Part 9 out of 9
"How de hell do youse suppose I knows!" demanded the Magpie,
politely scornful. "Dat's his business--dat ain't wot's worryin'
"No--sure, it ain't!" admitted Larry the Bat ingratiatingly. "But
go on, keep movin', Slimmy! Wot's he done wid de stuff?"
"Done wid it!" echoed the Magpie, with a short laugh. "Wot do youse
t'ink! He's been luggin' it home to his swell joint up dere on de
avenoo, an' crammin' his safe full of it."
Larry the Bat sucked in his breath.
"Gee, dat's soft!" he murmured, and then suddenly, as though with
painful inspiration: "Say, Slimmy--say, are youse sure youse ain't
been handed a steer?"
The Magpie grinned wickedly.
"I ain't fallin' fer steers!" he said shortly. "Dis is on de
Jimmie Dale lurched up from his chair, and, leaning over the lamp
chimney, drew wheezily on his cigarette to get a light. His eyes
sought the Tocsin's face. To all intents and purposes she was
entirely absorbed in the Magpie. He sat down again to gape, with
well-stimulated, doglike admiration, at Slimmy Joe. WAS THIS, TOO,
A PLANT? Why had the Magpie come to THEM with this story of Henry
LaSalle? And then, the next instant, as the Magpie spoke, his
suspicions were allayed.
"Let's get down to cases!" the Magpie invited crisply. "I didn't
blow in here just by luck. Dis Henry LaSalle is de guy youse worked
fer once, ain't he, Mag? Dat's de spiel, ain't it?--he sent youse
up fer pinchin' de tacks out of his carpets!"
"I never pinched nothin'!" snarled Silver Mag truculently. "He's a
dirty liar! I never did!"
"Cut it out! Cut it out! Can dat!" complained the Magpie
patiently. "De point is, youse worked in his house, didn't youse?"
"Sure I did!" snapped the Tocsin, sullenly aggressive; "but--"
"Well, den, dat's wot I want, dat's wot I come fer, Mag--a plan of
de house. See?"
Jimmie Dale could feel the Tocsin's eyes upon him, questioning,
searching, seeking a cue. A plan of the house--yes or no? And a
decision on the instant!
"Sure!" said Larry the Bat brightly. "Dat's wot I was t'inkin'
youse were after all de time. Say, youse are all right, Slimmy!
Youse are de kind to work wid! Go on, Mag, draw de dope fer Slimmy.
Dat's better dan tryin' to put one over on de swell guy. Dis'll
make him squeal fer fair!"
The Magpie produced a pencil and a piece of paper from his pocket,
and laid them on the table in front of the Tocsin.
"Dere youse are," he announced. "Help yerself, an' go to it, Mag!"
The Tocsin, evidently not quite certain of her part, wet the pencil
doubtfully on the end of her tongue.
"I ain't never drawed plans," she said anxiously. "Mabbe"--she
glanced at Jimmie Dale--"mabbe I dunno how to do it RIGHT."
"Aw, go ahead!" nodded Larry the Bat. "Youse can do it right, Mag.
Youse don't have to make no oil paintin'! All de Magpie wants is de
doors an' windows, eh, Slimmy?"
"Sure," agreed the Magpie encouragingly. "Dat's all, Mag. Just
mark de rooms out on de first floor, an' de basement. Youse can
explain wot youse 're doin' as youse goes along. I'll get youse."
The Tocsin cackled maliciously in assent; and then, while the Magpie
got up from his chair and stood peering over her shoulder, she began
to draw labouriously, her brows knitted, the pencil hooked awkwardly
between cramped-up forefinger and thumb.
Larry the Bat, slouched forward over the table, his chin in his
hands, appeared to watch the proceedings with mild interest--but his
eyes, like a hawk's, were following every line on the paper,
transferring them to his brain, photographing every detail of the
plan in his mind. And as he watched, there seemed something that
was near to the acme of all that was ironical in the Magpie standing
there, his sharp, little, black eyes drinking in greedily the
Tocsin's work, in the Tocsin herself aiding and abetting in the
projected theft--OF HER OWN MONEY! How far would he let the Magpie
go? He did not know. Perhaps--who could tell!--all the way.
Between now and then there lay that package! If it were at
Makoff's, at Spider Jack's, if he could find it, get it--the Magpie
as a temporary custodian of the estate's money would at least
preclude its loss by flight if the Crime Club took alarm too
quickly. Larry the Bat's eyes, under half-closed lids, rested
musingly on the Magpie's face. The Magpie would not get very far
away with it! On the other hand, if he failed at Spider Jack's, if,
after all, he was wrong, and the package had never been there, or if
they had forestalled him, turned the trick upon him, already secured
it, then--Larry the Bat's lips, working on his cigarette, formed in
a twisted smile--then, well then, that was quite another matter!
Perhaps he and the Magpie might not agree so far! A half million
dollars was perhaps not much out of eleven millions, but it was a
salvage not to be despised! Why did he say half a million! Well,
why not? If the Magpie knew of a single transaction of eighty
thousand, and there had been many transactions during the day, a
half million was little likely to prove an exaggeration--and the
less likely in view of the fact that, if those in the Crime Club
were preparing for an emergency, they would not stint themselves in
the disposal of securities.
The Magpie was keeping up a running fire of questions, as the Tocsin
toiled on with her pencil. Where did the hall lead to? How many
windows in the library? Did she remember the kind of fastenings?
Did the servants sleep in the basement, or above? And finally,
twice over, as she finished the clumsy drawing and pushed it toward
him, he demanded minute details of the position of the safe.
"Aw, dat's all right, Slimmy!" Larry the Bat cut in airily. "If
youse ferget anyt'ing when youse get in dere, youse can ask me. I
got it cinched!"
The Magpie folded the paper and stowed it carefully away in his
"Ask youse, eh!" he grunted sarcastically. "An' where do youse
t'ink youse'll be about dat time?"
"In dere wid youse, of course," replied Larry the Bat promptly.
"Dat's wot youse said."
"Yes, youse will--NOT!" announced the Magpie, with cold finality.
"Do youse t'ink I want to queer myself! A hot one youse'd be on an
inside job! Youse'll be OUTSIDE, wid yer peepers skinned for de
bulls--youse an' Mag here, too. See! Get dat straight. While I'm
on de job youse two plays de game. Now youse listen to me, both of
youse. Don't start nothin' unless youse has to. If it's a cinch I
got to make a get-away, youse two start a drunk fight. Get me?
Youse know de lay. T'row de talk loud--an' I'll fade. Dat's all!
We'll crack de crib early--it'll be quiet enough up dere by one
One o'clock! Larry the Bat shook his head. What time was it now?
It was about nine when he had first met the Tocsin, then the
Sanctuary, then the long walk as he had followed her--say a quarter
of ten for that. And he had certainly been here with her not less
than an hour and a half. It must be after eleven, then. One
o'clock! And before that must come Makoff and Spider Jack! The
night that half an hour ago had seemed so sterile, was crowding a
program of events upon him now--too fast!
"Nothin' doin'!" he said thoughtfully. "Youse are in wrong dere,
Slimmy. One o'clock don't go! Say, take it from me, I've watched
dat guy too many nights fer Mag. 'Tain't often he leaves de club
before one o'clock--an' he ain't never in bed before two."
"All right," agreed the Magpie, after a moment's reflection. "Youse
ought to know. Make it three o'clock." He pulled a cigar from his
pocket, lighted it, and, leaning back in his chair, stuck his feet
up on the table. "If youse don't mind, Mag, I'll stick around a
while," he decided calmly. "Mabbe de less I'm seen to-night de
better--an' I guess dere won't be nobody lookin' fer me here."
Larry the Bat coughed suddenly, and rose up a little heavily from
his chair. He had not counted on that! If the Magpie was settling
down for a prolonged stay, it devolved upon him, Jimmie Dale, to get
away, and at once--and without exciting the Magpie's suspicions. He
coughed again, looked nervously from the Tocsin to the Magpie--
stammered--swallowed hard--and coughed once more.
"Well, wot's bitin' youse?" inquired the Magpie ironically.
"Nothin'," said Larry the Bat--and hesitated. "Nothin', only--" He
hesitated again; and then, the words in a rush:
"Say, Slimmy, couldn't youse come across wid a piece of dat century
"Wot fer?" demanded the Magpie, a little aggressively.
Larry the Bat cleared his throat with a desperate effort.
"Youse knows," he admitted sheepishly. "Just gimme de price of one,
"Coke!" exploded the Magpie. "An' get soaked to de eyes--not by a
"No! Honest to Gawd, no, Slimmy--just one!" pleaded Larry the Bat.
"Nix!" said the Magpie shortly.
Larry the Bat thrust out a hand before the Magpie's eyes that shook
"I got to have it!" he declared, with sudden fierceness. "I GOT to--
see! Look at me! I ain't goin' to be no good to-night if I don't.
I tell youse, I got to! I ain't goin' to t'row youse down, Slimmy--
honest, I ain't! Just one--an' it'll set me up. If I don't get
none I'll be on de rocks before mornin'! Dat's straight, Slimmy--
ask Mag, she knows."
"Aw, let him go get it!" broke in the Tocsin wearily. "Dat's de
best t'ing youse can do, Slimmy--dey're all alike when dey gets in
"Youse cocaine sniffers gives me de pip!" snorted the Magpie, in
disgust. He dug down into his pocket, produced a bill, and flung it
across the table to Larry the Bat. "Well, dere youse are; but youse
can take it from me, Larry, dat if youse gets whiffed"--he swore
threateningly--"I'll crack every bone in yer face! Get me?"
"Slimmy," said Larry the Bat fervently, grabbing at the bill with a
hungry hand, "youse can count on me. I'll be up dere on de job
before youse are. Three o'clock, eh? Well, so long, Slimmy"--he
slouched eagerly to the door. "So long, Mag"--he paused on the
threshold for a single, quick-flung, significant glance. "See youse
on de avenoo, Mag--I'll be up dere before youse are. So long!"
"Oh, so long!" said the Tocsin contemptuously.
And, an instant later, Jimmie Dale closed the outer door behind him.
Nearly midnight already! It was even later than he had thought.
Larry the Bat pressed his face against a shop's windowpane on the
Bowery for a glance at a clock that had caught his eye on the wall
within. Nearly midnight!
He slouched on again hurriedly, still debating in his mind, as he
had been debating it all the way from the Tocsin's, the question of
returning again to the Sanctuary. So far, the way both to Spider
Jack's and the Sanctuary had been in the same direction--but the
Sanctuary was on the next street.
