A Lucky Dog - Max Brand - ebook

A Lucky Dog ebook

Max Brand



Seattle-born author who worked as a cowhand in California, attended Berkeley, joined then deserted the Canadian Army, and finally settled down to writing full-time. Max Brand was incredibly prolific and wrote numerous books under his birth name (Frederick Faust) and a variety of pseudonyms. He does it again in the eminently enjoyable novel „A Lucky Dog”. Hagger is a man on the run, a thief and would-be killer. He’s no good on a horse, and feels miserable and out of place in the snowbound high country. But, then, Hagger comes upon a white bull terrier, abandoned in a mountain cabin, and his whole life begins to change...

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Liczba stron: 81

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WHEN at last Hagger was inside the shop, he paused and listened to the rush of the rain against the windows. Then he turned to the jeweler with a faint smile of possession, for the hardest part of the job was over before he had opened the door to enter the place. During the days that went before he had studied the entrances and exits, the value of the contents of the place, and, when he cut the wires that ran to the alarm, he knew that the work was finished.

So he advanced, and to conceal any touch of grimness in his approach, he made his smile broader and said: “‘Evening, Mister Friedman.”

The young man nodded with mingled anxiety and eagerness, as though he feared loss and hoped for gain even before a bargain was broached.

“How much for this?” said Hagger, and slipped a watch onto the counter.

The other drew back, partly to bring the watch under a brighter light, and partly to put a little distance between himself and this customer, for Hagger was too perfectly adapted to his part. One does not need to be told that the bull terrier is a fighting dog, and the pale face of Hagger, square about the jaws and lighted by a cold and steady eye, was too eloquent.

All of this Hagger knew, and he made a little pleasant conversation. “You’re young to be holding down a swell joint like this,” he observed.

The young man snapped open the back of the watch and observed the mechanism–one eye for it and one for his customer. “About two dollars,” he said. “I got this place from my father,” he added in explanation.

“Two dollars? Have a heart!” Hagger grinned. “I’ll tell you what I paid. I paid twenty-two dollars for it.”

“There are lots of rascals in the business,” said Friedman, and he made a wry face at the thought of them.

“I got it,” said Hagger, raising his voice in increasing anger, “right down the street at Overman’s. Twenty-two bucks. I’ll let it go for twelve, though. That’s a bargain for you, Friedman.”

Mr. Friedman closed the watch, breathed upon it, and rubbed off an imaginary fleck of dust with the cuff of his linen shop coat, already blackened by similar touches. Then he pushed the watch softly across the counter with both hands and shook his head, smiling.

“You think I want to rob you. No, I want people to keep coming back here. Two dollars, maybe two-fifty. That’s the limit.”

“You’re kidding,” observed Hagger, his brow more dark than before.

“I got to know my business,” declared Friedman. “I’ve been at it since I was ten, working and studying. I know watches!” He added, pointing: “Look at that case. Look at that yellow spot. That’s the brass wearing through. It’d be hard to sell that watch across the counter, mister.”

“Well, gimme the coin. All you birds... you all work together to soak the rest of us. It’s easy money for you!”

Friedman shrugged his eloquent shoulders and turned to the cash register.

“Here you are,” he said as he swung back, money in hand.

Hagger struck at that moment. Some people use the barrel of a revolver for such work; some use the brutal butt, or a slung shot of massive lead. But Hagger knew that a little sandbag of just the right weight was fully as effective and never smashed bones; fully as effective, that is, if one knew just where to tap with it. Hagger knew as well as any surgeon.

The young man fell back against the wall. His little handful of silver clattered on the floor as he went limp; for a moment he regarded Hagger with stupid eyes, and then began to sink. Hagger vaulted lightly across the counter, lowered his man, and stretched him out comfortably. He even delayed to draw up an eyelid and consider the light in the eye beneath. Then, satisfied that he had produced no more than a moment of sleep, he went to work.

He knew beforehand that there was very little value in the material displayed, compared with its bulk and weight. All that was of worth was contained in the two trays of the central case–watches and rings, and in particular a pair of bracelets of square-faced emeralds. A little pale and a little flawed were those stones, but still they were worth something.

He dumped the contents of the two trays into his coat pockets, and then he walked out the back way. The door was locked, and there was no key in it, but he was not disturbed. He braced his shoulder against it and thrust the weight home. There was only a slight scraping sound, and the door sagged open and let the rain drive in.

He was so little in a hurry that he paused to look up to the lights and the roar of an elevated train crashing past. Then he walked lightly down the street, turned over to Lexington at the next block, and caught a southbound taxi. At Third Street he stopped, and then walked back two blocks and turned in at a narrow entrance.

