MoboReader> Literature > From Place to Place

   Chapter 4 THE LUCK PIECE

From Place to Place By Irvin S. Cobb Characters: 67410

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02

UNTIL now Trencher-to give him the name by which of all the names he used he best was known-had kept his temper in hobbles, no matter what or how great the provocation. As one whose mode of livelihood was trick and device outside the law it had behooved him ever to restrain himself from violent outbreaks, to school and curb and tame his natural tendencies as a horsebreaker might gentle a spirited colt. A man who held his disposition always under control could think faster than any man who permitted his passions to jangle his nerves. Besides, he had the class contempt of the high-grade confidence man-the same being the aristocrat of the underworld-for the crude and violent and therefore doubly dangerous codes of the stick-up, who is a highwayman; and the prowler, who is a burglar; and the yegg, who is a safe blower of sorts.

Until now Trencher had held fast by the self-imposed rules of his self-imposed discipline, and so doing had lived well and lived safe. It was an unfortunate thing all round that this little rat of a Sonntag had crossed him at an hour when he was profoundly irritated by the collapse of their elaborately planned and expensive scheme to divest that Cheyenne cattleman of his bank roll at the wire game. And it was a doubly unfortunate thing for Sonntag seeing that Sonntag had just been shot three times with his own automatic and was now dead or should be.

It was like Sonntag-and most utterly unlike Trencher-to whine over spilt milk and seek to shift the blame for the failure of their plot to any pair of shoulders rather than his own thin pair. And to the very life it was like Sonntag that at the climax of the quarrel he should have made a gun play. As Trencher now realised, it had been his mistake in the first place that he took Sonntag on for a partner in the thwarted operation; but it had been Sonntag's great, fatal mistake that he had drawn a weapon against a man who could think faster and act faster in emergencies than Sonntag ever had been able to do. Having drawn it Sonntag should have used it. But having drawn it he had hesitated for a space not to be measured in computable time-and that delay had been his undoing.

The gun-pulling episode had taken place in Thirty-ninth Street, between Sixth Avenue and Broadway, but nearer Broadway than Sixth Avenue, at a moment when that block of Thirty-ninth Street was as near empty as ever it gets to be. The meeting in the darkened place, just where the portico at the side entrance of the old Jollity Theatre, extending out across the sidewalk, made a patch of obscurity in the half-lit street, had been a meeting by chance so far as Trencher was concerned. He had not been looking for Sonntag; hadn't wanted to see Sonntag. Whether Sonntag had been seeking him was something which nobody probably would ever know this side the hereafter.

To the best of Trencher's belief there had been but one possible eyewitness to the actual shooting. Out of the tail of his eye, just before he and Sonntag came to grips, he had caught a glimpse of this surmisable third party. He had sensed rather than seen that an elderly bearded man, perhaps the watchman of the closed theatre, passed along the sidewalk, going east. It was Trencher's impression that the man had gone on by without halting. However, on that point he could not be sure. What the onlooker had seen-if indeed there were an onlooker-could have been only this: Two men, one fairly tall and dressed in a sprightly fashion, one short and dark, engaged in a vehement but whispered quarrel there in the cloaking shadow close up to the locked double doors of the Jollity; a sudden hostile move on the part of the slighter man, backing away and reaching for his flank; a quick forward jump by the taller man to close with the other; a short sharp struggle as the pair of them fought for possession of the revolver which the dark man had jerked from his flank pocket; then the tall man, victorious, shoving his antagonist clear of him and stepping back a pace; and on top of this the three sharp reports and the three little spurts of fire bridging the short gap between the sundered enemies like darting red hyphens to punctuate the enacted tragedy.

Now the tall man, the one conspicuously dressed, had been Trencher. The shooting accomplished he stood where he was only long enough to see Sonntag fold up and sink down in a slumped shape in the doorway. He had seen men, mortally stricken, who folded up in that very same way; therefore he appraised Sonntag as one already dead, or at least as one who would die very speedily.

As he stepped out across the sidewalk into the roadway he let the automatic fall alongside the curb. The instant he had done this the heat of his hate departed from him leaving him cool and clear-minded and alert. It was as though the hot fumes of rage had all evaporated from his brain in the same twentieth part of a second that he had spent in discarding the weapon. For the reason that he was again entirely himself, resourceful and steady, he did not fall into the error of running away. To run away in this instant was to invite pursuit. Instead he walked to the middle of the street, halted and looked about him-the picture of a citizen who had been startled by the sound of shots. This artifice, he felt sure, served to disarm possible suspicion on the part of any one of the persons who came hurrying up from east and west and from the north, across the street. Two or three of these first arrivals almost brushed him as they lunged past, drawing in toward the spot where Sonntag's doubled-up body made a darker blot in the darkened parallelogram beneath the portico.

Trencher had been in close places before now-close places when something smacking of violence had occurred-and he knew or felt he knew what next would happen to give him the precious grace of seconds and perhaps of minutes. Those who came foremost upon the scene would, through caution, hesitate for a brief space of time before venturing close up to where the hunched shape lay. Then having circled and drawn in about the victim of the shooting they would for another brief period huddle together, asking excited and pointless questions of one another, some of them perhaps bending down and touching the victim to see whether he lived, some of them looking round for a policeman, some of them doing nothing at all-except confusedly to get in the way of everybody else. This would be true of ninety-nine average individuals out of an average hundred of city population. But the hundredth man would keep his wits about him, seeking for the cause of the thing rather than concerning himself with the accomplished effect. For the moment it was this hundredth man Trencher would have to fear. Nevertheless, it would never do for him to show undue haste. Bearing himself in the matter of a disinterested citizen who had business that was not to be interfered with by street brawls, he turned away from the south, toward which he had been looking, shrugged his shoulders, and moving briskly, but without any seeming great haste, he made for the revolving door at the Thirty-ninth Street entrance to Wallinger's Hotel, diagonally across from the Jollity. With one hand on a panel of the door he stopped again and looked back.

Already, so soon, a crowd was gathering over the way-a little crowd-which at once inevitably would become a dense jostling crowd. A policeman, not to be mistaken even at a distance of seventy feet or more for anyone but a policeman, had turned the corner out of Broadway and was running down the opposite pavement. The policeman's arrival was to be expected; it would be his business to arrive at the earliest possible moment, and having arrived to lead the man hunt that would follow. What Trencher, peering over his shoulder, sought for, was the hundredth man-the man who, ignoring the lesser fact of a dead body, would strive first off to catch up the trail of whosoever had done this thing.

Trencher thought he made him out. There was to be seen an elderly man, roughly dressed, possibly the same man whose proximity Trencher had felt rather than observed just before Sonntag made the gun play, and this man was half-squatted out on the asphalt with his back to where the rest circled and swirled about the body. Moreover, this person was staring directly in Trencher's direction. As Trencher passed within the revolving door he saw the man pivot on his heels and start at an angle toward the policeman just as the policeman was swallowed up in the rings of figures converging into the theatre doorway.

