It held for the fraction of a second, that light—no more. It travelled upward past the face, as though the Wolf were holding it above his head to get his bearings; and then, with a sharp and furious oath, the match was hurled to the floor, there was a scuffling sound—and then silence again.

Jimmie Dale’s automatic was thrust a little forward in his hand, as he crouched against the wall. He could have shot the man, as the other stood in the doorway. The Wolf had offered a target that it would have been hard to miss—and it would, one day, have saved the law the same task! He was a fool, perhaps, that he had not taken what was, perhaps again, the one chance he had for his life, for he was at a decided disadvantage now, since he knew intuitively that the Wolf, scuttling back, had now craftily protected himself behind the jamb of the door, and yet at the same time still commanded the interior of the room. But he could not have fired in cold blood like that—even upon the Wolf, devil though the man was, murderer a dozen times over though he the man to be! He, Jimmie Dale, had never shot to kill not yet—but in a fight, cornered, if there was no other way...!

He moved a little, a bare few inches, then a few more—without a sound. In the light of the match, the Wolf must have seen the dismantled panelling and the open safe, and a masked figure crouched against the wall—and the Wolf would have marked the position of that crouched figure against the wall!

Silence—a minute of it—still another!

Again Jimmie Dale moved inch by inch—toward the window. And yet to attempt the window was to invite a shot and expose himself, for, dark as it was, his body would show plainly enough against the background of that lesser gloom of window square.

Jimmie Dale’s eyes strained through the blackness across the room. He could just make out the configuration of the doorway. The Wolf was just on the other side of it, just inside the kitchen, he was sure of that. Almost a smile was flickering over Jimmie Dale’s tight-pressed lips. There was a way—there was a way now, if the Wolf did not get him with a chance shot. He moved again, and reached the window, crouched low beneath the sill—and passed by the window.

And then the Wolf spoke from the doorway in a hoarse whisper, and in the whisper there was a low, taunting laugh.

“I been waitin’ for you to try the window, but you’re too foxy—eh? All right, my bucko—then I’ll get you another way—with just one shot, see? And then—good-night! And say, whoever t’hell you are, thanks for crackin’ the box for me!”

The man’s voice came from the right of the doorway—and the door opened inward—and he, Jimmie Dale, remembered that he had opened it wide. It was slow, very slow, this creeping inch by inch through the darkness. It seemed as though his breath were as stertorous as that breathing from above, and that the Wolf must hear.

And then the Wolf laughed low again.

There was a curious crackling noise, as of paper being torn—and then, quick, in the doorway, came a yellow flame, and the Wolf’s hand showed from around the edge of the jamb, and, making momentary daylight of the room, a flaming piece of paper, tossed in, fell upon the floor.

There was a flash, the roar of the report—and another—as the Wolf fired! There was the sullen spat of a bullet upon the panelling an inch from Jimmie Dale’s head—and a sharp and sudden pain, as though a hot iron had seared his leg.

And now Jimmie Dale’s automatic, too, cut flashes with its vicious flame-tongues through the black. Coolly, steadily, he was firing at the doorway—to hold the Wolf there—to keep the Wolf now in the position of the Wolf’s own choosing. The paper was but a dull cinder in the centre of the room; twisted too tightly, it had gone out almost immediately.

There came screams, loud, terrified, in a woman’s voice from the floor above—and the hoarser tones of a man shouting. A window was flung open. Snarling blasphemous, furious oaths, the Wolf was firing at the flashes of Jimmie Dale’s revolver—but each time as Jimmie Dale fired, the sound drowned in the roar of the report, he moved a good yard forward.

Came the trampling of feet from overhead now; and now, as the woman still screamed, answering shouts and yells came from the dance hall. Jimmie Dale had the foot of the bed now near the corner. He again, and instantly flung himself flat upon the floor—and, in the answering flash of the Wolf’s shot, placed the exact location of the door itself. There was tumult enough now to deaden the slight sound he made. He crept swiftly past the bed to the wall, against which the door, wide open, was swung back, felt out with his hand, the edge of the door, and, leaping suddenly to his feet, hurled the door shut upon the Wolf. There was a scream of pain—the door as it slammed perhaps had caught the Wolf’s arm or wrist—but before it was opened again Jimmie Dale was across the room, and, flinging himself through the window, dropped to the ground.

