Part 7 out of 9
"Never mind about that!" Jimmie Dale leaned out, and gripped Hagan's
arm impressively. "There's only one thing you've got to think of,
or remember. Keep your mouth shut! No matter what happens, keep
your mouth shut--if you want to save your neck! Good-night, Hagan!"
The car was racing forward again. It shot streaking through the
streets of the town ahead, and, dully, over its own inferno, echoed
shouts, cries, and execrations of an outraged populace--then out
into the night again, roaring its way toward New York.
He had half an hour--perhaps! It was a good thing Hagan did not
know, or had not grasped the significance of that torn letter--the
man would have been unmanageable with fear and excitement. It would
puzzle Hagan to find no paper stuck under his table when he came to
look for it! But that was a minor consideration, that mattered not
Half an hour! On roared the car--towns, black roads, villages,
wooded lands were kaleidoscopic in their passing. Half an hour!
Had he done it? Had he come anywhere near doing it? He did not
know. He was in the city at last--and now he had to moderate his
speed; but, by keeping to the less frequented streets, he could
still drive at a fast pace. One piece of good fortune had been his--
the long motor coat he had found in the car with which to cover the
rags of Larry the Bat, and without which he would have been obliged
to leave the car somewhere on the outskirts of the city, and to
trust, like Mike Hagan, to other and slower means of transportation.
Blocks away from Hagan's tenement, he ran the car into a lane,
slipped off the motor coat, and from his pocket whipped out the
little metal insignia case--and in another moment a diamond-shaped
gray seal was neatly affixed to the black ebony rim of the steering
wheel. He smiled ironically. It was necessary, quite necessary
that the police should have no doubt as to who had been in Doyle's
house with Connie Myers that night, or to whom they had so
considerately loaned their automobile!
He was running now--through lanes, dodging down side streets, taking
every short cut he knew. Had he beaten the police to Mike Hagan's
room? It would be easy then. If they were ahead of him, then, by
some means or other, he must still get that paper first.
He was at the tenement now--shuffling leisurely up the steps. The
front door was open. He entered, and went up the first flight of
stairs, then along the hall, and up the next flight. He had half
expected the place to be bustling with excitement over the crime;
but the police evidently had kept the affair quiet, for he had seen
no one since he had entered. But now, as he began to mount the
third flight, he went more slowly--some one was ahead of him. It
was very dark--he could not see. The steps above died away. He
reached the landing, started along for Hagan's room--and a light
blazed suddenly in his face, and a hard, quick grip on his shoulder
forced him back against the wall. Then the flashlight wavered,
glistened on brass buttons went out, and a voice laughed roughly:
"It's only Larry the Bat!"
"Larry the Bat, eh?" It was another voice, harsh and curt. "What
are you doing here?"
He was not first, after all! The telephone message from Pelham--it
was almost certainly that--had beaten him! They were ahead of him,
just ahead of him, they had only been a few steps ahead of him going
up the stairs, just a second ahead of him on their way to Hagan's
room! Jimmie Dale was thinking fast now. He must go, too--to
Hagan's room with them--somehow--there was no other way--there was
Hagan's life at stake.
"Aw, I ain't done nothin'!" he whined. "I was just goin' ter borrow
the price of a feed from Mike Hagan--lemme go!"
"Hagan, eh!" snapped the questioner. "Are you a friend of his?"
"Sure, I am!"
The officers whispered for a moment together.
"We'll try it," decided the one who appeared to be in command.
"We're in the dark, anyhow, and the thing may be only a steer.
Mabbe it'll work--anyway, it won't do any harm." His hand fell
heavily on Jimmie Dale's shoulder. "Mrs. Hagan know you?"
"Sure she does!" sniffled Larry the Bat.
"Good!" rasped the officer. "Well, we'll make the visit with you.
And you do what you're told, or we'll put the screws on you--see?
We're after something here, and you've blown the whole game--savvy?
You've spilled the gravy--understand?"
In the darkness, Jimmie Dale smiled grimly. It was far more than he
had dared to hope for--they were playing into his hands!
"But I don't know 'bout any game," grovelled Larry the Bat
"Who in hell said you did!" growled the officer. "You're supposed
to have snitched the lay to us, that's all--and mind you play your
part! Come on!"
It was two doors down the hall to Mike Hagan's room, and there one
of the officers, putting his shoulder to the door, burst it open and
sprang in. The other shoved Jimmie Dale forward. It was quickly
done. The three were in the room. The door was closed again.
Came a cry of terror out of the darkness, a movement as of some one
rising up hurriedly in bed; and then Mrs. Hagan's voice:
"What is it! Who is it! Mike!"
The table--it was against the right-hand wall, Jimmie Date
remembered. He sidled quickly toward it.
"Strike a light!" ordered the officer in charge.
Jimmie Dale's fingers were feeling under the edge of the table--a
quick sweep along it--NOTHING! He stooped, reaching farther in--
another sweep of his arm--and his fingers closed on a sheet of paper
and a piece of hard gum. In an instant they were in his pocket.
A match crackled and flared up. A lamp was lighted. Larry the Bat
sulked sullenly against the wall.
Terror-stricken, wide-eyed, Mrs. Hagan had clutched the child lying
beside her to her arms, and was sitting bolt upright in bed.
"Now then, no fuss about it!" said the officer in charge, with
brutal directness. "You might as well make a clean breast of Mike's
share in that murder downstairs--Larry the Bat, here, has already
told us the whole story. Come on, now--out with it!"
"Murder!"--her face went white. "My Mike-- MURDER!" She seemed for
an instant stunned--and then down the worn, thin, haggard face
gushed the tears. "I don't believe it!" she cried. "I don't
"Come on now, cut that out!" prodded the officer roughly. "I tell
you Larry the Bat, here, has opened everything up wide. You're only
making it worse for yourself."
"Him!" She was staring now at Jimmie Dale. "Oh, God!" she cried.
"So that's what you are, are you--a stool-pigeon for the cops?
Well, whatever you told them, you lie! You're the curse of this
neighbourhood, you are, and if my Mike is bad at all, it's you
that's helped to make him bad. But murder--you LIE!"
She had risen slowly from the bed--a gaunt, pitiful figure,
pitifully clothed, the black hair, gray-streaked, streaming thinly
over her shoulders, still clutching the baby that, too, was crying
The officers looked at one another and nodded.
"Guess she's handing it straight--we'll have a look on our own
hook," the leader muttered.
She paid no attention to them--she was walking straight to Jimmie
"It's you, is it," she whispered fiercely through her sobs "that
would bring more shame and ruin here--you that's selling my man's
life away with your filthy lies for what they're paying you--it's
you, is it, that--" Her voice broke.
There was a frightened, uneasy look in Larry the Bat's eyes, his
lips were twitching weakly, he drew far back against the wall--and
then, glancing miserably at the officers, as though entreating their
permission, began to edge toward the door.
For a moment she watched him, her face white with outrage, her hand
clenched at her side--and then she found her voice again.
"Get out of here!" she said, in a choked, strained way pointing to
the door. "Get out of here--you dirty skate!"
"Sure!" mumbled Larry the Bat, his eyes on the floor. "Sure!" he
mumbled--and the door closed behind him.
PART TWO: THE WOMAN IN THE CASE
BELOW THE DEAD LINE
Whisperings! Always whisperings, low, sibilant, floating errantly
from all sides, until they seemed a component part of the drug-laden
atmosphere itself. And occasionally another sound: the soft SLAP-
SLAP of loose-slippered feet, the faint rustle of equally loose-
fitting garments. And everywhere the sweet, sickish smell of opium.
It was Chang Foo's, simply a cellar or two deeper in Chang Foo's
than that in which Dago Jim had quarrelled once--and died!
Larry the Bat, vicious-faced, unkempt, disreputable, lay sprawled
out on one of the dive's bunks, an opium pipe beside him. But Larry
the Bat was not smoking; instead, his ear was pressed closely
against the boarding that formed the rather flimsy partition at the
side of the bunk. One heard many things in Chang Foo's if one cared
to listen--if one could first win one's way through the carefully
guarded gateway, that to the uninitiated offered nothing more
interesting than the entrance to a Chinese tea-shop, and an
uninviting one at that!
HAD HE BEEN FOLLOWED IN HERE? He had been shadowed for the last
hour; of that, at least, he was certain. Why? By whom? For an
hour he had dodged in and out through the dens of the underworld, as
only one who was at home there and known to all could do--and at
last he had taken refuge in Chang Foo's like a fox burrowing deep
into its hole.
Few could find their way into the most infamous opium den in all New
York, where not only the poppy ruled as master, but where crime was
hatched, ay, and carried to its ghastly consummation, sometimes, as
well; and of those few, not one but was of the underworld itself.
And it was that fact which held his muscles strained and rigid now
under the miserable rags that covered them, and it was that which
kept the keen, quick brain alert and active, every faculty keyed up
and tense. If it were the police, he had little to fear, for they
could not force their way in without warning; but if it were the
underworld, he was in imminent peril, and had done little better
than run himself into a trap from which there was no escape.
"DEATH TO THE GRAY SEAL!"--he had heard that whispered more than
once in this very place. Who knew at what moment the role of Larry
the Bat would be uncovered, and the underworld, where now he held so
high a place, would be at his throat like a pack of snarling wolves!
Who had been shadowing him during the last hour?
Whisperings! Nothing tangible! He could catch no words. Only the
never-ending whisperings of gathered groups here and there--and
sometimes the clink of coin where some game was in progress.
The curtain before his bunk was drawn suddenly aside--and Larry the
Bat's fingers, where his hand was carelessly hidden by his body
tightened upon his automatic.
"Smokee some more?"
The fingers relaxed. It was only Sam Wah, one of the attendants.
"Nix!" said Larry the Bat, in a slightly muddled tone. "Got
The curtain fell into place again. Larry the Bat's lips set in a
thin smile. Ultimately it made little difference whether it was the
police or the underworld! The smile grew thinner. It was the flip
of a coin, that was all! With one there was the death house at Sing
Sing for the Gray Seal; with the other--well, there were many ways,
from a shot or a knife thrust in the open street, to his murder in
some hidden dive like this of Chang Foo's, for instance, where he
now was--the Gray Seal was responsible for the occupancy of too many
penitentiary cells by those of the underworld to look for any other
He raised himself up sharply on his elbow. A shrill, high note,
like the scream of a parrakeet, rang out a second time. He tore the
curtain aside, and jumped to his feet. All around him, in the
twinkling of an eye, Chinamen in fluttering blouses, chattering like
magpies, mingled with snarling, cursing whites, were running madly.
