While no larger than Dutch Springs , this mining supply town had the appearance of being far busier and more prosperous .
Men crowded the streets and freight rigs and teams were moving about .
Although they were forced to maintain a sharper watch , this activity enabled them to ride in and rack their broncs without any particular attention being paid them .
`` Gyp'll be holdin' forth in some bar if he's here at all '' , Cobb declared , glancing along the street as they stretched their legs .
There were no less than six or seven saloons in Ganado , not counting the lower class dives , all vying for the trade of celebrating miners and teamsters .
Pat only nodded .
`` Take one side of the street , and I'll take the other '' , he proposed .
`` If you spot Carmer give a yell before you move in '' .
Cobb's assent was tight .
`` You do the same .
It's all I ask , Stevens '' .
Separating , they took different sides of the main drag and systematically combed the bars .
Russ visited two places without result and his blood pressure was down to zero .
Suddenly it seemed to him insane that they might hope to locate Gyp Carmer so casually , even were he to prove the thief .
He tramped out of the Miners Rest with his hopes plummeting , and headed doggedly for the Palace Saloon , the last place of any consequence on this side of the street .
The Palace was an elaborate establishment , built practically on stilts in front , with long flights of wooden steps running up to the porch .
Behind its ornate facade the notorious dive clung like a bird's nest to the rocky ribs of the canyonside .
Russ ran up the steps quickly to the plank porch .
The front windows of the place were long and narrow , reaching nearly to the floor and affording an unusually good view of the interior .
Heading for the batwings , Cobb glanced perfunctorily through the nearest window , and suddenly dodged aside .
Nerves tight as a bowstring , he paused to gather his wits .
Against all expectation , Carmer was inside , clearly enjoying himself to the hilt and already so tipsy that it seemed unlikely he was bothering to note anything or anyone about him .
Fierce anger surged through Russ .
He fought down the impulse to rush in and collar the vicious puncher on the spot .
Reaching the porch rail beyond view of the bar windows , he feverishly scanned the busy street below .
Stevens was nowhere in sight .
Muffling an exclamation , Russ sprang to the nearest steps and ran down .
As luck had it , he had not gone twenty feet in the street before Pat appeared .
`` What luck , Cobb '' ? ?
He said swiftly .
Russ pointed upward .
`` He's there '' , he got out tersely , curbing his rising excitement .
Hitching his cartridge belt around , Pat glanced upward briefly at the Palace and started that way with Cobb at his side .
Climbing the steps steadily , they reached the top and headed for the door .
Pat pushed through first .
Forced behind him momentarily , Russ followed at once and halted two steps inside .
His eyes widened .
While five minutes ago the place had presented a scene of easy revelry , with Gyp Carmer a prominent figure , it was now as somnolent and dull as the day before payday .
Carmer himself was nowhere to be seen .
A man knocked the roulette ball about idly in its track , and another dozed at one of the card tables .
Two men murmured with their heads together at the end of the bar , while the sleek-headed bartender absently polished a glass .
Looking the setup over , Stevens started coolly for the rear of the place .
`` Where yuh goin' '' ? ?
It was the barkeep .
Halting , Pat turned to survey him deliberately .
He did not reply , going on toward the back .
Less assured than the tall , wide-shouldered man in the lead , Cobb followed alertly , a hand on his gun butt .
The bartender measured this situation with heavy eyes and decided he wanted no part of it .
He said no more .
A hall opened in back of the bar , running toward an ell .
Pat moved into it .
Small rooms , probably for cards , opened off on either side .
All the doors were open at this hour except one , and it was toward this that Stevens made his way with Russ close at his shoulder .
The door was locked .
A single kick made it spring open , shuddering .
Pat saw Gyp Carmer staggering forward , a half-filled bottle upraised as if to strike .
Russ sprang through to bat it nimbly aside .
With a bellow Carmer lunged at him .
But he was more than half-drunk , and his faculties were dulled .
Cobb unleashed a single powerful jab that sent Gyp reeling wildly and crashing down with a whining groan .
He started to struggle up , heaving desperately .
Russ gave him a brutal thrust that tumbled him over flat on his stomach .
Kneeling , Cobb planted a sturdy knee in the small of his back , holding him pinned .
`` Okay , Stevens .
I've drawn his fangs '' , he snapped .
`` Go through his pockets , will you ? ?
If we have to we'll take him apart and see what he's made of '' ! !
Complying methodically , Pat pulled pocket after pocket inside out without finding a thing .
Cobb watched this with hunted eyes , his desperate hope waning by the moment .
Stevens was grunting over the last empty pocket when Russ abruptly rose and lunged toward Carmer's hat , which had tumbled half-a-dozen feet away when he first fell .
Cobb got it .
Straightening up , his eyes ablaze , he held out the battered Stetson .
`` Look at this '' ! !
Inside the crown , stuffed behind the stained sweatband , could be seen thin , crumpled wads of currency .
Carmer's ingenious cache for his loot had been found .
`` By golly , Stevens ! !
You were right '' , Russ exclaimed , tearing the loose bills out of Carmer's hat .
`` That is , if we can be sure this is Colcord's money '' --
Pat grunted .
`` Where else would he get it ? ?
