the Renfrew House."

"What sort of a letter?" put in Burton.

"I'm going to sign the name of his father, Upton Hill, to the thing, and play up that incident at Sixth and Main pretty strong. Where's that pen and ink, Hank? And give me a sheet of paper and envelope."

While his companions got the writing materials, Gerald seated himself at a table and began getting his thoughts busy. By the time pen, ink, and paper were put in front of him, he had his letter mapped out in his mind, and had only to put it upon paper.

"Won't Hiram know that the letter isn't in his dad's handwritin'?" suggested Katz.

"I reckon he won't," answered Gerald craftily, leaning back in his chair with the letter in his hand. "It's been some sort of a while, Bob, since the first Klondike rush, when old 'Up' Hill disappeared. It isn't likely that Hiram remembers anything about his father's handwriting. Here's what the letter says:

"DEAR SON: Was it really you who jumped aboard my automobile at the corner of Sixth and Main this morning? My conscience has been troubling me ever since. I have hunted up the policeman and secured from him your name and address, but am in a hurry to get back to San Diego, where I live, and cannot remain in Los Angeles to prosecute a personal search for you. If you are really my son, come to San Diego, make my house at eighteen-twenty Q Street your home, and I will ask you certain questions whose answers will prove indisputably whether or not you are my son. I must have the proof, you know, because I am a very rich man, and you, as my sole relative, will inherit everything I leave. Hoping to see you in San Diego at your earliest convenience, I remain, yours expectantly,

'UPTON HILL.'"

Gerald dropped the letter on the table, and looked up at his friends with a guileful smile.

"How's that for a bait?" he asked.

"Bully!" declared Katz. "Hiram Hill will tumble all over himself to go to San Diego."

"What'll happen when he can't find any Upton Hill in San Diego?" said Burton.

"We don't care what happens–then," answered Gerald. "By that time, you know, we ought to have finished our deal with Jack Lopez, and to be away from Catalina, and where Hill will never be able to find us."

"How do you know he gave his name and address to a policeman?" continued Burton.

"That's what people always do when they get into trouble on the street, or meet with an accident, isn't it?"

"Maybe it is, but if it happens that Hill didn't give his name and address to the cop, the fact will queer that whole letter."

"I allow Hank is right, Gerald," chimed in Katz, "This here is one of them cases where you can't be too careful. Reckon I'd write another letter and change that."

"It's not necessary," insisted Gerald. "Hill was stunned. If he can't remember giving his name and address to the policeman, he'll think he did it at a time when he didn't know what he was doing. The letter goes as I have written it."

Gerald began addressing the envelope. Both the sheet of paper and the envelope were plain, and bore no clew of the hotel in which they had been written.

The letter was folded, thrust into the envelope, and the envelope sealed and stamped.

"It's dinner time, fellows," announced Gerald, "and we'll post this on our way to the noon eats. Come on."

They all got up and left the room.

"When do we hike for the island, Gerald?" asked Katz, as they went downstairs.

"We'll pull out for San Pedro to-morrow, and catch the morning boat," was the reply. "We want to wind up our business with Lopez and clear out before Hill discovers that letter is a fake and gets back from San Diego. We can turn the trick with ground to spare–don't fret about that."

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