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A Dual Tragedy

From: 'drag' Harlan

Harlan and Morgan had made a thorough search of Haydon's desk in the
latter's office in the ranchhouse, and they had found letters addressed
to Haydon--received at various towns in the vicinity and proving Morgan's
charges against him. And upon several of the letters were names that
provided damaging evidence of the connection of influential men with the
scheme to gain unlawful possession of much land in the basin.

"This cinches it!" declared Morgan as he carefully placed the letters
into a pocket when he and Harlan emerged from the ranchhouse. "I reckon
we've got proof now. An' the governor'll be plumb tickled."

They stepped down from the doorway and turned the corner of the house.
Instantly they noted the disappearance of Haydon's body. But they did not
search among the other buildings for Haydon--as he had expected them to
do. For they saw that his horse was also missing.

Morgan ran for the corral, saying no word, his lips set in grim, vengeful
lines. He had been a fool for not making sure that he had killed Haydon,
but he would not make that mistake again. The gleam in his eyes revealed

Harlan, too, divined what had happened. Purgatory was in the
stable--which was farther from the ranchhouse than the corral. And though
Harlan moved swiftly Morgan was already on his horse and racing toward
the timber when Purgatory emerged from the stable, saddled and bridled.

Harlan noted that Morgan had not stopped to saddle his horse, and that
omission revealed the man's intense desire for haste. Harlan, however,
headed Purgatory into the timber, but he was more than half a mile behind
Morgan when he reached the main trail.

He saw Morgan riding the trail that led up the valley, and he set out
after him, giving the big black horse the rein. He divined that Morgan
suspected Haydon had ridden in that direction; and while Harlan had never
seen the Cache, he had heard the Star men speak of it, and he had noticed
that when setting out for it they had always traveled the trail Morgan
was traveling. Therefore, it was evident that Morgan thought Haydon had
gone to the Cache. In that case he depended upon Deveny to assist him--if
Morgan followed; and Harlan was determined to see the incident through.

He sent Purgatory ahead at a good pace, but he noted soon that Morgan was
increasing the distance between them. He began to urge Purgatory forward,
and gradually the distance between the two riders grew shorter.

Both were traveling rapidly, however, and it seemed to Harlan that they
had not gone more than three or four miles when--watching Morgan closely,
he saw him ride pell-mell into some timber that--apparently--fringed the
front of a cave.

It was some time before Harlan reached the timber, and when he did he
could not immediately discover the spot into which Morgan had ridden.
When he did discover it he rode Purgatory through, and found himself in a
narrow gorge.

He raced Purgatory through the gorge, and out of it to the sloping side
of a little basin.

He saw a house near the center of the basin--and Morgan riding close to

The distance to the house was not great--not more than a quarter of a
mile, it seemed; and Harlan felt some wonder that Morgan--who had been
quite a little in advance of him--had not reached the house sooner. That
mystery was explained to him almost instantly, though, when he saw that
Morgan's horse was walking, going forward with a pronounced limp.
Evidently Morgan had met with an accident.

Harlan was riding across the floor of the little basin, watching Morgan
and wondering at the seeming absence of Deveny's men, when he saw a smoke
streak issue from one of the windows of the house, saw Morgan reel in the
saddle, and slide to the ground.

But before Harlan could reach the spot where Morgan had fallen, the man
staggered to his feet and was running toward the house, swaying as he

Harlan heard a muffled report as he sent Purgatory scampering after
Morgan. He saw Morgan reel again, and he knew someone in the house was
using a rifle.

There was another report as Morgan lurched through an open doorway of the
house. Then Harlan knew Morgan was using his gun, for its roaring crash
mingled with the whiplike crack of a rifle.

The firing had ceased when Harlan slipped off Purgatory at the open door;
and both his guns were out as he leaped over the threshold.

He halted, though, standing rigid, his guns slowly swagging in his hands,
their muzzles drooping.

For on the floor of the room--flat on his back near a corner--was Haydon.
He was dead--there was no doubt of that.

Nor was there any doubt that the bullets Haydon had sent had finished
Morgan. He was lying on his right side, his right arm under him,
extended; the palm of the hand upward, the fingers limply holding the
pistol he had used, some smoke curling lazily from the muzzle.

Harlan knelt beside Morgan, examining him for signs of life. He got up a
little later and stood for some time looking down at the man, thinking of
Barbara. Twice had tragedy cast its sinister shadow over her.

Next: Converging Trails

Previous: Rogers Takes A Hand

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