Right Tackle Todd
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Jim blinked and shook his head. “No, Clem. Why?”
“Well, just look at it, will you?” The drawer held underwear, stockings, a blue flannel shirt, a candy box with a piece of red Christmas ribbon trailing from it, a pair of discarded garters; possibly other things as well, but Jim’s attention was held by the number of undergarments in sight and the general disorder of the drawer’s contents. He looked inquiringly at Clem.
“Nice mess, eh?” asked Clem indignantly. “Some one’s been poking around in here. Look at that box. It was tied with that ribbon. Someone opened it and didn’t do it up again.”
“Well, I guess I’m the only one who could have done it if you didn’t,” said Jim slowly, “and I’ve never been near anything of yours, Clem. So it looks – ”
“Of course you didn’t do it,” answered Clem. “I needn’t have asked you, only I was so – so blamed mad – ”
“You’re sure you didn’t leave the box untied?”
“Me? Why, there’s nothing in the box but a lot of old gimcracks” – he removed the lid impatiently for Jim’s benefit – “and I haven’t had it open since I put it in there. Besides, hang it all, Jim, you know I wouldn’t leave this drawer looking like that!”
Jim wasn’t convinced of it, but he nodded agreement. “Who do you suppose – ” he began. Then he asked quickly; “Anything missing?”
“Missing? Why, no, I guess not. Gosh, there’s nothing here any one would want!” He had begun putting the things in order again, folding the garments and piling them neatly back in place. He really seemed more disturbed by the disorder of things than by the fact that some person had intruded. “We’ll just have to lock the door when we go out, Jim. I’ve been here three years and this is the first time I’ve had anything of mine troubled.”
“Suppose some one did it for a joke?” asked Jim.
“Mighty poor joke,” Clem grumbled. “Any one could come in here that wanted to when we’re both out, but I don’t see why they’d want to muss my drawer all up.”
“When did you look in here last, Clem?”
“This morning. I got a pair of socks out. It was all right then.” Something rattled under his hand as he spoke, and he picked up a steel key-ring with five keys attached. “If folks are going to get fresh this way,” he muttered, “I’d better put these somewhere – ” He stopped, stared for an instant at the keys and then swung around and strode to the closet. From the shelf he lowered the black suit-case. In a moment he had unlocked it and thrown the lid back. Jim, watching over his shoulder, spoke relievedly.
“It’s there,” he said.
But Clem had the folded envelope in his hand, and it was empty! He looked blankly over his shoulder. “Well, what do you know!” he ejaculated. Jim shook his head.
“Sure it was there, Clem?”
“Great Scott, you saw me put it there, didn’t you? Night before last, or night – Gosh, that makes me sore!”
“How much was in the envelope?” asked Jim.
“Twenty-seven – no, twenty-two dollars.I lent you five. That left a two-dollar bill and four five-dollar gold-pieces. Oh, I don’t care such an awful lot about the money, but it’s rotten to know that there’s a thief in the dormitory! Why, it may be – ”
“It might have been some one from one of the other halls,” said Jim. “Or maybe a sneak-thief from outside.”
“Oh, it might be any one!” Clem slammed the bag shut and tossed it back to the shelf. “He was after those keys, whoever he was, and that’s the reason he messed everything up so. But how did he know where they were, eh? The other drawers are just as I left them. How about yours? Better have a look.”
“I don’t think they’ve been touched,” Jim reported. “Guess whoever was in here came while we were both out this afternoon. How long were you gone?”
“I haven’t been here since about half-past two, until just now. I was over at Upton for an hour or more. Then Carl Stevens and I went downtown. What time’s it now? Twenty past five? Well, that’s nearly three hours. When were you up last?”
“Just before practice. About five to three, I guess.”
Clem, hands in pockets, stared at the floor and then flung himself into a chair. “Well, I’m going to report it. Something will have to be done if a fellow can’t leave his room door unlocked. I don’t care a hang about the money, Jim, but I’d certainly like to catch the sneak that got it!”
Jim, still standing, nodded. “Come to think of it, Clem, it wouldn’t be hard for a fellow to walk in the Meadow street gate and go through a dozen rooms if he found ’em empty. All he’d have to do would be pretend that he was looking for some fellow and didn’t know where he lived, sort of.”
“The way you looked for Dolf Chapin last year,” said Clem, managing a brief smile. “Still, he’d have to get past Mr. Tarbot, and his door is nearly always open and looks right into the corridor down there.”
“Yes, but I guess he isn’t always in,” said Jim. “And even if he saw some one he mightn’t know he wasn’t one of the fellows from another hall. Gosh, I guess he can’t know more than four hundred fellows by sight!”
“No, but there’s never been any stealing like that since I’ve been here,” objected Clem. “Folks don’t come on the campus unless they’ve got business; fellows from the presser’s or the laundry or – and even they aren’t supposed to come upstairs.”
“They do it, though.”
