Sunday, October 7, 2007



by Frank L. Packard
Among New York's fashionable and ultra-exclusive clubs, the St.
James stood an acknowledged leader--more men, perhaps, cast an
envious eye at its portals, of modest and unassuming taste, as they
passed by on Fifth Avenue, than they did at any other club upon the
long list that the city boasts. True, there were more expensive
clubs upon whose membership roll scintillated more stars of New
York's social set, but the St. James was distinctive. It guaranteed
a man, so to speak--that is, it guaranteed a man to be innately a
gentleman. It required money, it is true, to keep up one's
membership, but there were many members who were not wealthy, as
wealth is measured nowadays--there were many, even, who were pressed
sometimes to meet their dues and their house accounts, but the
accounts were invariably promptly paid. No man, once in, could ever
afford, or ever had the desire, to resign from the St. James Club.
Its membership was cosmopolitan; men of every walk in life passed in
and out of its doors, professional men and business men, physicians,
artists, merchants, authors, engineers, each stamped with the
"hall mark" of the St. James, an innate gentleman. To receive a two
weeks' out-of-town visitor's card to the St. James was something to
speak about, and men from Chicago, St. Louis, or San Francisco spoke
of it with a sort of holier-than-thou air to fellow members of their
own exclusive clubs, at home again.
Is there any doubt that Jimmie Dale was a gentleman--an INNATE
gentleman? Jimmie Dale's father had been a member of the St. James
Club, and one of the largest safe manufacturers of the United
States, a prosperous, wealthy man, and at Jimmie Dale's birth he had
proposed his son's name for membership. It took some time to get
into the St. James; there was a long waiting list that neither
money, influence, nor pull could alter by so much as one iota. Men
proposed their sons' names for membership when they were born as
religiously as they entered them upon the city's birth register. At
twenty-one Jimmie Dale was elected to membership; and, incidentally,
that same year, graduated from Harvard. It was Mr. Dale's desire
that his son should enter the business and learn it from the ground
up, and Jimmie Dale, for four years thereafter, had followed his
father's wishes. Then his father died. Jimmie Dale had leanings
toward more artistic pursuits than business. He was credited with
sketching a little, writing a little; and he was credited with
having received a very snug amount from the combine to which he sold
out his safe-manufacturing interests. He lived a bachelor life--his
mother had been dead many years--in the house that his father had
left him on Riverside Drive, kept a car or two and enough servants
to run his menage smoothly, and serve a dinner exquisitely when he
felt hospitably inclined.
Could there be any doubt that Jimmie Dale was innately a gentleman?
It was evening, and Jimmie Dale sat at a small table in the corner
of the St. James Club dining room. Opposite him sat Herman
Carruthers, a young man of his own age, about twenty-six, a leading
figure in the newspaper world, whose rise from reporter to managing
editor of the morning NEWS-ARGUS within the short space of a few
years had been almost meteoric.
They were at coffee and cigars, and Jimmie Dale was leaning back in
his chair, his dark eyes fixed interestedly on his guest.
Carruthers, intently engaged in trimming his cigar ash on the edge
of the Limoges china saucer of his coffee set, looked up with an
abrupt laugh.
"No; I wouldn't care to go on record as being an advocate of crime,"
he said whimsically; "that would never do. But I don't mind
admitting quite privately that it's been a positive regret to me
that he has gone."
"Made too good 'copy' to lose, I suppose?" suggested Jimmie Dale
quizzically. "Too bad, too, after working up a theatrical name like
that for him--the Gray Seal--rather unique! Who stuck that on him--
Carruthers laughed--then, grown serious, leaned toward Jimmie Dale.
"You don't mean to say, Jimmie, that you don't know about that, do
you?" he asked incredulously. "Why, up to a year ago the papers
were full of him."
"I never read your beastly agony columns," said Jimmie Dale, with a
cheery grin.
"Well," said Carruthers, "you must have skipped everything but the
stock reports then."
"Granted," said Jimmie Dale. "So go on, Carruthers, and tell me
about him--I dare say I may have heard of him, since you are so
distressed about it, but my memory isn't good enough to contradict
anything you may have to say about the estimable gentleman, so
you're safe."
Carruthers reverted to the Limoges saucer and the tip of his cigar.
"He was the most puzzling, bewildering, delightful crook in the
annals of crime," said Carruthers reminiscently, after a moment's
silence. "Jimmie, he was the king-pin of them all. Clever isn't
the word for him, or dare-devil isn't either. I used to think
sometimes his motive was more than half for the pure deviltry of it,
to laugh at the police and pull the noses of the rest of us that
were after him. I used to dream nights about those confounded gray
seals of his--that's where he got his name; he left every job he
ever did with a little gray paper affair, fashioned diamond-shaped,
stuck somewhere where it would be the first thing your eyes would
light upon when you reached the scene, and--"
"Don't go so fast," smiled Jimmie Dale. "I don't quite get the
connection. What did you have to do with this--er--Gray Seal
fellow? Where do you come in?"
"I? I had a good deal to do with him," said Carruthers grimly. "I
was a reporter when he first broke loose, and the ambition of my
life, after I began really to appreciate what he was, was to get
him--and I nearly did, half a dozen times, only--"
"Only you never quite did, eh?" cut in Jimmie Dale slyly. "How near
did you get, old man? Come on, now, no bluffing; did the Gray Seal
ever even recognise you as a factor in the hare-and-hound game?"
"You're flicking on the raw, Jimmie," Carruthers answered, with a
wry grimace. "He knew me, all right, confound him! He favoured me
with several sarcastic notes--I'll show 'em to you some day--
explaining how I'd fallen down and how I could have got him if I'd
done something else." Carruthers' fist came suddenly down on the
table. "And I would have got him, too, if he had lived."
"Lived!" ejaculated Jimmie Dale. "He's dead, then?"
"Yes," averted Carruthers; "he's dead."
"H'm!" said Jimmie Dale facetiously. "I hope the size of the wreath
you sent was an adequate tribute of your appreciation."
"I never sent any wreath," returned Carruthers, "for the very simple
reason that I didn't know where to send it, or when he died. I said
he was dead because for over a year now he hasn't lifted a finger."
"Rotten poor evidence, even for a newspaper," commented Jimmie Dale.
"Why not give him credit for having, say--reformed?"
Carruthers shook his head. "You don't get it at all, Jimmie," he
said earnestly. "The Gray Seal wasn't an ordinary crook--he was a
classic. He was an artist, and the art of the thing was in his
blood. A man like that could no more stop than he could stop
breathing--and live. He's dead; there's nothing to it but that--
he's dead. I'd bet a year's salary on it."
"Another good man gone wrong, then," said Jimmie Dale capriciously.
"I suppose, though, that at least you discovered the 'woman in the
Carruthers looked up quickly, a little startled; then laughed
"What's the matter?" inquired Jimmie Dale.
"Nothing," said Carruthers. "You kind of got me for a moment,
that's all. That's the way those infernal notes from the Gray Seal
used to end up: 'Find the lady, old chap; and you'll get me.' He
had a damned patronising familiarity that would make you squirm."
"Poor old Carruthers!" grinned Jimmie Dale. "You did take it to
heart, didn't you?"
"I'd have sold my soul to get him--and so would you, if you had been
in my boots," said Carruthers, biting nervously at the end of his
"And been sorry for it afterward," supplied Jimmie Dale.
"Yes, by Jove, you're right!" admitted Carruthers, "I suppose I
should. I actually got to love the fellow--it was the GAME, really,
that I wanted to beat."
"Well, and how about this woman? Keep on the straight and narrow
path, old man," prodded Jimmie Dale.
"The woman?" Carruthers smiled. "Nothing doing! I don't believe
there was one--he wouldn't have been likely to egg the police and
reporters on to finding her if there had been, would he? It was a
blind, of course. He worked alone, absolutely alone. That's the
secret of his success, according to my way of thinking. There was
never so much as an indication that he had had an accomplice in
anything he ever did."
Jimmie Dale's eyes travelled around the club's homelike, perfectly
appointed room. He nodded to a fellow member here and there, then
his eyes rested musingly on his guest again.
Carruthers was staring thoughtfully at his coffee cup.
"He was the prince of crooks and the father of originality,"
announced Carruthers abruptly, following the pause that had ensued.
"Half the time there wasn't any more getting at the motive for the
curious things he did, than there was getting at the Gray Seal
"Carruthers," said Jimmy Dale, with a quick little nod of approval,
"you're positively interesting to-night. But, so far, you've been
kind of scouting around the outside edges without getting into the
thick of it. Let's have some of your experiences with the Gray Seal
in detail; they ought to make ripping fine yarns."
"Not to-night, Jimmie," said Carruthers; "it would take too long."
He pulled out his watch mechanically as he spoke, glanced at it--and
pushed back his chair. "Great Scott!" he exclaimed. "It's nearly
half-past nine. I'd no idea we had lingered so long over dinner.
I'll have to hurry; we're a morning paper, you know, Jimmie."
"What! Really! Is it as late as that." Jimmie Dale rose from his
chair as Carruthers stood up. "Well, if you must--"
"I must," said Carruthers, with a laugh.
"All right, O slave." Jimmie Dale laughed back--and slipped his
hand, a trick of their old college days together, through
Carruthers' arm as they left the room.
He accompanied Carruthers downstairs to the door of the club, and
saw his guest into a taxi; then he returned inside, sauntered
through the billiard room, and from there into one of the cardrooms,
where, pressed into a game, he played several rubbers of bridge
before going home.
It was, therefore, well on toward midnight when Jimmie Dale arrived
at his house on Riverside Drive, and was admitted by an elderly
"Hello, Jason," said Jimmie Dale pleasantly. "You still up!"
"Yes, sir," replied Jason, who had been valet to Jimmie Dale's
father before him. "I was going to bed, sir, at about ten o'clock,
when a messenger came with a letter. Begging your pardon, sir, a
young lady, and--"
"Jason"--Jimmie Dale flung out the interruption, sudden, quick,
imperative--"what did she look like?"
"Why--why, I don't exactly know as I could describe her, sir,"
stammered Jason, taken aback. "Very ladylike, sir, in her dress and
appearance, and what I would call, sir, a beautiful face."
"Hair and eyes--what color?" demanded Jimmie Dale crisply. "Nose,
lips, chin--what shape?"
"Why, sir," gasped Jason, staring at his master, "I--I don't rightly
know. I wouldn't call her fair or dark, something between. I
didn't take particular notice, and it wasn't overlight outside the
"It's too bad you weren't a younger man, Jason," commented Jimmie
Dale, with a curious tinge of bitterness in his voice. "I'd have
given a year's income for your opportunity to-night, Jason."
"Yes, sir," said Jason helplessly.
"Well, go on," prompted Jimmie Dale. "You told her I wasn't home,
and she said she knew it, didn't she? And she left the letter that
I was on no account to miss receiving when I got back, though there
was no need of telephoning me to the club--when I returned would do,
but it was imperative that I should have it then--eh?"
"Good Lord, sir!" ejaculated Jason, his jaw dropped, that's exactly
what she did say."
"Jason," said Jimmie Dale grimly, "listen to me. If ever she comes
here again, inveigle her in. If you can't inveigle her, use force;
capture her, pull her in, do anything--do anything, do you hear?
Only don't let her get away from you until I've come."
Jason gazed at his master as though the other had lost his reason.
"Use force, sir?" he repeated weakly--and shook his head. "You--you
can't mean that, sir."
"Can't I?" inquired Jimmie Dale, with a mirthless smile. "I mean
every word of it, Jason--and if I thought there was the slightest
chance of her giving you the opportunity, I'd be more imperative
still. As it is--where's the letter?"
"On the table in your studio, sir," said Jason, mechanically.
Jimmie Dale started toward the stairs--then turned and came back to
where Jason, still shaking his head heavily, had been gazing
anxiously after his master. Jimmie Dale laid his hand on the old
man's shoulder.
"Jason," he said kindly, with a swift change of mood, "you've been a
long time in the family--first with father, and now with me. You'd
do a good deal for me, wouldn't you?"
"I'd do anything in the world for you, Master Jim," said the old man
"Well, then, remember this," said Jimmie Dale slowly, looking into
the other's eyes, "remember this--keep your mouth shut and your eyes
open. It's my fault. I should have warned you long ago, but I
never dreamed that she would ever come here herself. There have
been times when it was practically a matter of life and death to me
to know who that woman is that you saw to-night. That's all, Jason.
Now go to bed."
"Master Jim," said the old man simply, "thank you, sir, thank you
for trusting me. I've dandled you on my knee when you were a baby,
Master Jim. I don't know what it's about, and it isn't for me to
ask. I thought, sir, that maybe you were having a little fun with
me. But I know now, and you can trust me, Master Jim, if she ever
comes again."
"Thank you, Jason," said Jimmie Dale, his hand closing with an
appreciative pressure on the other's shoulder "Good-night, Jason."
Upstairs on the first landing, Jimmie Dale opened a door, closed and
locked it behind him--and the electric switch clicked under his
fingers. A glow fell softly from a cluster of shaded ceiling
lights. It was a large room, a very large room, running the entire
depth of the house, and the effect of apparent disorder in the
arrangement of its appointments seemed to breathe a sense of charm.
There were great cozy, deep, leather-covered lounging chairs, a
huge, leather-covered davenport, and an easel or two with halffinished
sketches upon them; the walls were panelled, the panels of
exquisite grain and matching; in the centre of the room stood a
flat-topped rosewood desk; upon the floor was a dark, heavy velvet
rug; and, perhaps most inviting of all, there was a great, oldfashioned
fireplace at one side of the room.
For an instant Jimmie Dale remained quietly by the door, as though
listening. Six feet he stood, muscular in every line of his body,
like a well-trained athlete with no single ounce of superfluous fat
about him--the grace and ease of power in his poise. His strong,
clean-shaven face, as the light fell upon it now, was serious--a
mood that became him well--the firm lips closed, the dark, reliant
eyes a little narrowed, a frown on the broad forehead, the square
jaw clamped.
Then abruptly he walked across the room to the desk, picked up an
envelope that lay upon it, and, turning again, dropped into the
nearest lounging chair.
There had been no doubt in his mind, none to dispel. It was
precisely what he had expected from almost the first word Jason had
spoken. It was the same handwriting, the same texture of paper, and
there was the same old haunting, rare, indefinable fragrance about
it. Jimmie Dale's hands turned the envelope now this way, now that,
as he looked at it. Wonderful hands were Jimmie Dale's, with long,
slim, tapering fingers whose sensitive tips seemed now as though
they were striving to decipher the message within.
He laughed suddenly, a little harshly, and tore open the envelope.
Five closely written sheets fell into his hand. He read them
slowly, critically, read them over again; and then, his eyes on the
rug at his feet, he began to tear the paper into minute pieces
between his fingers, depositing the pieces, as he tore them, upon
the arm of his chair. The five sheets demolished, his fingers
dipped into the heap of shreds on the arm of the chair and tore them
over and over again, tore them until they were scarcely larger than
bits of confetti, tore at them absently and mechanically, his eyes
never shifting from the rug at his feet.
Then with a shrug of his shoulders, as though rousing himself to
present reality, a curious smile flickering on his lips, he brushed
the pieces of paper into one hand, carried them to the empty
fireplace, laid them down in a little pile, and set them afire.
Lighting a cigarette, he watched them burn until the last glow had
gone from the last charred scrap; then he crunched and scattered
them with the brass-handled fender brush, and, retracing his steps
across the room, flung back a portiere from where it hung before a
little alcove, and dropped on his knees in front of a round, squat,
barrel-shaped safe--one of his own design and planning in the years
when he had been with his father.
His slim, sensitive fingers played for an instant among the knobs
and dials that studded the door, guided, it seemed by the sense of
touch alone--and the door swung open. Within was another door, with
locks and bolts as intricate and massive as the outer one. This,
too, he opened; and then from the interior took out a short, thick,
rolled-up leather bundle tied together with thongs. He rose from
his knees, closed the safe, and drew the portiere across the alcove
again. With the bundle under his arm, he glanced sharply around the
room, listened intently, then, unlocking the door that gave on the
hall, he switched off the lights and went to his dressing room, that
was on the same floor. Here, divesting himself quickly of his
dinner clothes, he selected a dark tweed suit with loose-fitting,
sack coat from his wardrobe, and began to put it on.
Dressed, all but his coat and vest, he turned to the leather bundle
that he had placed on a table, untied the thongs, and carefully
opened it out to its full length--and again that curious, cryptic
smile tinged his lips. Rolled the opposite away from that in which
it had been tied up, the leather strip made a wide belt that went on
somewhat after the fashion of a life preserver, the thongs being
used for shoulder straps--a belt that, once on, the vest would hide
completely, and, fitting close, left no telltale bulge in the outer
garments. It was not an ordinary belt; it was full of stout-sewn,
up-right little pockets all the way around, and in the pockets
grimly lay an array of fine, blued-steel, highly tempered
instruments--a compact, powerful burglar's kit.
The slim, sensitive fingers passed with almost a caressing touch
over the vicious little implements, and from one of the pockets
extracted a thin, flat metal case. This Jimmie Dale opened, and
glanced inside--between sheets of oil paper lay little rows of GRAY,
Jimmie Dale snapped the case shut, returned it to its recess, and
from another took out a black silk mask. He held it up to the light
for examination.
"Pretty good shape after a year," muttered Jimmie Dale, replacing
He put on the belt, then his vest and coat. From the drawer of his
dresser he took an automatic revolver and an electric flashlight,
slipped them into his pocket, and went softly downstairs. From the
hat stand he chose a black slouch hat, pulled it well over his eyes--
and left the house.
Jimmie Dale walked down a block, then hailed a bus and mounted to
the top. It was late, and he found himself the only passenger. He
inserted his dime in the conductor's little resonant-belled cash
receiver, and then settled back on the uncomfortable, bumping,
cushionless seat.
On rattled the bus; it turned across town, passed the Circle, and
headed for Fifth Avenue--but Jimmie Dale, to all appearances, was
quite oblivious of its movements.
It was a year since she had written him. SHE! Jimmie Dale did not
smile, his lips were pressed hard together. Not a very intimate or
personal appellation, that--but he knew her by no other. It WAS a
woman, surely--the hand-writing was feminine, the diction eminently
so--and had SHE not come herself that night to Jason! He remembered
the last letter, apart from the one to-night, that he had received
from her. It was a year ago now--and the letter had been hardly
more than a note. The police had worked themselves into a frenzy
over the Gray Seal, the papers had grown absolutely maudlin--and she
had written, in her characteristic way:
Things are a little too warm, aren't they, Jimmie? Let's let them
cool for a year.
Since then until to-night he had heard nothing from her. It was a
strange compact that he had entered into--so strange that it could
never have known, could never know a parallel--unique, dangerous,
bizarre, it was all that and more. It had begun really through his
connection with his father's business--the business of manufacturing
safes that should defy the cleverest criminals--when his brains,
turned into that channel, had been pitted against the underworld,
against the methods of a thousand different crooks from Maine to
California, the report of whose every operation had reached him in
the natural course of business, and every one of which he had
studied in minutest detail. It had begun through that--but at the
bottom of it was his own restless, adventurous spirit.
He had meant to set the police by the ears, using his gray-seal
device both as an added barb and that no innocent bystander of the
underworld, innocent for once, might be involved--he had meant to
laugh at them and puzzle them to the verge of madness, for in the
last analysis they would find only an abortive attempt at crime--and
he had succeeded. And then he had gone too far--and he had been
caught--by HER. That string of pearls, which, to study whose effect
facetiously, he had so idiotically wrapped around his wrist, and
which, so ironically, he had been unable to loosen in time and had
been forced to carry with him in his sudden, desperate dash to
escape from Marx's the big jeweler's, in Maiden Lane, whose strong
room he had toyed with one night, had been the lever which, AT
FIRST, she had held over him.
The bus was on Fifth Avenue now, and speeding rapidly down the
deserted thoroughfare. Jimmie Dale looked up at the lighted windows
of the St. James Club as they went by, smiled whimsically, and
shifted in his seat, seeking a more comfortable position.
She had caught him--how he did not know--he had never seen her--did
not know who she was, though time and again he had devoted all his
energies for months at a stretch to a solution of the mystery. The
morning following the Maiden Lane affair, indeed, before he had
breakfasted, Jason had brought him the first letter from her. It
had started by detailing his every move of the night before--and it
had ended with an ultimatum: "The cleverness, the originality of the
Gray Seal as a crook lacked but one thing," she had naively written,
"and that one thing was that his crookedness required a leading
string to guide it into channels that were worthy of his genius."
In a word, SHE would plan the coups, and he would act at her
dictation and execute them--or else how did twenty years in Sing
Sing for that little Maiden Lane affair appeal to him? He was to
answer by the next morning, a simple "yes" or "no" in the personal
column of the morning NEWS-ARGUS.
A threat to a man like Jimmie Dale was like flaunting a red rag at a
bull, and a rage ungovernable had surged upon him. Then cold reason
had come. He was caught--there was no question about that--she had
taken pains to show him that he need make no mistake there.
Innocent enough in his own conscience, as far as actual theft went,
for the pearls would in due course be restored in some way to the
possession of their owner, he would have been unable to make even
his own father, who was alive then, believe in his innocence, let
alone a jury of his peers. Dishonour, shame, ignominy, a long
prison sentence, stared him in the face, and there was but one
alternative--to link hands with this unseen, mysterious accomplice.
Well, he could at least temporise, he could always "queer" a game in
some specious manner, if he were pushed too far. And so, in the
next morning's NEWS-ARGUS, Jimmie Dale had answered "yes." And then
had followed those years in which there had been NO temporising, in
which every plan was carried out to the last detail, those years of
curious, unaccountable, bewildering affairs that Carruthers had
spoken of, one on top of another, that had shaken the old
headquarters on Mulberry Street to its foundations, until the Gray
Seal had become a name to conjure with. And, yes, it was quite
true, he had entered into it all, gone the limit, with an eagerness
that was insatiable.
The bus had reached the lower end of Fifth Avenue, passed through
Washington Square, and stopped at the end of its run. Jimmie Dale
clambered down from the top, threw a pleasant "good-night" to the
conductor, and headed briskly down the street before him. A little
later he crossed into West Broadway, and his pace slowed to a
leisurely stroll.
Here, at the upper end of the street, was a conglomerate business
section of rather inferior class, catering doubtless to the poor,
foreign element that congregated west of Broadway proper, and to the
south of Washington Square. The street was, at first glance,
deserted; it was dark and dreary, with stores and lofts on either
side. An elevated train roared by overhead, with a thunderous,
deafening clamour. Jimmie Dale, on the right-hand side of the
street, glanced interestedly at the dark store windows as he went
by. And then, a block ahead, on the other side, his eyes rested on
an approaching form. As the other reached the corner and paused,
and the light from the street lamp glinted on brass buttons, Jimmie
Dale's eyes narrowed a little under his slouch hat. The policeman,
although nonchalantly swinging a nightstick, appeared to be watching
Jimmie Dale went on half a block farther, stooped to the sidewalk to
tie his shoe, glanced back over his shoulder--the policeman was not
in sight--and slipped like a shadow into the alleyway beside which
he had stopped.
It was another Jimmie Dale now--the professional Jimmie Dale. Quick
as a cat, active, lithe, he was over a six foot fence in the rear of
a building in a flash, and crouched a black shape, against the back
door of an unpretentious, unkempt, dirty, secondhand shop that
fronted on West Broadway--the last place certainly in all New York
that the managing editor of the NEWS-ARGUS, or any one else, for
that matter, would have picked out as the setting for the second
debut of the Gray Seal.
From the belt around his waist, Jimmie Dale took the black silk
mask, and slipped it on; and from the belt, too, came a little
instrument that his deft fingers manipulated in the lock. A curious
snipping sound followed. Jimmie Dale put his weight gradually
against the door. The door held fast.
"Bolted," said Jimmie Dale to himself.
The sensitive fingers travelled slowly up and down the side of the
door, seeming to press and feel for the position of the bolt through
an inch of plank--then from the belt came a tiny saw, thin and
pointed at the end, that fitted into the little handle drawn from
another receptacle in the leather girdle beneath the unbuttoned
Hardly a sound it made as it bit into the door. Half a minute
passed--there was the faint fall of a small piece of wood--into the
aperture crept the delicate, tapering fingers--came a slight rasping
of metal--then the door swung back, the dark shadow that had been
Jimmie Dale vanished and the door closed again.
A round, white beam of light glowed for an instant--and disappeared.
A miscellaneous, lumbering collection of junk and odds and ends
blocked the entry, leaving no more space than was sufficient for
bare passageway. Jimmie Dale moved cautiously--and once more the
flashlight in his hand showed the way for an instant--then darkness
The cluttered accumulation of secondhand stuff in the rear gave
place to a little more orderly arrangement as he advanced toward the
front of the store. Like a huge firefly, the flashlight twinkled,
went out, twinkled again, and went out. He passed a sort of crude,
partitioned-off apartment that did duty for the establishment's
office, a sort of little boxed-in place it was, about in the middle
of the floor. Jimmie Dale's light played on it for a moment. but
he kept on toward the front door without any pause.
Every movement was quick, sure, accurate, with not a wasted second.
It had been barely a minute since he had vaulted the back fence. It
was hardly a quarter of a minute more before the cumbersome lock of
the front door was unfastened, and the door itself pulled
imperceptibly ajar.
He went swiftly back to the office now--and found it even more of a
shaky, cheap affair than it had at first appeared; more like a box
stall with windows around the top than anything else, the windows
doubtless to permit the occupant to overlook the store from the
vantage point of the high stool that stood before a long, battered,
wobbly desk. There was a door to the place, too, but the door was
open and the key was in the lock. The ray of Jimmie Dale's
flashlight swept once around the interior--and rested on an antique,
ponderous safe.
Under the mask Jimmie Dale's lips parted in a smile that seemed
almost apologetic, as he viewed the helpless iron monstrosity that
was little more than an insult to a trained cracksman. Then from
the belt came the thin metal case and a pair of tweezers. He opened
the case, and with the tweezers lifted out one of the gray-coloured,
diamond-shaped seals. Holding the seal with the tweezers, he
moistened the gummed side with his lips, then laid it on a
handkerchief which he took from his pocket, and clapped the
handkerchief against the front of the safe, sticking the seal
conspicuously into place. Jimmie Dale's insignia bore no finger
prints. The microscopes and magnifying glasses at headquarters had
many a time regretfully assured the police of that fact.
And now his hands and fingers seemed to work like lightning. Into
the soft iron bit a drill--bit in and through--bit in and through
again. It was dark, pitch black--and silent. Not a sound, save the
quick, dull rasp of the ratchet--like the distant gnawing of a
mouse! Jimmie Dale worked fast--another hole went through the face
of the old-fashioned safe--and then suddenly he straightened up to
listen, every faculty tense, alert, and strained, his body thrown a
little forward. WHAT WAS THAT!
From the alleyway leading from the street without, through which he
himself had come, sounded the stealthy crunch of feet. Motionless
in the utter darkness, Jimmie Dale listened--there was a scraping
noise in the rear--someone was climbing the fence that he had
In an instant the tools in Jimmie Dale's hands disappeared into
their respective pockets beneath his vest--and the sensitive fingers
shot to the dial on the safe.
"Too bad," muttered Jimmie Dale plaintively to himself. I could
have made such an artistic job of it--I swear I could have cut
Carruthers' profile in the hole in less than no time--to open it
like this is really taking the poor old thing at a disadvantage."
He was on his knees now, one ear close to the dial, listening as the
tumblers fell, while the delicate fingers spun the knob unerringly--
the other ear strained toward the rear of the premises.
Came a footstep--a ray of light--a stumble--nearer--the newcomer was
inside the place now, and must have found out that the back door had
been tampered with. Nearer came the steps--still nearer--and then
the safe door swung open under Jimmie Dale's hand, and Jimmie Dale,
that he might not be caught like a rat in a trap, darted from the
office--but he had delayed a little too long.
From around the cluttered piles of junk and miscellany swept the
light--full on Jimmie Dale. Hesitation for the smallest fraction of
a second would have been fatal, but hesitation was something that in
all his life Jimmie Dale had never known. Quick as a panther in its
spring, he leaped full at the light and the man behind it. The
rough voice, in surprised exclamation at the sudden discovery of the
quarry, died in a gasp.
There was a crash as the two men met--and the other reeled back
before the impact. Onto him Jimmie Dale sprang, and his hands flew
for the other's throat. It was an officer in uniform! Jimmie Dale
had felt the brass buttons as they locked. In the darkness there
was a queer smile on Jimmie Dale's tight lips. It was no doubt THE
officer whom he had passed on the other side of the street.
The other was a smaller man than Jimmie Dale, but powerful for his
build--and he fought now with all his strength. This way and that
the two men reeled, staggered, swayed, panting and gasping; and
then--they had lurched back close to the office door--with a sudden
swing, every muscle brought into play for a supreme effort, Jimmie
Dale hurled the other from him, sending the man sprawling back to
the floor of the office, and in the winking of an eye had slammed
shut the door and turned the key.
There was a bull-like roar, the shrill CHEEP-CHEEP-CHEEP of the
patrolman's whistle, and a shattering crash as the officer flung his
body against the partition--then the bark of a revolver shot, the
tinkle of breaking glass, as the man fired through the office
window--and past Jimmie Dale, speeding now for the front door, a
bullet hummed viciously.
Out on the street dashed Jimmie Dale, whipping the mask from his
face--and glanced like a hawk around him. For all the racket, the
neighbourhood had not yet been aroused--no one was in sight. From
just overhead came the rattle of a downtown elevated train. In a
hundred-yard sprint, Jimmie Dale raced it a half block to the
station, tore up the steps--and a moment later dropped nonchalantly
into a seat and pulled an evening newspaper from his pocket.
Jimmie Dale got off at the second station down, crossed the street,
mounted the steps of the elevated again, and took the next train
uptown. His movements appeared to be somewhat erratic--he alighted
at the station next above the one by which he had made his escape.
Looking down the street it was too dark to see much of anything, but
a confused noise as of a gathering crowd reached him from what was
about the location of the secondhand store. He listened
appreciatively for a moment.
"Isn't it a perfectly lovely night?" said Jimmie Dale amiably to
himself. "And to think of that cop running away with the idea that
I didn't see him when he hid in a doorway after I passed the corner!
Well, well, strange--isn't it?"
With another glance down the street, a whimsical lift of his
shoulders, he headed west into the dilapidated tenement quarter that
huddled for a handful of blocks near by, just south of Washington
Square. It was a little after one o'clock in the morning now and
the pedestrians were casual. Jimmie Dale read the street signs on
the corners as he went along, turned abruptly into an intersecting
street, counted the tenements from the corner as he passed, and--for
the eye of any one who might be watching--opened the street door of
one of them quite as though he were accustomed and had a perfect
right to do so, and went inside.
It was murky and dark within; hot, unhealthy, with lingering smells
of garlic and stale cooking. He groped for the stairs and started
up. He climbed one flight, then another--and one more to the top.
Here, treading softly, he made an examination of the landing with a
view, evidently, to obtaining an idea of the location and the number
of doors that opened off from it.
His selection fell on the third door from the head of the stairs--
there were four all told, two apartments of two rooms each. He
paused for an instant to adjust the black silk mask, tried the door
quietly, found it unlocked, opened it with a sudden, quick, brisk
movement--and, stepping in side, leaned with his back against it.
"Good-morning," said Jimmie Dale pleasantly.
It was a squalid place, a miserable hole, in which a single
flickering, yellow gas jet gave light. It was almost bare of
furniture; there was nothing but a couple of cheap chairs, a rickety
table--unpawnable. A boy, he was hardly more than that, perhaps
twenty-two, from a posture in which he was huddled across the table
with head buried in out-flung arms, sprang with a startled cry to
his feet.
"Good-morning," said Jimmie Dale again. "Your name's Hagan, Bert
Hagan--isn't it? And you work for Isaac Brolsky in the secondhand
shop over on West Broadway--don't you?"
The boy's lips quivered, and the gaunt, hollow, half-starved face,
white, ashen-white now, was pitiful.
"I--I guess you got me," he faltered "I--I suppose you're a plainclothes
man, though I never knew dicks wore masks."
"They don't generally," said Jimmie Dale coolly. "It's a fad of
mine--Bert Hagan."
The lad, hanging to the table, turned his head away for a moment--
and there was silence.
Presently Hagan spoke again. "I'll go," he said numbly. I won't
make any trouble. Would--would you mind not speaking loud? I--I
wouldn't like her to know."
"Her?" said Jimmie Dale softly.
The boy tiptoed across the room, opened a connecting door a little,
peered inside, opened it a little wider--and looked over his
shoulder at Jimmie Dale.
Jimmie Dale crossed to the boy, looked inside the other room--and
his lip twitched queerly, as the sight sent a quick, hurt throb
through his heart. A young woman, younger than the boy, lay on a
tumble-down bed, a rag of clothing over her--her face with a
deathlike pallor upon it, as she lay in what appeared to be a
stupor. She was ill, critically ill; it needed no trained eye to
discern a fact all too apparent to the most casual observer. The
squalor, the glaring poverty here, was even more pitifully in
evidence than in the other room--only here upon a chair beside the
bed was a cluster of medicine bottles and a little heap of fruit.
Jimmie Dale drew back silently as the boy closed the door.
Hagan walked to the table and picked up his hat.
"I'm--I'm ready," he said brokenly. "Let's go."
"Just a minute," said Jimmie Dale. "Tell us about it."
"Twon't take long," said Hagan, trying to smile. "She's my wife.
The sickness took all we had. I--I kinder got behind in the rent
and things. They were going to fire us out of here--to-morrow. And
there wasn't any money for the medicine, and--and the things she had
to have. Maybe you wouldn't have done it--but I did. I couldn't
see her dying there for the want of something a little money'd buy--
and--and I couldn't"--he caught his voice in a little sob--"I
couldn't see her thrown out on the street like that."
"And so," said Jimmie Dale, "instead of putting old Isaac's cash in
the safe this evening when you locked up, you put it in your pocket
instead--eh? Didn't you know you'd get caught?"
"What did it matter?" said the boy. He was twirling his misshappen
hat between his fingers. "I knew they'd know it was me in the
morning when old Isaac found it gone, because there wasn't anybody
else to do it. But I paid the rent for four months ahead to-night,
and I fixed it so's she'd have medicine and things to eat. I was
going to beat it before daylight myself--I"--he brushed his hand
hurriedly across his cheek--"I didn't want to go--to leave her till
I had to."
"Well, say"--there was wonderment in Jimmie Dale's tones, and his
English lapsed into ungrammatical, reassuring vernacular--"ain't
that queer! Say, I'm no detective. Gee, kid, did you think I was?
Say, listen to this! I cracked old Isaac's safe half an hour ago--
and I guess there won't be any idea going around that you got the
money and I pulled a lemon. Say, I ain't superstitious, but it
looks like luck meant you to have another chance, don't it?"
The hat dropped from Hagan's hands to the floor, and he swayed a
"You--you ain't a dick!" he stammered. "Then how'd you know about
me and my name when you found the safe empty? Who told you?"
A wry grimace spread suddenly over Jimmie Dale's face beneath the
mask, and he swallowed hard. Jimmie Dale would have given a good
deal to have been able to answer that question himself.
"Oh, that!" said Jimmie Dale. "That's easy--I knew you worked
there. Say, it's the limit, ain't it? Talk about your luck being
in, why all you've got to do is to sit tight and keep your mouth
shut, and you're safe as a church. Only say, what are you going to
do about the money, now you've got a four months' start and are kind
of landed on your feet?
"Do?" said the boy. "I'll pay it back, little by little. I meant
to. I ain't no--" He stopped abruptly.
"Crook," supplied Jimmie Dale pleasantly. "Spit it right out, kid;
you won't hurt my feelings none. Well, I'll tell you--you're
talking the way I like to hear you--you pay that back, slide it in
without his knowing it, a bit at a time, whenever you can, and
you'll never hear a yip out of me; but if you don't, why it kind of
looks as though I have a right to come down your street and get my
share or know the reason why--eh?"
"Then you never get any share," said Hagan, with a catch in his
voice. "I pay it back as fast as I can."
"Sure," said Jimmie Dale. "That's right--that's what I said. Well,
so long--Hagan." And Jimmie Dale had opened the door and slipped
An hour later, in his dressing room in his house on Riverside Drive,
Jimmie Dale was removing his coat as the telephone, a hand
instrument on the table, rang. Jimmie Dale glanced at it--and
leisurely proceeded to remove his vest. Again the telephone rang.
Jimmie Dale took off his curious, pocketed leather belt--as the
telephone repeated its summons. He picked out the little drill he
had used a short while before, and inspected it critically--feeling
its point with his thumb, as one might feel a razor's blade. Again
the telephone rang insistently. He reached languidly for the
receiver, took it off its hook, and held it to his ear.
"Hello!" said Jimmie Dale, with a sleepy yawn. "Hello! Hello! Why
the deuce don't you yank a man out of bed at two o'clock in the
morning and have done with it, and--eh? Oh, that you, Carruthers?"
"Yes," came Carruthers' voice excitedly. "Jimmie, listen--listen!
The Gray Seal's come to life! He's just pulled a break on West
"Good Lord!" gasped Jimmie Dale. "You don't say!"
The most puzzling bewildering, delightful crook in the annals of
crime," Herman Carruthers, the editor of the MORNING NEWS-ARGUS, had
called the Gray Seal; and Jimmie Dale smiled a little grimly now as
he recalled the occasion of a week ago at the St. James Club over
their after-dinner coffee. That was before his second debut, with
Isaac Brolsky's poverty-stricken premises over on West Broadway as a
setting for the break.
SHE had written: "Things are a little too warm, aren't they, Jimmie?
Let's let them cool for a year." Well, they had cooled for a year,
and Carruthers as a result had been complacently satisfied in his
own mind that the Gray Seal was dead--until that break at Isaac
Brolsky's over on West Broadway!
Jimmie Dale's smile was tinged with whimsicality now. The only
effect of the year's inaction had been to usher in his renewed
activity with a furor compared to which all that had gone before was
insignificant. Where the newspapers had been maudlin, they now
raved--raved in editorials and raved in headlines. It was an
impossible, untenable, unbelievable condition of affairs that this
Gray Seal, for all his incomparable cleverness, should flaunt his
crimes in the faces of the citizens of New York. One could actually
see the editors writhing in their swivel chairs as their fiery
denunciations dripped from their pens! What was the matter with the
police? Were the police children; or, worse still, imbeciles--or,
still worse again, was there some one "higher up" who was profiting
by this rogue's work? New York would not stand for it--New York
would most decidedly not--and the sooner the police realised that
fact the better! If the police were helpless, or tools, the
citizens of New York were not, and it was time the citizens were
thoroughly aroused.
There was a way, too, to arouse the citizens, that was both good
business from the newspaper standpoint, and efficacious as a method.
Carruthers, of the MORNING NEWS-ARGUS, had initiated it. The
MORNING NEWS-ARGUS offered twenty-five thousand dollars' reward for
the capture of the Gray Seal! Other papers immediately followed
suit in varying amounts. The authorities, State and municipal,
goaded to desperation, did likewise, and the five million men,
women, and children of New York were automatically metamorphosed
into embryonic sleuths. New York was aroused.
Jimmie Dale, alias the Gray Seal, member of the ultra-exclusive St.
James Club, the latter fact sufficient in itself to guarantee his
social standing, graduate of Harvard, inheritor of his deceased
father's immense wealth amassed in the manufacture of burglar-proof
safes, some of the most ingenious patents on which were due to
Jimmie Dale himself, figured with a pencil on the margin of the
newspaper he had been reading, using the arm of the big, luxurious,
leather-upholstered lounging chair as a support for the paper. The
result of his calculations was eighty-five thousand dollars.
He brushed the paper onto the Turkish rug, dove into the pocket of
his dinner jacket for his cigarettes, and began to smoke as his eyes
strayed around the room, his own particular den in his fashionable
Riverside Drive residence.
Eighty-five thousand dollars' reward! Jimmie Dale blew meditative
rings of cigarette smoke at the fireplace. What would she say to
that? Would she decide it was "too hot" again, and call it off? It
added quite a little hazard to the game--QUITE a little! If he only
knew who "she" was! It was a strange partnership--the strangest
partnership that had ever existed between two human beings.
He turned a little in his chair as a step sounded in the hallway
without--that is, Jimmie Dale caught the sound, muffled though it
was by the heavy carpet. Came then a knock upon the door.
"Come in," invited Jimmie Dale.
It was old Jason, the butler. The old man was visibly excited, as
he extended a silver tray on which lay a letter.
Jimmie Dale's hand reached quickly out, the long, slim tapering
fingers closed upon the envelope--but his eyes were on Jason
significantly, questioningly.
"Yes, Master Jim," said the old man, "I recognised it on the
instant, sir. After what you said, sir, last week, honouring me, I
might say, to a certain extent with your confidence, though I'm sure
I don't know what it all means, I--"
"Who brought it this time, Jason?" inquired Jimmie Dale quietly.
"Not the young person, begging your pardon, not the young lady, sir.
A shuffer in a big automobile. 'Your master at once,' he says, and
shoves the letter into my hand, and was off."
"Very good, Jason," said Jimmie Dale. "You may go."
The door closed. Yes, it was from HER--it was the same texture of
paper, there was the same rare, haunting fragrance clinging to it.
He tore the envelope open, and extracted a folded sheet of paper.
What was it this time? To call the partnership off again until the
present furor should have subsided once more--or the skilfully
sketched outline of a new adventure? Which? He glanced at the few
lines written on the sheet, and lunged forward from his chair to his
feet. It was neither one nor the other. It was--
Jimmie Dale's face was set, and an angry red surge swept his cheeks.
His lips moved, muttering audibly fragments of the letter, as he
stared at it.
"--incredible that you--a heinous thing--act instantly--this is
For an instant--a rare occurrence in Jimmie Dale's life--he stood
like a man stricken, still staring at the sheet in his hand. Then
mechanically his fingers tore the paper into little pieces, and the
little pieces into tiny shreds. Anger fled, and a sickening sense
of impotent dismay took its place; the red left his cheecks, and in
its stead a grayness came.
