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The Attack On The Road

In an instant Baseball Joe brought the car to a stop.

But in that instant his brain worked like lightning.

Neither he nor Jim was armed. He must temporize. Resistance at the
moment might be fatal. Shooting would result probably in the death of
one or more of the party.

Before he had taken his hand from the wheel, he had formed a plan.

The women had screamed and Jim had jumped to his feet.

"Sit down, Jim," said Joe. "Don't you see they have the drop on us. I
suppose it's money you want?" he went on coolly, addressing the leader
of the gang.

"No," was the unexpected answer. "We're not after money this time. We
want a man named Matson."

"I didn't know I was so popular," replied Joe jokingly, though the
mention of his name in so ominous a way had sent a start through him.
"My name is Matson, Joe Matson. What do you want of me?"

"Are you giving it to us straight?" asked the leader. "Are you Matson?
How many men are there with you anyway?" he went on, peering into the

"There are two of us," replied Joe.

"Then get down in the road, both of you," commanded the bandit. "I want
to have a look at both of you so that there won't be any mistake. My
orders are for the man named Matson. No monkey work now!"

Joe and Jim, inwardly boiling but outwardly cool, got down into the
road. As they climbed down, Joe's hand nudged Jim ever so slightly. Jim
knew what that meant. It meant to make no move until Joe gave the sign.

"Up with your hands!" ordered the leader curtly. "Bill, frisk them and
see if they have guns."

The bandit called Bill ran his hands along their bodies and reported
that they were entirely unarmed.

"Now strike a match and let's have a look at their faces," was the next

Bill obeyed, and as the light flared up, not only the leader but the
rest of the band looked over the young men keenly.

"You're Matson, all right," said the leader to Joe, and the rest
acquiesced. "I've seen your picture in the papers many a time, and I've
seen you at the Polo Grounds too. All right. You get back in the car,"
he said to Jim, poking him in the side with his pistol, "and drive off."

"What do you want with me?" asked Joe steadily.

"Oh, we're not going to kill you," replied the leader, with an evil
grin. "But," he muttered under his breath so low that only Joe could
hear him, "by the time we're through with you, that pitching arm of
yours will be out of business. Them's our orders."

"Who gave you those orders?" asked Joe.

"Never you mind who gave them," snarled the bandit. "I've got them, and
I'm going----"

He never finished the sentence.

Like lightning Joe's foot shot up and kicked the weapon from the
leader's hand. The next instant his fist caught another of the
scoundrels a terrific crack on the jaw. The man went down as though
he had been hit with an axe. At the same moment Jim's hard right fist
smashed into another straight between the eyes. There was the snap of
a breaking bone and the man toppled over. The fourth rascal, who had
been paralyzed with astonishment, forgot to shoot and started to run,
but Jim was on him like a tiger and bore him to the ground, his hands
tightening on his throat until the rascal lay limp and motionless.

In the meantime, the leader, nursing his hurt wrist, had hobbled to the
car, whose engine all this time had remained running. Joe made a dash
for the car, but the chauffeur put on all speed and darted away into
the darkness.

The first task of Joe and Jim was to gather up the weapons of the
assailants. The three still lay dazed or unconscious. Under other
circumstances, the boys would have waited until the trio had regained
their senses. But their first duty now was to the girls, who were half
hysterical with fright. Joe took Mabel in his arms, after assuring her
again and again in answer to her frantic questions that he was unhurt,
and Jim comforted Clara until she had recovered her composure.

They laid the bandits at the side of the road, so that they could not
be run over, and then Joe took the wheel and drove on. To the first
policeman they saw, Joe reported that he had seen some men who seemed
to be hurt, alongside the road, and suggested that they be looked
after. But he said nothing about the attempted holdup. Then he sped on,
and soon they were in the precincts of the city.

The girls in their alarm had failed to gather the true significance
of the affair. To them it was like a confused dream. Their general
impression was that a holdup had been attempted for the purposes of
robbery. Still Mabel did remember that they had asked specifically for

"Why was it that they asked for you especially, Joe?" she asked,
snuggling closely to the arm that had so stoutly done its work that
night. "Why was it?"

"How do I know, honey?" answered Joe. "Perhaps," he said jokingly,
"they had heard of my increase in salary and thought I was rolling in
money. Sometimes you know they kidnap a man, make him sign a check and
then hold him prisoner until they cash it. No knowing what such rascals
may do."

"Whatever it was, they've lost all interest in the matter now," said
Jim, with a laugh, as he thought of the discomfited bandits by the
roadside and the fleeing leader in the automobile.

Both Joe and Jim made light of it to the girls and laughed away their
fears until they had seen them safely to their hotel. But later on two
very sober and wrathful young men sat in their own room discussing the

Joe had told Jim what the bandit leader had said about putting his
pitching arm out of business, and his friend was white with anger.

"The scoundrels!" he ejaculated. "That meant that they would have
twisted your arm until they had snapped the tendons or pulled it from
its socket and crippled you for life. If I'd known that when I had my
hands on that rascal's throat, I'd have choked the life out of him."

"You did enough," returned Joe. "As it is they got a pretty good dose.
I know I cracked the leader's wrist, and I heard a bone snap when you
smashed that other fellow. Gee, Jim, you hit like a pile driver."

"No harder than you did," replied Jim. "That fellow you clipped in the
jaw was dead to the world before he hit the ground."

"After all, those fellows were merely tools," mused Joe thoughtfully.
"Did you hear the leader say that he had his orders? Who gave him
those orders? If only the girls hadn't been there, I'd have trussed
the rascals up, waited until they had got their senses back, and then
put them through the third degree until I'd found out the name of
their employer. But I wouldn't for the world have the girls know what
those scoundrels were up to. They'd never have a happy moment. They'd
worry themselves to death. We've got to keep this thing absolutely to

"All the same, I can guess who the fellow was that employed them," said

"I think I can come pretty near it, too," affirmed Joe. "In the first
place, it was a man who had money. Those fellows wouldn't have taken
the job unless they had been well paid. Then, too, it was somebody
who hated me like poison. There are two men who fulfil both of those
conditions, and their names are----"

"Fleming and Braxton," Jim finished for him.

"Exactly," agreed Joe. "And knowing what I do of the two, I have a
hunch that it was Braxton."

Next: Falling Behind

Previous: An Evening Ride

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