While working on a sermon the pastor heard a knock at his office door. "Come in," he invited. A sad-looking man in threadbare clothes came in, pulling a large pig on a rope. "Can I talk to you for a minute?" asked the ma... Read more of Dear God... at Free Jokes.caInformational Site Network Informational
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The Shadowgraph








From: Red Butte Western

Forty-two miles south-west of Angels, at a point where all further
progress seems definitely barred by the huge barrier of the great
mountain range, the Red Butte Western, having picked its devious way to
an apparent cul-de-sac among the foot-hills and hogbacks, plunges
abruptly into the echoing canyon of the Eastern Timanyoni.

For forty added miles the river chasm, throughout its length a narrow,
tortuous crevice, with sheer and towering cliffs for its walls, affords
a precarious footing for the railway embankment, leading the double line
of steel with almost sentient reluctance, as it seems, through the
mighty mountain barrier. At its western extremity the canyon forms the
gate-way to a shut-in valley of upheaved hills and inferior mountains
isolated by wide stretches of rolling grassland. To the eastward and
westward of the great valley rise the sentinel peaks of the two
enclosing mountain ranges; and across the shut-in area the river
plunges from pool to pool, twisting and turning as the craggy and
densely forested lesser heights constrain it.

Red Butte, the centre of the evanescent mining excitement which was
originally responsible for the building of the railroad, lies
high-pitched among the shouldering spurs of the western boundary range.
Seeking the route promising the fewest cuts and fills and the easiest
grades, Chandler, the construction chief of the building company, had
followed the south bank of the river to a point a short distance beyond
the stream-fronting cliffs of the landmark hill known as Little Butte;
and at the station of the same name he had built his bridge across the
Timanyoni and swung his line in a great curve for the northward climb
among the hogbacks to the gold-mining district in which Red Butte was
the principal camp.

Elsewhere than in a land of sky-piercing peaks and continent-cresting
highlands, Little Butte would have been called a true mountain. On the
engineering maps of the Red Butte Western its outline appears as a
roughly described triangle with five-mile sides, the three angles of the
figure marked respectively by Silver Switch, Little Butte station and
bridge, and the Wire-Silver mine.

Between Silver Switch and the bridge station, the main line of the
railroad follows the base of the triangle, with the precipitous bluffs
of the big hill on the left and the torrenting flood of the Timanyoni on
the right. Along the eastern side of the triangle, and leaving the main
track at Silver Switch, ran the spur which had formerly served the
Wire-Silver when the working opening of the mine had been on the eastern
slope of the ridge-like hill. For some years previous to the summer of
overturnings this spur had been disused, though its track, ending among
a group of the old mine buildings five miles away, was still in
commission.

Along the western side of the triangle, with Little Butte station for
its point of divergence from the main line, ran the new spur, built to
accommodate Flemister after he had dug through the hill, ousted the
rightful owner of the true Wire-Silver vein, and had transferred his
labor hamlet and his plant--or the major part of both--to the western
slope of the butte, at this point no more than a narrow ridge separating
the eastern and western gulches.

Train 205, with ex-engineer Judson apparently sound asleep in one of the
rearward seats of the day coach, was on time when it swung out of the
lower canyon portal and raced around the curves and down the grades in
its crossing of Timanyoni Park. At Point-of-Rocks Judson came awake
sufficiently to put his face to the window, with a shading hand to cut
off the car lights; but having thus located the train's placement in the
Park-crossing race, he put his knees up against the back of the
adjoining seat, pulled his cap over his eyes, and to all outward
appearances went to sleep again. Four or five miles farther along,
however, there came a gentle grinding of brake-shoes upon the chilled
wheel-treads that aroused him quickly. Another flattening of his nose
against the window-pane showed him the familiar bulk of Little Butte
looming black in the moonlight, and a moment later he had let himself
silently into the rear vestibule of the day coach, and was as silently
opening the folding doors of the vestibule itself.

