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- The Dream Doctor - 40/59 -


Once, just before the dance began, I saw him rub something on the back of his hand, raise it to his nose, and sniff. Then he took a sip of a liqueur.

The dance began, wild from the first step, and as it developed, Kennedy leaned over and whispered, "The danse des Apaches."

It was acrobatic. The man expressed brutish passion and jealousy; the woman, affection and fear. It seemed to tell a story--the struggle of love, the love of the woman against the brutal instincts of the thug, her lover. She was terrified as well as fascinated by him in his mad temper and tremendous superhuman strength. I wondered if the dance portrayed the fact.

The music was a popular air with many rapid changes, but through all there was a constant rhythm which accorded well with the abandon of the swaying dance. Indeed, I could think of nothing so much as of Bill Sykes and Nancy as I watched these two.

It was the fight of two frenzied young animals. He would approach stealthily, seize her, and whirl her about, lifting her to his shoulder. She was agile, docile, and fearful. He untied a scarf and passed it about her; she leaned against it, and they whirled giddily about. Suddenly, it seemed that he became jealous. She would run; he follow and catch her. She would try to pacify him; he would become more enraged. The dance became faster and more furious. His violent efforts seemed to be to throw her to the floor, and her streaming hair now made it seem more like a fight than a dance. The audience hung breathless. It ended with her dropping exhausted, a proper finale to this lowest and most brutal dance.

Panting, flushed, with an unnatural light in their eyes, they descended to the audience and, scorning the roar of applause to repeat the performance, sat at a little table.

I saw a couple of girls come over toward the man.

"Give us a deck, Coke," said one, in a harsh voice.

He nodded. A silver quarter gleamed momentarily from hand to hand, and he passed to one girl stealthily a small white-paper packet. Others came to him, both men and women. It seemed to be an established thing.

"Who is that?" asked Kennedy, in a low tone, of the pickpocket back of us.

"Coke Brodie," was the laconic reply.

"A cocaine fiend?"

"Yes, and a lobbygow for the grapevine system of selling the dope under this new law."

"Where does he get the supply to sell?" asked Kennedy, casually.

The pickpocket shrugged his shoulders.

"No one knows, I suppose," Kennedy commented to me. "But he gets it in spite of the added restrictions and peddles it in little packets, adulterated, and at a fabulous price for such cheap stuff. The habit is spreading like wildfire. It is a fertile means of recruiting the inmates in the vice-trust hotels. A veritable epidemic it is, too. Cocaine is one of the most harmful of all habit-forming drugs. It used to be a habit of the underworld, but now it is creeping up, and gradually and surely reaching the higher strata of society. One thing that causes its spread is the ease with which it can be taken. It requires no smoking-dens, no syringe, no paraphernalia--only the drug itself."

Another singer had taken the place of the dancers. Kennedy leaned over and whispered to the dip.

"Say, do you and your gun-moll want to pick up a piece of change to get that mouthpiece I heard you talking about?"

The pickpocket looked at Craig suspiciously.

"Oh, don't worry; I'm all right," laughed Craig. "You see that fellow, Coke Brodie? I want to get something on him. If you will frame that sucker to get away with a whole front, there's a fifty in it."

The dip looked, rather than spoke, his amazement. Apparently Kennedy satisfied his suspicions.

"I'm on," he said quickly. "When he goes, I'll follow him. You keep behind us, and we'll deliver the goods."

"What's it all about?" I whispered.

"Why," he answered, "I want to get Brodie, only I don't want to figure in the thing so that he will know me or suspect anything but a plain hold-up. They will get him; take everything he has. There must be something on that man that will help us."

Several performers had done their turns, and the supply of the drug seemed to have been exhausted. Brodie rose and, with a nod to Loraine, went out, unsteadily, now that the effect of the cocaine had worn off. One wondered how this shuffling person could ever have carried through the wild dance. It was not Brodie who danced. It was the drug.

The dip slipped out after him, followed by the woman. We rose and followed also. Across the city Brodie slouched his way, with an evident purpose, it seemed, of replenishing his supply and continuing his round of peddling the stuff.

He stopped under the brow of a thickly populated tenement row on the upper East Side, as though this was his destination. There he stood at the gate that led down to a cellar, looking up and down as if wondering whether he was observed. We had slunk into a doorway.

A woman coming down the street, swinging a chatelaine, walked close to him, spoke, and for a moment they talked.

"It's the gun-moll," remarked Kennedy. "She's getting Brodie off his guard. This must be the root of that grapevine system, as they call it."

Suddenly from the shadow of the next house a stealthy figure sprang out on Brodie. It was our dip, a dip no longer but a regular stick-up man, with a gun jammed into the face of his victim and a broad hand over his mouth. Skilfully the woman went through Brodie's pockets, her nimble fingers missing not a thing.

"Now--beat it," we heard the dip whisper hoarsely, "and if you raise a holler, we'll get you right, next time."

Brodie fled as fast as his weakened nerves would permit his shaky limbs to move. As he disappeared, the dip sent something dark hurtling over the roof of the house across the street and hurried toward us.

"What was that?" I asked.

"I think it was the pistol on the end of a stout cord. That is a favourite trick of the gunmen after a job. It destroys at least a part of the evidence. You can't throw a gun very far alone, you know. But with it at the end of a string you can lift it up over the roof of a tenement. If Brodie squeals to a copper and these people are caught, they can't hold them under the pistol law, anyhow."

The dip had caught sight of us, with his ferret eyes in the doorway. Quickly Kennedy passed over the money in return for the motley array of objects taken from Brodie. The dip and his gun- moll disappeared into the darkness as quickly as they had emerged.

There was a curious assortment--the paraphernalia of a drug fiend, old letters, a key, and several other useless articles. The pickpocket had retained the money from the sale of the dope as his own particular honorarium.

"Brodie has led us up to the source of his supply," remarked Kennedy, thoughtfully regarding the stuff. "And the dip has given us the key to it. Are you game to go in?"

A glance up and down the street showed it still deserted. We wormed our way in the shadow to the cellar before which Brodie had stood. The outside door was open. We entered, and Craig stealthily struck a match, shading it in his hands.

At one end we were confronted by a little door of mystery, barred with iron and held by an innocent enough looking padlock. It was this lock, evidently, to which the key fitted, opening the way into the subterranean vault of brick and stone.

Kennedy opened it and pushed back the door. There was a little square compartment, dark as pitch and delightfully cool and damp. He lighted a match, then hastily blew it out and switched on an electric bulb which it disclosed.

"Can't afford risks like that here," he exclaimed, carefully disposing of the match, as our eyes became accustomed to the light.

On every side were pieces of gas-pipe, boxes, and paper, and on shelves were jars of various materials. There was a work-table littered with tools, pieces of wire, boxes, and scraps of metal.

"My word!" exclaimed Kennedy, as he surveyed the curious scene before us, "this is a regular bomb factory--one of the most amazing exhibits that the history of crime has ever produced."

XVIII

THE "COKE" FIEND

I followed him in awe as he made a hasty inventory of what we had discovered. There were as many as a dozen finished and partly finished infernal machines of various sizes and kinds, some of tremendous destructive capacity. Kennedy did not even attempt to study them. All about were high explosives, chemicals, dynamite.


The Dream Doctor - 40/59

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