小说搜索     点击排行榜   最新入库
首页 » 英文短篇小说 » The Owl Taxi » CHAPTER XIV THROUGH THE STREETS
选择底色: 选择字号:【大】【中】【小】
Greg sped down the incline, made a wide turn into the Drive and headed down-town. As they circled they saw the other cab gathering headway. It had a more powerful engine than Greg's, and was in better condition. It ought to have overtaken Greg easily, but as they straightened out in the Drive it did not do so, but contented itself with maintaining a certain distance. Greg slowed down, and the following cab did likewise. "What's their game?" Greg asked himself a little anxiously.

He rapped on the glass behind him to attract Amy's attention. She opened the door.

"All right back there?" he asked cheerily.

"I—I guess so," was the somewhat shaky reply.

"Let down the front glass and we can talk better."

She did so.

"Have you got the little black book?" he asked eagerly.

"No. I was surprised by his return. I dropped it in the back of the piano."

"No one saw you drop it there,—Bianca?"

"No, it's safe enough; if we can only find a way to get it out again. Where can we go now?"

"To the yard."

"He will follow us there."

"Let him. We have plenty of friends there. He'll get a warm reception."

They passed a policeman standing at the curb who glanced at them casually as they passed. They were not exceeding the speed limit now, or at least not by much. The other cab was a short block behind. Amy, who continually glanced back through the little window, gasped suddenly.

"Oh, they're stopping! ... They're picking him up."

"Who, the policeman?" said Greg. "By God! de Socotra has a nerve!" he added grimly.

"They're coming on again! Oh, faster! faster!"

Greg gave her all she would take. The old flivver roared and rocked down the Drive, and the few pedestrians homeward bound stopped and stared at the phenomenon. Most of the motor traffic was bound in the opposite direction, and on his side of the road Greg had a clear passage. The bright round globes flashed past, the cars they passed seemed to be standing still. Greg prayed that his old tires would support the strain. The flivver had long ago seen her best days, and like an old horse she was scarcely making the speed that the violence of her action would indicate. Thirty miles was about her limit.

Through the little window in the back Amy kept watch on their pursuers. "They're gaining on us!" she said despairingly.

And indeed the bigger car drew up on them with ease, once they let her out. De Socotra was leaning far out of the window urging the driver on. The policeman rode in front. Foot-passengers becoming infected with the excitement of the chase started to run after, but were soon out-distanced. Motor cars bound up-town slowed down, turned and joined in the chase.

The pursuing car little by little drew abreast on the outside of the flivver. The driver pinched Greg into the curb as close as he dared, hoping to force him to stop. No more than a foot separated the running-boards of the two flying vehicles. Amy shrank back into the darkest corner. The water was now boiling furiously out of the radiator of the flivver, and Greg knew she must soon begin to miss and slacken speed. But he held her to it.

The second car was now running wheel to wheel with Greg's, and the policeman leaning out was almost able to put a hand on his shoulder. "Stop, you!" he commanded.

At that moment Greg saw an opening, and he obeyed the order quicker than they looked for. Throwing out his clutch and applying brakes, he let the other car shoot ahead. Turning out behind it, he darted up a side street.

Their pursuers carried on a hundred feet or more had to turn around in the Drive and come back. Cars bound up-town got in their way. Greg might have succeeded in giving them the slip altogether had it not been for the other cars which had taken up the chase out of sheer excitement. These cars were far enough in the rear to follow Greg directly into the side street and to point the way to the policeman when he came up.

Greg twisted and turned to the best of his ability; off the Drive the streets were deserted; into West End Avenue, into another side street, into the Drive again. A whole string of cars was stretched out behind him now. Rarely had the sporty chauffeurs such a chance to defy the speed laws. It was like pandemonium sweeping through those astonished quiet streets. The little flivver was like a mangy fox pursued by a pack of sleek hounds.

Greg's tricks were of no avail. Having lost the advantage of his first turn, he could not shake them off. Meanwhile his radiator had almost boiled dry, and the exhausted flivver was missing badly and ever slowing down.

"No go!" said Greg grimly at last. "I'll only melt down her bearings if I don't stop."

He quietly drew up beside the curb on Riverside.

"Mind you are to say nothing!" Amy swiftly whispered. "You are just a cabman that I happened to pick up!"

"I can't let him carry you back!" Greg protested scowling.

"You must!" she cried with desperate earnestness. "If you don't do what I tell you, you will force me to take his part against you!"

"How can I see you in his power!"

"You needn't fear for me," she said proudly. "He dare not injure me. I am not afraid of him!"

Very unwillingly, Greg gave in.

Their pursuers were upon them. The policeman, de Socotra, Abanez and the fourth man leaped from the second cab and ran up. The policeman laid a heavy hand on Greg's shoulder and drew him to the pavement. De Socotra flung open the door of the flivver. Within twenty seconds it seemed as if a crowd of hundreds had gathered.

"My poor, poor child!" cried de Socotra in a heart-breaking voice. "How could you act so!"

Amy made no reply.

"Don't you know me?"

"I know you," she said quietly.

