On the Spot: Violence and Murder in Chicago - Edgar Wallace - ebook
Kategoria: Sensacja, thriller, horror Język: angielski Rok wydania: 1931

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Edgar Wallace

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About
Chapter 1
Chapter 2

About Wallace:

Richard Horatio Edgar Wallace (April 1, 1875–February 10, 1932) was a prolific British crime writer, journalist and playwright, who wrote 175 novels, 24 plays, and countless articles in newspapers and journals. Over 160 films have been made of his novels, more than any other author. In the 1920s, one of Wallace's publishers claimed that a quarter of all books read in England were written by him. (citation needed) He is most famous today as the co-creator of "King Kong", writing the early screenplay and story for the movie, as well as a short story "King Kong" (1933) credited to him and Draycott Dell. He was known for the J. G. Reeder detective stories, The Four Just Men, the Ringer, and for creating the Green Archer character during his lifetime. Source: Wikipedia

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Chapter 1

 

TONY PERELLI was not yellow, either by his own code or judged by standards more exacting. It was yellow, to squeal to futile police, but not yellow to squeal to one's own crowd, and squeal loudly, about injustices suffered. It was yellow to betray a pal, but not yellow if the pal had not acted square or if he himself was yellow; even then it was yellow to tip off the police about his delinquencies. The honourable thing was to take him to some lone place and "give him the works".

Horrified farmers who in the grey of morning found stark things sprawled on the edge of their lands might grow hysterical about the brutality of it, but there it was; justice in a sense, the sort of justice that the west and the middle west understood and countenanced too frequently.

For instance, "Red" Gallway.

Red bad been most things that were wrong and done most things that were indictable, He had been Peterman (which is a euphemism for safe—breaker), con man, hold—up man and keeper of questionable establishments. He came from this strenuous and not too affluent stew of professions into the business of booze running, which gave him wealth beyond his dreams, a comfortable existence, immunity from arrest, and the comradeship of square shooters. Success made him big in the head; he became talkative, a little quarrelsome; crowning offence, he began to sniff the white stuff.

Angelo Verona, the sleek chief of staff, expostulated.

"Say, Red, I'd cut out that stuff. Tony won't stand for coke in this outfit."

Red's ugly face twisted in a sneer. "Is that so?"

Angelo nodded, his grave, brown eyes on the weakling.

"Cocaine never did any good to anybody," he said. "Yeh! It makes you feel bigger than the Wrigley Building for a while, but when the effect passes you're just a hole in the ground. And the first time they get a guy down at Headquarters to quiz him, why, he falls apart."

"Is that so?" said Red offensively.

"That—is—so," nodded Angelo.

Red ran around with a friend—Mose Leeson, sometime machinist from Gary. The men had mean appetites in common, felt more at home in the squalor and dinginess of certain poor areas than in the splendour of lakeside restaurants.

To Leeson was due the credit of a discovery which had an important bearing upon the life of Tony Perelli.

Mose was poor and a sycophant. To him Red was the biggest of Big Shots, a man in the automobile and silk shirt class. He gave to his more fortunate friend the reverence of subject to monarch. It was over a drink at the firm's speakeasy that Mose, gross of mind and body, offered information and a proposal.

Red shook his head.

"Chink girls don't mean nothing to me, Mose," he said. "Listen! There's a girl up town who's nuts about me! Joe Enrico's daughter, but I don't look at her twice. That's me, Mose."

"Sure," said Mose. He looked twice at Minn Lee, and then more. He used to meet her on the stairs of the shabby apartment house where he had his home. She was Chinese and lovely. Small of stature, slim of body, with tiny, white hands that fascinated him. She was lovely, with slanting brown eyes and a rosebud of a mouth. Skin—like satin. When you saw it, you felt it. Her hair, not the blue—black of the Oriental but a sheeny black.

He used to give her a crooked grin. Then he tried to speak to her and found no difficulties. She was very simple and sweet and all too ready to talk. Her name was Minn Lee. Her husband was an artist, and a sick artist. She herself made fashions for catalogues.

Mose was staggered by her frank earnestness, and found no opportunity or opening for a more personal approach. Later, when he suggested supper at a swell place up town, she was more astonished than offended.

"But my husband is ill," she said. "I could not possibly leave him alone."

