MoboReader> Literature > Whispers at Dawn; Or, The Eye

   Chapter 13 SO LONG AS GOD GIVES US BREATH

Whispers at Dawn; Or, The Eye By Roy J. Snell Characters: 9171

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


That same morning as soon as he could gulp down his coffee, Johnny hastened over to the shack. He was full of talk about the whisperer and his message.

"What do you make of a thing like that?" he demanded of Captain Burns. "It seemed to come right out of the sky!"

"And why not?" The Captain smiled. "We are living in a strange world these days.

"One thing's important," he said as he sat up in his chair, "you must not leave this 'House of Magic' as you call it; at least not for long. I have a feeling that this whisperer must be on our side, the side of law and justice, and that he may be some sort of undercover man who can give us just the information we need.

"You see, Johnny-" He leaned forward in his chair. "That gang, the five public enemies, with Iggy the Snake at their head, is back in the city. They are sure, sooner or later, to sell some of these bonds they took from the bank. They are of small denominations and are negotiable. We have their serial numbers. The moment one of these bonds falls into the hands of an honest man, we will be hot on their trail. 'Where did you get it?' we will say to the honest man. He will tell us. We will go to the man who sold the bond and repeat, 'Where did you get it?' He may turn out to be honest and innocent too. But in the end we'll reach a crooked bond dealer who knew those bonds were 'hot' when he bought them. If he doesn't lead us to Iggy the Snake we'll send him up for ten years. The charge will be receiving stolen goods.

"Oh, I tell you, Johnny!" he exclaimed, striking the arm of his chair, "we'll get 'em, Johnny! In the end we'll get 'em, you'll see.

"But today, Johnny-" His voice took on a mellow tone. "While you and I are free, I'd like to take you to one of those places I spoke of the last time I saw you."

"All-all right." Johnny wondered what sort of place that would be.

In the Captain's long, powerful gray car they drove across the city and into the suburbs.

At last they stopped before a home that was neither large nor showy-a bungalow with its broad side to the street, it stood in the midst of a clump of trees. Nature had planted the trees. Someone, admiring nature's work, had built his home there.

Once inside that house, the good Captain heaved a sigh of content. A large open fire gave the tiny living room a feeling of luxurious grandeur. And yet there was about it an air of tidy comfort. The furniture was plain. Hard-bottomed rockers had been softened by handmade cushions, all in bright colors. A touch of lace and embroidery here and there on table and chairs told of fingers never still.

A short, energetic little lady with flushed cheeks hastened from the kitchen at the back to greet them.

"Well, how do you do, Captain Burns? How good it is to see you!"

"It's good to be here," the Captain rumbled. "And this, Mrs. LeClare, is my good friend Johnny Thompson.

"And here," the Captain chuckled, "here's Alice. Ah, Johnny, there's a girl you could love!"

Johnny flushed. The girl who extended her hand laughed a merry laugh. "The Captain must have his jokes."

The hand Johnny grasped was a chubby, capable little hand; the eyes he looked into were frank and clear. The girl's hair was black. There was a slight natural wave in it. Her eyebrows were black and thick. She was short like her mother. Like her too, she gave forth an air of boundless energy.

"Alice LeClare," Johnny said, half to himself. "A pretty name."

"We are French," Alice explained, "Canadian French."

"If you looked over the list of Mounties that have come and gone up in the bleak northland of Canada, you'd find many a LeClare," the Captain explained. "They're that sort."

Johnny saw a shadow pass over Mrs. LeClare's face. Alice looked quickly away.

"You'll have to excuse us," Mrs. LeClare explained after a moment of silence. "We're in the midst of things. Make yourselves comfortable by the fire."

Just what sort of things the ladies were in the midst of, Johnny could guess well enough. The kitchen was not too far away-one great advantage of a small house-and from it came savory odors, meat roasting, pumpkin pies baking, apple sauce simmering.

"They can cook," said the Captain, dropping into a chair with the air of a contented dog. "These Canadian French can cook. And what workers they are, these people!

"The boys will be here soon," he went on. "Madame LeClare's boys. They're out selling their magazines. Fine boys-poor old Jack's boys." His voice dropped.

