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Roughriding Senorita
Saddle Pal

Posts: 2850
Registered: Jan 2007
 Posted March 3rd, 2007 12:21 PM   IP           Reply with quote Edit Post Delete post
Here is the first part of my new story. I wrote this one last October—I’d kinda gotten tired of writing Dale under a character like they did in the movies, and I thought it would be fun to bring her in as herself, and maybe pave the way for writing a couple of stories set in Paradise Valley and Mineral City. Right after thinking up that I got the plot when my mom was trying to explain how a mortgage works to me. The explanation sounded like it had great possibilities for a clever crook—and after that I was off and running!
May God keep you smilin' down a million happy trails!


"I'm not suffering from insanity...I'm enjoying every minute!!"
   
Roughriding Senorita
Saddle Pal

Posts: 2850
Registered: Jan 2007
 Posted March 3rd, 2007 12:22 PM   IP           Reply with quote Edit Post Delete post
In this story especially, I tried to make it a good mystery, so would you guys mind posting in and telling me what you think of each new part—and maybe tell me your ideas about where the plot’s going? Thanks!
May God keep you smilin' down a million happy trails!


"I'm not suffering from insanity...I'm enjoying every minute!!"
   
Roughriding Senorita
Saddle Pal

Posts: 2850
Registered: Jan 2007
 Posted March 3rd, 2007 12:23 PM   IP           Reply with quote Edit Post Delete post
Oops, I forgot to post my cast list! Here it is!
May God keep you smilin' down a million happy trails!


"I'm not suffering from insanity...I'm enjoying every minute!!"
   
Roughriding Senorita
Saddle Pal

Posts: 2850
Registered: Jan 2007
 Posted March 3rd, 2007 12:23 PM   IP           Reply with quote Edit Post Delete post
Cast list for Roy Rogers and the Lost Valley Landgrab

Roy, Dale, Gabby, SOP—themselves

Sal O’Malley—Sally Payne

Rosie O’Grady—the actress of Rosie, from “Lights of Old Santa Fe”

Mrs. O’Malley—the actress of Granny Carson, in “Sheriff of Tombstone”

Mr. Appleton—the actor of Mr. Courtney, from “Under Nevada Skies”

Mr. Preston—Wally Wales

The Sheriff—the sheriff from “Home In Oklahoma”

May God keep you smilin' down a million happy trails!


"I'm not suffering from insanity...I'm enjoying every minute!!"
   
Roughriding Senorita
Saddle Pal

Posts: 2850
Registered: Jan 2007
 Posted March 3rd, 2007 12:25 PM   IP           Reply with quote Edit Post Delete post
Roy Rogers

and the

Lost Valley Landgrab










Table Of Contents



Part One: A Letter From Gabby

Part Two: Dale

Part Three: Missing Money

Part Four: A Clue—And Fire!

Part Five: Deadline in the Clause

Part Six: Night Ride

Part Seven: Suspicious Sheriff

Part Eight: Threads of Denim

Part Nine: Jailbreak

Part Ten: Bullet Leads the Chase!

Part Eleven: Freedom’s a Slipknot Away

















Part 1: A Letter from Gabby



Dear Roy,
Dad burn it! It’s been so durn long since I tried ter write a letter that I shore ‘nough don’t know how. But I’m a-goin’ ter have ter figure it out somehow or t’other, ‘cause I got ter talk ter ya.
Drat it! Letters ain’t nothin’ but beatin’ round the bush! I’m gonna quit that now an’ git right ter the point. Roy, ye’d better get out here right smart quick. Recomemmber Dale Evans? Ye’d bettered—best lookin’ filly this side o’ the Rockies, an’ a sight less trouble then most—‘long as ye don’t want her ter do nothin’ she don’t want ter do.
Dad blast it! Thar I go gittin off’n the point agin. Ter rope it all tergether, Roy, Dale’s got a hull catus full of trouble smacked inter her lap, an’ she shore ‘nough does need some o’ somebody’s help.
Jumpin’ hoptoads, that’s ‘nough o’ this here letter writin’. I’m a-goin’ ter shet up fer now an’ give this here thang ter the mailman. Ye know the phone number o’ the Lost Valley store. I’m goin’ ter be headin’ in that way round ‘bout Saturday noon. The storekeeper’s an ol’ warhorse, but she ain’t a-goin’ ter listen in on any tellyphone calls. So jist ye give the store a ring round noon Saturday, an’ I’ll explain all this a hull durn lot better.
Gabby Whittaker.

P.S. Don’t ye firget!


Roy Rogers folded the letter shut, and ran his hand through his dark wavy hair. “What do you think of that, boys?” he asked, turning around to meet the gazes of the Sons of the Pioneers, co-owners with Roy of the Double R Bar ranch, and in their off time a music band.
Bob Nolan scratched his head. “I don’t know, Roy, but it must be important if it got old Gabby to write a letter!”
“You betcha!” nodded redheaded Pat Brady. “I bet it’s got something’ to do with that Dale Evans!”
Roy sighed. “I think it probably does, Pat,” he said sardonically. “Seeing as he mentions her as the reason for him writing.”


Pat shivered.

Pat shivered. “She’s enough trouble to make anyone write a letter! Why, I remember back when she was just a kid, she used to stick cactus in my chair!”
“After you did the same to her,” said Hugh firmly. “Anyway, Gabby says Dale’s in trouble, not that she’s causing trouble.”
“I still bet she is,” insisted Pat, squirreling down in his chair.
Bob gave him a ‘look’, and Roy chuckled as Pat sucked in his chin reproachfully. Glancing down at the letter, in his mind’s eye Roy could see Gabby as he wrote it, in his tattered black hat, his gray beard bristling with especial vigor at each expostulation.
Then Roy opened the letter again, and scanned it through. As he came to the words, “Dale Evans” he saw another picture in his mind, this time of a laughing girl, her dark red hair dangling in long braids, and her green Irish eyes sparkling. He hadn’t seen Dale for nine years, not since he’d left the California town where he finished high school. That had been when he was twenty, and she was a fourteen-year-old tomboy.
“Long time ago,” he said to himself, and suddenly realized he’d spoken out loud. He looked up, to see Bob and the Pioneers looking at him.
“What are you going to do about this?” asked Bob, poking the letter.
“Call tomorrow at noon,” answered Roy promptly. “I know Gabby. He didn’t write that letter for nothing. Something’s wrong in Lost Valley.”
“Wonder why he didn’t call from Dale’s place,” said Bob. Although Hugh, Karl, Roy and Pat were the only ones of the Pioneers who’d lived in Lost Valley as kids, Bob, Shug Fisher and Tim Spencer had all been there at some time, and all had met Gabby.
“I don’t know why Gabby didn’t call from Dale’s,” answered Roy. “Guess we’ll find out tomorrow.”
“What’re you going to do after you talk to him?” asked Pat.
“That’ll depend on what he says,” answered Roy with a half grin. “Now boys, I seem to remember that we got a little date with some broken fence…”
“Taskmaster!” grumbled Shug Fisher, getting to his feet. “Always orderin’ us around. A body can’t do nothin’ around here without getting told to do somethin’.”
Bob reached over with a long arm and picked up the small Shug by the seat of his pants. “Aw, pipe down,” he told him, depositing on the porch outside the door. “Roy does as much and more of the work around here as anyone.”
“Well, maybe so, but he’s got a advantage,” grumbled Shug. “He’s got a horse and a dog that do everything he says!”
“Not like you, huh?” drawled Pat. Shug was well known for his stubborn-as-a-mule gelding, who never did anything he was told without throwing a few bucks.
Shug glared. “You’re a fine one to talk! You never even get close to a horse if you can help it!”
Pat stuck his nose in the air. “Why should I, when Nellybelle always does everything I want her to?”
“That old jeep?” snorted Shug. “That’s a good one!”
“Are you insinuatin’ that she don’t behave?” demanded Pat, sticking both fists into his waist and leaning threateningly toward Shug.
“I ain’t insinutatin’ nothing,” snapped Shug. “I’m tellin’. That jeep’s more trouble than any horse I ever got bucked off of.”
“Why, ya little—”
Pat got no further. Grinning, Roy reached over and loaded him down with a bale of wire and four heavy pliers.
“Ouch!” yelped Pat. “What’s this?”
“Fence fixing stuff,” answered Roy. “Toss it in Nellybelle and meet us down by the south range. Since she’s so speedy, try to get there before us.”
Pat groaned, and limped off towards the barn under his load. “Don’t let me down now, Nelly!” he muttered, as he disappeared into the building.
*
Next day at noon on the dot, Roy leaped up the porch steps and into the ranch house. Tossing his cowboy hat onto the coat tree, he reached over and picked up the phone.
“Operator? This is the Double R Bar. Can you connect me to the general store in Lost Valley please?”
“One moment,” replied the operator.
Roy held the phone, as the operator made the connection. “There you go,” she said finally. “Your party is on the line.”
“Hello?” said Roy.
“Howdy,” said a woman’s voice with a broad Texas accent. “What d’ya need?”
“I’m a friend of Gabby Whittaker’s,” explained Roy. “He told me that I should call him at the store—”
“The old goat’s been hoverin’ around the counter for all of an hour,” remarked the woman. “I’ll put him on.”
In a moment, Gabby’s voice came on, muttering indignantly. “Old goat herself,” he grumbled into the phone.
“Hi ya, Gabby,” said Roy, smothering a laugh. “I got your letter. What’s all this about Dale Evans being in trouble?”
“She shore is,” said Gabby. “Dad blast it, Roy, but I’m glad ye called. I’m plumb out o’ my pants in this-here deal.”
“Well, what is it?” demanded Roy. “Did something happen to Dale?”
“Wal, not ter her direct,” rumbled Gabby, “but it shore ‘nough gits ter here too. You know her older brother, that thar Will fella?”
“Sure I remember Will Barry,” said Roy promptly. “He was a great guy—used to take us kids hunting sometimes.”
“Ye know he got hitched?”
“Sure do,” said Roy. “He married Mary Barton a couple of years before I left.”
“He did that,” pronounced Gabby. “Wal, Will took real bad sick last year, tuber-somethin’ the doc called it.”
“Tuberculosis?” exclaimed Roy. “That’s awful, Gabby!”
“That ain’t nothin’ to the rest of it,” said Gabby gloomily. “Right afore Will took sick, Mary got inter a ridin’ accydent. She got tossed off’n a bronc an’ she didn’t make it.”
Roy stood in shock as Gabby said this. He couldn’t imagine gentle, fun-loving Mary Barton dead, and now that Will was sick—
“What about children?” he asked quickly. “Did Will and Mary have any kids?”
“They shore did,” said Gabby. “Three o’ the cutest little tykes ye ever did see. An’ that’s the trouble, Roy. When this happened, round ‘bout last year, Dale came sky-hootin’ it over ter the ranch, an’ she’s been keepin’ the Lazy Rose goin’, plus takin’ care o’ Will an’ the kids.”
Roy whistled. “Dale’s doing all that by herself?”
“She shore is,” said Gabby. “An’ what’s more, Will jist got shipped off ter a fancy get-well place, ter git him over that tubby thang.”
“Tuberculosis,” said Roy mechanically, thinking hard. “So Dale’s all alone on the ranch with just three little kids?”
“Yup,” Gabby pronounced. “Jerry, the oldest boy, is a good kid, an’ responsyble fer his age, but he kin’t do more’n a half day’s work. I been goin’ out thar every day or so, an’ so have some other folks, but now thar’s more trouble.”
“More trouble!” exclaimed Roy. “How could there be more trouble than that?”
“Dunno, but thar is,” said Gabby. “Will had ter put a mortygage on the Lazy Rose a couple o’ years ago when he needed some extry cash. He’d been doin’ real well with it, payin’ up reglar, but now all this happened thar jist ain’t ‘nough money ter go ‘round! ‘N besides, thar’s been some funny stuff goin’ on ‘round the Lazy Rose lately.”
“Funny stuff?” repeated Roy. “What kind of funny stuff?”
“Strangers, prowlin’ ‘round,” said Gabby. “And thar’s been some’un messin’ with the cattle.”
“What happened?”
“Dale run ‘em off,” snorted Gabby. “She jist yanked her brother’s rifle out o’ its rack an’ sent them prowlers runnin’ with a load o’ buckshot chasin’ ‘em. But I got a feelin’ they’ll be back. That thar’s the reason why I got ahold of ye, Roy. I want ye ter git on out here an’ round up whichever skunks is givin’ Dale trouble.”
“Well—” Roy hesitated for only a moment. “I’d be glad to, Gabby,” he said then. “It’s been a while since I’ve taken any time off—I guess I could get some of the boys to come with me too.”
Gabby’s voice was relieved and delighted. “That’d be dandy, Roy, jist dandy. Oh—jist one thang. Ye kin’t go tellin’ Dale I sent fer ye. She’d throw a tailspin an’ flat out refuse any o’ it.”
Roy grinned. “I get it, Gabby. I’ll see if I can think up some excuse.”
“That’s dandy,” repeated Gabby. “Ye’ll stay at my place, o’ course. Oh-oh, Roy! I got ter git off. Dale jest came inter the store. Bye!”
Roy heard a click, and the phone went dead. Still grinning a little, but with a frown of worry beginning on his forehead, he set the phone down.
Walking out on the porch, he leaned his hand against the railing and thought over what Gabby had said. Roy knew from long experience that—while Gabby certainly had a healthy imagination and loved nothing better than a tall tale—he was better that most people at knowing when there was a real emergency. The trouble that had come to Dale Evans and the Lazy Rose Ranch was real trouble—and from Gabby’s description, bad trouble for a lot of people.


Roy leaned against the railing and thought over what Gabby had said.

Suddenly, Roy straightened. Time for thinking was up. Running down the steps, he hurried over to the barn, where he knew the Pioneers would be playing an after-lunch round or two of poker.
“Fellas?” he called, opening the barn door.
“What’s up, Roy?” came Bob’s voice from the feed room. “We’re in here.”
Roy walked quickly through the barn, and stopped in the entrance of the doorway. “Who’d like to go pay a visit to Lost Valley, and maybe sniff around and catch some crooks?”
“Must’ve talked to Gabby, right?” said Bob, giving Roy a knowing look.
Roy nodded. “I sure did, and he gave me an earful I’m not likely to forget. Bob, you and Tim and Shug never met Dale Evans, but Hugh and Karl and Pat all knew her back from school.”
“I sure did,” muttered Pat.
“Her sister-in-law was killed in an accident,” continued Roy, “and then her brother came down with tuberculosis, so Dale’s running the ranch and taking care of the three kids too. Plus someone’s been prowling around their ranch and causing trouble.”
Bob leaned back in his chair and carefully and deliberately laid down his cards. “Don’t say any more, Roy. I know what’s coming next.”
Roy cocked his head. “Since you’re so perceptive, what is coming next?”
“Gabby called you ‘cause he wants you to go out there and fix everything up.”
“He wasn’t quite that flattering,” said Roy sardonically.
“Oh, I know, Bob’s right,” said Shug mournfully. “Boys, if you ever want to see Roy again, you’d better stop him from headin’ down there. If he goes, he’ll just catch the bad guys, get shot up a little, get better, and then ride off into the sunset with that Dale girl.”
“Oh, I hardly think it’ll be that bad,” drawled Roy. “Dale never was much of the sunset type.”
“No,” agreed Pat sourly. “She never had time—always too busy puttin’ cactus on my chair. Her and that other girl, that Sal O’Malley.” He winced. “Sal was even worse that Dale! She didn’t just use cactus—she used scorpions!”
“Quit whinin’,” said Shug. “I don’t believe it was half so bad as you say. Anythin’ you say a body’s always got to divide by ten. Just like what you said about Nellybelle yesterday!”
Pat glared. “I said she’d get there before Roy and you boys, and she shore did!”
“Yeah, only she’d bounced all the wire out, all the pliers and stuff, not to mention her own fenders.”
Pat put his hands on his hips. “Well, she still got there!”
“That’s right,” said Roy peaceably. “But that’s off the point. You guessed one thing right, Bob, I’m going out to Lost Valley. What I wanted to know is, who wants to come with?”
“Not me!” said Pat promptly.
Roy nodded. “Okay, Pat. That’s fine. What about you other boys?”
“Well, we can’t just go off and leave the ranch,” began Bob.
“I know,” said Roy. “I thought about that.” Reaching in his pocket, he pulled out a flyer that had come in the mail a few days ago. “Remember you were saying we needed a couple more good bulls to freshen up our stock?”
“Well, as a matter of fact, I do. What about it?”
“Oh, nothing much,” drawled Roy. “Only there’s a cattle sale with some of the best cattle in the country, and it just happens to be in Lost Valley.”
Bob threw up his hands. “I give up!” he cried. “Okay, Roy, that is a good excuse. When do you want to leave?”
Roy grinned. “Well, I was planning to go tomorrow—only, I wouldn’t want to leave Pat here all alone.” Roy looked over at Pat, who was trying to suck his head in between his shoulders.
“Aw, why’d you have to be so direct?” groaned Pat, giving up his attempt. “I don’t want to go more’n I ever didn’t want anything before, but I never’d forgive myself if I let you go and something happened. So I’m coming!”
“Well, that’s real nice,” said Roy, carefully hiding a smile. “And I don’t think you have to worry about Dale—or Sal for that matter. I think she moved away a couple of years ago.”
“Well, that’s a relief.”
Tim stood up. “I think I’ll stay here, Roy. You guys do better at picking the cattle anyway, and I got things to take care of here.”
“He means that gal of his,” said Shug slyly.
“Tim’s got a point,” said Roy hastily, before another verbal spat erupted. “So who’s staying?”
After some discussion, it was decided that Roy and Pat would go at first, and Bob, Hugh, and Karl would arrive later in time for the sale.
“Well, now that’s settled,” said Roy, getting up from the hay bale he was sitting on, “we’d better get ready to go, Pat. We’re leaving early tomorrow. Let’s go pack.”
“Pack? Me?” Pat shook his head loftily. “I never pack—I never need more’n one change of clothes.”
“Well, let’s get that anyway.”
“Going to be bringing Trigger, Roy?” asked Hugh, his dark eyes twinkling.
“Of course,” answered Roy, knowing perfectly well that Hugh was teasing. “Bullet too. I couldn’t do anything without either one.”
*
Roy kept his word, and it was hardly past five when he was up. He’d packed his suitcase the night before, and phoned the stationmaster—an old friend—to make sure there was space for two passengers and baggage room for two horses.
As he dressed, Roy grinned, remembering the fuss Pat had put up about not being able to take his jeep.
“But, Roy,” he had protested, “I ain’t ridden for almost six weeks!”
“You’ve gotten rusty in that time?”
“Well, maybe not rusty, but—aw, Roy, you know I never did like ridin’!”
Roy had chuckled. ‘You’ll do fine, Pat. Besides, you know Nellybelle doesn’t take well to travel, even when she’s providing the power.”
“Oh, I know. But—”
“And she can’t be any more comfortable riding than even Shug’s horse, the way she bounces.”
“She might bounce as much, but she’s got one big advantage,” muttered Pat.
“What’s that?”
“She’s got padded seats!”
*
This conversation ran through Roy’s head as he finished dressing, and headed out to the barn to do the morning chores—his big German shepherd, Bullet, tagging along at his heels.
The Double R Bar was a bit unusual in the fact that Roy and every one of the Pioneers were equal partners, and that they did all of the work on the spread without any outside help. That was very convenient as far as work quality went, but it did provide a problem when somebody wanted to go off for a few days.
However, Roy did know that they’d gotten most of the week’s work done the day before, when they’d fixed not only the broken fence, but ridden almost every inch of the other fences.
Half an hour later, Roy shut the grain bins, hung up the last halter, and turned back towards the house.
Before he reached the porch, Pat popped out. “Hey, Roy!”
“What got you up so early?” demanded Roy. “It’s only five forty-five!”
Pat looked indignant. “I couldn’t sleep in when Tim was cookin’ bacon pancakes, could I?”
Roy shook his head, managing to keep a straight face. “No, I see your problem there, Pat. You couldn’t.”
“That’s what I thought,” Pat beamed. “And that’s why I came out to get you, ‘cause the rest of the fellas said I couldn’t have any pancakes till I did.”
“Well, in that case I bettered hurry!” chuckled Roy, coming up on the porch next to Pat. “Did you get packed?” he added, as they went into the house together.
“Yup!” answered Pat. “I did it all last night.”
“Hey,” said Bob, looking up as they entered the kitchen. “How’re you going to get the suitcases and stuff to the train? You can’t take all that in on your horses.”
“I’m drivin’ Nellybelle,” said Pat. “I’ll have to leave her at the train station, the poor sweet gal.”
“Who do you want to drive her back for you?” asked Roy, pulling out his chair and sitting down. “These pancakes smell great, Tim.”
“Well, I don’t know,” said Pat, frowning worriedly.
“I’ll do it,” offered Bob.
“Oh no Bob, you’re too heavy.” Pat furrowed his forehead. “She needs somebody light like me or Shug.”
Shug got up from the table and slammed his chair in. “Don’t go askin’ me to drive her,” he warned. “I’d as soon sit on a barrel of dynamite with a five second fuse attached.”
“I’m not goin’ to ask you,” Pat answered dignifiedly. “Nellybelle would rather carry a barrel of dynamite than you, anyway. Hmm…”
“What about me, Pat?” offered Tim.
Pat looked him carefully up and down. “No, Tim, I think you’re just about my weight, and that’d be too sad for Nelly. She’d be liable to break down from loneliness. Thanks kindly all the same, though.”
Roy pushed his own chair back and began clearing dishes. “Well, hurry up and make up your mind, Pat. We’ve got to get going.”
“I guess I’m too heavy?” asked Hugh.
Pat nodded. “So’s Karl…hmm…I know! Bob, will you drive her back?”
Bob choked, but hastily recovered. “Sure, Pat,” he said in a smothered voice.
“That’s dandy,” said Pat, comfortably settling back in his chair. “I wonder why I didn’t think of you in the first place!”
*