"Aw, listen, baby! I'll fix it to have a woman come in and sit with him… "

She shook her head. When he fumbled for her hand it was not there—nor she.

After that she avoided him. He suspected that she watched out for his leaving the house before she went abroad to the market. To test this he left the house early one morning and waited at the end of the block. Presently he saw her and stood squarely in her path.

"Hey, angel – face! What's the idea? Keepin' out of my way?"

She was too honest to deny the charge, and tried to dodge past him, but he grabbed her. "Wait a minute!"

He might have said much more, but a bony fist thumped him in the small of the back, and he spun round to stare into the merciless blue eyes of a man he had reason to detest. Sergeant Harrigan of the Central Office was laconic, offensively to the point.

"Hey, you! Leave that little Chinese girl alone, and tell me the story of your life, will you? That bit of your life that began at five last night and finished when you went to bed."

Minn Lee slipped away like a frightened pigeon and was lost in the crowd.

"Why, Mr. Harrigan, I just don't know what you mean." The voice of Mose became a plaintive and monotonous whine.

"Somebody stuck up a gentleman near Grant Park, took three hundred dollars and a watch from his pocket, and left him stumped on the sidewalk."

"Why, Mr. Harrigan, I went to bed at ten—"

"You're a liar. You were seen near the Hippodrome at midnight. And you were seen near Grant Park at nine o'clock."

There was a search of Mose Leeson's squalid little room and a personal search of Mose. All that day he alternated between police headquarters and the clinic to which the robbed and injured citizen had been taken. There was no identification, and Mose went free that night—relieved and wrathful.

Minn Lee heard all about it and was troubled. The dying artist who wailed at her from his neat bed demanded querulously what the hell she was thinking about and why she was making a meat soup for him and the day Friday. He had never had religion until he was ill. On the contrary, he favoured the more advanced school of thought which so heavily discounted the sacred symbols of divinity that they hardly had excuse for persisting. But since he had been sick he had ordered her to destroy certain drawings, notably the cartoon which caricatured so amusingly the Chicagoan's ideas of heaven. And all those nude studies of his, and certain appalling obscenities which had decorated the walls.

Minn Lee was neither glad nor sorry. These crude drawings meant nothing to her one way or the other. She recognized facts, but did not colour them nor tone them down. John Waite was a bad artist; she never thought that in his soul were the seeds of immortality. His perspectives were flat, his colour work was muddled, he had no sense of line, and even his drift towards vorticism, the last resort of all bad painters, had convinced nobody.

He was her man, that was all. Life and fate had linked them. There was reason enough for an infatuation which had the semblance of love, no reason at all for veneration. Yet she did not love him and did respect him. And he was dying. The German doctor had said so. Three months, maybe four. A priest came nowadays, a kindly man who was not shocked by the presence of Minn Lee, spoke to her humanly. He said three months too. There was a movement towards getting the painter to the coast, but nothing came of it. He protested vehemently against charity—he who had lived for years on an allowance made to him by the invalid mother he had brought to ruin. And when he was vehement he coughed and coughed and went on coughing all through the night.

The priest used to call twice a week. On the top floor he had another very sick man, who was also very old—Peter Melachini, sometime musician. He was not poor, but was as determined as any to die in the hovel which was his home. The slatternly wife of the plumber on the first floor told Minn Lee that old Peter was under the powerful protection of a Big Shot in the booze world.

"Can you beat it, Mrs. Waite? This guy offered to put Mr. Melachini in a grand house on the coast an' pay everything! But the old man wouldn't—no, ma'am, he said he'd stay right here in the city where he got born. He's crazy! A grand house on the coast an' everything!"

The Big Shot made occasional calls. Lithe, dark—faced men, nicely tailored, would suddenly appear in the street. Peering at them through dingy windows, the street grew pleasantly excited. Gunmen! Sure thing. Say, what an awful life—shoot'n' up folks, hey? They got as much as a hundred bucks a week. Yes, sir!

Then a dark car would sweep into the street and three men alight. One went first into the house, then the Big Shot himself, followed by the rear guard. He went straight up to Melachini's room, taking the basket of fruit from his henchman's hands.

"'Lo, Peter—here's the works, boy."

They had been in the same orchestra at Cosmolino's—Tony Perelli liked the old man. They were both Sicilian bred, both from a village outside Palermo.

