Ten minutes later, still in the heart of the East Side, Jimmie Dale reached his destination, and paused on the edge of the sidewalk, ostensibly to light a cigarette while he looked tentatively around him, before the entrance to a courtyard that ran in behind a row of cheap and shabby tenements. He shook his head, as he tossed the match away. It was still early; there were too many people about, to say nothing of the group of half-naked children playing in the gutter under the street lamp in front of the courtyard entrance, and “Smarlinghue” was far too well known a character in that section of the Bad Lands to warrant him in taking any chances. If anything was wrong in Melinoff’s dingy little place behind there, if anything had transpired, or was about to transpire that would ultimately, say, invite the attention of the police, it might prove extremely awkward—for Smarlinghue—should it be remembered that he had entered there! There was a better way—a much better way, and one that was exceedingly simple. It would hardly occasion any comment, even if he were noticed, if he entered one of the tenements, where, with probably a dozen families living in as many rooms, one could come and go at all hours without question or hindrance.

He moved slowly along, and, out of the radius of the street lamp now and away from the children, paused again, this time before the last tenement in the row that the front of the courtyard in the rear. For the moment there were no pedestrians in the immediate neighbourhood, and Jimmie Dale, stepping through the tenement doorway, gained the narrow, unlighted hall within. He stopped here, hugged close against the wall, to listen, and, hearing or seeing nothing to disturb him, moved forward again, silently, without a sound, along the hall. There must be, he knew, a rear exit to the courtyard behind. Yes—here it was! He had halted again, this time before a door. He tried it, found it unlocked, opened it, stepped outside, and closed the door behind him.

It was dark out here in the courtyard, and objects were only faintly discernible; but there were few localities in that neighbourhood with which Jimmie Dale, either as Smarlinghue, or in the old days as Larry the Bat, was not intimately acquainted. To call it a courtyard hardly described the place. It was more an open backyard common to the row of tenements, and rather narrow and confined in space at that. It was dirty, cluttered with rubbish, and across it, facing the rear of the tenements, was a small building that many years ago had been, possibly, a stable or an outhouse belonging to some private and no doubt pretentious dwelling, which long since now, with the progress northward of the city, had been supplanted by the crowded, poverty-stricken, and anything but pretentious tenements. This outhouse had been to a certain extent remodelled, and to a certain extent made habitable, and as long as any one could remember Melinoff with his old-clothes shop had been its tenant.

Jimmie Dale began to make his way cautiously across the yard, wary of the tin cans and general rubbish which an inadvertent step might metamorphose most effectively into a decidedly undesirable advertisement of his presence. There was no light that he could see in Melinoff’s at all; and he frowned now in a puzzled way. Had the Pippin been and gone; or was he, Jimmie Dale, ahead of the Pippin? The Pippin would have had ample time, of course, to get here, for he, Jimmie Dale, had probably remained in Bristol Bob’s a good half hour after the Pippin had left. In that case, then, Melinoff must have gone away with the Pippin again—that would account for there being no light. But, on the other hand, if the Pippin had not yet arrived, and Melinoff expected the visit, it was most curious that the place was in darkness!

And then Jimmie Dale smiled a little mockingly at himself. His deductions would perhaps have been of infinitely more value if he had first waited to make sure of the premise on which they were based! As a matter of fact, there was a light! He had reached the front of the little place, and peering cautiously through the window could make out, across the black interior, a thread of light that came through the crack of a closed door, and from what was, evidently, another room in the rear.

Jimmie Dale’s fingers closed on the heavy, cumbersome, old-fashioned door latch, pressed it down noiselessly, and exerted a little tentative pressure on the door itself. It was locked. A minute passed in absolute silence, as a little steel instrument was inserted in the lock—and then the door swung inward and was dosed again, and Jimmie Dale, rigid and motionless, stood inside.

He was listening now for some sound, the sound of voices, or the sound of movement from that lighted room. There was nothing. Jimmie Dale’s lips tightened suddenly. It was very curious! There was an “upstairs” to the place, such as it was, but if Melinoff was up there alone, or with the Pippin, they were up there in the dark unless they were in the rear upstairs room; in which case they could not, in view of the ramshackle nature of the building, have made the slightest movement without making themselves heard from where he stood.

From his pocket Jimmie Dale produced a flashlight. The ray played once, as though with queer, diffident curiosity, about him, swept once more in a circuit around the room, swiftly, in an almost startled way this time—and there was darkness again. And, instead of the flashlight, Jimmie Dale’s automatic was in his hand now, and he was moving quickly and silently forward toward that thread of light and the closed door leading into the rear room.

