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  It was moonlight!

  Moonlight on the Kansas prairie!

  The effect was weird and ghostlike in the extreme.

  Especially so where shadows fell athwart the parched and withered coarse grass of early autumn.

  There were shadows of curious shape on the side of a little creek, across which any old cow could just then have jumped with ease.

  For just then the water was so low that the fish were obliged to turn quite frequently to keep themselves wet all over.

  And among the shadows of the dwarfed and stumpy willows, which only seemed to move, there was one shadow which really did move.

  The shadow of a man!

  Not a desperado, either, although just at the present time he was in a truly desperate condition.

  And he was lost in thought.

  A fine, well built, well knit, sturdy young fellow, with a big slouch hat pulled well down over his clear cut features.

  And yet, though his thoughts, for the greater part, were off in a farm-house not half a mile away, where, notwithstanding the moonlight, the gleam of a lamp could be perceived shining through a window. So wrapped up was this young man in his own cogitations that he failed to notice the farm-house door open to let out a young man as finely put up as himself.

  If the man under the willows was thoughtful and worried the man who rapidly approached him was furious with anger.

  "You cur!"

  It was the man from the farm-house who hissed these words into the startled ears of the man under the willows.

  Instinctively the man addressed placed his hand upon his hip pocket, for he was not a fellow to brook insults.

  "Take it back — or —— My God, Jim Reynolds! You? You call me a cur?"

  "Don't Jim Reynolds me, you slimy snake! I ought to shoot you on sight, curse you, but I can't do it. Stand off, there, twenty paces, and look out! That's fair warning go on, or I'll drop you in your tracks!"

  "Now, look here, Jim," said the first man, "you're mad about something and you don't know what you're talking about."

  "I do; I know too well."

  "No, you don't, or you wouldn't come out here and blackguard an old chum and the fellow that loves your sister Ida."

  "Stop! Shut up! Don't you mention my sister Ida's name again, Steve Webb!"

  "Why? What's up?"

  "You know well enough. You've been playing fast and loose with Ella Harrison, a girl that's too good for you, and then when you've got her into trouble and got tired of her you come monkeying around my sister."

  "You're mistaken, Jim."

  "Not by a jugful! You've hit me doubly, Steve Webb!"


  "You come 'round here and stole my best girl from me, and now you've acted wrong by her. You insult my sister by making up to her. I won't have it and I'm going to finish you up right now!"

  "No, you're not, Jim!"

  "Liar! I tell you I am!"

  "No, you're not, and I'll tell you why. In the first place if you're so confounded good and moral I'll go ahead and marry Ella, just to please you, and you shall save Ida for some better fellow. How's that?"

  "It would be all right if I could believe you."

  "Well, you can. Now, listen. In the second place you and me and my brother Charley are going to lay our hands onto a cool million inside of a week; then we'll all get married to our best girls and make up and be rich and live happy ever after. How's that?"

  "That's all right, too, if there's anything in it. But a think it's all damned lies and you're playing me for I sucker to gain a little time."

  "You do, eh?"

  "That's what!"

  "Well, read that!"

  The man addressed as Steve Webb handed to his somewhat bloodthirsty companion a letter written on a letterhead of the Wells Fargo Express Company.

  It was dated from El Paso.

  This is what it said:

  "STEVE — The chance of your lifetime is now approaching. A clean million in good A No. 1 currency is now being shipped out of the City of Mexico by the Mexican Central Railway. Our people have got orders to handle it from El Paso to Boston. It will be carried through Topeka on A.T. & S.F. train No. 8 early in the morning of September 21st. The guard will be light — not over three men — as it isn't supposed to be known. This is a straight tip. For God's sake burn this letter.


  "Rot!" exclaimed Jim Reynolds.

  "Don't you believe it," was the rejoinder.

  "Who the devil is X.P.Q.? Any kid could write a yarn like that and sign it with half the letters of the alphabet!"

  "I know it; but it happens that X.P.Q. is no kid. He's a friend of mine who's got the inside track of Wells-Fargo's affairs. The question is do you want to quit playing baby and take a hand with me and Charley?"

  "Big chances for swinging, eh?"


  "For the penitentiary, then?"

  "Some chances, yes; but not big chances. No gains without pains, you know, Jim."

  "Well, what do you propose to do?"

  "I'll tell you later. I've got lots of plans to make. This is the 19th. There's one clear day, and then the morning of the 21st. If you're in this, Jim, it's under my orders you must be."

  "Very well."

  "If I don't see you again you and Charley get the women off quietly to Kansas City to-morrow morning. Then both of you be at the section tool house east of Barclay this time to-morrow night. Wait for me there."

  And this it happened that Steve Webb was not slain under the dwarf willows by the Osage Creek on that moonlight September evening.




  In the East Steve Webb would have been dubbed a "lady's man."

  In the West they did not call him so, but he was one just the same.

  And he knew it.

  Steve Webb had broken many a simple prairie girl's heart.

  "But," as he generally remarked, "that was none of his business — the women were as soft as pulp."

  And there was a good deal of truth in the remark.

  The girls seemed to lose their heads Steve Webb.

  And when a girl loses her head as well as her heart she wants to look out!

  That is unless she loses them to a man that is a man clear through and straight up and down.

  Steve Webb was no more than a young man and no better than he ought to have been.

  Consequently, when pretty girls thrust themselves in his way he was apt to amuse himself at their expense.

  He was a spoiled boy.

  Spoiled by pretty women.

  Had it not been for this drawback Steve Webb might have developed into almost anything.

  He had a level head.

  He was plucky.

  He was born to command.

  But, like many a better man, he got at last into a bad tangle all on account of a pretty girl.

  Ella Harrison, a plump, pretty little Kansas girl of nineteen years, adored Steve Webb.

  For a time Steve Webb had adored Ella quite as ardently.

  But that time was now past.

  His admiration had been transferred to Ida Reynolds, who was Ella's cousin.

  Once Ella and Ida had been bosum chums as well as cousins.

  They professed to be so still!

  As a matter of fact they loved each other about as well as a Fenian loves an Orangeman or a Jew a Russian!

  For Ida Reynolds was passionately, wildly, infatuatedly in love with Steve Webb, although she well knew that he had wronged (to the extreme limit) her cousin Ella.

  Steve knew it, and for the time being was himself infatuated with Ida.

  He proposed to marry her.

  Or else elope!

  It did not matter much which.

  There was just one hindrance — Steve Webb was well nigh penniless.

  But Steve had his plans all made.

  He expected to be worth a few hundred thousands before many days, and there was the more reason why his plans should be carried out successfully now that he had encountered an unexpected snag in Jim Reynolds.

  After parting from Jim, who returned to the farm-house to talk things over with Charley Webb (Steve's brother) Steve followed the creek under the shade of the willows for half a mile.

  At a bend he paused.

  He could not see the farm-house.

  No one at the house could now see him.

  He whistled soft and low.

  Then he listened.


  The word was almost whispered; it was the low murmur of a woman's voice.


  Swiftly a lissome form sped up the low bank and in a moment Steve Webb's strong arms were encircled about a beautiful girl, who really was handsomer than the discarded Ella.

  The girl was trembling.

  But Steve's embrace and kisses calmed her somewhat.

  "Oh, Steve, what was the matter? I know Jim was scolding and threatening you! He was ugly at super time and I saw him load his gun!"

  "Yes, he was somewhat grumpy. "Listen, Ida. Do you love me?"

  "Oh, Steve, do I love you? My God, yes! Can't you see I'm wearing myself out with love for you?"

  "Well enough to go away with me — suddenly — anywhere — everywhere — out of the country perhaps?"

  "Yes, Steve — anywhere or anyhow! As your wife or your slave. Ah, yes, Steve, as your mistress."

  Steve smothered the girl with passionate kisses.

  "Well, Ida, keep it all to yourself for a day or two and then look out for a good time with me. I want you to let on to Jim that we have quarreled. Let him think that I am going to marry Ella (which, of course, I'm not) and that you're angry. Let Ella think the same way. Within forty-eight hours I'm going to play a big game for monster stakes and I expect to be a winner. You and Ella are to go to Kansas City in the morning. You can look out for me the day after. Then we'll fool 'em all — eh?"

  "I'll do anything you wish me, Steve!"

  "Good. Well, now go home and do as I've told you. Be sure and have your grip packed, so there'll be no delay when I come!"

  Then they parted.

  Ida went back to the farm-house.

  Steve walked in an opposite direction and soon reached a cottage where a girl and an old woman sat at the door.

  The older woman went to the rear, leaving the young people together.

  "Hello, Ella, how are you?"

  "I'm pretty well; but, oh, Steve, it's so lonesome — and, oh, you know, you know!"

  Here the girl burst out sobbing and crying.

  "Here, stow that, Ella! Don't give a man the blues just when he wants all the nerve he'd got on earth. What the devil is wrong?"

  "Oh, Steve, why need I tell you? Why don't you keep your promise?"

  "Ah, why don't I? I suppose you think a man could marry and go to housekeeping on twenty-five cents! Well, I won't get mad. I'll marry you inside of forty-eight hours if I have good luck, Ella. I'm going to do a little speculation and expect to reap a good fortune. If I do you can bet that I'll share it with you, my girl."

  "Oh, Steve, that's so good of you —— "

  "Stop, not so fast, Ella. Let me finish my say. The boys and I are going to tackle a job that isn't exactly according to Hoyle. When it's done I want you and the rest of 'em to keep your mouths shut tight. Will you swear to do this?"

