Fighting in Cuban Waters/Chapter 3



Walter knew that watch, which had belonged first to his father and then his mother, quite well, but if there was anything needed to convince him that there was no mistake in the identification, it was furnished by the hasty and unceremonious manner in which the partly intoxicated wearer was endeavoring to quit the scene.

"If he was honest, he wouldn't run!" thought the youth. "Ten to one he's the thief who took the grip from Uncle Job." He started after the fleeing one. "Come back here!" he shouted. "Stop, thief!"

But the man did not stop; instead, he tried to run the faster. But he did not turn any corners, and consequently, aided by the electric lights, Walter could see him for quite a distance ahead.

The youth ran but a few yards, then turned and dashed back to the stand. Bang! the second shutter came down with a crash, and in a trice he had the padlock secured. Then off he set, satisfied that a form in the distance was the one he wanted to overtake.

"What's the matter?" questioned a policeman on the second corner, as he clutched Walter by the arm. "What are you running for?"

"Didn't I call out to catch the thief?" answered the youth, sharply. "Let me go. If you weren't so dead slow, you'd be doing something, instead of standing there looking at the moon." And on he went again, the officer shaking his fist after him, half of the opinion that Walter was trying to joke him.

At this hour of the evening the street was far from crowded, and Walter kept the man ahead in sight with comparative ease. Four blocks were covered, when the fellow paused and looked back. Seeing he was being followed, he turned and darted into a small side street. Here were a number of warehouses and several tenements. The door to one of the latter stood open, and he lost no time in seeking the shelter of the dark hallway.

"That's the time I made a bad break," he muttered thickly. "When I came up to Boston with that stuff I reckoned I was safe. I wonder if he'll follow me to here? He had better not, unless he wants a broken head."

In the meantime, Walter had reached the corner of the side street and come to a halt. The narrow thoroughfare was but dimly lighted, and not a soul was in sight.

"He turned in here,—I am certain of that," said the boy to himself. "More than likely he is in hiding in some dark corner. I wonder if I hadn't better call an officer?"

With this intention he gazed around, but no policeman was in view, and he did not think it advisable to go back for the guardian of the peace before encountered. He entered the side street slowly and cautiously, peering into every nook and corner, and behind every bill-board, box, and barrel as he moved along.

He had just passed the tenement where the man was in hiding when the sounds of muffled voices broke upon his ears, and the front door was thrown back with a bang.

"Who are you, and what are you doing in here?" came in an unmistakable Irish voice.

"Excuse me—I—I made a mistake," was the answer; and now Walter recognized the tones of the fellow who had the watch. "I am looking for a man named Harris."

"Well, he doesn't live here,—so you had better get out."

"Will you—er—tell me who lives next door?" asked the man Walter was after, in a lower tone, evidently wishing to gain time ere leaving the building.

"A man named Casey and another named Barton live there. There ain't a Harris on the block. If you—"

"Hold him, please," burst in Walter, mounting the tenement steps. "He has a watch that was stolen from my uncle."

"Shut up, boy!" answered the man fiercely. "My watch is my own, and this is all a mistake."

"There is no mistake. Hold him, will you?"

"I've got him," came from the gloom of the hallway. "I thought he was a sneak or something by the way he was tip-toeing around here."

"You are both of you crazy. I never stole a thing in my life. Let go, both of you!" And then the man began to struggle fiercely, finally pushing the party in the hallway backward, and almost sending Walter headlong as he darted down the tenement steps and continued his flight along the side street.

As Walter went down, he made a clutch at the man's watch-chain, or rather the chain which belonged among the Russell heirlooms. He caught the top guard and the chain parted, one half remaining in the boy's hand, and the other fast to the timepiece.

"Help me catch him!" gasped the youth, as soon as he could get up. His breast had struck the edge of one of the steps, and he was momentarily winded.

"I will," answered the man who lived in the tenement. "Stop there!" he called out, and set off in pursuit, with Walter beside him. But the Irishman was old and rheumatic, and soon felt compelled to give up the chase. "I can't match ye!" he puffed, and sank down on a step to rest; and once again Walter continued the chase alone.

