Part 2 out of 6
"Yes," he said, "I certainly seem to be in luck tonight! That all you
got, Thorold?" He reached forward, and possessed himself of a
well-filled wallet that Thorold had added to the heterogeneous
collection in front of him.
Thorold's face was black with fury.
"There's the watch, you cheap poke-getter!" he choked. "Don't forget to
frisk that while you're at it!"
Jimmie Dale examined the collection with a sort of imperturbable
"No," he said judicially. "You can keep your watch, Thorold; I haven't
got the same lay as our friend Jake here, and that sort of thing is too
hard to get rid of to make it worth while. I'll take these, and that's
all." He whipped the pile of letters and papers into his pocket. "You
see, with a man of your profession, there is always the chance of there
being something valuable amongst--"
Jimmie Dale never finished the sentence. With a sudden, low, tigerish
cry, Thorold heaved the end of the table upward between himself and
Jimmie Dale--and, quick as a cat, as Jimmie Dale staggered backward,
leaped from behind it.
"Get him, Jake! Get him, Jake!" he cried. "He won't _dare_ to fire in
here for the noise. Get him, you fool, he--"
But Jimmie Dale was the quicker of the two. A vicious left full on the
point of Thorold's jaw stopped the man's rush--but only for the fraction
of a second. Thorold, recovering instantly, flung his body forward, and
his arms wrapped themselves around Jimmie Dale's neck. And now, old
Jake, screeching like a madman, was circling around them, snatching,
clawing, striking at Jimmie Dale's face and head.
Thorold was a powerful man; and at the first tight-locked grip, as they
swayed together, trained athlete though he was himself, Jimmie Dale
realised that he had met his match. Again and again, with all his
strength he tried to throw the other from him. Around and around the
room they staggered and lurched--and around and around them followed the
wizened, twisted form of old Jake, like a hovering hawk, darting in at
every opportunity for a blow, shrieking, yelling, cursing with
infuriated abandon. And then from below, a greater peril still, came the
opening and shutting of doors, voices calling--the tenement, at the
racket, like a hive of hornets disturbed, was beginning to stir into
life. If they caught him there! If they caught the Gray Seal there! It
brought a desperate strength to Jimmie Dale. He had heard too often that
slogan of the underworld--_death to the Gray Seal_!
He tore one of Thorold's arms free from his neck--they were cheek to
cheek--Thorold was snarling out a torrent of blasphemy with gasping
breath--he wrenched himself free still--and then, their two hands
outstretched and clasped together as though in some grim devil's waltz,
they reeled toward the bed at the far end of the room, and smashed into
a chair. And, as they lost their balance, Jimmie Dale, gathering all his
strength for the one supreme effort, hurled the other from him. There
was a crash that shook the floor, as Thorold, hurtling backwards,
struck his head with terrific force against the iron bedstead, and
dropped like a log.
Jimmie Dale was on his feet again in an instant--but not before old Jake
had run, yelling madly, from the room. A glance Jimmie Dale gave at
Thorold, who lay limp and motionless, a crimson stream beginning to
trickle over temple and cheek; then, with a bound, he reached the
gas-jet, and turned out the light.
Old Jake's voice screamed from the hallway without:
"Help! The Gray Seal! The Gray Seal! Help! Help! Quick! The Gray Seal!"
The staircase creaked under the rush of feet; yells began to well up
from below. Jimmie Dale darted into the outer room, and crouched down
beside the doorway.
"Death to the Gray Seal!" The whole building, in a pandemonium of
hellish glee, seemed to echo and reecho the shout.
Jimmie Dale was deadly calm now, as his fingers closed around his
automatic--and, deadly cool, the keen, alert, active brain was at work.
It was black about him, pitch black, there were no lights in the
hallway--yes, a dull glimmer now--a door farther along had opened--but
dark enough in here where he waited. There was a chance--with the odds
heavily against him--but it was the only way.
They were on the landing outside now; and now, old Jake shouting
excitedly amongst them, a dozen forms swept through the doorway, and
scuffing, stamping, yelling, made for the inner room--and Jimmie Dale
slipped out into the hall. His lips pressed tightly together. That had
been as he had expected, but the danger still lay before him--in the
three flights of stairs. Some one was coming up now, more than one,
the stragglers--but there would be stragglers until the last occupant
of the tenement was aroused. He dared not wait. In a minute more, in
less than a minute, they would have lighted the gas again in there and
found him gone.
He jumped for the head of the stairs--a dark form loomed up before him.
Jimmie Dale launched himself full at the other. There was a cry of
surprise, an oath, the man pitched sideways, and Jimmie Dale sprang by.
A yell went up from the man behind him; it was echoed by a wild chorus
from above, as of wolves robbed of their prey; it was re-echoed by
shouts from the stairways and halls below--and with his left hand on the
banisters to guide him, taking the stairs four and five at a time,
Jimmie Dale went down--and now, aiming at the ground, his revolver spat
and barked a vicious warning, cutting lurid flashes through the murk
ahead of him.
Doors that were open along the hallways shut with a hurried bang; dark
forms, like rats running for their holes, scuttled to safety; women
screamed and shrieked; children whimpered. On Jimmie Dale ran. For the
second time he crashed into a form, and won by. They were firing at him
from above now--but by guesswork--firing down the stair well. The pound
of feet racing down the stairs came from behind him--two flights behind
him--he calculated he had that much start. He gained the entrance
hallway where all was dark, leaped for the front door, opened it, pulled
it shut with a violent slam--and, whirling instantly, running swiftly
and silently back along the hall, he reached the rear door that he had
left unfastened, darted out, and a moment later, swinging himself over a
high, backyard fence, dropped down into the lane beyond. Whipping off
his mask, he ran on like a hare until he approached the lane's
intersection with a cross street. And here, well back from the street,
he paused to regain his breath and rearrange his dishevelled attire;
then, edging forward, he peered cautiously up and down--and smiled
grimly--and stepped out on the street. He was a good block away from
From the direction of the Nest came sounds of disorder and riot. A
patrolman's whistle rang out shrilly. It had been as close a call
perhaps as the Gray Seal had ever known--but, at that, the night's work
was not ended! There was still the actual thief. Thorold had said he was
to meet the man in his, Thorold's, office in half an hour to split their
ill-gotten gains. Jimmie Dale's jaw squared. The thief! His hand at his
side clenched suddenly. Would it be _only_ the thief, or would he have
to reckon with Thorold again as well? Could Thorold keep the appointment?
It was a question of how badly Thorold was hurt, and that he did not
Jimmie Dale walked on another block, still another, then turned so as to
bring him into, but well up, the street on which the tenement was
situated. From here, far down the ill-lighted street, he could see a mob
gathered outside the Nest. And then, as he stood hesitant, there came
the strident clang of a bell, the beat of hoofs, and he caught the name
of the hospital on the side of an ambulance as it tore by--and, at that,
he swung suddenly about, and, making his way across to Broadway, boarded
an uptown car.
Twenty minutes later, he closed the door of a telephone booth in a
saloon on lower Sixth Avenue behind him, and consulting the directory
for the number, called the hospital.
"This is police headquarters speaking," said Jimmie Dale coolly. "What's
the condition of that tenement case with the broken head?"
"Hold the wire a minute," came the answer; and then, presently: "Not
serious; but still unconscious."
"Thank you," said Jimmie Dale.
He hung up the receiver, and made his way out to the street. The coast
was clear then, as far as Thorold was concerned. Jimmie Dale walked on
halfway up the block, and turned into the lighted hallway of a small
building whose second floor, above a millinery establishment, was rented
out for offices. It was here that Thorold maintained what he called his
"office." Mounting the stairs and emerging upon a narrow corridor, that
was lighted at one end by a single incandescent, Jimmie Dale halted
before a door that bore the legend: HENRY THOROLD--AGENT. Jimmie Dale's
lips twisted into grim lines. Agent--of what? He glanced quickly up and
down the corridor, slipped his little steel instrument into the lock,
and opened the door.
He stepped inside, closing the door without re-locking it; and, using
his flashlight now, moved forward, and entered a sort of inner office
that was partitioned off from the rest of the room. There was a
flat-topped desk here, a swivel chair, an armchair, a rather good
drawing or two on the walls, and a soft yielding carpet underfoot.
Thorold was far too clever to overdo anything--it was simply
businesslike, with an air of modest success about it.
Jimmie Dale appropriated the swivel chair behind the desk. Half an hour
from the time he had left the tenement! He should not have long to wait,
for he had used up nearly, if not quite, all of that time already, and
the thief would certainly have every incentive to be punctual. He laid
his flashlight, turned on, upon the desk, and, taking his automatic from
his pocket, examined it. There were still two cartridges remaining in
the magazine. He slipped the weapon into the side pocket of his coat,
and began to sort over the papers and letters he had taken from Thorold.
He opened one--a letter--glanced at its contents--and nodded. It was the
one to which the Tocsin had referred. He returned the others to his
pocket, began to read the one in his hand and suddenly, leaning forward,
snapped out his light. _Was that a step coming up the stairs?_
He listened now intently. Yes, it was coming nearer. He laid down the
letter on the desk, and put on his mask. Still nearer came the step. It
had halted now before the door. And now the hall door opened and closed.
Jimmie Dale sat motionless, except that his hand crept to his coat
pocket, and from his coat pocket to the desk again. The door closed
softly--a man had entered the outer room--and certainly a man who was no
stranger to the place, for he was moving unerringly in the darkness
toward the partition door. The man was in the inner office now, passing
the desk, so close that Jimmie Dale could have reached out and touched
him. There was a soft, rubbing sound as the man's hand felt along the
wall for the electric light switch, a click, the room was suddenly
flooded with light; and, with a low cry, blinking there in the glare,
staring at Jimmie Dale's masked face--stood Colonel Milford.
And then the old gentleman swayed, and caught at the back of the
armchair for support--upon the desk lay the diamond pendant, glittering
under the light.
"My God!" he whispered. "What does this mean?"
"It means, colonel," said Jimmie Dale softly, "that Thorold couldn't
come, that old Jake found one of the diamonds cloudy and with a flaw,
and that the deal fell through--and it means, colonel, that you will
never be called upon to steal Mrs. Milford's diamonds again; there is a
letter here that--"
"The letter!" The old gentleman was staggering toward the desk. He
reached out his hand for the letter, hesitated as though he were
afraid that Jimmie Dale was only tantalising him, would never let him
have it--and then with a little cry of wondrous gladness, he snatched
it to him.
"I'd destroy that if I were you," suggested Jimmie Dale quietly. "I
don't imagine that Thorold or old Jake will ever bother you again, but
there are lots of 'Thorolds' in New York." He motioned toward the
pendant. "That is yours, too, colonel."
The old gentleman was fingering the letter over and over, as though to
assure himself that it was actually in his possession; and into his blue
eyes, as they travelled back and forth from the pendant to Jimmie Dale,
there crept a half wondering, half wistful light.
"I do not know why you have done this for me, or who you are, sir," he
said brokenly. "But at least I understand that in some strange way you
have stepped in between me and--and those men. You--you know the
"Only partially," said Jimmie Dale with a smile, as he shook his head.
"But you need not--"
"I would wish to thank you, sir." The old Southerner was stately now in
his emotion. "I can never do so adequately. You are at least entitled to
my confidence." His face grew a little whiter; he drew himself up as
though to meet a blow. "My boy, my son, sir, stole a large sum of money
from the bank where he was employed in New Orleans. He was not
suspected; and indeed, as far as the bank is concerned, the matter
remains a mystery to this day. Shortly afterwards the Spanish war broke
out. My son was an officer in a local regiment. He obtained an
appointment for the front." The old gentleman paused; then he stood
erect, head back, at salute, like the gallant old soldier that he was.
