It seemed to Jimmie Dale that, in the darkness, the room was full of unseen devils laughing and jeering derisively at him. It seemed that reality did not exist; that only unreality prevailed. The Magpie—dead! It seemed for the moment that he had utterly lost his grip upon himself; that mentally he was being tossed helplessly about, the sport of fate. The Magpie—dead! It meant—what did it mean? He must think now, and think quickly. It meant, first of all, that any hope for the Tocsin which he had built upon the Magpie was shattered, gone forever. And it meant, that gray seal on the sole of the dead man’s boot, that the murder had been committed with even greater cunning and finesse, and an even greater security for the murderer, than he had attributed to the Magpie a moment since, when he had thought the Magpie the instigator, and not the victim, of the crime.

He was examining the wound, searching for the weapon—it must have been a blunt instrument of some sort—with which the blow, or blows, had been struck. There was nothing. The Magpie lay there—dead. That was all.

Mechanically Jimmie Dale replaced the bed in its original position over the murdered man, and stood staring down again at the gray seal on the Magpie’s boot. It was not why the Magpie had been murdered, it was who had murdered him! Once, long, long ago, almost at the outset of the Gray Seal’s career, a spurious gray seal had been used before. But this was a vastly different, and far more significant matter. Then it had been an attempt to foist the identity of the Gray Seal upon a poor, miserable devil in order to secure a reward—here it was a crime, murder, coolly, callously laid to the Gray Seal, that the guilty man might escape without a breath of suspicion. Just another crime credited to the Gray Seal! No one would dispute it; no one would question it; no one would dream that it had been done by any one other than the Gray Seal. There was a brutal possibility about the ingenuity of the man who had struck the blow. It was the Magpie who had put his finger upon Larry the Bat as the Gray Seal; it was the Magpie who had tried to accomplish the Gray Seal’s death. Would it, then, occasion even surprise that the Magpie should be found murdered in his own den at the hands of the Gray Seal? It was even his own argument, the very reason that had led him to assume the role of Larry the Bat, and had brought him here to the Magpie’s to-night!

Jimmie Dale bent down for a closer inspection of the diamond-shaped gray seal on the boot’s sole. It was not one of his own; but it was so similar that it would unquestionably pass muster. The red crept to Jimmie Dale’s cheeks and burned there, as a sudden, merciless anger swept upon him. Who was the man who had done this, who sheltered himself from murder behind the Gray Seal!

He laughed low and bitterly. Only another crime attributed to the Gray Seal! It would not smirch the Gray Seal any—the Gray Seal had been accused of worse than this! But the man who had dared to place that gray seal there would answer for it!

He was still laughing in that low, bitter way, as he knelt now, and took out his pocketknife. The gray seal, at least, would not be found—he was lucky there—he had only to scrape it off, and—No—wait! Would it not be better to leave it there? It would throw the murderer off his guard if he believed that his plan had worked; and it could make little difference to the Gray Seal’s record to be held guilty of another murder—temporarily. Temporarily! Yes, that was it! Here was one crime of which the Gray Seal would be vindicated, and the guilty man be—


It seemed to quiver, low-breathed, through the darkness—his name. His name! Was he bereft of all his senses! His name! Here in this horrible murder hole! Was he indeed mad with his imaginings, with these voices that had been whispering, and laughing, and jeering at him out of the blackness! And, absurdly, it had seemed this time that it was the Tocsin’s voice!

“Jimmie—quick! On the floor under the window!”

He whirled like a flash. Mistake! Imaginings! No! It was the Tocsin! It was her voice! The gleam of his flashlight cut the black, and, leaping across the room, played upon the small, narrow, oblong window—it was from there the voice had come. But it was only black and empty there. And around the room his flashlight swept, and it was black and empty there, too—except for a square, white object upon the floor below the window. She was gone.

And it was like a half sob that came from Jimmie Dale’s lips.

“Gone!” he whispered miserably. “Gone!”

