W. A. FRASER
THIS narrative of how Jim Burke slid down the wellgreased skidway of the race track into the waters of tribulation is true, except that Burke’s name wasn’t Burke.
Burke was a realtor in Hamilton, so he was a man accustomed to taking a chance; and Sam Gowdy knew this when he pilgrimaged from Buffalo to the city under the mountain.
Sam was a smoother, his profession the smooth “come-on” game, his talents admirably adapted to this profession.
Now Gowdy and Burke had been schoolmates, so, of course, all Sam had to do was walk into Burke’s office, give him a cordial handshake, present an expensive Havana, and with the wondrous smile that Gowdy was famed for ask: “How is the sleepy old village progressing, Jim?”
Burke had already appraised Gowdy’s sartorial exhibit. It was good, suggested prosperity. He answered: “Kind of
draggy, Sam. I’ve got a sub-division tied up—”
“Tied up is good,”
Sam laughed. “That’s one of the features of doing business in this town, Jim. Over in Buffalo there are no shelf-goods in city property; bing, biff, buy, sell! Things are humming. I’ve made a few bucks in the last six months, I can tell you.
I’ve made an offer for a property now that I can sell in a week at a nice turnover—got the buyer
AS THEY sat enjoying a satisfying dinner Gowdy suddenly exclaimed: “By gosh! see that tall, fine-looking chap talking to the head waiter—trying for a table, I suppose? That’s Henry P. Scanlon, one of the ablest men in America. He’s made a huge fortune. I know him well. Do you mind if I ask him to sit in with us; he’s alone?” “Not at all.”
Gowdy rose, and Burke could see the stranger shaking hands most cordially with his friend.
packed away in cold storage. He’ll bite when I’m ready.” That s my trouble,” Burke declared. “This sub-division will want capital to swing it. I’ve got a few thousands, but I need capital.”
Sam pricked his ears; that was just what he wanted to know Burke’s financial condition. “You come over to Buffalo, Jim, and I’ll let you in on this little thing—it doesn t run into big money, you know. All we’ll invest is three thousand, and we can clean up a couple of thousand -in two days! And if you get in over there, Jim, you might pick up a backer for this sub-division.”
“I’ll think it over,” Burke said.
“Well,” Gowdy advised, “do that little thing. Have dinner with me at the Connaught to-night, and let me know, for I’m going back to old Buff.”
At dinner Burke advised Gowdy that he would join him in the Buffalo deal.
‘Good!” Gowdy declared generously; “it’s wide open for you, old schoolmate. You come over to-morrow and we 11 pinch that property and make pin-money.”
Gowdy’s deal went through with nice, clean celerity. The property was bought by him and sold the very next day at a profit of $2,000. At any rate he handed Burke back his investment plus $1,000.
“We’ll have a little dinner on this, Sam,” the delighted Burke declared. “The dinner’s on me, but the scouting’s on you—a goldie-topped bottle, you know.”
When Scanlon was introduced he sat down, saying, “Very kind of you, Gowdy. There wasn’t an empty table.”
“The pleasure is all ours,” Burke declared. “We are just celebrating. Mr. Gowdy was good enough to let me in on a little city deal here; we made a couple of thousands —quick turnover.”
Henry P. smiled tolerantly and said: “Gowdy, you’ve got ability, but you’re hiding your light under a bushel. If you’d move down to the big town, one of your deals would be a hundred thousand. I asked you to dip in last year when we—when we—well, when we made a little money, my associates and myself.” *
Henry P.’s modesty, his diffidence, caused Gowdy to explain: “They cleaned up half-a-million, Jim; Mr. Scanlon’s share was a hundred thousand.” Then he added; “I hadn’t the capital, Mr. Scanlon; I had faith in you, but faith isn’t collateral.”
“You wouldn’t have needed much; our investment, that is, cash down, wasn’t heavy.”
“In handling city property,” he continued, “one must pay out a very substantial sum and wait. That capital is tied up and, if a slump comes, perhaps you sell out at a loss. It’s almost identical with stock gambling, one can’t forecast what is to happen.”
Burke showed in his face that he was a little at sea, and Gowdy carried on.
“You see, Jim,” he explained, “Mr. Scanlon’s brotherin-law is general manager of the United Telegraphs. He has influence, and he gets, when he wants it, all the reliable information that flows along the wire; gets to know when the real money is to be put down on a winner.”
