Jimmie Dale’s fingers, in the darkness, were deftly tying around his body the leather girdle with its finely-tempered, compact kit of burglar’s tools. It was strange, this note of hers to-night—strange, even, where all the notes that she had ever written had been strange! It had been left half an hour ago at the door of the St. James Club—and he had hastened here to the Sanctuary. It was curiously strange! Three nights ago, he had seen Frenchy Virat safely in the hands of the police, and Frenchy Virat was still safely in police custody—but he, Jimmie Dale, was not yet done with Frenchy Virat, it seemed! The note had made that quite clear. There was still the Wolf; and it was the Wolf that filled this anxious, hurried word from her to-night.

The Wolf! He knew the Wolf well—as Larry the Bat in the old days he had even known the other personally as Smarlinghue of to-day he had progressed that far into the inner ring of the underworld again as to be on nodding terms with the Wolf. The man was a power in the underworld—and a devil in human guise. In a career extending back over many years, a career in which no single crime in the decalogue had been slighted, the Wolf had successfully managed to evade the clutches of the law until his name had become a synonym for craft and cunning in the Bad Lands, and the man himself the object of the vicious hero-worship of that sordid world where murder cradled and foul things lived. The police had marked the man, marked him a score of times; in their records a hundred unsolved crimes pointed to the Wolf—but they had never “got” him—always the thread of evidence that seemed to lead to that queer house near Chatham Square was broken on the way—and the Wolf, with steadily increasing prestige and authority in gangland, laughed in the faces of the police, and here and there a plain-clothes man, over-zealous perhaps, died.

That was the Wolf—but that was not all! Jimmie Dale’s face hardened into grim lines, as he lifted out from under the baseboard “Smarlinghue’s” frayed and seedy coat, and put it on. Between the Wolf and the Gray Seal there was now a personal feud. Above the reek of those whisperings in the underworld, above that muttered slogan, “death to the Gray Seal,” that men flung at each other from the twisted corners of their mouths, the Wolf had snarled, and the underworld had listened, and the underworld was waiting now—the Wolf had pledged himself to rid the Bad Lands of the terror that had crept upon it. He had sworn, and staked his reputation on his pledge, to “get” Larry the Bat, alias the Gray Seal—and in the eyes of the underworld, as the underworld sighed with relief, it was already accomplished, for the Wolf had never failed.

Jimmie Dale stooped down, felt in under the baseboard again, and took out a little make-up box. The Wolf’s incentive was not one of philanthropy toward his fellow denizens of crimeland, whose ranks had been thinned by those who, thanks to the Gray Seal, had gone “up the river,” some of them, many of them, to that room in Sing Sing’s death-house from which none ever returned alive; nor was it, to give the Wolf his due, through a personal fear that his own career might end, as those others’ had, at the hands of the Gray Seal; nor, again, was it through any tardy, eleventh-hour conversion, any belated edging toward the way of grace that found expression in a desire to array himself on the side of those representing the forces of law and order. It was none of these things that actuated the Wolf—it was Frenchy Virat, alias one Kenleigh, who was awaiting trial in the Tombs. Frenchy Virat was the Wolf’s bosom friend!

The wheezy, air-choked gas-jet spluttered into a blue flame, as Jimmie Dale lighted it. It disclosed, in shadow, the battered easel, the dirty canvases, some finished, some but tentative daubs, that banked the wall in disorder opposite the small French window, whose shade was closely drawn; it crept dimly into the far corner of the room and disclosed the cheap cot, unmade, the blanket upon it rumpled in negligent untidiness; it fell full, such as its fulness was, upon the rickety table that was littered with unwashed dishes and sticky paint tubes, and, at one end of the table, on an evening newspaper, and, beside the newspaper, the Tocsin’s note and a newspaper clipping.

Jimmie Dale sat down at the table, brushed the dishes and paint tubes together into a heap, and propped up against them a cracked and streaked mirror. He opened his make-up box, and as, swiftly, with masterly touch, the grey, sickly pallor that was Smarlinghue’s transformed his face, and as, from little distorting pieces of wax, there came into being the hollow cheeks, the thin, extended lips, the widened nostrils, he kept glancing at the newspaper, reading again an article that was set, on the front page, under heavy type captions—the article which was identical with the clipping, and which latter the Tocsin had enclosed with her note, lest he should not have seen the original himself.


