Keeban (Little, Brown and Company)/Chapter 2

IIAND ESCAPES FROM BOTH.

I got into my clothes in a minute; Jerry hadn't been able to remain in the house, but I found him walking up and down beside the cab which he had kept.

"Chicago Avenue police station," he said to the driver, and he was in ahead of me. "They took her there," he told me, "from where they found her—on West Division Street near the river."

He had no doubt whatever that she was Dorothy Crewe—his Dot whom he had loved; and, for what had come to her, he was holding himself guilty.

"Steve, she thought she was going with me!" he cried out. "It was my Keeban! There is a Keeban, you see; my Keeban took her away and killed her!"

I jerked in spite of myself. You, of course, cannot understand why without this word of explanation. Jerry and I, as most of our acquaintances know—and the Chicago papers, in their occasional discussions of the Fanneals, always veiledly refer to the fact—are not blood brothers. It is a perfectly evident fact to any one who has seen both of us; for I am the Fanneal type,—tall and with big bones, strong and spare in flesh but slow moving; my features are Rhode Island Yankee transplanted to Illinois, regular enough but too angular; too much nose, a bit too much chin, also, My hair is sandy brown; my eyes blue. Jerry's eyes are blue but mine have no quality of the living color of his; when I set the word down, it suggests that our eyes, at least, are alike, whereas we are nowhere more different. Mine are merchants' eyes, come down from ten recorded generations of cautious traders; Jerry's are—who knows? Jerry's long, graceful body is not so strong but twice as quick as mine; Jerry's clear, dark skin and his soft, black hair on his daredevil head; his small-boned but strong hands; the laugh and the lilt of him and his élan are—French, perhaps? Or Spanish, or Italian? All three together or none, but some other marvellous blend of energetic, passionate people? No one can say, least of all, Jerry himself. For one day, when I was about two years old and my nurse had me playing carefully by myself in a selected and remote spot in Lincoln Park, Jerry appeared under the trees and ran across the grass to play with me. Of course my nurse immediately jumped to protect me from contamination from a dark stranger, though it is remembered that he was clean and nicely clothed; she tried to send him away and, when he wouldn't but eluded her and hugged me—and I hugged him—she parted us and tried to take him back to his mother. But she couldn't find his mother or any one else who claimed him; she couldn't find even a policeman. (Obviously I had no memory of my own about this but was told it long afterwards.) Then my mother was driven by that way and found Jerry and me together.

It seemed that mother considered my nurse to blame for Jerry becoming detached from his own party; my mother always fixed blame for occurrences; also, she always felt responsibility. She felt that now for Jerry and took him in her carriage and brought him home where she kept him isolated in a guest room while she had the police notified and advertisements put in the papers. She said she would persist in efforts to return Jerry to his parents until she got results; the authorities—she thought—were too careless about such matters and too soon gave up, and merely sent a child to an institution. Accordingly, Jerry remained at our house; and then, when my mother's efforts brought no result, she still kept him. A child's specialist examined him and found him reassuringly sound, with excellent development, no ascertainable defects or hereditary taints, all senses acute, and decidedly "bright." Apparently, he was about two years old; "of European parentage" was as far as the doctor would commit himself.

"French," my mother decided. "He says his name is 'Jerry.' I don't think that it is his name; it probably represents 'mon cheri.'"

"Spanish," my father always said, for no reason, I believe, other than he thought my mother was too positive and also he particularly liked the Spanish. They couldn't help liking Jerry, who knew, besides his name, only the usual hundred or so ordinary words which a child picks up first; English words, they were, at first spoken with a marked French accent, my, mother said.

So they let Jerry and me play together; I was an only child. A companion, therefore, was "good for me"; and we have been together ever since. I cannot remember a time when there was not Jerry; he cannot consciously recall any home previous to ours or any one previous to us,—besides the nameless "mama" and "papa" whom he asked for, at first, and "Keeban."

