“You see I knew you were 바알바 escaping from something; I could at any time deliver you to the authorities. But I also know that you are quite intelligent. I have many business interests in Mexico and I need a keen, intelligent agent to attend to them for me. If you fail me, there are always the authorities, remember. If not, you’ll find this work both pleasant and lucrative.

“We are staying out here on account of my wife’s health. Her condition is improved, but149 we still fear a moist climate, and of course I remain with her. Do you accept this work? Will you keep your own counsel, or—” and the cut of a knife was the tone of the man “—shall we return to Albuquerque?”

The first impression of distrust of the man deepened into conviction with O’Hara, but no choice seemed open to him. So with a strange foreboding in his heart and with a sense of toils encircling and strangling him, he accepted the position.

150
CHAPTER XX
THE DESERT BUNGALOW
The sun had set and the brilliant gold and rose of a marvelous desert evening was flooding the sky. Against this flame of color appeared the outlines of a shack or bungalow surrounded by the few outlying buildings. As the automobile rapidly drew nearer, the door was flung back and a woman stepped out to meet them.

Even in the quick glance that he had of her before the automobile stopped, O’Hara realized she was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. Very tall and superbly formed, she carried herself with a hauteur and coldness that instinctively reminded him of the man in the car. Her hair was of a Saxon fairness, and waved back from her forehead in exquisite undulations. As she spoke, her accent too, was more perfect than O’Hara often heard, and her tone was crisp and impatient.

“I thought you would never arrive.” She addressed herself entirely to the driver of the car151 and showed absolutely no curiosity in, or even consciousness of the passenger in the tonneau. “Is there any mail or news whatever, Henry?” The man whom she called Henry handed her a large package of mail. Much of it, O’Hara noticed, bore a foreign postmark. The woman took it without a word and turned languidly into the shack.

O’Hara’s employer stepped out of the car, and motioned him to do likewise. Instantly from the side door of the house a small Japanese slipped quietly out and, entering the car, drove off to a shanty evidently used as a garage.

“Follow Jo and he will direct you to your quarters,” the stranger said, motioning toward the softly disappearing Japanese. “My name is Brown and I shall not need you further this evening.”

He entered the house and in the lighted interior he could be seen bending over the beautiful woman as she sat absorbed with her mail.

O’Hara followed Jo into a large roomy kitchen which composed the entire space of one of the outbuildings. A huge Mexican woman was just taking up the dinner and she gave a low grunt as they entered. Jo motioned to a white enamel152 table set for two, which was placed in a corner underneath a window. O’Hara made mental note that this Brown was evidently expected to bring someone back with him.

He had no time for further thought, for at this point a huge, burly man, with a face like a bulldog entered and sat down at the small table. Another grunt from the Mexican woman somehow made O’Hara understand that his place was opposite the newcomer. So, having noticed a basin and towel just outside the door, he gave himself a good cleaning up and then entered, seating himself opposite his dinner companion.

For several days life for O’Hara went along in a very humdrum way, though always under the surface he could detect the current of unrest. He had a large airy room which he shared with the burly man who was named Tom Whalen. His days were spent in small activities about the place and in caring for the car.

The Jap was in constant attendance on his master or mistress, either serving their meals or assisting at some variety of clerical work at which they seemed constantly occupied. But there was no request for O’Hara’s presence in their cabin, and he could only await their pleasure.

153 Neither the man called Henry Brown nor his beautiful wife had left the place for many days. She seemed content to remain within the huge living room, which, as O’Hara could see through the window, had been decorated with the soft grays and creams of Indian blankets, with here and there a splash of scarlet in a brilliant rug. All about were couches with innumerable pillows, and at every conceivable point a softly shaded lamp was placed. It was an alluring room and when the cool evenings of the desert came upon them, O’Hara often watched from a distance the flames leap and crackle in the broad stone fireplace.

The couple in front of the blaze certainly did not feel the beauty of the spot; they usually sat apart, as indifferent to one another as to their surroundings. The woman always gowned herself as exquisitely for the evening as though in a fashionable hotel. It was evidently second nature to her to always look her best.

O’Hara glanced in as he passed the living room one evening. She was leaning back idly in a reclining chair in front of the fire, her full white throat in startling contrast to the dead black of her evening gown. She had ceased her constant154 figuring and was listening to her companion as he leaned forward talking eagerly, with now and then a quick gasp of emphasis.

The watching man felt a strange sense of foreboding as he saw a cold, cruel smile twist the lips of the woman, and as he caught the quick nervous closing of the fists of the man who was speaking. He paused a moment longer, watching with intentness the peculiar, almost hypnotic loosening and clenching of those hands that rested upon the knees of the man.

Suddenly O’Hara felt a heavy hand on his shoulder and he was jerked away from the window. Turning quickly, he encountered the bulldog person of Tom Whalen.