The Pioneers helped do the dishes


As soon as breakfast was over, the Pioneers helped Roy to do the dishes—with much soapy splashing. As soon as the last dish was dried and put away—and Shug had swept up the one he “accidentally” broke over Pat’s head—Roy and Pat went to their rooms to get their suitcases.
Inside his room, Roy quickly picked up his single large suitcase, checked to make sure the sometimes-dubious latches were holding, and then walked out into the hallway—only to bump smack into a pile of suitcases walking out of the room across the hall.
CRASH! The suitcases went flying, to reveal the indignant figure of Pat—knocked flat on his back by the impact. “Would ya look where you’re goin’?” he demanded. “You probably busted everything!”
Roy surveyed the pile of suitcases with an exasperated look, even as he gave Pat a hand up. “These aren’t all yours, Pat, are they? You said you didn’t need to take anything along!”
Pat looked around. “This ain’t nothin’,” he protested. “I just figured I’d bring a couple of guns, and a couple of rifles—that’s what the long case is—”
“Well, I’m sure you’ll have no problem fending off every outlaw in California,” Roy said dryly. “Well, too late to do anything about it now. Pick up all that and let’s get it into Nellybelle.”
“I’ll take yours,” wheedled Pat, “if you’ll just saddle Redeye for me. Bob’s going to ride him into town, but he says he won’t saddle up.”
“It’s a deal,” Roy told him, handing over his suitcase and heading out the door towards the corral.
With a lasso, he roped the ornery gelding that Pat was to ride, and—moving cautiously, saddled and bridled the horse, then tied it to the hitching post outside the barn.
Turning away from the gelding, he went into the barn and picked up a silver-trimmed saddle and bridle. The tack over his arm, he walked back out the door. He turned to face a hill pasture to the right of the barn and whistled, one shrill blast through his teeth.
There was a snort from up on the hill, and then suddenly a magnificent palomino stallion swept over the crest and down towards Roy, its golden coat glistening and its long white mane and tail flowing in the wind.
“Trigger!” called Roy. “Here, boy!”
With a crow hop, the stallion plunged over to Roy and then stood still, snorting gently, as Roy saddled and bridled him.
“That a boy,” he said in praise, as he finished tightening the cinch. Trigger nosed him affectionately, and then gave him a bump with his nose.
“You want to get going?” Roy chuckled, swinging into the saddle. “Well, we’re off for now, and we’re going to have some riding ahead of us, boy, that’s for sure.”
Leaning over, he undid the catch on the gate, and trotted Trigger out through it and down to the barn, where Bob was swinging into Redeye’s saddle.
“Ready to ride?” Roy called down to him.
“Ready to ride,” Bob answered. “Pat’s getting Nellybelle warmed up.”
The rest of the Pioneers came out on the porch now, and said good-bye and good luck to Roy.
“Thanks a lot, fellas,” he said, waving over his shoulder as he turned Trigger towards the road. “Wheet!” he whistled. “Come on, Bullet!”
With a roar and a backfire, Nellybelle lurched from behind an outbuilding, and—somewhat under control—careened out the drive and down the road, bumping after Roy, Trigger, and Bullet.

May God keep you smilin' down a million happy trails!


"I'm not suffering from insanity...I'm enjoying every minute!!"
   
Leah B.
Saddle Pal

Posts: 2746
Registered: Feb 2006
 Posted March 4th, 2007 11:57 AM   IP           Reply with quote Edit Post Delete post
Thats a good story RoughRiding Senorita! I read most of it (but I have to get off the computer soon, so i'll finish it later). I just have one suggestion. I really like that you made Gabby talk like he doesha in the movie. I just don't think you should put quite as much of it. (The shores'n'ters and that stuff) It makes it a little hard to read. But please keep some of it in.....

Thanks for posting that!

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RoyRogersFan
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 Posted March 4th, 2007 12:02 PM   IP           Reply with quote Edit Post Delete post
My 'Gabby language' gets HORRID at times, kinda hard to read, I mean, but I wouldn't leave it out, it seems like a needful part of writing Gabby. Just my honest opinion
Be without fear in the face of your enemies. Be brave and upright that God may love thee. Speak the truth even if it leads you to your death. Safeguard the helpless. That is your oath. (strikes him across the face) That is how you shall remember it. Rise a knight!
Knighting out of Kingdom of Heaven

You will listen to me. Listen! The Bretheren will still be looking to us, the Black Pearl, to lead. And what will they see? Frightened bilge rats aboard a derelict ship? No! No, they will see free men and freedom! And what the enemy will see is the flash of our cannons! They will hear the ring of our swords and they will know what we can do. By the sweat of our brows, and the strength of our backs, and the courage of our hearts. Gentlemen, hoist the colors.
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CowboyFan
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 Posted March 5th, 2007 01:42 PM   IP           Reply with quote Edit Post Delete post
That is great Roughriding Senorita! Thank you for posting it and I can hardly wait for the rest!
'Weep not but think that I have past
Before thee o'er a sea of gloom
Have anchored safe and rest at last
Where tears and mourning cannot come' ~Emily Bronte

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yellowrose13
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 Posted March 6th, 2007 08:13 AM   IP           Reply with quote Edit Post Delete post
Roughriding Senorita, that was great! I have to admit, I don't read all the stories posted here, just beacuse of time, but this one I'll definitely finish! I love the comedy with Pat. That's one thing I just can't seem to get down in my stories.
"...there's nothin' in life that's worth doin', if it cain't be done from a horse..."
   
RoyRogersFan
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Registered: Aug 2006
 Posted March 6th, 2007 01:59 PM   IP           Reply with quote Edit Post Delete post
Pat's comedy is hard to get for some people, I know that roughriding seniorita has trouble with it, but she persists, and is really very good at it. It comes naturally for me, so I guess it has to do with the person.
Be without fear in the face of your enemies. Be brave and upright that God may love thee. Speak the truth even if it leads you to your death. Safeguard the helpless. That is your oath. (strikes him across the face) That is how you shall remember it. Rise a knight!
Knighting out of Kingdom of Heaven

You will listen to me. Listen! The Bretheren will still be looking to us, the Black Pearl, to lead. And what will they see? Frightened bilge rats aboard a derelict ship? No! No, they will see free men and freedom! And what the enemy will see is the flash of our cannons! They will hear the ring of our swords and they will know what we can do. By the sweat of our brows, and the strength of our backs, and the courage of our hearts. Gentlemen, hoist the colors.
Elizibeth our of Pirates of the Caribbean, At World's End
   
Roughriding Senorita
Saddle Pal

Posts: 2850
Registered: Jan 2007
 Posted March 12th, 2007 06:15 PM   IP           Reply with quote Edit Post Delete post
I'm so glad you liked the story so far, guys! Leah B, I'll try to tone Gabby's language down a little, but most of it needs to stay, I think. For some reason, I never write his comments--he writes them himself! Most of my characters do that, in fact. Here is the next part of my story. Oh, by the way, I’m going to stick the pictures in here—I just haven’t had a chance to pull them all out of my files and format them yet. I will ASAP!
May God keep you smilin' down a million happy trails!


"I'm not suffering from insanity...I'm enjoying every minute!!"
   
Roughriding Senorita
Saddle Pal

Posts: 2850
Registered: Jan 2007
 Posted March 12th, 2007 06:16 PM   IP           Reply with quote Edit Post Delete post
Part 2: Dale



Three hours later, Roy woke up from a doze as he heard the conductor shout, “Next stop, MAAAAAARRYSVILLLLE!”
That’s the next town from Lost Valley, thought Roy, sitting up straight. We’re almost there.
He looked across the train seat from him where, comfortably curled up, Pat snored. They’d made the trip to town without any trouble—good, considering Nellybelle—loaded the horses in the train, and then settled back for the long ride.
Within minutes, the steady rocking of the train had sent Pat’s eyelids lower and lower and lower…till with a snore he was asleep. He’d been asleep ever since.
Roy himself had only been catnapping for the last half hour. Pat’s stimulating company had made him a little tired too, and he knew from long experience that when you had time to sleep, you slept and then were fresh when you didn’t have time to sleep.
The train let out an ear-piercing whistle, and the conductor’s head popped back into the car. “Next stop LOSSSSSSTTTT VALLLLEYYYYY!” he bellowed.
Roy leaned forward and tapped Pat on the knee.
Pat’s head drooped farther forwards and he let out a series of loud snores.
“Pat!” Roy called. “We’re there!”
More snores.
Roy leaned back for a second, eyeing Pat. Then a twinkle came into his eye. Picking up a newspaper on the seat next to him, he opened it and crossed his legs, looking very relaxed.
“Time to eat,” he said in a conversational tone.
Pat exploded out of his seat. “Where? What?” he asked, looking around him.
“We get off in a second,” Roy told him, smothering a laugh in the newspaper.
“Oh,” said Pat, deflated. “I though I heard someone say it was time to eat.”
“Must have been your imagination,” Roy told him cheerfully. The train jerked then, and slowly began grinding to a stop.
“Oh, here we are,” said Roy then, putting down the newspaper and standing up. “Come on, Pat. I’ll take one of your suitcases—you take the other two.”
Both their hands full, Roy and Pat filed down the train steps.
“Hey, it looks just like it used to!” exclaimed Pat, looking around.
“It sure does,” said Roy, his eyes traveling over the weathered boards of the platform, the red station building, the blacktop of Main Street, leading away from the train station. The buildings along Main Street were still the old false fronts Roy remembered, and the parking space at the edge of the street still had the same mix of cars and trucks, dappled with a horse tied here and there.
“It looks just like it used to,” Roy repeated, suddenly realizing he was glad it did.
“Well, I’m glad it looks the same,” said Pat, coming back to life. “But I sure hope that it tastes the same, too!”
“Tastes the same?” asked Roy, laughing. “You in the habit of eating towns, Pat?”
Pat frowned exasperatedly. “I’m talkin’ about the food we used to get at the store.” His eyes lighted as he remembered. “Old Mrs. O’Malley sure could make a great chicken pie!”
“But you had to be careful,” Roy reminded him. “You never knew when Sal was going to show up.”
“Yeah, and blast me with a peashooter,” grumbled Pat. “I don’t know why she never picked on you, Roy. Come to think of it, Dale never picked on you either. I think that’s unfair discrimination!”
“I got into trouble with both of ‘em plenty,” said Roy, walking over to a bench and setting his suitcases down there. “Put yours down there too, Pat. We’ve got to unload the horses.”
They approached the baggage agent, who checked their claim tickets and then opened the door of the stock car for them.
The instant it slid open Bullet dashed out, barking happily. “Hi ya, fella,” Roy said, stopping a second to scratch the big German shepherd behind the ears. Then he straightened.
“Hi ya, Trigger,” he added, walking up the ramp into the straw covered stock car. “Missed me?”
“Whuh-huh-huh!” whinnied Trigger, nodding his head vigorously from between his crossties.
“Take it easy, Boy, we’ll get you out of there in a sec,” Roy told him, sliding a bridle over the stallion’s head. As he did so, Roy looked over his shoulder at Pat.


Roy looked over his shoulder at Pat.

