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Graeve, Oscar (ed.) / Delineator
Vol. 117, No. 2 (August, 1930)

Vance, Louis Joseph
The trembling flame,   pp. 18-19 PDF (1.4 MB)

Page 18

"Keep right on driving till we can pick up a cop," Gib whispered.
"I'm looking for trouble tonight, and I don't want to find it!"
An exciting new novel of love
and youth and the treacherous
grip of the underworld
BOYof fealth and
good family, at-
tractive, idle, the
town's scapegrace
that was what
(,ilbert Parke had
been, only a few
months before.
And what was he
now? A murderer?
Well -Gib had not
known there was
going to be murder. but there he was, driving the car. part
and parcel of the New York criminal gang that shot and
killed some rival crooks. Gib sometimes wondered how
his descent to the underworld had come about-vet it
was perfectly simple. When a boy's rightful inheritance
goes to his uncle, who drives him out of the house, and his
only friend turns out to be a professional crook, there
doesn't seem to be much choice.
Only one thing really bothered Gib-he was throwing
away his last chance to win the love of the only human
being he cared about-Lyn Castaigne. She was young,
beautiful, rich, but more than these, she was a real person
-and she believed in him. Yet here he was ostensibly
leading the life of an art student, but actually he was the
understudv of a group of criminals whose locale was a
rowd night club. And these gangsters, five minutes before,
had fired a fatal volley of shots. Here the story continues:
G  IB choked on brandy, between a splutter and a gasp
heard an embittered grumble: "Whyn't ya swaller
the flask?" and consciousness went into its first consecu-
tive flow since those opening pistol shots.
Gib winked his eves clear of their hot mist and dis-
covered that the Packard was at rest on one edge of a
drive in Central Park, that wide, main-traveled spur
which thrusts southwest from the Mall. Dead ahead, the
dark was banked with golden windows, rising tier on tier
to that livid sky which nightly bends to the Fifties. A
little wind stole whispering across the lawns to fumble at
his face and cool it. The boy shivered.
Lefty said: "Feelin' better, kid?" and getting an uncer-
tain nod pursued: "You're funny-goin' strong till you
cracked all of a sudden and purty near run into a taxi -
would've if I hadn't grabbed the wheel. But you're a'
right now, aincha?"
"Whvncha take the wheel yourself?" This was a growl
from the after seat.
"I'm all right now," Gib quavered, and starting the en-
gine, he engaged the gears again. "Where to?"
"Right on like we're headin', and out by the Sixt'
Av'noo gate."
"But there's a traffic cop there, and another at Fifty-
" 'At's why you're where y'are, kid, doin' all the swell
HE KNEW what that meant. If the hue and cry were up
already, its driver would be the first to be marked and
remembered; he needn't hope to escape identification
with these butchers whose accomplice foul play had made
him. His loyalty was thus insured, his mouth forever
sealed. In the sight of the law he was equally guilty with
the actual killers and-the law was right. Unless and
until he could muster enough manhood to denounce
them, he must remain, in his own right, too, a murderer.
The officer he had thought to find at Central Park
South was for some reason missing from his post, and the
green lights on Sixth Avenue didn't change till the Pack-
ard had slipped past Fifty-seventh Street. Gib cheated
the red flash at Fifty-sixth and pulled up at the next cor-
ner only because he couldn't buck a crush of cross-town
He scrubbed his palms on his trousers to dry them, and
licked parched lips before attempting to speak. It was
beyond him to look at Lefty.
"Where now?"
"Right back to where we borrowed this boat, kid-
'bout six doors past the Calico Cat."
"Isn't that pretty risky? Maybe the dicks will be
waiting there to take us-"
"Not a chanst."
"But that was Stitch Manter, wasn't it, that you-
"Gettin' to be right bright, aincha? There's the lights
-step on it."
G IB got the car under way again.
"But-I should think-they must know, Lefty,
you and Stitch were out to get each other?"
" 'At don't prove nothin'. Anyway, it'll be hours be-
fore they quit runnin' round in circles and start thinkin'.
Don't s'pose we headed out to take Stitch t'night wit'out
gettin' the good ol' alibis all set first, do you? Yours,
too -all set and waitin'!"
The Packard wheeled off the avenue, in view of the fire-
fringed canopy of the Calico Cat. It was still a little
early for the after-theater crowds. The statuesque shape
at the door was consequently idle. But Gib was sure he
saw it stiffen when the yellow car hove round the corner.
Whether or no, the fellow showed his back to the street
the next instant. He couldn't have seen the Packard slip
Lefty pointed out a stretch of vacant curb before an
untenanted dark house. "Nice work," he added, as Gib
neatly fitted the Packard into this space.
Nails tumbled out and darted back toward the club, and
Mouse followed, hugging the machine-gun under his coat;
but Lefty made no immediate move, while Gib on his part
fell into a deep slouch at the wheel, feeling all at once as
though he had just been kicked in the chest by a mule.

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