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Black Macqueen Cashes His Checks

From: Brand Blotters

It was part of his supreme audacity to trust her. While he was changing
his dusty, travel-stained clothes for some that belonged to her brother
she prepared a meal for him downstairs. A dozen times the impulse was on
her to fly into the street and call out that Black MacQueen was in the
house, but always she restrained herself. He was going to leave the
country within a few hours. Better let him go without bloodshed.

He came down to his dinner fresh from a bath and a shave, wearing a new
tweed suit, which fitted him a trifle loosely, but was not unbecoming to
his trim, lithe figure. No commercial traveler at a familiar hotel could
have been more jauntily and blithely at home.

"So you didn't run away!" He grinned.

"Not yet. I'm going to later. I owe you a meal, and I wanted to pay it

It was his very contempt of fear that had held her. To fool away half an
hour in dressing, knowing that it was very likely she might be summoning
men to kill him--to come down confident and unperturbed, possibly to meet
his death--was such a piece of dare-deviltry as won reluctant admiration,
in spite of her detestation of him. Even if she did not give him up, his
situation was precarious in the extreme. All the trains were being
watched; and in spite of this he had to walk boldly to the station, buy a
ticket, and pass himself off for an ordinary traveler.

Both knew that the chances were against him, but he gave no sign of
concern or anxiety. Never had Melissy seen him so full of spirits. The
situation would have depressed most men; him it merely stimulated. The
excitement of it ran like wine through his blood. Driven from his hills,
with every man's hand against him, with the avenues of escape apparently
closed, he was in his glory. He would play his cards out to the end,
without whining, no matter how the game might go.

Melissy washed the dishes, in order that the cook might not know that she
had had a guest for luncheon. The two returned to the living room. It was
his whim to have her play for him; and she was glad to comply, because it
interfered with his wooing. She was no longer greatly afraid of him, for
she knew that he was on his good behavior to win her liking.

Fortune favored her. For some time they had heard the cook moving about in
the kitchen. Once she had poked her head in to know whether her young
mistress would like the cherry pie for dinner.

"I didn't know yez had company, Miss 'Lissie," she had apologized.

"This gentleman will stay to dinner," Melissy had announced.

At luncheon Melissy had not eaten with him; but at dinner it was
necessary, on account of the cook, that she sit down, too. The meal had
scarce begun when Kate came beaming in.

"Shure, Miss 'Lissie, there's another young gentleman at the door. It's
Mr. Bellamy. I tould him to come right in. He's washing his face first."

Melissy rose, white as a sheet. "All right, Kate."

But as soon as the cook had left the room she turned to the outlaw. "What
shall I do? What shall I do?"

Little whimsical imps of mischief shone in his eyes. "Have him in and
introduce him to your husband, my dear."

"You must go--quick. If I don't get rid of him, you'll be able to slip out
the back way and get to the depot. He doesn't know you are here."

MacQueen sat back and gave her his easy, reckless smile. "Guess again.
Bellamy can't drive me out."

She caught her hands together. "Oh, go--go! There will be trouble. You
wouldn't kill him before my very eyes!"

"Not unless he makes the first play. It's up to him." He laughed with the
very delight of it. "I'd as lief settle my account with him right now.
He's meddled too much in my affairs."

She broke out in a cry of distress: "You wouldn't! I've treated you fair.
I could have betrayed you, and I didn't. Aren't you going to play square
with me?"

He nodded. "All right. Show him in. He won't know me except as Lieutenant
O'Connor. It was too dark last night to see my face."

Bellamy came into the room.

"How's Jack?" Melissy asked quickly as she caught his hand.

"Good as new. And you?"

"All right."

The outlaw stirred uneasily in his seat. His vanity objected to another
man holding the limelight while he was present.

Melissy turned. "I think you have never met Lieutenant O'Connor, Mr.
Bellamy. Lieutenant--Mr. Bellamy."

They shook hands. MacQueen smiled. He was enjoying himself.

"Glad to meet you, Mr. Bellamy. You and Flatray have won the honors
surely. You beat us all to it, sir. As I rode in this mornin', everybody
was telling how you rounded up the outlaws. Have you caught MacQueen

"Not yet. We have reason to believe that he rode within ten miles of town
this morning before he cut across to the railroad. The chances are that
he will try to board a train at some water tank in the dark. We're having
them all watched. I came in to telephone all stations to look out for

"Where's Jack?" Melissy asked.

"He'll be here presently. His arm was troubling him some, so he stopped to
see the doctor. Then he has to talk with his deputy."

"You're sure he isn't badly hurt?"

"No, only a scratch, he calls it."

"Did you happen on Dead Man's Cache by accident?" asked MacQueen with
well-assumed carelessness.

Bellamy had no intention of giving Rosario away to anybody. "You might
call it that," he said evenly. "You know, I had been near there once when
I was out hunting."

"Do you expect to catch MacQueen?" the outlaw asked, a faint hint of irony
in his amused voice.

"I can't tell. That's what I'm hoping, lieutenant."

"We hope for a heap of things we never get," returned the outlaw, in a
gentle voice, his eyes half shuttered behind drooping lids.