  "I swear, Steve."

  "Hold up your hand and swear right, then."

  The girl held up her right hand and solemnly repeated after Steve:

  "I swear before God that I will never by word or deed betray Steve Webb or any of his friends. And may my unborn child be struck blind and crippled if I break my word!"

  It was a strange scene and a strange oath.

  It was the forerunner of a fearful tragedy!




  But long after the two girls and Jim Reynolds were soundly sleeping Steve was wide awake, and getting ready for his great venture.

  Early in the morning a seedy looking young fellow sauntered into the train dispatcher's office at the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway, at Topeka.

  It was just daybreak.

  The young man looked tough.

  All the operators thought so.

  So did the chief dispatcher.

  "Any chance of a job?" asked the young fellow, who looked more like a tramp than anything else.

  He addressed the chief dispatcher.

  "Not much."

  "Do you hire the boys?"

  "No. I'm the night dispatcher. The day chief does the hiring."

  "You won't object, then, if I sit around until the day boss comes on duty?"

  "Not at all; make yourself comfortable."


  "Are you hungry?"


  "Well, help yourself." Saying which the man passed the tramp his lunch basket, which was pretty well filled with good grub.

  This the stranger demolished in short order, being really hungry.

  He then lit a pipe, and sat quietly smoking.

  But that wasn't all he did.

  Not by a long shot!

  The tramp operator had about the sharpest pair of ears in Kansas just then!

  He wasn't fooling them nor himself much when he said he was a good Knight of the Key.

  He was, for a fact!

  For three entire hours he set there listening intently to the many messages which came and went.

  Many did not concern or interest him.

  A few did!

  Before the chief day dispatcher came on duty the tramp operator felt that he was amply repaid for his trouble in visiting the Topeka office.

  For he left with some valuable information stored in his memory.

  He had heard three or four important telegrams in regard to the running of train No. 8, the East bound express of the Santa Fe road, due at Kansas City at 7 A.M. of September 21st.

  The stranger learned several things.

  The most important were these:

  First: One million in currency was on this particular train No. 8.

  Second: The enormous sum was poorly guarded, only three express messengers and guards being in charge of it.

  Third: The train would be run closely on schedule time.

  Fourth: The train would be due to pass Osage City at 3:30 A.M.

  Fifth: No. 8 would be preceded by two freight trains, which would take the siding at Osage City, for No. 8 to pass them.

  Sixth: That there would be only a few minutes between second freight and the night express, in the vicinity of Barclay, five miles west of Osage City.

  These were the most important points; and possessing them the tramp operator quietly left the city of Topeka, by devious ways, for the neighbourhood of Osage City.

  For the tramp operator was Steve Webb!




  It was midnight.

  Midnight between the 20th and 21st of September, 1892.

  The eve of a day long to be remembered in railroad circles.

  The eve of a day never to be forgotten by the officials of the A., T. & S. F. Railway and the Wells- Fargo Express Company.

  Midnight on the Kansas prairie!

  Midnight on the main line of the great Santa Fe road.

  Near a little tool house, by the side of the track, used by the section gang, stood a little group of determined men.

  Their names are worth remembering:

  Steve Webb, the leader.

  Steve's brother, Charley Webb.

  Jim Reynolds.

  An elderly man, Leander Tucker.

  Fred Tucker, Leander's son.

  Five bold fellows, and yet, five cowards!

  Five train wreckers!

  If any of them faltered, their leader did not.

  He knew the size of the stake.

  The others were relying on his word.

  But they were all ready to follow where Steve Webb might lead them.

  "Now, boys, to work; but not a sound! You've all got your orders!"

  Silently the tool house was entered.

  Silently a match was lighted.

  Silently Leander Tucker, an old tracklayer, selected his tools.

  Silently Steve Webb marked with a piece of chalk, the rails which at the right time were to be loosened.

  Then the men retired a few yards from the track and lay down at full length upon the long dry grass.

  Like an old general, Steve Webb made a tour of inspection.

  Each man was armed with two heavy bull-dog revolvers.

  Steve Webb had four!

  The leader of the plotters examined each gun.

  He saw that they were fully loaded, and made sure that they were in working condition.

  Then they waited.

  Waited three long hours.

  Hours that seemed like months to the strained nerves of the gang.

  For they were not old hands at train robbery.

  It was really their first attempt at anything big.

  One train went West.

  Then another.

  But no trains east-bound.

  The hours dragged slowly.

  But at last, three o'clock arrived.

  Three A.M., and still night.

  Three fifteen!

  Ah, a freight train, east-bound!

  Ah, another! The second section!

  Steve Webb looked at his watch.

  "Now!" he said quietly, though he was well nigh bursting with excitement.

  In a few minutes the work was done.

  The rails loosened and turned to the right.

  The next train would be ditched.

  It would not be so very serious.

  Steve Webb had selected the spot.

  It was on an up-grade, and east-bound trains would be running slow.

  It was a curve, too.

  They would simply ditch the train.

  There might be a few bumps and bruises, but no serious hurt and no lives lost.

  It would simply be a case of brining No. 8 to a standstill.

  Then a dash — a rush — a few shots to scare the passengers and train men — another rush — and then — and then ——

  A million dollars well won!

  Off on the road, a mile away, a fleet team was waiting.

  In a few minutes all would be over.

  Again the five men lay down in the withered grass.

  Each man was on the qui vive.

  Each man grasped a gun in his right hand.



  A whistle!

  No. 8!

  The Missouri River east-bound express!

  Two hundred and fifty passengers!

  A million dollars!

  Twelve great coaches!

  A monster engine!

  Hear the iron monster snort and pant!

  Hear the rumble and thunder of the hundred wheels!

  See the sparks rushing upward in the clear night air!

  On she comes!

  She is tearing along!

  No curve or upward grade hinders this magnificent train's onward progress.

  She must keep up the schedule, and she has been a little behind time.

  She is traveling at the rate of fifty miles an hour.

  Oh, for God's sake, stop in that mad career!

  Oh, brave engineer, doing your best with your wondrous machine, don't you know that you are on the brink of destruction?

  Put down the brakes! Halt!

  Alas! for the curve!

  Alas for the sleeping 250 passengers!

  Alas for the brave fellows handling so well and so fondly that iron horse!


  Round the curve she comes!

  The headlight flashes upon the loosened rails — down go the brakes!

  Too late!

  Oh, God, too late, too late!


  It is all over! Train No. 8 is piled up in the ditch!

  Four victims lie dead beneath it!

  Five dismayed and cowardly train-wreckers flee for their lives!




  The projected train robbery was a failure.

  It was worse than that.

  It was a fearful tragedy.

  The engineer and the fireman were dead.

  So were two of the Wells & Fargo men.

  Thirty passengers were badly injured.

  When the crash occurred Steve Webb's face became blanched with terror.

  It was so much worse than he had expected.

  Instead of attempting to reach the iron box with its million dollars, the men felt helpless to raise a finger.

  "Each man for himself," said Steve in a hoarse voice.

  "Everyone go a different way and meet as soon as you can at my uncle's place in Oregon. Make the most of your time while the excitement lasts. When it's over we'll be hunted like wolves! Jim Reynolds, I'll leave you to take care of the girls. Here, Jim, is a little money — it's all I've got. Take the girls to Oregon when you get a quiet chance. We must all meet in Oregon!"

  With that, Steve Webb handed to Reynolds thirty or forty dollars, wich was about half his pile.

  But Steve Webb had no intention whatever of heading for Oregon.

  His big game was lost.

  He now proposed to cut adrift from the gang.

  The General Superintendent of the A.T. & S.F. was R.H. Nickerson.

  His head-quarters are at Topeka, about thirty-seven or eight miles from the scene of the wreck.

  It did not take long for him to get full particulars.

  Before he started out to the scene of the wreck he dictated three documents to his stenographer.

  Once was a report of the disaster to Allen Marwel, the President of the Railroad, off in New York city.

  Another was a notice of which Sup't Nickerson ordered ten thousand copies to be instantly printed and circulated all over North America and Mexico.

  It read as follows:

  The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad company will pay a reward of $1,000 each for the arrest and conviction of the party or parties who removed fishplates and drew spikes from the track between Barclay and Osage City the morning of Sept. 21, 1892, thereby causing a wreck to train No. 8.

  R.H. NICKERSON, General Superintendent.

  The third and last was a telegram —

  "BOB BROOKS, "Chief of Detectives, "New York City.

  "Come on at the earliest possible moment. We have important work for you. Will spare no expense. Wire me when I may expect you. "R.H. NICKERSON, "Gen'l Sup't A.T. & S.F.R., "Topeka, Kansas."

  Then the big official stepped out into his private car and was whirled off by a special engine to the wreck of the ill-fated train No. 8.

  All day the Gen'l Superintendent remained in the vicinity of Osage City and wreck, but when he returned he found a telegram upon his desk.

  This is what he read:

  "I leave at noon. Expect me in your office early on Saturday morning. I shall be accompanied by my chief assistant. "BOB BROOKS."

  "Let me see," said Nickerson to himself. "To-day is Wednesday. Well, the journey will occupy two days. I don't see how he could be here much before Saturday morning. At any rate, I've heard enough about Brooks to feel sure that he's my man — and the only man for the job, Snooks."

  This last remark was for his stenographer.

  "Yes, sir."

