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   Chapter 2 THE BROKEN SHOELACE

From Place to Place By Irvin S. Cobb Characters: 50550

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


I

IN the aching, baking middle of a sizzling New York's summer, there befell New York's regular "crime wave." When the city is a brazen skillet, whereon mankind, assailed by the sun from above and by the stored-up heat from below, fries on both sides like an egg; when nerves are worn to frazzle-ends; when men and women, suffocating by tedious degrees in the packed and steaming tenements, lie there and curse the day they were born-then comes the annual "crime wave," as the papers love to name it. In truth the papers make it first and then they name it. Misdeeds of great and small degree are ranged together and displayed in parallel columns as common symptoms of a high tide of violence, a perfect ground swell of lawlessness. To a city editor the scope of a crime wave is as elastic a thing as a hot weather "story," when under the heading of Heat Prostrations are listed all who fall in the streets, stricken by whatsoever cause. This is done as a sop to local pride, proving New York to be a deadlier spot in summer than Chicago or St. Louis.

True enough, in such a season, people do have shorter tempers than at other times; they come to blows on small provocation and come to words on still less. So maybe there was a real "crime wave," making men bloody-minded and homicidal. Be that as it may, the thing reached its apogee in the murder of old Steinway, the so-called millionnaire miser of Murray Hill, he being called a millionnaire because he had money, and a miser because he saved it.

It was in mid-August that the aged Steinway was choked to death in his rubbishy old house in East Thirty-ninth Street, where by the current rumour of the neighbourhood, he kept large sums in cash. Suspicion fell upon the recluse's nephew, one Maxwell, who vanished with the discovery of the murder.

The police compiled and widely circulated a description of the suspect, his looks, manners, habits and peculiarities; and certain distant relatives and presumptive heirs of the dead man came forward promptly, offering a lump sum in cash for his capture, living; but all this labour was without reward. The fugitive went uncaptured, while the summer dragged on to its end, burning up in the fiery furnace of its own heat.

For one dweller of the city-and he, I may tell you, is the central figure in this story-it dragged on with particular slowness. Judson Green, the hero of our tale-if it has any hero-was a young man of some wealth and more leisure. Also he was a young man of theories. For example, he had a theory that around every corner of every great city romance lurked, ready for some one to come and find it. True, he never had found it, but that, he insisted, was because he hadn't looked for it; it was there all right, waiting to be flushed, like a quail from a covert.

Voicing this belief over a drink at a club, on an evening in June, he had been challenged promptly by one of those argumentative persons who invariably disagree with every proposition as a matter of principle, and for the sake of the debate.

"All rot, Green," the other man had said. "Just plain rot. Adventure's not a thing that you find yourself. It's something that comes and finds you-once in a life-time. I'll bet that in three months of trying you couldn't, to save your life, have a real adventure in this town-I mean an adventure out of the ordinary. Elopements and automobile smash-ups are barred."

"How much will you bet?" asked Judson Green.

"A hundred," said the other man, whose name was Wainwright.

Reaching with one hand for his fountain pen, Judson Green beckoned a waiter with the other and told him to bring a couple of blank checks.

II

So that was how it had started, and that was why Judson Green had spent the summer in New York instead of running away to the north woods or the New England shore, as nearly everybody he knew did. Diligently had he sought to win that hundred dollars of the contentious Wainwright; diligently had he ranged from one end of New York to the other, seeking queer people and queer things-seeking anything that might properly be said to constitute adventure. Sometimes a mildly interested and mildly satirical friend accompanied him; oftener he went alone, an earnest and determined young man. Yet, whether with company or without it, his luck uniformly was poor. The founts of casual adventure had, it seemed, run stone dry; such weather was enough to dry up anything.

Yet he had faithfully tried all those formulas which in the past were supposed to have served the turns of those seeking adventure in a great city. There was the trick of bestowing a thousand-dollar bill upon a chance vagrant and then trailing after the recipient to note what happened to him, in his efforts to change the bill. Heretofore, in fiction at least, the following of this plan had invariably brought forth most beautiful results. Accordingly, Judson Green tried it.

He tried it at Coney Island one July evening. He chose Coney Island deliberately, because of all the places under the sun, Coney Island is pre-eminently the home and haunt of the North American dime. At Coney, a dime will buy almost anything except what a half-dime will buy. On Surf Avenue, then, which is Coney's Greatest Common Divisor, he strolled back and forth, looking for one of an aspect suitable for this experiment. Mountain gorges of painted canvas and sheet-tin towered above him; palace pinnacles of lath and plaster speared the sky; the moist salt air, blowing in from the adjacent sea, was enriched with dust and with smells of hot sausages and fried crabs, and was shattered by the bray of bagpipes, the exact and mechanical melodies of steam organs, and the insistent, compelling, never-dying blat of the spieler, the barker and the ballyhoo. Also there were perhaps a hundred thousand other smells and noises, did one care to take the time and trouble to classify them. And here the very man he sought to find, found him.

There came to him, seeking alms, one who was a thing of shreds and patches and broken shoes. His rags seemed to adhere to him by the power of cohesive friction rather than by any visible attachments; it might have been years since he had a hat that had a brim. It was in the faint and hungered whine of the professional that he asked for the money to buy one cup of coffee; yet as he spoke, his breath had the rich alcoholic fragrance of a hot plum pudding with brandy sauce.