Around him everything was in disorder; not the disorder habitual to such a place where odds and ends of the heterogeneous accumulation of Melinoff’s stock in trade might be expected to be deposited wherever convenience and not system dictated, but a disorder that seemed to hold within itself something of ominous promise. Old clothes, for instance, that might at least have been expected, even with the most profound carelessness and indifference, to have received better treatment, were strewn and scattered about the floor in all directions.

And now Jimmie Dale stood still again. There was a sound at last; but a sound that he could not immediately define. It came from the room beyond—like a dull, muffled thud mingling with a low, long-drawn gasp. It was repeated—and then, unmistakably, there came a moan.

In a flash now, Jimmie Dale, his automatic thrust forward, was at the door. He stooped with his eye to the keyhole; and the next instant, his face hard and tense, he flung the door open, and jumped forward into the room.

Those words of the Pippin’s note seemed to be searing through his brain in letters of fire—“go the limit—go the limit.” There was no need to speculate longer on their meaning; they meant—murder. On the floor, a dark ugly, crimson pool beside him, lay Melinoff, the old-clothes dealer. And as Jimmie Dale sprang to the other’s side, there came again that curious muffled thud—as the old man weakly lifted his head a few inches from the floor only to have it fall limply back again. The man was nearly gone—it needed no experienced eye to tell that. Melinoff’s face was grayish in its pallor, and his eyes, open, seemed to have lost their lustre; but as Jimmie Dale knelt and lifted the man’s shoulders and supported the other’s head upon his knee, the light in the old-clothes dealer’s black eyes seemed suddenly to return and to glow with a strange, passionate, eager fire, as they fixed on Jimmie Dale’s face. Melinoff’s lips moved. Jimmie Dale bent his head to Catch the words that were almost inaudible.

“The—the Pippin. Here”—the old man’s hand struggled toward his side where a dark crimson blotch had soaked his shirt—“here—he—he stabbed me—because—because—” The voice failed and died away, and the man’s head fell back on Jimmie Dale’s arm.

Jimmie Dale raised the other’s head gently again.

“Yes!” he said quickly, striving to rouse the other. “Yes; go on! I understand. The Pippin stabbed you. Because—what? Go on, Melinoff! Go on! I am listening.”

The eyes opened once more—but the light was dying out of them, and they were filming now. And then suddenly the man forced himself forward into a sitting posture, and his voice rang wildly through the room:

“It is a lie! A lie! I played square—do you hear! Old Melinoff played square! I did not understand at first—but I did not forget. I remembered. Old Melinoff would never forget—never forget—never for—”

A tremor ran through the old man’s form, the voice was stilled—it was the end.

For a moment, his lips tight and set, Jimmie Dale held the other there in his arms, as he stared at a little object on the floor where Melinoff had been lying, and that previously had been hidden beneath the other’s body—an object that glittered and sparkled now as the light caught it. There had even been then, it seemed, no need for Melinoff’s dying accusation—the evidence of the Pippin’s guilt would have been plain enough to the first person who found old Melinoff and moved the old man’s body. For himself, Jimmie Dale, the Pippin’s note, since it had actuated him in coming here, would have been enough to have fixed the guilt in his mind where it belonged; but the police, for instance, would not have been so well informed! The police, however, would now have all, and more than all the evidence they required. That little thing that glittered there was one of the Pippin’s notorious diamond-snake cuff links.

Jimmie Dale did not disturb it. He laid old Melinoff back on the floor, and the old man’s body covered the cuff link again as it had done before. He stood up then, and looked around him. The room seemed to have been used for no one particular purpose. It was partitioned off from the shop proper, it was true; but, equally, it appeared to have been used as a sort of overflow for the shop’s stock in trade. Here, as in front, clothing of all descriptions littered the floor; and also there were signs that a violent struggle had taken place. The room, which had obviously served, apart from being a store-room, as kitchen, dining room, and, in fact, for everything save a bedroom, was in a state of chaos—chairs were upset, a table stood up-ended against the wall, aid broken crockery was strewn everywhere.

At the rear of the room was another door. Jimmie Dale reached up, turned off the gas-jet, crossed to the door, found it unlocked, opened it a few inches, and looked out. It gave on the rear of the courtyard, and in the darkness he could just make out a high fence that bordered the adjoining property. It was presumably the way by which the Pippin had made his escape, since he, Jimmie Dale, had found the front door locked.

He closed the door again, relighted the gas, and, moving swiftly now, passed through into the shop and locked the front door. Then, returning to the upper end of the shop close to the connecting door, which he closed until it was just ajar, Jimmie Dale slipped a black silk mask over his face, seated himself on a box of some sort that he found at hand, and, save that his fingers mechanically tested the automatic in his hand, remained motionless, his eyes fixed on the rear door across the lighted room in which old Melinoff lay.

