"Well," Chester said, "I believe father's in here somewhere."
"Why do you think that?"
"I've told you about how he wanted to move to this cavern, haven't I? And how he spent considerable time here?"
"You certainly have."
"And about my suspicions that he informed the outlaws of the underground passages?"
"Yes, you told me all that."
"Then you heard what the robbers said about some one having moved the stone, or gone in during their absence?"
"I had entirely forgotten that!" declared Will.
"Well, then, don't you see," Chester continued, "that they must have been speaking of father? That's why I think he's in here."
"Perhaps we'd better follow this channel and see if we can find him," Will suggested. "It does seem as if he might be here."
The bed of the old channel was very steep, and the boys scrambled up it with difficulty. After proceeding a few paces they heard a low groan and their flashlight showed the figure of a man lying on a narrow ledge of rock on the south side.
Chester darted forward instantly, almost falling on his face in his eagerness to reach his father and bent over the figure.
"It's father!" he shouted back to Will.
"I'm afraid not."
Will lost no time in gaining the boy's side.
The ex-convict lay with his face turned upward, his arms folded across his breast. At first there were no indication of life.
SHERIFF PETE'S WINK
"He can't be dead!" cried Chester, trying to lift the still figure in his arms. "The wound he received was not a serious one."
"I'll tell you what I think," Will replied.
"I think he's weak from lack of food and sleep I don't believe these train robbers have been very considerate of him."
"But I don't see why they should misuse him!"
"They probably didn't have enough to eat themselves," Will returned. "Don't you remember how one of them came to camp and set Tommy to cooking for him, and how we frightened him away by saying that the detectives were just beyond the circle of light?"
"That was the night I was loitering around the camp waiting to get to one of you boys in order to ask you to help me find father," Chester replied. "Don't you remember you chased me up that night, and I ran away in the darkness, and one of the boys came upon the train robber and the other came upon one of the detectives."
"That was Tommy and Sandy," Will answered. "George and I were asleep in our tent when all that took place."
"I guess he's about starved all right!" Chester said lifting his father into a sitting position. "We'd better get some of the men down here and have him carried into the cavern."
"But look here," Will warned, "there mustn't a word be said about the detectives coming in here after him!"
"Why not?" asked Chester.
"Because, as I have told you before, if the sheriff understands that your father was a fugitive from justice, he'll send him to Chicago under arrest. It will be his duty to do so, in fact."
"And what do you boys propose to do with him?"
"We're going to take him back to Chicago and keep him out of the reach of the police. He knows something about a case we're interested in which he will never tell if sent back to prison."
"If he's sent back to prison," Chester replied, "you may be sure that he won't be willing to help anybody."
"He is innocent of the crime of which he was convicted, isn't he?" asked Will. "In other words, he was jobbed!"
"That's the truth!" cried Chester.
"Well, what we've got to do is to prove that!" Will went on.
"Can you do it?" asked the son, anxiously.
"We think we can," was the reply.
"If you can, father will do anything he can for you, you may be sure of that," Chester answered warmly.
"But the whole success of our scheme depends on our keeping your father out of the clutches of the officers until we land him in Mr. Horton's office in Chicago. For the first time in our lives," Will continued, "we are opposing the officers of the law. As a rule that isn't a good thing for Boy Scouts to do, but we think we are fully justified in the course we are taking in this case."
"What is it you want father to testify to?" asked Chester.
"I don't think we'd better stop now to discuss that," Will answered.
"I'm sure it can't be anything dishonorable."
"It's nothing dishonorable," Will assured the boy. "We believe that your father's testimony will save the life of a young man accused of murder. That's all I can tell you now."
"You refer to the Fremont case?" asked Chester.
"Exactly!" answered Will. "To the Fremont suicide case."
"The police call it the Fremont murder case!"
"So you have been reading about that, too, have you?" asked Will.