"Act instantly!" The words seemed to leap at him, drum at his ears
with constant repetition. Act instantly! But how? How? Then his
brain--that keen, clear, master brain--sprang from stunned inaction
into virility again. Of course--Carruthers! It was in Carruthers'
He stepped to the desk--and paused with his hand extended to pick up
the telephone. How explain to Carruthers that he, Jimmie Dale,
already knew what Carruthers might not yet have heard of, even
though Carruthers would naturally be among the first to be in touch
with such affairs! No; that would never do. Better get there
himself at once and trust to--
The telephone rang.
Jimmie Dale waited until it rang again, then he lifted the receiver
from the hook.
"Hello?" he said.
"Hello! Hello! Jimmie!" came a voice. "This is Carruthers. That
you, Jimmie?"
"Yes," said Jimmie Dale and sat down limply in the desk chair.
"It's the Gray Seal again. I promised you I'd let you in on the
ground floor next time anything happened, so come on down here quick
if you want to see some of his work at firsthand."
Jimmie Dale flirted a bead of sweat from his forehead.
"Carruthers," said Jimmie languidly, "you newspaper chaps make me
tired with your Gray Seal. I'm just going to bed."
"Bed nothing!" spluttered Carruthers, from the other end of the
wire. "Come down, I tell you. It's worth your while--half the
population of New York would give the toes off their feet for the
chance. Come down, you blast idiot! The Gray Seal has gone the
limit this time--it's MURDER."
Jimmie Dale's face was haggard.
"Oh!" he said peevishly. "Sounds interesting. Where are you? I
guess maybe I'll jog along."
"I should think you would!" snapped Carruthers. "You know the
Palace on the Bowery? Yes? Well, meet me on the corner there as
soon as you can. Hustle! Good--"
"Oh, I say, Carruthers!" interposed Jimmie Dale.
"Yes?" demanded Carruthers.
"Thanks awfully for letting me know, old man."
"Don't mention it!" returned Carruthers sarcastically. "You always
were a grateful beast, Jimmie. Hurry up!"
Jimmie Dale hung up the receiver of the city 'phone, and took down
the receiver of another, a private-house installation, and rang
twice for the garage.
"The light car at once, Benson," he ordered curtly. "At once!"
Jimmie Dale worked quickly then. In his dressing room, he changed
from dinner clothes to tweeds; spent a second or so over the
contents of a locked drawer in the dresser, from which he selected a
very small but serviceable automatic, and a very small but highly
powerful magnifying glass whose combination of little round lenses
worked on a pivot, and, closed over one another, were of about the
compass of a quarter of a dollar.
In three minutes he was outside the house and stepping into the car,
just as it drew up at the curb.
"Benson," he said tersely to his chauffeur, "drop me one block this
side of the Palace on the Bowery--and forget there was ever a speed
law enacted. Understand?"
"Very good, sir," said Benson, touching his cap. "I'll do my best,
Jimmie Dale, in the tonneau, stretched out his legs under the front
seat, and dug his hands into his pockets--and inside the pockets his
hands were clenched and knotted fists.
Murder! At times it had occurred to him that there was a
possibility that some crook of the underworld would attempt to cover
his tracks and take refuge from pursuit by foisting himself on the
authorities as the Gray Seal. That was a possibility, a risk always
to be run. But that MURDER should be laid to the Gray Seal's door!
Anger, merciless and unrestrained, surged over Jimmie Dale.
There was peril here, live and imminent. Suppose that some day he
should be caught in some little affair, recognised and identified as
the Gray Seal, there would be the charge of murder hanging over him--
and the electric chair to face!
But the peril was not the only thing. Even worse to Jimmie Dale's
artistic and sensitive temperament was the vilification, the holding
up to loathing, contumely, and abhorrence of the name, the stainless
name, of the Gray Seal. It WAS stainless! He had guarded it
jealously--as a man guards the woman's name he loves.
Affairs that had mystified and driven the police distracted with
impotence there had been, many of them; and on the face of them--
crimes. But no act ever committed had been in reality a crime--
none without the highest of motives, the righting of some outrageous
wrong, the protection of some poor stumbling fellow human.
That had been his partnership with her. How, by what amazing means,
by what power that smacked almost of the miraculous she came in
touch with all these things and supplied him with the data on which
to work he did not know--only that, thanks to her, there were
happier hearts and happier homes since the Gray Seal had begun to
work. "Dear Philanthropic Crook," she often called him in her
letters. And now--it was MURDER!
Take Carruthers, for instance. For years, as a reporter before he
had risen to the editorial desk, he had been one of the keenest on
the scent of the Gray Seal, but always for the sake of the game--
always filled with admiration, as he said himself, for the daring,
the originality of the most puzzling, bewildering, delightful crook
in the annals of crime. Carruthers was but an example. Carruthers
now would hunt the Gray Seal like a mad dog. The Gray Seal, to
Carruthers and every one else, would be the vilest name in the land--
a synonym for murder.
On the car flew--and upon Jimmie Dale's face, as though chiselled in
marble, was a look that was not good to see. And a mirthless smile
set, frozen, on his lips.
"I'll get the man that did this," gritted Jimmie Dale between his
teeth. "I'll GET him! And, when I get him, I'll wring a confession
from him if I have to swing for it!"
The car swept from Broadway into Astor Place, on down the Bowery,
and presently stopped.
Jimmie Dale stepped out. "I shall not want you any more, Benson,"
he said. "You may return home."
Jimmie Dale started down the block--a nonchalant Jimmie Dale now, if
anything, bored a little. Near the corner, a figure, back turned,
was lounging at the edge of the sidewalk. Jimmie Dale touched the
man on the arm.
"Hello, Carruthers!" he drawled.
"Ah, Jimmie!" Carruthers turned with an excited smile. "That's the
boy! You've made mighty quick time."
"Well, you told me to hurry," grumbled Jimmie Dale. "I'm doing my
best to please you to-night. Came down in my car, and got summoned
for three fines to-morrow."
Carruthers laughed. "Come on," he said; and, linking his arm in
Jimmie Dale's, turned the corner, and headed west along the cross
street. "This is going to make a noise," he continued, a grim note
creeping into his voice. "The biggest noise the city has ever
heard. I take back all I said about the Gray Seal. I'd always
pictured his cleverness as being inseparable with at least a decent
sort of man, even if he was a rogue and a criminal, but I'm through
with that. He's a rotter and a hound of the rankest sort! I didn't
think there was anything more vulgar or brutal than murder, but he's
shown me that there is. A guttersnipe's got more decency! To
murder a man and then boastfully label the corpse is--"
"Say, Carruthers," said Jimmie Dale plaintively, suddenly hanging
back, "I say, you know, it's--it's all right for you to mess up in
this sort of thing, it's your beastly business, and I'm awfully
damned thankful to you for giving me a look-in, but isn't it--er--
rather INFRA DIG for me? A bit morbid, you know, and all that sort
of thing. I'd never hear the end of it at the club--you know what
the St. James is. Couldn't I be Merideth Stanley Annstruther, or
something like that, one of your new reporters, or something like
that, you know?"
Carruthers chuckled. "Sure, Jimmie," he said. "You're the latest
addition to the staff of the NEWS-ARGUS. Don't worry; the
incomparable Jimmie Dale won't figure publicly in this."
"It's awfully good of you," said Jimmie gratefully. "I have to have
a notebook or something, don't I?"
Carruthers, from his pocket, handed him one. "Thanks," said Jimmie
A little way ahead, a crowd had collected on the sidewalk before a
doorway, and Carruthers pointed with a jerk of his hand.
"It's in Moriarty's place--a gambling hell," he explained. "I
haven't got the story myself yet, though I've been inside, and had a
look around. Inspector Clayton discovered the crime, and reported
it at headquarters. I was at my desk in the office when the news
came, and, as you know the interest I've taken in the Gray Seal, I
decided to 'cover' it myself. When I got here, Clayton hadn't
returned from headquarters, so, as you seemed so keenly interested
last week, I telephoned you. If Clayton's back now we'll get the
details. Clayton's a good fellow with the 'press,' and he won't
hold anything out on us. Now, here we are. Keep close to me, and
I'll pass you in."
They shouldered through the crowd and up to an officer at the door.
The officer nodded, stepped aside, and Carruthers, with Jimmie Dale
following, entered the house.
They climbed one flight, and then another. The card-rooms, the
faro, stud, and roulette layouts were deserted, save for policemen
here and there on guard. Carruthers led the way to a room at the
back of the hall, whose door was open and from which issued a hubbub
of voices--one voice rose above the others, heavy and gratingly
"Clayton's back," observed Carruthers.
They stepped over the threshold, and the heavy voice greeted them.
"Ah, here's Carruthers now! H'are you, Carruthers? They told me
you'd been here, and were coming back, so I've been keeping the boys
waiting before handing out the dope. You've had a look at that--
eh?" He flung out a fat hand toward the bed.
The voices rose again, all directed at Carruthers now.
"Bubble's burst, eh, Carruthers? What about the 'Prince of Crooks'?
Artistry in crime, wasn't it, you said?" They were quoting from his
editorials of bygone days, a half dozen reporters of rival papers,
grinning and joshing him good-naturedly, seemingly quite unaffected
by what lay within arm's reach of them upon the bed.
Carruthers smiled a little wryly, shrugged his shoulders--and
presented Jimmie Dale to Inspector Clayton.
"Mr. Matthewson, a new man of ours--inspector."
"Glad to know you, Mr. Matthewson," said the inspector.
Jimmie Dale found his hand grasped by another that was flabby and
unpleasantly moist; and found himself looking into a face that was
red, with heavy rolls of unhealthy fat terminating in a double chin
and a thick, apoplectic neck--a huge, round face, with rat's eyes.
Clayton dropped Jimmie Dale's hand, and waved his own in the air.
Jimmie Dale remained modestly on the outside of the circle as the
reporters gathered around the police inspector.
"Now, then," said Clayton coarsely, "the guy that's croaked there is
Metzer, Jake Metzer. Get that?"
Jimmie Dale, scribbling hurriedly in his notebook like all the rest,
turned a little toward the bed, and his lower jaw crept out the
fraction of an inch. Both gas jets in the room were turned on full,
giving ample light. A man fully dressed, a man of perhaps forty,
lay upon his back on the bed, one arm outflung across the bedspread,
the other dangling, with fingers just touching the floor, the head
at an angle and off the pillow. It was as though he had been
carried to the bed and flung upon it after the deed had been
committed. Jimmie Dale's eyes shifted and swept the room. Yes,
everything was in disorder, as though there had been a struggle--a
chair upturned, a table canted against the wall, broken pieces of
crockery from the washstand on the carpet, and--
"Metzer was a stool pigeon, see?" went on Clayton, "and he lived
here. Moriarty wasn't on to him. Metzer stood in thick with a
wider circle of crooks than any other snitch in New York."
Jimmie Dale, still scribbling as Clayton talked, stepped to the bed
and leaned over the murdered man. The murder had been done with a
blackjack evidently--a couple of blows. The left side of the temple
was crushed in. Right in the middle of the forehead, pasted there,
a gray-colored, diamond shaped paper seal flaunted itself--the
device of the Gray Seal. In Jimmie Dale' hand, hidden as he turned
his back, the tiny combination of powerful lenses was focused on the
Clayton guffawed. "That's right!" he called out. "Take a good
look. That's a bright young man you've got, Carruthers."
Jimmie Dale looked up a little sheepishly--and got a grin from the
assembled reporters, and a scowl from Carruthers.
Now, then," continued Clayton, "here's the facts--as much of 'em as
I can let you boys print at present. You know I'm stretching a
point to let you in here--don't forget that when you come to write
up the case--honour where's honour's due, you know. Well, me and
Metzer there was getting ready to close down on a big piece of game,
and I was over here in this room talking to him about it early this
afternoon. We had it framed to get our man to-night--see? I left
Metzer, say, about three o'clock, and he was to show up over at
headquarters with another little bit of evidence we wanted at eight
o'clock to-night."
Jimmie Dale was listening--to every word. But he stooped now again
over the murdered man's head deliberately, though he felt the
inspector's rat's eyes upon him--stooped, and, with his finger nail,
lifted back the right-hand point of the diamond-shaped seal where it
bordered a faint thread of blood on the man's forehead.
There was a bull-like roar from the inspector, and he burst through
the ring of reporters, and grabbed Jimmie Dale by the shoulder.
"Here you, what in hell are you doing!" he spluttered angrily.
Embarrassed and confused, Jimmie Dale drew back, glanced around, and
smiled again a little sheepishly as his eyes rested on the redflushed
jowl of the inspector.
"I--I wanted to see how it was stuck on," he explained inanely.
"Stuck on!" bellowed Clayton. "I'll show you how it's STUCK on, if
you monkey around here! Don't you know any better than that! Where
were you dragged up anyway? The coroner hasn't been here yet.
You're a hot cub of a reporter, you are!" He turned to Carruthers.
"Y'ought to get out printed instructions for 'em before you turn 'em
loose!" he snapped.
Carruthers' face was red with mortification. There was a grin,
expanded, on the faces of the others.
"Stand away from that bed!" roared Clayton at Jimmie Dale. "And if
you go near it again, I'll throw you out of here bodily!"
Jimmie Dale edged away, and, eyes lowered, fumbled nervously with
the leaves of his notebook.
Clayton grunted, glared at Jimmie Dale for an instant viciously--and
resumed his story.
"I was saying," he said, "that Metzer was to come to headquarters at
eight o'clock this evening. Well, he didn't show up. That looked
queer. It was mighty important business. We was after one of the
biggest hauls we'd ever pulled off. I waited till nine o'clock, an
hour ago, and I was getting nervous. Then I started over here to
find out what was the matter. When I got here I asked Moriarty if
he'd seen Metzer. Moriarty said he hadn't since I was here before.
He was a little suspicious that I had something on Metzer--see?
Well, by pumping Moriarty, he admitted that Metzer had had a visitor
about an hour after I left."
"Who was it? Know what his name is, inspector?" asked one of the
reporters quickly.
Inspector Clayton winked heavily. "Don't be greedy boys," he
"You mean you've got him?" burst out another one of the men
"Sure! Sure, I've got him." Inspector Clayton waved his fat hand
airily. "Or I will have before morning--but I ain't saying anything
more till it's over." He smiled significantly. "Well, that's about
all. You've got the details right around you. I left Moriarty
downstairs and came up here, and found just what you see--Metzer
laying on the bed there, and the gray seal stuck on his forehead--
and"--he ended abruptly--"I'll have the Gray Seal himself behind the
bars by morning."
A chorus of ejaculations rose from the reporters, while their
pencils worked furiously.
Then Jimmie Dale appeared to have an inspiration. Jimmie Dale
turned a leaf in his notebook and began to sketch rapidly, cocking
his head now on one side now on the other. With a few deft strokes
he had outlined the figure of Inspector Clayton. The reporter
beside Jimmie Dale leaned over to inspect the work, and another did
likewise. Jimmie Dale drew in Clayton's face most excellently, if
somewhat flatteringly; and then, with a little flourish of pride,
wrote under the drawing: "The Man Who Captured the Gray Seal."
"That's a cracking good sketch!" pronounced the reporter at his
side. "Let the inspector see it."
"What is it?" demanded Clayton, scowling.
Jimmie Dale handed him the notebook modestly.
Inspector Clayton took it, looked at it, looked at Jimmie Dale; then
his scowl relaxed into a self-sufficient and pleased smile, and he
grunted approvingly.
"That's the stuff to put over," he said. "Mabbe you're not much of
a reporter, but you can draw. Y're all right, sport--y're all
right. Forget what I said to you a while ago."
Jimmie Dale smiled too--deprecatingly. And put the notebook in his
An officer entered the room hurriedly, and, drawing Clayton aside,
spoke in an undertone. A triumphant and malicious grin settled on
Clayton's features, and he started with a rush for the door.
"Come around to headquarters in two hours, boys," he called as he
went out, "and I'll have something more for you."
The room cleared, the reporters tumbling downstairs to make for the
nearest telephones to get their "copy" into their respective
On the street, a few doors up from the house where they were free
from the crowd, Carruthers halted Jimmie Dale.
"Jimmie," he said reproachfully, "you certainly made a mark of us
both. There wasn't any need to play the 'cub' so egregiously.
However, I'll forgive you for the sake of the sketch--hand it over,
Jimmie; I'm going to reproduce it in the first edition."
"It wasn't drawn for reproduction, Carruthers--at least not yet,"
said Jimmie Dale quietly.
Carruthers stared at him. "Eh?" he asked blankly.
"I've taken a dislike to Clayton," said Jimmie Dale whimsically.
"He's too patently after free advertising, and I'm not going to help
along his boost. You can't have it, old man, so let's think about
something else. What'll they do with that bit of paper that's on
the poor devil's forehead up there, for instance."
"Say," said Carruthers, "does it strike you that you're acting
queer? You haven't been drinking, have you, Jimmie?"
"What'll they do with it?" persisted Jimmie Dale.
"Well," said Carruthers, smiling a little tolerantly, "they'll
photograph it and enlarge the photograph, and label it 'Exhibit A'
or 'Exhibit B' or something like that--and file it away in the
archives with the fifty or more just like it that are already in
their collection."
"That's what I thought," observed Jimmie Dale. He took Carruthers
by the lapel of the coat. "I'd like a photograph of that. I'd like
it so much that I've got to have it. Know the chap that does that
work for the police?"
"Yes," admitted Carruthers.
"Very good!" said Jimmie Dale crisply, "Get an extra print of the
enlargement from him then--for a consideration--whatever he asks--
I'll pay for it."
"But what for?" demanded Carruthers. "I don't understand."
"Because," said Jimmie Dale very seriously, "put it down to
imagination or whatever you like, I think I smell something fishy
"You WHAT!" exclaimed Carruthers in amazement. "You're not joking,
are you, Jimmie?"
Jimmie Dale laughed shortly. "It's so far from a joke," he said, in
a low tone, "that I want your word you'll get that photograph into
my hands by to-morrow afternoon, no matter what transpires in the
meantime. And look here, Carruthers, don't think I'm playing the
silly thickhead, and trying to mystify you. I'm no detective or
anything like that. I've just got an idea that apparently hasn't
occurred to any one else--and, of course, I may be all wrong. If I
am, I'm not going to say a word even to you, because it wouldn't be
playing fair with some one else; if I'm right the MORNING NEWS-ARGUS
gets the biggest scoop of the century. Will you go in on that
Carruthers put out his hand impulsively. "If you're in earnest,
Jimmie--you bet!"
"Good!" returned Jimmie Dale. "The photograph by to-morrow
afternoon then. And now--"
"And now," said Caruthers, "I've got to hurry over to the office and
get a write-up man at work. Will you come along, or meet me at
headquarters later? Clayton said in two hours he'd--"
"Neither," said Jimmie Dale. "I'm not interested in headquarters.
I'm going home."
"Well, all right then," Carruthers returned. "You can bank on me
for to-morrow. Good-night, Jimmie."
"Good-night, old man," said Jimmie Dale, and, turning, walked
briskly toward the Bowery.
But Jimmie Dale did not go home. He walked down the Bowery for
three blocks, crossed to the east side, and turned down a cross
street. Two blocks more he walked in this direction, and halfway
down the next. Here he paused an instant--the street was dimly
lighted, almost dark, deserted. Jimmie Dale edged close to the
houses until his shadow blended with the shadows of the walls--and
slipped suddenly into a pitch-black areaway.
He opened a door, stepped into an unlighted hallway where the air
was close and evil smelling, mounted a stairway, and halted before
another door on the first landing. There was the low clicking of a
lock, three times repeated, and he entered a room, closing and
fastening the door behind him.
Jimmie Dale called it his "Sanctuary." In one of the worst
neighbourhoods of New York, where no questions were asked as long as
the rent was paid, it had the further advantage of three separate
exits--one by the areaway where he had entered; one from the street
itself; and another through a back yard with an entry into a saloon
that fronted on the next street. It was not often that Jimmie Dale
used his Sanctuary, but there had been times when it was no more nor
less than exactly what he called it--a sanctuary!
He stepped to the window, assured himself that the shade was down--
and lighted the gas, blinking a little as the yellow flame
illuminated the room.
It was a rough place, dirty, uninviting; a bedroom, furnished in the
most scanty fashion. Neither, apparently, was there anything
suspicious about it to reward one curious enough to break in during
the owner's absence--some rather disreputable clothes hanging on the
wall, and flung untidily across the bed--that was all.
Alone now, Jimmie Dale's face was strained and anxious and,
occasionally, as he undressed himself, his hands clenched until his
knuckles grew white. The gray seal on the murdered man's forehead
was a GENUINE GRAY SEAL--one of Jimmie Dale's own. There was no
doubt of that--he had satisfied himself on that point.
Where had it come from? How had it been obtained? Jimmie Dale
carefully placed the clothes he had taken off under the mattress,
pulled a disreputable collarless flannel shirt over his head, and
pulled on a disreputable pair of boots. There were only two sources
of supply. His own--and the collection that the police had made,
which Carruthers had referred to.
Jimmie Dale lifted a corner of the oilcloth in a corner of the room,
lifted a piece of the flooring, lifted out a little box which he
placed upon the rickety table, and sat down before a cracked mirror.
Who was it that would have access to the gray seals in the
possession of the police, since, obviously, it was one of those that
was on the dead man's forehead? The answer came quick enough--came
with the sudden out-thrust of Jimmie Dale's lower jaw. ONE OF THE
POLICE THEMSELVES--no one else. Clayton's heavy, cunning face,
Clayton's shifty eyes, Clayton's sudden rush when he had touched the
dead man's forehead, pictured themselves in a red flash of fury
before Jimmie Dale. There was no mask now, no facetiousness, no
acted part--only a merciless rage, and the muscles of Jimmie Dale's
face quivered and twitched. MURDER, foisted, shifted upon another,
upon the Gray Seal--making of that name a calumny--ruining forever
the work that she and he might do!
And then Jimmie Dale smiled mirthlessly, with thinning lips. The
box before him was open. His fingers worked quickly--a little wax
behind the ears, in the nostrils, under the upper lip, deftly
placed-hands, wrists, neck, throat, and face received their quota of
stain, applied with an artist's touch--and then the spruce, muscular
Jimmie Dale, transformed into a slouching, vicious-featured denizen
of the underworld, replaced the box under the flooring, pulled a
slouch hat over his eyes, extinguished the gas, and went out.
Jimmie Dale's range of acquaintanceship was wide--from the upper
strata of the St. James Club to the elite of New York's gangland.
And, adored by the one, he was trusted implicitly by the other--not
understood, perhaps, by the latter, for he had never allied himself
with any of their nefarious schemes, but trusted implicitly through
long years of personal contact. It had stood Jimmie Dale in good
stead before, this association, where, in a sort of strange,
carefully guarded exchange, the news of the underworld was common
property to those without the law. To New York in its millions, the
murder of Metzer, the stool pigeon, would be unknown until the city
rose in the morning to read the sensational details over the
breakfast table; here, it would already be the topic of whispered
conversations, here it had probably been known long before the
police had discovered the crime. Especially would it be expected to
be known to Pete Lazanis, commonly called the Runt, who was a power
below the dead line and, more pertinent still, one in whose
confidence Jimmie Dale had rejoiced for years.
Jimmie Dale, as Larry the Bat--a euphonious "monaker" bestowed
possibly because this particular world knew him only by night--began
a search for the Runt. From one resort to another he hurried,
talking in the accepted style through one corner of his mouth to
hard-visaged individuals behind dirty, reeking bars that were reared
on equally dirty and foul-smelling sawdust-strewn floors; visiting
dance halls, secretive back rooms, and certain Chinese pipe joints.
But the Runt was decidedly elusive. There had been no news of him,
no one had seen him--and this after fully an hour had passed since
Jimmie Dale had left Carruthers in front of Moriarty's. The
possibilities however were still legion--numbered only by the
numberless dives and dens sheltered by that quarter of the city.
Jimmie Dale turned into Chatham Square, heading for the Pagoda Dance
Hall. A man loitering at the curb shot a swift, searching glance at
him as he slouched by. Jimmie Dale paused in the doorway of the
Pagoda and looked up and down the street. The man he had passed had
drawn a little closer; another man in an apparently aimless fashion
lounged a few yards away.
"Something up," muttered Jimmie Dale to himself. "Lansing, of
headquarters, and the other looks like Milrae."
Jimmie Dale pushed in through the door of the Pagoda. A bedlam of
noise surged out at him--a tin-pan piano and a mandolin were going
furiously from a little raised platform at the rear; in the centre
of the room a dozen couples were in the throes of the tango and the
bunny-hug; around the sides, at little tables, men and women laughed
and applauded and thumped time on the tabletops with their beer
mugs; while waiters, with beer-stained aprons and unshaven faces,
juggled marvelous handfuls of glasses and mugs from the bar beside
the platform to the patrons at the tables.
Jimmie Dale's eyes swept the room in a swift, comprehensive glance,
fixed on a little fellow, loudly dressed, who shared a table halfway
down the room with a woman in a picture hat, and a smile of relief
touched his lips. The Runt at last!
He walked down the room, caught the Runt's eyes significantly as he
passed the table, kept on to a door between the platform and the
bar, opened it, and went out into a lighted hallway, at one end of
which a door opened onto the street, and at the other a stairway led
The Runt joined him. "Wot's de row, Larry?" inquired the Runt.
"Nuthin' much," said Jimmie Dale. "Only I t'ought I'd let youse
know. I was passin' Moriarty's an' got de tip. Say, some guy's
croaked Jake Metzer dere."
"Aw, ferget it!" observed the Runt airily. "Dat's stale. Was wise
to dat hours ago."
Jimmie Dale's face fell. "But I just come from dere," he insisted;
"an' de harness bulls only just found it out."
"Mabbe," grunted the Runt. "But Metzer got his early in de
Jimmie Dale looked quickly around him--and then leaned toward the
"Wot's de lay, Runt?" he whispered.
The Runt pulled down one eyelid, and, with his knowing grin, the
cigarette, clinging to his upper lip, sagged down in the opposite
corner of his mouth.
Jimmie Dale grinned, too--in a flash inspiration had come to Jimmie
"Say, Runt"--he jerked his head toward the street door--"wot's de
fly cops doin' out dere?"
The grin vanished from the Runt's lips. He stared for a second
wildly at Jimmie Dale, and then clutched at Jimmie Dale's arm.
"De WOT?" he said hoarsely.
"De fly cops," Jimmie Dale repeated in well-simulated surprise.
"Dey was dere when I come in--Lansing an' Milrae, an--"
The Runt shot a hurried glance at the stairway, and licked his lips
as though they had gone suddenly dry.
"My Gawd, I--" He gasped, and shrank hastily back against the wall
beside Jimmie Dale.
The door from the street had opened noiselessly, instantly. Black
forms bulked there--then a rush of feet--and at the head of half a
dozen men, the face of Inspector Clayton loomed up before Jimmie
Dale. There was a second's pause in the rush; and, in the pause,
Clayton's voice, in a vicious undertone:
"You two ginks open your traps, and I'll run you both in!"
And then the rush passed, and swept on up the stairs.
Jimmie Dale looked at the Runt. The cigarette dangled limply; the
Runt's eyes were like a hunted beast's.
"Dey got him!" he mumbled. "It's Stace--Stace Morse. He come to me
after croakin' Metzer, an' he's been hidin' up dere all afternoon.
Stace Morse--known in gangland as a man with every crime in the
calendar to his credit, and prominent because of it! Something
seemed to go suddenly queer inside of Jimmie Dale. Stace Morse!
Was he wrong, after all? Jimmie Dale drew closer to the Runt.
"Yer givin' me a steer, ain't youse?" He spoke again from the
corner of his mouth, almost inaudibly. "Are youse sure it was Stace
croaked Metzer? Wot fer? How'd yer know?"
The Runt was listening, his eyes strained toward the stairs. The
hall door to the street was closed, but both were quite well aware
that there was an officer on guard outside.
"He told me," whispered the Runt. "Metzer was fixin' ter snitch on
him ter-night. Dey've got de goods on Stace, too. He made a bum
job of it."
"Why didn't he get out of de country den when he had de chanst,
instead of hangin' around here all afternoon?" demanded Jimmie Dale.
"He was broke," the Runt answered. "We was gettin' de coin fer him
ter fade away wid ter-night, an'--"
A revolver shot from above cut short his words. Came then the sound
of a struggle, oaths, the shuffling tread of feet--but in the dance
hall the piano still rattled on, the mandolin twanged, voices sang
and applauded, and beer mugs thumped time.
They were on the stairs now, the officers, half carrying, half
dragging some one between them--and the man they dragged cursed them
with utter abandon. As they reached the bottom of the stairs,
Jimmie Dale caught sight of the prisoner's face--not a prepossessing
one--villainous,--low-browed, contorted with a mixture of fear and
"It's a lie! A lie! A lie!" the man shrieked. "I never seen him
in me life--blast you!--curse you!--d'ye hear!"
Inspector Clayton caught Jimmie Dale and the Runt by the collars.
"There's nothing to interest you around here!" he snapped
maliciously. "Go on, now--beat it!" And he pushed them toward the
They had heard the disturbance in the dance hall now and the
occupants were swarming to the sidewalk. A patrol wagon came around
the corner. In the crowd Jimmie Dale slipped away from the Runt.
Was he wrong, after all? A fierce passion seized him. It was Stace
Morse who had murdered Metzer, the Runt had said. In Jimmie Dale's
brain the words began to reiterate themselves in a singsong fashion:
"It was Stace Morse. It was Stace Morse." Then his lips drew tight
together. WAS it Stace Morse? He would have given a good deal for
a chance to talk to the man--even for a minute. But there was no
possibility of that now. Later, to-morrow perhaps, if he was wrong,
after all!
Jimmie Dale returned to the Sanctuary, removed from his person all
evidences of Larry the Bat--and from the Sanctuary went home to
Riverside Drive.
In his den there, in the morning after breakfast, Jason, the butler,
brought him the papers. Three-inch headlines in red ink screamed,
exulted, and shrieked out the news that the Gray Seal, in the person
of Stace Morse, fence, yeggman and murderer, had been captured. The
public, if it had held any private admiration for the one-time
mysterious crook could now once and forever disillusion itself. The
Gray Seal was Stace Morse--and Stace Morse was of the dregs of the
city's scum, a pariah, an outcast, with no single redeeming trait to
lift him from the ruck of mire and slime that had strewn his life
from infancy. The face of Inspector Clayton, blandly selfcomplacent,
leaped out from the paper to meet Jimmie Dale's eyes--
and with it a column and a half of perfervid eulogy.
Something at first like dismay, the dismay of impotency, filled
Jimmie Dale--and then, cold, leaving him unnaturally calm, the old
merciless rage took its place. There was nothing to do now but
wait--wait until Carruthers should send that photograph. Then if,
after all, he were wrong--then he must find some other way. But was
he wrong! The notebook that Carruthers had given him, open at the
sketch he had made of Clayton, lay upon the desk. Jimmie Dale
picked it up--he had already spent quite a little time over it
before breakfast--and examined it again minutely, even resorting to
his magnifying glass. He put it down as a knock sounded at the
door, and Jason entered with a silver card tray. From Carruthers
already! Jimmie Dale stepped quickly forward--and then Jimmie Dale
met the old man's eyes. It wasn't from Carruthers--it was from HER!
"The same shuffer brought it, Master Jim," said Jason.
Jimmie Dale snatched the envelope from the tray, and waved the other
from the room. As the door closed, he tore open the letter. There
was just a single line:
Jimmie--Jimmie, you haven't failed, have you?
Jimmie Dale stared at it. Failed! Failed--HER! The haggard look
was in his face again. It was the bond between them that was at
stake--the Gray Seal--the bond that had come, he knew for all time
in that instant, to mean his life.
"God knows!" he muttered hoarsely, and flung himself into a lounging
chair, still staring at the note.
The hours dragged by. Luncheon time arrived and passed--and then by
special messenger the little package from Carruthers came.
Jimmie Dale started to undo the string, then laid the package down,
and held out his hands before him for inspection. They were
trembling visibly. It was a strange condition for Jimmie Dale
either to witness or experience, unlike him, foreign to him.
"This won't do, Jimmie," he said grimly, shaking his head.
He picked up the package again, opened it, and from between two
pieces of cardboard took out a large photographic print. A moment,
two, Jimmie Dale examined it, used the magnifying glass again; and
then a strange gleam came into the dark eyes, and his lips moved.
"I've won," said Jimmie Dale, with ominous softness. I've WON!"
He was standing beside the rosewood desk, and he reached for the
phone. Carruthers would be at home now--he called Carruthers there.
After a moment or two he got the connection.
"This is Jimmie, Carruthers," he said. "Yes, I got it. Thanks. . . .
Yes. . . . Listen. I want you to get Inspector Clayton, and
bring him up here at once. . . . What? No, no--no! . . . How? . . .
Why--er--tell him you're going to run a full page of him in the
Sunday edition, and you want him to sit for a sketch. He'd go
anywhere for that. . . . Yes. . . . Half an hour. . . . YES. . . .
Jimmie Dale hung up the receiver; and, hastily now, began to write
upon a pad that lay before him on the desk. The minutes passed. As
he wrote, he scored out words and lines here and there, substituting
others. At the end he had covered three large pages with, to any
one but himself, an indecipherable scrawl. These he shoved aside
now, and, very carefully, very legibly, made a copy on fresh sheets.
As he finished, he heard a car draw up in front of the house.
Jimmie Dale folded the copied sheets neatly, tucked them in his
pocket, lighted a cigarette, and was lolling lazily in his chair as
Jason announced: "Mr. Carruthers, sir, and another gentleman to see
"Show them up, Jason," instructed Jimmie Dale.
Jimmie Dale rose from his chair as they came in. Jason, welltrained
servant, closed the door behind them.
"Hello, Carruthers; hello, inspector," said Jimmie Dale pleasantly,
and waved them to seats. "Take this chair, Carruthers." He
motioned to one at his elbow. "Glad to see you, inspector--try that
one in front of the desk, you'll find it comfortable."
Carruthers, trying to catch Jimmie Dale's eye for some sort of a
cue, and, failing, sat down. Inspector Clayton stared at Jimmie
"Oh, it's YOU, eh?" His eyes roved around the room, fastened for an
instant on some of Jimmie Dale's work on an easel, came back finally
to Jimmie Dale--and he plumped himself down in the chair indicated.
"Thought you was more'n a cub reporter," he remarked, with a grin.
"You were too slick with your pencil. Pretty fine studio you got
here. Carruthers says you're going to draw me."
Jimmie Dale smiled--not pleasantly--and leaned suddenly over the
"Yes," he said slowly, a grim intonation in his voice, "going to
draw you--TRUE TO LIFE."
With an exclamation, Clayton slued around in his chair, half rose,
and his shifty eyes, small and cunning, bored into Jimmie Dale's
"What d'ye mean by that?" he snapped out
"Just exactly what I say," replied Jimmie Dale curtly. "No more, no
less. But first, not to be too abrupt, I want to join with the
newspapers in congratulating you on the remarkable--shall I call it
celerity, or acumen?--with which you solved the mystery of Metzer's
death, and placed the murderer behind the bars. It is really
remarkable, inspector, so remarkable, in fact, that it's almost--
SUSPICIOUS. Don't you think so? No? Well, that's what Mr.
Carruthers was good enough to bring you up here to talk over--in an
intimate and confidential way, you know."
Inspector Clayton surged up from his chair to his feet, his fists
clenched, the red sweeping over his face--and then he shook one fist
at Carruthers.
"So that's your game, is it!" he stormed. "Trying to crawl out of
that twenty-five thousand reward, eh? And as for you"--he turned on
Jimmie Dale--"you've rigged up a nice little plant between you, eh?
Well, it won't work--and I'll make you squirm for this, both of you,
damn you, before I'm through!" He glared from one to the other for
a moment--then swung on his heel. "Good-afternoon, gentlemen," he
sneered, as he started for the door.
He was halfway across the room before Jimmie Dale spoke.
Clayton turned. Jimmie Dale was still leaning over the desk, but
now one elbow was propped upon it, and in the most casual way a
revolver covered Inspector Clayton.
"If you attempt to leave this room," said Jimmie Dale, without
raising his voice, "I assure you that I shall fire with as little
compunction as though I were aiming at a mad dog--and I apologise to
all mad dogs for coupling your name with them." His voice rang
suddenly cold. "Come back here, and sit down in that chair!"
The colour ebbed slowly from Clayton's face. He hesitated--then
sullenly retraced his steps; hesitated again as he reached the
chair, and finally sat down.
"What--what d'ye mean by this?" he stammered, trying to bluster.
"Just this," said Jimmie Dale. "That I accuse you of the murder of
"Good God!" burst suddenly from Carruthers.
"You lie!" yelled Clayton--and again he surged up from his chair.
"That is what Stace Morse said," said Jimmie Dale coolly. "Sit
Then Clayton tried to laugh. "You're--you're having a joke, ain't
you? It was Stace--I can prove it. Come down to headquarters, and
I can prove it. I got the goods on him all the way. I tell you"--
his voice rose shrilly--"it was Stace Morse."
"You are a despicable hound," said Jimmie Dale, through set lips.
"Here"--he handed the revolver over to Carruthers--"keep him
covered, Carruthers. You're going to the CHAIR for this, Clayton,"
he said, in a fierce monotone. "The chair! You can't send another
there in your place--this time. Shall I draw you now--true to life?
You've been grafting for years on every disreputable den in your
district. Metzer was going to show you up; and so, Metzer being in
the road, you removed him. And you seized on the fact of Stace
Morse having paid a visit to him this afternoon to fix the crime on--
Stace Morse. Proofs? Oh, yes, I know you've manufactured proofs
enough to convict him--if there weren't stronger proofs to convict
"Convict ME!" Clayton's lower jaw hung loosely; but still he made an
effort at bluster. "You haven't a thing on me--not a thing--not a
Jimmie Dale smiled again--unpleasantly.
"You are quite wrong, Clayton. See--here." He took a sheet of paper
from the drawer of his desk.
Clayton reached for it quickly. "What is it?" he demanded.
Jimmie Dale drew it back out of reach.
"Just a minute," he said softly. "You remember, don't you, that in
the presence of Carruthers here, of myself, and of half a dozen
reporters, you stated that you had been alone with Metzer in his
room at three o'clock yesterday, and that it was you--alone--who
found the body later on at nine o'clock? Yes? I mention this
simply to show that from your own lips the evidence is complete that
you had an OPPORTUNITY to commit the crime. Now you may look at
this, Clayton." He handed over the sheet of paper.
Clayton took it, stared at it, turning it over from first one side
to the other. Then a sort of relief seemed to come to him and he
"Nothing but a damned piece of blank paper!" he mumbled.
Jimmie Dale reached over and took back the sheet.
"You're wrong again, Clayton," he said calmly. "It WAS quite blank
before I handed it to you--but not now. I noticed yesterday that
your hands were generally moist. I am sure they are more so now--
excitement, you know. Carruthers, see that he doesn't interrupt."
From a drawer, Jimmie Dale took out a little black bottle, the
notebook he had used the day before, and the photograph Carruthers
had sent him. On the sheet of paper Clayton had just handled,
Jimmie Dale sprinkled a little powder from the bottle.
"Lampblack," explained Jimmie Dale. He shook the paper carefully,
allowing the loose powder to fall on the desk blotter--and held out
the sheet toward Clayton. "Rather neat, isn't it? A very good
impression, too. Your thumb print, Clayton. Now don't move. You
may look--not touch." He laid the paper down on the desk in front
of Clayton. Beside it he placed the notebook, open at the sketch--a
black thumb print now upon it. "You recall handling this yesterday,
I'm sure, Clayton. I tried the same experiment with the lampblack
on it this morning, you see. And this"--beside the notebook he
placed the police photograph; that, too, in its enlargement, showed,
sharply defined, a thumb print on a diamond-shaped background. "You
will no doubt recognise it as an official photograph, enlarged,
taken of the gray seal on Metzer's forehead--AND THE THUMB PRINT OF
METZER'S MURDERER. You have only to glance at the little scar at
the edge of the centre loop to satisfy yourself that the three are
identical. Of course, there are a dozen other points of similarity
equally indisputable, but--"
Jimmie Dale stopped. Clayton was on his feet--rocking on his feet.
His face was deathlike in its pallor. Moisture was oozing from his
"I didn't do it! I didn't do it!" he cried out wildly. "My God, I
tell you, I DIDN'T do it--and--and--that would send me to the
"Yes," said Jimmie Dale coldly, "and that's precisely where you're
going--to the chair."
The man was beside himself now--racked to the soul by a paroxysm of
"I'm innocent--innocent!" he screamed out. "Oh, for God's sake,
don't send an innocent man to his death. It WAS Stace Morse.
Listen! Listen! I'll tell the truth." He was clawing with his
hands, piteously, over the desk at Jimmie Dale. "When the big
rewards came out last week I stole one of the gray seals from the
bunch at headquarters to--to use it the first time any crime was
committed when I was sure I could lay my hands on the man who did
it. Don't you see? Of course he'd deny he was the Gray Seal, just
as he'd deny that he was guilty--but I'd have the proof both ways
and--and I'd collect the rewards, and--and--" The man collapsed
into the chair.
Carruthers was up from his seat, his hands gripping tight on the
edge of the desk as he leaned over it.
"Jimmie--Jimmie--what does this mean?" he gasped out.
Jimmie Dale smiled--pleasantly now.
"That he has told the truth," said Jimmie Dale quietly. "It is
quite true that Stace Morse committed the murder. Shows up the
value of circumstantial evidence though, doesn't it? This would
certainly have got him off, and convicted Clayton here before any
jury in the land. But the point is, Carruthers, that Stace Morse
ISN'T the Gray Seal--and that the Gray Seal is NOT a murderer."
Clayton looked up. "You--you believe me?" he stammered eagerly.
Jimmie Dale whirled on him in a sudden sweep of passion.
