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T h e S t o r y o f
a P a t r i o t
- C h a p t e r 4 1
- SO Nell and Peter settled down to work out the details of their "frame-up" on Joe Angell and Pat McCormick. Peter must get a bunch of them together and get them to talking about bombs and killing people; and then he must slip a note into the pockets of all who showed interest, calling them to meet for a real conspiracy. Nell would write the notes, so that no one could fasten the job onto Peter. She pulled out a pencil and a little pad from her handbag, and began: "If you really believe in a bold stroke for the workers' rights, meet me - " And then she stopped. "Where?"
"In the studios," put in Peter.
And Nell wrote, "In the studios. Is that enough?"
"Room 17." Peter knew that this was the room of Nikitin, a Russian painter who called himself an Anarchist.
So Nell wrote "Room 17," and after further discussion she added: "Tomorrow morning at eight o'clock. No names and no talk. Action!" This time was set because Peter recollected that there was to be a gathering of the "wobblies" in their headquarters this very evening. It was to be a business meeting, but of course these fellows never got together very long without starting the subject of "tactics." There was a considerable element among them who were dissatisfied with what they called the "supine attitude" of the organization, and were always arguing for action. Peter was sure he would be able to get some of them interested in the idea of a dynamite conspiracy.
As it turned out, Peter had no trouble at all; the subject was started without his having to put in a word. Were the workers to be driven like sheep to the slaughter, and the "wobblies" not to make one move? So asked the "Blue-eyed Angell," vehemently, and added that if they were going to move, American City was as good a place as any. He had talked with enough of the rank and file to realize that they were ready for action; all they needed was a battle-cry and an organization to guide them.
Henderson, the big lumber-jack, spoke up. That was just the trouble; you couldn't get an organization for such a purpose. The authorities would get spies among you, they would find out what you were doing, and drive you underground.
"Well," cried Joe, "we'll go underground!"
"Yes," agreed the other, "but then your organization goes bust. Nobody knows who to trust, everybody's accusing the rest of being a spy."
"Hell!" said Joe Angell. "I've been in jail for the movement, I'll take my chances of anybody's calling me a spy. What I'm not going to do is to sit down and see the workers driven to hell, because I'm so damn careful about my precious organization."
When others objected, Angell rushed on still more vehemently. Suppose they did fail in a mass-uprising, suppose they were driven to assassination and terrorism? At least they would teach the exploiters a lesson, and take a little of the joy out of their lives.
Peter thought it would be a good idea for him to pose as a conservative just now. "Do you really think the capitalists would give up from fear?" he asked.
And the other answered: "You bet I do! I tell you if we'd made it understood that every congressman who voted this country into war would be sent to the front trenches, our country would still be at peace."
"But," put in Peter, deftly, "it ain't the congressmen. It's people higher up than them."
"You bet," put in Gus, the Swedish sailor. "You bet you! I name you one dozen big fellows in dis country - you make it clear if we don't get peace dey all get killed - we get peace all right!"
So Peter had things where he wanted them. "Who are those fellows?" he asked, and got the crowd arguing over names. Of course they didn't argue very long before somebody mentioned "Nelse" Ackerman, who was venomously hated by the Reds because he had put up a hundred thousand dollars of the Anti-Goober fund. Peter pretended not to know about Nelse; and Jerry Rudd, a "blanket-stiff" whose head was still sore from being cracked open in a recent harvesters' strike, remarked that by Jesus, if they'd put a few fellows like that in the trenches, there'd be some pacifists in Ameriky sure enough all right.
It seemed almost as if Joe Angell had come there to back up Peter's purpose. "What we want," said he, "is a few fellows to fight as hard for themselves as they fight for the capitalists."
"Yes," assented Henderson, grimly. "We're all so good - we wait till our masters tell us we can kill."
That was the end of the discussion; but it seemed quite enough to Peter. He watched his chance, and one by one he managed to slip his little notes into the coat-pockets of Joe Angell, Jerry Rudd, Henderson, and Gus, the sailor. And then Peter made his escape, trembling with excitement. The great dynamite conspiracy was on! "They must be got rid of!" he was whispering to himself. "They must be got rid of by any means! It's my duty I'm doing."
C h a p t e r 4 2
- PETER had an appointment to meet Nell on a street corner at eleven o'clock that same night, and when she stepped off the street-car, Peter saw that she was carrying a suit-case. "Did you get your job done?" she asked quickly, and when Peter answered in the affirmative, she added: "Here's your bomb!"
Peter's jaw fell. He looked so frightened that she hastened to reassure him. It wouldn't go off; it was only the makings of a bomb, three sticks of dynamite and some fuses and part of a clock. The dynamite was wrapped carefully, and there was no chance of its exploding - if he didn't drop it! But Peter wasn't much consoled. He had had no idea that Nell would go so far, or that he would actually have to handle dynamite. He wondered where and how she had got it, and wished to God he was out of this thing.
But it was too late now, of course. Said Nell: "You've got to get this suit-case into the headquarters, and you've got to get it there without anybody seeing you. They'll be shut up pretty soon, won't they?"
"We locked up when we left," said Peter.
"And who has the key?"
"Grady, the secretary."
"There's no way you can get it?"
"I can get into the room," said Peter, quickly. "There's a fire escape, and the window isn't tight. Some of us that know about it have got in that way when the place was locked."
"All right," said Nell. "We'll wait a bit; we mustn't take chances of anyone coming back."