Keeban, apparently, was another child; a brother or sister; or perhaps only a playmate. Jerry could not describe him, of course; he could only go about looking for and asking for Keeban. Naturally, as time went on, my mother and father replaced Jerry's own nameless mama and papa; but I never replaced Keeban; and Jerry never forgot him. As we became older, Jerry's idea of Keeban became at the same time more imaginary and more definite; for Keeban changed from some one for whom Jerry searched to some one always with us,—an imaginary companion, a third to us two, interesting, always up to something and most convenient to accuse when we were caught in heinous wrong.

I can remember, when we were about seven, asking Jerry what Keeban was like. I did not consider that Keeban represented a real person; he was, to me, merely one of Jerry's interesting imaginations.

"Keeban," said Jerry, "is another me. Don't you never have a Keeban, too?"

"No," I said; but I had Jerry's—that other imaginary boy, the duplicate of Jerry, who came to see us, whom we played with, who did extraordinary things and went away. Then, gradually, we dropped him; that is, Jerry ceased to mention him and we stopped having him "come." I think I forgot him until we were in Princeton University together; a lot of us had been to New York over the week-end and after we'd been back a few days, Jim Townsend dropped into Jerry's and my room, when Jerry was out, and said:

"Steve, I wouldn't say a word against Jerry to anybody but you; but you ought to know how queer he is sometimes."

"When?" I said.

"Last Saturday in New York; I was down on the east side with a bunch of our class, just knocking about the ordinary way, when we ran on Jerry in a rum lot, I tell you. He pretended not to recognize any of us; in fact, he was in a bunch that tried to rough us; we had rather a go. When it was over, I got at Jerry, he made me so damn mad going in with that lot of muckers against us. I told him what I thought and he looked at me as cool as could be. 'Who do you think I am?' he asked me, as though I didn't know him in Bowery 'suitings'; for he had on the whole get-up of his friends, Steve. I gave him up, I tell you; and he wasn't drunk, either. Since he didn't know me, I decided I wouldn't know him, next time I saw him here; so I passed him outside just now without speaking. He came after me and asked why. I told him; and what do you suppose he did? Denied he'd even been on the east side Saturday; he said I hadn't seen him; that wasn't he."

"It wasn't, Jim," I said. "Jerry was with me all Saturday on Broadway. We never got east of Fifth Avenue at all."

"That's right, Steve. Stand up for him; I would, too," Jim said; and nothing I could say would shake him that he'd seen Jerry. He was so sure about it, and so were the rest of the bunch who'd been with him, that it got me wondering, particularly when I remembered later that Jerry hadn't stayed with me all Saturday; we were separated for a couple of hours.

I said nothing to him about it; and it soon blew over until, a couple of months later, another bunch of fellows from the college ran into Jerry on the same side of town, but peacefully, this time; so peacefully, in fact, that he borrowed a hundred dollars from them. Said he would be in trouble down there unless he had the money. I heard about this from several men and then from Jerry.

"Tell me straight, Steve; do you believe I do queer things?" he asked me suddenly one night.

"Of course not," I said.

"I know you wouldn't think it when I'm myself; but do you think there's a chance that sometimes I'm not myself and I go queer—like that fight with Jim Townsend a few weeks ago; and borrowing a hundred dollars from Davis in New York last Saturday. I swear to you, Steve, I haven't the slightest remembrance of even seeing Fred or any of the fellows with him who saw me and saw him hand me the hundred."

"They must have gone queer themselves," I said.

"No," said Jerry. "What they say is true. I don't remember seeing them; but I feel it,"

"Feel what?" I said.

"That they did meet me; for there's another me about, Steve; you know I've felt that. I know now he must be one of two things—either another personality living in me which turns Jerry Fanneal off, sometimes, and turns on—Keeban, Steve, like the dual personality cases in the psychology books; or he must be a real, physical duplicate of me—Keeban; that's possible, too, of course. But the way I feel him usually is another way; and the one way he can't possibly be; he seems to be me going on and growing up and living my life, as it would have been, if I'd never come to you, Steve. So, that way, sometimes he seems more me than myself; for I seem to be somebody else and he, when I think of him that way, seems to be me."

