The Intrusion of Jimmy/Chapter 10

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CHAPTER X


JIMMY ADOPTS A LAME DOG


A BLACK figure detached itself from the blacker shadows, and shuffled stealthily to where Jimmy stood on the doorstep.

"That you, Spike?" asked Jimmy.

"Dat's right, boss."

"Come on in."

He led the way up to his rooms, switched on the electric light, and shut the door. Spike stood blinking at the sudden glare. He twirled his battered hat in his hands. His red hair shone fiercely.

Jimmy inspected him out of the corner of his eye, and came to the conclusion that the Mullins finances must be at a low ebb. Spike's costume differed in several important details from that of the ordinary well-groomed man about town. There was nothing of the flaneur about the Bowery Boy. His hat was of the soft black felt fashionable on the East Side of New York. It was in poor condition, and looked as if it had been up too late the night before. A black tail-coat, burst at the elbows and stained with mud, was tightly buttoned across his chest, this evidently with the idea of concealing the fact that he wore no shirt—an attempt which was not wholly successful. A pair of gray flannel trousers and boots out of which two toes peeped coyly completed the picture.

Even Spike himself seemed to be aware that there were points in his appearance which would have distressed the editor of a men's fashion-paper.

"'Scuse these duds," he said. "Me man's bin an' mislaid de trunk wit' me best suit in. Dis is me number two."

"Don't mention it, Spike," said Jimmy. "You look a perfect matinée idol. Have a drink?"

Spike's eyes gleamed as he reached for the decanter. He took a seat.

"Cigar, Spike?"

"Sure. T'anks, boss."

Jimmy lighted his pipe. Spike, after a few genteel sips, threw off his restraint, and finished the rest of his glass at a gulp.

"Try another," suggested Jimmy.

Spike's grin showed that the idea had been well received.

Jimmy sat and smoked in silence for a while. He was thinking the thing over. He felt like a detective who has found a clue. At last, he would be able to discover the name of the Lusitania girl. The discovery would not take him very far certainly, but it would be something. Possibly, Spike might even be able to fix the position of the house they had broken into that night.

Spike was looking at Jimmy over his glass in silent admiration. This flat which Jimmy had rented for a year, in the hope that the possession of a fixed abode might help to tie him down to one spot, was handsomely, even luxuriously, furnished. To Spike, every chair and table in the room had a romance of its own, as having been purchased out of the proceeds of that New Asiatic Bank robbery, or from the revenue accruing from the Duchess of Havant's jewels. He was dumb with reverence for one who could make burglary pay to this extent. In his own case, the profession had rarely provided anything more than bread and butter, and an occasional trip to Coney Island.

Jimmy caught his eye, and spoke.

"Well, Spike," he said. "Curious that we should meet like this?"

"De limit," agreed Spike.

"I can't imagine you three thousand miles from New York. How do you know the cars still run both ways on Broadway?"

A wistful look came into Spike's eyes.

"I've been dis side t'ree months. I t’ought it was time I give old Lunnon a call. T'ings was gettin' too fierce in Noo York. De cops was layin' fer me. Dey didn't seem like as if they had any use fer me. So, I beat it."

"Bad luck," said Jimmy.

"Fierce," agreed Spike.

"Say, Spike," said Jimmy, "do you know, I spent a whole heap of time before I left New York looking for you?"

"Gee! I wish you'd found me! Did youse want me to help on some lay, boss? Is it a bank, or—jools?"

"Well, no, not that. Do you remember that night we broke into that house uptown—the police-captain's house?"

"Sure."

"What was his name?"

"What, de cop's? Why, McEachern, boss."

"McWhat? How do you spell it?"

"Search me," said Spike, simply.

"Say it again. Fill your lungs, and enunciate slowly and clearly. Be bell-like. Now."

"McEachern."

"Ah! And where was the house? Can you remember that?"

Spike's forehead wrinkled.

"It's gone," he said, at last. "It was somewheres up some street up de town."

"That's a lot of help," said Jimmy. "Try again."

"It'll come back some time, boss, sure."

"Then, I'm going to keep an eye on you till it does. Just for the moment, you're the most important man in the world to me. Where are you living?"

"Me! Why, in de Park. Dat's right. One of dem swell detached benches wit' a Southern exposure."

