Chapter XX. Just a Little Too Late




"What do you think of that?" whispered Dick, as he led the way back to the sidewalk.

"It's all as plain as day," replied his brother. "This Bradner was set to watch the house immediately after the robbery occurred. More than likely he was around at the time of the robbery."

"Do you suppose he is the man who helped Arnold Baxter to escape from prison on that forged pardon?"

"Creation! It may be so!" ejaculated Tom. "I'll tell you one thing: we ought to have them both arrested at once."

"I don't know about that," mused the elder Rover. "If we do that then how are we to find out where Arnold Baxter is, or this fellow they called Roebuck?"

"But they may slip through our fingers if we don't have them locked up."

The two brothers talked the matter ever, and then decided, late as it was, to call upon Jack Wumble for advice.

"You can go for him," said Dick. "I'll continue to watch this place. If they leave I'll throw bits of paper on the sidewalk and you can follow the trail just as if we were playing a game of hare and hounds."

Tom made off at top speed, carefully noting the street and number, so that he would not miss his way when returning.

Left to himself Dick went into the alleyway again and looked through the window as before.

Dan Baxter and Bradner were still conversing, but the youth could not hear what was said.

Presently the pair at the table arose, settled for their drinks and came out of the place.

They walked up the street and around a corner, and Dick followed, scattering bits of an old letter as he went along. When the letter was used up, he tore to bits some handbills which he found in the street.

Eight squares were covered before Dan Baxter and Bradner reached a dingy looking hotel which went by the name of Lakeman's Rest.

It was set in the middle of the block, with brick houses on either side of it.

They entered a narrow hallway, and by the light above the door Dick saw them ascend the stairs to the second floor.

There now seemed nothing to do but to await Tom's return, and the youth retired to the opposite side of the street.

It was late -- after midnight, in fact -- and the street was practically deserted.

A half hour went by and Dick felt as if his brother would never return, when he heard swift footsteps behind him.

"So this is your game, eh?" cried the voice of Bradner, and of a sudden a club descended upon Dick's head and he went down as if shot.

The man had looked out of the hotel window and spotted Dick, and had gone out by a back way add around the square to make certain of his victim.

"That was a good crack," came from Dan Baxter. "It serves him right for following you."

Bradner was about to bend over his victim to ascertain how badly Dick was hurt when the footsteps of two men approaching made him draw back.

"Come, we don't want to be caught," whispered Dan Baxter nervously. And then, as the footsteps came closer, he darted away, with Henry Bradner at his heels. They did not stop until a long distance away from the scene of the dastardly attack.

The men who were approaching were a couple of bakers who were employed in a neighboring bakery.

"Vas ist dis!" cried one of them, as he stumbled over Dick's body. "A young mans!"

"He is drunk, Carl," said the other. "Let him be or you may get into trouble."

"Maype he vos hurt, or sick," said the German baker, bending down. "I vos know der cop on dis beat and he knows I vos no footpad."

Just then Dick gave a shiver and a groan, and both bakers realized that he was suffering in some way. While the German remained by the boy's side the other ran to the bakery for a lantern and assistance.

Soon a small crowd had collected, and Dick was carried into the bakery and made as comfortable as the means permitted. One of the bakers went on a hunt for a policeman, and presently the officer of the law hove into sight. Dick was just coming to his senses, but was too dazed for several minutes to give an account of what had happened. At last he said a man had struck him down with a club.

"Were you robbed?" asked the policeman.

Dick felt in his various pockets.

"No, sir."

"You were lucky."

"I dink ve scare der rascal avay," said the German baker.

"More than likely. It's a pity you didn't collar him." The policeman turned to Dick.

"Shall I call up an ambulance?"

"I don't think it's necessary, sir. My brother will be along this way soon. I was waiting for him to come when I was struck."

"You were out rather late," remarked the officer of the law, suspiciously.

"I was watching a rascal who tried to make trouble for me."

"Then there must be more to this case than what you just told me."

"There is."

"In that case you had better go to police headquarters with me."

"I am willing. But won't you wait until my brother gets here?"

There was no need to wait, for at that moment Tom appeared on the scene, accompanied by Jack Wumble. They both stared at Dick in horror.

"Oh, Dick, you are hurt?" cried Tom.

"Not very much. Bradner hit me on the head. I am glad I am alive."

"And where is the rascal now?" questioned the old miner.

"Ran away."

"And Dan Baxter?" queried Tom.

"Gone, too, I suppose. They must have been together." And then Dick related what had occurred -- so far as he knew -- since Tom had left him.

The officer of the law accompanied all three to the police station, and here the boys told their story, and a watch was set for Bradner and Dan Baxter. But nothing came of this, for the pair left Chicago early the next day.

"We had better keep close together after this," said Jack Wumble, as he was seeing the boys back to their hotel. "I reckon you've got a mighty bad crowd to deal with." And he remained with them for the balance of the night.

The express for Denver left at eleven o'clock in the morning, and all of the party of four were on hand to catch it. Soon they were whirling over the fields and through the forests toward the mighty Mississippi River.

"Never been West afore-eh?" remarked Jack Wumble. "Well, you will see some grand sights, I can tell ye that."

"No, we have never been West," answered Sam. "But we have been to Africa," he added proudly.

"Gee shoo! is that so! Well, that's long traveling certainly. But I reckon I'd rather see my own country first."

"We went to Africa for a purpose," said Tom, and told of the rescue of his father. The old miner listened with keen appreciation and at the conclusion clapped Tom on the back.

"You're true blue, Tom!" he cried. "You and your brothers will pull through, I feel sure of it." And then he fell to telling about his own life, and how he had become acquainted with Anderson Rover and his partner Kennedy, and of the various bad things Arnold Baxter had done in those days. "This man seems to be a chip of the old block," he concluded.

The trip to Denver was full of interest, and Dick was sorry he did not have a camera along, that he might take snapshots of the scenery. Yet he was impatient to get to his destination and stake out the missing Eclipse Mine before Arnold Baxter and his confederates should have the chance to do so.

It was the afternoon of the next day when Denver was reached, and a light rain was falling. Jack Wumble wished to put up at a hotel called the Miner's Rest, a favorite resort with men from the mining districts. He had been negotiating for the sale of one of his mines, and thought he could close the deal the next morning.

"And then we'll be off for Larkspur Creek without further delay," was what he told Dick.



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