He turned to the other: “Am I taking too great a liberty, Mr. Scanlon?”
“No. Mr. Burke is your friend. And people know that I bet rather heavily on horses, that I’ve made a great deal
of money at it, but they don t know how I get the information. So, Mr. Burke, you wili please consider this as in strict confidence. Men who plunge on horses without knowing what the ring is doing are suckers, and the suckers feed the sharks. Personally I d hate to be one of the ring; it isn’t good enough. But when I take advantage of my connections to grab off a piece of the loot I feel no compunction whatever. I have a small stable myself, but I don t play with the gang. I may condition a horse by racing him into form when he isn’t up to a win, and then when he’s ready and, bar accident, can t lose, I put down the dough on him, and the sharks know nothing about it. I—”
Just then a page came through the room singing, “Telegram for Mr. Scanlon!”
Gowdy officiously held up a hand.
Scanlon gave the boy a quarter, and saying, Excuse me,” read the telegram—read it twice; then he slipped it into his pocket, a smile on his lips.
He picked up the dinner check that had been placed on the table, drew out a large roll of bills, saying apologetically: “Gentlemen, I’ve enjoyed your company. I was really lonesome. It will be a pleasure if you will allow me to pay the reckoning.” Gowdy objected hotly, and Burke expostulated:
“This dinner is just overhead charges on our easy win.” Gowdy reached for the check, but Henry P. drew it back, saying with a laugh: “That’s just what I’m doing, paying it out of easy money. See,” and he handed thé telegram to Gowdy, who read aloud: “Star Flower won. Your ten thousand on~at six to one.”
Burke gasped. Sixty thousand dollars! No wonder Scanlon felt like paying for the dinner.
“We are pikers, Jim,” Gowdy exclaimed despondently. “That’s what the gang does,” Henry P. volunteered. “They run a horse till he’s a long price, then they shoot. They’re crooks because they’ve got jocks that would be honest, if they weren’t tempted, under their thumbs. Before I left New York this morning I learned it was to be a boat race, and that Star Flower was nominated, so I left the money with my commissioner to put it down at the last minute. I know three operators in the United Telegraphs that can decipher any race track code that was ever invented. This will cost me a five thousand subscription to the key men.”
“It’s worth it,” Gowdy declared.
“Yes. You see”—he addressed Burke—“it’s what a better loses on the ponies that counts. Nine out of ten of the good things you hear about turn out wrong. Many of them are sent out by the gang just to get the sucker money in. I’ve had bad things, but devilish few. I wouldn’t bet sour money on a tip unless I got it as I get mine.”
He pulled out his watch. “I’ve got to go, gentlemen,” he said decisively. “I’m going back to New York tonight.”
“Just a minute, Mr. Scanlon,” and Gowdy laid a detaining hand on the speaker’s arm; “if I go down to New York would it be any trouble to you to let me in on something? I refused your invitation last year, but—” “That’s all right, Gowdy,” Henry P. said kindly. “One thing I like about you is that you are cautious.
You don’t overplay your hand, and in this business I don’t want any flutter heads; I don’t want anybody to feel that I led them into deeper waters than they can swim in.” He hesitated. “They’re running at Pimlico next week, and I’m going to shoot with the big horse there—”
“What horse is that, Mr. Scanlon?” Gowdy asked. Scanlon stiffened a little, his flint-gray eyes took on a hard look. “You’ll forgive me, sir,” he reproved, “if I forbear to answer that question. I will send you a wire to come to New York, if you wish to, and at the proper time I will tell you the horse’s name. It will be up to you whether you bet five dollars or five thousand. If my horse hasn’t got fourteen pounds the best of the others in his race I’ll—well, I won’t tell you to bet.” “I’ll string with you, Mr. Scanlon.”
Burke had been tingling with a soul hunger for the wealth that Henry P. could conjure up as a necromancer lifts rabbits from a tall hat. Henry P. himself was absolutely convincing. He had a sincere face, brave steadfast eyes—perhaps they were hard—but they were the kind of eyes that won out.
“Mr. Scanlon,” Burke said, “I hesitate to butt in, but if I accompanied Sam, would I be too importune?” Henry P. laughed. “You are Gowdy’s friend; it would be no trouble to me. In New York there’s a million dollars waiting for the man who thinks he can pick a winner. Come with him if you want to. But if my horse steps in a hole and breaks a leg, don’t blame me. Now, gentlemen, thank you for the pleasant evening.” He shook hands cordially and went out.
