Sunday, 11 December 2016

The Adventures of Jimmie Dale Part 2( Chapter 11)

Chapter XI: The Magpie

A minute passed–another. The automatic at Jimmie Dale’s hip, the muzzle just peeping over the table top, held a steady bead on the window. Came the footstep again–and then suddenly, a series of low, quick tappings upon the windowpane. The Tocsin’s hand slipped away from his arm. Jimmie Dale’s set face relaxed as he read the underground Morse, and he replaced his revolver slowly in his pocket.
“The Magpie!” said Jimmie Dale, in an undertone. “What’s he want?”
“I don’t know,” she answered, in a whisper. “He never came here before. There’s a back way out, Jimmie, if you–”
“No,” he said quickly. “We’ve enemies enough, with out making one of the Magpie. He knows some one is here with you–our shadows were on the blind. Don’t queer yourself. Let him in. I’ll light the lamp.”
He struck a match, as she ran from the room, and, lifting the hot lamp chimney with the edge of his ragged coat, lighted the lamp. He turned the wick down a little, shading and dimming the room–and then, as he flirted a bead of moisture from his forehead, whimsically stretched out his hand to watch it in the lamplight.
“That’s bad, Jimmie,” he muttered gravely to himself, as he noted an almost imperceptible tremour. “Got a start, didn’t you! Under a bit of a strain, eh? Well"–grimly–"never mind! It looks as though the luck had turned Makoff and Spider Jack!”
His hand reached up to his hat, jerked the brim at a rakish angle over his eyes–and he sprawled himself out on a chair. He heard the Tocsin’s voice at the front door, and a man’s voice, low and guarded, answer her. Then the door closed, and their steps approached the room. It was rather curious, that–a visit from the Magpie! What could the Magpie want? What could there be in common between the Magpie and Silver Mag? The Magpie, alias Slimmy Joe, was counted the cleverest safe worker in the United States, barring only and always one–a smile flickered across the lips of Larry the Bat–one whose pre-eminence the Magpie, much to his own chagrin, admitted himself–the Gray Seal!
He looked up, twisting the stub of a cigarette between his grimy fingers and fumbling for a match, as the Tocsin and, behind her, the Magpie, short, slim, and wiry, shrewd-faced, with sharp, quick- glancing little black eyes, entered the room.
“’Ello, Larry!” grinned the Magpie. “Got yer breath back yet? I felt it through de windowpane when youse let go at de lamp!”
“’Ello, Slimmy!” returned Jimmie Dale ungraciously, speaking through the corner of his mouth. “Ferget it!”
“Sure!” said the Magpie unconcernedly. He stared about him, and finally, drawing a chair up to the table, sat down, motioned the Tocsin to do the same, and leaned forward amiably. “I didn’t mean to throw no scare into youse,” he said, in a conciliating tone. “But I had a little business wid Mag, an’ I was kind of interested in whether she was entertainin’ company or not–see? I didn’t know youse an’ Mag was workin’ together.”
“Mabbe,” observed Jimmie Dale, as ungraciously as before, “mabbe dere’s some more t’ings youse don’t know!”
“Aw, cough up de grouch!” advised the Magpie, with a hint of impatience creeping into his voice. “Youse don’t need to be sore all night! I told youse I wasn’t tryin’ to hand youse one, didn’t I?”
“Never mind Larry, Slimmy,” put in the Tocsin petulantly. “He’s down on his luck, dat’s all. He ain’t had de price of a pinch of coke fer two days.”
“Oho!” exclaimed the Magpie, grinning again. “So dat’s wot’s givin’ youse de pip, eh, Larry? Well, den, say, youse can take it from me dat mabbe youse’ll be glad I blew around. I was lookin’ fer a guy about yer size fer a little job to-night, an’ I was t’inkin’ of lettin’ Young Dutchy in on it, but seem’ youse are here an’ in wid Mag, an’ dat I got to get Mag in, too, youse are on if youse say de word.”
“Wot’s de lay?” inquired Larry the Bat, unbending a little.
The Magpie cocked his eye, and stuck his tongue in his cheek.
“GOOD-night!” he said tersely. “Nothin’ like dat! Are youse on, or ain’t youse?”
“Well, den, wot’s in it fer me?” persisted Larrry the Bat.
“More’n de price of a coke sneeze!” returned the Magpie pertinently. “Dere’s a century note fer youse, an’ mabbe two or t’ree of dem fer Mag.”
Larry the Bat’s eyes gleamed avariciously.
“Aw, quit yer kiddin’!” he said gruffly. “A century note–fer me!”
