Help via Ko-Fi

Black John Takes a Hand in Solving a Murder

Corporal Downey Calls The Tune

James B. Hendryx
Author of "Black John Intervenes," "Samson's Luck on Halfaday." etc.

"HOW much further is this crick where you say the dead man is?" asked Corporal Downey, of the Northwest Mounted Police, as the canoe cut smoothly through the water of a still stretch, giving the paddlers a breathing spell in their ascent of the turbulent Klondike River.

The Indian who was paddling the bow scanned the skyline of the mountains. "Mebbe-so com' tonight—mebbe-so tomor'," he replied, without turning his head.

"I should hope so. You told me it was only two days up the Klondike—an' we've be'n out four days, now—an' ain't even come to the crick."

"Two day, com' down to Dawson. Too mooch fas' water—tak' mor' day go oop."

"How far is the dead man up the crick from the river?"

"W'at you call—short far. Mebbe-so wan mile."

That night they camped at the mouth of the creek, on the bottom of which, weighted down with stones, the Indian had reported finding the body of a dead man, He had been paddling down the creek when, glancing over the side of the canoe, he found himself looking squarely into the face of the man who lay on his back with some six feet of crystal-clear water between. Terrorized, the Indian had stopped long enough to see that the body had been weighted with stones secured with lengths of rope to his feet and neck. Then he had hastened to Dawson to report the matter to the police.

Early morning found them at the spot, and ascertaining that the body was still there. Lowering a grappling hook, Downey caught the rope between the man's neck and the stone, and the two succeeded in drawing the body from the water. Leaving it to drain, the young officer glanced about him. The valley of the creek was narrow, and some thirty yards back from the creek bed, close against the rimrocks stood a tiny cabin. A small dump that gave evidence of recent working, had been piled beside a shaft straddled by a windlass. Walking over to the shaft, Downey saw that it was not more than eight feet deep. The upper four feet of its sides showed weather-wear, while the remainder had been recently dug. The windlass was a crude affair, old, but evidently freshly patched up. A bit of rope dangling from the roller was new, and of the same kind that had been used in weighting the body.

Passing on to the cabin, Downey saw at a glance that it, too, had been recently patched and made habitable—the roof showed a layer of new dirt, and the chinking had been augmented with fresh mud.

Pushing the door open he stood for several moments staring into the bare interior as his eyes became accustomed to the gloom. The furniture consisted of a rude pole table, three short pole benches, and two pole bunks. One of these bunks particularly drew the officer's attention. It had evidently been recently widened by the addition of green poles, also, one of the three pole seats was new.

A discarded pair of socks, and a torn shirt had been tossed into a corner. Stepping into the room, Downey stooped and peered beneath the bunks. Reaching under the wider one, he drew forth an object that caused him to emit a low whistle of surprise. It was a battered violin case, and inside the case was a violin, and a bow. The instrument, with all its strings intact, seemed in excellent condition. It was the only thing of any value whatever that had been left behind by the occupants of the cabin.

DOWNEY next turned his attention to the stove which had been abandoned as not worth removing, being a homemade affair, constructed out of two square five gallon petrol tins. The stove, he saw, was well filled with ashes. Lifting it, he carried it outside and peered into the interior.

"Lot of stuff besides wood has been burnt in here," he muttered, and began to remove the ashes with his hands, sifting them between his fingers. Some thin strips of steel puzzled him, and these he laid aside, together with a number of small metal eyelets. He next removed a curved metal rim, hinged at each end, and provided with a thumb catch and two small rings to which ferrules were attached. Bits of charred leather clung to the ferrules and to the under part of the metal rim. "So," he muttered to himself, as he squatted there and regarded his findings, "there's a woman mixed up in this, somewhere. This is all that's left of a woman's hand-bag—an' those strips an' eyelets must have been parts of her corsets. I wonder if I'll be findin' her body, too?"