A WEEK later over long distance telephone Burke received a message from Gowdy in Buffalo, saying that Scanlon had wired him to come to New York that night.
Burke jumped at the chance. “I’ll be on the New York Central to-night,” he said.
On the way Burke confided to Gowdy that he had only brought six hundred dollars. “We’ll feel them out, Gowdy?” he said. “If it looks good, we’ll play ’em thousands next time, eh?”
“That’s right, Jim,” Gowdy concurred. “We’ll feel ’em out.”
In New York Gowdy went down to Scanlon’s office to arrange the matter. When he returned to the hotel he said: “Henry P. tells me not to bet on his horse to-day, the track is heavy; but he thinks he can give us a winner that will get us ‘the eats’ money. He’ll know if it’s meant just before race time. We’re to go to a poolroom and wait there; he’ll call me up over the phone and give me the horse’s name.”
“I say, Gowdy,” Burke ejaculated gleefully, “we can get the name of Scanlon’s horse; if he’s entered to-day his name will be in the Running Form under the owner’s
Gowdy frowned. “There you go, Burke. Didn’t I tell you that Henry P. was one of the smartest men in America?—he’s a smoother; his horses don’t run in his name. More than that, nobody has ever seen his name in print in connection with horses. He gave me this card that will admit us to the poolroom.”
This was a membership card entitling the holder to the hospitality of the Mountain Hunting Club. Burke and Gowdy found the club in Thirty-First Street, off Broadway. Just off the sidewalk the window of a ladies’ hat shop bloomed like a flowered garden with lids for madam and mademoiselle; above, gold letters proclaimed that Dr. Eastmen was a dentist. A narrow entrance hall led to a small elevator, and as Gowdy and Burke passed in, a small, dark, rat-faced man who had been loitering at the entrance followed them. The elevator shot up, in compliance with Gowdy’s advice to the top. The rat-faced man left the elevator at their heels as they stepped into a narrow hall that led past one closed door and ended at another.
“Who do you want?” the man asked.
Gowdy drew the card from his pocket.
Their new associate tapped on the end door with a finger-nail five distinct raps. There was the click of a key turning in a lock, the door was opened a little, and somebody within, after peering through a crack, said: “Oh, all right— come in.”
There were just five men in the room beside the officials. At one side of the room was a platform two feet high; and on the wall behind this a blackboard on which was chalked the names of the horses entered for the six races for the day.
On a high stool a young man sat smoking a cigarette. To the right an open door showed another smaller room. A drop shelf cut this doorway, and acted as a counter for transacting business. At this shelf a stout man sat in his shirt sleeves, and beyond him a telegraph instrument was clicking, incessantly clicking. The boy with the chalk addressed the fat man as Jo*..
"I’ve never been here before,” Gowdy said.
“They don’t seem to do much business—not many people. Are they reliable?” Burke queried.
Gowdy chuckled: “It’s not a piker’s playground— they won’t let ’em in; it’s for the big players. It’s one of many rooms controlled by the ring. If you won a hundred thousand dollars here that fat man wouldn’t blink an eyelash.” Gowdy indicated a slim, dark-faced man walking up and down the room. “That’s Reilly Brady, the plunger,” he said; “he’s got some killing on, and he’s come here to this quiet place to play it.”
It was just before the start of the second race; the first odds had been chalked up on the board when'Joe called into the room: “Is there a Mr. Gowdy here— wanted at the phone.” The fat man lifted the ledge, saying, “In here, sir.”
When Gowdy came out he said: “It’s Adverse—in this race.” He looked at the board, “He’s eight to one. Henry P. says not to play too stiff—he’s afraid of Poker Face. I’ll bet five hundred only.”
Burke handed Gowdy five $100 bills saying, “I’ll do the same.”
In five minutes the thousand dollars nestling in Joe’s yawning despatch box belonged to the room, for Poker Face won with Adverse second.
As they made their way back to the hotel Gowdy said: “Henry P. warned me not to bet heavy, but you can see the horse was meant; perhaps he got left at the post, or perhaps he wasn’t quite good enough.”
' I 'HAT night Scanlon dropped in to their hotel just after they had finished dinner, and said cheerily: “Well, gentlemen, that little thing was all right.” “What do you mean, Mr. Scanlon?” Gowdy asked
querulously. “Adverse didn’t win, and we lost a thousand.”
