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Bob Takes A Hand

Part of: LUCK
From: Crooked Trails And Straight

Fendrick, riding on Mesa Verde, met Bob Cullison, and before he knew what
had happened found a gun thrown on him.

"Don't you move," the boy warned.

"What does this tommyrot mean?" the sheepman demanded angrily.

"It means that you are coming back with me to the ranch. That's what it

"What for?"

"Never you mind what for."

"Oh, go to Mexico," Cass flung back impatiently. "Think we're in some fool
moving-picture play, you blamed young idiot. Put up that gun."

Shrilly Bob retorted. He was excited enough to be dangerous. "Don't you
get the wrong idea. I'm going to make this stick. You'll turn and go back
with me to the Circle C."

"And you'll travel to Yuma first thing you know, you young Jesse James.
What you need is a pair of leather chaps applied to your hide."

"You'll go home with me, just the same."

"You've got one more guess coming, kid. I'll not go without knowing why."

"You're wanted for the W. & S. Express robbery. Blackwell has confessed."

"Confessed that I did it?" Fendrick inquired scornfully.

"Says you were in it with him. I ain't a-going to discuss it with you.
Swing that horse round; and don't make any breaks, or there'll be mourning
at the C. F. ranch."

Cass sat immovable as the sphinx. He was thinking that he might as well
face the charge now as any time. Moreover, he had reasons for wanting to
visit the Circle C. They had to do with a tall, slim girl who never looked
at him without scorn in her dark, flashing eyes.

"All right. I'll go back with you, but not under a gun."

"You'll go the way I say."

"Don't think it. I've said I'll go. That settles it. But I won't stand for
any gun-play capture."

"You'll have to stand for it."

Fendrick's face set. "Will I? It's up to you, then. Let's see you make

Sitting there with his gaze steadily on the boy, Cass had Bob at a
disadvantage. If the sheep owner had tried to break away into the
chaparral. Bob could have blazed away at him, but he could not shoot a man
looking at him with cynical, amused eyes. He could understand the point of
view of his adversary. If Fendrick rode into the Circle C under compulsion
of a gun in the hands of a boy he would never hear the end of the laugh on

"You won't try to light out, will you?"

"I've got no notion of lighting out."

Bob put up his big blue gun reluctantly. Never before had it been trained
on a human being, and it was a wrench to give up the thought of bringing
in the enemy as a prisoner. But he saw he could not pull it off. Fendrick
had declined to scare, had practically laughed him out of it. The boy had
not meant his command as a bluff, but Cass knew him better than he did

They turned toward the Circle C.

"Must have been taking lessons on how to bend a gun. You in training for
sheriff, or are you going to take Bucky's place with the rangers?"
Fendrick asked with casual impudence, malicious amusement gleaming from
his lazy eyes.

Bob, very red about the ears, took refuge in a sulky silence. He was being
guyed, and not by an inch did he propose to compromise the Cullison

"From the way you go at it, I figure you an old hand at the hold-up game.
Wonder if you didn't pull off the W. & S. raid yourself."

Bob writhed impotently. At this sort of thing he was no match for the
other. Fendrick, now in the best of humors, planted lazily his offhand

Kate was seated on the porch sewing. She rose in surprise when her cousin
and the sheepman appeared. They came with jingling spurs across the plaza
toward her. Bob was red as a turkeycock, but Fendrick wore his most
devil-may-care insouciance.

"Where's Uncle Luck, sis? I've brought this fellow back with me. Caught
him on the mesa," explained the boy sulkily.

Fendrick bowed rather extravagantly and flashed at the girl a smiling
double-row of strong white teeth. "He's qualifying for a moving-picture
show actor, Miss Cullison. I hadn't the heart to disappoint him when he
got that cannon trained on me. So here I am."

Kate looked at him and then let her gaze travel to her cousin. She somehow
gave the effect of judging him of negligible value.

"I think he's in his office, Bob. I'll go see."

She went swiftly, and presently her father came out. Kate did not return.

