Charles Stokes Wayne.

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"And the men in the hansom have the bag,"
Moore concluded.

" They have the bag and the money."

" But how did they know you had made that de-
posit? Who are they?"

" God knows," Brooke returned, perplexedly.
" I've been trying to figure it out, but I can't"

" Did anybody know you had the money ? "

" Yes."

"Who?"

" A porter and a clerk at the Hotel Astor, and a
newspaper reporter."



"No one else?"



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" Not a soul."

" But the bank wouldn't deliver that bag simply
on presentation of the receipt," argued Moore, puz-
zled. " It would, at all events, have required an
order from you."

Brooke's mystification was echoed in his words.

" That's the funniest part of it," he said. " I gave
my signature at the bank; and for anyone to know
that signature well enough to forge it is beyond the
bounds of possibility."

" Oh, I don't see that," Moore objected. " You
must have written letters in your time and signed
checks and things. A fellow's signature isn't usually
a hard thing to get."

Then Brooke told him that he had never been in
New York until two nights ago.

" And besides," he added, in a sudden burst of
frankness, " my name isn't really Moore. I simply
took that when I deposited the bag. Now you see
what chance there is of my signature lying around
loose."

" Where else did you write it ? " Moore asked,
interestedly.

" On the register at the Waldorf-Astoria. No

other place ever."

An elevated train rattled overhead so deafeningly
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as to make conversation for the moment impossible.

" What's your right name ? " Moore inquired sud-
denly.

Brooke hesitated.

" Oh, never mind," his companion added ; " it's
nothing to me. I don't know why I asked."

" It was very natural for you to ask," Brooke re-
plied. " My right name is Brooke — John Brooke."

Two lines appeared in Moore's brow, running up
from between his eyes.

" Brooke," he repeated, questioning his memory.
" Brooke. Where have I heard it ? "

But at that moment the hansom, from which
neither of them had withdrawn his gaze for more
than a single instant, cut diagonally across the
avenue beneath the elevated railroad structure and
slowed up before a corner saloon. Their electric
cab halted a few doors away.

Instantly Brooke pushed up the trap.

" Go on," he directed, " and cross into the side
street, where I can see and not be seen."

In obedience to the order, the chauffeur crossed

the rails and stopped on the lower side of Thirtieth

Street. Through the window in the side of the cab

the front of the hansom and its occupants were now

plainly visible.

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" Good Lord ! " Brooke exclaimed under his
breath. " I begin to understand now."

" What ? " questioned Moore.

" I've seen that little fellow before."

One of the men was small, almost weazened, with
a sallow complexion, bulbous nose and tiny, furtive,
rat-like eyes. The other was a veritable giant in
bulk, low-browed and red-bearded. In the first of
these Brooke recognized " Shorty " Hanks, the fel-
low he had drunk with the preceding morning; the
fellow he had meant to look up again that very after-
noon.

" He's getting out," Moore whispered, peering
through the window over Brooke's shoulder.

" But the other's going to stay in and guard the
bag," Brooke added. And he was right.

While " Shorty " entered the saloon, the big man
leaned back in his corner, the end of a cigar between
his lips.

" Couldn't we rush him now ? " suggested Moore,
pressing hard against Brooke's back. " I'll undertake
to engage him, all right, while you snatch the bag
and make off. Then I'll join you, and this driver of
ours will outdistance anything they try to follow in."

But Brooke shook his head.

" No," he said decidedly. " I dare say we might

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manage it, but we'd be taking too many chances. I
can't afford to get into a police mess over it. There
are too many people about here. Besides the other
fellow will be back in a minute."

And again Brooke was right. He had scarcely
finished speaking when through the swing door of
the saloon came " Shorty," carrying a pint flask in
his hand.

" They'll take their refreshment as they go," re-
marked Moore, laughing. " Pity the bottle isn't
larger. A quart would probably work on our side."

The hansom turned now into Thirtieth Street,
passed them and rolled on at a fairly good speed
eastward, while the electric cab resumed its dogging
chase. At Broadway the little procession turned
southward again.

" Have you any notion as to what part of the
town they'll end up in?" Brooke inquired. "This
is all new to me down here. I suppose that's the
Flatiron Building ahead of us. I've seen pictures
of it."

"Yes, that's the Flatiron," answered Moore.

