Keeban (Little, Brown and Company)/Chapter 1

Keeban by Edwin Balmer
My Brother Finds Himself in Two Places at Once

KEEBAN

IMY BROTHER FINDS HIMSELF IN TWO PLACES AT ONCE.

The quick, quiet unlocking and then the closing of the hall door on the floor below told me that Jerry had come in; so I sat up, roused as I always was when I felt him about. He put life into any place,—even into an Astor Street marble mansion in the somnolence of two-thirty on a morning after everybody else has gone to bed.

Since my light was on, although it was only a shaded reading lamp and although the double blinds before my window must have prevented more than the merest glint outside, I was sure Jerry had noticed from the street that I was awake; for he notices everything; and everything bears to him a meaning which he has the clear head and the nervous energy to make out. I never realized, till I began analyzing Jerry, how much more you need than a brain for thinking; to get anywhere, you must have a sort of habitual energy to tackle incidents and carry them in your mind beyond the first, simple registry of the observed fact.

Take that evening we came home late together, when my cousin Janet with her new husband was stopping with us. They'd arrived only that day, and Jerry hadn't seen Janet since she married and he had never met Lew Hollings at all or heard anything about him except that they were married and were to visit us. It was a very hot night and they'd gone to their rooms early to rest from the train. We'd given them our best guest rooms,—the pair of bedrooms on the third floor in front with a dressing room in between. I noticed, as we approached the house, that the dressing room light was burning and the bedrooms both were dark with the windows open. Somebody'd forgotten the light; that's all it meant to me. Jerry looked up at the house.

"Why, that's too bad, Steve!" he said. "That" was so plain to him that it didn't occur to him that he needed to explain when he finished. "I thought Janet and Hollings were getting along all right."

"They are," I said. "They're perfectly happy. What gave you the sudden idea they're not?"

"Oh, closed doors on a night when it's eighty-eight and no breeze, Steve. Neither has a door open, even to the dressing room; they don't know the lights on. They've each shut themselves in one room without opening a door even for a current of air to-night."

"You're crazy, Jerry," I said. "I had dinner with them. There's nothing the matter." That was what my people thought too until Janet and Lew separated, openly, a couple of weeks later.

Jerry came into my room and, as soon as I saw him, I flung my book to the foot of the bed; for it was perfectly plain, even to my sort of wits, that something mighty amazing to him had happened. He was pale and his blue eyes looked positively big; he has fine eyes, Jerry; you like them, though they take hold of you and seem to look through you; the reason you like them, in spite of this, is that while finding out something of you, they grant you a good deal of him. So they told me now that Jerry was afraid; and, though we have been companions for twenty-eight years—that is, since we were babies—and though that companionship includes service in the Argonne, I had never seen him so afraid before.

He'd come upstairs with his overcoat on, over his evening clothes, for he'd been at Ina Sparling's wedding, and he hadn't even dropped his hat downstairs.

"How long you been home, Steve?" he asked, coming beside me.

"Since half-past twelve," I said.

"Awake all the time?"

"Yes, Jerry."

"Anybody call for me?"

"No."

"You've not heard the 'phone at all?"

"No. What's the matter, old fellow?"

"Dot!" said Jerry, staring down at me without now seeing me at all.

"Dorothy Crewe?" I asked, in the way I have of asking perfectly obvious questions.

"Yes, Steve."

"Oh; you've quarrelled?" I said, imagining I saw a light. "That's it."

"I'd trade a good many quarrels for what happened—probably, Steve."

"To her?" I said again, stupidly.

He did not exactly nod his head but he inclined it a trifle lower. "The damnedest thing, Steve; the queerest affair!" he said, looking quickly at me again. He brushed my book to the floor and dropped on the foot of the bed and sat there, staring straight ahead without speaking for a minute while he listened for sounds in the street or below; but there was nothing.

He swung about and demanded of me suddenly, "You noticed Dot to-night?"

"Of course, old fellow. Besides, she was with you most of the time."

He jerked, wincing at that; and Jerry's not jerky. He's excitable and capable, I've always felt, even of violence. But he possesses not one bad nerve; he might hit in anger but he would hit perfectly steadily if he hit to kill.