"NO, you cur!" he flashed. "It's not you I believe. I simply
wanted your confession before witnesses." He whipped the three
written sheets from his pocket. "Here, substantially, is that
confession written out." He passed it to Carruthers. "Read it to
him, Carruthers."
Carruthers read it aloud.
"Now," said Jimmie Dale grimly, "this spells ruin for you, Clayton.
You don't deserve a chance to escape prison bars, but I'm going to
give you one, for you're going to get it pretty stiff, anyhow. If
you refuse to sign this, I'll hand you over to the district attorney
in half an hour, and Carruthers and I will swear to your confession;
on the other hand, if you sign it, Carruthers will not be able to
print it until to-morrow morning, and that gives you something like
fourteen hours to put distance between yourself and New York. Here
is a pen--if you are quick enough to take us by surprise once you
have signed, you might succeed in making a dash for that door and
effecting your escape--without forcing us to compound a felony--
Clayton's hand trembled violently as he seized the pen. He scrawled
his name--looked from one to the other--wet his lips--and then,
taking Jimmie Dale at his word, rushed for the door--and the door
slammed behind him.
Carruthers' face was hard. "What did you let him go for, Jimmie?"
he said uncompromisingly.
"Selfishness. Pure selfishness," said Jimmie Dale softly. "They'd
guy me unmercifully if they ever heard of it at the St. James Club.
The honour is all yours, Carruthers. I don't appear on the stage.
That's understood? Yes? Well, then"--he handed over the signed
confession--"is the 'scoop' big enough?"
Carruthers fingered the sheets, but his eyes in a bewildered way
searched Jimmie Dale's face.
"Big enough!" he echoed, as though invoking the universe. "It's the
biggest thing the newspaper game has ever known. But how did you
come to do it? What started you? Where did you get your lead?"
"Why, from you, I guess, Carruthers," Jimmie Dale answered
thoughtfully, with artfully puckered brow. "I remembered that you
had said last week that the Gray Seal never left finger marks on his
work--and I saw one on the seal on Metzer's forehead. Then, you
know, I lifted one corner where the seal overlapped a thread of
blood, and, underneath, the thread of blood wasn't in the slightest
disturbed; so, of course, I knew the seal had been put on quite a
long time after the man was dead--not until the blood had dried
thoroughly, to a crust, you know, so that even the damp surface of
the sticky side of the seal hadn't affected it. And then, I took a
dislike to Clayton somehow--and put two and two together, and took a
flyer in getting him to handle the notebook. I guess that's all--
no other reason on earth. Jolly lucky, don't you think?"
Carruthers didn't say anything for a moment. When he spoke, it was
"You saved me twenty-five thousand dollars on that reward, Jimmie."
"That's the only thing I regret," said Jimmie Dale brightly. "It
wasn't nice of you, Carruthers, to turn on the Gray Seal that way.
And it strikes me you owe the chap, whoever he is, a pretty emphatic
exoneration after what you said in this morning's edition."
"Jimmie," said Carruthers earnestly. "You know what I thought of
him before. It's like a new lease of life to get back one's faith
in him. You leave it to me. I'll put the Gray Seal on a pedestal
to-morrow that will be worthy of the immortals--you leave it to me."
And Carruthers kept his word. Also, before the paper had been an
hour off the press, Carruthers received a letter. It thanked
Carruthers quite genuinely, even if couched in somewhat facetious
terms, for his "sweeping vindication," twitted him gently for his
"backsliding," begged to remain "his gratefully," and in lieu of
signature there was a gray-coloured piece of paper shaped like this:
Only there were no fingerprints on it.
It was the following evening, and they had dined together again at
the St. James Club--Jimmie Dale, and Carruthers of the MORNING NEWSARGUS.
From Clayton and a discussion of the Metzer murder, the
conversation had turned, not illogically, upon the physiognomy of
criminals in general. Jimmie Dale, lazily ensconced now in a
lounging chair in one of the club's private library rooms, flicked a
minute speck of cigar ash from the sleeve of his dinner jacket, and
smiled whimsically across the table at his friend.
"Oh, I dare say there's a lot in physiognomy, Carruthers," he
drawled. "Never studied the thing, you know--that is, from the
standpoint of crime. Personally, I've only got one prejudice: I
distrust, on principle, the man who wears a perennial and pompous
smirk--which isn't, of course, strictly speaking, physiognomy at
all. You see, a man can't help his eyes being beady or his nose
pronounced, but pomposity and a smirk, now--" Jimmie Dale shrugged
his shoulders.
Carruthers laughed--and then glanced ludicrously at Jimmie Dale, as
the door, ajar, was pushed open, and a man entered.
"Speaking of angels," murmured Jimmie Dale--and sat up in his chair.
"Hello, Markel!" he observed casually, "You've met Carruthers, of
the NEWS-ARGUS, haven't you?"
Markel was fat and important; he had beady black eyes, fastidiously
trimmed whiskers--and a pronounced smirk.
Markel blew his nose vigorously, coughed asthmatically, and held out
his hand.
"Of course, certainly," said he effusively. "I've met Carruthers
several times--used his sheet more than once to advertise a new bond
The dominant note in Markel's voice was an ingratiating and
unpleasant whine, and Carruthers nodded, not very cordially--and
shook hands.
Markel went back to the door, closed it carefully, and returned to
the table.
"Fact is," he smiled confidentially, "I saw you two come in here a
few minutes ago, and I've got something that I thought Carruthers
might be glad to have for his society column--say, in the Sunday
He dove into the inside pocket of his coat, produced a large morocco
leather jeweller's case, and, holding it out over the table between
Carruthers and Jimmie Dale, suddenly snapped the cover open--and
then, with a complacent little chuckle that terminated in another
fit of coughing, spilled the contents on the table under the
electric reading lamp.
Like a thing of living, pulsing fire it rolled before their eyes--a
magnificent diamond necklace, of wondrous beauty, gleaming and
scintillating as the light rays shot back from a thousand facets.
For a moment, both men gazed at it without a word.
"Little surprise for my wife," volunteered Markel, with a debonair
wave of his pudgy hand, and trying to make his voice sound careless.
The case lay open--patently displaying the name of the most famous
jewelry house in America. Jimmie Dale's eyes fixed on Markel's
whiskers where they were brushed outward in an ornate and fastidious
gray-black sweep.
"By Jove!" he commented. "You don't do things by halves, do you,
"Two hundred and ten thousand dollars I paid for that little bunch
of gewgaws," said Markel, waving his hand again. Then he clapped
Carruthers heartily on the shoulder. "What do you think of it,
Carruthers--eh? Say, a photograph of it, and one of Mrs. Markel--
eh? Please her, you know--she's crazy on this society stunt--all
flubdub to me of course. How's it strike you, Carruthers?"
Carruthers, very evidently, liked neither the man nor his manners,
but Carruthers, above everything else, was a gentleman.
"To be perfectly frank with you, Mr. Markel," he said a little
frigidly, "I don't believe in this sort of thing. It's all right
from a newspaper standpoint, and we do it; but it's just in this way
that owners of valuable jewelry lay themselves open to theft. It
simply amounts to advising every crook in the country that you have
a quarter of a million at his disposal, which he can carry away in
his vest pocket, once he can get his hands on it--and you invite him
to try."
Jimmie Dale laughed. "What Carruthers means, Markel, is that you'll
have the Gray Seal down your street. Carruthers talks of crooks
generally, but he thinks in terms of only one. He can't help it.
He's been trying so long to catch the chap that it's become an
obsession. Eh, Carruthers?"
Carruthers smiled seriously. "Perhaps," he admitted. "I hope,
though, for Mr. Markel's sake, that the Gray Seal won't take a fancy
to it--if he does, Mr. Markel can say good-bye to his necklace."
"Pouf!" coughed Markel arrogantly. "Overrated! His cleverness is
all in the newspaper columns. If he knows what's good for him,
he'll know enough to leave this alone."
Jimmie Dale was leaning over the table poking gingerly with the tip
of his forefinger at the centre stone in the setting, revolving it
gently to and fro in the light--a very large stone, whose weight
would hardly be less than fifteen carats. Jimmie Dale lowered his
head for a closer examination--and to hide a curious, mocking little
gleam that crept into his dark eyes.
"Yes, I should say you're right, Markel," he agreed judicially. "He
ought to know better than to touch this. It--it would be too hard
to dispose of."
"I'm not worrying," declared Markel importantly.
"No," said Jimmie Dale. "Two hundred and ten thousand, you said.
Any special--er--significance to the occasion, if the question's not
impertinent? Birthday, wedding anniversary--or something like
"No, nothing like that!" Markel grinned, winked secretively, and
rubbed his hands together. "I'm feeling good, that's all--I'm going
to make the killing of my life to-morrow."
"Oh!" said Jimmie Dale.
Markel turned to Carruthers. "I'll let you in on that, too,
Carruthers, in a day or two, if you'll send a reporter around--
financial man, you know. It'll be worth your while. And now, how
about this? What do you say to a little article and the photos next
There was a slight hint of rising colour in Carruthers' face.
"If you'll send them to the society editor, I've no doubt he'll be
able to use them," he said brusquely.
"Right!" said Markel, and coughed, and patted Carruthers' shoulder
patronisingly again. "I'll just do that little thing." He picked
up the necklace, dangled it till it flashed and flashed again under
the light, then restored it very ostentatiously to its case, and the
case to his pocket. "Thanks awfully, Carruthers," he said, as he
rose from his chair. "See you again, Dale. Good-night!"
Carruthers glared at the door as it closed behind the man.
"Say it!" prodded Jimmie Dale sweetly. "Don't feel restrained
because you are a guest--I absolve you in advance."
"Rotter!" said Carruthers.
"Well," said Jimmie Dale softly. "You see--Carruthers?"
Carruthers' match crackled savagely as he lighted a cigar.
"Yes, I see," he growled. "But I don't see--you'll pardon my saying
so--how vulgarity like that ever acquired membership in the St.
James Club."
"Carruthers," said Jimmie Dale plaintively, "you ought to know
better than that. You know, to begin with, since it seems he has
advertised with you, that he runs some sort of brokerage business in
Boston. He's taken a summer home up here on Long Island, and some
misguided chap put him on the club's visitor's list. His card will
NOT be renewed. Sleek customer, isn't he? Trifle familiar--I was
only introduced to him last night."
Carruthers grunted, broke his burned match into pieces, and began to
toss the pieces into an ash tray.
Jimmie Dale became absorbed in an inspection of his hands--those
wonderful hands with long, slim, tapering fingers, whose clean, pink
flesh masked a strength and power that was like to a steel vise.
Jimmie Dale looked up. "Going to print a nice little story for him
about the 'costliest and most beautiful necklace in America'?" he
inquired innocently.
Carruthers scowled. "No," he said bluntly. "I am not. He'll read
the NEWS-ARGUS a long time before he reads anything about that,
But therein Carruthers was wrong--the NEWS-ARGUS carried the "story"
of Markel's diamond necklace in three-inch "caps" in red ink on the
front page in the next morning's edition--and Carruthers gloated
over it because the morning NEWS-ARGUS was the ONLY paper in New
York that did. Carruthers was to hear more of Markel and Markel's
necklace than he thought, though for the time being the subject
dropped between the two men.
It was still early, barely ten o'clock, when Carruthers left the
club, and, preferring to walk to the newspaper offices, refused
Jimmie Dale's offer of his limousine. It was but five minutes later
when Jimmie Dale, after chatting for a moment or two with those
about in the lobby, in turn sought the coat room, where Markel was
being assisted into his coat.
"Getting home early, aren't you, Markel?" remarked Jimmie Dale
"Yes," said Markel, and ran his fingers fussily, comb fashion,
through his whiskers. "Quite a little run out to my place, you
know--and with, you know what, I don't care to be out too late."
"No, of course," concurred Jimmie Dale, getting into his own coat.
They walked out of the club together, and Markel climbed importantly
into the tonneau of a big gray touring car.
"Ah--home, Peters," he sniffed at his chauffeur; and then, with a
grandiloquent wave of his hand to Jimmie Dale: "'Night, Dale."
Jimmie Dale smiled with his eyes--which were hidden by the brim of
his bat.
"Good-night, Markel," he replied, and the smile crept curiously to
the corners of his mouth as he watched the gray car disappear down
the street.
A limousine drew up, and Benson, Jimmie Dale's chauffeur, opened the
"Home, Mr. Dale?" he asked cheerily, touching his cap. "Yes,
Benson--home," said Jimmie Dale absently, and stepped into the car.
It was a luxurious car, as everything that belonged to Jimmie Dale
was luxurious--and he leaned back luxuriously on the cushions,
extended his legs luxuriously to their full length, plunged his
hands into his overcoat pockets--and then a change stole strangely,
slowly over Jimmie Dale.
The sensitive fingers of his right hand in the pocket had touched,
and now played delicately over a sealed envelope that they had found
there, played over it as though indeed by the sense of touch alone
they could read the contents--and he drew his body gradually erect.
It was another of those mysterious missives from--HER. The texture
of the paper was invariably the same--like this one. How had it
come there? Collusion with the coat boy at the club? That was
hardly probable. Perhaps it had been there before he had entered
the club for dinner--he remembered, now, that there had been several
people passing, and that he had been jostled slightly in crossing
the sidewalk. What, however, did it matter? It was there
mysteriously, as scores of others had come to him mysteriously, with
never a clew to her identity, to the identity of his--he smiled a
little grimly--accomplice in crime.
He took the envelope from his pocket and stared at it. His fingers
had not been at fault--it was one of hers. The faint, elusive,
exquisite fragrance of some rare perfume came to him as he held it.
"I'd give," said Jimmie Dale wistfully to himself--"I'd give
everything I own to know who you are--and some day, please God, I
will know."
Jimmie Dale tore the envelope very gently, as though the tearing
almost were an act of desecration--and extracted the letter from
within. He began to read aloud hurriedly and in snatches:
"DEAR PHILANTHROPIC CROOK: Charleton Park Manor--Markel's house is
the second one from the gates on the right-hand side--library leads
off reception hall on left, door opposite staircase--telephone in
reception hall near vestibule entrance, left-hand side--safe is one
of your father's make, No. 14,321--clothes closet behind the desk--
probably will be kept in cash box--five servants; two men, three
maids--quarters on top story--Markel and wife occupy room over
library--French windows to dining room on opposite side of the
house--opening on the lawn--get it TO-NIGHT, Jimmie--TO-MORROW WOULD
BE TOO LATE--dispose of it--see fit--Henry Wilbur, Marshall
Building, Broadway--fifth story--"
Through the glass-panelled front of the car, Jimmie Dale could see
his chauffeur's back, and the hand that held the letter dropped now
to his side, and Jimmie Dale stared--at his chauffeur's back. Then,
presently, he read the letter again, as though committing it to
memory now; and then, tearing the paper into tiny shreds, as he did
with every one of her communications, he reached out of the window
and allowed the little pieces to filter gradually from his hand.
The Gray Seal! He smiled in his whimsical way. If it were ever
known! He, Jimmie Dale, with his social standing, his wealth, his
position--the Gray Seal! Not a police official, not a secretservice
bureau probably in the civilised world, but knew the name--
not a man, woman, or child certainly in this great city around him
but to whom it was as familiar as their own! Danger? Yes. A
battle of wits? Yes. His against everybody's--even against
Carruthers', his old college chum! For, even as a reporter, before
he had risen to the editorial desk, and even now that he had,
Carruthers had been one of the keenest on the scent of the Gray
Danger? Yes. But it was worth it! Worth it a thousand times for
the very lure of the danger itself; but worth it most of all for his
association with her who, by some amazing means, verging indeed on
the miraculous, came into touch with all these things, and supplied
him with the data on which to work--that always some wrong might be
righted, or gladness come where there had been gloom before, or hope
where there had been despair--that into some fellow human's heart
should come a gleam of sunshine. Yes, in spite of the howls of the
police, the virulent diatribes of the press, an angry public
screaming for his arrest, conviction, and punishment, there were
those perhaps who even on their bended knees at night asked God's
blessing on--the Gray Seal!
Was it strange, then, after all, that the police, seeking a clew
through motive, should have been driven to frenzy on every occasion
in finding themselves forever confronted with what, from every angle
they were able to view it, was quite a purposeless crime! On one
point only they were right, the old dogma, the old, old cry, old as
the institution of police, older than that, old since time
immemorial--CHERCHEZ LA FEMME! Quite right--but also quite
purposeless! Jimmie Dale's eyes grew wistful. He had been "hunting
for the woman in the case" himself, now, for months and years
indefatigably, using every resource at his command--quite
Jimmie Dale shrugged his shoulders. Why go over all this to-night--
there were other things to do. She had come to him again--and this
time with a matter that entailed more than ordinary difficulty, more
than usual danger, that would tax his wits and his skill to the
utmost, not only to succeed, but to get out of it himself with a
whole skin. Markel--eh? Jimmie Dale leaned back in his seat,
clasped his hands behind his head--and his eyes, half closed now,
were studying Benson's back again through the plate-glass front.
He was still sitting in that position as the car approached his
residence on Riverside Drive--but, as it came to a stop, and Benson
opened the door, it was a very alert Jimmie Dale that stepped to the
"Benson," he said crisply, "I am going downtown again later on, but
I shall drive myself. Bring the touring car around and leave it in
front of the house. I'll run it into the garage when I get back--
you need not wait up."
"Very good, sir," said Benson.
In the hallway, Jason, the butler, who had been butler to Jimmie
Dale's father before him, took Jimmie Dale's hat and coat.
"It's a fine evening, Master Jim," said the privileged old man
Jimmie Dale took out his silver cigarette case, selected a
cigarette, tapped it daintily on the cover of the case--and accepted
the match the old man hastily produced.
"Yes, Jason." said Jimmie Dale, pleasantly facetious, "it a fine
night, a glorious night, moon and stars and a balmy breeze--quite
too fine, indeed, to remain indoors. In fact, you might lay out my
gray ulster; I think I will go for a spin presently, when I have
"Yes, sir," said Jason. "Anything else, Master Jim?"
"No; that's all, Jason. Don't sit up for me--you may go to bed
"Thank you, sir," said the old man.
Jimmie Dale went upstairs, opened the door of his own particular den
on the right of the landing, stepped inside, closed the door,
switched on the light--and Jimmie Dale's debonair nonchalance
dropped from him as a mask instantly--and it was another Jimmie
Dale--the professional Jimmie Dale.
Quick now in every action, he swung aside the portiere that
curtained off the squat, barrel-shaped safe in the little alcove,
opened the safe, took out that curious leather girdle with its kit
of burglar's tools, added to it a flashlight and an automatic
revolver, closed the safe--and passed into his dressing room. Here,
he proceeded to divest himself rapidly of his evening clothes,
selecting in their stead a suit of dark tweed. He heard Jason come
up the stairs, pass along the hall, and mount the second flight to
his own quarters; and presently came the sound of an automobile
without. The dressing room fronted on the Drive--Jimmie Dale looked
out. Benson was just getting out of the touring car. Slipping the
leather girdle, then, around his waist, Jimmie Dale put on his vest,
then his coat--and walked briskly downstairs.
Jason had laid out a gray ulster on the hall stand. Jimmie Dale put
it on, selected a leather cap with motor-goggle attachment that
pulled down almost to the tip of his nose, tucked a slouch hat into
the pocket of the ulster, and, leaving the house, climbed into his
He glanced at his watch as he started--it was a quarter of eleven.
Jimmie Dale's lips pursed a little.
"I guess it'll make a night of it, and a tight squeeze, at that, to
get back under cover before daylight," he muttered. "I'll have to
do some tall speeding."
But at first, across the city and through Brooklyn, for all his
impatience, it was necessarily slow--after that, Jimmie Dale took
chances, and, once on the country roads of Long Island, the big,
powerful car tore through the night like a greyhound whose leash is
A half hour passed--Jimmie Dale's eyes shifting occasionally from
the gray thread of road ahead of him under the glare of the dancing
lamps, to the road map spread out at his feet, upon which, from time
to time, he focused his pocket flashlight. And then, finally, he
slowed the car to a snail's pace--he should be very near his
destination--that very ultra-exclusive subdivision of Charleton Park
On either side of the road now was quite a thickly set stretch of
wooded land, rising slightly on the right--and this Jimmie Dale
scrutinised sharply. In fact, he stopped for an instant as he came
opposite to a wagon track--it seemed to be little more than that--
that led in through the trees.
"If it's not too far from the seat of war," commented Jimmie Dale to
himself, as he went on again, "it will do admirably."
And then, a hundred yards farther on, Jimmie Dale nodded his head in
satisfaction--he was passing the rather ornate stone pillars that
marked the entrance to Charleton Park Manor, and on which the
initial promoters of the subdivision, the real-estate people, had
evidently deemed it good advertising policy to expend a small
Another hundred yards farther on, Jimmie Dale turned his car around
and returned past the gates to the wagon track again. The road was
deserted--not a car nor a vehicle of any description was in sight.
Jimmie Dale made sure of that--and in another instant Jimmie Dale's
own car, every light extinguished, had vanished--he had backed it up
the wagon track, just far enough in for the trees to screen it
thoroughly from the main road.
Nor did Jimmie Dale himself appear again on the main road--until
just as he emerged close to the gates of Charleton Park Manor from a
short cut through the woods. Also, he was without his ulster now,
and the slouch hat had replaced the motor cap.
Jimmie Dale, in the moonlight, took stock of his surroundings, as he
passed in at a businesslike walk through the gates. It was a large
park, if that name could properly be applied to it at all, and the
houses--he caught sight of one set back from the driveway on the
right--were quite far apart, each in its own rather spacious grounds
among the trees.
"The second house on the right," her letter had said. Jimmie Dale
had already passed the first one--the next would be Markel's then--
and it loomed ahead of him now, black and shadowy and unlighted.
Jimmie Dale shot a glance around him--there was stillness, quiet
everywhere--no sign of life--no sound.
Jimmie Dale's face became tense, his lips tight--and he stepped
suddenly from the sidewalk in among the trees. They were not thick
here, of course, the trees, and the turf beneath his feet was well
kept--and, therefore, soundless. He moved quickly now, but
cautiously, from tree to tree, for the moonlight, flooding the lawn
and house, threw all objects into bold relief.
A minute, two, three went by--and a shadow flitted here and there
across the light-green sward, like the moving of the trees swaying
in the breeze--and then Jimmie Dale was standing close up against
one side of the house, hidden by the protecting black shadows of the
But here, for a moment, Jimmie Dale seemed little occupied with the
house itself--he was staring down past its length to where the woods
made a heavy, dark background at the rear. Then he turned his head,
to face directly to the main road, then back again slowly, as though
measuring an angle. Jimmie Dale had no intention of making his
escape by the roundabout way in which he had been forced to come in
order to make certain of locating the right house, the second one
from the gates--and he was getting the bearings of his car and the
wagon track now.
"I guess that'll be about right," Jimmie Dale muttered finally.
"And now for--"
He slipped along the side of the house and halted where, almost on a
level with the ground, the French windows of the dining room opened
on the lawn. Jimmie Dale tried them gently. They were locked.
An indulgent smile crept to Jimmie Dale's lips--and his hand crept
in under his vest. It came out again--not empty--and Jimmie Dale
leaned close against the window. There was a faint, almost
inaudible, scratching sound, then a slight, brittle crack--and
Jimmie Dale laid a neat little four-inch square of glass on the
ground at his feet. Through the aperture he reached in his hand,
turned the key that was in the lock, turned the bolt-rod handle,
pushed the doors silently open--wide open--left them open--and
stepped into the room.
He could see quite well within, thanks to the moonlight. Jimmie
Dale produced a black silk mask from one of the little leather
pockets, adjusted it carefully over his face, and crossed the room
to the hall door. He opened this--wide open--left it open--and
entered the hall.
Here it was dark--a pitch blackness. He stood for a moment,
listening--utter silence. And then--alert, strained, tense in an
instant, Jimmie Dale crouched against the wall--and then he smiled a
little grimly. It was only some one coughing upstairs--Markel--in
his sleep, perhaps, or, perhaps--in wakefulness.
"I'm a fool!" confided Jimmie Dale to himself, as he recognised the
cough that he had heard at the club. "And yet--I don't know. One's
nerves get sort of taut. Pretty stiff business. If I'm ever
caught, the penitentiary sentence I get will be the smallest part of
what's to pay."
A round button of light played along the wall from the flashlight in
his hand--just for an instant--and all was blackness again. But in
that instant Jimmie Dale was across the hall, and his fingers were
tracing the telephone connection from the instrument to where the
wires disappeared in the baseboard of the floor. Another instant,
and he had severed the wires with a pair of nippers.
Again the quick, firefly gleam of light to locate the stair case and
the library door opposite to it--and, moving without the slightest
noise, Jimmie Dale's hand was on the door itself. Again he paused
to listen. All was silence now.
The door swung under his hand, and, left open behind him, he was in
the room. The flashlight winked once--suspiciously. Then he
snapped its little switch, keeping the current on, and the ray
dodged impudently here and there all over the apartment.
The safe was set in a sort of clothes closet behind the desk, she
had said. Yes, there it was--the door, at least. Jimmie Dale moved
toward it--and paused as his light swept the top of the intervening
desk. A mass of papers, books, and correspondence littered it
untidily. The yellow sheet of a telegram caught Jimmie Dale's eye.
He picked it up and glanced at it. It read:
"Vein uncovered to-day. Undoubtedly mother lode. Enormously rich.
Put the screws on at once. THURL."
Under the mask, Jimmie Dale's lips twitched.
"I think, Markel, you miserable hound," said he softly, that God
will forgive me for depriving you of a share of the profits. Two
hundred and ten thousand, I think it was, you said the sparklers
cost." A curious little sound came from Jimmie Dale's lips--like a
Jimmie Dale tossed the telegram back on the desk, moved on behind
the desk, opened the door of the closet that had been metamorphosed
into a vault--and the white light travelled slowly, searchingly,
critically over the shining black-enamelled steel, the nickelled
knobs, and dials of a safe that confronted him.
Jimmie Dale nodded at it--familiarly, grimly.
"It's number one-four-three-two-one, all right," he murmured. "And
one of the best we ever made. Pretty tough. But I've done it
before. Say, half an hour of gentle persuasion. It would be too
bad to crack it with 'soup'--besides, that's crude--Carruthers would
never forgive the Gray Seal for that!"
The light went out--blackness fell. Jimmie Dale's slim, sensitive
fingers closed on the dial's knob, his head touched the steel front
of the safe as he pressed his ear against it for the tumblers' fall.
And then silence. It seemed to grow heavier, that silence, with
each second--to palpitate through the quiet house--to grow pregnant,
premonitory of dread, of fear--it seemed to throb in long
undulations, and the stillness grew LOUD. A moonbeam filtered in
between the edge of the drawn shade and the edge of the window. It
struggled across the floor in a wavering path, strayed over the
desk, and died away, shadowy and formless, against the blackness of
the opened recess door, against the blackness of the great steel
safe, the blackness of a huddled form crouched against it. Only now
and then, in a strange, projected, wraithlike effect, the moon ray
glinted timidly on the tip of a nickel dial, and, ghostlike,
disclosed a human hand.
Upstairs, Markel coughed again. Then from the safe a whisper,
heavy-breathed as from great exertion:
The dial whirled with faint, musical, little metallic clicks; then
began to move slowly again, very, very slowly. The moonbeam, as
though petulant at its own abortive attempt to satisfy its
curiosity, retreated back across the floor, and faded away.
Time passed. Then from the safe again, but now in a low gasp, a
pant of relief:
The ear might barely catch the sound--it was as of metal sliding in
well-oiled grooves, of metal meeting metal in a padded thud. The
massive door swung outward. Jimmie Dale stood up, easing his
cramped muscles, and flirted the sweat beads from his forehead.
After a moment, he knelt again. There was still the inner door--but
that was a minor matter to Jimmie Dale compared with what had gone
Stillness once more--a long period of it. And then again that cough
from above--a prolonged paroxysm of it this time that went racketing
through the house.
Jimmie Dale, in the act of swinging back the inner door of the safe,
paused to listen, and little furrows under his mask gathered on his
forehead. The coughing stopped. Jimmie Dale waited a moment, still
listening--then his flashlight bored into the interior of the safe.
"The cash box, probably," quoted Jimmie Dale, beneath his breath--
and picked it up from where it lay in the bottom compartment of the
The lock snipped under the insistent probe of a delicate little
blued-steel instrument, and Jimmie Dale lifted the cover. There was
a package of papers and documents on top, held together with elastic
bands. Jimmie Dale spent a moment or two examining these, then his
fingers dived down underneath, and the next minute, under the
flashlight, the morocco leather case open, the diamond necklace was
sparkling and flashing on its white satin bed.
"A tempting little thing, isn't it?" said Jimmie Dale gently. "It
was really thoughtful of you, Markel, to buy that this afternoon!"
Jimmie Dale replaced the necklace in the cash box, set the cash box
on the floor, closed the inner door of the safe, and swung the outer
door a little inward--but left it flauntingly ajar. Then from a
pocket of the leather girdle beneath his vest he produced his small,
thin, flat, metal case. From this, from between sheets of oil
paper, with the aid of a pair of tweezers, he lifted out a gray,
diamond-shaped seal. Jimmie Dale was apparently fastidious. He
held the seal with the tweezers as he moistened the adhesive side
with his tongue, laid the seal on his handkerchief, and pressed the
handkerchief firmly against the safe--as usual, Jimmie Dale's
insignia bore no finger prints as it lay neatly capping the knob of
the dial.
He reached down, picked up the cash box--and then, for the second
time that night, held suddenly tense, alert, listening, his every
muscle taut. A door opened upstairs. There came a murmur of
voices. Then a momentary lull.
Jimmie Dale listened. Like a statue he stood there in the black,
absolutely motionless--his head a little forward and to one side.
Nothing--not a sound. Then a very low, curious, swishing noise, and
Jimmie Dale moved stealthily from the recess, and noiselessly to the
desk. Very faintly, but distinctly now, came a pad of either
slippered or bare feet on the stairway carpet. Like a cat,
soundless in his movements, Jimmie Dale crept toward the door of the
room. Down the stairs came that pad of feet; occasionally came that
swishing sound. Nearer the door crept Jimmie Dale, and his lips
were thinned now, his jaws clamped. How near were they together, he
and this night prowler? At times he could not hear the other at
all, and, besides, the heavy carpet made the judgment of distance an
impossibility. If he could gain the hall, and, in the darkness,
elude the other, the way of escape through the dining room was open.
And then, within a few feet of the door, Jimmie Dale halted
abruptly, as a woman's voice rose querulously from the hallway
"You are making a perfect fool of yourself, Theodore Markel! Come
back here to bed!"
Jimmie Dale's face hardened like stone--the answer came almost from
the very threshold in front of him:
"I can't sleep, I tell you"--it was Markel's voice, in a disgruntled
snarl. "I was a fool to bring the confounded thing home. I'm going
to take the library couch for the rest of the night."
It happened quick, then--quick as the winking of an eye. Two sharp,
almost simultaneous, clicks of the electric-light buttons pressed
by Markel, and the hall and library were a flood of light--and
Jimmie Dale leaped forward to where, in dressing gown and pajamas,
blankets and bedding over one arm, a revolver dangling in the other
hand, Markel stood full before the door in the hallway without.
There was a wild yell of terror and surprise from Markel, then a
deafening roar and a spit of flame from his revolver--a bitter,
smothered exclamation from Jimmie Dale as the cash box crashed to
the floor from his left hand, and he was upon the other like a
With the impact, both men went to the floor, grappled, and rolled
over and over. Half mad with fear, shock, and surprise, Markel
fought like a maniac, and his voice, in gasping shouts, rang through
the house.
A minute, two passed--and the men rolled about the hall floor.
Markel, over middle age and unheathily fat, against Jimmie Dale's
six feet of muscle--only Jimmie Dale's left hand, dripping a red
stream now, was almost useless.
From above came wild confusion--women's voices in little shrieks;
men's voices shouting in excitement; doors opening, running feet.
And then Jimmie Dale had snatched the revolver from the floor where
Markel had dropped it in the scuffle, and was pressing it against
Markel's forehead--and Markel, terror-stricken, had collapsed in a
flabby, pliant heap.
Jimmie Dale, still covering Markel with the weapon, stood up. The
frightened faces of women protruded over the banisters above. The
two men-servants, at best none too enthusiastically on the way down,
stopped as though stunned as Jimmie Dale swung the revolver upon
Then Jimmie Dale spoke--to Markel--pointing the weapon at Markel
"I don't like you, Markel," he said, with cold impudence. The only
decent thing you'll ever do will be to die--and if those men of
yours on the stairs move another step it will be your death warrant.
Do you understand? I would suggest that you request them to stay
where they are."
Cold sweat was on Markel's face as he stared into the muzzle of the
revolver, and his teeth chattered.
"Go back!" he screamed hysterically at the servants. "Go back! Sit
down! Don't move! Do what he tells you!"
"Thank you!" said Jimmie Dale grimly. "Now, get up yourself!"
Markel got up.
Jimmie Dale backed to the library door, picked up the cash box,
tucked it under his left armpit, and faced those on the stairs.
"Mr. Markel and I are going out for a little walk," he announced
coolly. "If one of you make a move or raise an alarm before your
master comes back, I shall be obliged, in self-defence, to shoot--
Mr. Markel. Mr. Markel quite understands that--I am sure. Do you
not, Mr. Markel?"
"Helen," screamed Markel to his wife, "don't let 'em move! For
God's sake, do as he says!"
Jimmie Dale's lips, just showing beneath the edge of his mask,
broadened in a pleasant little smile.
"Will you lead the way, Mr. Markel?" he requested, with ironic
deference. "Through the dining room, please. Yes, that's right!
Markel walked weakly into the dining room, and Jimmie Dale followed.
A prod in the back from the revolver muzzle, and Markel stepped
through the French windows and out on the lawn. Jimmie Dale faced
the other toward the woods at the rear of the house.
"Go on!" Jimmie Dale's voice was curt now, uncompromising. "And
step lively!"
They passed on along the side of the house and in among the trees.
Fifty yards or so more, and Jimmie Dale halted. He backed Markel up
against a large tree--not over gently.
"I--I say"--Markel's teeth were going like castanets. "I--"
"You'll oblige me by keeping your mouth shut," observed Jimmie Dale
politely--and he whipped the cord of Markel's dressing gown loose
and began to tie the man to the tree. "You have many unpleasant
characteristics, Markel--your voice is one of them. Shall I repeat
that I do not like you?" He stepped to the back of the tree.
"Pardon me if I draw this uncomfortably tight. I don't think you
can reach around to the knot. No? The trunk is too large? Quite
so!" He stepped around to face Markel again--the man was thoroughly
frightened, his face was livid, his jaw sagged weakly, and his eyes
followed every movement of the revolver in Jimmie Dale's hand in a
sort of miserable fascination. Jimmie Dale smiled unhappily. "I am
going to do something, Markel, that I should advise no other man to
do--I am going to put you on your honour! For the next fifteen
minutes you are not to utter a sound. Do you understand?"
"Y-yes," said Markel hoarsely.
"No," said Jimmie Dale sadly, "I don' think you do. Let me be
painfully explicit. If you break your vow of silence by so much as
a second, then to-morrow, or the next day, or the day after, at my
convenience, Markel, you and I will meet again--for the LAST time.
There can be no possible misapprehension on your part now--Markel?"
"N-no,"--Markel could scarcely chatter out the word.
"Quite so," said Jimmie Dale, in velvet tones. He stood for an
instant looking at the other with cool insolence; then: "Good-night,
Markel"--and five minutes later a great touring car was tearing New
Yorkward over the Long Island roads at express speed.
It was one o'clock in the morning as Jimmie Dale swung the car into
a cross street off lower Broadway, and drew up at the curb beside a
large office building. He got out, snuggled the cash box under his
ulster, went around to the Broadway entrance, glanced up to note
that a light burned in a fifth-story window, and entered the
The hallway was practically in darkness, one or two incandescents
only threw a dim light about. Jimmie Dale stopped for a moment at
the foot of the stairs, beside the elevator well, to listen--if the
watchman was making rounds, it was in another part of the building
Jimmie Dale began to climb.
He reached the fifth floor, turned down the corridor, and halted in
front of a door, through the ground-glass panel of which a light
glowed faintly--as though coming from an inner office beyond.
Jimmie Dale drew the black silk mask from his pocket, adjusted it,
tried the door, found it unlocked, opened it noiselessly, and
stepped inside. Across the room, through another door, half open,
the light streamed into the outer office, where Jimmie Dale stood.
Jimmie Dale stole across the room, crouched by the door to look into
the inner office--and his face went suddenly rigid.
"Good God!" he whispered. "As bad as that!"--but it was a
nonchalant Jimmie Dale to all outward appearances that, on the
instant, stepped unconcernedly over the threshold.
An elderly man, white-haired, kindly-faced, kindly-eyed, save now
that the face was drawn and haggard, the eyes full of weariness, was
standing behind a flat-topped desk, his fingers twitching nervously
on a revolver in his hand. He whirled, with a startled cry, at
Jimmie Dale's entrance, and the revolver clattered from his fingers
to the floor.
"I am afraid," said Jimmie Dale, smiling pleasantly, "that you were
going to shoot yourself. Your name is Wilbur, Henry Wilbur, isn't
Unmanned, trembling, the other stood--and nodded mechanically.
"It's really not a nice thing to do," said Jimmie Dale
confidentially. "Makes a mess, you see, too"--he was pulling off
his motor gauntlet, his ulster, his jacket, and, having set the cash
box on the desk, was rolling back his sleeve as he spoke. "Had a
little experience myself this evening." He held out his hand that,
with the forearm, was covered with blood. "A little above the
wrist--fortunately only a flesh wound--a little memento from a chap
named Markel, and--"
"MARKEL!" The word burst, quivering, from the other's lips.
"Yes," said Jimmie Dale imperturbably. "Do you mind if I wash a
bit--and could you oblige me with a towel, or something that would
do for a bandage?"
The man seemed dazed. In a subconscious way, he walked from the
desk to a little cupboard, and took out two towels.
Jimmie Dale stooped, while the other's back was turned, picked up
the revolver from the floor, and slipped it into his trousers
"Markel?" said Wilbur again, the same trembling anxiety in his
voice, as he handed Jimmie Dale the towels and motioned toward a
washstand in the corner of the room. "Did you say Markel--Theodore
"Yes," said Jimmie Dale, examining his wound critically.
"You had trouble--a fight with him? Is he--he--dead?"
"No," said Jimmie Dale, smiling a little grimly. " He's pretty
badly hurt, though, I imagine--but not in a physical way."
"Strange!" whispered Wilbur, in a numbed tone to himself; and he
went back and sank down in his desk chair. "Strange that you should
speak of Markel--strange that you should have come here to-night!"
Jimmie Dale did not answer. He glanced now and then at the other,
as he deftly dressed his wrist--the man seemed on the verge of
collapse, on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Jimmie Dale swore
softly to himself. Wilbur was too old a man to be called upon to
stand against the trouble and anxiety that was mirrored in the
misery in his face, that had brought him to the point of taking his
own life.
Jimmie Dale put on his coat again, walked over to the desk, and
picked up the 'phone.
"If I may?" he inquired courteously--and confided a number to the
mouthpiece of the instrument.
There was a moment's wait, during which Wilbur, in a desperate sort
of way, seemed to be trying to rally himself, to piece together a
puzzle, as it were; and for the first time he appeared to take a
personal interest in the masked figure that leaned against his desk.
He kept passing his hands across his eyes, staring at Jimmie Dale.
Then Jimmie Dale spoke--into the 'phone.
"MORNING NEWS-ARGUS office? Mr. Carruthers, please. Thank you."
Another wait--then Jimmie Dale's voice changed its pitch and
register to a pleasant and natural, though quite unrecognisable
Mr. Carruthers? Yes. I thought it might interest you to know that
Mr. Theodore Markel purchased a very valuable diamond necklace this
afternoon. . . . Oh, you knew that, did you? Well, so much the
better; you'll be all the more keenly interested to know that it is
no longer in his possession. . . . I beg pardon? Oh, yes, I quite
forgot--this is the Gray Seal speaking. . . . Yes. . . . The Gray
Seal. . . . I have just come from Mr. Markel's country house, and
if you hurry a man out there you ought to be able to give the public
an exclusive bit of news, a scoop, I believe you call it--you see,
Mr. Carruthers, I am not ungrateful for, I might say, the eulogistic
manner in which the MORNING NEWS-ARGUS treated me in that last
affair, and I trust I shall be able to do you many more favours--I
am deeply in your debt. And, oh, yes, tell your reporter not to
overlook the detail of Mr. Markel in his pajamas and dressing gown
tied to a tree in his park--Mr. Markel might be inclined to be
reticent on that point, and it would be a pity to deprive the public
of any--er--'atmosphere' in the story, you know. . . . What? . . .
No; I am afraid Mr. Markel's 'phone is--er--out of order. . . .
Yes. . . . And, by the way, speaking of 'phones, Mr. Carruthers,
between gentlemen, I know you will make no effort under the
circumstances to discover the number I am calling from. Good-night,
Mr. Carruthers." Jimmie Dale hung the receiver abruptly on the
"You see," said Jimmie Dale, turning to Wilbur--and then he stopped.
The man was on his feet, swaying there, his face positively gray.
"My God!" Wilbur burst out. "What have you done? A thousand times
better if I had shot myself, as I would have done in another moment
if you had not come in. I was only ruined then--I am disgraced now.
You have robbed Markel's safe--I am the one man in the world who
would have a reason above all others for doing that--and Markel
knows it. He will accuse me of it. He can prove I had a motive. I
have not been home to-night. Nobody knows I am here. I cannot
prove an alibi. What have you done!"
"Really," said Jimmie Dale, almost plaintively, swinging himself up
on the corner of the desk and taking the cash box on his knee,
"really, you are alarming yourself unnecessarily. I--"
But Wilbur stopped him. "You don't know what you are talking
about!" Wilbur cried out, in a choked way; then, his voice
steadying, he rushed on: "Listen! I am a ruined man, absolutely
ruined. And Markel has ruined me--I did not see through his trick
until too late. Listen! For years, as a mining engineer, I made a
good salary--and I saved it. Two years ago I had nearly seventy
thousand dollars--it represented my life work. I bought an
abandoned mine in Alaska for next to nothing--I was certain it was
rich. A man by the name of Thurl, Jason T. Thurl, another mining
engineer, a steamer acquaintance, was out there at the time--he was
a partner of Markel's, though I didn't know it then. I started to
work the mine. It didn't pan out. I dropped nearly every cent.