"My son, sir, was a thief; but he redeemed himself, and he redeemed his
name--he fell at the head of his company, leading his men."
Jimmie Dale's eyes had grown suddenly moist.
"I understand," he said simply.
"He wrote this letter to me, making a full confession of his guilt; and
gave it to me, telling me not to open it unless he should not come
back." The colonel's voice broke; then, with an effort, steadied again.
"It would have killed his mother, sir. It strained our resources most
severely to pay back the money to the bank, and I lied to her, sir--I
told her that our investments were proving unfortunate. Two years ago I
completed the final payment without the bank ever having found out where
the money came from; and then we moved up here to New York. You see,
sir, it was a little difficult to maintain our former position in
Louisiana, and amongst strangers less would be expected of us. And then,
sir, shortly after that, I do not know how, this letter was stolen, and
for two years Thorold has held it over my head, threatening to make it
public if I refused his demands; I gave him all the money I could get. I
have thought sometimes, sir, that I should put a revolver in my pocket
and come down here and shoot him like a dog--but then, sir, the story, I
was afraid, would come out. Yesterday he made a final demand for five
thousand dollars. I did not have the money. He suggested Mrs. Milford's
pendant there. He promised to return the letter, and any sum above the
five thousand that he could get for the diamonds. I knew he was lying
about the money; but I believed he would return the letter, knowing that
I now had nothing left. That is why I am here to-night."
Again the old gentleman paused. It was very still in the room. Jimmie
Dale had taken the thin metal case from his leather girdle and was
fingering it abstractedly. And then the colonel spoke again:
"And so," he said slowly, "I stole the pendant this afternoon, and
pretended to-night that it was done at dinner-time, and--and pretended,
too, to make the discovery of the theft myself. You see, sir, it was
not only the old name that would be smirched--there was the boy to
think of, and he had redeemed himself. And Mrs. Milford would have
wanted me to do that, to take a thousand of her jewels, if she had had
them, if she had known--but, you see, sir, she could not know without
it breaking her heart--I think the dearest thing in life to her is the
Outside on Sixth Avenue an elevated train roared and thundered by--it
seemed strangely extraneous and incongruous.
"And now, sir"--the old gentleman's voice seemed tired, a little
weary--"though you give me back the pendant, I do not see how I can
return it to my wife. It was part of the agreement that I should notify
the police--it made it impossible for me to inform against Thorold,
for--for I was the thief."
Jimmie Dale nodded. "I was thinking of that," he said.
He opened the metal case; and, while the old gentleman watched in
amazement and growing consternation, he lifted out a gray paper seal
with his tweezers, moistened the adhesive side with the tip of his
tongue, and pressed the seal firmly with his coat sleeve over the
central cluster of the pendant.
The old gentleman tried twice to speak before a word would come.
"You! You--the Gray Seal!" he stammered at last. "But only to-night I
was reading in the papers, and they said you were a murderer, an ogre of
"And now, possibly," interrupted Jimmie Dale whimsically, "though
circumstances will force you to keep your opinion to yourself, you may
have an idea that, as between you and the papers, you are the better
informed. Well, at least, the Gray Seal's shoulders are broad! You need
not worry about Thorold or old Jake; I took pains to make them aware
that the Gray Seal--quite inadvertently, of course--had taken a passing
fancy to the pendant. You have only to wrap it up, and send it by mail
to _yourself_; and when it arrives"--he laughed softly, as he stood
up--"notify the police again. Let them do the theorising--it is one of
their cherished amusements! And, oh, by the way, colonel, have you any
idea how much Thorold and his precious friend Kisnieff have blackmailed
you out of in the last two years?"
"I did not have very much left when I came to New York," said the
colonel, in a stunned way, still staring at the gray paper seal.
"Between four and five thousand dollars."
"That's too bad," murmured Jimmie Dale. He took the banknotes from his
pocket, and laid them on the desk. "I am afraid it is not quite all
here--but I can assure you it is all they had."
He held out his hand.
"But you're not going! You're not going that way!" cried the colonel,
and his eyes filled suddenly. "How am I to repay you, how am I to--"
"Very easily," smiled Jimmie Dale; "and, to use your own expression,
very adequately--by remaining here, say, three minutes after I have
left." He caught the colonel's hand in his and wrung it hard--and then,
with a "Goodnight!" flung over his shoulder, Jimmie Dale was gone.
THE REHABILITATION OF LARRY THE BAT
The small French window of the new Sanctuary, that gave on the dirty
little courtyard which, in turn, paralleled a black and narrow lane,
with its high, board fence, opened cautiously, noiselessly. A dark form
slipped silently into the room. The window was closed again. The
dilapidated roller shade was drawn down, and, guided by the sense of
touch, the rent that gaped across it was carefully pinned together.
There was no moon to shine in through the top-light and uncharitably
disclose the greasy, ragged carpet, or the squalor of the room.
The dark form, like a shadow, moved across the room to the door, tried
the lock, slipped an inner bolt into place, then returned halfway back
to the windows, and paused by the wall. A match flame spurted through
the blackness; and then, hissing as though in protest, the miserable,
clogged gas-jet, blue with air, still leaving the corners of the room
dim and murky, grudgingly lighted up its immediate surroundings--and
Jimmie Dale, immaculate in evening clothes, stood looking sharply
Here and there about the room, upon this article and that, as though
fixing its exact and precise location, his glance fell critically;
then he stepped back quickly to the door, and knelt by the threshold.
The tiny, unobtrusive piece of thread, that must break if the door
were opened by but that fraction of an inch, was still intact. No one,
then, had been here since last, as Smarlinghue, the seedy,
drug-wrecked artist, he had left the place the day before; for, on
entering, he had already satisfied himself that the French window had
not been tampered with.
A hard smile flickered across his lips. It was a grim transition, this,
from the luxury, the wealth and refinement of New York's most exclusive
club, which he had left but half an hour ago! The smile faded, and he
passed his hand a little wearily across his eyes. The strain seemed to
grow heavier every day--the underworld more prone to suspicion; the
police more vigilant; that ominous slogan, in which Crime and the Law
for once were one, "Death to the Gray Seal!" to ring more constantly in
his ears. It was becoming more fraught with peril, danger and difficulty
than ever before, this dual life he led. And he had thought it all
ended--once. That was only a few months ago, when the way had seemed
clear for them both, for the Tocsin and himself. Well, he was here
to-night to end it again if he could--by playing perhaps the most
desperate game he had ever attempted.
He shook his head. It was more than the hazard, the danger and the peril
of his dual life that brought the strain--it was the Tocsin, his love
for her, _her_ peril and _her_ danger, the unbearable anxiety and
suspense on her account that was never absent from him. And it was that
that kept him in the underworld, that had forced him to create again a
role in gangland, the role of Smarlinghue, in the hope that he might
track her enemies down. She would not help him. If she knew, and she
must know, the authors of this new danger that had driven her once more
into hiding, she would not tell him. She was afraid--for _him_. She had
said that. She had said that she would fight this out alone, that she
would not, could not, whatever the end might be, bring him again into
the shadows, throw his life again into the balance. It was her love,
pure, unselfish, a wondrous love, that had prompted her to this course,
he knew that--and yet--But why all this again! His brain was numbed
with its incessant dwelling upon it day after day.
Jimmie Dale's hands clenched suddenly. That night, a week ago, when he
had been so nearly caught in the Nest, had brought very forcibly upon
him the realisation that he could not risk any longer a haphazard course
of action, if he was to be of help to her, for next time his own luck
might go out. And so the idea had come--the one, single, definite mode
of attack that lay within his power--and he had used the week to
advantage, and he was ready now. From the first it had seemed almost
certain that the danger which threatened her must come from one of two
sources--and there was a way to probe one of these to the bottom. He did
not know who they were, those who remained of the Crime Club, or where
they were; but he knew the Magpie, and he knew where the Magpie was to
be found--and to-night he would know, settling the question once for
all, _all_ that the Magpie knew!
He turned, walked back across the room, and, a few feet along from the
door, knelt down close to the wall. An instant later, with the loose
section of the base-board removed, he reached inside, and took out a
curious assortment of garments, which he laid on the floor beside him.
They were not Smarlinghue's clothes--they were even more shoddy and
disreputable. His brows gathered critically as he surveyed the wretched
boots, the mismated socks, the frayed, patched trousers, the greasy
flannel shirt, the ragged coat, and the battered, shapeless slouch hat.
Matched closely enough to the originals to pass without question,
gathered from here and there, painstakingly, with infinite trouble
during the week that had passed, were the clothes of--Larry the Bat.
It was a dangerous, almost desperate chance; but he, too, was desperate
now. To be caught, even to be seen as Larry the Bat meant flinging every
stake he had in life into the game. More rabid than ever was the cry of
the populace for vengeance upon the Gray Seal; more active than ever,
combing den and dive, their dragnet spreading from end to end of the
city, were the efforts of the police to effect the Gray Seal's capture;
more like snarling wolves than ever, the blood lust upon them, mad to
sink their fangs into the Gray Seal, were the denizens of the
underworld--and populace and police and underworld alike knew Larry the
Bat as the Gray Seal! If he were seen--if he were caught! They had
thought that Larry the Bat had perished in the Sanctuary fire that
night, and that in Larry the Bat had perished the Gray Seal. But the
Gray Seal had been at work again since then; and, logically enough,
there had followed the deduction that, after all, Larry the Bat had in
some way escaped.
Jimmie Dale began to remove his expensively tailored dress suit. It had
made it much easier for him, easier to play the role of Smarlinghue,
easier for the Gray Seal to work, that they, the populace, police and
underworld, had of late searched only for a _character_, a character
that, in truth, until to-night had literally vanished from the face of
the earth--a character known as Larry the Bat. But now Larry the Bat was
to assume tangible form again, to accept the risk of recognition, to go
out amongst those whose one ambition was his destruction, to court his
own death, his ruin, the disclosure that Larry the Bat was Jimmie Dale,
that Jimmie Dale, the millionaire clubman, a leader in New York's
society, was therefore the Gray Seal, and with this disclosure drag an
honoured name in the mire, be execrated as a felon. It seemed almost the
act of a fool--worse than that, indeed! Even a fool would not invite the
blow of a blackjack, the thrust of a knife, or a revolver bullet from
the first crook in gangland who recognised him; even a fool would not
voluntarily take the chance of thrusting his head through the door of
one of Sing Sing's death cells!
And for an instant, fought out with himself times without number though
this had been since he had first conceived the plan, Jimmie Dale
hesitated. It was very still in the room. In his hands now he held a
bundle of neatly folded clothing ready to be tucked away in the aperture
in the wall. He looked around him unseeingly. Then suddenly the square
jaw clamped hard, and he stooped, thrust the bundle into the opening,
and began rapidly to dress again--as Larry the Bat.
If it was the act of a fool, it was even more the act of a _coward_ to
shrink from it! It was the one way to force the Magpie to lay his cards
face up upon the table. It was the Magpie who had discovered that Larry
the Bat was the Gray Seal; it was the Magpie who had led gangland to
batter down the Sanctuary doors; it was the Magpie who had clamoured the
loudest of them all for the Gray Seal's death--and it was the Magpie,
therefore, who had reason to fear Larry the Bat as he would fear no
other living thing on earth. And it was upon that which he, Jimmie Dale,
counted--the psychological effect upon the Magpie on finding himself
suddenly face to face and in the power of Larry the Bat, with the
unhallowed reputation of the Gray Seal, that did not stop at murder, to
discount any thought in the Magpie's mind that the choice between a
full confession and death was an idle threat which would not be put into
Yes; it was simple enough, and _sure_ enough--that part of it. The
Magpie would tell what he knew under those circumstances--and tell
eagerly. But if, after all, the Magpie knew nothing! Jimmie Dale snarled
contemptuously at himself. Childish! That, of course, was possible--but
in that case he would at least have run a false lead to earth, and have
eliminated the Magpie from any further consideration.
