Part 4 out of 5
of the window. She ran against the bed. But this afforded her
something by which to guide herself. She kept her touch upon it,
her hand trailing along its edge. And then, halfway down its
length, what seemed to be a piece of string caught in her extended,
groping fingers. It seemed to cling, but also to yield most
curiously, as she tried to shake it off; and then something,
evidently from under the mattress, came away with a little jerk,
and remained, suspended, in her hand.
It didn't matter, did it? Nothing mattered except to reach the
window. Yes, here it was now! And the roller shade was drawn down;
that was why the room was so dark. She raised the shade quickly
- and suddenly stood there as though transfixed, her face paling,
as in the faint light by the window she gazed, fascinated, at the
object that still dangled by a cord from her hand.
And it seemed as if an inner darkness were suddenly riven as by a
bolt of lightning - a hundred things, once obscure and
incomprehensible, were clear now, terribly clear. She understood
now how the Adventurer was privy to all the inner workings of the
organization; she understood now how it was, and why, the Adventurer
had a room so close to that other room across the hall. That
dangling thing on an elastic cord was a smeared and dirty celluloid
eye-patch that had once been flesh-colored! The Adventurer and the
Pug were one!
Her wits! Quick! He must not know! In a frenzy of haste she ran
for the bed, and slipped the eye-patch in under the mattress again;
and then, still with frenzied speed, she climbed to the window sill,
drew the roller shade down again behind her, and dropped to the
Through the back yard and lane she gained the street, and sped on
along the street - but her thoughts outpaced her hurrying footsteps.
How minutely every detail of the night now seemed to explain itself
and dovetail with every other one! At the time, when Shluker had
been present, it had struck her as a little forced and unnecessary
that the Pug should have volunteered to seek out Danglar with
explanations after the money had been secured. But she understood
now the craft and guile that lay behind his apparently innocent plan.
The Adventurer needed both time and an alibi, and also he required
an excuse for making Pinkie Bonn the custodian of the stolen money,
and of getting Pinkie alone with that money in the Pug's room.
Going to Danglar supplied all this. He had hurried back, changed
in that room from the Pug to the Adventurer, and proposed in the
latter character to relieve Pinkie of the money, to return then
across the hall, become the Pug again, and then go back, as though
he had just come from Danglar, to find his friend and ally, Pinkie
Bonn, robbed by their mutual arch-enemy - the Adventurer!
The Pug-the Adventurer! She did not quite seem to grasp its
significance as applied to her in a personal way. It seemed to
branch out into endless ramifications. She could not somehow think
logically, coolly enough now, to decide what this meant in a
concrete way to her, and her to-morrow, and the days after the
She hurried on. To-night, as she would lay awake through the hours
that were to come, for sleep was a thing denied, perhaps a clearer
vision would be given her. For the moment there - there was
something else - wasn't there? The money that belonged to the old
She hurried on. She came again to the street where the old couple
lived. It was a dirty street, and from the curb she stooped and
picked up a dirty piece of old newspaper. She wrapped the banknotes
in the paper.
There were not many people on the street as she neared the mean
little frame house, but she loitered until for the moment the
immediate vicinity was deserted; then she slipped into the alleyway,
and stole close to the side window, through which, she had noted
from the street, there shone a light. Yes, they were there, the
two of them - she could see them quite distinctly even through
She went back to the front door then, and knocked. And presently
the old woman came and opened the door.
"This is yours," Rhoda said, and thrust the package into the woman's
hand. And as the woman looked from her to the package
uncomprehendingly, Rhoda Gray flung a quick "good-night" over her
shoulder, and ran down the steps again.
But a few moments later she stole back, and stood for an instant
once more by the shuttered window in the alleyway. And suddenly
her eyes grew dim. She saw an old man, white and haggard, with
bandaged head, sitting in a chair, the tears streaming down
his face; and on the floor, her face hidden on the other's knees,
a woman knelt - and the man's hand stroked and stroked the thin
gray hair on the woman' s head.
And Rhoda Gray turned away. And out in the street her face was
lifted and she looked upward, and there were myriad stars. And
there seemed a beauty in them that she had never seen before, and
a great, comforting serenity. And they seemed to promise something
- that through the window of that stark and evil garret to which
she was going now, they would keep her dreaded vigil with her until
morning came again.
XIV. THE LAME MAN
Another night - another day! And the night again had been without
rest, lest Danglar's dreaded footstep come upon her unawares; and
the day again had been one of restless, abortive activity, now
prowling the streets as Gypsy Nan, now returning to the garret to
fling herself upon the cot in the hope that in daylight, when
she might risk it, sleep would come, but it had been without avail,
for, in spite of physical weariness, it seemed to Rhoda Gray as
though her tortured mind would never let her sleep again. Danglar's
wife! That was the horror that was in her brain, yes, and in her
soul, and that would not leave her.
And now night was coming upon her once more. It had even begun to
grow dark here on the lower stairway that led up to that wretched,
haunted garret above where in the shadows stark terror lurked.
Strange! Most strange! She feared the night - and yet she welcomed
it. In a little while, when it grew a little darker, she would
steal out again and take up her work once more. It was only during
the night, under the veil of darkness, that she could hope to make
any progress in reaching to the heart and core of this criminal
clique which surrounded her, whose members accepted her as Gypsy
Nan, and, therefore, as one of themselves, and who would accord to
her, if they but even suspected her to be the White Mall, less mercy
than would be shown to a mad dog.
She climbed the stairs. Fear was upon her now, because fear was
always there, and with it was abhorrence and loathing at the
frightful existence fate had thrust upon her; but, somehow, to-night
she was not so depressed, not so hopeless, as she had been the night
before. There had been a little success; she had come a little
farther along the way; she knew a little more than she had known
before of the inner workings of the gang who were at the bottom of
the crime of which she herself was accused. She knew now the
Adventurer's secret, that the Pug and the Adventurer were one; and
she knew where the Adventurer lived, now in one character, now in
the other, in those two rooms almost opposite each other across
that tenement hall.
And so it seemed that she had the right to hope, even though there
were still so many things she did not know, that if she allowed her
mind to dwell upon that phase of it, it staggered her - where those
code messages came from, and how; why Rough Rorke of headquarters
had never made a sign since that first night; why the original
Gypsy Nan, who was dead now, had been forced into hiding with the
death penalty of the law hanging over her; why Danglar, though Gypsy
Nan's husband, was comparatively free. These, and a myriad other
things! But she counted now upon her knowledge of the Adventurer's
secret to force from him everything he knew; and, with that to work
on, a confession from some of the gang in corroboration that would
prove the authorship of the crime of which she had seemingly been
caught in the act of committing.
Yes, she was beginning to see the way at last - through the
Adventurer. It seemed a sure and certain way. If she presented
herself before him as Gypsy Nan, whom he believed to be not only
one of the gang, but actually Danglar's wife, and let him know
that she was aware of the dual role he was playing, and that the
information he thus acquired as the Pug he turned to his own
account and to the undoing of the gang, he must of necessity be at
her mercy. Her mercy! What exquisite irony! Her mercy! The man
her heart loved; the thief her common sense abhorred! What irony!
When she, too, played a double role; when in their other characters,
that of the Adventurer and the White Moll, he and she were linked
together by the gang as confederates, whereas, in truth, they were
wider apart than the poles of the earth!
Her mercy! How merciful would she be - to the thief she loved? He
knew, he must know, all the inner secrets of the gang. She smiled
wanly now as she reached the landing. Would he know that in the
last analysis her threat would be only an idle one; that, though her
future, her safety, her life depended on obtaining the evidence she
felt he could supply, her threat would be empty, and that she was
powerless - because she loved him. But he did not know she loved
him - she was Gypsy Nan. If she kept her secret, if he did not
penetrate her disguise as she had penetrated his, if she were Gypsy
Nan and Danglar's wife to him, her threat would be valid enough,
and - and he would be at her mercy!
A flush, half shamed, half angry, dyed the grime that was part of
Gypsy Nan's disguise upon her face. What was she saying to herself?
What was she thinking? That he did not know she loved him! How
would he? How could he? Had a word, an act, a single look of hers
ever given him a hint that, when she had been with him as the White
Moll, she cared! It was unjust, unfair, to fling such a taunt at
herself. It seemed as though she had lost nearly everything in
life, but she had not yet lost her womanliness and her pride.
She had certainly lost her senses, though! Even if that word, that
look, that act had passed between them, between the Adventurer and
the White Moll, he still did not know that Gypsy Nan was the White
Moll - and that was the one thing now that he must not know, and...
Rhoda Gray halted suddenly, and stared along the hallway ahead of
her, and up the short, ladder-like steps that led to the garret.
Her ears - or was it fancy? - had caught what sounded like a low
knocking up there upon her door. Yes, it came again now distinctly.
It was dusk outside; in here, in the hall, it was almost dark. Her
eyes strained through the murk. She was not mistaken. Something
darker than the surrounding darkness, a form, moved up there.
The knocking ceased, and now the form seemed to bend down and grope
along the floor; and then, an instant later, it began to descend the
ladder-like steps - and abruptly Rhoda Gray, too, moved forward. It
wasn't Danglar. That was what had instantly taken hold of her mind,
and she knew a sudden relief now. The man on the stairs - she could
see that it was a man now - though he moved silently, swayed in a
grotesquely jerky way as though he were lame. It wasn't Danglar!
She would go to any length to track Danglar to his lair; but not
here - here in the darkness - here in the garret. Here she was
afraid of him with a deadly fear; here alone with him there would
be a thousand chances of exposure incident to the slightest intimacy
he might show the woman whom he believed to be his wife - a thousand
chances here against hardly one in any other environment or
situation. But the man on the stairs wasn't Danglar.
She halted now and uttered a sharp exclamation, as though she had
caught sight of the man for the first time.
The other, too, had halted - at the foot of the stairs. A plaintive
drawl reached her:
"Don't screech, Bertha! It's only your devoted brother-in-law.
Curse your infernal ladder, and my twisted back!"
Danglar's brother! Bertha! She snatched instantly at the cue with
an inward gasp of thankfulness. She would not make the mistake of
using the vernacular behind which Gypsy Nan sheltered herself. Here
was some one who knew that Gypsy Nan was but a role. But she had to
remember that her voice was slightly hoarse; that her voice, at least,
could not sacrifice its disguise to any one. Danglar had been a
little suspicious of it until she had explained that she was
suffering from a cold.
"Oh!" she said calmly. "It's you, is it? And what brought you
"What do you suppose?" he complained irritably. "The same old
thing, all I'm good for - to write out code messages and deliver
them like an errand boy! It's a sweet job, isn't it? How'd you
like to be a deformed little cripple?"
She did not answer at once. The night seemed suddenly to be opening
some strange, even premonitory, vista. The code messages! Their
mode of delivery! Here was the answer!
"Maybe I'd like it better than being Gypsy Nan!" she flung back
He laughed out sharply.