“Saddle up Redeye,” he said, picking up his saddle blanket from where it lay on top of the saddle. “We’ll have to ride out to Gabby’s.”
“What about the suitcases and stuff?” Pat asked, eyeing Redeye and his saddle reluctantly.
“We’ll have to leave those somewhere till we can come in and get them,” said Roy, smoothing the blanket down on Trigger’s back and then swinging the saddle up there too.
“Umm—how about I go take ‘em wherever that somewhere is?” offered Pat brightly. “Then you could—kind of—saddle up for me?”
“Shirker,” Roy grinned. “Let’s see. You can take them…well, let’s leave them at the bank for now. If Mr. Carson still works there he’ll let us put ‘em there for a couple of hours.”
“Okay!” said Pat over his shoulder, as he practically ran back out of the baggage car.
Grinning, Roy turned back to Trigger, finished saddling and bridling him, and then tacked up Redeye for Pat.
Unclipping both of the horses from their crossties, Roy led them slowly down the ramp and out onto the street, Bullet pacing at his heels. A few yards away from the train station, there were two hitching rails on opposite sides of the street. A sorrel gelding was tied to one, placidly nibbling at the few weeds along the rail.
Roy led Trigger and Redeye over to the opposite hitching rail, and tied both of them loosely to it. Since he wasn’t going anywhere, it was safe to tie them without a lead.
As he finished tying Trigger, Roy turned his head—just in time to see a young boy come hurrying around the corner. He slid to a stop in front of the gelding tied to the hitching rail. For a second, he looked up and down the street—apparently checking to see no one was watching.
Roy slid back behind Trigger’s neck, knowing as he did so that the boy wouldn’t see him. The kid’s furtive movements had aroused Roy’s curiosity, and he looked out again just in time to see the boy yank something out of his pockets and stuff it in the horse’s saddlebags—then take off at a dead run back where he’d come from.
As he disappeared, Roy came slowly out from behind Trigger’s neck. He frowned, looking over at the gelding, which seemed undisturbed by the boy’s actions.
What had the boy been doing? Roy’s mind flitted back to an incident he’d known of where young boys were slitting cinches and reins for a “prank”—a “prank” with deadly results.
Roy made up his mind. The owner of the horse was nowhere in sight. He’d better find out what the kid had put in the saddlebags, and check the cinch and the bridle while he was at it.
“Sit, Bullet,” he ordered, beginning to walk across. “Stay there for now.”
Once across the street, Roy looked around once more for the boy—and for the owner of the horse. Neither was in sight. Suddenly, the street had gone dead quiet. There was no one at all visible.
“Hi ya, Boy,” Roy said, patting the gelding on the rump. The horse looked up and blinked calmly at him, then went back to nibbling.
His back to the buildings behind him so he could keep one eye on Trigger and Redeye, Roy bent over and ran his hand over the cinch. It was intricately woven wool, and inspection proved it to be completely unfrayed.
Gently raising the horse’s head, Roy gave the leather bridle the same careful inspection. There was nothing at all wrong with it, except for a twisted shank, which Roy fixed.
Whatever the boy was doing must have been with the saddlebags alone, Roy realized. Stepping back to the horse’s rump, he undid the latigo strap that held the right saddlebag shut. There was nothing inside, except for a small piece of paper—
“What do you think you’re doing?” came a sudden angry voice from behind him.
Roy spun to face a tall, slim girl dressed in pants and riding jacket. Her hat was dangling down the back of her neck, framing her red curls, and her green eyes snapped angrily—then suddenly stared in recognition.
“Roy Rogers!”
“Dale Evans!” exclaimed Roy. Then he realized that the ‘Dale’ he’d known had changed from a tomboy into a vivid young lady. Her dark red hair—which had been braided last time he’d seen her—bobbed in shining curls on her shoulders, and her active figure was both graceful and strong.
“Or is it Miss Dale Evans now?” he asked, recognizing the change.
Her eyes began to twinkle. “Dale, of course!” she chuckled, and held out her hand. “I can’t believe this! How long has it been?”
“Nine years,” said Roy with a smile, shaking her hand.
“Whew!” she whistled. “What are you doing back here, anyway? I thought you had a ranch downstate?” For an instant, there was a flash in her eyes that Roy was sure was suspicion.
“Pat Brady and I came out for a vacation and to attend the cattle sale next week,” Roy answered quickly, and sighed in mental relief as he saw the suspicion disappear from her eyes.
“Pat Brady?” she repeated slowly. “Hmm…life in Lost Valley could get interesting for a while.”
Roy grinned. “That’s what he was afraid of. Seems like he remembers a certain incident of cactus on a chair…”
Dale snickered embarrassedly. “I hope his memory doesn’t extend to other things!”
“’Fraid it does,” said Roy. “More than that, though, he was worried about running into Sal O’Malley.”
“Well, he’ll do that all right, that is if he likes to eat,” Dale said. “Sal works at the general store in town, along with the new owner.”
“New owner?” Roy asked, realizing that she must be the woman he’d talked to on the phone.
“Well, not exactly new,” Dale answered. “Mrs. O’Malley retired three years ago, and a lady from Marysville moved into Lost Valley and bought the general store. Her name’s Rosie O’Grady, so she fit right in.
“Yeah, all you hot-tempered Irish,” teased Roy.
Dale put her hands on her hips. “Well, while we’re on the subject, what about you scalping Choctaw? They’re pretty hot-tempered too!”
“That’s two generations back,” protested Roy.
“You might be able to say that my Irish is two generations back too,” retorted Dale. “That’s the last time someone from the old country is in my family tree.”
“Well, you’ll never convince anyone of that with your red hair and green eyes and red-hot—”
“Temper,” finished Dale. “Go ahead and say it. I hear it five hundred times a day anyway—by the way, what were you doing in my saddle bags?”
Roy suddenly remembered what he’d seen. Quickly, he explained to Dale. She frowned for a second, reached into the saddlebag, and drew out the slip of paper.
Opening it, she read it quickly, and as she did so her face cleared till she finished with a laugh.
“It’s from Jerry,” she said, handing Roy the paper. “It’s kind of a game we have; he’s in the secret message and code stage—oh, you don’t even know who Jerry is, do you?”
“I want to hear all about him,” evaded Roy. Taking Dale’s arm, he piloted her a few feet away where there was a bench. “Let’s do it in a more comfortable manner, though.”
She sank onto the seat, and grinned ruefully. “That was a good idea. I’ve been on my feet since daybreak, and it seems like that’s a long time!”
“I know how that can be,” said Roy. “Now, who’s Jerry?”
“He’s my nephew,” said Dale. Punctuated by leading questions from Roy, she went on to explain everything that Gabby had told Roy, except she said nothing about prowlers or money troubles.
“I hate to think of all this happening to you and the rest of the Evanses,” said Roy after she’d finished.
“We’re making do,” she said, a little shortly. Then she smiled and turned to Roy. “Now, you’ve been asking a lot of questions but giving me precious few answers. What have you been doing these last seven years?”
“Well—” Roy opened his mouth to begin to answer but got no further. Suddenly, the sleepy quiet of the hot afternoon was split by a banshee yell, and a scrawny figure came racing down the street, waving his hat wildly. “Roy! Roy!”
“Pat!” exclaimed Roy, getting to his feet. “Over here, Pat!”
Pat came dashing over. “Jumpin’ hairy cactus, Roy, you wouldn’t believe who I just saw!”
“Who?”
“Sal O’Malley!” blurted Pat, looking over his shoulder. “I left the bags at the bank—took me a long time, though, ‘cause the fella there was kind of persnickety about it. But I convinced him eventually, and then I decided to drop in Mrs. O’Malley’s store to get a snack—and there was Sal!”
“So you turned tail and ran?” asked Roy.
“Well, what would you have done? You said she moved away, but I knew I was going to meet up with one of those two gals sooner or later. Speaking of gals,” Pat added, “who’s this…uh-oh!”
Dale curtsied to Pat. “Welcome back,” she said, her eyes twinkling.
Pat backed up slowly. “Oh-oh,” he whimpered. “I-I didn’t mean anything—”
Roy grinned. “She knows that, Pat. I guess you figured out who this is.”
“I sure did!” said Pat, looking a little relieved but still keeping a safe distance away.
“Well, I think—” began Dale, but she was interrupted as another person came hurrying down the street—this time a short girl with her long sandy brown hair pulled back in a braid.
She slid to a stop in front of Pat and grinned at him. “Why, you crazy galoot!” she exclaimed. “I thought you’d never git back here to Lost Valley.”
Pat was plastered back against the wall. “Hi, Sal,” he whispered weakly.
She gave him a friendly slap on the shoulder, and Pat winced. “What the blazes is wrong with you?” she asked. “Ya look like you’re goin’ to git shot at dawn!”
Pat swallowed hard. “I—I feel like I’m going to git shot at dawn,” he croaked.
“Well, I never!” Sal turned away from Pat then and grinned at Roy. “It shore is good to see ya,” she said, shaking hands. “What’re ya doing out here?”
“Roy came in for the cattle sale,” said Dale. “By the way, Roy, do you and Pat have a place to stay?”
“We’re planning to bunk at Gabby’s,” said Roy. “We talked before Pat and I came out here.”
For a second, there was another suspicious flash in Dale’s eyes. “I see,” she said slowly.
Uh-oh, thought Roy, but just then came the third interruption of the day.
A truck came roaring down Main Street, and slid to a screeching stop in front of Trigger and Redeye, still tied to the hitching rail across the street. The two horses danced at the end of their lead ropes, and Bullet leaped to his feet and barked a challenge at the truck.
“I’d better get over there,” said Roy over his shoulder, as he hurried across to the horses. Trigger was snorting nervously and prancing a little, but Redeye was pulling back against his bridle.
“Easy boy,” Roy said, patting him and Trigger. “Come on, Bullet, sit down.”
The truck door opened then, and out limped an older man, his bushy gray beard bristling.
“Roy!” he bellowed.
“Gabby!” grinned Roy, running to meet him.
“Boy, it shore is good ter see ye,” said Gabby, shaking Roy’s hand with a grip that belied his years.
Roy slapped him on the shoulder with his free hand. “Same here!”
Gabby looked across the street then, and saw Pat with Sal and Dale.
“I see ye ran inter Dale a’ready,” he muttered into Roy’s ear.
Roy turned and busily occupied himself with undoing the ties that held the two horses to the rail. “I did,” he said in an undertone. “And I think she’s suspicious, so you better not act like this is any sort of conspiracy.”
Gabby drew himself up. “Conspiracy nuthin’! This’s a respectyble—wal—a—a— respectyble conspiracy, ter help Dale an’ all the rest o’ them Evans folks.”
“Well, it isn’t going to be a conspiracy much longer,” warned Roy. “Not unless you tone it down a little. Dale used to have good ears.”
“Humph!” snorted Gabby, but he glanced sharply at Dale across the street. Fortunately, her head was tipped back in laughter at something Sal was saying to Pat, and she obviously hadn’t heard anything from where Gabby and Roy were standing.
After making sure of this, Gabby turned back to Roy. “Wal, I guess we’d bettered be gittin’ ye an’ Pat over ter my place. Did ye bring any baggage, or did ye jist plan ter sleep in yer skin?”
“Oh, we brought baggage,” said Roy. “I don’t know about sleeping, but I do know you need a little more than skin to shoot with.”
“Aw, ye didn’t need ter bring no shootin’ irons along,” grumbled Gabby. “I got plenty o’ ‘em ter home.”
“Yeah, I know,” said Roy. “But it’s nice to use ones you’re familiar with.”
Gabby looked interested. “Ye git much shootin’ practice down state?”
“Oh, some,” said Roy, beginning to lead Trigger and Redeye across the street.
“What sort o’ stuff?” Gabby inquired. “Rustlers or bank robbers?”
“Nothing that exciting,” drawled Roy. “Mostly rattlesnakes.”
“The two-legged kind?”
“Nope,” said Roy. “Around back where we come from, rattlesnakes don’t have any legs at all.”
“I should hope not!” broke in Dale, who’d evidently heard the tail end of the conversation as Roy and Gabby had reached her. “Gabby, I hope you’re not filling Roy’s head with stories,” she added sternly.
“No stories a-tall, ma’am,” Gabby assured her loftily. “Git any more rustlers slidin’ round yer place?”
She glared at him. “None at all.”
Roy realized Gabby was deliberately opening up a question for him. “What rustlers?” he asked Dale quickly, feigning complete bewilderment.
“Why, you know,” began Pat, but just then Sal screamed.
“Oh, help!”
Everyone whirled to face her. “A mouse!” she cried, and slipped limply into Pat. He grabbed her gingerly by the shoulders.
“Oh, don’t do that,” he begged, shaking her. “Come on, Sal, you’re squishing me!”
“Ohh,” moaned Sal, her eyes fluttering open. For a second, she looked directly at Roy, and one of her eyelids dropped in a wink.
So she’s in on it too, Roy thought, giving her a hand up. “You okay now?” he said aloud.
“Oh, yeah,” said Sal. “I just can’t stand the sight of mice!”
Dale stared at her. “Since when have you gone so Victorian?” she demanded. “I didn’t think you were scared of anything, not even murderers!”
“Well, I ain’t!” Sal declared, putting her hands on her hips. “I’d tackle any murderer ya want to throw at me. But when I see a mouse my legs just git all wobbly-like, an’ I can’t see clear!”
“Hmm,” said Dale suspiciously.
Realizing he’d better change the subject, Roy touched Dale’s arm. “Dale,” he said as she turned to him, “what did Gabby mean about rustlers? Have you been having trouble when you were out there alone?”
She gave Gabby a dirty look, and then sighed in resignation. “Not really,” she said. “It’s just—I heard some noises the other night and I saw two men trying to get into the barn. I just grabbed up Will’s rifle and let loose a couple of barrels at ‘em, and they ran off.”
“Wish I’d-a been there,” said Sal in an undertone.
Pat stared at her. “Well, I don’t!”
Roy ignored him and looked at Dale. “Did they get on horses?”
“They must have,” she said. “I didn’t hear hoofbeats but when I went out there to look I couldn’t find anybody.”
“You went out there alone to look for them?” repeated Roy in real concern. He hadn’t known that!
“You want to git yourself killed or somethin’?” demanded Pat.
“Oh, hush up,” Dale scolded. “I was perfectly safe.”
“Yeah,” drawled Roy.
She put her hands on her hips. “Well, I was!”
“Mmm-hmm.” Roy changed the subject. “Do you have any idea of what they were looking for?”
“Not really,” Dale said hastily.
Gabby narrowed his eyes at her. “Dale, I’m ‘shamed o’ ye! Yer father brought ye up ter be truth tellin’ an’ law-abidin’. Ye done all right on the last one, but on truth-tellin’ ye’re rustier than my broom closet door. Ye know durn well what those fellers were up ter, or at least ye got a good suspycion. Now ye jist up an’ tell Roy, or I’ll do it fer ye.”
“Oh, you!” Dale said angrily. Turning her back on Gabby, she began reluctantly. “A couple of our cows have gone missing—vanished completely. It doesn’t seem possible that that could happen unless there were rustlers operating off the Lazy Rose. I don’t know for sure, but I suppose Gabby has a point, and the men that were sneaking around might have been the rustlers.”
Roy stuck his thumbs through his belt. “Dale, it sounds to me like you’ve got a dangerous situation on your hands. Don’t you think you’d better have someone out there with you—”
“I can take care of myself,” Dale interrupted stubbornly.
Roy’s eyes twinkled just a little. “I’m not doubting that for an instant, but—you’ve got three more people to take care of than yourself. What about those three kids of Will’s and Mary’s that you’re taking care of? They need you.”
His blue eyes were very serious now, looking straight into Dale’s green ones. She looked back for a second, and then her eyes dropped.
“Oh, I guess you’re right,” she sighed, kicking the dirt with a booted toe. “But—”
“Roy, ye’re a marvel,” Gabby interrupted. “I been tryin’ ter convince this here gal o’ what ye jist said fer a hull durn month, ever since Will got shipped off ter that sanytorium, an’ here ye did it in jist two minutes.”
“I just showed her the facts,” Roy said, looking at Dale.
“Wal, I shore wouldn’t mind bein’ able to state facts like that!” broke in Sal. “Uh—Dale, do ya think we’ve been standin’ here long enough? I’m wearing new boots and—” she twisted up her face “—they shore pinch like they were a mule a-bitin’.”
“Oh, of course, Sal,” Dale said hastily. “Roy, about what you said—I don’t know of anyone who’d be willing to take time off to do it, and—well, we need all our spare cash for paying off the mortgage Will had to put on the place.”
“I didn’t mean hire somebody,” said Roy quickly. “I’ve got time on my hands; I’d be happy to come out and help.”
“Well—” Dale hesitated.
“I’ll come too,” offered Pat. “Hey, Dale, do you still make those apple pies you used to?”
She rolled her eyes. “I can see why you’re so anxious to come on out! Well, Roy—and you, Pat—I just can’t say no. I—I guess I’ve been more worried than I’d let on, with the kids and all. Jerry’s the best boy in the world, and the most wonderful help, but—he’s only nine, and the two girls are five and six.”
“Where are those two cuties?” asked Sal, looking around. “Ya didn’t leave them back at the ranch, did ya?”
“Of course not!” denied Dale. “Jerry came in with me, so I rode old Tom here and the two girls hung on behind. Tom’s perfectly safe for that. They’re down the street at your mother’s, Sal.”
“Oh. Hey, how about I come on out an’ join this crook-catchin’ party? It’s been too long since I shot skunks.”
“Sal!” Dale’s voice was rebuking, but a twinkle lurked in her eyes. “I suppose Gabby wants to come too? How are we going to fit you all? And what about groceries?”
“Aw, that’s no problem,” said Sal. “Ma still owns the general store, ya know. She’ll send a whole truckload of groceries over first thing tomorrow.”
Dale’s eyes were suspiciously bright. “Well, then I guess I don’t have anything to say,” she began, but Roy broke in.
“There’s just one thing about all this. If everyone shows up all of the sudden, the rustlers are going to take cover. We want to catch them, right? Sal, you’d be a whole lot more help here in town. You get around a lot, and you can keep your ears open.”
“You mean spy-stuff?” Sal grinned. “It’s a deal—for now.”
“What about you and Pat then, Roy?” asked Dale.
“Well, that’s a bit of a problem—”
“Oh no it ain’t,” broke in Gabby. “Dad blast it, Roy, hev ye fergotten all the Injun tricks I learned ye?”
“I didn’t!” broke in Pat. He lowered his voice. “We’ll just sneak into the Lazy Rose when it’s dark, hide our horses, and then comb the premises for the crooks!”
“On foot?” asked Roy dryly, as Gabby snorted in disgust. “And what happens when it’s daybreak? No, that’s won’t work. But the idea about the dark is good. It’s right about the new moon, right?”
“Right, Roy,” said Dale. “But what—”
“It’s important for my idea,” said Roy. “We’ll ride in like Pat said, and then hide our horses and spend the night taking turns keeping an eye on things. If nothing happens, then just before day break we’ll ride out and get far out on the range before anyone could see us.”
Dale nodded slowly, and Gabby heaved a sigh. “Wal, I see ye ain’t forgotten everythang, Roy. That sounds mighty good. An’ I been ridin’ over thar near every day, so that won’t be nuthin’ new.”
“That’s the way we’ll do it then,” decided Roy. “Gabby, Pat took our stuff down to the bank, ‘cause I figured we’d need to leave it there while we rode out to your place. We’d better go get it.”
“I’ll come with you,” offered Dale. “I have some business with the bank today, too.”
Gabby glanced keenly at her. “Ye made up that payment fer this month all right?”
Dale nodded. “I even managed to gather enough to pay a little of the balance off,” she grinned.
“That a gal!” Gabby applauded. “Ye’ll have that mortygage payed off by the time Will gits back.”
“I sure hope so,” said Dale, her grin suddenly gone. “I sure hope so.”
Roy looked up at her, surprised by the seriousness of her tone. But before he could find out anything, her face cleared as she smiled down at Bullet, who was sitting bolt upright at Roy’s feet.
“What a beauty, Roy. He’s a German shepherd, right?”
Roy grinned. “That he is. Shake hands with Dale, Bullet.”
Bullet obliged cheerfully, and added a lick to Dale’s nose. She chuckled and stroked him, and then stood up. “Well, I guess we’d better be getting over to the bank.”
*
Pat volunteered to stay with the horses and Bullet, and Gabby had to go get groceries, so Roy and Dale headed into the bank alone. They’d said goodbye to Sal before going in, because she had to get back to the store where she worked.
The bell tinkled softy over the door as it swung to behind them, and Roy glanced around as his eyes adjusted to the dim light inside the bank. To the left and right stood a few wooden and upholstered chairs, and small tables with ivy plants on them. Right ahead was the barred tellers’ windows, and behind them Roy could see the vaults of the bank itself.
Dale walked up to the nearest teller’s window. “I’d like to see Mr. Adamson, please. I have a payment to make.”
“One moment,” said the teller. “He’s in the office right now with Mr. Preston. I’ll send you in as soon as he’s done.”
Dale nodded her thanks, and moved towards the left of the bank to sit down and wait. Roy stepped forwards to the window, and the teller looked up inquisitively. “May I help you?”
“My friend came in here several minutes ago,” Roy explained. “He left a few suitcases to be called for.”
The woman’s eyebrows went up high. “Banks are not usually the places for leaving suitcases,” she said pointedly.
“I used to live here nine years ago,” said Roy mildly. “Back then, if someone wanted to leave something in a safe place, he took it to the bank and they’d keep it there safe for him.”
“Well, times have changed, home boy,” said the teller sharply. “What’s the name of your friend?”
“Patrick Brady,” said Roy, keeping back a sharp retort with difficulty.
She got up without a word and disappeared into the back room. After a few moments, she emerged again, carrying all four suitcases and looking more sour than before, if that was possible.
“Here you go,” she said, shoving them at him through the window. “Next time, find a hotel to leave them in.”
“Thanks very much,” said Roy. Suddenly, he realized that she was shoving Pat’s rifle case through—stock foremost. The barrel end of the case was pointed square at her chest.
Roy’s eyes began to twinkle. Unobtrusively, he twisted the suitcase he was pulling out, so that it jammed the rifle case neatly into the window.
“Don’t be so clumsy!” snapped the teller. “Get that thing out of here!”
“Why don’t you push at the end,” suggested Roy.
She gave it a shove.
“Just be careful,” Roy added slowly. “That thing’s a rifle case and there’s two rifles in there. My friend’s a great fella but he has one little problem—he always forgets to click the safeties off on his rifles. I expect that shove you just gave it probably jiggled the trigger. Another one will probably fire it off.”
As he spoke, he gave the gun case a sharp jerk. The teller, whose eyes had been getting bigger as her face grew paler, shrieked and jumped back.
“Don’t do that!” she screamed. “It might go off!”
“Oh, don’t worry,” Roy reassured her. “It’s not pointing at me.”
The teller wasn’t too frightened to get the point of that. “Why, you—you—”
“Rancher,” Roy filled in. “Say, since when did bank tellers ask occupations?”
Roy heard a stifled snicker from behind him, and he looked sideways long enough to see that Dale had been paying close attention to this conversation, and was highly interested and amused.
Roy turned his attention back to the teller and the suitcase jam again. He yanked at the rifle case once more—provoking another scream from the teller. This time, the inside door burst open and out stomped two men, one tall and squarely built, although not heavyset, and one small and slim, almost frail-looking.
“What’s going on?” demanded the tall man.
The teller whirled to face him. “Oh, Mr. Adamson!” she gulped. “This man put this rifle case in here and it’s going to go off at any moment and he can’t get it out!”
The joke had gone far enough, Roy realized. Deliberately casual, he reached up forwards and—with a deft and skillful twist—untangled the case and slid it free.
The teller’s eyes still fixed on him, Roy slowly undid the zipper of the case and inspected the rifle.
“Oh, no need to have worried,” he told the teller, looking up, unable to conceal a grin. “The safety’s are on, and neither one is loaded anyway.”
“Oh! You knew that all the time!” burst out the teller, but just then Dale interfered.
“He couldn’t very well examine the guns through a leather case, could he?” she told the teller coolly. “Mr. Adamson, I have my payment for this half-month.”
“Very good,” he said, opening up the office door. He looked dubiously at Roy as Dale passed inside, but she turned.
“That’s my friend,” she said. “I’d like to deal with this with him along.”
“Very well,” repeated Mr. Adamson. Without a word, he pulled out chairs for each of them and waited till they were seated, then waited for Dale to make the first move.
She sat down on the edge of her chair and reached in her pocket to pull out an elaborately decorated leather wallet. “I have this half-month’s interest and some off the balance,” she said, pulling out a sheaf of bills and handing it to him.
He reached for it, silently counted the bills, and then turned to his desk and opened up a file. Riffling through it, he came upon the sheet of paper he’d been looking for. Pulling it out, he compared the total of the bills with the number required on the sheet of balances.
After a few moments, he looked up. “I’m afraid you don’t have any extra, Miss Evans,” he said. “This just covers the payment for this half-month.”
Roy looked quickly over at Dale, to see her face go white. “But—but that’s impossible!” she exclaimed. “I have over twenty dollars extra there!”
“No you don’t,” said the bank president. Pulling his chair to the edge of the desk, he spread the bank balance where she could see it. She leaned close, and, unobtrusively behind her Roy moved close as well.
The president ran his finger down a long column of figures. “This is the history of your mortgage,” he explained. “In the beginning, it was being paid off fast. The half-month interest was paid on time, along with a lot off the balance. Then, about eight months ago, the payment method dropped. Instead of balance behind paid off every half-month, only interest was paid.”
“I know all that,” said Dale tightly. “What I want to know is how come my half-month’s payment this time is twenty dollars more than it should be!”
“It’s not this half-month that has the problem,” said the president. “Last half-month, the payment—which you mailed—was short fifteen dollars. You were sent a statement to that effect, and in that time, the money has been gathering interest, so now it’s reached a total of twenty dollars.”
Roy glanced sharply at Dale. Her face was white, but her eyes were flashing. “Last half-month’s payment was not short!” she snapped. “I counted it myself, carefully, and then I mailed it. I wasn’t able to get into town that week because of the girls being sick.”
The president nodded patronizingly. “I see that,” he said. “However, the records show that the payment was short, and I’m afraid that that’s that.”
Dale jumped to her feet! “This is crazy!” she burst out. “What do you mean, ‘that’s that’? Fifteen dollars go missing, and that’s all you can say?”
The president’s face flushed angrily. “My dear young lady,” he said, “you’d better get yourself in hand. You are implying that the bank is responsible for your missing money. An implication like that is going only one place—the courtroom. Do you wish to take it to court?”
Dale stared at him, boxed in. Roy took her arm. “Come on, Dale,” he said. “Let’s go.”

May God keep you smilin' down a million happy trails!


"I'm not suffering from insanity...I'm enjoying every minute!!"
   
Roughriding Senorita
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 Posted March 12th, 2007 06:17 PM   IP           Reply with quote Edit Post Delete post
Hey! I just realized--yellowrose, you mentioned something about having trouble with Pat. Do you write Roy Rogers stories too? That'd be WONDERFUL!!!

P.S. Please pay attention to the mystery and give me updates on your opinions as it goes along!

May God keep you smilin' down a million happy trails!


"I'm not suffering from insanity...I'm enjoying every minute!!"
   
Roughriding Senorita
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 Posted March 15th, 2007 05:43 PM   IP           Reply with quote Edit Post Delete post
Here is part 3! Like I've said before, please give me your opinions on possible BGs!
May God keep you smilin' down a million happy trails!


"I'm not suffering from insanity...I'm enjoying every minute!!"
   