They started to stroll along the street, Nell still carrying the suit-case, as if distrusting the state of Peter's nerves, Meantime she explained, "I've got two pieces of paper that we've got to plant in the room. One's to be torn up and thrown into the trash-basket. It's supposed to be part of a letter about some big plan that's to be pulled off, and it's signed 'Mac.' That's for McCormick, of course. I had to type it, not having any sample of his handwriting. The other piece is a drawing; there's no marks to show what it is, but of course the police'll soon find out. It's a plan of old Ackerman's home, and there's a cross mark showing his sleeping-porch. Now, what we want to do is to fix this on McCormick. Is there anything in the room that belongs to him?"
Peter thought, and at last remembered that in the bookshelves were some books which had been donated by McCormick, and which had his name written in. That was the trick! exclaimed Nell. They would hide the paper in one of these books, and when the police made a thorough search they would find it. Nell asked what was in these books, and Peter thought, and remembered that one was a book on sabotage. "Put the paper in that," said Nell. "When the police find it, the newspapers'll print the whole book."
Peter's knees were trembling so that he could hardly walk, but he kept reminding himself that he was a "he-man," a 100% American, and that in these times of war every patriot must do his part. His part was to help rid the country of these Reds, and he must not flinch. They made their way to the old building in which the I. W. W. headquarters were located, and Peter climbed up on the fence and swung over to the fire-escape, and Nell very carefully handed the suit-case to him, and Peter opened the damaged window and slipped into the room.
He knew just where the cupboard was, and quickly stored the suit-case in the corner, and piled some odds and ends of stuff in front of it, and threw an old piece of canvas over it. He took out of his right-hand pocket a typewritten letter, and tore it into small pieces and threw them into the trash-basket. Then he took out of his left-hand pocket the other paper, with the drawing of Ackerman's house. He went to the bookcase and with shaking fingers struck a match, picked out the little redbound book entitled "Sabotage," and stuck the paper inside, and put the book back in place. Then he climbed out on the fire-escape and dropped to the ground, jumped over the fence, and hurried down the alley to where Nell was waiting for him.
"It's for my country!" he was whispering to himself.
C h a p t e r 4 3
- THE job was now complete, except for getting McCormick to the rendezvous next morning. Nell had prepared and would mail in the postoffice a special delivery letter addressed to McCormick's home. This would be delivered about seven o'clock in the morning, and inside was a typewritten note, as follows:
"Mac: Come to Room 17 of the studios at eight in the morning. Very important. Our plan is all ready, my part is done. Joe."
Nell figured that McCormick would take this to be a message from Angell. He wouldn't know what it was about, but he'd be all the more certain to come and find out. The essential thing was that the raid by the detectives must occur the very minute the conspirators got together, for as soon as they compared notes they would become suspicious, and might scatter at once. McGivney must have his men ready; he must be notified and have plenty of time to get them ready.
But there was a serious objection to this - if McGivney had time, he would demand a talk with Peter, and Nell was sure that Peter couldn't stand a cross-questioning at McGivney's hands. Peter, needless to say, agreed with her; his heart threatened to collapse at the thought of such an ordeal. What Peter really wanted to do was to quit the whole thing right there and then; but he dared not say so, he dared not face the withering scorn of his confederate. Peter clenched his hands and set his teeth, and when he passed a street light he turned his face away, so that Nell might not read the humiliating terror written there. But Nell read it all the same; Nell believed that she was dealing with a quivering, pasty-faced coward, and proceeded on that basis; she worked out the plans, she gave Peter his orders, and she stuck by him to see that he carried them out.
Peter had McGivney's home telephone number, which he was only supposed to use in the most desperate emergency. He was to use it now, and tell McGivney that he had just caught some members of the I. W. W., with Pat McCormick as their leader, preparing to blow up some people with dynamite bombs. They had some bombs in a suit-case in their headquarters, and were just starting out with other bombs in their pockets. Peter must follow them, otherwise he would lose them, and some crime might be committed before he could interfere. McGivney must have his agents ready with automobiles to swoop down upon any place that Peter indicated. Peter would follow up the conspirators, and phone McGivney again at the first opportunity he could find.
Nell was especially insistent that when Peter spoke to McGivney he must have only a moment to spare, no time for questions, and he must not stop to answer any. He must be in a state of trembling excitement; and Peter was sure that would be very easy! He rehearsed over to Nell every word he must say, and just how he was to cut short the conversation and hang up the receiver. Then he went into an all night drug-store just around the corner from the headquarters, and from a telephone booth called McGivney's home.
It was an apartment house, and after some delay Peter heard the voice of his employer, surly with sleep. But Peter waked him up quickly. "Mr. McGivney, there's a dynamite plot!"
"I. W. W. They've got bombs in a suit-case! They're starting off to blow somebody up tonight."
"By God! What do you mean? Who?"
"I dunno yet. I only heard part of it, and I've got to go. They're starting, I've got to follow them. I may lose them and it'll be too late. You hear me, I've got to follow them!"
"I hear you. What do you want me to do?"
"I'll phone you again the first chance I get. You have your men ready, a dozen of them! Have automobiles, so you can come quick. You get me?"
"Yes, but - "
"I can't talk any more, I may lose them, I haven't a second! You be at your phone, and have your men ready - everything ready. You get me?"
"Yes, but listen, man! You sure you're not mistaken?"
"Yes, yes, I'm sure!" cried Peter, his voice mounting in excitement. "They've got the dynamite, I tell you - everything! It's a man named Nelse."
"The man they're going to kill. I've got to go now, you get ready. Good-bye!" And Peter hung up the receiver. He had got so excited over the part he was playing that he sprang up and ran out of the drug-store, as if he really had to catch up with some I. W. W. conspirators carrying a dynamite bomb!
