Part 3 out of 9
and lodgers. There was nothing ominous or even secretive about it--
up the short flight of steps to the entrance, even the door hung
carelessly half open.
Jimmie Dale's slouch hat was pulled a little farther down over his
eyes as he mounted the steps and entered the hallway. He listened a
moment. A sort of subdued, querulous hubbub seemed to hum through
the place, as voices, men's, women's, and children's, echoing out
from their various rooms above, mingled together, and floated down
the stairways in a discordant medley. Jimmie Dale stepped lightly
down the length of the hall--and listened again; this time intently,
with his ear to the keyhole of the door that made the end of the
passage. There was not a sound from within. He tried the door,
smiled a little as he reached for his keys, worked over the lock--
and straightened up suddenly as his ear caught a descending step on
the stairs. It was two flights up, however--and the door was
unlocked now. Jimmie Dale opened it, and, like a shadow, slipped
inside; and, as he locked the door behind him, smiled once more--the
door lock was but a paltry makeshift at best, but INSIDE his fingers
had touched a massive steel bolt that, when shot home, would yield
when the door itself yielded--and not before. Without moving the
bolt, he turned--and his flashlight for a moment swept the room.
"Not much like the way they describe this sort of place in
storybooks!" murmured Jimmie Dale capriciously. "But I get the
idea. Mr. Russian Jew downstairs makes a bluff at using it for a
Again the flashlight made a circuit. Here, there, and everywhere,
seemingly without any attempt at order, were piles of wooden
shipping cases. Only the centre of the room was clear and empty;
that, and a vacant space against the wall by the window.
Jimmie Dale, moving without sound, went to the window. There was a
shade on it, and it was pulled down. He reached up underneath it,
felt for the window fastening, and unlocked it; then cautiously
tested the window itself by lifting it an inch or two--it slid
easily in its grooves.
He stood then for a moment, hardfaced, a frown gathering his
forehead into heavy furrows, as the flashlight's ray again and again
darted hither and thither. There was nothing, absolutely nothing in
the room but wooden packing cases. He lifted the cover of the one
nearest to him and looked inside. It was quite empty, except for
some pieces of heavy cord, and a few cardboard shoe boxes that, in
turn, were empty, too.
"It's here, of course," said Jimmie Dale thoughtfully to himself.
"Clever work, too! But I can't move half a hundred packing cases
without that chap below hearing me; and I can't do it in ten
minutes, either, which, I imagine is the outside limit of time.
Fortunately, though, these cases are not without their compensation--
a dozen men could hide here."
He began to move about the room. And now he stooped before one pile
of boxes and then another, curiously attempting to lift up the
entire pile from the bottom. Some he could not move; others, by
exerting all his strength, gave a little; and then, finally, over in
one corner, he found a pile that appeared to answer his purpose.
"These are certainly empty," he muttered.
There was just room to squeeze through between them and the next
stack of cases alongside; but, once through, by the simple expedient
of moving the cases out a little to take advantage of the angle made
by the corner of the room, he obtained ample space to stand
comfortably upright against the wall. But Jimmie Dale was not
satisfied yet. Could he see out into the room? He experimented
with his flashlight--and carefully shifted the screen of cases
before him a little to one side. And yet still he was not
satisfied. With a sort of ironical droop at the corners of his
lips, as though suddenly there had flashed upon him the inspiration
that fathered one of those whimsical ideas and fancies that were so
essentially a characteristic of Jimmie Dale, he came out from behind
the cases, went across the room to the case he had opened when he
first entered, took out the cord and the cover of one of the
cardboard shoe boxes, and with these returned to his hiding place
The sounds from the upper stories of the tenement now reached him
hardly at all; but from below, directly under his feet almost, he
could hear some one, the proprietor of the shoe store probably,
Tense, every faculty now on the alert, his head turned in a
strained, attentive attitude, Jimmie Dale threw on the flashlight's
tiny switch, took that intimate and thin metal case from his pocket,
extracted a diamond-shaped, gray paper seal with the little
tweezers, moistened the adhesive side, and stuck it in the centre of
the white cardboard-box cover, then tore the edges of the cardboard
down until the whole was just small enough to slip into his pocket.
Through the cardboard he looped a piece of cord, placard fashion,
and with his pencil printed the four words--"with the compliments of
"--above the gray seal. He surveyed the result with a grim,
mirthless chuckle--and put the piece of cardboard in his pocket.
"I'm taking the longest chances I ever took in my life," said Jimmie
Dale very seriously to himself, as his fingers twisted, and doubled,
and tied the remaining pieces of cord together, and finally
fashioned a running noose in one end. "I don't--" The cord and the
flashlight went into his pocket, the room was in darkness, the black
mask was whipped from his breast pocket and adjusted to his face,
and his automatic was in his hand.
Came the creak of a footstep, as though on a ladder exactly below
him, another, and another, receding curiously in its direction, yet
at the same time growing louder in sound as if nearer the floor--
then a crack of light showed in the floor in the centre of the room.
This held for an instant, then expanded suddenly into a great
luminous square--and through a trapdoor, opened wide now, a man's
Jimmie Dale's eyes, fixed through the space between the piles of
cases, narrowed--there was, indeed, little doubt but that the shoe-
store proprietor below was an accomplice! The store served a most
convenient purpose in every respect--as a secret means of entry into
the room, as a sort of guarantee of innocence for the room itself.
Why not! To the superficial observer, to the man who might by some
chance blunder into the room--it was but an adjunct of the store
The man in the trap-doorway paused with his shoulders above the
floor, looked around, listened, then drew himself up, walked across
the floor, and shot the heavy bolt on the door that led into the
hallway of the house. He returned then to the trapdoor, bent over
it, and whistled softly. Two more men, in answer to the summons,
came up into the room.
"The Cap'll be along in a minute," one of them said. "Turn on the
A switch clicked, flooding the room with sudden brilliancy from half
a dozen electric bulbs.
"Too many!" grunted the same voice again. "We ain't working to-
night--turn out half of 'em."
The sudden transition from the darkness for a moment dazzled Jimmie
Dale's eyes--but the next moment he was searching the faces of the
three men. There were few crooks, few denizens of the crime world
below the now obsolete but still famous dead line that, as Larry the
Bat, he did not know at least by sight.
"Moulton, Whitie Burns, and Marty Dean," confided Jimmie Dale softly
to himself. "And I don't know of any worse, except--the Cap. And
gun fighters, every one of them, too--nice odds, to say nothing of--"
"Here's the Cap now!" announced one of the three. "Hello, Cap,
where'd you raise the mustache?"
Jimmie Dale's eyes shifted to the trapdoor, and into them crept a
contemptuous and sardonic smile--the man who was coming up now and
hoisting himself to the floor was the man who, half an hour before,
had threatened young Sammy Matthews with arrest.
The Cap, alias Bert Malone, alias a score of other names, closed the
trapdoor after him, pulled off his mustache and gray wig, tucked
them in his pocket, and faced his companions brusquely.
"Never mind about the mustache," he said curtly. "Get busy, the lot
of you. Stir around and get the works out!"
"What for?" inquired Whitie Burns, a sharp, ferret-faced little man.
"We got enough of the old stuff on hand now, and that bum break
Gregor made when he pinched the cracked plate put the finish on
that. Say, Cap--"
"Close your face, Whitie, and get the works out!" Malone cut in
shortly. "We've only got the whole night ahead of us--but we'll
need it all. We're going to run the queer off that cracked plate."
One of the others, Marty Dean this time, a certain brutal
aggressiveness in both features and physique, edged forward.
"Say, what's the lay?" he demanded. "A joke? We printed one fiver
off that plate--and then we knew enough to quit. With that crack
along the corner, you couldn't pass 'em on a blind man! And Gregor
saying he thought we could patch the plate up enough to get by with
gives me a pain--he's got jingles in his dome factory! Run them
fivers eh--say, are you cracked, too?"
"Aw, forget it!" observed Malone caustically. "Who's running this
gang?" Then, with a malicious grin: "I got a customer for those
fivers--fifteen thousand dollars for all we can turn out to-night.
The others stared at him for a moment, incredulity and greed
mingling in a curious half-hesitant, half-expectant look on their
Then Whitie Burns spoke, circling his lips with the tip of his
"D'ye mean it, Cap--honest? What's the lay? How'd you work it?"
Malone, unbending with the sensation he had created, grinned again.
"Easy enough," he said offhandedly. It was like falling off a log.
Gregor said, didn't he, that the only way he had been able to get
his claws on that plate was on account of young Matthews going away
sick--eh? Well, the old Matthews woman, his mother, has got money--
about fifteen thousand. I guess she ain't got any more than that,
or I'd have raised the ante. Aw, it was easy. She threw it at me.
I framed one up on them, that's all. I'm Kline, of the secret
service--see? I don't suppose they'd ever seen him, though they'd
know his name fast enough, but I made up something like him. I
showed them where I had a case against Sammy for pinching the plate
that was strong enough to put a hundred innocent men behind the
bars. Of course, he knew well enough he was innocent, but he could
see the twenty years I showed him with both eyes. Say, he mussed
all over the place, and went and fainted like a girl. And then the
old woman came across with an offer of fifteen thousand for the
plate, and corrupted me." Malone's cunning, vicious face, now that
the softening effects of the gray hair and mustache were gone,
seemed accentuated diabolically by the grin broadening into a laugh,
as he guffawed.
Marty Dean's hand swung with a bang to Malone's shoulder.
"Say, Cap--say, you're all right!" he exclaimed excitedly. You're
the boy! But what's the good of running anything off the plate
before turning it over to 'em--the stuff's no good to us."
"You got a wooden nut, with sawdust for brains," said Malone
sarcastically. "If he'd thought the gang of counterfeiters that was
supposed to have bought the plate from him had run off only one
fiver and then stopped because they say it wouldn't get by, and
weren't going to run any more, and just destroy the plate like it
was supposed to have been destroyed to begin with, and it all end up
with no one the wiser, where d'ye think we'd have banked that
fifteen thousand! I told him I had the whole run confiscated, and
that the queer went with the plate, so we'll just make that little
run to-night--that's why I sent word around to you this morning."
"By the jumping!" ejaculated Whitie Burns, heavy with admiration.
"You got a head on you, Cap!"
"It's a good thing for some of you that I have," returned Malone
complacently. "But don't stand jawing all night. Go on, now--get
There was no surprise in Jimmie Dale's face--he had chosen his
position behind a pile of cases that he had been extremely careful,
as a man is careful when his life hangs in the balance, to assure
himself were empty. None of the four came near or touched the pile
behind which he stood; but, here and there about the room, they
pulled this one and that one out from various stacks. In scarcely
more than a moment, the room was completely transformed. It was no
longer a storeroom for surplus stock, for the storage of bulky and
empty packing cases! From the cases the men had picked out, like a
touch of magic, appeared a veritable printing plant, an elaborate
engraver's outfit--a highly efficient foot-power press, rapidly
being assembled by Whitie Burns; an electric dryer, inks, a pile of
white, silk-threaded bank-note paper, a cutter, and a score of other
"Yes," said Jimmie Dale very gently to himself. "Yes, quite so--but
the plate? Ah!" Malone was taking it out from the middle of a
bundle of old newspapers, loosely tied together, that he had lifted
from one of the cases.