Roughriding Senorita
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 Posted March 15th, 2007 05:43 PM   IP           Reply with quote Edit Post Delete post
Part 3: Missing Money




Nodding to the bank president, Roy led Dale—who followed numbly at first, but once they reached the outside she jerked her arm out of Roy’s grasp.
“Why did you take me out of there?” she demanded wildly. “I’ve got to do something!”
“Not the way you were doing it,” said Roy quietly. “You couldn’t afford a lawsuit—not even if you sold the Lazy Rose. And that man certainly meant to press it.”
Her eyes dropped. “I know,” she said wretchedly. “But—I know that payment was even! I checked! I’m so careful about that!”
“Do you have any proof, anybody who saw the correct amount?” asked Roy.
Dale thought for a second, and then shook her head. “No,” she said. “Nobody was at our place then, except the girls and Jerry.”
“That’s what I was afraid of,” said Roy. “Well, it looks like you’re going to have to let this one pass—”
“Are you kidding?” demanded Dale hotly. “I’m going to get to the bottom of this if it’s the last thing I do! And I’m going to start by going through my records!”
She leaped towards the door, but Roy caught her arm just in time. A couple of passers-by stared curiously, but Roy had no time for that now.
“Cool it!” he hissed into her ear. “I’ll help you get to the bottom of this—on one condition.”
Dale stared at him suspiciously. “What’s that?”
“That you play it my way, and not go all red-headed.”
Dale’s face flushed angrily at this, but Roy went quickly on. “If you mailed all that money and it disappeared, something crooked is going on, right?”
“You didn’t have to tell me that!”
Roy grinned fleetingly. “Okay. But—if you go barging in there again, you’ll tip off whoever’s behind it.”
Dale stared at him. “You think someone at the bank—”
“Quiet!” Roy shushed her. “It might not be the bank—it might be the post office or something like that. But, it you make a big scene, it’ll get blown all over town.”
For a moment, Dale hesitated, and then she sighed in resignation. “Oh, all right,” she said. “I’ll play along—but it’d better be a good play.”
“I think we can work that out,” grinned Roy. “Now, let’s get over to Pat and the horses—”
“What about your suitcases?” questioned Dale, her eyes suddenly mischievous. “Now who’s going around not thinking?”
“Me, trying to keep you in order,” teased Roy. “I’ll go back in and get them.”
Hurrying back into the lobby of the bank, he glanced around for his suitcases. He was just in time to see them disappearing through the door back into the vault.
“Hey!” he called, hurrying towards the door. The suitcases paused, and the man carrying them turned around.
“Can I help you?” he asked. Roy recognized him as the small, slight man who had been with the bank president when he had come out of the vault.
“Those are my suitcases you’ve got,” explained Roy.
The man glanced down. “Oh! I’m sorry, sir, I just saw them lying there and thought they had not been put away. Here you are. I hope this has not been an inconvenience?”
“Not at all,” said Roy, smiling and taking the cases. One slipped from his hand as he tried to balance all of them—just before it hit the floor, the slight man caught it.
“Here, let me help you with that!”
“Thanks,” said Roy, as the man accompanied him to the door.
“No problem at all,” said the man. “I was glad to help.”
Setting the suitcase down outside the bank, he nodded to Roy and went back in.
“Nice guy,” said Roy to Dale. “Who is he?”
“Mr. Preston?” Dale frowned. “He’s a man who works in the bank, and that’s about all I know. He’s been living here for almost a year, and I don’t think any one really knows anything about him.”
“Hmm,” said Roy. Then he put it out of his mind. “Well, let’s get to getting, as Gabby says. I’ll bring these suitcases over to the general store and dump ‘em in Gabby’s truck, and then we’ll go collect our horses from Pat.”
“If he hasn’t all let them go,” muttered Dale, picking up the gun case. She slung it to her shoulder, and then did a double take.
“Roy! What’re you doing with a caseful of rifles on a vacation?”
Roy looked down and her, and thought fast. “Ah—that’s not mine, that’s Pat’s. He’s inseparable from those rifles. I guess he thought he might do a little hunting while we were here.”
“He must not have know about the new hunting seasons,” said Dale, accepting Roy’s explanation and beginning to walk up the street to the store.
Roy let out a sigh of relief, and followed. “I guess he wasn’t planning to go hunting for—stuff—in season,” he said. “I think he was planning to hunt—varmints.”
“There’s not many of those around any more,” said Dale. “The few coyotes and wolves left are needed to keep down the rodent population.”
Abruptly, she changed the subject. “Roy,” she said, lowering her voice. “What are you planning to do about the payment? I—I didn’t explain before—but things are real tight at the Lazy Rose right now. There’s barely enough money to keep it going. The twenty extra dollars I raised this month was from a sale I landed for one of our last year’s steers. I don’t have any more.”
“I see,” said Roy. “Dale—did you have both the half-month’s interest payment and the balance in the same envelope?”
“No,” said Dale. “I put the interest in one, and the balance money in another smaller one inside.”
“Hmm,” said Roy, beginning to get an idea. “Then the smaller envelope must have disappeared…” Abruptly, he turned to her. “Dale, was there anything unusual about the bills in the balance payment envelope? Any marking or something you could use to identify them?”
“Why, as a matter of fact, there was!” said Dale, starting to see where Roy was going in this. “Cathy—that’s one of the girls—had been coloring pictures with crayons when I was counting out the money, and before I could stop her, she’d scribbled on parts of two five-dollar bills. Oh, Roy, do you think—”
“I think that that scribbling might have been a blessing in disguise,” Roy told her quickly. “If we can find one of those bills, maybe we can find who took the money!”
They’d reached the parking lot behind the general store now. Right ahead was the rusty, battered truck that Gabby had been driving. Absently, Dale lowered the case she was carrying over the side, as Roy did the same with his.
“Roy,” Dale said after a moment, “what do you think happened to that money? I mean—what could have happened to it? If someone stole it, why didn’t they take the rest of the interest money I had in there?”
“I don’t know,” frowned Roy. He braced his heel against the bed of the truck and tightened his spur as he continued. “The whole thing doesn’t make sense.”
“Well, I sure hope we can figure it out,” sighed Dale. “I guess you were right before, to get me out of that bank before I got myself—”
“A nice libel suit,” interrupted Roy. He grinned, covering up the worried frown on his face. “Well, I guess—”
“Dale! Daaaale!” interrupted a high-pitched shriek, and Roy turned to see two little girls come running towards Dale, pigtails bobbing on their shoulders. Sal O’Malley was trotting behind them, laughing as she tried to catch up.
“Oh, Dalie, guess what!” breathlessly demanded the taller of the two little girls.
“What?” smiled Dale, kneeling down on a level with her two nieces.
“Sal showed us her gun—”
“—And we each got to shoot it off in the backyard!”
“Shoot it!” Dale jumped to her feet. “Sal! You didn’t—”
“Aw, shucks!” panted Sal. “Shore I let ‘em shoot my gun off a couple o’ time, but all it was loaded with was blanks.”


“All it was loaded with was blanks.”

Dale’s face cleared in relief. “Well, in that case, I can’t complain.” She bent back down, as Sal waved and headed back up the street, her charges safely delivered. “How’d you do, Annie Oakley?”
“Not so good,” pouted the smaller girl, sticking the end of her pigtail in her mouth. “There was a big bang and lots of smoke, but there weren’t any dead varmints laying around afterwards.”
Dale rolled her eyes up at Roy. “I can see someone’s been talking to ‘Uncle Gabby’, she said wryly. “Whatever happened to little girls and dolls?”
Roy chuckled. “Seems to me you never were the doll-playing type either.”
He squatted down on his ankles and smiled at the two girls. “Well, little Miss Sure Shot, what’s your name?” he asked the tall one.
“Cathy,” replied the little girl. “Who’re you?”
“I’m Roy Rogers,” replied Roy, tugging gently at her braid.
“He’s an old friend from here,” added Dale.
While Roy had been talking to her sister, the other little girl had been surveying them seriously. Taking her pigtail out of her mouth, she asked, “Did you ever shoot any varmints, Mr. Rogers?”
Dale choked, and Roy cleared his throat. “That depends,” he evaded.
Dale caught his eye. “You’re not going to get out of it that way!” she mouthed silently above her nieces’ heads.
Roy grinned at her and turned back to two girls.
“Depends on what?” persisted the little girl.
“On whether I loaded my gun,” said Roy. “I’ll tell you a story about that sometime—say, wait a minute. I can’t tell a story when I don’t know your name. Is it really Annie Oakley?”
“No,” she giggled. “I’m Penny.”
“Well then, Penny,” began Roy, but just then Gabby stumped out of the store, his arms full of packages.
“Just a second, girls,” said Roy, jumping up and hurrying over to Gabby. “Here, let me give you a hand with that, Pappy.”
“Thank ye kindly,” said Gabby, as Roy removed half of his load. Together, they walked the rest of the way to the truck and dumped the packages in the back.
“Hi, Uncle Gabby,” piped up Cathy.
He glared fiercely at her and demanded sternly, “Have ye been washin’ behind yer ears?”
Cathy’s face flushed guilty, and she shook her head miserably. Her sister threw an arm around her shoulders and rushed to her defense. “She does, most of the time!” Suddenly, Penny gave Gabby her most serious look. “Do you, Uncle Gabby?”
“Er—hem—ahem!” Gabby was suddenly seized with a fit of coughing.
“That won’t work,” said Dale with a chuckle.
Gabby favored her with a glare. “Mind yer own busyness, young lady! Now, Penny,” he added, turning back to the little girl, “how’d ye like fer me ter give ye a ride in the truck someday?”
“I’d like that a lot, Uncle Gabby,” said Penny, while Cathy squealed with delight. “Only—do you wash behind your ears?”
“Better tell her the grim truth, Gabby,” grinned Roy. “She’s old enough to know.”
Gabby squirmed under Penny’s penetrating gaze. “Aw—er—I’ve got ter go!” He leaped into the truck and slammed the door. “See ye later!” he shouted out the window as he roared away.
Roy and Dale looked at each other and burst out laughing. “That’s a nifty way of getting out of a situation,” gasped Dale after a moment.
Penny tugged at her sleeve. “Dale, why’d Uncle Gabby go away like that? He made the same noise with his truck that he’s always yelling at you for making.”
“That was before our truck broke down,” said Dale, scooping Penny up in her arms. She took Cathy’s hand and then turned to Roy. “I’d better get back home, Roy. Jerry’s note said that he was leaving for there, and—well, I don’t like to leave him there alone for too long.”
Her eyes flicked down for a moment to the two little girls, and Roy nodded, understanding that Dale did not want her nieces to know of the danger that threatened their home.
“I’d better be getting over to Gabby’s too,” said Roy, falling into step with Dale. “If he doesn’t crash on the way home, that is!”
“Yes, he did seem to be in a bit of a hurry,” said Dale demurely.
In a few minutes, they turned the corner and came in sight of the back street lot on the edge of town, where Pat was supposed to be watching the horses.
He was there all right, but he wasn’t exactly watching the horses. He was peacefully propped up against a fence post, snoring in contentment with Bullet’s head in his lap while the three horses grazed around him.
“Hey, Pat!” called Roy. “Wake up!”
Not too much to Roy’s surprise, there was no response from Pat, but Bullet jumped up with a happy bark, knocking Pat awake.
“Uh—huh—what?” he sputtered jumping to his feet. “Oh, Roy! Well, I sure am glad you got back! I was getting so bored here I was ‘bout to fall asleep.”
“Yeah, I noticed,” drawled Roy.
Pat gave him a sour look, which was a little too much for Dale. She burst out laughing again, and it was almost a minute before she finally sobered. “Oh, boy, Roy, it sure is good to have you and Pat back in Lost Valley,” she said, wiping tears of laughter out of her eyes. “I haven’t laughed so much for—well, for a long time.”
Her face darkened, as she remembered the reasons for her lack of laughter. Roy stood silent for a moment, unsure what to say to make Dale feel better. Then, Trigger came to his rescue. Sensing that Dale was unhappy, the stallion stepped forwards and nuzzled her cheek gently.
“Oh, Dale!” cried Penny in delight. “The horse kissed you!”
“He did at that,” smiled Dale, her gloom lifting. Stroking Trigger’s forehead, she looked over at Roy. “He’s beautiful, Roy. How long have you had him?”
“Quite a few years,” answered Roy. “Almost since I left Lost Valley. We’ve ridden a lot of trails together, huh, Boy?” he asked, turning to the stallion, who nodded his head.
Dale laughed. “Where’d he learn that?”
“I have a bad habit of spending my spare time teaching him tricks,” said Roy, tightening the horses’ cinches as he spoke. “He learns so fast it’s not really work at all.”
“I don’t think that such a bad habit,” said Dale, giving Trigger one last pat. “Thanks for tightening my cinch, Roy.”
“No problem.” Roy gave her a hand up into the saddle, and then lifted the two girls up behind her.
“See you tonight,” he said.
“I’ll be waiting,” answered Dale. With a wave, she wheeled her red gelding and loped slowly off out of town.
*
“Guess Gabby didn’t crash after all,” commented Roy, as he and Pat rode into Gabby’s small ranch ten minutes later, Bullet skittering at the horses’ heels.
“Are you talkin’ to me or yourself?” demanded Pat.
“Neither one,” retorted Roy. “I’m talking to Trigger.”
“It’s a fine state of affairs when a cowboy’d rather talk to his horse than his faithful sidekick,” grumbled Pat.
“Well, how can I talk to a faithful sidekick when there’s not one here?” drawled Roy.
“Well, I don’t know,” began Pat—and then did a double take. “Aw,” he muttered, realizing what Roy was implying.
Roy grinned and reined Trigger to a halt in front of Gabby’s hitching post. “This place hasn’t changed at all,” he said, looking around.
Gabby’s ranch still looked exactly as it had years ago, except that it was more weatherworn than before, if that was possible. The ranch buildings—instead of being painted—were weathered gray boards, and the corral poles had long been bleached white by the sun. Buffalo skulls that Gabby had gathered decorated the entrances of the buildings, and wagon wheels were in strategic spots all around.
Besides that, there were wagons in different stages of disrepair lying everywhere, plows and harrows with anvils sitting near them, and piles of boarding stacked around. Gabby was one of the best handymen Roy knew—he just never finished one project before starting another.
“It sure don’t look much different,” said Pat, agreeing with Roy’s statement. He slid off Redeye as Roy swung off Trigger, and together they tied their horses to the hitching post.
“Hey, Gabby! We’re here!” called Roy.
There was a shout from the house, and then Gabby stumped out on the porch, dripping soapy water of his arms.
“What’dya want—oh, it’s ye. Come on in, fellers. Roy, ye can bring Bullet on in too. Don’t go slippin’ on the drips—I’m jist sort o’ doin’ my spring cleanin’.”
“You always do your spring cleanin’ in August?” asked Pat, following Roy and Gabby up the steps to the house.
Gabby gave him a level stare as they got inside. “Shore. It’s the only time I clean anythang a-tall anyhow. Yer suitcases are still in the truck, boys. Ye might as well leave ‘em thar till ye git over ter the Lazy Rose ternight.”


“It’s the only time I do any cleanin’ a-tall.”

*
It was all of eight o’ clock before Roy decided it was safe to leave Gabby’s. The summer sun had set a little while ago, but the sky was still glowing with it’s light. That would disappear in a few moments, though, Roy knew, so it was time to get going. The horses—which he’d unsaddled and turned out—would have to be caught and resaddled, and by the time that was done it would be completely dark.
As Roy had figured, once he finally swung into his saddle—Pat grumblingly doing so as well—the night was dark, except for a silvery sprinkling of stars in the blue-black sky.
“We’re ready to ride, Gabby,” called Roy. “Can you give us directions now?”
Gabby stumped out of the barn. “Ye don’t need no directions,” he said. “Jist set yer sights on one o’ those stars, an’ ride straight an’ true. Ye’ll hit the Lazy Rose in ‘bout fifteen minutes.”
“Just ride straight?” repeated Roy.
“That’s what I said. ‘Course,” Gabby added casually, “thar’s a couple o’ slides, a canyon or two, an’ a river in between, but that don’t make no diff’rence.”
“No difference!” yelped Pat. “I’ll say it makes a difference! I’m not ridin’ over any country like that in the dark! It’s bad enough in the light!”
“Aw, quit yer squawkin’,” grumbled Gabby.
“Well, hold a minute,” said Roy. “Pat might have a point. I don’t mind riding rough country like that in the daytime, or even under a moon, but when it’s almost pitch black—”
“Quit worryin’,” declared Gabby. “I wouldn’t send ye by a way ye couldn’t foller, right? Thar’s a puffectly good way ter get thar even in the dark.”
After some questioning from Roy, Gabby explained that the straight way wasn’t the only one. There was another way that struck off at an angle, and then turned, forming two sides of a triangle and ending at Dale’s ranch.
“Ye can’t miss it,” finished Gabby. “And, o’ course, iff’n ye do git lost, jist turn ‘round an’ come back here.”
“That’s great,” muttered Pat. “Specially since if we’re lost we won’t know the way back here either!”
Roy chuckled. “Don’t worry, Pat. I think we can get there by this route in one piece. See you later, Gabby!”
Whistling for Bullet, Roy reined Trigger around and set him into a lope, heading away from the golden windows of Gabby’s place into the dark on the east range.
*
After about half an hour of riding—Roy wasn’t sure because he couldn’t see his wristwatch—over country that was somewhat rough and broken but fairly level, Roy and Pat reached and headed up a steep hill. As they crested the top, suddenly from below there came gleams of light, little squares of gold down below.
“That must be the Lazy Rose!” exclaimed Roy, leaning back in his saddle as Trigger began to descend the hill. “Guess Gabby’s directions weren’t so bad after all, huh, Pat?”
“Oh boy,” groaned Pat’s voice from the darkness, sounding a few yards away. “Oh boy! I’m not sayin’ nothin’ about the directions till I get safely down this hill! I don’t like heights, and—oh! Help! Help! Heeeeeelp!”
“Pat! What’s going on?” demanded Roy. Trigger was sliding down the hill, and all Roy could hear was a strangled yell from Pat, and the snort of a frightened horse.
Roy tried to rein Trigger to a halt, but the hill was too steep. He had to continue to the bottom—but where was Pat?
“Pat! Where are you? What’s happened?”
“Oh, heeeelp!” came another yell, this time from somewhere below Roy. “Help, Roy! Something’s sitting on me! And it’s prickly!”
“Sitting on you?” demanded Roy. “How could something be sitting on you when you’re riding?”
“I’m not ridin’!” wailed Pat. “There was an earthquake! Help!”
“Come on, Trigger,” said Roy. “Let’s get down!”
For a second, Trigger’s feet slid out from underneath him and Roy grabbed at the saddle horn, trying to stay seated. Then, with a gallant lunge, Trigger regained his footing and slid down the last few feet to level ground.
Roy leaped out of the saddle. “Pat!” he called into the dark.
“Over here!” yelled Pat’s voice.
Roy turned towards it, but before he could make a move he heard a door bang open and a brilliant beam of light cut through the darkness.
“Who’s there?” snapped a voice.
Roy held up his hand to shield his eyes from the glare. “Dale, is that you?”
The light was instantly lowered to the ground. “Well, for goodness’ sake, Roy!” came Dale’s relieved voice. “What was all that yelling about? I thought you were rustlers!”
“We must have sounded more like a band of Choctaw,” said Roy, walking towards Dale—who was silhouetted in the beam from the light.
“As a matter of fact, you did,” said Dale. “But that doesn’t answer my question. What happened?”
“Heeeelp!” came Pat’s shriek again.
“That’s your answer,” said Roy. “Something happened to Pat. I don’t knew where he is—but I know how I can find him.” He whistled. “Wheet! Bullet!”
There was a happy bark, and a gray-gold-black form shot out of the dark into the glow cast by the searchlight which Dale was holding.
“Good boy, Bullet,” said Roy, as the dog reached him. “We need to find Pat. Find Pat!”
Bullet whined, and then turned and sped off into the dusk. Roy grabbed up Trigger’s rein and followed, Dale at his heels. In a moment, Bullet’s bark came from just a little ways away. At the same time there came a yelp.
“Hey, Bullet! Quit lickin’ me!”
“That’s Pat!” said Roy in relief. “Turn your light on him, Dale.”
Dale lifted the spotlight, and the powerful beam again cut ahead into the dark. Roy looked ahead—and stared.


May God keep you smilin' down a million happy trails!


"I'm not suffering from insanity...I'm enjoying every minute!!"
   
RoyRogersFan
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 Posted March 20th, 2007 01:38 PM   IP           Reply with quote Edit Post Delete post
Hey, you'd better send this story to me, Nina, I haven't got it AT ALL, and I haven't got it with pictures for sure! Same thing with the smugglers, Death in the Valley, and your first two, whatever they were called!
Be without fear in the face of your enemies. Be brave and upright that God may love thee. Speak the truth even if it leads you to your death. Safeguard the helpless. That is your oath. (strikes him across the face) That is how you shall remember it. Rise a knight!
Knighting out of Kingdom of Heaven

You will listen to me. Listen! The Bretheren will still be looking to us, the Black Pearl, to lead. And what will they see? Frightened bilge rats aboard a derelict ship? No! No, they will see free men and freedom! And what the enemy will see is the flash of our cannons! They will hear the ring of our swords and they will know what we can do. By the sweat of our brows, and the strength of our backs, and the courage of our hearts. Gentlemen, hoist the colors.
Elizibeth our of Pirates of the Caribbean, At World's End
   
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 Posted March 20th, 2007 06:55 PM   IP           Reply with quote Edit Post Delete post
Okay, I'll try to!
May God keep you smilin' down a million happy trails!


"I'm not suffering from insanity...I'm enjoying every minute!!"
   
cowboyforchrist
Marshal

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Registered: Mar 2007
 Posted March 21st, 2007 09:27 AM   IP           Reply with quote Edit Post Delete post
ok your still working on this

its great so far

well your doing the famous cliffhanging routine now

making us wait for the chapter


happy trails to you
   
Roughriding Senorita
Saddle Pal

Posts: 2850
Registered: Jan 2007
 Posted March 24th, 2007 12:17 PM   IP           Reply with quote Edit Post Delete post
I'm posting it this way becasue it makes the story last a little longer!! Actually, I've already finished this story, way back in November. But you don't have to cliff-hang much longer--the next part is coming up!
May God keep you smilin' down a million happy trails!


"I'm not suffering from insanity...I'm enjoying every minute!!"
   
Roughriding Senorita
Saddle Pal

Posts: 2850
Registered: Jan 2007
 Posted March 24th, 2007 12:18 PM   IP           Reply with quote Edit Post Delete post
Part 4: A Clue—and Fire!




The first thing ahead was Redeye, his saddle slipped under his stomach. His eyes were rolling in fright as he tried to stamp his foot free of the cinch which had tangled around his legs.

The next thing, right behind Redeye, was a huge pile of something, with long arms branching up and out to the sides. What was it?

Suddenly, a snort from Redeye shook Roy and Dale free from their shocked stare. “Easy boy,” said Roy, going to Redeye and swiftly undoing the cinch, letting the saddle fall to the ground.

As he spoke, Bullet darted out from behind the black shape, barking. The shape itself gave a flop on the ground, and a wail came from it.

“Oh, Roy, get me out of here!”

“What on earth—” Dale hurried to the black shape, Roy on her heels. “I thought so!” she exclaimed. “Patrick Aloysius Brady! How did you manage this?”

“I don’t know!” wailed Pat’s voice. “Get me out of here!”

Roy reached forwards, and then jerked his hand back with a cry. “Ouch! Something pricked me!”

“That’s not surprising,” said Dale sarcastically. “Pat just managed to knock the only saguaro cactus in the area down on top of his head.”

“Saguaro cactus—!”

“Yup. There was an old one on the hill—he must have knocked it down on top of him somehow.” Dale quickly set the light on the ground, where it still cast a bright light. “Come on; let’s use the saddle blanket from off his horse and roll the thing off him.”

Still incredulous, Roy picked it up and together they shoved and pushed at the huge, ungainly, and very prickly cactus. After a moment—punctuated by yells from Pat—the saguaro rolled over and Pat was free.

“How on earth did you manage to do that?” demanded Roy, pulling Pat to his feet.

