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´╗┐Title: Spring Street - A Story of Los Angeles
Author: Richardson, James H.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Spring Street - A Story of Los Angeles" ***

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[Transcribers Note:- Some words are missing on Page 112.]


SPRING STREET

_A STORY OF LOS ANGELES_

BY

JAMES H. RICHARDSON

Published by the Author by Special Permission of

LOS ANGELES EVENING HERALD

In Which the Story First Appeared in Serial Form

TIMES-MIRROR PRESS
Los Angeles, Calif.
1922


COPYRIGHT, 1922

BY

EVENING HERALD PUBLISHING COMPANY

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


                   Dedicated to
                      MY WIFE
     Who has--"watched for my unworthy sake."



FOREWORD


One day the editor stopped beside my desk and told me he wanted me to
write a novel about Los Angeles to appear in serial form. Seven weeks
later "Spring Street" was on his desk. I was assigned to write it as I
would have been assigned as a reporter to "cover" a big story.

Writing a novel to appear as a serial in a newspaper is vastly different
from writing one for publication in book form. "Spring Street" was
written primarily as a serial and is offered now as a book in response
to requests by friends and from readers of The Evening Herald.

Let me say that I lay no claim to being a novelist because I wrote
"Spring Street." I have sufficient pride in my profession to desire to
be known only as a reporter.

There are many to whom I owe thanks for their help and encouragement.
Especially am I indebted to Dr. Frank F. Barham, publisher of The
Evening Herald, and Mr. Edwin R. Collins, Mr. John B. T. Campbell and
Mr. Wesley M. Barr, its editors.

                                                       THE AUTHOR.



CHAPTER I


His father was dying.

John Gallant paced the narrow sun-baked lawn between the porch of his
home and the street.

Soon, he knew, the door would open and he would be called inside. That
would be the end. A sickening feeling of terror gripped him and his
heart pounded in his chest.

He took a step toward the door, which was really an involuntary
movement. No, he couldn't go in there. The doctor was in a chair at the
bedside, watching, helpless. He would only look up and say again that
there was nothing to do but wait.

For a moment he hated that doctor because he sat there without doing a
thing. His brain, inflamed and racked by the strain, throbbed in his
head. He had a distorted idea that the doctor was making a coldly
scientific observation of his father's death, perhaps taking mental
notes for a paper to be read to a class of medical students.

He had tried waiting inside. That Mrs. Sprockett from across the street,
who was with his mother, had whispered to him to be brave. His mother
sat very still in her rocking chair, her head bowed, her hand pressed
to her eyes. He knew she was praying. Unable to hold himself, he had
dropped at her feet and buried his head in her lap. He had cried
brokenly, his shoulders heaving spasmodically, and he had felt her hand
gently touching his head.

They had not spoken, but the feeling that she was suffering with him had
assuaged his agony until that Mrs. Sprockett had touched him on the
shoulder and spoken to him.

"Do be brave, John, you must be a man now," she had said, and he had
rushed outside to begin his pacing, back and forth, back and forth.

He began his walking again, ten steps across and ten steps back. At
first he strode furiously, almost running, uttering queer little sounds
like a whimpering animal, tears streaming down his cheeks. Now his
throat was swollen and dry and his eyes smarted.

A few doors down the street children shouted at some wild game. Suddenly
they stopped and he knew that they had been told to be quiet. He thought
he saw their frightened faces as they were told that Mr. Gallant was
dying. He remembered how he had been shocked to dumbness years before
when someone in the neighborhood had died.

A boy passed on the sidewalk and looked at him with widened eyes and
gaping mouth. He hurried by as though he feared that death might steal
out from the Gallant house and take him.

Somewhere across the street a phonograph started blaring out a jazz
piece. Then it stopped as suddenly as the shouts of the children. A lot
they cared, he thought. All his father's death meant to them was the
irritation of stopping the phonograph.

The blind on a window of the house next door was pulled to one side,
emitting a shaft of light across the path he paced. A head--the head of
the little girl his father had so often petted as he strode up the walk
when he came home from work--shut off the light. He heard a scuffle of
feet and she was pulled from the window.

Mrs. Sprockett's husband, in his shirt sleeves, came over and stood on
the sidewalk.

"Is Maude in there with your mother?" he asked.

John looked at him, without a word.

"Beg your pardon," said Mrs. Sprockett's husband, backing away. "She
didn't say--didn't leave any word--and the baby--and--"

The crying of the Sprockett baby could be heard faintly.

"I didn't think--I--I----" and Mrs. Sprockett's husband turned awkwardly
and went back to the house.

Everything was quiet, so quiet that it startled him. A mocking bird
warbled in a tree by the porch. He remembered his father saying one
night that there was no music sweeter than its song.

Fragments of memory came to him vividly. His father pulling him from
under a bed the night he was punished for stealing apples at the corner
grocery store. His father reading David Copperfield to him and their
mutual rejoicing when Betsy Trotwood lectured David's firm stepfather.
His father closing his eyes and leaning back and a soft smile on his
lips as his mother played "Annie Laurie."

These thoughts carried him away so that he stopped quickly when they
left him. For a moment he could not realize that death was taking his
father. He felt he had been out of his head, walking out there, that it
was all a horrible nightmare. He almost began to laugh and dash up to
the door to find things as they always had been. He staggered back with
an impulse to shout in his agony as realization came back to him.

A wild hope seized him. He had been walking there for hours, for days it
seemed, and the door had not opened. Perhaps the doctor was wrong, after
all. Perhaps his father had rallied strength and would live. His heart
beat exultingly. Perhaps----

And then the door opened.

       *       *       *       *       *

He knew that his father had left them nothing but what was in the house.
He had not spoken to his mother about it. He had been beside her bed
until after dawn when, with a gentle sigh, she had slipped off into a
merciful sleep.

Mrs. Sprockett, who left them only for a few minutes in the morning, he
thanked with a guilty feeling of having not appreciated what she had
done. The doctor had spoken to him kindly.

"My boy," he said, "this comes to all of us. Your father passed as
gently as he lived. Remember, there's no sorrow nor suffering where he
has gone and--be good to your mother."

It was not until after the funeral that John and his mother talked of
the life before them. He told her that they would not have to leave
their little home, that he would quit school and find work so they could
go on together.

"Dearest, dearest mother, you shall be with me always," he said to her.
But she replied:

"We owe a heavy debt, John, that must be paid at once."

He saw she was worrying over the expense of his father's funeral. He
knew how sensitive she was about debts.

"I can get money somewhere, dearest mother," he said. "Don't worry."

"But where?"

"Somewhere--I'll get it. Please, oh, please don't think about it any
more."

He could tell, however, that she could not put it out of her mind. There
was a look about her eyes that told him it weighed upon her. It
disappeared when he held her in his arms and comforted her; she tried
bravely to hide it from him, but it was there, in his mind, haunting
him.

He came to his decision about the money for the funeral director
quickly. He told her he was going to look for work and went to George
Blake at his Spring street gymnasium. Blake, an instructor in boxing,
had seen him spar in amateur bouts and had taken him in tow. He boxed
because he liked it; never with a thought of ever fighting for money.
Only a month before he had refused an offer of a bout at Jack Doyle's
Vernon arena.

"George," he said, "can you get me a bout at Vernon?"

"What's the big idea?" asked Blake with a smile.

"I need the money."

"How soon?"

"As soon as I can get it."

"I'll see Wad Wadhams, tonight," Blake said. "If there's a place on the
bill I'll get it for you."

The next day Blake called him to the gymnasium.

"You'll go on in the preliminaries," he said. "Two hundred if you win, a
hundred if you draw and fifty if you lose. How's that?"

"That means I must win," John said.

In his pocket as he spoke was the funeral director's bill for $200.

"You'd better get to work right now, then," cautioned Blake. "You're
matched with a tough boy, but if you're in any sort of shape at all you
should come out on top."

They went to work. As he roughed it with the young fellows Blake sent
against him he thought of his mother. Perhaps, after it was all over and
their debt had been paid, he would tell her how he got the money. He
couldn't tell her now. She had even tried to persuade him to stop boxing
for exercise and if she thought for a moment that he had arranged to
fight for money----

A fist thudded against his jaw. Absorbed in his thoughts he had left an
opening and the boy in the ring with him was quick to take advantage of
it. Instinctively he "covered," bending over with his arms wrapped
around his head and body for protection until his brain cleared.

Then, savagely, he tore into the boy before him, jabbing him swiftly
with his left glove and suddenly sending over his right with a snap. The
boy sank to the floor.

"That's enough, Gallant," admonished Blake. "Take it easy."

He lifted the boy to his feet.

As he pounded at the punching bag a few minutes later he promised
himself that this would be his one and only fight in a ring, for his
mother's sake.

That night, when he left for Vernon, he told her his first deliberate
lie.

       *       *       *       *       *

He was in his corner. A scrawny youth with a twisted nose, a jersey
sweater and a husky voice was tying on his gloves.

"Wot's your name, kid?"

The announcer was bending over him.

"Gallant," he answered, after hesitating. The announcer turned and
crossed to the opposite corner of the ring and John's eyes followed him.
He saw his opponent, a thick-shouldered Mexican, with flashing black
eyes, gleaming white teeth, a broad, deep chest tapering to a slender
waist.

The Mexican returned his appraising look, and sneered.

Arc lamps threw a heated white light down to the canvas floor of the
ring. The chatter and rumble of voices came up from the crowd. He
looked out past the ropes and saw faces--hundreds of them--dimly through
clouds of tobacco smoke. He could only distinguish those at the
ringside. He saw Charlie Chaplin, the famous film comedian, looking at
him. There was Jack Dempsey, the world's ring champion, towering up in
his seat. There was----

"Come on, kid," the announcer was calling to him from the center of the
ring.

John dropped his bathrobe from his shoulders and went forward.

"On my right--the Gallant kid," shouted the announcer, pausing for the
laugh that came up from the crowd.

"The what?" a voice asked.

"The Gallant kid, he calls himself," shouted back the announcer. "On my
left--Battling Rodriguez. One hundred and thirty-five pounds."

John went back to his corner. He rested his gloved hands on the ropes
and scraped the soles of his shoes into a box of rosin shoved beneath
his feet by the twisted nose youth, who had a towel thrown over his
shoulder and a pail of water near him.

Blake pulled himself up beside him.

"Remember, John, keep cool and keep jabbing that left in his face," he
said.

John looked out at the crowd. A thought of his mother flashed into his
head and he seemed to see her face in the blue haze of smoke.

"He'll try rushing you--he thinks he's another Joe Rivers," said Blake.
"Wait for a chance to soak him."

The gong sounded and, whirling around, he went to the center of the
ring. The Battler came dancing out to meet him. They touched gloves for
a handshake and each took a step back. The Battler moved his gloves in
quick little circles and the noise from the crowd stopped. John forgot
everything else, the fight was on.

The Battler feinted, swaying his body from side to side, and came at
him. He shot out his left hand, jabbing at the swarthy face of the
Mexican. His fist struck only the air and the Battler, his lips drawn
back, his eyes blazing, crashed into him.

A fist pounded into his stomach and another ripped into his face. He
heard a wild shout from the crowd and the Mexican jumped back, smiling.
A trickle of blood dropped to his cheek from a cut over his eye. He
heard the Battler's seconds shout to their man to "tear into" him. He
watched, his left extended, his right close to his body.

The Battler rushed again, swaying from the hips. John's left fist found
its mark. He jabbed--once, twice, three times--and lashed out with his
right. The blow glanced off the Mexican's shoulders and they clinched.
He felt the Battler's strength in that clinch and he realized it was
more than his. The referee called "Break!" and they pushed away from
each other.

He must keep his head. The Mexican was fast; he pounced like a panther.
Blake's warning came back to him--"keep cool and wait." That was it,
wait, wait for a chance to land a blow that would end the fight.

He shot out his left again as the Battler came at him. It missed and the
strength he put behind it carried his head forward. Like a flash the
Mexican's right crashed to his jaw. John stumbled to his knees. The
referee was over him.

"One--two--three--four--five--six----"

He felt his head slowly clearing. What a punch that Mexican had! He must
get to his feet and cover.

"Seven--eight----"

He found strength to jump up. He saw nothing before him. He heard
shouting, miles away, it seemed. His arms were heavy when he lifted them
to his head. He tried to set himself. His body reeled as the Battler
pounded him, his head, his face, his back.

Back across the ring he staggered until he went down again.

"One--two--three--four----" the referee's arm waved up and down in front
of his face. His arms, holding up his body from the floor, began to sag.
Blood poured from the cut over his eye. Faintly he saw the sturdy brown
legs of the Mexican dancing before him.

"Five--six--seven----"

He pushed himself up to his knees.

"Eight--nine----"

He got to his feet, his arms hanging loose at his sides. The Battler
swung forward on his toes for another rush. He tried to lift his hands.
They were like dead things. He tried to run out of the way of that
tornado of blows and he tottered back against the ropes.

The gong rang and saved him.

He sank into the canvas camp-chair that was pushed under him in his
corner and gulped at the wind fanned into his heaving lungs by the towel
flapped up and down by the twisted-nose second. A sharp pain as the cut
over his eye was burned with caustic brightened his brain.

"Has he had enough?" he heard the referee ask Blake, who was behind him.

"No, give me a chance," he gasped.

"Let him try another one," Blake said.

The pounding of his heart slowed and his head cleared so that he could
make out the figure of the Battler leaning back in his chair, his arms
spread along the ropes, smiling.

A second massaged his arms and he felt life coming back into them. Blake
whispered in his ear:

"One punch will end that Mex. boy; try to land it this time."

John nodded. He must land it. He MUST WIN. For the first time since the
fight started he thought of why he was there. If he could only rest here
a minute more--just until his head cleared a little--the gong rang.

He rushed and saw a look of surprise cross the Battler's face as he
dodged to one side. He hooked at the black, shaggy head with his left
and felt his fist crack against the Battler's ear. He swung his right
with all the strength he had in him and grunted as he felt it sink into
the Battler's stomach. He stepped back. He heard shouting. He saw the
Mexican double over and cover his head with his arms.

"Atta boy!" someone in the crowd yelled.

The Battler uncovered slowly. He went in again, jabbing with his left.
It struck the Battler's thick arms wrapped around his head. With a
spring like a cat the Mexican was on him. He shot up his right and it
pounded into the Battler's ribs. He tried to wrestle himself out of the
clinch into which the Mexican had thrown himself.

The referee tore them apart.

"None of that," he said to the Battler. "Stop holding in the clinches."

The end came a minute later. They were roughing it in the center of the
ring and the crowd was on its feet, howling. The Battler swayed far to
the right, the glove of his right hand almost touching the floor. John
brought his guard down, fearful that the punch the Mexican was swinging
was aimed for his body. He started a counter-blow with his right and the
Battler's fist rose high and crashed against his jaw.

A white flash blinded him as he dropped. He was down for the count of
eight. He was "out on his feet" when he struggled up again. He smiled
feebly and pawed in front of him with his left. The Battler brushed it
aside and as John fell forward in a last desperate effort to clinch, his
right went over. The smack of the Mexican's fist as it landed the
knockout punch sounded like the slap of a paddle on water.

"Eight--nine--you're out!"

They carried him to his corner, the Battler on one side, the referee on
the other. As through a fog he saw the Mexican dance back to his corner
to be received joyously by his seconds. He saw Jack Dempsey looking up
at him, nodding his head and smiling. He saw a terribly anxious look on
a pale, strained face he slowly recognized as that of Charlie Chaplin.

He closed his eyes. If they would only let him alone and stop throwing
water on him. He could not see out of one of his eyes. They tore the
gloves from his hands and the sharp odor of smelling salts bit into his
nostrils. His head ached, his lungs burned.

"Come on, kid, get back to da dressin' room," a husky voice said.

He pulled himself to his feet. He was whipped. His only chance to get
money to pay for his father's funeral was gone. So weak that his body
shook and his legs trembled, hysterical tears sprang to his eyes and he
sobbed--gasping sobs that choked him.

The hot tears smarted like salt in the cuts on his cheek as he stumbled
up the aisle toward the dressing rooms.

Someone came running up behind him. A hand grasped his arm and he heard
a voice say:

"Just a minute, my boy, I want to talk to you."



CHAPTER II


He looked up into the whimsically comic face of Charlie Murray, famous
in film farces--with funny features and gruff ways, but a heart as soft
as a mother's. With no idea to whom he was speaking, John Gallant
blurted:

"Please, not now--I can't."

"Just a word with you, son; come along, let's get back to your dressing
room," said the other without taking his arm from his shoulder.

As they left the arena they heard the gong sound for the opening round
of another bout. It brought back to John the bitterness of his loss in
defeat and his chagrin. He had made a mess of things. How could he go
back to his mother with his face battered and swollen and without the
$200 he had expected to take to her to pay for his father's funeral?

He flung himself on a bench in his dressing room and buried his face in
his hands. He sat for a time until he had choked back his hysterical
crying and when he looked up he saw the stranger who had stopped him in
the aisle gazing at him intently. He saw something in the mild blue eyes
of this man that overcame the momentary feeling of shame he felt for
having given way to his bitterness and despair.

"What's your trouble, son?" the stranger asked.

He sat silent.

"Out with it, son, something's wrong somewhere and I may be able to help
you."

"Who are you?" John asked.

"I'm Charlie Murray--if that means anything to you. And, believe me,
son, I know that something beside the licking you got out there is
worrying you. That's why I followed you here. Let's have it; come on,
tell me what's wrong. It'll make you feel better."

Before he really knew it, John was telling him his story.

"That's the reason I made a fool of myself," he said. "I couldn't help
crying like that. I guess I was too far gone. I don't know what to do
now. It will break my mother's heart when she sees me in this condition.
It would have helped if I could have handed her enough to pay the
funeral expenses.

"I don't know why I've told you all this. Making more of a fool of
myself, I suppose."

Murray listened to it all, silently. Then he rose and went to the door.

"Oh, Murphy," he called, putting his head out the dressing room door.

The youth with the twisted nose whom John remembered as his second
answered Murray's call.

"Fix this boy up, Murphy," said Murray. "Patch up his face the best you
can and keep him here until I get back. Understand, keep him here until
I get back. Don't let him out of your sight."

"I heardja, boss, I heardja," said Murphy.

And Murray hurried out, leaving John wondering, in Murphy's hands.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was just before the main event that Murray came down the aisle and
climbed into the ring, brushing the referee announcer, seconds and
others into the corners. He stood in the center of the ring and held up
his hand for silence. The crowd quieted.

"What is it, Charlie?" someone shouted.

"It's this, boys," he said. "I've just had a talk with the Gallant kid,
who was knocked kicking a few minutes ago by Battling Rodriguez. You saw
the fight he put up and you know it's only a good, game kid that can
fight like that.

"I don't know how many of you saw it, but the Gallant kid--that's his
real name, John Gallant--was crying when he went out of this ring and he
wasn't bawling because he got licked, either.

"I'll tell you what he told me back there in the dressing rooms. Do you
know why he was here fighting, tonight? He was here to get enough money
to pay for his father's funeral. He had to have the money given to the
winner and he lost. He didn't tell his poor little mother he was coming
out here. He wanted to surprise her.

"Now, boys, the only surprise he'll take home to her is a battered face
unless you want to surprise him with--"

A silver dollar spun through the smoke-filled air and hit the canvas at
Murray's feet. That started it. For a full two minutes the air was thick
with flying coins. They clinked and rolled around in the ring. Bills
weighted with coins caromed along the canvas floor.

Murray and a few others collected the money and counted it, standing in
the ring.

"Is it enough?" asked a voice from the crowd.

Murray looked up with a broad smile. His hat, held in his hands, was
brimming with the money picked from the floor of the ring.

"Five hundred and fifty-six dollars and sixty cents," he said.

"Where's the kid?" someone demanded.

"That's the idea, show us the kid," shouted the crowd.

       *       *       *       *       *

When John was brought back into the ring, embarrassed, awkward, trying
to smile through his swollen lips, the "house" was quiet. Murphy pushed
him to the center, where Murray was waiting for him.

"That's for you, Mr. Gallant, with the compliments of the boys out here
who know a good, game kid when they see one and whose hearts are always
in the right place," he said, handing him the hat full of money.

He felt the tears coming back in his eyes.

"I don't--I can't----" he said hoarsely.

"Oh, yes, you can," interrupted Murray. "You take it and forget about
it."

The crowd cheered. A thick-shouldered individual pushed himself through
the ropes into the ring.

"For the keed, Meester Murray," said the newcomer, handing him a $20
bill. "Hee's a gude keed, maybe I help."

It was Battling Rodriguez. He crossed over and taking John's hand
grinned out at the crowd.

John felt the tears coming again and was thankful when Murray led him to
a corner and helped him down out of the ring.

"One of the newspaper men wants to speak to you," he said. "Here's your
man, Morton."

He shook hands with the newspaper man.

"You're not a fighter by profession, though you're game enough to be a
champion. How are you fixed for a job?" asked Morton.

"I need one," John replied.

"Tell you what you do, then," said the other, who seemed to take John's
answer for granted. "You come down and see me tomorrow and I'll see if I
can't find something for you to do. How would you like to get into
newspaper work?"

How would he like it? John felt that nothing in the world would he like
better.

"Tomorrow, then, ask for me," said Morton, turning to watch the two
boxers who entered the ring to fight the main event.

As he went up the aisle men reached out and shook hands with him. Some
of them dropped money into the hat brimming with bills and coins that he
still held in his hand. He filled his pockets with the money and handed
the hat to Murphy to be returned to that prince of men, Charlie Murray.

       *       *       *       *       *

With the money given him by the crowd, the $20 bill Battling Rodriguez
added to it and the $50 he received as the loser's end of the purse in
his bout, he had more than $625 as he boarded the car from Vernon to the
city to return home. His happiness was dimmed, however, by the thought
of facing his mother, who, he knew, would be waiting up for him.

When he transferred at Seventh and Spring streets and boarded another
car a woman gasped at the sight of his face. Murphy had used every trick
known to a professional second to doctor his battered features, but
nothing could hide the swollen lips, the cut over his eye and the eye
that was puffed so that there was only a thin slit between the lids to
see through.

He decided that it would be easier upon his mother for him to tell her
everything. Then it would be over and done with. She would not worry
then as she would if he told her some impossible story.

She was in her chair in the living room when he returned home. He threw
himself at her feet.

"Mother," he said, "please."

"My boy," she said, waiting for him to lift his face from her lap.

He felt he could not raise his head. They sat silent for a while and
then she put her hands on each side of his head and lifted his face to
hers. He shut his eyes. He could not stand to see her look as she saw
his condition.

He waited, his battered face upturned. It seemed hours that she held his
face, without a word. Then she leaned forward and her lips touched his
forehead gently in a kiss.

"My boy," she said and her arms went around his neck.

They rose at last and she bathed his wounds, smiling through her tears.
When he kissed her goodnight she whispered again, "My boy." He knew he
was forgiven and he went to his room thinking of the adventure waiting
for him in the morning when he would meet Morton and begin work in a
newspaper office.

       *       *       *       *       *

He was bewildered when he entered the editorial department of the
afternoon newspaper of which Morton was sporting editor. Never had he
seen such a busy place.

Telegraph instruments and typewriters clicked and clattered incessantly.
Although it was broad day outside, electric lights burned brightly over
desks. The floor was covered with discarded newspapers and scraps and
balls of copy paper.

Men and boys hurried from desk to desk, back and forth, in and out of
swinging doors. As he watched them, wondering if they really knew what
they were doing themselves, they reminded him of ants around an ant
hill. He was thrilled by the life and energy of the place, the speed and
earnestness of the workers.

At a flat-topped desk over which was a sign with the words "City Editor"
sat a fat, bald-headed man wearing a green eye-shade, who spoke over
his shoulder to a younger man at another desk close to his. This younger
man wore a telephone headgear, receivers over both ears, and punched at
the typewriter before him with the first finger of each hand. John saw
he was writing what someone was dictating to him over the telephone.

"T, like in Thomas; I like in Isaac; P like in Peter," the man with the
headgear shouted into the mouthpiece of an extension close to his face.

John tried to fathom what the man with the headgear was talking about
and it finally dawned on him that he was making certain of the spelling
of the word "tip," dictated to him, by repeating the letters as they
appeared in other words.

He caught sight of Morton at a desk on the far side of the big,
high-ceilinged room and crossed over, weaving his way through a
labyrinth of desks, chairs and tables. Morton, who had been glancing
over a newspaper, looked up as he approached.

"Well, if it isn't the Gallant kid!" he exclaimed. "I'd almost forgotten
all about you. Sit down."

John sat down while Morton questioned him. No, he had never done any
writing except a little for his school paper. Yes, he'd like to start
in as a reporter. It didn't make much difference how much he was paid as
long as he could get started.

"All right, then," said Morton, rising. "We'll go over and see P. Q.,
but don't you ever blame him for getting you started in this game."

The sporting editor led him to the fat, bald-headed man with the green
eye-shade.

"P. Q.," he said.

The city editor looked up.

"Here's the young fellow I was telling you about this morning; name's
John Gallant."

"P. Q."--John afterward learned that those were his initials, uniquely
symbolical of his perpetual order to reporters to be "pretty quick" in
their work--looked at the marks on John's face left by the fists of
Battling Rodriguez.

"Fighting face, all right," he said. "Well, suppose you go to work."

He reached back to his desk and brought up a handful of clippings from a
newspaper from which he selected a few short ones.

"Grab a typewriter and rewrite these," he said, handing the clippings to
John. "Keep 'em short. Twenty-five words each. Remember that always.
Keep everything short. Keep your eyes and ears open and read the papers.
Read everything in them. Now get over there and start writing and I'll
call you when I need you."

John knew that as long as he lived he would never forget that first day
in newspaper work. He rewrote the clippings carefully, counting the
words to make certain that they did not exceed the twenty-five ordered
by P. Q. He had done some typewriting at school and practiced more by
filling page after page of copy paper with the old favorite beginner's
sentence, "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the
party," and its twin, "The quick, brown fox jumped over the lazy dog."

He watched in open-mouthed wonder at the speed with which the other
reporters--he counted himself one of them--wrote their stories. He
learned that everything written for a newspaper is a "story," everything
from a three-line item about a meeting of the Colorado State society to
a banner-line murder.

He was fascinated by a reporter whom P. Q. called Brennan and who worked
at a typewriter close to where he was sitting. Brennan, thin-faced,
about thirty, John judged, turned out page after page of typewritten
copy, stopping at the completion of each page to throw back his head and
shout: "Boy! Oh, BOY!" at the ceiling. In response to this call a copy
boy appeared and carried the page to P. Q. As he worked he smoked
cigarettes, lighting each fresh one from the stub of the one that
preceded it. These cigarettes he carefully stood on end on the desk as
his fingers pounded at the typewriter.

When he took a deep inhalation of tobacco smoke during his writing
Brennan paused and gazed, dreamy-eyed, out into space. Then suddenly, he
stood his cigarette on end again and attacked the typewriter keys
furiously. John noticed that Brennan, like the man with the headgear,
used only one finger of each hand in typewriting.

Along in the afternoon, when he had stopped hammering at his machine, he
turned to find John staring at him. Stretching out his arms, yawning, he
asked:

"New man?"

John said he was.

"First time?"

John said it was.

From Brennan, John learned many things. He learned that P. Q. had an
unswerving prejudice against reporters who used the touch system in
typewriting.

"He says they use a typewriter like it was a piano and get into the
habit of not looking at what they are writing," Brennan explained. "He
says the touch system has ruined more reporters than shorthand."

"Why shorthand?" asked John. "I thought----"

"I know, you thought every good reporter should write shorthand," said
Brennan. "Well, that's one thing P. Q. and I agree on. I've seen a lot
of them in my time and I've never seen a reporter who wrote shorthand
who was a real star man. Writing shorthand kills your imagination. All
you write is what other people tell you and exactly as they said it.
Somehow, a shorthand man doesn't get pep into his stuff, take it from
me."

John thought he understood.

"You work hard and long in this game and it makes an old man of you
before your time," Brennan continued. "But it's a great game. Once it
gets into your blood you're a newspaper man for life.

"Generally speaking, there are two kinds of reporters. One is the kind
with a nose for news and without any particular ability to write. The
other is the kind that can write without being able to get the news for
themselves. When you get the two in one, a man who can write and get the
news himself, you've got a star, but they are few and far between.

"P. Q. says once in a while that I can write and I think I'm a demon
news-getter and there you are--that's me.

"Let me tell you how it is about writing a story. Suppose Mary Jones,
aged 18, of 1559 Fifty-Ump street, shop girl, kills herself and leaves a
note saying she did it because the man she loved threw her over. It's no
story to write it that 'Mary Jones, 18 years old, a shop girl, who
resided at 1559 Fifty-Ump street, ended her life today because of an
unhappy affair with an unnamed man.'

"Plain 'Mary Jones' isn't the story. Probably only fifty people in the
city know her. What do the others care? Not much. This is your
story--'An 18-year-old girl who dreamed of a Prince Charming to come and
carry her away from a monotonous life behind a store counter and a
dreary third-floor-back room, took her life in Los Angeles today.'

"Get the idea? 'Mary Jones' isn't the story. What she did, how she
lived, what made her do it, that's what the story is. That brings a
throb of sympathy, a tear perhaps, for her from someone who never heard
of her and it helps to make better folks and a better world."

Brennan's way of talking entranced John. He realized there was more in
reporting than he had ever imagined. P. Q. seemed to have forgotten him
completely during the next few days. In the mornings he was given a few
short clippings to rewrite and that was all.

"Don't worry, he's got an eye on you," Brennan told him. "And let me
tell you something. Perhaps you've read stories about the cub reporter
scooping the town, landing the big exclusive story and all that. Well,
that's bunk. No cub reporter ever did it, not unless he was working
against a bunch of other cubs. Why, he's lucky if he knows what to do
with a big story when he's got one, let alone put it over on the star
men of the other sheets."

A really first-class newspaper man, Brennan told him, was born and not
made.

"You can make them up to a certain point, but no further," he said. "And
take it from me, the ones that are born newspaper men aren't born every
minute for Mr. Barnum or anyone else to get."

It was at noon of the third day he had been at work when John was given
his first assignment. He saw P. Q. rise from his chair and look over the
reporters at their desks and he heard him call his name.

"Here, Gallant, I want you to do something," the city editor said. "Lawn
fete--charity stuff--out at palatial home of the Barton Randolphs.
Society affair. Must have representative there. No story. Society editor
takes care of that. Just get list of names and how much money they take
in. Here's admission card. Beat it."

John was disappointed. He had hoped for something with a touch of
adventure. Not until he left the office did he fully realize where he
was going. Society lawn fete! He looked down at his well worn suit and
remembered the patch on his trousers beneath his coat tail.



CHAPTER III


The home of the Barton Randolphs, in West Adams street, was one of the
old mansions of that exclusive colony toward which the business district
of Los Angeles was advancing, block by block. Set back from the street,
its immaculate lawn dotted with shade-giving sycamore trees, it was
reminiscent of one of the "stately homes of England." An iron fence
topped with spear heads gave it a finishing touch of haughtiness.

John liked to think of homes and of trees as people. A stiffly built,
sharply roofed house with "gingerbread" trimmings reminded him of a prim
old maid. He imagined that he knew what sort of person owned a
particular house simply by studying it. Houses, especially old homes,
fascinated him and he worshiped trees with the fervor that inspired
Joyce Kilmer.

The Barton Randolph home made John think of a fine old aristocrat,
holding aloof from the world, conservative and with a love for old
fashions and old friends, a contempt for things that are modern. As he
stood at the gate he thought that the mansion was glaring at him with an
upturned nose and this imaginative quirk caused him to hesitate to
enter.

Before him on the cool green lawn moved groups of men and women, the
women in snowy white. At intervals there were tea tables around which
were couples, chatting languidly. Servants moved with quiet efficiency
from the tables to the house and back again. The shade spread by the
sycamore trees was pierced with shafts of sunlight that gave the lawn a
mottled look. It seemed a place removed from all the world.

Once more John looked at his shabby suit, his dusty, worn shoes.
Unconsciously he tugged at his coat tail because of an instinctive fear
that the patch was showing. An idea of waiting outside until the fete
was over came into his head.

"It can't be any worse than the wallop Battling Rodriguez gave me, so
here goes," he said, starting up the finely graveled driveway with the
same feeling he always had when he dashed down the beach to plunge into
the cold waters of the ocean.

He tramped steadily along until he discovered that the driveway was
circular and that if he kept on he would land out on the street again.
Boldly he started across the lawn in the direction of the house.
Somewhere on the grounds a stringed orchestra was playing. As he passed
the tea tables he heard the clinking of ice in glasses. Looking neither
to right nor left he felt that the eyes of everyone he passed were upon
him. He tugged again at his coat tail.

He saw a servant stop and wait for him and he marched straight toward
him.

"Tradesman?" asked the servant.

"Reporter," he said, looking straight into the other's eyes somewhat
defiantly.

"Whom do you wish to see?"

"Mrs. Barton Randolph."

"This way, please."

He followed, past more tables, past more eyes. He watched while the
servant approached the woman he knew to be Mrs. Barton Randolph, who
excused herself from the group around her. The servant returned.

"You were sent here from your office?" he asked.

John produced the admission card given him by his city editor.

"Very well. Mrs. Randolph instructs me to tell you that any information
you desire may be obtained from her secretary in half an hour. In the
meanwhile you are to consider yourself as one of the guests."

He was not long in reaching the gravel driveway again and he was headed
for the street, determined to wait there for the thirty minutes, when he
noticed that to his left only a few of the tables were occupied. At one
of these he could wait in the shade. Besides, he had a feeling that he
was little more than a coward if he went outside.

Far back from the driveway, in fact at the table farthest from the
drive, he seated himself with a sigh of relief. For a while he believed
himself well alone, before he discovered that directly facing him sat
another man, a man lounging in a wicker garden chair, alone, idly
smoking a cigarette and gazing at him somewhat intently. Instantly John
disliked this man, for two reasons: he was too immaculately dressed and
his hair was so perfect that it appeared to have been moulded on his
head.

The man continued to gaze at him, and John, feeling his face grow hot,
stared back.

Then the man flicked the ash from his cigarette, turned lazily in his
chair and raised his hand as a signal to a servant who was hovering over
a table and who hurried to him in response. He spoke to the servant and
inclined his head slightly in John's direction. The servant bowed and
came toward John's table.

"If you're not a guest here, sir, you will kindly leave the grounds," he
said.

John felt his blood gush through his veins. He saw the man in the wicker
chair smile mildly and look up into the branches of the tree overhead.
He overcame a wild impulse to step over and ruin the perfect hair.

"But it happens I am a guest," he said, as clearly as his choked back
temper permitted.

"You are, sir!" the servant pretended astonished humiliation. "Would you
be so good as to say by whose invitation?"

Then it happened. John afterwards was never quite sure what would have
taken place there had it not occurred.

To John she seemed to have blossomed up out of the ground before them.
He never saw anyone who looked more like a flower, a delicate, beautiful
flower. She was in white, a quaint frock with ridiculously tiny puffed
sleeves reaching only halfway to her elbows, gathered in with a narrow
black ribbon. Something about her, the way she looked, the dress, the
whole expression of her face, sent the thought "an old-fashioned girl"
coursing through John's brain.

The servant stepped back.

"Do you happen to be the newspaper reporter--?" she said.

John nodded.

"Then I am so glad to have found you. Mrs. Randolph felt she was rather
abrupt when you asked to see her and when she noticed you walking
rapidly away she feared you were offended. I volunteered to find you."
She was in the chair beside him.

"You are very kind and I am very happy," he managed to say. "I wasn't
offended. I was embarrassed and frightened."

"By what?"

"By all this. The servant asked me if I was a tradesman--whatever that
is--isn't that enough to frighten anyone?"

"I've read stories of reporters who never knew fear. And in plays the
reporter always does the bravest things."

"In stories and in plays," he repeated. "This, too, is like a story or a
play. Here I am rescued by a heroine who is--who is----"

"Who is what?"

"Beautiful." The word was no sooner spoken than he could have bitten off
his tongue.

He hoped she would laugh it away, but she only looked at him, her lips
parted, a hint of incredulousness in her eyes.

"I'm sorry," he said. He was glad now that she had not laughed or taken
the word he had spoken lightly. He felt she knew he had not said it in
an attempt at silly flirtation.

"You spoke of being rescued," she said, smiling again.

"Yes, and the villain is yet in the background," he said. "A devilishly
handsome villain he is, too."

She glanced back over her shoulder. The servant had disappeared. The
man in the wicker chair was looking at them, a half smile on his lips.

"Surely," she said, "not Mr. Gibson?"

"If Mr. Gibson is the gentleman in the chair over there, yes."

"And why a villain?"

"Well, he whispered something to the servant who was here when you came
that caused him to come here and ask me to leave. That was how you
rescued me."

"It is like a book or a play, isn't it?"

"Only in books and plays dreams come true," he told her. "And villains
are vanquished."

"And what dream do you wish to come true?"

"A dream--a rather silly, hopeless, golden sort of dream--a dream of
meeting you again."

Once more he could have bitten off his tongue. Now she would think him a
maudlin flirt. He looked to the ground and saw his dusty, worn shoes. He
was afraid to hear her speak, afraid to look up. At last he did,
expecting to find her gone. But she was there, looking at him as she had
when he told her she was beautiful, the same hint of incredulousness in
her eyes.

"Don't say you're sorry," she said softly. "I'd like to think you meant
it."

They were silent. He saw the man in the wicker chair rise, toss aside
his cigarette and come toward them, slowly. They waited, without
speaking, until he reached their table.

His eyes met Gibson's steadily for two tense seconds. Then he saw Gibson
turn from him to the girl as if he was not there.

"Consuello," Gibson said.

She rose.

"Reggie," she said, "a friend, Mr.----"

"John Gallant," John said, slowly.

"Mr. Gallant, Mr. Gibson," she said. They shook hands.

"I believe I saw Mr. Gallant several nights ago," Gibson said.

John waited, wondering how Gibson would say it.

"He was very busily engaged with another gentleman"--he gave a slight
emphasis to the "gentleman"--"whose name, I believe, was Rodriguez."

"Really! You have met before?"

"Come, Consuello," said Gibson, "we must be trotting back to the house.
The afternoon will be gone soon."

She saw the look in John's eyes before she answered:

"Reggie, you must excuse me. I'll be along shortly--with Mr. Gallant."

"Very well," Gibson turned leisurely and they watched him walk away.

He was only slightly incensed by Gibson's deliberate insult in strolling
away without acknowledging, by even so much as a nod of his head, their
introduction to each other by Consuello. He felt a tinge of
satisfaction, of even vengeance.

"You mustn't let me keep you," he said, as he saw she still looked at
Gibson's retreating figure and that an expression of astonishment was
puzzling her face.

"It was wrong of him--I do not understand," she said. She laughed
lightly. "But you must not believe him a villain. It was so unlike him.
I'm sure he will tell you so himself before you leave."

The hum of starting motors came to them and through the trees John saw
the first of the long line of automobiles go up the driveway toward the
house. The fete was ending; the guests were leaving. He remembered why
he was there; his appointment to meet Mrs. Randolph's secretary. They
started across the lawn.

"Mrs. Randolph will believe I'm lost," she said. "I shouldn't be
surprised if she has already sent someone to look for me."

"I hope----" he began.

"Yes."

"I hope you do not feel I have been bold," he said. "It was rude and
presumptuous for me to say the things I did to you. Please try to
understand and forgive me."

"If I say I believe I understand and that there is nothing to forgive,
will you think me vain?" she asked.

They reached the driveway. Luxurious sedans and limousines with liveried
chauffeurs blocked their crossing. She turned to him, her hand extended.

"Good afternoon," she said. "Sometime, soon perhaps, if you wish, we
will meet again; you will hear from me, because--because I--think you
meant it." She added the final words lightly and with a smile.

"I did," he said.

She turned to the driveway. An automobile stopped and she crossed over
in the gap of the line of motors it made for her. The machine moved
forward again, blocking any sight of her as she went on toward the
house.

The list of guests and the amount of money netted by the fete he
received from Mrs. Randolph's secretary in neatly typewritten lists. The
last of the motors were chugging up the driveway as he left. He walked
out into the street, toward the car line, bound for his office.

As he waited at the corner for his car a low, rakish roadster stopped
before him. He heard a creaking of brakes and saw the back wheels of the
machine lock as it came to a stop. He looked up. Gibson was at the
wheel, Consuello at his side.

"Mr. Gallant," Gibson called.

John stepped forward. Gibson leaned toward him, his hand outstretched.

"Miss Carrillo has reminded me I made rather a fool of myself back there
at the table," he said, smiling. "Perhaps you may understand the
position I was in. I offer my apologies."

John gripped his hand.

"Thanks," said Gibson. "You understand how it is."

"Yes," assented John, without really knowing what his answer meant.

"Sorry there isn't room to give you a lift to town," Gibson said, racing
the motor and shifting the gear. As the machine moved away John saw
Consuello smile and there was an echo of gladness in his heart.

But a disconcerting thought crept into John's mind as he watched
Gibson's machine disappear in the traffic. Had she only been kind to him
because of an instinctive sympathy, born of good breeding, for his
embarrassment there on the lawn? Was she laughing now with Gibson,
telling him of her experience with a flirtatious or sickly sentimental
cub reporter? Something in the manner of Gibson as he offered his
apology caused this suspicion to spring into his mind against her.

Yes, that was it. She had only pitied him, his awkwardness, his apparent
discomfort, his shabby suit, his worn shoes. She had led him artfully
into telling her she was beautiful and that he dreamed--he cursed
himself as he remembered his words, "a rather silly, hopeless, golden
sort of dream,"--of meeting her again. Meet him again? Why, she would
probably forget him tomorrow unless she recalled how he had acted and
told it as something to laugh over.

What a fool, what a weak, mawkish, insipid fool he had made of himself!

He burned with humiliation. Even if she had been sincere, what would she
think of him when Gibson told her of his fight at Vernon with Battling
Rodriguez? He could see her, in his imagination, assuring Gibson that
had she known he was a prize fighter, a brute who fought with his fists
for money, she would never have spoken to him. Of course, Gibson would
not tell her why he had fought at Vernon. He felt this instinctively.

He pictured her and Gibson together at all sorts of places, on a yacht
cruising around Catalina island, on the links at a country club, a ball
at the Ambassador, racing along the coast road to Santa Barbara in
Gibson's expensive car, at the opera and supper later. Then thought of
the patch on his own trousers. Oh, what a fool he had been!

When he returned to the office--it was after 5 o'clock--he found it
deserted except for Brennan and P. Q. Brennan was squatted on the city
editor's desk. P. Q. was leaning back in his swivel chair, his feet
perched on the desk before him.

"Well, son, how did you enjoy your afternoon in society?" he asked as
John handed in the typewritten sheets given him by Mrs. Randolph's
secretary. He glanced at the list of guests.

"I see Gibson's name here--Reginald Gibson--did you happen to meet him
or see him out there?"

John was startled. He had heard the reporters tell of P. Q.'s superhuman
ability of knowing, without being told, what his men did out on
assignments. What made him ask if he had met Gibson?

"Yes--I saw--I met him," he replied.

"You did, huh? Well, you must have been mixing in proper. I wish I'd
known Gibson was out there. Brennan, here, has been trying to find him
all afternoon. You don't happen to know where he is now, do you?"

"I saw him leave."

"Alone?"

"No, there was someone with him in his car."

"Who was it?" Brennan asked.

"Miss Consuello Carrillo," John answered, puzzled by this
cross-examination.

"Good!" exclaimed Brennan, sliding from his perch on the desk and
seizing a telephone book.

"How did you happen to know who it was with Gibson?" asked P. Q., as
Brennan disappeared into a telephone booth.

"I--I--met her," John said, his puzzled feeling turning to astonishment.

"Well, well, you WERE mixing in, weren't you?" P. Q. smiled. "Gibson was
appointed police commissioner a few hours ago. He's a good man for you
to know, because if we're not mistaken he's going to start something
that will keep him on the front page for some time to come."

Brennan came hustling out of the phone booth.

"She asked if you were here--wants to speak to you," he said.

"To me? Who?" asked John.

"Miss Carrillo. I telephoned her place to try to reach Gibson. She said
he had just left and asked me if you had returned yet. Get in there and
find out if anyone's got to Gibson yet about his appointment as police
commissioner."

Brennan stuck his head in the booth to listen as John lifted the
receiver.

"Hello," he said.

"Mr. Gallant?" it was her voice.

"Yes."

"You see, he did not forget. I did not ask him to make that apology; I
only told him I thought he had been forgetful."

"Yes," said John, realizing she was referring to the apology offered him
by Gibson.

"Now that he is a police commissioner he will need you, as a newspaper
man, for a friend."

"Ask her if he has given any interviews yet," Brennan put in.

"Has Mr. Gibson made a statement concerning his appointment?" John
asked.

"No, I don't believe he knows yet that he has been appointed."

"Where is he now?" prompted Brennan.

"Do you know where he went when he left your place?"

"No, I'm sorry, I don't. Home, I suppose."

"Thank you, Miss Carrillo."

"Mr. Gallant----"

"Yes."

"Don't think him a--a--a villain, will you?"

"Why should I?"

"You thought him one at the fete this afternoon. I'm sure you know now
that he is not. And remember, we are to see each other again."

"Yes, indeed."

"I won't forget. Good-by."

"Good-by."

"What did she say?" demanded Brennan.

"She says Gibson doesn't know yet that he had been appointed
commissioner and that she supposes he started for home when he left her
place."

Brennan eyed him shrewdly.

"You seem to know her rather well," he ventured.

P. Q. said it was too late to get anything Gibson might say if they
located him into the last edition for that day. He instructed Brennan to
see Gibson as early as possible in the morning.

"And suppose you take Gallant along with you. He seems to have got
acquainted with Gibson," he added.

"And Consuello," appended Brennan.



CHAPTER IV


The story that Gibson gave John and Brennan the following morning
carried the big black banner headline in every edition--"Gibson Plans
Cleanup Crusade," "Gibson Charges L. A. Police Graft," "New Commissioner
Wants Police Shakeup." Beside the story, which was written by Brennan,
were photographs of Gibson glaring into the camera with an upraised
fist. "Action stuff," it was called by P. Q.

Gibson was in his office in a downtown business block when Brennan and
John found him.

"How are you, Gallant?" he asked, smiling and brisk. "Glad to meet you,
Brennan. Step right into my office, boys. I suppose you're after a
story. Well, I'll give it to you."

He handed them each a typewritten statement.

"Read that through and if you have any questions I'm here to answer
them," he said.

Two pages of the statement contained a hot attack on the police
department. He charged that the department was disorganized, honeycombed
with graft, tolerating and protecting vice conditions, inefficient and
negligent. He cited the operations of bunko swindlers, gamblers and
bandits and declared that the city was "wide open."

"The fair name of Los Angeles is being dragged in the mire by grafting
politicians, crooks and police grafters," one sentence of the statement
read.

In another page and a half he pledged himself to a crusade to clean up
the city, announcing that he had been assured of the support of the
churches and various business organizations as well as, he believed,
"every self-respecting and upstanding citizen of the city."

"I intend to hew to the line, let the chips fall where they may," the
statement said. "I'm in this fight to the finish. Vice, gambling,
banditry, lewd women and graft must go. Without having received the
slightest intimation that the mayor intended appointing me to the board
of police commissioners I have been accumulating evidence of conditions
in Los Angeles for months. I have enough information now to start firing
my guns and I call upon the law-abiding citizens of this great city to
stand with me in the fight."

To the statement was affixed the signature, "Reginald Gibson."

"I suppose, Mr. Gibson," said Brennan, "that everything you care to say
now is included in this statement?"

Gibson nodded.

"There is only one question I wish to ask you."

"Shoot," acquiesced the new commissioner.

"Have you any intention of entering the race for mayor at the next
election?"

"None whatever," Gibson hammered his fist down on the table. "I have no
political aspirations. I am actuated only by a desire on my part and on
the part of other citizens and organizations who realize conditions in
Los Angeles to restore this city to its place as the great metropolis of
the West."

"I understand," said Brennan. "I only asked that question in fairness to
yourself."

"I'm willing to write out a check right now for $1,000 to be given to
charity the minute I announce myself as candidate for mayor or for any
other public elective office," Gibson declared.

"No need, Mr. Commissioner," Brennan said. "We'd like you to stand for a
photograph, if you have no strenuous objection."

Gibson smiled.

"I suppose I'll have to," he said. "How do you want me?"

The photographer, called in from another room, set up his camera.

"One at your desk first, Mr. Gibson," he said.

Gibson drew a small pocket mirror and looked into it, smoothing back the
hair that had irritated John when they first met because it was so
perfect. John saw Brennan wink at him.

"How's this?" asked Gibson, seating himself at his desk, turning toward
the camera in his swivel chair and holding a sheet of letter paper as
though he had been disturbed by the photographer in the middle of the
reading of an important document.

