Part 3 out of 6
right, my bucko--then I'll get you another way--with just one shot, see?
And then--_good-night_! And say, whoever t'hell you are, thanks for
crackin' the box for me!"
The man's voice came from the _right_ of the doorway--and the door
opened _inward_--and he, Jimmie Dale, remembered that he had opened it
_wide_. It was slow, very slow, this creeping inch by inch through the
darkness. It seemed as though his breath were as stertorous as that
breathing from above, and that the Wolf must hear.
And then the Wolf laughed low again.
There was a curious crackling noise, as of paper being torn--and then,
quick, in the doorway, came a yellow flame, and the Wolf's hand showed
from around the edge of the jamb, and, making momentary daylight of the
room, a flaming piece of paper, tossed in, fell upon the floor.
There was a flash, the roar of the report--and another--as the Wolf
fired! There was the sullen _spat_ of a bullet upon the panelling an
inch from Jimmie Dale's head--and a sharp and sudden pain, as though a
hot iron had seared his leg.
And now Jimmie Dale's automatic, too, cut flashes with its vicious
flame-tongues through the black. Coolly, steadily, he was firing at the
doorway--to hold the Wolf there--to keep the Wolf now in the position of
the Wolf's own choosing. The paper was but a dull cinder in the centre
of the room; twisted too tightly, it had gone out almost immediately.
There came screams, loud, terrified, in a woman's voice from the floor
above--and the hoarser tones of a man shouting. A window was flung open.
Snarling blasphemous, furious oaths, the Wolf was firing at the flashes
of Jimmie Dale's revolver--but each time as Jimmie Dale fired, the
sound drowned in the roar of the report, he moved a good yard forward.
Came the trampling of feet from overhead now; and now, as the woman
still screamed, answering shouts and yells came from the dance hall.
Jimmie Dale had the foot of the bed now near the corner. He again, and
instantly flung himself flat upon the floor--and, in the answering flash
of the Wolf's shot, placed the exact location of the _door_ itself.
There was tumult enough now to deaden the slight sound he made. He crept
swiftly past the bed to the wall, against which the door, wide open, was
swung back, felt out with his hand, the edge of the door, and, leaping
suddenly to his feet, hurled the door shut upon the Wolf. There was a
scream of pain--the door as it slammed perhaps had caught the Wolf's arm
or wrist--but before it was opened again Jimmie Dale was across the
room, and, flinging himself through the window, dropped to the ground.
The door crashing back against the wall again, the Wolf's baffled yell
of rage, and an abortive shot, told him that his ruse had been solved.
He was running now, as rapidly as he could in the darkness and in the
narrow space between the Spider's house and the wall of the brick
building. Yells in increasing volume sounded from the direction of "The
Yellow Lantern"; and now he could hear the pound of feet racing across
the courtyard toward the antique shop. The woman, from the open window
above, was still screaming with terror.
If he could gain the door in the fence--and the lane! But there was
still the Wolf to reckon with! The Wolf had only to run through the
kitchen and out by the back entrance--the shorter distance of the two.
But the Wolf had already lost a few seconds so that now the race was a
gamble. Could he, Jimmie Dale, get there _first_! He could not run in
the other direction--that would take him into the courtyard, and the
courtyard now, as evidenced by the yells and shouting, was filled with
an excited crowd emptying from the dance hall.
He reached the rear end of the house, and darted across the wider space
here, racing for the opening in the fence--and suddenly changed his
tactics, and began to zigzag a little. A revolver flash cut the night.
Came the Wolf's howl from the back stoop, and, over his shoulder, Jimmie
Dale saw the other, dark-shadowed, leap forward in pursuit--and heard
the Wolf fire again.
He flung himself against the fence door, and it gave with a crash.
Pandemonium reigned behind him. In a blur he saw the courtyard, that was
dimly lighted now by the open doors and open windows of the dance hall,
swaying with shapes, and, like ghostly figures, a mob tearing toward him
down the alleyway.
The Wolf's voice, punctuated with a torrent of blasphemy and vile
invective, shrilled out over the tumult:
"Come on! Here he is! Out in the lane!"
"Who is it?" shrilled another voice.
"I don't know!" yelled the Wolf. "Catch him, and we'll damn soon
Jimmie Dale was running like a hare now down the lane. The Wolf leading,
still firing, the crowd poured out into the lane in pursuit. Jimmie Dale
zigzagged no longer, there was greater risk in that than in risking the
shots--it was black enough in the lane to risk the shots; but his lead,
barely twenty-five yards, was too short to risk their gaining upon him
through his running from side to side.
His brain, cool in peril, worked swiftly. The Sanctuary! That was the
one chance for his life! He had been no more than a masked figure
huddled against the wall of the room in there. The Wolf had not
recognised him. He would be safe if he could reach the Sanctuary! There
were two blocks to go along the street ahead, then the next lane, and
from that into the intersecting lane, the loose board in the fence that
swung at a touch, the French window--and the Sanctuary. But to
accomplish this he must _gain_ upon his pursuers, not merely hold his
own, but increase the distance between them by at least another fifteen
or twenty yards; he must, in other words, be out of range of vision as
he disappeared through the fence. Well, he should be able to do that! It
was the trained athlete against an ill-conditioned, dissolute mob!
He swerved from the lane into the street. There was grim and hellish
humour in the thought that a _wolf_ should be leading the snarling,
howling pack, blood mad now, at his heels! The Wolf had ceased
firing--obviously because the Wolf's revolver was empty. The others, a
lesser breed, and previously intent on a peaceful orgy at the dance
hall, were evidently not armed.
Jimmie Dale gained five yards, another five, and another ten. He had no
fear of being recognised as Smarlinghue even here, where, poorly
illuminated as the street was, it was like bright sunlight compared with
the darkness of the lane. There was no stooped, bent figure, no
slouching gait--there was, instead, a tall, broad-shouldered man, whose
face was masked, and who ran with the speed of a greyhound, and whose
automatic, spitting ahead of him as he ran, invited none of the few
pedestrians, or those rushing to their doorways, to block his path.
He swerved again, into a lane again, the lane he had been making for;
and, as he swerved, he flung a sidelong glance down the street. Yes, his
twenty-five yards were fifty now, except for the Wolf, who ran perhaps
ten yards in advance of any of the others. The howls, yells, shouts and
execrations welled into a louder outburst as he dashed into the lane.
Ten from fifty left forty. Forty yards clear! It was a very narrow
margin, even allowing for the blackness of the lane--but it was
enough--it was slightly more than the distance along the intersecting
lane to the rear of the Sanctuary--he would have pushed aside that loose
board before the Wolf turned the corner from one lane into the other!
Forty yards! Perhaps he could make it forty-five! Forty-five would be
_safer_; and--he reeled suddenly, and staggered, and, with a low cry,
his hands reached upward to his temples. His head was swimming--a
dizziness, a nausea was upon him--his strength seemed as it were being
sapped from his limbs. What was it? He--yes--the wound in his leg!
Yes--he remembered now--that burning like the searing of a hot iron. He
had forgotten it in the excitement. But it could not amount to
anything--or he would not have been able to have come this far. It was
only a passing giddiness--he was better now--see, he was still
running--he had only slowed his pace for an instant--that was all.
They swept into the lane behind him. He looked back--and his lips grew
tight, and bitter hard. It was no longer forty yards--he was _not_
running so fast now--and it was the Wolf, and the Wolf's pack, who
He swerved for the third time--into the stretch of intersecting lane.
The Sanctuary was just ahead, but he must reach that loose board in the
fence and have disappeared before the Wolf swung around the corner
behind him--or else--or else, since that led to nowhere to the French
window of Smarlinghue's room, the game was as good as up if he
He strained forward, striving to mass his strength and fling it into one
supreme effort. He was close now--only another five yards to go. Yes--he
was weak. His teeth set. Four yards--three! If only there were not that
glimmer of light, faint as it was, seeping down the lane from the street
lamp across the road from the Sanctuary! Two yards--now! No! The Wolf's
yell, as the man tore around the corner of the two lanes, rang out like
a knell of doom.
Drawn, white-faced, Jimmie Dale, stumbling now, lurched past that loose
board he had counted upon for what was literally his life--lurched past,
and stumbled on. He could not run much farther. There was one chance
left--just one--that there should be no one to see him enter the _front_
door of the Sanctuary, no one lounging about, no one in the tenement
doorway. If that chance failed--well, then it was the end--_the_ end of
Smarlinghue, the end of Jimmie Dale, the end of Larry the Bat, the end
of the Gray Seal--and the Wolf would have kept his pledge to gangland.
But it would be an end that gangland would long remember, and an end
that the Wolf would share!
The street was just before him now. He turned into it--and there came a
little cry, a moan almost, of relief. The doorway of the tenement was
_clear_. He sprang for it, entered, and, suddenly silent now in his
tread, reached the door of his own room, slipped through and closed it
softly behind him.
And now Jimmie Dale worked with frantic speed. He could hear them
racing, yelling, shouting along the lane. A match crackled in his hand,
and the gas-jet spluttered into flame--the light in the room could not
be seen from the lane. He ran across the room, tearing off his mask as
he went, and, wrenching the cash-box from his pocket, tucked mask and
cash-box behind the disordered array of dirty canvases on the floor--he
dared not take the risk or the time that loosening the base board would
entail. He flung his hat into a corner, and, ripping off his coat,
tossed it upon the cot; then, snatching up a paint tube, he smeared a
daub of paint upon the palette that lay on the table, and laid a wet
brush hurriedly several times across the canvas on the easel.
From the corner of the lane and street outside came the scuffling to and
fro of many feet, as though in uncertainty, in indecision, in hesitancy.
A dozen voices spoke at once, high-pitched, wild, frenzied.
"Where is he?... Which way did he go?... Where--"
And then the Wolf's voice, above the rest, in a sudden, excited yell:
"What's that across there! It's him! There he is! He's kept on up the
The voice was lost in a chorus of shouts, in the pound and stampede of
racing feet again, of the pack in cry. The sounds receded and died in
the distance. Jimmie Dale drew his hand across his forehead and brought
it away damp with sweat. He staggered now to the wash-stand, and from
the drawer took out a bottle of brandy, and, heedless of glass, uncorked
it, and lifted it to his lips. He would never know a closer call! He had
been weaker than he had thought! Thank God for the brandy! The fiery
stimulant was whipping the blood in his veins into life again, and--the
bottle was still held to his lips, but he was no longer drinking. His
eyes were on the washstand's mirror. He heard no sound, but in the
mirror he saw the door of his room open, close again, and, leaning with
his back against it--_the Wolf!_
Not a muscle of Jimmie Dale's face moved. He allowed another gulp of
brandy to gurgle noisily down his throat. The cool, alert, keen brain
was at work. It was certain that the Wolf had at no time that night
recognised him as Smarlinghue. The Wolf, therefore, at worst, could be
no more than _gambling_ on the chance that the object of the chase had
taken refuge here in the tenement, and, naturally enough then, was
beginning his investigation with the ground floor room. And yet, why
then had the Wolf, deliberately in that case, sent his pack off on a
false scent? In the mirror he could see that huge jaw outthrust, the
black eyes narrowed, an ugly leer on the working face--and a revolver in
the Wolf's hand that held a bead on his, Jimmie Dale's, head.
It was "Smarlinghue," the wretched, nervous, drug-wrecked creature that
turned around--and, as though startled at the sight of the other, almost
let the bottle fall from his hand.
"So it was you--eh--Smarlinghue! Curse you!" snarled the Wolf. "Come out
here, and stand in the centre of the room!"
Smarlinghue cringed. He put down the bottle with a trembling hand, and
"I ain't done nothing!" he whined.
"No, you ain't done a thing--except crack a box and pinch about ten
thousand dollars' worth of sparklers!" The Wolf's face, if possible, was
more ugly in its threat than before.
Smarlinghue, in a sort of stupefied amazement, stared around the
room--as though he expected to see a gleaming heap of diamonds leap into
sight somewhere before him. He shook his head helplessly.
