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Chapter 4 HEAD SOUTH AND KEEP GOING

  • At a lunch wagon down near the water front, Bud stopped and bought two "ho_og" sandwiches and a mug of hot coffee boiled with milk in it and sweetene_ith three cubes of sugar. "O-oh, boy!" he ejaculated gleefully when he se_is teeth into biscuit and hot hamburger. Leaning back luxuriously in the bi_ar, he ate and drank until he could eat and drink no more. Then, with a ba_f bananas on the seat beside him, he drove on down to the mole, searchin_hrough the drizzle for the big gum sign which Foster had named. Just eve_ith the coughing engine of a waiting through train he saw it, and backed i_gainst the curb, pointing the car's radiator toward the mainland. He ha_till half an hour to wait, and he buttoned on the curtains of the car, sinc_ wind from across the bay was sending the drizzle slantwise; moreover i_ccurred to him that Foster would not object to the concealment while the_ere passing through Oakland. Then he listlessly ate a banana while he waited.
  • The hoarse siren of a ferryboat bellowed through the murk. Bud started th_ngine, throttled it down to his liking, and left it to warm up for th_light. He ate another banana, thinking lazily that he wished he owned thi_ar. For the first time in many a day his mind was not filled and boiling ove_ith his trouble. Marie and all the bitterness she had come to mean to hi_eceded into the misty background of his mind and hovered there, an indistinc_emory of something painful in his life.
  • A street car slipped past, bobbing down the track like a duck sailing ove_ipples. A local train clanged down to the depot and stood jangling its bel_hile it disgorged passengers for the last boat to the City whose wall o_tars was hidden behind the drizzle and the clinging fog. People cam_traggling down the sidewalk—not many, for few had business with the front en_f the waiting trains. Bud pushed the throttle up a little. His finger_ropped down to the gear lever, his foot snuggled against the clutch pedal.
  • Feet came hurrying. Two voices mumbled together. "Here he is," said one.
  • "That's the number I gave him." Bud felt some one step hurriedly upon th_unning board. The tonneau door was yanked open. A man puffed audibly behin_im. "Yuh ready?" Foster's voice hissed in Bud's ear.
  • "R'aring to go." Bud heard the second man get in and shut the door, and h_erked the gear lever into low. His foot came gently back with the clutch, an_he car slid out and away.
  • Foster settled back on the cushions with a sigh. The other man was fumblin_he side curtains, swearing under his breath when his fingers bungled th_astenings.
  • "Everything all ready?" Foster's voice was strident with anxiety.
  • "Sure thing."
  • "Well, head south—any road you know best. And keep going, till I tell you t_top. How's the oil and gas?"
  • "Full up. Gas enough for three hundred miles. Extra gallon of oil in the car.
  • What d'yah want—the speed limit through town?"
  • "Nah. Side streets, if you know any. They might get quick action and telephon_head."
  • "Leave it to me, brother."
  • Bud did not know for sure, never having been pursued; but it seemed to hi_hat a straightaway course down a main street where other cars were scuddin_omeward would be the safest route, because the simplest. He did not want an_ide streets in his, he decided—and maybe run into a mess of street- improvement litter, and have to back trail around it. He held the car to _urry-home pace that was well within the law, and worked into the direct rout_o Hayward. He sensed that either Foster or his friend turned frequently t_ook back through the square celluloid window, but he did not pay muc_ttention to them, for the streets were greasy with wet, and not all driver_ould equip with four skid chains. Keeping sharp lookout for skidding cars an_nexpected pedestrians and street-car crossings and the like fully occupie_ud.
  • For all that, an occasional mutter came unheeded to his ears, the close_urtains preserving articulate sounds like room walls.
  • "He's all right," he heard Foster whisper once. "Better than if he was in o_t." He did not know that Foster was speaking of him.
  • "—if he gets next," the friend mumbled.
  • "Ah, quit your worrying," Foster grunted. "The trick's turned; that'_omething."
  • Bud was under the impression that they were talking about father-in-law, wh_ad called Foster a careless hound; but whether they were or not concerned hi_o little that his own thoughts never flagged in their shuttle-weaving throug_is mind. The mechanics of handling the big car and getting the best speed ou_f her with the least effort and risk, the tearing away of the last link o_is past happiness and his grief; the feeling that this night was the rea_arting between him and Marie, the real stepping out into the future; th_uture itself, blank beyond the end of this trip, these were quite enough t_old Bud oblivious to the conversation of strangers.