  "Understand, and have the men in the outer office. Understand that if a party by the name of Brooks asks for me, he's to have the right of way!"

  "Yes, sir; all right, sir!"




  "My Christian friend, you're talking through your hat."

  "That may be so; but you can't see the General Superintendent until I have taken in your name."

  "Well, suppose you bring the General Superintendent out here."

  "That won't work."

  "It won't, eh? Perhaps you'll be sorry for your obstinacy one of these days!"

  The last speaker was a handsome, clever looking young man, who was accompanied by another smart young fellow, evidently a friend.

  The "obstinate" party was a clerk in the general office of A.T. & S.F. road at Topeka.

  The two strangers consulted for a moment in a whisper.

  Then the foremost of them spoke again.

  "Here, young man, give me a piece of paper or a card and I'll write my name."

  A card was produced.

  In a moment the caller pencilled upon it:

  "B.B. PHOOLUM, President, C.A.C.C. Ry."

  The charm worked!

  The very alert and too careful clerk took in the pasteboard to Mr. Nickerson.

  Nickerson examined the card.

  "Can't exactly place him or his road," he said, half to himself and half to his clerk.

  "Show him in, anyway; we can't keep railroad presidents waiting outside."

  So the young men were ushered into the private office of the important official.

  Nickerson looked first at one and then at the other.

  There was a merry twinkle in the eyes of both of the superintendent's callers.

  The official began to think he was the victim of a practical joke.

  He didn't half like the idea.

  "Well, gentlemen," he said, at last.

  "How do you do, Mr. Nickerson," said the foremost of the young men.

  "If this is Mr. Phoolum, I must say, Mr. Phoolum, that you've got the advantage of me; nor can I call to mind any railroad answering to the initials on this card."

  "You'll know me better, perhaps, after a while, sir; in the meantime will kindly request your stenographer to withdraw?"

  Nickerson, so lately dealing with train wreckers, not unnaturally thought of robbery and sand- bagging.

  His callers divined his thoughts.

  "Ha! Ha!" laughed the spokesman. "Never fear, Mr. Nickerson, a single moment will reassure you!"

  "Snooks," said Nickerson, "you may retire, but remain within call."

  "Now, Mr. Phoolum, we are alone, please proceed."

  The young man laughed aloud — he roared.

  "B.B. Phoolum wasn't bad, on the spur of the moment, was it Mr. Nickerson? President of the Catch as Catch Can Railway — Ha! Ha! You see, I had to do something to pass the lines, for your man in the outer office was so doggoned bull headed. Now to serious business. My name is Brooks — Bob Brooks. Permit me to introduce my chief assistant, Mr. Edddie Hart."

  The magic name of Bob Brooks took Sup't Nickerson's breath away.

  He had heard so much of the King of Detectives.

  But he had never yet seen him.

  He had pictured him as a stern, elderly man, with iron-gray hair and hawk eyes.

  Instead, he saw before him a young fellow, full of fun and life, and with slightly wavy hair, without a sign of a gray hair.

  Nickerson gazed for a moment — then spoke.

  "I trust all joking is ended; I find it hard to believe that I am face to face with the celebrated Bob Brooks!"

  "Yet such is the case," said Bob. "See, here is your telegram, summoning me here."

  Bob produced the document, so that there could be no further doubt of his identity.

  The men all shook hands again.

  "You don't wish for any more time, Mr. Brooks? You are ready for business?"

  "At once."

  "You may have surmised that I want you in connection with the train wrecking which occurred early on Wednesday morning, between Barclay and Osage City, less than forty miles west of this spot."

  "I judged so."

  "You have read the newspaper reports."

  "Yes, sir."

  "Then I have very little to add. I can only state emphatically, that no matter what editors and quacks surmise, I am personally positive that the track was in most excellent condition on that night. The rails were purposedly and maliciously loosened. In short, the disaster was caused by a gang of train wreckers. Further than that the officers of the company have nothing to tell and no suggestions to offer. We know your reputation, Mr. Brooks. If you cannot run down the culprits nobody can. We are willing to leave the case in your hands. The company will furnish all the money needed to bring the villains to justice, and I may say that your drafts, to any reasonable amount, will be honored by our President. In addition to your usual fees, I shall be most happy to add the offered reward of a thousand dollars if you can run down the villains. Having made this rather long speech, Mr. Brooks, I am ready to hear you, sir."

  Bob Brooks thought for one minute.

  "Can you appoint me and my assistant to some positions on your road?"

  "Certainly. What names?"

  "For myself, George Joslyn, General Track Inspector.. For Eddie Hart, make it, Elward Hancock, Traveling Freight Agent. Please issue a circular officially appointing us, and provide us with annual passes on all Western roads, good on freight and passenger trains."

  "Very good," said Nickerson. "The circulars will be issued to-day, over my signature. Annual passes on our own road you have at once. The others I will procure as speedily as possible. Anything else, Mr. Brooks?"

  "Nothing, just now. We will do a little quiet investigating for the present. I will call in again in a week for the other passes."

  So Bob Brooks commenced on his great train wrecking case.

  He and Eddie Hart went quietly down to the scene of the catastrophe. They secured a good deal of information which most persons would have deemed unimportant, and found some of the tools stolen by the wreckers from the section tool house.

  A week later they again saw Mr. Nickerson.

  "Anything new?" asked Mr. Nickerson.

  "Too early," said Bob. "I have some plans laid. But I'll say this: Whether in a week or a year, Mr. Nickerson the next time I call at your office the job will be done!"




  "Eddie, my boy, we've got to work this thing from both ends."

  "All right, Bob; which end do I take?"

  "The other end."

  Eddie Hart laughed and waited a moment for further explanations. Bob Brooks continued:

  "This thing wasn't done, you can bet, without somebody giving the wreckers of the train a tip. Very well. There was a million dollars aboard the train. It came from Mexico. It was being sent by the Mexican Central Railway people to their headquarters in Boston. South of the Rio Grande the money was carried by its owners over their own railroad, on their own train, in charge of their own guards. As the Mexican Central people could not tell for sure over which road the Wells & Fargo Company would ship the money from El Paso, they could not very well have given the robbers a pointer. The idea, then, is this: If a tip was given after the money was at El Paso, or at least it was given by a man in the employ of Wells & Fargo or the A.T. & S.F. Railway at El Paso, who knew al about the arrangement to ship the cash on train No. 8. That's your end, Eddie. Go, my son, and work it up. Begin at the beginning and report to me daily in our cipher. I'll keep you posted as to where I am."

  "Right," said Hart. "And you?"

  "Oh, I work at the other end — this end. I've made up my mind that the train wreckers were green hands. Got scared at their own work. More of a smash-up than they looked for. I've got another notion, too. There's women in this thing, Eddie, which ought to make it easier for us to learn something. Well, now, we've hung around here doing practically nothing for a week. Let's begin. You are Mr. Hancock, Traveling Freight Agent of the A.T. & S.F. ——. Mr. Hancock, when can you start for El Paso to look up that big shipment of wool that is soon to move East?"

  "Let's see," said Eddie, looking at his watch; "it's now 7.25 A.M. I can leave at 8 o'clock."

  "Good. So long, then. I'm ahead of you. I start on foot to inspect every inch of this track between here and Barclay. And if I don't inspect every section man at the same time my name isn't Bob Brooks! So long, Ed."

  "So long, Bob! Good luck to you."

  So the two men parted and Bob Brooks started upon his tramp over the main track of the Santa Fe Road.

  Of course he did not have to do this.

  If he had asked for it he could have had a private car, though it is not usual for track inspectors to travel in so much state.

  At all events he could have had a "speeder" — a sort of railroad bicycle.

  But no!

  Bob Brooks was an old hand.

  He knew his business.

  He knew that it was well to start on his tour of investigation clothed with some authority.

  If need be he intended to show his authority, too.

  But he knew that it would serve his purpose better, at times, to travel in the guise of a track layer or laborer looking for work in some section gang.

  Besides, if he traveled on a speeder he would be apt to go too fast, which he did not desire to do.

  He remembered that "slow and sure sins the race" in such work as he had cut out for himself.

  The first day he traveled ten miles.

  That meant two "sections."

  He encountered two section gangs.

  And he made the personal acquaintance of every man in the two gangs.

  There were two foremen and eight others in the two gangs.

  But he discovered nothing startling.

  He resolved to come back that way and get better acquainted.

  The second day Bob struck a little luck. He came up with the third section gang.

  They were putting in new ties.

  Bob noticed that they were a man short.

  "Morning boys," said Bob.

  But the fellows made no reply.

  They were evidently afraid of the section boss, who was plainly mad about something. He was a tough looking Irishman.

  "How's everything, lads?" asked Bob, determined to become acquainted.

  "To hell wid yes!" growled the foreman.

  "Why so?" said Bob.

  "Bekase I tells yez. Get out wid yez about yez bizness. Be jabers, can't yez see de gang's short wan of us?"

  "What of it?"

  "Phwat of it, yez skulking spalpeen? Be the powers we've got to work! They's so many ties, be gobs, to go in each day or they's the devil to pay at headquarters. The roadmaster don't take no count of short hands, nayther. So now I've explained to yez royal giblets. Jest move on and oblige, will yez?"

  "Why don't you hire me to take the vacant job?"

  "Hire the likes o' ye? Did yez iver droive a shpike?"


  "Or handle a shpade?"


  "Well, I'll hire yex for wan day, begorra, an' if yez fill the bill I'll hire yez stiddy. Throw off yez coat an' help de byes an' be dommed to yez."