“Dat’s wot I said! Youse heard me!” rejoined the Magpie shortly. “Only if it listens good to youse now, I don’t want no squealin’ after the divvy. I’m takin’ de chances, youse has de soft end of it. One century note fer youse–an’ de rest is none of yer business! Dat’s puttin’ it straight, ain’t it? Well, wot do youse say, an’ say it quick–’cause if youse ain’t comin’ in, youse can beat it out of here so’s I can talk to Mag.”
“Dere ain’t nothin’ I wouldn’t take a chance on fer a hundred plunks!” declared Larry the Bat, with sudden fervency–and stared, anxiously expectant, at the Magpie. “Sure, I’m on Slimmy! Sure, I am! Cut it loose! Spill de story!”
“Well, den,” said the Magpie, “I wants–”
“Youse ain’t through yet!” interrupted the Tocsin tartly. “I ain’t heard youse askin’ me nothin’! I ain’t on me uppers like Larry, an’ mabbe de price don’t cut so much ice–see?”
“Aw,” said the Magpie, with a smirk, “I don’t have to ask youse on dis lay. Dis is where youse’d come in on it fer marbles. Say, dis is where we gets de hook into a guy by de name of Henry LaSalle! Get me?”
HENRY LASALLE! Under the table, Jimmie Dale’s hand clenched suddenly; but not a muscle of his face moved, save, as with the tip of his tongue, he shifted the butt of the cigarette that was hanging royally from his lower lip to the other corner of his mouth.
“Sure! She’s ’got’ youse, Slimmy!” he flung out, with a grin, as the Tocsin wrinkled up her face menacingly and began to mumble to herself. “He’s de guy dat handed her one when she was young, an’ she’s been layin’ fer him ever since! Sure! I know! Ain’t I worked him fer her till I wears me shoes out tryin’ to get somet’ing on him! Sure, she’s in on it! Go on, Slimmy, wot’s de lay? Wot do I do fer dat century?”
The Magpie hitched his chair closer to the table and, as his sharp, little, ferret eyes glanced around the room, motioned the two to brings their heads nearer.
“One of me influential broker friends down on Wall Street put me wise,” he said, with a wink. “Dat’s good enough fer youse two, as far as dat goes. But take it from me, I got it dead straight.” He lowered his voice “Say, he’s one of de richest mugs in New York, ain’t he? Well, he’s been sellin’ stocks an’ bonds all day, t’ousands an’ t’ousands of dollars’ worth–fer cash.”
“All dem t’ings is always sold fer cash,” remarked Larry the Bat fatuously.
“Aw, ferget it!” said the Magpie earnestly. “Fer CASH, I said–de coin, de long green–understand? He wasn’t shovin’ no checks fer what he sold into de bank except to get dem cashed. Dat’s wot he’s been doin’ all day–gettin’ de checks cashed, an’ gettin’ de money in big bills–see! I know of one bunch of eighty t’ousand–an’ dat’s only one!”
“Wot fer?” inquired Larry the Bat. It was the question that was pounding at his brain, as he stared innocently at the Magpie. What did it mean? Why was Henry LaSalle turning, and, if the Magpie was right, feverishly turning every security he could lay his hands on into cash? And then, in a flash, the answer came. THEY HAD NOT FOUND THE PACKAGE! Equally to them, as to the Tocsin, sitting there before him, it meant life and death. If the package were found by the Tocsin instead of themselves, the game was up! They were preparing for eventualities. If they were forced to run at a moment’s notice, they at least were not going to run empty-handed! Far from empty-handed, it seemed! It would not be difficult for the estate’s executor to realise a vast sum in short order on instantly marketable, gilt-edged securities–say, half a million dollars. Not very bulky, either–in large bills! Five thousand hundred-dollar bills would make half a million. It was astonishing how small a hand bag, say, might hold a fortune! “Wot fer, Slimmy?” he inquired again, wiggling his cigarette butt on his tongue tip. “Wot’d he do dat fer?”
“How de hell do youse suppose I knows!” demanded the Magpie, politely scornful. “Dat’s his business–dat ain’t wot’s worryin’ me!”
“No–sure, it ain’t!” admitted Larry the Bat ingratiatingly. “But go on, keep movin’, Slimmy! Wot’s he done wid de stuff?”
“Done wid it!” echoed the Magpie, with a short laugh. “Wot do youse t’ink! He’s been luggin’ it home to his swell joint up dere on de avenoo, an’ crammin’ his safe full of it.”
Larry the Bat sucked in his breath.
“Gee, dat’s soft!” he murmured, and then suddenly, as though with painful inspiration: “Say, Slimmy–say, are youse sure youse ain’t been handed a steer?”
The Magpie grinned wickedly.
“I ain’t fallin’ fer steers!” he said shortly. “Dis is on de level.”