The door crashing back against the wall again, the Wolf’s baffled yell of rage, and an abortive shot, told him that his ruse had been solved. He was running now, as rapidly as he could in the darkness and in the narrow space between the Spider’s house and the wall of the brick building. Yells in increasing volume sounded from the direction of “The Yellow Lantern”; and now he could hear the pound of feet racing across the courtyard toward the antique shop. The woman, from the open window above, was still screaming with terror.

If he could gain the door in the fence—and the lane! But there was still the Wolf to reckon with! The Wolf had only to run through the kitchen and out by the back entrance—the shorter distance of the two. But the Wolf had already lost a few seconds so that now the race was a gamble. Could he, Jimmie Dale, get there first! He could not run in the other direction—that would take him into the courtyard, and the courtyard now, as evidenced by the yells and shouting, was filled with an excited crowd emptying from the dance hall.

He reached the rear end of the house, and darted across the wider space here, racing for the opening in the fence—and suddenly changed his tactics, and began to zigzag a little. A revolver flash cut the night. Came the Wolf’s howl from the back stoop, and, over his shoulder, Jimmie Dale saw the other, dark-shadowed, leap forward in pursuit—and heard the Wolf fire again.

He flung himself against the fence door, and it gave with a crash. Pandemonium reigned behind him. In a blur he saw the courtyard, that was dimly lighted now by the open doors and open windows of the dance hall, swaying with shapes, and, like ghostly figures, a mob tearing toward him down the alleyway.

The Wolf’s voice, punctuated with a torrent of blasphemy and vile invective, shrilled out over the tumult:

“Come on! Here he is! Out in the lane!”

“Who is it?” shrilled another voice.

“I don’t know!” yelled the Wolf. “Catch him, and we’ll damn soon find out!”

Jimmie Dale was running like a hare now down the lane. The Wolf leading, still firing, the crowd poured out into the lane in pursuit. Jimmie Dale zigzagged no longer, there was greater risk in that than in risking the shots—it was black enough in the lane to risk the shots; but his lead, barely twenty-five yards, was too short to risk their gaining upon him through his running from side to side.

His brain, cool in peril, worked swiftly. The Sanctuary! That was the one chance for his life! He had been no more than a masked figure huddled against the wall of the room in there. The Wolf had not recognised him. He would be safe if he could reach the Sanctuary! There were two blocks to go along the street ahead, then the next lane, and from that into the intersecting lane, the loose board in the fence that swung at a touch, the French window—and the Sanctuary. But to accomplish this he must gain upon his pursuers, not merely hold his own, but increase the distance between them by at least another fifteen or twenty yards; he must, in other words, be out of range of vision as he disappeared through the fence. Well, he should be able to do that! It was the trained athlete against an ill-conditioned, dissolute mob!

He swerved from the lane into the street. There was grim and hellish humour in the thought that a wolf should be leading the snarling, howling pack, blood mad now, at his heels! The Wolf had ceased firing—obviously because the Wolf’s revolver was empty. The others, a lesser breed, and previously intent on a peaceful orgy at the dance hall, were evidently not armed.

Jimmie Dale gained five yards, another five, and another ten. He had no fear of being recognised as Smarlinghue even here, where, poorly illuminated as the street was, it was like bright sunlight compared with the darkness of the lane. There was no stooped, bent figure, no slouching gait—there was, instead, a tall, broad-shouldered man, whose face was masked, and who ran with the speed of a greyhound, and whose automatic, spitting ahead of him as he ran, invited none of the few pedestrians, or those rushing to their doorways, to block his path.