"I don't know what you're talking about," he mumbled. "I--I heard a row
outside there a little while ago. Maybe that's it."
"Yes--_mabbe_ it is!" sneered the Wolf viciously. "So you don't know
anything about it--eh? You've got a hell of a good memory, haven't you!
You don't know anything about the Spider's safe, or about a little fight
in the Spider's room, or about jumping out of the window, and beating it
for here with the gang after you--no, you don't! You never heard of it
before--of course, you didn't!"
Smarlinghue began to wring his hands nervously one over the other. He
shook his head helplessly again.
"It wasn't me!" He licked his lips. "Honest, it wasn't me! I--I don't
know what you're talking about. I ain't been out of this room. Honest!
Somebody's trying to put me in wrong. I tell you, I ain't been out of
here all night. I--look!" With sudden, feverish eagerness, as though
from an inspiration, he pointed to the paint brush, the palette, and the
canvas on the easel. "Look! Look for yourself! You can see for yourself!
I've been painting."
And then the Wolf laughed--and it was not a pleasant laugh.
"Yes, you've been painting!" he jeered. "Sure, you have! I know
that! Only you've been _painting_ a damned sight more than you
thought you were!"
The revolver muzzle covered Jimmie Dale steadily, unswervingly; in the
Wolf's face was malicious and sardonic mockery--but the Wolf's eyes were
no longer on Jimmie Dale's face, they seemed curiously intent upon the
floor at Jimmie Dale's feet. Mechanically Jimmie Dale followed their
direction--and his eyes, too, held on the floor. For a moment neither
spoke. _The game was up_! His boot top was soaked with blood, and,
trickling down the side of the boot, a little crimson stream was
collecting in a pool upon the floor.
"You _painted_ some of that on the doorstep!" The Wolf's taunting laugh
held a deadly menace. "And you painted a drop or two of it along the
street as you ran. I thought when you bust away from the Spider's and
that cursed gang nosed in that I was going to lose out; but I figured
that I had hit you, and I was keeping my eyes skinned to see. And then
you commenced to do the drip act--savvy? I was still looking for it when
I came out of the lane--you remember, Smarlinghue, don't you?--you got
your memory back, ain't you?--that I was a bit ahead of the rest of 'em?
It didn't take a second to spot that on the doorstep, and there's some
more of it in the hall. Damned queer, ain't it--that it led right to
Smarlinghue's room!" The laugh was gone. The Wolf began to come forward
across the room. The snarl was in his voice again. "You come across with
those sparklers, and you come across--_quick_!"
But now Smarlinghue was like a crazed and demented creature, and he
shook his fists at the Wolf.
"I won't! I won't!" he screamed. "You went there to do the same thing!
I had as much right as you! And I _got_ them--I _got_ them! They said he
had them there, they were all talking about them to-day, and I _got_
them! I won! They're mine now! I won't give them to you! I won't! I tell
you, I won't!"
"Won't you?" The Wolf had reached Jimmie Dale, and one of the Wolf's
hands found and shook Jimmie Dale's throat, while the revolver muzzle
pressed hard against Jimmie Dale's breast. "Oh, I guess you will! D'ye
hear about a man being murdered to-day with his face cut up? Oh, you
did--eh? Well, I happen to know that man was the Spider, and one of
these days, mabbe, the police'll tumble to who it was, too. Get me?
Suppose I call some of that gang back, and show 'em the _painting_
you've done along the hall--eh? And then, by and by, when the bulls get
wise, it'll be yours for the juice route, not just a space or two for
cracking a box! Get me again?"
Smarlinghue, struggling weakly, pulled the other's hand from his throat.
"You--you were there, too, at--at the Spider's," he choked craftily.
"You're--you're in it as--as bad as I am."
"Sure, I was there!" mocked the Wolf, and snatched at Jimmie Dale's
throat again. "Sure, I was there--everybody saw me! The Spider was a
_friend_ of mine, and everybody knows that, too. I was just going there
to pay a pal a little visit--see? And that's how I found you
there--see? Anything wrong with that spiel? It's a cinch, aint it?" The
fingers closed tighter and tighter on Jimmie Dale's throat. "And that's
enough talk--give me them sparklers!" He flung Jimmie Dale savagely
away. "Get 'em!"
Smarlinghue reeled backward in the direction of the disordered canvases
on the floor. It was quite true! If the Wolf carried out his
threat--which he most certainly would do if he did not get the diamonds
for himself--Smarlinghue, and not the Wolf, would be held for the
Spider's murder. Jimmie Dale stooped, fumbled amongst the canvases, and
produced the cash-box. Well, the diamonds would have to go, that was
all--he had no choice left to him. But he was still "Smarlinghue," still
the half cowed, yet half defiant, pale-faced creature that shook with
mingled rage and fear, as he turned again. He clutched the cash-box to
him, as though loath to let it go; but, too, as though fascinated by the
Wolf's revolver, he moved reluctantly toward the Wolf, who now stood by
Smarlinghue's hands twined and twined over the box, caressing it in
hideous greed and avarice; and he mumbled, and his lips worked.
"Half--give me half?" he whispered feverishly.
"I'll give you--_nothing_!" snarled the Wolf.
"Half--give me a quarter then?" whimpered Smarlinghue.
"_Drop it_!" The Wolf's revolver jerked forward into Jimmie Dale's face.
And then Smarlinghue screamed out in impotent rage, and, wrenching the
cover of the cash-box open, flung the jewels in a glittering heap upon
the table--and, dancing in demented fashion upon his toes, like a man
gone mad, he hurled the cash-box in fury from him. It went through the
canvas on the easel, and clattered to the floor.
The Wolf laughed.
But Smarlinghue had retreated now, and, crouched upon the cot, was
mumbling through twisted lips.
And again the Wolf laughed, and, gathering up the jewels, dropped them
into his pocket, and backed to the door. He stood there an instant, his
eyes narrowed on Jimmie Dale.
"I got the stuff now"--he was snarling low, viciously--"and mabbe that
puts it a little more up to me. But if you ever open your mug about
this, I'll do to you what I did to the Spider to-day--and if you want to
know what that is, go and ask the police to let you have a look! D'ye
Came the brutal, taunting laugh again, and the door closed behind the
Wolf, and his step died away along the passage, and rang an instant
later on the pavement without.
It was a moment before Jimmie Dale moved--but into Smarlinghue's
distorted features there came a strange smile. He reeled a little from
weakness, as he walked to the door, locked it, and, returning, stooped
and picked up the cash-box from the floor. In the false bottom, the
Tocsin had said. From the leather girdle came a sharp-pointed tool. He
pried with it for an instant inside and around the bottom edges, and
loosening a sheet of metal that fitted exactly to the edges of the box,
lifted out from beneath it several folded sheets of paper. He glanced at
the typewritten sheets, a curious, menacing gleam creeping into the dark
eyes, then thrust the papers inside his shirt; and, dropping into a
chair, unlaced and kicked off his blood-soaked boot.
He was very weak; he had lost, he must have lost, a great deal of
blood--but there was something to do yet--still something to do. There
was still--the Wolf!
He tore the sheet on the cot into strips, and washed and dressed his
wound--a flesh wound, but bad enough, he saw, just above the knee. And
then, this done, he took a damp piece of cloth, went to the door again,
opened it, and looked out. There was neither any one in sight, nor any
sound. The passage was murky; one gas-jet alone lighted it, and that was
turned down. There were little spots, dark spots on the floor--but the
Wolf had told him that. He passed his hand over his head--he was a
little dizzy. Then slowly, laboriously, he removed the spots from the
hallway--and one from the doorstep.
Back in his room once more, he locked the door again. A sense of utter
exhaustion was stealing upon him--but there was still something yet to
be done. Another gulp of brandy steadied him, steadied his head. He took
the papers from his pocket and read them now. Here were the details,
minute, exact, with the names of those involved, names of those who
would squeal quickly enough to save themselves once they were in the
clutches of the law, of two of the most famous murder mysteries that New
York had known; the details of two, and, unfinished, the partial details
of another. It was the evidence the police had long sought. It was the
death sentence upon the Wolf--for murder.
Jimmie Dale's face, very white now, was set and hard. The Spider had
been too late--to save himself. Beginning to fear the Wolf, as the
Tocsin had explained, he had begun to make a record of those days gone
by, meaning to hold it over the Wolf's head in self-protection, deposit
it somewhere where it would come to light if any attack were made upon
him--only the Wolf had struck before the Spider had finished all he had
meant to write, before he had told any one or had warned the Wolf that
the papers were in existence. Too late to save himself--and yet, if the
Wolf still paid the penalty for murder, did it matter if he were
_convicted_ for the taking of another life than that of Spider Webb! It
was like some grim, retributive proxy! The Spider, at least, had not
been too late--for that!
For a moment longer, Jimmie Dale sat there, staring at the papers in his
hand. They were unsigned, the Spider's name nowhere appeared--the
Spider had been crafty enough to deal only with crimes in which he had
had no personal share. There was nothing, not even handwriting, as the
papers now stood, to intimate that they had emanated from the Spider;
and therefore, in their disclosure, there could be no suspicion in the
Wolf's mind that they bore any relation to this night's work. Nor would
the Wolf, tried for another crime, ever mention this night's work. It
would be the last thing the Wolf would do. The Wolf had double-crossed
the underworld, and the underworld, if it found it out, would not easily
forgive--and even in a death cell, clinging to the hope of commutation
of sentence, the Wolf would never run the risk of his additional guilt
of the Spider's murder leaking out. The role of "Smarlinghue" in the
underworld was safe.
And now Jimmie Dale's lips twitched queerly. The papers were unsigned.
He took from the leather girdle the thin metal box, the tweezers, and a
diamond-shaped, adhesive, gray paper seal--and, holding the seal with
the tweezers, he moistened it with his tongue, and pressed it down upon
the lower sheet. It was signed now! Signed with a signature that the
police--_and the Wolf_--knew well!
He rose unsteadily, and, taking the empty cash-box, loosened the
base-board from the wall near the door, hid the cash-box away, and felt
through the pockets of his evening clothes--there was a blank envelope
there, he remembered, in which he had placed some memoranda--an
envelope, and the little gold pencil in his dress waistcoat pocket. He
found them, and, kneeling on the floor, printing the letters, he
addressed the envelope to police headquarters, folded and placed the
documents inside, and sealed the envelope.
He replaced the base-board, and stood up--but his hand caught at the
wall to support himself.
"To-morrow," said Jimmie Dale weakly--he was groping his way back across
the room to the cot "I--I guess I'm all--all in--to-night."
THE VOICES OF THE UNDERWORLD
Futility! And on top of futility, a week of inaction, thanks to that
flesh wound in his leg. Futility seemed to haunt, yes, and torture him!
Even his rehabilitation of Larry the Bat, with all its attendant risk
and danger, had been futile as far as _she_ was concerned. And he had
counted so much on that! And that had failed, and nothing was left to
him but to pursue again the one possible chance of success, the hope
that somewhere in the innermost depths of the Bad Lands he might pick up
the clue he sought. And so, to-night, he was listening again to the
voices of the underworld--and so far he had heard nothing but ominous
mutterings, proof that the sordid denizens of crimeland were more than
usually disturbed. The Wolf had gone to join his _friend_ Frenchy Virat
in the Tombs! The twisted lips of the underworld whispered the name of
the Gray Seal!
Jimmie Dale's fingers, twitching, simulating even in that little detail
the drug-wrecked role of Smarlinghue that he played, clutched with a
sort of hideous eagerness at the hypodermic syringe which he held in his
hands. How many times, here in Foo Sen's, or in other lairs that were
but the counterpart of Foo Sen's, had he lain, stretched out, a
pretended victim to a vice that robbed his face of colour, that shook
his miserably clad body, that clouded his eyes and stole from them the
light of reason--_while he listened_! How many times--and how many
times in the days to come would he do it again! Would it never be his,
the secret that he sought--the clue that would divulge the identity of
those who threatened the Tocsin's life; those who, like human wolves,
like a hell-pack snarling for its prey, had driven her again into hiding
and made of her a hunted thing!
