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- Dyke Darrel the Railroad Detective - 10/44 -
"What is it you want?" demanded the detective shortly.
With the word, the man lunged forward. Divining his movement, Dyke Darrel sank suddenly to the steps, and his assailant plunged headlong from the train!
WORDS THAT STARTLE.
It seemed a terrible plunge into eternity. Not for one moment did the detective lose his presence of mind, however. Straightening, he reached up and grasped the bell-cord.
Ere many seconds the train came to a stop.
"Man on the track," said Dyke Darrel when the conductor came hurrying to see what was the trouble.
Lanterns were at once brought into requisition, and men went back to look for the body of the detective's assailant.
No one imagined that he could possibly plunge from the speeding train and escape death. Dyke Darrel moved along confidently expecting to look upon the bruised corpse of the outlaw who had attempted his destruction.
He met with disappointment.
No man was found.
"He must have been a tough one to have jumped the train without receiving a scratch," said a voice in the ear of the detective, as he flashed the rays of a lantern down on the track.
Dyke Darrel glanced at the speaker, a gentleman with enormous red beard, and rather worn silk hat.
This was the detective's first introduction to Professor Ruggles.
"I've no doubt of his being tough," answered Dyke Darrel.
"How did it happen?"
"I think the fellow intended to throw me off the train."
"Goodness! is that so? What was the trouble about?"
"No trouble that I am aware of. I did not know the man."
"Then it's likely he mistook you for some one else."
Dyke Darrel eyed the speaker keenly. There seemed to be nothing suspicious about the Professor, however, and soon after the detective dismissed him from his mind.
"All aboard!" shouted the conductor, a little later, and soon the train was speeding northward at a rapid rate.
Dyke Darrel went into the rear car, and sat down to meditate on his adventure. He realized that his death had been planned by enemies to law and order, and he believed by the ones who were anxious to throw him off the trail of the outlaws who perpetrated the crime on the midnight express a few nights before.
It did not seem possible that the man who had attempted to throw him from the train, and had gone over himself, had escaped unharmed.
Doubtless, though badly hurt, he had managed to drag himself away from the immediate vicinity of the track, where he had remained secreted until the brief search was over.
Since his fall was unexpected, it was not likely that any of the villain's friends were in the vicinity, and so it might be an easy matter to trace the outlaw. Dyke Darrel formed a plan of operation at once, and rose to leave the train at the next stop.
"Do you get off here?"
Dyke Darrel was somewhat surprised to see Harper Elliston on the platform of the little station.
"I stop here," said Dyke. "And you?"
"I thought of going to Chicago."
"Postpone your trip then. I wish to consult with you on a matter of importance."
The tall gentleman hesitated.
The train began to move.
"You must decide quickly," cried the detective.
Elliston walked the length of the narrow platform, with his hand on the car rail, his satchel in the other hand. His hand fell from the rail, and the express swept swiftly away in the darkness.
"Anything to accommodate, Dyke. I had some business of importance to transact in Chicago, but it can wait."
"I am sorry if I put you to extra expense, Harper, but I wish to consult with one whom I can trust. I've got a devilish mean work on hand," said Dyke Darrel in an explanatory tone.
"You know I am always ready to assist you, Dyke. Is it a criminal case?"
"Yes; the last on record."
"The express crime?"
"I mistrusted as much. You have been down the road?"
"To St. Louis!"
"I took a young offender down who escaped from prison last winter. I think the officers will look after him more closely in the future."
"Who was it?"
"I don't call to mind the name, now."
Lights in the distance showed that the village contained one public- house at least. So there the two men repaired.
Mr. Elliston quaffed a glass of wine, while the detective would take nothing but a cigar. Repairing to a room, the two men sat and conversed for some time in the most confidential way.
Dyke Darrel gave his friend an account of his adventure on the train, which had induced him to stop off and investigate.
The reader may imagine that it was extremely indiscreet for the detective to give away his plans to Elliston, but Dyke Darrel had known this man for more than a year, had visited him in New York, and found him to be well thought of there, and he had more than once confided in him, to find him as true as steel.
At this time the detective believed Elliston to be the best friend he had in the world. He knew the New Yorker to be a man of great ability and thoroughly acquainted with the world, and more than once he had done a good turn for Darrel. Why then should he not trust him? In fact, Dyke Darrel had noticed the growing interest Mr. Elliston took in his sister, and it pleased him. Looking upon him as almost a brother, it is little wonder that Dyke Darrel took the man from Gotham into his confidence to a considerable extent.
"I think you did the right thing in leaving the train to look after this villain," said Elliston, when he had heard the detective's story; "but you must be aware that you run a great risk in going about the country without disguise, avowedly in search of the perpetrators of the express robbery. Of course, this man has friends, and they will not hesitate to shoot or stab, as they did in the case of the express messenger."
"But, my dear Dyke, had I not happened at the station you might have run into a trap. I have reason to believe there are many lawless characters in this neighborhood. It strikes me that the man knew what he was about when he assaulted you at this point on the road."
To this, however, Dyke Darrel did not agree. He believed that the villain who attempted his murder sought the first favorable opportunity for his fell work, regardless of time and place.
Early the next morning the detective and his friend hired a horse and buggy of the hotel proprietor, and set off down the road to the scene of the "accident."
Dyke Darrel was confident that he could find the spot, and, sure enough, he was not far out in his reckoning. When in the vicinity of where he believed the man had left the train, Darrel's quick eye caught sight of a group of men standing under a shed, on the further side of a distant field.
"There is some cause of excitement over yonder," remarked Dyke Darrel, as he drew rein, and pointed with his whip.
"It seems to mean something," admitted Elliston.
"I propose to investigate."
Securing his horse, Dyke Darrel vaulted the fence, and, closely followed by Elliston, made his way across the field.
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