Jimmie Dale reached the corner--and hesitated. It was strange how
strong was the intuition upon him to-night that bade him go on and
make all speed to Spider Jack's--while equally strong was the cold,
stubborn logic that bade him go first to the Sanctuary. There were
things that he needed there that would probably be absolutely
essential to him before the night was out, things without which he
might be so badly handicapped as to invite failure from the start;
and yet--it was already midnight!
Ostensibly both Makoff and Spider Jack closed their places at
eleven. But that might mean anything--depending upon their own
respective inclinations, or on what of their own peculiar brand of
deviltry might be afoot. If they were still about, still in
evidence, he was still too early, midnight though it was; though, on
the other hand, if the coast was clear, he could ill afford to lose
a moment of the time between now and the hour that the Magpie had
planned for the robbery of Henry LaSalle, for it would not be an
easy matter, even once inside Spider Jack's, to find that package--
since it was Spider's open boast that things committed to his care
were where the police, or any one else, might as well whistle and
suck their thumbs as try to find them!
And then, with sudden decision, taking his hesitation, as it were,
by the throat, Jimmie Dale hurried on again--to the Sanctuary. At
most, it could delay him but another fifteen minutes, and by half-
past twelve, or a quarter to one at the latest, he would be at
Disdaining the secrecy of the side door on the alley, for who had a
better right or was better known there than Larry the Bat, a tenant
of years, he entered the tenement by the front door, scuffled up the
stairs to the first landing, and let himself into his disreputable
room. He locked the door behind him, lighted the choked and wheezy
gas jet, in a single, sharp-flung glance assured himself that the
blinds were tightly shut, and, kneeling in the far corner, threw
back the oilcloth and lifted up the loose section of the flooring
beneath. He reached inside, fumbling under the neatly folded
clothes of Jimmie Dale, and in a moment laid his leather girdle with
its kit of burglar's tools on the floor beside him; and beside that
again an electric flashlight, a black silk mask, and--what he had
never expected to use again when, early the night before, he had, as
he had believed, put it away forever--the thin, metal insignia case
of the Gray Seal. Another moment, and, with the flooring replaced,
the oilcloth rolled back into position, he had stripped off his coat
and was pulling his spotted, greasy shirt off over his head; then,
stooping quickly, he picked up the girdle, put it on, put on his
shirt again over it, put on his coat, put the metal case, the
flashlight, and the mask in his pockets--and once more the Sanctuary
was in darkness.
It was perhaps fifteen minutes later that Jimmie Dale turned into
the upper section of Thompson Street. Here he slowed his pace, that
had been almost a run since he had left the Sanctuary, and began to
shuffle leisurely along; for the street, that a few hours before
would have been choked with its pushcarts and venders, its half
naked children playing where they could find room in the gutters,
its sidewalks thronged with shawled women and picturesquely dressed,
earringed, dark-visaged men, a scene, as it were, transported from
some foreign land, was still far from deserted; the quiet, if quiet
it could be called, was but comparative, there were many yet about,
and he had no desire to attract attention by any evidence of undue
haste. And, besides, Spider Jack's was just ahead, making the
corner of the alleyway a few hundred feet farther on, and he had
very good reasons for desiring to approach Spider's little novelty
store at a pace that would afford him every opportunity for
On he shuffled along the street, until, reaching Spider Jack's, a
little two-storied, tumble-down brick structure, a muttered
exclamation of satisfaction escaped him. The shop was closed and
dark; and, though Spider Jack lived above the store, there were no
lights even in the upper windows. Spider Jack presumably was either
out, or in bed! So far, then, he could have asked for nothing more.
Jimmie Dale edged in close to the building as he slouched by, so
close that his hat brim seemed to touch the windowpane. It was
possible that from a room at the rear of the store there might be a
light with a telltale ray perhaps filtering through, say, a door
crack. But there was nothing--only blackness within.
He paused at the corner of the building by the alleyway. Down here,
adjoining the high board fence of Spider Jack's back yard, Makoff
made pretense at pawnbrokering in a small and dingy wooden building,
that was little more pretentious than a shed--and in Makoff's place,
so far as he could see, there was no light, either.
Jimmie Dale's fingers were industriously rolling a cigarette, as,
under the brim of his slouch hat, his eyes were noting every detail
around him. A yard in against the wall of Spider Jack's, the wall
cutting off the rays of the street lamp at a sharp angle, it was
shadowy and black--and beyond that, farther in, the alleyway was
like a pit. It would take less, far less, than the fraction of a
second to gain that yard, but some one was approaching behind him,
and a little group of people loitered, with annoying persistency,
directly across the way on the other side of the street. Jimmie
Dale stuck the cigarette between his lips, fumbled in his pockets,
and finally produced a box of matches. The group opposite was
moving on now; the footsteps he had heard behind him, those of a
man, drew nearer, the man passed by--and the box of matches in
Jimmie Dale's hand dropped to the ground. He reached to pick them
up, and in his stooping posture, without seeming to turn his head,
flung a quick glance behind him up the street. No one, for that
fraction of a second that he needed, was near enough to see--and in
that fraction of a second Jimmie Dale disappeared.
A dozen yards down the lane, he sprang for the top of the high
fence, gripped it, and, lithe and active as a cat, swung himself up
and over, and dropped noiselessly to the ground on the other side.
Here he stood motionless for a moment, close against the fence, to
get his bearings. The rear of Spider Jack's building loomed up
before him--the back windows as unlighted as those in front. Luck
so far, at least, was with him! He turned and looked about him,
and, his eyes growing accustomed to the darkness, he could just make
out Makoff's place, bordering the end of the yard--nor, from this
new vantage point, could he discover, any more than before, a single
sign of life about the pawnbroker's establishment.
Jimmie Dale stole forward across the yard, mounted the three steps
of the low stoop at Spider Jack's back door, and tried the door
cautiously. It was locked. From his pocket came the small steel
instrument that had stood Larry the Bat in good stead a hundred
times before in similar circumstances. He inserted it in the
keyhole, worked deftly with it for an instant--and tried the door
again. It was still locked. And then Jimmie Dale smiled almost
apologetically. Spider Jack did not use ordinary locks on his back
The discountenanced instrument went back into his pocket, and now
Jimmie Dale's hand slipped inside his shirt, and from one of the
little, upright pockets of the leather belt, and from still another,
and from after that a third, came the vicious little blued-steel
tools. The sensitive fingers travelled slowly up and down the side
of the door--and then he was at work in earnest. A minute passed--
another--there was a dull, low, grating sound, a snick as of metal
yielding suddenly--and Jimmie Dale was coolly stowing away his tools
again inside his shirt.
He pushed the door open an inch, listened, then swung it wide,
stepped inside, and closed it behind him. A round, white beam of
light flashed in a quick circle--and went out. It was a sort of
storeroom, innocent enough and orderly enough in appearance, bare-
floored, with boxes and packing cases piled neatly against the
walls. In one corner a staircase led to the story above--and from
above, quite audibly now, he caught the sound of snoring. Spider
Jack was in bed, then!
Directly facing him was the open door of another room, and Jimmie
Dale, moving softly forward, entered it. He had never been in
Spider Jack's before, and his first concern was to form an intimate
acquaintanceship with his surroundings. Again the flashlight
circled, and again went out.
"No windows!" muttered Jimmie Dale under his breath. "Nothing very
fancy about the architecture! Three rooms in a row! Store in front
of this room through that door of course. Wonder if the door's
locked, though it's a foregone conclusion the package wouldn't be in
Not a sound, his tread silent, he crossed to the closed door that he
had noticed. It was unlocked, and he opened it tentatively a little
way. A faint glow of light diffused itself through the opening.
Jimmie Dale nodded his head and closed the door again. The street
lamp, shining through the shop windows, accounted for the light.
And now the flashlight played with steady inquisitiveness about him.
The room in which he stood seemed to combine a sort of office, with
a lounging room, in which Spider Jack, no doubt, entertained his
particular cronies. There was table in the centre, cards still upon
it, chairs about it. Against the wall farthest away from the shop
stood a huge, old-fashioned cabinet; and a little farther along,
anglewise, partitioning off the corner, as it were, hung, for some
purpose or other, a cretonne curtain. Also, against the wall next
to the lane, bringing a commiserating smile to Jimmie Dale's lips as
his eyes fell upon it, was a clumsy, lumbering, antique safe.
Jimmie Dale's eyes returned to the curtain. What was it doing
there? What was it for? Instinctively he stepped over to examine
it. A single glance, however, as he lifted it aside, sufficed. It
was nothing but a make-shift clothes closet. He turned from it,
switched off the flashlight, and stood staring meditatively into the
darkness. In a strange house, with the knowledge to begin with that
what he sought was carefully hidden, it was no sinecure to find that
package. He had never for a moment imagined that it would be. But
of one thing, however, there was no uncertainty in his mind--he
would get the package!--by search if possible, by other means if
search failed. It was now close to one o'clock. If by two o'clock
his efforts had been fruitless, Spider Jack would hand over the
package--at the revolver point! It was quite simple! Meanwhile--
Jimmie Dale shrugged his shoulders, and, going over to the safe,
knelt down in front of it--meanwhile, as well begin here as anywhere
The trained fingers closed on the handle--and on the instant, as
though in startled amazement, shifted to the dial. They came back
to the handle--a wrench--then a low, amused chuckle--and the door
swung open. The great, unwieldy thing was only a monumental bluff!
It not only had not been locked, but it COULD NOT be locked--the
mechanism was out of order, the bolts could not be moved by so much
as a hair's breadth!
Still chuckling, Jimmie Dale shot the flashlight's ray into the
interior of the safe--and the chuckle died on his lips, and into his
face came a look of strained bewilderment. Inside, everything was
in chaos, books, papers, a miscellany of articles, as though they
had first been ruthlessly pulled out on the floor, then gathered up
in an armful and crammed back inside again. For an instant he did
not move, and then a queer, hard, mirthless smile drew down the
corners of his mouth. With a sort of bitter, expectant nod of his
head, he turned the light upon the door of the safe. Yes, there
were the scratches that the tools had left; and, as though in
sardonic jest, the holes, where the steel bit had bored, were
plugged with putty and rubbed over with some black substance that
was still wet and came off, smearing his finger, as he touched it.
It could not have been done long ago, then! How long? A half hour--
an hour? Not more than that!