Jimmie Dale lurched up from his chair, and, leaning over the lamp chimney, drew wheezily on his cigarette to get a light. His eyes sought the Tocsin’s face. To all intents and purposes she was entirely absorbed in the Magpie. He sat down again to gape, with well-stimulated, doglike admiration, at Slimmy Joe. WAS THIS, TOO, A PLANT? Why had the Magpie come to THEM with this story of Henry LaSalle? And then, the next instant, as the Magpie spoke, his suspicions were allayed.
“Let’s get down to cases!” the Magpie invited crisply. “I didn’t blow in here just by luck. Dis Henry LaSalle is de guy youse worked fer once, ain’t he, Mag? Dat’s de spiel, ain’t it?–he sent youse up fer pinchin’ de tacks out of his carpets!”
“I never pinched nothin’!” snarled Silver Mag truculently. “He’s a dirty liar! I never did!”
“Cut it out! Cut it out! Can dat!” complained the Magpie patiently. “De point is, youse worked in his house, didn’t youse?”
“Sure I did!” snapped the Tocsin, sullenly aggressive; “but–”
“Well, den, dat’s wot I want, dat’s wot I come fer, Mag–a plan of de house. See?”
Jimmie Dale could feel the Tocsin’s eyes upon him, questioning, searching, seeking a cue. A plan of the house–yes or no? And a decision on the instant!
“Sure!” said Larry the Bat brightly. “Dat’s wot I was t’inkin’ youse were after all de time. Say, youse are all right, Slimmy! Youse are de kind to work wid! Go on, Mag, draw de dope fer Slimmy. Dat’s better dan tryin’ to put one over on de swell guy. Dis’ll make him squeal fer fair!”
The Magpie produced a pencil and a piece of paper from his pocket, and laid them on the table in front of the Tocsin.
“Dere youse are,” he announced. “Help yerself, an’ go to it, Mag!”
The Tocsin, evidently not quite certain of her part, wet the pencil doubtfully on the end of her tongue.
“I ain’t never drawed plans,” she said anxiously. “Mabbe"–she glanced at Jimmie Dale–"mabbe I dunno how to do it RIGHT.”
“Aw, go ahead!” nodded Larry the Bat. “Youse can do it right, Mag. Youse don’t have to make no oil paintin’! All de Magpie wants is de doors an’ windows, eh, Slimmy?”
“Sure,” agreed the Magpie encouragingly. “Dat’s all, Mag. Just mark de rooms out on de first floor, an’ de basement. Youse can explain wot youse ’re doin’ as youse goes along. I’ll get youse.”
The Tocsin cackled maliciously in assent; and then, while the Magpie got up from his chair and stood peering over her shoulder, she began to draw labouriously, her brows knitted, the pencil hooked awkwardly between cramped-up forefinger and thumb.
Larry the Bat, slouched forward over the table, his chin in his hands, appeared to watch the proceedings with mild interest–but his eyes, like a hawk’s, were following every line on the paper, transferring them to his brain, photographing every detail of the plan in his mind. And as he watched, there seemed something that was near to the acme of all that was ironical in the Magpie standing there, his sharp, little, black eyes drinking in greedily the Tocsin’s work, in the Tocsin herself aiding and abetting in the projected theft–OF HER OWN MONEY! How far would he let the Magpie go? He did not know. Perhaps–who could tell!–all the way. Between now and then there lay that package! If it were at Makoff’s, at Spider Jack’s, if he could find it, get it–the Magpie as a temporary custodian of the estate’s money would at least preclude its loss by flight if the Crime Club took alarm too quickly. Larry the Bat’s eyes, under half-closed lids, rested musingly on the Magpie’s face. The Magpie would not get very far away with it! On the other hand, if he failed at Spider Jack’s, if, after all, he was wrong, and the package had never been there, or if they had forestalled him, turned the trick upon him, already secured it, then–Larry the Bat’s lips, working on his cigarette, formed in a twisted smile–then, well then, that was quite another matter! Perhaps he and the Magpie might not agree so far! A half million dollars was perhaps not much out of eleven millions, but it was a salvage not to be despised! Why did he say half a million! Well, why not? If the Magpie knew of a single transaction of eighty thousand, and there had been many transactions during the day, a half million was little likely to prove an exaggeration–and the less likely in view of the fact that, if those in the Crime Club were preparing for an emergency, they would not stint themselves in the disposal of securities.
The Magpie was keeping up a running fire of questions, as the Tocsin toiled on with her pencil. Where did the hall lead to? How many windows in the library? Did she remember the kind of fastenings? Did the servants sleep in the basement, or above? And finally, twice over, as she finished the clumsy drawing and pushed it toward him, he demanded minute details of the position of the safe.
“Aw, dat’s all right, Slimmy!” Larry the Bat cut in airily. “If youse ferget anyt’ing when youse get in dere, youse can ask me. I got it cinched!”