The beggar made his plea and, with a dirty palm outstretched, waited in patient suppliance. He sustained the surprise of his whole panhandling life. He was handed a new, uncreased one-thousand-dollar bill. He was told that he must undertake to change the bill and spend small fractional parts of it. Succeeding here, he should have five per cent of it for his own. As Judson Green impressed these details upon the ragged vagrant's dazed understanding, he edged closer and closer to his man, ready to cut off any sudden attempt at flight.

The precaution was entirely unnecessary. Perhaps it was because this particular panhandler had the honour of his profession-in moments of confidence he might have told you, with some pride, that he was no thief. Or possibly the possession of such unheard-of wealth crippled his powers of imagination. There are people who are made financially embarrassed by having no money at all, but more who are made so by having too much. Our most expensive hotels are full of whole families who, having become unexpectedly and abruptly wealthy, are now suffering from this painful form of financial embarrassment; they wish to disburse large sums freely and gracefully, and they don't know how. They lack the requisite training. In a way of speaking, this mendicant of Coney Island was perhaps of this class. With his jaw lolling, he looked at the stranger dubiously, uncertainly, suspiciously, meanwhile studying the stranger's yellow-back.

"You want me to git this here bill changed?" he said dully.

"That is the idea," said Judson Green, patiently. "You are to take it and change it-and I will trail behind you to see what happens. I'm merely making an experiment, with your help, and I'm willing to pay for it."

"This money ain't counterfeit?" inquired the raggedy one. "This ain't no game to git me in bad?"

"Well, isn't it worth taking a chance on?" cross-fired Green. The pimpled expanse of face lost some of its doubt, and the owner of the face fetched a deep breath.

"You're on," he decided. "Where'bouts'll I start?"

"Anywhere you please," Judson Green told him. "You said you were hungry-that for two days you hadn't eaten a bite?"

"Aw, boss, that was part of the spiel," he confessed frankly. "Right now I'm that full of beef stew I couldn't hold another bite."

"Well, how about a drink? A long, cool glass of beer, say? Or anything you please."

The temporary custodian of the one-thousand-dollar bill mentally considered this pleasing project; his bleared eye glinted brighter.

"Naw," he said, "not jist yit. If it's all the same to you, boss, I'll wait until I gits a good thirst on me. I think I'll go into that show yonder, to start on." He pointed a finger towards a near-by amusement enterprise. This institution had opened years before as "The Galveston Flood." Then, with some small scenic changes, it had become "The Mount Pelee Disaster," warranted historically correct in all details; now it was "The Messina Earthquake," no less. Its red and gold gullet of an entrance yawned hungrily, not twenty yards from where they stood.

"Go ahead," ordered Judson Green, confirming the choice with a nod. "And remember, my friend, I will be right behind you."

Nothing, however, seemed further from the panhandler's thoughts than flight. His rags fluttered freely in the evening air and his sole-less shoes flopped up and down upon his feet, rasping his bare toes, as he approached the nearest ticket booth.

Behind the wicket sat a young woman of much self-possession. By all the outward signs she was a born and bred metropolitan and therefore one steeled against surprise and armed mentally against trick and device. Even before she spoke you felt sure she would say oily if she meant early, and early if she meant oily-sure linguistic marks of the native-born New York cockney.

To match the environment of her employment she wore a costume that was fondly presumed to be the correct garbing of a Sicilian peasant maid, including a brilliant bodice that laced in front and buttoned behind, an imposing headdress, and on both her arms, bracelets of the better known semi-precious metals.

Coming boldly up to her, the ragged man laid upon the shelf of the wicket his precious bill-it was now wadded into a greenish-yellow wisp like a sprig of celery top-and said simply, "One!"

With a jangle of her wrist jewelry, the young woman drew the bill in under the bars and straightened it out in front of her. She considered, with widening gaze, the numeral 1 and the three naughts following it. Then through the bars she considered carefully him who had brought it. From one to the other and back again she looked.

"Woit one minute," she said. It is impossible to reproduce in cold type the manner in which this young woman uttered the word minute. But there was an "o" in it and a labial hint of an extra "u."

"Woit, please," she said again, and holding the bill down flat with one hand she turned and beckoned to some one at her left.

A pace behind the panhandler, Judson Green watched. Now the big comedy scene was coming, just as it always came in the books. Either the tattered possessor of the one-thousand-dollar bill would be made welcome by a gratified proprietor and would be given the liberty of the entire island and would have columns written about him by a hundred gratified press-agents, or else there would be a call for the police and for the first time in the history of New York a man would be locked up, not for the common crime of having no money, but for having too much money.

Obedient to the young woman's request, the panhandler waited. At her beck there came a stout person in a green coat and red trousers-Italian soldiers wear these colours, or at least they often do at Coney Island-and behind her free hand the young woman whispered in his ear. He nodded understandingly, cast a sharp look at the opulent individual in the brimless hat, and then hurried away toward the inner recesses of the entrance. In a minute he was back, but not with determined police officers behind him. He came alone and he carried in one hand a heavy canvas bag that gave off a muffled jingling sound, and in the other, a flat green packet.

