The Intrusion of Jimmy/Chapter 22

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CHAPTER XXII


TWO OF A TRADE DISAGREE


"ONE hundred t'ousand plunks," murmured Spike, gazing lovingly at them. "I says to myself, de boss ain't got no time to be gittin' after dem himself. He's too busy dese days wit' jollyin' along de swells. So, it's up to me, I says, 'cos de boss'll be tickled to deat', all right, all right, if we can git away wit' dem. So, I—"

Jimmy gave tongue with an energy that amazed his faithful follower. The nightmare horror of the situation had affected him much as a sudden blow in the parts about the waistcoat might have done. But, now, as Spike would have said, he caught up with his breath. The smirk faded slowly from the other's face as he listened. Not even in the Bowery, full as it was of candid friends, had he listened to such a trenchant summing-up of his mental and moral deficiencies.

"Boss!" he protested.

"That's just a sketchy outline," said Jimmy, pausing for breath. "I can't do you justice impromptu like this—you're too vast and overwhelming."

"But, boss, what's eatin' you? Ain't youse tickled?"

"Tickled!" Jimmy sawed the air. "Tickled! You lunatic! Can't you see what you've done?"

"I've got dem," said Spike, whose mind was not readily receptive of new ideas. It seemed to him that Jimmy missed the main point.

"Didn't I tell you there was nothing doing when you wanted to take those things the other day?"

Spike's face cleared. As he had suspected, Jimmy had missed the point.

"Why, say, boss, yes. Sure! But dose was little, dinky t'ings. Of course, youse wouldn't stand fer swipin' chicken-feed like dem. But dese is different. Dese di'monds is boids. It's one hundred t'ousand plunks fer dese."

"Spike," said Jimmy with painful calm.

"Huh?"

"Will you listen for a moment?"

"Sure."

"I know it's practically hopeless. To get an idea into your head, one wants a proper outfit—drills, blasting-powder, and so on. But there's just a chance, perhaps, if I talk slowly. Has it occurred to you, Spike, my bonny, blue-eyed Spike, that every other man, more or less, in this stately home of England, is a detective who has probably received instructions to watch you like a lynx? Do you imagine that your blameless past is a sufficient safeguard? I suppose you think that these detectives will say to themselves, 'Now, whom shall we suspect? We must leave out Spike Mullins, of course, because he naturally wouldn't dream of doing such a thing. It can't be dear old Spike who's got the stuff.'"

"But, boss," interposed Spike brightly, "I ain't! Dat's right. I ain't got it. Youse has!"

Jimmy looked at the speaker with admiration. After all, there was a breezy delirium about Spike's methods of thought that was rather stimulating when you got used to it. The worst of it was that it did not fit in with practical, everyday life. Under different conditions—say, during convivial evenings at Bloomingdale—he could imagine the Bowery boy being a charming companion. How pleasantly, for instance, such remarks as that last would while away the monotony of a padded cell!

"But, laddie," he said with steely affection, listen once more. Reflect! Ponder! Does it not seep into your consciousness that we are, as it were, subtly connected in this house in the minds of certain bad persons? Are we not imagined by Mr. McEachern, for instance, to be working hand-in-hand like brothers? Do you fancy that Mr. McEachern, chatting with his tame sleuth-hound over their cigars, will have been reticent on this point? I think not. How do you propose to baffle that gentlemanly sleuth, Spike, who, I may mention once again, has rarely moved more than two yards away from me since his arrival?"

An involuntary chuckle escaped Spike.

"Sure, boss, dat's all right."

"All right, is it? Well, well! What makes you think it is all right?"

"Why, say, boss, dose sleut's is out of business." A merry grin split Spike's face. "It's funny, boss. Gee! It's got a circus skinned! Listen. Dey's bin an' arrest each other."

Jimmy moodily revised his former view. Even in Bloomingdale, this sort of thing would be coldly received. Genius must ever walk alone. Spike would have to get along without hope of meeting a kindred spirit, another fellow-being in tune with his brain-processes.

"Dat's right," chuckled Spike. "Leastways, it ain't."