Jimmie Dale's eyes fastened on it--and from that instant never left
it. A minute passed, two, three of them--the four men were silently
busy about the room--Malone was carefully cleaning the plate.
"They will raid to-night. Look out for Kline, he is the sharpest
man in the United State secret service"--the warning in her letter
was running through Jimmie Dale's mind. Kline--the real Kline--was
going to raid the place to-night. When? At what time? It must be
nearly eleven o'clock already, and--
It came sudden, quick as the crack of doom--a terrific crash against
the bolted door--but the door, undoubtedly to the surprise of those
without, held fast, thanks to the bolt. The four men, white-faced,
seemed for an instant turned to statues. Came another crash against
the door--and a sharp, imperative order to those within to open it
"We're pinched! Beat it!" whispered Whitie Burns wildly--and dashed
for the trapdoor.
Like a rat for its hole, Marty Dean followed. Malone, farther away,
dropped the plate on the floor, and rushed, with Moulton beside him,
after the others--but he never reached the trapdoor.
Over the crashing blows, raining now in quick succession on the door
of the room, over a startled commotion as lodgers, roomers, and
tenants on the floor above awoke into frightened activity with
shouts and cries, came the louder crash of a pile of packing boxes
hurled to the floor. And over them, vaulting those scattered in his
way, Jimmie Dale sprang at Malone. The man reeled back, with a
cry. Moulton dashed through the trapdoor and disappeared. The
short, ugly barrel of Jimmie Dale's automatic was between Malone's
"You make a move," said Jimmie Dale, in a low sibilant way, "and
I'll drop you where you stand! Put your hands behind your back--
Malone, dazed, cowed, obeyed. A panel of the door split and rent
down its length--the hinges were sagging. Jimmie Dale worked like
lightning. The cord with the slip noose from his pocket went around
Malone's wrists, jerked tight, and knotted; the placard, his lips
grim, with no sign of humour, Jimmie Dale dangled around the man's
"An introduction for you to Mr. Kline out there--that you seem so
fond of!" gritted Jimmie Dale. Then, working as he talked: "I've
got no time to tell you what I think of you, you pitiful hound"--he
snatched up the plate from the floor and put it in his pocket--"
Twenty years, I think you said, didn't you?"--his hand shot into
Malone's pocket-book, and extracted the five-dollar note--" If you
can open this with your toes maybe you can get a way"--he wrenched
the trapdoor over and slammed it shut--"good-night, Malone"--and he
leaped for the window.
The door tottered inward from the top, ripping, tearing, smashing
hinges, panels, and jamb. Jimmie Dale got a blurred vision of brass
buttons, blue coats, and helmets, and, in the forefront, of a
stocky, gray-mustached, gray-haired man in plain clothes.
Jimmie Dale threw up the window, swung out, as with a rush the
officers burst through into the room and a revolver bullet hummed
viciously past his ear, and dropped to the ground--into encircling
"Ah, no, you don't, my bucko!" snapped a hoarse voice in his ear.
"Keep quiet now, or I'll crack your bean--understand!"
But the officer, too heavy to be muscular, was no match for Jimmie
Dale, who, even as he had dropped from the sill, had caught sight of
the lurking form below; and now, with a quick, sudden, lithe
movement he wriggled loose, his fist from a short-arm jab smashed
upon the point of the other's jaw, sending the man staggering
backward--and Jimmie Dale ran.
A crowd was already collecting at the mouth of the alleyway, mostly
occupants of the house itself, and into these, scattering them in
all directions, eluding dexterously another officer who made a grab
for him, Jimmie Dale charged at top speed, burst through, and headed
down the street, running like a deer.
Yells went up, a revolver spat venomously behind him, came the
shrill CHEEP-CHEEP! of the police whistle, and heavy boots pounding
the pavement in pursuit.
Down the block Jimmie Dale raced. The yells augmented in his rear.
Another shot--and this time he heard the bullet buzz. And then he
swerved--into the next alleyway--that flanked the Sanctuary.
He had perhaps a ten yards' lead, just a little more than the
distance from the street to the side door of the Sanctuary that
opened on the alleyway. And, as he ran now, his fingers tore at his
clothing, loosening his tie, unbuttoning coat, vest, collar, shirt,
and undershirt. He leaped at the door, swung it open, flung himself
inside--and then sacrificing speed to silence, went up the stairs
like a cat, cramming his mask now into his pocket.
His room was on the first landing. In an instant he had unlocked
the door, entered, and locked it again behind him. From outside, an
excited street urchin's voice shrilled up to him:
"He went in that door! I seen him!"
The police whistle chirped again; and then an authoritative voice:
"Get around and watch the saloon back of this, Heeney--there's a way
out through there from this joint."
Jimmie Dale, divested of every stitch of clothing that he had worn,
pulled a disreputable collarless flannel shirt over his head, pulled
on a dirty and patched pair of trousers, and slipped into a
threadbare and filthy coat. Jimmie Dale was working against
seconds. They were at the lower door now. He lifted the oilcloth
in the corner of the room, lifted up the loose piece of the
flooring, shoved his discarded garments inside, and from a little
box that was there smeared the hollow of his hand with some black
substance, possessed himself of two little articles, replaced the
flooring, replaced the oilcloth, and, in bare feet, stole across the
room to the door. Against the door, without a sound, Jimmie Dale
placed a chair, and on the chair seat he laid the two little
articles he had been carrying in his hand. It was intensely black
in the room, but Jimmie Dale needed no light here. From under the
bed he pulled out a pair of woolen socks and a pair of congress
boots, both as disreputable as the rest of his attire, put them on--
and very quietly, softly, cautiously, stretched himself out on the
The officers were at the top of the stairs. A voice barked out:
"Stand guard on this landing, Peters. Higgins, you take the one
above. We'll start from the top of the house and work down. Allow
no one to pass you."
"Yes, sir! Very good, Mr. Kline," was the response.
Kline!--the sharpest man in the United States secret service, she
had said. Jimmie Dale's lips set.
"I'm glad I had no shave this morning," said Jimmie Dale grimly to
His fingers were working with the black substance in the hollow of
his hand--and the long, slim, tapering fingers, the shapely, well-
cared-for hands grew unkempt and grimy, black beneath the finger
nails--and a little, too, played its part on the day's growth of
beard, a little around the throat and at the nape of the neck, a
little across the forehead to meet the locks of straggling and
disordered hair. Jimmie Dale wiped the residue from the hollow of
his hand on the knee of his trousers--and lay still.
An officer paced outside. Upstairs doors opened and closed. Gruff,
harsh tones in commands echoed through the house. The search party
descended to the second floor--and again the same sounds were
repeated. And then, thumping down the creaking stairs, they stopped
before Jimmie Dale's room. Some one tried the door, and, finding it
locked, rattled it violently.
"Open the door!" It was Kline's voice,
Jimmie Dale's eyes were closed, and he was breathing regularly,
though just a little slower than in natural respiration.
"Break it down!" ordered Kline tersely.
There was a rush at it--and it gave. It surged inward, knocked
against the chair, upset the latter, something tinkled to the floor--
and four officers, with Kline at their head, jumped into the room.
Jimmie Dale never moved. A flashlight played around the room and
focused upon him--and then he was shaken roughly--only to fall
inertly back on the bed again.
"I guess this is all right, Mr. Kline," said one of the officers.
"It's Larry the Bat, and he's doped to the eyes. There's the stuff
on the floor we knocked off the chair."
"Light the gas!" directed Kline curtly; and, being obeyed, stooped
to the floor and picked up a hypodermic syringe and a small bottle.
He held the bottle to the light, and read the label: LIQUOR
MORPHINAE. "Shake him again!" he commanded.
None too gently, a policeman caught Jimmie Dale by the shoulder and
shook him vigorously--again Jimmie Dale, once the other let go his
hold, fell back limply on the bed, breathing in that same, slightly
"Larry the Bat, eh?" grunted Kline; then, to the officer who had
volunteered the information: "Who's Larry the Bat? What is he? And
how long have you known him?"
"I don't know who he is any more than what you can see there for
yourself," replied the officer. "He's a dope fiend, and I guess a
pretty tough case, though we've never had him up for anything. He's
lived here ever since I've been on the beat, and that's three years
"All right!" interrupted Kline crisply. "He's no good to us! You
say there's an exit from this house into that saloon at the back?"
"Yes, sir but the fellow, whoever he is, couldn't get away from
there. Heeney's been over on guard from the start."
"Then he's still inside there," said Kline, clipping off his words.
"We'll search the saloon. Nice night's work this is! One out of
the whole gang--and that one with the compliments of the Gray Seal!"
The men went out and began to descend the stairs.
"One," said Jimmie Dale to himself, still motionless, still
breathing in that slow way so characteristic of the drug. "Two.
The minutes went by--a quarter of an hour--a half hour. Still
Jimmie Dale lay there--still motionless--still breathing with slow
regularity. His muscles began to cramp, to give him exquisite
torture. Around him all was silence--only distant sounds from the
street reached him, muffled, and at intervals. Another quarter of
an hour passed--an eternity of torment. It seemed to Jimmie Dale,
for all his will power, that he could not hold himself in check,
that he must move, scream out even in the torture that was passing
all endurance. It was silent now, utterly silent--and then out of
the silence, just outside his door, a footstep creaked--and a man
walked to the stairs and went down.
"Five," said Jimmie Dale to himself. "The sharpest man in the
United States secret service."
And then for the first time Jimmie Dale moved--to wipe away the
beads of sweat that had sprung out upon his forehead.
THE AFFAIR OF THE PUSHCART MAN
Larry the Bat shambled out of the side door of the tenement into the
back alleyway; shambled along the black alleyway to the street--and
smiled a little grimly as a shadow across the roadway suddenly
shifted its position. The game was growing acute, critical,
desperate even--and it was his move.
Larry the Bat, disreputable denizen of the underworld, alias Jimmie
Dale, millionairs clubman, alias the Gray Seal, whom Carruthers of
the MORNING NEWS-ARGUS called the master criminal of the age,
shuffled along in the direction of the Bowery, his hands plunged
deep in the pockets of his frayed and tattered trousers, where his
fingers, in a curious, wistful way, fondled the keys of his own
magnificent residence on Riverside Drive. It was his move--and it
was an impasse, ironical, sardonic, and it was worse--it was full of
True, he had outwitted Kline of the secret service two nights
before, when Kline had raided the counterfeiters' den; true, he had
no reason to believe that Kline suspected HIM specifically, but the
man Kline wanted HAD entered the tenement that night, and since then
the house had been shadowed day and night. The result was both
simple and disastrous--to Jimmie Dale. Larry the Bat, a known
inmate of the house, might come and go as he pleased--but to emerge
from the Sanctuary in the person of Jimmie Dale would be fatal.
