Nancy’s return was greeted with a loud shout in Grogan’s hall, and at the door a feeling of great jubilation flooded her mind. The men gathered both at the serving table and around the gaming tables turned towards him, waved their hands upwards and waved their welcome to him. There was a crowd! How colorful! How varied!
There sat a dark, narrow-faced Romani, and next to him a Scandinavian, whose light hair had faded to almost white in the sun of the mountain desert, and whose unaccustomed skin had become tame in the heat and burnt scarlet. And there was an Englishman, very calm, determined to speak, his eyes colorless. And there a New Englander, thin, tall, shaggy, bones loosely attached to each other by stout tendons. And there flashed the nigger’s teeth; and there was a Chinese staring into nothingness.
It seemed as if powerful men had gathered here from all corners of the world, who had finally been gathered here in Number Ten by a fascinating appetite for adventure, a love of danger, and a bee-like displeasure caught under a saddle blanket. They had been in danger, and they were dangerous. The air around them was saturated with the possibilities of action. They felt their own power, they were not afraid of anything, they were not ashamed to show the world who they were. Their personalities were as variegated as their colorful outfits — bandannas of all kinds, red, blue and yellow shirts, all faded by dirt or time.
Nancy would have given anything to see a match between Jerry Aiken and these men. It didn’t seem possible that Jerry would have been able to hold his own against them even for a moment. Then Nancy remembered how Jerry had stood before her in prison, alert, poised, smart and quick-looking. Certainly he was dangerous too, but in a different way than this group of men.
A wild uncontrollable desire awoke in Nancy. If Grogan’s guests could have read his mind, a smile would surely have formed on their lips.
As soon as Nancy had entered the door, a swarm of men rushed to her from the serving table, asking her to sing again, and taking her to their place. The orderly broke up with him, depressed and thoughtful. As soon as she left him, he felt like he was playing with fire, attractive but very hot. He looked after the girl, amused, but worried at the same time.
Nancy had a great time. Even Levin’s heart skipped a beat when he saw the girl’s shining face. Nancy danced her way through the crowd of men, smiling at everyone and throwing in words here and there. Everyone was waiting in front of him, but as soon as he passed, the men started to crowd to get to him again, pushing each other aside and giving each other bitter glances. Bitter glances are not far ahead of bitter actions in Grogan’s collection. And Law Enforcement Officer Bud Levine knew it all too well.
But he was happy about at least one thing. Jerry was in the booth and would definitely stay there. The fact that he would join the girl felt like pouring oil on a fire to Levine. The law enforcer was a little shaken.
When the swarm of men again swept Nancy along in the same way that a wave washing over a beach sweeps a driftwood into the ocean’s lap, Pete the Dwarf tensed his strong shoulders to let the girl in, and Red Mack was right on his heels.
“Nancy,” whispered Red Mack so quietly that no one but the girl could hear it, “it’s time for us to get out of here.”
“For what?” asked the girl, looking at the man with a frown.
To him Red Mack and the Dwarf began to feel like a weight that he dragged behind him, like a ship drags a storm anchor. They spoiled his fun with their serious expressions and warnings.
He was suddenly overcome with the desire to get rid of them.
“For what?” repeated the Dwarf gravely. »Because this is not a suitable place for a woman. I’ve been here long enough to understand that.”
»Pete», said Nancy fiercely, »I myself decide which places are suitable for me». He turned to Red Mack and added appealingly, “Isn’t that right, Mack?”
“Of course he does,” admitted Red Mack quite incoherently. “Doesn’t he know what he wants?”
Tungos took Nancy with him, but Pete and Punainen were left standing facing each other, suddenly making out with each other.
»Who told you to ski the slopes?» pointed out the Dwarf harshly.
“I- don’t need to be told to stop the man from behaving like a clown,” explained Red Mack. »Are you so naughty as to talk to a woman like that?»
»Mack», said the Dwarf, »I have put up with a lot from you. Even if you were born stupid, you still don’t always have to show it.»
Over the heads of the crowd he saw Nancy. The girl had turned to look behind her with a smile, and the Dwarf took that smile as an invitation to move on. But Red Mack had also seen the same smile and thought it was an encouragement specially meant for him.
“No doubt we should get him out of here,” continued Mack, “but you won’t make him go by insulting him—and you won’t make him go by insulting me either.”