The Magpie folded the paper and stowed it carefully away in his pocket.
“Ask youse, eh!” he grunted sarcastically. “An’ where do youse t’ink youse’ll be about dat time?”
“In dere wid youse, of course,” replied Larry the Bat promptly. “Dat’s wot youse said.”
“Yes, youse will–NOT!” announced the Magpie, with cold finality. “Do youse t’ink I want to queer myself! A hot one youse’d be on an inside job! Youse’ll be OUTSIDE, wid yer peepers skinned for de bulls–youse an’ Mag here, too. See! Get dat straight. While I’m on de job youse two plays de game. Now youse listen to me, both of youse. Don’t start nothin’ unless youse has to. If it’s a cinch I got to make a get-away, youse two start a drunk fight. Get me? Youse know de lay. T’row de talk loud–an’ I’ll fade. Dat’s all! We’ll crack de crib early–it’ll be quiet enough up dere by one o’clock”
One o’clock! Larry the Bat shook his head. What time was it now? It was about nine when he had first met the Tocsin, then the Sanctuary, then the long walk as he had followed her–say a quarter of ten for that. And he had certainly been here with her not less than an hour and a half. It must be after eleven, then. One o’clock! And before that must come Makoff and Spider Jack! The night that half an hour ago had seemed so sterile, was crowding a program of events upon him now–too fast!
“Nothin’ doin’!” he said thoughtfully. “Youse are in wrong dere, Slimmy. One o’clock don’t go! Say, take it from me, I’ve watched dat guy too many nights fer Mag. ’Tain’t often he leaves de club before one o’clock–an’ he ain’t never in bed before two.”
“All right,” agreed the Magpie, after a moment’s reflection. “Youse ought to know. Make it three o’clock.” He pulled a cigar from his pocket, lighted it, and, leaning back in his chair, stuck his feet up on the table. “If youse don’t mind, Mag, I’ll stick around a while,” he decided calmly. “Mabbe de less I’m seen to-night de better–an’ I guess dere won’t be nobody lookin’ fer me here.”
Larry the Bat coughed suddenly, and rose up a little heavily from his chair. He had not counted on that! If the Magpie was settling down for a prolonged stay, it devolved upon him, Jimmie Dale, to get away, and at once–and without exciting the Magpie’s suspicions. He coughed again, looked nervously from the Tocsin to the Magpie– stammered–swallowed hard–and coughed once more.
“Well, wot’s bitin’ youse?” inquired the Magpie ironically.
“Nothin’,” said Larry the Bat–and hesitated. “Nothin’, only–” He hesitated again; and then, the words in a rush:
“Say, Slimmy, couldn’t youse come across wid a piece of dat century now?”
“Wot fer?” demanded the Magpie, a little aggressively.
Larry the Bat cleared his throat with a desperate effort.
“Youse knows,” he admitted sheepishly. “Just gimme de price of one, Slimmy–just one.”
“Coke!” exploded the Magpie. “An’ get soaked to de eyes–not by a damn sight!”
“No! Honest to Gawd, no, Slimmy–just one!” pleaded Larry the Bat.
“Nix!” said the Magpie shortly.
Larry the Bat thrust out a hand before the Magpie’s eyes that shook tremulously.
“I got to have it!” he declared, with sudden fierceness. “I GOT to– see! Look at me! I ain’t goin’ to be no good to-night if I don’t. I tell youse, I got to! I ain’t goin’ to t’row youse down, Slimmy– honest, I ain’t! Just one–an’ it’ll set me up. If I don’t get none I’ll be on de rocks before mornin’! Dat’s straight, Slimmy– ask Mag, she knows.”
“Aw, let him go get it!” broke in the Tocsin wearily. “Dat’s de best t’ing youse can do, Slimmy–dey’re all alike when dey gets in his class.”
“Youse cocaine sniffers gives me de pip!” snorted the Magpie, in disgust. He dug down into his pocket, produced a bill, and flung it across the table to Larry the Bat. “Well, dere youse are; but youse can take it from me, Larry, dat if youse gets whiffed"–he swore threateningly–"I’ll crack every bone in yer face! Get me?”
“Slimmy,” said Larry the Bat fervently, grabbing at the bill with a hungry hand, “youse can count on me. I’ll be up dere on de job before youse are. Three o’clock, eh? Well, so long, Slimmy"–he slouched eagerly to the door. “So long, Mag"–he paused on the threshold for a single, quick-flung, significant glance. “See youse on de avenoo, Mag–I’ll be up dere before youse are. So long!”
“Oh, so long!” said the Tocsin contemptuously.
And, an instant later, Jimmie Dale closed the outer door behind him.

 

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