Minn Lee met the Big Shot on the stairs. He was not tall, but carried himself with a certain dignity. His face was fleshy, his dark eyes held a spark of impish humour. He was heavily good—looking, perfectly fitted. About his waist was a belt with a diamond buckle. He smiled at Minn Lee, and she half smiled back. Looking over her shoulder after she had passed him, she saw him turn his head upward as though to take another look at her.

She saw him again in almost the same place, and he stopped and spoke to her. He was very polite, very kind, saw life from an amusing slant and made her laugh. He did not indulge in clumsy compliments, nor did he attempt to touch her hand.

The next day flowers and fruit came to the sick room. On the fruiterer's label was written, "From Tony Perelli", in a flourishing hand.

A Big Shot—my, what a Big Shot, breathed the plumber's wife. He's got the swellest apartment in Chicago. Motor—cars, a country house an' everything. One of the Booze Lords, with a casualty list on what remained of his soul as long as Michigan Avenue, yes, ma'am!

Again Minn Lee was not shocked. People did odd things. In a way a booze racket was more decent than John Waite's peculiar art. Only she never made comparisons. The third time she saw Tony Perelli was when he called. Waite was asleep, and she admitted the visitor—a little uneasily into the tiny sitting—room.

"Sleeping? Fine! I saw the doctor. He said your man should go to the coast. That crazy old Peter should go—but the hell he will! Listen, Mrs. Waite, if it's money—"

She shook her head.

"No, Mr. Perelli—he cannot take money because he cannot honourably return it," she said. She used the word "honourable" very often.

John Waite died a week later—died very quietly and unobtrusively, and when she had buried him and explained to the officials why her name was not Waite also, and had paid his immediate debts and had written to his mother, she set about finding work. It should have been easy for one who had a degree from Columbia University, and who had once earned as much as twenty—seven dollars and fifty cents in one week by drawing gowns for a ladies' magazine that no lady had ever seen, but she chose the easier way. There was a Chinese restaurant that needed girls. She wrote a business—like application to Che—foo Song, the proprietor, but before the answer came Mose Leeson called with a proposal.

The old Italian had died, and had been removed to a swell funeral parlour. On the night he went to Carmel, Tony Perelli came to gather the dead man's belongings, and especially his family treasures. They were to go back to Sicily to a grandson and a grand—daughter.

Nobody saw Perelli, for he came on foot with his bodyguard before, beside and behind him. He passed swiftly into the house and glanced at Minn Lee's door as he went on his way.

The house was noisy tonight. On the second floor Laski the Polak, who had ambitions to be the world's champion trap—drummer, was making deafening and frilly sounds on his drum, to the distress and wrath of every tenant. Some say that his drum killed John Waite; it may have made death a sweet alternative.

If he could have seen the girl standing with white, drawn face in the grip of Mose Leeson…

Mose was caveman by instinct. Experience helped him in the faith that women need to be carried off their feet.

"Honey, you can stand on what I say. I'll give you a swell time. I'm saying it! I'm nuts about you… "

She struggled; she had to struggle. Tony Perelli heard the thin scream as he came down the stairs and tried the door. It yielded to his hand, and he went in.

"What do you want—wop?"

Mose was white—hot mad; his unpleasant face twitched convulsively as it was thrust into Perelli's. "Beat it!"

Tony Perelli's voice was metallic, passionless.

"Beat it, eh? Sure I'll beat it—but not for no damn' Sicilian!"

His fist shot out; missed Perelli. The people in the other apartments heard only what sounded like a louder and more irregular beat of the drum.

Tony held the smoking pistol waist—high, but there was no need for a second shot. Mose had got his. He held for a second to the bedrail, then slipped down to the floor.

Minn Lee looked gravely from killed to killer.

"Get your coat and come away."

Perelli's orders could never be mistaken for requests. She obeyed and went out with him along the street and into his waiting car. The men he left behind would deal adequately with Mose Leeson. There would be no fuss; the situation was far from being unusual, and would develop normally. A car driver found his body lying on the prairie in the snow; the newspapers said "Another Gang Shooting", and that was the end of it.

In the meantime Minn Lee had gone to the home of Tony and became accustomed to being addressed as Mrs. Perelli.


Chapter 2

 

FROM the broad balcony with its Venetian balustrading Tony Perelli could look down upon the city which he was to rule. He loved Chicago, every stone of it.

