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Two Hats On A Rack

Part of: LUCK
From: Crooked Trails And Straight

One casual remark of Mackenzie had given Kate a clew. Even before she had
explained it, Curly caught the point and began to dig for the truth. For
though he was almost a boy, the others leaned on him with the expectation
that in the absence of Maloney he would take the lead. Before they
separated for the night he made Mackenzie go over every detail he could
remember of the meeting between Cullison and Fendrick at the Round-Up
Club. This was the last time the two men had been seen together in public,
and he felt it important that he should know just what had taken place.

In the morning he and Kate had a talk with his uncle on the same subject.
Not content with this, he made the whole party adjourn to the club rooms
so that he might see exactly where Luck had sat and the different places
the sheepman had stood from the time he entered until the poker players

Together Billie Mackenzie and Alec Flandrau dramatized the scene for the
young people. Mac personated the sheepman, came into the room, hung up his
hat, lounged over to the poker table, said his little piece as well as he
could remember it, and passed into the next room. Flandrau, Senior, taking
the role of Cullison, presently got up, lifted his hat from the rack, and
went to the door.

With excitement trembling in her voice, the girl asked an eager question.
"Were their hats side by side like that on adjoining pegs?"

Billie turned a puzzled face to his friend. "How about that, Alec?"

"That's how I remember it."

"Same here, my notion is."

"Both gray hats?" Curly cut in.

His uncle looked helplessly at the other man. "Can't be sure of that.
Luck's was gray all right."

"Cass wore a gray hat too, seems to me," Mackenzie contributed, scratching
his gray hair.

"Did Father hesitate at all about which one to take?"

"No-o. I don't reckon he did. He had turned to ask me if I was
coming--wasn't looking at the hats at all."

Curly looked at Kate and nodded. "I reckon we know how Cass got Mr.
Cullison's hat. It was left on the rack."

"How do you mean?" his uncle asked.

"Don't you see?" the girl explained, her eyes shining with excitement.
"Father took the wrong hat. You know how absent-minded he is sometimes."

Mackenzie slapped his knee. "I'll bet a stack of blues you've guessed

"There's a way to make sure," Curly said.

"I don't get you."

"Fendrick couldn't wear Mr. Cullison's hat around without the risk of
someone remembering it later. What would he do then?"

Kate beamed. "Buy another at the nearest store."

"That would be my guess. And the nearest store is the New York Emporium.
We've got to find out whether he did buy one there on Tuesday some time
after nine o'clock in the morning."

The girl's eyes were sparkling. She bustled with businesslike energy.
"I'll go and ask right away."

"Don't you think we'd better let Uncle Alec find out? He's not so likely
to stir up curiosity," Curly suggested.

"That's right. Let me earn my board and keep," the owner of the Map of
Texas volunteered.

Within a quarter of an hour Alec Flandrau joined the others at the hotel.
He was beaming like a schoolboy who has been given an unexpected holiday.

"You kids are right at the head of the class in the detective game. Cass
bought a brown hat, about 9:30 in the mo'ning. Paid five dollars for it.
Wouldn't let them deliver the old one but took it with him in a paper

With her lieutenants flanking her Kate went straight to the office of the
sheriff. Bolt heard the story out and considered it thoughtfully.

"You win, Miss Cullison. You haven't proved Fendrick caused your father's
disappearance by foul play, and you haven't proved he committed the
robbery. Point of fact I don't think he did either one. But it certainly
looks like he may possibly have manufactured evidence."

Curly snorted scornfully. "You're letting your friend down easy, Mr. Bolt.
By his own story he was on the ground a minute after the robbery took
place. How do we know he wasn't there a minute before? For if he didn't
know the hold-up was going to occur why did he bring Mr. Cullison's hat
with him punctured so neatly with bullet holes?"

"I'll bet a thousand dollars he is at the bottom of this whole thing,"
Mackenzie added angrily.

The sheriff flushed. "You gentlemen are entitled to your opinions just as
I'm entitled to mine. You haven't even proved he took Mr. Cullison's hat;
you've merely showed he may have done it."

"We've given you a motive and some evidence. How much more do you want?"
Curly demanded.

"Hold your hawses a while, Flandrau, and look at this thing reasonable.
You're all prejudiced for Cullison and against Fendrick. Talk about
evidence! There's ten times as much against your friend as there is
against Cass."

"Then you'll not arrest Fendrick?"

"When you give me good reason to do it," Bolt returned doggedly.

"That's all right, Mr. Sheriff. Now we know where you stand," Flandrau,
Senior, said stiffly.

The harassed official mopped his face with a bandanna. "Sho! You all make
me tired. I'm not Fendrick's friend while I'm in this office any more than
I'm Luck's, But I've got to use my judgment, ain't I?"

The four adjourned to meet at the Del Mar for a discussion of ways and

"We'll keep a watch on Fendrick--see where he goes, who he talks to, what
he does. Maybe he'll make a break and give himself away," Curly said

"But my father--we must rescue him first."

"As soon as we find where he is. Me, I'm right hopeful all's well with
him. Killing him wouldn't help Cass any, because you and Sam would prove
up on the claim. But if he could hold your father a prisoner and get him
to sign a relinquishment to him he would be in a fine position."

"But Father wouldn't sign. He ought to know that."

"Not through fear your father wouldn't. But if Fendrick could get at him
some way he might put down his John Hancock. With this trouble of Sam
still unsettled and the Tin Cup hold-up to be pulled off he might sign."

"If we could only have Fendrick arrested--"

"What good would that do? If he's guilty he wouldn't talk. And if he is
holding your father somewhere in the hills it would only be serving notice
that we were getting warm. No, I'm for a still hunt. Let Cass ride around
and meet his partners in this deal. We'll keep an eye on him all right."

"Maybe you're right," Kate admitted with a sigh.

Next: Anonymous Letters

Previous: Ain't She The Gamest Little Thoroughbred?

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