Kline had been outwitted, but Kline had not acknowledged final
defeat. The tenement had been searched from top to bottom--
unostentatiously. His own room on the first landing had been
searched the previous afternoon, when he was out, but they had
failed to find the cunningly contrived opening in the floor under
the oilcloth in the corner, an impromptu wardrobe, that would
proclaim Larry the Bat and Jimmie Dale to be one and the same
person--that would inevitably lead further to the establishment of
his identity as the Gray Seal. In time, of course, the surveillance
would cease--but he could not wait. That was the monumental irony
of it--the factor that, all unknown to Kline, was forcing the issue
hard now. It was his move.
Since, years ago now, as the Gray Seal, he had begun to work with
HER, that unknown, mysterious accomplice of his, and the police,
stung to madness both by the virulent and constant attacks of the
press and by the humiliating prod of their own failures, sought
daily, high and low, with every resource at their command, for the
Gray Seal, he had never been in quite so strange and perilous a
plight as he found himself at that moment. To preserve inviolate
the identity of Larry the Bat was absolutely vital to his safety.
It was the one secret that even she, who so strangely appeared to
know all else about him, he was sure, had not discovered--and it was
just that, in a way, that had brought the present impossible
situation to pass.
In the month previous, in a lull between those letters of hers, he
had set himself doggedly and determinedly to the renewed task of
what had become so dominantly now a part of his very existence--the
solving of HER identity. And for that month, as the best means to
the end--means, however, that only resulted as futilely as the
attempts that had gone before--he had lived mostly as Larry the Bat,
returning to his home in his proper person only when occasion and
necessity demanded it. He had been going home that evening, two
nights before, walking along Riverside Drive, when from the window
of the limousine she had dropped the letter at his feet that had
plunged him into the affair of the Counterfeit Five--and he had not
gone home! Eventually, to save himself, he had, in the Sanctuary,
performing the transformation in desperate haste, again been forced
to assume the role of Larry the Bat.
That was really the gist of it. And yesterday morning he had
remembered, to his dismay, that he had had little or no money left
the night before. He had intended, of course, to replenish his
supply--when he got home. Only he hadn't gone home! And now he
needed money--needed it badly, desperately. With thousands in the
bank, with abundance even in his safe, in his own den at home, a
supply kept there always for an emergency, he was facing actual
want--he rattled two dimes, a nickel, and a few odd pennies
thoughtfully against the keys in his pocket.
To a certain extent, old Jason, his butler, could be trusted. Jason
even knew that mysterious letters of tremendous secretive importance
came to the house, and the old man always meant well--but he dared
not trust even Jason with the secret of his dual personality. What
was he to do? He needed money imperatively--at once. Thanks to
Kline, for the time being, at least, he could not rid himself of the
personality of Larry the Bat by the simple expedient or slipping
into the clothes of Jimmie Dale--he must live, act, and remain Larry
the Bat until the secret service officer gave up the hunt. How
bridge the gulf between Jimmie Dale and Larry the Bat in old Jason's
Nor was that all. There was still another matter, and one that, in
order to counteract it, demanded at once a serious inroad--to the
extent of a telephone call--upon his slender capital. A too
prolonged and unaccounted-for absence from home, and old Jason, in
his anxious, blundering solicitude, would have the fat in the fire
at that end--and the city, and the social firmament thereof, would
be humming with the startling news of the disappearance of a well-
known millionaire. The complications that would then ensue, with
himself powerless to lift a finger, Jimmie Dale did not care to
think about--such a contretemps must at all hazards be prevented.
Jimmie Dale reached the corner of the street, where it intersected
the Bowery, and paused languidly by the curb. No one appeared to be
following. He had not expected that there would be--but it was as
well to be sure. He walked then a few steps along the Bowery--and
slipped suddenly into a doorway, from where he could command a view
of the street corner that he had just left. At the end of ten
minutes, satisfied that no one had any concern in his immediate
movements, he shambled on again down the Bowery.
There was a saloon two blocks away that boasted a private telephone
booth. Jimmie Dale made that his destination.
Larry the Bat was a very well-known character in that resort, and
the bullet-headed dispenser of drinks behind the bar nodded
unctuously to him over the heads of those clustered at the rail as
he entered; Larry the Bat, as befitted one of the elite of the
underworld, was graciously pleased to acknowledge the proletariat
salutation with a curt nod. He walked down to the end of the room,
entered the telephone booth--and was carelessly careful to close the
door tightly behind him.
He gave the number of his residence on Riverside Drive, and waited
for the connection. After some delay, Jason's voice answered him.
"Jason," said Jimmie Dale, in matter-of-fact tones, "I shall be out
of the city for another three or four days, possibly a week, and--"
he stopped abruptly, as a sort of gasp came to him over the wire.
"Thank God that's you, sir!" exclaimed the old butler wildly. "I've
been near mad, sir, all day!"
"Don't get excited, Jason!" said Jimmie Dale a little sharply. "The
mere matter of my absence for the last two days is nothing to cause
you any concern. And while I am on the subject, Jason, let me say
now that I shall be glad if you will bear that fact in mind in
"Yes, sir," stammered Jason. "But, sir, it ain't that--good Lord,
Master Jim, it ain't that, sir! It's--it's one of them letters."
Something like a galvanic shock seemed to jerk the disreputable,
loose-jointed frame of Larry the Bat suddenly erect--and a strained
whiteness crept over the dirty, unwashed face.
"Go on, Jason," said Jimmie Dale, without a quiver in his voice.
"It came this morning, sir--that shuffer with his automobile left
it. I had just time to say you weren't at home, sir, and he was
gone. And then, sir, there ain't been an hour gone by all through
the day that a woman, sir--a lady, begging your pardon, Master Jim--
hasn't rung up on the telephone, asking if you were back, and if I
could get you, and where you were, and half frantic, sir, half
sobbing, sometimes, sir, and saying there was a life hanging on it,
Larry the Bat, staring into the mouthpiece of the instrument,
subconsciously passed his hand across his forehead, and
subconsciously noted that his fingers, as he drew them away, were
"Where is the letter now, Jason?" inquired Jimmie Dale coolly.
"Here on your desk, Master Jim. Shall I bring it to you?"
Bring it to him! How? When? Where? Bring it to him! The ghastly
irony of it! Jimmie Dale tried to think--prodding, spurring
desperately that keen, lightning brain of his that had never failed
him yet. How bridge the gulf between Larry the Bat and Jimmie Dale
in Jason's eyes--not just for the replenishing of funds now, but
with a life at stake!
"No--I think not, Jason," said Jimmie Dale calmly. Just leave it
where it is. And if she telephones again, say that you have told
me--that will be sufficient to satisfy any further inquiries. And
"If she telephones again, try and find out where the call comes
"I haven't forgotten what you said once, Master Jim, sir," said the
old man eagerly. "And I've been trying that sir, all day. They've
all come from different pay stations, sir."
A mirthless little smile tinged Jimmie Dale's lips. Of course! He
might have known! It was always that way, always the same. He was
as near to the solution of her identity at that moment as he had
been years ago, when she, in some mysterious way, alone of all the
world, had identified him as the Gray Seal!
"Very good, Jason," he said quietly. "Don't bother about it any
more. It will be all right. You can expect me when you see me.
Good-night." He hung the receiver on the hook, walked out of the
booth, and mechanically reached the street.
All right! It was far from "all right"--very far from it. It was
no trivial thing, that letter; they never had been trivial things,
those letters of hers, that involved so often a matter of life and
death--as this one now, perhaps, as her actions would seem to
indicate, involved life and death more urgently than any that had
gone before. It was far from all right--at a moment when his own
position, his own safety, was at best but a desperate chance; when
his every energy, brain, wit, and cunning were taxed to the utmost
to save himself! And yet, somehow, some way, at any cost, he must
get that letter--and at any cost he must act upon it! To fail her
was to fail utterly in everything that failure in its most
miserable, its widest sense, implied--failure in that which rose
paramount to every other consideration in life!
Fail her! Jimmie Dale's lips thinned into a hard, drawn line--and
then parted slowly in a curiously whimsical smile. It would be a
strange burglary that he had decided upon, in order that he might
not fail her--stranger than any the Gray Seal had ever committed,
and, in some respects, even more perilous!
He started along the Bowery, walking briskly now, toward the nearest
subway station, at Astor Place, his mind for the moment electing to
face the situation in a humour as whimsical as his smile. Supposing
that, as Larry the Bat, he were caught and arrested during the next
hour, in Jimmie's Dale's residence on Riverside Drive! With his
arrest as Larry the Bat, Jimmie's Dale would automatically
disappear. Would follow then the suspicion that Jimmie Dale, the
millionaire, had met with foul play, and as time went on, and Jimmie
Dale, being then in prison as Larry the Bat, did not reappear, the
assurance of it; then the certainty that suspicion would focus on
Larry the Bat as being connected with the millionaire's death, since
Larry the Bat had been caught in Jimmie Dale's home--and he would be
accused of his own murder! It was quite humourous, of course, quite
grotesquely bizarre--but it was equally an exceedingly grim
possibility! There were drawbacks to a dual personality!
"In a word," confided Jimmie Dale softly to himself, and a serious
light crept into the dark, steady eyes, "I'm in a bit of a nasty
At Astor Place he entered the subway; at Fourteenth Street he
changed to an express, and at Ninety-sixth Street he got out. It
was but a short walk west to Riverside Drive, and from there his
house was only a few blocks farther on.
Jimmie Dale did not slouch now. And for all his disreputable
attire, incongruous as it was in that neighbourhood, few people that
he passed paid any attention to him, none gave him more than a
casual glance--Jimmie Dale swung along, upright, with no attempt to
make himself inconspicuous, hurrying a little, as one intent upon a
definite errand. As he neared his house he slowed his pace a little
until a couple, who were passing in front of it, had gone on; then
he went up the steps, but noiselessly as a shadow now, to the front
door, opened it softly, closed it softly behind him, and crouched
for a moment in the vestibule.
Through the monogrammed lace on the plate glass of the inner doors
he could see, a little indistinctly, into the reception hall beyond.
The hall was empty. Jason, for that matter, would be the only one
likely to be about; the other servants would have no business there
in any case, and whether in their quarters above or below, they had
their own stairs at the rear.
Jimmie Dale inserted the key in the spring lock, and opened the door
a cautious fraction of an inch--to listen. There was no sound--yes,
a subdued murmured--the servants were downstairs in the basement.
He slipped inside, slipped, in a flash, across the hall, and,
treading like a cat, went up the stairs. He scarcely seemed to
breathe until, with a little sigh of relief, he stood inside his den
on the first floor, with the door shut behind him.
"I must speak to Jason about being a little more watchful," muttered
Jimmie Dale facetiously. "Here's all my property at the mercy of--
Larry the Bat!"