"I read about it in the newspapers on the day following what took place at the bank," Chester answered, "and I couldn't help a feeling of contempt for the police when I understood how wrong they were."
"So you know about that, too?"
"I know all about it!" replied Chester.
Will could have hugged the boy. He had long been wondering whether the testimony of Mr. Wagner would be accepted in court after the wound which had rendered him mentally incompetent had been discussed by physicians. He knew that in many cases men so injured never fully recovered.
It seemed almost like a miracle that the escaped convict's son should know something of the matter, too. The boy knew that even if Mr. Wagner fully recovered from his injury the police would object to his testimony on the ground of previous insanity. If the boy could corroborate the statements made by his father, that would prove sufficient.
Will was about to ask the lad further questions when the escaped convict opened his eyes and looked about.
His gaze sought the searchlight first, and then rested on the face of his son. Chester drew nearer and bent over him.
"Did I have a fall?" the man asked weakly.
He put his thin hand to his head as he spoke and drew it away covered with blood.
"Why this seems to be a fresh wound," Chester exclaimed, anxiously.
"Yes," replied the father, "I remember of hearing the sound of guns, and sensing the odor of powder smoke, and started to run down the passage and fell. I remember a shooting pain in my head and that's about all until I heard your voices and saw the light."
"Do you know where you are?" asked Will.
The escaped convict looked inquiringly at his son.
"Who is this boy?" he asked.
"A friend who has come to establish your innocence," was the reply.
"That is impossible," replied Wagner. "Every police official in Chicago is convinced of my guilt. They jobbed me to prison in the first instance and they are bound to keep me there!"
"Who were the detectives?" asked Will.
"Katz and Cullen!" was the answer.
"I see," Will said musingly.
"But we mustn't permit father to remain here," Chester cut in. "All these questions can be answered at another time."
"That's right," Will agreed. "And I'll go to the cavern and ask some of the men to carry your father out."
The boy was back in five minutes with Sheriff Pete and Deputy Seth. The sheriff looked down pityingly on the wounded man for a moment and then took him in his arms as if he had been a child and carried him to the cavern, where the boys and the deputies were assembled around a roaring fire over which Tommy and George were broiling bear steaks.
"Say, that listens good to me," George exclaimed, as the wounded man was laid down near the rear. "It appears that we're closing this case up in jig time."
"I guess we've got it about closed up," Will answered.
"There's only one thing we've got to do now," George added, "and that is to get rid of those two bum detectives."
"Last call for dinner in the dining car!" cried Tommy.
They all flocked to the fire, and Tommy and George presented each with a bear steak with the explanation that more would be forthcoming. The two train robbers looked on longingly.
"You boys suggested the bringing in of this meat," Tommy said, after a time, "and so I'm going to cook each of you a two pound steak."
"I guess we can take care of them all right," one of the outlaws replied. "We've been hungry for about a week."
"Say, kid," the other outlaw cut in, "I'd like to be just your age, and be a Boy Scout, with all the medals you've got, and money enough to travel about the world looking for trouble and meeting it like a man!"
"You had a chance once," Tommy answered rather pityingly.
"Never," was the reply. "I was reared in the slums of New York, and became a criminal before I was six years old. There were no Boy Scout organizations in those days, and so I never had any one ready and willing to point out the road that would lead to a successful life."
"Well, if there were no Boy Scouts to help you along then," Tommy replied, "there are plenty now to show the right way."
"And they are doing it, too, so far as I can see," Sheriff Pete cut in. "They seem to be doing a lot of good in the world."
"We try to," Tommy said, and turned back to cook the steaks promised to the outlaws. "And most of the time we succeed," he added.
"What was it one of you boys said about these two detectives?" asked Sheriff Pete, as he stood talking with Will, busy at the same time with a slice of bear meat.
"Why," Will answered, "I guess the remark was that the next thing for us to do would be to get rid of those detectives. They think they own the whole state of Wyoming."
