The Oakdale Affair

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 62

girl reappeared dragging a boy with her--a
wide-eyed, terrified, country boy who begged and blubbered to no avail.

Beside the dead man the girl halted and then turned on her captive. In
her right hand she still held the menacing blade.

"What you do there watching me for?" she demanded. "Tell me the truth,
or I kill you," and she half raised the knife that he might profit in
his decision by this most potent of arguments.

The boy cowered. "I didn't come fer to watch you," he whimpered. "I'm
lookin' for somebody else. I'm goin' to be a dee-tectiff, an' I'm
shadderin' a murderer;" and he gasped and stammered: "But not you. I'm
lookin' for another murderer."

For the first time the watchers saw a faint smile touch the girl's lips.

"What other murderer?" she asked. "Who has been murdered?"

"Two an' mebby three in Oakdale last night," said Willie Case more
glibly now that a chance for disseminating gossip momentarily outweighed
his own fears. "Reginald Paynter was murdered an' ol' man Baggs an'
Abigail Prim's missin'. Like es not she's been murdered too, though
they do say as she had a hand in it, bein' seen with Paynter an' The
Oskaloosie Kid jest afore the murder."

As the boy's tale reached the ears of the three hidden in the
underbrush Bridge glanced quickly at his companions. He saw the boy's
horror-stricken expression follow the announcement of the name of the
murdered Paynter, and he saw the girl flush crimson.

Without urging, Willie Case proceeded with his story. He told of the
coming of The Oskaloosa Kid to his father's farm that morning and
of seeing some of the loot and hearing the confession of robbery and
killing in Oakdale the night before. Bridge looked down at the youth
beside him; but the other's face was averted and his eyes upon the
ground. Then Willie told of the arrival of the great detective, of the
reward that had been offered and of his decision to win it and become
rich and famous in a single stroke. As he reached the end of his
narrative he leaned close to the girl, whispering in her ear the while
his furtive gaze wandered toward the spot where the three lay concealed.

Bridge shrugged his shoulders as the palpable inference of that cunning
glance was borne in upon him. The boy's voice had risen despite his
efforts to hold it to a low whisper for what with the excitement of the
adventure and his terror of the girl with the knife he had little or
no control of himself, yet

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