It was dark here and silent, except that from out across the courtyard came faintly now and then the voices of the children at play in the gutters, and except that a faint glow stole timidly out from the slightly opened door only to merge almost immediately with the surrounding blackness. The tight lips had curved downward at the corners of his mouth into a grim, merciless droop; and into the dark, steady eyes there had come a smouldering fire. It was a brutal, cowardly thing that had been done there in that room, and the Pippin had finished his work and gone—but it was not at all unlikely that the Pippin would be back!

The sharp lines at the corners of Jimmie Dale’s mouth grew a little more pronounced. Nor should the Pippin be long in returning! A man could not very well lose a cuff link and be unaware of that fact for any extended length of time. And that cuff link was damning, irrefutable, incontrovertible evidence, exactly the evidence the police required to convict the guilty man! Yes, undoubtedly, the Pippin would be back—and at any moment now. Figuring that the Pippin had left Bristol Bob’s half an hour before he, Jimmie Dale, had started out, and allowing, say, twenty minutes for the struggle and subsequent murder here, the Pippin could only have been gone a matter of some ten minutes. In the excitement, and probably a run through lanes and alleyways, it was quite possible that the Pippin would not have noticed his loss in that length of time; but he could not, with a loose cuff, and especially when it was usually fastened by so highly prized a link, have remained much longer than that in ignorance of his loss.

Jimmie Dale smiled grimly now in the darkness. It was almost analogous to Meighan’s waiting for the return of the Magpie, except that he, Jimmie Dale, had neither the desire nor the intention of usurping the functions of the police. “Smarlinghue,” for very obvious reasons, could neither appear nor bear witness in the case; he could take no chances of the discovery being made that “Smarlinghue” was but a character that cloaked Jimmie Dale and the Gray Seal—and, above all, he could take no chances to-night when at last he was on the threshold of the return to his old normal life again! But he had, nevertheless, no intention of permitting the Pippin to elude the law, or to escape the consequences of the act to which that mute form lying in there on the crimsoned floor bore hideous testimony. The cuff link, obviously loosened and dropped unnoticed on the floor during the struggle, would not only connect the Pippin with the crime, but would convict him of it as well; he, Jimmie Dale, therefore, did not propose to allow the Pippin to return and remove that evidence—that was all. It should not be very difficult to prevent it; nor should it even necessitate his showing himself to the Pippin. A shot, for instance, fired at the floor, as the Pippin stole in through that rear door again should be enough to send the man flying back for shelter to the recesses of the underworld. The Pippin’s nerves, as he crept back to the scene of his crime, would be badly frayed and unstrung, unless he was a man lacking wholly in imagination, which the Pippin, once having been an actor, inherently could not be; and, coupled with this, prompting the Pippin to run at once for cover, would be the fact that he could not by any means be certain that the link had been lost there in the room itself, since it might equally have, been forced loose during his escape, say, for instance, while climbing the series of backyard fences that would have confronted him from the moment he left Melinoff’s rear door—providing always, of course, that the Pippin, as it seemed logical and as the evidence seemed to indicate, had made his escape in that manner.

The minutes passed; at first quickly enough, and then they began to drag heavily. Jimmie Dale’s mind was back now on old Melinoff. What had the man meant by his feverish, eager, pitiful insistence that he had not forgotten, that he had remembered, that he could never forget, and that he had not understood at first? The answer to that question would supply the motive for the Pippin’s crime, and for half an hour, sitting there in the darkness, Jimmie Dale pondered the question, but the answer would not come. There were theories without number that he could formulate; but theories at best were indefinite. What had Melinoff meant by saying he had played square? Was it some previous criminal undertaking between himself and the Pippin, in which the Pippin believed himself to have been betrayed by Melinoff, while Melinoff, on the other hand, protested that—and then Jimmie Dale shrugged his shoulders impatiently. What was the use of speculation? The vital matter of the moment was the Pippin’s delay in returning for that cuff link!

