Roy Glashan's Library
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THOMAS CHARLES BRIDGES
(WRITING AS T.C. BRIDGES)

PETER'S PARTNERS

Cover Image

RGL e-Book Cover
Based on a painting by Frederic Remingon (1861-1909)

Ex Libris

First published in The Children's Newspaper, 30 November 1940

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2022
Version Date: 2022-09-20

Produced by Keith Emmett and Roy Glashan

All content added by RGL is proprietary and protected by copyright.

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THE sun blazed down with pitiless force on the one street of Cloud City, a little cow town near the Mexican border, and dust rose in little puffs with every step Peter Prest's weary pony took. The sheriff's office, for which Peter was bound, was a small square building of sun-dried clay.

Peter slipped out of his saddle, tied his pony to the hitching-post, and looked round. There was not a living thing in sight and the place was uncannily silent. Peter's heart sank as it came to him that the sheriff might be away.

He knocked, but there was no answer. He knocked again, and this time heard a movement. The door opened, but it wasn't the sheriff. This was a youngster who looked little more than Peter's age, and that was only 17. He was tall, and had bright blue eyes and fair hair. He was well dressed in breeches, boots, and a silk shirt. Peter wondered who on earth he was.

"Sheriff Steele in?" Peter asked.

The other shook his head. "He left last night. Went after rustlers up in the Cactus country."

The Deputy

PETER'S face showed his bitter disappointment.

"Looks like you're needing him badly," said the blue-eyed youth.

"I am," Peter answered curtly. "All my cattle were run off yesterday."

"Too bad," said the other. "Come in and rest yourself."

"Can't wait," Peter replied gruffly. "Got to go back and look after my kid brother."

"Guess I better come along," said the stranger. "Old Cast Iron left me in charge."

Peter stared. "That's kind of you, but—"

The other laughed.

"You reckon I ain't much of a deputy. Maybe I'm better than none. Sit here and have a cup of coffee while I saddle my pinto." He poured strong coffee from a pot on the stove and set out bread and bacon, and Peter, who was hungry, was grateful for the meal. Within a few minutes the other was back.

"That animal of yours is plumb wore out," he said. "I've put him in the pasture and saddled another for you. If you're ready we'll go right along." He paused. "Say, I don't know your name."

"Prest—Peter Prest."

"I'm Eddy Boyne. Been East for a spell. Just got back."

Eddy's mount was a beauty, and his second horse almost as good. It was a joy to Peter to ride so fine a beast and they made fast time along the rough trail.

"You left the kid alone?" Eddy asked.

"Had to. We have no neighbours. But I put him in a cave and told him to wait there till I got back."

Eddy nodded. "You're British?" he asked.

"My people were English. Dad had a ranch in Montana. The cold killed my mother, and Dad and my brother and I came down here. We started a little spread in the Mirror Hills. Dad was killed by his horse falling on him, and Partner and I have been carrying on. We had about 200 head, and I was reckoning to ship half of them next month."

"No idea who rustled them?" Eddy asked.

"Not a notion. But someone left a letter a week ago ordering us to quit and clear out. I thought it was a joke, but seemingly they meant it."

"Left a letter. Did you keep it?" asked Eddy thoughtfully.

"Yes, but it's just a sheet of rough paper with words printed in pencil."

They came down off the hills into a wide canyon through which ran a watercourse, now dry. They rode down it for a mile and Peter pointed to a smaller canyon opening to the west.

"That's where our place is. Crystal Spring we call it. There's always water and plenty of grass for a small herd."

Eddy's eyes were busy.

"A blind canyon?" he asked.

Peter nodded. "That's it. There's no other entrance. When we pitched here we didn't think anyone would want to interfere with us. There's no ranch house within 20 miles."

The two rode together into the canyon, down the bottom of which ran a stream of clear water.

The Mysterious Stranger

A MILE up they came to a small log house. Around it was a garden well fenced in. The bottom of the canyon was about 200 yards wide, and flat. On each side broken cliffs towered to a great height. It was an ideal spot to raise cattle, but there was not a beast in sight. Peter dismounted. "If you'll go in and wait I'll fetch Partner," he said.