  It was certainly hard work to which our friend Bob Brooks now bent his back.

  But he worked with a will and the fellows were quite willing to share their modest dinners with him.

  And at noon Bob felt well repaid for his efforts, for he drew the men out in conversation and made several mental notes.

  The most important news which Bob learned while eating bread and cheese and onions was the fact that the man who was missing from the section gang was a young man named Tucker — Fred Tucker.

  Strange coincidence number one was that young Tucker disappeared the day of the wreck of train No. 8.

  The next startling fact was that young Fred Tucker's father, old Leander Tucker, who lived down beyond Osage City, had been seen a day or two after Fred's disappearance, and he knew nothing about Fred's absence.

  The last item of interest to Bob Brooks just now was that old Leander Tucker himself had once been a section boss on the Santa Fe road.

  So with all this interesting information (interesting to a clever detective like Brooks) Bob decided not to ask for steady employment on this section and surprised the foreman by telling him that he need not give him a time check.




  Bob Brooks now shifted his scene of operations.

  He resolved now to act for a day or two his part of track inspector.

  So he went down to Osage City and resolved to spend his time between that town and Barclay.

  He made himself known to the two gangs of section men in whose sections this piece of track was located.

  He especially allied himself with the gang which repaired the loosened rails which caused the disaster to the ill-fated express.

  "Seems to me, men, that whoever tore up those rails knew his business."

  "Sure, sir," said the foreman, with respectful acquiescence.

  "It s on record that the second section of the freight train passed Barclay six minutes ahead of the express and reached Osage City four and a half minutes before the express was due there. It is reasonable, then, to conclude that not more than five minutes elapsed between the passing here of the second freight and the wreck of the express. As the headlight of the express engine would have discovered the wreckers at least half a minute ahead of the train, about four minutes is all the time they had to draw the spikes, turn out their rails and hide themselves.

  "Just so," said the foreman.

  "Of course there may have been a large gang, but they couldn t all work, because there were only two tools for drawing spikes in the tool house that was broken open, and one of them was not touched. Now, you men, isn't that pretty fast work for one man to remove a couple of rails in four minutes?"

  "Never see'd it done in my life," said the old foreman.

  "I think I knowed a man once what could have did it," said one of the laborers. "But he's old and stiff now. Besides, he ain't worked on the section for years."

  "You're just a talking, Joe," said the foreman. "I'd like to see that there wonder of a section hand! In fact, I'd like to hire him in this here gang!"

  "Well, boss, you kin see him. You'll find old Leander Tucker two miles yonder to the north in the farm-house over against the Osage Creek. The old cuss can give the young fellers pointers yet on track laying. He helped to build this here road and lots more of 'em."

  "Leander Tucker again " muttered Bob to himself. Aloud he added: "Old Tucker must be a clever old man. I should like to see him some time."

  Shortly afterwards Bob Brooks entered the little town hall of Osage City and asked for the Marshall.

  He handed that worthy one of his new cards.

  "J-o-s-l-y-n," spelled the Marshall. "How-de-do, Mr. Joslyn? Calkerlate ye hain't lerned nawthin' noo 'bout this here train wrecking, hev yer?"

  "Well, you know, Marshall, that isn't exactly my business, although, of course, I'd give a good deal to run down the culprits."

  "In course, Mr. Joslyn, in course!"

  "To tell the truth, Marshall, I've struck a slight lead, that may be something or may be nothing."

  "Shure, sir — shewer!"

  "Now, Marshall, you're an old officer of the law — (Bob always found it paid to flatter a country officer) — you know that an officer's mouth should be tight shut and his ears wide open, I suppose?"

  "Shure, sir — shewer!"

  "Good; and you know our company offers a thousand dollars reward, which there'd be no harm in you and me sharing?"

  "Shure, sir — shewer!"

  "Oh, damn your shewer, Marshall! You just listen for a minute without blocking the game with your chewers. Here's the idea: Keep your mouth shut and your eyes open! Do you know Leander Tucker?"

  "Shure, sir. She ——"

  "Rats! What do you think of him?"

  "A harmless sort of an old feller. Wouldn't harm a cat, Leander wouldn't."

  "All right. Just the same watch him from now on, and if you find him trying to get out of this part of the county arrest him and hold him until I can come down. If it's necessary to arrest him do so. If it isn't necessary, all right. In any case keep your mouth shut. Understand?"

  "Shure, sir — shewer!"

  But Bob Brooks did not hear the last shewer. He was up the street on his way to the hotel, where his roomy grip-sack was now quartered.



  About fifteen minutes after Bob Brooks entered the modest hotel at Osage City a white-haired, faltering old man came out of the front door of the same hostelry.

  This old fellow bad a long, snowy beard, was dressed in clothes well bleached out by rain and wind, and wore a straw hat that had certainly caught the rays of many summer suns.

  By the aid of a stout cane the old gentleman waddled over to a livery stable, and in quavering tones asked if he could hire a rig with a quiet horse — the older the better.

  So the liveryman fixed up for his aged customer a horse and a buggy, neither of which had earned him a dollar for many a year.

  And the old gent started out.

  He guided the ancient nag out of the west end of the town and on to the prairie.

  Then he headed him for the willows which skirted the Osage Creek, and after nearly an hour's driving paused before a small farm-house.

  An elderly man cat upon a bench in front of the farm-house smoking a pipe.

  But he was not so old as the aged rustic in the antique buggy.

  "Be you Leander Tucker?" asked the white- haired patriarch.

  "I be. What of it?"

  "Well, I swan! Would ye mind a hitching of my horse, Mr. Tucker?"

  "What for? You ain't afraid of that bloody old sheep running off, are ye?"

  "Well, ye see, Mr. Tucker, I be a purty, old man and I couldn't go for to run far if the beast took a notion."

  "There's nowt to hitch to, anyhow. Get down, old man, if ye wanter; I'll watch yer horse. What is it, anyhow! Wanter see me, did yer?"

  "Yes, Mr. Tucker, I did ; but don't you go for to hurry me. I'm most scared to death now."

  "You are? Sit down and get yer breath, gran'ther. Now, what is it?"

  "You be Leander Tucker sure 'nuff, be you?"

  "Yes, I be."

  "What's the father o' Fred Tucker?"

  "The same."

  "Well, I've got a message for ye, Mr. Tucker, but God A'mighty only knows who it's from!"

  "What do you mean, gran'ther?"

  "Well, Mr. Tucker, I've got a patch o' land yander, 'bout five miles outen Topeka. Last night a feller comes to my place and tells me of yon and tells me to come over here and see yer."

  "What sort of a feller, gran'ther?"

  "Well, now, yez kin see my eyesight ain't what it was forty years agone. I couldn't rightly say if this feller was thirty or fifty years old."

  "Big moustache?"


  "Soft hat?"


  "Steve, for a dollar," growled Tucker.

  "Steve, did you say, Mr. Tucker?"

  "That's what," grunted Leander. "Go on; what next?"

  "Well, Steve, as you call him, he says you go for to see Leander and say to him that they're onto us fer that there racket down ter Barclay."

  "What racket?" said Tucker, sharply.

  "Now, I don't know," answered the old in man. "I'm here to tell you what this Steve said — 'cause why? Because this Steve, as you calls him, he says if I didn't he'd burn my house down fer me. Now, Mr. Tucker, I've done this thing right an' I hopes you'll let your friend Steve know it!"

  "All right, old man, I'll fix that," said Tucker excitedly. "Is that all he said — he didn't tell you anything — no particulars; eh?"

  "Not a word, only as I've told ye. He says for you to look out, because parties was on to the Barclay racket, whatsoever that may be."

  "By God, old man, I'm much obliged to ye! Take a pull on this; but for the Lord's sake keep your mouth shut!"

  "Any word for Steve, if so be as I should see him again?" asked the old chap, as he scrambled into his tumble-down buggy.

  "Tell him I'll look out good and hard. And tell him that I'll watch the Kansas City Star if he wants to get word to me in the advertising column. Tell him to do likewise."

  "I'll do so, Mr. Tucker."

  As the old man passed the town hall in Osage City he halted his buggy.

  The Marshall was on the sidewalk.

  "Marshall," he said, "Mr. Joslyn of the Santa Fe would like to see you in fifteen minutes in room 23 at the hotel."

  "Tell Mr. Joslyn I'll be there," replied the Marshall, wondering who the venerable messenger might be.

  Strangely enough the patriarch went into room 23 himself, and although he did not again come out the Marshall only found Track Inspector Joslyn in No. 23 when he entered that room.

  "Well, Marshall, I've concluded that there's nothing in that lead I mentioned."

  "What; the Leander Tucker idea?'


  "I thought so. Leander's harmless enough. He's all right."

  "Just so. Still don't forget, Marshall, that sealed lips are the order of the day. I may still be able to find away for its to earn and share that thousand dollar reward."

  "Trust me, Mr. Joslyn, and when you want help in Osage City just drop me a telegram or a letter."

  "Thank you; have a cigar, Marshall."

  When the somewhat slow official had departed Bob Brooks, alias George Joslyn, and erstwhile an ancient Kansas farmer, sat down, lit a cigar and put on his thinking cap.

