The Oakdale Affair

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 70

might or might
not prove a clew to her whereabouts; but each must be run down in the
process of elimination before Burton could feel safe in abandoning it.

Already he had solved one of them to his satisfaction; and Dopey Charlie
and The General were, all unknown to themselves, on the way to the
gallows for the murder of Old John Baggs. When Burton had found them
simulating sleep behind the bushes beside the road his observant eyes
had noticed something that resembled a hurried cache. The excuse of a
lost note book had taken him back to investigate and to find the loot
of the Baggs's crime wrapped in a bloody rag and hastily buried in a
shallow hole.

When Burton and Jonas Prim arrived at the Case farm they were met by a
new Willie. A puffed and important young man swaggered before them as
he retold his tale and led them through the woods toward the spot where
they were to bag their prey. The last hundred yards was made on hands
and knees; but when the party arrived at the clearing there was no one
in sight, only the hovel stood mute and hollow-eyed before them.

"They must be inside," whispered Willie to the detective.

Burton passed a whispered word to his followers. Stealthily they crept
through the underbrush until the cabin was surrounded; then, at a signal
from their leader they rose and advanced upon the structure.

No evidence of life indicated their presence had been noted, and Burton
came to the very door of the cabin unchallenged. The others saw him
pause an instant upon the threshold and then pass in. They closed behind
him. Three minutes later he emerged, shaking his head.

"There is no one here," he announced.

Willie Case was crestfallen. "But they must be," he pleaded. "They must
be. I saw 'em here just a leetle while back."

Burton turned and eyed the boy sternly. Willie quailed. "I seen 'em," he
cried. "Hones' I seen 'em. They was here just a few minutes ago. Here's
where they burrit the dead man," and he pointed to the little mound of
earth near the center of the clearing.

"We'll see," commented Burton, tersely, and he sent two of his men back
to the Case farm for spades. When they returned a few minutes' labor
revealed that so much of Willie's story was true, for a quilt wrapped
corpse was presently unearthed and lying upon the ground beside its
violated grave. Willie's stock rose once more to par.

In an improvised litter they carried the dead man back to

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