Larry the Bat closed the outer door noiselessly behind him, slipped through the vestibule—and, an instant later, was slouching along Fifth Avenue, heading back toward Washington Square. His hands in his ragged pockets clenched. It had been well worked out—with a devil’s ingenuity. The police had swallowed the bait, jumped to the inevitable conclusion desired, and credited the Gray Seal with the double crime of theft and murder without an instant’s hesitation. Well, why shouldn’t they! It had been well planned; it was natural enough! Larry the Bat, in his turn, laughed, mirthlessly. But the game was not yet played out!

Through the by-ways, lanes and alleys of the underworld, Jimmie Dale once more threaded his way, and finally, mounting the dark stairway leading upward from the side entrance of a small house just off Chatham Square, he let himself stealthily into a room on the first landing. It was Virat now, and this was where Virat lived—a locality where a stranger took his life in his hand any time! Below stairs was a pseudo tea-merchant’s store—kept by a Chinese “hatchet” man. But Lang Chang had not been in evidence when he, Jimmie Dale, had crept up the stairs, for there had been no light in the store windows.

And now Jimmie Dale’s flashlight was playing around the room. Halfpast one, she had said. It could not be more than one o’clock as yet There was ample time to search for the bonds.

He began to move noiselessly around the room—a rather ornately furnished combination sitting and bedroom. “Keep away, if dangerous,” had been the Tocsin’s caution. He smiled grimly. What danger could there be? He had only to face one at a time; the Tocsin could absolutely be depended upon to see to that, and the advantage of surprise was with him. He was pulling out the drawer of a bureau now—and now his hands were searching swiftly under the mattress of the bed. It was necessary to secure the bonds. Barring that little matter of the numbers, they were as good as cash—and the matter of numbers would not trouble Virat. He knew Virat, and he had known Virat very well—but not so well by far as he knew him now! Virat was as suave and polished a gentleman crook as the country possessed. Viral was the sort of man who, after the uproar had died down, would have the nerve and address to take up his residence in some little out-of-the-way place, and either dispose of as many of the bonds at a time as he dared to those he would cultivate as friends, or even have the audacity to secure a loan on a modest number of them from the local bank itself, whose conversance with the missing numbers might be expected to be of the haziest description. Also Virat would be careful to see that his offerings were not made at such dates as to have the interest coupons cause him any inconvenience by falling due within twenty-four hours! It would be quite simple—for Virate! In six months, in as many places, with the length and breadth of the country to choose from, Virat could quite readily dispose of the lot; not quite at the issue price perhaps if he secured loans, but still at a figure that would be very profitable—for Virat! Or, as Meighan had suggested, with the aid of a confederate of the right sort, the change of a figure—ah! Jimmie Dale; flat upon the floor, his hand stretched in under the washstand, drew out a short, round, heavy object. He examined this attentively for a second; and then, his face hardening, he slipped it into his coat pocket.

He resumed his musings, and resumed his search through the room. Virat was clever enough to find means of disposing of the bonds in some fashion or other, and too clever to have ever committed murder for them otherwise—there was no doubt of that. And, after all, what difference did it make whatever Virat’s method might be! It was extraneous, immaterial. Jimmie Dale shrugged his shoulders. The vital question was—where were the bonds?

It was a strange search there in the murderer’s room, the flashlight winking and flinging its little gleams of light through the blackness; a strange search, thorough as only Jimmie Dale could make it—and still leave no tell-tale sign behind to witness that a single object in the room had been disturbed. But the search was futile; and at the end Jimmie Dale smiled whimsically.

“The process of elimination again!” he muttered. “I seem to be obsessed with that to-night. Well, not being here, there’s only one place the bonds can be. The process of elimination has its advantages.” The flashlight circled around the room, and held for a moment on the electric-light switch near the door. “It must be after halfpast one,” said Jimmie Dale—and suddenly snapped off his light.

There came a faint creaking noise—some one was cautiously mounting the stairs. Jimmie Dale snatched his automatic from his pocket, and without a sound stole forward across the room to a position by the door. The footsteps were on the landing now. The doorknob was tried; the door began to open slowly, inch by inch, wider; a dark form slipped through into the room; the floor was closed again—and Jimmie Dale, reaching forward, clapped the muzzle of his automatic against the other’s head. But it was Larry the Bat who spoke—in a hoarse, guttural whisper.

“Youse let a peep outer youse, an’ youse goes bye-bye for keeps! See? Put yer hands over yer head, an’ do it—quick!”

Jimmie Dale’s left hand reached out and switched on the light. It was Meighan, hands elevated, startled, angry, who stood blinking in the glare—and then a low cry came from the man.

