Read CHAPTER XVIII - MCCORQUODALE EXPLAINS of Every Man for Himself , free online book, by Hopkins Moorhouse, on ReadCentral.com.

On the heels of the message from President Wade came Detective McCorquodale an hour before sundown. He did not arrive on a train from the east, as expected, but by way of the old Indian trail that wound back for half a mile to Wolverine River, the trail once used by Indian hunters to go north into the game country. Kendrick happened to be lounging on the embankment in front of the section shanty, waiting for Thorlakson and his men to come pumping down the track on the handcar, while Cristy was helping indoors with the dinner. He recognized the detective the moment he saw the familiar chunky figure emerge from the woods and come out onto the track and he went down to meet him on the run.

“Well, well, well!” was the greeting McCorquodale launched. “He tore the false beard off his chin an’ there stood Tom! How are you, Kendrick?”

Phil eyed him anxiously as they shook hands.

“Drop out of the clouds, man? I just got the Chief’s wire this afternoon. In heaven’s name, McCorquodale, what’s the meaning of all this?”

“Heaven aint sittin’ in on this hand, ’bo,” grinned the C.L.S. detective cheerfully. “It’s devils I’m trailin’. Hell’s broke loose an’ spilled ’em all over the map.”

“What do you mean? What’s happened? Is my aunt?”

“Oh, y’needn’t worry’ bout y’r auntie none. She’s all hunky-dory. It’s those booze birds we’re goin’ after, you’n’me, see. Chief’s orders, kid. An’ oh boy! it’s goin’ to be some party, believe me! Let’s sit down here an’ I’ll wag m’ jaw.”

Phil lighted his pipe; but it went out again as he listened with breathless interest to McCorquodale’s recital. Up to four days ago he had had a very quiet and uneventful time of it at Sparrow Lake with nothing happening which seemed to justify his presence there at all. Then a stranger had put in an appearance and took to watching the Waring cottage no less a person than this man Weiler who already had aroused McCorquodale’s suspicion when the detective had worked as a Brady Agency operative. The German, however, contented himself with reconnoitring the vicinity between trains and asking a few casual questions about the Waring household over at the station. He took the first train back to the city. So did the “Iron Man.”

On arrival in the city the detective trailed his man to a cheap little hotel on a back street, to a rear room on the top floor, where a second man appeared to be awaiting him. By climbing out a hall window onto the fire-escape McCorquodale had reached the flat gravelled roof and wormed himself along into a position where he could hear what transpired in the room. He had not listened long before he was satisfied that Weiler had been sent on this spying expedition by the man in the back bedroom and was reporting the result of his investigations; in fact, he was drawing a rough map of Sparrow Lake and marking the location of the Waring cottage when the detective found a small hole in a skylight and looked cautiously down upon the pair. The second “gink” was a big flabby-looking “duck,” and when he had descended quietly the detective had no difficulty in finding out that the man was registered at the hotel as John Harrington.

“Rives!” breathed Phil in suppressed excitement.

McCorquodale nodded. By good fortune President Wade had just returned to the city and to him the detective at once reported the full circumstances. The Chief had been greatly interested and after congratulating McCorquodale on his discretion had despatched him back to the hotel with instructions to shadow Weiler no matter where the trail led. It was then that McCorquodale had learned of an expedition that was being planned by the bootlegging gang the railroad was anxious to locate, and got concrete evidence that Weiler was the Eastern agent of the whisky runners. The leader was a notorious character named Red McIvor and this man had arranged to meet Weiler at a rendezvous near Indian Creek.

Cranston and McCorquodale had held a consultation with Wade and it was decided that Cranston would watch things at the Toronto end while McCorquodale was sent out to follow developments at Indian Creek. McCorquodale had told Mr. Wade what Kendrick had suggested to him at Sparrow Lake that the two of them work together on this bootlegging case, and the railroad president had then mentioned Phil’s letter and his whereabouts and told McCorquodale to make for Thorlakson Siding and pass on instructions.

Weiler bought a ticket for North Bay. There he had hung around for a day, apparently waiting for somebody. At last three more fellows had come in on a train. Weiler met them at the station and the whole party took the train west that night, with McCorquodale trailing along. Their destination was Indian Creek and on arrival they unloaded from the express-car a Peterborough canoe, a tent and a lot of supplies. As soon as the train pulled out they got ready for a trip into the woods. Down on the riverbank, a few hundred rods through the bush back of the station, a half-breed guide was waiting for them. He had a big birch-bark canoe and the five of them began to hustle their belongings off the platform.

McCorquodale was forced to keep in the background until they had gone and he was afraid that he would lose them. He questioned the Station Agent closely; but that official could tell him nothing about the strangers except that they said they were part of a geological expedition for the Government, heading towards Port Nelson on James’ Bay. McCorquodale pretended to accept this information at face value; but if those “birds” knew anything about any “ology” except boozeology he was prepared to swallow his suspenders, buckles and all. Included in their “supplies” were several cases of liquor; McCorquodale knew a case of liquor when he saw it, no matter if it was wrapped in canvas and covered with misleading labels.

It had taken him a little while to locate a canoe that he could hire together with a camping outfit; but finally he had started on the trail once more. He had overhauled them about fifteen miles back from the railroad where Indian Creek and Wolverine River joined waters. From there he had followed them up stream for a few miles, keeping his distance, till they came to a portage where the entire party disembarked. Instead of making the portage to a point farther up, they had gone into camp at what appeared to be an old lumber camp that had not been in use for a couple of seasons. It looked as if they intended to stay there for a while.