"Chicago men are they?" asked the sheriff.
"Yes," was the answer.
"Do they claim to be here on business?"
"Why," replied Will in a hesitating tone, "they claim to be here after a fugitive from justice, but I guess they're on a hunting trip."
"If they're here on official business," the sheriff said, "I should think they'd report to me."
"It may be," Will suggested, "that they are in some way associated with these train robbers."
The sheriff looked at the boy with wide open eyes for a moment, and then drew one eyelid down in a long, significant wink.
"You really think they stand in with these outlaws?" he asked.
"Why," replied Will, with an equally significant wink, "I think they ought to be taken out to Lander or Green River and made to give an account of themselves."
"Come to think about it," the sheriff said, with a smile, "I've noticed several suspicious circumstances lately, and I think it really might be a good thing to take them to the county seat and make them give an account on themselves."
DETECTIVES IN TROUBLE
While the sheriff and the boy were talking, Katz and Cullen came tramping angrily into the cavern. They stood regarding the sheriff and his deputies with scornful glances for a moment and then, ignoring them entirely, strolled up to where Will was standing.
"You are under arrest," Katz said.
"What for?" asked Will, as the others gathered around him.
"For participating in the escape of a fugitive from justice."
"Where is the fugitive from justice?" asked Will.
"I can't place my hands on him at this moment," was the arrogant reply, "but I'm going to know where he is before I permit these men to depart. I've stood about all the impudence I care to."
"What's that making all that noise?" called Tommy, from the fire.
The two detectives turned toward the boy.
"You are under arrest, too!" Cullen shouted.
"Why don't you take some one of your own size?" asked Tommy. "Why don't you go on and arrest some of these men?"
"I'll do that if it's necessary!" Katz exclaimed. "And look here," he went on. "I command you all to assist me in the capture of a fugitive from justice named Warren W. Wagner, as escaped convict who is wanted in Chicago for the crime of murder!"
"Do you think this Wagner person is here?" asked Seth.
"I haven't a doubt of it," was the angry reply.
"Then, like a good little boy, you chase out and find him."
"I'll find him quick enough," retorted Katz, advancing toward the spot where Wagner lay. "I'll find him too quick to please most of you fellows! Perhaps you can tell me who this man is."
The Boy Scouts gathered about the detective and Chester even sprang forward as if to defend his father from the officer's touch. It was Sheriff Pete, however, who prevented the actual arrest of the escaped convict at that time.
As the two detectives moved forward, attempting to brush the boys rudely aside, the sheriff seized Katz by the shoulder and swung him over to Sheriff Gilmore. Then he grabbed Cullen by the scruff of the neck and sent him spinning into the arms of Seth.
"What do you fellows mean by coming here and taking possession of our camp?" he thundered. "I'll teach you to get fresh around here! Put the handcuffs on the fellows, boys!"
One of the wounded outlaws raised himself from the floor and chuckled viciously as the two men were adorned with the manacles.
"Say," Katz exclaimed, trying to move toward the outlaws, "how did you get here? I've a great mind to put you both under arrest for your treatment of me a few hours ago."
"You're under arrest yourself!" laughed the outlaw pointing to the handcuffs. "You're a pretty skate to talk about arresting me."
"I protest against this, sir," exclaimed Katz, turning to Sheriff Pete. "I am Joseph J. Katz, detective of Chicago, and this is Edward E. Cullen, my associate. We are here under protection of the laws of your state, in quest of a fugitive from justice and I protest against this outrage."
"Where are your extradition papers?" demanded the sheriff.
"We don't usually get extradition papers until we get the man," scoffed Katz. "You ought to know that, if you're an officer."
"I mean your authority from the Governor of Illinois," said Sheriff Pete angrily.
"You can wire to the Chief of Police at Chicago, and see if what we say is not true," Katz answered.
"But your papers," insisted the Sheriff.
"They were to be forwarded to us," replied Katz.
