“Never mind, friend,” the newspaper-man went On. “You don’t look like a second-story worker to yours truly.” He broke into a little amused chuckle. “I reckon friend husband, who never comes home till Saturday night, happened around unexpectedly and the fire escape looked good to you. Am I right?”
The Wyoming man managed a grin. It was not a mirthful one, but it served.
“You’re a wizard,” he said admiringly.
The reporter had met a bootlegger earlier in the evening and had two or three drinks. He was mellow. “Oh, I’m wise,” he said with a wink. “Chuck Ellis isn’t anybody’s fool. Beat it, Lothario, while the beating’s good.” The last sentence and the gesture that accompanied the words were humorous exaggerations of old-time melodrama.
Lane took his advice without delay.
The story in the “News”
From a booth in a drug-store on Sixteenth Street Kirby telephoned the police that James Cunningham had been murdered at his home in the Paradox Apartments. He stayed to answer no questions, but hung up at once. From a side door of the store he stepped out to Welton Street and walked to his hotel.
He passed a wretched night. The distress that flooded his mind was due less to his own danger than to his anxiety for Rose. His course of action was not at all clear to him in case he should be identified as the man who had been seen going to and coming from the apartment of the murdered man. He could not explain why he was there without implicating Rose and her sister. He would not betray them. That of course. But he had told his cousins why he was going. Would their story not start a hunt for the woman in the case?
Man is an illogical biped. Before Kirby had seen the glove on the table and associated it with the crime, his feeling had been that the gallows was the proper end of so cruel a murderer. Now he not only intended to protect Rose, but his heart was filled with pity for her. He understood her better than he did any other woman, her loyalty and love and swift, upblazing anger. Even if her hand had fired the shot, he told himself, it was not Wild Rose who had done it—not the little friend he had come to know and like so well, but a tortured woman beside herself with grief for the sister to whom she had always been a mother too.
He slept little, and that brokenly. With the dawn he was out on the street to buy a copy of the “News.” The story of the murder had the two columns on the right-hand side of the front page and broke over to the third. He hurried back to his room to read it behind a locked door.
The story was of a kind in which newspapers revel. Cunningham was a well-known character, several times a millionaire. His death even by illness would have been worth a column. But the horrible and grewsome way of his taking off, the mystery surrounding it, the absence of any apparent motive unless it were revenge, all whetted the appetite of the editors. It was a big “story,” one that would run for many days, and the “News” played it strong.