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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Drums Of Jeopardy - Chapter 11
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The Drums Of Jeopardy - Chapter 11 Post by :Terence Category :Long Stories Author :Harold Macgrath Date :May 2012 Read :1481

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The Drums Of Jeopardy - Chapter 11

CHAPTER XI

Kitty did not wrench herself loose at once. She wasn't quite sure that this was not a continuance of her nightmare. She knew that nightmares had a way of breaking off in the middle of things, of never arriving anywhere. The room looked natural enough and the pain in her shoulder seemed real enough, but one never could tell. She decided to wait for the next episode.

"Answer!" cried the spokesman of the two, twisting Kitty's shoulder. "Where did they take him?"

Awake! Kitty wrenched her shoulder away and swept the bedclothes up to her chin. She was thoroughly frightened, but her brain was clear. The spark of self-preservation flew hither and about in search of expediencies, temporizations. She must come through this somehow with the vantage on her side. She could not possibly betray that poor young man, for that would entail the betrayal of Cutty also. She saw but one avenue, the telephone; and these two men were on the wrong side of the bed, between her and the door.

"What do you want?" Her throat was so dry she wondered whether the words were projected far enough for them to hear.

"We want the address of the wounded man you brought into this apartment."

"They took him to a hospital."

"He was taken away from there."

"He was?"

"Yes, he was. You may not know where, but you will know the address of the man who tricked us; and that will be sufficient."

"The army surgeon? He was called in by chance. I don't know where he lives."

"The man in the dress suit."

"He was with the surgeon."

"He came first. Come; we have no time to waste. We don't want to hurt you, and we hope you will not force us.

"Will you step out of the room while I dress?"

"No. Tell us where the man lives, and you can have the whole apartment to yourself."

"You speak English very well."

"Enough! Do you want us to bundle you up in the bedclothes and carry you off? It will not be a pleasant experience for a pretty young woman like yourself. Something happened to the man you knew as Gregory. Will that make you understand?"

"You know what abduction means?"

"Your police will not catch us."

"But I might give you the wrong address."

"Try it and see what happens. Young lady, this is a bad affair for a woman to be mixed up in. Be sensible. We are in a hurry."

"Well, you seem to have acquired at least one American habit!" said a gruff voice from the bedroom doorway. "Raise your hands quickly, and don't turn," went on the gruff voice. "If I shoot it will be to kill. It is a rough game, as you say. That's it; and keep them up. Now, then, young lady, slip on your kimono. Get up and search these men. I'm in a hurry, too."

Kitty obeyed, very lovely in her dishevelment. Repugnant as the task was she disarmed the two men and flung their weapons on the bed.

"Now something to tie their hands; anything that will hold."

Kitty could see the speaker now. Another coal heaver, but evidently on her side.

"Tie their hands behind them... I warn you not to move, men. When I say I'll shoot I mean it. Don't be afraid of hurting them, miss. Very good. Now bandage their eyes. Handkerchiefs."

But Kitty's handkerchiefs did not run to the dimensions' required; so she ripped up a petticoat. Torn between her eagerness to complete a disagreeable task and her offended modesty, Kitty went through the performance with creditable alacrity. Then she jumped back into bed, doubled her knees, and once more drew up the bedclothes to her chin, content to be a spectator, her eyes as wide as ever they possibly could be.

Some secret-service man Cutty had sent to protect her. Dear old Cutty! Small wonder he had urged her to spend the night at a hotel. The admiration of her childhood returned, but without the shackles of shyness. She had always trusted him absolutely, and to this trust was now added understanding. To have him pop into her life again in this fashion, all the ordinary approaches to intimacy wiped out by these amazing episodes; the years bridged in an hour! If only he were younger!

"Watch them, miss. Don't be afraid to shoot. I'll return in a moment"--still gruffly. The secret-service man pushed his prisoners into chairs and left the bedroom.

Kitty did not care how gruff the voice was; it was decidedly pleasant in her ears. Gingerly she picked up one of the revolvers. Kitty Conover with shooting irons in her hands, like a movie actress! She heard a whistle. After this an interval of silence, save for the ticking of the alarm clock on the stand. She eyed the blindfolded men speculatively, swung out of bed, and put on her stockings and sandals; then she sat on the edge of the bed and waited for the sequence. Kitty Conover was going to have some queer recollections to tell her grandchildren, providing she had any. That morning she had risen to face a humdrum normal day. And here she was, at midnight, hobnobbing with quiescent murder and sudden death! To-morrow Burlingame would ask her to hustle up the Sunday stuff, and she would hustle. She wanted to laugh, but was a little afraid that this laughter might degenerate into incipient hysteria.

