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The Bomb Maker
by [?]

Accompanying her was a nervous-looking fellow whose washed-out face was particularly unattractive. It seemed as if the bone in his nose was going, due to the shrinkage of the blood-vessels. Once, just before the dance began, I saw him rub something on the back of his hand, raise it to his nose, and sniff. Then he took a sip of a liqueur.

The dance began, wild from the first step, and as it developed, Kennedy leaned over and whispered, “The danse des Apaches.”

It was acrobatic. The man expressed brutish passion and jealousy; the woman, affection and fear. It seemed to tell a story–the struggle of love, the love of the woman against the brutal instincts of the thug, her lover. She was terrified as well as fascinated by him in his mad temper and tremendous superhuman strength. I wondered if the dance portrayed the fact.

The music was a popular air with many rapid changes, but through all there was a constant rhythm which accorded well with the abandon of the swaying dance. Indeed, I could think of nothing so much as of Bill Sykes and Nancy as I watched these two.

It was the fight of two frenzied young animals. He would approach stealthily, seize her, and whirl her about, lifting her to his shoulder. She was agile, docile, and fearful. He untied a scarf and passed it about her; she leaned against it, and they whirled giddily about. Suddenly, it seemed that he became jealous. She would run; he follow and catch her. She would try to pacify him; he would become more enraged. The dance became faster and more furious. His violent efforts seemed to be to throw her to the floor, and her streaming hair now made it seem more like a fight than a dance. The audience hung breathless. It ended with her dropping exhausted, a proper finale to this lowest and most brutal dance.

Panting, flushed, with an unnatural light in their eyes, they descended to the audience and, scorning the roar of applause to repeat the performance, sat at a little table.

I saw a couple of girls come over toward the man.

“Give us a deck, Coke,” said one, in a harsh voice.

He nodded. A silver quarter gleamed momentarily from hand to hand, and he passed to one girl stealthily a small white-paper packet. Others came to him, both men and women. It seemed to be an established thing.

“Who is that?” asked Kennedy, in a low tone, of the pickpocket back of us.

“Coke Brodie,” was the laconic reply.

“A cocaine fiend?”

“Yes, and a lobbygow for the grapevine system of selling the dope under this new law.”

“Where does he get the supply to sell?” asked Kennedy, casually.

The pickpocket shrugged his shoulders.

“No one knows, I suppose,” Kennedy commented to me. “But he gets it in spite of the added restrictions and peddles it in little packets, adulterated, and at a fabulous price for such cheap stuff. The habit is spreading like wildfire. It is a fertile means of recruiting the inmates in the vice-trust hotels. A veritable epidemic it is, too. Cocaine is one of the most harmful of all habit-forming drugs. It used to be a habit of the underworld, but now it is creeping up, and gradually and surely reaching the higher strata of society. One thing that causes its spread is the ease with which it can be taken. It requires no smoking-dens, no syringe, no paraphernalia–only the drug itself.”

Another singer had taken the place of the dancers. Kennedy leaned over and whispered to the dip.

“Say, do you and your gun-moll want to pick up a piece of change to get that mouthpiece I heard you talking about?”

The pickpocket looked at Craig suspiciously.

“Oh, don’t worry; I’m all right,” laughed Craig. “You see that fellow, Coke Brodie? I want to get something on him. If you will frame that sucker to get away with a whole front, there’s a fifty in it.”