THE Hawk looked at his watch again, removed his feet from the table, knocked the ashes from the bowl of his pipe, stood up, and crossed leisurely to the window. The window gave on the fire escape. He lifted aside the shade, and stood there for a moment staring out into the darkness, then drew the shade very carefully back into place again. From the window he crossed to the door, reassured himself that it was locked, and, as an extra precaution, draped his handkerchief on the door handle, completely screening the keyhole.

He returned now to the other side of the room, and from under the bed pulled out a large, black valise. He laid this on the bed, and opened it. It was quite empty.

Between the bed and the table stood his trunk. He unlocked the trunk, and threw back the lid.

“It's quite possible,” muttered the Hawk, as his fingers worked deftly and swiftly around the edges of the lid, “that I may not return. I've forgotten just how I stand on my rent, though, I fancy I've paid up for a week in advance! In any case, there's the trunk for old Seidelberger downstairs, and likewise its contents, with the exception, scarcely worth mentioning—of this!” There was a grim chuckle on the Hawk's lips, as the false tray came away in his hands. “Yes,” said the Hawk, as he laid the tray on the bed beside the valise, “I hardly think that I'll be back! I guess they're pretty peeved as it is, and after to-night I've a notion their sentiments aren't going to improve any!”

He stood looking down at the tray, that bulged to repletion with the proceeds of a dozen robberies that were almost country-wide in fame, and which, more pertinent still as far as the Hawk was concerned, represented the loot that the Wire Devils had already counted their own—when he, the Hawk, instead, had helped himself to the prize at their expense!

The Hawk began to transfer the contents of the tray to the valise.

“I don't know how big the lot would size up, but it looks like a garden villa at Palm Beach—which is going some!” observed the Hawk softly. “Yes, just one more little play to-night, and I guess I retire!”

He held the magnificent diamond necklace up to the light, causing its thousand facets to leap and gleam and scintillate in fiery flashes, then laid it in a curiously caressing sort of way in the bottom of the valise. The Hawk seemed peculiarly entranced with diamonds, as though in their touch and in their responsive life and fire he found a pure and unalloyed delight. From their little box he allowed the score or two of unset stones to trickle into the palm of his hand, and again he brought the light to flash and play upon them. And for a moment he held them there—then a sudden hardness set his jaws and lips, and impulsively he thrust the stones back into the box, and tossed the box into the valise.

“Damn it!” said the Hawk through compressed lips. “They make me think of the kid—and old Mother Barrett.”

He laughed harshly, and shrugged his shoulders as though literally to throw off the weight of an unpleasant memory—and reached again into the tray. He worked more quickly now. Into the valise he packed away in rapid succession a very large collection of valuables, amongst them the ten thousand dollars in banknotes that he had taken from the paymaster's safe, the contents of the cash box, amounting to some three thousand dollars, of which he had once relieved one Isaac Kirschell, and, still in its newspaper wrapper, the Trader's National Bank's twenty-five thousand dollars, likewise in banknotes, which had been his last venture, and which he had appropriated on the night he had been wounded.

The tray was empty now, save for a black mask, a steel jimmy, and a neat little package of crisp, new, ten-dollar counterfeit notes. The two former articles the Hawk laid aside on the table; and the latter, after an instant's hesitation, was added to the horde in the valise. He closed and locked the valise. There remained now but the empty tray. He stared at this ruefully.

“I hate to lose that trunk, upon my soul, I do!” he muttered. “But I can't afford to take any chances of spilling the beans by trying to get it out of here!”

He took out his knife, and slashed away the canvas bottom of the tray, then broke the framework into a dozen pieces. The lid of the trunk itself was innocent of fastenings, or of any evidence that it had ever concealed a tray; and the tray itself, when the Hawk was through with it, was an unrecognisable debris of splintered wood and ribbons of torn canvas. He made a bundle of this, tying it together with a strip of the canvas.

