Part of: LUCK
From: Crooked Trails And Straight
After half a week in the saddle Lieutenant Bucky O'Connor of the Arizona
Rangers and Curly Flandrau reached Saguache tired and travel-stained. They
had combed the Rincons without having met hide or hair of the men they
wanted. Early next morning they would leave town again and this time would
make for Soapy Stone's horse ranch.
Bucky O'Connor was not disheartened. Though he was the best man hunter in
Arizona, it was all in the day's work that criminals should sometimes
elude him. But with Curly the issue was a personal one. He owed Luck
Cullison a good deal and his imagination had played over the picture of
that moment when he could go to Kate and tell her he had freed her
After reaching town the first thing each of them did was to take a bath,
the second to get shaved. From the barber shop they went to the best
restaurant in Saguache. Curly was still busy with his pie a la mode when
Burridge Thomas, United States Land Commissioner for that district, took
the seat opposite and told to O'Connor a most interesting piece of news.
They heard him to an end without interruption. Then Curly spoke one word.
"Yes, sir, Cass Fendrick. Came in about one o'clock and handed me the
relinquishment just as I've been telling you."
"Then filed on the claim himself, you said."
"Yes, took it up himself."
"Sure the signature to the relinquishment was genuine?"
"I'd take oath to it. As soon as he had gone I got out the original filing
and compared the two. Couldn't be any possible mistake. Nobody could have
forged the signature. It is like Luck himself, strong and forceful and
"We're not entirely surprised, Mr. Thomas," Lieutenant O'Connor told the
commissioner. "In point of fact we've rather been looking for something of
"Then you know where Luck is?" Thomas, a sociable garrulous soul, leaned
"No, we don't. But we've a notion Fendrick knows." Bucky gave the
government appointee his most blandishing smile. "Of course we know you
won't talk about this, Mr. Thomas. Can we depend on your deputies?"
"I'll speak to them."
"We're much obliged to you. This clears up a point that was in doubt to
us. By the way, what was the date when the relinquishment was signed?"
"And who was the notary that witnessed it?"
"Dominguez. He's a partner of Fendrick in the sheep business."
"Quite a family affair, isn't it. Well, I'll let you know how things come
out, Mr. Thomas. You'll be interested to know. Have a cigar."
Bucky rose. "See you later, Curly. Sorry I have to hurry, Mr. Thomas, but
I've thought of something I'll have to do right away."
Bucky followed El Molino Street to the old plaza and cut across it to the
Hotel Wayland. After a sharp scrutiny of the lobby and a nod of
recognition to an acquaintance he sauntered to the desk and looked over
the register. There, among the arrivals of the day, was the entry he had
hoped to see.
Cass Fendrick, C. F. Ranch, Arizona.
The room that had been assigned to him was 212.
"Anything you want in particular, Lieutenant?" the clerk asked.
"No-o. Just looking to see who came in to-day."
He turned away and went up the stairs, ignoring the elevator. On the
second floor he found 212. In answer to his knock a voice said "Come in."
Opening the door, he stepped in, closed it behind him, and looked at the
man lying in his shirt sleeves on the bed.
Fendrick put down his newspaper but did not rise. "Evening, Bucky."
Their eyes held to each other with the level even gaze of men who
recognize a worthy antagonist.
"I've come to ask a question or two."
"Kick them out."
"First, I would like to know what you paid Luck Cullison for his Del Oro
"Thinking of buying me out?" was the ironical retort of the man on the
"Not quite. I've got another reason for wanting to know."
"Then you better ask Cullison. The law says that if a man sells a
relinquishment he can't file on another claim. If he surrenders it for
nothing he can. Now Luck may have notions of filing on another claim. You
can see that we'll have to take it for granted he gave me the claim."
It was so neat an answer and at the same time so complete a one that
O'Connor could not help appreciating it. He smiled and tried again.
"We'll put that question in the discard. That paper was signed by Luck
to-day. Where was he when you got it from him?"
"Sure it was signed to-day? Couldn't it have been ante-dated?"
"You know better than I do. When was it signed?"
Fendrick laughed. He was watching the noted officer of rangers with
narrowed wary eyes. "On advice of counsel I decline to answer."
"Sorry, Cass. That leaves me only one thing to do. You're under arrest."
"For what?" demanded the sheepman sharply.
"For abducting Luck Cullison and holding him prisoner without his
Lazily Cass drawled a question. "Are you right sure Cullison can't be
"What do you mean?"
"Are you right sure he ain't at home attending to his business?"
"Has he come back?"
"Maybe so. I'm not Luck Cullison's keeper."
Bucky thought he understood. In return for the relinquishment Cullison had
been released. Knowing Luck as he did, it was hard for him to see how
pressure enough had been brought to bear to move him.
"May I use your 'phone?" he asked.
Fendrick pretended to have lost interest. He returned to his newspaper,
but his ears were alert to catch what went on over the wires. It was
always possible that Cullison might play him false and break the
agreement. Cass did not expect this, for the owner of the Circle C was a
man whose word was better than most men's bond. But the agreement had been
forced upon him through a trick. How far he might feel this justified him
in ignoring it the sheepman did not know.
O'Connor got the Circle C on long distance. It was the clear contralto of
a woman that answered his "Hello!"
"Is this Miss Cullison?" he asked. Almost at once he added: "O'Connor of
the rangers is speaking. I've heard your father is home again. Is that
An interval followed during which the ranger officer was put into the role
of a listener. His occasional "Yes----Yes----Yes" punctuated the rapid
murmur that reached Fendrick.