"No, no," said Jimmy, soothingly. "I quite understand."

"It's dis way, boss. One of dem has bin an' arrest de odder mug. Dey had a scrap, each t'inkin' de odder guy was after de jools, an' not knowin' dey was bot' sleut's, an' now one of dem's bin an' taken de odder off, an'"—there were tears of innocent joy in Spike's eyes—"an' locked him into de coal-cellar."

"What on earth do you mean?"

Spike giggled helplessly.

"Listen, boss. It's dis way. Gee! It beat de band! When it's all dark 'cos of de storm comin' on, I'm in de dressin'-room, chasin' around fer de jool-box, an' just as I gits a line on it, gee! I hears a footstep comin' down de passage, very soft, straight fer de door. Was I to de bad? Dat's right. I says to meself, here's one of de sleut' guys what's bin and got wise to me, an' he's comin' in to put de grip on me. So, I gits up quick, an' I hides behind a coitain. Dere's a coitain at de side of de room. Dere's dude suits an' t'ings hangin' behind it. I chases meself in dere, and stands waitin' fer de sleut' to come in. 'Cos den, you see, I'm goin' to try an' get busy before he can see who I am—it's pretty dark 'cos of de storm—an' jolt him one on de point of de jaw, an' den, while he's down an' out, chase meself fer de soivants' hall."

"Yes?" said Jimmy.

"Well, dis guy, he gits to de door, an' opens it, an' I'm just gittin' ready fer one sudden boist of speed, when dere jumps out from de room on de odder side de passage—you know de room—anodder guy, an' gits de rapid strangleholt on de foist mug. Say, wouldn't dat make youse glad you hadn't gone to de circus? Honest, it was better dan Coney Island."

"Go on. What happened then?"

"Dey falls to scrappin' good an' hard. Dey couldn't see me, an' I couldn't see dem, but I could hear dem bumpin' about and sluggin' each other to beat de band. An', by and by, one of de mugs puts do odder mug to de bad, so dat he goes down and takes de count; an' den I hears a click. An' I know what dat is. It's one of de gazebos has put de irons on de odder gazebo."

"Call them A. and B.," suggested Jimmy.

"Den I hears him—de foist mug—strike a light, 'cos it's dark dere 'cos of de storm, an' den he says, 'Got youse, have I?' he says. 'I've had my eye on youse, t'inkin' youse was up to somet'in' of dis kind. I've bin watching youse!' I knew de voice. It's dat mug what calls himself Sir Tummas' vally. An' de odder—"

Jimmy burst into a roar of laughter.

"Don't, Spike! This is more than man was meant to stand. Do you mean to tell me it is my bright, brainy, persevering friend Galer who has been handcuffed and locked in the coal-cellar?"

Spike grinned broadly.

"Sure, dat's right," he said.

"It's a judgment," said Jimmy, delightedly. "That's what it is! No man has a right to be such a consumate ass as Galer. It isn't decent."

There had been moments when McEachern's faithful employee had filled Jimmy with an odd sort of fury, a kind of hurt pride, almost to the extent of making him wish that he really could have been the desperado McEachern fancied him. Never in his life before had he sat still under a challenge, and this espionage had been one. Behind the clumsy watcher, he had seen always the self-satisfied figure of McEachern. If there had been anything subtle about the man from Dodson's, he could have forgiven him; but there was not. Years of practise had left Spike with a sort of sixth sense as regarded representatives of the law. He could pierce the most cunning disguise. But, in the case of Galer, even Jimmy could detect the detective.

"Go on," he said.

Spike proceeded.

"Well, de odder mug, de one down an' out on de floor wit' de irons on—"

"Galer, in fact," said Jimmy. "Handsome, dashing Galer!"