"I'll come along," said Eddy. "Is that his name—Partner?"

"His real name is Terence, but I've always called him Partner."

Eddy followed Peter along a steep trail leading up the face, of the north cliff. They came to the mouth of a cave.

"Partner!" Peter called, but there was no answer. Peter ran into the cave.

"He's gone!" he gasped. "Those brutes have got him."

He turned and began to plunge down the steep path at reckless speed, but Eddy grabbed him. "Go slow! You'll break your neck. And what's your hurry? There's the kid."

A shrill whistle came from above, and there stood a very small boy wearing shorts and a cotton shirt, high on the rocks overhead. Peter was quite white.

"Are you all right. Partner?" he cried.

"I'm all right," replied the youngster as he began to scramble down. Small as he was, he climbed like a cat, and in a minute was on the ledge with the others.

"I told you to stay in the cave," Peter began sternly, but the little lad cut him short.

"I know, and I did until I saw that man coming up to the house."

"What man?"

"I don't know who he was, but he looked pretty tough. He was riding a buckskin horse. He went to the house, shouted, then tried to get in. When he found it was all locked he chucked it and rode right on up the canyon." Partner paused. "And—he—never—came—back," he added slowly.

"Never came back," Peter echoed.

"No; and that's why I climbed up. I wanted to see where he went."

"And did you?"

"No, I saw him right up at the head of the canyon, and then he just disappeared."

Eddy turned to Peter. "You said it was a blind canyon."

"Big cliffs," said Peter. "A man couldn't climb them, let alone a horse."

"Then he must be there still," said Eddy.

"We'll go after him," said Peter eagerly.

"That's just what he's waiting for," returned Eddy. "Lying out behind a rock with his gun."

Peter frowned. "We can't leave him there."

"I guess we'll get him," said Eddy lightly. "Got any grub in the house? I'm right hungry."

They walked back to the house and the brothers cooked supper while Eddy fed his horses. Partner watched him through the window.

"He's a nice chap, Peter," he said. "Who is he?"

"I don't know," Peter answered, "except that his name is Eddy Boyne. Sheriff's away, and Eddy was in the office. He said he'd come with me. But I don't see what he can do to help us." He stopped, for just then Eddy came in.

"Grub smells mighty good," he said, as he began to lay the table.

Peter was silent during supper. He was terribly worried about his cattle. Eddy laughed and joked with Partner. After they had washed up Peter said he would fix up a bed for Eddy, but Eddy shook his head. "I guess we're sleeping in the cave," he said. "It's not safe here."

He insisted, so they took some bedding and, as soon as it was dark, went up to the cave. Rolled comfortably in blankets they were soon asleep.

Peter was wakened by an appalling roar. He sprang up and ran to the mouth of the cave. The moon had set, but the night was clear, and down below Peter saw a mass of fiery sparks spread over a wide space of ground. His house was gone—dynamited—blown to pieces!

Peter turned and found Partner beside him.

"They've blown up the house," he said flatly. "Where's Eddy?"

"I don't know. When I woke he was gone. Oh, Peter, you don't think he went back to the house?"

"I don't know what to think. The whole business is just crazy. Why did they blow up the house? Who blew it up?"

"I don't know, Peter," said the little boy, "but Eddy was right. He saved our lives by making us come up here. Oh, I hope he's safe."

Peter did not answer. He was too troubled. It was bad enough to lose the cattle, but now the house was gone with everything, they possessed. He and Partner had nothing left but the clothes they stood up in and some blankets.

And now Eddy had disappeared, and he could not imagine where he had gone or why.

Peter longed to go down and find out if there was anything left; but he could not leave Partner. There was nothing to do but wait for daylight. So the two sat and waited.

A Fight in the Cave

THE wind got up, clouds covered the sky; it grew very dark—so dark that neither of them saw the shadowy figure that dropped down from the ledge above the cave. Then suddenly a flash lamp blazed in their faces and a deep, harsh voice said, "Here they be, Gila."