Then I struck a small vein that temporarily recouped me, and
supplied the necessary funds with which to go ahead for a while.
Thurl, who had tried to buy the mine out from under my option in the
first place, repeatedly then tried to buy it from me at a ridiculous
figure. I refused. He persisted. I refused--I was confident, I
KNEW I had one of the richest properties in Alaska."
Wilbur paused. A little row of glistening drops had gathered on his
forehead. Jimmie Dale, balancing Markel's cash box on one knee,
drummed softly with his finger tips on the cover.
"The vein petered out," Wilbur went on. "But I was still confident.
I sank all the proceeds of the first strike--and sank them fast, for
unaccountable accidents that crippled me both financially and in the
progress of the work began to happen." Wilbur flung out his hands
impotently. "Oh, it's a long story--too long to tell. Thurl was at
the bottom of those accidents. He knew as well as I did that the
mine was rich--better than I did, for that matter, for we discovered
before we ran him out of Alaska that he had made secret borings on
the property. But what I did not know until a few hours ago was
that he had actually uncovered what we uncovered only yesterday--the
mother lode. He was driving me as fast as he could into the last
ditch--for Markel. I didn't know until yesterday that Markel had
any thing to do with it. I struggled on out there, hoping every day
to open a new vein. I raised money on everything I had, except my
insurance and the mine--and sank it in the mine. No one out there
would advance me anything on a property that looked like a failure,
that had once already been abandoned. I have always kept an office
here, and I came back East with the idea of raising something on my
insurance. Markel, quite by haphazard as I then thought, was
introduced to me just before we left San Francisco on our way to New
York. On the run across the continent we became very friendly.
Naturally, I told him my story. He played sympathetic good fellow,
and offered to lend me fifty thousand dollars on a demand note. I
did not want to be involved for a cent more than was necessary, and,
as I said, I hoped from day to day to make another strike. I
refused to take more than ten thousand. I remember now that he
seemed strangely disappointed."
Again Wilbur stopped. He swept the moisture from his forehead--and
his fist, clenched, came down upon the desk.
"You see the game!"--there was bitter anger in his voice now. "You
see the game! He wanted to get me in deep enough so that I couldn't
wriggle out, deeper than ten thousand that I could get at any time
on my insurance, he wanted me where I couldn't get away--and he got
me. The first ten thousand wasn't enough. I went to him for a
second, a third, a fourth, a fifth--hoping always that each would be
the last. Each time a new note, a demand note for the total amount,
was made, cancelling the former one. I didn't know his game, didn't
suspect it--I blessed God for giving me such a friend--until this,
or, rather, yesterday afternoon, when I received a telegram from my
manager at the mine saying that he had struck what looked like a
very rich vein--the mother lode. And"--Wilbur's fist curled until
the knuckles were like ivory in their whiteness--"he added in the
telegram that Thurl had wired the news of the strike to a man in New
York by the name of Markel. Do you see? I hadn't had the telegram
five minutes, when a messenger brought me a letter from Markel
curtly informing me that I would have to meet my note to-morrow
morning. I can't meet it. He knew I couldn't. With wealth in
sight--I'm wiped out. A DEMAND note, a call loan, do you
understand--and with a few months in which to develop the new vein I
could pay it readily. As it is--I default the note--Markel attaches
all I have left, which is the mine. The mine is sold to satisfy my
indebtedness. Markel buys it in legally, upheld by the law--and
acquires, ROBS me of it, and--"
"And so," said Jimmie Dale musingly, "you were going to shoot
Wilbur straightened up, and there was something akin to pathetic
grandeur in the set of the old shoulders as they squared back.
"Yes!" he said, in a low voice. "And shall I tell you why? Even
if, which is not likely, there was something reverting to me over
the purchase price, it would be a paltry thing compared with the
mine. I have a wife and children. If I have worked for them all my
life, could I stand back now at the last and see them robbed of
their inheritance by a black-hearted scoundrel when I could still
lift a hand to prevent it! I had one way left. What is my life? I
am too old a man to cling to it where they are concerned. I have
referred to my insurance several times. I have always carried heavy
insurance"--he smiled a little curious, mirthless smile--"THAT HAS
NO SUICIDE CLAUSE." He swept his hand over the desk, indicating the
papers scattered there. "I have worked late to-night getting my
affairs in order. My total insurance is fifty-two thousand dollars,
though I couldn't BORROW anywhere near the full amount on it--but at
my death, paid in full, it would satisfy the note. My executors, by
instruction would pay the note--and no dollar from the mine, no
single grain of gold, not an ounce of quartz, would Markel ever get
his hands on, and my wife and children would be saved. That is--"
His words ended abruptly--with a little gasp. Jimmie Dale had
opened the cash box and was dangling the necklace under the light--a
stream of fiery, flashing, sparkling gems.
Then Wilbur spoke again, a hard, bitter note in his voice, pointing
his hand at the necklace.
"But now, on top of everything, you have brought me disgrace--
because you broke into his safe to-night for THAT? He would and
will accuse me. I have heard of you--the Gray Seal--you have done a
pitiful night's work in your greed for that thing there."
"For this?" Jimmie Dale smiled ironically, holding the necklace up.
Then he shook his head. "I didn't break into Markel's safe for
this--it wouldn't have been worth while. It's only paste."
"PASTE!" exclaimed Wilbur, in a slow way.
"Paste," said Jimmie Dale placidly, dropping the necklace back into
its case. "Quite in keeping with Markel, isn't it--to make a
sensation on the cheap?"
"But that doesn't change matters!" Wilbur cried out sharply, after a
numbed instant's pause. "You still broke into the safe, even if you
didn't know then that the necklace was paste."
"Ah, but, you see--I did know then," said Jimmie Dale softly. "I am
really--you must take my word for it--a very good judge of stones,
and I had--er--seen these before."
Wilbur stared--bewildered, confused.
"Then why--what was it that--"
"A paper," said Jimmie Dale, with a little chuckle--and produced it
from the cash box. "It reads like this: 'On demand, I promise to
"My note!" It came in a great, surging cry from Wilbur; and he
strained forward to read it.
"Of course," said Jimmie Dale. "Of course--your note. Did you
think that I had just happened to drop in on you? Now, then, see
here, you just buck up, and--er--smile. There isn't even a
possibility of you being accused of the theft. In the first place,
Markel saw quite enough of me to know that it wasn't you. Secondly,
neither Markel nor any one else would ever dream that the break was
made for anything else but the necklace, with which you have no
connection--the papers were in the cash box and were just taken
along with it. Don't you see? And, besides, the police, with my
very good friend, Carruthers at their elbows, will see very
thoroughly to it that the Gray Seal gets full and ample credit for
the crime. But"--Jimmie Dale pulled out his watch, and yawned under
his mask--"it's getting to be an unconscionable hour--and you've
still a letter to write."
"A letter?" Wilbur's voice was broken, his lips quivering.
"To Markel," said Jimmie Dale pleasantly. "Write him in reply to
his letter of the afternoon, and post it before you leave here--just
as though you had written it at once, promptly, on receipt of his.
He will still get it on the morning delivery. State that you will
take up the note immediately on presentation at whatever bank he
chooses to name. That's all. Seeing that he hasn't got it, he
can't very well present it--can he? Eventually, having--er--no use
for fake diamonds, I shall return the necklace, together with the
papers in his cash box here--including your note."
"Eventually?" Uncomprehendingly, stumblingly, Wilbur repeated the
"In a month or two or three, as the case may be," explained Jimmie
Dale brightly. "Whenever you insert a personal in the NEWS-ARGUS to
the effect that the mother lode has given you the cash to meet it."
He replaced the note in the cash box, slipped down to his feet from
the desk--and then he choked a little. Wilbur, the tears streaming
down his face, unable to speak, was holding out his hands to Jimmie
Dale. "I--er--good-night!" said Jimmie Dale hurriedly--and stepped
quickly from the room.
Halfway down the first flight of stairs he paused. Steps, running
after him, sounded along the corridor above; and then Wilbur's
"Don't go--not yet," cried the old man. "I don't understand. How
did you know--who told you about the note?"
Jimmie Dale did not answer--he went on noiselessly down the stairs.
His mask was off now, and his lips curved into a strange little
"I wish I knew," said Jimmie Dale wistfully to himself.
It was still early in the evening, but a little after nine o'clock.
The Fifth Avenue bus wended its way, jouncing its patrons,
particularly those on the top seats, across town, and turned into
Riverside Drive. A short distance behind the bus, a limousine
rolled down the cross street leisurely, silently.
As the lights of passing craft on the Hudson and a myriad
scintillating, luminous points dotting the west shore came into
view, Jimmie Dale rose impulsively from his seat on the top of the
bus, descended the little circular iron ladder at the rear, and
dropped off into the street. It was only a few blocks farther to
his residence on the Drive, and the night was well worth the walk;
besides, restless, disturbed, and perplexed in mind, the walk
appealed to him.
He stepped across to the sidewalk and proceeded slowly along. A
month had gone by and he had not heard a word from--HER. The break
on West Broadway, the murder of Metzer in Moriarty's gambling hell,
the theft of Markel's diamond necklace had followed each other in
quick succession--and then this month of utter silence, with no sign
of her, as though indeed she had never existed.
But it was not this temporary silence on her part that troubled
Jimmie Dale now. In the years that he had worked with this unknown,
mysterious accomplice of his whom he had never seen, there had been
longer intervals than a bare month in which he had heard nothing
from her--it was not that. It was the failure, total, absolute, and
complete, that was the only result for the month of ceaseless,
unremitting, doggedly-expended effort, even as it had been the
result many times before, in an attempt to solve the enigma that was
so intimate and vital a factor in his own life.
If he might lay any claims to cleverness, his resourcefulness, at
least, he was forced to admit, was no match for hers. She came, she
went without being seen--and behind her remained, instead of clews
to her identity, only an amazing, intangible mystery, that left him
at times appalled and dismayed. How did she know about those
conditions in West Broadway, how did she know about Metzer's murder,
how did she know about Markel and Wilbur--how did she know about a
hundred other affairs of the same sort that had happened since that
night, years ago now, when out of pure adventure he had tampered
with Marx's, the jeweller's strong room in Maiden Lane, and she had,
mysteriously then, too, solved HIS identity, discovered him to be
the Gray Seal?
Jimmie Dale, wrapped up in his own thoughts, entirely oblivious to
his surroundings, traversed another block. There had never been
since the world began, and there would never be again, so singular
and bizarre a partnership as this--of hers and his. He, Jimmie
Dale, with his strange double life, one of New York's young bachelor
millionaires, one whose social status was unquestioned; and she,
who--who WHAT? That was just it! Who what? What was she? What
was her name? What one personal, intimate thing did he know about
her? And what was to be the end? Not that he would have severed
his association with her--not for worlds!--though every time, that,
by some new and curious method, one of her letters found its way
into his hands, outlining some fresh coup for him to execute, his
peril and danger of discovery was increased in staggering ratio.
To-day, the police hunted the Gray Seal as they hunted a mad dog;
the papers stormed and raved against him: in every detective bureau
of two continents he was catalogued as the most notorious criminal
of the age--and yet, strange paradox, no single crime had ever been
Jimmie Dale's strong, fine-featured face lighted up. Crime! Thanks
to her, there were those who blessed the name of the Gray Seal,
those into whose lives had come joy, relief from misery, escape from
death even--and their blessings were worth a thousandfold the risk
and peril of disaster that threatened him at every minute of the
"Thank God for her!" murmured Jimmie Dale softly. "But--but if I
could only find her, see her, know who she is, talk to her, and hear
her voice!" Then he smiled a little wanly. "It's been a pretty
tough month--and nothing to show for it!"
It had! It had been one of the hardest months through which Jimmie
Dale had ever lived. The St. James, that most exclusive club, his
favourite haunt, had seen nothing of him; the easel in his den, that
was his hobby, had been untouched; there had been days even when he
had not crossed the threshold of his home. Every resource at his
command he had called into play in an effort to solve the mystery.
For nearly the entire month, following first this lead and then
that, he had lived in the one disguise that he felt confident she
knew nothing of--that was, or, rather, had become, almost a dual
personality with him. From the Sanctuary, that miserable and
disreputable room in a tenement on the East Side, a tenement that
had three separate means of entrance and exit, he had emerged day
after day as Larry the Bat, a character as well known and as well
liked in the exclusive circles of the underworld as was Jimmie Dale
in the most exclusive strata of New York's society and fashion. And
it had been useless--all useless. Through his own endeavours,
through the help of his friends of the underworld, the lives of half
a dozen men, Bert Hagan's on West Broadway, for instance, Markel's,
and others', had been laid bare to the last shred, but nowhere could
be found the one vital point that linked their lives with hers, that
would account for her intimate knowledge of them, and so furnish him
with the clew that would then with certainty lead him to a solution
of her identity.
It was baffling, puzzling, unbelievable, bordering, indeed, on the
miraculous--herself, everything about her, her acts, her methods,
her cleverness, intangible in one sense, were terrifically real in
another. Jimmie Dale shook his head. The miraculous and this
practical, everyday life were wide and far apart. There was nothing
miraculous about it--it was only that the key to it was, so far,
beyond his reach.
And then suddenly Jimmie Dale shrugged his shoulders in consonance
with a whimsical change in both mood and thought.
"Larry the Bat, is a hard taskmaster!" he muttered facetiously.
"I'm afraid I'm not very presentable this evening--no bath this
morning, and no shave, and, after nearly a month of make-up, that
beastly grease paint gets into the skin creases in a most intimate
way." He chuckled as the thought of old Jason, his butler, came to
him. "I saw Jason, torn between two conflicting emotions, shaking
his head over the black circles under my eyes last night--he didn't
know whether to worry over the first signs of a galloping decline,
or break his heart at witnessing the young master he had dandled on
his knees going to the damnation bowwows and turning into a
confirmed roue! I guess I'll have to mind myself, though. Even
Carruthers detached his mind far enough from his editorial desk and
the hope of exclusively publishing the news of the Gray Seal's
capture in the MORNING NEWS-ARGUS, to tell me I was looking seedy.
It's wonderful the way a little paint will metamorphose a man!
Well, anyway, here's for a good hot tub to-night, and a fresh start!
He quickened his pace. There were still three blocks to go, and
here was no hurrying, jostling crowd to impede his progress; indeed,
as far as he could see up the Drive, there was not a pedestrian in
sight. And then, as he walked, involuntarily, insistently, his mind
harked back into the old groove again.
"I've tried to picture her," said Jimmie Dale softly to himself.
"I've tried to picture her a hundred, yes, a thousand times, and--"
A bus, rumbling cityward, went by him, squeaking, creaking, and
rattling in its uneasy joints--and out of the noise, almost at his
elbow it seemed, a voice spoke his name--and in that instant
intuitively he KNEW, and it thrilled him, stopped the beat of his
heart, as, dulcet, soft, clear as the note of a silver bell it fell--
and only one word:
He whirled around. A limousine, wheels just grazing the curb, was
gliding slowly and silently past him, and from the window a woman's
arm, white-gloved and dainty, was extended, and from the fingers to
the pavement fluttered an envelope--and the car leaped forward.
For the fraction of a second, Jimmie Dale stood dazed, immovable, a
gamut of emotions, surprise, fierce exultation, amazement, a strange
joy, a mighty uplift, swirling upon him--and then, snatching up the
envelope from the ground, he sprang out into the road after the car.
It was the one chance he had ever had, the one chance she had ever
given him, and he had seen--a white-gloved arm! He could not reach
the car, it was speeding away from him like an arrow now, but there
was something else that would do just as well, something that with
all her cleverness she had overlooked--the car's number dangling on
the rear axle, the rays of the little lamp playing on the enamelled
surface of the plate! Gasping, panting, he held his own for a yard
or more, and there floated back to him a little silvery laugh from
the body of the limousine, and then Jimmie Dale laughed, too, and
stopped--it was No.15,836!
He stood and watched the car disappear up the Drive. What delicious
irony! A month of gruelling, ceaseless toil that had been vain,
futile, useless--and the key, when he was not looking for it,
unexpectedly, through no effort of his, was thrust into his hand--
Jimmie Dale, the gently ironic smile still on his lips, those slim,
supersensitive fingers of his subconsciously noting that the texture
of the envelope was the same as she always used, retraced his steps
to the sidewalk.
"Number fifteen thousand eight hundred and thirty-six," said Jimmie
Dale aloud--and halted at the curb as though rooted to the spot. It
sounded strangely familiar, that number! He repeated it over again
slowly: "One-five-eight-three-six." And the smile left his lips,
and upon his face came the look of a chastened child. She had used
a duplicate plate! Fifteen thousand eight hundred and thirty-six
was the number of one of his own cars--his own particular runabout!
For a moment longer he stood there, undecided whether to laugh or
swear, and then his eyes fastened mechanically on the envelope he
was twirling in his fingers. Here, at least, was something that was
not elusive; that, on the contrary, as a hundred others in the past
had done, outlined probably a grim night's work ahead for the Gray
Seal! And, if it were as those others had been, every minute from
the moment of its receipt was precious time. He stepped under the
nearest street light, and tore the envelope open.
"Dear Philanthropic Crook," it began--and then followed two closely
written pages. Jimmie Dale read them, his lips growing gradually
tighter, a smouldering light creeping into his dark eyes, and once
he emitted a short, low whistle of consternation--that was at the
end, as he read the post-script that was heavily underscored: "Work
quickly. They will raid to-night. Be careful. Look out for Kline,
he is the sharpest man in the United States secret service."
For a brief instant longer, Jimmie Dale stood under the street lamp,
his mind in a lightning-quick way cataloguing every point in her
letter, viewing every point from a myriad angles, constructing,
devising, mapping out a plan to dove-tail into them--and then Jimmie
Dale swung on a downtown bus. There was neither time nor occasion
to go home now--that marvellous little kit of burglar's tools that
peeped from their tiny pockets in that curious leather undervest,
and that reposed now in the safe in his den, would be useless to him
to-night; besides, in the breast pocket of his coat, neatly folded,
was a black silk mask, and, relics of his role of Larry the Bat, an
automatic revolver, an electric flashlight, a steel jimmy, and a
bunch of skeleton keys, were distributed among the other pockets of
his smart tweed suit.
Jimmie Dale changed from the bus to the subway, leaving behind him,
strewn over many blocks, the tiny and minute fragments into which he
had torn her letter; at Astor Place he left the subway, walked to
Broadway, turned uptown for a block to Eighth Street, then along
Eighth Street almost to Sixth Avenue--and stopped.
A rather shabby shop, a pitiful sort of a place, displaying in its
window a heterogeneous conglomeration of cheap odds and ends, ink
bottles, candy, pencils, cigarettes, pens, toys, writing pads,
marbles, and a multitude of other small wares, confronted him.
Within, a little, old, sweet-faced, gray-haired woman stood behind
the counter, pottering over the rearrangement of some articles on
the shelves.
"My word!" said Jimmie Dale softly to himself. "You wouldn't
believe it, would you! And I've always wondered how these little
stores managed to make both ends meet. Think of that old soul
making fifteen or twenty thousand dollars from a layout like this--
even if it has taken her a lifetime!"
Jimmie Dale had halted nonchalantly and unconcernedly by the curb,
not too near the window, busied apparently in an effort to light a
refractory cigarette; and then, about to enter the store, he gazed
aimlessly across the street for a moment instead. A man came
briskly around the corner from Sixth Avenue, opened the store door,
and went in.
Jimmie Dale drew back a little, and turned his head again as the
door closed--and a sudden, quick, alert, and startled look spread
over his face.
The man who had entered bent over the counter and spoke to the old
lady. She seemed to listen with a dawning terror creeping over her
features, and then her hands went piteously to the thin hair behind
her ears. The man motioned toward a door at the rear of the store.
She hesitated, then came out from behind the counter, and swayed a
little as though her limbs would not support her weight.
Jimmie Dale's lips thinned.
"I'm afraid," he muttered slowly, "I'm afraid that I'm too late even
now." And then, as she came to the door and turned the key on the
inside: "Pray Heaven she doesn't turn the light out--or somebody
might think I was trying to break in!"
But in that respect Jimmie Dale's fears were groundless. She did
not turn out either of the gas jets that lighted the little shop;
instead, in a faltering, reluctant sort of manner, she led the way
directly through the door in the rear, and the man followed her.
The shop was empty--and Jimmie Dale was standing against the door on
the outside. His position was perfectly natural--a hundred passersby
would have noted nothing but a most commonplace occurrence--a man
in the act of entering a store. And, if he appeared to fumble and
have trouble with the latch, what of it! Jimmie Dale, however, was
not fumbling--hidden by his back that was turned to the street,
those wonderful fingers of his, in whose tips seemed embodied and
concentrated every one of the human senses, were working quickly,
surely, accurately, without so much as the wasted movement of a
single muscle.
A faint tinkle--and the key within fell from the lock to the floor.
A faint click--and the bolt of the lock slipped back. Jimmie Dale
restored the skeleton keys and a little steel instrument that
accompanied them to his pocket--and quietly opened the door. He
stepped inside, picked up the key from the floor, inserted it in the
lock, closed the door behind him, and locked it again.
"To guard against interruption," observed Jimmie Dale, a little
He was, perhaps, thirty seconds behind the others. He crossed the
shop noiselessly, cautiously, and passed through the door at the
rear. It opened into a short passage that, after a few feet, gave
on a sort of corridor at right angles--and down this latter, facing
him, at the end, the door of a lighted room was open, and he could
see the figure of the man who had entered the shop, back turned,
standing on the threshold. Voices, indistinct, came to him.
The corridor itself was dark; and Jimmie Dale, satisfied that he was
fairly safe from observation, stole softly forward. He passed two
doors on his left--and the curious arrangement of the building that
had puzzled him for a moment became clear. The store made the front
of an old tenement building, with apartments above, and the rear of
the store was a sort of apartment, too--the old lady's living
Step by step, testing each one against a possible creaking of the
floor, Jimmie Dale moved forward, keeping close up against one wall.
The man passed on into the room--and now Jimmie Dale could
distinguish every word that was being spoken; and, crouched up, in
the dark corridor, in the angle of the wall and the door jamb
itself, could see plainly enough into the room beyond. Jimmie
Dale's jaw crept out a little.
A young man, gaunt, pale, wrapped in blankets, half sat, half
reclined in an invalid's chair; the old lady, on her knees, the
tears streaming down her face, had her arms around the sick man's
neck; while the other man, apparently upset at the scene, tugged
vigorously at long, gray mustaches.
"Sammy! Sammy!" sobbed the woman piteously. "Say you didn't do it,
Sammy--say you didn't do it!"
Look here, Mrs. Matthews," said the man with the gray mustaches
gently, "now don't you go to making things any harder. I've got to
do my duty just the same, and take your son."
The young man, a hectic flush beginning to burn on his cheeks, gazed
wildly from one to the other.
"What--what is it?" he cried out.
The man threw back his coat and displayed a badge on his vest.
"I'm Kline of the secret service," he said gravely. "I'm sorry,
Sammy, but I want you for that little job in Washington at the
bureau--before you left on sick leave!"
Sammy Matthews struggled away from his mother's arms, pulled himself
forward in his chair--and his tongue licked dry lips.
"What--what job?" he whispered thickly.
"You know, don't you?" the other answered steadily. He took a
large, flat pocketbook from his pocket, opened it, and took out a
five-dollar bill. He held this before the sick man's eyes, but just
out of reach, one finger silently indicating the lower left-hand
Matthews stared at it for a moment, and the hectic flush faded to a
grayish pallor, and a queer, impotent sound gurgled in his throat.
"I see you recognise it," said the other quietly. "It's open and
shut, Sammy. That little imperfection in the plate's got you, my
"Sammy! Sammy!" sobbed the woman again. "Sammy, say you didn't do
"It's a lie!" said Matthews hoarsely. "It's a lie! That plate was
condemned in the bureau for that imperfection--condemned and
"Condemned TO BE destroyed," corrected the other, without raising
his voice. "There's a little difference there, Sammy--about twenty
years' difference--in the Federal pen. But it wasn't destroyed;
this note was printed from it by one of the slickest gangs of
counterfeiters in the United States--but I don't need to tell you
that, I guess you know who they are. I've been after them a long
time, and I've got them now, just as tight as I've got you. Instead
of destroying that plate, you stole it, and disposed of it to the
gang. How much did they give you?"
Matthews' face seemed to hold a dumb horror, and his fingers picked
at the arms of the chair. His mother had moved from beside him now,
and both her hands were patting at the man's sleeve in a pitiful
way, while again and again she tried to speak, but no words would
"It's a lie!" said Matthews again, in a colourless, mechanical way.
The man glanced at Mrs. Matthews as he put the five-dollar note back
into his pocket, seemed to choke a little, shook his head, and all
trace of the official sternness that had crept into his voice
"It's no good," he said in a low tone. "Don't do that, Mrs.
Matthews, I've got to do my duty." He leaned a little toward the
chair. "It's dead to rights, Sammy. You might as well make a clean
breast of it. It was up to you and Al Gregor to see that the plate
was destroyed. It WASN'T destroyed; instead, it shows up in the
hands of a gang of counterfeiters that I've been watching for
months. Furthermore, I've got the plate itself. And finally,
though I haven't placed him under arrest yet for fear you might hear
of it before I wanted you to and make a get-away, I've got Al Gregor
where I can put my hands on him, and I've got his confession that
you and he worked the game between you to get that plate out of the
bureau and dispose of it to the gang."
"Oh, my God!"--it came in a wild cry from the sick man, and in a
desperate, lurching way he struggled up to his feet. "Al Gregor
said that? Then--then I'm done!" He clutched at his temples. "But
it's not true--it's not true! If the plate was stolen, and it must
have been stolen, or that note wouldn't have been found, it was Al
Gregor who stole it--I didn't, I tell you! I knew nothing of it,
except that he and I were responsible for it and--and I left it to
him--that's the only way I'm to blame. He's caught, and he's trying
to get out of it with a light sentence by pretending to turn State's
evidence, but--but I'll fight him--he can't prove it--it's only his
word against mine, and--"
The other shook his head again.
"It's no good, Sammy," he said, a touch of sternness back in his
tones again. "I told you it was open and shut. It's not only Al
Gregor. One of the gang got weak knees when I got him where I
wanted him the other night, and he swears that you are the one who
DELIVERED the plate to them. Between him and Gregor and what I know
myself, I've got evidence enough for any jury against every one of
the rest of you."
Horror, fear, helplessness seemed to mingle in the sick man's
staring eyes, and he swayed unsteadily upon his feet.
"I'm innocent!" he screamed out. "But I'm caught, I'm caught in a
net, and I can't get out--they lied to you--but no one will believe
it any more than you do and--and it means twenty years for me--oh,
God!--twenty years, and--" His hands went wriggling to his temples
again, and he toppled back in a faint into the chair.
"You've killed him! You've killed my boy!" the old lady shrieked
out piteously, and flung herself toward the senseless figure.
The man jumped for the table across the room, on which was a row of
bottles, snatched one up, drew the cork, smelled it, and ran back
with the bottle. He poured a little of the contents into his cupped
hand, held it under young Matthews' nostrils, and pushed the bottle
into Mrs. Matthews' hands.
"Bathe his forehead with this, Mrs. Matthews," he directed
reassuringly. "He'll be all right again in a moment. There, see--
he's coming around now."
There was a long, fluttering sigh, and Matthews opened his eyes;
then a moment's silence; and then he spoke, with an effort, with
long pauses between the words:
The words seemed to ring absolute terror in the old lady's ears.
She turned, and dropped to her knees on the floor.
"Mr. Kline, Mr. Kline," she sobbed out, "oh, for God's love, don't
take him! Let him off, let him go! He's my boy--all I've got!
You've got a mother, haven't you? You know--" The tears were
streaming down the sweet, old face again. "Oh, won't you, for God's
dear name, won't you let him go? Won't--"
"Stop!" the man cried huskily. He was mopping at his face with his
handkerchief. "I thought I was case-hardened, I ought to be--but I
guess I'm not. But I've got to do my duty. You're only making it
worse for Sammy there, as well as me."
Her arms were around his knees now, clinging there.
"Why can't you let him off!" she pleaded hysterically. "Why can't
you! Why can't you! Nobody would know, and I'd do anything--I'd
pay anything--anything--I'll give you ten--fifteen thousand
"My poor woman," he said kindly, placing his hand on her head, "you
are talking wildly. Apart altogether from the question of duty,
even if I succeeded in hushing the matter up, I would probably at
least be suspected and certainly discharged, and I have a family to
support--and if I were caught I'd get ten years in the Federal
prison for it. I'm sorry for this; I believe it's your boy's first
offence, and if I could let him off I would."
"But you can--you can!" she burst out, rocking on her knees,
clinging tighter still to him, as though in a paroxysm of fear that
he might somehow elude her. "It will kill him--it will kill my boy.
And you can save him! And even if they discharged you, what would
that mean against my boy's life! You wouldn't suffer, your family
wouldn't suffer, I'll--I'll take care of that--perhaps I could raise
a little more than fifteen thousand--but, oh, have pity, have mercy--
don't take him away!"
The man stared at her a moment, stared at the white face on the
reclining chair--and passed his hand heavily across his eyes.
"You will! You will!" It came in a great surging cry of joy from
the old lady. "You will--oh, thank God, thank God!--I can see it in
your face!"
"I--I guess I'm soft," he said huskily, and stooped and raised Mrs.
Matthews to her feet. "Don't cry any more. It'll be all right--
it'll be all right. I'll--I'll fix it up somehow. I haven't made
any arrests yet, and--well, I'll take my chances. I'll get the
plate and turn it over to you to-morrow, only--only it's got to be
destroyed in my presence."
"Yes, yes!" she cried, trying to smile through her tears--and then
she flung her arms around her son's neck again. "And when you come
to-morrow, I'll be ready with the money to do my share, too, and--"
But Sammy Matthews shook his head.
"You're wrong, both of you," he said weakly. "You're a white man,
Kline. But destroying that plate won't save me. The minute a
single note printed from it shows up, they'll know back there in
Washington that the plate was stolen, and--"
"No; you're safe enough there," the other interposed heavily.
"Knowing what was up, you don't think I'd give the gang a chance to
get them into circulation, do you? I got them all when I got the
plate. And"--he smiled a little anxiously--"I'll bring them here to
be destroyed with the plate. It would finish me now, as well as
you, if one of them ever showed up. Say," he said suddenly, with a
catch in his breath, "I--I don't think I know what I'm doing."
Mrs. Matthews reached out her hands to him.
"What can I say to you!" she said brokenly, "What--"
Jimmie Dale drew back along the wall. A little way from the door he
quickened his pace, still moving, however, with extreme caution.
They were still talking behind him as he turned from the corridor
into the passageway leading to the store, and from there into the
store itself. And then suddenly, in spite of caution, his foot
slipped on the bare floor. It was not much--just enough to cause
his other foot, poised tentatively in air, to come heavily down, and
a loud and complaining creak echoed from the floor.
Jimmie Dale's jaws snapped like a steel trap. From down the
corridor came a sudden, excited exclamation in the little old lady's
voice, and then her steps sounded running toward the store. In the
fraction of a second Jimmie Dale was at the front door.
"Clumsy, blundering fool!" he whispered fiercely to himself as he
turned the key, opened the door noiselessly until it was just ajar,
and turned the key in the lock again, leaving the bolt protruding
out. One step backward, and he was rapping on the counter with his
knuckles. "Isn't anybody here?" he called out loudly. "Isn't any--
oh!"--as Mrs. Matthews appeared in the back doorway. "A package of
cigarettes, please."
She stared at him, a little frightened, her eyes red and swollen
with recent crying.
"How--how did you get in here?" she asked tremendously.
"I beg your pardon?" inquired Jimmie Dale, in polite surprise.
"I--I locked the door--I'm sure I did," she said, more to herself
than to Jimmie Dale, and hurried across the floor to the door as she
Jimmie Dale, still politely curious, turned to watch her. For a
moment bewilderment and a puzzled look were in her face--and then a
sort of surprised relief.
"I must have turned the key in the lock without shutting the door
tight," she explained, "for I knew I turned the key."
Jimmie Dale bent forward to examine the lock--and nodded.
"Yes," he agreed, with a smile. "I should say so." Then, gravely
courteous: "I'm sorry to have intruded."
"It is nothing," she answered; and, evidently anxious to be rid of
him, moved quickly around behind the counter. "What kind of
cigarettes do you want?"
"Egyptians--any kind," said Jimmie Dale, laying a bill on the
He pocketed the cigarettes and his change, and turned to the door.
"Good-evening," he said pleasantly--and went out.
Jimmie Dale smiled a little curiously, a little tolerantly. As he
started along the street, he heard the door of the little shop close
with a sort of supercareful bang, the key turned, and the latch
rattle to try the door--the little old lady was bent on making no
mistake a second time!
And then the smile left Jimmie Dale's lips, his face grew strained
and serious, and he broke into a run down the block to Sixth Avenue.
Here he paused for an instant--there was the elevated, the surface
cars--which would be the quicker? He looked up the avenue. There
was no train coming; the nearest surface car was blocks away. He
bit his lips in vexation--and then with a jump he was across the
street and hailing a passing taxicab that his eyes had just lighted
"Got a fare?" called Jimmie Dale.
"No, sir," answered the chauffeur, bumping his car to an abrupt
"Good!" Jimmie Dale ran alongside, and yanked the door open. "Do
you know where the Palace Saloon on the Bowery is?"
"Yes, sir," replied the man.
Jimmie Dale held a ten-dollar bank note up before the chauffeur's
"Earn that in four minutes, then," he snapped--and sprang into the
The taxicab swerved around on little better than two wheels, started
on a mad dash down the Avenue--and Jimmie Dale braced himself grimly
in his seat. The cab swerved again, tore across Waverly Place,
circuited Washington Square, crossed Broadway, and whirled finally
into the upper end of the Bowery.
Jimmie Dale spoke once--to himself--plaintively.
"It's too bad I can't let old Carruthers in on this for a scoop with
his precious MORNING NEWS-ARGUS--but if I get out of it alive
myself, I'll do well! Wonder if the day'll ever come when he finds
out that his very dear friend and old college pal, Jimmie Dale, is
the Gray Seal that he's turned himself inside out for about four
years now to catch, and that he'd trade his soul with the devil any
time to lay hands on! Good old Carruthers! 'The most puzzling,
bewildering, delightful crook in the annals of crime'--am I?"
The cab drew up at the curb. Jimmie Dale sprang out, shoved the
bill into the chauffeur's hand, stepped quickly across the sidewalk,
and pushed his way through the swinging doors of the Palace Saloon.
Inside leisurely and nonchalantly, he walked down past the length of
the bar to a door at the rear. This opened into a passageway that
led to the side entrance of the saloon on the cross street. Jimmie
Dale emerged from the side entrance, crossed the street, retraced
his steps to the Bowery, crossed over, and walked rapidly down that
thoroughfare for two blocks. Here he turned east into the cross
street; and here, once more, his pace became leisurely and
"It's a strange coincidence, though possibly a very happy one," said
Jimmie Dale, as he walked along, "that it should be on the same
street as the Sanctuary--ah, this ought to be the place!"
An alleyway, corresponding to the one that flanked the tenement
where, as Larry the Bat, he had paid room rent as a tenant for
several years, in fact, the alleyway next above it, and but a short
block away, intersected the street, narrow, black, and uninviting.
Jimmie Dale, as he passed, peered down its length.
"No light--that's good!" commented Jimmie Dale to himself. Then:
"Window opens on alleyway ten feet from ground--shoe store, Russian
Jew, in basement--go in front door--straight hallway--room at end--
Russian Jew probably accomplice--be careful that he does not hear
you moving overhead"--Jimmie Dale's mind, with that curious faculty
of his, was subconsciously repeating snatches from her letter word
for word, even as he noted the dimly lighted, untidy, and disorderly
interior of what, from strings of leather slippers that decorated
the cellarlike entrance, was evidently a cheap and shoddy shoe store
in the basement of the building.
The building itself was rickety and tumble-down, three stories high,
and given over undoubtedly to gregarious foreigners of the poorer
class, a rabbit burrow, as it were, having a multitude of roomers
and lodgers. There was nothing ominous or even secretive about it--
up the short flight of steps to the entrance, even the door hung
carelessly half open.
Jimmie Dale's slouch hat was pulled a little farther down over his
eyes as he mounted the steps and entered the hallway. He listened a
moment. A sort of subdued, querulous hubbub seemed to hum through
the place, as voices, men's, women's, and children's, echoing out
from their various rooms above, mingled together, and floated down
the stairways in a discordant medley. Jimmie Dale stepped lightly
down the length of the hall--and listened again; this time intently,
with his ear to the keyhole of the door that made the end of the
passage. There was not a sound from within. He tried the door,
smiled a little as he reached for his keys, worked over the lock--
and straightened up suddenly as his ear caught a descending step on
the stairs. It was two flights up, however--and the door was
unlocked now. Jimmie Dale opened it, and, like a shadow, slipped
inside; and, as he locked the door behind him, smiled once more--the
door lock was but a paltry makeshift at best, but INSIDE his fingers
had touched a massive steel bolt that, when shot home, would yield
when the door itself yielded--and not before. Without moving the
bolt, he turned--and his flashlight for a moment swept the room.
"Not much like the way they describe this sort of place in
storybooks!" murmured Jimmie Dale capriciously. "But I get the
idea. Mr. Russian Jew downstairs makes a bluff at using it for a
Again the flashlight made a circuit. Here, there, and everywhere,
seemingly without any attempt at order, were piles of wooden
shipping cases. Only the centre of the room was clear and empty;
that, and a vacant space against the wall by the window.
Jimmie Dale, moving without sound, went to the window. There was a
shade on it, and it was pulled down. He reached up underneath it,
felt for the window fastening, and unlocked it; then cautiously
tested the window itself by lifting it an inch or two--it slid
easily in its grooves.
He stood then for a moment, hardfaced, a frown gathering his
forehead into heavy furrows, as the flashlight's ray again and again
darted hither and thither. There was nothing, absolutely nothing in
the room but wooden packing cases. He lifted the cover of the one
nearest to him and looked inside. It was quite empty, except for
some pieces of heavy cord, and a few cardboard shoe boxes that, in
turn, were empty, too.
"It's here, of course," said Jimmie Dale thoughtfully to himself.
"Clever work, too! But I can't move half a hundred packing cases
without that chap below hearing me; and I can't do it in ten
minutes, either, which, I imagine is the outside limit of time.
Fortunately, though, these cases are not without their compensation--
a dozen men could hide here."
He began to move about the room. And now he stooped before one pile
of boxes and then another, curiously attempting to lift up the
entire pile from the bottom. Some he could not move; others, by
exerting all his strength, gave a little; and then, finally, over in
one corner, he found a pile that appeared to answer his purpose.
"These are certainly empty," he muttered.
There was just room to squeeze through between them and the next
stack of cases alongside; but, once through, by the simple expedient
of moving the cases out a little to take advantage of the angle made
by the corner of the room, he obtained ample space to stand
comfortably upright against the wall. But Jimmie Dale was not
satisfied yet. Could he see out into the room? He experimented
with his flashlight--and carefully shifted the screen of cases
before him a little to one side. And yet still he was not
satisfied. With a sort of ironical droop at the corners of his
lips, as though suddenly there had flashed upon him the inspiration
that fathered one of those whimsical ideas and fancies that were so
essentially a characteristic of Jimmie Dale, he came out from behind
the cases, went across the room to the case he had opened when he
first entered, took out the cord and the cover of one of the
cardboard shoe boxes, and with these returned to his hiding place
once more.
The sounds from the upper stories of the tenement now reached him
hardly at all; but from below, directly under his feet almost, he
could hear some one, the proprietor of the shoe store probably,
walking about.
Tense, every faculty now on the alert, his head turned in a
strained, attentive attitude, Jimmie Dale threw on the flashlight's
tiny switch, took that intimate and thin metal case from his pocket,
extracted a diamond-shaped, gray paper seal with the little
tweezers, moistened the adhesive side, and stuck it in the centre of
the white cardboard-box cover, then tore the edges of the cardboard
down until the whole was just small enough to slip into his pocket.
Through the cardboard he looped a piece of cord, placard fashion,
and with his pencil printed the four words--"with the compliments of
"--above the gray seal. He surveyed the result with a grim,
mirthless chuckle--and put the piece of cardboard in his pocket.
"I'm taking the longest chances I ever took in my life," said Jimmie
Dale very seriously to himself, as his fingers twisted, and doubled,
and tied the remaining pieces of cord together, and finally
fashioned a running noose in one end. "I don't--" The cord and the
flashlight went into his pocket, the room was in darkness, the black
mask was whipped from his breast pocket and adjusted to his face,
and his automatic was in his hand.
Came the creak of a footstep, as though on a ladder exactly below
him, another, and another, receding curiously in its direction, yet
at the same time growing louder in sound as if nearer the floor--
then a crack of light showed in the floor in the centre of the room.
This held for an instant, then expanded suddenly into a great
luminous square--and through a trapdoor, opened wide now, a man's
head appeared.
Jimmie Dale's eyes, fixed through the space between the piles of
cases, narrowed--there was, indeed, little doubt but that the shoestore
proprietor below was an accomplice! The store served a most
convenient purpose in every respect--as a secret means of entry into
the room, as a sort of guarantee of innocence for the room itself.
Why not! To the superficial observer, to the man who might by some
chance blunder into the room--it was but an adjunct of the store
The man in the trap-doorway paused with his shoulders above the
floor, looked around, listened, then drew himself up, walked across
the floor, and shot the heavy bolt on the door that led into the
hallway of the house. He returned then to the trapdoor, bent over
it, and whistled softly. Two more men, in answer to the summons,
came up into the room.