He drew her gently out of the cab. "Come home with me, dear," he murmured, but not so softly but that the crowd could hear and be impressed. "You'll be all right in the morning. Mamma is waiting for you."

Amy quietly submitted. Greg was boiling inwardly, but he loyally obeyed her command to say nothing.

De Socotra drew Amy's arm tenderly under his own and faced the policeman and the crowd. "She is not herself," he said in a deprecating, appealing voice. "It is a nervous break-down. See how she ran out without hat or coat in such weather. She didn't know what she was doing."

The crowd murmured in respectful sympathy.

De Socotra looked for the cab that had brought him. "Come, dear, let us go home."

"What will I do with this fellow, sir?" asked the policeman. "Don't you want to lay a complaint against him?"

"Oh, I don't think so," said de Socotra, determined to play the kindly gentleman to the end. "I don't suppose he knew what he was doing." Then for the first time he appeared to recognize Greg. "Hello!" he said, "aren't you the man who drove me earlier this evening?"

There was nothing to be gained by denying it. Greg nodded.

"How did you get in on this?" asked De Socotra.

Since he was forced to play the unwelcome part, Greg played it as well as he could. "Well, after I filled up my tank," he said slyly, "I went on to the address you gave me. Something seemed to be the matter, and I thought maybe you'd want me again. You treated me liberal. Then the young lady came running out. I didn't know she had anything to do with you. She said she'd pay me anything I asked if I'd get her away from there. I thought she was in distress-like."

Greg was comforted by the sight of a gleam of approval in Amy's eyes. Whether or not de Socotra really believed this yarn he could not tell from his face.

He feigned to believe it. "Too much melodrama!" he said indulgently. "Let him go, officer."

But the policeman hated to relinquish his capture. "Why didn't you stop when I first told you?" he demanded.

Greg put on a hang-dog air. "Ah, she said he was after her, that he wanted to do her some hurt."

"Her own father!" put in de Socotra with a shocked air.

"You saw me!" said the indignant officer. "You ought to know I wouldn't stand for no rough stuff!"

"Well, I was excited-like," muttered Greg.

"I had ought to take you in for speeding if for nothing else! You ought to lose your license for that!"

"Please let him go, officer," said de Socotra magnanimously. "The poor fellow's livelihood depends on his license. I wouldn't want him to suffer through the misfortune of my poor girl."

Greg did not believe that de Socotra's suspicions were not aroused as to his real part in the affair; but de Socotra was not any more anxious for a police-court examination than Greg was: hence the seeming magnanimity. Greg saw a glance of intelligence pass between de Socotra and Abanez, and as the policeman very reluctantly removed his hand from Greg's shoulder, Abanez said:

"You may take me and my friend down-town. We are already late for our appointment."

Amy flashed him a warning. Greg scarcely needed it. For a moment he hesitated; but since he had taken his line, it seemed better to stick to it. He determined to watch himself though.

He touched his cap. "Where to, sir?"

"92 Stuyvesant Square."

Greg was reminded of Pa Simmons' first report that day.

Meanwhile de Socotra and his two henchmen bade each other courteous farewells. Abanez and the other expressed a fervent hope that the young lady would be better in the morning—Greg smiled to himself at the grim comedy. The two Spanish-Americans got into the flivver, and de Socotra handed Amy into the other taxi. The policeman seated himself by the chauffeur to ride back to his beat. They started simultaneously, Greg turning down-town, the other keeping on up the Drive. The bystanders remembered their suppers and melted away.

Greg made the best time he could, for he was wildly eager to get back to the Stickney Arms, but he had to humor the old flivver now. She was like a broken-winded horse. Stuyvesant Square, as everybody knows, is one of the last haunts of old-fashioned respectability away down town. It was a good four mile drive, and Greg chafed bitterly at the time he was losing.

A broad and well-lighted street with a trolley line bisects the Square, but around the sides it is dim, respectable and lonely. Greg privately determined that nothing should induce him to leave his cab. Greg looked in vain for Number 92. Having made a complete circuit of the Square he was satisfied there was no such number.

He stopped and notified his fares. "Do you know the house you want to go to?" he asked them.

Abanez replied: "Yes, it's on the east side. Drive slowly up that side and I'll point it out to you."

Near the top of this side of the Square he called Greg's attention to a tall narrow house with a brownstone front, and Greg drew up before it. No lights showed in any of the windows; to Greg it looked like an unoccupied house. His fares did not immediately get out, and Greg looked around to see what they were waiting for. The window behind him was still open.

"Wait a minute," said Abanez, "we have not quite finished our talk."

At the moment the significance of this maneuver did not occur to Greg. Afterwards he remembered that a man was passing on the sidewalk. They waited until he turned the corner.

Without warning two hands from behind closed around Greg's throat, cutting off the slightest outcry. As his mouth, gasping for breath, instinctively opened, two other hands forced a cotton gag between his teeth and knotted it behind his head. Greg, struggling desperately but in vain, was dragged bodily back through the window to the floor of the cab. There pinning his body in an excruciating attitude between the two doors, both knelt on him, effectually stilling his struggles. Their flying light fingers patted him all over and slipped in and out of his pockets, less like human fingers than evil little animals sniffing for prey. Greg's money they did not disturb; they were after a bigger prize. Besides what little money he carried, there was nothing upon him but his license cards. They desisted.