“Of course he didn’t win; I was just a little afraid of Poker Face beating him; but he ran second, just where I told you to play him, and he was two to one for place.” I I thought that we were to back him to win.” Henry P. made a despairing gesture with an uplift of both hands. “That’s the limit!” he declared. “I told you over the phone Adverse—second.”
Gowdy gasped. “And I took that to mean second race!” he moaned.
Why would I mention the race?” Henry P. queried. “You had eyes to see it on the board.”
Gowdy turned to Burke, and there were tears in his voice as he said: “My fault—I’m sorry!”
^ Just a bit of bad luck,” Burke retorted; “forget it.” That s the spirit!” Scanlon commented: “A good loser is a rare bird.” He drew out a bulging wallet, saying:^ F ou two gentlemen came down here on my invitation; this was largely my fault; I don’t like saying too much about a race over the phone, and perhaps I wasn t explicit enough. I’ll make that money good.” But Gowdy expostulated: “Not on your life, Mr. Scanlon—I’ll make Jim’s loss good.”
Burke declared that nobody was going to make anything good so far as he was concerned; it was just a bit of bad luck. The mistake might have made them a lot of money, for Adverse had only been beaten a neck, and he was six to one to win.
Well, gentlemen,” Scanlon =aid, “we’ve just loaned em that money. In three or four days Dave is going to put over the big horse. F’ou could stay here and I might get you a winner, but I hand-pick all that comes over the clothes-line, and there might not be one that was a cinch.”
“I’ve got to go back,” Burke replied; “I’ve got a deal on about a sub-division, but I’d like to come down when there’s something doing.” “I’ll stay right here,” Gowdy declared. “They can’t cop my money without my camping on their trail.”
“Same here, Sam,” Burke commented. “You call me up when things are ripe and I’ll bring a few extra dollars this time.”
Scanlon commended, “You two Canucks are the goods!” He drew a letter from his pocket, and handed it to Gowdy. “That’s from my trainer, Dave.”
Gowdy ran his eye over the letter and handed it to Burke. The envelope was crumpled —soiled—as though it had been addressed in a stable. The letter was in pencil, and written by fingers more accustomed to putting bandages on a horse’s leg than holding a pen; its language, while not eloquent, was to the point. It stated that the big horse was bu’stin’ his gizzard with eagerness to run—never was better in his life. Dave had worked him a mile and a quarter in 2.06, and he was under double wraps all the w-ay. He was entered in the Capitol Stakes next Tuesday, and was pounds better than anything in the Stake—couldn’t lose.
The letter was very convincing to Burke; at last he was on the inside.
This was the thought in his mind as he mentally rehearsed the adventure on his way back to Hamilton that night. His reason for taking only six hundred dollars with him had been caution. He had heard stories of the wire-tapping game, but there had been no talk of wfire-tapping, no suspicious effort to get him in for big money. In fact, Henry P. had advised a small bet. And he knew that wffien crooks set out to get a man for big money they always let him win something at first. If it had been a put-up job they could have let him bet five hundred on some even-money choice. Of course only for Gow'dy’s mistake he would have won a thousand on Adverse for the place, but if Gow'dy had been in with crooks he wouldn’t have made that mistake.
BACK in Hamilton, Burke feverishly gathered in all the money he could lay his hands on, even putting a mortgage on his house. He w'as like a man bitten by the treasure-hunting bug—temporarily insane with the thirst for getting rich quickly. He was exhilarated. Here was a chance. Luck was locked in the closet.
When Gowdy phoned him Sunday from New' F'ork to come down Monday night Burke had $15,000 in the inside pocket of his vest.
At the station he was greeted by Arthur Hayes who had been negotiating with him for the purchase of his sub-division. Hayes represented New' F'ork capital, Burke understood. He w'as delighted to learn that Burke was going to New Frork on that train, for he was sending his wife home, as her mother was ill, and he couldn’t go himself. He lamented that he hadn't been able to get a drawfing-room—his wife was afraid to
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travel alone—but now it would be all right if Mr. Burke would look after her.
Burke had secured a drawing-room partly because he was carrying the $15,000. Here was a chance to cultivate Hayes’s friendship—it would help the big land deal. Burke declared he would give Mrs. Hayes his drawing-room— insisted on it.
Now, Mrs Hayes was a most delightful little woman, vivacious and girlish. They spent practically the whole evening together in the drawing-room on the train, and when, next morning, Burke put her into a taxi at the terminal, she thanked him effusively for his goodness.