The young woman riffled through the packet and drove a hand into the jingling bag. Briskly she counted down before her the following items in currency and specie:

Four one-hundred-dollar bills, six fifty-dollar bills, twelve twenty-dollar bills, five ten-dollar bills, one five-dollar bill, four one-dollar bills, one fifty-cent piece, one quarter, two dimes and one nickel. Lifting one of the dimes off the top of this pleasing structure, she dropped it in a drawer; then she shoved the remaining mound of money under the wicket, accompanying it by a flat blue ticket of admission, whisked the one-thousand-dollar bill out of sight and calmly awaited the pleasure of the next comer.

All downcast and disappointed, Green drew his still bewildered accomplice aside, relieved him of the bulk of his double handful of change, endowed him liberally with cash for his trouble, and making his way to where his car waited, departed in haste and silence for Manhattan. A plan that was recommended by several of the leading fiction authorities as infallible, had, absolutely failed him.

III

Other schemes proved equally disappointing. Choosing mainly the cool of the evening, he travelled the town from the primeval forests of the Farther Bronx to the sandy beaches of Ultimate Staten Island, which is in the city, and yet not of it. He roamed through queer streets and around quaint by-corners, and he learned much strange geography of his city and yet had no delectable adventures.

Once, acting on the inspiration of the plot of a popular novel that he had read at a sitting, he bought at an East Side pawnshop a strange badge, or token, of gold and black enamel, all mysteriously embossed over with intertwined Oriental signs and characters. Transferring this ornament from the pawnshop window to the lapel of his coat, he went walking first through the Syrian quarter, where the laces and the revolutionary plots come from, and then through the Armenian quarter, where the rugs come from, and finally in desperation through the Greek quarter, where the plaster statues and the ripe bananas come from.

By rights,-by all the rights of fiction,-he, wearing this jewelled emblem in plain sight, should have been hailed by a bearded foreigner and welcomed to the inner councils of some secret Bund, cabal, council or propaganda, as one coming from afar, bearing important messages. It should have turned out so, certainly. In this case, however, the sequel was very different and in a great measure disappointing.

A trifle foot-weary and decidedly overheated, young Mr. Green came out of the East Side by way of Nassau Street, and at Fulton turned north into Broadway. Just across from the old Astor House, a man wearing a stringy beard and a dusty black suit stood at the curbing, apparently waiting for a car. He carried an umbrella under one arm and at his feet rested a brown wicker suit-case with the initials "G. W. T." and the address, "Enid, Oklahoma," stencilled on its side in black letters. Plainly he was a stranger in the city. Between glances down the street to see whether his car was nearing him, he counted the upper stories of the near-by skyscrapers and gazed at the faces of those who streamed past him.

His roving eye fell upon a splendid badge of gold enamel gleaming against a background of blue serge, and his face lighted with the joy of one meeting a most dear friend in a distant land. Shifting his umbrella from the right hand to the left, he gave three successive and careful tugs at his right coat lapel, all the while facing Judson Green. Following this he made a military salute and then, stepping two paces forward, he undertook to engage Green's hand in a peculiar and difficult cross-fingered clasp. And he uttered cabalistic words of greeting in some strange tongue, all the while beaming gladly.

In less than no time, though, his warmth all changed to indignation; and as Green backed away, retreating in poor order and some embarrassment, he gathered from certain remarks thrown after him, that the outraged brother from Enid was threatening him with arrest and prosecution as a rank impostor-for wearing, without authority, the sacred insignia of an Imperial Past Potentate of the Supreme Order of Knightly Somethings or Other-he didn't catch the last words, being then in full flight. So the adventure-seeker counted that day lost too and buried the Oriental emblem at the bottom of a bureau drawer to keep it out of mischief.

He read the papers closely, seeking there the seeds of adventure. In one of them, a pathetic story appeared, telling of a once famous soldier of fortune starving in a tenement on Rivington Street, a man who in his day-so the papers said-had made rulers and unmade them, had helped to alter the map of more than one continent. Green investigated personally. The tale turned out to be nine-tenths reporter's imagination, and one-tenth, a garrulous, unreliable old man.

In another paper was an advertisement richly laden with veiled pleadings for immediate aid from a young woman who described herself as being in great danger. He looked into this too, but stopped looking, when he ran into an affable and accommodating press-agent. The imperilled young lady was connected with the drama, it seemed, and she sought free advertisement and was willing to go pretty far to get it.

Coming away from a roof garden show one steaming night, a slinky-looking, slightly lame person asked Green for the time, and as Green reached for his watch he endeavoured to pick Green's pocket. Being thwarted in this, the slinky person made slowly off. A Van Bibber would have hired vigilant aides to dog the footsteps of the disappointed thief and by harrying him forth with threats from wherever he stopped, would speedily have driven him desperate from lack of sleep and lack of food. Green had read somewhere of this very thing having been done successfully. He patterned after the plan. He trailed the gimpy one to where he mainly abided and drove him out of one lunchroom, and dispossessed him from one lodging house; and at that, giving his pursuer malevolent looks, the "dip" went limping to the Grand Central and caught the first train leaving for the West.