The details as set forth in the “story” were gruesomely interesting enough from a morbid point of view; but from the point of view of the police they were both meagre and unsatisfactory. It was murder unquestionably—and murder of a most brutal character. The headline had epitomised it—the face was mutilated beyond recognition. Every belonging, obviously with the design to prevent, or at least retard, identification, had been stripped from the body. One point alone appeared to be established, and that, if anything, but added to the mystery which surrounded the crime. According to medical opinion, the murder had been committed but a very short time before the body was discovered; and, since the victim had been found at three o’clock that afternoon, the body must have been thrown into the water in broad daylight.

Jimmie Dale worked on—his fingers seeming to fly with ever-increasing speed. There was no time to lose; every minute, every second, counted against him. If he could only have acted on the instant, as Jimmie Dale, when he had received the note at the club! But he had not had that leather girdle at the club—no blue-steel tools that would be needed, no mask, and he had not been armed—everything had been here in the Sanctuary. And, once here, since he had been forced to lose that much time, he had risked a little more, precious as the moments were, for the advantages, the safety, the freedom of movement, afforded by the character of Smarlinghue. However, it was still but barely eleven o’clock, and the chances were that the Wolf would hardly have deemed it late enough as yet to set to work. On the other hand—well, on the other hand, if the Wolf had proved the early bird, then, perhaps, he and the Wolf would have, in another place and time to-night, a more personal reckoning than was anticipated in the Tocsin’s plan!

His eyes picked up snatches of her note, as they skimmed it swiftly again.

“... The Wolf ... old storehouse on river front ... through trap into the water ... old Webb ... Spider Webb ... ten thousand dollar Moorcliffe jewel robbery ... cash box ... safe behind panelling in bedroom directly opposite the door ... false bottom ... afraid of the Wolf ... last few days ... unfinished ... Wolf does not know ... man and wife upstairs ... old couple ... keep house for the Spider ... no suspicion that anything has happened ...” And then, at the end, a more personal, intimate touch: “Jimmie, it is not to save some one else that I have written this to-night, for that is now too late—it is to save you. The Wolf is dangerous and I am afraid. You know that he has sworn to trap you. He is cunning, Jimmie—do not underestimate him. That is why I have written this—if you succeed to-night ...”

Jimmie Dale’s fingers were tearing the note now into infinitesimal shreds, and, with it, the newspaper clipping. The newspaper itself he crumpled up and tossed into the corner. He crossed the room, replaced the make-up box in its hiding place, put back the movable section of the base-board, turned out the light—and a minute later, Smarlinghue, unkempt, stoop-shouldered, let himself out, not by the French window through which he had entered stealthily in the evening clothes of Jimmie Dale, but unconcernedly, as was the right of any tenant, by the door that opened on the ground-floor passage of the tenement, and shuffled down the street.

The Wolf—and Spider Webb—and Larry the Bat! It was a curious trio! Smarlinghue’s lips, perhaps because the wax beneath was not yet moulded comfortably into place, twitched queerly. One of them was dead—the Spider. There remained—the Wolf and Larry the Bat! No, he did not underestimate the Wolf—only a fool, and a blinded fool, would do that. The Wolf had shown his fangs in deadly enough fashion that morning—with a brutal murder, craftily planned, and hellishly executed! And yet the Wolf was quite hopelessly illogical! It was no secret in the underworld that the Wolf and Spider Webb had long worked together, and that the Spider was a close friend of the Wolf. Yet the Wolf had murdered the Spider, and at the same time had found a basis for his oath to end Larry the Bat, because Larry the Bat had been instrumental in handing over to the police a friend of the Wolf!

Smarlinghue slouched on along the street, but the “slouch” covered the ground at an amazing rate of speed. He had not far to go—but neither had he a moment that he dared lose. Spider Webb’s old antique shop, but a few blocks away, nestled in a squalid little courtyard just west of the Bowery, and on the same side of the Bowery as the Sanctuary.

Some one, out of the shadows of the street, flung him a good-night. Smarlinghue mumbled his acknowledgment from the corner of his mouth, and hurried along.

His thoughts were still on the Wolf. He had not exhausted the sum of the Wolf’s digressions from the realms of the logical! In the old days there had been an intimacy even between the Wolf and Larry the Bat. That underground passage from the shed into that queer house near Chatham Square, for instance—which was known only to the most intimate! But perhaps the Wolf had forgotten, or perhaps even the Wolf had never known he had been on quite such intimate terms with—Larry the Bat.

Jimmie Dale glanced behind him. There was no one in sight for the moment. He was at the corner of a lane now—and he chose the lane. It was a shorter, and a safer route. It bordered on the rear of the courtyard which was his objective, and obviated the necessity of attempting to steal down past the side of “The Yellow Eastern” unnoticed. No, he did not underestimate the Wolf, but if he had luck to-night—! He shrugged his shoulders in a sort of grim whimsicality.