"Yes, of course she was with me. I was responsible for her to-night. Did you notice what she was wearing, Steve?"

"Blue dress, wasn't it—pale blue? She certainly was stunning, Jerry."

"Her necklace, Steve; didn't you see it? Those damned diamonds and sapphires her father brought back from abroad with him!"

"Of course I saw them. So—she lost them to-night, did she? Or they were stolen? That's it?" But I realized by this time it was far more than that.

"Steve, let's go over it just as it happened," Jerry entreated. "When did you leave the Sparlings'?"

"Twelve o'clock. Ten minutes after," I added more precisely and he did not question me further on that; he knows I always keep track of time.

"You saw Dot about midnight?"

"Within a quarter of an hour of the time I left, Jerry."

"When did you see me last?"

He tried not to—I thought—but he could not help bending toward me a little and he could not keep his voice from going a little up and down.

"Why, at the door when I went, Jerry!" I said, my own voice cracking a little, excited from him.

"At the door of the Sparlings at ten minutes after twelve, Steve?" he begged of me.

"Why, yes, Jerry."

"I, Steve? You saw me there?"

"Why not? What is it, Jerry? I've told you I did."

"You know me; or you ought to know me, if any one in the world does. And you wouldn't joke about it with me, would you, Steve? If all the rest of them were doing it, if they'd sworn you in, too, in the hoax, you'd tell me the truth now, wouldn't you? For you see Dot's taken! If she's not really taken, I believe she is; that's the same to me! Oh, I know you wouldn't be in on anything like that against me!"

"Dot taken? Where? How? What is it that's happened?"

"That's what no one knows, Steve. Oh—we've got to go over it just as it came on. Up to half-past eleven, you know everything. That is, there's nothing in particular to tell. We were all at the Sparlings' dancing about after the wedding; about half-past eleven people began drifting over to the Drake to Casoway's dance. Dot and I meant to go; with Jim and Laura Townsend in their car. In the coat room I was held up a few minutes finding my things; this was still at the Sparlings', Steve. When I came down to the carriage door, I couldn't find Dot. The Townsends were gone; somebody said she'd gone with them, so I followed on in the next machine for the Drake. Don't know whose it was; just some people said, 'Going to the Drake? Get in.' So I got in and soon as I got to the Drake went on a hunt for Dot but couldn't find her right away. Awful jam there, Steve; couldn't find the Townsends for twenty minutes; then they said they hadn't brought Dot. Thought maybe the Westmans might have; they came over at the same time. So I chased up Sally Westman; she hadn't brought Dot; but I ran on Tom Downs just coming in; this was twelve o'clock then, Steve.

"'Hello, Jerry,' he said to me. 'How the devil'd you beat me over here?'

"'When'd you leave the Sparlings'?' I said.

"'Just now; oh, three minutes ago.'

"'Was Dorothy Crewe over there?' I said.

"'When I left?' Tom said. 'Why, certainly; she was with you. You said you were coming over; but not right away. But you seem to have passed me.'

"'I've been here half an hour,' I said, and he laughed and went on. Thought I was joking and I thought he simply remembered seeing me with Dot before I came over and he got mixed on his time. I wasn't sure even that Dot had stayed at the Sparlings', so I asked some more people who had just come over; and they'd just left her at the Sparlings' with me, Steve!"

I didn't try to say anything now; he was trying to tell me as quickly as he could.

"They were positive about it and wondered how I got over so quick. Steve, I tell you it sent a shiver through me right then. I decided to go back to the Sparlings' to get her; so I 'phoned and Gibson, Sparling's man, you know, answered. I know his voice. I said:

"'Is Miss Crewe still there, Gibson?'

"'Yes, sir,' he said. 'Just in the next room.'

"'Let me speak with her,' I said.

"'Yes, sir,' said Gibson. 'Who shall I say?'

"'Fanneal,' I said.

"'Mr. Stephen Fanneal?' said Gibson.

