Part 4 out of 6
Why, then, Sonnino's safe to-night? What was in that letter signed "J.
Barca" that Clarie Archman had received? J. Barca was Gentleman Laroque;
that would have been evident in any case, even if the Tocsin had not
expressly said so--but the letter! Did the letter, apart from its
incriminating ingenuity, supply the answer to his question? Had Sonnino,
for instance, by some lucky turn, disposed of his stock in bulk, and was
thus for the moment in possession of an unusually large amount of cash;
or, inversely, had Sonnino received an unusual stock of stones? Either
of these theories, and equally neither one of them, might furnish the
answer! Jimmie Dale shrugged his shoulders grimly. He would find the
answer--in Sonnino's safe! One thing, however, one thing that might have
had some bearing on Laroque's choice, one thing for which he, Jimmie
Dale, was grateful to Laroque for making such a choice, was that
Sonnino's place lent itself admirably to attack--from the standpoint of
the attacker! A black courtyard, screened completely from the street; a
Jimmie Dale looked up suddenly, and, as suddenly, leaning forward, he
touched Benson's shoulder. They were just approaching a restaurant and
music hall known as "The Sphinx," that was popular for the moment with
the slumming parties from uptown.
"This will do. You may let me out here at The Sphinx, Benson," he said
quietly; and then, as the car stopped: "I shall not be long,
Benson--perhaps half an hour--wait for me."
Benson touched his cap. Jimmie Dale ran up the steps of the restaurant,
entered, threaded his way through several crowded rooms where the
midnight revelry was in full swing--and passed out of the place by a
convenient rear exit that gave on the adjoining cross street. The car
standing in front of The Sphinx would attract no notice; and he was now
on the same street as Sonnino's place, and only two short blocks away.
He started forward from the restaurant door--and paused, struggling with
a refractory match in an effort to light a cigarette. A man brushed by
him, making for the restaurant door, a tall, wiry-built, swarthy,
sharp-featured man--and Jimmie Dale flipped the stub of his match away
from him, and went on. Sonnino himself! There was luck then at the
start--the coast was clear!
CAUGHT IN THE ACT
It was one of those countless streets on the East Side each so identical
with another--dark, not over clean, flanked on both sides with small
shops, basement stores and tenement dwellings that crowded one upon the
other in a sort of helpless confusion. Jimmie Dale moved quickly along.
The whimsical smile was back on his lips. Sonnino, whose business, the
money-lending end of it, would naturally have kept him late at work, was
now evidently intent on a belated meal; Sonnino, therefore, could be
counted upon as a factor eliminated for at feast the next half hour--and
half an hour was enough, a little more than enough!
Jimmie Dale glanced back over his shoulder. There was no one in sight.
A yard ahead of him, one of those relics of barbaric architecture,
tunnelled as it were through the centre of a building that the space
overhead might not be wasted, was the black driveway that gave
entrance to the courtyard behind, where Sonnino lived alone in one of
a half dozen small, tottering-from-age frame houses. Jimmie Dale drew
closer to the wall, came opposite the driveway--and disappeared from
It was the Gray Seal now, the professional Jimmie Dale, as silent in his
movements as the shadows about him. He traversed the driveway, and
emerged on the courtyard. Here, it was scarcely less dark. There was no
moon, and no lights in any of the houses that made the rear of the
courtyard. He could just discern the houses as looming shapes against
the sky line, that was all.
He crossed the courtyard, and, reaching the line of door-stepless,
poverty-stricken hovels--they appeared to be little more than
that--crept stealthily along to the end house at the left, halted an
instant to press his face against a black window pane, then tried the
door cautiously. It was locked, of course. Again there came the
whimsical smile, but it was almost hidden now by the black silk mask
that he slipped quickly over his face. His finger tips, that were like a
magical sixth sense to Jimmie Dale, embodying all the other five, felt
tentatively over the lock, then slipped into his pocket, selected
unerringly one of his picklocks, and inserted the little steel
instrument in the keyhole. An instant more and the door was opening
without a sound under Jimmie Dale's hand. And then, the door open, he
stepped over the threshold, and, in the act of closing the door behind
him, stood suddenly rigid--and where the whimsical smile had been
before, his lips were now compressed into a thin, straight line.
"What's that?" came a hoarse, shaken whisper out of the blackness
"What's _what_?" demanded another voice--the whisper this time sharp and
caustic. "I didn't hear anything!"
"Neither did I," admitted the first speaker. "It wasn't that--it was
like a draft of air--as though the door or a window had been opened."
"Forget it!" observed the second voice contemptuously. "Cut out the
jumps--we've got to get through here before Sonnino gets back. You'd
make a wooden Indian nervous!"
There was silence for an instant, then a curious gnawing sound
punctuated with quick, low, metallic rasps as of a ratchet at work--and
upon Jimmie Dale for a moment came stunned dismay. Time, the one factor
upon which he had depended, was lost to him; Clarie Archman and
Gentleman Laroque were already at work in there in that room beyond. He
stood motionless, his brain whirling; and then slowly, without a sound,
an inch at a time, he began to close the door behind him. He could see
nothing; but the door connecting the two rooms was obviously open--the
distinctness with which the whispering voices had reached him was proof
of that. They were working, too, without light, or he would have got a
warning gleam when he had looked through the window. And now--what now?
The picklock was shifted to his left hand, as he drew his automatic from
his pocket. There was only one answer to the question--to play the game
out to the end, whatever that end might be!
Beneath the mask his face drew into chiselled lines, as the picklock
silently locked the door. There was one exit from that inner room, and
only _one_--through the room in which he stood. The Tocsin had drawn an
accurate word-plan of the crude, shack-like place, and now in his mind
he reconstructed it here in the darkness. The doorway into a small hall
that led to the stairs adjoined the doorway of that inner room where
the two were now at work--and in that room were no windows, it was a
sort of blind cubby-hole where Niccolo Sonnino transacted his most
Jimmie Dale crept forward up the room. There was no answering creak of
board or flooring, no sound save that gnawing sound, and the rasping
click of the ratchet. His place of vantage was against the wall between
the two doors--there, be could both command the exit from, and see into,
the inner room, while the doorway into the hall provided him with a
means of retreat should the necessity arise. And then, suddenly,
halfway up the room, he dropped down behind what was evidently a
jeweller's workbench. A whisper, obviously Laroque's this time, came
once more from the inner room.
"Shoot the flash again!" And then, savagely: "Curse it, not on the
_ceiling_! Can't you hold it steady! What the devil is the matter
There was no answer. A dull glimmer of light filtered through the
doorway, but from the position in which he lay Jimmie Dale could
distinguish nothing in the inner room itself.
"All right! That'll do!" Laroque growled presently.
The light went out. Jimmie Dale crept forward again. And now he gained
the rear wall of the room, and crouched down close against it between
the two doorways.
Came the sound of breathing now, heavy, as from sustained exertion,
making almost an undertone of the steady _click-click-click_ of the
ratchet, and the sullen gnaw of the bit. The minutes passed. The
flashlight went on again--and Jimmie Dale strained forward. Two dark
forms, backs to him, were outlined against the face of the safe which
was at the far side of the room, a nickel dial glistened in the white
ray--he could make out nothing else.
Then darkness again. And again, after a time, the flashlight. Ten,
fifteen, perhaps twenty minutes dragged by. Jimmie Dale might have been
a shadow moving against the wall for all the sound he made as he changed
his cramped position; but, just below the mask, his lips were pressed
fiercely together. Would Gentleman Laroque never get through! Sonnino
was not only likely to return in a very few minutes now, but was almost
certain to do so. Under his breath Jimmie Dale cursed the gangster's
bungling methods--and not for their crudity alone. His first impulse
had been to surprise the two, hold them up at the revolver point, but
the result of such an act would have been abortive, for the disfigured
safe would stand a mute, incontrovertible witness to the fact that an
_attempt_ to force it had been made--and, whether it was actual robbery
or attempted robbery that was proved against the son, it in no way
deflected the blow aimed at David Archman. And, besides, there was the
letter! If he, Jimmie Dale, had been in time even to have prevented
Gentleman Laroque from sinking a bit into the safe, the letter would
have counted not at all--but now it counted to the extent that it
literally meant life and death. Who had it? Not Clarie Archman--that was
certain. And the Tocsin had not said--obviously because she, too, had
been in the dark in that respect. Therefore he could only wait, watch
and follow every move of the game throughout the rest of the night, if
necessary! It was the only course open to him; the letter, not the
robbery, was paramount now.
A curious, muffled, metallic thump, mingled with a quick, low-breathed,
triumphant oath, came suddenly from the inner room--and then Laroque's
voice, eager, the words clipped off as though in feverish elation:
"There she is! One nice little job--eh? Well, come on--shoot your light
into her, and let's take a look at the Christmas tree!"
The flashlight's ray flooded the interior of the open safe. Laroque, on
his knees, laughed suddenly, and thrust his hand inside.
"What did I tell you, eh?" he chuckled. "I got the straight tip, eh?
Four thousand, if there's a cent!"
Laroque began to remove what were evidently packages of banknotes from
the safe--but Jimmie Dale was no longer watching the scene. He had edged
suddenly back into the doorway of the hall, and was listening now
intently. A footstep--he could have sworn he had caught the sound of a
footstep--seemed to have come from just outside the front window. But
all was still again. Perhaps he had been mistaken. No! Slight as was the
sound, he heard, unmistakably now, a key grate in the lock--and then,
stealthily, the front door began to open.
A bewildered look came into Jimmie Dale's face, as he retreated further
back into the hallway itself now. It was probably Sonnino; but why did
Sonnino come stealing into his own house like--well, like any one of the
three predatory guests already there before him? And then Jimmie Dale's
face cleared. Of course! From the window the glow of the flashlight in
the inner room could be seen. Sonnino was forewarned, and
The front door closed softly, so softly that had Jimmie Dale,
supersensitive as his hearing was, not been intent upon it, it would
have escaped him. The glow from the inner room, faint as it was,
threw into shadowy relief a man's form tiptoeing forward--and then a
"_What's that_!" came in a wild whisper from Clarie Archman.
"Got 'em again!" Laroque snapped back. "You make me tired!"
"Let's get out of here! Let's get out of here--quick!" Clarie Archman's
voice, not so low now, held a tone of frantic appeal.
"Nix!" said Laroque, in a vicious sneer. "Not till the job's done! D'ye
think I'm going to spend half an hour cracking a safe and take a chance
of missing any bets? We've got the coin all right, but there ought to
be one or two of Sonnino's sparklers lying around in some of these
There was a click of an electric-light switch, a cry from Clarie
Archman, the inner room was ablaze with light, and--Jimmie Dale had
edged forward again out of the hallway--Sonnino, revolver in hand, was
standing just over the threshold facing Gentleman Laroque and the
assistant district attorney's son.
Then silence--a silence of seconds that were as minutes. And then
Gentleman Laroque laughed gratingly.
"Hello, Sonnino!" he said coolly. "A little late, aren't you? You've
kept me stalling for the last five minutes. Know my friend--Mr. Martin
Moore, alias Mr. Clarie Archman? Clarie, this is Signor Niccolo Sonnino,
the proprietor of this joint."
And then to Jimmie Dale, where before his mind had groped in darkness to
reconcile apparently incongruous details, in a flash there came the
light. The "plant" was a little more intricate, a little more cunning, a
little more hellish--that was all!
The boy, white to the lips, was swaying on his feet, grasping at the
table in the centre of the room. He looked from one to the other, a
miserable, dawning understanding in his eyes.
