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The Black Bag Part 34

"Evidently," assented Calendar dryly. "You're a bit of a heavy-handed brute, Stryker. Personally I'm kind of sorry for the boy; he wasn't a bad sort, as his kind runs, and he was no fool, from what little I saw of him.... I wonder what he wanted."

"Possibly," Mulready chimed in suavely, "you can explain what you wanted of him, in the first place. How did you come to drag him into _this_ business?"

"Oh, that!" Calendar laughed shortly. "That was partly accident, partly inspiration. I happened to see his name on the Pless register; he'd put himself down as from 'Frisco. I figured it out that he would be next door to broke and getting desperate, ready to do anything to get home; and thought we might utilize him; to smuggle some of the stuff into the States.

Once before, if you'll remember--no; that was before we got together, Mulready--I picked up a fellow-countryman on the Strand. He was down and out, jumped at the job, and we made a neat little wad on it."

"The more fool you, to take outsiders into your confidence," grumbled Mulready.

"Ow?" interrogated Calendar, mimicking Stryker's accent inimitably. "Well, you've got a heap to learn about this game, Mul; about the first thing is that you must trust Old Man Know-it-all, which is me. I've run more diamonds into the States, in one way or another, in my time, than you ever pinched out of the shirt-front of a toff on the Empire Prom., before they made the graft too hot for you and you came to take lessons from me in the gentle art of living easy."

"Oh, cut that, cawn't you?"

"Delighted, dear boy.... One of the first principles, next to profiting by the admirable example I set you, is to make the fellows in your own line trust you. Now, if this boy had taken on with me, I could have got a bunch of the sparklers on my mere say-so, from old Morganthau up on Finsbury Pavement. He does a steady business hoodwinking the Customs for the benefit of his American clients--and himself. And I'd've made a neat little profit besides: something to fall back on, if this fell through. I don't mind having two strings to my bow."

"Yes," argued Mulready; "but suppose this Kirkwood had taken on with you and then peached?"

"That's another secret; you've got to know your man, be able to size him up. I called on this chap for that very purpose; but I saw at a glance he wasn't our man. He smelt a nigger in the woodpile and most politely told me to go to the devil. But if he _had_ come in, he'd've died before he squealed. I know the breed; there's honor among gentlemen that knocks the honor of thieves higher'n a kite, the old saw to the contrary--nothing doing.... You understand me, I'm sure, Mulready?" he concluded with envenomed sweetness.

"I don't see yet how Kirkwood got anything to do with Dorothy."

"Miss Calendar to you, _Mister_ Mulready!" snapped Calendar. "There, there, now! Don't get excited.... It was when the Hallam passed me word that a man from the Yard was waiting on the altar steps for me, that Kirkwood came in.

He was dining close by; I went over and worked on his feelings until he agreed to take Dorothy off my hands. If I had attempted to leave the place with her, they'd've spotted me for sure.... My compliments to you, Dick Mulready."

There came the noise of chair legs scraped harshly on the cabin deck.

Apparently Mulready had leaped to his feet in a rage.

"I've told you--" he began in a voice thick with passion.

"Oh, sit down!" Calendar cut in contemptuously. "Sit down, d'you hear?

That's all over and done with. We understand each other now, and you won't try any more monkey-shines. It's a square deal and a square divide, so far's I'm concerned; if we stick together there'll be profit enough for all concerned. Sit down, Mul, and have another slug of the captain's bum rum."

Although Mulready consented to be pacified, Kirkwood got the impression that the man was far gone in drink. A moment later he heard him growl "Chin-chin!" antiphonal to the captain's "Cheer-o!"

"Now, then," Calendar proposed, "Mr. Kirkwood aside--peace be with him!--let's get down to cases."

"Wot's the row?" asked the captain.

"The row, Cap'n, is the Hallam female, who has unexpectedly shown up in Antwerp, we have reason to believe with malicious intent and a private detective to add to the gaiety of nations."

"Wot's the odds? She carn't 'urt us without lyin' up trouble for 'erself."

