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Rogers Takes A Hand

From: 'drag' Harlan

The trail herd had made good progress through the valley, and Rogers,
aided by the Star men, had kept them going. The men feared no
interference with the work, for they had terrorized the ranchers in the
valley until the latter well knew the futility of retaliatory measures.
Still, a certain furtive quickness of movement had always characterized
the operations of the outlaws--the instinct to move secretly, if
possible, and to strike swiftly when they struck was always strong in

Besides, the drive to Willow's Wells was not a long one, and the cattle
could stand a fast pace. So it was not long after the herd had left the
Star until it straggled up a defile in the hills and out upon the level
where Deveny's men had to ride to take the south trail to the Rancho

The level extended southward for a distance of several miles to a grass
range that the Star men knew well--for there had been times when they had
grazed cattle there, making camp on their frequent trips to the Wells.

A range of low, flat hills marked the northern limits of the grazing
section; and Rogers and his men trailed the cattle through the hills
while the morning was still young.

The herd was through the hills, and Rogers, twisting in the saddle, was
taking a last look over the plain to make certain there had been no
prying eyes watching the movements of himself and the men, when he saw,
far to the west, a group of horsemen just coming into view at the edge of
the plain--seemingly having ridden out of the big valley.

Rogers wheeled his horse and watched the horsemen as they traveled
eastward, making good time. He called to a man, named Colver, who was
riding close to him.

"Them's Deveny's men--from the Cache. What in blazes are they up to?
Somethin's in the wind, Colver--they're ridin' like the devil was after
them an' burnin' the breeze for fair!"

Rogers sent his horse scampering to the crest of one of the hills where,
concealed behind some brush, he watched the progress of Deveny's men

When they passed the point on the plain where they would have to veer
northward if they intended to visit the Star, he breathed with relief.
For he had almost yielded to a conviction that Deveny was headed for
the Star.

But after the horsemen passed the point that led to the Star trail, a new
anxiety seized Rogers--and a passion that sent the blood to his face
swept over him.

His eyes were glowing with an excitement that he could not repress when
he turned to Colver.

"Somethin's up!" he snapped. "Deveny's been sullen as hell for a good
many days--ever since Harlan came to the Star. One of the boys was
tellin' me he heard Deveny an' Haydon havin' it out over at the Cache. If
there's goin' to be a ruckus I'm goin' to be in on it!"

He leaped his horse off the hill, racing him down into the grass plain
after the other men. When he reached them he yelled sharply, and they
spurred quickly to him, anticipating from his manner that danger

"I've got a hunch that hell's a-goin' to pop right sudden, boys," he told
them. "An' we're goin' away from it. If there's any trouble we want to be
in on it. Deveny's up to somethin'. You-all know about the agreement made
between Haydon an' Harlan--that Harlan was to run the Rancho Seco without
interference. Deveny's headed that way, an' Haydon ain't around. It's up
to us boys to keep our eyes open.

"Harlan's at the Star. He won't be knowin' that Deveny is headin' for the
Rancho Seco. Harlan's white, boys; he's done more for us guys since he's
been at the Star than Haydon or Deveny ever done for us. He's promised us
things that Haydon an' Deveny would never do. He's a white man, an' I'm
for him. An' I'm for takin' orders from him from now on. Who's with me?"

"You're shoutin'!" declared Colver.

"It's time for a new deal," muttered another.

"You're doin' the yappin'," grimly announced a big man who was close to
Rogers; "we're followin' your lead."

"I'm jumpin' for the Star then!" declared Rogers; "to put Harlan wise to
where Deveny's headed for. We're leavin' the herd here until we find out
what's goin' on. Half of you guys beat it to the Rancho Seco--trailin'
Deveny an' his boys, to find out what they're doin'. You're herd-ridin'
them if they go to monkeyin' with the Rancho Seco. Slope!"

Rogers had hardly ceased speaking when the outfit was on the move. There
were eleven men, including Rogers; and they sent their horses leaping
over the crest of the hill nearest them--dividing, as they reached the
level on the other side with seemingly no previous arrangement, into two
groups--one group going northeastward, toward the South Trail, and the
other fading into the space that yawned between it and the point where
the trail to the Star led downward into the big basin.

* * * * *

Haydon, holding hard to the pommel of the saddle, urging his horse along
the trail that led up the valley, looked back whenever he reached a rise,
his eyes searching the space behind him for the dread apparition that he
expected momentarily.

He knew that it would not be long before Morgan and Harlan would emerge
from the ranchhouse to discover that he had escaped; and he knew, too,
that they would suspect that he had gone to the Cache.

He expected they would delay riding after him, however, until they
searched for him in some of the buildings, and that delay, he hoped,
would give him time to reach the Cache.

He was handicapped by his useless arm--for it made riding awkward, and
the numbness was stealing down his side, toward his leg. He paid little
attention to the pain; indeed, he entirely forgot it in his frenzied
eagerness to reach the Cache.

More prominent in his brain at this minute than any other emotion was a
dread of Billy Morgan. He had yielded to terror when Morgan had revealed
his identity; but the terror he had felt then had not been nearly so
paralyzing as that which was now upon him.

His eyes were bulging as he rode; his lips were slavering, and he
shuddered and cringed as he leaned over his horse's mane, urging him to
greater effort--even though there were times when his lurches almost
threw him out of the saddle.

For his previous terror had been somewhat tempered with a doubt of
Morgan's veracity. Even when he had seen Morgan reaching for his pistol
he had felt the doubt--had felt that Morgan was not Morgan at all, but
Woodward, perpetrating a grotesque joke. To be sure, when he had seen
that Morgan really intended to kill him, he had been convinced that the
man was in deadly earnest. It had been then that he had desperately
twisted himself so that Morgan's bullet had not touched a vital spot.

But now his terror had grown; it was a thing that had got into his
soul--for he had had time to meditate over what Morgan's vengeance meant
to him.

It meant that Morgan would kill him, if he caught him; that the life he
treasured would be taken from him; that the magnificent body which he had
always so greatly admired would be shattered and broken. The mental
picture he drew further increased his terror, and he began to mutter
incoherent blasphemies as he raced his horse at a breakneck pace toward
the Cache.

But when he had ridden several miles and knew from the appearance of the
valley that he was nearing the Cache and that he would reach it in
safety, there came a change in him.

He grew calmer; he began to feel a rage that sent the blood racing
through his veins again. He looked back over the trail as often as
formerly, but it was with a new expression--malevolent hatred. And when
he finally reached the entrance to the Cache and rode through it, heading
toward the building in which, he expected, he would find Deveny, the
malevolence in his expression was mingled with triumph and cunning.

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