DEAD! The girl was on her knees beside John Bruce. Dead—he did not move! It was the man who had pawned his watch-fob hardly half an hour before! What did it mean? What did those angry shouts, that scurrying of many feet out there in the lane mean? Hurriedly, her face as deadly white as the face upturned to her from the floor, she tore open the once immaculate shirt-front, that was now limp and wet and ugly with a great crimson stain, and laid bare the wound.

The sounds from without were receding, the scurrying footsteps were keeping on along the lane. A quiver ran through the form on the floor. Dead! No, he was not dead—not—not yet.

A little cry escaped from her tightly closed lips, and for an instant she covered her eyes with her hands. The wound was terrible—it frightened her. It frightened her the more because, intuitively, she knew that it was beyond any inexperienced aid that she could give. But she must act, and act quickly.

She turned and ran into the adjoining room to the telephone, but even as she reached out to lift the receiver from the hook she hesitated. Doctor Crang! A little shudder of aversion swept over her—and then resolutely, even pleading with central to hurry, she asked for the connection. It was not a matter of choice, or aversion, or any other consideration in the world save a question of minutes. The life of that man in there on the floor hung by a thread. Doctor Crang was nearby enough to respond almost instantly, and there was no one else she knew of who she could hope would reach the man in time. And—she stared frantically at the instrument now—was even he unavailable? Why didn't he answer? Why didn't——

A voice reached her. She recognized it.

“Doctor Crang, this is Claire Veniza,” she said, and it did not seem as though she could speak fast enough. “Come at once—oh, at once—please! There's a man here frightfully wounded. There isn't a second to lose, so——”

“My dear Claire,” interrupted the voice suavely, “instead of losing one you can save several by telling me what kind of a wound it is, and where the man is wounded.”

“It's a knife wound, a stab, I think,” she answered; “and it's in his side. He is unconscious, and——”

The receiver at the other end had been replaced on its hook.

She turned from the telephone, and swiftly, hurrying, but in cool self-control now, she obtained some cloths and a basin of warm water, and returned to John Bruce's side. She could not do much, she realized that—only make what effort she could to staunch the appalling flow of blood from the wound; that, and place a cushion under the man's head, for she could not lift him to the couch.

The minutes passed; and then, thinking she heard a footstep at the front door, she glanced in that direction, half in relief, and yet, too, in curious apprehension. She listened. No, there was no one there yet. She had been mistaken.

Suddenly she caught her breath in a little gasp, as though startled. Doctor Crang was clever; but faith in Doctor Crang professionally was one thing, and faith in him in other respects was quite another. Why hadn't she thought of it before? It wasn't too late yet, was it?

She began to search hastily through John Bruce's pockets. Doctor Crang would almost certainly suggest removing the man from the sitting room down here and getting him upstairs to a bedroom, and then he would undress his patient, and—and it was perhaps as well to anticipate Doctor Crang! This man here should have quite a sum of money on his person. She had given it to him herself, and—yes, here it was!

The crisp new fifty-dollar bills, the stamped and numbered ticket that identified the watch-fob he had pawned, were in her hand. She ran across the room, opened a little safe in the corner, placed the money and ticket inside, locked the safe again, and returned to John Bruce's side once more.

And suddenly her eyes filled. There was no tremor, no movement in the man's form now; she could not even feel his heartbeat. Yes, she wanted Doctor Crang now, passionately, wildly. John Bruce—that was the man's name. She knew that much. But she had left him miles away—and he was here now—and she did not understand. How had he got here, why had he come here, climbing in through that window to fall at her feet like one dead?

The front door opened without premonitory ring of bell, and closed again. A footstep came quickly forward through the outer room—and paused on the threshold.

Claire Veniza rose to her feet, and her eyes went swiftly, sharply, to the figure standing there—a man of perhaps thirty years of age, of powerful build, and yet whose frame seemed now woefully loose, disjointed and without virility. Her eyes traveled to the man's clothing that was dirty, spotted, and in dire need of sponging, to the necktie that hung awry, to the face that, but for its unhealthy, pasty-yellow complexion, would have been almost strikingly handsome, to the jet-black eyes that somehow at the moment seemed to lack fire and life. And with a little despairing shrug of her shoulders, Claire Veniza turned away her head, and pointed to the form of John Bruce on the floor.