If the policeman were of a common-enough type of policeman-that is to say, if he were the sort of policeman who would waste time examining Sonntag's body for signs of life and then waste more time asking questions of those who had preceded him to the place, and yet more time peering about for the weapon that had been used; or if, in the excitement with everybody shouting together, the one man who possibly had a real notion concerning the proper description of the vanished slayer found difficulty in securing the policeman's attention-why then, in any one of these cases, or better still, in all of them, Trencher had a chance. With a definite and intelligently guided pursuit starting forthwith he would be lost. But with three minutes, or two even, of delay vouchsafed him before the alarm took shape and purpose he might make it.

Accepting the latter contingency as the assured one he formed a plan instantaneously. Indeed, it sprang full-formed into his mind as the door swung round behind him. It added to the immediate difficulties of his present situation that he was most notably marked-by his garb. He had the dramatic sense well developed, as any man must have who succeeds at his calling. When Trencher played a part he dressed the part. In the staging of the plot for the undoing of the Cheyenne cattleman his had been the r?le of the sporting ex-telegraph operator, who could get "flashes" on the result of horse races before the names of the winners came over an imaginary tapped wire to the make-believe pool room where the gull was stripped; and he had been at some pains and expense to procure a wardrobe befitting the character.

The worst of it was that he now wore the make-up-the short fawn-coloured overcoat with its big showy buttons of smoked pearl, the brown derby hat with its striking black band, and the pair of light-tan spats. Stripped of these things he would be merely a person in a costume in nowise to be distinguished from the costumes of any number of other men in the Broadway district. But for the moment there was neither opportunity nor time to get rid of all of them without attracting the attention that would be fatal to his prospects. Men who have nothing to hide do not remove spats in a hotel lobby, nor do they go about public places bareheaded in the nighttime. Now he could do but one thing to alter his appearance.

Midway of the cross hall which he had entered and which opened into the main lobby he slowed his gait long enough to undo the overcoat and slip out of it. The top button caught fast in its buttonhole, the coat being new and its buttonholes being stiff. He gave a sharp tug at the rebellious cloth, and the button, which probably had been insecurely sewed on in the first place, came away from its thread fastenings and lodged in the fingers of his right hand. Mechanically he dropped it into a side pocket of the overcoat and a moment later, with the garment turned inside out so that only its silk lining showed, and held under his arm, he had come out of the sideway and was in the lobby proper.

He was prepared mentally to find signs of an alarm here-to encounter persons hurrying toward the Thirty-ninth Street side of the building. But nothing of the sort was afoot. A darky orchestra was playing a jazz tune very loudly in the café at the left of the Broadway entrance, so it was not only possible but very likely that the sounds of the shots had not been heard inside the hotel at all. Certainly his eye, sweeping the place, discovered no evidences of any unusual stir. Perhaps half a dozen individuals were traversing the tiled floor, but none of them in any seeming hurry.

With no suggestion of agitation about him anywhere and with nothing furtive or stealthy in his movements, Trencher boldly passed the corner of the desk, crossed the lobby, went along the front of the news stand, where a young woman stood among her wares, and through another set of revolving doors came out upon Broadway. It was that one hour of the night-a quarter of eleven o'clock, while the last acts are still going on and before the theatres give up their audiences-when Broadway's sidewalks are not absolutely overflowing with jostling, pouring currents of people. Numbers were abroad, for numbers always are abroad in this part of the town, be the time of day or of night what it may, but there was no congestion. This was as it should be; it suited this man's purposes exactly.

He issued forth, and a few rods north of the corner saw the person for whom he was seeking; at least he saw a most likely candidate-a ragged darky, in a district where ragged darkies unless they be beggars are not often seen, who with his hands in his pockets and his coat collar turned up was staring into the window of a small clothing shop two doors above the narrow-fronted hotel. Trencher made for him. Remember, all this-from the moment of the shooting until now-had taken much less time than has been required for me to describe it in sequence or for you to read about it.

He tapped the darky on the arm.

"Boy," he said sharply, "want to pick up some easy money quick?"

"Yas, suh, I does!" The negro's eyes shone.

"Listen then: I've got to catch a train-sooner than I expected. My bag's packed and waiting for me up here at my boarding house in West Forty-fifth Street-Number 374 is the address-just west of Broadway-tall brownstone house with a high stoop. Get me? The bag's downstairs in the hall. The hall boy-a coloured fellow named Fred-is watching it for me. If I go in a cab I may not get to the station in time. If you go after it for me at a run I may catch my train. See? Here's a dollar down in advance. Tell Fred Mr. Thompson sent you-that's me, Thompson. He'll give it to you-I told him I'd send for it. I'll be waiting right here. If you get back with it in seven minutes I'll give you another dollar-and if you get back inside of seven minutes I'll make it two dollars more. Got the number in your mind?"

"Yas, suh-three seventy-fo' Wes' Forty-fift', you said."

"Correct. Now run like the very devil up Broadway to Forty-fifth and turn west!"

"Boss," cried the darky, "Ise gone!"

He was, too. His splay feet in their broken shoes fairly spurned the sidewalk as he darted northward, boring his way through the lanes of pedestrians, knocking people aside out of their stride and followed as he went by a wake of curses and grunts and curious glances. On a street where nearly everyone trots but few gallop, the sight of a running man catches the popular interest instantly, the common theory being that the runner has done something wrong and is trying to get away, else he would not run.

The instant the negro turned his back on him, Trencher slid inside the recessed entrance of the clothing store and flattened himself against its door. If chance had timed the occurrence just right he would win the reprieve that he required for what he meant next to undertake. And sure enough, as it turned out, chance had so timed it.

* * *

For just as he pressed his bulk into the recess the man hunt manifested itself. Bursting headlong out of the front of Wallinger's Hotel came a policeman-doubtlessly the one already seen by Trencher-and just behind the policeman a roughly dressed bearded man, and with these two, at their heels, a jostling impetuous swarm of other men, to be joined instantly by yet more men, who had run round the corner of the hotel from Thirty-ninth Street, instead of passing through its lobby. For the veriest fraction of time they all slowed down, casting about them with their eyes for a trail to follow.

Trencher, looking slantwise to the south, could see them plainly. The foremost members of the hesitating and uncertain group were not sixty feet from him. He forgot to breathe.

Then, all together, half a dozen pointing arms were flung out to the north.

"There he goes, officer, runnin'! See 'im yonder? See 'im?"