"I don't believe they're detectives at all!" Tommy cut in.
"I don't think they have any authority to make arrests," Will said, with a sly wink at the sheriff. "If they have, where are their badges?"
"They were stolen!" shouted Katz. "These Boy Scouts took mine, and those train robbers, who seem to be under arrest now, took Cullen's."
"You want to look out when you come down into Wyoming," said the sheriff with a chuckle. "I've known Chicago detectives to come down here and have their socks stolen off their feet!"
"Aw, they ain't detectives," argued Tommy. "They belong to this bunch of train robbers. I saw 'em talking with the robbers not very long ago. You just ask these robbers if these two men don't belong to their gang."
As Tommy spoke he turned to where the two robbers lay and gave a very grave and significant wink.
"They belong to our gang, all right enough," one of the outlaws stated, remembering various indignities they had received at the hands of detectives.
"That's a lie!" thundered Katz.
"Lie nothing!" replied the outlaw. "These fellows brought in two burros loaded with provisions for us, and we haven't been able to get to them yet. If you go back in the valley to the west, and travel north a few miles, you'll find where the burros and provisions are hidden away."
Tommy drew nearer to the outlaw and under pretense of picking something from the floor whispered in his ear:
"We'll see that you get a year off your sentence for that. We've just got to get rid of these imitation detectives."
"I don't believe you can make it stick, Katz," the other outlaw cried out, apparently in a very serious tone, although there was a wrinkle of humor about his grim mouth. "When we started out to rob the Union Pacific train you promised to see that we got provisions, and you didn't keep your word!"
The eyes of the two detectives stuck out, as Tommy afterwards expressed it, far enough to hang a coat and hat on. They almost foamed with rage as they stamped about the cavern, still linked together with the steel handcuffs.
"We're being jobbed!" Katz shouted.
"It's a frame-up!" echoed Cullen.
"Frame up nothing!" laughed one of the outlaws.
"Do you mean to say," said Sheriff Pete, turning to the two prisoners, "that these two men who claim to be detectives are actually connected with your gang?"
"That's what we'll swear to!" declared one of the outlaws.
"Two years off for that!" chuckled Tommy in a low tone.
"I tell you it's a frame up!" shouted Katz. "It's a dirty trick to get us out of the state without arresting this fugitive from justice."
"I'm sorry boys," Sheriff Pete said to them, with official gravity, although there was a twinkle in his eyes, "but under the circumstances, it's my duty to take you to Lander and give you a hearing before the grand jury. Personally, I have my doubts as to the truth of the charges made against you, but at the same time I've got to take ministerial cognizance of them. I'm sorry, but it's my duty."
"And in the meantime," yelled Cullen, "these Boy Scouts will get this fugitive from justice out of our reach!"
"I don't know anything about that!" said the sheriff, "but if they try to do anything of that kind, I'm afraid they'll succeed."
"Well," Gilmore, the Sweetwater sheriff said, "I presume we'd better be moving along with the prisoners. If it's true that these two alleged detectives, who now turn out to be train robbers," he added with a glance at the boys, "have a camp with plenty of provisions at the north end of the next valley, we'd better take the whole bunch there and get the provisions and pack the whole outfit over to Lander with us."
"Are you going back to camp now?" asked Sheriff Pete, turning to Will.
"Just as soon as Tommy gets filled up on bear steak, I think we'd better be moving."
Sheriff Gilmore and the deputies now started away with the four prisoners and the boys watched them sliding and scrambling down the slope to the gully.
Will reached out and took Sheriff Pete by the hand.
"You're a brick!" he said. "You not only know how to do things, but you know how to do them right. If you ever come up to Chicago, don't forget to call on Lawyer Horton, and he'll tell you where we are."
"I'll not fail to do so," the sheriff answered, "but, in the meantime," he went on, "it ought to take about a week or two for these detectives to establish their innocence, eh?"