Why had she gone like that? Why had she not waited—just for a moment, just for the single instant, if he could have had no more, that he would have given his life to have? And the answer was in his soul. He knew, and he, knew that she, too, knew, that it would not have been moment or an instant—that he would never have let her go again. And to follow her? He shook his head. By the time he had climbed out of the window, what trace, any more than there was now, would there of her! She was gone—a sort of finality in her act, as there always was, that left nothing to be done, or said.

But the note! That white thing there upon the floor! He crossed the room, picked it up, tore it open, and, with his flashlight upon it, began to read.

“Jimmie—Jimmie—” It was scrawled in haste, only a few lines. His eyes travelled rapidly over the words, and suddenly his breath came fast.

“My God!” he cried out sharply.

As though he could not have read aright, he read again; disjointed words and phrases muttered audibly: “... Afraid not in time ... hurry ... this afternoon ... the Magpie and Virat ... Kenleigh, insurance broker ... safe in Kenleigh’s house ... ground floor—left ... one hundred thousand dollars ... bonds ... will try it ... Meighan of headquarters ... half-past one at Virat’s ... Gray Seal ... Larry the Bat ... if dangerous, keep away ...”

One glance around the room Jimmie Dale gave instinctively; and then he was crawling through the window, and, outside, regaining his feet, he darted across the yard, and out into the lane. Kenleigh, the insurance broker—he repeated the address she had given in the note over to himself. It was an apartment house on Avenue near Washington Square.

He ran on, as he had come, through lane and alley, working his way out of the Bad Lands. It was dangerous, of coarse, in any case, but once clear of that section of the city which houses the underworld, his risk of discovery was greatly minimised, since, though familiar to every denizen of gangland, Larry the Bat was naturally not the same intimate figure in the more law-abiding and respectable districts; and he should, except for an extraordinary piece of bad luck, pass in the quarters he was now heading for as no more than exactly what his appearance proclaimed him to be—a disreputable and seedy vagrant.

It was slow work, hurry as he would, doubling and zigzagging his way up through the East Side; discouraging, when time was so great a factor, to cover three and four times the actual distance in order to keep to the lanes and alleys whose shelter he dared not leave; but he was spurred on now by a sort of grim, unholy joy. He knew now who had murdered the Magpie, and why; he knew now who was making a tool, a cat’s-paw of the Gray Seal; he knew now who had so cynically elected him, if caught, as a substitute for the other to the electric chair. It was Virat! Frenchy Virat, the suave, sleek gambler, confidence man and crook! Well, the game was of Virat’s choosing—and they would play it out now to the end, Virat and the Gray Seal, if it was the last act of his, Jimmie Dale’s, life! It was only a question now of whether or not Virat had completed all his work, of whether there was yet time to get to Kenleigh’s.

It was close to midnight, as Jimmie Dale came out on Washington Square. He crossed to Waverly Place, and, on the point of starting along Fifth Avenue, drew suddenly back around the corner. A man, walking rapidly, was just turning into Fifth Avenue from the opposite corner. Jimmie Dale drew in his breath sharply. He had got out of sight just in time. He recognised the quick, springy walk of the other. It was Meighan, of Headquarters. And then Jimmie Dale smiled a little whimsically. They were both bound for the same place, he and Meighan, of Headquarters—Kenleigh’s apartment, that was a little way further on there along the Avenue.

A short distance behind the other, but on the opposite side of the street, Jimmie Dale followed the detective. There was hardly any use now in going to Kenleigh’s, for, if the detective was really bound for there, it made his, Jimmie Dale’s, errand useless—the summoning of the Headquarters’ man was prima facie evidence that the robbery had already been committed. And yet a certain grim curiosity remained. Just how had it been done? And besides, she had said, “half-past one at Virat’s,” so there was time to spare. The distorted lips of Larry the Bat thinned ominously. No; it was not useless even now. He had a very strong personal interest in all that had taken place—Virat would be the less likely to slip through his fingers, or through the fingers of the law, for the information that the scene of the robbery might supply!

Meighan disappeared suddenly inside an apartment house, which Jimmie Dale recognised as a rather fashionable one, devoted exclusively to bachelors’ quarters, Jimmie Dale quickened his step, walked on to the next corner, crossed the street, and came back along the block. As he approached the apartment-house entrance, voices reached him from the vestibule, and then he heard the closing of a door.