The Hawk now emptied his pockets, and proceeded to change his clothes. If he were destined to sacrifice the greater part of his wardrobe, he at least need not linger long in indecision over the choice of what should be preserved! There was an exceedingly useful and ingeniously devised pocket concealed in the back lining of a certain one of his coats. The suit, of which this coat was an integral part, was a trifle worn and threadbare, not in quite as good repair as any of the rest of his clothing, and for that reason he had not worn it of late; but one could not at all times afford to be fastidious! What he left behind would be minutely searched and examined. The secret of that pocket, a little invention of his own, was worth preserving from the vulgar eye, even at the expense of sacrificing a better suit of clothes for the sake of it! He resurrected the suit in question from the bottom of the trunk, and put it on. And into the concealed pocket he tucked away his mask and his bunch of skeleton keys. A side coat pocket, more instantly accessible, served for his automatic—the other pockets for his various other belongings, including the steel jimmy.

The Hawk made a final and comprehensive survey of the room, then closed and locked the trunk, and again consulted his watch. It was five minutes after ten, and No. 18 scheduled Selkirk at ten-twenty. The Hawk nodded. It was time to go—just time. He took from his pocket his automatic, tested and examined its mechanism critically, and restored it to his pocket. He crossed the room, turned out the light, unlocked the door without opening it, and took his handkerchief from the keyhole. Without a sound now the Hawk moved back to the bed, picked up the valise, tucked the bundle of what had once been the tray under his arm, returned to the door, opened it silently, and stood peering out into the dark hallway—and the next instant, the Hawk, stealing like a shadow down the stairs, gained the street, and in another had swung around the corner into the lane.

It was only the length of a block to the station, but here in the lane the Hawk found means of disposing of the irksome bundle under his arm by the simple expedient of dropping pieces of the wreckage in the various refuse barrels as he went along. Nor had the Hawk, evidently, any intention either of hampering his movements with the care of the valise, or of risking the valise's contents in the night's work that lay ahead of him. The Hawk was, perhaps, possessed of a certain ironical sense of humour. Since his possession of the loot which the valise contained was due in a more or less intimate degree to the railroad, it seemed eminently fitting that it should be restored to the railroad for safekeeping temporarily. The Hawk, as he entered the station, nonchalantly exchanged his valise for a parcel-room check, paid down the dime for the service to be rendered, and passed on into the general waiting room.

He glanced at the news-counter on his way through to the platform. Its full complement of two attendants were present now; but, contrary to all precedent, it being an all-night stand, obvious preparations for closing it for the night were in progress—the two men were engaged in removing the magazines, newspapers, and various small wares from the outside ledge of the counter, and in pulling down the large sliding windows that enclosed the place. The Hawk's dark eyes flashed a gleam of grim appreciation. It was then literally a mobilisation of the Wire Devils to the last man to-night! A half million in gold—was a half million in gold!

The Hawk bought a mileage book in lieu of a ticket to any specific destination, both because his immediate destination was peculiarly his own private concern, and because in the very near future he expected to put a considerable quantity of mileage to excellent use. He strolled out to the platform, and along to the east end of the station.

Here, quite unobtrusively, he awaited the arrival of No. 18. The platform was fairly well crowded—but not unusually so, or rather, perhaps, not noticeably so. A half dozen, or even a dozen, extra men circulating amongst the ordinary press of traffic would hardly be expected to make any appreciable difference. The Hawk, back under the shadows of the building, surveyed the lighted stretch of platform narrowly. They were there, the Wire Devils' reserve, he knew; but he recognised none of them. He smiled a little whimsically. His acquaintanceship with the gang so far had been with its more prominent members, as it were, and these, as likewise Mac-Vightie's posse, had already boarded the train far west of Selkirk—that each might not excite the other's suspicion! Nor was MacVightie himself in evidence. Not that this surprised the Hawk! He was interested, that was all. It was simply a question of whether MacVightie had elected to stay with the gold, or had gone on with the first posse on the Limited on the assumption that the Limited was the more likely to be attacked. It made little difference, of course, as far as he, the Hawk, was concerned, whether it was MacVightie or some one else who was in command of the posse—his own plans would in no way be affected on that account.

There was a stir along the platform. Up the yard, past the twinkling switch lights on the spurs, the glare of a headlight flashed into sight around the bend. Came the roar and rumble of a heavy train, and a moment later No. 18, its big mogul panting like a thing of life from a breathless run, its long string of coaches behind it, rolled into the station.