Mechanically he closed the door of the safe, rose to his feet and,
almost heedless of noise now, the flashlight ray dancing before him,
he jumped across to the old-fashioned cabinet and pulled the door
open. Here, as within the safe, all inside, plain evidence of
thorough, if hasty, search, was scattered and tossed about in
He shut the cabinet door; the flashlight went out; and he stood like
a man stunned, the sense of some abysmal disaster upon him. He was
too late! The game was up! If it had ever been here, the package
was gone now--GONE! The Crime Club had been here before him!
"The game was up! The game was up!"--his mind seemed to keep on
repeating that. The Crime Club had beaten him by an hour, at most,
and had been here, and had searched. It was strange, though, that
they should have been at such curious pains to cover their tracks by
leaving the room in order, by such paltry efforts to make the safe
appear untouched when the first glance that was at all critical
would disclose immediately what had been done! Why should they need
to cover their tracks at all; or, if it was necessary, why, above
all, in such a pitifully inadequate way! His mind barked back to
the same ghastly refrain--"the game was up!"
NO! Not yet! There was still a chance! There was still Spider
Jack! Suppose, in spite of their search, they had failed to find
the package! Jimmie Dale's lips set in a thin line, as he started
abruptly toward the door. There was still that chance, and one
thing was grimly certain--Spider Jack would, at least, show him
where the package HAD BEEN!
And then, halfway to the door, he halted suddenly, and stood still--
listening. An electric bell was ringing loudly, imperiously,
somewhere upstairs. Followed almost immediately the sound of some
one, Spider Jack presumably, moving hurriedly about overhead; and
then, a moment later, steps coming down the staircase in the
Jimmie Dale drew back, flattening himself against the wall. Spider
Jack entered the room, stumbled across it, in the darkness, fumbled
for the door that led into his little shop, opened it, passed
through, fumbled around in there again, for matches evidently, then
lighted a gas jet in the store, and, going to the street door,
Jimmie Dale had edged along the wall a little to a position where he
had an unobstructed view through the open doorway connecting the
shop and the room in which he stood. Spider Jack, in trousers and
shirt, hastily donned, no doubt, as he had got out of bed, was
standing in the street doorway, and beyond him loomed the forms of
several men. Spider Jack stepped aside to allow his visitors to
enter--and suddenly, a cry barely suppressed upon his lips, Jimmie
Dale involuntarily strained forward. Three men had entered, but his
eyes were fixed, fascinated, upon only one--the first of the three.
Was it an hallucination? Was he mad---dreaming? It was Hilton
Travers, THE CHAUFFEUR--the man whom he could have sworn he had last
seen dead, lashed in that chair, in that ghastly death chamber of
the Crime Club!
"Rather rough on you, Spider, to pull you out of bed at this hour,"
the chauffeur was saying apologetically.
"Oh, that's all right, seein' it's you, Travers," Spider Jack
answered, gruffly amiable. "Only I was kind of lookin' for you last
"I know," the chauffeur replied; "but I couldn't connect with my
friends here. Shake hands with them, Spider--Bob Marvin--Harry
"Glad to know you, gents," said Spider Jack, with a handgrip apiece.
The chauffeur lowered his voice a little.
"I suppose we're alone here, eh, Spider? Yes? Well, then, you know
what I've come for--that package--Marvin and Stead, here, are the
ones that are in on it with me. Get it for me, will you, Spider?"
"Sure--Mr. Johansson!" Spider grinned. "Sure! Come on into the
back room and make yourselves comfortable. I'll be mabbe five
minutes, or so."
Jimmie Dale's brain was whirling. What did it mean? He could not
seem to understand. His mind seemed to refuse its functions.
Travers, the chauffeur--ALIVE! He drew in his breath sharply. That
curtain in the corner! He must see this out now! They were coming!
Quick, noiseless, he stole along the side of the wall, reached the
corner, and slipped in behind the curtain, as Spider Jack, striking
a match, entered the room.
Spider Jack lighted the gas, and, as the others followed behind him,
waved them toward the chairs around the table.
"I'll just ask you gents not to leave the room," he said meaningly,
over his shoulder, as he stepped toward the rear door. "It's kind
of a fad of mine to keep some things even from my wife!"
"All right, Spider--I understand," the chauffeur returned readily.
Jimmie Dale's knife cut a tiny slit in the cretonne on a level with
his eyes. The three men had seated themselves at the table, and
appeared to be listening intently. Spider Jack's footsteps echoed
back as he crossed the rear room, sounded dull and muffled
descending the stoop outside, and died away.
"I told you it wasn't in the house!" the man who had been introduced
as Stead laughed shortly. "We wasted the hour we had here."
The third man spoke crisply, incisively, to the chauffeur.
"Turn down that gas jet a little! You've got across with it so far--
but you can't stand a searchlight, Clarke!
And at the words, in a flash, the meaning of it, all of it, to the
last detail that was spelling death, ruin, and disaster for her, the
Tocsin, for himself as well, burst upon Jimmie Dale. That VOICE!
He would have known it, recognised it, among a thousand--it was the
masked man of the night before, the leader, the head of the Crime
Club! And it was not Travers there at all! He remembered now, too
well, that second room they had showed him in the Crime Club--its
multitude of disguises, though in this case they had the dead man's
clothes ready to their hands--the leader's boast that impersonation
was but child's play to them! And now he understood why they had
covered up the traces of their search in only so curiously
inadequate a manner. They had failed to find the package, and, as a
last resort, had adopted the ruse of impersonating Hilton Travers,
the chauffeur, which made it necessary that when they called Spider
Jack from his bed, as they had just done, that Spider Jack, at a
CASUAL glance, should notice nothing amiss--but it would be no more
than a casual glance, for, who should know better than they, he
would not have to go for the package to any place that they had
disturbed! And he, Jimmie Dale, could only stand here and watch
them, helpless, powerless to move! Three of them! A step out into
the room was to invite certain death. It would not matter, his
death--if he could gain anything for her, for the Tocsin, by it.
But what could he gain--by dying? He clenched his hands until the
nails bit into the flesh.
Spider Jack re-entered the room, carrying what looked like a large,
bulky, manila envelope, heavily sealed, in his hand. He tossed it
on the table.
"There you are, Travers!" he said.
"I wonder," suggested the leader pleasantly, "if, now that we're
here, Travers, your friend would mind letting us have this room for
a few minutes to ourselves to clean up the business?"
"Sure!" agreed Spider Jack cordially. "You're welcome to it! I'll
wait out here in the store until you say the word."
He went out, closing the door after him. The leader picked up the
"We'll take no chances with this," he said grimly. "It's been too
close a call. After we've had a look at it, we'll put it out of
harm's way on the spot, here, while we've got it--before we leave!"
He ripped the package open, and disclosed perhaps a dozen official-
looking documents, besides a miscellaneous number of others. He
took up the first of the papers, glanced through it hurriedly, then
tossed it to the pseudo chauffeur.
"Tear it up, and tear it up--SMALL!" he ordered tersely. The next,
after examining it as he had the first, he tossed to the other man.
"Go ahead!"--curtly. "Work fast! From the looks of these, Travers
had us cold! There's proof enough here of LaSalle's murder to send
us all to the chair!"
He went on glancing through the documents; and then suddenly,
joining the others in their work, began to rip and tear at the
A sort of cold horror had settled upon Jimmie Dale, and his forehead
was clammy wet. The inhuman irony of it! That he should stand
there and watch, impotent to prevent it, the destruction of what he
would have given his life to secure! And then slowly, a grim, hard,
merciless smile came to his lips. He had recognised the leader's
voice--now he would recognise the leader's FACE. At least, that was
left to him--perhaps the master trump of all. It would not be very
hard to find the Crime Club now--with that man to lead the way!
The scraps of paper, tiny shreds, mounted into a heap on the table--
and with the last of the contents of the package destroyed, the
leader stood up.
"Put these pieces in your pockets; we don't want to leave them
here," he directed quietly. "And then let's get out."
In scarcely a moment, the last scrap of paper had vanished. The
three men walked to the door, passed through it, and joined Spider
Jack in the store--and Jimmie Dale, slipping out from behind the
curtain, gained the door of the rear room, crept through it, reached
the stoop, and then, darting like the wind across the yard, was over
the fence in a second, and in another was out of the alleyway and on
He was in time--in plenty of time. They had just left Spider
Jack's, and were, perhaps, fifty yards or so ahead of him. He
slouched on behind them--the cold, grim smile on his lips once more.
It was the Crime Club now, that hell's cradle where their devil's
schemes were hatched, that was the one thing left to him; they would
lead him to that, and then--and then it would be his turn to STRIKE!
They turned the first corner. And suddenly, as the racing engine of
an automobile caught his ear, he broke into a run, and dashed around
the corner after them--in time to see them jump into a car, and the
car speed off along the street! He halted, as though he were
suddenly dazed--started involuntarily to run forward again--stopped
with a hollow laugh at the futility of it--and stood still and
motionless on the sidewalk.
And then he swayed a little, and his face grew gray. Failure,
defeat, ruin--in that moment he knew them all to their bitterest
dregs. How could he go to her! How could he face her, and tell her
that they were beaten, that the last hope was gone, that he had
"God!" he cried aloud, and clenched his hands.
Then deep in his consciousness a thought stirred, and he swept a
shaking hand across his eyes. Why had it come again, that thought!
Did it mean that HE must play--the last card! There was a way--
there had always been a way. The way the Crime Club took--MURDER.
It was their own weapon! If the man who posed as Henry LaSalle were
killed! If that man--were killed!
"The Magpie was to be there at three!" he muttered--and started
mechanically back along the street.
THE ONLY WAY
It was a horrible thing--and it grew upon him. In a blind,
mechanical way, his brain receptive to nothing else, Jimmie Dale
walked on along the street. To kill a man! Death he had faced
himself a hundred times, witnessed it a hundred times in its most
violent forms, had seen murder done before his eyes, had been in
straits where, to save his own life, it had seemed the one last
desperate chance--and yet his hands were still clean! To kill a man
in fair fight, in struggle, when the blood was hot, was terrible
enough, a possibility that was always before him, the one thing from
which he shrank, the one thing that, as the Gray Seal, he had always
feared; but to kill a man deliberately, to creep upon his victim
with hideous, cold-blooded premeditation--he shivered a little, and
his hand shook as he drew it nervously across his eyes.
