Part of: DEAD MAN'S CACHE
From: Brand Blotters
The notes of Schumann's "Trauemerei" died away. Melissy glanced over her
music, and presently ran lightly into Chopin's "Valse Au Petit Chien." She
was, after all, only a girl; and there were moments when she forgot to
remember that she was wedded to the worst of unhanged villains. When she
drowned herself fathoms deep in her music, she had the best chance of
Chaminade's "The Flatterer" followed. In the midst of this the door opened
quietly and closed again. Melissy finished, fingered her music, and became
somehow aware that she was not alone. She turned unhurriedly on the seat
and met the smiling eyes of her husband.
From his high-heeled boots to his black, glossy hair, Black MacQueen was
dusty with travel. Beside him was a gunny sack, tied in the middle and
filled at both ends. Picturesque he was and always would be, but his
present costume scarce fitted the presence of a lady. Yet of this he gave
no sign. He was leaning back in a morris chair, rakish, debonair, and at
his ease. Evidently, he had been giving appreciative ear to the music, and
more appreciative eye to the musician.
"So it's you," said Melissy, white to the lips.
MacQueen arose, recovered his dusty hat from the floor, and bowed
theatrically. "Your long-lost husband, my dear."
"What are you doing here?"
"I'm visiting my wife. The explanation seems a trifle obvious."
"What do you want?"
"Have I said I wanted anything?"
"Then you had better leave. I'll give you up if I get a chance."
He looked at her with lazy derision. "I like you angry. Your eyes snap
"Oh!" She gave a gesture of impatience. "Do you know that, if I were to
step to that window and call out your name, the whole town would be in
arms against you?"
"Why don't you?"
"I shall, if you don't go."
"Are you alone in the house?"
"Why do you ask?" Her heart was beating fast.
"Because you must hide me till night. Is your father here?"
"Not now. He is hunting you--to kill you if he finds you."
"The cook is out for the afternoon. She will be back in an hour or two."
"Good! Get me food."
She did not rise. "I must know more. What is it? Are they hunting you?
What have you done now?" A strong suppressed excitement beat in her
"It is not what I have done, but what your friends have done. Yesterday I
went to exchange West for the ransom money. Most of my men I had to take
with me, to guard against foul play. We held the canyon from the flat tops,
and everything went all right. The exchange was made. We took the ransom
money back to the Cache. I don't know how it was--whether somebody played
me false and sold us, or whether your friend Flatray got loose and his
posse stumbled in by accident. But there they were in the Cache when we
"Yes?" The keenest agitation was in Melissy's voice.
"They took us by surprise. We fought. Two of my men ran away. Two were
shot down. I was alone."
The devil of torment moved in him. "Then I shot up one of your friend's
outfit, rode away, changed my mind, and went back, shot your friend, and
hiked off into the hills with a pack horse loaded with gold."
Out of all this one thing stood out terribly to her. "You shot Jack
He laughed. One lie more or less made no difference. "I sure did."
She had to moisten her lips before she could ask the next question:
"How do you know?"
"He and another man were on the trail after me to-day. I saw them pass up
Moose Creek from a ledge on which I was lying. If I had had a rifle, I
would have finished the job; but my carbine was gone. It was too far for a
"But, if you wounded him last night, how could he be trailing you
"I reckon it was a flesh wound. His shoulder was tied up, I noticed."
Impatiently he waved Flatray out of the conversation. "I didn't come here
to tell you about him. I got to get out on tonight's train. This country
has grown too hot for me. You're going with me?"
"Yes, by God!"
"I'll never go with you--never--never!" she cried passionately. "I'm free
of the bargain. You broke faith. So shall I."
She saw his jaw clamp. "So you're going to throw me down, are you?"
Melissy stood before him, slim and straight, without yielding an inch. She
was quite colorless, for he was a man with whose impulses she could not
reckon. But one thing she knew. He could never take her away with him and
escape. And she knew that he must know it, too.
"If you want to call it that. You tricked me into marrying you. You meant
to betray me all the time. Go, while there's still a chance. I don't want
your blood on my hands."
It was characteristic of him that he always wanted more what he could not
"Don't answer so quick, girl. Listen to me. I've got enough in that sack
to start us in the cattle business in Argentina. There's more buried in
the hills, if we need it. Girl, I tell you I'm going to run straight from
She laughed scornfully. "And in the same breath you tell me how much you
have stolen and are taking with you. If you were a Croesus, I wouldn't go
with you." She flamed into sudden, fierce passion. "Will you never
understand that I hate and detest you?"
"You think you do, but you don't. You love me--only you won't let yourself
"There's no arguing with such colossal conceit," she retorted, with hard
laughter. "It's no use to tell you that I should like to see you dead at
Swiftly he slid a revolver from its holster, and presented it to her, butt
first. "You can have your wish right easy, if you mean it. Go to it.
There's no danger. All you've got to give out is that I frightened you.
You'll be a heroine, too."
She looked at the weapon and at him, and the very thought of it made her
sick. She saw the thing almost as if it were already done--the smoking
revolver in her hand, and the man lying motionless before her.
"Take it away," she said, with a shudder.
"You see, you can't do it! You can't even go to the window there and shout
out that Black MacQueen is with you in the house. You don't hate me at
all, my dear."
"Because I won't kill you with my own hand? You reason logically."
"Then why don't you betray my presence? Why don't you call your friends in
to take me?"
"I'm not sure that I won't; but if I don't, it will be for their sakes,
and not for yours. They could not take you without loss of life."
"You're right there," he agreed, with a flash of his tigerish ferocity.
"They couldn't take me alive at all, and I reckon before I checked in a
few of them would."
Next: Black Macqueen Cashes His Checks
Previous: The Taking Of The Cache