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The Boy Ranchers on Roaring River by Baker

By the way keep an eye on that Mex cook of yours


"Any more instructions?" Dick asked.

"No--I'll be over to the Shooting Star sometime this afternoon. May bring a friend with me--Larry O'Connor--one sweet shot with a revolver. That is if I think we need him."

"Well, we've got five men all told," Dick declared. "And all of us are fairly used to handling guns. Target practice at tin cans keeps your eye in, and we do lots of that."

"Good idea, if you can afford the money for ammunition. Never know when you'll need to rely on a well-placed shot."

"Are you just going to ride over to the ranch openly?" Bud asked. "Won't someone see you?"

"Even if they do, they won't suspect anything. But to make sure I'll wait until after dark. Guess that would be best. No attempt will be made until well on into the night, and we'll have plenty of time to get set for them."

"Then we'll see you to-night?" inquired Dick as he arose.

"Sure thing! Oh, by the way--keep an eye on that Mex cook of yours, will you? I want him where I can grab him quick if I need him."

"We will. Good-bye until to-night, Mr. Hawkins."

"So-long, boys."

Bud and Dick rode back to the Shooting Star. As soon as possible they told the others of their talk with Hawkins, and of his being a secret service official. Billee Dobb said he "opined as much long ago."

The day dragged on. The boys were all slightly nervous, though they wouldn't admit it. Several times one would catch the other fingering his gun unconsciously. But evening finally came, and while they were eating supper Joe Hawkins arrived. He was alone.

"Thought you were going to bring someone with you?" Bud said when the greetings were over.

"Decided it wasn't necessary. We've got plenty here. Now, boys, are you all set?"

"All set!" the Kid said loudly. "Bring 'em on!"

"They'll come without us bringing them," Hawkins declared a trifle grimly. "Turn that lamp low, Dick, and let's get out of here."

"What about the Mex?" inquired the Kid.

"Bring him along," the agent declared. "Want him where I can keep an eye on him."

In spite of his wordless protests, the cook was dragged out of the kitchen and made to accompany the punchers to a place near the side of the house. And there the six men watched, each with his hand on his gun and with ears strained for the sound of a car. There was a road which ran past the ranch and into the town. It was over this road that the watching men expected the smugglers to come.

And now all settled down to a night of waiting.

CHAPTER XVIII

SMUGGLING OPERATIONS

Hardly a breath of wind stirred. The sky had become partly clouded, blotting out the moon. Now and then a horse whinnied, softly, as though frightened. The waiting men moved about uneasily, talking in whispers. Nine o'clock passed. Then ten came. The air grew chill and damp, and the clouds overhead gathered more thickly.

"Gonna rain," said the Kid in a low voice. "We sure are favorites with the weather man."

"May hold off," Bud observed softly. He moved over to where Hawkins was standing, eyes peering down the road. "What do you think of it?" he asked the agent.


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