But there was Nell, and they strolled down the street again. They came to a small park, and sat on one of the benches, because Peter's legs would no longer hold him up. Nell walked about to make sure there was no one on any of the other benches; then she came back and rehearsed the next scene with Peter. They must go over it most carefully, because before long the time was coming when Peter wouldn't have Nell to coach him, and must be prepared to stand on his own legs. Peter knew that, and his legs failed him. He wanted to back down, and declare that he couldn't go ahead with it; he wanted to go to McGivney and confess everything. Nell divined what was going on in his soul, and wished to save him the humiliation of having it known. She sat close to him on the bench, and put her hand on his as she talked to him, and presently Peter felt a magic thrill stealing over him. He ventured to put his arm about Nell, to get still more of this delicious sensation; and Nell permitted the embraces, for the first time she even encouraged them. Peter was a hero now, he was undertaking a bold and desperate venture; he was going to put it thru like a man, and win Nell's real admiration. "Our country's at war!" she exclaimed. "And these devils are stopping it!"
So pretty soon Peter was ready to face the whole world; Peter was ready to go himself and blow up the king of American City with a dynamite bomb! In that mood he stayed thru the small hours of the morning, sitting on the bench clasping his girl in his arms, and wishing she would give a little more time to heeding his love-making, and less to making him recite his lessons.
C h a p t e r 4 4
- SO the day began to break and the birds to sing. The sun rose on Peter's face gray with exhaustion and the Irish apples in Nell's cheeks badly faded. But the time for action had come, and Peter went off to watch McCormick's home until seven o'clock, when the special delivery letter was due to arrive.
It came on time, and Peter saw McCormick come out of the house and set forth in the direction of the studios. It was too early for the meeting, so Peter figured that he would stop to get his breakfast; and sure enough "Mac" turned into, a little dairy lunch, and Peter hastened to the nearest telephone and called his boss.
"Mr. McGivney," he said, "I lost those fellows last night, but now I got them again. They decided not to do anything till today. They're having a meeting this morning and we've a chance to nab them all."
"Where?" demanded McGivney.
"Room seventeen in the studios; but don't let any of your men go near there, till I make sure the right fellows are in."
"Listen here, Peter Gudge!" cried McGivney. "Is this straight goods?"
"My God!" cried Peter. "What do you take me for? I tell you they've got loads of dynamite."
"What have they done with it?"
"They've got some in their headquarters. About the rest I dunno. They carried it off and I lost them last night. But then I found a note in my pocket - they were inviting me to come in."
"By God!" exclaimed the rat-faced man.
"We've got the whole thing, I tell you! Have you got your men ready?"
"Well then, have them come to the corner of Seventh and Washington Streets, and you come to Eighth and Washington. Meet me there just as quick as you can."
"I get you," was the answer, and Peter hung up, and rushed off to the appointed rendezvous. He was so nervous that he had to sit on the steps of a building. As time passed and McGivney didn't appear, wild imaginings began to torment him. Maybe McGivney hadn't understood him correctly! Or maybe his automobile might break down! Or his telephone might have got out of order at precisely the critical moment! He and his men would arrive too late, they would find the trap sprung, and the prey escaped.
Ten minutes passed, fifteen minutes, twenty minutes. At last an automobile rushed up the street, and McGivney stepped out, and the automobile sped on. Peter got McGivney's eye, and then stepped back into the shelter of a doorway. McGivney followed. "Have you got them?" he cried.
"I d-d-dunno!" chattered Peter. "They s-s-said they were c-coming at eight!"
"Let me see that note!" commanded McGivney; so Peter pulled out one of Nell's notes which he had saved for himself:
"If you really believe in a bold stroke for the workers' rights, meet me in the studios, Room 17, tomorrow morning at eight o'clock. No names and no talk. Action!"
"You found that in your pocket?" demanded the other.
"And you've no idea who put it there."
"N-no, but I think Joe Angell - "
McGivney looked at his watch. "You've got twenty minutes yet," be said.
"You got the dicks?" asked Peter.
"A dozen of them. What's your idea now?"
Peter stammered out his suggestions. There was a little grocery store just across the street from the entrance to the studio building. Peter would go in there, and pretend to get something to eat, and would watch thru the window, and the moment he saw the right men come in, he would hurry out and signal to McGivney, who would be in a drugstore at the next corner. McGivney must keep out of sight himself, because the "Reds" knew him as one of Guffey's agents.
It wasn't necessary to repeat anything twice. McGivney was keyed up and ready for business, and Peter hurried down the street, and stepped into the little grocery store without being observed by anyone. He ordered some crackers and cheese, and seated himself on a box by the window and pretended to eat. But his hands were trembling so that he could hardly get the food into his mouth; and this was just as well, because his mouth was dry with fright, and crackers and cheese are articles of diet not adapted to such a condition.
He kept his eyes glued on the dingy doorway of the old studio building, and presently - hurrah! - he saw McCormick coming down the street! The Irish boy turned into the building, and a couple of minutes later came Gus the sailor, and before another five minutes had passed here came Joe Angell and Henderson. They were walking quickly, absorbed in conversation, and Peter could imagine he heard them talking about those mysterious notes, and who could be the writer, and what the devil could they mean?