"Fine, hold it," said the photographer. The flashlight boomed, sending a
puff of white smoke into the air.

"You had better take another, I blinked my eyes that time," said Gibson.

"Gotcha before you blinked," the photographer explained. "Now one
standing if you please, Mr. Gibson. Bend over a little. That's it,
clinch your fist and raise it up as though you were going to hit
someone. That's it. Fine, thank you."

The flashlight boomed again, filling the room with smoke.

"I dislike this business of posing for photographs," Gibson said. "I
suppose it has to be, though."

Brennan tipped another wink to John. This time John winked back.

On their way back to the office John asked Brennan what he thought of
Gibson and his statement.

"It's a story, a good one," said Brennan. "One of the kind that's always
good. Wealthy young reformer wants to clean up town. Out to clean up the
police department. It's always gone big since Roosevelt did it in New
York. Lot of bromides in the statement 'hew to the line and let the
chips fall where they may,' 'fair name of our great city being dragged
in the mire' and stuff like that, but it'll get over."

John was somewhat surprised by Brennan's way of answering.

"And what about Gibson?" he asked.

"Gibson may be sincere and he may not. He's either a comer or a sap. If
he means what he says and goes through with it, he'll have the whole
city behind him. If he's just doing a lot of grandstanding or if he's
playing someone's political game, that's another thing. Just remember
one thing, we may need it some time; remember what he said when I asked
him if he was out to be mayor!"

John was unwilling to take the skeptical attitude shown by the older
reporter.

"If he really has no idea of running for mayor, what else could cause
him to do what he says he will except a sincere desire to keep things
clean and straight?" he asked.

"Well," said Brennan, "some of them are out for glory and some of them
play a deeper game. Sometimes it's a girl."

John thought of Consuello.

"Maybe he's in love with fair Consuello," Brennan suggested, smiling.
"Wants to do something big and glorious to win her."

"I'm willing to give him a chance," John said. "I can't help but think
he's sincere. Let's hope so, anyway."

"Gallant," said Brennan, after they had walked half a block without
speaking. "I'd give anything in the world to have your faith in mankind.
Try and keep it as long as you can. That's the trouble with most
reporters. They see so much of the other side of life that they drop
into cynicism and that ruins them. You are ready to believe, I am ready
to disbelieve. Keep on believing, Gallant. If you're deceived once,
twice, any number of times, keep on believing."

John was strangely impressed by these words from Brennan. It was a new
light on the character of the most interesting man he had ever met. He
wondered if years ahead he would be saying the same thing to some young
reporter.

As P. Q. had predicted, Gibson was in the headlines for the remainder of
the week. His announcement of a clean-up crusade although apparently a
direct slap at the administration, was followed by a pledge from the
mayor to support him.

"What else could the mayor do?" Brennan said to John. "He can't very
well sit back while Gibson goes ahead in his campaign to clamp down the
lid and clean up the department. He would put himself in a position to
be attacked for failure to enforce the law.

"He can't fire Gibson. That would give Gibson a chance to holler that
the mayor was afraid of a graft expose and was hand in hand with crooks.
If he comes out and fires him as a misguided sensationalist--it would be
hard to get that across because of Gibson's holler about graft--it's a
confession of his own poor judgment. Whoever wished Gibson on him
certainly got the mayor in a jam.

"Suppose he goes ahead and supports Gibson, don't you see what that will
mean? It means that Gibson will be mayor. Everybody will say, 'Why
didn't our mayor do this before Gibson came along?' Gibson will be the
uncrowned king. Why, unless something upsets him, Gibson will be able
to name the next mayor of Los Angeles by simply indorsing the man's
candidacy.

"Gibson may not realize all this, but if he doesn't I'll be badly
fooled. Whatever his game is, he has the mayor all tied up right at the
start. All he has to do is to go ahead with his program of personally
conducted raids and exposes. Then he'll be the most powerful man in Los
Angeles. When he is that, we'll know for sure whether he was right or
not. It's when a man gets power in his hands that you can tell what he
is."

Two days after his appointment as a commissioner, Gibson demanded the
resignation of Police Chief Sweeney. He gave Brennan and John the story,
another typewritten statement, to which was attached his letter to the
mayor calling upon him for Sweeney's removal.

"That's a pretty one," commented Brennan. "Now, if the mayor fires
Sweeney, Gibson will be able to name the next chief. If he doesn't let
Sweeney go, Gibson will be able to holler that the mayor isn't
supporting him."

John was still reluctant to believe Gibson's moves were as sinister as
Brennan viewed them. There were times when, under Brennan's logic, he
began to doubt Gibson's sincerity.

Then Gibson disappeared. For three days he was absent from his office.
Brennan and John sought him at his home, his club, without success.

"He's up to something," predicted Brennan. "There'll be a story popping
when he shows up again."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was Saturday morning when John received a note from Consuello
inviting him to spend Sunday afternoon and evening at the ranch home of
her father and mother.

"I am keeping my promise," she wrote. "Would you care to visit with me
at the home of my father and mother, Sunday? It is such a delightfully
interesting old place. I'm certain you will enjoy it.

"If you find yourself able to accept this invitation let me know by
telephone and we will arrange for me to pick you up when I drive out
early in the afternoon. I do hope you can come."

It was signed, "Sincerely, Consuello Carrillo."

He found her telephone number listed beside her name. The fact that she
resided in Los Angeles while her parents apparently lived out of the
city puzzled him.

"Town house and old country home," he said to himself as he picked up
the telephone to call her.

"Oh, I'm so glad you can go with me," she said. "I have a car. Shall I
call for you at two? Or shall I meet you somewhere else you may
suggest?"

He thought of the commotion it would cause in the neighborhood of his
home to have her call for him there.

"Could I possibly meet you at Seventh and Broadway?" he asked, fearing
that such a request might be considered extraordinary.

"Seventh and Broadway at two, then," she said.

A liveried chauffeur was at the wheel of the big touring car in which
she met him. It frightened him somewhat to think that such wealth was
hers. Curiously, he was relieved when she said:

"A friend is so kind as to place this car at my disposal every Sunday,
so I may make my week-end visits home in comfort."

Instinctively John felt that it was Gibson's machine.

As the automobile glided through the city traffic and out to the smooth
boulevards of the open country they spoke of Gibson's mysterious absence
during the past few days.

"He told me that business, something very important, called him away,"
she said. "He promised he would be back some time this week. I suppose
whatever has taken him away has to do with his work as a commissioner."

She wore the same quaintly beautiful white frock that John had so
admired when he first saw her at the lawn fete at the Barton Randolph
home. He saw that her eyes and hair were brown, her lips a coral red,
her skin faintly tinted olive. Her features were small and delicately
formed. Her feet were positively tiny and he marveled at the natural
curve of the high instep.

"Tell me," she said, "what do people think of Mr. Gibson as a
commissioner?"

He thought of Brennan's skepticism and the frankly expressed doubt of
other newspaper men of Gibson's motives.

"Generally he has the support of the city," he answered. "There are
some, however, who impute a selfish desire for political power to his
work."

"How ridiculous!" she exclaimed, laughing. "Hasn't he told you he has no
aspiration to become mayor or to be rewarded with anything else but the
satisfaction of knowing that he has done something for the city?"

"He has, and I believe him."

"Why did people doubt? He has told me that it will be a struggle and has
been so kind as to ask me to keep faith in him no matter what arises.
He knows that he will be attacked viciously by the element he is seeking
to drive from the city. I believe in him. I think it is such a splendid
thing he is doing. I knew that you would feel the same."

Brennan's words, "Some of them are out for glory and some of them play a
deeper game, sometimes it's a girl," came back to him. If it was for
her, to win her commendation and respect, that Gibson was fighting,
then, John thought, Gibson was a modern knight-errant riding into battle
against the forces of evil, a twentieth century Sir Galahad. And what a
"lady fair" to battle for!

"But let's forget all that for now," she said. "See, we are leaving the
city behind us. That is how I always feel when I'm on my way home again.
The ranch is home to me, you know. I was born there. I do not know what
would happen to me if I was unable to return home at least once every
week. It takes me away from all the fret and bother of the city."

John wondered what her "fret and bother" in the city could be except,
perhaps, a never-ending round of parties and lawn fetes and social
affairs. Why had she to live in the city at all and why wasn't it her
machine they were riding in and her chauffeur at the wheel?

"You'll love my father," she said. "Everyone does. He is such a dear,
gentle old soul. He was born on the ranch 72 years ago. And mother's
grandfather sailed from New York to Nicaragua, crossing over to the
Pacific Coast by foot and in the canoes of natives. At San Juan del Sur
he was carried out through the surf into boats that took him to the
steamship which brought him to San Francisco. Father's stories of the
old days in Los Angeles are a treat.

"Let me tell you one of them. Do you know how Spring street came to be
named? Lieut. Edward O. C. Ord--for whom Ord street was named--was one
of the first to make a survey of what is now the city of Los Angeles. At
the time Spring street was surveyed he was asked to name it. He was in
love with the beautiful Senorita Trinidad de la Guerra, to whom he
always referred as Mi Primavera, which is 'My Springtime.' So when he
was asked for a name for the new street he replied gallantly,
'Primavera, of course, for Mi Primavera.' That is only one of the
stories he tells of the romance of old Los Angeles."

The automobile, traveling out along the Laguna-Bell road, reached a
cross-roads shaded by tall and spreading trees. Back from the road John
saw an old house that charmed him. It was of whitewashed adobe, two
stories in height. Entirely around the second story was a balcony of
wood, ascended by an open stairway. Wooden shutters were opened at the
windows, the sills of which were two feet in thickness.

"The old Lugo ranch house," Consuello explained, catching his inquiring
look. "Don Mario Lugo was a sturdy caballero in old Los Angeles. He had
a silver mounted saddle, bridle and spurs that cost $1,500 and he wore
an ornamental sword strapped to his saddle in Spanish soldier fashion.

"He owned the San Antonio rancho and when he was 75 years old he owned
29,000 acres of land. His three sons owned another 37,000 acres.
Twenty-two thousand acres--the Rancho del Chino--was granted him by the
government. Father remembers him well.

"How few of us living in Los Angeles now know of the sleepy little old
town it used to be. How little we know or seem to care to know of the
old days, the days of adventure and romance. For me, my father's stories
of old times never grow old."

It was as John thought. She was an "old-fashioned" girl. How refreshing
she was, how different from the girls he saw on Broadway. She was the
girl he had dreamed of. This "girl of his dreams" had been a vague
picture, but he realized now that she was the girl who was beside him.

He recalled how bitterly he had felt toward her when he left the Barton
Randolph lawn fete, how he had cursed himself as a fool for ever having
told her she was beautiful. He wondered if Gibson had told her of seeing
him in the ring at Vernon, if they had ever spoken of him at all. He
could not think of her now as pitying him as he had when he berated
himself after first having met her.

Thoughts of Gibson and Brennan came back into his mind. He believed more
than ever that Gibson was sincere. He could not force himself to believe
that Gibson would intentionally violate the trust and faith Consuello
had placed in him. He knew now that she cared for Gibson, perhaps loved
him. There was no doubt that Gibson was in love with her. Brennan was
right in one thing, that Gibson was working to win Consuello's
admiration, but he was wrong, as he had confessed was possible, in
suspecting Gibson of a greed for power simply for power's sake.

Where was Gibson, anyway? What was he doing? What would be his next
move? Would the mayor remove Chief Sweeney at his demand?

Their machine turned abruptly into a side road, shaded by widespreading
walnut trees.

"We're nearly home," Consuello said.

On either side were orchard trees. The air was quiet, cool. Hedges of
pink Cherokee roses lined the road. The machine stopped beside a stretch
of closely cropped lawn. On the wide veranda of the Carrillo home John
caught his first glimpse of Consuello's father and mother, seated
restfully in porch chairs. He saw both had snow white hair.

"Here we are--there's daddy and mamma," Consuello said, waving to them.

They started across the lawn to the house, Consuello skipping a few
steps ahead of him. He thought her more beautiful than ever before as
she danced before him clearly outlined in her white frock against the
deep green of the grass.



CHAPTER V


In the cool of the evening, after dinner, they sat on the veranda
listening to the reminiscent stories of Consuello's father, the first of
the fine old Spanish aristocrats of Southern California John had ever
met. Don Ygnacio Carrillo wore a dark blue broadcloth suit with black
velvet lapels and cuffs, a spotless, stiffly starched, pleated linen
shirt and a loose black silk bow tie. His fluffy white hair contrasted
beautifully, John thought, with his skin, tinted a pale amber.

The gracious hospitality of his hosts, so typical of the pioneers of the
early southland, had put John completely at his ease. They had eaten
from a solid mahogany table which, he was told, had been brought "around
the Horn" in a sailing vessel.

Consuello curled herself at her father's feet. Her mother, whose
grandfather made the arduous trip across the isthmus which Consuello had
described, was the descendant of a New England family who had adopted
the picturesque customs of the Spanish family into which she had
married. As she sat with them she wore a finely-spun black lace
mantilla, or shawl, around her shoulders.

"I promised Mr. Gallant you would tell us stories of the old days in
Los Angeles, father," said Consuello.

"Ah, no, Mi Primavera. I would not care to bore Mr. Gallant with such
dusty old tales. He is a lad of today," her father stroked her head as
it rested against his knee.

"Mi Primavera," My Springtime, how well her father's pet name suited
her! John wondered why he had not transferred it to her when she told
him the story of the naming of Spring street.

"Do tell us, Mr. Carrillo," he begged. "Consuello has already told me
how Spring street was named. Old stories, old homes, the old names of
old streets charm me."

"Old streets--old names," said Don Ygnacio, as if to himself. "Si, I
will tell you. Pardon an old man if he seems garrulous.

"What is now San Fernando street, my children, was once the Street of
the Maids. Was not that a prettier name? Aliso street is from the
Castilian 'aliso,' meaning alder tree. In 1829 Jean Louis Vignes--after
whom Vignes street was named--set out a vineyard through which Aliso
street now runs. Someone misapplied the word 'aliso' to a sycamore tree
in front of the Vignes home and that was how the street was given its
name.

"Broadway was Fort street. J. M. Griffith built the first two-story
frame house in Los Angeles between Second and Third on which is now
Broadway in 1874. Judge H. K. S. O'Melveney built the second. Then it
was the choice residential district.

"I remember that Senor Griffith spoke to me one day. I think it was in
'74, telling me that Fort street was destined to become the most
important business street of Los Angeles. How strange his words seemed
to me then!

"My friend, George D. Rowan, who brought to Los Angeles the first
phaeton seen in our streets, was responsible for the changing of the
name of Fort street to Broadway. I remember when he subdivided the block
bounded by Sixth, Seventh, Hill and Olive streets and sold 60-foot lots
for $600. Ah, if we had only known in those days what a great city Los
Angeles was to become!

"Late in the fifties O. W. Childs contracted with the city to dig a
water ditch 1,600 feet long, 18 inches wide and 18 inches deep and the
city allowed him a dollar per running foot. In payment for the ditch
digging he took land, a large part of which was the square from Sixth
street to Twelfth street, from Main to Figueroa. When Childs put this
property into the market his wife named the streets.

"Because of the large number of grasshoppers in the vicinity she called
the extension of Pearl street, which is now Figueroa, Calle de los
Chapules, or the Street of the Grasshoppers. Three streets she called
after the trio of Graces. Faith, Hope and Charity. The street she named
Faith is now Flower and Charity street became Grand avenue. And can you
imagine why these names were changed? Why, because residents of the two
streets objected to being referred to as 'living on Faith and Charity!'

"None of us old settlers placed much value on real estate then. Childs
gave to the church the block bounded by Broadway, Seventh, Hill and
Sixth. In the boom year of 1887 this block was sold for $100,000 and St.
Vincent's college, which had occupied the site, was moved to the corner
of Washington and Charity--Grand avenue it is now.

"In those days too, we had a Lovers' Lane. It was a narrow road, deep
with dust and shaded by willow trees that followed the line of what is
now Date street and Main street was then Calle Principal. There are few
who recall where Pound Cake Hill was. It was the hill on which now
stands the county courthouse at Broadway and Temple.

"My father often told me of the great horse race between Jose Andres
Sepulveda's 'Black Swan' and Pio Pico's 'Sarco.' Don Jose imported the
'Black Swan' from Australia while Don Pio's horse was a California
steed. The race was run along a nine-mile course on San Pedro street in
'52.

"Whoever had money to bet and those who had not were in Los Angeles that
day, many coming from San Francisco and San Diego. Twenty-five thousand
dollars, 500 horses, 500 mares, 500 heifers, 500 calves and 500 sheep
were among the stakes put up. The wife of Jose Sepulveda was driven to
the scene of the race with a fortune in gold slugs carried in a large
handkerchief which she opened to distribute $50 gold pieces to her
attendants and servants to wager. The 'Black Swan' won easily."

John was carried away by the stories told them by Don Ygnacio. He closed
his eyes as the old man spoke and into his mind came the pictures of the
Los Angeles of other days, the romance and adventure of the drowsy
little town that has become the greatest city of the West.

A full moon touched the house, the lawn, the trees, with silver.
Consuello, too, he saw, was dreaming of the days of long ago. As her
father completed the story of the horse race he paused and they sat
silent, the spell of reminiscence upon the elder couple and of
imagination upon Consuello and John.

"It is growing late, Mi Primavera," her father said. "If you are to
return to the city tonight you must leave soon."

Consuello rose and went into the house with her mother. Don Ygnacio and
John stood waiting. Finally, breaking a silence of several minutes, the
old man spoke.

"This is the home of my fathers," he said. "All that is left. They
counted their land in hundreds of acres. Now only a few acres remain,
just as much as you can see. What little is left will go when I go and
the Carrillo home will be no more."

John felt the mood of the elderly aristocrat of other days. He stood
silent.

"Where you stand Pio Pico once took me, as a child, in his arms. Here we
danced and sang and loved and lived and here also will I die."

Consuello and her mother returned and they walked out to the waiting
automobile.

"I have never had such a delightful day," John said to her father and
mother as they took their seats in the machine. "I thank you--from the
bottom of my heart."

"Come often, my boy, the home of the Carrillos is always open to a
friend of Mi Primavera," said Don Ygnacio.

They rode in silence for many miles, the automobile humming over the
smooth, deserted boulevards almost as bright as day in the moonlight.

Then Consuello spoke.

"I always hate to leave them there--they seem so lonely," she said.

"You must leave them?" John asked in surprise.

"Yes," she said, slowly, softly, thoughtfully.

She offered no explanation. John wondered why it was. He had always
thought of her as the daughter of a family financially comfortable,
perhaps wealthy. He recalled that there was no automobile or garage at
the Carrillo home and that they were riding in a machine some one had
put at her disposal. Her name, he knew, as a Carrillo was enough to
admit her to such homes as the Barton Randolphs.

The words of her father--"this is all that is left, what you see around
you"--came back to him. Could it possibly be that they were actually
poor?

Because it was late she insisted upon taking him to his home.

"Sometime," he said as they parted, "I want you to meet my mother."

"I should like to very, very much," she answered. "And we must see each
other again, soon."

"You have already made a dream come true," he said. "I shall never
forget your kindness."

"Do not think of it that way," she said. "We shall be friends, very good
friends, I am sure. Good night."

"Good night and--thank you," he said.

That night he lay awake until past midnight, recalling everything that
happened during the day. His thoughts of Consuello gave place to
speculation of what had become of Gibson and what would develop with his
return in the coming week.

Early Monday morning Brennan and John were called to the city editor's
desk and P. Q. ordered them to renew their search for Gibson.

"Drop everything else and don't stop until you find him," he said. "As
you say, Brennan, he's up to something and it's up to us to keep our
eyes wide open. The mayor is sitting tight on Gibson's ultimatum on
Chief Sweeney's resignation and Sweeney's out this morning with a demand
that Gibson co-operate with him and the department in his campaign. Get
to work now and find Gibson."

"I was thinking," said Brennan, "that Gibson's friend, Miss Carrillo,
might know where he was. Gallant here should be able to find out what
she knows."

"Miss Carrillo knows no more than we do," John volunteered.

"What makes you think so?" asked Brennan.

"She told me."

"When?"

"Yesterday."

"What did she say?"

"Gibson told her that important business was taking him away and that he
would be back sometime this week."

"And she has no idea of what he's doing?"

"None whatever."

"Well," said Brennan. "That's that. Come on, Gallant, let's be going."

The first edition of their newspaper carried Sweeney's statement calling
upon Gibson to work with him instead of against him and the department
in his effort to clean up the city.

"If Commissioner Gibson has any evidence that Los Angeles is wide open,
as he says, he should turn it over to the police department and I'll
guarantee that conditions will be remedied before morning," Sweeney's
statement read. "The police department is functioning. I'll stay on the
job until the mayor removes me.

"I deny the commissioner's charge that graft exists in the department
and that the city is wide open. Let him come out and put his cards on
the table, face up. If he has any reason to hesitate to take me into his
confidence, why doesn't he say so. He speaks of the fair name of Los
Angeles being dragged in the mire. I claim he is broadcasting that the
city is wide open without tangible substantiation of his charge."

Brennan puffed at his inevitable cigarette as they headed for Gibson's
office.

"She said she had no idea where he is and what he is doing, did she?"
said Brennan. "How come you thought of asking her about it?"

"She mentioned it to me," evaded John, reluctant to relate the details
of his conversation with Consuello. There appeared no reason, he
thought, to bring her into the situation precipitated by Gibson's
disappearance.

They went over the ground they had covered the week before in searching
for Gibson, but were unable to uncover a single piece of information
concerning the commissioner's whereabouts. At his office his secretary
told them that he had not seen nor heard from him since the day he
disappeared.

"Aren't you a bit concerned about his unusual absence?" asked Brennan.

"No, you see he told me he would be back sometime this week and
cautioned me not to seek to locate him," the secretary answered.

"Wherever he is, he's certainly covered up his tracks well," commented
Brennan as they left.

"What about Sweeney--is he square?" John asked.

"I don't know anything against the chief," Brennan said. "It seems to me
he has the town as clean as it has ever been. I think he's straight. I
think most of the men in the department are straight. Some of them are
grafting--there are always a few crooks in any large body of men--and
the chief has always fired them as fast as he found them.

"That's what makes me inclined to believe that Gibson may be off on the
wrong foot. That and one other thing."

"What?" asked John, expecting to hear another skeptical dissertation by
Brennan on Gibson's motives.

"Because the mayor and Sweeney are hated by 'Gink' Cummings," said
Brennan. "If Los Angeles ever had a boss of the underworld, the 'Gink'
is the man. He bosses everything, gambling, stick-ups, bookmakers,
pickpockets, bunko men, street walking women and dope peddling.

"He's been out to get Sweeney and the mayor ever since they took office.
Whoever the 'Gink's' against you can bet all you have is straight. Until
the mayor and Sweeney stepped in the 'Gink' had everything his own way.
If the department is as rotten as Gibson says it is then you can blame
it on the 'Gink.' Gibson must know him. I've been wondering why he
hasn't come out with a blast about him."

"Perhaps that's why he disappeared--working to get Cummings," John
suggested.

"Maybe," said Brennan. "I've thought of that, too. What I can't
understand, though, is why Gibson wants Sweeney fired when the chief is
the 'Gink's' worst enemy."

That afternoon they heard from Gibson. The secretary of the missing
commissioner called them by telephone and they hurried to his office. He
handed them a sealed envelope addressed, "Brennan and Gallant." Brennan
tore it open and extracted two sheets of paper.

At the bottom of one of the sheets appeared Gibson's signature. It was a
statement issued by the commissioner for publication and read:

"I feel that the mayor has had a reasonable amount of time in which to
consider my request for the removal of Chief Sweeney. Unless such action
is taken by noon tomorrow I will know that the mayor is against me
instead of with me in my efforts to clean up Los Angeles. In that event
I will endeavor to put before the people of this city satisfactory
evidence of my charge that the police department is disorganized,
inefficient and honeycombed with graft."

The other sheet was a brief note to Brennan and John which was marked
"Strictly Confidential."

"Don't try to find me," it read. "There is no reason for you to worry
about my continued absence. Tomorrow night, if the mayor does not ask
for Sweeney's resignation, be at your office at 6 o'clock and you will
hear from me. I'll probably have a real story for you."

"What did I tell you?" said Brennan, showing as much excitement as John
had ever seen him give way to.

Gibson's ultimatum demanding Sweeney's resignation by noon of the next
day was printed under another heavy black headline and brought the
situation to a crisis. The chief repeated his declaration that he would
stay in office until the mayor called for his resignation and the mayor
locked himself in his office at the city hall. Only those the mayor sent
for, to confer with concerning the predicament in which Gibson's latest
statement had placed him, were admitted to his office.

The organizations that Gibson had named as standing behind him in his
crusade came out with hastily adopted resolutions indorsing him and
stating openly that they would consider it as a "hostile" move if the
mayor refused to oust the police chief. Principal among these
commendations of Gibson was that of the ministerial association, an
organization recognized throughout Los Angeles as determined to keep the
city clean and free from political graft and bribery.

Tuesday morning the mayor took his stand. He announced that he could not
accede to Gibson's demand for Chief Sweeney's removal.

"Commissioner Gibson has failed to furnish me with any evidence to
support his charges against Chief Sweeney and the police department,"
the mayor's statement read. "In the absence of such information, I
cannot see why I should ask for Chief Sweeney's resignation. It would be
manifestly unfair to remove a man like Sweeney without proof of a
sufficient reason for such action."

"It's a war now--war to the finish," said Brennan, who waited at the
city hall until after 1 o'clock in the afternoon, half expecting the
mayor to accede to Gibson's demand at the last minute or to see Gibson
appear with evidence against Sweeney to force his removal. But the mayor
"stood pat" and Gibson remained away.

The office was deserted as they waited that night for the call Gibson
promised he would make at 6 o'clock. They showed Gibson's note to P. Q.
when they reached the office with it and he had given them rather
unnecessary instructions to be on the job.

"Don't get lost or wander away," he said. "I've ordered Benton to be
here with you and I'll be at home if you want me in a hurry."

Benton was the staff photographer.

Brennan covered the top of his desk with cigarette stubs, stood on end
in his characteristic way, as the hands of the clock neared 6.

"I hope Gibson is letting us have this alone--didn't tip the other
papers," he said.

Sharply at the appointed time the telephone bell tinkled and Brennan
lifted the receiver.

"Yes," he said. "This is Brennan. Yes, he's here.--Where?--All right,
we'll be right down."

"He's at his office," Brennan explained and they started away, the
photographer trailing them.

The door of Gibson's office was locked when they reached it. Brennan
rapped.

"Who is it?" they heard Gibson's voice ask from the other side.

"Brennan and Gallant."

The key turned in the lock and the door opened. They scarcely recognized
Gibson as he stood before them. He wore a peaked cap pulled down over
his eyes, a flannel shirt and a well worn suit, spotted with grease and
oil. A stubble of black beard covered his face and his hands were black
and grimy.

"Come in, boys," he said, laughing. "Something's going to happen before
morning."



CHAPTER VI


Gibson carefully locked the door behind them as they entered and led
them to an inner office, the door of which he also locked. The blinds of
the window were down in this room and an electric globe over Gibson's
desk furnished the only light.

As the commissioner pulled the cap from his head and seated himself at
his desk, motioning them to other chairs, John was astonished by the
change in his appearance. His hair, usually so perfectly combed, was
tousled and unkempt and his eyes were a trifle bloodshot. He noticed
that Brennan was also studying Gibson questioningly.

"I gave you something of a surprise, didn't I?" said Gibson with a
laugh, as he saw the reporters examining him.

"You certainly did," said Brennan. "I've been trying to figure out
what's coming."

"No need," said Gibson. "I'll tell you everything. But before I begin I
must ask you to pledge yourselves to secrecy. Not a word of what I am
about to tell you must be breathed to a soul until I give permission.
I'm going to put my trust in you boys and you must also agree to go
through with your parts in what I am going to place before you. Is it a
go?"

John waited for Brennan to answer.

"You can rely on us," Brennan said, and John nodded his assent when
Gibson looked to him for confirmation.

Gibson drew a watch from his vest pocket and glanced at it. John noticed
that it was a cheap nickel-plated timepiece instead of the thin gold one
he had seen the commissioner wear previously.

"I'll have to talk fast," Gibson said. "I haven't any time to spare.
Every minute counts now and as I tell you my story you'll understand.
Pay close attention because you must grasp the situation thoroughly."

The last admonition was superfluous. Brennan and John were on the edge
of their chairs.

"I'll begin at the beginning," he continued. "About a week ago one of
the detectives I have employed to help me in my crusade came to me with
information concerning a plot to wreck and rob the Southern Pacific
passenger train 'Lark' near Los Angeles. He told me that the man
planning the robbery was known as 'Red Mike,' an ex-convict with a
grudge against the Southern Pacific. He had run across 'Mike' in a Los
Angeles street rooming house.

"This detective gained 'Red Mike's' confidence and he wanted him to
join with him in the wrecking of the 'Lark.' My detective learned from
'Red Mike' that he planned to throw the 'Lark' into a ditch by placing a
derailer on the track at a point in the hills a short distance from the
city and to rob the mail car in the confusion of the wreck.

"'Red Mike' said he could not carry the thing through himself, that he
needed a partner, someone to help him carry away the loot and drive an
automobile in which they were to escape over the border into Mexico. My
detective told me that 'Red Mike' was desperate and knew his business.

"When I heard this story I decided to thwart 'Red Mike' myself. I told
my detective I would act the part of 'Red Mike's' partner and frustrate
his fiendish plot at the last minute so that I could have evidence
enough to send him to the penitentiary for life. I outfitted myself in
the clothes in which you see me and bought a car so that my disguise as
a rent-car driver would be complete."

Brennan lighted a fresh cigarette, carefully standing its predecessor on
end on Gibson's highly polished table.

"When I disappeared from my office I went with my detective to 'Red
Mike.' We had to work carefully so as to get 'Red Mike's' complete
confidence. I have been living with 'Mike' ever since and tonight he
means to go through with it. He has everything ready. Last night he took
me to where he plans to wreck the 'Lark' and we rehearsed what we are to
do. We are to put the derailer on the track, send the train into the
ditch and, during the confusion, rob the mail car and make our getaway
in the machine.

"And this is how I have arranged to save the 'Lark' and get 'Red Mike'
red-handed. The Southern Pacific superintendent knows all this and will
bring the 'Lark' to a stop as close to the derailer on the track as he
can. My detectives will be hidden all around. As the train pulls to a
stop they'll close in and everything will be over."

John gasped at the sheer audacity of the story as it fell from Gibson's
lips. He saw Brennan, his eyes glittering, nervously taking deep inhales
of tobacco smoke.

"Now, this is what you are to do," Gibson continued. "You will go with
my detectives and see the whole show with your own eyes. You will be the
only reporters with them. I am to meet 'Red Mike' at 7 and go with him.
You can understand how essential it is that everything goes just as I
planned it. If there's a slip-up anywhere it means my life. 'Red Mike'
has told me that he'll kill me if he finds that he has been
double-crossed.

"That's all I need to tell you, I think, except that you will meet my
detectives outside this building at half past seven. I'm doing this to
save the lives of the passengers on the 'Lark' and to show the people of
Los Angeles that the detectives of the police department, as I have
charged, aren't on their jobs. It should convince them that there is
something at least in what I have been saying."

He glanced at his watch again.

"It's half past six now," he said. "I must get out of here. 'Red Mike'
is waiting for me and I can't let him become suspicious."

He rose from his chair.

"By the way, have you boys guns?" he asked. Brennan and John answered
negatively by shaking their heads. He reached into a drawer of his desk
and drew out two automatic pistols.

"My detectives will carry rifles and sawed-off shotguns," he said,
handing the pistols to the reporters. "You boys might as well have
these."

He hesitated, a half-smile on his lips.

"You may need them," he added.

John saw Brennan look at Gibson with what he thought was unbounded
admiration. The commissioner held out his hand.

"Well, Brennan," he said. "What do you think of it?"

"It's a peach," Brennan said, taking Gibson's hand. "And here's luck,
Mr. Commissioner. I'll hand it to you, you've got nerve."

Gibson smiled again as he turned to John.

"And you, Gallant?" he asked.

"I hope----" he began.

"I know you do," Gibson said. "Do you know why I let you and Brennan in
on this?"

Oddly, a thought of Consuello came into John's mind.

"Well," Gibson explained, "I saw you that night you mixed it with
Battling Rodriguez out at Vernon. I knew I could trust any man who took
what you got and kept going until you dropped."

"Thanks," John managed to say.

Gibson opened the door to his outer office and caught sight of Benton,
the photographer, waiting there.

"What about your photographer?" he asked.

"We'll take care of him," Brennan gave the assurance.

"All right, see you later," said the police commissioner, going out and
closing the door behind him. They heard him hurrying away. John looked
at his watch. It was twenty minutes to seven. Brennan stood still,
watching the door through which Gibson had gone for several minutes and
then turned quickly.

"Well?" he said.

"What do you say?" said John.

"Let's go," Brennan said snapping out his words. "We're in on something
big."

The photographer followed them to the elevator and down to the street
where they waited for Gibson's detectives.

"What's doing?" Benton asked.

"Can you work that camera of yours with a load of buckshot whistling by
your head?" asked Brennan.

"Hot stuff, huh?" Benton asked, eagerly. John saw that the
photographer's face actually brightened at the prospect of something out
of the usual. Brennan told him, in short graphic sentences, what was
before them.

"Gosh darn!" Benton ejaculated. "Hot dog and sweet puppies!"

As an outlet for his excitement he danced a queer little jig on the
sidewalk, muttering a rhythmic verse as he shuffled his feet. At the
termination of each heavily accented line he slapped his right foot down
loudly. As he jigged his voice grew louder until John could discern the
familiar lines from Kipling:


     "It was 'Din! Din! Din!'
     'Ere's a beggar with a bullet through 'is spleen;
     'E's chawin' up the ground,
     An' he's kickin' all around;
     For Gawd's sake, git the water, Gunga Din!"


In a few minutes three automobiles, following each other closely,
wheeled into the curb. A man in the front seat of the first car motioned
to them.

"Brennan and Gallant?" he asked, brusquely. "Who's that with you?"

"Our photographer," Brennan explained.

"All right, get in."

They clambered into the tonneau and the machine shot away from the curb,
followed by the other two.

"Well, we're on our way," said Brennan, settling back in the cushions.

Absent-mindedly Benton resumed his half chant song.


     "You may talk o' gin and beer,
     When you're quartered safe out 'ere,
     An' you're sent to penny-fights an'
       Alder--SHOT-IT----"


The crowds on the streets as the three automobiles wove their way
through the traffic were that curious mixture of workers leaving late
for their homes and pleasure seekers coming downtown for the first
performances at the motion picture theaters, which is such an
interesting spectacle on Broadway, Spring, Hill and Main streets at
twilight. In the fading light of the day the electric signs sparkled
with less brilliancy than they show when it actually is night.

Like some huge disjointed monster with thousands of glaring eyes the
long line of automobiles moved slowly along the streets, only a yard
separating them. Street cars formed in an almost solid line along the
tracks. Lights in the upper story rooms of the business blocks snapped
out, one by one, like the blinking of fireflies.

John looked into the faces of the throng hurrying along the sidewalks
and thought how strange it was that none of them even remotely realized
that an attempt to wreck the "Lark" was to be foiled within a couple of
hours. The automobiles passed unnoticed in the everlasting flow of
traffic. Tomorrow morning, he thought, these people would read of what
had occurred and hail Gibson as a hero. The police commissioner, already
the most discussed man in the city, would then be accepted unqualifiedly
as a crusader not only sincere but courageous.

It was a great move! There could be no doubt of Gibson's courage and
rightful purpose now. He was facing death to save others and to defeat
an attempted horror. How like a "thriller" it was to be rushing toward
such a gripping scene!

What if "Red Mike" discovered at the last minute that he had been
trapped? Then it would be only a question of the first shot between him
and Gibson. Suddenly John thought of Consuello. How proud she would be
made by Gibson's dramatic coup! John envied Gibson in that moment which
he now pictured, when Gibson would meet Consuello after it was all over.

The automatic that Gibson had given him dug into his side as he slouched
back in the seat. He drew it and put it into his coat pocket. The touch
of the cold steel brought home to him that he, too, was to be a
participant in the frustration of the train wrecking.

Out of the downtown traffic the three machines increased their speed.
John glanced at his watch. It was a quarter past seven. At eight o'clock
the "Lark" would pull out of the Arcade station loaded with men, women
and children, little suspecting the danger from which they were to be
saved. What if something should go wrong? Suppose "Red Mike" was already
at the scene, making it impossible for Gibson's detectives to surround
him without being seen?

Night was settling down rapidly. He noticed there was only a quarter
moon and realized that the darkness had been a part of "Red Mike's"
nefarious plotting. He turned to Brennan, whose tensely set face was
lighted for a fraction of a second by the accelerated burning of his
cigarette as he took a deep inhale.

"I don't like to be a 'Gloomy Gus,'" Brennan said, "but what was it
General Wolfe said before the battle on the 'Plains of Abraham' at
Quebec--'The paths of glory lead but to the grave'--wasn't it?"

John almost resented the inference of "glory seeking" by Gibson, and
Brennan's cool way of suggesting that the commissioner might meet his
death. Brennan seemed to sense his unspoken exception to what he had
said.

"Oh, don't misunderstand me," he said. "It only popped into my head, I
don't know why. And Wolfe, you know, was a braggart who made good. He
died on the 'Plains of Abraham' after distributing Montcalm's army of
Frenchmen all over the landscape."

John blamed Brennan's cynicism for preventing him from viewing Gibson as
he did.

At a word from the man beside him the driver of their car slowed down
the machine and brought it to a stop. They could hear the creaking of
brakes on the other machines following them as they stopped close
behind.

"Here we are," said the man, leaving the front seat of the car. "Duck
that cigarette, Brennan. Remember, no smoking or talking. You boys
follow me and do what I tell you. One misstep and you're liable to get
the commissioner killed. And you"--he turned to Benton--"don't you try
shooting any pictures until Mr. Gibson gives the word, understand?"

John counted fourteen men from the two other machines. They walked
silently along a dusty, narrow path breaking off from the road until
they reached a point where the steep slope of a hill confronted them.

"Now, boys, everyone understands what is to be done?" asked the man from
the automobile that had carried the reporters and who John realized was
in command.

The men nodded.

"Then scatter out the way we've planned it and remember, we close in on
them when Gibson gives the signal, not before."

A queer, nervous feeling gripped the pit of John's stomach as he
followed with Benton and Brennan behind the man who led them up the hill
as the others branched out in pairs through the brush, spreading out in
a semi-circle.

"They each have their stations," the man told Brennan. "They know what
to do."

Reaching the crest of the hill they swung down the embankment to their
right and stopped behind a clump of bushes. Below them, a hundred feet
down, John made out the railroad track. To the left they looked down
into a deep gully. On the other side of the track was a deep ravine,
dropping abruptly from the roadbed.

"They'll wait down there," the detective explained, pointing to the
gully. "He'll put the derailer on the track so as to throw the cars over
to the other side in that ditch."

He squatted down behind the clump of bushes and the others followed his
example. John looked at his watch. It was ten minutes to eight.

"It's due here at 8:18," said the detective.

"I'd give ten years of my bright young life for a cigarette," said
Brennan, sighing heavily.

The detective produced a thick moist plug of chewing tobacco, gnawed at
the corners.

"Here you are," he said, offering it to the sufferer.

"Don't, don't," said Brennan, waving it aside. "I'd swallow it sure."

John felt his heart thumping against his ribs. Try as he might he could
not stop himself from breathing in quick, short little gasps. This
detective and his men were so certain about things. How did they know
but something might have gone wrong? Perhaps Gibson and "Red Mike" were
"shooting it out" along the road somewhere now. He looked again at his
watch. It was three minutes to eight. Only seven minutes had passed
since they arrived. Incredulous he held the watch to his ear. It was
ticking regularly.

Benton pulled himself on his elbows to John's side.


     "You may talk o' gin and beer,
     When you're quartered safe out 'ere--"


he began.

"That's enough of that," ordered Brennan, and Benton's chant stopped.

The detective raised himself to his knees and held his head high,
listening. The roar of a motor being raced as it was switched off came
to their ears.

"That's them," said the detective. "That was Gibson's signal. He was
driving and he raced his engine to let us know when they got here."

They waited for years, it seemed to John, until two dark figures,
scarcely discernible came down the tracks toward them and turned into
the gully. He saw that Gibson and "Red Mike" were carrying something
heavy between them and that "Red Mike" also carried a short-handled
sledge hammer.

He strained his eyes trying to follow the figures into the darker
shadows of the gully from which they emerged shortly.

"That's the derailer they're carrying--they're going to slap it on the
rail," breathed the detective.

They could hear "Red Mike" grunting as he and Gibson struggled up the
side of the roadbed. They saw "Red Mike" adjust the derailer to the
rail and Gibson kneel to hold a spike as it was hammered into the tie by
"Red Mike" wielding the sledge hammer. The blows of the hammer sounded
sharply on the still night air. They heard "Red Mike" curse viciously as
he missed hitting the spike and Gibson jerked his hand away a fraction
of a second before the sledge would have smashed it against the rail.

Four spikes were driven to hold the derailer. Then Gibson and "Red Mike"
scrambled back into the gully, their figures hidden in the darkness.

"All set down there," whispered the detective, thus conveying to the
others the realization that the derailer was in place to swerve the
guiding wheels of the big locomotive of the "Lark" and send it crashing
into the ditch, pulling and overturning the coaches with it.

The horror of what might happen terrorized John for a moment. His body
tingled and perspiration broke out on his forehead. He closed his eyes.
He imagined he would hear the roar of the train as it crashed into the
derailer and rolled over the embankment--the screams and cries of the
dying and injured. A sickening feeling swept him. He was faint. He could
hear Brennan breathing deeply, the breath whistling out through his
teeth from his lungs.

"Gosh darn!" Benton gasped, as though he could hold himself no longer.

John reached for his watch. He was tugging to pull it from his pocket
when the blast of an engine whistle sounded, it seemed, almost beside
them.

It was the "Lark" whistling for a crossing a mile away as it pounded on
toward the derailer, where death and destruction yawned.



CHAPTER VII


"Thrillers," as he called them, had always disgusted John. A book
wherein the hero overcame the villain by desperate means and won the
girl by a single stroke of manly dauntlessness was to him like so much
trash. Melodramatic plays he despised. Griffith's pictures were the only
ones in which he could tolerate a "staged" thrill.

It never came into his mind as he heard the whistle of the "Lark" flying
a mile a minute over the rails to what might be a horrible disaster that
here was a real "thriller" exceeding the imagination of any cheap
novelist, aspiring playwright or industrious scenario writer. Later when
he rehearsed in his mind what happened that night, he realized that in
fact truth was often stranger than fiction. Every newspaper man
eventually comes to the same realization.

In striking contrast to his feeling that minutes were hours a few
moments before, it seemed only five or six seconds before the headlight
of the oncoming train pierced through the darkness of the night. He felt
that it was coming toward them faster than any train had ever traveled.
A fear that there had been a mistake and that the engineer could not
possibly bring the heavy train to a stop before the locomotive wheels
struck the derailer seized him.

The detective was on his feet, rifle ready to be thrown to his shoulder.
Brennan leaped up and John saw that he held the automatic in his hand.

Then the sound for which they had so anxiously waited came up to them
from the track below. They could hear the brakes grinding and shrieking
against the wheels of the locomotive and the coaches.

The detective dashed through the brush, stumbling and falling almost
headlong as he pitched himself down into the gully. Brennan, John and
Benton were at his heels. John's right hand gripped the automatic Gibson
had loaned him.

There was a shot, a curse, another shot. Then it seemed to John a
thousand shots were fired. He saw the detective throw the rifle to his
shoulder and there was a spurt of flame after a quick aim. In a
descending circle he saw the flash of guns fired by the other detectives
coming down from the hilltop. He saw Brennan--and it surprised
him--shooting down into the gully "throwing" his shots in the cowboy
fashion he had read of.

He tripped and fell, the automatic flew from his hand. When he got to
his feet, slightly stunned by his fall, the shooting had stopped. He
ran into the pit of the gully at reckless speed.

He saw Gibson on his back on the ground, two men kneeling at his side,
tearing his shirt from his shoulder. He saw a crimson stain spreading on
Gibson's shirt. A few yards away he saw "Red Mike" spilled in a heap,
hemmed in by a ring of Gibson's detectives each with a sawed-off shotgun
pointed down at him.

"Where's that damned photographer?" Brennan demanded.

"Coming," they heard a voice shout and Benton was beside them, screwing
his camera into his tripod as he hurried forward.

"Gibson?" asked John, panting.

"He's all right--bullet scratch on the shoulder--that's all--he got 'Red
Mike,' I guess," Brennan answered in jerks.

John looked toward the train. The cowcatcher of the locomotive, which
stood panting like some frightened, trembling animal, was less than five
feet from the derailer! He saw the engineer of the train lift his cap
from his head and scratch his forehead with a finger as he contemplated
how close his engine had been to destruction.

Turning he found Gibson on his feet, pale and haggard, his hair tousled,
his arm bandaged to his side, posing in the center of a group of
detectives for Benton and his camera. The flashlight boomed and a
ghastly white light lit up the scene for the briefest fraction of a
second.

He followed Gibson and the detectives to where "Red Mike" lay sprawling
on the ground. Electric torches held by other detectives put the
desperado's prone figure in an arc of light.

Gibson looked down at "Red Mike" in silence.

The wounded man--John could tell that "Red Mike" was fatally
wounded--turned over on his back, groaning. His face, covered with a
stubble of red beard, was drawn in pain and his eyes seemed dulled.
Groaning again he lifted his head and his eyes fixed on Gibson.

"You ---- ---- ---- ----!" he snarled. "You crossed me, you ---- ----
---- ----!"

Then he dropped back into unconsciousness.

Six of the detectives lifted his limp body and, staggering under the
load, started toward the road and the automobile Gibson had driven. They
paused only long enough for Benton to snap another flashlight.

By that time the passengers--who, when the train pulled to a sudden stop
that was followed by a fusillade of shots, believed it had been halted
by bandits--had recovered from their confusion and were pouring out of
the coaches, swarming toward the locomotive. A stout woman, whose short
hair straggling to her bare shoulders indicated that she had been
preparing to retire, screamed and fainted into the arms of a little man
who struggled desperately to save her from falling to the ground. Benton
set up his camera on the track and his flashlight boomed again as he
made a photograph of Gibson standing beside the derailer, the locomotive
in the background.

With much pointing of fingers and nodding of heads it was whispered
through the crowd that Gibson was the man who had prevented the wreck
and shot "Red Mike," who had been rushed away to a hospital in the
machine in which he and Gibson had driven to the scene. Men and women in
various stages of dishabille, unconscious of their appearance, pressed
around him, shaking his hand. A girl threw her arms around his neck and
kissed him. To John it was strikingly similar to the scene of an averted
train wreck he had once inadvertently seen in a motion picture--if the
girl had been Consuello, dressed, say, in a neat and dashing riding
habit or some other altogether inappropriate costume.

A fat, white-haired man--typical bank president, John thought--wrote out
a check, using the cowcatcher for a desk, and handed it to Gibson with a
bow.

John, standing near them, saw the check was for $5,000.

"I cannot accept this for myself, sir," Gibson said. "I am a police
commissioner of the city of Los Angeles and if you will permit me to
make such disposition of it I will turn it over to some well deserving
charity."

"It's yours--do what you want with it," the fat man said. As he walked
away John thought that he was fully pleased with himself for having
given Gibson the check, that he had paid the man who had saved his life
in dollars and cents and what more could he do?

"Somebody give me a cigarette," he heard a voice plead and, turning, he
found himself face to face with Brennan.

"Quick, someone, that man has a weapon!" a woman shrieked.

John saw Brennan's automatic protruding from his coat pocket. Brennan,
who was talking to Gibson, did not notice him take the pistol from him.

"How did it happen, Mr. Commissioner?" Brennan asked.

"Come along, I'll tell you as we ride back to the city," promised
Gibson, who shook the hands thrust out in the path that was opened for
him as he walked through the crowd toward the road and the waiting
automobiles.

Returning to the city, Gibson told his story. "Red Mike," he said, did
not become suspicious until a second or so before the engineer applied
the brakes to the train and then his suspicion seemed born of instinct.
At the first sound of the screeching brakes, he said "Red Mike" shot at
him and he fired back.

"I was lucky--my first shot got him," Gibson said. "He went down, but he
continued firing. He was shooting wild and I wasn't half as afraid of
his shots as those my men were raining down from the sides of the hill.

"I hope," he said, with a touch of regret, "that 'Red Mike' doesn't die.
He's a bad one, as bad as they come, and should be put some place where
he can't do harm. I hope, though, that he recovers."

"He hasn't much to live for," Brennan put in.

