Chapter IX. About the Third Suspect.
 

Nestor laughed at the puzzled boy's exclamation and sat for some time looking down on the dim camp-fire near the tents he had visited a short time before. The night was cloudless, with a slight wind blowing from the west. Now and then the sound of hoarse voices came from the peaks above.

"The Mexican knocked off his heel there," he finally said, "and Scoby left his coat-button. They might just as well have left their cards in the papers they examined."

"What papers were they?"

"The Tolford estate papers."

"Yes, of course. The Mexican wanted to know something about the buried mine," Frank said. "We're getting at the motive now."

"Now, this third visitor," Nestor went on, "as I have said, went there on business--on business connected with a contract for the purchase of firearms and ammunition. Mr. Cameron undoubtedly opened the door to admit him after he had locked himself in. The door might not have been locked again that night, but that is immaterial at present. This third man, whom we may as well call Don Miguel, the diplomat, was not in the building when I got there. The others were."

"Then why didn't you have them both pinched?" demanded Frank.

"Partly because they were in the building," was the reply. "If they had been possessed of guilty consciences, they would have run away. At least, it looks that way to me. You see, this Don Miguel might have struck the blow and left the offices open and at the mercy of the others. Now you see how useless it is to draw hasty conclusions."

"That's so. He might," Frank admitted.

"No trouble to get Scoby, anyway," said Nestor. "He is asleep in that tent, and here are more exhibits in the case--another Grand Army button and another raveling. I cut them from Scoby's coat as he lay asleep over there."

"You never had the nerve to go into the tent?" asked Frank.

"They are all asleep," was the reply, "so I ran no risk in going in, and it was easy to crawl under the canvas. The Mexican we had been talking about--Felix, Jimmie calls him--is also there, with six or seven rough-looking fellows, probably miners. It is easy to imagine what they are here for."

"They got the description out of the safe, and are going to the mine," exclaimed Frank. "I believe they attacked Mr. Cameron in order to get the description. The man you call Don Miguel would have no motive in attacking him, would he?"

"We'll see about that later on," was the reply. "So far as I can see through it, the case stands as it did before, with three men in the suspect row."

"Gather them in, then," advised Frank. "Send for the soldiers and have these two pinched. Then go to New York, or wherever this third man is, and have him pinched, too. That will clear the atmosphere a little."

"I have an idea," Nestor said, "that this Felix went to New York on purpose to get the mine paper, or a copy of it. He probably had a description of his own, which would not take him to the mine, and went to the Cameron building hoping that he could get the one in the estate papers, and that the two of them, his own and the other, would enable him to reach his goal." "I reckon you have that right," Frank said, "and he got Scoby to work with him."

"I'm going to let him go ahead with his search," the patrol leader said. "He may show the way to the mine. Anyway, it is a chance worth taking. Otherwise, I might, as you advise, arrest him and the watchman with him. But here, again, this third suspect intervenes."

"You appear to think a lot of this third man," grinned Frank.

"Naturally," Nestor replied, "since he is the man who brought me to Mexico."

"You're getting to be a puzzle," exclaimed Frank. "I thought the safety of Fremont was the main thing, with the mine a close second."

"I might have hidden Fremont in New York, and the mine matter could have waited."

"Is this Don Miguel here?"

"He is expected here. I came down to meet him."

"Hope you'll know him when he comes."

"There will be no trouble about that," was the reply. "I know about how the fellow looks. And I rather think he will recognize me."

"He may see you first," suggested Frank.

"If he does, I probably won't see him at all. Well, I must take chances on that. I thought this might be his camp when I came down here."

"What is he coming here for?"

"To kick up a row."

"And is he going to succeed in doing it?"

"That is more than I can say at present."

"I wish you wouldn't be so mysterious," cried the boy. "You've told me all about the other two, why not tell me about this one?"

"There are international reasons," was the grave reply.

"Oh!" exclaimed Frank. "That's why you're hand-in-glove with the army, and why you're in the code row. Say, but you've told me all about how the others were identified as having been in the Cameron suite, now tell me something about this Don Miguel, if you can. Has he got a short leg, or a withered hand, or a long shoe heel? Go on and tell me how he looks and acts, if you can."

