Part 5 out of 6
through the underworld. And there would have been no risk. For the first
time in all the years that her letters had been the motive force, the
underlying basis of the Gray Seal's acts, it would not, as far as
dangerous consequences were concerned, have mattered if the note had
gone astray, or had even been read by others. He need not even have torn
it up, as he had done through force of habit, for there was no "plan"
to-night, no coup to carry through. The note, for the first time, was
not a "call to arms;" it was what he had been longing for, always hoping
for, yet never permitting himself to build too strongly upon lest he
should lay up for himself a store of disappointment too bitter for
endurance--it was a note of _hope_. There were just a few lines, a few
sentences; and it had contained neither form of address nor signature.
To any one save himself it meant nothing, it had no significance.
Snatches of it ran through his mind again:
"... It is the beginning of the end.... The way is clearing ... I am very
happy to-night, and I wanted to tell you so...."
The end at last! The end of the years of peril; the end of that fear
gnawing always at his heart that she might never live to come out into
the sunlight again; the end of this dual life he led; the return to a
normal existence where surroundings like the present, where the dens and
dives of the underworld, the secret rookeries nursing their hell-hatched
crimes, the taint and smell of evil, and the reek of soul-filth would be
hereafter no more than a memory! To be through with it all, through
with it all, and to know her love instead--because she was safe!
He stared about him, and stared with queer incredulity at his own
miserable clothing. Was it true, was it reality--this figure that the
underworld knew as Smarlinghue, who sat here, and with dirty fingers
played with a whisky glass on the cheap, liquor-spotted table, and out
of half-closed, well-simulated drug-laden eyes gazed on those dancing
figures out there on the floor to whom the law from cradlehood had been
a natural enemy, and to the door of hardly one of whom but lay crimes
that ranged from the paltry to the hideous!
Reality! Yes, it was real! God knew the abysmal depths of its reality.
Months piled on months there had been of it! Those voices out there that
rose in a jangle of ribald mirth were the same voices that, hushed in
deadlier menace, had whispered that grim slogan, "Death to the Gray
Seal!" through every hidden cranny in the underworld; these men and
women here around him were of the same breed as those who only last
night had struck down and brutally murdered Forrester, and not content
with murder had plotted to rob their victim of his good name as well!
Jimmie Dale's hand clenched suddenly--his mind was off at a tangent,
away for the moment from her. Well, they had failed last night in all
save murder! Failed--and one of them had already paid the price, and
another, in the Tombs awaiting trial, faced the certainty of the death
chair in Sing Sing! But those two, Reddy Mull, and English Dick, had
been little more than tools. Whose was the hidden master brain behind
them, controlling this evil power that struck in the dark; that lately,
though unseen, was permeating the underworld with its presence; that
intuitively he had felt was reaching out, feeling its way, to grapple
with and, if it could, to strangle him the Gray Seal! He had felt the
menace, known that it existed, and the slogan ringing always in his
ears, the Whispered "Death to the Gray Seal" had taken on a deeper
significance, had brought him a more acute and imminent sense of peril
than ever before; but it was only last night, for the first time, that
he had equally _felt_ that he had had any concrete knowledge of, or
contact with this new antagonist. And last night, if there had been a
challenge he had accepted it, and if there had been no challenge he had
at least thrown down the gauntlet himself! If this was actually the
criminal organisation that was arrayed against him, the master brain at
the head of it would now have a greater incentive than ever to trap and
exterminate the Gray Seal, for English Dick lay dead, and Reddy Mull was
behind the bars, and twenty thousand dollars in cash that they had
schemed for was in the hands of the police--thanks to the Gray Seal!
Added incentive! They would move heaven and earth to reach him now! All
the trickery, all the hell-born ingenuity that they possessed would be
launched against him now, and--Jimmie Dale's face, that had been set and
hard, relaxed suddenly. Well, granted all that! What did it matter now?
They would but hunt a myth! Between them and himself now there stood the
Tocsin's note. "The way is clearing.... I am very happy to-night." She
would not have written that unless she were very sure. To-morrow,
perhaps, and Smarlinghue, and the Gray Seal, and Larry the Bat would
have passed forever out of existence, and there would be only Jimmie
Dale, and _she,_ and love--and a phantom left behind in the underworld
against whom the underworld and this evil genius of crime might pit
their wits to their hearts' content!
There was an uplift upon him, a sense of freedom so great that it seemed
actually physical as well as mental. Peril, danger, the strain of the
dual life until the nerves were worn raw, the constant anxiety for her
safety--all were gone now. "It is the beginning of the end ... the way
is clearing"--she had written that tonight. And it meant that, refusing,
as she had said, to let him come into the shadows again, she had won
through--alone. It brought a little, curious pang of disappointment to
him that he should share now only in the reward; but the pang was
swallowed up in that it brought him a deeper knowledge of her unselfish
love, her splendid courage, and--he could find no other word--her
Jimmie Dale's fingers stole into the side pocket of his coat to play
again in a curiously caressing way with the little torn fragments of her
note--and touched again the piece of paper that the Pippin had dropped.
He took it out mechanically, and read it over once more. One sentence
seemed suddenly to have become particularly ominous--"if he squeals go
the limit." He knew nothing as to the authorship of those words, but
from what he knew of the Pippin there was a certain ugliness to the word
"limit" that he did not like. The "limit" with the Pippin might
He thrust the paper back into his pocket, and sat for a moment staring
musingly at his whisky glass. Well, why not? Before half past ten, the
message said; and it was scarcely ten o'clock yet. In view of the
Tocsin's note, be had intended returning to the Sanctuary, resuming his
own proper character, and, either at the St. James Club, or at his home,
wait for further word from her. There was, indeed, nothing else that he
could do--and Melinoff's, for that matter, was on the way from Bristol
Bob's to the Sanctuary. Yes, why not? If the Pippin was up to any dirty
work, or even if the two of them, Melinoff and the Pippin, were in it
together, and the word "squeal" implied that Melinoff was to be held
strictly up to his full share of some mutual villainy should he show any
inclination to waver, it might not be an altogether unfitting exit from
the stage if the Gray Seal should make his final bow to the underworld
by playing a role in the Pippin's little drama, whatever that drama
might prove to be!
Yes, why not! He passed Melinoff's place in any event, and there was no
reason why he should remain any longer here in Bristol Bob's. The second
glass of whisky followed the first--into the cuspidor. Again the
threadbare sleeve was drawn across the thin, distorted lips, and,
pushing back his chair, Jimmie Dale rose from the table and made his way
out into the street.
THE OLD-CLOTHES SHOP
Ten minutes later, still in the heart of the East Side, Jimmie Dale
reached his destination, and paused on the edge of the sidewalk,
ostensibly to light a cigarette while he looked tentatively around him,
before the entrance to a courtyard that ran in behind a row of cheap and
shabby tenements. He shook his head, as he tossed the match away. It was
still early; there were too many people about, to say nothing of the
group of half-naked children playing in the gutter under the street lamp
in front of the courtyard entrance, and "Smarlinghue" was far too well
known a character in that section of the Bad Lands to warrant him in
taking any chances. If anything was wrong in Melinoff's dingy little
place behind there, if anything had transpired, or was about to
transpire that would ultimately, say, invite the attention of the
police, it might prove extremely awkward--for Smarlinghue--should it be
remembered that he had entered there! There was a better way--a much
better way, and one that was exceedingly simple. It would hardly
occasion any comment, even if he were noticed, if he entered one of the
_tenements_, where, with probably a dozen families living in as many
rooms, one could come and go at all hours without question or hindrance.
He moved slowly along, and, out of the radius of the street lamp now and
away from the children, paused again, this time before the last tenement
in the row that the front of the courtyard in the rear. For the moment
there were no pedestrians in the immediate neighbourhood, and Jimmie
Dale, stepping through the tenement doorway, gained the narrow,
unlighted hall within. He stopped here, hugged close against the wall,
to listen, and, hearing or seeing nothing to disturb him, moved forward
again, silently, without a sound, along the hall. There must be, he
knew, a rear exit to the courtyard behind. Yes--here it was! He had
halted again, this time before a door. He tried it, found it unlocked,
opened it, stepped outside, and closed the door behind him.
It was dark out here in the courtyard, and objects were only faintly
discernible; but there were few localities in that neighbourhood with
which Jimmie Dale, either as Smarlinghue, or in the old days as Larry
the Bat, was not intimately acquainted. To call it a courtyard hardly
described the place. It was more an open backyard common to the row of
tenements, and rather narrow and confined in space at that. It was
dirty, cluttered with rubbish, and across it, facing the rear of the
tenements, was a small building that many years ago had been, possibly,
a stable or an outhouse belonging to some private and no doubt
pretentious dwelling, which long since now, with the progress northward
of the city, had been supplanted by the crowded, poverty-stricken, and
anything but pretentious tenements. This outhouse had been to a certain
extent remodelled, and to a certain extent made habitable, and as long
as any one could remember Melinoff with his old-clothes shop had been
Jimmie Dale began to make his way cautiously across the yard, wary of
the tin cans and general rubbish which an inadvertent step might
metamorphose most effectively into a decidedly undesirable advertisement
of his presence. There was no light that he could see in Melinoff's at
all; and he frowned now in a puzzled way. Had the Pippin been and gone;
or was he, Jimmie Dale, ahead of the Pippin? The Pippin would have had
ample time, of course, to get here, for he, Jimmie Dale, had probably
remained in Bristol Bob's a good half hour after the Pippin had left. In
that case, then, Melinoff must have gone away with the Pippin
again--that would account for there being no light. But, on the other
hand, if the Pippin had not yet arrived, and Melinoff _expected_ the
visit, it was most curious that the place was in darkness!
And then Jimmie Dale smiled a little mockingly at himself. His
deductions would perhaps have been of infinitely more value if he had
first waited to make sure of the premise on which they were based! As
a matter of fact, there _was_ a light! He had reached the front of the
little place, and peering cautiously through the window could make
out, across the black interior, a thread of light that came through
the crack of a closed door, and from what was, evidently, another room
in the rear.
Jimmie Dale's fingers closed on the heavy, cumbersome, old-fashioned
door latch, pressed it down noiselessly, and exerted a little tentative
pressure on the door itself. It was locked. A minute passed in absolute
silence, as a little steel instrument was inserted in the lock--and then
the door swung inward and was dosed again, and Jimmie Dale, rigid and
motionless, stood inside.
He was listening now for some sound, the sound of voices, or the sound
of movement from that lighted room. There was nothing. Jimmie Dale's
lips tightened suddenly. It was very curious! There was an "upstairs" to
the place, such as it was, but if Melinoff was up there alone, or with
the Pippin, they were up there in the dark unless they were in the rear
upstairs room; in which case they could not, in view of the ramshackle
nature of the building, have made the slightest movement without making
themselves heard from where he stood.
From his pocket Jimmie Dale produced a flashlight. The ray played once,
as though with queer, diffident curiosity, about him, swept once more in
a circuit around the room, swiftly, in an almost startled way this
time--and there was darkness again. And, instead of the flashlight,
Jimmie Dale's automatic was in his hand now, and he was moving quickly
and silently forward toward that thread of light and the closed door
leading into the rear room.
Around him everything was in disorder; not the disorder habitual to such
a place where odds and ends of the heterogeneous accumulation of
Melinoff's stock in trade might be expected to be deposited wherever
convenience and not system dictated, but a disorder that seemed to hold
within itself something of ominous promise. Old clothes, for instance,
that might at least have been expected, even with the most profound
carelessness and indifference, to have received better treatment, were
strewn and scattered about the floor in all directions.
And now Jimmie Dale stood still again. There was a sound at last; but a
sound that he could not immediately define. It came from the room
beyond--like a dull, muffled thud mingling with a low, long-drawn gasp.
It was repeated--and then, unmistakably, there came a moan.
In a flash now, Jimmie Dale, his automatic thrust forward, was at the
door. He stooped with his eye to the keyhole; and the next instant,
his face hard and tense, he flung the door open, and jumped forward
into the room.