" It's odd you should be getting your introduction

to New York localities in this fashion. Heaven

only knows where these fellows are bound for, but

it's safe to guess it's some spot where they think they

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can divide their spoil untroubled by intrusion. By
the way, who is the little fellow ? "

" I believe he is called ' Shorty Hanks/ I needn't
explain he is a crook." Brooke could hardly make
plain at this stage the circumstances of his acquaint-
ance with this denizen of the under world; and
Moore wondered how the young man beside him,
who was confessedly an entire stranger in New York,
knew such persons even by name and sight. Yet he
was not actively suspicious. In saying he knew an
honest man when he saw one he spoke the truth. He
was a natural judge of character, and he had given
Brooke a place with the sheep from the moment he
laid eyes upon him.

On reaching Twenty-third Street the hansom di-
verged into Fifth Avenue, picking its way tortuously
in and out between a crush of all manner of vehicles,
from private broughams to touring cars, from omni-
buses to furniture vans.

However much excitement there might be in pros-
pect, this rather tedious progress southward was not
exhilarating. On the contrary, it was wearisome by
very reason of the delayed issue which both men
knew lay at its end. As block after block was tra-
versed without incident, they grew more and more
fretfully impatient. The new scenes had for Brooke,

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under the circumstances, absolutely no interest. The
Washington arch, around which they passed, he
scarcely noticed. He was possessed, absorbed, domi-
nated by one aim and purpose — to visit vengeance
upon those outlaws ahead of him, and, in so doing,
recover the property which he had come to regard as
a sacred trust.

They were now navigating a veritable network of
narrow streets to the southwest of Washington
Square. Brooke had noticed McDougall Street on
a lamp-post sign. At intervals, off to the right, he
got glimpses of steamship wharves. Presently they
passed again under an elevated railroad structure,
and then, suddenly turning a corner, around which
the hansom had preceded them, they were at their
journey's end.

Even as their cab made the turn they saw the two
men spring nimbly from the still moving hansom,
which after less than a second's halt proceeded on
through the contracted by-way. The larger man,
carrying the bag, was a step in advance of his com-
panion, but an. instant sufficed for the basement of
an old-fashioned three-story brick house to swallow
them both.

The street was very narrow indeed, and very short
as well — a tiny strait, as it were, between two

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streams but little wider or longer; and from end to
end it was deserted, save by the two cabs, one of
which was already disappearing around the farther
corner.

Brooke lost no time in pursuing his quarry*
While the slamming door still echoed through the
silent alley he sprang across the thread of sidewalk,
and, with Moore close behind, plunged down the
squalid areaway, flinging himself upon the door,
which, having failed to latch, swung unresistingly
open.

But inside the dingy little box of a room on which
it gave he paused in sudden dismay. For those upon
whose very heels he entered were nowhere in view.

Moore halted, too, on the threshold, amazed, be-
wildered.

On one side of the place was a tailor's bench, on
which, cross-legged, sat an old German, red-nosed
and grey-haired, imperturbably plying his needle.
On the opposite wall were tacked a couple of faded
and out-of-date lithographs of men's fashions. Across
the rear of the room extended a shelf, beneath which,
against a dusty black cotton background, was a
double row of coats and trousers on hangers.

The old German looked up in calm inspection of
the intruders.

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" Vas ist ? " he asked, smiling so naively that he
added not a little to their disconcerting.

But Brooke was in no mood to answer questions.
Ignoring the query, he stamped heavily about the
little enclosure, fancying that nothing short of a trap
in the floor could account for the miraculous dis-
appearance he had just witnessed. But the boards
gave no sign. The flooring was apparently of equal
solidity in all parts.

" Vas ist ? " repeated the tailor, throwing to one
side the waistcoat on which he had been working and
dropping his feet over the table's edge. " Come you
avay from dem clo'es ! " he commanded excitedly
now, for Brooke, with sudden inspiration, had
plunged into the line of hanging garments in the
rear, and was tearing at the cotton background.

At that moment a little exultant cry escaped him,
and Moore, assured that he had solved the mystery,
sprang forward. With an elbow thrust he threw
the now thoroughly alarmed German reeling into a
front corner of his shop, and then, in a bound, was
after Brooke, who had already disappeared through
the clothes barrier, which stretched across the shop's
furthermost side.