“Ground floor—left,” murmured Larry the Bat to himself. He smiled facetiously. “Saves an interview with the janitor!”

He glanced sharply around him in all directions—and the next instant was inside the vestibule—and in another, without a sound, was crouched close against the apartment door. A delicate little steel picklock was working now, the deft fingers manipulating it silently, and then stealthily he pushed the door open a crack. A man’s voice, agitated, came to him from within: “... Perhaps twenty minutes, I don’t know—the length of time it took you to get here. I was dining out. I ‘phoned Headquarters the instant I came in.”

Jimmie Dale pushed the door further open, slipped through, and left the door just ajar behind him. He was in the hallway of a very small apartment, of not more than two or three rooms, he judged. Diagonally ahead of him a light streamed out from an open door. He stole toward this, and, pressed close against the jamb of the door, peered in.

It was a sort of sitting-room, or den, cosily furnished with deep, comfortable lounging chairs. There was a flat-topped desk in the centre, a telephone on the desk; and at the rear of the room a connecting door, leading presumably to the bedroom, was open. A clean-shaven, dark-eyed man of perhaps thirty-five, Kenleigh obviously, was pacing nervously up and down. His face was pale, his hair ruffled; and, in his distraction, apparently, he had forgotten to remove the cloak which he was wearing over his evening clothes. In the far corner of the room, Meighan, the detective, knelt upon the floor amidst a scene of grotesque disorder. The door of a very small safe had been “souped,” and now sagged open. Books and papers littered the floor, and were strewn over a mattress that, evidently dragged from the inner room, had been swaddled around the safe to deaden the sound of the explosion.

“You don’t understand!” Kenleigh burst out, with a groan. “This means absolute ruin to me! A hundred thousand dollars in bonds—payable to bearer—and—and, God help me, they weren’t mine!”

“Say”—Meighan, still busily occupied with the fractured safe, spoke gruffly, though not unkindly, over his shoulder—“I understand all right, but don’t lose your nerve, Mr. Kenleigh. It won’t get you anywhere, and it doesn’t follow because the swag is gone that we can’t get it back. I know the guy that pulled this job.”

“You—what!” Kenleigh, his face lighting up as though with a sudden hope, stepped quickly toward the detective. “What did you say? You know who did it!”

“Don’t get excited!” advised Meighan coolly. “Sure, I know! That is, it’s a toss-up between one of two, and that’s easy. We’ll round ‘em both up before morning, and then I guess it won’t be much of a trick to pick the winner. They won’t be looking for trouble as quick as this. We’ll get ‘em, all right. It’s a toss-up between Mug Garretty and the Magpie.”

Kenleigh was staring incredulously at the detective.

“How do you know?” he gasped out. “I—I don’t—”

“I daresay you don’t.” Meighan was chuckling now. “It’s like this, Mr. Kenleigh. A crook’s like any one else, like an artist, say—you get to know ‘em, get to spot ‘em, especially safe workers, from certain peculiarities about their work. They can’t any more help it than stop breathing. Here, for instance, the way he—” Meighan stopped suddenly. He had been pulling the mattress away from the front of the safe, and now, with a sharp, exultant exclamation, he stooped quickly and picked up a small object from the floor. He held it out, twirling It between thumb and forefinger, for Kenleigh’s inspection—a flashy scarf pin, horseshoe-shaped, of blatantly imitation diamonds.

Kenleigh shook his head bewilderingly.

“I suppose you mean that you recognise it?” he ventured.