Jimmie Dale took out a make-up box from the opening in the wall, and,
carrying it with him to the table, propped up a small mirror against a
collection of Smarlinghue's paint tubes. His fingers were working
swiftly now with sure, deft touches, supplying to his face, his neck,
his hands and wrists, not the unhealthy pallor of Smarlinghue, but the
grimy, unwashed, dirty appearance of Larry the Bat. It was the toss of a
coin, heads or tails, whether the Magpie was at the bottom of this or
not. The Magpie knew that Silver Mag had been in the affair that night
when Larry the Bat was discovered to be the Gray Seal; the Magpie knew
that Silver Mag was a pal of Larry the Bat, and, therefore, equally with
the Gray Seal, the underworld had passed sentence of death upon her--but
did the Magpie know that Silver Mag was Marie LaSalle, any more than he
knew that Larry the Bat was Jimmie Dale? That was the question--and its
answer would be wrung from the Magpie's lips to-night!
A piece of wax was inserted in each nostril, and behind the lobes of his
ears, and under his lip. Jimmie Dale stared into the mirror--the
vicious, dissolute face of Larry the Bat leered back at him. And then,
returning abruptly to the loosened section of the base-board, he
restored the make-up box to its hiding place. He reached inside again,
and procured a pistol and flashlight, which he stowed away in his
pockets; there would be no need to-night for that belt with its compact
little kit of burglar's tools; no need for that thin metal box with the
gray-coloured, adhesive paper seals, the insignia of the Gray Seal, for
to-night the Gray Seal would appear in _person_. No--wait! That
collection of little steel picklocks--and a jimmy! He would need those.
He felt for them in one of the pockets of the leather girdle,
transferred them to the pocket of his ragged trousers, and slipped the
base-board back into place.
And now he stepped to the gas-jet, and turned out the light. Then the
roller shade was raised, the French window silently opened, silently
closed--and Larry the Bat, hugging close against the wall of the
building, crept to the fence, and, lifting aside a loose board, passed
out into the lane, and from the lane to an empty and drearily-lighted
There was no "sanctuary" now. Who in the underworld would fail to
recognise Larry the Bat! He was out in the open, on the fringes of the
Bad Lands, where recognition was to be feared from every passer-by, and
where, if caught, he would do well and wisely to use his own automatic
upon himself! And he must go deeper still, into the heart of gangland,
to reach that room in the basement beneath Poker Joe's gambling hell
where the Magpie lived--or, rather, burrowed himself away in those hours
that were miserly devoted to sleep.
But Jimmie Dale knew his East Side as no other man in New York knew it;
knew it as a man whose life again and again had depended solely upon
that knowledge. By lane and alley, by unfrequented streets, now running,
now crouched motionless in some dark corner waiting for footsteps to die
away along the pavement before he darted across the street in front of
him, Jimmie Dale threaded his way through the East Side, as through the
twistings and turning of some maze, puzzling, grotesque and intricate,
but with whose secrets notwithstanding he was intimately familiar.
When he paused at last, it was in a backyard, which he had entered by
the simple expedient of climbing the fence from the lane behind. A low
building loomed up before him, whose windows at first glance were dark,
but through whose carefully closed blinds and tightly drawn shutters
might still be remarked, if one were sufficiently inquisitive, the
faint, suffused glow of lights from within.
Jimmie Dale scarcely glanced at the windows. Poker Joe's at this
hour--it must be close to eleven o'clock, he calculated--would be just
about settling into its night's swing. He was quite well aware both that
the place was lighted and that there were by now perhaps a score of
gangland's elite already at the tables; and that the blinds and shades
were closed and drawn interested him only in that it safeguarded him
_without_ from being seen by any one from _within_!
But there was another window upon which Jimmie Dale now centred his
entire attention--a narrow, oblong window, cellar-like, just on a level
with the ground--and here there was neither a light nor a drawn shade.
He stole across the yard, and, five yards from the wall of the house,
dropped down on his hands and knees, and crawled silently forward.
Keeping a little to one side, he reached the window, and lay there
listening intently. There was no sound, save a low, almost inaudible
murmur of voices from the windows above him--nothing from the direction
of that dark, oblong window that he could reach out and touch now. The
Magpie was presumably not at home!
The long, slim, tapering fingers, whose nerves, tingling sensitively at
the tips, were as eyes to Jimmie Dale, those fingers that, to the Gray
Seal, were like some magical "open sesame" to the most intricate safes
and vaults, felt along the window sill, and, from the sill, made a
circuit of the sash. The window, he found, was hinged at one side and
opened inward; and now, under the pressure of his steel jimmy, inserted
between the ledge and the lower portion of the frame, it began to yield.
Lying there on the ground, Jimmie Dale, his head close to the opening,
listened with strained attention again. He had not made much noise,
scarcely any--not enough even to have aroused the Magpie if, say, by any
chance, the Magpie were within asleep. The sounds from the floor above
seemed to be louder now, to reach him more distinctly, but from the
basement room itself there was nothing, no sound even of breathing.
Satisfied that the room was unoccupied, Jimmie Dale pushed the window
wide open, and peered in. It was like looking into some dark cavernous
hole, and he could not distinguish a single object. Then his hand
slipped into his pocket for his flashlight, and the round, white ray
shot downward and around the place. The floor of the room was perhaps
five feet below the level of the window sill; to the left, against the
wall, was a bed; there was a chair, a table sadly in need of repair, a
few garments hanging from nails driven haphazardly into the plaster,
and, save for a dirty piece of carpet on the floor, nothing else. The
flashlight played slowly around the room. Opposite the window was the
door, and suspended from the centre of the ceiling was a single
With a sort of grim nod of approval, Jimmie Dale snapped off his
flashlight, and, turning around, worked himself in through the
window feet first, and dropped silently to the floor. He had only to
wait now until the Magpie returned--whether it was a question of
hours or minutes.
Jimmie Dale made his way to the chair, and sat down--and again he
nodded his head grimly. It was very simple; he had only to wait, and
this place, this burrow of the Magpie's, could not have been improved
upon for his purpose. It was eminently suitable, so suitable that there
seemed something ironical in the fact that it should have been the
Magpie who had chosen it. One could commit _murder_ here, and none
would be the wiser--and none would be more keenly alive to that than
the Magpie himself! A threat from the Gray Seal in these surroundings
left nothing to be desired. They were making too much noise above to
hear anything in this room below the ground, and the little window
afforded an instant means of escape without the slightest danger of
discovery. Yes; the Magpie, not being a fool, would very thoroughly
appreciate all this.
Time passed. It was a nerve racking vigil that Jimmie Dale kept, sitting
there in the chair--waiting. It was so dark he could not have seen his
hand before his face. And it was silent, in spite of that queer
composite sound of voices, and shuffling feet, and the occasional squeak
of chair legs from above--a silence that seemed to belong to this
miserable hole alone, that seemed immune from all extraneous noises. And
after a time, in a curious way, the silence seemed to palpitate, to beat
upon the ear-drums, to grow almost uncanny.
His lips tightened a little, and he smiled commiseratingly at himself.
His nerves were getting a little too tautly strung, that was all; he was
listening too intently for that expected step upon the stair, for the
opening of that door he faced. And it was not like him to have an attack
of nerves--and especially in view of the fact that his plan, in the
simplicity of its execution did not even warrant anxiety for its
success. He had only to remain quiet until the Magpie entered and turned
on the light, then clap his automatic to the Magpie's head--the
psychology of fear would do the rest. And yet--what was it? As the
minutes dragged along, fight it as he would, a distinct depression, a
panicky sort of uneasiness, was settling down upon him. The darkness, in
a most unpleasant and disconcerting way, seemed to be full of eeriness,
For perhaps ten minutes he sat there in the chair, silent and
motionless, angry, struggling with himself--but his disquietude would
not down; rather, it but grew the stronger, until it took the form of
imagining that he was not _alone_ in the room. He scowled contemptuously
at himself. There was another psychology than that of fear--the
psychology of suggestion. That silence, palpitating in his ear-drums,
began to whisper: "You are not alone here--you are not alone--you are
Was that a sound there outside the door? A step cautiously approaching?
He leaned forward tensely. No--his laugh was low, short, furious--_no!_
It was only from above, that sound.
Jimmie Dale's face hardened. It was childish, this sensation of
_presence_ in the room; but it was also unnerving. Why should so unusual
a thing happen to him to-night? Was it purely over-wrought nerves, due
to the strain of the peril he ran as Larry the Bat--or was it intuition?
Intuition had never failed him yet. Well, whatever it was, he would put
a stop to it. He was here to-night to get the Magpie, and nothing should
interfere with that. Nothing! He and the Magpie would square accounts
to-night--and square them once for all!
Not alone here in the Magpie's den--eh? His flashlight streamed out, and
began slowly and deliberately to circle the room. If his brain was so
restless and active that it must indulge in fantasies, it could at
least be diverted into another channel than--Jimmie Dale strained
forward suddenly in his chair. That was a pair of boots there at the
foot of the bed. There was nothing strange in a pair of boots, but these
boots were poised most curiously on their heels, with the toes pointing
upward. They just barely protruded from the foot of the bed, which
accounted for his not having been able to see them from the window when
he had flashed his light around--he could not see the upper portions of
them even now. And then, under his breath, Jimmie Dale jeered at himself
again. True, the boots were in a most peculiar position, but had his
nerves reached the state where a pair of boots would throw him into a
panic! How logical for some one to be hiding there under the bed--with
his feet in plain view! And yet what held the boots upright like that?
The foot of the bed itself? Jammed there, perhaps? Or--
"Damn it!" gritted Jimmie Dale. "I'm worse than a child to-night!"
He rose from his chair, stepped across the room to the foot of the
bed--and like a man dazed, his flashlight playing on the boots, his
automatic flung forward in his hand, he stood staring downward,
following his flashlight's ray with his eyes. Was he mad! Was his brain
now playing him some hideous trick! The boots were not empty, he could
see a man's ankles, the bottoms of a town's trousers; but the ankles and
the trousers seemed utterly insignificant--_on the sole of the right
boot was a diamond-shaped, gray-coloured, paper seal!_ His own
insignia--the insignia of the Gray Seal!
For an instant it might have been, he stood there rigidly, realising in
a sort of ghastly, subconscious way that the man under the bed made no
movement, made no attempt to evade discovery, made no sound; and then
Jimmie Dale stooped quickly, and raised one of the other's feet a few
inches from the floor. It fell back--a dead weight.
Jimmie Dale's jaws were hard clamped. There was devil's work here--some
of the Magpie's, possibly. Every faculty alert now, Jimmie Dale was
quietly lifting aside the small iron bed. The Magpie was no fool! By
underworld and police alike it would be accepted without questions that
the Gray Seal had held a day of reckoning in store for the Magpie. Had
the Magpie traded on that--to get rid of some one who was in his way,
this out-stretched, inert thing on the floor, and lay it to the door of
the Gray Seal? It was clever, hellish in its cunning. And it would
appear plausible enough. The Gray Seal had come here, say, searching for
the Magpie, and in the darkness had struck another down! Yes, the Magpie
could get away with that. It would stand to reason that the Magpie would
not lure a victim to his own den, and--
A low cry was on Jimmie Dale's lips. The bed was moved out now, and he
was stooping over a man whose head was gruesomely battered above the
right temple and back across the skull. The flashlight wavered in his
hand, as he held it focussed on the other's face. It was the
THE BOND ROBBERY
It seemed to Jimmie Dale that, in the darkness, the room was full of
unseen devils laughing and jeering derisively at him. It seemed that
reality did not exist; that only unreality prevailed. The Magpie--dead!
It seemed for the moment that he had utterly lost his grip upon himself;
that mentally he was being tossed helplessly about, the sport of fate.
