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CHAPTER XVIII BLOSSOM'S REPORT
Greg heard a new voice in the kitchen. De Silva was now in a heavy sleep, and he went down to investigate. Blossom's failure to turn up had made him very anxious.

This was the boy from the drug-store to say that Greg was wanted on the telephone. Greg went back with him.

Over the wire he heard Pa Simmons' old voice:

"Say, Greg, I'm sorry, but I lost his nibs, the Spanish bloke. On the level I couldn't help it. He took after Blossom and a girl, and I took after him, but they all got in the subway, and I couldn't leave me old boat in the street while I traveled all over town in the subway, could I?"

"Hold on! Hold on! Begin at the beginning!"

"Well, I was on'y waiting a few minutes in Eighty-third Street when his nibs come out of that house, you know, 311. He got in his cab and went back home; through Eighty-third to Broadway, up Broadway to Ninety-fourth and down to the Drive, me following. Well, while we was going through Ninety-fourth, I see Blossom and a good-looking girl coming along on the sidewalk. His nibs in front, he musta seen 'em too, for he stops his cab and slips out and takes after them on foot. They didn't see him. Well, I went on a little way, turned around, and followed the whole bunch around to the Ninety-sixth Street subway station.

"Blossom and the girl went down, his nibs follows them, and I follows his nibs. We goes to the down-town platform. On the platform Blossom gets wise to me, see? And when his nibs ain't looking I gives him a little sign that that is his nibs, see? Blossom gets it all right. Well, a train come along then and they all got in. But I couldn't leave my cab. I went back to Stickney Arms, but his nibs ain't come home yet. You told me to call you at nine. What do you want me to do now?"

Greg considered a moment. "If his wife is alone in the apartment he's pretty sure to be back soon. Better stay on watch where you are. Call me up again in an hour."

Greg returned home in no little anxiety. It seemed like a gratuitous stroke of ill luck that de Socotra should just have happened to run into Blossom. Blossom was a good fellow and loyal without a doubt, but he could scarcely be expected to prove a match for the astute de Socotra. And almost two hours had passed. Greg would have given something to know what had happened. But all he could do was wait.

A few minutes later Blossom walked in the kitchen door. Nina was with him. One look in the man's face told Greg that nothing serious had happened; on the contrary the morose and jejune Blossom looked fairly rejuvenated.

"The little black book?" cried Greg. "Have you got it?"

By way of answer Blossom held it aloft. A cheer went up in the kitchen.

"Thank God!" cried Greg. "Now we're all right!"

Bessie was standing, arms akimbo, taking it all in like a comical solemn child. The temptation was too much for Greg. Before she knew what he was doing, Greg had seized her round the waist and waltzed her—or rather swayed her, for it was impossible to move her from her firmly planted stand. The men roared.

"Bessie! Bessie!" cried Greg. "Did you hear that, you dear little thing. We have it!"

"Go along with you!" said Bessie, giving him a little push—and he went along, flat against the wall.

He snatched the little black book out of Blossom's hands and hastily turned the pages. It was all in Spanish, of course. He could not read it.

"Hold your horses," said Blossom warningly. "There's maybe something funny about that. Wait till I tell you."

"What happened?" asked Greg sobered. "It looks all right; letters, affidavits, just what Estuban said."

"In the beginning everything went off all right," Blossom began. "Miss Nina, she went up to the apartment, and after giving her a minute I followed her to the service entrance. She let me in and told me she'd squared herself with the old lady all right. She went and told the old lady the piano man had come and I got off my song and dance about Mr. Fairweather and the christening and all."

"Merriweather was the name," put in Greg.

"Oh well, any kind of weather was the same to her, being Spanish," said Blossom. "Miss Nina, she translated it to her. At first the old lady looked doubtful. She said I'd have to wait till Mr. Soakoater come home. But when I told her I had three more calls to make up in the Bronx, she said she guessed it was all right. She was a nice old lady, not naturally suspicious like. She was all broke up about the little Miss being took away.

