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   Chapter 5 THE MOTOR WIZARD'S JUDGMENT.

Owen Clancy's Happy Trail; Or, The Motor Wizard in California By Burt L. Standish Characters: 9802

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"This has a fishy look to me, Hiram," said Clancy, after reading the letter. "Upton Hill, who claims to have written it, says he got your address from the policeman who pulled you out of the màlée and helped you to the drug store. Mighty queer he couldn't spend time to call on you, after getting your address, instead of putting you to all the expense of going to San Diego to find him."

"Don't be a wet blanket, blame it!" begged Hill. "Only dad I got in the world, and here you go to throwin' cold water on his motives."

"Did you give your address to the policeman?"

"Give it up. I was plump batty, just after I got away from that mob, and I don't know what I did. Reckon I must have given up the information, or dad couldn't have got it and sent me that letter."

The motor wizard was conscious of a deep distrust regarding that communication upon which Hill was setting such store. Instinctively he had become suspicious, and the more he considered the letter's contents, the more suspicious he became.

"Do you recognize your father's handwriting, Hiram?" asked Clancy.

"Well, hardly," was the grinning response. "Dad got lost in the shuffle almost before I'd cut my teeth. I'm not familiar with his handwritin'. Did you read what he says about bein' well off? Gosh! Say, I'm li'ble to come into some money! I reckon this is one time my cup's right side up when it rains good luck."

"Haven't you got a sample of your father's penmanship anywhere, Hiram?"

"Not that I know anythin' about. You see, all the letters he'd written I left back home, and-" Hill paused abruptly. "Gee," he went on, reaching into the breast pocket of his coat, "I allow I have got a scrap o' dad's writin'. It's on the back o' that photograft."

He drew the photograph into sight, turned it over, and pushed it under Clancy's eyes.

"There!" and he pointed with his finger. "That's a sample o' dad's fist."

Upton Hill, age thirty-six. This was all the writing on the back of the photograph. It was enough, however. Clancy compared the name signed to the letter with that on the photograph. It could be seen at a glance that the same hand had not written the two signatures–they were utterly different.

"Just as I imagined," observed Clancy. "Hiram, either your father did not write what is on the back of the photograph, or else that letter is a forgery. The same hand did not trace the two signatures. Look! You can see that just as plainly as I can."

Hill took the letter in one hand and the photograph in the other, squinted up his cross eyes, and tried to institute comparisons.

"The signature ain't the same," he finally agreed, "and that's a fact."

"Which proves that the letter's a forgery."

"I'm not a-sayin' that, Clancy. It can't be that dad wrote what's on the back o' the picter."

"You have always thought he did the writing on the back of the photograph, haven't you?"

"Then you're thinking he didn't, now, so you can believe the letter's genuine."

"Well, what of it? I'd a heap rather pin my faith to the writin' in the letter than to what's on the photograft."

Clancy saw that argument was useless. Hill was completely carried away with the letter, for it steered him along the line of least resistance right into the haven of his happiest desires. He believed in that letter because he wanted to believe in it, and for no other earthly reason.

"Then," said the motor wizard quietly, "you think you'll go to San Diego and not to Catalina Island?"

"What's the use o' wastin' time on Catalina when that letter tells us right where to go?" demanded Hill. "You're goin' with me, ain't you?"

"Not if you're going right away, Hiram. I just reached Los Angeles after a long ride from Phoenix, and I'm not going to hit the iron trail again before I have a chance to get the cinders out of my eyes and the dust off my face. If you're going to San Diego this afternoon, or to-night, you'll go alone."

"You don't take any stock in this letter at all, huh?"

"No."

"Who do you think wrote it if it wasn't my lost dad?"

"I don't know who wrote it,"

"Well," grumbled Hiram, "I won't start for San Diego afore to-morrow. I want you to be along, and I'm waitin' over so'st to have you. S'pose we go and eat? Registered yet?"

"I'll register now," said Clancy, "and then we'll sit in at the chuck table and have dinner."

He went over to the desk alone, put down his name, and then wrote out a telegram. He handed it to a boy along with some money, and asked that the message be put on the wires as soon as possible. After that he went to his room, got the dust and cinders off his face and out of his hair, joined Hill, and the two went into the dining room together.

