Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 20 "PLEASE KILL"

  • EARLY Tuesday morning, while Mr. Minot still slept and mercifully forgot, tw_ery wide awake gentlemen sat alone together in the office of the  _San Marc_ail._  One was Manuel Gonzale, proprietor of that paper, as immaculate as th_orn; the other was that broad and breezy gentleman known in his presen_ncarnation as Mr. Martin Wall.
  • "Very neat. Very neat indeed," said Mr. Wall, gazing with evident approval a_n inky smelling sheet that lay before him. "It ought to do the work. If i_oes, it will be the first stroke of luck I've had in San Marco."
  • Gonzale smiled, revealing two even rows of very white teeth.
  • "You do not like San Marco?" he ventured.
  • Mr. Wall snorted angrily.
  • "Like it? Does a beheaded man like the ax? In a long and golden professiona_areer, I've never struck anything like this town before for hard luck. I'_ot in it twenty-four hours when I'm left alone, my hands tied, with stuf_nough to make your eyes pop out of your head. That's pleasant! Then, afte_pending two months and a lot of money trailing Lord Harrowby for the famil_ools, I finally cop them. I give the crew of my borrowed boat orders to stea_ar, far away, and run to my cabin to gloat. Do I gloat? Ask me. I do no_loat. I find the famous Chain Lightning's Collar is a very superio_ollection of glass, worth about twenty-three cents. I send back the glass, and stick around, hoping for better days. And the best I get is a calL fro_he owner of my yacht, with orders to vacate at once. When I first came here _wore I'd visit that jewelry store again—alone. But—there's a jinx after me i_his town. What's the use? I'm going to get out."
  • "But before you go," smiled Manuel, "one stroke of luck you shall have."
  • "Maybe. I leave that to you. This kind of thing"—he motioned toward the dam_aper—"is not in my line." He bent over a picture on the front page. "That cu_ame out pretty well, didn't it? Lucky we got the photograph before bi_rother George arrived."
  • "I have always found San Marco lucky," replied Gonzale. "Always—with on_rifling exception." He drummed reminiscently on his desk.
  • "I say—who's this?" Mr. Wall pointed to a line just beneath the name of th_aper. "Robert O'Neill, Editor and Proprietor," he read.
  • Manuel Gonzale gurgled softly somewhere within, which was his cunning, non- committal way of indicating mirth.
  • "Ah—my very virtuous managing editor," he said. "One of those dogs who deal_o vilely with me—I have told you of that. Manuel Gonzale does not forget." H_eaned closer. "This morning at two, after O'Neill and Howe had sent to-day'_aper to press as usual, Luypas, my circulation manager, and I arrived. M_irtuous editors had departed to their rest. Luypas and I stopped the presses, we substituted a new firstpage form. O'Neill and Howe—they will not know.
  • Always they sleep until noon. In this balmly climate, it is easy to lie abed."
  • Again Manuel Gonzale gurgled.
  • "May their sleep be dreamless," he said. "And should our work of the mornin_ail, may the name of O'Neill be the first to concern the police."
  • Wall laughed.
  • "A good idea," he remarked. He looked at his watch. "Nine-fifteen. The bank_ught to be open now."
  • Gonzale got to his feet. Carefully he folded the page that had been lying o_is desk.
  • "The moment for action has come," he said. "Shall we go down to the street?"
  • "I'm in strange waters," responded Martin Wall uneasily. "The first dip I'v_ver taken out of my line. Don't believe in it either—a man should have hi_pecialty and stick to it. However, I need the money. Am I letter perfect i_y part, I wonder?"
  • The door of the  _Mail_  office opened, and a sly little Cuban with an evi_ace stepped in.
  • "Ah, Luypas," Gonzale said, "you are here at last? Do you understand? You_oys they are to be in the next room—yes? You are to sit near that telephone.
  • At a word from my friend, Mr. Martin Wall, to-day's edition of the  _Mail_  i_o flood the streets—the news-stands. Instantly. Delay might be fatal. Is tha_lear?"
  • "I know," said Luypas.
  • "Very good," said Gonzale. He turned to Martin Wall. "Now is the time," h_dded.
  • The two descended to the street. Opposite the Hotel de la Pax they parted. Th_leek little Spaniard went on alone and mounted boldy those pretentious steps.
  • At the desk he informed the clerk on duty that he must see Mr. Spencer Meyric_t once.
  • "But Mr. Meyrick is very busy to-day," the clerk objected.
  • "Say this is—life and death," replied Gonzale, and the clerk, wilting, telephoned the millionaire's apartments.
  • For nearly an hour Gonzale was kept waiting. Nervously he paced the lobby, consuming one cigarette after another, glancing often at his watch. Finall_pencer Meyrick appeared, pompous, red-faced, a hard man to handle, as h_lways had been. The Spaniard noted this, and his slits of eyes grew eve_arrower.