Search of the dirt in the bottom of the woodbox revealed two or three common wire hairpins and a discarded toothbrush. On the floor beside the box lay three or four wood shavings, that had evidently been prepared for kindling. Picking up one of these, Downey glanced at it idly—then, carrying it to the door, examined it closely with his pocket glass. He examined each of the other shavings, and placed them in his wallet. The bits of metal he had removed from the stove, he placed in the case with the violin.

Examination of the body revealed that the man had been killed by a terrific blow on the back of the head with some sort of a club. The blow had shattered a considerable area of the occipital bone, and death must have been instantaneous. His pockets yielded a jack knife, part of a plug of tobacco, a blue cotton handkerchief, the stub of a lead pencil, and a small sodden notebook. Pressing the water from the book, Downey examined its pages. On the inside of the cover what had evidently been a name written in ink was hopelessly blurred by the water. Pencilled on the first page was the number 3016. The next page held a pencilled list of figures that had been added to a total of 1142. Farther on in the book was a pencilled list of supplies, with price notation after each entry—and nothing more. No name—no bit of writing of any kind. Drawing a sheath knife from the man's belt, Downey examined the blade, and the two blades of the jack knife, and tying the objects up in the handkerchief, he called to the Indian, who had seated himself on the ground, evincing no interest whatever in the proceeding.

"Hunt up an' down the crick in the brush an' find another canoe, an' keep your eyes open for another body or a place that's been freshly dug—like a grave. An' if you see a club layin' around that could have been used to bash this man's head in, holler for me—but don't touch it— savvy?"

"Mor' man's dead?" asked the Indian;

"I don't know—more likely a woman, if there's anyone. There were three people here—probly two men an' a woman. If they came here together they must have had two canoes, what with the stuff they had to carry. I figure there was a man an' a woman here, an' the other man came later—either way, there would be two canoes. We know what happened to one of the men. Now, if the other two went away together, they'd only take one canoe— because there's damn few women that could handle a canoe alone in this water— an' prob'ly no woman that would wear corsets an' have a handbag. If the man knocked the woman off—of course he'd only take one canoe. You hunt the crick banks, an' I'll hunt back along the rims."

Downey located the murder weapon in a nearby ravine where it had been tossed— a billet of green spruce with a few red hairs clinging to the bark. He gave it scant attention however as a glance told him that the rough surface would furnish no fingerprints. Search of the little valley in the vicinity of the shack failed to turn up another body, or any evidence that one had been buried. The Indian located the other canoe, concealed in the bush, a short distance up the creek. Search of the creek bottom from the canoe failed to disclose another weighted body, so gathering his evidence, Downey ordered the Indian to paddle the other canoe while he placed the body in the police craft, and the two proceeded to Dawson where they arrived two days later.


ON THE morning following his return to Dawson Corporal Downey sat in his office and scowled at the objects spread out on his desk top, as he tried to mentally reconstruct the crime.

The door opened and Black John Smith stepped into the room and sauntered to the desk. "Looks like you'd gone into the insurance adjustin' business," he grinned, eyeing the fire-blackened bits of metal. "That there corset an' the handbag is a total loss—too bad it couldn't have been the fiddle."

"What you doin' in Dawson?" Downey asked. "An' how's everything up on Halfaday?"

"Fetched down a batch of dust to trade fer bills," the big man answered. "Cush's safe got to bulgin' a little at the sides. Everything on Halfaday is fine, fer as I know." Pausing, he stooped and examined the spruce billet that lay on the desk. "Looks like, what with them red hairs stuck to the bark of that club, an' all the rest of this stuff, you had the ingredients of a first class murder," he ventured. "Who killed who—an' why?"

Downey grinned wryly. "I don't know," he answered, "an' it looks like I'm goin' to have plenty of trouble findin' out."

"Someone tap a red-headed woman on the head an' burn the body? You hadn't ought to be too hard on him—them red heads is hell to handle."

