Sample N07 from Todhunter Ballard, The Night Riders. New York: Pocket Books, Inc., 1961. Pp. 5-11. A part of the XML version of the Brown Corpus2,014 words 499 (24.8%) quotesN07

Used by permission of Todhunter Ballard. 0010-1790

Todhunter Ballard, The Night Riders. New York: Pocket Books, Inc., 1961. Pp. 5-11.

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The flat , hard cap was small , but he thrust it to the back of his head .

`` Tie him up '' .

`` Hell with it '' .

Before they could guess his intention Rankin stepped forward and swung the guard's own gun against the uncovered head , hard . The man went over without sound , falling to the bare floor .

Barton said harshly , `` Why did you do that '' ? ?

Rankin sneered at him . `` What did you want me to do , kiss him ? ? He dumped me in solitary twice '' .

Barton caught the lighter man's shoulder and swung him around .

`` Let's get one thing straight , you and me . The only reason we brought you was to get Miller out . If you ever try anything without my orders I'll kill you '' .

Fred Rankin looked at him . It seemed to Barton that the green eyes mocked him , the thin-lipped smile held insolence , but he had no time to waste now .

`` Come on . Let's move '' .

They filed out through the guard-room door , into the paved square . There were three other men within this prison whom Barton would have liked to liberate , but they were in other cell blocks . There was no chance . They moved slowly , toward the main gate , following the wall . There was no moon . They had chosen this night purposely . They reached the guard house without alerting the men on the walls above , and Powers slipped through the door .

Two men were on duty inside , playing pinochle , relaxed . They looked up in surprise as Powers came in .

`` What are you doing out of the block '' ? ?

`` It's Curtiss '' , he said , naming the man Rankin had hit . `` I've got to have help '' .

They stared at him . The sergeant in charge climbed to his feet .

`` What's wrong with him '' ? ?

`` He's having some kind of a fit '' .

The sergeant turned to the door . As he passed through it Barton shoved his gun against the man's side .

`` One sound and you're dead '' .

The sergeant froze . Powers had not followed . Powers was covering the remaining guard . The man half-reached for the cord of the alarm bell . Powers knocked his arm aside . Deliberately , with none of Rankin's viciousness , he laid the barrel of his gun alongside the guard's head .

They were free . Even Barton could not quite believe it . It had gone without a hitch . They slid through the wicket in the big gate , ghosted across the dark ground . Five minutes later they reached the horses . Barton was relieved to see that Carl Dill and Emmett Foster had brought extra mounts . He had been worried that with Miller and Rankin added to the escape party they would be short .

No one hurried . They walked the horses , heading along the river , Barton and Emmett Foster in the lead , seven men riding quietly through the night .

The only thing which would have attracted attention was that two wore the uniform of prison guards , three the striped suits of convicts .

Five miles .

In a small grove against the river they halted , turning deep into the protection of the trees . Foster had brought extra clothing also . A good man , Emmett . He had been one of the original Night Riders , one who had escaped the trial . It was to him that Barton had sent Carl Dill on Dill's release from the prison .

Clyde Miller was crying softly to himself , shedding his striped suit and fumbling into the nondescript butternut pants , the worn brown shirt . Kid Boyd was unusually silent , Rankin watchful , a few paces apart . Barton finished his dressing and extended his hand to Powers .

`` I won't even try to thank you '' .

The ex-prison guard was embarrassed . He said in a studied voice , `` I didn't do it for you . I did it for the valley . You're the only man the Night Riders will follow . We've been starving and I don't like to starve '' .

Barton turned away , his eyes falling upon Rankin beside his horse .

`` Good luck '' .

The murderer lifted his head . `` Meaning you want me to ride out '' ? ?

`` You aren't one of us . There's nothing for you here '' .

`` I got no place to go '' .

Barton hesitated . He did not trust Rankin , his violent temper , his killer instinct . But ten years in prison had taught him realities . They were in a fight , outweighed in both numbers and money . It was all right to put a bunch of ranchers onto horses , to call them Night Riders , to set out to attack the largest mining combination the country had ever seen if all they wanted was adventure . But if they really hoped to succeed they needed professionals , men who knew how to use a gun against men , who would match the killers on the other side .

`` Your choice '' , he said briefly , and turned to Kid Boyd . `` Bury those uniforms so they won't be found '' .

Then Barton touched Carl Dill's arm and moved off , up the river bank . He wanted a careful , uninterrupted report from Dill on the conditions in the valley .

They squatted on their heels in the deep mud and Dill found a cigar in his breast pocket , passing it over silently . He too knew the agony of going for weeks , sometimes months without the solace of tobacco .

Mitchell Barton drew in the fragrance deeply , letting the smoke lie warm and soothing in his throat for a moment before he exhaled .

Through the gloom he could not see the man beside him clearly but he knew him thoroughly . For his first five years in prison , they had shared a cell .

Carl Dill was neither a rancher nor a valley man . He had been the auditor for the mining syndicate , and he had stolen fifty thousand dollars of the syndicate's money . He had done time for the theft .

The one thing they had in common was their hatred . Both hated Donald Kruger . It had drawn them together , and since his release from prison Dill had worked tirelessly to effect this night's escape .

He said now , `` I've got the perfect headquarters set up . The old Haskell mine '' .