Gowdy was waiting for Burke at the hotel. As they breakfasted Sam developed a pessimistic streak. “Guess I’ve got the blues,” he said. “And if I meet a crosseyed nigger on the street to-day, I’m not going to bet a cent.”
Burke chuckled: “If I meet a curlyheaded Indian I’m going to shoot the roll,” he declared.
“I’ll phone Henry P.,” Gowdy replied, “to tell him we’re here, and get instructions.” When he rejoined Burke, he advised: “Henry P. will be here at one.” The hours that intervened seemed interminable to Burke. But at one o’clock Scanlon appeared.
“I had to wait till Dave got me on the long distance from Pirn,” Scanlon said. “A horse may look like a million dollars to-day and next morning leave his oats in the feed-box. Dave says it’s the surest thing he ever saw in his life. Mind you, gentlemen,” he warned, “I’m depending on that horse and Dave just as much as you are. My jock, Finney, I could bet my life on. The horse is right, Dave is honest, but-—accidents will happen.” “I’m quite willing to take that chance,” Burke declared.
“You’re a good sport, Mr. Burke,” Scanlon said. “I wish you luck. I’m backing my horse heavily in Chicago and down town. I’m going to put a crimp in Izzy Upstine’s roll. At the last minute, too—I won’t give him time to lay it off at the track, because that would cut the odds.” He drew a roll of bills from his pocket, and passing it to Gowdy, said: “There’s a thousand. You can bet that for me with yours. And the name of the horse is in this envelope. He’s in the fourth race. Don’t open that envelope until the horses are going to the post, so, if there’s any leak, I can’t blame you, Gowdy.”
When the two men went to the poolroom in Thirty-First Street the’ third race had just been run, and the smoothhaired boy was chalking up the odds against the runners in the fourth. Red Shanks was favorite at eight to five. There were six starters.
After the second betting Gowdy said: “I’ll open Henry P.’s envelope. He gets my goat with his damn mystery business, but I’ll string with him. He could have trusted me with the name of the horse.” “I like his way of doing business,” Burke answered.
“Time for action,” Gowdy replied. He stepped over to the window, drew a packet of letters from his pocket, and selected an envelope that had the figure 8 in a corner. He tore it open, looked at the contents, and beckoned to Burke.
Burke read on the slip, “Black Bonero” —that was all, just “Black Bonero.” “That’s our horse,” Gowdy said, “and I guess some of Henry P.’s money is getting back to the track. He was fifteen, now he’s eight to one.”
The voice of the fat man, Joe, rang through the room: “The horses are going to the post!”
“Come on,” Burke said.
At the shelf in front of Joe stood the small dark man Gowdy had said was Reilly Brady. He was saying, “Two thousand on Black Bonero, Joe.”
Gowdy shoved a thumb into Burke’s back and whispered: “There’s been a leak. Hurry, boy, before they wipe it out.”
As Brady turned away Burke laid -on the shelf a great wad of bills, saying: “Fifteen thousand on Black Bonero.” The fat man hesitated, and Burke felt a sinking of the heart. What if his bet should be refused, and a fortune slip through his fingers?
“I’ll take five thousand,” Joe said.
“I think I know who’s behind this coup.” “Lay it off, Joe,” Gowdy pleaded. Without answering Joe pulled a phone to his side, and calling a number asked: “That you, Dick? . . . Joe speaking . . . ten thousand Black Bonero, win. Aw, take it, Dick. I’m holdin’ ten thousand. And say, put two hundred on for me personal.”
He_ listened for the answer, then, reaching for Burke’s mound of bills, riffled them in a count, tossed them into his tin box, and wrote out a ticket: “$120,000 to $15,000, Black Bonero to win.” He handed this to Burke.
Then Gowdy said: “$10,000 for me, Joe—Bonero.”
Joe shook his head: “I can’t take that much. I’ll take $2,000. Dick says the town’s flooded with Bonero money, and he^says that Henry P.’s behind this.” “Well, look here, Joe; I’ll be candid with you. One thousand of this is Henry P.’s; take it, and two thousand of mine—be a sport, old man.”
(i “You’re on, Mr. Gowdy,” Joe replied. “That’s all, that’s all; the horses are at the post!”
Gowdy put the ticket in his pocket, and as he turned away he said: “It was that Brady backing Bonero that frightened Joe. He’s a sure-thing shooter, BJady is.”
