Deputies All





At the ranch, whither they rode in haste, Luck meant to leave his boys

and go on with the sheriff to town. But the Happy Family flatly refused

to be left behind. Even old Aleck Douglas--whom years and trouble

had enfeebled until his very presence here with Jean and Lite was a

health-seeking mission in the wonderful air of New Mexico--even old

Aleck Douglas stamped his foot at Jean and declared that he was going,

along to see that "the boy" got a square deal. There wouldn't be any

railroading Luck to the pew for something he didn't do, he asserted with

a tragic meaning that wrung the heart of Jean. It took Lite's arguments

and Luck's optimism and, finally, the assurance of the sheriff that Luck

was not under arrest and was in no danger of it, to keep the old man at

the ranch. Also, they promised to return with all speed and not to keep

supper waiting, before the two women were satisfied to let them go.



"Oh, Luck Lindsay," Rosemary bethought her to announce just as they were

leaving, "you better keep an eye out for Annie, while you're in town.

She's gone--and the dog and all her clothes and everything. Maybe she

took the train back to the reservation. I just wanted you to know, so if

you feel you ought to bother--"



"Annie gone?" Even in his preoccupation the mews came with a stab. "When

did she go?"



"We don't know. She set up an awful yowling when you boys went to work.

And the dog commenced howling, till it was simply awful. So we rode

in to town after the mail, and when we came back she was gone, bag and

baggage. We didn't see anything of her on the trail, but she could dodge

us if she wanted to--she's Injun enough for that."



So Luck carried a double load of anxiety with him to town, and the first

thing he did when he reached it was to seek, not the beaten cashier

who had accused him, but the ticket agent at the depot, and the baggage

men--anyone who would be apt to remember Annie-Many-Ponies if she took a

train out of town.



You might think that, with so many Indians coming and going at the

depot, selling their wares and making picturesque setting for the

curios which are purveyed there, that Luck stood a very slight chance of

gaining any information whatever. But a Sioux squaw in Albuquerque would

be as noticeable as a Hindoo. Pueblos, Navajos--they may come and go

unnoticed because of their numbers. But an Indian of another tribe and

style of dress would be conspicuous enough to be remembered. So, when no

one remembered seeing Annie-Many-Ponies, Luck dismissed the conjecture

that she had taken the train, and turned his attention to picking up the

trail of the bank-robbers.



Here the Happy Family, with Applehead and Lite Avery, had managed

to accomplish a good deal in a very short time. The Native Son, for

instance, had ridden straight out from the bank into the Mexican

quarter, as soon as he learned that the red automobile had gone up

Silver Street and turned south on Fourth. By the time Luck reached the

bank Miguel came loping back with the news that the red machine had

crossed the lower bridge and had turned up toward Atrisco, that little

Mexican hamlet which lies between the river and the bluffs where the

white sand of the desert spills over into the nearest corrals and little

pastures.



The others had learned definitely that Bill Holmes had manipulated the

fake camera while the bank was being robbed, and that the man with him,

who bad also driven the machine, was a certain chauffeur of colorless

personality and an unsavory reputation among other drivers; and that

the number of the automobile was a matter of conjecture, since three

different men who were positive they remembered it gave three different

numbers.



In company with the sheriff they called upon the cashier, who was in bed

with his head bandaged and his nerves very much unstrung. He was much

calmer, however, than when he had hysterically accused Luck of betraying

him into putting the money out to be stolen. He admitted now that he

was not at all sure of the voice which talked with him over the phone;

indeed, now when he heard luck speak, he felt extremely doubtful of the

similarity of that other voice. He protested against being blamed for

being too confiding. He had never dreamed, he said, that anyone could be

so bold as to plan a thing like that. It all sounded straight, about the

spoiled negative and so forth. He was very sorry that he had caused

Luck Lindsay any inconvenience or annoyance, and he begged Luck's pardon

several times in the course of his explanation of the details.



They left him still protesting and apologizing and explaining and

touching his bandaged head with self-pitying tenderness. In the street

Luck turned to the sheriff as though his mind was made up to something

which argument could not alter in the slightest degree.



"I realize that in a way I'm partly responsible for this," he said

crisply. "The scenes I took the other day made this play possible

for Ramon and his bunch. What you'd better do right now is to swear

Applehead and me in as deputies--and any of the boys that want to come

along and help round up that bunch. We'll do it, if it's to be done at

all. I feel I kind of owe it to that poor simp in there to get the money

back--sabe? And I owe it to myself to bring in Ramon and Bill Holmes,

and whoever else is with 'em on this; young Rojas we know is for one."



"Where do you aim to look for 'em, if you don't mind telling?" Hank

Miller was staring doubtfully down at Luck.



"Where? Miguel here says they went toward Atrisco. That means they're

hitting for the Navajo reservation. There's three hundred miles of

country straight west, and not so much as a telegraph pole! Mighty few

service stations for the machine, too, when you think of it--and rough

country to travel over. If they try to go by automobile, we'll overhaul

them, most likely, before they get far. Also, we can trace 'em easy

enough."



