The Twin Ventriloquists: or, Nimble Ike and Jack the Juggler
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Ike and Jack read over the account and later met their friend, Detective Du Flore, who knew all about the case, and he said:
"I was coming to see you. I wonder if we can get in on this job with any hope of success?"
"I don't know about the hope of success," said Ike, "but we can get in on the job."
"I will tell you something privately: there is an immense reward offered. It will be the job of our lives if we can run down those plunderers."
"We can try."
"Ike, you are a wonder, and hoping to have your aid I have had myself specially assigned to the case. My reputation for life will be made, and we will all receive a big sum of money. I owe my present reputation to you. The capture of those two burglars has set me away up, and if I can solve this mystery and run down the robbers I am a great man."
"We will see what we can do."
"It's a great case and some of the oldest men on the force are on it. I would like to prove a winner."
"We will do the best we can."
"You have a great head, Ike."
"Thank you; I'll do the best I can."
"What is your plan for a starter?"
"I must have a chance to think the matter over. It will take me two or three days to make up my mind, but let me tell you, Du Flore, I have an idea that we can solve this mystery and get on the thieves."
"We are just made for life if we can. When will you see me again?"
"In a few days or in a few hours possibly," said Ike.
The detective and the ventriloquist separated, and as Ike and Jack walked away the former said:
"Jack, we've got a big job on hand. Let's walk down and take a look at the old miser's house, for to-night we may wish to play burglar."
"What do you mean?"
"I am going to take great chances. I am going to get into that house."
"You will get into a scrape, I fear."
"Eh, Jack, do you fear? I did not think you knew what fear meant."
Jack laughed and said:
"Don't take me so quick, Ike. All I intended to convey was that we should be cautious. That house will be under surveillance. It might prove awkward if you were caught sneaking into the old man's place."
"Would you sneak in if you had a plan?"
"To own up square, I would."
"All right; we won't be caught, and if we do, with your brave aid we'll get out of the scrape. I've an idea – a very funny one. I won't tell it to you now, or even you might call me a crank. But I tell you, I am going to take big chances and get into the old man's house on the sly, in spite of the police, detectives and every one else. I've a scheme."
The two lads arrived in the vicinity of the house and scanned the surroundings very carefully, and as they walked away Ike said:
"We have a chance for a joke on hand, Jack."
"Yes, I am on to it."
"What are you on to?"
"We have been spotted and a detective is on our track."
"Yes, a snide.We'll give him a lesson."
"Oh, we'll shake him now, but to-night we'll show up again and have our fun, and with our fun we'll do some business."
The ventriloquists were right. They had been spotted and a "snide" detective was on their track, and the youths did succeed in giving him the "shake," and they just kept under cover until night, when, having fully arranged for their adventures, they issued forth and proceeded again down to the old miser's house, and just as they suspected the "snide" detective got on to their track again, and the second time he started in to follow them he was satisfied he had struck something. As Ike and Jack walked away the former said:
"Now the fun commences. We will give that fellow a great steer."
Ike and Jack were both well posted all over the city of New York, and they proceeded to a public-house which had been for years under the surveillance of the police. It was a regular thieves' resort and many a bad fellow had been trailed from that very house. Once in the house they sat down at a table and called for their beer, and, as both suspected, in a few moments the "snide" entered. He pretended to be looking at everything else but the two youths, when in reality he was watching every movement. Ike had been revolving in his mind how to give the fellow a layout. He knew the man well. He was a real "snide" – a detective beat – in fact, not a genuine detective, but the agent of a detective agency. He thought himself, however, very smart. Ike, as stated, knew the house well, and knew that a number of very prominent politicians were in the habit of gathering in a back room on the second floor, where they indulged a little game of cards for fun only, and discussed their political plans. They were men away up politically, not thieves in the general sense of the word; at least, they were not liable to arrest, and they were very bold and resolute and had a very high idea of themselves. Even while Ike sat there he saw two of these men enter the place and pass through a rear side door to the hall.
Ike knew these men well. He was aware, as stated, that they met in this room to discuss their political plans. They were in session, and after a little while the "snide" who had been watching the two ventriloquists crossed over to the table where they were sitting and pretended to have met one of them before.
"See here, mister," said Ike, "you are barking up the wrong tree."
