“You’re sure nothing will happen to me, if—” The man watched him closer.
“This paper need never be made public.”
“That’s my business. It might be useful in certain contingencies.”
“Such as the police discovering he hadn’t gone to Davy Jones’ locker?” shrewdly.
John Steele’s answer was short, as if he found this verbal contest trite, paltry, after the physical struggle that had preceded it.
“And what am I to get if I do what you—” The pupils of the fellow’s eyes, fastened on him, were now like pin-points.
The other smiled grimly; this bargaining and trafficking with such a man, in a place so foul! It seemed grotesque, incongruous; and yet was, withal, so momentous. He knew just what Rogers should say; what he would force him to do! In his overwrought state he overlooked one or two points that would not have escaped him at another time: a certain craftiness, or low cunning that played occasionally on that disfigured face.
“What did you say I was to get if—”
“You shall have funds to take you out of the country, and I will engage to get and forward to you the money left in trust. The alternative,” he bent forward, “about fifteen years, if the traps—”
The fellow pondered; at last he answered. For a few minutes then John Steele wrote, looking up between words. His head bent now closer to the paper, then drew back from it, as if through a slight uncertainty of vision or because of the dim light. The fellow’s eyes, watching him, lowered.
“You know—none better!—that on that particular night some one else—some one besides the ’Frisco Pet—entered your mother’s house?”
Oaths mingled with low filchers’ slang; but the reply was forthcoming; other questions, too, were answered tentatively; sometimes at length, with repulsive fullness of detail. The speaker hesitated over words, shot sharp, short looks at the other; from the hand that wrote, to the fingers near that other object,—strong, firm fingers that seemed ready to leap; ready to act on any emergency. Unless—a shadow appeared to pass over the broad, white brow, the motionless hand to waver, ever so little. Then quickly the hand moved, rested on the brown handle of the weapon, enveloped it with light careless grasp.
“You can state of your own knowledge what happened next?” John Steele spoke sharply; the fellow’s red brows suddenly lifted.
“Oh, yes,” he replied readily.
John Steele’s manner became shorter; his questions were put fast; he forced quick replies. He not only seemed striving to get through his task as soon as possible; but always to hold the other’s attention, to permit his brain no chance to wander from the subject to any other. But the fellow seemed now to have become as tractable as before he had been sullen, stubborn; gave his version in his own vernacular, always keenly attentive, observant of the other’s every