But there was no other way! Again and again, insidiously grappling
with his revulsion, with the horror that the impulse to murder
inspired, came that other thought--there was no other way. If the
man who posed as Henry LaSalle were DEAD! If he were dead! If he
were dead! See, now, what would happen if that man were dead! How
clear his brain was on that point! The whole plot would tumble like
a house of cards about the heads of the Crime Club. The courts
would require an auditing of the estate by a trustee of the courts'
own appointing, who would continue to administer it until the
Tocsin's twenty-fifth birthday, or until there was tangible evidence
of her death--but the Tocsin, automatically with her pseudo uncle's
death, could publicly appear again. Her death could no longer
benefit the Crime Club, since it, the Crime Club, with the supposed
uncle dead, could not profit through the false Henry LaSalle
inheriting as next of kin! It was the weak link, the vulnerable
point in the stupendous scheme of murder and crime with which these
hell fiends had played for and won, so far, the stake of eleven
millions. Not that they had overlooked or been blind to this, they
were too clever, too cunning for that--it was only that they had
planned to accomplish the Tocsin's death, as they had her father's
and uncle's, and ESTABLISH the false Henry LaSalle in undisputed
possession and ownership of the estate--and had failed in that--up
to the present. But the material results remained the same, so long
as the Tocsin, to save her life, was forced to remain in hiding, so
long as proof that would convict the Crime Club was not forthcoming--
SO LONG AS THAT MAN LIVED!
Time passed to which Jimmie Dale was oblivious. At times he walked
slowly, scarcely moving; at times his pace was a nervous, hurried
stride, that was almost a run. And as he was oblivious to time, so
was he oblivious to his surroundings, to the direction which he
took. At times his forehead was damp with moisture that was not
there from physical exertion; at times his face, deathly white, was
full as of the vision of some shuddering, abhorrent sight; at times
his lips were thinned into a straight line, and there was a glitter
in the dark eyes that was not good to see, while his hands at his
sides clenched until the skin, tight over the knuckles, was an ivory
white. To kill a man!
What other way was there? The proof that it had taken Hilton
Travers years to obtain, the proof on which the Tocsin's life
depended, was destroyed utterly, irreparably. It could never be
duplicated--Hilton Travers was dead--MURDERED. Murder! That
thought again! It was their own weapon! Murder! Would one kill a
venomous reptile in whose fangs was death? What right had this man
to life, whose life was forfeit even under the law--for murder? Was
she to drag on an intolerable existence among the dregs and the scum
of the underworld, she, in her refinement and her purity, to exist
among the vile and dissolute, in daily, hourly peril of her life,
because the weapons that these inhuman vultures had used to rob her,
to destroy those she loved, to make of her life a hideous, joyless
thing, should not be used against them?
But to kill a man! To steal upon a man with cold intent in the
blackness of the night--and take his life! To be a murderer! To
know the horror of blood forever upon one's hands, to rise, cold-
sweated, in the night, fearful of the very shadows around one, to
live with every detail of that fearsome act sweeping like some dread
spectre at unexpected moments upon the consciousness! He put up his
hands before his face, as though to blot out the thought from him.
Mind and soul recoiled before it--to kill a man!
He walked on and on, until at last, conscious of a sense of fatigue,
he stopped. He must have come a long way, been walking a long time.
Where was he? He looked about him for a moment in a dazed way--and
suddenly, with a low cry, shrank back. As though he had been drawn
to it by some ghastly magnet, he found himself standing in front of
the LaSalle mansion, on Fifth Avenue. No, no; it was not for that
he had come--to kill a man! It was only--only to get that money.
Yes--he remembered now--that money from the safe, before the Magpie
got it. The Magpie was to be there at three o'clock--and the Tocsin
was to be there, too. The Tocsin! That package! He had failed!
It had been her one hope, and--and it was gone. What could he say
to her? How could he tell her the miserable truth? But--but he had
not come there in the dead of night to kill a man, these other
things were what had--
"Jimmie!" It was a quick-breathed whisper. A hand was on his arm.
He turned, startled. It was the Tocsin--Silver Mag.
"Jimmie!" in alarm. "Why are you standing here like this? You may
Seen! Suppose he WERE seen? He shuddered a little.
"Yes; that's so!" he said hoarsely. He glanced numbly up and down
the wide, deserted, but well-lighted, avenue. It was no place, that
most aristocratic section of the city, for such as Silver Mag and
Larry the Bat to be seen at that hour of night, or, rather, morning.
And if anything HAPPENED inside that house! "I--I didn't think of
that," he said mechanically.
"Come across the street--under the stoop of that house there." She
had his arm, and was half dragging him as she spoke, the alarm in
her voice intensified. And then, a moment later, safe from
observation: "Jimmie, Jimmie, what is the matter? What has
happened? What makes you act so strangely?"
"Nothing," he said. "I--"
"TELL me!" she insisted wildly.
And then, with a violent effort, Jimmie Dale forced his mind back to
the immediate present. He was only inspiring her with terror--and
there was the Magpie--and that money in the safe!
"Where is the Magpie?" he asked, with quick apprehension. "Am I
late? Is he in there already?"
"No," she said. "He hasn't come yet."
"What time is it?" he demanded anxiously.
"About half-past two," she replied. "But, Jimmie--"
"Wait!" he broke in. "Where is he now? You were both together!
And you were both to be here at three. What are you doing here
alone at half-past two?"
A strange little exclamation, one almost of dismay, it seemed,
"The Magpie left my place an hour ago--to get his kit, I think. And
I came here at once because that was what you and I understood I was
to do, wasn't it? Jimmie, you frighten me! You are not yourself.
Don't you remember the last words you said, as you nodded to me
behind the Magpie's back--that you would be here BEFORE us? There
was no mistaking your meaning--if I could get away from him, I was
to come here and meet you."
Jimmie Dale passed his hand nervously across his eyes. Of course,
he remembered now! What a frightful turmoil his brain had been in!
"Yes; of course!" He tried to speak nonchalantly. "I had forgotten
for the moment."
She caught his arm in a quick, tight hold, shaking him in a
"YOU--forget a thing like that! Jimmie--something terrible has
happened. Can't you see that I am nearly mad with anxiety! What is
it? What is it? That package, Jimmie--is it the package?"
He did not answer. What could he say? It meant life, hope, joy,
everything that the world held for her--and it was gone.
"Yes--it IS the package!" she whispered frantically. "Quick,
Jimmie! Tell me! It--it was not there? You--you could not find
"It was there," he said, as though the words were literally forced
"Then? Then--WHAT, Jimmie?" The clutch on his arm was like a vise.
"They got it," he said. It was like a death sentence that he
pronounced. "It is destroyed."
She did not speak or move--save that her hands, as though nerveless
and without strength, fell away from his arms, and dropped to her
sides. It was dark there under the stoop, though not so dark but
that he could see her face. It was gray--gray as death. And there
was misery and fear and a pitiful helplessness in it--and then she
swayed a little, and he caught her in his arms.
"Gone!" she murmured in a dead, colourless way--and suddenly laughed
out sharply, hysterically.
"Don't! For God's sake, don't do that!" he pleaded wildly.
She looked at him then for a moment in strange quiet--and lifted her
hand and stroked his face in a numbed way.
"It--it would have been better, Jimmie, wouldn't it," she said in
the same monotonous voice, "it would have been better if--if I had
never found out anything, and they--they had done the same to me
that they did to--to father."
"Marie! Marie!" It was the first time he had ever spoken her name,
and it was on his lips now in an agony of tenderness and appeal.
"Don't! You mustn't speak like that!"
"I'm tired," she said. "I--I can't fight any more."
She did not cry. She lay there in his arms quite still--like a
The minutes passed. When Jimmie Dale spoke again it was
irrelevantly--and his face was very white:
"Marie, describe the upper floor of that house over there for me."
She roused herself with a start.
"The upper floor?" she repeated slowly. "Why--why do you ask that?"
"Have YOU forgotten in turn?" he said, with a steady smile. "That
money in the safe--it's yours--we can at least save that out of the
wreck. You only drew the basement plan and the first floor for the
Magpie--the more I know about the house the better, of course, in
case anything goes wrong. Now, see, try and be brave--and tell me
quickly, for I must get through before the Magpie comes, and I have
barely half an hour."
"No, Jimmie--no!" She slipped out of his arms. "Let it alone! I
am afraid. Something--I--I have a feeling that something will
"It is the only way." He said it involuntarily, more to himself
than to her.
"Jimmie, let it alone!" she said again.
"No," he said. "I am going--so tell me quickly. Every minute that
we wait is one that counts against us."
She hesitated an instant--and then, speaking rapidly, made a verbal
sketch of the upper portion of the house for him.
"It's a very large house, isn't it?" he commented innocently--to
pave the way for the question, above all others, that he had to ask.
"Which is your uncle's, I mean that man's room?"
"The first on the right, at the head of the landing," she answered.
"Only, Jimmie, don't--don't go!"
He drew her close to him again.
"Now, listen," he said quietly. "When the Magpie comes and finds I
am not here, lead him to think that the money he gave me was too
much for me; that I am probably in some den, doped with drug--and
hold him as long as you can on the pretext that there is always the
possibility I may, after all, show up before he goes in there. You
understand? And now about yourself--you must do exactly as I say.
On no account allow yourself to be seen by ANY ONE except the
Magpie. I would tell you to go now, only, unless it is vitally
necessary, we cannot afford to arouse the Magpie's suspicions--he'd
have every crook in the underworld snarling at our heels. But you
are not to wait, even for him, if you detect the slightest
disturbance in that house before he comes. And, equally, after he
has gone in, whether I have come out or not, at the first indication
of anything unusual you are to get away at once. You understand--
"Yes," she said. "But--but, Jimmie, you--"
"Just one thing more." He smiled at her reassuringly. "Did the
Magpie say anything about how he intended to get in?"
"Yes--by the side away from the corner of the street," she said
tremulously. "You see, there's quite a space between the house and
the one next door; and, besides, the house next door is closed up,
there's nobody there, the family has gone away for the summer. The
library window there is low enough to reach from the ground."
For a moment longer he held her close to him, as though he could not
let her go--then bent and kissed her passionately. And in that
moment all the emotions he had known as he had walked blindly from
Spider Jack's that night surged again upon him; and that voice was
whispering, whispering, whispering: "It is the only way--it is the
And then, not daring to trust his voice, he released her suddenly,
and stepped back out from under the stoop--and the next instant he
was across the deserted avenue. Another, and he had slipped through
the iron gates that opened on the street driveway--and in yet
another he was crouched close up against the front door of the
It was a large house, a very large house, one of the few that, even
amid the wealth and luxury of that quarter, boasted its own grounds,
and those so restricted as scarcely to deserve the name; but it was
set far enough back from the street to escape the radius of the
street lamps, and so guarantee in its shadows security from
observation. It was not the Magpie's way, the front door--the
obvious to the Magpie and his ilk was a thing always to be shunned.