  • "Will you come with me?" he asked suavely. "It is most important."
  • He led the way to a summer-house in a far forgotten corner of the hote_rounds. Protesting, Spencer Meyrick followed. The two sat down.
  • "I have something to show you," said Gonzale politely, and removed from hi_ocket a copy of the  _San Marco Mail,_  still damp from the presses.
  • Spencer Meyrick took the paper in his own large capable hands. He glance_asually at the first page, and his face grew somewhat redder than its wont. _uge head-line was responsible:
  • HARROWBY WASN'T TAKING ANY CHANCES.
  • Underneath, in slightly smaller type, Spencer Meyrick read:
  • Remarkable Fores1ght Of Engl1sh Fortune
  • Hunter Who Weds M1ss Meyr1ck To-day
  • Took Out A Pol1cy For Seventy-f1ve
  • Thousand Pounds W1th Lloyds.
  • Same To Be Payable 1n Case The
  • Beaut1ful He1ress Suffered A
  • Change Of Heart
  • Prominent on the page was a large photograph, which purported to be "An Exac_acsimile of the Policy." Mr. Meyrick examined it. He glanced through th_tory, which happened to be commendably brief. He told himself he must remai_alm, avoid fireworks, think quickly. Laying the paper on his knee, he turne_o the little white-garbed man beside him.
  • "What trick is this?" he asked sharply.
  • "It is no trick, sir," said Gonzale pleasantly. "It is the truth. That is _hotograph of the policy."
  • Old Meyrick studied the cut again.
  • "I'll be damned," he remarked.
  • "I have no desire to annoy," Gonzale went on. "But—there are five thousan_opies of to-day's  _Mail_  at the office ready to be distributed at a signa_rom me. Think, sir! Newsboys on the street with that story at the very momen_hen your daughter becomes Lady Harrowby."
  • "I see," said Meyrick slowly. "Blackmail."
  • Manuel Gonzale shuddered in horror.
  • "Oh, I beg of you," he protested. "That is hardly it. A business proposition, I should call it. It happens that the men back of the Star Publishing Company, which issues the  _Mail,_  have grown tired of the newspaper game in Sa_arco. They are desirous of closing out the plant at once—say this morning. I_ccurs to them that you might be very glad to purchase the  _Mail_ —before th_ext edition goes on the street."
  • "You're a clever little dog," said Meyrick, through his teeth.
  • "You are not exactly complimentary. However—let us say for the argument—yo_uy the  _Mail_  at once. I am, by the way, empowered to make the sale. Yo_ake charge. You hurry to the office. You destroy all copies of to-day's issu_o far printed. You give orders to the composing-room to kill this first-pag_tory—good as it is. 'Please kill,' you say. A term with newspaper men."
  • "You call yourself a newspaper man?"
  • "Why not? The story is killed. Another is put in its place—say, for example, an elaborate account of your daughter's wedding. And in its changed form th_Mail_ —your newspaper—goes on the street.''
  • "Urn—and your price?"
  • "It is a valuable property."
  • "Especially valuable this morning, I take it," sneered Meyrick.
  • "Valuable at any time. Our presses cost a thousand. Our linotypes tw_housand. And there is that other thing—so hard to estimate definitely—th_ide appeal of our paper. The price—well—fifteen thousand dollars. Extremel_easonable. And I will include—the good will of the retiring management."
  • "You contemptible little—" began Spencer Meyrick.
  • "My dear sir—control yourself," pleaded Gonzale. "Or I may be unable t_nclude the good
  • 1 will I spoke of. Would you care to see that story on the streets? You may a_ny moment. There is but one way out. Buy the newspaper. Buy it now. Here i_he plan—you go with me to your bank. You procure fifteen thousand in cash. W_o together to the  _Mail_  office. You pay me the money and I leave you i_harge."
  • Old Meyrick leaped to his feet.
  • "Very good," he cried. "Come on."
  • "One thing more," continued the crafty Gonzale. "It may pay you to note—we ar_atched. Even now. All the way to the bank and thence to the office of th_Mail_ —we will be watched. Should any accident, now unforeseen, happen to me, that issue of the  _Mail_  will go on sale in five minutes all over Sa_arco."
  • Spencer Meyrick stood glaring down at the little man in white. His enthusias_f a moment ago for the journey vanished. However, the head-lines of th_Mail_  were staring up at him from the bench. He stooped, pocketed the paper, and growled:
  • "I understand. Come on!"
  • There must be some escape. The trap seemed absurdly simple. Across the hote_awn, down the hot avenue, in the less hot plaza, Meyrick sought a way. A'
  • naturally impulsive man, he had difficulty restraining himself. But he though_f his daughter, whose happiness was more than money in his eyes.
  • No way offered. At the counter of the tiny bank Meyrick stood writing hi_heck, Gonzale at his elbow. Suddenly behind them the screen door slammed, an_ wild-eyed man with flaming red hair rushed in.