The Magpie--_dead_! It meant--what did it mean? He must think now, and
think quickly. It meant, first of all, that any hope for the Tocsin
which he had built upon the Magpie was shattered, gone forever. And it
meant, that gray seal on the sole of the dead man's boot, that the
murder had been committed with even greater cunning and finesse, and an
even greater security for the murderer, than he had attributed to the
Magpie a moment since, when he had thought the Magpie the instigator,
and not the victim, of the crime.
He was examining the wound, searching for the weapon--it must have been
a blunt instrument of some sort--with which the blow, or blows, had been
struck. There was nothing. The Magpie lay there--dead. That was all.
Mechanically Jimmie Dale replaced the bed in its original position over
the murdered man, and stood staring down again at the gray seal on the
Magpie's boot. It was not _why_ the Magpie had been murdered, it was
_who_ had murdered him! Once, long, long ago, almost at the outset of
the Gray Seal's career, a spurious gray seal had been used before. But
this was a vastly different, and far more significant matter. Then it
had been an attempt to foist the identity of the Gray Seal upon a poor,
miserable devil in order to secure a reward--here it was a crime,
_murder_, coolly, callously laid to the Gray Seal, that the guilty man
might escape without a breath of suspicion. Just another crime credited
to the Gray Seal! No one would dispute it; no one would question it; no
one would dream that it had been done by any one other than the Gray
Seal. There was a brutal possibility about the ingenuity of the man who
had struck the blow. It was the Magpie who had put his finger upon Larry
the Bat as the Gray Seal; it was the Magpie who had tried to accomplish
the Gray Seal's death. Would it, then, occasion even surprise that the
Magpie should be found murdered in his own den at the hands of the Gray
Seal? It was even his own argument, the very reason that had led him to
assume the role of Larry the Bat, and had brought him here to the
Jimmie Dale bent down for a closer inspection of the diamond-shaped gray
seal on the boot's sole. It was not one of his own; but it was so
similar that it would unquestionably pass muster. The red crept to
Jimmie Dale's cheeks and burned there, as a sudden, merciless anger
swept upon him. _Who_ was the man who had done this, who sheltered
himself from murder behind the Gray Seal!
He laughed low and bitterly. Only another crime attributed to the Gray
Seal! It would not smirch the Gray Seal any--the Gray Seal had been
accused of worse than this! But the man who had dared to place that gray
seal there would answer for it!
He was still laughing in that low, bitter way, as he knelt now, and
took out his pocketknife. The gray seal, at least, would not be
found--he was lucky there--he had only to scrape it off, and--No--wait!
Would it not be better to leave it there? It would throw the murderer
off his guard if he believed that his plan had worked; and it could make
little difference to the Gray Seal's record to be held guilty of another
murder--temporarily. Temporarily! Yes, that was it! Here was one crime
of which the Gray Seal would be vindicated, and the guilty man be--
It seemed to quiver, low-breathed, through the darkness--his name. His
name! Was he bereft of all his senses! His name! Here in this horrible
murder hole! Was he indeed mad with his imaginings, with these voices
that had been whispering, and laughing, and jeering at him out of the
blackness! And, absurdly, it had seemed this time that it was the
"Jimmie--quick! On the floor under the window!"
He whirled like a flash. Mistake! Imaginings! No! It _was_ the Tocsin!
It was her voice! The gleam of his flashlight cut the black, and,
leaping across the room, played upon the small, narrow, oblong
window--it was from there the voice had come. But it was only black and
empty there. And around the room his flashlight swept, and it was black
and empty there, too--except for a square, white object upon the floor
below the window. She was gone.
And it was like a half sob that came from Jimmie Dale's lips.
"Gone!" he whispered miserably. "Gone!"
Why had she gone like that? Why had she not waited--just for a moment,
just for the single instant, if he could have had no more, that he would
have given his life to have? And the answer was in his soul. He knew,
and he, knew that she, too, knew, that it would not have been moment or
an instant--that he would never have let her go again. And to follow
her? He shook his head. By the time he had climbed out of the window,
what trace, any more than there was now, would there of her! She was
gone--a sort of finality in her act, as there always was, that left
nothing to be done, or said.
But the note! That white thing there upon the floor! He crossed the
room, picked it up, tore it open, and, with his flashlight upon it,
began to read.
"Jimmie--Jimmie--" It was scrawled in haste, only a few lines. His eyes
travelled rapidly over the words, and suddenly his breath came fast.
"My God!" he cried out sharply.
As though he could not have read aright, he read again; disjointed words
and phrases muttered audibly: "... Afraid not in time ... hurry ... this
afternoon ... the Magpie and Virat ... Kenleigh, insurance broker ...
safe in Kenleigh's house ... ground floor--left ... one hundred thousand
dollars ... bonds ... will try it ... Meighan of headquarters ...
half-past one at Virat's ... Gray Seal ... Larry the Bat ... if
dangerous, keep away ..."
One glance around the room Jimmie Dale gave instinctively; and then he
was crawling through the window, and, outside, regaining his feet, he
darted across the yard, and out into the lane. Kenleigh, the insurance
broker--he repeated the address she had given in the note over to
himself. It was an apartment house on Avenue near Washington Square.
He ran on, as he had come, through lane and alley, working his way out
of the Bad Lands. It was dangerous, of coarse, in any case, but once
clear of that section of the city which houses the underworld, his risk
of discovery was greatly minimised, since, though familiar to every
denizen of gangland, Larry the Bat was naturally not the same intimate
figure in the more law-abiding and respectable districts; and he should,
except for an extraordinary piece of bad luck, pass in the quarters he
was now heading for as no more than exactly what his appearance
proclaimed him to be--a disreputable and seedy vagrant.
It was slow work, hurry as he would, doubling and zigzagging his way up
through the East Side; discouraging, when time was so great a factor, to
cover three and four times the actual distance in order to keep to the
lanes and alleys whose shelter he dared not leave; but he was spurred on
now by a sort of grim, unholy joy. He knew now who had murdered the
Magpie, and why; he knew now who was making a tool, a cat's-paw of the
Gray Seal; he knew now who had so cynically elected him, if caught, as a
substitute for the other to the electric chair. It was Virat! Frenchy
Virat, the suave, sleek gambler, confidence man and crook! Well, the
game was of Virat's choosing--and they would play it out now to the end,
Virat and the Gray Seal, if it was the last act of his, Jimmie Dale's,
life! It was only a question now of whether or not Virat had completed
all his work, of whether there was yet time to get to Kenleigh's.
It was close to midnight, as Jimmie Dale came out on Washington Square.
He crossed to Waverly Place, and, on the point of starting along Fifth
Avenue, drew suddenly back around the corner. A man, walking rapidly,
was just turning into Fifth Avenue from the opposite corner. Jimmie
Dale drew in his breath sharply. He had got out of sight just in time.
He recognised the quick, springy walk of the other. It was Meighan,
of Headquarters. And then Jimmie Dale smiled a little whimsically.
They were both bound for the same place, he and Meighan, of
Headquarters--Kenleigh's apartment, that was a little way further on
there along the Avenue.
A short distance behind the other, but on the opposite side of the
street, Jimmie Dale followed the detective. There was hardly any use now
in going to Kenleigh's, for, if the detective was really bound for
there, it made his, Jimmie Dale's, errand useless--the summoning of the
Headquarters' man was _prima facie_ evidence that the robbery had
already been committed. And yet a certain grim curiosity remained. Just
how had it been done? And besides, she had said, "half-past one at
Virat's," so there was time to spare. The distorted lips of Larry the
Bat thinned ominously. No; it was not useless even now. He had a very
strong personal interest in all that had taken place--Virat would be the
less likely to slip through his fingers, or through the fingers of the
law, for the information that the scene of the robbery might supply!
Meighan disappeared suddenly inside an apartment house, which Jimmie
Dale recognised as a rather fashionable one, devoted exclusively to
bachelors' quarters, Jimmie Dale quickened his step, walked on to the
next corner, crossed the street, and came back along the block. As he
approached the apartment-house entrance, voices reached him from the
vestibule, and then he heard the closing of a door.
"Ground floor--left," murmured Larry the Bat to himself. He smiled
facetiously. "Saves an interview with the janitor!"
He glanced sharply around him in all directions--and the next instant
was inside the vestibule--and in another, without a sound, was crouched
close against the apartment door. A delicate little steel picklock was
working now, the deft fingers manipulating it silently, and then
stealthily he pushed the door open a crack. A man's voice, agitated,
came to him from within: "... Perhaps twenty minutes, I don't know--the
length of time it took you to get here. I was dining out. I 'phoned
Headquarters the instant I came in."
Jimmie Dale pushed the door further open, slipped through, and left the
door just ajar behind him. He was in the hallway of a very small
apartment, of not more than two or three rooms, he judged. Diagonally
ahead of him a light streamed out from an open door. He stole toward
this, and, pressed close against the jamb of the door, peered in.
It was a sort of sitting-room, or den, cosily furnished with deep,
comfortable lounging chairs. There was a flat-topped desk in the centre,
a telephone on the desk; and at the rear of the room a connecting door,
leading presumably to the bedroom, was open. A clean-shaven, dark-eyed
man of perhaps thirty-five, Kenleigh obviously, was pacing nervously up
and down. His face was pale, his hair ruffled; and, in his distraction,
apparently, he had forgotten to remove the cloak which he was wearing
over his evening clothes. In the far corner of the room, Meighan, the
detective, knelt upon the floor amidst a scene of grotesque disorder.
The door of a very small safe had been "souped," and now sagged open.
Books and papers littered the floor, and were strewn over a mattress
that, evidently dragged from the inner room, had been swaddled around
the safe to deaden the sound of the explosion.
"You don't understand!" Kenleigh burst out, with a groan. "This means
absolute ruin to me! A hundred thousand dollars in bonds--payable to
bearer--and--and, God help me, they weren't mine!"
"Say"--Meighan, still busily occupied with the fractured safe, spoke
gruffly, though not unkindly, over his shoulder--"I understand all
right, but don't lose your nerve, Mr. Kenleigh. It won't get you
anywhere, and it doesn't follow because the swag is gone that we can't
get it back. I know the guy that pulled this job."
"You--_what!_" Kenleigh, his face lighting up as though with a sudden
hope, stepped quickly toward the detective. "What did you say? You know
who did it!"
"Don't get excited!" advised Meighan coolly. "Sure, I know! That is,
it's a toss-up between one of two, and that's easy. We'll round 'em both
up before morning, and then I guess it won't be much of a trick to pick
the winner. They won't be looking for trouble as quick as this. We'll
get 'em, all right. It's a toss-up between Mug Garretty and the Magpie."
Kenleigh was staring incredulously at the detective.
"How do you know?" he gasped out. "I--I don't--"
"I daresay you don't." Meighan was chuckling now. "It's like this, Mr.
Kenleigh. A crook's like any one else, like an artist, say--you get to
know 'em, get to spot 'em, especially safe workers, from certain
peculiarities about their work. They can't any more help it than stop
breathing. Here, for instance, the way he--" Meighan stopped suddenly.
He had been pulling the mattress away from the front of the safe, and
now, with a sharp, exultant exclamation, he stooped quickly and picked
up a small object from the floor. He held it out, twirling It between
thumb and forefinger, for Kenleigh's inspection--a flashy scarf pin,
horseshoe-shaped, of blatantly imitation diamonds.
Kenleigh shook his head bewilderingly.
"I suppose you mean that you recognise it?" he ventured.
"Recognize it!" Meighan laughed low, and, stepping past Kenleigh to the
desk, picked up the telephone, and called Headquarters. "Recognise it!"
