Right Tackle Todd
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Jim blinked and shook his head. ďNo, Clem. Why?Ē
ďWell, just look at it, will you?Ē 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 Jimís attention was held by the number of undergarments in sight and the general disorder of the drawerís contents. He looked inquiringly at Clem.
ďNice mess, eh?Ē asked Clem indignantly. ďSome oneís been poking around in here. Look at that box. It was tied with that ribbon. Someone opened it and didnít do it up again.Ē
ďWell, I guess Iím the only one who could have done it if you didnít,Ē said Jim slowly, ďand Iíve never been near anything of yours, Clem. So it looks Ė Ē
ďOf course you didnít do it,Ē answered Clem. ďI neednít have asked you, only I was so Ė so blamed mad Ė Ē
ďYouíre sure you didnít leave the box untied?Ē
ďMe? Why, thereís nothing in the box but a lot of old gimcracksĒ Ė he removed the lid impatiently for Jimís benefit Ė ďand I havenít had it open since I put it in there. Besides, hang it all, Jim, you know I wouldnít leave this drawer looking like that!Ē
Jim wasnít convinced of it, but he nodded agreement. ďWho do you suppose Ė Ē he began. Then he asked quickly; ďAnything missing?Ē
ďMissing? Why, no, I guess not. Gosh, thereís nothing here any one would want!Ē 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. ďWeíll just have to lock the door when we go out, Jim. Iíve been here three years and this is the first time Iíve had anything of mine troubled.Ē
ďSuppose some one did it for a joke?Ē asked Jim.
ďMighty poor joke,Ē Clem grumbled. ďAny one could come in here that wanted to when weíre both out, but I donít see why theyíd want to muss my drawer all up.Ē
ďWhen did you look in here last, Clem?Ē
ďThis morning. I got a pair of socks out. It was all right then.Ē Something rattled under his hand as he spoke, and he picked up a steel key-ring with five keys attached. ďIf folks are going to get fresh this way,Ē he muttered, ďIíd better put these somewhere Ė Ē 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.
ďItís there,Ē he said.
But Clem had the folded envelope in his hand, and it was empty! He looked blankly over his shoulder. ďWell, what do you know!Ē he ejaculated. Jim shook his head.
ďSure it was there, Clem?Ē
ďGreat Scott, you saw me put it there, didnít you? Night before last, or night Ė Gosh, that makes me sore!Ē
ďHow much was in the envelope?Ē asked Jim.
ďTwenty-seven Ė no, twenty-two dollars.I lent you five. That left a two-dollar bill and four five-dollar gold-pieces. Oh, I donít care such an awful lot about the money, but itís rotten to know that thereís a thief in the dormitory! Why, it may be Ė Ē
ďIt might have been some one from one of the other halls,Ē said Jim. ďOr maybe a sneak-thief from outside.Ē
ďOh, it might be any one!Ē Clem slammed the bag shut and tossed it back to the shelf. ďHe was after those keys, whoever he was, and thatís 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.Ē
ďI donít think theyíve been touched,Ē Jim reported. ďGuess whoever was in here came while we were both out this afternoon. How long were you gone?Ē
ďI havenít 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 timeís it now? Twenty past five? Well, thatís nearly three hours. When were you up last?Ē
ďJust before practice. About five to three, I guess.Ē
Clem, hands in pockets, stared at the floor and then flung himself into a chair. ďWell, Iím going to report it. Something will have to be done if a fellow canít leave his room door unlocked. I donít care a hang about the money, Jim, but Iíd certainly like to catch the sneak that got it!Ē
Jim, still standing, nodded. ďCome to think of it, Clem, it wouldnít be hard for a fellow to walk in the Meadow street gate and go through a dozen rooms if he found íem empty. All heíd have to do would be pretend that he was looking for some fellow and didnít know where he lived, sort of.Ē
ďThe way you looked for Dolf Chapin last year,Ē said Clem, managing a brief smile. ďStill, heíd have to get past Mr. Tarbot, and his door is nearly always open and looks right into the corridor down there.Ē
ďYes, but I guess he isnít always in,Ē said Jim. ďAnd even if he saw some one he mightnít know he wasnít one of the fellows from another hall. Gosh, I guess he canít know more than four hundred fellows by sight!Ē
ďNo, but thereís never been any stealing like that since Iíve been here,Ē objected Clem. ďFolks donít come on the campus unless theyíve got business; fellows from the presserís or the laundry or Ė and even they arenít supposed to come upstairs.Ē
ďThey do it, though.Ē
ďYes, I know, but Ė Now think a minute, Jim. It must have taken a good five minutes to find the keys in that drawer Ė and you can see by the way things were left that he must have had to hunt for them Ė and get the suit-case down and unlock it and lock it and put the keys back and everything. An outsider wouldnít dare take the risk, Jim. Howíd he know that one of us wouldnít walk in on him?Ē
ďYes, it would be risky,Ē Jim owned somewhat unwillingly.
ďIt 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.Ē
ďYes, but if he had so much time why did he pull things around so in the drawer? Or why didnít he fix them back the way he found them? He might have known that youíd notice and get suspicious and miss the money.Ē
ďProbably didnít think about that. Oh, well, Iíve 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.Ē
ďMaybe you could make it clearer if you went alone.Ē
ďWell, heíd want to question you anyway, sooner or later. Come on.Ē
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. ďIíve been watching for you, Todd,Ē he announced briskly. ďSome one telephoned about ten minutes ago from the Police Station. I didnít 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 didnít say what was wanted. I hope your conscience is clear, my boy.Ē 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.
ďIíll go right away, sir,Ē he replied.