There was still in her mind a vivid recollection of her dream--the fire of diamonds and the blonde girl with the tiara of rubies. Olga, Olga! Russian; the whole affair was Russian. She shivered. Always that land and people had appeared to her in sinister aspect; no doubt an impression acquired from reading melodramas written by Englishmen who, once upon a time, had given Russia preeminence as a political menace. Russia, in all things--music, art, literature--the tragic note. Stefani Gregor and Johnny Two-Hawks had roused the enmity of some political society with this result. Nihilist or Bolshevist or socialist, there was little choice; and Cutty sensibly did not want her drawn into the whirlpool.

What a pleasant intimacy hers and Cutty's promised to be! And if he hadn't casually dropped into the office that afternoon she would have surrendered the affair to the police, and that would have been the end of it. Amazing thought--you might jog along all your life at the side of a person and never know him half so well as someone you met m a tense episode, like that of the immaculate Cutty crossing the fire escape with Two-Hawks on his shoulders!

She heard the friendly coal heaver going down the corridor to the door. When he returned to the bedroom two men accompanied him. Not a word was said. The two men marched off with the prisoners and left Kitty alone with her saviour.

"Thank you," she said, simply.

"You poor little chicken, did you believe I had deserted you?" The voice wasn't gruff now.

"Cutty?" Kitty ran to him, flinging her arms round his neck. "Oh, Cutty!"

Cutty's heart, which had bumped along an astonishing number of million times in fifty-two years, registered a memorable bump against his ribs. The touch of her soft arms and the faint, indescribable perfume which emanates from a dainty woman's hair thrilled him beyond any thrill he had ever known. For Kitty's mother had never put her arms round old Cutty's neck. Of course he understood readily enough: Molly's girl, flesh of her flesh. And she had rushed to him as she would have rushed to her father. He patted her shoulder clumsily, still a little dazzled for all the revelation in the analysis. The sweet intimacy of it! The door of Paradise opened for a moment, and then shut in his face.

"I did not recognize you at all!" she cried, standing off. "I shouldn't have known you on the street. And it is so simple. What a wonderful man you are!"

"For an old codger?" Cutty's heart registered another sizable bump.

Kitty laughed. "Never call yourself old to me again. Are you always doing these things?"

"Well, I keep moving. I suspected something like this might happen. Those two will go to the Tombs to await deportation if they are aliens. Perhaps we can dig something out of them relative to this man Gregor. Anyhow, we'll try."

"Cutty, I saw a man in the court with a pocket lamp before I went to bed. He was hunting for something."

"I didn't find anything but a lot of fresh food someone had thrown out."

"It was you, then?"

"Yes. There was a vague possibility that your protege might have thrown out something valuable during the struggle."

"What?"

"Lord knows! A queer business, Kitty, you've lugged me into--my own! And there is one thing I want you to remember particularly: Life means nothing to the men opposed, neither chivalry nor ethics. Annihilation is their business. They don't want civilization; they want chaos. They have lost the sense of comparisons or they would not seek to thrust Bolshevism down the throats of the rest of the world. They say democracy has failed, and their substitute is murder and loot. Kitty, I want you to leave this roost."

"I shall stay until my lease expires."

"Why? In the face of real danger?"

"Because I intend to, Cutty--unless you kidnap me."

"Have you any good reason?"

"You'll laugh; but something tells me to stay here."

But Cutty did not laugh. "Very well. Tomorrow an assistant janitor will be installed. His name is Antonio Bernini. Every night he will whistle up the tube. Whistle back. If you are going out for the evening notify him where you intend to go and when you expect to be back. A wire from your bed to his cot will be installed. In danger, press the button. That's the best I can do for you, since you decide to stick. I don't believe anything more will happen to-night, but from now on you will be watched. Never come directly to my apartment. Break your journey two or three times with taxis. Always use Elevator Four. The boy is mine; belongs to the service. So our Bolshevik friends won't gather anything about you from him."