A voice, prefaced with an oath, bawled out behind him, as he sprang
forward and joined the rush:
"Beat it! De cops! Beat it!"
The police! A raid! Was it for HIM? From rooms, an amazing number
of them, more forms rushed out, joined, divided, separated, and
dashed, some this way, some that, along branching passageways.
There had been raids before, the police had begun to change their
minds about Chang Foo's, but Chang Foo's was not an easy place to
raid. House after house in that quarter of Chinese laundries, of
tea shops, of chop-suey joints, opened one into the other through
secret passages in the cellars. Larry the Bat plunged down a
staircase, and halted in the darkness of a cellar, drawing back
against the wall while the flying feet of his fellow fugitives
scurried by him.
Was it for HIM, this raid? If not, the police had not a hope of
getting him if he kept his head; for back in Chang Foo's proper,
which would be quite closed off now, Chang Foo would be blandly
submitting to arrest, offering himself as a sort of glorified
sacrifice while the police confiscated opium and fan-tan layouts.
If the police had no other purpose than that in mind, Chang Foo
would simply pay a fine; the next night the place would be in full
blast again; and Chang Foo, higher than ever in the confidence of
the underworld's aristocracy, would reap his reward--and that would
be all there was to it.
But was that all? The raid had followed significantly close upon
the heels of his entry into Chang Foo's. Larry the Bat began to
move forward again. He dared not follow the others, and, later on,
when quiet was restored, issue out into the street from any one of
the various houses in which he might temporarily have taken refuge.
There was a chance in that, a chance that the police might be more
zealous than usual, even if he particularly was not their game--and
he could take no chance. Arrest for Larry the Bat, even on
suspicion, could have but one conclusion--not a pleasant one--the
disclosure that Larry the Bat was not Larry the Bat at all, but
Jimmie Dale, the millionaire club-man, and, to complete a fatal
triplication, that Larry the Bat and Jimmie Dale was the Gray Seal
upon whose head was fixed a price!
All was silence around him now, except that from overhead came
occasionally the muffled tread of feet. He felt his way along into
a black, narrow passage, emerged into a second cellar, swept the
place with a single, circling gleam from a pocket flashlight, passed
a stairway that led upward, reached the opposite wall, and, dropping
on hands and knees, crawled into what, innocently enough, appeared
to be the opening of a coal bin.
He knew Chang Foo's well--as he knew the ins and outs of every den
and place he frequented, knew them as a man knows such things when
his life at any moment might hang upon his knowledge.
He was in another passage now, and this, in a few steps, brought him
to a door. Here he halted, and stood for a full five minutes,
absolutely motionless, absolutely still, listening. There was
nothing--not a sound. He tried the door cautiously. It was locked.
The slim, sensitive, tapering fingers of Jimmie Dale, unrecognisable
now in the grimy digits of Larry the Bat, felt tentatively over the
lock. To fingers that seemed in their tips to possess all the human
senses, that time and again in their delicate touch upon the dial of
a safe had mocked at human ingenuity and driven the police into
impotent frenzy, this was a pitiful thing. From his pocket came a
small steel instrument that was quickly and deftly inserted in the
keyhole. There was a click, the door swung open, and Jimmie Dale,
alias Larry the Bat, stepped outside into a back yard half a block
away from the entrance to Chang Foo's.
Again he listened. There did not appear to be any unusual
excitement in the neighbourhood. From open windows above him and
from adjoining houses came the ordinary, commonplace sounds of
voices talking and laughing, even the queer, weird notes of a
Chinese chant. He stole noiselessly across the yard, out into the
lane, and made his way rapidly along to the cross street.
In a measure, now, he was safe; but one thing, a very vital thing,
remained to be done. It was absolutely necessary that he should
know whether he was the quarry that the police had been after in the
raid, if it was the police who had been shadowing him all evening.
If it was the police, there was but one meaning to it--Larry the Bat
was known to be the Gray Seal, and a problem perilous enough in any
aspect confronted him. Dare he risk the Sanctuary--for the clothes
of Jimmie Dale? Or was it safer to burglarise, as he had once done
before, his own mansion on Riverside Drive?
His thoughts were running riot, and he frowned, angry with himself.
There was time enough to think of that when he knew that it was the
police against whom he had to match his wits.
Well in the shadow of the buildings, he moved swiftly along the side
street until he came to the corner of the street on which, halfway
down the block, fronted Chang Foo's tea-shop. A glance in that
direction, and Jimmie Dale drew a breath of relief. A patrol wagon
was backed up to the curb, and a half dozen officers were busy
loading it with what was evidently Chang Foo's far from meagre stock
of gambling appurtenances; while Chang Foo himself, together with
Sam Wah and another attendant, were in the grip of two other
officers, waiting possibly for another patrol wagon. There was a
crowd, too, but the crowd was at a respectful distance--on the
opposite side of the street.
Jimmie Dale still hugged the corner. A man swaggered out from a
doorway, quite close to Chang Foo's, and came on along the street.
As the other reached the corner, Jimmie Dale sidled forward.
"'Ello, Chick!" he said, out of the corner of his mouth. "Wot's de
"'Ello, Larry!" returned the other. "Aw, nuthin'! De nutcracker on
Chang, dat's all."
"I t'ought mabbe dey was lookin' for some guy dat was in dere,"
observed Jimmie Dale.
"Nuthin' doin'!" the other answered. "I was in dere meself. De
whole mob beat it clean, an' de bulls never batted an eye. Didn't
youse pipe me make me get-away outer Shanghai's a minute ago? De
bulls never went nowhere except into Chang's. Dere's a new
lootenant in de precinct inaugeratin' himself, dat's all. S'long,
Larry--I gotta date."
"S'long, Chick!" responded Jimmie Dale--and started slowly back
along the cross street.
It was not the police, then, who were interested in his movements!
Then who? He shook his head with a little, savage, impotent
gesture. One thing was clear: it was too early to risk a return to
the Sanctuary and attempt the rehabilitation of Jimmie Dale. If any
one was on the hunt for Larry the Bat, the Sanctuary would be the
last place to be overlooked.
He turned the next corner, hesitated a moment in front of a garishly
lighted dance hall, and finally shuffled in through the door, made
his way across the floor, nodding here and there to the elite of
gangland, and, with a somewhat arrogant air of proprietorship, sat
down at a table in the corner. Little better than a tramp in
appearance, certainly the most disreputable-looking object in the
place, even the waiter who approached him accorded him a certain
curious deference--was not Larry the Bat the most celebrated dope
fiend below the dead line?
"Gimme a mug o' suds!" ordered Jimmie Dale, and sprawled royally
back in his chair.
Under the rim of his slouch hat, pulled now far over his eyes, he
searched the faces around him. If he had been asked to pick the
actors for a revel from the scum of the underworld, he could not
have improved upon the gathering. There were perhaps a hundred men
and women in the room, the majority dancing, and, with the exception
of a few sight-seeing slummers, they were men and women whose
acquaintance with the police was intimate but not cordial--far from
Jimmie Dale shrugged his shoulders, and sipped at the glass that had
been set before him. It was grimly ironic that he should be, not
only there, but actually a factor and a part of the underworld's
intimate life! He, Jimmie Dale, a wealthy man, a member of New
York's exclusive clubs, a member of New York's most exclusive
society! It was inconceivable. He smiled sardonically. Was it?
Well, then, it was none the less true. His life unquestionably was
one unique, apart from any other man's, but it was, for all that,
actual and real.
There had been three years of it now--since SHE had come into his
life. Jimmie Dale slouched down a little in his chair. The ice was
thin, perilously thin, that he was skating on now. Each letter,
with its demand upon him to match his wits against police or
underworld, or against both combined, perhaps, made that peril a
little greater, a little more imminent--if that were possible, when
already his life was almost literally carried, daily, hourly, in his
hand. Not that he rebelled against it; it was worth the price that
some day he expected he must pay--the price of honour, wealth, a
name disgraced, ruin, death. Was he quixotic? Immoderately so? He
smiled gravely. Perhaps. But he would do it all over again if the
choice were his. There were those who blessed the name of the Gray
Seal, as well as those who cursed it. And there was the Tocsin!
Who was she? He did not know, but he knew that he had come to love
her, come to care for her, and that she had come to mean everything
in life to him. He had never seen her, to know her face. He had
never seen her face, but he knew her voice--ay, he had even held her
for a moment, the moment of wildest happiness he had ever known, in
his arms. That night when he had entered his library, his own
particular den in his own house, and in the darkness had found her
there--found her finally through no effort of his own, when he had
searched so fruitlessly for years to find her, using every resource
at his command to find her! And she, because she had come of her
own volition, relying upon him, had held him in honour to let her go
as she had come--without looking upon her face! Exquisite irony!
But she had made him a promise then--that the work of the Gray Seal
was nearly over--that soon there would be an end to the mystery that
surrounded her--that he should know all--that he should know HER.
He smiled again, but it was a twisted smile on the mechanically
misshapen lips of Larry the Bat. NEARLY over! Who knew? That
"nearly" might be too late! Even tonight he had been shadowed, was
skulking even now in this place as a refuge. Who knew? Another
hour, and the newsboys might be shrieking their "Uxtra! Uxtra! De
Gray Seal caught! De millionaire Jimmie Dale de Jekyll an' Hyde of
Jimmie Dale straightened up suddenly in his seat. There was a
shout, an oath bawled out high above the riot of noise, a chorus of
feminine shrieks from across the room. What was the matter with the
underworld to-night? He seemed fated to find nothing but centres of
disturbance-- first a raid at Chang Foo's, and now this. What was
the matter here? They were stampeding toward him from the other
side of the room. There was the roar of a revolver shot--another.
Black Ike! He caught an instant's glimpse of the gunman's distorted
face through the crowd. That was it probably--a row over some moll.
And then, as Jimmie Dale lunged up from his chair to his feet to
escape the rush, pandemonium itself seemed to break loose. Yells,
shots, screams, and oaths filled the air. The crowd surged this way
and that. Tables were overturned and sent crashing to the floor.
And then came sudden darkness, as some one of the attendants in
misguided excitability switched off the lights.
The darkness but served to increase the panic, not allay it. With a
savage snap of his jaws, Jimmie Dale swung from his table in the
corner with the intention of making his way out by a side door
behind him--it was a case of the police again, and the patrolman
outside would probably be pulling a riot call by now. And the
police-- He stopped suddenly, as though he had been struck. An
envelope, thrust there out of the darkness, was in his hand; and her
voice, HERS, the Tocsin's, was sounding in his ears:
"Jimmie! Jimmie! I've been trying all evening to catch you!