Jimmie Dale's lips were set in a grim smile, as his fingers worked
with lightning speed, now taking this instrument and now that from
the leather pockets in the girdle beneath his shirt--the
penitentiaries were full of Magpies who shunned the obvious!
Very slowly, very cautiously the door opened. He listened
breathlessly, tensely. The door closed again--behind him. He was
inside now. Stillness! Blackness! Not a sound! A minute went by--
another. And then, as he stood there, strained, listening, the
silence itself began, it seemed, to palpitate, and pound, pound,
pound, and be full of strange noises. It was a horrible thing--to
kill a man!
OUT OF THE DARKNESS
A moment later, Jimmie Dale stepped forward through the vestibule.
He was quite calm now; a sort of cold, merciless precision in every
movement succeeding the riot of turbulent emotions that had
possessed him as he had entered the house.
The half hour, the maximum length of time before the Magpie would
appear, as he had estimated it when out there under the stoop with
the Tocsin, had dwindled now to perhaps twenty minutes, twenty-five
at the outside. Twenty-five minutes! Twenty-five minutes was so
little that for an instant the temptation was strong upon him to
sacrifice, rather than any of those precious minutes, the Magpie
instead! And then in the darkness, as he stole noiselessly across
the hall, he shook his head. It would be a cowardly, brutal thing
to do. What chance would a man with a record like the Magpie's
stand if caught there? How easy it would be to shift the murder of
the supposed Henry LaSalle to the Magpie's shoulders! Jimmie Dale's
lips closed firmly. Self-preservation was, perhaps, the first law,
but he would save the Magpie if he could--the Magpie should have his
chance! The man might be a criminal, might deserve punishment at
the hands of the law, his liberty might be a menace to the
community--but he was not a murderer, his life forfeit for a crime
he had never committed!
If he, Jimmie Dale, could only in some way have arranged with the
Tocsin out there to keep the Magpie away altogether! But it could
not be done without arousing the Magpie's suspicions; and, as a
corollary to that, afterward, with the subsequent events, would
come--the deluge! The law of the underworld was clear, concise, and
admitting of no appeal on that point; to double cross a pal meant,
sooner or later, a knife thrust, a blackjack, or-- But what
difference did it make what form the execution of the sentence took?
And, since, then, that was out of the question, since he could not
keep the Magpie away without practically risking his own life, the
Magpie at least must have his chance.
Jimmie Dale was at the library door now, that, according to the plan
the Tocsin had drawn for the Magpie, and as he remembered her
description when she had told him her story earlier in the evening,
was just at the foot of the staircase. How dark it was! Though the
stairs could be only a few feet away, he could not see them. And
how intense the silence was again! Here, where he stood, the
slightest stir from above must have reached him--but there was not a
His hand felt out for the doorknob, found it, turned it, and pushed
the door open. He stepped inside the room and closed the door
behind him. The safe, according to the Tocsin's plan again, was in
that sort of alcove at the lower end of the library. Jimmie Dale's
flashlight played inquisitively about the room. There was the
window, the only one in the room, the window through which the
Magpie proposed to enter; there was the archway of the alcove, with
its--no, there were no longer any portieres; and there was the safe,
he could see it quite plainly from where he stood at the upper end
of the room.
The flashlight went out for the space of perhaps thirty seconds--
thirty seconds of absolute silence, absolute stillness--then the
round, white ray of the light again, but glistening now on the
nickel knobs and dial of the safe--and Jimmie Dale was on his knees
A low, scarcely breathed exclamation, that seemed to mingle anxiety
and hesitation, escaped him. He, who knew the make of every safe in
the country, knew this one for its true worth. Twenty-five minutes!
Could he open it in that time, let alone with any time to spare! It
was not like the one in Spider Jack's; it was the kind that the
Magpie, however clever he might be in his own way, would be forced
to negotiate with "soup," and, with the attendant noise, double his
chance of discovery and capture--and the responsibility for what
might have happened UPSTAIRS! No; the Magpie must have his chance!
And, besides, the money in the safe apart, why should not he, Jimmie
Dale, have his own chance, as well? All this would help. The
motive--robbery; the perpetrator, there was grim mockery on his lips
now as the light went out and the sensitive fingers closed on the
knob of the dial, the perpetrator--the Gray Seal. It would afford
excellent food for the violent editorial diatribes under which the
police again would writhe in frenzy!
Stillness again! Silence! Only a low, tense breathing; only, so
faint that it could not be heard a foot away, a curious scratching,
as from time to time the supersensitive fingers fell away from the
dial to rub upon the carpet--to increase even their sensitiveness by
setting the nerves to throbbing through the skin surface at the
tips. And then Jimmie Dale's head, ear pressed close against the
safe to catch the tumbler's fall, was lifted--and the flashlight
played again on the dial.
"Twenty-eight and a quarter--left."
How fast the time went--and how slowly! Still the black shape
crouched there in the darkness against the safe. At times, in
strange, ghostly flashes, the nickel dial with the ray upon it
seemed to leap out and glisten through the surrounding blackness; at
times, the quick intake of breath, as from great exertion; at times,
faint, musical little clicks, as, after abortive effort, the dial
whirled, preparatory to a fresh attempt. And then, at last--a gasp
Came the sound, barely audible, as of steel sliding in well-oiled
grooves, the muffled thud of metal meeting metal as the bolts shot
back--and the heavy door swung outward.
Jimmie Dale stretched his cramped limbs, and wiped the moisture from
his face--then set to work again upon the inner door. This was an
easier matter--far easier. Five minutes, perhaps a little more,
went by--and then the inner door was open, and the flashlight's ray
was flooding the interior of the safe.
A queer little sound, half of astonishment, half of disappointment,
issued from Jimmie Dale's lips. There was money here, a great deal
of money, undoubtedly, but there was no such sum as he had, somehow,
fantastically imagined from the Magpie's evidently overcoloured
story that there would be; there was money, ten packages of
banknotes neatly piled in the bottom compartment--but there was no
half million of dollars! He picked up one of the packages
hurriedly--and drew in his breath. After all, there was a great
deal--the notes were of hundred-dollar denomination, and on the
bottom were two one-thousand-dollar bills! Calculated roughly, if
each of the other nine packages contained a like amount, the total
must exceed a hundred thousand.
And now Jimmie Dale began to work with feverish haste. From the
leather girdle inside his shirt came the thin metal insignia case--
and a gray seal was stuck firmly on the dial knob of the safe. This
done, he tucked away the packages of banknotes, some into his
pockets and some inside his shirt; and then quickly ransacked the
interior of the safe, flauntingly spilling the contents of drawers
and pigeonholes out upon the floor.
He stood up, and, leaving the safe door wide open, walked back
across the room to the window, unfastened the catch, and opened the
window an inch or two. The way was open now for the Magpie! The
Magpie would have no need to make any noise in forcing an entrance;
he would be able to see almost at a glance that he had been
forestalled--by the Gray Seal; and that, as far as he was concerned,
the game was up. The Magpie had his chance! If the Magpie did not
take the hint and make his escape as noiselessly as he had entered--
it was his own fault! He, Jimmie Dale, had given the Magpie his
Jimmie Dale turned from the window, and made his way out of the
library to the foot of the stairs, leaving the library door open
behind him. How long had he been? Was it more or less than the
twenty-five minutes? He did not know--only, as yet, the Magpie had
not come, and now perhaps it did not make so much difference.
Where was he going now? His foot was on the first stair--and
suddenly he drew it back, the cold sweat bursting out on his
forehead. Where was he going now? "THE FIRST ROOM ON THE RIGHT AT
THE HEAD OF THE LANDING." From his inner consciousness, as it were,
the answer, in all the bald, naked horror that it implied, flashed
upon him. The first room on the right--THAT man's room! God, how
the darkness and the stillness began to palpitate again, and
suddenly seem to shriek out at him over and over the one single,
It had been with him, that thought, all the time he had been working
at the safe; but it had been there then only subconsciously, like
some heavy, nameless dread, subjugated for the moment by the work he
had had to do which had demanded the centred attention of every
faculty he possessed. But now the moment had come when there was
only THAT before him, only that, nothing else--only that, the man
upstairs in the first room to the right of the landing!
Why did he hesitate? Why did he stand there while the priceless
moments before daylight came were passing? The man was a murderer,
a blotch on society, and, his life already forfeited, he was living
now only because the law had not found him out--the man was a
criminal, bloodstained--and his life, because he had taken her
father's life and had tried to take the Tocsin's own life, stood
between her and every hope of happiness, robbing her even literally,
in a material sense, of everything that the world could hold for
her! Why did he hesitate? It was that man's life--or hers! It was
the only way!
He put his foot upon the bottom step again--paused still another
instant--and then began stealthily to mount the stairs. The
darkness! There had never been, it seemed, such darkness before!
The stillness--he had never known silence so heavy, so full of
strange, premonitory pulsings; a silence that seemed so
incongruously full of clamouring whispers in his ears! It must be
those imagined whispers that were affecting his nerve--for now, as
he gained the landing and slipped his automatic from his pocket, his
hand was shaking with a queer twitching motion.
For an instant, fighting for his self-composure, he stood striving
to locate his surroundings through the darkness. The staircase was
a circular one, making the landing nearly at the front of the house,
and rearward from this, the Tocsin had said, a hallway ran down the
centre, with rooms on either side. The first room to the right,
therefore, should be just at his hand. He reached out, feeling
cautiously--there was nothing. He edged to the right--still
nothing; edged a little farther, a sense of bewilderment growing
upon him, and finally his fingers touched the wall. It was very
strange! The hallway must be much wider than he had understood it
to be from what she had said!
He moved along now straight ahead of him, his hand on the wall,
feeling for the door--and with every step his bewilderment
increased. Surely there must be some mistake--perhaps he had
misunderstood! He had come fully twice the distance that one would
expect--and yet there was no door. Ah, what was that? His fingers
closed on soft, heavy velvet hangings. These could hardly be in
front of a door, and yet--what else could it be? He drew the
hangings warily apart, and felt behind them. It was a window; but
it was shuttered in some way evidently, for he could not see out.
Jimmie Dale stood motionless there for fully a minute. It seemed
absurd, preposterous, the conviction that was being forced home upon
him--that there were no rooms on the right-hand side of the corridor
at all! But that was not like the Tocsin, accurate always in the
most minute details. The room must be still farther along. He was
tempted to use his flashlight--but that, as long as he could feel
his way, was an unnecessary risk. A flashlight upstairs, where a
sleeping-room door might be ajar, or even wide open, where some one
wakeful, THAT man himself, perhaps, might see it, was quite another
matter than a flashlight in the closed and deserted library below!
