Jimmie Dale dressed quickly now. From the pockets of the little leather girdle to the pockets of his tweeds he transferred a steel picklock, a pair of light steel handcuffs, a piece of fine but exceedingly strong cord, a black silk mask, and that small metal case, within which, between sheets of oiled paper, lay those gray-coloured, diamond-shaped, adhesive paper seals that were known in every den in the underworld, known in every police bureau of two continents, as the insignia of the Gray Seal. He slipped the flashlight into his pocket, took his automatic from the discarded garments of Smarlinghue—and, thrusting the ragged clothing into the opening, put the removable section of the base-board back into place.

And now, twin to that streak of lesser gloom that came from the top-light, another filtered into the room. The small French window opened and closed without sound—the room was empty. A shadow in the courtyard, close against the wall of the tenement, moved forward a foot, a yard—a loose board in the fence bordering the lane swung silently aside—and in a moment more, striding nonchalantly up the block, Jimmie Dale turned into the Bowery.

He had some distance to go, almost back as far as the liquor store at the lower end of the Bowery, for the Rat lived, if he, Jimmie Dale, was not mistaken, just one block this side, in a small one-story frame building on the corner of a cross street; and—it seemed incongruous, queerly out of place somehow—the Rat lived with his mother. Home ties, or home relationships, hardly seemed in harmony with the Rat! Still, in this case, it was perhaps very debatable ground as to which was the more pernicious, the old woman or the son! Ostensibly, she kept a little variety store; but her business, if report were true, was the edifying occupation of school mistress—the children graduating under her tuition being ranked by common consent as the most accomplished pickpockets in gangland!

Jimmie Dale shrugged his shoulders, as he swung at last from the Bowery into a narrow, poorly lighted street. Well, at least, if the Rat’s criminal career ended to-night, the Rat’s punishment need excite no sympathy for the old woman, as far as he, Jimmie Dale, was concerned—it was a pity only that she had not been behind the bars herself long ago! Yes, this was the place—the small frame building diagonally across from the corner on which he had halted. He crossed over for a closer inspection. The front of the house was dark, the little store windows shuttered. He hesitated an instant, then walked around the corner to survey the building from the side and rear. Here, from a window that gave on the intersecting street, there showed a light. The window was low, scarcely above the level of his head, but held no promise on that score as a source of information, for the shade within was tightly drawn. Jimmie Dale scowled at it for a moment, noted its proximity to the backyard and the front of the building. The Rat, then, or the Rat’s mother, was still up, and he would need to exercise more than ordinary caution—or else wait—indefinitely, perhaps.

He shook his head at that alternative, as he looked sharply up and down the street. He would gain little by waiting, and—ah! He was crouched in the doorway now, the deft fingers working swiftly with the picklock. There was a faint metallic click, barely audible above his low-breathed exclamation—and the door opened and closed behind him.

The flashlight in his hand winked once—and went out. Small, glass-topped counters were on either side of the somewhat restricted aisle in which he stood; directly in front of him, at the rear of the store, was a door, leading, obviously, to the living rooms beyond.

The old days of Larry the Bat, the rickety, creaky stairs of the old Sanctuary had trained Jimmie Dale’s step to a silence that was almost uncanny. It might have been a shadow moving there across the floor of the store, a shadow flitting through that doorway beyond. There was no sound.

And now, at the end of a short, dark passage, he stopped before the door of what was, from its location, the lighted room he had seen from the street; and, slipping his mask over his face, he placed his ear against the door panel to listen. He was rewarded only by absolute silence. His lips, under the mask, twisted queerly, as, softly, cautiously, he tried the door. It gave under the steady pressure that he exerted upon it—gave without sound for the measure of a fraction of an inch—it was unlocked. And now Jimmie Dale could see into the room—and suddenly he stepped noiselessly forward, his automatic holding a bead on the crouched figure of the Rat, asleep apparently in his chair, whose head, flung forward, was buried in his crossed arms upon the table in the centre of the room.

“Good evening!” said Jimmie Dale, in a velvet voice.

There was no answer—the man neither turned his head, nor looked up.

And for a moment Jimmie Dale did not stir—only into the dark eyes shining through the mask there came a startled gleam, and through the heavy, palpitating silence the quick, sudden intake of his breath sounded clamourously loud. He saw now—the gray of the cheek just showing above the arm that pillowed it, the stiff, hunched, unnatural position of the body, the crimson pool on the floor by the chair leg. The man was dead!

