Page:Weird Tales volume 30 number 01.djvu/22

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

stake. It's because you found the one way to force me into the hellish business in the first place. But I suppose you wouldn't understand that. You abysmal scum!"

Littell had to take it. If he didn't get out of this place of stone and steel and brute-faced guards soon he would go mad. And in Harley lay the possibility, according to his cellmate.

He had looked furtively around to make sure none could hear.

"MacQueen says you have a way of escape."

The gray ice of Harley's eyes had lightened at that. He had laughed, long and loud, for the first time since the walls of the penitentiary enclosed him.

"Ssh!" Littell had said frantically. "You'll attract attention——"

"What of it? So you heard about that, did you? And you come crawling to me for further details. To me! That's good."

Words, laugh and look had stung like whips. But Littell would have taken anything with the possibility of a jail-break in sight.

"You have a way out, Harley?"

"Wouldn't you like to know!"

That was all for that day.

Littell kept after the hawk-eyed man. He believed Harley did have a way out. Prisons aren't built to confine minds like Harley's.

But for maddening day after maddening day, Harley only laughed at him when he cringed up to him in the prison yard. Then had come the day when he looked at Littell with savagely thoughtful eyes.

"By God, it would serve you right if I told you."

Quick! Catch him up on it!

"Why? Is there a catch to it?" Littell had fawned.

"A catch? That's a weak word, scum. There's hell in it such as a brain like yours couldn't comprehend."

"But what is it, Harley? What's your way out of here?"

For answer, only the maddening laugh that drew the eyes of guards and other prisoners alike. Drew their eyes, and also answering grins. For all there knew how Harley loathed the big soft man with the paunch who had killed a girl with the virus of psittacosis.

"I'll bet it isn't sure after all, Harley."

"You know damned well it is." Harley's amused, icy eyes drilled Littell's bloodshot brown ones. "You know I've got brains enough to figure a way out."

"If it's sure, why don't you use it yourself?"

"I told you. There's hell in it. Personally I'd rather stay here than face the consequences of that particular escape."

"Consequences worse than—this?" Littell had chattered hysterically, staring around at the grim yard.

"Decidedly worse," nodded Harley, icy, amused.

"What?" begged Littell. "What are the consequences?"

"Wouldn't you like to know?"

More maddening days. And then Littell had hit upon the method of prying Harley's secret from him. The brain that had thought of parrot's disease as a murder method was keen enough to find a way out here. It lay through the man's hatred.

"Maybe your way of escape would be painful, or something. But what do you care? I'm the one who would be facing these consequences you talk about. And you certainly aren't interested in sparing me any grief."

Harley's laugh had not rung out, for once. Again that bitterly thoughtful look had slid into his gray eyes.

"Maybe it isn't as bad as you think," urged Littell.