Chicago was home and kingdom. The endless trails of cars which passed up and down the broad avenue beneath him bore his subjects to their daily work—his subjects and his partners. Beneath every one of those shiny roofs was a man or woman who kept "the best" in their cellars. Visitors who came to dinner would have the best brought to the table—the best in gilt-necked bottles, the best in sparkling decanters.

It was against the law that the best should be made or sold at all; every furtive case or keg smuggled into the cellars stood for lawlessness, every purchaser contributed to the smuggler who purveyed it and the gunman who protected it. Rather than that they should be denied the satisfaction of parading the best upon their tables, they tacitly agreed that any person interfering with its delivery should be shot and flung from a moving car on to the roadside. They would have been horrified at the suggestion, but they paid for the shells that wiped these vexatious people from the face of the earth, and unconsciously subscribed to the flowers that went to their funerals.

Perelli went back to the glorious salon which was at once breakfast—room, lounge and drawing—room. Sniffing and superior critics who had seen it likened it to the entrance hall of a super cinema theatre. They spoke of it as vulgar and garish and tawdry. It was in truth an exact replica of the most beautiful room in the Palace of the Doge.

Kiki, his Japanese servant, had brought his coffee. Minn Lee, in obedience to the routine he had established and which later he was to relax, would not be visible before the afternoon. Angelo had recently rented an apartment in a fashionable area, and would not appear till later.

He looked at his watch. Eight o'clock. Not too early for a caller. He had heard the purr of the signal bell and knew exactly who that caller was.

Red Gallway was never quite comfortable in this environment; he was even less comfortable this morning, because he had a grievance and found it difficult to maintain the overnight fury into which he had been worked.

"Sit down. Red. Tell me all that is happening on the West Side, huh?"

Red swallowed something.

"It's what's happenin' in Chicago that beats me," he said huskily. "I gotta know somep'n', Perelli—if I don't know I'll start somep'n'—see?"

Perelli regarded him from under his long lashes curiously. He might have favoured some unusual animal with a similar scrutiny.

"Start something? Fonny! You make me laff! Start something. Well? Start!"

Red moved uncomfortably in the chair on which he sat.

"That guy Leeson—Mose Leeson. Him and me was friends, Perelli. Somebody bumped him. Say, I'd like to meet that guy."

Antonio Perelli smiled.

"I bumped him," he said simply.

There was an awkward silence.

"Well?"

Red's face was twisted ludicrously.

"Say—that's no way to treat a regular feller… friend of mine… me and Mose is like brothers."

"Then you should be in mourning," said Perelli calmly, "for your brother is dead."

"Why?"

Red jerked out the query with an effort. There was no reply.

"Say, what's the idea? Mose was a right man. He has been useful to me."

Protest of some sort was called for.

"I thought I would."

Tony Perelli was perched on the wooden settle before the organ which stood in one corner of the room. He picked up the coffee by his side and sipped thoughtfully.

"Yes—I thought I would. I guess when I feel that way I just do what I want."

Red licked his dry lips. Inwardly he quaked and raged alternately.

"Well, it don't seem you've done right by me, Perelli—tha's all."

Tony nodded. "Yeh! I sympat'ise. It is very understandable. Have you been to hospital? No? A friend of yours is there—Antropolos the Greek. He is feeling very sore. Somebody beat him up last night. Why, you ask? I see that you do not. He was beaten up because he sold coke to one of my boys. Hey! That is good news or bad?"

The other man did not answer.

"They shall not drink, they shall not sniff the coke, or do things which make their 'eads go fonny and their 'ands go so—!" His outstretched hand trembled artistically.

"I guess I can look after myself—" began Red.

"Sure you can. And who cares if you don't? But you are not paid to look after yourself. You are paid to look after me and my boys. If your 'and shakes and your 'ead goes zooey, that is bad, and if you talk when you booze that is worse, but worst of all is this, that a hop—head will spill his friends' secrets to buy more hop. So that is all."

"Listen—"

"That is all. Cut out that white stuff or quit."

Red rose to his feet. "That's O.K. by me," he said. "I'll quit!"

Again that swift, sly smile.

"Sure. Quit!"

Dull in most respects. Red recognized the menace in that last word and wilted.