Those words of the Pippin's note seemed to be searing through his brain
in letters of fire--"go the limit--go the limit." There was no need to
speculate longer on their meaning; they meant--_murder_. On the floor, a
dark ugly, crimson pool beside him, lay Melinoff, the old-clothes
dealer. And as Jimmie Dale sprang to the other's side, there came again
that curious muffled thud--as the old man weakly lifted his head a few
inches from the floor only to have it fall limply back again. The man
was nearly gone--it needed no experienced eye to tell that. Melinoff's
face was grayish in its pallor, and his eyes, open, seemed to have lost
their lustre; but as Jimmie Dale knelt and lifted the man's shoulders
and supported the other's head upon his knee, the light in the
old-clothes dealer's black eyes seemed suddenly to return and to glow
with a strange, passionate, eager fire, as they fixed on Jimmie Dale's
face. Melinoff's lips moved. Jimmie Dale bent his head to Catch the
words that were almost inaudible.
"The--the Pippin. Here"--the old man's hand struggled toward his side
where a dark crimson blotch had soaked his shirt--"here--he--he stabbed
me--because--because--" The voice failed and died away, and the man's
head fell back on Jimmie Dale's arm.
Jimmie Dale raised the other's head gently again.
"Yes!" he said quickly, striving to rouse the other. "Yes; go on! I
understand. The Pippin stabbed you. Because--what? Go on, Melinoff! Go
on! I am listening."
The eyes opened once more--but the light was dying out of them, and they
were filming now. And then suddenly the man forced himself forward into
a sitting posture, and his voice rang wildly through the room:
"It is a lie! A lie! I played square--do you hear! Old Melinoff
played square! I did not understand at first--but I did not
forget. I remembered. Old Melinoff would never forget--never
A tremor ran through the old man's form, the voice was stilled--it
was the end.
For a moment, his lips tight and set, Jimmie Dale held the other there
in his arms, as he stared at a little object on the floor where
Melinoff had been lying, and that previously had been hidden beneath
the other's body--an object that glittered and sparkled now as the
light caught it. There had even been then, it seemed, no need for
Melinoff's dying accusation--the evidence of the Pippin's guilt would
have been plain enough to the first person who found old Melinoff and
moved the old man's body. For himself, Jimmie Dale, the Pippin's note,
since it had actuated him in coming here, would have been enough to
have fixed the guilt in his mind where it belonged; but the police, for
instance, would not have been so well informed! The police, however,
would now have all, and more than all the evidence they required. That
little thing that glittered there was one of the Pippin's notorious
diamond-snake cuff links.
Jimmie Dale did not disturb it. He laid old Melinoff back on the floor,
and the old man's body covered the cuff link again as it had done
before. He stood up then, and looked around him. The room seemed to have
been used for no one particular purpose. It was partitioned off from the
shop proper, it was true; but, equally, it appeared to have been used as
a sort of overflow for the shop's stock in trade. Here, as in front,
clothing of all descriptions littered the floor; and also there were
signs that a violent struggle had taken place. The room, which had
obviously served, apart from being a store-room, as kitchen, dining
room, and, in fact, for everything save a bedroom, was in a state of
chaos--chairs were upset, a table stood up-ended against the wall, aid
broken crockery was strewn everywhere.
At the rear of the room was another door. Jimmie Dale reached up, turned
off the gas-jet, crossed to the door, found it unlocked, opened it a few
inches, and looked out. It gave on the rear of the courtyard, and in the
darkness he could just make out a high fence that bordered the adjoining
property. It was presumably the way by which the Pippin had made his
escape, since he, Jimmie Dale, had found the front door locked.
He closed the door again, relighted the gas, and, moving swiftly now,
passed through into the shop and locked the front door. Then, returning
to the upper end of the shop close to the connecting door, which he
closed until it was just ajar, Jimmie Dale slipped a black silk mask
over his face, seated himself on a box of some sort that he found at
hand, and, save that his fingers mechanically tested the automatic in
his hand, remained motionless, his eyes fixed on the rear door across
the lighted room in which old Melinoff lay.
It was dark here and silent, except that from out across the courtyard
came faintly now and then the voices of the children at play in the
gutters, and except that a faint glow stole timidly out from the
slightly opened door only to merge almost immediately with the
surrounding blackness. The tight lips had curved downward at the
corners of his mouth into a grim, merciless droop; and into the dark,
steady eyes there had come a smouldering fire. It was a brutal,
cowardly thing that had been done there in that room, and the Pippin
had finished his work and gone--but it was not at all unlikely that the
Pippin would be back!
The sharp lines at the corners of Jimmie Dale's mouth grew a little more
pronounced. Nor should the Pippin be long in returning! A man could not
very well lose a cuff link and be unaware of that fact for any extended
length of time. And that cuff link was damning, irrefutable,
incontrovertible evidence, exactly the evidence the police required to
convict the guilty man! Yes, undoubtedly, the Pippin would be back--and
at any moment now. Figuring that the Pippin had left Bristol Bob's half
an hour before he, Jimmie Dale, had started out, and allowing, say,
twenty minutes for the struggle and subsequent murder here, the Pippin
could only have been gone a matter of some ten minutes. In the
excitement, and probably a run through lanes and alleyways, it was quite
possible that the Pippin would not have noticed his loss in that length
of time; but he could not, with a loose cuff, and especially when it was
usually fastened by so highly prized a link, have remained much longer
than that in ignorance of his loss.
Jimmie Dale smiled grimly now in the darkness. It was almost analogous
to Meighan's waiting for the return of the Magpie, except that he,
Jimmie Dale, had neither the desire nor the intention of usurping the
functions of the police. "Smarlinghue," for very obvious reasons, could
neither appear nor bear witness in the case; he could take no chances of
the discovery being made that "Smarlinghue" was but a _character_ that
cloaked Jimmie Dale and the Gray Seal--and, above all, he could take no
chances to-night when at last he was on the threshold of the return to
his old normal life again! But he had, nevertheless, no intention of
permitting the Pippin to elude the law, or to escape the consequences of
the act to which that mute form lying in there on the crimsoned floor
bore hideous testimony. The cuff link, obviously loosened and dropped
unnoticed on the floor during the struggle, would not only connect the
Pippin with the crime, but would convict him of it as well; he, Jimmie
Dale, therefore, did not propose to allow the Pippin to return and
remove that evidence--that was all. It should not be very difficult to
prevent it; nor should it even necessitate his showing himself to the
Pippin. A shot, for instance, fired at the floor, as the Pippin stole in
through that rear door again should be enough to send the man flying
back for shelter to the recesses of the underworld. The Pippin's nerves,
as he crept back to the scene of his crime, would be badly frayed and
unstrung, unless he was a man lacking wholly in imagination, which the
Pippin, once having been an actor, inherently could not be; and, coupled
with this, prompting the Pippin to run at once for cover, would be the
fact that he could not by any means be certain that the link had been
lost there in the room itself, since it might equally have, been forced
loose during his escape, say, for instance, while climbing the series of
backyard fences that would have confronted him from the moment he left
Melinoff's rear door--providing always, of course, that the Pippin, as
it seemed logical and as the evidence seemed to indicate, _had_ made his
escape in that manner.
The minutes passed; at first quickly enough, and then they began to drag
heavily. Jimmie Dale's mind was back now on old Melinoff. What had the
man meant by his feverish, eager, pitiful insistence that he had not
forgotten, that he had remembered, that he could never forget, and that
he had not understood at first? The answer to that question would supply
the motive for the Pippin's crime, and for half an hour, sitting there
in the darkness, Jimmie Dale pondered the question, but the answer would
not come. There were theories without number that he could formulate;
but theories at best were indefinite. What had Melinoff meant by saying
he had played square? Was it some previous criminal undertaking between
himself and the Pippin, in which the Pippin believed himself to have
been betrayed by Melinoff, while Melinoff, on the other hand, protested
that--and then Jimmie Dale shrugged his shoulders impatiently. What was
the use of speculation? The vital matter of the moment was the Pippin's
delay in returning for that cuff link!
Another fifteen minutes passed, and still another--and then Jimmie Dale
restored his mask to his pocket, rose from his seat, and made his way to
the front door of the shop. He had waited there a full hour and over
now, his only purpose had been to prevent the removal of the evidence of
the Pippin's guilt by the Pippin, and logic told him it was useless to
wait longer. It was only fair to assume that the Pippin would have
discovered his loss within a reasonably short time after leaving
Melinoff's; and, granting that, it was absolutely certain that the
Pippin, if he were coming back at all, would have come without an
instant's delay if he believed that his life hung on the recovery of his
property. He had not come, and therefore, conversely, the Pippin must
have weighed the chances and concluded that the risk attendant on his
return to the scene of his crime was greater than the risk he ran of the
cuff link having been lost in that exact spot. Nor was the Pippin's
presumed reasoning entirely faulty--from the Pippin's standpoint. It was
obvious that he did not know _where_ he had lost the link; it was only a
_chance_ that he had lost it on the actual scene of the crime; and even
if he had lost it there, and even if he returned, it was only a _chance_
that he would be able to find it again--and against this was the very
grave risk and danger of returning to Melinoff's after having once got
safely away. But whatever the Pippin's reasoning might have been, the
one morally certain fact remained--every minute of delay increased the
risk that the cuff link would be found by some one else, and if the
Pippin were coming back at all he would have been back long before this.
Jimmie Dale closed the door of the old-clothes shop behind him, crossed
the yard, and using the back door of the tenement again; gained the
street. Well, he was quite satisfied! The hour he had spent there
mattered little. He had desired only one thing--that the evidence of the
Pippin's guilt should not be disturbed. And for the rest--he smiled
whimsically as he started briskly along the street--there was
Carruthers, of the _Morning News-Argus,_ who, if, in the old days, he
had been one of the most dogged and relentless in his efforts to run the
Gray Seal to earth, was at the same time, though without knowing
it--Jimmie Dale's smile broadened--the Gray Seal's most intimate friend
and old college pal! If the Pippin was just as surely brought to book
that way, why do old Carruthers and his sheet out of a "scoop"!
Jimmie Dale made his way rapidly now over to the Bowery, and here headed
in an uptown direction. Two blocks further along, however, on the corner
occupied by the Crescent saloon, he turned into the cross street, and
passed in through the saloon's side entrance. The Crescent saloon, as he
had previously more than once had occasion to remark, was nothing if not
thoughtful of the peculiar needs of its somewhat questionable class of
patrons. Around the corner of the little passageway, just as it turned
into a small lounging room before the barroom proper was reached, was a
telephone booth whose privacy could scarcely be improved upon. He opened
the door of the booth, stepped inside, and closed the door carefully and
tightly behind him. The _Argus_ being a morning paper, Carruthers,
except on very rare occasions, was always to be found at his office
until late into the night; but Jimmie Dale, having deposited his coin in
the slot, was rewarded with the information that he had met with one of
those "rare occasions." Carruthers was at his home on Long Island, and
had not been at the office at all that day. Jimmie Dale shrugged his
shoulders, as he found and gave the Long Island number. It did not
matter very much; it was simply the difference in time, amounting to,
say, the half hour or so that it would take Carruthers to get back to
the city and act.
The 'phone was answered.
"Mr. Carruthers, if you please ... yes, personally," said Jimmie Dale
There was a moment's wait, then Jimmie Dale spoke again--his voice still
pleasant, but changed in pitch and register to a bass that was far from
Jimmie Dale's, though one that Carruthers might possibly remember!
"Mr. Carruthers? ... Good evening, Mr. Carruthers--this is the Gray Seal
speaking, and I--" A receptive smile stole suddenly across Jimmie
Dale's lips--Carruthers, to put it mildly, was impulsive. "The Gray
Seal--yes. I can hear _you_ perfectly.... What? ... No, it is not a
hoax!"--Jimmie Dale's voice had sharpened perceptibly--"I called you
once before, you will perhaps remember though it is a very long time
ago, in reference to a certain diamond necklace and a--you will pardon
the term--gentleman by the name of Markel. ... Ah, you recognise the
Gray Seal's voice now, do you! ... No, don't apologise.... I thought
perhaps you might be interested in the possibility of another scoop....
Yes, quite so! ... I would suggest then that you get the police to
accompany you to the back room of Melinoff's, the old-clothes dealer's
shop.... Yes, I thought you might know the place. Perhaps, too, you know
of a man who is commonly called the Pippin? ... No? Well, no matter. The
police do! You'll find the evidence under Melinoff's body.... I beg your
pardon? ... Yes--murder.... What? ... It is a cuff link, the Pippin's
cuff link, that was dropped in the struggle.... What? ... No, I do not
know why; I have told you all I know. There is nothing more, Mr.