Presently Bucky asked a question. "On his way to town now?"
Again the rapid murmur.
"I'll attend to that, Miss Cullison. I am in Fendrick's room now. Make
your mind easy."
Bucky hung up and turned to the sheepman. The latter showed him a face of
derision. He had gathered one thing that disquieted him, but he did not
intend to let O'Connor know it.
"Well?" he jeered. "Find friend Cullison in tolerable health?"
"I've been talking with his daughter."
"I judged as much. Miss Spitfire well?"
"Miss Cullison didn't mention her health. We were concerned about yours."
"Cullison is headed for town and his daughter is afraid he is on the
warpath against you."
"You don't say."
"She wanted me to get you out of her father's way until he has cooled
"Very kind of her."
"She's right, too. You and Luck mustn't meet yet. Get out of here and hunt
cover in the hills for a few days. You know why better than I do."
"How can I when I'm under arrest?" Fendrick mocked.
"You're not under arrest. Miss Cullison says her father has no charge to
bring against you."
"Good of him."
"So you can light a shuck soon as you want to."
"Which won't be in any hurry."
"Don't make any mistake. Luck Cullison is a dangerous man when he is
The sheepman looked at the ranger with opaque stony eyes. "If Luck
Cullison is looking for me he is liable to find me, and he won't have to
go into the hills to hunt me either."
Bucky understood perfectly. According to the code of the frontier no man
could let himself be driven from town by the knowledge that another man
was looking for him with a gun. There are in the Southwest now many
thousands who do not live by the old standard, who are anchored to law and
civilization as a protection against primitive passions. But Fendrick was
not one of these. He had deliberately gone outside of the law in his feud
with the cattleman. Now he would not repudiate the course he had chosen
and hedge because of the danger it involved. He was an aspirant to
leadership among the tough hard-bitted denizens of the sunbaked desert.
That being so, he had to see his feud out to a fighting finish if need
"There are points about this case you have overlooked," Bucky told him.
"Maybe so. But the important one that sticks out like a sore thumb is that
no man living can serve notice on me to get out of town because he is
coming on the shoot."
"Luck didn't serve any such notice. All his daughter knows is that he is
hot under the collar. Look at things reasonably, Cass. You've caused that
young lady a heap of trouble already. Are you going to unload a lot more
on her just because you want to be pigheaded. Only a kid struts around and
hollers 'Who's afraid?' No, it's up to you to pull out, not because of
Luck Cullison but on account of his daughter."
"Who is such a thorough friend of mine," the sheepman added with his
"What do you care about that? She's a girl. I don't know the facts, but I
can guess them. She and Luck will stand pat on what they promised you.
Don't you owe her something for that? Seems to me a white man wouldn't
make her any more worry."
"It's because I am a white man that I can't dodge a fight when it's
stacked up for me, Bucky."
He said it with a dogged finality that was unshaken, but O'Connor made one
"Nobody will know why you left."
"I would know, wouldn't I? I've got to go right on living with myself. I
tell you straight I'm going to see it out."
Bucky's jaw clamped. "Not if I know it. You're under arrest."
Fendrick sat up in surprise. "What for?" he demanded angrily.
"For robbing the W. & S. Express Company."
"Hell, Bucky. You don't believe that."
"Never mind what I believe. There's some evidence against you--enough to
"You want to get me out of Cullison's way. That's all."
"If you like to put it so."
"I won't stand for it. That ain't square."
"You'll stand for it, my friend. I gave you a chance to clear out and you
wouldn't take it."
"I wouldn't because I couldn't. Don't make any mistake about this. I'm not
looking for Luck. I'm attending to my business. Arrest him if you want
to stop trouble."
There came a knock on the door. It opened to admit Luck Cullison. He shut
it and put his back to it, while his eyes, hard as hammered iron, swept
past the officer to fix on Fendrick.
The latter rose quickly from the bed, but O'Connor flung him back.
"Don't forget you're my prisoner."
"He's your prisoner, is he?" This was a turn of affairs for which Luck was
manifestly unprepared: "Well, I've come to have a little settlement with
Fendrick, tense as a coiled spring, watched him warily. "Can't be any too
soon to suit me."
Clear cut as a pair of scissors through paper, Bucky snapped out his
warning. "Nothing stirring, gentlemen. I'll shoot the first man that makes
"Are you in this, Bucky?" asked Cullison evenly.
"You're right I am. He's my prisoner."
"For robbing the W. & S."
Luck's face lit. "Have you evidence enough to cinch him?"
"Not enough yet. But I'll take no chances on his getting away."
The cattleman's countenance reflected his thoughts as his decision hung in
the balance. He longed to pay his debt on the spot. But on the other hand
he had been a sheriff himself. As an outsider he had no right to interfere
between an officer and his captive. Besides, if there was a chance to send
Fendrick over the road that would be better than killing. It would clear
up his own reputation, to some extent under a cloud.
"All right, Bucky. If the law wants him I'll step aside for the time."
The sheepman laughed in his ironic fashion. His amusement mocked them
both. "Most as good as a play of the movies, ain't it? But we'd ought all
to have our guns out to make it realistic."
But in his heart he did not jeer. For the situation had been nearer red
tragedy than melodrama. The resource and firmness of Bucky O'Connor had
alone made it possible to shave disaster by a hair's breadth and no more.
Next: A Conversation
Previous: A Compromise