With a forward surge and a great clatter of feet the hunt was renewed. Past Trencher's refuge, with never a look this way or that, the policeman, the bearded man, all the rest of them, went pelting along the sidewalk, giving tongue like beagles. He could have put forth his hand and touched some of them as they sped by him. Numbers of foot travellers joined in the tail of the chase. Those who did not join it faced about to watch. Knowing that for a bit he would practically be free of the danger of close scrutiny, Trencher stepped out upon the sidewalk and looking north caught a glimpse of a bent fleeing figure scuttling up Broadway a block and a half beyond.

By this trick he had broken the trail and sent the pack off on a wrong scent. So far so good. He figured the outlook after this fashion: Set upon earning the double fee promised him the deluded darky, as he could tell, was still going at top speed, unconscious of any pursuit. If he continued to maintain his gait, if none tripped him, the probabilities were he would be round the corner in Forty-fifth Street, trying to find a mythical boarding house and a mythical hall boy named Fred, before the foremost of the runners behind overtook and seized him. Then would follow shouts, yells, a babble of accusations, denials of all wrongful intent by the frightened captive and explanations by him to the policeman of his reason for running so hard.

Following on this the chase would double back on its tracks, and at once policemen in numbers, along with volunteers, would be combing the district for the real fugitive. Still, barring the unforeseen, a few minutes must intervene before this neighbourhood search would be getting under way; and meanwhile the real fugitive, calmly enough, was moving along in the rear of the rearmost of those who ran without knowing why they ran. He did not go far though-he dared not go far. Any second the darky might be tackled and thrown by someone on ahead, and besides there might be individuals close at hand who had not joined in the hue and cry, but who in some way had learned that the man so badly wanted wore such-and-such distinguishing garments.

It was because of this latter contingency that Trencher had not tried to slip back into Thirty-ninth Street. That had been his first impulse, but he discarded the thought as it came to him. His mind peopled the vicinity immediately south and east of him with potential enemies. To the north alone, in the wake of the chase, could he count upon a hope of transient security, and that would last only for so long as the negro kept going. He could not get away from the spot-yet. And still it would be the height of recklessness for him, dressed as he was, to linger there. Temporarily he must bide where he was, and in this swarming, bright-as-day place he must find a hiding place from which he could see without being seen, spy without being spied upon or suspected for what he was. Even as he calculated these obstacles he figured a possible way out of the double-ended dilemma, or at any rate he figured his next step toward safety from detection for the moment, and, with continued luck, toward ultimate escape from a perilous spot where now no measure of immunity could be either long-lived or dependable.

I have said he did not go far to reach sanctuary. To be exact he did not go the length of the block between Thirty-ninth and Fortieth. He went only as far as the Clarenden, newest and smartest, and, for the time being, most popular of typical Broadway cafés, standing three buildings north of the clothing shop, or a total distance from it, let us say, of ninety feet. It was while he traversed those ninety feet that Trencher summed up the contingencies that hedged him in and reached his conclusion.

In front of the Clarenden against the curbing stood a short line of waiting motor vehicles. With one exception they were taxicabs. At the lower end of the queue, though, was a vast gaudy limousine, a bright blue in body colour, with heavy trimmings of brass-and it was empty. The chauffeur, muffled in furs, sat in his place under the overhang of the peaked roof, with the glass slide at his right hand lowered and his head poked out as he peered up Broadway; but the car itself, Trencher saw, contained no occupant.

Trencher, drawing up alongside the limousine, was searching vainly for a monogram, a crest or a name on its varnished flank while he spoke.

"Driver," he said sharply, "whose car is this?"

"Mr. O'Gavin's," the chauffeur answered without turning to look at the person asking the question.

Trencher played a blind lead and yet not such a very blind lead either. Big as New York was there was likely to be but one O'Gavin in it who would have a car such as this one anchored in front of the Clarenden-and that would be the noted bookmaker. Trencher played his card.

"Jerome O'Gavin's, eh?" he inquired casually as though stating a foregone conclusion.

"Yes, sir; it's his car." And now the driver twisted his body and half-faced Trencher. "Say, boss, what's all the row about yonder?"

"Crowd chasing a pickpocket, I imagine," said Trencher indifferently. Then putting a touch of impatience in his voice: "Where is O'Gavin-inside?"

"Yes, sir! Said he'd be ready to go uptown at eleven. Must be near that now."

"Pretty near it. I was to meet him here at eleven myself and I thought I recognised his car."

"You'll find him in the grill, I guess, sir," said the driver, putting into the remark the tone of deference due to someone who was a friend of his employer's. "I understood him to say he had an appointment with some gentleman there. Was it you?"

"No, but I know who the gentleman is," said Trencher. "The other man's not such a very good friend of mine-that's why I'd rather wait outside for Jerome than to go in there." He made a feint at looking at his watch. "Hum, ten minutes more. Tell you what I think I'll do, driver: I think I'll just hop inside the car until O'Gavin comes out-better than loafing on the sidewalk, eh?"

"Just as you say. Make yourself comfortable, sir. Shall I switch on the lights?"

"No, never mind the lights, thank you." Trencher was already taking shelter within the limousine, making himself small on the wide back seat and hauling a thick rug up over his lap. Under the rug one knee was bent upward and the fingers of one hand were swiftly undoing the buttons of one fawn-coloured spat. If the chauffeur had chanced to glance back he would have seen nothing unusual going on. The chauffeur, though, never glanced back. He was staring dead ahead again.

"Say, boss, they've caught the pickpocket-if that's what he was," he cried out excitedly. "They're bringing him back."

"Glad they nailed him," answered Trencher through the glass that was between them. He had one spat off and was now unfastening its mate.

"It looks like a nigger," added the chauffeur, supplying a fresh bulletin as the captive was dragged nearer. "It is a nigger! Had his nerve with him, trying to pull off a trick in this part of town."

Through the right-hand side window Trencher peered out as the mass moved by-in front a panting policeman with his one hand gripped fast in the collar of Trencher's late messenger, and all about the pair and behind them a jostling, curious crowd of men and women.

"De gen'l'man dat sent me fur his bag is right down yere, I keeps tellin' you," Trencher heard the scared darky babbling as he was yanked past Trencher's refuge.

"All right then, show him to me, that's all," the officer was saying impatiently.

The chauffeur twisted about in his place, following the spectacle with his eyes. But Trencher had quit looking that way and was looking another way. The centre of excitement had been moved again-instead of being north of him it was now approximately ninety feet south, and he, thanks to the shift, was once more behind it. Peering through the glass he watched the entrance to the Clarenden.

There he saw what he wanted to see-a tall man in a wide-brimmed soft dark hat and a long dark topcoat going up the short flight of steps that led from the pavement into the building. Trencher wadded the spats together and rammed them down out of sight between the back cushion and the under cushion of the car seat, and with his overcoat inside out on his left arm he opened the door and stepped out of the car. This retreat had served his purpose admirably; it was time to abandon it.

"Changed my mind," he said, in explanation. "If O'Gavin doesn't hurry up we'll be late for an engagement we've got uptown. I'm going in after him."