Carruthers--except that I should advise you to work as quickly as
possible, as otherwise some one may stumble on the crime before you do.
Good-night, Mr. Carruthers."
Carruthers was still talking, wildly, excitedly. Jimmie Dale calmly hung
up the receiver, left the telephone booth, and went out to the street
again--by the side entrance. If Carruthers made inquiry of central as to
where the call had come from, the reply that it was from the Crescent
saloon would in no way serve Carruthers, or any one else. No one, even
in the Crescent saloon, would be able to furnish any information as to
who had telephoned. It was, therefore, in a word, up to Carruthers now;
the Pippin would be brought to account; and as far as he, Jimmie Dale,
was concerned, his connection with the affair was at an end.
Jimmie Dale walked quickly along, turning from one street into another.
Here and there, in front of various resorts, and on the corners, he
passed little groups of men engaged in bated, low-toned conversation.
Ordinarily this would have interested Jimmie Dale, for the groups were
composed, not of ordinary citizens, but of the dregs and scum of the
underworld, and it was evident that something quite out of the usual run
of things had suddenly seized upon the Bad Lands as a subject for
gossip. But it was already long after eleven o'clock, and to-night, with
Melinoff's murder disposed of now, he was through, he hoped, with the
underworld forever. He was anxious only to reach the Sanctuary without
any further delay, and, thereafter, equally without further loss of
time, to get to his home or to the club, where at any moment he might
expect to hear from the Tocsin, and where, most important of all, she
would bare no difficulty in communicating instantly with him.
He turned the corner of the street on which the Sanctuary was
situated--and halted abruptly. A man coming rapidly from the other
direction had grabbed his arm.
"'Ello, Smarly!" greeted the other. "Heard de news?"
Jimmie Dale, with the top of his tongue, shifted the half burnt section
of the cigarette that was hanging from his upper lip to the opposite
corner of his mouth, as he looked at the other. It was the Wowzer, dip
and pick-pocket, the erstwhile pal of one Dago Jim, who, on a certain
night, also of the very long ago, that Jimmie Dale had very good cause
to remember, had killed Dago Jim in a certain infamous dive. Well, if
he, Jimmie Dale, was, after all, to learn the cause of the excitement
that seemed suddenly to have possessed the underworld, he could at least
have asked for no better or more thoroughly posted informant than the
Wowzer. And now his curiosity was aroused. For an instant the idea that
it might be Melinoff's murder flashed across his mind; but he dismissed
that idea at once. Murder was too trite a thing in the underworld to
cause any widespread commotion!
"Hello, Wowzer!" he returned, as he shook his head. "No, I ain't heard
"Youse can take it from me den," said the Wowzer, "dat dere's something
doin'! Dey got her!"
"Got who?" enquired Jimmie Dale in a puzzled way.
The Wowzer leaned forward secretively.
"Silver Mag!" he said.
It seemed to Jimmie Dale as though the clutch of an icy hand was
suddenly at his heart, as though the ground beneath his feet had grown
suddenly unstable and that the Wowzer's face, close to his own, was
swirling around and around in swift and endless gyrations--but he was
conscious, too, that he was master of himself. The muscles of his face
twitched--but it was to express incredulity. His tongue carried the
cigarette butt languidly back to the other corner of his mouth.
"Aw, go on!" said Jimmie Dale. "Try it on somebody else! Silver Mag
croaked out the night they had that fire down there in the old
"Yes, she did--nix!" scoffed the Wowzer, with a short laugh. "De same
way dat blasted snitch of a Gray Seal did--eh? Say, Smarly, I'm handin'
it to youse straight. Dey caught her snoopin' around one of de en-trays
into Foo Sen's half an hour ago. Say, de whole mob all de way up de
line's been tipped off. I'm givin' youse de real thing. Youse must have
been asleep somewhere, or youse'd have been wise before."
"Sure--I believe you!" said Jimmie Dale earnestly. "Who caught
"De Mole," replied the Wowzer. "An' he's got her now over in his
It was a moment before Jimmie Dale spoke. There seemed to be a horrible,
ghastly dryness in his mouth; there seemed to well up from his soul and
overwhelm him a world of mocking and sardonic irony. The Mole! The Mole
was the leader of the gang with which the Pippin was allied; it was at
the Mole's place that the Pippin usually lived; it was at the Mole's
place that the police would first institute their search for the
Pippin--and five minutes ago, through Carruthers, he had unleashed the
police! The Wowzer's face seemed to be swirling around and around in
front of him again. To get away--and _think_! He could have groaned,
cried out aloud!
"Say, thanks, Wowzer, for piping me off!" said Jimmie Dale effusively.
"Oh, dat's all right," responded the Wowzer graciously. "Only keep it
under yer hat except wid de crowd. De bulls ain't on, an' de Mole saw
her first--see? Dere ain't goin' to be no buttin' in till she gets hers!
An' de word's out not to do any pushin' an' crowdin' around de Mole's
fer front seats, 'cause den de bulls 'd get wise--savvy? Just leave it
to de Mole--get me?"
"Sure--I get you," said Jimmie Dale. "Well, so long, Wowzer--and
"S'long, Smarly," replied the Wowzer.
It was not far to the Sanctuary, only halfway down the short block to
the corner of the lane; but it seemed a distance interminable to Jimmie
Dale. His brain was whirling in a chaotic turmoil; and the turmoil
seemed barbed with a horrible fear that robbed him for the moment of his
mental poise. It was as a man dazed, unconscious of the physical process
by which he had arrived there, that he found himself standing in the
Sanctuary, leaning like a man spent with effort against the door which,
mechanically, he had closed behind him.
In hideous, baleful, jeering reiteration those words which she had
written were racing through his brain. "I am very happy to-night, and I
wanted to tell you so ... happy to-night ... happy to-night ... happy
to-night." Happy to-night--what depth of irony! Happy to-night--and they
had caught her--as the "way was clearing"----with the end of peril, with
the end of the miserable, hunted existence she had been forced to lead
just in sight! Silver Mag--the Tocsin! And he--he, who, too, had been
happy to-night, he, who had known that mighty uplift upon him, he, who
had dreamed that the morrow might bring life and love and sunshine--he
was facing now a blackness of despair that he had never known before.
Unwittingly, if such danger as she was in _could_ be made the greater,
he had made it so. If the underworld was the implacable enemy of Silver
Mag, because Silver Mag was known as the ally in the old days of Larry
the Bat, and known, therefore, as the ally of the Gray Seal; so, for the
same reason exactly, the police were her implacable enemy! And, whether
she fell into the hands of one or the other, the end ultimately differed
only in the method by which her death would be accomplished; it was
murder at the hands of the Mole and his gang; it was the death chair in
Sing Sing as an accomplice of the Gray Seal at the hands of the police.
"Death to the Gray Seal!"----that was the slogan of the underworld. "The
Gray Seal dead or alive--but the Gray Seal"--that was the fiat of the
police. And both held good for Silver Mag! With the Mole alone there
might have been a chance--but now, he had launched the police as well
against her, had sent them to the Mole's, for that was the first place
they would raid in their hunt for the Pippin.
The sweat beads started out on Jimmie Dale's forehead. She had discarded
the character of "Silver Mag" that night in the tenement fire when he
had discarded the character of "Larry the Bat"--and "Silver Mag" had
never been seen again until to-night. But he, Jimmie Dale, _had_
appeared since then as Larry the Bat--and for some reason to-night she
must have found it necessary, in working out her plans to their
consummation no doubt, to have assumed again the character of Silver
Mag--and she had been caught! But the Mole, it was absolutely certain,
if left alone, would first exhaust every means within his power of
forcing from Silver Mag the information that he would naturally believe
she had concerning the whereabouts of the Gray Seal, before wreaking the
vengeance of the underworld upon her; but equally the Mole, if
interrupted by the police, would, in a sort of barbarous rivalry, if he,
Jimmie Dale, knew the underworld at all, never surrender Silver
Mag--alive. It would be the old cry, hideously worded, as he had heard
it that night of the long ago in the attack on the old Sanctuary--the
Gray Seal and Silver Mag were their "_meat!"_ Something like a moan was
wrung from Jimmie Dale's lips. With the police out of it there would
have been time; with the police a factor, granted even that the Mole
gave her up, her death was certain.
The mind works swiftly. An eternity seemed bridged as he stood there
against the door, his hands pressed to his temples--in reality scarcely
a second had passed. Time! It was like a clarion call, that word,
clearing his brain, lashing him into instant action. There _was_ time, a
small, pitifully inadequate margin, but yet a margin--the few minutes
left before Carruthers would have the police hammering at the Mole's
door. There was a chance, still a chance to save her life. And if he
succeeded in getting her away from the Mole's--what then! It would be
touch and go! What of the afterwards--a means of retreat--a temporary
sanctuary? Yes, yes--he must think of everything!
He was working with mad speed now, stripping off his clothes, delving
into that secret hiding place behind the movable section of the
base-board near the door. And now the gas, with its poverty-stricken,
meagre, yellow flame, illuminated the place dimly--and Jimmie Dale, with
his make-up box and a cracked mirror, worked against the flying minutes.
There was only one way to go--as Larry the Bat. It would give the Mole
and the underworld nothing to work on afterwards if Larry the Bat went
to the rescue of Silver Mag; and if he won through there would then
still be "Smarlinghue's" sanctuary, this place here, as a temporary
refuge. The transformation to Larry the Bat stole an extra minute or
two from the priceless store, but it was the only way--to risk it as
Smarlinghue or Jimmie Dale, to risk recognition, would be the act of a
fool, for it would render abortive the initial success, if, by any
means, he could succeed even to that extent. Thank God for the
circumstances that, prior to this, had led him to duplicate Larry the
Bat's disreputable apparel; thank God for one chance of life--_for
her_--that this afforded now.
The gas was out again, the room was in darkness. Through the little
French window, and hugged close against the wall of the tenement, and
through the loose Aboard in the fence that gave egress to the lane,
Jimmie Dale, as Larry the Bat now, slunk along. And then, in the lane,
he broke into a run. And now, an added peril came--a glimpse of Larry
the Bat by any of gangland's fraternity, man or woman, and it would be
the end! His position now was analogous to hers as Silver Mag before she
had been caught! There would be no parley--it would be the end! But that
was the chance he took, the only chance there was--for her.
But Jimmie Dale knew the East Side. By alleys and lanes, through yards
and over fences, Jimmie Dale made his way along; and when forced into
the open to cross a street, it was a dark, ill-lighted section that was
chosen, and where for a short distance here and there he must needs keep
to the street he held deep in the shadows of the buildings, crouching in
doorways to avoid passers-by. It took time--he dared not calculate how
long. Carruthers was not the man to let the grass grow under his feet!
Carruthers would probably, before leaving home, have telephoned some
Headquarters' man to meet him--the detective would have telephoned
Headquarters from Melinoff's--and after that it would not take the
police long to reach the Mole's!
It took time, this tortuous threading of the East Side--he did not
know how long it had taken--but at last, as he swung into a long, black,
and very narrow alleyway, he drew a quick breath of relief. So far, at
least, he was ahead of the police. It was still and silent, there was no
sound of any disturbance, and the Mole's now was only a little way
ahead. He stole forward noiselessly. It was very quiet--much more quiet
even than usual in that far from savoury neighbourhood. He remembered,
with a grim smile of satisfaction, that the Wowzer had explained there
was to be no crowding for front seats for fear of attracting the
attention of the police. It had been very thoughtful of the Mole to pass
that word around--very! With the underworld, prompted by curiosity and
seething with hate, swarming here, the single chance he, Jimmie Dale,
had of reaching her would have been swept away. He paused now, his lips
set hard, crouched by the fence that separated the Mole's backyard from
the alleyway. His plan was simple; but it depended for its ultimate
success almost entirely on his ability to secure an instant means of
disappearance for the Tocsin the moment she was outside the Mole's
walls. That he could find her, that he could get her out of the house
was another matter--he could only trust to his wits and nerve in that
respect. But if he succeeded in that, then--he moved silently a little
further up the lane, crossed to the other side and halted again, this
time before the back door of a shed. In an instant his picklock was at
work; in another he had opened the door a bare fraction of an inch. His
lips grew tighter, as he retraced his steps to the Mole's fence. If that
shed were ever needed at all, there would not be time to fumble in the
dark for knob or latch--and there would be no necessity for that
fumbling now! From the shed there was a very sure means of escape across
a small intervening yard, and out through an areaway into the street,
for the shed was one of the many entrances to Foo Sen's, a place with
which he was very intimately acquainted--all this, of course, provided
that, if the Tocsin were seen to enter the shed, _some one_ held the
pursuers back long enough to afford her time to reach the street.