"You--you know my name?" His voice was scarcely audible.
"Sure!" said Laroque--and yawned insolently.
"So!" purred Sonnino, in excellent English. "Is it so! A thief! The son
of the so-honest Mister Attorney--a thief!"
"It's a lie!" The boy's hands, clenched, were raised above his head,
and then shaken almost maniacally in Gentleman Laroque's face. "It's
a lie! I--I don't understand, but--but you two, you devils, are
together in this!"
"Sure!" retorted Laroque, as insolently as before--and flung the other's
hands away. "Sure, we are!"
"It's a lie!" said the boy again. "I was in a hole. I needed money. You
told me you knew a man who would lend it to me. That's why I came here
with you, and then--and then you held me here with your revolver, and
began to open that safe."
"Sure!" returned Laroque, for the third time. "Sure--that's right! Well,
what's the answer?"
"This!" cried the boy wildly. "I don't know what your game is, but this
is my answer! Do you think I would have touched that money, or have let
you--once I got out of here where I could have got help! I'm not a
thief--whatever else I may be. That's my answer!"
Niccolo Sonnino's smile was oily.
"It is a little late, is it not?" he leered. "Listen, my little young
friend; I will tell you a story. You work for a bank, eh? The bank does
not like its young men to speculate--yes? But why should you not
speculate a little, a very little, if you like--if you get the very
private and good tips, eh? It is not wrong--no, certainly, it is not
wrong. But at the same time the bank must not know. Very well! They
shall not know--no one shall know. You are not the young Mr. Archman any
more, you are--what is the name?--Martin Moore. But Martin Moore must
have an address, eh? Very well! On Sixth Avenue there is a little store
where one rents boxes for private mail, and where questions are never
asked--is it not so, my very dear young friend?"
The boy was staring in a demented way into Sonnino's face, but he did
"Aw, hand it to him straight!" Gentleman Laroque broke in roughly. "I
don't want to hang around here all night. Here, Archman, you listen to
me! We piped you off on that lay about two weeks ago--and it looked good
to us, and we played it for a winner, see? You got introduced to me, and
found me a pretty good sort, and we got thick together--you know all
about that. Also, you get introduced to some new brokers, who said
they'd take good care of your margins--maybe they only ran a
bucket-shop, but you didn't know it! All right! You got snarled up good
and plenty. Yesterday you were wiped out, and three thousand dollars to
the bad besides, and they were yelling for their money and threatening
to expose you. They gave you until to-morrow morning to make good. You
told me about it. I told you this morning I thought I knew a man who
would lend you the coin, and"--he laughed mockingly, and jerked his hand
toward the safe--"well, I led you to it, didn't I?"
"I--I don't understand," the boy mumbled helplessly.
"Don't you!" jeered Laroque. "Well, it looks big enough for a blind man
to see! We've got this robbery wished on you to a fare-thee-well! A
young man who speculates, who uses an assumed name, and runs a private
letter box on Sixth Avenue, and has forty-eight hours in which to square
up his debts or face exposure, has a hell of a chance with a
The boy circled his lips with the tip of his tongue.
"But why--why?" he whispered. "I--I never did anything to you."
"Sure, you didn't!" Laroque's tones were brutally amiable now. "It's
your father. We've an idea that maybe he won't be so keen about going
ahead with that little investigation of the private clubs after we've
put a certain little proposition about his son up to him."
"No, no! No--you won't!" Clarie Archman's voice rose suddenly shrill,
beyond control. "You won't! You can't! You're in it yourselves"--he
pointed his finger wildly at one and then the other of the two
"Think so?" drawled Laroque. "All right, you tell 'em so--tell the jury
about it, tell your father, who is such a shark on evidence, about it.
Sure, I'm in on it with you--but you don't know who I am. They'll have
a hot time finding J. Barca, Esquire! I'm thinking of taking a little
trip to Florida for my health, and my valet's got my grip all packed!
Savvy? And now listen to Sonnino. Sonnino's a wonder in the witness box.
Niccolo, tell the jury what you know about this unfortunate young man."
Sonnino, a wicked grin on his face, made a dramatic flourish with the
hand that held the revolver.
"Well, I was asleep upstairs. I wakened. I thought I heard a noise
downstairs. I listened. Then I got up, and went down the stairs quiet
like a mouse. I turned on the light quick--like this"--he snapped his
fingers. "Two men have broken open my safe, and they have my money, a
lot of money, for I keep all my money there; I do not bank--no. They
rush at me, they knock me down, they make their escape, but I
recognise one of them--it is Mister the young Archman, who I have many
times seen at The Sphinx Cafe--yes. Well, and then on the floor I find
a letter." He grinned wickedly again. "Have you the letter that I
"Sure," said Gentleman Laroque--and reached into his pocket. "It was
addressed to Martin Moore on Sixth Avenue, wasn't it?"
"My God!" It came in a sudden, pitiful cry from the boy, and his hand
involuntarily went to his own pocket. "You--you've got that letter!"
"Do you think you're up against a piker game!" exclaimed Laroque
maliciously. "Well then, forget it! You didn't have this in your pocket
half an hour before it was lifted by one of the slickest poke-getters in
the whole of little old New York." He was taking a letter from its
envelope and opening out the sheet. "That's the kind of a crowd that's
in on this, my bucko! Listen, and I'll read the letter. It looked
innocent enough when you got it, in view of what I told you about
knowing a man who would lend you the money. But pipe how it sounds with
Sonnino's safe bored full of holes. Are you listening? 'It's all right.
Niccolo Sonnino has got his safe crammed full to-night. Meet me at
Bristol Bob's at eleven. J. Barca.'"
There was silence in the room. Clarie Archman had dropped into a
chair, and had buried his face in his arms that were out-flung across
Then Laroque spoke again:
"Do you see where you stand--Clarie? Tell your story--and it's the
_story_ that sounds like a neat 'plant' of your lawyer's to get you off.
You only get in deeper with the jury for trying to _trick_ them, see?
Here's the evidence--and it's got you cold. Sonnino recognises you. The
letter is identified at the Sixth Avenue place, and _you_ are identified
as the guy that's been travelling under the name of Martin Moore. J.
Barca has flown the coop and can't be found, and--well, I guess you get
it, don't you?"
"What--what do you want?" The boy did not lift his head.
"We want your father to let up, and let up damned quick," said Laroque
evenly. "But we'll give _you_ a chance to get out from under, and you
can take it or leave it--it doesn't matter to us. Your father's got the
papers and the affidavits in the 'Private Club' case in his safe at home
to-night, and a lot of those affidavits he can never replace--we've seen
to that! All right! You've got the combination of the safe. Go home and
get that stuff and bring it here. If it's here by four o'clock--that
gives you about three hours--you're out of it. If it isn't, then your
father gets inside information that the gang is wise to the fact that
his son pulled a break tonight, but that they can keep Sonnino's mouth
shut if he throws up the sponge, and that if he doesn't call it off
with the 'Private Club Ring,' if he's so blamed fond of prosecuting,
he'll get a chance to prosecute his own son--as a thief!"
The boy did not move.
"And just one last word," added Laroque sharply. "Don't make the mistake
of thinking that if you refuse to get the affidavits it puts a crimp in
us. It's only because we're playing white with you, and to give you a
chance, that you're getting any choice at all. We didn't intend to give
you one, but we don't want to be too rough on you, so if you want to get
out that way, and will agree to keep on queering your father's game if
he starts it over again, all right. But you want to understand that we
hold just as big a club over your father's head the other way."
"_White!_ Playing white! Oh, my God!" Clarie Archman had lurched up
from the chair to his feet. His face, haggard and drawn, was the face
of one damned.
"Good-night!" said Laroque callously. "You know the way out! You've got
till four o'clock. If you're not back here then--" He shrugged his
shoulders significantly. "You see, I'm not even asking you what you are
going to do. We don't care. It's up to you. Either way suits us. And
Jimmie Dale drew back for a second time that night into the hallway. A
step, slow, faltering, unsteady, like that of a man blinded, passed out
from the inner room, and passed on down the length of the front
room--and the door opened and closed. Clarie Archman, with God alone
knew what purpose in his heart, was gone.
From the thin metal case, by means of the tiny tweezers, Jimmie Dale
took out a gray seal, laid the seal on his handkerchief, folded the
handkerchief carefully, placed it in his pocket--and crept forward
toward the inner door again. The two men were bending over the table,
over the money on the table, dividing it. Jimmie Dale's lips were
mercilessly thin; a fury, not the white, impetuous heat of passion, but
a fury that was cold, deadly, implacable, possessed his soul. He crept
"The crowd that put this up says we keep it between us for our work,"
said Laroque shortly. "A third for you, the rest for me. You sure you
put _all_ they gave you in the safe--Niccolo?" He screwed up his eyes
suspiciously. "You sure you ain't trying to hold anything out on me? If
you are, I'll make you--"
The words died short on his lips--his jaw sagged helplessly.
Jimmie Dale was standing in the doorway.
"Niccolo, drop that revolver!" said Jimmie Dale softly. His automatic
held a bead on the two men.
The revolver clattered to the table top. Neither of the men spoke--only
their faces worked in a queer, convulsive sort of way, as they gazed in
startled fascination at Jimmie Dale.
"Thank you!" said Jimmie Dale politely. He stepped briskly into the
room, shoved Sonnino unceremoniously to one side, shoved his revolver
muzzle none too gently into Laroque's ribs, and went through the
latter's clothes. "Yes," he said, "I thought quite possibly you might
have one." He pocketed Laroque's revolver, and also Sonnino's from the
table. "And now that letter--thank you!" He whipped the letter from
Laroque's inside coat pocket and transferred it to his own, then
stepped back, and smiled--but the smile was not inviting. "I've only
about five minutes to spare," murmured Jimmie Dale. "I'm in a _hurry_,
Niccolo. I see some wrapping paper and string over there on top of the
safe. Get it!"
The man obeyed mechanically, in a stupefied sort of way, and placed
several of the sheets and a quantity of string upon the table. Laroque,
silent, sullen, under the spell of Jimmie Dale's automatic, watched the
proceedings without a word.
"Now," said Jimmie Dale, and an icy note began to creep into the velvet
tones, "you two are going to make the first charitable contribution you
ever made in your lives--say, to one of the city hospitals. Make as neat
and as small a parcel of that money as you can, Niccolo."
"Not by a damned sight!" Laroque roared out suddenly. "Who the blazes
are you! Curse you, I--" He shrank hastily back before the ominous
outthrust of Jimmie Dale's automatic.
"Wrap it up, Niccolo, and tie a string around it!" snapped Jimmie Dale.
And again, but snarling, cursing now, the man obeyed.
Jimmie Dale's hand went into his pocket, and came out with his
handkerchief. He carried the handkerchief to his mouth, moistened the
adhesive side of the gray paper seal, and pressed the handkerchief down
upon the top of the parcel.
"It would hardly do for any one to know where the money really came
from--would it?" observed Jimmie Dale, and smiled uninvitingly again.
The two men were leaning, straining forward, their eyes on the
diamond-shaped gray seal--and into their faces there crept a
"The Gray Seal!" Sonnino stumbled the words.
"Put an outside wrapper around that package!" instructed Jimmie Dale
coldly. He watched Sonnino perform the task with trembling fingers; and
then, placing the package under his arm, Jimmie Dale backed to the door.
There was a key in the lock on the inner side. He transferred it coolly
to the outer side--and his voice rasped suddenly with the fury that
found vent at last.
