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I THE WRECKERS -sar I
> Copyright by Charles Scribner's Sons — •.. • . .. LOST—ONE PERFECTLY GOOD ENGINE. Synopsis.—Graham Norcross. railroad manager, and his secretary, Jimmie f Podds, are marooned at Sand Creek siding with a young lady. Shelia Macrae, and her small cousin, Maisle Ann. Unseen, they witness a peculiar train hold up. in which a special car is carried off. Norcross recognizes the car us that of John Chadwick, financial magnate, whom he was to meet at I’ortal City. He and Podds rescue Chadwick. The latter offers Norcross the management of the Pioneer Short Line, whicli is in the hands of eastern speculators, headed by Breckenridge Punton, president of the line. Norcross, learning that Sheila Macrae is stopping at Portal City, accepts. Podds overhears conversation be tween Uufus Hatch and Gustave Henekel, Portal City financiers, in which they admit complicity in Chadwick's kidnaping, their object being to keep Chadwick from attending a meeting of directors to reorganize tlie Pioneer ! Short Line, « dch would Jeopardize their Interests. To curb the monopoly con trolled by Hatch and Henekel. the Bed Tower corporation. Norcross forms the Citltzens’ Storage and Warehouse company. He begins to manifest a deep interest in Sheila Macrae. Podds learns that Sheila Is married, but living apart from her husband. Norcross does not know tills. The Boss'disappears; report has it that lie has resigned and gone cast a,-— CHAPTER VI—Continued. —-5— Mr. Van Britt saw and talked with everybody, and when he could wedge off a minute or two of privacy, he'd go into the third room of the suite and thresh it out with Junemnn, or Billoughby, or Mr. Ripley. From these private rants I found out that there was still some doubt in the minds of all four of them about the boss’ drop out—as to whether it was voluntary or not. Also, 1 found out what find been done during the four days. Wo had no “company detective” at that time, and Mr. Ilornack had borrowed a man named Grimmer from his old com pany, the Overland Central, wiring for liim and getting him on the ground ■within twenty-four hours of the time of Mr. Noreross’ disappearance. Grimmer had gone to work at once, but everything he had turned up, so far. favored the voluntary runaway theory. Mr. Noreross' trunks were still in his rooms at the Bullard; but his two grips were gone. And the night clerk at the hotel, when he was pushed to it. remembered that the Stoss had paid his hill up to date that night, before going up to ids rooms. Fast that, the trace was completely h*st. The conductor on the Fast Mail, east bound, on the night in question, -were by all that was good and great that Mr. Noreross hadn’t been a passenger on his train. And he would certainly have known it If lie had been carrying Ids general manager. Over In the oilier field there was • absolutely nothing to incriminate the Hatch people. So far from It, Hatch had turned up at the railroad office, •bright and early the morning after Mr. Norcross hml gone. He lind asked for i lie I'OSS, and fading to find him, Src had hunted up Mr. Van Britt. What Ire wanted, it seemed, was a chance n> reopen the proposition that had .'wen made to him the day before— the offer of the new Citizens’ Storage X Warehouse company to purchase the various Bed Tower equipments and ■plants. Mr. Van Britt had referred him to Mr. Ripley, and to our lawyer Hatch Iuk! made what purported to he an • qw*r. confession, admitting that he had gone to Mr. Norcross the night be fore, determined to fight the new com pany to a finish, and that there had been n good many things said that would better be forgotten. Now, how ever. lie was willing to talk straight Business and a compromise. He had • ailed his hoard of directors together, and they had voted to sell their track hordering plants to Citizens’ Storage X Warehouse if a price could he ami cably agreed upon. With Mr. Norcross gone and a new general manager coming, Mr. Ripley was afraid to make a move, and Hatch was pressing him to get busy on the bargain and sale proposition; was ap parently as anxious now to sell and withdraw as he had at first been to fight everything in sight. By the morning I came on the scene ■he man Grimmer had, as they say, just about done his do. He