"No, it was a red-headed man that got tapped—an' the body was sunk in a crick—not burned. The woman's stuff was burnt in a stove." Black John seated himself, as Downey went over the evidence, step by step. "So," he concluded, "it's up to me to find the man and the woman."

"Yeah," Black John agreed, ''an' the way the chechakos is pourin' into the country, it's liable to be quite a chore. "Anyhow, the woman was a chechako; she'd got that far off'n the river before she found out she didn't need neither handbags nor corsets in this country." Downey nodded, and the other continued. "An' one of the three was a fiddler."

"Prob'ly the murdered man," added Downey. "If either of the others had owned the instrument they'd have taken it with them—they'd never have lugged it

that far an' then abandoned it. I'd sure like to dope out the motive for the murder."

"Motive!" exclaimed Black John. "Cripes—with a woman an' a fiddle both mixed up in the case, it looks like you had more motives on yer hands than anythin' else. Either one of 'em would furnish a reasonable motive. Killin' a fiddler on general principles would be the natural reaction of any normal man, an' hadn't ought to be considered no more than a tort, at most.

"An' as fer women—hell, they've been the motive fer more murders than anyone thing except war."

Downey picked up the notebook, which he had carefully dried, leaf by leaf, at his campfire on the way down, and scanned the dim pencil tracings. "This number, 3016," he said, "might be the number of a boat—you know, at Tagish, the police are numberin' all boats, an' takin' the names an' addresses of the people in 'em. We haven't got the record here of the latest numbers, but I believe we've got 'em up to around five thousan'. I was just about to look up the record when you came in. I've got a hunch that the woman, an' one of the men came inside together, an' went on up to that crick, an' moved into that abandoned shack. Then the other man came along later—the important thing is, which one was the murderer?"

"Yeah," agreed Black John, "I s'pose that's so, from the police angle. Takin' a personal view of the case, though, it looks like the murder was an important event to the victim, too. What's that sum that's all added up on that page there?"

"I believe it's a list of their pieces. That entry was prob'ly made at Sheep Camp on their way in—to see if they had enough supplies on hand to conform to the order that everyone comin' into the country must bring in a year's supplies. Eleven hundred pounds is generally figured to conform, an' this figures up to twenty-two hundred an' forty-six—which would be supplies for two people."

"Sounds reasonable," admitted Black John, "an' that list of stuff further along would be what they bought in Dawson fer the trip out on the crick—them amounts that's set down after the stuff is Dawson prices, all right."

"That's it," agreed Downey, stepping to a cabinet and lifting out a bulky packet of papers. "Now we'll find out who had boat Number 3016." For some moments he thumbed the papers, then he announced: "Here it is—John O'Hara, an' wife, Nellie O'Hara, Sutton's Bay, Michigan. An' here's the date we checked 'em in at Dawson—June 11th."

"How long has the murdered man been dead?" asked Black John.

"The doctor looked him over last night, an' he claims it's hard to say, on account of him layin' in the cold water— maybe a day or so before the Siwash found him—maybe three or four days."

"They could have stayed in that shack quite a while before this murder come off," said Black John—"it's August now."

"That's right—an' I believe they were there quite a while before the other man got there. The shaft had been worked, an' as I told you, one of the seats an' that added width to the bunk were made of green spruce. I saw the cuttin's where they trimmed the poles, an' the needles looked pretty fresh."

"I shore hope you have luck with this case," Black John said. "Most of the damn crooks in the country hit fer Halfaday. We don't want no woman of no kind showin' up on the crick. An' as fer the man— knockin' anyone on the head when he ain't lookin' is a damn dirty trick, even if he was a fiddler. I'd help you out if I know'd how to go at it. On Halfaday we've got a

snap, locatin' malefactors, 'cause we know that no one but some damn name-canner would pull off a crime up there—an' there ain't so many of them. But here, what with the whole country lousy with chechakos, it looks like a hell of a chore. All you know, so far, is that a man named O'Hara from somewheres in Michigan an' his wife got to Dawson, an' he prob'ly either got murdered, er murdered someone else. An' the dead man was prob'ly a fiddler."