"I should say about two weeks," replied Will. "And see here," the boy went on, "I hope you won't be too hard on those train robbers. They're pretty decent fellows after all."
"They're the first men that ever held me up!" laughed the sheriff.
"Forget it!" exclaimed Will.
"Oh, I don't lay that up against them!" the sheriff replied. "After all," he continued, "they were careful not to injure any one on the hold-up they're accused of, and I don't think they'll get more than five or six years."
The officers and the boys parted with feelings of mutual regret. They had not had much faith or confidence in each other at first, but in the end each group knew the worth of the other. The parting between the boys and Seth was particularly heartfelt. Although Sheriff Pete had been trying to reach information he sought in his own way, the deputy had faced him down when he believed that the boys were to be lynched. There was many a good laugh after that, in the room of the Sheriff at Lander.
When at last the boys reached their camp and the two men who had brought the escaped convict down had disappeared, Sandy came creeping out from under a pile of blankets in one of the tents.
"What do you know about that?" asked Tommy, pointing to the boy.
Sandy yawned and rubbed his eyes.
"Say, what time is it?" he asked.
"Four o'clock!" replied Will.
"Is it yesterday or today?" asked Sandy.
"It's the day after tomorrow!" grinned Tommy.
"Don't get funny, now," Sandy advised. "Whatever day it is, I've been asleep ever since you boys went away."
"You never have!" declared Tommy.
"Honest!" replied Sandy. "I filled myself up with provisions and crawled under the blanket and went to sleep just after you went away to get some bear steak for breakfast. Did you get the steak?" the boy added with a grin.
"You bet I did," answered Tommy, "and I brought it back with me," he added, stroking the waistband of his trousers. "How's your shoulder?"
"Fine as a fiddle," was the reply. "I'm not going to have any trouble with it after this! Did you find Chester's fond parent," he added, glancing in the direction of the escaped convict.
"Sure we did," replied Tommy. "And, do you know," the boy went on, "that we needn't have bothered about finding him at all. Chester knows everything about the Fremont case that the father does."
"Is that right, Chester?" asked Sandy.
"Now you come on over here to father," Chester said, "and we'll ask him what took place in the private room of Fremont's bank that night, and we'll see if his memory of the things which occurred there is the same as mine."
The boys now all trooped to the tent where Mr. Wagner had been placed and Chester asked:
"Do you know why these boys are here, father?"
"To take me back to prison, I suppose," was the almost sullen reply.
"They are here to establish your innocence," the son went on. "Do you know why?"
The father glanced keenly from his son to the others and finally asked, his voice trembling with excitement:
"Why should they take an interest in me?"
"Because," Will broke in, "you can help us, and we want to help you. We have information that you are innocent of the crime of which you were convicted, and we believe that you have information which will prevent the conviction of an innocent man."
"Do you refer to the Fremont case?" asked Wagner.
"Exactly," replied Will. "And I'd like to ask you now," the boy went on, "before anything more is said, why you never communicated with young Fremont's attorney. He advertised for you extensively, and you might have held conference with him without subjecting yourself to arrest."
"I saw the advertisement," was the reply, "but I thought it was only a trap set by the police. I was determined not to go back to the penitentiary. If I had been captured by the police, I would have killed myself. I had no money, no influence, and it would have been impossible for me to establish my innocence, so I decided to let young Fremont look out for himself. I know now that I was wrong."
"You were in the bank that July night?" asked Will.
"Yes, I was there with my son," was the reply.
The boys looked wonderingly at Chester.
"What took place?" asked Will.
"Fremont was working late in his private room, and the janitor and nightwatchman were moving about the building, from the deposit vaults in the basement to the ironclad room which enclosed the big safe.
"I went there to see Mr. Fremont in order to secure financial help. He had been an old friend of my parents, and I had every reason to believe that he would assist me if I could get to him. After a long time I attracted the attention of the night watchman, and he admitted me at a side door on the request of Mr. Fremont."
