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   Chapter 13 ONLY ONE MOB, AIN'T THERE

Oh, You Tex! By William MacLeod Raine Characters: 10310

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


After Miss Wadley had disappeared in the post-office a man touched Roberts on the shoulder.

"Where are the Rangers I sent for?" he asked.

"Here I am, Snark."

"You didn't come alone?"

"Captain Ellison was out of town. The rest of the force was away on assignment. I couldn't reach any of 'em."

The deputy sheriff broke out in excited annoyance. "All right! I wash my hands of it. They can lynch the Mexican soon as they've a mind to. Let 'em go to it. Here I send for a company of Rangers, an' one kid shows up. What in Mexico can you do alone?"

"I wouldn't say alone. You're here, Snark."

"I'm not goin' to lift a hand-not a hand."

"Sure it's necessary? What makes you think they're goin' to lynch Alviro?"

"They don't make any bones of it. Everybody knows it. The Dinsmore gang is in town stirrin' up feelin'. You might as well have stayed away. There's not a thing you can do."

"I reckon mebbe we can figure a way to save Tony," answered the Ranger easily.

The deputy voiced his impatience. "Yore talk sounds plumb foolish to me. Don't you get it? We're not dealin' with one or two men. Half the town is in this thing."

"I promised Tony there would be nothin' of that sort."

"You can't handle a mob all by yoreself, can you?" asked Snark sarcastically. "There's only one of you, I reckon."

The little flicker in the Ranger's eye was not wholly amusement. "There's goin' to be only one mob, too, ain't there?" he drawled.

"You can't slip him out unnoticed, if that's yore idee. They've got watchers round the jail," the deputy went on.

"I shan't try."

"Then you'll let 'em hang him?"

"Oh, no!"

"What in hell do you mean to do, then?"

Roberts told him, in part. The deputy shook his head vehemently.

"Can't be done. First place, you can't get Wadley to do it. He won't lift a hand to stop this hangin'. Second place, he couldn't stop it if he wanted to. Folks in Tascosa ain't a bit gun-shy, an' right now they've got their necks bowed. An' this Dinsmore gang-they'll eat you alive if you get in their way."

"Mebbeso. You can't always be sure. I've got one card up my sleeve I haven't mentioned to you."

"If you want my opinion-"

The Ranger cut him off short. "I don't, Snark. Not right now. I'm too busy to listen to it. I want to know just one thing of you. Will you have the horses right where I want 'em when I want 'em?"

"You're the doc," acknowledged the deputy grudgingly. "They'll be there, but just the same I think it's a fool play. You can't get away with it."

Jack asked a question. "Where am I most likely to find Wadley?"

"At McGuffey's store. It's a block this-a-way and a block that-a-way." He indicated directions with his hand.

Wadley was not among those who sat on the porch of the general store known as McGuffey's Emporium. He had just gone to his sister's house to meet his daughter Ramona, of whose arrival he had received notice by a boy. Roberts followed him.

In answer to the Ranger's "Hello, the house!" the cattleman came out in his shirt-sleeves.

Jack cut straight to business.

"I've come to see you about that Mexican Alviro, Mr. Wadley. Is it true they're goin' to lynch him?"

The hard eyes of the grizzled Texan looked full at Roberts. This young fellow was the one who had beaten his son and later had had the impudence to burn as a spill for a cigarette the hundred-dollar bill he had sent him.

"Whyfor do you ask me about it?" he demanded harshly.

"Because you've got to help me stop this thing."

The cattleman laughed mirthlessly. "They can go as far as they like for me. Suits me fine. Hangin' is too good for him. That's all I've got to say."

Already he had refused the pleadings of his daughter, and he had no intention of letting this young scalawag change his mind.

"Are you sure this Mexican is guilty-sure he's the man who killed yore son, Mr. Wadley?"

"He's as guilty as hell."

"I don't think it. Hasn't it ever struck you as strange that yore son was killed an' yore messenger Ridley held up the same night, an' that the two things happened not many miles from each other?"

"Of course it has. I'm no fool. What of it?"

"I've always thought the same men did both."

"Young fellow, have you ever thought that Ridley never was held up, that it was a fake robbery pulled off to deceive me? Where is Ridley? He lit out mighty sudden when he saw how I took it. He couldn't even tell me where the hold-up happened. I never did hit the trail of the robbers."

"It wasn't a fake. I can prove that."

"I'm here to be shown," said the cattleman skeptically.

"But first about Tony. It looks bad for him on the surface. I'll admit that. But-"

"Don't talk to me about my boy's murderer, Roberts!" cried Wadley, flushing angrily. "I'll not do a thing for him. I'll help those that aim to do justice on him."