Count what you've got there , Cobb .
We can soon tell '' .
Russ ran through the bills and named an amount it was highly unlikely any cowpuncher would come by honestly .
Pat nodded .
`` It's within a hundred of what Crip had '' , he declared .
`` We know Penny spent some -- and Carmer must have dropped a few dollars getting that load on '' .
Handing the money over , Russ wiped his hands on his pants-legs as if ridding himself of something unclean .
His glance at Gyp Carmer was disdainful .
`` Shall we get out of here '' ? ?
Leaving the card room , they moved back through the Palace the way they had come .
Glowering looks met them in the bar , but there was no attempt to halt them .
Pausing in the outside door to glance behind him , Pat looked his unspoken warning and stepped out .
He and Cobb clattered down the high steps to the street .
Neither spoke till they reached their horses .
Pat paused there , looking across at the young fellow .
It'll be a pleasure for you to return this money to Colcord and tell him about it , Russ '' .
He started to return it .
To his faint surprise Russ held up his hand .
`` Not me '' , he ruled decidedly .
I've had enough .
It was you that tracked it down anyway , Stevens '' , he pursued strictly .
`` I'll shove along home '' .
`` Whatever you say '' .
Pat swung into the saddle , yet still he delayed , his brows puckered .
`` You owe it to Penny to give her a chance to explain that she was defending you , really '' , he observed mildly .
`` Old Crip wasn't '' , retorted Cobb tartly .
`` He'll know when you tell him .
But I want this to sink in awhile .
Then maybe next time he won't be so quick on the trigger '' .
`` Pat had never pretended to give advice in such affairs .
`` You're the doctor '' , he returned with a smile .
`` But I still think Penny's an awful nice girl , Russ '' --
`` You don't have to tell me '' , flashed Cobb .
Giving the other a dark look , he hauled his bronc around and trotted down off the street .
Pat let him go , following more leisurely .
At the first restaurant he sensibly pulled up to go in for his dinner , and as a consequence did not see Cobb strike the open range at the mouth of the canyon and head straight across the swells for Antler .
The truth was , the puncher was both bewildered and dismayed by his own mixed luck .
`` Penny's always glad to see me over there '' , he mused bleakly .
Yet had he not visited the girl at Saw Buck he would never have been involved in this latest tangle .
Over and above that , however , was his growing suspicion of Chuck Stober's part in recent events .
`` Gyp Carmer couldn't have known about Colcord's money unless he was told -- and who else would have told him '' ? ?
He asked himself .
`` It's the second time War Ax hands made a play for that money .
How much of an accident could that be '' ? ?
Nearing home , he jerked to attention at the distant crack of a gun .
In town no one paid much attention to an occasional shot ; ;
but on the range gunfire had a meaning .
Hauling up , Russ listened carefully .
Two minutes later it came again -- a double explosion , followed by a third , sounding more distant .
As near as Cobb could determine the shots came from the direction of the Antler ranch house .
He tightened up in a twinkling .
So far as he knew , only his father could be there .
What did it mean ? ?
Clapping spurs to the bronc he set off at a sharp canter , with growing alarm .
His first glimpse of the ranch house across the brushy swells told him nothing .
Still a quarter-mile away , the fresh clap of guns only served to increase his speed .
Setting a course straight for the house , he was covering ground fast when an angry bee buzzed past close to his face .
When it was followed by a second , whining even closer , Cobb swerved sharply aside into a depression .
He knew now what he was up against .
Whoever was out there hiding in the brushy cover was besieging the Antler house and , having spotted his approach , was determined to drive him off before he could get into the fight .
Cursing himself for having ridden out the last few days without a rifle in his saddle boot , Russ drew his Colt and examined it briefly .
If he wondered whether the attackers would allow him to pull away unmolested , he had his answer a moment later .
`` Over this way ! !
He ain't gone far '' ! !
A harsh cry floated to him across the brush .
A carbine cracked more loudly , and a slug clipped fragments from the brush off at one side .
The would-be assassin had his position figured pretty close .
Dismounting , Russ looked about hastily .
Toward the west this depression led toward a draw .
Leading his pony , he hurried that way , not remounting till he was well below the level of the surrounding range .
Swinging up then , and bending forward over the horn , he urged his mount down the meandering draw .
He had not covered a hundred yards before a gun crashed from somewhere behind .
He had been sighted , and his attacker pumping shot after shot .
A shot or two went wild before Cobb felt something tug at his foot .
A slug had torn half of his stirrup-guard away .
A second twitched his shirtsleeve , and he felt a brief burn on his upper arm .
Another snarled close overhead .
`` Jumping Jerusalem ! !
Let's get out of here '' ! !
At the first shot Russ had hurled his mount to the left toward the side of the winding draw .
The long minute before he reached effective cover seemed endless .
Sweeping a look around , he saw that he was safe for the moment .
He heard cries from behind him , but he could make out no words .
He dashed madly for the next elbow turn in the draw , and made it .
Recklessly hurling the bronc sidewise into an intersecting draw , he plunged forward with undiminished speed .
Gradually the wash climbed upward , forcing him toward open range .
Yet he must chance it .
He clambered out of the dwindling wash , the loose dirt flying behind him , and flashed a look about .