In a moment, the two men reappeared above the surface of the water, struggling frantically for grips on the floating cakes of ice.

Coiled around a dock post lay an old rope which had not been taken in for the winter. Jerry and Mr. Parker quickly obtained it and tossed it squarely between the two men.

Both grasped it and were pulled slowly toward shore.

Just then a police car drove up at high speed, parking close by.

“Salt’s telephone call went through!” Penny cried, signaling to the officers who piled out of the car. “The police arrived just when we need them!”

The shivering pair had no opportunity to attempt escape. As they were pulled out of the water, officers placed them under arrest.

“All right! You’ve got us!” snarled Winkey. “But you’ll never find the suitcase! It’s at the bottom of the river!”

“Quiet!” Jay Highland warned him. “Anything you say will be used against us!”

Gazing gloomily at the churning water where the suitcase had been lost, Penny asked if the river might not be dragged after the ice had gone out.

“We’ll mark the place,” an officer promised. “Don’t count on the case being found though. The current is fast here. Objects could be carried a long distance.”

Sullen and silent, the two prisoners were removed to the police car. After consulting with Mr. Parker, officers agreed to take Highland and Winkey to the monastery enroute to the lockup. By confronting them with their victims, it was hoped Winkey at least, might make damaging statements.

Penny, Jerry, and Mr. Parker followed close behind as the police car sped to the monastery. Other policemen had arrived there, summoned by Salt. The front door had been broken in, and a search was being made of the building.

Spying Salt at the gate, Penny ran to ask if Mr. Ayling, Mr. Merkill, and Rhoda’s grandmother had been released.

“Rhoda’s inside now, showing the officers the different rooms,” the photographer explained. “Why don’t you go on in?”

“Guess I will,” Penny agreed, starting up the driveway. “I certainly hate to tell her the bad news though. The sapphire has been lost in the river! It was in her suitcase.”

Jerry and Mr. Parker overtook the girl as she entered the monastery. Hearing voices in Mr. Highland’s study, they all went there.

A fire had been rebuilt in the grate, and cult members, released from their rooms, were being herded into the chamber. Mrs. Hawthorne, looking very ill, lay on a couch, covered by coats. Beside her, Rhoda hovered anxiously.

Seeing Penny, the girl crossed the room to whisper: “Grandmother is very sick, but Captain Duveen of the police force says she will pull through all right. We’ve sent for an ambulance to take her to the hospital.”

“Have Mr. Ayling and Mr. Merkill been freed yet?”

“Police are down in the crypt now. Did you catch Winkey and that cruel Jay Highland?”

“We did,” Penny replied, “but the story is too long to tell now. I’m afraid though, I have bad news.”

“How do you mean?”

“The sapphire is gone. Winkey hurled your suitcase into the river.”

Rhoda’s tense face relaxed into a little smile. “Has that been worrying you?” she asked.


“But I tried to tell you—you were in such a hurry you wouldn’t listen!”

“You tried to tell me what?”

“Why, the sapphire wasn’t in the suitcase. It’s here in the house.”

“But I thought you said you took it with you when you ran away!”

“I did. Then when I decided to leave my suitcase under the dock for a quick getaway should I try to escape from this place later on, I brought the sapphire back with me. I was afraid to leave it, even sewed up in a dress hem, for fear someone would find the suitcase.”

“Yet you substituted a fake gem for the real one.”

“I did,” Rhoda agreed, “because I was certain Highland sooner or later would attempt to steal the gem.”

“Then what became of the real sapphire? Is it safe?”

“I hope so,” Rhoda said earnestly. “Let’s see if we can find it.”

Taking Penny by the hand, she led her down the hall to the cloister. At a niche in the wall, she abruptly paused.

“It should be here, beneath this broken statuette,” she declared. “I found a tiny crack in the stone, just large enough to insert the gem. Lend me a hairpin, please.”

Penny gave her a bobbypin. Rhoda pried beneath the statuette and presently found the small object for which she searched.

“It’s here!” she announced triumphantly. “See!”

Into Penny’s hand she dropped a star-shaped gem which under artificial light had taken on a violet hue.

“By daylight it’s even more beautiful,” Rhoda explained. “It looks sky blue then.”

“Never have I seen anything so gorgeous,” Penny murmured in awe. “And to think Jay Highland nearly made off with it! How clever of you to let him believe it was hidden in the suitcase!”

“I was desperate,” Rhoda chuckled. “Grandfather willed the sapphire to me, and I intend to keep it always.”

“Then you’re not afraid of the old superstition, that harm will befall the owner?”

“I should say not!” grinned Rhoda. “That was only Grandmother’s idea. If ordinary precautions are taken, the gem always will be safe. After all, it’s highly insured.”

“As Mr. Ayling now realizes to his sorrow,” added Penny. “Let’s see if he and Mr. Merkill are out of the crypt.”

Before the girls could find the stairway leading down, policemen appeared, assisting the two men to the first floor of the monastery. Mr. Ayling, who had been imprisoned only a short time, was able to walk. However, it was necessary for officers to carry Mr. Merkill.

“Save my wife,” he pleaded. “She is here somewhere. That crook stole a diamond necklace from her too!”

“Your wife is safe and in good health,” the officer assured him. “We’ve found no jewelry though. Describe the necklace.”