"You are a pair of hell hounds," he said between his teeth; "but you
are angels compared with the gang that hired you for this. Well, the
game is up! David Archman will settle with _them_ when they face the
investigation--and I will settle with _you_! One night, a year ago, in
last January, a certain Fourth Avenue bank was looted of eighteen
thousand dollars--_do you remember, Laroque?_ Ah, I see you do! The
police are still looking for the man who pulled that job. What would you
say, Laroque, would be the sentence handed out for that little affair to
a man with, say, _your_ past record?"
Laroque's lips were twitching; his face had gone gray.
"Fourteen years would be a light sentence, wouldn't it?" resumed Jimmie
Dale, an even colder menace in his voice. "And you remember Stangeist,
and the Mope, and Australian Ike, don't you, Laroque--you remember they
went to the death house in Sing Sing--and you remember that the Gray
Seal sent them there? Yes, I see you do; I see your memory is good
to-night! Listen, then! I have heard it said that Gentleman Laroque,
with his gangsters behind him, would stop at nothing where Gentleman
Laroque's own skin was concerned. I have heard it said that where
Gentleman Laroque was known he was _feared_. Very well, Laroque, it is
your turn to choose. You can choose between yourself and this 'Private
Club Ring' who have purchased your services in this game to-night. I
fancy you can find a means of inducing Sonnino here to keep his mouth
shut; and I fancy that of the two evils--holding young Archman as a club
over his father, or of your employers facing their trial and
conviction--you can convince the 'Private Club Ring' that the lesser,
the lesser as regards _your_ risk, say, is to face that trial and
conviction. Do I make myself plain--Laroque? It is simply a question of
not a word being said of what has happened to-night--or fourteen years
in Sing Sing for you! I do not think you will find the task difficult
when you add, to whatever arguments of your own you may see fit to
employ, the fact that the Gray Seal, if your principals make a move,
will expose them for this night's work on top of what they will already
have to answer for. Well--Laroque?"
There was silence for a minute. Sonnino, cringing, the suavity, the
oiliness of manner gone, a man afraid, kept his eyes on the table, and
kept passing his hands one over the other. Laroque was the gambler--a
twisted smile was forced to his lips.
"You win," he said hoarsely. "You can take it from me, I'll go up the
river for fourteen years for no one--I'll take blasted good care of
that! But you"--a rage, ungovernable and elemental, found voice in a
sudden torrent of blasphemous invective--"you--we'll get you yet! Some
day we'll get you, you cursed snitch, you--"
"Good-night!" said Jimmie Dale grimly, and, stepping swiftly back over
the threshold, shut and locked the door.
He gained the street, gained his car in front of The Sphinx--and, twenty
minutes later, after a break-neck run in which Benson for the second
time that night defied all speed laws, Jimmie Dale alighted from his car
at a street corner well uptown, dismissed Benson for the night, retraced
his way half the distance back along the block, disappeared into a lane,
and presently, taking a high fence with the agility of a cat in spite
of, his encumbering package, dropped noiselessly down into a backyard.
It was well known ground to Jimmie Dale--as a boy he had played here in
the Archman's backyard, played here with Clarie Archman. His face
masked again, he moved swiftly toward the rear of the house. There was
still Clarie Archman. What would the boy do? Jimmie Dale's hand, a
picklock in it again, clenched fiercely. It was a hell's choice they
had given the boy--to rob his father, or go down himself, and drag his
father with him, in ruin and disgrace! What would the boy do? Jimmie
Dale was working silently at the back door now. It opened, and he
stepped inside. He was here well ahead of the other, there was no
possibility, granting even the start the boy had had, that Clarie
Archman could have made the trip uptown in the same time. It was more
likely that the boy might even linger a long while in misery and
indecision before he came home. That was why he, Jimmie Dale, had
dismissed Benson and the car for the night, and--
With a mental jerk, Jimmie Dale focused his mind on his immediate
surroundings. It was dark; there were no lights in any part of the
house, but he needed none, not even his flashlight--he knew the house as
well and as intimately as his own. He was in the rear hall now, and now
he opened a door, paused cautiously as the dull yellow glow from a dying
grate fire illuminated the room faintly, then stepped inside. It was the
Archman library, the room where David Archman did a great deal of his
work at night A desk stood at the lower end of the room; and in the
corner near the portiered windows was the lawyer's safe.
Jimmie Dale closed the door, moved toward the window, drew the
portieres aside, released the window catch, silently raised the window
itself--it was only a drop a few feet to the yard! And then Jimmie Dale
sat down at the desk.
A clock somewhere in the house struck a single note--that would be
halfpast one. Time passed slowly, interminably. The clock struck
again--two o'clock. And then suddenly Jimmie Dale rose from his chair,
and slipped into the window recess behind the portieres. The front door
closed, a step came along the hall, the library opened, closed
again--and Clarie Archman, his face as the flickering firelight played
upon it, like a face of death, came forward into the room.
For a moment the boy held motionless beside the desk, his eyes fixed in
a sort of horrible fascination upon the safe--and then, slowly, he moved
toward it, and dropped on his knees before it, and his fingers began to
twirl the knob of the dial. His fingers shook, and he was a long time at
his task--and then the handle turned, and the safe was unlocked, but
Clarie Archman did not open the door. Instead, he drew back suddenly,
and rose swaying to his feet, and covered his face with his hands.
"I can't! Oh, my God, I--I can't!" he moaned. He lowered his hands after
a moment, and gazed around him unseeingly, a queer, ghastly look came
into his face. "I--I guess--I guess there's only one--one way to--to
beat them," he whispered. "One way to beat them, and--"
The package in Jimmie Dale's hand dropped suddenly to the floor, he
wrenched the portieres aside, and, with a low, sharp cry, sprang
forward. The boy had taken a revolver from his pocket, and was lifting
it to his head. Jimmie Dale struck up the other's hand--but in time only
to deflect the shot; too late to prevent it being fired. There was a
flash in mid-air, the roar of the report went racketing through the
silent house, and the revolver, spinning from the other's hands, struck
against the wall across the room.
And then Jimmie Dale had the boy by the shoulders, and was shaking him
violently. Clarie Archman was like one stunned, numbed, and bereft of
"It's all right--you're clear! Do you hear--try and understand--you're
clear!" Jimmie Dale whispered fiercely. "Here's your letter!" He thrust
it into the other's hand. "Destroy it! Those men--Sonnino--Barca--will
say nothing. You don't owe anybody any money--that bucket-shop was in
the game with the rest, and--" Cries, voices, were coming from above
now; and Jimmie Dale, like a flash, turned from the boy, leaped for the
safe, wrenched the door open, reached in with both hands, and, snatching
up an armful of the contents, spilled books and papers on the floor. He
was back beside the boy in an instant. "Listen! You heard some one in
here as you entered the house--you came into the room--_you caught me in
the act_--you fired--you missed. And now--_fight_! Fight--pull yourself
together--fight. They are coming!"
He caught the boy around the waist, and the two, locked together, reeled
this way and that about the room. A chair, deliberately kicked over by
Jimmie Dale, crashed to the floor. The cries drew nearer. Footsteps came
racing madly down the stairs--and then the door of the library burst
open, and David Archman, in pajamas, dashed through the doorway, and
without a second's hesitation, made for the two struggling forms--and
Jimmie Dale, releasing his hold upon the boy, suddenly sent the other
staggering backwards full into David Archman, checking David Archman's
rush--and, turning, sprang for the window, snatched up his package,
hurled himself over the sill, dropped to the ground, and, racing for the
fence, climbed it, and made the lane, just as a shot, from David
Archman, no doubt, was fired from the window.
A moment more, and Jimmie Dale, his mask in his pocket, had emerged from
the lane, and was walking nonchalantly along to the street corner;
another, and he had boarded a street car--but under Jimmie Dale's coat
was a most suspicious bulge. Conscious of this, he left the street car a
few blocks farther along, when he was far enough away to be certain that
he would have eluded all pursuit--and walked the rest of the distance to
Riverside Drive. If he had escaped unscathed, the package of banknotes
had not--it was his coat that shielded them from view, not the wrappers,
for the wrappers had been torn almost entirely away in his hasty exit
over the fence.
He reached his home, and mounted the steps cautiously. There was Jason
to consider--Jason with his lovable pernicious habit of sitting up for
his master. Jason must not see those banknotes, that was obvious, and if
Jason--yes!--Jimmie Dale was peering now through the monogrammed lace
that covered the plate glass doors in the vestibule--yes, Jason was
still sitting up. And then Jimmie Dale smiled that strange whimsical
smile of his. Jason was still sitting up--asleep in the hall chair.
Softly, without a sound, Jimmie Dale opened the front door, entered,
passed the old man, and went up the stairs. In his dressing room, he hid
away the package that tomorrow, or at the first opportunity, would
enrich some deserving charity, and, as silently as he had come up the
stairs, he descended them again, passed by the old man again, and went
out to the street once more. There was just one reason why Jason, tired
out and asleep, sat there--only one--because Jason, old Jason,
faithful, big-hearted Jason, loved his Master Jim.
Into Jimmie Dale's eyes there came a mist. Perhaps that was why, because
he could not see clearly, that he stumbled on his way up the steps
again; perhaps that was why he made so much noise that it was Jason who
opened the door and held out his hands for Jimmie Dale's coat and hat.
"What!" said Jimmie Dale severely. "Sitting up again, Jason? Jason, go
to bed at once!"
"Yes, sir," said Jason. "Thank you, sir. Thank you, Master Jim,
ONE CHANCE IN TEN
It was three nights later. Old Jason had placed a tray with
after-dinner coffee and a liqueur set on the table at Jimmie Dale's
elbow--that was fully an hour ago, and both coffee and liqueur were
untouched. Things were not going well. Apart entirely from all lack of
success where the Tocsin was concerned, things were not going well. The
fate of Frenchy Virat, the fate of the Wolf, and, added to this, the
Gray Seal's intervention in the plans and purposes of one Gentleman
Laroque and certain gentlemen still higher up than Laroque, had not
passed unmarked or unnoticed in the underworld. And now in the
underworld a strange, ominous and far-reaching disquiet reigned. It was
an underworld rampant with suspicion, mad with fury, more dangerous
than it had ever been before.
Jimmie Dale's hand reached abstractedly into the pocket of his dinner
jacket for his cigarette case. He lighted a cigarette, leaned back once
more in the big, leather-upholstered lounging chair, and his eyes, half
closed, strayed introspectively around the luxuriously appointed room,
his own particular den in his Riverside Drive residence. Once, a very
long while ago, years ago, so long ago now that it seemed as though it
must have been in some strange previous incarnation, back in those days
when the Tocsin had first come into his life, and when he had known her
only as the author of those mysterious letters, those "calls to arms"
to the Gray Seal, she had written: "Things are a little too warm, aren't
they, Jimmie? Let's let them cool for a year."
A blue thread curled lazily upward from the tip of the cigarette. Jimmie
Dale's eyes fastened mechanically on the twisting, wavering spiral,
followed it mechanically as it rose and spread out into filmy,
undulating, fantastic shapes--and the strong, square jaw set suddenly
hard. It was not so very strange that those words should have come back
to him to-night! Things were "warm" now--and he could not let them
"cool" for a year!
"Warm!" He smiled a little mirthlessly. The comparison was very slight!