He went on once more, still guiding himself by a light finger touch
upon the wall, passed another portiere similar to the first, and,
after that, another--and finally stopped by bringing up abruptly
against the end wall of the house. It was certainly very strange!
There WERE no rooms on the right-hand side of the corridor. And
here, hanging across the end wall, was another of those ubiquitous
velvet portieres. He parted it, and, a little to his surprise,
found a window that was not shuttered, but that, instead, was
heavily barred by an ornamental grille work. He could see out,
however, and found that he was looking directly out from the rear of
the house. A lamp from the side street threw what was undoubtedly
the garage into shadowy outline, and he made out below him a short
stretch of yard between the garage and the house. He remembered
that now--she had described all that to the Magpie. There was no
driveway between the front and the rear. The house being on the
corner, the entrance to the garage was directly from the side
street. Yes, she had described all that exactly as it was, but--he
dropped the portiere and faced around, carrying his hand in a
nonplused way to his eyes--but here, upstairs, within the house, it
was not as she had said it was at all! What did it mean? She could
not have blundered so egregiously as that, unless--he caught his
breath suddenly--unless she had done so intentionally! Was that it?
Had she surmised, formed a suspicion of what was in his mind, of
what he meant to do--and taken this means of defeating it? If so--
well, it was too late for that now! There was one way--only one
way! Whatever the cost, whatever it might mean for him--there was
only one way out for her.
His flashlight was in his hand now, and the round, white ray shot
down the corridor--seemed suddenly to falter unsteadily--swept in
through an open door that was almost beside him--and then, as though
a nerveless hand held it, the ray dropped and played shakily on the
toe of his boot before it went out.
A stifled cry rose to his lips. Something cold, like a hand of ice,
seemed to clutch at his heart. Those portieres, the wide, richly
carpeted corridor! It was the corridor of the night before! That
room at his side was the room where he had seen Hilton Travers, the
chauffeur, dead, lashed in a chair! He felt the sweat beads burst
out anew upon his forehead.
IT WAS THE CRIME CLUB!
His brain seemed to whirl, staggered as by some gigantic, ghastly
mockery. The Crime Club! HERE! He had thought to creep upon that
man--and he had run blindly into the very heart and centre of these
hell fiends' nest!
Silently he stood there, holding his breath as he listened now,
motionless as a statue, forcing his mind to THINK. He remembered
that last night his impression of the place had been that it was
more like some great private mansion than anything else. Well, he
had been right, it seemed! He could have laughed aloud--
sardonically, hysterically. It was not so strange now that there
were no rooms on the right-hand side of the corridor! And what
could have suited their purpose better, what, by its very location,
its unimpeachable character, could be a more ideal lair for them
than this house! And how grimly simple it was now, the explanation!
In the five years that the false Henry LaSalle had been in
possession, they had cunningly remodelled the upper floor--that was
all! It was quite clear now why the man never entertained--why he
had never been caught or found or known to be in communication with
his fellow conspirators! It was no longer curious that one might
watch the door of the house for months at a stretch and go
unrewarded for one's pains, as the Tocsin had done, when access to
the house by those who frequented it was so easy through the garage
on the side street--and from the garage, if their work there was in
keeping with their clever contrivances within the house, by an
underground connection into, say, the cellar or basement!
Again Jimmie Dale checked that nervous, unnatural inclination to
laugh aloud. Was there anything, any single incident, any single
detail of all that had transpired, that was not explained, borne
out, as it could be explained and borne out in no other way save
that the Crime Club should be no other than this very house itself?
It was the exposition of that favourite theory of his--it was so
obvious that therein lay its security. He had mocked at the Magpie
not many moments before on that score--and now it was the beam in
his own eye! It was so obvious now, so glaringly obvious, that the
Crime Club could have been nowhere else; so obvious, with every word
of the Tocsin's story pointing it out like a signpost--and he had
not seen it!
And then suddenly every muscle grew strained and rigid. WAS THERE
SOME ONE IN THE CORRIDOR? Was it some one moving--or was it only
fancy? He listened--while he strained his eyes through the
darkness. There was no sound; only that abnormal, heavy silence
that--yes, he remembered that, too, now--that had clung about him
last night like a pall. He could see nothing, hear nothing--but
intuitively, bringing a cold dismay, the greater because it was
something unknown, intangible, he FELT as though eyes were upon him,
that even in the darkness he was being watched!
And as he stood there, then, slowly there crept upon Jimmie Dale the
sense of peril and disaster. It was not intuition now--it was
certainty. He was trapped! It was the part of a fool to imagine
that with their devil's cunning, their cleverness, their ingenuity,
he, or any one else, could enter that house unknown to its
occupants! Had he made electric contact when he had opened the
front door, and rung a signal here, perhaps, upstairs--had he set
some system of alarm at work when he had touched that window? What
did it matter--the details that had heralded his entrance? He was
certain now that his presence in the house was known. Only, why had
they left him so long without attack? He shook his head with a
quick, impatient movement. That, too, was obvious! He was under
observation. Who was he? Why had he come? Was he simply a paltry
safe-tapper--or was he one whom they had a real need to fear? And
then, too, there might well be another reason. It was far from
likely, in fact unreasonable, to imagine that all the men he had
seen here the night before were in the house now. Not many of them,
if any, would LIVE here, for CONSTANT, daily coming and going, even
through the garage, could not escape notice; and, of the servants,
probably a lesser breed of criminal, some of them, at least, no
doubt, were engaged at that moment in watching his own house on
Riverside Drive! There was even the possibility that the man posing
as Henry LaSalle was, for the time being, here alone.
He shook his head again. He could hardly hope for that--he had no
right to hope for anything more now than a struggle, with an
inevitably fatal ending to himself, but one in which at least he
could sell his life as dearly as possible, one in which, perhaps, he
might pay the Tocsin's score with the man he had come to find! If
he could do that--well, after all, the price was not too great!
There were no tremours of the muscles now. It was Jimmie Dale, the
Gray Seal, every faculty alert, tense, keyed up to its highest
efficiency; the brain cool, keen, and active--fighting for his life.
The front door through which he had entered was an impossibility;
but there was the window in the library that he had opened--if they
would let him get that far! That was as good a chance as any. If
he made an effort to find, say, a way to the flat above and chanced
some means of escape there, it would in no wise obviate an attack
upon him, and he would only be under the added disadvantage of
Feeling out with his left hand, his automatic thrown a little
forward in his right, he began to retrace his way along the blank
wall of the corridor, pausing between each step to listen, moving
silently, his tread on the heavy carpet as noiseless as though it
were some shadow creeping there.
Stillness--utter, absolute! Always that stillness. Always that
sense of danger around him--the tense, bated expectancy of momentary
attack--a revolver flash through the darkness--a sudden rush upon
him. But still there was nothing--only the darkness, only the
He gained the head of the stairs and began to descend--and now the
strain began to tell upon his nerves again. Again he was possessed
of the mad impulse to cry out, to do anything that would force the
issue, that would end the horrible, unbearable suspense. Why did
that revolver shot not come? Why had they not yet rushed upon him?
Why were they playing with him as a cat with a mouse? Or was it all
wild, fanciful imagination? NO! What was that again! He could
have sworn this time that he had heard a sound, but he could neither
define its character, nor locate the direction from which it had
He was at the foot of the stairs now; and, guiding himself by the
wall, moving now barely an inch at a time, he reached the library
door that he had left open, and stole in over the threshold.
Halfway down the room and diagonally across from where he stood was
the window. In a moment now he could gain that, but they would
never let him go so easily--and so it must come now, in that next
moment, their attack! Where were they? Where were they now? The
table--he must remember not to bump into the table! A pause between
each step, he was crossing the room. He was halfway to the window.
Had it been all fancy, was he to-- And then Jimmie Dale stood
motionless. SOME ONE HAD CLOSED THE LIBRARY DOOR SOFTLY!
Stillness again! A sort of deadly calm upon him, Jimmie Dale felt
out behind his back for the big library table that he had been
circuiting--if the window were wide open it might be done, but to
jump for it and stand silhouetted there during the pause necessary
to fling the window up was little less than suicidal. He edged back
noiselessly until his fingers touched the table; then, lowering
himself to his knees, he backed in underneath it, and lay flat upon
the floor. It was not much protection, but it had one advantage: if
they switched on the lights it would show an EMPTY room for the
first instant, and that instant meant--the first shot!
Where were they now? By the library door? How many of them were
there? Well, it was their move! Two could play at cat and mouse
until--until DAYLIGHT! That wasn't very far off, now, and when that
came he might still have the first shot, but after that--he turned
his head quickly toward the window. There was a faint scratching
noise as of finger nails gripping the sill; then the window, very
slowly, almost silently, was pushed steadily upward, and a dark form
loomed up outside; and then, crawling through, a man dropped, as
though his feet were padded like a cat's on the floor inside the
room. The Magpie!
A flashlight's ray shot out--and, with a twisted smile propped now
on his left elbow to give free play to his revolver arm, Jimmie Dale
followed the white spot eagerly with his eyes. But it did not
circle around; instead, the light was turned almost instantly toward
the lower end of the room--and, a second later, was holding steadily
on the open door of the safe, and the litter of papers on the floor.
Came a savage growl of amazed fury from the Magpie: then his step
down the room; and, as he reached the safe, a torrent of unbridled
blasphemy--and then, in a sort of staggered gasp, as he leaned
suddenly forward examining the knob of the dial:
"The Gray Seal!"
A moment the Magpie stood there; and then, cursing again in abandon,
turned, and started back for the window, his flashlight dancing
before him--and stopped, a snarl of fury on his lips. The
flashlight was playing full on Jimmie Dale under the table!
"Larry the Bat! The Gray Seal! By God!" choked the Magpie. "You--
you--" The Magpie's flashlight, as he shifted it from his right
hand to his left and wrenched out his revolver, had fallen upon two
men crouched close against the wall by the library door--and he
screamed out in an access of fury. "De double cross! A plant! De
bulls! You damned snitch, Larry!" screamed out the Magpie--and
The bullet tore into the carpet beside Jimmie Dale. Came answering
shots from the men by the door; and then the Magpie, emptying his
automatic at the two men as he ran, the flame tongues cutting
vicious lanes of fire through the darkness, dashed for the window.
There was a cry, the crash of a heavy body pitching to the floor--
and the Magpie had flung himself out through the window, and in the
momentary ensuing silence within the room came the sound of his
footsteps running on the gravel below.
