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The Boy Ranchers on Roaring River by Baker

Billee Dobb is our official detective

"Say, I was thinking the same thing," Dick put in. "But his graphic explanation as to why he's here seems to be at least plausible. If, as Billee suggested, Delton cut out when he found there was a price on his head it doesn't seem reasonable that he'd bother taking the cook along. How about it, Billee?"

"Ain't makin' no statements," the veteran rancher replied slowly. "Want to think things out a few minutes first."

"Billee's going to solve the great mystery for us!" Nort laughed. "Never you mind, ole horse, you knew your stuff when you grabbed that bill-head from Hawkins's office. The trouble with us was, we were too slow."

The conversation hit on the topics of the night before as the ranchers made a healthy breakfast. When they had satisfied their hunger Bud leaned back in his chair and said:

"Well, what's on the program this morning, Kid? Beckon you better take charge for a while. Then Dick can be head boss, and so on--'til we get the sheep in. O. K.?"

"All right with me, Bud," the Kid agreed. "One of us wants to take a ride into town and see about gettin' hold of a sheep-man. I got to get me a pony, too."

"I'll go," offered Nort. "Think I'll look up Hawkins. He might like to know what happened."

The five walked slowly into the yard. The meal seemed to change their ideas, and set them quietly to thinking. Bud was leaning against the side of the ranch house. The Kid strolled over to the corral and looked longingly at the four horses tethered there. Billee Dobb was seated on the steps smoking his pipe, when he noticed a cloud of dust in the distance.

"Rider," he said, more to himself than to the others. "Got a hunch who it is."

The dust cloud grew quickly nearer, and from it emerged the figure of a man on horseback.

"Someone coming," Dick called.

"Who is it?" Bud asked. From where he stood he was unable to see.

"Don't know yet. Looks familiar, though. Here he comes."

"It's Joe Hawkins!" exclaimed Bud, as the horseman rode into view. "Hi, Joe--Mr. Hawkins, I mean."

"Joe'll do, son," the deputy said with a smile as he dismounted. "Looks like you was havin' a convention here."

"Just thinking things over," the Kid, who had walked up, explained. "Glad you came, Mr. Hawkins."

"Thought that was you," Billee Dobb said, rising to his feet and removing the pipe from his mouth. "Seen you way off, and says to myself, bet that's Joe Hawkins."

"You got good eyes," laughed the deputy.

"Oh, it wasn't exactly my eyes. I had a hunch."

"Billee Dobb is our official detective," Bud said with a grin. "Tell him about the hand-bill you copped, Billee."

Explanations were in order, and with continuous interruptions the deputy finally heard the story of the cyclone and what followed. He questioned the boys as to the appearance and talk of Delton, and at last confessed that he must be the man wanted.

"Though I didn't think they knew just who he was," Hawkins added. "All I knew was that the reward of two thousand was for the head of the smuggling system. So they got him spotted, have they? That means we won't have to work in the dark. It's a wonder the central office wouldn't give a man the whole story when they're about it, instead of lettin' it trickle through. Well, boys, it's time you knew what this smuggling is all about, hey?"

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