With the receiver to his ear, waiting for his connection, he turned
toward Kenleigh. "Why, say, walk over to the Bowery and show it to the
first person you meet, and he'd call the turn. Pretty, isn't it? When
he's dolled up, he's some--hello!" He swung around to the telephone.
"Headquarters?... Meighan speaking from Kenleigh's apartment... Get a
drag out for the Magpie on the jump.... Eh?... Yes!... Left his visiting
card.... What?... Yes, wound a mattress around the box and souped it;
his scarf pin must have caught in the ticking and pulled out.... Sure,
that's the one--the horseshoe--found it on the floor.... What?... Yes,
the chances are ten to one he will, it's his only play.... All right,
I'll get Mr. Kenleigh's story meanwhile.... I'll be here till you
'phone.... Yes.... All right!"
Meighan hung up the receiver, sat down in a chair, and motioned toward
another that was close alongside the desk.
"Turn out the light, Mr. Kenleigh," he said abruptly; "and sit
Kenleigh looked his amazement.
"Turn out the light?" he repeated perplexedly.
"Yes," Meighan nodded. "And at once, please."
Obeying mechanically, Kenleigh moved toward the electric-light switch.
There was a faint click, and the apartment was in darkness. Came then
the sound of Kenleigh making his way back across the room, and settling
himself in the chair beside the detective.
"I--I don't quite see," said Kenleigh, a little nervously. "I--"
"You will in a minute," interrupted Meighan, in a low voice. "Don't make
any noise now, and don't speak much above a whisper. That little glass
stick pin is worth twenty years to the Magpie. See? When he finds that
he has lost it, he'll take any risk to make sure that he didn't lose it
_here_. Get the idea? It would plant him for keeps, and nobody knows it
any better than he does."
"You mean he'll come back here?" whispered Kenleigh eagerly.
"Sure, he'll come back here--if he isn't nabbed beforehand! It's the
only chance he's got. Don't you worry, Mr. Kenleigh. He's a shy bird, is
the Magpie, or he'd have been up the river long before now, but we've
got him coming and going this deal. Now then, I haven't got the details
from you yet. What time this evening did you get back here before you
went out to dine?"
It was quite dark now, and Jimmie Dale leaned forward a little to catch
the words. Both men were speaking in guarded undertones.
"About six o'clock," Kenleigh answered. "I came straight from the
office. I put the bonds in that safe there, and I should say it was a
quarter to seven by the time I had dressed and gone out again."
"And, say, halfpast eleven when you got back. So some time between seven
o'clock and halfpast eleven, Mr. Magpie got into the courtyard, put a
jimmy at work on the bathroom window beyond the bedroom there, got
busy--more likely to be nearer eleven than seven--he would have been
back before now, otherwise, eh?" Meighan seemed to be communing with
himself, rather than talking to Kenleigh. "Wouldn't make such an awful
noise--didn't need much juice on that safe--pretty slick with the
smother game--didn't raise an item, anyway."
There was silence for a moment. Then Meighan spoke again:
"Let's have your story, Mr. Kenleigh. How did you come to bring a
hundred thousand dollars' worth of bonds home with you? And how did the
Magpie get onto the lay?"
"I don't know, unless he stood in with the bond firm's messenger; that's
the only way in which I could account for it," said Kenleigh huskily.
"And I've no right to say that God knows I've no wish to get an innocent
man into trouble. I've no proof--but I can't see any other solution."
Kenleigh's voice broke. He seemed to steady himself with an effort. "I'm
an insurance broker with an office on Wall Street, as I daresay you
know. A client of mine, a well-known millionaire here in the city,
wanted a hundred thousand dollars' worth of the Canadian War Loan bonds,
but for business reasons, he has a large German connection, he did not
want his name to appear in the transaction." Kenleigh hesitated.
"Sure!" said Meighan. "I see. Wise guy! Go on!"
"He commissioned me to get them for him." Kenleigh's voice was agitated
as he continued. "I telephoned Thorpe, LeLand and Company, the brokers,
where I was personally known, explained the circumstances, and placed
the order. My client was to give me a check for the amount on the
delivery of the bonds to him. I was to place this to my own credit in
the bank, and check against it in favour of Thorpe, LeLand and Company.
They sent the bonds over to my office by a messenger about five o'clock
this afternoon. It was too late to put them in a safe-deposit vault. I
locked them first in my office safe, and then I grew nervous about them,
and took them out again."
"Anybody see you do that?" queried Meighan quickly.
"No; I don't see how they could. I've only a small one-room office, and
there was nobody there but myself."
"And so they kind of got your goat, and you figured the safest thing to
do was to bring them home with you?" suggested Meighan.
"Yes." There was a miserable note of dejection in Kenleigh's voice.
"Yes; that's what I did. And I put them in that safe. You know the rest,
and--and, oh, my God, what am I to do! My client, naturally, won't pay
for what he does not receive, and I owe Thorpe, LeLand and Company a
hundred thousand dollars." He laughed out a little hysterically. "A
hundred thousand dollars! It sounds like a joke, doesn't it? I've got a
little money, all I've been able to save in ten years' work, a few
thousand. I'm ruined."
"Don't talk so loud!" cautioned Meighan. He whistled low under his
breath. "You're certainly up against it, Mr. Kenleigh, but you buck up!
We'll get 'em. And, anyway, bonds can be traced."
"These are payable to bearer," said Kenleigh numbly. "There were three
classes of bonds in this issue--those payable to bearer; those
registered as to principal; and those fully registered, that is where
the interest is paid by government check instead of the bonds having
coupons. Naturally, under the circumstances, it was the
'payable-to-bearer' bonds that my client wanted."
"Well, they're numbered, aren't they?" Meighan returned encouragingly.
"That's poor consolation for me," said Kenleigh bitterly. "Suppose some
of them, or even all of them, were recovered that way in time--where do
I stand to-morrow morning?"
"I guess that's right--if the Magpie ever got a chance to hand them over
to some fence," admitted Meighan. "The fence could dispose of them by
the underground route all over the country where the numbers weren't
staring everybody in the face. Yes, I guess they could cash in, all
right. Or it wouldn't be much of a trick for a good plate-worker to
alter a number or two, either--the game's big enough. But"--Meighan
chuckled again--"he hasn't got away with it yet!"
Kenleigh made no answer.
It was still again in the apartment. Through the darkness only a few
feet away from Jimmie Dale, the two men sat there silently, waiting, as
he had waited, in the darkness, and the silence--for the Magpie. There
seemed an abhorrent, gruesome analogy in the situation--this waiting for
a _murdered_ man to come!
The minutes dragged by, ten, fifteen of them. And now Jimmie Dale,
cramped though he was, dared not shift his position; the movement of a
foot, the slightest stir would be heard. It would have been better if he
had gone before they had ceased talking. He had heard enough long before
then, and yet--
Suddenly, startling, like the clash of an alarm bell through the
silence, the telephone rang. Jimmie Dale heard Meighan fumble for the
receiver; and then, as the other spoke, seizing the opportunity, he
began to retreat stealthily back across the hallway toward the
"Hello!" Meighan's voice was still guarded. "Yes--yes ... What!" His
voice rose suddenly in a rasping cry. "What's that! Dead! _Murdered_!
Wait a minute! Kenleigh, they've found the Magpie murdered in his room!"
"Murdered!" cried Kenleigh; then, frantically: "But the bonds, the
bonds! Did they find the bonds? Ask them! Tell them to look! The bonds!
Are the bonds there?"
"Hello!" Meighan was evidently speaking into the 'phone again.
"Any trace of the bonds? ... What? ... Yes, yes; go on, I'm
listening! ... _Who_? ... _What_?... Good Lord!" The receiver
clicked back on its hook.
"What is it? What do they say?" demanded Kenleigh feverishly.
"Mr. Kenleigh," said Meighan soberly, "there's been a little feud on in
the underworld for the last few months. It came to a showdown to-night,
and the man that won played in luck--he's killed two birds with one
stone, I guess. It looks damned black for your bonds, I'm afraid."
"They're--they're gone?" faltered Kenleigh.
"Yes--and for keeps, I guess," said Meighan gruffly. He laughed shortly,
mirthlessly. "You can turn the light on now; we'd wait a long time
here--for the Gray Seal!"
AT HALFPAST ONE
Larry the Bat closed the outer door noiselessly behind him, slipped
through the vestibule--and, an instant later, was slouching along Fifth
Avenue, heading back toward Washington Square. His hands in his ragged
pockets clenched. It had been well worked out--with a devil's ingenuity.
The police had swallowed the bait, jumped to the inevitable conclusion
desired, and credited the Gray Seal with the double crime of theft and
murder without an instant's hesitation. Well, why shouldn't they! It had
been well planned; it was natural enough! Larry the Bat, in his turn,
laughed, mirthlessly. But the game was not yet played out!
Through the by-ways, lanes and alleys of the underworld, Jimmie Dale
once more threaded his way, and finally, mounting the dark stairway
leading upward from the side entrance of a small house just off Chatham
Square, he let himself stealthily into a room on the first landing. It
was Virat now, and this was where Virat lived--a locality where a
stranger took his life in his hand any time! Below stairs was a pseudo
tea-merchant's store--kept by a Chinese "hatchet" man. But Lang Chang
had not been in evidence when he, Jimmie Dale, had crept up the stairs,
for there had been no light in the store windows.
And now Jimmie Dale's flashlight was playing around the room. Halfpast
one, she had said. It could not be more than one o'clock as yet There
was ample time to search for the bonds.
He began to move noiselessly around the room--a rather ornately
furnished combination sitting and bedroom. "Keep away, if dangerous,"
had been the Tocsin's caution. He smiled grimly. What danger could there
be? He had only to face one at a time; the Tocsin could absolutely be
depended upon to see to that, and the advantage of surprise was with
him. He was pulling out the drawer of a bureau now--and now his hands
were searching swiftly under the mattress of the bed. It was necessary
to secure the bonds. Barring that little matter of the numbers, they
were as good as cash--and the matter of numbers would not trouble Virat.
He knew Virat, and he had known Virat very well--but not so well by far
as he knew him now! Virat was as suave and polished a gentleman crook as
the country possessed. Viral was the sort of man who, after the uproar
had died down, would have the nerve and address to take up his residence
in some little out-of-the-way place, and either dispose of as many of
the bonds at a time as he dared to those he would cultivate as friends,
or even have the audacity to secure a loan on a modest number of them
from the local bank itself, whose conversance with the missing numbers
might be expected to be of the haziest description. Also Virat would be
careful to see that his offerings were not made at such dates as to have
the interest coupons cause him any inconvenience by falling due within
twenty-four hours! It would be quite simple--for Virate! In six months,
in as many places, with the length and breadth of the country to choose
from, Virat could quite readily dispose of the lot; not quite at the
issue price perhaps if he secured loans, but still at a figure that
would be very profitable--for Virat! Or, as Meighan had suggested, with
the aid of a confederate of the right sort, the change of a figure--ah!
Jimmie Dale; flat upon the floor, his hand stretched in under the
washstand, drew out a short, round, heavy object. He examined this
attentively for a second; and then, his face hardening, he slipped it
into his coat pocket.
He resumed his musings, and resumed his search through the room. Virat
was clever enough to find means of disposing of the bonds in some
fashion or other, and too clever to have ever committed murder for them
otherwise--there was no doubt of that. And, after all, what difference
did it make whatever Virat's method might be! It was extraneous,
immaterial. Jimmie Dale shrugged his shoulders. The vital question
was--where were the bonds?
It was a strange search there in the murderer's room, the flashlight
winking and flinging its little gleams of light through the blackness; a
strange search, thorough as only Jimmie Dale could make it--and still
leave no tell-tale sign behind to witness that a single object in the
room had been disturbed. But the search was futile; and at the end
Jimmie Dale smiled whimsically.