The fingers closed convulsively over the hypodermic. Wolves! A
hell-pack! A tinge of red dyed the grey-white, hollowed cheeks, as a
surge of fury swept upon him. No, it was not futility; no, it was not
wasted effort--this haunting of the dens of the underworld! In his soul
he knew that some day he would pick up the trail of that hell-pack and
those human wolves--and when that some day came it would be a day of
reckoning, and the price that he would exact would not be small!
He lay back on the bunk that Foo Sen had ingratiatingly allotted him.
The air was close, heavy with the sweet, sickish smell of opium, and
full of low, strange sounds and noises. And these sounds, in their
composite sense, emanating from unseen sources, were as the ominous and
sinister evidence of some foul and grotesque presence; analysed, they
resolved themselves into the swish of hangings, the swish of slippered,
shuffling feet, the stertorous breathing of a sleeper, the clink of coin
as of men at play, the tinkle of glass, the murmur of voices, the
restive stir of reclining bodies, whisperings.
And now he looked about him through half closed eyes. He was in a little
compartment, whose doorway was a faded and stained hanging of flowered
cretonne, and whose walls were but flimsy-boarded affairs that
partitioned him off from like compartments on either side. It was very
near to the pulse of the underworld. Above ground, opening on a street
just off Chatham Square, Foo Sen's, to the uninitiated, was but one of
the multitudinous Chinese laundries in New York; below, below even the
innocent cellar of the house, a half dozen sub-cellars were merged into
one, and here Foo Sen plied his trade. And Foo Sen was cosmopolitan in
his wares! Here, one, hard pressed, might find refuge from the law; here
a pipe and pill were at one's command; here one might hide his stolen
goods, or hatch his projected crime, or gamble, or debauch at will--it
was the entree only that was hard to obtain at Foo Sen's!
Jimmie Dale's lips twisted in a grim smile. The old days of Larry the
Bat had supplied Smarlinghue with the means which, in the last six
months, had been turned to such good account that the Smarlinghue of
to-day was almost as fully in the confidence of the underworld as had
been the Larry the Bat of yesterday. And yet there had been nothing! No
clue! He had wormed himself again into the inner circle of crimeland; he
lay here in Foo Sen's to-night, as he had once lain in one of Foo Sen's
competitor's dives as Larry the Bat, months ago, on the night the place
had been raided--but there was still nothing--still no clue--only the
shuffle of slippered feet, the stertorous breathings, a subdued curse, a
blasphemous laugh, a coin ringing upon a table top, the murmur of
One might hear many things here if one listened, and he _had_ heard many
things in his frequent visits to these hidden dens of this lower world
that shunned the daylight--many things, but never the _one_ thing that
he risked his life to hear--many things, from these _friends_ of his
who, if in Smarlinghue they but suspected for an instant the presence of
Larry the Bat, would literally have torn him limb from limb--many
things, but never the one thing, never a word of _her_--many things, the
hatching of crime, as now, for instance, those muttering voices were
hatching it from the other side of the partition next to his
bunk. Subconsciously he had caught a word here and there, and now,
without a sound, he edged his shoulders nearer to the partition until
his ear was pressed close against a crack. It did not concern _her_, but
he listened now intently.
"Aw, ferget it!" a voice rasped in a hoarse undertone. "Sure, I saw it!
Ain't I just told youse I saw Curley hand de dough over dis afternoon!
Fifteen thousand dollars all in big new bills, five-hundred-dollar bills
I t'ink dey was--dat's wot!"
"How d'youse know it was fifteen thousand?" demanded another voice.
There was a short, vicious laugh; then the voice of the first
"'Cause I heard him say so, an' de old guy counted it, an' sealed it up
in an envelope, an' gave Curley a receipt, an' tucked de green boys into
de safe. Aw, say, dere's nothin' to it, I can open dat old tin box wid a
"Mabbe youse can, but mabbe de stuff ain't dere now--mabbe it's in de
bank," demurred the second voice.
"Don't youse worry! It's dere! Where else would it be! Ain't I told
youse it was near five o'clock when I went dere--an' dat's after de
banks are closed, ain't it? Well, wot d'youse say?"
"I don't like pinchin' any of Curley's money." The second speaker's
voice was still further lowered. "It ain't healthy ter hand Curley
"Who's handin' Curley anything!" retorted the other. "It ain't got
nothin' to do wid Curley. It ain't Curley's money any more. He paid it
over for whatever he's blowin' himself on, an' he's got his receipt for
it. It's none of his funeral after dat! How's he goin' to lose anything
if we lift de cash? An' if he ain't goin' to lose nothin', wot's he
goin' to care! Ferget it! Wot's de matter wid youse!"
There was a moment's apparent hesitancy; then, hoarsely:
"Youse are sure, eh, dat nobody saw youse dere?"
"Say, youse have got de chilly feet fer fair ter-night, ain't youse!
Well, can it! No, dey didn't pipe me, youse can bet yer life on dat. I
was goin' inter de office w'en I hears some spielin' goin' on inside,
an' I opens de door a crack, an' I keeps it open like dat--savvy? An'
w'en de old guy shoots de ready inter de box, an' I makes me
fade-away, I didn't shut de door hard enough ter bust de glass panels,
neither--see? Dat's de story, an' it's on de level. I beats it den,
an' I been huntin' fer youse ever since. Now, wot d'youse say--are
"Sure!" The second speaker's voice had lost its hesitancy now; it was
gruff, assured, even eager. "Sure! I guess youse have pulled a winner,
all right! Wot's de lay? Have youse doped it out?"
"Ask me!" responded the other, with a complacent chuckle. "Youse look
after de old guy, dat's all youse have ter do. Hook up wid him, an' keep
him busy at his house. Get me? De old nut has a crazy notion of goin'
down ter de office in de middle of de night sometimes, an' dere's no use
takin' any chances. Youse can put up some hard luck story on him, throw
in a weep, an' youse got his goat fer as long as youse can talk. Leave
de rest ter me. Only, say, youse keep away from me fer de rest of de
night--get me? Dey might smell a plant after youse bein' wid him. Youse
go somewhere to an all-night joint so's youse have an alibi all de way
The voice ceased abruptly. In a flash the left sleeve of Jimmie Dale's
ragged, threadbare coat was pushed up, leaving the forearm exposed. The
hypodermic needle pricked the flesh. There was no sound of any step; but
the cretonne hanging wavered almost imperceptibly, as though some one,
or perhaps but a current of air from the passage without, had swayed it
slightly. Jimmie Dale was mumbling incoherently to himself now; his
lips, like his fingers, working in nervous twitches. A few seconds
passed--a half minute. Still mumbling, Jimmie Dale, with a caress like
that of a miser for his gold, was fondling the shining little instrument
in his hand--and then the hanging was suddenly thrust aside.
Jimmie Dale neither looked up, nor appeared to be conscious of any one's
presence--but he had already recognised the voices of the two men from
the adjoining compartment, who, he was quite well aware, were staring in
at him now. The smaller, with sharp, cunning, beady, black eyes, the
prime mover in the scheme that had just been outlined, was a clever and
dangerous "box-worker,", known as the Rat; the other, a heavy,
vicious-faced man, with eyes quite as beady and unpleasant as those of
his companion, was Muggy Ladd, who made his living as a "stagehand" for
those, such as the Rat, who were more gifted than himself.
"Satisfied?" inquired the Rat "He's full up to de eyes wid it now. Foo
said he'd been hittin' it up hard fer de last hour." The Rat addressed
Jimmie Dale. "Hello, Smarly!" he called out.
Jimmie Dale lifted his head, and blinked at the cretonne hanging.
"Lemme alone!" he complained thickly. "Go 'way, an' lemme alone!
"Sure!" said the Rat genially. "Sure, we will! Sweet dreams, Smarly!"
The hanging fell back into place. Jimmie Dale continued to blink at it,
and mumble to himself. The Rat's pleasant little plan of robbing
somebody's safe of fifteen thousand dollars had nothing to do with
_her_--but it involved a moral obligation on his part that he had
neither the right nor the intention to ignore. And the fulfilment, or
the attempt at fulfilment, of that obligation had suddenly assumed
unexpected difficulties. Even while he had listened, and before the Rat
was halfway through his story, he, Jimmie Dale, was conscious that he
had made up his mind the Rat would rob no safe of fifteen thousand
dollars that night if he could prevent it, and he had intended following
the Rat from Foo Sen's. He dared not do that now. Muggy Ladd's
cautiousness, that had evidently induced the Rat to inspect his, Jimmie
Dale's, compartment, had made that impossible. The Rat had seen him
there; and, forced to the deception in order to avert any suspicion that
he had overheard the others' conversation, the Rat had seen him in the
condition of one who was apparently already far gone under the influence
of drug. To risk the attempt to follow the Rat now, to risk discovery by
the Rat, was to risk, not only the admission that he had been playing a
part, but to risk what he had fought for and staked his life for months
now to establish--the role, the character of "Smarlinghue" in the
underworld. Nor, for the same reason, would he dare move from the place
for some little time--there was Foo Sen and the attendants.
Jimmie Dale dropped his head down on the bunk, turned heavily over,
facing the partition, and flung his arm across his face. His lips had
ceased their nervous working; they were drawn together, thin and hard
now. It was bad enough to be forced to remain temporarily inactive,
though that in itself was not so serious, for it was still early, not
much more than nine o'clock, and it was only fair to presume that the
Rat would make no move for some hours to come; but what was much more
serious was the fact that, unable to follow the Rat, he would be obliged
to solve for himself the problem of whose was the safe, and whose the
fifteen thousand dollars that was the Rat's objective. The Rat had
referred to "the old guy"--that meant nothing. "Curley," however, was a
little better--Curley, who had paid over the money to the "old guy."
Jimmie Dale's forehead, hidden by his arm, furrowed deeply. From Muggy
Ladd's initial objection to touching anything that concerned Curley, it
could mean only one Curley. He, Jimmie Dale, knew this Curley by sight,
and, slightly, by reputation. Curley and his partner, Haines, kept a
small wholesale liquor store in one of the most populous, where all were
populous, quarters of the East Side; also Curley had a pull as a ward
politician, which might very readily account for Muggy Ladd's
diffidence; and Curley was credited with doing a thriving business--both
ways--as ward heeler and liquor purveyor. Certainly, at least, he was
known always to have money; and had even been known at times to lend it
freely to those in want--for a consideration. Yes, it was undoubtedly
and unquestionably Curley, of Haines & Curley, familiarly known on the
East Side as Reddy Curley from his flaming red hair--but to whom had
Curley paid over the sum of fifteen thousand dollars?
For a moment the frown on Jimmie Dale's forehead deepened, then he
nodded his head quickly. If he could find Curley, or Haines, or even
Patsy Marles, the clerk who worked in the liquor store--which might
possibly still be open for another hour or so yet--it should not, after
all, and without even any undue inquisitiveness on the part of
Smarlinghue, prove very difficult to obtain the necessary information,
for, if Curley had been in a deal involving fifteen thousand dollars, he
was much more likely to be boastful than reticent about it. It resolved
itself then after all, into simply a matter of time.
Whisperings, a raucous laugh, a curse, the clink of coin, the rattle of
dice, the scuffle of slippered feet, the low swish of the loose-garbed
Chinese attendants went on interminably. Jimmie Dale began to toss
uneasily from side to side of his bunk, and began to mumble audibly
again. Perhaps half an hour passed, during which, from time to time, the
curtain of the compartment was drawn quietly aside and the impassive
face of one or other of the Chinese attendants was thrust through the
opening--and then suddenly Jimmie Dale raised himself up on his elbow,
and pointed a shaking finger at one of these apparitions.
"Foo Sen"--he licked his lips as he spoke--"you tell Foo Sen come here!"
The face disappeared, and a moment later another--the wizened, yellow
face of a little old Chinaman--took its place.
"You wantee me, Smarly'oo?" inquired the proprietor suavely.
"Tell 'em to help me out of this." Jimmie Dale essayed vainly to rise,
and fell back on the bunk. "D'ye hear, Foo Sen--tell'em! Goin' home!"