"The Cap'll be along in a minute," one of them said. "Turn on the
A switch clicked, flooding the room with sudden brilliancy from half
a dozen electric bulbs.
"Too many!" grunted the same voice again. "We ain't working tonight--
turn out half of 'em."
The sudden transition from the darkness for a moment dazzled Jimmie
Dale's eyes--but the next moment he was searching the faces of the
three men. There were few crooks, few denizens of the crime world
below the now obsolete but still famous dead line that, as Larry the
Bat, he did not know at least by sight.
"Moulton, Whitie Burns, and Marty Dean," confided Jimmie Dale softly
to himself. "And I don't know of any worse, except--the Cap. And
gun fighters, every one of them, too--nice odds, to say nothing of--"
"Here's the Cap now!" announced one of the three. "Hello, Cap,
where'd you raise the mustache?"
Jimmie Dale's eyes shifted to the trapdoor, and into them crept a
contemptuous and sardonic smile--the man who was coming up now and
hoisting himself to the floor was the man who, half an hour before,
had threatened young Sammy Matthews with arrest.
The Cap, alias Bert Malone, alias a score of other names, closed the
trapdoor after him, pulled off his mustache and gray wig, tucked
them in his pocket, and faced his companions brusquely.
"Never mind about the mustache," he said curtly. "Get busy, the lot
of you. Stir around and get the works out!"
"What for?" inquired Whitie Burns, a sharp, ferret-faced little man.
"We got enough of the old stuff on hand now, and that bum break
Gregor made when he pinched the cracked plate put the finish on
that. Say, Cap--"
"Close your face, Whitie, and get the works out!" Malone cut in
shortly. "We've only got the whole night ahead of us--but we'll
need it all. We're going to run the queer off that cracked plate."
One of the others, Marty Dean this time, a certain brutal
aggressiveness in both features and physique, edged forward.
"Say, what's the lay?" he demanded. "A joke? We printed one fiver
off that plate--and then we knew enough to quit. With that crack
along the corner, you couldn't pass 'em on a blind man! And Gregor
saying he thought we could patch the plate up enough to get by with
gives me a pain--he's got jingles in his dome factory! Run them
fivers eh--say, are you cracked, too?"
"Aw, forget it!" observed Malone caustically. "Who's running this
gang?" Then, with a malicious grin: "I got a customer for those
fivers--fifteen thousand dollars for all we can turn out to-night.
The others stared at him for a moment, incredulity and greed
mingling in a curious half-hesitant, half-expectant look on their
Then Whitie Burns spoke, circling his lips with the tip of his
"D'ye mean it, Cap--honest? What's the lay? How'd you work it?"
Malone, unbending with the sensation he had created, grinned again.
"Easy enough," he said offhandedly. It was like falling off a log.
Gregor said, didn't he, that the only way he had been able to get
his claws on that plate was on account of young Matthews going away
sick--eh? Well, the old Matthews woman, his mother, has got money--
about fifteen thousand. I guess she ain't got any more than that,
or I'd have raised the ante. Aw, it was easy. She threw it at me.
I framed one up on them, that's all. I'm Kline, of the secret
service--see? I don't suppose they'd ever seen him, though they'd
know his name fast enough, but I made up something like him. I
showed them where I had a case against Sammy for pinching the plate
that was strong enough to put a hundred innocent men behind the
bars. Of course, he knew well enough he was innocent, but he could
see the twenty years I showed him with both eyes. Say, he mussed
all over the place, and went and fainted like a girl. And then the
old woman came across with an offer of fifteen thousand for the
plate, and corrupted me." Malone's cunning, vicious face, now that
the softening effects of the gray hair and mustache were gone,
seemed accentuated diabolically by the grin broadening into a laugh,
as he guffawed.
Marty Dean's hand swung with a bang to Malone's shoulder.
"Say, Cap--say, you're all right!" he exclaimed excitedly. You're
the boy! But what's the good of running anything off the plate
before turning it over to 'em--the stuff's no good to us."
"You got a wooden nut, with sawdust for brains," said Malone
sarcastically. "If he'd thought the gang of counterfeiters that was
supposed to have bought the plate from him had run off only one
fiver and then stopped because they say it wouldn't get by, and
weren't going to run any more, and just destroy the plate like it
was supposed to have been destroyed to begin with, and it all end up
with no one the wiser, where d'ye think we'd have banked that
fifteen thousand! I told him I had the whole run confiscated, and
that the queer went with the plate, so we'll just make that little
run to-night--that's why I sent word around to you this morning."
"By the jumping!" ejaculated Whitie Burns, heavy with admiration.
"You got a head on you, Cap!"
"It's a good thing for some of you that I have," returned Malone
complacently. "But don't stand jawing all night. Go on, now--get
There was no surprise in Jimmie Dale's face--he had chosen his
position behind a pile of cases that he had been extremely careful,
as a man is careful when his life hangs in the balance, to assure
himself were empty. None of the four came near or touched the pile
behind which he stood; but, here and there about the room, they
pulled this one and that one out from various stacks. In scarcely
more than a moment, the room was completely transformed. It was no
longer a storeroom for surplus stock, for the storage of bulky and
empty packing cases! From the cases the men had picked out, like a
touch of magic, appeared a veritable printing plant, an elaborate
engraver's outfit--a highly efficient foot-power press, rapidly
being assembled by Whitie Burns; an electric dryer, inks, a pile of
white, silk-threaded bank-note paper, a cutter, and a score of other
"Yes," said Jimmie Dale very gently to himself. "Yes, quite so--but
the plate? Ah!" Malone was taking it out from the middle of a
bundle of old newspapers, loosely tied together, that he had lifted
from one of the cases.
Jimmie Dale's eyes fastened on it--and from that instant never left
it. A minute passed, two, three of them--the four men were silently
busy about the room--Malone was carefully cleaning the plate.
"They will raid to-night. Look out for Kline, he is the sharpest
man in the United State secret service"--the warning in her letter
was running through Jimmie Dale's mind. Kline--the real Kline--was
going to raid the place to-night. When? At what time? It must be
nearly eleven o'clock already, and--
It came sudden, quick as the crack of doom--a terrific crash against
the bolted door--but the door, undoubtedly to the surprise of those
without, held fast, thanks to the bolt. The four men, white-faced,
seemed for an instant turned to statues. Came another crash against
the door--and a sharp, imperative order to those within to open it
and surrender.
"We're pinched! Beat it!" whispered Whitie Burns wildly--and dashed
for the trapdoor.
Like a rat for its hole, Marty Dean followed. Malone, farther away,
dropped the plate on the floor, and rushed, with Moulton beside him,
after the others--but he never reached the trapdoor.
Over the crashing blows, raining now in quick succession on the door
of the room, over a startled commotion as lodgers, roomers, and
tenants on the floor above awoke into frightened activity with
shouts and cries, came the louder crash of a pile of packing boxes
hurled to the floor. And over them, vaulting those scattered in his
way, Jimmie Dale sprang at Malone. The man reeled back, with a
cry. Moulton dashed through the trapdoor and disappeared. The
short, ugly barrel of Jimmie Dale's automatic was between Malone's
"You make a move," said Jimmie Dale, in a low sibilant way, "and
I'll drop you where you stand! Put your hands behind your back--
palms together!"
Malone, dazed, cowed, obeyed. A panel of the door split and rent
down its length--the hinges were sagging. Jimmie Dale worked like
lightning. The cord with the slip noose from his pocket went around
Malone's wrists, jerked tight, and knotted; the placard, his lips
grim, with no sign of humour, Jimmie Dale dangled around the man's
"An introduction for you to Mr. Kline out there--that you seem so
fond of!" gritted Jimmie Dale. Then, working as he talked: "I've
got no time to tell you what I think of you, you pitiful hound"--he
snatched up the plate from the floor and put it in his pocket--"
Twenty years, I think you said, didn't you?"--his hand shot into
Malone's pocket-book, and extracted the five-dollar note--" If you
can open this with your toes maybe you can get a way"--he wrenched
the trapdoor over and slammed it shut--"good-night, Malone"--and he
leaped for the window.
The door tottered inward from the top, ripping, tearing, smashing
hinges, panels, and jamb. Jimmie Dale got a blurred vision of brass
buttons, blue coats, and helmets, and, in the forefront, of a
stocky, gray-mustached, gray-haired man in plain clothes.
Jimmie Dale threw up the window, swung out, as with a rush the
officers burst through into the room and a revolver bullet hummed
viciously past his ear, and dropped to the ground--into encircling
"Ah, no, you don't, my bucko!" snapped a hoarse voice in his ear.
"Keep quiet now, or I'll crack your bean--understand!"
But the officer, too heavy to be muscular, was no match for Jimmie
Dale, who, even as he had dropped from the sill, had caught sight of
the lurking form below; and now, with a quick, sudden, lithe
movement he wriggled loose, his fist from a short-arm jab smashed
upon the point of the other's jaw, sending the man staggering
backward--and Jimmie Dale ran.
A crowd was already collecting at the mouth of the alleyway, mostly
occupants of the house itself, and into these, scattering them in
all directions, eluding dexterously another officer who made a grab
for him, Jimmie Dale charged at top speed, burst through, and headed
down the street, running like a deer.
Yells went up, a revolver spat venomously behind him, came the
shrill CHEEP-CHEEP! of the police whistle, and heavy boots pounding
the pavement in pursuit.
Down the block Jimmie Dale raced. The yells augmented in his rear.
Another shot--and this time he heard the bullet buzz. And then he
swerved--into the next alleyway--that flanked the Sanctuary.
He had perhaps a ten yards' lead, just a little more than the
distance from the street to the side door of the Sanctuary that
opened on the alleyway. And, as he ran now, his fingers tore at his
clothing, loosening his tie, unbuttoning coat, vest, collar, shirt,
and undershirt. He leaped at the door, swung it open, flung himself
inside--and then sacrificing speed to silence, went up the stairs
like a cat, cramming his mask now into his pocket.
His room was on the first landing. In an instant he had unlocked
the door, entered, and locked it again behind him. From outside, an
excited street urchin's voice shrilled up to him:
"He went in that door! I seen him!"
The police whistle chirped again; and then an authoritative voice:
"Get around and watch the saloon back of this, Heeney--there's a way
out through there from this joint."
Jimmie Dale, divested of every stitch of clothing that he had worn,
pulled a disreputable collarless flannel shirt over his head, pulled
on a dirty and patched pair of trousers, and slipped into a
threadbare and filthy coat. Jimmie Dale was working against
seconds. They were at the lower door now. He lifted the oilcloth
in the corner of the room, lifted up the loose piece of the
flooring, shoved his discarded garments inside, and from a little
box that was there smeared the hollow of his hand with some black
substance, possessed himself of two little articles, replaced the
flooring, replaced the oilcloth, and, in bare feet, stole across the
room to the door. Against the door, without a sound, Jimmie Dale
placed a chair, and on the chair seat he laid the two little
articles he had been carrying in his hand. It was intensely black
in the room, but Jimmie Dale needed no light here. From under the
bed he pulled out a pair of woolen socks and a pair of congress
boots, both as disreputable as the rest of his attire, put them on--
and very quietly, softly, cautiously, stretched himself out on the
The officers were at the top of the stairs. A voice barked out:
"Stand guard on this landing, Peters. Higgins, you take the one
above. We'll start from the top of the house and work down. Allow
no one to pass you."
"Yes, sir! Very good, Mr. Kline," was the response.
Kline!--the sharpest man in the United States secret service, she
had said. Jimmie Dale's lips set.
"I'm glad I had no shave this morning," said Jimmie Dale grimly to
His fingers were working with the black substance in the hollow of
his hand--and the long, slim, tapering fingers, the shapely, wellcared-
for hands grew unkempt and grimy, black beneath the finger
nails--and a little, too, played its part on the day's growth of
beard, a little around the throat and at the nape of the neck, a
little across the forehead to meet the locks of straggling and
disordered hair. Jimmie Dale wiped the residue from the hollow of
his hand on the knee of his trousers--and lay still.
An officer paced outside. Upstairs doors opened and closed. Gruff,
harsh tones in commands echoed through the house. The search party
descended to the second floor--and again the same sounds were
repeated. And then, thumping down the creaking stairs, they stopped
before Jimmie Dale's room. Some one tried the door, and, finding it
locked, rattled it violently.
"Open the door!" It was Kline's voice,
Jimmie Dale's eyes were closed, and he was breathing regularly,
though just a little slower than in natural respiration.
"Break it down!" ordered Kline tersely.
There was a rush at it--and it gave. It surged inward, knocked
against the chair, upset the latter, something tinkled to the floor--
and four officers, with Kline at their head, jumped into the room.
Jimmie Dale never moved. A flashlight played around the room and
focused upon him--and then he was shaken roughly--only to fall
inertly back on the bed again.
"I guess this is all right, Mr. Kline," said one of the officers.
"It's Larry the Bat, and he's doped to the eyes. There's the stuff
on the floor we knocked off the chair."
"Light the gas!" directed Kline curtly; and, being obeyed, stooped
to the floor and picked up a hypodermic syringe and a small bottle.
He held the bottle to the light, and read the label: LIQUOR
MORPHINAE. "Shake him again!" he commanded.
None too gently, a policeman caught Jimmie Dale by the shoulder and
shook him vigorously--again Jimmie Dale, once the other let go his
hold, fell back limply on the bed, breathing in that same, slightly
slowed way.
"Larry the Bat, eh?" grunted Kline; then, to the officer who had
volunteered the information: "Who's Larry the Bat? What is he? And
how long have you known him?"
"I don't know who he is any more than what you can see there for
yourself," replied the officer. "He's a dope fiend, and I guess a
pretty tough case, though we've never had him up for anything. He's
lived here ever since I've been on the beat, and that's three years
"All right!" interrupted Kline crisply. "He's no good to us! You
say there's an exit from this house into that saloon at the back?"
"Yes, sir but the fellow, whoever he is, couldn't get away from
there. Heeney's been over on guard from the start."
"Then he's still inside there," said Kline, clipping off his words.
"We'll search the saloon. Nice night's work this is! One out of
the whole gang--and that one with the compliments of the Gray Seal!"
The men went out and began to descend the stairs.
"One," said Jimmie Dale to himself, still motionless, still
breathing in that slow way so characteristic of the drug. "Two.
Three. Four."
The minutes went by--a quarter of an hour--a half hour. Still
Jimmie Dale lay there--still motionless--still breathing with slow
regularity. His muscles began to cramp, to give him exquisite
torture. Around him all was silence--only distant sounds from the
street reached him, muffled, and at intervals. Another quarter of
an hour passed--an eternity of torment. It seemed to Jimmie Dale,
for all his will power, that he could not hold himself in check,
that he must move, scream out even in the torture that was passing
all endurance. It was silent now, utterly silent--and then out of
the silence, just outside his door, a footstep creaked--and a man
walked to the stairs and went down.
"Five," said Jimmie Dale to himself. "The sharpest man in the
United States secret service."
And then for the first time Jimmie Dale moved--to wipe away the
beads of sweat that had sprung out upon his forehead.
Larry the Bat shambled out of the side door of the tenement into the
back alleyway; shambled along the black alleyway to the street--and
smiled a little grimly as a shadow across the roadway suddenly
shifted its position. The game was growing acute, critical,
desperate even--and it was his move.
Larry the Bat, disreputable denizen of the underworld, alias Jimmie
Dale, millionairs clubman, alias the Gray Seal, whom Carruthers of
the MORNING NEWS-ARGUS called the master criminal of the age,
shuffled along in the direction of the Bowery, his hands plunged
deep in the pockets of his frayed and tattered trousers, where his
fingers, in a curious, wistful way, fondled the keys of his own
magnificent residence on Riverside Drive. It was his move--and it
was an impasse, ironical, sardonic, and it was worse--it was full of
True, he had outwitted Kline of the secret service two nights
before, when Kline had raided the counterfeiters' den; true, he had
no reason to believe that Kline suspected HIM specifically, but the
man Kline wanted HAD entered the tenement that night, and since then
the house had been shadowed day and night. The result was both
simple and disastrous--to Jimmie Dale. Larry the Bat, a known
inmate of the house, might come and go as he pleased--but to emerge
from the Sanctuary in the person of Jimmie Dale would be fatal.
Kline had been outwitted, but Kline had not acknowledged final
defeat. The tenement had been searched from top to bottom--
unostentatiously. His own room on the first landing had been
searched the previous afternoon, when he was out, but they had
failed to find the cunningly contrived opening in the floor under
the oilcloth in the corner, an impromptu wardrobe, that would
proclaim Larry the Bat and Jimmie Dale to be one and the same
person--that would inevitably lead further to the establishment of
his identity as the Gray Seal. In time, of course, the surveillance
would cease--but he could not wait. That was the monumental irony
of it--the factor that, all unknown to Kline, was forcing the issue
hard now. It was his move.
Since, years ago now, as the Gray Seal, he had begun to work with
HER, that unknown, mysterious accomplice of his, and the police,
stung to madness both by the virulent and constant attacks of the
press and by the humiliating prod of their own failures, sought
daily, high and low, with every resource at their command, for the
Gray Seal, he had never been in quite so strange and perilous a
plight as he found himself at that moment. To preserve inviolate
the identity of Larry the Bat was absolutely vital to his safety.
It was the one secret that even she, who so strangely appeared to
know all else about him, he was sure, had not discovered--and it was
just that, in a way, that had brought the present impossible
situation to pass.
In the month previous, in a lull between those letters of hers, he
had set himself doggedly and determinedly to the renewed task of
what had become so dominantly now a part of his very existence--the
solving of HER identity. And for that month, as the best means to
the end--means, however, that only resulted as futilely as the
attempts that had gone before--he had lived mostly as Larry the Bat,
returning to his home in his proper person only when occasion and
necessity demanded it. He had been going home that evening, two
nights before, walking along Riverside Drive, when from the window
of the limousine she had dropped the letter at his feet that had
plunged him into the affair of the Counterfeit Five--and he had not
gone home! Eventually, to save himself, he had, in the Sanctuary,
performing the transformation in desperate haste, again been forced
to assume the role of Larry the Bat.
That was really the gist of it. And yesterday morning he had
remembered, to his dismay, that he had had little or no money left
the night before. He had intended, of course, to replenish his
supply--when he got home. Only he hadn't gone home! And now he
needed money--needed it badly, desperately. With thousands in the
bank, with abundance even in his safe, in his own den at home, a
supply kept there always for an emergency, he was facing actual
want--he rattled two dimes, a nickel, and a few odd pennies
thoughtfully against the keys in his pocket.
To a certain extent, old Jason, his butler, could be trusted. Jason
even knew that mysterious letters of tremendous secretive importance
came to the house, and the old man always meant well--but he dared
not trust even Jason with the secret of his dual personality. What
was he to do? He needed money imperatively--at once. Thanks to
Kline, for the time being, at least, he could not rid himself of the
personality of Larry the Bat by the simple expedient or slipping
into the clothes of Jimmie Dale--he must live, act, and remain Larry
the Bat until the secret service officer gave up the hunt. How
bridge the gulf between Jimmie Dale and Larry the Bat in old Jason's
Nor was that all. There was still another matter, and one that, in
order to counteract it, demanded at once a serious inroad--to the
extent of a telephone call--upon his slender capital. A too
prolonged and unaccounted-for absence from home, and old Jason, in
his anxious, blundering solicitude, would have the fat in the fire
at that end--and the city, and the social firmament thereof, would
be humming with the startling news of the disappearance of a wellknown
millionaire. The complications that would then ensue, with
himself powerless to lift a finger, Jimmie Dale did not care to
think about--such a contretemps must at all hazards be prevented.
Jimmie Dale reached the corner of the street, where it intersected
the Bowery, and paused languidly by the curb. No one appeared to be
following. He had not expected that there would be--but it was as
well to be sure. He walked then a few steps along the Bowery--and
slipped suddenly into a doorway, from where he could command a view
of the street corner that he had just left. At the end of ten
minutes, satisfied that no one had any concern in his immediate
movements, he shambled on again down the Bowery.
There was a saloon two blocks away that boasted a private telephone
booth. Jimmie Dale made that his destination.
Larry the Bat was a very well-known character in that resort, and
the bullet-headed dispenser of drinks behind the bar nodded
unctuously to him over the heads of those clustered at the rail as
he entered; Larry the Bat, as befitted one of the elite of the
underworld, was graciously pleased to acknowledge the proletariat
salutation with a curt nod. He walked down to the end of the room,
entered the telephone booth--and was carelessly careful to close the
door tightly behind him.
He gave the number of his residence on Riverside Drive, and waited
for the connection. After some delay, Jason's voice answered him.
"Jason," said Jimmie Dale, in matter-of-fact tones, "I shall be out
of the city for another three or four days, possibly a week, and--"
he stopped abruptly, as a sort of gasp came to him over the wire.
"Thank God that's you, sir!" exclaimed the old butler wildly. "I've
been near mad, sir, all day!"
"Don't get excited, Jason!" said Jimmie Dale a little sharply. "The
mere matter of my absence for the last two days is nothing to cause
you any concern. And while I am on the subject, Jason, let me say
now that I shall be glad if you will bear that fact in mind in
"Yes, sir," stammered Jason. "But, sir, it ain't that--good Lord,
Master Jim, it ain't that, sir! It's--it's one of them letters."
Something like a galvanic shock seemed to jerk the disreputable,
loose-jointed frame of Larry the Bat suddenly erect--and a strained
whiteness crept over the dirty, unwashed face.
"Go on, Jason," said Jimmie Dale, without a quiver in his voice.
"It came this morning, sir--that shuffer with his automobile left
it. I had just time to say you weren't at home, sir, and he was
gone. And then, sir, there ain't been an hour gone by all through
the day that a woman, sir--a lady, begging your pardon, Master Jim--
hasn't rung up on the telephone, asking if you were back, and if I
could get you, and where you were, and half frantic, sir, half
sobbing, sometimes, sir, and saying there was a life hanging on it,
Master Jim."
Larry the Bat, staring into the mouthpiece of the instrument,
subconsciously passed his hand across his forehead, and
subconsciously noted that his fingers, as he drew them away, were
"Where is the letter now, Jason?" inquired Jimmie Dale coolly.
"Here on your desk, Master Jim. Shall I bring it to you?"
Bring it to him! How? When? Where? Bring it to him! The ghastly
irony of it! Jimmie Dale tried to think--prodding, spurring
desperately that keen, lightning brain of his that had never failed
him yet. How bridge the gulf between Larry the Bat and Jimmie Dale
in Jason's eyes--not just for the replenishing of funds now, but
with a life at stake!
"No--I think not, Jason," said Jimmie Dale calmly. Just leave it
where it is. And if she telephones again, say that you have told
me--that will be sufficient to satisfy any further inquiries. And
"Yes, sir?"
"If she telephones again, try and find out where the call comes
"I haven't forgotten what you said once, Master Jim, sir," said the
old man eagerly. "And I've been trying that sir, all day. They've
all come from different pay stations, sir."
A mirthless little smile tinged Jimmie Dale's lips. Of course! He
might have known! It was always that way, always the same. He was
as near to the solution of her identity at that moment as he had
been years ago, when she, in some mysterious way, alone of all the
world, had identified him as the Gray Seal!
"Very good, Jason," he said quietly. "Don't bother about it any
more. It will be all right. You can expect me when you see me.
Good-night." He hung the receiver on the hook, walked out of the
booth, and mechanically reached the street.
All right! It was far from "all right"--very far from it. It was
no trivial thing, that letter; they never had been trivial things,
those letters of hers, that involved so often a matter of life and
death--as this one now, perhaps, as her actions would seem to
indicate, involved life and death more urgently than any that had
gone before. It was far from all right--at a moment when his own
position, his own safety, was at best but a desperate chance; when
his every energy, brain, wit, and cunning were taxed to the utmost
to save himself! And yet, somehow, some way, at any cost, he must
get that letter--and at any cost he must act upon it! To fail her
was to fail utterly in everything that failure in its most
miserable, its widest sense, implied--failure in that which rose
paramount to every other consideration in life!
Fail her! Jimmie Dale's lips thinned into a hard, drawn line--and
then parted slowly in a curiously whimsical smile. It would be a
strange burglary that he had decided upon, in order that he might
not fail her--stranger than any the Gray Seal had ever committed,
and, in some respects, even more perilous!
He started along the Bowery, walking briskly now, toward the nearest
subway station, at Astor Place, his mind for the moment electing to
face the situation in a humour as whimsical as his smile. Supposing
that, as Larry the Bat, he were caught and arrested during the next
hour, in Jimmie's Dale's residence on Riverside Drive! With his
arrest as Larry the Bat, Jimmie's Dale would automatically
disappear. Would follow then the suspicion that Jimmie Dale, the
millionaire, had met with foul play, and as time went on, and Jimmie
Dale, being then in prison as Larry the Bat, did not reappear, the
assurance of it; then the certainty that suspicion would focus on
Larry the Bat as being connected with the millionaire's death, since
Larry the Bat had been caught in Jimmie Dale's home--and he would be
accused of his own murder! It was quite humourous, of course, quite
grotesquely bizarre--but it was equally an exceedingly grim
possibility! There were drawbacks to a dual personality!
"In a word," confided Jimmie Dale softly to himself, and a serious
light crept into the dark, steady eyes, "I'm in a bit of a nasty
At Astor Place he entered the subway; at Fourteenth Street he
changed to an express, and at Ninety-sixth Street he got out. It
was but a short walk west to Riverside Drive, and from there his
house was only a few blocks farther on.
Jimmie Dale did not slouch now. And for all his disreputable
attire, incongruous as it was in that neighbourhood, few people that
he passed paid any attention to him, none gave him more than a
casual glance--Jimmie Dale swung along, upright, with no attempt to
make himself inconspicuous, hurrying a little, as one intent upon a
definite errand. As he neared his house he slowed his pace a little
until a couple, who were passing in front of it, had gone on; then
he went up the steps, but noiselessly as a shadow now, to the front
door, opened it softly, closed it softly behind him, and crouched
for a moment in the vestibule.
Through the monogrammed lace on the plate glass of the inner doors
he could see, a little indistinctly, into the reception hall beyond.
The hall was empty. Jason, for that matter, would be the only one
likely to be about; the other servants would have no business there
in any case, and whether in their quarters above or below, they had
their own stairs at the rear.
Jimmie Dale inserted the key in the spring lock, and opened the door
a cautious fraction of an inch--to listen. There was no sound--yes,
a subdued murmured--the servants were downstairs in the basement.
He slipped inside, slipped, in a flash, across the hall, and,
treading like a cat, went up the stairs. He scarcely seemed to
breathe until, with a little sigh of relief, he stood inside his den
on the first floor, with the door shut behind him.
"I must speak to Jason about being a little more watchful," muttered
Jimmie Dale facetiously. "Here's all my property at the mercy of--
Larry the Bat!"
An instant he stood by the door, looking about him--in the bright
moonlight streaming in through the side windows the room's
appointments stood out in soft shadows, the huge davenport, the
great, luxurious easy-chairs, an easel with a half-finished canvas,
as he had left it; the big, flat-topped, rosewood desk, the open
fireplace--and then, his steps silent on the thick velvet rug under
foot, he walked quickly to the desk.
Yes, there it was--the letter. He placed it hurriedly in his
pocket--the moonlight was not strong enough to read by, and he dared
not turn on the lights.
And now money--funds. In the alcove behind the portiere, Jimmie
Dale dropped on his knees before the squat, barrel-shaped safe, and
opened it. He reached inside, took out a package of banknotes,
placed the bills in his pocket--and hesitated a moment. What else
would he require? What act did that letter call upon the Gray Seal
to perform in the next few hours? Jimmie Dale stared thoughtfully
into the interior of the safe. Whatever it was, it must be
performed in the role of Larry the Bat, for though he could get into
his dressing room now, and become Jimmie Dale again, there were
still those watchers outside the Sanctuary--THEY must not become
suspicious--and if Larry the Bat disappeared mysteriously, Larry the
Bat would be the man that Kline and the secret service of the United
States would never cease hunting for, and that would mean that he
could never reassume a character that was as necessary for his
protection as breath was to life, so long as the Gray Seal worked.
True, he could change now to Jimmie Dale, but he would have to
change back again and return to the Sanctuary before morning, as
Larry the Bat--and remain there until Kline, beaten, called off his
human bloodhounds. No, a change was not to be thought of.
What, then, would he require--that compact little kit of burglar
tools, rolled in its leather jacket, that, unrolled slipped about
his body like a close-fitting undervest? As well to take it anyway.
He removed his coat and vest, took out the leather bundle from the
safe, untied the thongs that bound it together, unrolled it, passed
it around his body, life belt fashion, secured the thongs over his
shoulders, and put on his coat and vest again. A revolver, a
flashlight? He had both--at the Sanctuary, under the flooring--but
there were duplicates here! He slipped them into his pockets.
Anything else--to forestall and provide for any possible
contingency? He hesitated again for a moment, thinking, then slowly
closed the inner door of the safe, locked it, swung the outer door
shut--and, in the act of twirling the knobs, sprang suddenly to his
feet. Sharp, shrill in the stillness of the room, the telephone
bell on the desk rang out clamourously.
Jimmie Dale's face set hard, as he leaped out from behind the
curtain--had Jason heard it! It rang again before he could reach
the desk--was ringing as he snatched the receiver from the hook.
"Yes, yes!" he called, in a low, guarded, hasty way, into the
mouthpiece. "Hello! What is it?" And then one hand, resting on
the desk, closed around the edge, and tightened until the skin over
the knuckles grew ivory white. It was--SHE! She! It was HER
voice--he had only heard it once in all his life--that night, two
nights before, in a silvery laugh from the limousine as it had sped
away from him down the road--but he knew! It thrilled him now with
a mad rhapsody, robbing him for the moment of every thought save
that she was living, real, existent--that it was HER voice. "It's
you--YOU!" he said hoarsely.
"Oh, Jimmie--you at last!"--it came in a little gasping cry of
relief. "The letter--"
"Yes, I've got it--it's all right--it's all right"--the words would
not seem to come fast enough in his desperate haste. "But it's you
now. Listen! Listen!" he pleaded. "Tell me who you are! My God!
how I've tried to find you, and--"
That rippling, silvery laugh again, but now, too, it seemed to his
eager ear, with just the faintest note of wistfulness in it.
"Some day, Jimmie. That letter now. It--"
Jimmie Dale straightened up suddenly--Jason's steps, running,
sounded outside the room along the corridor--there was not an
instant to lose.
"Hang up! Good-bye! Danger! Don't ring again!" he whispered
hurriedly, and, with a miserable smile, replacing the receiver
bitterly on the hook, he jumped for the curtain.
He reached it none too soon. The door opened, an electric-light
switch clicked, and the room was flooded with light. Jason, still
running, headed for the desk.
"It'll be her again!" Jimmie Dale heard the old man mutter, as from
the edge of the portiere he watched the other's actions.
Jason picked up the telephone.
"Hello! Hello!" he called--then began to click impatiently with the
receiver hook. "Hello! . . . Who? . . . Central? . . . I don't
want any number--somebody was calling here. . . . What? . . .
Nobody on the wire!"
He set the telephone back on the desk with a bewildered air.
"That's queer!" he exclaimed. "I could have sworn I heard it ring
twice, and--" He stopped abruptly, and, leaning across the desk,
hung there, wide-eyed, staring, while a sickly pallor began to steal
into his face. "The letter!" he mumbled wildly. "The letter--
Master Jim's letter--the letter--it's GONE!"
Trembling, excited, the old man began to search the desk, then down
on his knees on the floor under it; and then, growing more frantic
with every instant, rose and began to hunt around the room in an
agitated, aimless fashion.
Jason's distress was very real--he was almost beside himself now
with fear and anxiety. A whimsical, affectionate smile played over
Jimmie Dale's lips at the old man's antics--and changed suddenly
into one of consternation. Jason was making directly now for the
curtain behind which he stood! Perhaps, though, he would pass it
by, and--Jason's hand reached out and grasped the portiere.
"Jason!" said Jimmie Dale sharply.
The old man staggered back as though he had been struck, tried to
speak, choked, and gazed at the curtain with distended eyes.
"Is--is that you, sir--Master Jim--behind the curtain there?" he
finally blurted out. "I--sir--you gave me a start--and the letter,
Master Jim--"
"Don't lose your head, Jason," said Jimmie Dale coolly. "I've got
the letter. Now do as I bid you."
"Yes--Master Jim," faltered the old man.
"Pull down the window shades and draw the portiere together,"
directed Jimmie Dale.
Jason, still overwrought and excited, obeyed a little awkwardly.
"Now the lights, Jason," instructed Jimmie Dale. "Turn them off,
and go and sit down in that chair at the desk."
Again Jason obeyed, stumbling in the darkness as he returned from
the electric-light switch at the farther end of the room. He sat
down in the chair.
Larry the Bat stepped out from behind the curtain. "I came for that
letter, Jason," he explained quietly. "I am going out again now. I
may be back to-morrow; I may not be back for a week. You will say
nothing, not a word, of my having been here to-night. Do you
understand, Jason?"
"Yes, sir," said Jason; then hesitantly: "Would you mind saying,
sir, when you came in?"
"It's of no consequence, Jason--is it?"
"No, sir," said Jason.
Jimmie Dale smiled in the darkness.
"Yes, sir."
"I wish you to remain where you are, without leaving that chair, for
the next ten minutes." He moved across the room to the door.
"Good-night, Jason," he said.
"Good-night, Master Jim--good-night, sir--oh, Lord!"
Jimmie Dale did not require that ten minutes; it was a very wide
margin of safety to obviate the possibility of Jason, from a window,
detecting the exit of a disreputable character from the house--in
three minutes he was turning the corner of the first cross street
and walking rapidly away from Riverside Drive.
In the subway station Jimmie Dale read the letter--read it twice
over, as he always read those strange epistles of hers that opened
the door to new peril, new danger to the Gray Seal, but too, that
seemed somehow to draw tighter, in a glad, big way, the unseen bond
between them; read it, as he always read those letters, almost
subconsciously committing the very words to memory with that keen
faculty of brain of his. But now as he began to tear the sheet and
envelope into minute particles, a strained, hard look was on his
face and in his eyes, and his lips, half parted, moved a little.
"It's a death warrant," muttered Jimmie Dale. "I--I guess to-night
will see the end of the Gray Seal. She says I needn't do it, but I
guess it's worth the risk--a human life!"
A downtown express roared into the station.
"What time is it?" Jimmie Dale asked the guard, as he stepped
"'Bout midnight," the man answered tersely.
The forward car was almost empty, and Jimmie Dale chose a seat by
himself. How did she know? How did she know not only this, but the
hundred other affairs that she had outlined in those letters of
hers? By what means, superhuman, indeed, it seemed, did she--Jimmie
Dale jerked himself erect suddenly. What good did it do to
speculate on that now, when every minute was priceless? What was HE
to do, how was he to act, what plan could he formulate and carry
out, and WIN against odds that, at the outset, were desperate enough
even to forecast almost certain failure--and death!
Who would ever have suspected old Tom Ludgate, known for years
throughout the squalour of the East Side as old Luddy, the pushcart
man, of having a bag of unset diamonds under his pillow--or under
the sack, rather, that he probably used for a pillow! What a queer
thing to do! But then, old Luddy was a character--apparently always
in the most poverty-stricken condition, apparently hardly more than
keeping body and soul together, trusting no one, and obsessed by the
dread that by depositing in a bank some one would discover that he
had money, and attempt to force it from him, he had put his savings,
year after year, for twenty years, twenty-five years, perhaps, into
unset stone--diamonds. How had she found that out?
Jimmie Dale sank into a deeper reverie. He could steal them all
right, and they would be well worth the stealing--old Luddy had done
well, and lived and existed on next to nothing--the stones, she
said, were worth about fifteen thousand dollars. Not so bad, even
for twenty-five years of vegetable selling from a pushcart! He
could steal them all right; it would tax the Gray Seal's ingenuity
little to do so simple a thing as that, but that was not all, nor,
indeed, hardly a factor in it--it was vital that if he were to
succeed at all he must steal them PUBLICLY, as it were.
And after that--WHAT? His own chances were pretty slim at best.
Jimmie Dale, staring at the grayness of the subway wall through the
window, shook his head slowly--then, with a queer little
philosophical shrug of his shoulders, he smiled gravely, seriously.
It was all a part of the game, all a part of the life--of the Gray
It was half-past twelve, or a little later, as nearly as he could
judge, for Larry the Bat carried no such ornate thing in evidence as
a watch, as he halted at the corner of a dark, squalid street in the
lower East Side. It was a miserable locality--in daylight humming
with a cosmopolitan hive of pitiful humans dragging out as best they
could an intolerable existence, a locality peopled with every
nationality on earth, their community of interest the struggle to
maintain life at the lowest possible expenditure, where necessity
even was pared and shaved down to a minimum; but now, at night time,
or rather in the early-morning hours, the darkness, in very mercy,
it seemed, covered it with a veil, as it were, and in the quiet that
hung over it now hid the bald, the hideous, aye, and the piteous,
too, from view.
It was a narrow street, and the row of tenement houses, each house
almost identical with its neighbour, that flanked the pavement on
either side, seemed, from where Jimmie Dale stood looking down its
length, from the corner, to converge together at a point a little
way beyond, giving it an unreal, ominous, cavernlike effect. And,
too, there seemed something ominous even in its quiet. It was as
though one sensed acutely the crouching of some Thing in its lair--
waiting silently, viciously, with sullen patience.
A footstep sounded--another. Jimmie Dale drew quickly back around
the corner into an areaway. Two men passed--in helmets--swinging
their nightsticks--that beat was always policed in pairs!
They passed on, turned the corner, and went down the narrow cross
street that Jimmie Dale had just been inspecting. He started to
follow--and drew back again abruptly. A form flitted suddenly
across the road and disappeared in the darkness in the officers'
wake--ten yards behind the first another followed--at the same
interval of distance still another--and yet still one more--four in
The darkness hid all six, the two policemen, the four men behind
them--the only sounds were the OFFICERS' footsteps dying away in the
Jimmie Dale's fingers were mechanically testing the mechanism of the
automatic in his pocket.
"The Skeeter's gang!" he muttered to himself. "Red Mose, the
Midget, Harve Thoms--and the Skeeter! The Worst apaches in the city
of New York; death contractors--the lowest bidders! Professional
assassins, and a man's life any time for twenty-five dollars! I
wonder--I've never done it yet--but I wonder if it would be a crime
in God's sight if one shot--to KILL!"
Jimmie Dale was at the corner again--again the street before him was
black, deserted, empty. He chose the right hand side, and, well in
the shadow of the houses, as an extra precaution, stole along
silently. He stopped finally before one where, in the doorway, hung
a little sign. Jimmie Dale mounted the porch, and with his eyes
close to the sign could just make out the larger words in the big
printed type:
Jimmie Dale nodded. That was right. The first house on the righthand
side, with the room-to-rent sign, her letter had said. His
fingers were testing the doorknob. The door was not locked.
"Naturally, it wouldn't be locked," Jimmie Dale told himself grimly--
and stepped inside.
He stood for an instant without movement, every faculty on the
alert. Far up above him a step, guarded though his trained ear made
it out to be, creaked faintly upon the stairs--there was no other
sound. The creaking, almost inaudible at its loudest, receded
farther up--and silence fell.
In the darkness, noiselessly, Jimmie Dale groped for the stairway,
found it, and began to ascend. The minutes passed--it seemed a
minute even from step to step, and there were three flights to the
top! There must be no creaking this time--the slightest sound, he
knew well enough, would be not only fatal to the work he had to do,
but probably fatal to himself as well. He had been near death many
times--the consciousness that he was nearer to it now, possibly,
than he had ever been before, seemed to stimulate his senses into
acute and abnormal energy. And, too, the physical effort, as, step
by step, the flexed muscles relaxing so slowly, little by little,
gradually, each time as he found foothold on the step higher up, was
a terrific strain. At the top his face was bathed in perspiration,
and he wiped it off with his coat sleeve.
It was still dark here, intensely dark, and his eyes, though grown
accustomed to it, could make out nothing but the deeper shadow of
the walls. But thanks to her, always a mistress of accurate and
minute detail, he possessed a mental plan of his surroundings. The
head of the stairs gave on the middle of the hallway--the hallway
ran to his right and left. To his right, on the opposite side of
the hall, was the door of old Luddy's squalid two-room apartment.
For a moment Jimmie Dale stood hesitant--a sudden perplexity and
anxiety growing upon him. It was strange! What did it mean? He
had nerved himself to a quick, desperate attempt, trusting to
surprise and his own wit and agility for victory--there had seemed
no other way than that, since he had seen those four men at the
corner--since they were AHEAD of him. True, they were not much
ahead of him, not enough to have accomplished their purpose--and,
furthermore, they were not in that room. He knew that absolutely,
beyond question of doubt. He had listened for just that all the
nerve-racking way up the stairs. But where were they? There was no
sound--not a sound--just blackness, dark, impenetrable, utter, that
began to palpitate now.
It came in a whisper, wavering, sibilant--from his left. A sort of
relief, fierce in the breaking of the tense expectancy, premonitory
in the possibilities that it held, swept Jimmie Dale. He crept
along the hall. The whisper had come from that room, presumably
empty--that was for rent!
By the door he crouched--his sensitive fingers, eyes to Jimmie Dale
so often--feeling over jamb and panels with a delicate, soundless
touch. The door was just ajar. The fingers crept inside and
touched the knob and lock--there was no key within.
The whispering still went on--but it seemed like a screaming of
vultures now in Jimmie Dale's ears, as the words came to him.
"Aw, say, Skeeter, dis high-brow stunt gives me de pip! Me fer
goin' in dere an' croakin' de geezer reg'lar, widout de frills.
Who's to know? Say, just about two minutes, an' we're beatin' it
wid de sparklers."
An inch, a half inch at a time, the knob slowly, very, very slowly
turning, the door was being closed by the crouched form on the
"Close yer trap, Mose!" came a fierce response. "We ain't fixed the
lay all day for nothin'. There ain't a soul on earth knows he's got
any sparklers, 'cept us. If there was, it would be different--then
they'd know that was what whoever did it was after, see?"