And then, at the fag end of the summer, when all his well-laid plans had one by one gone agley, chance brought to Green an adventure-sheer chance and a real adventure. The circumstance of a deranged automobile was largely responsible-that and the added incident of a broken shoe-string.

IV

It was in the first week in September and Judson Green, a tired, badly sunburned young man, disappointed and fagged, looked forward ten days to the expiration of the three months, when confessing himself beaten, and what was worse, wrong, he must pay over one hundred dollars to the jubilant Wainright. With him it wasn't the money-he had already spent the amount of the wager several times over in the prosecution of his vain campaigning after adventure-it was the upsetting of his pet theory; that was the worst part of it.

I believe I stated a little earlier in this narrative that Judson Green was a young man of profoundly professed theories. It came to pass, therefore, that on the Saturday before Labour Day, Judson Green, being very much out of sorts, found himself very much alone and didn't know what to do with himself. He thought of the beaches, but dismissed the thought. Of a Saturday afternoon in the season, the sea beaches that lie within the city bounds are a-crawl with humans. There is small pleasure in surf-bathing where you must share every wave with from one to a dozen total strangers.

Mr. Green climbed into his car and told his driver to take him to Van Cortlandt Park, which, lying at the northernmost boundaries of New York City, had come, with successive northerly shifts of the centre of population, to be the city's chief playground.

When, by reason of a confusion of tongues, work was knocked off on the Tower of Babel, if then all hands had turned to outdoor sports, the resultant scene would have been, I imagine, much like the picture that is presented on most Saturdays on the sixty-acre stretch of turf known as Indian Field, up in Van Cortlandt Park. Here there are baseball games by the hundred and football games by the score-all the known varieties of football games too, Gaelic, Soccer, Rugby and others; and coal black West Indian negroes in white flannels, with their legs buskined like the legs of comic opera brigands, play at cricket, meanwhile shouting in the broadest of British accents; and there is tennis on the tennis courts and boating on the lake near-by and golf on the links that lie beyond the lake. Also, in odd corners, there are all manners of queer Scandinavian and Latin games, for which no one seems to know the name; and on occasion, there are polo matches.

Accordingly, when his car drew up at the edge of the parking space, our young man beheld a wide assortment of sporting events spread before his eyes. The players disported themselves with enthusiasm, for there was now a soft coolness in the air. But the scars of a brutal summer still showed, in the turf that was burnt brown and crisp, and in the withered leaves on the elms, and in white dust inches deep on the roadways.

Young Mr. Green sat at his ease and looked until he was tired of looking, and then he gave the order for a home-bound spin. Right here was where chanced stepped in and diverted him from his appointed paths. For the car, now turned cityward, had rolled but a few rods when a smell of overheated metals assailed the air, and with a tired wheezing somewhere down in its vital organs, the automobile halted itself. The chauffeur spent some time tinkering among its innermost works before he stood up, hot and sweaty and disgusted, to announce that the breakdown was serious in character. He undertook to explain in highly technical terms the exact nature of the trouble, but his master had no turn for mechanics and small patience for listening. He gathered that it would take at least an hour to mend the mishap, perhaps even longer, and he was not minded to wait.

"I'll walk across yonder and catch the subway," he said. "You mend the car and bring it downtown when you get it mended."

At its farthest point north, the Broadway subway, belying its name, emerges from the earth and becomes an elevated structure, rearing high above the ground. Its northernmost station stands aloft, butt-ended and pierced with many windows, like a ferry-boat cabin set up on stilts. Through a long aisle of sun-dried trees, Judson Green made for this newly risen landmark. A year or two years before, all this district had been well wooded and sparsely inhabited. But wherever a transit line goes in New York it works changes in the immediate surroundings, and here at this particular spot, the subway was working them, and many of them. Through truck patches and strips of woodland, cross-streets were being cut, and on the hills to the westward, tall apartment houses were going up. On the raw edge of a cut, half of an old wooden mansion stood, showing tattered strips of an ancient flowered wallpaper and a fireplace, clinging like a chimney-swift's nest to a wall, where the rest of the room had been sheared away bodily. Along Broadway, beyond a huddle of merry-go-rounds and peanut stands, a row of shops had sprung up, as it were, overnight; they were shiny, trim, citified shops, looking a trifle strange now in this half-transformed setting, but sure to have plenty of neighbours before long. There was even a barber shop, glittering inside and out with the neatness of newness, and complete, even to a manicuring table and a shoe-shining stand. The door of the shop was open; within, electric fans whirred in little blurs of rapid movement.

See now how chance still served our young man: Crossing to the station, Judson Green took note of this barber shop and took note also that his russet shoes had suffered from his trudge through the dusty park. Likewise one of the silken strings had frayed through; the broken end stood up through the top eyelet in an untidy fringed effect. So he turned off short and went into the little place and mounted the new tall chair that stood just inside the door. The only other customer in the place was in the act of leaving. This customer got up from the manicure table opposite the shoe-shining stand, slipped a coin into the palm of the manicure girl and passed out, giving Green a brief profile view of a thin, bearded face. Behind the back o

f her departing patron, the manicure girl shrugged her shoulders inside of an ornate bodice and screwed up her nose derisively. It was plainly to be seen that she did not care greatly for him she had just served.