Hanging off by the hand-rails, he saw the engine's headlight pick up the
switch-stand of the old spur. The train was unmistakably slowing now,
and he made ready to jump if the need should arise, picking his place at
the track side as the train lights showed him the ground. As the speed
was checked, Judson saw what he was expecting to see. Precisely at the
instant of the switch passing, a man dropped from the forward step of
the smoker and walked swiftly away up the disused track of the old
spur. Judson's turn came a moment later, and when his end of the day
coach flicked past the switch-stand he, too, dropped to the ground, and,
waiting only until he could follow without being detected, set out after
the tall figure, which was by that time scarcely more than an indistinct
and retreating blur in the moonlight.

The chase led directly up the old spur, but it did not continue quite to
the five-mile-distant end of it. A few hundred yards short of the
stockade enclosing the old buildings the shadowy figure took to the
forest and began to climb the ridge, going straight up, as nearly as
Judson could determine. The ex-engineer followed, still keeping his
distance. From the first bench above the valley level he looked back and
down into the stockade enclosure. All of the old buildings were dark,
but one of the two new and unpainted ones was brilliantly lighted, and
there were sounds familiar enough to Judson to mark it as the
Wire-Silver power-house. Notwithstanding his interest in the chase,
Judson was curious enough to stand a moment listening to the sharply
defined exhausts of the high-speeded steam-engine driving the
generators.

"Say!" he ejaculated, under his breath, "if that engine ain't a dead
match for the old 216 pullin' a grade, I don't want a cent! Double
cylinder, set on the quarter, and choo-chooin' like it ought to have a
pair o' steel rails under it. If I had time I'd go down yonder and break
a winder in that power-shack; blamed if I wouldn't!"

But, unhappily, there was no time to spare; as it was, he had lingered
too long, and when he came out upon the crest of the narrow ridge and
attained a point of view from which he could look down upon the
buildings clustering at the foot of the western slope, he had lost the
scent. The tall man had disappeared as completely and suddenly as if the
earth had opened and swallowed him.

This, in Judson's prefiguring, was a small matter. The tall man, whom
the ex-engineer had unmistakably recognized at the moment of
train-forsaking as Rankin Hallock, was doubtless on his way to
Flemister's head-quarters at the foot of the western slope. Why he
should take the roundabout route up the old spur and across the
mountain, when he might have gone on the train to Little Butte station

and so have saved the added distance and the hard climb, was a question
which Judson answered briefly: for some reason of his own, Hallock did
not wish to be seen going openly to the Wire-Silver head-quarters. Hence
the drop from the train at Silver Switch and the long tramp up the
gulch and over the ridge.

Forecasting it thus, Judson lost no time on the summit of mysterious
disappearances. Choosing the shortest path he could find which promised
to lead him down to the mining hamlet at the foot of the
westward-fronting slope, he set his feet in it and went stumbling down
the steep declivity, bringing up, finally, on a little bench just above
the mine workings. Here he stopped to get his breath and his bearings.
From his halting-place the mine head-quarters building lay just below
him, at the right of the tunnel entrance to the mine. It was a long log
building of one story, with warehouse doors in the nearer gable and
lighted windows to mark the location of the offices at the opposite end.

Making a detour to dodge the electric-lighted tunnel mouth, Judson
carefully reconnoitred the office end of the head-quarters building.
There was a door, with steps giving upon the down-hill side, and there
were two windows, both of which were blank to the eye by reason of the
drawn-down shades. Two persons, at least, were in the lighted room;
Judson could hear their voices, but the thick log walls muffled the
sounds to an indistinct murmur. On the mountain-facing side of the
building, which was in shadow, the ex-engineer searched painstakingly
for some open chink or cranny between the logs, but there was no avenue
of observation either for the eye or the ear. Just as he had made up his
mind to risk the moonlight on the other side of the head-quarters, a
sound like the moving of chairs on a bare floor made him dodge quickly
behind the bole of a great mountain pine which had been left standing at
the back of the building. The huge tree was directly opposite one of the
windows, and when Judson looked again the figure of a man sitting in a
chair was sharply silhouetted on the drawn window-shade.