Tight-lipped, the strong jaw outthrust a little, his face hard and set, Jimmie Dale moved to the Rat’s side, and bent over the man. Yes, it was—murder! The Rat had been stabbed in the back just below the left armpit. He glanced sharply around the room. There was no sign of struggle, except—yes—there were bruises on the man’s neck, as though a hand had grasped it fiercely, and—he bent over—yes, faintly, but nevertheless distinctly enough, two blood-stained finger prints were discernible on the Rat’s collar. He lifted the Rat’s hands and examined them critically—it might perhaps have been the man himself clutching his own throat, as he choked and struggled for breath—no, the Rat’s fingers showed not the slightest trace of blood.

And then, instinctively, Jimmie Dale reached out toward the other’s pocket; but, with a hard smile, dropped his hand to his side, instead. The sealed envelope, the fifteen thousand dollars, was not there—it was where the Tocsin had said it was! The Tocsin, not he, had been right! And yet, too, in a way, he had not been entirely wrong. It was the Rat who had stolen the sealed envelope from the safe—or else the Rat would not now be dead!

His mind, alert and keen now, was dovetailing together the pieces of the puzzle. Those who had originally planned the crime had in some way discovered that the Rat, in the actual theft, had forestalled them. Possibly, for instance, bent on the same errand, they had seen the Rat leaving the building; then, finding the safe already looted, they had put two and two together, and had trapped the Rat here—and the Rat had paid the price! It might have been that way, but that in itself was a detail, immaterial—they had discovered that it was the Rat. The Rat’s murder proved it. It was not enough that they should recover the envelope—there would have been no way to avoid exposure or cover their own crime except by murdering the Rat.

He looked down at the silent form sprawled over the table, and his face relaxed, softened a little. The Rat was only the Rat, it was true, and the man was a thief, an outcast, a pariah, a prey upon society; but life to the Rat, too, had been sweet, and his murder was a hideous thing—and even such as the Rat might ask justice. Justice! It had been dirty work—miserable, dirty work, he had called it when he had thought the Rat alone involved—but now, thanks to the Tocsin, he knew it for what it really was, knew it for its damnable, hellish ingenuity, and its abominable, brutal callousness! Justice! Yes—but how?

He began to move about the room, his mind for the moment diverted in an endeavour to reconstruct the scene as it must have been enacted here around him. The Rat had broken into the safe before eleven o’clock—that was obvious now. In fact, it was quite likely to have been much nearer ten! He had returned here and had been sitting there at the table, counting over his ill-gotten gains, perhaps, his back to the door, just as he sat now, and they had stolen in upon him. But where was the old woman? True, perhaps little, if any, noise had been made, and yet—Jimmie Dale, pausing on the threshold of the door, listened intently. One of the two rooms, whose doors he saw between this end room and the door opening into the store, must be hers, and if she were there, asleep, for instance, his ear was surely acute enough to catch, in the stillness that lay upon the house, the sound of breathing. But there was nothing. Under the mask, his brows drew together in a perplexed frown. And then suddenly he stood rigid, tense. Yes, there was a sound at last—and an ominous one! The front door leading into the store was being opened, came the scuffling of footsteps—and then a woman’s voice, shrill, wailing:

“W’en I come in not twenty minutes ago dere he was—dead. My Gawd—knifed he was! An’ den I runs fer youse at de station. I gotta right ter cry, ain’t I! He’s my son, he is—ain’t he! I gotta right—”

“Keep quiet!” snapped a man’s voice gruffly. “We’ve heard all that a dozen times now. It’s a pity you didn’t think more about being his mother twenty years ago! Mike, you’d better lock that front door!”