"He didn't kill yore son."

"What! Didn't you arrest him yoreself for it?"

"When I arrested him, I didn't believe he had done it. I know it now. He's my star witness, an' I knew he would skip across the border if I let him out."

"You can't convince me, but let's hear yor

e fairy tale. I got to listen, I reckon."

Jack told his story in few words. He explained what he had found at the scene of the murder and how he had picked up the trail of the three horsemen who had followed Rutherford to the place of his death. He had back-tracked to the camp of the rendezvous at the rim-rock, and he had found there corroborative evidence of the statement Tony Alviro had made to him.

"What was it he told you, and what did you find?"

The big cattleman looked at him with a suspicion that was akin to hostility. His son had been a ne'er-do-well. In his heart Wadley was not sure he had not been worse. But he was ready to fight at the drop of the hat any man who dared suggest it. He did not want to listen to any evidence that would lead him to believe ill of the son who had gone wrong.

"Tony admits all the evidence against him. He did follow Rutherford intendin' to kill him. But when he saw yore son strike straight across country to the cap-rock, he trailed him to see where he was goin'. Alviro had heard stories."

"You can't tell me anything against my boy. I won't stand for it," broke out the tortured father.

The Ranger looked straight at him. "I'm goin' to tell you no harm of him except that he kept bad company," he said gently. "I reckon you know that already."

"Go on," commanded the father hoarsely.

"Tony followed him to the rim-rock, an' on the way they jumped up the camper, though Alviro did not know it. At the rim-rock Rutherford met two men. Presently another man joined them."

"Who were they?"

"Alviro isn't dead sure. He climbed up to a rock bluff back of them, but it was still dark an' he couldn't make them out. Pretty soon Rutherford found out they had a sack of gold. He must have found out where they got it, too."

Underneath the deep tan of his cheeks the old-timer whitened. "So you're tryin' to tell me that my boy was one of the gang that robbed my messenger! An' you're askin' me to believe it on the word of a greaser with a rope around his neck. Is that it?"

"No. They had a quarrel, but yore son bluffed 'em out. They gave the gold to him. He saddled an' rode away with it. On his way back to town he was murdered. So he never got a chance to turn it back to you."

The father of the man who had been killed drew a long, sobbing breath of relief. His clenched fists slowly opened.

"Tony saw all this, did he?"

"Not all of it. Day was comin' on, an' he couldn't follow Rutherford right away. Before he got goin' the three men saddled. They trailed along after yore son, an' Tony a mile or so behind 'em. After awhile he heard a shot. He took his time investigatin', because he didn't want to stop any bullets himself. At the foot of Battle Butte he found Rutherford. He had been shot from behind an' flung over the bluff."

The face of the cattleman twitched. "If I can lay my hands on the man or men that did it-"

"Mebbe you can, if you'll give me time. I checked up Tony's story, an' everywhere there was evidence to back it. He had no rifle with him, but I picked up a shell back of some rocks a hundred yards from where yore son must have been standin' when he was shot. The shell came from a '73. I back-tracked to the night-camp, an' it was just like Tony had said. Four men had been there. One left before the others. You could see the signs where they had trailed him. Once or twice they missed his tracks an' found 'em again. Same way with the single man followin' them. He had taken short-cuts too. Sometimes he blotted out the hoofprints of the three in front, so I know he was not ahead of 'em."

"You think the Dinsmores did this, Jack?"

"I want more evidence before I say so publicly. But Tony didn't. Here's another point in his favor. If Tony shot him on the bluff an' flung the body over, why did he have to go down below an' look at it? No need a-tall of that. No; Tony went down to make sure who it was that had been killed. Soon as he knew that he guessed he would be accused of it, an' he lit out for No Man's Land. I found him there three weeks later."

The cattleman apologized after a fashion for some hard things he had said and thought about his former employee. "I don't spend any of my time likin' yore style, Roberts. You're too high-heeled for me. But I'll say this for you: Ellison picked a good man when he got you. You're a straight-up rider, an' you'll do to take along. What's yore programme?"

He told it. The cattleman looked at him with increased respect. He gave a short, barking laugh.

"If it was anybody else I'd say it was crazy, but you're such a doggoned hellion of a go-getter mebbe you can put it over."

"Looks to me like a good bet," said Roberts mildly.

"Well, I an' my friends will be right there if we're needed. I'll see you through. Can't afford to have my best witness strung up to a wagon-tongue yet awhile."

They talked over the details; then the Ranger started for the jail, and the cattleman breezed around to give a little tip to some reliable friends. Wadley was quite of a mind with Roberts. There was going to be no lynching at Tascosa if he could help it.

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