As Inspector Rodden went on, Mitt saw, through the open door, a tall man in civilian clothes, talking to a police officer. The man wore a circular silver badge and a gun belt. His broad hat and handlebar mustache said he was a Texas Ranger.
When Mitt shook hands with the inspector and walked out of his office, an officer in the common area called, “Mr. Stone?” He approached rapidly. “Ranger Major John Jones would like to talk to you.”
Mitt knew Major Jones by encounter only. It was when the major and his men turned back from pursuit of Sam Bass, and Mitt and his partner continued on, finding the outlaw shot to pieces and dying above Round Rock. Although Jones had his reasons, Mitt’s knowledge of the incident could prove embarrassing to the celebrated lawman. Then, Mitt’s partner, Bell County Deputy Campbell Prophet, undertook to sue the Texas Rangers for the rewards on Bass and his gang. This tough ranger could have no love for Mitt.
“What does he want?” Mitt asked gruffly. “I’m in a hurry.”
The officer looked quizzical. “I don’t think he wants anything. He has some information for you.”
Mitt hesitated and glanced around. “Where is he?”
“Sitting in that room waiting for you and Rodden to get through,” the policeman said, pointing. “I wouldn’t keep him waiting.”
Mitt curled his hat brim and strode to the room. Major Jones had his boots on the desk, his broad hat leaned back on his head. “Come in and have a seat.” He gave no indication that he recognized Mitt.
“How’d do, Major.” Mitt stood, waiting for an introduction.
“You’re the uncle to the girl, is that right?”
Mitt nodded, “That’s right.”
“Where’s her parents?” Jones hadn’t moved from his comfortable position.
“At the hotel by now, I hope. They kinda looked to me to finish up things here. Did you need to see me?”
“Sit down.” Jones pulled his feet from the desk as he pointed to a chair in front. He slid a piece of paper toward Mitt as Mitt eased into the chair. “Here’s what we’ve gathered on a man that might be rapin’ and killin’ women and little girls around Texas.”
Mitt glanced at the paper and stuck out his hand. He would challenge the ranger to shake hands, acknowledge his name, or go to hell, as he pleased. “I’m Mitt Stone, Major Jones, in case they didn’t tell you.”
Jones took his hand briefly. “I know you, Stone. Here’s what you ought to know…” He launched into his speech. Mitt noted that the paper said much the same thing.
“The man is mysterious. Seems to have enough money to travel around the country. Never works. We’re suspicious that he robs or steals, but it may be that he has family money. He shows up at horse races.”
Mitt didn’t dare interrupt the ranger and leaned back. Jones had a stare that would bore steel. Mitt was up to it.
“The name we have is Merlin Journey, although there’s no doubt he uses aliases. He’s kind of short, nice looking, but he can look different each time. He’s got black hair and beard. He can shave or grow his hair and beard to change his appearance.
“The key is the racetracks. Seems he can’t stay away from them. If he turns up there, sooner or later there’s gonna be a missing girl or woman. One thing more, he may enlist in a local church. The marshals caught him one time in Houston. The pastor defended him so strong they let him go.”
Mitt couldn’t figure why Jones was giving this information. He asked, “Are ya’ll workin’ on the case?”
“We can’t put a man on it all the time. If we get word, we’ll follow it. That’s why you ought to know this.” The major’s eyebrows seemed to arch above his constant stare. “You can git so determined to find a dead horse, you ought to find the grit to look for this bastard that killed your niece. Least, that’s why I’m guessing you’re here.”
Mitt smiled and ducked his head. “Well, Major, I hope you’re not still mad at us about that thing out of Round Rock.”
When Jones didn’t respond, Mitt went on. “If it were you, where would you start?”
Jones stroked his long mustache. “I’d go to the busiest horse racetrack in Texas. I’d sit tight in that town for a spell. Look in on the churches. You’re from Bell County, aren’t you?”
“I just moved from there, but they do have a busy racetrack. What about this track in San Antonio?”
“Journey has already worked San Antonio. He’ll move on. Belton is one place he hasn’t hit, to my knowledge.”
The soaring indecisions in Mitt’s head seemed to have landed. He felt anger, hate, and revenge building. He didn’t want to talk to Jones any more, but he would ask one more question. “So, if I find this, this Journey, do I go to the town marshal?”
“No.” Jones didn’t move a whisker.
“Oh, I see. I’d go to the county sheriff. That makes more sense…”
“I’m sorry, Major. Of course, I’d come to the rangers.” These guys have an unbelievable pride, Mitt thought.
Jones nodded slightly. “If he’s still alive after you find him.”