"I'd like to trade with you," he said, a quick note of genuine envy
in his voice. "You can pitch away your clothes; I can't pitch away
a crooked spine. And, anyway, after to-night, you'll be living
She leaned toward him, staring at him in the semi-darkness. That
premonitory vista was widening; his words seemed suddenly to set her
brain in tumult. After to-night! She was to resume, after to-night,
the character that was supposed to lay behind the disguise of Gypsy
Nan! She was to resume her supposedly true character - that of
Pierre Danglar's wife!
"What do you mean?" she demanded tensely.
"Aw, come on!" he said abruptly. "This isn't the place to talk.
Pierre wants you at once. That's what the message was for. I
thought you were out, and I left it in the usual place so you'd get
it the minute you got back and come along over. So, come on now
He was moving down the hallway, blotching like some misshapen toad
in the shadowy light, lurching in his walk, that was, nevertheless,
almost uncannily noiseless. Mechanically she followed him. She was
trying to think; striving frantically to bring her wits to play on
this sudden and unexpected denouement. It was obvious that he was
taking her to Danglar. She had striven desperately last night to
run Danglar to earth in his lair. And here was a self-appointed
guide! And yet her emotions conflicted and her brain was confused.
It was what she wanted, what through bitter travail of mind she had
decided must be her course; but she found herself shrinking from it
with dread and fear now that it promised to become a reality. It
was not like last night when of her own initiative she had sought
to track Danglar, for then she had started out with a certain freedom
of action that held in reserve a freedom to retreat if it became
necessary. To-night it was as though she were deprived of that
freedom, and being led into what only too easily might develop into
a trap from which she could not retreat or escape.
Suppose she refused to go?
They had reached the street now, and now she obtained a better view
of the misshapen thing that lurched jerkily along beside her. The
man was deformed, miserably deformed. He walked most curiously,
half bent over; and one arm, the left, seemed to swing helplessly,
and the left hand was like a withered thing. Her eyes sought the
other's face. It was an old face, much older than Danglar's, and
it was white and pinched and drawn; and in the dark eyes, as they
suddenly darted a glance at her, she read a sullen, bitter brooding
and discontent. She turned her head away. It was not a pleasant
face; it struck her as being both morbid and cruel to a degree.
Suppose she refused to go?
"What did you mean by 'after to-night'?" she asked again.
"You'll see," he answered. "Pierre'll tell you. You're in luck,
that's all. The whole thing that has kept you under cover has bust
wide open your way, and you win. And Pierre's going through for a
clean-up. To-morrow you can swell around in a limousine again. And
maybe you'll come around and take me for a drive, if I dress up, and
promise to hide in a corner of the back seat so's they won't see your
The creature flung a bitter smile at her, and lurched on.
He had told her what she wanted to know - more than she had hoped
for. The mystery that surrounded the character of Gypsy Nan, the
evidence of the crime at which the woman who had originated that
role had hinted on the night she died, and which must necessarily
involve Danglar, was hers, Rhoda Gray's, now for the taking. As
well go and give herself up to the police as the White Moll and
have done with it all, as to refuse to seize the opportunity which
fate, evidently in a kindlier mood toward her now, was offering
her at this instant. It promised her the hold upon Danglar that
she needed to force an avowal of her own innocence, the very hold
that she had but a few minutes before been hoping she could obtain
through the Adventurer.
There was no longer any question as to whether she would go or not.
Her hand groped down under the shabby black shawl into the wide,
voluminous pocket of her greasy skirt. Yes, her revolver was there.
She knew it was there, but the touch of her fingers upon it seemed
to bring a sense of reassurance. She was perhaps staking her all
in accompanying this cripple here to-night - she did not need to be
told that - but there was a way of escape at the last if she were
cornered and caught. Her fingers played with the weapon. If the
worst came to the worst she would never be at Danglar's mercy while
she possessed that revolver and, if the need came, turned it upon
They walked on rapidly; the lurching figure beside her covering the
ground at an astounding rate of speed. The man made no effort to
talk. She was glad of it. She need not be so anxiously on her
guard as would be the case if a conversation were carried on, and
she, who knew so much and yet so pitifully little, must weigh her
every word, and feel her way with every sentence. And besides, too,
it gave her time to think. Where were they going? What sort of a
place was it, this headquarters of the gang? For it must be the
headquarters, since it was from there the code messages would
naturally emanate, and this deformed creature, from what he had
said, was the "secretary" of the nefarious clique that was ruled
by his brother. And was luck really with her at last? Suppose she
had been but a few minutes later in reaching Gypsy Nan's house, and
had found, instead of this man here, only the note instructing her
to go and meet Danglar! What would she have done? What explanation
could she have made for her nonappearance? Her hands would have
been tied. She would have been helpless. She could not have
answered the summons, for she could have had no idea where this
gang-lair was; and the note certainly would not contain such details
as street and number, which she was obviously supposed to know. She
smiled a little grimly to herself. Yes, it seemed as though fortune
were beginning to smile upon her again - fortune, at least, had
supplied her with a guide.
The twisted figure walked on the inside of the sidewalk, and
curiously seemed to seek as much as possible the protecting shadows
of the buildings, and invariably shrank back out of the way of the
passers-by they met. She watched him narrowly as they went along.
What was he afraid of? Recognition? It puzzled her for a time,
and then she understood: It was not fear of recognition; the sullen,
almost belligerent stare with which he met the eyes of those with
whom he came into close contact belied that. The man was morbidly,
abnormally sensitive of his deformity.
They turned at last into one of the East Side cross streets, and
her guide halted finally on a corner in front of a little shop that
was closed and dark. She stared curiously as the man unlocked the
door. Perhaps, after all, she had been woefully mistaken. It did
not look at all the kind of place where crimes that ran the gamut
of the decalogue were hatched, at all the sort of place that was
the council chamber of perhaps the most cunning, certainly the most
cold-blooded and unscrupulous, band of crooks that New York had
ever harbored. And yet - why not? Wasn't there the essence of
cunning in that very fact? Who would suspect anything of the sort
from a ramshackle, two-story little house like this, whose front
was a woe-begone little store, the proceeds of which might just
barely keep the body and soul of its proprietor together?
The man fumbled with the lock. There was not a single light showing
from the place, but in the dwindling rays of a distant street lamp
she could see the meager window display through the filthy, unwashed
panes. It was evidently a cheap and tawdry notion store, well
suited to its locality. There were toys of the cheapest variety,
stationery of the same grade, cheap pipes, cigarettes, tobacco,
candy - a package of needles.
"Go on in!" grunted the man, as he pushed the door - which seemed
to shriek out unduly on its hinges - wide open. "If anybody sees
the door open, they'll be around wanting to buy a paper of pins
- curse 'em! - and I ain't open to-night." He snarled as he shut
and locked the door. "Pierre says you're grouching about your
garret. How about me, and this job? You get out of yours to-night
for keeps. What about me? I can't do anything but act as a damned
blind for the rest of you with this fool store. just because I was
born a freak that every gutter-snipe on the street yells at!"
Rhoda Gray did not answer.
"Well, go on!" snapped the man. "What are you standing there for?
One would think you'd never been here before!"
Go on! Where? She had not the faintest idea. It was quite dark
inside here in the shop. She could barely make out the outline of
the other's figure.
"You're in a sweet temper to-night, aren't you?" she said tartly.
"Go on, yourself! I'm waiting for you to get through your speech."
He moved brusquely past her, with an angry grunt. Rhoda Gray
followed him. They passed along a short, narrow space, evidently
between a low counter and a shelved wall, and then the man opened
a door, and, shutting it again behind them, moved forward once more.
She could scarcely see him at all now; it was more the sound of his
footsteps than anything else that guided her. And then suddenly
another door was opened, and a soft, yellow light streamed out
through the doorway, and she found that she was standing in an
intervening room between the shop and the room ahead of her. She
felt her pulse quicken, and it seemed as though her heart began to
thump almost audibly. Danglar ! She could see Danglar seated at
a table in there. She clenched her hands under her shawl. She
would need all her wits now. She prayed that there was not too
much light in that room yonder.
XV. IN THE COUNCIL CHAMBER
The man with the withered hand had passed through into the other
room. She heard them talking together, as she followed. She
forced herself to walk with as nearly a leisurely defiant air as
she could. The last time she had been with Danglar - as Gypsy Nan
- she had, in self-protection, forbidding intimacy, played up what
he called her "grouch" at his neglect of her.
She paused in the doorway. Halfway across the room, at the table,
Danglar's gaunt, swarthy face showed under the rays of a shaded
oil lamp. Behind her spectacles, she met his small, black ferret
"Hello, Bertha!" he called out cheerily. "How's the old girl
to-night?" He rose from his seat to come toward her. "And how's
Rhoda Gray scowled at him.
"Worse!" she said curtly-and hoarsely. "And a lot you care! I
could have died in that hole, for all you knew! She pushed him
irritably away, as he came near her. "Yes, that's what I said!
And you needn't start any cooing game now! Get down to cases!"
She jerked her hand toward the twisted figure that had slouched
into a chair beside the table. "He says you've got it doped out
to pull something that will let me out of this Gypsy Nan stunt.
Another bubble, I suppose!" She shrugged her shoulders, glanced
around her, and, locating a chair - not too near the table - seated
herself indifferently. "I'm getting sick of bubbles!" she announced
insolently. "What's this one?"
He stood there for a moment biting at his lips, hesitant between
anger and tolerant amusement; and then, the latter evidently gaining
the ascendency, he too shrugged his shoulders, and with a laugh
returned to his chair.
"You're a rare one, Bertha!" he said coolly. "I thought you'd be
wild with delight. I guess you're sick, all right - because usually
you're pretty sensible. I've tried to tell you that it wasn't my
fault I couldn't go near you, and that I had to keep away from -"
"What's the use of going over all that again?" she interrupted
tartly. "I guess I -"
"Oh, all right!" said Danglar hurriedly. "Don't start a row! After
to-night I've an idea you'll be sweet enough to your husband, and
I'm willing to wait. Matty maybe hasn't told you the whole of it."
Matty! So that was the deformed creature's name. She glanced at
him. He was grinning broadly. A family squabble seemed to afford
him amusement. Her eyes shifted and made a circuit of the room. It
was poverty-stricken in appearance, bare-floored, with the scantiest
and cheapest of furnishings, its one window tightly shuttered.
"Maybe not," she said carelessly.
"Well, then, listen, Bertha!" Danglar's voice was lowered earnestly.
"We've uncovered the Nabob's stuff! Do you get me? Every last one
of the sparklers!"
Rhoda Gray's eyes went back to the deformed creature at Danglar's
side, as the man laughed out abruptly.