Another fifteen minutes passed, and still another—and then Jimmie Dale restored his mask to his pocket, rose from his seat, and made his way to the front door of the shop. He had waited there a full hour and over now, his only purpose had been to prevent the removal of the evidence of the Pippin’s guilt by the Pippin, and logic told him it was useless to wait longer. It was only fair to assume that the Pippin would have discovered his loss within a reasonably short time after leaving Melinoff’s; and, granting that, it was absolutely certain that the Pippin, if he were coming back at all, would have come without an instant’s delay if he believed that his life hung on the recovery of his property. He had not come, and therefore, conversely, the Pippin must have weighed the chances and concluded that the risk attendant on his return to the scene of his crime was greater than the risk he ran of the cuff link having been lost in that exact spot. Nor was the Pippin’s presumed reasoning entirely faulty—from the Pippin’s standpoint. It was obvious that he did not know where he had lost the link; it was only a chance that he had lost it on the actual scene of the crime; and even if he had lost it there, and even if he returned, it was only a chance that he would be able to find it again—and against this was the very grave risk and danger of returning to Melinoff’s after having once got safely away. But whatever the Pippin’s reasoning might have been, the one morally certain fact remained—every minute of delay increased the risk that the cuff link would be found by some one else, and if the Pippin were coming back at all he would have been back long before this.

Jimmie Dale closed the door of the old-clothes shop behind him, crossed the yard, and using the back door of the tenement again; gained the street. Well, he was quite satisfied! The hour he had spent there mattered little. He had desired only one thing—that the evidence of the Pippin’s guilt should not be disturbed. And for the rest—he smiled whimsically as he started briskly along the street—there was Carruthers, of the Morning News-Argus, who, if, in the old days, he had been one of the most dogged and relentless in his efforts to run the Gray Seal to earth, was at the same time, though without knowing it—Jimmie Dale’s smile broadened—the Gray Seal’s most intimate friend and old college pal! If the Pippin was just as surely brought to book that way, why do old Carruthers and his sheet out of a “scoop”!

Jimmie Dale made his way rapidly now over to the Bowery, and here headed in an uptown direction. Two blocks further along, however, on the corner occupied by the Crescent saloon, he turned into the cross street, and passed in through the saloon’s side entrance. The Crescent saloon, as he had previously more than once had occasion to remark, was nothing if not thoughtful of the peculiar needs of its somewhat questionable class of patrons. Around the corner of the little passageway, just as it turned into a small lounging room before the barroom proper was reached, was a telephone booth whose privacy could scarcely be improved upon. He opened the door of the booth, stepped inside, and closed the door carefully and tightly behind him. The Argus being a morning paper, Carruthers, except on very rare occasions, was always to be found at his office until late into the night; but Jimmie Dale, having deposited his coin in the slot, was rewarded with the information that he had met with one of those “rare occasions.” Carruthers was at his home on Long Island, and had not been at the office at all that day. Jimmie Dale shrugged his shoulders, as he found and gave the Long Island number. It did not matter very much; it was simply the difference in time, amounting to, say, the half hour or so that it would take Carruthers to get back to the city and act.

The ‘phone was answered.

“Mr. Carruthers, if you please ... yes, personally,” said Jimmie Dale pleasantly.

There was a moment’s wait, then Jimmie Dale spoke again—his voice still pleasant, but changed in pitch and register to a bass that was far from Jimmie Dale’s, though one that Carruthers might possibly remember!

“Mr. Carruthers? ... Good evening, Mr. Carruthers—this is the Gray Seal speaking, and I—” A receptive smile stole suddenly across Jimmie Dale’s lips—Carruthers, to put it mildly, was impulsive. “The Gray Seal—yes. I can hear you perfectly.... What? ... No, it is not a hoax!”—Jimmie Dale’s voice had sharpened perceptibly—“I called you once before, you will perhaps remember though it is a very long time ago, in reference to a certain diamond necklace and a—you will pardon the term—gentleman by the name of Markel. ... Ah, you recognise the Gray Seal’s voice now, do you! ... No, don’t apologise.... I thought perhaps you might be interested in the possibility of another scoop.... Yes, quite so! ... I would suggest then that you get the police to accompany you to the back room of Melinoff’s, the old-clothes dealer’s shop.... Yes, I thought you might know the place. Perhaps, too, you know of a man who is commonly called the Pippin? ... No? Well, no matter. The police do! You’ll find the evidence under Melinoff’s body.... I beg your pardon? ... Yes—murder.... What? ... It is a cuff link, the Pippin’s cuff link, that was dropped in the struggle.... What? ... No, I do not know why; I have told you all I know. There is nothing more, Mr. Carruthers—except that I should advise you to work as quickly as possible, as otherwise some one may stumble on the crime before you do. Good-night, Mr. Carruthers.”

Carruthers was still talking, wildly, excitedly. Jimmie Dale calmly hung up the receiver, left the telephone booth, and went out to the street again—by the side entrance. If Carruthers made inquiry of central as to where the call had come from, the reply that it was from the Crescent saloon would in no way serve Carruthers, or any one else. No one, even in the Crescent saloon, would be able to furnish any information as to who had telephoned. It was, therefore, in a word, up to Carruthers now; the Pippin would be brought to account; and as far as he, Jimmie Dale, was concerned, his connection with the affair was at an end.

