Carl opened the paper and stared.
“Hunch,” he exclaimed with an involuntary glance at the mended candlestick, “where in the devil did you get this?”
“I ask yuh to remember,” went on Hunch in some excitement, “that I was drunk an’ the old she-wol—Gr-r-r-r-r!” Hunch cleared his heavy throat in a panic, with a rasp like the stripping of gears, and corrected himself. “The Old One,” he spoke somewhat as if this singular title was a degree, “the Old One put one over on me.”
“My aunt, I imagine,” said Carl, “has given me a fairly accurate version of His Nibs’ escape. I’ll admit a pardonable anxiety to interview you for a while. As a matter of fact there was a night—when I was not in the Lithia League—that I drove down to look you up. Tell me,” he added, “where you found this.”
“It was not, stric’ly speakin’, found,” said Hunch with a modest cough. Once more, overwhelmed afresh by Carl’s appearance, he let his good eye go roving.
“Tell it,” said Carl with what patience he could muster, “in your own way.”
“I ask yuh to remember,” urged Hunch with a firm belief in the dignity of this phrase, “that I was still drunk an’ batty in me thinker when the old she-wol—Gr-r-r-r-r-r—the Old One told me to dig out. So I halts on the corner to collect me wits an’ by’m’by I sees a guy wid a darkish face an’ lips like Link. He comes along, looks up an’ down suspicious, sees the door ain’t tight shut an’ heel-taps it up the steps. He opens the door an’ by’m’by he helps the Old One to a taxi an’ makes out to walk off—see—whiles she’s a watchin’. Later, when the taxi turns the corner, back he goes, heel-taps it up the steps ag’in, an’ goes in at the door he ain’t locked, though he’d made out he had. An’ right there,” said Hunch impressively, “right there is where yer Uncle Hunch feels a real glimmer in his bean an’ goes back. Thin-lips ain’t in sight. Yer Uncle Hunch softly heel-taps it upstairs an’ finds the darkish guy adoptin’ a paper with a fatherly pat, which he slips in his coat pocket. Whereupon—whiles he’s lockin’ the desk drawer ag’in, aforesaid uncle slips downstairs an’ out. By’m’by, Thin-lips trots out with an ugly grin on his mug—an’ Uncle Hunch, gettin’ soberer an’ soberer by the minute, trots after him with his good lamp workin’ overtime.”
Carl glanced at the paper.
“Yes?” he encouraged.
“Well,” said Hunch with a sheepish grin that was rendered somewhat sinister by the fixed eye, “I jostled him real rude in a crowd an’ picked his pocket. An’ there yuh are!”
There was some slight rustle of greenish paper in the handshake.
“I’m mighty grateful,” said Carl. “That paper cost me a couple of hours of laborious preparation. It’s a duplicate, Hunch, for the purpose of decoy. The original’s in safe deposit.”
THE OTHER CANDLESTICK