An instant he stood by the door, looking about him--in the bright
moonlight streaming in through the side windows the room's
appointments stood out in soft shadows, the huge davenport, the
great, luxurious easy-chairs, an easel with a half-finished canvas,
as he had left it; the big, flat-topped, rosewood desk, the open
fireplace--and then, his steps silent on the thick velvet rug under
foot, he walked quickly to the desk.
Yes, there it was--the letter. He placed it hurriedly in his
pocket--the moonlight was not strong enough to read by, and he dared
not turn on the lights.
And now money--funds. In the alcove behind the portiere, Jimmie
Dale dropped on his knees before the squat, barrel-shaped safe, and
opened it. He reached inside, took out a package of banknotes,
placed the bills in his pocket--and hesitated a moment. What else
would he require? What act did that letter call upon the Gray Seal
to perform in the next few hours? Jimmie Dale stared thoughtfully
into the interior of the safe. Whatever it was, it must be
performed in the role of Larry the Bat, for though he could get into
his dressing room now, and become Jimmie Dale again, there were
still those watchers outside the Sanctuary--THEY must not become
suspicious--and if Larry the Bat disappeared mysteriously, Larry the
Bat would be the man that Kline and the secret service of the United
States would never cease hunting for, and that would mean that he
could never reassume a character that was as necessary for his
protection as breath was to life, so long as the Gray Seal worked.
True, he could change now to Jimmie Dale, but he would have to
change back again and return to the Sanctuary before morning, as
Larry the Bat--and remain there until Kline, beaten, called off his
human bloodhounds. No, a change was not to be thought of.
What, then, would he require--that compact little kit of burglar
tools, rolled in its leather jacket, that, unrolled slipped about
his body like a close-fitting undervest? As well to take it anyway.
He removed his coat and vest, took out the leather bundle from the
safe, untied the thongs that bound it together, unrolled it, passed
it around his body, life belt fashion, secured the thongs over his
shoulders, and put on his coat and vest again. A revolver, a
flashlight? He had both--at the Sanctuary, under the flooring--but
there were duplicates here! He slipped them into his pockets.
Anything else--to forestall and provide for any possible
contingency? He hesitated again for a moment, thinking, then slowly
closed the inner door of the safe, locked it, swung the outer door
shut--and, in the act of twirling the knobs, sprang suddenly to his
feet. Sharp, shrill in the stillness of the room, the telephone
bell on the desk rang out clamourously.
Jimmie Dale's face set hard, as he leaped out from behind the
curtain--had Jason heard it! It rang again before he could reach
the desk--was ringing as he snatched the receiver from the hook.
"Yes, yes!" he called, in a low, guarded, hasty way, into the
mouthpiece. "Hello! What is it?" And then one hand, resting on
the desk, closed around the edge, and tightened until the skin over
the knuckles grew ivory white. It was--SHE! She! It was HER
voice--he had only heard it once in all his life--that night, two
nights before, in a silvery laugh from the limousine as it had sped
away from him down the road--but he knew! It thrilled him now with
a mad rhapsody, robbing him for the moment of every thought save
that she was living, real, existent--that it was HER voice. "It's
you--YOU!" he said hoarsely.
"Oh, Jimmie--you at last!"--it came in a little gasping cry of
relief. "The letter--"
"Yes, I've got it--it's all right--it's all right"--the words would
not seem to come fast enough in his desperate haste. "But it's you
now. Listen! Listen!" he pleaded. "Tell me who you are! My God!
how I've tried to find you, and--"
That rippling, silvery laugh again, but now, too, it seemed to his
eager ear, with just the faintest note of wistfulness in it.
"Some day, Jimmie. That letter now. It--"
Jimmie Dale straightened up suddenly--Jason's steps, running,
sounded outside the room along the corridor--there was not an
instant to lose.
"Hang up! Good-bye! Danger! Don't ring again!" he whispered
hurriedly, and, with a miserable smile, replacing the receiver
bitterly on the hook, he jumped for the curtain.
He reached it none too soon. The door opened, an electric-light
switch clicked, and the room was flooded with light. Jason, still
running, headed for the desk.
"It'll be her again!" Jimmie Dale heard the old man mutter, as from
the edge of the portiere he watched the other's actions.
Jason picked up the telephone.
"Hello! Hello!" he called--then began to click impatiently with the
receiver hook. "Hello! . . . Who? . . . Central? . . . I don't
want any number--somebody was calling here. . . . What? . . .
Nobody on the wire!"
He set the telephone back on the desk with a bewildered air.
"That's queer!" he exclaimed. "I could have sworn I heard it ring
twice, and--" He stopped abruptly, and, leaning across the desk,
hung there, wide-eyed, staring, while a sickly pallor began to steal
into his face. "The letter!" he mumbled wildly. "The letter--
Master Jim's letter--the letter--it's GONE!"
Trembling, excited, the old man began to search the desk, then down
on his knees on the floor under it; and then, growing more frantic
with every instant, rose and began to hunt around the room in an
agitated, aimless fashion.
Jason's distress was very real--he was almost beside himself now
with fear and anxiety. A whimsical, affectionate smile played over
Jimmie Dale's lips at the old man's antics--and changed suddenly
into one of consternation. Jason was making directly now for the
curtain behind which he stood! Perhaps, though, he would pass it
by, and--Jason's hand reached out and grasped the portiere.
"Jason!" said Jimmie Dale sharply.
The old man staggered back as though he had been struck, tried to
speak, choked, and gazed at the curtain with distended eyes.
"Is--is that you, sir--Master Jim--behind the curtain there?" he
finally blurted out. "I--sir--you gave me a start--and the letter,
"Don't lose your head, Jason," said Jimmie Dale coolly. "I've got
the letter. Now do as I bid you."
"Yes--Master Jim," faltered the old man.
"Pull down the window shades and draw the portiere together,"
directed Jimmie Dale.
Jason, still overwrought and excited, obeyed a little awkwardly.
"Now the lights, Jason," instructed Jimmie Dale. "Turn them off,
and go and sit down in that chair at the desk."
Again Jason obeyed, stumbling in the darkness as he returned from
the electric-light switch at the farther end of the room. He sat
down in the chair.
Larry the Bat stepped out from behind the curtain. "I came for that
letter, Jason," he explained quietly. "I am going out again now. I
may be back to-morrow; I may not be back for a week. You will say
nothing, not a word, of my having been here to-night. Do you
"Yes, sir," said Jason; then hesitantly: "Would you mind saying,
sir, when you came in?"
"It's of no consequence, Jason--is it?"
"No, sir," said Jason.
Jimmie Dale smiled in the darkness.
"I wish you to remain where you are, without leaving that chair, for
the next ten minutes." He moved across the room to the door.
"Good-night, Jason," he said.
"Good-night, Master Jim--good-night, sir--oh, Lord!"
Jimmie Dale did not require that ten minutes; it was a very wide
margin of safety to obviate the possibility of Jason, from a window,
detecting the exit of a disreputable character from the house--in
three minutes he was turning the corner of the first cross street
and walking rapidly away from Riverside Drive.
In the subway station Jimmie Dale read the letter--read it twice
over, as he always read those strange epistles of hers that opened
the door to new peril, new danger to the Gray Seal, but too, that
seemed somehow to draw tighter, in a glad, big way, the unseen bond
between them; read it, as he always read those letters, almost
subconsciously committing the very words to memory with that keen
faculty of brain of his. But now as he began to tear the sheet and
envelope into minute particles, a strained, hard look was on his
face and in his eyes, and his lips, half parted, moved a little.
"It's a death warrant," muttered Jimmie Dale. "I--I guess to-night
will see the end of the Gray Seal. She says I needn't do it, but I
guess it's worth the risk--a human life!"
A downtown express roared into the station.
"What time is it?" Jimmie Dale asked the guard, as he stepped
"'Bout midnight," the man answered tersely.
The forward car was almost empty, and Jimmie Dale chose a seat by
himself. How did she know? How did she know not only this, but the
hundred other affairs that she had outlined in those letters of
hers? By what means, superhuman, indeed, it seemed, did she--Jimmie
Dale jerked himself erect suddenly. What good did it do to
speculate on that now, when every minute was priceless? What was HE
to do, how was he to act, what plan could he formulate and carry
out, and WIN against odds that, at the outset, were desperate enough
even to forecast almost certain failure--and death!
Who would ever have suspected old Tom Ludgate, known for years
throughout the squalour of the East Side as old Luddy, the pushcart
man, of having a bag of unset diamonds under his pillow--or under
the sack, rather, that he probably used for a pillow! What a queer
thing to do! But then, old Luddy was a character--apparently always
in the most poverty-stricken condition, apparently hardly more than
keeping body and soul together, trusting no one, and obsessed by the
dread that by depositing in a bank some one would discover that he
had money, and attempt to force it from him, he had put his savings,
year after year, for twenty years, twenty-five years, perhaps, into
unset stone--diamonds. How had she found that out?
Jimmie Dale sank into a deeper reverie. He could steal them all
right, and they would be well worth the stealing--old Luddy had done
well, and lived and existed on next to nothing--the stones, she
said, were worth about fifteen thousand dollars. Not so bad, even
for twenty-five years of vegetable selling from a pushcart! He
could steal them all right; it would tax the Gray Seal's ingenuity
little to do so simple a thing as that, but that was not all, nor,
indeed, hardly a factor in it--it was vital that if he were to
succeed at all he must steal them PUBLICLY, as it were.
And after that--WHAT? His own chances were pretty slim at best.
Jimmie Dale, staring at the grayness of the subway wall through the
window, shook his head slowly--then, with a queer little
philosophical shrug of his shoulders, he smiled gravely, seriously.
It was all a part of the game, all a part of the life--of the Gray
It was half-past twelve, or a little later, as nearly as he could
judge, for Larry the Bat carried no such ornate thing in evidence as
a watch, as he halted at the corner of a dark, squalid street in the
lower East Side. It was a miserable locality--in daylight humming
with a cosmopolitan hive of pitiful humans dragging out as best they
could an intolerable existence, a locality peopled with every
nationality on earth, their community of interest the struggle to
maintain life at the lowest possible expenditure, where necessity
even was pared and shaved down to a minimum; but now, at night time,
or rather in the early-morning hours, the darkness, in very mercy,
it seemed, covered it with a veil, as it were, and in the quiet that
hung over it now hid the bald, the hideous, aye, and the piteous,
too, from view.
It was a narrow street, and the row of tenement houses, each house
almost identical with its neighbour, that flanked the pavement on
either side, seemed, from where Jimmie Dale stood looking down its
length, from the corner, to converge together at a point a little
way beyond, giving it an unreal, ominous, cavernlike effect. And,
too, there seemed something ominous even in its quiet. It was as
though one sensed acutely the crouching of some Thing in its lair--
waiting silently, viciously, with sullen patience.
