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CHAPTER XVIII


DICK AND SAM BECOME PRISONERS


"Do you really think those are counterfeit, Dick?" gasped Sam.

"More than likely. Don't you remember the machinery? That printing press——"

"Yes, yes! It's as clear as day. This must be a regular den, and Sack Todd——"

Sam got no further, for, at that moment, he felt himself seized from behind. A pair of strong arms were thrown around him, so that he could scarcely budge.

Dick was attacked in a similar fashion, and, though both of the Rovers struggled desperately, they found that their assailants had the advantage.

"Caught you good and proper, didn't we?" came in the voice of Sack Todd.

"Let me go!" cried Dick.

"Not much, young man. Have you got the other one, Jimson?"

"I have," answered the second man, a fellow with a long nose. "And he won't get away in a hurry, I'm thinking."

"We had better take 'em inside," went on Sack Todd.

"Just as you say," answered Andy Jirason. "I reckon you boys remember me," he went on with a grin.

"You are the man who was on that lumber raft that came near running down our houseboat," said Dick.

"Struck it, fust clip. Didn't expect to meet me ag'in, did ye?"

"I did not."

"Wanted to shoot me, didn't ye?"

"Didn't you deserve it?" asked Sam boldly. "You came mighty close to sinking us."

"Oh, that was only a bit of fun on the part o' the feller who owned the raft. He knew what he was doin'. But I reckon you didn't know what you were doin' when you spied on Sack and his outfit," continued the long-nosed man sarcastically.

"They'll know what they were doing before I am through with 'em," said the owner of Red Rock ranch.

"What are you going to do with us?" demanded Dick.

"That remains to be seen."

"You had better let us go."

At this, Sack Todd set up a laugh of derision.

"You'll not leave here yet awhile, young man. I heard what you and your friend said just before we closed in on you. Do you suppose I am going to let you get out and blab about what you have discovered?"

His harsh tone made both Dick and Sam shiver. They felt that they were dealing with a hardened criminal and, most likely, one who would stop at nothing in order to attain his object.

"I must say it was a fool move to let that money lay around loose," was Andy Jimson's comment, and he nodded toward the piles of bank bills.

"One of the men just brought them up, and I hadn't time to put them away," explained the owner of the ranch. "Besides, I didn't think there were spies around."

"Maybe there are more of them, Sack."

"That's so!" ejaculated Sack Todd. He turned to the boys: "Have you any friends near?"

"That is for you to find out," answered Dick. "You can be sure of one thing, though," he added. "If you don't let us go, you will get into serious trouble."

"There was a big crowd of 'em on that houseboat," put in Jimson.

"I know there was a crowd—I met 'em some days ago. We'll march these off and then look around and see if there are others," continued the owner of Red Rock ranch.

As it would have been useless to struggle, the boys did not attempt to get away. Both Sack Todd and Jimson were heavily armed, and Dick and Sam felt that they would shoot upon the slightest provocation.

The owner of the ranch uttered a shrill whistle, and in a moment two men came running out of the dining-room of the ranch. Each carried a gun.

"What's wanted, boss?" they asked.

"We have captured two spies," answered Sack Todd.

"Spies!"

"Yes. We want you to place them down below and then come and follow us. We are going to see if there are any more of them around."

The two men placed their guns over their backs and took hold of Sam and Dick.

"Don't let them slip you," added the owner of the ranch. "I reckon they're a pretty slick pair."

"They shan't slip us; eh, Spud?"

"Nary a slip, Scutty," returned the second newcomer.

"Then you don't intend to let us go?" asked Dick.

"No."

"This is a high-handed proceeding."

"Is it? Well, down here, we sometimes take the law into our own hands," chuckled the owner of Red Rock ranch.

"Then, if the law ever gets hold of you, it will go so much harder with you," said Sam.

"Bah! Do you suppose I am going to argue with a kid like you?" growled Sack Todd. "Take 'em below," he said, turning to his men.

There was no help for it, as others were coming to the scene. As the boys marched into the ranch, they came face to face with Dan Baxter.

"Dick Rover!" gasped the bully. "And Sam! What does this mean?"

"So you know these fellows?" said one of the men.

"Of course I do. I was telling Sack Todd about them. I used to go to school with them. What are they doing here?"

"The boss and Jimson found them spying around the place."

"Oh, I see." Dan Baxter grinned. "So you've got yourselves in a nice pickle, eh?"

"Baxter, have you joined this crowd?" asked Dick.

The bully started.

"Why—that's my business," he stammered.

"Perhaps it is, but you might be in something better," put in Sam.

"Oh, you needn't preach to me!"

"Don't you know that these men are counterfeiters?" added Dick.

"You had better shut up, kid," put in one of the men. "You are in our power, and the less you say, the better off you'll be, see?"

"I have spoken nothing but the truth."

"That may be so, too; but folks don't always like to hear the truth."

"What are you going to do with them?" questioned Dan Baxter curiously.

"Put them in a place we have ready for just euch skunks."

"Prisoners?"

"Sure."

"Down below?"

"That's it."

Dan Baxter grinned to himself, and then leered at Sam and Dick.

"You won't like that. It's pretty musty underground, and wet, too."

"I'd rather go there than do what you have done, Baxter," answered Dick.

"What have I done?"

"You have joined these law-breakers; you need not deny it."

"Humph!"

"You may think it smart, but some day you'll rue it."

"I don't think so. As it is, the law and I are not very good friends," and Dan Baxter laughed harshly.

"I can't listen to your talk all night," put in one of the men. "March!" the latter word to the prisoners.

They had been disarmed, so there was no help for it, and they walked through the ranch to where there was a big trap-door in the floor. This was raised up, disclosing a flight of wooden steps.

"Down you go!" was the next order.

They went down, side by side, to find themselves in a narrow cellar. At a distance, they made out a light, coming from the crack of a door. A lantern was lit, and they were ordered to a passageway at the end of the cellar. Beyond was something of a cell, built of stone and heavy timbers, with a thick door that was bolted and locked.

"In you go," said one of the men, shoving Dick forward.

"Is this where you intend to keep us?"

"Yes."

"For how long?"

"That is for the boss to decide."

"It's a wretched place," said Sam, looking around. "It isn't fit for a dog to stay in."

"That's not my fault. You brought this on yourself," said the man.

"When a kid takes it on himself to play the spy, he must take what comes," said the other man as he shoved Sam in behind his brother.

The cell was foul-smelling and damp, and both of the boys shivered as they looked around them.

"Will you leave us a light?" asked the youngest Rover.

"We'll leave you nothing," said one of the men as he bolted and locked the heavy door. "Come on, now," he added to his companion. "The boss will be wondering what is keeping us so long."

A moment later the two men walked off, leaving poor Sam and Dick prisoners in the dark, underground cell.