"I thought everybody was going crazy; how could Gibson mix up your voice and mine, Steve? 'Jerry Fanneal,' I told him, only to have him come back with a 'What, sir?' So I told him again; and he gave me, 'But Mr. Jeremy Fanneal is here, sir.'

"That got a 'what' out of me, Steve. 'Right there now?' I got after Gibson.

"'Yes, sir.'

"'You can see him, Gibson?'

"'Yes, sir; just this minute he passed in the hall with Miss Crewe.'

"'Get him to the 'phone then, right away,' I said.

"'What name shall I give him, sir?' said Gibson.

"'Never mind the name. Tell him he's wanted on the 'phone.' And then, by God, Steve, he talked to me!"

I was leaning toward Jerry now. "Who?"

"Myself, Steve! Don't look at me as if I'm a loon. I tell you that fellow who came to the 'phone gave me a jump higher than yours. He didn't talk exactly like me; I mean, didn't say words I'd have said—quite; but he said 'em the way I speak, Steve. After I'd heard him, 'Who in the devil are you?' I said.

"'Jerry Fanneal,' he said, cool. 'Who's this?'

"Of course that left me without a comeback! 'You're with Dorothy Crewe?' I said. 'Let me talk to her!'

"'All right,' he said; and like a fool I waited three minutes for somebody to come. Of course nobody did; and I couldn't rouse anybody else; he'd left the receiver off. But in four minutes I came to and grabbed a cab and got over to the Sparlings' to find I'd just gone half a minute before with Dorothy. I'd taken her alone in a cab for the Drake; they wanted to know what was the matter; why I'd come back? Where was Dorothy? I didn't wait to explain; I cut back to the Drake; but she didn't come; and I didn't come! I mean the other fellow that was me never showed up anywhere. Nobody saw more of us than me after that. There I was, all right; where was Dorothy?

"By God, Steve; it's near three now; and she never came; she's not gone home or anywhere else where she would go. If it wasn't for those damned diamonds and sapphires they hung on her to-night, I might believe there's a chance for, a joke somewhere. But she's a couple of hundred thousand on her neck to-night; or anyway, she had, Steve. And the papers were telling all about it; 'Harrison Crewe brings to Chicago royal jewels' and all that stuff; you saw it, Steve.—I've been to the Crewes'; just came from them. They don't think anything's happened; nothing's ever happened in their family, you know. Things only happen to other people—things like what may be happening to Dorothy, Steve! Of course I couldn't make myself awfully clear; all they feel what has happened is that Dorothy, probably for good reasons of her own, dropped me and went off from the Sparlings' with somebody else and I'm overexcited about it. They don't think it's time yet to call in the police. You know them; I worried them but not to the point of having in the police and the newspapers on an affair of their own. But I called headquarters on my way out of their building, from the porter's room under their apartment. Told police to call me here; so you'll take any call for me, won't you? I'm going out on the street again and I'll 'phone you for report within every fifteen minutes. Have it now, Steve?"

"Yes," I said, to try to help him. It wasn't true, yet truer, perhaps than "no"; for I did have the essential fact which was that he tremendously feared that harm had come to Dorothy Crewe through an extraordinary event which he, himself, could not yet make out.

"Get dressed then, Steve; and stay here for me."

I stood up; he stared me over again and started for the door but caught at my telephone on the stand in the corner. It is an extension of one of the instruments downstairs and the bell is below; but it can be plainly heard in my room, especially at night. It had not even jingled, I'm sure. So Jerry's grab at the receiver was solely from his impatience; and when he had it up, no one was on the line; he had to give central the order: "Police; central detective bureau." When he had them, "This is Jeremy Fanneal, of——" he gave our telephone number and house number on Astor Street. "I called you a while ago asking you to call me immediately if you——What?" Then I was trying to get to him; but he heard it first. "Steve! They have her! They found her in the street in her blue dress and her light hair! Dot, Steve! Her necklace is gone but there's marks.—Oh, Steve, they're waiting for me to come and identify her."

I took hold of him. "She's dead?"

"They think so; or as good as dead."

I held to him. "You wait for me," I said, "or I'll not let you go. You'll save time in the end. Your word, Jerry."

He looked at me straight. "You'll jump, Steve," was all he said.