He was aware of his ragged ten-day beard and his travel-stained gear against the subdued elegance of this room.
They had told him at the office in Denver that this would be a peculiar case.
He was beginning to understand what they had meant.
The mechanical problems of erecting this magnificent house in the bottom of the most inaccessible canyon of the Yampa badlands hinted strongly that its builder had been an unusual man.
It was not surprising that the circumstances of his reported death had also been unusual — sufficiently so to attract the sharp attention of the claims department of the Mountain Divide Insurance Co.
A door opened and closed beyond the railed balcony across the far end of the living room.
Footfalls clicked lightly and quickly along an interior hall.
A girl appeared on the balcony and descended the stairs.
Rising, Rip waited for her to traverse the length of the room.
She was small, beautifully so, but she moved with sure grace and perfect athletic balance which a girlhood spent in the saddle will give a woman.
Rip was aware of slightly snubbed, piquant features, large and expressive eyes which, he noted, could be provocative, and a figure out of a line rider’s dream.
But these had nothing to do with the business at hand — business in which death was involved at the worst and fraud at the best — and he went no further than automatic appreciation of them.
What caught his attention most strongly and held it were the white lines of internal struggle which chiseled the girl’s face and darkened her eyes.
Grief, he supposed; the obvious conclusion.
A daughter could be close to her father in so remote a place as this.
But it was strong grief.
A grief which had become desperation.
And Rip wondered at it.
Suspicion was a claims man’s second nature.
Communication being what it was between the canyons of the Yampa and distant Denver, it…