Quick! Get to the Sanctuary and change your clothes. There's not
an instant to lose! It's for my sake to-night!"
And then a surging mob was around him on every side, and, pushing,
jostling, half lifting him at times from his feet, carried him
forward with its rush, and with him in its midst burst through the
door and out into the street.
THE CALL TO ARMS
Not a sound as the key turned in the lock; not a sound as the door
swung back on its carefully oiled hinges; not a sound as Larry the
Bat slipped like a shadow into the blackness of the room, closing
the door behind him again. With a tread as noiseless as a cat's, he
was across the room to satisfy himself that the shutters were
tightly closed; and then the single gas jet flared up, murky,
yellow, illuminating the miserable, squalid room--the Sanctuary--the
home of Larry the Bat. There was need for silence, need for
caution. In five minutes, ten at the outside, he must emerge again--
as Jimmie Dale.
With a smile on his lips that mingled curiously chagrin and self-
commiseration, he took the letter from his pocket and tore it open.
It was she, then, who had been following him all evening, and, like
a blundering idiot, he had wasted precious, perhaps irreparable,
hours! What had she meant by "It's for my sake to-night"? The
words had been ringing in his ears since the moment she had
whispered them in that panic-stricken crowd. Was it not always for
her sake that he answered these calls to arms? Was it not always
for her sake that he, as the Gray Seal, was-- The mental soliloquy
came to an abrupt end. He had subconsciously read the first
sentence of the letter, and now, with sudden feverish eagerness and
excitement, he was reading it to the last word.
"DEAR PHILANTHROPIC CROOK: In an hour after you receive this, if
all goes well, you shall know everything--everything. Who I am--
yes, and my name. It has been more than three years now, hasn't it?
It has been incomprehensible to you, but there has been no other
way. I dared not take the chance of discovery by any one; I dared
not expose you to the risk of being known by me. Your life would
not have been worth a moment's purchase. Oh, Jimmie, am I only
making the mystery more mystifying? But to-night, I think, I hope,
I pray that it is all at an end: though against me, and against you
to-night when you go to help me, is the most powerful and pitiless
organisation of criminals that the world has ever known; and the
stake we are playing for is a fortune of millions--and my life. And
yet somehow I am afraid now, just because the end is so near, and
the victory seems so surely won. And so, Jimmie, be careful; use
all that wonderful cleverness of yours as you have never used it
before, and-- But there should be no need for that, it is so simple
a thing that I am going to ask you to do. Why am I writing so
illogically! Nothing, surely, can possibly happen. This is not
like one of my usual letters, is it? I am beside myself to-night
with hope, anxiety, fear, and excitement.
"Listen, then, Jimmie: Be at the northeast corner of Sixth Avenue
and Waverly Place at exactly half-past ten. A taxicab will drive
up, as though you had signalled it in passing, and the chauffeur
will say: "I've another fare, in half an hour, sir, but I can get
you most anywhere in that time." You will be smoking a cigarette.
Toss it out into the street, make any reply you like, and get into
the cab. Give the chauffeur that little ring of mine with the crest
of the bell and belfry and the motto, "Sonnez le Tocsin," that you
found the night old Isaac Pelina was murdered, and the chauffeur
will give you in exchange a sealed packet of papers. He will drive
you to your home, and I will telephone to you there.
"I need not tell you to destroy this. Keep the appointment in your
proper person--as Jimmie Dale. Carry nothing that might identify
you as the Gray Seal if any accident should happen. And, lastly,
trust the pseudo chauffeur absolutely."
There was no signature. Her letters were never signed. He stood
for a moment staring at the closely written sheets in his hand, a
heightened colour in his cheeks, his lips pressed tightly together--
and then his fingers automatically began to tear the letter into
pieces, and the pieces again into little shreds. To-night! It was
to be to-night, the end of all this mystery. To-night was to see
the end of this dual life of his, with its constant peril! To-night
the Gray Seal was to exit from the stage forever! To-night, a
wonderful climax of the years, he was to see HER!
His blood was quickened now, his heart pounding in a faster beat; a
mad elation, a fierce uplift was upon him. He thrust the torn bits
of paper into his pocket hurriedly, stepped across the room to the
corner, rolled back the oilcloth, and lifted up the loose plank in
the flooring, so innocently dustladen, as, more than once, to have
eluded the eyes of inquisitive visitors in the shape of police and
plain clothes men from headquarters.
From the space beneath he removed a neatly folded pile of clothes,
laid these on the bed, and began to undress. He was working rapidly
now. Tiny pieces of wax were removed from his nostrils, from under
his lips, from behind his ears; water from a cracked pitcher poured
into a battered tin basin, and mixed with a few drops of some liquid
from a bottle which he procured from its hiding place under the
flooring, banished the make-up stain from his face, his neck, his
wrists, and hands as if by magic. It was a strange metamorphosis
that had taken place--the coarse, brutal-featured, blear-eyed,
leering countenance of Larry the Bat was gone, and in its place,
clean-cut, square-jawed, clear-eyed, was the face of Jimmie Dale.
And where before had slouched a slope-shouldered, misshapen, flabby
creature, a broad-shouldered form well over six feet in height now
stood erect, and under the clean white skin the muscles of an
athlete, like knobs of steel played back and forth with every
movement of his body.
In the streaked and broken mirror Jimmie Dale surveyed himself
critically, methodically, and, with a nod of satisfaction, hastily
donned the fashionably cut suit of tweeds upon the bed. He rummaged
then through the ragged garments he had just discarded, transferred
to his pockets a roll of bills and his automatic, and paused
hesitantly, staring at the thin metal case, like a cigarette case,
that he held in the palm of his hand. He shrugged his shoulders a
little whimsically; it seemed strange indeed that he was through
with that! He snapped it open. Within, between sheets of oil
paper, lay the scores of little diamond-shaped, gray-coloured,
adhesive paper seals--the insignia of the Gray Seal. Yes, it seemed
strange that he was never to use another! He closed the case,
gathered up the clothes of Larry the Bat, tucked the case in among
them, and shoved the bundle into the hole under the flooring. All
these things would have to be destroyed, but there was not time to-
night; to-morrow, or the next day, would do for that. What would it
be like to live a normal life again, without the menace of danger
lurking on every hand, without that grim slogan of the underworld,
"Death to the Gray Seal!" or that savage fiat of the police, "The
Gray Seal, dead or alive--but the Gray Seal!" forever ringing in his
ears? What would it be like, this new life--with her?
The thought was thrilling him again, bringing again that eager,
exultant uplift. In an hour, ONE hour, and the barriers of years
would be swept away, and she would be in his arms!
"It's for my sake to-night!" His face grew suddenly tense, as the
words came back to him. That "hour" wasn't over yet! It was no
hysterical exaggeration that had prompted her to call her enemies
the most powerful and pitiless organisation of criminals that the
world had ever known. It was not the Tocsin's way to exaggerate.
The words would be literally true. The very life she had led for
the three years that had gone stood out now as a grim proof of her
Jimmie Dale replaced the flooring, carefully brushed the dust back
into the cracks, spread the oilcloth into place, and stood up. Who
and what was this organisation? What was between it and the Tocsin?
What was this immense fortune that was at stake? And what was this
priceless packet that was so crucial, that meant victory now, ay,
and her life, too, she had said?
The questions swept upon him in a sort of breathless succession.
Why had she not let him play a part in this? True, she had told him
why--that she dared not expose him to the risk. Risk! Was there
any risk that the Gray Seal had not taken, and at her instance! He
did not understand, he smiled a little uncertainly, as he reached up
to turn out the gas. There were a good many things that he did not
understand about the Tocsin!
The room was in darkness, and with the darkness Jimmie Dale's mind
centred on the work immediately before him. To enter the tenement
where he was known and had an acknowledged right as Larry the Bat
was one thing; for Jimmie Dale to be discovered there was quite
He crossed the room, opened the door silently, stood for a moment
listening, then stepped out into the black, musty, ill-smelling
hallway, closing the door behind him. He stooped and locked it.
The querulous cry of a child reached him from somewhere above--a
murmur of voices, muffled by closed doors, from everywhere. How
many families were housed beneath that sordid roof he had never
known, only that there was miserable poverty there as well as vice
and crime, only that Larry the Bat, who possessed a room all to
himself, was as some lordly and super-being to these fellow tenants
who shared theirs with so many that there was not air enough for all
He had no doors to pass--his was next to the staircase. He began to
descend. They could scream and shriek, those stairs, like aged
humans, twisted and rheumatic, at the least ungentle touch. But
there was no sound from them now. There seemed something almost
uncanny in the silent tread. Stair after stair he descended, his
entire weight thrown gradually upon one foot before the other was
lifted. The strain upon the muscles, trained and hardened as they
were, told. As he moved from the bottom step, he wiped little beads
of perspiration from his forehead.
The door, now, that gave on the alleyway! He opened it, slipped
outside, darted across the narrow lane, stole along where the
shadows of the fence were blackest, paused, listening, as he reached
the end of the alleyway, to assure himself that there was no near-by
pedestrian--and stepped out into the street.
He kept on along the block, turned into the Bowery, and, under the
first lamp, consulted his watch. It was a quarter past ten. He
could make it easily in a leisurely walk. He continued on up the
Bowery, finally crossed to Broadway, and shortly afterward turned
into Waverly Place. At the corner of Fifth Avenue he consulted his
watch again--and now he lighted a cigarette. Sixth Avenue was only
a block away. At precisely half-past ten, to the second, he halted
on the designated corner, smoking nonchalantly.
A taxicab, coincidentally coming from an uptown direction, swung in
to the curb.
"Taxi, sir? Yes, sir?" Then, with an admirable mingling of
eagerness to secure the fare and a fear that his confession might
cause him the loss of it: "I've another fare in half an hour, sir,
but I can get you most anywhere in that time."
Jimmie Dale's cigarette was tossed carelessly into the street.
"St. James Club!" he said curtly, and stepped into the cab.
The cab started forward, turned the corner, and headed along Waverly
Place toward Broadway. The chauffeur twisted around in his seat in
a matter-of-fact way, as though to ask further directions.
"Have you anything for me?" he inquired casually.
It lay where it always lay, that ring, between the folds of that
little white glove in his pocketbook. Jimmie Dale took it out now,
and handed it silently to the chauffeur.
The other's face changed instantly--composure was gone, and a quick,
strained look was in its place.
"I'm afraid I've been watched," he said tersely. "Look behind you,
will you, and tell me if you see anything?"
Jimmie Dale glanced backward through the little window in the hood.
"There's another taxi just turned in from Sixth Avenue," he reported
the next instant.
"Keep your eye on it!" instructed the chauffeur shortly.
