Payable To Bearer - Talbot Mundy - ebook

Payable To Bearer ebook

Talbot Mundy



Ikey Hole began to engage in his own business at the age of sixteen as an industrial climber, and when he was twenty, he was already a serious master of his profession. But since at that time in New York signboards began to go out of fashion, he began to master the specialty in the manufacture of firearms, because he was far-sighted and moved with time and progress.

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Liczba stron: 70

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CHAPTER I. Ikey And His Trade

CHAPTER II. Which Introduces Woman Number One

CHAPTER III. Ha, Ha! Woman Number Two! The Plot Thickens!

CHAPTER IV. Enter The Hero! The Plot Gets Thicker Still

CHAPTER V. In Which Ikey Makes A Killing, And Enjoys Himself

CHAPTER VI. In Which Ikey’s Streak Of Luck Begins To Hold Out Symptoms Of Getting Thin

CHAPTER VII. Across The Continent

CHAPTER VIII. Which Enlightens Lizzie Wingfield And Certain Others

CHAPTER IX. Which Is Short, And Treats Of Ikey

CHAPTER I. Ikey And His Trade

IF you bring a woman into a story you spoil the story, and in all probability libel the woman; everybody knows that. But there are two women in this story, so get ready; they always have crept in, and they always will – and we have to make the best of it. In this instance, though, the first person to creep in was Ikey Hole.

The police in particular, but almost everybody who knew him at all intimately, called him Keyhole Ikey, so that by the time that he crept into the story he was laboring under an extra syllable as well as a kit of scientifically constructed tools distributed about his person. It was a second story that he crept into – through a bedroom window.

Ikey started in business at the early age of sixteen as a porch-climber, and by the time he was twenty he had become a past grand-master of his profession; but since by that time porches had grown a little out of fashion in New York he began to make a specialty of fire-escapes, and from that time on he throve amazingly, as everybody does who is sufficiently far-sighted to move with the times.

He was a very careful man, was Ikey. He considered every little detail, just like the big interests do; but, unlike them, he was contriving to salt away quite a snug little fortune without running the risk of being muckraked.

He agreed with the big interests in detesting publicity, but he differed from them again, in having nothing whatever to do with gentlemen’s agreements. Ikey had no pals; he always worked alone.

He closed the window carefully behind him, leaving just sufficient space open at the bottom to enable him to insert his fingers should he have need to open it again in a hurry; then he pulled down the blind.

That left him in pitch-darkness, but not for long, for he produced an electric torch from his sleeve and pressed the button; that gave him just sufficient light to examine the door by.

The door proved to be unlocked, and the key was on the outside; so he opened it very gently, removed the key, and locked it on the inside.

Now, economy was one of Ikey’s strong points, and burning that electric torch of his cost him good money; so he extinguished it and replaced it up his sleeve.

Then he switched on the electric light that was hanging in the middle of the room; it was a sixteen candlepower tungsten lamp, and, besides being a whole lot better to work by, the use of it cost him nothing.

The sudden flood of light revealed his figure full length in the pier-glass that stood facing him in one corner of the room, and he nearly jumped out of his skin with fright.

“Gee,” he muttered with a low chuckle; “I’m gettin’ nervous! Have to cut out corfee and cigarettes for a while!”

Coffee and cigarettes were Ikey’s chief solace in his hours of ease; but there was the making of a hero in Ikey, and he decided to give them both up on the instant, and with as little compunction as he would have felt in refusing an offer of employment; he knew what suited him, did Ikey, and he never broke his word to himself, either, whatever he might do to other people.

“Woman,” he muttered to himself, looking sharply round the room and twiggling his nose. His nose had escaped being prehensile by very little; it was big, curled over at the end, and he used it to talk to himself with, just like a mouse does that is peeping out of a hole; you could almost read his thoughts by watching that nose of his twist and wrinkle and squirm, and he had a pair of little beady, black eyes above it that were not at all unlike a mouse’s.

In addition to all that, he had rather large ears that stood out on either side of his head and were pointed at the top. So he was really very like a mouse, was Ikey.

As he stood surveying the room, buttoning the top button of one of his black kid gloves that had come unfastened, you would never have mistaken Ikey for a big-hearted man; you would have probably mentally assessed him as a “piker,” and it would never have entered your head that he might possibly possess both characteristics.

“Woman,” he muttered, “lemme see–under the mattress? no; under the rug? no; nice little dinky tin box under the bed? like as not; no, nothing there. Um-m-m! Tucked in the folds of a nighty in the middle of a bureau drawer? No, not there, either.” He pulled out handful after handful of lingerie, tossing the garments into a heap on the floor. “All pretty cheap stuff this–midsummer sale sort of stuff; heaps of it, though–guess she spent all her money at the sales. Dashed robbers, those department-stores–guess there’s nothing doing here. Hello! Ah, here’s a drawer locked! There may be somethin’ inside worth lookin’ at.”

He tugged at the top right-hand drawer of the bureau, and his nose wriggled, and his little black mustache stood straight on end on either side of it as his lips straightened into a grin, and his little black eyes glittered like jewels in a setting of crow’s feet when the drawer refused to come open.

“Love-letters, like as not!” he muttered. “Too much fluffy white stuff here. I reckon somebody’s goin’ to git married. I’ll bet a nickel that’s what’s the matter. Better have a look though.”

Ikey always traveled prepared for every possible contingency, except fighting; he never fought, and he never murdered people; but, like Dan Cupid he laughed at locksmiths.

He produced a short, stiff, crooked piece of wire, which he worked about with his thin, restless fingers for about half a minute; then he inserted it gingerly in the keyhole, jerked it, drew it back a little, jerked it again, and click! went the lock, and Ikey opened the drawer.

“Gee!” he exclaimed, out loud this time, wriggling his whole body and twisting one leg round the other in excitement. “Gee–whiz! Gee–Rusalem! By the blue beak on the map of a traffic-bull in winter, if here ain’t all the money in the world!”

He pulled out a bundle of bills from beneath a pile of lace-handkerchiefs and began to count.

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