"Listen, Tony. I'm a guy that doesn't like to be pushed around—say, I'm not a child, and don't you forget it! If two guys can't get together they oughter quit. Tha's all."

Tony nodded.

"That's all," he said.

So Red went, his head buzzing with plans, for he now knew certain ends of the booze racket that he had not known before, and would never have known but for Tony Perelli's instruction. He sought out a member of the gang with whom he was on terms of sympathy, and over lunch at Bellini's poured into his ears the story of his grievances.

Victor Vinsetti was a well—dressed young man with restless eyes; he seemed everlastingly expecting to find somebody behind him. His own views he rarely expressed, but he was a good and ready listener. And so he listened.

He learned of Red's little quarrel, and of Mose, and how easy it would be to run a separate racket, get booze in over the frontier, cut it and find a market. And how, with a few good boys to persuade the speakeasies, one could come to fortune in a ludicrously short space of time. Vinsetti listened interestedly, because he himself had held such opinions. As for himself, he had formed his own plans.

"So you see, Vic," said Red at long last.

"Sure, I see—but it's not so easy, Red—and anyway, you're a bonehead to talk like you're talking."

"Mose was a square shooter—"

"Mose was just nothing and then not," said Vinsetti calmly. "He's dead, and it's no loss to the United States or the cause of Pure Government. He was just a vote. Next election you can poll twice and he'll be alive. No. I wonder what Perelli thinks about it?"

He pondered this whilst Red surveyed him curiously. For Vinsetti was a near—big shot, reputedly wealthy. And rumour did not lie. Vinsetti was an "outer". He was prepared to give the lie to tradition that once you were "in" you could never "get out". His cabin was reserved on the Empress of Australia, for he planned to leave via Canada; his share stock had been liquidated and was now currency. Already he had negotiated for a seashore house at San Remo. Red's frankness was a little alarming—and at Bellini's, where every other waiter was a spy.

That night he saw Perelli.

"Red's sore," he said, "and he's talking. He stuck me in Bellini's with a whole bellyful of aches."

"I don't want no trouble," said Tony Perelli. It was at once his slogan and alibi.

But Red, all lit up, was for bad trouble. Brilliant ideas were flowing in upon him. Through an intermediary he sought Mike Feeney, Baron of the South Side. He got no further than Shaun O'Donnell, who was Mike's chief of staff by appointment and brother by marriage.

But Shaun was the real leader, the brains of the outfit. ("That's the worst thing that's ever been said about Mike Feeney's crowd," Perelli was to say on a subsequent occasion.) Shaun was small, thin, irritable, too quick on the draw for some, too mouthily offensive for others. He listened to Red's proposals coldly and gave him no encouragement.

"Red, you're no darn' good to us or nobody," he said with rude frankness. "You're a hop—head and you booze. I'm telling you, boy. We got no room in this outfit for guys who sniff. Perelli's a this and that, but we don't want no trouble with him. If you break into his territory we'll help you with the Best Stuff."

"Mose—" began Red.

"Mose can stay plumb in hell where he b'longs," said Shaun.

The next day nothing much happened. The temperature of Red Gallway's feet went down some forty degrees, and in the dusk of a wintry afternoon he sidled into police headquarters and demanded an interview with Chief Kelly. He wanted to make a complaint about a policeman. He said this very loudly, because police headquarters was in Perelli's area, and inside and out there were watchful eyes and attentive ears.

Nobody but Red would have gone to police headquarters; they would have followed the usual procedure of getting it on the wire and fixing an appointment for a secret meeting. Red, who, when he was lit up, had no finesse, took the bold step, and a quarter of an hour after he arrived he was talking to the grim—faced chief of detectives.

His version would have been that he spoke cleverly, avoided mentioning names. The only thing he was certain about was that his life was in danger, and after he had spoken for a little while Mr. Kelly was even more certain than he on the subject.

Red was not clever, he was not particularly well guarded. Actually he did not spell out names and dot the i's. He told Kelly nothing he did not know. The chief knew by bitter experience that if he held the man as a witness and put him on the stand before a jury, he would retract every word he had spoken, that if he were to sign a written statement he would swear with the greatest fervour that that statement had been secured by a trick, or by bullying, or by threats of physical violence, or whilst he was unconscious as the result of such physical violence.