"Alee same bletter stay sleep him off," advised Foo Sen.
Jimmie Dale succeeded in sitting upright on the edge of the bunk--and
snarled at the other.
"You mind your own business, Foo Sen!" he flung out gutturally. "Goin'
home! Tell 'em to help me out--sleep where I like! Makes me sick
here--rotten smell--rotten punk sticks!"
"You allee same fool," commented Foo Sen imperturbably, as he clapped
his hands. "Mabbe you no get home; mabbe you get run in police cell
sleep him off, instead. That your business, you likee that--all right!"
Foo Sen smiled placidly, and was gone.
An instant later, Jimmie Dale, his arms twined around the necks of two
Chinamen, and leaning heavily upon them, and stumbling as he walked,
was being conducted through a maze of dark and narrow passages that
gradually trended upward to a higher level--and presently a door closed
behind him, and he was in the open air.
It was dark about him, not even the glimmer of a window light showed
from anywhere--but in Foo Sen's there were eyes that saw through the
darkness, and his progress, alone now, was both unsteady and slow. He
was in a very narrow alleyway between two houses--one of the several
hidden entrances to Foo Sen's. The alley opened in one direction on a
lane, in the other direction on the street. Jimmie Dale chose the
direction of the lane, reached the lane, and, still stumbling and
lurching, made his way along for a distance of possibly fifty yards;
then, well clear of the neighbourhood of Foo Sen's, he began to quicken
his pace--and twenty minutes later, frowning in disappointment, he was
standing in front of Reddy Curley's liquor store, only to find that the
place was already closed for the night.
IN THE SANCTUARY
It was ten o'clock now, an hour since the Rat and Muggy Ladd had left
Foo Sen's. Again Jimmie Dale told himself that it was still early, that
the Rat would wait for a much later hour--but at the same time he
acknowledged to himself a sense of growing and premonitory uneasiness.
Certainly, in any case, he had no time to lose. He turned quickly and
hurried along the block that separated him from the Bowery--he had a
fair idea of the haunts usually frequented in the evening by the men he
sought, and, even failing to find the men themselves, there was always
the chance, and a very good one, that, where Curley was known, Curley's
fifteen thousand dollar deal might be the subject of gossip which would
answer his, Jimmie Dale's, purpose quite as well.
But an hour went by--and yet another. Midnight came--and midnight had
brought him nothing. It seemed as though he had combed the East Side
from end to end, and he had found neither Curley, nor Haines, nor Patsy
Marles--nor had he heard anything--nor had such guarded questions as he
had dared to ask without involving possible disastrous consequences to
"Smarlinghue," should the Rat, after all, succeed and hear of his
activities, had any result. And then, still maintaining his efforts with
dogged determination, though conscious now that with the hour so late he
might perhaps better return to the Sanctuary, change, say, into the
clothes of Jimmie Dale, and, crediting the Rat with already having made
a successful inroad on the safe, devote his energies to running down the
Rat, and, if possible, to salvaging the plunder, he was in the act of
entering again one of the dance halls he had already visited earlier in
the evening, when one of the men he was searching for lurched out
through the doorway. It was Patsy Marles, garrulous, drunk, exceedingly
unsteady on his feet, and accompanied by three or four companions. They
crowded out past Jimmie Dale, and gathered aimlessly on the pavement.
Marles' voice rose in earnest insobriety for what was very probably by
no means the first time.
"Betcher life! Spot cash--fifteen thousand--spot cash! Sure, I saw it!
Only--hic!--got one boss now. Little ol' Reddy got the--hic!--papers
from lawyer 'safternoon. Know ol' Grenville, don't you--that's him--ol'
Grenville. Come on, whatsh's use standin' round here doin' nothin'!"
Jimmie Dale did not enter the dance hall--instead, scuffling hurriedly
along to the next corner, he turned off the Bowery, and, choosing the
darker and more dimly lighted streets and, at times, a lane or
alleyway, broke a run. In the space of a little more than a second he
had at last obtained the information that he had searched for vainly
for over two hours. There seemed something mockingly ironical in the
fact that he had been obliged to search for those two hours! What had
happened in that time? Two hours! It was three hours now since the Rat
had left Foo Sen's!
He shook his head with sudden impatience at himself. He would gain
nothing by speculating on possibilities! He _had_ the information now.
The one thing to do was to act upon it. So it was old Grenville's safe!
Old Grenville, the lawyer; honest old Grenville, the East Side called
him, the one man, perhaps, whose word was accepted at its face value,
and who was both liked and trusted everywhere in the Bad Lands--because
he was honest! Jimmie Dale's lips tightened as he ran. It was more than
ordinarily dirty work, then, on the Rat's part. Grenville was an old
man, close to seventy, at a guess; and if any one had earned immunity
from the depredations of the underworld it was this curious and lovable
old character--honest Grenville. The man was not a criminal lawyer, he
had made no enemies even in that way; he was more a paternal family
solicitor, as it were, to the dregs of humanity that had crowded his
queer and dingy office now, so report had it, for over forty years. He
was credited with having amassed a little money, not a fortune, perhaps,
for there were many fees never collected and never asked for amongst the
needy, but enough to live comfortably on in the simple and unpretentious
way in which old Grenville lived.
Yes, it was dirty work--miserable, dirty work, the work of a hound and a
cur! And the Rat's logic was unassailable. From Patsy Marles' maudlin
babbling it was evident that Reddy Curley had bought Haines, his
partner, out; that the price was fifteen thousand dollars; and that
Grenville, acting for Haines obviously, had received the purchase money
from Curley, and in return had handed over what the Rat had taken to be
a receipt, but what was probably in reality much more likely to have
been a Bill of Sale. But in either case, it was neither Curley nor
Haines who would suffer--it was old Grenville, who, if the funds were
stolen and not recovered, would have to make the amount good out of his
own pocket, and who, as all who knew old Grenville knew well, would
unhesitatingly do so at once if it took the last cent that pocket held.
Jimmie Dale had halted before a small building on one of the cross
streets near the upper end of the Bowery. There were some half dozen
signs on the doorway, for the most part time worn and shabby, amongst
them that of Henry Grenville, Attorney-at-Law.
There were no lights in any of the windows, but Jimmie Dale, as he tried
the door, found it unlocked, and, opening it noiselessly, stepped
inside. Here, a single incandescent suspended over the stair well gave a
murky illumination to the surroundings. A narrow corridor, dotted with
office doors, was on his left; the stairway--there was no elevator--was
directly in front of him. He stood motionless for an instant, listening.
There was no sound. He moved forward then, as silent as the silence
around him, and began to mount the stairs. Old Grenville's office, he
knew, was at the rear of the corridor on the first landing.
It was after midnight now, quite a little after midnight. Jimmie Dale's
fingers, in the right-hand pocket of his tattered coat, closed over the
stock of his automatic. Still no sound! Was he too late to forestall the
Rat; or, by no means an unlikely possibility, was the Rat there now; or
was--a low, muttered exclamation, that mingled surprise and
bewilderment, came suddenly from Jimmie Dale's lips. He had reached the
landing, and here, from the head of the stairs, he could see a dull
yellow glow thrown out into the corridor through the glass panel of the
An instant's pause, and then, chagrined, the sense of defeat upon him,
he moved forward again as silently as before. He reached the door and
crouched beside it. A murmur of voices came to him from within. Jimmie
Dale's lips parted in grim irony. The game was up, of course, but he was
occupying precisely the same coign of vantage that, according to the
Rat, the Rat had occupied that afternoon, and if the Rat had been able,
undiscovered, to see and hear, then he, Jimmie Dale, could do the same.
The slim, tapering, sensitive fingers closed on the doorknob--a thin ray
of light began to steal through between the door-edge and the jamb--and
grew wider--and the voices, from a confused murmur, became distinct. And
now, through the narrow crack of the slightly opened door, he could see
inside; and he could see that, as he had already realised, he was too
late, very much too late, in time only, as it were, for the post-mortem
of the affair--even the police were already on the spot!
It was a curious scene! A rickety old railing across the middle of the
musty, bare-floored room served to indicate that the space beyond was
the old lawyer's "private" office. And here, inside the railing, a desk,
or, rather, a great, flat, deal table, spread with a red, ink-stained
cloth, was littered with books and papers; while behind the table,
again, stood a huge, old-fashioned safe, its door swung wide open, its
erstwhile contents scattered in disorder about the floor.
Jimmie Dale's eyes swept the interior of the room with a single, quick,
comprehensive glance--and then, narrowed, travelled from one to another
of the faces of the four men who were gathered around the table. He knew
them all. The stocky, grizzle-haired man in the centre was a
plain-clothes man from headquarters, named Barlow; at the lower end of
the table Reddy Curley and Haines, his partner, faced each other, Curley
drumming indifferently with his fingers on the table-top, Haines
scowling and chewing his lower lip, a certain coarse brutality in both
their faces that was neither pleasant nor inviting; but it was the
white-haired old man, bent of form, standing at the head of the table,
upon whom Jimmie Dale's eyes lingered. Old Grenville! The man's hand, as
he raised it to pass it across his eyes, was shaking palpably; his face,
kindly still in spite of its worn and haggard expression, was pale with
anxiety and strain. Barlow was speaking:
"You say there's nothing else missing, Mr. Grenville, except the sealed
envelope that contained the fifteen thousand dollars given you by Mr.
Curley this afternoon?"
The old lawyer shook his head.
"I can't say," he answered. "As I told you, I often come here at night
to work. To-night a client kept me very late at my house, so it was
only, I should say, a quarter of an hour ago when I reached here. I
telephoned you at once, and, awaiting your arrival, I did not disturb
anything, so I have not examined any of the papers yet."
"I don't think it's a question of papers," observed the Headquarters
"There was nothing else taken then," decided Grenville slowly; "for
there was no other money in the safe at the time--in fact, I rarely keep
"Well then," said Barlow crisply, "it's pretty near open and shut that
some one was wise to that fifteen thousand being there to-night, and it
wasn't just a lucky haul out of any old safe just because the safe
looked easy." He turned toward Curley and Haines. "Were either of you
talking with any one around the East Side to-night who would be likely
to make a tip of it, or pass the tip along?"
"We weren't there at all to-night," Curley replied. "Haines and I were
out in my car, and we'd just got back when you picked us up at the store
on the way up here. But, at that, I guess you're right. We didn't make
any secret about it, and I daresay after I'd got the business tacked
away safe in my inside pocket this afternoon"--he grinned maliciously at
Haines--"I may have mentioned it to one or two."
"Got it tucked away safe, have you? Own it, do you?" Haines caught him
"Sure!" Curley had wicked, little greenish-grey eyes, and their stare
was uninviting as he fixed them on his quondam partner. "If you want to
grouch, go ahead and grouch! We've been pretty good friends for a pretty
good number of years, but I ain't a fool. Sure, it's mine now! I didn't
ask you to employ Grenville, did I? I was satisfied to take any old
piece of paper with your fist on it, saying you'd sold out to me; but
no, you were for having the thing done with frills on it Well, I'm still
satisfied! I came here at five o'clock this afternoon, and paid the coin
over to your attorney, and I got a perfectly good little Bill of Sale
for it--and that lets me out. It's up to you and your Mister Attorney.
Why don't you ask him what _he's_ going to do about it, instead of
trying to take it out on me the way you've been doing ever since Barlow
told us what had happened, and--"
"Mr. Curley is perfectly right, Mr. Haines"--the old lawyer's voice was
quiet, though it trembled a little. "The title to the business is now
vested in Mr. Curley, and you are entitled to look to me for
compensation. I"--he hesitated an instant--"I--I hope the money may be
"Eh?" inquired Mr. Haines sharply.
"Otherwise," the old lawyer went on with an effort, "I am afraid I shall
have a great deal of difficulty in raising so large a sum."
"The hell you are!" said Mr. Haines uncharitably, and leaned forward
over the table. "Don't try to come that dodge! Everybody says you're
well fixed. Everybody says you've got a neat little pile salted away."