He swerved again, into a lane again, the lane he had been making for; and, as he swerved, he flung a sidelong glance down the street. Yes, his twenty-five yards were fifty now, except for the Wolf, who ran perhaps ten yards in advance of any of the others. The howls, yells, shouts and execrations welled into a louder outburst as he dashed into the lane. Ten from fifty left forty. Forty yards clear! It was a very narrow margin, even allowing for the blackness of the lane—but it was enough—it was slightly more than the distance along the intersecting lane to the rear of the Sanctuary—he would have pushed aside that loose board before the Wolf turned the corner from one lane into the other!

Forty yards! Perhaps he could make it forty-five! Forty-five would be safer; and—he reeled suddenly, and staggered, and, with a low cry, his hands reached upward to his temples. His head was swimming—a dizziness, a nausea was upon him—his strength seemed as it were being sapped from his limbs. What was it? He—yes—the wound in his leg! Yes—he remembered now—that burning like the searing of a hot iron. He had forgotten it in the excitement. But it could not amount to anything—or he would not have been able to have come this far. It was only a passing giddiness—he was better now—see, he was still running—he had only slowed his pace for an instant—that was all.

They swept into the lane behind him. He looked back—and his lips grew tight, and bitter hard. It was no longer forty yards—he was not running so fast now—and it was the Wolf, and the Wolf’s pack, who were gaining.

He swerved for the third time—into the stretch of intersecting lane. The Sanctuary was just ahead, but he must reach that loose board in the fence and have disappeared before the Wolf swung around the corner behind him—or else—or else, since that led to nowhere to the French window of Smarlinghue’s room, the game was as good as up if he attempted it!

He strained forward, striving to mass his strength and fling it into one supreme effort. He was close now—only another five yards to go. Yes—he was weak. His teeth set. Four yards—three! If only there were not that glimmer of light, faint as it was, seeping down the lane from the street lamp across the road from the Sanctuary! Two yards—now! No! The Wolf’s yell, as the man tore around the corner of the two lanes, rang out like a knell of doom.

Drawn, white-faced, Jimmie Dale, stumbling now, lurched past that loose board he had counted upon for what was literally his life—lurched past, and stumbled on. He could not run much farther. There was one chance left—just one—that there should be no one to see him enter the front door of the Sanctuary, no one lounging about, no one in the tenement doorway. If that chance failed—well, then it was the end—the end of Smarlinghue, the end of Jimmie Dale, the end of Larry the Bat, the end of the Gray Seal—and the Wolf would have kept his pledge to gangland. But it would be an end that gangland would long remember, and an end that the Wolf would share!

The street was just before him now. He turned into it—and there came a little cry, a moan almost, of relief. The doorway of the tenement was clear. He sprang for it, entered, and, suddenly silent now in his tread, reached the door of his own room, slipped through and closed it softly behind him.

And now Jimmie Dale worked with frantic speed. He could hear them racing, yelling, shouting along the lane. A match crackled in his hand, and the gas-jet spluttered into flame—the light in the room could not be seen from the lane. He ran across the room, tearing off his mask as he went, and, wrenching the cash-box from his pocket, tucked mask and cash-box behind the disordered array of dirty canvases on the floor—he dared not take the risk or the time that loosening the base board would entail. He flung his hat into a corner, and, ripping off his coat, tossed it upon the cot; then, snatching up a paint tube, he smeared a daub of paint upon the palette that lay on the table, and laid a wet brush hurriedly several times across the canvas on the easel.

From the corner of the lane and street outside came the scuffling to and fro of many feet, as though in uncertainty, in indecision, in hesitancy. A dozen voices spoke at once, high-pitched, wild, frenzied.

“Where is he?... Which way did he go?... Where—”

And then the Wolf’s voice, above the rest, in a sudden, excited yell:

“What’s that across there! It’s him! There he is! He’s kept on up the lane! He’s—”

The voice was lost in a chorus of shouts, in the pound and stampede of racing feet again, of the pack in cry. The sounds receded and died in the distance. Jimmie Dale drew his hand across his forehead and brought it away damp with sweat. He staggered now to the wash-stand, and from the drawer took out a bottle of brandy, and, heedless of glass, uncorked it, and lifted it to his lips. He would never know a closer call! He had been weaker than he had thought! Thank God for the brandy! The fiery stimulant was whipping the blood in his veins into life again, and—the bottle was still held to his lips, but he was no longer drinking. His eyes were on the washstand’s mirror. He heard no sound, but in the mirror he saw the door of his room open, close again, and, leaning with his back against it—the Wolf!

