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Page 129

CHAPTER 9 - ROCKY TAKES A HAND

He rode into the hills, hardly aware of his surroundings, not caring where he went so long as he was alone. He had taken precautions and nobody had seen him leave the ranch. He struck deep into the hills, the prey to unhappy thoughts.
Then abruptly he saw Bud Werner, his enemy. The thick-set, heavy boy was silhouetted against the horizon half a mile away, half-way up an outcrop, kneeling on the ground by a boulder. Rocky could see his pony tethered at the foot of the hill.
Rocky pulled in abruptly, dismounted and, under cover, watched. The outcrop was on the edge of one of the Indian Range grazing mesas, where fifty head of cattle grazed.
Bud remained kneeling by the boulder for a few minutes and then rose to his feet. He turned and went back to his pony. Rocky watched him but did not move. Even from that distance he had seen a little of what Bud was doing. He had been examining something at the base of the boulder ; when he rose to his feet he had replaced small stones carefully.
Rocky let Bud go. When he was out of sight the boy moved cautiously to the outcrop. A few minutes later he, too, was by the boulder. Yes, there were small stones at the base. He shifted them aside ... and drew in his breath sharply. Hidden under the stones, but now clearly revealed, were two coils of thin telegraph wire.
Rocky Bruce had lived too long on a ranch not to know what telegraph wire was used for, apart from its primary purpose. It was an old dodge of rustlers to alter the brands which marked cattle belonging to various ranches. Impossible to blot them out altogether as though they had never been imprinted on the hides of beeves, it was possible to change one

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