There was a low moan, the movement as of some one staggering and
lurching around--and then the lights went on. But for an instant
Jimmie Dale did not move. He was staring at the form of a man still
and motionless on the floor in front of him--the man who had posed
as Henry LaSalle. Dead! The man was dead! His mind ran riot for a
moment. Where were the others--were there only these two? Only
these two in the house! Only these two--and one was dead! And then
Jimmie Dale was on his feet. One was dead--but there was still the
other, the man who was reeling there, back turned to him, by the
electric-light switch. But even as Jimmie Dale sprang forward, this
second man, clawing at the wall for support, slipped to his knees
and fell upon the carpet.
Jimmie Dale reached him, snatched the revolver from his hand, and
bent over him. It was the man whose name he did not know, but whose
face he had reason enough to know too well--it was the leader of the
The man, though evidently badly wounded, smiled defiantly in spite
of his pain.
"So you're the Gray Seal!" he flung out contemptuously. "A clever
enough safe-cracker--but only a lowbrow, like the rest of them.
Another illusion dispelled! Well, you've got the money--better run,
Jimmie Dale made no answer. Satisfied that the man was too badly
hurt to move, he went and bent over the silent form in the centre of
the room. A moment's examination was enough. "Henry LaSalle" was
He stood there looking down at the man. It was what he had come
for--though it was the Magpie, not himself, who had accomplished it!
The man was dead! The words began to run through his mind in a
queer reiteration. The man was dead--the man was dead! He checked
himself sharply. He must think now--think fast, and think RIGHT.
The Magpie knew that Larry the Bat was the Gray Seal--and as fast as
the Magpie could get there, the news would spread like wildfire
through the underworld. "Death to the Gray Seal! Death to the Gray
Seal!" He could hear that slogan ringing again in his ears, but as
he had never heard it before--with a snarl of triumph now as of
wolves who at last had pulled their quarry down. He had not a
second to spare--and yet--that man wounded there on the floor! What
of him--guilty of murder, the brains of this inhuman, monstrous
organisation, the one to whom, more even than to that dead man, the
Tocsin owed the horror and the misery and the grief and despair that
had come into her life! What of him? What of the Crime Club here?
What of this nest of vipers? Were they to escape? Were they to--
With a sudden, low exclamation, Jimmie Dale jumped for the table,
and, snatching up the telephone, rattled the hook violently.
"Give me"--his voice came in well-simulated gasps, each like a man
fighting for every word--"give me--police--headquarters! Quick!
The wounded man on the floor raised himself on his elbow.
"What are you doing?" he demanded in a startled way. "Are you mad!
Thank your stars you were lucky enough to get out of this alive--and
get out now, while you have the chance!"
Jimmie Dale pressed his hand firmly over the mouthpiece of the
"I'll go," he said, with a cold smile, "when I've settled with you--
for the murder of Henry LaSalle."
"That man!" ejaculated the man scornfully, pointing to the form on
the floor. "So that's your game! Going to try and cover your
tracks! Why, you fool, I LIVE here! Do you think the police would
imagine for an instant that I killed him?"
"I said--HENRY LASALLE," said Jimmie Dale evenly.
The man came farther up on his elbow, a sudden look of fear in his
"What--what do you mean?" he cried hoarsely.
But Jimmie Dale was talking again into the telephone--gasping,
choking out his words as before:
"Police headquarters? I'm Henry LaSalle. Fifth Avenue. I--I've
been shot. Take down this statement. I'll--I'll be dead before you
get here--I'm not the real Henry LaSalle at all. We murdered Henry
LaSalle--in Australia, and murdered Peter LaSalle here. We--we
tried to kill the daughter, but she ran away. This house has been
our headquarters for the last five years. The man who shot me to-
night is the leader of the gang. We quarrelled over the division of
a haul. He's here on the floor now, wounded. Get them all, get
them all, damn them!--do you hear?--get them all! They're out of
the house now, but lay a trap for them. They always come in through
the garage on the side street. Oh, God, I'm done for! Break down
the west walls of the rooms upstairs--if--you--want proof of what--
the gang's been doing. Hurry! Hurry! I'm--I'm--done for--I--"
Jimmie Dale permitted the telephone to drop with a clash from his
hand to the table.
The face of the man on the floor was livid.
"Who are you? In God's name, who are you?" he cried out wildly.
"Does it matter?" inquired Jimmie Dale grimly. "Your game is up.
You'll go to the chair for the murder of 'Henry LaSalle'--if it is
by proxy! Those rooms upstairs alone are enough to damn you, to
prove every word of that dying "confession"--but to-morrow, added to
it, will come the story of Marie LaSalle herself."
For a moment the man hung there swaying on his elbow, his face
working in ghastly fashion--and then suddenly, with a strange laugh,
he carried one hand swiftly to his mouth--and laughed again--and
before Jimmie Dale could reach him was lifeless on the floor.
A tiny vial rolled away upon the carpet. Jimmie Dale picked it up.
A drop or two of liquid still remained in it--colourless, clear,
like that liquid this same man had dropped into the rabbit's mouth
the night before, like the liquid in the glasses they had carried
into that third room, like the liquid that his man had said was from
a formula of their own, that was instantaneous in its action, that
defied detection by autopsy!
The set, stern features of Jimmie Dale relaxed. It was justice--but
it was also death. In a surge of emotion, the events of scarcely
more than twenty-four hours, began to crowd upon him--and then,
ominously dominant, above all else, that slogan of the underworld,
"Death to the Gray Seal!" came ringing once more in his ears. It
brought him, with a startled movement of his hand across his eyes,
to a realisation of his own desperate position. Yes, yes, he must
go! The way was clear now for the Tocsin--clear now for her!
He dropped the vial into his pocket, and, running to the safe,
quickly scraped the gray seal from the dial's knob; then he drew the
packages of money from his shirt and pockets and tossed them on the
floor among the litter of papers already there--she would get it
back again when it had served its purpose, it would be self-evident
that it was the proceeds of that day's sale of the estate's
securities over which the "quarrel" had occurred!
And now the window! He ran to it, closed it, and LOCKED it; then,
laying the revolver he had taken from the leader down beside the
man, he stepped across the room again and drew the body of "Henry
LaSalle" closer to the table--as though the man had fallen there
when the telephone had dropped from his hand.
It was done now! On the floor beside him lay each man's weapon--and
both of the revolvers had been discharged several times. Jimmie
Dale paused on the library threshold for a final survey of the room.
It was done! The way was clear--for her. And now if he could only
save himself! There was no chance for Larry the Bat! Could he
He crossed the hall, a queer, half-grim, half-wistful smile on his
lips, unlocked the front door, stepped out, locked it behind him--
and in another moment, doubling around the corner, was running along
like a hare along the side street.
"DEATH TO THE GRAY SEAL!"
On Jimmie Dale ran. Across on Fourth Avenue he swung on a car that
took him to Astor Place. Then striking east once more, making a
detour to avoid the Bowery, he ran on at top speed again. To reach
the Sanctuary, not before the Magpie should have spread the alarm,
that was impossible, but to reach it before the underworld should
have had time to recover its breath, as it were, before the
underworld should have had time to act--that was his only chance!
The Magpie had, at the outside, a start of fifteen minutes; but he,
Jimmie Dale, had probably retrieved five minutes of that in the time
he had made in getting downtown. That left the Magpie ten to the
good. How long would it take the Magpie to bring the underworld
swarming like hornets around the Sanctuary?
On Larry the Bat ran. At the Sanctuary were the clothes, the
belongings of Jimmie Dale. Could he save Jimmie Dale! If he could
get there, change, and get out again, the way was clear for him--as
clear as for the Tocsin now. In a few hours the police would have
every member of the Crime Club in the trap; there would be no watch
any more around his house on Riverside Drive; and he would be free
to return there and resume his normal life as Jimmie Dale again if
he could make the Sanctuary in time! But let the Magpie get there
first, let the underworld tear the place to pieces in its fury as it
would do, let them discover that hiding place under the flooring,
for instance, and the Gray Seal would not be merely Larry the Bat,
but Jimmie Dale as well, and--a cry escaped him even as he ran--it
meant ruin, the disgrace of an honoured name, death, crimes without
number at his door. Crimes! The Gray Seal had never committed a
crime! But the crimes attributed to the Gray Seal he could not
disprove, not one of them! He had meant them to appear as crimes--
and he had succeeded so well that the Gray Seal's name, execrated,
was a synonym for the most callous, dangerous, and unscrupulous
criminal of the age!
He was gasping for breath as finally, making for the side door, he
darted into the alleyway that flanked the Sanctuary. What story
would the Magpie tell? Not the truth, of course--that would let the
Magpie in for what had happened that night, for the Magpie must be
well aware that he had shot at least one of the two men in that
room. But the truth wasn't necessary; it was foreign, and had no
bearing on the one outstanding fact--the Gray Seal was Larry the
Bat. At the present moment the Magpie had a double incentive for
"getting" the Gray Seal--the Gray Seal was the only one who could
prove murder against him that night in the LaSalle mansion. And
afterwards, when the police version of the affair was made public,
the Magpie, to save himself, would be careful enough to do or say
nothing to contradict "Henry LaSalle's" confession!
Larry the Bat slipped in through the door, halted there, listened;
and then began to mount the rickety stairs, with his silent tread.
At the top he paused again. Nothing--no sound! They were not here
yet--so far he was in time! He stepped to the Sanctuary door,
unlocked it, passed into the squalid, miserable room that had
harboured him for so long as Larry the Bat, locked the door behind
him, crossed quickly to the window to make sure that the shutters
were closed--and then, for the first time, as the gray light
streaked in through the interstices, he was conscious that it was
already dawn. So much the more need for haste then!
He whipped out his revolver and laid it at his hand on the
dilapidated table; then the flooring in the corner was up in an
instant, and he began to strip off the rags of Larry the Bat.
Boots, mismated socks, the torn, patched trousers, the greasy
flannel shirt, the threadbare coat, the nondescript slouch hat were
thrown in a pile on the floor; and with them, from their hiding-
place, the grease paints and heterogeneous collection of make-up
accessories. This done, he began to slip on the clothes of Jimmie
Dale; and, when half dressed, turned to the table again to remove
the characteristic grime, stain, and paint of Larry the Bat from
face, hands, wrists, throat, and neck. This was a longer, more
arduous task. He reached for the cracked pitcher to pour more water
into the basin--and, snatching up his revolver instead, whirled to
face the door.
Some one was outside! He had caught the creak of a footstep upon
the stairs. In a flash he was across the room and crouched by the
door. Yes, the step was nearer now--at the head of the stairs--on
the landing. His revolver lifted, holding a steady bead on the door
panel. And then there came a low voice:
"Jimmie! Jimmie! Are you there? Quick, Jimmie! Are you there?"