"Yes; all right, sir," assented the chauffeur with his attention very much elsewhere.

In long steps Trencher crossed the sidewalk and ran up the steps so briskly that he passed through the door at the top of the short flight directly behind and almost touching the tall man in the dark hat and black coat. His heart beat fast; he was risking everything practically on the possibilities of what this other man meant to do.

The other man did exactly what Trencher was hoping he would do. He turned left and made for the Clarenden's famous Chinese lounging room, which in turn opened into the main restaurant. Trencher slipped nimbly by his quarry and so beat him to where two young women in glorified uniforms of serving maids were stationed to receive wraps outside the checking booth; a third girl was inside the booth, her job being to take over checked articles from her sister helpers.

It befell therefore that Trencher surrendered his brown derby and his short tan coat, received a pasteboard check in exchange for them and saw them passed in over a flat shelf to be put on a hook, before the other man had been similarly served. When the other, now revealed as wearing a dinner jacket, came through the Orientalised passageway into the lounge, Trencher was quite ready for him. In his life Trencher had never picked a pocket, but as one thoroughly versed in the professionalism of the crime world, in which he was a distinguished figure, he knew how the trick, which is the highest phase of the art of the pickpocket, is achieved.

The thing was most neatly and most naturally accomplished. As the man in the dinner coat came just opposite him Trencher, swinging inward as though to avoid collision with the end of an upholstered couch, bumped into him, breast to breast.

"I beg your pardon," he said in contrite tones for his seeming awkwardness, and as he said it two darting fingers and the thumb of his right hand found and invaded the little slit of the stranger's waistcoat pocket, whisking out the check which the stranger had but a moment before, with Trencher watching, deposited there.

"Granted-no harm done," said the man who had been jostled, and passed on leaving Trencher still uttering apologetic sounds. Palming the precious pasteboard, which meant so much to him, Trencher stood where he was until he saw the unsuspecting victim pass on through into the café and join two other men, who got up from a table in the far corner near one of the front windows to greet him.

Trencher followed leisurely to where a captain of waiters stood guard at the opening in the dividing partition between the lounge and the restaurant. Before him at his approach this functionary bowed.

"Alone, sir?" he inquired obsequiously.

"Yes and no," replied Trencher; "I'm alone now but I'll be back in half an hour with three others. I want to engage a table for four-not too close to the orchestra." He slipped a dollar bill into the captain's hand.

"Very good, sir. What name, sir?"

"Tracy is the name," said Trencher.

"Quite so, sir."

The captain turned to serve a party of men and women, and Trencher fell back. He idled back through the Chinese room, vigilant to note whether any of the persons scattered about it were regarding him with more than a casual interest or, more important still, whether any there present knew him personally.

Reassured on this point he stepped out of the room and along with a quarter for a tip tendered to one of the maids the check he had just pilfered, meanwhile studying her face closely for any signs that she recalled him as one who had dealt with her within the space of a minute or so. But nothing in her looks betrayed recognition or curiosity as she bestirred herself to reclaim the articles for which the check was a voucher of ownership, and to help him into them.

Ten seconds later Trencher, a personality transformed, stood quite at his ease on the top step of the flight outside the entrance to the Clarenden looking into Broadway. The long dark overcoat which he now wore, a commonplace roomy garment, fitted him as though it had been his own. With its collar turned up about his cheeks it helped admirably to disguise him. The soft black hat was a trifle large for his head. So much the better-it came well down over his face.

The huge illuminated hands of a clock set in the middle of a winking, blinking electric sign a few blocks north, at the triangular gore where Seventh Avenue crosses Broadway, told him the time-six minutes of eleven. To Trencher it seemed almost that hours must have passed since he shot down Sonntag, and yet here was proof that not more than ten minutes-or at the most, twelve-had elapsed. Well, he had worked fast and with results gratifying. The spats that might have betrayed him were safely hidden in one place-yonder between the seat cushions of O'Gavin's car, which stood where he had left it, not thirty feet distant. His telltale overcoat and his derby hat were safely bestowed in the café check room behind him awaiting a claimant who meant never to return. Even if they should be found and identified as having been worn by the slayer of Sonntag, their presence there, he figured, would but serve to confuse the man hunt. Broadway's living tides flowed by, its component atoms seemingly ignorant of the fact that just round the corner below a man had been done to death. Only at the intersection of Thirty-ninth Street was there evidence, in the quick movement of pedestrians out of Broadway into the cross street, that something unusual served to draw foot passengers off their course.

In front of the clothing shop three doors south of him no special congestion of traffic revealed itself; no scrouging knot of citizens was to be seen, and by that Trencher reasoned that the negro had been taken elsewhere by his captors-very probably to where the body would still be lying, hunched up in the shadow before the Jollity's side doors. From the original starting point the hunt doubtlessly was now reorganising. One thing was certain-it had not eddied back this far. The men of the law would be working on a confused basis yet awhile, anyhow. And Trencher meant to twistify the clews still further, for all that he felt safe enough already. For the first time a sense of security exhilarated him. Almost it was a sense of exultation.

He descended the steps and went straight to the nearest of the rank of parked taxicabs. Its driver was nowhere in sight. A carriage starter for the café, in gorgeous livery, understood without being told what the tall muffled-up gentleman desired and blew a shrill blast on a whistle. At that the truant driver appeared, coming at a trot from down the street.

"'Scuse me, mister," he said as he mounted to his seat at the wheel. "Been a shootin' down the street. Guy got croaked, they say, and they can't find the guy that croaked um."

"Never mind the shooting," said Trencher as he climbed into the cab, whose door the starter had opened for him.

"Where to, gent?"

"Harty's Palm Garden," said Trencher, naming a restaurant a mile and a half away, straight up Broadway. His main thought now was to get entirely out of this part of town.

Riding along uptown Trencher explored the pockets of the pilfered overcoat. The search produced a pair of heavy gloves, a wadded handkerchief, two cigars, a box of matches, and, last of all, a triangular brass token inscribed with a number and a firm name. Without the imprint of the name Trencher would have recognised it, from its shape alone. It had come from the check room in the upper-tier waiting room of the Grand Central Station. Discovery of it gave him a new idea-an idea involving no added risk but having in it added possibilities for insuring the ultimate success of his get-away. In any event there could be neither harm nor enhanced danger in putting it into execution.

Therefore, when he had emerged from the cab at Harty's and had paid the fare and had seen the driver swing his vehicle about and start off back downtown, he walked across Columbus Circle to the west curve of it, climbed into another taxicab and was driven by way of Fifty-ninth Street and Fifth Avenue to the Grand Central. Here at the establishment of the luggage-checking concessionaire on the upper level of the big terminal he tendered the brass token to a drowsy-eyed attendant, receiving in exchange a brown-leather suit case with letters stenciled on one end of it, like thi


M. K. P.

Stamford, Conn.