"The process of elimination again!" he muttered. "I seem to be obsessed
with that to-night. Well, not being here, there's only one place the
bonds _can_ be. The process of elimination has its advantages." The
flashlight circled around the room, and held for a moment on the
electric-light switch near the door. "It must be after halfpast one,"
said Jimmie Dale--and suddenly snapped off his light.
There came a faint creaking noise--some one was cautiously mounting the
stairs. Jimmie Dale snatched his automatic from his pocket, and without
a sound stole forward across the room to a position by the door. The
footsteps were on the landing now. The doorknob was tried; the door
began to open slowly, inch by inch, wider; a dark form slipped through
into the room; the floor was closed again--and Jimmie Dale, reaching
forward, clapped the muzzle of his automatic against the other's head.
But it was Larry the Bat who spoke--in a hoarse, guttural whisper.
"Youse let a peep outer youse, an' youse goes bye-bye for keeps! See?
Put yer hands over yer head, an' do it--_quick_!"
Jimmie Dale's left hand reached out and switched on the light. It was
Meighan, hands elevated, startled, angry, who stood blinking in the
glare--and then a low cry came from the man.
"Larry the Bat--the Gray Seal! So it's a plant, is it! That damned
she-pal of yours handed it to me good over the 'phone!" Meighan's lips
tightened. "And where's Virat--did you kill him, too?"
Jimmie Dale's hand was searching swiftly through the detective's
clothes. He transferred a revolver and a pair of handcuffs to his
"I had ter take a chance on de light," said Larry the Bat plaintively;
"'cause I had ter frisk youse." He turned off the light again. "Sure,
she's a slick one!" Larry the Bat, his left hand free again, turned his
flashlight upon the detective. "Youse can put yer flippers down now.
Mabbe she staked youse ter de tip dat de bonds was here, eh?"
"Yes, blast you--both of you!" growled Meighan.
"Well, dey ain't," said Larry the Bat coolly; "but mabbe, after all, she
wasn't handin' youse no steer."
Meighan, savage at his own helplessness, snarled his words.
"What do you mean?" he demanded.
"Mabbe nothin'--mabbe a whole lot." Larry the Bat dropped his voice
mysteriously. "I was thinkin' of pullin' off a little show here, an'
youse have de luck ter get an invite, dat's all. Mabbe I'll hand youse
somethin' on a gold platter, an' mabbe I'll hand youse--_this_!" The
automatic was shoved significantly an inch closer to Meighan's face.
"Youse know me! Youse know what'll happen if youse play any funny
tricks! No guy gets de Gray Seal alive--I guess youse are wise ter dat,
ain't youse? Now den, over youse go behind dat big chair on de other
side of de table!"
Meighan, a puzzled look replacing the angry expression on his
"What's the lay?" he queried.
"I'm expectin' company," grinned Larry the Bat. "Youse keeps yer yap
closed till youse gets de cue--savvy? Dat's all! If youse play fair,
mabbe youse'll get a look-in on de rake-off; if youse throws me down,
the first shot I fires won't miss _youse_. Go on now, get down behind
Hesitantly, following the flashlight's directing ray, covered by Jimmie
Dale's automatic, Meighan, muttering, made his way across the room, and
crouched down behind the back of a large lounging chair. Jimmie Dale
leaned nonchalantly against the jamb of the door, the flashlight holding
a bead upon the chair.
"Youse'll pardon me if I keeps de spot-light on youse," drawled Larry
the Bat, "Some of youse dicks ain't trustworthy."
"Look here!" Meighan burst out. "This is a hell of a note! What--"
"Youse shut yer face!" Jimmie Dale's voice had grown suddenly cold and
menacing--the stairs were creaking again, this time under a quick tread.
"Listen! Say, youse don't have ter wait long fer de curtain, ter go up
on de act. Don't youse make a sound!"
The doorknob turned. Jimmie Dale whipped his flashlight into his
pocket--and in a flash, as a man entered, switched on the light, and
slammed shut the door. A dapper individual, wearing tortoise-rimmed
glasses, with black moustache and goatee, was staring into the muzzle of
Jimmie Dale's automatic.
"Hello, Frenchy!" observed Larry the Bat suavely. "Feelin' faint?"
The man's face had gone a chalky white. He looked wildly around him, as
though seeking some avenue of escape.
"_Mon Dieu_!" he whispered. "Larree ze Bat! It is ze Gray Seal!
"Aw, cut out dat parlay-voo dope!" Larry the Bat broke in curtly. "Youse
don't need ter pull dat stuff wid me, Virat. Talk New York, see?"
Virat moistened his lips with the tip of his tongue.
"What do you want here?" he asked huskily.
"Oh, nothin' much," said Larry the Bat airily. "I thought mabbe youse
might figure dere was some of dem bonds comin' ter me."
"Bonds! I don't know anything about any bonds," said Virat, in a low
voice. "I don't know what you are talking about.'
"You don't--eh?" inquired Larry the Bat ominously. "Well den, I'll help
ter put youse wise. But mabbe I'd better get yer gun first, eh?" As he
had done to Meighan, he removed a revolver from Virat's pocket.
"T'anks!" he said. He pushed Virat with his revolver muzzle toward the
table, and forced the other into a chair. He sat down opposite Virat,
and smiled unpleasantly. "Now den, come across! Youse croaked de Magpie
"You're dippy!" sneered Virat. "I haven't seen the Magpie in a month."
"An' dat's what youse did it wid." Larry the Bat, as though he had not
heard the other's denial, reached into his pocket, and shoved a small,
murderous, bloodstained blackjack, the leather-covered piece of lead
pipe that he had found beneath the washstand, suddenly across the table
under Virat's eyes.
With a sharp cry, staring, Virat shrank back.
"Sure! Now youse're talkin'!" approved Larry the Bat complacently. "But
dat ain't all. Say, youse have got a gall! Youse thought youse'd plant
me, did youse, wid dat gray seal on de Magpie's boot!" Jimmie Dale's
voice was deadly cold again. "Well, what about dat?"
"What do you want?" mumbled Virat.
Jimmie Dale's smile was not inviting.
"I told youse once, didn't I? What do youse suppose I want! If I got ter
fall fer it, I want some of dem bonds--dat's what I want!"
A look of relief spread over Virat's face.
"All right," he said hurriedly. "I--that's--that's fair. I--I'll get
them for you." He started up from his chair, his eyes travelling
instinctively toward the door.
"Youse sit down!" invited Larry the Bat coldly.
"But--but you said--I--I was going to get them," faltered Virat.
"Sure!" said Larry the Bat. "Dat's de idea! An', say, I'm in a hurry.
Dey ain't over dere, Frenchy--try nearer home!"
Virat's hands trembled as he unbuttoned his vest. He reached around
under the back of his vest, drew out a flat package, and laid it on the
table. He began to untie the cord.
"Wait a minute!" said Larry the Bat pleasantly. "I ain't in so much of a
hurry now dat I got me lamps on 'em! Youse can count 'em out after--half
for youse, an' half fer me. Tell us how youse fixed de lay."
And then, for the first time, Virat laughed, though still a little
"Yes, that's square," he agreed eagerly. "I--I was afraid you were
going to pinch them all. I'll tell you. It was easy. I piped the Magpie
off to a chap named Kenleigh having the bonds up there in his rooms in
an apartment house. I couldn't crack Kenleigh's safe myself, but it was
nuts for the Magpie--see? He cracked the safe. I was with him, and I
copped that near-diamond pin of his, and left it there so there wouldn't
be any guessing as to who pulled off the job, and then we beat it back
to his place to divide--and I beaned him. I wasn't looking into any gun
then, and handing over fifty thousand--and besides, with the Magpie out
of the way, I had _some_ alibi." Virat laughed shortly. "That's where
you come in. Everybody knew you had it in for him. All I had to do
was--well, what you said I did. If you hadn't tumbled to it, and I'm
damned if I can see how you did, there wasn't anything to it at all. It
was open and shut that the Magpie pinched the swag, and that you croaked
him and beat it with the bonds."
"Say," said Larry the Bat admiringly, "youse're some slick gazabo, youse
are! But how did youse know dat guy Kenleigh had de goods?"
"That's none of your business, is it?" replied Virat, a little
defiantly. "You're getting yours now."
Larry the Bat appeared to ponder the other's words, a curious smile
on his lips.
"Well, mabbe it ain't," he admitted. "Let it go anyway, an' split the
swag. Count 'em out!"
Virat picked up the package again, and began to untie it--and again
Jimmie Dale's hand slipped into his pocket. And then, quick as the
winking of an eye, as Virat's hands came together over a knot, Jimmie
Dale leaned across the table, there was a click, and the steel were
locked on the other's wrists.
There was a scream of fury, an oath from Virat.
"Dat's yer cue, Meighan," called Larry the Bat calmly. "Come out an'
take a look at him!"
A ghastly pallor spreading over his face, staring like a demented man,
as Meighan, rising from behind the lounging chair, advanced toward the
table, Virat huddled back in his seat.
"Know him?" inquired Larry the Bat.
The detective bent sharply forward.
"My god!" he exclaimed. "It's--no, it can't--"
"Mabbe," murmured Larry the Bat, "youse'd know him better when he ain't
dolled up." He swept the glasses from Virat's nose, and wrenched away
the black moustache and goatee.
_"Kenleigh!"_ gasped Meighan.
"Mabbe," said Larry the Bat, with a twisted grin, "dere's somethin' he
may have fergotten ter wise youse up on, but he didn't mean ter hide
nothin' in his confession--did youse, Frenchy? An' mabbe dere's one or
two other things in de years he's been playin' Kenleigh dat he'll tell
youse about, if youse ask him--nice and pleasant-like!"
Larry the Bat edged around the table, and, covering Meighan with his
revolver, backed to the door.
"Well, so long, Meighan!" he said softly, from the threshold. "T'ink of
me when dey pins de medal on yer breast fer dis!"
And then Jimmie Dale laid Meighan's revolver down on the floor of the
room, and locked the door on the outside with a pick-lock, and went down
'WARE THE WOLF
Jimmie Dale's fingers, in the darkness, were deftly tying around his
body the leather girdle with its finely-tempered, compact kit of
burglar's tools. It was strange, this note of hers to-night--strange,
even, where all the notes that she had ever written had been strange! It
had been left half an hour ago at the door of the St. James Club--and he
had hastened here to the Sanctuary. It was curiously strange! Three
nights ago, he had seen Frenchy Virat safely in the hands of the police,
and Frenchy Virat was still safely in police custody--but he, Jimmie
Dale, was not yet done with Frenchy Virat, it seemed! The note had made
that quite clear. There was still the Wolf; and it was the Wolf that
filled this anxious, hurried word from her to-night.
The Wolf! He knew the Wolf well--as Larry the Bat in the old days he had
even known the other personally as Smarlinghue of to-day he had
progressed that far into the inner ring of the underworld again as to be
on nodding terms with the Wolf. The man was a power in the
underworld--and a devil in human guise. In a career extending back over
many years, a career in which no single crime in the decalogue had been
slighted, the Wolf had successfully managed to evade the clutches of the
law until his name had become a synonym for craft and cunning in the Bad
Lands, and the man himself the object of the vicious hero-worship of
that sordid world where murder cradled and foul things lived. The
police had marked the man, marked him a score of times; in their records
a hundred unsolved crimes pointed to the Wolf--but they had never "got"
him--always the thread of evidence that seemed to lead to that queer
house near Chatham Square was broken on the way--and the Wolf, with
steadily increasing prestige and authority in gangland, laughed in the
faces of the police, and here and there a plain-clothes man,
over-zealous perhaps, _died_.
