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THE cab purred off into the evening darkness, leaving Gregg Stacey alone on the curb. He wasted no time lingering there. A street lamp several feet away enclosed him within its circle of illumination, made his figure too conspicuous. He wasn't certain yet that he hadn't been followed.

Bending quickly, he gathered up his bags and strode across a stretch of lawn to the sidewalk. A short distance away, he sighted a broad, shadowed Opening between two buildings, flanked by tall bushes. It was the entrance to a driveway. He turned into it, stopping where the shadows were thickest. He couldn't be seen from the street, now. "

He set down his bags again, and pulled out his pipe. He began filling it from an oilskin pouch, watching the street, unable to shake off a feeling of unease that lay like a black, cold shadow on his mind.

Cars passed frequently on the street. They went rapidly, going somewhere, not slowly as though looking for something. There were occasional pedestrians, but they came and went with a definiteness that carried no hint that they might be searching.

Finally, carefully, Gregg Stacey lighted his pipe. The match, flickering in his large, brown hand, illumined his face. It was a youthful face. broad, with a pleasantly wide mouth, and thick dark brows that almost met over the bridge of a short blunt nose. The eyes, narrowed intently over the pipe. were a clear candid blue, fringed heavily with dark lashes. They were quick, straight, intelligent eyes that many people would find disconcerting. An easy humor showed in the lines around his mouth and eyes, but they were deepened now by grimness and strain. He wore a belted tan gabardine trench coat over a gray tweed suit, and a brown felt hat, the brim of which had been pulled low over his forehead.

The pipe going satisfactorily, Stacey resumed his watch of the street. He thought of the girl named Norma Red-dick. and impatience began to build up within him. Norma Reddick held the answer to the mystery that had brought Stacey to Seattle. She lived just around the corner, in the next block, if the cab driver who had brought Stacey here knew his directions. Stacey had given an address near the girl's, in case he might be followed. He hadn't wanted to lead pursuit directly to her, even though he had changed cabs twice since leaving the airport.

NORMA REDDICK wasn't entirely unknown to Stacey. He had seen her several times, the last being some ten years ago, when both were little more than kids. These meetings had taken place on the infrequent occasions when their respective fathers, Ben Stacey and Warren Reddick, came down from Alaska to visit them. The two men were inseparable friends, and as partners operated a couple of mines near Fairbanks.

Stacey remembered Norma as an impudent skinny brat, with hair of an indefinite blonde shade and a disdainful snub nose sprinkled generously with freckles. He hadn't liked her, and he doubted that he would like her now. He reminded himself that his only reason for coming to see her at all was because she knew the explanation behind the half of a map which he had received a few days before. It had been sent by Chinook Vervain, a half-breed servant of his father and Warren Reddick. With the map fragment. Vervain had enclosed a badly scrawled, barely legible note, containing Norma's address and informing Stacey that the girl had the other half of the map and would explain the matter. Vervain had added a strange warning for Stacey to be careful.

As it developed, the warning hadn't been an empty one. The next day Stacey received a visit from two men, obvious toughs, who had offered to buy his half of the map. He had refused to sell. That evening, while Stacey had been out making arrangements for his trip to Seattle, his room had been painstakingly searched. The map half hadn't been found for the simple reason that Stacey had taken it with him.

The two men had followed Stacey afterward, their purpose now evidently one of robbing him of the map. But doubly warned, Stacey had managed to elude them. So far anyway, he thought. It was possible that the sinister duo had followed in another plane, landing but scant minutes behind him, and even now might be hot on his trail, with a lead furnished by a swift checkup of cab drivers.

Heavy, dark brows meeting in a frown of perplexity, Stacey puffed at his pipe and watched the street. For the dozenth time, he wondered what the split map could mean. To what did it lead? Apparently to something valuable enough to have brought his two hard-faced visitors all the way from Alaska in the effort to buy or steal it. Who were these men? Who was behind them? And above all, Stacey wanted to know why Chinook Vervain instead of his father or Warren Reddick had written to him. The fact that the map had been divided showed the two partners had expected trouble of some kind in connection with it. Did their silence indicate that something had happened to them?

The pipe went out between Stacey's teeth. He knocked it empty on the heel of his hand, decision crystallizing in his mind. He was going to see Norma Reddick. He'd waited long enough to be sure that he hadn't been followed.

Tucking away the pipe, Stacey picked up his bags and left the driveway. It was only a short distance to the corner. A sign there assured him that the intersecting street was the one he wanted. He turned into it, striding rapidly, watching the house numbers. He hadn't entirely abandoned his sense of caution. He scrutinized closely the people who went by and the cars that drove past. But still he saw nothing that hinted of danger.

NORMA REDDICK'S address proved to be that of a tall apartment hotel. Walking toward the entrance, Stacey heard a car door slam behind him. The noise was followed by the sound of swiftly approaching feet. Stacey whirled, thoughts flashing in alarm.

Two men were coming toward him. He relaxed a little as he saw they were not the men who had visited him in Los Angeles. But there was a purposefulness about them that showed Stacey was their immediate objective.

Stacey measured them grimly. He hadn't heard a car drive up. The two must have been waiting for him all the time. He discarded the idea of bolting into the building as soon as it came. He wouldn't have been able to make it.

"You're Gregg Stacey, aren't you?" one of the men asked, in a politely inquiring tone. He was fully as tall as Stacey, though somewhat slimmer, with sharp olive features that narrowly escaped being handsome. Even white teeth showed in a smile below a thin, carefully trimmed black mustache. He was smartly and even foppishly dressed. His black Homburg was tilted a bit too rakishly, and his gray double-breasted topcoat fitted a bit too snugly at the hips.

His companion was of an entirely different type. The man was a giant. He had a square, lumpy face and heavy. sloping shoulders from which swung arms that seemed abnormally long. His clothes were several sizes too small for him, not to mention the fact that a Borneo bushman might have shown more taste in their color scheme.

Stacey forced a smile to his lips and shook his head. "The name's Johnson. You probably have me confused with someone else."

"I'm more than positive I haven't." the man in the black Homburg said evenly. "You look too much like Ben Stacey for there to be any mistake."

Stacey said nothing. He didn't intend to commit himself. The fact that this foppish stranger knew his father didn't necessarily mean he was a friend.

The other's even white teeth gleamed in a faintly mocking smile. "Your silence, I presume, is an admission that you're actually Gregg Stacey. Let's stop beating around the bush. You have part of a certain map, Mr. Stacey. I want to buy it."

"I'm afraid I don't know what you're talking about."

"Come, come, Mr. Stacey, I'm sure we have more important things to do than play games. I happen to know you have the map."

Stacey's mildly quizzical expression vanished. "Then you must be connected with the two men who came to me in Los Angeles. You're here to get Norma Reddick's half of the map, and the Los Angeles boys contacted you after I gave them the slip. Somehow, you knew I was coming to Seattle, to see the girl."

"It pays to be informed, Mr. Stacey," the other returned coolly. "At any rate, I'm sure this knowledge doesn't affect my offer to buy your half of the map."

Grimly Stacey pointed out: "Those Los Angeles boys tried to steal my half. That's no way to do business. You've practically admitted being connected with them."

"Allow me to apologize for the boys, then. They're just a bit too impulsive sometimes." The dapper stranger lifted slim shoulders in a shrug. "Suppose we return to the subject of the map, Mr. Stacey. As I said, I want to buy it. Name your price."

"I haven't anything to sell."

"Is that a refusal?"

"You might put it that way."

THE other thoughtfully fingered his thin black mustache. He said finally, "Your words suggest that you're in no position to sell the map, Mr. Stacey—even though you might like to. Is it because you don't have the map with you?"