Judson stared, rubbed his eyes, and stared again. It had never occurred
to him before that the face of a man, viewed in blank profile, could
differ so strikingly from the same face as seen eye to eye. That the man
whose shadow was projected upon the window-shade was Rankin Hallock, he
could not doubt. The bearded chin, the puffy lips, the prominent nose
were all faithfully outlined in the exaggerated shadowgraph. But the hat
was worn at an unfamiliar angle, and there was something in the erect,
bulking figure that was still more unfamiliar. Judson backed away and
stared again, muttering to himself. If he had not traced Hallock almost
to the door of Flemister's quarters, there might have been room for the
thin edge of the doubt wedge. The unfamiliar pose and the rakish tilt of
the soft hat were not among the chief clerk's remembered
characteristics; but making due allowance for the distortion of the
magnified facial outline, the profile was Hallock's.

Having definitely settled for himself the question of identity, Judson
renewed his search for some eavesdropping point of vantage. Risking the
moonlight, he twice made the circuit of the occupied end of the
building. There was a line of light showing under the ill-fitting door,
and with the top step of the down-hill flight for a perching-place one
might lay an ear to the crack and overhear. But door and steps were
sharply struck out in the moonlight, and they faced the mining hamlet
where the men of the day shift were still stirring.

Judson knew the temper of the Timanyoni miners. To be seen crouching on
the boss's doorstep would be to take the chance of making a target of
himself for the first loiterer of the day shift who happened to look his
way. Dismissing the risky expedient, he made a third circuit from
moon-glare to shadow, this time upon hands and knees. To the lowly come
the rewards of humility. Framed level upon stout log pillars on the
down-hill side, the head-quarters warehouse and office sheltered a space
beneath its floor which was roughly boarded up with slabs from the
log-sawing. Slab by slab the ex-engineer sought for his rat-hole, trying
each one softly in its turn. When there remained but three more to be
tugged at, the loosened one was found. Judson swung it cautiously aside
and wriggled through the narrow aperture left by its removal. A crawling
minute later he was crouching beneath the loosely jointed floor of the
lighted room, and the avenue of the ear had broadened into a fair
highway.

Almost at once he was able to verify his guess that there were only two
men in the room above. At all events, there were only two speakers. They
were talking in low tones, and Judson had no difficulty in identifying
the rather high-pitched voice of the owner of the Wire-Silver mine. The
man whose profile he had seen on the window-shade had the voice which
belonged to the outlined features, but the listener under the floor had
a vague impression that he was trying to disguise it. Judson knew
nothing about the letter in which Flemister had promised to arrange for
a meeting between Lidgerwood and the ranchman Grofield. What he did know
was that he had followed Hallock almost to the door of Flemister's
office, and that he had seen a shadowed face on the office window-shade
which could be no other than the face of the chief clerk. It was in
spite of all this that the impression that the second speaker was trying
to disguise his voice persisted. But the ex-engineer of fast
passenger-trains was able to banish the impression after the first few
minutes of eavesdropping.

Judson had scarcely found his breathing space between the floor timbers,
and had not yet overheard enough to give him the drift of the low-toned
talk, when the bell of the private-line telephone rang in the room
above. It was Flemister who answered the bell-ringer.

"Hello! Yes; this is Flemister.... Yes, I say; this is Flemister;
you're talking to him.... What's that?--a message about Mr.
Lidgerwood?... All right; fire away."

"Who is it?" came the inquiry, in the grating voice which fitted, and
yet did not fit, the man whom Judson had followed from his boarding of
the train at Angels to Silver Switch, and from the gulch of the old spur
to his disappearance on the wooded slope of Little Butte ridge.