“Larry the Bat—the Gray Seal! So it’s a plant, is it! That damned she-pal of yours handed it to me good over the ‘phone!” Meighan’s lips tightened. “And where’s Virat—did you kill him, too?”

Jimmie Dale’s hand was searching swiftly through the detective’s clothes. He transferred a revolver and a pair of handcuffs to his own pockets.

“I had ter take a chance on de light,” said Larry the Bat plaintively; “‘cause I had ter frisk youse.” He turned off the light again. “Sure, she’s a slick one!” Larry the Bat, his left hand free again, turned his flashlight upon the detective. “Youse can put yer flippers down now. Mabbe she staked youse ter de tip dat de bonds was here, eh?”

“Yes, blast you—both of you!” growled Meighan.

“Well, dey ain’t,” said Larry the Bat coolly; “but mabbe, after all, she wasn’t handin’ youse no steer.”

Meighan, savage at his own helplessness, snarled his words.

“What do you mean?” he demanded.

“Mabbe nothin’—mabbe a whole lot.” Larry the Bat dropped his voice mysteriously. “I was thinkin’ of pullin’ off a little show here, an’ youse have de luck ter get an invite, dat’s all. Mabbe I’ll hand youse somethin’ on a gold platter, an’ mabbe I’ll hand youse—this!” The automatic was shoved significantly an inch closer to Meighan’s face. “Youse know me! Youse know what’ll happen if youse play any funny tricks! No guy gets de Gray Seal alive—I guess youse are wise ter dat, ain’t youse? Now den, over youse go behind dat big chair on de other side of de table!”

Meighan, a puzzled look replacing the angry expression on his face, blinked.

“What’s the lay?” he queried.

“I’m expectin’ company,” grinned Larry the Bat. “Youse keeps yer yap closed till youse gets de cue—savvy? Dat’s all! If youse play fair, mabbe youse’ll get a look-in on de rake-off; if youse throws me down, the first shot I fires won’t miss youse. Go on now, get down behind dat chair—quick!”

Hesitantly, following the flashlight’s directing ray, covered by Jimmie Dale’s automatic, Meighan, muttering, made his way across the room, and crouched down behind the back of a large lounging chair. Jimmie Dale leaned nonchalantly against the jamb of the door, the flashlight holding a bead upon the chair.

“Youse’ll pardon me if I keeps de spot-light on youse,” drawled Larry the Bat, “Some of youse dicks ain’t trustworthy.”

“Look here!” Meighan burst out. “This is a hell of a note! What—”

“Youse shut yer face!” Jimmie Dale’s voice had grown suddenly cold and menacing—the stairs were creaking again, this time under a quick tread. “Listen! Say, youse don’t have ter wait long fer de curtain, ter go up on de act. Don’t youse make a sound!”

The doorknob turned. Jimmie Dale whipped his flashlight into his pocket—and in a flash, as a man entered, switched on the light, and slammed shut the door. A dapper individual, wearing tortoise-rimmed glasses, with black moustache and goatee, was staring into the muzzle of Jimmie Dale’s automatic.

“Hello, Frenchy!” observed Larry the Bat suavely. “Feelin’ faint?”

The man’s face had gone a chalky white. He looked wildly around him, as though seeking some avenue of escape.

Mon Dieu!” he whispered. “Larree ze Bat! It is ze Gray Seal! It is—”

“Aw, cut out dat parlay-voo dope!” Larry the Bat broke in curtly. “Youse don’t need ter pull dat stuff wid me, Virat. Talk New York, see?”

Virat moistened his lips with the tip of his tongue.

“What do you want here?” he asked huskily.

“Oh, nothin’ much,” said Larry the Bat airily. “I thought mabbe youse might figure dere was some of dem bonds comin’ ter me.”

“Bonds! I don’t know anything about any bonds,” said Virat, in a low voice. “I don’t know what you are talking about.’

“You don’t—eh?” inquired Larry the Bat ominously. “Well den, I’ll help ter put youse wise. But mabbe I’d better get yer gun first, eh?” As he had done to Meighan, he removed a revolver from Virat’s pocket. “T’anks!” he said. He pushed Virat with his revolver muzzle toward the table, and forced the other into a chair. He sat down opposite Virat, and smiled unpleasantly. “Now den, come across! Youse croaked de Magpie ter-night!”

“You’re dippy!” sneered Virat. “I haven’t seen the Magpie in a month.”

“An’ dat’s what youse did it wid.” Larry the Bat, as though he had not heard the other’s denial, reached into his pocket, and shoved a small, murderous, bloodstained blackjack, the leather-covered piece of lead pipe that he had found beneath the washstand, suddenly across the table under Virat’s eyes.