"No," said Gibson. "He told me that he had been blacklisted by the
railroads because he was an I. W. W. Revenge was as much a part of his
motive in attempting to wreck the 'Lark' as robbery. I really believe he
might have got away with it if----"

"If you hadn't been there," John completed the sentence for Gibson.

"Thanks, Gallant," Gibson acknowledged. "Of course, boys, I'll have to
talk to the morning newspapermen when they find me, but you saw the
whole thing for yourselves and you've got the only pictures made out
there where it happened."

"The A. M.'s will get the break on the story, but we'll have the edge on
them at that," said Brennan. "It was too late, you know, for us to come
out with an extra unless you had permitted us to tell our city editor
what was coming off."

They left the automobile when it reached their office.

"I'm on my way home now to get this doctored up," said Gibson, inclining
his head to his bandaged shoulder. "I want a bath and a sound sleep. I
haven't had either since I met 'Red Mike.' Good night, boys, see you,
tomorrow."

As they went into the office to telephone P. Q. what they had seen and
what the [text not readable - some words missing] the first edition in
the morning, John, feeling certain of a different answer than those he
had received in the past, asked Brennan what he thought of Gibson now.

"He's got nerve, all right," Brennan said. "But----"

"But what?" asked John, wondering what possible criticism Brennan could
have in view of Gibson's display of courage.

"But," said Brennan, "he's a grandstander."

"A grandstander?" exclaimed John.

"You said it, after me," said Brennan. "A grandstander, a man who plays
to the crowd instead of playing the game for what it's worth."

A surge of exasperation went through John. Was this man incapable of
ever believing anything or in anyone?

"Good heavens, Brennan!" he said, hotly. "He risked his life, didn't
he?"

"I said he had nerve."

"He did it to save others, didn't he?"

"Others?" said Brennan sarcastically. "Others? Bosh! He did it to be a
hero, for public acclamation, for glory, for power. Others? Why, don't
you see that he risked the lives of all those others you say he saved
just to make himself a hero?"

Brennan's answer, the sarcastic way he gave it, maddened John.

"Ah, you make me tired," he said in his aggravation. "What do you want
to look at it that way for? You tell me to keep my faith in men, to
believe as much as I can, and then you talk this way."

Apparently ignoring what John said, Brennan telephoned to P. Q.

"Hello, P. Q.," he said. "This is Brennan. Gibson has pulled off a great
stunt, great story. The mornings' will have the break on it, but we have
the only pictures and lots of eye-witness stuff."

He proceeded to give what even John admitted to himself was an accurate
account of the attempt to wreck the "Lark" and how Gibson had saved the
train and "shot it out" with "Red Mike."

Hanging up the receiver he looked around to find John standing waiting
for him. Lighting a fresh cigarette from the butt of the one he had
finished he motioned to John to sit down.

"Now, Gallant, you listen to me for a while," he said. "You can believe
what I'm going to say or not, but I'm going to tell you a few things.
And don't get the idea I'm just talking for the sake of hearing myself
blatt.

"Hasn't it ever occurred to you that Gibson didn't have to go through
with this business tonight at all? When he discovered that 'Red Mike'
was going to try to wreck the 'Lark' he could have had him arrested
right then and sent him up for a good long stretch.

"He didn't have to let things go as far as he did. He could have stopped
it right there. Why, he actually endangered the lives of everyone on
that train simply to make a big show of it. There wouldn't have been so
much glory in it for him to have arrested 'Red Mike' when he found out
what he was planning to do.

"Sure, he had nerve. He did what few of us would want to do, even if we
were forced to. 'Red Mike' got no more than he deserved, but I can't
help thinking of him as something of a victim of Gibson's lust for glory
and power just the same. A really great man doesn't have to make a
display of his courage like Gibson did. A really great man would have
been satisfied by the realization that he had prevented a disaster
without endangering the lives of others.

"That's why I say Gibson is a grandstander, Gallant. Understand, when I
say he's a grandstander I don't mean that he isn't sincere in his
crusade to clean up the city. He's simply a grandstander in the way he
does things and that makes it impossible for him to ever be a truly big
man.

"Grandstanders often make good, but not in the way some of us would
like. Oftener they fall down, tripped up by their insatiable desire for
public acclaim. Full reward should be given to those who do big things,
but they shouldn't do them for the reward. They should work for the
satisfaction their accomplishments bring to themselves, within
themselves."

"I saw you shooting at 'Red Mike' yourself," said John.

"Certainly," said Brennan. "Don't think I class Gibson with criminals
like 'Red Mike.' It was either his life or 'Red Mike's' and what choice
was there? I confess, though, it was the excitement more than anything
else that made me shoot."

They were silent for a few minutes.

"Think it over, Gallant," said Brennan, rising and putting a hand on
John's shoulder. "I may sound like a cynic, but I'm not. There's one
thing that disgusts me more than anything else and that's selfish
hypocrisy. I look for the real things in life and I've been disappointed
so often that I frequently misjudge.

"Remember we're newspaper reporters. Whatever we think, whatever we
feel, about things must be kept to ourselves. It isn't our opinion that
people want to read. It isn't how things look to us, but facts, truth,
accuracy, that we must write. Opinions we must leave to the readers to
form for themselves and it is unfair to give them untrue impressions for
them to form their opinions from."

John carried Brennan's words home with him. Until he dropped off to
sleep he thought them over. Perhaps Gibson was a grandstander, a glory
seeker, after all--but was he to be blamed if what he sought above all
else was the admiration of one like Consuello?

Gibson's heroism in preventing the wreck of the "Lark" covered the front
pages and scattered throughout the inside pages of the morning papers.
The whole city talked of him. There were more resolutions of
commendation and he was termed the "fighting crusader," the "man of the
hour."

Spread across the front page was a statement issued by Gibson and
carried under the headline of "Gibson Hits at Police." In this statement
Gibson again condemned Sweeney as inefficient.

"If my detectives, working where Sweeney's men ought to be, had not
discovered 'Red Mike's' plot the 'Lark' would have been wrecked last
night, scores killed, the mail car robbed and 'Red Mike' would have been
over the border today," a part of the statement read.

It was a telling blow to the mayor and Police Chief Sweeney. Gibson was
sweeping everything before him. For the mayor or the chief to have
detracted from Gibson's act by hinting that he should have informed the
police and caused "Red Mike's" arrest without going through with the
plot to the point of assisting in placing the derailer on the track
would have been instantly resented as an embittered and ungrateful
move--a cry of "sour grapes."

During the day John received his first praise from P. Q., who called him
to his desk.

"Brennan tells me that if it had not been for you we wouldn't have been
in on Gibson's little party last night," the city editor said. "I told
you Gibson would be a man worth knowing. You're coming along
splendidly, Gallant. Just keep it up and practice writing. Read
Brennan's stuff and study how he does it. I'll give you all the chance
you want and there'll be a little more in your pay envelope this week."

John thanked him and hunted up Brennan.

"It was mighty kind of you to tell P. Q. that I've helped you," he said.

"Forget it," said Brennan.

"Your story had all the others beaten to death," he said, referring to
what Brennan had written of the attempted train wreck.

"Forget that, too," said Brennan.

Later in the afternoon he heard from Consuello. He was considerably
surprised when he recognized her voice.

"I do so want to thank you for what appeared in your paper about Mr.
Gibson," she said. "He tells me that it was the best account of what
occurred that appeared in any of the papers."

"I'm sorry," John confessed, "but it happens that I did not write a word
of it."

"Really? I thought--he said you were there----"

"I was, but you must remember I'm only a cub. I couldn't be trusted with
a big story like that. It was written by our star man."

"Wasn't it wonderful?"

"You mean what Mr. Gibson did?"

"Yes," before he realized he added, "and I have an idea that to hear
you say so means more to him than all that has been written."

"He has--been kind enough--to say--something like that."

Then she laughed.

"I suppose," she said, "he wouldn't care very much to have me tell you
such things. You wouldn't believe me if I told you that what he said
didn't please me, would you?"

"Well----"

"I won't insist that you answer that."

"You spoke of wishing to meet mother?" he ventured. "You were so kind
Sunday--could you--would you--visit us at home? It's not much but--it's
home, you know."

"I've been waiting for you to say that," she replied. "Make it whenever
you wish. I do want to meet your mother."

"Sunday--for dinner?"

"Yes."

"At three."

"At three," she repeated.

Mrs. Gallant rejoiced with him that evening over the increase in salary
P. Q. had promised him. She had learned of Consuello from the talks they
had each evening, when John recounted to her the events of the day.

"I'll do my best to make things nice for her," Mrs. Gallant said when
John spoke to her of having invited Consuello for dinner Sunday. "It is
so good of her to wish to meet me."

"Mother," he said, taking her in his arms, "no one can be a friend of
mine who is not a friend of yours."

"Not even Consuello?" she asked him, banteringly.



CHAPTER VIII


Acclamation of Gibson's frustration of the plot of "Red Mike" to wreck
the "Lark" grew in volume the following day. The train wrecker hovered
between life and death at the receiving hospital and, during his
conscious periods, cursed the police commissioner incessantly. There was
talk of Gibson as a recall candidate for mayor, but he met it with
repeated declarations that he had no political ambitions.

During the morning, at P. Q.'s order, Brennan and John with reporters
from the other papers, besieged the city hall seeking an interview with,
or statement from, the mayor on Gibson's demand for Chief Sweeney's
removal and the situation in general.

"Nothing to say at all, boys, nothing at all," the mayor said. "If I
have anything for you I'll call you."

Regardless of this promise the reporters camped in the ante-room to the
mayor's office, listing those who entered for conference with the city's
chief executive officer and speculating on the outcome of the political
war. It was John's first sight of the mayor and he considered him a
rather mild little man, pleasant faced and of an attractive although
somewhat easy-going personality. The men with whom he conferred were
his political advisers, most of them business men whose names were
familiar to John as interested in civic enterprise.

While the other reporters were busily engaged in conversation John saw
the mayor's secretary signal with a nod of his head for Brennan to step
into another room. With a remark that he was going to the telephone
Brennan slipped into the room and John saw the secretary whisper in his
ear.

At one o'clock, an interval between editions, the other reporters went
out for lunch. Brennan and John followed them into the corridor and John
saw Brennan wink to him.

"See you later, boys," Brennan said, "got some stuff I have to get out."

When they were alone Brennan told John to follow him and they returned
to the mayor's office. They were met in the ante-room by the secretary,
who ushered them into the room where the mayor was leaning back in a big
easy chair, his feet crossed and perched on his desk, and blowing thin
clouds of smoke into the air from a slender cigar.

The secretary closed the door behind them and John heard the lock click
shut. The mayor looked at them without changing his position.

"Who's your friend?" he asked, nodding to John.

"John Gallant, Mr. Mayor," Brennan said. "Gallant is helping me on this
story. You can trust him as much as you trust me."

John shook hands with the mayor.

"As you say, Brennan," he said. "I suppose you have an idea why I sent
for you."

Brennan nodded.

"Whatever we say here now isn't for publication, you understand,"
admonished the mayor.

"Perfectly."

The mayor puffed at his cigar and gazed up at the ceiling. For fully a
minute nothing was said. Then he jerked his feet from the desk, sat
upright in the chair and leaned forward.

"Brennan," he said, "am I a fool?"

John almost gasped in astonishment at the mayor's question. He was about
to smile when he noticed that the faded blue eyes of the mild little man
at the desk were glittering with anything but an amused light.

"I've never thought so," said Brennan.

"Well," said the mayor, leaning back in his chair again, "everyone I've
talked with here today says I am and I was beginning to think they might
be right."

"For appointing Gibson?" asked Brennan.

"No, for thinking what I can't help thinking about him," said the mayor,
rising from his chair and beginning to pace back and forth across the
room, his hands thrust into his pockets, the cigar clenched between his
teeth.

They waited for him to continue.

"Brennan," he said, stopping short in his striding, "you know what I
think of you. You've helped me before and if I'm right this time you can
help me again and land the biggest story you ever got in your life. If
I'm wrong, then I am a fool and the sooner I get out of office the
better it will be for me and the city."

He went back to his chair.

"Do you know what I've been thinking?" he asked.

"That Gibson isn't straight," said Brennan.

"Exactly," said the mayor. "And you can guess who I think is behind
him."

"'Gink' Cummings," said Brennan.

"You're right again," the mayor thumped the desk with his fist. "It's
the 'Gink,' as sure as I'm sitting here. That's what I told those who
were here to see me today and everyone of them called me a fool. I may
be, but I have a man-sized hunch that I'm not."

"Gink" Cummings, boss of the underworld, behind Gibson? Impossible. It
was nothing but a weak attempt at retaliation, John thought. The mayor's
advisers were right. He was a fool! Why did Brennan sit there and listen
to such stuff?

"Now, get me right," continued the mayor. "I have nothing except a
hunch that Gibson is backed by the 'Gink.' I haven't the slightest bit
of real evidence to form a basis for my suspicion, but I believe I can
see a pretty deep game in this."

"Go ahead, let's see if you figure it out the way I do," said Brennan.

"All right," said the mayor. "In the first place, the 'Gink' has been
against me, trying to get me ever since I took office, you know that?"

Brennan nodded.

"He tried everything he could think of and I've beat him every time. He
knows he can't stay in Los Angeles unless I'm out of office. So what's
he to do? He gets a man like Gibson, starts this so-called clean-up
campaign to get Gibson political power, stages or directs this 'Lark'
wreck business and figures I'll quit so that Gibson can slip in here
under the guise of a reformer, but really a figurehead, a puppet, to
appease the churches and other organizations standing for a clean city
and law enforcement while the 'Gink' bosses things from behind the
scenes.

"It's been done before. It's an old trick and it works almost every
time. Haven't you noticed that Gibson began his attack as soon as I
appointed him commissioner and that he has never said a word about the
'Gink' whom he knows just as well as I do is the city's worst enemy?
This fellow Gibson is only a masquerader."

"That's the way I figured it might be," said Brennan, as the mayor
paused, "but there is one obstacle. How did the 'Gink' ever get Gibson?
How did Gibson, who seems to have plenty of money and a social position,
ever fall into the 'Gink's' hands? What was his motive?"

The mayor smiled for the first time since they entered the room.

"Ah, Brennan, my boy, that's exactly what everyone asks me," he said.
"But I haven't been asleep. When Gibson started all this business I got
busy and I know a few things that help a lot. There seems to be plenty
of reason for Gibson to be working for the 'Gink.'"

"How?" asked Brennan.

"Well," continued the mayor, "I'll only tell you what I know now. Gibson
was highly recommended to me when I appointed him; you may be sure the
'Gink' was that careful. But I wasn't the only one who was tricked.
There were others, the ones who recommended him.

"I've been digging into Gibson's past a little and I find that about
three years ago, at the time I was elected, he was broke, flat broke. He
had a social position through his family. His father and mother, who
are well known and well respected and who are dead, left him only a
little. Three years ago he was in debt and then, suddenly, from some
mysterious source, money began to flow into his hands. I don't know
where it comes from, but he has it.

"He paid all he owed and began building up a reputation as a fine young
fellow, so that he now has the esteem of men and women and organizations
that count for much. His motive? Money!"

"That's a long shot, Mr. Mayor," said Brennan, "a long, long shot."

"I know it," said the mayor. "That's why I called you in here, today."

"That's all the information you have?" asked the reporter.

"That's all I have," the mayor said. "But it's been done before and it
seems to me that Gibson isn't so smart that he could make the moves he
has alone. You know the 'Gink.' You know how clever he is and how
painstaking and patient he is in everything he does. What do you say?"

"It's a long shot, but it's worth it," Brennan said. "If you're going
through with it you can begin by sitting tight, keeping Sweeney in
office and working as hard as you can to get evidence that will break
Gibson and the 'Gink'--if they are partners--once and for all."

The mayor rose from his chair and began his pacing back and forth
again. He pushed out his short, thin legs to twice the length of his
ordinary stride. He tossed the stub of his cigar over his shoulder and
it fell at John's feet. He snapped his teeth on the end of a fresh cigar
and thrust his hands into his pockets.

He crossed over to a window looking down on Broadway and his nervousness
disappeared as he gazed into the throbbing thoroughfare below him. From
where he was sitting John could see that the mayor had a fond look in
his eyes as he watched the roaring traffic of the principal street of
the great city that had honored him by electing him to its highest
office.

Finally he turned and came slowly back to his desk. He stood erect
beside it and John saw a look of determination come over the features he
had considered so mild and pleasing.

"By God"--he used the name of the Creator softly, reverently, as if he
were invoking aid from the Almighty--"Brennan, I'll do it."

       *       *       *       *       *

Sunday morning John and his mother prepared for Consuello's visit to
their modest little bungalow home. There was little that he could do to
help, as Mrs. Gallant had arranged everything and spent most of the time
in the kitchen preparing the dinner which he saw was to be one of the
repasts his father had so often termed a "feast fit for a king."

"My boy is truly a man now," she said to him. "Do you realize that this
is the first time you have ever invited a girl to your home?"

He laughed as he took her in his arms to pet her.

"Mother, dearest," he said, "I know what you have been thinking, but you
are wrong. Consuello is a wonderful girl and sometimes I cannot
understand why she has been so kind to me. She is only a friend,
dearest, and you mustn't think that your boy is in love with her or that
she is in love with him."

Mrs. Gallant smiled up to him.

"You think a lot of her," she said.

"I do," he admitted. "She has been so very kind. She believes I am
helping someone she seems really to care for."

"Yes, yes, I understand," Mrs. Gallant said. "You run along now and let
me finish what I have to do."

In the living room he picked up the volume of "David Copperfield" he had
been reading through for the first time since his father's death. Musing
as he turned the pages he thought how thankful he was to his father for
having made reading interesting to him. He remembered that the books his
father had read to him and had given him to read, books that crammed
the small bookcase near the fireplace and filled every shelf and table
in the room, were the very best--Dickens, Thackeray, Washington Irving,
Shakespeare, Walter Scott, Addison, and of the later writers, Kipling,
O. Henry, Anatole France, Mark Twain, Barrie.

"If I ever have a boy I will teach him to read as my father taught me,"
he said to himself.

Consuello arrived a few minutes before three. He saw through the window
the machine in which they had ridden to her father's ranch the previous
Sunday draw up to the curb outside. He watched her descend from the
tonneau, speak to the chauffeur, who touched his cap, and turn toward
the walk leading to the house. She wore the same dainty white dress she
wore each time he had seen her and a white, summery, wide-brimmed hat.

He went out to meet her.

"You see," she said, "I'm not one of those who believe in being
fashionably late. What a pretty little place you have."

His mother met them at the door. She had doffed her kitchen apron and
her face was slightly flushed--from the heat of the range, he knew--as
she smiled at Consuello with an extended hand.

"Miss Carrillo, my mother," John said.

"I'm happy to meet you, Miss Carrillo," Mrs. Gallant said. "John has
spoken so often to me of you that I really feel I know you."

"I have been so anxious to meet you--to know you," Consuello said. "I,
too, feel I know you because he has told me so much about you. I only
wish I had been thoughtful enough to have had you with us last Sunday.
The next time you must be with us."

Consuello was unaffected, John thought, in her praise of his mother's
dinner. She insisted upon aiding in the removal of plates from the table
and for the most part her conversation was with Mrs. Gallant. What
delicious salad, she must have the dressing recipe if Mrs. Gallant would
be so kind as to give it to her. She told in details that were
meaningless to John of the Spanish dishes her mother prepared, of the
barbecue feasts of the old days she remembered as a child.

He could see that his mother was interested, pleased, and he was
relieved that Consuello alleviated the awkwardness imposed by the
absence of someone to wait upon them. He left the table once to answer a
ring at the door and found Mrs. Sprockett's husband there, coatless and
collarless as usual.

"Is Maude here?" asked Mrs. Sprockett's husband, trying to appear as
though he was not peering past John, which he was.

John was certain that Mrs. Sprockett's husband knew as well as he did
that Mrs. Sprockett was not with them. He had more than a suspicion that
Mr. Sprockett, having seen the automobile bring Consuello, had crossed
the street out of pure curiosity.

"No," he said, shortly, an impulse rising in him to add, "and you know
it."

"I beg your pardon," said Mrs. Sprockett's husband, humbly. "She didn't
say, you know--I thought she might have--the baby----"

As on the night of his father's death John heard the Sprockett infant,
who, he had a vague idea, was the eleventh or twelfth, wailing somewhere
in the Sprockett home.

"No trouble," he said, shutting the door in the other's face.

They had been in the living room an hour after dinner when Mrs. Gallant
rose.

"You must excuse me, Miss Carrillo," she said. "There is a neighborly
duty I must attend to. Please remain until I return; it won't be long."

John was rather disappointed that his mother should leave them, but he
understood how she was constantly being required for one reason or
another by the neighbors. Alone, their conversation took another course.

"And as things are now, after he has demonstrated his courage in a way
that leaves no doubt, are there still those who are horrid enough to
doubt Mr. Gibson?" she asked.

He was bound by the confidence he had entered into with Brennan not to
reveal any part of the mayor's view of Gibson and his suspicion that the
commissioner was the tool of "Gink" Cummings. The mayor, however, had
publicly taken his stand of "sitting tight," as Brennan had suggested,
and had flatly refused to oust Chief Sweeney.

"Yes," he answered. "Their doubt seems to have been made even stronger
by what he did in preventing the wreck of the 'Lark.'"

Her eyes opened in astonishment.

"How?" she asked. "How can they possibly doubt him now?"

He explained to her Brennan's view that Gibson's frustration of "Red
Mike's" plot was a "grandstand play," without mentioning Brennan. She
sat silent for several minutes after he had concluded. Then, raising her
head and looking directly at him, she said:

"Because we are friends I will tell you why I know so certainly that
what you say cannot be true. Mr. Gibson and I have known each other
since our school days. His father and mother were near and dear to my
father and mother. He has been almost like a brother to me.

"I believe I know him for what he is, a gentleman. I don't think there
is anything of his plans in this crusade that he has not told me. He is
kind enough to feel that I have his interest at heart, that I want him
to succeed, for his own sake, for the sake of his family and his name.

"He has no other motive in all this but to do what he has pledged
himself to do--make Los Angeles a better place to live in. He is purely
an altruist. When he has accomplished what he has set out to do he will
retire from public life altogether with the satisfaction of knowing he
has stood for law and order and decency, that he has done something for
the city in which he lives and which he loves. That will be his only
reward, the satisfaction he feels within himself."

She paused, her eyes downcast.

"There is one other reward--that is, he says it will be a reward--that
he tells me he will claim if he is successful," she said, softly.

He knew what she meant and he wondered if she would say it.

"There is a girl he loves and who believes she loves him," she said.

So, perhaps, Brennan had guessed it when he speculated, "Sometimes it's
a girl."

"The girl, has she--the reward, has it been promised him?" he asked.

He saw the tinge of crimson steal into her cheeks.

"She--it has," she answered, softly.

"I understand now," he said. "I know now why he faced death the way he
did. What man would not?"

This last he spoke quietly, as if to himself.

"Can you think of him as insincere, as faithless, as selfish, as greedy
for power?" she asked.

He shook his head.

"I've told you things that are sacred," she said. "I have told you
because I regard you as a friend. I liked you from the moment we
met----"

"And I said you were beautiful?" he interrupted.

She smiled back to him.

"And you said I was beautiful," she repeated. "But not simply because
you said it, but because I thought you meant it."

"I often wonder how I had courage to say that to you and to tell you I
dreamed of meeting you again," he said. "I have often wondered why you
have been so kind, why you are interested in me at all. At first I
thought it was only--only what you might call pity and I resented it."

"Why is it we have such thoughts?" she said. "Why must we always impute
a misconceived motive?"

"Because deceit has its place in the human heart, I suppose," he said,
and, strangely, he thought of the mayor's regard of Gibson as a
figurehead of hypocritical virtue who sold himself for money. How
terrible it would be if that were true!

As if by mutual unspoken assent they talked of other things, of books,
of plays, of life, until Mrs. Gallant returned, apologizing again for
her absence. A few minutes later the automobile which had brought
Consuello glided up to a halt in front of the house and, glancing at her
wrist watch, she arose.

"I must be going," she said. "It's my turn now to thank you for a
wonderful day, Mrs. Gallant; you will promise to meet father and mother,
won't you?"

"I would be delighted," Mrs. Gallant said.

They escorted her to the waiting automobile. John imagined he saw Mrs.
Sprockett and her husband peering out of the window of the Sprockett
house across the street.



CHAPTER IX


The trust that Consuello reposed in him when she told him of her promise
to marry Gibson, John held inviolable to the extent that he did not
mention it to his mother. It strengthened his belief that Brennan and
the mayor were in error in their suspicion that Gibson was linked with
the notorious "Gink" Cummings and that his clean-up crusade was only
aimed to overthrow the administration and make the "Gink" the boss of
the city.

Had he been free to tell the mayor and Brennan that Gibson was striving
to accomplish his crusade with the principal motive of winning the girl
he loved, John felt that the suspicion against the police commissioner
would be undermined. He could not bring himself to believe that Brennan
would deliberately lend himself to the mayor's plan to attack Gibson
unless he actually believed that there was some reason to suspect the
commissioner.

There were but few developments in the feud between Gibson and the mayor
during the week after Consuello's visit to the Gallant home. Sentiment
throughout the city was obviously in favor of Gibson, whose sensational
capture of "Red Mike," averting, as it did, the wreck of the "Lark,"
gave him a strong hold upon the public. The mayor's refusal to remove
Chief Sweeney, putting him on record as opposing the commissioner, was
generally considered the last defiant move of a man cornered and doomed
to defeat.

Later in the week John was upset by the first dissension that had ever
arisen between him and his mother. They were on the porch of their home
in the evening when John recalled that he had overlooked asking Mrs.
Gallant her opinion of Consuello. As this recollection came into his
mind, it also occurred to him that his mother had never volunteered to
say anything of Consuello after her visit to their home the previous
Sunday.

"Mother, dear," he said, "tell me, did you like Miss Carrillo?"

He felt that the question was almost unnecessary and asked it casually.
He was surprised when she hesitated before answering. Looking up to her,
he saw a hint of worry in her expression.

"She seemed a pleasant girl," she said slowly.

"Seemed?" he repeated, incredulously. "Why, mother, you speak as if you
did not like her."

"I'm sure I would like her if I understood," she said, her eyes upon her
needle and crochet work.

"Understood?" he gasped. "Understood what?"

"My dear boy, please do not become irritated by what I say," she said,
lifting her head to look at him. "You know I would not hurt you for
anything in the world."

"I know, mother, but I cannot imagine----"

"I know you can't," she said interrupting him. "If you had you would
have explained it all to me days ago. Come, don't let us quarrel. I may
be foolish to have thought what I have, but you must remember, my boy,
that I am a mother and--a woman."

"What under the sun has come into your head to talk like this, mother?"
he asked.

She placed her needlework in her lap and reached over to stroke his
head.

"Don't be cross with your mother, John," she said. "I'm sure it's all a
misunderstanding, something you can clear away with a few words, and
when you do please do not ever hold it against me for having had such
thoughts.

"You know, John, things have changed greatly since I was a girl, but I
cannot help myself from having the viewpoint of other days."

"What is it, mother? Tell me, what is it?" he asked, somewhat
impatiently.

"You won't be cross and hate me?"

"No."

"Then I'll tell you. My boy, I cannot understand why Miss Carrillo
lives in the city alone and away from her parents."

He looked at her in amazement.

"Mother, surely you don't----" he began.

It was incomprehensible, unbelievable. If she had spoken against the
name of his dead father John could not have been more startled than by
this questioning in his mother's mind of Consuello.

"I don't think anything," she said, again stroking his head. "But,
between you and me, John, there should be not even the slightest
misunderstanding. That's why I have spoken to you like this. Probably,
if she has not told you, you never thought to ask yourself that
question. Perhaps I should not ask it, even to myself, but I am a mother
and a woman and it's natural for us to doubt when it concerns one we
love."

"You have no right to misjudge," he said.

"I don't misjudge, my boy; I only wait for your answer."

It flashed into his mind that he could not answer, could not tell her
why Consuello lived in the city, but it did not cause him to waver.
Consuello's words, "Why must we always impute a misconceived motive?"
the question she had asked when they had discussed those who doubted
Gibson's sincerity, and his answer, "Because deceit has its place in the
human heart, I suppose," came back to him. He could not, however,
imagine deceit in his mother's heart, and he knew that the seed of
suspicion in her mind had been cultivated into an ugly weed of doubt by
some one else. This thought calmed the indignation which was surging
through him.

"Mother," he said, "I do not know why she lives alone in the city. She
has never told me and I have never asked. I did not consider it my
business. Not for a moment has a shadow of doubt entered my head. Can't
you see--can't you tell by looking at her?

"She may be with friends. She may be studying. She may be working.
Whatever she is doing, you nor I have no reason to let an evil thought
about her stay with us for a moment."

For several minutes they said nothing. Then Mrs. Gallant broke the
silence.

"Tell me," she said, "was that Miss Carrillo's automobile that brought
her here, Sunday?"

"Oh, mother!" he exclaimed, exasperated.

"I'm sorry, John. I only thought you might tell me."

"I don't know and I don't care," he said, coming to his feet. "Mother,
this is all foolishness--rank foolishness. Here you and I sit quarreling
over things that are none of our business. I never thought it of you. I
never thought you could think such things, let alone breathe a word
about them. I never----"

"John, John," said Mrs. Gallant, pleadingly, "don't, don't!"

"I can't believe it's you," he said, angrily. "Some one has been putting
these infernal thoughts into your head--some gossiping, scandal-loving,
evil-thinking----"

"My boy!"

He stopped and the anger that had surged so swiftly slowly left
him--left him ashamed that he had given way to his temper, ashamed that
he had spoken so sharply to the one he loved more than any one in the
world, and who, he knew, loved him as no one else would ever love him.

Her head was bowed in her hand, her arm resting on the side of her
chair. He went to her and dropped on his knees at her feet.

"Mother, dearest," he said, softly, "please, please don't cry. I was a
brute. I shouldn't have spoken to you the way I did, but I was angry.
Please, no misunderstanding must come between us. You are everything in
the world to me, mother, and I trust you, believe in you."

"I only wanted to know--for your sake," she said.

"I know, mother, I know. That is what you have always done--thought of
me first. But, don't you see, mother, she is nothing more than a friend
to me. And she has been kind, so very kind and good, and I know she is
only the sweet, dear girl I believe her to be. If you had only been with
us when we went to her home, mother. If you only knew her as I know her,
and you're going to. You're going to know her and like her."

"Yes, yes, my boy. I know I will. But, John, there is so much evil in
this world, so much that we cannot understand, so many disappointments,
so many cruel things, so much wickedness, and I only think of you, my
boy--only of you. I could not bear to have you care for some one and
then be----"

"I know, mother, dearest, I know," he said, petting her hands. "Now,
we'll forget all about it, won't we? You'll not let doubt come into your
mind again, will you? Don't be overcautious in your care over me,
mother. And don't think I'm in love. I do think she is sweet and kind
and beautiful, and I thought you would like her because she is--is--is
what I would call an 'old-fashioned' girl."

"Old-fashioned girls are scarce these days," said Mrs. Gallant. "I do so
hope she is all that you believe her to be."

"And I am forgiven for the things I said in haste, tonight?" he asked.

She kissed his forehead.

"And you'll forgive your foolish old mother who loves her boy so?"

She rose and moved toward the door.

"You'll be coming in soon?" she asked.

"In a little while, mother," he said. "It's such a wonderful evening I'm
going to enjoy it for a few minutes more."

Alone, John speculated on Consuello's reason for living in Los Angeles
while her parents remained at home on the ranch. The probability that
she worked in the city became stronger in his mind when he thought of
how her father had spoken to him of their reduced circumstances, the
fact that but little remained of the vast estate once owned by the
Carrillo family. He was reasonably certain that the automobile which
Consuello told him was placed at her disposal by a "friend" was owned by
Gibson, and that the long friendship between the two families, combined
with privilege permitted by their engagement to be married, made it
possible for her to accept such accommodation.

How unlike his mother it had been for her to question Consuello's mode
of living! He excused her suspicion for two reasons--first, that the
doubt had been put into her mind by some one else and, second, because
her great love for him had carried her too far.

The mockingbird that had warbled on the night of his father's death
began its song in a tree near by. As he listened, meditative, he saw
Mrs. Sprockett glide across the street to the Sprockett house, returning
from one of her unceasing visits to other homes than her own.

His instinctive dislike for Mrs. Sprockett caused him to blame her for
creating suspicion against Consuello in his mother's mind.

       *       *       *       *       *

During the following week John learned the answer to his mother's
question of why Consuello lived in Los Angeles, away from her parents,
the inquiry that had provoked him to anger because he took it as an
insinuation against Consuello's character.

Consuello called him one morning by telephone.

"Have you an hour or so to spare, today?" she asked.

"It all depends----" he began.

"I know you are a busy man," she said, "but I thought you would like to
see something interesting. It's a surprise I have been saving for you."

He had a premonition that she was about to give him the answer to his
mother's question.

"What is it?" he asked. She laughed before she replied:

"Oh, it would spoil it all to tell you now. Didn't you hear me say it
was a surprise? I want you to come out to an address I will give you if
you say you are able to get away from your office."

"When?"

"This afternoon, as close to two o'clock as you can make it."

"May I call you in a few minutes and give you my answer?" he asked. "You
see, I must have the permission of my city editor if I leave the office
except on newspaper business."

"I'll wait for your answer," she said.

P. Q. gruffly gave him permission to go off duty at one o'clock. He
hurried back to the telephone and told her that he would be able to see
her. She gave him an address in Hollywood.

"You will be stopped at the door," she told him, "but tell whoever stops
you that you are the gentleman I am expecting and there won't be any
further difficulty. I'll look for you at two, then."

When he reached the address she gave him, shortly before two o'clock,
John's first feeling was that he had misunderstood the directions she
had given him. Before him, inclosed by a high fence over the horizon of
which he could see the tops of queer structures, stood the rambling
studio of the Peerless Pictures, Inc., one of the largest motion picture
producing concerns in the capital of filmdom. At one side of a large
open gateway, near an oddly shaped sentry box, was a fat, red-faced man
tilted back in a kitchen chair.

The man was eyeing him as he approached the gateway.

"Hey, just a minute, son, where do you think you're going?" the man
shouted, turning his head to glare at the intruder.

"Inside," John said.

"Well, you don't say--Hey, there, just a minute!" this last as John, who
had a secret delight in baiting officiousness, continued toward the
gateway.

"Who do you think you want to see in there?" demanded the guard.

"I don't THINK I want to see anyone; Miss Carrillo sent for me," said
John, wondering if this would be the password and feeling a thrill go up
his backbone at the thought he might be at the wrong place.

"What's your name?"

"Gallant--John Gallant."

"Why didn't you say so in the first place? What do you think I am, a
mind reader? The clairvoyants are all east of Main street, son, all east
of Main street. Keep right on going, you'll find her on stage number
three."

His heels crunched into the finely-graveled driveway as he walked in the
direction pointed out to him by the guard, who condescended to leave
his chair for the purpose of guiding him. He passed two huge barn-like
structures and found the third designated in large white letters, "Stage
No. 3." A superstructure of black cloth and laths was built out from the
doorway at right angles to the stage building, a precaution, he later
learned, against daylight.

It was his first visit to a motion picture studio. He had no interest in
pictures or the people who played in them. His father, from whom he
inherited his love for books and the better class of spoken drama, had
always regarded motion pictures as almost a profanation of art. Once he
had noticed an advertising poster of a well known star referred to as a
"man's man," wearing a shirt open at the neck, sleeves rolled to the
elbows, riding trousers and shiny leather puttees, endeavoring
desperately to appear like a combination of Sandow and a Northwest
Mounted Police officer. He had had the satisfaction of hurling a rock to
mar the "virile" face as it looked down defiantly at him from the
billboard.

He had always imagined that all motion picture scenes were photographed
in the open, on roofless stages, and the idea that Southern California's
perpetual sunlight gave the best service for this purpose he believed to
be the reason that Los Angeles was the principal producing point of the
world. It surprised him when he realized that the barn-like structures
were inclosed stages.

Was Consuello a screen player or had she some other work connected with
the production of pictures, designer, scenario writer, director, art
expert? Or was she only at the studio as a visitor, inviting him to be
with her because some particular star was playing or some especially
interesting scene being staged?

Entering the cloth and lath superstructure he found himself in pitch
darkness. Unable to see his hand before his face he stopped to accustom
his eyes to the absence of any light. A voice spoke out of the dark:

"Do you wish to see anyone?" it asked.

"Miss Carrillo," he answered, having an uncanny feeling as he spoke to
someone he could not see and yet whom he know was close at hand.

"Miss Carrillo is on the set--was she expecting you?" the voice asked.

"She told me to be here and to mention that she was expecting me," he
said.

"This way, then, please."

He turned in the direction from which the voice came and walked slowly,
cautiously, until his feet encountered steps. He mounted the steps with
a strange feeling that he was about to fall on his face.

Reaching the top step he felt himself on a level floor. Shafts of
light, escaping from between tall objects before him, invaded the
darkness. A stringed orchestra was playing something soft, plaintively
sweet. He recognized the music as Schubert's "Serenade." He stumbled
over a sawhorse and his guide turned upon him with a quick admonition to
be more careful. Except for the music there was not a sound.

Turning past one of the tall dark objects, which he afterward discovered
were painted canvas scenery, he halted at a signal from the man who was
leading him and who continued to go forward on tiptoes, a muffled curse
escaping him as a board squeaked under foot. John named his guide "Mr.
John J. Silence" in his mind.

Before him two arc lamps threw a bluish white light on a set
representing the interior of a finely furnished room. Between the lamps
were two cameras which were being cranked by two tall young men in khaki
trousers and leather puttees who wore the peaks of their caps turned
backward like children playing "fireman." Near the cameras a man with
horn-rim spectacles sat in a canvas chair, a manuscript in his hand.
Scattered about were a dozen men and women, poised tensely, as if they
were afraid to move a muscle. To the left was the orchestra, a violin,
'cello and bass viol. Why, thought John, do bass viol players always
have that far-away, woebegone look on their faces as they saw at their
instruments?

From where he stood it was impossible for John to see what was before
the cameras. He strained his eyes in a vain attempt to identify
Consuello as among those standing behind the lamps. He saw his guide
speak to one of the figures--a man--and then turn to signal to him
violently and silently to approach, pressing his forefinger to his lips
as a final admonition to be quiet.

"Mr. John J. Silence bids me approach," John said to himself.

He tiptoed forward. A board creaked under his foot. It could not have
had more effect if it had been a pistol shot. Instantly all except the
cameramen turned on him quickly. He imagined little arrows darting at
him from their eyes, those little arrows cartoonists use to illustrate a
fixed stare by one of their subjects. Never had he seen such a look of
mingled pain and exasperation as crossed the face of "John J. Silence."
He stood stock-still, fearful that if he made another sound they would
pounce upon him and tear him limb from limb while "John J. Silence,"
completely overcome, writhed in agony on the floor.

By carefully testing the flooring each time before he put his full
weight on his foot, he managed to reach a point behind the cameras
without having that battery of aggravated eyes turned upon him again.
Now no one favored him even with a turn of the head. He saw that
Consuello was not in the group. The man in the canvas chair spoke,
softly, appealingly.

"Now, Miss Carrillo, you think of how happy you two were together--days
that are never to be again--he's gone--gone forever--that's it--tears
come up in your eyes--he's (deep voice) gone, (deeper voice) gone, (very
deep) g-o-n-e."

Risking those reprimanding eyes again, John stepped to one side to
enable himself to see around the man who was in front of him, blocking
his view of the set.

He saw Consuello, a strange, sad Consuello, her face ghastly pale under
the bluish white light, her naturally beautiful features hidden under a
mask of paint and powder, but Consuello, just the same. Heavy tears that
brimmed from her eyelids coursed down her cheek, sparkling in the glare
of the lamps. Her thickly rouged lips trembled; the fingers of one of
her hands, pressed tightly in her lap, beat wildly on the back of the
other beneath it.

She was seated in a large plush chair facing the cameras. She wore an
evening gown and her hair was arranged in a high coiffure that made her
look taller, older.

"Cut!" commanded the man in the horn-rim glasses. "That was splendid,
Miss Carrillo, splendid."

The cameras stopped grinding. Consuello rose--laughing. The orchestra
stopped abruptly. She came toward them, touching lightly at her cheeks
with a tiny handkerchief.

"It seems a shame to dry such perfectly real tears," she said.

Then she saw John and came to him, her hand outstretched. As if they
were controlled by a single mind and impulse the heads of everyone in
the group turned to him.

"I'm so glad you got here," she said.



CHAPTER X


"So that was your surprise for me," he said, taking her hand.

She smiled, a strange and, to him, an unnatural smile, made so by the
rouged lips and painted face. Had it not been for the sound of her voice
he would have doubted if the girl before him, still holding his hand
while the others scrutinized him, was Consuello.

"Speak, or I won't know it's you," he said.

"Were you really surprised?" she asked.

"Beyond words," he assured her.

She turned to the man with the horn-rim spectacles.

"That is all?" she inquired.

"All for today, Miss Carrillo, thank you," she was answered. "Tomorrow
at 2, same costume, but on the other set."

"Come," she said, turning to John. "We'll have tea and a talk as soon as
I return to--to normalcy--that was Mr. Harding's way of expressing it,
wasn't it?"

She led the way across the floor, along a twisting and turning path,
through furniture, furnishings and an accumulation of "props" to the
door. As they stepped out into the daylight again her face was more
unlike the face of the Consuello John knew than it had been in the half
gloom inside.

They crossed a narrow asphalt-paved road to a long two-story building.

"I won't be long," she said, opening the door to the section in which
her dressing room was located. "When I'm ready the maid will call you.
Will you wait here?"

"Don't hurry," he said. "I'll be right here where you left me."

While he was waiting "John J. Silence" emerged from the door of the
stage building. John frowned, pressed his forefinger to his lips in the
signal for silence that he had received inside. "John J. Silence,"
grinning, tiptoed away with ludicrous gestures.

In twenty minutes the maid called John to the door, holding it open for
him as he entered.

"This way, please," she said, taking the lead.

A dozen steps brought them to a door marked with Consuello's name. John
paused at the threshold while the maid entered, returning in a moment to
hold the door open for him again. As he stepped inside she went out into
the corridor, closing the door after her.

John found himself in a tiny room with brightly designed wallpaper,
matted rugs, a wicker chaise longue, wicker glass-topped table, wicker
tea wagon and wicker chairs, all decorated in a gay colored chintz. The
heavy curtains at one side of the room parted, and Consuello--the real
Consuello again--stood before him attired in a tailored suit gorgeous in
its simplicity, setting off a dainty real biche lace and batiste blouse.

"Well?" she said, as if she had been waiting for him to speak.

"I'll say it again--you're beautiful," he said.

The same half credulous look that she had given him when he told her she
was beautiful that day they met for the first time at the Barton
Randolph lawn fete came into her eyes.

"I did not mean to ask you that," she said.

"I know," he returned, "but you are, and I couldn't help saying so."

She took a chair near the tea-table and he seated himself in the chair
that was opposite to her.

"I meant, what do you think of me now?" she explained, pouring the tea
into absurdly small cups, one of which she handed to him.

"It was a surprise," he said. "I'll confess to you now that you puzzled
me. I could not understand why you were--well, exiled in the city during
the week. I imagined you were either with friends as a sort of a
permanent guest or studying."

"You never thought of me as working?" she asked.

"Yes," he admitted, "I have, but I could not picture you in any
employment I could think of. It was impossible to think of you as a
stenographer or a school teacher or a nurse or a shop girl."

"All because you met me at a lawn fete--a society affair," she
concluded.

"No. All because--well, all because you are you."

Was that a glint of pleasure he saw for the briefest fraction of a
second in her eyes?

"I asked you to come out here this afternoon because I knew that you
would find it out some day, probably tomorrow or the next day, or next
week, and I wanted you to know that I had not tried to keep it from
you," she said. "I want you to know, too, from me, why it is I'm here."

She paused and he waited for her to continue.

"I entered picture work because--well, frankly, we--that is, father,
mother and I--are alone in the world and poor," she said. "Really,
honestly poor. The last that we could afford to spend from the little we
have left was spent on my education. Father insisted.

"Once, and it was not so many years ago, our family was wealthy like
other California families that received land grants. But father--the
dear that he is--like so many of his friends, thought little of business
or the future and slowly our land was sold until now only a few acres
of what we once had remain--only the few acres of the home you visited.

"Of course, I was fortunate. My family name gave me entrance anywhere
and still does, although there are those who think I have desecrated
that name and who feel that because we are in reduced circumstances we
have simply ceased to be.

"So when I was old enough to realize exactly what conditions were and
what we faced I was determined to do something. It was a friend who was
kind enough to believe and tell me that I had talent for acting who
first interested me in motion picture work. And, not to tire you with
long, boresome details, I was lucky. Somehow it was not difficult and I
am now receiving enough to keep us comfortable without encroaching, as I
said, on what little father has left.

"There, you have my story," she concluded, settling back in her chair.

"And the work, do you like it?" he asked.

"I do like it," she replied. "And, besides, what else could I do? You
have said yourself that I could never be a stenographer, a school
teacher or a nurse or a shop girl."

"You could be anything," he hastened to explain, "from a shop girl to
a--to a--a queen."

"That's better," she concurred, smiling.

"Those tears you shed back there before the camera, who were they for?"

"For the man I loved--in the story," she explained. "I was 'emoting'--as
they call it--over his death. The inspiration was provided by the
orchestra you heard playing. My director thinks it's wonderful that I
can shed tears whenever he asks me to. He says it's a relief not to have
to substitute drops of glycerine or hold a raw onion under his leading
woman's nose to bring about the required lachrymal effect. To be able to
cry easily before the camera, he says, is the supreme test, because to
shed real tears you must have imagination and imagination is
everything."

"And how do you do it?"

"There are plenty of causes for tears in life, far too many, don't you
think?" she said. "When my director calls for tears I simply think of
one of the many--pictures I have seen of starving children, an empty
stocking at Christmas time, a homeless kitten, an orphan baby."

"Don't you ever think of the story and cry because you are carried away
by the imaginative sorrow of the death of the man you love?"

"No," she said, laughing. "How can I? Most of the time I'm really
glad--not in the story, of course--that he's out of the picture. The
publicity man always refers to me as a star of the emotional type and
writes yards upon yards of stuff about how I actually 'live' the part I
am playing. My imagination doesn't carry me that far, though, and if
imagination is everything, as my director says, the publicity man should
be the greatest actor living."

"I don't pay much attention to pictures, but I can't remember ever
having seen your name or photograph in the advertisements," he said.

"Have you ever noticed the name of Jean Hope?"

"Often."

"That is the name I took when I had advanced far enough to be featured.
It was suggested to me by the publicity man, who insisted upon it being
short and snappy, as he said, something that would be easy to remember
and easy to put into type. Of course, I am not obscured to my friends,
who all know that I am Jean Hope. Only once have I had to be positively
firm with the publicity man and that was when he wanted to make me the
subject of a newspaper story that society girls, as he called them, were
intent upon becoming motion picture actresses. That, for the sake of my
friends, I simply had to refuse."

"I think," he said slowly, "that the name your father calls you is the
prettiest of them all."

"Mi Primavera?"

"Yes, does anyone else call you that?"

"Only father," she said. "That is his pet name for me--'My Springtime.'"

"You know," he said, "the story you told me of the naming of Spring
street; how Ord, the surveyor, named it for his sweetheart, whom he
called 'Mi Primavera,' is incomplete. Tell me, if you know, did he
eventually marry the beautiful Senorita Trinidad de la Guerra?"

"I have often wondered that, myself," she said. "Whether they were
married or not--what a gallant, romantic thing it was for him to do."

"And how few know the story!" he added.

"What dreams he must have had for the upbuilding of that street he named
for the one he loved," she said. "I imagine he little thought it was to
become a business street, that he thought of it always as lined with
quaintly beautiful Spanish homes, shaded and quiet, with couples
strolling along it at twilight and rest and contentment everywhere."

"That was his dream," he agreed. "The dream of a practical man--a
surveyor and a soldier."

"And after all," she said, "is it as you said once that it is only in
books and plays that dreams come true?"

Her chin resting in her hand, she gazed out the small chintz bordered
window of the room, preoccupied. He noticed the daintiness of her
profile, the placid sweetness of her face in repose.

The silence was broken by a rap on the door that startled him.

"Come in," she called.

The door opened and on the threshold stood Gibson, the smile he had
meant for her fading from his face.

For a moment he paused, his hand still on the knob of the door, as if he
hesitated to disturb them. Then, with the appearance of putting whatever
thoughts he might have had from his mind, he strode in.

"Well!" he exclaimed. "This is a surprise. How are you, Gallant? Haven't
seen you since the night we had our little engagement with 'Red Mike,'
who, I have just been told, will recover."

