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CHAPTER XXVIII
Old Jimmie did not like meeting the police any oftener than a meeting was forced upon him, and so he slipped away and allowed Barney Palmer to undertake alone the business of settling Larry. Barney found Gavegan exactly where he had counted: lingering over his late dinner in the cafe of a famous Broadway restaurant—a favorite with some of the detectives and higher officials of the Police Department—in which cafe, in happier days now deeply mourned, Gavegan had had all the exhilaration he wanted to drink at the standing invitation of the proprietor, and where even yet on occasion a bit of the old exhilaration was brought to Gavegan's table in a cup or served him in a room above to which he had had whispered instructions to retire. The proprietor had in the old days liked to stand well with the police; and though his bar was now devoted to legal drinks—or at least obliging Federal officers reported it to be—he still liked to stand well with the police.

Gavegan was at a table with a minor producer of musical shows, to whom Barney had been of occasional service in securing the predominant essential of such music—namely, shapely young women. Barney nodded to Gavegan, chatted for a few minutes with his musical-comedy friend, during which he gave Gavegan a signal, then crossed to the once-crowded bar, now sunk to isolation and the lowly estate of soft drinks, and ordered a ginger ale. Not until then did he notice Barlow, chief of the Detective Bureau, at a corner table. Barney gave no sign of recognition, and Barlow, after a casual glance at him, returned to his food.

Barney, in solitude at one end of the bar, slowly sipped with a sort of indignation against his kickless purchase. Presently Gavegan was beside him, having most convincing ill-luck in his attempts to light his cigar from a box of splintering safety matches which stood at that end of the bar.

“Well, what is it?” Gavegan whispered out of that corner of his mouth which was not occupied by his cigar. He did not look at Barney.

“Any clue to Larry Brainard yet?” Barney whispered also out of a corner of his mouth, glass at his lips. Like-wise he seemed not to notice the man beside him.

“Naw! Still out West somewhere. Them Chicago bums couldn't catch a crook if he walked along State Street with a sign-board on him!”

“Saw Larry Brainard to-night.”

Gavegan had difficulty in maintaining his attitude of non-awareness of his bar-mate.

“Where?”

“Right here in New York.”

“What! Where'd you see him?”

“Coming out of the Grantham.”

“When?”

“Fifteen minutes ago.”

“Know where he went to?—where he hangs out?—know anything else?”

“That's everything. Thought I'd better slip it to you as quick as I could.”

“This time that bird'll not get away!” growled Gavegan, still in a whisper. “Twenty-four hours and he'll be in the cooler!”

Finally Gavegan managed to get a flame from one of those irritatingly splintery Swedish matches made in Japan. Cigar alight he walked over to Barlow's table. He conversed with his Chief a moment or two, then went out. After a minute Barney saw Chief Barlow crossing toward the bar. Barney seemed not to notice this movement. Barlow likewise paused beside him to light a cigar; and from the side of the Chief's mouth there issued: “Room 613.”

Barlow passed on. Presently Barney finished the dreary drudgery of drink and sauntered out. Five minutes later, having exercised the proper caution, he was in Room 613, and the door was locked.

“What's this dope you just handed Gavegan about Larry Brainard?” demanded Barlow.

Barney gave his information, again, but this time more fully. Of course he omitted all mention of Maggie and the enterprise which Larry had sought to interrupt; it was part of the tacit understanding between these two that Barlow should have no knowledge of Barney's professional doings, unless such knowledge should be forced upon him by events or people too strong to be ignored.

“Did Brainard drop any clue that might give us a lead as to where he's hiding out?”

Barney remembered something Larry had said half an hour before, which he had considered mere boasting. “He said he knew I had some game on, and he said he knew who the sucker was I was planning to trim.”

“Did he say who the sucker was?”

“No.”

“If Larry Brainard really did know, then who would he be having in mind?”

Barney hesitated; but he perceived that this was a question which had to be answered. “Young Dick Sherwood, of the swell Sherwood family—you know.”

Barlow did not pursue the subject. According to his arrangement with Barney, the latter's private activities were none of his business.

“I'll get busy with the drag-net; we'll land Brainard this time,” said Barlow. And then with a grim look at Barney: “But Larry Brainard's not what I got you up here to talk about, Palmer. I wanted to talk about two words to you—and say 'em to you right between your eyes.”

“Go ahead, Chief.”

“First, you ain't been worth a damn to me for several months. You've given me no value received for me keeping my men off of you. You haven't turned up a single thing.”

“Come, now, Chief—you're forgetting about Red Hannigan and Jack Rosenfeldt.”

“Chicken feed! They're out on bail, and when their cases come up, they'll beat them! Besides, you didn't give me that tip to help me; you gave it to me so that you could fix things to put Larry Brainard in bad with all his old friends. You did that to help yourself. Shut up! Don't try to deny it. I know!”