Jimmie Dale shrugged his shoulders, as he opened a low gate in the fence
silently and stepped through, into the yard beyond, leaving the gate
open behind him. He was not a fool, blinded to what probably lay ahead!
He could not hope to reach the Tocsin, much less effect her rescue,
without warning the inmates of this house that loomed up before him now,
without a fight with the Mole and the Mole's gangsters. It was not
likely that _he_ could reach the shelter of that shed, but the Tocsin
could, and, once inside, throwing away her cloak and wig, "Silver Mag"
would disappear, and after that there was the Sanctuary, and then her
own brave wits. There came a queer twist to Jimmie Dale's lips, and then
a shrug of his shoulders again. It was not likely to be the ending to
the night that he had thought it might be when sitting there in Bristol
Bob's only a few short hours ago!
Faint streaks of light through the interstices of a shuttered window
showed just in front of him, as he stole forward across the yard. Window
or back door, it mattered little to Jimmie Dale now, so that he could
gain an entry into the house unobserved. It was very quiet--even
ominously quiet--that impression came to him suddenly again. The quarter
here was full of dives and gambling hells and resorts frequented by the
worst in crimeland--but it seemed that the Mole's injunction had been
obeyed to the letter! It boded little good--for her! Jimmie Dale's face,
under the grime of Larry the Bat's make-up, grew white and set, as he
approached the window. God in Heaven, was he already too late! The
Mole, with his little tobacco shop in front as a blind, and his rooms
above rented to "lodgers," thus housing the gang of Apaches that worked
under his leadership, had had every opportunity, once the Tocsin was in
his power in there, of doing as he would. And then another thought came
flashing quick upon him. If they had gone that far, if she were dead,
they must have discovered that under the cloak and the gray, straggling
hair of Silver Mag--was Marie LaSalle. He forced a grip of iron upon
himself, fighting mentally like a madman with himself for his
self-control. The night with every passing moment seemed yawning wider
and wider before him in a chasm that threatened ruin, and disaster, and
the wreckage of everything that in life was worth the living,
and--_no_,' Not yet! The luck had turned! She was there! Silver Mag was
there! There! And safe so far!
The window was shoulder high. He was peering in through the blind. There
was no light in the room itself, but a faint glow came in through the
open doorway of a lighted room beyond--enough to enable him to make out
a woman's form, the grizzled hair streaming over the threadbare cloak,
as she lay on a cheap cot across the room, her face to the wall, her
hands bound together behind her back.
It was Jimmie Dale working with all the art he knew; now; and those
slim, sensitive, wonderful fingers were swift and silent as they had
never been before. A steel jimmy loosened the shutters, and they swung
apart with out a sound. He could see better now--see, at least, that she
was alone in the room. He tapped softly on the window pane. It was too
dark to see her face, but he saw her raise her head quickly, and then,
evidently, quick to meet an emergency as she always was, rise from the
cot and steal to the edge of the open door. He was working at the
window now. A fever of anxiety was him--it seemed that his fingers
stumbled, that they lost their cunning, that an eternity passed as she
stood there apparently on guard by the door, her bound hands behind her
back like some piteous appeal to him to hurry--to hurry--and, in the
name of all that life meant to both of them, to make haste.
And now cautiously, inch by inch, he was raising the window; and in
another moment, in obedience to his whisper, the bound wrists were
thrust within his reach, and he was severing the cords with his knife.
"Thank God!" breathed Jimmie Dale fervently. "Now jump--across the
yard--the door of Foo Sen's shed--it's open--_quick_--"
There came a sudden crash from the front of the house, a sudden turmoil
from within, a burst of shouts, a chorus of yells. The police! And now
another shout, another burst of yells--from the rear--from the lane!
Jimmie Dale's lips were like a thin, straight line. She was free from
the house now, standing beside him here in the darkness. He reached
swiftly up and closed the shutters--left open they invited immediate
attention. His mind was working in lightning flashes. The police were at
the front and rear, of course--they would not raid the front and leave
the rear unguarded! But why the shouts out there in the lane--why had
they not rushed in at once--and why now that _shot_! It was followed by
another, and still another--and then a fusillade of them, as though the
shots were returned.
"Quick!" he whispered again, and led the way toward the gate in the
fence. The police would be pouring out of the house from the back door
in a minute--the only chance was a dash for it. His mind was groping
now, bewildered. What did it mean? The police who had obviously been
detailed to the lane at the rear of the Mole's were fighting now--with
whom--why? But the fight was working further on down the lane in the
opposite direction from that shed door. "Quick!" he said again. "The
shed door--on the other side--quick!"
Together they darted into the lane. From behind, the back door of the
Mole's house was flung open, and there came the rush of feet. From down
the lane the short, vicious tongue-flames of revolvers stabbed through
the black. But in the darkness, save for those quick, myriad flashes
like gigantic fireflies winking in the night, he could see nothing. They
were racing, racing like mad, he and this form beside him for whose
safety he prayed so wildly, so passionately in his soul now. It was only
a step further--just another one--and the police, coming out of the
Mole's, had not reached the gate yet. Just another step--and then a
bullet, straying from the fight down there along the lane, drummed past
his ear in an angry buzz--and the form beside him lurched heavily,
stumbled, and pitched forward. And, with a low, broken cry, Jimmie Dale
swung out a supporting arm, and pushing the shed door open with his
elbow, gained the interior, and lowered his burden gently, a dead weight
now, to the floor.
And then Jimmie Dale sprang to the door, and swung a heavy bolt that was
there into place; then, running across the shed, he locked the other
door as well. It was, perhaps, needless precaution. No one had seen them
enter here, and there was little chance of the police developing any
interest in the shed; while from the other side--Foo Sen's--the fact
that there was a police battle in the lane would only cause the inmates
of the dive to give the shed and lane the widest possible berth!
It had taken scarcely a second to lock the doors, and now he knelt
beside a form that was ominously still upon the floor, and called her
name over and over again.
"Marie! Marie! Marie!" he whispered frantically.
There was no answer--no movement. The strong, steady hands shook, those
marvellous fingers, usually so deft and sure, faltered now as they
loosened the cloak and threw the hood back over the wig of tangled,
matted hair. It was not the darkness alone that would not let him
see--there was a mist and a blur before his eyes. And now he loosened
the heavy wig itself to give her relief--she would have no further need
of that, for it would not be as Silver Mag that she left here--if she
left here at all--no, no!--his mind seemed breaking--she would leave
here, she _must_--yes, yes, she was breathing now--she was not
He wrenched his flashlight from his pocket. To find the wound and stop
the flow of blood! The ray shot out--there was a cry from Jimmie
Dale--and like a man distraught he reeled to his feet--and like a man
distraught stared at the upturned face, ghastly white under the
_It was the Pippin_.
The wig of grizzled hair that he had unconsciously been holding dropped
from Jimmie Dale's hand, and his hand went upward to his temple. Was he
mad! Was this joy, relief, rage or fury that, surging upon him, was
robbing him of his senses! The Pippin! How could it be the Pippin! The
cloak with its hood, and the long, gray matted wig were very like Silver
Mag's--very like Silver Mag's! The Pippin! The Pippin!--one-time actor
who had murdered old Melinoff, _the old-clothes dealer!_ No--he was not
mad! Dimly, his mind groping in the darkness, he began to see.
The Pippin's eyes opened.
"Who's there?" he demanded weakly.
Jimmie Dale, without a word, leaned forward, and threw the ray of light
upon his own face.
A queer smile flickered across the Pippin's lips; his voice, weak as it
was, was debonair and careless.
"Well, we nearly got you, Larry--at that! You fell for it, all right.
Only--only some one"--his voice weakened still farther--"must have
spilled the beans--to the--police."
Jimmie Dale made no answer. His lips were thinned and tight together.
It was plain enough now. It had been a plant to get _him_--to get Larry
the Bat, who was known to the underworld to be the Gray Seal--to get
the Gray Seal through an appeal to the Gray Seal's loyalty toward his
pal, Silver Mag! A plant, devilish enough in its ingenuity--Silver Mag
impersonated--the "news" of her capture spread broadcast through the
underworld on the chance that it would reach the ears of Larry the Bat,
and tempt Larry the Bat into the open--as it had done! He knew now why
the Pippin had gone to Melinoff's--old Melinoff's stock, more than any
other dealer's, would be the most likely to supply the Pippin with the
garments that, if not too closely inspected, would pass muster for
Silver Mag's. He knew now why the underworld, believing what it had
been told, had been warned to keep away from the Mole's--he knew now
that it was because he was to have no inkling that he was walking into
a baited trap.
He had torn the Pippin's clothing loose, found the bullet hole in the
left side, perilously near the heart, and was striving now to staunch
the other's wound. The man had little call for mercy, but at least--
The Pippin pushed his hand away.
"It's no use," said the Pippin. "I'm--I'm done for. But--but I don't
understand. When you came to the window, I went to the door and tipped
them off that you were there, and the gang that was waiting started
around into the lane so that you wouldn't get any chance to make a break
that way. I--I don't understand. Where--where did the police come from?"
"I sent them--from Melinoff's," said Jimmie Dale grimly.
The Pippin came up on his elbow.
"You!" he gasped. "You--you know what happened there--you were wise to
everything all the time?"
"No," said Jimmie Dale. "I only knew you had murdered Melinoff. You left
one of your cuff links there."
"Did I?" said the Pippin. He sank back on the floor again. "I didn't
know it. It--it must have fallen out of my shirt when I undressed. I
came away wearing women's things, and carrying my own clothes in a
bundle." He laughed shortly, huskily. "That's what was the matter with
Melinoff. It was the old fool's own fault! I didn't want to hurt him! He
didn't understand at first when I was pawing all his stuff over, but
when he saw me try the things on, and tumbled that I was--was going to
play Silver Mag, he said he wouldn't stand for it. Ha, ha! Silver Mag!"
The Pippin's voice had taken on a queer mumbling note, and his mind
seemed to be functioning suddenly in a half-wandering way. "Some role,
Silver Mag! I was the star to-night! You remember Silver Mag--how she
used to go around in the old days and hand out the silver coins, never a
bill, just coins, to the families whose men were doing spaces up the
river in Sing Sing? She kept old Melinoff's wife going while he was in
limbo--that's what he said. I didn't want to hurt the old fool, but he
wouldn't keep his mouth shut. Ha, ha! Silver Mag! It was some play on
the boards to-night! Clever brain, the Big Fellow's got! It wasn't any
good if Silver Mag and Larry the Bat were together, but Silver Mag was
seen buying a ticket and getting on a train for Chicago last night--and
last night, later than that, the Gray Seal sent the Forrester stuff to
the police--so they couldn't have been together this evening unless he
went afterwards to Chicago, too--and he didn't do that because all the
trains were watched. It was the biggest chance that ever came across of
getting the Gray Seal in a trap. Some stage setting--some play--clever
The voice trailed off. Outside there was quiet now, save for the crunch
of an occasional footstep. The police who, as Jimmie Dale understood
quite clearly now, had run into the Mole's gang as the two converged at
the rear of the Mole's house, had evidently now got the better of the
gangsters. And that convergence, too, explained why the Pippin had
accompanied him so meekly toward the shed--the Pippin's one aim and
object at that moment had been to avoid the police! He leaned suddenly
forward over the man--the Pippin was going fast now. There was one thing
yet, a thing that was vital, paramount, above all others.
"Pippin," he said quietly, "you're going out. Who put up this plant? It
wasn't the Mole, he's not big enough, he's only a tool like yourself.
Who was it?"
"No--not the Mole," murmured the Pippin. "He--he isn't big enough.
Clever brain--clever brain--clever--"
"Who was it? Answer me, Pippin!"
"Yes," said the Pippin, and the queer smile came again, "I--I'll tell
you. It--it was some one"--Jimmie Dale could scarcely hear the
words--"some one--who will--get you yet!"
The smile was still on the Pippin's lips--but the man was dead.