“I don’t know,” he moaned. “I was just ridin’ down the hill, peaceful like, when all of the sudden the was an earthquake under my saddle an’ I went flying! The next thing I knew I was under that thing!”

“You must have knocked it free of its roots,” said Dale. “It was almost dead, anyway. Well, come on, let’s get back to the house—”

“Dale!” came a young voice. Roy and Dale turned quickly to see the door of the ranch house fly open, and a small figure come out, silhouetted on the steps. “Dale! You okay?”

“I’m fine, Jerry,” she called, and added as they reached the house steps, “This is Roy Rogers and Pat Brady, Jerry. They had a little accident with the cactus out there—that’s what all the yelling was about.”


“I’m fine, Jerry.”


“Oh,” said the boy, moving back from the door. Dale clicked off her light and stepped over the threshold. Roy followed, with Pat and Bullet close on his heels.

For a moment, Roy stood without saying anything, taking in the scene in the entryway. It was a small house, he could see that, but its walls were burnished and bright, firelight danced off the walls of the living room, and there were hand-woven Indian rugs at different spots.

Then Roy looked at the young boy who had called for Dale—her nephew, Jerry. He was standing in the hall, his hand firm on the stock of the rifle he carried—but Roy noticed with approval that the safety was off and Jerry’s finger was nowhere near the trigger.

Then the moment of inspection passed. Dale slid the jacket she wore off her shoulders and turned with a smile to Roy. “This is Jerry,” she said. “Jerry, this is Roy Rogers—I told you about him.”

For a moment she glanced significantly at Roy and then at Jerry, and Roy realized that not only had Jerry known of what was going on at the Lazy Rose before Roy had arrived, but Dale had also told him of their plan to try to stop it.

“It’s good to meet you, Jerry,” said Roy, shaking hands.

“I’m glad to meet you, Mr. Rogers,” said Jerry, smiling. “Dale’s told me a lot about you.”

Roy shook his head. “Just make that Roy,” he told him. “I never can get used to Mr.”

“All right,” said Jerry, and grinned.

Suddenly, there was a shriek from upstairs. A door banged and small feet came thundering down the stairs. “Roy!” shouted Cathy, reaching him first.

“Hi ya, there!” Roy picked the little girl up and tossed her over his head. She squealed in excitement, and then demanded as he put her down,

“Will you tell us that story you promised?”

“Now?” added Penny.

Dale frowned. “Just a minute, girls. You’re supposed to be in bed—I told you not to come out again.”

Penny’s face fell, and Cathy burst into a wail. “I waaant the story nooow!”

Dale sighed, and a tired look crossed her face. Roy saw it and moved forwards quickly.

“Take it easy,” he told Cathy, squatting down and sitting on his heels. “Shut off that sprinkling can! You’re getting me all wet.”

That was a little too much for Cathy. She giggled reluctantly, through her tears.

“That a girl,” said Roy encouragingly. “Now look, you two. I’ll make a deal with you. Dale’s busy right now—and tired—so how about giving her a break?”

“How?” asked Cathy, wiping her tear-wet face with the back of her hand.

“By going up to bed quietly—”

“But I do want that story,” she pleaded.

Roy grinned. “All right. Here’s the deal. You and Penny go up and get tucked in. I’m going to be down here for a few minutes. If you’re quiet and can stay awake, I’ll be up and I’ll tell you the story then. Is it a deal?”

“Deal!” shouted the two little girls in chorus. Then they turned around and—in a flash of checked pajamas—disappeared up the stairs.

Dale smiled gratefully at Roy, and then turned to Jerry. “Thanks for coming out after me, Jerry.” She reached in her pocket and pulled out a six-shooter, which she handed to him. “Can you put this in the gun case for me, when you put that rifle back?”

“Sure, Dale.” Jerry took the gun and turned to the living room.

“Oh, and Jerry,” added Dale, “will you please put Roy and Pat’s horses away?”

“Oh, I can do that,” offered Roy.

“No, I’d be glad too, Roy,” said Jerry. “I’ll just put the guns away and see to it.”

“Then you’d better get to bed,” called Dale after him. “Good night!”

“Good night.”

He disappeared through the door into the living room, and Dale turned to Roy and Pat. “Okay, that’s that. Say—I put the kettle on just before Pat knocked that cactus down on top of him. How about some coffee?”

“That’d be great,” said Roy, following her as she turned into the kitchen.

“Yeah,” said Pat morosely. “Dale, I just can’t seem to get away from ‘em when I’m around you.”

“Get away from what?” asked Dale, bewildered.

“Cactus,” said the despondent Pat. “If I ain’t sittin’ on ‘em, they’re sittin’ on me.”

“Oh, you’ll survive,” Dale told him, hurrying to the kitchen stove. In a few moments, she had coffee dripping and cups set out.

“Hold that just a minute, Dale,” said Roy as she carried the coffeepot to the table. “Things have been real quiet upstairs for a while. I’d better get up there and live up to my end of the bargain.”

“Okay,” smiled Dale. “Their room is the first on the left.”

Roy went out of the kitchen and up the narrow wooden stairs, the sapling-trunk railing smooth under his hand. The girls’ door was cracked, and light shone out from it.

Softly, Roy pushed it open and peeked inside. Curled up together in bed, the two girls opened sleepy eyes.

“Are you ready for the story?” asked Roy.

“Yes,” said Cathy. Penny nodded.

“All right, then,” said Roy, sitting down on the end of the bed. “I’ll tell you about how I got Trigger. How does that sound?”

The girls’ eyes were wide. “Oh, goody!”

“Hurry up!”

Roy grinned. “Once upon a time…”
*
Ten minutes later, Roy stood up carefully. Both little girls’ eyes were shut tight; their heads close together as they slept.



Roy quietly turned off the light.



Quietly turning the light off, Roy went downstairs and into the kitchen. Dale was at the sink, drying the last of the dinner dishes. She looked over her shoulder as he came in. “Girls all quiet?”

“Sound asleep,” said Roy, grabbing another towel. “They were good as gold. Here, let me help with that.”

“There’s not really much,” said Dale. “Pat went off to the room I got ready for you. He said he needed to put some horrible-sounding stuff on his prickles from that cactus.”

Roy chuckled. “Good old Pat. You know, Dale, those girls of your are something else.”

“You’re telling me,” said Dale wryly, but she smiled. “You’re good with kids, Roy. Cathy and Penny love you already.”

“You’re not so bad with kids yourself,” Roy told her. “Jerry has the worst crush on you I’ve ever seen a boy of his age have.”

Dale’s eyes softened. “Jerry’s wonderful,” she said. “He’s exactly like Will was—is —it’s like having a brother all over again.”

Roy dried the last dish and hung up the towel. “Dale,” he said slowly. “What do you think about everything that’s been going on at the ranch?”

Dale didn’t answer for a second. “I don’t know what to think,” she said finally. “Will and Mary had this place since before you left Lost Valley, and there’s never been any problem at all. Oh, I’m not foolish enough to think that cattle rustling’s a thing of the past—I know it’s big business even now. But little tiny forays onto a little tiny ranch—that somehow seems strange to me. That makes it seem like it’s local—and there’s been no sign of our cattle at any of the local yards.”

“Did you talk to the sheriff?”

Dale shook her head. “No. There was nothing really to tell him. I know that about the cattle because Will was good friends with the men who owned them, so I asked them to keep their eye open for cattle with a Lazy Rose brand. They didn’t see any—and they didn’t see any cattle with a brand that looked tampered with, either.”

“It almost seems like the cattle aren’t what they’re after,” mused Roy.

Dale looked at him sharply. “It’s funny you’d say that,” she said slowly. “I’ve been thinking along those lines myself. Will and Mary put almost every cent they earned into this place—except for a sickness fund, and that’s long gone for Will. Right now, every dollar the Evans’ have is walking around the range outside. I sell a steer or two every so often to make ends meet, but I’m saving the best for the cattle sale. If everything goes right, and nothing happens to the cattle and they find a good buyer, the Lazy Rose will pull through with flying colors. I’ll even be able to pay off most of the mortgage, and get that off our necks. But…”

“If things go wrong, you’re sunk,” finished Roy.

She nodded. “Real sunk. And—that’s what made me say that before, about cattle rustling not being the point. The cattle that have been taken are the best we’ve got—but they wouldn’t be much good without being at a big sale, with the right kind of buyers. Whoever’s taking them isn’t thinking clearly.”

“Maybe they’re thinking a little too clearly,” said Roy grimly, getting up and going over to the open window. He glanced out into the dark, listening. There wasn’t any noise from outside at all.

Dale stood up and came over. “Hear anything?”

“Not a sound. I’ll have Bullet sleep on the front porch tonight—we’ll know if anything comes anywhere close then.”

“That’s good,” said Dale absently. “Roy, what did you just mean about thinking too clearly?”

Roy turned away from the window to face her. “Well, it was just a thought that came to me,” he said. “What would happen if the sale fell through?”

“We’d miss the mortgage payments,” said Dale promptly, and Roy could tell that this wasn’t the first time the thought had crossed her mind. “The bank would foreclose, we’d have to get out, and everything would be sold dirt cheap to pay the mortgage.”

“That’s what I thought,” said Roy. “Hmm.”

“What are you thinking?”

“Oh, nothing,” said Roy teasingly.

Dale’s green eyes flashed. “Roy Rogers, don’t you dare get funny!”

“All right! Cool down! Irish and their tempers,” grinned Roy.

“You’re going to see a real Irish temper if you don’t tell me what you were hinting at,” threatened Dale.

“Well, it’s just a wild theory,” acquiesced Roy. “Maybe there’s someone around who’d like to have your ranch and the cattle, but doesn’t want to buy it at the price you’d ask.”

“We wouldn’t sell in the first place,” sniffed Dale.

“Well, that could be the reason right there,” nodded Roy. “If whoever-it-is could force you to lose the money you’re counting on from the sale, they could pick up the ranch at practically nothing.”

“That’s an idea,” agreed Dale. “Only, whoever-it-is doesn’t seem overburdened with brains. He might have figured that we weren’t going to stand for cattle being lost—and that I’d get guards.”

“Well, you didn’t officially,” said Roy. “But never mind that. The point right now is that I think there’s a connection here. The cattle attempt isn’t working as well as they hop-ed, so now they try something else. They take some of the money out of your envelope.”

“Oh boy!” gasped Dale. “That is a good theory! But—but I don’t like it! That means that whoever-it-is must be in town—”

“And awful determined,” finished Roy. “Messing around with mail is a Federal of-fence and it carries a wallop of a penalty.”

“Mmm,” said Dale communicatively. Suddenly, she yawned.

Roy glanced quickly at his wristwatch. “Hey, I’ve kept you up way too late. It’s almost ten o’ clock!”

“Yeah, and we’re early birds out here,” said Dale, through another yawn. “I don’t want to go to bed, though, and leave you all alone on guard.”

“I’m going to bed too,” said Roy. “I’ll put Bullet on watch and then set my alarm for every hour. I’ll wake up and check on things, and then go back to sleep. Don’t fret about me.”

“I’m too sleepy to fret about anything,” admitted Dale. “I guess I haven’t been get-ting much sleep.”

She slid off the table edge where she’s been sitting and crossed to the door. “Thanks for coming,” she said, turning around and smiling. “Things are better here already.”

“Let’s leave the thanks till after we’ve rounded up the crooks,” said Roy—only half-teasing. “We’ve got a long trail ahead still.”
*
Buzzzzzz! Buzzzzzz!

Roy sat up, blinking sleep out of his eyes. For one moment, he was confused about where he was, and then he remembered.

He fumbled for the light on the table near his bed and clicked it on. The alarm clock nearby read five o’ clock. He’d gotten up every hour to check around since going to bed at ten…that made this the seventh time.

Well, it was time to do another check-up. With a yawn, he swung his legs out of bed and reached for his boots—then his hand froze.

A sudden snarl came from outside, only a little ways away from the open window. Then a bark, deep and fierce, and another and another.

Bullet! Roy realized. The momentary stun passed and he leaped for his boots. In one second they were both on his feet, and he ran out of his room—straight into Dale.

“Bullet must have seen something,” explained Roy quickly, as they disentangled themselves. “We’ve got to get out there quick!”

“I’ve got my light—I’m coming with!” Dale pulled a jacket on over her bathrobe and darted out the door after Roy.

In the distance they could hear Bullet’s angry barks and snarls. Then a human cry of terror split the air. “Get off!”

“Bullet!” shouted Roy. “Come here!”

Dale clicked on her light and the beam shot ahead into the darkness. For a moment, all it illuminated was the fence running alongside the range, and then the silvery form of Bullet slid through, racing in answer to Roy’s call.

“Good boy, Bullet,” said Roy, hurrying forwards. “Dale, your light—bring it here! Bullet must have run down someone.”

Dale ran to Roy’s side, but as she reached him there was the thunder of a galloping horse’s hooves. For a second, the dark form of a horse and rider flashed across the light beam, and then was lost in the dark.

“Well, he got away,” sighed Roy, turning. “By the time we got saddled up he’d be miles away.”

Dale nodded. “Of all the luck! Here we have a chance to catch—wait a minute, Roy! Bullet’s holding something in his teeth. Look.”

She set her spotlight down on the ground, and knelt next to the German shepherd. Roy crouched next to her and saw that she was right—Bullet clutched something dark in his jaws.

“Here, Boy,” said Dale,” holding out her hand. “Drop it.”

Bullet cocked his head for a moment, and then laid the object in Dale’s hand.

“What is it?” asked Roy.

Dale lifted it up. “It’s a piece of cloth, a little ripped piece.”

Roy took the scrap from her and held it in the strong glare from the spotlight. “It’s a bit of jean fabric,” he said slowly, turning it over and over in his hands. “It looks like a scrap from the back of someone’s pants—look, here’s a piece of pocket.”

“Bullet must have bitten the man and ripped that off,” said Dale. “Is there any kind of identification on it?”

Roy stood up and slid the cloth bit into his pocket. “Not on the scrap—but we might be able to use it for identification all the same.”

Dale put her hands in her pockets and cocked her head at Roy. “What, go all through town looking for a man who’s wearing a pair of jeans with a scrap torn out of the seat?”

“I was thinking something along that line,” grinned Roy. “We might also look for someone who’s having a little trouble sitting down.”

Dale snickered. “We’d better get in,” she said then. “I guess we can’t go looking now, and we probably woke up some of the kids when we rushed out of the house like that.”

“Okay,” said Roy. “Say, Dale, mind if I go take a look at Trigger for a second?”

“’Course not, Roy.” Dale reached in her pocket. “I’ve got a small flashlight in here somewhere…at least, I think I do…oh, here it is.”

“Thanks, Dale,” said Roy, taking it. “I’ll be back in the house in a second—oh, take Bullet in with you, all right?”

“Sure, Roy. Come on, boy.” She clapped her hands, and Bullet scurried to her heels. The beam of the spotlight bobbing ahead, they disappeared back towards the house.

Roy clicked the small flashlight on and flashed the dim beam ahead. The barn loomed up a little ways in front of him, with the cross-barred doors shut tight in the front. Hurrying up to the doors, Roy slid back the bar and walked into the barn.

“Hey, Trigger,” he called, flashing the light ahead. “Boy! It’s me!”

Suddenly, as if in answer to his voice, there was a shrill neigh from a few stalls ahead. It was Trigger’s neigh!

“What’s wrong?” cried Roy, running forwards. Suddenly, he slid to a stop in horror. A whiff of air had blown past his face, leaving a smell in the air—a smell that any rancher knew with dread.

Smoke!

Roy burst into a run again, dashing ahead. Three stalls from the door, he saw Trigger, snorting and stamping.

“Easy, boy! What’s happened?”

At the sound of his voice, Trigger spun in the box stall. He whinnied, throwing his head high. Then he whirled back, and struck his forefoot against the wall of his stall.

Roy sniffed. The smell of smoke had almost gone—but where had it come from? He had to find out! There must be a small fire smoldering somewhere, and if it wasn’t put out right away—it would flare up and the whole barn might go. Including every animal inside!

Roy clenched his hands. He knew that he could search the whole barn, but with a smolder, he might not find it.

Suddenly, he became aware that Trigger was staring at him. The golden stallion’s eyes were fixed on him, trying to get his attention.

“What is it, boy?” Roy asked absently. The instant he spoke, Trigger whirled back and struck the wall with his front hooves, as he’d done before.

“What is it—Trigger!” Roy leaped into the stall and hurried to the wall, flashing the light beam on it. There was nothing there.

Without waiting, Roy knelt in the straw and sniffed at the wall. Just as he’d thought! The smell of smoke was coming from the wall—through a crack from the adjacent room!

“I’ll be right back, boy,” said Roy excitedly. He jumped back over the stall wall and went on down the aisle. Right after Trigger’s stall, there was a door in the wall.

Flinging the door open, Roy hurried inside. He flashed the light across the room. For a moment, he saw that there were bags stacked around the room—and then the flashlight beam died.

Roy gritted his teeth. Of all things to happen!

Then he turned quickly, with an idea. Maybe there was a light in the room!

He reached for the wall to his left—slid his hand across the rough boards—felt a switch! With a click, he flipped it. Instantly, light flooded out of a bare bulb dangling from the ceiling. Without waiting a second, Roy leaped forwards.

Trigger’s stall was just about here…the smother must be somewhere close…

Suddenly, Roy stopped in his tracks—there was the fire, in a grain bag nearby! Then he grabbed the jacket off his shoulders and beat the fire with it. In a few moments, the small smolder was gone.

*
Five minutes later, Roy walked tiredly up the porch steps to the ranch house. He’d only stepped through the door when footsteps ran lightly down the stairs.

“Roy,” began Dale as she reached the bottom. Then she broke off and stared. “Roy! What happened to you? Your hair’s all rumpled, your jacket’s got black dirt all over it—wait a minute! That’s not dirt! That’s soot!”

Roy gave her a half-grin. “You’re telling me.”

“Well, what was it—what happened?”

“There was a smolder fire in the grain room,” said Roy.

Dale’s face went white. “Smolder fire!”

“Don’t worry, it’s out,” hurried on Roy. “But, Dale, there was something wrong. That fire wasn’t a normal smolder. It was set.”
*
An hour later, Roy came into the kitchen again. As soon as he stepped inside the door Dale turned around from by the stove. She’d slid into a Western blouse and a full-circle skirt and brushed her hair back into a band, but her face was sober under the gay green ribbon.

“Did you have a good shower?”

“I did,” replied Roy, finger-combing his still-wet dark hair back. “Thanks, Dale. Hey, something smells good in here!”

“Spice muffins,” explained Dale. “Roy, I just can’t get over what happened earlier—that fire.”

Roy nodded. “I know. Someone snuck in there and stuck that faggot in the corn.”

“It would have smoldered maybe for all day,” finished Dale. “Then it would have blazed—and it would have been too late to get help out here.”

Roy had picked up a fork from the table and was flipping it through his fingers. As Dale spoke, his fingers suddenly froze on the fork.

“Dale! That might be a clue!”

“What might be a clue?”

Roy didn’t say anything for a second, thinking as hard as he could. “Dale,” he said finally, “whoever set that fire last night didn’t know Pat and I were spending the night there. Even if that fire had blazed up, with us here we might have had a chance at holding it at bay till help came.”

“That’s true,” Dale agreed. “But how can that give you a clue?”

“Well, it’s a hunch,” continued Roy. “But I think it’s a good one. Whoever was here last night must have heard my voice call off Bullet. Now he and his bosses know that you’ve got help here, their job gets a little trickier. If my other hunch was right, and all this is a plot to get the Lazy Rose cheap, then they’re going to have to try a different tack than this small-bit cattle rustling and fire-setting.”

“And you think that if we can figure out what their new tack is, then we can figure out who the crooks are?” asked Dale.

Roy nodded. “That’s about what I had in mind. We’ll just have to keep our eyes open for anything funny at all, and then investigate if we do see anything. Speaking of investigating,” he added, “we’d better ride on into town later this morning and tell the sheriff what happened last night—and what you and Gabby have been thinking with the cattle disappearances.”

“All right,” said Dale. “I guess it’s time we called the law in on this. Before, I didn’t really feel like I had anything to go on but a feeling, but now with that fire—well, that’s not just a feeling.”

“I’ll say!” agreed Roy heartily. “Hey, by the way, where’s Pat?”

Dale stared at him, her hand poised in the act of sliding on a hot mitt. “I don’t know,” she said after a moment. “When I came back in—while you were out in the barn—all the commotion had woken up the girls and Jerry. I got them settled and put them back to bed, but I don’t remember seeing Pat.”

“Neither do I,” said Roy. “But I don’t think finding him is going to be so hard.”

Dale looked up from sliding the first pan of hot muffins out of the oven. “Why, where do you think he is?”

“Still in bed,” grinned Roy.

“You mean he slept through all the racket?” Dale asked incredulously.

“Pat could do it,” answered Roy. “He’s been known to sleep through just about everything.” He sniffed, then glanced at his wristwatch. “But, with that smell drifting around, my guess is that he’ll be in here inside of about five minutes.”

“I’ll take you at your word,” said Dale, handing Roy a pot of coffee. “Set this on the table and pour it, will you? I’m going to go wake up the girls, and call Jerry in from the barn.”

“Sure,” said Roy, taking the coffeepot. As he filled the three cups on the table, he could hear Dale’s voice calling, and then the two high-pitched voices of Cathy and Penny. Water ran for a little while, in the upstairs bathroom, and then all three of the girls came running down the stairs.