The question rang an alarm bell inside Stacey. It seemed abruptly clear to him that the stranger's talk about buying the map was merely a subterfuge to determine whether or not Stacey had it in his possession. The two men in Los Angeles had searched his room after employing the same trick. There was little doubt in his mind about what the pair before him would do if he were to admit that he had the map on his person.

"You guessed it," Stacey said. "After that stunt your friends tried to pull in Los Angeles, I decided I'd better be careful. So I mailed the map on ahead. Since you're interested only in buying it, I'm sure it won't be necessary for me to tell you where. The information wouldn't do you any good anyway, since I'm the only one who can claim the letter."

"Clever—but you hesitated just a bit too long, Mr. Stacey." The man in the black Homburg smiled thinly and nodded at his hulking, clumsily dressed companion. "All right, Buck."

The giant started forward, thick lips stretching in an eager grin. Stacey glanced quickly up and down the street. Nobody was in sight for the moment. He would have no help in what was shortly to take place.

But there was no time to worry over odds. Stacey moved into action. He ducked under Buck's first swing and heaved his shoulder violently into the giant's midriff. Buck staggered back, crashing into his dapper chief.

Whirling, Stacey darted for the entrance to the apartment hotel. He found the door handle and pulled. Nothing happened. The door seemed to be locked. Then he saw the small metal plate ?xed to the frame. The door was to be pushed, not pulled against. But the information came too late to do Stacey any good. Before he could correct his mistake, Buck reached him again.

A great hand closed like a trap on Stacey's shoulder. He felt himself swung around as easily as though he were a child. An enormous fist leaped out, exploding against his chin. All the lights went out.

STACEY regained consciousness to find himself on a wheeltable in a small, white-painted room that smelled strongly of disinfectant. Pain beat a wild anvil chorus inside his skull. After a while he sat up. The effort sent waves of white hot agony through him. He groaned. Raising his hands to his temples, he discovered that his head had been bandaged. Another discovery came a moment later. His clothes had been soaked with whiskey. Traces of it still lingered in his mouth.

"Awake, eh?" a voice asked cheer-fully.

Stacey turned. A short, slender man in white trousers and tunic had entered the room. An interne, Stacey decided. He said:

"This is a hospital?"

The interne nodded. "A motorist found you draped over the tracks at a railroad crossing and brought you in. You were lucky, mister. A train was due in another ten minutes. And you were out cold. Probably stumbled and hit your head on the tracks." He grinned. "That must have been some party!"

Stacey opened his mouth, then closed it. To explain what had actually happened to him would accomplish nothing useful. Going over the events which had lead to his awakening in the hospital, he thought suddenly of the map. Anxiety flaming through him, he reached quickly into the inner breast pocket of his coat.

The map was gone.


THIS time Stacey pushed. The door swung smoothly open, and he strode into the lobby of the apartment hotel where Norma Reddick lived.

There had been no difficulty about leaving the hospital. The interne had obligingly called a cab, and after tidying himself up as best he could in a washroom, Stacey had left. Luckily enough, the contents of his billfold had been left intact. The map had been the only thing taken from him. His luggage, amazingly, had not been lost.

To the left of the lobby, opposite a self-service elevator, was a small office. A woman night clerk set at a telephone switchboard, reading a magazine. She glanced up sharply as Stacey appeared. Her bespectacled eyes widened at sight of his bruised face and bandaged head.

"I'd like to see Norma Reddick," Stacey requested. He gave his name.

The woman glanced disapprovingly at a clock on an adjacent wall before she turned to the switchboard. It was almost midnight, Stacey saw, hardly the time to be calling on anyone—a young lady, least of all.

The woman clerk's ring was answered quickly enough. She spoke into the mouthpiece a moment, then turned back to Stacey.

"You may go up. The room number is 506."

Stacey's thoughts were grim as he ascended in the elevator. It had been ten years since he had last seen Norma Reddick. She was very much an unknown quantity. He couldn't be entirely certain that she wasn't connected with the two men who, earlier in the evening, had waylaid him and robbed him of his half of the map.

Stacey already knew that the map led to something valuable enough to make robbery and attempted murder worthwhile. He didn't know exactly what it was, but Norma Reddick apparently did, if she were able to explain everything to him, as Chinook Vervain had written. The girl might have decided to get Stacey's half. Vervain might have given her Stacey's Los Angeles address, as Stacey had been given her's in Seattle. Thus the girl could very well be the person behind the Los Angeles attempt. And when that failed, she could have prepared the trap at this end, knowing, through Vervain again, that Stacey was coming to Seattle to see her.

It explained very nicely the knowledge of the map and of Stacey's whereabouts possessed by the man in the black Homburg and his companions. Stacey couldn't see how else the others fitted into the picture and knew as much as they did.

THE elevator stopped. Stacey emerged with his bags into a long hall. Locating room 506, he knocked. The door opened after a moment, revealing a girl.

Despite himself, Stacey stared. He had seen lovely women before, but he hadn't expected Norma Reddick to fall into that category. For some inexplicable reason, he felt suddenly awkward and foolish.

The girl surveyed him cooly from large, long-lashed brown eyes. Their expression didn't quite match the tense set of her piquant, oval features. She wore a maroon satin robe about her slender figure, and her small feet had been thrust into furry white mules. Blonde hair the color of ripe wheat was piled in thick coils atop her head. Her skin was delicately tanned, and the freckles Stacey remembered lay like the faintest of bronze shadows over her cheeks and the bridge of her small nose. She had been preparing for bed, Stacey decided, or had already been asleep when he arrived.

Finally Norma Reddick stood aside. "Won't you come in?" Her voice was soft and cool, like her eyes.

The living room Stacey entered was small, simply but comfortably and tastefully furnished. It showed none of the usual frills of feminine occupancy. Stacey sat down stiffly, not quite sure of himself, as the girl closed the door and nodded at the sofa.

She leaned against the wall near the door and looked at him, hands buried in the pockets of her robe. The tension which Stacey had earlier noted had deepened in her face, and now wariness was apparent, too. Her eyes moved over his clothes, and then from his bruised jaw to his bandaged head. Stacey was abruptly, painfully conscious of the whiskey odor that still hung about him. The girl said:

"You claim to be Gregg Stacey. It's quite possible that you're trying to trick me. The last time I saw Gregg Stacey was ten years ago—and in ten years people can change so much that it isn't too hard for other people to impersonate them." She paused a moment, as though to note the effect of her words. "If you're actually Gregg Stacey, suppose you prove it?"

"Suppose you tell me how?" Stacey said. "You started the game."

"Well . . . you might have half of a certain map, for one thing."

"You've got me there." Stacey indicated his bandaged head, and explained what had happened, beginning with his receipt of the map half from Chinook Vervain, and ending with its loss in the encounter with the man in the black Homburg and his giant companion, Buck.

Norma Reddick moved her slim shoulders indifferently. "An interesting story. It could be just a little too pat."

Stacey felt a surge of anger. "You don't believe me?"

"Why should I? You still haven't proved anything one way or another." "Neither have you, for that matter." Stacey pointed out grimly. "There's no reason why you should be considered entirely above suspicion. I don't know what the whole map leads to—some-thing valuable, evidently—but you do. You could have decided to steal my half. Chinook Vervain probably gave you my address, just as he gave me yours. So you could be the person behind the two men who searched my room in Los Angeles. And when that failed, you could have had the other two waiting for me outside, knowing I was coming here to see you."

"But I didn't have anything to do with it," Norma Reddick insisted, with a trace of indignation. "Why, Mark Devore—the one in the black hat—is after my half of the map, too! "

"Too pat," Stacey said. "Doesn't prove anything one way or another."