The Hawk did not stir. By coincidence, perhaps, the baggage car had come to a stop directly opposite the position he had chosen. The rearmost sliding door of the car was slammed back, and the baggageman, a powerfully built, muscular fellow of perhaps thirty, appeared in the doorway. The Hawk, from his place of vantage, eyed the other appraisingly, and then his glance travelled on into the interior of the car—what he could see of it. What he saw was a mass of trunks, some of which the man now unloaded on the waiting trucks, and in turn piled others, as they were heaved up to him from the platform, into the formers' places. The Hawk nodded his head shortly. True, the forward door of the car had not been, opened, but MacVigh-tie had done his work well. There was no hint of concealment, the baggage car of No. 18 was as frankly innocent in appearance on its run tonight as it had ever been.

The train was starting into motion again when the Hawk finally moved. He crossed the platform, and swung himself on the forward steps of the smoker, that was immediately behind the baggage car. His slouch hat pulled a little over his eyes, he opened the door, stepped into the car, sauntered down the aisle, and out of the rear door to the vestibuled platform of the first-class day coach behind. But here, the Hawk paused a moment, and his face, impassive before, was stamped now with a twisted smile. His reconnaissance of the train so far had proved fruitful. The four men in the forward double seat of the smoker, a lap board across their knees, and apparently engrossed in their card game, were the Butcher, Whitie Jim, the Cricket and the Bantam! And further down the aisle, unwittingly rubbing shoulders quite probably with some of MacVightie's men, Parson Joe occupied a seat, and the keen, pale, thin face of Kirschell peered out from another.

“Yes, they're all here,” decided the Hawk, his voice drowned in the rattle of the train. “Counting those who got on at Selkirk, they're all here to the last man—except the Ladybird and his wheel chair!”

The Hawk moved forward, reached out for the handle of the day coach door—and sucked in his breath, as he drew sharply back again. Through the glass panel he had caught sight of two men he had not expected to see. Sitting together on the right-hand side about a quarter of the way down the aisle were MacVightie and Lanson. The Hawk frowned. He had waited until the train was in motion, and he had not seen them get on; and they, as witness that little conference in the roundhouse of a while back, had not been amongst those who had boarded the train west of Selkirk. And then the frown gave place to a sort of self-commiserating expression. Where were his wits to-night! It was simple enough! They had boarded the car from the yard side of the train, and not from the platform, of course!

Well, that put an end to any further reconnaissance through the train! In one sense it was not altogether true that it made no difference whether MacVightie was aboard or not. He and MacVightie were not altogether strangers. They had met once in his, the Hawk's, room, and on that occasion, the night, to be precise, he had cleaned out the paymaster's safe of that ten thousand dollars, MacVightie had been in a decidedly suspicious frame of mind. MacVightie, it was quite certain, had not forgotten that night; nor, it was quite equally safe to assume, had MacVightie forgotten his, the Hawk's face—and at that exact moment the Hawk had no desire that MacVightie should recognise him again!

The Hawk turned, re-entered the smoker, found the always unpopular crosswise seat behind the door vacant, and appropriated it. His eyes straying forward over the car located two more acquaintances in the person of Crusty Kline and French Pete, and came back to fix musingly on the worn nickel faucet of the water-cooler. No. 18'. first stop was at Barne's Junction, fifteen miles out from Selkirk, and some five miles this side of Conmore; the next stop was Lorraine, and Lorraine was on the other side—in fact a good many miles on the other side—of Echo Rock and the Willow Creek bridge. The deduction was obvious; and the Hawk's destination, in so far as his occupancy of a seat in the smoker was concerned, was therefore quite plainly—the Junction.

“Three miles east of Echo Rock,” repeated the Hawk to himself. “No, I don't think so! This is where the Ladybird has another guess! Maybe I couldn't get away with a half million—but maybe I'm not the only one! There's one or two guys in this car that haven't got the high-sign to my lodge! It seems to me I promised the Butcher something the night he tried to shoot me through his pocket, and it seems as though I promised Parson Joe something too—yes, it seems to me I did!”

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