"Yes," grinned Matty Danglar, "and they weren't in the empty
money-belt that you beat it with like a scared cat after croaking
How queer and dim the light seemed to go suddenly - or was it a blur
before her own eyes? She said nothing. Her mind seemed to be
groping its way out of darkness toward some faint gleam of light
showing in the far distance. She heard Danglar order his brother
savagely to hold his tongue. That was curious, too, because she
was grateful for the man's gibe. Gypsy Nan, in her proper person,
had murdered a man named Deemer in an effort to secure - Danglar's
voice came again:
"Well, to-night we'll get that stuff, all of it - it's worth a cool
half million; and to-night we'll get Mr. House-Detective Cloran for
keeps - bump him off. That cleans everything up. How does that
strike you, Bertha?"
Rhoda Gray's hands under her shawl locked tightly together. Her
premonition had not betrayed her. She was face to face to-night with
the beginning of the end.
"It sounds fine!" she said derisively.
Danglar's eyes narrowed for an instant; and then he laughed.
"You're a rare one, Bertha!" he ejaculated again. "You don't seem
to put much stock in your husband lately."
"Why should I?" she inquired imperturbably. "Things have been
breaking fine, haven't they? - only not for us!" She cleared her
throat as though it were an effort to talk. "I'm not going crazy
with joy till I've been shown."
Danglar leaned suddenly over the table.
"Well, come and look at the cards, then," he said impressively.
"Pull your chair up to the table, and I'll tell you."
Rhoda Gray tilted her chair, instead, nonchalantly back against the
wall - it was quite light enough where she was!
"I can hear you from here," she said coolly. "I'm not deaf, and I
guess Matty's suite is safe enough so that you won't have to whisper
all the time!"
The deformed creature at the table chortled again.
"Damn you, Bertha!" he flung out savagely. "I could wring that neck
of yours sometimes, and -"
"I know you could, Pierre," she interposed sweetly. "That's what I
like about you - you're so considerate of me! But suppose you get
down to cases. What's the story about those sparklers? And what's
the game that's going to let me shed this Gypsy Nan stuff for keeps?"
"I'll tell her, Pierre," grinned the deformed one. "It'll keep you
two from spitting at one another; and neither of you have got all
night to stick around here." He swung his withered hand suddenly
across the table, and as suddenly all facetiousness was gone both
from his voice and manner. "Say, you listen hard, Bertha! What
Pierre's telling you is straight. You and him can kiss and make
up to-morrow or the next day, or whenever you damned please; but
to-night there ain't any more time for scrapping. Now, listen!
I handed you a rap about beating it with the empty money-belt
the night you croaked Deemer with an overdose of knockout drops
in the private dining-room up at the Hotel Marwitz, but you forget
that! I ain't for starting any argument about that. None of us
blames you. We thought the stuff was in the belt, too. And none
of us blames you for making a mistake and going too strong with the
drops, either; anybody might do that. And I'll say now that I take
my hat off to you for the way you locked Cloran into the room with
the dead man, and made your escape when Cloran had you dead to
rights for the murder; and I'll say, too, that the way you've played
Gypsy Nan and saved your skin, and ours too, is as slick a piece of
work as has ever been pulled in the underworld. That puts us
straight, you and me, don't it, Bertha?"
Rhoda Gray blinked at the man through her spectacles; her brain was
whirling in a mad turmoil. "I always liked you, Matty," she
Danglar was lolling back in his chair, blowing smoke rings into the
air. She caught his eyes fixed quizzically upon her.
"Go on, Matty!" he prompted. "You'll have her in a good humor, if
you're not careful!"
"We were playing more or less blind after that." The withered hand
traced an aimless pattern on the table with its crooked and
half-closed fingers, and the man's face was puckered into a shrewd,
reminiscent scowl. "The papers couldn't get a lead on the motive
for the murder, and the police weren't talking for publication. Not
a word about the Rajah's jewels. Washington saw to that! A young
potentate's son, practically the guest of the country, touring about
in a special for the sake of his education, and dashed near 'ending
it in the river out West if it hadn't been for the rescue you know
about, wouldn't look well in print; so there wasn't anything said
about the slather of gems that was the reward of heroism from a
grateful nabob, and we didn't get any help that way. All we knew
was that Deemer came East with the jewels, presumably to cash in on
them, and it looked as though Deemer "were pretty clever; that he
wore the money-belt for a stall, and that he had the sparklers
safe somewhere else all the time. And I guess we all got to
figuring it that way, because the fact that nothing was said about
any theft was strictly along the lines the police were working
anyway, and a was a toss-up that they hadn't found the stuff among
his effects. Get me?"
Get him! This wasn't real, was it, this room here; those two
figures sitting there under that shaded lamp? Something cold, an
icy grip, seemed to seize at her heart, as in a surge there swept
upon her the full appreciation of her peril through these confidences
to which she was listening. A word, in act, some slightest thing,
might so easily betray her; and then - Her fingers under the shawl
and inside the wide pocket of her greasy skirt, clutched at her
revolver. Thank God for that! It would at least be merciful! She
nodded her head mechanically.
"But the police didn't find the jewels - because they weren't there
to be found. Somebody got in ahead of us. Pinched 'em, understand,
may be only a few hours before you got in your last play, and, from
the way you say Deemer acted, before he was wise to the fact that
he'd been robbed."
Rhoda Gray let her chair come sharply down to the floor. She must
play her role of "Bertha" now as she never had before. Here was a
question that she could not only ask with safety, but one that was
"Who was it?" she demanded breathlessly.
"She's coming to life!" murmured Danglar, through a haze of cigarette
smoke. "I thought you'd wake up after a while, Bertha. This is the
big night, old girl, as you'll find out before we're through."
"Who was it?" she repeated with well-simulated impatience.
"I guess she'll listen to me now," said Danglar, with a little
chuckle. "Don't over-tax yourself any more, Matty. I'll tell you,
Bertha; and it will perhaps make you feel better to know it took
the slickest dip New York ever knew to beat you to the tape. It was
Angel Jack, alias the Gimp."
"How do you know?" Rhoda Gray demanded.
"Because," said Danglar, and lighted another cigarette, "he died
yesterday afternoon up in Sing Sing."
She could afford to show her frank bewilderment. Her brows knitted
into furrows, as she stared at Danglar.
"You - you mean he confessed?" she said.
"The Angel? Never!" Danglar laughed grimly, and shook his head.
"Nothing like that! It was a question of playing one 'fence' against
another. You know that Witzer, who's handled all our jewelry for
us, has been on the look-out for any stones that might have come
from that collection. Well, this afternoon he passed the word to me
that he'd been offered the finest unset emerald he'd ever seen, and
that it had come to him through old Jake Luertz's runner, a very
innocent-faced young man who is known to the trade as the Crab."
Danglar paused - and laughed again. Unconsciously Rhoda Gray drew
her shawl a little closer about her shoulders. It seemed to bring
a chill into the room, that laugh. Once before, on another night,
Danglar had laughed, and, with his parted lips, she had likened him
to a beast showing its fangs. He looked it now more than ever. For
all his ease of voice and manner, he was in deadly earnest; and if
there was merriment in his laugh, it but seemed to enhance the
menace and the promise of unholy purpose that lurked in the cold
glitter of his small, black eyes.
"It didn't take long to get hold of the Crab" - Danglar was rubbing
his hands together softly - "and the emerald with him. We got him
where we could put the screws on without arousing the neighborhood."
"Another murder, I suppose!" Rhoda Gray flung out the words crossly.
"Oh, no," said Danglar pleasantly. "He squealed before it came to
that. He's none the worse for wear, and he'll be turned loose in
another hour or so, as soon as we're through at old Jake Luertz's.
He's no more good to us. He came across all right - after he was
properly frightened. He's been with old Jake as a sort of familiar
for the last six years, and -"
"He'd have sold his soul out, he was so scared!" The withered hand
on the table twitched; the deformed creature's face was twisted
into a grimace; and the man was chuckling with unhallowed mirth, as
though unable. to contain himself at, presumably, the recollection
of a scene which he had witnessed himself. "He was down on his
knees and clawing out with his hands for mercy, and he squealed like
a rat. 'It's the sixth panel in the bedroom upstairs,' he says;
'it's all there. But for God's sake don't tell Jake I told. It's
the sixth panel. Press the knot in the sixth panel that -'" He
Danglar had pulled out his watch and with exaggerated patience was
circling the crystal with his thumb.
"Are you all through, Matty?" he inquired monotonously. "I think
you said something a little while ago about wasting time. Bertha's
looking bored; and, besides, she's got a little job of her own on
for to-night." He jerked his watch back into his pocket, and turned
to Rhoda Gray again. "The only one who knew all the details Angel
Jack, and he'll never tell now because he's dead. Whether he came
down from the West with Deemer or not, or how he got wise to the
stones, I don't know. But he got the stones, all right. And then
he tumbled to the fact that the police were pushing him hard for
another job he was 'wanted' for, and he had to get those stones out
of sight in a hurry. He made a package of them and slipped them to
old Luertz, who had always done his business for him, to keep for
him; and before he could duck, the bulls had him for that other job.
Angel Jack went up the river. See? Old Jake didn't know what was
in that package; but he knew better than to monkey with it, because
he always thought something of his own skin. He knew Angel Jack,
and he knew what would happen if he didn't have that package ready
to hand back the day Angel Jack got out of Sing Sing. Understand?
But yesterday Angel Jack died-without a will; and old Jake appointed
himself sole executor-without bonds! He opened that package,
figured he'd begin turning it into money - and that's how we get
our own back again. Old Jake will get a fake message to-night
calling him out of the house on an errand uptown; and about ten
o'clock Pinkie Bonn and the Pug will pay a visit there in his
absence, and - well, it looks good, don't it, Bertha, after two
Rhoda Gray was crouched down in her chair. She shrugged her
shoulders now, and infused a sullen note into her voice.
"Yes, it's fine!" she sniffed. "I'll be rolling in wealth in my
garret - which will do me a lot of good! That doesn't separate me
from these rags, and the hell I've lived, does it - after two years?"
"I'm coming to that," said Danglar, with his short, grating laugh.
"We've as good as got the stones now, and we're going through
to-night for a clean-up of all that old mess. We stake the whole
thing. Get me, Bertha - the whole thing ! I'm showing my hand
for the first time. Cloran's the man that's making you wear those
clothes; Cloran's the only one who could go into the witness box
and swear that you were the woman who murdered Deemer; and Cloran's
the man who has been working his head off for two years to find you.
We've tried a dozen times to bump him off in a way that would make
his death appear to be due purely to an accident, and we didn't get
away with it; but we can afford to leave the 'accident' out of it
to-night, and go through for keeps - and that's what we're going
to do. And once he's out of the way - by midnight - you can heave
Gypsy Nan into the discard."
It seemed to Rhoda Gray that horror had suddenly taken a numbing
hold upon her sensibilities. Danglar was talking about murdering
some man, wasn't he, so that she could resume again the personality
of a woman who was dead? Hysterical laughter rose to her lips. It
was only by a frantic effort of will that she controlled herself.
She seemed to speak involuntarily, doubtful almost that it was her
own voice she heard.