"I'm so glad to hear that," said Consuello.

"And so was I," Gibson said. "No, no, Gallant, stay where you are. I'll
sit here."

John had risen to offer Gibson the chair opposite Consuello. He sought a
way of relieving the embarrassment he for one, felt when Gibson made his
unexpected entrance.

"Miss Carrillo has revealed herself to me as Jean Hope," he explained.
"Until this afternoon I had no idea she played in pictures."

Was it because she too, felt it necessary to make some explanation that
she said:

"You see, I realized that Mr. Gallant would eventually learn about it
and I wanted to surprise him myself."

"I'm proud of my Consuello," Gibson said, patting her hand and speaking
to John. "She is famous--really, truly famous--far more, I'm afraid than
you or I will ever be, Gallant. Still, she deserves it, and we
don't--that is, I don't, at least. She is so famous that I find it
difficult to keep myself from becoming jealous of her."

"Jealous of my good luck?" she asked, smiling.

"No, no; jealous of the admiration that is showered upon you and those
who give it. You can understand why, can't you, Gallant?"

While Gibson seemed absolutely frank and to have put the question only
incidentally, John had a feeling that it was something more than a mere
interrogation. He scanned Gibson's face for a trace of a betrayal of his
purpose in putting the question to him.

"Easily," he replied.

"You are both more than kind to me," Consuello said. "Come, now that we
three are together, let's talk of what you're doing, Reggie. It's far
more interesting. I'll call for a fresh pot of tea."

She pressed a button in the wall and a maid responded.

"There's little more that is new," Gibson said. "The mayor is still
standing pat, although I have reason to believe that he is feeling the
pressure brought on him by those that are supporting me, because he
refuses to remove Chief Sweeney. Most of the men who are his advisers
are dropping away from him. His policy in the face of my attack
apparently dissatisfies them. I am waiting for one of them to swing over
to my side and tell exactly what his position is."

John remembered the interview Brennan and he had had with the mayor, and
in his mind, as vivid as it was when it occurred, he saw the mayor
solemnly pledge himself to seek to establish what he suspected--that
Gibson was in league with "Gink" Cummings.

"What will be your next move?" he asked.

"I have promised to clean up Los Angeles and I mean to go through with
it," Gibson replied. "With the mayor taking the position he has, it's
plainly up to me to carry on despite his opposition. I'll go ahead with
my plans to drive gamblers, crooks, bandits and women of the underworld
from the city and in doing so the people will be convinced that I am in
the right and blame the mayor for his obstinacy in refusing to work with
me.

"The big difficulty will be to get men to assist me. I have the private
detectives I have employed, but I doubt if I can use them in making
raids. Of course, Sweeney will see that I don't get any police officers
to carry out my orders, which leaves only the district attorney and the
sheriff from whom I can ask assistance. I have been informed that the
sheriff is ready and willing to place a number of his deputies at my
command and they will probably be the officers who will carry out my
orders.

"The fact that I am compelled to use deputy sheriffs, who are county and
not city employes, in my crusade will have its effect, demonstrating
conclusively that the mayor does not intend to assist me in any way in
doing what is his duty to keep Los Angeles clean."

"Surely, you're not going to take your life in your hands again?" asked
Consuello. John perceived that she was sincerely concerned for Gibson's
safety.

"My dear Conny," he said patting her shoulder, "the danger will be
slight. I can't expect to have things done and only sit back in my
office letting others do it."

"But promise me that you will not take any needless chances," she
pleaded.

"You have my promise," he said. Then, turning to John, he added: "You
see, Gallant, how it is. If I ever turn and run away from danger, you
will know I am only keeping a promise."

"I don't believe there is any one who questions your courage," John
said.

"It's good of you to say that, Gallant," Gibson acknowledged. "Now,
suppose we hear what you have to say. Tell us, what are you newspaper
men saying about this rumpus between the mayor and me? What do you think
of what I'm doing? Have you any suggestions?"

John hesitated before answering. What he had heard the mayor say to
Brennan was confidential. Even had he been at liberty to tell it he
doubted if he would have disclosed it, for Consuello's sake.

"There is one thing upon which the reporters are speculating," he said.

"What's that?" asked Gibson.

"They are wondering when you will launch your attack in a new
direction."

"How?"

"By hitting at 'Gink' Cummings." As John mentioned the "Gink's" name he
watched Gibson's face closely to discover the effect it had upon the
commissioner. He thought afterward that Gibson had expected him to refer
to Cummings and that he had been, if anything, a trifle too well
prepared to answer.

"I thought so," Gibson said. "Well, let me tell you something, Gallant.
I'll make things hot for the 'Gink' mighty soon. But, you must remember,
the 'Gink' is only the effect and not the cause of the trouble. The
cause is the failure of the mayor and Sweeney to keep the lid down in
Los Angeles. Cummings is only powerful through the weakness of the mayor
and the chief. If they were on the job, Los Angeles wouldn't be big
enough for such a man as 'Gink' Cummings."

"Why don't you come out and say so?" John asked, feeling reassured,
however, by Gibson's announcement that the "Gink" was not to be
overlooked.

"It's another case of where 'actions speak louder than words,'" the
police commissioner said. "Cummings isn't afraid of what someone says is
going to happen to him. He's a veteran. He's heard that kind of talk
before. So have the people of Los Angeles. What he is afraid of and what
the people of the city want is--action."

"And who is this man, 'Gink' Cummings?" put in Consuello, who had been
listening intently to the conversation between the two men.

"'Gink' Cummings, my dear," said Gibson, "is the boss of the element I
hope to drive out of Los Angeles. He rules like a king over burglars,
gamblers, pickpockets, bandits, swindlers and crooks of every
description."

John took advantage of an opportunity.

"It's true, is it not, that the mayor and Cummings are enemies?"

"Yes, that's true, but they're political enemies," Gibson said. "The
trouble is, however, that the mayor is afraid of Cummings. And so is
Sweeney. They don't seem to have the courage to go after him."

"Why don't they take this 'Gink' person and put him in the
penitentiary?" asked Consuello.

Gibson laughed.

"That appears to be an impossibility," he said. "They have tried it time
and again, but each time he was too clever for them."

"Of course," smiled Consuello. "It was silly of me to have asked such a
question. I confess I'm a perfect ignoramus about such things."

A few minutes later they left the studio, Gibson offering to convey John
to his home in his automobile.

"As often as I can I call for Consuello and take her to her home," he
explained. "We are both so busy these days we have little other time in
which to see each other. I'm glad I saw you this afternoon, Gallant,
and you may want to know that it won't be long before I'll have some
more real news for you."

As the automobile carried them toward his home, John thanked Consuello
again for having invited him to the studio.

"I don't believe I would have discovered that you are Jean Hope for a
long time," he said. "From now on I'll never miss one of your pictures."

"I have yet to view with complacency the scenes in which she is in the
arms of another man," laughed Gibson.

After dinner that night he led his mother to the porch, telling her he
had news for her. He was glad that he was able to answer her questions
concerning Consuello, although he believed the unpleasant occurrence of
a few nights before was completely a thing of the past, to be forgotten.

"Mother," he said, smiling, "I discovered today what keeps Miss Carrillo
in the city during the week."

Mrs. Gallant regarded him expectantly.

"You did?"

"Yes, she is working."

Mrs. Gallant smiled, as though the information given her by her son
relieved a hidden anxiety.

"And what does she do?" she asked.

"She is in pictures," he answered.

The smile faded from Mrs. Gallant's face.

"In pictures!" she exclaimed. "Then she is an----"

"An actress," he supplied. "She invited me out to her studio and told me
all about how it was while we had tea in her dressing room. Why, mother!
What's the matter? Mother!"

Mrs. Gallant had risen from her chair, a strange, disconsolate
expression upon her face, and had gone back into the house.



CHAPTER XI


Astonished even more than he had been when she first questioned the
propriety of Consuello's living alone in the city, John hurried into the
house after his mother and found her in a chair beside a table in the
living room, her head buried in her arms.

"Mother!" he exclaimed, anxiously. "What is wrong? Are you ill? Don't,
mother, don't cry. Speak to me, speak to me."

She did not answer. He stepped forward quickly and lifted her face
between his hands, tenderly. He saw that her eyes were filled with
tears.

"Please," she said, drawing back her head. He dropped his arms to his
sides. "Please, I must be alone," she said.

"Tell me, tell me, what is it?" he begged.

Rising a trifle unsteadily to her feet she walked past him to the door.
He wheeled as she was about to step out of the room and caught her in
his arms.

"Mother, dearest," he pleaded, "what is it? Is it because you do not
approve? Is it so terrible that she must work to live and that she plays
in pictures? Surely, you can't think wrong of her?"

Slowly she nodded her head. He stepped back in amazement. How could she
possibly think such things?

"I had hoped, because she was a friend of yours, that she would be what
you thought her," Mrs. Gallant said, tremulously.

"Why, mother, what are you talking about?" he gasped. "She is my friend
and there is nothing to make me think that she is anything but what I
believed her to be, a dear, kind friend."

Mrs. Gallant clasped her hands at her waist and straightened her
shoulders.

"She dared--dared to receive you alone in her dressing room," she said.
"John, don't you understand what that means? Don't you know how wrong it
was? Do decent girls do such things? An actress! I've heard enough about
them. An actress who allows herself to be kissed and held in men's arms!
An associate of--"

He raised his hand quickly.

"Mother!" he expostulated, "you can't say that. You can't, you can't."

For a moment they stood facing each other and an expression of despair
crossed her features as she whirled around and left the room. John stood
stunned until he heard the door of her bedroom close. With a heavy sigh
he threw himself into a chair and bowed his head in his hands, staring
distractedly at the design in the rug under his feet.

Until far into the night he sat there, thinking, thinking, thinking.
Mingled exasperation and perplexity racked his brain and finally he
attempted to collect his thoughts and reason it all out. It was
ridiculous, he thought, and yet so serious. Gradually he came to study
the entire situation from the viewpoint of his mother and by doing so he
came to a solution of the difficulty. His heart softened toward her and
he found an excuse for her antipathy for Consuello.

Primarily, he understood his mother's great love for him, her desire to
protect him, guard his happiness and assure his success in life was the
cause for the unreasonable attitude she had taken toward the girl who
had been so kind to him. Perhaps his mother still clung to her
hastily-formed idea that he was in love and that his "undisciplined
heart"--the descriptive words were fresh in his mind from his reading
again of "David Copperfield"--would lead him into trouble.

And then he easily comprehended her aversion to motion pictures and
those who played in them, insupportable by facts as it was. The strict,
narrow training she had received as a girl had nurtured in her an
abhorrence of public performers, particularly actors and actresses,
whom she regarded without exception as libertines. This misconception
had been increased by the scandalous and equally slanderous stories that
had reached her ears concerning motion pictures and the life led by
those engaged in the producing of photoplays in Hollywood.

The faults of one or two who became involved in scandal of some sort she
gave to all. Because a motion picture actress, as human as any other
woman and as liable to imperfection, sought a divorce in the courts she
instantly, in Mrs. Gallant's mind, became an immoral character. A motion
picture actor attacked by a blackmailer because of his wealth and
prominence, was adjudged guilty of whatever wrong of which he was
accused. It was an unfair and unjust attitude common to thousands of
women as wholesome in character, as kindly and merciful in disposition
and as saintly to those who loved them and were loved by them, as Mrs.
Gallant.

In his unsuspecting delight in being able to explain to his mother why
Consuello lived apart from her parents, he had completely overlooked her
foible in disliking motion picture players simply because they were
members of that profession. Likewise he had forgotten precaution by
telling her that Consuello had received him in her dressing room. He
had been unable to tell her that Consuello, although she enjoyed work
and had a pride in it, had entered the pictures to provide for her aging
parents. The confidence, as he regarded it, that Consuello had placed in
him in informing him that she and Gibson were engaged to be married, he
could not, he felt, reveal.

He pondered for a time over a disconcerting thought that possibly it had
not been proper after all, for Consuello to have allowed him to see her
in her dressing room, alone, without having previously mentioned to
Gibson her intention of doing such a thing. It had been obvious that
Gibson was genuinely surprised when he found John with her. He finally
dismissed any apprehension created by this thought by recalling
Consuello's apparent guilelessness.

He fatigued his brain in a vain endeavor to decide upon some means of
overcoming his mother's prejudice. Setting aside the fact that he wanted
them to be friends, to know and find in each other the things he admired
in them, the principle of the whole affair concerned him. He remembered
how different his father had been, how tolerant, how ready to withhold
adverse judgment of a person until both sides of the story had been
heard.

Weary, unhappy, disconcerted, he went to his bedroom and puzzled over
his problem until he fell asleep. Mrs. Gallant had composed herself,
somewhat severely, when he saw her in the morning at breakfast. There
was a trace of haggardness in her face that told him she, too, had spent
a restless night.

"Mother, dear," he said, holding her in his arms before he left for
work, "you know how much I love you." She seemed to yield a little in
response to his tenderness.

"I know, my boy," she said, "and you must realize how much I care for
you."

"Oh, I do, I do," he said, "you have always been a wonderful, wonderful
mother to me. Remember, nothing must come between us."

Her severe aspect, which, he knew, she assumed to compose herself,
disappeared and the love that she bore him as her first and only son
shone in her eyes as she kissed him when he left. It was like the kisses
she had given him when he was a grammar school boy.

Later in the day John met an old friend whom he had almost forgotten. It
was the scrawny youth with the twisted nose and the husky voice who had
been a second in his corner the night he fought Battling Rodriguez to
get money to pay for his father's funeral. He remembered the youth as
Murphy when he met him lounging at the counter of a cigar stand at the
entrance to one of Spring street's most celebrated saloons, which now
was converted into a soft drink and lunch establishment and which was
frequented by men who loitered in and around it for the associations it
held for them and the memory of other days.

Murphy, a brown paper cigarette drooping from the corner of his mouth,
hailed him as he passed.

"If it ain't da Gallant kid!" he said, speaking from beneath the visor
of his cloth cap, pulled tightly around his ears. They shook hands.

"Hello, Murphy, what have you been doing since the night that Mexican
nearly killed me?" asked John, feeling somehow that he owed the second
something for the care he had taken of him after he had staggered from
the ring, bruised and battered.

"Oh, da same old stuff, da same old stuff," Murphy replied. "Haven't
been doin' any more fightin', have ya?"

"No," said John, with a laugh, "the beating the Battler gave me was
enough. You know, it's a good man who knows when he has had enough."

"Ya didn't seem to know when ya had enough da night ya mixed it with da
Battler," said Murphy. "Ya took a beltin' that night and came up for
more as long as ya could."

"Let's step inside; I'll buy you a drink of whatever they have," John
invited.

Over steins of near-beer which Murphy drank with a wry face John learned
that Battling Rodriguez had fought himself to the top and was now boxing
main events at Vernon, at the American Legion stadium in Hollywood and
occasionally in San Francisco and San Diego. He told Murphy that he was
working on the newspaper, endeavoring to develop himself into a
reporter.

They were about to leave and had turned away from the bar when there was
a scuffle of feet at the front door. John was startled to see a number
of men rush in and form a line across the front of the long room.

It flashed into his head that the men were bandits. One of them, he saw,
had a gun in his hand. But this suspicion was quickly routed from his
mind when one of the men, apparently the leader, stepped forward and
shouted a command:

"Get in the corner, there, you birds, you're pinched," he ordered.

John recognized the men as deputy sheriffs and for a moment he was
nonplussed. Then he stepped forward to explain there was no cause for
them to arrest them.

"In the corner, I said, in the corner," shouted the foremost of the
deputies, pushing John back. "Get over there or I'll put you there,
see!"

John "saw." He stepped back into the corner of the room which the deputy
indicated, joining a group of a dozen men herded there by the other
deputies who swept through the "saloon." Murphy, beside him, whispered
in his ear:

"Don't get excited, kid, it's nuttin'; just another phoney pinch, dat's
all."

"But what for?" asked John.

"Loiterin' around a handbook joint. You'll be squared, kid, you'll be
squared. Stick with me and you'll come out on top; ten bucks to the
good."

One of the deputies marched up to the corner, pushing a young fellow
before him.

"Tried to duck out the back door," the deputy explained to his brother
officers. He shoved his prisoner into the group in the corner. "I guess
that's all of them. Let's get them out of here. Come on, you birds, out
the door; step lively and no funny business."

Murphy was at his side as they walked out into the street, guarded on
each side by the deputies. A motor truck was backed up to the curb and
in it were fifteen or twenty men, young and old, laughing and smoking.
A crowd of men and women, spectators to the raid, thronged the sidewalk
on either side.

John stepped to the side of one of the deputies.

"Listen, old man," he said. "I'm a reporter."

The deputy stepped back in mock surprise.

"You don't say so!" he exclaimed. "A reporter, eh? Well, you ain't
nobody, see! Why, one of your pals we got in there told me he was the
sheriff's nephew. Another one tried to bull me that he was one of
Gibson's men."

"Gibson!" exclaimed John. Then it dawned on him; this was one of the
police commissioner's "personally conducted" raids, his first attack on
"Gink" Cummings, without a doubt.

"Yes, Gibson," said the deputy. "What about it?"

"Is this one of Gibson's raids?" he asked.

"You guessed it," snapped the deputy. "Now, get along there. Hop on that
truck with the rest of the gents and see if you can't get consolation
from the sheriff's nephew and the bird that tried to bull me he was
working for Gibson."

"But I am a reporter," protested John. "You'll find out soon enough."

"Don't get gay!" threatened the deputy. "Don't get gay!"

John scrambled on the truck.

"Come right along, brother, join our party," said a red-faced man in a
brown check suit and a greasy derby hat, who reached down to help John
up.

The truck was now crowded with standing men. Three of the deputies swung
themselves up on the back of it to act as a rear guard. Murphy squirmed
through the tightly packed load until he reached John's side again.

"Listen, kid," he said in his husky voice. "If you want to find out
something about dis game, just keep your trap shut and do what Tim
Murphy tells you. Get me? I was tipped to dis raid but I didn't know it
was coming so soon or I'd got ya out of it, see? It's a phoney, see.
There's ten bucks in it for ya if ya go through with it like I tell ya,
see?"

"What are you talking about, Murphy?" John demanded.

"I know what I'm talkin' about and don't you forget it," Murphy said.
"Just do what I tell ya, will ya?"

"All right," he agreed.

The truck turned to the left at First and Spring streets and struggled
up the grade at First west of Broadway, backing into the curb in front
of the central police station. By the time they were leaving the truck
John had decided to "go through with it," as Murphy had suggested. It
would be an adventure, at least, and Murphy's repeated assertions that
it was "a phoney" invited investigation. He knew that a word to Kenyon,
the police reporter for his paper, would get him out of his trouble, but
he concluded he had nothing to lose and perhaps something to gain by
following Murphy's whispered instructions.

Herded into an alley-way leading back to the desk sergeant's room were,
John estimated, more than 150 other men and boys, arrested like himself
and evidently brought to headquarters in other trucks. In this crowd he
learned that every place along Spring street where it was suspected that
a handbook on the races at Tia Juana was being operated had been raided
simultaneously by squads of deputy sheriffs detailed to the command of
Police Commissioner Gibson by the sheriff. Over the heads of the crowd
he caught a glimpse of Gibson himself surrounded by Kenyon and the other
police reporters. He saw Gibson pose for a photograph with the crowd of
men he had arrested as a background. Once, he thought, he had a glimpse
of Brennan in conversation with Police Chief Sweeney.

"Have ya got ten bucks on ya?" asked Murphy.

"Why?" he asked.

"Dat's da bail," explained Murphy.

"I've got it," he said. "Have you yours?"

"Murphy's always got his bail money wid him," the twisted nose youth
grinned. "Remember, now, stick wid me."

"Right-o," said John.

"Gwan!" Murphy made the word the acme of disgust. "If I hadn't seen ya
mix it wid de Battler I'd bust ya for dat," he said. Evidently "right-o"
was not a word calculated to win in Twisted Nose's vocabulary.

Slowly, like a line of theatergoers approaching the box office, the
crowd worked its way toward the desk sergeant's counter, where two
police officers were booking the prisoners, receiving $10 in bail from
each and handing them a receipt for the money. Murphy and John finally
reached the counter.

"Murphy--Tim Murphy," said John's companion, stepping up to the desk and
speaking before the desk sergeant asked him his name, as if it was an
old ceremony which he knew by heart.

"Murphy--Tim Murphy," repeated the officer at the huge book. "If no one
was looking, Murphy, I'd slip you out the back door for having a name
like that."

Murphy handed over his $10 in bail, received his receipt slip and
stepped to one side to wait for John.

"Gallant--John Gallant," said John, following Murphy's lead.

"Ten bucks," said the desk sergeant.

"No, I mean what am I arrested for?"

"Oh, you're particular, are you? Well, it's loitering in a gambling
resort and playing the handbook. I suppose you'll ask for a jury trial?"
inquired the officer, with pretended politeness.

He produced his $10 and was given a receipt. Murphy tugged at his arm.

"Come on," he whispered. "Da sooner we get back da better."

John followed him out into the street. Turning to the right, Murphy
walked rapidly down First street toward Broadway, his arm hooked to
John's.

"Now, Murphy," he said, "tell me what's this all about--what are you
going to do?"

"Well, listen, kid, and I'll spill it to ya," Murphy said, talking as
they walked. "Dis raid was all a phoney, get me?"

"A phoney?"

"Ya, a phoney! Fixed, framed, phoney, see? I get my orders da other day.
A friend o' mine tips me. He steers me dat de handbooks are goin' to be
pulled and if I'm pinched for me to go through with it and there'll be
ten bucks in it for me."

"How?" asked John, impatiently.

"I'll get my ten bucks from da boss for bein' a good little boy and
gettin' pinched, see? It's dis way: Dis new commissioner, Gibson, wants
to make a big play, get me? He wants to do a grandstand on da bookmakers
and de 'Gink's' for him, see?"

"The 'Gink'?" exclaimed John. "'Gink' Cummings?"

"Sssh, not so loud, not so loud," cautioned Murphy.

"You mean to tell me that the 'Gink' is helping Gibson?" John demanded,
coming to a standstill.

"Come on," said Murphy, tugging at his arm. "I didn't say dat, did I?
All I said was dat da 'Gink' was for him pulling the bookies. Search me,
why. I figures it dat da 'Gink' has split with da bookies and is out to
teach 'em to behave."

"Then this raid was just what Cummings wanted?"

"Dat's it. If it wasn't we wouldn't be gettin' our ten back and ten on
top of it. I was steered to hang around a bookmaking joint for a few
days so dat when Gibson and his deputies come there would be somebody to
get pinched, see?"

"And were all those other men tipped to do the same thing?"

"Sure. Dey got a few suckers but de bunch was all in on the know."

"But how did the 'Gink' know beforehand that the raid was going to be
made?"

"Say," expostulated Murphy, "ask me some-pun easy, will ya? Da 'Gink'
knows everything before it happens, see? If he didn't he wouldn't be da
'Gink,' dat's all."

A thrill went through John. He was "in on the know," as Murphy had put
it. What a discovery he had made! What would Brennan say when he told
him? What would the mayor say? And what would Gibson say?

They were back before the place in which they had been arrested. Murphy
turned, guiding John by the arm with him.

"Now keep your trap shut and let me do da talkin', see?" he admonished
as they went through the swinging doors.

Inside things were exactly as they had been before the raid, except that
there were twice as many in the long room. John recognized the red-faced
man in the brown check suit and the greasy derby hat who had helped him
on to the truck as he stood at the bar, a glass of near-beer in front of
him and chatting with the bartender, who was pulling on his white coat
again.

Murphy led him to the back room and rapped on a door.

"Come in," a voice called.

Murphy opened the door and entered, beckoning to John with a jerk of the
head to follow him.



CHAPTER XII


The room was small and dark, the only light coming from an electric lamp
over an old-fashioned, battered roll-top desk that completely filled the
wall at one end. Between John and Murphy and the desk was a scarred oak
table behind which sat a thin-faced man, an unlighted cigar protruding
from a corner of his mouth.

"Shut the door," said the man, without removing the cigar.

John closed the door.

"Who's this with you, Murphy?" the man snapped out his words and eyed
John keenly.

"He's all right, Slim," Murphy replied.

"Sure?" asked "Slim," quizzically.

"I ain't gonna let anybody fool you or me, am I, Slim?"

"Not if you want to stay alive," returned "Slim." "Was he picked up in
the raid, too?"

"He was wit me all through it," said Murphy.

"All right, then, I'll take your word for it, Murphy," said the man
behind the desk. "But remember, if he's a stoolie, you're the bird
that's going to get it."

"Don't I know?" Murphy assured him.

"Where's your tag?" asked "Slim."

Murphy produced the receipt for his bail money and tossed it on the
table. "Slim" examined it and then, without looking up, asked:

"And where's yours?"

John noticed Murphy's almost imperceptible jerk of his head. He drew his
bail receipt from his pocket and tossed it on the table as Murphy had
done. Holding the slip of paper in both hands "Slim" examined it
closely, looked up inquiringly at John, and then reached into his
pocket, bringing forth a thick roll of bills. He snapped the rubber band
from the roll and extracted from it four bills. Returning the roll to
his pocket he divided the four bills equally and pushed them across the
table.

Murphy took two of the bills and John reached out his hand for the other
two. As his fingers touched the bills, "Slim's" hand closed down on
them.

"Just a minute," he heard "Slim" say. His nerves jerked tight as he
looked down into the thin, hard face of the man in the chair. For two or
three seconds they looked into each other's eyes. Then "Slim" spoke.

"You're on the square with Murphy and me?" he asked.

John nodded his head. "Slim" still held his hand on the bills.

"Say it," he demanded.

"I'm on the square with you," John said.

"Slim" released his hand.

"All right, beat it now and forget you ever saw me," he said. John and
Murphy left the room, each with two $10 bills. The red-faced man with
the greasy derby winked at John as they passed him. They hurried through
the afternoon crowd in Spring street until they were a block from the
saloon.

John was the first to speak.

"Murphy," he said, "who is this man, 'Slim'?"

"'Slim's' da right-hand man for da 'Gink.' He's one of da few birds da
'Gink' will trust. And he's one hard-boiled guy, believe me."

"Whose money was that he paid us?"

"Well," Murphy replied, "'Slim' gets his jack from da 'Gink.'"

"Are you sure of that?"

"Say, whatcha think 'Slim' is, a Christmas tree?"

"Now, let me get this right," said John. "The 'Gink' knew this raid was
coming off. He arranged with you and most of the others who were
arrested to be at the places to be raided so that Gibson's men would
have a crowd to take to central station. Then each of those who were
arrested and who were 'in on the know,' as you say, were given the $10
they put up for bail and $10 extra for being on hand to be arrested. Is
that it?"

"Dat's it."

"And you figure that the 'Gink' wanted Gibson's raid to be a success
because the 'Gink' has split with the bookmakers and wants to make
trouble for them?"

"Dat's da way I dope it," Murphy assented.

"And we forfeit our bail and forget all about it?"

"Sure."

"If any more of these framed-up raids are made, will you know about it?"
John asked.

"Sure, dey always fix it for us regular guys."

"Well, Murphy," said John, halting at a corner, "I'm going to ask you to
do something for me. If you find out that anything like this is going to
happen again, will you let me know about it?"

"Sure thing; where can I get ya?"

John gave him the number of the reporters' telephone at his office. In
exchange Murphy gave him the address of his room, in East Third street.

"You won't forget?" cautioned John as they shook hands. Murphy promised
him again and they separated after John had thanked him for letting him
"in on the know."

He hurried back toward the office, stopping only to buy the late
edition of his paper. Across the top of the front page, in big, heavy
black type, was the headline: "Gibson Leads Big Spring Street Raid."
Under this and above the story of the raid was another "head" which
read: "Commissioner Says He's After 'Gink' Cummings; 200 Arrested." The
photograph of Gibson standing near the men arrested in the raid, which
John had noticed him posing for, occupied a four-column space.

At the office P. Q. greeted him with a scowl.

"Well, where have you been all afternoon?" the city editor demanded.

"I was picked up in Gibson's raid," John replied.

"What's the big idea?"

"I didn't have any idea of getting arrested. And I think I've discovered
something big."

"What do you mean, big?" Then John told him the story of his experience
from beginning to end, producing the two $10 bills as evidence. He
related all that Murphy had told him and how Murphy had promised to tell
him in advance of a repetition of the occurrence.

P. Q. listened to him attentively, whistling softly when he had
finished.

"Do you think Murphy is right in believing that the 'Gink's' only motive
was to make trouble for the bookmakers?" he asked. "Personally, I doubt
if the 'Gink' would play into the hands of Gibson like that even if he
was fighting the bookmakers, providing, of course, that he has reason to
fear Gibson."

Before John could reply Brennan appeared and the whole story was related
to him.

"Your friend, Murphy, is off on the wrong foot," Brennan said. "Don't
you know what's happening? The 'Gink' is playing Gibson's game and
Gibson is playing his just like the mayor suspects. Someone has told
Gibson that people are wondering why he doesn't start after the 'Gink.'
So what does he do? He arranges with the 'Gink' to put on a grandstand
raid in Spring street and Cummings fixes it with your friend, Murphy,
and the others to submit to arrest, paying their bail money and adding
$10 to it to compensate them for their trouble, and Gibson is able to
make a big showing.

"Don't you suppose that the 'Gink' would realize that the minute he
tried doing what your friend Murphy thinks, some one of the bookmakers
would get wise to it and holler?"

"That's my idea of it," put in P. Q.

John was astounded at Brennan's revelation. Clearly Brennan's view of
the case was more reasonable, more logical, than that given him by
Murphy. He remembered having told Gibson when they met in Consuello's
dressing room that newspapermen were questioning why he did not attack
"Gink" Cummings and he remembered Gibson's answer that he was about to
make such a move.

"By George, Gallant," exclaimed Brennan, "your little experience this
afternoon is liable to turn the town over, if I'm not mistaken. That's
why Gibson came out with a statement after the raid denouncing the
'Gink' and claiming that he had gone right into the 'Gink's' territory
to demonstrate to the people that he was out to get Cummings. It's a
frame-up from start to finish. The 'Gink's' smart enough to know that
Gibson couldn't carry through his plan to overthrow the administration
unless he made some pretense of opposing him and so he fixes up this
raid."

"The question is, What are we going to do with what we have?" commented
the city editor. "Do you suppose Murphy would come through with an
affidavit?"

"Not unless we furnished him with protection," said John.

"As it stands," said Brennan, "we have Gallant's story and only our
conclusions as to what was back of it all. We haven't quite enough yet.
For example, this fellow 'Slim,' who paid you the money may be the
'Gink's' right-hand man, all right, but how are we going to prove it?
And, besides, all we know is that Gallant and Murphy were paid off. We
don't actually know that anyone else received their bail money back and
$10 on top of it.

"This information that Gallant has brought in satisfies me beyond all
doubt that the mayor's right in suspecting that the 'Gink' is back of
Gibson. But, before we shoot, it seems to me that we ought to have a
little more stuff. We've got to show that Gibson and the 'Gink' are
actually working together."

"Brennan's right," P. Q. concurred. "Your story is dynamite, Gallant,
but we need a fuse to explode it. We had better sit tight and if it
occurs again be in on it so that we can get something to show beyond all
doubt that Gibson is a faker and a tool of the 'Gink.' In the meantime,
Gallant, you keep in close touch with your friend Murphy."

"What about putting it up to Gibson and seeing what he has to say?" John
suggested.

"What about it, Brennan?" asked P. Q.

"That wouldn't get us anywhere," said Brennan. "And if Gibson is playing
the 'Gink's' game it would only warn him that we have reason to suspect
him and they'd be so careful we'd never have a chance to upset them.
Your idea is the best, P. Q. Sit tight for a while and see what happens
next."

       *       *       *       *       *

John told the story of his experience in Gibson's raid on the Spring
street bookmakers to two other persons, the mayor and the publisher of
the paper that employed him, Cyrus W. Phillips, known fraternally to his
men as the "chief." He was accompanied to the private office of the
publisher by P. Q., who informed him that his discovery of what could be
regarded as evidence that there was an alliance between Gibson and
"Gink" Cummings had brought the situation to a point where orders were
to be given by the "chief," who supervised the policy of the paper.

Mr. Phillips, a keen-eyed, energetic man, who unselfishly bestowed the
credit for the success of his newspaper on the men who worked under him,
listened to John's story with interest. It was John's first meeting with
the "chief," for whom even Brennan, with all his skepticism, had a
profound respect and the rapidity with which the publisher gave his
decision won his admiration.

"The policy of this paper has been to keep out of politics," he said,
"but this young man's story, with what it undoubtedly suggests, brings
us face to face with the duty we have always endeavored to fulfill, that
is, to attack graft and corruption wherever we find them. We have no
pledge to support either the mayor or Commissioner Gibson and we are
only for the one who is doing the right thing in the right way.

"'Gink' Cummings and men of his type we regard as a menace to Los
Angeles against whom every effort should be made. If Gibson is a
masquerader in league with Cummings he must be exposed. If this is only
an attempt at political retaliation by the mayor we must condemn it.

"We have indisputable evidence that the raid was framed by Cummings, but
whether he acted to make trouble for the bookmakers or to enable Gibson
to make a big showing we do not know. The more logical view to take is
that there may be an alliance between Gibson and Cummings, improbable as
it may appear. But we must not pre-judge nor act hastily.

"Commissioner Gibson has the support of the churches and the business
men of Los Angeles. If he has deceived them and is only a tool for
Cummings, he is the most infamous imposter that the city has ever known
and it would be a big thing for us as well as a great deed in behalf of
the city if we are able to expose him. On the other hand, if Gibson is
really what he claims to be and what his supporters believe him to be,
he is working for the betterment of Los Angeles and is entitled to our
unqualified support.

"Consequently, we must keep our eyes open. We must work to establish
beyond all doubt Gibson's sincerity or duplicity. What we do must be
fair and fearless and with only one object, the welfare of the city of
Los Angeles."

"Would it be advisable to let the mayor hear Gallant's story?" asked P.
Q.

"Only with the distinct understanding that it is not to be used by him
for any purpose whatsoever and that we are taking a strictly neutral
position on it, even inclining to the view that it does not necessarily
indicate that Gibson and Cummings are in a conspiracy," the publisher
replied. "I can say this much to you, I admire the mayor for having made
an enemy of 'Gink' Cummings."

As they left his office the "chief" shook hands with John.

"P. Q. tells me you have not been with us long," he said. "The
information you have obtained for us is very important and you did well.
I want you to feel that you know me now and that I am very glad you are
with us."

He visited the mayor's office in company with Brennan to whom P. Q. had
imparted the publisher's instructions. The mayor's secretary ushered
them into his office immediately. He greeted them both warmly and opened
the conversation with a question directed to Brennan.

"What do you make of Gibson's raid yesterday?" he asked.

"We'll answer that by telling you something mighty interesting," said
Brennan. "Gallant here has some information that will knock your eye
out."

Once again John told his story, from beginning to end. As he related it
the mayor sat upright in his chair, listening so intently to every word
that the fire at the end of his cigar died out and the ash dropped
unnoticed on his coat front. When John concluded the mayor bounced out
of his chair, circled his desk and seizing him by the hand exclaimed:

"My boy, you've done it!"

John's story seemed to have rejuvenated him. He shook hands with
Brennan, went back to his desk, sat down, bounced up again, wasted five
matches in a vain attempt to relight his cigar and then chose a fresh
one from a box he took from a drawer.

"I know that fellow 'Slim' who paid you the money," the mayor went on.
"His name is Gray and he IS the 'Gink's' right-hand man; has been for
years. It almost made me believe Gibson might be straight when he
conducted that raid yesterday. I was beginning to wonder if I wasn't
mistaken, after all, but now I'm convinced for once and all that he is
the 'Gink's' man. I'm willing to wager my life that he and Cummings
arranged for that raid yesterday because they knew that people were
beginning to ask themselves why he didn't get after the 'Gink.'

"What a shrewd pair they are! I've got the fight of my life on my hands
now and you, my boy"--to Gallant--"have done something for me I'll never
forget. Brennan, what are you going to do with this evidence?"

Brennan explained how the matter had been presented to the publisher of
their paper and related what the "chief" had said to John and P. Q. He
cautioned the mayor that John's story was not to be used by him or
revealed to anyone.

"Trust me," assured the mayor. "But can I rely upon you boys to keep me
in touch with what develops?"

"We will tell you everything we are permitted to disclose," promised
Brennan. "In return for what information we give you we will expect you
to furnish us with what information comes into your hands."

"Agreed," said the mayor.

Brennan and John rose to leave. The mayor came from behind his desk and
with his arms around their shoulders walked with them to the door. There
he chuckled, and, leaning toward them, said:

"Boys, I guess your old Uncle Dudley isn't such a so-and-so kind of an
old fool after all, is he?"

From the city hall John and Brennan, by previous arrangement, sought out
Murphy, whom they found at the East Third street rooming house, the
address of which he had given John. His room was cheaply furnished and
the walls of it decorated with prints of boxers, sporting life notables,
knockout fight pictures and photographs of shapely bathing beauties in
one-piece suits. He appeared surprised when the two reporters entered as
he opened the door.

"Murphy," said John, "this is Brennan, a friend of mine. We want to have
a little talk with you."

"Glad to meet a friend of da Gallant kid," Murphy said, shaking hands
with Brennan. He reached into a drawer and brought out a quart bottle of
whisky which he placed on a table with a single glass into which he
poured a generous portion.

"Drink up, gents, and do your stuff," he invited.

John did the talking. He explained to Murphy that he and Brennan were
newspaper men and that he had told Brennan of their experience in the
raid and their meeting with "Slim" Gray.

"Hey, back up," Murphy interrupted. "Let me get ya straight. Are you
birds plannin' to show 'Slim' and the 'Gink' up?"

"Murphy," said John, "can we trust you?"

"I went da limit for you, didn't I?" asked Murphy, looking at John.

"You did," agreed John, remembering how Murphy had vouched for him to
"Slim" Gray. "That's why we're here now. We figure you can help us and
if you do we'll see that you are taken care of."

"You're straight with dat?"

"Absolutely."

"Well, do your stuff, then, do your stuff!"

At a nod from Brennan, John placed the whole situation before Murphy,
explaining every part of it carefully.

"Now, what we want you to do is this," he said. "We want you to find out
everything you can about what the 'Gink' is doing and let us know as
soon as you learn it."

Murphy listened without interrupting until John had finished.

"Do you know what'll happen to me if de 'Gink' finds I'm peachin' on
him?" he asked.

"We have an idea----" John began.

"An idea!" Murphy exclaimed, contemptuously. "Well, I got more than an
idea, see? I know what'd happen to me, see? I get my head kicked in,
see?"

"We'll promise you that for every piece of information you give us
you'll get enough money to make it worth your while," put in Brennan.

"Dat's straight?" asked Murphy, turning to John.

"That's straight," John assured him.

They left a few minutes later with Murphy's pledge, given with an oath
worded far stronger than the customary legal one, to act as their
informant and to keep secret every word they had told him.

"De 'Gink's' no pal of mine, see?" said Murphy as they left his room.
"I'm wise enough to know that he'd cross me in a minute, see?"

The interrogative "see?" that Murphy used to punctuate his sentences was
invariably accompanied with a gesture of his hand that resembled a
baseball umpire's gesture in calling a runner safe at a base more than
anything John could think of.

Before dinner that night Mrs. Gallant handed him an envelope which she
said she received in the afternoon's mail. It was addressed to him and
opening it he found that it was a note from Consuello.

"My dear Mr. Gallant," he read, "could you and your dear mother
accompany me home Sunday for dinner? I can arrange to call for you and
bring you home in the car. I would be delighted to have you with me and
am anxious for father and mother to meet Mrs. Gallant. Cordially,
Consuello Carrillo."



CHAPTER XIII


Since the night Mrs. Gallant had gone weeping to her room after John
told her that Consuello played in motion pictures, the girl had never
been mentioned by either of them. John refrained from speaking of her
because he decided that until he found some way to overcome the
prejudice his mother held it would only cause unpleasantness. There had
never been a night following that when Mrs. Gallant had displayed her
disapproval of Consuello that John had not racked his brain to decide
how he could eradicate his mother's intolerant attitude and bring her to
know and appreciate Consuello for the girl she was.

At times he was annoyed by his mother's bigotry which gave her, in
Consuello's case, an unreasonableness that amounted almost to fanaticism
and embittered the natural sweetness of her character and disposition.
His suspicion that her condemnation of photoplays and everyone connected
with them was being fostered by someone else had been substantiated by
an incident which occurred shortly after the night she had turned her
back on Consuello.

That Mrs. Sprockett, "from across the street"--as John always thought
of her--had interrupted one of the evening chats he always had with his
mother. His impulsive dislike of Mrs. Sprockett caused him to leave her
alone on the porch with his mother while he retired to the living room
to read. The window to the porch was open.

"Isn't it terrible?" he heard Mrs. Sprockett say. "They tell me that she
had been married three times and smokes cigarettes right in front of
everyone. Women like her are a disgrace to a nation and we mothers
should do something, I tell you."

From further snatches of the conversation John learned that Mrs.
Sprockett was referring to a motion picture actress who had been given a
decree of divorce that day.

"I told my Alma at dinner, tonight, that she had better not let me catch
her sneaking off to the picture show," Mrs. Sprockett continued. Alma,
John knew, was the oldest of Mrs. Sprockett's daughters. "What are
things coming to when girls wear their skirts above their knees and bob
their hair and think nothing of taking up with the first man they meet?
When you and I were girls, Mrs. Gallant, we would have been locked up if
we had attempted such performances.

"I tell you we owe it to our children to crush these creatures that set
such wicked examples. And Mr. Sprockett agrees with me in every word I
say."

As far as John knew, Mrs. Sprockett's husband had never, never disagreed
with her--for good and sufficient reasons. He had recalled how Mrs.
Sprockett's husband trailed her from house to house in the neighborhood
evenings while the Sprockett baby wailed for attention.

He drew Consuello's note from his pocket while he and his mother were in
the living room after dinner and read it again. He debated in his mind
what he should do and finally handed it to his mother without a word.
Mrs. Gallant adjusted her spectacles and read the note through slowly.
John studied her face and he imagined he saw her lips tremble slightly.

She evaded meeting his eyes as she handed the note back to him. He
waited for her to speak, but she was silent and he realized with a
sinking feeling that her attitude toward Consuello had not changed. He
determined, however, to dispose of the matter quickly.

"Well, mother," he said. "How shall I answer her?"

"It was very kind of her to include me but under the circumstances,
John, I----"

"Very well, mother."

"But, my boy----"

"Yes."

"Don't let me stop you from going and please don't let it harden your
heart against me."

"Mother, are you sure you're not making a sad mistake in letting your
heart harden against her?" he could not resist saying.

Her lips trembled and her handkerchief went to her eyes. Leaving his
chair he crossed to where she was sitting and put his arm around her.

"There, mother, we must not let anything come between us," he said,
tenderly. "It's all right, mother; it's all right!"

The next day, Saturday, he telephoned to Consuello early in the morning,
soon after he reached the office, in order to catch her before she left
for the studio.

"I was just about to call you," she said. "Did you get my note?"

"Yes."

"I'm so sorry, but it will be impossible for me to get home, tomorrow.
My director insists that we go out on location in the morning. You
understand, don't you?"

"Certainly," he replied. He had decided to tell her that his mother was
ill and unable to accept her invitation. His relief was beyond words
when he discovered that it would be unnecessary for him to fabricate an
excuse for Mrs. Gallant, although he realized it was only postponing
the time when he should be compelled to prevent Consuello learning of
his mother's harsh judgment of her.

"I was so anxious that we should have a perfect day together, your
mother, yourself, father and mother and I. But we can arrange it for
some other time, can't we?"

"I'm sure we can." He felt justified somehow in taking this optimistic
view.

"And I wanted to ask you, would you care to come out with us on
location, tomorrow? We have several scenes to do and I'm sure you will
find it interesting."

"It would be wonderful."

"If you can be at the studio at nine?"

"I'll be there."

"And you'll explain how it is to your mother and tell her how sorry I
am, won't you?"

"She'll understand." He felt he was not trifling as much with truth in
that answer.

Carrying out a conclusion he reached during the day, John did not tell
his mother of his conversation over the telephone with Consuello. He
told her only that he would be away most of Sunday, permitting her to
deduce that he had accepted Consuello's invitation and had made some
explanation of her absence.

A dozen automobiles were in line along the driveway of the Peerless
studio when John arrived promptly at nine o'clock, the following
morning. Consuello had evidently told the guard at the gate that she was
expecting him. It was only necessary for him to mention his name.

"Miss Carrillo asks that you be directed to her dressing room," the
gateman said.

With one exception the automobiles were already occupied. John
recognized the cameramen with their equipment piled in one of the cars.
In another he discerned his guide, "John J. Silence," and in another he
caught a glimpse of the sad-eyed bass 'cello player, his huge instrument
beside him.

As he left the driveway to cross to the dressing room building he saw
Consuello coming toward him. She wore the dainty white "old fashioned"
dress, as John had named it in his mind, that she had when they first
met at the Barton Randolph lawn fete. She was Consuello and yet because
of her facial "make-up," she was the girl he had seen before the camera
on the occasion of his first visit to the studio.

"They're waiting for me," she explained as John met her. "You'll ride
with us."

She led him to the first automobile in the line. In the front seat,
beside the driver, was the man with the horn-rim glasses whom John
recognized as her director. They took seats in the tonneau and he shook
hands with the director whom Consuello introduced as "Mr. Bonwit."
Heading the caravan of machines their car started out of the driveway.

"I wanted Reggie--Mr. Gibson--to come with us," she explained, "but he
had other engagements, something to do with his work, and could not get
away. He promised to join us later. I am anxious to hear what he has
been doing and what you think of it. I know all about his raid on those
places in Spring street."

His part in the raid with the suspicion it directed against Gibson as an
ally of "Gink" Cummings returned to him. Principally because of the
faith Consuello had in Gibson he had been unable to convince himself
that the commissioner was in league with Cummings, despite the arguments
advanced by Brennan and the attitude taken by the publisher of his
newspaper, a view that did not reject the possibility that Gibson was a
masquerader.

"He told me that what you said about newspaper men wondering why he did
not attack 'Gink' Cummings caused him to decide to make the raid," she
went on. "You may not believe it, but he respects your judgment and has
a great deal of admiration for you and the man who works with you,
Brennan, isn't it?"

Passing the outskirts of the city the machines took them through a
district being built up with pretty little bungalows of varied colors
and architecture.

"I often wonder," she said, "whether the people who live in these houses
ever realize what Mr. Gibson is trying to do for them. They seem so
apart from the hurry and scurry of life; they see so little of the evil
he is trying to save them from. They read of him, perhaps, and commend
him in their minds for what he is doing and let it go at that. I don't
suppose they ever feel they owe him a personal debt of gratitude."

"It is a common fault to hold aloof and think little of danger until it
strikes home to you," John said. "And yet I envy them for what they do
not know, for what they do not see, for their self-content."

Leaving the city behind, the automobile swung on to a boulevard leading
toward the hills. She explained to him the purpose of their trip.

"It is what we call a 'retake,'" she said. "The scenes we will do today
were done several weeks ago, but the photography did not satisfy Mr.
Bonwit. We will do them over again, resurrecting the sweetheart you saw
me mourning so sadly for back on the interior set. They are the scenes
in which he asks me to marry him and in which I plight my troth, as the
title writer insists upon describing it."

"Perhaps that's why Mr. Gibson isn't with us," suggested John.

"It may be," she laughed. "He saw the original scenes played and
pretended to be madly jealous of the leading man."

The "location" on which the cameras were trained for the scenes enacted
by Consuello was idealistic as an outdoor setting. Shasta daisies,
primroses and stalks of purple and white larkspur, in riotous profusion,
gave splotches of bright color that stood out vividly against the bosky
green. Stately, restful trees gave bounteous shade. A brook, tumbling
down the hillside, gurgled over clean, white stones and sand.

There was a lengthy conference between the photographers and Bonwit, the
director, relative to the light effects. Oblongs of white cloth tacked
on a wood framework, which John learned were used to reflect and deflect
the sun's rays, were shifted from one spot to another and back again
until the camera men were completely satisfied.

The sad-eyed bass viol player with his companions, the violinist and
the 'cellist, occupied folding chairs several yards to the right of the
cameras, where they were protected from the sun in the shade of a tree.
"John J. Silence," whom John discovered was an assistant director, made
countless trips to and from the automobiles for things that everyone
seemed to have forgotten and left in the machines.

John had never seen such precaution exercised. It was fully an hour
before Consuello and her sweetheart in the photoplay began rehearsing.
He was a young fellow, with smooth black hair that John considered
almost as perfect as that of Gibson, which had irritated him when he
first met the police commissioner. And, as John had also thought of
Gibson, the actor playing opposite Consuello was too immaculate.