Then, at the beginning, at the outset of the Gray Seal's career, the
police, it was true, had shown a certain unpleasant anxiety for a closer
acquaintanceship, but that was about all. To-day, lashed on and mocked
by a virulent press, goaded to madness by their own past failures to
"get" the Gray Seal, to whose door they laid a hundred crimes and for
whom the bars of a death cell in Sing Sing was the goal if they could
but catch their prey, the police, to a man, were waging a ceaseless and
relentless war against him; and to-day, joining hands with the police,
the underworld in all its thousand ramifications, prompted by fear, by
suspicion of one another, reached out to trap him, and to deal out to
him a much more speedy, but none the less certain, fate than that
prescribed by the statutes of the law!
He shook his head. It could not go on--indefinitely. The role was too
hard to play; the dual life, in a sort of grim, ironical self-mockery,
brought even in its own successful interpretation added dangers and
perils with each succeeding day. As it had been with Larry the Bat, the
more he now lived Smarlinghue the more it became difficult to slough
off Smarlinghue and live as Jimmie Dale; the more Smarlinghue became
trusted and accepted in the inner circles of the underworld, the more he
became a figure in those sordid surroundings, and the more dangerous it
became to "disappear" at will without exciting suspicion, where
suspicion, as it was, was already spread into every nook and corner of
the Bad Lands, where each rubbed shoulders with his fellow in the
lurking dread that the other was--the Gray Seal!
The police were no mean antagonists, he made no mistake on that score;
but the peril that was the graver menace of the two, and the greater to
be feared, was--the underworld. And here in the underworld in the last
few days, here where on every twisted, vicious lip was the whisper,
"Death to the Gray Seal," there had come even another menace. He could
not define it, it was intuition perhaps--but intuition had never failed
him yet. It was an undercurrent of which he had gradually become
conscious, the sense of some unseen, guiding power, that moved and
swayed and controlled, and was present, dominant, in every den and dive
in crimeland. There had been many gang leaders and heads of little
coteries of crime, cunning, crafty in their way, and all of them
unscrupulous, like the Wolf, for instance, who had sworn openly and
boastingly through the Bad Lands, and had been believed for a season,
that they would bring the Gray Seal to a last accounting--but it was
more than this now. There was a craftier brain and a stronger hand at
work than the Wolf's had ever been! Who was it? He shook his head. He
did not know. He had gone far into the innermost circles of the
underworld--and he did not know. He sensed a power there; and in a dozen
different, intangible ways, still an intuition more than anything else,
he had sensed this "some one," this power, creeping, fumbling, feeling
its implacable way through the dark, as it were, toward _him_.
Yes, it was getting "warm"--perilously warm! And inevitably there must
come an end--some day. The warning stared him in the face. But he could
not stop, could not heed the warning, could not let things "cool" now
for a year, and stand aside until the storm should have subsided! Where
was the Tocsin? If his peril was great--what was hers!
He surged suddenly upward from his chair, his hands clenched until the
knuckles stood out like ivory knobs. The Tocsin! The woman he
loved--where was she? Was she safe _to-night?_ Where was she? He could
not stop until that question had been answered, be the consequences what
they might! Warnings, the realisation of peril--he laughed shortly, in
grim bitterness--counted little in the balance after all, did they not!
Where was the Tocsin?
The telephone rang. Jimmie Dale stared at the instrument for a moment,
as though it were some singular and uninvited intruder who had broken in
without warrant upon his train of thought; and then, leaning forward
over the table, he lifted the receiver from the hook.
"Yes? Hello! Yes?" inquired Jimmie Dale. "What is it?"
A man's voice, hurried, and seemingly somewhat agitated, answered him.
"I would like to speak to Mr. Dale--to Mr. Dale in person."
"This is Mr. Dale speaking," said Jimmie Dale a little brusquely.
"What is it?"
"Oh, is that you, Mr. Dale?" The voice had quickened perceptibly. "I
didn't recognise your voice--but then I haven't heard it for a long
while, have I? This is Forrester. Are--are you very busy to-night,
"Oh, hello, Forrester!" Jimmie Dale's voice had grown more affable.
"Busy? Well, I don't know. It depends on what you mean by busy."
"An hour or two," the other suggested--the tinge of anxiety in his tones
growing more pronounced. "The time to run out here in your car. I
haven't any right to ask it, I know, but the truth is I--I want to talk
to some one pretty badly, and I need some financial help, and--and I
thought of you. I--I'm afraid there's a mess here. The bank examiners
landed in suddenly late this afternoon."
"The--_what_?" demanded Jimmie Dale sharply.
"The bank examiners--I--I can't talk over the 'phone. Only, for God's
sake, come--will you? I'll be in my rooms--you know where they are,
don't you--on the cottier over--"
"Yes, I know," Jimmie Dale broke in tersely; then, quietly: "All right,
Forrester, I'll come."
"Thank God!" came Forrester's voice--and disconnected abruptly.
Jimmie Dale replaced the receiver on the hook, stared at the instrument
again in a perplexed way; then, called the garage on the private house
wire. There was no answer. He walked quickly then across the room and
pushed an electric button.
"Jason," he said a moment later, as the old butler appeared on the
threshold in answer to the summons, "Benson doesn't answer in the
garage. I presume he is downstairs. I wish you would ask him to bring
the touring car around at once. And you might have a light overcoat
ready for me--Jason."
"Yes, sir," said the old man. "Yes, Master Jim, sir, at once." His eyes
sought Jimmie Dale's, and dropped--but into them had come, not the
questioning of familiarity, but the quick, anxious questioning inspired
by the affection that had grown up between them from the days when, as
the old man was so fond of saying, he had dandled his Master Jim upon
his knee. "Yes, sir, Master Jim, at once, sir," Jason repeated--but he
still hesitated upon the threshold.
And then Jimmie Dale shook his head whimsically--and smiled.
"No--not to-night, Jason," he said reassuringly. "It's quite all right,
Jason--there's no letter to-night."
The old man's face cleared instantly.
"Yes, sir; quite so, sir. Thank you, Master Jim," he said. "Shall I tell
Benson that he is to drive you, sir, or--"
"No; I'll drive myself, Jason," decided Jimmie Dale.
"Yes, sir--very good, sir"--the door closed on Jason.
Jimmie Dale turned back into the room, began to pace up and down its
length, and for a moment the reverie that the telephone had interrupted
was again dominant in his mind. Jason was afraid. Jason--even though he
knew so little of the truth--was afraid. Well, what then? He, Jimmie
Dale, was not blind himself! It had come almost to the point where his
back was against the wall at last; to the point where, unless he found
the Tocsin before many more days went by, it would be, as far as he was
And then he shrugged his shoulders suddenly--and his forehead knitted
into perplexed furrows. Forrester--and the telephone message! What did
it mean? There was an ugly sound to it, that reference to the bank
examiners and the need of financial assistance. And it was a little odd,
too, that Forrester should have telephoned him, Jimmie Dale, unless it
were accounted for by the fact that Forrester knew of no one else to
whom he might apply for perhaps a large sum, of ready money. True, he
knew Forrester quite well--not as an intimate friend--but only in a sort
of casual, off-hand kind of a way, as it were, and he had known him for
a good many years; but their acquaintanceship would not warrant the
other's action unless the man were in desperate straits. Forrester had
been a clerk in the city bank where his, Jimmie Dale's, father had
transacted his business, and it was there he had first met Forrester. He
had continued to meet Forrester there after his father had died; and
then Forrester had been offered and had accepted the cashiership of a
small local bank out near Bayside on Long Island. He had run into
Forrester there again once or twice on motor trips--and once, held up by
an accident to his car, he had dined with Forrester, and had spent an
hour or two in the other's rooms. That was about all.
Jimmie Dale's frown grew deeper. He liked Forrester The man was a
bachelor and of about his, Jimmie Dale's, own age, and had always
appeared to be a decent, clean-lived fellow, a man who worked hard, and
was apparently pushing his way, if not meteorically, at least steadily
up to the top, a man who was respected and well-thought of by
everybody--and yet just what did it mean? The more he thought of it, the
uglier it seemed to become.
He stepped suddenly toward the telephone--and as abruptly turned away
again. He remembered that Forrester did not have a telephone in his
rooms, for, on the night of the break-down, he, Jimmie Dale, had wanted
to telephone, and had been obliged to go outside to do so. Forrester,
obviously then, had done likewise to-night. Well, he should have
insisted on a fuller explanation in the first place if he had intended
to make that a contingent condition; as it was, it was too late now,
and he had promised to go.
The sound of a motor car on the driveway leading from the private garage
in the rear reached him. Benson was bringing out the car now. Jimmie
Dale, as he prepared to leave the room, glanced about him from force of
habit, and his eyes held for an instant on the portieres behind which,
in the little alcove, stood the squat, barrel-shaped safe. Was there
anything he would need to-night--that leather girdle, for instance, with
its circle of pockets containing its compact little burglar's kit? He
shook his head impatiently. He had already told Jason--if in other
words--that there was no "call to arms" to the Gray Seal to-night,
hadn't he? It was habit again that had brought the thought, that was
all! For the rest, in the last few days, since this new intuitive danger
from the underworld had come to him, an automatic had always reposed in
his pocket by day and under his pillow by night; and by way of defence,
too, though they might appear to be curious weapons of defence if one
did not stop to consider that the means of making a hurried exit through
a locked door might easily make the difference between life and death,
his pockets held a small, but very carefully selected collection of
little steel picklocks. He smiled somewhat amusedly at himself, as he
passed out of the room and descended the stairs to the hall below. The
contents of the safe could hardly have added anything that would be of
any service even in an emergency! His mental inventory of his pockets
had been incomplete--there was still the thin, metal insignia case, and
the black silk mask, both of which, like the automatic, were never now
out of his immediate possession.
He slipped into his coat as Jason held it out for him, accepted the
soft felt hat which Jason extended, and, with a nod to the old
butler, ran down the steps, dismissed Benson, who stood waiting, and
entered his car.
It was three-quarters of an hour later when Jimmie Dale drew up at the
curb on the main street of the little Long Island town that was his
"Pretty good run!" said Jimmie Dale to himself, as he glanced at the
car's clock under its little electric bulb. "Halfpast nine."
He descended from the car, and nodded as he surveyed his surroundings.
He had stopped neither in front of the bank, nor in front of Forrester's
rooms--it was habit again, perhaps, the caution prompted by Forrester's
statement relative to the bank examiners. If there was trouble, and the
obvious deduction indicated that there was, he, Jimmie Dale, had no
desire to figure in it in a public way. Again he nodded his head. Yes,
he quite had his bearings now. It was the usual main street of a small
town--fairly well lighted, stores and shops flanking the pavements on
either side, and of perhaps a distance equivalent to some seven or eight
city blocks in length. Two blocks further up, on the same side of the
street as that on which he was standing, was the bank--not a very
pretentious establishment, he remembered; its staff consisting of but
one or two apart from Forrester, as was not unusual with small local
banks, though this in no way indicated that the business done was not
profitable, or, comparatively, large. Jimmie Dale started forward along
the street. On the corner just ahead of him was a two-story building,
the second floor of which had been divided into rooms originally
designed to be used as offices, as, indeed, most of them were, but two
of these Forrester had fitted up as bachelor quarters.
