The “murder” of Slimmy Jack had evidently been discovered too late for the make-up of the early morning papers; but from the noon editions onward it had been flung across the front pages in glaring type—even the most stately journals, for the nonce aroused out of their dignified calm, indulging in “display” headlines that, quite apart from the mere text, could not but have startled their equally stately and dignified readers. The Gray Seal, the leech that fed upon society, the murderer, the thief, the menace to the lives and property of law-abiding citizens, the scourge that for years New York had combated in the no more effective fashion than that of gnashing its teeth in impotent fury, had suddenly reappeared with a fresh murder to his credit. And New York had thought him dead!

Jimmie Dale, leaning back on the seat of his limousine as the car, now halting at a corner, now racing with a hundred others to snatch a block or two of distance before the next monarchial traffic officer of Fifth Avenue should hold it up again a victim to the evening rush, turned from first one to another of the pile of papers beside him. His strong, clean-shaven face was grave; and there was a sober light in the dark, steady eyes. In the St. James Club, which he had just left, perhaps the most sedate, certainly the most exclusive club in New York, it had been the one topic of conversation. Elderly gentlemen, not usually given to excitability, had joined with the younger members in a hectic denunciation of the police as criminally inefficient, and had made dire and absurdly vain threats as to what they, electing themselves for the moment a supreme court of last resort, proposed to do under the circumstances. The irony was exquisite, if they had but known! Also there was the element of humour, only there was a grim tinge to the humour that robbed it of its mirth—some day they might know!

He glanced out of the window, as the car was held up again. Everybody in the crowd, that waited on the corners for the stream of traffic to pass, seemed to have their eyes glued to their newspapers—even Benson, his chauffeur, during the moment of inaction, was surreptitiously reading a paper which he had flattened out on the seat beside him!

Jimmie Dale’s eyes reverted to the newspaper in his hand, one of the most conservative. There was no mistaking the tenor of the leading article on the editorial page:

“It is not so much that a thug and criminal known as Slimmy Jack should have been murdered by another wretch of his own breed; indeed, that such should prey upon one another is far from being a matter of regret, for we might hope in time for the extermination of them all by the simple process of mutual attrition and at correspondingly little expense to ourselves—but that this so-called Gray Seal should still prove to be alive and at large is a matter that concerns every citizen personally. He does not confine his attentions to the Slimmy Jacks. The criminal records of the past few years reek with his acts, that run the gamut of every crime in the decalogue, crimes for the most part actuated apparently by no other motive than a monstrously innate thirst for notoriety—and the victims, for the most part, too, have been the innocent and the defenceless. What is the end of this to be? If the police cannot cope with this blood-mad ruffian, is New York to sit idly by and submit to another reign of terror instituted and carried on under the nose of authority by this inhuman jackal? If so, we are committing a crime against ourselves, we are insulting our intelligence, and—”

The man who had written that was a personal friend! Jimmie Dale threw the paper down, and picked up another, and after that another. They were pretty well all alike. They rehearsed the discovery of Larry the Bat as the Gray Seal; they rehearsed the story of the fire in the tenement of six months ago in which it was supposed that Larry the Bat had perished—they differed only in the virulence, a mere choice of words, with which they now demanded that this Larry the Bat, alias the Gray Seal, should be dug out like a rat from his hole, and the city be freed once and for all, and with no loophole for misadventure this time, of this “ogre of hell,” as one paper put it, that was gorging itself upon New York.

The furrows gathered on Jimmie Dale’s forehead, as he folded up the papers, and stared at his chauffeur’s back through the plate-glass front of the car. He had known that the reappearance of the Gray Seal would arouse the community to a wild pitch of excitement, but he had far underestimated the effect. He could gauge it better now, though—he had only to look out of the windows at the passers-by. And this was only the respectable element of the city whose head and front was the police, and dangerous enough for all the bitter taunts, gibes and recriminations with which the police was maligned! There was still the far more dangerous element of the underworld! He had not been in that quarter since he had left Malay John’s the night before, but he could picture it now well enough. God help him if he ever fell into those hands! In dens and dives, in the dark corners of that sordid world, they would be whispering blasphemous vows of vengeance against him one to another—and, relative to the hate and fear that welded them into a single unit, the police sank into insignificance. More than one of their élite had gone to the electric chair through the instrumentality of the Gray Seal; more than one was serving at that moment a long term behind penitentiary walls. Whose turn was it to be next? They needed no editorial prod in the underworld to run Larry the Bat to earth—there was the deeper spur of self-preservation! They knew who the Gray Seal was now, and the first blow that he had aimed upon his reappearance had apparently been at one of themselves. Their search for Larry the Bat would not be an indifferent one!