Jimmie Dale drew back, and closed the door softly. If he were caught here now! The old woman had brought the police back with her—two of them, it appeared. He smiled in a hard way. Well, he did not propose to be caught. His hand reached up to the electric light switch, there was a click, and the room was in darkness. In the fraction of a second more he was at the window. Shade and window were swiftly, silently raised, and he looked out cautiously. The street was deserted, empty; there was no one in sight. It was very simple, a drop of a few feet to the sidewalk, a dash around the corner—and that was all. They were coming now. He swung one leg over the sill—and sat there motionless, his mind balancing with lightning speed the pros against the cons of a sudden inspiration that had come to him. Justice... justice on those guilty of this wretched murder here, and guilty of many another crime almost as grave...he had asked himself was a way...a daredevil, foolhardy way? ... no, the possibility of being winged by a chance shot, perhaps, but otherwise a safe way ... escape through that panel door operated by weights ... and it was not far to that den the Tocsin had described ... nor would he be running into a trap himself ... the gang was not there ... perhaps no one ... but perhaps, with luck, those he might wish would be there ... it would be a gracious little act on the part of the Gray Seal, would it not, to invite the police, this Mike and his companion, to that den—they would be deeply interested! He laughed low—they were almost at the door now. Well? The doorknob rattled. Yes, he would do it! Yes—now! He stretched out suddenly, and with the toe of his boot kicked over a chair that was within reach. The crash, as the chair fell, was answered by a rush through the door, a hoarse, surprised and quick-flung oath—and, as Jimmie Dale swung out through the window and dropped to the street, the flash and roar of a revolver shot.

Like a cat on his feet, he whirled as he touched the pavement, and darted along past the backyard fence, heading for the lane; and, as he ran, over his shoulder, he saw first one and then the other of the two men, both in police uniform, drop from the window and take up the pursuit. Another shot, and another, a fusillade of them rang out. A bullet struck the pavement at his feet with a venomous spat. He heard the humming of another that was like the humming of an angry wasp. And he laughed again to himself—but short and grimly now. Just a few yards more—five of them—to the corner of the lane. It was the chance he had invited—three yards—two—his breath was coming in hard, short panting gasps—safe! Yes! He had won now—they would not get another shot at him, at least not another that he would have any need to fear!

He swerved into the lane, still running at top speed. A high board fence, she had said—yes, there it was! And it corresponded in location with where he knew it should be—about three lots in from the street. He sprang for it, and swung lithely to the top—and hung there, as though still scrambling and struggling for his balance. The officers had not turned into the lane yet, and he had no intention of affording them any excuse for losing sight of their quarry!

Ah! There they were! A yell and a revolver shot rang out simultaneously as they caught sight of him—and Jimmie Dale dropped down to the ground on the inside of the fence. In the moonlight he could see quite distinctly. He darted across the yard, heading for the basement door of the building that loomed up in front of him.

The little steel picklock was in his hand as he reached the door. A second—two—three went by. He straightened up—and again he waited—stepping back a few feet to stand sharply outlined in the moonlight.

Again a shout in signal that he was seen, as one of the officers’ heads appeared over the top of the fence—and Jimmie Dale, as though in mad haste, plunged through the door.

And now suddenly his tactics changed. He needed every second he could gain, and the police now certainly could no longer lose their way. He swung the door shut behind him, locked it to delay them, and snatched his flashlight from his pocket. He was at the top of a few ladder-like steps that led down into the cellar of the building, and halfway along the length of the cellar the ray of his flashlight swept across a huge coal bin, its sides, it seemed, built almost up to the ceiling.

Jimmie Dale was muttering to himself now, as he took the steps at a single leap, and raced toward the side of the bin that flanked the wall—“seventh board from the wall—knot on a level with shoulders”—and now he was counting rapidly—and now the round, white ray played on the seventh board. They were smashing at the cellar door now. The knot! Ah—there it was! He pressed it. Two of the boards in front of him, the width of a man’s body, swung back. He left this open—a blazed trail for his pursuers, battering now at the cellar door—and stepped forward into a little opening, too short to be called a passage, and, silent now, halted before another door.

Brain and eyes and hands were working now with incredible speed. That it was a sound-proof room was not, perhaps, altogether an unmixed blessing! Was the place deserted? Was there any one within? He could hear nothing. Well, after all, did it make any ultimate difference? The room itself would condemn them!

The picklock was at work again—working silently—working swiftly. And now, in its place, his automatic was in his hand.

He crouched a little—and with a spring, flinging wide the door, was in the room. There was a smothered cry, an oath, the crash of an overturned chair, as two men, from a table heaped with little piles of crisp, new banknotes, sprang wildly to their feet: And Jimmie Dale’s lips twisted in a smile not good to see. Standing there before him were Curley and Haines.

“Keep your seats, gentlemen—please!” said Jimmie Dale, with grim irony. “I shall only stay a moment. It is Mr. Curley and Mr. Haines, I believe—in their private office! Permit me!”—he reached out with his left hand, and closed the door. “Ah, I see there is a good serviceable bolt on it. I have your permission?”—he slipped the bolt into place. “As I said, I shall only stay a moment; but it would be unfortunate, most unfortunate, if we were by any chance interrupted—prematurely!”