"I'm listening," she said; "but I wouldn't be too sure. Cloran's
a wary bird, and there's the White Moll."
She caught her breath. What suicidal inspiration had prompted her
to say that! Had what she had been listening to here, the horror
of it, indeed turned her brain and robbed her of her wits to the
extent that she should invite exposure? Danglar's face had gone a
mottled purple; the misshapen thing at Danglar's side was leering
at her most curiously.
It was a moment before Danglar spoke; and then his hand, clenched
until the white of the knuckles showed, pounded upon the table to
punctuate his words.
"Not to-night!" he rasped out with an oath. "There's not a chance
that she's in on this to-night - the she-devil! But she's next!
With this cleaned up, she's next! If it takes the last dollar of
to-night's haul, and five years to do it, I'll get her, and get -"
"Sure!" mumbled Rhoda Gray hurriedly. "But you needn't get excited!
I was only thinking of her because she's queered us till I've got
my fingers crossed, that's all. Go on about Cloran."
Danglar's composure did not return on the instant. He gnawed at
his lips for a moment before he spoke.
"All right!" he jerked out finally. "Let it go at that! I told
you the other night in the garret that things were beginning to
break our way, and that you wouldn't have to stay there much
longer, but I didn't tell you how or why - you wouldn't give me
a chance. I'll tell you now; and it's the main reason why I've
kept away from you lately. I couldn't take a chance of Cloran
getting wise to that garret and Gypsy Nan." He grinned suddenly.
"I've been cultivating Cloran myself for the last two weeks. We're
quite pals! I'm for playing the luck every time! When the jewels
showed up to-day, I figured that to-night's the night - see?
Cloran and I are going to supper together at the Silver Sphinx at
about eleven o'clock -and this is where you shed the Gypsy Nan
stuff, and show up as your own sweet self. Cloran'll be glad to
She stared at him in genuine perplexity and amazement.
"Show myself to Cloran!" she ejaculated heavily. "I don't get you!"
"You will in a minute," said Danglar softly. "You're the bait
-see? Cloran and I will be at supper and watching the fox-trotters.
You blow in and show yourself - I don't need to tell you how, you're
clever enough at that sort of thing yourself - and the minute he
recognizes you as the woman he's been looking for that murdered
Deemer, you pretend to recognize him for the first time too, and
then you beat it like you had the scare of your life for the door.
He'll follow you on the jump. I don't know what it's all about,
and I sit tight, and that lets me out. And now get this! There'll
be two taxicabs outside. If there's more than two, it's the first
two I'm talking about. You jump into the one at the head of the
line. Cloran won't need any invitation to grab the second one and
follow you. That's all! It's the last ride he'll take. It'll be
our boys, and not chauffeurs, who'll be driving those cars to-night,
and they've got their orders where to go. Cloran won't come back.
There was only one answer to make, only one answer that she dared
make. She made it mechanically, though her brain reeled. A man
named Cloran was to be murdered; and she was to show herself as
this - this Bertha - and...
"Yes," she said.
"Good!" said Danglar. He pulled out his watch again. "All right,
then! We've been here long enough." He rose briskly. "It's time
to make a move. You hop it back to the garret, and get rid of that
fancy dress. I've got to meet Cloran uptown first. Come on, Matty,
let us out."
The place stifled her. She got up and moved quickly through the
intervening room. She heard Danglar and his crippled brother
talking earnestly together as they followed her. And then the
cripple brushed by her in the darkness, and opened the front door
- and Danglar had drawn her to him in a quick embrace. She did not
struggle; she dared not. Her heart seemed to stand still. Danglar
was whispering in her ear:
"I promised I'd make it up to you, Bertha, old girl. You'll see
- after to-night. We'll have another honey-moon. You go on ahead
now - I can't be seen with Gypsy Nan. And don't be late - the
Silver Sphinx at eleven."
She ran out on the street. Her fingers mechanically clutched at
her shawl to loosen it around her throat. It seemed as though she
were choking, that she could not breathe. The man's touch upon her
had seemed like contact with some foul and loathsome thing; the
scene in that room back there like some nightmare of horror from
which she could not awake.
XVI. THE SECRET PANEL
Rhoda Gray hurried onward, back toward the garret, her mind in riot
and dismay. It was not only the beginning of the end; it was very
near the end! What was she to do? The Silver Sphinx - at eleven!
That was the end - after eleven - wasn't it? She could impersonate
Gypsy Nan; she could not, if she would, impersonate the woman who
was dead! And then, too, there were the stolen jewels at old Jake
Luertz's! She could not turn to the police for help there, because
then the Pug might fall into their hands, and - and the Pug was
- was the Adventurer.
And then a sort of fatalistic calm fell upon her. If the masquerade
was over, if the end had come, there remained only one thing for her
to do. There were no risks too desperate to take now. It was she
who must strike, and strike first. Those jewels in old Luertz's
bedroom became suddenly vital to her. They were tangible evidence.
With those jewels in her possession she should be able to force
Danglar to his knees. She could get them - before Pinkie Bonn and
the Pug - if she hurried. Afterward she would know where to find
Danglar - at the Silver Sphinx. Nothing would happen to Cloran,
because, through her failure to cooperate, the plan would be
abortive; but, veiled, as the White Moll, she could pick up Danglar's
trail again there. Yes, it would be the end - one way or the other
- between eleven o'clock and daylight!
She quickened her steps. Old Luertz was to be inveigled away from
his home about ten o'clock. At a guess, she made it only a little
after nine now. She would need the skeleton keys in order to get
into old Luertz's place, and, yes, she would need a flashlight, too.
Well, she would have time enough to get them, and time enough, then,
to run to the deserted shed in the lane behind the garret and change
Rhoda Gray, as Gypsy Nan, went on as speedily as she dared without
inviting undue attention to herself, reached the garret, secured
the articles she sought, hurried out again, and went down the lane
in the rear to the deserted shed. She remained longer here than in
the attic, perhaps ten minutes, working mostly in the darkness,
risking the flashlight only when it was imperative; and then, the
metamorphosis complete, a veiled figure, in her own person, as
Rhoda Gray, the White Moll, she was out on the street again, and
hastening back in the same general direction from which she had
She knew old Jake Luertz's place, and she knew the man himself very
intimately by reputation. There were few such men and such places
that she could have escaped knowing in the years of self-appointed
service that she had given to the worst, and perhaps therefore the
most needy, element in New York. The man ostensibly conducted a
little secondhand store; in reality he probably "shoved" more stolen
goods for his clientele, which at one time or another undoubtedly
embraced nearly every crook in the underworld, than any other "fence"
in New York. She knew him for an oily, cunning old fox who lived
alone in the two rooms over his miserable store - unless, of late,
his young henchman, the Crab, had taken to living with him; though,
as far as that was concerned, it mattered little to-night, since
the Crab, for the moment, thanks to the gang, was eliminated from
She reached the secondhand store - and walked on past it. There
was a light upstairs in the front window. Old Luertz therefore had
not yet gone out in response to the gang's fake message. She knew
old Luertz's reputation far too well for that; the man would never
go out and leave a gas jet burning - which he would have to pay for!
There was nothing to do but wait. Rhoda Gray sought the shelter of
a doorway across the street. She was nervously impatient now. The
minutes dragged along. Why didn't 'the man hurry and go out?
"About ten o'clock," Danglar had said - but that was very indefinite.
Pinkie Bonn and the Pug might be as late as that; but, equally, they
might be earlier!
It seemed an interminable time. And then, her eyes strained across
the street upon that upper window, she drew still farther back into
the protecting shadows of the doorway. The light had gone out.
A moment more passed. The street door of the house opposite to her
- a door separate from that of the secondhand store-opened, and a
bent, gray-bearded man, stepped out, peered around, locked the door
behind him, and scuffled down the street.
Rhoda Gray scanned the dingy and ill-lighted little street. It was
virtually deserted. She crossed the road, and stepped into the
doorway from which the old "fence" had just emerged. It was dark
here, well out of the direct radius of the nearest street lamp,
and, with luck, there was no reason why she should be observed - if
she did not take too long in opening the door! She had never
actually used a skeleton key in her life before, and...
She inserted one of her collection of keys in the lock. It would
not work. She tried another, and still another-with mounting
anxiety and perplexity. Suppose that - yes! The door was open now!
With a quick glance over her shoulder, scanning the street in both
directions to make sure that she was not observed, she stepped
inside, closed the door, and locked it again.
Her flashlight stabbed through the darkness. Narrow stairs
immediately in front of her led upward; at her right was a
connecting door to the secondhand shop. Without an instant's
hesitation she ran up the stairs. There was no need to observe
caution since the place was temporarily untenanted; there was need
only of haste. She opened the door at the head of the stairs, and,
with a quick, eager nod of satisfaction, as the flashlight swept
the interior, stepped over the threshold. It was the room she
sought - old Luertz's bedroom.
And now the flashlight played inquisitively about her. The bed
occupied a position by the window; across one corner of the room
was a cretonne hanging, that evidently did service as a wardrobe;
across another corner was a large and dilapidated washstand; there
were a few chairs, and a threadbare carpet; and, opposite the bed,
another door, closed, which obviously led into the front room.
Rhoda Gray stepped to this door, opened it, and peered in. She
was not concerned that it was evidently used for kitchen,
dining-room and the stowage of everything that overflowed from the
bedroom; she was concerned only with the fact that it offered no
avenue through which any added risk or danger might reach her. She
closed the door as she had found it, and gave her attention now to
the walls of old Luertz's bedroom.
She smiled a little whimsically. The Crab had used a somewhat
dignified term when he had referred to "panels." True, the, walls
were of stained wood, but the wood was of the cheapest variety of
matched boards, and the stain was of but a single coat, and a very
meager one at that! The smile faded. There were a good many knots;
and there were four corners to the room, and therefore eight boards,
each one of which would answer to the description of being the
She went to the corner nearest her, and dropped down on her knees.
As well start with this one! She had not dared press Danglar, or
Danglar's deformed brother, for more definite directions, had she?
She counted the boards quickly from the corner to her right; and
then, the flashlight playing steadily, she began to press first one
knot after another, in the board before her, working from the bottom
up. There were many knots; she went over each one with infinite
care. There was no result.
She turned then to the sixth board from the corner to her left. The
result was the same. She stood up, her brows puckered, a sense of
anxious impatience creeping upon her. She had been quite a while
over even these two boards, and it might be any one of the remaining
Her eyes traversed the room, following the ray of the flashlight.
If she only knew which one, it would - Was it an inspiration? Her
eyes had fixed on the cretonne hanging across one of the far corners
from the door, and she moved toward it now quickly. The hanging
might very well serve for an other purpose than that of merely a
wardrobe! It seemed suddenly to be the most likely of the four
corners because it was ingeniously concealed.