was only • sorx of journeyman detective, and had run out of clues. When lie came in and talked to Mr. Van Britt and .Mr. Ripley, I could see that he fully believed in the drop-out theory, and ■even the lawyer and Mr. Van Britt tutd to admit (hat the facts were with him. Tlie boss had written a letter saying definitely that he was quitting; he had paid Ills hotel bill, and his grips were gone; and two days later President Dunton had appointed a new general manager, which was proof jiositive, you’d say, that the boss had resigned and had so notified the New York office. When the noon hour came along, 'Fred May took me out to luncheon, and we went to the ISullnrd cafe. It was pretty rich for our blood at two dollars per. but I guess Fred thought his job was gone, anyway, and felt reckless. Over the good things at our coiner tnble we did a little threshing on our own account—and got a lot more chaff and no grain. Fred didn’t want to agree with Grimmer and the facts, hut there didn't seem to be any help for It. And at* for me, 1 had other things In mind all the time—the big scary fear that somebody had got to the boss after he had left Ripley on the night of ■hookings, and had just hashed him In the face with the story of Mrs. Shelln’s sham widowhood. By and hy we got around to my burned hand, and Fred told me Grim mer had at least succeeded In clearing up whatever mystery there was about that. The wall switch for the electric light In the lower hall at the head quarters was right beside the outer door Jamb—as I knew. It had burned out In some way, and that wqs why there was no light on when I went down-stairs. And In burning out It had short-circuited Itself with the brass lock of the door; Fred didn't know just how, but Grimmer had ex plained it. 1 asked him if Grimmer had explained how a 110 volt light cur rent could cook me like a fried potato, and he said he hadn’t. The afternoon at the office was a sort of cut-and-eonie-agaln repeat of tli(> i orriing, with lots of people mill ing around and things going crooked j and cross-ways, as they were bound to with tlie boss gone and a new boss coming. Nobody had any heart for anything, and along late in the after noon when word came of a freight wreck at Cross Creek Gulch, Mr. Van I'.ritt threw up both hands and ylpped and swore like a pirate. It just showed what a raw edge the headquarters’ nerves were taking on. Though it wasn't hi* business, Mr. Veil Ilritt went out with the wreck ing train, and Fred May and I had It all to ourselves for the remaining hour or so tip to closing time. Just before live, Mr. Cantrell, the editor of the Mountaineer, dropped In. He looked a bit disappointed when he found only us two. Fred turned him over to me, and he came on in to the priv ate office when I asked him to, and smoked one of the boss’ good cigars out of a bos that I found In the big desk. I liked Cantrell. He was Just tlie sort of jnan you expect an editor to be; tall and thin and kind of mild >uiu cm aiot'iii ;i > wiui mill that made you feel as if he were thinking along about a mile ahead of you when you were striking the best thlnk-galt you ever knew of. “No word yet from Mr. Norcross, I suppose?" he said. I told him there wasn't. “It’s very slngtilur to me, and to all of us, as it is to you," 1 threw In. The editor smoked on for a full minute without saying anything more, nnd he seemed to be staring absently at a steamship picture on the wall. When he got good nnd ready, he be gan again. “You don’t need any common plain clothes man on this Job, Jimmie; you need the best there Is: a real, dyed in-the-wool Sherlock Holmes, If there ever were such a miracle." “You think It is a case for a de tective?" "I do," he replied, looking straight nt mo with his mild blue eyes, "It I were one of Mr. Norcross* close friends I should get the best help thnt could be found and not lose a single minute about it." Since there was nobody around who was any closer to the boss than I was, I jumped Into the hole pretty quick. “Can you toll us anything thnt will help, Mr. Cantrell?" 