Haines, ashen white, was gripping at the table edge. Curley, a deadly glitter in his wicked little eyes, moistened his lips with the tip of his tongue.

“How’d you get here, and what the hell d’you want?” he burst out fiercely.

“As to the first question, I haven’t time to answer it,” said Jimmie Dale evenly. “What I want is the sealed envelope stolen from Henry Grenville’s safe—and I’m in a hurry, Mr. Curley.”

“You’re a fool!” said Curley, with a sneer. “It’s—”

“Yes, I know,” said Jimmie Dale, with ominous patience, “it’s counterfeit, you miserable pair of curs! Counterfeit like the rest of that stuff there on the table! Nice place you’ve got here—everything, I see—press, plates, engraver’s tools—nothing missing but the rest of the gang! Perhaps, though, they can be found! Now then, that envelope—quick!” Jimmie Dale’s automatic swung forward significantly.

“It’s in the drawer of the table,” snarled Curley. “Curse you, who—”

“Thank you!” Jimmie Dale’s lips were a thin line. “Now, you two, stand out there in the middle of the floor—and if either of you make a move other than you are told to make, I’ll drop you as I would drop a mad dog!” He jerked the two chairs out from the table, and, still covering Curley and Haines, placed the chairs back to back. “Sit down there, stretch out your arms full length on either side, the palms of your hands against each other’s!” he ordered curtly; and, as they obeyed—Haines, cowed, all pretence at nerve gone, Curley cursing in abandon—he slipped the handcuffs over their wrists on one side, and, taking the piece of cord from his pocket that he had intended for the Rat’s ankles, he deftly noosed their wrists on the other side with a slip knot, which he fastened securely.

He stepped over to the table.

“Counterfeiting five-hundred and thousand-dollar bills is rather out of the ordinary run, isn’t it—I see these on the table here are the regular small variety!” he observed coolly, as he pulled the drawer open. “The big ones make a quick turn-over, though, if you have the plant to turn them out, and can swing a scheme to cash them—after banking hours—and steal them back! Hello, what’s this!”—the sealed envelope, torn open at one end, evidently by the Rat in his examination, but still full of the counterfeit notes, was blood-smeared, and on the upper left-hand corner there showed the distinct impression of a finger print.

There was a sudden crash against the door.

Both men, in their chairs, strained around—and now Curley, too, had lost his colour.

“My God, what’s that!” he whispered.

The thin metal case was in Jimmie Dale’s hand. With the tweezers, he lifted one of the little gray seals to his lips, moistened it, and, using his elbow, pressed it firmly down upon the envelope.

Came another furious thud upon the door—and another.

“What’s that!” Curley’s voice was a frantic scream now. “For God’s sake, do you hear, what’s that!”

Jimmie Dale, under a pencilled arrow mark indicating the finger print, was scrawling a few words in printed characters.

“It’s the police,” said Jimmie Dale calmly. “Somebody murdered the Rat to-night!” He surveyed the envelope in his hand critically. Between the arrow mark and the gray seal were the words: “Look on the Rat’s collar—and these gentlemen’s fingers.” He laid the envelope down on the table—and, as the door suddenly splintered and sagged under a terrific blow from some heavy object, he retreated hurriedly to the farther end of the room. Here a half dozen steps led upward, and hanging from the ceiling beside them was a cord to which was attached a leaden weight. He jerked the cord quickly. A panel above him slid noiselessly back. He leaped to the top of the stairs, and paused for a moment.

“They’ve been looking for this place for several years, I guess,” said Jimmie Dale softly. “And I guess it will change hands to-night for the last time—and without the need of any Bill of Sale from old Henry Grenville! But we were speaking of the Rat—and why the Rat was murdered. If the Rat had had a chance to spread the news that the money paid by Mr. Curley this afternoon was counterfeit, it—”

Jimmie Dale did not finish his sentence. In a bound, as the door from the cellar crashed inward, he was through the panel opening and in the room above. There was light from the open panel behind him—enough to show him that he was in a small room which was fitted up as an office—the office of Haines & Curley, wholesale liquor dealers!

In an instant he was out of the office, and running silently down the length of the store. He snatched off his mask, reached the front door, opened it, stepped out on the quiet, deserted street—and a moment later Jimmie Dale was but one of the many that still, even at that hour, drifted their way along the Bowery.

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