“You can have part of my bet,” Burke declared sympathetically.
He was interrupted by a voice from the inner room crying: “They’re off! Red Shanks winging.”
“It’s too late, Jim,” Gowdy declared. “I’ll win a good bet anyway.”
“Red Shanks a length in front Black Bonero second, under wraps . . . the rest bunched, with Summer Maid trailing!” said the voice.
Gowdy grabbed Burke by the lapels of his coat and shook him.
“Black Bonero under wraps!” he cried exultantly. “Just playing with Red Shanks. And Finney riding—that’s Finney. Knowing he’s got the best horse under him, he’ll nurse him—hold him in his lap. It’s a mile-and-quarter, and Finney’ll let Red Shanks run himself into the ground, then Bonero’ll roll home.”
Burke gasped, and tried to speak. He couldn’t; excitement was choking him. He tore himself loose and paced the floor, both arms swinging out from his sides like the wings of a fighting cock.
“Down the back stretch!” the voice proclaimed. “Red Shanks opened up a lead of three lengths, but Bonero going e-e-easy—his boy hasn’t moved on him yet.”
“Oh, you Bonero! Oh, you Finney boy!” Gowdy exulted. “Mile-andquarter, and Bonero going easy! Oh, you Finney boy!” He grabbed Burke again: “Say, old sport, we’ll give Henry P. five hundred bucks for Finney!”
“And what about Henry P. himself?” Burke asked. “All this money?” “Twenty-five per cent, to Henry P.” Burke stared; he hadn’t heard about this. And yet, of course, it was only fair.
“Should have been a fifty-fifty split,” Gowdy added, “but Henry P. likes me, and—”
“They’re on the lower turn,” the voice added, “swinging into the stretch, Red Shanks still in the lead by one length!” “Bonero’s got him-—Bonero’s got him! Oh, you Finney boy!” Gowdy yelped.
And then the inexorable voice of the oracle came over the head of fat Joe: “Black Bonero ran out at the turn-—went wide, and Dr. B. is closing on Red Shanks next the rail. Blue Ghost is third, and coming!”
Burke’s knees sagged; he tottered to a chair and slumped into it, and Gowdy, eyes wide, gasped.
“Bonero’s coming again,” the voice announced. “He’s lapped on Blue Ghost. The jock on Red Shanks has gone to the bat—-they’re all riding-—It's anybody’s race! The leaders are under the wire bunched.”
There was a ghastly silence; the solemn hush that lies like a dead thing in front of a storm; just the sputter, sputter, sputter of the clicking machine in the other room. Burke was clutching at his collar. He was smothering. Gowdy stood like a man made of some soft material—cloth.
“Here comes the winner!” broke the
silence. “Red Shanks wins by a nose, Blue Ghost gets the place, and Black Bonero shows.”
The smooth-haired boy had sprung to his feet, and with his chalk swept an oval ring around Red Shanks’s name, wrote “2” over Blue Ghost, and “3” over Black Bonero.
What mockery the three! What mattered it that Black Bonero was third? If he had been beaten twenty lengths it would have been just the same. Burke’s thousands, even his house, were in that tin box behind fat Joe. Fatuous fool! Ruined! Greed was a slayer, a killer of soul and body, a shatterer of common sense.
“Let’s get out of here, Gowdy,” he said in a husky voice.
“Wait a minute,” the other commanded. “There may be a mistake in the colors, or a claim of foul, or something.” But presently Joe said: “That’s official. Red Shanks, Blue Ghost, Black Bonero. I’ll pay off. I’ll pay off.”
TWO men stepped up to the wicket where Joe sat, but at that instant the knob on the door rattled as if somebody were trying to open it. There was an imperative beat of knuckles against its wooden panel, and a hoarse voice was bellowing: “Open this door!”
Gowdy clutched Burke by the arm, and whispered: “Keep still—police—a raid!”
The chalk artist slipped from his stoöl, and glided through the door to the other room; the door closed, and there was the click of key and bolt on the inside.
Again the voice was demanding: “Open this door or I’ll bust it in!” There was a little deathly stillness, and then a crash against the door—a shoulder, or a foot. The lock rattled; again a heavier battering, and the bolt of the lock tore its splintering way through the casement. The door flung wide.
Two big chaps, guns in hand«, sprang into the room; one swung the door shut, saying to the other: “Put your back against that, Bill, and if anybody attempts anything, wing him.”