Waving aside a red-capped negro porter, Trencher, carrying the spoil of his latest coup, departed via one of the Vanderbilt Avenue exits. Diagonally across the avenue was a small drug store still open for business at this hour, as the bright lights within proved. Above its door showed the small blue sign that marked it as containing a telephone pay booth. For Trencher's purposes a closed booth in a small mercantile establishment was infinitely to be preferred to the public exchange in the terminal-less chance that the call could be traced back to its source, less chance, too, that some inquisitive operator, trying to kill time during a dull hour, might listen in on the wire, and so doing overhear things not meant for her ears. He crossed over and entered the drug store.

Except for a sleepy clerk at the rear there was no one visible within the place. Trencher crowded his bulk into the booth, dropped the requisite coin in the slot and very promptly got back the answering hail from a certain number that he had called-a number at a place in the lower fringe of the old Tenderloin.

"Is that the Three Deuces?" asked Trencher. Then: "Who's speaking-you, Monty? . . . Know who this is, at this end? . . . Yes, that's right. Say, is the Kid there-Kid Dineen? . . . Good! Call him to the phone, will you, Monty? And tell him to hurry-it's devilish important."

A short pause followed and when Trencher spoke again he had dropped his voice to a cautious half-whisper, vibrant and tense with urgency. Also now he employed some of the argot of the underworld:

"Hello, Kid, hello! Recognise my voice, don't you? . . . Good! Now listen: I'm in a jam. . . . What? . . . Never mind what it is; you'll know when you see the papers in the morning if you don't know sooner. I've got to lam, and lam quick. Right now I've got the bulls stalled off good and proper, but I can't tell how long they'll stay stalled off. Get me? So I don't want to be showing my map round any ticket windows. So here's what I want you to do. Get some coin off of Monty, if you haven't got enough on you. Then you beat it over to the Pennsylvania Station and buy me a ticket for Pittsburgh and a section in the sleeper on the train that leaves round one-twenty-five to-night. Then go over on Ninth Avenue to Silver's place--What? . . . Yes; sure, that's the place. Wait for me there in the little room upstairs over the bar, on the second floor. They've got to make a bluff of closing up at one, but you know how to get up into the room, don't you? . . . Good! Wait for me till I show up, or if I get there first I'll wait for you. I ought to show inside of an hour from now-maybe in less time than that if things keep on breaking right. Then I'll get the ducats off of you and beat it across through the Hudson Tube to the Manhattan Transfer and grab the rattler over there in Jersey when she comes along from this side. That'll be all. Now hustle!"

From the drug store he went, carrying the brown suit case with him, round into Forty-second Street. He had taken a mental note of the initials on the bag, but to make sure he was right he looked at them again before he entered the big Bellhaven Hotel by its Forty-second-Street door. At sight of him a bell boy ran across the lobby and took from him his burden. The boy followed him, a pace in the rear, to the desk, where a spruce young gentleman awaited their coming. "Can I get a room with bath for the night-a quiet inside room where I'll be able to sleep as late as I please in the morning?" inquired Trencher.

"Certainly, sir." The room clerk appraised Trencher with a practiced eye. "Something for about four dollars?"

"That'll do very well," agreed Trencher, taking the pen which the clerk had dipped in ink and handed over to him.

Bearing in mind the letters and the address on the suit case, Trencher registered as M. K. Potter, Stamford, Conn. Meanwhile the clerk had taken a key from a rack containing a vast number of similar keys.

"I won't leave a call-and I don't want to be disturbed," warned Trencher.

"Very well, sir. Front! Show the gentleman to 1734." Five minutes later Trencher, in an inner room on the seventeenth floor, with the door locked on the inside, had sprung the catch of the brown suit case and was spreading its contents out upon the bed, smiling his satisfaction as he did so. Plainly fortune was favouring him at each new turning.

For here was a somewhat rumpled black suit and along with it a blue-striped shirt, showing slight signs of recent wear, a turndown collar that was barely soiled, and a plain black four-in-hand tie. Trencher went through the pockets of the suit, finding several letters addressed to Marcus K. Parker at an address in Broad Street, down in the financial district. Sewn in the lining of the inner breast pocket of the coat was a tailor's label also bearing the same name. At the sight Trencher grinned. He had not missed it very far. He had registered as Potter, whereas now he knew that the proper owner of the suit case must be named Parker.

Parker, he figured, belonged to the race of commuters; evidently he lived in Stamford and did business in New York. Accepting this as the correct hypothesis the rest of the riddle was easy to read. Mr. Parker, coming to town that morning, had brought with him his dinner rig in a suit case.

Somewhere, probably at his office, he had changed from his everyday garb to the clothes he brought with him, then he had packed his street clothes into the bag and brought it uptown with him and checked it at the Grand Central, intending after keeping his evening engagements to reclaim the baggage before catching a late train for Stamford.

Fine! Results from Trencher's standpoint could hardly have been more pleasing. Exulting inwardly over the present development and working fast, he stripped off his clothing down to his shoes and his undergarments-first, though, emptying his own pockets of the money they contained, both bills and silver, and of sundry personal belongings, such as a small pocketknife, a fountain pen, a condensed railway guide and the slip of pasteboard that represented the hat and coat left behind at the Clarenden. Then he put on the things that had come out of the Stamford man's bag-the shirt, the collar and the tie, and finally the outer garments, incidentally taking care to restore to Parker's coat pocket all of Parker's letters.

This done he studied himself in the glass of the chiffonier and was deeply pleased. Mirrored there he saw a different man from the one who had rented the room. When he quit this hotel, as presently he meant to do, he would not be Trencher, the notorious confidence man who had shot a fellow crook, nor yet would he be the Thompson who had sent a darky for a bag, nor the Tracy who had picked a guest's pocket at a fashionable restaurant, nor yet the Potter who had engaged a room with bath for a night. From overcoat and hat to shoes and undergarments he would be Mr. Marcus K. Parker, a thoroughly respectable gentleman, residing in the godly town of Stamford and engaged in reputable mercantile pursuits in Broad Street-with opened mail in his pocket to prove it.

The rest would be simplicity. He had merely to slip out of the hotel, carrying the key to 1734 with him. Certainly it would be as late as noon the following day before chambermaid or clerk tried to rouse the supposed occupant of the empty room. In all likelihood it would be later than noon. He would have at least twelve hours' start, even though the authorities were nimble-witted enough to join up the smaller mystery of an abandoned suit case belonging to one man and an abandoned outfit of clothing belonging to another, with the greater and seemingly unconnected mystery of the vanishment of the suspect in the Sonntag homicide case. Long before this potential eventuality could by any chance develop, he meant, under another name and in another disguise, to be hidden away at a quiet boarding house that he knew of in a certain obscure factory town on a certain trolley line leading out from Pittsburgh.

