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Page 56

CHAPTER 4 - RANGER RIDING

peaks which now lay behind the ranger, who all day had been riding across the mighty ridge. Now he was coming down to the foothills, with Black Creek lying ahead.
By this time, he reckoned, Jake and Ned must be well on their way to Phoenix, maybe had reached it by now. That was where Bill made a mistake, for his buddies were at the Black Creek Hotel, not so very far away, interesting themselves in strange doings. But Bill didn't know this and wasn't destined to find out for a bit.
He rode on, thinking of his experiences as a ranger. He was only twenty-six but had crowded a great deal into the last few years. They had been good years, years packed with action-and with friendship. Ned and Jake were good buddies, utterly to be trusted, utterly loyal. Bill Rankin thought of them kindly as he pushed through the hills and outcrops. The sun, going down behind the mountains, was not now so hot. A small breeze sprang up, offering relief to rider and pony.
Had any been watching Bill Rankin as he slouched in the saddle now, it would not have seemed possible that this large man riding almost awkwardly, could move fast or think fast. Bill's five-gallon was tipped back on his head, his great shoulders were hunched and he slip-slopped in the saddle. Jake or the dark, half-Indian Ned, however, would not have been deceived, for they knew their Rankin. When it was necessary Bill could shift his huge body fantastically swiftly, abandon on the instant the slackness which it was his habit to adopt when not on the trail. Napoleon, it is said, slept whenever he was not engaged in vital matters ; Bill Rankin of Arizona didn't sleep but he slackened off, resting both mind

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