First, Consuello and the actor came slowly toward the cameras, hand in
hand, a typical pair of straying lovers, so affected by each other's
presence that they spoke only with their eyes, sidelong glances of
ardent devotion. Then they stood still, facing each other, their
profiles toward the cameras, he holding her hands down to her sides,
telling her of his love for her while she hung her head. As he finished
she lifted her face, smiled, and he clasped her to his breast, looking
up as if he was thanking his Creator for giving her to him.

They held that pose for what John thought was an unnecessarily long
time, and that was all of the first scene. John was happy to note, for a
reason he neglected to define, even to himself, that Consuello seemed
relieved as she drew back from the actor's arms. They rehearsed it a
dozen times before Bonwit and the cameramen decided it could be done no
better and then the cameras clicked.

Next there was a pretty little scene, without much action, in which
Consuello and her "sweetheart" were seated beside each other with a
background of flowers. John deduced that obstacles had evidently risen
to the marriage, as the "conversation" was serious and inclined to be
tearful. During this scene the three-piece orchestra, by this time
coatless and collarless, played the most plaintively sad piece, John
thought, that he had ever heard. The bass viol player's face was almost
funereal as he gazed abstractedly up into the branches of the tree above
him. The scene ended with the actor looking soulfully into the eyes of
his betrothed.

When scene number two had been photographed, "John J. Silence" amazed
John by suddenly shouting "Eats!" and dashing toward the automobiles. A
large wicker hamper was lifted from one of the cars and carried to a
clear space near the cameras. Consuello seated herself in a canvas chair
near John, who sat cross-legged at her feet. They were apart from the
others, who formed a group under another tree. From the hamper "John J.
Silence" brought them two small baskets, covered with snow-white
napkins, containing sandwiches, a piece of pie, a slice of cake, ripe
olives, salted almonds and paper cups, which, at Consuello's suggestion,
John filled with water from the stream.

"I don't blame him," remarked John as they settled down to enjoy the
basket luncheon.

"Who?"

"Gibson," he said.

"For what?"

"For hating that make-believe sweetheart of yours," he answered.

"But he is only--only as you said--make-believe," she said. "He has the
sweetest little wife and two of the darlingest children you ever saw. He
probably is thinking of them while he's holding me in his arms and
pledging undying love. Whenever he has to shed tears he thinks of the
time the baby had pneumonia and nearly died."

"Make-believe," he repeated. "My friend Brennan--whom Gibson spoke to
you of--says that life is all make-believe; that we all play at
make-believe--some of us rightfully, but most of us wrongfully."

Subconsciously he thought of Brennan's indictment of Gibson as a fraud
and a dishonest "make-believe," a consummate actor in the role of a
villain in real life.

"I'm often inclined to believe it," she said slowly. "Perhaps that's why
life is sometimes a huge joke and sometimes nothing but sadness and
disillusionment. We play our little game of make-believe and strut
around proudly, making ourselves, as well as others, think that we
amount to something and then comes death, like a curtain; the footlights
go out and where are we? Who thinks of us then?"

"Only the few who have loved us with all our faults and vain deceit and
make-believe," he replied.

A series of "close-ups," were photographed after lunch. Consuello went
into the actor's embrace again to permit a "close-up" of his fervent
expression of love and thankfulness as he looked upward to the sky. John
didn't mind the repetition of this scene. He thought of the actor's wife
and two babies, especially the one who was his father's "tear provoker."
There was another in which Consuello, her head inclined, admired the
fresh crisp beauty of a bouquet of daisies. She lifted her face to gaze
with a faraway look past the cameras, apparently registering longing for
her absent sweetheart. John followed her gaze and discovered it was
fixed on the woebegone countenance of the bass viol player, whose
melancholy seemed to be increased by his dim realization that he was the
object on which she concentrated in her abstract mood.

In a third "close-up" the actor registered the deepness of his love by
thrusting his chin forward and staring unblinkingly over John's head. It
was an effective piece of facial expression, John thought, as the
actor's eyes were as soft as a fawn's. Photographs of Richard
Barthelmess and John Barrymore in similar poses came back into John's
mind.

John and Consuello were beside each other again on the return trip to
the studio.

"I expect Reggie will be there waiting for us," she said. "We have a
dinner engagement and I will have to dress at the studio. I'm sorry that
he and you and I cannot have dinner together, we have so much to talk
about."

"You have been kind enough," he said. "I have enjoyed myself thoroughly
and I would be intruding if I occupied any more of your time."

"Intruding?" she repeated, with a rising inflection of her voice. "Why,
it was kind of you to be with me."

"But you must remember--" he began.

"Remember?"

"Yes, remember there is someone else who should be considered."

"Oh, Reggie's glad that he has a substitute for trips like this and I've
told you that he respects your judgment," she said.

Gibson was in his two-seated car at the entrance to the studio when they
arrived. They left their machines at the gateway to meet him.

"Again?" he asked as they met. "You two certainly find each other
interesting."

He smiled as he spoke, but a queer feeling went through John as he
realized that Consuello had failed to tell Gibson that she had invited
him to be with her.

"I'm acquainting Mr. Gallant with the process of picture making,"
Consuello said. However she received Gibson's salutatory remark she gave
no hint of her feeling in the tone of her voice.

"When are you going to show her through a newspaper office, Gallant?"
Gibson was still smiling. Consuello replied before John could speak.

"Whenever you and I can find time, I'm sure," she said. "You'll excuse
me for a moment; I must hurry along so I won't keep you waiting long,
Reggie. And Mr. Gallant, I'll arrange for a car to take you home."

She hurried away, skipping toward the dressing room building.
Unconscious of each other, Gibson and Gallant watched her until she
disappeared from their sight. When they turned toward each other
simultaneously, John had a peculiarly embarrassed feeling, as if he had
been caught doing something which he had no right to do.

Gibson's smile was confusing.

"A wonderful, wonderful girl," he said, drawing a finely embossed
cigarette case.

"Yes," said John, instinctively apprehensive of making a more
enthusiastic concurrence.

"A whole-hearted, dear, unsuspecting girl," said Gibson, without
offering the cigarette case to John.

"Yes."

"A girl who makes a friend of everyone she meets."

Wasn't that "everyone" emphasized a trifle?

"A girl a man would do almost anything for." He was still smiling.

"Yes."

"By the way, Gallant, has she told you we are engaged to be married?"

John hesitated and chose to keep the confidence she had placed in him.

"No," he said. "You ARE to be congratulated." He had a secret
satisfaction in stressing the "are."

Gibson lighted his cigarette.

"I just thought I'd tell you," he said and John thought--or was it his
imagination?--that Gibson's set smile flattened a little at the corners.



CHAPTER XIV


Under Brennan's patient tutelage John progressed rapidly, learning
thoroughly the rudiments of newspaper reporting in its two branches,
news gathering and writing. P. Q. occasionally gave advice which John
knew came from a man who took a secret pride in supervising the
remarkable metamorphosis of a "cub" into a well trained reporter. It was
the gossip of newspaper workers that P. Q. excelled in the training of
his reporters whom he handled with the tact of a psychologist and the
care of a manager of a baseball team for his players. Nothing gave him
more pleasure than to develop a "cub" into a star and there were dozens
of star men throughout the country whom he brought to the top and who
still thought him the "greatest of them all."

Brennan was one of the star men who broke into newspaper work under P.
Q. Between P. Q. and his star reporter there was a peculiar relationship
which John studied with interest. When Brennan performed some especially
clever piece of work the city editor treated him as though it was
unnecessary for him to give any praise or commendation. When Brennan
disappointed him, which was seldom, P. Q. would berate him with the
same caustic fervor that lashed a stupid, thick-headed reporter to a
point of self-abnegation that gave him thoughts of suicide as the only
way out of his misery.

The praise Brennan received from P. Q. came to him in a roundabout way
and the star reporter drank it in as eagerly as a "cub," knowing as he
did it that it was a "master" who praised. P. Q. would summon some
offending reporter to his desk and after scolding him would laud Brennan
to the skies.

"If you had only one-tenth the sense that Brennan has there might be
some hope for you," the city editor would say. "Brennan is a real
newspaper man, a real reporter. I wouldn't trade him for any dozen men
in the country. Watch Brennan, read the stuff he writes and study the
way he does things if you want to become a reporter."

These words, P. Q. knew, would get back to Brennan, who would
cross-examine the reporter to get every word of the city editor's
commendation. Yet between them, except for rare occasions when they went
out to lunch together, there was a "strictly business" attitude that was
deceiving. Brennan's loyalty to P. Q. was only rivaled by the city
editor's covert admiration for him as a reporter. Several times John
overheard wordy altercations between P. Q. and Brennan in which the
city editor would threaten to discharge him and Brennan would reply with
a threat to resign, but nothing ever came of these quarrels and they
were forgotten within an hour after they occurred.

From Brennan John received precious bits of advice.

"Never argue with a city editor," Brennan warned him. "It's useless.
Don't ever, no matter how friendly he is, get familiar with one of them.
It's ruinous."

Gradually John learned Brennan's story. An Englishman by birth and a
university man, Brennan was a rancher in Alberta for a year before he
joined the Royal Northwest Mounted Police. He had been everywhere and
seen everything. He became a reporter under P. Q. in a Middle West city,
and his first training received, he became restless again. He went to
Central America to participate in a revolution and then to the South Sea
islands. For a time he had been in China, Japan and India, and Kipling's
verse was given its proper swing when he recited it. He was a fast, hard
boxer and John had to extend himself to hold his own when they sparred
for exercise at Blake's gymnasium.

"Something of a soldier; something of a dreamer; something of a
poet--but only a newspaper man," he once described himself, adding a
few seconds later, "Oh, forget it," as though he was ashamed to
soliloquize about himself.

To John he was unstinted in his laudation of P. Q., whose eccentricities
he knew so well.

"P. Q. has always believed that a hungry reporter is the best reporter,"
Brennan told John. "He swears that a reporter works twice as well when
he is hungry as when he is well fed. He says a person can't help but
become somewhat soggy mentally when his stomach is full, while an empty
stomach makes a keen brain. That's why he never has breakfast until
after the first edition is away. He practices what he preaches."

Assigned to work as Brennan's "leg man," the newspaper term for
understudy, John became acquainted with the men in Los Angeles who
appear almost daily in the news. He met Le Compte Davis, Paul Schenck,
Joe Ford, Dick Kittrelle, Al MacDonald, W. I. Gilbert, Frank Dominguez
and Jud Rush among the lawyers; the district attorney and his staff of
deputies; "Bud" Hill, the county counsel; police detectives, deputy
sheriffs, private detectives, city and county officials, federal agents
and a host of others, including such picturesque characters as Martin
Aguirre, court bailiff, former sheriff and one-time warden of San
Quentin; Charlie Sebastian, whom the reporters declared unanimously was
a capable chief of police, despite his faults; Billy Wong, representing
the Bing Kong Tong of Chinatown, and "Cap" Gillis, Chinatown "lookout"
and undying friend of the police reporters.

Le Compte Davis they met in his turret-like office room in the Bryson
block, examining a tattered book under a microscope. He learned that
Davis had a private library of more than 8,000 volumes and was one of
the rare old book lovers of the city. His office room was stacked with
books he had purchased, several of which were to be sent to England to
be handsomely bound by hand. On the wall were several oil paintings, one
of which Davis bought at an auction for $75 and which he had been
offered more than $1,000 for.

"Sometimes Le Compte Davis disappears in the middle of a busy day and
scouts are sent out to look for him," Brennan told him. "Invariably they
find him at some bookstore, pawing over a recent purchase of old books,
or in some second-hand store where he picks up rare and costly things
for a few dollars.

"He's such a shark on books that whenever he goes into a bookstore the
proprietor details a clerk to follow him around. When Le Compte takes a
book from a shelf, examines it and returns it to its place, the clerk
takes the book down and immediately doubles the price of it.

"He would rather get some old book that's listed in his catalogue as
valuable for a few cents than win the most important law case."

The offices of Davis and his partner, Jud Rush, who was once a cowboy in
California, were picturesque in themselves because of the furnishings,
as quaint and dusty as those pictured by Dickens. The furniture was
mid-Victorian, the rugs and carpets worn by the feet of countless
clients, and a musty odor of old books and papers permeated the air. It
was like stepping back fifty years to enter the waiting room.

"I don't know whether Le Compte realizes it," Brennan said, "but it's
good psychology for him to keep his office as it is. It suggests
stability, dignity, soundness. A person feels like he is entering the
office of secure, reliable, established lawyers when he comes in here.
It has twice the effect of entering a bright, shiny, new office,
smelling of varnish and neatly kept."

Frequently Brennan and John lunched with Paul Schenck and his partner,
Dick Kittrelle, at a little eating place in West Second street
frequented by lawyers, newspaper men, police officers, deputy sheriffs
and others who were thrown into contact daily in the making and
gathering of news. There Schenck would discourse on psychiatry and
psychology, his two hobbies, talking of "phobias" and "complexes" and
maintaining that everyone in the eyes of others has a touch of insanity.

"I believe, with Le Compte Davis, that the two things that a successful
lawyer must have are tact and an instinctive knowledge of psychology,"
Schenck would tell them.

They were interesting days for John. He heard the "inside" stories of
famous murder cases, municipal upheavals, political battles, celebrated
trials and notable "beats" scored by reporters in the history of
newspaper work in Los Angeles. He saw behind the scenes and what he
learned made a distinct impression on his receptive brain. He was
surprised to find that most of those he met, whom Brennan described as
the "head-line boys," shared Brennan's skeptical viewpoint, rejoicing as
he did when their doubts were overcome and their faith in their fellow
men re-established.

These men differed on the question of Gibson's sincerity in his "clean
up" crusade. Some of them believed him to be an altruist, while others,
without evidence to support their views, regarded him with suspicion.
The opinion of the skeptics was that Gibson was either a plain
"glory-seeker" or, despite his denials of the reports to that effect, a
potential candidate for mayor.

"He knows that no man can become mayor of Los Angeles unless he has the
support of respectable citizenry, represented by the churches and
business and civic welfare associations, as well as the women's clubs,"
one of them said. "After he is elected mayor he may break his pledges to
these organizations, but as soon as he does he's through."

Late one afternoon, two weeks after his last meeting with Consuello and
Gibson, Brennan and John were gossiping at the office, speculating on
Gibson's next move.

"He'll pull another stunt soon," Brennan declared. "When he does it's up
to us to dig in and find out what's behind it. If we can get a little
more evidence like that you stumbled on to when he raided the Spring
street bookmakers, we'll be on the trail of the biggest story that's
broken here in years."

"Isn't there a chance that he's straight?" asked John, still unable to
believe that the man Consuello had such unfailing faith in was the man
Brennan suspected him to be.

"If he is it won't be the first time I've been wrong," said Brennan,
"but it will be the biggest jolt I ever got, let me tell you that."

       *       *       *       *       *

They received no word from Murphy until nearly a month after Gibson's
spectacular Spring street raid. He appeared at the office late one
afternoon with the information that he had "hot stuff" concerning "Gink"
Cummings.

He declared that Cummings had ordered that all crime stop immediately in
the city.

"Da 'Gink' has passed out da word dat da boys gotta lay off," said
Murphy. "He gives orders dat there's to be no rough stuff until he says
so."

"You mean that the 'Gink' is closing up the town?" asked Brennan.

"Dat's what I say," replied Murphy. "He says there ain't to be no
stick-ups, no gamblin', no bootleggin', no pocket pickin', no house
jobs, no bunko stuff, no nothin' and dat goes. Da first bird dat tries
workin' is gonna be run outa town, see?"

"Where do you pick up that information, Murphy?" Brennan asked.

"Well, da 'Gink' don't tell me poisonally, see? But I gets it straight,
see? Da stick-ups, da sure-thing guys, da dips, everybody gets orders to
lay off, see?"

Brennan whistled softly.

"What's the 'Gink' got up his sleeve now, I wonder?" he said.

"Soich me," said Murphy.

"Are they obeying the 'Gink's' orders?"

"I'll say they are!" asserted Murphy. "All the gamblin' places are
closed and everybody stopped doin' business, see? Even da girls is
behavin' and only enough dope to keep da boys goin' bein' peddled, see?"

"I see," said Brennan, "but it's got me. I can't figure out what his
game is."

With P. Q. approving the cashier's voucher for the money, Murphy was
paid $25 for the information he gave Brennan and John, who told him to
watch the situation in Spring street closely and report to them often.

The information furnished by Murphy that "Gink" Cummings had ordered
that crime be stopped in Los Angeles was substantiated by the
developments of the following week. The crime wave that had been
sweeping the city, as it had the nation, came to an abrupt halt. During
the week only one holdup was reported to the police and prohibition
officers were surprised to find that bootleggers had stopped their work.
There were no burglaries, gambling, picking of pockets, bunko swindling
or handbook betting. The traffic in narcotics, police and federal
officers reported, was the lowest in years.

Police Chief Sweeney and the mayor were baffled by the sudden stop of
crime and frankly admitted their bewilderment to Brennan and John.

"It's beyond me," said the mayor. "All we can do is wait and see what
happens. They are up to something big, that's a certainty, but I can't
figure it out."

Then, after peace and quiet had reigned in the city for ten days, Gibson
issued a statement claiming that he and the forces supporting him,
including his investigators and detectives, had done what the mayor and
Chief Sweeney were unable to do, stopped crime in Los Angeles.

"I call the attention of the citizens of Los Angeles to the fact that
within the past ten days there has been less crime in the city than in
years," Gibson's statement read. "There has been but one holdup, no
burglaries, no violence, no banditry and no open gambling, bootlegging,
thievery or trafficking in narcotics.

"My investigators report that the lid is down tight, solely and
exclusively because 'Gink' Cummings, the notorious boss of the
underworld, and his gang of crooks know that I mean business and that
those behind me are in the fight to a finish for a clean city.

"I am gratified, of course, to find that the crusade is having its
effect and that Los Angeles is beginning to enjoy the protection to
which it is entitled, although the entire situation discloses the
deplorable state of inefficiency in the police department and the
failure of Chief Sweeney and the mayor to enforce the law."

Brennan smiled broadly when he read the Commissioner's latest
proclamation.

"That modest, shrinking violet we hear of so often is a shrieking
braggart alongside of our grand young crusader," he remarked. "What a
dumb-bell I was not to have seen what was coming!"

John realized that Brennan believed he had discovered the reason for
"Gink" Cummings' order to close the city to crime and unlawfulness.

"Well, what is it?" he asked.

"It's a mighty slick trick," explained the star reporter. "Don't you see
how it works? Cummings, wanting everyone to believe Gibson really has
the ability to close up the town, gives orders for the bandits and
crooks to 'lay off,' as Murphy put it. Then Gibson comes out and claims
credit for closing up the city. The 'Gink' and Gibson planned this stunt
together; otherwise, how did Murphy happen to find out about it? And
what was the 'Gink's' reason for closing the town if it wasn't to give
Gibson a chance to claim the credit?"

"Still, there's a chance that it was only a coincidence, that the 'Gink'
had some other reason to call his men off and that Gibson, believing
that he really had frightened Cummings and his gang, took advantage of
an opportunity and claimed the credit for it," suggested John.

Brennan inhaled deeply on his cigarette before answering.

"Gallant," he said, "you really don't think it happened that way, do
you? Don't let your credulousness put you on the wrong track. Who do you
suppose it was who told Gibson's investigators that it was his crusade
that was closing up the town? Remember, the 'Gink' is the mayor's enemy
and he isn't going to do anything unless it's against the mayor. He
simply passed out the word he was afraid of Gibson to give Gibson a
chance to claim the glory."

The mayor and Sweeney, as well as P. Q., who knew that Murphy had given
Brennan and John advance information regarding the ceasing of crime,
agreed with Brennan that Gibson and the "Gink" had framed the whole
affair.

Gibson's announcement that the ebb of the crime wave was the result of
his crusade brought renewed expressions of commendation and pledges of
support from organizations and individuals lined up behind him.
Churches, women's clubs, civic and business organizations, groups of
citizens and prominent men and women of the city were outspoken in their
praise of the police commissioner, hailing him as the "man of the hour."
A well known minister addressed a mass meeting at his church, his
subject being "Police Commissioner Gibson's Remarkable Success and the
Disgrace of Having a Mayor Who Fails to Do His Duty." Other preachers
delivered sermons extolling Gibson, one of the sermons being advertised
as "A Modern Crusader Against Graft, Booze, Boodle and Sin."

Accepting every invitation, Gibson spoke at churches, mass meetings,
clubs and luncheons of business men's organizations. Brennan declared
that the commissioner was showing signs of weakening on his vow that he
would not become a candidate for mayor under any circumstances.

"You mark my words," he said to John. "Some of these days Gibson will
announce himself as a candidate. He'll say that he has been persuaded
that he would be failing to perform his full duty unless he heeded the
call. He'll excuse himself from his stand that he had no political
ambitions by saying that when he undertook his crusade he had no thought
of ever becoming a candidate."

"What about the $1,000 he told us he'd give to charity the moment he
announced himself as a candidate for any public office?" asked John.

"We'll see that he turns it over to the Children's hospital if it's the
last thing we do," said Brennan, smiling.

At a moment when he was the most conspicuous man in the city, Gibson
disappeared. Brennan and John joined the reporters of other Los Angeles
newspapers in a night and day search for the missing commissioner, but,
as it had been when Gibson disappeared before he foiled "Red Mike" in
his attempted wreck of the "Lark," no trace of him could be found.

Gibson had not been missing for more than twenty-four hours before a
tidal wave of crime swept the city. In a single night there were a score
of robberies, holdups, burglaries and bandit raids. The gamblers and
handbook agents resumed their business, women were attacked on the
streets, bootleg liquor flowed like a river and pickpockets victimized a
dozen men and women. The sudden resumption of unlawfulness, far more
severe than it had ever been, caught the police unprepared and only a
few arrests were made.

Brennan and John sought out Murphy.

"Da 'Gink' has canceled his orders and told da boys to go to it strong,"
Murphy told them. "He gave da word da day after this bird Gibson ducks
out."

"Two and two make four," commented Brennan. "Gibson goes out of town
and Cummings gives orders to his gang to open up. Another slick trick.
Gibson will come back in a few days and the 'Gink' will call them off
again. Result, the people will believe that Gibson is the only man to
keep the lid down in Los Angeles, that as soon as he leaves crime begins
and as soon as he returns it stops. Oh, what a smart pair they are!"

John took time to analyze the situation and decided that the
coordination of the moves of Gibson and "Gink" Cummings was more than a
series of coincidences. He accepted, for the first time without
reservation or qualification, the theory that there was an alliance
between the commissioner and the underworld boss. The realization
shocked him and he felt a hate for Gibson, the deceiver, surge through
him. But he knew that this hate was engendered more by the fact that
Gibson was misleading Consuello than that he was a political Judas,
betraying his city for "Gink" Cummings' stolen silver.

In the midst of the excitement caused by Gibson's disappearance and the
outbreak of crime, while fears were being expressed in some quarters
that the commissioner had met with foul play at the hands of Cummings'
"bashers," John heard from Consuello.



CHAPTER XV


They had luncheon together in a cozy booth of a sweet shop in Broadway.
Consuello accepted his invitation to luncheon when she telephoned to him
that she was downtown and wished to see him. Her first question over the
phone was whether John had learned anything concerning Gibson's
disappearance.

"I'm downtown for an hour or so and thought you might have heard
something about Mr. Gibson," she said.

To P. Q. he explained that he might be away from the office for lunch
longer than usual.

"An angle concerning Gibson's disappearance that may develop something,"
he said, hoping it would be sufficient.

"What is it?" demanded the city editor.

"Well, Miss Carrillo--you remember--Gibson's friend--called me and I
invited her to have lunch with me," John answered.

"Hop to it," said P. Q.

Consuello was in sport costume, silk knit jacket, saucy white hat, white
skirt, shoes and hose; a trim, dainty figure, cool and refreshing. He
had a curious feeling that their meeting was somewhat clandestine.

"I thought you knew where Gibson went, but I refrained from calling you
to ask," John said after they were seated in the booth.

"Why didn't you?"

"I didn't want you to become involved in this--business." He almost
said, "This mess."

"And why not?"

"If I had called you and you had told me where Gibson was, the other
reporters would not rest until they found out my source of information
and you would be brought into the whole affair," he explained.

"I understand," she said. "Truly, though, I am beginning to worry. He
gave me no hint that he even intended leaving the city and that is what
puzzles me. Tell me, do you think there is any reason to fear that
anything has happened to him?"

"It's very improbable," he assured her. His conviction that Gibson and
"Gink" Cummings were allied caused him to have no apprehension
concerning the commissioner's safety. "He'll be back in a few days."

"I do hope so," she said. "He is making such a success, isn't he?"

"Yes." He was reluctant to give the affirmation. He conquered an impulse
to tell her, to warn her, that it was more than probable Gibson was not
the man she believed him to be. He wondered what she would say if he
told her what had caused him to turn against Gibson.

"I am very, very proud and happy," she said. "If anything should happen
to him I don't know what I would do."

The potentiality of the words, "If anything should happen to him,"
struck home hard on John.

"It would be--terrible," he said, avoiding her eyes.

"He has been so considerate, so good," she said. "I feel that I owe him
so much I can never repay."

A decision flashed into his brain as she spoke. If the time ever came
when enough evidence was obtained to expose Gibson, he would go to the
commissioner and plead with him to renounce Cummings, for her sake.
There might yet be a chance to save Consuello from the disillusionment
that was approaching. The fearfulness of Gibson's perfidy was almost
incomprehensible.

"I'm certain he does not think so," he said.

"Do you know what he is planning for me now?" she asked, and then,
before he attempted to reply, she added, "He plans to restore the wealth
of the Carrillos."

Her eyes sparkled as she spoke and she looked to him for his approval.

"Oil has been struck within a mile or so of our ranch," she explained.
"They have asked father to sell or lease and Reggie has taken charge of
it for us. Father has placed the whole business in his hands; he has so
much confidence in him. He gave him an option on the ranch property and
Reggie hopes to dispose of it for enough to bring back our lost fortune
to us. Isn't it wonderful?"

"It certainly is," he agreed. "The discovery of oil is the only
get-rich-quick proposition that is above reproach. A person can be
poverty stricken one day and a millionaire the next and no one suffers
by his quick acquisition of wealth. Oil is a treasure of nature bestowed
by fate and it is needless for me to add that I hope that fate is good
to you."

"It's all so complicated and technical that I cannot grasp it and father
never was a business man. That is why Reggie is handling it for us," she
said. "A new well is being bored only a few hundred yards from the ranch
and everything depends upon whether oil is struck there. If they find
oil it is almost certain that there is oil on our place. If no oil is
found, then, of course, the value of the ranch diminishes."

"Oil, like gold, they say, is where you find it," John said.

"And so is happiness--where you find it," Consuello said. "That is what
comforts me. Money does not necessarily bring happiness. Even if it
turns out that no oil is found I can still be happy. I am happy now and
why should I let anything like the loss of wealth, that never came to
me, disappoint me?"

Their luncheon finished, they walked to the street, where John found
that the automobile placed at Consuello's disposal by Gibson--he was
certain of that now--was waiting for her.

"Back to the studio and work again," she said. "I'm so glad we were able
to meet, today. I have enjoyed it more than you know. When Reggie
returns we must arrange a dinner party--the three of us. And before long
you and your mother must come out to the ranch. I haven't forgotten
that."

Her parting words brought back to John the bitter thought of his
mother's intolerant prejudice against Consuello as he returned to the
office.

He stopped at the city editor's desk to tell P. Q. that his meeting with
Consuello had failed to develop a single clew to Gibson's whereabouts.

"Nothing doing," he reported.

"What do you mean, nothing doing?" asked P. Q. Then he added:

"Gibson showed up about an hour ago."

"He's back?" asked John.

"Back again," confirmed the city editor. "Says he only went away to
rest up. Claims he went some place where he received no word from Los
Angeles and didn't know crime had opened up again."

"What's he going to do about it?"

"Oh, he came through with just about what was expected," said P. Q.
"Said he'd get right to work and put a stop to it. Blamed it all on the
mayor and Sweeney. Says it's further proof that the police department is
rotten."

The last edition that night carried the banner-line, "Gibson Returns to
Stop Crime Wave."

Brennan and John sought Murphy, but being unable to locate him, had
dinner downtown and continued their search during the evening. An hour
before midnight they met him as he was returning to his room.

"Well, what's the word?" asked Brennan.

"I got what you're lookin' for," Murphy said. "Da 'Gink' has called off
da boys again. He passes out da word dat dere's to be nuttin' doin'
tonight, tomorrow night or until he says 'go.'"

"When did he give these orders, before or after Gibson came back?" asked
Brennan.

"After," replied Murphy. "And there'll be nuthin' doin', see?"

"All right, Murphy. Keep on the lookout and drop in tomorrow and we'll
fix you up for this."

"I gotcha," said Murphy.

"Three and three make six," said Brennan to John as they left Murphy at
the door of his rooming house. "Gibson goes away and the 'Gink' opens
things up, Gibson comes back and he shuts down again. That's how they
make it appear that they are enemies and that Gibson is the only man who
can keep the town closed."

That night the crime wave stopped as suddenly as it began. There was not
a robbery, holdup or ordinary theft reported to the police. The same
order that prevailed when the "Gink" first decreed a "lay-off" prevailed
and Gibson issued a triumphant statement to the reporters for the first
editions in the morning.

"It demonstrates what little fear bandits and crooks have for the police
under Chief Sweeney," a part of the statement read. "It shows that the
administration is so inefficient and corrupt that law and order must be
enforced by citizens instead of by the officials whose duty it is to
keep the lid down in Los Angeles."

Another avalanche of resolutions praising Gibson followed the
publication of this statement. The mayor was hotly condemned for his
failure to remove Chief Sweeney at Gibson's request and the
commissioner was hailed as a man whose very name was enough to
intimidate criminals and whose presence in the city was enough to keep
outlawry and banditry at a minimum. One prominent citizen demanded that
the mayor resign and that Gibson be appointed in his place by
acclamation.

Brennan, John and P. Q. held another conference with the publisher. It
was decided that while the evidence before them--John's experience in
the Spring street raid and Murphy's information concerning "Gink"
Cummings' moves in opening and closing the city while Gibson was in and
out of it--was enough to convince them all that there was an alliance
between Cummings and the commissioner, they lacked sufficient ammunition
to "break" the story and expose the perfidious plot.

"Just a little more information, boys, something to show meetings
between Gibson and Cummings or communications between them and we'll be
ready to open fire," said the publisher.

A week later Gibson summoned Brennan and John to his office.

"How are you, boys?" he asked smiling. "I called you up here because I
have something to give you."

He handed them a slip of paper. It was a check--his personal check--for
$1,000. The space where the name of the recipient should appear was
blank.

"This means----" began Brennan.

"It means that I'm a candidate for mayor," said Gibson. "Remember, I
promised you I'd donate $1,000 to charity the minute I became a
candidate for any public office. What shall it be?"

"The Children's hospital," said Brennan.

Gibson seated himself at his desk and wrote in the name, blotted it
carefully and tossed it toward them on the table.

       *       *       *       *       *

The formal announcement of Gibson's candidacy, which he gave to Brennan
and John immediately after turning over to them the check for $1,000,
made out to the Children's hospital, followed the lines foretold by
Brennan when he predicted the commissioner's entry in the mayoralty
race.

He declared he became a candidate at the persistent urging of
organizations and individuals who had convinced him that he would
deliberately evade a duty and service he owed the city if he refused. He
reiterated his charges against the mayor and the administration,
asserting that conditions as he found them in the city government were
an intolerable disgrace.

His campaign committee, chosen a few days after he announced his
candidacy, included the names of seventy-five per cent of the prominent
and respected men and women of the city, as well as clubs and
organizations representing the churches, civic improvement associations,
manufacturers, business men and thousands of citizens. The Church
Federation and the Ministerial Union, those two great bodies working
always for the welfare of the city, gave him unqualified indorsements.
The best people of the city advocated his election.

Gibson's nominating petition was completed in less than a week. The
rapidity of the completion of the petition was viewed as a criterion of
the respective strength of the commissioner and of the mayor, whose
supporters encountered considerable difficulty in obtaining signatures.
It was three weeks before the mayor's petition could be got ready for
filing.

With the primary election two months away the candidates began their
campaigns at once. Gibson was everywhere, addressing meetings night and
day. The enthusiasm with which he was received surpassed that ever given
to any candidate in Los Angeles. Daily he was paraded through the
downtown section of the city by cheering admirers. "Gibson for Mayor"
banners and cards decorated the entire city. From their pulpits the
ministers urged his election and took up his attack upon the
administration. He was given credit unanimously for having clamped the
lid down in Los Angeles tighter than it had ever been and he was
acclaimed as a "fighting man" because of his duel with "Red Mike" and
his personal leadership of the officers who raided the Spring street
handbook makers.

The mayor was without ammunition to return Gibson's crossfire of charges
against the administration. He was deserted, except for a few loyal
supporters, who struggled vainly to stem the tide of popular favor as it
swung to Gibson's side.

Gibson scored heavily three weeks after his campaign was opened by
hurling charges that "Gink" Cummings was contributing to the mayor's
campaign fund and placing his sinister strength at his disposal to aid
him to be re-elected. Astounded by his opponent's audacity, the mayor
sent for Brennan and John. His mild blue eyes were blazing and he chewed
vigorously at his cigar.

"I'm licked, boys, unless I do something soon," he said. "I have to play
a waiting game, but I can't afford to wait too long. I can't come out
with the charge that Cummings and Gibson are plotting to steal the city.
I haven't enough evidence. People would think I am crazy. As it is, he's
getting away with everything. If the primary was tomorrow he'd snow me
under."

"He's pulling all the tricks in the bag," admitted Brennan.

"And I have nothing to come back at him with," the mayor complained.

"Why don't you fire him from his position as police commissioner?"
suggested Brennan.

The mayor stopped short on the invisible path he had been pacing back
and forth across his office.

"Brennan," he said, "I thought you had more sense than to suggest a
thing like that. What reason could I give for firing him?"

"Say it's for the good of the service, that's all."

"And give him a chance to wail that I fired him because I am afraid of
him, that I did it in desperation to save myself. Why, it would give him
10,000 votes of sympathy. No, Brennan, I must get something real to show
that Gibson and 'Gink' Cummings are partners."

He turned and walked to the window, placing his hands on both sides of
it, and leaned forward, his arms supporting him as he looked down into
the busy traffic on Broadway. It was a position similar to that he had
taken when John first met him, when he vowed to expose Gibson's alliance
with Cummings, but the shoulders drooped and the outlines of his
figure, silhouetted against the light streaming in the window suggested
great bodily and mental weariness.

"Is it possible that I'm to go down to defeat, to disgrace, to ignominy,
at the hands of such a despicable rascal?" he said, without turning, as
though he was speaking to himself. "Is this to be my reward--my end? Are
the people of my city to be led like blind sheep into a carnage of crime
and graft?"

Above the roar of the traffic in the street below the strident voice of
a newsboy, shouting his immature conception of the most important news
in the latest editions of the afternoon papers, came up to them.

"Gibson says de mayor's de bunk?" he shrieked. "Just out--pa--p--er!"

The voice from the street broke the tense silence that had followed the
mayor's soliloquy. He turned from the window quickly and strode back to
his desk and the suggestion of weariness dropped from him like a cloak
and he emerged, alert, taut, energetic, in fighting trim.

"This won't do," he snapped, "this standing around and feeling sorry for
myself. If I'm going down to defeat I'm going down fighting and when the
day comes that the people discover what a hypocrite and crook this man
Gibson is, they'll remember, at least, that I fought him to the last.

"And I'm not licked yet, not by a damn sight. I'm going to plug right
along and before another month passes I'm going to show this crook up if
it's the last thing I do on earth."

"That's more like it," approved Brennan. "I've been in a few forlorn
hope fights before and have seen the impossible happen, in fact, helped
it happen."

"I'm depending on you more than anyone else," said the mayor. Turning to
John he added: "And you, too, Gallant."

"The fault of crooks--and we're dealing with crooks--is that they can't
think straight, all the time," said Brennan. "They always make a slip,
some time. I've never known it to fail. No matter how smart a crook is,
he always makes one mistake. He can't help it. It's because he's a crook
and can't think straight. It's up to us to see that we don't overlook
the mistake that Gibson and the 'Gink' will make."

"Let's hope they make it soon enough," said the mayor. "The primary is
only five weeks away and if Gibson is to be exposed it must be within
the next four weeks at the latest."

"I don't agree with you fully in that," said Brennan. "It might be a
good idea, if we get what we're looking for, to hold off until a few
days before the election so that Gibson won't have enough time to reach
the entire city with the story he'll frame up to come back with."

"We won't worry about that until we find enough to blast Gibson and
Cummings once and for all," the mayor said. "I have men working night
and day trying to link the two together. I have tried fairly and
honestly to discover where Gibson obtained the money he has. He was
broke, flat broke, about the time I was elected and suddenly he had all
the money he required. Where it came from I can't find out. There is
only one conclusion that I can see and that is that Cummings gave it to
him; just as I have contended from the start."

Brennan and John saw Murphy regularly, meeting him at least once a day,
hoping each time that he would bring them the information they sought.
But he had little to tell them except that Cummings was enforcing his
order that there should be no crime in the city. One night he brought
them a story of how a rebellious gangster becoming restless, had planned
to commit a robbery despite the "Gink's" prohibitory order and had been
promptly "beaten up" by Cummings' thugs.

A week after their last conference with the mayor, Brennan and John
received a telephone message from Gibson's secretary, who told them
that the commissioner wanted them to see him at his office immediately.

"Another grandstand stunt, I'll bet," Brennan speculated as they hurried
to Gibson's office. "It's about time for one."

Gibson greeted them as affably as ever. As they entered his office he
closed and locked the door behind them.

"Well, boys," he said, "how do you think my campaign is coming?"

"You're going strong," replied Brennan, truthfully.

"And how is my friend, the mayor?"

"He isn't ready to concede defeat yet," Brennan said. "He realizes,
though, that you're gaining ground on him every day, or rather
increasing the lead you had at the start."

Gibson laughed.

"He had his chance," he said. "I gave him warning, although I believe I
don't have to tell you again, that I had no idea of ever running against
him when he appointed me a commissioner. By the way, why doesn't he fire
me?"

"What for?" asked Brennan.

"Oh, I see, he figures it would hurt him more than do him good,"
concluded Gibson. "Well, perhaps he's right. But I didn't send for you
boys to talk politics. I have something I think will develop into a
story for you, a real story, not the stuff my publicity man hands out."

"What is it?"

Gibson smiled and shook his head.

"I can't tell you now," he said. "Be here tomorrow morning at 10 o'clock
and you can be in on the whole business. I don't expect there'll be any
shooting, but you might as well bring guns if you have them."

"Another 'Red Mike'?" asked Brennan.

Gibson smiled again.

"Be here and see," he said, inexplicitly.



CHAPTER XVI


With Benton, the photographer, who performed his jig dance to the rhythm
of "Gunga Din" when he was told he faced another adventure, Brennan and
John were in Gibson's office before 10 o'clock the next morning. They
found Gibson alone in his inner office.

"No 'make-up' this time, eh?" asked Brennan, recalling, by inference,
Gibson's unkempt costume on the night he "shot it out" with "Red Mike"
and saved the "Lark" from destruction.

"Not necessary," replied the commissioner. "Speaking of 'make-up'
reminds me, Gallant, that Miss Carrillo asked me to tell you that she
hasn't forgotten about our dinner party." It was the first time that
Consuello's name had been mentioned by either of them since that
afternoon at the studio when Gibson had told John of their engagement.

"It would be unlike her if she had forgotten," said John, ready to let
Gibson infer what he might from the words. He noticed that Brennan was
looking at him curiously.

"Suppose we set it for the evening of the day I'm elected mayor," said
Gibson, smiling.

Over Gibson's shoulder John saw Brennan drop his right eyelid in a slow
wink.

"That suits me," he replied. As Gibson turned toward his desk John
returned Brennan's wink.

"Now, boys, let's get down to business," Gibson said as he turned back
to face them, a paper in his hand. "Here's the story. I'm going to
arrest one of 'Gink' Cummings' lieutenants. The man I'm after is 'Big
Jim' Hatch, a notorious bunko swindler, and I've got him cornered but he
doesn't know it.

"Hatch is Cummings' pal. They have known each other for years and worked
together. 'Big Jim' is one of the cleverest bunko men in the country, so
clever that he has been indicted only once, although he has swindled
victims out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. That indictment was
returned against him in New York several months ago and he fled to Los
Angeles, arranging with 'Gink' Cummings to operate here and receive
protection.

"This paper you see is a telegraphic warrant from New York for Hatch's
arrest. I communicated with the New York authorities as soon as my
detectives found that he was in the city and told me he was wanted in
the East. They have trailed him day and night. The place where he is
living is surrounded now by my men and deputy sheriffs who are waiting
for me before making the raid and arresting him. Now, if you're ready,
we'll go and you can ask me any questions you want on the way."

He led them to an automobile parked in front of the office building. A
liveried chauffeur sat at the wheel. John saw it was the machine that
Consuello had said had been placed at her disposal by "a friend." He
wondered why she never explained to him that it was Gibson's car. Gibson
took the seat beside the chauffeur, while John, Brennan and Benton took
the tonneau seats. The machine whirled away from the curb.

"Any questions?" asked Gibson over his shoulder.

"You've told us everything we need to know now," replied Brennan.

As Gibson turned back to face the road before them John glanced toward
Brennan interrogatively. Brennan shook his head doubtfully as if he was
puzzled by this new move by the commissioner.

"I can't figure it out--yet," he whispered.

In twenty minutes, at Gibson's order, the chauffeur stopped the
automobile at a corner in West Eleventh street.

"We'll stop here and walk the rest of the way, it's only half a block,"
explained the commissioner. "To drive up to the house would give them
warning."

"Big Jim's" house was in the middle of the block. It was square, of two
stories and set well back from the street. The blinds were down in all
of the windows and it had a deserted appearance. Out of range of sight
from any of the windows Gibson met a group of deputy sheriffs and his
private detectives, one of whom stepped forward to address him.

"He's in there, all right," the detective said. "We trailed him in last
night and he hasn't put his nose out of doors since. What are your
orders, Mr. Commissioner?"

"Who has the search warrant?" Gibson asked.

"I have it," replied one of the deputy sheriffs. "I figured we might
have to go in after him."

"Is the back of the house guarded?" Gibson demanded.

"Four men are there and four others posted at the sides," he was told.

"Good! Let's go then; I'll lead the way," said Gibson.

He strode quickly toward the house and up the walk to the front door,
followed by the detectives, the deputies, Brennan, John and the camera
man. John had a peculiar sinking feeling as he realized what open
targets they were as they approached the house if "Big Jim" opened fire
on them from behind the blind of one of the windows facing the street.

Gibson rapped sharply on the door and they waited tensely for a
response. The officers' right hands were on the handles of their
automatics and revolvers. There was no response to Gibson's rap. He
clenched his fist and hammered loudly on the solid panel of the door.
Again no response.

"You're certain he is inside?" demanded Gibson.

"Absolutely, Mr. Commissioner," assured the detective. "He's probably at
the door now."

Gibson stepped to one side of the door and the others stepped back also.

"Open the door or we'll break it down," commanded Gibson, shouting.

A man's voice answered from behind the door.

"What do you want?" it asked.

"Open the door," said Gibson, ignoring the question.

A key clicked in the lock and the door opened. Two of the deputies
sprang on the threshold beside Gibson, their automatics in their hands.

"Put 'em up!" they said sharply.

A large, florid-faced man, wearing an expensive house coat, with an
expression of a respectable citizen highly outraged at what was before
him, lifted his hands above his head.

"What's the meaning of this?" he demanded indignantly.

"There's no use pretending injured innocence, Hatch," said Gibson
coolly. "We have a search warrant and a warrant for your arrest from New
York."

The two deputies with drawn guns searched Hatch for a concealed weapon,
patting his pockets, which they found empty. As they stepped back "Big
Jim" dropped his hands to his side and smiled.

"Very well, Mr. Gibson," he said obligingly. "Do your stuff."

John was startled to hear Hatch call Gibson by name. Nothing had been
said that even hinted of the commissioner's identity. The search warrant
was handed Gibson.

"Do you want me to read this?" he asked.

"Don't trouble yourself," replied Hatch. "All I ask is that you don't
tear things to pieces in here. Mrs. Hatch is with me and I don't want
her to be bothered."

"All right, boys, be quick about it," ordered Gibson, sending the
officers to search the house, "and don't disturb Mrs. Hatch unless it's
necessary."

As the private detectives and deputies left them, Benton stepped
forward with a request that Gibson and Hatch pose for a photograph.

"You brought them with you, eh, Gibson?" said Hatch. Then to the
photographer he added: "I'll accommodate you under one consideration."

"Say it," requested Benton.

"That you leave Mrs. Hatch out of this," said "Big Jim."

The photographer looked to Brennan for an answer to this proposal.

"Go ahead, Benton," Brennan agreed, "we won't bother Mrs. Hatch."

While Benton was photographing Gibson and Hatch, John observed the bunko
swindler more closely. To all outward appearances "Big Jim" might have
been any one of the well-to-do business men one sees daily on the
downtown streets. His hair was gray with a touch of white at the
temples, his complexion ruddy. On the little finger of his plump, soft
hand he wore a diamond ring in which the gem was the size of a pea. It
was obvious that his suit was the work of a high-priced tailor. He had
frank blue eyes that had a guileless expression and there were no
criminal characteristics in the shape of his head, the position of his
ears and the contour of his lips.

"I suppose you'll want me to go back with you," Hatch said to Gibson
after Benton had made his final flashlight picture of them.

"As soon as the search is completed," assented the commissioner. "Tell
me, Hatch, what about this New York job?"

"Big Jim" drew a cigar from his vest pocket, clipped off the end of it
with a snap of his teeth and lighted it with a match. He puffed at the
cigar, looked at it critically and smiled before he answered.

"You can speak about that to my lawyer," he said.

In pairs the deputies and detectives returned from their search of the
house empty-handed.

"Nothing worth taking," they reported.

They prepared to leave, Hatch donned a suit coat and put on his hat. As
they started toward the door John was in the rear. He was about to step
over the threshold to join the others outside when a hand touched his
arm. He turned and faced a girl, a very pretty girl, he thought, with
large blue eyes, golden hair and petite figure.

"Are you a reporter?" the girl asked.

"Yes," he replied, mystified.

"Then please come back here, tonight, I have something to tell you."

The door closed and he was outside again.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was not until after Hatch had been lodged in the county jail to await
the arrival of officers from New York and Brennan had written the story
of Gibson's arrest of the swindler that John revealed that the girl,
whom he presumed was Mrs. Hatch, had asked him to return to the house
that night. The arrest of "Big Jim" was the outstanding local news story
of the day. Gibson issued another statement in which he emphasized that
Hatch was one of "Gink" Cummings' men, who completely escaped the notice
of Chief Sweeney's "inefficient" detectives.

When Brennan had handed to P. Q. the last sheet of his story of Hatch's
arrest John told him how the girl had stopped him at the door and asked
him to return.

"Great!" exclaimed Brennan. "I can't figure out Gibson's game in
arresting 'Big Jim.' She'll probably be able to give us the tip."

"I wonder what she wants to tell me," said John.

"Tell US, you mean," Brennan amended. "You don't think you're not going
to take me along with you, do you?"

A few minutes after 8 o'clock that evening John and Brennan returned to
the scene of their adventure of the afternoon. John rapped on the door
and the girl spoke to them without opening it.

"Who is it, please?" she asked.

"It's the reporter you spoke to this afternoon," John said, and the door
swung open. The girl stood with her hand on the knob. She glanced
inquiringly toward Brennan.

"My partner," John explained.

"Come in," she invited, with a friendly smile.

She waited until they had entered and then closed the door behind them,
locking it carefully. Without speaking she led them into a sitting room,
artistically furnished, lighted only by a rose-shaded table lamp. She
motioned them to a deep-cushioned davenport and seated herself in a
chair under the light from the lamp.

There was no doubt about it, she was pretty! Her blonde hair shone in
the light and the shadows about her eyes added to their beauty. Her face
was round and piquant, her lips a deep crimson and tiny. Her one-piece
dress on which beads sparkled, exposed a delicately rounded throat and
slender white arms. Her hands were small and white and her fingernails
were highly polished. Sheer silk stockings and neat, expensive shoes. A
hint of cheapness about her; perhaps it was the unnatural thinness of
the delicately arched eyebrows, John thought; or perhaps the shortness
of her skirt; but she was pretty!

"I suppose you understand that I am Mrs. Hatch?" she said.

They nodded.

"Now," she continued, "can you give me some assurance that you are
really reporters and not detectives."

They produced their press badges which she examined under the light.

Apparently satisfied, she looked at them for a moment and then spoke.