The tinkle of the shop bell brought a looming figure clad in black, greasy with age.

“Hullo, Steffans.”

“Hullo, Hagger. Buy or sell tonight, kid?”

“I sell, bo.”

The big man laughed silently and ushered the customer into a back room. “Lemme see,” he urged, and put his hands on the edge of a table covered with green felt.

“Nothing much,” said Hagger, “but safety first, y’understand? Big dough for big chances. I’m going light lately.”

After this apology, he dumped his loot on the table, and Steffans touched it with expert fingers.

“Chicken feed, chicken feed!” he said. “But I’m glad to have it. I could handle a truck load of this sort of stuff every day and the damned elbows would never bother me.”

“Go on,” said Hagger.

“You want to make a move,” said Steffans. “You’re always in a hurry after a job. Look at some of the other boys, though. They never attempt to leave town.”

“Except for the can,” said Hagger.

Steffans settled himself before the little heap and pulled his magnifying glass down from his forehead.

“That’s right,” he said. “You never been up the river. You got the luck.”

“I got the brains,” corrected Hagger. “Some saps work with their hands. Brains are what count. Brains, and crust like yours, Steffans, you robber.”

“I get a high percentage,” said Steffans, “but then I always mark ’em up a full value. Y’understand? I’ll give you seventy on this batch, Hagger.”

“Seventy for me after what I’ve done,” sighed Hagger, “and you sit here and swallow thirty for nothing!”

Steffans smiled. “I’ve done a couple of stretches myself,” he said. “You know the dicks make life hell for me. Now, I’ll give you seventy percent on this stuff. Wait till I finish valuing it.”

He began to go through the items swiftly, looking aside now and then to make swift calculation, while Hagger watched in admiration. Of all the fences, Steffans was the king, for the percentage he took was high, but the prices he gave were a little better than full. So he sat in his dark little pawnshop and drew toward himself vast loot collected by second-story men, pickpockets, yeggs of all descriptions.

“This isn’t so bad, kid,” he said, “and I’ll put the whole thing down at eleven thousand. That’ll give you seven thousand and seven hundred. Take you as far as Pittsburgh, I guess?”

“It’s more than I expected,” said Hagger instantly. “But what do I have to take instead of cash?”

“Not a damn thing. I got a payment in just a few minutes ago. Hold on a minute.”

He disappeared and came back with a bundle of paper money in his hand. Of this he counted out the specified amount and then swept all the stolen jewels into a small canvas bag.

“Is that all, Hagger?”

“That’s all.”

“So long, then. What was the dump?”

“No place you know, hardly likely. So long, Steffans. Here’s where I blow.”

He said good-bye to the pawnbroker, and, stepping out onto the sidewalk, he crashed full against the hurrying form of one about to enter–a tall, young man, and by the light from within, Hagger made out the features of Friedman.

It startled him. Nothing but a sort of magic intuition could have brought the jeweler to such a place in his hunt for the robber. Or had Steffans relaxed his precautions lately and allowed the rank and file to learn about his secret business?

This he thought of on the instant, and at the same time there was the glitter of a gun shoved into his face, and a hoarse voice of rage and joy sounding at his ear.

“The hand is faster than the gun,” Hagger was fond of saying.

He struck Friedman to the wet pavement and doubled swiftly around the corner.


SOMETHING that Steffans had said now brought a destination to Hagger’s mind, and he took a taxi to Penn Station and bought a ticket for Pittsburgh. There was a train out in thirty minutes, and Hagger waited securely in the crowd until the gatekeeper came walking up behind the bars. Gatekeeper?

“Oh, damn his fat face!” snarled Hagger. “It’s Buckholz of the Central Office. May he rot in hell!” Past Buckholz he dared not go, and, therefore, he left Penn Station, regretting the useless ticket, for he was a thrifty soul, was Hagger.

There are more ways out of New York than out of a sieve. Hagger got the night boat for Albany, and slept heavily almost until the time to dock. Then he dressed in haste and went down on deck as the mass formed at the head of the gangplank.

It amused Hagger and waked him up to sidle through that mob, and he managed it so dexterously that it was always some other person, rather than he, who received the black looks of those whom he jostled. He sifted through until he was among the first near the head of the broad gangplank, and the next moment he wished that he were in any other place, for on the edge of the wharf he saw the long, yellow face of Friedman, and his bright black eyes seemed to be peering up at him.

There was no use trying to turn back. At that moment the barrier was removed, and the crowd poured down, carrying Hagger swiftly on its broad current. They joined the mass that waited on the platform.