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Back of the rusty black drapery Brooke had found
a thin board partition, punctured by a narrow door-
way, which gave otherwise unobstructed entrance to
a rear room. This room, lighted by a single small
window of patched and dust-coated panes, was so
dark that for a moment he was unable to distinguish
a single object within it. Nervously anxious to lose
no time, however, and utterly regardless of lurking
danger, he groped forward with outstretched hands,
his ears alert for the slightest sound. And as he
moved, his eyes quickly accustoming themselves to
the dusk, objects took shape about him.

But they were inanimate objects, all of them. If
the men he sought had come this way, they had
already gone farther; for the room, smaller even
than that which he had just left, contained nothing
save a low cot bed, strewn with a motley assortment
of disarranged coverings — a ragged grey blanket
and some old coats — and too low to afford a hiding
place beneath it; a small, rusty cook stove; a table,

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on which were some unwashed dishes ; a hanging cup-
hoard and a single chair.

At the far corner, though, to the right, was an-
other door, and as Moore entered Brooke's hand was
upon the knob. But this door was fast. Moreover, it
was stout, made of heavy planking and so firmly set
as to be unshakable.

For a moment Brooke's hopes fell. Already val-
uable time had been lost, and now he had come uptfn
what seemed an impassable barrier. The door doubt-
less led to stairs, which in turn led to the upper
part of the house, and to another door opening on
the street. Possibly, aye, probably, the thieves
were already a block or more away. He had made
a mistake in not having Moore watch the house
front.

He looked about for something to use as a batter-
ing ram on the door. His weight and Moore's com-
bined would not be sufficient, he knew, to feaze it.
The chair would break to kindling against it. Then
he saw Moore handling the little cook stove. There
was no fire in it, and if hurled with strength it might
rend the planking. Brooke leaned down deter-
minedly to make the effort. Moore had loosened the
pipe and a piece of it fell, clattering.

But at that juncture the sound of a key turning
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the door's lock/ and the rasping grating of a heavy
bolt shot back, arrested them both. Simultaneously
the voice of the old German cobbler rose shrill be-
hind them.

" Ach, mein Oott! Vat for you vant here?"

It seemed like a clearly devised ruse to distract
their attention for an instant from the door — a cue,
possibly, to the person on the other side. If so, it
failed; for when the door opened quickly, disclosing
the enormous bulk of the red-bearded giant of the
hansom, they sprang forward as one man, veritably
hurling themselves upon him and bearing him back
with their catapultian onslaught.

But even as they did so the report of a pistol rang
out sharply. In the dim light of the room they had
not seen that he was armed. Neither Brooke nor
Moore had any weapon, save their fists, but they used
these to good purpose. Savage blows rained on the
big fellow's face and jaw as he sprawled backward,
with wildly clutching arms, in the narrow passage-
way; and his head coming in hard contact with the
sharp edge of a stair, as he went down, completed his
undoing.

He lay stunned, bruised and bleeding, while his
assailants, scrambling to their feet, and quite un-
harmed by the random revolver shot, plunged over

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his inert body and up the narrow flight of stairs to
the floor above.

The gloom of the basement was here succeeded by
Cimmerian darkness, and Brooke paused with his
hand on the rickety banister rail, in hope of some
guiding sound. For two or three seconds the hard
breathing of Moore, who had perforce halted behind
him, was his only reward. Then, straight before
him, possibly thirty feet away, through the pitch
black, he heard a shuffling footstep on bare boards.

He had fancied, at first, that the house was a tene-
ment, the upper floors occupied by a number of fam-
ilies, but the darkness of the hallway and the silence
removed the possibility of this conjecture. It seemed
reasonable now to suppose that the little basement
shop was a blind, and that the whole building was
given over to the uses of a gang of criminals, of
whom he had seen three characteristic examples.
Seasoning rapidly, he concluded that the person
whose footsteps he had just heard, was, in all prob-
ability, his chance acquaintance, " Shorty " Hanks.
It was a fair presumption, too, that " Shorty " had a
gun, and would not hesitate to use it if occasion
offered. Why he had not taken a chance already of
firing in the dark, seeing that he must have heard
their ascent of the stairs, did not at first occur to

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Brooke, but the next instant he realized that
" Shorty " could not be sure that it was not his own
partner who had come thus suddenly into the upper
darkness. •

To make a rush upon " Shorty," though, would
end his uncertainty, and then his gun would bark,
and it were folly to expect a second time to escape
the bullet. If " Shorty " could only be lured nearer !
If Brooke had heard the big fellow speak he would
have chanced an imitation of his voice. But he had
not heard him, and so " Shorty " would in all likeli-
hood detect the difference at once. He thought of
whistling, but instantly discarded the idea, and then
that occurred which put an end to his efforts to plan.
Moore coughed.