Jimmie Dale stood up again, and then Jimmie Dale, too, smiled; but it
was a grim smile, hard and ominous. In his mind he had answered his
It was that unseen hand of last night--only to-night the challenge had
been _direct_. Well, he would pick up the gauntlet again--and at the
same time, perhaps, add a little "atmosphere" to Carruthers' scoop! From
his pocket came the thin, metal insignia case; and, lifting it with the
tiny tweezers, moistening the adhesive side with his tongue, Jimmie Dale
stooped down and fastened a gray seal on the floor by the Pippin's side.
And then Jimmie Dale crept out of the shed toward Foo Sen's, and crept
into the dark areaway, and, as he had come, by alleyways and lanes, and
through yards, and by ill-lighted, unfrequented streets, returned again
to the Sanctuary--alone.
THE TOCSIN'S STORY
It was a whimsical movement, a whimsical trick of Jimmie Dale's--that
outward thrust of his hand that he might study it in a curiously
impersonal, yet mercilessly critical way. He laughed a little harshly,
as he allowed his hand to drop again to the arm of his chair. No,
there was no tremor there--mentally he might be near the breaking
point, his nerves raw and on edge; but physically, outwardly, he gave
no sign of the strain that, cumulative in its anxiety, had increased
hourly, it seemed, in the three days that had passed since the night
he had so narrowly escaped the trap laid by that unknown master
criminal, whose cunning, power and malignant genius was dominating and
making itself felt in every den and dive of the underworld, and for
whom the Pippin and the Mole that night had been but blind tools,
pawns moved at the will of this unseen, evil strategist upon a
chessboard of inhuman deviltry.
An evening newspaper lay open on the table. Jimmie Dale's eyes fixed for
an instant on a glaring headline, then travelled slowly around the
little room--one of the St. James' Club's private writing rooms--and
came back to the paper again. The failure of that night, the Pippin's
death, the stir and publicity, the stimulus given to police activity,
had, it seemed, in no way acted as a deterrent upon the sinister
ingenuity which, he made no doubt, was likewise the author of the
mysterious crime that to-night was upon every tongue in the city--the
murder of one of New York's most prominent bankers under almost
incredible circumstances, and the coincident disappearance of a number
of documents which were vaguely hinted at as being of international
importance and of priceless worth. The crime had been committed in broad
daylight, in mid-afternoon, in the banker's private office, and within
call of the entire staff of the bank. No one had been seen either to
enter or leave the office during an interval of some fifteen to twenty
minutes, previous to which time it had been established by one of the
staff that the banker was engaged in his usual occupation at his desk,
and at the expiration of which he had been discovered by the cashier
lying dead upon the floor, his skull fractured by a blow that had
evidently been dealt him from behind, the desk in disorder as though it
had been hurriedly searched, and the papers, known to have been in the
banker's possession at that time, gone.
Jimmie Dale brushed his hand across his eyes in a dazed way. No, of
course, he did not know, he could not actually know that it was the same
guiding evil genius at work here that had murdered both Forrester and
old Melinoff, but something beyond actual proof, a sense of intuition,
made of it a certainty in his own mind, at least, which left no room for
argument. There had been viciously clever work here, as daring and
crafty as it was remorseless in its brutality, and--he laughed suddenly,
harshly as before, and, rising abruptly from his chair, stepped to the
window, pushed aside the portieres, and stood staring down on Fifth
Avenue, whose great, wide, lighted thoroughfare seemed a curiously and
incongruously lonely spot now in its evening quiet and emptiness.
Suppose it was so! Granted that his intuition was in no way astray!
What did it matter? It was a thing extraneous, of no personal
significance to him! It was even strange that it had succeeded in
intruding itself upon his thoughts at all, when mind and soul in these
last few days had fought and groped and stumbled against the sickness of
a fear that, growing upon him, had blotted out all other things from his
consciousness. The Tocsin! Where was she? What had happened? Had
she----no, he dared not let himself believe what a brutal logic told him
now he should believe. He would not! He could not! And yet since that
night when her note had come, the note that had been so full of a glad
spontaneity, so full of _victory_--"It is the beginning of the end ...
The way is clearing ... I am very happy tonight, and I wanted to tell
you so"--since that night there had been no word from her.
No, that was not literally true. There _had_ been word from her; but,
rather than having brought hope and reassurance to him, it had only
increased his fear and anxiety. That night, after a return to the
Sanctuary, where, in lieu of the character of Larry the Bat, he had
resumed his own personality again, be had hurried to his home to await
the expected word from her that would tell him her success, which her
note had indicated was to be looked for at any moment, had been
achieved. The night, however, had brought forth nothing; but in the
morning, amongst the mail which old Jason, his butler, had handed him,
had been a letter from her. It had been written evidently in leisure,
and evidently prior to the hurried little note that happiness, a surge
of joy, a gladness and a hope whose share she could not hold back from
him, had undoubtedly prompted her to write; it had been born out of
impulse, that note, an impulse due, apparently, to a sudden turn in the
brave fight she was waging which seemed to place the final victory
almost within her grasp. The letter was not at all like that; it struck
a far sterner note--the possibility of defeat--not in despair, not in a
tone of failing courage, but as one who, weighing the chances, was not
blind to an opponent's strength, but who, even in one's own defeat,
still sought to snatch final victory even after death.
Jimmie Dale turned from the window, sat down again in his chair, and
drew the letter from his pocket--and, sitting there, the strong jaws
clamped and locked, his face drawn in rigid lines, the dark, steady eyes
cold and hard, read it again, as he had read it many times before since
Jason had handed it to him that morning several days ago:
"Dear Philanthropic Crook: I wonder if I am writing those words for the
last time? I believe I am. I do not mean I am in such danger that I will
never have the opportunity again; but, rather, that I will never have
the _need_ to do so. But to-night should tell. It is very near the
end--one way or the other--and I believe it is _my_ way. Oh, Jimmie, I
pray God it is, and that tomorrow--but I did not start this letter to
you to talk of _that_.
"Long ago--do you remember, Jimmie?--I wrote you that I would not,
could not bring you into the shadows again for me, and that I must
fight this out alone. It must be that way, Jimmie; there is no other
way, and what I am about to say must not lead you to think that I am
hesitating now, or have changed my mind. It is only this--that the game
is not won until the last card is played, and, while I am almost
certain that I see the way now, there _is_ still that last card to
play. Do not let us mince matters, Jimmie. If I fail, you know what it
means. But, in the bigger way, Jimmie, I can only count for but very
little in the balance. There is the afterwards that is of far more
moment--that justice, swift and sure, should put an end to the
depredations and the menace to society that exists to-day in the
person of one of the cleverest and most conscienceless fiends that ever
plotted crime. Nor, in case you should have to take up the work where I
leave off, would you be even then obliged to come into those shadows
again. It is very strange, Jimmie. It is almost like some grim,
terribly grim, ironical joke. Everything, all the power, all the
resources that this man possesses have been used against me in the last
few months, because he knows that unless he accomplishes my death he
must remain in hiding just as he has forced me into hiding; and yet at
the same time--and this he does not know, because he does not know that
he is known to you, and that you, as Jimmie Dale, a man whose position
and prominence would carry conviction with every word you might say,
are in a position to testify against him--with my death he
automatically accomplishes his own destruction. And so you see, Jimmie,
in one sense at least, I cannot fail! No, I do not mean to speak
lightly--I--I have as much as you, Jimmie--to live for.
"Listen, then! We knew, you and I, that while both my supposed uncle and
the head of the Crime Club were killed that night of the old Sanctuary
fire, and that the greater number, almost all in fact, of the members of
the band were caught by the police, that a few of them still evaded the
trap and escaped. But we believed these were so few in number and were
so thoroughly disorganised that nothing more was to be feared from them.
And this in a very great measure is true; but it is not altogether true.
No, I am not going to tell you that the Crime Club rose from its ashes
and is in operation again; but one of the men who escaped that night,
one of the Club's leaders, possessed evidently of the secret as to where
the Club's surplus funds were hidden, is the man who, through a lavish
use of those funds, is operating now through the underworld, who is
responsible for Forrester's murder, and is the man who through all these
months has sought to reach me. I referred to him as 'one of the
leaders'--I believe him now to have been the most dangerous of them
all. You know him as--Clarke. Do you remember, Jimmie? He was the man
who so cleverly impersonated Travers as the chauffeur, after they had
killed Travers. He was the man who was at the house that night when
Travers first learned that my father and my uncle had been murdered, and
that the same fate was in store for me. I told you that from where he
sat in the room that night I could not see his face, that Travers told
me who he was--but, apart from not being able to recognise him on that
particular occasion, I knew him well, for he had been a frequent visitor
to the house even prior to my father's death, and subsequently in
company with Travers as one who appeared to have struck up an intimacy
with my supposed uncle.
"The day after the Crime Club was raided by the police, you will
remember that Clarke not being amongst those caught, I gave the
authorities what particulars I could in reference to the man. But
nothing came of it. A description and the name of 'Clarke' was little
enough to work on. The man had disappeared. Time passed, and I supposed,
as no doubt you, as well, supposed, that Clarke had made good his
escape, that he was probably well content with such good fortune, and
that nothing more, if he could help it, would ever be heard of him.
Jimmie, I was wrong. Within a month a series of narrow escapes from
accidents, any one of which might easily have accomplished my death,
seemed to follow me persistently. I will not take the time now to
enumerate them all--they were so commonplace, so liable to happen to any
one, such for instance as escaping by a hair's-breadth from being run
down by a speeding car swerving, around the corner as I started to cross
the street, or again by an iron tackle falling from a scaffolding where
work was in progress on the building in which, pending the remodelling
of my own house, as you know, I had taken an apartment, that at first I
attached no ulterior significance to them. But finally, as they
persisted, I became convinced that they were deliberate and premeditated
attempts upon my life. I said nothing to you, as I did not wish to
alarm you. And then one night Clarke showed himself.
"Do you remember the colourless liquid, the poison instantaneous in its
action and defying detection by autopsy, which was so favourite a method
of murder with the Crime Club? I had expected to be out for the evening,
and had given the maids permission to go out together. It was about
halfpast eight when I left the apartment. I had only gone a few blocks
when I returned for something I had forgotten. I was in my bedroom when
I heard the hall door open stealthily. I switched off the bedroom light
instantly, and slipped into the clothes closet, leaving the door just
ajar. I knew, of course, that if it were another attack directed against
me, it was one that was prearranged and that was being made on the
presumption that I was out and that the apartment was empty. There was
silence for a moment or two, then a step crossed the threshold of the
bedroom, and the light went on. It was Clarke. There was a little night
table beside the bed on which my maid, before she had gone out, had
placed as usual a carafe of ice water and a small tray of biscuits.
Clarke was evidently very well acquainted with this fact. He stepped at
once to the table, took a vial from his pocket, poured the contents into
the carafe--and the next instant the room was in darkness again, and
Clarke was gone. I acted as quickly as I could. I dared not move or give
any sign of my presence until he was out of the apartment, for I would
have accomplished nothing except my death. But the minute the outer door
closed I picked up the telephone to communicate with the vestibule. It
was a ground-floor apartment, as you know. The one chance was to have
the hall porter intercept Clarke in the vestibule. As a matter of fact,
the telephone was not answered for fully a minute or so--too late, of
course! Clarke had vanished. The boy at the telephone desk said he had
been busy with another call. That is all, Jimmie. I saw clearly that
night that there was only one thing left for me to do if I hoped to save
my life, and that was to fight Clarke with his own weapons. And so I
wrote you; and you know now why Marie LaSalle 'left the city for an
extended trip,' as her bankers informed you, and why during all these
months I have 'disappeared.'
"I come now to the last thing I have to say--the reason for writing this
letter. My death was essential to Clarke, because he believed that I was
the _only_ one who could positively identify him _as_ 'Clarke,' and
that, therefore, as long as I lived he could not resume his own identity
and personal freedom of action for fear that I might, even if only
through inadvertence, recognise him. He could take no chances. But I
believe I have beaten Clarke. I have discovered that 'Clarke' is in
reality Peter Marre, the shyster lawyer, better known among his
clientele as Wizard Marre. But Marre, too, has disappeared--you
understand, Jimmie? And now, hidden, under cover, never showing himself
personally, 'Clarke' is working, not only to reach me, but to further
all his other schemes, through some agency without appearing himself
either as Marre or as 'Clarke.' I believe it is only a matter of a few
hours now before I shall either have got to the bottom of who and what
this agency is, or else--again do not let us mince matters,
Jimmie--'Clarke' will have been too much for me. And in that latter case
is found the whole object of this letter. Once I am removed from his
path, and believing that no one else could, or would, link 'Clarke' and
Peter Marre together, he will naturally resume the freedom of his former
life, and Peter Marre will appear again in his old-time surroundings, a
Peter Marre unhampered by fear of discovery, and therefore a Peter Marre
a hundredfold more dangerous than ever before. And so, Jimmie, if that
should happen, you have simply to get this information into the hands of
the police without appearing yourself, say, through the agency of the
Gray Sealand I shall not have brought you into the shadows again."