Melissy cut into the conversation hurriedly. "Lieutenant O'Connor is going
on the seven-five this evening, Mr. Bellamy. He has business that will
take him away for a while. It is time we were going. Won't you walk down
to the train with us?"

MacQueen swore softly under his breath, but there was nothing he could say
in protest. He knew he could not take the girl with him. Now he had been
cheated out of his good-byes by her woman's wit in dragging Bellamy to the
depot with them. He could not but admire the adroitness with which she had
utilized her friend to serve her end.

They walked to the station three abreast, the outlaw carrying as lightly
as he could the heavy suitcase that held his plunder. Melissy made small
talk while they waited for the train. She was very nervous, and she was
trying not to show it.

"Next time you come, lieutenant, we'll have a fine stone depot to show
you. Mr. West has promised to make Mesa the junction point, and we're sure
to have a boom," she said.

A young Mexican vaquero trailed softly behind them, the inevitable
cigarette between his lips. From under his broad, silver-laced sombrero he
looked keenly at each of the three as he passed.

A whistle sounded clearly in the distance.

The outlaw turned to the girl beside him. "I'm coming back some day soon.
Be sure of that, Mrs. MacQueen."

The audacity of the name used, designed as it was to stab her friend and
to remind Melissy how things stood, made the girl gasp. She looked quickly
at Bellamy and saw him crush the anger from his face.

The train drew into the station. Presently the conductor's "All aboard!"
served notice that it was starting. The outlaw shook hands with Melissy
and then with the mine owner.

"Good-bye. Don't forget that I'm coming back," he said, in a perfectly
distinct, low tone.

And with that he swung aboard the Pullman car with his heavy suitcase. An
instant later the Mexican vaquero pulled himself to the vestibule of the
smoking car ahead.

MacQueen looked back from the end of the train at the two figures on the
platform. A third figure had joined them. It was Jack Flatray. The girl
and the sheriff were looking at each other. With a furious oath, he turned
on his heel. For the evidence of his eyes had told him that they were

MacQueen passed into the coach and flung himself down into his section
discontentedly. The savor of his adventure was gone. He had made his
escape with a large share of the plunder, in spite of spies and posses.
But in his heart he knew that he had lost forever the girl whom he had
forced to marry him. He was still thinking about it somberly when a figure
appeared in the aisle at the end of the car.

Instantly the outlaw came to alert attention, and his hand slipped to the
butt of a revolver. The figure was that of the Mexican vaquero whom he had
carelessly noted on the platform of the station. Vigilantly his gaze
covered the approaching man. Surely in Arizona there were not two men with
that elastic tread or that lithe, supple figure.

His revolver flashed in the air. "Stand back, Bucky O'Connor--or, by God,
I'll drill you!"

The vaquero smiled. "Right guess, Black MacQueen. I arrest you in the name
of the law."

Black's revolver spat flame twice before the ranger's gun got into action,
but the swaying of the train caused him to stagger as he rose to his

The first shot of Bucky's revolver went through the heart of the outlaw;
but so relentless was the man that, even after that, his twitching fingers
emptied the revolver. O'Connor fired only once. He watched his opponent
crumple up, fling wild shots into the upholstery and through the roof, and
sink into the silence from which there is no awakening on this side of the
grave. Then he went forward and looked down at him.

"I reckon that ends Black MacQueen," he said quietly. "And I reckon
Melissy Lee is a widow."

* * * * *

Jack Flatray had met O'Connor at his own office and the two had come down
to the station on the off chance that MacQueen might try to make his
getaway from Mesa in some disguise. But as soon as he saw Melissy the
sheriff had eyes for nobody else except the girl he loved. One sleeve of
his coat was empty, and his shoulder was bandaged. He looked very tired
and drawn; for he had ridden hard more than sixteen hours with a painful
wound. But the moment his gaze met hers she knew that his thoughts were
all for her and her trouble.

His free hand went out to meet hers. She forgot MacQueen and all the
sorrow he had brought her. Her eyes were dewy with love and his answered
eagerly. She knew now that she would love Jack Flatray for better or worse
until death should part them. But she knew, too, that the shadow of
MacQueen, her husband by law, was between them.

Together they walked back from the depot. In the shadow of the vines on
her father's porch they stopped. Jack caught her hands in his and looked
down into her tired, haggard face all lit with love. Tears were in the
eyes of both.

"You're entitled to the truth, Jack," she told him. "I love you. I think I
always have. And I know I always shall. But I'm another man's wife. It
will have to be good-bye between us, Jack," she told him wistfully.

He took her in his arms and kissed her. "You're my sweetheart. I'll not
give you up. Don't think it."

He spoke with such strength, such assurance, that she knew he would not
yield without a struggle.

"I'll never be anything to him--never. But he stands between us. Don't you
see he does?"

"No. Your marriage to him is empty words. We'll have it annulled. It will
not stand in any court. I've won you and I'm going to keep you. There's no
two ways about that."

She broke down and began to sob quietly in a heartbroken fashion, while he
tried to comfort her. It was not so easy as he thought. So long as
MacQueen lived Flatray would walk in danger if she did as he wanted her to

Neither of them knew that Bucky O'Connor's bullet had already annulled the
marriage, that happiness was already on the wing to them.

This hour was to be for their grief, the next for their joy.

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