Luck looked straight at Cass with the uncompromising hostility so
characteristic of him. Neither of the men spoke. It was Bob who made the
necessary explanations. The sheepman heard them with a polite derision
that suggested an impersonal amusement at the situation.

"I've been looking for you," Luck said bluntly, after his nephew had

"So I gathered from young Jesse James. He intimated it over the long blue
barrel of his cannon. Anything particular, or just a pleasant social

"You're in bad on this W. & S. robbery. I reckoned you would be safer in
jail till it's cleared up."

"You still sheriff, Mr. Cullison? Somehow I had got a notion you had quit
the job."

"I'm an interested party. There's new evidence, not manufactured,

"Well, well!"

"We'll take the stage into town and see what O'Connor says--that is, if
you've got time to go." Luck could be as formal in his sarcasm as his

"With such good company on the way I'll have to make time."

The stage did not usually leave till about half past one. Presently Kate
announced dinner. A little awkwardly Luck invited the sheepman to join
them. Fendrick declined. He was a Fletcherite, he informed Cullison
ironically, and was in the habit of missing meals occasionally. This would
be one of the times.

His host hung in the doorway. Seldom at a loss to express himself, he did
not quite know how to put into words what he was thinking. His enemy

"That's all right. You've satisfied the demands of hospitality. Go eat
your dinner. I'll be right here on the porch when you get through."

Kate, who was standing beside her father, spoke quietly.

"There's a place for you, Mr. Fendrick. We should be very pleased to have
you join us. People who happen to be at the Circle C at dinner time are
expected to eat here."

"Come and eat, man. You'll be under no obligations. I reckon you can hate
us, just as thorough after a square meal as before. Besides, I was your
guest for several days."

Fendrick looked at the young mistress of the ranch. He meant to decline
once more, but unaccountably found himself accepting instead. Something in
her face told him she would rather have it so.

Wherefore Cass found himself with his feet under the table of his foe
discussing various topics that had nothing to do with sheep, homestead
claims, abductions, or express robberies. He looked at Kate but rarely,
yet he was aware of her all the time. At his ranch a Mexican did the
cooking in haphazard fashion. The food was ill prepared and worse served.
He ate only because it was a necessity, and he made as short a business of
it as he could. Here were cut roses on a snowy tablecloth, an air of
leisure that implied the object of dinner to be something more than to
devour a given quantity of food. Moreover, the food had a flavor that made
it palatable. The rib roast was done to a turn, the mashed potatoes
whipped to a flaky lightness. The vegetable salad was a triumph, and the
rice custard melted in his mouth.

Presently a young man came into the dining room and sat down beside Kate.
He looked the least in the world surprised at sight of the sheepman.

"Mornin', Cass," he nodded

"Morning, Curly," answered Fendrick. "Didn't know you were riding for the
Circle C."

"He's my foreman," Luck explained.

Cass observed that he was quite one of the family. Bob admired him openly
and without shame, because he was the best rider in Arizona; Kate seemed
to be on the best of terms with him, and Luck treated him with the offhand
bluffness he might have used toward a grown son.

If Cass had, in his bitter, sardonic fashion, been interested in Kate
before he sat down, the feeling had quickened to something different
before he rose. It was not only that she was competent to devise such a
meal in the desert. There was something else. She had made a home for
her father and cousin at the Circle C. The place radiated love,
domesticity, kindly good fellowship. The casual give and take of the
friendly talk went straight to the heart of the sheepman. This was living.
It came to him poignantly that in his scramble for wealth he had missed
that which was of far greater importance.

The stage brought the two men to town shortly after sundown. Luck called
up O'Connor, and made an appointment to meet him after supper.

"Back again, Bucky," Fendrick grinned at sight of the ranger. "I hear I'm
suspected of being a bad hold-up."

"There's a matter that needs explaining, Cass. According to Blackwell's
story, you caught him with the goods at the time of the robbery, and in
making his getaway he left the loot with you. What have you done with

"Blackwell told you that, did he?"


