“Illanipi! Illanipi!” called out two boys as they rode into the Apache camp. The native rushed to his friends.
“Aaron! Jim! What’s wrong?”
Jim reigned in his horse before blurting out, “Dad’s gone missing with the safe!”
“There was a train coming in with some money for the bank, and quite a bit from what we could gather from our dad. He met up with the train at St. Louis so he could escort the money back to Amarillo. The two of us, the sheriff, and a couple of deputies were waiting at the station for it to arrive. Well, the train pulled in a few minutes ago, but both Dad and the safe with the money are gone!” explained Aaron quickly.
“The sheriff and those deputies have already gone to look, but we need your help, Illanipi, you’re one of the best trackers. We’ll be able to find Dad and the money faster with your help.”
“That is, if you’ll help us,” stated Aaron.
“Please help us!” exclaimed Jim.
“Hancocks, what is going on?” asked an older native as he came around the corner. Aaron and Jim quickly explained.
“Father, may I go with them?”
Illanipi’s father nodded, “Yes, you must go with them. I will gather a few braves and will join you later.”
“Thank you, Chief Kuruk!” Aaron stated gratefully as Illanipi quickly saddled his horse. The three quickly took off, heading straight to the train tracks.
“Where was your father last seen?”
“At Oklahoma City, so this had to have happened between here and there,” pointed out Aaron.
“That’s where the sheriff and his deputies are starting their search, at Oklahoma City. We figured on going backwards, starting at Amarillo,” stated Jim.
“And meet them in the middle, if that’s where it happened,” Illanipi stated.
Illanipi nodded, “Right, I’ll go as quickly as I can.”
“Thank you,” smiled Aaron. The three teens rode on as quickly as they could towards the train tracks and followed it a ways until they came to the Amarillo station. They showed Illanipi the car in which their father and the money were riding. A good decision, as they quickly found out, as Illanipi noticed something.
“What’s this?” he asked, picking up a piece of cloth.
“That looks like a piece of Dad’s favorite bandanna!” blurted Jim.
“It sure does,” mumbled Aaron softly.
“Can you get a trail from that?” asked Jim hopefully.
Illanipi glanced between the brothers, “I’m not sure, it’s possible. All this tells me right now is that your father had to have been knocked unconscious and pushed out this door.”
“From a train going about fifty miles an hour?” exclaimed Aaron.
“That could almost kill him!” exclaimed Jim.
“What if it did?” Illanipi muttered softly.
Aaron shook his head, “No, they couldn’t, Dad is the only one who knows the combination lock on it. If they wanted to get to that money, they’d have to take him along and figure out some way of getting him to talk.”
“Then they timed it for when the train would slow down, perhaps right as they neared the station,” suggested Illanipi.
Aaron shook his head, “No, someone would have noticed for sure, we would have noticed for sure.”
“But that’s the only time a train would slow down, would it not?”
“Trains slow down for turns,” stated Jim slowly.
“And there are a few turns between here and Oklahoma City.”
“Then let us head for the first turn with haste, perhaps we may find more clues.” The three quickly mounted their horses and raced off towards the first turn in the railroad tracks. Illanipi was able to tell almost instantly that nothing had happened at this turn, and the trio took off for the next turn. Again, nothing, and the trio raced towards the next turn. This time they were met with success.
“Ah, yes, a large box was rolled down the hill here, followed by a few men and someone unconscious,” reported Illanipi.
“How can you tell?” asked Jim as he peered over the native’s shoulder.
“See the way the grass is bent? The box came out here, the grass is practically flattened under the heavy weight and the men and your father came out here, the grass is bent differently. Can you see it?”
“Why yes, I can! We wouldn’t have noticed it if it hadn’t been for you!” exclaimed Jim.
“Where does the trail lead from here?” asked Aaron as Illanipi began to peer again at the ground.
“I see why they chose this turn,” muttered Illanipi as he led the two towards a small grove of trees. “A wagon could be well hid here.”