The listener heard the click of the telephone ear-piece replacement.

"It's Goodloe, talking from his station office at Little Butte,"
replied the mine owner. "The despatcher has just called him up to say
that Lidgerwood left Angels in his service-car, running special, at
eight-forty, which would figure it here at about eleven, or a little
later."

"Who is running it?" inquired the other man rather anxiously, Judson
decided.

"Williams and Bradford. A fool for luck, every time. We might have had
to ecraser a couple of our friends."

The French was beyond Judson, but the mine-owner's tone supplied the
missing meaning, and the listener under the floor had a sensation like
that which might be produced by a cold wind blowing up the nape of his
neck.

"There is no such thing as luck," rasped the other voice. "My time was
damned short--after I found out that Lidgerwood wasn't coming on the
passenger. But I managed to send word to Matthews and Lester, telling
them to make sure of Williams and Bradford. We could spare both of them,
if we have to."

"Good!" said Flemister. "Then you had some such alternative in mind as
that I have just been proposing?"

"No," was the crusty rejoinder. "I was merely providing for the
hundredth chance. I don't like your alternative."

"Why don't you?"

"Well, for one thing, it's needlessly bloody. We don't have to go at
this thing like a bull at a gate. I've had my finger on the pulse of
things ever since Lidgerwood took hold. The dope is working all right in
a purely natural way. In the ordinary run of things, it will be only a
few days or weeks before Lidgerwood will throw up his hands and quit,
and when he goes out, I go in. That's straight goods this time."

"You thought it was before," sneered Flemister, "and you got beautifully
left." Then: "You're talking long on 'naturals' and the 'ordinary run of
things,' but I notice you schemed with Bart Rufford to put him out of
the fight with a pistol bullet!"

Judson felt a sudden easing of strains. He had told McCloskey that he
would be willing to swear to the voice of the man whom he had overheard
plotting with Rufford in Cat Biggs's back room. Afterward, after he had
sufficiently remembered that a whiskey certainty might easily lead up to
a sober perjury, he had admitted the possible doubt. But now Flemister's
taunt made assurance doubly sure. Moreover, the arch-plotter was not
denying the fact of the conspiracy with "The Killer."

"Rufford is a blood-thirsty devil--like yourself," the other man was
saying calmly. "As I have told you before, I've discovered Lidgerwood's
weakness--he can't call a sudden bluff. Rufford's play--the play I told
him to make--was to get the drop on him, scare him up good, and chase
him out of town--out of the country. He overran his orders--and went to
jail for it."

"Well?" said the mine-owner.

"Your scheme, as you outlined it to me in your cipher wire this
afternoon, was built on this same weakness of Lidgerwood's, and I agreed
to it. As I understood it, you were to toll him up here with some lie
about meeting Grofield, and then one of us was to put a pistol in his
face and bluff him into throwing up his job. As I say, I agreed to it.
He'll have to go when the fight with the men gets hot enough; but he
might hold on too long for our comfort."

"Well?" said Flemister again, this time more impatiently, Judson
thought.

"He queered your lay-out by carefully omitting to come on the passenger,
and now you propose to fall back upon Rufford's method. I don't
approve."

Again the mine-owner said "Why don't you?" and the other voice took up
the question argumentatively.

"First, because it is unnecessary, as I have explained. Lidgerwood is
officially dead, right now. When the grievance committees tell him what
has been decided upon, he will put on his hat and go back to wherever it
was that he came from."

"And secondly?" suggested Flemister, still with the nagging sneer in his
tone.

There was a little pause, and Judson listened until the effort grew
positively painful.

"The secondly is a weakness of mine, you'll say, Flemister. I want his
job; partly because it belongs to me, but chiefly because if I don't get
it a bunch of us will wind up breaking stone for the State. But I
haven't anything against the man himself. He trusts me; he has defended
me when others have tried to put him wise; he has been damned white to
me, Flemister."