"Damn little consolation to us when we're working it out in Dartmoor."

"Speak for yourself," grunted Mulready surlily.

"I do," returned Calendar easily; "we're both in the shadow of Dartmoor, Mul, my boy; since you choose to take the reference as personal. Sing Sing, however, yawns for me alone; it's going to keep on yawning, too, unless I miss my guess. I love my native land most to death, _but_ ..."

"Ow, blow that!" interrupted the captain irritably. "Let's 'ear about the 'Allam. Wot're you afryd of?"

"'Fraid she'll set up a yell when she finds out we're planting the loot, Cap'n. She's just that vindictive; you'd think she'd be satisfied with her end of the stick, but you don't know the Hallam. That milk-and-water offspring of hers is the apple of her eye, and Freddie's going to collar the whole shooting-match or madam will kick over the traces."

"Well?"

"Well, she's queered us here. We can't do anything if my lady is going to camp on our trail and tell everybody we're shady customers, can we? The question now before the board is: Where now,--and how?"

"Amsterdam," Mulready chimed in. "I told you that in the beginning."

"But how?" argued Calendar. "The Lord knows I'm willing but ... we can't go by rail, thanks to the Hallam. We've got to lose her first of all."

"But wot I'm arskin' is, wot's the matter with--"

"The _Alethea_, Cap'n? Nothing, so far as Dick and I are concerned. But my dutiful daughter is prejudiced; she's been so long without proper paternal discipline," Calendar laughed, "that she's rather high-spirited. Of course I might overcome her objections, but the girl's no fool, and every ounce of pressure I bring to bear just now only helps make her more restless and suspicious."

"You leave her to me," Mulready interposed, with a brutal laugh. "I'll guarantee to get her aboard, or..."

"Drop it, Dick!" Calendar advised quietly. "And go a bit easy with that bottle for five minutes, can't you?"

"Well, then," Stryker resumed, apparently concurring in Calendar's attitude, "w'y don't one of you tyke the stuff, go off quiet and dispose of it to a proper fence, and come back to divide. I don't see w'y that--"

"Naturally you wouldn't," chuckled Calendar. "Few people besides the two of us understand the depth of affection existing between Dick, here, and me. We just can't bear to get out of sight of each other. We're sure inseparable--since night before last. Odd, isn't it?"

"You drop it!" snarled Mulready, in accents so ugly that the listener was startled. "Enough's enough and--"

"There, there, Dick! All right; I'll behave," Calendar soothed him. "We'll forget and say no more about it."

"Well, see you don't."

"But 'as either of you a plan?" persisted Stryker.

"I have," replied Mulready; "and it's the simplest and best, if you could only make this long-lost parent here see it."

"Wot is it?"

Mulready seemed to ignore Calendar and address himself to the captain.

He articulated with some difficulty, slurring his words to the point of indistinctness at times.

"Simple enough," he propounded solemnly. "We've got the gladstone bag here; Miss Dolly's at the hotel--that's her papa's bright notion; he thinks she's to be trusted ... Now then, what's the matter with weighing anchor and slipping quietly out to sea?"

"Leavin' the dootiful darter?"

"Cert'n'y. She's only a drag any way. 'Better off without her.... Then we can wait our time and get highest market prices--"

"You forget, Dick," Calendar put it, "that there's a thousand in it for each of us if she's kept out of England for six weeks. A thousand's five thousand in the land I hail from; I can use five thousand in my business."

"Why can't you be content with what you've got?" demanded Mulready wrathfully.

"Because I'm a seventh son of a seventh son; I can see an inch or two beyond my nose. If Dorothy ever finds her way back to England she'll spoil one of the finest fields of legitimate graft I ever licked my lips to look at. The trouble with you, Mul, is you're too high-toned. You want to play the swell mobs-man from post to finish. A quick touch and a clean getaway for yours. Now, that's all right; that has its good points, but you don't want to underestimate the advantages of a good blackmailing connection....

If I can keep Dorothy quiet long enough, I look to the Hallam and precious Freddie to be a great comfort to me in my old age."

Chapter end

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