"Who else was in the building at that time?" asked Will.
"No one that I know of," was the reply. "I stated my case to Mr. Fremont in the presence of my son and he handed me one hundred dollars in small bills, advising me to remain in hiding until I could arrange for a new trial. He said when he gave me the money that the sum was more than he had left, but that he would never again feel that he needed money.
"I did not understand what he meant, and said so. He told me then that he had been plunging heavily in Wall street. He said that he had lost every dollar he had in the world, and that his interest in the bank would be taken from him the next day unless a wealthy friend he was depending on came to his assistance that very night."
"Did he tell you the name of the man he expected there that night?" asked Will.
"He did," replied the escaped convict, "but I do not now recall the name. I can't for the life of me bring it back to my mind."
"The name," Chester interrupted, "was Myron M. Douglass."
"A Chicago multi-millionaire!" exclaimed Will.
"I asked Mr. Fremont what course he intended to pursue, and he replied that there was only one thing he could do if the man he had appealed to refused to aid him. As he told me this he opened a drawer in his desk and pointed to an automatic revolver lying on top of a pile of papers."
"And you left it lying there?" asked Will.
"No," Chester answered, "I snatched the revolver out of the drawer and brought it away with me. When we left the private room by the side door, Mr. Fremont was standing beside his desk with a smile upon a very white face. He said he had another revolver in another drawer, and would use it if he did not hear from Mr. Douglass before midnight."
"Did you believe him to be in earnest?" asked Will.
"I did not think he would kill himself when it came down to the real point."
"Did you immediately leave the vicinity of the bank?" asked the boy.
"No," replied Chester. "We walked about the building until after twelve o'clock."
"Did you hear any significant sounds?" asked Will.
"Pistol-shots," was the reply.
"Then you knew what had taken place?"
"Yes, sir, we thought we did."
"While we stood at the side door of the bank, wondering what we ought to do, Mr. Fremont's son came running up the steps. At first I felt disposed to give him some intimation as to what had taken place, but I hadn't the courage to do so. He opened the side door with a key and entered, and we left the city and the state. We came here, and I was dazed by a fall, but this last hurt has corrected the injury done by the first one."
"There you are!" said Will. "The case is closed. The Boy Scouts may as well go back to Chicago now. There's one more mystery. Who built the fire in your old cave?"
"I did before the last fall," Wagner said.
"Of course, we can stay here and fish and hunt if we want to," laughed Will, "and I think it may be well to do so for a week or so, but right now we have come to The Ending of the Trail."
The boys spent two very pleasant weeks in Wyoming without further annoyance. When they returned to Chicago, Wagner and Chester went with them. The case against young Fremont fell to the ground as soon as the testimony of Wagner and his son was taken, and the innocence of the escaped convict was established so thoroughly to the satisfaction of the police that he was never tried again.
The boys saw both Wagner and Chester were provided with congenial situations. After the boys had been in Chicago a couple of weeks they met Katz and Cullen on Clark street. The detectives flamed red in the face at sight of the boys, but were very humble when addressing them.
"We have forgotten what took place in Wyoming," Katz said significantly.
"And so have we," replied Tommy. "No one here knows anything about it! It was rather a mean trick to play on you, but we had to do something to get Wagner to testify in the Fremont case."
"Forget it!" cried Katz, and the two went on their way, after receiving their badges from Tommy.
The boys had been in Chicago not more than a month when a letter from the famous criminal lawyer brought them to his office again.
"Are you boys ready to take a trip to the north?" he asked. "I want you to go way up into the Hudson Bay country and do a little work that a group of Boy Scouts can do better than any one else in the world."
"Sure, we'll go!" answered Will. "We were saying last night that we were getting tired of hanging around Chicago."
The boys started away the very next day. What they saw and did on the journey will be found in the next volume of this series entitled:
Boy Scouts in Northern Wilds; or, The Signal from the Hills.