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A Close Call

The people in the grandstand had not fully grasped the significance of
the cowardly attack, as the attention of most of them was centered upon
the dispute at first base. But the shout of Baseball Joe and the rush
of Jim through the aisle of the stand had brought them to their feet,
and some of them started in pursuit or tried to stop the flying figure
of the fugitive.

But this very desire of so many to apprehend him helped in his escape.
Men crowded in the aisle, and Jim, who could otherwise have captured
him, found himself in the midst of a throng that effectually hindered
his progress. He pushed his way through desperately, using his arms and
hands to clear a passage, but by the time he arrived at the outer edge,
the man had disappeared. Either he had mixed with the enormous crowd
or had found his way through one of the numerous exits. In any event,
he was not to be seen, and at last Jim, flaming-eyed and dripping with
sweat from his exertions, had to come back empty-handed.

In the meantime, the umpire had asserted his authority at first base,
and given the St. Louis players one minute by his watch to resume play.
With much muttering and grumbling they obeyed. The decision stood, and
Larry was on third, while Denton danced around on first and "kidded"
the Cardinal first baseman on the umpire's decision.

Joe again took up his position at the plate, the fairer-minded among
the spectators giving him a cheer as he did so, to express their
indignation at the dastardly attack that had been made on him. He was
somewhat shaken by the close call he had had, and the first two balls
were strikes. Then he took a grip on himself, and when the next one
came over he smashed a beauty to right. It went for two bases, while
Larry scored easily, and Denton by great running and a headlong slide
also reached the plate. The next man up sacrificed Joe to third,
but there he remained, as the next two batters, despite McRae's
adjurations, were not able to bring him in.

The Giants, however, had now broken the tie and had a two-run lead, and
although that ended their scoring, it was sufficient, as Joe put on
extra steam and mowed down the Cardinals almost as fast as they came to
the bat. One hit was made off him for the remainder of the game, but as
the batter got no farther than first there was no damage done.

Joe and Jim did not care to discuss the matter before their mates, and
the attack was put down to some rowdy who was sore at the umpire's
decision and took that method of showing it. But the two friends knew
that it was much more than that.

"Well, what do you think now of my hunch?" demanded Jim, when the chums
were alone together. "Was I right when I said I was uneasy about that
fellow being in the grandstand?"

"You certainly were, Jim," answered Joe. "It must have been Bugs
who threw that bottle. I know at any rate that it was he whom I saw
hustling out of the stands. And when I looked at where he had been
sitting the seat was empty."

"It was Bugs all right," affirmed Jim with decision. "I saw his face
once, when he glanced behind him while he was running. Then, too, only
a pitcher could have hurled the bottle with the swiftness and precision
that he did. It went nearly as far as the pitcher's box before it
struck the ground. Gee! my heart was in my mouth for a second when I
saw it go whizzing past your ear. If it had hit you fair and square, it
would have been good night."

"It did barely touch me," replied Joe, pointing to a scratch on his
ear. "The old rascal hasn't forgotten how to throw. How that fellow
must hate me! And yet I was the best friend that he had on the team."

"He hates you all right," replied Jim. "But it wasn't only his own
personal feeling that prompted him to do that thing to-day. That isn't
Bugs' way. He'd dope your coffee on the sly. Or he'd throw a stone at
your head in a dark street, as he did that time when we'd started on
our tour around the world. But to do a thing in the open, as he did
to-day, means that he had a mighty big incentive to lay you out. That
incentive was probably money. Somebody has put up the cash to send him
to St. Louis, and that same somebody has probably promised him a big
wad of dough if he could do you up. The chance came to-day, when the
fans began to throw bottles at the umpire. He figured that that was the
time to get in his work. If he'd been caught, he could have said that
he was only one of a good many who did the same thing, and that he had
no idea the bottle was going to hit anybody."

"Then you think that Bugs this time was acting as the tool of Braxton,
or whoever it is that's trying to put me out of business," remarked Joe.

"Think so!" cried Jim. "I'm sure of it. So many things, all pointing to
deliberate purpose, don't happen by accident. The same fellow who hired
those auto bandits to cripple you hired Bugs for the same purpose. Lots
of people have heard of the hatred that Bugs has for you. I suppose
he's panning you all the time in the joints where he hangs out. This
fellow that's after your hide has heard of Bugs and put him on the
job. If he can't get you in one way, he's going to try to get you in
another. He figures that some time or other one of his schemes will go
through. Gee!" he exclaimed, jumping up and pacing the floor, "what
would I give just to come face to face with him and have him in a room
alone with me for five minutes. Just five minutes! I'd change his face
so that his own brother wouldn't know him."

"I hope that job's reserved for me," replied Joe, as his fist clenched.
"He'd get a receipt in full for all I owe him."

"In the meantime, what shall we do about Bugs?" asked Jim anxiously.
"He ought to be put in jail. It isn't right that a man who's tried to
cripple another should be at large."

"No," agreed Joe, "it isn't. But I don't see just what we can do about
it. The chances are ten to one against his being found. Even if he
were, nobody could be found probably who saw him actually throw the
bottle. We didn't ourselves, though we feel absolutely certain that he
did. He could explain his leaving by saying that he was taken ill and
had to leave. Then, too, if he were arrested, we'd have to stay here
and prosecute him, and we can't stay away from the team. Besides the
whole thing would get in the papers, and Mabel and Clara and all the
folks would have heart failure about it. No, I guess we'll have to keep
quiet about it."

"I suppose we will," admitted Jim reluctantly. "But some day this
scoundrel who's hounding you will be caught in the open. And I'm still
hoping for that five minutes!"

Next: Speeding Up

Previous: In The Throes Of A Slump

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