“Now,” said Peter, “it’s like this. These police and all these fellows mean well, but they don’t understand; it’s too complicated, they ain’t been in this movement long enough. They’re used to dealing with criminals; but these Reds, you see, are cranks. Criminals ain’t organized, at least they don’t stand together; but these Reds do, and if you fight ’em, they fight back, and they make what they call `propaganda.’ And that propaganda is dangerous—if you make a wrong move, you may find you’ve made ’em stronger than they were before.”
“Yes, I see that,” said the old man. “Well?”
“Then again, the police dunno how dangerous they are. You try to tell them things, they won’t really believe you. I’ve known for a long time there was a group of these people getting together to kill off all the rich men, the big men all over the country. They’ve been spying on these rich men, getting ready to kill them. They know a lot about them that you can’t explain their knowing. That’s how I got the idea they had somebody in your house, Mr. Ackerman.”
“Tell me what you mean. Tell me at once.”
“Well, sir, every once in a while I pick up scraps of conversation. One day I heard Mac—”
“That’s McCormick, the one who’s in jail. He’s an I. W. W. leader, and I think the most dangerous of all. I heard him whispering to another fellow, and it scared me, because it had to do with killing a rich man. He’d been watching this rich man, and said he was going to shoot him down right in his own house! I didn’t hear the name of the man—I walked away, because I didn’t want him to think I was trying to listen in. They’re awful suspicious, these fellows; if you watch Mac you see him looking around over his shoulder every minute or two. So I strolled off, and then I strolled back again, and he was laughing about something, and I heard him say these words; I heard him say, `I was hiding behind the curtain, and there was a Spanish fellow painted on the wall, and every time I peeked out that bugger was looking at me, and I wondered if he wasn’t going to give me away.’”
And Peter stopped. His eyes had got used to the twilight now, and he could see the old banker’s eyes starting out from the crescents of dark, puffy flesh underneath. “My God!” whispered Nelse Ackerman.
“Now, that was all I heard,” said Peter. “And I didn’t know what it meant. But when I learned about that drawing that Mac had made of your house, I thought to myself, Jesus, I bet that was Mr. Ackerman he was waiting to shoot!”
“Good God! Good God!” whispered the old man; and his trembling fingers pulled at the embroidery on the coverlet. The telephone rang, and he took up the receiver, and told somebody he was too busy now to talk; they would have to call him later. He had another coughing spell, so that Peter thought he was going to choke, and had to help him get some medicine down his throat. Peter was a little bit shocked to see such obvious and abject fear in one of the gods. After all, they were just men, these Olympians, as much subject to pain and death as Peter Gudge himself!