Halfway down the passage Ravenslee turned to see Murder close on his heels. Once he smote and twice, but nothing might stay that bull-like rush and, locked in a desperate clinch, he was borne back and back, their trampling lost in the universal din about them, as reeling, staggering, they crashed out through wrecked and splintered door and, still locked together, were swallowed in the night beyond.
Thus the Spider, crouching in the dark beneath the broken window with Spike beside him, was presently aware of the sickening sounds of furious struggling close at hand, and of a hoarse, panting voice that cursed in fierce triumph—a voice that ended all at once in a ghastly strangling choke; and recognising this voice, the Spider hunched his great shoulders and bore Spike to a remote spot where stood a solitary lamp-post. Here he waited, calm-eyed and chewing placidly, one arm about the fretful Spike.
Presently Ravenslee joined them; the shabby hat was gone, and there was a smear of blood upon his cheek, also he laboured in his breathing, but his eyes were joyous.
“Bo, what about Bud?”
“Oh, he’s lying around somewhere.”
“Hully Chee—d’ ye mean—”
“He tried gouging first, but I expected that; then he tried to throttle me, but I throttled a little harder. He’s an ugly customer, as you said, but”—Ravenslee laughed and glanced at his bloody knuckles—“I don’t think he’ll be keen to rough it with me again just yet.”
“Bo, I guess you can be pretty ugly too—say, when you laugh that way I feel—kind of sorry for Bud.”
“Why, what’s wrong with Spike?”
“Dunno—I guess they’ve been slinging dope into him. And he’s copped it pretty bad from Young Alf too—look at that eye!”
“Spike!” said Ravenslee, shaking him, “Spike, what is it? Buck up, old fellow!” But Spike only stared dazedly and moaned.
“It’s dope all right,” nodded the Spider, “or else Bud’s mixed th’ drinks on him.”
“Damn him!” said Ravenslee softly. “I wish I’d throttled a little harder!”
“I guess you give Bud all he needs for the present,” said Spider grimly, “anyway, I’m goin’ t’ see. The Kid ain’t hurt none. Get him home t’ bed, an’ he’ll be all right s’long, long, Geoff.”
“Good night, Spider, and—thank you. Oh, by the way, who’s Heine?”
“Heine’s a Deutscher, Geoff. Heine’s about as clean as dirt an’ as straight as a corkscrew; why, he’d shoot his own mother if y’ paid him, like he did—but say, what d’ you know about him, anyway?”
“Well, for one thing, I know he’s been arrested in Jersey City—”
“Heine? Pinched? Say, bo, what yer givin’ us—who says so?”
But the Spider, waiting for no more, had turned about and was running back across the open lot.
HOW M’GINNIS THREATENED AND—WENT