“Good morn’n,” said Cathy, climbing onto Roy’s lap and stuffing a muffin in her mouth at the same time.

“Cathy!” scolded Dale, tying a napkin around the little girl’s neck. “Whatever happened to your manners?”

“They fell down the well,” mumbled Cathy through her mouthful.

“You got that one from Sal,” said Dale shrewdly. “Cathy, no matter what Sal may pretend, she really is very much a lady and has much better manners than you. If you want to be like her, you’re going to have to improve your table etiquette.”

“Okay,” agreed Cathy. “Sorry, Dale.”

Penny slid into her chair and fixed Roy in a gaze. “Was that a true story, last night, Roy?”

Roy set down his coffee cup and nodded over Cathy’s head. “It sure was, Penny. Did you like it?”

“I did!” piped up Cathy. “Do you have anymore?”

Roy’s eyes twinkled. “I might,” he said. “And I might tell you two some of them if you’re good today while Dale and I go into town.”

“We’re always good,” said Penny indignantly. Before Roy could answer, the kitchen door banged open, and in walked Pat. His eyes were shut tight, and his nose was twitching.

“I smell spice muffins…somewhere close…I smell spice muffins…”

Roy looked over at Dale and pointed significantly at the clock. “Better sit down,” he added, turning to Pat.

Pat’s eyes opened blearily. “Ahh,” he yawned. “Hey, how come I’m out here…” His voice trailed off as he caught sight of the platter of muffins steaming on the table. “Oh, boy!” he breathed.

“Help yourself, Pat,” said Dale, getting up. “I’ll just go take the other pan out and be right back.”

She disappeared through the kitchen door. In a flash, Pat was in his seat, had a napkin tied around his neck, and had dumped the entire platter of muffins onto his plate.

“Gee, Dale,” he beamed, looking up as she came back into the room. “I sure like it when you say to help myself!”

Dale looked from his plate to the empty platter. Her eyebrows went up. “I can see what you mean!”

May God keep you smilin' down a million happy trails!


"I'm not suffering from insanity...I'm enjoying every minute!!"
   
Roughriding Senorita
Saddle Pal

Posts: 2850
Registered: Jan 2007
 Posted March 24th, 2007 12:18 PM   IP           Reply with quote Edit Post Delete post
There you go! Hey, by the way guys, no one's telling me their ideas about the bad guys...got any?
May God keep you smilin' down a million happy trails!


"I'm not suffering from insanity...I'm enjoying every minute!!"
   
RoyRogersFan
Saddle Pal

Posts: 2154
Registered: Aug 2006
 Posted March 24th, 2007 12:49 PM   IP           Reply with quote Edit Post Delete post
Yeah, I had plenty, but I don't think that it'd be fair, 'cause I've got a mighty fine bad-guy-smeller-outer!
Be without fear in the face of your enemies. Be brave and upright that God may love thee. Speak the truth even if it leads you to your death. Safeguard the helpless. That is your oath. (strikes him across the face) That is how you shall remember it. Rise a knight!
Knighting out of Kingdom of Heaven

You will listen to me. Listen! The Bretheren will still be looking to us, the Black Pearl, to lead. And what will they see? Frightened bilge rats aboard a derelict ship? No! No, they will see free men and freedom! And what the enemy will see is the flash of our cannons! They will hear the ring of our swords and they will know what we can do. By the sweat of our brows, and the strength of our backs, and the courage of our hearts. Gentlemen, hoist the colors.
Elizibeth our of Pirates of the Caribbean, At World's End
   
Roughriding Senorita
Saddle Pal

Posts: 2850
Registered: Jan 2007
 Posted March 24th, 2007 01:36 PM   IP           Reply with quote Edit Post Delete post
Besides, you've read the whole story!!
May God keep you smilin' down a million happy trails!


"I'm not suffering from insanity...I'm enjoying every minute!!"
   
cowboyforchrist
Marshal

Posts: 828
Registered: Mar 2007
 Posted March 26th, 2007 09:41 AM   IP           Reply with quote Edit Post Delete post
hmm this is getting good!!!

the main bad guy has to be with the bank

one of those people

now the guy with the bit off pants pocket is one of the guys that work for the main bad guy

interesting fire sequence also

as you know im starting to like these stories on here!!!

keep up the good work!!


happy trails to you
   
RoyRogersFan
Saddle Pal

Posts: 2154
Registered: Aug 2006
 Posted March 26th, 2007 12:24 PM   IP           Reply with quote Edit Post Delete post
Yeah, Nina writes some pretty darn good ones. I've got a couple besides The Mine Murder. I'm not sure if it's still on here but I did have one on here in the thread Ridin' Down the Sunset Trail by Ruth Rockafield. If you can find that one that's one of mine, and then I've got one I just finished, I've gotta put the finishing touches on that one and put in on here.
Be without fear in the face of your enemies. Be brave and upright that God may love thee. Speak the truth even if it leads you to your death. Safeguard the helpless. That is your oath. (strikes him across the face) That is how you shall remember it. Rise a knight!
Knighting out of Kingdom of Heaven

You will listen to me. Listen! The Bretheren will still be looking to us, the Black Pearl, to lead. And what will they see? Frightened bilge rats aboard a derelict ship? No! No, they will see free men and freedom! And what the enemy will see is the flash of our cannons! They will hear the ring of our swords and they will know what we can do. By the sweat of our brows, and the strength of our backs, and the courage of our hearts. Gentlemen, hoist the colors.
Elizibeth our of Pirates of the Caribbean, At World's End
   
Roughriding Senorita
Saddle Pal

Posts: 2850
Registered: Jan 2007
 Posted March 27th, 2007 05:39 PM   IP           Reply with quote Edit Post Delete post
Part 5: Deadline in the Clause




Two hours went by. Roy and Pat helped Dale clear the table, and then left her to do the dishes, with Penny and Cathy—enveloped in Dale’s aprons—ensconced next to her.
At Roy’s request, Jerry took them outside after that and they helped him clean out the barn. He’d already done the milking of the two milk cows before breakfast, but their stalls and the horse loose boxes still needed to be cleaned.
As they worked—or rather, as Roy and Jerry worked and Pat advised—Roy talked to Jerry, asking him questions and telling him about some of the things he’d done as a U.S. marshal, before he retired and bought the Double R Bar.
At first Jerry, though not really shy, was a little quiet and reticent, but after a little while of Roy’s friendly conversation and Pat’s side comments, he began to open up, laughing and telling Roy about some of the things he and Dale had done the year before.
Suddenly, Roy stuck his pitchfork into the third full wheelbarrow, and glanced at his watch. “Gosh, boys, it’s late! We’ve been doing this for almost an hour and a half!”
“Hour and a half?” repeated Jerry. “Boy! That’s even longer than it takes me and Dale to do it! Where’s all that time go?”
“I was enjoying talking to you so much that I didn’t know where it was going,” answered Roy. “Well, we’re almost done here anyway. Five more minutes will do it.”
Pat raised his head from the pile of freshly-tossed new straw. “Ya know, Roy? If you’d muck out the way I always tell ya to do, you’d have been done three or fours hours ago.”
Roy deliberately stuck his pitchfork into the floor and arranged his hands on top. “And just how’d you do that?”
Pat looked at him like he’d lost his marbles. “Why, just don’t muck out, of course!”
Roy unfolded his hands from on top of the pitchfork. With deceptive slowness, the right one shot out and closed on the back of Pat’s collar.
Depositing the squirming Pat in between the shafts of the wheelbarrow, Roy looked sternly at him.
“Pat, it just so happens that we never quite figured to do our work the way you do yours. But, while we’re trying to, you’d better try to learn how we do ours. Dump that wheelbarrow and get it back in here double quick!”
“Yes sir,” said Pat sadly, and trundled the barrow out through the barn. Roy glanced at Jerry out of the corner of his eye, and caught the boy’s delighted grin.
Roy winked at him, and laughing together, they dug their pitchforks in and finished the last stall together.

*

As soon as the chores were done, Roy turned back to the house. “Dale?” he called, going up the steps.
“I’m out back here,” called Dale’s voice from around the corner of the house.
Roy hurried around and saw Dale in the backyard, hanging up the last of a load of laundry on the clothesline.
“Chores are all done,” announced Roy.
“So are the inside ones,” replied Dale, pulling a clothespin out of her mouth. “I’m all ready to go on in, too—I’m going to wear this skirt in since we’re going to see the sheriff.” Dale pursed her mouth. “He’s kind of an old-fashioned fellow; I’m sure he doesn’t approve of me trying to hold down the homestead alone out here, with just three kids to help.”
“You’d be doing fine if it wasn’t for whoever’s causing the trouble,” retorted Roy, picking up the empty laundry basket for Dale. “But, since they are, we’d better head on in. I guess there’s still range work to be done, right?”
“You’re oh-so-right,” sighed Dale. “Jerry was riding range yesterday morning, and he found a bad stretch of fence almost ready to go. It’s got be fixed sometimes soon—or else we’re really going to have work, rounding up maybe a hundred head of cattle.”
“I get what you mean,” said Roy. “You want me to saddle up for you?”
“That’d be wonderful, Roy,” Dale said gratefully. “I’m going to have to get the girls settled doing something before we go in.”
“Okay. Do you want the red gelding you were riding yesterday?” asked Roy.
Dale shook her head. “Oh, no, I’m going to ride Nightshade. He’s the buckskin gelding out in the pasture. Jerry knows which saddle’s his.”
“Okay,” said Roy, setting down the laundry basket by the front door and heading back to the barn. He caught Trigger, saddled and bridled him, and then looped his reins loosely to the hitching port outside the barn. “I’ll be right back, boy,” he said. “Just got to saddle up for Dale.”
Jerry was inside the tack room, a saddle on his lap, which he was rubbing industriously. “Oh, hi, Roy,” he said, as Roy came into the room. “Need something?”
Roy nodded. “I told Dale I’d saddle up for her. She said you knew which saddle was Nightshade’s.”
“Oh, sure,” said Jerry, setting the saddle he was polishing down and reached up for a small light one on a post. “Here you go, Roy. And I’ll call Nightshade in from the pasture for you—he’s trained to my whistle and Dale’s.”
“Thanks, Jerry,” said Roy, as the boy went to the open barn door. He whistled, a lone note with a funny twist at the end. Roy could see the horses, dotted around the large pasture, raise their heads, but none came close. Then, there was a neigh from behind a group of other horses, and a creamy-colored horse with jet-black mane and tail streaked towards them and slid to a dusty stop in front of the gate.
“Hi, there, Shade,” crooned Jerry, scratching the horse behind its ears.
Roy stared at the buckskin gelding. “Say, Jerry, where’d Dale get that horse?”
“From a breeder up state, a couple years ago,” came Dale’s voice from behind.
Roy turned quickly, and Dale smiled as she walked forwards. “Thanks for getting him. Settling the girls took less time than I thought it would.”
“Jerry did it,” said Roy, picking up a halter and sliding it over the gelding’s head. “Dale, I can’t believe how much this horse looks like a gelding I have—Buttermilk. They’re practically identical.”
Dale cocked her head as she bridled the horse. “Do you know Buttermilk’s breeding?”
Roy swung the saddle Jerry had given him onto Nightshade’s back. “Sure,” he answered. “He’s a registered Quarter Horse, Buttermilk Sky, by Lightskin out of Night Sky.”
Dale laughed. “Well, that explains that! Nightshade’s full name is Shades of Night, and he’s by Lightskin out of Night Sky. Your gelding and Shade here must be full broth-ers.”
“Well, what do you know?” Roy shook his head. “That’s some coincidence!”
“Probably not that unusual,” said Dale, buckling the last strap on the bridle. “I think Lightskin’s pretty famous for siring buckskins like himself, and of course, since both Buttermilk and Shade have the same dam, that would make the resemblance even more likely. I’d love to see a picture of Buttermilk, sometime!”
“I’ll see that you do,” promised Roy, legging her into her saddle. “All ready?”
Dale nodded. “Sure am. Let’s get into town.” She turned to Jerry. “Pat offered to stay here, Jerry, so he’ll help you keep an eye on the girls. He said he was going to help you with your work too, but I wouldn’t count on that too much.”
Jerry grinned. “I’ll manage,” he assured her, then teased, “Keep an eye on her, Roy. She’s liable to get into all sorts of trouble otherwise.”
Roy winked at him. “I’ll do that,” he drawled.
Dale snorted. “Well, once you males have finished your conniving, maybe you might think about catching up!”
She trotted Shade out of the barn. The instant they were clear of the door, she touched him with her heel and they were off like a shot.
Roy ran out of the barn and leaped into Trigger’s saddle. “Come on boy, let’s catch them!” he shouted, and they were off.

*

After Trigger had caught up to Shade—not too long of a time—both Dale and Roy reined the horses in and rode at an easy jog, breaking every so often into a lope.
“This is nice,” commented Dale. “When I get out like this, it’s hard for me to believe all the stuff that’s happening.”
“I know what you mean,” agreed Roy. “Somehow, when you’re outside you get kind of caught up in the moment, not worrying about what’s happened or what’s going to happen. Say, Dale,” he added, “to change to subject, how exactly is Will doing?”
Dale’s face shaded a little. “Well, he’s not getting any worse,” she answered after a moment. “I talked to his doctor last time I was at the sanatorium, and he laid the whole thing out for me. Apparently, Will’s TB had been in his lungs for a long time, dormant. Then, when—Mary was killed, the shock was too much for him, and he went down fast. Thank goodness, Doc Miller here in Lost Valley was keeping on eye on Will, and he picked up on it before it could do serious damage. Dr. Thomas from the sanatorium said that it would take at least a year for him to be healed completely.”
“And he’s been there—nine months?”
Dale nodded. “The X-rays they’ve taken look good, they seem to show healing. But Dr. Thomas said that if Will was to receive any sort of serious shock, any bad news, it would set everything back to the beginning—and maybe even be fatal.”
Roy was quiet for a moment, thinking as Trigger moved along beneath him. “I was afraid of that,” he said then. “So, in other words, if you lose the Lazy Rose—”
“We lose everything,” said Dale. She turned her head away, looking out over the country. “That’s why I can’t afford to lose it.”
Roy reached over and patted her shoulder. “If it makes you feel any better, Dale, I think you’ve got a fighting chance.”
Dale turned back to him. Her eyes were dark with pain. “Do you really?”
Roy nodded, his face completely serious. “I don’t know who’s trying to do this to you, but he’s bound to make a mistake sooner or later, and when he does, we’ll just have to be there to take advantage of it. Agreed?”
Dale’s jaw set. “Agreed.”
“That a girl,” said Roy. “Come on, let’s get moving.”
Five minutes later, they clip-clopped down the side of Main Street, heading for the sheriff’s office at the far end. When they reached the small brick building, Roy swung off.
“Is that old hitching post still behind the jail?” he asked Dale.
“Yes,” she answered as she slid down from Shade.
“Okay,” said Roy. “I’ll tie the horses there and meet you in the office.”
“Right, Roy.” Dale turned and hurried up the steps to the high door.
Roy led Trigger and Shade over behind the office, looped their reins around the hitching post, and then followed after Dale.
When he pushed the door open, he saw Dale sitting on one of the two chairs in the small room. The sheriff was on the phone, talking quietly about something.
Dale patted the seat beside her. “Sheriff Thompson said he’d be off in a few minutes,” she whispered.
Roy sat down and glanced around the room. It still looked exactly like it had seven years ago—the small waiting room in the front, with the sheriff’s desk and the file cabinets containing information, and right behind that, along the side of the room, was the wall of iron posts, dividing the waiting room from the two cells.
Click! Roy’s attention snapped back to the sheriff, as he set down his telephone. “Hello, Miss Evans,” he said, looking over at Dale. “And—why, it’s Roy Rogers!”
“Hi ya, Sheriff,” said Roy, smiling and shaking hands.
“Well, and what are you doing back in this town?” asked the sheriff. “I hear you’ve been making a name for yourself as a marshal.”
Roy shook his head uncomfortably. “I was a U.S. marshal for a while,” he said. “But then I retired and bought a ranch with some of my old pals. We needed a couple of good bulls for breeding stock, and I decided to come on out for the cattle sale.”
“I see,” said the sheriff. “Well, I’m sure you’ll find some good cattle at the sale. Now, I expect you two didn’t come in here to talk about that.”
Dale shook her head. “No, Sheriff. I came in with Roy because of some things that have been happening around the Lazy Rose lately…”

*

Roy sat quietly, saying nothing, as Dale told the sheriff what she knew. Only when it was time to talk about the smolder he’d put out in the barn did he speak. Up till then, the sheriff had been leaning back in his chair, looking a little patronizing as Dale described what had happened. Roy figured that Dale’s statement about the sheriff not thinking too highly of girls trying to run ranches by themselves was pretty close to the truth.
But, when Roy described the smolder that had been set in the grain room, that got the law officer’s attention. Like every other person who lived in a community of ranchers, he knew what fire meant.
“You’re sure that fire was set?” he demanded for the second time, as Roy finished.
“Positive, Sheriff,” answered Roy. “There was a wet-wood faggot in the corn sack. There was no way for it to get there without someone putting it there.”
“Hmm,” said the sheriff, nonplussed. Then he turned to Dale. “What about those three kids you’re taking care of? Couldn’t one of them have been playing in the barn with a faggot? I’m sure you don’t have time to keep an eye on them always.”
Dale’s eyes blazed. “I assure you, Sheriff,” she said, her tone crisp, “that neither of the girls is ever allowed to be completely alone without supervision. And, as for Jerry, he’s the most responsible ten-year-old I know. A good deal more responsible, in fact, than many adults I know!”
The sheriff got her point. “Ahem!” he coughed, looking extremely displeased. “Well, Miss Evans, what would you like me to do? My personal view on the subject is, of course, that Will should sell out and you should go live in the city somewhere. A ranch is no place for a girl to be alone.”
Dale’s hands clenched on the arms of her chair. Roy, glancing quickly over at her, realized that the stress that had been building up in her was almost ready fly out.
“Dale’s not alone,” he put in quietly. “Pat Brady and I are staying at her ranch right now. Before that, Gabby Whittaker and Sal O’Malley had been riding out regularly. And as for selling out, that’s not a good option on account of the mortgage on the place.”
“I see,” said the sheriff, pacified by Roy’s words. “Well, Miss Evans, I’ll start an investigation about who set that fire, and see what I can do. I don’t promise quick results, though.”
“Thank you,” said Dale stiffly.
“There’s one more thing, Sheriff,” said Roy. “Dale, you’d better tell him about the missing money.”
“Missing money?” demanded the sheriff, looking from one to the other. “What now?”
A little reluctantly, Dale told the sheriff of the missing money in her mortgage payment. Prompted by Roy, she added the fact that some of the five-dollar bills were recognizable by the scribbles Cathy had made on them.
The sheriff needed some convincing, but finally he agreed to look around town for the bills.
Dale thanked him again, more stiffly than before. Before anyone could say another word, the door swung open and in hurried Sal O’Malley.
“Oh, there ya are, Dale,” she said. “’Scuse me, Sheriff, but I got somethin’ to tell Dale.”
“Go ahead, Miss O’Malley.”
For a second, Sal stared at him. “Oh, you mean me!” she said after a moment. Without further words to the sheriff, she turned back to Dale. “Jerry called Ma a little bit ago,” she explained. “He was lookin’ fer ya, but he didn’t know where to find ya. I said I’d find ya and he gave me a message that ya were s’posed to git right after to the bank.”
Dale’s head turned quickly, and her eyes met Roy’s—frightened now and upset—but only for a moment. Then she regained control of herself, and turned back to Sal. “Thanks, Sal,” she said gratefully. “I’ll go over there right away. Good bye, sheriff.”
“Goodbye, Miss Evans.”
Once outside, Sal turned to Roy and Dale. “Gee, I sure hope there’s nothin’ worng,” she said, looking at Dale in concern. “Want me to hang around for a while?”
Dale shook her head. “No, Sal, but you’re sweet for thinking of it.”
Sal’s face turned the shade of a boiled beet. “Aw, shucks!” she muttered. “I ain’t sweet!”
“Oh yes you are,” Dale told her. “Thanks again, and I’ll see you later.”
With a wave, Dale turned and hurried up the street. Roy strode after her and caught up in a moment.
“Want me to come in with you?”
Dale hesitated for a moment, and then nodded. “You’d better. I don’t know what this is all about—and I’m not sure I want to find out.”
“Maybe they found that missing money,” Roy suggested.
Dale’s face brightened. “Oh, maybe you’re right! I sure hope that’s it.”
They reached the bank then, and Roy held the door open for Dale as she went in. He followed after her then, as she approached the desk where the teller from the day before sat. Roy reflected—with an interior chuckle—that the teller did not look happy to see them.
“What can I do for you?” she asked icily.
“I just received a message that Mr. Adamson wants to see me,” said Dale crisply. “I’d like to see him right away, please.”
“I’ll see if he’s busy,” said the teller. She got up from her seat and vanished into the back room. In a second, she reappeared again, looking less pleased than before. “Mr. Adamson will see you now, Miss Evans.”
“Thank you.” Dale turned and—beckoning to Roy—went into the same office where she’d gone yesterday.
The bank president was inside the room, and—to Roy’s surprise—so was the slight man who had helped him with the suitcases yesterday, Mr. Preston.
The president stood up as Roy and Dale entered. “Hello, Miss Evans, and Mr. Rogers. Sit down, please,” he added, lowering himself into a chair.
Dale and Roy followed his lead. It was evident to Roy that Dale was bursting with anticipation, but the president didn’t say a word till both of his guests were seated. Then he cleared his throat.
“I called your ranch, Miss Evans, because I had an important bit of information to relay to you.”
“Yes?” encouraged Dale.
“Ahem. After yesterday unpleasant scene, I decided that it was time someone went over your record. So, Mr. Preston and I did so. Tell her what you found, Mr. Preston.”
Mr. Preston looked uncomfortable. Avoiding Dale’s eyes, he tapped his fingers together. “I went through the files with Mr. Adamson, Miss Evans. We thought that perhaps—perhaps you had been right and something had happened with that money.”
“We thought that there might have been an error,” corrected Mr. Adamson, frowning warningly at Mr. Preston.
Mr. Preston nodded quickly. “Yes, yes. Well, when we were looking, we found that there had not been an error with the money—”
“And we found something else,” said Mr. Adamson. “When checking the files, we found a clause in the mortgage agreement which your brother—Mr. Evans—signed with us. The clause states that if no money is paid off the balance for a certain amount of time, the bank can foreclose on parts of the ranch to pay the balance.”
The words were like gunshots, each aimed to kill. For a second, Roy stared at the bunk president, then quickly turned to look at Dale. Her face was so white her hair looked like a red fire around it. Her eyes were fixed on the president in horror. For long seconds, she sat there, unable to move. Then, suddenly, like a trap snapping, her trance broke.
“What do you mean?” she demanded, coming to life. “What clause?”
Mr. Adamson nodded at Mr. Preston, and the slight man reached for a folder lying on the desk. “It’s right here, Miss Evans,” he said apologetically. “Down in the fine print.”
Dale leaped to her feet and bent over the paper. Quickly, Roy got up from his chair and followed her.
For a moment, they read the top paper, scanning the page down to where Mr. Preston’s finger pointed. It all appeared to be a normal, ordinary mortgage—except for one little sentence at the bottom.