While he was being carried outside on an improvised stretcher, Mr. Merkill gave police a detailed description of the missing jewelry.

Other persons, members of the cult, also gathered around to press claims for articles Mr. Highland had taken from them.

Under guard, the former master of the monastery and Winkey, were removed from the patrol car to be confronted with victims they had fleeced. Jay Highland arrogantly denied he had accepted or stolen any object of value.

“You have no evidence against me,” he defied the group. “True, I established a cult here, but entirely within the law. Not even the sapphire was found in my possession! These people lie if they say I took jewelry from them. They were not charged a penny, even for room and lodging.”

“You say you took nothing from them?” Penny inquired. “Look at this!”

From her pocket, she removed the charred sheet of paper rescued from the fireplace. Taking care that Highland should not get his hands on it, she gave it to one of the policemen.

“This is good evidence!” the officer declared. “These birds will talk all right after we get them to the station!”

Highland and Winkey were escorted back to the police car.

Before they could enter it, Mr. Eckenrod hobbled down the street. He walked with a cane and under his arm carried a large painting which he was bringing home from the nearby art museum where it had been on display.

“Well, what goes on here?” he demanded, pausing to stare at the prisoners. “Winkey and the great master under arrest!”

Told of the events that had led to the apprehension of the two crooks, he grinned with undisguised delight. “Excellent! Excellent!” he chortled. “I always knew these two were criminals! Once they are convicted in court, I may be able to buy this property and convert it into a real show place.”

“At least you’ll be allowed to complete your paintings without sneaking into the monastery through the secret passageway!” laughed Penny. “Showing me that building map certainly paid dividends!”

“I hope they give Winkey twenty years,” said the artist. Purposely he spoke so that the hunchback could hear. “The little weasel deserves it!”

“Oh, I do, eh?” snarled Winkey. Breaking away from two policemen who were shoving him into the police car, he hurled himself upon the startled artist.

Before the vicious little man could be pulled off, he had pummeled Mr. Eckenrod severely.

“Are you hurt?” Penny asked anxiously as the artist was helped to his feet.

“No!” he snapped. “Hold this cane and let me at that treacherous jailbird!”

Officers restrained the excited man as he would have attacked Winkey. Handcuffs were snapped on the hunchback’s wrists. Just then, Penny uttered a startled cry.

“Look at Winkey’s hump!” she exclaimed. “It’s all out of shape!”

Indeed, the fellow presented a ludicrous appearance as he stood there, his large hump far over on one shoulder.

“It’s a fake!” the girl cried. “He’s not a real hunchback!”

One of the policemen reached out, and with a quick jerk, ripped the artificial hump from beneath the man’s shirt.

“Interesting,” he commented. “This hump has made a safe carryall for the loot!”

As Penny, her friends, and cult members gathered close, the pouch was opened. Inside were found the diamond necklace stolen from Mrs. Merkill, several valuable brooches, a black cameo, pearl earrings, an emerald-cut diamond, and other items.

Eagerly, cult members identified their stolen property.

“This sews up our case,” declared one of the officers in satisfaction. “We’ll not need a confession now to send these two up for a long stretch!”

The prisoners were hustled into the police car, which set off at top speed for the Riverview Safety Building. Ambulances began to arrive to remove cult members deemed in need of medical attention.

“What about Old Julia?” Penny inquired. “Where is she to be sent?”

“She must be committed to a mental institution for treatment,” Mr. Ayling said regretfully. “Perhaps with proper care, she will fully recover.”

“Who is she, I wonder?”

“One of Highland’s victims in an earlier deal, I judge,” replied the investigator. “Obviously her mind became unhinged from the cruelty she witnessed and experienced. Apparently, she has no friends or relatives.”

“I’ll never forget how she screamed at night,” said Rhoda with a shiver.

“Nor will I,” added Penny. “If it hadn’t been for her cry which first drew me to the monastery—well, Highland would still be here, ruling supreme.”

Presently, along with other members of the strange household, Old Julia was taken away. One of the last to be removed was Mrs. Hawthorne, who would be sent to Riverview Hospital for a complete checkup.

Rhoda, preparing to accompany her grandmother, hurriedly said goodbye to Penny. “I’ll see you tomorrow and really thank you for all you did tonight,” she promised earnestly. “I hope we can be friends always.”

Mr. Ayling then tried to express his appreciation to the Parkers.

“As an investigator, you’re the tops,” he praised Penny. “If it hadn’t been for you, Jay Highland certainly would have made off with the sapphire, and our company would have had to pay plenty. If ever I can repay the favor, let me know.”

Her reply was cut short by Mr. Parker who glanced nervously at his watch.

“I don’t like to break up this little party, but we must hot-foot it to the Star office!” he exclaimed. “Penny, we have barely thirty minutes in which to catch the three-star edition!”

“That’s so!” she agreed, looking startled. “I forgot all about the assignment Mr. DeWitt gave me! And this is a big story!”

“Tremendous!” her father corrected. “Think you can shoot copy fast, or will you need Jerry to take over?”

“You’ll hear no S.O.S. call from me,” Penny laughed, her active mind already thinking in terms of front page headlines. “Writing this story will be duck soup compared to digging up the material. Just lead me to a typewriter!”


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