The door was closed--the knob slowly, very, very slowly being
released again. From one of the leather pockets under Jimmie Dale's
vest came a tiny steel instrument that he inserted in the key-hole.
The same voice spoke on:
"That's what we're croaking him for, 'cause nobody knows about them
diamonds, and so's he can't TELL anybody afterward that any were
pinched. An' that's why it's got to look like he just got tired of
living and did it himself. I guess that'll hold the police when
they find the poor old duck hanging from the ceiling, with a bit of
cord around his neck, and a chair kicked out from under his feet on
the floor. Ain't you got the brains of a louse to see that?"
"Sure"--the whisper came dully, in grudging intonation through the
panels--the door was locked. "Sure, but it's de hangin' 'round
waitin' to get busy that's gettin' me goat, an'--"
Jimmie Dale straightened up and began to retreat along the corridor.
A merciless rage was upon him now, every fiber of his being seemed
to tingle and quiver with it--the damnable, hellish ingenuity of it
all seemed to choke and suffocate him.
"Luck!" muttered Jimmie Dale between his clenched teeth. "Oh, the
blessed luck to get that door locked! I've got time now to set the
stage for my own get-away before the showdown!"
He stole on along the corridor. Excerpts from her letter were
running through his brain: "It would do no good to warn him, Jimmie--
the Skeeter and his gang would never let up on him until they got
the stones. . . . It would do no good for you to steal them first,
for they would only take that as a ruse of old Luddy's, and murder
the man first and hunt afterward. . . . In some way you must let
the Skeeter SEE you steal them, make them think, make them certain
that it is a bona-fide theft, so that they will no longer have any
interest or any desire to do old Luddy harm. . . . And for it to
appear real to them, it must appear real to old Luddy himself--do
not take any chances there."
Jimmie Dale's eyes narrowed. Yes, it was simple enough now with
that pack of hell's wolves guarded for the moment by a locked door,
forced to give him warning by breaking the door before they could
get out. It was simple enough now to enter old Luddy's room, steal
the stones at the revolver point, then make enough disturbance--when
he was ready--to set the gang in motion, and, as they rushed in open
him, to make his escape with the stones to the roof through Luddy's
room. That was simple enough--there was an opening to the roof in
Luddy's room, she had said, and there was a ladder kept there in
place. On hot nights, it seemed, the old man used to go up there
and sleep on the roof--not now, of course. It was too late in the
year for that--but the opening in the roof was there, and the ladder
remained there, too.
Yes, it was simple enough now. And the next morning the papers
would rave with execrations against the Gray Seal--for the robbery
of the life savings of a poor, defenseless old man, for committing
as vile and pitiful a crime as had ever stirred New York! Even
Carruthers, of the MORNING NEWS-ARGUS, would be moved to bitter
attack. Good old Carruthers--who little thought that the Gray Seal
was his old college pal, his present most intimate friend, Jimmie
Dale! And afterward--after the next morning? Well, that, at least,
had never been in doubt. Old Luddy could be made to leave New York,
and, once away, with the Skeeter and his gang robbed of incentive to
pay any further attention to him, the stones could be secretly
returned to the old man. And it would to the public, to the police,
be just another of the Gray Seal's crimes--that was all!
Jimmie Dale had reached old Luddy's door. The Gray Seal? Oh, yes,
they would know it was the Gray Seal--the insignia was familiar
enough; familiar to the crooks of the underworld, who held it in
awe; familiar to the police, to whom it was an added barb of
ridicule. He was placing it now, that insignia, a diamond-shaped,
gray paper seal, on the panel of the door; and now, a black silk
mask adjusted over his face, Jimmie Dale bent to insert the little
steel instrument in the lock--a pitiful, paltry thing, a cheap lock,
to fingers that could play so intimately with twirling knobs and
dials, masters of the intricate mechanism of vaults and safes!
And then, about to open the door, a sort of sudden dismay fell upon
him. He had not thought of that--somehow, it had not occurred to
him! WHAT WAS IT THEY WERE WAITING FOR? Why had they not struck at
once, as, when he had first entered the house, he had supposed they
would do? What was it? Why was it? Was old Luddy out? Were they
waiting for his return--or what?
The door, without sound, moved gradually under his hand. A faint
odor assailed his nostrils! It was dark, very dark. Across the
room, in a direct line, was the doorway of the inner room--she had
explained that in her letter. It was slow progress to cross that
room without sound, in silence--it was a snail's movement--for fear
that even a muscle might crack.
And now he stood in the inner doorway. It was dark here, to--and
yet, how bizarre, a star seemed to twinkle through the very roof of
the room itself! The odour was pungent now. There was a long-drawn
sigh--then a low, indescribable sound of movement. SOMEBODY, APART
It swept, the full consciousness of it, upon Jimmie Dale in an
instantaneous flash. Chloroform; the open scuttle in the roof; the
waiting of those others--all fused into a compact logical whole.
They had loosened the scuttle during the day, probably when old
Luddy was away--one of them had crept down there now to chloroform
the old man into insensibility--the others would complete the
ghastly work presently by stringing their victim up to the ceiling--
and it would be suicide, for, long before morning came, long before
the old man would be discovered, the fumes of the chloroform would
be gone.
It seemed like a cold hand, deathlike, clutching at his heart. Was
he too late, after all! Chloroform alone could--kill! To the
right, just a little to the right--he must make no mistake--his ear
placed the sound! He whipped his hands from the side pockets of his
coat--the ray of his flashlight cut across the room and fell upon an
aged face upon a bed, upon a hand clutching a wad of cloth, the
cloth pressed horribly against the nose and mouth of the upturned
face--and then, roaring in the stillness, spitting a vicious lane of
fire that paralleled the flashlight's ray, came the tongue flame of
his automatic.
There was a yell, a scream, that echoed out, reverberated, and went
racketing through the house, and Jimmie Dale leaped forward--over a
table, sending it crashing to the floor. The man had reeled back
against the wall, clutching at a shattered wrist, staring into the
flashlight's eye, white-faced, jaw dropped, lips working in mingled
pain and fear.
"Harve Thoms--you, eh?" gritted Jimmie Dale.
A cunning look swept the distorted face. Here, apparently, was only
one man--there were pals, three of them, only a few yards away.
"You ain't got nothing on me!" he snarled, sparring for time. "You
police are too damned fresh with your guns!"
"I'll take yours!" snapped Jimmie Dale, and snatched it deftly from
the other's pocket. "This ain't any police job, my bucko, and you
make a move and I'll drop you for keeps, if what you've got already
ain't enough to teach you to keep your hands off jobs that belong to
your betters!"
He was working with mad haste as he spoke. One minute at the
outside was, perhaps, all he could count upon. Already he had
caught the rattle of the locked door down the hall. He lit a match
and turned on the gas over the bed--it was the most dangerous thing
he could do--he knew that well enough, none knew it better--it was
offering himself as a fair mark when the others rushed in, as they
would in a moment now--but the Skeeter and his gang and this man
here must have no misconception of his purpose, his reason for being
there, the same as their own, the theft of the stones--and no
misconception as to his SUCCESS.
"Y'ain't the police!"--it came in a choked gasp from the other, as
he blinked in the sudden light "Say then--"
"Shut up!" ordered Jimmie Dale curtly. "And mind what I told you
about moving!" He leaned over the bed. Old Luddy, though under the
influence of the chloroform, was moving restlessly. Thoms had
evidently only begun to apply the chloroform--old Luddy was safe!
Jimmie Dale ran his hand in under the pillow. "If you ain't swiped
them already they ought to be here!" he growled; "and if you have
I'll--ah!" A little chamois bag was in his hand. He laughed
sneeringly at Thoms, opened the bag, allowed a few stones to trickle
into his hand--and then, without stopping to replace them, dashed
stones and bag into his pocket. The door along the corridor crashed
"What's that?" he gasped out, in well-simulated fright--and sprang
for the ladder that led up to the roof.
It had all taken, perhaps, the minute that he had counted on--no
more. Noises came from the floors below now, a confusion of them--
the shot, the scream had been heard by others, save those who had
been in the locked room. And the latter were outside now in the
corridor, running to their accomplice's aid.
There was a pause at the outer door--then an oath--and coupled with
the oath an exclamation:
"The Gray Seal!"
They had swept a flashlight over the door panel--Jimmie Dale,
halfway up the ladder, smiled grimly.
The door opened--there was a rush of feet. The man with the
shattered wrist yelled, cursing wildly:
"Here he is--on the ladder! Let him have it! Fill him full of
Jimmie Dale was in the light--they were in the dark of the outer
room. He fired at the threshold, checking their rush--as a hail of
bullets chipped and tore at the ladder and spat wickedly against the
wall. He swung through to the roof, trying, as he did so, to kick
the ladder loose behind him. It was fastened!
The three gunmen jumped into the room--from the roof Jimmie Dale got
a glimpse of them below, as he flung himself clear of the opening.
Bullets whistled through the aperture--a voice roared up as he
gained his feet:
"Come on! After him! The whole place is alive, but this lets us
out. We can frame up how we came to be here easy enough. Never
mind the old geezer there any more! Get the Gray Seal--the reward
that's out for him is worth twice the sparklers, and--"
Jimmie Dale hurled the cover over the scuttle. He could have stood
them off from above and kept the ladder clear with his revolver, but
the alarm seemed general now--windows were opening, voices were
calling to one another--from the windows across the street he must
stand out in sharp outline against the sky. Yes--he was seen now.
A woman's voice, from a top-story window across the street, screamed
out, high-pitched in excitement:
"There he is! There he is! On the roof there!"
Jimmie Dale started on the run along the roof. The houses, built
wall to wall, flat-roofed, seemed to offer an open course ahead of
him--until a lane or an intersecting street should bar his way! But
they were not quite all on the same level, though--the wall of the
next house rose suddenly breast high in front of him. He flung
himself up, regained his feet--and ducked instantly behind a
The crack of a revolver echoed through the night--a bullet drummed
through the air--the Skeeter and his gang were on the roof now,
dashing forward, firing as they ran. Two shots from Jimmie Dale's
automatic, in quick succession cooled the ardour of their rush--and
they broke, black, flitting forms, for the shelter of chimneys, too.
And now the whole neighbourhood seemed awakened. A dull-toned roar,
as from some great gulf below, rolled up from the street, a medley
of slamming windows, the rush of feet as people poured from the
houses, cries, shouts, and yells--and high over all the shrill call
of the police-patrol whistle--and the CRACK, CRACK, CRACK of the
Skeeter's revolver shots--the Skeeter and his hellhounds for once
self-appointed allies of the law!
Twice again Jimmie Dale fired--then crouching, running low, he
zigzagged his way across the next roof. The bullets followed him--
once more his pursuers dashed forward. And again Jimmie Dale, his
face set like stone now, his breath coming in hard gasps, dodged
behind a chimney, and with his gun checked their rush for the third
He glanced about him--and with a growing sense of disaster saw that
two houses farther on the stretch of roof appeared to end. There
would be a lane or a street there! And in another minute or two, if
it were not already the case, others would be following the gunmen
to the roof, and then he would be--he caught his breath suddenly in
a queer little strangled cry of relief. Just back of him, a few
yards away, his eyes made out what, in the darkness, seemed to be a
glass skylight.
A dark form sped like a deeper shadow across the black in front of
him, making for a chimney nearer by, closing in the range. Jimmie
Dale fired--wide. Tight as was the corner he was in, little as was
the mercy deserved at his hands, he could not, after all, bring
himself to shoot--to kill.
A voice, the Skeeter's, bawled out raucously:
"Rush him all together--from different sides at once!"
A backward leap! Jimmie Dale's boot was crashing glass and frame,
stamping at it desperately, making a hole for his body through the
skylight. A yell, a chorus of them, answered this--then the crunch
of racing feet on the gravel roof. He emptied his revolver,
sweeping the darkness with a semicircle of vicious flashes.
It seemed an hour--it was barely the fraction of a second, as he
hung by his hands from the side of the skylight frame, his body
swinging back and forth in the unknown blackness below. The
skylight might be, probably was, directly over the stair well, and
open clear to the basement of the house--but it was his only chance.
He swung his body well out, let go--and dropped. With the impetus
he smashed against a wall, was flung back from it in a sort of
rebound, and his hands closed, gripping fiercely, on banisters. It
had been the stair well beyond any question of doubt, but his swing
had sent him clear of it.
Above, they had not yet reached the skylight. Jimmie Dale snatched
a precious moment to listen, as he rose, and found himself, apart
from bruises, perhaps unhurt. There was commotion, too, in this
house below, the alarm had extended and spread along the block--but
the commotion was all in the FRONT of the house--the street was the
Jimmie Dale started down the stairs, and in an instant he had gained
the landing. In another he had slipped to the rear of the hall--
somewhere there, from the hall itself, from one of the rear rooms,
there must be an exit to the fire escape. To attempt to leave by
the front way was certain capture.
They were yelling, shouting down now through the sky-light above, as
Jimmie Dale softly raised the window sash at the rear of the hall.
The fire escape was there. Shouts from along the corridor, from the
tenement dwellers who had been crowding their neighbours' rooms,
craning their necks probably from the front windows, answered the
shouts now from the roof and the skylight; doors opened; forms
rushed out--but it was dark in the corridor, only a murky yellow at
the upper end from the opened doors.
Jimmie Dale slipped through the window to the fire escape, and,
working cautiously, silently, but with the speed of a trained
athlete, made his way down. At the bottom he dropped from the iron
platform into the back yard, ran for the fence and climbed over into
a lane on the other side.
And then, as he ran, Jimmie Dale snatched the mask from his face and
put it in his pocket. He was safe now. He swept the sweat drops
from his forehead with the back of his hand--noticing them for the
first time. It had been close--almost as close for him as it had
been for old Luddy. And to-morrow the papers would execrate the
Gray Seal! He smiled a little wanly. His breath was still coming
hard. Presently they would scour the lane--when they found that
their quarry was not in the house. What a racket they were making!
The whole district seemed roused like a swarm of angry bees.
He kept on along the lane--and dodged suddenly into a cross street
where the two intersected. The clang of a bell dinned discordantly
in his ears--a patrol wagon swept by him, racing for the scene of
the disturbance--the riot call was out!
Again Jimmie Dale smiled wearily, passing his hand across his eyes.
"I guess," said Jimmie Dale, "I'm pretty near all in. And I guess
it's time that Larry the Bat went--home."
And a little later a figure turned from the Bowery and shambled down
the cross street, a disreputable figure, with hands plunged deep in
his pockets--and a shadow across the roadway suddenly shifted its
position as the shambling figure slouched into the black alleyway
and entered the tenement's side door.
And Larry the Bat smiled softly to himself--Kline's men were still
on guard!
A white-gloved arm, a voice, and a silvery laugh! "Just that--no
more! Jimmie Dale, in his favourite seat, an aisle seat some seven
or eight rows back from the orchestra, stared at the stage, to all
outward appearances absorbed in the last act of the play; inwardly,
quite oblivious to the fact that even a play was going on.
A white-gloved arm, a voice, and a silvery laugh! The words had
formed themselves into a sort of singsong refrain that, for the last
few days, had been running through his head. A strange enough
guiding star to mould and dictate every action in his life! And
that was all he had ever seen of her, all that he had ever heard of
her--except those letters, of course, each of which had outlined the
details of some affair for the Gray Seal to execute.
Indeed, it seemed a great length of time now since he had heard from
her even in that way, though it was not so many days ago, after all.
Perhaps it was the calm, as it were, that, by contrast, had given
place to the strenuous months and weeks just past. The storm raised
by the newspapers at the theft of Old Luddy's diamonds had subsided
into sporadic diatribes aimed at the police; Kline, of the secret
service, had finally admitted defeat, and a shadow no longer skulked
day and night at the entrance to the Sanctuary--and Larry the Bat
bore the government indorsement, so to speak, of being no more
suspicious a character than that of a disreputable, but harmless,
dope fiend of the underworld.
Larry the Bat! The Gray Seal! Jimmie Dale the millionaire! What
if it were ever known that that strange three were one! What if--
Jimmie Dale smiled whimsically. A burst of applause echoed through
the house, the orchestra was playing, the lights were on, seats
banged, there was the bustle of the rising audience, the play was at
an end--and for the life of him he could not have remembered a
single line of the last act!
The aisle at his elbow was already crowded with people on their way
out. Jimmie Dale stooped down mechanically to reach for his hat
beneath his seat--and the next instant he was standing up, staring
wildly into the faces around him.
It had fallen at his feet--a white envelope. Hers! It was in his
hand now, those slim, tapering, wonderfully sensitive fingers of
Jimmie Dale, that were an "open sesame" to locks and safes,
subconsciously telegraphing to his mind the fact that the texture of
the paper--was hers. Hers! And she must be one of those around
him--one of those crowding either the row of seats in front or
behind, or one of those just passing in the aisle. It had fallen at
his feet as he had stooped over for his hat--but from just exactly
what direction he could not tell. His eyes, eagerly, hungrily,
critically, swept face after face. Which one was hers? What irony!
She, whom he would have given his life to know, for whom indeed he
risked his life every hour of the twenty-four, was close to him now,
within reach--and as far removed as though a thousand miles
separated them. She was there--but he could not recognise a face
that he had never seen!
With an effort, he choked back the bitter, impotent laugh that rose
to his lips. They were talking, laughing around him. Her VOICE--
yes, he had once heard that, and that he would recognise again. He
strained to catch, to individualise the tone sounds that floated in
a medley about him. It was useless--of course--every effort that he
had ever made to find her had been useless. She was too clever, far
too clever for that--she, too, would know that he could and would
recognise her voice where he could recognise nothing else.
And then, suddenly, he realised that he was attracting attention.
Level stares from the women returned his gaze, and they edged away a
little from his vicinity as they passed, their escorts crowding
somewhat belligerently into their places. Others, in the same row
of seats as his own, were impatiently waiting to get by him. With a
muttered apology, Jimmie Dale raised the seat of his chair, allowing
these latter to pass him--and then, slipping the letter into his
pocketbook, he snatched up his hat from the seat rack.
There was still a chance. Knowing he was there, she would be on her
guard; but in the lobby, among the crowd and unaware of his
presence, there was the possibility that, if he could reach the
entrance ahead of her, she, too, might be talking and laughing as
she left the theatre. Just a single word, just a tone--that was all
he asked.
The row of seats at whose end he stood was empty now, and, instead
of stepping into the thronged aisle, he made his way across to the
opposite side of the theatre. Here, the far aisle was less crowded,
and in a minute he had gained the foyer, confident that he was now
in advance of her. The next moment he was lost in a jam of people
in the lobby.
He moved slowly now, very slowly--allowing those behind to press by
him on the way to the entrance. A babel of voices rose about him,
as, tight-packed, the mass of people jostled, elbowed, and pushed
good-naturedly. It was a voice now, her voice, that he was
listening for; but, though it seemed that every faculty was strained
and intent upon that one effort, his eyes, too, had in no degree
relaxed their vigilance--and once, half grimly, half sardonically,
he smiled to himself. There would be an unexpected aftermath to
this exodus of expensively gowned and bejewelled women with their
prosperous, well-groomed escorts! There was the Wowzer over there--
sleek, dapper, squirming in and out of the throng with the agility
and stealth of a cat. As Larry the Bat he had met the Wowzer many
times, as indeed he had met and was acquainted with most of the
elite of the underworld. The Wowzer, beyond a shadow of doubt, in
his own profession stood upon a plane entirely by himself--among
those qualified to speak, no one yet had ever questioned the
Wowzer's claim to the distinction of being the most dexterous and
finished "poke getter" in the United States!
The crowd thinned in the lobby, thinned down to the last few belated
stragglers, who passed him as he still loitered in the entrance; and
then Jimmie Dale, with a shrug of his shoulders that was a great
deal more philosophical than the maddening sense of chagrin and
disappointment that burned within him, stepped out to the pavement
and headed down Broadway. After all, he had known it in his heart
of hearts all the time--it had always been the same--it was only one
more occasion added to the innumerable ones that had gone before in
which she had eluded him!
And now--there was the letter! Automatically he quickened his steps
a little. It was useless, futile, profitless, for the moment, at
least, to disturb himself over his failure--there was the letter!
His lips parted in a strange, half-serious, half-speculative smile.
The letter--that was paramount now. What new venture did the night
hold in store for him? What sudden emergency was the Gray Seal
called upon to face this time--what role, unrehearsed, without
warning, must he play? What story of grim, desperate rascality
would the papers credit him with when daylight came? Or would they
carry in screaming headlines the announcement that the Gray Seal was
caged and caught at last, and in three-inch type tell the world that
the Gray Seal was--Jimmie Dale!
A block down, he turned from Broadway out of the theatre crowds that
streamed in both directions past him. The letter! Almost
feverishly now he was seeking an opportunity to open and read it
unobserved; an eagerness upon him that mingled exhilaration at the
lure of danger with a sense of premonition that, irritably,
inevitably was with him at moments such as these. It seemed, it
always seemed, that, with an unopened letter of hers in his
possession, it was as though he were about to open a page in the
Book of Fate and read, as it were, a pronouncement upon himself that
might mean life or death.
He hurried on. People still passed by him--too many. And then a
cafe, just ahead, making a corner, gave him the opportunity that he
sought. Away from the entrance, on the side street, the brilliant
lights from the windows shone out on a comparatively deserted
pavement. There was ample light to read by, even as far away from
the window as the curb, and Jimmie Dale, with an approving nod,
turned the corner and walked along a few steps until opposite the
farthest window--but, as he halted here at the edge of the street,
he glanced quickly behind him at a man whom he had just passed. The
other had paused at the corner and was staring down the street.
Jimmie Dale instantly and nonchalantly produced his cigarette case,
selected a cigarette, and fastidiously tapped its end on his thumb
"Inspector Burton in plain clothes," he observed musingly to
himself. "I wonder if it's just a fluke--or something else? We'll
Jimmie Dale took a box of matches from his pocket. The first would
not light. The second broke, and, with an exclamation of annoyance,
he flung it away. The third was making a fitful effort at life, as
another man emerged hastily from the cafe's side door, hurried to
the corner, joined the man who was still loitering there, and both
together disappeared at a rapid pace down the street.
Jimmie Dale whistled softly to himself. The second man was even
better known than the first; there was not a crook in New York but
would side-step Lannigan of headquarters, and do it with amazing
celerity--if he could!
"Something up! But it's not my hunt!" muttered Jimmie Dale; then,
with a shrug of his shoulders: "Queer the way those headquarters
chaps fascinate and give me a thrill every time I see them, even if
I haven't a ghost of a reason for imagining that--"
The sentence was never finished. Jimmie Dale's face was gray. The
street seemed to rock about him--and he stared, like a man stricken,
white to the lips, ahead of him. THE LETTER WAS GONE! His hand,
wriggling from his empty pocket, swept away the sweat beads that
were bursting from his forehead. It had come at last--the pitcher
had gone once too often to the well!
Numbed for an instant, his brain cleared now, working with lightning
speed, leaping from premise to conclusion. The crush in the theatre
lobby--the pushing, the jostling, the close contact--the Wowzer, the
slickest, cleverest pickpocket in the United States! For a moment
he could have laughed aloud in a sort of ghastly, defiant mockery--
he himself had predicted an unexpected aftermath, had he not!
Aftermath! It was--the END! An hour, two hours, and New York would
be metamorphosed into a seething caldron of humanity bubbling with
the news. It seemed that he could hear the screams of the newsboys
now shouting their extras; it seemed that he could see the people,
roused to frenzy, swarming in excited crowds, snatching at the
papers; he seemed to hear the mob's shouts swell in execration, in
exultation--it seemed as though all around him had gone mad. The
mystery of the Gray Seal was solved! It was Jimmie Dale, Jimmie
Dale, Jimmie, Dale, the millionaire, the lion of society--and there
was ignominy for an honoured name, and shame and disaster and
convict stripes and sullen penitentiary walls--or death! A felon's
death--the chair!
He was running now, his hands clenched at his sides; his mind,
working subconsciously, urging him onward in a blind, as yet
unrealised, objectless way. And then gradually impulse gave way to
calmer reason, and he slowed his pace to a quick, less noticeable
walk. The Wowzer! That was it! There was yet a chance--the
Wowzer! A merciless rage, cold, deadly, settled upon him. It was
the Wowzer who had stolen his pocketbook, and with it the letter.
There could be no doubt of that. Well, there would be a reckoning
at least before the end!
He was in a downtown subway train now--the roar in his ears in
consonance, it seemed, with the turmoil in his brain. But now, too,
he was Jimmie Dale again; and, apart from the slightly outthrust
jaw, the tight-closed lips, impassive, debonair, composed.
There was yet a chance. As Larry the Bat he knew every den and lair
below the dead line, and he knew, too, the Wowzer's favourite
haunts. There was yet a chance, only one in a thousand, it was
true, almost too pitiful to be depended upon--but yet a chance. The
Wowzer had probably not worked alone, and he and his pal, or pals,
would certainly not remain uptown either to examine or divide their
spoils--they would wait until they were safe somewhere in one of
their hell holes on the East Side. If he could find the Wowzer,
reach the man BEFORE THE LETTER WAS OPENED--Jimmie Dale's lips grew
tighter. THAT was the chance! It he failed in that--Jimmie Dale's
lips drooped downward in grim curves at the corners. A chance!
Already the Wowzer had at least a half hour's lead, and, worse
still, there was no telling which one of a dozen places the man
might have chosen to retreat to with his loot.
Time passed. His mind obsessed, Jimmie Dale's physical acts were
almost wholly mechanical. It was perhaps fifteen minutes since he
had discovered the loss of the letter, and he was walking now
through the heart of the Bowery. Exactly how he had got there he
could not have told; he had only a vague realisation that, following
an intuitive sense of direction, he had lost not a second of time in
making his way downtown.
And now he found himself hesitating at the corner of a cross street.
Two blocks east was that dark, narrow alleyway, that side door that
made the entrance to the Sanctuary. It would be safer, a hundred
times safer, to go there, change his clothes and his personality,
and emerge again as Larry the Bat--infinitely safer in that role to
explore the dens of the underworld, many of them indeed unknown and
undreamed of by the police themselves, than to trust himself there
in well-cut, fashionable tweeds--but that would take time. Time!
When, with every second, the one chance he had, desperate as that
already was, was slipping away from him. No; what was apparently
the greater risk at least held out the only hope.
He went on again--his brain incessantly at work. At the worst,
there was one mitigating factor in it all. He had no need to think
of her. Whatever the ruin and disaster that faced him in the next
few hours, she in any case was safe. There was no clew to HER
identity in the letter; and where he, for months on end, with even
more to work upon, had failed at every turn to trace her, there was
little fear that any one else would have any better success. She
was safe. As for himself--that was different. The Gray Seal would
be referred to in the letter, there would be the outline, the data
for the "crime" she had planned for that night; and the letter,
though unaddressed, being found in his pocketbook, where cards and
notes and a dozen different things among its contents proclaimed him
Jimmie Dale, needed no further evidence as to its ownership nor the
identity of the Gray Seal.
Jimmie Dale's fingers crept inside his vest and fumbled there for a
moment--and a diamond stud, extracted from his shirt front,
glistened sportively in the necktie that was now tucked jauntily in
at one side of his shirt bosom. He had reached the Blue Dragon, one
of Wowzer's usual hang outs, and, swerving from the sidewalk,
entered the place. There was wild tumult within--a constant storm
of applause, derision, and hilarity that was hurled from the tables
around the room at the turkey-trotting, tango-writhing couples on
the somewhat restricted space of polished hardwood flooring in the
centre. Jimmie Dale swaggered down the room, a cigar tilted up at
an angle between his teeth, his soft felt hat a little rakishly on
one side of his head and well over his nose.
At the end of the room, at the bar, Jimmie Dale leaned toward the
barkeeper and talked out of the corner of his mouth. There were
private rooms upstairs, and he jerked his head surreptitiously
"Say, is de Wowzer up dere?" he inquired in a cautious whisper.
The man behind the bar, well known to Jimmie Dale as one of the
Wowzer's particular pals, favoured him with a blank stare.
"Never heard of de guy!" he announced brusquely. "Wot's yours?"
"Gimme a mug of suds," said Jimmie Dale, reaching for a match. He
puffed at his cigar, blew out the match, and, after a moment, flung
the charred end away--but on his hand, as, palm outward, he raised
it to take his glass, the match had traced a small black cross.
The barkeeper put down the beer he had just drawn, wiped his hand
hurriedly, and with sudden enthusiasm thrust it across the bar.
"Glad to know youse, cull!" he exclaimed. "Wot's de lay?"
Jimmie Dale smiled.
"Nix!" said Jimmie Dale. "I just blew in from Chicago. Used to
know de Wowzer dere. He said dis place was on de level, an' I could
always find him here, dat's all."
"Sure, youse can!" returned the barkeeper heartily. "Only he ain't
here now. He beat it about fifteen minutes ago, him an' Dago Jim.
I guess youse'll find him at Chang's, I heard him an' Dago say dey
was goin' dere. Know de place?"
Jimmie Dale shook his head.
"I ain't much wise to New York," he explained.
"Aw, dat's easy," whispered the barkeeper. "Go down to Chatham
Square, an' den any guy'll show youse Chang Foo's." He winked
confidentially. "I guess youse won't bump yer head none gettin'
around inside."
Jimmie Dale nodded, grinned back, emptied his glass, and dug for a
"Forget it!" observed the barkeeper cordially. "Dis is on me. Any
friend of de Wowzer's gets de glad hand here any time."
"T'anks!" said Jimmie Dale gratefully, as he turned away. "So long,
then--see youse later."
Chang Foo's! Jimmie Dale's face set even a little harder than it
had before, as he swung on again down the Bowery. Yes; he knew
Chang Foo's--too well. Underground Chinatown--where a man's life
was worth the price of an opium pill--or less! Mechanically his
hand slipped into his pocket and closed over the automatic that
nestled there. Once in--where he had to go--and the chances were
even, just even, that was all, that he would ever get out. Again he
was tempted to return to the Sanctuary and make the attempt as Larry
the Bat. Larry the Bat was well enough known to enter Chang Foo's
unquestioned, and--but again he shook his head and went on. There
was not time. The Wowzer and his pal--it was Dago Jim it seemed--
had evidently been drinking and loitering their way downtown from
the theatre, and he had gained that much on them; but by now they
would be smugly tucked away somewhere in that maze of dens below the
ground, and at that moment probably were gloating over the biggest
night's haul they had ever made in their lives!
And if they were! What then? Once they knew the contents of that
letter--what then? Buy them off for a larger amount than the many
thousands offered for the capture of the Gray Seal? Jimmie Dale
gritted his teeth. That meant blackmail from them all his life, an
intolerable existence, impossible, a hell on earth--the slave, at
the beck and call of two of the worst criminals in New York! The
moisture oozed again to Jimmie Dale's forehead. God, if he could
get that letter before it was opened--before they KNEW! If he could
only get the chance to fight for it--against ANY odds! Life! Life
was a pitiful consideration against the alternative that faced him
From the Blue Dragon to Chang Foo's was not far; and Jimmie Dale
covered the distance in well under five minutes. Chang Foo's was
just a tea merchant's shop, innocuous and innocent enough in its
appearance, blandly so indeed, and that was all--outwardly; but
Jimmie Dale, as he reached his destination, experienced the first
sensation of uplift he had known that night, and this from what,
apparently, did not in the least seem like a contributing cause.
"Luck! The blessed luck of it!" he muttered grimly, as he surveyed
the sight-seeing car drawn up at the curb, and watched the
passengers crowding out of it to the ground. "It wouldn't have been
as easy to fool old Chang as it was that fellow back at the Dragon--
and, besides, if I can work it, there's a better chance this way of
getting out alive."
The guide was marshalling his "gapers"--some two dozen in all, men
and women. Jimmie Dale unostentatiously fell in at the rear; and,
the guide leading, the little crowd passed into the tea merchant's
shop. Chang Foo, a wizened, wrinkled-faced little Celestial, oily,
suave, greeted them with profuse bows, chattering the while volubly
in Chinese.
The guide made the introduction with an all-embracing sweep of his
"Chang Foo--ladies and gentlemen," he announced; then held up his
hand for silence. "Ladies and gentlemen," he said impressively,
"this is one of the most notorious, if not THE most notorious dive
in Chinatown, and it is only through special arrangement with the
authorities and at great expense that the company is able
exclusively to gain an entree here for its patrons. You will see
here the real life of the Chinese, and in half an hour you will get
what few would get in a lifetime spent in China itself. You will
see the Chinese children dance and perform; the Chinese women at
their household tasks; the joss, the shrine of his hallowed
ancestors, at which Chang Foo here worships; and you will enter the
most famous opium den in the United States. Now, if you will all
keep close together, we will make a start."
In spite of his desperate situation, Jimmie Dale smiled a little
whimsically. Yes; they would see it all--UPSTAIRS! The same old
bunk dished out night after night at so much a head--and the nervous
little schoolma'am of uncertain age, who fidgeted now beside him,
would go back somewhere down in Maine and shiver while she related
her "wider experiences" in tremulous whispers into the shocked ears
of envious other maiden ladies of equally uncertain age. The same
old bunk--and a profitable one for Chang Foo for more reasons than
one. It was dust in the eyes of the police. The police smiled
knowingly at mention of Chang Foo. Who should know, if they didn't,
that it was all harmless fake, all bunk! And so it was--UPSTAIRS!
They were passing out of the shop now, bowed out through a side door
by the obsequious and oily Chang Foo. And now they massed again in
a sort of little hallway--and Chang Foo, closing the door upon
Jimmie Dale, who was the last in the line, shuffled back behind the
counter in his shop to resume his guard duty over customers of quite
another ilk. With the door closed, it was dark, pitch dark. And
this, too, like everything else connected with Chang Foo's
establishment, for more reasons than one--for effect--and for
security. Nervous little twitters began to emanate from the women--
the guide's voice rose reassuringly:
"Keep close together, ladies and gentlemen. We are going upstairs
now to--"
Jimmie Dale hugged back against the wall, sidled along it, and like
a shadow slipped down to the end of the hall. The scuffling of two
dozen pairs of feet mounting the creaky staircase drowned the slight
sound as he cautiously opened a door; the darkness lay black,
impenetrable, along the hall. And then, as cautiously as he had
opened it, he closed the door behind him, and stood for an instant
listening at the head of a ladder-like stairway, his automatic in
his hand now. It was familiar ground to Larry the Bat. The steps
led down to a cellar; and diagonally across from the foot of the
steps was an opening, ingeniously hidden by a heterogeneous
collection of odds and ends, boxes, cases, and rubbish from the
pseudo tea shop above; a low opening in the wall to a passage that
led on through the cellars of perhaps half a dozen adjoining houses,
each of which latter was leased, in one name or another--by Chang
Jimmie Dale crept down the steps, and in another moment had gained
the farther side of the cellar; then, skirting around the ruck of
cases, he stooped suddenly and passed in through the opening in the
wall. And now he halted once more. He was straining his eyes down
a long, narrow passage, whose blackness was accentuated rather than
relieved by curious wavering, gossamer threads of yellow light that
showed here and there from under makeshift thresholds, from doors
slightly ajar. Faint noises came to him, a muffled, intermittent
clink of coin, a low, continuous, droning hum of voices; the sickly
sweet smell of opium pricked at his nostrils.
Jimmie Dale's face set rigidly. It was the resort, not only of the
most depraved Chinese element, but of the worst "white" thugs that
made New York their headquarters--here, in the succession of
cellars, roughly partitioned off to make a dozen rooms on either
side of the passage, dope fiends sucked at the drug, and Chinese
gamblers spent the greater part of their lives; here, murder was
hatched and played too often to its hellish end; here, the scum of
the underworld sought refuge from the police to the profit of Chang
Foo; and here, somewhere, in one of these rooms, was--the Wowzer.
The Wowzer! Jimmie Dale stole forward silently, without a sound,
swiftly--pausing only to listen for a second's space at the doors as
he passed. From this one came that clink of coin; from another that
jabber of Chinese; from still another that overpowering stench of
opium--and once, iron-nerved as he was, a cold thrill passed over
him. Let this lair of hell's wolves, so intent now on their own
affairs, be once roused, as they certainly must be roused before he
could hope to finish the Wowzer, and his chances of escape were--
He straightened suddenly, alert, tense, strained. Voices, raised in
a furious quarrel, came from a door just beyond him on the other
side of the passage, where a film of light streamed out through a
cracked panel--it was the Wowzer and Dago Jim! And drunk, both of
them--and both in a blind fury!
It happened quick then, almost instantaneously it seemed to Jimmie
Dale. He was crouched now close against the door, his eye to the
crack in the panel. There was only one figure in sight--Dago Jim--
standing beside a table on which burned a lamp, the table top
littered with watches, purses, and small chatelaine bags. The man
was lurching unsteadily on his feet, a vicious sneer of triumph on
his face, waving tauntingly an open letter and Jimmie Dale's pocketbook
in his hands--waving them presumably in the face of the Wowzer,
whom, from the restrictions of the crack, Jimmie Dale could not see.
He was conscious of a sickening sense of disaster. His hope against
hope had been in vain--the letter had been opened and read--THE
Dago Jim's voice roared out, hoarse, blasphemous, in drunken rage:
"De Gray Seal--see! Youse betcher life I knows! I been waitin' fer
somet'ing like dis, damn youse! Youse been stallin' on me fer a
year every time it came to a divvy. Youse've got a pocketful now
youse snitched to-night dat youse are tryin' to do me out of. Well,
keep 'em"--he shoved his face forward. "I keeps dis--see! Keep 'em
Wowzer, youse cross-eyed--"
"Everyt'ing I pinched to-night's on de table dere wid wot youse
pinched yerself," cut in the Wowzer, in a sullen, threatening growl.
"Youse lie, an' youse knows it!" retorted Dago Jim. "Youse have
given me de short end every time we've pulled a deal!"
"Dat letter's mine, youse--" bawled the Wowzer furiously.
"Why didn't youse open it an' read it, den, instead of lettin' me do
it to keep me busy while youse short-changed me?" sneered Dago Jim.
"Youse t'ought it was some sweet billy-doo, eh? Well, t'anks,
Wowzer--dat's wot it is! Say," he mocked, "dere's a guy'll cash a
t'ousand century notes fer dis, an' if he don't--say, dere's SOME
reward out fer the Gray Seal! Wouldn't youse like to know who it
is? Well, when I'm ridin' in me private buzz wagon, Wowzer, youse
stick around an' mabbe I'll tell youse--an' mabbe I won't!"
"By God"--the Wowzer's voice rose in a scream--"youse hand over dat
"Youse go to--"
Red, lurid red, a stream of flame seemed to cut across Jimmie Dale's
line of vision, came the roar of a revolver shot--and like a madman
Jimmie Dale flung his body at the door. Rickety at best, it crashed
inward, half wrenched from its hinges, precipitating him inside. He
recovered himself and leaped forward. The room was swirling with
blue eddies of smoke; Dago Jim, hands flung up, still grasping
letter and pocketbook, pawed at the air--and plunged with a sagging
lurch face downward to the floor. There was a yell and an oath from
the Wowzer--the crack of another revolver shot, the hum of the
bullet past Jimmie Dale's ear, the scorch of the tongue flame in his
face, and he was upon the other.
Screeching profanity, the Wowzer grappled; and, for an instant, the
two men rocked, reeled, and swayed in each other's embrace; then,
both men losing their balance, they shot suddenly backward, the
Wowzer, undermost, striking his head against the table's edge--and
men, table, and lamp crashed downward in a heap to the floor.
It had been no more, at most, than a matter of seconds since Jimmie
Dale had hurled himself into the room; and now, with a gurgling
sigh, the Wowzer's arms, that had been wound around Jimmie Dale's
back and shoulders, relaxed, and, from the blow on his head the man,
lay back inert and stunned. And then it seemed to Jimmie Dale as
though pandemonium, unreality, and chaos at the touch of some
devil's hand reigned around him. It was dark--no, not dark--a spurt
of flame was leaping along the line of trickling oil from the broken
lamp on the floor. It threw into ghastly relief the sprawled form
of Dago Jim. Outside, from along the passageway, came a confused
jangle of commotion--whispering voices, shuffling feet, the swish of
Chinese garments. And the room itself began to spring into weird,
flickering shadows, that mounted and crept up the walls with the
spreading fire.
There was not a second to lose before the room would be swarming
with that rush from the passageway--and there was still the letter,
the pocketbook! The table had fallen half over Dago Jim--Jimmie
Dale pushed it aside, tore the crushed letter and the pocketbook
from the man's hands--and felt, with a grim, horrible sort of
anxiety, for the other's heartbeat, for the verdict that meant life
or death to himself. There was no sign of life--the man was dead.
Jimmie Dale was on his feet now. A face, another, and another
showed in the doorway--the Wowzer was regaining his senses,
stumbling to his knees. There was one chance--just one--to take
those crowding figures by surprise. And with a yell of "Fire!"
Jimmie Dale sprang for the doorway.
They gave way before his rush, tumbling back in their surprise
against the opposite wall; and, turning, Jimmie Dale raced down the
passageway. Doors were opening everywhere now, forms were pushing
out into the semi-darkness--only to duck hastily back again, as
Jimmie Dale's automatic barked and spat a running fire of warning
ahead of him. And then, behind, the Wowzer's voice shrieked out:
"Soak him! Kill de guy! He's croaked Dago Jim! Put a hole in him,
Yells, a chorus of them, took up the refrain--then the rush of
following feet--and the passageway seemed to racket as though a
Gatling gun were in play with the fusillade of revolver shots. But
Jimmie Dale was at the opening now--and, like a base runner plunging
for the bag, he flung himself in a low dive through and into the
open cellar beyond. He was on his feet, over the boxes, and dashing
up the stairs in a second. The door above opened as he reached the
top--Jimmie Dale's right hand shot out with clubbed revolver--and
with a grunt Chang Foo went down before the blow and the headlong
rush. The next instant Jimmie Dale had sprung through the tea shop
and was out on the street.