She parted the hanging. A heterogeneous collection of clothing
hung from pegs and nails. Eagerly, hastily now, she brushed these
aside, and, close to the wall, dropped down on her knees again. The
minutes passed. Twice she went over the sixth board from the
corner to her right. She felt so sure now that it was this corner.
And then, still eagerly, she turned to the corresponding board at
It was warm and close here. The clothing hanging from the pegs
and nails enveloped her, and, with the cretonne hanging itself,
shut out the air, what little of it there was, that circulated
through the room.
Over the board, from the tiniest knot to the largest, her fingers
pressed carefully. Had she missed one anywhere? She must have
missed one! She was sure the panel in question was here behind this
hanging. Well, she would try again, and...
What was that?
In an instant the flashlight in her hand was out, and she was
listening tensely. Yes, there was a footstep - two of them - not
only on the stairs, but already just outside the door. It seemed
as though a deadly fear, cold and numbing, settled upon her and
robbed her of even the power of movement. She was caught! If it
was Pinkie Bonn and the Pug, and if this corner hid the secret
panel as she still believed it did, this was the first place to
which they would come, and they would find her here amongst the
clothing - which had evidently been the cause of deadening any
sound on those stairs out there until it was too late.
She held her breath, her hands tight upon her bosom. There was
no time to reach the sanctuary of the other room - the footsteps
were already crossing the threshold from the head of the stairs.
And then a voice reached her - the Pug's. It was the Pug and
"Strike a light, Pinkie! Dere's no use messin' around wid a
flash. De old geezer'11 be back on de hop de minute he finds out
he's been bunked, an' de quicker we work de better."
A match crackled into flame. An air-choked gas jet, with a
protesting hiss, was lighted. And then Rhoda Gray's drawn face
relaxed a little, and a strange, mirthless smile came hovering over
her lips. What was she afraid of? The Pug was the Adventurer,
wasn't he? This was one of the occasions when he could not escape
the entanglements of the gang, and must work for the gang instead
of appropriating all the loot for his own personal and nefarious
ends; but he was the Adventurer. The White Moll need not fear him,
even though he appeared, linked with Pinkie Bonn, in the role of
the Pug! So there was only Pinkie Bonn to fear.
Rhoda Gray took her revolver from her pocket. She was well armed
- and in more than a material sense. The Adventurer did not know
that she was aware of the Pug's identity. Her smile, still
mirthless, deepened. She might even turn the tables upon them, and
still secure the stolen stones. She had turned the tables upon
Pinkie Bonn last night; to-night, if she used her wits, she could
do it again!
And then, suddenly, she stifled an exclamation, as the Pug's voice
reached her again:
"Wot are youse gapin' about? Dere ain't anything else worth pinchin'
around here except wot's in de old gent's safety vault. Get a move
on! We ain't got all night! It's de corner behind de washstand.
Give us a hand to move de furniture!"
It wasn't here behind the cretonne hanging! Rhoda Gray bit her lips
in a crestfallen little way. Well, her supposition had been natural
enough, hadn't it? And she would have tried every corner before she
was through if she had had the opportunity.
She moved now slightly, without a sound, parting the clothing away
from in front of her, and moving the cretonne hanging by the fraction
of an inch where it touched the side wall of the room. And now she
could see the Pug, with his dirty and discolored celluloid eye-patch,
and his ingeniously contorted face; and she could see Pinkie Bonn's
pasty-white, drug-stamped countenance
It was not a large room. The two men in the opposite corner along
the wall from her were scarcely more than ten feet away. They swung
the washstand out from the wall, and the Pug, going in behind it,
began to work on one of the wall boards. Pinkie Bonn, an unlighted
cigarette dangling from his lip, leaned over the washstand watching
A minute passed - another. It was still in the room, except only
for the distant sounds of the world outside - a clatter of wheels
upon the pavement, the muffled roar of the elevated, the clang of a
trolley bell. And then the Pug began to mutter to himself. Rhoda
Gray smiled a little grimly. She was not the only one, it would
appear, who experienced difficulty with old Jake Luertz's crafty
"Say, dis is de limit!" the Pug growled out suddenly. "Dere's more
damned knots in dis board dan I ever save in any piece of wood in me
life before, an' -" He drew back abruptly from the wall, twisting
his head sharply around. "D'ye hear dat, Pinkie!" he whispered
tensely. "Quick! Put out de light! Quick! Dere's some one down
at de front door!"
Rhoda Gray felt the blood ebb from her face. She had heard nothing
save the rattle and bump of a wagon along the street below; but she
had had reason to appreciate on a certain occasion before that the
Pug, alias the Adventurer, was possessed of a sense of hearing that
was abnormally acute. If it was some one else - who was it? What
would it mean to her? What complication here in this room would
The light was out. Pinkie Bonn had stepped silently across the
room to the gas jet near the door. Her eyes, strained, she could
just make out the Adventurer's form kneeling by the wall, and then
- was she mad! Was the faint night-light of the city filtering in
through the window mocking her? The Adventurer, hidden from his
companion by the washstand, was working swiftly and without a
sound - or else it was a phantasm of shadows that tricked her!
A door in the wall opened; the Adventurer thrust in his hand, drew
out a package, and, leaning around, slipped it quickly into the
bottom of the washstand, where, with its little doors, there was
a most convenient and very commodious apartment. He turned again
then, seemed to take something from his pocket and place it in the
opening in the wall, and then the panel closed.
It had taken scarcely more than a second.
Rhoda Gray brushed her hand across her eyes. No, it wasn't a
phantasm! She had misjudged the Adventurer - quite misjudged him!
The Adventurer, even with one of the gang present - to furnish an
unimpeachable alibi for him! - was plucking the gang's fruit again
for his own and undivided enrichment!
Pinkie Bonn's voice came in a guarded whisper from the doorway.
"I don't hear nothin'!" said Pinkie Bonn anxiously.
The Pug tiptoed across the room, and joined his companion. She
could not see them now, but apparently they stood together by the
door listening. They stood there for a long time. Occasionally
she heard them whisper to each other; and then finally the Pug
spoke in a less guarded voice.
"All right," he said. "I guess me nerves are gettin' de creeps.
Shoot de light on again, an' let's get back on de job. An' youse
can take a turn dis time pushin' de knots, Pinkie; mabbe youse'll
have better luck."
The light went on again. Both men came back across the room, and
now Pinkie Bonn knelt at the wall while the Pug leaned over the
washstand watching him. Pinkie Bonn was not immediately successful;
the Pug's nerves, of which he had complained, appeared shortly to
get the better of him.
"Fer Gawd's sake, hurry up!" he urged irritably. "Or else lemme
take another crack at it, Pinkie, an'...
A low, triumphant exclamation came from Pinkie Bonn, as the small
door in the wall swung suddenly open.
"There she is, my bucko!" he grinned. "Some nifty vault, eh? The
old guy-" He stopped. He had thrust in his hand, and drawn it out
again. His fingers gripped a sheet of notepaper - but he was
seemingly unconscious of that fact. He was leaning forward,
staring into the aperture. "It's empty!" he choked.
"Wot's dat?" cried the Pug, and sprang to his companion's side.
"Youse're crazy, Pinkie! He thrust his head toward the opening
- and then turned and stared for a moment helplessly at Pinkie Bonn.
"So help me!" he said heavily. "It's - it's empty." He shook his
fist suddenly. "De Crab's handed us one, dat's wot! But de Crab'll
get his fer -"
"It wasn't the Crab!" Pinkie Bonn was stuttering his words. He
stood, jaws dropped, his eyes glued now on the paper in his hand.
The Pug, his face working, the personification of baffled rage and
intolerance, leered at Pinkie Bonn. "Well, who was it, den?" he
Pinkie Bonn licked his lips.
"The White Moll!" He licked his lips again.
"De White Moll!" echoed the Pug incredulously.
"Yes," said Pinkie Bonn. "Listen to what's on this paper that I
fished out of there I Listen! She's got all the nerve of the devil!
'With thanks, and my most grateful appreciation - the White Moll.'"
The Pug snatched the paper from Pinkie Bonn's hand, as though to
assure himself that it was true. Rhoda Gray smiled faintly. It
was good acting, very excellently done - seeing that the Pug had
written the note and placed it in the hiding place himself!
"My God!" mumbled Pinkie Bonn thickly. "I ain't afraid of most
things, but I'm gettin' scared of her. She ain't human. Last
night you know what happened, and the night before, and -" He
gulped suddenly. "Let's get out of here !" he said hurriedly.
The Pug made no reply, except for a muttered growl of assent and
a nod of his head.
The two men crossed the room. The light went out. Their footsteps
echoed back as they descended the stairs, then died away.
And then Rhoda Gray moved for the first time. She brushed aside
the cretonne hanging, ran to the washstand, possessed herself of
the package she had seen the Pug place there, and then made her way,
cautious now of the s1ightest sound, downstairs.
She tried the door that led into the secondhand shop from the hall,
found it unlocked, and with a little gasp of relief slipped through,
and closed it gently behind her. She did not dare risk the front
entrance. Pinkie Bonn and the Pug were not far enough away yet, and
she did not dare wait until they were. Too bulky to take the risk
of attempting to conceal it about his person while with Pinkie Bonn,
the Pug, it was obvious, would come back alone for that package, and
it was equally obvious that he would not be long in doing so. There
was old Luertz's return that he would have to anticipate. It would
not take wits nearly so sharp as those possessed by the Pug to find
an excuse for separating promptly from Pinkie Bonn!
Rhoda Gray groped her way down the shop, groped her way to a back
door, unbolted it, working by the sense of touch, and let herself
out into a back yard. Five minutes later she was blocks away, and
hurrying rapidly back toward the deserted shed in the lane behind
Gypsy Nan's garret.
Her lips formed into a tight little curve as she went along. There
was still work to do to-night - if this package really contained
the stolen legacy of gems left by Angel Jack. She had first of all
to reach a place where she could examine the package with safety;
then a place to hide it where it would be secure; and then - Danglar!
She gained the lane, stole along it, and disappeared into the shed
through the broken door that hung, partially open, on sagging hinges.
Here she sought a corner, and crouched down so that her body would
smother any reflection from her flashlight. And now, eagerly,
feverishly, she began to undo the package; and then, a moment later,
she gazed, stupefied and amazed, at what lay before her. Precious
stones, scores of them, nestled on a bed of cotton; they were of all
colors and of all sizes - but each one of them seemed to pulsate and
throb, and from some wondrous, glorious depth of its own to fling
back from the white ray upon it a thousand rays in return, as though
into it had been breathed a living and immortal fire.
And Rhoda Gray, crouched there, stared - until suddenly she grew
afraid, and suddenly with a shudder she wrapped the package up again.