Peter was now wild with nervousness; he was afraid somebody in the grocery store would notice him, and he made desperate efforts to eat the crackers and cheese, and scattered the crumbs all over himself and over the floor. Should he wait for Jerry Rudd, or should he take those he had already? He had got up and started for the door, when he saw the last of his victims coming down the street. Jerry was walking slowly, and Peter couldn't wait until he got inside. A car was passing, and Peter took the chance to slip out and bolt for the drug store. Before he had got half way there McGivney had seen him, and was on the run to the next corner.
Peter waited only long enough to see a couple of automobiles come whirling down the street, packed solid with husky detectives. Then he turned off and hurried down a side street. He managed to get a couple of blocks away, and then his nerves gave way entirely, and he sat down on the curbstone and began to cry - just the way little Jennie had cried when he told her he couldn't marry her! People stopped to stare at him, and one benevolent old gentleman came up and tapped him on the shoulder and asked what was the trouble. Peter, between his tear-stained fingers, gasped: "My m-m-mother died!" And so they let him alone, and after a while he got up and hurried off again.
C h a p t e r 4 5
- PETER was now in a state of utter funk. He knew that he would have to face McGivney, and he just couldn't do it. All he wanted was Nell; and Nell, knowing that he would want her, had agreed to be in the park at half past eight. She had warned him not to talk to a soul until he had talked to her. Meantime she had gone home and renewed her Irish roses with French rouge, and restored her energy with coffee and cigarettes, and now she was waiting for him, smiling serenely, as fresh as any bird or flower in the park that summer morning. She asked him in even tones how things had gone, and when Peter began to stammer that he didn't think he could face McGivney, she proceeded to build up his courage once more. She let him put his arms about her, even there in broad daylight; she whispered to him to get himself together, to be a man, and worthy of her.
What had he to be afraid of, anyway? They hadn't a single thing on him, and there was no possible way they could get anything. His hands were clean all the way thru, and all he had to do was to stick it out; he must make up his mind in advance, that no matter what happened, he would never break down, he would never vary from the story he had rehearsed with her. She made him go over the story again; how on the previous evening, at the gathering in the I. W. W. headquarters, they had talked about killing Nelse Ackerman as a means of bringing the war to an end. And after the talk he had heard Joe Angell whisper to Jerry Rudd that he had the makings of a bomb already; he had a suit-case full of dynamite stored there in the closet, and he and Pat McCormick had been planning to pull off something that very night. Peter had gone out, but had watched outside, and had seen Angell, Henderson, Rudd and Gus come out. Peter had noticed that Angell's pockets were stuffed, and had assumed that they were going to do their dynamiting, so he had phoned to McGivney from the drug-store. By this phoning he had missed the crowd, and then he had been ashamed and afraid to tell McGivney, and had spent the night wandering in the park. But early in the morning he had found the note, and had understood that it must have been slipped into his pocket, and that the conspirators wanted him to come in on their scheme. That was all, except for three or four sentences or fragments of sentences which Peter had overheard between Joe Angell and Jerry Rudd. Nell made him learn these sentences by heart, and she insisted that he must not under any circumstances try to remember or be persuaded to remember anything further.
At last Peter was adjudged ready for the ordeal, and went to Room 427 in the American House, and threw himself on the bed. He was so exhausted that once or twice he dozed; but then he would think of some new question that McGivney might ask him, and would start into wakefulness. At last he heard a key turn, and started up. There entered one of the detectives, a man named Hammett. "Hello, Gudge," said he. "The boss wants you to get arrested."
"Arrested!" exclaimed Peter. "Good Lord!" He had a sudden swift vision of himself shut up in a cell with those Reds, and forced to listen to "hard luck stories."
"Well," said Hammett, "we're arresting all the Reds, and if we skip you, they'll be suspicious. You better go somewhere right away and get caught."
Peter saw the wisdom of this, and after a little thought he chose the home of Miriam Yankovitch. She was a real Red, and didn't like him; but if he was arrested in her home, she would have to like him, and it would tend to make him "solid" with the "left wingers." He gave the address to Hammett, and added, "You better come as soon as you can, because she may kick me out of the house."
"That's all right," replied the other, with a laugh. "Tell her the police are after you, and ask her to hide you."
So Peter hurried over to the Jewish quarter of the city, and knocked on a door in the top story of a tenement house. The door was opened by a stout woman with her sleeves rolled up and her arms covered with soap-suds. Yes, Miriam was in. She was out of a job just now, said Mrs. Yankovitch. They had fired her because she talked Socialism. Miriam entered the room, giving the unexpected visitor a cold stare that said as plain as words: "Jennie Todd!"
But this changed at once when Peter told her that he had been to I. W. W. headquarters and found the police in charge. They had made a raid, and claimed to have discovered some kind of plot; fortunately Peter had seen the crowd outside, and had got away. Miriam took him into an inside room and asked him a hundred questions which he could not answer. He knew nothing, except that he had been to a meeting at headquarters the night before, and this morning he had gone there to get a book, and had seen the crowd and run.
Half an hour later came a bang on the door, and Peter dived under the bed. The door was burst open, and he heard angry voices commanding, and vehement protests from Miriam and her mother. To judge from the sounds, the men began throwing the furniture this way and that; suddenly a hand came under the bed, and Peter was grabbed by the ankle, and hauled forth to confront four policemen in uniform.
It was an awkward situation, because apparently these policemen hadn't been told that Peter was a spy; the boobs thought they were getting a real dynamiter! One grabbed each of Peter's wrists, and another kept him and Miriam covered with a revolver, while the fourth proceeded to go thru his pockets, looking for bombs. When they didn't find any, they seemed vexed, and shook him and hustled him about, and made clear they would be glad of some pretext to batter in his head. Peter was careful not to give them such a pretext; he was frightened and humble, and kept declaring that he didn't know anything, he hadn't done any harm.