Not a muscle of Jimmie Dale’s face moved. He allowed another gulp of brandy to gurgle noisily down his throat. The cool, alert, keen brain was at work. It was certain that the Wolf had at no time that night recognised him as Smarlinghue. The Wolf, therefore, at worst, could be no more than gambling on the chance that the object of the chase had taken refuge here in the tenement, and, naturally enough then, was beginning his investigation with the ground floor room. And yet, why then had the Wolf, deliberately in that case, sent his pack off on a false scent? In the mirror he could see that huge jaw outthrust, the black eyes narrowed, an ugly leer on the working face—and a revolver in the Wolf’s hand that held a bead on his, Jimmie Dale’s, head.

It was “Smarlinghue,” the wretched, nervous, drug-wrecked creature that turned around—and, as though startled at the sight of the other, almost let the bottle fall from his hand.

“So it was you—eh—Smarlinghue! Curse you!” snarled the Wolf. “Come out here, and stand in the centre of the room!”

Smarlinghue cringed. He put down the bottle with a trembling hand, and slouched forward.

“I ain’t done nothing!” he whined.

“No, you ain’t done a thing—except crack a box and pinch about ten thousand dollars’ worth of sparklers!” The Wolf’s face, if possible, was more ugly in its threat than before.

Smarlinghue, in a sort of stupefied amazement, stared around the room—as though he expected to see a gleaming heap of diamonds leap into sight somewhere before him. He shook his head helplessly.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he mumbled. “I—I heard a row outside there a little while ago. Maybe that’s it.”

“Yes—mabbe it is!” sneered the Wolf viciously. “So you don’t know anything about it—eh? You’ve got a hell of a good memory, haven’t you! You don’t know anything about the Spider’s safe, or about a little fight in the Spider’s room, or about jumping out of the window, and beating it for here with the gang after you—no, you don’t! You never heard of it before—of course, you didn’t!”

Smarlinghue began to wring his hands nervously one over the other. He shook his head helplessly again.

“It wasn’t me!” He licked his lips. “Honest, it wasn’t me! I—I don’t know what you’re talking about. I ain’t been out of this room. Honest! Somebody’s trying to put me in wrong. I tell you, I ain’t been out of here all night. I—look!” With sudden, feverish eagerness, as though from an inspiration, he pointed to the paint brush, the palette, and the canvas on the easel. “Look! Look for yourself! You can see for yourself! I’ve been painting.”

And then the Wolf laughed—and it was not a pleasant laugh.

“Yes, you’ve been painting!” he jeered. “Sure, you have! I know that! Only you’ve been painting a damned sight more than you thought you were!”

The revolver muzzle covered Jimmie Dale steadily, unswervingly; in the Wolf’s face was malicious and sardonic mockery—but the Wolf’s eyes were no longer on Jimmie Dale’s face, they seemed curiously intent upon the floor at Jimmie Dale’s feet. Mechanically Jimmie Dale followed their direction—and his eyes, too, held on the floor. For a moment neither spoke. The game was up! His boot top was soaked with blood, and, trickling down the side of the boot, a little crimson stream was collecting in a pool upon the floor.

“You painted some of that on the doorstep!” The Wolf’s taunting laugh held a deadly menace. “And you painted a drop or two of it along the street as you ran. I thought when you bust away from the Spider’s and that cursed gang nosed in that I was going to lose out; but I figured that I had hit you, and I was keeping my eyes skinned to see. And then you commenced to do the drip act—savvy? I was still looking for it when I came out of the lane—you remember, Smarlinghue, don’t you?—you got your memory back, ain’t you?—that I was a bit ahead of the rest of ‘em? It didn’t take a second to spot that on the doorstep, and there’s some more of it in the hall. Damned queer, ain’t it—that it led right to Smarlinghue’s room!” The laugh was gone. The Wolf began to come forward across the room. The snarl was in his voice again. “You come across with those sparklers, and you come across—quick!”