These were the stones for whose fabulous worth the woman whose
personality she, Rhoda Gray, had usurped, had murdered a man; these
were the stones which were indirectly the instrumentality - since
but for them Gypsy Nan would never have existed - that made her,
Rhoda Gray, to-night, now, at this very moment, a hunted thing,
homeless, friendless, fighting for her very life against police and
She rose abruptly to her feet. She had no longer any need of a
flashlight. There was even light of a sort in the place - she could
see the stars through the jagged holes in the roof, and through one
of these, too, the moonlight streamed in. The shed was all but
crumbling in a heap. Underfoot, what had once been flooring, was
now but rotting, broken boards. Under one of these, beside the
clothing of Gypsy Nan which she had discarded but a little while
before, she deposited the package; then stepped out into the lane,
and from there to the street again.
And now she became suddenly conscious of a great and almost
overpowering physical weariness. She did not quite understand at
first, unless it was to be attributed to the reaction from the last
few hours - and then, smiling wanly to herself, she remembered. For
two nights she had not slept. It seemed very strange. That was it,
of course, though she was not in the least sleepy now - just tired,
just near the breaking point.
But she must go on. To-night was the end, anyhow. To-night, failing
to keep her appointment as "Bertha," the crash must come; but before
it came, as the White Moll, armed with the knowledge of the crime
that had driven Danglar's wife into hiding, and which was Danglar's
crime too, and with the evidence in the shape of those jewels in her
possession, she and Danglar would meet somewhere - alone. Before the
law got him, when he would be close-mouthed and struggling with all
his cunning to keep the evidence of other crimes from piling up
against him and damning whatever meager chances he might have to
escape the penalty for Deemer's murder, she meant - yes, even if
she pretended to compound a felony with him - to force or to inveigle
from him, it mattered little which, a confession of the authorship
and details of the scheme to rob Skarbolov that night when she,
Rhoda Gray, in answer to a dying woman's pleading, had tried to
forestall the plan, and had been caught, apparently, in the very act
of committing the robbery herself! With that confession in her
possession, with the identity of the unknown woman who had died in
the hospital that night established, her own story would be believed.
And so, if she were weary, what did it matter? It was only until
morning. Danglar was at the Silver Sphinx now with the man he meant
that she should help him murder, only - only that plan would fail,
because there would be no "Bertha" to lure the man to his death, and
she, Rhoda Gray, had only to keep track of Danglar until somewhere,
where he lived perhaps, she should have that final scene, that final
reckoning with him alone.
It was a long way to the Silver Sphinx, which she knew, as every one
in the underworld, and every one in New York who was addicted to
slumming knew, was a combination dance-hall and restaurant in the
Chatham Square district. She tried to find a taxi, but with out
avail. A clock in a jeweler's window which she passed showed her
that it was ten minutes after eleven. She had had no idea that it
was so late. At eleven, Danglar had said. Danglar would be growing
restive! She took the elevated. If she could risk the protection
of her veil in the Silver Sphinx, she could risk it equally in an
But, in spite of the elevated, it was, she knew, well on towards
half past eleven when she finally came down the street in front of
the Silver Sphinx. From under her veil, she glanced, half curiously,
half in a sort of grim irony, at the taxis lined up before the
dancehall. The two leading cars were not taxis at all, though they
bore the ear-marks, with their registers, of being public vehicles
for hire; they were large, roomy, powerful, and looked, with their
hoods up, like privately owned motors. Well, it was of little
account! She shrugged her shoulders, as -she mounted the steps of
the dance-hall. Neither "Bertha" nor Cloran would use those cars
XVII. THE SILVER SPHINX
A Bedlam of noise smote Rhoda Gray's ears as she entered the Silver
Sphinx. A jazz band was in full swing; on the polished section of
the floor in the center, a packed mass of humanity swirled and
gyrated and wriggled in the contortions of the "latest" dance, and
laughed and howled immoderately; and around the sides of the room,
the waiters rushed this way and that amongst the crowded tables,
mopping at their faces with their aprons. It seemed as though
confusion itself held sway!
Rhoda Gray scanned the occupants of the tables. The Silver Sphinx
was particularly riotous to-night, wasn't it? Yes, she understood!
A great many of the men were wearing little badges. Some society
or other was celebrating - and was doing it with abandon. Most of
the men were half drunk. It was certainly a free-and-easy night!
Danglar! Yes, 'there he was - quite close to her, only a few tables
away - and beside him sat a heavy built, clean-shaven man of middle
age. That would be Cloran, of course - the man who was to have been
lured to his death. And Danglar was nervous and uneasy, she could
see. His fingers were drumming a tattoo on the table; his eyes were
roving furtively about the room; and he did not seem to be paying any
but the most distrait attention to his companion, who was talking
Rhoda Gray sank quickly into a vacant chair. Three men, linked arm
in arm, and decidedly more than a little drunk, were approaching
her. She turned her head away to avoid attracting their attention.
It was too free and easy here to-night, and she began to regret her
temerity at having ventured inside; she would better, perhaps, have
waited until Danglar came out - only there were two exits, and she
might have missed him - and...
A cold fear upon her, she shrank back in her chair. The three men
had halted at the table, and were clustered around her. They began
a jocular quarrel amongst themselves as to who should dance with her.
Her heart was pounding. She stood up, and pushed them away.
"Oh, no, you don't!" hiccoughed one of the three. "Gotta see your
- hic! - pretty face, anyhow!"
She put up her hands frantically and clutched at her veil - but just
an instant too late to save it from being wrenched aside. Wildly her
eyes flew to Danglar. His attention had been attracted by the scene.
She saw him rise from his seat; she saw his eyes widen - and then,
stumbling over his chair in his haste, he made toward her. Danglar
had recognized the White Moll!
She turned and ran. Fear, horror, desperation, lent her strength.
It was not like this that she had counted on her reckoning with
Danglar! She brushed the roisterers aside, and darted for the door.
Over her shoulder she glimpsed Danglar following her. She reached
the door, burst through a knot of people there, and, her torn veil
clutched in her hand, dashed down the steps. She could only run
- run, and pray that in some way she might escape.
And then a mad exultation came upon her. She saw the man in the
chauffeur's seat of the first car in the line lean out and swing
the door open. And in a flash she grasped the situation. The man
was waiting for just this - for a woman to come running for her life
down the steps of the Silver Sphinx. She put her hand up to her
face, hiding it with the torn veil, raced for the car, and flung
herself into the tonneau.
The door slammed. The car leaped from the curb. Danglar was coming
down the steps. She heard him shout. The chauffeur, in a startled
way, leaned out, as he evidently recognized Danglar's voice - but Rhoda
Gray was mistress of herself now. The tonneau of the car was not
separated from the driver's seat, and bending forward, she wrenched
her revolver from her pocket, and pressed the muzzle of her weapon to
the back of the man's neck.
"Don't stop!" she gasped, struggling for her breath. "Go on!
The man, with a frightened oath, obeyed. The car gained speed. A
glance through the window behind showed Danglar climbing into the
And then for a moment Rhoda Gray sat there fighting for her
self-control, with the certain knowledge in her soul that upon her
wits, and her wits alone, her life depended now. She studied the
car's mechanism over the chauffeur's shoulder, even as she continued
to hold her revolver pressed steadily against the back of the man's
neck. She could drive a car - she could drive this one. The
presence of this chauffeur, one of the gang, was an added menace;
there were too many tricks he might play before she could forestall
them, any one of which would deliver her into the hands of Danglar
behind there - an apparently inadvertent stoppage due to traffic,
for instance, that would bring the pursuing car alongside - that,
or a dozen other things which would achieve the same end.
"Open the door on your side!" she commanded abruptly. "And get out
- without slowing the car! Do you understand?"
He turned his head for a half incredulous, half frightened look at
her. She met his eyes steadily - the torn veil, quite discarded now,
was in her pocket. She did not know the man; but it was quite
evident from the almost ludicrous dismay which spread over his face
that he knew her.
"The - the White Moll!" he stammered. "It's the White Moll!"
"Jump!" she ordered imperatively - and her revolver pressed still
more significantly against the man's flesh.
He seemed in even frantic haste to obey her. He whipped the door
open, and, before she could reach to the wheel, he had leaped to
the street. The car swerved sharply. She flung herself over into
the vacated seat, and snatched at the wheel barely in time to
prevent the machine from mounting the curb.
She looked around again through the window of the hood. The man
had swung aboard Danglar's car, which was only a few yards behind.
Rhoda Gray drove steadily. Here in the city streets her one aim
must be never to let the other car come abreast of her; but she
could prevent that easily enough by watching Danglar's movements,
and cutting across in front of him if he attempted anything of the
sort. But ultimately what was she to do? How was she to escape?
Her hands gripped and clenched in a sudden, almost panic-like
desperation at the wheel. Turn suddenly around a corner, and jump
from the car herself? It was useless to attempt it; they would
keep too close behind to give her a chance to get out of sight.
Well, then, suppose she jumped from the car, and trusted herself to
the protection of the people on the street. She shook her head grimly.
Danglar, she knew only too well, would risk anything, go to any
length, to put an end to the White Moll. He would not hesitate an
instant to shoot her down as she jumped and he would be fairly
safe himself in doing it. A few revolver shots from a car that
speeded away in the darkness offered an even chance of escape. And
yet, unless she forced an issue such as that, she knew that Danglar
would not resort to firing at her here in the city. He would want
to be sure that was the only chance he had of getting her, before
he accepted the risk that he would run of being caught for it by
She found herself becoming strangely, almost unnaturally, cool and
collected now. The one danger, greater than all others, that
menaced her was a traffic block that would cause her to stop, and
allow those in the other car behind to rush in upon her as she sat
here at the wheel. And sooner or later, if she stayed in the city,
a block such as that was inevitable. She must get out of the city,
then. It was only to invite another risk, the risk that Danglar
was in the faster car of the two but there was no other way.
She drove more quickly, made her way to the Bridge, and crossed it.
The car behind followed with immutable persistence. It made no
effort to close the short gap between them; but, neither, on the
other hand, did it permit that gap to widen.
They passed through Brooklyn; and then, reaching the outskirts,
Rhoda Gray, with headlights streaming into the black, with an open
Long Island road before her, flung her throttle wide, and the car
leaped like a thing of life into the night. It was a sudden start,
it gained her a hundred yards but that was all.
The wind tore at her and whipped her face; the car rocked and reeled
as in some mad frenzy. There was not much traffic, but such as
there was it cleared away from before her as if by magic, as,
seeking shelter from the wild meteoric thing running amuck, the few
vehicles, motor or horse, that she encountered hugged; the edge of
the road, and the wind whisked to her ears fragments of shouts and
execrations. Again and again she looked back two fiery balls of
light blazed behind her always those same two fiery balls.