The letter was signed simply--"Marie." But there was a postscript:
"You will hear from me the moment that I can tell you I am free at last."
Jimmie Dale sat staring at the postscript. He made no movement; and
there was no sound in the room, save that the sheets of paper crackled
slightly in his hand. He was afraid to-night, afraid as he had never
been in his life before; and the fear that was gnawing at his heart was
mirrored in a gray, rigid face, and in the misery that had crept into
the dark, half-closed eyes. It was three days ago since he had received
that letter, and the awaited, promised word had not come--three days,
and the letter stated that it would be but a matter of a few hours
before the decision that meant life or death was reached. And the
hurried little note, so obviously written subsequent to the letter,
though it had been received prior to it, but bore out in its very
optimism the fact that the final card was then almost in the very act of
being played. And since then--there had been nothing.
He put little faith in the Pippin's belief that she had gone to Chicago.
He found no relief in that possibility at all. That they had seen her
buy a ticket and board a train--yes. That for her own ends she had let
them see her do that--yes. But whether she had ever gone or not was
quite a different matter! Her letter would certainly indicate that she
had not. But even if she had! She could have communicated with him from
Chicago just as easily as she could have communicated with him from any
place here in New York!
Jimmie Dale's hand lifted and pressed hard against his temple, as though
to still the dull, constant throbbing that brought to his mental agony
the added torment of physical pain. For these three days now he had
fought with mind and body and soul against the one conclusion that was
tenable--the conclusion which to-night, robbing him of every hope in
life, bringing a grief and anguish greater than he could bear, cold
logic was finally forcing him to accept. She would have known the
torment of anxiety in which he lived, and if her plans had only been
delayed or checked, if it had been no more than that, she would surely
have communicated with him and allayed his fears.
A low sound, a moan of bitter pain, came from Jimmie Dale's lips. Logic
had won at last, and was triumphant in the blackest hour that had ever
come into his life. The one glimmer of hope to which, as time went on
and one by one other hopes had vanished, he had still clung tenaciously,
had surrendered, too, and gone down before the face of that brutal logic
that weighed neither human agony nor suffering in its remorseless
conclusions. Clarke, it was true, had not yet resumed his former life as
Peter Marre--but he, Jimmie Dale, was forced to admit now that that
meant little or nothing. A thousand and one reasons might account for
Clarke postponing his re-entry into his old life--that the man had
allowed three days to pass proved nothing.
Marre! Peter Marre! Wizard Marre! A smile that held no mirth hovered for
an instant over Jimmie Dale's lips. Yes, he knew Marre, Marre of the
underworld, well! The man was brilliant, clever--and possessed of a
devil's soul! Also Marre, as certainly no other man had ever held it,
held the confidence of crimeland--and crime-land had supplied the tricky
lawyer with his clientele. And so Marre was "Clarke," one of the leaders
of the old Crime Club! Jimmie Dale's smile disappeared, and his lips
drew straight and tight together. It was quite easily understood now.
The returns in a financial sense from such a clientele, large even as
they perhaps might be, were meagre and pitiful in comparison with the
huge sums which, in one way and another, the Crime Club would have
acquired; but the returns in another sense had been vast and of
incalculable value, not only to Clarke, but to the Crime Club as well.
Clarke's power in the underworld as Marre had reached the height where
the underworld itself eulogised that power by bestowing on the man the
"moniker" of Wizard, investing him, as it were, with a title and a
peerage in that inglorious realm. And this power, supplying a
foreknowledge of events through intimacy with those whispered secrets in
the innermost circles of the citizenry of crimeland, must have been of
immeasurable worth. And now Clarke, hidden away somewhere, acting, it
appeared, through some unknown agency and go-between, was utilising that
power with deadly cunning and effect--not only against the Tocsin, but
against society at large, as witness the murder of Forrester of a few
days ago, and presumably the murder of Jathan Lane, the banker, not
longer ago than this afternoon.
Jimmie Dale shook his head suddenly. Acting through some _unknown_
agency? The Tocsin had not said that. Indeed, if she had been as near to
the final move in this battle of wits which she had been playing for
months, as her letter indicated, she must have known by now who and what
and where that agency was. And he could see plainly enough why she had
kept her own counsel in that respect. It was through her great,
unselfish love for him that she had intentionally refrained from giving
him any clue that would enable him to find his way into the danger zone
which she reserved for herself alone. Yes, he understood that--but it
only made what he feared now the harder to bear. She had been right, of
course, in her conclusion as to what he would have done had she given
him the opportunity! It was the one thing he had been fighting for,
struggling for, battling for all these months, that clue--and she had
told him only that "Clarke" was behind it all, and that "Clarke" was
Peter Marre. And it had served him little! As though the earth had
opened and swallowed the man and his alias up, there was neither trace
nor sign of Peter Marre.
He knew that well! He had not been idle since that letter came! He had
instantly seized upon what he had hoped would prove the clue that he
could follow to the heart of the web--and the clue had led him nowhere.
Marre, like the Tocsin, was somewhere "on a trip." Marre's office was
not closed. A year ago Marre had taken in with him as partner a young
lawyer by the name of Cleaver, who lacked only, through experience, the
same degree of dishonest finesse and cunning possessed by Marre
himself--a defect which Marre had doubtless counted on speedily
rectifying under his own unholy tutelage! Cleaver was carrying on the
business. To all inquiries Cleaver's replies had been the same--Mr.
Marre, through overwork, had been obliged to take a rest; he did not
know where Mr. Marre was other than that Mr. Marre was making an
extended tour through the Orient, nor did he know when Mr. Marre might
be expected to return; Mr. Marre, purposely, in order that he might
escape all thought and care of business, and to preclude the
possibility of anything of that nature reaching him, had refrained from
giving the office any specific address. But he, Jimmie Dale, had not
been content with inquiries alone in those last few days--though the
result here again had been nothing. He was satisfied only that, in so
far as the main issue was concerned, Cleaver was not in Marre's
confidence, and that Cleaver not only did not know Marre's exact
whereabouts, but believed, as he had said, that Marre was travelling
somewhere in the Orient.
Jimmie Dale drew his hand heavily again across his forehead. It seemed
as though the very act of sitting here was a traitorous act to her,
that even in this momentary inaction he had cause for bitter
self-reproach and even for contempt--and yet he could see no way now to
take. In the last three days, as Smarlinghue, as Jimmie Dale, yes, even
as Larry the Bat again, working with feverish intensity, with almost
sleepless continuity, he had exhausted every means and effort within
his power of running Marre, _alias_ Clarke, to earth. There seemed
nothing now left to do but to wait until Marre should resume his own
identity; nothing left but the promise of a vengeance that--again
Jimmie Dale laughed harshly, and, as the laugh died away, a smile took
its place on the thinned lips that was not good to see. Yes, she was
right in that; he knew Marre--he knew Marre, with his thin, cruel face,
his black, sleepy eyes; his suave, ingratiating manner that hid under
its veneer a devil's treachery! Nor, well as he knew the man, was it
strange that he had not known Clarke as Peter Marre, for he had seen
Clarke only once--that night in the long ago, in Spider Jack's when the
man, with consummate art, a master of disguise, had impersonated
Travers, the dead chauffeur, and had succeeded in fooling even Spider
Jack himself. But he, Jimmie Dale, knew _now_. Yes, she had been
right--a whiteness came and gathered on his lips--in that sense she
could not fail, Marre at least would pay! But perhaps not quite as she
suggested, perhaps not quite by the simple act of a denunciation to the
police, perhaps not quite in so simple a way as that, for, after
all--his hand clenched over the sheets of her letter--though it would
be easy enough to establish Marre's alias now that the alias was known,
there might be another way in which Marre would answer, a more
_intimate_ way, a more personal way! Not murder--the skin was ivory
white across his knuckles--not murder, but--
Jimmie Dale was quietly folding the sheets of paper in his hand. Some
one was knocking at the door.
"Come in!" said Jimmie Dale--and slipped the letter back into his
pocket, as the door opened.
It was one of the club's attendants.
"I beg pardon, Mr. Dale, sir," said the man; "but there is a 'phone call
for you." He glanced toward the telephone on the table. "I was not sure
just where you were, sir. Shall I ask them to connect you here?"
"Thank you!" said Jimmie pleasantly. "Very good, Masters. No--I'll
attend to it myself."
The man withdrew, and closed the door again. Jimmie Dale rose from his
chair, and, stepping to the table, picked up the instrument.
"There is a call for me, I believe," he said. "This is Mr. Dale."
There was a moment's silence, then Jimmie Dale spoke again.
"Yes--hello!" he said. "Yes, this is Mr. Dale. What--"
The room seemed suddenly to swirl about him--the hand so steady a few
moments ago was trembling palpably now as it held the instrument. _Her
voice_? No--he was mad! It was his brain, overwrought, strained, not to
the breaking point, but beyond, that had broken at last, and was mocking
at him now in some cruel phantasy. Her voice? No, it could not be, for
she--for she was--
"Jimmie! Jimmie!"--the voice came hurriedly again, almost frantically
this time. "Jimmie--are you there?"
"You!" His lips were dry, he moistened them with his tongue. "You!" he
whispered hoarsely. "You, Marie--and I thought--I thought that you
"Jimmie," she broke in, a quick, wistful catch in her voice, "I cannot
stay here a moment--you understand, don't you? There is not an instant
to lose--on the floor by the Sanctuary window--a note--will you hurry,
She was gone. Mechanically he replaced the receiver on the hook. She was
gone--but it _was_ her voice he had heard--hers--and she was alive. The
play of emotion upon him robbed him for the moment of coherent thought,
and came and swept over him in a mighty surge and engulfed him; and now
in the sudden revulsion from despair and the bitterest of agony his mind
was dazed and numbed. It seemed as though he were obeying some
subconscious power, as he turned and left the room; as though some
influence outside of, and extraneous to, himself gave him a spurious
self-mastery, a self-command, a mask of nonchalance, as he walked calmly
through the club lobby and out to the street.
Benson, his chauffeur, held the door of his car open for him.
"Where to, sir?" Benson asked.
"The Palace--Bowery," Jimmie Dale answered. "And hurry, Benson!"
Jimmy Dale flung himself back on the seat of the big touring car. It was
an address, the Palace Saloon on the Bowery, that he had often given
Benson before--the nearest point to which Benson, trusted as Benson was,
had ever been permitted to approach the Sanctuary itself. The night air,
the sweep of the wind was grateful, as the machine sped forward. He did
not reason, he could not reason--his mind was in turmoil still. Only two
things were clear, distinct, rising dominant out of that turmoil--that
he had heard her voice, her voice that he had never thought to hear
again; and that there was need, a desperate need for haste now, because
he must reach the Sanctuary without an instant's loss of time.
And then gradually his brain began to clear, to adjust itself, to
function normally; and when finally the car drew up at a corner on the
Bowery, it was a Jimmie Dale, keen, self-possessed and alert, who sprang
briskly to the pavement.
"Will you need me any further, sir?" Benson asked.
Jimmie Dale was lighting a cigarette deliberately--it was the same
question that he was pondering in his own mind, but the answer was
dependent upon the contents of that note which was waiting for him in
"I am not quite sure, Benson," he replied. "In any case, you had better
wait here for twenty, minutes. If I am not back in that time, you may go
home. Don't wait any longer."
"Very good, sir," Benson answered.
It was only a short distance to the Sanctuary--down the cross street, a
turn into another only to emerge again on one that paralleled the first,
and then Jimmie Dale, walking slowly now, was sauntering along an
ill-lighted thoroughfare flanked on either side with a miscellany of
small shops and tenements of the cheaper class. There were but few
pedestrians in sight; but, as he neared the tenement that made the
corner of the lane ahead, Jimmie Dale's pace became still more
leisurely. A man and a woman were strolling up the street toward him.