For the moment Peter was blinded by the glare. When he could see again two men were standing over them. The first was white, with a square face and eyes like pale blue stones; the second was a dark-skinned Mexican who had straight black hair and a sallow, evil face, to which a broken nose gave a most sinister expression. Both were armed with heavy revolvers. Peter pulled himself together.

"Who are you and what do you want?" he demanded.

"It's us asks the questions," retorted the first man. "Didn't you git orders to leave this place?"

"I don't take other people's orders to leave my own place," Peter answered curtly.

"So now you ain't got no place, nor house, nor cattle," sneered the other. "And you're leaving tonight and going a long way. Gila, take the kid. I'll see to this one."

The crook-nosed Mexican snatched up Partner. Partner fought like a terrier, but the Mexican shook him till his teeth rattled.

"Keep still," he snarled, "or I keel you."

Peter boiled over. Regardless of the square man's gun he hit out.

Resistance was the last thing the other had expected. Peter's fist reached his jaw. He stumbled backward and crashed to the rock floor. His torch fell from his hand but did not go out. The Mexican dropped Partner and sprang forward.

"Eet ees all right, Voss, I 'ave 'eem," he cried. He had his pistol in his right hand and aimed a blow at Peter's head with the barrel.

If the blow had got home it might have killed him, but it never reached its mark. There was a flash, a sharp crack, and the pistol flew from Gila's hand. Gila screamed with pain and shock.

"Put your hands up," came a clear, sharp voice. "If either of you try anything you won't have time to be sorry."

"It's Eddy!" shrieked Partner.

Eddy it was, but somehow a different Eddy. He seemed to have grown years older, and the blaze in his eyes was almost terrifying.

"Peter, take Voss's pistol," he ordered, "and hold it on him while I fix him up. And watch him: he's treacherous as a snake."

Three Partners

PETER snatched up the pistol, and Eddy, taking a pair of steel handcuffs from his pocket, snapped them on Voss's thick wrists. Eddy produced more handcuffs for the Mexican, and finished the job by tying their ankles with strong cord.

Partner watched with wide eyes.

"Where did you get those?" he asked. "I thought only policemen had handcuffs."

Eddy turned the lapel of his jacket and showed a small gold badge. Partner did not know what it was, but Voss's eyes nearly popped out of his head.

"A United States Marshal!" he gasped.

"Yes," said Eddy crisply. "And sent down specially to find you, Voss. Thanks to our two young friends here I've done it. And before the week's out I'll round up the rest of your gang."

He turned and beckoned the brothers to follow him. They three went to the inner end of the cave and sat down.

"It'll be daylight soon," Eddy said. "Then you two will come with me to Cloud City. I'll fix you up until you rebuild your house."

"How can we build?" Peter asked bitterly. "We haven't a dollar between us."

"You'll have plenty before you are a month older. There's a reward of 5000 dollars for Voss alone. You and Partner get half."

Peter was so amazed he could find no words. It was Partner who piped up.

"I don't understand. What's Voss been doing?"

"Smuggling Chinks over the border from Mexico. He and his gang get as much as 500 dollars apiece for bringing them in. You see, Partner, this isn't a blind canyon. I suspected as much when you told me of that man who rode up and disappeared. There's a tunnel. I rode there as soon as you chaps were asleep and found it. It comes out close to the river, the Rio Grande. All Voss had to do was ferry these Chinese over the river by night and bring 'em up through the tunnel. None of the Border Patrol could see them till they were miles inside the United States. Do you understand?"

"I see," said Partner thoughtfully. "So of course Voss didn't want anyone to live here."

"He did not!" Eddy turned to Peter.

"Say, Peter, I like this place. It'll do fine for me to spend my holidays. How'd it be if I put in my share of the reward? Would you take me as a sleeping partner?"

Peter's eyes glowed.

"Nothing I'd like better," he declared.

Partner sprang up. "Then there'll be three partners," he cried with delight.


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is out of copyright in countries with a copyright
period of 70 years or less, after the year of the author's death.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.