THE girl's face tightened angrily, but in another moment she grinned. "Some of my own medicine, is that it? All right, let's settle this once and for all. If you're actually Gregg Stacey, tell me what happened in the movie our fathers took us to the last time we saw each other."

Stacey scowled. "You put a wad of chewing gum on my seat, and I sat on it. I was wearing my best pair of pants, too."

"You sound as though you were still mad," Norma Reddick said. She tried to look serious, though her brown eyes showed a betraying twinkle. "If it's not too late to apologize, I'd like to do so."

Stacey watched her unsmilingly from beneath the overhang of his heavy brows. "You may be satisfied about me, but I'm afraid I can't say the same for you. You haven't proved that you aren't the person behind the men who stole my half of the map."

Red lips tightening, the girl reached into the neck of her robe and pulled out an envelope. She tossed it into Stacey's lap.

The envelope contained half of a map—the girl's half, Stacey discovered. He looked up at her, puzzled. She said:

"If you think I had anything to do with the theft of your part of the map, then here's mine to make up for it. I don't know any other way of proving my innocence."

Stacey handed the envelope back hastily. "I wouldn't think of doing anything like that. Anyway, your part wouldn't be any good without mine to go with it."

Norma Reddick thoughtfully restored the envelope to its hiding place. "You took that last hurdle nicely. So I guess I won't be needing this." She pulled a small revolver from a pocket of her robe and placed it on a bookcase near the door.

Stacey was staring in dismay. "You mean if I hadn't given you back the envelope . . . ?"

"Something like that." The girl took in Stacey's expression and grinned.

Stacey sputtered wrathfully. But in another moment, meeting the dancing impishness in Norma Reddick's brown eyes, he grinned, too.

The girl went to a nearby chair and sat down. Stacey produced his pipe and began to ?ll it, frowning meditatively. He said:

"But the fellow in the black hat—the one you called Mark Devore. How does he figure in this? If he's an outsider, how does he happen to know so much about everything that has happened here?"

"Adding what you've told me to what I already know, it seems easy to guess," Norma answered. "Mark Devore came to me two days ago and explained that he was a friend of my father. He said he had flown here from Grubstake, the tiny mining town near Fairbanks where my father . . . and yours"—her voice faltered strangely—"operated their mines. Devore told me father was being held prisoner by a gang, and unless I gave my half of the map as ransom, father would be killed. Devore even had a note from father, verifying his story. Father wrote he was being held prisoner, and that I was to give my half of the map to Devore, a friend who had been chosen by the gang to act as go-between."

"DEVORE lied!" Stacey growled. "After what happened to me a while ago, it's clear that Devore wasn't acting as go-between for anybody but Devore. He's most likely the leader of this gang, and forced your father to write the note."

"I didn't suspect anything like that at the time," Norma went on. "But I decided to stall him off until you arrived. I realized that my half of the map was valueless unless your half went with it. I wanted to compare notes with you, to see if any demands had been made upon you, and what sort.

"I knew you were to visit me, because I, too, received a note from Chinook Vervain with my half of the map. But enclosed was also a letter from my father, which explained what the affair was all about. The letter had been written not long previously. Father was afraid that something might happen to him, and he arranged with Chinook Vervain for the letter to be sent to me in case anything did. Chinook also had the map, with orders to send a half to each of us. Father took this precaution, since he suspected, without actually knowing who they were at the time, that unscrupulous men were after the map—men who would stop at nothing to get it."

Stacey emitted a cloud of pipe smoke and leaned' forward. "There's one thing I don't understand. Where was my father while all this was going on?"

Norma hesitated, glancing away. "You'll have to prepare yourself for a shock, Gregg."

"Why . . . what do you mean?"

"Your father is dead."

Stacey rose slowly from the sofa. . . . Murdered?"

"No, Gregg, he was sick." Norma paused a moment, as though groping for continuity. "Perhaps I'd better explain everything in order."

Stacey nodded mechanically. He stared at the floor, not seeing anything. The lines in his face had deepened.

Norma resumed, "I learned about Ben Stacey's death in my father's letter. It's tied in with the explanation for the map. You see, several years ago an old prospector came into Grubstake with the story that he had discovered a fabulously rich vein of gold, which he called the Golden Dream. The prospector drank himself to death in a wild orgy of celebration before he got around to doing so much as ?ling a claim, but he was only person who knew the Golden Dream's location, and the secret died with him. Hundreds of men later searched for the vein, but none ever found it—that is, until Ben Stacey did.

"He and my father had a theory about the location of the vein, and planned to set out together on a prospecting trip. But a few days before they were to start, my father had an accident at one of the mines and broke his ankle. Ben Stacey and Chinook set out alone. They found the vein, all right, and Ben Stacey made a map of the location. Then, as he and Chinook were on their way back, Ben Stacey took sick. By the time Chinook got him to the hospital in Grubstake, it was too late to do anything.

"Before he died, however, Ben Stacey was delirious and revealed not only that he had rediscovered the Golden Dream, but had drawn a map leading to it. The news spread. Father had the map by this time, and decided to take the precautions I've already mentioned. He ordered Chinook to go into hiding, since Chinook had been with Ben Stacey and could have been forced to tell where the vein was. Chinook thus had the letter and the map, and was free to send them on to us in the event that something happened to father."

"Why didn't your father file a claim?" Stacey demanded. "He would have been safe, then."

"Things evidently happened too fast," Norma said. "Father's ankle hadn't entirely healed yet, and he didn't have time to do even so much as wire you about Ben Stacey's death. If it hadn't been for his ankle, he could have gone into hiding with Chinook. Anyway, no information could have been forced from him, since, without the map, he didn't know where the Golden Dream was located."

STACEY nodded thoughtfully. "As regards Devore, it's clear enough how he got his information. He was one of a number of people who heard the news about the Golden Dream and the map that Dad gave out while delirious. We already know Devore must be the leader of the gang that is holding your father prisoner. Devore apparently forced your father to tell what happened to the map, learning it had been sent to us. Then Devore got our addresses, either from your father or from old letters which we had written." Stacey puffed in silence a moment. "How long did you succeed in keeping Devore stalled off?"

"I'm supposed to give him my decision about the map in the morning," Norma answered.

"I'd been hoping for more time than that," Stacey said, in dismay. "The only way to beat Devore is to file a claim to the Golden Dream. That's impossible without my half of the map, but Devore probably thinks a train finished me by now, and with enough time I could have flown to Grubstake, to find Chinook. He knows the location of the vein, and friends of his would have told me where he was hiding. Then I could have tried to find your father. He's most likely being held prisoner somewhere near Grubstake."

Norma said slowly, "I could try to stall Devore off a while longer. The drawback is that he now has your half of the map and would refuse to wait. I couldn't do anything that would endanger my father's life."

Stacey stared morosely into space, gnawing at the stem of his pipe. The situation was hopeless. If only he hadn't lost his portion of the map— Abruptly Stacey slapped his knee, face brightening.

"I've got it!" he told Norma. "Listen. Devore wants your map half. There's no way we can stall him off without risking the chance that your father will be killed. All right, we'll give him what he wants—but not exactly. Devore doesn't know what your half of the map looks like. We could give him a faked map—a map showing a false location for the Golden Dream—and he'd never know the difference. And that's just what we'll do! It'll put your father out of danger for the time being, and before Devore finds out he's been tricked, I'll have found Chinook and filed a claim."

Norma was smiling eagerly, but in another moment she sobered. "The faked map will have to pass a close inspection. Devore is certain to compare it with your half."