From where he was languidly honing a razor, the head barber, he who presided over the first of the row of three chairs, spoke:

"You ought'nter be making faces at your regular steadies, Sadie. If you was to ask me, I think you've got a mash on that there gent."

The young person thus addressed shook her head with a sprightly motion.

"Not on your life," she answered. "There's certainly something about that man I don't like."

"It don't never pay to knock a stand-by," opined the head barber, banteringly.

As though seeking sympathy from these gibes, the young lady denominated as Sadie turned toward the well-dressed, alert-looking young man who had just come in. Apparently he impressed her as a person in whom she might confide.

"Speaking about the fella that just went out," she said. "August yonder is all the time trying to guy me about him. I should worry! He ain't my style. Honest, I think he's nutty."

Politely Green uttered one of those noncommittal sounds that may be taken to mean almost anything. But the manicure lady was of a temperament needing no prompting. She went on, blithe to be talking to a new listener.

"Yes, sir, I think he's plumb dippy. He first came in here about two weeks ago to have his nails did, and I don't know whether you'll believe it or not-but August'll tell you it's the truth-he's been back here every day since. And the funniest part of it is I'm certain sure he never had his nails done in his life before then-they was certainly in a untidy state the first time he came. And there's another peculiar thing about him. He always makes me scrape away down under his nails, right to the quick. Sometimes they bleed and it must hurt him."

"Apparently the gentleman has the manicuring habit in a serious form," said Green, seeing that Miss Sadie had paused, in expectation of an answer from him.

"He sure has-in the most vi'lent form," she agreed. "He's got other habits too. He's sure badly stuck on the movies."

"I beg your pardon-on the what?"

"On the movies-the moving pictures," she explained. "Well, oncet in a while I enjoy a good fillum myself, but I'm no bigot on the subject-I can take my movies or I can let 'em be. But not that man that just now went out. All the time I'm doing his nails he don't talk about nothing else hardly, except the moving pictures, he's seen that day or the day before. It's right ridiculous, him being a grown-up man and everything. I actually believe he never misses a new fillum at that new moving picture place three doors above here, or at that other one, that's opened up down by Two Hundred an' Thirtieth Street. He seems to patronise just those two. I guess he lives 'round here somewhere. Yet he don't seem to be very well acquainted in this part of town neither. Well, it sure takes all kind of people to make a world, don't it?"

Temporarily Miss Sadie lapsed into silence, never noticing that what she said had caused her chief auditor to bend forward in absorbed interest. He sat with his eyes on the Greek youth who worked over his shoes, but his mind was busy with certain most interesting speculations.

When the bootblack had given his restored and resplendent russets a final loving rub, and had deftly inserted a new lace where the old one had been, Mr. Green decided that he needed a manicure and he moved across the shop, and as the manicure lady worked upon his nails he siphoned the shallow reservoir of her little mind as dry as a bone. The job required no great amount of pump-work either, for this Miss Sadie dearly loved the sound of her own voice and was gratefully glad to tell him all she knew of the stranger who favoured such painful manicuring processes and who so enjoyed a moving picture show. For his part, Green had seen only the man's side face, and that casually and at a fleeting glance; but before the young lady was through with her description, he knew the other's deportment and contour as though he had passed him a hundred times and each time had closely studied him.

To begin with, the man was sallow and dark, and his age was perhaps thirty, or at most thirty-two or three. His beard was newly grown; it was a young beard, through which his chin and chops still showed. He smoked cigarettes constantly-the thumb and forefinger of his right hand were stained almost black, and Miss Sadie, having the pride of her craft, had several times tried unsuccessfully to bleach them of their nicotine disfigurements.

He had a manner about him which the girl described as "kind of suspicious and scary,"-by which Green took her to mean that he was shy and perhaps furtive in his bearing. His teeth, his eyes, his expression, his mode of dress-Mr. Green knew them all before Miss Sadie gave his left hand a gentle pat as a sign that the job was concluded. He tipped her generously and caught the next subway train going south.

V

Southbound subway trains run fast, especially when the rush of traffic is northward. Within the hour Judson Green sat in the reading room of his club, industriously turning the pages of the club's file of the World for the past month. Presently he found what he was seeking. He read a while, and for a while then he took notes. Pocketing his notes, he ate dinner alone and in due season thereafter he went home and to bed. But before this, he sent off a night lettergram to the Byrnes private detective agency down in Park Row. He wanted-so in effect the message ran-the best man in the employ of that concern to call upon him at his bachelor apartments in the Hotel Sedgwick, in the morning at ten o'clock. The matter was urgent, important-and confidential.

If the man who knocked at Green's sitting-room door that next morning at ten was not the best man of the Byrnes staff he looked the part. He was square-jawed, with an appraising eye and a good pair of shoulders. He had the right kind of a name for a detective, too. The name was Cassidy-Michael J.

"Mr. Cassidy," said Judson Green, when the preliminaries of introduction were over, "you remember, don't you, what the papers said at the time of the Steinway murder about the suspect Maxwell, the old man's nephew-the description they printed of him, and all?"