Jimmie Dale turned the corner, walked down the side street to the
office entrance that led to the floor above, opened the door, and ran
lightly up the stairs. At the head of the stairs he paused to get his
bearings once more. Forrester's rooms were here directly at the head of
the stairs, but he had forgotten for the moment whether they were on
the right or left of the corridor; and the corridor being unlighted now
and without any sign of life left him still more undecided. It seemed,
though, if his recollection served him correctly, that the rooms had
been on the right. He moved in that direction, found the door, and
knocked; but, receiving no answer, crossed the hall again, and knocked
on the door on the left-hand side. There was no answer here, either. He
frowned a little impatiently, and returned once more to the right-hand
door. Forrester probably was up at the bank, and had not expected him
to make the run out from the city so quickly. He tried the door
tentatively, found it unlocked, opened it a little way, saw that the
room within was lighted--and suddenly, with a low, startled
exclamation, stepped swiftly forward over the threshold, and closed the
door behind him.
It was Forrester's room, this one here at the right of the corridor--his
recollection had not been at fault. It was Forrester's room, and
Forrester himself was there--on the floor--dead.
For a moment Jimmie Dale stood rigid and without movement, save that as
his eyes swept around the apartment his face grew hard and set, his lips
drooping in sharp, grim lines at the corners of his mouth.
"My God!" Jimmie Dale whispered.
There was a faint, almost imperceptible odour in the room, like the
smell of peach blossom--he noticed it now for the first time, as his
eyes fastened on a small, empty bottle that lay on the floor a few feet
away from the dead man's outstretched arm. Jimmie Dale stepped forward
abruptly now, and knelt down beside the man for a hurried; examination.
It was unnecessary--he knew that even before he performed the act.
Yes--the man was dead He reached out and picked up the bottle. The odour
was tell-tale evidence enough. The bottle had contained prussic, or
hydrocyanic acid, probably the moist deadly poison in existence, and the
swiftest in its action. He replaced the bottle on the spot where he had
found it, and stood up.
Again, Jimmie Dale's eyes swept his surroundings. The room in which he
stood was a sort of living room or den. There was a desk over by the far
wall, a couch near the door, and several comfortable lounging chairs.
Forrester lay with his head against the sharp edge of one of the legs of
the couch, as though he had rolled off and struck against it.
Opposite the desk, across the room, was the door leading into the
second room of the little apartment. Jimmie Dale moved toward this now,
and stepped across the threshold. The room itself was unlighted, but
there was light enough from the connecting doorway to enable him to see
fairly well. It was Forrester's bedroom, and in no way appeared to have
been disturbed. He remembered it quite well. There was a door here,
too, that gave on the hall. He circled around the bed and reached the
door. It was locked.
Jimmie Dale returned to the living room--and stood there in a sort of
grim immobility, looking down at the form on the floor. He was not
callous. Death, as often as he had seen it, and in its most tragic
phases, had not made him callous, and he had liked Forrester--but
suicide was not a man's way out, it was the way a coward took, and if it
brought pity, it was the pity that was blunted with the sterner, almost
contemptuous note of disapproval. What had happened since Forrester had
'phoned, that had driven the man to this extremity? When Forrester had
'phoned he had appeared to be agitated enough, but, at least, he had
seemed to have had hopes that the appeal he was then making might see
him through, and, as proof of that, there had been unmistakable relief
in the man's voice when he, Jimmie Dale, had agreed to the other's
request. And what had been the meaning of that "financial help"? Had,
for instance--for it was pitifully obvious that if the bank had been
looted an _innocent_ man would not commit suicide on that account--a
greater measure of the depredation been uncovered than had been counted
on, so much indeed that, say, the financial assistance Forrester had
intended to ask for had now increased to such proportions that he had
realised the futility of even a request; or, again, had it for some
reason, since he had telephoned, now become impossible to restore the
funds even if they were in his possession?
A sheet of note paper lying on the desk caught Jimmie Dale's eyes. He
stepped forward, picked it up--and his lips drew tight together, as he
read the two or three miserable lines that were scrawled upon it:
What's left is in the middle drawer of the desk. There's only one way out
now--I don't see any other way. I thought that I could get--but what does
that matter! God help me! I'm sorry.
FLEMING P. FORRESTER.
I'm sorry! It was a pitiful epitaph for a man's life! I'm sorry! Jimmie
Dale's face softened a little--the man was dead now. "I'm sorry....
Fleming P. Forrester"--he had seen that signature on bank paper a
hundred times in the old days; he had little thought ever to see it on a
document such as this!
He stared at the paper for a long time, and then, from the paper, his
eyes travelled over the desk, then shifted again to Forrester--and then,
for the second time, he knelt beside the other on the floor. For the
moment, what was referred to as "being all that was left" in the middle
drawer of the desk could wait. There was another matter now. He felt
hurriedly through Forrester's vest and coat pockets--and from one of the
pockets drew out a folded piece of paper. It was not what he was looking
for, but it was all that rewarded his search. He unfolded the paper. It
was dirty and crumpled, and the few lines written upon it were badly
penned and illiterate:
The ante's gone up--get me? Six thousand bucks. You come across with
that to-morrow morning by ten o'clock--or I'll spill the beans. And I
ain't got any more paper to write any more letters on either--savvy?
This is the last.
There was no signature. Jimmie Dale read it again--and abruptly put it
in his own pocket. Yes, he had liked Forrester--well enough for this
anyway! The man might have a mother perhaps--it would be bad enough in
any case. And those other things, the empty bottle, the sheet of note
paper with its scrawled confession--what about them? He returned with a
queer sort of hesitant indecision to the desk. He had no right of course
to touch them unless--
He shook his head sharply, as he pulled open the middle drawer of the
"Newspapers--publicity--rotten!" he muttered savagely. "One chance in
From the back of the drawer where it had been tucked in under a mass of
papers, he had extracted a little bundle of documents that were held
together by an elastic band. He snapped off the band, and ran through
the papers rapidly. For the most part they were bonds and stock
certificates indorsed by their owners, and evidently had been held by
the bank as collateral for loans.
And then suddenly Jimmie Dale straightened up, tense and alert. He had
no desire, very far from any desire to be caught here, or to figure
publicly in any way in the case. The street door had opened and closed
again. Footsteps, those of three men, his acute, trained hearing told
him, sounded on the stairs. Again there came that queer, hesitant
indecision as he stood there, while his eyes travelled in swift
succession from the bank's securities in his hand to the note on the
desk, to the empty bottle on the floor, to the white, upturned face of
the silent form huddled against the couch.
"One chance in ten," muttered Jimmie Dale through his set lips. "One
chance in ten--and I guess I'll take it!"
The footsteps came nearer--they were almost at the head of the stairs
now. But now Jimmie Dale was in action--swift as a flash and silent as a
shadow in every movement. The bundle of securities was thrust into his
pocket, the sheet of note paper followed, and, as a knock sounded on the
door, he stooped, picked up the bottle from the floor, and darted into
the adjoining room--and in another instant he had reached the locked
door and was working at it silently and swiftly with a picklock.
At the other door the knocking still continued--and then it was
opened--and there came a chorus of low, horrified, startled cries, and
the quick rush of feet into the room.
The picklock went back into Jimmie Dale's pocket, and crouched, now, his
hand on the knob, turning it gradually without a sound, drawing the door
ajar inch by inch, he kept his eyes on the doorway connecting with the
other room. He could see the three men bending over Forrester. Their
voices came in confused, broken, snatches:
"... Dead!... Good God!... Are you sure?... Perhaps he's only
fainted.... No, he's dead, poor devil!..."
And then one of the men, the youngest of the three, a slight-built,
clean-shaven, dark-eyed man of perhaps twenty-eight or thirty, rose
abruptly, and glanced sharply around the room.
"Yes, he's dead!" he said bitterly. "Any one could tell that! But he
wouldn't be dead, and this would never have happened if you'd done what
I wanted you to do when you first came to the bank this afternoon. I
wanted you to have him arrested then, didn't I?"
One of the others--and it was obvious that the others were the two bank
examiners--a man of middle age, answered soberly.
"You're upset, Dryden," he said. "You know we couldn't do that--"
"On a teller's word against the cashier's--of course not!" the young man
broke in caustically. "Well, you see now, don't you?"
"We couldn't do it then without proof," amended the bank examiner
"Proof!" Dryden exclaimed. "My God--_proof!_ Who tipped your people off
to have you drop in there this afternoon? I did, didn't I? Do you think
I'd do that without knowing what I was about! Didn't I tell you that
there was nothing but the office fixtures left! Didn't I? There were
only the two of us on the staff, and didn't I tell you that I had
discovered that the books were cooked from cover to cover? Yes, I did!
And you had to get your pencils out and start in on a thumb-rule
examination, as though nothing were the matter! Well, what did you find?
The securities in a mess, what there was left of them--and what was
supposed to be twenty thousand dollars that came out from the city
yesterday nothing but a package of blank paper!"
"You didn't know that yourself until half an hour ago when we started to
check up the cash," returned the other a little sharply.
"Well, perhaps, I didn't," admitted Dryden; "but I knew about the
"Besides that," continued the bank examiner, "Mr. Forrester was in town
this afternoon when we got to the bank and this is the first time we
have seen him, so we could not very well have done anything other than
we have done in any case. I mention this because you are talking wildly,
and that sort of talk, if it gets out, won't do any of us any good. You
don't want to blame Mr. Marner here and myself for Mr. Forrester's
death, do you?"
"No--of course, I don't!" said Dryden, in a more subdued voice. "I
don't mean that at all. I guess you're right--I'm excited. I--well"--he
motioned jerkily toward the form on the floor--"I'm not used to walking
into a room and finding _that_."
It was Marner, the other bank examiner, who broke a moment's silence.
"We none of us are," he said, and brushed his hand across his forehead.
"A doctor can't do any good, of course, but I suppose we should call one
at once, and notify the police, too. I--"
Jimmie Dale had slipped through the door and out into the hall. A moment
more and he had descended the stairs and gained the street, still
another and he had stepped nonchalantly into his car. The car started
forward, passed out of the lighted zone of the town's main street--and
in the darkness, headed toward New York, Jimmie Dale, his nonchalance
gone now, leaned forward over the wheel, and the big sixty horse-power
car leaped into its stride like a thoroughbred at the touch of the spur,
and tore onward at dare-devil speed through the night.
His lips twisted in a smile that held little of humour. Back there in
that room they would call a doctor, and they would call the police. And
the doctor would establish the fact that Forrester had died from the
effects of a dose of prussic acid; and the police would establish--what?
Prussic acid was swift in its effect. If Forrester had died from that
cause, how had he taken it himself, and out of what had he taken it?
What the police would see would be quite a different thing from what he,
Jimmie Dale, had seen when he opened the door of that room! Instead of
the evidence of suicide, there was now every evidence of _murder_. The
bank examiners on entering the room, started at what they saw, obsessed
with the wreckage of the bank, might still for the moment have jumped to
the conclusion, natural enough under the circumstances, of suicide; but
the police, after ten minutes of unemotional investigation, would father
a very different theory.
Jimmie Dale's jaws clamped, as his eyes narrowed on the flying thread of
gray road under the dancing headlights. Well, the die was cast now! For
good or bad, his response to Forrester's telephone appeal had become the
vital factor in the case. For good or bad! He laughed out sharply into
the night. He would see soon enough--old Kronische, the wizened, crafty,
little chemist, who burrowed like a fox in its hole deep in the heart of
the Bad Lands, would answer that question. Old Kronische had a record
that was known to police and underworld alike--and was trusted by
neither one, and feared by both. But he was clever--clever with a
devilish cleverness. God alone knew what he was up to in the long hours
of day and night amongst his retorts and test tubes in his abominable
smelling little hole; but every one knew that from old Kronische
_anything_ of a chemical nature could be obtained if the price, not a
small one, was forthcoming, and if old Kronische was satisfied with the
credentials of his prospective client.