“I—I am afraid it is very serious, Doctor Crang,” she faltered.

“That's all right, Claire,” he said complacently. “That's all right, my dear. You can leave it with confidence to Sydney Angus Crang, M.D.”

She drew a little away as he stepped forward, her face hardening into tight little lines. Hidden, her hands clasped anxiously together. It—it was what she had feared. Doctor Sydney Angus Crang, gold medalist from one of the greatest American universities, brilliant far beyond his fellows, with additional degrees from London, from Vienna, from Heaven alone knew where else, was just about entering upon, or emerging from, a groveling debauch with that Thing to which he had pawned his manhood, his intellect and his soul, that Thing of gray places, of horror, of forgetfulness, of bliss, of torture—cocaine.

Halfway from the threshold to where John Bruce lay, Doctor Crang halted abruptly.

“Hello!” he exclaimed, and glanced with suddenly darkening face from Claire Veniza to the form of John Bruce, and back to Claire Veniza again.

“Oh, will you hurry!” she implored. “Can't you see that the wound——”

“I am more interested in the man than in the wound,” said Doctor Crang, and there was a hint of menace in his voice. “Quite a gentleman of parts! I had expected—let me see what I had expected—well, say, one of the common knife-sticking breed that curses this neighborhood.”

Claire Veniza stamped her foot.

“Oh, hurry!” she burst out wildly. “Don't stand there talking while the man is dying! Do something!”

Doctor Crang advanced to John Bruce's side, set down the little handbag he was carrying, and began to examine the wound.

“Yes, quite a gentleman of parts!” he repeated. His lips had thinned. “How did he get here?”

“I do not know,” she answered. “He came in through that window there and fell on the floor.”

“How peculiar!” observed Doctor Crang. “A gentleman down here in this locality, who is, yes, I will state it as a professional fact, in a very critical state, climbs in through Miss Claire Veniza's window, and——”

The telephone in the other room rang. Claire Veniza ran to it. Doctor Crang's fingers nestled on John Bruce's pulse; he made no other movement save to cock his head in a listening attitude in the girl's direction; he made no effort either to examine further or to dress the wound.

Claire Veniza's voice came distinctly:

“Yes... No, I do not think he will return to-night”—she was hesitating—“he—he met with an—an accident——-”

Doctor Crang had sprung from the other room and had snatched the receiver from the girl's hand. A wave of insensate fury swept his face now. He pushed her roughly from the instrument, and clapped his hand over the transmitter.

“That's one lie you've told me!” he said hoarsely. “I'll attend to the rest of this now.” He withdrew his hand from the transmitter. “Yes, hello!” His voice was cool, even suave. “What is it?... Monsieur Henri de Lavergne speaking—yes... Mister—who?... Mister John Bruce—yes.” He listened for a moment, his lips twitching, his eyes narrowed on Claire Veniza, who had retreated a few steps away. “No, not to-night,” he said, speaking again into the transmitter. “Yes, a slight accident.... Yes.., Good-by.”

Doctor Sydney Angus Crang hung up the receiver, and with a placid smile at variance with the glitter that suddenly brought life into his dulled eyes, advanced toward the girl. She stepped backward quickly into the other room, retreating as far as the motionless form that lay upon the floor. Doctor Crang followed her.

And then Claire Veniza, her face grown stony, her small hands clenched, found her voice again.

“Aren't you going to help him? Aren't you going to do something? Is he to die there before your eyes?” she cried.

Doctor Crang shrugged his shoulders.

“What can I do?” he inquired with velvet softness. “I am helpless. How can I bring the dead back to life?”

“Dead!” All color had fled her face; she bent and looked searchingly at John Bruce.

“Oh, no; not yet,” said Doctor Crang easily. “But very nearly so.”

“And you will do nothing!” She was facing him again. “Then—then I will try and get some one else.”

She stepped forward abruptly.

Doctor Crang barred her way.

“I don't think you will, Claire, my dear!” His voice was monotonous; the placid smile was vanishing. “You see, having spoken to that dear little doll of a man, Monsieur Henri de Lavergne, I'm very much interested in hearing your side of the story.”