"We'll get around that," Stacey said with assurance. "We'll use paper and ink as nearly like that of the original as can possibly be found. And we'll see that it's properly aged by soiling and creasing."

Norma snapped her fingers. "There's an all-night drugstore down the street. It has a large stationery department, but if we can't find exactly what we want, the manager will get it for us. Or for me, rather." Norma grinned wryly. "Just one of my many admirers."

"We'll get started at once," Stacey said. "When we're finished with the map, I'll check in at a hotel and get some sleep. In the morning I'll take a plane to Juneau. From there, I'll be able to get another to take me to Grub-stake."

"You don't seem to be including me in your plans," Norma pointed out. "You'd better—because I'm going along."

Stacey objected, pointing out the dangers that lay ahead. But the girl remained adamant. Finally Stacey gave in. Somehow it wasn't hard to do.


MORNING sunlight was warm on Stacey's face, as he stood watching the entrance to Norma Reddick's apartment hotel from a deeply recessed doorway on the same side of the street, but a safe distance away. He puffed impatiently at his pipe and wondered how much longer it would be before Devore and Buck came out. Almost fifteen minutes had passed since the two had gone into the building.

Stacey's thoughts became worried. Could something have gone wrong? Had Devore discovered at the very outset that Norma's map half had been faked?

The possibility was one that Stacey couldn't avoid, despite the fact that he and Norma had been able to secure materials closely similar to those used in the original map, and that Stacey had worked into the small hours of the morning over the imitation. It had taken longer than Stacey had expected. There had been no time for sleep afterward. Stacey had checked in at a hotel. but only long enough to take a cold shower and change his clothes. Then he'd had breakfast and made air reservations to Juneau. Restlessness and a nagging anxiety had made him decide to be present near Norma's apartment hotel when Devore arrived with Buck to get Norma's map half. He had been watching since the two appeared and entered the building.

While waiting, Stacey had toyed with the idea of calling the police to arrest Devore and Buck, and even of jumping the two alone, when they emerged. He had realized, however, that he could do nothing while Devore held Warren Red-dick in his power. To take any sort of action against Devore at this point would only doom Norma's father. Besides, Stacey saw his big advantage lay in keeping himself out of the picture for the time being. As long as Devore thought him out of the way, he would be able to wage a campaign that would take Devore by surprise right on his home grounds, without running the risk that innocent persons would suffer.

Peering from his doorway vantage point, Stacey stiffened as he saw two men leave the apartment hotel. There was no mistaking the pair. Devore and Buck.

They seemed highly elated. Stacey heard Devore laugh. Then the two crossed the sidewalk and entered a car parked at the curb. The machine looked like one rented from a drive-yourself agency.

The car pulled away from the curb and sped off in the opposite direction. Stacey watched it dwindle in the distance and finally disappear into an intersecting street. He felt certain that Devore wouldn't return. Leaving the doorway, he strode toward the apartment hotel.

NORMA was busy packing when Stacey arrived. She grinned excitedly. "It worked like a charm!" she reported. "Devore swallowed that fake map hook, line. and sinker. He didn't examine it very closely, evidently sure that I'd be too afraid to trick him."

"I was starting to get worried," Stacey admitted. "He was up here so long that I thought he'd found out what we were up to."

Norma made a face. "Devore was giving me a song and dance about how worried he was over father, and how sorry he felt that the gang in Alaska should force me to give up the map this way. He insisted that he was father's friend, and that nothing was too good for the daughter of a friend of his. He was so concerned about my future that he offered me a job."

"A job!" Stacey snorted. "Doing what? Cracking safes and cutting throats?"

"Private secretary. It seems Devore operates a few mines around Gurbstake himself. He named a salary too large for honorable intentions, and every time I refused, he raised it. Finally, though, he accepted the idea that I wasn't interested in working for him at any price, and left."

Stacey was thoughtful. "If Devore was sincere about the job, that means your father doesn't know Devore is responsible for his being kept prisoner. Thus when your father is released, Devore will be in the clear. He can file a claim to the Golden Dream, and nobody can prove anything. Without the map, neither we nor your father could tell if it was the Golden Dream or any one of a dozen still undiscovered veins of gold."

"Norma resumed packing, while Stacey used the phone to send for a cab. When the girl had finished and readied herself for leaving, they talked while waiting for the cab to arrive. Typical small-talk that did much to relieve the nerve-gnawing tension which both felt.

Stacey learned that Norma had been working as a fashion designer for a large exclusive Seattle dress shop. Almost shyly, she revealed her plans for opening a small shop of her own, to sell clothes which she had designed. Finding the conversational gambit in his hands at one point, Stacey told the girl that he had been taking a postgraduate course in chemistry at a university in Los Angeles, studies that had been interrupted by two years of war duty with a chemical warfare division in Europe.

No time at all seemed to have elapsed, when the clerk downstairs rang to notify that their cab was waiting. Stacey took the girl's bags, and they left the room. He'd already had his own luggage sent to the airport.

Stacey didn't overlook the possibility that Devore and Buck, obviously on the way to Grubstake also, might take the same plane on which he and Norma had booked passage. At the airport, he gave the cab driver a bill, with orders to check the passenger list on the pretext that he was trying to locate a fare who, while enroute to the airport earlier, had left a wallet in his cab. The driver was also to tour the terminal building looking for Devore and Buck on the basis of descriptions which Stacey supplied. Stacey realized that Devore and Buck might travel under false names.

THE cabbie found no trace of the two, however. Stacey remained cautious, nevertheless, until the plane bearing Norma and himself finally took off for Juneau.

The trip was uneventful. Yet, to Stacey, it had all the glamor of a flight to the Moon. How much of this mood was due to Norma's presence, he didn't dare guess. The girl was intelligent, humorous, fascinating to talk to. He found that they had an astonishingly large number of outlooks and ideals in common.

Stacey was startled when the stewardess announced that they were shortly to land in Juneau. It seemed impossible that the trip could have been made so soon.

Immediately after landing, Stacey made inquiries at the air terminal about the next flight to Fairbanks. A plane was due to leave in twenty minutes. Stacey was elated. It meant that no time would be lost. He made the necessary arrangements for passage, and then, after a quick meal in a restaurant adjoining the terminal, he and Norma were once more in the air.

At Fairbanks, Stacey found that a train on the Alaska Railroad would take them to Grubstake. The train was the last that day from Seward, and would arrive in two hours. Stacey didn't mind the wait. With Norma time had little if any meaning, and he was certain that he had a more than sufficiently large lead on Devore and Buck.

Stacey bought tickets, and then he and Norma took a seat in the station. They didn't talk much. By this time, a depth and warmth of understanding between them had been reached that made words superfluous.

Norma fell asleep, her head resting against Stacey's shoulder. After a while, he put his arm around her. He thought of his pipe, but filling and lighting it would have required taking his arm away. He decided that the situation was sufficiently perfect as it was.

The train arrived on time. Less than an hour later, Stacey and Norma were in Grubstake.

A dilapidated flivver with the word taxi crudely painted on its sides was parked at the depot. The driver, an elderly man whose appearance was completely in keeping with the car, took Stacey and Norma to Grubstake's only hotel. It was after midnight, and the drive showed the town dark and deserted. Stacey was grimly glad of that fact. His and Norma's arrival couldn't have been timed better, since it would draw hardly any notice.

The hotel was a large frame building covered with asbestos shingles. Stacey and Norma registered under assumed names according to a prearranged plan. The clerk took them up a broad stairway, to the doors of their respective rooms. He was short and bald, with protuberant eyes that showed a strong curiosity.