The lawyer's face was ashen, and his lips were quivering; but there was
a fine dignity in the poise of the old man's head, and in the squared
"Nevertheless, I am, unfortunately, telling you the truth, in spite of
any rumours, or public belief to the contrary," he said steadily. "A
few thousands, a very few, is all I have ever been able to lay aside.
Those are at your disposal, Mr. Haines, and the balance I promise to
procure as speedily as possible; but in plain words, if this money is
not recovered, and I do not say this to invite either sympathy or
leniency, but because you have questioned my word, I shall have lost
everything I own."
Mr. Haines scowled.
"Well, I'm glad to know you've at least got enough!" he said roughly.
"It sure will surprise a whole lot of people that fifteen thousand wipes
Mr. Henry Grenville out!"
A flush dyed the old lawyer's cheeks. He made as though to speak--and,
instead, turned silently away from the table, his back to the others.
There was silence in the room now for a moment. Again Jimmie Dale's eyes
travelled swiftly from one to another of the group--to Curley, grinning
maliciously at his ex-partner again--to Haines, gnawing at his lower
lip, and scowling blackly--to Barlow, obviously uncomfortable, who was
uneasily tracing patterns with his forefinger on the top of the
table--and back to the old lawyer, whose shoulders now, as though
carrying a load too heavy for their strength, had drooped pathetically,
and into whose face, in spite of a brave effort at self-control, had
crept a wan and miserable despair.
"Look here!" said Barlow gruffly. "It strikes me you can settle all this
some other time. It's got nothing to do with the guy that pulled this
break, and I'm losing time. Headquarters is waiting for my report. You
two had better beat it; Mr. Grenville won't mind, I guess--I've got your
end of the story, and--"
Jimmie Dale was retreating back along the corridor--and a minute later
he was in the street, and scuffling along in a downtown direction. His
hands, in the pockets of his tattered coat, were clenched, and through
the pallor of Smarlinghue's make-up a dull red burned his cheeks. Old
Grenville--and the Rat! The smile that found lodgment on Smarlinghue's
contorted lips was mirthless. The old man had taken it like the
gentleman he was. He had not perhaps hidden the quiver of the lip--who
would at seventy! It was not easy to begin life again at seventy! Old
Grenville--and the Rat! Well, the game was not played out yet! There
would be an accounting of that fifteen thousand dollars before the
morning came, and, as between old Grenville and the Rat, it might not
perhaps be old Grenville who paid!
Hurrying now, running through lanes and alleyways as he had come, Jimmie
Dale headed for the Sanctuary. It was very simple now. The Rat, his work
completed, would lay very low--asleep probably, in the _innocent_
surroundings of his own room! The Rat would not be hard to find. It was
necessary only that, in the little interview he proposed to have with
the Rat, "Smarlinghue" should have disappeared!
He reached the tenement where, for months now, that ground floor room,
opening on the small and dirty courtyard in the rear, had been his
refuge, Smarlinghue's home in the underworld, glanced quickly up and
down the street to assure himself that he was not observed, then,
darting into the dark hallway, he crossed it silently, unlocked the
Sanctuary door, stepped through, and closed and locked the door behind
him. Nor, even now, did he make the slightest sound. From the top-light,
high up near the ceiling and far above the little French window whose
shade was drawn, there came a faint and timid streak of moonlight. It
did not illuminate the room; it but lessened the degree of blackness, as
it were, giving a dim and shadowy outline to objects scattered here and
there about the room--and to a darker shadow amongst those other
shadows, a shadow that moved swiftly and in utter silence, a shadow that
was Jimmie Dale at work.
No one had seen him enter--not that there should be anything strange
in the fact that Smarlinghue should enter Smarlinghue's own room, but
it would not be Smarlinghue who went away! No one had seen him
enter--it was vital now that he should not be heard moving around the
room, and so invite the chance of some aimless caller in the person
of a fellow-tenant, for it was no longer Smarlinghue who would be
The ragged outer garments he had been wearing lay discarded in a heap on
the floor, close to that section of the wall near the door where the
base-board, ingeniously movable, would, in another moment or so, afford
them safe hiding until such time as "Smarlinghue" should reappear in
person again; from the nostrils, from beneath the lips, from behind the
ears, the tiny, cleverly-inserted pieces of wax, distorting the
features, had vanished; and now, over the cracked basin on the rickety
washstand, the masterly-created pallor was washed rapidly away--and the
thin, hollow-cheeked, emaciated face of Smarlinghue, the drug fiend, was
gone, and in its place, clean-cut, clear-eyed, was the face of Jimmie
Dale, clubman and millionaire.
He smiled a little whimsically, a little wanly, as he stole back across
the room. It was a strange life, a _dangerous_ life! He wondered often
enough, as he was wondering now, what the end of it would be--would he
find the Tocsin--or would he find death at the hands of the
underworld--or judicial murder at the hands of the law for a hundred
crimes attributed to the Gray Seal! Crimes! The smile grew serious and
wistful, as he knelt on the floor and began to loosen the section of the
baseboard in front of him. There had never been a crime committed by the
Gray Seal! Yes, it was strange, bizarre, incredulous even to himself
sometimes, this life of his--the strange partnership formed so long ago
now with _her_, the Tocsin, who had prompted those "crimes" that righted
a wrong, that brought sunlight into some life where there had been gloom
before, and hope where there had been misery--and the love that had
come--and then disaster again, and her disappearance--and his resumption
once more of a dual life and a role in the underworld--and, yes, in
spite of her own danger, those "calls to arms" to the Gray Seal again
for the sake of others, while she refused, through love for him, through
fear of the peril that it would bring him, help for herself.
He shook his head, as, the base-board removed now, he reached into the
hollow beyond for the neatly-folded, expensively-tailored tweeds of
Jimmie Dale. She was wrong in that. Could anything add to the peril in
which he lived, as it was! If only in some way he might reach her, see
her, talk to her, if only for a moment, he could make her see that, and
A low, startled cry burst suddenly from his lips; he felt the blood ebb
from his cheeks--and surge back again in a burning, mighty tide. It was
dark, he could not see; but those wonderfully sensitive finger tips,
that were ears and eyes to Jimmie Dale, were telegraphing a wild, mad,
amazing message to his brain. The Tocsin had been here--here in the
_Sanctuary_! She had been here--here in this room--and within the last
few hours--sometime since seven o'clock that evening, when, as Jimmie
Dale, he had come here to assume the role of Smarlinghue preparatory to
his vigil in Foo Sen's!
His hand, thrust in through the opening to reach for his clothes, had
found an envelope where it lay on the top of the folded garments--and
his hand was still thrust inside--there was no need to look--the texture
of the paper was hers--_hers_--the Tocsin's! The blood was racing
wildly through his veins. There was a mad joy upon him--and a sense of
keen and bitter emptiness. Wild thoughts, in lightning flashes, swept
his brain. She must have been here, then, many times before ... she knew
the Sanctuary as well as he did ... she knew the secret hiding place
behind the base-board ... she had come, of course, knowing he was absent
... she might come some day _thinking_ he was absent ... yes, why
not--why not ... perhaps--perhaps that was the way ... some day she
might come again....
He laughed a little in a shaken way, and drew out the letter. With a
mental wrench, he forced his mind into a calmer state. It was very
singular that she should have placed the letter in that hiding place!
It could evidence but one thing--that the contents of the letter,
unlike any she had ever written before, were not of a pressing nature,
for she would know very well that it might have been many hours, days
even, before he might go there for the clothes of Jimmie Dale again!
What, then, did it mean? Had she decided at last to tell him all, to
let him take his place beside her, share her danger, fight with her!
Was that it?
He reached hurriedly into the opening again, drew out the little
leather girdle, and from one of its pockets took out a flashlight. He
had not dared to light the gas before; dressed, or, rather, undressed,
as he was at present, and no longer Smarlinghue, he dared much less to
light it now.
He tore the envelope open, and, still kneeling on the floor, the
flashlight upon the pages, began to read:
"Dear Philanthropic Crook: You will be surprised to find this letter in
such a place, won't you? Yes, you are quite right, for once, as you will
already have told yourself, there is no hurry--for it is too late to
hurry. Listen, then! Henry Grenville's safe--the old East Side lawyer,
He had read eagerly so far. He stared at the letter now, and the words
only danced in an unmeaning jumble before him. It was not for herself,
it was not that she had thrown the barriers down and was bidding him
come to her; it was again another "call to arms" to the Gray Seal--and
for another's sake. And there came to Jimmie Dale a miserable
disappointment, for his hope, shattered now, had been greater than he
had admitted even to himself. And then he was aware that,
subconsciously, it had seemed to him a most curious coincidence that the
letter should be dealing with the robbery of Henry Grenville's safe that
night. Yes, certainly, it was a most curious coincidence, when he was
even then on his way--to the Rat! He shrugged his shoulders in his
whimsical way. Well, for once, he had forestalled the Tocsin! There
could be little here that he did not already know. He began to read
again, but skimming over the words and sentences hurriedly now.
"... Curley ... liquor business ... buying out partner, Haines ... this
afternoon ... fifteen thousand dollars ... large bills, one-hundred,
five-hundred and thousand-dollar denominations ... sealed in envelope by
Grenville ... placed by Grenville in his safe ... head of one of the
most successful and desperate gangs in the country ... years under cover
through position occupied ... take your time, Jimmie, and be careful
before you act ... rest of gang is 'working' Boston and New England this
week ... backyard from lane, high board fence ... in cellar ... cleverly
concealed door at right of coal bin ... knot in wood seventh board from
wall on level with your shoulders ... short passage beyond leading to
door of den ... sound-proof room ... exit through other side ... sliding
panel to room above ... opened by hanging weight inside ..."
In a stunned way now, Jimmie Dale stared for a long minute at the
letter in his hand--then he read it again--and yet again. And then, the
flashlight out, as he tore the letter into fragments, he stared again,
for a long minute--into the blackness.
It was damnable, it was monstrous, this thing that he had read; it
plumbed the dregs of human deviltry--but for once the Tocsin was at
fault. Of the plot that had been hatched, of those details that she
described, there could be no doubt, there was no question there, and
there the Tocsin, he knew, had made no mistake; but the Tocsin, yes, and
those who had hatched the crime themselves, had taken no account of the
possible intervention of an outsider in the person of--the Rat! There
was even a sort of grim irony in it all--that the Rat should quite
unconsciously have feathered his nest at the expense of a far more
elaborately arranged crime than his own, and at the expense of those who
were of even a more abandoned, dangerous and unscrupulous type of
criminal than himself!
Jimmie Dale's face hardened suddenly--and suddenly he stooped and pulled
his clothes from their hiding place, and began to dress. For once, his
inside information outreached hers. It was still--the Rat. Her letter
changed nothing, save that afterwards, perhaps--well, that afterwards,
perhaps, there was another, others beside the Rat, with whom an
accounting would be made!
THE SECRET ROOM
Jimmie Dale dressed quickly now. From the pockets of the little leather
girdle to the pockets of his tweeds he transferred a steel picklock, a
pair of light steel handcuffs, a piece of fine but exceedingly strong
cord, a black silk mask, and that small metal case, within which,
between sheets of oiled paper, lay those gray-coloured, diamond-shaped,
adhesive paper seals that were known in every den in the underworld,
known in every police bureau of two continents, as the insignia of the
Gray Seal. He slipped the flashlight into his pocket, took his automatic
from the discarded garments of Smarlinghue--and, thrusting the ragged
clothing into the opening, put the removable section of the base-board
back into place.
And now, twin to that streak of lesser gloom that came from the
top-light, another filtered into the room. The small French window
opened and closed without sound--the room was empty. A shadow in the
courtyard, close against the wall of the tenement, moved forward a foot,
a yard--a loose board in the fence bordering the lane swung silently
aside--and in a moment more, striding nonchalantly up the block, Jimmie
Dale turned into the Bowery.