Had the thief, Deck Mumpers, been perfectly sober, he might have escaped with ease, for he was a good runner, and at this hour of the evening hiding-places in such a city as Boston, with its many crooked thoroughfares, were numerous. But the liquor he had imbibed had made him hazy in his mind, and he ran on and on, with hardly any object in view excepting to put distance between himself and his pursuer.

He was heading eastward, and presently reached a wharf facing the harbor and not a great distance from the Congress Street bridge. Here there was a high board fence and a slatted gate, which for some reason stood partly open. Without a second thought, he slipped through the gateway, slid the gate shut, and snapped the hanging padlock into place.

"Now he'll have a job following me," he chuckled. "I wonder what sort of a place I've struck?" And he continued on his way, among huge piles of merchandise covered with tarpaulins.

Walter had come up at his best speed and was less than a hundred feet away when the gate was closed and locked.

"You rascal!" he shouted, but Deck Mumpers paid no attention to his words. "Now what's to do?" the boy asked himself, dismally.

He came up to the gate and examined it. It was all of nine feet high, and the palings were pointed at the top. Could he scale such a barrier?

"I must do it!" he muttered, and thrust one hand through to a cross brace. He ascended with difficulty, and once slipped and ran a splinter into his wrist. But undaunted he kept on until the top was gained, then dropped to the planking of the wharf beyond.

Several arc lights, high overhead, lit up the wharf, and he ran from one pile of merchandise to another. Half the wharf was thus covered, when he suddenly came face to face with Deck Mumpers. The thief had picked up a thick bale stick, and without warning he raised this on high and brought it down with all force upon Walter s head. The boy gave a groan, threw up both hands, and dropped like a lump of lead, senseless.

"Phew! I wonder if I've finished him?" muttered the man, anxiously. "Didn't mean to hit him quite so hard. But it was his own fault—he had no right to follow me." He bent over Walter and made a hasty examination. "He's breathing, that's certain. I must get away before a watchman shows up."

He started to go, then paused and bent over
Fighting in Cuban Waters p055.jpg

He Bent Over Walter Again.

Page 35

Walter again. With a dexterity acquired by long practice in his peculiar profession, he turned out one pocket after another, transferring the cash and other articles to his own clothing. Then, as Walter gave a long, deep sigh, as if about to awaken, he took to his heels once more. He was in no condition to climb the wharf fence as Walter had done, but helped himself over by the use of several boxes; and was soon a long distance away.

When Walter came to his senses and opened his eyes, the glare from a bull's-eye lantern struck him, and he saw a wharf watchman eyeing him curiously.

"What are you doing here, young fellow?" were the watchman's words.

"I—I—where is he?" questioned the youth, weakly.

"He? Who?"

"The thief—the man who struck me down?"

"I haven't seen anybody but you around here."

"A thief who has my uncle's watch came in here, and I followed him, and he struck me down with a club. When—how long is it since you found me here?"

"Several minutes ago. I thought you were drunk at first, and was going to hand you over to an officer."

"I don t drink." Walter essayed to stand up, but found himself too weak. "Gracious, my head is spinning around like a top!" he groaned.

"You must have got a pretty good rap to be knocked out like this," commented the watchman kindly. "So the man was a thief? It's a pity he wasn't the one to be knocked down. Do you know the fellow?"

"I would know him—if we ever meet again. But I fancy he won t let the grass grow under his feet, after attacking me like this."

"I'll take a run around the wharf and see if I can spot any stranger," concluded the watchman, and hurried off. Another watchman was aroused, and both made a thorough investigation, but, of course, nobody was brought to light.

By the time the search was ended, Walter felt something like himself, and arose slowly and allowed the watchmen to conduct him to their shanty at one side of the wharf. Here he bathed his face, picked the splinter from his wrist, and brushed up generally. A cup of hot coffee from one of the watchmen's cans braced him up still further. "It must be ten o'clock, isn't it?" he asked.

"Ten o'clock! came from the man who had found him. "I reckon that clip on the head has muddled you. It's about three o'clock in the morning."