"I want you to help me," she said; "help me and my husband."

"If there is any legitimate way we can help you, we will," Brennan
assured her.

"I will begin at the beginning and tell you everything," she said. "When
I have finished you can tell me what you can do for me.

"In the first place, I am speaking to you because my husband is afraid
to say anything. He does not know that I am going to tell you this, but
I am doing it to save him, because"--she hesitated--"I love him.

"Jim was indicted back in New York and came here to escape arrest. We
arrived here five months ago. Whether Jim is guilty of what he is
charged with in New York is for him to say. All I know is that he was
indicted and that we came to Los Angeles to escape the officers.

"We came here because Jim was a friend of 'Gink' Cummings and he thought
that Cummings would protect him. Jim saw Cummings soon after we reached
the city and Cummings greeted him like a long lost brother. He said that
we could hide in Los Angeles and be reasonably sure that the New York
officers would never learn we were here.

"A month after we came here we ran out of money and Jim decided to get
to work again. You can guess how Jim planned to work. I need not tell
you more than that before another month went by he had the money. It
wasn't as much as he had hoped for and we were disappointed. We knew
that every time he went to work he not only risked new trouble, but
identification as the man who was wanted in New York. That is why
his--his jobs had to be few and far between. We planned to make every
cent of the money last as long as we could.

"Of course, 'Gink' Cummings knew what Jim had done. When the job was
completed he called Jim to his office and told him that he would have to
split what money he had got with him. He told Jim that no one worked in
Los Angeles without giving him at least a 10 per cent cut, for
protection.

"Jim was surprised. He had figured that Cummings was his friend. He
told Cummings that he could not afford to split with him and explained
how it was, that he could not risk working often and had to make his
money last. He thought that this explanation would satisfy the 'Gink,'
but it didn't.

"They quarreled. Cummings told Jim that he could not work in Los Angeles
or stay here unless he 'came through.' Jim told him to go to h----.
'I'll tip New York that you're here,' Cummings told him. Jim told him to
go to it, that he was in trouble and needed help instead of being
compelled to put himself in danger.

"We were afraid that Cummings would follow out his threat and tip the
New York police, so we left the city. We went to San Diego for a month
and then, figuring that Cummings would believe we had left for good,
came back to Los Angeles again. We were safe enough until a month ago
when Jim did another job. He had to; we were broke. Cummings found out
about it and came to see Jim. He came here, to this house. He sat where
you are sitting now. While he was talking to Jim I was behind the
curtain there and heard every word." She indicated portieres behind
them.

"I won't repeat everything I heard, although I could if it was
necessary. Cummings said he had heard Jim had done another job and came
to him for his split. 'You got away with it once, Jim,' he said; 'I
didn't do anything but you've got to come through this time. I run
things here in Los Angeles, let me tell you that. You're an old pal and
all that and I'd like to let you alone, but I can't afford to. The boys
are hollering because you're working without kicking in and for my own
protection you've got to split.'

"'And what'll you do if I don't?' Jim asks. 'Well,' says Cummings, 'I
could have you croaked.' When he said that I thought Jim was going to
kill him right here, but he kept control of himself. 'Or,' says
Cummings, 'I'll have you pinched for that New York job.' Jim smiled when
he heard that. 'Who'll do the pinching?' he asked. 'One of your paid
cops?' 'It'll be somebody bigger than a cop,' said Cummings."

John felt Brennan move forward on the davenport.

"'Somebody bigger than a cop.' Are you sure he said that?" Brennan
asked.

"Those were his words," Mrs. Hatch answered. "'Who'll that be?' asks
Jim. 'Never mind who it'll be,' says Cummings, 'you'll find that out
when it happens. Now, I'm giving you your last chance, either come
across or go back and do your bit; what's it going to be?'

"I know Jim. I know he would rather have died than to have given in to
Cummings. 'Nothing doing, "Gink,"' Jim says. 'All right, Jim,' says
Cummings, 'don't ever say I didn't give you a chance.' Then he left.

"I was afraid. I begged Jim to split with Cummings and make the most of
it. But he was stubborn. 'I'd rather go to the pen than split with that
cur,' he says to me. So nothing more happened until today and you were
here and saw it.

"Now, this is how I think you may be able to help us. You saw who it was
who arrested Jim. It was Gibson, the police commissioner, who is running
for mayor. Gibson must have been the man Cummings referred to when he
said that it would be somebody bigger than a cop who would arrest Jim.
Gibson could never have known anything about Jim unless Cummings told
him. Gibson and Cummings must be working together, somehow. The only
reason Jim was arrested was because he wouldn't split with Cummings and
it's Gibson who arrests him. Can't you see the connection?

"Jim can tell you every word I've told you and a lot more and there
should be some way of using it to aid him. I don't know how, but there
should be some way. If he told everything to the district attorney here,
don't you think it might help him a little? You see, Cummings wants him
sent back to New York as soon as possible so he won't start talking. He
won't say anything about what Jim has done here because he wants him out
of the state.

"I thought that if Jim would tell his story to the district attorney or
to some newspaper it might be arranged to have some recommendation for
leniency for him when he goes back to New York. Or, he might be able to
have the charge back there dropped and get immunity out here."

She paused. There was a tense silence until she spoke again, softly.

"You see," she said, "I love Jim and he loves me. We had decided, after
this experience with Cummings, to go straight. Jim told me that he would
work the rest of his life to pay back whatever he had taken wrongfully
and we would be happy together. We wouldn't have to live in fear and the
day would come when we could hold up our heads and have a little home
and--and--children."

John thought he saw tears in her eyes as she ended the sentence.

"I have trusted you in telling you this," she said. "I feel that I can
trust you. Tell me, please tell me, can anything be done with what I've
told you?"

She looked toward them pleadingly, anxiously. Brennan was sitting on the
edge of the davenport, his body bent forward, his elbows on his knees,
gazing intently at the girl.

"A crook can't think straight all the time," he said, quietly. "'Gink'
Cummings has made his mistake."



CHAPTER XVII


The story told by Evelyn Hatch--Evelyn was her given name--was twice
repeated by John and Brennan the next day, first to P. Q. and then to
the publisher of their paper. It was decided that Hatch's own story
should be obtained and, if possible, put in affidavit form. Following
their conferences with P. Q. and the "chief" they went directly to the
county jail where "Big Jim" was brought down from his cell at their
request.

He greeted them genially, offering them cigars as they led him to a
quiet corner of the reception room.

"I always try to be a good scout with newspaper men," Hatch said,
smiling. "I've had considerable experience with reporters and I've
always found them square and fair. And, without speaking personally, of
course, I can tell you that you reporters do more to eradicate crime
than all the police in the country."

"Hatch," said Brennan, ignoring the compliment, "we've had a talk with
your wife."

"You promised me you'd let her alone," said "Big Jim" sharply.

"We never spoke to her until she told us she wanted to see us," John put
in. "As I was leaving the house after you were arrested she stopped me
and asked me to come back, saying she had something to tell me."

The anger that had blazed in Hatch's eyes when he suspected them of
violating their promise softened to tenderness.

"Poor kid," he said, "it's a hard jolt for her." He hesitated a moment
and then added, "She's the only one in the world who really cares what
becomes of me. Well, what did she have to say to you?"

"You can guess, can't you?" asked Brennan.

"I suppose I could, but I'm not going to," returned Hatch.

"She wants to help you," said Brennan.

"You don't have to tell me that."

"What she told us she revealed with the sole thought of trying to help."

Drawing mild little puffs of smoke from his cigar "Big Jim" waited
silently, thoughtfully, for Brennan to continue.

"She told us about your trouble with 'Gink' Cummings--the whole
business." Brennan watched Hatch's face intently as he spoke. "And to
prove it I'll repeat her story to us, exactly as she told it."

While Brennan was relating what Mrs. Hatch had told them "Big Jim" sat
motionless in his chair, his head bowed on his chest. John watched the
ash in Hatch's cigar turning from a glowing red to a heatless gray. When
Brennan finished Hatch spoke without raising his head.

"Poor little kid," he said, tenderly. He straightened up in his chair,
tossed away his cigar and scrutinized Brennan keenly.

"Every word she spoke is the truth; every word of it, and, more," he
said. "I've decided to take my jolt back in New York so I can get back
to her as soon as I can. She'll wait for me, I know she will. Whether
you can help me or not, I'll tell you everything."

John felt his heart jump in his breast.

"When?" asked Brennan quickly.

"Now," said Hatch.

"Shoot," said Brennan.

"There's no use going over what Evelyn told you again," said Big Jim,
without a second's hesitation. "I'll swear to every word she said. But
there's something she didn't tell you, because she didn't know it.

"Did you notice that I called Gibson by name when he arrested me?"

Brennan nodded.

"Well, where do you suppose I saw him to know him by sight?"

Without waiting for an answer, he snapped out:

"In 'Gink' Cummings' apartment!"

John discovered that he had been holding his breath. Gibson in
Cummings' apartment! A thrill like a mild electric shock shot up and
down his spine.

"The 'Gink's' apartment?" asked Brennan.

"That's the place," Hatch confirmed. "It was about a month ago. I can
give you the exact day and hour later. I went to Cummings to try to
settle things between us, without Evelyn knowing it. We were alone
together when someone knocked on the door. Cummings answered it. As he
left the room he pulled the door to close it, but it swung back open and
I saw into the hallway.

"I saw Gibson enter. I didn't know who it was then and suppose it was
pure curiosity that made me watch them. They talked for a minute and
then Gibson started toward the door of the room I was in. As he did so,
Cummings saw that the door was open and stepped over and closed it. That
was all I saw.

"I heard Cummings say, 'Don't do this again.' When he came back he told
me there could be no settlement between us except I split with him and I
left. The next day I saw Gibson's photograph in a newspaper and it
nearly knocked me off my chair. Just to make sure I hunted Gibson up and
when I saw him I knew I couldn't have been mistaken. Gibson was the man
I saw in Cummings' apartment.

"I'm sure that Cummings doesn't realize that I saw Gibson that night. If
he had known it he would never have had me arrested and yet I was afraid
to threaten him with it. I thought that if I told him I had seen Gibson
at his place he would have bumped me off, but now that I'm here in jail
I have nothing to fear. He won't dare to tell the authorities about my
jobs in Los Angeles because if he does he'll make my story stronger.
Besides, all he knows is that I got the money. He doesn't know whom I
got it from or when or how.

"That's my addition to Evelyn's story. That's how I knew it was Gibson
when he stepped in to arrest me. You can see how it worked out. When I
defied Cummings he arranged with Gibson to arrest me. He had Gibson do
it because Gibson is his man and he wants the public to think that they
are enemies. I'm telling you this because after I do my bit back in New
York I'm going straight, with Evelyn. I'm going to pay back every cent I
ever took from anyone and, perhaps, sometime we'll have a home and--what
she said."

Overwhelmed mentally by the condemning information against Gibson which
had been given them by "Big Jim," John was startled by Brennan's first
words after Hatch had stopped speaking.

"What a fat-head I am!" Brennan exclaimed.

Hatch's face showed that he shared John's surprise at Brennan's
ejaculation.

"Oh, what a sap I am!" he continued. "Why, oh, why haven't we shadowed
them? Why haven't we followed them night and day until we found them
together? Why didn't one of us spot the 'Gink's' apartment?"

"You're lucky you haven't," Hatch put in. "You couldn't have gotten away
with it. They probably would have killed you. Anyway, I doubt very much
if they actually meet each other now. The 'Gink' warned Gibson when I
saw them that he was not to 'do this again,' which meant he shouldn't
come to the apartment."

"They're in communication with each other, somehow," said Brennan.

"There's the telephone, or they may be using the mails, or they may have
a confidential agent, a go-between," Hatch suggested.

"I don't think the 'Gink' would take a chance with a go-between," said
Brennan.

Before they left him to hurry back to the office, Hatch agreed to make
an affidavit containing what he had told them, including the portion of
the story told by his wife, and had consented to allow them to obtain a
sworn statement from Mrs. Hatch.

"There's only one thing wrong with what we got from 'Big Jim,'" Brennan
said as they left the jail, "and that is that it comes from a man facing
a term in the penitentiary. It's difficult for people to believe a
confessed swindler like Hatch, although he's telling the truth. Even his
wife's story would be received skeptically simply because she is his
wife. Gibson has such a hold on the city, such a reputation for honesty
and integrity, such influential support, that his mere denial of what
Hatch says would be believed implicitly."

"But consider Hatch's story along with the framed-up Spring street raid
and the information we have of how Cummings opened and closed the town
to convince the people that Gibson is the only man who can stop crime,"
John argued.

"We must look at it from the reader's viewpoint," said Brennan. "It's
the reader whom we have to convince. He wants facts, plain, hard facts.
We have nothing to actually show that Cummings framed the Spring street
raid in collusion with Gibson. We have nothing to actually show that the
opening and closing of the city by Cummings was to build up a reputation
for Gibson. All that is mere inference, suspicion. And the weakness in
Hatch's story is in the fact that he is a crook himself, although you
and I know that he told us the truth."

"Then we haven't enough yet?" said John.

"I'm afraid not."

"But you said last night that Cummings had made his one big mistake."

"And I wasn't wrong when I said it. We don't have to take Hatch's story
simply as it stands. It's up to us now to get corroboration enough to
make it undeniable."

"How?"

"By finding someone who has seen Gibson visit Cummings' apartment, a
janitor, a neighbor, the clerk at the desk, anyone."

"Suppose no one saw him."

"Then we must find out how they are communicating with each other. We
can tap the telephone in Cummings' apartment and those at Gibson's
office and home if it comes to that."

P. Q. and the "chief" upheld Brennan's judgment that Hatch's story
needed more corroboration than that given by his wife and that the
attack on Gibson, exposing him as a fraud, would have to be postponed
until one more link was added to the chain of evidence against him. It
was decided that Brennan and John should concentrate their endeavors in
an effort to discover the method of communication between Gibson and
the "Gink."

       *       *       *       *       *

That night John saw Consuello again and realized with a suddenness that
shocked him that he loved her.

The tremendousness of his realization that he was in love with her
frightened him, and yet he was gloriously happy. Exultant joy, a rapture
faintly akin to the ecstasy that had thrilled him the first Christmas
morning he could remember, gave a buoyancy to his brain, his heart, his
soul. He knew that he had loved her from the moment he met her and
regardless of what the future held for them he would go on loving her
forever.

Returning to his desk after the conference in the "chief's" office on
the story told by "Big Jim" Hatch, John found a sheet of copy paper
stuck in the roller of his typewriter. That was the office boy's way of
leaving memoranda of telephone calls for the reporters.

"Call Miss Carrillo at the studio," John read. He went immediately to
the telephone booth.

"There will be a pre-view of the picture, my latest, here tonight and I
thought you might like to see it," she said. "Reggie is so busy
campaigning that he can't be here," she added.

"I would like it," he told her.

"Can you come?"

"Yes, certainly."

"Splendid," she said. "The pre-view will be at 7:30, but can't you get
here earlier so we can have dinner together and talk?"

"At six, then," he suggested.

"At six," she assented.

He wondered why it was he felt relieved when she said that Gibson would
not be there with them.

It was dusk when he reached the studio a few minutes before six. She had
waited for him in her dressing room to which he was escorted by the
maid.

"There's a little place a few blocks away where we always go for dinner
when we're kept late," she said. "I discovered it myself. I delight in
finding little out-of-the-way places to eat. Reggie can't understand it.
He's uncomfortable every minute of the time we're there."

"You would have liked my father," he said. "Almost every week he treated
mother and me by taking us to dinner at some genuinely picturesque place
he had found. Sometimes it would be a little Spanish restaurant in
Sonora Town, sometimes an Italian cafe in North Broadway and sometimes a
French table de hote, which I liked best. Mother was like you say
Gibson is, uncomfortable every minute, but father and I enjoyed it
immensely. One night, when mother wasn't with us, we had tamales at one
of those wagon lunch places drawn up at the curb near the Plaza and
lighted by a sputtering kerosene range and a lantern that gave it an
appearance of being a ship's cabin. I'll never forget it."

"You miss your father greatly, don't you?" she said. The sympathy in her
voice was like soothing music.

"Everything in me that amounts to anything I owe to him," he said.

They walked to the "little place around the corner," as Consuello
referred to it. The dinner was served to them at a corner table in a
spotlessly clean room of "Mother" Graham's cafe, which was only large
enough to accommodate a dozen couples. The proprietress, "Mother"
Graham, who took as much pride in her cookery as the chef of the most
expensive cafe, greeted Consuello effusively.

"And how's my little darling, tonight?" she asked. "'Mother' Graham
shall serve you herself, for it's not every night that I see your dear
face."

The dinner was plain, appetizing home cooking; delicious brown chops,
crisp cool salad, fragrant coffee and hot rolls; berries and cream.
Once John caught a glimpse of "Mother" Graham pointing out Consuello to
a pop-eyed girl and her youthful escort as "Jean Hope."

"I am being envied," he said across the table.

"By whom?"

"By everyone who sees us. I do not blame them, for I am to be envied."

"Because you are with Jean Hope?" she smiled.

"Because I am with Consuello Carrillo," he answered. "I do not know Jean
Hope yet. I am to meet her, tonight."

"You saw her before the camera," she reminded him.

"But never on the screen," he returned.

"And what if you don't like her?"

"My consolation will be that she is only a shadow, a make-believe."

"You are different," she told him, "and it's not because you lack
imagination. Most everyone does not disassociate a film player from her
shadow. They think of her always as the type or character in which they
admire her most. To them she is always the same, always perfect, a
picture, a memory. How disappointed those dream lovers would be if they
could suddenly be brought face to face with the player as she really is,
with her little vanities and human frailties."

"Disappointed or disillusioned, which?" he asked.

"You are right," she replied, "they would be disillusioned rather than
disappointed. There is a difference. For instance, I would be
disappointed rather than disillusioned in Reggie if he should blunder
and miss his opportunity of becoming mayor of Los Angeles."

Her words struck him like a blow. They brought to him the realization
again that she faced a disillusionment of which she had no warning. How
could he save her from it? Would she go on believing in Gibson? It would
be like her to defend him until the last, to go with him to a place
where his disgrace was not known and begin life all over again.

"Suppose," he said, watching her intently, "that it was not
disappointment but disillusionment."

"You mean--in Reggie?" she asked, apparently unable to comprehend what
he had said.

Unable to speak the word, he nodded. She laughed lightly and he forced
himself to smile.

"I know him too well to ever be disillusioned," she said.

"Love, they say, is blind," he ventured.

"I know his faults as I do mine," she said slowly, "and love him for
them. You see, we've known each other since we were children."

He could not reply. The awfulness of the truth dumbed him and an
impetuous desire to protect her swept through him. But he was powerless,
helpless. A wild idea of sacrificing his loyalty to his paper by warning
Gibson of the impending exposure of his perfidy so that he might
renounce "Gink" Cummings and be worthy of Consuello's love flashed in
and out of his brain.

His silence seemed to mystify her. When she spoke it was as though she
might have a vague premonition of his confused thoughts.

"But there's no need for my having an apprehension that he will blunder,
is there?" she asked.

"We all make mistakes," he said, conscientiously trying to assure her.
He realized, however, that his answer sounded evasive and fearful of
further questioning he added, hastily, "His election is conceded by
everyone."

They rose from the table. To "Mother" Graham, perched on a stool behind
a cash register near the door, he paid for their dinner and they stepped
out into the street. Night had descended quickly. The cool, refreshing
breeze from the ocean that tempers the warmth of the day was coming in
gently, caressingly, soothingly from the west, and worries fled away
with it like dead leaves whisked from the trees.

During the pre-view, which lasted an hour and a half, John had but few
chances to converse with Consuello. She was busy with Bonwit, the
director, and a half dozen others whom John decided were the technicians
whose business it was to revise the film before it was released. They
sat grouped in a semi-circle and several times certain scenes were
flashed on the screen repeatedly for closer observation.

The girl he saw on the screen was much more like Consuello in real life
than the girl he had seen before the camera. The make-up that had
transformed her features for her part in the picture was indiscernible
on the screen and marvelously the real Consuello was before him. The
"close-up" for which she had posed alone, holding the bouquet of
daisies, was even prettier than it had been when she enacted it. He
realized now what were the results sought by the camera men in shifting
the reflectors. Like a halo, sunlight shone around her face, through the
loose tresses of her hair, giving it an ethereal appearance.

So intently did he study every move, every expression of Consuello's on
the screen that he had completely overlooked the story of the
photoplay. The scene in which the actor embraced Consuello and gazed
fervently heavenward was far more impressive than it had been when it
was enacted and the "close-up" of his features, over her shoulder, John
decided was really an excellent bit of facial expression.

When the pre-view was completed and the lights were flashed on again in
the small room, Consuello came directly to him.

"Now, what do you think of 'Jean Hope,' do you like her?" she asked.

"I adore her," he said, without restraint.

The almost timid look of incredulousness he remembered having noticed
when he told her she was beautiful at the Barton Randolph lawn fete came
into her eyes. For a fraction of a second they looked into each other's
faces and something that she saw told her that his adoration was not
only for the image of herself that he had seen upon the screen. She
caught her underlip between her teeth and looked down.

"We can go now," she said, a note in her voice that he had never heard
before.

They did not speak as they walked toward the gates of the studio and it
was then he realized that he loved her. In that moment he was
transported to an indescribable happiness. She seemed a fairy creature
at his side, too beautiful to touch, too wonderful to speak to.

An automobile stopped beside them. Bonwit, at the wheel, leaned out
over the side.

"Can't I give you two a lift home?" he asked.

John looked toward Consuello and heard her say:

"No, thanks; it's only a few blocks home and we'll walk--it's such
a--a--a glorious night."



CHAPTER XVIII


Consuello was the first to speak as they passed through the studio
gateway to the sidewalk overhung by the drooping branches of tall pepper
trees.

"It's not far," she said.

The words awoke John from his enthrallment and she saw by his glance
toward her that he did not comprehend their meaning.

"It's not far to the house," she explained. Not far! He wished it were
miles away, that they might walk on together for hours.

"I could not bear being cramped up in an apartment," she added. "When it
became necessary for me to find some place to live in Los Angeles, a
dear friend--you must meet her--and I hunted up this little place for
our home. It wasn't much to look at when we found it, but we have made
it over to suit us and we have both grown to love it."

"Your friend--is she in pictures, too?" he asked.

"Betty is an artist," she replied. "She designs sets and costumes for
pictures and she is wonderful. She knows everything about her work, more
than anyone else in Hollywood, they say. She deserves all the credit for
turning our little home into a dream place."

"You will miss her when----" he found himself unable to finish the
sentence, "you are married."

"Yes," she said. "I'll miss her and our little home. Really, I don't
believe I will know how to act if I become the wife of the mayor of Los
Angeles. I have grown to detest formality, dances and dinners and
receptions and things. If there is one thing Reggie and I will quarrel
about that will be it. He has always been invited everywhere and he
enjoys the niceness of conventionality."

He was glad that there was not complete compatibility between her and
Gibson. It was selfish and wrong for him to rejoice that she and Gibson
were not perfectly suited in their likes and dislikes and he knew it,
but nevertheless it gladdened him.

"I nearly died of fright that day at the lawn fete, when I met you," he
said. "I believe I would have done something disgraceful to that servant
who was asking me to leave if you hadn't appeared."

"You told me you thought Reggie to be a villain," she reminded him,
laughing. "You don't think him one now, do you?"

How close he came to telling her then what he had reason to believe
Gibson actually was, a villain beyond all understanding, she never knew.

"No," he lied.

She stopped at a gateway formed by a gap in a hedge of spicy scented
boxwood that paralleled the sidewalk.

"Here we are," she said, turning in.

He saw a rose-shaded light in the window of a small house set far back
from the street.

"Betty is waiting for me," she explained. "I want you to meet her."

On each side of the pathway leading back to the house was a rose garden
with the bushes set at precise intervals. The rose garden ended half way
back from the sidewalk. Before the house, for the entire width of the
lot and a dozen paces deep, was closely cropped grass. Flat stones, set
into the lawn like the footprints of an elephant, provided an artistic
path to the door, which was massive in size and of unfinished stained
oak. The flanges of the hinges were of beaten iron held in place by
studded bolts. A quaint knocker was above the handle to the latch.

"You'll pardon me for a moment?" Consuello asked, opening the door and
stepping inside, returning a moment later to hold it open for him to
enter.

The room was exceptionally large, with rafters across the ceiling. At
one end was a huge fireplace and rugs were scattered over a smooth but
unpolished floor. Betty rose from an easy chair as he entered. She had
been reading. John saw that she was slender, dark-eyed, rather pretty.

"Betty, this is Mr. Gallant," said Consuello by way of an introduction.

"Consuello has spoken of you, often," said Betty, advancing with a
friendly smile and an outstretched hand. Mentally John thanked her for
the words. He knew instinctively that he would like her and that she
would be a friend to him.

"Miss Carrillo has been more than kind to me," he said. "I often wonder
why she is," he added, returning Betty's smile.

"She likes you," said Betty, with a frankness that startled him a
little. He glanced toward Consuello and saw that she was regarding Betty
with an amused look.

Betty moved toward a door at the side of the room.

"Will you care if I leave you?" she said. "Please do not think it
rudeness. I have been doing a little studying which I must finish
tonight and----"

"I'm intruding, I know," interrupted John.

"You're not," she remonstrated with the candidness that John found later
was so engaging. Her smile overcame his temporary embarrassment. "I'll
see you again, I'm sure," she added, nodding slightly before she
stepped into the other room, closing the door behind her.

"What do you think of our little home?" Consuello asked as he turned
toward her. She was seated in the chair Betty had left.

"It's like you," he said, feeling free to take the chair near her. "It
is so genuinely--beautiful." This time he felt no hesitancy in saying
it.

"And what of it do you like best of all?" she asked quickly.

He looked around the room slowly until his eyes rested on a wide
casement window opening out over a deep sill on which blood-red
geraniums nestling in the rich green foliage of the plant, grew in a
box. Faintly, against the skyline as he looked through this window he
saw the curving outline of a hill. The window panes, swung inward, were
divided into small squares by the crosspieces.

"That," he said, without turning his eyes from the window.

"I knew----." She hesitated. He glanced toward her inquiringly. "I knew
you would," she said. "That is my window. The hill you see from it is my
hill. Did you ever read the verse by Martha Haskell Clark that inspired
the designing of that window?"

He shook his head. She rose and crossed to the window and stood framed
to her waistline in the outer casement. She looked out into the night,
toward "her" hill, the fingers of one hand touching the petals of one of
the crimson blossoms. Softly she recited:


     "Life did not bring me silken gowns,
       Nor jewels for my hair,
     Nor sight of gabled, foreign towns
       In distant countries fair,
     But I can glimpse, beyond my pane, a green and friendly hill,
       And red geraniums aflame upon my window-sill.

     "The brambled cares of everyday,
       The tiny humdrum things,
     May bind my feet when they would stray,
       But still my heart has wings,
     While red geraniums are bloomed against my window-glass,
       And low above my green-sweet hill the gypsy wind-clouds pass.

     "And if my dreamings ne'er come true,
       The brightest and the best,
     But leave me lone my journey through,
       I'll set my heart at rest,
     And thank Thee, God, for home-sweet things, a green and friendly
         hill,
       And red geraniums aflame upon my window-sill."


He gazed into the empty fireplace as the words of the verse sang
through his mind.

"But still my heart has wings," "Gypsy wind-clouds," "And if my
dreamings ne'er come true ... I'll set my heart at rest."

He mused over them. His heart had wings to soar high with his soul in
the ecstasy of his new-found love. And if his dreaming never came true,
could he set his heart at rest?

Or, her dreams, her expectation of happiness with Gibson--when they were
shattered, could she set her heart at rest and thank her God for
"home-sweet things," her "green and friendly hill, and red geraniums
aflame upon her window-sill"?

He looked up from the ashes of the fireplace, where flames had sparkled
to cheer and comfort her. She was still looking out toward her "green
and friendly" hill and the listlessness of her outline told him that
she, too, was musing. He longed to know her thoughts.

Very slowly she turned her face toward him. There was a suggestion of
somberness in her eyes as she looked down at him.

"I arranged this window just for that," she said.

"Why did you know I would choose it as the part of the room I liked
best?" he asked.

"Because I've found we both love the simple things, the 'home-sweet'
things, the enduring things of life," she answered.

"Is that why you have been so kind to me?"

"Please don't think of it as kindness," she said. She was back in the
chair she had left to stand beside the window. "That is why I have
arranged to see you as often as I have, if that is what you mean."

An impulse overwhelmed his self-imposed restraint.

"If anything ever happens to cause you to have doubt in me," he said,
earnestly, "will you try to believe that I did what I thought was
right?"

The nature of his question, its suddenness, astonished her. She moved
her lips to speak.

"Don't ask me why I asked you that," he said, "but promise me, promise
me, that you'll do your best to think of me as doing what I believed was
right."

"I'm bewildered, but you have my promise," she answered.

The clock on the mantel above the fireplace chimed midnight. He rose.

"I have been thoughtless," he said. "I had forgotten the time."

She walked with him to the door.

"Good-night," he said, "and thank you."

"Good-night," she said, dropping the hand she had given him to her side.

He strode out into the night. Subconsciously he waited for the door to
close behind him. Each step took him farther toward the street and yet
he did not hear the click of the latch.

At the sidewalk he turned to look back.

She was standing, framed in the soft light shining through the doorway,
looking out at him. He waved his hand. He saw her hand flutter and then
the door closed.

"'Still my heart has wings,'" he repeated to himself as he turned away.

       *       *       *       *       *

The primary election was only two weeks away. Gibson, with the powerful
combination of organizations behind him, was swinging into the final lap
of his campaign with unabated success. That he would snow the mayor
under at the primary was conceded everywhere. Facing humiliation in the
most decisive defeat in the history of the city the mayor's organization
dwindled down to a few never-say-die supporters whose activities were
almost laughable in the prospect of Gibson's overwhelming victory at the
polls. To the list of organizations indorsing the police commissioner
was added the Anti-Saloon league.

Seeking corroboration of the story told them by "Big Jim" Hatch, which
they had in affidavit form from "Big Jim" and Mrs. Hatch, John and
Brennan visited the downtown apartment house where "Gink" Cummings
resided and where Hatch claimed to have seen Gibson. Cautiously they
questioned the janitor, the clerk at the desk, the elevator boy and even
the proprietor without success. None of them had ever seen a man
answering Gibson's description enter the building.

"Probably the time Hatch saw Gibson at Cummings' apartment was the only
time Gibson ever visited the 'Gink' there, and, because it was late at
night, no one happened to see him," said Brennan. "It is beginning to
look as though we'll have to tap either Gibson's or Cummings' telephone
if the 'chief' wants to go that far."

Then, late one afternoon, John received a telephone call from Murphy.

"Meet me tonight at Second and Spring," said Murphy. "I got somethin'
for ya, see?"

"Is it worth while?" asked John.

"I'm not sayin' nothin' now, see?" said Murphy. "Just be there at ten
bells, see?"

"We'll be there," John told him.

"I wonder what he's stumbled across?" said Brennan when John informed
him of their appointment to meet Murphy.

"I asked him and he wasn't sayin' nothin', see?" said John.

"Don't," pleaded Brennan, "you'll have me doing it."

That night at a few minutes of ten they were standing on the steps of
the entrance to the Bryson block when Murphy, his peaked cap pulled
down far over his eyes and his coat collar turned up close around his
throat, sidled up to them.

"What's the big idea of covering up your face, Murphy?" asked Brennan.

"I'm takin' no chances of gettin' 'made,' see?" Murphy answered. "Made,"
John remembered, was the slang of detectives for identification. When a
person was "made" he was identified.

"Well, then, what's the program?" asked Brennan.

"I think I got them," Murphy replied.

"Got who?"

"De 'Gink' and dis bird Gibson."

"How?"

"Meetin' each other."

"The hell you say!" Brennan ejaculated. "Have you seen them together?"

"Well if de bird I figure is Gibson is him, I got 'em, see?"

"Where?" demanded Brennan.

"De Gallant kid here knows de place," said Murphy. "Remember da room
where ya got paid off when ya got pinched in de handbook raid?"

John nodded.

"Dat's da joint."

John recalled the windowless cubby-hole in the rear of the Spring
street saloon where "Slim" Gray, Cummings' lieutenant, had returned to
him the $10 he had put up in bail and $10 as compensation for having
been on hand when Gibson made the sensational raid.

"Murphy," said Brennan, "just start in at the beginning and tell us
about this and please don't put any more 'sees' into it than you
absolutely have to."

"Well, here's da stuff. Da other night I'm comin' in late from da fights
at Vernon, see? I'm between Main and Spring, see? when I make a bird
standin' all by his lonesome at da entrance to da alley. Dis bird is
kinda nervous and jumpy-like, see? and I figure he might be a stick-up.
I ain't got no jack with me, so I keeps on walkin' right at him, see?

"Well, I'm about twenty feet from him, see? when I make another bird
crossin' tha street toward him. When I get up to them, see? they're just
about to meet, see?"

"Murphy," interrupted Brennan, "for heaven's sake forget those 'sees.'"

Murphy grinned and went on.

"Well, just as dese two birds meet I get a flash of da mug of da guy dat
crosses da street, se----"

"Go ahead, say 'see' all you want to," said Brennan impatiently.

"I get a flash of da bird's mug, see? and I make him, see? It was da
'Gink,' see? I try to make da other bird, but he turns into the alley
quick, see? Well, I keep right on my way and then come back, see? I
stick my nut around da corner of da building and watches them. They
hurry down da alley, see? and ducks in a door.

"Well, I'm not takin' no chances of gettin' plugged, see? so I don't
follow them. I just hang around for an hour and waits for them to come
out again, see? When they come out da door I spot it and duck back into
a shadow. They pass me so close I could a touched 'em, see? but it was
dark and I don't get no chance to make da bird with da 'Gink.' Well,
they go up toward Spring street and I trail them far enough to see them
get in a bus, see?"

"What did this fellow with the 'Gink' look like?" asked John, quickly.

"I'm tellin' ya I didn't get no chance to make him," said Murphy. "All
I'm able to get is that he's tall and black-haired, see?"

"What kind of a hat did he wear?"

"Straw."

"It's Gibson, all right," snapped Brennan. John's nerves tingled
throughout his body. A picture of Gibson as he was when he first saw him
flashed into his mind. He saw the commissioner's perfectly moulded
hair, black and shiny; he saw his neat straw hat in his lap.

"Dat's what I figured," said Murphy. "So last night I find a place near
da door I seen them go in and waits for them, see? I wait all night, but
nobody shows up. I figures dat if it's Gibson meetin' da 'Gink' you boys
will want to be in on it, see? I know dat joint like it's my own, see?"

"We see, Murphy, perfectly," interposed Brennan.

"So, I know there's a basement, see? While I'm waitin' I take a chance
and work da lock on da basement door, see? It's a padlock and I cop it,
see? This mornin' I get a friend to make a key for it, see? and this
afternoon I slip it back where it belongs."

"Murphy," said Brennan, "you're a wonder. Where's the key?"

Murphy reached into his pocket and produced it. Brennan glanced at his
watch.

"What time was it when you saw Cummings and this other fellow?" he
asked.

"I figure it was between twelve and one," replied Murphy.

"Good!" Brennan exclaimed. "It's half past ten now. We'll get down there
and get the lay of the land in that basement. They may go there again,
tonight."

They walked rapidly toward the alley-way where Murphy had recognized
"Gink" Cummings when he met the man they suspected was Gibson. Spring
street was beginning to become deserted for the night. Little groups of
men and women from the theaters waited at the corners for street cars. A
peanut and candy peddler pushed his cart wearily along the street, close
to the curb, plodding his way home. The proprietor of an open front
fruit stand struggled with the folding iron fence pulled across the
entrance to his store for protection of his wares until morning.

They turned into the alley-way in single file, Murphy leading, Brennan
next and John acting as a voluntary rear guard. The narrow alley, like
the bottom of a canyon with walls of brick, was darker than the streets.
In the middle of the block Murphy seemed to disappear into the earth.
Then Brennan dropped from sight. John was startled momentarily until he
found that they had descended a steep stairway, covered with trash and
old papers. Murphy unlocked the padlock and the door creaked inward on
rusty hinges. They sidled through it, fearful that the squeaking might
betray them.

Inside it was pitch dark. John was unable to see the faces of Brennan
and Murphy, although their elbows touched.

"I'll wait here and keep a lookout," said Murphy. "Here's a torch and
go easy with it." He handed Brennan an electric pocket torch.

"Murphy, you're a wonder, see?" said Brennan as he flashed on the light,
pointing it to his feet as he moved slowly forward.

A pungent odor of stale beer from empty kegs piled against the walls
mingled with that damp smell peculiar to underground places. Cobwebs
tickled their faces as they walked through the seldom used path between
the kegs and packing boxes. The small arc of light from the electric
torch danced ahead of them as John and Brennan inspected their
surroundings. At the end of the basement for a length of twenty-five
yards back from the wall under the street, they found a space cleared of
the boxes and kegs. On one side was a broad, steep stairway leading up
to a trapdoor in the floor above.

They could hear the voices of men in the room over their heads and a
scuffling of feet that told them the soft drink and lunch establishment,
into which the old saloon had been converted, had not been closed down
for the night. Their inspection completed, they returned to Murphy,
standing guard at the doorway on the alley. After Murphy had snapped the
padlock shut they crawled up to the alley again and he led them to a
space between two buildings less than four feet in width, into which
they crowded themselves.

"We can spot them from here when they go by, see?" Murphy explained.



CHAPTER XIX


Midnight.

For more than an hour they had remained in their cramped hiding place,
waiting. Brennan smoked innumerable cigarettes while they talked in
whispers. A policeman had walked through the alley peering into the
shadows and they had crouched breathless until he passed them.

The noise of the city had quieted. Except for an occasional street car
or passing automobile a silence brooded over the downtown district.
Stray cats appeared to rummage in battered cans and a huge rat darted
between their legs.

The cool of the night, Southern California's balm to aid sleep "knit up
the raveled sleeve of care," chilled them. Murphy took frequent "nips"
from a flask, which he offered generously to his companions each time
before he put it to his mouth. Brennan told them stories of experiences
in the Canadian northwest and adventures in a "comic opera" revolution
in Central America. Murphy supplied anecdotes of the ring, things he had
seen and done as a second at boxing matches. John listened to them,
enraptured.

Somewhere a clock struck the half hour, and as the sound died away they
heard quick footsteps approaching them. Murphy looked cautiously around
the corner of the brick wall and brought himself back with a jerk.

"It's them," he said, in a hoarse whisper. He stepped back to make room
for John and Brennan at the narrow aperture looking out on the alley.

Two figures passed their hiding place, walking hurriedly. The taller of
the two strode with a quick, easy step that John recognized.

"That's Gibson," he said in a sharp whisper.

"It certainly is," corroborated Brennan. "And it's the 'Gink' with him."

They watched the figures until they halted at the rear of the saloon.
They saw Cummings reach in his pocket for the key and open the door
while Gibson glanced up and down the alley. When they had disappeared
into the building Brennan stepped out into the alley, motioning to
Murphy and John to follow him.

Again in single file, with Murphy taking the lead from Brennan, they
walked warily toward the saloon, holding close to the back walls of
buildings so as not to be seen from either end of the alley. Murphy
removed the padlock from the basement door and opened it with
precautionary slowness to minimize the rasping of the rusty hinges. He
closed it again when they had entered the impenetrable darkness of the
basement.

Led by Murphy, who held the flashlight, they went ahead on tiptoe until
they reached a spot which they judged was directly beneath the little
room in which they believed Cummings and Gibson were in surreptitious
conference. There they strained their ears to catch the sound of voices
above them. John's heart thumped against his ribs and he imagined his
breathing sounded like a gust of wind. The floor of the room above was
less than three feet above their heads.

A chair scraped on the floor. Then they heard voices. Tense, holding
their breath, they poised in utter silence, straining to distinguish
what was being said by the two in the room above their heads. John felt
a sinking sensation of disappointment as he realized it would be
impossible for them to hear the conversation between the "Gink" and
Gibson from where they were listening. The voices that came down to them
were jumbled, faint, indistinguishable. Once Gibson laughed. Again the
two voices above them stopped suddenly as if the two conspirators had
heard a warning sound.

Brennan signaled to them a moment later, when the two voices were
audible again, to leave. Murphy snapped the padlock on the door and
they crept back to their hiding place between the two buildings.

"There was no need for us to stay there any longer," said Brennan. "We
couldn't hear a word. There's only one way to get what we want and that
is to use a dictograph. We'll have to run a wire with an 'ear' on it
into that room, somehow. Do you think we can do it, Murphy?"

"Sure thing," Murphy replied.

"The sooner the better," said Brennan. "We'll try to get it in tomorrow
night. With a dictograph we can get every word that's said. We can bring
a shorthand reporter with us and get it down in black and white. In the
meantime we'll wait here and see them when they come out."

Shortly before one o'clock they heard footsteps that told them Gibson
and Cummings were returning from their conference. Directly opposite the
aperture between the two buildings, where they were hiding, the taller
of the two figures stopped and striking a match held the flame, cupped
in his two hands, to the end of a cigar. The light of the match
flickered only for a second, but in that time John and Brennan saw
Gibson's face clearly. Tossing the burned match to the ground he
quickened his steps until he was again at Cummings' side and they went
from sight around the corner.

"He couldn't have done it better if we had asked him to," commented
Brennan, referring to the light Gibson had thrown on his face by
lighting the match. "I wonder what he'd do if he knew that we were
watching him as he did it."

"Swallowed da stogie," Murphy suggested.

"Tomorrow night, same time and place: 10 o'clock at Second and Spring,"
Brennan instructed Murphy before they separated.

"I'll be there," agreed Murphy, walking from them.

"Just a minute, Murphy," called Brennan, "you forgot something."

Murphy halted.

"What?" he asked.

"You forgot to put a 'see?' on the end of 'I'll be there.'"

Murphy grinned, waved his hand and went his way.

The next morning after only a few hours' sleep, John and Brennan told P.
Q. and the "chief" of their discovery. Brennan's plan for the use of the
dictograph was approved and they were commended for their enterprise.

"If you put this over," the city editor told John, "I'll double your
salary."

It was P. Q. who suggested that Benton, the photographer, accompany
them and endeavor to obtain a picture of Cummings and Gibson together.

"That would cinch it," he said. "If we could print a picture of Gibson
and the 'Gink' it would be irrefutable proof of the conspiracy."

"It would be risky business; might spoil everything," Brennan
remonstrated.

"Could it be done this way?" said P. Q. "While you and Gallant are in
the basement with Murphy and a shorthand man, Benton can fix himself
outside the door so that when Gibson and Cummings come out he can shoot
a flashlight. He can have an automobile close and make a quick getaway
by jumping into it. When you have enough of the conversation between
Gibson and the 'Gink' you can come outside, tip Benton to be ready and
wait for him in the machine. They can't chase you. By the time they get
a machine you should be a mile away from them."

"All right, P. Q., we'll try it that way," agreed Brennan. "Benton had
better be with us tonight. Whose automobile shall we use and who'll
drive it? It must be someone we can trust."

"You can arrange that to suit yourselves," said P. Q.

"Don't be afraid to spend money," said the publisher. "It's a big thing
you're going to do, boys, and I won't forget you, whether you succeed or
not."

That afternoon they obtained the dictograph. It was loaned them by
Hubert Kittle, aviator, former police officer, one-time contender for
the heavyweight pugilistic championship of the navy, dare-devil and
adventurer. Later in the day Ben Smith, official court reporter and one
of the fastest and most accurate shorthand men in the country, agreed to
share in their adventure.

"I'd trust Ben with my life," Brennan remarked to John later. "If there
ever was a man who knew how to keep his mouth shut, it's Ben. Whenever
the district attorney's office or the police or the sheriff have
something really big, something that must be kept absolutely secret,
they call him in and he never has failed them."

"What about the machine and the driver?" John asked.

"That's what has me stumped," Brennan admitted. "Most all of the taxi
drivers are lined up with the 'Gink' in some way or another. We must
have someone we can not only rely upon, but who can drive. Believe me,
Gallant, we can't afford to take any chances."

From Ben Smith's office in the Hall of Justice building they went to the
city hall to break the news of their discovery of the meeting place of
Gibson and Cummings to the mayor. While Brennan was telling the story
and describing how they had planned to obtain a written report of the
conversation between Gibson and the "Gink" by use of the dictograph, the
mayor sat perched on the edge of his chair, his eyes gleaming with
pent-up excitement. When Brennan had finished he bounced up and circled
the desk with quick strides to shake them both by the hand.

"You've done it, boys, you've done it," he said.

Then he turned his face from them and drew a handkerchief from his
pocket.

"Don't mind me," he said, dabbing with the handkerchief at his eyes.
"I'm an old fool. But I've been under a terrible strain, boys, these
last few weeks and what you told me was almost too good to be true."

He turned to face them as quickly as he had turned away, and he was
smiling.

"What about tonight?" he asked. "Is there anyway I can help you? Are you
all fixed?"

"All we need is a fast machine and a good driver," said Brennan.
"Someone we can trust and rely upon. Can you suggest anyone?"

"I certainly can," said the mayor.

"Who?"

The mayor's face brightened.

"The mayor of Los Angeles," he said.

"You mean----"

"I mean it," assured the mayor. "I have the fastest car that can be
bought and I'm not afraid to step on it. What more do you want?"

"It's a go!" exclaimed Brennan, and they shook hands all around.

John long remembered the meeting between the mayor and Murphy when they
assembled at Second and Spring streets that night at ten o'clock. Oddly
it was the mayor who was flustered when the two were introduced by
Brennan, probably because he felt he owed so much to the scrawny youth
who stood before him.

"Murphy, my boy, I--I--I don't know how to thank you," the mayor began
and then, fearing that sounded too stiff and formal, he added, "If I'm
re-elected it will be largely because of what you've done and you can
have the best job I've got to offer."

"I got my own reasons for doin' what I've done, see?" said Murphy, "but
I'll take you up on dat job offer of yours if we come through all right,
see?"

"You're--you're--you're all right, Murphy," returned the mayor.

They sat in the mayor's automobile while Brennan outlined the detailed
plans for their expedition.

"When they close up for the night, Murphy, Gallant and I will go in and
rig up the dictograph," he said. "Ben, you might as well come along with
us. It would be taking too much of a chance for one of us to go out and
get you.

"Mr. Mayor, you'll park your car close to the alley and wait with Benton
until one of us comes out. Then you'll drive to within a few yards of
the rear door of the saloon and keep your motor going, while Benton sets
up his camera. When we have enough of their conversation we'll come out
and get in the car with you.

"One of us will stand by Benton--I'll do it--until he shoots his flash
as Cummings and Gibson come out. Benton and I will run for the machine
and as soon as we hop on the running board, Mr. Mayor, you start--going.
Don't stop for anything and remember to turn your lights off while
you're waiting. Now, does everyone understand?"

Each signified that he knew his part.

"One slip will ruin everything," Brennan warned them. "It's our one
chance and a mistake will be costly. If something happens and the
mayor's car stalls, Gallant and I will stay behind to handle the 'Gink'
and Gibson and the rest of you beat it. You, too, Murphy, do you
understand? Gallant and I can take care of ourselves."

They waited until after eleven o'clock before they left the corner of
Second and Spring in the mayor's car. It was Saturday night and there
were twice as many people on the streets at that hour than during the
week days. As their paper published no Sunday edition, John and Brennan
realized that if they were successful the exposure of the
Gibson-Cummings' plot could not be made until Monday or Tuesday at the
earliest, which would be three or four days before the primary election,
scheduled for Thursday.

At Brennan's order the mayor drove the automobile up and down Spring
street, from Second to Eighth and back. Each trip as they passed the
saloon they watched for signs of it being closed for the night. At
half-past eleven they saw that the lights were extinguished, the doors
closed and the steel lattice work drawn across the open front to protect
the cigar stand for the night.

The mayor swung the automobile into the first street intersecting Spring
street, toward Main, stopping it at Brennan's instructions so that it
could be driven into the alley without difficulty. Brennan, Smith,
Murphy and John left the machine and hurried into the alley. Murphy
carried a brace and bit hidden under his coat. John's left arm was
stiff at his side from a steel bar thrust up into the sleeve and Brennan
carried the dictograph in a paper package under his arm.

Holding close to the shadows of the brick wall, they walked rapidly to
the basement door, opening it and entering quickly. Murphy and Smith
were posted at the door to act as guard and to watch for the arrival of
Gibson and Cummings. Brennan and John went directly to the trap door at
the top of the stairs at the front of the basement. Brennan pushed
upward against the door, but it held fast against his strength. John
handed him the steel bar. A thrust, a wrench, a tearing of decayed wood
and the door yielded. They scrambled through to the floor of the saloon,
finding themselves within a few feet of the room where they were to
"plant" the dictograph.