He had some distance to go, almost back as far as the liquor store at
the lower end of the Bowery, for the Rat lived, if he, Jimmie Dale, was
not mistaken, just one block this side, in a small one-story frame
building on the corner of a cross street; and--it seemed incongruous,
queerly out of place somehow--the Rat lived with his mother. Home ties,
or home relationships, hardly seemed in harmony with the Rat! Still, in
this case, it was perhaps very debatable ground as to which was the
more pernicious, the old woman or the son! Ostensibly, she kept a
little variety store; but her business, if report were true, was the
edifying occupation of school mistress--the children graduating under
her tuition being ranked by common consent as the most accomplished
pickpockets in gangland!
Jimmie Dale shrugged his shoulders, as he swung at last from the Bowery
into a narrow, poorly lighted street. Well, at least, if the Rat's
criminal career ended to-night, the Rat's punishment need excite no
sympathy for the old woman, as far as he, Jimmie Dale, was concerned--it
was a pity only that she had not been behind the bars herself long ago!
Yes, this was the place--the small frame building diagonally across from
the corner on which he had halted. He crossed over for a closer
inspection. The front of the house was dark, the little store windows
shuttered. He hesitated an instant, then walked around the corner to
survey the building from the side and rear. Here, from a window that
gave on the intersecting street, there showed a light. The window was
low, scarcely above the level of his head, but held no promise on that
score as a source of information, for the shade within was tightly
drawn. Jimmie Dale scowled at it for a moment, noted its proximity to
the backyard and the front of the building. The Rat, then, or the Rat's
mother, was still up, and he would need to exercise more than ordinary
caution--or else wait--indefinitely, perhaps.
He shook his head at that alternative, as he looked sharply up and down
the street. He would gain little by waiting, and--ah! He was crouched in
the doorway now, the deft fingers working swiftly with the picklock.
There was a faint metallic click, barely audible above his low-breathed
exclamation--and the door opened and closed behind him.
The flashlight in his hand winked once--and went out. Small,
glass-topped counters were on either side of the somewhat restricted
aisle in which he stood; directly in front of him, at the rear of the
store, was a door, leading, obviously, to the living rooms beyond.
The old days of Larry the Bat, the rickety, creaky stairs of the old
Sanctuary had trained Jimmie Dale's step to a silence that was
almost uncanny. It might have been a shadow moving there across the
floor of the store, a shadow flitting through that doorway beyond.
There was no sound.
And now, at the end of a short, dark passage, he stopped before the door
of what was, from its location, the lighted room he had seen from the
street; and, slipping his mask over his face, he placed his ear against
the door panel to listen. He was rewarded only by absolute silence. His
lips, under the mask, twisted queerly, as, softly, cautiously, he tried
the door. It gave under the steady pressure that he exerted upon
it--gave without sound for the measure of a fraction of an inch--it was
unlocked. And now Jimmie Dale could see into the room--and suddenly he
stepped noiselessly forward, his automatic holding a bead on the
crouched figure of the Rat, asleep apparently in his chair, whose head,
flung forward, was buried in his crossed arms upon the table in the
centre of the room.
"Good evening!" said Jimmie Dale, in a velvet voice.
There was no answer--the man neither turned his head, nor looked up.
And for a moment Jimmie Dale did not stir--only into the dark eyes
shining through the mask there came a startled gleam, and through the
heavy, palpitating silence the quick, sudden intake of his breath
sounded clamourously loud. He saw now--the _gray_ of the cheek just
showing above the arm that pillowed it, the stiff, hunched, unnatural
position of the body, the crimson pool on the floor by the chair leg.
_The man was dead_!
Tight-lipped, the strong jaw outthrust a little, his face hard and set,
Jimmie Dale moved to the Rat's side, and bent over the man. Yes, it
was--_murder_! The Rat had been stabbed in the back just below the left
armpit. He glanced sharply around the room. There was no sign of
struggle, except--yes--there were bruises on the man's neck, as though a
hand had grasped it fiercely, and--he bent over--yes, faintly, but
nevertheless distinctly enough, two blood-stained finger prints were
discernible on the Rat's collar. He lifted the Rat's hands and examined
them critically--it might perhaps have been the man himself clutching
his own throat, as he choked and struggled for breath--no, the Rat's
fingers showed not the slightest trace of blood.
And then, instinctively, Jimmie Dale reached out toward the other's
pocket; but, with a hard smile, dropped his hand to his side, instead.
The sealed envelope, the fifteen thousand dollars, was not there--_it
was where the Tocsin had said it was_! The Tocsin, not he, had been
right! And yet, too, in a way, he had not been entirely wrong. It _was_
the Rat who had stolen the sealed envelope from the safe--or else the
Rat would not now be dead!
His mind, alert and keen now, was dovetailing together the pieces of the
puzzle. Those who had originally planned the crime had in some way
discovered that the Rat, in the actual theft, had forestalled them.
Possibly, for instance, bent on the same errand, they had seen the Rat
leaving the building; then, finding the safe already looted, they had
put two and two together, and had trapped the Rat here--and the Rat had
paid the price! It might have been that way, but that in itself was a
detail, immaterial--they _had_ discovered that it was the Rat. The Rat's
murder proved it. It was not enough that they should recover the
envelope--there would have been no way to avoid exposure or cover their
own crime except by murdering the Rat.
He looked down at the silent form sprawled over the table, and his face
relaxed, softened a little. The Rat was only the Rat, it was true, and
the man was a thief, an outcast, a pariah, a prey upon society; but life
to the Rat, too, had been sweet, and his murder was a hideous thing--and
even such as the Rat might ask justice. Justice! It had been dirty
work--miserable, dirty work, he had called it when he had thought the
Rat alone involved--but now, thanks to the Tocsin, he knew it for what
it really was, knew it for its damnable, hellish ingenuity, and its
abominable, brutal callousness! Justice! Yes--but how?
He began to move about the room, his mind for the moment diverted in an
endeavour to reconstruct the scene as it must have been enacted here
around him. The Rat had broken into the safe _before_ eleven
o'clock--that was obvious now. In fact, it was quite likely to have been
much nearer ten! He had returned here and had been sitting there at the
table, counting over his ill-gotten gains, perhaps, his back to the
door, just as he sat now, and they had stolen in upon him. But where was
the old woman? True, perhaps little, if any, noise had been made, and
yet--Jimmie Dale, pausing on the threshold of the door, listened
intently. One of the two rooms, whose doors he saw between this end room
and the door opening into the store, must be hers, and if she were
there, asleep, for instance, his ear was surely acute enough to catch,
in the stillness that lay upon the house, the sound of breathing. But
there was nothing. Under the mask, his brows drew together in a
perplexed frown. And then suddenly he stood rigid, tense. Yes, there was
a sound at last--and an ominous one! The front door leading into the
store was being opened, came the scuffling of footsteps--and then a
woman's voice, shrill, wailing:
"W'en I come in not twenty minutes ago dere he was--dead. My
Gawd--knifed he was! An' den I runs fer youse at de station. I gotta
right ter cry, ain't I! He's my son, he is--ain't he! I gotta
"Keep quiet!" snapped a man's voice gruffly. "We've heard all that a
dozen times now. It's a pity you didn't think more about being his
mother twenty years ago! Mike, you'd better lock that front door!"
Jimmie Dale drew back, and closed the door softly. If he were caught
here now! The old woman had brought the police back with her--two of
them, it appeared. He smiled in a hard way. Well, he did not propose to
be caught. His hand reached up to the electric light switch, there was a
click, and the room was in darkness. In the fraction of a second more he
was at the window. Shade and window were swiftly, silently raised, and
he looked out cautiously. The street was deserted, empty; there was no
one in sight. It was very simple, a drop of a few feet to the sidewalk,
a dash around the corner--and that was all. They were coming now. He
swung one leg over the sill--and sat there motionless, his mind
balancing with lightning speed the pros against the cons of a sudden
inspiration that had come to him. Justice... justice on those guilty of
this wretched murder here, and guilty of many another crime almost as
grave...he had asked himself how...here was a way...a daredevil,
foolhardy way? ... no, the possibility of being winged by a chance shot,
perhaps, but otherwise a safe way ... escape through that panel door
operated by weights ... and it was not far to that den the Tocsin had
described ... nor would he be running into a trap himself ... the gang
was not there ... perhaps no one ... but perhaps, with luck, those he
might wish would be there ... it would be a gracious little act on the
part of the Gray Seal, would it not, to invite the police, this Mike and
his companion, to that den--they would be deeply interested! He laughed
low--they were almost at the door now. Well? The doorknob rattled. Yes,
he would do it! Yes--_now_! He stretched out suddenly, and with the toe
of his boot kicked over a chair that was within reach. The crash, as the
chair fell, was answered by a rush through the door, a hoarse, surprised
and quick-flung oath--and, as Jimmie Dale swung out through the window
and dropped to the street, the flash and roar of a revolver shot.
Like a cat on his feet, he whirled as he touched the pavement, and
darted along past the backyard fence, heading for the lane; and, as he
ran, over his shoulder, he saw first one and then the other of the two
men, both in police uniform, drop from the window and take up the
pursuit. Another shot, and another, a fusillade of them rang out. A
bullet struck the pavement at his feet with a venomous _spat_. He heard
the humming of another that was like the humming of an angry wasp. And
he laughed again to himself--but short and grimly now. Just a few yards
more--five of them--to the corner of the lane. It was the chance he had
invited--three yards--two--his breath was coming in hard, short panting
gasps--_safe_! Yes! He had won now--they would not get another shot at
him, at least not another that he would have any need to fear!
He swerved into the lane, still running at top speed. A high board
fence, she had said--yes, there it was! And it corresponded in location
with where he knew it should be--about three lots in from the street. He
sprang for it, and swung lithely to the top--and hung there, as though
still scrambling and struggling for his balance. The officers had not
turned into the lane yet, and he had no intention of affording them any
excuse for losing sight of their quarry!
Ah! There they were! A yell and a revolver shot rang out simultaneously
as they caught sight of him--and Jimmie Dale dropped down to the ground
on the inside of the fence. In the moonlight he could see quite
distinctly. He darted across the yard, heading for the basement door of
the building that loomed up in front of him.
The little steel picklock was in his hand as he reached the door. A
second--two--three went by. He straightened up--and again he
waited--stepping back a few feet to stand sharply outlined in the
Again a shout in signal that he was seen, as one of the officers' heads
appeared over the top of the fence--and Jimmie Dale, as though in mad
haste, plunged through the door.
And now suddenly his tactics changed. He needed every second he could
gain, and the police now certainly could no longer lose their way. He
swung the door shut behind him, locked it to delay them, and snatched
his flashlight from his pocket. He was at the top of a few ladder-like
steps that led down into the cellar of the building, and halfway along
the length of the cellar the ray of his flashlight swept across a huge
coal bin, its sides, it seemed, built almost up to the ceiling.
Jimmie Dale was muttering to himself now, as he took the steps at a
single leap, and raced toward the side of the bin that flanked the
wall--"seventh board from the wall--knot on a level with shoulders"--and
now he was counting rapidly--and now the round, white ray played on the
seventh board. They were smashing at the cellar door now. The knot!
Ah--there it was! He pressed it. Two of the boards in front of him, the
width of a man's body, swung back. He left this open--a blazed trail for
his pursuers, battering now at the cellar door--and stepped forward into
a little opening, too short to be called a passage, and, silent now,
halted before another door.
Brain and eyes and hands were working now with incredible speed. That it
was a sound-proof room was not, perhaps, altogether an unmixed blessing!
Was the place deserted? Was there any one within? He could hear nothing.
Well, after all, did it make any ultimate difference? The room itself
would condemn them!
The picklock was at work again--working silently--working swiftly. And
now, in its place, his automatic was in his hand.
He crouched a little--and with a spring, flinging wide the door, was in
the room. There was a smothered cry, an oath, the crash of an
overturned chair, as two men, from a table heaped with little piles of
crisp, new banknotes, sprang wildly to their feet: And Jimmie Dale's
lips twisted in a smile not good to see. Standing there before him were
Curley and Haines.
"Keep your seats, gentlemen--please!" said Jimmie Dale, with grim irony.