“Yes, I know, but – Now think a minute, Jim. It must have taken a good five minutes to find the keys in that drawer – and you can see by the way things were left that he must have had to hunt for them – and get the suit-case down and unlock it and lock it and put the keys back and everything. An outsider wouldn’t dare take the risk, Jim. How’d he know that one of us wouldn’t walk in on him?”
“Yes, it would be risky,” Jim owned somewhat unwillingly.
“It sure would! No, sir, the guy that pulled this trick knew that we were both out. I dare say he watched us go. Then he had all the time in the world.”
“Yes, but if he had so much time why did he pull things around so in the drawer? Or why didn’t he fix them back the way he found them? He might have known that you’d notice and get suspicious and miss the money.”
“Probably didn’t think about that. Oh, well, I’ve got to go down and see Old Tarbox. Come along and give your evidence, old son. He will ask a lot of questions, I suppose.”
“Maybe you could make it clearer if you went alone.”
“Well, he’d want to question you anyway, sooner or later. Come on.”
So Jim went. Mr. Tarbot, whose suite of study, bedroom and bath was the first on the right from the dormitory entrance, bade them enter when Clem had knocked on the half-open door and the two filed in. The instructor was reading in a deep chair set close to a window, but at sight of Jim he suddenly sat up straight. “I’ve been watching for you, Todd,” he announced briskly. “Some one telephoned about ten minutes ago from the Police Station. I didn’t understand who he was. One of the officers, I fancy. He said I was to ask you to come over there directly you got in. He didn’t say what was wanted. I hope your conscience is clear, my boy.” Mr. Tarbot smiled to show that he was joking, but behind the smile one might have detected anxiety. Jim stared incredulously for an instant. Then his face clouded suddenly.
“I’ll go right away, sir,” he replied.
Mr. Tarbot nodded and picked up his book again. Clem, his mission forgotten for the moment, followed Jim to the corridor. “What the dickens do you suppose they want?” he asked with lively curiosity. Jim shook his head. “Well, I’ll go along and see you through,” chuckled Clem. “Nothing like having a friend at court, old son!”
Jim stopped at the bottom of the steps and shook his head again. “You needn’t come, Clem,” he said. “You’d better see Tarbot about – ”
“Oh, that can wait. This is a lot more exciting. Go? You bet I’ll go. Why, I may have to bail you out!”
After an instant of indecision Jim went on and Clem fell in beside him, chattering animatedly to apparently deaf ears. Jim looked troubled, and by the time they were half-way toward the main gate Clem noted the fact and, after a second puzzled glance at his companion, said: “Look here, old son, if you’d really rather I didn’t go along I won’t.”
Jim shook his head once more. “No, you might as well come, I guess. If it’s what I think it is – ”
“What do you think it is?” asked Clem when the other paused.
“Webb,” said Jim after a moment. “The fellow I lent the money to. Maybe he didn’t go away, like he said he would, and maybe he’s got in trouble with the police.”
Clem whistled expressively. “Bet you that’s just it!” he murmured. “I didn’t want to say so, Jim, but I was absolutely certain that was he I saw that day on West street.”
Jim nodded and they crossed Academy street in silence and went into State. “Know where it is?” asked Jim presently. “The police place, I mean.”
“Yes, turn to the left on West. It’s about four blocks over and one through. Opposite the Odd Fellow’s building. Say, if they want money to let him out, Jim, we’re in a mess, eh?”
Once more Jim nodded affirmatively. After that conversation was virtually prohibited by the fact that the home-seeking throngs on the busy streets made it nearly impossible for the two boys to stay together. After a five-minute hurried walk they reached the Police Station, an old red-brick building with an entrance of granite steps and rusty iron-railings much too large for the small, square edifice. Past the doorway, Jim paused in doubt, but Clem, with a familiarity that might have seemed suspicious to one of uncharitable mind, straightway guided him to the right and into a scantily furnished apartment occupied principally by a broad oak railing, a large, flat-topped desk and a large red-faced man in a blue uniform. There were some minor furnishings too, such as a few chairs, a telephone, three framed pictures and a wobbly costumer which sagged sidewise under the weight of a policeman’s overcoat.
The big man behind the desk was proclaimed a sergeant by the insignia on his sleeve and the letters on the hat that perched rakishly on the back of his bristly head. There was a cigar in one corner of his mouth, a much-chewed, down-at-the-side cigar that gave off rank fumes of gray smoke and caused the sergeant to close one eye as he viewed the arrivals.
“My name,” announced Jim in a voice so fraught with guilt that the sergeant would have been entirely justified in locking him up instantly, “is Todd. They said over at school that some one wanted to see me here – about something.”
“Oh, yes! Sure, young feller. Say, just step in the next room, will you? That’s the door. The Captain’s in there and he’ll ’tend to you. Sure, you can go in, too, if you want.” The latter part of the invitation was to Clem, who had hesitated to follow his companion. So Clem trod closely on the heels of Jim, and they passed through a heavy door and found themselves in a second room that was much like the first. Here, though, there was a brilliantly red carpet on the floor, the desk was a roll-top, there was an inhospitable looking leather couch along one wall and the single occupant, instead of being large and red of countenance, was tall and lean, with a military carriage and a healthily tanned face.