A footstep sounded--another. Jimmie Dale drew quickly back around
the corner into an areaway. Two men passed--in helmets--swinging
their nightsticks--that beat was always policed in pairs!
They passed on, turned the corner, and went down the narrow cross
street that Jimmie Dale had just been inspecting. He started to
follow--and drew back again abruptly. A form flitted suddenly
across the road and disappeared in the darkness in the officers'
wake--ten yards behind the first another followed--at the same
interval of distance still another--and yet still one more--four in
The darkness hid all six, the two policemen, the four men behind
them--the only sounds were the OFFICERS' footsteps dying away in the
Jimmie Dale's fingers were mechanically testing the mechanism of the
automatic in his pocket.
"The Skeeter's gang!" he muttered to himself. "Red Mose, the
Midget, Harve Thoms--and the Skeeter! The Worst apaches in the city
of New York; death contractors--the lowest bidders! Professional
assassins, and a man's life any time for twenty-five dollars! I
wonder--I've never done it yet--but I wonder if it would be a crime
in God's sight if one shot--to KILL!"
Jimmie Dale was at the corner again--again the street before him was
black, deserted, empty. He chose the right hand side, and, well in
the shadow of the houses, as an extra precaution, stole along
silently. He stopped finally before one where, in the doorway, hung
a little sign. Jimmie Dale mounted the porch, and with his eyes
close to the sign could just make out the larger words in the big
ROOM TO RENT
Jimmie Dale nodded. That was right. The first house on the right-
hand side, with the room-to-rent sign, her letter had said. His
fingers were testing the doorknob. The door was not locked.
"Naturally, it wouldn't be locked," Jimmie Dale told himself grimly--
and stepped inside.
He stood for an instant without movement, every faculty on the
alert. Far up above him a step, guarded though his trained ear made
it out to be, creaked faintly upon the stairs--there was no other
sound. The creaking, almost inaudible at its loudest, receded
farther up--and silence fell.
In the darkness, noiselessly, Jimmie Dale groped for the stairway,
found it, and began to ascend. The minutes passed--it seemed a
minute even from step to step, and there were three flights to the
top! There must be no creaking this time--the slightest sound, he
knew well enough, would be not only fatal to the work he had to do,
but probably fatal to himself as well. He had been near death many
times--the consciousness that he was nearer to it now, possibly,
than he had ever been before, seemed to stimulate his senses into
acute and abnormal energy. And, too, the physical effort, as, step
by step, the flexed muscles relaxing so slowly, little by little,
gradually, each time as he found foothold on the step higher up, was
a terrific strain. At the top his face was bathed in perspiration,
and he wiped it off with his coat sleeve.
It was still dark here, intensely dark, and his eyes, though grown
accustomed to it, could make out nothing but the deeper shadow of
the walls. But thanks to her, always a mistress of accurate and
minute detail, he possessed a mental plan of his surroundings. The
head of the stairs gave on the middle of the hallway--the hallway
ran to his right and left. To his right, on the opposite side of
the hall, was the door of old Luddy's squalid two-room apartment.
For a moment Jimmie Dale stood hesitant--a sudden perplexity and
anxiety growing upon him. It was strange! What did it mean? He
had nerved himself to a quick, desperate attempt, trusting to
surprise and his own wit and agility for victory--there had seemed
no other way than that, since he had seen those four men at the
corner--since they were AHEAD of him. True, they were not much
ahead of him, not enough to have accomplished their purpose--and,
furthermore, they were not in that room. He knew that absolutely,
beyond question of doubt. He had listened for just that all the
nerve-racking way up the stairs. But where were they? There was no
sound--not a sound--just blackness, dark, impenetrable, utter, that
began to palpitate now.
It came in a whisper, wavering, sibilant--from his left. A sort of
relief, fierce in the breaking of the tense expectancy, premonitory
in the possibilities that it held, swept Jimmie Dale. He crept
along the hall. The whisper had come from that room, presumably
empty--that was for rent!
By the door he crouched--his sensitive fingers, eyes to Jimmie Dale
so often--feeling over jamb and panels with a delicate, soundless
touch. The door was just ajar. The fingers crept inside and
touched the knob and lock--there was no key within.
The whispering still went on--but it seemed like a screaming of
vultures now in Jimmie Dale's ears, as the words came to him.
"Aw, say, Skeeter, dis high-brow stunt gives me de pip! Me fer
goin' in dere an' croakin' de geezer reg'lar, widout de frills.
Who's to know? Say, just about two minutes, an' we're beatin' it
wid de sparklers."
An inch, a half inch at a time, the knob slowly, very, very slowly
turning, the door was being closed by the crouched form on the
"Close yer trap, Mose!" came a fierce response. "We ain't fixed the
lay all day for nothin'. There ain't a soul on earth knows he's got
any sparklers, 'cept us. If there was, it would be different--then
they'd know that was what whoever did it was after, see?"
The door was closed--the knob slowly, very, very slowly being
released again. From one of the leather pockets under Jimmie Dale's
vest came a tiny steel instrument that he inserted in the key-hole.
The same voice spoke on:
"That's what we're croaking him for, 'cause nobody knows about them
diamonds, and so's he can't TELL anybody afterward that any were
pinched. An' that's why it's got to look like he just got tired of
living and did it himself. I guess that'll hold the police when
they find the poor old duck hanging from the ceiling, with a bit of
cord around his neck, and a chair kicked out from under his feet on
the floor. Ain't you got the brains of a louse to see that?"
"Sure"--the whisper came dully, in grudging intonation through the
panels--the door was locked. "Sure, but it's de hangin' 'round
waitin' to get busy that's gettin' me goat, an'--"
Jimmie Dale straightened up and began to retreat along the corridor.
A merciless rage was upon him now, every fiber of his being seemed
to tingle and quiver with it--the damnable, hellish ingenuity of it
all seemed to choke and suffocate him.
"Luck!" muttered Jimmie Dale between his clenched teeth. "Oh, the
blessed luck to get that door locked! I've got time now to set the
stage for my own get-away before the showdown!"
He stole on along the corridor. Excerpts from her letter were
running through his brain: "It would do no good to warn him, Jimmie--
the Skeeter and his gang would never let up on him until they got
the stones. . . . It would do no good for you to steal them first,
for they would only take that as a ruse of old Luddy's, and murder
the man first and hunt afterward. . . . In some way you must let
the Skeeter SEE you steal them, make them think, make them certain
that it is a bona-fide theft, so that they will no longer have any
interest or any desire to do old Luddy harm. . . . And for it to
appear real to them, it must appear real to old Luddy himself--do
not take any chances there."
Jimmie Dale's eyes narrowed. Yes, it was simple enough now with
that pack of hell's wolves guarded for the moment by a locked door,
forced to give him warning by breaking the door before they could
get out. It was simple enough now to enter old Luddy's room, steal
the stones at the revolver point, then make enough disturbance--when
he was ready--to set the gang in motion, and, as they rushed in open
him, to make his escape with the stones to the roof through Luddy's
room. That was simple enough--there was an opening to the roof in
Luddy's room, she had said, and there was a ladder kept there in
place. On hot nights, it seemed, the old man used to go up there
and sleep on the roof--not now, of course. It was too late in the
year for that--but the opening in the roof was there, and the ladder
remained there, too.
Yes, it was simple enough now. And the next morning the papers
would rave with execrations against the Gray Seal--for the robbery
of the life savings of a poor, defenseless old man, for committing
as vile and pitiful a crime as had ever stirred New York! Even
Carruthers, of the MORNING NEWS-ARGUS, would be moved to bitter
attack. Good old Carruthers--who little thought that the Gray Seal
was his old college pal, his present most intimate friend, Jimmie
Dale! And afterward--after the next morning? Well, that, at least,
had never been in doubt. Old Luddy could be made to leave New York,
and, once away, with the Skeeter and his gang robbed of incentive to
pay any further attention to him, the stones could be secretly
returned to the old man. And it would to the public, to the police,
be just another of the Gray Seal's crimes--that was all!
Jimmie Dale had reached old Luddy's door. The Gray Seal? Oh, yes,
they would know it was the Gray Seal--the insignia was familiar
enough; familiar to the crooks of the underworld, who held it in
awe; familiar to the police, to whom it was an added barb of
ridicule. He was placing it now, that insignia, a diamond-shaped,
gray paper seal, on the panel of the door; and now, a black silk
mask adjusted over his face, Jimmie Dale bent to insert the little
steel instrument in the lock--a pitiful, paltry thing, a cheap lock,
to fingers that could play so intimately with twirling knobs and
dials, masters of the intricate mechanism of vaults and safes!
And then, about to open the door, a sort of sudden dismay fell upon
him. He had not thought of that--somehow, it had not occurred to
him! WHAT WAS IT THEY WERE WAITING FOR? Why had they not struck at
once, as, when he had first entered the house, he had supposed they
would do? What was it? Why was it? Was old Luddy out? Were they
waiting for his return--or what?
The door, without sound, moved gradually under his hand. A faint
odor assailed his nostrils! It was dark, very dark. Across the
room, in a direct line, was the doorway of the inner room--she had
explained that in her letter. It was slow progress to cross that
room without sound, in silence--it was a snail's movement--for fear
that even a muscle might crack.
And now he stood in the inner doorway. It was dark here, to--and
yet, how bizarre, a star seemed to twinkle through the very roof of
the room itself! The odour was pungent now. There was a long-drawn
sigh--then a low, indescribable sound of movement. SOMEBODY, APART
FROM OLD LUDDY, WAS IN THE ROOM!
It swept, the full consciousness of it, upon Jimmie Dale in an
instantaneous flash. Chloroform; the open scuttle in the roof; the
waiting of those others--all fused into a compact logical whole.
They had loosened the scuttle during the day, probably when old
Luddy was away--one of them had crept down there now to chloroform
the old man into insensibility--the others would complete the
ghastly work presently by stringing their victim up to the ceiling--
and it would be suicide, for, long before morning came, long before
the old man would be discovered, the fumes of the chloroform would
It seemed like a cold hand, deathlike, clutching at his heart. Was
he too late, after all! Chloroform alone could--kill! To the
right, just a little to the right--he must make no mistake--his ear
placed the sound! He whipped his hands from the side pockets of his
coat--the ray of his flashlight cut across the room and fell upon an
aged face upon a bed, upon a hand clutching a wad of cloth, the
cloth pressed horribly against the nose and mouth of the upturned
face--and then, roaring in the stillness, spitting a vicious lane of
fire that paralleled the flashlight's ray, came the tongue flame of
There was a yell, a scream, that echoed out, reverberated, and went
racketing through the house, and Jimmie Dale leaped forward--over a
table, sending it crashing to the floor. The man had reeled back
against the wall, clutching at a shattered wrist, staring into the
flashlight's eye, white-faced, jaw dropped, lips working in mingled
pain and fear.
"Harve Thoms--you, eh?" gritted Jimmie Dale.
A cunning look swept the distorted face. Here, apparently, was only
one man--there were pals, three of them, only a few yards away.
