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The Hack Driver
by [?]

“I want,” I told him, “to find a fellow named Oliver Lutkins. ”

“Him? I saw him ‘round here ‘twan’t an hour ago. Hard fellow to catch, though—always chasing around on some phony business or other. Probably trying to get up a poker game in the back of Fritz Beinke’s harness shop. I’ll tell you, boy—Any hurry about locating Lutkins?”

“Yes. I want to catch the afternoon train back. ” I was as impressively secret as a stage detective.

“I’ll tell you. I’ve got a hack. I’ll get out the boneshaker and we can drive around together and find Lutkins. I know most of the places he hangs out. ”

He was so frankly friendly, he so immediately took me into the circle of his affection, that I glowed with the warmth of it. I knew, of course, that he was drumming up business, but his kindness was real, and if I had to pay hack fare in order to find my man, I was glad that the money would go to this good fellow. I got him down to two dollars an hour; he brought from his cottage, a block away, an object like a black piano-box on wheels.

He didn’t hold the door open, certainly he didn’t say “Ready, sir. ” I think he would have died before calling anybody “sir. ” When he gets to Heaven’s gate he’ll call St. Peter “Pete,” and I imagine the good saint will like it. He remarked, “Well, young fellow, here’s the handsome equipage,” and his grin—well, it made me feel that I had always been his neighbor. They’re so ready to help a stranger, those villagers. He had already made it his own task to find Oliver Lutkins for me.

He said, and almost shyly: “I don’t want to butt in on your private business, young fellow, but my guess is that you want to collect some money from Lutkins—he never pays anybody a cent; he still owes me six bits on a poker game I was fool enough to get into. He ain’t a bad sort of a Yahoo but he just naturally hates to loosen up on a coin of the realm. So if you’re trying to collect any money off him, we better kind of you might say creep up on him and surround him. If you go asking for him—anybody can tell you come from the city, with that trick Fedora of yours—he’ll suspect something and take a sneak. If you want me to, I’ll go into Fritz Beinke’s and ask for him, and you can keep out of sight behind me. ”

I loved him for it. By myself I might never have found Lutkins. Now, I was an army with reserves. In a burst I told the hack driver that I wanted to serve a summons on Lutkins; that the fellow had viciously refused to testify in a suit where his knowledge of a certain conversation would clear up everything. The driver listened earnestly—and I was still young enough to be grateful at being taken seriously by any man of forty. At the end he pounded my shoulder (very painfully) and chuckled: “Well, we’ll spring a little surprise on Brer Lutkins. ”

“Let’s start, driver. ”

“Most folks around here call me Bill. Or Magnuson. William Magnuson, fancy carting and hauling. ”

“All right, Bill. Shall we tackle this harness shop—Beinke’s?”

“Yes, jus’ likely to be there as anywheres. Plays a lot of poker and a great hand at bluffing—damn him!” Bill seemed to admire Mr. Lutkins’s ability as a scoundrel; I fancied that if he had been sheriff he would have caught Lutkins with fervor and hanged him with affection.