They passed. Jimmie Dale, at the corner of the lane now, glanced behind
him. The two were self-absorbed. And then, like a shadow merging with
the darkness of the lane, Jimmie Dale had disappeared.
In an instant, he had gained the loose board in the high fence; and in
another, pressing close to the rear wall of the tenement, he had reached
the little French window that gave on the dingy courtyard. There was an
almost inaudible sound, a faint metallic _snip_, as, kneeling, his
fingers loosened the hidden catch beneath the sill--and the window on
well-oiled hinges swung silently inward, and closed as silently again
behind Jimmie Dale as he entered.
The top-light, high up near the ceiling, threw a misty ray of moonlight
along the greasy, threadbare carpet, and threw into relief a folded
piece of dark-coloured paper at Jimmie Dale's feet. He stooped and
picked it up--and then moving close to the window again, his fingers, in
the darkness, felt over the dilapidated roller shade to assure himself
that the rents were securely pinned together against the possibility of
prying eyes. He stepped quickly then across the room, tested the door
lock; and then the single gas-jet, air-choked, hissing spitefully,
illuminated the room with a wavering meagre yellow flame.
Under the light, Jimmie Dale unfolded the paper, his face hardening
suddenly. It was not like any note she had ever written him
before--there was no white envelope here, no paper of fine and delicate
texture, no ink-written message carefully penned; instead, evidence
enough of her desperate haste, the desperate circumstances probably
under which she had written it, the message was on a torn piece of brown
wrapping paper, and the words, in pencil, were scrawled in hurried,
broken sentences. And standing there, fighting for a grip upon himself,
Jimmie Dale read the message----almost illegible! in places--and then, as
though a strange incredulity, a strange inability to grasp and
understand its import fully, were prompting him, he read it again,
murmuring snatches of it aloud.
"... I did not mean to bring you into the shadows... but there is
another life, not mine, at stake ... I have no right to do anything else
... if I intervened, or gave warning, the evidence that will convict
Clarke's agent, and will convict Clarke through the agent, is lost...
that is why, in spite of all, I am writing this ... do you understand?
... for three nights he disappeared, and somehow, I do not yet know how,
evaded me in the daytime ... no trace, just as I believed I had the man
through whom Clarke is working trapped ... dared not take the chance of
giving up watch for an instant ... did not know about this afternoon
until an hour ago ... too late ... Jathan Lane's murder at the bank ...
Klanner, the janitor of the bank ... very fair hair, scar on left cheek
bone ... worked at night ... under passage from private office ...
blackjack with which murder was done, document and money in Klanner's
room ... unmarried ... lives in rear room, first floor of tenement at
... you must get the evidence ... unto Caesar!.. ship chandler's store,
junk shop ... Larens, Joe Larens, the hunchback ... Clarke's agent ...
another murder to cover up their tracks ... must get Clarke through
Hunchback Joe ... will squeal if he sees no way of escape ... Klanner's
room at once ... Klanner with Kid Greer will be at Baldy Jack's at ten
o'clock ... will stop at nothing ... innocent bystander ... document of
international importance, ... gold and details ... Federal authorities,
not the police ... will see that Secret Service men get tip where to
raid at midnight ... under the sail cloth in left corner ..."
Jimmie Dale was tearing the paper into little shreds. His brain, eagerly
now, was leaping from premise to conclusion, fitting the strange,
complex parts of her story, seemingly so utterly at variance one with
another, into a single, concrete whole. Yes, he understood why, in spite
of herself, she had been forced to bring him within those shadows at the
last--to save another's life, which she could not do alone without
forfeiting the opportunity of securing the evidence that would condemn
those actually guilty, and reach, through the lesser lights, the man
higher up--Marre, alias Clarke. Yes, he understood, too, that this was
the end--if all went well! A grim smile came and flickered across Jimmie
Dale's lips. She believed that Hunchback Joe, if caught and trapped,
would squeal to the police. The grim smile deepened. Hunchback Joe
might, or might not, squeal to the police--_but in any case Hunchback
Joe would tell his story_! He, Jimmie Dale, would see to that--whatever
the cost, whatever the consequences, if he had to choke and wring it
from the man's lips. It was a surer way than trusting to the police--it
was the only sure way of reaching the end. The cost! The risk! What did
it matter? What was cost, or risk! Her life was in the balance!
He glanced quickly around him. Would it be as Smarlinghue to-night?
He shook his head. No, if it were really the end, if he won through
to-night, this would be the last time he would ever stand here in the
Sanctuary, and to leave the clothes of Jimmie Dale here, even in so
secure a hiding place as behind that movable section of the
base-board, would impose upon him the _necessity_ of returning--was
but to hamper himself, and, indeed, as likely as not, if hard pressed,
to court disaster.
His glance, strangely whimsical, strangely wistful now, travelled again
over the room. If it was the end to-night, this was his good-by to
Smarlinghue, to Larry the Bat--and the Gray Seal. This was his exit from
the sordid stage of the underworld--forever. Yes, in time, suspicious of
Smarlinghue's continued absence, they would investigate and search the
Sanctuary here; they might even discover that hiding place in the
wall--but what did it matter? They would find only the trappings of a
_character_ that had passed out of existence; and out of that fact the
police and the underworld would be privileged to make what capital they
could! No, it would not be as Smarlinghue that he would work
to-night--he was well enough as he was. He had not worn evening clothes
since that letter came, for the nights had been spent in constant toil,
and the dark suit of tweeds he wore now was not conspicuous. Nor need he
even have recourse to that hiding place again--what he required was
already in his pockets--for days now, in whatever role he had played, he
had been prepared for any emergency.
Jimmie Dale looked at his watch--it was ten minutes after nine--and,
reaching up, turned out the light. A minute more and the French window
was silently opened and closed again, and Jimmie Dale was once more on
the street. Here, walking quickly, but keeping to the less frequented
streets, he headed deeper into the East Side. He would have no need of
Benson, and Benson without further ado at the expiration of the allotted
twenty minutes would obey orders literally and go home. No, he would
have no further need of Benson and the car--Jimmie Dale smiled
curiously, his mind absorbed now in the immediate problem that
confronted him--they worked on a carefully prepared and methodical
schedule, these minions of Clarke or Marre, allowing ample time in each
successive step in their plans that there might be neither confusion nor
mistake in what they did. Well, what was ample time for them, was ample
time for him! It was not far from the tenement where the Tocsin had said
Klanner lived to Baldy Jack's--and Klanner was not due at Baldy Jack's
until ten o'clock.
Under the slouch hat, pulled far down over his eyes, Jimmie Dale's brows
knitted into a frown. It was true then, and his intuition had not been
at fault! It was Clarke who had planned the murder and robbery at the
bank that afternoon--and Hunchback Joe, Clarke's familiar, and his
accomplices who had carried it out. Yes, it had been clever enough--but
difficult enough too! Yet of two alternatives they had chosen the
easiest. The document, containing the secret international arrangements
for gold shipments into the United States, embracing European
commitments, and including transportation details, was always, except
when in the banker's personal possession, carefully locked away in the
bank's vaults. In the daytime then, it was impossible for a stranger to
reach those vaults; and at night time to attempt to force the strongest
vaults in the City of New York, with their intricate electric-alarm
system, was a task from which even Clarke might shrink!
The Tocsin had made it very clear. The document, or documents, never
left the bank's premises; it never left the bank's vaults except when in
the possession of the bank's president in the latter's private office.
Clarke had therefore chosen the line of least resistance--the bank
president's office! And that accounted, he, Jimmie Dale, understood now,
for the sudden failure of the Tocsin's plans three nights ago, since it
accounted evidently for the sudden disappearance of Hunchback Joe, which
had checkmated her on that night and on subsequent nights--for it had
taken those three nights to perfect their plans in the bank, and the
work there had evidently been done under the personal supervision of
The plan's cleverness and cunning lay in its devilish simplicity--it
required only long, painstaking and laborious preparation. There were,
according to the newspapers, two entrances to the banker's private
office; the customers' entrance from the main rotunda of the bank, and
a rear entrance leading in behind the cages to the working quarters of
the staff, which was separated from the general offices by a short,
narrow, enclosed passage with a second door at the extreme end. The
president's office, as befitted his position, was richly furnished, and
the passage, being in reality but an adjunct to the office itself, had
not been overlooked--it was carpeted with a long Persian rug. That
portion of the basement directly beneath the president's office and the
passage had been partitioned off into a storeroom for old files and
books, and was consequently rarely visited. For the rest, the method
was fairly obvious. The storeroom was ceiled in with wood, which, when
carefully cut away, could be replaced during the daytime, and so hide
all traces of what was going on should any one enter the place. It
required, then, simply a certain number of nights' work--and it had
taken three. An opening had been cut through the flooring into the
passage, and the surface flooring of the passage over the aperture
refitted into place, so that, covered by the rug, there was no
indication that anything was wrong.
The minor details the Tocsin had passed over--but to supply them
required but little effort of the imagination. The president customarily
devoted a certain amount of time each afternoon to the matter in
question, and immediately on his return from lunch always took the
papers from the vault and carried them to his private office. It became,
then, simply necessary that the man, or men, hiding in the basement
should know when the president was _alone_; but this would hardly be a
very difficult matter, for, with nothing but the upper skin of the
flooring left, one had only to post himself in the opening and he could
hear as well, almost, as though he were in the private office itself.
The entrance could then be effected in the security of the little
passage; the rear door of the passage would be silently locked against
interruption; the door leading into the president's office, where the
president sat with his back to the door, would be silently opened--then
a quick leap, soundless on the heavy carpet--the blow of a
blackjack--the limp body caught and lowered to the floor--the documents
The escape! Jimmie Dale had turned suddenly into a pitch-black areaway,
and, cautiously now, was making his way to the rear of a three-story
tenement of the poorer class. The escape had naturally been accomplished
in exactly the same way--the rear door unlocked again to obviate any
immediate attention being paid to the passage--the murderer lowering
himself through the aperture, and, as he replaced the flooring,
manipulating the rug so that it would drop innocently back into place--
and the exit from the basement would of course already have been
provided for. Jimmie Dale's face was hard. The newspapers, going to
press almost at the moment the murder was discovered, though giving a
general description of the bank's premises, had had no opportunity to
furnish details of the ensuing police investigation; but that the police
would eventually discover the hole in the flooring was obvious; that
they would also discover it without much delay was equally obvious--_and
it had been intended that they should_. Clarke's object, acting through
Hunchback Joe, had been to provide only for the _immediate_ escape--and
after that, with callous deviltry, he proposed to utilise this very
means of escape to cover up the tracks of the tools who were doing his
work, and, backed with another murder, to put the crime upon another's
Jimmie Dale had halted now to survey his surroundings, and, his eyes
grown accustomed to the darkness, he could make out a door opening on
the small yard in which he stood, and to the right of the door an
unlighted and closed window. That was Klanner's window. He did not
know Klanner, the bank's janitor--except that he knew him as an
_innocent_ man, as the proposed victim of as foul and black and
pitiless a conspiracy as had ever been hatched in a human brain! Nor
did he know Hunchback Joe--save by reputation. The man was a
comparative newcomer in the underworld. He had bought out a small
ship-chandler's business, a rickety, out-at-the-heels place on an
equally rickety old wharf on the East River; and it was generally
understood that he was a "fence" of a sort, making a speciality of,
and catering to, a certain extensive and vicious class of thieves, the
wharf rats, who infested the city's shipping--his ostensible business
of a ship-chandler enabling him to handle and dispose of that class of
stolen property with comparative immunity.
Jimmie Dale was crouching at the door, a little steel picklock in his
fingers. It was fairly evident now that the underworld in general had
but an extremely superficial acquaintance with Hunchback Joe; that
Hunchback Joe's minor depredations against the law were but a cloak
to--the mental soliloquy ended abruptly. Jimmie Dale drew suddenly back
from the door, and, retreating along the wall of the building, crouched
down in the darkness beneath the window. _What was that_? It came
again----a step, stealthy, cautious, from the areaway--and now another
step--there were two men there.
The picklock was back in his pocket, and, in its place, his fingers
closed around the stock of his automatic. A shadow showed around the
corner of the building, a queer, twisted, misshapen shadow--it was
followed by another. Jimmie Dale drew in his breath softly. Hunchback
Joe! He had rather expected that the man would already have come and
gone, that this initial act of the brutal drama staged for the night's
work would already have been performed. Well, it did not matter! There
was still time--time to wait while Hunchback Joe did his work here, time
in turn to do his own and still reach Baldy Jack's before ten o'clock.