"You ain't got nothing on me!" he snarled, sparring for time. "You
police are too damned fresh with your guns!"
"I'll take yours!" snapped Jimmie Dale, and snatched it deftly from
the other's pocket. "This ain't any police job, my bucko, and you
make a move and I'll drop you for keeps, if what you've got already
ain't enough to teach you to keep your hands off jobs that belong to
He was working with mad haste as he spoke. One minute at the
outside was, perhaps, all he could count upon. Already he had
caught the rattle of the locked door down the hall. He lit a match
and turned on the gas over the bed--it was the most dangerous thing
he could do--he knew that well enough, none knew it better--it was
offering himself as a fair mark when the others rushed in, as they
would in a moment now--but the Skeeter and his gang and this man
here must have no misconception of his purpose, his reason for being
there, the same as their own, the theft of the stones--and no
misconception as to his SUCCESS.
"Y'ain't the police!"--it came in a choked gasp from the other, as
he blinked in the sudden light "Say then--"
"Shut up!" ordered Jimmie Dale curtly. "And mind what I told you
about moving!" He leaned over the bed. Old Luddy, though under the
influence of the chloroform, was moving restlessly. Thoms had
evidently only begun to apply the chloroform--old Luddy was safe!
Jimmie Dale ran his hand in under the pillow. "If you ain't swiped
them already they ought to be here!" he growled; "and if you have
I'll--ah!" A little chamois bag was in his hand. He laughed
sneeringly at Thoms, opened the bag, allowed a few stones to trickle
into his hand--and then, without stopping to replace them, dashed
stones and bag into his pocket. The door along the corridor crashed
"What's that?" he gasped out, in well-simulated fright--and sprang
for the ladder that led up to the roof.
It had all taken, perhaps, the minute that he had counted on--no
more. Noises came from the floors below now, a confusion of them--
the shot, the scream had been heard by others, save those who had
been in the locked room. And the latter were outside now in the
corridor, running to their accomplice's aid.
There was a pause at the outer door--then an oath--and coupled with
the oath an exclamation:
"The Gray Seal!"
They had swept a flashlight over the door panel--Jimmie Dale,
halfway up the ladder, smiled grimly.
The door opened--there was a rush of feet. The man with the
shattered wrist yelled, cursing wildly:
"Here he is--on the ladder! Let him have it! Fill him full of
Jimmie Dale was in the light--they were in the dark of the outer
room. He fired at the threshold, checking their rush--as a hail of
bullets chipped and tore at the ladder and spat wickedly against the
wall. He swung through to the roof, trying, as he did so, to kick
the ladder loose behind him. It was fastened!
The three gunmen jumped into the room--from the roof Jimmie Dale got
a glimpse of them below, as he flung himself clear of the opening.
Bullets whistled through the aperture--a voice roared up as he
gained his feet:
"Come on! After him! The whole place is alive, but this lets us
out. We can frame up how we came to be here easy enough. Never
mind the old geezer there any more! Get the Gray Seal--the reward
that's out for him is worth twice the sparklers, and--"
Jimmie Dale hurled the cover over the scuttle. He could have stood
them off from above and kept the ladder clear with his revolver, but
the alarm seemed general now--windows were opening, voices were
calling to one another--from the windows across the street he must
stand out in sharp outline against the sky. Yes--he was seen now.
A woman's voice, from a top-story window across the street, screamed
out, high-pitched in excitement:
"There he is! There he is! On the roof there!"
Jimmie Dale started on the run along the roof. The houses, built
wall to wall, flat-roofed, seemed to offer an open course ahead of
him--until a lane or an intersecting street should bar his way! But
they were not quite all on the same level, though--the wall of the
next house rose suddenly breast high in front of him. He flung
himself up, regained his feet--and ducked instantly behind a
The crack of a revolver echoed through the night--a bullet drummed
through the air--the Skeeter and his gang were on the roof now,
dashing forward, firing as they ran. Two shots from Jimmie Dale's
automatic, in quick succession cooled the ardour of their rush--and
they broke, black, flitting forms, for the shelter of chimneys, too.
And now the whole neighbourhood seemed awakened. A dull-toned roar,
as from some great gulf below, rolled up from the street, a medley
of slamming windows, the rush of feet as people poured from the
houses, cries, shouts, and yells--and high over all the shrill call
of the police-patrol whistle--and the CRACK, CRACK, CRACK of the
Skeeter's revolver shots--the Skeeter and his hellhounds for once
self-appointed allies of the law!
Twice again Jimmie Dale fired--then crouching, running low, he
zigzagged his way across the next roof. The bullets followed him--
once more his pursuers dashed forward. And again Jimmie Dale, his
face set like stone now, his breath coming in hard gasps, dodged
behind a chimney, and with his gun checked their rush for the third
He glanced about him--and with a growing sense of disaster saw that
two houses farther on the stretch of roof appeared to end. There
would be a lane or a street there! And in another minute or two, if
it were not already the case, others would be following the gunmen
to the roof, and then he would be--he caught his breath suddenly in
a queer little strangled cry of relief. Just back of him, a few
yards away, his eyes made out what, in the darkness, seemed to be a
A dark form sped like a deeper shadow across the black in front of
him, making for a chimney nearer by, closing in the range. Jimmie
Dale fired--wide. Tight as was the corner he was in, little as was
the mercy deserved at his hands, he could not, after all, bring
himself to shoot--to kill.
A voice, the Skeeter's, bawled out raucously:
"Rush him all together--from different sides at once!"
A backward leap! Jimmie Dale's boot was crashing glass and frame,
stamping at it desperately, making a hole for his body through the
skylight. A yell, a chorus of them, answered this--then the crunch
of racing feet on the gravel roof. He emptied his revolver,
sweeping the darkness with a semicircle of vicious flashes.
It seemed an hour--it was barely the fraction of a second, as he
hung by his hands from the side of the skylight frame, his body
swinging back and forth in the unknown blackness below. The
skylight might be, probably was, directly over the stair well, and
open clear to the basement of the house--but it was his only chance.
He swung his body well out, let go--and dropped. With the impetus
he smashed against a wall, was flung back from it in a sort of
rebound, and his hands closed, gripping fiercely, on banisters. It
had been the stair well beyond any question of doubt, but his swing
had sent him clear of it.
Above, they had not yet reached the skylight. Jimmie Dale snatched
a precious moment to listen, as he rose, and found himself, apart
from bruises, perhaps unhurt. There was commotion, too, in this
house below, the alarm had extended and spread along the block--but
the commotion was all in the FRONT of the house--the street was the
Jimmie Dale started down the stairs, and in an instant he had gained
the landing. In another he had slipped to the rear of the hall--
somewhere there, from the hall itself, from one of the rear rooms,
there must be an exit to the fire escape. To attempt to leave by
the front way was certain capture.
They were yelling, shouting down now through the sky-light above, as
Jimmie Dale softly raised the window sash at the rear of the hall.
The fire escape was there. Shouts from along the corridor, from the
tenement dwellers who had been crowding their neighbours' rooms,
craning their necks probably from the front windows, answered the
shouts now from the roof and the skylight; doors opened; forms
rushed out--but it was dark in the corridor, only a murky yellow at
the upper end from the opened doors.
Jimmie Dale slipped through the window to the fire escape, and,
working cautiously, silently, but with the speed of a trained
athlete, made his way down. At the bottom he dropped from the iron
platform into the back yard, ran for the fence and climbed over into
a lane on the other side.
And then, as he ran, Jimmie Dale snatched the mask from his face and
put it in his pocket. He was safe now. He swept the sweat drops
from his forehead with the back of his hand--noticing them for the
first time. It had been close--almost as close for him as it had
been for old Luddy. And to-morrow the papers would execrate the
Gray Seal! He smiled a little wanly. His breath was still coming
hard. Presently they would scour the lane--when they found that
their quarry was not in the house. What a racket they were making!
The whole district seemed roused like a swarm of angry bees.
He kept on along the lane--and dodged suddenly into a cross street
where the two intersected. The clang of a bell dinned discordantly
in his ears--a patrol wagon swept by him, racing for the scene of
the disturbance--the riot call was out!
Again Jimmie Dale smiled wearily, passing his hand across his eyes.
"I guess," said Jimmie Dale, "I'm pretty near all in. And I guess
it's time that Larry the Bat went--home."
And a little later a figure turned from the Bowery and shambled down
the cross street, a disreputable figure, with hands plunged deep in
his pockets--and a shadow across the roadway suddenly shifted its
position as the shambling figure slouched into the black alleyway
and entered the tenement's side door.
And Larry the Bat smiled softly to himself--Kline's men were still
A white-gloved arm, a voice, and a silvery laugh! "Just that--no
more! Jimmie Dale, in his favourite seat, an aisle seat some seven
or eight rows back from the orchestra, stared at the stage, to all
outward appearances absorbed in the last act of the play; inwardly,
quite oblivious to the fact that even a play was going on.
A white-gloved arm, a voice, and a silvery laugh! The words had
formed themselves into a sort of singsong refrain that, for the last
few days, had been running through his head. A strange enough
guiding star to mould and dictate every action in his life! And
that was all he had ever seen of her, all that he had ever heard of
her--except those letters, of course, each of which had outlined the
details of some affair for the Gray Seal to execute.
Indeed, it seemed a great length of time now since he had heard from
her even in that way, though it was not so many days ago, after all.
Perhaps it was the calm, as it were, that, by contrast, had given
place to the strenuous months and weeks just past. The storm raised
by the newspapers at the theft of Old Luddy's diamonds had subsided
into sporadic diatribes aimed at the police; Kline, of the secret
service, had finally admitted defeat, and a shadow no longer skulked
day and night at the entrance to the Sanctuary--and Larry the Bat
bore the government indorsement, so to speak, of being no more
suspicious a character than that of a disreputable, but harmless,
dope fiend of the underworld.
Larry the Bat! The Gray Seal! Jimmie Dale the millionaire! What
if it were ever known that that strange three were one! What if--
Jimmie Dale smiled whimsically. A burst of applause echoed through
the house, the orchestra was playing, the lights were on, seats
banged, there was the bustle of the rising audience, the play was at
an end--and for the life of him he could not have remembered a
single line of the last act!
The aisle at his elbow was already crowded with people on their way
out. Jimmie Dale stooped down mechanically to reach for his hat
beneath his seat--and the next instant he was standing up, staring
wildly into the faces around him.
It had fallen at his feet--a white envelope. Hers! It was in his
hand now, those slim, tapering, wonderfully sensitive fingers of
Jimmie Dale, that were an "open sesame" to locks and safes,
subconsciously telegraphing to his mind the fact that the texture of
the paper--was hers. Hers! And she must be one of those around
him--one of those crowding either the row of seats in front or
behind, or one of those just passing in the aisle. It had fallen at
his feet as he had stooped over for his hat--but from just exactly
what direction he could not tell. His eyes, eagerly, hungrily,
critically, swept face after face. Which one was hers? What irony!