Involuntarily Brooke ducked low, expecting a shot,
but instead there came a repetition of that sound of
shuffling footsteps, and a low, almost whispered, call :

"Jerry!"

Whoever it was, was coming nearer, and Brooke
dropped quietly to the floor, lying flat, face down,
with hands stretched forward.

"Jerry!"

The whisper was repeated, and Moore, keenly ap-
preciative of the situation, having recovered from his
irritation over that first cough which refused to be

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strangled, coughed again, this time with intention.

At the same instant, almost, the passage echoed
with the dull, heavy sound of a falling body. Brooke
had tackled the shuffling oncomer; clutched him
about the knees and sent him toppling over back-
ward. Before the echo died away he was kneeling
upon his chest, while his hands pinioned his arms.

Then a match flared up, in fitful illumination
of the darkness, and Moore stood beside him, looking
down.

" Need help ? " he asked, laconically.

Brooke shook his head. It was indeed " Shorty "
who lay beneath him; and wiry though the little
fellow was, he was no match for his captor.

" Not to hold him/' said Brooke, confidently, " but
you might see if he has a gun about him. But first
get a light from somewhere, can't you ? Isn't there
any gas here ? "

At the foot of the second flight of stairs, a few
steps away, there was a single pendant burner, and
this Moore lighted.

" You're a nice chappie," Brooke remarked to his
prisoner, " going back on a pal ! "

" Shorty " squirmed, frowning.

Brooke inflicted a vicious knee poke between his

ribs.

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" Speak up ! " he commanded. " What do you
mean by it? "

" You ain't no pal," " Shorty " wheezed. " Fur
God's sake let me breathe. I ain't got no gun."

Moore was making a careful search. All he found
was the nearly empty whiskey flask.

" Where's the bag? " Brooke asked.

" Shorty " leered.

" Where you won't find it," he answered, doggedly.

Brooke's knee kneaded his captive's solar plexus.

"Where? "he repeated.

" I don't know, damn you ! "

Brooke turned to Moore.

" Here ! " he said. " Hold this arm, will you ?
I'll get my answer from him."

Moore pinioned the fellow's left arm as Brooke
released it, to take a clutch on his throat.

" Now! " he urged, determinedly. " Where is it?
Speak up ! We've no time to lose," and his fingers
pressed threateningly upon " Shorty's " larynx.

" Jerry — had — it," he answered, gasping ; " Jerry
—had— it."

" But Jerry hasn't it now. He turned it over to
you* What have you done with it ? "

Another strangling grip and the fellow's face pur-
pled.

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" Stop— it," he murmured; " Til— tell."

Brooke's fingers relaxed.

" Well? " he commanded.

" Under the bed, down stairs."

Once more the pressure was put on; relentlessly
this time.

"You lie ! " Brooke hissed. His reason told him
that this was a subterfuge.

" Shorty's " little eyes bulged, and his tongue ap-
peared between his darkening lips.

" One more chance, now," Brooke allowed, " one
more, and if you don't tell me the truth I'll finish
you."

When his grip loosened the fellow gasped, inar-
ticulately.

" Speak up ! " Brooke shouted, impatiently.

" I'll — show — you." The words were a whisper.

Brooke looked at " Jackie " with a smile of satis-
faction.

"What do you suppose has become of 'Dutchy' ? "
he enquired, realizing that the old man might be
preparing extra trouble for them. "Jerry's safe
enough for a while, but the old fellow may bring
assistance. Before we let my friend up, you'd prob-
ably better investigate. All right, I'll take that
wrist again."

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When, after a couple of minutes' absence, Moore
returned, bringing with him the revolver which
he had found in the lower hallway, it was to say
the German was not likely to give them any an-
noyance.

" He got the bullet intended for us," he explained.
" He's lying across his cot down there unconscious
and bleeding like a pig. You can let your man up
now. This Mill hold him, I imagine," and Moore,
with his fingers on the trigger, covered the prostrate
" Shorty " with the six-shooter.