1 asked. “Not specifically; I wish 1 could. Rut I can say tills; I know Mr. Unfits Hatch and his associates up one side and down the other. They are hand in-glove with the political pirates who control this state. From the little tlint has Ipnked out, nnd the great deal that has been published In the Hatch controlled newspapers all over the o I cl m 'HII uh juiai c « « rt ftr», it i ^ apparent that Mr. Norcross’ removal was a thing greatly to be desired, not only by the Red Tower people, but also by the political bosses. That ought to be enough to make all of you suspicious—very suspicious, Jim mie.” The tall editor got up and made ready to go. “If I were In your place, or rather in Mr. Van Britt’s, I'd get an expert on this jolt—and I shouldn't let much grass grow under my feet while l was about it. Call me up at the Mountaineer office if I can help." And with that he went away. It was just a little while after this that I put on my hat and strolled across the yard trncks to Klrgnn’s office in the shops. Ivlrgan was an old friend, as you might say: he had been on the Oregon building Job with us and knew the boss through and through. I didn't have anything spe cial to say, but I kind of wanted tb talk to somebody who knew. So 1 loafed In on Klrgnn. He loved the boss like a brother. As soon as I came in, be fired bis kid stenographer on some errand or other, and made me sit down and tell him all I know. When I got through he was pulling at his long mustache and wrinkling Ills nose us I’ve seen n hull dog do when lie was getting ready to bite something. “You haven’t got all the drop-out business cornered over yonder In the general oftlee, Jimmie," he said slow ly, tilting back In Ills swlng-chalr and glowering at me with those sultry eyes * of his. “On that same night that you're talkin’ about, I stand to lose one per fectly good Atlantic-type locomotive. At ten o'clock she was set In on the spur below the coal chutes. At twelve o’clock, when the round-house watch man went down there to see If her tire was banked all right, she was gone." CHAPTER VII The Lost 1010 When Klrgan told me he was shy a whole locomotive, I began to see nil sorts of tire-works. Of course, there was nothing on earth to connect the boss’ disappearance with that of the engine which had been left stand ing below the coal chutes, hut the two things snapped themselves together for me like the halves of nil auto matic coupling, and I couldn't wedge them apart. "An engine—oven n little old Atlan tie-typo-—is a pretty big thing to lose, Isn't It, Klrgan?'’ I asked. K'rgan righted his chair with a crash. "Jimmie. I've silted this blamed out lit through an eighty-mesh screen!" he growled. "With all the devil-to-pay that's goln' on over tit the head quarters, I didn't want to bother Mr. Van ltritr, and I haven't been ad vertisin’ in the newspapers. But it's a holy fact, Jimmie. The 'Slxteen's gone!” I was trying to pry myself loose from the notion that the loss of the engine and the boss’ disappearance at about Ilit1 same time were in some way connected with each other. It was no use; the Idea refused to let go. "Look here, Klrgan," I shoved In; “can you think of any possible reason wny .in. isorcross snouiu write ;ur. Van Britt n letter saying tliat he had ■ quit and was going east on the mid night train and then should change his mind and come down here and go somewhere on that engine?” After I had said It, It sounded so foolish that I wanted to take It back. Hut Kirgan didn’t seem to look at It that way. “Well, I’ll be shot!" he exclaimed. “I never once thought of that! Hut where the devil would he go? And how would he get there without some body finding out? And why In Sam Hill would he do a thing like that, anyway? Why, sufferin' Moses! if he wanted to go anywhere, all he had to do was to order out his ear and tell the dispatcher, and go. “I can’t figure It out any better than you can," 1 confessed. “Mr. Norcross Is gone, and the Ten-Sixteen Is gone, and they both dropped out between ten and twelve o’clock on the same night. Mart, I don’t believe Mr. Nor cross went east at all! I believe, when we find that engine, we’ll find him !" Kirgan got out of Ills chair and be gan to walk tip and down In the little space between Ills desk and the draw “I've Sifted This Blame Outfit Through an Eighty-Mesh Screen." Ing-bonrd. Besides being the best boss mechanic In the West, he was a first class fighting man, with n clear head and nerve to burn. When lie had got as far as he could go alone iie turned on me. “Jimmie, do