The speed of the cab increased sensibly.
With a curious tightening of his lips, Jimmie Dale settled himself
in his seat so that he could watch the cab behind. There was
trouble coming, intuitively he sensed that; and, he reflected
bitterly, he might have known! It was too marvellous, too wonderful
ever to come to pass that this one hour, the thought of which had
fired his blood and made him glad beyond any gladness life had ever
held for him before, should bring its promised happiness.
"Where's the cab now?" the chauffeur flung back over his shoulder.
They had passed Fifth Avenue, and were nearing Broadway.
"About the same distance behind," Jimmie Dale answered.
"That looks bad!" the chauffeur gritted between his teeth. "We'll
have to make sure. I'll run down Lower Broadway."
"If you think we're followed," suggested Jimmie Dale quietly, "why
not run uptown and give them the slip somewhere where the traffic is
thick? Lower Broadway at this time of night is as empty and
deserted as a country road."
The chauffeur's sudden laugh was mirthless.
"My God, you don't know what you are talking about!" he burst out.
"If they're following, all hell couldn't throw them off the track.
And I've got to know, I've got to be SURE before I dare make a move
to-night. I couldn't tell up in the crowded districts if I was
followed, could I? They won't come out into the open until their
hands are forced."
The car swerved sharply, rounded the corner, and, speeding up faster
and faster, began to tear down Lower Broadway.
"Watch! WATCH!" cried the chauffeur.
There was no word between them for a moment; then Jimmie Dale spoke
"It's turned the corner! It's coming this way!"
The taxicab was rocking violently with the speed; silent, empty,
Lower Broadway stretched away ahead. Apart from an occasional
street car, probably there would be nothing between them and the
Battery. Jimmie Dale glanced at his companion's face as a light,
flashing by, threw it into relief. It was set and stern, even a
little haggard; but, too, there was something else there, something
that appealed instantly to Jimmie Dale--a sort of bulldog grit that
"If he holds our speed, we'll know!" the chauffeur was shouting now
to make himself heard over the roar of the car. "Look again! Where
is it now?"
Once more Jimmie Dale looked through the little rear window. The
cab had been a block behind them when it had turned the corner, and
he watched it now in a sort of grim fascination. There was no
possible doubt of it! The two bobbing, bouncing headlights were
creeping steadily nearer. And then a sort of unnatural calm settled
upon Jimmie Dale, and his hand went mechanically to his pocket to
feel his automatic there, as he turned again to the chauffeur.
"If you've got any more speed, you'd better use it!" he said
The man shot a quick look at him.
"They are following us? You are SURE?"
"Yes," said Jimmie Dale.
The chauffeur laughed again in that mirthless, savage way.
"Lean over here, where I can talk to you!" he rasped out. "The
game's up, as far as I am concerned, I guess! But there's a chance
for you. They don't know you in this."
"Give her more speed--or dodge into a cross street!" suggested
Jimmie Dale coolly. "They haven't got us yet, by a long way!"
The other shook his head.
"It's not only that cab behind," he answered, through set lips.
"You don't know what we're up against. If they're really after us,
there's a trap laid in every section of this city--the devils! It's
the package they want. Thank God for the presentiment that made me
leave it behind! I was going back for it, you understand, if I was
satisfied that we weren't followed. Listen! There's a chance for
you--there's none for me. That package--remember this!--no one else
knows where it is, and it's life and death to the one who sent you
here. It's in Box 428 at-- My God, LOOK! Look there!" he yelled,
and, with a wrench at the wheel, sent the taxi lurching and
staggering for the car tracks in the centre of the street.
The scene, fast as thought itself, was photographing itself in every
detail upon Jimmie Dale's brain. From the cross street ahead, one
from each corner, two motor cars had nosed out into Broadway,
blocking the road on both sides. And now the car on the left-hand
side was moving forward across the tracks to counteract the
chauffeur's move, deliberately insuring a collision. There was no
chance, no further room to turn, no time to stop--the man driving
the other car jumped for safety--they would be into it in an
"Box 428!" Jimmie pleaded fiercely. "Go on, man! Go on! FINISH!"
"Yes!" cried the chauffeur. "John Johansson, at--"
But Jimmie Dale heard no more. There was the crash of impact as the
taxicab plowed into the car that had been so craftily manoeuvered in
front of it, and Jimmie Dale, lifted from his feet, was hurled
violently forward with the shock, and all went black before his
THE CRIME CLUB
For what length of time he had remained unconscious, Jimmie Dale had
not the slightest idea. He regained his senses to find himself
lying on a couch in a strange room that had a most exquisitely
brass-wrought dome light in the ceiling. That was what attracted
his attention, because the light hurt his eyes, and his head was
already throbbing as though a thousand devils were beating a
diabolical tattoo upon it.
He closed his eyes against the light. Where was he? What had
happened? Oh, yes, he remembered now! That smash on Lower
Broadway! He had been hurt. He moved first one limb and then
another tentatively, and was relieved to find that, though his body
ached as if it had been severely shaken, and his head was bad, he
had apparently escaped without serious injury.
Where was he? In a hospital? His fingers, resting at his side upon
the couch, supplied him with the information that it was a very
expensive couch, upholstered in finest leather. If he were in a
hospital, he would be in a cot.
He opened his eyes again to glance curiously around him. The room
was quite in keeping with the artistic lighting fixture and the
refined, if expensive, taste that was responsible for the couch. A
heavy velvet rug of rich, dark green was bordered by a polished
hardwood floor; panellings of dark-green frieze and beautifully
grained woodwork made the lower walls; while above, on a background
of some soft-toned paper, hung a few, and evidently choice, oil
paintings. There was a big, inviting lounging chair; a massive
writing table, or more properly, a desk of walnut; and behind the
desk, his back half turned, apparently intent upon a book, sat a man
in immaculate evening dress.
Jimmie Dale closed his eyes again. There was something reassuring
about it all, comfortably reassuring. Though why there should be
any occasion for a feeling of reassurance at all, he could not for
the moment make out. And then, in a sudden flash, the details of
the night came back to him. The Tocsin's letter--the package he was
to get--the taxicab--the chauffeur, who was not a chauffeur--the
chase--the trap. He lay perfectly still. It was the professional
Jimmie Dale now whose brain, in spite of the throbbing, brutally
aching head, was at work, keen, alert.
The chauffeur! What had happened to him? Had the man been killed
in the auto smash; or, less fortunate than himself, fallen into the
hands of those whose power he seemed both to fear and rate so
highly? And that package! Box--what was the number?--yes, 428.
What did that mean? What box? Where was it? Who was John
Johansson? He hadn't heard any more than that; the smash had come
then. And lastly, he was back again to the same question he had
begun with: Where was he now himself? It looked as though some good
Samaritan had picked him up. Who was this gentleman so quietly
reading there at the desk?
Jimmie Dale opened his eyes for the third time. How still, how
absolutely silent the room was! He studied the man's back
speculatively for a moment, then his gaze travelled on past the man
to the wall, riveted there, and his fingers, without movement of his
arm, pressed against the outside of his coat pocket. He thought as
much! His automatic was gone!
Not a muscle of Jimmie Dale's face moved. His eyes shifted to a
picture on the wall. THE MAN WAS WATCHING HIM--NOT READING! Just
above the level of the desk, a small mirror held the couch in focus--
but, equally, it held the man in focus, and Jimmie Dale had seen
the other's eyes, through a black mask that covered the face to the
top of the upper lip, fixed intently upon him.
There was a chill now where before there had been reassurance,
something ominous in the very quiet and refinement of the room; and
Jimmie Dale smiled inwardly in bitter irony--his good Samaritan wore
a mask! His self-congratulations had come too soon. Whatever had
happened to the chauffeur, it was evident enough that he himself was
caught! What was it the chauffeur had said? Something about a
chance through being unknown. Was it to be a battle of wits, then?
God, if his head did not ache so frightfully! It was hard to think
with the brain half sick with pain.
Those two eyes shining in that mirror! There seemed something
horribly spectre-like about it. He did not look again, but he knew
they were there. It was like a cat watching a mouse. Why did not
the man speak, or move, or do something, and-- He turned his head
slowly; the man was laughing in a low, amused way.
"You appear to be taken with that picture," observed a pleasant
voice. "Perhaps you recognise it from there? It is a Corot."
Jimmie Dale, with a well-simulated start, sat up--and, with another
quite as well simulated, stared at the masked man. The other had
laid down his book, and swung around in his chair to face the couch.
Jimmie Dale stood up a little shakily.
"Look here!" he said awkwardly. "I--I don't quite understand. I
remember that my taxi got into a smash-up, and I suppose I have to
thank you for the assistance you must have rendered me; only, as I
say"--he looked in a puzzled way around the room, and in an even
more perplexed way at the mask on the other's face--"I must confess
I am at a loss to understand quite the meaning of this."
"Suppose that instead of trying to understand you simply accept
things as you find them." The voice was soft, but there was a
finality in it that its blandness only served to make the more
Jimmie Dale drew himself up, and bowed coldly.
"I beg your pardon," he said. "I did not mean to intrude. I have
only to thank you again, then, and bid you good-night."
The lips beneath the mask parted slightly in a politely deprecating
"There is no hurry," said the man, a sudden sharpness creeping into
his tones. "I am sorry that the rule I apply to you does not work
both ways. For instance, I might be quite at a loss to account for
your presence in that taxicab."
Jimmie Dale's smile was equally polite, equally deprecating.
"I fail to see how it could be of the slightest possible interest to
you," he replied. "However, I have no objection to telling you. I
hailed the taxi at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Waverly Place,
told the chauffeur to drive me to the St. James Club, and--"
"The St. James Club," broke in the other coldly, "is, I believe,
north, not SOUTH of Waverly Place--and on Broadway not at all."
Jimmie Dale stared at the other for an instant in patient annoyance.
"I am quite well aware of that," he said stiffly. "Nevertheless I
told the man to drive me to the St. James Club. We came across
Waverly Place, but on reaching Broadway, instead of turning uptown,
he suddenly whirled in the other direction and sent the car flying
at full speed down Lower Broadway. I shouted at the man. I don't
know yet whether he was drunk or crazy or"--Jimmie Dale's eyes fixed
disdainfully on the other's mask--"whether there might not, after
all, have been method in his madness. I can only say that before we
had gone more than two or three blocks, a wild effort on his part to
avoid a collision with an auto swinging out from a side street
resulted in an even more disastrous smash with another on the other
side, and I was knocked senseless."
"'Victim,' I presume, is the idea you desire to convey," observed
the other evenly. "You were quite the victim of circumstances, as
Jimmie Dale's eyebrows lifted slightly.