  • At dawn they neared a little village. Through this particular county the roa_as unpaved and muddy, and the car was a sight to behold. The only clean spo_as on the windshield, where Bud had reached around once or twice with _andful of waste and cleaned a place to see through. It was raining soddenly, steadily, as though it always had rained and always would rain.
  • Bud turned his face slightly to one side. "How about stopping; I'll have t_eed her some oil—and it wouldn't hurt to fill the gas tank again. These heav_oads eat up a lot of extra power. What's her average mileage on a gallon, Foster?"
  • "How the deuce should I know?" Foster snapped, just coming out of a doze.
  • "You ought to know, with your own car—and gas costing what it does."
  • "Oh!—ah—what was it you asked?" Foster yawned aloud. "I musta been asleep."
  • "I guess you musta been, all right," Bud grunted. "Do you want breakfast here, or don't you? I've got to stop for gas and oil; that's what I was asking?"
  • The two consulted together, and finally told Bud to stop at the first garag_nd get his oil and gas. After that he could drive to a drug store and buy _ouple of thermos bottles, and after that he could go to the neares_estaurant and get the bottles filled with black coffee, and have lunch put u_or six people. Foster and his friend would remain in the car.
  • Bud did these things, revising the plan to the extent of eating his ow_reakfast at the counter in the restaurant while the lunch was being prepare_n the kitchen.
  • From where he sat he could look across at the muddy car standing before _losed millinery-and-drygoods store. It surely did not look much like th_mmaculate machine he had gloated over the evening before, but it was _owerful, big brute of a car and looked its class in every line. Bud was prou_o drive a car like that. The curtains were buttoned down tight, and h_hought amusedly of the two men huddled inside, shivering and hungry, ye_efusing to come in and get warmed up with a decent breakfast. Foster, h_hought, must certainly be scared of his wife, if he daren't show himself i_his little rube town. For the first time Bud had a vagrant suspicion tha_oster had not told quite all there was to tell about this trip. Bud wondere_ow if Foster was not going to meet a "Jane" somewhere in the South. Tha_errifying Mann Act would account for his caution much better than would th_usiness deal of which Foster had hinted.
  • Of course, Bud told himself while the waiter refilled his coffee cup, it wa_one of his business what Foster had up his sleeve. He wanted to get somewher_uickly and quietly, and Bud was getting him there. That was all he need t_onsider. Warmed and once more filled with a sense of well-being, Bud mad_imself a cigarette before the lunch was ready, and with his arms full of foo_e went out and across the street. Just before he reached the car one of th_hermos bottles started to slide down under his elbow. Bud attempted to gri_t against his ribs, but the thing had developed a slipperiness tha_hreatened the whole load, so he stopped to rearrange his packages, and got a_rritated sentence or two from his passengers.
  • "Giving yourself away like that! Why couldn't you fake up a mileage? Everybod_ies or guesses about the gas—"
  • "Aw, what's the difference? The simp ain't next to anything. He thinks I ow_t."
  • "Well, don't make the mistake of thinking he's a sheep. Once he —"
  • Bud suddenly remembered that he wanted something more from the restaurant, an_eturned forth-with, slipping thermos bottle and all. He bought two package_f chewing gum to while away the time when he could not handily smoke, an_hen he returned to the car he went muttering disapproving remarks about th_ain and the mud and the bottles. He poked his head under the front curtai_nd into a glum silence. The two men leaned back into the two corners of th_ide seat, with their heads drawn down into their coat collars and their hand_hrust under the robe. Foster reached forward and took a thermos bottle, hi_artner seized another.
  • "Say, you might get us a bottle of good whisky, too," said Foster, holding ou_ small gold piece between his gloved thumb and finger. "Be quick about i_hough—we want to be traveling. Lord, it's cold! "
  • Bud went into a saloon a few doors up the street, and was back presently wit_he bottle and the change. There being nothing more to detain them there, h_icked some of the mud off his feet, scraped off the rest on the edge of th_unning board and climbed in, fastening the curtain against the storm. "Lovel_eather," he grunted sarcastically. "Straight on to Bakersfield, huh?"
  • There was a minute of silence save for the gurgling of liquid running out of _ottle into an eager mouth. Bud laid an arm along the back of his seat an_aited, his head turned toward them. "Where are you fellows going, anyway?" h_sked impatiently.
  • "Los An—" the stranger gurgled, still drinking.
  • "Yuma!" snapped Foster. "You shut up, Mert. I'm running this."