"Well, he's a dusky, slender fellow," Nestor laughed, "and shows culture and education. He dined at a lobster palace that night and wore evening clothes. He went directly to the Cameron building from the restaurant, using a taxicab and speaking both French and Spanish, as well as English, to the driver. He is a good dresser, and ordinarily a discreet man, yet he left a schedule of firearms in the Cameron suite when he left. He should have taken that with him."

Frank eyed his companion curiously, his face eager in the moonlight, his right hand rubbing his forehead, as if trying to scour away the cobwebs.

"Quit your kidding," he said.

"It is only a question of observation and inquiry," laughed Nestor. "There is no Sherlock Holmes business about it."

"And you think this man in evening dress will come down here and mix with these ragged bums?"

"I think he will come down here," was the reply.

Frank watched the small camp-fire below, just touching with red light the tents Nestor had so successfully entered a short time before. The logic of the case seemed to be sound enough. Any one of the three men might have committed the crime with which Fremont was charged.

Two of the three were sleeping in that tent, while the third one was expected. What connection could there be between the man in evening dress and the sullen Scoby and the villainous Felix? What significance could there be in the schedule of firearms he had left in the suite?

How were the attack on Cameron, the matter of the hidden mine, and the matter of international importance associated together? These questions and many others presented themselves to the boy as he watched the fire die out and waited for Nestor to go on.

"This third man is a diplomat, is he?" he finally asked. "Does that mean that he is in the diplomatic service of some government, and that he is acting here in that capacity?"

"Something like that," was the reply, "though it might be difficult to get any government to father the mission he is really on. He claims, I understand, to be acting for a junta. At least, he has not brought any government into the affair so far, that I know of."

"Well, what does he want?"

"His benevolent purpose is to bring on a war between Mexico and the United States," was the astonishing reply.

"I don't think he's next to his job as a statesman, then," observed Frank, "unless he wants to see Mexico cleaned out."

"However that may be, he believes that a raid on Texas soil from this side of the river would provoke our government to an invasion, as it probably would."

"I should hope so."

"And he believes, too, that in such an emergency the Mexican federals and insurrectos would join hands in fighting the common enemy."

"That is quite likely. He's got that figured out in good form," laughed Frank. "I guess he isn't such a dub, after all."

"He is probably right in the supposition that such a war would stop the fighting over here--that is, the fighting as it is now going on. He seeks peace in his own land at the risk of a war with our country."

"Then he ought to be shot," declared the boy.

"He was negotiating with Mr. Cameron for the purchase of firearms and ammunition," Nestor went on. "His people haven't got the guns, and Mr. Cameron dealt in them."

"I see. Go on--faster," cried the excited boy.

"He went to the office that night hoping to convince Mr. Cameron that he ought to sell him the arms he wanted. He doubtless expected to leave the office with a signed contract for what he wanted--arms and ammunition enough to make the proposed raid at least formidable. He failed. Mr. Cameron would not sell the arms, knowing that they were to be used against his own country."

"Good boy! Hope he gets well."

"Then this diplomat probably asked for the correspondence which had been carried on between the two men. He doubtless feared that Mr. Cameron would reveal the plot to the government, as he would have done."

"Say," cried Frank, "this is getting pretty swift."

"It has been swift from the start," replied the other.

"Did this diplomat get the arms of some one else?" asked the boy, presently.

"I don't know, but it is believed that he did."

"And is coming here with them?"

"Unless they are stopped at the border."

"Then," Frank said, soberly, "I know what all these men are gathering here for. I know what they are waiting for--guns."

"I'm afraid you are right."

"Does the War department know?"

"Certainly."

"You found out about it and told Washington by wire?"

Frank reached forward and seized Nestor's hand and shook it as if he expected to keep it in his grasp forever.

"I know you did," he said. "You needn't say a word."

"The War department has the letters," said Nestor, "the letters the diplomat did not secure from Mr. Cameron. I don't know why he did not get them, I'm sure. They were in a drawer of the big desk. It is quite probable, however, that he was frightened away, as the others were. That must have been quite early in the evening, and who it was that scared him away is what is puzzling me."