"We'll see about that, young fellow!" said the officer, as he snapped the handcuffs on Peter's wrists. Then, while one of them remained on guard with the revolver, the other three proceeded to ransack the place, pulling out the bureau-drawers and kicking the contents this way and that, grabbing every scrap of writing they could find and jamming it into a couple of suit-cases. There were books with red bindings and terrifying titles, but no bombs, and no weapons more dangerous than a carving knife and Miriam's tongue. The girl stood there with her black eyes flashing lightnings, and told the police exactly what she thought of them. She didn't know what had happened in the I. W. W. headquarters, but she knew that whatever it was, it was a frame-up, and she dared them to arrest her, and almost succeeded in her fierce purpose. However, the police contented themselves with kicking over the washtub and its contents, and took their departure, leaving Mrs. Yankovitch screaming in the midst of a flood.
C h a p t e r 4 6
- THEY dragged Peter out thru a swarming tenement crowd, and clapped him into an automobile, and whirled him away to police headquarters, where they entered him in due form and put him in a cell. He was uneasy right away, because he had failed to arrange with Hammett how long he was to stay locked up. But barely an hour had passed before a jailer came, and took him to a private room, where he found himself confronted by McGivney and Hammett, also the Chief of Police of the city, a deputy district attorney, and last but most important of all - Guffey. It was the head detective of the Traction Trust who took Peter in charge.
"Now, Gudge," said he, "what's this job you've been putting up on us?"
It struck Peter like a blow in the face. His heart went down, his jaw dropped, he stared like an idiot. Good God!
But he remembered Nell's last solemn words: "Stick it out, Peter; stick it out!" So he cried: "What do you mean, Mr. Guffey?"
"Sit down in that chair there," said Guffey. "Now, tell us what you know about this whole business. Begin at the beginning and tell us everything - every word." So Peter began. He had been at a meeting at the I. W. W. headquarters the previous evening. There had been a long talk about the inactivity of the organization, and what could be done to oppose the draft. Peter detailed the arguments, the discussion of violence, of dynamite and killing, the mention of Nelse Ackerman and the other capitalists who were to be put out of the way. He embellished all this, and exaggerated it greatly - it being the one place where Nell had said he could do no harm by exaggerating.
Then he told how after the meeting had broken up he had noticed several of the men whispering among themselves. By pretending to be getting a book from the bookcase he had got close to Joe Angell and Jerry Rudd; he had heard various words and fragments of sentences, "dynamite," "suit-case in the cupboard," "Nelse," and so on. And when the crowd went out he noticed that Angell's pockets were bulging, and assumed that he had the bombs, and that they were going to do the job. He rushed to the drug-store and phoned McGivney. It took a long time to get McGivney, and when he had given his message and run out again, the crowd was out of sight. Peter was in despair, he was ashamed to confront McGivney, be wandered about the streets for hours looking for the crowd. He spent the rest of the night in the park. But then in the morning he discovered the piece of paper in his pocket, and understood that somebody had slipped it to him, intending to invite him to the conspiracy; so he had notified McGivney, and that was all he knew.
McGivney began to cross-question him. He had heard Joe Angell talking to Jerry Rudd; had he heard him talking to anybody else? Had he heard any of the others talking? Just what had he heard Joe Angell say? Peter must repeat every word all over. This time, as instructed by Nell, he remembered one sentence more, and repeated this sentence: "Mac put it in the 'sab-cat.' " He saw the others exchange glances. That's just what I heard," said Peter - "just those words. I couldn't figure out what they meant?"
"Sab-cat?" said the Chief of Police, a burly figure with a brown moustache and a quid of tobacco tucked in the corner of his mouth. "That means 'sabotage,' don't it?"
"Yes," said the rat-faced man.
"Do you know anything in the office that has to do with sabotage?" demanded Guffey of Peter.
And Peter thought. "No, I don't," he said.
They talked among themselves for a minute or two. The Chief said they had got all McCormick's things out of his room, and might find some clue to the mystery in these. Guffey went to the telephone, and gave a number with which Peter was familiar - that of I. W. W. headquarters. "That you, Al?" he said. "We're trying to find if there's something in those rooms that has to do with sabotage. Have you found anything - any apparatus or pictures, or writing - anything?" Evidently the answer was in the negative, for Guffey said: "Go ahead, look farther; if you get anything, call me at the chief's office quick. It may give us a lead."
Then Guffey hung up the receiver and turned to Peter. "Now Gudge," he said, "that's all your story, is it; that's all you got to tell us?"
"Well then, you might as well quit your fooling right away. We understand that you framed this thing up, and we're not going to be taken in."
Peter stared at Guffey, speechless; and Guffey, for his part, took a couple of steps toward Peter, his brows gathering into a terrible frown, and his fists clenched. In a wave of sickening horror Peter remembered the scenes after the Preparedness Day explosion. Were they going to put him thru that again?
"We'll have a show-down, Gudge, right here," the head detective continued. "You tell us all this stuff about Angell - his talk with Jerry Rudd, and his pockets stuffed with bombs and all the rest of it - and he denies every word of it."
"But, m-m-my God! Mr. Guffey," gasped Peter. "Of course he'll deny it!" Peter could hardly believe his ears - that they were taking seriously the denial of a dynamiter, and quoting it to him!
"Yes, Gudge," responded Guffey, "but you might as well know the truth now as later - Angell is one of our men; we've had him planted on these 'wobblies' for the last year."