The man gazed in astonishment.
"We are not under glances now, but there's bigger game in this house."
The "snide" recognized at once that the two young fellows were "on to him," as the saying goes.
"Who are you fellows anyhow?" he demanded.
"Oh, we're just out, we are. You have no use for us, nor we for you."
"You say there's bigger game in this house?"
"Yes, there is."
"Give me the points."
"Oh, you can't work it alone."
"You give me the points and we will see if I can."
"Go and get your pard. It will take two of you, and I'll let you on to a big call. I want to get square; that's how I stand."
"You put me on to a big lay and I'll make it worth your while."
"I will. You know me, don't you?"
"I only know you are a cop, that's all."
"Did I ever have any dealings with you?"
"Never; but I want to get square. There are a couple of men in this house who swore us away once."
Our readers will bear in mind that both the ventriloquists were under a disguise that permitted them to play the role they were working at that moment.
"What is the lay?"
"Oh, it's the old miser business. I knew the moment that thing came out who did that job."
"It may be you did," said the detective wisely.
"Do you think we were in it?"
"You may have been."
"Then take us, and we'll have the laugh on you and the real game will skip. I say I can set you on to a dead sure game to prove your arrest."
"When I agree I can do it easy enough, but you had better get a pard. These villains are wild fellows; they might do you up."
"I'll take chances."
"All right; I'll give you the points."
The man's face beamed. He believed he was on to a big thing. We have not attempted to go into the full details and describe just how Ike got down to his deception. We have just outlined the conversation, but for the purpose he had in view our hero talked straight to the point and his proposition was not an unreasonable one; it was just the dodge to hook a fellow of the stripe of the "snide." Our hero knew just how to work his trick and adapted his plan to his man.
Ike had his fish well hooked, and then he became very confidential. He told his man to go to the rear room and play off so as not to attract attention. The man obeyed and a little later Ike joined him, and then, after looking around furtively, still maintaining his play, he said:
"In the rear room upstairs are the fellows who robbed the old miser. They are discussing a division of the swag. Now, if you want proof I'll go up the stairs with you and you can overhear their talk and get all the points – get your men located."
The detective's eyes bulged. He, of course, recognized the possibility that Ike was giving him a "steer," and then again it was possible he was giving him the real facts.
"You needn't take my word," said Ike. "All you have to do is listen at the door. They are not looking for eavesdroppers. Make sure of your points, then away with your information, get your aids and capture the whole gang. I'll teach those fellows to give it to me in the neck," concluded our wily hero.
The "snide" and Ike stepped into the hall and noiselessly moved up the stairs, and as they approached the door of the room where the politicians were the "snide" heard the murmur of voices. No ventriloquistic trick was ever played better in imitating the murmur of several voices behind a closed door, and as the "snide" drew close to the door a voice was heard to exclaim:
"Hold on! that is not a square deal."
"What do you want – the earth?" came the retort.
"No, but I want my share of the negotiable bonds," came the answer. "You fellows are taking all the easy things and giving me the registered ones. They're no good, you know, and I want you fellows to remember I fell to that old miser and it was I who put up the job. We made a good haul without any blood-letting. I want a square deal, I do. Everything is hunky; we've given the police a dead steer away and we're all right. Don't you fellows try to rob me, do you hear?"
The "snide" heard and his face became radiant. He stepped away from the door and said to Ike:
"You go away. It's dangerous to be around here."
Little did the speaker know how dangerous it really was. He was destined to experience the full force of the danger in a most remarkable manner a few moments later, for Ike managed to perform a second marvelous ventriloquistic trick – one of the most wonderful of all. He managed to make, seemingly, a woman scream in a shrill tone:
"Look out, in that room! There's a sneak peeping at the door."
The words had hardly left the woman's lips, as it appeared, when the door opened. The "snide" was actually caught with his ear to the keyhole, so suddenly had the door opened. Well, a scene followed. The politicians were really discussing a very important political matter. They looked upon the "snide" as a sneak who was merely seeking for information to steal it, and they were mad. Indeed, there was danger around there just at that moment.