But now Smarlinghue was like a crazed and demented creature, and he shook his fists at the Wolf.

“I won’t! I won’t!” he screamed. “You went there to do the same thing! I had as much right as you! And I got them—I got them! They said he had them there, they were all talking about them to-day, and I got them! I won! They’re mine now! I won’t give them to you! I won’t! I tell you, I won’t!”

“Won’t you?” The Wolf had reached Jimmie Dale, and one of the Wolf’s hands found and shook Jimmie Dale’s throat, while the revolver muzzle pressed hard against Jimmie Dale’s breast. “Oh, I guess you will! D’ye hear about a man being murdered to-day with his face cut up? Oh, you did—eh? Well, I happen to know that man was the Spider, and one of these days, mabbe, the police’ll tumble to who it was, too. Get me? Suppose I call some of that gang back, and show ‘em the painting you’ve done along the hall—eh? And then, by and by, when the bulls get wise, it’ll be yours for the juice route, not just a space or two for cracking a box! Get me again?”

Smarlinghue, struggling weakly, pulled the other’s hand from his throat.

“You—you were there, too, at—at the Spider’s,” he choked craftily. “You’re—you’re in it as—as bad as I am.”

“Sure, I was there!” mocked the Wolf, and snatched at Jimmie Dale’s throat again. “Sure, I was there—everybody saw me! The Spider was a friend of mine, and everybody knows that, too. I was just going there to pay a pal a little visit—see? And that’s how I found you there—see? Anything wrong with that spiel? It’s a cinch, aint it?” The fingers closed tighter and tighter on Jimmie Dale’s throat. “And that’s enough talk—give me them sparklers!” He flung Jimmie Dale savagely away. “Get ‘em!”

Smarlinghue reeled backward in the direction of the disordered canvases on the floor. It was quite true! If the Wolf carried out his threat—which he most certainly would do if he did not get the diamonds for himself—Smarlinghue, and not the Wolf, would be held for the Spider’s murder. Jimmie Dale stooped, fumbled amongst the canvases, and produced the cash-box. Well, the diamonds would have to go, that was all—he had no choice left to him. But he was still “Smarlinghue,” still the half cowed, yet half defiant, pale-faced creature that shook with mingled rage and fear, as he turned again. He clutched the cash-box to him, as though loath to let it go; but, too, as though fascinated by the Wolf’s revolver, he moved reluctantly toward the Wolf, who now stood by the table.

Smarlinghue’s hands twined and twined over the box, caressing it in hideous greed and avarice; and he mumbled, and his lips worked.

“Half—give me half?” he whispered feverishly.

“I’ll give you—nothing!” snarled the Wolf.

“Half—give me a quarter then?” whimpered Smarlinghue.

Drop it!” The Wolf’s revolver jerked forward into Jimmie Dale’s face.

And then Smarlinghue screamed out in impotent rage, and, wrenching the cover of the cash-box open, flung the jewels in a glittering heap upon the table—and, dancing in demented fashion upon his toes, like a man gone mad, he hurled the cash-box in fury from him. It went through the canvas on the easel, and clattered to the floor.

The Wolf laughed.

But Smarlinghue had retreated now, and, crouched upon the cot, was mumbling through twisted lips.

And again the Wolf laughed, and, gathering up the jewels, dropped them into his pocket, and backed to the door. He stood there an instant, his eyes narrowed on Jimmie Dale.

“I got the stuff now”—he was snarling low, viciously—“and mabbe that puts it a little more up to me. But if you ever open your mug about this, I’ll do to you what I did to the Spider to-day—and if you want to know what that is, go and ask the police to let you have a look! D’ye understand?”

Came the brutal, taunting laugh again, and the door closed behind the Wolf, and his step died away along the passage, and rang an instant later on the pavement without.