Stacey and Norma parted with a deliberate casualness that left the clerk plainly disappointed. Once in his room, Stacey lost no time preparing for bed. He'd had little if any sleep the past few days, and had been going along mainly on reserve energy. Sleep engulfed him like a tidal wave as soon as his head touched the pillow.

THE sound of someone knocking at his door awakened Stacey. Sunlight poured into the room from around the edges of the drawn window shade. He gazed about him uncomprehendingly for a moment, while the knocking came again.

"Who is it?" he called out.

"It's me. Norma. Do you feel like getting up?"

Stacey glanced at his watch. It was almost eleven o'clock. He answered:

"I'd better get up if I feel like it or not."

"I'll meet you down in the dining room, then."

"Be right with you."

Stacey washed and dressed quickly, and went downstairs. The hotel dining room was small and pleasantly old-fashioned. He found Norma seated at a corner table. He had hardly sat down when a buxom waitress came to take his order.

"Well, here we are," Norma said with grim cheerfulness, when the waitress had gone. "Where do we start first?"

"The most important thing to do in the beginning is to find Chinook Vervain," Stacey responded. "Chinook knows the location of the Golden Dream, and with his help we can file a claim. Devore will be blocked off in that direction. Then we'll try to find your father. Chinook knows the locality around Grubstake, and may have an idea about where your father is being kept."

"But how are you going to find Chinook?" Norma asked. "He's supposed to be in hiding—and he really must be well hid, if Devore hadn't been able to find him."

"Chinook has friends in Grubstake," Stacey pointed out. "The obvious place to look for them is among the people who worked for your father and mine. The Stacey-Reddick Mining Company has an office here, in Grubstake."

Norma grinned with characteristic impishness. "Mastermind!" Then she sobered. "Gregg, it seems almost too easy. Suppose something goes wrong?"

"I don't see how anything can go wrong until Devore and Buck get here. And we have enough time." Stacey put a confidence into his words that he didn't entirely feel.

Norma remained grave. Stacey made no further attempts at false light-heartedness. He saw that the intimate mood which they had shared the previous day was not to be recaptured. To both Grubstake h a d become synonymous with danger, and their presence in the town seemed to cast a shadow over their thoughts and emotions.

The waitress returned, bringing Nor-ma's order along with Stacey's. They ate in silence. A short time later they left the hotel. A pedestrian directed them to the offices of the Stacey-Reddick Mining Company. Grubstake was small, and they found that they could easily walk the distance.

Their objective proved to be a small single-storied brick building of Comparatively recent construction. Sight of it and the sign over the entrance acted as a catalyst upon them, releasing a long-pent excitement.

Stacey caught Norma's eager gaze and nodded. "This is it. Keep your fingers crossed."

THEY strode inside. Just within the entrance was a wooden railing beyond which a group of a dozen or so people sat at work behind desks. Their appearance made them the targets of a concerted barrage of curious stares-— the longest and most intent of which seemed to be directed at Stacey. After a moment a young woman rose from one of the nearest desks and came forward.

"Can I help you?"

"I'd like to see whoever is in charge here," Stacey said.

"That will be superintendent Bill Haekstrom. Who shall I tell him is calling?"

Stacey gave his name. The young woman's face showed a look of surprise, though the answer didn't seem entirely unexpected. She turned quickly and strode into one of a group of three offices, partitioned off from the rest of the room. Almost at once, she returned, opening a gate in the railing.

"Mr. Haekstrom says he will be delighted to see you."

Haekstrom was a red-headed, burly man with broad Scandinavian features. He wrung Stacey's hand with a delight that was almost tearful.

"So you're Gregg, Ben Stacey's boy! I'd have known it a mile away. You're a regular mirror image of your Dad. A regular chip off the old block!"

Haekstrom greeted Norma with similar enthusiasm. He bustled about excitedly, closing the door, and settling his visitors in chairs. Finally he sat down on a corner of his desk, and his broad face turned solemn. He said slowly:

"A lot of strange things have happened here Within the last few weeks. Maybe you can explain some of them for me. What I want to know most of all is what happened to Warren Red-dick. He was laid up with a busted ankle, you know. Then he suddenly went away somewhere, without letting me know where he was going or why. Just left me a note, telling me to take charge of things until he got back."

"Warren Reddick was kidnapped," Stacey said.

Haekstrom stared incredulously. "But the note he left me? I know his handwriting like I know my own face. He wrote it, all right."

"Warren Reddick was undoubtedly forced to write that note," Stacey explained. "But before I go any further, I want to check on something. You heard about my father finding the Golden Dream, and the map he made of its location?"

Haekstrom nodded his bristling red shock. "Sure—and so has almost everybody else in Grubstake. Your Dad was sick, you know, and talked about the lode and the map before . . . before he died."

Stacey went on to tell about receiving half of the map from Chinook Vervain, and the attempt which had been made in Los Angeles to steal it. Then he detailed its loss in the encounter with Devore and Buck in Seattle, where he had gone to see Norma. He outlined Devore's part in the affair, explaining what had actually happened to Reddick, and told of the trick which he and Norma had used to prevent Devore from obtaining Norma's map half. Finally he related his and Norma's purpose in coming to Grubstake.

"Chinook knows the location of the Golden Dream, and he might know where Warren Reddick is being held," Stacey told Haekstrom. "I came to you on the chance that you could tell me where Chinook is hiding out. If I can find Chinook, Devore is through."

Haekstrom smiled sadly, bitterly. "A note from Chinook reached me a little over a week ago. He wanted to see me, and told me where he was. A cabin up near Birch Creek. He said I shouldn't let anybody else know, and to be careful. Well, when I got there, I found the cabin burned down. Investigating, I found bones among the ruins-hardly more than cinder and ash. Chinook Vervain is dead."


THE hotel dining room was filled with the buzz of voices. It was evening, and almost all the tables were occupied.

Stacey and Norma sat at a table beside one of the windows. They had just finished eating. Norma was gazing pensively through the window, at the lighted signs and storefronts of Grub-stake's main street. Heavy brows fused in a scowl, Stacey brooded into his empty coffee cup, smoke spiralling from the pipe gripped between his teeth. Dejection was a weight that lay heavily over both.

There no longer was any doubt in Stacey's mind that Chinook Vervain was actually dead. At first he had refused to believe Haekstrom's story. He had trusted the man instinctively from the very first moment of their meeting, but Chinook had been his only hope for defeating Devore's ruthless plans, and he had been reluctant to accept the fact that is should be so swiftly lost. That afternoon, however, Haekstrom had taken Stacey and Norma to Birch Creek, and Stacey had seen the evidence of the burned cabin with his own eyes.

Knowledge of his helplessness ate at Stacey's mind like an acid. There seemed utterly nothing that he could do now, nowhere that he could turn.

Stacey was startled as he felt Nor-ma's fingers grip abruptly at his wrist. The girl was peering tensely through the window. Following the direction of her eyes, Stacey saw two men passing a lighted storefront on the opposite side of the street. He recognized them at once. Devore and Buck!

The two carried suitcases and were striding along swiftly and purposefully. They had obviously just returned to Grubstake.

A cold emptiness spreading through him, Stacey met Norma's gaze. The girl's features were drawn with despair. She whispered:

"Gregg, what are we going to do? If Devore finds out that we're here, my father will be killed. Father is all the evidence we have against Devore. and Devore won't take the chance that we might get to him."