Suddenly a voice screamed: “Officer! Look! It’s him!”

It was Friedman, that damned Friedman, again.

“If I ever get out of this,” muttered Hagger, who habitually spoke his more important thoughts aloud, “I’ll kill you!” He began to work frantically through the crowd to the side, and he saw the uplifted nightstick of a policeman, trying to drive in toward him.

Out of the mass, he began to run. He knew all about running through a scattered mob, just as he knew how to work like quicksilver through a denser one. Now he moved at such a rate that the most talented of open-field runners would have gaped in amazement to see this prodigious dodging.

He found a line of taxicabs, leaped over the hood of one, darted up the line, vaulted back over the bonnet of a second, paced at full speed down a lane, and presently sat swinging his legs from the tailboard of a massive truck that rumbled toward the center of town.

“That’s all right for a breather,” said Hagger, “and a guy needs an appetite, when he’s packing about eight grand.”

He pitched on a small restaurant and, with several newspapers, sat down to his meal. He had not touched food since the previous morning, and Hagger could eat not only for the past but for the future. He did now.

The waiter, bright with admiration, hung over the table. “What wouldn’t I give for an appetite like that,” he said. “I suppose that you ain’t had that long?”

Hagger, looking up curiously, observed that the waiter was pointing with a soiled forefinger, and at the same time winking broadly.

What could be wrong? With the most childish asininity, Hagger had allowed his coat to fall open, and from the inside pocket the wallet was revealed, and the closely packed sheaf of bills!

He was far too wary to button it at once, and went on with his breakfast. Yet, from the corner of his omniscient eye, he was keenly aware of the tall waiter talking with the proprietor, whose gestures seemed to say: “What business is it of ours?”

What a shame that there are not more men like that in the world, to make life worth living?

He sank deeper into his papers over another cup of coffee. He preferred the metropolitan journals, for by delving into them he picked up–sometimes in scattered paragraphs, sometimes in mere allusions, but sometimes in the rich mines and masses of police news spread over many sheets–the information of the world in which he moved. So he observed, for instance, that Slim Chaffer, the second-story man, had broken jail in Topeka; and that Pie Winters was locked up for forgery in Denver; and that Babe McGee had been released because of lack of evidence. At this he fairly shook with delicious mirth. For what a guy the Babe was–slippery, grinning, goodnatured, and crooked past belief! Lack of evidence? Why, you never could get evidence on the Babe! Not even when he was stacking the cards on you.

To think of such a man was an inspiration to Hagger. He finished his coffee. Then he paid the bill and put down exactly ten percent for the waiter. “For you, kid,” he said significantly.

Then Hagger stepped onto the pavement and walked slowly down the street, turning his thoughts slowly, meditation slackened by the vastness of his meal.

What loomed largest in his mind was:

The man was instantly identified by Friedman, from photographs, who asserted that it could be no other than Hagger, better known as “Hagger, the Yegg,” whose operations in cracking safes and raiding jewelry stores are always carried out with consummate neatness and precision. The simplicity of his work is the sign of this master criminal. The police are now hard on his trail, which is expected to lead out of town.

Every word of that article pleased Hagger. Especially he retasted and relished much: “Consummate neatness,” “precision,” “master criminal.” A wave of warmth spread through Hagger’s soul, and he felt a tender fondness for the police who would describe him in such a fashion. They were pretty good fellows, along their own lines. They were all right, damn them!

He strolled on in imagination, wandering into the heaven of his highest ambition, which was to stand before the world as a great international crook, whose goings and comings would be watched for by the police of a half a dozen nations. Already he had done something to expand his horizon, and a trip to England and then as far as Holland had filled his mind with the jargons of foreign tongues, but it also had filled his pockets with the weight of foreign money. So, returning one day to Europe, he would visit Italy and France, and perhaps learn a little frog- talk, and come back and knock out the eyes of the boys by slinging a little parlez-vous.

After all, it was going to be pretty hot, the life that Hagger led. When he thought of the fortunes that must eventually sift through his powerful hands, he raised his head a little and such a light came into his eyes that even the passers-by along the street glanced sharply at him and gave him room. For he looked half inspired and half devilish!

Something clanged down the street–a police patrol wagon–brakes screamed–men leaped to the ground. By heaven, they actually were hunting Hagger with police patrols; it seemed that he no longer was worth the pursuit of brilliant plain-clothes men. Hagger lingered a second to digest this idea and to take note of the long, eager face of Friedman.

“I’ll kill that Yid!” declared Hagger, and bolted down an alley way.

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This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.