Now to clear out. He bestowed in various pockets his money, his knife, his pen and his railway guide, not one of these having upon it any identifying marks; he pouched his small change and his roll of bills. Nothing remained to be disposed of or accounted for save the pasteboard square that represented the coat and hat left behind at the Clarenden. When this had been torn into fine and indistinguishable bits and when as a final precaution the fragments had been tossed out of the window, the last possible evidence to link the pseudo Parker with the real Trencher in this night's transactions would be gone.

He had the slip in his hands and his fingers were in the act of twisting it in halves when the thought that something had been overlooked-something vitally important-came to him; and he paused to cogitate. What had been forgotten? What had he overlooked? What had he left undone that should have been done? Then suddenly appreciation of the thing missing came to him and in a quick panic of apprehension he felt through all the pockets of Parker's suit and through the pockets of his own garments, where he had flung them down on the bed, alongside the rifled suit case.

His luck piece was gone-that was it! The old silver trade dollar, worn thin and smooth by years of handling and with the hole drilled through the centre of it-that was what was gone-his token, his talisman, his charm against evil fortune. He had carried it for years, ever since he had turned crook, and for nothing in this world would he have parted from it.

In a mounting flurry of superstitious terror he searched the pockets again, with fingers that shook-this man who had lost faith in human beings, who had no hope and no fear for the hereafter, who had felt no stabs of regret or repentance for having killed a man, whose thoughts had never known remorse for any misdeed of his. The second hunt and the third and the fourth were fruitless as his first one had been; Trencher's luck piece was gone.

Those wise men, the alienists, say that all of us are insane on certain subjects, however sane we may be upon other subjects. Certainly in the mental composition of every one of us is some quirk, some vagary, some dear senseless delusion, avowed or private. As for Trencher, the one crotchet in his cool brain centred about that worthless trade dollar. With it in his possession he had counted himself a winner, always. Without it he felt himself to be a creature predestined and foreordained to disaster.

To it he gave all the credit for the fact that he had never served a prison sentence. But once, and once only, had he parted company with it, even temporarily. That was the time when Murtha, that crafty old Central-Office hand, had picked him up on general principles, had taken him to headquarters, and first stripping him of all the belongings on his person, had carried him to the Bertillon Bureau, and then and there, without shadow of legal right, since Trencher was neither formally accused of nor formally indicted for any offence and had no previous record of convictions, had forced him to undergo the ordeals, ethically so repugnant to the instincts of the professional thief, of being measured and finger-printed and photographed, side face and full face. He had cursed and protested and pleaded when Murtha confiscated the luck piece; he had rejoiced when Murtha, seeing no harm in the thing, had restored it to him before lodging him in a cell under the all-embracing technical charge of being a suspicious person. Because he had so speedily got it back, Trencher had gone free again with the loss of but two days of liberty-or anyway, so Trencher firmly believed. But because it had left his custody for no more than an hour his pictures were now in the Gallery, and Murtha had learned the secret of Trencher's one temperamental weakness, one fetish.

And now-at this time, of all times-it was gone again. But where had it gone? Where could it have gone? Mentally he reconstructed all his acts, all his movements since he had risen that morning and dressed-and then the solution came to him, and with the solution complete remembrance. He had slipped it into the right-hand pocket of the new tan-coloured topcoat-to impregnate the garment with good luck and to enhance the prospects for a successful working-out of the scheme to despoil the Wyoming cattleman; and he had left it there. And now here he was up on the seventeenth floor of the Bellhaven Hotel and the fawn-coloured coat with the luck piece in one of its pockets dangled on a hook in the cloak booth of the Clarenden café, less than a block away from the spot where he had shot Sonntag.

He marvelled that without his talisman he had escaped arrest up to now; it was inconceivable that he had won his way thus far. But then the answer to that was, of course, that he had retained the pasteboard square that stood for possession of the coat itself. He gave thanks to the unclean spirits of his superstition that apprehension of his loss had come to him before he destroyed the slip. Had he gone ahead and torn it up he would now count himself as doomed. But he hadn't torn it up. There it lay on the white coverlet of the bed.

He must make a try to recover his luck piece; no other course occurred to him. Trying would be beset with hazards, accumulated and thickening. He must venture back into the dangerous territory; must dare deadfalls and pitfalls; must run the chance of possible traps and probable nets. By now the police might have definitely ascertained who it was that killed Sonntag; or lacking the name of the slayer they might have secured a reasonably complete description of him; might have spread the general alarm for a man of such and such a height and such and such a weight, with such a nose and such eyes and such hair and all the rest of it. It might be that the Clarenden was being watched, along with the other public resorts in the immediate vicinity of where the homicide had been committed. It might even be that back in the Clarenden he would encounter the real Parker face to face. Suppose Parker had finished his supper and had discovered his loss-losses rather-and had made a complaint to the management; and suppose as a result of Parker's indignation that members of the uniformed force had been called in to adjudicate the wrangle; suppose through sheer coincidence Parker should see Trencher and should recognise the garments that Trencher wore as his own. Suppose any one of a half dozen things. Nevertheless, he meant to go back. He would take certain precautions-for all the need of haste, he must take them-but he would go back.

He put the pink check into his waistcoat pocket, switched out the room light, locked the door of the room on the outside, took the key with him and went down in an elevator, taking care to avoid using the same elevator that shortly before brought him up to this floor level. Presently he was outside the hotel, hurrying afoot on his return to Broadway. On the way he pitched the key into an areaway.

Turning out of Forty-second Street into Broadway and thence going south to a point just below the intersection with Fortieth Street, he approached the Clarenden from the opposite side of Broadway. There was motive in this. One coming across from the opposite side and looking upward at a diagonal slant could see through the windows along the front side of the Clarenden with some prospect of making out the faces of such diners as sat at tables near the windows. Straining his eyes as he crossed over, Trencher thought he recognised his man. He was almost sure he made out the outlined head and shoulders of Parker sitting at a corner table alongside the last window in the row. He trusted he was right and trusted still more fervently that Parker would bide where he was for three or four minutes longer.

Tucking his head well down inside his upturned collar and giving the brim of his hat a tug to bring it still farther forward over his eyes, he took a long breath, like a man preparing for a dive in cold water, and went up the flight of stairs from the sidewalk into the building. No one inside made as if to halt him; no one so far as he could tell gave him in passing even an impersonal look. There was a wash room, as Trencher knew, at the back end of the ornate hall which separated the Chinese lounge and the main café on one side, from the private dining rooms and tea rooms on the other. That wash room was his present destination.

He reached it without mishap, to find it deserted except for a boy in buttons. To the boy he surrendered hat and overcoat, and then in the midst of a feint at hitching up his shirt cuffs, as though meaning to wash his hands, he snapped his fingers impatiently.