"It would appear to be fairly obvious, I should say."
"Very clever!" commented the man. "But now suppose we remove the
buttons from the foils!" His voice rasped suddenly. "You are quite
as well aware as I am that what has happened to-night was not an
accident. Nor--in case the possibility may have occurred to you--
are the police any the wiser, save for the existence of two wrecked
cars on Lower Broadway, and another which escaped, and for which
doubtless they are still searching assiduously. The ownership of
the taxicab you so inadvertently entered they will have no
difficulty in establishing--you, perhaps, however, are in a better
position than I am to appreciate the fact that the establishment of
its ownership will lead them nowhere. As I understand it, the man
who drove you to-night obtained the loan of the cab from one of the
company's chauffeur's in return for a hundred-dollar bill. Am I
"In view of what has happened," admitted Jimmie Dale simply, "I
should not be surprised."
There was a sort of sardonic admiration in the other's laugh.
"As for the other car," he went on, "I can assure you that its
ownership will never be known. When the nearest patrolman rushed
up, there were no survivors of the disaster, save those in the third
car which he was powerless to stop--which accounts for your presence
here. You will admit that I have been quite frank."
"Oh, quite!" said Jimmie Dale, a little wearily. "But would you
mind telling me what all this is leading to?"
The man had been leaning forward in his chair, one hand, palm
downward, resting lightly on the desk. He shifted his hand now
suddenly to the arm of his chair.
"THIS!" he said, and on the desk where his hand had been lay the
Tocsin's gold signet ring.
Jimmie Dale's face expressed mild curiosity. He could feel the
other's eyes boring into him.
"We were speaking of ownership," said the man, in a low, menacing
tone. "I want to know where the woman who owns this ring can be
There was no play, no trifling here; the man was in deadly earnest.
But it seemed to Jimmie Dale, even with the sense of peril more
imminent with every instant, that he could have laughed outright in
savage mockery at the irony of the question. Where was she? Even
WHO was she? And this was the hour in which he was to have known!
"May I look at it?" he requested calmly.
The other nodded, but his eyes never left Jimmie Dale.
"It will give you an extra moment or so to frame your answer," he
Jimmie Dale ignored the thrust, picked up the ring, examined it
deliberately, and set it back again on the table.
"Since I do not know who owns it," he said, "I cannot answer your
"No! Well, then, there is still another matter--a little package
that was in the taxicab with you. Where is that?"
"See here!" said Jimmie Dale irritably. "This has gone far enough!
I have seen no package, large or small, or of any description
whatever. You are evidently mistaking me for some one else. You
have only to telephone to the St. James Club." He reached toward
his pocket for his cardcase. "My name is--"
"Dale," supplied the other curtly. "Don't bother about the card,
Mr. Dale. We have already taken the liberty of searching you." He
rose abruptly from his chair. "I am afraid you do not quite realise
your position, Mr. Dale," he said, with an ominous smile. "Let me
make it clear. I do not wish to be theatrical about this, but we do
not temporise here. You will either answer both of those questions
to my satisfaction, OR YOU WILL NEVER LEAVE THIS PLACE ALIVE."
Jimmie Dale's face hardened. His eyes met the other's steadily.
"Ah, I think I begin to see!" he said caustically. "When I have
been thoroughly frightened I shall be offered my freedom at a price.
A sort of up-to-date game of holdup! The penalty of being a wealthy
man! If you had named your figure to begin with, we would have
saved a lot of idle talk, and you would have had my answer the
"Do you know," said the other, in a grimly musing way, "there has
always been one man, but only one until now, that I have wished I
might add to my present associates. I refer to the so-called Gray
Seal. To-night there are two. I pay you the compliment of being
the other. But"--he was smiling ominously again--"we are wasting
time, Mr. Dale. I am willing to expose my hand to the extent of
admitting that the information you are withholding is infinitely
more valuable to me than the mere wreaking of reprisal upon you for
a refusal to talk. Therefore, if you will answer, I pledge you my
word you will be free to leave here within five minutes. If you
refuse, you are already aware of the alternative. Well, Mr. Dale?"
Who was this man? Jimmie Dale was studying the other's chin, the
lips, the white, even teeth, the jet-black hair. Some day the
tables might be turned. Could he recognise again this cool,
imperturbable ruffian who so callously threatened him with murder?
"Well, Mr. Dale? I am waiting!"
"I am not a magician," said Jimmie Dale contemptuously. "I could
not answer your questions if I wanted to."
The other's hand slid instantly to a row of electric buttons on the
"Very well, Mr. Dale!" he said quietly. "You do not believe, I see,
that I would dare to carry my threat into execution; you perhaps
even doubt my power. I shall take the trouble to convince you--I
imagine it will stimulate your memory."
The door opened. Two men were standing on the threshold, both in
evening dress, both masked. The man behind the desk came forward,
took Jimmie Dale's arm almost courteously, and led him from the room
out into a corridor, where he halted abruptly.
"I want to call your attention first, Mr. Dale, to the fact that as
far as you are concerned you neither have now, nor ever will have,
any idea whether you are in the heart of New York or fifty miles
away from it. Now, listen! Do you hear anything?"
There was nothing. Only the strange silence of that other room was
intensified now. There was not a sound; stillness such as it seemed
to Jimmie Dale he had never experienced before was around him.
"You may possibly infer from the silence that you are NOT in the
city," suggested the other, after a moment's pause. "I leave you to
your own conclusions in that respect. The cause, however, of the
silence is internal, not external; we had sound-proof principles in
mind to a perhaps exaggerated degree when this building was
constructed. If you care to do so, you have my permission to shout,
say, for help, to your heart's content. We shall make no effort to
Jimmie Dale shrugged his shoulders. He was staring down a
brilliantly lighted, richly carpeted corridor. There were doors on
one side, windows on the other, the windows all hung with heavy,
closely drawn portieres. The corridor was certainly not on the
ground floor, but whether it was on the second or third, or even
above that again, he had no means of knowing. From appearances,
though, the place seemed more like a large, private mansion than
"Just one word more before we proceed," continued the other. "I do
not wish you to labour under any illusion. Here we are frankly
criminals. This is our home. It should have some effect in
impressing you with the power and resource at our command, and also
with the class of men with whom you are dealing. There is not one
among us whose education is not fully equal to your own; not one,
indeed, but who is chosen, granting first his criminal tendencies,
because he is a specialist in his own particular field--in commerce,
in the government diplomatic service, in the professions of law and
medicine, in the ranks of pure science. We are bordering on the
fantastical, are we not? Dreaming, you will probably say, of the
Utopian in crime organisation. Quite so, Mr. Dale. I only ask you
to consider the POSSIBILITIES if what I say is true. Now let us
proceed. I am going to take you into three rooms--the three whose
doors you see ahead of you. You will notice that, including the one
you have just left, there are four on this corridor. I do not wish
to strain your credulity, or play tricks upon you; so I am going to
ask you to fix an approximate idea of the length of the corridor in
your mind, as it will perhaps enable you to account more readily for
what may appear to be a discrepancy in the corresponding size of the
One of the men opened the door ahead. Jimmie Dale, at a sign from
his conductor, moved forward and entered. Just what he had expected
to find he could not have told; his brain was whirling, partly from
his aching head, partly from his desperate effort to conceive some
way of escape from the peril which, for all his nonchalance, he knew
only too well was the gravest he had ever faced; but what he saw was
simply a cozily furnished bedroom. There was nothing peculiar about
it; nothing out of the way, except perhaps that it was rather
And then suddenly, rubbing his eyes involuntarily, he was staring in
a dazed way before him. The whole right-hand side of the wall was
sinking without a sound into the floor, increasing the width of the
room by some five or six feet--and in this space was disclosed what
appeared to be a sort of chemical laboratory, elaborately equipped,
extending the entire length of the room.
"The wall is purely a matter of mechanical construction, operated
hydraulically." The man was speaking softly at Jimmie Dale's side.
"The room beneath is built to correspond; the base, ceiling, and
wall mouldings here do not have to be very ingenious to effect a
disguise. I might say, however, that few visitors, other than
yourself, have ever seen anything here but a bedroom." He waved his
hand toward the retorts, the racks of test tubes, the hundred and
one articles that strewed the laboratory bench. "As for this, its
purpose is twofold. We, as well, as the police, have often need of
analysis. We make it. If we require a drug, a poison, say, we
compound it from its various ingredients, or, as the case may be,
distil it, perhaps--it is, you will agree, somewhat more difficult
to trace to its source if procured that way. And speaking of
poisons"--he stepped forward, and lifted a glass-stoppered bottle
containing a colourless liquid from a shelf--"in a modest way we
have even done some original research work here. This, for
instance, is as Utopian from our standpoint as the formation, and
personnel of the organisation I have briefly outlined to you. It
possesses very essential qualities. It is almost instantaneous in
its action, requires a very small quantity, and defies detection
even by autopsy." He uncorked the bottle, and dipped in a long
glass rod. "Will you watch the experiment?" he invited, with a sort
of ghastly pleasantry. "I do not want you to accept anything on
With a start, Jimmie Dale swung around. He had heard no sound, but
another man was at his elbow now--and, struggling in the man's hand,
was a little white rabbit.
It was over in an instant. A single drop in the rabbit's mouth, and
the animal had stiffened out, a lifeless thing.
"It is quite as effective on the human organism," continued the
other, "only, instead of one drop, three are required. If I make it
ten"--he was carefully measuring the liquid into two wineglasses--
"it is only that even you may be satisfied that the quantity is
fatal." He filled up the glasses with what was apparently wine of
some description, which he poured from a decanter, and held out the
glasses in front of him.
And again Jimmie Dale started, again he had heard no one enter, and
yet two men had stepped forward from behind him and had taken the
glasses from their leader's hands. He glanced around him, counting
quickly--they were surely the two who had entered with him from the
corridor. No! Including the leader, there were now six men, all in
evening dress, all masked, in the room with him.
A wave of the leader's hand, and the two men holding the glasses
left the room. The man turned to Jimmie Dale again.
"Shall we proceed to the second room, Mr. Dale?" he asked politely.
"I think it is now prepared for us--I do not wish to bore you with a
repetition of magical sliding walls."
There was something now that numbed the ache in Jimmie Dale's brain--
a sense of some deadly, remorseless thing that seemed to be
constantly creeping closer to him, clutching at him--to smother him,
to choke him. There was something absolutely fiendish, terrifying,
in the veneer of culture around him.
