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(c. 1929)

by Charles MacArthur

Chapter VI.

Stovich accompanied the officers to the police station to make a report. While there, he made free use of the telephone to call up Gracie. The landlady at her boarding house answered.

“Why, I thought you knew!” she exclaimed in response to Stovich’s inquiry. “Gracie’s on her honeymoon!”

Stovich was speechless for a full moment.

“What’s the joke?” he demanded thickly when words came.

“I’m not joking,” responded the landlady. “They left for Niagara Falls this afternoon -- she and Ernest Fink.”

“Is that so?” roared Stovich. “What about my seventeen hundred dollars?”

“What about it?” asked the landlady, sourly.

Stovich swayed and hung up.

None of the policemen would lend him carfare, and so he walked home. It was eight miles to the Y.M.C.A. Hotel. He reached the place at 11 p.m. The night clerk was on duty.

“Why, Mr. Stovich!” he exclaimed, noting the Serbian sunset under his left eye. “Did you get hurt?”

“You’re a smart guy, ain't you!” Stovich snarled, and retired to his room.

Long he sat there and pondered on the futility of life. Almost a year of pinching and scrimping and hard work for a dirty, sneaking, double-crossing snake in the grass that he had treated like a white woman. Nothing had been too good for her. She could have had anything she wanted. Why? -- because he had trusted her, and this is what he got. As far as that smirking, sneaking, smart-aleck husband of hers was concerned -- well ...

He laughed. It was a hollow, bitter laugh. Mechanically, he began to undress. In detaching his watch and chain, he felt a bulge in his vest pocket and discovered the cigar Ernest had given him after the execution.

He was about to fling it from the open window when he was restrained by a sober second thought. That particular cigar had cost him just seventeen hundred dollars -- almost a full year’s hard work. It was the most expensive cigar ever made. He stared ironically at the brown wrapper and the gaily colored band. He wondered how it would feel to smoke a seventeen-hundred dollar cigar. Still wondering, he bit savagely at the end and struck a match.

As he might have expected, it was a piece of rope. Well, rope was his specialty ... He smiled grimly at the jest and took a long, hard pull.

There was a blinding flash and a deafening report as the cigar exploded.

© 2003-04 The Estate of Charles G. MacArthur. All Rights Reserved.

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