"I forgot something," he said for the boy's benefit; "left it in the café. Say, kid, watch my hat and coat, will you? I'll be back in a minute."

"Yes, sir," promised the youth. "I'll take good care of 'em."

Bareheaded as he now was and lacking the overcoat, Trencher realised the chief elements of his disguise were missing; still there had been for him no other course to follow than this risky one. He could not claim ownership of one coat and one hat while wearing another coat and another hat-that was certain. As he neared his goal he noted that both the maids on the outside of the booth were for the instant engaged in helping the members of a group of men and women on with their outdoor wraps. So much the better for him. He headed straight for the third girl of the force, the one whose station was within the open-fronted booth. In front of her on the flat shelf intervening between them he laid down the numbered pink slip, which in the scheme of his hopes and fears stood for so much.

"Never mind my hat, miss," he said, making his tone casual; "I'm not through with my supper yet. But just let me have my coat for one minute, will you, please? I want to get something out of one of the pockets to show to a friend."

There was nothing unusual, nothing unconventional about the request. The girl glanced at the figures on the check, then stepped back into her cuddy, seeking among rows of burdened hooks for whatsoever articles would be on the hook bearing corresponding figures. To Trencher, dreading the advent of the Stamford man out of the Chinese room alongside him and yet not daring to turn his head to look, it seemed she was a very long time finding the hook. In reality the time she took was to be gauged by seconds rather than by minutes.

"Is this the garment you desired, sir?" Speaking with an affected English drawl and with neither curiosity nor interest in her face, the girl laid across her counter the tan-coloured overcoat, one of its big smoked-pearl buttons glinting dimly iridescent in the light as she spread it out.

"That's it, thank you. Just one moment and I'll give it back to you."

Trencher strove to throttle and succeeded fairly well in throttling the eager note in his voice as he took up the coat by its collar in his left hand.

The fingers trembled in spite of him as he thrust his right hand into the right-hand pocket. Twitching and groping they closed on what was hidden there-a slick, cool, round, flat, thin object, trade-dollar size. At the touch of the thing he sought and for all, too, that he stood in such perilous case, Trencher's heart jumped with relief and gratification. No need for him to look to make sure that he had his luck piece. He knew it by its feel and its heft and its size; besides the tip of one finger, sliding over its smooth rimless surface, had found in the centre of it the depression of the worn hole, and the sensitive nerves had flashed the news to his brain. He slid it into a trousers pocket and passed the coat back to the girl; and almost before she had restored it to its appointed hook, Trencher had regained the shelter of the wash room and was repossessing himself of the slouch hat and the long black overcoat.

Back once more to the street he made the journey safely, nothing happening on the way out into the November night to alarm him. The winking, blinking electrically jewelled clock in the sign up the street told him it was just five minutes past midnight. He headed north, but for a few rods only. At Fortieth Street he turned west for a short block and at Seventh Avenue he hailed a south-bound trolley car. But before boarding the car he cast a quick backward scrutiny along the route he had come. Cabs moved to and fro, shuttle fashion, but seemingly no pedestrians were following behind him.

He was not particularly fearful of being pursued. Since he had cleared out from the Clarenden without mishap it was scarcely to be figured that anyone would or could now be shadowing him. He felt quite secure again-as secure as he had felt while in the locked room in the Bellhaven, because now he had in his custody that which gave him, in double and triple measure, the sense of assurance. One hand was thrust deep into his trousers pocket, where it caressed and fondled the flat perforated disk that was there. It pleased him to feel the thing grow warmer under his fingers, guaranteeing him against mischance. He did not so much as twist his head to glance out of the car window as the car passed Thirty-ninth Street.

At Thirtieth Street he got off the car and walked west to Silver's place. Ninth Avenue was almost empty and, as compared with Broadway, lay in deep shadows. The lights of the bar, filtering through the filmed glass in one window of Silver's, made a yellowish blur in what was otherwise a row of blank, dead house fronts. Above the saloon the squatty three-story building was all dark, and from this circumstance Trencher felt sure he had come to the rendezvous before the Kid arrived. Alongside the saloon door he felt his way into a narrow entryway that was as black as a coal bunker and went up a flight of wooden steps to the second floor. At the head of the steps he fumbled with his hand until he found a doorknob. As he knew, this door would not be locked except from the inside; unless it contained occupants it was never locked. He knew, too, what furniture it contained-one table and three or four chairs. Steering a careful course to avoid bumping into the table, which, as he recalled, should be in the middle of the floor, he found the opposite wall and, after a moment's search with his hands, a single electric bulb set in a wall bracket. He flipped on the light.

"That's right," said a voice behind him. "Now that you've got your mitts up, keep 'em up!"

As regards the position of his hands Trencher obeyed. He turned his head though, and over his shoulder he looked into the middle-aged face of Murtha, of the Central Office. Murtha's right hand was in his coat pocket and Trencher knew that Murtha had him covered-through the cloth of the coat.

"Hello, Murtha," said Trencher steadily enough, "what's the idea?"

"The idea is for you to stand right where you are without making any breaks until I get through frisking you," said Murtha.

On noiseless feet he stepped across the floor, Trencher's back being still to him, and one of his hands, the left one, with deft movements shifted about over Trencher's trunk, searching for a weapon.

"Got no gat on you, eh?" said Murtha. "Well, that's good. Now then, bring your hands down slow, and keep 'em close together. That's it-slow. I'm taking no chances, understand, and you'd better not take any either."

Again Trencher obeyed. Still standing behind him Murtha slipped his arms about Trencher's middle and found first one of Trencher's wrists and then the other. There was a subdued clicking of steel mechanisms.

"Now then," said Murtha, falling back a pace or two, "I guess you can turn round if you want to."

Trencher turned round. He glanced at his hands, held in enforced companionship by the short chain of the handcuffs, and then steadily at his captor.

"Why so fussy, Murtha?" he asked in a slightly contemptuous tone. "You never heard of me starting any rough stuff when there was a pinch coming off, did you?"

"That's true," said the detective; "but when a gun's just bumped off one guy he's liable to get the habit of bumping off other guys. Even a swell gun like you is. So that's why I've been just a trifle particular."

"You're crazy, man! Who says I bumped anybody off?"

"I do, for one," replied Murtha cheerfully. "Still that's neither here nor there, unless you feel like telling me all about what came off over in Thirty-ninth Street to-night.

"You've always been a safety player so far as I know-and I'm curious to know what made you start in using a cannon on folks all of a sudden. At that, I might guess-knowing Sonntag like I did."

"I don't know what you're talking about," parried Trencher. "I tell you you've got me wrong. You can't frame me for something I didn't do. If somebody fixed Sonntag it wasn't me. I haven't seen him since yesterday. I'm giving it to you straight."