“Todd, eh?” he asked tersely. “Sit down, please. This gentleman a friend of yours? I see. Very well. I have a question or two to ask, Mr. Todd. Know a man who calls himself James Webster?”
“No, sir.” Relief struggled with doubt in Jim’s face.
“Didn’t think you did, because I guess that isn’t the fellow’s right name. Know any one with a name like that?”
“I know a man whose name is Webb,” faltered Jim. “His first name, I mean.”
“Webb, eh? What’s his last name?”
Jim’s hesitation was pronounced, but he finally answered, “Todd, sir.”
Clem shot a quick, startled look at Jim. Jim didn’t meet it. He was staring anxiously at the police captain.
“Webb Todd? I see. Relative of yours?”
“Cousin; sort of. His mother and my mother were half-sisters.”
“Not exactly a cousin, then, my boy. Known him long?”
“Yes, sir, ever since I can remember. Up in Maine. He lived right near us for a good while.”
“Seen him lately?”
“Yes, sir, twice. Once I met him on the street and the next time he came to our room in Haylow Hall. Is – has he been arrested?”
The Captain nodded. “Yes, we took him in charge about four o’clock. He’s been loafing around town for several days. He will be up in court in the morning charged with vagrancy. I dare say he’ll get off with a suspended sentence if he agrees to quit town.”
Jim breathed loudly with relief.
“Only thing puzzles us,” continued the Captain, “is where he got what we took off him.” He opened a drawer at his side and took out a small parcel. “Ever lend him money, Mr. Todd?”
“How much money?”
Jim hesitated again. “Eight dollars and a half,” he answered.
“That all?” Jim nodded. “Haven’t forgotten any?” Jim shook his head. “Funny,” said the Captain. He opened the parcel, displaying a soiled envelope with a letter showing beyond its torn edge, a cheap-pocket knife and an assortment of coins. Three of the coins glittered brightly in the light from the near-by window. “This fellow had sixteen dollars and forty-one cents when we searched him. Fifteen dollars was in five-dollar gold coins. We asked him where he got them. He said” – the Captain eyed Jim intently – “you gave them to him.”
There was a moment’s silence. Jim was still staring wide-eyed at the officer. Clem was staring fascinatedly at the three gold coins. Then the Captain’s voice came again. “Of course, if you didn’t give them to him he probably stole them and it’ll be up to us to find out where. It probably won’t be hard, for gold-pieces are scarce and folks who have them miss them if they disappear. I didn’t believe the fellow’s statement, because it didn’t seem likely to me that any of you fellows at the school would have so much money on hand. Judging from the condition he was in when we took charge of him, he must have had considerably more to start with. Anyhow, that’s his story. Says he was looking for work and was strapped and asked you for a loan and you came across with twenty dollars in five dollar coins. He was lying, eh?”
Silence again. Clem’s gaze was on Jim. Jim’s was on the bright red carpet. Jim moistened his lips with his tongue and looked again at the questioner. He shook his head.
“No, sir, he wasn’t lying,” he said evenly. “I had – forgotten.”
“Oh, you’d forgotten.” The Captain’s gaze narrowed. “It’s a bad idea to forget things, Todd, when it’s the police who want to know,” he went on dryly. “You did give him the money, did you? How much?”
“Twenty-two dollars – the last time, sir.”
“To-day?” Jim nodded. “Part gold, was it?”
“Four five-dollar gold-pieces and a two dollar bill,” replied Jim.
“Quite a lot of money for you to have, wasn’t it?”
The Captain stared at Jim a moment longer. Then his gaze shifted to the collection of coins at his elbow. He wrapped the paper about them again and tossed the packet back in the drawer. “Well, all right,” he said finally. “He says you did and you say you did, and so I guess that settles it. That’s all, Mr. Todd. Much obliged to you.”
“He won’t be sent to jail, will he?” asked Jim.
“Don’t believe so. He ought to be, for he looks to me like a bad egg. If you like to come over to-morrow about nine-thirty and speak to the Judge, I’ll fix it for you. You might say a good word for the man if you’ve known him so long.”
“I’d like to,” answered Jim gratefully. Then, hesitantly, “Could I see him, please, sir?”
“I guess so.” He pressed a button on the edge of the desk and, when an elderly man in a police uniform appeared, waved toward Jim. “This gentleman wants to see the nut that was brought in this afternoon; Webster’s the name he’s entered under. Just show him down, Grogan.”
Jim followed the turnkey without a glance toward Clem.
Ten minutes later Jim emerged from the station. Clem had not waited. Jim made his way back to school alone, hurrying at times, since the six o’clock whistle had long since blown, and at other times slowing to a pace that indicated that his thoughts were concerned with a subject more weighty than supper.