"Well, unless you prefer it, you needn't sleep in the Park any more. You can pitch your moving tent with me."

"What, here, boss?"

"Unless we move."

"Me fer dis," said Spike, rolling luxuriously in his chair.

"You'll want some clothes," said Jimmy. "We'll get those to-morrow. You're the sort of figure they can fit off the peg. You're not too tall, which is a good thing."

"Bad t'ing fer me, boss. If I'd been taller, I'd have stood fer being a cop, an' bin buyin' a brownstone house on Fifth Avenue by dis. It's de cops makes de big money in little old Manhattan, dat's who it is."

"The man who knows!" said Jimmy. "Tell me more, Spike. I suppose a good many of the New York force do get rich by graft?"

"Sure. Look at old man McEachern."

"I wish I could. Tell me about him, Spike, You seemed to know him pretty well."

"Me? Sure. Dere wasn't a woise old grafter dan him in de bunch. He was out fer de dough all de time. But, say, did youse ever see his girl?"

"What's that?" said Jimmy, sharply.

"I seen her once." Spike became almost lyrical in his enthusiasm. "Gee! She was a boid—a peach fer fair. I'd have left me happy home fer her. Molly was her monaker. She—"

Jimmy was glaring at him.

"Cut it out!" he cried.

"What's dat, boss?" said Spike.

"Cut it out!" said Jimmy, savagely.

Spike looked at him, amazed.

"Sure," he said, puzzled, but realizing that his words had not pleased the great man.

Jimmy chewed the stem of his pipe irritably, while Spike, full of excellent intentions, sat on the edge of his chair, drawing sorrowfully at his cigar and wondering what he had done to give offense.

"Boss?" said Spike.

"Well?"

"Boss, what's doin' here? Put me next to de game. Is it de old lay? Banks an' jools from duchesses? You'll be able to let me sit in at de game, won't you?"

Jimmy laughed, "I'd quite forgotten I hadn't told you about myself, Spike. I've retired."

The horrid truth sank slowly into the other's mind.

"Say! What's dat, boss? You're cuttin' it out?"

"That's it. Absolutely."

"Ain't youse swiping no more jools?"

"Not me."

"Nor usin' de what's-its-name blow-pipe?"

"I have sold my oxy-acetylene blow-pipe, given away my anæsthetics, and am going to turn over a new leaf, and settle down as a respectable citizen."

Spike gasped. His world had fallen about his ears. His excursion with Jimmy, the master cracksman, in New York had been the highest and proudest memory of his life; and, now that they had met again in London, he had looked forward to a long and prosperous partnership in crime. He was content that his own share in the partnership should be humble. It was enough for him to be connected, however humbly, with such a master. He had looked upon the richness of London, and he had said with Blucher, "What a city to loot!"

And here was his idol shattering the visions with a word.

"Have another drink, Spike," said the lost leader, sympathetically. "It's a shock to you, I guess."

"I t'ought, boss—"

"I know, I know. These are life's tragedies. I'm very sorry for you. But it can't be helped. I've made my pile, so why continue?"

Spike sat silent, with a long face. Jimmy slapped him on the shoulder.

"Cheer up," he said. "How do you know that living honestly may not be splendid fun? Numbers of people do it, you know, and enjoy themselves tremendously. You must give it a trial, Spike."

"Me, boss! What, me, too?"

"Sure. You're my link with— I don't want to have you remembering that address in the second month of a ten-year stretch at Dartmoor Prison. I'm going to look after you, Spike, my son, like a lynx. We'll go out together, and see life. Brace up, Spike. Be cheerful. Grin!"

After a moment's reflection, the other grinned, albeit faintly.

"That's right," said Jimmy. "We'll go into society, Spike, hand in hand. You'll be a terrific success in society. All you have to do is to look cheerful, brush your hair, and keep your hands off the spoons. For in the best circles they invariably count them after the departure of the last guest."

"Sure," said Spike, as one who thoroughly understood this sensible precaution.

"And, now," said Jimmy, "we'll be turning in. Can you manage sleeping on the sofa one night? Some fellows would give their bed up to you. Not me, however. I'll have a bed made up for you to-morrow."

"Me!" said Spike. "Gee! I've been sleepin' in de Park all de last week. Dis is to de good, boss."