The two men were in plain clothes, but the speaker threw back his coat, showing a silver star on his breast, and said: “You’re under arrest. Where’s the keeper of this room?”
One man pointed timidly to the door of the inner room.
But, as before, a knock on its panel, and a command to open, produced nothing but silence—no one answered. The man at the door seized a heavy oaken chair and swung it with terrific force against the door just at the lock. The door yielded to this strong persuasion and the officer rushed in. Almost immediately he came back again, saying: “They made their get-away, Bill. That side door, and down the elevator while we’ve been in here. Quick work!”
“Now, you fellows,” he said, turning to the betters, “you’re under arrest, and my advice to you is, to tell me who was running this room.”
But nobody knew the name of anybody-just Joe; and there are a lot of Joes in New York. It didn’t mean anything.
“Well,” the officer said, “there’s a van down on the street, and you can explain to the sergeant how come you’re here bettin’ real money with a man you don’t even know the name of.”
Gowdy drew the officer to one side, saying: “Let’s go into the other room; there’s a phone there, and we’d best call up Captain Shea. When I say that Henry P. is my friend it’ll make a difference.”
“Who’s Henry P.?” the officer sneered. “You call up Captain Shea, officer, and you’ll find out. You don’t want to get thanked backwards, do you?”
He stepped towards the other room, and the policeman followed. Burke could hear a jiggle with the phone receiver, then a conversation that was evidently being halved at the other end by a police official.
When Gowdy and the policeman came out, the officer said addressing Burke: “I’ll take your name and address, and this gentleman’s. You hadn’t better light out till we get this man you call Joe— we’ll want your evidence.”
He turned to the five other men in the room. “You come along and sign the register at the sergeant’s desk.”
One of them put up a big howl at this,
letting two men off and taking them.
“Look here, sonny,” the policeman retorted, “you go interfering with me and my duty, and I’ll hand you one. And you know what it’ll get you with the sergeant if I make that complaint. Bein’ found in ain’t no crime, ’tain’t goin’ to get you much—come along.”
“Let them get away,” Gowdy advised Burke. “We don’t want to go down with a couple of officers loading people into a patrol waggon.”
The two men waited five minutes, and then sn°t down to earth in the elevator.
Almost in silence they wended their way, as if by a woodcraft instinct of direction, back to the hotel, Burke muttering: “I might have known. I might have known that something would happen. ’ Black Bonero running out at the turn was the specific something this
There were always a hundred, a thousand, natural chances against a big killing. Left at the post, a horse cut down, forced into a pocket by a combine of the jockeys and held there; even in a mix-up a horse sometimes fell; and sometimes the jockey might have a big ticket m his bootleg on another horse. Curious how blinded by the lure of sudden wealth, he had forgotten all these things.
And the disgrace, the sudden evil of being arrested in a poolroom playing the horses! If that fact got back to Hamilton, it would be almost worse than the loss of his money.
Back in his room at the hotel he paced the floor, smoking, smoking interminably. And a drink—two drinks! He started to pack his bag almost mechanically. Suddenly he stopped, remembering-—he had been warned not to leave New York. If he did, they had his address; perhaps he could be extradited for breaking custody; then there would be scandal and expense.
Suddenly he knew what to do; his mind, working with stunned lethargy, could decide nothing with clarity. He had a hang-over of shock. But Father Mulligan, the little priest who had gone from Hamilton to New York, would know what he should do. Peter Mulligan was as bright as a silver dollar, and broad-minded. His parish was on the East side. He would know just how the police were to be treated.
WHEN Burke reached Father Mulligan s humble rooms on Second Avenue, the priest was in, and to the kindly stout, red-faced Irishman with the beautiful blue, honest eyes, he told his story end to end. Sometimes the priest’s chubby hand rested on his knee encouragingly, for it was his own sin that Burke emphasized.
At last the priest heaved a great sigh and said: “Jim, my boy, you’ve been in the hands of the forty thieves; it was a plant from end to end.”
“But, Father, there was no talk of wire-tapping, and Henry P. bet a thousand dollars.”
“Burke, these birds are up to date. I’ve known of a lot of queer things here in this parish, but this is a new one. The poolroom was just a fake, it was no poolroom; they just rented that place and waited like spiders in a web for your coming.”
“But the police raid, Father?”
“There was no police raid, they just had a couple of strong-arm crooks with false badges on their breasts arrest you, so that you’d clear off home and not make a squeal over the money.”