She, whom he would have given his life to know, for whom indeed he
risked his life every hour of the twenty-four, was close to him now,
within reach--and as far removed as though a thousand miles
separated them. She was there--but he could not recognise a face
that he had never seen!
With an effort, he choked back the bitter, impotent laugh that rose
to his lips. They were talking, laughing around him. Her VOICE--
yes, he had once heard that, and that he would recognise again. He
strained to catch, to individualise the tone sounds that floated in
a medley about him. It was useless--of course--every effort that he
had ever made to find her had been useless. She was too clever, far
too clever for that--she, too, would know that he could and would
recognise her voice where he could recognise nothing else.
And then, suddenly, he realised that he was attracting attention.
Level stares from the women returned his gaze, and they edged away a
little from his vicinity as they passed, their escorts crowding
somewhat belligerently into their places. Others, in the same row
of seats as his own, were impatiently waiting to get by him. With a
muttered apology, Jimmie Dale raised the seat of his chair, allowing
these latter to pass him--and then, slipping the letter into his
pocketbook, he snatched up his hat from the seat rack.
There was still a chance. Knowing he was there, she would be on her
guard; but in the lobby, among the crowd and unaware of his
presence, there was the possibility that, if he could reach the
entrance ahead of her, she, too, might be talking and laughing as
she left the theatre. Just a single word, just a tone--that was all
The row of seats at whose end he stood was empty now, and, instead
of stepping into the thronged aisle, he made his way across to the
opposite side of the theatre. Here, the far aisle was less crowded,
and in a minute he had gained the foyer, confident that he was now
in advance of her. The next moment he was lost in a jam of people
in the lobby.
He moved slowly now, very slowly--allowing those behind to press by
him on the way to the entrance. A babel of voices rose about him,
as, tight-packed, the mass of people jostled, elbowed, and pushed
good-naturedly. It was a voice now, her voice, that he was
listening for; but, though it seemed that every faculty was strained
and intent upon that one effort, his eyes, too, had in no degree
relaxed their vigilance--and once, half grimly, half sardonically,
he smiled to himself. There would be an unexpected aftermath to
this exodus of expensively gowned and bejewelled women with their
prosperous, well-groomed escorts! There was the Wowzer over there--
sleek, dapper, squirming in and out of the throng with the agility
and stealth of a cat. As Larry the Bat he had met the Wowzer many
times, as indeed he had met and was acquainted with most of the
elite of the underworld. The Wowzer, beyond a shadow of doubt, in
his own profession stood upon a plane entirely by himself--among
those qualified to speak, no one yet had ever questioned the
Wowzer's claim to the distinction of being the most dexterous and
finished "poke getter" in the United States!
The crowd thinned in the lobby, thinned down to the last few belated
stragglers, who passed him as he still loitered in the entrance; and
then Jimmie Dale, with a shrug of his shoulders that was a great
deal more philosophical than the maddening sense of chagrin and
disappointment that burned within him, stepped out to the pavement
and headed down Broadway. After all, he had known it in his heart
of hearts all the time--it had always been the same--it was only one
more occasion added to the innumerable ones that had gone before in
which she had eluded him!
And now--there was the letter! Automatically he quickened his steps
a little. It was useless, futile, profitless, for the moment, at
least, to disturb himself over his failure--there was the letter!
His lips parted in a strange, half-serious, half-speculative smile.
The letter--that was paramount now. What new venture did the night
hold in store for him? What sudden emergency was the Gray Seal
called upon to face this time--what role, unrehearsed, without
warning, must he play? What story of grim, desperate rascality
would the papers credit him with when daylight came? Or would they
carry in screaming headlines the announcement that the Gray Seal was
caged and caught at last, and in three-inch type tell the world that
the Gray Seal was--Jimmie Dale!
A block down, he turned from Broadway out of the theatre crowds that
streamed in both directions past him. The letter! Almost
feverishly now he was seeking an opportunity to open and read it
unobserved; an eagerness upon him that mingled exhilaration at the
lure of danger with a sense of premonition that, irritably,
inevitably was with him at moments such as these. It seemed, it
always seemed, that, with an unopened letter of hers in his
possession, it was as though he were about to open a page in the
Book of Fate and read, as it were, a pronouncement upon himself that
might mean life or death.
He hurried on. People still passed by him--too many. And then a
cafe, just ahead, making a corner, gave him the opportunity that he
sought. Away from the entrance, on the side street, the brilliant
lights from the windows shone out on a comparatively deserted
pavement. There was ample light to read by, even as far away from
the window as the curb, and Jimmie Dale, with an approving nod,
turned the corner and walked along a few steps until opposite the
farthest window--but, as he halted here at the edge of the street,
he glanced quickly behind him at a man whom he had just passed. The
other had paused at the corner and was staring down the street.
Jimmie Dale instantly and nonchalantly produced his cigarette case,
selected a cigarette, and fastidiously tapped its end on his thumb
"Inspector Burton in plain clothes," he observed musingly to
himself. "I wonder if it's just a fluke--or something else? We'll
Jimmie Dale took a box of matches from his pocket. The first would
not light. The second broke, and, with an exclamation of annoyance,
he flung it away. The third was making a fitful effort at life, as
another man emerged hastily from the cafe's side door, hurried to
the corner, joined the man who was still loitering there, and both
together disappeared at a rapid pace down the street.
Jimmie Dale whistled softly to himself. The second man was even
better known than the first; there was not a crook in New York but
would side-step Lannigan of headquarters, and do it with amazing
celerity--if he could!
"Something up! But it's not my hunt!" muttered Jimmie Dale; then,
with a shrug of his shoulders: "Queer the way those headquarters
chaps fascinate and give me a thrill every time I see them, even if
I haven't a ghost of a reason for imagining that--"
The sentence was never finished. Jimmie Dale's face was gray. The
street seemed to rock about him--and he stared, like a man stricken,
white to the lips, ahead of him. THE LETTER WAS GONE! His hand,
wriggling from his empty pocket, swept away the sweat beads that
were bursting from his forehead. It had come at last--the pitcher
had gone once too often to the well!
Numbed for an instant, his brain cleared now, working with lightning
speed, leaping from premise to conclusion. The crush in the theatre
lobby--the pushing, the jostling, the close contact--the Wowzer, the
slickest, cleverest pickpocket in the United States! For a moment
he could have laughed aloud in a sort of ghastly, defiant mockery--
he himself had predicted an unexpected aftermath, had he not!
Aftermath! It was--the END! An hour, two hours, and New York would
be metamorphosed into a seething caldron of humanity bubbling with
the news. It seemed that he could hear the screams of the newsboys
now shouting their extras; it seemed that he could see the people,
roused to frenzy, swarming in excited crowds, snatching at the
papers; he seemed to hear the mob's shouts swell in execration, in
exultation--it seemed as though all around him had gone mad. The
mystery of the Gray Seal was solved! It was Jimmie Dale, Jimmie
Dale, Jimmie, Dale, the millionaire, the lion of society--and there
was ignominy for an honoured name, and shame and disaster and
convict stripes and sullen penitentiary walls--or death! A felon's
He was running now, his hands clenched at his sides; his mind,
working subconsciously, urging him onward in a blind, as yet
unrealised, objectless way. And then gradually impulse gave way to
calmer reason, and he slowed his pace to a quick, less noticeable
walk. The Wowzer! That was it! There was yet a chance--the
Wowzer! A merciless rage, cold, deadly, settled upon him. It was
the Wowzer who had stolen his pocketbook, and with it the letter.
There could be no doubt of that. Well, there would be a reckoning
at least before the end!
He was in a downtown subway train now--the roar in his ears in
consonance, it seemed, with the turmoil in his brain. But now, too,
he was Jimmie Dale again; and, apart from the slightly outthrust
jaw, the tight-closed lips, impassive, debonair, composed.
There was yet a chance. As Larry the Bat he knew every den and lair
below the dead line, and he knew, too, the Wowzer's favourite
haunts. There was yet a chance, only one in a thousand, it was
true, almost too pitiful to be depended upon--but yet a chance. The
Wowzer had probably not worked alone, and he and his pal, or pals,
would certainly not remain uptown either to examine or divide their
spoils--they would wait until they were safe somewhere in one of
their hell holes on the East Side. If he could find the Wowzer,
reach the man BEFORE THE LETTER WAS OPENED--Jimmie Dale's lips grew
tighter. THAT was the chance! It he failed in that--Jimmie Dale's
lips drooped downward in grim curves at the corners. A chance!
Already the Wowzer had at least a half hour's lead, and, worse
still, there was no telling which one of a dozen places the man
might have chosen to retreat to with his loot.
Time passed. His mind obsessed, Jimmie Dale's physical acts were
almost wholly mechanical. It was perhaps fifteen minutes since he
had discovered the loss of the letter, and he was walking now
through the heart of the Bowery. Exactly how he had got there he
could not have told; he had only a vague realisation that, following
an intuitive sense of direction, he had lost not a second of time in
making his way downtown.
And now he found himself hesitating at the corner of a cross street.
Two blocks east was that dark, narrow alleyway, that side door that
made the entrance to the Sanctuary. It would be safer, a hundred
times safer, to go there, change his clothes and his personality,
and emerge again as Larry the Bat--infinitely safer in that role to
explore the dens of the underworld, many of them indeed unknown and
undreamed of by the police themselves, than to trust himself there
in well-cut, fashionable tweeds--but that would take time. Time!
When, with every second, the one chance he had, desperate as that
already was, was slipping away from him. No; what was apparently
the greater risk at least held out the only hope.
He went on again--his brain incessantly at work. At the worst,
there was one mitigating factor in it all. He had no need to think
of her. Whatever the ruin and disaster that faced him in the next
few hours, she in any case was safe. There was no clew to HER
identity in the letter; and where he, for months on end, with even
more to work upon, had failed at every turn to trace her, there was
little fear that any one else would have any better success. She
was safe. As for himself--that was different. The Gray Seal would
be referred to in the letter, there would be the outline, the data
for the "crime" she had planned for that night; and the letter,
though unaddressed, being found in his pocketbook, where cards and
notes and a dozen different things among its contents proclaimed him
Jimmie Dale, needed no further evidence as to its ownership nor the
identity of the Gray Seal.
Jimmie Dale's fingers crept inside his vest and fumbled there for a
moment--and a diamond stud, extracted from his shirt front,
glistened sportively in the necktie that was now tucked jauntily in
at one side of his shirt bosom. He had reached the Blue Dragon, one
of Wowzer's usual hang outs, and, swerving from the sidewalk,
entered the place. There was wild tumult within--a constant storm
of applause, derision, and hilarity that was hurled from the tables
around the room at the turkey-trotting, tango-writhing couples on
the somewhat restricted space of polished hardwood flooring in the
centre. Jimmie Dale swaggered down the room, a cigar tilted up at
an angle between his teeth, his soft felt hat a little rakishly on
one side of his head and well over his nose.