It was a moment before Jimmie Dale moved—but into Smarlinghue’s distorted features there came a strange smile. He reeled a little from weakness, as he walked to the door, locked it, and, returning, stooped and picked up the cash-box from the floor. In the false bottom, the Tocsin had said. From the leather girdle came a sharp-pointed tool. He pried with it for an instant inside and around the bottom edges, and loosening a sheet of metal that fitted exactly to the edges of the box, lifted out from beneath it several folded sheets of paper. He glanced at the typewritten sheets, a curious, menacing gleam creeping into the dark eyes, then thrust the papers inside his shirt; and, dropping into a chair, unlaced and kicked off his blood-soaked boot.

He was very weak; he had lost, he must have lost, a great deal of blood—but there was something to do yet—still something to do. There was still—the Wolf!

He tore the sheet on the cot into strips, and washed and dressed his wound—a flesh wound, but bad enough, he saw, just above the knee. And then, this done, he took a damp piece of cloth, went to the door again, opened it, and looked out. There was neither any one in sight, nor any sound. The passage was murky; one gas-jet alone lighted it, and that was turned down. There were little spots, dark spots on the floor—but the Wolf had told him that. He passed his hand over his head—he was a little dizzy. Then slowly, laboriously, he removed the spots from the hallway—and one from the doorstep.

Back in his room once more, he locked the door again. A sense of utter exhaustion was stealing upon him—but there was still something yet to be done. Another gulp of brandy steadied him, steadied his head. He took the papers from his pocket and read them now. Here were the details, minute, exact, with the names of those involved, names of those who would squeal quickly enough to save themselves once they were in the clutches of the law, of two of the most famous murder mysteries that New York had known; the details of two, and, unfinished, the partial details of another. It was the evidence the police had long sought. It was the death sentence upon the Wolf—for murder.

Jimmie Dale’s face, very white now, was set and hard. The Spider had been too late—to save himself. Beginning to fear the Wolf, as the Tocsin had explained, he had begun to make a record of those days gone by, meaning to hold it over the Wolf’s head in self-protection, deposit it somewhere where it would come to light if any attack were made upon him—only the Wolf had struck before the Spider had finished all he had meant to write, before he had told any one or had warned the Wolf that the papers were in existence. Too late to save himself—and yet, if the Wolf still paid the penalty for murder, did it matter if he were convicted for the taking of another life than that of Spider Webb! It was like some grim, retributive proxy! The Spider, at least, had not been too late—for that!

For a moment longer, Jimmie Dale sat there, staring at the papers in his hand. They were unsigned, the Spider’s name nowhere appeared—the Spider had been crafty enough to deal only with crimes in which he had had no personal share. There was nothing, not even handwriting, as the papers now stood, to intimate that they had emanated from the Spider; and therefore, in their disclosure, there could be no suspicion in the Wolf’s mind that they bore any relation to this night’s work. Nor would the Wolf, tried for another crime, ever mention this night’s work. It would be the last thing the Wolf would do. The Wolf had double-crossed the underworld, and the underworld, if it found it out, would not easily forgive—and even in a death cell, clinging to the hope of commutation of sentence, the Wolf would never run the risk of his additional guilt of the Spider’s murder leaking out. The rôle of “Smarlinghue” in the underworld was safe.

And now Jimmie Dale’s lips twitched queerly. The papers were unsigned. He took from the leather girdle the thin metal box, the tweezers, and a diamond-shaped, adhesive, gray paper seal—and, holding the seal with the tweezers, he moistened it with his tongue, and pressed it down upon the lower sheet. It was signed now! Signed with a signature that the police—and the Wolf—knew well!

He rose unsteadily, and, taking the empty cash-box, loosened the base-board from the wall near the door, hid the cash-box away, and felt through the pockets of his evening clothes—there was a blank envelope there, he remembered, in which he had placed some memoranda—an envelope, and the little gold pencil in his dress waistcoat pocket. He found them, and, kneeling on the floor, printing the letters, he addressed the envelope to police headquarters, folded and placed the documents inside, and sealed the envelope.

He replaced the base-board, and stood up—but his hand caught at the wall to support himself.

“To-morrow,” said Jimmie Dale weakly—he was groping his way back across the room to the cot “I—I guess I’m all—all in—to-night.”

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