"I shall only stay a moment. It is Mr. Curley and Mr. Haines, I
believe--in their _private_ office! Permit me!"--he reached out with his
left hand, and closed the door. "Ah, I see there is a good serviceable
bolt on it. I have your permission?"--he slipped the bolt into place.
"As I said, I shall only stay a moment; but it would be unfortunate,
most unfortunate, if we were by any chance interrupted--prematurely!"
Haines, ashen white, was gripping at the table edge. Curley, a deadly
glitter in his wicked little eyes, moistened his lips with the tip of
"How'd you get here, and what the hell d'you want?" he burst out
"As to the first question, I haven't time to answer it," said Jimmie
Dale evenly. "What I want is the sealed envelope stolen from Henry
Grenville's safe--and I'm in a _hurry_, Mr. Curley."
"You're a fool!" said Curley, with a sneer. "It's--"
"Yes, I know," said Jimmie Dale, with ominous patience, "it's
counterfeit, you miserable pair of curs! Counterfeit like the rest of
that stuff there on the table! Nice place you've got here--everything, I
see--press, plates, engraver's tools--nothing missing but the rest of
the gang! Perhaps, though, they can be found! Now then, that
envelope--quick!" Jimmie Dale's automatic swung forward significantly.
"It's in the drawer of the table," snarled Curley. "Curse you,
"Thank you!" Jimmie Dale's lips were a thin line. "Now, you two, stand
out there in the middle of the floor--and if either of you make a move
other than you are told to make, I'll drop you as I would drop a mad
dog!" He jerked the two chairs out from the table, and, still covering
Curley and Haines, placed the chairs back to back. "Sit down there,
stretch out your arms full length on either side, the palms of your
hands against each other's!" he ordered curtly; and, as they obeyed--
Haines, cowed, all pretence at nerve gone, Curley cursing in abandon--he
slipped the handcuffs over their wrists on one side, and, taking the
piece of cord from his pocket that he had intended for the Rat's ankles,
he deftly noosed their wrists on the other side with a slip knot, which
he fastened securely.
He stepped over to the table.
"Counterfeiting five-hundred and thousand-dollar bills is rather out of
the ordinary run, isn't it--I see these on the table here are the
regular small variety!" he observed coolly, as he pulled the drawer
open. "The big ones make a quick turn-over, though, if you have the
plant to turn them out, and can swing a scheme to cash them--after
banking hours--and steal them back! Hello, what's this!"--the sealed
envelope, torn open at one end, evidently by the Rat in his
examination, but still full of the counterfeit notes, was
blood-smeared, and on the upper left-hand corner there showed the
distinct impression of a finger print.
There was a sudden crash against the door.
Both men, in their chairs, strained around--and now Curley, too, had
lost his colour.
"My God, what's that!" he whispered.
The thin metal case was in Jimmie Dale's hand. With the tweezers, he
lifted one of the little gray seals to his lips, moistened it, and,
using his elbow, pressed it firmly down upon the envelope.
Came another furious thud upon the door--and another.
"What's that!" Curley's voice was a frantic scream now. "For God's sake,
do you hear, what's that!"
Jimmie Dale, under a pencilled arrow mark indicating the finger print,
was scrawling a few words in printed characters.
"It's the police," said Jimmie Dale calmly. "Somebody murdered the Rat
to-night!" He surveyed the envelope in his hand critically. Between the
arrow mark and the gray seal were the words: "Look on the Rat's
collar--and these gentlemen's fingers." He laid the envelope down on
the table--and, as the door suddenly splintered and sagged under a
terrific blow from some heavy object, he retreated hurriedly to the
farther end of the room. Here a half dozen steps led upward, and hanging
from the ceiling beside them was a cord to which was attached a leaden
weight. He jerked the cord quickly. A panel above him slid noiselessly
back. He leaped to the top of the stairs, and paused for a moment.
"They've been looking for this place for several years, I guess," said
Jimmie Dale softly. "And I guess it will change hands to-night for the
last time--and without the need of any Bill of Sale from old Henry
Grenville! But we were speaking of the Rat--and why the Rat was
murdered. If the Rat had had a chance to spread the news that the money
paid by Mr. Curley this afternoon was counterfeit, it--"
Jimmie Dale did not finish his sentence. In a bound, as the door from
the cellar crashed inward, he was through the panel opening and in the
room above. There was light from the open panel behind him--enough to
show him that he was in a small room which was fitted up as an
office--the office of Haines & Curley, wholesale liquor dealers!
In an instant he was out of the office, and running silently down the
length of the store. He snatched off his mask, reached the front door,
opened it, stepped out on the quiet, deserted street--and a moment later
Jimmie Dale was but one of the many that still, even at that hour,
drifted their way along the Bowery.
THE LAST CARD
Two weeks had gone by--or was it three? How long was it since he had
found the Tocsin's letter in the secret hiding place of the new
Sanctuary! It had seemed to him then that he had been given a new lead,
a new hope; for, once he had recovered from his startled amazement at
the realisation that she was as conversant with the secrets of the new
Sanctuary as she had been with the old, there had come the thought of
turning that very fact to his own account--that if he were unable to
reach or find her by any other means, he might succeed, instead, by
letting her unwittingly come to him. She had come there once to the
Sanctuary when he had been absent; she was almost certain to come there
again--when she _thought_ he was absent! He had put his plan into
execution. For days at a stretch he had remained hidden in the
Sanctuary--and nothing had come of it--and then the inaction, coupled
with the knowledge that the peril which faced her, even though his
previous efforts to avert it had all been abortive, had made it
unbearable to remain longer passive, and he had given it up, and gone
out again, combing and searching through the dens and dives of the
That had been two weeks ago--or three. And the net result had
Jimmie Dale allowed the evening newspaper to slip from his fingers. It
dropped to the arm of his lounging chair, and from there to the floor.
It was no use. He had been reading mechanically ever since he had
returned from the club half an hour ago, and he was conscious in only
the haziest sort of way of what he had been reading. The market, the
general news items, the editorials, had all blended one into the other
to form a meaningless jumble of words; even the leading article on the
front page, that proclaimed as imminent the final and complete expose
of what had come to be known as "The Private Club Ring"--an
investigation that, from its inception, he had hitherto followed
closely, promising as it did to involve and link in partnership with
the lowest of the underworld names that heretofore had stood high up in
the social circles of New York--seemed uninteresting and unable to hold
his attention to-night.
He rose impulsively from his chair, and, walking down the length of the
richly furnished room, his tread soundless on the thick, heavy rug, drew
the portieres aside, and stood looking out of the rear window; It was
dark outside, but presently the shadows formed into concrete shapes,
and, across the black space of driveway and yard, the wall of the garage
assumed a solid background against the night. He passed his hand over
his forehead heavily, and a wanness came into his face and eyes. Once
before be had stood here at this window of his den, the room that ran
the entire depth of his magnificent Riverside Drive residence, and old
Jason had stood at the front window--and they had watched, Jason and
he--watched the shadows, that were not shadows of walls and buildings,
close in around the house. That was the night before he had escaped from
the trap set by the Crime Club; the night before the old Sanctuary had
burned down, and police and underworld alike had believed the Gray Seal
buried beneath the charred and fallen walls; the night before she, the
Tocsin, had come for a little while into her own, and for a little
while--into his arms.
His lips twisted in pain. A little while! Days of glad and glorious
wonder! They were gone now; and in their place was emptiness and
loneliness--and a great, overmastering fear and terror that would clutch
at times, as it clutched now, cold at his heart.
It was not so very long ago that night, only a few months ago, but it
seemed as though the years had come and rolled away since then. She was
gone again, driven by a peril that menaced her life into hiding again--a
peril that she would not let him share--because she _loved_ him.
The pain that showed on his twisted lips was voiced in a low,
involuntary cry. Because she loved him! His hands clenched hard. Where
was she? Who was it that dogged and haunted her, that was wrecking and
ruining her life? God knew! And God knew, employing every resource he
possessed, he had done everything he could to reach her. And all that he
had accomplished had been the creation of a new character in the
underworld! That was all--and yet, strangely enough, in that way there
had come to him the one single gleam of relief that he had known, for
out of the creation of that character had sprung again the activities of
the Gray Seal, and with the resumption of those activities, since, as in
the old days, those "calls to arms" of hers had come again he knew that,
at least, she was so far alive and safe.
Jimmie Dale swung from the window, and began to pace rapidly up and down
the room. Safe--yes! But for how long? She had outwitted those against
her up to now, but for how long would--
He had halted abruptly beside the table. Some one was knocking at the
"Come!" he called.
And old Jason entered--and it seemed to Jimmie Dale that he must laugh
out like one suddenly over-wrought and in hysteria. In the old butler's
hand was a silver card tray, and on the tray was--but there was no need
to look on the tray, old Jason's face, curiously mingling excitement and
disquiet, the imperturbability of the butler gone for the nonce, was
alone quite eloquent enough. But Jimmie Dale, master of many things, was
most of all master of himself.
"Well, Jason?" His voice was quiet and contained as he spoke. He reached
out and took from the tray a white, unaddressed envelope. It was from
her, of course--even Jason knew that it was another of those mysterious
epistles, one of the many that had passed through the old butler's
hands, that had in the last few years so completely revolutionised, as
it were, his, Jimmie Dale's, mode of life. "Well, Jason?" He was toying
with the envelope in his hand. "How did it come this time?"
"It was in another envelope, Master Jim, sir--addressed to me, sir,"
explained the old butler nervously. "A messenger boy brought it, sir. I
opened the outside envelope, Master Jim, and--and I knew at once, sir,
that--that it was one of those letters."
"I see." Jimmie Dale smiled a little mirthlessly. What, after all, did
the "how" of it matter? It was a foregone conclusion that, as it had
been a hundred times before, it would avail him nothing so far as
furnishing a clue to her whereabouts was concerned! "Very well, Jason."
His tones were a dismissal.
But Jason did not go; and there was something more in the act than
that of a well-trained servant as the old man stooped, picked up the
newspaper from the floor, and folded it neatly. He laid the paper
hesitantly on the table, and began to fumble awkwardly with the
"What is it, Jason?" prompted Jimmie Dale.
"Well, Master Jim, sir," said Jason, and the old face grew suddenly
strained, "there _is_ something that, begging your pardon for the
liberty, sir, I would like to say. I don't know what all these strange
letters are about, and it's not for me, sir, it's not my place, to ask.
But once, Master Jim, you honoured me with your confidence to the extent
of saying they meant life and death; and once, sir, the night this house
was watched, I could see for myself that you were in some great danger.
I--Master Jim, sir--I--I am an old man now, sir, but I dandled you on my
knee when you were only a wee tot, sir, and--and you'll forgive me, sir,
if I presume beyond my station, only--only--" His voice broke
suddenly; his eyes were full of tears.
Jimmie Dale's hand went out, both of them, and were laid affectionately
on the old man's shoulders.
"I put my life in your hands that night, Jason," he said simply. "Go on.
What is it?"
"Yes, sir. Thank you, Master Jim, sir." Jason swallowed hard; his voice
choked a little. "It isn't much, sir, I--I don't know that it's anything
at all; but nights, sir, when I'm sitting up for you, Master Jim, and
you don't come home, I--"
"But I've told you again and again that you are not to sit up for me,
Jason," Jimmie Dale remonstrated kindly.
"Yes, I know, sir." Jason shook his head. "But I couldn't sleep, sir,
anyway--thinking about it, Master Jim, sir. I--well, sir--sometimes I
get terribly anxious and afraid, Master Jim, that something will
happen to you, and it seems as though you were all alone in this, and
I thought, sir, that perhaps if--if some one--some one you could
trust, Master Jim, could do something--_anything_, sir, it might make
it all right. I--I'm an old man, Master Jim, it--it wouldn't matter
about me, and--"
Jimmie Dale turned abruptly to the table. His own eyes were wet. These
were not idle words that Jason used, or words spoken without a full
realisation of their meaning. Jason was offering, and calling it
presumption to do so, his life in place of his, Jimmie Dale's, if by so
doing he could shield the master whom he loved.