The bottom fell out of Peter's world; Peter went tumbling heels over head - down, down into infinite abysses of horror and despair. Joe Angell was a secret agent like himself! The Blue-eyed Angell, who talked dynamite and assassination at a hundred radical gatherings, who shocked the boldest revolutionists by his reckless language - Angell a spy, and Peter had proceeded to plant a "frame-up" on him!
C h a p t e r 4 7
- IT was all up with Peter. He would go back into the hole! He would be tortured for the balance of his days! In his ears rang the shrieks of ten thousand lost sou ls and the clang of ten thousand trumpets of doom; and yet, in the midst of all the noise and confusion, Peter managed somehow to hear the voice of Nell, whispering over and over again: "Stick it out, Peter; stick it out!"
He flung out his hands and started toward his accuser. "Mr. Guffey, as God is my witness, I don't know a thing about it but what I've told you. That's what happened, and if Joe Angell tells you anything different he's lying."
"But why should he lie?"
"I don't know why; I don't know anything about it,
Here was where Peter reaped the advantage of his lifelong training as an intriguer. In the midst of all his fright and his despair, Peter's subconscious mind was working, thinking of schemes. "Maybe Angell was framing something up on you! Maybe he was fixing some plan of his own, and I come along and spoiled it; I sprung it too soon. But I tell you it's straight goods I've given you." And Peter's very anguish gave him the vehemence to check Guffey's certainty. As he rushed on, Peter could read in the eyes of the detective that he wasn't really as sure as he talked.
"Did you see that suit-case?" he demanded.
"No, I didn't see no suit-case!" answered Peter. "I don't even know if there was a suit-case. I only know I heard Joe Angell say 'suit-case,' and I heard him say 'dynamite.' "
"Did you see anybody writing anything in the place?"
"No, I didn't," said Peter. "But I seen Henderson sitting at the table working at some papers he had in his pocket, and I seen him tear something up and throw it into the trash-basket." Peter saw the others look at one another, and he knew that he was beginning to make headway.
A moment later came a diversion that helped to save him. The telephone rang, and the Chief of Police answered and nodded to Guffey, who came and took the receiver. "A book?" he cried, with excitement in his tone. "What sort of a plan? Well, tell one of your men to take the car and bring that book and the plan here to the chief's office as quick as he can move; don't lose a moment, everything may depend on it."
And then Guffey turned to the others. "He says they found a book on sabotage in the book-case, and in it there's some kind of a drawing of a house. The book has McCormick's name in it."
There were many exclamations over this, and Peter had time to think before the company turned upon him again. The Chief of Police now questioned him, and then the deputy of the district attorney questioned him; still he stuck to his story. "My God!" he cried. "Would you think I'd be mad enough to frame up a job like this? Where'd I get all that stuff? Where'd I get that dynamite?" - Peter almost bit off his tongue as he realized the dreadful slip he had made. No one had ever told him that the suit-case actually contained dynamite! How had he known there was dynamite in it? He was desperately trying to think of some way he could have heard; but, as it happened, no one of the five men caught him up. They all knew that there was dynamite in the suit-case; they knew it with overwhelming and tremendous certainty, and they overlooked entirely the fact that Peter wasn't supposed to know it. So close to the edge of ruin can a man come and yet escape!
Peter made haste to get away from that danger-spot. "Does Joe Angell deny that he was whispering to Jerry Rudd?"
"He doesn't remember that," said Guffey. "He may have talked with him apart, but nothing special, there wasn't any conspiracy."
"Does he deny that he talked about dynamite?"
"They may have talked about it in the general discussion, but he didn't whisper anything."
"But I heard him!" cried Peter, whose quick wits had thought up a way of escape, "I know what I heard! It was just before they were leaving, and somebody had turned out some of the lights. He was standing with his back to me, and I went over to the book-case right behind him."
Here the deputy district attorney put in. He was a young man, a trifle easier to fool than the others. "Are you sure it was Joe Angell?" he demanded.
"My God! Of course it was!" said Peter. "I couldn't have been mistaken." But he let his voice die away, and a note of bewilderment be heard in it.
"You say he was whispering?"
"Yes, he was whispering."
"But mightn't it have been somebody else?"
"Why, I don't know what to say," said Peter. "I thought for sure it was Joe Angell; but I had my back turned, I'd been talking to Grady, the secretary, and then I turned around and moved over to the book-case."
"How many men were there in the room?"
"About twenty, I guess."
"Were the lights turned off before you turned around, or after?"
"I don't remember that; it might have been after." And suddenly poor bewildered Peter cried: "It makes me feel like a fool. Of course I ought to have talked to the fellow, and made sure it was Joe Angell before I turned away again; but I thought sure it was him. The idea it could be anybody else never crossed my mind."
"But you're sure it was Jerry Rudd that was talking to him?"
"Yes, it was Jerry Rudd, because his face was toward me."
"Was it Rudd or was it the other fellow that made the reply about the 'sab-cat'?" And then Peter was bewildered and tied himself up, and led them into a long process of cross-questioning; and in the middle of it came the detective, bringing the book on sabotage with McCormick's name written in the fly-leaf, and with the ground plan of a house between the pages.
They all crowded around to look at the plan, and the idea occurred to several of them at once: Could it be Nelse Ackerman's house? The Chief of Police turned to his phone, and called up the great banker's secretary. Would he please describe Mr. Ackerman's house; and the chief listened to the description. "There's a cross mark on this plan - the north side of the house, a little to the west of the center. What could that be?" Then, "My God!" And then, "Will you come down here to my office right away and bring the architect's plan of the house so we can compare them?" The Chief turned to the others, and said, "That cross mark in the house is the sleeping porch on the second floor where Mr. Ackerman sleeps!"