She neither gained nor lost. Rigid, like steel, her little figure
was crouched over the wheel. She did not know the road. She knew
nothing save that she was racing for her life. She did not know
the end; she could not see the end. Perhaps there would be some
merciful piece of luck for her that would win her through a
break-down to that roaring thing, with its eyes that were balls of
She passed through a town with lighted streets and lighted windows
or was it only imagination? It was gone again, anyhow, and there
was just black road ahead. Over the roar of the car and the sweep
of the wind, then, she caught, or fancied she caught, a series
of faint reports. She looked behind her. Yes, they were firing
now. Little flashes leaped out above and at the sides of those
How long was it since she had left the Silver Sphinx? Minutes or
hours would not measure it, would they? But it could not last much
longer! She was growing very tired; the strain upon her arms, yes,
and upon her eyes, was becoming unbearable. She swayed a little
in her seat, and the car swerved, and she jerked it back again into
the straight. She began to laugh a little hysterically and then,
suddenly, she straightened up, tense and alert once more.
That swerve was the germ of an inspiration! It took root swiftly
now. It was desperate - but she was desperate. She could not drive
much more, or much longer like this. Mind and body were almost
undone. And, besides, she was not outdistancing that car behind
there by a foot; and sooner or later they would hit her with one of
their shots, or, perhaps what they were really trying to do,
puncture one of her tires.
Again she glanced over her shoulder. Yes, Danglar was just far
enough behind to make the plan possible. She began to allow the
car to swerve noticeably at intervals, as though she were weakening
and the car was getting beyond her control - which was, indeed,
almost too literally the case. And now it seemed to her that each
time she swerved there came an exultant shout from the car behind.
Well, she asked for nothing better; that was what she was trying to
do, wasn't it? - inspire them with the belief that she was breaking
under the strain.
Her eyes searched anxiously down the luminous pathway made by her
high-powered headlights. If only she could reach a piece of road
that combined two things - an embankment of some sort, and a curve
just sharp enough to throw those headlights behind off at a tangent
for an instant as they rounded it, too, in following her.
A minute, two, another passed. And then Rhoda Gray, tight-lipped,
her face drawn hard, as her own headlights suddenly edged away from
the road and opened what looked like a deep ravine on her left,
while the road curved to the right, flung a frenzied glance back
of her. It was her chance - her one chance. Danglar was perhaps
a little more than a hundred yards in the rear. Yes - now! His
headlights were streaming out on her left as he, too, touched the
curve. The right-hand side of her car, the right-hand side of the
road were in blackness. She checked violently, almost to a stop,
then instantly opened the throttle wide once more, wrenching the
wheel over to head the machine for the ravine; and before the car
picked up its momentum again, she dropped from the right-hand side,
darted to the far edge of the road, and flung herself flat down
upon the ground.
The great, black body of her car seemed to sail out into nothingness
like some weird aerial monster, the headlights streaming uncannily
through space - then blackness - and a terrific crash.
And now the other car had come to a stop almost opposite where she
lay. Danglar and the two chauffeurs, shouting at each other in
wild excitement, leaped out and rushed to the edge of the embankment.
And then suddenly the sky grew red as a great tongue-flame shot up
from below. It outlined the forms of the three men as they stood
there, until, abruptly, as though with one accord, they rushed
pell-mell down the embankment toward the burning wreckage. And as
they disappeared from sight Rhoda Gray jumped to her feet, sprang
for Danglar's car, flung herself into the driver's seat, and the car
shot forward again along the road.
A shout, a wild chorus of yells, the reports of a fusillade of
shots reached her; she caught a glimpse of forms running insanely
after her along the edge of the embankment - then silence save for
the roar of the speeding car.
She drove on and on. Somewhere, nearing a town, she saw a train
in the distance coming in her direction. She reached the station
first, and left the car standing there, and, with the torn veil
over her face again, took the train.
She was weak, undone, exhausted. Even her mind refused its
functions further. It was only in a subconscious way she realized
that, where she had thought never to go to the garret again, the
garret and the role of Gypsy Nan were, more than ever now, her sole
refuge. The plot against Cloran had failed, but they could not
blame that on "Bertha's" non-appearance; and since it had failed
she would not now be expected to assume the dead woman's personality.
True, she had not, as had been arranged, reached the Silver Sphinx
at eleven, but there were a hundred excuses she could give to
account for her being late in keeping the appointment so that she
had arrived just in time, say, to see Danglar dash wildly in pursuit
of a woman who had jumped into the car that she was supposed to take!
The garret! The garret again - and Gypsy Nan! Her surroundings
seemed to become a blank to her; her actions to be prompted by some
purely mechanical sense. She was conscious only that finally, after
an interminable time, she was in New York again; and after that,
long, long after that, dressed as Gypsy Nan, she was stumbling up
the dark, ladder-like steps to the attic.
How her footsteps dragged! She opened the door, staggered inside,
locked the door again, and staggered toward the cot, and dropped
upon it; and the gray dawn came in with niggardly light through
the grimy little window panes, as though timorously inquisitive
of this shawled and dissolute figure prone and motionless, this
figure who in other dawns had found neither sleep nor rest - this
figure who lay there now as one dead.
XVIII. THE OLD SHED
Rhoda Gray opened her eyes, and, from the cot upon which she lay,
stared with drowsy curiosity around the garret - and in another
instant was sitting bolt upright, alert and tense, as the full flood
of memory swept upon her.
There was still a meager light creeping in through the small, grimy
window panes, but it was the light of waning day. She must have
slept, then, all through the morning and the afternoon, slept the
dead, heavy sleep of exhaustion from the moment she had flung
herself down here a few hours before daybreak.
She rose impulsively to her feet. It was strange that she had not
been disturbed, that no one had come to the garret! The recollection
of the events of the night before were crowding themselves upon her
now. In view of last night, in view of her failure to keep that
appointment in the role of Danglar's wife, it was very strange
indeed that she had been left undisturbed!
Subconsciously she was aware that she was hungry, that it was long
since she had eaten, and, almost mechanically, she prepared herself
something now from the store the garret possessed; but, even as she
ate, her mind was far from thoughts of food. From the first night
she had come here and self-preservation had thrust this miserable
role of Gypsy Nan upon her, from that first night and from the
following night when, to save the Sparrow, she had been whirled
into the vortex of the gang's criminal activities, her mind raced
on through the sequence of events that seemed to have spanned some
vast, immeasurable space of time until they had brought her to
- last night.
Last night! She had thought it was the end last night, but instead
- The dark eyes grew suddenly hard and intent. Yes, she had
counted upon last night, when, with the necessary proof in her
possession with which to confront Danglar with the crime of murder,
she could wring from the man all that now remained necessary to
substantiate her own story and clear herself in the eyes of the law
of that robbery at Skarbolov's antique store of which she was held
guilty - and instead she had barely escaped with her life. That
was the story of last night.
Her eyes grew harder. Well, the way was still open, wasn't it?
Last night had changed nothing in that respect. To-night, as the
White Moll, she had only to find and corner Danglar as she had
planned to do last night. She had still only to get the man alone
Rhoda Gray's hands clenched tightly. That was all that was necessary
- just the substantiation of her own story that the plot to rob
Skarbolov lay at the door of Danglar and his gang; or, rather, perhaps,
that the plot was in existence before she had ever heard of Skarbolov.
It would prove her own statement of what the dying woman had said.
It would exonerate her from guilt; it would prove that, rather than
having any intention of committing crime, she had taken the only means
within her power of preventing one. The real Gypsy Nan, Danglar's
wife, who had died that night, bad, even in eleventh-hour penitence,
refused to implicate her criminal associates. There was a crime
projected which, unless she, Rhoda Gray, would agree to forestall
it in person and would give her oath not to warn the police about
it and so put the actual criminals in jeopardy, would go on to its
She remembered that night in the hospital. The scene came vividly
before her now. The woman's pleading, the woman's grim loyalty
even in death to her pals. She, Rhoda Gray, had given her oath.
It became necessary only to substantiate those facts. Danglar
could be made to do it. She had now in her possession the evidence
that would convict him of complicity in the murder of Deemer, and
for which murder the original Gypsy Nan had gone into hiding; she
even had in her possession the missing jewels that had prompted that
murder; she had, too, the evidence now to bring the entire gang to
justice for their myriad depredations; she knew where their secret
hoard of ill-gotten gains was hidden - here in this attic, behind
that ingeniously contrived trap-door in the ceiling. She knew all
this; and this information placed before the police, providing
only it was backed by the proof that the scheme to rob Skarbolov
was to be carried out by the gang, as she, Rhoda Gray, would say
the dying woman had informed her, would be more than enough to
clear her. She had not had this proof on that first night when
she had snatched at the mantle of Gypsy Nan as the sole means of
escape from Rough Rorke, of headquarters; she did not have it
now - but she would have it, stake all and everything in life she
had to have it, for it, in itself, literally meant everything and
all - and Danglar would make a written confession, or else - or
else - She smiled mirthlessly. That was all! Last night she had
failed. To-night she would not fail. Before morning came, if it
were humanly within her power, she and Danglar would have played
out their game - to the end.
And now a pucker came and gathered her forehead into little furrows,
and anxiety and perplexity crept into her eyes. Another thought
tormented her. In the exposure that was to come the Adventurer,
alias the Pug, was involved. Was there any way to save the man to
whom she owed so much, the splendidly chivalrous, high-couraged
gentleman she loved, the thief she abhorred?
She pushed the remains of her frugal meal away from her, stood up
abruptly from the rickety washstand at which she had been seated,
and commenced to pace nervously up and down the stark, bare garret.
Where was the line of demarcation between right and wrong? Was it
a grievous sin, or an infinitely human thing to do, to warn the
man she loved, and give him a chance to escape the net she meant
to furnish the police? He was a thief, even a member of the gang
- though he used the gang as his puppets. Did ethics count when
one who had stood again and again between her and peril was himself
in danger now? Would it be a righteous thing, or an act of
despicable ingratitude, to trap him with the rest?
She laughed out shortly. Warn him! Of course, she would warn him!
But then - what? She shivered a little, and her face grew drawn and
tired. It was the old, old story of the pitcher and the well. It was
almost inevitable that sooner or later, for some crime or another,
the man she loved would be caught at last, and would spend the
greater portion of his days behind prison bars. That was what the
love that had come into her life held as its promise to her! It was
terrible enough without her agency being the means of placing him
She did not want to think about it. She forced her mind into other
channels, though they were scarcely less disquieting. Why was it
that during the day just past there had been not a sign from Danglar
or any one of the gang, when every plan of theirs had gone awry last
night, and she had failed to keep her appointment in the role of
Danglar's wife? Why was it? What did it mean? Surely Danglar
would never allow what had happened to pass unchallenged, and - was
that some one now?
She halted suddenly by the door to listen, her hand going
instinctively to the wide, voluminous pocket of her greasy skirt
for her revolver. Yes, there was a footstep in the hall below, but
it was descending now to the ground floor, not coming up. She even
heard the street door close, but still she hung there in a strained,
tense way, and into her face there came creeping a gray dismay. Her
pocket was empty.
The revolver was gone! Its loss, pregnant with a hundred ominous
possibilities, seemed to bring a panic fear upon her, holding her
for a moment inert - and then she rushed frantically to the cot.