"She stayed in the parlor and watched while I worked. I had to take the whole back off the piano. There was sixteen screws in it, four to a side, and every blame one of them stuck. I was sweating with nervousness before I got the last one out, expecting to hear his nibs in the hall any moment.

"When the little book dropped out on the floor, 'What's that?' says the old lady. 'There it is!' says I, real quick and glad-like. 'My list of customers that I lost the last time I was here! I been looking everywhere for it.' 'Let me see it,' says she. 'Sorry, ma'am!' says I, 'it's confidential; we ain't allowed to show our lists to anybody.' Say, she was easy. It was a shame to lie to her. She let me get away with it.

"Well, say, I put on that piano-back quicker than I took it off—only one screw to a side. Then I beat it for the basement. I breathed easier when I got out.

"I waited down-stairs for Miss Nina, and the two of us made tracks for the subway at Ninety-sixth Street. Somewhere on the way back the Spanish gent must have picked us up, though I didn't notice him at the time. Miss Nina and me was talking. I first got on to it that there was something funny when we was waiting on the platform. All of a sudden I see Pa Simmons there looking like a lost dog offen his cab.

"I recollected that Pa's job was to trail the Spaniard, so I looked cautious-like around for him. There wasn't many on the platform and the only one that could be him was a tall guy with his head behind a newspaper. All I could see was his elegant creased pants and his fancy shoes. You had said he was a swell dresser, so I guessed this was him. And afterwards I caught Pa's eye, and he gave me a sign that it was him.

"Well, a train come in and Miss and I got in one door, and the Spanish gent in another. Don't know where Pa went. Miss Nina had not got on to it that we was being trailed, and I didn't tell her because I thought she'd be scared and let on. He was at the other end of the same car.

"Well, all the way down town I was thinking how I could shake him. I remembered the crowd along Houston Street, but I didn't want to risk bringing him so clost home. I remembered there was a gang of Christmas shoppers on Fourteenth Street too, so we got out there and walked west. There's a big nickelodion on Fourteenth Street—you know, a long hall with penny-in-the-slot phonographs and move-em-pitchers that's supposed to be naughty but they ain't. It runs right through to Thirteenth. I steered Miss Nina in there. She didn't like it, thought I was trying to put something over on her, so I had to tell her the Spaniard was after us. Say, it made her a little weak in the knees.

"I was hoping the Spaniard would wait outside for us, and we could sneak out the back way, but not on your life! He followed us right through. So we went on down Thirteenth, and I cut into the back entrance of a big store, hoping to lose him in the crowd. But he stuck closer than a brother—up-stairs, down in the basement, out on Fourteenth Street again. By this time he must have guessed of course that we were on to him.

"Next I went back to the subway again. I took him up to Times Square, but I couldn't shake him in the crowds there, neither. Well, I tried the subway once more and this time I had a bit of luck. There was a big crowd coming and going, and as we got down to the down-town platform there was a train on each side, express and local. The local was just opening her doors.

"I steered Miss Nina aboard the local, and the Spaniard got on by another door. I watched my chance, and just as they were ready to close the doors of the express I grabbed the girl, hustled her acrost the platform and into the other train, and the door closed behind us. It took the Spanish gent by surprise. He run too, for the next door, but it closed in his face."

"Good work!" said Greg.

"Wait a minute! I ain't told you the funny part yet. The train started and we was carried right past the Spaniard close enough to touch him only the other side of the glass. Well, I couldn't help having a bit of sport with him. I knew anyway he knew what I'd been up to as soon as he went home and the old lady told him. So as we passed by I held up the little black book; like that, right before his nose."

"The deuce you did!" cried Greg delightedly.

"Wait a bit! It didn't get acrost like I expected. He give me the laugh first. Yes, sir, threw back his head, and laughed fit to die. What do you know about that?"

"Just a bluff," said Greg.

Blossom shook his head positively. "No, sir, I know a real laugh when I see it!"

"But here is the book," said Greg.

"Just the same, he thinks he has us, somehow."

Blossom's words carried conviction, and Greg's feeling of triumph was considerably dashed. "I wish Estuban was here," he said.




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