  • "What is it you want?" Gonzale screamed.
  • "Out of my way, Don Quixote," cried the redtopped one. "I'm a windmill and m_rms breathe death. Are you Mr. Meyrick? Well, tear up that check!"
  • "Gladly," said Meyrick. "Only—"
  • "Notice the catbirds down here?" went on the wild one. "Noisy little beasts, aren't they? Well, after this take off your hat to 'em. A catbird saved you _ot of money this morning."
  • "I'm afraid I don't follow—" said the dazed Spencer Meyrick.
  • "No? I'll explain. I have been working on this man's paper for the last week.
  • So has a very good friend of mine. We knew he was crooked, but we needed th_oney and he promised us not to pull off any more blackmail while we stayed.
  • Last night, after we left the office, he arranged this latest Planned t_ncriminate me. You little devil—"
  • Manuel, frightened, leaped away.
  • "We usually sleep until noon," went on O'Neill. "He counted on that. Enter th_atbird. Sat on our window-sill at ten A. M. and screeched. Woke us up. W_elt uneasy. Went to the office, broke down a bolted door, and found what wa_p."
  • "Dog!" foamed Manuel. "Outcast of the gutter—"
  • "Save your compliments! Mr. Meyrick, my partner is now at the  _Mail_  offic_estroying today's issue of the  _Mail._  We've already ruined the first-pag_orm, the cut of the policy, and the negative. And we're going north as fas_s the Lord'U let us. You can do what you please. Arrest our little lemon- tinted employer, if you want to."
  • Spencer Meyrick stood, considering.
  • "However—I've done you a favor." O'Neill went on. "You can do me one. Le_anuel off—on one condition."
  • "Name it."
  • "That he hands me at once two hundred dollars—one hundred for myself, th_ther for my partner. It's legitimate salary money due us— we need it. A lon_alk to New York."
  • "I myself—" hegan Meyrick.
  • "Don't want your money," said O'Neill. "Want Gonzale's."
  • "Gonzale's you shall have," agreed Meyrick. "You—pay him!"
  • "Never!" cried the Spaniard.
  • "Then it's the police—" hinted O'Neill.
  • Gonzale took two yellow bills from a wallet. He tossed them at O'Neill.
  • "There, you cur—"
  • "Careful," cried O'Neill. "Or I'll punch you yet—"
  • He started forward, but Gonzale hastily withdrew. O'Neill and the millionair_ollowed to the street.
  • "Just as well," commented Meyrick. "I should not have cared to cause hi_rrest—it would have meant country-wide publicity." He laid a hand on the ar_f the newspaper man. "I take it," he said, "that your fortunes are not at th_ighest ebb. You have done me a very great service. I propose to write tw_hecks— one for you, one for your partner—and you may name the amounts."
  • But the red-haired one shook his head.
  • "No," he replied. "Nix on the anticlimax to virtue on a rampage. We can't b_aid for it. It would sort of dim the glory. We've got the railroad fare a_ast—and we're going away from here. Yes—away from here. On th_hoochoo—riding far—riding north."
  • "Well, my boy," answered Spencer Meyrick, "if I can ever do anything for yo_n New York, come and see me."
  • "You may have to make good on that," laughed O'Neill, and they parted.
  • O'Neill hastened to the  _Mail_  office. He waved yellow bills before th_anky Howe.
  • "In the nick of time," he cried. "Me, the fair-haired hero. And here's th_are, Harry— the good old railroad fare."
  • "Heaven be praised," said Howe. "I've finished the job, Bob. Not a trace o_his morning's issue left.- The fare! North in parlor cars! My tobacco hear_ings. Can't you hear the elevated—"
  • "Music, Harry, music."
  • "And the newsboys on Park Row—"
  • "Caruso can't touch them. Where can we find a time-table, I wonder?"
  • Meanwhile, in a corner of the plaza, Manuel Gonzale spoke sad words in the ea_f Martin Wall.
  • "It's the jinx," moaned Wall with conviction. "The star player in everything _o down here. I'm going to burn the sand hot-footing it away. But whither, Manuel, whither?"
  • "In Porto Rico," replied Gonzale, "I have not yet plied my trade. I go there."
  • "Palm Beach," sighed Wall, "has diamonds that can be observed to sparkle a_ar away as the New York society columns. But alas, I lack the wherewithal t_upport me in the style to which my victims are accustomed."
  • "Try Porto Rico," suggested Gonzale. "The air is mild—so are the police. _ill stake you."
  • "Thanks. Porto Rico it is. How the devil do we get there?"
  • Up the main avenue of San Marco Spencer Meyrick walked as a man going t_venge. With every determined step his face grew redder, his eye mor_angerous. He looked at his watch. Eleven.
  • The eleventh hour! But much might happen between the eleventh hour and hig_oon!