"Don't doubt your word for a moment, Bucky, but before I do any talking
I'd like to hear him say so. I'll not round on him until I know he's given
himself away."

The convict was sent for. He substantiated the ranger reluctantly. He was
so hemmed in that he did not know how to play his cards so as to make the
most of them. He hated Fendrick. But much as he desired to convict him, he
could not escape an uneasy feeling that he was going to be made the
victim. For Cass took it with that sarcastic smile of his that mocked them
all in turn. The convict trusted none of them. Already he felt the
penitentiary walls closing on him. He was like a trapped coyote, ready to
snarl and bite at the first hand he could reach. Just now this happened to
belong to Fendrick, who had cheated him out of the money he had stolen and
had brought this upon him.

Cass heard him out with a lifted upper lip and his most somnolent
tiger-cat expression. After Blackwell had finished and been withdrawn from
circulation he rolled and lit a cigarette.

"By Mr. Blackwell's say-so I'm the goat. By the way, has it ever occurred
to you gentlemen that one can't be convicted on the testimony of a single
accomplice?" He asked it casually, his chair tipped back, smoke wreaths
drifting lazily ceilingward.

"We've got a little circumstantial evidence to add, Cass." Bucky suggested

"Not enough--not nearly enough."

"That will be for a jury to decide," Cullison chipped in.

Fendrick shrugged. "I've a notion to let it go to that. But what's the
use? Understand this. I wasn't going to give Blackwell away, but since he
has talked, I may tell what I know. It's true enough what he says. I did
relieve him of the plunder."

"Sorry to hear that, Cass," Bucky commented gravely. "What did you do with

The sheep owner flicked his cigarette ash into the tray, and looked at the
lieutenant out of half-shuttered, indolent eyes. "Gave it to you, Bucky."

O'Connor sat up. His blue Irish eyes were dancing. "You're a cool
customer, Cass."

"Fact, just the same. Got that letter I handed you the other day?"

The officer produced it from his safe.

"Open it."

With a paper knife Bucky ripped the flap and took out a sheet of paper.

"There's something else in there," Fendrick suggested.

The something else proved to be a piece of paper folded tightly, which
being opened disclosed a key.

O'Connor read aloud the letter:

To Nicholas Bolt, Sheriff, Or Bucky O'connor, Lieutenant of Rangers:

Having come into possession of a little valise which is not mine, I
am getting rid of it in the following manner. I have rented a large
safety-deposit box at the Cattlemen's National Bank, and have put
into it the valise with the lock still unbroken. The key is inclosed
herewith. Shaw, the cashier, will tell you that when this box was
rented I gave explicit orders it should be opened only by the men
whose names are given in an envelope left with him, not even
excepting myself. The valise was deposited at exactly 10:30 A. M. the
morning after the robbery, as Mr. Shaw will also testify. I am
writing this the evening of the same day.

Cass Fendrick.

"Don't believe a word of it," Cullison exploded.

"Seeing is believing," the sheepman murmured. He was enjoying greatly the
discomfiture of his foe.

"Makes a likely fairy tale. What for would you keep the money and not turn
it back?"

"That's an easy one, Luck. He wanted to throw the burden of the robbery on
you," Bucky explained.

"Well, I've got to be shown."

In the morning he was shown. Shaw confirmed exactly what Fendrick had
said. He produced a sealed envelope. Within this was a sheet of paper,
upon which were written two lines.

Box 2143 is to be opened only by Sheriff Bolt or Lieutenant Bucky
O'Connor of the Rangers, and before witnesses.


From the safety-deposit vault Bucky drew a large package wrapped in yellow
paper. He cut the string, tore away the covering, and disclosed a leather
satchel. Perry Hawley, the local manager of the Western & Southern Express
Company, fitted to this a key and took out a sealed bundle. This he ripped
open before them all. Inside was found the sum of twenty thousand dollars
in crisp new bills.

Next: A Clean Up

Previous: A Touch Of The Third Degree

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