you reckon this Red Tower outfit was far enough along In Its scrap with the boss to put up a Job to pass him out of the game?" he de manded. I told him It didn't seem to fit Into any twentieth-century scheme of things, tod past that I mentioned the I fact that the Hatch people had taken the back track and were now offering to sell out and stop chocking the wheels of reform. •'I know," he put In. "But I’ve been Tendin’ the papers, Jimmie, and it ain't nil Red Tower, not by a Jugful. The big graft In this neck-a woods Is political, and the Red Tower gang Is only set-n cogs In the bull-wheel. Mr. 1 Norcross was gettln' himself mighty pointedly disliked; you know that. The way he was aimin’ to run things. It was heglnnln' to look as If maybe the people of this stale might wake up some day and turn In and help him." "I know nil about that," I threw In. "But where are you trying to land, Mart?” “Right here. Mr. Norcross was the whole show. Take hint out,of It and the whole shootln'-match would fall to pieces—ns It’s doin’, right now. They didn’t need to slug him or shoot him tip or anything like that: If It could be made to look ns If he'd Jumped the Job. quit, chucked It all up. why, there you are. A new boss would be sent out here, and you could bet your sweet life he wouldn't he anybody like Mr. Norcros^. Not so you could notice It. The New York people would take blamed good cnre-a that.” “You think the Punton people are standing in with the graft?” “Nobody could’ve grabbed off the motive-power job on this railroad, as 1 did. Jimmie, and not think It—and lie d—-n’ sure of it. Why, Lord o’ Heavens, the Red Tower bunch was usin’ us just the same its If we be longed to ’em I—ordering our men to do their machinery repairs, helpin' ' themselves to any railroad material that they happened to need, tisln’ our ears and engines on their loggia' roads and mine branches.*' “You stopped all this?” “You hot 1 did—between two days! They’ve been milkin' seventeen differ cut Klims or n roar over since, nut 1 \e had Mr. Van Britt and the big boss hclilnd me, so I Just shoved ahead." What Klrgan said about the Bed Tower people using our rolling stock on their private branch roads set a bee to hti7.7.tng In my brain. What If they had stolen the 1010 to use in that way? "You have a blue-print of the l’ortal division Imre, haven't you?” I asked. “L)!g it tip and let’s have a look at it." At first the facts threatened to bluff us. The blue-print engineers' map was an old one, but it showed the spurs and side-tracks, tin' stations and water tanks. Since the lost engine had been standing at the western end of the Portal City yards, we didn't try to trace It eastward. To get out In that direction It would have had to pass tlie round-house, the shops, the pas senger station and the headquarters building, and, even at that time of night, somebody would have been sure to see It. Tracing the other way—westward— we had a clear truck for ten miles to Arroyo. Arroyo hail no night opera tor. so we agreed that the stolen en gine might easily have slipped past there without being marked down. Eight miles beyond Arroyo we came to Bantu, the first night station west of Portal City. Here, as we figured it, the wild engine must have been seen by the operator, if by no one else, lhinta was an apple town, and the town Itself might have been asleep, hut the wire man at the sta tion shouldn't have been. ‘‘Let's hold Banta in suspense a hit, and allow that by some means or other the thieves managed"to get by," I suggested. "The next tiling to he considered is the fact that the Ten Sixteen must now have been run ning—without orders, we must^remem ber—against the East Mail coming east. The Mail didn't pass her any where—not officially, at least; if It had, the fact would show up in some station's report to the dispatcher's office." At tills we limited nn an offirlal time-card aud began to figure on the "meet" proposition. The Fast Mall was due at I’ortal City at twelve twenty, and on the night In question It lmd been on time. Making due time allowances for Inaccuracy In the yard watchman's story, the missing engine could hardly have left the Portal City yard much before ten forty-five. The Fast Mall was scheduled at fqrty miles an hour. Its time at ltanta was eleven-fifty-three. Allowing