"That's right," agreed Downey. "An' accordin' to the marks on these wood shavin's, the murderer will have two nicks in the blade of his knife just three-eighths of an inch apart, if he hasn't ground 'em out. I don't believe he has—they were pretty deep."

"That ought to help convict him," said Black John, "but it don't go very fer towards ketchin' him—you can't go jerkin' out everyone's knife an' lookin' at the blade. How big a place is this here Sutton's Bay, where they come from?"

"What difference does that make?" asked Downey, reaching for an atlas.

"Well, I figger that if there was anyone else here on the Yukon that come from there, an' it wasn't a very big place, he might know these folks."

"That's so," agreed Downey, thumbing his atlas. "Michigan—here it is—Sutton's Bay—only three hundred an' ninety-two inhabitants, the book says. The chances are, we can't locate anyone else from a little town like that. I'll run the boat list, through, an' see. It might help if we knew somethin' about these people, at that."

Ten minutes later he looked up and shook his head. "Quite a few other folks from Michigan—but no others from Sutton's Bay," he announced. "There's one other way that might turn somethin' up. I'll list the names of a half dozen boats that checked in at Dawson, whose numbers are near 3016—say from 3010, to 3020—they'd have passed through Tagish right along with the O'Haras, an' maybe come along down the river with 'em— some of 'em might remember 'em."

"Looks smart," admitted Black John, as Downey began copying names from the record. Presently the corporal summoned a constable.

"Here, Peters, divide this list with Constable Brock, an' slip out an' see if you can locate any of these folks. Some of 'em may still be in Dawson, an' if they are, bring all you can find of 'em back here, I want to question 'em. John an' me are goin' to dinner, now. Hustle out an' see what you can do."


DURING the afternoon the constables brought in five of the men listed, three of whom, one man from boat 3018, and two from boat 3015, remembered the O'Haras. They described him as being a rather tall, slender man with red hair and a red beard, apparently a man in his fifties. The woman was much younger—in her twenties, probably, dark hair and eyes, good figure, very pretty, and inclined to be flirtatious with the younger men. They viewed the body and all three unhesitatingly identified it as that of O'Hara. Back in the office, Downey questioned them further, eliciting the information that these three men, who gave their names as Al Duffy, Bill Streeter, and H. Swanson, and several others, not located, had kept their boats pretty well together on the downriver trip, and had camped together nearly every night.

They described O'Hara, as a rather easy-going sort of person, who delighted to play the fiddle evenings by the campfire, while his wife, who seemed to care nothing for the music, circulated about among the men, laughing and cracking jokes, and maybe holding hands, or even making no protest at a stolen kiss, or two. None would admit that he knew of any downright indiscretion; she might— an' then agin, she mightn't—was as far as they would go. Nor could any of them state that the young woman had seemed especially interested in any one man. They thought, though, that she didn't seem to pay much attention to her husband. None of the three had seen the O'Haras after their arrival in Dawson. Downey dismissed the men, after warning them to keep the police notified of their whereabouts in case they were wanted for further questioning.

After they had gone, he turned to Black John. "Well," he said, "we know that the murdered man was O'Hara—an' we know what the woman looks like. We've got a probable motive—she was tired of her easy-goin', middle-aged husband, an' wanted a younger man. The younger man came along, either by accident or design, was taken in by the O'Haras, an' they got rid of O'Hara, the man prob'ly doin' the actual killin'."

"Looks that way," Black John admitted. "Course, him bein' a fiddler, that might be regarded as mitigatin' an' extenuatin' circumstances, so you prob'ly won't git no first degree murder verdick— even if you ketch 'em."

"Let's go down to the recorder's an' see if they filed on that abandoned claim they was workin'."

"What good'll that do?"