“Story!” the girl echoed wildly. “Story—while that man's life is lost! Are you mad—or a murderer—or——”

“Another lover,” said Doctor Crang, and threw back his head and laughed.

She shrank away; her hands tight against her bosom. She glanced around her. If she could only reach the telephone and lock the connecting door! No! She did not dare leave him alone with the wounded man.

“What—what are you going to do?” she whispered.

“Nothing—till I hear the story,” he answered.

“If—if he dies”—her voice rang steadily again—“I'll have you charged with murder.”

“What nonsense!” said Doctor Crang imperturbably. “Did I stab the gentleman?” He took from his pocket a little case, produced a hypodermic syringe, and pushed back his sleeve. “A doctor is not a magician. If he finds a patient beyond reach of aid what can he be expected to do? My dear Claire, where are your brains to-night—you who are usually so amazingly clever?”

“You are mad—insane with drug!” she cried out piteously.

He shook his head, and coolly inserted the needle of the hypodermic in his arm.

“Not yet,” he said. “I am only implacable. Shall we get on with the story? Monsieur de Lavergne says he sent a gentleman by the name of John Bruce out in your father's car a little while ago for the purpose of obtaining a loan in order that the said John Bruce might return to the gambling joint and continue to play. But Mr. Bruce did not return, and the doll, for some reason being anxious, telephones here to make inquiries. Of course”—there was a savage laugh in his voice—“it is only a suspicion, but could this gentleman on the floor here by any chance be Mr. John Bruce?”

“Yes,” she said faintly. “He is John Bruce.”

“Thanks!” said Doctor Crang sarcastically. He very carefully replaced his hypodermic in his pocket. “Now another little matter. I happen to know that your father is spending the evening uptown, so I wonder who was in the car with Mr. John Bruce.”

She stared at him with flashing eyes.

“I was!” she answered passionately. “I don't know what you are driving at! I never did it before, but father was away, and Monsieur de Lavergne was terribly insistent. He said it was for a very special guest. I—I didn't, of course, tell Monsieur de Lavergne that father couldn't go. I only said that I was afraid it would not be convenient to make any loan to-night. But he wouldn't listen to a refusal, and so I went—but Monsieur de Lavergne had no idea that it was any one but father in the car.”

Doctor Crang's lips parted wickedly.

“Naturally!” he snarled. “I quite understand that you took good care of that! Who drove you?”


“Drunk as usual, I suppose! Brain too fuddled to ask questions!”

“That's not true!” she cried out sharply. “Hawkins hasn't touched a drop for a year.”

“All right!” snapped Doctor Crang. “Have it that way, then! Being in his dotage, he makes a good blind, even sober. And so you went for a little ride with Mr. John Bruce to-night?”

Claire Veniza was wringing her hands as she glanced in an agony of apprehension at the wounded man on the floor.

“Yes,” she said; “but—but won't you——”

“And where did you first meet Mr. John Bruce, and how long ago?” he jerked out.

Claire Veniza's great brown eyes widened.

“Why, I never saw him in my life until to-night!” she exclaimed. “And he wasn't in the car ten minutes. Hawkins drove back to the corner just as he always does with father, and Mr. Bruce got out. Then Hawkins drove me home and went uptown to get father. I—I wish they were here now!”

Doctor Crang was gritting his teeth together. A slight unnatural color was tinging his cheeks. He moved a little closer to the girl.

“I'm glad to hear you never saw Mr. Bruce before,” he said cunningly. “You must have traveled fast then—metaphorically speaking. Love at first sight, eh? A cooing exchange of confidences—or was it all on one side? You told him who you were, and where you lived, and——”

“I did nothing of the kind!” Claire Veniza interrupted angrily. “I did not tell him anything!”

“Just strictly business then, of course!” Doctor Crang moved a step still nearer to the girl. “In that case he must have pawned something, and as Lavergne sends nothing but high-priced articles to your father, we shall probably find quite a sum of money in Mr. Bruce's pockets. Eh—Claire?”

She bit her lips. She still did not quite understand—only that she bitterly regretted now, somehow, that she had removed the money from John Bruce's person; only that the drug-crazed brain of the man in front of her was digging, had dug, a trap into which she was falling. What answer was she to make? What was she to——

With a sudden cry she shrank back—but too late to save herself. A face alight with passion was close to hers now; hands that clamped like a steel vise, and that hurt, were upon her shoulder and throat.

