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- Dyke Darrel the Railroad Detective - 2/44 -


home, from which the funeral was to take place.

As Dyke Darrel was passing from the rooms of the undertaker, a hand fell on his shoulder.

"You are a detective?"

Dyke Darrel looked into a smooth, boyish face, from which a pair of brown eyes glowed.

"What is it you wish?" Darrel demanded, bluntly.

"I wish to make a confidant of somebody."

"Well, go on."

"First tell me if you are a detective."

"You may call me one."

"It's about that poor fellow you've just been interviewing," said the young stranger. "I am Watson Wilkes, and I was on the train, in the next car, when poor Nicholson was murdered. I was acting as brakeman at the time. Do you wish to hear what I can tell?"

CHAPTER II.

DYKE DARREL'S TRICK.

"Certainly I do," cried the detective. "Come with me, and we will find a place where we can talk without danger of interruption."

The two men moved swiftly down the street. At length Dyke Darrel entered a well-known restaurant on Randolph street, secured a private stall, and then bade Mr. Wilks proceed. Both men were seated at a small table.

"Shan't I order the wine?"

"No," answered Dyke, with a frown. "We need clear brains for the work in hand. If you know aught of this monstrous crime, tell it at once."

"I do know a considerable," said Mr. Wilks. "I was the first man who discovered Arnold Nicholson after he'd been shot. The safe was in the very car that I occupied. I saw the men get the swag. There were three of them."

"Go on."

"They all wore mask, so of course I could not tell who they were; but I've an idea that they were from Chicago."

"Why have you such an idea?"

"Because I saw three suspicious chaps get on at Twenty-second street. I think they are the chaps who killed poor Arnold, and got away with the money in the safe."

"Did you recognize them?"

"No--that is, I'm not positive; but I think one of 'm was a chap that is called Skinny Joe, a hard pet, who used to work in a saloon on Clark street."

"Indeed."

"Yes. It might be well to keep your eye out in that quarter."

"It might," admitted Dyke Darrel. "This is all you know regarding the midnight tragedy?"

"Oh, no; I can give you more particulars."

"Let's have them, then."

"But see here, how am I to know that you are a detective? I might get sold, you know," replied Mr. Wilks in a suspicious tone.

Dyke Darrel lifted the lapel of his coat, exposing a silver star.

"All right," returned Mr. Wilks, with a nod. "I'm of the opinion that Skinny Joe's about the customer you need to look after, captain. I'll go down with you to the fellow's old haunts, and we'll see what we can find."

Mr. Wilks seemed tremendously interested. Dyke Darrel was naturally suspicious, and he was not ready to swallow everything his companion said as law and gospel. Of course the large reward was a stimulant for men to be on the lookout for the midnight train robbers; and Mr. Wilks' interest must be attributable to this.

"You see, I was Arnold Nicholson's friend, and I'd go a long ways to see the scoundrels get their deserts who killed him, even if there was no reward in the case," explained the brakeman suddenly.

"Certainly," answered Dyke Darrel. "I can understand how one employed on the same train could take the deepest interest in such a sad affair."

"Will you go down on Clark street with me?"

"Not just now."

"When?"

"I will meet you here this evening, and consult on that point."

"Very well. Better take something."

"No; not now."

Dyke Barrel rose to his feet and turned to leave the stall.

"Don't fail me now, sir."

"I will not."

The detective walked out. The moment he was gone a change came over the countenance of the young brakeman. The pleasant look vanished, and one dark and wicked took its place.

"Go, Dyke Darrel; I am sharp enough to understand you. You distrust me; but you're fooled all the same. It's strange you've forgotten the boy you sent to prison from St. Louis five years ago for passing counterfeit coin. I haven't forgotten it; and, what is more, I mean to get even."

Then, with a grating of even white teeth, Watson Wilks passed out. At the bar he paused long enough to toss off a glass of brandy, and then he went out upon the street.

It was a raw April day, and the air cut like a knife. After glancing up and down the street Mr. Wilks moved away. On reaching Clark street he hurried along that thoroughfare toward the south. Arriving in a disreputable neighborhood, he entered the side door of a dingy brick building, and stood in the presence of a woman, who sat mending a pair of old slippers by the light afforded by a narrow window.

"Madge Scarlet, I've found you alone, it seems."

"I'm generally alone," said the female, not offering to move.

She was past the prime of life, and there were many crow's feet on a face that had once been beautiful. Her dress was plain, and not the neatest. The room was small, and there were few articles of furniture on the uncarpeted floor.

"Madge, where are Nick and Sam?"

"I can't tell you."

"Haven't they been here to-day?"

"No, not in three days." "That seems strange."

"It doesn't to me. They are out working the tramp dodge, in the country, or into some worse iniquity, Watson. I do wish you would quit such company, and try and behave yourself."

At this the young man gave vent to a sarcastic laugh.

"Now, Aunt Madge, what an idea! Do you suppose your dear nephew could do anything wrong? Aren't I a pattern of perfection?"

Watson Wilks drew himself up and looked as solemn as an owl. This did not serve to bring a pleased expression to the woman's face, however. As she said nothing, the young man proceeded:

"I'm working on the railroad now, Madge, and haven't turned a dishonest penny in a long time. Of course you heard of the robbery of the midnight express down in the central part of the State last night? Some of the morning papers have an account of it."

"I hadn't heard."

"Well, then, I will tell you about it;" and Mr. Wilks gave a brief account of the terrible tragedy that had shocked the land. "It's a regular Jesse James affair, and there's a big reward offered for the outlaws."

The woman seemed interested then, and looked hard at her nephew.

"Watson, I hope you know nothing of this work?"

"Of course I know something of it," he answered quickly. "I returned in charge of the dead body of the messenger. I was in the next car when he was killed, and one of the robbers put his pistol to my head and threatened to blow my brains out if I said or did anything. You can just bet I kept mighty still."

"I should think so. This'll make a tremendous stir," returned the woman. "The country'll be full of man-trackers and it'll go hard with the outlaws if they're captured."

"You bet; but they won't be captured." "You are confident?"


Dyke Darrel the Railroad Detective - 2/44

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