His mind reverted to the Spider now—Spider Webb. Facetious, in a way, the name was! Webb—Spider Webb! And yet the man had come by it honestly, or dishonestly, enough! The old antique shop for years covered dealings that were shabbier than the shabbiest of its antiques! It was probable that more stolen had found Spider Webb’s a clearing house than any other Mecca of the crooks in New York. It was probable, too, that it had known more police raids than any of its competitors—but, unlike many of its competitors, nothing but what indubitably belonged there had ever been found. But then again, the Spider was a specialist—he specialised in small articles, particularly jewelry—no one in the Bad Lands who knew his way about would ever have dreamed of going to the Spider with anything else! Nor was the Spider without justification in thus restricting his operations. The Spider had always managed to hide his questionable wares, until he was able to dispose of them and they passed again out of his possession, with an ingenuity that had baffled, enraged, and mortified the police—and commanded the enthusiastic confidence and admiration of the underworld! But this was, for the most part, past history, and of the days gone by, for the Spider now had grown old—had grown to be an old man—for it had begun of late to be whispered that he talked more than he had been wont to talk in the days of his prime, that he was not as safe as he had been, and in consequence his trade of late had begun to drift away from him.

And herein lay the secret of the old man’s murder at the hands of the Wolf. The Tocsin’s note had not failed to lay stress on this. No one probably, through a career of half a score of years, knew more about the Wolf and the Wolf’s doings than did the Spider. Rightly or wrongly, the word was out that the old man, in his garrulity, was not safe—and the Wolf was inviting no chances where the electric chair was concerned, that was all! The old man would henceforth be perfectly safe, as far as any talking went! It was brutal, hideous—but it was the Wolf! Also, the Wolf, tritely expressed, had proposed to kill two birds with one stone. The old man’s trade was not entirely gone. Yesterday, an old-time lag, who had dealt with the Spider for many years, and who had “pulled” the Moorcliffe job—the robbery of a summer mansion a few miles up the Hudson—had “fenced” the proceeds at the antique shop. Ten thousand dollars’ worth of first-water sparklers! Everybody that was anybody in gangland knew this. The Wolf had seen the psychological and profitable moment to strike—again that was all! And again it was diabolical—but again it was the Wolf!

Jimmie Dale’s face was set like flint. And this was the man who had sworn that he would “get” the Gray Seal! A sort of unholy, passionate joy surged upon him. Well, they would see, he and the Wolf—and perhaps to-night! It was certain that the Wolf would act alone. The man’s devilish cunning showed itself in having inveigled the old man to that storehouse on the river bank, rather than to have killer the Spider in the Spider’s own home. It might be days perhaps before the Spider’s absence—for the Spider’s peculiar life had demanded mysterious absences before—was even commented upon, and the Wolf had taken pains to see that the body was not, immediately at least, identified. It was very simple—from the Wolf’s standpoint! The Wolf was counting it none too easy a task evidently to find the Spider’s ingenious and storied hiding place, and this would give him a night, two nights, or more, in which, undisturbed, he might prosecute his search. And, as he had committed alone, so he would continue to work alone, there were those even in gangland, and in spite of the acknowledged leadership, who would not look with friendly eyes upon the Wolf for this!

It was black here in the lane, and now, possibly a distance of a hundred yards up from the street, Jimmie Dale’s fingers, feeling along the left-hand fence, came upon the latch of a small, narrow door—the courtyard’s access to the lane. He passed through, and stood still—listening—looking sharply about him. He knew the place well. It was the heart and centre, the core of its own particular and vicious section of the underworld. Ahead of him, flanking the two-story, tumble-down building that was the Spider’s home, was a narrow alleyway, then a small and filthy courtyard, and, its rear upon this and fronting the street, the alleyway again at the side, the “The Yellow Lantern” that he had been careful to avoid a dance hall of the lowest type. The Spider had not unshrewdly chosen his location; nor the proprietor of “The Yellow Lantern” his—their clientele was a common one, and their interests did not clash!

From the direction of “The Yellow Lantern” came a hilarious uproar, subdued somewhat by the distance, out of which arose the strident notes of a tinny piano beating blatantly the measure of a turkey trot. There was no other sound. There were lights from the rear of the dance hall, enough, Jimmie Dale knew, to throw a murky illumination over the front windows of the antique shop; but there were no lights showing from the Spider’s dwelling itself, that loomed black on the side of the alleyway at his right hand—the old couple that kept the Spider’s house were doubtless long since in bed in their own particular apartments upstairs.