The Tocsin! What was she doing here! Why had he not warned her up
there on the avenue, fool that he was, that of all places she was to
keep away from here!
She slipped into the room as he unlocked the door.
"They're coming, Jimmie!" she panted breathlessly. "There's not an
instant to lose! Listen! When the Magpie ran from the house, I ran
with him--but it"--she tried to smile--"it wasn't to obey you, to
run away--I had made up my mind I wouldn't do that--it was to find
out from him what had happened. He told me you were the Gray Seal.
He did not suspect me. He thinks you were no more than just Larry
the Bat to me, as you were to everybody else. He went straight to
Chicago Ike's gambling rooms and found the Skeeter's gang there--you
know them, Red Mose, the Midget, Harve Thoms, and the Skeeter--you
remember your fight with them over old Luddy's diamonds! Well, they
have not forgotten, either! They are on their way here, now! The
news that you are the Gray Seal is travelling like lightning all
through the underworld--there will be a mob here on the Skeeter's
heels. So, Jimmie--quick! Run!"
Run! Half Larry the Bat, half Jimmie Dale--and run! In another
five minutes, perhaps--yes. But there probably would not be five
minutes--and she--if she were found here!
"Yes," he said quietly. "I'll get away in a moment. You go at
once. I'll"--he was smiling at her reassuringly--"I'll meet you at--"
She looked at him then for an instant--interrupting him quickly, as
she shook her head.
"I didn't notice, Jimmie. You cannot go like that--can you? It
would be even worse than being caught as Larry the Bat. Hurry
then--I am not going without you."
"No!" he said. "Go now! Go at once, Marie--while you can. You
have risked your life as it is to come here and tell me this. For
God's sake, go now!"
The great, brown eyes were smiling bravely through a sudden mist.
She shook her head again.
"Not without you, Jimmie."
It brought a fierce, wild throb of joy upon him--and then a cold,
"Listen!" he cried out desperately. "You must go now! You cannot
take any chances now, Marie. Everything is right for you. That man
who posed as your uncle is dead--the leader of the Crime Club is
dead. Don't you understand what that means! You have only to be
Marie LaSalle again and claim your own. I cannot tell you all now--
there's no time. That house was the Crime Club itself. The police
will get them all. Don't you see! Don't you see! Everything is
clear for you now--and now go! Go--you must go!"
She was staring at him, a strange wonder in her face.
"Clear! All clear--for me! I--I can go back to--to my own life
again!" It was as though she were whispering some amazing thing of
unbelievable joy to herself.
"YES!" he cried out again. "Yes! But go--go, Marie!"
But now, for answer, suddenly she reached out and took the key from
the door and put it in the pocket of her dress.
"We will go together, Jimmie--or not at all," she said simply. "We
are wasting precious moments. Hurry and dress!"
He hesitated miserably. What could he do--if she WOULD not go! And
it was true--the moments were flying. Better, rather than futile
argument, to use them as she said. There was still a chance! Why
not! Five minutes! He could do better than that! He MUST do
better than that!
Without a word, he ran back across the room. In frantic haste, from
face, hands, wrists, and neck came the stain. There was still time.
She was standing there by the door, listening. She, the Tocsin, she
whom he loved, she who, all through the years that had gone, had
been so strangely elusive and yet so intimately a part of his life,
SHE was standing there now, here with him--in peril with every
second that passed!
He had only to slip on his coat and vest now--and make a bundle of
Larry the Bat's things on the floor, so that he could carry them
away to destroy them. He stooped to gather up the clothes--and
straightened suddenly--and jumped toward the door again.
"They are coming, Jimmie!" she called, in a low voice. But he had
already heard them--the stairs were creaking loudly under the tread
of many feet. He pushed the Tocsin hurriedly back against the wall
at the side of the door.
"Stand there!" he said, under his breath. "Out of the line of fire!
There was a rush against the door--and then a voice growled:
"Aw, cut dat out! Wot do youse want to do--scare him away by
bustin' it! Pick de lock, an' we'll lay for him inside till he
It was the Skeeter's voice. The Skeeter and his gang--the worst
apaches in the city of New York! Professional assassins, death
contractors, he had called them--and the lowest bidders! A man's
life any time for twenty-five dollars! No, they were not likely to
forget the affair of the pushcart man, to forget old Luddy and his
diamonds, to forget--the Gray Seal! And they were only the vanguard
of what was to come!
Some one was working at the lock now. There was one way to stop
that. It would not take them long to find out that he WAS there
once the door was opened! Better know it with the door SHUT!
Jimmie Dale lifted his revolver coolly and fired through the panel.
A burst of yells answered the shot; and among them, high above the
others, the Magpie's scream:
"We got him! We got him! He's dere now!"
And then it seemed that pandemonium broke loose--there was a volley
of shots, the bullets splintering through the door panels as from a
machine gun, so fast they came--and then another rush against the
Flat on the floor, but well back and to one side, Jimmie Dale fired
steadily--again and again.
Came screams of pain, yells, and oaths--and they fell back from the
And now from above, from overhead, came tumult--windows thrown up,
the stamp of feet, cries of fright. And from the street, a low,
sullen roar. The underworld was gathering fast!
Once more the rush upon the door--and Jimmie Dale, a grim, twisted
smile upon his lips, emptied his revolver into the panels. Once
more they fell back--and then there came the Skeeter's voice,
snarling like an infuriated beast:
"He'll get de lot of us like dis! Cut it out! Besides, we'll have
de bulls down here in a minute--an' he's OUR meat, not theirs.
Dey'd be too damned soft wid him--dey'd only send him to de chair.
Youse chase upstairs, Mose, an' pass de word to beat it--an' beat it
quick. We'll BURN de skunk out--dat's wot. An' de bulls can stand
alongside an' watch, if dey likes--but he's our meat."
Jimmie Dale did not dare to look at the Tocsin's face. Mechanically
he refilled the magazine of his automatic--and lay there, waiting.
The roar from the street grew louder. They seemed to be fighting
out there, as though an inadequate number of police were trying to
disperse a mob--and not succeeding! Pretty soon, with the riot call
in, there would probably be a battle--for the Gray Seal! Sublime
irony! It was death at the hands of either one!
Children whimpered on the stairs outside, men swore, women cried,
feet shuffled hurriedly by as the tenement emptied. Occasionally, a
pertinent invitation to him to remain where he was, there was a
vicious rip through the panel, and the drumming whir of a bullet
flying through the room. And then a curious, ominous crackling
sound--and then the smell of smoke.
Jimmie Dale stood up, his face drawn and haggard. The tenement
would go like matchwood, burn like a bonfire, with any kind of a
start--and there was no doubt about the start! The Skeeter, the
Magpie, and the rest would have seen that it had headway enough to
serve their purpose before either firemen or police could thwart
them. He, Jimmie Dale, could take his choice: walk out into a
bullet, or stay there and--he smiled miserably as his eyes fell upon
the pile of Larry the Bat's clothing on the floor. There was no
longer need to worry about ITS destruction--the fire would take care
of that only too well! And then a low, bitter cry came to his lips,
and he clenched his hands. If it were only himself--only himself!
He crossed to the Tocsin and caught her in his arms.
"Oh, my God--Marie!" he faltered.
The cape and hood had fallen from her, and with the hood had fallen
the gray-streaked hair of Silver Mag--and now as she smiled at him
it was from a face that was very beautiful and very brave and very
full of tenderness.
And he held her there--and neither spoke.
It seeped in under the threshold of the door, it came from
everywhere, filling the room--the black, strangling smoke. Outside
in the hall all was silence now--save for that crackle of flame that
grew in volume, that came now in quick, sharp reports, like revolver
shots. From out in the street swelled a cry: "Death to the Gray
Seal!" Then the clang of bells, the roar and rattle of fire
apparatus, strident voices bellowing orders, and the crowd again,
blood hungry: "Death to the Gray Seal!"
There was a chance, just one--if the fire had no headway along the
upper end of the landing--and if they had not thought to set a watch
for him ABOVE! They--the Magpie, the Skeeter, and his gang--must
have been driven even out of the house now by the smoke and flame.
"Give me the key, I am going to open the door, Marie," he said
quietly. "Cover your face with a handkerchief, anything, and run to
the LEFT to the next flight of stairs. There are two flats above
this--we'll make the roof if we can. Now--are you ready?"
It was an instant before she answered, an instant in which she
lifted her face to his, and held his face between her two hands--and
"I am ready, Jimmie."
He flung open the door, his arm around her to help her forward--and
instinctively, with a cry, fell back for a moment. With the inrush
of the draft poured the smoke, and through it, lurid, yellow, showed
the flames leaping from the stair well.
And then all was blind madness. Together they ran. At the foot of
the stairs she fell, recovered herself, staggered up another--and
fell again. He caught her up in his arms and, staggering now as she
had staggered, went on. His lungs seemed to be bursting. His limbs
grew weak and trembled under him. He could not see or breathe. The
nauseating fumes suffocated him, bringing an intolerable agony. He
gained the first landing above. There was one more--one more! If
he could only rest here for a moment! Yes, that was it--rest. It
wasn't so bad here now. She stirred in his arms, struggled to her
feet--and he was helping her on again, and up the next flight of
And suddenly he found himself laughing in hysteria--for they were
climbing a half stair, half ladderway at the end of the upper
landing, and the open skylight was above them, and they were
drinking in the pure, fresh air--and now they were out upon the
roof, and the roar from the street was in their ears, like the roar
of great waters from some canyon far below. Jimmie Dale tried to
speak, and found his lips were cracked and dry. He wet them with
"Don't stand up--we'd be seen--CRAWL," he mumbled hoarsely.
It took a long time--over one roof, and then another, and yet
another--and then through the skylight of a tenement whose occupants
were either craning from the front windows, or were on the street
below. It was, perhaps, half an hour--and then they, too, were
standing in the street, and all about them the crowd was shouting in
Up the block, inside the fire lines, the Sanctuary was blazing
furiously--and now suddenly the wall seemed to bulge outward. It
brought a yell from the crowd:
"Death to the Gray Seal!"
She pulled at his arm.
"Let us get away! Let us get away, Jimmie!" she whispered
A strange smile was on Jimmie Dale's lips.
"We're safe now--for always," he whispered back. "Look!"
The Sanctuary wall bulged farther outward, seemed to hang an instant
hesitant in mid-air--and fell with a mighty crash.
The Gray Seal was dead!