That was the Wolf--but that was not all! Jimmie Dale's face hardened
into grim lines, as he lifted out from under the baseboard
"Smarlinghue's" frayed and seedy coat, and put it on. Between the Wolf
and the Gray Seal there was now a personal feud. Above the reek of those
whisperings in the underworld, above that muttered slogan, "_death to
the Gray Seal,_" that men flung at each other from the twisted corners
of their mouths, the Wolf had snarled, and the underworld had listened,
and the underworld was waiting now--the Wolf had pledged himself to rid
the Bad Lands of the terror that had crept upon it. He had sworn, and
staked his reputation on his pledge, to "get" Larry the Bat, _alias_ the
Gray Seal--and in the eyes of the underworld, as the underworld sighed
with relief, it was already accomplished, for the Wolf had never failed.
Jimmie Dale stooped down, felt in under the baseboard again, and took
out a little make-up box. The Wolf's incentive was not one of
philanthropy toward his fellow denizens of crimeland, whose ranks had
been thinned by those who, thanks to the Gray Seal, had gone "up the
river," some of them, many of them, to that room in Sing Sing's
death-house from which none ever returned alive; nor was it, to give the
Wolf his due, through a personal fear that his own career might end, as
those others' had, at the hands of the Gray Seal; nor, again, was it
through any tardy, eleventh-hour conversion, any belated edging toward
the way of grace that found expression in a desire to array himself on
the side of those representing the forces of law and order. It was none
of these things that actuated the Wolf--it was Frenchy Virat, _alias_
one Kenleigh, who was awaiting trial in the Tombs. Frenchy Virat was the
Wolf's bosom friend!
The wheezy, air-choked gas-jet spluttered into a blue flame, as Jimmie
Dale lighted it. It disclosed, in shadow, the battered easel, the dirty
canvases, some finished, some but tentative daubs, that banked the wall
in disorder opposite the small French window, whose shade was closely
drawn; it crept dimly into the far corner of the room and disclosed the
cheap cot, unmade, the blanket upon it rumpled in negligent untidiness;
it fell full, such as its fulness was, upon the rickety table that was
littered with unwashed dishes and sticky paint tubes, and, at one end of
the table, on an evening newspaper, and, beside the newspaper, the
Tocsin's note and a newspaper clipping.
Jimmie Dale sat down at the table, brushed the dishes and paint tubes
together into a heap, and propped up against them a cracked and streaked
mirror. He opened his make-up box, and as, swiftly, with masterly touch,
the grey, sickly pallor that was Smarlinghue's transformed his face, and
as, from little distorting pieces of wax, there came into being the
hollow cheeks, the thin, extended lips, the widened nostrils, he kept
glancing at the newspaper, reading again an article that was set, on the
front page, under heavy type captions--the article which was identical
with the clipping, and which latter the Tocsin had enclosed with her
note, lest he should not have seen the original himself.
UNIDENTIFIED BODY FOUND UNDER PIER IN NORTH RIVER
VICTIM OF FOUL PLAY
FACE IS MUTILATED BEYOND RECOGNITION
The details as set forth in the "story" were gruesomely interesting
enough from a morbid point of view; but from the point of view of the
police they were both meagre and unsatisfactory. It was murder
unquestionably--and murder of a most brutal character. The headline
had epitomised it--the face was mutilated beyond recognition. Every
belonging, obviously with the design to prevent, or at least retard,
identification, had been stripped from the body. One point alone
appeared to be established, and that, if anything, but added to the
mystery which surrounded the crime. According to medical opinion, the
murder had been committed but a very short time before the body was
discovered; and, since the victim had been found at three o'clock
that afternoon, the body must have been thrown into the water in
Jimmie Dale worked on--his fingers seeming to fly with ever-increasing
speed. There was no time to lose; every minute, every second, counted
against him. If he could only have acted on the instant, as Jimmie Dale,
when he had received the note at the club! But he had not had that
leather girdle at the club--no blue-steel tools that would be needed, no
mask, and he had not been armed--everything had been here in the
Sanctuary. And, once here, since he had been forced to lose that much
time, he had risked a little more, precious as the moments were, for
the advantages, the safety, the freedom of movement, afforded by the
character of Smarlinghue. However, it was still but barely eleven
o'clock, and the chances were that the Wolf would hardly have deemed it
late enough as yet to set to work. On the other hand--well, on the other
hand, if the Wolf had proved the early bird, then, perhaps, he and the
Wolf would have, in another place and time to-night, a more personal
reckoning than was anticipated in the Tocsin's plan!
His eyes picked up snatches of her note, as they skimmed it
"... The Wolf ... old storehouse on river front ... through trap into
the water ... old Webb ... Spider Webb ... ten thousand dollar
Moorcliffe jewel robbery ... cash box ... safe behind panelling in
bedroom directly opposite the door ... false bottom ... afraid of the
Wolf ... last few days ... unfinished ... Wolf does not know ... man and
wife upstairs ... old couple ... keep house for the Spider ... no
suspicion that anything has happened ..." And then, at the end, a more
personal, intimate touch: "Jimmie, it is not to save some one else that
I have written this to-night, for that is now too late--it is to save
_you_. The Wolf is dangerous and I am afraid. You know that he has sworn
to trap you. He is cunning, Jimmie--do not underestimate him. That is
why I have written this--if you succeed to-night ..."
Jimmie Dale's fingers were tearing the note now into infinitesimal
shreds, and, with it, the newspaper clipping. The newspaper itself he
crumpled up and tossed into the corner. He crossed the room, replaced
the make-up box in its hiding place, put back the movable section of the
base-board, turned out the light--and a minute later, Smarlinghue,
unkempt, stoop-shouldered, let himself out, not by the French window
through which he had entered stealthily in the evening clothes of Jimmie
Dale, but unconcernedly, as was the right of any tenant, by the door
that opened on the ground-floor passage of the tenement, and shuffled
down the street.
The Wolf--and Spider Webb--and Larry the Bat! It was a curious trio!
Smarlinghue's lips, perhaps because the wax beneath was not yet moulded
comfortably into place, twitched queerly. One of them was dead--the
Spider. There remained--the Wolf and Larry the Bat! No, he did not
underestimate the Wolf--only a fool, and a blinded fool, would do that.
The Wolf had shown his fangs in deadly enough fashion that morning--with
a brutal murder, craftily planned, and hellishly executed! And yet the
Wolf was quite hopelessly illogical! It was no secret in the underworld
that the Wolf and Spider Webb had long worked together, and that the
Spider was a close friend of the Wolf. Yet the Wolf had murdered the
Spider, and at the same time had found a basis for his oath to end Larry
the Bat, because Larry the Bat had been instrumental in handing over to
the police a _friend_ of the Wolf!
Smarlinghue slouched on along the street, but the "slouch" covered the
ground at an amazing rate of speed. He had not far to go--but neither
had he a moment that he dared lose. Spider Webb's old antique shop, but
a few blocks away, nestled in a squalid little courtyard just west of
the Bowery, and on the same side of the Bowery as the Sanctuary.
Some one, out of the shadows of the street, flung him a good-night.
Smarlinghue mumbled his acknowledgment from the corner of his mouth, and
His thoughts were still on the Wolf. He had not exhausted the sum of the
Wolf's digressions from the realms of the logical! In the old days there
had been an intimacy even between the Wolf and Larry the Bat. That
underground passage from the shed into that queer house near Chatham
Square, for instance--which was known only to the _most_ intimate! But
perhaps the Wolf had forgotten, or perhaps even the Wolf had never known
he had been on quite such intimate terms with--Larry the Bat.
Jimmie Dale glanced behind him. There was no one in sight for the
moment. He was at the corner of a lane now--and he chose the lane. It
was a shorter, and a safer route. It bordered on the rear of the
courtyard which was his objective, and obviated the necessity of
attempting to steal down past the side of "The Yellow Eastern"
unnoticed. No, he did not underestimate the Wolf, but if he had luck
to-night--! He shrugged his shoulders in a sort of grim whimsicality.
His mind reverted to the Spider now--Spider Webb. Facetious, in a way,
the name was! Webb--Spider Webb! And yet the man had come by it
honestly, or dishonestly, enough! The old antique shop for years covered
dealings that were shabbier than the shabbiest of its antiques! It was
probable that more stolen had found Spider Webb's a clearing house than
any other Mecca of the crooks in New York. It was probable, too, that it
had known more police raids than any of its competitors--but, unlike
many of its competitors, nothing but what indubitably belonged there had
ever been found. But then again, the Spider was a specialist--he
specialised in small articles, particularly jewelry--no one in the Bad
Lands who knew his way about would ever have dreamed of going to the
Spider with anything else! Nor was the Spider without justification in
thus restricting his operations. The Spider had always managed to hide
his questionable wares, until he was able to dispose of them and they
passed again out of his possession, with an ingenuity that had baffled,
enraged, and mortified the police--and commanded the enthusiastic
confidence and admiration of the underworld! But this was, for the most
part, past history, and of the days gone by, for the Spider now had
grown old--had grown to be an old man--for it had begun of late to be
whispered that he talked more than he had been wont to talk in the days
of his prime, that he was not as _safe_ as he had been, and in
consequence his trade of late had begun to drift away from him.
And herein lay the secret of the old man's murder at the hands of the
Wolf. The Tocsin's note had not failed to lay stress on this. No one
probably, through a career of half a score of years, knew more about the
Wolf and the Wolf's doings than did the Spider. Rightly or wrongly, the
word was out that the old man, in his garrulity, was not safe--and the
Wolf was inviting no chances where the electric chair was concerned,
that was all! The old man would henceforth be perfectly safe, as far as
any _talking_ went! It was brutal, hideous--but it was the Wolf! Also,
the Wolf, tritely expressed, had proposed to kill two birds with one
stone. The old man's trade was not entirely gone. Yesterday, an old-time
lag, who had dealt with the Spider for many years, and who had "pulled"
the Moorcliffe job--the robbery of a summer mansion a few miles up the
Hudson--had "fenced" the proceeds at the antique shop. Ten thousand
dollars' worth of first-water sparklers! Everybody that was anybody in
gangland knew this. The Wolf had seen the psychological and profitable
moment to strike--again that was all! And again it was diabolical--but
again it was the Wolf!
Jimmie Dale's face was set like flint. And this was the man who had
sworn that he would "get" the Gray Seal! A sort of unholy, passionate
joy surged upon him. Well, they would see, he and the Wolf--and perhaps
to-night! It was certain that the Wolf would act _alone_. The man's
devilish cunning showed itself in having inveigled the old man to that
storehouse on the river bank, rather than to have killer the Spider in
the Spider's own home. It might be days perhaps before the Spider's
absence--for the Spider's peculiar life had demanded mysterious absences
before--was even commented upon, and the Wolf had taken pains to see
that the body was not, immediately at least, identified. It was very
simple--from the Wolf's standpoint! The Wolf was counting it none too
easy a task evidently to find the Spider's ingenious and storied hiding
place, and this would give him a night, two nights, or more, in which,
undisturbed, he might prosecute his search. And, as he had committed
alone, so he would continue to work alone, there were those even in
gangland, and in spite of the acknowledged leadership, who would not
look with friendly eyes upon the Wolf for this!
It was black here in the lane, and now, possibly a distance of a hundred
yards up from the street, Jimmie Dale's fingers, feeling along the
left-hand fence, came upon the latch of a small, narrow door--the
courtyard's access to the lane. He passed through, and stood still--
listening--looking sharply about him. He knew the place well. It was the
heart and centre, the core of its own particular and vicious section of
the underworld. Ahead of him, flanking the two-story, tumble-down
building that was the Spider's home, was a narrow alleyway, then a small
and filthy courtyard, and, its rear upon this and fronting the street,
the alleyway again at the side, the "The Yellow Lantern" that he had
been careful to avoid a dance hall of the lowest type. The Spider had
not unshrewdly chosen his location; nor the proprietor of "The Yellow
Lantern" his--their clientele was a common one, and their interests did
From the direction of "The Yellow Lantern" came a hilarious uproar,
subdued somewhat by the distance, out of which arose the strident notes
of a tinny piano beating blatantly the measure of a turkey trot. There
was no other sound. There were lights from the rear of the dance hall,
enough, Jimmie Dale knew, to throw a murky illumination over the front
windows of the antique shop; but there were no lights showing from the
Spider's dwelling itself, that loomed black on the side of the alleyway
at his right hand--the old couple that kept the Spider's house were
doubtless long since in bed in their own particular apartments upstairs.