  • "Better—"
  • "Yuma. You hit the shortest trail for Yuma, Bud. I'm running this."
  • Foster seemed distinctly out of humor. He told Mert again to shut up, and Mer_id so grumblingly, but somewhat diverted and consoled, Bud fancied, by th_andwiches and coffee—and the whisky too, he guessed. For presently there wa_n odor from the uncorked bottle in the car.
  • Bud started and drove steadily on through the rain that never ceased. The bi_ar warmed his heart with its perfect performance, its smooth, effortles_peed, its ease of handling. He had driven too long and too constantly to tir_asily, and he was almost tempted to settle down to sheer enjoyment in drivin_uch a car. Last night he had enjoyed it, but last night was not to-day.
  • He wished he had not overheard so much, or else had overheard more. He wa_nclined to regret his retreat from the acrimonious voices as being premature.
  • Just why was he a simp, for instance? Was it because he thought Foster owne_he car? Bud wondered whether father-in-law had not bought it, after all. No_hat he began thinking from a different angle, he remembered that father- in- law had behaved very much like the proud possessor of a new car. It really di_ot look plausible that he would come out in the drizzle to see if Foster'_ar was safely locked in for the night. There had been, too, a fuss_astidiousness in the way the robe had been folded and hung over the rail. N_an would do that for some other man's property, unless he was paid for it.
  • Wherefore, Bud finally concluded that Foster was not above helping himself t_amily property. On the whole, Bud did not greatly disapprove of that; he wa_oo actively resentful of his own mother-in-law. He was not sure but he migh_ave done something of the sort himself, if his mother-in-law had possessed _ix-thousand-dollar car. Still, such a car generally means a good deal to th_wner, and he did not wonder that Foster was nervous about it.
  • But in the back of his mind there lurked a faint dissatisfaction with thi_asy explanation. It occurred to him that if there was going to be any troubl_bout the car, he might be involved beyond the point of comfort. After all, h_id not know Foster, and he had no more reason for believing Foster's stor_han he had for doubting. For all he knew, it might not be a wife that Foste_as so afraid of.
  • Bud was not stupid. He was merely concerned chiefly with his own affairs—_ommon enough failing, surely. But now that he had thought himself into _ental eddy where his own affairs offered no new impulse toward emotion, h_urned over and over in his mind the mysterious trip he was taking. It ha_ome to seem just a little too mysterious to suit him, and when Bud Moore wa_ot suited he was apt to do something about it.
  • What he did in this case was to stop in Bakersfield at a garage that had _ombination drugstore and news-stand next door. He explained shortly to hi_ompanions that he had to stop and buy a road map and that he wouldn't b_ong, and crawled out into the rain. At the open doorway of the garage h_urned and looked at the car. No, it certainly did not look in the least lik_he machine he had driven down to the Oakland mole—except, of course, that i_as big and of the same make. It might have been empty, too, for all the sig_t gave of being occupied. Foster and Mert evidently had no intention whateve_f showing themselves.
  • Bud went into the drugstore, remained there for five minutes perhaps, an_merged with a morning paper which he rolled up and put into his pocket. H_ad glanced through its feature news, and had read hastily one front-pag_rticle that had nothing whatever to do with the war, but told about th_aring robbery of a jewelry store in San Francisco the night before.
  • The safe, it seemed, had been opened almost in plain sight of the stree_rowds, with the lights full on in the store. A clever arrangement of tw_ovable mirrors had served to shield the thief —or thieves. For no longer tha_wo or three minutes, it seemed, the lights had been off, and it was though_hat the raiders had used the interval of darkness to move the mirrors int_osition. Which went far toward proving that the crime had been carefull_lanned in advance. Furthermore, the article stated with some assurance tha_rusted employees were involved.
  • Bud also had glanced at the news items of less importance, and had bee_tartled enough—yet not so much surprised as he would have been a few hour_arlier—to read, under the caption: DARING THIEF STEALS COSTLY CAR, to lear_hat a certain rich man of Oakland had lost his new automobile. The address o_he bereaved man had been given, and Bud's heart had given a flop when he rea_t. The details of the theft had not been told, but Bud never noticed thei_bsence. His memory supplied all that for him with sufficient vividness.
  • He rolled a cigarette, lighted it, and with the paper stuffed carelessly int_is pocket he went to the car, climbed in, and drove on to the south, just a_atter-of-factly as though he had not just then discovered that he, Bud Moore, had stolen a six- thousand-dollar automobile the night before.