"I ought to," said Cassidy. "Our people had that case from the start-I worked on it myself off and on, up until three days ago." From memory he quoted: "Medium height, slender, dark-complected, smooth-faced and about thirty-one years old; a good dresser and well educated; smokes cigarettes constantly; has one upper front tooth crowned with gold-" He hesitated, searching his memory for more details.

"Remember anything else about him that was striking?" prompted Green.

"Let's see?" pondered Mr. Cassidy. Then after a little pause, "No, that's all I seem to recall right now."

"How about his being a patron of moving pictures?"

"That's right," agreed the other, "that's the only part of it I forgot." He repeated pretty exactly the language of the concluding paragraph of the official police circular that all the papers had carried for days: "Formerly addicted to reading cheap and sensational novels, now an inveterate attendant of motion-picture theatres." He glanced at Judson Green over his cigar. "What's the idea?" he asked. "Know something about this case?"

"Not much," said Green, "except that I have found the man who killed old Steinway."

Forgetting his professional gravity, up rose Mr. Cassidy, and his chair, which had been tilted back, brought its forelegs to the floor with a thump.

"No!" he said, half-incredulously, half-hopefully.

"Yes," stated Mr. Green calmly. "At least I've found Maxwell. Or anyway, I think I have."

Long before he was through telling what he had seen and heard the afternoon before, Mr. Cassidy, surnamed Michael J., was almost sitting in his lap. When the younger man had finished his tale the detective fetched a deep and happy breath.

"It sounds good to me," he commented, "it certainly sounds to me like you've got the right dope on this party. But listen, Mr. Green, how do you figure in this here party's fad for getting himself manicured as a part of the lay-out-I can see it all but that?"

"Here is how I deduced that element of the case," stated Green. "Conceding this man to be the fugitive Maxwell, it is quite evident that he has a highly developed imagination-his former love of trashy literature and his present passion for moving pictures would both seem to prove that. Now then, you remember that all the accounts of that murder told of the deep marks of finger-nail scratches in the old man's throat. If this man is the murderer, I would say, from what we know of him, that he cannot rid himself of the feeling that the blood of his victim is still under his nails. And so, nursing that delusion, he goes daily to that manicure girl--"

He got no farther along than that. Mr. Cassidy extended his large right hand in a congratulatory clasp, and admiration was writ large upon his face.

"Colonel," he said, "you're immense-you oughter be in the business. Say, when are we going to nail this guy?"

"Well," said Green, "I think we should start watching his movements at once, but we should wait until we are pretty sure of the correctness of our theory before acting. And of course, in the meanwhile, we must deport ourselves in such a way as to avoid arousing his suspicions."

"Just leave that to me. You do the expert thinking on this here case; I'll guarantee a good job of trailing."

Inside of forty-eight hours these two, working discreetly, knew a good deal of their man. For example, they knew that under the name of Morrison he was living in a summer boarding house on a little hill rising to the west of the park; that he had been living there for a little more than a fortnight; that his landlady didn't know his business, but thought that he must be an invalid. Among the other lodgers the impression prevailed that he suffered from a nervous trouble. Mornings, he kept to his room, sleeping until late. In fact, as well as the couple occupying the room below his might judge, he did most of his sleeping in the daytime-they heard him night after night, walking the floor until all hours.

A maid-servant of ultra conversational tendencies gratuitously furnished most of these valued details, after Michael J. Cassidy had succeeded in meeting her socially.

Afternoons, the suspect followed a more or less regular itinerary. He visited the manicure girl at the new barber shop; he patronized one or both of the moving picture places in the vicinity, but usually both, and then he went for a solitary walk through the park, and along toward dusk he returned to the boarding house, ate his supper and went to his room. He had no friends, apparently; certainly he had no callers. He received no letters and seemingly wrote none. Cassidy was convinced; he burned with eagerness to make the arrest without further delay. For this would be more than a feather in the Cassidy cap; it would be a whole war bonnet.

"You kin stay in the background if you want to," he said. "Believe me, I'm perfectly willing to take all the credit for pulling off this pinch."

As he said this they were passing along Broadway just above the subway terminal. The straggling line of new shops was on one side and the park stretched away on the other. Green was on the inner side of the pavement. Getting no answer to his suggestion, Mr. Cassidy started to repeat it.

"I heard you," said Green, stopping now dead short, directly in front of the resplendent front of the Regal Motion Picture Palace. He contemplated with an apparently unwarranted interest the illuminated and lithographed announcements of the morrow's bill.

"I'm perfectly willing to stay in the background," he said. "But-but I've just this very minute thought of a plan that ought to make us absolutely sure of our man-providing the plan works! Are you at all familiar with the tragedy of 'Macbeth'?"

"I don't know as I am," admitted Mr. Cassidy honestly. "When did it happen and who done it?"

Again his employer seemed not to hear him.

"Let's go into this place," he said, turning in towards the hospitable portals of the Regal. "I want to have a business talk with the proprietor of this establishment, if he's in."