"We'll have to take the fight directly to Devore," Stacey answered grimly. "We're here, and we certainly wouldn't accomplish anything by hiding out like a couple of mice. If we act fast enough, Devore won't have time to do anything about your father." Stacey's face tightened with sudden decision. "And I know just how to start. I'm going to follow Devore! "

"But, Gregg, if Something happens to you—"

"That's the risk I'll have to take." Stacey rose, tossing a bill to the table. "You go to your room, Norma, and stay there until I get back." Heedless of the girl's protests, he grabbed his hat and hurried out to the street.

DEVORE and Buck were still in sight. Keeping to the side of the street opposite that along which the pair were striding, Stacey followed rapidly in their wake.

The pursuit led for two blocks along Grubstake's main thoroughfare. Then Devore and Buck turned a corner. They proceeded for almost a block more, stopping finally before the entrance to a small wooden building. It seemed to be an office, for a sign over the door read Greater Alaska Mines and Metals.

Stacey drew back into the shadows of a building on his side of the street while Devore produced a key and unlocked the door. Then Devore strode inside, Buck following, and the door closed. Lights sprang on behind the windows in front, but in another moment shades were drawn.

Crossing the street quickly, Stacey slipped into the dense shadows ?lling the space between the side of the building and the one next to it. Shades were drawn behind the windows here, too, but at one of the windows further back. Stacey found the shade hadn't been pulled entirely down to the sill. The bottom of the window was on a level with his chin. He could see without difficulty into the room beyond.

Devore was standing at a desk a bare five feet away, his sharp olive face visible in profile. Buck's hulking form was sprawled in a chair nearby.

As Stacey watched, Devore reached into the inner breast pocket of his suit coat and pulled out an envelope. He toyed with it a moment, smiling exultantly. He said something to Buck, and the giant's thick lips stretched in a grin. Stacey found, by pressing close to the window, that he could hear almost every word spoken.

". . . best way to get rich but quick," Devore was saying. "After all, Buck, nothing ventured, nothing gained."

"You said it, chief! " Buck agreed.

Devore went on, "I have the entire map now, and once I file a claim and start mining the gold, I'll be top man in these parts—financially speaking. And I won't have anything to worry about. Gregg Stacey's out of the way, and as for the girl, she swallowed the story about her old man that I gave her, which means she'll swallow any other story I choose to give."

"What about Reddick, chief?" Buck asked.

Devore drew a finger across his throat. "Reddick would be able to make too much trouble for me. Kidnapping is a serious offense, you know, and the money from the Golden Dream wouldn't do me any good in jail. We'll go down to the Trump Card in the morning and see that Reddick is taken care of."

Devore toyed with the envelope an instant longer, then turned toward a large safe placed against the wall on the side of the room directly opposite Stacey. Devore's back hid his manipulations of the dial.

STACEY waited no longer. He guessed that Devore's next move, after locking away the envelope, would be to leave the building with Buck. Stacey considered only briefly the idea of waiting until the two left and then tackling the safe in an attempt to regain his half of the map. It would have been merely a waste of time. He was anything but an expert safecracker.

Leaving the building quietly and cautiously, Stacey strode swiftly back to the hotel. His pulses raced with excitement. Devore had dropped a clue leading directly to Norma's father!

At the hotel, Stacey went at once to Norma's room. The girl opened the door at his knock, and he hurried inside. He checked an eager rush of words as he saw Norma had a visitor. It was Haekstrom.

"Just dropped in about some business matters that I didn't think you'd feel like discussing this afternoon," Haekstrom explained. He gazed at Stacey curiously. "Norma told me about you following Devore and Buck. Did you turn up anything?"

Stacey nodded and proceeded to relate what he had overheard while eavesdropping on the pair. He finished:

"Devore doesn't know it yet, but he's furnished us with exactly the information concerning Norma's father that we want. The reference to the Trump Card in connection with Warren Red-dick obviously means that the Trump Card is the place where he's being kept prisoner."

Norma's small face had brightened with incredulous joy. "That means everything isn't entirely hopeless after all, Gregg! We now have a chance to rescue my father." She frowned slightly. "But where and just what is the Trump Card?"

"It's an abandoned mine about ten miles out of town," Haekstrom replied. "I believe Devore holds the title to it."

"Think you'd care to take the risk of leading me there?" Stacey asked. Haekstrom's broad features set determinedly. "I don't see why not. This is my fight as much as yours."

Stacey nodded. "Good! If we can get Warren Reddick away from Devore, we'll still have a fighting chance at the Golden Dream. According to what Devore himself said, Reddick knows that Devore is the person who is keeping him prisoner. By rescuing Reddick, we'll have a weapon against Devore—force him to return my half of the map or charge him with kidnapping. Devore knows that Reddick's testimony would form an airtight case against him."

"You can count me in on anything you do," Haekstrom said. "When do we start for the Trump Card?"

"Immediately, if possible," Stacey returned.

Haekstrom hesitated. "I'll need a little time to get some things together. It won't take me long. Besides, there's a fairly good road leading to the Trump Card, and we'll be able to drive out in my car."

Stacey nodded quick agreement. "I'll wait for you, then. As for Norma, she'll remain at the hotel while we're gone."

Norma's red mouth tightened stubbornly. "I think I have something to say about that, Gregg Stacey! I came this far, and I don't see why I shouldn't go any further. After all, Warren Red-dick is my father. I ought to have a chance to help him, too."

Stacey was about to remonstrate, but Haekstrom shrugged and said, "It'll be all right for Norma to come along with us. There won't be much if any danger. Devore won't be out to the Trump Card until morning, and he can't have more than two men guarding Reddick." Stacey gave in, and Haekstrom left with the understanding that Stacey and Norma were to get ready while he was gone.

WITHIN twenty minutes, Hackstrom returned. Stacey and Norma were waiting for him in Norma's room. They had both changed into rough clothes.

Haekstrom grinned. "Took me a little longer than I thought it would." He had removed his business suit and now wore a wool jacket, corduroy breeches, and laced boots.

"What did, if I may ask?" Norma inquired. "Gregg seems to understand, but it's a mystery to me."

"We'll have to persuade your father's guards to let him go," Haekstrom responded. "I just went to get a little persuasion. Guns, in other words. I have two rifles and a revolver down in the car."

"Oh." Norma's brown eyes widened. "Do . . . do you really think we'll have to use them?"

Haekstrom nodded solemnly. "There's a good chance."

"I hope so, for one," Stacey grunted. "Men who'll work for a skunk like Devore deserve to get shot." He gestured toward the door. "All right, let's get started."

They left the hotel unobtrusively, and Haekstrom led the way to his car, a battered sedan parked at the curb outside. A moment later they were moving toward the outskirts of Grubstake.

The lights of the town dwindled and presently vanished altogether behind a turn in the road. The sedan's headlights bored into a darkness that was deep and still and menacingly primeval. A wilderness reached out to gather them in. On either side, rugged hills rose out of broad stretches of fir and pine, and in the distance ahead a quarter moon showed the tips of mountains, a vast jagged outline against the sky. The cool air streaming past the car was fragrant with the mingled scents of pine and wild flowers and moist grass.

Stacey, Norma, and Haekstrom rode in silence, faces grave with thought of the task before them. After a while, Haekstrom turned the sedan into a narrow rough dirt road. They progressed more slowly now, lurching and bumping.

"Almost there," Haekstrom announced at last. He drove for several minutes longer, then brought the sedan to a stop. "We'll have to walk from here. If I drove in too close, the noise from the car would give us way."

Stacey and Norma climbed out. Haekstrom joined them after a moment, holding the revolver and two rifles, and a flashlight. Stacey took one of the rifles, and Haekstrom handed the revolver to Norma, who declined it.

"I have one of my own, thanks," the girl explained. She produced the little revolver which Stacey had seen back in Seattle.

