Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter Twenty-One

At noon the next day Casey was still waiting--but not hopefully. "Patience on a monument" couldn't have resembled Casey Ryan in any particular whatever. He was mad. By midnight he had begun to wonder if he was not going to be made a goat again. By daylight, he was positive that he was already a goat. By the time the trusty brought his breakfast, Casey was applying to Mack Nolan the identical words and phrases which he had applied to young Kenner when he was the maddest. Don't ask me to tell you what they were.

Jim Cassidy still clung desperately to his faith in Smiling Lou; but Casey's faith hadn't so much as a finger-hold on anything. What kind of a government was it, he asked himself bitterly, that would leave a trusted agent twenty-four hours shut up in a cell with a whining crook like Jim Cassidy? If, he added pessimistically, he were an agent of the government. Casey doubted it. So far as he could see, Casey Ryan wasn't anything but the goat.

His chief desire now was to get out of there as soon as possible so that he could hunt up Mack Nolan and lick the livin' tar wit of him--or worse. He wanted bail and he wanted it immediately. Not a soul bad come near him, save the trusty, in spite of certain mysterious messages which Casey had sent to the office, asking for an interview with the judge or somebody; Casey didn't care who. Locked in a cell, how was he going to do any of the things Nolan had told him to do if he happened to find himself arrested by an honest officer?

When they hauled him before the police judge, Casey hadn't been given the chance to explain anything to anybody. Unless, of course, he wanted to beller out his business before everybody; and that, he told himself fiercely, was not Casey Ryan's idea of the way to keep a secret. Moreover, that damned speed cop was standing right there, just waiting for a chance to wind his fingers in Casey's collar and choke him off if he tried to say a word. And how the hell, Casey would like to know, was a man going to explain himself when he couldn't get a word in edgeways?

So Casey wanted bail. There were just two ways of getting it, and it went against the grain of his pride to take either one. That is why Casey waited until noon before his Irish stubbornness yielded a bit and he decided to wire me to come. He had to slip the wire out by the underground method--meaning the good will of the trusty. It cost Casey ten dollars, but he didn't grudge that.

He spent that afternoon and most of the night mentally calling the trusty a liar and a thief because there was no reply to the message. As a matter of fact, the trusty sent the wire through as quickly as possible and the fault was mine if any one's. I was too busy hurrying to the rescue to think about sending Casey word that I was coming. Casey said afterwards that my thoughtlessness would be cured for life if I were ever locked in jail and waiting for news.

As it happened, I wired the Little Woman that Casey was in jail again, and caught the first train to San "Berdoo"--coming down by way of Barstow. I could save two or three hours that way, I found, so I told the Little Woman to meet me there and bring all the money she could get her hands on. Not knowing just what Casey was in for this time, it seemed well to be prepared for a good, stiff bail. She beat me by several hours, and between us we had ten thousand dollars.

At that it was a fool's errand. Casey was out of jail and gone before either of us arrived. So there we were, holding the bag, as you might say, and our ten thousand dollars' bail money.

"It's no use asking questions, Jack," the Little Woman told me pensively when we had finished our salad in the best cafe in town, and were waiting for the fish. "I've asked questions of every uniform in this town, from the district judge down to the courthouse janitor. Nobody knows a thing. I did find that Casey was booked yesterday for having a stolen car and a load of booze in his possession, but he isn't in jail--or if he is, they're keeping him down in some dungeon and have thrown away the key. It was hinted in the police court that he was dismissed for want of evidence; but they wouldn't say anything, and so there you are!"

We finished our fish in a thoughtful silence. Then, when the waiter had removed the plates, the Little Woman looked at me with a twinkle in her eyes.

"Well-sir, there's something I want to tell you, Jack. I believe Casey has put this town on the run. They can't tell me! Something's happened, over around the courthouse. A lot of the men I talked with had a scared look in their eyes, and they were nervous when doors opened, and looked around when people came walking along. I don't know what he's been doing--but Casey Ryan's been up to something. You can't tell me! I know how our laundry boy looks when Casey's home."

"And didn't you get any line at all on his whereabouts?" I asked her. Given three hours the start of me, I knew perfectly well that the Little Woman had found out all there was to know about Casey.

"Well-sir--I've got this to go on," the Little Woman drawled and held a telegram across the table. "You'll notice that was sent from Goffs. It's ten days old, but I've been getting ready ever since it arrived. I've put Babe in a boarding-school, and I leased the apartment house. I kept three dressmakers ruining their eyes with nightwork, Jack, making up some nifty sports clothes. If Casey's bound to stay in the desert--well, I'm his wife--and Casey does kind of like to have me around. You can't tell me.

"So I've got the twin-six packed with the niftiest camp outfit you ever saw, Jack. I've got a yellow and red beach umbrella, and two reclining chairs, and--well-sir, I'm going to rough it de luxe. I don't expect to keep Casey in hand--I happen to know him. But it's just possible, Jack, that I can keep him in sight!"

Of course I told her--as I've told her often enough before--that she was a brick. I added that I would go along, if she liked; which she did. Not even the Little Woman should ever attempt to drive across the Mojave alone.

We started out as soon as we had finished the meal. A Cadillac roadster came up behind us and honked for clear passing as we swung into the long, straight stretch that leads up the Cajon. The Little Woman peered into the rear vision mirror and pressed the toe of her white pump upon the accelerator.

"There's only one man in the world that can pass me on the road," the Little Woman drawled, "and he doesn't wear a panama!"

As we snapped around the turns of Cajon Grade, I looked back once or twice. The Cadillac roadster was still following pertinaciously, but it was too far back to honk at us. When we slid down to the Victorville garage and stopped for gas, the Cadillac slid by. The driver in the panama gave us one glance through his colored glasses, but I felt, somehow, that the glance was sufficiently comprehensive to fix us firmly in his memory. I inquired at the garage concerning Casey Ryan, taking it for granted he would be driving a Ford. A man of that description had stopped at the garage for gas that forenoon, the boy told me. About nine o'clock, I learned from further questioning.

"Well-sir, that gives him five hours the start," the Little Woman remarked, as she eased in the clutch and slid around the corner into the highway to Barstow. "But you can't tell me I can't run down a Ford with this car. I know to the last inch what a Jawn Henry is good for. I drove one myself, remember. Now we'll see."

B.M. Bower