At the end of the room, at the bar, Jimmie Dale leaned toward the
barkeeper and talked out of the corner of his mouth. There were
private rooms upstairs, and he jerked his head surreptitiously
"Say, is de Wowzer up dere?" he inquired in a cautious whisper.
The man behind the bar, well known to Jimmie Dale as one of the
Wowzer's particular pals, favoured him with a blank stare.
"Never heard of de guy!" he announced brusquely. "Wot's yours?"
"Gimme a mug of suds," said Jimmie Dale, reaching for a match. He
puffed at his cigar, blew out the match, and, after a moment, flung
the charred end away--but on his hand, as, palm outward, he raised
it to take his glass, the match had traced a small black cross.
The barkeeper put down the beer he had just drawn, wiped his hand
hurriedly, and with sudden enthusiasm thrust it across the bar.
"Glad to know youse, cull!" he exclaimed. "Wot's de lay?"
Jimmie Dale smiled.
"Nix!" said Jimmie Dale. "I just blew in from Chicago. Used to
know de Wowzer dere. He said dis place was on de level, an' I could
always find him here, dat's all."
"Sure, youse can!" returned the barkeeper heartily. "Only he ain't
here now. He beat it about fifteen minutes ago, him an' Dago Jim.
I guess youse'll find him at Chang's, I heard him an' Dago say dey
was goin' dere. Know de place?"
Jimmie Dale shook his head.
"I ain't much wise to New York," he explained.
"Aw, dat's easy," whispered the barkeeper. "Go down to Chatham
Square, an' den any guy'll show youse Chang Foo's." He winked
confidentially. "I guess youse won't bump yer head none gettin'
Jimmie Dale nodded, grinned back, emptied his glass, and dug for a
"Forget it!" observed the barkeeper cordially. "Dis is on me. Any
friend of de Wowzer's gets de glad hand here any time."
"T'anks!" said Jimmie Dale gratefully, as he turned away. "So long,
then--see youse later."
Chang Foo's! Jimmie Dale's face set even a little harder than it
had before, as he swung on again down the Bowery. Yes; he knew
Chang Foo's--too well. Underground Chinatown--where a man's life
was worth the price of an opium pill--or less! Mechanically his
hand slipped into his pocket and closed over the automatic that
nestled there. Once in--where he had to go--and the chances were
even, just even, that was all, that he would ever get out. Again he
was tempted to return to the Sanctuary and make the attempt as Larry
the Bat. Larry the Bat was well enough known to enter Chang Foo's
unquestioned, and--but again he shook his head and went on. There
was not time. The Wowzer and his pal--it was Dago Jim it seemed--
had evidently been drinking and loitering their way downtown from
the theatre, and he had gained that much on them; but by now they
would be smugly tucked away somewhere in that maze of dens below the
ground, and at that moment probably were gloating over the biggest
night's haul they had ever made in their lives!
And if they were! What then? Once they knew the contents of that
letter--what then? Buy them off for a larger amount than the many
thousands offered for the capture of the Gray Seal? Jimmie Dale
gritted his teeth. That meant blackmail from them all his life, an
intolerable existence, impossible, a hell on earth--the slave, at
the beck and call of two of the worst criminals in New York! The
moisture oozed again to Jimmie Dale's forehead. God, if he could
get that letter before it was opened--before they KNEW! If he could
only get the chance to fight for it--against ANY odds! Life! Life
was a pitiful consideration against the alternative that faced him
From the Blue Dragon to Chang Foo's was not far; and Jimmie Dale
covered the distance in well under five minutes. Chang Foo's was
just a tea merchant's shop, innocuous and innocent enough in its
appearance, blandly so indeed, and that was all--outwardly; but
Jimmie Dale, as he reached his destination, experienced the first
sensation of uplift he had known that night, and this from what,
apparently, did not in the least seem like a contributing cause.
"Luck! The blessed luck of it!" he muttered grimly, as he surveyed
the sight-seeing car drawn up at the curb, and watched the
passengers crowding out of it to the ground. "It wouldn't have been
as easy to fool old Chang as it was that fellow back at the Dragon--
and, besides, if I can work it, there's a better chance this way of
getting out alive."
The guide was marshalling his "gapers"--some two dozen in all, men
and women. Jimmie Dale unostentatiously fell in at the rear; and,
the guide leading, the little crowd passed into the tea merchant's
shop. Chang Foo, a wizened, wrinkled-faced little Celestial, oily,
suave, greeted them with profuse bows, chattering the while volubly
The guide made the introduction with an all-embracing sweep of his
"Chang Foo--ladies and gentlemen," he announced; then held up his
hand for silence. "Ladies and gentlemen," he said impressively,
"this is one of the most notorious, if not THE most notorious dive
in Chinatown, and it is only through special arrangement with the
authorities and at great expense that the company is able
exclusively to gain an entree here for its patrons. You will see
here the real life of the Chinese, and in half an hour you will get
what few would get in a lifetime spent in China itself. You will
see the Chinese children dance and perform; the Chinese women at
their household tasks; the joss, the shrine of his hallowed
ancestors, at which Chang Foo here worships; and you will enter the
most famous opium den in the United States. Now, if you will all
keep close together, we will make a start."
In spite of his desperate situation, Jimmie Dale smiled a little
whimsically. Yes; they would see it all--UPSTAIRS! The same old
bunk dished out night after night at so much a head--and the nervous
little schoolma'am of uncertain age, who fidgeted now beside him,
would go back somewhere down in Maine and shiver while she related
her "wider experiences" in tremulous whispers into the shocked ears
of envious other maiden ladies of equally uncertain age. The same
old bunk--and a profitable one for Chang Foo for more reasons than
one. It was dust in the eyes of the police. The police smiled
knowingly at mention of Chang Foo. Who should know, if they didn't,
that it was all harmless fake, all bunk! And so it was--UPSTAIRS!
They were passing out of the shop now, bowed out through a side door
by the obsequious and oily Chang Foo. And now they massed again in
a sort of little hallway--and Chang Foo, closing the door upon
Jimmie Dale, who was the last in the line, shuffled back behind the
counter in his shop to resume his guard duty over customers of quite
another ilk. With the door closed, it was dark, pitch dark. And
this, too, like everything else connected with Chang Foo's
establishment, for more reasons than one--for effect--and for
security. Nervous little twitters began to emanate from the women--
the guide's voice rose reassuringly:
"Keep close together, ladies and gentlemen. We are going upstairs
Jimmie Dale hugged back against the wall, sidled along it, and like
a shadow slipped down to the end of the hall. The scuffling of two
dozen pairs of feet mounting the creaky staircase drowned the slight
sound as he cautiously opened a door; the darkness lay black,
impenetrable, along the hall. And then, as cautiously as he had
opened it, he closed the door behind him, and stood for an instant
listening at the head of a ladder-like stairway, his automatic in
his hand now. It was familiar ground to Larry the Bat. The steps
led down to a cellar; and diagonally across from the foot of the
steps was an opening, ingeniously hidden by a heterogeneous
collection of odds and ends, boxes, cases, and rubbish from the
pseudo tea shop above; a low opening in the wall to a passage that
led on through the cellars of perhaps half a dozen adjoining houses,
each of which latter was leased, in one name or another--by Chang
Jimmie Dale crept down the steps, and in another moment had gained
the farther side of the cellar; then, skirting around the ruck of
cases, he stooped suddenly and passed in through the opening in the
wall. And now he halted once more. He was straining his eyes down
a long, narrow passage, whose blackness was accentuated rather than
relieved by curious wavering, gossamer threads of yellow light that
showed here and there from under makeshift thresholds, from doors
slightly ajar. Faint noises came to him, a muffled, intermittent
clink of coin, a low, continuous, droning hum of voices; the sickly
sweet smell of opium pricked at his nostrils.
Jimmie Dale's face set rigidly. It was the resort, not only of the
most depraved Chinese element, but of the worst "white" thugs that
made New York their headquarters--here, in the succession of
cellars, roughly partitioned off to make a dozen rooms on either
side of the passage, dope fiends sucked at the drug, and Chinese
gamblers spent the greater part of their lives; here, murder was
hatched and played too often to its hellish end; here, the scum of
the underworld sought refuge from the police to the profit of Chang
Foo; and here, somewhere, in one of these rooms, was--the Wowzer.
The Wowzer! Jimmie Dale stole forward silently, without a sound,
swiftly--pausing only to listen for a second's space at the doors as
he passed. From this one came that clink of coin; from another that
jabber of Chinese; from still another that overpowering stench of
opium--and once, iron-nerved as he was, a cold thrill passed over
him. Let this lair of hell's wolves, so intent now on their own
affairs, be once roused, as they certainly must be roused before he
could hope to finish the Wowzer, and his chances of escape were--
He straightened suddenly, alert, tense, strained. Voices, raised in
a furious quarrel, came from a door just beyond him on the other
side of the passage, where a film of light streamed out through a
cracked panel--it was the Wowzer and Dago Jim! And drunk, both of
them--and both in a blind fury!
It happened quick then, almost instantaneously it seemed to Jimmie
Dale. He was crouched now close against the door, his eye to the
crack in the panel. There was only one figure in sight--Dago Jim--
standing beside a table on which burned a lamp, the table top
littered with watches, purses, and small chatelaine bags. The man
was lurching unsteadily on his feet, a vicious sneer of triumph on
his face, waving tauntingly an open letter and Jimmie Dale's pocket-
book in his hands--waving them presumably in the face of the Wowzer,
whom, from the restrictions of the crack, Jimmie Dale could not see.
He was conscious of a sickening sense of disaster. His hope against
hope had been in vain--the letter had been opened and read--THE
IDENTITY OF THE GRAY SEAL WAS SOLVED.
Dago Jim's voice roared out, hoarse, blasphemous, in drunken rage:
"De Gray Seal--see! Youse betcher life I knows! I been waitin' fer
somet'ing like dis, damn youse! Youse been stallin' on me fer a
year every time it came to a divvy. Youse've got a pocketful now
youse snitched to-night dat youse are tryin' to do me out of. Well,
keep 'em"--he shoved his face forward. "I keeps dis--see! Keep 'em
Wowzer, youse cross-eyed--"
"Everyt'ing I pinched to-night's on de table dere wid wot youse
pinched yerself," cut in the Wowzer, in a sullen, threatening growl.
"Youse lie, an' youse knows it!" retorted Dago Jim. "Youse have
given me de short end every time we've pulled a deal!"
"Dat letter's mine, youse--" bawled the Wowzer furiously.
"Why didn't youse open it an' read it, den, instead of lettin' me do
it to keep me busy while youse short-changed me?" sneered Dago Jim.
"Youse t'ought it was some sweet billy-doo, eh? Well, t'anks,
Wowzer--dat's wot it is! Say," he mocked, "dere's a guy'll cash a
t'ousand century notes fer dis, an' if he don't--say, dere's SOME
reward out fer the Gray Seal! Wouldn't youse like to know who it