"Who is Jack?" Johnny asked.

"What? Didn't I tell you?" The Capta

in sat up. "But of course I didn't.

"They're not Jack's boys any more," he rumbled after a moment. "Poor old Jack is dead. Finest, squarest cop that ever walked a beat. Real name was Jacques-French you know. We called him Jack.

"Wish you could have known him, Johnny. You'd have loved him." He stared at the fire.

"Fine, big, strapping fellow," he went on after a while. "Six feet two, black hair and bushy eyebrows, like Alice, you know.

"Women used to try to flirt with him. Stop their car, they would,-rich women in big cars, diamonds on their fingers. New-rich, young, fool women. No good-you know the kind? Well, maybe not. You will though. May God hasten the time when that sort get back to the dirty gutter where they belong!

"But Jack-" The Captain laughed scornfully. "No danger! Jack sent them along fast enough. Jack had eyes for one and only one-his Marie." He nodded toward the kitchen. "He lived for her, Jack did, and for Alice and the boys-fine boys, Gluck and Lucian-" His voice trailed off.

"But what-what happened to Jack?"

Not seeming to hear, the Captain went on: "Straightest cop I ever knew-too straight you might say. When you walk a beat you look after things-naturally, that's part of your job. You try store doors to see if they're locked, watch for prowlers, all that. And if some good citizen drinks a bit too much and the night air gets the best of him, you escort him safely home-part of your job.

"Grateful people, will hand a cop a dollar now and then. Why not? But do you think Jack would take it? Never a cent. No end polite the way he thanked them, but he took no money but what came to him on pay day. That was Jack. Said he was afraid it would lead him to accept 'dirty money'-you know, hush money-from real wrongdoers. And, man! How Jack hated dirty money!

"Polite, honest to a fault, kind, always looking out after the unfortunate-and brave, absolutely fearless!-'Mountie' blood in his veins, way back. That was Jack." Again his voice trailed away.

From the kitchen came the faintest snatch of some French song. The delicious aroma of coffee was added to that of meat, pie and sauce. From somewhere in the back came the scuffle and scrape of boyish feet.

"All this was Jack's," the Captain rumbled, spreading his arms wide as if to embrace the whole world. "And then-" from his pocket he drew a narrow packet. This he unfolded, then spread it down the length of his knee. It was the photographs of public enemies.

"These five-" his eyes shone with deep, abiding hate. "These five had been out riding in a costly car they had borrowed without leave. They had just kidnapped a banker and compelled him to open a safe. I told you that before. They'd got a lot of money and bonds. They were speeding west and tried to pass a stop-light. They skidded into another car. No real damage done. But that was Jack's corner. He wanted to know-his business to know-why they'd crashed the light.

"All he said was, 'What the-' Then, without an instant's warning, they let him have it from the back seat-six shots.

"And then they sped on. Jack, the squarest cop that ever breathed, was dead.

"Johnny-" The Captain's voice was deep. "Don't ever for a moment think crime is romantic. It is not. It is dirty, rotten, selfish, beastly!

"You might think to see one of these young crooks, dressed like 'Boul Mich' on parade, standing before the judge, that he was just a young adventurer. He's not. He's a dirty dog. He's never worked; never will. He sticks a gun in a working man's ribs and takes his money. Spends it for flashy clothes, furs and diamonds for his Moll-booze maybe, and gambling. And does he stop to ask, 'was this a rich or a poor man's money?' You better know he don't. What does it matter to him whose it was? It is his now. He took it.

"And they shot him!" His voice dropped to such a solemn pitch that Johnny was reminded of some words spoken in a church. "They shot him," the Captain repeated slowly, "one of these five crooks, maybe Iggy the Snake shot poor old Jack. And by the Eternal!" He stood up, raising his hands high. "So long as God gives us breath, we'll hunt those men until the last one of them is dead or in jail for life. For life!" His hands dropped to his side and he sank into his chair.

Then again Johnny was conscious of the low humming song, the aroma of fine food prepared by skillful hands and loving hearts-the distant scuffle of boyish feet.

"So long as God gives us breath," he murmured low. It was like a sacred vow taken by some knight of King Arthur's court.

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