Jimmie Dale moved softly forward now, gained the back entrance of the Spider’s house, and tried the door cautiously. It was locked. From one of the little pockets in the girdle under his shirt came a black silk mask, which he slipped over his face; from another of the pockets came a little steel picklock. He was pressed close against the door now, his body merged with the black shadows of the wall. A minute passed—and then the door swung open, and closed without a sound. Another minute passed, and still another. From upstairs came the sound of stertorous breathing, nothing else, only quiet, and a silence that was heavy in itself—and then the round, white ray of Jimmie Dale’s flashlight winked through the blackness. As between himself and the Wolf, he was first, at least, on the ground!

He was in the kitchen of the house. On the opposite side of the room from him were two doors, one of them, the one to the left, open—and the flashlight, playing through, disclosed a passageway leading, obviously, to the shop at the front, and continuing to the stairway. He crossed to the right-hand door noiselessly, opened it, and, with a low ejaculation of satisfaction, stepped in over the threshold. It was the room he sought—the Spider’s bedroom, or, better perhaps, the Spider’s den that served the man for all purposes. The Spider, it was very plain, was not fastidious! The room was dingy beyond description; the furnishings poor and poverty-stricken in appearance. It was here the Spider met his clients of a sort—and drove his bargains. There was no hint of affluence—the room was miserly.

The flashlight swept in a circle around the room. There was a bed in one corner, a table and two chairs in another, and a miserable washstand in still another. The centre of the room, save for an old carpet on the floor, was quite bare of furnishings. Jimmie Dale’s survey of the appointments, however, was most cursory—they concerned him little. The flashlight’s ray was even lifted above them, as it moved about. There was only one door—the door by which he had entered; and only one window—which, with a sudden frown, he mentally noted did not open on the alleyway, for the very sufficient reason that the alleyway was on the other side of the house. He stepped quickly to the window, and looked out. It was a moment before he could see; and then, with a quick nod of his head, he began, with extreme caution to loosen the window catches on the sill. There was a narrow space between the house and what was the blank brick wall of the building next to it, and this space extended to the rear, and therefore, indirectly, by circling the house at the back, led to the house and the door in the fence again.

Jimmie Dale smiled grimly, as he swung the old-fashioned windows back on either side. So far he was in luck to-night, and, with luck, in a very few minutes now be out and away from the house by the same way he had entered it—but luck sometimes was a fickle thing, and a goddess most to be trusted by those who looked after themselves!

He walked back to the doorway, and levelled his flashlight across the room directly in front of him. The ray fell upon the wooden panelling, and, holding the light steadily on the same spot, he moved forward across the floor to the opposite wall, dropped on his hands and knees, and began to examine the woodwork critically. It was beautiful work, this panelling that went all around the room, very old, but very beautiful work, and of very beautifully matched wood—it was entirely out of place with the rest of the room, or would have been, were it not that the panelling itself bore witness to the fact that it had been built in there when the house itself had been built, and bore witness, too, to the fact that in those days, long gone by, a relic perhaps even of Dutch handiwork, the house had not been unpretentious amongst its fellows of that generation.

“Behind panelling in bedroom directly opposite the door,” she had written. Inch by inch, over an area a yard square, those sensitive finger tips of Jimmie Dale felt their way, lingering here over a knot in the wood, and there over a joint or crevice. Five minutes went by—and the five became ten. An exclamation of annoyance, low, guarded, escaped him. There was nothing—he could find nothing. The Spider’s ingenuity had not been over-rated! Somewhere there must be the secret spring which operated the panel, but there was no sign of it; neither was there the slightest sign or indication that any portion of the panelling was even movable.

He drew back for an instant, frowning. Perhaps—and then he shook his head—no, the Tocsin did not make mistakes of that kind. The safe was unquestionably behind the panelling in front of him. Well, there was a way—it was distasteful to him because it was crude and bungling, but he could afford no more time in a search, that he had already convinced himself was hopeless.

From the girdle came a half dozen little blue-steel tools. A jimmy found and nosed its way into the joint between two panels. There was a low, faint creak of rending wood. A wedge followed the jimmy. A faint creak again—and now one a little louder—and Jimmie Dale, half turned, listened intently—the narrow board was in his hand. There was nothing—no sound—save that interrupted, stertorous breathing from above, and the tinny jangle of the piano from the direction of “The Yellow Lantern.”

