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Manly Wade Wellman - Novel 1952 (6 page)

BOOK: Manly Wade Wellman - Novel 1952
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“I
certainly hope so,” Randy confessed honestly.

 

 
        
CHAPTER
SIX

 

 
          
HOBERT
TASMAN AGAIN

 

 
          
There
were no more alarms during the night. Randy was surprised, next morning, to
find that he had slept soundly. He and Jebs ate breakfast with
Sam
Cohill
, and as they went out into the yard they
saw that Willie Dubbin had not come.

 
          
“I
sort of reckoned we wouldn’t see much of Willie today,” observed Jebs. “I can
see it now—Driscoll showing up there to use the phone, and Willie listening to
what went on out here last night. He’d find a dozen things he’d better do on
Mr. Martin’s place instead of here.”

 
          
“Probably
it was a good thing Randy didn’t go over there with
his
story,” grinned Sam. “If Willie heard that tale, he’d be
halfway to
New
York
by now. Well, we don’t need him today.”

 
          
“I
kind of wish I’d gone over with Driscoll,” said Jebs. “If the Martin kid has a
real electric train setup, I want to have a look at it. That’s not as much kid
stuff as you might think; I’ve heard of grown men following it for a hobby.
Want me to help you with the shingling, Randy?”

 
          
“There’s
only a little of it left to do,” said Randy. “You’d better stick to your
water-wheel business with Sam.”

 
          
He
swarmed up the ladder, hammer in hand, then Sam handed up a supply of his
hand-split shingles.

 
          
The
rest of the shingling job did not take too long. Randy shingled both slopes up
to the ridge. Then he sorted out a number of shingles, all about six inches
wide, and marked lines on the last courses, about five inches from the center
line of the ridge.

 
          
The
first shingle nailed on in the final course he cut back square at the
ridge-line with a hatchet, and then cut back the shingle on the opposite side
so as to overlap slightly. The next two shingles he nailed on in reverse order.

 
          
At
mid-morning Jebs climbed up for a brief look at Randy’s work. “Looks fancy,” he
said.

           
“This way there won’t be more than
six continuous inches of crack to let rain trickle in,” Randy explained. “They
call this a
Boston
ridge.”

 
          
“Maybe
it’s a
Boston
stunt, but
it’s
okay down here in the south, too,” approved Jebs, departing. “Come down when
you’re through and see how Sam and I are making out.”

 
          
Driving
the last nail, Randy descended and made his way to the stream.

 
          
Jebs
and the giant had completed their dam. The space between the logs and the lines
of upright stakes had been solidly filled in with earth and stones, well tamped
down with a square-sawed log in Sam’s powerful hands. Behind this sturdy
structure, the water was collecting and slowly rising. At the top, the dam
measured sixteen feet or so, and at one point was whittled out to make a
spillway. Opposite this, Jebs and Sam were installing a sort of rough trough,
made of thick planks nailed together.

 
          
“That’s
our flume,” explained Jebs. “It’s set lower than the level of the spillway, and
when there’s more water than it can accommodate, the spillway will take care of
it. But if the water drops down, it’ll all come to the flume. We want a good
stream here to turn our wheel.”

           
Randy examined the wheel with
admiration. Sam and Jebs had made a complicated sheathlike structure of
well-nailed planks, which was strongly bolted to the fastenings their friend
the metal-worker had provided on the wheel. Completed, it took the form of a
double disk about as large as a wheel of the jeep, and around its rim they had
set a series of compartments, opening outward and sloping inward to tapered
bottoms. A thick coating of fresh drab paint covered the whole affair.

 
          
“Those
are our buckets,” said Sam, indicating the compartments. “The water shoots into
them, and its weight carries each bucket down and brings another into range of
the stream. That flume’s solidly in place now, Jebs. Help me with the final
job.”

 
          
He
picked up the whole assembly of wheel, pulley and axle. It was of considerable
weight, but Sam’s mighty arms lifted the thing easily and lowered it across the
stream, slowly fitting it into position. Jebs stood by to guide one hub, then
the other, into deep, broad notches in a pair of stout posts that had been
driven into the channel, straight against the banks. The wheel finally came to
rest immediately below the lower end of the flume, and Sam shoved powerfully
upon each hub in turn, to wedge it into place.

           
Then he and Jebs began to pound in
spikes to make the fastenings solid.

 
          
“We
want those hubs to hold as if they’d grown into the posts,” Jebs told Randy.
“How
d’you
like the posts? Sam cut a couple of
persimmon-tree chunks for them. That kind of wood takes a right long time to go
to pieces in damp ground.”

 
          
“And
this afternoon we’ll build a sort of doghouse for the power plant to live in,”
added Sam. “A belt runs from the pulley to the plant, and as long as water
runs, so will the electricity.”

 
          
“Won’t
you have to wait a while for the water to build up to where it’ll be of any help?”
asked Randy, peering behind the dam.

 
          
“No,
our water’s on the way,” and Sam’s great forefinger pointed to the fattening
clouds overhead. “Tonight, as I judge, we’ll get a lively little rain. By
tomorrow we can get ready for electrification.”