  "Yes," he said to himself, "I can make better use of Leander Tucker if I let him have some rope for a time. He's one of them, sure enough, but he's not the chief rascal, I'll bet. I couldn't prove much by him or against him. On the other hand, if I let him go be will eventually put me onto the others. My scheme worked well! He took in all I told him. That advertising in the Star will be a big card. Steve is the name of one of the rascals, probably the biggest. I'll find out his other name before long or bust! Well, I've got Leander Tucker, his son Fred and this unknown Steve on the list now. The game is young, but it's getting interesting, Bob, my boy. Eh?"




  It was some days before Bob beard from Eddie Hart.

  But when he finally got a letter, Bob found it more than helpful.

  Of course the letter was addressed, on the outside, to Track Inspector Joslyn.

  Inside it was pretty much as follows:

  "EL PASO TEXAS, "SEPT. —, 1892.


  "So far as this end of the string is concerned, your humble servant has managed to tie one knot.

  "I got down here all right, and my first lay was to get in with the Wells-Fargo employés.

  "It took me a couple of days to get solid; but solid I got at last, and solid I am still — especially with one fellow.

  "This fellow to a clerk named Blewitt, and he's a first-class rascal.

  "This, however, I haven't told him.

  "On the contrary, I have, by means of verbal taffy, a few cigars, and more drinks, given him to understand I think him the finest man on earth.

  "As to what he thinks of me, I haven't stayed to enquire, and don't care a British tuppence!

  "I ve tried to make him think I'm out for swag, and that I'll pay Blewitt big money for a tip.

  "I struck oil first this evening; and I only parted front Blewitt five minutes ago.

  "I told Blewitt all I wanted was a word from him when he knew there was a good pile going over the road in easy shape.

  "He says he wished he knew that two weeks ago!

  "He says he gave a good tip to a lot of duffers who made (these are Blewitt's words) a damned bad mess of it!

  "For the same reason, he said, I should have to be all-fired careful, as the railroad people and the express company are on the alert and dead sore.

  "I told him not to hurry, but to keep his eyes peeled, and to wire me at Topeka when he bad something big in sight.

  "I told him I was a railroad man, which appeared to him natural enough.

  "I also furnished him with our cipher code.

  "Likewise I furnished Blewitt with a fifty dollar bill, and told him he could have ten more of them for a tip that would pan out.

  "I shall stay here for a day or two longer, and will then report to you at Topeka.

  "EDDIE H."

  Bob Brooks rubbed his hands with some glee.

  "Pretty good!" he chuckled. "That's great business. We've got that fellow Blewitt where we want him — exactly. We can fetch him up short any time — likewise old Tucker. More than that, if this unknown Steve is alive and reads the papers we call get him most any time by an ad. over Tucker's name. By golly, this is going to be one of the nicest jobs we ever handled — eh, Bob? 0f course, if we were common trash, Bob, old boy, we could nab Blewitt and old Tucker right away, and trust to a judge and jury searing the truth out of 'em. But that isn't Bob Brooks' style — not much! We have got to run this entire gang down, for the glory of the firm!"

  Here Bob wrote a telegram to his assistant:

  "EDWARD HANCOCK, "El Paso, Texas. "Follow your lead; it is a good one. Do not go to Topeka. It is unnecessary and inadvisable. Meet me to Kansas City, at the Western Holel, one week from to-day.


  Then our friend packed his grip and started for Kansas City.

  Naturally Bob Brooks bad a good deal of time to skirmish around in the week before Eddie Hart's arrival.

  But he wasn't the man to let the grass grow under his feet.

  He had usually found the general delivery of a post-office a good place to pick up news and information.

  So he often went to the post-office.

  One afternoon a stout young man went to the window.

  "Tucker," he said. "Fred Tucker."

  The clerk handed out two letters.

  Bob isn't generally a clumsy man.

  But, somehow, be jostled up against this young fellow and knocked both letters on the tiled floor.

  "What in bell do you mean?" growled the fellow, whom it is reasonable to suppose was Fred Tucker.

  But Bob was not offended.

  Indeed be was exceedingly polite.

  "Excuse me, sir," said he. "Permit me."

  And he picked up the fallen letters, taking good care to read the addresses and the postmarks as he tendered them to their owner.

  One was written in a rude, cramped scrawl.

  The postmark was Osage City.

  "From old Leander," said Bob to himself.

  The other was written in a more business-like manner, and was postmarked Omaha.

  "One of the gang — probably our friend Steve — got outside the State of Kansas good and quick. Well, it will pay to cultivate this young mail's acquaintance."


  "What will you have?" asked the man, still surly.

  "I want to beg your pardon, and I should like to prove that in a practical manner. It is about the noon hour. Will you take a lunch and smoke a cigar with me?"

  "I ain't hungry."

  "What about thirsty? We fellows are generally thirsty or imagine we are — come!"

  "Well, I don't want to treasure no grudge. I'll take a drink on you."

  So they repaired to a saloon and restaurant, and not one, but half a dozen stiff drinks were imbibed by young Tucker.

  When he had become talkative Bob drew him out.

  "Stranger here?" asked Bob.


  "Looking for work?"


  "I might give you a job."


  "Yes. Fill up your glass, Mr. ——, ah — er — Tucker, I think you said?"

  "Yep. Good 'nuff name, boss; too good to change. Now, Steve ——"

  Tucker stopped suddenly, while Bob's ears pricked up.

  "You was saying that Steve — er ——"

  "Well, I was off — t'warn't Steve. A feller as I know wanted me to — well, it don't cut no figger, boas! Let it pass!

  "Light a fresh cigar," said Bob. "And let's go into a private box and have a bottle to ourselves. I know when I've struck good company, — eh, Tucker, old boy?"

  "Betcher so-o-ocks, b-boss!" responded the man, who was getting pretty well loaded with whiskey.

  Bob thought he might mix Tucker's drinks with good effect.

  So he ordered some brandy.

  "Now, Tucker, old chap. You'd better conclude to stay in Kansas City and work for me!"

  "No-hic-can't do it; ye — hic — know — hic! Getter go ter — hic. — Shteve — hic."

  "I suppose Steve is a good friend of yours?"

  "Yesh — hic — Shteve thinksh he's — hic — good friend o' mine — hic. But, tell ye, boss — hic — Shteve cut a — hic — get! Shpoiled the whole — hic — damn shooting match."

  "He did, eh? Where is Steve now?"

  "0h, shon of er — hic — gun's up to Omaha — guess he's a going — hic — ter ——"

  But Tucker did not finish his rather mixed remarks.

  For just then the door of the private apartment was roughly opened, and a large, raw bred, wicked looking fellow with a slouch hat entered.

  "Say, you doggoned drunken idiot! What in the devil's name are you doing here, drinking with strangers? Get out of it and go home!"

  "'Shall right — hic — Tim — hic — Tim — make you shquainted with my friend — hic — mishter ——"

  But here the top-heavy fellow, in attempting to do the honors, lost his balance and fell heavily on the floor.

  But Bob did not propose to get rattled or lose his temper.

  "Jenkininson is my name, sir," he said quickly. "Our friend Tucker and I are old acquaintances, and must confess we've been indulging. As this is my fault let me shoulder the trouble and expense of getting a hack."

  "Thank ye — you needn't mind," said the new arrival.

  "I insist, asking your pardon."

  So they lifted Tucker up and took him to the side door, and called a hack.

  The afternoon and evening had waned away, and it was now dark.

  "I will gladly see Tucker to his room," said Bob.

  "You needn't. Here's the address," said the new-comer to the hack driver, handing that individual a dirty card.

  And the hack drove away; but not before Bob had made a note of its number for future reference.

  "Now," said Bob's new companion, "if you can spare a few moments, I'd like a word or two with you."

  "Certainly; have a smoke?"


  "A drink?"

  "Not with you; I prefer to walk."

  Bob noticed that his companion was leading the way down a dark side street. But as long so they were only man and man he was not afraid.

  He resolved to make good use of his ears and eyes.

  Two or three minutes passed, both men walking briskly.

  "Curse your stinking soul! I'm on to you," said the evil looking man at last.

  Bob laughed.

  "Grease your pants and slide off, then!" he said.

  "You damned Judas! You white-livered spotter! Don't you poke fun at me! I've a good mind to shoot a hole through you! You can't fool me if you are slick enough to fill that green chap with budge and then pump him! Curse you!"

  "What's this? Aren't you mistaken, my friend?"

  Bob spoke very politely; but all the same he deftly knocked from the fellow's hand, which he held behind him, a nasty looking revolver.

  "No, damn you! I know I'm not mistaken now. You're one of these yellow skinned pups of detectives!"

  "No, I am not!" replied Bob, who had his own game to play, and did not yet wish this man to know his true character and intentions. "I am not! But, liar and coward, I take no insults from anybody! If I were an officer I would arrest you, for I have you in my power; but, no! I will put your gun and my own in my hat, and set them all down; but now look out, you cur!"

  Nobody was there to see it, but it was truly a pretty fight.

  The man was no child; he fought for every inch; but he hadn't Bob Brooks' science and tact — nor yet his great nerve.

  He was whipped at every turn.

  In five minutes he had two black eyes and a pain in his belly!

  And the pain wasn't helped by Bob kneeling upon him.

  "I like to know the names of all the people I whip," said Bob.

  "You won't get mine."

  "0h, yes, I will! Out with it!"

  "Jim, damn you!"

  "I know that — you recollect Tucker told me that much. What's the rest of it? Don't lie, or I'll have to begin over again and give you another licking!"

  "Curse you, I don't have to tell you!"

  "Yes, you do — right off, or else take another thumping!"