They had entered the second room. This, like the other, was a
pseudo-bedroom; but here the movable wall was already down. Ranged
along the right-hand side were a great number of cabinets that slid
in and out, much after the style and fashion used by clothing
dealers to stock and display their wares. These cabinets were now
all open, displaying hundreds of costumes of all kinds and
descriptions, and evidently complete to the minutest detail. The
cabinets were flanked by full-length mirrors at each end of the
room, and on little tables before the mirrors was an assortment,
that none better than Jimmie Dale himself could appreciate, of make-
The man smiled apologetically.
"I am afraid this is rather uninteresting," he said. "I have shown
it to you simply that you may understand that we are alive to the
importance of detail. Disguise, that is daily vital to us, is an
art that depends essentially on detail. I venture to say we could
impersonate any character or type or nationality or class in the
United States at a moment's notice. But"--he took Jimmie Dale's arm
again and conducted him out into the corridor, while the two men who
were evidently acting the role of guards followed closely behind--
"there is still the third room--here." He halted Jimmie Dale before
the door. "I have asked you to answer two questions, Mr. Dale," he
said softly. "I ask you now to remember the alternative."
They still stood before the door. There was that uncanny silence
again--it seemed to Jimmie Dale to last interminably. Neither of
the three men surrounding him moved nor spoke. Then the door before
him was opened on an unlighted room, and he was led across the
threshold. He heard the door close behind him. The lights came on.
And then it seemed as though he could not move, as though he were
rooted to the spot---and the colour ebbed from his face. Three
figures were before him: the two men who had carried the glasses
from the first room, and the chauffeur who had driven him in the
taxicab. The two men still held the glasses--the chauffeur was
bound hand and foot in a chair. One of the glasses was EMPTY; the
other was still significantly full.
Jimmie Dale, with a violent effort at self-control, leaned forward.
The man in the chair was dead.
THE INNOCENT BYSTANDER
There was not a sound. That stillness, weird, unnerving, that
permeated, as it were, everywhere through that mysterious house,
was, if that were possible, accentuated now. The four masked men in
evening dress, five including their leader, for the man who had
appeared in that other room with the rabbit was not here, were as
silent, as motionless, as the dead man who was lashed there in the
chair. And to Jimmie Dale it seemed at first as though his brain,
stunned and stupefied at the shock, refused its functions, and left
him groping blindly, vaguely, with only a sort of dull, subconscious
realisation of menace and a deadly peril, imminent, hanging over
He tried to rouse himself mentally, to prod his brain to action, to
pit it in a fight for life against these self-confessed criminals
and murderers with their mask of culture, who surrounded him now.
Was there a way out? What was it the Tocsin had said--"the most
powerful and pitiless organisation of criminals the world has ever
known--the stake a fortune of millions--her life!" There had,
indeed, been no overemphasis in the words she had used! They had
taken pains themselves to make that ominously clear, these men!
Every detail of the strange house, with its luxurious furnishings,
its cleverly contrived appointments, breathed a horribly suggestive
degree of power, a deadly purpose, and an organisation swayed by a
master mind; and, grim evidence of the merciless, inexorable length
to which they would go, was the ghastly white face of the dead
chauffeur, bound hand and foot, in the chair before him!
That EMPTY glass in the hand of one of the men! He could not take
his eyes from it--except as his eyes were drawn magnetically to that
FULL glass in the hand of one of the others. What height of
sardonic irony! He was to drink that other glass, to die because he
refused to answer questions that for years, with every resource at
his command, risking his liberty, his wealth, his name, his life,
with everything that he cared for thrown into the scales, he had
struggled to solve--and failed!
And then the leader spoke.
"Mr. Dale," he said, with cold significance, "I regret to admit that
your pseudo taxicab driver was so ill-advised as to refuse to answer
the SAME questions that I have put to you."
Five to one! That was the only way out--and it was hopeless. It
was the only way out, because, convinced that he could answer those
questions if he wanted to, these men were in deadly earnest; it was
hopeless, because they were--five to one! And probably there were
as many more, twice or three times as many more within call. But
what did it matter how many more there were! He could fight until
he was overpowered, that was all he could do, and the five could
accomplish that. Still, if he could knock the full glass out of
that man's hand, and gain the door, then perhaps--he turned quickly,
as the door opened. It was as though they had read his thoughts. A
number of men were grouped outside in the corridor, then the door
closed again with a cordon ranged against it inside the room; and at
the same instant his arms and wrists were caught in a powerful grasp
by the two men immediately behind him, who all along had enacted the
role of guards.
Again the leader spoke.
"I will repeat the questions," he said sharply. "Where is the woman
whose ring was found on that man there in the chair? And where is
the package that you two men had with you in the taxicab to-night?"
Jimmie Dale glanced from the tall, straight, immaculately clothed
figure of the speaker, from the threatening smile on the set lips
that just showed under the edge of the mask, to the dead man in the
chair. He had faced the prospect of death before many times, but it
had come with the heat of passion accompanying it, it had come
quickly, abruptly, with every faculty called into action to combat
it, without time to dwell upon it, to sift, weigh, or measure its
meaning, and if there had been fear it had been subordinate to other
emotions. But it was different now. He could not, of course,
answer those questions; nor, he was doggedly conscious, would he
have answered them if he could--and there was no middle course.
Death, within the next few moments, stared him in the face; and it
seemed curiously irrelevant that, in a sort of unnatural calmness,
he should be attempting to analyse his feelings and emotions
concerning it. All his life it had seemed to him that the acme of
human mental torture was the cell of a condemned criminal, with the
horror of its hopelessness, with the time to dwell upon it; and that
the acme of that torture itself must be that awful moment
immediately preceding execution, when anticipation at last was to
merge into soul-sickening reality.
Strange that thought should come! Strange that he should be framing
a brain picture of such a scene, vivid, minute in detail! No--not
strange. He was picturing himself. The analogy was not perfect, it
was true, he had not had the months, weeks, days and hours of
suspense; but it was perfect enough to bring home to him with
appalling force the realisation of his position. He was standing as
a condemned man might stand in those last, final moments, those
moments which he had imagined must be the most terrible that could
exist in life; but that dismay of soul, the horror, the terror were
not his--there was, instead, a smouldering fury, a passionate
amazement that it was his own life that was threatened. It seemed
impossible that it could be his voice that was speaking now in such
quiet, measured tones.
"Is it worth while, will it convince you now, any more than before,
to repeat that there is some mistake here? I am no more able to
answer your questions than you are yourselves. I never saw that man
in the chair there in my life until the moment that I hailed him in
his cab to-night. I do not know who the woman is to whom that ring
belongs, much less do I know where she is. And if there was a
package of any sort in the taxicab, as you state, I never saw it."
The lips under the mask curved into a lupine smile.
"Think well, Mr. Dale!" The man's voice was low, menacing.
"Ethically, if you so choose to consider it, your refusal may be the
act of a brave man; practically, it is the act of--a fool. Now--
"I have answered you," said Jimmie Dale--and, relaxing the muscles
in his arms, let them hang limply for an instant in the grip of the
two men behind him. "I have no other answer."
It was only a sign, a motion of the leader's hand--but with it,
quick as a lightning flash, Jimmie Dale was in action. The limp
arms tautened into steel as he wrenched them loose, and, whirling
around, he whipped his fist to the chin of one of the two guards.
In an instant, with the blow, as the man staggered backward, the
room was in pandemonium. There was a rush from the door, and two,
three, four leaping forms hurled themselves upon Jimmie Dale. He
shook them off--and they came again. There was no chance
ultimately, he knew that; it was only the elemental within him that
rose in fierce revolt at the thought of tame submission, that bade
him sell his life as dearly as he could. Panting, gasping for
breath, dragging them by sheer strength as they clung to him, he got
his back to the wall, fighting with the savage fury and abandon of a
But it could not last. Where one man went down before him, two
remorselessly appeared--the room seemed filled with men--they poured
in through the door--he laughed at them in a half-demented way--more
and more of them came--there was no play for his arms, no room to
fight--they seemed so close around him, so many of them upon him,
that he could not breathe--and he was bending, being crushed down as
by an intolerable weight. And then his feet were jerked from
beneath him, he crashed to the floor, and, in another moment, bound
hand and foot, he was tied into a chair beside that other chair
whose grim occupant sat in such ghastly apathy of the scene.
The room cleared instantly of all but the original five. His head
was drawn suddenly, violently backward, and clamped in that
position; and a metal instrument, forced into his mouth, while his
lips bled in their resistance, pried jaws apart and held them open.
"One drop!" the leader ordered curtly.
The man with the full glass bent over him, and dipped a glass rod
into the liquid. The drop glistened a ruby red on the end of the
rod--and fell with a sharp, acrid, burning sensation upon Jimmie
For a moment Jimmie Dale's animation, mental and physical, seemed
swept away from him in, as it were, a hiatus of hideous suspense.
What was it to be like this passing? Why did it not act at once, as
it had acted on the rabbit they had showed him in the other room?
Yes, he remembered! It took more than one drop for a man; and
besides, this was diluted. One drop had no effect on a man; it
required-- Good God, ONE DROP EVEN OF THIS WAS ENOUGH? He strained
forward in the chair until the sweat in great beads sprang from his
forehead, strained and fought and tore at his bonds in a paroxysm of
madness to free himself while there still remained a little
strength. There was something filming before his eyes, a numbed
feeling was creeping through his limbs, robbing them, sapping them
of their vitality and power. He felt himself slipping away into a
state of utter weakness, and his brain began to grow confused.
A voice seemed to float in the air near him: "For the last time--
will you answer?"
With a supreme effort, Jimmie Dale strove to rally his tottering
senses. Did they not understand the stupendous mockery of their
questions? Did they not understand that he did not know? He had
told them so--perhaps he had better tell them so again.
"I--" He tried to speak, and found the words thick upon his tongue.
The glass itself was thrust abruptly between his lips. Some of the
contents spilled and trickled upon his chin, and then a flood of it,
burning, fiery, poured down his throat. A flood of it--and it
needed but THREE drops and there had been TEN in the glass!
So this was death--a hazy, nebulous thing! There was no pain. It
was like--like--nothingness. And out of the nothingness SHE came.
Strange that she should come! Alone she had fought these fiends and
outwitted them for--how long was it? Three years! She would be
more than ever alone now. Pray God she did not finally fall into
How it burned now, that fatal draught they had forced down his
throat, and how it gripped at him and seemed to eat and bore its way
into the very tissues! It was the end, and--no! It was STIMULATING
him! Strength seemed to be returning to his limbs; it seemed as
though he were being carried, as though the bonds about him were
being loosened; and now his brain seemed to be growing clearer.
