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When Jake entered his hotel room at midnight he almost bumped into the black snout of the automatic. Behind the automatic was a slim man who wore a mask.
"How'd you get in here?"
"Through the window. I want ten grand."
Jake had seen plenty in twenty-some years as a fight-manager but the suddenness of this holdup had him surprised. He glanced at the window. He stalled. "What ten grand?" "You're managin' Kid Watson. The Kid outpointed Inky Stevens tonight at Grand Arena. Kick through."
Jake looked at the gun, tried to pull his surprise into a studied calmness. He didn't like the looks of that gloved finger around that trigger. This looked like an amateur to him.
"I haven't collected yet."
"You got the money," the man stated.
Jake mentally curbed Muggy Wilson, the Grand promoter. Muggy always paid off in cash right after a fight. And tonight he'd shoved ten crisp one-grand bills into Jake's fist. But that had been in the secrecy of Muggy's office. Jake looked at the finger again, thought he saw it tremble under the glove.
"Go easy." he said. "Those things have been known to kill people. The dough is in my coat pocket."
The stickup had him turn to the wall, brace his hands over his head, and put his legs out wide. Jake felt the hand go into his pocket and felt the notes leave. When he had turned the man had put the gun in his coat pocket on top of the bills.
"The bulls'll have you in ten minutes," Jake prophesied.
"I figure otherwise."
Jake had his nerves calm now. Did he know that voice? No, the fellow talked low, as though he were disguising his voice. He had a sudden idea.
"If it wasn't for your gat," he said, "I'd whip the hell out of you!"
"Come ahead," the man invited.
Jake went forward, fists up. Years ago he'd been a leading contender for the lightweight crown. He had some of his ring-knowledge left. He showed it as he shot out a left.
It was fast, wicked, true. But the stickup's right shoulder bobbed down, and the blow slid over him. Jake glimpsed his right hand cock, come in.
Most fighters hit straight. But this right hand looped, curved a little, then straightened. Jake knew then who the stickup was.
He tried to slip the punch, but the right hit on the jaw and the lights came down and hit him, too.
When he woke up he was tied to a chair. His gag made his jaws ache. He looked at the clock and guessed he'd been out around fifteen minutes. He looked at the phone, head buzzing.
Ten minutes later, he'd jumped his chair across the room and had the receiver down. The bellboy released him.
"Now and then I feel mad spells coming on," Jake informed him solemnly. "So I gag myself and tie myself to a chair to keep from hurting people."
The kid accepted the four-bits but not the story. Jake rolled into bed. Morning found him eating a hearty breakfast at the Greek's.
He caught the Fifth Street bus and left it at Grand, walking up Bunker Hill. The sun was bright and warm. He was in the old tenement district, the flop-house section. He climbed a set of porch steps, entered an old rooming house, and went directly to Room 21.
He knocked again.
Finally, "Who's there?" Sleepily.
A key turned. Jake went in. Pinky Malone sat on the edge of his bed, rubbing his eyes with a fighters' hands. A few years back Pinky had been in the chips but he'd broken his right fist on Tiny Jeffers, the Central Avenue boy.
"Haven't seen you for two years," Jake said. "Heard you were up in 'Frisco?"
"They run trains," Pinky said. He dug into his left eye again. "How did you know I bunked here?"
"An ex-fighter can't keep away from the old bunch. They told me down at the Greek's."
Pinky quit rubbing. "You got a scrap for me, Jake?"
"You'll never fight again with that mitt, kid. I came after my ten grand." Pinky looked at him. "Your ten grand? Hell, I don't owe you nothing. When we busted up we were even-steven. You said that yourself."
"You know what—ten grand. After the Watson fight last night you was waiting for me in my hotel room. You wore gloves so you wouldn't leave any prints and you wanted to hide your hands from me. But two things gave you away."
"Jake, you're dreamin'."
Jake rubbed his jaw. "Well, if I was, the old mare sure throwed me. Look out the window, kid?"
Pinky did. He came back. He kept standing there, face serious. "You got bulls down there, huh?"
Jake twisted his wrist and looked.
"In three minutes they come up, Pinky. Cough up the ten grand and I'll forget it."
THE TEN GRAND
Pinky kept looking at him.
Jake looked at the cheap room.
The bed looked lumpy and the carpet didn't hide the floor in spots.
"I spent forty of it, ' Pinky said suddenly. "I paid room rent and I bought a few drinks."
"Where is it?"
Pinky had it under the big washbasin. He handed it to Jake who put it in his coat pocket.
"Damn it, Pinky," Jake said, "I managed you for six years. We bunked together. You shouldn't've done this to me."
"I was flat, Jake." Pinky looked at the window. "Where did I slip up?"
"Your voice, for one thing. You tried to disguise it and you did a good job—I didn't recognize it. But you slipped when you let me take a poke at you. If you hadn't done that, I'd never have known it was you. Your disguisin' your voice told me you were an old friend who didn't want me to recognize him. But I didn't know who you were until I saw your right coming."
"What's wrong with my right?"
"You don't hit straight."
"I've chilled a few with that." Pinky's voice was uncordial.
"I can handle it."
Pinky's professional pride was hurt.
Jake found a stance "Now come in, and I'll show you."
Pinky shuffled in, head down. Jake shot his left again; only this time, he held it. Pinky's right looped, straightened. This time Jake rode under it. His own right came up and Pinky went down.
Jake's knuckles throbbed.
"I didn't know I could still hit that hard," he told the worn carpet.
He took a fin from his wallet and laid it in Pinky's hand.
"When you come to, Kid, drop around and I'll find a job for you."
But Pinky didn't hear that, of course.
Outside, the bull asked, "Everything work out okay, Jake?"
"Everything's okay, Casey."
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