As a matter of fact, Cutty had now come to the conviction that it would be well to let Kitty remain here as a lure. He had urged her to leave, and she had refused, so his conscience was tolerably clear. Besides, she would henceforth be guarded with a ceaseless efficiency second only to that which encompasses a President of the United States. Always some man of the service would be watching those who watched her. This was going to develop into a game of small nets, one or two victims at a time. Because these enemies of civilization lacked coherence in action there would be slim chance of rounding them up in bulk. But from now on men would vanish--one here, a pair there, perhaps on occasion four or five. And those who had known them would know them no more. The policy would be that employed by the British in the submarine campaign--mysterious silence after the evanishment.

"It's all so exciting!" said Kitty. "But that poor old man Gregor! He had a wonderful violin, Cutty; and sometimes I used to hear him play folklore music--sad, haunting melodies."

"We'll know in a little while what's become of him. I doubt there is a foreign organization in the city that hasn't one or more of our men on the inside. A word will be dropped somewhere. I'm rarely active on this side of the Atlantic; and what I'm doing now is practically due to interest. But every active operative in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago is on the lookout for a man who, if left free, will stir up a lot of trouble. He has leadership, this Boris Karlov, a former intimate here of Trotzky's. We have reason to believe that he slipped through the net in San Francisco. Probably under a cleverly forged passport. Now please describe the man who came in with the policeman. I haven't had time to make inquiries at the precinct, where they will have a minute description of him."

"He made me think of a gorilla, just as I told you. His face was pretty well banged up. Naturally I did not notice any scar. A dreadfully black beard, shaven."

"Squat, powerful, like a gorilla. Lord, I wish I'd had a glimpse of him! He's one of the few topnotchers I haven't met. He's the spark, the hand on the plunger. The powder is all ready in this land of ours; our job is to keep off the sparks until we can spread the stuff so it will only go puff instead of bang. This man Karlov is bad medicine for democracy. Poor devil!"

"Why do you say that?"

"Because I'm honestly sorry for them. This fellow Karlov has suffered. He is now a species of madman nothing will cure. He and his kind have gained their ends in Russia, but the impetus to kill and burn and loot is still unchecked. Sorry, yes; but we can't have them here. They remind me of nothing so much as those blind deep-sea monsters in one of Kipling's tales, thrown up into air and sunlight by a submarine volcano, slashing and bellowing. But we can't have them here any longer. Keep those revolvers under your pillow. All you have to do is to point. Nobody will know that you can't shoot. And always remember, we're watching over you. Good-night."

"Mouquin's for lunch?"

"Well, I'll be hanged! But it can't be, Kitty. You and I must not be seen in public. If that was Karlov you will be marked, and so will any one who travels with you."

"Good gracious!"

"Fact. But come up to the roost--changing taxis--to-morrow at five and have tea."

Down in the street Cutty bore into the slanting rain, no longer a drizzle. With his hands jammed in his side pockets and his gaze on the sparkling pavement he continued downtown, in a dangerously ruminative frame of mind, dangerous because had he been followed he would not have known it.

Molly Conover's girl! That afternoon it had been Tommy Conover's girl; now she was Molly's. It occurred to him for the first time that he was one of those unfortunate individuals who are always able to open the door to Paradise for others and are themselves forced to remain outside. Hadn't he introduced Conover to Molly, and hadn't they fallen in love on the spot? Too old to be a hero and not old enough to die. He grinned. Some day he would use that line.

Of course it wasn't Kitty who set this peculiar cogitation in motion. It wasn't her arms and the perfume of her hair. The actual thrill had come from a recrudescence of a vanished passion; anyhow, a passion that had been held suspended all these years. Still, it offered a disquieting prospect. He was sensible enough to realize that he would be in for some confusion in trying to disassociate the phantom from the quick.

Most pretty young women were flitter-flutters, unstable, shallow, immature. But this little lady had depth, the sense of the living drama; and, Lord, she was such a beauty! Wanted a man who would laugh when he was happy and when he was hurt. A bull's-eye--bang, like that! For the only breed worth its salt was the kind that laughed when happy and when hurt.

The average young woman, rushing into his arms the way she had, would not have stirred him in the least. And immediately upon the heels of this thought came a taste of the confusion he saw in store for himself. Was it the phantom or Kitty? He jumped to another angle to escape the impasse. Kitty's coming to him in that fashion raised an unpalatable suggestion. He evidently looked fatherly, no matter how he felt. Hang these fifty-two years, to come crowding his doorstep all at once!