Mitch Barton knew the place . Twenty years before a group of Easterners had bought out the Haskell claims in the rocky hills south of Grass Valley . They had spent a million dollars , carving in a road , putting up buildings , drilling their haulage tunnel . Then the vein had petered out and the whole project had been abandoned .

`` The road's washed badly '' , said Dill , `` but there's a trail you can get over with a horse . A company of cavalry couldn't come in there if two men were guarding that trail '' .

Barton nodded . `` How do the valley people feel '' ? ?

`` As mad as ever . But Kruger's men keep them off balance , and they don't trust me . I'm an outsider . When they learn you're in the hills though , they'll rally , don't worry about that '' .

Barton waited for a long moment , then asked the question which lay always uppermost in his mind .

`` My boy . Did you find him '' ? ?

Dill was silent as if he hated to answer , and Barton had a cold , sick feeling of apprehension .

`` He's in Morgan's Ferry '' .

Barton half-straightened in surprise .

`` What's he doing there '' ? ?

Again Dill hesitated . `` Dealing faro '' .

`` Dealing faro ? ? How come '' ? ?

`` Your sister-in-law has the faro bank in Cap Ayres' saloon '' .

Barton cursed under his breath . After another long pause he asked , `` How many people know who they are '' ? ?

`` Everyone . Your cousin Finley saw to that . He's quite a rat , you know . He sold out to Kruger's men . He's informed them of everything you've ever written him . He wants your ranch '' .

Barton stood up . He said tensely , `` All right . Let's go get the boy '' .

Dill had come up also . `` I was afraid of this . I almost didn't tell you '' .

`` If you hadn't I'd have killed you '' .

Dill's voice tightened . `` But you can't ride into the Ferry . That's what they'll expect you to do . They'll be there waiting for you . I understand how you feel about the child .

`` The hell you do '' . Barton's voice was rougher than Dill had ever heard it . `` I never saw him . My wife died in childbirth after I was sent away .

`` I can't leave him there . Donald Kruger would like nothing better than to hold him as hostage , and I wouldn't entrust a snake to his tender care . I've got to get the boy . Let's ride '' .

Chapter two Barton's men cut the telegraph wires in half a dozen places , carrying away whole sections to make repairs more difficult . It was over an hour before their escape was discovered , but still the news that Barton was free flashed across the central portion of the state .

It reached Donald Kruger in his massive home in Burlingame . It reached the mines at North San Juan and Bloomfield . It brought men out of bed and sent them into hurried conferences .

For everyone involved knew that the whole valley was a powder keg , and Mitchell Barton the fuse which could send it into explosive violence .

Creighton Hague sat in his office above the Ione pit . The office was of logs , four rooms , each heated by an iron stove . The building was dwarfed by the scene outside . There a dozen giant monitors played their seventy-five-foot jets of water against the huge seam of tertiary gravel which was the mountainside .

The gravel was the bed of an ancient river , buckled in some prehistoric upheaval of earth . It was partially cemented by ages and pressure , yet it crumpled before the onslaught of the powerful streams , the force of a thousand fire hoses , and with the gold it held washed down through the long sluices . A million dollars' of gold a month . A million tons of rock and soil and brush .

The monitors ran twenty-four hours each day . Their roar , like the swelling volume of a hundred tornadoes could be heard for miles . Hague , like all who worked near the pits , was partly deafened from the constant assault against his eardrums .

He was a big man , wearing a neat flannel shirt against the cold foothill air . Fat showed in loose rolls beneath the shirt . Ten years older than Mitch Barton , he had clawed his way up from mucker in the pits to manager of the operation .

He was proud of his accomplishments , proud of his job , proud that Donald Kruger and his associates trusted him . He lived and breathed for the mining company .

No man could have reached his spot nor held it without being ruthless , and Hague had made a virtue of ruthlessness all of his life .

There came a ghost of noise at the office door and Hague swung to see Kodyke in the entrance from the outer room . Hague had never accustomed himself to Kodyke . The man was tall , thin , with a narrow face and a too-large nose . The eyes always held Hague , eyes of a dead man , lidless as a lizard's , with the fixed intensity of a cobra . Even Hague was repelled by the machinelike deadliness that was Kodyke .

He knew nothing about the man's history . Kodyke had appeared at the mine one day bearing a letter from Kruger . Kodyke was to head the dread company police . He ran the change rooms . He threw out the hi-graders . He supervised the cleanups and handled the shipments of raw gold which each week went out to San Francisco .

Hague squeezed down his uneasy dislike . He pulled open the top drawer of his desk and drew out a tintype .

`` This is Mitchell Barton . He broke out of Folsom last night . Apparently he bribed one of the guards . We want him back there or we want him dead '' .

Kodyke took the picture in a lean hand , studying it thoughtfully .

`` Dangerous '' ? ?

`` Dangerous , yes . You know how the ranchers in the valley are . They blame us for all their troubles . Ten years ago they blew up some of our ditches . It cost us a hundred thousand dollars and thirty days lost time to fix them . We don't want Barton's Night Riders loose again '' .

The gunman nodded , slipping the picture into his breast pocket , saying nothing .

Normally Hague wasted no words , but now he found himself unable to stop their flow although he knew Kodyke was aware of all he said .