Brooke released his hold and got to his feet.

" Come on ! " he ordered, sharply.

"Yes, we're from Missouri," Moore added;
" you've got to show us, and show us quickly."

The little sallow-faced creature arose with an
effort. The muzzle of the revolver was pressing cold
behind his ear.

" Move ! " Moore commanded. " And move fast !
We'll follow all right."

He began shuffling toward the street door, his two
captors at his heels. The single overhead gas jet
showed a bare, carpetless hallway, unspeakably
dirty.

Brooke saw now that the inner vestibule door was

unlatched.

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" It's there," said " Shorty," halting and pointing
to the vestibule.

Eager, yet half doubting, Brooke pressed forward.
Swinging the door inward, he peered into the dusk
of the narrow space thus revealed.

" This side; to your left," " Shorty " directed.

Moore saw Brooke stoop. When he rose, the bag
was in his hand, and he was critically examining the
twine which bound it.

" All right," he said, simply. " It hasn't been
opened. This is better luck even than I hoped for."

Moore was smiling with pleased satisfaction. Play-
fully he jabbed his prisoner's ear with the pistol
barrel.

" You're a clever one, I don't think," he remarked,
banteringly. " Why didn't you make off when you
had the chance? All you had to do was open that
outer door and beat it while the going was good."

" And run into your automobile steerer settin' on
the stoop, eh?" retorted "Shorty," sullenly. "It
was Jerry that was the slob. He'd ought to have
stayed with me. Then you'd never a' got us."

Brooke laughed.

" Maybe," he said. " I don't see myself why he

opened that door."

" He was drunk, or he wouldn't a' tried it,"
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" Shorty " explained. " He was fur puttin' you both
to sleep, so as to make a clean get away."

" A case of mistaken judgment, that was all,"
commented the Chicagoan.

They descended the stairs to the basement, Brooke
with the bag leading, Moore with the revolver in the
rear.

The big outlaw was still lying motionless in the
passage. On the cot the old German lay groaning.

" ' Shorty/ " said Brooke, magnanimity in his
voice, " I'm going to give you a chance to go free,
though you don't deserve it." He stood facing the
miserable little crook, whose rodent eyes were
screwed to pin points. " If you'll answer a few ques-
tions truthfully we'll leave you here to minister to
your friends, who seem to need aid pretty badly. Is
it ago?"

The wretched dwarf-like creature glanced at the
distorted figure of the German, and then at the little
puddle of blood on the floor, in which a corner of the
grey blanket was soaking.

" What you want to know? " he asked.

" Where do you think this bag came from ? "

" Shorty " leered grotesquely.

" That's easy," he said, confidently. " I seen it
before."

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"Where?"

" Kennedy brought it the last time. Oh, you
know, all right."

"Kennedy?"

" Sure."

"Who is Kennedy?"

The sallow face assumed an expression of bored
impatience.

" Quit your kidding" he said. " I can't tell you
nothin\"

Brooke caught him by the shoulder.

" Listen to me!" he commanded, " Fm in dead
earnest. Tell me what I ask you, and you'll hear no
more of this affair from me or through me. If you
don't I'll send that fellow on the stoop for an officer.
This is your last chance."

" Shorty " shrugged his shoulders.

" Kennedy's with the Burleigh crowd."

"Who are they?"

" Who ? " " Shorty " seemed puzzled.

"Yes. What's their game?"

"Say," replied "Shorty," "that's a hard one.
They got a dozen of 'em."

Brooke paused in his chain of interrogation. This
fellow, he saw, was a mine of information. The
problem was how best to get it out.

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"BROOKE WAS KNEELING UPON HIS CHEST."



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TRAPPED

" i Shorty/ " he said, throwing into his tone all the
conviction he could muster, " I want to see you again.
I'll make it worth your while. There's a hundred
dollar bill in it for you, if you'll give me a few
straight tips."

The prisoner pulled down the corner of his mouth.

"I ain't that sort," he returned. "You can't
pay me to squeal."

" I don't want you to squeal," Brooke explained.
" I want to learn the business, that's all. There's
a lot of money in this bag. I want to invest it to


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Online LibraryCharles Stokes WayneThe city of encounters → online text (page 8 of 19)