“You lie!” Doctor Crang shouted hoarsely. “You've lied from the minute I came into this room. John Bruce—hell! I know now why you have always refused to have anything to do with me. That's why!” He loosened one hand and pointed to the figure on the floor. “How long has this been going on? How long have you been meeting him? To-night is nothing, though you worked it well. Hawkins to take you for a little joy ride with your lover while father's away. Damned clever! You left him on that corner—and he's here wounded! How did he get wounded? You never saw him before! You never heard of him! You told him nothing about yourself! He didn't know where you lived—he could only find the private entrance! Just knows enough about you to climb in through your back window like a skewered dog! But, of course, your story is true, because in his pockets will be the money you gave him for what he pawned! Shall we look and see how much it was?”

She tore herself free and caught at her throat, gasping for breath.

“You—you beast!” she choked. “No; you needn't look! I took it from him, and put it in the safe over there before you came—to keep it away from you.”

Doctor Crang swept a hand across his eyes and through his hair with a savage, jerky movement, and then he laughed immoderately.

“What a little liar you are! Well, then, two can play at the same game. I lied to you about your lover there. I said there was nothing could save him. Yes, yes, Claire, my dear, I lied.” He knelt suddenly, and suddenly intent and professional studied John Bruce's face, and felt again for the pulse beat at John Bruce's wrist. “Pretty near the limit,” he stated coolly. “Internal bleeding.” He threw back his shoulders in a strangely egotistical way. “Not many men could do anything; but I, Sydney Angus Crang, could! Ha, ha! In ten minutes he could be on the road to recovery—but ten minutes, otherwise, is exactly the length of time he has to live.”

An instant Claire Veniza stared at him. Her mind reeled with chaos, with terror and dismay.

“Then do something!” she implored wildly. “If you can save him, do it! You must! You shall!”

“Why should I?” he demanded. His teeth were clamped hard together. “Why should I save your lover? No—damn him!”

She drew away from him, and, suddenly, on her knees, buried her face in her hands and burst into sobs.

“This—this is terrible—terrible!” she cried out. “Has that frightful stuff transformed you into an absolute fiend? Are you no longer even human?” Flushed, a curious look of hunger in his eyes, he gazed at her.

“I'm devilishly human in some respects!” His voice rose, out of control. “I want you! I have wanted you from the day I saw you.”

She shivered. Her hands felt suddenly icy as she pressed them against her face.

“Thank God then,” she breathed, “for this, at least—that you will never get me!”

“Won't I?” His voice rose higher, trembling with passion. “Won't I? By God, I will! The one thing in life I will have some way or another! You understand? I will! And do you think I would let him stand in the way? You drive me mad, Claire, with those wonderful eyes of yours, with that hair, those lips, that throat——”

“Stop!” She was on her feet, and in an instant had reached him, and with her hands upon his shoulders was shaking him fiercely with all her strength. “I hated you, despised you, loathed you before, but with that man dying here, you murderer, I——”

Her voice trailed off, strangled, choked. He had caught her in his arms, his lips were upon hers. She struggled like a tigress. And as they lurched about the room he laughed in mad abandon. She wrenched herself free at last, and slipped and fell upon the floor.

“Do you believe me now!” he panted. “I will have you! Neither this man nor any other will live to get you. His life is a snap of my fingers—so is any other life. It's you I want, and you I will have. And I'll tame you! Then I'll show you what love is.”

She was moaning now a little to herself. She crept to John Bruce and stared into his face. Dying! They were letting this man die. She tried to readjust the cloths upon the wound. She heard Doctor Crang laugh at her again. It seemed as though her soul were sinking into some great bottomless abyss that was black with horror. She did not know this John Bruce. She had told Doctor Crang so. It was useless to repeat it, useless to argue with a drug-steeped brain. There was only one thing that was absolute and final, and that was that a man's life was ebbing away, and a fiend, an inhuman fiend who could save him, but whom pleading would not touch, stood callously by, not wholly indifferent, rather gloating over what took the form of triumph in his diseased mind. And then suddenly she seemed so tired and weary. And she tried to pray to God. And tears came, and on her knees she turned and flung out her arms imploringly to the unkempt figure that stood over her, and who smiled as no other man she had ever seen had smiled before.