Jimmie Dale moved softly forward now, gained the back entrance of the
Spider's house, and tried the door cautiously. It was locked. From one
of the little pockets in the girdle under his shirt came a black silk
mask, which he slipped over his face; from another of the pockets came a
little steel picklock. He was pressed close against the door now, his
body merged with the black shadows of the wall. A minute passed--and
then the door swung open, and closed without a sound. Another minute
passed, and still another. From upstairs came the sound of stertorous
breathing, nothing else, only quiet, and a silence that was heavy in
itself--and then the round, white ray of Jimmie Dale's flashlight winked
through the blackness. As between himself and the Wolf, he was first, at
least, on the ground!
He was in the kitchen of the house. On the opposite side of the room
from him were two doors, one of them, the one to the left, open--and the
flashlight, playing through, disclosed a passageway leading, obviously,
to the shop at the front, and continuing to the stairway. He crossed to
the right-hand door noiselessly, opened it, and, with a low ejaculation
of satisfaction, stepped in over the threshold. It was the room he
sought--the Spider's bedroom, or, better perhaps, the Spider's den that
served the man for all purposes. The Spider, it was very plain, was not
fastidious! The room was dingy beyond description; the furnishings poor
and poverty-stricken in appearance. It was here the Spider met his
clients of a sort--and drove his bargains. There was no hint of
affluence--the room was miserly.
The flashlight swept in a circle around the room. There was a bed in one
corner, a table and two chairs in another, and a miserable washstand in
still another. The centre of the room, save for an old carpet on the
floor, was quite bare of furnishings. Jimmie Dale's survey of the
appointments, however, was most cursory--they concerned him little. The
flashlight's ray was even lifted above them, as it moved about. There
was only one door--the door by which he had entered; and only one
window--which, with a sudden frown, he mentally noted did not open on
the alleyway, for the very sufficient reason that the alleyway was on
the other side of the house. He stepped quickly to the window, and
looked out. It was a moment before he could see; and then, with a quick
nod of his head, he began, with extreme caution to loosen the window
catches on the sill. There was a narrow space between the house and what
was the blank brick wall of the building next to it, and this space
extended to the rear, and therefore, indirectly, by circling the house
at the back, led to the house and the door in the fence again.
Jimmie Dale smiled grimly, as he swung the old-fashioned windows back on
either side. So far he was in luck to-night, and, with luck, in a very
few minutes now be out and away from the house by the same way he had
entered it--but luck sometimes was a fickle thing, and a goddess most
to be trusted by those who looked after themselves!
He walked back to the doorway, and levelled his flashlight across the
room directly in front of him. The ray fell upon the wooden panelling,
and, holding the light steadily on the same spot, he moved forward
across the floor to the opposite wall, dropped on his hands and knees,
and began to examine the woodwork critically. It was beautiful work,
this panelling that went all around the room, very old, but very
beautiful work, and of very beautifully matched wood--it was entirely
out of place with the rest of the room, or would have been, were it not
that the panelling itself bore witness to the fact that it had been
built in there when the house itself had been built, and bore witness,
too, to the fact that in those days, long gone by, a relic perhaps even
of Dutch handiwork, the house had not been unpretentious amongst its
fellows of that generation.
"Behind panelling in bedroom directly opposite the door," she had
written. Inch by inch, over an area a yard square, those sensitive
finger tips of Jimmie Dale felt their way, lingering here over a knot
in the wood, and there over a joint or crevice. Five minutes went
by--and the five became ten. An exclamation of annoyance, low, guarded,
escaped him. There was nothing--he could find nothing. The Spider's
ingenuity had not been over-rated! Somewhere there must be the secret
spring which operated the panel, but there was no sign of it; neither
was there the slightest sign or indication that any portion of the
panelling was even movable.
He drew back for an instant, frowning. Perhaps--and then he shook his
head--no, the Tocsin did not make mistakes of that kind. The safe was
unquestionably behind the panelling in front of him. Well, there was a
way--it was distasteful to him because it was crude and bungling, but
he could afford no more time in a search, that he had already convinced
himself was hopeless.
From the girdle came a half dozen little blue-steel tools. A jimmy found
and nosed its way into the joint between two panels. There was a low,
faint creak of rending wood. A wedge followed the jimmy. A faint creak
again--and now one a little louder--and Jimmie Dale, half turned,
listened intently--the narrow board was in his hand. There was
nothing--no sound--save that interrupted, stertorous breathing from
above, and the tinny jangle of the piano from the direction of "The
And now Jimmie Dale smiled again--that curious flicker on his lips that
mingled whimsicality and a deadly earnestness. The Tocsin had made no
mistake. Showing through the aperture, gleaming under the flashlight's
ray, was the nickel dial of a safe. He worked rapidly now. The first
panel out, the remainder came much more readily--and finally the entire
face of the safe was disclosed. Jimmie Dale stared at it--and pursed his
lips. It was an ugly safe, extremely ugly--from a cracksman's point of
view! Also, there seemed a hint of irony, a jeer almost, in the
impassive wall of steel that confronted him. It was one of his own
make--one that had helped, in the old days, to amass the millions that
his father had left to him--and it was one of the _best_!
In an abstracted, deliberate way, his eyes pondering the safe, the
blue-steel tools were replaced in the pockets of the leather girdle; and
then the long, slim, tapering fingers closed upon the dial's knob and
twirled it tentatively, and his head bent forward until his ear was
pressed hard against the face of the safe.
It was very still now--only the breathing from above that seemed in
cadence with those strange and paradoxical palpitations that are known
only in a great silence--the piano for the moment had ceased its jangle.
Jimmie Dale's fingers, from the dial, sought the floor, and frictioned
briskly over the rough, threadbare carpet, until the nerves tingled
under the delicate skin--and then they shot to the dial again.
Strained, every faculty keyed up to its highest tension, he crouched
there against the safe. Again and again his fingers rubbed over the
rough carpet, and again the sweat beads oozed out upon his forehead with
the strain--and then there came through the stillness a long-drawn
intake of his breath. The handle swung the bolt with a low metallic
thud--the safe was open.
There was the inner door now. Again those slim fingers, almost raw,
quivering now at the tips, rubbed along the carpet, and the lips, just
showing beneath the edge of the mask, grew tight with pain. Then he
leaned forward, crouched once more, his head and shoulders inside the
outer door, like some strange animal burrowing for its prey. Faint,
musical, like some far distant tinkle, came the twirling of the
dial--and then, suddenly, he drew back sharply, his hand shot to his
pocket, whipped out his automatic, and, motionless there on his knees,
every muscle rigid, he listened. There was the piano again, the
breathing, the weird pound and thump of the silence--nothing else. He
shook his head in half angry, half tolerant self-remonstrance. He was
under strain, that was all--he had thought he had heard a footstep out
there in the alleyway. He laid his automatic on the floor within instant
reach, and turned again to the safe--acute and sensitive as his hearing
was, it would haw taken good ears indeed to have distinguished a step at
that distance on the other side of the house!
But now he worked, seemingly at least, with even greater rapidity than
before. Imagination had had one effect, if it had had no other--it was a
spur, a reminder that at any moment there might well be a footstep, and
one that was born only of the imagination! His jaws clamped. He had not
counted on this--an old-fashioned iron monstrosity that was dismaying
only in its appearance, perhaps--but not this! He had been here far
longer now than he--
'Ah'--tense, low, that deep intake of the breath again.
The inner door swung wide; the flashlight's ray leaped, dazzling white,
into the interior, and, on the lower shelf, upon a flat, narrow, black
tin box--the cash-box.
In an instant, Jimmie Dale had picked it up. It was not locked, and he
lifted the cover. From within there scintillated back the gleam of
diamonds--a handful of pendants, brooches, ear-rings lay there
disclosed, and, too, a string of pearls. Ten thousand dollars! It was a
modest figure! He reached his hand inside the box--and on the instant
snatched it back, and thrust the box swiftly into his pocket. The
flashlight was out. The room was in darkness.
This time it was not imagination--nor, he knew now, had it been
imagination before. There was a faint creak of the flooring in the
kitchen, a single incautious step that he placed as having come from
near the doorway of the passage--and now some one had halted on the
threshold of the room itself. Jimmie Dale's brain was working with
lightning speed. There had been no time to reach the window--time only
to snatch up his automatic and retreat a little from the immediate
vicinity of the safe. Had the other heard the slight sound--it was only
the brushing of his coat against the wall! Much less had there been time
to close the safe--nor would it have done any good--he could not have
replaced the broken panelling! And now--_what_? The man, with a stealth
that he, Jimmie Dale, except for that one incautious footfall, could not
have excelled, must have entered through a window from the alleyway into
the passage. It was dark, utterly dark--save that the window showed
dimly like a faint transparent square set in the blackness.
He could not see, but he could _sense_ the other standing there in the
doorway, motionless, silent, as though listening. Perhaps a minute
passed. There was something nerve-racking now in the silence, something
sinister, something pregnant with menace. And then, suddenly, there
came a low, scratching sound, and a match flame spurted through the
darkness, and lighted up a face--a face that was thrust forward through
the doorway with a sort of pent-up and malicious eagerness; a vicious
face, with sharp, restive black eyes under great, hairy eyebrows; a
face with a huge jaw, outflung now, that was like the jaw of a beast.
It was the Wolf!
It held for the fraction of a second, that light--no more. It
travelled upward past the face, as though the Wolf were holding it
above his head to get his bearings; and then, with a sharp and furious
oath, the match was hurled to the floor, there was a scuffling sound--
and then silence again.
Jimmie Dale's automatic was thrust a little forward in his hand, as he
crouched against the wall. He could have shot the man, as the other
stood in the doorway. The Wolf had offered a target that it would have
been hard to miss--and it would, one day, have saved the law the same
task! He was a fool, perhaps, that he had not taken what was, perhaps
again, the one chance he had for his life, for he was at a decided
disadvantage now, since he knew intuitively that the Wolf, scuttling
back, had now craftily protected himself behind the jamb of the door,
and yet at the same time still commanded the interior of the room. But
he could not have fired in cold blood like that--even upon the Wolf,
devil though the man was, murderer a dozen times over though he the man
to be! He, Jimmie Dale, had never shot to _kill_ not yet--but in a
fight, cornered, if there was no other way...!
He moved a little, a bare few inches, then a few more--without a sound.
In the light of the match, the Wolf must have seen the dismantled
panelling and the open safe, and a masked figure crouched against the
wall--and the Wolf would have marked the position of that crouched
figure against the wall!
Silence--a minute of it--still another!
Again Jimmie Dale moved inch by inch--toward the window. And yet to
attempt the window was to invite a shot and expose himself, for, dark as
it was, his body would show plainly enough against the background of
that lesser gloom of window square.
Jimmie Dale's eyes strained through the blackness across the room. He
could just make out the configuration of the doorway. The Wolf was just
on the other side of it, just inside the kitchen, he was sure of that.
Almost a smile was flickering over Jimmie Dale's tight-pressed lips.
There was a way--there was a way now, if the Wolf did not get him with a
chance shot. He moved again, and reached the window, crouched low
beneath the sill--and passed by the window.
And then the Wolf spoke from the doorway in a hoarse whisper, and in the
whisper there was a low, taunting laugh.
"I been waitin' for you to try the window, but you're too foxy--eh? All