"Thank you, Jason." Jimmie Dale turned again from the table. "There is
nothing you can do now, but if the time ever comes--" He looked for a
long minute into Jason's face; then his hands were laid again on the
other's shoulders, and he swung the old man gently around. "There's the
door, Jason--and God bless you!"
Jason went slowly from the room. The door closed. For the first time
that he had ever held a letter of hers in his hand Jimmie Dale was for a
moment heedless of it. If the time ever came! He smiled strangely. The
love and affection that had come with the years of Jason's service were
not all on one side. Not for anything in the world would he put a hair
of that gray head in jeopardy! It was not lack of faith or trust that
held him back from taking Jason into his full confidence--it was the
possibility, always present, that some day the house of cards might
totter, the Gray Seal be discovered to be Jimmie Dale, and in the ruin,
the disaster, the debacle that must follow, the less old Jason knew, for
old Jason's own sake, the better! It was the one thing that would save
Jason. The charge of complicity would fall to the ground before the old
man's very ingenuousness!
And then Jimmie Dale shrugged his shoulders, a sort of whimsical
fatalistic philosophy upon him, and, as he tore the envelope open, he
sat down in the lounging chair close to the table. Another "call to
arms"! An appeal for some one else--never for herself! He shook his
head. How often had he hoped that the summons, instead, would prove to
be the one thing he asked and lived for--to take his place beside her,
to aid _her_! Not one of these letters had he ever opened without the
hope that, in spite of the intuition which told him his hope was futile,
it would prove at last to be the call to him for herself! Perhaps this
one--he was eagerly unfolding the pages he had taken from the
envelope--perhaps this one--no!--a glance was enough--it was far remote
from any personal relation to her.
"Dear Philanthropic Crook"--he leaned back in his chair, as his eyes
travelled hurriedly over the opening paragraphs, a keen sense of
disappointment upon him, despite the intuition that had bade him expect
nothing else--and then suddenly, startled, tense, he sat upright,
strained forward in his seat. He could not read fast enough. His eyes
leaped over words and sentences.
"... They are playing their last card to-night ... David Archman ... it
is murder, Jimmie ... letter signed J. Barca ... Sixth Avenue stationer
... Martin Moore ... Gentleman Laroque, the gangster ... Niccolo Sonnino
... end house to left of courtyard entrance ... safe in rear room ...
lives alone ... tonight ..."
For a moment Jimmie Dale did not move as he finished reading the letter,
save that his fingers began to tear the pages into strips, and the
strips over and over again into tiny fragments--then, mechanically, he
dropped the pieces into the pocket of his dinner jacket and mechanically
reached for the newspaper that Jason had picked up and laid on the
table. And now a dull red burned in his cheeks, and the square jaw was
clamped and hard. Strange coincidence! Yes, it was strange--but perhaps
it was more than mere coincidence! He had an interest, a very personal,
vital interest in that article on the front page now, in this combine of
those who were frankly of the dregs of the criminal world and those of a
blacker breed who hid behind the veneer of respectability and station.
He read the article slowly. It was but the resume of the case that had
been under investigation for the past few weeks, the sensation it had
created the greater since the publicity so far given to it had but
hinted darkly at the scope of the exposure to come, while as yet no
names had been mentioned. "The Private Club Ring," as set forth in the
paper, operated a chain of what purported to be small, select and very
exclusive clubs, but which in reality were gambling traps of the most
vicious description--and the field of their operations was very wide and
exceedingly lucrative. Men known to have money, whether New Yorkers or
from out of town, were "introduced" there by "members" whose standing
and presumed respectability were beyond reproach--and they were bled
white; while, to add variety to the crooked games, orgies, revels and
carousals of the most depraved character likewise furnished the lever
for blackmail--the "member" _ostensibly_ being in as bad a hole, and in
as desperate a predicament as the "guest" he had introduced!
The article told Jimmie Dale nothing new, nothing that he did not
already know, save the statement that the evidence now in the possession
of the authorities was practically complete, and that the arrest and
disclosure of those involved might be expected at any moment.
He put down the paper, and stood up--and for the second time that night
began to pace the room. If the article had told him nothing new, it at
least explained that sentence in the Tocsin's letter--_they are playing
their last card to-night._ They must strike now, or never--the exposure
could be but a matter of a few hours off!
A face crowned with its gray hair rose before him, a kindly face, grave
and strong and fine, the face of a man of sterling honesty and
unimpeachable integrity--the face of David Archman, the assistant
district attorney, who had both instituted and was in charge of the
investigation that now threatened New York with an upheaval that
promised to shake many a social structure to its foundations. Yes, they
would play their last card, a vile, despicable and hellish card--but how
little they knew David Archman! They would break his life; it would,
indeed, as the Tocsin had said, be murder--but they would never break
David Archman's unswerving loyalty to principle and duty! They had tried
that--by threats of personal violence, by the offer of bribes in sums
large enough to have tempted many!
His face hard, his forehead gathered in puzzled furrows, Jimmie Dale
stepped to the door, and locked it; then, drawing aside the portiere
that hung before the little alcove at the lower end of the room, knelt
down before the squat, barrel-shaped safe, and his fingers began to play
over the knobs and dials.
Yes, it was a vitally personal matter now; there was an added incentive
to-night spurring the Gray Seal on to act. David Archman had been his
father's closest friend; and he, Jimmie Dale, himself had always looked
on David Archman, and with reason, as little less than a second father.
His frown grew deeper--he did not understand. But Tocsin did _not_ make
mistakes. He had had evidence of that on too many occasions when he had
thought otherwise to question it now--but David Archman's son in _this_!
It seemed incredible! The boy, he was little more than a boy, scarcely
twenty, was and always had been, perhaps, a little wild, but a thief, an
associate and accomplice of the city's worst crooks and criminals was
something of which he, Jimmie Dale, had never dreamed until this
instant, and now, while it staggered him, it brought, too, a sense of
merciless fury--a fury against those who would stab like inhuman
cowards, pitilessly, at the father through the son. Their last card! The
safe swung open. Their last card was--Clarie Archman, the son!
He reached into the safe, took out an automatic, and placed it in his
pocket. There was no necessity to go to the Sanctuary--what he would
need was here in duplicate, and it would be Jimmie Dale, not
Smarlinghue, who played the role of the Gray Seal to-night. A dozen
small steel picklocks in graded sizes followed the revolver, and
after these a black silk mask and a pocket flashlight--the thin,
metal insignia case containing the little diamond-shaped,
gray-coloured paper seals, never absent from his person since the
night he had lost and recovered it again, was already reposing in an
inner pocket of his clothes.
His face was still hard, as he stood up and closed the safe. The way
out, the way to save David Archman was plain, of course. It was even
simple--if it was not too late! And the way out was another "crime"
committed by the Gray Seal! Instead of Clarie Archman and J. Barca,
alias Gentleman Laroque, robbing the safe of one Niccolo Sonnino, dealer
in precious stones, it would be the Gray Seal--if it was not already too
late to forestall the others!
If it was not too late! He looked at his watch. It was twenty minutes
after eleven. Yes, there should be time; but, if not--what then? And
what of that letter? His teeth clamped. Well, he would try it; and he
would make every second count now! He was lifting the telephone receiver
of the private house installation now, calling the garage. Benson, his
chauffeur, answered him almost on the instant.
"The light touring car, Benson, please, and as quickly as possible,"
said Jimmie Dale pleasantly.
"Yes, sir--at once," Benson answered.
Jimmie Dale replaced the receiver on the hook, and, running now across
the floor, unlocked the door, crossed the hall, and entered his
dressing room. Here, he changed his dinner clothes for a dark tweed
suit--the location of Niccolo Sonnino's place of business was in a
neighbourhood where one in evening dress, to say the least of it,
would not go unobserved--transferred the metal case and the articles
he had taken from the safe to the pockets of the tweed suit, and
descended the stairs.
Standing in the hallway, Jason, that model of efficiency, with an
appraising glance at his master's changed attire, handed Jimmie Dale a
soft hat--and opened the door.
"Benson is outside, Master Jim," said Jason; but the look in the old
man's eyes was eloquent far beyond the respectful and studied quiet of
his words. The old face was pale and grave with anxiety.
"It's all right, Jason--all right _this_ time," Jimmie Dale smiled
"Thank you, sir," said Jason, in a low voice. "I hope so, sir. And,
begging your pardon, Master Jim, sir, I pray God it is."
And for answer Jimmie Dale smiled again, and passed down the steps, and
entered the car. But the smile was gone as he leaned back in his seat
after giving Benson his directions--speed, and a corner a few blocks
away from Chatham Square--he was not so sure that it was all right. It
was entirely a question of time. Given the time and the
opportunity--Niccolo Sonnino out of the road, for instance--given twenty
minutes ahead of Clarie Archman and Gentleman Laroque, it would be
simple enough. But otherwise--his lips thinned--otherwise, he did not
know. Otherwise, there was promise of strange, grim work before
daylight came, work that might lead him out of necessity to the role of
Smarlinghue, and as Smarlinghue--anywhere! He did not know; he knew only
one thing--that, at any cost, if it lay within any power of his to
prevent it, David Archman should not live a broken man.
The car speeded its way rapidly along in a downtown direction, Benson
keeping, wherever possible, to the unfrequented streets. Jimmie Dale,
busy with his problem, his mind sifting and turning this way and that
the curious, and in some cases apparently conflicting details of the
Tocsin's letter, paid little attention to his surroundings, save to note
approvingly from time to time that a request to Benson to hurry was
equivalent to something perilously near to a contempt of speed laws. It
still seemed incredible that Clarie Archman was a thief, a safe-tapper,
even if but an amateur one. The boy must have travelled a pace of late
that was fast and furious. How had he ever become intimate enough with
Gentleman Laroque to be associated with the other in such a crime as
this? How had Laroque come to play a part in the miserable scheme of
trickery that was the Private Club Ring's last card.
Jimmie Dale shook his head helplessly at the first question--and shook
it again at the second. He knew Laroque--he knew him for one of the most
degraded, as well as one of the most dreaded, gang leaders in crimeland.
Laroque, in unvarnished language, was a devil, and, worse still, a most
callous devil. Laroque stood first and all the time for Laroque. If
murder would either further or safeguard Laroque's personal interests,
Laroque was the sort of man who would stop only to consider, not whether
the murder should be committed, but the method that might best be
employed in order to implicate as little as possible one Laroque! Also,
to those in the secrets of the underworld, Gentleman Laroque added to
his accomplishments, or had done so before he rose to the eminence of
gang leader, the profession of "box-worker"--not a very clever exponent
of the art, crude perhaps in his methods, but at the same time
efficacious, as a dozen breaks and looted safes in the years gone by
bore ample witness.
Grimly whimsical came Jimmie Dale's smile. Gentleman Laroque would have
made a very much better "confidence" man than safe-worker. The man was
suave, polished when he wanted to be, educated; he possessed all the
requisites, and, in abundance, the prime requisite of all--a cunning
that was the cunning of a fox. This might even have explained his
acquaintanceship with Clarie Archman, except for the fact that it did
not explain Clarie Archman's co-operation in a premeditated robbery
with any one!
Again Jimmie Dale shook his head--and there came another question, one
for which no answer, even of a suggestive nature, had been supplied in
the Tocsin's letter. Why had Niccolo Sonnino's safe been selected as the
one especial and desirable nut to crack? He knew Niccolo Sonnino, too,
in a general way, as all who resided near or had any dealings in the
neighbourhood where Sonnino lived, knew the man. True, combined with a
small trade in jewelry and precious stones, the former cheap and the
latter of an inferior grade to fit the purses of his customers, the man
was a money-lender--but in an equally small way. Loans of minor amounts,
a very few dollars as a maximum, was probably the extent of Sonnino's
ventures along this line. Sonnino himself was a crafty little man, but
craftiness, if it did not transgress the law, was not a crime; he was
undoubtedly a usurer in his petty way, and he was both feared and
disliked, but beyond that no one pretended to know anything about him.
Ordinarily, Sonnino's safe, then, might be expected to be rather a
barren affair, hardly a lure for a Gentleman Laroque brand of crook!