Chapter Twenty

With a load of booze in the car and Jim Cassidy by his side, Casey Ryan drove down the long, eucalyptus-shaded avenue that runs past the balloon school at Arcadia and turned into the Foothill Boulevard. Half a mile farther on a Cadillac roadster honked and slid past them, speeding away toward Monrovia. But Casey Ryan was busy talking chummily with Jim Cassidy, and he scarcely knew that a car had passed.

The money he had been given for Smiling Lou had been used to pay for this new load of whisky, and Casey found himself wishing that he could get word of it to Mack Nolan. Still, Nolan's oversight in the matter of arranging for communication between them did not bother Casey much. He was doing his part; if Mack Nolan failed to do his, that was no fault of Casey Ryan's.

At Fontana, where young Kenner had stopped for gas on that eventful first trip of Casey's, Casey slowed down also, for the same purpose, half tempted to call up the Little Woman on long distance while the gas tank was being filled. But presently the matter went clean from his mind--and this was the reason:

A speed cop whose motorcycle stood inconspicuously around the corner of the garage, came forward and eyed the Ford sharply. He drew his little book from his pocket, turned a few leaves, found what he was looking for and eyed again the car. The garage man, slowly turning the crank of the gasoline pump, looked at him inquiringly; but the speed cop ignored the look and turned to Casey.

"Where'd you get this car?" he demanded, in much the same tone which Smiling Lou had used the night before.

"Bought it," Casey told him gruffly.

"Where did you buy it?"

"Over at Goffs, just this side of Needles."

"Got a bill of sale?"

"You got Casey Ryan's word fer it," Casey retorted, with a growing heat inside, where he kept his temper when he wasn't using it.

"Are you Casey Ryan?" The speed cop's eyes hardened just a bit.

"Anybody says I ain't, you send 'em to me--an' then come around in about ten minutes an' look 'em over."

"What's your name?" The officer turned to Jim Cassidy.

"Tom Smith. I was just ketchin' a ride with this feller. Don't go an' mix me in--I ain't no ways concerned; just ketchin' a ride is all. If I'd 'a' knowed--"

"You can explain that to the judge. Get in there, you, and drive in to San Berdoo. I'll be right with you, so you needn't forget the road!" He stepped back to his motorcycle and pushed it forward.

"Hey! Don't I git paid fer my gas?" the garage man wailed, pulling a dripping nozzle from Casey's gas tank.

"Aw, go tahell!" Casey grunted, and threw a wadded bank note in his direction. "Take that an' shut up. What yuh cryin' around about a gallon uh gas, fer? You ain't pinched!"

The money landed near the motorcycle and the officer picked it up, smoothed out the bill, glanced at it and looked through tightened lids at Casey.

"Throwin' money around like a hootch-runner!" he sneered. "I guess you birds need lookn' after, all right. Git goin'!"

Casey "got going." Twice on the way in the officer spurted up alongside and waved him down for speeding. Casey had not intended to speed, either. He was merely keeping pace unconsciously with his thoughts.

He had been told just what he must do if he were arrested for bootlegging, but he was not at all certain that his instructions would cover an arrest for stealing an automobile. Nolan had forgotten about that, he guessed. But Casey's optimism carried him jauntily to jail in San Bernardino, and while he was secretly a bit uneasy, he was not half so worried as Jim Cassidy appeared to be.

Casey was booked--along with "Tom Smith"--on two charges: theft of one Ford car, motor number so-and-so, serial number this-and-that, model, touring, year, whatever-it-was. And, unlawful transportation of spirituous liquor. He tried to give the judge the wink, but without any happy result. So he eventually found himself locked in a cell with Jim Cassidy.

Just at first, Casey Ryan was proud of the part he was playing. He could look with righteous toleration upon the limpness of his fellow prisoner. He could feel secure in the knowledge that he, Casey Ryan, was an agent of the government engaged in helping to uphold the laws of his country.

He waited for an hour or two, listening with a superior kind of patience to Jim Cassidy's panicky unbraidings of his luck. At first Jim was inclined to blame Casey rather bitterly for the plight he was in. But Casey soon stopped that. Young Kenner was the responsible party in this mishap, as Casey very soon made plain to Jim.

"Well, I dunno but what you're right. It was kind of a dirty trick --workin' a stole car off onto you. Why didn't he pick some sucker on the outside? Don't line up with Kenner, somehow. Well, I guess mebby Smilin' Lou can see us out uh this hole all right--only I don't like that car-stealin' charge. Mebby Kenner an' Lou can straighten it up, though."

Casey wondered if they could. He wondered, too, how Nolan was going to find out about Smiling Lou getting the camouflaged White Mule. Nolan had not explained that to Casey--but Casey was not worrying yet. His faith in Mack Nolan was firm.

Came bedtime, however, with no sign of official favor toward Casey Ryan. Casey began to wonder. But probably, he consoled himself with thinking, they meant to wait until Jim Cassidy was asleep before they turned Casey loose. He lay on the hard bunk and waited hopefully, listening to the stertorous breathing of Jim Cassidy, who had forgotten his troubles in sleep.