"Luck is with us this time," said Brennan as they saw that the door of
the room was open. He knelt in the open space between the tiers of
drawers on either side of the desk that filled one side of the room. In
half a minute the brace was boring into the wood of the flooring.
Through the hole cut through the floor Brennan pushed the wires of the
dictograph until their entire length disappeared into the basement and
the "ear" of the eavesdropping device was flat over the perforation. He
swept up the shavings from the boring of the hole with his hands as they
hurried back down into the basement, where they found the end of the
wire dangling from the ceiling. Brennan assembled the dictograph
rapidly, attaching to it three head-pieces with receivers clamping over
the ears.

"We'll test it," he said to John. "Scoot upstairs and say something in a
natural tone in all parts of the room. Try to talk at about the pitch
you believe they will speak and drop your voice to a whisper
occasionally. Ben and I will listen."

While Brennan and Smith waited with the headgears John followed orders,
returning to the basement when he believed he had talked to himself long
enough to make the test accurate.

"Works perfectly," Brennan told him.

"Heard every word you said. We're all set and ready to go."

John glanced at his watch. It was five minutes after twelve. They made
themselves as comfortable as possible on the empty packing boxes. Smith
produced his notebooks and a handful of carefully sharpened pencils.

A picture of Consuello as she appeared when she stood beside the window
with its red geraniums, reciting the verse in which she found heart
comfort, flashed into John's mind. He closed his eyes to hold the vision
in his imagination. It faded away, and another picture took its place, a
mental miniature of Consuello as he had last seen her, standing in the
doorway, silhouetted in the soft rose light behind her. He saw her hand
flutter and the door close. Could it be that with the intuition of a
daughter of Eve she knew that he loved her? Could it be that she----

"Brennan," he said, "what is that verse of Kipling's that starts 'So
long as 'neath the hills' or something like that?"

In the tiny glow of Brennan's cigarette John noticed a hint of a smile
on the other's lips as he recited:


     "So long as 'neath the Kalka hills
     The Tonga-horn shall ring,
     So long as down the Solon dip
     The hard-held ponies swing,
     So long as Tara Divi sees
     The lights of Simla town,
     So long as Pleasure calls us up,
     And duty drives us down,
     If you love me as I love you.
     What pair so happy as we two?"


He paused.

"That's it," John said. "There's another part of it that says something
about 'all earth being servant'; how does it go?"

Brennan continued:


     "By all that lights our daily life
     Or works our lifelong woe,
     From Boileaugunge to Simla Downs
     And those grim glades below,
     Where, heedless of the flying hoof
     And clamor overhead,
     Sleep, with the grey langur for guard,
     Our very scornful Dead.
     If you love me as I love you,
     All Earth is servant to us two."


He paused again.

"That's it," said John.

"That's a hell of a thing to be thinking about now," said Brennan.

"I know it," John returned.

For several minutes they were silent. John thought he saw Brennan give
Smith a significant glance.

"By the way, Gallant," Brennan asked, "how is your friend, Consuello?"

"I'm to have dinner with her and Gibson the night he is elected mayor,"
John replied, remembering Gibson's invitation.

"Who arranged that?" asked Brennan.

"Gibson."

"I'm afraid we're going to spoil your little dinner party," said
Brennan, smiling.

"That verse you just recited for me doesn't rhyme if you make it 'three'
instead of 'two,'" John countered.

"You win," conceded Brennan. "What time is it getting to be?"

John looked at his watch.

"Quarter to one," he answered. "What if they don't show----"

A shaft of light shot through the darkness from the door. It was the
prearranged signal from Murphy to inform them that Gibson and Cummings
were approaching. As if jerked by cords held in a single hand they
straightened up from their lounging positions.

They heard the door open at the rear above them and footsteps on the
floor, approaching until the noise was directly over their heads. Dust
shook down on them from the grimy ceiling.

Simultaneously they pulled on their headgears and listened.



CHAPTER XX


As clearly and distinctly as though he was at a telephone John heard the
voices of "Gink" Cummings and Gibson in the room above him. Smith began
writing his shorthand record of the conversation they overheard as soon
as the conspirators began talking.

"Well, what's new?" he heard a voice he knew to be Cummings' ask.

"Things are about the same," he heard Gibson reply. "I can't see how
anything can happen now to beat us."

"The newspapers are the only thing that worry me," said Cummings. "Those
damn reporters are never satisfied. They keep digging around until they
stumble across something and then tear things to pieces. What about
them? You haven't heard of anyone of them asking too many questions or
getting suspicious, have you?"

Gibson laughed.

"Forget it, Cummings," he said. "I'll handle the reporters. They're not
half as smart as they think they are and as people give them credit for
being."

In the glare from the electric torch that Brennan focused on Smith's
notebook John saw Brennan wink at him.

"Why, two of them--Brennan and Gallant--are my best friends," Gibson
continued. "They've fallen for every stunt we've pulled."

Brennan winked again.

"Don't be so cock-sure," Cummings cautioned. "I've had more experience
with them than you have and you're all wrong if you think they're a
bunch of dumb-bells. You'll have to be mighty careful. You've sailed
right along without any trouble because you've had sound advice. As soon
as you think you're out of danger, that's the time something's sure to
happen."

"I'll admit you've steered me straighter than I could have gone alone,"
said Gibson, "but don't worry, I'm going to take good care of myself."

There was a silence of a minute. John pictured Gibson and the "Gink"
regarding each other critically through the smoke of their cigarette and
cigar. It was Cummings who spoke first.

"Gibson," he said, "this will be our last meeting before the election."

"Why?"

"I've decided we can't take any more chances," said Cummings.

Another pause in the conversation. Then--

"Gibson, do we understand each other thoroughly?"

"What makes you ask that?" John believed he detected a note of surprise
in Gibson's counter question.

"I want to be sure, that's all," Cummings said. "You know how much I'm
relying on you. You know what I've done to put you where you are. You're
only going to be mayor for one term and we'll have to clean up enough
then to last us the rest of our lives. When your term expires I want to
quit the game.

"You were broke when I met you and I've made you mayor of Los Angeles.
You have power and a reputation and if you don't spill the beans you'll
be a millionaire when you walk out of the city hall in four years. For
ten years I've had this plan in my mind, waiting for a chance to work
it. When I met you I knew I had the man to go through with it. I've
spent a lot of money, risked everything I had and there have been times
that I've had a fight on my hands to keep the boys in line.

"It looks now as if I'm going to come out on top. While you're mayor
we'll work carefully. Probably it will be a year before we start out
after the money. We can afford to wait that long once you're in office.
But everything, everything, you understand, depends on you."

"Everything you say is true," said Gibson, seriously.

A pause. When Cummings broke the silence there was a new tone in his
voice. It was harsh, dictatorial, threatening, the voice of a man of
steel who ruled like an uncrowned king by the fear he instilled in his
miserable subjects.

"Gibson," he said, "if you double-cross me you'll wish you had never
been born."

John could not help but admire the even coolness of Gibson's voice when
he replied:

"There's no need for you to try to frighten me, Cummings."

"I mean what I say," returned the "Gink."

"I know you do," said Gibson quietly. "But I want you to understand
something. You and I can get along together without any threats. And
another thing. I'm not working with you because I fear you, but because
I want what you're giving me. So forget the 'rough stuff,' as you call
it."

So delicately was the dictograph adjusted that John heard Cummings draw
his breath sharply.

"I've been double-crossed before," he said, "by men a damn sight smarter
than you are."

"I'll simply repeat what I just said to you," retorted Gibson. "I'm
working with you because I want what you have to give me, not because
I'm afraid of you or anyone else."

It was a direct challenge to a man who ruled by cowing his adherents,
who had never failed to carry out a threat and who was as guilty of
murder as the thugs he ordered to beat or shoot to death a rebel in the
ranks of crime. But between the two, Cummings was the coward,
psychologically at least. His shrewdness told him that it was useless
for him to endeavor to control Gibson by threats of physical harm or
death and he exercised his tact. He realized also that a man of Gibson's
mettle was more to be trusted than a servile, affrighted weakling.

"You're right, Gibson," he said. "There's no need for either of us to
try to frighten the other. Forget what I said a minute ago. I said it
without thinking. You can't blame me if my nerves are on edge after what
I've been through to put you where you are and you know how much I've
got at stake in this business."

"No more than I have," said Gibson. "Cummings, I've never told you this
because I didn't think it necessary, but on the day I am sworn in as
mayor I hope to be married. You can understand better now how well I
realize that nothing must happen. I'd rather die right here than have
any of this business come out to disgrace her."

Cummings received Gibson's announcement of his intention to be married
in silence. John expected Brennan to tip him another wink or smile to
him at Gibson's mention of his marriage plans. Instead, he saw Brennan's
eyes narrow and his jaw set. Whether the expression of anger and
determination that came over Brennan's face was caused by indignation of
Gibson's duplicity or by friendship for Consuello, whom Brennan had
never seen, John did not know, but a thrill of encouragement swept
through him as he realized that he was not alone in the fight to save
her.

He saw Brennan signal him to approach. Slipping off the headgear he
moved noiselessly and leaned forward so that he could hear what Brennan
whispered to him.

"It won't be long now before they'll be leaving," Brennan said. "Slip
out without making any noise and bring Benton and the mayor for the
picture."

John went quickly to the door, where Murphy was on guard.

"Everything o. k.?" asked Murphy in a hoarse whisper. John nodded and
went up and out into the alley. He found the mayor and Benton waiting
nervously in the automobile.

"We've got enough to ruin them," he said, anticipating the mayor's
eagerness. He climbed into the car and the mayor drove it quietly into
the alley, switching off the lights as Brennan had ordered him to do. He
stopped the automobile about thirty feet past the door of the saloon. In
a minute Benton was setting up his camera on its tripod directly across
the alley from the door.

At Benton's request, John stood at the door and flashed on his electric
torch long enough for the photographer to get the focus. Although it was
less than five seconds that he stood with his back only a foot from the
door from which Cummings and Gibson were to emerge, John's imagination
created a terrible fear that they would come upon him in the helpless
position in which he stood.

"All set," Benton called to him in a sharp whisper. Crossing the alley
he saw Benton filling his flashlight gun with flash powder and heard him
chanting, softly to himself:


     "'E would dot an' carry one
     Till the longest day was done;
     An 'e didn't seem to know the use o' fear.
     If we charged or broke or cut,
     You could bet your bloomin' nut,
     'E'd be waitin' fifty paces right flank rear."


He was at Benton's side when Murphy, Smith and Brennan, in rapid
succession came quickly up into the alley from the basement stair.
Sharply Brennan ordered John to follow Murphy and Smith into the
automobile while he remained with Benton, who stood poised with his
finger on the trigger of the flash gun.

As soon as John, with Murphy and Smith, was in the automobile, he looked
back. The door opened and Cummings and Gibson stepped out. Benton's
flashlight gun boomed and a brilliant white light blazed, turning night
into day for a fraction of a second.

The mayor raced the motor as Benton and Brennan dashed toward the
automobile and sprang to the running board. John saw Gibson and
Cummings, recovering from their surprise, rush after them. Cummings was
tugging at something in his right hip pocket.

With a roar from its exhaust, the automobile lunged forward. He heard
the mayor curse as he shifted the gears fiercely, each move of his hand
giving the car accelerated speed.

"Duck your heads," Brennan yelled.

An automatic pistol cracked out its sharp reports and a bullet tore
through the top of the car and shattered the windshield glass to
splinters as the automobile lurched out of the alley.

       *       *       *       *       *

Murphy sat tilted back in a chair, his feet braced against the sill of
the only window of his room. Cigarette butts were heaped in a tarnished
brass souvenir ash tray on a table at his side. The Sunday newspapers,
from which he had extracted the sporting sections to peruse every line,
were scattered on the floor around his chair.

His scraggy hair tousled on his head, a growth of black, wiry beard
covering his face, coatless and collarless, he was a picture of coarse
self-indulgence. Returning to his room at three o'clock in the morning
after separating from the mayor, Brennan, John and Smith following their
escape from "Gink" Cummings' pistol shots, he had slept until noon. He
went to the cheap dairy lunch near his rooming house for a heavy
breakfast of ham and eggs, purchased the Sunday papers and came back to
smoke and read.

The room with its disordered bed, drab walls dotted with sporting
prints, dusty, rickety furnishings, threadbare carpet and grimy lace
curtains, was a dreary, prison-like place. But to Murphy it was the
place of his content, as much of a home as he had ever had. He had slept
in alleys and deserted shacks and basements. So to him the room brought
no discomfort and was as luxurious in his unimaginative mind as a suite
at the Ambassador or the Alexandria. No invitation to the restful
mountains or the sparkling ocean, its beaches lined with gay Sunday
crowds, floated to him on the breeze that drifted in through the open
window. He was enjoying a roustabout's day of rest.

After a while, perhaps, when dusk falling over the city heralded
brooding night, he would emerge from his room to visit his favorite pool
room, where, in an atmosphere blue with smoke, he would lounge in a
chair at a wall and exchange gossip of sport and sporting things with
other hangers-on. From there he might wander in upon a friendly "crap"
or card game behind the locked door of an unventilated room of a Spring
street "social club." Or he might go to one of the stuffy, over-heated
gymnasiums to watch some industrious and ambitious boxer in training.
That was his life and he was happy in it, a hand-to-mouth sort of
existence in which he was satisfied.

At intervals a thrill of the excitement of the adventure of the night
before, when he had played an important part in the trapping of "Gink"
Cummings and Gibson, returned to him. It was difficult for him to
realize that the mayor of Los Angeles had taken him by the hand, like a
brother, and thanked him and promised him the best job at his disposal
if he was re-elected. He remembered having told the mayor he could drive
like "Jimmy" Murphy, the racer, when they had sped out of the downtown
district and away from possible pursuit. He remembered how he had
patched a cut over the mayor's eye, a laceration caused by a piece of
the shattered windshield, with the skill of facial repair that he had
learned as a second at the Vernon ring.

The "Gallant kid" and Brennan, they were "regular guys," all right.
Brennan was a "wisecracker," all right, all right. Some day he'd tell
them why he was helping them. They thought he was doing it for the money
they gave him. He wouldn't "double-cross" the "Gink" or anyone else for
money, see? What kind of a "bird" did they take him for, anyway? A
"stool-pigeon"? He'd tell them why some day and they'd know that Tim
Murphy wasn't no "stool-pigeon." He'd tell them----

A rap on the door! He brought his feet down from the window-sill. The
"Gallant kid" or Brennan, probably, or, maybe it was his friend, the
mayor. He rose and, crossing the room, turned the key in the lock. He
was about to put his hand on the knob when the door pushed open toward
him and three men sidled into the room. Murphy cringed back as one of
them shut the door quickly, locked it and turned to face him, putting
the key in his pocket.

It was "Slim" Gray, the "Gink's" right-hand man!

"Slim" Gray, cold-eyed, his thin lips pressed tight together; "Slim"
Gray, hard, venomous, merciless, hate blazing in his eyes. And the other
two looking at him contemptuously, snarlingly. Two of the "Gink's" men!

For nearly a minute they stood there looking at him, without moving. For
nearly a minute he stared back at them as if they had hypnotized him;
his arms half lifted, his head bent forward, his mouth hanging open. A
sickening feeling of terror caused his hands to tremble and his knees to
feel as though they were giving way under him.

He knew they were going to "bash" him, probably kill him. He might have
been able to handle "Slim" alone, but those two powerful
bruisers--they'd kill him, sure. He checked an impulse to scream. They'd
throttle him if he did. Maybe he could talk himself out of the trap.

Twice before he managed to gasp out "Slim!" his lips formed the word,
but no sound came from them.

"Shut your -------- mouth," said "Slim" through his teeth.

He threw himself back as though he expected the words to be followed by
a rain of blows. His back was flat against the wall. If he could only
get around to the window he could dart out and down the fire escape.
Divining his one and only hope of escape, one of the "bashers" sprang
forward, grabbed him by an arm and whirled him into a chair. He cringed
as the bruiser stood over him, his big fists clenched and ready to
strike.

"Get back, Louie," he heard "Slim" order sharply. Louie stepped away
from him and "Slim" faced him.

"Murphy," said "Slim," speaking slowly, "you've got one chance to get
out of this."

"What've I done, 'Slim'?" his voice shook. In his terror he could only
think of trying to "stall."

"Don't pull that stuff on me, you damn stool-pigeon," snapped "Slim."
"You know what I want from you. Who was that with you last night? Come
on, spit it out."

"What're ya talkin' about, 'Slim'?"

"I told you not to pull that stuff. It won't get you anything, see? We
know you were in it. You -------- fool, didn't you know we'd find out
about you?"

"Ah, 'Slim,' ya got me wrong, I ain't----"

A hand clutched his hair. He could feel the finger nails digging into
his scalp. With a jerk that shook him to his feet Louie threw him half
out of the chair.

"Cut it, Louie," he heard "Slim" say as he remained where he had been
thrown, fearful of lifting his head.

For a minute there was a dreadful silence.

"Murphy," said "Slim," "do you remember what happened to 'Gat' Mollwitz
and 'Beanie' Wilson?"

Did he remember? A nauseating feeling gripped him. "Gat" and "Beanie"
had defied the "Gink" and they were found one morning beaten and kicked,
broken and bleeding. They died in agony a few hours later.

"Don't, 'Slim,' don't!" he gasped.

"Out with it, then, who was that with you last night? Come through and
you can get out of town tonight."

Right then something happened inside of Murphy, something a psychologist
might be able to describe in vague scientific terms. He became possessed
of a desperate courage far greater than he had ever dreamed of having.
In that moment of metamorphosis he became a fatalist. He realized that
whether he gave "Slim" the information he sought or not the result would
be the same. The life would be kicked and beaten out of him. The
"Gink," to save himself and Gibson at all hazards, would not take a
further chance by permitting him to live.

Then why should he give up? Why should he surrender to "Slim" and his
"bashers" if he could gain nothing by it? He'd like to be able to live
just long enough to tell the mayor and Brennan and the "Gallant kid" the
real reason that he helped them trap Cummings and Gibson. He didn't want
them to think he had sold himself for money. And even if they killed him
now, Brennan and the "Gallant kid" would know that he died trying to
protect them, that he wasn't a contemptible "squealer" after all.

As he straightened up from the prone position into which he had been
thrown by Louie, he saw, out of the corner of his eye, the pillow under
his bed and there flashed into his mind the realization that under it
was his revolver. If he could only get it somehow.

"Let's hear it. Who was with you?" demanded "Slim."

Murphy's long dormant imagination began to work. For the purpose of
deceiving "Slim" he must keep a mask of servile fear on his face.

"Let me get a shot of hooch, 'Slim,' and I'll tell ya everything," he
whimpered. He rose timidly from his chair. Louie and the other "basher"
started toward him, but stopped at a gesture from "Slim."

He went to the battered, flat-topped dresser a few feet from the bed and
pulled open a drawer. From it he took a bottle of whisky. Pretending
that the cork was stuck he worked with it fumblingly to get time in
which to think. He would take a drink, feign that it choked him, stagger
to the head of the bed, stumble on to the pillow and then come up with
the revolver in his hand. Then he would have them!

He lifted the bottle to his mouth and gulped. He let the bottle fall
from his hand as he choked and gasped for breath, sputtering the fiery
liquor from his lips. Reeling and spitting he stumbled toward the bed
and fell on it. His right hand pushed under the pillow and seized the
gun, but not by the handle. In the second that he was trying desperately
to wrap his hand around the butt of the weapon and get a finger on the
trigger he was lost.

With a warning shout Louie leaped on the bed and grasped his arm.

He felt himself pulled to his feet and hurled to the floor. He shut his
eyes. With a sweep of his arm the "basher" crashed a black-jack against
his skull. A head splitting flash of blinding light and then darkness
and insensibility. He did not feel the brutal blows that were rained on
him nor the kicks that fractured his arms, his ribs and tore deep cuts
on his face and body.

"That's enough, boys, beat it," commanded "Slim." As they ran out of the
room "Slim" caught sight of Murphy's coat. Quickly his hands went
through the pockets. From one he drew a soiled bit of paper.

On the paper was written, "Brennan and the Gallant kid" and the
telephone number of the newspaper on which they were employed.

"Slim" locked the door from the outside and tossed the key back into the
room over the transom, leaving Murphy for dead.



CHAPTER XXI


In that delightful state of drowsiness that follows after waking from a
sound sleep, John mentally reviewed the stirring adventure of the night
before. The warm, bright sunshine streaming in through the open windows
of his bedroom had wakened him slowly. He could hear his mother in the
kitchen, preparing breakfast.

Every detail of how the mayor, Murphy, Brennan and he had succeeded in
overhearing a conversation between Gibson and "Gink" Cummings was fresh
in his mind. His nerves tingled as he again felt the thrill of those
breathless minutes when Benton photographed Gibson and the "Gink" by
flashlight and Cummings rained shots after them as they escaped in the
mayor's automobile.

It was only a matter of a few hours now before the conspiracy between
the police commissioner and candidate for mayor and the notorious king
of the underworld to seize control of the city government would be
exposed, broadcast throughout Los Angeles as the most sensational news
story of the year. Before he returned home, after three o'clock in the
morning, John, with Brennan, had informed P. Q. of their success in
obtaining evidence to prove the Cummings-Gibson conspiracy. The city
editor told them he would communicate with the "chief" Sunday and
instructed them to report for duty earlier than usual Monday morning.

"We'll probably break the story Monday," said P. Q. "We'll shoot
everything we have: Gallant's story of the framed raid on the Spring
street bookmakers, how the 'Gink' regulated crime to give Gibson a
reputation; the affidavits of 'Big Jim' Hatch and his wife and give it
the finishing touch with Benton's photograph. Of course, we'll have
Smith's verbatim report. Arrange with him to have it ready for us
without fail by seven o'clock Monday morning. One of you get an
affidavit from Murphy, telling his whole story. You've blown the lid off
things this time, all right, boys."

Murphy left them before they telephoned to P. Q., so it was impossible
for them to arrange with him to meet one of them before Monday. They
agreed that John should find Murphy and obtain his affidavit in order
that it would be ready for publication Monday.

The elation John felt as a newspaper reporter in having aided in
obtaining the evidence for the exposure of the Cummings-Gibson plot
changed to regret when he thought of how it would affect Consuello.
Could she, would she remember and follow out her promise to think of him
as having done what he believed was his duty? Would she refuse to
believe the truth about Gibson or would she, in the bitterness of
disillusionment, blame those who brought about the exposure? He pictured
her beside her window of red geraniums, lifting tear-dimmed eyes to her
"green and friendly hill" and he was unhappy in conjecturing upon her
broken heart.

His mother's call to him that breakfast was waiting roused him from his
reverie. He had never told Mrs. Gallant that Consuello was Gibson's
fiancee; in fact, Consuello's name had never been mentioned between them
since the night that Mrs. Gallant had displayed her antipathy for her.
He realized also that his mother would not be able to comprehend why
Consuello met him in Gibson's absence and would probably consider it an
unforgivable breach of etiquette.

At breakfast he told his mother of his adventure of the previous night,
minimizing the dangers of the exploit to forestall her inevitable
admonition for him to avoid risks of all kinds.

"It's a big thing for me," he said, enthusiastically. "I was promised
more salary and a contract if it went through. Of course, Brennan and
P. Q. and Murphy deserve most of the credit, but I helped them."

"What will become of this man Gibson?" Mrs. Gallant asked.

"I've been wondering how he'll take it," he said. "He may try to bluff
through, claim it's all a perjured frame-up. But I don't believe he'll
do that. You see, he knows that the photograph is absolutely condemning
evidence. I expect that he'll simply disappear. He may have left the
city by this time. Or he may try to bargain with our publisher by
offering to retire as a candidate if the scandal about him is hushed up.
I don't believe the 'chief' would consent to that, though."

Usually on Sunday mornings John accompanied his mother to church. This
day, however, because it was too late for them to attend the morning
service, they went for a walk instead. When they passed the neighborhood
motion picture theater John noticed that Consuello's latest picture, the
one he had seen at the pre-view, was being shown. An heroic size
photograph of Consuello stood in the small lobby of the theater. He
noticed that his mother averted her eyes. They walked in silence for
half a block and then Mrs. Gallant spoke.

"Isn't Miss Carrillo a friend, a very dear friend, of this Mr. Gibson?"
she asked.

"Yes," he admitted. "Why do you ask, mother?"

She did not reply.

"But, mother," he exclaimed, "surely you won't think that she knew of
his scheming with 'Gink' Cummings! Will you blame her because someone
she knew went wrong? Do you hold her responsible for the faults and
weaknesses of others?"

Again Mrs. Gallant did not reply. Her silence provoked him. It was so
unlike her to be unfair. He stifled the angry protest he was about to
utter.

"Some day, mother, you are going to know her," he said. "Then every
unkind thought you have ever held toward her will come back to you in
anguish. You know, mother, dearest, how wrong it is to condemn unfairly.
That was one of the first lessons taught me by father; to withhold
judgment; suppress prejudice until all sides of a case have been heard.
That is the keystone of American liberty--'malice toward none.' It was
the principle of the Magna Carta, Great Britain's document of human
rights, that the English barons compelled their king to deliver to them
more than 700 years ago.

"Remember, mother, dearest"--his voice softened--"it was prejudice,
intolerance and hate that caused the crucifixion of Christ."

"John, please," his mother said, gently, "please don't allow anything
to spoil our one day of the week together."

"But, mother----" he began.

"My boy! Please," she pleaded.

He had never gone against her wishes when she spoke to him like that. He
patted her arm and smiled.

"All right, mother, dearest," he said, "we'll forget all about it now.
This is our day together and nothing shall impair it."

How glad he would have been to have been able to have told her of his
love for Consuello! How much help she could have been to him, now that
he was about to ruin the man Consuello had agreed to take as her
husband. If "that" Mrs. Sprockett, who was fostering his mother's
prejudice against motion pictures and motion picture players, would only
stay more at home with her colicky baby instead of playing the part of a
hypocritical Puritan. A passage from Proverbs his father had often
quoted returned to him.

"Where no wood is there the fire goeth out; so where there is no
talebearer, the strife ceaseth."

But he chased these thoughts from his head to be a companion to his
mother. They admired flowers in gardens of homes they passed, studied
interesting architecture they caught sight of, planned a picnic in the
foothills--John thought of the spot where he had watched Consuello
before the cameras--recited bits of poetry to each other and enjoyed the
afternoon more than any since the death of Mr. Gallant, who had always
led them on their Sunday "tramps," as he called them.

It was earlier than usual when they returned to their home. They
shortened their outing because of John's promise to Brennan to see
Murphy before morning and obtain from him an affidavit to be used in the
printed exposure of Cummings and Gibson.

"Be careful, my boy," Mrs. Gallant cautioned him as he kissed her before
leaving to get the car to go down town.

"Don't worry, mother; there's no danger now," he assured her.

As he passed the neighborhood picture theater a young girl, sixteen or
seventeen years of age, emerged from the door. In the strong light of
the lobby he saw her face plainly--a rather pretty face--and he
remembered, indistinctly, of having met her, seen her somewhere before.
He saw that she recognized him with a startled expression and
unconsciously he slowed his steps. The girl hurried to his side and put
her hand on his arm.

"Please don't tell, will you?" she begged.

"Tell? I don't understand," he said.

"Aren't you John Gallant?" she asked.

He noticed a look of fear in her eyes.

"Yes."

"I'm Alma Sprockett," she said, as if the mention of her name was
sufficient explanation of her request for him to keep whatever she had
in mind a secret.

"Well?" he asked, still unable to understand.

"If mother ever found out that I was at the picture show today I'd be in
a peck of trouble," she said. "She won't let me go to the movies at all
and I have to sneak away and I do enjoy them so much. Now you won't tell
your mother or my mother or anyone, will you?"

"Of course not," he answered, smiling.

"Oh, thanks ever and ever so much," she said, and turning, hurried
homeward.

That was it, he thought as he waited for his car. Mrs. Sprockett could
find time to run around the neighborhood telling others what to do, what
not to do, what should be done and what shouldn't be done, but she
couldn't be obeyed even by her own daughter! All the way uptown and
until he turned into the narrow, foul-aired stairway leading up to
Murphy's room, Mrs. Sprockett and Alma, his mother and Consuello were
jumbled in his thoughts.

He rapped on the panel of the door of Murphy's room at the end of the
dark, dingy hall. When he received no response he turned the knob and
pushed against the door, which held fast. Discovering that it was locked
he hesitated a moment to decide whether to wait or leave and return
later.

A moan, a deep gasping sound, came to his ears. He started and put his
ear to the crack of the door. Another moan, fainter than before, sounded
in the room.

"Murphy!" he called.

There was no answer from beyond the door, not even a moan. John shook
the handle.

"Murphy! Murphy! Is that you? Are you hurt?" he shouted.

No answer, no sound. He put his shoulder to the door and, bracing
himself, pushed with all his strength against it, but it held firm.
Stepping back he swung a kick against a lower panel. The wood broke and
splintered. He dropped to his knees and tore the split pieces out with
his hands.

Through the hole in the panel he saw the key "Slim" Gray had tossed back
into the room over the transom. Reaching his arm through the opening he
picked it up and, opening the door, rushed into the room.

The twisted, broken, beaten figure of Murphy lay on the floor near the
foot of the bed. The awfulness of the sight turned John sick and with a
choking cry of pity and despair he dropped to his knees beside it.

"Murphy! Murphy!" he cried. "What have they done to you? Can you hear
me? Speak to me, Murphy, speak to me."

The head of the "bashed" youth rolled limply from side to side and he
groaned unconsciously. John shut his eyes to close from vision the
swollen, lacerated face of his friend. Fury surged through him as he
jumped to his feet. He knew intuitively that Murphy was the victim of
"Gink" Cummings' brutality. He wanted to kill Cummings with his hands.

Sobbing, he ran from the room and dashed to the nearest telephone. He
called the receiving hospital, telling the attendant to rush the
ambulance at top speed. He waited at the street entrance to the rooming
house until the ambulance arrived, its shrill siren whistle clearing a
pathway for it through the traffic. Slowly, gently, they lifted Murphy
from the floor and, placing him on a stretcher, carried him down the
stairs to the ambulance. A morbid crowd, attracted by the sight of the
ambulance, thronged the sidewalk.

John sat beside the stretcher with the white-clad attendant as the
ambulance sped up Third street to Hill and turning to the right stopped
with a creaking of brakes in front of the hospital door. He waited
anxiously for the surgeons to make their examination. Two detectives
hurried from central station to the hospital and getting what
information John had, dashed out to a waiting automobile.

In his anxiety as he waited for the verdict of the surgeons he only gave
the detectives Murphy's name and the address of the rooming house. They
were gone before he could tell them he knew Murphy had been "bashed" by
the "Gink's" men.

"He's in bad shape," the chief surgeon told him. "Skull fracture; arms,
jaw, ribs and nose broken; internal injuries; cuts and bruises; lost a
lot of blood."

"What can be done to save him?" John asked.

"An operation is about the only thing," the surgeon replied. "He's
pretty far gone."

"Operate then," said John. "Get the best surgeons in the city to help
you. Spare no expense."

An hour later Murphy was on the operating table with three of the most
capable surgeons in Los Angeles working with all their skill and science
to hold the flickering life in his body. Not knowing where to find
Brennan, John telephoned to P. Q.

"I'll get in touch with the mayor and have him tell Sweeney to put
every available detective on the case," the city editor said. "Do
everything you can for Murphy. Be careful yourself. If the 'Gink' knows
what Murphy has done he knows that you and Brennan were with him. He'll
not stop at anything. I'll try to find Brennan."

While Murphy was in the operating room, Chief Sweeney, with a squad of
detectives, appeared at the hospital and questioned John.

"I've just talked with the mayor," Sweeney said. "He has told me enough
of what has happened to convince me that the 'Gink's' men did this. I'm
going out now to arrest Cummings on suspicion and hold him in jail until
we see how Murphy comes out. If he dies, I'll charge Cummings with
murder if it's the last thing I do on earth."

John noticed as Sweeney and the detectives hurried away that several of
them carried sawed-off shotguns.

A few minutes later they wheeled Murphy out of the operating room on a
carrier and placed him on a cot in one of the wards. John approached one
of the surgeons, swathed in sterilized clothes and apron.

"Will he live, doctor?" he asked in trepidation.

The surgeon answered without looking up from the rubber gloves he was
peeling from his hands.

"He has a chance," he said.

"Much of a chance?" John asked.

"Not much, I'm afraid," the surgeon said. "You see, he is weak from the
loss of blood and he is hurt internally. His ribs have punctured his
lungs. Only one in a hundred injured the way he is ever recovers. We'll
do everything we can now, but we're almost helpless."

He went to Murphy's bedside. The figure stretched flat on the bed was
motionless except for an almost indiscernible trembling of the covering
that showed Murphy was still breathing. The face of the unconscious
youth was hidden by bandages. A pungent odor of ether filled the room.
As John looked down on the bed, praying that the little flame of life
would not be extinguished by the cold breath of death, he became
conscious of the fact that someone else had entered and was standing
close behind him. Believing it to be a nurse he turned slowly to ask if
it was possible that Murphy might regain consciousness after the effects
of the anesthetic wore off. He found himself facing the mayor.

For fully a minute the mayor stood looking down at Murphy. Tears filled
his eyes and brimmed over his cheeks. He let them fall unheeded as he
lifted his eyes to John.

"Gallant," he said, "if you don't mind, I'm going to pray for the life
of this boy."

John bowed his head. He saw the mayor drop to his knees at the side of
the bed so that his forehead touched the covers.

"'Thy will be done,' oh, Father," he heard the mayor pray, "but we ask
Thee in Thy gentle mercy, to spare us the life of this boy. We ask Thee
to hold the life in his poor, battered body; to bring him back to us. We
ask it, oh, Lord, in the name of Thy son; Amen."

The mayor rose to his feet and they walked from the room.

"I hope you'll tell the people of Los Angeles what Murphy saved them
from," said the mayor as they separated outside the hospital door.
"Whether I'm re-elected or not I'll not rest until the brutes who beat
him are brought to justice. You can tell them that, too."

Dusk was deepening into night as John entered the detective bureau at
central station, around the corner in First street from the hospital. He
found the two detectives who made the first investigation of the case
writing out their reports.

"Three men did it," one of them told him. "They were seen entering and
leaving the house. Two big fellows and a small, thin-faced man. No one
heard the noise or suspected that anything was wrong."

"No identification of the men?" he asked.

"Not yet," the detective replied. "We understand the chief and a bunch
of the boys are on the case and may make an arrest before morning. By
the way, if you're a friend of Murphy's you'd better go down to his room
and take charge of his things. There's no lock on the door now, you
know, and things are liable to disappear."

"Thanks for the tip," said John. "I'll attend to it."

He went direct to Murphy's room from police headquarters. The room was
dark and, scratching a match, he lighted the gas at a jet in the wall.
He thought of how rapidly gas illumination in homes had disappeared. He
remembered Consuello's father telling him that as late as 1870 there was
only one street lamp--a gas one--in Spring street, although there was
agitation among the citizens to have the city council add another light
to put "as far south as First street."

As he inspected the room in the pale light from the gas flame he tried
to picture in his mind how Murphy had tried to save himself from the
three bruisers. He discovered the stain caused by the spilled whisky,
the empty bottle under the bed. Then, suddenly, it flashed into his
mind that Murphy might have been beaten to force him to reveal the names
of those who were with him. He stopped his work of collecting Murphy's
few belongings as this possibility came into his brain.

Had Murphy told? Beaten and kicked and facing death had he sought mercy
by revealing who had the evidence against Cummings and Gibson? Or, had
he passed into insensibility keeping it a secret?

He heard footsteps approaching the room. Perhaps it was Sweeney and his
detectives coming to inspect the scene of the brutal attack. It might be
Brennan.

The door swung open and three men entered the room quickly. John
recognized one of them as "Slim" Gray.

He knew he was face to face with the men who had "got" Murphy.



CHAPTER XXII


In the fraction of the second that he stood facing "Slim" Gray and the
two bruisers, tense and glaring, the cool self-possession he had
acquired in his training as a boxer overcame his mental confusion. With
one quick glance he saw the cold hate gleaming in "Slim's" eyes as he
stood with his back flat against the door and noticed that one of the
"bashers" wore brass knuckles on his right fist, while the other had
pulled a black-jack from his pocket.

The iron bedstead was between him and the two thugs. As one of them
started forward John stooped and grasped the empty whisky bottle on the
floor at his feet. From his crouching position he leaped toward the
window, his only avenue of escape. Louie--it was he who was armed with
the black-jack--jumped at him with a curse, his skull-crashing weapon
held back to strike a blow. Coolly, with the mental rapidity he had
developed as a boxer, John darted toward the bruiser and back. Tricked
by the feint, Louie lurched forward with a sweeping blow of the
black-jack. The momentum of the swing of his arm drew his head down and
with a quick slashing movement, like a pugilist chopping with his fist,
John crashed the bottle against Louie's temple.

The bottle shattered and Louie, blood gushing from the wound, crumpled
at his feet, John tossed away the neck of the bottle and barely had time
to side-step the onrush of the other thug, who struck viciously at him
with the fist armored with the knuckles. As they drew back John was in
the position of a boxer, standing lightly on his toes, his left hand
extended with the shoulder drawn up to protect his chin, which rested
against his collarbone, his right arm crooked back. The bed was between
him and the door, where "Slim" stood.

The "basher" swung up from the hip with his right arm, aiming for John's
face. A man who "leads," or strikes first, with his right hand, is a
target for a trained fighter. Warding off the blow by lifting his left
arm so that it caught the descending fist on the tightened muscles below
his elbow, John stepped in with a swift right-cross to his opponent's
chin. A sharp pain shot through his clenched fist and he knew he had
smashed a knuckle as it crashed against the jawbone.

His head jerking as he received John's punch, the thug reeled back,
throwing up his hand to cover his face. John rushed at him and sank his
bruised right fist into his middle. As the fist clouted against his
abdomen the bruiser grunted and, doubling over, grabbed John in his
arms. John lifted his left arm as they clenched and pushed his elbow
against the other's throat. Pulling himself out of the clinch as the
"basher's" hold weakened when the elbow pressed against his neck, John
whirled and stopped with his back against the wall. He danced lightly
from side to side to confuse the thug, who stood panting before him.

Louie, only stunned by the blow with the bottle, pulled himself to his
hands and knees. John saw that his face was smeared crimson from the cut
on his head. Realizing that the "basher" in front of him was "stalling"
for time, waiting until Louie was on his feet again John darted to one
side and seized a chair, swinging it up over his shoulder. His hand with
its broken knuckle was puffed and painful and it hurt to bend the
fingers to grasp the chair.

Louie was on his feet, poised for a leap. John threw the chair at the
"basher" before him and dashed to the other side of the room.

"I'll get him, Joe," Louie gasped, wiping the blood from his eyes and
taking a firmer grip on the black-jack. As Louie rushed at him John
seized the heavy water pitcher on a table near him and hurled it. With a
snarl on his lips, Louie ducked and the pitcher broke against the wall
behind him. Louie was smarter than Joe had been. He "led" with his left
hand and as the blow was warded off he swung the black-jack with his
right. John jerked back his head, but the club grazed his cheek, tearing
open the flesh. Before he could recover, Joe's brass knuckles crashed
against his forehead, opening another cut.

John wabbled to his feet. His brain was numbed and he was blinded by the
blood from the laceration over his eyes. Feebly he lifted his arms to
protect his head. Joe pulled his arms down from his face and Louie drew
back his black-jack for the knockout blow. As he was about to strike,
John, with the last flickering move of instinctive self-protection, sank
to the floor. With a curse, Louie lifted his foot to kick the prone
figure beneath him.

John nerved himself for the blow that was to knock him insensible. He
knew it was the end. He heard a scuffle of feet and dimly, through the
blood from his wounds he saw Louie and Joe step back from him. He shut
his eyes. They were going to kick him to death. If he could only--but
why didn't they move? Why didn't they kick him? What were they waiting
for?

Unable to believe his eyes, he saw the legs of Louie and Joe take
backward steps until they were back against the wall. Did they think he
was "out"? Were they leaving him for dead? Fascinated, he stared at the
legs of the bruisers and then he heard a voice, a voice he recognized.

"Keep 'em up," the voice commanded, coldly, evenly, "Keep 'em up. The
first one of you that tries moving gets it, understand?"

Slowly John lifted his head. It ached splittingly and lolled heavily on
his shoulders. Weakly he pressed his hand against his cut forehead,
stopping the blood from dripping over his eyes. Blinking to clear his
vision he looked around the room.

In the doorway stood Brennan, a .45 caliber army model automatic in his
hand; a very different Brennan from the reporter John knew. A Brennan
with eyes as cold as the steel of the gun he gripped; a Brennan with an
unwavering hand and a steady voice; a Brennan like the hero of the
stories he told of brave men leading forlorn-hope charges. Good old
Brennan! He had them, all right. Good old Brennan!

With their backs to the wall, their hands high above their heads, stood
"Slim" Gray, Louie and Joe, ghastly pale, staring as if they were
hypnotized at the pistol that pointed toward them.

"Drop that sap!" Brennan snapped.

The black-jack fell from Louie's upraised hand, bouncing as it hit his
shoulder and dropped to the floor.

"How badly are you hurt, Gallant?" Brennan asked, without looking away
from his three prisoners.

"I'm--I'm all right," John replied, struggling to his feet. "Good old
Brennan," he added, essaying a smile.

"Good old nothing," said Brennan. "Wrap a towel around that head of
yours and if you think you can make it, get downstairs to a phone. Get
Sweeney; he's back at central station now."

John staunched the flow of blood with a towel and, faint from the reflex
action of the blows he had endured, walked falteringly out of the room.
At the door Brennan stepped to one side to allow him to pass, but never
took his eyes from the three men with their hands above their heads.

The clerk at the corner cigar store gaped when John, the crimson stained
towel swathed about his head, walked in to the telephone. In less than a
minute he had Chief Sweeney on the wire.

"Chief, this is Gallant--John Gallant," he said.

"Yes, what is it?"

"We've got the men who beat up Murphy."

"Where?"

"In Murphy's room. Brennan is covering three of them with a gun now.
Come as fast as you can."

His strength returning gradually, John walked a little more steadily as
he hurried back to the room. Brennan and his prisoners were in the same
positions as when he left them.

"You're lucky I didn't kill you as soon as I came in," he heard Brennan
say to the three against the wall. "If Gallant had been out I would have
killed you. It's a good long stretch in San Quentin or the rope for all
of you if Murphy dies."

"Slim" and his two bruisers glared at their captor.

"I know what you're thinking," Brennan continued. "You're thinking about
rushing me. You think I could only get one of you before the other two
got me. Each of you would start right now if you were sure you weren't
the one I'd get. That's what you're thinking and if you weren't all
cowards you'd come at me. Well, why don't you try it? But before you do,
let me show you something. See that picture of Jack Johnson on the wall
over there? See how small the head is? Well, watch this."

With a jerk of his wrist he tossed the gun into the air, caught it by
the butt and the roar of a shot shook the room. He had fired a second
after the pistol was in his hand. Where Jack Johnson's head had been on
the print was a hole about the size of a five-cent piece.

"Come on, now, try rushing me," said Brennan, quietly.

"Slim," Louie and Joe, their eyes returning to Brennan from the hole in
the wall, continued to stare at him like hypnotized men.

A white, scared face showed in the doorway. It was the proprietor,
roused by the pistol shot. He was almost bowled over a few seconds later
when Sweeney, with a squad of detectives, all with guns in their hands,
burst into the room.

John saw them snap handcuffs on "Slim" and the two "bashers" and then
the room began going around and around and the figures before him began
floating up and down. There was a roaring sound in his ears and
everything went black. His knees sagging, he sank slowly to the floor.

               *       *       *

He dreamed a dream that was half nightmare and half ecstasy before he
regained complete consciousness.

First he was in a room without doors battling alone against an endless
line of alternate Louies and Joes who vanished when he struck them. Then
he was on the floor waiting to be kicked by a pair of legs that had no
body and that tormented him by dancing a jig to the rhythm of a
sing-song rendition of "Gunga Din."

When the bodiless legs disappeared he found himself mingling in an
every-day Spring street crowd with a towel turban stained with blood, on
his head and wondering why none paid the slightest attention to him or
his strange headgear. Alma Sprockett stopped him at a corner and begged
him not to tell something he knew nothing of, and he promised her he
wouldn't tell and went on his way racking his brain to remember what she
had said to him.

A life-size photograph of Consuello came to life, stepped out of its
frame in a theater lobby and sailed through a casement window bordered
with red geraniums until it reached the top of a hill, marked with a
sign board, on which were the words, "Green and Friendly." He sat at her
feet on the hilltop and told her all the earth was servant to just the
two of them. They were supremely happy sitting there, for days and weeks
and years, until a crimson rain fell and a terrible thunder roared.
Bolts of lightning crashed all around him and a splinter from one of the
bolts was imbedded in his eye and his head began to ache, and then--

He opened his eyes. He was in a bed at the receiving hospital. Putting a
hand to his face he felt a bandage over the cut in his cheek, made by
Louie's black-jack, and gauze, held in place by strips of adhesive tape,
covering the laceration over his eyes made by Joe's brass knuckles. His
right hand was in a stiff, straight bandage, the fingers held flat by
splints. Brennan and the chief surgeon were standing at his bedside.

"Hello," he said and his voice sounded far away from him.

"Hello," said Brennan, "how are you feeling?"

"My head aches," he said.

"You'll be all right," said the surgeon. "You fainted from nervous
exhaustion and loss of blood and we brought you down here and fixed you
up. You cracked two knuckles of your right hand and you have lacerations
that we sutured on your forehead and your cheek. You can get up as soon
as you feel strong enough."

"What time is it?" he asked.

"It's a little after midnight," Brennan replied, as the surgeon left the
room.

"Tell me," he asked, "how did it happen that you got there in time to
save me?"

"I telephoned to P. Q. after dinner to tell him that I had Ben Smith's
transcript and he told me about Murphy," Brennan explained. "He told me
to find you at the receiving hospital here. When I got here they told me
you had gone to the detective bureau and at the bureau I learned that
you had gone to Murphy's room. I hurried down there and as I got near
the door of the room I heard a crash. It must have been when you threw
the water pitcher.

"Luckily I had my gun with me. I drew it and pushed open the door. As
soon as they saw me standing there with the gun in my hand they lifted
their hands above their heads and started backing up. You know the rest
of it."

"You saved my life," said John.

"If you're going to start talking like that I'll leave you right now,
understand?" said Brennan.

"What happened after I fainted?" he asked, realizing that Brennan meant
what he said.

"We took 'Slim' and the other two to the University station and locked
them up," said Brennan. "That is, Sweeney and his men took them while I
brought you here. I had Sweeney take them out to University station
because the other reporters would find out about it if we booked them at
Central station and our whole story would have been in their hands."

"There's one thing I can't understand," John said.

"What's that?" asked Brennan.

"Why didn't 'Slim' or Louie and Joe shoot me when I put up a fight?" he
asked.

"That's easy to explain," said Brennan. "They didn't try shooting
because the sound of a shot would have roused the occupants of the house
or have been heard by someone on the street. As it is, 'Slim' and the
two others have been identified as the men seen leaving the place after
Murphy was beaten up."

"And how is poor Tim?" he asked.

"There's very little hope for him," Brennan said. "They've taken him to
the Clara Barton hospital and the mayor has employed two more physicians
to stay with him and do everything they can for him."

"Has Sweeney arrested the 'Gink'?"

"No, Cummings has disappeared; can't find him anywhere?"

"What about Gibson?"

"I don't know," said Brennan. "No one has tried to find him yet.
There'll be plenty of time for that after we come out with our blast in
the first edition. And that reminds me, P. Q. is at the office now,
waiting for me. We'll work the rest of the night and have everything
ready to be set in type by seven o'clock. I'm sorry you won't be able to
help us. You had better get some rest so that you'll be strong enough to
be on your feet in the morning."

"Will you arrange to get word to my mother that I won't be able to get
home?" he asked. "Tell her that I must work all night at the office.
Don't give her any hint that I'm hurt."

"I'll arrange it," Brennan assured him, starting toward the door.

"Just a minute," said John, bringing his unbandaged hand above the
covers. Brennan stopped and, turning, saw the hand extended toward him.

"I don't care what you say, Brennan," John said, "you've got to shake
hands with me."

Brennan hesitated and then returned to the bedside, grasping John's
hand. For a moment they regarded each other silently.

"You saved my life, Brennan, and I'll never forget it," said John
slowly. "If it had not been for you I would be where Murphy is and you
know it."

"If it had not been for Murphy they would have got both of us," said
Brennan. "They went to him to try to find out who we were and I don't
believe he told them."

"How was it they returned to the room when I was there?" John asked.

"I don't know; they probably spotted you when you found Murphy; but I'm
willing to stake my life on it that Murphy was game to the last."

