THIS THING wich had happened was weird! It was eerie! It has crept up on Dawson and he could not strike back at it. He paced the floor of his hotel room. clenching his hands, afraid to sleep, and jumping at every sound in the hall. He had seen a ghost at the fight!
But even more than seeing it. the ghost had called to him. "I all be around to see you later, Champ." Bill Dawson was scared. For a man who has just belted his way to the light heavy-weight championship of the world, this did not make sense. He had fought his way up through the ranks against the toughest competition, and fear is something with wich champs do not deal.
Still the ghost had been there --and soon it might be here in the room!
The thought of it made his powerful, tanned body shiver, and his eyes became two searching, frightened creatures.
How could it be? he asked himself.
But the thing was true. He had seen a ghost! He had seen Old Joe, his trainer, but everyone knew that Old Joe had been dead for two years! Yet when Dawson had gotten back to the dressing room, the towel was folded over his shoulders the way Old Joe always ficed it! So he must have been there!
Dawson tried to sit down and relax in a chair, but there was no peace from this agonizing mental torture. He wrung his hands, and then went back to pacing againg. He remembered the fight --shortly after the opening bell, he had been hit with a right hand punch and been knocked down.
An ordinary man would have been finished, but with his great fighting heart and condition, Dawson had continued. But it was right then that he had seen the ghost at the ringside! Dazed from the punch. Dawson had started to get up without taking the full count when he saw Old Joe motioning him to take nine. In his stunned state, this had seemed normal to Dawson. The effects of the punch did not really wear off until the fight was over.
Dawson won by a Knockout in the ninth round, purely through fighting instinct. When his head had cleared, back at the hotel, the horrible memory that he had taken instructions all through the fight from a ghost came to him! He paid no attention to advice from his corner, but kept watching Joe and following his guidance.
Dawson pounded his fists in desperation on the bureau, then slumped down on the bed. Dawson loved Old Joe because the trainer had been with him from the start, Old Joe had discovered him, trained him, handled him like a son. They had climbed the ladder together. The memories of Old Joe rubbing him down, and of how they used to talk, made Dawson´s skin creep.
Old Joe seemed to be here with him right in this room. He could almost hear the hoarse voice of the old trainer, and the voice haunted him! Plagued him! The silence of the room suddenly closed in on him like death-gripping, suffocating quick-sand! He felt as though Old Joe were near him, getting closer to him every second. The room seemed full of spooks, shadows from the lamps cast strange and devilish patterns. Memories of Old Joe pierced his heart and brain and froze his very blood!
In despair, Dawson fell down on the bed and beat the pillows Please, please, let him alone! The telephone rang suddenly and it was like a clang of doom to Dawson. He caught the scream in his throat, looked at the jangling phone and then fearfully lifted it in his wet and shaking hand.
"Hello is this the champion? Is this room 203?" a voice asked. Terror-stricken, Dawson pounced off the bed an with a hoarse voice tore the phone from the wall. It was Old Joe´s voice! He was coming after him! He had found him! Dawson´s head spun, and he rocked in the center of the room, staring at the door, breathlessly and helplessly.
The panic caused him to writhe in agony, and he sunk down on the floor, sobbing the sobs of a beaten and confused man. Why didn´t Old Joe understand? Old Joe must have known that he had started the argument himself. Dawson would never have kicked him out of the training camp if he hadn´t kept picking and annoying him. He loved Old Joe, he always would. Why did he want to drive him insane?
Through the tears a sense of relief and sensibility returned to Dawson. All during the right, right from the knockdown, hadn´t the ghost of Old Joe been out there advising him how to fight and beat the champ? If he wanted him to win then, why did he want to haunt him now? The terror and the panic of the past few hours had whipped Dawson into a limp lump of weakness. Wearily, more tired and beaten han he had been at any time furing the fight, he dragged himself to his feet.
Then came the knock at the door! Instantly, the whole fiendish horror surrounded Dawson again. In was not just any knock at a door. It was Old Joe´s knock! One-one-two. Just the way he used to rap on the door for him to train, or when it was time for him to go down to the ring for a fight.
The floor sagged under Dawson, and dizzily he gripped the bed with one hand and the bureau with the other for suport, waiting, paralyzed, for the knock again. Instead, the door opened slowly! Then Old Joe´s gnarled hand came in, and then Old Joe stood there. Dawson backed towards the window, shaking his head, terror-striken. The ghost had found him!
"WHAT IS the matter, champ?" Old Joe spoke kindly. "What are they doing with my boy? Bill, Do not be afraid. I can tell you what happened. No, I am no ghost. I just was away sick, that is all. That is why I started that argument with you, I knew I could not keep up with you and I did not want to be a burden. So I let you kick me out of the training camp and then I had a few old friends circulate the news that I was dead, so you would not be worrying.
I´ve been in the hospital all the while, but tonight when you were fighting for the crown, I just had to get a pass and come to see you. The closest I could get was to throw that towel over your shoulders on the way out. Always told you that you be a champ, did not I?
Dawson threw his arm around Old Joe´s shoulders and laughed in relief. He had won his greatest fight. He had conquered the unknown!