The Trap Thief by Hy S. Watson & Asa Steele
Amateur Sleuth

The Trap Thief

by Hy S. Watson & Asa Steele


“The low-down sneaking thief!” Jack Ramsey’s wrath hissed on his lips as he flung the steel traps to the ground. Of thirty, all but two had been stolen.


Table of Contents
  1. A Deserted Cabin
  2. The Road to Honesdale
  3. A Big, Bang- Up, Classy City Car
  4. He Asked Me To Take Your Traps
  5. A New Camp
  6. Bag of Bones

Chapter 1

A Deserted Cabin

“The low-down sneaking thief!” Jack Ramsey’s wrath hissed on his lips as he flung the steel traps to the ground. Of thirty, all but two had been stolen.

Wrinkles of perplexity seamed his face as he sprawled on a great rock in the wilderness, munched his lunch and stared at a distant hilltop.

Jack Ramsey’s blue-gray eyes did not lack shrewdness. With his tawny hair, long face and lean jaw, they were combined in a type of youth not easily deceived. He concluded that the thief had followed him the night before through brush, fern and swamp and taken each trap as soon as he had moved on to the next one.

But why steal them? The thief had a grudge against him ? He had come from the neighboring town of Honesdale, where he had lost his job in a mill, and was trapping here till he got other work. Being a stranger in the neighborhood, he could have no enemies. Perhaps, his traps had been stolen by a some hobo—

The thought brought Jack upstanding. Tossing the crumbs of his lunch to a scolding squirrel, he set off at a brisk pace northward.

The confidence of his advance proved that no part of this strange place was unfamiliar to him. Yet few domains of equal size set up so many barriers against a close acquaintance. In some distant age a great glacier, crushing and combing the mountains to the north as it advanced, had here found a conqueror in hot sunshine. As the ice field melted, vast masses of granite boulders, pebbles and gravel buried in the frozen depths were cast into hummocks resembling little mountains, or piled in driftways or stacks like playing cards or ears of corn, in indescribable confusion. Thus was formed this utterly barren, haphazard place some five miles square, now honeycombed with swamps or covered, where the rocks permitted, by bush or forest.

Around this land passed modern highways. Aeroplanes soared overhead. Toward it, thriving New Jersey towns were crowding close. Thirty-five miles away, as the crow flies, stood the City Hall of New York, the world’s greatest metropolis. Yet the hardships that must be faced while penetrating this natural fortress caused it to remain almost unknown and shunned by men.

Jack Ramsey recalled having seen, while hunting in previous years, a deserted cabin built by lumbermen on a rocky knoll near the northern end of the wilderness. Here might live the tramps who were helping themselves to his traps. He would call them to time.

His visit to the cabin was one of surprises. From the crooked chimney curled smoke that intrigued his nostrils with odors of sassafras and newly made coffee. Crumbling woodwork had been replaced and the windows reglazed and hung with curtains of snowy whiteness. Flowers were blooming in a border along a wall.

The door was opened by an upstanding, buxom girl, sweet and wholesome as the sunshine that had tanned her cheeks and bare forearms. At sight of him, her eyes brightened.

“A drink of water, please?”

“Sure thing! Bring fresh water, Jimmie.”

The man addressed was sitting in a corner shaping a billet of wood with a hunting knife. When he raised his pale, bearded face Ramsey recognized Jimmie Willets, a half-wit whom he had met in the wilderness.

“Jimmie’s my policeman while Dad’s away,” the girl volunteered. “There’s just my father and me, and for me to be here alone all day while he’s at work —I just couldn’t! Oh! I forgot! I’m Mary Gage—”

“I’m Jack Ramsey, from Honesdale.” While Jimmie Willets brought the water and Jack drank of the cool, sweet draft, the young trapper fell into chat with the girl like an old friend. Jack sensed a warm and gracious womanhood and the invitation of one hungry for companionship, while the girl, with that instinctive wisdom as old as womankind, whetted his interest by urging him to talk about himself.

“It’s a great life I lead here!” he enthused. “Even the winds blow sweet and clean! I can breathe free, dream free and hope free! This is the American’s heritage! It’s his when the mystery of blue distances gets into his heart—”

“My! With all those fine thoughts you should have a more romantic name,” she teased, an appraising common sense behind her laughter. “It makes me think of Buffalo Bill and Leatherstocking, and savage men hunting wild beasts—I have it! Hereafter, I’ll call you ‘Lean Jaw’!” He felt the sting of her raillery as he laughed with her. Yet he would not have had it otherwise, longed for it again.

“Truly, though,” he went on, “in a desert like this you might almost expect to see Indians— Oh! Don’t be frightened. You folks and I are the only people here. I’ve had no company but the skunk, stray mink and what-not that are caught in my traps. Yet I don’t get lonely, do you?”

“Oh, no!”

Was she interested in hunting? Jack thought she might explore the wilderness with him and see his traps.

“Then you’re the man whose traps were stolen?” she asked quickly, as if the words had escaped her unawares.

“You know about that?”

She went to a dresser and took from it five new steel traps, which she flung on a table at Ramsey’s elbow.

“They’re mine!” he cried. “Stolen last night!”

“I found them on the road to Honesdale,” she replied.

“But that’s five miles away! You’ve been down there so early in the day?” “The thief must have dropped them on his way to town.”

Swiftly a veil of mistrust had been drawn between them. He was seeking an answer to his doubts with a look as bold as hers had been a moment since. She turned away, a crimson glow mounting to her temples. In the lengthening silence, Jack had no alternative but to thank the girl and go.

“She’d have no reason to steal my traps,” said Jack to himself as he followed the trail southward. “If she had, she wouldn’t confess it by returning them to me!”

“Blind as a bat!” Mary Gage remarked to Jimmie Willets, as she watched Ramsey go. “He won’t guess our secret till he falls head first into it.”

The story continues … learn the Mary Gage’s secret!

Table of Contents
  1. A Deserted Cabin
  2. The Road to Honesdale
  3. A Big, Bang- Up, Classy City Car
  4. He Asked Me To Take Your Traps
  5. A New Camp
  6. Bag of Bones