Downey shrugged. "Can't tell—maybe no good. But we might turn up somethin'—might get a look at her handwritin', or the recorder might recollect somethin' about 'em—you never can tell. I don't like to overlook any bets in a case of this kind."

As the recorder greeted the two in his office, Downey asked, "Got a record of any location filed by James K. O'Hara an' wife? They would have filed after June the eleventh."

The man ran through his index, "Nope—no O'Haras. But—hold on—I believe there's a transfer just a few days ago. Yeah, here it is. George Sims—he's the one that's known as Lumpy Sims—to James K. O'Hara, and Nellie O'Hara, his wife, a claim on Hunker Creek, consideration eleven thousand dollars, and royalty of fifteen percent if the location pays more than thirty thousand in any one year. I recollect them—she was pretty as a picture—sat over there in a chair, while we were fixing up the records. And believe me, she's got good looking legs!"

"Another pair of mitigatin' circumstances," Black John grinned. "I'm doubtin', Downey, that you won't convict her of no more than a misdemeanor, by the time she gits through impressin' the jury."

"What did the man look like?" Downey asked.

"Who—O'Hara? Why—let's see—oh, yeah—he was a kind of a tall red headed fellow with a red beard—"

"What!" exclaimed the officer.

"Yes, I remember him distinctly. It was only two or three days ago they were here. Why—isn't O'Hara supposed to be red headed?"

"Yeah," Downey answered. "That's the hell of it—he is!"

"Looks like Nellie sort of runs to red heads, don't it?" grinned Black John, when they were once more out on the street. "What's yer next move?"

"We'll hunt up Sims, if he's in Dawson, an' see what he's got to say. If we can't find him we'll pull out for Hunker."

Lumpy Sims was located, drunk, and lavishly spending the proceeds of his sale—but not too drunk to corroborate the recorder's description of the pair. He further stated that the two had left for the claim on Hunker immediately after closing the deal.

"Come on," said Downey to Black John, "we'll go over to the office an' dope out the best way to work this. I'd like to get a look at this red headed man's belt knife. It might be that there's some mistake here somewheres"

"Figger O'Hara might be the murderer instead of the murderee, eh?"

"Well—the live man's red headed, an' those fellows might be mistaken in their identification of the corpse. They hadn't known O'Hara very long."

"We better take the fiddle up to Hunker with us."

"What good would that do?" asked Downey.

"Well, mebbe no good, but a fiddle ain't no hell of a heft to pack. Two red headed an' red whiskered men is a coincidence—but two red headed an' red whiskered men that could fiddle would be damn near a miracle. We'll give this here remainin' red head a chanct to show us what he kin do. An' believe me—it's the first time I'd ever count it a p'int in a man's favor that he could fiddle!"


REACHING Hunker Creek the two arrived at the shack described by Sims at noon on the following day to find the red headed man seated on a rough bench near the door splicing a length of rope. Downey guessed him to be about thirty years old, and noted that, whereas the beard of the dead man had been rather bushy and unkempt, this man's beard was neatly trimmed to a point, giving his face a peculiar angular appearance—like the face of a fox. The man looked up and nodded as the two paused before him.

"What's your name?" asked the officer abruptly.

"O'Hara—James K. O'Hara," answered the man, and lowering his eyes, shoved the spike between the strands.

"How long have you been in the country?"

"Come in this spring."

"Come downriver—through Tagish?"


"What was the number of your boat?"

"Why, it was—" he paused abruptly, hesitated for a few moments as though trying to remember, then mumbled, "Ask the woman. I fergit."

"What woman?"

"My wife. She's inside."

A woman paused in her preparation of the noonday meal and stepped through the open doorway. Despite her rough garb both men saw at a glance that she was young and very attractive—noted also, that while the man's eyes failed to meet theirs, her gaze was bold and unfaltering.

"Mrs. O'Hara?" asked Downey.

"Yes. What is it you want?"

