AS the shot rang out, Jimmy Basset jumped into the air, then stood staring at his arm that dripped blood. A voice struck on the silence—a voice from the edge of the trees.
“All right, boys—hands up all around! Sheriff Fulsom talking, and two guns to talk with. First man moves gets a bullet in the leg.”
That crisp, businesslike voice bit into their drunken senses like acid. Hardrock lay where they dropped him. Sheriff Fulsom stepped forward into the circle of light, a pistol in each hand, and not one of the islanders moved, after reaching upward.
“Cut loose that man Hardrock and do it durned quick. He's a Deputy Sheriff of this county, if ye want to know who he is. Cut him loose, Willy John. Move sharp.”
One of the men stooped and fumbled with Hardrock's bonds. They were all struck silent and were held in a stupefaction of dismay and consternation by the appearance of Fulsom, whom they all knew. A sudden and terrible sanity crept upon them.
“You boys are shoving a good thing too far,” continued Fulsom. “Hardrock and me got them murderers, and then they jumped us, Lucky I aint as soft in the head as I look to be, for a fact! Took me quite a spell to get ashore and come back here, at that. H'are ye, Hardrock?”
“All right,” said the latter, getting to his feet.
“You done some swift action gettin' out of that fire, sure enough! Here, take a gun and stretch yourself. All right, boys, put your hands down. I'm doin' the talking for a spell—remember that. What's the matter with Hughie Dunlevy?”
“I knocked him out,” and Hardrock chuckled. “Connie got knifed by one of these Greeks—badly slashed, I think.”
“All right, Connie, you go climb aboard that there launch, and do it quick—no talk! Jimmy Basset, go with him. We'll 'tend to your arm quick enough; long's you can move your hand it-aint broke. Git!”
The two men, dazed, obeyed the order and stumbled toward the boat at the shore. Fulsom looked at the other three, grimly enough.
“Now, I want you three boys for deputies. We got to take this whisky boat over to Charlevoix and lock up these birds. Hardrock, got any information to spill?”
The man from Arizona briefly recounted what Marks had told him about the murder by the Greeks. Fulsom comprehended at once, and nodded.
“All right. Willy John, I s'pose you snuck up here in a boat and left her laying down the shore?”
“Yes,” said Willy John, rather sheepishly. “She's down to Belmore Bay.”
“All right. You three deputies take the pris'ners and get aboard. I'll rustle up some handcuffs, if you rascals aint lost 'em. Hardrock, get aboard likewise.”
Hardrock smiled. “Sorry, Sheriff. Can't be done.”
“Eh?” Fulsom eyed him sharply. “We got to have your evidence—”
“You'll get it. I'll come over on the mailboat tomorrow.” Hardrock motioned to the figure of Hughie Dunlevy. “I've got a little business to settle with this chap, first—I may have to convince him a little more that I'm the better man. Then we'll have to get his launch and Micky's boat back to St. James. And I have a very important errand there.”
“Oh!” Fulsom broke into a grin. “Oh! So that's it, eh? That Callahan girl, eh? Dog-gone you, Hardrock, here's luck to you! See you later, then.”
He went for his handcuffs. Hardrock looked down at the slowly wakening Hughie Dunlevy.
“Looks like that textbook for engineers is never going to get written!” he murmured. “Sure looks that way. I've got to convince this fellow, then I've got to convince Matt Big Mary that I'm a good man to marry his daughter, and then I've got to convince the daughter of the same thing—but, I guess an Arizona Callahan can do it, by gosh!”
And he grinned happily.