Perhaps it had fallen out of her pocket during the hours she had
lain there asleep. She searched the folds of the soiled and
crumpled blanket, that was the cot's sole covering, then snatched
the blanket completely off the cot and shook it; and then, down on
her knees, she searched the floor under the cot. There was no sign
of the revolver.
Rhoda Gray stood up, and stared in a stunned way about her. Was
this, then, the explanation of her having seemingly been left
undisturbed here all through the day? Had some one, after all,
been here, and -? She shook her head suddenly with a quick,
emphatic gesture of dissent. The door was still locked, she
could see the key on the inside; and, besides, as a theory, it
wasn't logical. They wouldn't have taken her revolver and left
her placidly asleep!
The loss of the revolver was a vital matter. It was her one
safeguard; the one means by which she could first gain and
afterwards hold the whip-hand over Danglar in the interview she
proposed to have with him; the one means of escape, the last resort,
if she herself were cornered and fell into his power. It had
sustained her more than once, that resolution to turn it against
herself if she were in extremity. It meant everything to her, that
weapon, and it was gone now; but the panic that had seized upon her
was gone too, and she could think rationally and collectively again.
Last night, or rather this morning, when she had made her way back
to the shed out there in the lane behind the garret, she had been
in a state of almost utter exhaustion. She had changed from the
clothes of the White Moll to those of Gypsy Nan, but she must have
done so almost mechanically for she had no concrete recollection of
it. It was quite likely then, even more than probable, that she
had left the revolver in the pocket of her other clothes; for she
had certainly had, not only her revolver, but her flashlight and her
skeleton keys with her when she had visited old Luertz's place last
night, and later on too, when she had jumped into that automobile
in front of the Silver Sphinx, she had had her revolver, for she
had used it to force the chauffeur out of the car - and she had no
one of those articles now.
Of course! That was it! She stepped impulsively to the door, and,
opening it, made her way quickly down the stairs to the street. The
revolver was undoubtedly in the pocket of her other skirt, and she
felt a surge of relief sweep upon her; but a sense of relief was far
from enough. She would not feel safe until the weapon was again in
her possession, and intuitively she felt that she had no time to
lose in securing it. She had already been left too long alone not
to make a break in that unaccountable isolation they had accorded
her as something to be expected at any moment. She hurried now down
the street to the lane that intervened between Gypsy Nan's house
and the next corner, glanced quickly about her, and, seeing no one
in her immediate vicinity, slipped into the lane. She gained the
deserted shed some fifty yards along the lane, entered through the
broken door that hung, half open, on sagging hinges, and, dropping
on her knees, reached in under the decayed and rotting flooring.
She pushed aside impatiently the package of jewels, at whose
magnificence she had gazed awe-struck and bewildered the night
before, and drew out the bundle that comprised her own clothing.
Her hand sought the pocket eagerly. Yes, it was here - at least
the flashlight was, and so were the skeleton keys. That was what
had happened! She had been near utter collapse last night, and she
had forgotten, and - Rhoda Gray, unconscious even that she still
held the clothing in her hands, rose mechanically to her feet.
There was a sudden weariness in her eyes as she stared unseeingly
about her. Yes, the flashlight and the keys were here - but the
revolver was not! Her brain harked back in lightning flashes over
the events of the preceding night. She must have lost it somewhere,
then. Where? She had had it in the automobile, that she knew
positively; but after that she did not remember, unless - yes, it
must have been that! When she had jumped from the car and flung
herself down at the roadside! It must have fallen out of her
Her heart seemed to stand still. Suppose they had found it! They
would certainly recognize it as belonging to Gypsy Nan! They were
not fools. The deduction would be obvious - the identity of the
White Moll would be solved. Was that why no one had apparently
come near her? Were they playing at cat-and-mouse, watching her
before they struck, so that she would lead them to those jewels
under the flooring here that were worth a king's ransom? They
certainly believed that the White Moll had them. The Adventurer's
note, so ironically true, that he had intended as an alibi for
himself, and which he had exchanged for the package in old Luertz's
place, would have left no doubt in their minds but that the stones
were in her possession. Was that it? Were they - She held her
breath. It seemed as though suddenly her limbs were refusing to
support her weight. In the soft earth outside she had heard no
step, but she saw now a shadow fall athwart the half-open door-way.
There was no time to move, even had she been capable of action. It
seemed as though even her soul had turned to stone, and, with the
White Moll's clothes in her hands, she stood there staring at the
doorway, and something that was greater than fear, because it
mingled horror, ugly and forbidding, fell upon her. It was still
just light enough to see. The shadow moved forward and came inside.
She wanted to scream, to rush madly in retreat to the farthest
corner of the shed; but she could not move. It was Danglar who was
standing there. He seemed to sway a little on his feet, and the dark,
sinister face seemed blotched, and he seemed to smile as though
possessed of some unholy and perverted sense of humor.
She was helpless, at his mercy, unarmed, saved for her wits. Her wits!
Were wits any longer of avail? She could believe nothing else now
except that he had been watching her - before he struck.
"What are you doing here, and what are those clothes you've got in
your hands?" he rasped out.
She could only fence for time in the meager hope that some loophole
would present itself. She forced an assumed defiance into her tones
and manner, that was in keeping with the sort of armed truce, which,
from her first meeting with Danglar, she had inaugurated as a barrier
"You have asked me two questions," she said tartly. "Which one do
you want me to answer first?"
"Look here," he snapped, "you cut that out! There's one or two
things need explaining - see? What are those clothes?"
Her wits! Perhaps he did not know as much as she was afraid he did!
She seemed to have become abnormally contained, her mind abnormally
acute and active. It was not likely that the woman, his wife, whom
he believed she was, had worn her own clothes in his presence since
the day, some two years ago, when she had adopted the disguise of
Gypsy Nan; and she, Rhoda Gray, remembered that on the night Gypsy
Nan, re-assuming her true personality, had gone to the hospital, the
woman's clothes, like these she held now, had been of dark material.
It was not likely that a man would be able to differentiate between
those clothes and the clothes of the White Moll, especially as the
latter hung folded in her hands now, and even though he had seen
them on her at the Silver Sphinx last night.
"What clothes do you suppose they are but my own? - though I haven't
had a chance to wear them much lately!" she countered crisply.
He scowled at her speculatively.
"What are you doing with them out here in this hole, then?" he
"I had to wear them last night, hadn't I?" she retorted. "I'd have
looked well coming out of Gypsy Nan's garret dressed as myself if any
one had seen me! She scowled at him in turn. She was beginning to
believe that he had not even an inkling of her identity. Her safest
play was to stake everything on that belief. "Say, what's the matter
with you?" she inquired disdainfully. "I came out here and changed
last night; and I changed into these rags I'm wearing now when I got
back again; and I left my own clothes here because I was expecting to
get word that I could put them on again soon for keeps - though I
might have known from past experience that something would queer the
fine promises you made at Matty's last night! And the reason I'm out
here now is because I left some things in the pocket, amongst them"
- she stared at him mockingly -" my marriage certificate."
Danglar's face blackened.
"Curse you!" he burst out angrily. "When you get your tantrums on,
you've got a tongue, haven't you! You'd have been wearing your
clothes now, if you'd have done as you were told. You're the one
that queered things last night." His voice was rising; he was
rocking even more unsteadily upon his feet. "Why in hell weren't
you at the Silver Sphinx?"
Rhoda Gray squinted at him through Gypsy Nan's spectacles. She knew
an hysterical impulse to laugh outright in the sure consciousness of
supremacy over him now. The man had been drinking. He was by no
means drunk; but, on the other hand, he was by no means sober - and
she was certain now that, though she did not know how he had found
her here in the shed, not the slightest suspicion of her had entered
"I was at the Silver Sphinx," she announced coolly.
"You lie!" he said hoarsely. "You weren't! I told you to be there
at eleven, and you weren't. You lie! What are you lying to me for
- eh? I'll find out, you - you -"
Rhoda Gray dashed the clothes down on the floor at her feet, and
faced the man as though suddenly overcome in turn herself with
passion, shaking both closed fists at him.
"Don't you talk to me like that, Pierre Danglar!" she shrilled. "I
lie, do I? Well, I'll prove to you I don't! You said you were
going to have supper with Cloran at about eleven o'clock, and perhaps
I was a few minutes after that, but maybe you think it's easy to get
all this Gypsy Nan stuff off me face and all, and rig up in my own
clothes that I haven't seen for so long it's a wonder they hold
together at all. I lie, do I? Well, just as I got to the Silver
Sphinx, I saw a woman breaking her neck to get down the steps with
you after her. She jumped into the automobile it was doped out I
was to take, and you jumped into the other one, and both beat it
down the street. I thought you'd gone crazy. I was afraid that
Cloran would come out and recognize me, so I turned and ran, too.
The safest thing I could do was to get back into the Gypsy Nan game
again, and that's what I did. And I've been lying low ever since,
waiting to get word from some of you, and not a soul came near me.
You're a nice lot, you are! And now you come sneaking here and call
me a liar! How'd you get to this shed, anyway?"
Danglar pushed his hand in a heavy, confused way across his eyes.
"My God!" he said heavily. "So that's it, is it?" His voice became
suddenly conciliating in its tones. "Look here, Bertha, old girl,
don't get sore. I didn't understand, see? And there was a whole lot
that looked queer. We even lost the jewels at old Luertz's last
night. Do you know who that woman was? It was the White Moll! She
led us a chase all over Long Island, and -"
"The White Moll!" ejaculated Rhoda Gray. And then her laugh, short
and jeering, rang out. The tables were turned. She had him on the
defensive now. "You needn't tell me I She got away again, of course!
Why don't you hire a detective to help you? You make me weary! So,
it was the White Moll, was it? Well, I'm listening - only I'd like
to know first how you got here to this shed."
"There's nothing in that!" he answered impatiently. "There's
something more important to talk about. I was coming over to the
garret, and just as I reached the corner I saw you go into the lane.
I followed you; that's all there is to that."
"Oh!" she sniffed. She stared at him for a moment. There was
something in which there was the uttermost of irony now, it seemed,
in this meeting between them. Last night she had striven to meet him
alone, and she had meant to devote to-night to the same purpose; and
she was here with him now, and in a place than which, in her wildest
hopes, she could have imagined one no better suited to the reckoning
she would have demanded and forced. And she was helpless, powerless
to make use of it. She was unarmed. Her revolver was gone. Without
that to protect her, at an intimation that she was the White Moll she
would never leave the shed alive. The spot would be quite as ideal
under those circumstances for him, as it would have been under other
circumstances for her. She shrugged her shoulders. Danglar's
continued silence evidently invited further comment on her part. "Oh!"
she sniffed again. "And I suppose, then, that you have been chasing
the White Moll ever since last night at eleven, and that's why you
didn't get around sooner to allay my fears, even though you knew I
must be half mad with anxiety at the way things broke last night.
She'll have us down and out for keeps if you haven't got brains enough
to beat her. How much longer is this thing going on?"