Jimmie Dale walked quickly along, turning from one street into another. Here and there, in front of various resorts, and on the corners, he passed little groups of men engaged in bated, low-toned conversation. Ordinarily this would have interested Jimmie Dale, for the groups were composed, not of ordinary citizens, but of the dregs and scum of the underworld, and it was evident that something quite out of the usual run of things had suddenly seized upon the Bad Lands as a subject for gossip. But it was already long after eleven o’clock, and to-night, with Melinoff’s murder disposed of now, he was through, he hoped, with the underworld forever. He was anxious only to reach the Sanctuary without any further delay, and, thereafter, equally without further loss of time, to get to his home or to the club, where at any moment he might expect to hear from the Tocsin, and where, most important of all, she would bare no difficulty in communicating instantly with him.

He turned the corner of the street on which the Sanctuary was situated—and halted abruptly. A man coming rapidly from the other direction had grabbed his arm.

“‘Ello, Smarly!” greeted the other. “Heard de news?”

Jimmie Dale, with the top of his tongue, shifted the half burnt section of the cigarette that was hanging from his upper lip to the opposite corner of his mouth, as he looked at the other. It was the Wowzer, dip and pick-pocket, the erstwhile pal of one Dago Jim, who, on a certain night, also of the very long ago, that Jimmie Dale had very good cause to remember, had killed Dago Jim in a certain infamous dive. Well, if he, Jimmie Dale, was, after all, to learn the cause of the excitement that seemed suddenly to have possessed the underworld, he could at least have asked for no better or more thoroughly posted informant than the Wowzer. And now his curiosity was aroused. For an instant the idea that it might be Melinoff’s murder flashed across his mind; but he dismissed that idea at once. Murder was too trite a thing in the underworld to cause any widespread commotion!

“Hello, Wowzer!” he returned, as he shook his head. “No, I ain’t heard anything.”

“Youse can take it from me den,” said the Wowzer, “dat dere’s something doin’! Dey got her!”

“Got who?” enquired Jimmie Dale in a puzzled way.

The Wowzer leaned forward secretively.

“Silver Mag!” he said.

It seemed to Jimmie Dale as though the clutch of an icy hand was suddenly at his heart, as though the ground beneath his feet had grown suddenly unstable and that the Wowzer’s face, close to his own, was swirling around and around in swift and endless gyrations—but he was conscious, too, that he was master of himself. The muscles of his face twitched—but it was to express incredulity. His tongue carried the cigarette butt languidly back to the other corner of his mouth.

“Aw, go on!” said Jimmie Dale. “Try it on somebody else! Silver Mag croaked out the night they had that fire down there in the old tenement.”

“Yes, she did—nix!” scoffed the Wowzer, with a short laugh. “De same way dat blasted snitch of a Gray Seal did—eh? Say, Smarly, I’m handin’ it to youse straight. Dey caught her snoopin’ around one of de en-trays into Foo Sen’s half an hour ago. Say, de whole mob all de way up de line’s been tipped off. I’m givin’ youse de real thing. Youse must have been asleep somewhere, or youse’d have been wise before.”

“Sure—I believe you!” said Jimmie Dale earnestly. “Who caught her, Wowzer?”

“De Mole,” replied the Wowzer. “An’ he’s got her now over in his layout.”

It was a moment before Jimmie Dale spoke. There seemed to be a horrible, ghastly dryness in his mouth; there seemed to well up from his soul and overwhelm him a world of mocking and sardonic irony. The Mole! The Mole was the leader of the gang with which the Pippin was allied; it was at the Mole’s place that the Pippin usually lived; it was at the Mole’s place that the police would first institute their search for the Pippin—and five minutes ago, through Carruthers, he had unleashed the police! The Wowzer’s face seemed to be swirling around and around in front of him again. To get away—and think! He could have groaned, cried out aloud!

“Say, thanks, Wowzer, for piping me off!” said Jimmie Dale effusively.

“Oh, dat’s all right,” responded the Wowzer graciously. “Only keep it under yer hat except wid de crowd. De bulls ain’t on, an’ de Mole saw her first—see? Dere ain’t goin’ to be no buttin’ in till she gets hers! An’ de word’s out not to do any pushin’ an’ crowdin’ around de Mole’s fer front seats, ‘cause den de bulls ‘d get wise—savvy? Just leave it to de Mole—get me?”

“Sure—I get you,” said Jimmie Dale. “Well, so long, Wowzer—and thanks again.”

“S’long, Smarly,” replied the Wowzer.

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