The dwarf turned dark red with rage.
“What?” he snapped. »You red-headed depiction, you walking skeleton!
Since when have you been able to read women’s minds?”
“Like so!” flashed Red Mack and punched the Dwarf between the eyes. For a while the Dwarf was too stunned to hit back. Then he leaned back, leaned firmly on his right leg, and slammed his right fist forward with such force that Red would have gone flying through the wall if the blow had landed. But before the fist was even close, Red Mack crouched to avoid the terrible jolt and lunged closer to the Dwarf, tapping him with both fists from a short distance. Pete the Dwarf received a heady jolt to his chin, and then an equally hard slap to the opposite side yanked his face back forward, and the next moment Red’s skinny fist sank wrist-deep into Pete’s stomach.
Any of those blows would have knocked the weaker man unconscious, but the Dwarf just snarled and swung Red’s arm away, swinging his hand back. Then he shook Red in the ribs with crushing violence. Due to its force, the Red One bent twice as much as a collapsing link knife, but at the same time he received a blow from above, which his muscles contracting from the pain made twice as fierce. It hit Kääpiö directly in the already damaged nose, from which a shower of blood erupted. Then the fight really started, because seeing his own blood, the Dwarf went berserk, and Red Mack raged like an evil spirit, trying to aim another blow at the same spot.
Levine, the orderly, was by no means idle in the meantime. He made a furious effort to reach the strugglers, but with inconceivable speed all of Grogan’s guests had gathered around them. Many of them had tasted the fist bumps earlier that night and were now flinching in delight as they waited to see the devastation wrought by the pair of giants.
For it was indeed a struggle of giants. The dwarf’s blows had three times as much power as Mack could possibly get out of his skinny hands, but on the other hand, Mack’s swipes were three times as cunning. His lightning-fast fists hammered the Dwarf’s head, face, and body like hammers, but the Dwarf just grunted with each blow and resorted to his heavy blows. From somewhere in the distance, he heard Levine screaming that the fight had to stop and threatening to knock out anyone who prevented him from getting to the fighters. But before getting knocked out, Kääpiö wanted to give the final blow, which would balance the whole account, even if it would leave a significant savings for him.
He started harassing his opponent more tightly. Mack’s fists skidded off his forehead, snapped at his jaw, and slammed into his chest and ribs, but still he shook his head and pushed forward, stubbornly seizing the opportunity. If Mack had had room, he might have stayed away, but the circle around them was shrinking as the onlookers, more and more eager, pressed closer to see every detail. So at last the living wall blocked Mack’s way of retreat as he sprang back, and the next moment the Dwarf’s Violent Fist slammed into his jaw. Mack slammed into the man behind him and then literally fell to the floor.
Despite the severe shock, however, he did not pass out, and when the Dwarf stepped back to wipe the blood from his face and eye the vanquished, Mack sprang to his feet again and charged at his opponent like a wildcat. They clung together, frolicked for a moment, and then curled up at the feet of the crowd of men in a confused, swarming cluster.
Nancy had observed all of this from the crowded outer shack. When he separated from the partnerships, he had guessed that there would probably be a quarrel between them, but to get rid of them, he had not been able to think of a better way than to incite them against each other. He had felt like a sniper with his finger on the trigger, but when the men started running to watch the battle, he too had drifted to the edge of the circle.
From there he could see the heads of Mack and the Dwarf rising above the crowd around him, saw fists swinging and hitting and heads bobbing and swaying from the blows. Once, twice, and again he tried to thread his way through the crowd of onlookers to separate the combatants, but each time the huddled backs crowded tighter and closed his way. There was no other advice than to stand still and watch.
He regretted the fight and would have been willing to sacrifice much to stop it; but she would not have been the new Nancy if she had not felt anything but remorse. They took aim at him, and the power concentrated in each stroke was incense to the glory of his power. This was the very danger he had sensed hovering in the air of Grogan’s Kapaka. What if the whole group was thrown into turmoil and he was at the center of it all?
A shout echoed from the middle of the crowd: “They’re on the floor!”
When the group then dispersed, he saw the fighters writhing and writhing on the floor. In the next moment, orderly Bud Levine, whose hat had fallen off his head and his bandana had come loose from his neck as the predicament penetrated, leaned over to the partners and placed his hands on each of their shoulders. They were under arrest.