A minute, two minutes more, and Chinatown would be in an uproar--
Chang Foo would see to that--and the Wowzer would prod him on. The
danger was far from over yet. And then, as he ran, Jimmie Dale gave
a little gasp of relief. Just ahead, drawn up at the curb, stood a
taxicab--waiting, probably, for a private slumming party. Jimmie
Dale put on a spurt, reached it, and wrenched the door open.
"Quick!" he flung at the startled chauffeur. "The nearest subway
station--there's a ten-spot in it for you! Quick man--QUICK! Here
they come!"
A crowd of Chinese, pouring like angry hornets from Chang Foo's
shop, came yelling down the street--and the taxi took the corner on
two wheels--and Jimmie Dale, panting, choking for his breath like a
man spent, sank back against the cushions.
But five minutes later it was quite another Jimmie Dale, composed,
nonchalant, imperturbable, who entered an up-town subway train, and,
choosing a seat alone near the centre of the car, which at that hour
of night in the downtown district was almost deserted, took the
crushed letter from his pocket. For a moment he made no attempt to
read it, his dark eyes, now that he was free from observation, full
of troubled retrospect, fixed on the window at his side. It was not
a pleasant thought that it had cost a man his life, nor yet that
that life was also the price of his own freedom. True, if there
were two men in the city of New York whose crimes merited neither
sympathy nor mercy, those two men were the Wowzer and Dago Jim--but
yet, after all, it was a human life, and, even if his own had been
in the balance, thank God it had been through no act of his that
Dago Jim had gone out! The Wowzer, cute and cunning, had been quick
enough to say so to clear himself, but--Jimmie Dale smiled a little
now--neither the Wowzer, nor Chang Foo, nor Chinatown would ever be
in a position to recognise their uninvited guest!
Jimmie Dale's eyes shifted to the letter speculatively, gravely. It
seemed as though the night had already held a year of happenings,
and the night was not over yet--there was the letter! It had
already cost one life; was it to cost another--or what?
It began as it always did. He read it through once, in amazement; a
second time, with a flush of bitter anger creeping to his cheeks;
and a third time, curiously memorising, as it were, snatches of it
here and there.
"DEAR PHILANTHROPIC CROOK: Robbery of Hudson-Mercantile National
Bank--trusted employee is ex-convict, bad police record, served term
in Sing Sing three years ago--known to police as Bookkeeper Bob,
real name is Robert Moyne, lives at ---- Street, Harlem--Inspector
Burton and Lannigan of headquarters trailing him now--robbery not
yet made public--"
There was a great deal more--four sheets of closely written data.
With an exclamation almost of dismay, Jimmie Dale pulled out his
watch. So that was what Burton and Lannigan were up to! And he had
actually run into them! Lord, the irony of it! The-- And then
Jimmie Dale stared at the dial of his watch incredulously. It was
still but barely midnight! It seemed impossible that since leaving
the theatre at a few minutes before eleven, he had lived through but
a single hour!
Jimmie Dale's fingers began to pluck at the letter, tearing it into
pieces, tearing the pieces over and over again into tiny shreds.
The train stopped at station after station, people got on and off--
Jimmie Dale's hat was over his eyes, and his eyes were glued again
to the window. Had Bookkeeper Bob returned to his flat in Harlem
with the detectives at his heels--or were Burton and Lannigan still
trailing the man downtown somewhere around the cafe's? If the
former, the theft of the letter and its incident loss of time had
been an irreparable disaster; if the latter--well, who knew! The
risk was the Gray Seal's!
At One Hundred and Twenty-Fifth Street Jimmie Dale left the train;
and, at the end of a sharp four minutes' walk, during which he had
dodged in and out from street to street, stopped on a corner to
survey the block ahead of him. It was a block devoted exclusively
to flats and apartment houses, and, apart from a few belated
pedestrians, was deserted. Jimmie Dale strolled leisurely down one
side, crossed the street at the end of the block, and strolled
leisurely back on the other side--there was no sign of either Burton
or Lannigan. It was a fairly safe presumption then that Bookkeeper
Bob had not returned yet, or one of the detectives at least would
have been shadowing the house.
Jimmie Dale, smiling a little grimly, retraced his steps again, and
turned deliberately into a doorway--whose number he had noted as he
had passed a moment or so before. So, after all, there was time
yet! This was the house. "Number eighteen," she had said in her
letter. "A flat--three stories--Moyne lives on ground floor."
Jimmie Dale leaned against the vestibule door--there was a faint
click--a little steel instrument was withdrawn from the lock--and
Jimmie Dale stepped into the hall, where a gas jet, turned down,
burned dimly.
The door of the ground-floor apartment was at his right, Jimmie Dale
reached up and turned off the light. Again those slim, tapering,
wonderfully sensitive fingers worked with the little steel
instrument, this time in the lock of the apartment door--again there
was that almost inaudible click--and then cautiously, inch by inch,
the door opened under his hand. He peered inside--down a hallway
lighted, if it could be called lighted at all, by a subdued glow
from two open doors that gave upon it--peered intently, listening
intently, as he drew a black silk mask from his pocket and slipped
it over his face. And then, silent as a shadow in his movements,
the door left just ajar behind him, he stole down the carpeted
Opposite the first of the open doorways Jimmie Dale paused--a
curiously hard expression creeping over his face, his lips beginning
to droop ominously downward at the corners. It was a little sitting
room, cheaply but tastefully furnished, and a young woman,
Bookkeeper Bob's wife evidently, and evidently sitting up for her
husband, had fallen sound asleep in a chair, her head pillowed on
her arms that were outstretched across the table. For a moment
Jimmie Dale held there, his eyes on the scene--and the next moment,
his hand curved into a clenched fist, he had passed on and entered
the adjoining room.
It was a child's bedroom. A night lamp burned on a table beside the
bed, and the soft rays seemed to play and linger in caress on the
tousled golden hair of a little girl of perhaps two years of age--
and something seemed to choke suddenly in Jimmie Dale's throat--the
sweet, innocent little face, upturned to his, was smiling at him as
she slept.
Jimmie Dale turned away his head--his eyelashes wet under his mask.
"BENEATH THE MATTRESS OF THE CHILD'S BED," the letter had said. His
face like stone, his lips a thin line now, Jimmie Dale's hand
reached deftly in without disturbing the child and took out a
package--and then another. He straightened up, a bundle of crisp
new hundred-dollar notes in each hand--and on the top of one,
slipped under the elastic band that held the bills together, an
unsealed envelope. He drew out the latter, and opened it--it was a
second-class steamship passage to Vera Cruz, made out in a
fictitious name, of course, to John Davies, the booking for next
day's sailing. From the ticket, from the stolen money, Jimmie
Dale's eyes lifted to rest again on the little golden head, the
smiling lips--and then, dropping the packages into his pockets, his
own lips moving queerly, he turned abruptly to the door.
"My God, the shame of it!" he whispered to himself.
He crept down the corridor, past the open door of the room where the
young woman still sat fast asleep, and, his mask in his pocket
again, stepped softly into the vestibule, and from there to the
Jimmie Dale hurried now, spurred on it seemed by a hot, insensate
fury that raged within him--there was still one other call to make
that night--still those remaining and minute details in the latter
part of her letter, grim and ugly in their portent!
It was close upon one o'clock in the morning when Jimmie Dale
stopped again--this time before a fashionable dwelling just off
Central Park. And here, for perhaps the space of a minute, he
surveyed the house from the sidewalk--watching, with a sort of
speculative satisfaction, a man's shadow that passed constantly to
and fro across the drawn blinds of one of the lower windows. The
rest of the house was in darkness.
"Yes," said Jimmie Dale, nodding his head, "I rather thought so.
The servants will have retired hours ago. It's safe enough."
He ran quickly up the steps and rang the bell. A door opened almost
instantly, sending a faint glow into the hall from the lighted room;
a hurried step crossed the hall--and the outer door was thrown back.
"Well, what is it?" demanded a voice brusquely.
It was quite dark, too dark for either to distinguish the other's
features--and Jimmie Dale's hat was drawn far down over his eyes.
"I want to see Mr. Thomas H. Carling, cashier of the Hudson-
Mercantile National Bank--it's very important," said Jimmie Dale
"I am Mr. Carling," replied the other. "What is it?"
Jimmie Dale leaned forward.
"From headquarters--with a report," he said, in a low tone.
"Ah!" exclaimed the bank official sharply. "Well, it's about time!
I've been waiting up for it--though I expected you would telephone
rather than this. Come in!"
"Thank you," said Jimmie Dale courteously--and stepped into the
The other closed the front door. "The servants are in bed, of
course," he explained, as he led the way toward the lighted room.
"This way, please."
Behind the other, across the hall, Jimmie Dale followed and close at
Carling's heels entered the room, which was fitted up, quite
evidently regardless of cost, as a combination library and study.
Carling, in a somewhat pompous fashion, walked straight ahead toward
the carved-mahogany flat-topped desk, and, as he reached it, waved
his hand.
"Take a chair," he said, over his shoulder--and then, turning in the
act of dropping into his own chair, grasped suddenly at the edge of
the desk instead, and, with a low, startled cry, stared across the
Jimmie Dale was leaning back against the door that was closed now
behind him--and on Jimmie Dale's face was a black silk mask.
For an instant neither man spoke nor moved; then Carling, sparebuilt,
dapper in evening clothes, edged back from the desk and
laughed a little uncertainly.
"Quite neat! I compliment you! From headquarters with a report, I
think you said?"
"Which I neglected to add," said Jimmie Dale, "was to be made in
Carling, as though to put as much distance between them as possible,
continued to edge back across the room--but his small black eyes,
black now to the pupils themselves, never left Jimmie Dale's face.
"In private, eh?"--he seemed to be sparring for time, as he smiled.
"In private! You've a strange method of securing privacy, haven't
you? A bit melodramatic, isn't it? Perhaps you'll be good enough
to tell me who you are?"
Jimmie Dale smiled indulgently.
"My mask is only for effect," he said. "My name is--Smith."
"Yes," said Carling. "I am very stupid. Thank you. I--" he had
reached the other side of the room now--and with a quick, sudden
movement jerked his hand to the dial of the safe that stood against
the wall.
But Jimmie Dale was quicker--without shifting his position, his
automatic, whipped from his pocket, held a disconcerting bead on
Carling's forehead.
"Please don't do that," said Jimmie Dale softly. "It's rather a
good make, that safe. I dare say it would take me half an hour to
open it. I was rather curious to know whether it was locked or
Carling's hand dropped to his side.
"So!" he sneered. "That's it, is it! The ordinary variety of sneak
thief!" His voice was rising gradually. "Well, sir, let me tell
you that--"
"Mr. Carling," said Jimmie Dale, in a low, even tone, unless you
moderate your voice some one in the house might hear you--I am quite
well aware of that. But if that happens, if any one enters this
room, if you make a move to touch a button, or in any other way
attempt to attract attention, I'll drop you where you stand!" His
hand, behind his back, extracted the key from the door lock, held it
up for the other to see, then dropped it into his pocket--and his
voice, cold before, rang peremptorily now. "Come back to the desk
and sit down in that chair!" he ordered.
For a moment Carling hesitated; then, with a half-muttered oath,
Jimmie Dale moved over, and stood in front of Carling on the other
side of the desk--and stared silently at the immaculate, fashionably
groomed figure before him.
Under the prolonged gaze, Carling's composure, in a measure at
least, seemed to forsake him. He began to drum nervously with his
fingers on the desk, and shift uneasily in his chair.
And then, from first one pocket and then the other, Jimmie Dale took
the two packages of banknotes, and, still with out a word, pushed
them across the desk until they lay under the other's eyes.
Carling's fingers stopped their drumming, slid to the desk edge,
tightened there, and a whiteness crept into his face. Then, with an
effort, he jerked himself erect in his chair.
"What's this?" he demanded hoarsely.
"About ten thousand dollars, I should say," said Jimmie Dale slowly.
"I haven't counted it. Your bank was robbed this evening at closing
time, I understand?"
"Yes!" Carling's voice was excited now, the colour back in his
face. "But you--how--do you mean that you are returning the money
to the bank?"
"Exactly," said Jimmie Dale.
Carling was once more the pompous bank official. He leaned back and
surveyed Jimmie Dale critically with his little black eyes.
"Ah, quite so!" he observed. "That accounts for the mask. But I am
still a little in the dark. Under the circumstances, it is quite
impossible that you should have stolen the money yourself, and--"
"I didn't," said Jimmie Dale. "I found it hidden in the home of one
of your employees."
"You found it--WHERE?"
"In Moyne's home--up in Harlem."
"Moyne, eh?" Carling was alert, quick now, jerking out his words.
"How did you come to get into this, then? His pal? Double-crossing
him, eh? I suppose you want a reward--we'll attend to that, of
course. You're wiser than you know, my man. That's what we
suspected. We've had the detectives trailing Moyne all evening."
He reached forward over the desk for the telephone. "I'll telephone
headquarters to make the arrest at once."
"Just a minute," interposed Jimmie Dale gravely. "I want you to
listen to a little story first."
"A story! What has a story got to do with this?" snapped Carling.
"The man has got a home," said Jimmie Dale softly. "A home, and a
wife--and a little baby girl."
"Oh, that's the game then, eh? You want to plead for him?" Carling
flung out gruffly. "Well, he should have thought of all that
before! It's quite useless for you to bring it up. The man has had
his chance already--a better chance than any one with his record
ever had before. We took him into the bank knowing that he was an
ex-convict, but believing that we could make an honest man of him--
and this is the result."
"And yet--"
"NO!" said Carling icily.
"You refuse--absolutely?" Jimmie Dale's voice had a lingering,
wistful note in it.
"I refuse!" said Carling bluntly. "I won't have anything to do with
There was just an instant's silence; and then, with a strange, slow,
creeping motion, as a panther creeps when about to spring, Jimmie
Dale projected his body across the desk--far across it toward the
other. And the muscles of his jaw were quivering, his words
rasping, choked with the sweep of fury that, held back so long,
broke now in a passionate surge.
"And shall I tell you why you won't? Your bank was robbed to-night
of one hundred thousand dollars. There are ten thousand here. THE
"You lie!" Ashen to the lips, Carling had risen in his chair. "You
lie!" he cried. "Do you hear! You lie! I tell you, you lie!"
Jimmie Dale's lips parted ominously.
"Sit down!" he gritted between his teeth.
The white in Carling's face had turned to gray, his lips were
working--mechanically he sank down again in his chair.
Jimmie Dale still leaned over the desk, resting his weight on his
right elbow, the automatic in his right hand covering Carling.
"You cur!" whispered Jimmie Dale. "There's just one reason, only
one, that keeps me from putting a bullet through you while you sit
there. We'll get to that in a moment. There is that little story
first--shall I tell it to you now? For the past four years, and God
knows how many before that, you've gone the pace. The lavishness of
this bachelor establishment of yours is common talk in New York--far
in excess of a bank cashier's salary. But you were supposed to be a
wealthy man in your own right; and so, in reality you were--once.
But you went through your fortune two years ago. Counted a model
citizen, an upright man, an honour to the community--what were you,
Carling? What ARE you? Shall I tell you? Roue, gambler, leading a
double life of the fastest kind. You did it cleverly, Carling; hid
it well--but your game is up. To-night, for instance, you are at
the end of your tether, swamped with debts, exposure threatening you
at any moment. Why don't you tell me again that I lie--Carling?"
But now the man made no answer. He had sunk a little deeper in his
chair--a dawning look of terror in the eyes that held, fascinated,
on Jimmie Dale.
"You cur!" said Jimmie Dale again. "You cur, with your devil's
work! A year ago you saw this night coming--when you must have
money, or face ruin and exposure. You saw it then, a year ago, the
day that Moyne, concealing nothing of his prison record, applied
through friends for a position in the bank. Your co-officials were
opposed to his appointment, but you, do you remember how you pleaded
to give the man his chance--and in your hellish ingenuity saw your
way then out of the trap! An ex-convict from Sing Sing! It was
enough, wasn't it? What chance had he!" Jimmie Dale paused, his
left hand clenched until the skin formed whitish knobs over the
Carling's tongue sought his lips, made a circuit of them--and he
tried to speak, but his voice was an incoherent muttering.
"I'll not waste words," said Jimmie Dale, in his grim monotone.
"I'm not sure enough myself--that I could keep my hands off you much
longer. The actual details of how you stole the money to-day do not
matter--NOW. A little later perhaps in court--but not now. You
were the last to leave the bank, but before leaving you pretended to
discover the theft of a hundred thousand dollars--that, done up in a
paper parcel, was even then reposing in your desk. You brought the
parcel home, put it in that safe there--and notified the president
of the bank by telephone from here of the robbery, suggesting that
police headquarters be advised at once. He told you to go ahead and
act as you saw best. You notified the police, speciously directing
suspicion to--the ex-convict in the bank's employ. You knew Moyne
was dining out to-night, you knew where--and at a hint from you the
police took up the trail. A little later in the evening, you took
these two packages of banknotes from the rest, and with this
steamship ticket--which you obtained yesterday while out at lunch by
sending a district messenger boy with the money and instructions in
a sealed envelope to purchase for you--you went up to the Moynes'
flat in Harlem for the purpose of secreting them somewhere there.
You pretended to be much disappointed at finding Moyne out--you had
just come for a little social visit, to get better acquainted with
the home life of your employees! Mrs. Moyne was genuinely pleased
and grateful. She took you in to see their little girl, who was
already asleep in bed. She left you there for a moment to answer
the door--and you--you"--Jimmie Dale's voice choked again--"you blot
on God's earth, you slipped the money and ticket under the child's
Carling came forward with a lurch in his chair--and his hands went
out, pawing in a wild, pleading fashion over Jimmie Dale's arm.
Jimmie Dale flung him away.
"You were safe enough," he rasped on. "The police could only
construe your visit to Moyne's flat as zeal on behalf of the bank.
And it was safer, much more circumspect on your part, not to order
the flat searched at once, but only as a last resort, as it were,
after you had led the police to trail him all evening and still
remain without a clew--and besides, of course, not until you had
planted the evidence that was to damn him and wreck his life and
home! You were even generous in the amount you deprived yourself of
out of the hundred thousand dollars--for less would have been
enough. Caught with ten thousand dollars of the bank's money and a
steamship ticket made out in a fictitious name, it was prima-facie
evidence that he had done the job and had the balance somewhere.
What would his denials, his protestations of innocence count for?
He was an ex-convict, a hardened criminal caught red-handed with a
portion of the proceeds of robbery--he had succeeded in hiding the
remainder of it too cleverly, that was all."
Carling's face was ghastly. His hands went out again--again his
tongue moistened his dry lips. He whispered:
"Isn't--isn't there some--some way we can fix this?"
And then Jimmie Dale laughed--not pleasantly.
"Yes, there's a way, Carling," he said grimly. "That's why I'm
here." He picked up a sheet of writing paper and pushed it across
the desk--then a pen, which he dipped into the inkstand, and
extended to the other. "The way you'll fix it will be to write out
a confession exonerating Moyne."
Carling shrank back into his chair, his head huddling into his
"NO!" he cried. "I won't--I can't--my God!--I--I--WON'T!"
The automatic in Jimmie Dale's hand edged forward the fraction of an
"I have not used this--yet. You understand now why--don't you?" he
said under his breath.
"No, no!" Carling pushed away the pen. "I'm ruined--ruined as it
is. But this would mean the penitentiary, too--"
"Where you tried to send an innocent man in your place, you hound;
where you--"
"Some other way--some other way!" Carling was babbling. "Let me
out of this--for God's sake, let me out of this!"
"Carling," said Jimmie Dale hoarsely, "I stood beside a little bed
to-night and looked at a baby girl--a little baby girl with golden
hair, who smiled as she slept."
Carling shivered, and passed a shaking hand across his face.
"Take this pen," said Jimmie Dale monotonously; "or--THIS!" The
automatic lifted until the muzzle was on a line with Carling's eyes.
Carling's hand reached out, still shaking, and took the pen; and his
body, dragged limply forward, hung over the desk. The pen
spluttered on the paper--a bead of sweat spurting from the man's
forehead dropped to the sheet.
There was silence in the room. A minute passed--another. Carling's
pen travelled haltingly across the paper then, with a queer, low cry
as he signed his name, he dropped the pen from his fingers, and,
rising unsteadily from his chair, stumbled away from the desk toward
a couch across the room.
An instant Jimmie Dale watched the other, then he picked up the
sheet of paper. It was a miserable document, miserably scrawled:
"I guess it's all up. I guess I knew it would be some day. Moyne
hadn't anything to do with it. I stole the money myself from the
bank to-night. I guess it's all up.
From the paper, Jimmie Dale's eyes shifted to the figure by the
couch--and the paper fluttered suddenly from his fingers to the
desk. Carling was reeling, clutching at his throat--a small glass
vial rolled upon the carpet. And then, even as Jimmie Dale sprang
forward, the other pitched head long over the couch--and in a moment
it was over.
Presently Jimmie Dale picked up the vial--and dropped it back on the
floor again. There was no label on it, but it needed none--the
strong, penetrating odor of bitter almonds was telltale evidence
enough. It was prussic, or hydrocyanic acid, probably the most
deadly poison and the swiftest in its action that was known to
science--Carling had provided against that "some day" in his
For a little space, motionless, Jimmie Dale stood looking down at
the silent, outstretched form--then he walked slowly back to the
desk, and slowly, deliberately picked up the signed confession and
the steamship ticket. He held them an instant, staring at them,
then methodically began to tear them into little pieces, a strange,
tired smile hovering on his lips. The man was dead now--there would
be disgrace enough for some one to bear, a mother perhaps--who knew!
And there was another way now--since the man was dead.
Jimmie Dale put the pieces in his pocket, went to the safe, opened
it, and took out a parcel, locked the safe carefully, and carried
the parcel to the desk. He opened it there. Inside were nearly two
dozen little packages of hundred-dollar bills. The other two
packages that he had brought with him he added to the rest. From
his pocket he took out the thin metal insignia case, and with the
tiny tweezers lifted up one of the gray-coloured, diamond-shaped
paper seals. He moistened the adhesive side, and, still holding it
by the tweezers, dropped it on his handkerchief and pressed the seal
down on the face of the topmost package of banknotes. He tied the
parcel up then, and, picking up the pen, addressed it in printed
"District messenger--some way--in the morning," he murmured.
Jimmie Dale slipped his mask into his pocket, and, with the parcel
under his arm, stepped to the door and unlocked it. He paused for
an instant on the threshold for a single, quick, comprehensive
glance around the room--then passed on out into the street.
At the corner he stopped to light a cigarette--and the flame of the
match spurting up disclosed a face that was worn and haggard. He
threw the match away, smiled a little wearily--and went on.
The Gray Seal had committed another "crime."
Choosing between the snowy napery, the sparkling glass and silver,
the cozy, shaded table-lamps, the famous French chef of the ultraexclusive
St. James Club, his own home on Riverside Drive where a
dinner fit for an epicure and served by Jason, that most perfect of
butlers, awaited him, and Marlianne's, Jimmie Dale, driving in alone
in his touring car from an afternoon's golf, had chosen--
Marlianne's, if such a thing as Bohemianism, or, rather, a concrete
expression of it exists, was Bohemian. A two-piece string
orchestra played valiantly to the accompaniment of a hoarse-throated
piano; and between courses the diners took up the refrain--and, as
it was always between courses with some one, the place was a bedlam
of noisy riot. Nevertheless, it was Marlianne's--and Jimmie Dale
liked Marlianne's. He had dined there many times before, as he had
just dined in the person of Jimmie Dale, the millionaire, his highpriced
imported car at the curb of the shabby street outside--and he
had dined there, disreputable in attire, seedy in appearance, with
the police yelping at his heels, as Larry the Bat. In either
character Marlianne's had welcomed him with equal courtesy to its
spotted linen and most excellent table-d'hote with VIN ORDINAIRE--
for fifty cents.
And now, in the act of reaching into his pocket for the change to
pay his bill, Jimmie Dale seemed suddenly to experience some
difficulty in finding what he sought, and his fingers went fumbling
from one pocket to another. Two men at the table in front of him
were talking--their voices, over a momentary lull in violin squeaks,
talk, laughter, singing, and the clatter of dishes, reached him:
"Carling commit suicide! Not on your life! No; of course he
didn't! It was that cursed Gray Seal croaked him, just as sure as
you sit in that chair!"
The other grunted. "Yes; but what'd the Gray Seal want to pinch a
hundred thousand out of the bank for, and then give it back again
the next morning?"
"What's he done a hundred other things for to cover up the real
object of what he's after?" retorted the first speaker, with a
short, vicious laugh; then, with a thump of his fist on the table:
"The man's a devil, a fiend, and anywhere else but New York he'd
have been caught and sent to the chair where he belongs long ago,
A burst of ragtime drowned out the man's words. Jimmie Dale placed
a fifty-cent piece and a tip beside it on his dinner check, pushed
back his chair, and rose from the table. There was a halftolerantly
satirical, half-angry glint in his dark, steady eyes. It
was not only the police who yelped at his heels, but every man,
woman, and child in the city. The man had not voiced his own
sentiments--he had voiced the sentiments of New York! And it was
quite on the cards that if he, Jimmie Dale, were ever caught his
destination would not even be the death cell and the chair at Sing
Sing--his fellow citizens had reached a pitch where they would be
quite capable of literally tearing him to pieces if they ever got
their hands on him!
And yet there were a few, a very few, a handful out of five
millions, who sometimes remembered perhaps to thank God that the
Gray Seal lived--that was his reward. That--and SHE, whose
mysterious letters prompted and impelled his, the Gray Seal's, acts!
She--nameless, fascinating in her brilliant resourcefulness, amazing
in her power, a woman whose life was bound up with his and yet held
apart from him in the most inexplicable, absorbing way; a woman he
had never seen, save for her gloved arm in the limousine that night,
who at one unexpected moment projected a dazzling, impersonal
existence across his path, and the next, leaving him battling for
his life where greed and passion and crime swirled about him, was
Jimmie Dale threaded the small, crowded rooms--the interior of
Marlianne's had never been altered from the days when the place had
been a family residence of some pretension--and, reaching the hall,
received his hat from the frowsy-looking boy in attendance. He
passed outside, and, at the top of the steps, paused as he took his
cigarette case from his pocket. It was nearly a week since Carling,
the cashier of the Hudson-Mercantile National Bank, had been found
dead in his home, a bottle that had contained hydrocyanic acid on
the floor beside him; nearly a week since Bookkeeper Bob, unaware
that he had ever been under temporary suspicion for the robbery of
the bank, had, equally unknown to himself, been cleared of any
complicity in that affair--and yet, as witness the conversation of a
moment ago, it was still the topic of New York, still the vital
issue that filled the maw of the newspapers with ravings, threats,
and execrations against the Gray Seal, snarling virulently the while
at the police for the latter's ineptitude, inefficiency, and
Jimmie Dale closed his cigarette case with a snap that was almost
human in its irony, dropped it back into his pocket, and lighted a
match--but the flame was arrested halfway to the tip of his
cigarette, as his eyes fixed suddenly and curiously on a woman's
form hurrying down the street. She had turned the corner before he
took his eyes from her, and the match between his fingers had gone
out. Not that there was anything very strange in a woman walking,
or even half running, along the street; nor that there was anything
particularly attractive or unusual about her, and if there had been
the street was too dark for him to have distinguished it. It was
not that--it was the fact that she had neither passed by the house
on whose steps he stood, nor come out of any of the adjoining
houses. It was as though she had suddenly and miraculously appeared
out of thin air, and taken form on a sidewalk a little way down from
"That's queer!" commented Jimmie Dale to himself. "However--" He
took out another match, lighted his cigarette, jerked the match stub
away from him, and, with a lift of his shoulders, went down the
He crossed the pavement, walked around the front of his machine,
since the steering wheel was on the side next to the curb, and, with
his hand out to open the car door--stopped. Some one had been
tampering with it--it was not quite closed. There was no mistake.
Jimmie Dale made no mistakes of that kind, a man whose life hung a
dozen times a day on little things could not afford to make them.
He had closed it firmly, even with a bang, when he had got out.
Instantly suspicious, he wrenched the door wide open, switched on
the light under the hood, and, with a sharp exclamation, bent
quickly forward. A glove, a woman's glove, a white glove lay on the
floor of the car. Jimmie Dale's pulse leaped suddenly into fierce,
pounding beats. It was HERS! He KNEW that intuitively--knew it as
he knew that he breathed. And that woman he had so leisurely
watched as she had disappeared from sight was, must have been--she!
He sprang from the car with a jump, his first impulse to dash after
her--and checked himself, laughing a little bitterly. It was too
late for that now--he had already let his chance slip through his
fingers. Around the corner was Sixth Avenue, surface cars, the
elevated, taxicabs, a multitude of people, any one of a hundred ways
in which she could, and would, already have discounted pursuit from
him--and, besides, he would not even have been able to recognise her
if he saw her!
Jimmie Dale's smile was mirthless as he turned back to the car, and
picked up the glove. Why had she dropped it there? It could not
have been intentional. Why had--he began to tear suddenly at the
glove's little finger, and in another second, kneeling on the car's
step, his shoulders inside, he was holding a ring close under the
little electric bulb.
It was a gold seal ring, a small, dainty thing that bore a crest: a
bell, surmounted by a bishop's mitre--the bell, quaint in design,
harking the imagination back to some old-time belfry tower. And
underneath, in the scroll--a motto. It was a full minute before
Jimmie Dale could decipher it, for the lettering was minute and the
words, of course, reversed. It was in French: SONNEZ LE TOCSIN.
He straightened up, the glove and ring in his hand, a puzzled
expression on his face. It was strange! Had she, after all,
dropped the glove there intentionally; had she at last let down the
barriers just a little between them, and given him this little
intimate sign that she--
And then Jimmie Dale laughed abruptly, self-mockingly. He was only
trying to deceive himself, to argue himself into believing what,
with heart and soul, he wanted to believe. It was not like her--and
neither was it so! His eyes had fixed on the seat beside the wheel.
He had not used the lap rug all that day, he couldn't use a rug and
drive, he had left it folded and hanging on the rack in the tonneau--
it was now neatly folded and reposing on the front seat!
"Yes," said Jimmie Dale, a sort of self-pity in his tones, "I might
have known."
He lifted the rug. Beneath it on the leather seat lay a white
envelope. Her letter! The letter that never came save with the
plan of some grim, desperate work outlined ahead--the call to arms
for the Gray Seal. SONNEZ LE TOCSIN! Ring the Tocsin! Sound the
alarm! The Tocsin! The words were running through his brain. A
strange motto on that crest--that seemed so strangely apt! The
Tocsin! Never once in all the times that he had heard from her,
never once in the years that had gone since that initial letter of
hers had struck its first warning note, had any communication from
her been but to sound again a new alarm--the Toscin! The Tocsin--
the word seemed to visualise her, to give her a concrete form and
being, to breathe her very personality.
"The Tocsin!"--Jimmie Dale whispered the word softly, a little
wistfully. "Yes; I shall call you that--the Tocsin!"
He folded the glove very carefully, placed it with the ring in his
pocketbook, picked up the letter--and, with a sharp exclamation,
turned it quickly over in his fingers, then bent hurriedly with it
to the light.
Strange things were happening that night! For the first time, the
letter was not even SEALED! That was not like her, either! What
did it mean? Quick, alert now, anxious even, he pulled the double,
folded sheets from the envelope, glanced rapidly through them--and,
after a moment, a smile, whimsical, came slowly to his lips.
It was quite plain now--all of it. The glove, the ring, and the
unsealed letter--and the postscript held the secret; or, rather,
what had been intended for a postscript did, for it comprised only a
few words, ending abruptly, unfinished: "Look in the cupboard at the
rear of the room. The man with the red wig is--" That was all, and
the words, written in ink, were badly blurred, as though the paper
had been hastily folded before the ink was dry.
It was quite plain; and, in view of the real explanation of it all,
eminently characteristic of her. With the letter already written,
she had come there, meaning to place it on the seat and cover it
with the rug, as, indeed, she had done; then, deciding to add the
postscript, and because she would attract less attention that way
than in any other, she had climbed into the car as though it
belonged to her, and had seated herself there to write it. She
would have been hurried in her movements, of course, and in pulling
off her glove to use the fountain pen the ring had come with it.
The rest was obvious. She had but just begun to write when he had
appeared on the steps. She had slipped instantly down to the floor
of the car, probably dropping the glove from her lap, hastily
inclosed the letter in the envelope which she had no time to seal,
thrust the envelope under the rug, and, forgetting her glove and
fearful of risking his attention by attempting to close the door
firmly, had stolen along the body of the car, only to be noticed by
him too late--when she was well down the street!
And at that latter thought, once more chagrin seized Jimmie Dale--
then he turned impulsively to the letter. All this was extraneous,
apart--for another time, when every moment was not a priceless asset
as it very probably was now.
"Dear Philanthropic Crook"--it always began that way, never any
other way. He read on more and more intently, crouched there close
to the light on the floor of his car, lips thinning as he proceeded--
read it to the end, absorbing, memorising it--and then the abortive
"Look in the cupboard at the rear of the room. The man with the red
wig is--"
For an instant, as mechanically he tore the letter into little
shreds, he held there hesitant--and the next, slamming the door
tight, he flung himself into the seat behind the wheel, and the big,
sixty-horse-power, self-starting machine was roaring down the
The Tocsin! There was a grim smile on Jimmie Dale's lips now. The
alarm! Yes, it was always an alarm, quick, sudden, an emergency to
face on the instant--plans, decisions to be made with no time to
ponder them, with only that one fact to consider, staggering enough
in itself, that a mistake meant disaster and ruin to some one else,
and to himself, if the courts were merciful where he had little hope
for mercy, the penitentiary for life!
And now to-night again, as it almost always was when these
mysterious letters came, every moment of inaction was piling up the
odds against him. And, too, the same problem confronted him. How,
in what way, in what role, must he play the night's game to its end?
As Larry the Bat?
The car was speeding forward. He was heading down Broadway now,
lower Broadway, that stretched before him, deserted like some dark,
narrow canyon where, far below, like towering walls, the buildings
closed together and seemed to converge into some black, impassable
barrier. The street lights flashed by him; a patrolman stopped the
swinging of his night-stick, and turned to gaze at the car that
rushed by at a rate perilously near to contempt of speed laws;
street cars passed at indifferent intervals; pedestrians were few
and far between--it was the lower Broadway of night.
Larry the Bat? Jimmie Dale shook his head impatiently over the
steering wheel. No; that would not do. It would be well enough for
this young Burton, perhaps, but not for old Isaac, the East Side
fence--for Isaac knew him in the character of Larry the Bat. His
quick, keen brain, weaving, eliminating, devising, scheming,
discarded that idea. The final coup of the night, as yet but sensed
in an indefinite, unshaped way, if enacted in the person of Larry
the Bat would therefore stamp Larry the Bat and the Gray Seal as
one--a contretemps but little less fatal, in view of old Issac, than
to bracket the Gray Seal and Jimmie Dale! Larry the Bat was not a
character to be assumed with impunity, nor one to jeopardize--it was
a bulwark of safety, at it were, to which more than once he owed
escape from capture and discovery.
He lifted his shoulders with a sudden jerk of decision as the car
swerved to the left and headed for the East Side. There was only
one alternative then--the black silk mask that folded into such tiny
compass, and that, together with an automatic and the curious, thin
metal case that looked so like a cigarette case, was always in his
pocket for an emergency!
The car turned again, and, approaching its destination, Jimmie Dale
slowed down the speed perceptibly. It was a strange case, not a
pleasant one--and the raw edges where they showed were ugly in their
nakedness. Old Isaac Pelina, young Burton, and Maddon--K.
Wilmington Maddon, the wall-paper magnate! Curious, that of the
three he should already know two--old Isaac and Maddon! Everybody in
the East Side, every denizen of the underworld, and many who posed
on a far higher plane knew old Isaac--fence to the most select
clientele of thieves in New York, unscrupulous, hand in glove with
any rascality or crime that promised profit, a money lender, a
Shylock without even a Shylock's humanity as a saving grace! Yes;
as Larry the Bat he knew old Isaac, and he knew him not only
personally but by firsthand reputation--he had heard the man cursed
in blasphemous, whole-souled abandon by more than one crook who was
in the old fence's toils. They dealt with him, the crooks, while
they swore to "get" him because he was "safe," but--Jimmie Dale's
lips parted in a mirthless smile--some day old Isaac would be found
in that spiders' den of his back of the dingy loan office with a
knife in his heart or a bullet through his head! And K. Wilmington
Maddon--Jimmie Dale's smile grew whimsical--he had known Maddon
quite intimately for years, had even dined with him at the St. James
Club only a few nights before. Maddon was a man in his own "set"--
and Maddon, interfered with, was likely to prove none too tractable
a customer to handle. And young Burton, the letter had said, was
Maddon's private and confidential secretary. Jimmie Dale's lips
thinned again. Well, Burton's acquaintance was still to be made!
It was a curious trio--and it was dirty work, more raw than cunning,
more devilish than ingenious; blackmail in its most hellish form;
the stake, at the least calculation, a cool half million. A heavy
price for a single slip in a man's life!
He brought the car abruptly to a halt at the edge of the curb, and
sprang out to the ground. He was in front of "The Budapest"
restaurant, a garish establishment, most popular of all resorts for
the moment on the East Side, where Fifth Avenue, in the fond belief
that it was seeing the real thing in "seamy" life, engaged its table
a week in advance. Jimmie Dale pushed a bill into the door
attendant's hand, accompanied by an injunction to keep an eye on the
machine, and entered the cafe.
But for a sort of tinselled ostentation the place might well have
been the Marlianne's that he had just left--it was crowded and riot
was at its height; a stringed orchestra in Hungarian costume played
what purported to be Hungarian airs; shouts, laughter, clatter of
dishes, and thump of steins added to the din. He made his way
between the close-packed tables to the stairs, and descended to the
lower floor. Here, if anything, the confusion was greater than
above; but here, too, was an exit through to the rear street--and a
moment later he was sauntering past the front of an unkempt little
pawnshop, closed for the night, over whose door, in the murk of a
distant street lamp, three balls hung in sagging disarray, tawny
with age, and across whose dirty, unwashed windows, letters missing,
ran the legend:
Pawn brok r
The pawnshop made the corner of a very dark and narrow lane--and,
with a quick glance around him to assure himself that he was
unobserved, Jimmie Dale stepped into the alleyway, and, lost
instantly in the blacker shadows, stole along by the wall of the
pawnshop. Old Isaac's business was not all done through the front
And then suddenly Jimmie Dale shrank still closer against the wall.
Was it intuition, premonition--or reality? There seemed an uncanny
feeling of PRESENCE around him, as though perhaps he were watched,
as though others beside himself were in the lane. Yes; ahead of him
a shadow moved--he could just barely distinguish it now that his
eyes had grown accustomed to the darkness. It, like himself, was
close against the wall, and now it slunk noiselessly down the length
of the lane until he lost sight of it. AND WHAT WAS THAT? He
strained his ears to listen. It seemed like a window being opened
or closed, cautiously, stealthily, the fraction of an inch at a
time. And then he located the sound--it came from the other side of
the lane and very nearly opposite to where, on the second floor, a
dull, yellow glow shone out from old Isaac's private den in the rear
of the pawnshop's office.
Jimmie Dale's brows were gathered in sharp furrows. There was
evidently something afoot to-night of which the Tocsin had NOT
sounded the alarm. And then the frown relaxed, and he smiled a
little. Miraculous as was the means through which she obtained the
knowledge that was the basis of their strange partnership, it was no
more miraculous than her unerring accuracy in the minutest details.
The Tocsin had never failed him yet. It was possible that something
was afoot around him, quite probable, indeed, since he was in the
most vicious part of the city, in the heart of gangland; but
whatever it might be, it was certainly extraneous to his mission or
she would have mentioned it.
The lane was empty now, he was quite sure of that--and there was no
further sound from the window opposite. He started forward once
more--only to halt again for the second time as abruptly as before,
squeezing if possible even more closely against the wall. Some one
had turned into the lane from the sidewalk, and, walking hurriedly,
choosing with evident precaution the exact centre of the alleyway,
came toward him.
The man passed, his hurried stride a half run; and, a few feet
beyond, halted at old Isaac's side door. From somewhere inside the
old building Jimmie Dale's ears caught the faint ringing of an
electric bell; a long ring, followed in quick succession by three
short ones--then the repeated clicking of a latch, as though pulled
by a cord from above, and the man passed in through the door,
closing it behind him.
Jimmie Dale nodded to himself in the darkness. It was a spring
lock; the signal was one long ring and three short ones--the Tocsin
had not missed even those small details. Also, Burton was late for
his appointment, for that must have been Burton--business such as
old Isaac had in hand that night would have permitted the entrance
of no other visitor but K. Wilmington Maddon's private secretary.
He moved down the lane to the door, and tried it softly. It was
locked, of course. The slim, tapering, sensitive fingers, whose
tips were eyes and ears to Jimmie Dale, felt over the lock--and a
slender little steel instrument slipped into the keyhole. A moment
more and the catch was released, and the door, under his hand, began
to open. With it ajar, he paused, his eyes searching intently up
and down the lane. There was nothing, no sign of any one, no
moving shadows now. His gaze shifted to the window opposite.
Directly facing it now, with the dull reflection upon it from the
lighted window of old Isaac's den above his head, he could make out
that it was open--but that was all.
Once more he smiled--a little tolerantly at himself this time. Some
one had been in the lane; some one had opened the window of his or
her room in that tenement house across from him--surely there was
nothing surprising, unnatural, or even out of the commonplace in
that. He had been a little bit on edge himself, perhaps, and the
sudden movement of that shadow, unexpected, had startled him for the
moment, as, in all probability, the opening of the window had
startled the skulking figure itself into action.
The door was open now. He stepped noiselessly inside, and closed it
noiselessly behind him. He was in a narrow hall, where a few yards
away, a light shone down a stairway at right angles to the hall
"Rear door of pawnshop opens into hall, and exactly opposite very
short flight of stairs leading directly to doorway of Isaac's den
above. Ramshackle old place, low ceilings. Isaac, when sitting in
his den, can look down, and, by means of a transom over the rear
door of the shop, see the customers as they enter from the street,
while he also keeps an eye on his assistant. Latter always locks up
and leaves promptly at six o'clock--" Jimmie Dale was
subconsciously repeating to himself snatches from the Tocsin's
letter, which, as subconsciously in reading, he had memorised almost
word for word.