"Three o'clock in the morning!" repeated Walter. "Then I must have been lying out there for several hours. That thief has escaped long ago." And his face fell.

"Yes, he's had plenty of time, if he did the deed as long ago as that. Did he have anything else besides your uncle's watch?"

"I don't know, but it's likely. You see my uncle came to New York from Buffalo to sell some heirlooms which were left to my brothers and myself when our folks died. The heirlooms were in a travelling-bag, and consisted of the watch and chain, two gold wedding rings, and a diamond that a grandfather of mine once picked up in Australia. My uncle left his bag standing in the post-office for a few minutes, and when he got back the grip was gone. The police hunted everywhere for the thief, but all that could be discovered was that it looked as if the rascal had come to Boston. To-night—or rather, last evening—a man came up and showed the watch, which I know only too well, as it has a little horseshoe painted on the dial plate. I tried to collar the fellow, but he ran away, and after stopping in a tenement house, he came here. Now I suppose he is miles away—perhaps out of the city altogether."

"That's so, yet there is no telling, lad. The best thing you can do is to report to the police without delay—if you are able to do it."

"Yes, I guess I am able, although my head aches a good bit, I can tell you that. I am much obliged for what you have done for me."

"Oh, that s all right—hope you get your belongings," replied the watchman, and led the way to the gate, which he unlocked. Soon Walter was on the street, and walking as rapidly as his condition permitted to the police station.

At this hour of the night he found only a sergeant and several roundsmen in charge. The sergeant listened with interest to what he had to say.

"I remember that case—it was reported to here from New York some time ago. The pawnshops were ransacked for the jewelry and the watch, but nothing was found. So you are certain you would recognize the man again if you saw him?" "I am—unless he altered his appearance a good deal. He had a small, dark moustache, but otherwise he was clean-shaven."

"Come into the rear office and look over our album of pickpockets and sneak-thieves. That is what this fellow most likely is—and a peculiar one too. No first-class criminal would do this job as he is doing it."

"He drinks heavily—he was partly intoxicated when I met him," said Walter, as he followed the station official into a rear office.

"Then that accounts for it. A man can't be a really successful criminal unless he keeps his wits about him. Here is the album. Look it over carefully, and let me know if you see anybody that looks like your man." And he left Walter to himself and reëntered the outer office, to hear the reports of the roundsmen coming in.

The book given to Walter was a thick one, filled with cards, photos, and tin-types of criminals. Under each picture was written a name, usually accompanied by several aliases, and also a number, to correspond with the same number in the criminal register.

"Gracious, but they keep pretty good track of them," thought Walter, as he turned over page after page. "Who would think all these good-looking men were wrong-doers? Some of them look a good deal more like ministers."

Walter had gone through half the book, and the photographs were beginning to confuse his already aching head, when a certain picture arrested his attention. "I've found him!" he cried out. "That's the fellow, although he is minus that moustache of his!"

"Did you call?" asked the sergeant, coming to the door.

"I've found him. This is the man. His name is given as Deck Mumpers, alias Foxy Mumpers, and Swiller Deck."

"If he is called Swiller Deck, he must drink a good deal," said the sergeant, with a laugh. "You are sure of this identification?"

"I am. But he wants a moustache put on that picture."

"We take them bare-faced if we can. This photo was taken in Brooklyn." The officer turned to an official register. "Deck Mumpers, age forty-two, height five feet seven inches, weight one hundred and thirty-two pounds. Round face, big ears, broad shoulders, poor teeth. Sent to Sing Sing in 1892 for two years, for robbery of Scott diamonds. A hard drinker when flush. Now wanted for several petty crimes in New York. Came originally from South Boston, where he was in the liquor business." The sergeant turned again to Walter. "I guess you have struck your man. I'll send out the alarm. What is your address?"

"I have just joined the navy and am bound for the Brooklyn. But I can leave you my uncle's name and address, and he can come on to Boston from Buffalo, if it's necessary."

"That will do, then," answered the sergeant.

He brought forth a book in which to put down the details of the affair. While he was writing, Walter slipped his hand into his pocket to see if the slip of paper he had received at the navy-yard was still safe. The paper was gone.