Barney did not attempt denial. Barlow went on:

“And the second thing I want to tell you, and tell you hard, is this: You gotta turn in some business! The easy way you've been going makes it look like you've forgot I've got hold of you where the hair's long. Young man, you'd better remember that I've got you cold for that Gregory stock business—you and Old Jimmie Carlisle. Got all the papers in a safety-deposit vault, and got three witnesses doing stretches in Sing Sing. Keep on telling yourself all that! and keep on telling yourself that, if you don't come across, some day soon I'll suddenly discover that you're the guilty party in that Gregory affair, and I'll bring down those witnesses I've got cached in Sing Sing.”

Barney moved uneasily in his chair. He knew the bargain he had made, and did not like to dwell upon the conditions under which he was a licensed adventurer.

“No need to rag me like this, Chief,” he protested. “Sure I remember all you've said. And you're not going to have cause to be sore much longer. There'll be plenty doing.”

“See that there is! And see that you don't pull any raw work. And see that you don't let your foot slip. For if you do, you know what'll happen to you. Now get out!”

Barney got out, again protesting that he would not be found failing. He was not greatly disturbed by what Barlow had said. Every so often there had to be just such sessions, and every so often Barlow had to let off just such steam.

Barney's errand was done. The police of the city were on Larry's trail and his share in the matter was and would remain unknown. Thus far all was well. He had no doubt of Larry's early capture, now that he was back in New York, and now that the whole police force had been promptly warned and were hotly after him, and now that all avenues of exit would instantly be, in fact by this time were, under surveillance and closed against him—and now that every refuge of the criminal world was only a trap for him. No, there wasn't a doubt of Larry's early capture. There couldn't be. And once Larry was locked up, things would be much better. Barlow would see that Larry didn't talk undesirable things, or at least that such talk was not heard. It wasn't exactly pleasant or safe having Larry at large, free to blurt out to the wrong persons those things about Barney's being a stool and a squealer.

Greatly comforted, though eager for news of the chase, Barney started on his evening's routine of visiting the gayer restaurants. Business is business, and a man suffers when he neglects it. True, this was a neat proposition which he had in hand; but that would soon be cleaned up, and Businessman Barney desired to be all ready to move forward into further enterprises.

In the meanwhile there had been a session between Maggie and the Duchess. At about the time Barney had whispered his unlipped news to Gavegan, Maggie, breathless with her frantic haste though she had made the journey in a taxicab, entered the familiar room behind the pawnshop.

“Good-evening, Maggie.” The voice was casual, indifferent, though at that moment there was no person that the Duchess, pondering her problems, more wished to see. “Sit down. What's the matter?”

“The police know Larry is in New York and are after him!”

“How do you know?”

Rapidly Maggie told of the happenings in her sitting-room, and of Barney and Old Jimmie starting out to warn Gavegan. The Duchess heard every word, but most of her faculties were concentrated upon a reexamination of Maggie and upon those questions which had been troubling her all evening and for these many days. Was there good in Maggie? Was she justified in longer suppressing the truth of Maggie's parentage?

“Why are you telling me all this?” the Duchess asked, when Maggie had finished her rapid recital.

“Why! Isn't it plain? I want you to get warning to Larry that the police are after him!”

“Why not do it yourself?”

“I'm going out where he is to-morrow, but that may be too late.”

Maggie gave her other reasons, such as they were. The old woman's eyes never left Maggie's flushed face, and yet never showed any interest.

“I thought you were tied up with Barney and Old Jimmie,” the Duchess commented. “Why are you going against them in this, and trying to help Larry?”

“What's the difference why I'm doing it,” Maggie cried with feverish impatience, “so long as I'm trying to help him out of this!”

“Don't you realize,” continued the calm old voice, “that Larry must already know, as a matter of course, that the police and all the old crowd are after him?”

“Perhaps he does, and perhaps he doesn't. All the same, he should know for certain! The big point is, will you get Larry word?”

A moment passed and the Duchess did not speak. In fact this time she had not heard Maggie, so intent was she in trying to look through Maggie's dark, eager eyes to the very core of Maggie's being.

“Will you get Larry word?” Maggie repeated impatiently.

The Duchess came out of her study. There was a sudden thrill within her, but it did not show in her voice.

“Yes.”

“At once?”

“As soon as telling him will do any good. And now you better hurry back to your hotel, if you don't want Barney and Old Jimmie to suspect what you've been up to. Though why you still want to hang on to that pair, knowing what they are, is more than I can guess.”

She stood up. “Wait a minute,” she said as Maggie started for the door. Maggie turned back, and for another moment the Duchess silently peered deep into Maggie's eyes. Then she said shortly, almost sharply: “At your age I was twice as pretty as you are—and twice as clever—and I played much the same game. Look what I got out of life!... Good-night.” And abruptly the Duchess wheeled about and mounted the stairway.

Twenty minutes later Maggie was back at the Grantham, her absence unobserved. Though palpitant over Larry's fate, she had the satisfaction of having achieved with Larry's grandmother what she had set forth to achieve. She did not know, could not know, that what she had accepted as her achievement was inconsequential compared to what had actually been achieved by her spontaneous appearance before the troubled Duchess.



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