“Oh, wait; this is where the wagon left marks with its wheels!”
“Good eye, Jim! Soon, you will become a great tracker like me!”
“I don’t think I’ll ever be as good as you, Elan.”
“With practice, you can.”
“Well, now all we have to do is follow those wagon wheels, and hope your father and the sheriff can get here quickly enough to help us,” stated Aaron.
“And to keep you from getting captured by them, your father will do anything to keep you two safe.”
Aaron nodded, “Right, we should proceed with caution. Don’t make any moves without my say-so, alright, Jim?”
“Alright,” sighed Jim before urging his horse into an easy gallop. Illanipi quickly rode ahead, keeping an eye on the wheel tracks, Aaron and Jim close behind. The three slowed down as they came within sight of an old house hidden on the other side of the hill, but no one could be seen, and the wagon was in clear view.
“Let’s hitch our horses here and continue on foot, we don’t know if anyone’s watching from the windows.”
“If they were, they would have seen us by now,” mumbled Jim as they dismounted their horses. The three followed Illanipi’s lead as they skirted the hill and crawled between the brushes.
“I hope Father and the other braves would get here quickly,” mumbled Illanipi.
“I hope the sheriff and his deputies get here quickly,” mumbled Aaron.
“Well, seeing as they aren’t . . .”
“Jim,” warned Aaron.
“What? We can’t just sit here and let them do whatever they want to dad and possibly get away with the money!”
“We also can’t go barging in and get ourselves captured! We’d practically be giving them what they want! You know dad would do anything if we were in danger.”
“Then perhaps we do this differently?” The brothers glanced at their friend in surprise.
“What have you got in mind, Illanipi?” The native merely grinned as he began to lay out his plan. The three crawled up on the house; the voices coming from the house were getting louder. They were trying to get Mr. Hancock to reveal to them the combination, or at least put in the combination so that they could get the money. But Mr. Hancock would adamantly refuse, knowing full well that they couldn’t kill him because they needed that combination, the boys figuring he was holding out for help to arrive. Well, help had arrived, but the boys had to be careful about how they gave it, or they become a help to the crooks instead of Mr. Hancock. Each of the boys bounced a rock in their hands and at a signal from Illanipi, tossed the rocks through the windows and rolled to the side of the house. Shouts from the men were immediately followed by rifle rounds.
“Hold your fire! Hold your fire!” shouted one of the men, clearly the ringleader. The shots ceased and the echoes of gunfire faded into the distance as the men listened for any sounds. With another sign from Illanipi, the boys shot into the window, aiming for the men’s guns. They shot just about every gun out of its hand.
“Hands up!” shouted Aaron as the three finally revealed themselves. Only five men faced them, all with their hands up.
“Boys? We were outsmarted by three boys?” growled one of them incredulously.
“Actually, it was our friend’s idea,” stated Jim, indicating Illanipi. One of the men dove for a gun, but another shot discouraged him.
“I wouldn’t do that, if I were you,” came a voice from behind the boys.
“Sheriff!” Chief Kuruk, the Sheriff, the deputies, and several braves were astride horses behind them, their guns aimed at the crooks.
“Come on out, you’re outnumbered, best surrender now,” ordered the sheriff. The crooks were quickly rounded up and were escorted out by the sheriff and the deputies, while the natives helped the Hancocks release their father and load the safe into the wagon. On the way back to Amarillo, Ranger Hancock told them how the men had gotten on the train at Oklahoma City, and waited till that turn to overpower him and got both him and the safe to the cabin.
“If it hadn’t been for Illanipi, we wouldn’t have been able to find you so quickly!” exclaimed Jim after the boys finished their tale.
“And now we’ve learned a thing or two about tracking,” grinned Aaron.
“Uh-oh, I guess I’d better retire now, Kuruk, they’re learning all my secrets.”
“What do you mean by that?” asked Jim. Hancock and Kuruk just glanced at each other and burst out laughing, leaving the boys to wonder what they were referring to, and if they would ever get in on the joke.