“Recognize it!” Meighan laughed low, and, stepping past Kenleigh to the desk, picked up the telephone, and called Headquarters. “Recognise it!” With the receiver to his ear, waiting for his connection, he turned toward Kenleigh. “Why, say, walk over to the Bowery and show it to the first person you meet, and he’d call the turn. Pretty, isn’t it? When he’s dolled up, he’s some—hello!” He swung around to the telephone. “Headquarters?... Meighan speaking from Kenleigh’s apartment... Get a drag out for the Magpie on the jump.... Eh?... Yes!... Left his visiting card.... What?... Yes, wound a mattress around the box and souped it; his scarf pin must have caught in the ticking and pulled out.... Sure, that’s the one—the horseshoe—found it on the floor.... What?... Yes, the chances are ten to one he will, it’s his only play.... All right, I’ll get Mr. Kenleigh’s story meanwhile.... I’ll be here till you 'phone.... Yes.... All right!”

Meighan hung up the receiver, sat down in a chair, and motioned toward another that was close alongside the desk.

“Turn out the light, Mr. Kenleigh,” he said abruptly; “and sit down here.”

Kenleigh looked his amazement.

“Turn out the light?” he repeated perplexedly.

“Yes,” Meighan nodded. “And at once, please.”

Obeying mechanically, Kenleigh moved toward the electric-light switch. There was a faint click, and the apartment was in darkness. Came then the sound of Kenleigh making his way back across the room, and settling himself in the chair beside the detective.

“I—I don’t quite see,” said Kenleigh, a little nervously. “I—”

“You will in a minute,” interrupted Meighan, in a low voice. “Don’t make any noise now, and don’t speak much above a whisper. That little glass stick pin is worth twenty years to the Magpie. See? When he finds that he has lost it, he’ll take any risk to make sure that he didn’t lose it here. Get the idea? It would plant him for keeps, and nobody knows it any better than he does.”

“You mean he’ll come back here?” whispered Kenleigh eagerly.

Meighan chuckled.

“Sure, he’ll come back here—if he isn’t nabbed beforehand! It’s the only chance he’s got. Don’t you worry, Mr. Kenleigh. He’s a shy bird, is the Magpie, or he’d have been up the river long before now, but we’ve got him coming and going this deal. Now then, I haven’t got the details from you yet. What time this evening did you get back here before you went out to dine?”

It was quite dark now, and Jimmie Dale leaned forward a little to catch the words. Both men were speaking in guarded undertones.

“About six o’clock,” Kenleigh answered. “I came straight from the office. I put the bonds in that safe there, and I should say it was a quarter to seven by the time I had dressed and gone out again.”

“And, say, halfpast eleven when you got back. So some time between seven o’clock and halfpast eleven, Mr. Magpie got into the courtyard, put a jimmy at work on the bathroom window beyond the bedroom there, got busy—more likely to be nearer eleven than seven—he would have been back before now, otherwise, eh?” Meighan seemed to be communing with himself, rather than talking to Kenleigh. “Wouldn’t make such an awful noise—didn’t need much juice on that safe—pretty slick with the smother game—didn’t raise an item, anyway.”

There was silence for a moment. Then Meighan spoke again:

“Let’s have your story, Mr. Kenleigh. How did you come to bring a hundred thousand dollars’ worth of bonds home with you? And how did the Magpie get onto the lay?”

“I don’t know, unless he stood in with the bond firm’s messenger; that’s the only way in which I could account for it,” said Kenleigh huskily. “And I’ve no right to say that God knows I’ve no wish to get an innocent man into trouble. I’ve no proof—but I can’t see any other solution.” Kenleigh’s voice broke. He seemed to steady himself with an effort. “I’m an insurance broker with an office on Wall Street, as I daresay you know. A client of mine, a well-known millionaire here in the city, wanted a hundred thousand dollars’ worth of the Canadian War Loan bonds, but for business reasons, he has a large German connection, he did not want his name to appear in the transaction.” Kenleigh hesitated.

“Sure!” said Meighan. “I see. Wise guy! Go on!”

“He commissioned me to get them for him.” Kenleigh’s voice was agitated as he continued. “I telephoned Thorpe, LeLand and Company, the brokers, where I was personally known, explained the circumstances, and placed the order. My client was to give me a check for the amount on the delivery of the bonds to him. I was to place this to my own credit in the bank, and check against it in favour of Thorpe, LeLand and Company. They sent the bonds over to my office by a messenger about five o’clock this afternoon. It was too late to put them in a safe-deposit vault. I locked them first in my office safe, and then I grew nervous about them, and took them out again.”