Haekstrom chuckled and shoved the extra weapon into a pocket of his jacket. With a gesture, he swung into the lead, cautiously lighting the way with the flashlight.

They followed the road along a line of low hills on one side and a dense stretch of brush and pines on the other. The road gradually grew steep, curving around to meet the hills and entering them between a narrow pass. Beyond the pass, the road slanted down to the floor of a tiny valley.

Haekstrom switched off the ?ash-light. "This is it. We'll really have to be careful, now."

PEERING into the valley as his eyes became adjusted to the unrelieved darkness, Stacey saw a number of lights. They came from the windows of a long low wooden building.

Stacey caught Haekstrom's glance and nodded grimly. They started down the descent, stepping carefully over the ruts and loose stones of the road. A number of other buildings shortly became visible in the gloom. These were unlighted. The only sign of life was that shown by particular building upon which they were closing in.

Presently their objective was only a scant dozen yards away. They crept forward, moving with extreme caution among rocks and clumps of brush. Reaching the lighted building, Stacey, Norma, and Haekstrom slipped up to one oi the nearest windows and peered inside.

The illumination came from two kerosine lamps hanging on wires from the low ceiling. Directly under one of the lamps was a table at which two men sat, playing cards. They were roughly dressed and unshaven. Revolvers lay close at hand on the table before each. Bunks were placed around the sides of the room. In one of these, visible across the table, lay a slim elderly man whose disheveled sandy hair was streaked with gray at the temples. He seemed to be asleep.

Stacey glanced at Norma. She nodded, brown eyes suddenly filmed.

Beckoning to Haekstrom, Stacey moved back from the window. He whispered:

"I'm going in through the door. When you hear me kick it open, knock the window in with your rifle and cover the two guards from your side."

Haekstrom nodded, and Stacey crept toward the door. He paused a moment, gathering himself, then threw his shoulder against the panel in a sudden lunge. The door burst open amid a crash of splintered wood. Stacey catapulted into the room beyond. The two guards rose half out of their chairs, hands reaching instinctively for their guns.

"Don't!" Stacey warned, levelling his rifle. "Stay just as you were."

"It's no good, son. You've walked into a trap." Warren Reddick had sat up in his bunk, and was regarding Stacey sadly.

The two guards grinned and completed their act of reaching for their weapons. Stacey stared in dazed incomprehension, Reddick's words flaming in his mind. Then he realized that Haekstrom hadn't carried out his part of the strategy. What had happened?

The two guards had their revolvers now. They turned to Stacey. One of them spoke.

"All right, boyscout, drop your iron!"

Stacey swung the rifle the little that was needed to cover the speaker—and pulled the trigger.

The rifle clicked loudly in the silence. Stacey pulled the trigger a few more times, then tossed the weapon aside. It hadn't been loaded.

From the doorway came a soft, mocking chuckle. Devore stepped into the room. After him followed Buck, thick lips stretched in a huge grin. Then came Norma, herded forward at the point of Haekstrom's ri?e.

Stacey gazed at Haekstrom bitterly. "So you were in with Devore all the time, eh?"

"It pays to be connected with the right people," Haekstrom said.


STACEY took a deep breath, fighting down the sickness inside him. "I understand, now. You warned Devore about what I was up to, while pretending that you had to prepare for the trip up here."

Haekstrom nodded. "Mark had a ten minute start on us. He told the boys here that you were coming. It was my idea to give you an empty rifle and let you jump through the door. I intended to suggest it if you didn't think of it yourself. Mark and Buck were waiting behind one of the building outside. All we had to do was walk in once you had made a fool out of yourself with that empty rifle. Both were empty, by the way, since I didn't know which one you'd pick. I loaded mine later."

"What about Chinook and the burned cabin?" Stacey asked. "Was that a trick, too?"

Haekstrom shook his head. "No. I got a tip Chinook was hiding there while Mark was gone. We wanted him bad, as Chinook knew where the Golden Dream was. But when I found the cabin, it was the way you saw it."

Devore chuckled. "Satisfied, Mr. Stacey?"

"As well as I can be, under the circumstances," Stacey said, shrugging.

"I thought I finished you in Seattle," Devore said. "This time I'm going to be more thorough. One of the reasons why this mine was given up is because the main shaft leads directly into a huge crevice—bottomless, as far as I know. And it happens that the roof at that part of the shaft is faulty. Knocking away just so much as one of the supports will cause a cave in. Which is just what I intend to do—once you, the girl, and Reddick are pushed into the crevice."

Norma released a low cry. Heedless of the guns on all sides, she ran to where her father sat in the bunk and buried her face in his chest, sobbing.

Devore watched in sardonic amusement. "I really hate to add insult to injury, Miss Reddick, but I'll have to trouble you for your half of the map. Mr. Haekstrom told me about the little deception which was practiced on me in Seattle. Quite clever. I never realized I had been tricked."

"You can go to the hotel in Grubstake and get it if you want to," Norma snapped.

"Tut, tut! I'm sure you consider the map too valuable to leave in hotel rooms, Miss Reddick. I have no doubt but that you have the map with you right now."

"I hid it—and it's going to stay hid."

"I'm afraid you're forcing me to have Buck search you." Devore glanced at his giant satellite. "You'd like that, wouldn't you, Buck?"

Buck leered. "Sure, chief!"

NORMA looked at Buck and shuddered. She hesitated a moment, then reached into the neck of her blouse. She pulled out an envelope and threw it to the floor. "There! Just keep that monster away from me."

Devore was unable to hide his gloating triumph as he retrieved the envelope and examined its contents. "Well, that's that! Since there now is no longer any reason for keeping you people alive, I suggest that we start for the mine at once."

The volcano of fury and despair seething inside Stacey boiled over. He reached Devore in two quick steps, and his fist smashed squarely in to the other's face.

A gun went off. Something burned a furrow along Stacey's shoulder. Then Buck emitted a bellow of rage and rushed at Stacey wildly. Ducking under the swing of a huge fist, Stacey plunged his fist into the giant's midriff. Buck released a grunt of surprise and pain. He stood for a moment as though frozen, the flat of one hand pressed against the injured spot. Stacey swung again. The blow caught Buck on the jaw and sent him reeling backward. to crash against the table.

Stacey was given no chance to follow up. One of the two guards had circled behind him, and now the barrel of the man's revolver flashed down. The room went black.

ROUGH hands slapped Stacey awake. The first person he saw was Haekstrom, who had evidently been working over him. Stacey sat up on the floor. Pain flashed and roared inside his head. His cheeks burned from repeated slaps, and his shoulder was stiff and sore where the bullet had grazed him.

Norma was seated on the bunk, with her father. Her eyes were red and swollen. Reddick looked unutterably weary, the lines of his face sagging with hopelessness.

Devore was seated on the table, smoking a cigarette. His nose had evidently bled a lot, and his upper lip was discolored and larger than normal. He eyed Stacey balefully.

"I could have had you tossed down the crevice while you were out, but that way you'd have missed the fun. Now that your're awake, we'll get started."

At an order from Devore, Buck hauled Stacey to his feet. Buck didn't try to be gentle about it. Great waves of agony battered Stacey, threatening to engulf him. He clung to awareness with dogged effort.

Devore crushed out his cigarette and stood erect. He picked up two lanterns that stood, already lighted, on the table, and handed one to Haekstrom.

"All right, let's go."

Devore and Haekstrom led the way out of the building. Buck followed next, clutching the back of Stacey's jacket in one hand, and propelling him forward with repeated jabs of the revolver in the other. Norma and Red-dick brought up the rear. forced along by the two guards. Reddick was able to hobble along with the aid of a crude crutch. He fell several times.