So then they forgot for a while their doubts about Peter. It was fascinating, this work of tracing out the details of the conspiracy, and fitting them together like a picture puzzle. It seemed quite certain to all of them that this insignificant and scared little man whom they had been examining could never have prepared so ingenious and intricate a design. No, it must really be that some master mind, some devilish intriguer was at work to spread red ruin in American City!
C h a p t e r 4 8
- THEY dismissed Peter for the present, sending him back to his cell. He stayed there for two days with no one to advise him, and no hint as to his fate. They did not allow newspapers in the jail, but they had left Peter his money, and so on the second day he succeeded in bribing one of his keepers and obtaining a copy of the American City "Times," with all the details of the amazing sensation spread out on the front page.
For thirty years the "Times" had been standing for law and order against all the forces of red riot and revolution; for thirty years the "Times" had been declaring that labor leaders and walking delegates and Socialists and Anarchists were all one and the same thing, and all placed their reliance fundamentally upon one instrument, the dynamite bomb. Here at last the "Times" was vindicated, this was the "Times' " great day! They had made the most of it, not merely on the front page, but on two other pages, with pictures of all the conspicuous conspirators, including Peter, and pictures of the I. W. W. headquarters, and the suit-case, and the sticks of dynamite and the fuses and the clock; also of the "studio" in which the Reds had been trapped, and of Nikitin, the Russian anarchist who owned this den. Also there were columns of speculation about the case, signed statements and interviews with leading clergymen and bankers, the president of the Chamber of Commerce and the secretary of the Real Estate Exchange. Also there was a two-column, double-leaded editorial, pointing out how the "Times" had been saying this for thirty years, and not failing to connect up the case with the Goober case, and the Lackman case, and the case of three pacifist clergymen who had been arrested several days before for attempting to read the Sermon on the Mount at a public meeting.
And Peter knew that he, Peter Gudge, had done all this! The forces of law and order owed it all to one obscure little secret service agent! Peter would get no credit, of course; the Chief of Police and the district attorney were issuing solemn statements, taking the honors to themselves, and with never one hint that they owed anything to the secret service department of the Traction Trust. That was necessary, of course; for the sake of appearances it had to be pretended that the public authorities were doing the work, exercising their legal functions in due and regular form. It would never do to have the mob suspect that these activities were being financed and directed by the big business interests of the city. But all the same, it made Peter sore! He and McGivney and the rest of Guffey's men had a contempt for the public officials, whom they regarded as "pikers"; the officials had very little money to spend, and very little power. If you really wanted to get anything done in America, you didn't go to any public official, you went to the big men of affairs, the ones who had the "stuff," and were used to doing things quickly and efficiently. It was the same in this business of spying as in everything else.
Now and then Peter would realize how close he had come to ghastly ruin. He would have qualms of terror, picturing himself shut up in the hole, and Guffey proceeding to torture the truth out of him. But he was able to calm these fears. He was sure this dynamite conspiracy would prove too big a temptation for the authorities; it would sweep them away in spite of themselves. They would have to go thru with it, they would have to stand by Peter.
And sure enough, on the evening of the second day a jailer came and said: "You're to be let out." And Peter was ushered thru the barred doors and turned loose without another word.
C h a p t e r 4 9
- PETER went to Room 427 of the American House and there was McGivney waiting for him. McGivney said nothing about any suspicion of Peter, nor did Peter say anything - he understood that by-gones were to be by-gones. The authorities were going to take this gift which the fates had handed to them on a silver platter. For years they had been wanting to get these Reds, and now magically and incredibly, they had got them!
"Now, Gudge," said McGivney, "here's your story. You've been arrested on suspicion, you've been cross-questioned and put thru the third degree, but you succeeded in satisfying the police that you didn't know anything about it, and they've released you. We've released a couple of others at the same time, so's to cover you all right; and now you're to go back and find out all you can about the Reds, and what they're doing, and what they're planning. They're shouting, of course, that this is a 'frame-up.' You must find out what they know. You must be careful, of course - watch every step you take, because they'll be suspicious for a while. We've been to your room and turned things upside down a bit, so that will help to make it look all right."
Peter sallied forth; but he did not go to see the Reds immediately. He spent an hour dodging about the city to make sure no one was shadowing him; then he called up Nell at a telephone number she had given him, and an hour later they met in the park, and she flew to his arms and kissed him with rapturous delight. He had to tell her everything, of course; and when she learned that Joe Angell was a secret agent, she first stared at him in horror, and then she laughed until she almost cried. When Peter told how he had met that situation and got away with it, for the first time he was sure that he had won her love.
"Now, Peter," she said, when they were calm again, we've got to get action at once. The papers are full of it, and old Nelse Ackerman must be scared out of his life. Here's a letter I'm going to mail tonight - you notice I've used a different typewriter from the one I used last time. I went into a typewriter store, and paid them to let me use one for a few minutes, so they can never trace this letter to me.
The letter was addressed to Nelson Ackerman at his home, and marked "Personal." Peter read:
"This is a message from a friend. The Reds had an agent in your home. They drew a plan of your house. The police are hiding things from you, because they can't get the truth, and don't want you to know they are incompetent. There is a man who discovered all this plot, and you should see him. They won't let you see him if they can help it. You should demand to see him. But do not mention this letter. If you do not get to the right man, I will write you again. If you keep this a secret, you may trust me to help you to the end. If you tell anybody, I will be unable to help you."