It was true that Larry the Bat no longer existed, that in that respect he was encompassed by a certain security he had not enjoyed before, but how long would that last? One slip, one moment off his guard, would wreck all that in the twinkling of an eye. Between the police and the underworld New York would be scoured from end to end for Larry the Bat; and, failing to find trace or sign of their quarry, how long would it be before they would put more faith in the evidence of the tenement fire than in the evidence of the Magpie, upon whose testimony alone Larry the Bat had been accepted as the Gray Seal, and believe again that Larry the Bat was dead, and that therefore they had not yet solved the identity of the Gray Seal!

He had never intended that the Gray Seal should ever have been heard of again. He shrugged his shoulders philosophically. One’s intentions in this world did not always count for much! His hand had been forced, and he had paid the price to save Birdie Lee. He could not regret that! Whatever the consequences, the price had not been too high, and yet—his eyes roved again over the crowded thoroughfare. A car edged by his own. Two men were in the tonneau. One held a newspaper which he thumped with a menacing fist as he talked. The door windows of Jimmie Dale’s limousine were down, and he caught two bitter, angry words:

“...Gray Seal—”

The sober expression on Jimmie Dale’s face deepened. Only a fool would attempt to minimise or underestimate the meaning of what he saw around him. A hint, for instance, that he, Jimmie Dale, millionaire clubman, riding here in his limousine, was the Gray Seal, and this great, teeming, though orderly, Fifth Avenue would be transformed like magic into a seething, screaming whirl of madmen, and—he did not care to follow that trend of thought. He was quite well aware what would happen!

The car, close up against the curb, stopped once more in a traffic blockade. Smarlinghue was the most vital factor to be considered now, for—he caught his breath quickly. Through the open window of the limousine a white envelope fluttered and fell at his feet. The car was moving forward again. For the fraction of a second Jimmie Dale did not move, save to straighten rigidly as though from some sharply administered galvanic shock; and then, with a low cry—“the Tocsin!”—he was at the door, his head thrust out through the window, his fingers mechanically wrenching at the door handle. A mass of people were surging across the street toward the opposite corner. Eagerly his eyes swept over them; he pushed the door open a little as though to step out—and shut it again quickly, as, with a yell of warning, another car, jockeying for position as his own moved out into the stream of traffic, swept by from behind.

It had been quite useless—he knew that, he had known it subconsciously even at the moment when he had sprung to his feet. Apart entirely from the crowd, she would undoubtedly be in some clever disguise, and he could not have recognised her in any event.

He stooped, picked up the envelope, and sat down again quietly, his eyes travelling swiftly in the direction of his chauffeur. Benson’s back was still imperturbably turned toward him. In the roar of dozens of motors all starting forward at once, Benson evidently had not heard the yell of warning, or, if he had, had been too much occupied with his own immediate duties to pay any attention to it.

Jimmie Dale tore the envelope open; and, in a sort of grim, feverish haste, unfolded the sheets which it had contained.

“Dear Philanthropic Crook—since you will be called that,” he read. A quick, eager flush came to his cheeks. She knew how, since she had shown last night that she knew him as Smarlinghue, that, despite all her own brave, resolute protests, he was determined to fight this thing out to the end—separately, if she would not let him join forces with her—but, in any case, to the end. It was the old name again—Dear Philanthropic Crook! Did it mean that she had surrendered, then, at last, that she had finally accepted the situation, and that he was to enter this shadowland of hers beside her! The flush died away. It was only his own wish that had been father to the thought. This was another “call to arms” of quite a different nature, and born, not out of her own peril, but born, as in the old days again, out of the maze of her strange environment. “You have set New York ablaze, you have made me far more afraid for you than I am for myself; but I cannot see where there is any danger here, or else I would not have written this. You—” He was reading impetuously now, his brain, alert and keen, sorting and sifting out, as it were, the salient, vital points, “... old Colonel Milford and his wife... Louisiana... letter... family heirloom... French descent... old setting, three large diamonds pendant from necklet of smaller ones... ten to twelve thousand dollars... steel bond box... lower right-hand drawer of desk... plan of second floor... West 88th Street...”