  "Jim Smith."


  "Oh — oh! Get off, or I'll die!"

  "Your name!"


  "The rest!"

  "Reynolds — blast you — damn you — Reynolds!"

  "I think that's correct," said Bob. "Now, Mr. Reynolds you may go — and I'll return your gun. Only never point it at me. That's all."

  The fellow slunk away, and Bob Brooks jotted down another name in his memorandum book.

  The web was Slowly being weaved!




  It may now be interesting to leave Bob Brooks and his partner, Eddie Hart, to their own devices for a time.

  They are well able to take care of themselves.

  We will follow the fortunes of the train-wrecking gang.

  After the failure of their schemes, on the tragic and memorable morning of September 21st, each man looked after himself.

  Steve Webb, the ringleader, went afoot, across the Kansas line, into Missouri.

  He took a train at St. Joe for Omaha, and there he rested for a time.

  He was not particularly flush.

  He had divided his funds with Jim Reynolds.

  Steve thought that a cheap price to pay to relieve him of caring for the girls he had wronged.

  After he had bought his ticket for Omaha he only had about ten dollars left.

  Not a very large amount of capital!

  Especially when he wanted to reach the distant State of Oregon.

  So he lay low for a few days.

  He disguised himself pretty well and tried to get a job a telegraph operator.

  But he was unsuccessful.

  So he invested his money in a gross of small bottles and some labels.

  He spent twenty-five cents for peppermint.

  This, diluted in a quart or two of water, he poured into his bottles.

  Outside the bottles he stuck his labels.

  Then he packed his outfit in a grip; slung it over his shoulder, started out to sell the Greatest Toothache Cure on Earth — fifty cents a bottle.

  Meanwhile he was headed for Oregon, where his uncle was a prosperous ranchman.

  Charley Webb, Steve's brother, was ahead of him — unknown to Steve.

  Charley had stolen rides on freight trains and was within a thousand miles of the Oregon Ranch, while Steve was packing up his toothache fake, a thousand miles behind him.

  Strangely enough both Jim Reynolds and Fred Tucker were loitering in Kansas City, as we know.

  Jim, because he had no money to get out, to stayed and sponged on the two girls, Ella Harrison and Ida Reynolds, who both soon got work in the shipping department of a big extract of beef factory.

  Fred Tucker was staying there by his old father's advice, who assured him that if officers searched for the authors of the train wreck, they would look farther away.

  And for the same reason old Leander Tucker remained on his farm, intending to deny strenuously all knowledge of the affair.

  Steve Webb did not make very rapid progress in his tramp toward Oregon.

  Bad weather was coming on.

  The roads were worse than the weather.

  His toothache cure was not a grand success

  The price was too high, even for the West.

  First he reduced to twenty-five cents.

  Finally to ten cents a bottle.

  As he did not sell more than three or four bottles a day; he practically had to beg his way.

  His fake medicine got him into trouble, too.

  The night before Christmas he was in Boise City, Idaho.

  There were a good many people on Main Street, doing their Christmas shopping.

  Steve Webb, ragged and weary, thought he might sell the remnant of his stock, consisting of the five last bottles, and get something to eat on Christmas Day.

  He raised the price away up.

  He gathered a few boys and a man about him.

  Then he spoke his piece:

  "You have here, ladies and gentlemen, the greatest known cure for neuralgia, tic-dolereux, toothache and corns. It is specially desigued for toothache, but will also cure nervous prostration, tape worm and ingrowing nails. It is the great two-minute toothache cure, warranted to act instantly upon swollen game and decayed teeth. It has never before been sold West of Chicago, and the price is a paltry dollar a bottle!"

  But sales were slow.

  Steve sung his song again; this time with renewed energy and in a louder tone.

  Just as he yelled "two-minute toothache cure," a big cowboy came swaggering along the street, the bridle or his pony slung over his left arm.

  His right hand he held over his face, one of the cheeks of which was terribly swollen.

  "What's that? Goldarn it, what's that? Who the devil says he can cure toothache in two minutes? Speak up?"

  "Here you are, my friend," said Steve, quite blandly. "The greatest cure on earth, and the price is one dollar."

  "Damn the dollar! Give me a bottle of the blamed stuff, stranger. If it's good you can have one — two — five — ten dollars! If you're lying, look out!"

  But Steve paid no attention to the fellow's words.

  He put that down to toothache.

  He passed over a bottle of his peppermint water and pocketed the silver dollar which the cowboy tossed to him.

  The first sale drew others.

  Inside of an hour Steve was disposing of his last bottle.

  But he had remained at the stand just too long.

  "Where's that lying son of a gun of a fakir that sold me that bottle of mint! Hey there, you pup from the Bowery! Stand out and take a licking! Who the devil do you think you're playing for a sucker, eh?"

  Steve saw that he had made a mistake.

  He saw that he had monkeyed with the band wagon.

  He tried to back out.

  But the crowd wouldn't have it.

  They huddled around him, quite, willing for a little sport at a strange fakir's expense, even on Christmas eve.

  But Steve Webb didn't propose to get the worst of it without a scuffle.

  Only he made the mistake of his life when he pulled his gun on the cowboy.

  "Not by a darn sight!" yelled the cowboy, as he jerked Steve's revolver high up in the air. "I could shoot too, blame you! But that wouldn't punish you enough, you Eastern pup! Look out!"

  With that the cowboy, already mad with pain in his swollen jaw, and enraged to think that he should have been fooled by a "tenderfoot" fakir, waded into Steve.

  Steve, who was weak with his tramping, stood no chance from the first.

  The cowboy knocked the stuffing out of him, and finally left him with a dislocated shoulder and a broken nose.

  The cowboy, taking his toothache with him, then got out of town.

  But Steve Webb, sick, exhausted and all broken up, was cared for in the Boise City charity hospital for four months.

  When he got well he wrote to his uncle for some money, bought some clothes and likewise a ticket for Oregon.




  It was Aprfl when Steve Webb got out of the hospital, a ghost of his former self.

  On his way to the stage office he passed a saloon.

  The saloon attracted his attention.

  It was the "Kansas House."

  There was a sign paifited on the window.

  Kansas City and Topeka papers."

  So Steve Webb sauntered in.

  He was glad he did.

  He found complete files of four or five newspapers.

  In a Topeka paper of March 20th he found a curious advertisement.

  S.W. Our baby was born on the Ist. Where you? "ELLA"

  That was certainly for him, he thought.

  But he wasn't very well pleased with the information and did not linger over it.

  In fact he was trying to learn all he could as to what had been done and was being done in the matter of the wreck.

  In the same paper, a week later, he found another ad.

  "S.W. Have you deserted me? Do you not want to see your child? Write if you cannot come. "ELLA"

  "Damn Ella," was Steve's comment.

  Then he picked up adother bunch of papers.

  It was the complete file of the Kansas City Star.

  Away back in October he saw an ad.

  STEVE. Let us hear from you. Write to Box 5,562, Kansas City. LEANDER."

  "The old fool!" said Steve. "What the hell did he want to call attention to both of us in that way, so soon after the racket — though I don't know an there a any reason why we should be suspected at all."

  Later on, in the February and March papers he found this advertisement:

  "STEVE. If alive, drop us a line. P.0. Box 5,562. Kansas City. LEANDER."

  Steve began to get interested.

  "Shouldn't wonder," he said to himself, "if it would be safe enough now to get the gang together and see what's doing. More than half a year gone!"

  He read on, turning over paper after paper.

  In the edition of March 30th, he read this:

  "STEVE. All quiet. Everything forgotten. Give us a chance to we you. P.0. Box 5,562, Kansas City. LEANDER and JIM."

  This was the latest he found in the papers, and not a word had he discovered about the affair of last September on the A., T. & S.F.

  That was evidently forgotten.

  He resolved to ignore Ella's communications, but decided to drop a line to the boys.

  So before starting away from Boise City, he wrote a short note to Leander Tucker.


  "I've been in hard luck. Got hurt up here. Been in hospital four months. Just saw your ads. If the boys want to see me, and there's any use in it, let them come onto Oregon. I'm going to my Uncle's. Portwater Ranch, thirty-five miles southwest of Portland. Don't say a word to the women. We can't be too careful for a long time yet. Write before you start, and let me know where all the fellows are. Burn this. S."




  "Well, Eddie, what luck?"

  "Not any."

  "This is slow."

  "It is indeed, Bob."

  "Fact is, we've made no headway all winter. What we know now we knew six months ago. Here's the end of April and nothing settled."

  "We've got lots of material for making arrests, haven't we?"

  "Certainly. We can put our bands on old Tucker and his son — also on Jim Revnolds and your friend Blewitt of El Paso. You and I, Eddie, are morally certain that these are some of the gang — but how are we going to prove it to a judge and jury?"

  "That's it. We might make some bluffs and scare them into a confession."

  "No, I've studied that well out. The men we've got in our reach are not going to confess so easily. Gee- whittaker! If I could only locate this fellow Steve or even learn his second name."

  "Say, Eddie, you go over to Kansas City and put one more ad. in the Star. Don't put it in the weekly or Sunday edition, because I've learned that those are the papers which Leander Tucker takes. Stay over there until May 1st. Visit the post-office. Here is the key of Box 5,562. If we hear nothing by May 1st, I'm going to change my tactics. We'll force an issue in some way!"

  Eddie Hart left the room.

  Bob Brooks was left alone once more.

  Our friend was getting discouraged.