If a sum of money is not taken off the balance for six months in sequence, the bank holds the right to foreclose on any/all of the mortgaged property to pay the balance and any interest that may have accumulated.

Roy read the words to himself twice, burning each into his memory. Then he straightened and touched Dale’s arm lightly. “Dale?”
She snapped straight, and glared straight at the president. “Mr. Adamson,” she said, spitting out each word, “I saw that mortgage document before it was signed! I know that this clause was not a part of it!”
Mr. Adamson’s eyes were very hard and cold—as was his voice. “Are you leveling a charge of fraud against the bank, Miss Evans?”
“Oh, Miss Evans, don’t do that,” whispered Mr. Preston from by her side.
Dale stared from one man to another. For a moment she looked trapped, then her chin came up. “I know that clause wasn’t there. But I am not going to level a legal charge against you. My brother, Will, was the one who signed that document. And he would never have signed something like that!”
“Why don’t you ask him?” said Mr. Adamson.
Mr. Preston’s face cleared. “Oh, yes, Miss Evans. Do that!”
“You know perfectly well that my brother is in a sanatorium for tuberculosis!” stormed Dale. “What you don’t know is that his doctor said any shock might kill him! Do you think I’m going to put the Lazy Rose before his life?”
Mr. Adamson and Mr. Preston’s faces changed. Roy—his hand still on Dale’s—looked at both of them, watching their expression. A look that he couldn’t place passed over Mr. Adamson’s face, and then another over Mr. Preston’s. Then both faces went back to normal—Mr. Adamson’s cold and calm and Mr. Preston’s worried. Whatever emotion they had felt was gone.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” said Mr. Adamson to Dale. “But it does not change the clause of the mortgage. And, due to the way things stand, I think the bank would be wise to foreclose as soon as possible.”
Underneath Roy’s hand, a tremor shook Dale’s body. In angry concern, Roy turned to the two bank men. “Say, don’t you think you’re being a little harsh, Mr. Adamson? Dale here is trying to hold the Lazy Rose together for her brother and his family. Now she’s been having trouble, too, or else she would have been paying those extra payments. Don’t you think you can give her a break?”
Mr. Adamson looked coolly at Roy. “Mr. Rogers, a bank is not run on sentiment. Miss Evans shows no sign that she will be able to ever pay off the mortgage, and if things continue as such, the bank will lose most of its investment. My decision stands.”
Dale—who’d been leaning against Roy—snapped straight. Roy knew she was on the point of breaking emotionally, and he had to stop her before that.
It wasn’t so easy, giving that he was almost as angry now as she. “Look, Mr. Adamson,” he said, making one last attempt at reasoning. “Give Dale one more month. She needs that much time to get the Lazy Rose back in order. Then, if things don’t work out by then…well…”
“Absolutely not,” declared the president. “Not only is this young woman in extremely bad financial standing, but she has twice insulted both me and the bank.”
“I’m going to—” began Dale fiercely. Before she could go on, Roy squeezed her arm tightly. His jaw clenched, he turned to the president.
But Mr. Preston was before him. Nervously wringing his hands together, he stepped up to the president. “Oh, Mr. Adamson, don’t you think we can give them a little more time? Not a whole month, no, but—maybe one week? I’m sure they will be able to do something by then.”
The president looked down at his assistant. He frowned, about to refuse, but then—with a sudden and startling shrewdness—Mr. Preston added one more clause.
“You know, this would be bad publicity for the bank…Lost Valley people could just as well bank in Marysville, if for some reason they did not want to bank here.”
Roy saw Mr. Adamson’s frown disappear then, and mentally growled. The man was just one big dollar sign!
“Well, I suppose you have a point, there, Preston,” Adamson admitted. “Well, Miss Evans, you have one week of grace—on one condition. The mortgage gets paid off completely by the end of that time. Understood?”
Dale’s eyes blazed. “Why, you—”
“Understood,” Roy said hastily, gritting the words out between his teeth. “We’ll see you later, Mr. Adamson.”
Holding Dale’s hand firmly, he turned to the door and pulled her gently out. As they came out into the bright sunlight, Roy looked down at Dale in concern. “You okay?”


“You okay?”

Dale took a deep breath, and nodded. “Thanks for getting me out of that, Roy,” she said. “I was about ready to haul off and hit that guy in the nose.”
Roy laughed in relief. “I was about ready to do that myself,” he admitted. Suddenly, he heard the door open behind him.
Roy turned. “Oh, hi ya, Mr. Preston,” he said, to the slight man as he shut the door behind him. “Thanks for the help in there.”
“Yes, thank you,” added Dale gratefully.
“I wish I could have done something more,” apologized Mr. Preston. “But Mr. Adamson is a hard man—he doesn’t like to have his plans mixed up.”
“Yeah, we noticed,” said Roy dryly.
“I just wanted to say I certainly hope everything works out for you, Miss Evans,” finished Mr. Preston. “And I hope you catch the rustlers who have been making trouble on your ranch.”
“Thank you,” said Dale again, and Roy chimed in. Mr. Preston nodded, and then turned nervously and scurried up the steps into the bank.
“Well, he got us out of some trouble,” said Roy. “One week though…that Adamson ought to be made out of silver dollars.”
“Maybe he is,” giggled Dale wearily. “I’m glad I didn’t hit him, in that case.”
“I’m glad you didn’t, too,” grinned Roy. “You’d probably have killed him, and then I’d have had to get you out of jail.”
“Let’s not even talk about that,” shivered Dale. “Everything else bad has happened already. I don’t want that to be the next on the list.”
“Well, then, I’d better go wherever you do, to keep you from punching people!”
They had been walking back towards the horses as they talked, and now they reached them—placidly sleeping at the hitching rail where they had been tied.
“Up you go,” said Roy, boosting Dale into her saddle. “I guess we’d better head straight back to the ranch.”
She swung her leg over the saddle horn and looked down. “Roy,” she said slowly, “what are we going to do? I mean—how can we make a go of this? One week—that takes it to—exactly to the day of the sale!”
Roy nodded. “We’re going to have to fend off these crooks. I’ve got a hunch—and don’t ask me why because I don’t know—that whoever’s attacking your ranch is going to use this deadline to the utmost. All that he has to do is make one really good attack—and his work’s done for him.”
“I know,” said Dale, turning Shade as Roy swung up on Trigger. “It’s almost like the crooks made this happen somehow…but that isn’t possible!”
Roy turned to look at her. His blue eyes were very bright. “Say that again, Dale.”
Dale stared at him. “Why?”
“Because I think you’ve just given me the clue,” said Roy, talking almost more to himself than to her. “It fits with everything!”
“What does?”
“It’s the only possible answer…” mused Roy.
Dale reached over and smacked his shoulder with her palm. “Roy Rogers!” she shouted. “What are you talking about?”
Roy came abruptly back to himself and grinned. “Sorry, Dale. I guess I was kind of thinking out loud.”
“I’ll say,” she said tartly. “Now, what were you babbling about?”
“Well, when you said that about the clause being so perfect for the bad guys, almost as if they’d made it happen—that made me think! You know the missing money? Well, I think that got narrowed down to someone stealing it through the post office, or someone actually messing up records at the bank to make it look like your twenty dollars was never received.”
While they had been talking, they’d headed their horses out of town and were now loping along the dirt road, almost a mile away from the last house.
As Roy finished speaking, Dale pulled Shade down to a walk and turned in her saddle. “But, Roy, that means—that means that one of the employees at the bank is behind the whole thing!”
“Yeah, that’s what I was thinking,” said Roy. “Say, Dale, remember what you said about that clause? Were you really sure you hadn’t seen it before?”
“Sure as sure,” replied Dale promptly. “I read that document over, when Will signed it. I never once saw any sort of clause like that at all.”
“Then why didn’t you press it?” asked Roy.
Dale sighed. “I just didn’t have proof, Roy. It was just a feeling I had, something I’d known I did. The only way we could prove it would be if we could talk to Will!”
“Well, that’s beside the point,” said Roy. “Let’s work off the fact that you’re sure that clause was not on the original mortgage. That means—”
“That it is one of the bank employees,” finished Dale. “Only one of them could have messed with the mortgage document.”
“That’s what I’m thinking,” said Roy. “Dale, do you know anything about any of the workers there? Do you know anyone that might be needing money right about now, or has been talking about buying a ranch or something like that?”
Dale thought for a second. “No,” she said finally. “I don’t really know much about some of them. The five main workers are Mr. Adamson, Mr. Preston, Miss Corrigan—she’s that teller—Mr. Johnson, and Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith and Mr. Johnson are part-time tellers and part-time workers. I know Miss Corrigan pretty well—at least I know about her—and the same goes for the other two part-time workers. They all have homes in town, and as far as I know never aspired to buy a ranch.”
“What about Mr. Adamson and Mr. Preston?”
Dale shrugged. “Mr. Preston, I don’t know anything at all about him. But he couldn’t be behind this—he was the one who got us this one-week grace!”
Roy nodded. “I know. What about Mr. Adamson?”
Dale laughed. “Mr. Adamson’s a bank president! He actually owns a ranch, a couple miles east of town. He doesn’t do any of the work on it, of course, but just lives there with his wife and about a million hired hands—wait a minute!”
Roy quickly turned to look at her. “What is it?”
“Something about Mr. Adamson!” cried Dale excitedly. “Sal knows a young guy who’s a hired hand at the Adamson ranch. She was talking to me a couple of weeks ago, and she said that Jed—the fellow she knows—was kind of worried because the boss had been having money troubles, and that he was thinking about selling out.”
“That is a clue!” exclaimed Roy. “You’re sure about that, now?”
“Of course!” declared Dale. “You could ask Sal if you want to. Oh, Roy, do you think it could be Mr. Adamson?”
“I don’t know,” said Roy slowly. “Everything seems to point to him—if he was doing it that would explain why he was so anxious to foreclose right away, and why he got so riled up whenever you insinuated that the mistake might be the bank’s fault.”
Roy stopped talking for a while, and then shook his head. “But there’s something that doesn’t add up. Whoever’s in charge of this gang has got brains and lots of them. If Mr. Adamson is the person behind it, he certainly is making it awful easy to suspect him. Somehow, I don’t think the real man would do that.”
For a while, both of them rode in silence, thinking. For some reason, Roy felt there was a clue poking at his mind, trying to get him to notice it. But, no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t seem to figure out what it was. All that he knew was that it was something someone had said, that day. Something that hadn’t made sense…something that might be an important clue.
“I wish I could remember that,” muttered Roy, not realizing that he’d said it aloud till Dale spoke.
“What do you want to remember?”
“Oh, just something that’s been bothering me,” said Roy. “You know, Dale, I don’t know what to think about all this. We’re almost to your ranch now. Let’s forget about it for a while. Maybe after a break I might be able to think more clearly, and maybe I’ll remember whatever that was that I can’t remember right now…”

May God keep you smilin' down a million happy trails!


"I'm not suffering from insanity...I'm enjoying every minute!!"
   
cowboyforchrist
Marshal

Posts: 828
Registered: Mar 2007
 Posted March 27th, 2007 05:55 PM   IP           Reply with quote Edit Post Delete post
ok now that i read this part it seems yu have broadened the list at the bank!!

i hate when that happens!!!!

now it could be one of the tellers also!!

keep up the good work!!!!!

happy trails to you
   
cowboyforchrist
Marshal

Posts: 828
Registered: Mar 2007
 Posted March 27th, 2007 05:56 PM   IP           Reply with quote Edit Post Delete post
hmm i think i spotted something!!

let me guess now!!

on the other hand ill wait till you post again!

happy trails to you
   
Roughriding Senorita
Saddle Pal

Posts: 2850
Registered: Jan 2007
 Posted March 31st, 2007 12:33 PM   IP           Reply with quote Edit Post Delete post
Hey, cowboyforchrist, before reading the next part of my story, mind telling me what clue you caught in the last part? I forgot to ask last time I was on here. I did plant a clue in that chapter...a pretty important one too. Just wondering if you got that one or something else...

Did you ever think of going into the detective business, by the way?

May God keep you smilin' down a million happy trails!


"I'm not suffering from insanity...I'm enjoying every minute!!"
   
Roughriding Senorita
Saddle Pal

Posts: 2850
Registered: Jan 2007
 Posted March 31st, 2007 12:34 PM   IP           Reply with quote Edit Post Delete post
Part 6: Night Ride




When they got back to the ranch, they found it in complete confusion. Pat and the two girls had spent their morning having a merry—and very messy—time making biscuits, a fact which Dale and Roy discovered as they went into the house after tying their horses outside.

“What on earth?” Dale gasped, as she gazed around the kitchen. Every square inch of it was covered with biscuits in various stages of being made—either undercooked ones, overcooked ones, not-at-all cooked ones, and some that seemed to be in very beginning stages, judging by the amounts of watery dough on things.

“Oh, hi, Dale!” said Pat brightly, looking up from under a very droopy chef’s hat. “We’re making biscuits!”

“So I see,” said Dale dryly. “Do you always make them all over like this?”

Pat glanced around the kitchen. “Well, that’s the best way,” he told her finally. “Don’t worry, we’ll get it all cleaned up.”

“All right,” said Dale doubtfully. “Where’s Jerry?”

Before Pat could answer, the kitchen door opened and slammed shut with a bang as Jerry walked in.

“Oh, hi, Dale! Hi Roy!” he exclaimed. “I didn’t know you were back.”

“We just got in,” answered Roy.

Jerry looked at Dale expectantly, but didn’t say anything. Suddenly, Dale started to whistle—Roy recognized the tune as Empty Saddles.

For an instant, her eyes met Jerry’s, and he nodded imperceptibly, turned, and went back out the door.

“Well, I’ll leave you and the girls to your Happy Baking Grounds,” said Dale cheerfully to Pat. “Roy, I guess you and I’d better go out and unsaddle the horses while we eat lunch.”

She turned and led the way back out of the kitchen and out the front door. As soon as it closed behind them, Roy turned to her. “What was all that about?” he asked.

Dale raised her eyebrows. “Was it that obvious?”

“’Fraid so,” answered Roy. “Was the whistling some kind of signal?”

“Yes,” answered Dale. “Jerry’s always loved to fool around with codes and stuff, so he and I have a million of them. Whistling is one—it’s come in mighty handy since the trouble started here. If I want to talk to Jerry but don’t want the girls in on it, I’ll whistle one of several tunes, each of which sets the meeting place to talk. Empty Saddles means ‘Meet in the barn’.”

“That’s pretty clever!” said Roy in admiration. “What are some of the others?”



“That’s pretty clever!”


Dale paused in front of the barn door. “Well, Red River Valley means ‘Go to your room’, On Top of Old Smoky means ‘I can’t talk now’, and Down in the Valley means ‘Be ready for a signal later’. We’ve got lots more, but those are the main ones.”

Roy grinned as he pulled the barn door open for her. “I’m impressed,” he said. “You’ve practically got your own Morse Code.”

“Oh, we know that too,” said Dale, and laughed. “Or, at least Jerry does. I know most of the letters but I’m rusty on the words.”

“Well, that’s not such a bad thing to know,” Roy told her, as they walked into the dusty, dim interior of the barn. “You never know when you might need it.”

“That’s true,” said Dale, and raised her voice. “Jerry! Oh, Jerry! We’re here!”

“We’re in the tack room, Dale,” called back Jerry’s voice.

Roy looked at Dale. “We?”

Dale shrugged. “Don’t ask me! I thought he was alone.”

“Well, let’s go find out what’s up!” said Roy. It was only five or so yards down the bridle-and-spur-draped aisle to the tack room door, which was shut.

Dale pushed it open. “Jerry?”

Jerry looked up from his seat on a grain bag. “Oh, hi.” Turning to the grain bin behind him, he added, “You can come out now, Gabby. It’s just Roy and Dale.”

Slowly, the bin’s cover rose up and Gabby—very dusty and dribbling grain—climbed out.

“Gabby!” cried Roy. “What are you doing here?”

“And why were you in the grain bin?” added Dale. “Why weren’t you in the house?”

“Shh!” Gabby looked cautiously around. “Shet the door,” he whispered.

Elaborately, Roy performed the action, then leaned against it and crossed his arms. “Now, how about explaining?”

Gabby’s face was sheepish. “It’s them dad-blasted gals,” he muttered. “I came over here a couple o’ hours ago, an’ ran smack inter that Penny, bringin’ the laundry in from the line. I said hi, but she jist stood thar an’ stared at me, an’ then asked me if I’d washed behind my ears!”

Roy and Dale looked at each other and burst out laughing.

“It ain’t funny!” protested Gabby indignantly. “It’s got so’s I kin’t look myself in the face in the mornin’! If’n I git asked that one more time by one o’ those pint-sized prairie dogs, I’m goin’ ter go plumb loco!”

Roy swallowed another burst of laughter. Carefully avoiding Dale’s eyes, he looked at Gabby. “Well, we’ll keep you in here,” he said. “Pat’s got the girls inside making biscuits.”

Gabby let out a long sigh of relief and collapsed onto the grain bag next to Jerry. Then, suddenly, he jerked back up again.

“Jerry tole me what happened here last night,” he said. “What did ye tell the sheriff?”

“Everything’s that’s been going on,” said Dale, sobering as Gabby brought up the subject. “He said he’d try to investigate, but he didn’t promise anything.”

“I expectyed as much,” snorted Gabby. “That thar sheriff couldn’t catch his own suspenders iff’n they got loose.”

Dale smiled faintly at Gabby’s comparison. “Well, we’ve got more to worry us right now that whether the sheriff can catch his suspenders,” she said. “Roy, would you tell Gabby and Jerry about the deadline?”

Roy nodded. As briefly and as clearly as he could, he explained what had gone on at the bank—and also what had happened the day before, for Gabby’s benefit.

Gabby interrupted him many times, but it wasn’t till Roy finished by detailing the deadline that he really lost his temper.

“That black-hearted mangy son-of-a-weevil!” he roared, stumping around the room. “That lyin’, no-good skunk! Roy, let’s git some o’ the neighbors an’ run him out o’ town on a rail!”

“Take it easy!” Roy told him. “You just can’t go doing that. We haven’t got any proof that Adamson did mess with the mortgage, and if he didn’t, he was legally within his rights to try to close out on Dale.”

Gabby stared at him. “Proof! What’dye need proof fer? Kin’t ye see he’s as yeller-livered as they come?”

“We don’t know that for sure!” exclaimed Dale. “Quiet down, Gabby. Roy’s got a theory.”

“It’s not very good,” said Roy, “but it’s all we’ve got to go on right now.” Quickly, he sketched what he was thinking about the leader of the gang, and that Adamson didn’t fit the bill there.

“Aw, I think ye’re lettin’ that lizard fool ye,” snorted Gabby, after Roy was done. “Iff’n ye jist sit there, that no-good bank presydent’ll steal the whole Lazy Rose.”

“Not while we’re here, he won’t!” declared Dale, her eyes flashing green fire. “Roy, while you were talking I’ve been thinking. Almost fifteen years ago, there was a band of rustlers operating in this area. The sheriff couldn’t catch them, so what the ranchers did was to form night patrols, and ride their ranches all night, with as many men as they could get. The rustlers couldn’t steal without being caught, and as a result, eventually gave up. I want to start a night patrol riding the Lazy Rose.”