“I know that deserted lumber camp,” Phil nodded.

“Well, that’s where I comes from just now an’ that’s where we both makes for as soon’s we rustles a bite o’ grub,” concluded McCorquodale. “I hikes down here special to get you soon’s I’m sure them guys is anchored. Say, that there Wolverine’s some river, aint it? I got my canoe back here a ways.”

“Cork, are you quite sure that this bunch is the gang Wade’s after? Supposing they turn out to be a fishing party or something?”

“Fishin’ party me neck!” scoffed McCorquodale. “With all them cases o’ the real McKay?”

“Fishing is often a thirsty business for more than the fish. Anyway, you don’t know for sure that it’s booze

“Don’t, eh? They starts in on it las’ night an’ some of ’em was lit up like a corner saloon, I tell you. Didn’t I see ’em an’ didn’t I hear ‘em? Great snakes! they kep’ me awake with their shouts an’ singin’ las’ night fer hours an’ I’m campin’ a good loud holler away from their hangout at that. I crep’ down clost to find out what they was celebratin’ an’ I hears ’em gabbin’, see. The gang aint all there yet. They’re waitin’ fer the Main Squeeze this here Red McIvor I was tellin’ you about. I hears ’em mention his name, see, an’ besides Weiler’s there an’

“You win,” conceded Phil. “Whisky traders, eh? Heading in to peddle the stuff to the Indians and around the camps.” He smoked thoughtfully.

“If they keeps on lappin’ it up the way they’s doin’ las’ night they aint goin’ to do much tradin’ in anythin’ but headaches. Say, what about this here bundle o’ phoney hid in a hollow stump? Wade was tellin’ me you’s up here lookin’ after it. Cranston was wonderin’ if Weiler’d got a line on it an’ mebbe that had somethin’ to do with the gang comin’ together in this neighborhood. Did you find it?”

“No, it was gone. I’m pretty certain that Podmore was after it and got here ahead of everybody. Thorlakson hasn’t noticed anybody hanging around. It dosn’t matter. Did Mr. Wade say anything to you about young Stiles having disappeared? Miss Lawson is greatly worried over the last part of the Chief’s message.” He passed it across as he spoke.

McCorquodale grinned.

“Leave it to me, ‘bo. Jimmy Stiles is the young gaffer I’s trailin’ that afternoon with that tan satchel from the Alderson Construction Company’s office. No, the Chief didn’t say anythin’ to me ’bout him; but I knows where he is.”

“You do?”

“Sure Mike! An’ I proceeds to dry them tears the Queen’s sheddin’ by informin’ her that the kid’s within a few miles of her right now.”

“What? You mean he’s

“Yep. They got him prisoner back here at the lumber camp. He was one o’ the three what Weiler met at North Bay an’ it didn’t take me long to tumble to the way they was watchin’ him close. I slips him a note las’ night that friends was near an’ to be on the lookout f’r us. We’re goin’ to rescue the kid, see. He’ll be our star witness.”

“Well, what next!” gasped the astonished Kendrick. He stared at the detective. “You’re not joking? If so, your levity is decidedly ill-timed.”

“Yeah,” agreed McCorquodale doubtfully. “Uh-hunh. On’y I don’t happen to be wavin’ no wand an’ floatin’ horizontal in the air, see. I’m handin’ it to you straight up an’ down. Stiles is there an’ we gotta get him away from those guys. As f’r any jokin’ ” He drew out his police automatic and patted it significantly. “This gun cracks ten jokes without stoppin’, see, if there’s any funny work goin’ on.”

Phil’s surprise at the turn events were taking was only equalled by the excitement with which Cristy Lawson received the news when presently she was called outside and introduced to the C.L.S. detective. She listened eagerly, interjecting a rapid question now and then as if her mind were racing beyond the facts of the recital to a logical solution of the mystery not apparent to the others. She nodded her head once or twice and laughed a little. When McCorquodale had recounted everything that he had observed she was silent for a moment, head bent in thought.

“How soon are you going back to the camp?” she asked at last.

“As soon as Mrs. Thorlakson will give us something to eat,” replied Phil.

“Good. I’m ready.”

“But You don’t understand,” objected Phil. “We can’t take you along, Miss Lawson. It wouldn’t be

“Of course you can. I certainly am going with you.”

“Impossible! Your injured foot

“Nonsense, it’s all right now. I’m going with you,” she repeated. “There are reasons why I must go; so please don’t argue about it.”

“But that’s exactly what I intend to do,” declared Kendrick decidedly. He shook his head. “There isn’t room in the canoe in the first place and besides there’s liable to be trouble. Isn’t that so, McCorquodale?”

“Mr. Kendrick, as the representative of the Recorder it is absolutely necessary

“I’m sorry, Miss Lawson; but I refuse to take the responsibility.”

“I’ll assume all risk, Mr. Kendrick.”

“You would be in our way, to be frank. We’ll be bringing Stiles back here with us and you can wait till we come.”

Almost tearfully she appealed to the detective to that worthy’s evident embarrassment. Cap in hand, he made a profound and formal bow in an attempt to be diplomatic.

“Pardon me, lady, but you’re crazy!” he stated politely. “Crazy as a bed-bug! It can’t be did!”