He turned the page, studied for a moment the carefully drawn plan that covered the next sheet, then turned to the third and last page—and suddenly his face hardened. He had been called a jackal by the papers—but here were two who bore a clearer title to the name! He knew them both—Jake Kisnieff, better known as Old Attic in the underworld, as crooked as his own bent and twisted form, a miserly, cunning “fence,” crafty enough, if report were true, to have garnered a huge, ill-gotten harvest under the nose of the police; and the other, one self-styled Henry Thorold, alias whatever occasion might require, smooth, polished, educated, the most dangerous of all types of crook, was the brains of a certain clique whose versatile operations were restricted only between the limits of porch-climbing and the callous removal, via the murder route, of any one when deemed expedient for either personal or financial reasons!

Jimmie Dale read on to the end of the page. His jaws were clamped together now, the square, determined chin out-thrust; and while one hand held the letter, the other curled into a clenched fist. It was dirty work—vile, miserable work—a coward’s work! And then Jimmie Dale smiled grimly, as his eyes fell upon the glaring headline of the paper on the top of the pile beside him. Perhaps the morning papers would carry other headlines that would be still more startling!

He began to study the several sheets again, critically, carefully this time. There should be no danger here, she said. He knew what she meant—that she counted on his being able to nip the whole scheme in the bud. He shook his head thoughtfully. That might be true; he might be able to do that, probably would, for it was still very early; but if not—what then? He glanced out of the window—they were just turning into Riverside Drive. He looked at his watch. It wanted but a few minutes of seven—progress up the Avenue had been unusually slow. He tore the letter into small fragments, and reaching out through the window, let the pieces flutter away in the wind. It was none too early at that, and it was unfortunate that he must first of all go home—there were certain things there indispensable to the night’s work. On the other hand, it was fortunate that he did not have to lose even more time by being obliged instead to go to the new Sanctuary for what he needed, fortunate that he had been “Jimmie Dale” last night when he had left Malay John’s, and that he had gone directly home from there.

The car stopped. Benson sprang from his seat, and opened the door.

“Don’t put up the car yet, Benson; I am going a little further uptown,” said Jimmie Dale, with a pleasant nod—and ran up the steps of his house.

Jason, his butler, opened the door for him.

“I shall not be dining at home to-night, Jason.” Jimmie Dale handed over his hat—not a suitable one for the evening’s special requirements.

The old man’s face wrinkled up in disappointment.

“That’s too bad, sir, Master Jim.” Jason took liberties; but they were the genuine heart liberties of a lifetime’s service—and why not, since, as he was fond of saying, he had dandled his Master Jim as a baby on his knee! “There was to be just what you are especially fond of to-night, Master Jim; the cook made a particular point of—”

“Yes; I know.” Jimmie Dale’s hand squeezed the old man’s shoulder in friendly fashion. It was not the cook, but Jason, who would have originated the menu with the painstaking care and thoughtfulness of one dealing with a life-and-death matter. “But it can’t be helped. I didn’t know until just a little while ago, or I would have telephoned. I am going right out again.”

“Very good, sir,” Jason bowed. “Your clothes, Master Jim, are—”

“I shan’t dress, Jason,” said Jimmie Dale—and, crossing the reception hall, with its rich, oriental rugs, he ran up the wide staircase, opened the door of his “den,” locked it behind him, and, switching on the lights, began to strip off his coat and vest, as he hurried toward the further end of the great, spacious, luxuriously appointed room that ran the entire depth of the house.

He threw coat and vest on a nearby chair; and, sweeping the portières away from in front of a little alcove, knelt down before the barrel-shaped safe with its multitudinous glistening knobs, that, in the days gone by when he had been with his father in the business of manufacturing safes, the business that had amassed the fortune he had inherited, he had designed himself. His fingers flew over the dials. He swung the outer and the inner doors open, reached inside, took out the leather girdle with its burglar kit, and fastened it around his waist. Then, slipping an automatic and a flashlight into his pocket, he closed the safe, drew the portières together, and put on his coat and vest again.

An instant later he was downstairs, and, selecting a soft slouch hat—Jason for the moment not being in evidence—went down the steps to his waiting limousine.

“The Marleton, Benson,” he directed, as he stepped into the car. “And hurry, please.”