The chief knew just how Mose had died and why. He knew the names of the men who had taken his body away, and the number of the car they had used. The latter was easy; they had found the car, a stolen one, abandoned.

Red would have continued talking all through the night, but the chief was busy, and he hated one—sided conversation that told him nothing.

"Do you want me to keep you inside?" he asked.

Red was indignant. "What, me? I guess I can look after myself. No, sir! I'm going out to Chicago to—morrow. I'm through. I've got some friends out east who'll stake me to all the money I want."

There was a stage in Red's intoxication when ha acquired rich supporters; he had reached this.

He went out on to the street with three shadows behind him. Two of them were police officers.

"Don't lose sight of that bird," was the chief's instruction.

He had not gone a block when two men fell in with Red, one on each side of him.

"Say, what the—" began Red, when they locked their arms affectionately in his.

"You squawk and you go dead," said one of them pleasantly.

He stuck a snub—nosed belly gun into the side of the prisoner.

"Step out, you—!"

The detectives walking behind were new to the game. They saw only the arrival of two close friends of their quarry, and when the three came abreast of a waiting car and got in, their man in the front seat by the driver, they did no more than look around for a taxi. Before one drew up to them the car had gone ahead and was out of sight.

Red did not quite realize what was happening. You may sober a man who is suffering from alcoholism, but one who is lit is not so readily brought back to normality. The only thing he was perfectly certain about was that the man sitting immediately behind him in the car was pushing something hard against the back of his neck, and was chatting pleasantly across the seat with the driver. They were talking about a ball game, and argued hotly whether Southern California would beat Notre Dame or vice versa. The driver was all for Notre Dame, gave reasons why it should win, reeled off long lists of previous victories and performances, and offered to bet a hundred dollars on the team of his choice, which the man sitting immediately behind him instantly took.

"I'm all for Notre Dame," said Red.

"You shut your mouth," said the driver, "and keep it shut. I wonder your throat's not sore, the time you've been squawking to the bulls."

"Me squawk?" protested Red indignantly.

The gun muzzle at his neck thumped painfully into the back of his head.

"Shut up."

They left the town behind; dreary stretches of country ran past on either side, with an occasional house. Presently they came to a little plantation by the side of the bumpy road. The driver stopped.

"Step out," he said, and Red stepped. The drug had worn off. He was shaking from head to foot.

"Say, what's the big idea?" he quavered. "I've done no squawking. You take me right back to Tony… "

With a man on each arm he lurched across the rough ground, past the first outlying trees.

"You're not going to bump me off, are you?" His voice was a thin whine. "Listen—I've done nothing."

The man behind him thumbed back the hammer of his revolver and fired. Red went down on his knees, swayed. He heard neither the first nor the second shot. The executioner put the gun in his pocket and lit a cigarette. The flame of his match did not quiver.

"Let's go," he said.

He took the place that Red had occupied, and half—way back to town the argument of Southern California against Notre Dame was resumed.

The driver saw the squad car, above the whirr of his own engine heard the squeal of its siren. He Jerked the car round and stepped on the accelerator.

"Get the typewriter—it's under the seat."

The other man crawled over his shoulder. He came across the partition to the help of his friend. They let down the back flap and poked out the muzzle of the machine—gun.

"The coppers must have got Kelly on the wire," said the executioner, who had seen the shadows that were following Red.

The car was getting closer.

"Let her have it," he said, and the machine—gun man pressed the trigger.

Rat—a—tat—a—tat—a—tat—a—tat!

The windscreen of the pursuing car was smashed. It swerved slightly, then came up. Three pencils of flame shot out. The machine—gun fired again. The driver of the car behind made a wild swerve and the burst missed.

"Hell!" said the man with the machine—gun, and again rested the barrel on the back of the car, steadied it with his hand, then slid gently to the floor.

The gun poised for a moment, then fell backward on to the road. There was a sharp report; the police car had struck the weapon, and one of the tyres had ripped off. The assassin looked back through the flap.

"Ditched," he said. "Go to it, Joe."

He took a little electric torch from his pocket and flashed it on to the figure huddled on the floor. In the centre of his forehead was a big, red, ugly hole. The man climbed back to his place beside the driver.

"That bet of yours is phoney," he said. "Billy has got his."

All the way back to town they talked of the coming ball game, and the inert thing behind them rolled and rocked with every corner they took.