The sheriff pulled at his stubby mustache and looked the bunch over.

"You know that country?" he asked, still doubtfully. "Them Navvies are

plumb snaky, lemme tell yuh. Ain't like the Pueblos--you're taking a

risk when yuh ride into the Navvy country. They'll get yuh if they get

a chancet; run off your horses, head yuh away from water--they're plumb

MEAN!"



"Well, now, I calc'late I know them Navvies putty tol'ble well,"

Applehead cut in. "I've fit 'em comin' and goin'. Why, my shucks! Ef I

notched my gun for the Navvies I've got off an' on in the course uh my

travels, she'd shore look like a saw-blade, now I'm tellin' yuh!"



"Yes, an' yuh got a couple too many fer to go monkeyin' around on their

groun' agin," the sheriff informed him bluntly. "They ain't forgot the

trip you made over there after Jose Martinez. Best fer you to keep off'n

that reservation, Applehead--and I'm speakin' as a friend."



"As a friend you kin shet up," Applehead retorted pettishly. "Ef

Luck hits fer the Navvy country after them skunks, I calc'late ole

Applehead'll be somers close handy by--"



"Hurry up and swear us in," Luck interrupted. "We've got to get to the

ranch and back with an outfit, yet tonight, so we can hit the trail as

soon as possible. No use for you to take the oath, Andy--what you better

do is to stay at the ranch with the women folks."



"Aleck will be there, and Pete and Tommy and the cook," Andy rebelled

instantly. His hand went up to take the oath with the others.



There on the corner of the street where the shadows lay under a gently

whispering box-elder tree, Hank Miller faced the group that stood with

right hands uplifted and swore them as he had sworn--with the oath that

made deputy sheriffs of them all. He told them that while he did not

believe the thieves had gone to the reservation, and would look for them

elsewhere, the idea was worth acting upon--seeing they wanted to do it

anyway; and that the sheriff's office stood ready to assist them in

any way possible. He wished them luck and hurried away, evidently much

relieved to get away and out of an uncomfortable position.



In the next two hours Luck managed to accomplish a good deal, which

was one of the reasons why he was manager and director of the Flying

U Feature Films. Just for example, he went to a friend who was

also something of a detective, and put him on the job of find

Annie-Many-Ponies--a bigger task than it looked to Luck, as we have

occasion to know. He sent some of the boys back to the ranch in a

machine, and told them just what to bring back with them in the way

of rifles, bedding rolls, extra horses and so on. The horses they had

ridden into town he had housed in a livery stable. He took the Native

Son and a Mexican driver and went over to Atrisco, routed perfectly

polite and terribly sleepy individuals out of their beds and learned

beyond all question that a red automobile with several men in it had

passed through the dusty lanes and had labored up the hill to the desert

mesa beyond and that no one had seen it return.



He sent a hundred-and-fifty-word message to Dewitt of the Great Western

Company in Los Angeles, explaining with perfect frankness the situation

and his determination to get out after the robbers, and made it plain

also that he would not expect salary for the time he spent in the chase.

He ended by saying tersely, "My reputation and standing of company here

at stake," and signed his name in a hasty scrawl that made the operator

scratch his ear reflectively with his pencil when he had counted the

words down to the signature. After that, Luck gave every ounce of his



energy and every bit of his brain to the outfitting of the expedition.



So well did he accomplish the task that by one O'clock that night a

low-voiced company of men rode away from a livery stable in the heart of

the town, leading four pack-horses and heading as straight as might be

for the bridge. They met no one; they saw scarcely a light in any of the

windows that they passed. A chill wind crept up the river so that they

buttoned their coats when the hoofbeats of the horses sounded hollow on

the bridge. Out through the lane that leads to Atrisco, which slept

in the stolid blackness of low adobe houses with flat roofs and tiny

windows, they rode at a trot. Dogs barked, ran but to the road and

barked again, ran back to the adobe huts and kept on barking. In one

field some loose horses, seeing so many of their kind in the lane,

galloped up to the fence and stood there snorting. These were still in

their colthood, however, and the saddle-horses merely flicked ears in

their direction and gave them no more heed.



"I'm glad you're sure of the country, up here on top," Luck said to

Applehead when they had climbed, by the twisting, sandy trail, to the

sand dunes that lay on the edge of the mesa and stretched vaguely away

under the stars. To the rim-rook line that separated this first mesa

from the higher one beyond, Luck himself knew the sand-hills well.

But beyond the broken line of hills off to the northwest he had never

gone--and there lay the territory that belongs to the Navajos, who are

a tricky tribe and do not love the white people who buy their rugs and

blankets and, so claim the Navajos, steal their cattle and their horses

as well.



At the rim of lava rock they made a dry camp and lay down in what

comfort they could achieve, to doze and wait for daylight so that they

could pick up the trail of the red automobile.





Delirium Desert Night facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Feedback