We couldn't get any further than that; Jerry and I went to New York the next day and poked about the district where Davis claimed to have met Jerry, but we couldn't find trace of anybody like him. Jerry paid the hundred to Davis, I remember; he considered himself in some way responsible and soon the incident passed off as the fight had; Jerry lived it down and nothing like it occurred again for years, until this night when Jerry, at the Drake, talked to himself at the Sparlings and he went back to the Sparlings to learn that he had just that moment gone out with Dorothy Crewe.

If what Jerry had just told me was exactly true, there was—of course—no explanation of it but one; there existed, physically, another Jerry. I could not say to myself that Jerry had not told me the truth as he knew it; but I could not help wondering how much of it he knew. Was he actually at the Drake at the same time "he" also was at the Sparlings'; could he have talked to "himself"; and done the other things he related? Or was there, living outside of him most of the time, Keeban—the man he would have become had he never come to us—who occasionally, at long intervals, could take command of Jerry's body? That idea had never seized me until to-night as I sat beside him in the cab which was hurrying us to the police station where Dorothy Crewe lay; for now I no longer doubted, either, that she was Dot.

Ahead on the dark and still street showed lighted windows and a police ambulance stood end to the curb; we saw it was empty and so we went at once into the station.

In a little, dingy room a girl lay on the stretcher by which she had been carried; an ambulance doctor and two police detectives bent over her. The police turned to us when we entered.

Jerry stepped ahead of me but over his shoulder I saw Dorothy Crewe. She lay almost as if she were asleep in her pale blue dress in which she had danced that night; her hair was beautiful as ever—corn-color hair, little disarranged; her face and neck and arms were white and run with red where cuts and scratches showed. There were signs of street soil on her dress but none on her body; some one had washed them away.

"She's not dead!" Jerry cried; then, in a whisper, "How is she?"

Said the ambulance surgeon, "We don't know."

"But she's not dead!"

"No; not yet, anyway."

Jerry's face hovered over hers as he searched hers; then, very softly, he kissed her. "You'll not die!" he whispered to her; then, to the surgeon, "Don't let her die, doctor," he said

"What's happened here?" I asked the officers.

It seemed that she'd been found in the street by a patrolman walking his beat; he thought she was dead so he sent her to the station. Now, having found life in her, the doctor was for taking her to a hospital; but he honestly thought it no use at all.

"What do you know?" the police came back at us.

"She's Dorothy Crewe," Jerry told them, and added her father's name and number of his home. "To-night I took her to a dance at the Sparlings'. She had a necklace—here."

Gently he touched her throat where were marks made by him who had snatched at her necklace and torn it away.

"Diamonds and sapphires," Jerry went on and seemed to forget what he said.

A police captain named Mullaney kept at me. "When did she leave Mr. Sparling's?"

"About half-past twelve," I said. "She was going from there to a dance at the Drake hotel given by Mr. Casoway. She never arrived there."

"Go on," said the captain.

Jerry went on. "She left the Sparlings' wearing, besides what she has on, a blue silk cloak and a necklace of diamonds and sapphires on a platinum chain, which her father brought her from Paris."

"Perhaps you've read about it," I put in. "They were supposed to be worth a quarter million."

"I suppose," said Jerry, "they were gone when found her."

"She had on her a quarter million in stones!" the captain repeated. "Well, that makes it some plainer, sir. They was off her when we found her. Now go right on, Mr. Fanneal. She left Mr. Sparling's big house on the Drive to go to the Drake hotel at half-past twelve, you say? She didn't go off, at that hour, alone?"

Jerry swung quickly and looked at me. "I'll tell 'em, Steve!"

"Go ahead," I said. God knows, I didn't want to. I had no idea how to tell it; my thoughts, on the subject of Keeban, were absolutely a blob, just then.