The procession wound it way over the valley floor, toward a rectangular opening at the base of a large hill. Devore and Haekstrom strode into the opening, their lanterns lighting the way for the others in the rear. They were swallowed up by a long tunnel that slanted steadily downward. The air became clammy and dank as the descent continued. To Stacey, breathing it seemed like inhaling the very atmosphere of death itself. The thought made realization of what lay ahead suddenly sharp and clear in his mind.

The tunnel abruptly broadened out, ending at the brink of a broad chasm fully twenty feet across. It was a natural pocket in the earth, which the man-made tunnel had intersected. The roof of the cavern was formed by huge rock slabs that sagged precariously, prevented from falling only by numerous support beams.

Devore held his lantern high, and glanced at Haekstrom. "Never been here before, have you?"

Haekstrom shook his head. A growing unease showed on his broad face.

Devore gestured at th e crevice. "Nothing to worry about. There's no bottom to this thing. Just take a look."

Haekstrom peered cautiously over the edge of the chasm, extending his lantern over it. Devore smiled slightly—and pushed. Haekstrom vanished. He left a scream behind him, a scream that seemed to go on and on, growing fainter, before is suddenly ended.

"One less to divide with," Devore said cheerfully. He looked at Stacey. "See what I have in mind for you? How do you like the idea?"

"You're mad to think you can get away with it," Stacey pointed out. "We'll be missed. Sooner or later the authorities will connect you with our disappearance."

"They'll never prove anything," Devore returned confidently. "You'll be hundreds of feet under the earth, buried under tons of rock and sand. Anyway, you were last seen with Haekstrom—and Haekstrom's dead. No trail leading to me there. Chinook Vervain might have been able to figure things out, but he's dead, too." Devore's air of studied suavity abruptly vanished. His sharp features became set and cruel. "I've wasted enough time on you. The sooner I get this over with, the better I'll like it. Buck—over with them!"

STACEY felt Buck's great trap-like hands close inexorably over him. He heard Norma scream.

Then. with stunning unexpectedness, came the repeated, insistent honking of an auto horn.

Buck gasped, and involuntarily released Stacey. Devore stood as though frozen, staring toward the tunnel mouth.

The honking came again.

"Somebody's outside!" Devore hissed. He whirled to Buck. "Give me your gun. I'll watch these people. You go with Hank and Matt and see who's out there."

Buck obeyed the orders automatically. Shortly he disappeared up the tunnel with the two guards.

Devore placed his lantern on a rocky projection and settled down to wait. He kept licking his lips nervously, glancing from Stacey to the tunnel entrance.

In another moment the sound of shots rang out, striking like sudden thunder into the tense stillness. It startled Devore into inattention for just the instant Stacey had been waiting for. He left the ground in a leap, catching Devore about the legs. They hit the ground in a squirming tangle, a scant dozen feet from the edge of the chasm.

Once he had recovered from the surprise of Stacey's attack, Devore fought like a madman. His struggles were the frenzied struggles of one who has had victory within his grasp and feels it slipping away. He had dropped his weapon in falling, his fingers having splayed instinctively to clutch for support. The gun had hit the ground a few feet short of the crevice. Devore sought frantically to kick loose from Stacey in the effort to regain it.

Stacey was unable to maintain his grip. He rolled aside. Quick as a cat, Devore scrambled to hands and knees and lunged for the gun. Stacey caught Devore's jerkily retreating ankles and pulled desperately. Devore was stretched flat on his chest, the wind leaving him in a pained gasp. But in the next instant, threshing wildly, he broke Stacey's hold on his ankles, whirled, and pushed himself erect.

As Stacey climbed to his feet, Devore closed in with a barrage of swift, numbing punches. Momentarily confused, Stacey gave ground, shielding his face.

Norma cried: "Gregg—look out! The edge!"

Stacey stopped barely in time. He ducked under pistoning jabs of Devore's fists and caught the other around the waist. They wrestled for some seconds with quiet savagery, one straining away, the other pushing toward, the brink of the chasm.

Slowly, slowly, teeth clenched, face beaded with sweat, Stacey forced Devore back. Then, suddenly, he broke free and began to hammer in blows of his own. Devore dodged away, but Stacey closed in quickly and relentlessly. He battered down Devore's guard, and while it was down, shot a numbing punch to the other's middle, following it almost instantly with a piledriver cross to the jaw.

EYES glassy, Devore went staggering backward. He teetered for a moment on the edge of the chasm—and then he was gone.

"Good work, lad!" a deep voice approved.

It was a voice that Stacey had never heard before. He turned puzzledly.

A man strode into the circle of light cast by the lantern. He was short and thick-set, with deeply tanned features that had a faintly Indian cast. His lips were parted in a broad smile, revealing large teeth that seemed startlingly white by contrast with his skin. He wore a wool jacket, with denim trousers stuffed into boots. A battered felt hat was pushed to the back of his head, revealing grizzled black heir. He held a rifle in the crook of one arm.

"Chinook!" Warren Reddick gasped. "Chinook!" He hobbled forward with his crutch and grasped the other's arm unbelievingly. "But . . . but Devore said you were dead!"

Chinook Vervain's smile broadened still more. "It didn't hurt anything to let him and his friends think so. I burned the cabin down on purpose, leaving a bear I had killed inside, so that when the bones were found, people would think I had burned up with the cabin. Devore and Haekstrom were trying to find me, and were getting a little too close for comfort. Especially Haekstrom. He was trying to beat Devore out of the Golden Dream."

"But how did you get here?" Stacey demanded. "And where's Buck and the other two men?"

"I saw you and Miss Reddick up at the burned cabin with Haekstrom this afternoon," Vervain explained. "I do all my hunting up there, so it wasn't just luck. I knew Haekstrom was in with Devore, and decided I'd better keep an eye on you and Miss Reddick. It wasn't so easy, because Haekstrom and Devore had cars, and I have to do my traveling on a horse. I followed you, Miss Reddick, and Haekstrom when you left Grubstake this evening. The tire tracks of the car led me to the Trump Card. Riding a horse, I got here almost too late.

"But I saw Devore and Haekstrom taking the bunch of you down into the mine, and guessed what was going on. I couldn't tackle Devore and the others all at once, so I waited until they went into the mine. Then I pressed the horn of Devore's car which he'd parked behind one of the old mine buildings not far away. When Buck and the other two came running out of the mine, I picked them off as easy as eating pie."

Reddick grinned and thumped Chinook's shoulder. He seemed younger and stronger already. He glanced at Stacey and Norma.

"There's a lot more to be explained, I think, but first I'd like to get out of here. After all the time I've spent cooped up in this place, there's nothing more I want right now than to have lights, noise, and people around me."

Chinook hurried to comply. He took the lantern, and with Reddick limping at his side, lead the way out of the tunnel.

Stacey and Norma followed slowly. Stacey was thoughtful.

"With Chinook alive, we won't have any trouble about ?ling a claim to the Golden Dream. That means we're as good as rich right now. I . . . ah . . . suppose that with your share, you'll open up that dress shop you mentioned."

"I suppose so," Norma murmured.

"About myself," Stacey went on, even more thoughtfully, "I think I'm going to stay here and help your father run the business—including the Golden Dream as part of it. This is a nice country. Clean, with plenty of elbow room. Good place to raise children, too."

"Wonderful country," Norma agreed.

Stacey said desperately, "But it wouldn't be wonderful at all unless a certain girl—That is . . . well, look, Norma, wouldn't you rather open up a little cottage instead of that doggoned dress shop of yours?"

Norma grinned. "I think the idea has a dress shop beat hollow! "