From somewhere in the distance came the roar and rattle of an elevated
train; from a neighbouring tenement came the strains of a wheezy
phonograph. The figures were at the rear door of the tenement now. A
minute passed; the door opened, closed, the two figures had
disappeared--and then, in a flash, Jimmie Dale had straightened up, and
a steel jimmy was working with deft, silent speed at the window sash. He
had the time it would take Hunchback Joe to reach and open Klanner's
door from the hall inside--no more. And if he could watch Hunchback Joe
at work it would simplify to a very large extent his own task when
Hunchback Joe was through; there would be no necessity for a _search_,
and--ah! The window gave. He raised it noiselessly, reached inside and
pulled down the roller shade to within an inch of the sill, and pulled
the window down again to a little below the level of the shade. The
opening left was unnoticeable--but he could now both see and hear.
There came a faint sound from within--the creak of a slowly opening
door, a step across the floor, then the flare of a match, and the light
in the room went on.
Jimmie Dale was drawn back now against the wall at one corner of the
window, his eyes on a level with the sill. He had made no mistake about
that misshapen, twisted shadow--it was Hunchback Joe. Jimmie Dale's eyes
travelled to the hunchback's companion--and narrowed as he recognised
the other. The man was well enough known in the underworld, a hanger-on
for the most part, a confirmed hop-fighter, though when not under the
influence of the drug he was counted one of the cleverest second-story
workers and lock-pickers in the Bad Lands--Hoppy Meggs, they called him.
Again Jimmie Dale's eyes shifted--to Hunchback Joe once more. Like some
abnormal and repulsive toad the man looked. His shoulders were thrust
upward until they seemed to merge with the head itself, the body was
crooked and bent forward, due to the ugly deformity of the man's back,
while the face was carried at an upward tilt, as though tardily to
rectify the curvature of the spine, and out of the sinister, bearded
face, the beard tawny and ill-kempt, little black eyes from under
protruding brows blinked ceaselessly.
A sudden fury, an anger hot and passionate seized upon Jimmie Dale; and
there came an impulse almost overpowering to play another role, a
deadlier, grimmer role than that of spectator! A toad, he had called the
man. He was wrong--the man was a devil in human guise. He crushed back
the impulse, a cold smile on his lips. He could afford to wait! It was
not time yet. There was still the game to play out. He would have an
opportunity to give full sway to impulse before the night was out,
_before_ the Tocsin should have set the Secret Service men upon the
other's trail--before midnight came.
Hunchback Joe was speaking now.
"Go on, Hoppy; get busy!" he ordered sharply, jerking his hand toward a,
trunk that stood at the foot of the cheap iron bedstead. "Get that
opened. Hurry up! And see that you don't leave any scratches on it,
or--you understand!" He leaned forward, leering with sudden savagery at
Hoppy Meggs moved forward, dropped on his knees in front of the trunk,
examined the lock for an instant--and grunted in contempt.
"Aw, it's a cinch! Say, I could do it wid a hairpin!" he grinned--and a
moment later threw back the lid.
Hunchback Joe drew a short, ugly blackjack, a packet of papers, and
a large roll of bills from his pocket, and tossed the articles into
"Lock it again!" he instructed tersely.
Hoppy Meggs hesitated--he was staring into the trunk.
"Say, youse don't mean dat--do youse?" he demanded heavily. "Not dem
Hunchback Joe's smile was not pleasant.
"Lock the trunk!" he said curtly. And then, as Hoppy Meggs closed down
the lid: "I didn't bring you here to offer any advice; but as I don't
want you to labour under the impression that, not having any brains of
your own, there aren't, therefore, any brains at all to stand between
you and the police, I'll tell you. If they recover the original
document, besides fixing the crime on Klanner, they'll figure they've
got it back before any harm has been done, and before it has been passed
on to whoever had paid down the little cash advance to Klanner for the
job in the shape of that roll there--eh? And figuring that way they
won't change any of the plans or details as they stand now in those
papers--eh? And meanwhile a _copy_ is just as good to the man who is
coughing up to you and me and the rest of us for this, isn't it?"
"My Gawd!" said Hoppy Meggs in fervent admiration, as he locked
"Yes," said Hunchback Joe--and the snarl was back in his voice. "And
now you see to it that you've got the rest of what _you've_ got to do
straight. It won't pay you to make any mistakes! Let the Mole's crowd
start something before you pull the lights--it's got to look like a
drunken row where the bystander, with nobody but himself to blame for
being in such a place as that, _accidentally_ gets his! And you tip the
Kid off again to leave Klanner by his lonesome at the table before the
trouble starts, or he'll get in bad himself. The Kid can pull a fake
play to make up with some moll across the room. Klanner's no friend of
his, he never saw the man before--you understand?--just ran into him
outside the dance hall, if any questions are asked. But I don't want
any questions, and there won't be any if he plays his hand right. Tell
him I said his job's over once he has Klanner inside--and to stand from
under. Get me?"
"Sure!" said Hoppy Meggs.
"Well, we'll beat it, then," snapped Hunchback Joe.
The room was in darkness again. Jimmie Dale crouched further back along
the wall. The rear door opened, two shadows emerged, passed around the
corner of the tenement--and disappeared.
The minutes passed, five of them, and then Jimmie Dale, too, was making
his way softly along the areaway to the street--but in Jimmie Dale's
pockets were the short leaden blackjack, ugly for the stain on its
leathern covering, the packet of papers, and the roll of banknotes that
had been in Klanner's trunk. He gained the street, paused under the
nearest street lamp to consult his watch, and swung briskly along
again. It was a matter of only two blocks to Baldy Jack's, one of the
most infamous dance halls in the Bad Lands, but it was already ten
minutes to ten.
And now a curious metamorphosis came to Jimmie Dale's appearance. The
neat, well-fitting Fifth Avenue tweeds did not fit quite so
perfectly--the coat bunched a little at the shoulders, the trousers were
drawn a little higher until they lost their "set." His hat was pulled
still farther over his eyes, but at a more rakish angle, and his tie,
tucked into his shirt bosom just below the collar, exposed blatantly a
diamond shirt stud. But on Jimmie Dale's lips there was an ominous smile
not wholly in keeping with the somewhat jaunty swagger he had assumed,
and the lines at the corners of his mouth were drawn down hard and
sharp. It was miserable work, the work of a hound and cur! Who, better
than the _janitor_ of the bank, would have had the opportunity to carry
on that work there! And so they had selected Klanner as their victim.
But Klanner, if allowed to talk, might be able to defend
himself--therefore Klanner would not be allowed to talk. There was only
one way to prevent that effectively--by killing Klanner. But, again,
Klanner's death must not appear in any way to be consequent to the
murder at the bank--therefore it was to bear every evidence of having
been purely inadvertent, and, in a way, an accident. Yes, it was crafty
enough, hideous enough to be fully worthy even of the fiendish brain
that had planned it! Kid Greer, having probably struck up an
acquaintance with Klanner during the past few days, had inveigled
Klanner to-night into Baldy Jack's, ostensibly, no doubt, for an
innocent and casual glass of beer, and in a general row and melee in the
dance hall--not an uncommon occurrence in a place like Baldy
Jack's--Klanner would be shot and killed. The rest was obvious. The
man's effects would naturally be examined, and the evidence of his
"guilt" found in his trunk. It was an open and shut game against a dead
man! Even his previous good record would smash on the rock of a presumed
double life. The fact that Klanner had voluntarily been in a place like
Baldy Jack's was damning in itself!
Jimmie Dale, approaching the garishly lighted exterior of the dance hall
now, lit a cigarette. The plan, if successful, placed the guilt without
question or cavil upon Klanner, but that was not all--strong as that
motive might be, Clarke had had still another in view, and one that
perhaps took precedence over the first. Hunchback Joe had defined it
clearly enough. The documents would have been valueless to Clarke,
either to sell, or to put to any use himself, if the plans and
arrangements they contained were subsequently altered or changed. But it
was obvious that a man in Klanner's station could have no _personal_
interest in them; it was obvious, as evidenced by the money, that he was
working for some one else, and therefore the documents appearing in his
trunk would logically appear to have been recovered _before_ he had been
able to hand them over to his principal, and _before_ any vital harm had
been done that would necessitate any change in the details they
Jimmie Dale pushed the door of the dance hall open, and stepped
nonchalantly inside. It was the usual scene, there was the usual
hilarious uproar, the usual close, almost fetid atmosphere that mingled
the odours of stale beer and tobacco. Baldy Jack's was always popular,
and the place, even for that early hour, was already doing a thriving
business. Jimmie Dale's eyes, from a dozen couples swirling in the
throes of the bunny-hug on the polished section of the floor in the
centre of the hall, strayed over the little tables that were ranged
three and four deep around the walls. At the upper end of the room a
man, fair-haired and neatly dressed, though his clothes were evidently
not those of one in over-affluent circumstances, sat alone at one of the
tables. It might, or might not, be Klanner. Jimmie Dale strolled forward
up the hall, and, as though deliberating over his selection of a seat,
paused by the table. The man looked up. There was a long, jagged scar on
the other's right cheek bone. It was Klanner. Jimmie Dale pulled out a
chair at a vacant table directly behind the other, and sat down. A
waiter, in beer-spotted apron and balancing a dripping tray, came for
"Suds!" said Jimmie Dale laconically.
Again Jimmie Dale's eyes made a circuit of the place, failed to identify
the person of one Kid Greer, and, giving up the attempt, rested
speculatively instead on Klanner's back. Yes, he could quite fully
understand why the Tocsin could not have warned Klanner to beware, for
instance, of Kid Greer. Such a warning, apart from keeping Hunchback Joe
from planting the evidence, would even have defeated its own end--for,
even to save Klanner, the game had to be played out as Hunchback Joe had
planned it. They meant to "get" Klanner, and if not here at Baldy
Jack's, then somewhere else. She _knew_ what they meant to do here--she
_might not_ know when, or how, or where they would make the attempt if
they had been forced to change their plans.
Jimmie Dale tossed a coin on the table, as the waiter set down a glass
of beer in front of him--and then, over the top of the glass, Jimmie
Dale resumed his scrutiny of the hall. Directly behind him was a back
entrance that opened on a lane at the rear of the building; and between
himself and the entrance was only one table, which was unoccupied.
Jimmie Dale, playing with his match box, as he lighted another
cigarette, dropped the box, stooped to pick it up--and drew his chair
unostentatiously nearer to Klanner.
It was ten o'clock now, time that--yes, the game was on--_now!_ A man,
that he recognised as one of the Mole's gunmen, had dropped into a seat
a couple of tables away from Klanner, where there was a clear space
between the two men. There was a sudden jostling among the dancers on
the floor--then an oath, rising high above the riot of talk and
laughter--a swirl of figures--a medley of shouts and women's screams,
drowning out the squeak of the musicians' violins and the thump of the
Jimmie Dale's jaws locked hard together. There was a struggling,
Furious mob at the lower end of the hall--but his eyes now never left
the gunman two tables away. Klanner, in dazed amazement, had half
risen from his seat, as though uncertain what to do. The screams,
shouts, oaths and yells grew louder--came the roar of a revolver
shot--another--pandemonium was reigning now. It seemed an hour, a great
period of time since the first shout had rung through the hall--it had
been but a matter of seconds. Jimmie Dale was crouched a little forward
in his chair now, tense, motionless. What was holding Hoppy Meggs! This
was Hoppy Meggs' cue, wasn't it?--those shots there, aimed at the floor,
had only been to create the panic--there was to be _another_ shot that--
The hall was in sudden darkness. With a spring, quick on the instant,
Jimmie Dale was upon Klanner's back, hurling the man to the floor. The
tongue-flame of a revolver split the black over his head; there was the
deafening roar of a revolver shot almost in his ears that blotted out
for an instant all other sounds--and then came the shouts and cries
again in an access of terror and now the rush of feet--a blind stampede
in the darkness for the exits. Another shot from the gunman, as though
to make his work doubly sure, followed the first--but now some of the
fear-stricken crowd had come between them, plunging, falling, tripping
over tables and chairs, seeking the rear exit.
"Quick!" Jimmie Dale breathed in Klanner's ear. He was half lifting,
half dragging the man along. "Quick--get your feet, man!"