"Oh well, we won't argue that now," said Murtha affably. In his manner was something suggestive of the cat that has caught the king of the rats. A tremendous satisfaction radiated from him. "You can stall some people, son, but you can't stall me. I've got you and I've got the goods on you-that's sufficient. But before you and me glide down out of here together and start for the front office I'd like to talk a little with you. Set down, why don't you, and make yourself comfortable?" He indicated a chair.

Trencher took the chair and Murtha, after springing a catch which he found on the inner side of the door, sat down in another.

"I've got to hand it to you, Trencher," went on the detective admiringly. "You sure do work swift. You didn't lose much time climbing into that outfit you're wearing. How did you get into it so quick? And, putting one thing with another, I judge you made a good fast get-away too. Say, listen, Trencher, you might as well come clean with me. I'll say this for Sonntag-he's been overdue for a croaking this long time. If I've got to spare anybody out of my life I guess it might as well be him-that's how I stand. He belonged to the Better-Dead Club to start with, Sonntag did. If it was self-defence and you can prove it, I've got no kick coming. All I want is the credit for nailing you all by my lonesome. Why not slip me the whole tale now, and get it off your chest? You don't crave for any of this here third-degree stuff down at headquarters, and neither do I. Why not spill it to me now and save trouble all round?"

His tone was persuasive, wheedling, half friendly. Trencher merely shook his head, forcing a derisive grin to his lips.

"Can the bull, Murtha," he said. "You haven't got a thing on me and you know it."

"Is that so? Well, just to play the game fair, suppose I tell you some of the things I've got on you-some of them. But before I start I'm going to tell you that your big mistake was in coming back to where you'd left that nice new yellow overcoat of yours. Interested, eh?" he said, reading the expression that came into Trencher's face in spite of Trencher's efforts. "All right then, I'll go on. You had a good prospect of getting out of town before daylight, but you chucked your chance when you came back to the Clarenden a little while ago. But at that I was expecting you; in fact, I don't mind telling you that I was standing behind some curtains not fifteen feet from that check room when you showed up. I could have grabbed you then, of course, but just between you and me I didn't want to run the risk of having to split the credit fifty-fifty with any bull, in harness or out of it, that might come butting in. The neighbourhood was lousy with cops and plain-clothes men hunting for whoever it was that bumped off Sonntag; they're still there, I guess, hunting without knowing who it is they're looking for, and without having a very good description of you, either. I was the only fellow that had the right dope, and that came about more by accident than anything else. So I took a chance, myself. I let you get away and then I trailed you-in a taxi.

"All the time you was on that street car I was riding along right behind you, and I came up these steps here not ten feet behind you. I wanted you all for myself and I've got you all by myself."

"You don't hate yourself, exactly, do you?" said Trencher. "Well, without admitting anything-because there's nothing to admit-I'd like to know, if you don't mind, how you dope it out that I had anything to do with Sonntag's being killed-that is if you're not lying about him being killed?"

"I don't mind," said Murtha blithely. "It makes quite a tale, but I can boil it down. I wasn't on duty to-night-by rights this was a night off for me. I had a date at the Clarenden at eleven-thirty to eat a bite with a brother-in-law of mine and a couple of friends of his-a fellow named Simons and a fellow named Parker, from Stamford.

"I judge it's Parker's benny and dicer you're wearing now.

"Well, anyhow, on my way to the Clarenden about an hour or so ago I butt right into the middle of all the hell that's being raised over this shooting in Thirty-ninth Street. One of the precinct plain-clothes men that's working on the case tells me a tall guy in a brown derby hat and a short yellow overcoat is supposed to have pulled off the job. That didn't mean anything to me, and even if it had I wouldn't have figured you out as having been mixed up in it. Anyway, it's no lookout of mine. So I goes into the Clarenden and has a rarebit and a bottle of beer with my brother-in-law and the others.

"About half-past eleven we all start to go, and then this party, Parker, can't find his coat check. He's sure he stuck it in his vest pocket when he blew in, but it ain't there. We look for it on the floor but it's not there, either. Then all of a sudden Parker remembers that a man in a brown derby, with a coat turned inside out over his arm, who seemed to be in a hurry about something, came into the Clarenden along with him, and that a minute later in that Chinese room the same fellow butts into him. That gives me an idea, but I don't tell Parker what's on my mind. I sends the head waiter for the house detective, and when the house detective comes I show him my badge, and on the strength of that he lets me and Parker go into the cloak room. Parker's hoping to find his own coat and I'm pretending to help him look for it, but what I'm really looking for is a brown derby hat and a short yellow coat-and sure enough I find 'em. But Parker can't find his duds at all; and so in putting two and two together it's easy for me to figure how the switch was made. I dope it out that the fellow who lifted Parker's check and traded his duds for Parker's is the same fellow who fixed Sonntag's clock. Also I've got a pretty good line on who that party is; in fact I practically as good as know who it is.

"So I sends Parker and the others back to the table to smoke a cigar and stick round awhile, and I hang round the door keeping out of sight behind them draperies where I can watch the check room. Because, you see, Trencher, I knew you were the guy and I knew you'd come back-if you could get back."

He paused as though expecting a question, but Trencher stayed silent and Murtha kept on.

"And now I'm going to tell you how I come to know you was the right party. You remember that time about two years ago when I ran you in as a suspect and down at headquarters you bellyached so loud because I took a bum old coin off of you? Well, when I went through that yellow overcoat and found your luck piece, as you call it, in the right-hand pocket, I felt morally sure, knowing you like I did, that as soon as you missed it you'd be coming back to try to find it. And sure enough you did come back. Simple, ain't it?

"The only miscalculation I made was in figuring that when you found it gone from the pocket you'd hang round making a hunt for it on the floor or something. You didn't though. I guess maybe you lost your nerve when you found it wasn't in that coat pocket. Is that right?"

"But I did find it!" exclaimed Trencher, fairly jostled out of his pose by these last words from his gloating captor. "I've got it now!"

Murtha's hand stole into his trousers pocket and fondled something there.

"What'll you bet you've got it now?" he demanded gleefully. "What'll you bet?"

"I'll bet my life-that's all," answered Trencher. "Here, I'll show you!"

He stood up. Because his wrists were chained he had to twist his body sidewise before he could slip one hand into his own trousers pocket.

He groped in its depths and then brought forth something and held it out in his palm.

The poor light of the single electric bulb glinted upon an object which threw off dulled translucent tints of bluish-green-not a trade dollar, but a big overcoat button the size of a trade dollar-a flat, smooth, rimless disk of smoked pearl with a tiny depression in the middle where the thread holes went through. For a little space of time both of them with their heads bent forward contemplated it.

Then with a flirt of his manacled hands Trencher flung it away from him, and with a sickly pallor of fright and surrender stealing up under the skin of his cheeks he stared at the detective.

"You win, Murtha," he said dully. "What's the use bucking the game after your luck is gone? Come on, let's go down-town. Yes, I bumped off Sonntag."

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