He roused up with a startled exclamation. He was back in the same
room in which he had first returned to consciousness after the
accident. He was on the same couch. The same masked figure was at
the same desk. Had he been dreaming? Was this then only some
horrible, ghastly nightmare through which he had passed?
No, it had been real enough; his clothes, rent and torn, and the
blood upon his hands, where the skin had been scraped from his
knuckles in the fight, bore evidence to that. He must then have
lost consciousness for a while, though it seemed to him that at no
moment, hazy, irrational though his brain might have been, had he
become entirely oblivious to what was taking place around him. And
yet it must have been so!
The eyes from behind the mask were fixed steadily upon him, and
below the mask there was the hard, unpleasant set to the lips that
Jimmie Dale had grown accustomed to expect.
The man spoke abruptly.
"That you find yourself alive, Mr. Dale," he said grimly, "is no
confession of weakness upon the part of those with whom you have had
to deal here. To bear witness to that there is one who is not
alive, as you have seen. That man we knew. With you it was
somewhat different. Your presence in the taxicab was only
suspicious. There was always the possibility that you might be one
of those ubiquitous 'innocent bystanders.' Your name, your
position, the improbability that you could have anything in common
with--shall we say, the matter that so deeply interests us?--was all
in your favour. However, presumption and probability are the tools
of fools. We do not depend upon them--we apply the test. And
having applied the test, we are convinced that you have told the
truth--that is all."
He rose from his chair brusquely. "I shall not apologise to you for
what has happened. I doubt very much if you are in a frame of mind
to accept anything of the sort. I imagine, rather, that you are
promising yourself that we shall pay, and pay dearly, for this--
that, among other things, we shall answer for the murder of that man
in the other room. All this will be quite within your province, Mr.
Dale--and quite fruitless. To-morrow morning the story that you are
preparing to tell now would sound incredible even in your own ears;
furthermore, as we shall take pains to see that you leave this place
with as little knowledge of its location as you obtained when you
arrived, your story, even if believed, would do little service to
you and less harm to us. I think of nothing more, Mr. Dale, except--"
There was a whimsical smile on the lips now. "Ah, yes, the
matter of your clothes. We can, and shall be glad to make
reparation to you to the slight extent of offering you a new suit
before you go."
Jimmie Dale scowled. Sick, shaken, and weak as he was, the cool,
imperturbable impudence of the man was fast growing unbearable.
The man laughed. "I am sure you will not refuse, Mr. Dale--since we
insist. The condition of the clothes you have on at present might--
I say 'might'--in a measure support your story with some degree of
tangible evidence. It is not at all likely, of course; but we
prefer to discount even so remote a possibility. When you have
changed, you will be motored back to your home. I bid you good-
night, Mr. Dale."
Jimmie Dale rubbed his eyes. The man was gone--through a door at
the rear of the desk, a door that he had not noticed before, that
was not even in evidence now, that was simply a movable section of
the wall panelling--and for an instant Jimmie Dale experienced a
sense of sickening impotence. It was as though he stood
defenceless, unarmed, and utterly at the mercy of some venomous
power that could crush what it would remorselessly and at will in
The place was a veritable maze, a lair of hellish cleverness. He
had no illusions now, he laboured under no false estimate of either
the ingenuity or the resources of this inhuman nest of vultures to
whom murder was no more than a matter of detail. And it was against
these men that henceforth he was to match his wits! There could be
no truce, no armistice. It was their lives, or hers, or his! Well,
he was alive now, the first round was over, and so far he had won.
His brows furrowed suddenly. Had he? He was not so sure, after
all. He was conscious of a disquieting, premonitory intuition that,
in some way which he could not explain, the honours were not
He was apparently--the "apparently" was a mental reservation--quite
alone in the room. He got up from the couch and walked shakily
across the floor to the desk. A revolver lay invitingly upon the
blotting pad. It was his own, the one they had taken from him after
the accident. Jimmie Dale picked it up, examined it--and smiled a
little sarcastically at himself for his trouble. It was unloaded,
of course. He was twirling it in his hand, as a man, masked as
every one in the house was masked, and carrying a neatly folded suit
over his arm, entered from the corridor.
"The car is ready as soon as you are dressed," announced the other
briefly. He laid the clothes upon the couch--and settled himself
significantly in a chair.
Jimmie Dale hesitated. Then, with a shrug of his shoulders,
recrossed the room, and began to remove his torn garments. What was
the use! They would certainly have their own way in the end. It
wasn't worth another fight, and there was nothing to be gained by a
refusal except to offer a sop to his own exasperation.
He dressed quickly, in what proved to be an exceedingly well-fitting
suit; and finally turned tentatively to the man in the chair.
The other stood up, and produced a heavy black silk scarf.
"If you have no objections," he said curtly, "I'll tie this over
Again Jimmie Dale shrugged his shoulders.
"I am glad enough to get out on any conditions," he answered
"'Fortunate' would be the better word," rejoined the other
meaningly--and, deftly knotting the scarf, led Jimmie Dale
blindfolded from the room.
Was he in the city? In a suburban town? On a country road? It
seemed childishly absurd that he could not at least differentiate to
that extent; and yet, from the moment he had been placed in the
automobile in which he now found himself, he was forced to admit
that he could not tell. He had started out with the belief that,
knowing New York and its surroundings as minutely as he knew them,
it would be impossible, do what they would to prevent it, that at
the end of the journey he should be without a clew, and a very good
clew at that, to the location of what he now called, appropriately
enough it seemed, the Crime Club.
But he had never ridden blindfolded in a car before! He could see
absolutely nothing. And if that increased or accentuated his sense
of hearing, it helped little--the roar of the racing car beat upon
his eardrums the more heavily, that was all. He could tell, of
course, the nature of the roadbed. They were running on an asphalt
road, that was obvious enough; but city streets and suburban streets
and hundreds of miles of country road around New York were of
Traffic? He was quite sure, for he had strained his ears in an
effort to detect it, that there was little or no traffic; but then,
it must be one or two o'clock in the morning, and at that hour the
city streets, certainly those that would be chosen by these men,
would be quite as deserted as any country road! And as for a sense
of direction, he had none whatever--even if the car had not been
persistently swerving and changing its course every little while.
If he had been able to form even an approximate idea of the compass
direction in which they had started, he might possibly have been
able in a general way to counteract this further effort of theirs to
confuse him; but without the initial direction he was essentially
With these conclusions finally thrust home upon him, Jimmie Dale
philosophically subordinated the matter in his mind, and, leaning
back, composed himself as comfortably as he could upon his seat.
There was a man beside him, and he could feel the legs of two men on
the seat facing him. These, with the driver, would make four. He
was still well guarded! The car itself was a closed car--not
hooded, the sense of touch told him--therefore a limousine of some
description. These facts, in a sense inconsequential, were absorbed
subconsciously; and then Jimmie Dale's brain, remorselessly active,
in spite of the pain from his throbbing head, was at work again.
It seemed as though a year had passed since, in the early evening,
as Larry the Bat, he had burrowed so ironically for refuge in Chang
Foo's den--from her! It seemed like some mocking unreality, some
visionary dream that, so short a while before, he had read those
words of hers that had sent the blood coursing and leaping through
his veins in mad exultation at the thought that the culmination of
the years had come, that all he longed for, hoped for, that all his
soul cried out for was to be his--"in an hour." An HOUR--and he was
to have seen her, the woman whose face he had never seen, the woman
whom he loved! And the hour instead, the hours since then, had
brought a nightmare of events so incredible as to seem but phantoms
of the imagination.
Phantoms! He sat up suddenly with a jerk. The face of the dead
chauffeur, the limp form lashed in that chair, the horrible picture
in its entirety, every detail standing out in ghastly relief, took
form before him. God knew there was no phantom there!
The man beside him, at the sudden start, lifted a hand and felt
hurriedly over the bandage across Jimmie Dale's eyes.
Jimmie Dale was scarcely conscious of the act. With that face
before him, with the scene re-enacting itself in his mind again, had
come another thought, staggering him for a moment with the new
menace that it brought. He had had neither time nor opportunity to
think before; it had been all horror, all shock when he had entered
that room. But now, like an inspiration, he saw it all from another
angle. There was a glaring fallacy in the game these men had played
for his benefit to-night--a fallacy which they had counted on
glossing over, as it had, indeed, been glossed over, by the sudden
shock with which they had forced that scene upon him; or, failing in
that, they had counted on the fact that his, or any other man's
nerve would have failed when it came to open defiance based on a
supposition which might, after all, be wrong, and, being wrong,
But it was not supposition. Either he was right now, or these men
were childish, immature fools--and, whatever else they might be,
they were not that! NOT A SINGLE DROP OF POISON HAD PASSED THE
CHAUFFEUR'S LIPS. The man had not been murdered in that room. He
had not, in a sense, been murdered at all. The man, absolutely,
unquestionably, without a loophole for doubt, had either been killed
outright in the automobile accident, or had died immediately
afterward, probably without regaining consciousness, certainly
without supplying any of the information that was so determinedly
Yes, he saw it now! Their backs were against the wall, they were at
their wits' end, these men! The knowledge that the chauffeur
possessed, that they KNEW he possessed, was evidently life and death
to them. To kill the man before they had wormed out of him what
they wanted to know, or, at least, until, by holding him a prisoner,
they had exhausted every means at their command to make him speak,
was the last thing they would do!
Jimmie Dale sat for a long time quite motionless. The car was
speeding at a terrific rate along a straight stretch of road. He
could almost have sworn, guided by some intuitive sense, that they
were in the country. Well, even if it were so, what did that prove!
They might have started FROM New York itself--only to return to it
when they had satisfied themselves that he was sufficiently duped.
Or they might have started legitimately from outside New York, and
be going toward the city now. Since the ultimate destination was
New York, and they had made no attempt to hide that from him, it was
useless to speculate--for at best it could be only speculation. He
had decided that once before! The man at his side felt again over
the scarf to see that it was in place.
Curiously now Jimmie Dale recalled the inward monitor that had
warned him the honours had not all been his in this first round with
the Crime Club to-night. If they had deliberately murdered the
chauffeur because of a refusal to answer, they would equally have
done the same to him. Fool that he had been not to have seen that
before! And yet would it have made any difference? He shook his
head. He could not have acted to any better advantage than he had
done. He could not--his lips curled in grim derision--have been any
Convincing! It was all clear enough now! If the chauffeur had
suffered death rather than talk, even admitting the fact that they
had more grounds for suspecting the chauffeur's complicity, would
his, Jimmie Dale's, mere denial, his choice, too, of death, have
been any the more convincing, or have saved his life where it had
not saved the other's? A certain added respect for these men,
against whom, until the end now, his victory or theirs, he realised
he was fighting for his life, came over him as he recognised the
touch of a master hand. They did not know where to find the Tocsin;
the package that she had said was vital to them was still beyond
their reach; the chauffeur was dead; and he, Jimmie Dale, alone
remained--a clew that they had still to prove valid or invalid it
was true, but the only clew in their possession. And, gaining
nothing from him by a show of force, to throw him off his guard,
they had let him go--meaning him to believe they were convinced he
knew nothing, and that the episode, the adventure of the night, was,
as far as they were concerned, ended, finished, and done with!