With a sharp cry, staring, Virat shrank back.

“Sure! Now youse’re talkin’!” approved Larry the Bat complacently. “But dat ain’t all. Say, youse have got a gall! Youse thought youse’d plant me, did youse, wid dat gray seal on de Magpie’s boot!” Jimmie Dale’s voice was deadly cold again. “Well, what about dat?”

“What do you want?” mumbled Virat.

Jimmie Dale’s smile was not inviting.

“I told youse once, didn’t I? What do youse suppose I want! If I got ter fall fer it, I want some of dem bonds—dat’s what I want!”

A look of relief spread over Virat’s face.

“All right,” he said hurriedly. “I—that’s—that’s fair. I—I’ll get them for you.” He started up from his chair, his eyes travelling instinctively toward the door.

“Youse sit down!” invited Larry the Bat coldly.

“But—but you said—I—I was going to get them,” faltered Virat.

“Sure!” said Larry the Bat. “Dat’s de idea! An’, say, I’m in a hurry. Dey ain’t over dere, Frenchy—try nearer home!”

Virat’s hands trembled as he unbuttoned his vest. He reached around under the back of his vest, drew out a flat package, and laid it on the table. He began to untie the cord.

“Wait a minute!” said Larry the Bat pleasantly. “I ain’t in so much of a hurry now dat I got me lamps on ‘em! Youse can count ‘em out after—half for youse, an’ half fer me. Tell us how youse fixed de lay.”

And then, for the first time, Virat laughed, though still a little nervously.

“Yes, that’s square,” he agreed eagerly. “I—I was afraid you were going to pinch them all. I’ll tell you. It was easy. I piped the Magpie off to a chap named Kenleigh having the bonds up there in his rooms in an apartment house. I couldn’t crack Kenleigh’s safe myself, but it was nuts for the Magpie—see? He cracked the safe. I was with him, and I copped that near-diamond pin of his, and left it there so there wouldn’t be any guessing as to who pulled off the job, and then we beat it back to his place to divide—and I beaned him. I wasn’t looking into any gun then, and handing over fifty thousand—and besides, with the Magpie out of the way, I had some alibi.” Virat laughed shortly. “That’s where you come in. Everybody knew you had it in for him. All I had to do was—well, what you said I did. If you hadn’t tumbled to it, and I’m damned if I can see how you did, there wasn’t anything to it at all. It was open and shut that the Magpie pinched the swag, and that you croaked him and beat it with the bonds.”

“Say,” said Larry the Bat admiringly, “youse’re some slick gazabo, youse are! But how did youse know dat guy Kenleigh had de goods?”

“That’s none of your business, is it?” replied Virat, a little defiantly. “You’re getting yours now.”

Larry the Bat appeared to ponder the other’s words, a curious smile on his lips.

“Well, mabbe it ain’t,” he admitted. “Let it go anyway, an’ split the swag. Count ‘em out!”

Virat picked up the package again, and began to untie it—and again Jimmie Dale’s hand slipped into his pocket. And then, quick as the winking of an eye, as Virat’s hands came together over a knot, Jimmie Dale leaned across the table, there was a click, and the steel were locked on the other’s wrists.

There was a scream of fury, an oath from Virat.

“Dat’s yer cue, Meighan,” called Larry the Bat calmly. “Come out an’ take a look at him!”

A ghastly pallor spreading over his face, staring like a demented man, as Meighan, rising from behind the lounging chair, advanced toward the table, Virat huddled back in his seat.

“Know him?” inquired Larry the Bat.

The detective bent sharply forward.

“My god!” he exclaimed. “It’s—no, it can’t—”

“Mabbe,” murmured Larry the Bat, “youse’d know him better when he ain’t dolled up.” He swept the glasses from Virat’s nose, and wrenched away the black moustache and goatee.

“Kenleigh!” gasped Meighan.

“Mabbe,” said Larry the Bat, with a twisted grin, “dere’s somethin’ he may have fergotten ter wise youse up on, but he didn’t mean ter hide nothin’ in his confession—did youse, Frenchy? An’ mabbe dere’s one or two other things in de years he’s been playin’ Kenleigh dat he’ll tell youse about, if youse ask him—nice and pleasant-like!”

Larry the Bat edged around the table, and, covering Meighan with his revolver, backed to the door.

“Well, so long, Meighan!” he said softly, from the threshold. “T’ink of me when dey pins de medal on yer breast fer dis!”

And then Jimmie Dale laid Meighan’s revolver down on the floor of the room, and locked the door on the outside with a pick-lock, and went down the stairs.

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