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Thubway Tham and Elevated Elmer

by Johnston McCulley

Author of "The Black Star" series, the "Spider" series, etc.

ON this particular morning, Thubway Tham——What's that? You don't know Thubway Tham?

Thubway Tham is the clever little pickpocket who lisps when he speaks. Since he always works in the subway during rush hours, he enjoys the name Thubway Tham, because he lisps when he says it, and shows no offense when other persons do the same. To call him Subway Sam is to affront him; he is Thubway Tham—no less, and he has the reputation of causing several of the police force, particularly a certain Detective Craddock, to gnash their teeth in rage. For, to land Thubway Tham behind bars, it is necessary to "catch him with the goods," and Tham declines to be caught that way or in any other.

To resume: On this particular morning Thubway Tham felt a certain amount of anger. There had appeared out of the nowhere a pickpocket fully as clever as himself, who demanded that he be called "Elevated Elmer." As Tham worked the subway, so Elmer worked the elevated trains. They had tolerated each other at first, but toleration had ended in a feud.

It was common talk in the underworld that Elevated Elmer's daily haul put the efforts of Thubway Tham to shame. That made it a professional matter, of course, and Tham had professional pride. The city was not large enough, despite its size, to accommodate both Thubway Tham and Elevated Elmer unless one of them was acknowledged peer in the line of work they practiced.

Thubway Tham ate breakfast at the usual restaurant, and after a time found himself at Union Square. He was walking aimlessly and thinking of the situation in which he found himself. Between Tham and Elevated Elmer there was a studied courtesy when they met, but each knew that the other held an ax behind his back, so to speak, and was watching for a blow.

"The thimp!" Thubway Tham mused, "I ought to kick in hith ugly fathe! He maketh me thick! Thilly ath!"

At that moment, Elevated Elmer came hurrying around the corner and almost ran into Tham.

"Tryin' to run over the town?" Tham demanded.

"Good morning, Tham! Little early for you, ain't it?"

"The early bird," said Tham, "geth the fatteth wallet! And the thwelleth thtick pin! I underthtand you made quite a haul yethterday."

"Well, I aim to be a modest man, Tham, but there are times when a man feels entitled to a little credit."

"Are you tryin' to inthinuate that I am a crook?" Tham wanted to know.

"No insinuation, Tham—mere statement of fact."

"Juth becauth once I wath caught you—"

"Now don't begin that old gag about giving a dog a bad name, Tham. We understand each other, all right. One of these days, old boy, I'm going to catch you right, and then it'll be up the river for yours! And I'll get this elevated bird, too."

"Get him!" said Tham. "Cut don't pethter me about your old troubleth!"

"Thinking of taking a ride in the subway this morning, Tham?"

"Why?"

"You know. I'll just trail along, if you do. You have a taking way with you, Tham. You took my shield once...

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