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For several days nothing seemed to be happening, though Larry had a sense that unknown forces were gathering on distant isothermal lines and bad weather was bearing down upon him. During these days, trying to ignore that formless trouble, he gave himself with a most rigid determination to his new routine—the routine which he counted on to help him into the way of great things.

Every day he saw Maggie; sometimes he was in her company for an hour or more. He had the natural hunger of a young man to talk to a young woman; and, moreover, it is a severe strain for a man to be living under the same roof with the girl he loves and not to be on terms of friendship with her. But Maggie maintained her aloofness. She spoke only when she was pressed into it, and her speech was usually no more than a “yes” or a “no,” or a flashing phrase of disdain.

At times Larry had the feeling that, for all her repression, Maggie would have been glad to be more free with him. And he knew enough of human nature not to be too disheartened by her attitude. Had he been a nonentity to her, she would have ignored him. Her very insults were proof that he was a positive personality with real significance in her life. And so he counseled himself to have patience and await a thawing or an awaking. Besides, he kept repeating to himself, there would be small chance of effecting a conversion in this militant young orthodoxist of cynicism until he had proved the soundness of contrary views by his own established success.

And thus the days drifted by. But on the fifth day after his interview with Barlow things began to happen. First of all, he noticed in a morning paper that Red Hannigan and Jack Rosenfeldt, members of his old outfit and suggested by Old Jimmie as participants in his proposed new enterprise, had just been arrested by Gavegan and Casey on the charge of alleged connection with the sale of fraudulent mining stock.

Second, on his return at the end of the afternoon, he saw standing before the house a taxicab with a trunk beside the chauffeur. In the musty museum of a room behind the pawnshop he found Hunt and the Duchess and Old Jimmie and Barney; and also Maggie, coming down the stairway, hat and coat on and carrying a suitcase. A sharp pain throbbed through him as he recognized the significance of Maggie's hat and coat and baggage.

“Maggie—you're going away?” he exclaimed.


She had paused at the foot of the stairway, and at sight of him had gone a little pale and wide-eyed. But in an instant she had recovered her accustomed flair; there came a proud lift to her head, a flash of scorn into her dark eyes.

“At last I'm leaving this street for good,” she said. “I told you that some day I was going out into the world and do big things. The time's come—I'm graduated—I'm going to begin real work. And I'm going to succeed—you see!”

“Maggie!” he breathed. Then impulsively he started toward her authoritatively. “Maggie, I'm not going to let you do anything of the sort!”

But swiftly Barney had stepped in between them, Old Jimmie just behind him.

“Keep out of this!” Barney snapped at Larry, a reddish blaze in his eyes. “Maggie's going away and you can't stop her. D'you think her father is going to let her stay down here any longer, where you can spout your preaching at her!—and you all the time a stool and a squealer!”

“What's that?” cried Larry.

“I called you a stool!” repeated the malignantly exultant Barney, alert for any move on the part of the suddenly tensed Larry. “And you are a stool! Didn't I see you myself go into Headquarters with Casey and Gavegan where you sold yourself to Chief Barlow!”

“Why, you damned—”

Even before he spoke Larry launched a furious swing straight from the hip at Barney's twisted face. But Barney had been expecting exactly that, and was even the quicker. He caught Larry's wrist before it was fairly started, and thrust a dull-hued automatic into Larry's stomach.

“Behave; damn you,” gritted Barney, “or I'll blow your damned guts out! No—go ahead and try to hit me. I'd like nothing better than to kill you, you rat, and have a good plea of self-defense!”

Larry let his hands unclench and fall to his sides. “You've got the drop on me, Barney—but you're a liar.”

“You bet I got the drop on you! And not only with my gun. I've got it on you about being a stool. Everybody knows you are a stool. And what's more, they know you are a squealer!”

“A squealer!” Larry stiffened again.

“A stool and a squealer!” Barney fairly hurled at Larry these two most despised epithets of his world. “You've done your job swell as a stool, and squealed on Red Hannigan and Jack Rosenfeldt and turned them up for the police!”

“You believe I had anything to do with their arrest?” exclaimed Larry.

Barney laughed in his derision.

“Of course we believe it,” put in Old Jimmie, his seamed, cunning face now ruthlessly hard. “And what's more, we know it!”

“And what's still more,” Barney taunted, “Maggie believes it, too!”

Larry turned to Maggie. Her face was now drawn, with staring eyes.

“Maggie—do you believe it?” he demanded.

For a moment she neither spoke nor moved. Then slowly she nodded.

“But, Maggie,” he protested, “I didn't do it! Barlow did ask me to be a stool, but I turned him down! Aside from that, I know no more of this than you do!”

“Of course you'd deny it—we were waiting for that,” sneered Barney. “Jimmie, we've wasted enough time here. Take Maggie's bag and let's be moving on.”

Old Jimmie picked up Maggie's suitcase, and slipping a hand through her arm led her across the room. She did not even say good-bye to Hunt or the Duchess, or even glance at them; but went out silently, her drawn, staring look on Larry alone.