And now voices reached him--one, excited, nervous, as though the
speaker were labouring under mental strain that bordered closely on
the hysterical; the other, curiously mingling a querulousness with
an attempt to pacify, but dominantly contemptuous, sneering, cold.
Jimmie Dale moved along the hall--very slowly--without a sound--
testing each step before he threw his body weight from one leg to
the other. He reached the foot of the stairs. The Tocsin had been
right; it was a very short flight. He counted the steps--there were
eight. Above, facing him, a door was open. The voices were louder
now. It was a sordid-looking room, what he could see of it,
poverty-stricken in its appearance, intentionally so probably for
effect, with no attempt whatever at furnishing. He could see
through the doorway to the window that opened on the alleyway, or,
rather, just glimpse the top of the window at an angle across the
room--that and a bare stretch of floor. The two men were not in the
line of vision.
Burton's voice--it was unquestionably Burton speaking--came to
Jimmie Dale now distinctly.
"No, I didn't! I tell you, I didn't! I--I hadn't the nerve."
Jimmie Dale slipped his black silk mask over his face; and with
extreme caution, on hands and knees, began to climb the stairs.
"So!" It was old Isaac now, in a half purr, half sneer. "And I was
so sure, my young friend, that you had. I was so sure that you were
not such a fool. Yes; I could even have sworn that they were in
your pocket now--what? It is too bad--too bad! It is not a
pleasant thing to think of, that little chair up the river in its
horrible little room where--"
"For God's sake, Isaac--not that! Do you hear--not that! My God, I
didn't mean to--I didn't know what I was doing!"
Jimmie Dale crept up another step, another, and another. There was
silence for a moment in the room; then Burton again, hoarse-voiced:
"Isaac, I'll make good to you some other way. I swear I will--I
swear it! If I'm caught at this I'll--I'll get fifteen years for
"And which would you rather have?" Jimmie Dale could picture the
oily smirk, the shrug of his shoulders, the outthrust hands, palms
upward, elbows in at the hips, the fingers curved and wide apart--
"fifteen years, or what you get--for murder? Eh, my friend, you
have thought of that--eh? It is a very little price I ask--yes?"
"Damn you!" Burton's voice was shrill, then dropped to a half sob.
"No, no, Isaac, I didn't mean that. Only, for God's sake be
merciful! It is not only the risk of the penitentiary; it's more
than that. I--I tried to play white all my life, and until that
cursed night there's no man living could say I haven't. You know
that--you know that, Isaac. I tell you I couldn't do it this
afternoon--I tell you I couldn't. I tried to and--and I couldn't."
Jimmie Dale was lying flat on the little landing now, peering into
the room. Back a short distance from the doorway, a repulsivelooking
little man in unkempt clothes and soiled linen, with
yellowish-skinned, parchment face, out of which small black eyes
shone cunningly and shrewdly, sat at a bare deal table in a rickety
chair; facing him across the table stood a young man of not more
than twenty-five, clean cut, well dressed, but whose face was
unnaturally white now, and whose hand, as he extended it in a
pleading gesture toward the other, trembled visibly. Jimmie Dale's
hand made its way quietly to his side pocket and extracted his
Old Isaac humped his shoulders, and leered at his visitor.
"We talk a great deal, my young friend. What is the use? A bargain
is a bargain. A few rubies in exchange for your life. A few rubies
and my mouth is shut. Otherwise"--he humped his shoulders again.
Burton drew back, swept his hand in a dazed way across his eyes--and
laughed out suddenly in bitter mirth.
"A few rubies!" he cried. "The most magnificent stones on this side
of the water--a FEW rubies! It's been Maddon's life hobby. Every
child in New York knows that! A few--yes, there's only a few--but
those few are worth a fortune. He trusts me, the man has been like
a father to me, and--"
"So you are the very last to be suspected," observed old Isaac
suavely. "Have I not told you that? There is nothing to fear. Did
we not arrange everything so nicely--eh, my young friend? See, it
was to-night that Maddon gives a little reception to his friends,
and did you not say that the rubies would be taken from the safedeposit
vault this afternoon since his friends always clamoured to
see them as a very fitting conclusion to an evening's entertainment?
And did you not say that you very naturally had access to the safe
in the library where you worked, and that he would not notice they
were gone until he came to look for them some time this evening? I
think you said all that. And what suspicion let alone proof, would
attach itself to you? You were out of the room once when he, too,
was absent for perhaps half an hour. It is very simple. In that
half hour, some one, somehow, abstracted them. Certainly it was not
you. You see how little I ask--and I pay well, do I not? And so I
gave you until to-night. Three days have gone, and I have said
nothing, and the body has not been found--eh? But to-night--eh--it
was understood! The rubies--or the chair."
Burton's lips moved, but it was a moment before he could speak.
"You wouldn't dare!" he whispered thickly. "You wouldn't dare! I'd
tell the story of--of what you tried to make me do, and they'd send
you up for it."
Old Isaac shrugged with pitying contempt.
"Is it, after all, a fool I am dealing with!" he sneered. "And I--
what should I say? That you had stolen the stones from your
employer and offered them as a bribe to silence me, and that I had
refused. The very act of handing you over to the police would prove
the truth of what I said and rob you of even a chance of leniency--
FOR THAT OTHER THING. Is it not so--eh? And why did I not hand you
over at once three nights ago? Believe me, my young friend, I
should have a very good reason ready, a dozen, if necessary, if it
came to that. But we are borrowing trouble, are we not? We shall
not come to that--eh?"
For a moment it seemed to Jimmie Dale, as he watched, that Burton
would hurl himself upon the other. White to the lips, the muscles
of his face twitching, Burton clenched his fists and leaned over the
table--and then, with sudden revulsion of emotion, he drew back once
more, and once more came that choked sob:
"You'll pay for this, Isaac--your turn will come for this!
"I have been threatened very often," snapped the other
contemptuously. "Bah, what are threats! I laugh at them--as I
always will." Then, with a quick change of front, his voice a
sudden snarl: "Well, we have talked enough. You have your choice.
The stones or--eh? And it is to-night--NOW!"
The old pawnbroker sprawled back in his chair, a cunning leer on his
vicious face, a gleam of triumph, greed, in the beady, ratlike eyes
that never wavered from the other. Burton, moisture oozing from his
forehead, stood there, hesitant, staring back at old Isaac, half in
a fascinated gaze, half as though trying to read some sign of
weakness in the bestial countenance that confronted him. And then,
very slowly, in an automatic, machine-like way, his hand groped into
the inside pocket of his vest--and old Isaac cackled out in
"So! You thought you could bluff me, eh--you thought you could fool
old Isaac! Bah! I read you like a book! Did I not tell you a while
back that you had them in your pocket? I know your kind, my young
friend; I know your kind very well indeed--it is my business. You
would not have dared to come here to-night without the price. So!
You took them this afternoon as we agreed. Yes, yes; you did well.
You will not regret it. And now let me see them"--his voice rose
eagerly--"let me see them now, my young friend."
"Yes, I took them." Burton spoke listlessly. "God help me!"
Old Isaac, quivering, excited, like a different creature now, sprang
from his chair, and, as Burton drew a long, flat, leather case from
his pocket, snatched it from the other's hand. His fingers in their
rapacious haste could not at first manipulate the catch, and then
finally, with the case open, he bent over the table feverishly. The
light reflected back as from some living mass of crimson fire, now
shading darkly, now glowing into wondrous, colourful transparency as
he moved the case to and fro with jerky motions of his hands--and he
was babbling, crooning to himself like one possessed.
"Ah, the little beauties! Ah, the pretty little things! Yes, yes;
these are the ones! This is the great Aracon--see, see, the sixsided
prism terminated by the six-sided pyramid. But it must be
cut--it must be cut to sell it, eh? Ah, it is too bad--too bad!
And this, this one here, I know them all, this is--"
But his sentence was never finished--it was Jimmie Dale, on his feet
now, leaning against the jamb of the door, his automatic covering
the two men at the table, who spoke.
"Quite so, Isaac," he said coolly; "you know them all! Quite so,
Isaac--but be good enough to DROP them!"
The case fell from Isaac's hand, the flush on his cheeks died to a
sickly pallor, and, his mouth half open, he stood like a man turned
to stone, his hands with curved fingers still outstretched over the
table, over the crimson gems that, spilled from the case, lay
scattered now on the tabletop. Burton neither spoke nor moved--a
little whiter, the misery in his face almost apathetic, he moistened
his lips with the tip of his tongue.
Jimmie Dale walked across the room, halted at the end of the table,
and surveyed the two men grimly. And then, while one hand with
revolver extended rested easily on the table, the other gathered up
the stones, placed them in the case, and, the case in his pocket,
Jimmie Dale's lips parted in an uninviting smile.
"I guess I'm in luck to-night, eh, Isaac?" he drawled. "Between you
and your young friend, as I believe you call him, it would appear as
though I had fallen on my feet. That Aracon's worth--what would you
say?--a hundred, two hundred thousand alone, eh? A very famous
stone, that--had your eye on it for quite a time, Isaac, you
miserable blood leech, eh?"
Isaac did not answer; but, while he still held back from the table,
he seemed to be regaining a little of his composure--burglars of
whatever sort were no novelty to him--and was staring fixedly at
Jimmie Dale.
"Can't place me--though there's not many in the profession you don't
know? Is that it?" inquired Jimmie Dale softly. "Well, don't try,
Isaac; it's hardly worth your while. I'VE got the stones now, and--"
"Wait! Wait! Listen!" It was Burton, speaking for the first time,
his words coming in a quick, nervous rush. "Listen! You don't--"
"Hold your tongue!" cried old Isaac, with sudden fierceness. "You
are a fool!" He leaned toward Jimmie Dale, a crafty smile on his
face, quite in control of himself once more. "Don't listen to him--
listen to me. You're right. I can't place you, and it doesn't make
any difference"--he took a step forward--"but--"
"Not too close, Isaac!" snapped Jimmie Dale sharply. "I know YOU!"
"So!" ejaculated old Isaac, rubbing his hands together. "So! That
is good! That is what I want. Listen, we will make a bargain. We
are birds of a feather, eh? All thieves, eh? You've got the drop
on us who did all the work, but you'll give us our share--eh?
Listen! You couldn't get rid of those stones alone. You know that;
you're not so green at the game, eh? You'd have to go to some one.
You know me; you know old Isaac, you say. Well, then, you know
there isn't another man in New York could dispose of those rubies
and play SAFE doing it except me. I'll make a good bargain with
"Isaac," said Jimmie Dale pensively, "you've made a good many 'good'
bargains. I wonder when you'll make your last! There's more than
one looking for 'interest' on those bargains in a pretty grim sort
of way."
"Bah!" ejaculated old Isaac. "It is an old story. They are all
alike. I am afraid of none of them. I hold them all like--THAT!"
His hand opened and closed like a taloned claw.
"And you'd add me to the lot, eh?" said Jimmie Dale. He lifted the
revolver, its muzzle on old Isaac, examined the mechanism
thoughfully, and lowered it again. "Very well, I'll make a bargain
with you--providing it is agreeable to your young friend here."
"Ah!" exclaimed old Isaac shrilly. "So! That is good! It is done
then." He chuckled hoarsely. "Any bargain I make he will agree to.
Is it not so?" He fixed his eyes on Burton. "Well, is it not so?
Speak up! Say--"
He stopped--the words cut short off on his lips. It came without
warning--a crash, a pound on the door below--another.
Burton shrank back against the wall.
"My God! The police!" he gasped. "Maddon's found out! We're--
we're caught!"
Jimmie Dale's eyes, on old Isaac, narrowed. The pounding in the
alleyway grew louder, more insistent. And then his first suspicion
passed--it was no "game" of Isaac's. Crafty though the old fox was,
the other's surprise and agitation was too genuine to be questioned.
Still the pounding continued--some one was kicking viciously at the
door, and banging a tattoo on the panels with his fists.
Old Isaac's clawlike hands doubled suddenly.
"It is some drunken sot," he snarled out, "that knows no better than
to come here and rouse the whole neighbourhood! It is true, in a
moment we will have the police running in from the street. But
wait--wait--I'll teach the fool a lesson!" He dashed around the
table, ran for the window, wrenched the catch up, flung the window
open, and, snarling again, leaned out--and instantly the knocking
And instantly then, with a sharp cry, as the whole ghastly meaning
of it swept upon him, Jimmie sprang after the other--too late! Came
the roar of a revolver shot, a stream of flame cutting the darkness
of the alleyway from the window in the house opposite--and, without
a sound, old Isaac crumpled up, hung limply for a moment over the
sill, and slid in a heap to the floor.
On his hands and knees, protected from the possibility of another
bullet by the height of the sill, Jimmie Dale, quick in every
movement now, dragged the inert form toward the table away from the
window, and bent hurriedly over the other. A minute perhaps he
stayed there--and then rose slowly.
Burton, horror-stricken, unmanned, beside himself, was hanging,
clutching with both hands at the table edge.
"He's dead," said Jimmie Dale laconically.
Burton flung out his hands.
"Dead!" he whispered hoarsely. "I--I think I'm going mad. Three
days of hell--and now this. We'd--we'd better get out of here
quick--they'll get us if--"
Jimmie Dale's hand fell with a tight grip on Burton's shoulder.
"There won't be any more shots fired--pull yourself together!"
Burton stared at him in a demented way.
"What's--what's it mean?" he stammered.
"It means that I didn't put two and two together," said Jimmie Dale
a little bitterly. "It means that there's a dozen crooks been
dancing old Isaac's tune for a long time--and that some of them have
got him at last."
Burton reached out suddenly and clutched Jimmie Dale's arm.
"Then I'm safe!" He mumbled the words, but there was dawning hope,
relief in his white face. "Safe! I'm safe--if you'll only give me
back those stones. Give them back to me, for God's sake give them
back to me! You don't know--you don't understand. I stole them
because--because he made me--because I--it was the only chance I
had. Oh, my God, you don't know what the last three days have been!
Give them back to me, won't you--won't you? You--you don't know!"
"Don't lose your nerve!" said Jimmie Dale sharply. "Sit down!" He
pushed the other into the chair. "There's no one will disturb us
here for some time at least. What is it that I don't know? That
three nights ago you were in a gambling hell, Sagosto's, to be
exact, one of the most disreputable in New York--and you went there
on the invitation of a stray acquaintance, a man named Perley--shall
I describe him for you? A short, slim-built man, black eyes, red
hair, beard, and--"
"YOU know that!" The misery, the hopelessness was back in Burton's
face again--and suddenly he bent over the table and buried his head
in his outflung arms.
There was silence for a moment. Tight-lipped, Jimmie Dale's eyes
travelled from Burton's shaking shoulders to the motionless form on
the floor. Then he spoke again:
"You're a bit of a rounder, Burton, but I think you've had a lesson
that will last you all your life. You were half-drunk when you and
Perley began to hobnob over a downtown bar. He said he'd show you
some real life, and you went with him to Sagosto's. He gave you a
revolver before you went in, and told you the place wasn't safe for
an unarmed man. He introduced you to Sagosto, the proprietor, and
you were shown to a back room. You drank quite a little there. You
and Perley were alone, throwing dice. You got into a quarrel.
Perley tried to draw his revolver. You were quicker. You drew the
one he had given you--and fired. He fell to the floor--you saw the
blood gush from his breast just above the heart--he was dead. In a
panic you rushed from the place and out into the street. I don't
think you went home that night."
Burton raised his head, showing his haggard face.
"I guess it's no use," he said dully." If you know, others must. I
thought only Isaac and Sagosto knew. Why haven't I been arrested?
I wish to God I had--I wouldn't have had to-day to answer for."
"I am not through yet," said Jimmie Dale gravely. "The next day old
Isaac here sent for you. He said Sagosto had told him of the
murder, and had offered to dispose of the corpse and keep his mouth
shut for fifty thousand dollars--that no one in his place knew of it
except himself. Isaac, for his share, wanted considerably more.
You told him you had no such sums, that you had no money. He told
you how you could get it--you had access to Maddon's safe, you were
Maddon's confidential secretary, fully in your employer's trust, the
last man on earth to be suspected--and there were Maddon's famous,
priceless rubies."
Jimmie Dale paused. Burton made no answer.
"And so," said Jimmie Dale presently, "to save yourself from the
death penalty you took them."
"Yes," said Burton, scarcely above his breath. "Are you an officer?
If you are, take me, have done with it! Only for Heaven's sake end
it! If you're not--"
Jimmie Dale was not listening. "The cupboard at the rear of the
room," she had said. He walked across to it now, opened it, and,
after a little search, found a small bundle. He returned with it in
his hand, and, kneeling beside the dead man on the floor, his back
to Burton, untied it, took out a red wig and beard, and slipped them
on to old Isaac's head and face.
"I wonder," he said grimly, as he stood up, "if you ever saw this
man before?"
"My God--PERLEY!" With a wild cry, Burton was on his feet,
straining forward like a man crazed.
"Yes," said Jimmie Dale, "Perley! Sort of an ironic justice in his
end as far as you are concerned, isn't there? I think we'll leave
him like that--as Perley. It will provide the police with an
interesting little problem--which they will never solve, and--
Burton was rocking on his feet, the tears were streaming down his
face. He lurched heavily--and Jimmie Dale caught him, and pushed
him back into the chair again.
I thought--I thought there was blood on my hands," said Burton
brokenly; "that--that I had taken a man's life. It was horrible,
horrible! I've lived through three days that I thought would drive
me mad, while I--I tried to do my work, and--and talk to people,
just as if nothing had happened. And every one that spoke to me
seemed so carefree and happy, and I would have sold my soul to have
changed places with them." He stared at the form on the floor, and
shivered suddenly. "It--it was like that I saw him last!" he
whispered. "But--but I do not understand."
Jimmie Dale smiled a little wearily.
"It was simple enough," he said. "Old Isaac had had his eyes on
those rubies for a long time. The easiest way of getting them was
through you. The revolver he gave you before you entered Sagosto's
was loaded with blank cartridges, the blood you saw was the old, old
trick--a punctured bladder of red pigment concealed under the vest."
"Let us get out of here!" Burton shuddered again. "Let us get out
of here--at once--now. If we're found here, we'll be accused of--
"There is no hurry," Jimmie Dale answered quietly. "I have told you
that no one is liable to come here to-night--and whoever did this
certainly will not raise an alarm. And besides, there is still the
matter of the rubies--Burton."
"Yes," said Burton, with a quick intake of his breath.
"Yes--the rubies--what are you going to do with them? I--I had
forgotten them. You'll--" He stopped, stared at Jimmie Dale, and
burst into a miserable laugh. "I'm a fool, a blind fool!" he
moaned. "It does not matter what you do with them. I forgot
Sagosto. When they find Isaac here, Sagosto will either tell his
story, which will be enough to convict me of this night's work, the
REAL murder, even though I'm innocent; or else he'll blackmail me
just as Isaac did."
Jimmie Dale shook his head.
"You are doing Isaac's cunning an injustice," he said grimly.
"Sagosto was only a tool, one of many that old Isaac had in his
power--and, for that matter, as likely as any one else to have had a
hand in Isaac's murder to-night. Sagosto saw you once when Isaac
brought you into his place--not because Isaac wanted Sagosto to see
you, but because he wanted YOU to see Sagosto. Do you understand?
It would make the story that Sagosto came to him with the tale of
the murder the next day ring true. Sagosto, however, did not go to
old Isaac the next day to tell about any fake murder--naturally.
Sagosto would not know you again from Adam--neither does he know
anything about the rubies, nor what old Isaac's ulterior motives
were. He was paid for his share in the game in old Isaac's usual
manner of payment probably--by a threat of exposure for some oldtime
offence, that Isaac held over him, if he didn't keep his mouth
Burton's hand brushed his eyes.
"Yes," he muttered. "Yes--I see it now."
Jimmie Dale stooped down, picked up the paper from the floor in
which the wig and beard had been wrapped, walked back with it, and
replaced it in the cupboard. And then, with his back to Burton
again, he took the case of gems from his pocket, opened it, and laid
it on the cupboard shelf. Also from his pocket came that thin metal
case, and from the case, with a pair of tweezers that obviated the
possibility of telltale finger prints, a gray, diamond-shaped piece
of paper, adhesive on one side that, cursed by the distracted
authorities in every police headquarters on both sides of the
Atlantic, and raved at by a virulent press whose printed
reproductions had made it familiar in every household in the land--
was the insignia of the Gray Seal. He moistened the adhesive side,
dropped it from the tweezers to his handkerchief, and pressed it
down firmly on the inside of the cover of the jewel case. He put
both cases back in his pockets, and returned to Burton.
"Burton," he said a little sharply, "while I was outside that
doorway there, I heard you beg old Isaac to let you keep the rubies,
and three times already you have asked the same of me. What would
you do with them if I gave them back to you?"
Burton did not reply for a moment--he was gazing at the masked face
in a half-eager, half-doubtful way.
"You--you mean you will give them back!" he burst out finally.
"Answer my question," prompted Jimmie Dale.
"Do with them?" Burton repeated slowly. "Why, I've told you.
They'd go back to Mr. Maddon--I'd take them back."
"Would you?" Jimmie Dale's voice was quizzical.
A puzzled expression came to Burton's face.
"I don't know what you mean by that," he said. "Of course, I
"How?" asked Jimmie Dale. "Do you know the combination of Mr.
Maddon's safe?"
"No," said Burton
"And the safe would be locked, wouldn't it?"
"Quite so," said Jimmie Dale musingly. "Then, granted that Mr.
Maddon has not already discovered the theft, how would you replace
the stones before he does discover it? And if he already knows that
they are gone, how would you get them back into his hands?"
"Yes, I know," Burton answered a little listlessly. "I've thought
of that. There's only one way--to take them back to him myself, and
make a clean breast of it, and--" He hesitated.
"And tell him you stole them," supplied Jimmie Dale.
Burton nodded his head. "Yes," he said.
"And then?" prodded Jimmie Dale. What will Maddon do? From what
I've heard of him, he's not a man to trifle with, nor a man to take
an overly complacent view of things--not the man whose philosophy is
'all's well that ends well.'"
"What does it matter?" Burton's voice was low. "It isn't that so
much. I'm ready for that. It's the fact that he trusted me
implicitly, and I--well, I played the fool, or I'd never have got
into a mess like this."
For an instant Jimmie Dale looked at the other searchingly, and
then, smiling strangely, he shook his head.
"There's a better way than that, Burton," he said quietly.
"I think, as I said before, you've had a lesson to-night that will
last you all your life. I'm going to give you another chance--with
Maddon. Here are the stones." He reached into his pocket and laid
the case on the table.
But now Burton made no effort to take the case--his eyes, in that
puzzled way again, were on Jimmie Dale.
"A better way?" he repeated tensely. "What do you mean? What way?"
"Well, say at the expense of another man's reputation--of mine,"
suggested Jimmie Dale, with his whimsical smile. You need only say
that a man came to you this evening, told you that he stole these
rubies from Mr. Maddon during the afternoon, and asked you, as Mr.
Maddon's private secretary, to restore them with his compliments to
their owner."
A slow flush of disappointment, deepening to one of anger dyed
Burton's cheeks.
"Are you trying to make a fool of me?" he cried out. "Go to Maddon
with a childish tale like that! There's no man living would believe
such a cock-and-bull story!"
"No?" inquired Jimmie Dale softly. "And yet I am inclined to think
there are a good many--that even Maddon would, hard-headed as he is.
You might say that when the man handed you the case you thought it
was some practical joke being foisted on you, until you opened the
case"--Jimmie Dale pushed it a little farther across the table, and
Burton, mechanically, his eyes still on Jimme Dale, loosened the
catch with his thumb nail--"until you opened the case, saw the
rubies, and--"
"The Gray Seal!" Burton had snatched the case toward him, and was
straining his eyes at the inside cover. "You--the Gray Seal!"
"Well?" said Jimmie Dale whimsically.
Motionless, the case held open in his hands, Burton stood there.
"The Gray Seal!" he whispered. Then, with a catch in his voice:
"You mean this? You mean to let me have these back--you mean--you
mean all you've said? For God's sake, don't play with me--the Gray
Seal, the most notorious criminal in the country, to give back a
fortune like this! You--you--"
"Dog with a bad name," said Jimmie Dale, with a wry smile; then, a
little gruffly: "Put it in your pocket!"
Slowly, almost as though he expected the case to be snatched back
from him the next instant, Burton obeyed.
I don't understand--I CAN'T understand!" he murmured. "They say
that you--and yet I believe you now--you've saved me from a ruined
life to-night. The Gray Seal! If--if every one knew what you had
done, they--"
"But every one won't," Jimmie Dale broke in bluntly, "Who is to tell
them? You? You couldn't very well, when you come to think of it--
could you? Well, who knows, perhaps there have been others like
"You mean," said Burton excitedly, "you mean that all these crimes
of yours that have seemed without motive, that have been so
inexplicable, have really been like to-night to--"
"I don't mean anything at all," interposed Jimmie Dale a little
hurriedly. "Nothing, Burton--except that there is still one little
thing more to do to bolster up that 'childish' story of mine--and
then get out of here." He glanced sharply, critically around the
room, his eyes resting for a moment at the last on the form on the
floor. Then tersely: "I am going to turn out the light--we will have
to pass the window to get to the door, and we will invite no
chances. Are you ready?"
"No; not yet," said Burton eagerly. "I haven't said what I'd like
to say to you, what I--"
"Walk straight to the door," said Jimmie Dale curtly. There was the
click of an electric-light switch, and the room was in darkness.
"Now, no noise!" he instructed.
And Burton, perforce, made his way across the room--and at the door
Jimmie Dale joined him and led him down the short flight of stairs.
At the bottom, he opened the door leading into the rear of the
pawnshop itself, and, bidding Burton follow, entered.
"We can't risk even a match; it could be seen from the street," he
said brusquely, as he fumbled around for a moment in the darkness.
"Ah--here it is!" He lifted a telephone receiver from its hook, and
gave a number.
Burton caught him quickly by the arm.
"Good Lord, man, what are you doing?" he protested anxiously.
"That's Mr. Maddon's house!"
"So I believe," said Jimmie Dale complacently. "Hello! Is Mr.
Maddon there? . . . I beg pardon? . . . Personally, yes, if you
There was a moment's wait. Burton's hand was still nervously
clutching at Jimmie Dale's sleeve. Then:
"Mr. Maddon?" asked Jimmie Dale pleasantly. "Yes? . . . I am very
sorry to trouble you, but I called you up to inquire if you were
aware that your rubies, and among them your Aracon, had been stolen?
. . . I beg pardon! . . . Rubies--yes. . . . You weren't. . . .
Oh, no, I am quite in my right mind; if you will take the trouble to
open your safe you will find they are gone--shall I hold the line
while you investigate? . . . What? . . . Don't shout, please--and
stand a little farther away from the mouthpiece." Jimmie Dale's
tone was one of insolent composure now. "There is really no use in
getting excited. . . . I beg pardon? . . . Certainly, this is the
Gray Seal speaking. . . . What?" Jimmie Dale's voice grew
plaintive, "I really can't make out a word when you yell like that.
. . . Yes. . . . I had occasion to use them this afternoon, and I
took the liberty of borrowing them temporarily--are you still there,
Mr. Maddon? . . . Oh, quite so! Yes, I hear you NOW. . . . No,
that is all, only I am returning them through your private
secretary, a very estimable young man, though I fear somewhat
excitable and shaky, who is on his way to you with them now. . . .
WHAT'S THAT YOU SAY? You repeat that," snapped Jimmie Dale
suddenly, icily, "and I'll take them from under your nose again
before morning! . . . Ah! That is better! Good-night--Mr.
Jimmie Dale hung up the receiver and shoved Burton toward the door.
"Now then, Burton, we'll get out of her--and the sooner you reach
Fifth Avenue and Mr. Maddon's house the better. No; not that way!"
They had reached the hall, and Burton had turned toward the side
door that opened on the alleyway. "Whoever they were who settled
their last account with Isaac may still be watching. They've
nothing against any one else, but they know some one was in here at
the time, and, if the police are clever enough ever to get on their
track, they might find it very convenient to be able to say WHO was
in the room when Isaac was murdered--there's nothing to show, since
Isaac so obligingly opened the window for them, that the shot was
fired THROUGH the window and not from the inside of the room. And
even if they have already taken to their heels"--Jimmie Dale was
leading Burton up the stairs again as he talked--"it might prove
exceedingly inconvenient for us if some passer-by should happen to
recollect that he saw two men of our general appearance leaving the
premises. Now keep close--and follow me."
They passed the door of Isaac's den, turned down a narrow corridor
that led to the rear of the house--Jimmie Dale guiding unerringly,
working from the mental map of the house that the Tocsin had drawn
for him--descended another short flight of stairs that gave on the
kitchen, crossed the kitchen, and Jimmie Dale opened a back door.
He paused here for a moment to listen; then, cautioning Burton to be
silent, moved on again across a small back yard and through a gate
into a lane that ran at right angles to the alleyway by which both
had entered the house--and, a minute later, they were crouched
against a building, a half block away, where the lane intersected
the cross street.
Here Jimmie Dale peered out cautiously. There was no one in sight.
He touched Burton's shoulder, and pointed down the street.
"That's your way, Burton--mine's the other. Hurry while you've got
the chance. Good-night."
Burton's hand reached out, caught Jimmie Dale's, and wrung it.
"God bless you!" he said huskily. "I--"
And Jimmie Dale pushed him out on to the street.
Burton's steps receded down the sidewalk. Jimmie Dale still
crouched against the wall. The steps grew fainter in the distance
and died finally away. Jimmie Dale straightened up, slipped the
mask from his face to his pocket, stepped out on the street--and
five minutes later was passing through the noisy bedlam of the
Hungarian restaurant on his way to the front door and his car.
"SONNEZ LE TOCSIN," Jimmie Dale was saying softly to himself. "I
wonder what she'll do when she finds I've got the ring?"
The Tocsin! By neither act, sign, nor word had she evidenced the
slightest interest in that ring--and yet she must know, she
certainly must know that it was now in his possession. Jimmie Dale
was disappointed. Somehow, he had counted more than he had cared to
admit on developments from that ring.
He pulled a little viciously at his cigarette, as he stared out of
the St. James Club window. That was how long ago? Ten days? Yes;
this would be the eleventh. Eleven days now and no word from her--
eleven days since that night at old Isaac's, since she had last
called him, the Gray Seal, to arms. It was a long while--so long a
while even that what had come to be his prerogative in the
newspapers, the front page with three-inch type recounting some new
exploit of that mysterious criminal the Gray Seal, was being
usurped. The papers were howling now about what they, for the lack
of a better term, were pleased to call a wave of crime that had
inundated New York, and of which, for once, the Gray Seal was not
the storm centre, but rather, for the moment, forgotten.
He drew back from the window, and, settling himself again in the big
leather lounging chair, resumed the perusal of the evening paper.
His eye fell on what was common to every edition now, a crime
editorial--and the paper crackled suddenly under the long, slim,
tapering fingers, so carefully nurtured, whose sensitive tips a
hundred times had made mockery of the human ingenuity squandered on
the intricate mechanism of safes and vaults. No; he was wrong--the
Gray Seal had not been forgotten.
"We should not be surprised," wrote the editor virulently, "to
discover at the bottom of these abominable attrocities that the
guiding spirit, in fact, was the Gray Seal--they are quite worthy
even of his diabolical disregard for the laws of God and man."
Jimmie Dale's lips straightened ominously, and an angry glint crept
into his dark, steady eyes. There was nothing then, nothing too
vile that, in the public's eyes, could not logically be associated
with the Gray Seal--even this! A series of the most cold-blooded,
callous murders and robberies, the work, on the face of it, of a
well-organized band of thugs, brutal, insensate, little better than
fiends, though clever enough so far to have evaded capture, clever
enough, indeed, to have kept the police still staggering and gasping
after a clew for one murder--while another was in the very act of
being committed! The Gray Seal! What exquisite irony! And yet,
after all, the papers were not wholly to blame for what they said;
he had invited much of it. Seeming crimes of the Gray Seal had
apparently been genuine beyond any question of doubt, as he had
intended them to appear, as in the very essence of their purpose
they had to be.
"Yes; he had invited much--he and she together--the Tocsin and
himself. He, Jimmie Dale, millionaire, clubman, whose name for
generations in New York had been the family pride, was "wanted" as
the Gray Seal for so many "crimes" that he had lost track of them
himself--but from any one of which, let the identity of the Gray
Seal be once solved, there was and could be no escape! What
exquisite irony--yet full, too, of the most deadly consequences!
Once more Jimmie Dale's eyes sought the paper, and this time scanned
the headlines of the first page:
Jimmie Dale read on--and as he read there came again that angry set
to his lips. The details were not pleasant. Herman Roessle, the
paymaster of the Martindale-Kensington Mills, whose plant was on the
Hudson, had gone that morning in his runabout to the nearest town,
three miles away, for the monthly pay roll; had secured the money
from the bank, a sum of twenty-odd thousand dollars; and had started
back with it for the mill. At first, it being broad daylight and a
well-frequented road, his nonappearance caused no apprehension; but
as early afternoon came and there was still no sign of Roessle the
mill management took alarm. Discovering that he had left the bank
for the return journey at a few minutes before eleven, and that
nothing had been seen of him at his home, the police were notified.
Followed then several hours of fruitless search, until finally, with
the whole countryside aroused and the efforts of the police
augumented by private search parties, the car was found in a thicket
at the edge of a crossroad some four miles back from the river, and,
a little way from the car, the body of Roessle, dead, the man's head
crushed in where it had been fiendishly battered by some blunt,
heavy object. There was no clew--no one could be found who had seen
the car on the crossroad--the murderer, or murderers, and the
twenty-odd thousand dollars in cash had disappeared leaving no trace
There were several columns of this, which Jimmie Dale skimmed
through quickly; but at the end he stared for a long time at the
last paragraph. Somehow, strange, to relate, the paper had
neglected to turn its "sob" artist loose, and the few words, added
almost as though they were an afterthought, for once rang true and
full of pathos in their very simplicity--at the Roessle home, where
Mrs. Roessle was prostrated, two little tots of five and seven, too
young to understand, had gravely received the reporter and told him
that some bad man had hurt their daddy.
"Mr. Dale, sir!"
Jimmie Dale lowered his paper. A club attendant was standing before
him, respectfully extending a silver card tray. From the man,
Jimmie Dale's eyes fixed on a white envelope on the tray. One
glance was enough--it was HERS, that letter. The Tocsin again! His
brain seemed suddenly to be afire, and he could feel his pulse
quicken, the blood begin to pound in fierce throbs at his heart.
Life and death lay in that white, innocent-looking, unaddressed
envelope, danger, peril--it was always life and death, for those
were the stakes for which the Tocsin played. But, master of many
things, Jimmie Dale was most of all master of himself. Not a muscle
of his face moved. He reached nonchalantly for the letter.
"Thank you," said Jimmie Dale.
The man bowed and started away. Jimmie Dale laid the envelope on
the arm of the lounging chair. The man had reached the door when
Jimmie Dale stopped him.
"Oh, by the way," said Jimmie Dale languidly, "where did this come
"Your chauffeur, sir," replied the other. "Your chauffeur gave it
to the hall porter a moment ago, sir."
"Thank you," said Jimmie Dale again.
The door closed.
Jimmie Dale glanced around the room. It was the caution of habit,
that glance; the habit of years in which his life had hung on little
things. He was alone in one of the club's private library rooms.
He picked up the envelope, tore it open, took out the folded sheets
inside, and began to read. At the first words he leaned forward,
suddenly tense in his chair. He read on, turning the pages
hurriedly, incredulity, amazement, and, finally, a strange menace
mirroring itself in turn upon his face.
He stood up--the letter in his hand.
"My God!" whispered Jimmie Dale.
It was a call to arms such as the Gray Seal had never received
before--such as the Tocsin had never made before. And if it were
true it-- True! He laughed aloud a little gratingly. True! Had
the Tocsin, astounding, unbelievable, mystifying as were the means
by which she acquired her knowledge not only of this, but of
countless other affairs, ever by so much as the smallest detail been
astray. If it were true!
He pulled out his watch. It was half-past nine. Benson, his
chauffeur, had sent the letter into the club. Benson had been
waiting outside there ever since dinner. Jimmie Dale, for the first
time since the first communication that he had ever received from
the Tocsin, did not immediately destroy her letter now. He slipped
it into his pocket--and stepped quickly from the room.
In the cloakroom downstairs he secured his hat and overcoat, and,
though it was a warm evening, put on the latter since he was in
evening clothes, then walked leisurely out of the club.
At the curb, Benson, the chauffeur, sprang from his seat, and,
touching his cap, opened the door of a luxurious limousine.
Jimmie Dale shook his head.
"I shall not keep you waiting any longer, Benson," he said. "You
may take the car home, and put it up. I shall probably be late tonight."
"Very good, sir," replied the chauffeur.
"You sent in a letter a moment or so ago, Benson?" observed Jimmie
Dale casually, opening his cigarette case.
"Yes, sir," said Benson. "I hope I didn't do wrong, sir. He said
it was important, and that you were to have it at once."
"He?" Jimmie Dale was lighting his cigarette now.
"A boy, sir," Benson amplified. "I couldn't get anything out of
him. He just said he'd been told to give it to me, and tell me to
see that you got it at once. I hope, sir, I haven't--"
"Not at all, Benson," said Jimmie Dale pleasantly. "It's quite all
right. Good-night, Benson."
"Good-night, sir," Benson answered, climbing back to his seat.
There was a queer little smile on Jimmie Dale's lips, as he watched
the great car swing around in the street and glide noiselessly away--
a queer little smile that still held there even after he himself
had started briskly along the avenue in a downtown direction. It
was invariably the same, always the same--the letters came
unexpectedly, when least looked for, now by this means, now by that,
but always in a manner that precluded the slightest possibility of
tracing them to their source. Was there anything, in his intimate
surroundings, in his intimate life, that she did not know about him--
who knew absolutely nothing about her! Benson, for instance--that
the man was absolutely trustworthy--or else she would never for an
instant have risked the letter in his possession. Was there
anything that she did not--yes, one thing--she did not know him in
the role he was going to play to-night. That at least was one thing
that surely she did not know about him; the role in which, many
times, for weeks on end, he had devoted himself body and soul in an
attempt to solve the mystery with which she surrounded herself; the
role, too, that often enough had been a bulwark of safety to him
when hard pressed by the police; the role out of which he had so
carefully, so painstakingly created a now recognised and well-known
character of the underworld--the role of Larry the Bat.
Jimmie Dale turned from Fifth Avenue into Broadway, continued on
down Broadway, across to the Bowery, kept along the Bowery for
several more blocka--and finally headed east into the dimly lighted
cross street on which the Sanctuary was located.
And now Jimmie Dale became cautious in his movements. As he
approached the black alleyway that flanked the miserable tenement,
he glanced sharply behind and about him; and, at the alleyway
itself, without pause, but with a curious lightning-like side step,
no longer Jimmie Dale now, but the Gray Seal, he disappeared from
the street, and was lost in the deep shadows of the building.
In a moment he was at the side door, listening for any sound from
within--none had ever seen or met the lodger or the first floor
either ascending or descending, except in the familiar character of
Larry the Bat. He opened the door, closed it behind him, and in the
utter blackness went noiselessly up the stairs--stairs so rickety
that it seemed a mouse's tread alone would have set them creaking.
There seemed an art in the play of Jimmie Dale's every muscle; in
the movements, lithe, balanced, quick, absolutely silent. On the
first landing he stopped before another door, there was the faint
click of a key turning in the lock; and then this door, too, closed
behind him. Sounded the faint click of the key as it turned again,
and Jimmie Dale drew a long breath, stepped across the room to
assure himself that the window blind was down, and lighted the gas
A yellow, murky flame spurted up, pitifully weak, almost as though
it were ashamed of its disreputable surroundings. Dirt, disorder,
squalour, the evidence of low living testified eloquently enough to
any one, the police, for instance, in times past inquisitive until
they were fatuously content with the belief that they knew the
occupant for what he was, that the place was quite in keeping with
its tenant, a mute prototype, as it were, of Larry the Bat, the dope
For a little space, Jimmie Dale, immaculate in his evening clothes,
stood in the centre of the miserable room, his dark eyes, keen,
alert, critical, sweeping comprehensively over every object about
him--the position of a chair, of a cracked drinking glass on the
broken-legged table, of an old coat thrown with apparent
carelessness on the floor at the foot of the bed, of a broken bottle
that had innocently strewn some sort of white powder close to the
threshold, inviting unwary foot tracks across the floor. And then,
taking out the Tocsin's letter, he laid it upon the table, placed
what money he had in his pockets beside it, and began rapidly to
remove his clothes. The Sanctuary had not been invaded since his
last visit there.
He turned back the oilcloth in the far corner of the room, took up
the piece of loose flooring, which, however, strangely enough,
fitted so closely as to give no sign of its existence even should it
inadvertently, by some curious visitor again be trod upon; and from
the aperture beneath lifted out a bundle of clothes and a small box.
Undressed now, he carefully folded the clothes he had taken off,
laid them under the flooring, and began to dress again, his wardrobe
supplied by the bundle he had taken out in exchange--an old pair of
shoes, the laces broken; mismated socks; patched trousers, frayed at
the bottoms; a soiled shirt, collarless, open at the neck. Attired
to his satisfaction, he placed the box upon the table, propped up a
cracked mirror, sat down in front of it, and, with a deft, artist's
touch, began to apply stain to his hands, wrists, neck, throat, and
face--but the hardness, the grim menace that now grew into the
dominant characteristic of his features was not due to the stain
"Dear Philanthropic Crook"--his eyes were on the Tocsin's letter
that lay before him. He read on--for once, even to Jimmie Dale's
keen, facile mind, a first reading had failed to convey the full
significance of what she had written. It was too amazing, almost

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