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A Short Story By JIM KJELGARD HAMMERS STOOD on the ridge, looking down into Lost Valley, when he heard the blood hound bay. It was a deep and resonant sound that floated past him into the distance, struck some invisible barrier there, and shattered into a dozen hollow echoes that came bounding back. A second after the sound arose, it was hushed. Hammers shifted the heavy, 'scope-sighted hunting rifle from his left hand to his right and turned around. The wind that blew from the direction in which the hound's bay had arisen parted his straw colored hair and brought a thin film of moisture to his cold, agate eyes. He turned again, to face the long, rock-bound valley. He did not hurry or make any motion that was not deliberately calculated. Everything was working out to an exact and set pattern. It was a pattern whose every turn and minutest detail he had deter mined even before he had stepped ORDER NOW! from HIGH Carbon Rail Steel Fence WEISSMAN'S ALUMINUM ROOFING / Posts Southwest Super Strength Studded-! Fence Posts ft b Special Wholesale Prices to Carload Buyers Will Last LIFETIME 6 ALUMINUM . ROOFING a Lifetime per 100 sq. ft. .■L" " (no allowance made for lap) Mail Orders Promptly Filled CARL WEISSMAN & SONS 300 Third Avenue Sout 218 Fourth Street South When you advertise in MONTANA FARMER-STOCKMAN you reach more than 32,000 farm families. WARNING Don't let the rain hold up your Hay and Grain Harvest. Use Hesse Hay and Grain Dryer. Harvest your crop without danger of moisture spoilage or heat. See your nearest Hesse dealer or write the HESSE COMP ANT 1213 Dace Street, Sioux City, Iowa from the barn back in Coldwater and shattered Vance George's spine with a two hundred and twenty grain slug from his rifle. Hammers had known when he slew Vance George that he would have to run before Sheriff Joe Healey's blood hounds. But he had also known exactly how he was going to run and where he was going to go. Sheriff Joe Healey would follow a pattern. Of his two blood hounds, one would be loosed on the trail to run ahead. The other, leashed, would walk beside Joe Healey. Cold water's sheriff, a steady, slow man who would not easily change his methods, invari ably hunted that way. For a moment, letting his jaw hang open the better to hear, Ham mers listened for a repetition of the bloodhound's voice. There was none, but he hadn't expected any. Joe Healey's hounds did not often bay on a trail. But they had tongued once, and they were precisely where THIS 'frufi&X HYDRAULIC SCOOP Handles all dirt r^oving jobs quickly, easily . . . low cost. COMPLETE LINE OF TERRACING GRADERS. COMBINATION DOZERS & SNOWPLOWS. HYDRAULIC HOISTS. Write lor Details and Literature Duplex Mfjj- Co., Dept, o, last Omoho, Nebr Hammers had thought they would be. The pattern was working out in exact detail. HAMMERS STARTED down into Lost valley. That was a long, ugly, serpentine gash in the earth. Huge boulders were spread haphazardly on the low hills that flanked it, and, in the bottom of the valley, a sparkling little stream wandered disconsolate ly among the boulders. Here and A I He knew exactly how far to elevate the mus ile of his rifle. . . . The, first shot would kill Joe Healey. ... r * there a few scraggly bushes strug gled for a root hold among the gray desolation. But the only vegetation worthy of note was four hundred feet ahead of Hammers and on top of the north ridge. A big pine, with dead spikes of branches halfway up its rough barked trunk, had somehow found a rooting place in the only patch of soil among the dead, gray boulders. For a hundred feet all around it, seeds that the big pine had cast down fought for survival in the barren soil and some were winning their fight. Little pines, from three to 10 feet high, clustered thickly about the base of the big one and formed a green oasis in this valley of no color. Hammers glanced at it again. The cluster of pines had been included in his plans to kill Vance George, and before he had blasted the back of his old enemy with a slug, Ham mers had come up here with a sur veyor's tape and measured the dis tance from the edge of the pines to a big, alligator-like rock in the very bottom of the valley. It had been ex actly 381 yards, easy shooting range for the rifle he carried. HAMMERS WALKED on, meas uring his steps with the clock-like precise mechanism of a co-ordinated and disciplined brain. When he left Coldwater he had counted on an hour's start. Of course the blast of the rifle would have been heard and investigated at once. Vance George's body, lying in the darkened alley, would be found almost immediately. But it would still be an hour before whoever found it collected his jolted senses and reported that find to Sheriff Healey, and until the sheriff got on the trail. Hammers stepped into the icy lit tie stream and waded for 200 feet down it. Even as he did so, he was aware that it was a foolish thing and a childish trick. Nobody in the world could .throw a trained blood hound off his trail merely by walk ing in the water. The dog might hesitate, but he would find the trail. Just the same, to anyone watching with binoculars from the head of the valley, this little break, and the dog's actions when he came to it, would convey the impression of a terrified fugitive who was striving desperately to hide his trail. KÄMMERS EMERGED from the stream and started in to run. He was still not panic-stricken or afraid because he had calculated every thing to the last decimal point. Joe Healey's blood hounds could detect body scent of a man at 1,000 feet, But, with the wind against them. they could not detect that same scent at 381 yards, Where the valley bent sharply to west, Hammers mounted the north slope. Reaching its summit, he aban doned all pretense and started in to run. Hammers was almost back at the cluster of pines when he saw the hound go by. It was a big, dun colored dog with flapping ears and wagging trail, and it was trotting slowly down Lost valley on the exact trail he had made. Hammers smiled, but made no effort to con ceal himself. A blood hound was interested only in the trail it fol lowed and in the various scent stories that trail revealed. It would never trust its eyes or look for its prey. Hammers watched the dog go down the valley. The pattern was' still working out in exact detail. Within five minutes Sheriff Joe Healeyf and the leashed hound, would appear. Hammers lov ingly caressed the rifle he carried. He could not miss, and the citizens of Coldwater had a deep and abiding faith in their sheriff. They'd expect him to be gone two or three days on this hunt. With even 24 hours un hindered start, Hammers knew he could get so deep within the wild erness that nobody would ever find him. HAMMERS LOOKED at the bot tom of the valley to find the alli gator-shaped rock. He discerned it, and made his way toward the in viting pines. He knew exactly how far to elevate the muzzle of his rifle from their outer-most fringe to the alligator-shaped rock. The first shot would kill Joe Healey, and it would be easy to take care of the hounds. Hammers backed into the pines. ^'^ ien was jolted into a cold, terrifying paralysis by the sound of an eas y. almost tired voice, "All riS^t, Hammers, drop your gun." Hammers let the hunting rifle fall from nerveless fingers and forced himself around to face Joe Healey. Beads of sweat stood on the sheriff's forehead and his face was red, as though he had been running. But the muzzle of the .38 into which Hammers looked did not waver. Joe Healey spoke, "You lousy, yellow-bellied bush whackers all think on the same track, don'cha, Hammers? Of four I've followed up here in the last nine years, ever' blasted one has tried the same dam' thing.