  He had set his heart on solving this mystery.

  He had promised General Superintendent Nickerson that he would do so.

  He had said that he would not enter Nickerson's office until he was ready to explain the whole business and point out the culprits, dead or alive.

  So far he had kept his word.

  He had seen Nickerson several times, but he had not been in that official's office.

  He was himself occupying a small room in the Yard office of the A., T. & S.F., at Topeka.

  For he was still known as George Joslyn, the Track Inspector.

  He had got Leander Tucker working for him as a Section Boss some miles west of Osage City.

  He did this to disarm the old man's auspicions.

  He had also got Fred Tucker employed as a baggage man.

  Jim Reynolds was running a small saloon, entirely unconscious that the real owner of the saloon and the man who paid him his wages for running it was the intrepid Bob Brooks.

  All Bob was waiting for was to find out something of the man Steve.

  Bob had seen the advertisements in one of the papers addressed to S.W. and signed ELLA.

  He had cut them all out.

  He had done some tall figuring with them.

  He got them out now, as qpon as Eddie Hart left hint.

  He put on his thinking cap.

  It had got to his ears that there was a new-born babe at the house where Jim Reynolds boarded.

  Bob telegraphed to a lady detective in Chicago whom he had sometimes employed in special cases.

  "MRS. JENNIE CASEY, "Cottage Grove avenue, "Chicago. "Come down at once if possible. Dress well. Go to Capital Hotel. I will call on you. Answer care of George Joslyn, Topeka. "BROKS."

  In two hours he got an answer.

  "ROBERT BROOKS, "Care of George Joslyn, "Topeka.

  "I leave at once. Will reach Topeka In morning. "JENNIE CASEY."

  Bob at once sent to all the Kansas City papers another advertisement.

  "A lady of fortune and refinement wishes to adopt a babe. A rare chance for a good home and bright prospects for some unfortunate infant. Wrtie to Mrs. Casey, Capital Hotel, Topeka, Kas."

  "In the morning Mrs. Casey, attired in the height of fashion, with several trunks and a maid, arrived.

  Bob showed her the advertisement he had inserted and explained the situation.

  "Of course," be said, "I want one particular woman to apply, and I'll try and fix that. I'll be away most of to-day."

  Then he went over to Kansas City.

  There he met Eddie Hart,who was only slightly known to Jim Reynolds.

  Bob posted him.

  Then Eddie went down to Reynolds' saloon.

  He came back to Bob inside of an hour.

  "Took the bait, by thunder!" he shouted with glee, when he and Bob were alone.

  "What did he say, Eddie?"

  "Says he knows the kid that will fill the bill. 'By God,' says Jim, 'that will suit Ella to a T!' Then he skipped off."

  "Good," said Bob. "Now, Eddie, you'll have to play Jennie Casey's husband and kind old philanthropist at one and the same time. You'll have to draw out this woman for all you're worth. Of course, I'm not sure, but it's a thousand to one that she's one of the gang, and that she advertised for the same man we want. The cards are coming, Eddie! Now we'll stop in at the post-office and then go over to Topeka and join Mrs. Casey."




  In a spacious suite of apartments at the Capitol Hotel, Topeka, sat Mr.. and Mrs. Casey, of New York.

  Mr. Casey, the reader will infer, was none other than our friend Eddie Hart.

  It was three days after the scheme first entered the fertile brain of Bob Brooks.

  Mr. and Mrs. Casey were expecting a caller.

  For they had made a date with a young woman, who was to bring her young babe for Mrs. Casey's inspection.

  Presently a bell-boy knocked at the door.

  He handed in a card on which the clerk had evidently written the name,

  "Ella Harrison."

  "Show her up," said Mrs. Casey.

  Soon there entered a fine appearing young woman, not too well dressed, who bore traces of care and sorrow in her face.

  She carried in her arms a bundle of white wraps and flannels.

  This bundle she shyly deposited upon a couch and unwrapped it, disclosing a healthy youngster only a few week's old.

  Eddie Hart was well disguised as a kind, portly gentleman of fifty years or thereabouts.

  So he could afford with impunity to talk in a paternal way.

  Mrs. Casey was made up as a stately lady, whose eyes beamed with kindness.

  Her temporary husband adjusted his gold rimmed spectacles and greeted the young woman.

  "Take off your things, my dear, and sit down. My good wife and I desire you to feel quite at home while you are here."

  Ella obeyed and removed her wraps.

  "So it's a boy, eh?" said Mrs. Casey, graciously, as she bent over the little one.

  "Now, my dear," said Mr. Casey, when they were all seated, "we want to ask you a few questions and you mustn't feel hurt if some of them seem a little pointed. We are not foing to ask them merely to wound your feelings. You see am a man old enough to be your father, so I will call you Ella. Are you married, Ella?"

  For answer, the girl's face flushed with a deep crimson blush.

  "Never mind. We are none of us spotless. We aren't going to throw stones, my dear. Does the child's father still live with you?"

  "No, sir."

  "Have you any objection to telling us his name?"

  Here the poor girl broke down and cried.

  "Oh, no, sir," she said when calmness reasserted itself. "If you will listen I will tell you all. Really, sir I am not a bad girl, only unfortunate. The father of my little child is Steve Webb."

  Here Eddie Hart felt so much elated that he only with difficulty retained his wig and gold spectacles.

  But the girl went on.

  "I knew Steve for years. We were lovers for a long time. He promised to marry me, but he did not. He deserted me — and, oh, sir, now I hate him! I hate him!"

  The girl's eyes flashed with sudden fire.

  "He deserves your hatred for such conduct," said Eddie, gently, and yet in such a tone that he knew would encourage the girl to talk on in the same strain.

  "Hate him? Yes, I would kill him! I would strangle him with these fingers of mine, as I would a wild animal. I would spit in his face and then shoot him on eight. Ah, Steve Webb, if I ever do run across you!"

  And then the rage spent itself in more tears.

  "But why, my dear, did this man Webb desert you? Was there another woman in the case?"

  "Partly that was the reason. There was another reason, too; and I don't know as I need spare a man who hasn't spared me."

  "No, indeed."

  "Well sir, Steve Webb was the man that planned the wreck of the Santa Fe Express last September. There were others, of course, but Steve was the ringleader. He skipped out and left the rest to take chances; and he left me too."

  "And where is he now?"

  "Ah, sir, that I cannot tell."

  "Where is he supposed to be?"

  "Even that I cannot tell. I have no idea. Some of the men think he must be dead. But I do not."

  "You are not saying what is false, merely to work on our sympathies, I hope?"

  "No, sir, no."

  "You are willing to give up your babe?"

  "I would not if I could give it good care and good prospects. But with me he will always be poor and disgraced. I will let him go to a good home — not otherwise."

  "Well, Ella, see here. Mrs. Casey and I have been married many years and we have not been blessed with a child of our own. We would like a little one, but we don't want to act hurriedly. How would it do if you and your babe make your home with my wife for a few weeks! You could then judge of the baby's prospects, and Mrs. Casey could find out if she was likely to make a success with the baby. If the baby stays with us, well and good; if not, you and the child shall lose nothing by it and no harm will have been done."

  So it was arranged.

  And the next day Mrs. Casey, with the girl and her child, was on her way to St. Louip, where it was arranged they should stay until wanted.

  For in reality Ella Harrison was under arrest.

  She was in charge of the cleverest woman detective in the West.




  Eddie repotted to Bob Brooks, whom he found in the Track Inspector's office highly elated over something.

  "Now we've got all the evidence we want, Bob, if we could only lay our hands on Steve Webb!"

  "Don't you worry about that, Ed! I've got the key to the whole situation."

  "You have! How?"

  "Box 5,562, Kansas City post-office, solved the riddle at last!"

  "You don't say, Bob!" exclaimed Eddie, now all eyes and ears.

  "Yes, I do say! While you was playing Mr. Casey — and playing it well, Ed, I must admit — I went over to Kansas City. I just got back, and brought this daisy of a letter with me."

  "From Steve Webb?"


  "Full name and address?"

  "Not exactly. But it's signed S., which you can bet your gold spectacles stands in this case for Steve. The Webb we'll imagine — and meantime we'll weave a web for Webb — eh?"

  Ed was about to punch Bob's head for such a vile pun, but the case was too serious for Such a delay.

  "Where's the letter from, Bob?"

  "From Boise City, Idaho — I'll read it to you."


  "I've been in hard luck. Got hurt up here. Been in hospital four months. Just saw your ads. If the boys want to see me, and there's any use in it, let them come onto Oregon. I'm going to my Uncle's. Portwater Ranch, thirty-five miles southwest of Portland. Don't say a word to the women. We can't be too careful for a long time yet. Write before you start, and let me know where all the fellows are. Burn this. S."

  "Hows that, Ed?"

  "Bully for you!"

  "Now, Ed, we might do this thing up in a different way and a little cheaper. But I want to wind it up in brown style. Here's my plan. You go at once to Portland, Oregon. Write from there in Webb's name to Jim Reynolds. Send Jim fifty dollars, tell him there's a big scheme afoot. Tell him to come on at once. You lay for Jim and me — for I shall be on the same train — and the two of us will keep blamed close to Jim Reynolds' heels until he meets Steve Webb. In that way we shall be sure, to stumble on to the right Steve Webb and we can arrest Jim Reynolds and Steve Webb together. I will take excellent care that the Tuckers are in safe hands before I follow Jim Reynolds. Now, Ed, you start for the northwest on the first train. Here are three hundred dollars. This job will cover us with glory, old chap!"