"Is that all?" queried the mine-owner, in the tone of the prosecuting
attorney who gives the criminal his full length of the rope with which
to hang himself.

"All of that part of it--and you are saying to yourself that it is a
good deal more than enough. Perhaps it is; but there is still another
reason for thinking twice before burning all the bridges behind us.
Lidgerwood is Ford's man; if he throws up his job of his own accord, I
may be able to swing Ford into line to name me as his successor. On the
other hand, if Lidgerwood is snuffed out and there is the faintest
suspicion of foul play.... Flemister, I'm telling you right here and now
that that man Ford will neither eat nor sleep until he has set the dogs
on us!"

There was another pause, and Judson shifted his weight cautiously from
one elbow to the other. Then Flemister began, without heat and equally
without compunction. The ex-engineer shivered, as if the measured words
had been so many drops of ice-water dribbling through the cracks in the
floor to fall upon his spine.

"You say it is unnecessary; that Lidgerwood will be pushed out by the
labor fight. My answer to that is that you don't know him quite as well
as you think you do. If he's allowed to live, he'll stay--unless
somebody takes him unawares and scares him off, as I meant to do
to-night when I wired you. If he continues to live, and stay, you know
what will happen, sooner or later. He'll find you out for the
double-faced cur that you are--and after that, the fireworks."

At this the other voice took its turn at the savage sneering.

"You can't put it all over me that way, Flemister; you can't, and, by
God, you sha'n't! You're in the hole just as deep as I am, foot for
foot!"

"Oh, no, my friend," said the cooler voice. "I haven't been stealing in
car-load lots from the company that hires me; I have merely been buying
a little disused scrap from you. You may say that I have planned a few
of the adverse happenings which have been running the loss-and-damage
account of the road up into the pictures during the past few
weeks--possibly I have; but you are the man who has been carrying out
the plans, and you are the man the courts will recognize. But we're
wasting time sitting here jawing at each other like a pair of old women.
It's up to us to obliterate Lidgerwood; after which it will be up to you
to get his job and cover up your tracks as you can. If he lives, he'll
dig; and if he digs, he'll turn up things that neither of us can stand
for. See how he hangs onto that building-and-loan ghost. He'll tree
somebody on that before he's through, you mark my words! And it runs in
my mind that the somebody will be you."

"But this trap scheme of yours," protested the other man; "it's a frost,
I tell you! You say the night passenger from Red Butte is late. I know
it's late, now; but Cranford's running it, and it is all down-hill from
Red Butte to the bridge. Cranford will make up his thirty minutes, and
that will put his train right here in the thick of things. Call it off
for to-night, Flemister. Meet Lidgerwood when he comes and tell him an
easy lie about your not being able to hold Grofield for the right-of-way
talk."

Judson heard the creak and snap of a swing-chair suddenly righted, and
the floor dust jarred through the cracks upon him when the mine-owner
sprang to his feet.

"Call it off and let you drop out of it? Not by a thousand miles, my
cautious friend! Want to stay here and keep your feet warm while I go
and do it? Not on your tintype, you yapping hound! I'm about ready to
freeze you, anyway, for the second time--mark that, will you?--for the
second time. No, keep your hands where I can see 'em, or I'll knife you
right where you sit! You can bully and browbeat a lot of railroad
buckies when you're playing the boss act, but I know you! You come
with me or I'll give the whole snap away to Vice-President Ford. I'll
tell him how you built a street of houses in Red Butte out of company
material and with company labor. I'll prove to him that you've scrapped
first one thing and then another--condemned them so you might sell them
for your own pocket. I'll----"

"Shut up!" shouted the other man hoarsely. And then, after a moment
that Judson felt was crammed to the bursting point with murderous
possibilities: "Get your tools and come on. We'll see who's got the
yellows before we're through with this!"





Next: The Dipsomaniac

Previous: Eleanor Intervenes



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