As intimated, the politicians were mad; they believed this "ward heeler," as they mistook the "snide" to be, had gotten on to their whole little affair. They did not stand on ceremony – they just broke loose. They were all really toughs, and the way they went for Mister Snide was lovely to behold, especially had any one been present who really recognized what a mean sneak the "snide" was.
"Let me get at him," cried one politician. No one interfered. He was permitted to get at him and the first blow knocked the "snide" to the landing of the stairs. The second blow was a terrific kick which sent him headlong down the steps. He, fortunately for himself, did not break his neck in his descent, and gained his feet and made a rush into the bar on his way to the door to the street, but he did not get there before one of the politicians was at his heels. He received a kick that lifted him clear off the floor, then another man took a rap at him, and at each kick up he leaped involuntarily; so, with kicks and raps, he was knocked clear out to the street, and there stood the two ventriloquists to see him come forth. Ike expected him, and the young fellow's expectations were not disappointed; a worse laying out no sneak ever received. The man fell helpless on the sidewalk, and when a policeman ran to his aid he told his tale and yelled: "Arrest those men. They are the robbers of the old miser."
The policeman believed the man drunk or crazy, and rapped for assistance, and when his mate joined him they toted him off to the station. All the way the man protested, and when he arrived at the station he told his tale to the sergeant. The latter was bound to give the story his attention. He led the man back to the resort and up to the room. The politicians had reassembled. The sergeant knocked for admission and was let in. Well, a scene followed.
The sergeant knew every man present in the room, knew that none of them were crooks, and he was confirmed in the impression that the man was drunk or crazy. The "snide" was led back to the station house and put in a cell. He yelled and protested, and no wonder. He foamed at the mouth in his excitement. The most partial observer would have counted him crazy.
Ike and Jack, however, had accomplished their purpose. Our hero said:
"The road is clear now; that fellow was hanging around the old miser's house all the time. Now I reckon I can make an entrance and interview the old man."
The two ventriloquists proceeded down to the old house and arrived just in time to meet another embarrassment. A policeman entered the house just as they arrived in sight.
"Hello, Ike," said Jack; "what's that?"
"A disagreeable discovery."
"That fellow is probably going to remain in the house over night."
"It looks so, and yet the papers said the old man had a guard and had declined to go to other quarters."
"We must get rid of that fellow."
"It is possible he will not remain there."
The hour was about eleven o'clock and Jack, after looking at his timepiece, said:
"Possibly he has just entered to see that everything is all right with the old man."
The lads waited around for about an hour, when to our hero's delight he saw the policeman come from the house. The two young men had made a thorough search around the neighborhood and were convinced that there was no one on the watch. After the policeman had been gone some little time Ike bade Jack remain on the watch.
The daring young man then leaped the gate of the old alleyway and passed around to the rear of the house. He saw the glimmer of a light shooting forth from the windows of the room on the second floor. He remained a moment studying the rear of the house, then descended the areaway and in a few moments managed to gain an entrance, although the door was bolted on the inside; but the woodwork had rotted and he easily gained an entrance, as stated. All was cold and damp. As he stepped inside the hallway he drew his mask lantern and glanced around. It was a dreary sight that met his view.
"I reckon," he muttered, "the old man never comes down here and it is a wonder he is alive, living over all this filth and decay."
On tiptoe Ike ascended to the parlor floor. He entered the front parlor, and as he flashed his light around he experienced a shock of surprise. There were articles of great value lying around; marble statues had rolled from their pedestals and had fallen to the floor, and on the walls were very valuable paintings, their frames moldy and the pictures apparently ruined. There was one picture that had been covered, and at a glance our hero discerned that it had been cared for – the only article in the room which had evidently ever been dusted or cleaned.
"A picture of the old fellow's wife," thought Ike, and after a moment he added: "I will have a glance at it."
The young man was doing a nervy piece of business, and yet he was as cool and deliberate as though in his own house. He moved about with great care and in a noiseless manner, and he advanced to the picture, removed the cloth, flashed his light upon it and recoiled as though gazing at an apparition. It was the one great surprise of his life.
There he stood, as he supposed gazing upon a portrait of Sara Sidney, the beautiful girl whom he had served in such a signal manner. He stood gazing in rapt attention, and so engrossed was he that he did not observe a counter-light in the room, nor become aware of the presence of another until he was startled almost to a condition of terror when a voice demanded:
"Who are you, and what do you want here?"