He raised his head and laughed. He suddenly remembered now. At nine that night he had been scheduled to deliver a lecture on the Italo-Jugoslav muddle before a distinguished audience in the ballroom of a famous hotel! He would have some fancy apologizing to do in the morning.

He stepped into a doorway, then peered out cautiously. There was not a single pedestrian in sight. No need of hiking any further in this rain; so he hunted for a taxi. To-morrow he would set the wires humming relative to old Stefani Gregor. Boris Karlov, if indeed it were he, would lead the way. Hadn't Stefani and Boris been boyhood friends, and hadn't Stefani betrayed the latter in some political affair? He wasn't sure; but a glance among his 1912 notes would clear up the fog.

But that young chap! Who was he? Cutty set his process of logical deduction moving. Karlov--always supposing that gorilla was Karlov--had come in from the west. So had the young man. Gregor's inclinations had been toward the aristocracy; at least, that had been the impression. A Bolshevik would not seek haven with a man like Gregor, as this young man had. But Two-Hawks bothered him; the name bothered him, because it had no sense either in English or in Russian. And yet he was sure he had heard it somewhere. Perhaps his notes would throw some light on that subject, too.

When he arrived home Miss Frances, the nurse, informed him that the patient was babbling in an outlandish tongue. For a long time Cutty stood by the bedside, translating.

"Olga!... Olga!... And she gave me food, Stefani, this charming American girl. Never must we forget that. I was hungry, and she gave me food.... But I paid for it. You, gone, there was no one else.... And she is poor.... The torches!... I am burning, burning!... Olga!"

"What does he say?" asked the nurse.

"It is Russian. Is it a crisis?" he evaded.

"Not necessarily. Doctor Harrison said he would probably return to consciousness sometime to-morrow. But he must have absolute quiet. No visitors. A bad blow, but not of fatal consequence. I've seen hundreds of cases much worse pull out in a fortnight. You'd better go to bed, sir."

"All right," said Cutty, gratefully. He was tired. The ball did not rebound as it used to; the resilience was petering out. But look alive, there! Big events were toward, and he must not stop to feel of his pulse.


Three o'clock in the morning.

The man in the Gregor bedroom sat down on the bed, the pocket lamp dangling from his hairy fingers. Not a nook or cranny in the apartment had he overlooked. In every cupboard, drawer; in the beds and under; the trunks; behind the radiators and the pictures; the shelves and clothes in the closets. What he sought he had not found.

His vengeance would not be complete without those green stones in his hands. Anna would call from her grave. Pretty little Anna, who had trusted Stefani Gregor, and gone to her doom.

All these thousands of miles, by hook and crook, by forged passports, by sums of money, sleepless nights and hungry days--for this! The last of that branch of the breed out of his reach, and the stones vanished! A queer superstition had taken lodgment in his brain; he recognized it now for the first time. The possession of those stones would be a sign from God to go on. Green stones for bread! Green stones for bread! The drums of jeopardy! In his hands they would be talismanic.

But wait! That pretty girl across the way. Supposing he had intrusted the stones to her? Or hidden them there without her being aware of it?

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CHAPTER XVEarly the next morning in a bedroom in a rooming house for aliens in Fifteenth Street, a man sat in a chair scanning the want columns of a newspaper. Occasionally he jotted down something on a slip of paper. This man's job was rather an unusual one. He hunted jobs for other men--jobs in steel mills, great factories, in the textile districts, the street-car lines, the shipping yards and docks, any place where there might be a grain or two of the powder of unrest and discontent. His business was to supply the human matches. No more parading the streets,
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CHAPTER XMeanwhile, Captain Harrison of the Medical Corps entered the Conover apartment briskly. "You old vagabond, what have you been up to? I beg pardon!"--as he saw Kitty emerge from behind Cutty's bulk. "This is Miss Conover, Harrison." "Very pleased, I'm sure. Luckily my case was in the coat room at the club. I took the liberty of telephoning for Miss Frances, who returned on the same ship with me. I concluded that your friend would need a nurse. Let me have a look at him." Callously but lightly and skillfully the surgeon examined the battered head. "Escaped concussion by a
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