“Anybody see you do that?” queried Meighan quickly.

“No; I don’t see how they could. I’ve only a small one-room office, and there was nobody there but myself.”

“And so they kind of got your goat, and you figured the safest thing to do was to bring them home with you?” suggested Meighan.

“Yes.” There was a miserable note of dejection in Kenleigh’s voice. “Yes; that’s what I did. And I put them in that safe. You know the rest, and—and, oh, my God, what am I to do! My client, naturally, won’t pay for what he does not receive, and I owe Thorpe, LeLand and Company a hundred thousand dollars.” He laughed out a little hysterically. “A hundred thousand dollars! It sounds like a joke, doesn’t it? I’ve got a little money, all I’ve been able to save in ten years’ work, a few thousand. I’m ruined.”

“Don’t talk so loud!” cautioned Meighan. He whistled low under his breath. “You’re certainly up against it, Mr. Kenleigh, but you buck up! We’ll get ‘em. And, anyway, bonds can be traced.”

“These are payable to bearer,” said Kenleigh numbly. “There were three classes of bonds in this issue—those payable to bearer; those registered as to principal; and those fully registered, that is where the interest is paid by government check instead of the bonds having coupons. Naturally, under the circumstances, it was the 'payable-to-bearer’ bonds that my client wanted.”

“Well, they’re numbered, aren’t they?” Meighan returned encouragingly.

“That’s poor consolation for me,” said Kenleigh bitterly. “Suppose some of them, or even all of them, were recovered that way in time—where do I stand to-morrow morning?”

“I guess that’s right—if the Magpie ever got a chance to hand them over to some fence,” admitted Meighan. “The fence could dispose of them by the underground route all over the country where the numbers weren’t staring everybody in the face. Yes, I guess they could cash in, all right. Or it wouldn’t be much of a trick for a good plate-worker to alter a number or two, either—the game’s big enough. But”—Meighan chuckled again—“he hasn’t got away with it yet!”

Kenleigh made no answer.

It was still again in the apartment. Through the darkness only a few feet away from Jimmie Dale, the two men sat there silently, waiting, as he had waited, in the darkness, and the silence—for the Magpie. There seemed an abhorrent, gruesome analogy in the situation—this waiting for a murdered man to come!

The minutes dragged by, ten, fifteen of them. And now Jimmie Dale, cramped though he was, dared not shift his position; the movement of a foot, the slightest stir would be heard. It would have been better if he had gone before they had ceased talking. He had heard enough long before then, and yet—

Suddenly, startling, like the clash of an alarm bell through the silence, the telephone rang. Jimmie Dale heard Meighan fumble for the receiver; and then, as the other spoke, seizing the opportunity, he began to retreat stealthily back across the hallway toward the vestibule door.

“Hello!” Meighan’s voice was still guarded. “Yes—yes ... What!” His voice rose suddenly in a rasping cry. “What’s that! Dead! Murdered! Wait a minute! Kenleigh, they’ve found the Magpie murdered in his room!”

“Murdered!” cried Kenleigh; then, frantically: “But the bonds, the bonds! Did they find the bonds? Ask them! Tell them to look! The bonds! Are the bonds there?”

“Hello!” Meighan was evidently speaking into the ‘phone again. “Any trace of the bonds? ... What? ... Yes, yes; go on, I’m listening! ... Who? ... What?... Good Lord!” The receiver clicked back on its hook.

“What is it? What do they say?” demanded Kenleigh feverishly.

“Mr. Kenleigh,” said Meighan soberly, “there’s been a little feud on in the underworld for the last few months. It came to a showdown to-night, and the man that won played in luck—he’s killed two birds with one stone, I guess. It looks damned black for your bonds, I’m afraid.”

“They’re—they’re gone?” faltered Kenleigh.

“Yes—and for keeps, I guess,” said Meighan gruffly. He laughed shortly, mirthlessly. “You can turn the light on now; we’d wait a long time here—for the Gray Seal!”

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