Corporal Downey smiled. "My visit here may seem trivial to you—but lots of times, police matters are like that. A man farther up the crick lost a belt knife. He has entered a complaint that it was stolen—"

"Does he say we stole it?" demanded the woman.

"No, no. He don't accuse anyone—just described the knife and said it was stolen from his shack a day or so ago. I see your husband is wearing a belt knife. If there's no objection, I'd like to look at it."

After an instant's hesitation she turned to the man. "Show him your knife," she ordered. Then turned contemptuously to the officer. "What kind of folks do you think we are—to be stealing belt knives?"

"I ain't accusin' you of stealin' this," Downey replied, as he took the knife from the man's hand. "Just checkin' up on knives as a matter of routine." He examined the implement, instantly noting the two nicks in the blade—the telltale nicks he was seeking. "This is the same kind of a knife as I'm huntin' for," he said.

"Well it might be the same kind—but it ain't the same knife," replied the man. "I bought that knife at the A. C. store in Dawson early this spring,"

"How early?"

"It wasn't very early," cut in the woman hurriedly. "It was along in June, sometime."

"Yeah," agreed the man, "that's what I mean—along in June."

"An' you've had it in your possession ever since? It's never been out of your possession?"

"No. I've had it ever since."

Black John, who had remained behind Downey, stepped forward with a smile, "You wouldn't be, by any chance, the O'Haras that come downriver along in June in boat Number 3016, would you?"

The woman shot him a shrewd glance as the man continued his splicing without looking up. "Why, yes," she answered, "we came in in June—and 3016 was the number of our boat. But why would the police want to know about that? We checked in to them at Dawson."

BLACK JOHN'S smile widened. "I ain't in nowise connected with the police, ma'am. The corporal, here, was comin' down the crick, an' I jest come along with him, bein' as he claimed he had to stop an' ask all the folks, on account of findin' this knife the man lost. Fact is, some of us boys up the crick is figgerin' on pullin' off a dance tonight. The Northern Tradin' Company's floor's all laid in their new store, about two mile up, an' we've got to pull this dance before they begin movin' in their stuff, er there won't be no room. So one of the boys went up the crick, an' I come down it to sort of invite the folks to come to the dance. I hope you an' yer man can come, an' I don't mind sayin' that if all the women was as good lookin' as you, the dance would be a howlin' success."

Suspicion faded from the woman's eyes and she returned the big man's smile. "Why, sure we'll be there. I like to dance. But—what's that got to do with the number of our boat?"

"Oh, yeah—the boat. Why some of the boys, Bill Streeter, an' Al Duffy, an' a fella named Swanson, was tellin' about a fella named O'Hara that come downriver in boat Number 3016. They come inside the same time—camped along with the O'Haras most every night. They spoke of you, too, ma'am, an' they didn't lie none about yer looks, neither. But it was O'Hara's fiddlin' that they was talkin' about mostly. You see, we're kind of up agin it fer music fer the dance, an' they was wishin' O'Hara was here to play fer us. They told about him gittin' out his fiddle every night comin' downriver, an' playin' fer 'em—an' they claim he shore could make that fiddle talk." He paused and turned to the man. "You'll help us out, won't you? We'll shore appreciate it. An' we'll make it worth yer while, too. We generally take up a collection to pay fer the music—an' the boys is lib'ral with their dust."

Out of the tail of his eye, Corporal Downey saw the woman's face grow a shade paler under the tan at mention of the names. She spoke hurriedly, before the man could answer.

"Are they here, on Hunker Crick— Swanson, and Duffy, and Streeter?"

"Oh, sure," Black John lied. "All got claims above here—doin' pretty good, too. Funny you ain't run acrost 'em."

"We—we've only been here a couple days," the woman said. "We bought this claim and came up from Dawson."

NOTING the woman's perturbation, Black John hurried on. "Well, of course, you can't expect a crick like Hunker to be as lively as Dawson, but we have our fun, when we kin. Been down to Dawson ever sence you come inside, I s'pose?"

