PDF Download Pulp - The Passing Snow 1932.12.25. Richard M H Dicker - Pierrot Pays Up

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Why are ordinary, everyday sort of people so different when they are in fancy
Why do they all seem to throw aside their ordinary, everyday sort of worries and
cares from the moment they change their working clothes for some fancy costumes?
And why do half the men go to fancy-dress dances wearing Pierrot costumes?
These and similar thoughts floated idly through Jim Brent’s mind as he watched
the swirling throng of dancers before him.
The Plantaza dance hall was looking its very gayest; these Friday night fancy-dress
dances certainly were popular with the inhabitants of the neighbourhood, and there must
have been fully four hundred couples crowding the huge dance floor.
Jim Brent smiled happily to himself. The more there were, the better for him, he
pondered. They came and paid their shillings just to dance about in strange costumes,
and they enjoyed it.
Just look at those Pierrots, mused Jim. Dozens of them. So much the better, for
one of them would not be missed when the time came, as it would come very soon now.
Jim had no intention of doing away with any of the Pierrots. Far from it, they
were to prove his alibi in a scheme he had worked out.
It had shimmered in his brain for a long time; every Friday night during the last
winter he had visited the dance hall.
Jim decided to rob the dance hall, and a Friday night was the time he was going
to do it.
The Plantaza was far from being a luxury-palace type of hall. Set in a poor
neighbourhood, it catered for people with but little money to spend, and for a shilling on
Friday nights you could have any amount of carnival fun – “streamers,” caps and presents
were given away, and there were occasions when prizes were awarded for the best
Consequently, it enjoyed enormous popularity, and it was the sight of its
continued success which had started Jim’s agile brain working.
First of all he got on speaking terms with the girl in the pay-desk.
Very soon they were great friends, and a box of chocolates now and then or an
evening at the kinema helped him get the information he desired. He never asked any
direct questions, but by clever scheming he learned that the greatest amount of money
had been taken at the desk by about half-past nine in the evening, and that it was then
transferred from the desk to a little room behind it.
There it remained in canvas bags until the end of the evenings’ session, when the
manager would call a taxicab and take it home with him for safety’s sake.
No chance of knocking the manager down, Jim surmised, for he always had a
bodyguard with him in the person of Jack, the doorman.
No. The money had to be taken earlier in the evening, he decided, and to do that
he would get into the little room, secure the money and get out again without being seen.
It would be necessary to get rid of the cashier first before a stranger could get into
that room, and here Jim’s watchfulness found an easy and safe method. In various parts
of the hall and its offices there were house telephones connected to the pay-desk, and Jim
had found one of those ‘phones in an office which was now disused.
All he need do was to slip in the office, ring up the cashier and send her on a false
errand of some sort.
The doorman was not always at his post, particularly later in the evening, and at
one period he was out of sight for a good quarter of an hour, having his supper. That
would be the time, Jim decided.
He could slip into the pay-box the moment the cashier was out of sight, then into
the inner room, grab the money, and be away before she returned.
Grab the money? That opened up a new problem. Most of the taking would be
silver and that would be awkward to handle. Heavy, too. It took Jim a very long time
to find a way out, but he did.
He would wear a Pierrot costume, but it would be different from the others. The
pantaloons would be very baggy and loose, but inside them would be a wire frame.
This would act as a shield for long, tubular pockets which could drop down to his
ankles, and in these pockets would go the shillings and the half crowns.
Satisfied with his progress, he then turned his attention to the question of getting
away with the money. It was obvious that he could not leave without his hat and coat –
it was getting on into winter now, and he would be very conspicuous in his costume in
the street.
But to be caught with his out-of-door clothes on would look very suspicious after
the theft was discovered.
So after the theft he would stroll back into the hall, say good-night to one or two
people, and possibly get them to accompany him to the front door after he had collected
his hat and coat. That would be a fine alibi, for the cashier would by that time have
returned and still the money would not have been missed.
Such was the plan that Jim Brent had worked out, and he was only holding back
now for a particularly good Friday night.
And that would be next week, for specially attractive prizes were to be given. The
most original costume was to win a handsome cash award, the biggest yet offered, and
that meant that more people than ever would come .
Original costumes! His would be the most original of them all, did but they know
The Friday night came, and found Jim at the dance hall, awaiting his opportunity
with a fast-beating heart. He had been surprised on his arrival to find his little cashier
was not there and that a strange girl had taken her place. Upon inquiry he learned that
the usual girl had been taken ill suddenly.
Jim was delighted, for here, he felt, was an added safeguard. The girl did not
know him from Adam, and even if she did see him hanging about she would not be able
to identify him.
Slowly the evening dragged on, all too slowly thought Jim, but at last the time
came. A quarter to ten. Jim braced himself up, and sauntered from the hall.
Then he went to the disused office, picked up the house telephone and dialled the
pay-box. The strange girl’s voice answered him, and he told her the manager wanted to
see her immediately in his office.
Quick as lightening, he was back in the vestibule just in time to see the girl
mounting the stairs.
In a moment he was inside the inner room.
There were the bags of money, not even tied up, and with strangely steady hand
he poured the coins into his pockets. They settled down in the sawdust perfectly. The
notes followed the coins, and in less than five minutes Jim was back in the hall.
He stopped and chatted with one or two friends and told them he was going home.
With his friends he strolled towards the vestibule, but before they had reached it
there was a commotion at the door and the manager, accompanied by the temporary
cashier, hurried in.
He signalled to the band to stop playing, and held up his hands for silence.
“Lock the doors,” he ordered abruptly, and then addressed the dancers.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I am very sorry to interrupt the dancing, but there has been
a robbery committed. Money had been stolen from the pay-box, and the only clue I have
to the thief may prove to be false, but I must follow it up.
“Miss Jenkins here,” – he indicated the cashier – “was sent out of the box by a
bogus telephone message, and while she was away the money disappeared.
“She tells me that as she went up the stairs to answer the message, she saw in a
glass someone dressed in Pierrot costume standing near the pay-box. I am going to ask
all those gentlemen dressed as Pierrots to stand forward in the hope that one of them may
be able to help us.”
Jim looked amusedly around him. This was awkward, but what was one among
so many? Then his face changed, and suddenly he felt as though every eye in the room
was on him.
Wildly he searched every corner of the great hall, but without avail.
The impossible had happened! The “most original costume” prize had beaten him.
He was the only Pierrot present!

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