Abanez spoke to the other man who, careless of what part of Greg's anatomy his feet rested on, stood up and leaning through the front window thoroughly searched around and under the front seat. Unrewarded here, he dropped back on Greg. The two men then held a short colloquy in Spanish, but there was one English word terribly significant: "black-jack."

Greg sensed the up-lifted arm and held his breath. The blow descended, but did not fall true. It struck Greg merely a glancing blow on the side of the head. He retained the wit to grunt hollowly and let his body go slack. The man who had struck Greg said something to Abanez, and Abanez laughed in a comfortable fat way that roused a blind fury in Greg. But he lay still. Opening the door they climbed over Greg and slammed the door after them.

Greg gave them a second or two, then sitting up he peered cautiously over the sill of the window. The two men were sauntering deliberately towards the corner.

"Cool hands!" thought Greg with a kind of wonder.

As they turned they glanced carelessly back. Greg took care not to be seen. He waited a quarter of a minute, then slipping out of the cab and running on his toes to the corner he flattened himself against the building there and peeped around. His men were still proceeding down this street with the air of gentlemen with time to kill. A third of the way down the block they paused, looked around to make sure they were not being followed, and mounted the steps of a house.

Greg marked the house well. The street was Seventeenth and the house from its position must be number 716. This was the house from which earlier in the day de Socotra had issued with the little black book. It must be the new headquarters of the gang.

Greg returned to his cab. Stuyvesant Square is not very far from Gibbon Street, and it occurred to Greg that if he went home and changed his clothes, he would be in a better position to keep tab on de Socotra's later activities that night. Moreover he could get plenty of help at the yard; he would almost surely need help later. To think of it was to act on it. In three minutes he was driving into the yard.

Bessie's warm, bright kitchen looked very good to him coming in from the cold, and the smell of hot food made his head swim. There is nothing more exhausting than violent excitement. But he had no intention of stopping to eat. Hickey, Pa Simmons, Blossom, Ginger McAfee, and Bull Tandy were all seated around the oil-cloth-covered board.

All exclaimed at the sight of him. Even under the grotesque make-up they could perceive the strained grimness of Greg's face. Moreover there was a trickle of blood running down in front on one ear.

"What's happened?" cried Hickey.

"Plenty," said Greg laconically. "Can't stop to tell you now. Hurry up and finish eating, you fellows, if you want to get in on it. I'll need you to-night before I'm through. Blossom, you've got to play the part of a piano tuner. Come up and try on one of my suits."

"Sit down and eat yourself," said Bessie. "You've got to eat, or you can't keep up the pace."

"Make me up a couple of sandwiches like a good girl, and I'll eat them as I go."

"I'm through," said Hickey jumping up. "What's for me to do?"

"Go out and flood the flivver with oil. The old girl's had a stiff race, and she may have a worse one before her."

In a quarter of an hour Greg was once more the elegantly dressed young man of the town, while Blossom was giving a fair imitation of an artisan. He was provided with a bag of simple tools. Back in the kitchen Greg made his dispositions for the night.

"Hickey, you'll drive me. We may need a second car. Pa, you come along. Blossom can ride with you. We're going to the Stickney Arms first. You just follow Hickey, Pa, and stop when he stops."

"How about me?" asked Bull Tandy discontentedly. "Where do I come in? Say, if you want any strong-arm work I can put them guys" (referring to Messrs. Hickey, Blossom and Simmons) "over me head with one arm."

"Me, too," said little Ginger McAfee. "You ain't goin' to leave me out of the fun, are you, Greg? Bull's all right with his strong arm, but strong-arms are common; you want a man with a sharp head on him like me."

"Don't you want to come too, Bessie?" Greg grimly asked.

"I'll stop in me kitchen, thankee," said she dryly. "Very like you'll be wantin' hot cawfee when you come home, and maybe bandages."

Greg laughed. "Sorry, you fellows," he said to Bull and Ginger, "I can't use you right now. We'd only get in each other's light. But God knows what this night may turn up. You stay home—I'll make it good to you——"

"Ah, we don't want no pay," growled Bull.

"—And if I can use you later I'll send a 'phone message through the drug-store."

Hickey was out in the yard getting the flivver ready. They heard a cry from him, and he appeared at the door with an angry and grief-stricken face.

"Who cut my car?" he demanded.

Greg ran out and flashed his pocket-light inside the body of the car. A woeful sight was revealed; seat and back of the seat, pockets, even the carpet had been wantonly slashed right and left by the disappointed men in their vain search for the little black book. There was something indecent in the sight, as of an old person mutilated. The men crowding to look swore under their breaths.

"All right," said Greg grimly. "They shall pay for this with the rest. Come on now. We're wasting precious time."


©英文小说网 2005-2010

有任何问题,请给我们留言,管理员邮箱:tinglishi@gmail.com  站长QQ :点击发送消息和我们联系56065533