Yes--old Kronische! Old Kronische was the man, the one than; there was
no possible hesitancy or question there--the question was how to reach
old Kronische. Jimmie Dale shook his head in a quick, impatient gesture,
as though in irritation because his brain would not instantly respond to
his demand to formulate a plan. It seemed simple enough, old Kronische
was perfectly accessible--but it was, nevertheless, far from simple. He
could not go to old Kronische as Jimmie Dale, there was an ugly turn
that had been taken in that room of Forrester's now. If, as Jimmie
Dale, he had had reason to keep out of the affair before, it was
imperative that he should do so now--or he might find himself in a very
awkward situation, so awkward, in fact, that the consequences might lead
anywhere, and "anywhere" to Jimmie Dale, to the Gray Seal, to
Smarlinghue, might mean ruin, wreckage and disaster. Nor, much less,
could he risk going to old Kronische as Smarlinghue. He could not trust
old Kronische. How, if old Kronische chose to "talk," could Smarlinghue
account for any connection with what had transpired in Forrester's room?
How long would it be, even if Smarlinghue were no more than put under
surveillance, before the discovery would be made that Smarlinghue was
but a role that covered--Jimmie Dale!
And then Jimmie Dale's strained, set face relaxed a little. His brain
had repented of its stubbornness, it seemed, and was at work again.
There was a way, a very sure way as far as old Kronische being
"talkative" was concerned, but a very dangerous way from every other
point of view. Suppose he went to old Kronische--as Larry the Bat!
The car tore on through the night; towns and villages flashed by; the
long, deserted stretches of road began to give way to the city's
outskirts--and Jimmie Dale began to drive more cautiously. Larry the
Bat! Yes, it was perfectly feasible, as far as feasibility went. The
clothes that he had duplicated at such infinite trouble were still
hidden there in the Sanctuary. But to be caught as Larry the Bat
meant--the end. That was the one thing the underworld knew, the one
thing the police knew--that Larry the Bat was, or had been, the Gray
Seal. Still, he had done it once before, and it could be done again. He
could reach old Kronische's without much fear of discovery after all, he
would take good care to secure the few minutes necessary to make a
"getaway" from the old chemist's, and _afterwards_ old Kronische could
talk as much as he liked about--Larry the Bat! Yes, that was the way!
Old Kronische--and Larry the Bat. He, Jimmie Dale, would drive, say, to
Marlianne's restaurant, and telephone Jason to send Benson for the
car--Marlianne's, besides being a very natural stopping place, possessed
the added advantage of being quite close to the Sanctuary.
His decision made, Jimmie Dale gave his undivided attention to his car,
and ten minutes later, stopping in the shabby street that harboured
Marlianne's, he entered the restaurant, threaded his way through the
small crowded rooms--for Marlianne's, despite its spotted linen, was
crowded at all hours--to a sort of hallway at the rear of the place, and
entered the telephone booth.
He called his residence, and, as he waited for the connection, glanced
at his watch. He smiled grimly. He could congratulate himself for the
second time that night on having made a record run. It was not yet quite
half-past ten, and he must have been at least a good twenty minutes in
Forrester's rooms. He rattled the hook impatiently. They were a long
time in getting the connection! Halfpast ten! He could be at the
Sanctuary in another few minutes, ten minutes at the outside; then, say,
another twenty to rehabilitate Larry the Bat, and by eleven he--
"Yes--hello!"--he was speaking quickly into the 'phone, as Jason's voice
reached him. "Jason, I am down here at Marlianne's. Tell Benson to come
for the car, and--" He stopped abruptly. Jason was talking excitedly,
almost incoherently at the other end.
"Master Jim, sir! Is that you, sir, Master Jim! It--it came, sir, not
ten minutes after you left to-night, and--"
"Jason," said Jimmie Dale sharply, "what's the matter with you? What
are you talking about? What came?"
"Why--why, sir--I beg your pardon, sir, but I've been a bit uneasy ever
since, sir. It's--it's one of those letters, Master Jim, sir."
A sudden whiteness came into Jimmie Dale's face, as he stared
into the mouthpiece of the telephone. A "call to arms" from the
Tocsin--_now_--to-night! What was he to do! It was not a trivial thing
which that letter would contain--it never had been, and it never would
be, and no matter under what circumstances it found him, he--
Jason's voice faltered over the wire:
"Are you there, sir, Master Jim?"
"Yes," said Jimmie Dale quietly. "Bring the letter with you, Jason, and
come down with Benson. I will wait for you here--in the car outside
Marlianne's. And hurry, Jason--take a taxi down."
"Yes, sir," said Jason, his voice trembling a little. "At once,
Jimmie Dale hung up the receiver, returned to the street, and seated
himself in his car. How long would it take them to get here? Half an
hour? Well then, for half an hour his hands were tied, and he could do
nothing but wait. He glanced around him. It was curious! It was here in
this very place that he had once found a letter from her in his car; it
was even here that, without knowing it at the moment, he had really seen
her for the first time. And now--what did it hold, this letter, this
"call to arms" that he sat here waiting for, while out there in that
little town a man lay dead on the floor of his room, and around whom,
where there had once been the evidence of a coward's guilt, crowned with
the sorriest epitaph that ever man had written, there was now the
evidence of a still blacker crime--the crime of murder.
He lighted a cigarette and smoked it through. Could it be _that_--in her
letter! Intuition again? Well, why not--if old Kronische should answer
the question as the chances were one in ten that old Kronische might
answer it! Yes--why not! It would not be strange. Intuition--because
somehow the feeling that it _was_ so grew stronger with each moment that
passed--well, once before to-night he had said that intuition had never
failed him yet!
The minutes dragged by interminably. He smoked another cigarette, and
after that another. The clock under the hood showed five minutes past
eleven; the minute hand crept around to eight, nine, ten minutes past
the hour--and then a taxi swerved on little better than two wheels
around the corner--and Jimmie Dale, springing from his seat, jumped to
the pavement as the taxi drew up at the curb.
Jason, palpably agitated, and followed by Benson, descended from the
taxi. Jimmie Dale dismissed the cab, and motioned Benson to the car.
"Well, Jason?" he said quickly.
"It's here, sir, Master Jim"--the old butler fumbled in an inner pocket,
and produced an envelope--"I--"
"Thank you! That's all--Jason." Jimmie Dale's quick smile robbed his
curt dismissal of any sting. "Benson, of course, will drive you home."
"Yes, sir." The old man went slowly to the car, and climbed in beside
the chauffeur. "Good-night, sir!" Jason ventured wistfully. "Good-night,
"Good-night, Jason--good-night, Benson!" Jimmie Dale answered--and,
turning, started briskly along the street. Jason's "good-night" had been
eloquent of the old man's anxiety. He would have liked to reassure Jason
--but he had neither the time, nor, for that matter, the ability to do
so. The old man would be reassured when he saw his Master Jim enter the
house again--and not until then!
Jimmie Dale glanced about him up and down the street. The car had gone,
and he was well away from the entrance to Marlianne's. The street itself
was practically deserted. He nodded quickly, and stepped forward toward
a street lamp that was close at hand. As well here as anywhere! There
was nothing remarkable in the fact that a man should stand under a
street lamp and read a letter--even if he were observed.
He tore the envelope open, and, standing there, leaned in apparent
nonchalance against the post--but into the dark eyes had leaped a sudden
flash. One word seemed to stand out from all the rest on the written
page he held in his hand--"Forrester." He laughed a little in a low,
grim way. His intuition had been right again then, and that
meant--_what_? If she, the Tocsin, knew, then--his mind was working
subconsciously, leaping from premise to a dimly seen, half formed
conclusion, while his eyes travelled rapidly over the written lines.
"Dear Philanthropic Crook:--You will have to hurry, Jimmie.... I do not
know what may happen.... Forrester ... bank cashier at"--yes, he knew
all that! But this--what was this? "Money lender.... Abe Suviney... bled
him ... early days in city bank ... fellow clerk's defalcation....
Forrester borrowed the money to cover it and save the other.... Suviney
used it as a club for blackmail.... Forrester was trapped ... could not
extricate himself without inculpating his friend ... friend died ...
Suviney put on the screws ... to say anything then was to have it look
like a dishonourable method of covering a theft of his own ... would
ruin his career ... original amount four thousand ... Forrester has
been paying blackmail in the shape of exorbitant interest ever since ...
Suviney finally demanded six thousand to-day to be paid at once ... this
has nothing to do with the bank robbery, but would look black ... added
evidence...." He read on, his mind seeming to absorb the contents of the
letter faster than his eyes could decipher the words. "English Dick ...
confession forged ... organisation widespread ... enormously powerful
... leadership a mystery ... rendezvous that English Dick visits is at
Marlopp's ... Reddy Mull's room ... rear room ... leaves cash and
securities there under loose board, right-hand corner from door ...
twenty thousand cash to-night...."
Jimmie Dale was walking on down the street, his fingers picking and
tearing the sheets of paper in his hand into minute fragments. There was
a sort of cold, unemotional, unnatural calm upon him. It was all here,
all, the Tocsin had--no, not all! She had not known of the last act in
the brutal drama, for her letter had been written prior to that. She had
not known that there was--_murder_. But apart from that, to the last
detail, in all its hideous, relentless craft, the whole plot was clear.
There was no need to go to old Kronische now, no need to assume the role
of Larry the Bat. The question was answered--the confession _was_ a
forgery--the evidence, not of suicide, but of murder, that he, Jimmie
Dale, had left behind him in that room, was the evidence of fact.
He walked on--rapidly now--heading over in the direction of the Bowery.
There had been neither ink nor pen upon the desk where he had found the
confession, nor had there been a fountain pen in Forrester's pocket when
he had searched the other! He laughed out a little harshly. A strange
oversight on some one's part if there had been foul play--so strange
that he had hesitated to believe it possible! And so it had been--one
chance in ten, for there was nothing to have prevented Forrester from
having written the note elsewhere than in his own room. But if Forrester
had written it, he must of necessity have written it very recently,
certainly _after_ he had telephoned, that is, within an hour; whereas,
if it had been written by some one else and brought there, if it was
forged, if it was murder and not suicide, the note must have taken long
and painstaking effort to prepare beforehand. That was the question that
old Kronische, the chemist, was to have answered, a question that was
very much in the cunning old fox's line--did the condition of the ink
show that the note had been written within the hour? It was a very
simple question for old Kronische, the man would have answered it
instantly, for even to him, Jimmie Dale, the writing had not looked
_fresh_. But there was no need of old Kronische now! And he, Jimmie
Dale, understood now, too, the reason for Forrester's appeal over the
telephone. In some way Forrester, without going to the bank itself, had
learned that the bank examiners had suddenly put in an appearance, had
either discovered or deduced that something was wrong, and had realised
that should Suviney's demand for money, or Suviney's blackmailing story
become known, it would appear as damning evidence of a past record
looming up to point suspicion toward him now. That was what he had meant
by saying he needed financial help.
Jimmie Dale slipped suddenly into a lane, edged along the wall of the
tenement that made the corner, pushed aside a loose board in the fence,
passed into the little courtyard beyond, and, still hugging the shadows
of the building, opened a narrow French window, and stepped through into
a room. He was in the Sanctuary.
