Law and order were out. His only chance was to lose himself in some gray hinterland where there were so many of his own age that no one could keep track of them all. Whether he would succeed was questionable. But until he tried, he wouldn't know, and Jimmy was desperate enough to try anything.
He attended the funeral services with Paul Brennan. But while the pastor was invoking Our Heavenly Father to accept the loving parents of orphaned James, James the son left the side of his "Uncle" Paul Brennan, who knelt in false piety with his eyes closed.
Jimmy Holden had with him only his clothing and what was left of the wad of paper money from his father's cashbox still pinned to the inside of his shirt.
This time Jimmy did not ride in style. Burlap sacks covered him when night fell; they dirtied his clothing and the bottom of the freight car scuffed his shoes. For eighteen hours he hid in the jolting darkness, not knowing and caring less where he was going, so long as it was away!
He was hungry and thirsty by the time the train first began to slow down. It was morning--somewhere. Jimmy looked furtively out of the slit at the edge of the door to see that the train was passing through a region of cottages dusted black by smoke, through areas of warehouse and factory, through squalor and filth and slum; and vacant lots where the spread of the blight area had been so fast that the outward improvement had not time to build. Eventually the scene changed to solid areas of railroad track, and the trains parked there thickened until he could no longer see the city through them.
Ultimately the train stopped long enough for Jimmy to squeeze out through the slit at the edge of the door.
The train went on and Jimmy was alone in the middle of some huge city. He walked the noisome sidewalk trying to decide what he should do next. Food was of high importance, but how could he get it without attracting attention to himself? He did not know. But finally he reasoned that a hot dog wagon would probably take cash from a youngster without asking embarrassing questions, so long as the cash wasn't anything larger than a five-dollar bill.
He entered the next one he came to. It was dirty; the windows held several years' accumulation of cooking grease, but the aroma was terrific to a young animal who'd been without food since yesterday afternoon.
The counterman did not like kids, but he put away his dislike at the sight of Jimmy's money. He grunted when Jimmy requested a dog, tossed one on the grill and went back to reading his newspaper until some inner sense told him it was cooked. Jimmy finished it still hungry and asked for another. He finished a third and washed down the whole mass with a tall glass of highly watered orange juice. The counterman took his money and was very careful about making the right change; if this dirty kid had swiped the five-spot, it could be the counterman's problem of explaining to someone why he had overcharged. Jimmy's intelligence told him that countermen in a joint like this didn't expect tips, so he saved himself that hurdle. He left the place with a stomach full of food that only the indestructible stomach of a five-year-old could handle and now, fed and reasonably content, Jimmy began to seek his next point of contact.
He had never been in a big city before. The sheer number of human beings that crowded the streets surpassed his expectations. The traffic was not personally terrifying, but it was so thick that Jimmy Holden wondered how people drove without colliding. He knew about traffic lights and walked with the green, staying out of trouble. He saw groups of small children playing in the streets and in the empty lots. Those not much older than himself were attending school.
He paused to watch a group of children his own age trying to play baseball with a ragged tennis ball and the handle from a broom. It was a helter-skelter game that made no pattern but provided a lot of fun and screaming. He was quite bothered by a quarrel that came up; two of his own age went at one another with tiny fists flying, using words that Jimmy hadn't learned from his father's machine.
He wondered how he might join them in their game. But they paid him no attention, so he didn't try.
At lunchtime Jimmy consumed another collection of hot dogs. He continued to meander aimlessly through the city until schooltime ended, then he saw the streets and vacant lots fill with older children playing games with more pattern to them. It was a new world he watched, a world that had not been a part of his education. The information he owned was that of the school curriculum; it held nothing of the daily business of growing up. He knew the general rules of big-league baseball, but the kid-business of stickball did not register.
He was at a complete loss. It was sheer chance and his own tremendous curiosity that led him to the edge of a small group that were busily engaged in the odd process of trying to jack up the front of a car.
It wasn't a very good jack; it should have had the weight of a full adult against the handle. The kids strained and put their weight on the jack, but the handle wouldn't budge though their feet were off the ground.
Here was the place where academic information would be useful--and the chance for an "in." Jimmy shoved himself into the small group and said, "Get a longer handle."
They turned on him suspiciously.
"Whatcha know about it?" demanded one, shoving his chin out.
"Get a longer handle," repeated Jimmy. "Go ahead, get one."
"Wait, Moe. Maybe--"
"Jimmy--James." Academic information came up again. "Jimmy. Like the jimmy you use on a window."
"Jimmy James. Any relation to Jesse James?"
James Quincy Holden now told his first whopper. "I," he said, "am his grandson."
The one called Moe turned to one of the younger ones. "Get a longer handle," he said.
While the younger one went for something to use as a longer handle, Moe invited Jimmy to sit on the curb. "Cigarette?" invited Moe.
"I don't smoke," said Jimmy.