“For the pity of God, for anything you have ever known in your life that was pure and sacred,” she said brokenly, “save this man.”

He looked at her for a moment, still with that sardonic smile upon his lips, and then, swift in its transition, his expression changed and cunning was in his eyes.

“What would you give?” he purred.

“Give?” She did not look up. She felt a sudden surge of relief. It debased the man the more, for it was evidently money now; but her father would supply that. She had only to ask for it. “What do you want?” she asked eagerly.

“Yourself,” said Doctor Crang.

She looked up now, quickly, startled; read the lurking triumph in his eyes, and with a sudden cry of fear turned away her head.

“My—myself!” Her lips scarcely moved.

“Yes, my dear! Yourself—Claire!” Doctor

Crang shrugged his shoulders. “Edinburgh, London, Vienna, Paris, degrees from everywhere—ha, ha!—am I a high-priced man? Well, then, why don't you dismiss me? You called me in! That is my price—or shall we call it fee? Promise to marry me, Claire, and I'll save that man.”

Her face had lost all vestige of color. She stood and looked at him, but it did not seem as though she any longer had control over her limbs. She did not seem able to move them. They were numbed; her brain was mercifully numbed—there was only a sense of impending horror, without that horror taking concrete form. A voice came to her as though from some great distance:

“Don't take too long to make up your mind. There isn't much time. It's about touch and go with him now.”

The words, the tone, the voice roused her. Realization, understanding swept upon her. A faintness came. She closed her eyes, swayed unsteadily, but recovered herself. Something made her look at the upturned face on the floor. She did not know this man. He was nothing to her. Why was he pleading with her to pawn herself for him? What right had he to ask for worse than death from her that he might live? Her soul turned sick within her. If she refused, this man would die. Death! It was a very little thing compared with days and months and years linked, fettered, bound to a drug fiend, a coward, a foul thing, a potential murderer, a man only in the sense of physical form, who had abused every other God-given attribute until it had rotted away! Her hands pressed to her temples fiercely, in torment. Was this man to live or die? In her hands was balanced a human life. It seemed as though she must scream out in her anguish of soul; and then it seemed as though she must fling herself upon the drug-crazed being who had forced this torture upon her, fling herself upon him to batter and pommel with her fists at his face that smiled in hideous contentment at her. What was she to do? The choice was hers. To let this man here die, or to accept a living death for herself—no, worse than that—something that was abominable, revolting, that profaned.... She drew her breath in sharply. She was staring at the man on the floor. His eyelids fluttered and opened. Gray eyes were fixed upon her, eyes that did not seem to see for there was a vacant stare in them—and then suddenly recognition crept into them and they lighted up, full of a strange, glad wonder. He made an effort to speak, an effort, more feeble still, to reach out his hand to her—and then the eyes had closed and he was unconscious again.

She turned slowly and faced Doctor Crang.

“You do not know what you are doing.” She formed the words with a great effort.

“Oh, yes, I do!” he answered with mocking deliberation. “I know that if I can't get you one way, I can another—and the way doesn't matter.”

“God forgive you, then,” she said in a dead voice, “for I never can or will! I—I agree.”

He took a step toward her.

“You'll marry me?” His face was fired with passion.

She retreated a step.

“Yes,” she said.

He reached out for her with savage eagerness.

“Claire!” he cried. “Claire!”

She pushed him back with both hands.

“Not yet!” she said, and tried to steady her voice. “There is another side to the bargain. The price is this man's life. If he lives I will marry you, and in that case, as you well know, I can say nothing of what you have done to-night; but if he dies, I am not only free, but I will do my utmost to make you criminally responsible for his death.”

“Ah!” Doctor Crang stared at her. His hands, still reaching out to touch her, trembled; his face was hectic; his eyes were alight again with feverish hunger—and then suddenly the man seemed transformed into another being. He was on his knees beside John Bruce, and had opened his handbag in an instant, and in another he had forced something from a vial between John Bruce's lips; then an instrument was in his hands. The man of a moment before was gone; one Sydney Angus Crang, of many degrees, professional, deft, immersed in his work, had taken the other's place. “More water! An extra basin!” he ordered curtly.