the 1010 the same rate of speed in the opposite direction. It would have passed Paata at eleven-twelve or there abouts. Hence there would still be forty-one minutes running time to be divided between the eustbound train and the westbound engine. In other words, the meeting-point, with the two running at the same speed, would fall ubout twenty minutes west of ilunta. Tracing the line on the blue-print, we hunted for a possible passing point, which, according to the way we had things doped out, should hnve been not more thnn thirteen or fourteen miles west of ltanta. There was a blind siding ten miles west, but be yond tnat, nothing east of Sand Creek, which was twenty-ons miles farther along; at least, there was uothiug that showed up on the limp. The ten-mile siding might have served for tlie pass ing point, but In that case the crew of tlie Fast Mail would surely have seen the 1010 waiting on the siding as they came by. And they hadn't seen It; Klrgan said they had been ques tioned promptly the following morn ing. Though I had been over the road with Mr. Norcross in his private car any number of times since we had taken hold, 1 didn’t recall the detail topographies very clearly, and I couldn't seem to remember anything about this siding ten miles west of Banta. So I nsked Klrgan. “That siding Isn't in any such shape that the Fast Mail could get by with out seeing n ‘meet’ train on the side track, Is It?” The big master-mechanic shook his head. “Hardly, you’d think. I reckon we are up a stump. Jimmie. That siding Is part of an old ’T’ at the mouth of a I We Hunted for a Possible Passing Point. gulch that runs hark into the moun tain* for maybe a dozen miles or so. They tell me the -‘Y’ was put In for the Timber Mountain Lumber outfit when they used the gulch mouth for their shipping point. They had one of their saw-mills up in the gulch somewhere, but the business died out when they got the timber all cut off." "Tell me tills, Mart," I put in qulck ly. “The Timber Mountain company is one of tlie Itod Tower monopolies: did It have a railroad track up that gulch connecting with our ‘Y’?" "Why, yes; I reckon so. I'm not right sure tlint there ain't one there yet. Hut if there Is, It’s been dis connected from the ‘Y.’ 1’ni sure of that, because I went In on that ‘V’ one day with the wrecker." You'd think tills would have settled it. Hut I hung on like a dog to a root. "Sny, Mart," I Insisted, “this *Y’ siding we’re talking about is just around where the Ten-Six teen ought to have met the Mail; so far as we can tell by tills map it's the only place where It could have met It. And the old gulch track would have been a mighty good hiding-place for the stolen engine!" "There ain't any track there," said Ivirgan, shaking his head; "or, least wise, if there is, it hasn't any rail con nection with our siding, just as I’m tollin' you. We'll have to look far ther along." Somehow, I couldn't get It out of my head blit that I was right. Our guesses all went as- straight as a siring to that -Y' siding ten miles west of Kalita. anil I was sure Hint if I bud been talking in Mr. Van Britt I could have convinced him. But Kirgun was awfully hard-headed. "It’s supper time," he said, after we had mulled a while longer over the map. "Tomorrow, If you like, we’ll take an engine and run down there. But wo ain't goln* to find any thing. 1 can tell you that, right now." "Yes, and tomorrow we may have the new general manager, and then you and I and all the others will he hunting for some other railroad to work on," I retorted. 1 pretry nearly had him over the edge, but I couldn’t push him the rest of the way to save my life. "If there was the least little scrap-a reason even to Imagine that Mr. Nor cross had gone off on that stolen eight-wheeler, It would be different, Jimmie," he protested. "But there a 1 nt; and you know doggoned well there nln't. Let's go uptown and hunt up something to eat. You’ll feel a heap clearer In your mind when you get a good square meal Inside o’ your clothes." We left the shop offices together, and got shut out, crossing the yard, l*y n freight that was pulling In from the west. There wns a yard crew shifting on the other side of the In coming train, and rather than wait for the double obstruction to clear Itself, we walked down tbe shop