"Now," said Nell, "when he gets that letter he'll get busy, and you've got to know what to do, because of course everything depends on that." So Nell proceeded to drill Peter for his meeting with the King of American City. Peter now stood in such awe of her judgment that he learned his lessons quite patiently, and promised solemnly that he would do exactly what she said and nothing else. He reaped his reward of kisses, and went home to sleep the sleep of the just.
Next morning Peter set out to do some of his work for McGivney, so that McGivney would have no ground for complaint. He went to see Miriam Yankovich, and this time Miriam caught him by his two hands and wrung them, and Peter knew that he had atoned for his crime against little Jennie. Peter was a martyr once more. He told how he had been put thru the third degree; and she told how the water from the washtub had leaked thru the ceiling, and the plaster had fallen, and ruined the dinner of a poor workingman's family.
Also, she told him all about the frame-up as the Reds saw it. Andrews, the lawyer, was demanding the right to see the prisoners, but this was refused, and they were all being held without bail. On the previous evening Miriam had attended a gathering at Andrews' home, at which the case was talked out. All the I. W. W.'s declared that the thing was the rankest kind of frame-up; the notes were obviously fake, and the dynamite had undoubtedly been planted by the police. They had used it as a pretext to shut up the I. W. W. headquarters, and to arrest a score of radicals. Worst of all, of course, was the propaganda; the hideous stories with which they were filling the papers. Had Peter seen this morning's "Times?" A perfectly unmistakable incitement to mobs to gather and lynch the Reds!
C h a p t e r 5 0
- FROM Miriam's, Peter went back to Room 427. It was Nell's idea that Nelse Ackerman would not lose a minute next morning; and sure enough, Peter found a note on the dressing-table: "Wait for me, I want to see you."
Peter waited, and before long McGivney came in and sat down in front of him, and began very solemnly: "Now Peter Gudge, you know I'm your friend."
"Yes, of course."
"I've stood by you," said McGivney. "If it hadn't been for me, the boss would have had you in the hole right now, trying to sweat you into confessing you planted that dynamite. I want you to know that, and I want you to know that I'm going to stand by you, and I expect you to stand by me and give me a square deal."
"Why, sure!" said Peter. "What is it?" Then McGivney proceeded to explain: Old Nelse Ackerman had got the idea that the police were holding back something from him. He was scared out of his wits about this case, of course. He had himself shut up in a cupboard at night, and made his wife pull down the curtains of her limousine when she went driving. And now he was insisting that he must have a talk with the man who had discovered this plot against him. McGivney hated to take the risk of having Peter become acquainted with anybody, but Nelse Ackerman was a man whose word was law. Really, he was Peter's employer; he had put up a lot of the money for the secret service work which Guffey was conducting, and neither Guffey or any of the city authorities dared try to fool him.
"Well, that's all right," said Peter; "it won't hurt for me to see him."
"He's going to question you about this case," said McGivney. "He's going to try to find out everything he can. So you got to protect us; you got to make him understand that we've done everything possible. You got to put us right with him."
Peter promised solemnly he would do so; but McGivney wasn't satisfied. He was in a state of trepidation, and proceeded to hammer and hammer at Peter, impressing upon him the importance of solidarity, of keeping faith with his fellows. It sounded exactly like some of the I. W. W.'s talking among themselves!
"You may think, here's a chance to jump on us and climb out on top, but don't you forget it, Peter Gudge, we've got a machine, and in the long run it's the machine that wins. We've broken many a fellow that's tried to play tricks on us, and we'll break you. Old Nelse will get what he wants out of you; he'll offer you a big price, no doubt - but before long he'll be thru with you, and then you'll come back to us, and I give you fair warning, by God, if you play us dirty, Guffey will have you in the hole in a month or two, and you'll come out on a stretcher."
So Peter pledged his faith again; but, seeing his chance, he added: "Don't you think Mr. Guffey ought to do something for me, because of that plot I discovered?"
"Yes, I think that," said McGivney; "that's only fair."
And so they proceeded to bargain. Peter pointed out all the dangers he had run, and all the credit which the others had got. Guffey hadn't got credit in the papers, but he had got it with his employers, all right, and he would get still more if Peter stood by him with the king of American City. Peter said it ought to be worth a thousand dollars, and he said he ought to have it right away, before he went to see the king. At which Guffey scowled ferociously. "Look here, Gudge! you got the nerve to charge us such a price for standing by your frame-up?"
McGivney generally treated Peter as a coward and a feeble bluffer; but he had learned also that there was one time when the little man completely changed his nature, and that was when it was a question of getting hold of some cash. That was the question now; and Peter met McGivney scowl for scowl. "If you don't like my frame-up," he snarled, "you go kick to the newspapers about it!"
Peter was the bulldog again, and had got his teeth in the other bulldog's nose, and he hung right there. He had seen the rat-faced man pull money out of his clothes before this, and he knew that this time, above all other times, McGivney would come prepared. So he insisted - a thousand or nothing; and as before, his heart went down into his boots when McGivney produced his wad, and revealed that there was more in the wad than Peter had demanded!
However, Peter consoled himself with the reflection that a thousand dollars was a tidy sum of money, and he set out for the home of Nelse Ackerman in a jovial frame of mind. Incidentally he decided that it might be the part of wisdom not to say anything to Nell about this extra thousand. When women found out that you had money, they'd never rest till they had got every cent of it, or at least had made you spend it on them!