The manager was in, and they had their talk; but after all it was money-which in New York speaks with such a clarion-loud and convincing voice-that did most of the talking. As soon as Judson Green had produced a bill-roll of august proportions, the proprietor, doubtful until that moment, showed himself to be a man open to all reasonable arguments. Moreover, he presently scented in this enterprise much free advertisement for his place.

VI

On the following afternoon, the weather being rainy, the Regal opened its doors for the three-o'clock performance to an audience that was smaller than common and mostly made up of dependable neighbourhood patrons. However, there were at least two newcomers present. They sat side by side, next to central aisle, in the rearmost row of chairs-Judson Green and Michael J. Cassidy. Their man was almost directly in front of them, perhaps halfway down toward the stage. Above a scattering line of heads of women and children they could see, in the half light of the darkened house, his head and shoulders as he bent his body forward at an interested angle.

Promptly on the hour, a big bull's-eye of light flashed on, making a shimmering white target in the middle of the screen. The music started up, and a moving-picture soloist with a moving-picture soloist's voice, appeared in the edge of the illuminated space and rendered a moving-picture ballad, having reference to the joys of life down in Old Alabam', where the birds are forever singing in the trees and the cotton-blossoms bloom practically without cessation. This, mercifully, being soon over, a film entitled "The Sheriff's Sweetheart" was offered, and for a time, in shifting pictures, horse-thieves in leather "chaps," and heroes in open-necked shirts, and dashing cow-girls in divided skirts, played out a thrilling drama of the West, while behind them danced and quivered a background labelled Arizona, but suggesting New Jersey. When the dashing and intrepid sheriff had, after many trials, won his lady love, the ballad singer again obliged throatily, and then from his coop in the little gallery the lantern man made an announcement, in large, flickering letters, of a film depicting William Shakespeare's play, "Macbeth."

Thereupon scene succeeded scene, unfolding the tragic tale. The ill-fated Duncan was slain; the Witches of Endor capered fearsomely about their fearsome cauldron of snaky, froggy horrors; and then-taking some liberties with the theme as set down by the original author-the operator presented a picture wherein Macbeth, tortured by sleeplessness and hag-ridden with remorse, saw, in imagination, the dripping blood upon his hands and vainly sought to scour it off.

Right here, too, came another innovation which might or might not have pleased the Bard of Avon. For as Macbeth wrestled with his fears, the phantom of the murdered Duncan, a cloaked, shadowy shape, crossed slowly by him from right to left, traversing the breadth of the screen, while the orchestra rendered shivery music in appropriate accompaniment.

Midway of the lighted space the ghost raised its averted head and looked out full, not at the quivering Macbeth, but, with steady eyes and set, impassive face, into the body of the darkened little theatre. In an instant the sheeted form was gone-gone so quickly that perhaps no keen-eyed juvenile in the audience detected the artifice by which, through a skilful scissoring and grafting and doctoring of the original film, the face of the actor who played the dead and walking Duncan had been replaced by the photographed face, printed so often in the newspapers, of murdered Old Man Steinway!

There was a man near the centre of the house who got instantly upon his legs and stumbling, indeed almost running in his haste, made up the centre aisle for the door; and in the daylight which strengthened as he neared the open, it might be seen that he wore the look of one stunned by a sudden blighting shock. And at once Green and Cassidy were noisily up too, and following close behind him, their nerves a-tingle.

All unconscious of surveillance, the suspect was out of the door, on the pavement, when they closed on him. At the touch of Cassidy's big hand upon his shoulder he spun round, staring at them with wide-open, startled eyes. Above his scraggy beard his face was dappled white and red in patches, and under the mottled skin little muscles twitched visibly.

"What-what do you want?" he demanded in a shaken, quick voice. A gold-capped tooth showed in his upper jaw between his lips.

"We want a word or two with you," said Cassidy, with a sort of threatening emphasis.

"Are you-are you officers?" He got the question out with a separate gulp for each separate word.

"Not exactly," answered Cassidy, and tightened his grip on the other's shoulder the least bit more firmly. "But we can call one mighty easy if you ain't satisfied to talk to us a minute or two. There's one yonder."

He ducked his head toward where, forty yards distant, a middle-aged and somewhat pursy patrolman was shepherding the traffic that eddied in small whirls about the steps of the subway terminal.

"All right, all right," assented the captive eagerly. "I'll talk to you. Let's go over there-where it's quiet." He pointed a wavering finger, with a glistening, highly polished nail on it, toward the opposite side of the street; there the park came right up to the sidewalk and ended. They went, and in a minute all three of them were grouped close up to the shrub-lined boundary. The mottled-faced man was in the middle. Green stood on one side of him and Cassidy on the other, shouldering up so close that they blocked him off, flank and front.

"Now, then, we're all nice and cozy," said Cassidy with a touch of that irony which a cat often displays, in different form, upon capturing a live mouse. "And we want to ask you a few questions. What's your name-your real name?" he demanded roughly.

"Morrison," said the man, licking with his tongue to moisten his lips.

"Did you say Maxwell?" asked Cassidy, shooting out his syllables hard and straight.

"No, no-I said Morrison." The man looked as though he were going to collapse then and there.

"One name's as good as another, I guess, ain't it?" went on the detective. "Well, what's your business?"

