“Well, sergeant?” said the lieutenant. “What have you got?”
“I think I’ve got the story, sir.”
You could see the relief in Gannet’s face; and Jimmie’s heart went down into his boots.
“There’s just one or two details I want to make sure about,” continued Perkins. “I suppose you won’t mind if I question this prisoner?”
“Oh, not at all,” said the other. He was relieved to be able to turn this difficult matter over to a man of decision, a professional man, who was used to such cases and knew how to handle them.
“I’ll report to you at once,” said Perkins.
“I’ll wait,” said the lieutenant.
And Perkins took Jimmie’s trembling arm in a grip like a vice, and marched him down a long stone corridor and down a flight of steps. On the way he picked up two other men, also in khaki, who followed him; the four passed through a series of underground passages, and entered a stone cell with a solid steel door, which they clanged behind them—a sound that was like the knell of doom to poor Jimmie’s terrified soul. And instantly Sergeant Perkins seized him by the shoulder and whirled him about, and glared into his eyes. “Now, you little son-of-a-bitch!” said he.
Having been a detective in an American city, this man was familiar with the “third degree”, whereby prisoners are led to tell what they know, and many things which they don’t know, but which they know the police want them to tell. Of the other two men, one Private Connor, had had this inquisition applied to him on more than one occasion. He was a burglar with a prison-record; but his last arrest had been in a middle Western town for taking part in a bar-room fight, and the judge didn’t happen to know his record, and accepted his tearful plea, agreeing to suspend sentence provided the prisoner would enlist to fight for his country.
The other man was named Grady, and had left a wife and three children in a tenement in “Hell’s Kitchen”, New York, to come to fight the Kaiser. He was a kind-hearted and decent Irishman, who had earned a hard living carrying bricks and mortar up a ladder ten hours a day; but he was absolutely convinced that there existed, somewhere under his feet, a hell of brimstone and sulphur in which he would roast for ever if he disobeyed the orders of those who were set in authority over him. Grady knew that there were certain wicked men, hating and slandering religion, and luring millions of souls into hell; they were called Socialists, or Anarchists, and must obviously be emissaries of Satan, so it was God’s work to root them out and destroy them. Thus the Gradys have reasoned for a thousand years; and thus in black dungeons underground they have turned the thumb-screws and pulled the levers of the rack. They do it still in many of the large cities of America, where superstition runs the police-force, in combination with liquor interests and public service corporations.