Ike turned and beheld a strange-looking old man standing within a few feet of him. In his hand the old man held a light, and his deep, sunken eyes were illuminated with a strange gleam as their glance rested on the ventriloquist.
"Are you Mr. Ward?"
"I am Mr. Ward," came the answer. "Who are you?"
The old man chuckled and said:
"You are here to rob me, I suppose; but, Mr. Burglar, there is nothing left for you. The scoundrels who came here before took everything – yes, everything."
"I did not come here to rob – I came here to aid you."
"To aid me?"
"I don't need aid; if I do there is aid at hand."
"You don't understand me."
"Well, let me understand you."
"I came here as your friend."
The old man chuckled again, and said:
"I need no friends. I've lived many years independent of all friendship. But what do you think of that picture?"
There came an eager light in the old man's eyes as he asked the question.
"That picture is a mystery to me."
"I hardly dare tell you."
"Do you know anything about that picture?"
"Shall I speak right out?"
"I know the original of that picture."
"Young man, you lie, and you need not come here with any such wild story. Hark you, I have but to give an alarm – touch a button – and I will have a whole platoon of police here."
"You do not need the police."
"How do I know?"
"I will convince you."
"You will convince me?"
"I repeat, I know the original of that picture."
"Are you a maniac or a rogue?"
"I am neither."
"Let me look in your face."
Ike stood with his face turned toward the strange old man. The latter thrust his light forward and carefully studied the ventriloquist's features.
"You do not look like a rogue or a maniac."
"I am neither."
"Then why did you force yourself into my house?"
"I came here as your friend."
"I need no friends."
"Yes, you need me."
"How is it I need you?"
"I am going to do you a great service."
"I will recover your bonds and all the property stolen from you."
The old man again laughed in a strange, weird manner, and said:
"That is what they all told me. I have not yet seen my bonds and jewels."
"We will talk about that later on. What I desire to know is, who is the lady whose portrait I see here?"
"What business is it of yours who the lady is?"
"I tell you I know the original."
"Then why do you ask me who she is?"
The question was a cute one.
"There is a mystery here."
The old man appeared to be a clear-headed, nervy individual, although he might be a miser.
"What is the mystery?"
"I said I knew the original of that picture."
"I will say I know one for whom that picture might be taken as a portrait."
"Who is the person?"
The old man was again all eagerness and attention.
"I will not say yet, but I would like to know who the real original of the picture is."
"I would first like to know who you are and how you dared force an entrance into my house."
"You shall know all about me later on."
"Oh, yes, that is what you said, but it is not satisfactory. You say you know one for whom that picture might be accepted as the portrait?"
"The picture is mine."
"I will not dispute that, but I tell you there is a mystery. I can see now that the party I know is not the original of the portrait, but the likeness is very remarkable – yes, wonderful. The party I know could be a twin sister."
"Say, young man, what is it you are trying to accomplish?"
"On my honor, sir, I am telling the truth. Is your real name Ward?"
The old man showed signs of great excitement as he demanded:
"What business is it of yours who I am?"
"Is your real name Sidney?"
The old man uttered a cry, and advancing toward Ike seized his arm and demanded: "What do you mean? Who are you?"
"We had better settle right down to full confidences, Mr. Sidney. I tell you I am your friend."
"Will you explain your words?"
"I asked you if your name was Sidney."
"I know a young lady named Sidney who could be taken for the original of that picture. I concluded she must be a family connection; indeed, I am in the habit of putting little bits of evidence together and I arrived at a conclusion, following a suspicion aroused by the strange resemblance; that's all. I am telling you the truth."
"You look like an honest youth. Come upstairs with me. We will talk this matter over. My name is Ward; yes, my name is Ward, but I once knew a man named Sidney. He was the friend of my boyhood. I have not seen or heard from him for many, many years."
"Did he go to California?"
"Yes, he went to California. Yes, yes, I remember he did; but come upstairs. I wish to talk to you."
The old man led the way to the room on the second floor, and, remembering what he had seen in the lower part of the house, Ike was surprised to behold the air of comfort and neatness presented in this apartment.
"Sit down," said the old man.
Ike obeyed and the old miser continued in an eager tone:
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