"Sure. Well, he's too busy catchin' up wit' his breat' to shoot it back swift, but, after he's bin doin' de deep-breathin strut for a while, he says, 'You mutt,' he says, 'youse is to de bad. You've made a break, you have. Dat's right. Surest t'ing you know.' He puts it different, but dat's what he means. 'I'm a sleut', he says. 'Take dese t'ings off!'—meanin' de irons. Does de odder mug, de vally gazebo, give him de glad eye? Not so's you could notice it. He gives him de merry ha-ha. He says dat dat's de woist tale dat's ever bin handed to him. 'Tell it to Sweeney!' he says. 'I knows youse. Youse woims yourself into de house as a guest, when youse is really after de loidy's jools.' At dese crool woids, de odder mug, Galer, gits hot under de collar. 'I'm a sure-'nough sleut',' he says. 'I blows into dis house at de special request of Mr. McEachern, de American gent.' De odder mug hands de lemon again. 'Tell it to de King of Denmark,' he says. 'Dis cop's de limit. Youse has enough gall fer ten strong men,' he says. 'Show me to Mr. McEachern,' says Galer. 'He'll—' crouch, is dat it?"

"Vouch?" suggested Jimmy. "Meaning give the glad hand to."

"Dat's right. Vouch. I wondered what he meant at de time. 'He'll vouch for me,' he says. Dat puts him all right, he t'inks; but no, he's still in Dutch, 'cos de vally mug says, 'Nix on dat! I ain't goin' to chase around de house wit' youse, lookin' fer Mr. McEachern. It's youse fer de coal-cellar, me man, an' we'll see what youse has to say when I makes me report to Sir Tummas.' 'Well, dat's to de good,' says Galer. 'Tell Sir Tummas. I'll explain to him.' 'Not me!' says de vally. 'Sir Tummas has a hard evenin's woik before him, jollyin' along de swells what's comin' to see dis stoige-piece dey're actin'. I ain't goin' to worry him till he's good and ready. To de coal-cellar fer yours! G'wan!' an' off dey goes! An' I gits busy ag'in, swipes de jools, an' chases meself here."

Jimmy wiped his eyes.

"Have you ever heard of poetic justice, Spike?" he asked. "This is it. But, in this hour of mirth and good-will, we must not forget—"

Spike interrupted. Pleased by the enthusiastic reception of his narrative, he proceeded to point out the morals that were to be deduced therefrom.

"So, youse see, boss," he said, "it's all to de merry. When dey rubbers for de jools, an' finds dem gone, dey'll t'ink dis Galer guy swiped dem. Dey won't t'ink of us."

Jimmy looked at the speaker gravely.

"Of course," said he. "What a reasoner you are, Spike! Galer was just opening the door from the outside, by your account, when the valet man sprang at him. Naturally, they'll think that he took the jewels. Especially, as they won't find them on him. A man who can open a locked safe through a closed door is just the sort of fellow who would be able to get rid of the swag neatly while rolling about the floor with the valet. His not having the jewels will make the case all the blacker against him. And what will make them still more certain that he is the thief is that he really is a detective. Spike, you ought to be in some sort of a home, you know."

The Bowery boy looked disturbed.

"I didn't t'ink of dat, boss," he admitted.

"Of course not. One can't think of everything. Now, if you will just hand me those diamonds, I will put them back where they belong."

"Put dem back, boss!"

"What else would you propose? I'd get you to do it, only I don't think putting things back is quite in your line."

Spike handed over the jewels. The boss was the boss, and what he said went. But his demeanor was tragic, telling eloquently of hopes blighted.

Jimmy took the necklace with something of a thrill. He was a connoisseur of jewels, and a fine gem affected him much as a fine picture affects the artistic. He ran the diamonds through his fingers, then scrutinized them again, more closely this time.

Spike watched him with a slight return of hope. It seemed to him that the boss was wavering. Perhaps, now that he had actually handled the jewels, he would find it impossible to give them up. To Spike, a diamond necklace of cunning workmanship was merely the equivalent of so many "plunks"; but he knew that there were men, otherwise sane, who valued a jewel for its own sake.

"It's a boid of a necklace, boss," he murmured, encouragingly.

"It is," said Jimmy; "in its way, I've never seen anything much better. Sir Thomas will be glad to have it back."

"Den, you're goin' to put it back, boss?"

"I am," said Jimmy. "I'll do it just before the theatricals. There should be a chance, then. There's one good thing. This afternoon's affair will have cleared the air of sleuth-hounds a little."