"Brennan," said John, "I'm beginning to think you have a little faith in
mankind after all."

Brennan smiled as he dropped John's hand.

"Perhaps I have," he said. "Now go to sleep," he added, "because there's
a great day ahead of us." He closed the door softly behind him, leaving
John alone with his thoughts.

And his thoughts were of Consuello. He wondered where she would be
during the "great day" before them when she read or learned of the
exposure of Gibson's alliance with "Gink" Cummings, of the horrible
pommeling given Murphy, of the attack upon himself. What would Gibson
say to her? What COULD he say to her? He wished that Gibson would
disappear as Brennan had told him Cummings had. If Gibson wanted to be
merciful that's what he would do, disappear, leave her to think the
worst or the best of him, as she chose.

Pondering over everything that had occurred since the first day he met
him, John concluded that Gibson's single weakness, his inability to give
up his social position when he found himself stranded financially, had
worked his ruin. That love of the "niceness of conventionality," as
Consuello had described it; that irresistible desire to live an easy
life when he should have worked to restore his family fortune; had led
him into trouble. At the moment when he was "broke," when circumstances
were such that he would be compelled to withdraw as the society man
"Gink" Cummings, scheming to seize control of the city government, had
tempted him and he had fallen. He sold himself to the boss of the
underworld and became perfidious and a puppet so that he might have
money and fame while it lasted.

How Gibson suffered by comparison with the example set by Consuello!
When the vast wealth that had once been the Carrillo's dwindled and only
the few acres of land with the old home was left, she went to work and
was loved and respected for what she had done. She had not lost caste by
her venture into worldly affairs. That was where Gibson had been
short-sighted. He had believed that he would lose standing if he was
forced to work for a living; so he took the easier way and like all
easier ways, it wrought destruction of his morals, his conscience and
his reputation.

From this retrospective philosophizing with the lesson that it taught,
John turned to dreaming of Consuello as the one he loved. His
imagination, from which he slipped the leash of worry and care, pictured
for him gloriously delightful, utterly impossible scenes--Consuello and
he on a yacht skimming the rolling waves of the ocean off Catalina,
leisurely inspecting some "gabled foreign town"; she another Princess
Patricia with "silken gowns" and "jewels for her hair," loving and
wedding him, a "commoner" like the real princess' husband, despite the
frowns of kings and queens, and settling down to rule a Graustark-like
little kingdom.

When he awoke the following morning a hospital attendant brought him his
suit, cleaned and pressed, with a new shirt and collar which, he
learned, had been left for him by Brennan. His head had ceased its
aching and after breakfast he could only feel a trace of the weakness
that had caused him to faint the night before.

As he entered the local room of the newspaper office P. Q. stopped work
to rush toward him and Brennan, looking up from his typewriter, emitted
a "rousing" cheer.



CHAPTER XXIII


All that day the giant presses roared, turning out thousands upon
thousands of the newspapers with the story stripping the mask off Gibson
and revealing the nefarious plot between him and "Gink" Cummings. All
day long delivery trucks piled high with bundles of the papers
distributed them to newsboys in the downtown district and throughout the
city. Never in the history of Los Angeles had there ever been such a
tremendous single-day issue of a newspaper.

Under the glaring headlines was Benton's flashlight photograph of Gibson
and Cummings emerging from the rear door of the Spring street saloon
where their conversation had been overheard by the reporters. The
picture was clear enough to enable anyone who knew either of them to
recognize them both. On one side of the cut was Brennan's signed and
copyrighted story of the complete exposure of the alliance between the
police commissioner and the underworld boss, a clear, concise, dramatic
narrative of every event leading up to the denoument. On the other side
was Ben Smith's stenographic transcript of the conversation between the
conspirators, with all its tell-tale and condemning elements.

Beneath the cut were reproductions of affidavits by John, Brennan,
Smith, the mayor, "Big Jim" Hatch and Evelyn Hatch, swearing to the
facts contained in Brennan's comprehensive story that jumped from the
first page and filled the second. On pages three and four were
photographs of Gibson and the mayor; Brennan and Gallant, his face in
bandages; Murphy on his cot at the hospital; Murphy's room; the mayor's
automobile with its shattered windshield; "Gink" Cummings; "Slim" Gray,
Joe and Louie and reproductions of their black-jack and brass knuckles.

There were separate stories dealing in detail with John's experience in
Gibson's raid on the Spring street bookmakers; the regulation of the
crime wave by Cummings to enable Gibson to add to his false reputation
as the feared enemy of crooks; "Big Jim" Hatch's story of how he had
been arrested by Gibson because he would not split money he stole in
bunko swindles with Cummings; the "beating up" of Murphy and the attack
on John; Evelyn Hatch's corroboration of her husband's claims and the
pistol shots fired by either Gibson or Cummings, or both, the night they
were trapped in the saloon. A strongly-worded editorial branded Gibson
as the worst traitor the city had ever known and demanded his immediate
retirement as a police commissioner and candidate for mayor. Police
detectives it was announced, were searching for Cummings, who would be
arrested as soon as he was located, and held for murder if Murphy died.

Mr. Phillips, the publisher, called John, Brennan and P. Q. to his
private office and after he had commended them for their work they
rejoiced together, not only because their paper had frustrated the
scheming "Gink" and exposed Gibson, his tool, but because they had
"beat" all other papers in the city with the story, acknowledged to be
the greatest "scoop" ever scored in Los Angeles.

A master musician lives for the applause of his audiences; a great
discoverer or inventor has his public acclaim; a statesman or public
benefactor is rewarded by the voice of the people; but the gratification
of a newspaper man in having accomplished a notable achievement for his
paper is his only recompense and it is sufficient.

No medals are pinned on his chest, no roar of applause comes up to him
from the multitudes, but he is satisfied. His glory is his own and he is
content.

Two hours after the first edition was on the streets, the publisher
received a hastily appointed committee representing the Church
Federation, the women's clubs and other organizations that had supported
and indorsed Gibson as a candidate for mayor. The evidence, no more
than what had been published, was certified to this committee. The
Church Federation was the first to act. Unable to locate Gibson to
question him personally concerning the exposure and accepting the
evidence against him as final, the federation authorized the publication
of its withdrawal of indorsement of him as a candidate for mayor and an
expression of appreciation of the newspaper's work in bringing the truth
to light. Similar action by the other organizations that had been
deceived by Gibson followed quickly and before night his political
strength had melted away to nothing. Forgotten even was his sensational
capture of "Red Mike," now serving a life sentence at San Quentin for
his attempt to wreck and rob the Southern Pacific "Lark" train.

Every newspaper reporter in Los Angeles was engaged in the search for
Gibson that followed the publication of the exposure of his plot with
Cummings. The other papers, anxious to retaliate by obtaining the first
statement from Gibson for the blow given them when they were "scooped"
combined their forces in a frantic effort to find him before John and
Brennan could do so.

The missing man's office and apartment were closed. His secretary,
located after a search of several hours, could give no information
concerning his disappearance. The railroad, steamship and automobile bus
stations had sold no ticket to anyone answering his description. He
seemed to have vanished completely. A theory was advanced that he had
fled with "Gink" Cummings and this was gradually accepted generally as
the hours passed and no trace of him could be found.

Brennan waited until they were alone before he suggested to John that
Consuello might be able to furnish a clew to Gibson's whereabouts.
Thoughts of her had been flashing in and out of John's mind during the
excitement of the morning. He realized that if anyone knew where Gibson
was it would be Consuello, and again he had the disheartening
apprehension that, faithful to her love, she might be in flight with the
man she was to have married.

"I don't like to speak of it--she's probably very much upset by what has
happened today--but there's only one person who may know where Gibson
is," said Brennan, "and that's Miss Carrillo."

"I'd rather do almost anything than face her, today," said John.

"You mean with your face bandaged up the way it is?" Brennan asked, a
twinkle in his eyes.

"I don't know what she will think of me," John said, ignoring the jest.
"She has believed in Gibson and she may think that what I have helped to
do is a violation of the friendship between us and that I am an
ungrateful and deceitful wretch."

"Don't you want to see her and explain things to her?"

"No, not until she sends for me."

"Suppose she never sends for you--what then?"

"Then I'll know that she never wants to see me and--and--that will be
the end of it, I suppose."

They were silent for a moment and then, while John was pondering over
the thoughts that were in his mind when he had said, "The end of it, I
suppose," Brennan without another word, quoted a quatrain from the verse
that he had recited while they were waiting to overhear the conversation
between Gibson and Cummings:


     "So long as Pleasure calls us up,
     And duty drives us down,
     If you love me as I love you,
     What pair so happy as we two?"


John glanced up quickly and saw that Brennan was pretending he just
happened to think of the verse and had quoted it with no particular
intention or reference to the thoughts of either of them.

"'And duty drives us down,'" he repeated, smiling.

A little later all thoughts of Gibson and the suggestion that Consuello
be consulted in the search for him fled from their heads when they were
called by telephone and told that Murphy was sinking rapidly and was not
expected to live many more hours. Together they hurried to the Clara
Barton hospital.

"I wish he could know that the brutes who beat him have been arrested,"
said Brennan as they turned west into Fifth street from Broadway. "I
tried to talk to them, to find out from them what poor Tim said and did
before they knocked him out, but they wouldn't answer. They know what
they're up against if he dies and their lawyer has told them to keep
their mouths shut. I had the satisfaction of telling them, though, that
I'd be on hand to write the story when they are hanged and that I was
looking forward to the assignment. 'Slim' almost broke down when I said
it."

The mayor, two doctors and a nurse were in the room when they entered.
Murphy lay inert on the bed. He had never regained consciousness, the
doctors said, and he was in such a weakened condition that only a
miracle beyond the skill of surgery and medicine could save him. The
mayor looked at them in silence as they approached the bed beside which
he was seated in a chair. They saw that there were tears in his eyes,
tears that he was not ashamed of others seeing.

For a quarter of an hour they stood at the bedside while one of the
doctors frequently felt Murphy's wrist to catch the fluttering pulse.
Then a sound came from the bandaged head and the doctor leaned over,
putting his ear close to the hidden face. They heard the sound again and
realized it was a whisper.

"He's saying something about the Gallant kid," said the doctor looking
up.

John moved to the head of the bed and, leaning over it, said:

"Yes, Murphy; I'm here."

The whisper rose a little becoming audible throughout the room.

"I'm croaking--I guess--ain't I?" it asked.

"You're all right--Tim," John managed to say.

"I didn't squeal--kid--they got me--I didn't tell 'em it was you and
Brennan."

"We know you didn't, Murphy."

"I wanna tell ya something--before I go--see?" The whisper became
fainter. "I wasn't workin' for ya--for da jack--ya gave me--see? I did
it 'cause--my old man--my old man----" The whisper stopped.

"Yes, Tim."

"'Cause--my old man--my--old--man--was--was--'Red Mike,'--see?"

A quick intake of breath by Brennan was the only sound that broke the
tense silence.

"So--I--wasn't--no--dirty--stool--pigeon----" The whisper stopped again.
Murphy drew his last breath and with it he said his last word:

"See?"

               *       *       *

The news of Murphy's death was printed in the late editions. His voice
shaking with suppressed emotion, Brennan dictated the brief announcement
of the passing of the twisted-nose youth by telephone to the office.

"Tim Murphy, who was brutally beaten by 'Gink' Cummings' thugs
yesterday, died at the Clara Barton hospital as a result of his injuries
late today," Brennan said over the phone. At the other end of the wire a
reporter was taking the dictation on a typewriter. "Before he died
Murphy regained consciousness long enough to disclose that he was the
son of 'Red Mike,' now serving a life sentence for having attempted to
wreck the Southern Pacific 'Lark.' It was because he believed his father
had been the victim of former Police Commissioner Gibsons' lust for
glory, he said, that he aided in disclosing Gibson's plot with Cummings
to seize control of the city government. His death means that 'Slim'
Gray, Cummings' right-hand man, and his two strong-arm men now under
arrest, will be charged with murder and that a murder complaint will be
issued against Cummings."

They were silent as they wove their way through the hurrying streams of
men and women in Fifth street homeward bound after the work of the day
in downtown stores and offices. On the corners newsboys were still
selling editions of their paper with the exposure of the Gibson-Cummings
plot as fast as they could hand them out. They saw several men stop
where they had bought the paper and stand, jostled by the crowd, reading
the story absorbedly, apparently amazed by what was on the printed page
beneath their eyes.

From the corner of Fifth and Broadway, where he left Brennan waiting for
a street car, John went to the receiving hospital to have the wounds on
his face and his maimed hand dressed again before he started home. The
gauze bandages on his forehead and cheek were replaced with strips of
medicated plaster which were less conspicuous, but it would be more than
two weeks, the hospital surgeon told him, before the splints could be
removed from his hand.

His mother was at the door to meet him when he arrived home. Her face
paled as she saw the plaster hiding the cuts on his cheek and forehead
and the bandage on his hand. He took her in his arms quickly.

"I'm all right, mother, dearest," he said. "Don't worry, I'm all right."

"My boy, my boy! Why didn't you let me know you were hurt?"

"There, there, mother," he said, softly patting her with his uninjured
hand. "It's nothing to worry about. I've only a couple of scratches on
my face and my hand is hurt a little."

He led her into the living room and, seating her in a rocking chair, he
dropped to his knees at her feet, as he had in the grief and despair
that stunned him when his father died. With caresses and soft words of
assurance he soothed her until her dismay left her. At dinner, which had
been waiting for him, he told her everything that had occurred since he
left her twenty-four hours past. At the end of his story he explained to
her what it would all mean to him.

"The 'chief,' that is Mr. Phillips, our publisher, has promised me a
contract at double what I'm getting now," he told her. "And, besides, he
says Brennan and I are entitled to a bonus for what we've done. It
means, mother, dearest, that I've made good; that I've arrived as a
newspaper man."

"You know how proud I am of you, John," Mrs. Gallant said. "I never
imagined that newspaper work was so strenuous. I thought a reporter's
work was writing news instead of making it."

"Newspapers, I have learned, mother, are vigilant guards of the
interests of the people," he said. "It is a newspaper's duty to inform
the public of what occurs and to prevent as well as condemn wrong. Mr.
Phillips told us that the unmasking of Gibson was newspaper enterprise
by which the city as well as the paper benefited. Thousands of things
not as conspicuous as this are done every year by a newspaper and its
reporters and editors.

"Without publicity wrong would go undetected and unpunished. Think of
what would have happened if Gibson had been elected mayor of Los
Angeles. For at least four years 'Gink' Cummings would have ruled the
city and you can imagine what that would have meant."

They were about to leave the supper table when Mrs. Sprockett, weeping
hysterically, appeared in a state of excitement that alarmed them.
Wringing her hands, sobbing distractedly, she flung herself into a chair
and moaned in such a way that Mrs. Gallant hurried to her side
anxiously.

"My Alma! My Alma! My girl!" Mrs. Sprockett wept.

"What is it? Tell us. Can we help?" asked Mrs. Gallant while John had a
momentary apprehension that Mrs. Sprockett's condition might be the
result of a discovery that her daughter had visited the corner motion
picture theater surreptitiously.

"She's gone," Mrs. Sprockett gasped.

"Gone?" Mrs. Gallant exclaimed.

"Gone," Mrs. Sprockett repeated, and then, with a sob of despair, she
added, "Kidnaped!"

"You mean she has disappeared?" asked John, feeling that her fear that
Alma had been abducted might be far-fetched.

"She has been gone since morning," continued Mrs. Sprockett, a little
calmed by the sound of a masculine voice. "Ever since morning. Someone
has stolen her. Oh, my little girl; someone has stolen her. What shall I
do? What shall I do?"

"Try to calm yourself," urged Mrs. Gallant. "She will probably return
before long."

"She left no note? Gave no warning?" John asked. "She may have run away
of her own accord, you know," he added.

Mrs. Sprockett stopped her sobbing and sat upright in her chair.
Indignation blazed in her eyes.

"How dare you, sir? How dare you?" she demanded, furiously. "How dare
you stand there and tell me that my Alma left me of her own free will?
My Alma leave her mother who loves her so? My Alma run away like some
common scamp? I didn't come here to be insulted like that, sir!"

A look from his mother caused John to repress an inclination to ask her
to tell him really why she came to them.

"I'm sorry," he apologized. "I didn't mean to insinuate----"

"You did! You did! You stood up there and told me that my little girl
who loves her mother ran away from home," Mrs. Sprockett cried,
irrationally. "That's what you did! You stood up there----"

"I'm sorry," interrupted John, moving from the room to avoid the
outburst.

He stepped out on the porch and found Mrs. Sprockett's husband, coatless
and collarless as usual, with the same weary look about his eyes and the
same hopeless droop of his narrow, rounded shoulders, mounting the
steps. Across the street, in the Sprockett home, the baby wailed and
fretted.

"Beg pardon," began Mrs. Sprockett's husband. "I just thought----"

"Yes, she's inside," said John, anticipating the inevitable question.

Instead of moving on into the house Mrs. Sprockett's husband stood where
he had stopped.

"Our Alma----" he began.

"If you want my advice," said John, interrupting again, "I would wait
until morning if I were you and then ask the police to help you find
her."

No storm of protest came from Mrs. Sprockett's husband. The instinctive
fraternalism of man between man caused him to signal, with a nod of his
head, for John to come closer to him. With frequent apprehensive glances
toward the door, he whispered:

"Alma's not a bad girl, but she's been held down too much. She's only
sixteen and she likes pretty things and picture shows and other things a
girl of her age likes naturally. It wouldn't surprise me a bit if she's
just picked up and left to go to work some place and have a little more
freedom. She's not a bad girl, she's--she's--just a girl, that's all,
and she wants to do what other girls do. But, of course, I want her
back."

John's sympathy swept away the anger that had surged through him when
Mrs. Sprockett became irate.

"I think you're right," he said, remembering how Alma had begged him to
refrain from telling anyone that he had seen her leaving the picture
show.

"Don't say a word about what I've said to you, will you?" asked Mrs.
Sprockett's husband, involuntarily shrinking away from the steps.

"Never fear," John assured him, "and if I can help, let me know."

"Thanks, I will, but Maud--well--you know how it is--you
know--sometimes," said Mrs. Sprockett's husband.

"I know," said John, and Sprockett hurried back across the street. A few
minutes later the baby's wailing stopped. Mrs. Sprockett's husband
appeared on the porch of the Sprockett house with a bundle of blankets
in his arms and pacing back and forth, whistled a familiar tune as a
lullaby. John listened and distinguished the notes of the father's
whistling and smiled to himself as he recognized it as an off-key
variation of "The Merry Widow Waltz."

Mrs. Sprockett, still sobbing, and Mrs. Gallant, with her arm around
her, emerged from the house.

"I'm going to keep Mrs. Sprockett company until she can rest," Mrs.
Gallant explained.

John watched them cross the street and saw the door close behind them.
Soon the whistling ceased and Sprockett and the baby went inside.

For half an hour John lolled on the porch, pondering over Alma's
disappearance, the abjectedness of Mrs. Sprockett's husband and the
spectacle of Mrs. Sprockett's wilfulness. Had Mr. and Mrs. Sprockett
ever, ever been deeply in love, exulting in the happiness before them in
married life? How miserable it was that Sprockett had to whisper to him
"not to tell," exactly as Alma had?

He found his thoughts distressful and was about to rise, planning an
hour with his books before going to sleep, when an automobile--he knew
by the outline it was a taxicab--stopped before the house. The driver
opened the door and a figure stepped out, hurrying up toward him.

As he came to his feet he saw that it was a girl who was approaching
him.

"Mr. Gallant?" a familiar voice asked.

"Yes."

The figure came closer to him and he saw that it was Consuello's friend
and companion, Betty.



CHAPTER XXIV


Abashed by Betty's unexpected appearance at his home and with a sudden
fear that something had happened to Consuello possessing him, John
waited for her to speak. He noticed that she had not dismissed the cab
that waited at the curb.

"Can you come with me immediately?" she asked, quickly. "I want you to
see Consuello, tonight."

"Did she send you for me?" he entreated.

"No, but I know that she wants you," she replied.

"Are you sure?" he persisted.

"Don't be a foolish boy," she said, with a gesture of impatience. "No
one in the world knows Consuello as well as I do. I am doing this for
her. Do you think for a moment that I would be here if I wasn't certain
I was doing the proper thing?"

"I know she trusts you," he said, reassured by her mild vexation.

"Hurry, then; I'll explain things while we're on our way. I'll wait for
you in the cab," she said.

Mrs. Sprockett's husband answered the door when he crossed the street to
the Sprockett home to tell his mother he had been called away.

"Tell mother that I'm going to see a friend and that I'll be home before
it is late," he said. "Tell her there's no need to worry about me."

"Just a minute and I'll call her," Mrs. Sprockett's husband suggested.

"No, just give her my message," he said, apprehensive of the probable
consequences of telling his mother that it was Consuello he was going to
meet.

As the cab started away from the curb he turned to Betty with the
question that, in his mind, had been begging for an answer from the
moment he recognized her.

"How is she?" he asked, his voice betraying his anxiety.

"She is very brave," Betty said, earnestly.

"Perhaps I should not ask you this, but has she seen--Gibson?" So much,
he felt, depended on her reply to this question. If Consuello had
already talked with Gibson and Betty divined that she wanted to see him,
then----

"Perhaps I should not tell you, but--she has talked to him. That's as
much as I will tell you. The rest must come from her," Betty replied.

She had talked with Gibson and yet she wanted to see him! Or, could
Betty be mistaken? Had she interpreted Consuello's mood erroneously in
coming for him?

"Forgive me for my doubtfulness," he said, "but are you certain that she
wants to see me?"

A shade of exasperation crossed Betty's face.

"You said a moment ago that you knew Consuello trusted me," she said.
"If she trusts me, then why can't you?"

Reassured by this pertinent counter question he deduced that Betty, with
the welfare of Consuello at heart, had concluded that he might be able
to furnish the solace her companion needed in her hour of trial. The
ecstasy that had thrilled him when he first realized that he loved
Consuello returned to him as the cab sped through the streets. She knew
now why he had beseeched her to think of him as doing what he thought
was right. And she had kept her promise! A glance through the window of
the cab at a lighted corner told him that they were nearing their
destination.

"I'm going to leave you alone with her," Betty said, with the frankness
that she had displayed when they first met. "I need not ask you to be
very considerate, to do everything you can to comfort her. In my heart I
feel that what has happened is all for the best. How dreadful it would
have been if she had been compelled to make this discovery for herself
after they were married.

"I told her that I would be away until late; that I was busy. We'll
stop at the corner to let you out, because she knows that I took a cab
when I left and she might suspect that I went for you. Here we are."

She called to the driver to stop.

"It was kind of you----" he began as he stood at the cab door after
alighting. She stopped him with a gesture of her hand. Then, leaning
forward a little, her eyes dancing with a smile, she said:

"Don't you know that I know you love her?"

The door closed quickly and the cab spurted away from the curb, leaving
him standing bewildered and yet overjoyed by the audacious words she had
spoken. So that was why she had called him to Consuello! If Betty knew
it, then Consuello, too, must realize that he loved her. The thought
frightened him. It had never occurred to him before that she might know.
Somehow, he had not dared to imagine that she cared enough even to guess
that he loved her.

He went slowly to the opening in the hedge of boxwood that lined the
sidewalk in front of Consuello's artistic little dream home and turned
into the pathway between the patches of rosebushes. A heavy fragrance
from the blossoms filled the still night air. As he stepped on to the
porch and reached for the knocker with his left hand he recalled
suddenly that his face bore strips of plaster over his wounds and that
his right hand was held rigid in splints. The hesitancy that this
recollection gave forsook him when he remembered that Betty had made no
comment on his appearance, probably because she had seen the photograph
of him that had been published in the paper. Emboldened he rapped with
the knocker.

She wore the same simple white frock that he had admired when they first
met. For a moment she stood with her hand on the knob of the door, the
look of surprise in her eyes fading to an expression of mingled pleasure
and perplexity.

"Come in," she invited.

He saw that a tender light, the softness of sympathy, came into her eyes
when she noticed the plasters on his forehead and cheek. Then, when she
extended her hand to him and he stood awkwardly unable to take it
without first disposing of the hat he held, she apologized for her
forgetfulness.

"I'm sorry," she said, quickly compassionate.

"It's nothing," he said. "Only a scratch or two, that's all."

They crossed to the fireplace, where she took a chair near the rose
shaded table lamp, the only illumination in the room. He sat opposite
her, his back toward the door, waiting for her to speak.

"I was thinking of you when you rapped on the door," she said. "I was
alone beside my window looking out toward my hill. The darkness of the
night prevented me from seeing it, but I knew it was there. Though I
could not see it, I looked to it for comfort."

"It won't be hidden from you long," he said. "When the morning comes it
will be there and the darkness will be gone."

"When the morning comes," she said, softly, "there'll be sunshine and
flowers and birds--and happiness. But it is there for me now, steadfast,
loyal, abiding. I know now why I love the hills more than the ocean.
They are so fixed, so permanent; unchanging, unmoving; while the ocean
storms and calms, thunders and ripples, lures you to its depths
and--drowns you."

John knew the inner meaning of her words. Sincerity and deceit.
Trustworthiness and treachery. Genuineness and make-believe.

"Was it difficult for you to keep your promise?" he asked, breaking the
silence that had followed after she had spoken.

"To understand that you did what you thought was right?" she inquired.
He nodded.

"No," she said, "I never doubted that. But I was never really put to
the test. My decision was made before I thought of what I had promised
you."

She paused and then, lifting her eyes to meet his, she continued:

"You see, I believe there is only one real love between a man and a
woman and that is the love that endures all things. I have always
thought--and I still do--that a woman who sincerely loves a man will
stay by his side even if the whole world is against him. Unless a woman
can do that willingly, gladly, I do not believe that it is real love.

"He came here early Sunday morning and asked me to go away with him. I
could not understand and he did not explain. He simply said that
something had happened that would prevent him from ever becoming mayor
of Los Angeles and that he was going away, never to return.

"'If you love me, you will come with me,' he said. I was bewildered, of
course, but I knew that he was right. It was the test, a test far
greater than I had ever dreamed would come to me.

"I asked him why it was that he should be compelled to leave the city.
He assured me that he had committed no crime. He was very earnest as he
spoke and so serious that I knew something terrible had happened. He
declared again and again that he loved me and that if I loved him I
would go with him and ask no questions. It was all so overwhelming that
I begged him to leave me, to let me decide alone.

"'I will let you know, tonight,' I told him. 'Unless you hear from me
you will know that I have decided I cannot do what you have asked me.'

"Soon after he was gone I realized that--that I did not love him with
the one great love. I knew that I didn't because I had not thrown myself
into his arms and told him, as Ruth told Naomi, 'For whither thou goest
I will go; and where thou lodgest I will lodge.'

"I need not tell you in details of how bewildered I was by his strange
request and what I went through when I found that I did not really love
him. Of course, I tried to imagine what had occurred that caused him to
ask me to leave everything and go away with him. Whatever it was, I felt
it was cowardly of him to leave unless it was all his own fault.

"So he did not hear from me last night and this morning I read of what
he stands accused. But I was prepared. I had chosen my course and what I
read only made me certain that I was right; that I did not truly love
him, never had and never could. I pitied his weakness. I could see how
he had gone astray. You see, I have often wondered how it was he had
money so suddenly after everything he once had had gone from him. The
source of his wealth was always a mystery to me."

She paused and looking toward the casement window with its red
geraniums, she added, softly: "That is my story. That is what has
happened."

In the silence that followed they were both startled to hear footsteps
on the porch outside. Consuello looked toward him, quickly, with an
expression that warned him. The door swung open and Gibson stepped in,
closing it behind him.

"I thought I'd find you here," he said.

His face was pale and a smile that was half a sneer was on his lips as
he stood looking at them. John was on his feet facing him and a glance
showed that Consuello had also risen from her chair at Gibson's
unexpected entrance.

"The girl who said that she loved me and the man who pretended he was my
friend," said Gibson, sarcastically.

John's muscles tightened and he bit his lip to restrain the words of
warning to Gibson that he was about to speak.

"If you have come here to----" he heard Consuello say, coolly, evenly.

"I came here to say good-by to you," Gibson interrupted, "and to make
certain that there had not been some mistake. I thought you might have
tried to reach me last night and failed, or that you might have changed
your mind." He paused a moment before adding, "But I know better now."

"You should have known last night," Consuello said. "You should have
known that if I had decided to do what you asked me I would have come to
you, found you wherever you were."

"I should have known months ago, if I had not been such a blind fool,"
said Gibson bitterly.

"You were a blind fool," said Consuello, "but not as I suspect you
think. You were blinded by your own selfish indolence. You said a moment
ago that I told you I loved you. I did tell you that and I thought that
I meant it, but when I found that I could not go with you as you asked I
knew I had been mistaken. You must remember that I decided against you
before I knew the reason you wanted me to leave."

The half-sarcastic smile curled Gibson's lips.

"Then you'll admit that something else--someone else, perhaps----" he
said.

"I saw no one, except Betty, from the time you left until Mr. Gallant
came this evening," Consuello said. "I'm thankful that I was able to
decide before I read what was in the paper today. Reggie, how often have
I told you my conception of love. Don't you know that if I cared for
you nothing would have kept me from you? I cannot tell you why it was; I
can only tell you how. I knew as soon as I realized that I had refused
to go with you blindly that it was not love, the real love, that I had
in my heart for you."

"And suppose I had not asked you to go away with me? Suppose I came to
you tonight and asked you to stand by me, right here in Los Angeles?"

"It would have been the same," Consuello replied quietly. "I would have
given you the same answer."

As she spoke Gibson gazed at her intently and the anger that had
smouldered in his eyes disappeared and he forced a smile to his lips as
he turned toward John.

"Gallant," he said, "I saw you take terrible punishment one night and
stagger to your feet until you were knocked senseless. I admired you
that night, Gallant; I envied your courage. When Charlie Murray made his
little talk I think I was the first to respond. If you found a $50 bill
in what Charlie turned over to you, you know now who tossed it into the
ring." He paused, looked to the floor and then back into John's face.

"Tonight you have watched me take my punishment," he continued. "I
stood on my feet and cheered when you came back into the ring and when
you left. I don't want pity or sympathy, but I want you to have a cheer
in your heart for me when I go."

Gibson's change from sarcasm and bitterness to a show of manliness
relieved the tenseness of the situation. Consuello sank into a chair and
gazing into the fireplace, where flames had once sparkled as bright as
her romance with Gibson and now only cold ashes remained, left the two
men facing each other.

"No one has ever doubted your courage," John said.

"I hope you do not think that I had anything to do with the death of
Murphy or the attack upon yourself," said Gibson. "If I had known what
they were going to do I would have died fighting them. I took Cummings'
gun from him when he fired at you and the others in the automobile. From
that minute I have neither seen nor heard from him. If I ever run across
him I'll bring him back and surrender him to the district attorney. That
is the way I hope to win condonement for what I've done. That is where
I'm going when I leave here tonight, to search for him, to the ends of
the earth if it is necessary."

"If ever, while you're away, you need help, let me know," John said,
with an impulsive desire to take Gibson's hand. But he stood still,
waiting for the other to continue.

"When I came here tonight and found you two together I said things that
I'm sorry ever escaped my lips," said Gibson. "I was a cad and no matter
what you may think of me for the other things I've done, I want you to
forgive me--both of you--for that alone."

Their silence assured him that they were anxious to forget his display
of bitterness.

"Will you do me this favor, Gallant?" he continued. "Will you publish
tomorrow that you have seen me and that I've started search for Cummings
and won't return to Los Angeles until I bring him back with me? Just
that much and no more."

"That much and no more," John promised.

Then Gibson turned toward Consuello. She had bowed her head in her hand.
He hesitated a moment and then walked slowly to the side of her chair.

"Good-by, Conny," he said.

She looked up at him, tears brimming in her eyes, her under lip caught
between her teeth. He tried to force a smile to his lips, but it balked.

"Good-by," she said, and her voice trembled.

He turned away quickly, as if he felt he could not trust himself to be
at her side a second longer. He stopped again, facing John.

"Just one thing more, Gallant," he said.

"Yes," said John, his voice queerly out of pitch.

Gibson looked him straight in the eyes.

"You love her, don't you?" he asked.

Unable to speak what was in his heart, John stood silent. He moistened
his lips with his tongue and wondered why it was he could not shout back
his answer. Flustered by the boldness of the question put to him so
directly, a thought flashed into his mind of Betty's frank declaration
that she knew he loved Consuello. Then he discovered the reason why his
mother had been so perturbed by his frequent meetings with her. She,
too, undoubtedly knew he was in love!

While these thoughts were racing through his head, Gibson put his hand
on his shoulder.

"You need not answer, Gallant," he said, "because your silence is
enough. Regardless of how incongruous it seems in view of the great
wrong I have done her, I love her, too. And, because I love her I can
tell that you do. I can see it by the way you speak to her, the way you
look at her and unless I am greatly mistaken she knows it as well as you
and I do."

He grasped John's left hand in his own.

"Take care of her, Gallant; love her and try to make her happy," he
said. He turned and walked to the door, leaving John speechless and
motionless, staring after him. At the threshold he wheeled to face them
again.

"Exit, the villain," he said slowly and smiling.

The door closed behind him and his footsteps, taking him steadily, not
too fast, not too slowly, from the house, diminished until the only
sound audible in the room was the ticking of the clock on the mantel of
the fireplace.

John, his back toward Consuello, his eyes on the door, wondering whether
it was all a dream, a cheer in his heart for the man who had left them
so dramatically, feared to move.

"Exit, the villain"--Gibson's last words--echoed in his brain.

He imagined he heard Brennan saying: "A grandstander, a grandstander to
the last."

When he finally turned around, Consuello was standing by the open
casement window, looking out into the night, her fingers touching the
petals of the geraniums on the sill, in the same position in which she
had stood when she had recited to him the little verse with its simple,
homely philosophy.

He moved to her side, marveling at her unaffected beauty.

Looking out of the window he saw that the moon, which had been hidden by
the clouds an hour before, had crested her "green and friendly hill"
with an outline of silvery-blue.

Something in her pose that suggested to him that she was waiting for him
to speak gave him the courage. Yet he was afraid to look at her as he
spoke, afraid to see what effect his words had upon her.

"I do--love you," he said.

That little gasp as she caught her breath, what did it mean? Still
unable to face her, he continued:

"He knew it; Betty knows it; mother knows it and I want the whole world
to know it--I love you." He could say no more.

Gently, caressingly, her small white fingers touched his unbandaged
hand. Tremulously he turned his head and saw her answer in her eyes and
slowly, almost reverently, he lifted her hand to his lips. A mocking
bird broke into joyous song in a tree outside, a golden flood of music
to mock the silent song in his heart.

               *       *       *

Lights were shining through the curtains on the windows of the Sprockett
house and his mother was waiting up for him when he returned home. As he
took her in his arms to kiss her forehead tenderly he had a fantasy that
the wonderfulness of his requited love had miraculously altered his
mother's opinion of Consuello. But it was a fantasy, only that.

"Mother, dearest," he whispered, "I'm the happiest man in the world,
tonight."

His mother drew back from him and the intuition that had advised her
that her son was in love with Consuello, long before he realized it
himself, told her the reason for his happiness. She turned away and
pressing a handkerchief to her eyes left him with a discordant note
breaking the harmony of his ecstasy.



CHAPTER XXV


A doctor is awarded his diploma; a lawyer is admitted to the bar; a
preacher is given a pulpit; an actor rises from understudy to the
leading role; a newspaper reporter is given a "by-line" and sees his
name over a story for the first time.

Under the big head-line. "Gibson Found; Quits Race," and over the
announcement Gibson had authorized--"that much and no more"--appeared
the magic words, "By John Gallant."

By that simple token he passed automatically from the position of "cub"
to be a full-fledged reporter.

The only ceremony marking the graduation was when Brennan, leaning over
his shoulder as he gazed at his "by-line," said in his ear:

"Looks pretty nice, doesn't it?"

The story stated plainly that Gibson authorized the publication of the
statement that he was leaving Los Angeles to search for "Gink" Cummings
and did not intend returning until he brought Cummings back with him to
face trial for the murder of Murphy, as co-defendant with "Slim" Gray
and his two "bashers." John explained to P. Q. that he had given his
word of honor that he would print nothing but the brief announcement.
With the city editor's consent he omitted mentioning where he had met
Gibson and under what circumstances Gibson had talked with him.

"A newspaper reporter's word must be as good as his bond," said P. Q.
"Remember, Gallant, never to print what you have received in confidence.
I fired more than one reporter because he broke his word, although in
breaking it he gave us a whale of an exclusive story."

Shortly after the first edition was on the streets, John looked up from
his typewriter to find Mrs. Sprockett standing beside his desk, about to
speak to him. Nervous, distressed, her eyes reddened from a sleepless
night of weeping, she asked him if he was too busy to spare her a
moment.

"Not at all," he said, rising and placing a chair for her beside his
desk.

Fumbling with her handkerchief and appearing apologetic for having
spoken to him so sharply the night before, she told him that Alma had
been away from home all night and had not returned yet.

"Then, Mrs. Sprockett, there's only one thing for you to do," he said,
"and that is to inform the police."

"I have just come from the police station," Mrs. Sprockett said. "They
sent me here. They told me that the best way to find a missing girl was
through the newspapers. They said that in 99 cases out of 100 girls who
disappear are either found or traced by the newspapers and newspaper
men.

"Of course, you know how much I regret having anything concerning Alma
appear in the newspapers. I thought there was some other way to find
her, some way that would attract less attention. But if it has to be, it
has to be, and I'll do anything to bring my little girl back to us."

"You will do the sensible thing if you permit the publication of Alma's
picture and a brief story that she is missing," John said.

Mrs. Sprockett drew from her bag a photograph of her daughter and gave
John a description of her and the facts relative to her disappearance.

"If anything has happened to her it will kill me," she said, as she rose
to go. "I'll owe a debt I can never repay to the one who brings her back
to me."

The photograph of Alma and the brief story that went with it appeared in
the second edition and John wondered if Mrs. Sprockett's husband had
dared to make the suggestion that had sent his wife to the police.

Soon after Mrs. Sprockett left the office, John, unable to wait a minute
longer without hearing her voice, telephoned to Consuello's home. He
wanted to tell her again that he loved her, and again and again, and he
wanted to hear her tell him, as she had before he left her, that her
"dreamings had come true, the brightest and the best." But it was Betty
instead of Consuello who answered his call.

"Conny is at the studio," Betty said. "She was called there unexpectedly
concerning something about her new picture."

"Did she tell you anything before she left?" he asked.

Betty laughed.

"She told me everything," she replied.

"And is she happy?" he asked.

"Happier than I have ever seen her," Betty assured him. "I'll tell her
that you called."

"That I called and that I----" he stopped himself.

"Love her," Betty finished for him.

"More and more every minute," he said, not to be abashed by Betty's good
natured presumptuousness.

But whenever throughout the day his thoughts of Consuello and their
great love brought him happiness, the haunting realization that his
mother still clung to her prejudice against her occupation wore upon
him. He had gone to his room after she had left him the night before and
at breakfast there had been a strained effort by both of them to avoid
recalling the cause for her distress. He had pleaded and begged her so
often to overcome her intolerant dislike for Consuello that he was
beginning to fear he would never be able to win her over. Not for much
longer, he realized, could he keep his mother's feelings against her
from Consuello.

Late in the afternoon, when the clatter of the telegraph instruments and
the typewriter had lulled, and tired men lounged, squatted on desks and
tilted back in chairs in the local room discussing the events of the
day, John and Brennan were summoned to the publisher's private office.
There they were confronted by P. Q. and the "chief," the managing editor
and the news editor, the quartet often referred to by the reporters as
the "brain trust." There John and Brennan received checks for $500 each
and were informed that their salaries had been doubled, the $500 being a
bonus for their work in exposing the Gibson-Cummings plot.

On his way home John decided to make one final effort to change his
mother's attitude toward Consuello. He planned it all very carefully.
First he would tell her of how his salary had been doubled and then he
would turn over to her the bonus check to be banked. Then he would take
her in his arms and beg her to listen while he told her of the love
between him and Consuello, whom he was to meet later in the evening.

He was absorbed in thinking of everything he would say to his mother
when he got off the street car at the corner and walked toward his home.
It was not until he was within a quarter of a block from his home when
he saw something that brought him to a sharp halt. Scarcely able to
believe what was before his eyes, he stood stock-still for a moment and
his worry left him like a weight had been lifted from his soul.

On the sidewalk was Mrs. Sprockett with the lost Alma clasped in her
arms. Mother and daughter were alternately laughing and crying and
kissing each other. Near them stood Mrs. Sprockett's husband, bouncing
the Sprockett baby in his arms and smiling and nodding his head to Alma
whenever her face showed to him from her mother's embrace.

And a few feet from the re-united mother and her daughter were Consuello
and his mother! Mrs. Gallant was smiling and patting Consuello's hand,
which she held in both her own!

Wondering what had happened to bring about such a happy scene, John
strode toward it, smiling his happiest. He was about to speak when Mrs.
Sprockett, allowing Alma to go to her father, grasped Consuello's hand
and holding it tight against her breast, cried softly:

"My dear, my dear, oh, what you have done for us! My dear, my dear."

He turned to his mother for an explanation.

"Consuello brought Alma back," Mrs. Gallant said. Then, lifting her face
to kiss him, she whispered, "Forgive me, my boy, for my unkindness to
her and to you."

She turned to Consuello.

"Come, my dear," she said, "you must have dinner with us."

Mrs. Sprockett hurried after her husband, who had started toward their
home with the baby on one arm and the other around Alma's shoulders.
John took Consuello's hand and whispered to her, "You wonderful,
wonderful girl."

Inside, while Mrs. Gallant rearranged the dinner table and prepared
portions for three instead of two, she related to him what had occurred.

"On the way to the studio this morning," she said, "I bought a copy of
your paper to read what you had written about--about what happened last
night. I saw in the paper the photograph of this girl who was missing
and, just by chance, I noticed the address of her home and realized it
must be close to your own. For that reason, I suppose, I gave the
picture more than a passing glance, although I thought little of it.

"I had no sooner arrived at the studio than this girl came running up to
me and begged me to help her become a motion picture actress. Because
the picture was still fresh in my mind I recognized her, although it was
some time before I got her to admit that she had run away from home. I
talked to her and told her what a mistake she had made and finally she
said that, if I wanted her to, she would return home. So I brought her
home and, truly, you would think I had done something wonderful by the
way your mother and Mrs. Sprockett thanked me."

"You did," he said, realizing that by her act of bringing home the
runaway Alma she had, unknowingly, won his mother to her.

"Why?" she asked.

"Because everything you do, everything about you is wonderful," he said,
justifying himself for the evasion by knowing that his answer was
truthful, at least.

       *       *       *       *       *

In his imagination John enjoyed picturing the four principal streets of
Los Angeles--Broadway, Spring, Main and Hill--as different types of
girls much in the same way that he looked upon houses, particularly old
ones, as people.

Broadway he pictured as the ultra-modern girl, gay, sparkling, witty,
brilliant, temperamental; busily enjoying every minute of life; clad
always in the most down-to-the-moment styles. He imagined her as
popular, colorful, a wonderful companion for a happy, festive mood; a
street that looked upon her companion streets as a debutante looks upon
her older sisters.

Her faults he placed as tempestuous, born of an excess of nervous
energy; a desire to stay up too late and keep others up with her; an
insatiable love for beautiful, costly things; a super-abundance of
light-heartedness and a touch of light-headedness and a spirit of utter
irresponsibility.

A tempting street, a flirting street, almost a flapper street.

Hill street he thought of as older, quieter, more thoughtful and sedate;
a book-loving, home-loving sort of a girl; mildly reproving but secretly
admiring her sister street, Broadway. She took pride, he thought, in
Pershing Square, a restful spot in the roar of the downtown
thoroughfares that was like a cool hand on a fevered brow, a kind
thought for others, a touch of unselfishness.

A steady, calm, sweet girl; the kind of a girl whom everyone knows would
make a wonderful wife and mother, but whom few ever marry. One to turn
to in trouble, to rely upon and to always find ready to serve; less
popular than her companion streets, gentler, less strident.

A beautiful girl in church on Sunday mornings, but a wallflower at a
dance.

Main street was the girl of old Los Angeles, the daughter of the dons,
dark-eyed, mysterious, quaintly and languidly entrancing, he pictured
her always with a rose in her midnight-black hair, perhaps a black lace
fan dangling at her wrist; wearing the dress of other days with shining
black beads and flounces and trinkets--scorned by Miss Broadway as so
much tinsel--conceding only her rouge and powder to modernism.

Haughtily proud of her origin, pointing to her birthplace--the Plaza--in
its shabby, tumbled-down setting as the birthplace of the city. A girl
speaking Spanish, softly and beautifully, and knowing instinctively the
steps of the bewitching La Jota.

A hint of Carmen; a romantic girl. A girl for a stroll in the moonlight
and a kiss upon taunting lips.

And Spring street!

She had a touch of each of her companions, Broadway's brilliant beauty;
Hill street's charming character and Main street's pride of ancestry.
And yet so different from them all!

An independent girl, versatile and elusive; tasting of life deeper than
her companions; with rich men of the world lovers. Sophisticated,
whole-hearted, generous; regretting with those who loved her the passing
of the days when she held her arms open to bon vivants and epicures.

A chic girl whom you thought of as having a past. An adventurous girl,
counting among those who were her followers a host of varied characters
from Le Compte Davis, the bibliophile lawyer, chuckling over
Schopenhauer's pessimism between hours of study over his law books, to
Barney Oldfield, the racing driver, who deserted her to become a
manufacturer; Jim Jeffries, former world's heavyweight pugilist, who was
her companion in his fame and who left her to become a rancher; and Al
Levy, who wined her and dined her in his cafe.

All this musing John related to Consuello in the wonderfully happy
evenings that followed Mrs. Gallant's conversion from disliking to
loving the girl he adored.

He told her he could never decide which of the four he liked best. He
said sometimes Broadway had shaken her bobbed curls at him, smiling and
bright, pretty and stylish, and he was captivated. Then, perhaps, a
little remorseful that he had pursued so fleeting a beauty as Broadway,
he had turned to Hill street to be comforted by her soundness and to
tell her, in his heart, that she was a "real" girl, so much more
worth-while than her light-hearted sister, who wanted to be going and
going all the time.

And nights, when he felt a longing for the stories of the old days, or,
perhaps, to see the intriguing shadows of her dark eyes, he visited Main
street, wandering away at times into Chinatown, clinging like a faithful
servant to the feet of the daughter of the dons.

When he had tired of all three, Broadway, Hill and Main, he told her, he
had turned to Spring street and found her ever alluring and interesting.
It was there, in George Blake's gymnasium, that he had trained for the
bout at Vernon and it was there that "Gink" Cummings had held sway,
manipulating Gibson like a puppet, ruling with an iron hand, ordering
his gangsters to "bash" whoever opposed him and collecting his
ill-gotten tributes.

"Do you remember," she asked, "that day we met and how when you said you
were frightened and embarrassed I told you that I had read stories of
reporters who never knew fear and that in plays and books the reporter
always did the bravest things?"

He smiled back to her.

"And I told you that it was like a story or a play when you rescued me
from the servant who had asked me to leave?" he added. "I told you then
that you were a beautiful heroine and pointed out Gibson to you as the
villain."

"And you said that in books and plays dreams came true and when I asked
you what dream you wished to come true you said, 'A rather silly,
hopeless, golden sort of dream--a dream of meeting you again,'" she
supplemented.

"A dream that came true far more wonderfully than I ever hoped it
would," he said.

They were beside her open casement window. It was a warm, bright Sunday
morning and in a few minutes they would leave to meet his mother for the
long-deferred visit to the home of Consuello's parents.

"There have been stories of all kinds, told and untold, about Spring
street," he said, "but do you know the one I like best?"

She shook her head.

"The story you told to me of how it received its name," he said. "And do
you know why?"

Again she shook her head.

"Because you are to me 'Mi Primavera'--My Springtime."

They entered the waiting automobile to be whirled through the city and
out to the romantic hacienda where the languorous past so strangely and
sweetly blended with the vital present and the throbbing promise of a
future filled with love and life together.

The motor swung around a corner and into a throbbing thoroughfare down
the long, crowded course of which was pictured in an almost perpetual
perspective panorama the rushing torrent, the back-wash, the undertow,
the placid pools and the spectators upon the banks of the gigantic river
of human endeavor.

Through the cinema of John Gallant's mind there swept a thought that
here was presented a prophecy and a promise. Hand in hand they would
meet whatever the coming days might bring--toil, failure, happiness,
success. Love was the magic wand that made them all as one.

Steadily he clasped her warm, trusting fingers as they nestled in his
palm.

"We are starting down our Spring street, Mi Primavera," he said.

And as she looked up into his ardent eyes he knew that all his fondest
dreams were coming true.


THE END.





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