"She did not leave alone, Captain," Jerry told. "There is some confusion over who she went with. That was why, when she did not come to the Drake or return home, we became alarmed and I telephoned to you. Some people thought she went away with me; but she did not."

"Go on," said Mullaney again.

"You'll find a good many that say she went with me, Captain; Gibson, the doorman, and probably Mrs. Sparling and some of the guests. But it wasn't me, Captain."

Mullaney squinted his eyes as he looked at Jerry and then he looked at me.

"Where was you, Mr. Steve Fanneal?" he challenged.

"I'd gone home, then."

"Then where was you?" he swung back to Jerry.

"I'd gone to the Drake."

"Leavin' your partner at Mr. Sparling's? I thought you said you took her there."

"I did."

"Then why didn't you take her away?"

"I'll tell him, Jerry," I said; for I felt the sudden strength of his suspicion. At first, he had spoken alike to Jerry and to me; but now he treated me and my word in one way and Jerry and his word in another. I was the known, actual son of Austin Fanneal; Jerry, as everybody knew, was the waif of any blood from anywhere.

"You can't, Steve," Jerry warned.

But there, like the fool I was, I started to tell.

Two big men in uniform came in and each took an arm of Jerry.

The doctor was doing things during most of this time; now and then I noticed a hypodermic needle.

Dorothy Crewe breathed and her eyelids fluttered; she opened her eyes.

Only the grimy ceiling was in her sight; she stared at this and then saw a blue coat, and some realization and remembrance began to reach her; and she jerked and shivered violently.

Jerry started to her, pulling the two big men with him. The motion made her turn her eyes and she saw Jerry; and she screamed!

It sent me shaking; it dropped Jerry down, hiding his face. She was convulsing in a spasm of hysteria. "He! He! He! He!——" She seemed to try to cry "He did it" but she could only scream "he, he," until it went into a crazy laugh.

The doctor tried to calm her; the big men dragged Jerry away. He was making no resistance, God knows; he was limp. Could a man go against a thing more awful than he'd just met? Here was the girl he loved; she'd trusted herself to him and she believed that, for the diamonds about her neck, he'd attacked her!

She told something more in that scream of a laugh; she told a little, at least, of how she had struggled before she'd been strangled and knocked senseless and thrown into the street. And she had thought Jerry did it!

I stepped along beside him. "Keeban," he whispered desperately to me. "You see there's Keeban."

It meant nothing at all to the police. To me? What did I know?

"Go back to her, Steve," Jerry begged. "But, old fellow!" he held me.

"What?"

"You'll believe there's Keeban? Think, Steve! If you don't, you'll believe I did that!"

"No! I know you couldn't."

"And you'll keep on knowing? You'll always know?"

"Jerry!" I cried.

"Your word, Steve?"

"Of course."

"Go back, now, to her."

I left him to be dragged, limp, down the corridor between the big, uniformed men.

In the grimy room, Dorothy Crewe had lost consciousness again; she was quiet; there was nothing I could do for her.

A pair of shots sounded; a couple more, almost together; and yells.

I knew the trouble before they shouted it to us; Jerry had got away. Instantly, without a jerk of warning, he had sprung from their hands as they dragged him, all limp the second before; he was out of a door and gone; and their loud bullets bagged them nothing.

They were all about the streets and alleys searching for him when I came out to the ambulance beside the stretcher on which was Dorothy Crewe.

"I'll not go with you to the hospital," I told the surgeon. "I'll go to her people; don't 'phone them." And so, while the police looked for Jerry, I went to Dorothy's people and tried to tell them—Keeban.

Keeban? Of course they did not believe. Stunned themselves, they thought me mildly maddened by what had happened. Keeban! What did I truthfully know of him? I got back home at last and stopped at Jerry's room, which had always been next to mine; I opened the door and in the dark looked in. "Keeban!" I said to myself. "By God, there's a Keeban; there has to be!"

And, careful not to wake my own people, I went into my room.