 
          
Randy
grinned. “Wouldn’t it have been simpler just to hitch it to a gasoline engine?”

 
          
“Sure
enough,” admitted Jebs, “but not as cheap, and nowhere near as much fun to
make.”

 
          
Seizing
a bucket and brush, Jebs began to paint the flume. Randy returned to the house,
picking up broken bits of shingle around the sides. Both his own work, and the
watching of Jebs’ and Sam’s imaginative project, had calmed him down after the
nerve- troubling adventure of the previous night. But disturbing thoughts came
back as he stacked the trash away and headed for the house to wash up for
dinner.

 
          
Again
he remembered his fleeting glimpse of what had looked-like a two-legged spotted
thing. Only a glimpse, a brief one, and in the dark; but he could not forget
it. Jebs had cried out that the creature must be Bugler—hadn’t Mr. Martin told
them that Bugler was a big dog with dark spots on light, coarse hair? And
Bugler was the leader of the prowling pack, or seemed to be.

 
          
The
wild dogs were the subject of discussion at
noon
, over plates of rice and stewed beef.

 
          
“They
retreated on signal,” remembered Randy, buttering a slice of corn bread. “It
was just the way Jebs said—like night maneuvers in the army.” “And those sprung
traps,” added Jebs.

 
          
“Well,
foxes spring traps sometimes,” Sam told them. “Don’t underestimate the minds of
animals. But just supposing a human being was out there with the dogs—just
supposing a man had a reason to lead them against us. Who would it be?”

 
          
“I
haven’t the faintest idea,” said Randy.

           
“And I’m not right purely certain I
want to find out,” Jebs elaborated.

 
          
“If
Randy thinks a human being was there,” insisted Sam, “he ought to make a guess
as to who the human being was.”

 
          
Randy
ate several forkfuls of beef and rice. “Well, gentlemen,” he said at last,
“maybe it’s Willie Dubbin. Maybe he’s pretending to be superstitious, to cover
up his trail.”

 
          
“Not
Willie Dubbin,” objected Jebs scornfully. “He means it when he says he believes
that stuff. He wouldn’t dare come within a country mile of those dogs.”

 
          
“What
about Mr. James Martin?” asked
Randy.
“He seems to
know a lot about the wild dogs.”

 
          
“That
doesn’t make sense,” said Sam. “Anyway, you boys talked to him night before
last, and then came on here to run right into the dogs. He couldn’t have reached
here before you.”

 
          
“Don’t
overlook Hobert Tasman,” said Randy.

 
          
“Tasman’s
as blind as a bat,” objected Sam.
“Blinder, because bats
aren’t really blind.
I doubt if he can tell the difference between light
and dark.”

 
          
“But
he is a right funny-acting scudder,” said Jebs thoughtfully. “Out in the woods
by
himself
.”

           
“Let’s try to check up when we go
over to read to him,” suggested Randy.
“Who else?”

 
          
“Rebel
seems to have a nomination,” observed Sam, as the terrier lifted his head from
his dish and growled crooningly toward the front of the house.

 
          
Then
a voice hailed them from outside. They went to the front door, to find a parked
car in the yard and a sturdy man getting out.

 
          
“I’m
Deputy Sheriff Weaver,” he announced. “I reckon there’s nobody else in these
parts as big as you, Mister, so you must be
Sam
Cohill
.”

 
          
“That’s
right,” said Sam. “Did Driscoll
Jordan
get in touch with you?”

 
          
“He
telephoned the sheriffs office last night, and stayed at Jimmy Martin’s to meet
me and tell me how to get here. He’ll be along after he picks up something he’s
waiting for.”

 
          
“The
ice,” said Sam. “Well, I’ll tell you our problem.”

 
          
Deputy
Sheriff Weaver sat on the doorstep and listened to Sam’s story. Sam did not
mention Randy’s fancy of a dog walking on two legs, nor did Randy volunteer
anything about it. Finally, the deputy shrugged and frowned.

 
          
“It’d
be right hard to put a stop to those hounds without we could be sure of the
right ones,” he said. “The law would have to be certain sure it was cracking
down only on wild dogs and not tame ones.” He gazed at Rebel. “Does this big
fellow of yours run out at night?”

 
          
“Only
now and then, when we put him out,” replied Sam.

 
          
“You
see how I’m fixed, folks. You can sure enough make yourself a sight of trouble
if you bother dogs belonging to people.”

 
          
“What
you say is true,” agreed Sam. “But something has to be done. We had to chase
that pack out of our yard two nights running. Another
night,
and they may start to kill off our pigs and calves.”

 
          
“I
came here organized to do something,” said Deputy Weaver.

 
          
Rising,
he reached into his hip pocket and produced a folded paper. “Here, Mr. Cohill,”
he said. “This is for you.”

 
          
“For me?”
Slowly Sam took the paper in his big hand. “What
is it, a summons?”

 
          
“No,
it’s a commission.
From the sheriff’s office of
Scotland
County
.
My boss knows all about you over in
Laurinburg; he’s got a right much of respect for you. So he’s going to make you
a special deputy.”

BOOK: Manly Wade Wellman - Novel 1952
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