Claire Veniza obeyed him in a mechanical way. Her brain was numbed, exhausted, possessed of a great weariness. She watched him for a little while. He flung another order at her.

“Make that couch up into a bed,” he directed. “He can't be moved even upstairs to-night.”

Again she obeyed him; finally she helped him to lift John Bruce to the couch.

She sat down in a chair and waited—she did not know what for. Doctor Crang had drawn another chair to the couch and sat there watching his patient. John Bruce, as far as she could tell, showed no sign of life.

Then Doctor Crang's voice seemed to float out of nothingness:

“He will live, Claire, my dear! By God, I'd like to have done that piece of work in a clinic! Some of 'em would sit up! D'ye hear, Claire, he'll live!”

She was conscious that he was studying her; she did not look at him, nor did she answer.

An eternity seemed to pass. She heard a motor stop outside in front of the house. That would be her father and Hawkins.

The front door opened and closed, footsteps entered the room—and suddenly seemed to quicken and hurry forward. She rose from her chair.

“What's this? What's the matter? What's happened?” a tall, white-haired man cried out.

It was Doctor Crang who answered.

“Oh—this, Mr. Veniza?” He waved his hand indifferently toward the couch. “Nothing of any importance.” He shrugged his shoulders in cool imperturbability, and smiled into the grave, serious face of Paul Veniza. “The really important thing is that Claire has promised to be my wife.”

For an instant no one moved or spoke—only Doctor Crang still smiled. And then the silence was broken by a curious half laugh, half curse that was full of menace.

“You lie!” Hawkins, the round, red-faced chauffeur, had stepped from behind Paul Veniza, and now faced Doctor Crang. “You lie! You damned coke-eater! I'd kill you first!”

“Drunk—again!” drawled Doctor Crang contemptuously. “And what have you to do with it?”

“Steady, Hawkins!” counselled Paul Veniza quietly. He turned to Claire Veniza. “Claire,” he asked, “is—is this true?”

She nodded—and suddenly, blindly, started toward the door.

“It is true,” she said.

“Claire!” Paul Veniza stepped after her. “Claire,

“Not to-night, father,” she said in a low voice. “Please let me go.”

He stood aside, allowing her to pass, his face grave and anxious—and then he turned again to Doctor Crang.

“She is naturally very upset over what has happened here,” said Doctor Crang easily—and suddenly reaching out grasped Hawkins' arm, and pulled the old man forward to the couch. “Here, you!” he jerked out. “You've got so much to say for yourself—take a look at this fellow!”

The old chauffeur bent over the couch.

“My God!” he cried out in a startled way. “It's the man we—I—drove to-night!”

“Quite so!” observed Doctor Crang. He smiled at Paul Veniza again. “Apart from the fact that the fellow came in through that window with a knife stab in his side that's pretty nearly done for him, Hawkins knows as much about it as either Claire or I do. He's in bad shape. Extremely serious. I will stay with him to-night. He cannot be moved.” He nodded suggestively toward the door. “Hawkins can tell you as much as I can. It's got to be quiet in here. As for Claire”—he seemed suddenly to be greatly disturbed and occupied with the condition of the wounded man on the couch—“that will have to wait until morning. This man's condition is critical. I can't put you out of your own room, but——-” Again he nodded toward the door.

For a moment Paul Veniza hesitated—but Doctor Crang's back was already turned, and he was bending over the wounded man, apparently oblivious to every other consideration. He motioned to Hawkins, and the two left the room.

Doctor Crang looked around over his shoulder as the door closed. A malicious grin spread over his face. He rubbed his hands together. Then he sat down in his chair again, and began to prepare a solution for his hypodermic syringe.

“Yes, yes,” said Doctor Crang softly, addressing the unconscious form of John Bruce, “you'll live, all right, my friend, I'll see to that, though the odds are still against you. You're too—ha, ha!—valuable to die! You played in luck when you drew Sydney Angus Crang, M.D., as your attending physician!”

And then Doctor Sydney Angus Crang made a little grimace as he punctured the flesh of his arm with the needle of the hypodermic syringe and injected into himself another dose of cocaine.

“Yes,” said Doctor Sydney Angus Crang very softly, his eyes lighting, “too valuable, much too valuable—to die!”

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