Page:Manhattan Transfer (John Dos Passos, 1925).djvu/161

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Longlegged Jack of the Isthmus

149

with weedy hair and a face red from leaning over the stove poked her head out.

"Telegram for Santiono."

"No such name here."

"Sorry maam I musta rung de wrong bell."

Door slammed in his nose. His sallow sagging face tightened up all of a sudden. He ran lightly on tiptoe up the stairs to the top landing then up the little ladder to a trap-door. The bolt ground as he slid it back. He caught in his breath. Once on the cindergritty roof he let the trapdoor back softly into place. Chimneys stood up in alert ranks all about him, black against the glare from the streets. Crouching he stepped gingerly to the rear edge of the house, let himself down from the gutter to the fire escape. His foot grazed a flowerpot as he landed. Everything dark. Crawled through a window into a stuffy womansmelling room, slid a hand under the pillow of an unmade bed, along a bureau, spilled some facepowder, in tiny jerks pulled open the drawer, a watch, ran a pin into his finger, a brooch, something that crinkled in the back corner; bills, a roll of bills. Getaway, no chances tonight. Down the fire escape to the next floor. No light. Another window open. Takin candy from a baby. Same room, smelling of dogs and incense, some kind of dope. He could see himself faintly, fumbling, in the glass of the bureau, put his hand into a pot of cold cream, wiped it off on his pants. Hell. Something fluffysoft shot with a yell from under his feet. He stood trembling in the middle of the narrow room. The little dog was yapping loud in a corner.

The room swung into light. A girl stood in the open door, pointing a revolver at him. There was a man behind her.

"What are you doing? Why it's a Western Union boy. . . ." The light was a coppery tangle about her hair, picked out her body under the red silk kimono. The young man was wiry and brown in his unbuttoned shirt. "Well what are you doing in that room?"

"Please maam it was hunger brought me to it, hunger an my poor ole muder starvin."