Mr. Tarbot nodded and picked up his book again. Clem, his mission forgotten for the moment, followed Jim to the corridor. ďWhat the dickens do you suppose they want?Ē he asked with lively curiosity. Jim shook his head. ďWell, Iíll go along and see you through,Ē chuckled Clem. ďNothing like having a friend at court, old son!Ē
Jim stopped at the bottom of the steps and shook his head again. ďYou neednít come, Clem,Ē he said. ďYouíd better see Tarbot about Ė Ē
ďOh, that can wait. This is a lot more exciting. Go? You bet Iíll go. Why, I may have to bail you out!Ē
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: ďLook here, old son, if youíd really rather I didnít go along I wonít.Ē
Jim shook his head once more. ďNo, you might as well come, I guess. If itís what I think it is Ė Ē
ďWhat do you think it is?Ē asked Clem when the other paused.
ďWebb,Ē said Jim after a moment. ďThe fellow I lent the money to. Maybe he didnít go away, like he said he would, and maybe heís got in trouble with the police.Ē
Clem whistled expressively. ďBet you thatís just it!Ē he murmured. ďI didnít want to say so, Jim, but I was absolutely certain that was he I saw that day on West street.Ē
Jim nodded and they crossed Academy street in silence and went into State. ďKnow where it is?Ē asked Jim presently. ďThe police place, I mean.Ē
ďYes, turn to the left on West. Itís about four blocks over and one through. Opposite the Odd Fellowís building. Say, if they want money to let him out, Jim, weíre in a mess, eh?Ē
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 policemanís 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.
ďMy name,Ē announced Jim in a voice so fraught with guilt that the sergeant would have been entirely justified in locking him up instantly, ďis Todd. They said over at school that some one wanted to see me here Ė about something.Ē
ďOh, yes! Sure, young feller. Say, just step in the next room, will you? Thatís the door. The Captainís in there and heíll ítend to you. Sure, you can go in, too, if you want.Ē 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.
ďTodd, eh?Ē he asked tersely. ďSit 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?Ē
ďNo, sir.Ē Relief struggled with doubt in Jimís face.
ďDidnít think you did, because I guess that isnít the fellowís right name. Know any one with a name like that?Ē
ďI know a man whose name is Webb,Ē faltered Jim. ďHis first name, I mean.Ē
ďWebb, eh? Whatís his last name?Ē
Jimís hesitation was pronounced, but he finally answered, ďTodd, sir.Ē
Clem shot a quick, startled look at Jim. Jim didnít meet it. He was staring anxiously at the police captain.
ďWebb Todd? I see. Relative of yours?Ē
ďCousin; sort of. His mother and my mother were half-sisters.Ē
ďNot exactly a cousin, then, my boy. Known him long?Ē
ďYes, sir, ever since I can remember. Up in Maine. He lived right near us for a good while.Ē
ďSeen him lately?Ē
ďYes, sir, twice. Once I met him on the street and the next time he came to our room in Haylow Hall. Is Ė has he been arrested?Ē
The Captain nodded. ďYes, we took him in charge about four oíclock. Heís been loafing around town for several days. He will be up in court in the morning charged with vagrancy. I dare say heíll get off with a suspended sentence if he agrees to quit town.Ē
Jim breathed loudly with relief.
ďOnly thing puzzles us,Ē continued the Captain, ďis where he got what we took off him.Ē He opened a drawer at his side and took out a small parcel. ďEver lend him money, Mr. Todd?Ē
ďHow much money?Ē
Jim hesitated again. ďEight dollars and a half,Ē he answered.
ďThat all?Ē Jim nodded. ďHavenít forgotten any?Ē Jim shook his head. ďFunny,Ē 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. ďThis 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 saidĒ Ė the Captain eyed Jim intently Ė ďyou gave them to him.Ē
There was a momentís silence. Jim was still staring wide-eyed at the officer. Clem was staring fascinatedly at the three gold coins. Then the Captainís voice came again. ďOf course, if you didnít give them to him he probably stole them and itíll be up to us to find out where. It probably wonít be hard, for gold-pieces are scarce and folks who have them miss them if they disappear. I didnít believe the fellowís statement, because it didnít 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, thatís 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?Ē
Silence again. Clemís gaze was on Jim. Jimís was on the bright red carpet. Jim moistened his lips with his tongue and looked again at the questioner. He shook his head.
ďNo, sir, he wasnít lying,Ē he said evenly. ďI had Ė forgotten.Ē
ďOh, youíd forgotten.Ē The Captainís gaze narrowed. ďItís a bad idea to forget things, Todd, when itís the police who want to know,Ē he went on dryly. ďYou did give him the money, did you? How much?Ē
ďTwenty-two dollars Ė the last time, sir.Ē
ďTo-day?Ē Jim nodded. ďPart gold, was it?Ē
ďFour five-dollar gold-pieces and a two dollar bill,Ē replied Jim.
ďQuite a lot of money for you to have, wasnít it?Ē
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. ďWell, all right,Ē he said finally. ďHe says you did and you say you did, and so I guess that settles it. Thatís all, Mr. Todd. Much obliged to you.Ē
ďHe wonít be sent to jail, will he?Ē asked Jim.
ďDonít 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, Iíll fix it for you. You might say a good word for the man if youíve known him so long.Ē
ďIíd like to,Ē answered Jim gratefully. Then, hesitantly, ďCould I see him, please, sir?Ē
ďI guess so.Ē He pressed a button on the edge of the desk and, when an elderly man in a police uniform appeared, waved toward Jim. ďThis gentleman wants to see the nut that was brought in this afternoon; Websterís the name heís entered under. Just show him down, Grogan.Ē
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 oíclock 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.