ALIAS ENGLISH DICK
But Jimmie Dale lost no time in the Sanctuary. In the darkness he
crossed the room, and from behind the movable section of the baseboard
possessed himself of a pocket flashlight, and a small, but extremely
serviceable, steel jimmy--and in a moment more was back in the lane,
and from the lane again was heading still deeper into the heart of the
English Dick! A twisted smile crossed his lips. Well as he knew the
underworld and its sordid citizenship, he might be forgiven for not
knowing English Dick. The man's reputation had reached into every
corner of the Bad Lands, it was true; but it had not been known that
the man himself was on this side of the water. And that the secret had
been kept spoke with grim and deadly significance for the power and
cunning of the master brain to which the Tocsin had referred, for
English Dick was known as the most famous forger in Europe, the best in
his line, and as such, from afar, was worshipped as a demi-god by the
underworld of New York.
Block after block of dark, ill-lighted streets Jimmie Dale traversed,
until, perhaps fifteen minutes after he had left the Sanctuary, he
swerved suddenly for the second time that night into a lane. He might
not have known English Dick, but he knew Reddy Mull, and he knew
Marloff's! Reddy Mull was a gangster, a gunman pure and simple, whose
services were at the call of the highest bidder; and Marlopp's was a
pool and billiard hall--to the uninitiated. Marlopp's, however, if one
had ears well trained enough to hear, resounded to the click of ivory
that was not the click of pool and billiard balls! Upstairs, if one
could get upstairs, a gambling hell supplanted the billiard hall below.
It was an unsavoury place, the resort of crooks, some of whom lived
there--amongst them, Reddy Mull.
Jimmie Dale, close against the fence, and halfway down the lane now,
paused and looked about him, straining his eyes through the
blackness--then with a lithe spring he caught the top of the fence,
swung himself over, and dropped to the ground on the other side. The
rear of a row of low buildings now loomed up before him across a narrow
yard. Window lights showed here and there from the houses on either
side; and from the upper windows of the house directly in front of him
faint threads of light filtered out into the darkness through the cracks
of closed shutters, but the lower part of the house was in blackness.
He crept forward silently across the yard. There was a back entrance,
but it led to the basement--Jimmie Dale's immediate attention was
directed to the rear window, the window of one Reddy Mull's room. And
here, crouched beneath it, Jimmie Dale listened. From the front of the
establishment came muffled sounds from the pool and billiard hall; there
was nothing else.
The window was above the level of his head, but still easily within
reach. He tested it, found it locked--and the steel jimmy crept in
under the sash. A moment passed, there was a faint, almost
indistinguishable creak; and then Jimmie Dale, drawing himself up with
the agility of a cat, had slipped through, and was standing, listening
again, inside the room.
The sounds from the pool room were louder, more distinct now, even
rising once into a shout of boisterous hilarity; but there was no other
sound. The round, white ray of Jimmie Dale's flashlight circled the room
suddenly, inquisitively--and went out. It was a bare, squalid place,
dirty, filthy, disreputable. There was a bed, unmade, a table, a few
chairs, a greasy, threadbare carpet on the floor--nothing else, save
that his eyes had noted that the electric-light switch was on the wall
beside the jamb of the door.
The flashlight winked again--and again went out. Jimmie Dale slipped his
mask over his face, and moved forward toward the wall.
"Under loose board, right-hand corner from door," murmured Jimmie Dale.
He was kneeling on the floor now. "Yes, here it was!" His flashlight was
boring down into a little excavation beneath the piece of flooring he
had removed. He stared into this for a moment, his lips twitching
grimly; then, with a whimsical shrug of his shoulders, he replaced the
board, and stood up. He had found the hiding place without any
trouble--but he had found it _empty_. "I guess," said Jimmie Dale, with
a mirthless smile, "that there's a good deal of the bank's property at
There was a chair by the wall close to the door, he had noticed. He
moved over, and sat down--but, instead of his flashlight, his automatic
was in his hand now. There was the chance, of course, that English Dick
had already been here with that twenty thousand from the bank, and in
that case, as witness the empty hiding place, Reddy Mull had already
passed it on; but it was much more likely that neither one of the two
had yet arrived. Which one would come first then--English Dick, or
Reddy Mull? If it were Reddy Mull it would be unfortunate--for Reddy
Mull. His, Jimmie Dale's, immediate business was with English Dick,
and he was quite content to leave Reddy Mull to the later ministrations
of the police.
Jimmie Dale's fingers tested the mechanism of his automatic in the
darkness. Whose was the master brain behind all this? This crime
to-night bore glaring evidence to the work of some far-flung, intricate
and powerful organisation--the Tocsin was indubitably right in that. Was
this the first concrete expression he had had of that undercurrent he
had sensed of late as permeating the underworld, that he had sensed was
reaching out as one of its objects for _him_ and that--
He came suddenly without a sound to his feet, and pressed back close
against the wall, his body rigid and thrown forward like one poised to
spring. There was a footstep outside the door, the rasp of a key in the
lock, then a faint, murky path of light as the door opened, and a man
stepped forward over the threshold. The key was inserted with another
rasping sound in the inner side of the lock, the door closed, the key
turned and was withdrawn, thrust evidently into its possessor's
pocket--and then Jimmie Dale, silently, in a lightning flash, was upon
the other, his hand at the man's throat, the cold, round muzzle of his
automatic against the other's face. There was a choked cry, the thud as
of something dropping on the floor--and then Jimmie Dale spoke.
"Put your hands up over your head!" he breathed grimly--and, as the
other obeyed, his own hand fell away from the man's throat, and in a
quick, deft sweep over the other's clothing located the bulge of a
revolver, and whipped it from the man's pocket. He pushed the man with
his automatic's muzzle back against the wall, closer to the
electric-light switch. Was it Reddy Mull--or English Dick? And then
Jimmie Dale laughed low, unpleasantly, as he switched on the light. He
was staring into a face that was white and colourless--the face of a man
with a heavy black moustache, and whose slouch hat was jammed far down
over his eyes. The process of elimination made it very simple--it was
The man blinked, and wet his lips with his tongue, and at sight of
Jimmie Dale's mask, perhaps because it suggested a community of
interest, tried to force a smirk.
"What's--what's the game?" he stammered.
"This--to begin with!" said Jimmie Dale grimly--and, stooping, picked up
from the floor a small black satchel, the object that English Dick had
dropped on entering the room. "Go over to that table!" ordered Jimmie
The man obeyed.
"Sit down!" Jimmie Dale was clipping off his words in cold menace.
Again the man obeyed.
Jimmie Dale, his back to the door as he faced the other across the
table, snapped open the bag. It was full to the top with banknotes and
securities. Under his mask his lips curled in a hard, forbidding smile.
He took from his pocket the package of the bank's securities he had
found in the drawer of Forrester's desk, and laid it in silence on the
table beside the satchel; beside this again, still in silence, he placed
the bottle that had contained the hydrocyanic acid, and--after an
instant's pause--spread out the sheet of note paper bearing Forrester's
The man's face, white before, had gone a livid gray.
"W-what do you want?" he whispered.
"I want you to write another confession." There was a deadly monotony in
Jimmie Dale's voice, as he tapped the paper with the muzzle of his
automatic. "This one is out of date."
"I don't know what you mean," faltered English Dick. "So help me, honest
to God, I don't!"
"Don't you!" There was a curious drawl in Jimmie Dale's voice--and then
in a flash his free hand swept across the table, jerked away the other's
moustache, and pushed the slouch hat up from the man's eyes. "I mean
that the game is up--_Dryden_."
There was a low cry; and the man, with working lips, shrank back in
"You cur!" The words were coming fast and hot from Jimmie Dale's lips
now. "English Dick, alias Dryden, the bank teller! So, you don't know
what I mean! Listen, then, and I'll tell you! Six months ago you got a
position in the bank. Since then you've forged names right and left on
securities, falsified the books, and stolen cash and securities. Day by
day, working in with your gang, you've brought the loot here, coming in
disguise of course, as you've come to-night, for it wouldn't do for
'Dryden' to be seen in this neighbourhood! And you turned the loot over
to Reddy Mull--by leaving it, if he didn't happen to be around, under
that loose board there in the corner."
"My God!" The man's face was ghastly. "Who--who are you?"
"To-day," went on Jimmie Dale, as though he had not heard the other,
"you came to the climax of the plan you had been working on for those
six months--the bank was wrecked--and what little there was left you
took"--he jerked his hand toward the open satchel--"replacing it at the
last moment with previously prepared dummy packages. And you took it,
you cur"--Jimmie Dale's voice choked suddenly--"not only at the expense
of a man's life, but of his good name and reputation. You might have
known, I do not know whether you did or not, that Forrester had some
private trouble with a money lender, but I do not imagine that had
anything to do with your having selected Forrester's bank. Your object
was to exploit a small bank where, with only one man from whom to hide
your work, you could loot it thoroughly; and a forged confession clever
enough to deceive any one in its handwriting and signature, and the man
found dead from a dose of prussic acid, the empty bottle on the floor
beside him, needed no other evidence to stamp him as the guilty man."
English Dick was struggling to his feet; his eyes, in a sort of horrible
fascination, on Jimmie Dale.
Jimmie Dale, pushed him savagely back into his seat. "Yes--you cur!" he
said again. "You got your first fright when you found those evidences of
suicide were gone--you even lost your nerve a little in your bluff with
the bank examiners--and you hurried here the moment you could get away
from the preliminary police investigation that followed--I was even
afraid you might get here a little sooner than you did. Shall I give you
the details of this afternoon and to-night? The plant was ready. You had
sent for the bank examiners. You had already prepared the forged
confession, and had a small package of securities ready. Forrester had
gone to New York. You turned over the confession and the package of
securities to your accomplice, or accomplices, to be left in Forrester's
room. I imagine that you telephoned, or sent a message, to New York to
Forrester telling him that the bank examiners were in the bank, that
there was something the matter, and for him to go to his rooms, and,
say, meet you there before going to the bank. Your accomplice, for you
established an alibi by remaining with the bank examiners, stole in
after him, or even in the dark hallway stunned him with a black-jack,
then forced the poison down his throat, laid him on the floor, placed
the empty bottle beside him, and left the confession on the desk. The
plan was very cunningly worked out. The bruise on Forrester's head was
most obviously accounted for--his head had struck, of course, against
the leg of the couch--he was found lying in that position! It is
strange, though, isn't it, how sometimes the most cunning of plans go
astray in the simplest and yet the most perverse of ways? Who, under the
circumstances, would have thought of it! Your accomplice had simply to
place a document already prepared upon the desk. Even you did not think
to warn him yourself. It did not enter his head to see if there were pen
and ink there with which it might have been written, or, failing that, a
fountain pen in Forrester's pocket--and there was neither the one nor
the other. That's all--except the name of the man who killed Forrester."
Jimmie Dale leaned forward sharply. "Who was it?"
English Dick wet his lips again.
"I--they--they'd kill me like--like a dog if I told," he mumbled.
"_They?"_ The monosyllable came curt and hard.
"I don't know," said English Dick. "That's God's truth--I never
knew--there's a big gang--none of us know.".
"But you know who worked with you in this." Jimmie Dale was speaking
through clenched teeth. "You know who killed Forrester."
"Yes." The man's whisper was scarcely audible.
"Yes," said Jimmie Dale in his grim monotone, "I thought so."
He reached into the satchel where a small package of securities were
wrapped up in a sheet of the bank's stationery, removed the sheet of
paper, and spread it out before English Dick. "Write it down!" he
commanded--and the muzzle of his automatic jerked forward to touch the
fountain pen in the other's vest pocket. "Write it--all of it--your own
share--Reddy Mull's--the whole story!"