Time passed, a very long time, as he sat there. It might have been
an hour--he could only hazard a guess. Not one of the men in the
car had spoken a word. But to Jimmie Dale, the car itself, the
ride, its duration, these three strange companions, were for the
time being extraneous. Even that sick giddiness in his head had, at
least temporarily, gone from him.
And so, all unsuspectingly, he was to lead them to the Tocsin and
fall into the trap himself! His hands, thrust deep in his pockets,
were tightly clenched. They were clever enough, ingenious enough,
powerful enough to watch him henceforth at every turn--and from now
on, day and night, they were to be reckoned with. Suppose that in
some way, as it might well have happened, for it was now vitally
necessary that she should communicate with him and he with her, he
had played blindly into their hands, and through him she should have
fallen into their power! It brought a sickening chill, a sort of
hideous panic to Jimmie Dale--and then fury, anger, in a torrent,
surged upon him, and there came a merciless desire to crush, to
strangle, to stamp out this inhuman band of criminals that, with
intolerable effrontery to the laws of God and man, were so
elaborately and scientifically equipped for their monstrous
And then Jimmie Dale, in the darkness, smiled again grimly as the
leader's reference to the Gray Seal recurred to him. Well, perhaps,
who knew, they would have reason more than they dreamed of to wish
the Gray Seal enrolled in their own ranks! It was strange, curious!
He had thought all that was ended. Only a few short hours before he
had hidden away all, everything that was incident to the life of the
Gray Seal, the clothes of Larry the Bat, that little metal case with
the gray-coloured, adhesive seals, a dozen other things, believing
that it only remained for him to return and destroy them at his
leisure as a finishing touch to the Gray Seal's career--and now,
instead, he was face to face with the gravest and most dangerous
problem that she had ever called upon him to undertake!
Well, at least, the odds were not all in the Crime Club's favour.
Where they now certainly believed him to be entirely off his guard,
he was thoroughly on his guard; and where they might suspect him,
watch him, they would suspect and watch only the character, the
person of Jimmie Dale, and count not at all upon either Larry the
Bat or--the Gray Seal.
A sort of savage elation fell upon Jimmie Dale. His brain, that had
been stagnant, confused, physically sick with pain and suffering,
was working now with its old-time vigour and ease, mapping,
planning, scheming the way ahead. To strike, and strike quickly--to
strike FIRST! It must be his move next--not theirs! And he must
act to-night at once, the moment he was given this pretence to
liberty that they had in store for him, before they had an
opportunity of closing down around him with a network of spies that
he could not elude. By morning, Jimmie Dale would be Larry the Bat,
and inhabiting the Sanctuary again. And a tip to Jason, his old
butler, to the effect, say, that he had gone away for a trip, would
account for his disappearance satisfactorily enough; it would not
necessarily arouse their suspicions when they eventually discovered
he was gone, for against that was always the possible, and quite
likely presumption that, where they had succeeded in nothing else,
they had at least succeeded in frightening him thoroughly and to the
extent of imbuing him with a hasty desire to put a safe distance
between himself and them.
And now, with his mind made up to his course of action, an intense
impatience to put his plan into effect, an irritation at the useless
twistings and turnings of the car that had latterly become more
frequent, took hold upon him. How much longer was this to last!
They must have been fully an hour and a half on the road already,
and--ah, the car was stopping now!
He straightened up in his seat as the machine came to a halt--but
the man at his side laid a restraining hand upon him. The car door
opened, and one of the men got out. Jimmie Dale caught an
indistinct murmur of voices from without, then the man returned to
his seat, and the car went on again.
Another half hour passed, that, curbing his irritation and
impatience, was filled with the conjectures and questions that anew
came crowding in upon his mind. Why had the car made that stop? It
was rather curious. It was certainly a prearranged meeting place.
Why? And these clothes that he now wore--why had they made him
change? His own had not been very badly torn. The reason given him
was, on the face of it now, in view of what he now knew, mere
pretence. What was the ulterior motive behind that pretence? What
did this package, that had already cost a man his life to-night,
contain? Who was the chauffeur? What was this death feud between
the Tocsin and these men? Did she know where the Crime Club was?
Who and where was John Johansson? What was this box that was
numbered 428? Could she supply the links that would forge the chain
into an unbroken whole?
And then for the second time the car slowed down--and this time the
man on the seat beside Jimmie Dale reached up and untied the scarf.
"You get out here," said the man tersely.
Had it not been for the stop the car had previously made, for the
possibility that he might have obtained a glimpse outside when the
door had been opened, the scarf over his eyes would have been
superfluous; for now, with it removed, he could scarcely distinguish
the forms of the three men around him, since the window curtains of
the car were tightly drawn. Nor was he given the opportunity to do
more, even had it been possible. The car stopped, the door was
opened, he was pushed toward it--and even as he reached the ground,
the door was closed behind him, and the car was speeding on again.
But where he could not see before, it took now but a glance to
obtain his bearings--he was standing on a corner on Riverside Drive,
within a few doors of his own house.
Jimmie Dale stood still for a moment, watching the car as it
disappeared rapidly up the Drive. And with a sort of grim
facetiousness his brain began to correlate time and distance. Where
had he come from? Where was this Crime Club? They had been, as
nearly as he could estimate, two hours in making the journey; and,
as nearly as he could estimate, in their turnings and twistings had
covered at least twice the distance that would be represented by a
direct route. Granting, then, an average speed of forty miles an
hour, which was overgenerous to be on the safe side, and the fact
that they certainly had not crossed the Hudson, which now lay before
him, flanking the Drive, the Crime Club was somewhere within the
area of a semicircle, whose centre was the corner on which he now
stood, and whose radius was forty miles--OR FORTY YARDS! He forced
a laugh. It was just that, no more, no less--he was as likely to
have started on his ride from within a biscuit throw of where he now
stood, as to have started on it from miles away!
But--he aroused himself with a start--he was wasting time! It must
be very late, near morning, and he would have need for every moment
that was left between now and daylight. He turned, walked quickly
to his house, mounted the steps, and with his latch-key--they had at
least permitted him to retain the contents of his pockets when they
had forced him to change his clothes--opened the front door softly,
and, stepping inside, closed the door as silently as he had opened it.
He paused for an instant to listen. There was not a sound. The
servants, naturally, would have been in bed hours ago. Even old
Jason--Jimmie Dale smiled, half whimsically, half affectionately--
whose paternal custom it was to sit up for his Master Jim, who, as
he was fond of saying, he had dandled as a baby on his knee, had
evidently given it up as a bad job on this occasion and had turned
in himself. Jason, however, had left the light burning here in the
big reception hall.
Jimmie Dale stepped to the switch and turned off the light; then
stood hesitant in the darkness. Was there anything to be gained by
rousing Jason now and telling him what he intended to do--to
instruct him to answer any inquiries by the statement that "Mr. Dale
had gone away for a trip"? He could trust Jason; Jason already knew
much--more than one of those mysterious letters of the Tocsin's had
passed through Jason's hands.
Jimmie Dale shook his head. No; he could communicate with Jason
from downtown in the morning. He had half expected to find Jason
up, and, in that case, would have taken the other, as far as
necessary, into his confidence; but it was not a matter that pressed
for the moment. He could get into touch with Jason at any time
readily enough. Was there anything else before he went? He would
not be able to get back as easily as he got out! Money! He shook
his head again--a little grimly this time. He had been caught once
before as Larry the Bat without funds! There was plenty of money
now hidden in the Sanctuary, enough for any emergency, enough to
last him indefinitely.
He stepped forward along the hall, his tread noiseless on the rich,
heavy rug, passed into the rear of the house, descended the back
stairs, and reached the cellar. It was below the level of the
ground, of course; but a narrow window here, though quite large
enough to permit of egress, gave on the driveway at the side of the
house that led to the garage in the rear.
Cautiously now, for the cement flooring was, in the stillness,
little less than a sounding board, Jimmie Dale reached the wall and
felt along it to the window, the lower edge of whose sill was just
slightly below the level of his shoulder. It opened inward, if he
remembered correctly. His fingers were feeling for the fastenings.
It was too dark to see a thing. He muttered in annoyance. Where
were the fastenings! At the sides, or at the bottom? His hand
began to make a circuit of the sill--and then suddenly, with a low,
sharp cry, he leaned forward!
WHAT DID THIS MEAN? Wires! No wires had ever been there before!
His fingers were working now with feverish haste, telegraphing their
message to his brain. The wires ran through the sill close to the
corner of the wall--tiny fragments of wood, as from an auger, were
still on the sill--and here was a small particle of wire insulation
that, those sensitive finger tips proclaimed, was FRESH.
A cold thrill ran through Jimmie Dale; and there came again that
sickening sense of impotency in the face of the malignant, devilish
cunning arrayed against him, that once before he had experienced,
that night. He had thought to forestall them--and he had been
forestalled himself! This could only have been done--they had had
no interest in him before then--while they held him at the Crime
Club, while he was spending that two hours in the car! Was that why
they had taken so long in coming? Was that why the car had stopped
that time--that those with him might be told that the work here had
been completed, and he need no longer be kept away?
He edged away from the window, and, as cautiously as he had come,
retraced his steps across the cellar and up the stairs--and then,
the possibility of being heard from without gone, he broke into a
run. There was no need to wonder long what those wires meant. They
could mean only one of two things--and the Crime Club would have
little concern in his electric light! THEY HAD TAPPED HIS
TELEPHONE. The mains, he knew, ran into the cellar from the
underground service in the street. He was racing like a madman now.
How long ago, how many hours ago, had they done that! Great Scott,
SHE was to have telephoned! Had she done so? Was the game, all,
everything, she herself, at their mercy already? If she had
telephoned, Jason would have left a message on his desk--he would
look there first--afterward he would waken Jason.
He gained the door of his den on the first landing, a room that ran
the entire length of one side of the house from front to rear, burst
in, switched on the light---and stood stock-still in amazement.
"Jason!" he cried out.
The old butler, fully dressed, rubbing and blinking his eyes at the
light, and with a startled cry, rose up from the depths of a