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The reportorial instinct in Kitty Conover, combined with her natural feminine curiosity, impelled her to seek to the bottom of affair. Her newspaper was as far from her as the poles; simply a paramount desire to translate the incomprehensible into sequence and consequence. Harmless old Gregor's disappearance and the advent of John Two-Hawks - the absurdity of that name! - with his impeccable English accent, his Latin gestures, and his black eye, convinced her that it was political; an electrical cross current out of that broken world over there. Moribund perspectives. What did that signify save that Johnny Two-Hawks had fought somewhere that day for his life? Had Gregor been spirited away so as to leave Two-Hawks without support, to confuse and discourage him and break down his powers of resistance? Or had there been something of great value in the Gregor apartment, and Johnny Two-Hawks had come too late to save his friend?
A word slipped into her mind like a whiff of miasma off an evil swamp. As she recognized the word she felt the same horror and repugnance one senses upon being unexpectedly confronted by a cobra. Internationalism. The scum of the world boiling to the top. A half-blind viper striking venomously at everything - even itself! A destroyer who tore down but who knew not how or what to build. Kitty knew that lower New York was seething with this species of terrorism - thousands of noisome European rats trying to burrow into the granary of democracy. But she had no particular fear of the result. The reacting chemicals of American humour and common sense would neutralize that virus. Supposing a ripple from this indecent eddy had touched her feet? The torch of liberty in the hands of Anarch!
Johnny Two-Hawks. Somehow - even if she never saw him again - she knew she would always remember him by that name. Phases of the encounter began to return. Fine hands; perhaps he painted or played. The oblong head of well-balanced mentality. A pleasant voice. Breeding. To be sure, he had laughed at that fan popping out. Anybody would have laughed. Never had she felt so idiotic. He had gravely expressed the hope that they might never meet again because his life was in danger. What danger? Conceivably the enmity of a society - internationalism. The word having found lodgment in her thoughts took root. Internationalism - Utopia while you wait! Anarchism and Bolshevism offering nostrums for humanity's ills! And there were sane men who defended the cult on the basis that the intention was honest. Who can say that the rattlesnake does not consider his intentions honourable?
The attribute lacking in the ape to make him human is continuity of thought and action in all things save one. He often starts out we11 but he never arrives. His interest is never sustained. He drops one thing and turns to another. The exception is his enmity, savage and cunning, relentless and enduring.
Kitty was awake to one fact. She could not venture to dig into this affair alone. On the other hand, she did not want one of the men from the city room - a reporter who would see nothing but news. If Gregor was only a prisoner publicity might be the cause of his death; and publicity would certainly react hardily against Johnny Two-Hawks. To whom might she turn?
Cutty! - with his great physical strength, his shrewd and alert mentality, and his wide knowledge of peoples and tongues. There was the man for her - Kitty Conover's godfather. She dumped the contents of her handbag upon the stand in the hallway in her impatience to find Cutty's card with his telephone number. It was not in the directory. She might catch him before he went out for the evening.
A Japanese voice answered her call.
"'Souse, but he iss out."
"No tell me."
"How long has he been gone?"
Kitty heard the click of the receiver as it went down upon the hook. But she wasn't the daughter of Conover for nothing. She called up the University Club. No. The Harvard Club. No. The Players, the Lambs; and in the latter club she found him.
"Who is it?" Cutty spoke impatiently.
"Oh! What's the matter? Can't you have lunch with me?"
"Something very strange is happening in this old apartment house, Cutty. I'm afraid it is a matter of life and death. Otherwise I shouldn't have bothered you. Can you come up right away?"
"As soon as a taxi can take me!"
Kitty then went through the apartment and turned out all the lights. Next she drew up a chair to the kitchen window and sat down to watch. All was dark across the way. But there was nothing singular in this fact. Johnny Two-Hawks would have sense enough to realize that it would be safer to move about in the dark. It was even probable that he was lying down.
Tumpitum-tump! Tumpitum-tump! went the racing Elevated; and Kitty's heart raced along with it. Queer how the echo of Cutty's description of the drums calling a jehad - a holy war - should adapt itself to that Elevated. Drums! Perhaps the echo clung because she had been interested beyond measure in his tale of those two emeralds, the drums of jeopardy. Mobs sacking palaces and museums and banks and homes; all the scum of the world boiling to the top; the Red Night that wasn't over.
She uttered a shaky little laugh. She would tell Cutty. The real drums of jeopardy weren't emeralds but the roll of warning that prescience taps upon the spine, the occult sense of impending danger. That was why the Elevated went tumpitum-tump! tumpitum-tump! She would tell Cutty. The drums of fear.
He over there and she here, in darkness; both of them waiting for something to happen; and the invisible drumsticks beating the tattoo of fear. If he were in her thoughts might not she be a little in his? She stood up. She would do it. Convention in a moment like this was nonsense. Hadn't he kept his side of the line scrupulously?
Nonchalance. It occurred to her for the first time that there must be good material in a man who could come through in a contest with death, nonchalant. She would fetch him and have him here to meet Cutty, this rather forlorn Johnny Two-Hawks, with his unshaven face, his black eye, and his nonchalance. She would fetch him at once. It would save a good deal of time.
There were but ten apartments in the building, two on a floor. The living room formed an L. Kitty's buttressed Gregor's. The elevator shaft was inside, facing the court; and the stair head was on the Gregor side of the elevator. The two entrances faced each other across the landing.
As Kitty opened her door to step outside she was nonplussed to see two men issue cautiously from the Gregor door. The moment they espied her, however, there was a mad rush for the stair head. She could hear the thud of their feet all the way down to the ground floor; and every footfall seemed to touch her heart. One of them carried a bundle.
She breathed quickly, and she knew that she was afraid. Neither man was Johnny Two-Hawks. Something dreadful had happened; she was sure of it. Reenforcing her sinking courage with nerve energy she ran across to the Gregor door and knocked. No answer. She knocked again; then she tried the door. Locked. The flutter in her breast died away; she became quite calm. She was going to enter this apartment by the way of the fire escape. The window he had come out of was still up. She had made note of this from the kitchen. In returning he had stepped on to the springe of a snare.
She hurried back to her kitchen for the automatic. She hadn't the least idea how to manipulate it; but she was no longer afraid of it. Bravely she stepped out on to the fire escape. To reach her objective she had to walk under the ladder. Danger often puts odd irrelevancies into the human brain. As she moved forward she wondered if there was anything in the superstition regarding ladders.
When she reached the window she leaned against the brick wall and listened. Silence; an ominous silence. The window was open, the curtain up. Within, what? For as long as five minutes she waited, then she climbed in.
Now as this bedroom was a counterpart of her own she knew where the light button would be. She might stumble over a chair or two, but in the end she would find the light. The fingers of one hand spread out before her and the other clutching the impossible automatic, she succeeded in navigating the uncharted reefs of an unfamiliar room. She blinked for a moment after throwing on the light, and stood with her back to the wall, the automatic wabbling at nothing in particular. The room was empty so far as she could see. There was evidence of a physical encounter, but she could not tell whether it was due to the former or to the latter invasion.
Where was he? From where she stood she could not see the floor on the far side of the bed. Timidly she walked past the foot of the bed - and the transient paralysis of horror laid hold of her. She became bereft of the power to grasp and hold, and the automatic slipped from her fingers and thudded on the carpet.
On the floor lay poor Johnny Two-Hawks, crumpled grotesquely, a streak of blood zigzagging across his forehead; to all appearances, dead!
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