Adolescent-age information looking out through five-year-old eyes assayed Moe. Moe was about eight, maybe even nine; taller than Jimmy but no heavier. He had a longer reach, which was an advantage that Jimmy did not care to hazard. There was no sure way to establish physical superiority; Jimmy was uncertain whether any show of intellect would be welcome.
"No," he said. "I'm no sissy. I don't like 'em."
Moe lit a cigarette and smoked with much gesturing and flickings of ashes and spitting at a spot on the pavement. He was finished when the younger one came back with a length of water pipe that would fit over the handle of the jack.
The car went up with ease. Then came the business of removing the hubcap and the struggle to loose the lugbolts. Jimmy again suggested the application of the length of pipe. The wheel came off.
"C'mon, Jimmy," said Moe. "We'll cut you in."
"Sure," nodded Jimmy Holden, willing to see what came next so long as it did not have anything to do with Paul Brennan. Moe trundled the car wheel down the street, steering it with practiced hands. A block down and a block around that corner, a man with a three-day growth of whiskers stopped a truck with a very dirty license plate. Moe stopped and the man jumped out of the truck long enough to heave the tire and wheel into the back.
The man gave Moe a handful of change which Moe distributed among the little gang. Then he got in the truck beside the driver and waved for Jimmy to come along.
"What's that for?" demanded the driver.
"He's a smarty pants," said Moe. "A real good one."
"What'cha do, kid?"
"Moe, what did this kid sell you?"
"You and your rusty jacks," grunted Moe. "Jimmy James here told us how to put a long hunk of pipe on the handle."
"Jimmy James, who taught you about leverage?" demanded the driver suspiciously.
Jimmy Holden believed that he was in the presence of an educated man. "Archimedes," he said solemnly, giving it the proper pronunciation.
The driver said to Moe, "Think he's all right?"
"He's smart enough."
"Who're your parents, kid?"
Jimmy Holden realized that this was a fine time to tell the truth, but properly diluted to taste. "My folks are dead," he said.
"Who you staying with?"
The driver of the truck eyed him cautiously for a moment. "You escaped from an orphan asylum?"
"Uh-huh," lied Jimmy.
"Don't want to get sent back," said Jimmy.
"Got a flop?"
"Place to sleep for the night."
"Where'd you sleep last night?"
"Bindlestiff, huh?" roared the man with laughter.
"No, sir," said Jimmy. "I've no bindle."
The man's roar of laughter stopped abruptly. "You're a pretty wise kid," he said thoughtfully.
"I told y' so," said Moe.
"Shut up," snapped the man. "Kid, do you want a flop for the night?"
"Okay. You're in."
"What's your name?" asked Jimmy.
"You call me Jake. Short for Jacob. Er--here's the place."
The "Place" had no other name. It was a junkyard. In it were car parts, wrecks with parts undamaged, whole motors rusting in the air, axles, wheels, differential assemblies and transmissions from a thousand cars of a thousand different parentages. Hubcaps abounded in piles sorted to size and shape. Jake drove the little pickup truck into an open shed. The tire and wheel came from the back and went immediately into place on a complicated gadget. In a couple of minutes, the tire was off the wheel and the inner tube was out of the casing. Wheel, casing, and inner tube all went into three separate storage piles.
Not only a junkyard, but a stripper's paradise. Bring a hot car in here and in a few hours no one could find it. Its separated parts would be sold piece by piece and week by week as second-hand replacements.
Jake said, "Dollar-fifty."
"Two," said Moe.
"Go find it and put it back."
"Gimme the buck-six," grunted Moe. "Pretty cheap for a good shoe, a wheel, and a sausage."
"Bring it in alone next time, and I'll slip you two-fifty. That gang you use costs, too. Now scram, Jimmy James and I got business to talk over."
"He taking over?"
"Don't talk stupid. I need a spotter. You're too old, Moe. And if he's any good, you gotta promotion coming."
"And if he ain't?"
"Don't come back!"
Moe eyed Jimmy Holden. "Make it good--Jimmy." There was malice in Moe's face.
Jake looked down at Jimmy Holden. With precisely the same experienced technique he used to estimate the value of a car loaded with road dirt, rust, and collision-smashed fenders, Jake stripped the child of the dirty clothing, the scuffed shoes, the mussed hair, and saw through to the value beneath. Its price was one thousand dollars, offered with no questions asked for information that would lead to the return of one James Quincy Holden to his legal guardian.
It wasn't magic on Jake's part. Paul Brennan had instantly offered a reward. And Jake made it his business to keep aware of such matters.
How soon, wondered Jake, might the ante be raised to two Gee? Five? And in the meantime, if things panned, Jimmy could be useful as a spotter.
"You afraid of that Moe punk, Jimmy?"
"Good, but keep an eye on him. He'd sell his mother for fifty cents clear profit--seventy-five if he had to split the deal. Now, kid, do you know anything about spotting?"
"All right. Come on in and we'll eat. Do you like Mulligan?"