"Yes—we—we don't know much about prospecting. We were looking around for a chance to buy a claim."

"Well, you come to a good crick. You bet Hunker's bound to pay out in the long run. But about this here fiddlin' tonight— kin we count on O'Hara?"

"No—he can't play. He lost his violin—it was while we were unloading our stuff from the boat at Dawson. It was my fault—I picked it up to hand it to him, and my foot slipped, and in catching my balance, I threw up my arm and let go of the violin, and it sailed way out into the river and disappeared before we could do anything about it. My husband was very angry. But I couldn't help it."

"Got mad, eh? I s'pose he set quite a store by that fiddle?"

"Wouldn't of took nothin' fer it," volunteered the man, who had listened in silence. "I ain't got no luck."

"Mebbe," opined Black John, "yer luck is runnin' stronger'n what you think it is—one way er another." Removing the package from beneath his arm, he tore the paper wrapping from it, opened the case, and exposed the violin. "Here's yore fiddle," he said. "Corporal Downey, here—he happened to find it a few days ago."

The eyes of both the man and the woman were riveted on the instrument in horror. The woman spoke—the words falling haltingly from lips that seemed suddenly to have gone dry and stiff. "Where—did—you find that?"

Black John answered. "After it flew out of yer hand there at the Dawson landin', ma'am, it must have floated back up the Yukon a piece, an' then up the Klondike, an' then up a feeder, an' lodged in under a bunk in a shack that was there. Corporal Downey, he come along an' found it."

"An'," continued Downey, "that ain't all I found. In the crick, weighted down with rocks, I found the body of a man— the body of your husband, O'Hara—"

"I don't know nothin' about it," cried the man, in a panic of terror. "She ain't my wife. I lied! I never been outside of Dawson. I never seen her till the other day. I don't know nothin' about no cricks an' dead men! I never seen that fiddle before."

The woman turned abruptly into the shack, as Downey smiled at the man grimly. "You picked a poor time to lie," he said. "An' I s'pose it's a lie about this knife never bein' out of yer possession since you bought it."

"No, that's the God's truth! The A. C. store man—he'll remember sellin' it to me. It was early in the spring—not June, like she said—an' we had a argument about it—he'll remember."

"That's all I want to know," said Corporal Downey. "An' it'll be plenty to convict you. You're under arrest for the murder of James K. O'Hara—I'll have time to find out your name, later—"

THE woman leaped suddenly from the interior of the shack, her arm flew out, there was a loud report, and Corporal Downey's Stetson went spinning from his head. Before the woman could shoot again, Black John jerked the violin from the case and brought it crashing down on the woman's head. The instrument shattered, so that her fury-distorted face appeared through the broken wood, tangled up among the strings, as the big man jerked her violently toward him, at the same time snatching the gun from her grasp with his free hand. At the sound of the shot, the man had leaped upon Downey, who had staggered backward, momentarily dazed by the bullet that cut his scalp and grazed the skull on the top of his head. But the officer quickly recovered, and drawing his own gun, he jammed it into the other's ribs, as his hands flew upward in a sign of surrender. Meanwhile Black John managed to subdue the woman who struggled and fought like a wildcat.

"There, there, now, ma'am—take it easy," he grinned, as blood trickled from a deep finger nail scratch at the corner of his eye. "Jest be yerself, an' you ain't got nothin' to fear. There ain't a thing on you except bein' an accessory before an' after the fact of a murder, an' robbery of the murdered man, an' resistin' arrest, an' shootin' an officer with intent to kill. You jest pretty yerself up a little, an' look sort of sad an' wistful out of them big eyes, an' wear a short skirt so the jury kin git an eyeful of them good lookin' legs of yourn, an' they'll turn you loose, all right. It might be that they'll even award you alimony.

"Yer luck is that yer facin' a legal trial, instead of a miner's meetin'."