Clancy was determined to make the most of his "Happy Trail," and directly after dinner proposed that he and Hill should spend the afternoon at one of the beaches. Hill

, who was all wrapped up in San Diego, now that he had received that supposed letter from his father, consented reluctantly. The two boarded an electric car and went to Venice.

There was a big crowd at this particular beach. Hill, in spite of the fact that he professed to believe his father was in San Diego, was scanning every face he passed for the beetling brow, retreating chin, Roman nose, and squint eye. He acted so wild and unreasonable that Clancy was tempted to believe he had gone daffy on the subject of his lost father.

He would run up to a man with a prominent nose, grab him by the shoulders, and study his face in a search for the other specifications. Once he was knocked down, and another time he was nearly arrested when an irate man, whom he had stopped to investigate, raised a shout for a policeman.

"Look here, Hiram," remonstrated the motor wizard, drawing his tow-headed friend apart, "if you're convinced your father is in San Diego, what the deuce are you expecting to see him here in Venice for?"

"I got the habit of lookin'," answered Hill lamely, "and seems like I can't give it up."

"Well, you've got to give it up for the rest of to-day or you and I will separate here and now. You act as though you had just escaped from a lunatic asylum, and when people see me they are apt to think there are two of us."

They went out on the pleasure pier, bought post cards to send to their friends, had their pictures taken on a couple of burros, and finally got into bathing suits and went into the surf. Hill at last forgot about his lost parent and let himself loose for a good time.

Both he and Clancy enjoyed themselves to the limit. Refreshed by their plunge in the ocean, they went into a restaurant, and did ample justice to a splendid, meal. After that they started back to Los Angeles.

"This here has been a great afternoon, Clancy!" sighed Hiram, sinking back in the car seat and showing his weariness. "We haven't done much toward runnin' out the trail, but we can begin on that again to-morrow."

"I'm running out my own trail, Hiram," laughed Clancy.

"Eh?" returned Hill blankly.

The motor wizard did not explain. His companion, he knew, would not have understood him if he had explained. But Clancy realized that he was more contented in mind than he had been at any time during the last two weeks. Tired though he was, it was astonishing how much better he felt.

"New sights and new scenes," thought Clancy, "do a lot to put new life into a fellow. I'm beginning to wish I had taken this Happy Trail a long time ago."

It was ten o'clock when they walked into the lobby of the Renfrew House. As they stopped at the counter to get the keys to their rooms, Clancy asked the clerk if there was a telegram for him. The clerk thumbed over, a bunch of messages and tossed out one.

"Owen Clancy?" he queried. "There you are."

"I hope it ain't Wynn wirin' you to come back," remarked Hill, with sudden foreboding.

"It isn't from Wynn," said Clancy; "I know that before I open it. I'll bet something handsome it's from the chief of police at San Diego."

"The chief of police? What's he wiring you for?"

"Come over here, Hiram, and I'll explain."

Clancy led his companion to a couple of chairs.

"Now," said he, after, they had seated themselves, "we're about to decide whether we're going to Catalina Island, in the morning, or to San Diego."

"That's already decided!" asserted Hill. "Whatever makes you think it ain't?"

"Look at that letter you received at noon, Hiram," went on Clancy. "You were asked to come to eighteen-twenty 'Q' Street, weren't you?"

"Yes," Hiram answered, consulting the letter.

"Well," explained Clancy, "I wired the chief of police at San Diego, asking him who lives at that number in Q Street. If this reply to my message says that Upton Hill lives at that address, then I'll congratulate you, and we will go on together to, San Diego in the morning.

"Sure!"

"But if the message says that some one else lives at the address, it's proof positive that your letter was a fake, and that going to San Diego is worse than a waste of time, eh?"

"Let's see what the message says," parried Hill.

Clancy opened it, removed the folded yellow sheet, opened it out, and he and Hill read the following:

"OWEN CLANCY, Renfrew House, Los Angeles: No such street as 'Q' in the city. No such man as Upton Hill in directory. Never heard of him.

PENNYPACKER, Chief of Police."

"What do you think of that?" asked Clancy.

"I reckon your judgment is good, Clancy," answered the baffled Hill. "If it wasn't, I'd not have asked you to help me run out this trail."

"Then we'll cut out San Diego and go to Catalina?"

"What's the use o' goin' to San Diego; lookin' for a street they haven't got in the town? Of course we'll try the island–nothin' else for us to do."

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