The man's lips seemed to have gone dry again, and again and again his
tongue circled them.
"I can't!" he said hoarsely. "I daren't--they'd kill me. And--and if
they didn't, it would send me up, and perhaps--perhaps to the chair."
"You take your chances on that"--Jimmie Dale's voice was low and
even--"but you take no chances here--for there are none." The automatic
in Jimmie Dale's hand edged ominously forward. "It's Forrester's
exoneration--or you. Do you understand? And you make your
For an instant the man's eyes met Jimmie Dale's, then shifted, as though
drawn in spite of himself, to the muzzle of Jimmie Dale's automatic; and
then his hand reached into his pocket for his pen.
From the pool room in front came an outburst of hand-clapping and
applause--there was evidently a match of some kind going on. Jimmie
Dale, his eyes on English Dick, as the latter began to write with a sort
of feverish haste as though fear and a miserable desire to have done
with it spurred him on, picked up the articles from the table, and
placed them in the satchel. He waited silently then--and then English
Dick pushed the paper toward him.
Jimmie Dale picked it up, and read it. It was all there, all of it--and
the signature this time was not forged! He placed the paper in the
satchel, and closed the satchel.
English Dick passed his hand across a forehead that beaded with
"What are you going to do?" he asked under his breath.
"I'm going to see that this--and you--reaches the hands of the police,"
said Jimmie Dale tersely. "We'll leave here in a moment--by the window.
There's a patrolman who passes the end of the lane once in a while, and
I expect, with the aid of a piece of cord and a pocket handkerchief as a
gag, that he'll find you there. My method may be a little crude, but I
have reasons of my own for not walking into a police station with you.
but before we go, there's still that matter of--the men higher up. They
needed a clever penman for this job and one who wouldn't be
recognised--and they got the best! Who brought you over from England?"
"A friend over there, one of the 'swell ones,' put it up to me," English
Dick answered heavily.
"Yes--and here?" prodded Jimmie Dale. "Who got you into the bank here?"
"I don't know." English Dick shook his head. "I reported to a man called
Chester. He doped out the story I was to tell, and told me to go to the
bank and apply for the job, and that it was already fixed."
"I'd like to meet 'Chester,'" said Jimmie Dale grimly. "Where
does he live?"
"I don't know," said English Dick again. "I tell you, I don't know!
They're big--my God, they'll get me for this, if the law doesn't! I
don't know where he lives--he always came to me. The only one I know is
Reddy Mull, and--"
His voice was drowned out in a louder and more prolonged burst of
applause from the pool room, which mingled shouts, cries and the
thunderous banging of cue butts on the floor.
"A good shot!" said Jimmie Dale, with a grim smile.
"Yes," said English Dick, "a good shot"--but into his voice had crept a
new note, a note like one of malicious triumph.
Jimmie Dale's lips set suddenly hard and tight. Yes, he _heard_
now--perhaps too late--what the other _saw_. The uproar that had
drowned out all other sounds had subsided--_the door behind him had been
unlocked and was now opening slowly_.
And then Jimmie Dale, quick as thought is quick, his fingers closed on
the satchel, hurled himself around the table and to the floor. There was
the roar of a report, a flash of flame, as Reddy Mull, hand thrust in
through the partially open doorway, fired--a wild scream, as the shot,
meant for him, Jimmie Dale, found another mark directly behind where he
had been standing--and English Dick, reeling to his feet, pitched
forward over the table, carrying the table with him to the floor. It had
taken the time that a watch takes to tick. Came the roar of a report
again, as Jimmie Dale fired in turn--at the electric-light bulb a few
feet away from him on the wall. There was the tinkle of shattering
glass--and darkness. Came shouts, cries, a yell from the door from Reddy
Mull, a fusillade of shots from Reddy Mull's revolver, the rush of many
feet from the pool room--and Jimmie Dale, in the blackness, dropped
silently from the window to the ground.
He gained the street; and, five minutes later, blocks away, he entered
the private stall of a Bowery saloon. Here, Jimmie Dale added another
paper to the contents of the satchel. The characters printed, and badly
formed, the paper looked like this:
WITH THE COMPLIMENTS OF THE
"And I guess," said Jimmie Dale grimly to himself, "that if I slip this
to the police, the police will get--Reddy Mull."
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
How far away last night, with Forrester's murder and the sordid
denouement in Reddy Mull's room, seemed! How far away even half an hour
ago this very night seemed! Just half an hour ago! Then, with no thought
but one of dogged perseverance to keep up his quest, with neither hint
nor sign that his quest was any nearer the end than it had ever been, he
had entered Bristol Bob's, here, in the role of Smarlinghue; and now, as
a rift that had opened in the clouds, there had come sudden and amazing
joy. It held him now in thrall. It threatened even to make him _forget_
that he was for the moment Smarlinghue--forget what, as Smarlinghue,
Smarlinghue dare not forget--the role he played.
He leaned forward suddenly and caught up his whisky glass--whose
contents had previously and surreptitiously been spilled into the
cuspidor on the floor beside his chair. He lifted the glass to his
mouth, his head thrown back as though to drain a final, lingering drop,
then he thumped the glass down on the table, licked his lips--thin and
distorted by "Smarlinghue's" makeup--and wiped them with the sleeve of
his threadbare coat.
A man at the next table, well known as the Pippin, young, flashily
dressed, his almost effeminate features giving an added touch of
viciousness, through incongruity, to his general appearance, twisted
his head around and grinned with malicious derision.
Jimmie Dale's fingers searched hungrily now through first one and then
another of his ragged pockets, and finally extricated a dime and a
nickel. With these he tapped insistently on the table, until an
attendant answered the summons and supplied him with another drink.
He sat back then for a time; now eyeing the liquor, as though greedy
for its taste, yet greedy, too, to prolong the anticipation, since from
his actions there was apparently no means of further replenishing the
supply; now glancing around the smoke-laden room where, on the polished
section of the floor in the centre, a score of laughing, shrieking
couples whirled and pranced in the unrestrained throes of the
underworld's latest dance; now permitting his eyes to rest with a
sudden scowl on the man at the next table. He had no concern with the
Pippin--nor had the Pippin any concern with him. The man, as he imbibed
a number of drinks, simply seemed to find a certain: malevolent
amusement in a contemptuous appraisal of his, Jimmie Dale's, person;
but the other, in spite of the new, glad exhilaration Jimmie Dale was
experiencing, annoyed Jimmie Dale--the blatant expanse of pink shirt
cuff, for instance, in order to display the Pippin's diamond-snake
links, famous from One end of the underworld to the other, was
eminently typical of the man. The cuff links were undoubtedly an object
of envy to the society in which the Pippin moved; they were even
beautiful cuff links, it was true, oriental in design, never to be
mistaken by any one who had ever seen them, and the stones with which
they were set were credited generally in the underworld as being
genuine, but--Jimmie Dale was hesitantly lifting his glass again in a
queer, miserly sort of way. The Pippin had jerked a cigarette box from
his pocket, stuck what was evidently the single cigarette it had
contained between his lips; and now, tossing away the box, he pushed
back his chair and stood up--but on the floor beneath the table, where
it had fluttered unobserved when the cigarette box had been jerked from
the pocket, lay a small folded piece of paper.
"If you hang around long enough, Smarly," gibed the Pippin, as he passed
by on his way toward the door, "maybe some of the rubber-necks off the
gape-wagon will take pity on you and buy you another--the slumming
parties are just crazy about broken-down artists!"
"You go chase yourself!" said Smarlinghue politely, through one corner
of his twisted mouth.
Jimmie Dale's eyes followed the other. The Pippin, threading his way
amongst the tables, gained the door, and passed out into the street.
And then Jimmie Dale's eyes reverted to the piece of paper under the
adjacent table. It was not at all likely that it was of the slightest
importance or significance, and yet--Jimmie Dale stretched out his
foot, drew the paper toward him, and, stooping over, picked it up. He
unfolded it, and found it to contain several typewritten lines. He
frowned in a puzzled way as he read them; then read them over again,
and his frown deepened.
Melinoff has the goods. Go the limit if he squeals. Not later than
Jimmie Dale's eyes lifted and strayed around the noisy, riotous dance
hall. Just what exactly did the message mean? The Pippin was a bad
actor--literally, as well as metaphorically. The Pippin, if asked,
would probably still have styled himself an actor; but, though still
young, his career on the stage had ended several years ago rather
abruptly--with a year's imprisonment! Jimmie Dale did not recall the
details of the particular offence of which the Pippin had been found
guilty, save that it had been for theft. It did not, however, matter
very much. The Pippin of to-day as he was known to the underworld, to
which strata of society he had immediately gravitated on his release
from prison, was all that was of immediate interest. He had associated
himself with a gang run by one Steve Barlow, commonly known as the Mole,
and under this august patronage and protection had already more than one
"job" of the first magnitude to his credit. The Pippin, in a word, was
both an ugly and an unpleasant customer.
Jimmie Dale's eyes continued to circuit the seedy dance hall. What was
it that the Pippin was to procure from Melinoff, and for which, if
necessary, the Pippin was to go "the limit"? Melinoff himself was not
without reproach, either! What was the game? Melinoff was an old-clothes
and junk dealer, and, as a side line, at times a very profitable side
line, had been known to act as a "fence" for stolen goods. He had
skirted for years on the ragged edge with the police, and then, caught
red-handed at last, had changed his occupation for a more useful one
during a somewhat prolonged sojourn in Sing Sing. Affairs after that had
not prospered with Melinoff. His wife, honest if her husband was not,
and already an old woman, had been hard put to it with the shabby shop
and the meagre business she was able to transact; so hard put to it,
indeed, that the wonder had been that she had managed to keep the roof
over her head. She had died a few months after her husband's release.
Melinoff, if he had had no other virtue, had at least loved his wife,
and the Melinoff of old, then a sprightly enough man for his years, was
no more, and it was a decrepit, stoop-shouldered, dirty and
grey-bearded figure that shuffled now around the old-clothes shop,
apathetic of "bargains," where before it had been a man whose keenness
was matched only by the sort of eager craft and low cunning with which
he had conducted his business.
A smile, half grim, half whimsical, flickered across Jimmie Dale's lips.
There were strange lives, strange undercurrents, always, ceaselessly, at
work here in the underworld, here where the grist from the human mill
found its place. Melinoff, the Pippin, each of those whirling figures
out there on the floor, each of those men and women whose laughter rose
raucously from the tables, or whose whisperings, as heads were lowered
and held close together, seemed an unsavoury, vicious thing, had known a
strange and tortuous path; yet strangest, most tortuous of them all,
His fingers, as he thrust the Pippin's note into the side pocket of his
coat, touched the torn fragments of another note, tiny little particles
of paper, torn over and over again into fine and minute shreds--the
Tocsin's note--the note that seemed suddenly to have changed all his
life. It had come as her communications had always come--without
bridging the way that lay between them, without furnishing him with a
clue through the method employed for their transmission that would avail
him anything, or supply him with any means of reaching her. It had been
thrust into his hand by a street urchin, as he had entered the door of
Bristol Bob's that half an hour before. He had not even questioned the
urchin--it would have been useless, futile, barren of results. A hundred
previous experiences had at least taught him that! He could surmise
about it, though, if he would; and, in view of the contents of the note
itself, surmise, in all probability, with fair accuracy. The Tocsin had
satisfied herself that he was neither at home nor at the club, and had,
therefore, chosen an inconspicuous messenger to search for "Smarlinghue"