“Well, that’s a good idea,” said Roy. “But who’s going to be your riders? We’ve only got four here, counting you, me, Pat, and Jerry.”

Dale’s chin squared. “I’ll get Sal out here. She’s been wanting to come out for a while. That’s five.”

“Make it six,” ordered Gabby. “I’m not goin’ ter sit on my hind end while bank men raid Will Barry’s ranch. No sirree, I’m not.”

“Well, then, that’s six,” said Dale. Suddenly, her face fell. “Oh, I forgot. With Jerry riding we’ve got no one to stay with the girls.”

“I got someone fer that job too,” orated Gabby.

Dale whirled. “Who?”

“Rosie O’Grady. She’s the best weeman shooter sence Calamity Jane, an’ she’s ornery enough ter bite the ears plumb off’n any two-legged critter that comes prowlin’.”

“The storekeeper!” cried Dale. “Oh, Gabby, that’s perfect! How do you ever think of things like that?”

Gabby stuck his chest out. “Jist leave it ter me,” he said pompously. “Yeah, good ol’ Gabby Whittaker’ll fix all yer problem, guaranteed. He’s not skeered o’ anythang, and—”

Creeak! The door swung open, bumping into Roy who’d moved away from it. In peered Penny. She looked around the room, and then her eyes fixed on Gabby.

“Hi, Uncle Gabby,” she said.

All Gabby’s starch had gone out of him. He was crouching in the corner, as far away from Penny as he could get. “Hi,” he said weakly.

“Why’re you in the corner?” asked Penny, walking into the room. “I thought you just said you weren’t scared of anything. Were you bad, Uncle Gabby?”

“Er—er—no!” Gabby crawled out of the corner and tried to regain his dignity. “O’ course I warn’t!”

“Are you sure?’ she inquired. “Dale says we’re bad when we don’t do what we were told. Did you do what you were told, Uncle Gabby?”

“Oh no, it’s comin’!” wailed Gabby. “Roy! Do somethin’!”

Roy just grinned. Gabby glared helplessly at him, and then his eyes widened as Penny stepped closer.

“Did you wash behind your ears, Uncle Gabby?”

Gabby let out a bloodcurdling shriek and dove through the open window. For a moment, his footsteps could be heard running away outside, and then there was silence.

Dale’s eyes met Roy’s, and then, in unison, both of them and Jerry dissolved into laughter, while Penny stared disapprovingly at them.

“What’s goin’ on in here?” demanded Pat, bursting through the door. “Sounded like there was Injuns scalpin’ someone!”

“Oh no,” Roy assured him, instantly sober. “Gabby—just had a little urgent business to attend to.”

“He’s got a lot of urgent business,” said Penny suspiciously.

“Well, he’s a very busy man,” said Dale, swallowing hard. “Pen, you’d better go out and find Cathy. I don’t want her out there alone—she might meet up with a rattlesnake or something. Go keep an eye on her, will you?”

Penny nodded, happy to be given an important job, and trotted back out the door. Roy shut it behind her.

“What did you do in town?” asked Pat. “Ya know, Roy, I was real mad at myself after you left. I had a fifty dollar bill I wanted broken into fives, and I forgot to send it with ya!”

“What on earth are you doing with a fifty dollar bill?” demanded Roy, startled.

“It’s all the money I brought along for the trip,” explained Pat. “I though it’d be harder to lose it if it was just one bill.”

“Well, I’ll take it in and break it next time I go into town,” offered Roy. “Meanwhile, you’d better put it somewhere safe. Otherwise, you’d be sure to burn up your pocket or something.”

“I s’pose you’re right,” agreed Pat after a moment. “Hey, what’d ya find out in town, anyway?”

Roy sat down on a grain bin and again explained what had happened. Pat’s reaction was similar to Gabby’s.

“Why, that dirty little sneak! Let’s go round him up and dump him down a canyon, Roy!”

After Roy had got him calmed down, he explained again why it was possible that Adamson was really not the guilty man. As he did so, again he felt that nudge in his mind, trying to make him remember something.

For a moment, he stopped talking, trying to think of what that elusive something was. Then he shook his mind free of it and turned to Dale. “I think your idea about night riders is good, Dale. If we can just keep anything from going wrong till the day of the sale, I think we have the crooks licked. If you sell most of your best cattle, you should have enough to pay the mortgage off, right?”

Dale nodded. “If everything goes right, there should be enough to get rid of the mortgage and more besides. But that’s only if everything goes right.”

Roy grinned at her. “Well, let’s make sure it goes right. Say, by the way, if I remember right, you said something about fences needing fixing. That right?”

“Oh!” Dale jumped up. “Things have been so crazy today that I forgot all about it! Yes, there’s a whole section that needs to be fixed.”

“Then let’s fix it,” said Roy. “How about you go in and call up Sal and Mrs. O’Grady, while I saddle up the horses again?”

“All right,” Dale said. “Should I ask Mrs. O’Grady not to say anything to anyone else?”

Roy thought for a moment. “I’d do that,” he said then. “No one else knows about the rustling and fire-setting, right?”

“Not from me they don’t,” denied Dale. “I didn’t tell anyone till Gabby got me o tell you.”

Roy nodded. “That’s probably the way it should stay, then. At least for now.”

*

Five hours went by. Sal was delighted by Dale’s request and said she’d be out to the ranch right away. Mrs. O’Grady got all “het up”, as Gabby termed it, and said she’d be out as soon as the store closed “and I kin git my rifle in shootin’ order.”

Relieved as far as that went, Dale changed her clothes quickly and she, Roy, and Pat rode out to fix the fence line. There must have been at least a mile’s worth of weakened fence that needed to be fixed, stretched out over five miles. Then, at Roy’s suggestion, they rode out to the furthest parts of the Lazy Rose range, and rounded up any strays that were out there.

“Riding tonight’ll be easier if most of the cattle are close to the house,” he said, and Dale agreed.

The cattle weren’t so keen about their peaceful grazing being interrupted, though. They bellowed loudly in protest every time they were forced to go further, but, moving slowly, the three riders kept hazing them along.

About a mile from the ranch house, Roy reined Trigger back. “How about leaving ‘em here for now?”

Dale brushed a few fallen curls up off her forehead. “Suits me,” she said wearily. “We must have collected near a hundred head anyway, and they’re not far at all out here.”

“Oh, boy,” moaned Pat, standing up in his stirrups and rubbing his rear end. “I’d give a steak dinner and all the fixin’s for Nellybelle’s seat, right now!”

“Who’s Nellybelle?” asked Dale, chuckling at Pat’s antics.

“She’s Pat’s one true love, a pre-war Willis Jeep,” explained Roy. “Most people in their right mind run the other way when Nellybelle comes to town, but Pat seems to have put the Indian sign over on her—or the other way around.”

“Nellybelle’s a real darlin’,” said Pat fondly. “And I never get tired riding her—and she don’t buck, either!” he added, glaring down at his sleepy-looking steed.

Roy laughed. “Well, we’d better be heading back. I don’t know about you two, but I’m hungry enough to eat one of those steers, raw.”

“You’d better not,” warned Dale. “That’d be one expensive steak dinner.” She nudged Shade with her heel, and the horse obediently began to trot. “I put a casserole in the oven before we left. It should be perfect by now.”

“Sounds good to me!” said Roy.

“Me too!” added Pat hungrily. “I’m hungry enough to eat three of those steers, complete with a prairie dog for flavor!”

*

There was a battered truck in the ranch driveway when the three riders rode in.

“That’s Gabby’s truck,” said Roy, recognizing it.



“That’s Gabby’s truck.”


“Yes, and that wagon behind the barn is Mrs. O’Malley’s,” added Dale. “Sal must have driven Mrs. O’Grady out from town.”

“Want me to unsaddle for you?” asked Roy, as he and Dale slid off in front of the barn.

“No, thanks,” said Dale. “I like doing it. Say!” she added, as Pat’s horse ambled in behind them. “You’d better help Pat, though! He doesn’t look like he’s going to make it!”

Pat slowly slid off and landed in a crumpled heap on the ground. “Oh,” he moaned. “If I never see a saddle again it’ll be too soon!”

Redeye, completely ignoring Pat, stepped over him and headed into the barn.

“I’ll unsaddle for you, Pat,” grinned Roy. “You’d better get into the house and put some liniment on. Don’t forget, you’ve got a night’s worth of riding to do!”

“Don’t remind me,” grumbled Pat sourly, holding his seat as he limped into the house.

Laughing together, Roy and Dale untacked their horses, fed them grain, and then put them in the barn so they’d be easy to catch when it was time to start the night patrol.

“I hope I can stay awake tonight,” Dale told Roy, as they walked towards the house together. “I’m so tired from last night and today, I’m liable to fall asleep in my saddle.”

“Just think about everything the crooks have done,” Roy said, his eyes twinkling. “You’ll go so redheaded that you’ll be too mad to sleep.”

“Don’t get me started,” Dale told him. “I’ve been trying to forget it all day just so I don’t blow my top. Oh, Roy, I almost think Gabby and Pat are right. It must be Mr. Adamson. He’s so cold-blooded!”

“He also doesn’t strike me as being terribly smart,” said Roy. “Oh, intelligent enough in business, but not in people relationships—and that’s one thing the head of this gang is. If he’s got enough nerve and brains to change the mortgage papers to force you off your ranch, he’s got a lot of people savvy. He must have figured out that you, Dale, wouldn’t run screaming to your brother, since he’s so sick.”

Roy’s shrewd guess made Dale thoughtful. “That’s a good point,” she said. “Well, who do you suspect, Roy?”

Roy paused. They’d reached the ranch house porch now, and he rested one booted foot against the step.

“I don’t suspect anybody, really,” he said finally.

Dale looked at him sharply. “That’s isn’t the whole truth, Roy. You’ve got some-thing cooking in your head.”

“You’re getting too smart,” Roy told her, laughing a little. “All right, I do think something’s a little weird about—Mr. Preston.”

Dale stared at him. “Mr. Preston! But, Roy, he’s the one who got us this one week’s grace!”

“I know, I know,” said Roy. “But there’s just something about him—I can’t put my finger on it.”

Dale leaned against the porch railing. She was silent for a long moment, and then she nodded. “I think I know what you mean, Roy. He’s not very—very real, is he? He’s like a—a character, from a movie or a book.”

“That’s exactly what I felt,” said Roy quickly. “And you know how he always seems so timid, so unable to think for himself? Well, the whole time I get this feeling that that’s all a front, just an act he puts on.”

“Mmmhmm,” Dale murmured, thinking.

“I have a little proof for that theory, too,” continued Roy. “Remember when he told Mr. Adamson that it would be bad publicity for the bank if they were to foreclose on your mortgage without giving you another chance? That was real smart.”

Dale looked at him. “You know, Roy, I thought the same thing. I was so upset then—but I was still surprised that he had read Mr. Adamson’s character so perfectly and had figured out what would make him listen.”

“That’s exactly the people-savvy kind of person I was talking about before,” agreed Roy, but before he could continue the house door opened, and out walked Rosie O’Grady, her dark hair swept up in a bun.

“Well, young lady, I see you’re back,” she said, shaking hands with Dale.

“Yes,” smiled Dale. “It was wonderful of you to come, Mrs. O’Grady.”

“Shucks,” the lady replied briskly. “Where I grew up, that’s just what folks did when other folks were in trouble. You got any idea who these rustlers are?”

“Not really,” said Roy quickly.

“Oh, this is Roy Rogers,” introduced Dale. “Roy, this is Mrs. Rosie O’Grady, the storekeeper from town. Roy’s an old school friend of mine,” she explained to the older woman. “He came out for the sale and when he heard about the trouble at my ranch, he came on out to help.”

Mrs. O’Grady gave Roy a shrewd glance, and Roy wondered if she somehow knew that he’d really come out solely to help Dale.

“Yes, I heard you were a marshal, not so long ago,” Mrs. O’Grady commented. “Pretty good one, wasn’t you?”

“I wouldn’t say that,” Roy chuckled. “I got to work with some great people, and I guess their reputation kind of rubbed off on me.”

“Hmm,” said Mrs. O’Grady. “Well, there’s no point to standin’ here not doing nothin’. Dale, I took that ham and potato casserole out o’ the oven a little while ago, and it’s all ready to serve.”

“Oh, thank you,” said Dale gratefully, hurrying into the house.

“I got Sal and that no-good Gabby Whittaker settin’ the table,” added Rosie O’Grady. “That might keep ‘em out o’ trouble, but I doubt it. Jerry’s upstairs readin’ to the girls.”

“You’ve got everything moving perfectly,” said Dale. “I don’t see anything for me to do.”

“Oh, I kin think o’ somethin’,” said Rosie, shooing Dale into the kitchen. “You just git in there an’ git to makin’ some coffee.”

*

Dinner was a quick but merry meal. Even Dale couldn’t be worried with the antics that went on. Penny was pleased to be set across the table from Gabby, and she tried several times to ask him about his ears. However, Dale took pity on him and kept Penny quiet with second—and third—and fourth—servings.

As soon as the meal was over, Mrs. O’Grady took charge. “You riders git on out, now,” she admonished. “The girls and me will git the dishes done.”

“Are you sure?” asked Dale.

“I don’t say things I’m not sure of,” Rosie sniffed. “Now git goin’, gal! I expect you to show those menfolks a thing or two out there. And don’t you worry none about the girls, or about the place here. If anyone shows up I’ll blast ‘em so full o’ birdshot they’ll look like a colander, an’ then I’ll drop ‘em down the well.”

“I’m sure you’ll handle things perfectly,” grinned Dale.

“I’ll leave Bullet—my German shepherd—here, Mrs. O’Grady,” said Roy. “He’ll warn you if anyone gets close.”

“Thanks, young man,” said Mrs. O’Grady, as Roy and Dale followed the others out the door.
*
Inside the barn, Jerry clicked on the lights and turned to Gabby, Sal and Pat. “Come on, Pat, your horse is over here, and so’s yours, Sal. We got a gelding for you, Gabby, too.”

“I ain’t ridin’ no plug hoss,” warned Gabby.

“You want to ride my horse then?” offered Pat eagerly.

Gabby looked suspiciously at him. “What’s wrong with him?”

“Oh, nothin’,” said Pat. “He’s just a might friskier than I like, that’s all.”

“Wal, I’ll try him, then,” said Gabby. “Shore hope he gives a good ride!”

He and Pat hurried off after Jerry and Sal, and Roy—grinning—walked into the box stall where Trigger was.

Across the aisle, Dale was already inside Shade’s box, checking the saddle blankets over for burrs or wood savings before putting it on the gelding’s back.

“Still feeling sleepy?” Roy asked, his eyes twinkling across the aisle at Dale.

She shook her head. “I’m too keyed up,” she admitted. “I’m just hoping I didn’t bite off more than I could chew with this whole night patrol thing.”

“I think we’ll do okay,” said Roy, his teasing air gone in response to her worry. “After all, the Lazy Rose isn’t a big spread, and we brought all the cattle close in already. I guess the rustlers could rip down fence, but I’m betting not.”

“How come?” asked Dale, flipping a stirrup over the saddle horn and tightening the cinch.

“Publicity,” Roy answered. “Like I said before, the guy in charge of this operation is one smart cookie. He never left any real proof of criminal activity when he visited—not before that fire, anyway.”

“And if you hadn’t found the smolder, there wouldn’t have been any proof there either,” agreed Dale. She led Shade out of his stall, following Roy and Trigger. Gripping the reins in one hand, she swung up and into the saddle.

She grinned nervously across at Roy as he settled himself in his own saddle. “I’m praying you’re right, Marshal Rogers. I’m just praying you’re right.”

*

The night passed slowly. The sky was clear, and the faint new moon shone out, its light just a shade brighter than the twinkling stars. Down on the range, Roy and the five other riders walked their horses, back and forth, back and forth. They had a total of about ten miles to cover, from one end of their ride to the other.

After a little discussion, it had been decided that three riders—Gabby, Sal, and Jerry—would ride to the east, and the remaining three—Roy, Pat and Dale—to the west, keeping about a thousand yards between each rider. When they reached the end of their allotted territory, they’d turn and start back, still keeping the wide gap between riders. That way, nothing could happen within the patrolled ground that one or more of the riders wouldn’t discover.

After several quiet hours of this, Roy reined Trigger to a stand for a moment and glanced at his watch. He squinted, and then shook his head in frustration. The starlight, while casting enough light to see the ground and shapes fairly clearly, was not enough to read a watch face by.

“Easy boy,” he told the restive Trigger, fishing in his pocket for the small flashlight he carried there. He clicked it on, shone it on his watch, and then clicked it off. He didn’t want the golden glow to attract any unwelcome visitors. The short moment of light had been enough—he had seen that his guess had been right, and that it was five after midnight.

“Time to go meet the others,” he said, turning Trigger around. He and Dale had agreed to meet the others at their starting point at midnight, to compare notes and see how things were going.

When he reached the appointed spot, Dale was there, letting Shade drink in the nearby creek. Pat, Sal, and Jerry were a little ways off, also standing next to their horses.

“Oh, there’s Roy,” said Dale, turning as Trigger’s hooves softly clopped on the ground. “Did you see anything, Roy?”

“Not a thing,” sighed Roy, sliding off Trigger and leading him to the creek. “What about you?”

“None of us saw anything either,” said Dale. “We don’t know about Gabby—he’s not here yet. I don’t know whether to be upset or relieved, though!”

“I know what you mean,” agreed Roy. “I was hoping we’d manage to get something for proof—maybe catch one of the rustlers. Well, at least the Lazy Rose is safe.”

“Yes, and I guess that’s all that matters.” Dale stroked Shade’s nose gently. “Well, should we get on with things?”

“Yeah, let’s,” interjected Sal. “I’m itchin’ to get my hands on a rustler!”



“I’m itchin’ to get my hands on a rustler!”


“I think we should wait for Gabby,” began Roy, but just at the moment the pounding sound of a horse madly galloping thudded into the silence.

“Someone’s comin!” yelped Pat, darting over to Roy. “Do ya suppose it’s one of them rustlers?”

“Not running like that,” denied Roy. “It must be Gabby—something must have happened!”

Springing into the saddle, Roy urged Trigger in the direction of the galloping hoofbeats. In a moment, he could see the horse and rider—it was Gabby.

“Did he come this-a-way?” Gabby yelled as soon as he came within hearing range.

“Who?” demanded Roy, pulling Trigger up in a rearing stop as Gabby skidded beside him.

“Them dad-blasted rustlers!” snorted Gabby. “I run ‘cross ‘em a mile or so back, down in that there little canyon.”

“Wait a minute, Gabby,” Roy interrupted as Dale galloped up behind.

“Gabby!” she cried. “What happened?”

“Gabby saw rustlers down in the little canyon,” Roy quickly explained to her, then turned back to Gabby. “Then what happened?”

“I give a holler, makin’ sure they wasn’t ranchers crossin’ through. Right after I did it, they took off an’ ran like greased lightening. I couldn’t catch ‘em!”

“We’d better figure out where they are,” said Roy quickly, turning in his saddle. Jerry and Pat and Sal had arrived by then, in time to hear what had happened.

“We’d better spread out again,” said Roy. “See if you can pick up their trail!”

He suddenly caught sight of Jerry, and realized that the boy—even as sensible and steady-headed as he was, couldn’t bring in two rustlers if he caught up with them.

“Give a shot if you see them,” amended Roy. “Better not try to bring ‘em in till someone else gets there.”

Dale glanced quickly at Jerry and then at Roy, and he knew she’d figured out what his words had meant. “Right, Roy,” she said, wheeling her horse. “Let’s fan out!”

Leaning over Trigger’s neck, Roy touched his side with his spurs, and the stallion leaped forwards, running flat and powerfully underneath him. On his left, Shade was flying, quickly outdistancing the other horses, as he and Dale streaked away towards the east, Jerry on their left.

On Roy’s right were Gabby, Sal, and Pat, who were also fanning out on either side. Within seconds, all the riders had disappeared, and Roy and Trigger were running alone in the night.

Roy bent low over Trigger’s neck, low enough so that Trigger could make his best pace, but high enough so that Roy could see clearly. The range where they were now was almost completely flat, with swells here and there. Riders galloping should be visible, even in this dim light…

Suddenly, Roy’s hand tensed on the reins. There they were—or at least, there was one, up ahead, darting out from behind a swell. Roy urged Trigger faster, as he gauged the distance between himself and the fleeing rider. About three hundred yards—too long!

“Hey, up there!” Roy shouted into the wind. “Stop!”

For a moment, Roy thought his words had been swept behind him. But then, the rider ahead turned in the saddle. “Stop!” Roy shouted again—and then suddenly ducked his head, as he saw a red flash and heard a sharp report.

Whizz! A bullet sped over his head, missing him by a few feet.

“Whew!” Roy muttered to himself as he rose up a little. “That was too close for comfort—specially for night shooting!”

There was another flash and report from up ahead, but this bullet passed too far away for Roy to hear it.

“That guy’s done enough lead-slinging,” muttered Roy. “Now it’s my turn!”

May God keep you smilin' down a million happy trails!


"I'm not suffering from insanity...I'm enjoying every minute!!"
   



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