The car started forward. It was not far to 88th Street, but the car would save time—and time was counting now, every minute of it priceless, if, as the Tocsin had intimated, he was to forestall the game that was in hand. The Marleton was for Benson’s benefit—but the Marleton, unless he had miscalculated the numbers, was barely more than a block away from the house he sought.

And then, besides, there was another reason for haste—Colonel Milford and his wife would probably be at dinner now, and that left the upstairs part of the house at his disposal, since, apart from the elderly couple, the household consisted, according to the Tocsin, of only a single maid. He went over in his mind again the plan the Tocsin had drawn. Yes, she was quite right, there should be no danger, the whole matter as far as he was concerned was almost childishly simple and easy—if he were only in time! He shook his head a little impatiently at that; and, as he saw that they were approaching his destination, consulted his watch. It was exactly twenty minutes after seven.

The car rolled up to the curb in front of the fashionable family hotel. Jimmie Dale alighted.

“I shall not need you any more to-night, Benson,” he said.

He walked quietly into the hotel, through the lobby, down a corridor, and out of the entrance that gave on the cross street—then his pace quickened. He traversed the block, crossed the road, turned the corner, and a minute later was approaching the house she had designated. It was one of a row. His pace slowed to a nonchalant stroll again. It was still quite light, and he was by no means the only pedestrian on the street; a moment’s preliminary, even if cursory, examination of the exterior would not be amiss! Counting the numbers ahead of him, he had already located the house. He frowned a little. A light burned in the upstairs front room. There was a light in the lower hallway as well, but that was to be expected. Why the one upstairs? Had the Colonel and Mrs. Milford already finished their dinner?

Jimmie Dale reached the house—and casually, without hesitation, mounted the steps—and quite as casually, making a pretence of ringing the electric bell, opened the unlocked outer door, stepped into the vestibule, and, without a sound now, closed the door behind him.

He tried the inner door tentatively. It was locked, of course—but it was locked only for an instant. From the girdle under his vest came a little steel instrument; there was a faint, almost inaudible, protesting snip from the interior of the lock; and, his fingers turning the knob with a steady, silent pressure, he opened the door slightly.

Crouched there, he listened. And then, a smile of relief flickering on his lips, he pushed the door open, and slipped into the hallway. The explanation of the light upstairs was that it had probably been left burning inadvertently. They were still at dinner, for he could hear voices from the dining room at the rear of the hall.

As silent as a shadow now, Jimmie Dale, closing the inside door, moved across the hall, and went up the stairs. On the landing he paused; and then advanced cautiously. The light streamed out from the open door of the front room, and there was always the possibility that—no, a glance from where he stood close against the wall at the edge of the door jamb, showed him that the room was unoccupied.

He entered the room quickly, crossed quickly to a quaint old escritoire against the opposite wall, and stooped beside it. The lower right-hand drawer, she had said. The little steel instrument with which he had opened the vestibule door was still in his hand, but he did not use it now! Instead, with a low, dismayed ejaculation, as his fingers ran along the drawer edge, he dropped on his knees for a closer examination—and his lips closed tightly together.

He was too late! The first finger touch had told him that, and now his eyes corroborated it. The drawer had been forced by a jimmy of some sort, judging from the indentations in the wood. The lock was broken, and he pulled the drawer open. Inside lay the steel bond-box, its lid bent back, and wrenched and twisted out of shape. The box was empty.

Without disturbing the box, Jimmie Dale mechanically closed the drawer again and stood up, looking around him. In a subconscious way, when he had entered the room, he had been cognisant of a certain strangeness in its appointments, but then his mind had been centred only on the work in hand; now there seemed a sort of pitiful congruity in the surroundings themselves and in the old heirloom that had been stolen. It seemed as though the room spoke to him of past glories. The furniture was out-of-date, and, too, a little in disrepair. It seemed as though there clung about it the pride and station of other days, a station that it was finding it hard to maintain in these. And he thought he understood. It was a fine old family, that of the Milfords of Louisiana, a very proud old family in the way that it was fine to be proud—proud of its name, proud that its sons were gentlemen, proud of its loyalty to its own traditions and standards, a pride that neither condition nor adversity could mar. And now the diamond pendant was gone! He could well understand how they had clung to that, and—

He started suddenly. Was he a fool, that he had wasted even a moment in giving play to his thoughts! Voices were reaching him now from below, footsteps were sounding from the lower hall, there was a creak upon the stairs. They were coming!