Barney backed after them, his automatic still held in readiness. “I'm letting you down damned easy, Brainard,” he said, hate glittering in his eyes. “But there's some who won't be so nice!”

With that he closed the door. Until that moment both Hunt and the Duchess had said nothing. Now the Duchess spoke up:

“I'm glad they've taken Maggie away, Larry. I've seen the way you've come to feel about her, and she's not the right sort for you.”

But Larry was still too dazed by the way in which Maggie had walked out of his life to make any response.

“But there's a lot in what Barney said about there being some who wouldn't be easy on you,” continued the Duchess. “That word had been brought me before Barney showed up. So I had this ready for you.”

From a slit pocket in her baggy skirt the Duchess drew out a pistol and handed it to Larry.

“What's this for?” Larry asked.

“I was told that word had gone out to the Ginger Buck Gang to get you,” answered the Duchess. “Barney has some secret connection with the Ginger Bucks. His saying that you were a stool and a squealer is not the only thing he's got against you; he's jealous of you on account of everything—especially Maggie. So you'll need that gun.”

“What's this I've fallen into the middle of?” exclaimed Hunt. “A Kentucky feud?”

“It's very easy to understand when you know the code,” Larry explained grimly. “Down here when an outfit thinks one of its members has squealed on them, it's their duty to be always on the watch for their chance to finish him off. I'm to be finished off—that's all.”

“Say, young fellow, the life of a straight crook doesn't seem to be getting much simpler! Why, man, you hardly dare to stir from the house! What are you going to do?”

“Going to go around my business, always with the pleasant anticipation of a bullet in my back when some fellow thinks it safe for him to shoot.”

The three of them discussed this latest development over their dinner, which they had together up in Hunt's studio. But despite all their talk of his danger, a very real and near danger, Larry's mind was more upon Maggie who had thus suddenly been wrenched out of his life. He remembered her excited, boastful talk of their first evening. Her period of schooling was indeed now over; she was now committed to her rosily imagined adventure, in which she saw herself as a splendid lady. And with Barney Palmer as her guiding influence!...

Dinner had been finished and Hunt was trying to give Larry such cheer as “Buck up, young fellow—you know the worst—there's nothing else that can happen,” when the lie direct was given to his phrases by heavy steps running up the stairway and the opening and closing of the door. There stood Officer Casey, heaving for breath.

Instinctively Larry drew his pistol. “Casey! What're you here for?”

“Get rid of that gat—don't be found with a gun on,” ordered Casey. “And beat it. You've got less than five minutes to make your get-away.”

“My get-away! What's up?”

“You haven't come across as the Chief ordered you to, and he's out to give you just what he said he would,” Casey said rapidly, his speech broken by panting. “There's been a stick-up, with assault that may be changed to attempted manslaughter, and the Chief has three men who swear you're the guilty party. It's a sure-fire case against you, Larry—and it'll mean five to ten years if you're caught. Gavegan and I got the order to arrest you. I've beat Gavegan to it so's to tip you off, but he's only a few minutes behind. Hurry, Larry! Only—only—”

Casey paused, gasping for his wind.

“Only what, Casey?”

“Only alibi me, Larry, by slipping over a haymaker on me like you did on Gavegan. So's I can say I tried to get you, but you were too quick and knocked me cold. Quick! Only not too hard—I know how to play possum.”

Larry handed the pistol to Hunt. “Casey, you're a real scout! Thanks!” He grasped Casey's hand, then swiftly relaxed his grip. “Ready?”

“Fire,” said Casey.

Larry held his open left hand close to Casey's jaw, and drove his right fist into his palm with a thudding smack. Casey went sprawling to the floor, and lay there loosely, with mouth agape, in perfect simulation of a man who has been knocked out.

Larry turned quickly. “You two will testify that I beat Casey up and then made my escape?”

“Sure, I'll testify to anything for the sake of a good old goat like Casey!” cried Hunt. “But hurry, boy—beat it!”

The Duchess held out Larry's hat to him, and thrust into his coat pocket a roll of bills which had come from her capacious skirt. “Hurry, Larry—and be careful—for you're all I've got.”

Impulsively Larry stooped and kissed the thin, shriveled lips of his grandmother—the first kiss he had ever given her. Then he turned and ran down the stairway, Hunt just behind him. He turned out the light in the back room, and called to Old Isaac to darken the pawnshop proper. He was going forth with two forces in arms against him, the police and his pals, and he had no desire to be a shining mark for either or both by stepping through a lighted doorway.

“Larry, my son, you're all right!” said Hunt, gripping his hand in the darkness. “Listen, boy: if ever you're trapped and can get to a telephone, call Plaza nine-double-o-one and say 'Benvenuto Cellini.'”

“All right.”

“Remember, you're to say 'Benvenuto Cellini,' and the telephone is Plaza nine-double-o-one. Luck to you!” Again they gripped hands. Then Larry slipped through the darkened doorway into whatever might lie beyond.


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