“What will I do, Father—what will I do?”
“You’ll just sit quiet for a minute and I’ll make sure. I know Danny Shea, captain of that precinct, and if he’s in, we’ll go up to see him. The sooner we get after these crooks the better.”
When the priest came back from phoning, hesaid: “Come on, Jim, my boy —Captain Shea is waiting for us.”
On the way Father Mulligan bought a sporting paper. As he perused it he chuckled. “There’s the description of that race, Jim,” he said when they had left the street car. “That vivid description they gave you in the poolroom was just a joke on you. They had the results before they tuned in. Just read this paper—Black Bonero never was in the hunt. It says Red Shanks won, eased up, and Bonero was beaten six lengths, though he was third. There’s nothing about him running out at the turn, because he didn’t. There was some signal that they flashed to your friend, Gowdy, that Red Shanks
had won, and hé got out the slip of paper with Black Bonero written on it.”
When Burke had gone over the whole matter again with Captain Shea, the police officer said: “Yes, they were crooks; there was no poolroom raid in my precinct to-day. Joe is a bit like Dutch Lou, and your Henry P. Scanlon may be Gentleman Richard. If we can pinch them we may make them disgorge, just a chance, because these fellows will stop at nothing, perjury, murder, even. I’ll sweep the mooseyard for them. With their pockets full of easy money they won’t keep off Broadway, for they’ll think that arrest would silence you. But you stay in New York; we’ll want you to identify them.”
Back at his hotel Burke found that Gowdy had paid his bill and vanished. Of course he had known of Burke’s visit to the police—must have, or he would have brazened it out.
As Burke sat in the cafe eating a more or less forced dinner, a tall, hawk-faced man halted at his table, saying: “Mr. Burke, of Hamilton, I believe.” He drew back the empty chair opposite Burke and sat down.
“Yes, I’m Burke. But you have the advantage of me.”
The stranger chuckled. “I might have, at that,” he said, “but I’ve been looking for you all day. Where do you suppose I got track of you?”
“I don’t know.”
“Through your visit, a short time ago to the police station. You see”—and the stranger drew from his pocket a silver star which he held almost hidden in the palm of his hand.
“Ah, I see,” Burke said. “You’ve come from Captain Shea.”
“No. I’m in the Morality Department. I’ve nothing to do with your squeal on some poolroom. But you’ve been charged under the Mann Act with transporting Little Jane through New York and Pennsylvania from Hamilton.”
If the stranger had drawn a blackjack and swatted Burke across the head the paralyzing effect would not have been more complete than these words. With a gasp his jaw sagged, then foolishly he babbled: “That’s a lie! Mrs. Hayes was put in my charge in Hamilton by her husband.”
“Little Jane hasn’t any husband; she’s too clever for that. Look here,” he said, “I’ve come here to give you a friendly warning. The boys don’t want to ride you to death, but they don’t want to be bothered; see? You ain’t gota chance except go up the river to serve a stretch under that beautiful fool thing, the Mann Act. The drawing-room on the train was taken in your name, and Little Jane, plus, occupied it. I could pinch you now, but I ain’t seen you yet. Say, Buddy,” and the evil-faced stranger grinned, “when you go on a joy-ride again don’t tip the porter fifty cents, give him five dollars.”
“It’s all a lie—blackmail!” Burke declared.
“You explain that to the magistrate; I’ve got nothin’ to do with that. But I’ll tell you somethin’, Johnnie Canuck: If you’re on the train for Hamilton to-night, a man will slip you a thousand bucks. The boys ain’t hard-hearted, they’re sports, but they’ve got to take care of themselves.”
Then the stranger passed out of the room.
And Burke, having no heart for the rest of his dinner, went to his room and packed his bag. So “the boys” included Hayes and his “wife” as well as Henry P. and Gowdy. He would go to see the little priest, and take his advice.
When he had explained the new angle of his predicament Father Mulligan said: “I’m afraid you’re up against it, Burke. You hadn’t much of a chance of getting your money back anyway.” He put his hand on the troubled one’s shoulder, and said : “There was a very noble Englishman lived once, and he wrote:
‘He who steals my purse steals trash; but he who steals my good name steals that which enriches not him, but leaves me poor indeed’.”
Burke lifted his eyes to the priest’s and asked, “Do you think they can, Father?”
“They can, Jim. And your good name is to be cherished above all.”
Burke went down the stone steps of the old house, a broken man.