track, mean ing to go around the lower end of things. This detour took us past the round house, and when we reached the turn table lead, the engine of the just arrived freight came backing down • the skip-track. Seeing Kirgan. the engineer swung down from the stop at the lead switch, leaving the hostler to “spot” the engine on the table. I knew the engineer by sight, llis name was Gorcher, and lie was n reformed cow-punch'—with a record for getting out of more tight places with a heavy train than any other man on the divi sion. , “Here's looking’ at you. Mr. Kir gan,” he said, with a sort of Happy Hoolignn grin on Ills smutty face. “You been pnssin’ the word, quiet, among the boys to keep an eye out f’r that Atinnric-type that got lost in the shuffle, ain't you? Well, 1 found her.” “What's that—where?" snapped Kir gan, In a tone that made a noise like the pop of a whip-lush. "You know that old gravel pit that digs into the hill a tnlle west of the old *Y' on the Timber Mountain grade? Well, she’s there; plumb at the far end o’ that gravel track, coltl and dead.” “Crippled?” Kirgan rapped out. "Not us we could see; Just dead. She’s got her nose shoved a piece Into the gravel bank, but she ain't off the rail." Kirgan nodded. “Who else saw her?" "Nobody but the hoys on our train, 1 reckon." “\ll ri§»li? I hm't vnrpfiil if W'diit to make a little overtime?" "I ain't kickin' none." "That’s business. After you've had your supper, call tip your fireman and report to me here at the round-house. We’ll take a light engine and go down along and get ttint runaway." Tills seemed to settle Klrgnn's half of the puzzle. Wo hadn't taken the gravel track into our calculations sim ply because It wasn't marked on the map we had been studying; but that merely meant that the pit had been opened some time after the map had been made. When Gorchor had gone Into the round-house to wash up and tell Ids fireman to report hack, Kirgan and I crossed the yard and headed for town. I left the master-mechanic at tlie door of a Greek cat-shop that he patronized and went on up to the Bullard. 1 was Just getting around to my piece of canned pumpkin pie when tlie kid from the dispatcher's office came into the grill-room, stretch ing ids neck as if he were looking for somebody. When he got ids eye on me lie came across to my corner and handed me a telegram. It was from Mr. Chadwick, under a Chicago date line, and it was addressed "To the General Manager's Office," Just like that. There were only nine words in It, but they were all strictly to the , point: "What's gone wrong? Where is Mr. Norcross? Answer quick.” I saw In half a second at least h part of what had happened. Mr. Chad wick was hack from Ids Canadian trip, and somebody—the New Yorl^ people, perhaps—had wired him that a new general manager had been ap pointed for Pioneer Short Line. The old wheat king's quick shot at our office snowed that he wasn’t in the plot, and that, whatever else had be come of him. Mr. Norcross hadn't as yet turned up in Chicago I Gee! but that brought on more talk—a whaling lot of it. I meant to find out, right away, if Mr. Van Britt had come hack from the scene of a wreck. He was the man to an swer Mr. Chadwick's wire. But an fti'Mi miuni m m 111 • 1«• III y f JUSl as I was signing the dinner cheek. I'lie head waiter, who knew me from having seen me so often with the boss, came over to say that I was wanted quick nt the telephone. It was Mrs. Sheila on the wire, and I could tell by the way her voice sounded that she was mightily ex cited. "I’ve been calling you on every phone I could think of,” was- the way she began; and then: "Where Is Mr. Van lfrltt?" Enter Mr. Diemulce, “gen eral manager." (TO UK CONTINUKD.) F Tottering for 600 Years. The famous Leaning tower of I'in ts of pure white Carrara marble In the Gothic style. Its departure from the perpendicular has been variously In terpreted, hut there Is little doubt that It rises from the softness of the soil on which It stands and which has given way. Notwithstanding Its threatening appearand. It has now stood for more than sfi hundred year* without rent or decay, And ffa Did. Blossom—I>ld youfuiy for this elec tric battery?" His Valet—“No. sir; you told me to hale It charged!” He who la unabt to collect hla wtta •r hla bllla la la pugh lock.