"My business?" He was parrying as though seeking time to collect his scattered wits. "Oh, I haven't any business-I've been sick lately."

"Oh, you've been sick lately-well, you look sick right now." Cassidy shoved his hands in his pockets and with a bullying, hectoring air pushed his face, with the lower jaw undershot, into the suspect's face. "Say, was it because you felt sick that you came out of that there moving-picture show so sudden?"

Just as he had calculated, the other jumped at the suggestion.

"Yes-yes," he nodded nervously. "That was it-the heat in there made me faint." He braced himself tauter. "Say," he said, and tried to put force into his tones, "what business have you men got spying on me and asking me these things? I'm a free American citizen--"

"Well now, young fellow, that all depends," broke in Cassidy, "that all depends." He sank his voice almost to a whisper, speaking deliberately. "Now tell us why you didn't feel real sick until you seen your dead uncle's face looking at you--"

"Look out!" screamed the prisoner. He flinched back, pointing with one arm wildly, and flinging up the other across his face as though to shut out a sight of danger. There was a rattle of wheels behind them.

Judson Green pivoted on his heel, with the thought of runaways springing up to his mind. But Mr. Cassidy, wiser in the tricks of the hunter and the hunted, made a darting grab with both hands for the shoulder which he had released. His greedy fingers closed on space. The suspect, with a desperate and unexpected agility, had given his body a backward nimble fling that carried him sprawling through a gap between the ornamental bushes fringing the park sward. Instantly he was up and, with never a backward glance, was running across the lower, narrower verge of Indian Field, making for the trees which edged it thickly upon the east. He could run fast, too. Nor were there men in front to hinder him, since because of the rain, coming down in a thin drizzle, the wide, sloped stretch of turf was for this once bare of ball-players and cricket teams.

Upon the second, Cassidy was through the hedge gap and hot-foot after him, with Green coming along only a pace or two behind. Over his shoulder Cassidy whooped a call for aid to the traffic policeman in the roadway. But that stout person, who had been exiled to these faraway precincts by reason of his increasing girth and a tendency toward fallen arches, only took one or two steps upon his flat feet and then halted, being in doubt as to what it was all about. Before he could make up his mind whether or not to join the chase, it was too late to join it. The fugitive, travelling a straight course, had crossed the field at its narrowest point and had bounded into the fringe of greenery bordering the little lake, heading apparently for the thick swampy place lying between the ball ground and the golf links. The two pursuers, legging along behind, did their best to keep him in sight, but, one thing sure, they were not gaining on him.

As a matter of truth, they were losing. Twice they lost him and twice they spied him again-once crossing a bit of open glade, once weaving in and out among the tree trunks farther on. Then they lost him altogether. Cassidy had shown the better pair of legs at the start of the race, but now his wind began to fail. Panting and blowing fit to shame porpoises, he slackened his speed, falling back inch by inch, while the slighter and younger man took the lead. Green settled to a steady, space-eating jog-trot, all the time watching this way and that. There were singularly few people in sight-only a chronic golfer here and there up on the links-and these incurables merely stared through the rain-drops at him as he forced his way among the thickets below them.

Cassidy, falling farther and farther behind, presently met a mounted policeman ambling his horse along a tree-shaded roadway that crossed the park from east to west, and between gulps for breath told what he knew. Leaning half out of his saddle, the mounted man listened, believed-and acted. Leaving Cassidy behind, he spurred his bay to a walloping gallop, aiming for the northern confines of the park, and as he travelled, he spread the alarm, gathering up for the man-chase such recruits as two park labourers and a park woodchopper and an automobile party of young men, so that presently there was quite a good-sized search party abroad in the woodland.

As for Judson Green, he played his hand out alone. Dripping wet with rain and his own sweat, he emerged from a mile-long thicket upon an asphalted drive that wound interminably under the shouldering ledges of big gray rocks and among tall elms and oaks. Already he had lost his sense of direction, but he ran along the deserted road doggedly, pausing occasionally to peer among the tree trunks for a sight of his man. He thought, once, he heard a shot, but couldn't be sure, the sound seemed so muffled and so far away.

On a venture he left the road, taking to the woods again. He was working through a small green tangle when something caught at his right foot and he was spun about so that he faced the opposite direction from the one in which he had been travelling, and went down upon his hands and knees, almost touching with his head a big licheny boulder, half buried in vines and grass. Glancing back, he saw what had twisted him off his course and thrown him down-it was an upward-aimed tree-root, stubby and pointed, which had thrust itself through his right shoe lacing. The low shoe had been pulled half-way off his foot, and, under the strain, the silken lace had broken short off.

In the act of raising himself upright, he had straightened to a half-crouch when, just beyond the big green-masked boulder, he saw that which held him petrified in his pose. There, in a huddle among the shrubs, where he would never have seen it except for the chance shifting-about of his gaze, was the body of a man lying face downward the head hidden under the upturned skirts of the coat.

He went to it and turned it over. It was the body of the man he sought-Maxwell-and there was a revolver in Maxwell's right hand and a hole in Maxwell's right temple, and Maxwell was dead.

Judson Green stood up and waited for the other pursuers. He had won a hundred-dollar bet and Cassidy had lost a thousand-dollar reward.

* * *

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