  The two partners and friends shook hands warmly and so they parted.

  Ed was soon on his way to Oregon, and Bob penned a reply to Steve Webb's letter.


  "Just. got your letter. Everything's lovely. I guess the railroad people have dropped the whole thing. I'm working for the Santa Fe again and they don't suspect a morsel. Fred is running a baggage car, and Jim is throwing drinks to customers over a bar in Kansas City. I've got another money-making fake for the gang to tackle, and no fooling with trains either. I can't very well leave here; besides, it any watchdogs are around they might suspect something. So I'm going to send Jim Reynolds up to see you and talk it over. If you like the scheme I'll sell my farm and get out of Kansas. Sorry you've had hard luck. I'm not overly flush just now, but I send you twenty dollars, as it may do you some good. The girls are not troubling anybody. They are working In Kansas City. When you've seen him, write again to Box 5,562.


  Bob disguised his hand some, although he felt assured that the gang had not corresponded enough to remember each other's handwriting.

  Then he addressed the letter:

  "Mr. Steve Webb, "Pentwater Ranch, "Near Portland, Oregon."

  Then he waited developments.

  He set a trusty lieutenant to watch Jim Reynolds and report the gentleman's Plans and movements.

  Ten days later Bob got a telegram from Kansas City —

  "Reynolds just got a letter from Oregon with money enclosed. He is going to give up the saloon to a friend of his, and starts for Pentland in the morning."

  In two minutes Bob's grip was packed, and in two minutes more his office was shut up.

  A little later he was in the Western Union telegraph office.

  He sent two telegrams.

  The first:

  "U.S. MARSHALL, "El Paso, "Texas. "Arrest Blewitt of the Wells-Fargo Express for conspiracy. Hold him until you hear further from me. I will be entirely responsible. BOB BROOKS."

  The other:

  "U.S. MARSHALL, "Kansas City, "Missouri. "Arrest Fred Tucker, baggageman, who runs on the Santa Fe out of Kansas City. He is wanted for murder and attempted robbery. Hold him for a few days until I see you. I will be responsible for everything. BOB BROOKS."

  Then he stepped over to the telephone office and called up the town marsball of Osage City.

  "Hello, Marshall!"


  "This is Joslyn of the Santa Fe!"

  "Sure — shewer!"

  "Now, stow that damned lingo, Marshall. Keep your ears wide open, please. You know Leander Tucker?"

  "Su— I mean, yes, sir!"

  "He is employed now as a section foreman. This is Saturday afternoon. He will go home to his farm for Sunday. Lay for him and arrest him. Do it as quietly as ossible. After dark if you can. Charge him with murder and train robbery, but don't let anybody get wind of it. Hold him at all hazards. I take all responsibility. Now, don't forget, Marshall, there's a big reward, and you get a share. You understand?"

  "Sure, sir — shewer, Mr. Joslyn!"

  "Ring off, then, and be darned to you!"

  Early on Sunday morning Mr. Jim Reynolds might have been seen aboard the north bound train from Kansas City.

  On the same train was the famous Bob Brooks, though few people would have recognized him in the gentle, old white- chokered parson who meekly took a seat.




  It was a warm evening early in the summer of the present year.

  Three men were in a livery barn at Portland, Oregon.

  One was a rough looking customer.

  He bore a striking resemblance to Jim Reynolds, late of Kansas City.

  "How far is it to Pentwater Ranch?" he asked of the liveryman.

  "Further than I'd want to drive a horse there and back again in one day."

  "That's no sort of an answer. How many miles?"

  "Can't say exactly; thirty or forty."

  "Can I hire a horse."

  "Don't let horses out to strangers unless they leave a deposit."

  "Damn it all, I've got a wealthy friend out there. But as for me, I'm near broke."

  "Can't help it. How much have you got?"

  "Five or six dollars."

  "Sorry; that wouldn't be enough, anyhow."

  "Pardon me, my Christian friend," said one of two meek looking clergymen who stood by. "We are going out in that direction to establish a mission station. We shall be glad to give you a seat in our conveyance. We will consider your company, and escort a sufficient recompense."

  "Much obliged, gents. I'll make it good to you when I see my partner out there. He's got plenty of the long stuff."

  "Don't mention it, my brother. We should always strive to help one another. If a minister of the Gospel could not do a kind turn, who would?"

  "That's so parson, but thank ye, anyhow."

  "And now, Mr. Liveryman," said the preacher, "can we make a bargain?"

  "The same rule holds good, sir, parsons and all treated alike. We lost so many horses under the old plan that it's pay in advance and a cash deposit from strangers."

  "So be it. Get us out a good team and a double seated rig. I suppose, my friend, that you can drive well?"

  "Bet yer life," said Reynolds.

  "That is lucky; my colleague and I are poor horsemen."

  "I'm a good horseman and a dead shot, whatever my faults," remarked Jim.

  "Ah, we will remember that. Now, sir, how much for three days hire?"

  "Thirty-six dollars, mister, and a deposit of two hundred dollars."

  "Somewhat high, sir; but we have just about that sum to be used for mission work. I suppose we shall have to spare the two hundred until the rig is returned?"

  "Just so," answered the liveryman.

  Then they all got in, but drove around to the hotel for some hymn books and tracts which the clergymen wanted to take along.

  The drive was a rough one, but the two parsons made things pleasant.

  Jim Reynolds thought them the most sociable preachers he had ever run across.

  But Reynolds did not have much experience with parsons.

  So he wasn't much of a judge.

  A few miles back from Portland the country was only thinly settled.

  The parsons suggested a possibility of highwaymen and robbers.

  But Jim reassured them and claimed that he could lick three cut-throats single handed.

  They stopped at a lonely farm-house for dinner; and darkness was gathering when they came in eight of a big, rambling one-story shanty, which a, cowboy told them was the headquarters of the Pentwater Ranch.

  "This is my jumping-off place," said Jim. "Where be you gents going?"

  "We hardly know," answered he who had done most of the talking. "We are looking for a likely place for a mission chapel. But it is difficult for us to look around at night."

  "That's so; you might stop here."

  "It certainly would be an act of Christian love and charity if you could prevail upon your fiend to take us in for the night."

  "All right, gents. You've done me a good turn. You wait outside with my rig, while I talk to my friend. I haven't seen him for several months."

  Jim left the road and walked up to the dimly lighted house.

  "Now," said one of the clergymen, "now is our time to freshen up the horses. There's a well, Ed, draw some water for them. I'll rub them down a bit. I've got a currycomb and a cloth in one of my hymn book packages."

  So the horses were watered and groomed, and then, turning their heads the way they had come, the groom-parson hitched them to a tree.

  "Our friend Jim is taking his time. Hark!"

  Both men listened and heard the sounds of quarreling.

  "Is your gun in good shape, and handy, Ed?"


  "Good. Let's go up. Listen first and follow where I lead. This is the climax of nearly a year's work, remember."

  "I know it. I shall not fail you."

  So the two clerical gentlemen cautiously stole up to the house and listened through the open door.

  Only two men were visible.

  One of them Jim Reynolds.

  The other a stranger to the minionaries.

  Evidently Jim had not met with a cordial reception.

  Something was radically wrong.

  "What hell-game have you played me, curse you?" yelled Reynolds.

  "Fool!" said other. "Do you suppose I don't know what I'm talking about. I didn't send for you. I wouldn't have cared a cuss if I'd never laid eyes on you again. I suppose old man Tucker sent you up here."

  "I say he didn't! Damn you, Steve Webb, what did you send me money for if you didn't want me to come? I wish to God I had shot you down that night I was going to, by the Osage Creek. You damned, sneaking pup — you cur — you miserable deceiver of weak women! Curse you, I will get out! I'll go back to Kansas and I'll put the whole Santa Fe Railroad on to you! I'll set Ella Harrison after you! You dirty skunk, I'll not waste powder and ball on you — I'll see you hung, damn you, if I hang myself, too!"

  Quickly Steve Webb drew his revolver; but still quicker the two clergymen leaped into the room.

  "Throw up your hands, both of you!" sternly shouted the foremost.

  The command was so powerful and sudden that both Webb and Reynolds obeyed, while they both eyed the speaker.

  Reynolds laughed awkwardly and shamefacedly.

  "Steve," he said, "let's stow this scrapping. Here's a couple of gents, parsons both of 'em, as I'd forgot. They did me a good turn and I hope you'll give them a night's lodging."

  "Much obliged," said the leading preacher, "but it's not necessary. You are my prisoners."

  The preacher flung aside his wig and threw back his shoulders.

  "I am Bob Brooks, chief of detectives! I've looked for you, Steve Webb, for a long time. You are now my prisoners, both of you. I arrest you for murder and the wrecking of train No. 8 on the A., T. & S.F., September 21st last."

  The magic name of Bob Brooks took all the fight out of both the outlaws.

  "Drop your guns, boys, while my partner does the needful. Eddie, clap on the bracelets. I have a carriage waiting and we will start immediately."

  And thus it happened that the liveryman got his rig back the very next morning.

  Thus it happened, too, that Bob Brooks gained fresh laurels and unraveled the Santa Fe wreck mystery when the railroad officials had given up all hopes.

  It is needless to follow the case any further.

  A week or two later Bob Brooks had the five principal culprits in jail at Topeka; and there they lie at this time awaiting the rewards which justice will mete out to them for their evil-doing.