He had hardly any need for the quick, searching glance he flung around him—the plan that the Tocsin, had drawn was mapped out vividly in his mind. He stepped backward softly through half-opened folding doors into the room in the rear. From this room a door, he knew, opened into the hallway. His escape, after all, need give him little concern. He had only to step out into the hall after they passed, and make his way downstairs. A woman’s voice from the stairway came to him:

“My dear, you must have left the light burning.”

“Unless, it was you,” a man’s voice answered in good-humoured banter. “You were the last one in the room.”

“But I am sure I didn’t!” the feminine tones asserted positively.

The steps passed along the hall, and from behind the folding doors Jimmie Dale saw an elderly couple enter the front room. Both were in evening dress—and somehow, suddenly, at sight of them Jimmie Dale swallowed hard. The old gentleman, kindly, blue-eyed, white-haired, was very erect, very straight in spite of the fact that he must have been close to seventy years of age, and with the sweet-faced, old-fashioned little lady, with the gray hair, who stood beside him, they made a stately pair—for all that their clothes, past glories like the furniture, were grown a little shabby, a little threadbare. But with what a courtly air they wore them! And with what a courtly air now he led her to a chair, and bent over her, and lifted up her face, and held it tenderly between both his hands!

“How well you look to-night in your dress,” he said, and his blue eyes shone. “I am very proud of you.”

She stroked the hand against her cheek.

“Do you remember the first time I ever wore it?” She was smiling up at him.

“Oh, yes!” he nodded his head slowly. “It is strange, isn’t it? That was a long time ago when our friends were married back there in the old State, and to-night again, way up here in New York, they have not forgotten us on this their anniversary.”

Silence fell for a moment between them.

Then he spoke again, a little sadly:

“Would you wish those days back again, if you could?”

She hesitated thoughtfully.

“I do not know,” she said at last. “Sometimes I think so. We had John then.”

“Yes,” he said, and turned away his head.

Her hand, as Jimmie Dale watched, seemed to tighten over her husband’s; and now, though her lips quivered, there came a little smile.

“But we have his memory now, dear,” she whispered.

Agitated, the old gentleman moved abruptly away from the chair, and Jimmie Dale could see that the blue eyes were moist.

“That is true—we have his memory.” The old colonel’s voice trembled. And then his shoulders squared like a soldier on parade. “Tut, tut!” he chided. “Why, we are to be gay to-night! And it is almost time for us to be going. We, too, shall celebrate. You shall wear the pendant, just as you did that other night.”

“Oh, colonel!” There was mingled delight and hesitation in her ejaculation. “Do you really think I ought to—that it wouldn’t be out of keeping with our present circumstances?”

“Of course, I think you ought to!” he declared. “And see”—he started across the room—“I will get it for you, and fasten it around your throat myself.”

He reached the escritoire, opened a little drawer at the top, took out a key, stooped to the lower drawer, inserted the key, turned it once or twice in a puzzled way, then tried the drawer, pulled it open—and with a sharp, sudden cry, reached inside for the steel bond-box.

The little old lady rose hurriedly, in a startled way, from her chair.

“What is it? What is the matter?” she cried anxiously.

The box clattered from the colonel’s hands to the floor.

“It is gone!” he said hoarsely. “It has been stolen!”

Gone!” She ran wildly forward. “Stolen! No, no—it cannot be gone!”

They stared for a moment into each other’s faces, and from each other’s faces stared at the rifled box upon the floor—and then a look of wan misery crept gray upon the little old lady, and she swayed backward.

With a cry, that to Jimmie Dale seemed one of more poignant anguish than he had ever heard before, the old gentleman caught her in his arms and supported her to a chair; then running quickly to the hall, called loudly for the maid below.

There was a merciless smile on Jimmie Dale’s lips. He was retreating now further back into the room toward the door that gave on the hall.

“I wonder,” said Jimmie Dale to himself through set teeth, “I wonder if a man wouldn’t be justified in putting an end for keeps to that devil Thorold for this!”

He heard the maid come rushing up the stairs. He could no longer see into the other room now, but a confused mingling of voices reached him:

“... The police ... next door and telephone ... the light ... while we were at dinner....”

Jimmie Dale opened the door, slipped across the hall, made his way silently and swiftly down the stairs, and with the single precaution of pulling his slouch hat far down over his eyes, stepped boldly out of the front door, walked quietly down the steps, walked briskly, but without apparent haste, along the street—and turned the first corner.

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