When Drubb was arrested, Peter was taken to the orphan asylum, and there was another “Old Man,” and the same harsh lesson of subservience to be learned. Peter had run away from the asylum; and then had come Pericles Priam with his Pain Paralyzer, and Peter had studied his whims and served his interests. When Pericles had married a rich widow and she had kicked Peter out, there had come the Temple of Jimjambo, where the “Old Man” had been Tushbar Akrogas, the major-domo—terrible when he was thwarted, but a generous dispenser of favors when once you had learned to flatter him, to play upon his weaknesses, to smooth the path of his pleasures. All these years Peter had been forced to “crook the pregnant hinges of the knee”; it had become an instinct with him—an instinct that went back far behind the twenty years of his conscious life, that went back twenty thousand years, perhaps ten times twenty thousand years, to a time when Peter had chipped flint spear-heads at the mouth of some cave, and broiled marrow-bones for some “Old Man” of the borde, and seen rebellious young fellows cast out to fall prey to the sabre-tooth tiger.
Peter found that he was something of a personality in this hospital. He was the “star” witness in the sensational Goober case, about which the whole city, and in fact the whole country was talking. It was known that he had “turned State’s”; but just what he knew and what he had told was a mighty secret, and Peter “held his mouth” and looked portentous, and enjoyed thrills of self-importance.
But meantime there was no reason why he should not listen to others talk; no reason why he should not inform himself fully about this case, so that in future he might be able to take care of himself. He listened to what “Old Man” Doobman had to say, and to what Jan Christian, his Swedish assistant had to say, and to what Gerald Leslie, the “coke” fiend, had to say. All these, and others, had friends on the outside, people who were “in the know.” Some told one thing, and others told exactly the opposite; but Peter put this and that together, and used his own intrigue-sharpened wits upon it, and before long he was satisfied that he had got the facts.
Jim Goober was a prominent labor leader. He had organized the employees of the Traction Trust, and had called and led a tremendous strike. Also he had called building strikes, and some people said he had used dynamite upon uncompleted buildings, and made a joke of it. Anyhow, the business men of the city wanted to put him where he could no longer trouble them; and when some maniac unknown had flung a dynamite bomb into the path of the Preparedness parade, the big fellows of the city had decided that now was the opportunity they were seeking. Guffey, the man who had taken charge of Peter, was head of the secret service of the Traction Trust, and the big fellows had put him in complete charge. They wanted action, and would take no chances with the graft-ridden and incompetent police of the city. They had Goober in jail, with his wife and three of his gang, and thru the newspapers of the city they were carrying on a propaganda to prepare the public for the hanging of all five.