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The Big-Town Round-Up by William MacLeod Raine

Bromfield explained apologetically


"He

won't do, Clay. He's off color." Whitford did a bit of mental acrobatics. "Why do you suppose he took you to Maddock's?"

Again Lindsay's appraising gaze rested on his friend. "I've never worked that out to my satisfaction. It wasn't the kind of place he would be likely to go for pleasure. But I don't think he'd arranged a trap for me, if that's what you mean. It doesn't look reasonable that he would want me killed."

Whitford told him all he knew about the affair. The story told him banished any doubts Clay may have had about a certain step he had begun during the last few minutes to hold in consideration. It did more. It hardened a fugitive impulse to a resolution. Bromfield was fair game for him.

It was a little after eleven o'clock next morning when the cattleman walked into an apartment house for bachelors, took the elevator, and rang the bell at Bromfield's door.

Clarendon, fresh from the hands of his valet, said he was glad to see Lindsay, but did not look it. He offered his guest a choice of liquors and selected for himself a dry martini. Cigars and cigarettes were within reach on a tabouret.

Clay discovered that one difficulty he had expected to meet did not complicate the problem. The valet had left to select the goods for half a dozen custom-made shirts, Bromfield explained apologetically,

apropos of the lack of service. He would not return till late in the afternoon.

"I've come to see about that Bird Cage business, Mr. Bromfield," his visitor explained. "I've been millin' it over in my mind, and I thought I'd put the proposition up to you the way it looks to me."

Bromfield's eyebrows lifted. His face asked with supercilious politeness what the devil business it was of his.

"Mr. Whitford has put in twenty years of his life building up the Bird Cage into a good property. It's a one-man mine. He made it out of a hole in the ground, developed it, expanded it, gave it a market value. He's always protected the stockholders and played the game square with them. Don't it look like he ought to stay in control of it?"

"Did he send you here to tell me that?"

"No, he didn't. But he's gettin' along in years, Bromfield. It don't look hardly right to me for you to step in and throw him out. What do you think about it, yourself?"

The clubman flushed with anger. "I think that it's damned impertinent of you to come here meddling in my business. I might have expected it. You've always been an impertinent meddler."

"Mebbeso," agreed Clay serenely, showing no surprise at this explosion. "But I'm here. And I put a question. Shall I ask it again?"

"No need. I'm going to take what the law allows me--what I and my friends have bought and paid for in the open market. The more it hurts Whitford the better I'll be pleased," answered Bromfield, his manner of cynical indifference swept away by gathering rage. The interference of this "bounder" filled him with a passion of impotent hate.


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