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- The Efficiency Expert - 3/31 -
"Of course, the truth of the matter is that there are probably tens of thousands of such positions, but to be conservative I will assume that there are only one thousand, and reducing it still further to almost an absurdity, I will figure that only ten per cent of those reply to my advertisement. In other words, at the lowest possible estimate I should have one hundred replies on the first day. I knew it was foolish to run it for three days, but the fellow insisted that that was the proper way to do, as I got a lower rate.
"By taking it for three days, however, it doesn't seem right to make so many busy men waste their time answering the ad when I shall doubtless find a satisfactory position the first day."
That night Jimmy attended a show, and treated himself to a lonely dinner afterward. He should have liked very much to have looked up some of his friends. A telephone call would have brought invitations to dinner and a pleasant evening with convivial companions, but he had mapped his course and he was determined to stick to it to the end.
"There will be plenty of time," he thought, "for amusement after I have gotten a good grasp of my new duties." Jimmy elected to walk from the theater to his hotel, and as he was turning the corner from Randolph into La Salle a young man jostled him. An instant later the stranger was upon his knees, his wrist doubled suddenly backward and very close to the breaking-point.
"Wot t' hell yuh doin'?" he screamed.
"Pardon me," replied Jimmy: "you got your hand in the wrong pocket. I suppose you meant to put it in your own, but you didn't."
"Aw, g'wan; lemme go," pleaded the stranger. "I didn't get nuthin'-- you ain't got the goods on me."
Now, such a tableau as Jimmy and his new acquaintance formed cannot be staged at the corner of Randolph and La Salle beneath an arc light, even at midnight, without attracting attention. And so it was that before Jimmy realized it a dozen curious pedestrians were approaching them from different directions, and a burly blue-coated figure was shouldering his way forward.
Jimmy had permitted his captive to rise, but he still held tightly to his wrist as the officer confronted them. He took one look at Jimmy's companion, and then grabbed him roughly by the arm. "So, it's you again, is it?" he growled.
"I ain't done nuthin'," muttered the man.
The officer looked inquiringly at Jimmy.
"What's all the excitement about?" asked the latter. "My friend and I have done nothing."
"Your fri'nd and you?" replied the policeman. "He ain't no fri'nd o' yours, or yez wouldn't be sayin' so."
"Well, I'll admit," replied Jimmy, "that possibly I haven't known him long enough to presume to claim any close friendship, but there's no telling what time may develop."
"You don't want him pinched?" asked the policeman.
"Of course not," replied Jimmy. "Why should he be pinched?"
The officer turned roughly upon the stranger, shook him viciously a few times, and then gave him a mighty shove which all but sent him sprawling into the gutter.
"G'wan wid yez," he yelled after him, "and if I see ye on this beat again I'll run yez in. An' you"--he turned upon Jimmy--"ye'd betther be on your way--and not be afther makin' up with ivery dip ye meet."
"Thanks," said Jimmy. "Have a cigar."
After the officer had helped himself and condescended to relax his stern features into the semblance of a smile the young man bid him good night and resumed his way toward the hotel.
"Pretty early to go to bed," he thought as he reached for his watch to note the time, running his fingers into an empty pocket. Gingerly he felt in another pocket, where he knew his watch couldn't possibly be, nor was. Carefully Jimmy examined each pocket of his coat and trousers, a slow and broad grin illumining his face.
"What do you know about that?" he mused. "And I thought I was a wise guy."
A few minutes after Jimmy reached his room the office called him on the telephone to tell him that a man had called to see him.
"Send him up," said Jimmy, wondering who it might be, since he was sure that no one knew of his presence in the city. He tried to connect the call in some way with his advertisement, but inasmuch as that had been inserted blind he felt that there could be no possible connection between that and his caller.
A few minutes later there was a knock on his door, and in response to his summons to enter the door opened, and there stood before him the young man of his recent encounter upon the street. The latter entered softly, closing the door behind him. His feet made no sound upon the carpet, and no sound came from the door as he closed it, nor any slightest click from the latch. His utter silence and the stealth of his movements were so pronounced as to attract immediate attention. He did not speak until he had reached the center of the room and halted on the opposite side of the table at which Jimmy was standing; and then a very slow smile moved his lips, though the expression of his eyes remained unchanged.
"Miss anything?" he asked.
"Yes," said Jimmy.
"Here it is," said the visitor, laying the other's watch upon the table.
"Why this spasm of virtue?" asked Jimmy.
"Oh, I don't know," replied the other. "I guess it's because you're a white guy. O'Donnell has been trying to get something on me for the last year. He's got it in for me--I wouldn't cough every time the big stiff seen me."
"Sit down," said Jimmy.
"Naw," said the other; "I gotta be goin'."
"Come," insisted the host; "sit down for a few minutes at least. I was just wishing that I had someone to talk to."
The other sank noiselessly into a chair. "All right, bo," he said.
Jimmy proffered him his cigar-case.
"No, thanks," declined the visitor. "I'd rather have a coffin-nail," which Jimmy forthwith furnished.
"I should think," said Jimmy, "that your particular line of endeavor would prove rather hazardous in a place where you are known by the police."
The other smiled and, as before, with his lips alone.
"Naw," he said; "this is the safest place to work. If ten per cent of the bulls know me I got that much on them, and then some, because any boob can spot any one o' de harness bunch, and I know nearly every fly on the department. They're the guys yuh gotta know, and usually I know something besides their names, too," and again his lips smiled.
"How much of your time do you have to put in at your occupation to make a living?" asked Jimmy.
"Sometimes I put in six or eight hours a day," replied the visitor. "De rush hours on de surface line are usually good for two or t'ree hours a day, but I been layin' off dat stuff lately and goin' in fer de t'ater crowd. Dere's more money and shorter hours."
"You confine yourself," asked Jimmy, "to--er--ah--pocket-picking solely?"
Again the lip smile. "I'll tell youse sumpin', bo, dat dey don't none o' dem big stiffs on de department know. De dip game is a stall. I learned it when I was a kid, an' dese yaps t'ink dat's all I know, and I keep dem t'inkin' it by pullin' stuff under der noses often enough to give 'em de hunch dat I'm still at de same ol' business." He leaned confidentially across the table. "If you ever want a box cracked, look up the Lizard."
"Meaning?" asked Jimmy.
"Me, bo, I'm the Lizard."
"Box cracked?" repeated Jimmy. "An ice-box or a hot box?"
His visitor grinned. "Safe," he explained.
"Oh," said Jimmy, "if I ever want any one to break into a safe, come to you, huh?"
"You get me," replied the other.
"All right," said Jimmy, laughing, "I'll call on you. That the only name you got, Mr. Lizard?"
"That's all--just the Lizard. Now I gotta he beatin' it."
"Goin' to crack a box?" asked Jimmy.
The other smiled his lip smile and turned toward the door.
"Wait a second," said Jimmy. "What would you have gotten on this watch of mine?"
"It would have stood me about twenty bucks."
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