And now Jimmie Dale smiled again—that curious flicker on his lips that mingled whimsicality and a deadly earnestness. The Tocsin had made no mistake. Showing through the aperture, gleaming under the flashlight’s ray, was the nickel dial of a safe. He worked rapidly now. The first panel out, the remainder came much more readily—and finally the entire face of the safe was disclosed. Jimmie Dale stared at it—and pursed his lips. It was an ugly safe, extremely ugly—from a cracksman’s point of view! Also, there seemed a hint of irony, a jeer almost, in the impassive wall of steel that confronted him. It was one of his own make—one that had helped, in the old days, to amass the millions that his father had left to him—and it was one of the best!

In an abstracted, deliberate way, his eyes pondering the safe, the blue-steel tools were replaced in the pockets of the leather girdle; and then the long, slim, tapering fingers closed upon the dial’s knob and twirled it tentatively, and his head bent forward until his ear was pressed hard against the face of the safe.

It was very still now—only the breathing from above that seemed in cadence with those strange and paradoxical palpitations that are known only in a great silence—the piano for the moment had ceased its jangle. Jimmie Dale’s fingers, from the dial, sought the floor, and frictioned briskly over the rough, threadbare carpet, until the nerves tingled under the delicate skin—and then they shot to the dial again.

Strained, every faculty keyed up to its highest tension, he crouched there against the safe. Again and again his fingers rubbed over the rough carpet, and again the sweat beads oozed out upon his forehead with the strain—and then there came through the stillness a long-drawn intake of his breath. The handle swung the bolt with a low metallic thud—the safe was open.

There was the inner door now. Again those slim fingers, almost raw, quivering now at the tips, rubbed along the carpet, and the lips, just showing beneath the edge of the mask, grew tight with pain. Then he leaned forward, crouched once more, his head and shoulders inside the outer door, like some strange animal burrowing for its prey. Faint, musical, like some far distant tinkle, came the twirling of the dial—and then, suddenly, he drew back sharply, his hand shot to his pocket, whipped out his automatic, and, motionless there on his knees, every muscle rigid, he listened. There was the piano again, the breathing, the weird pound and thump of the silence—nothing else. He shook his head in half angry, half tolerant self-remonstrance. He was under strain, that was all—he had thought he had heard a footstep out there in the alleyway. He laid his automatic on the floor within instant reach, and turned again to the safe—acute and sensitive as his hearing was, it would haw taken good ears indeed to have distinguished a step at that distance on the other side of the house!

But now he worked, seemingly at least, with even greater rapidity than before. Imagination had had one effect, if it had had no other—it was a spur, a reminder that at any moment there might well be a footstep, and one that was born only of the imagination! His jaws clamped. He had not counted on this—an old-fashioned iron monstrosity that was dismaying only in its appearance, perhaps—but not this! He had been here far longer now than he—

'Ah’—tense, low, that deep intake of the breath again.

The inner door swung wide; the flashlight’s ray leaped, dazzling white, into the interior, and, on the lower shelf, upon a flat, narrow, black tin box—the cash-box.

In an instant, Jimmie Dale had picked it up. It was not locked, and he lifted the cover. From within there scintillated back the gleam of diamonds—a handful of pendants, brooches, ear-rings lay there disclosed, and, too, a string of pearls. Ten thousand dollars! It was a modest figure! He reached his hand inside the box—and on the instant snatched it back, and thrust the box swiftly into his pocket. The flashlight was out. The room was in darkness.

This time it was not imagination—nor, he knew now, had it been imagination before. There was a faint creak of the flooring in the kitchen, a single incautious step that he placed as having come from near the doorway of the passage—and now some one had halted on the threshold of the room itself. Jimmie Dale’s brain was working with lightning speed. There had been no time to reach the window—time only to snatch up his automatic and retreat a little from the immediate vicinity of the safe. Had the other heard the slight sound—it was only the brushing of his coat against the wall! Much less had there been time to close the safe—nor would it have done any good—he could not have replaced the broken panelling! And now—what? The man, with a stealth that he, Jimmie Dale, except for that one incautious footfall, could not have excelled, must have entered through a window from the alleyway into the passage. It was dark, utterly dark—save that the window showed dimly like a faint transparent square set in the blackness.

He could not see, but he could sense the other standing there in the doorway, motionless, silent, as though listening. Perhaps a minute passed. There was something nerve-racking now in the silence, something sinister, something pregnant with menace. And then, suddenly, there came a low, scratching sound, and a match flame spurted through the darkness, and lighted up a face—a face that was thrust forward through the doorway with a sort of pent-up and malicious eagerness; a vicious face, with sharp, restive black eyes under great, hairy eyebrows; a face with a huge jaw, outflung now, that was like the jaw of a beast. It was the Wolf!

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