IT was a gusty, windy day in December, with a fine drive of snow in the air, which had already whitened the pavements, when I dropped into the station and nodded to Sergeant Harrington.
Dan's signal phone rang as I slipped off my coat, and he reached for the receiver even as he answered my nod. A moment later he threw it back on the hook with a bang, and spoke to me: "Wait a minute, Glace. If you beat it out the back, you can catch the wagon. There's the divil to pay up to the Merchants' Bank."
His hand went out and pressed a button which signaled the patrol garage, and another which summoned an inspector and several other officers from an adjoining room.
They came on the jump. I struggled back into my coat.
Dan bawled the address, and we turned away in a bunch to the rear, where the motor was already throbbing at the door. Without ceremony we swarmed in. There were Bryce, the inspector; Johnson, a detective, and a roundsman whom Bryce directed to come along. Also there was myself. Bryce recognized me with a grin. "Who let you in on this?" he wanted to know.
"Dan said I might as well come along," I answered as we skidded around a corner, and the chauffeur opened up the car. "If you don't want me, stop, and I'll get out."
"Haven't time," grinned the inspector, his eyes twinkling. "You and Dan rather stand in—don't you, Glace?"
"Why not?" I challenged. "Doesn't the Record handle you fellows right?"
"Oh, I'm not objectin', son," said the inspector. "Gad, Jerry will have us in the ditch if he does that again!"
We had lurched about a corner in a manner to make us all cling to the seat and hold our breaths until the car straightened out again.
"What's wrong at the Merchants'?" I asked when I was sure we were still on four wheels.
"I guess you heard as much as I did," returned Bryce; "but at this rate we ought to find out pretty soon. Let's see; Mulcally is on that beat right now." He turned and glanced out of the front of the patrol. "There's a crowd on the pavement in front of the bank, at any rate, an' I can see Mulcally's helmet among 'em. Here we are."
The patrol shot up to the curb and stopped with a slide. We all piled out, and I got my first chance to size matters up: A great limousine car stood in front of the side door of the bank, which had two entrances, opening upon two streets. It was manifestly the private car of somebody of wealth, for it was of the latest model and luxurious in every part. Between it and the door of the bank was a crowd, collected as such gatherings always will collect when something unusual happens; and on the curb, standing so as to half face the crowd and half guard the limousine, was Officer Mulcally, holding a disheveled and hatless youth.
The arrival of the patrol caused some little widening out of the close-pressed mass of the morbidly curious, and Bryce, Johnson, and the roundsman pushed their way rapidly to Mulcally's side. I followed along.
"What's wrong here, Mulcally?" began Bryce as soon as he was within speaking distance of the patrolman. At his words the prisoner raised his face, and my heart stopped. For a moment I think I lost some of the conversation which occurred immediately about me, for the face of the man—white, drawn, and horror- stricken—was that of Connie's brother, Billy Baird.
He was standing with his wrist linked to that of the burly Mulcally by a chain of handcuff, his clothing awry and torn as though from a struggle. His hat lay battered and dented upon the foot-board of the limousine, and his dark-reddish hair was tousled and mussed until it hung in crooked tendrils over his deathly white brow. For just a moment his eyes met mine, and both terror and appeal looked out of them.
Mulcally's voice brought me back to the realization that I was probably missing something most important. Controlling myself and my emotions as best I could, I motioned Billy to keep still, and tried to hear what the officer was saying to Bryce.
"And so"—I caught up the thread of his statement—"jist as I come around the corner, sor, I sees this felly standin' with wan foot on the step of the autymobile here. I comes down, an' jist as I was passin' I looked at him agin, 'cause I thought it was funny he'd keep standin' there like that in the storm. Then I sees there is another felly in the autymobile, an' I walks over. Well, this here felly didn't pay no attention till I was most to him; then he turns around, an' I see his face was awfully white an' funny, an' I notices that he has a spanner in his hand.
"'Oh, hello, officer!' says he. 'Somebody's killed the shoofer!'
"Course, sor, I got pretty busy at that, an' I looks in the auty. There was that felly who's there yet, layin' back, propped up in a seat, wid the whole side of his head caved in. I makes this felly give me the spanner, an' sure enough it had blood and some hair stuck on it. Well, the shoofer was still warm an' bleedin', an' I reckon I saw the whole business, only this felly didn't know I was lookin' when he struck him wid the spanner. I jist put the cuff on him and telyphoned for the wagon, an' that's all. There can't be no mistake, 'cause I seen the whole thing."
Billy broke the silence which followed. "It's a lie!" he cried wildly. "He never saw me do it, because I didn't do it, and I don't know who did. I tell you I didn't do it. You ask Glace, here, if I'd do a thing like that! He'll tell you. Why, I can prove it myself. I was on my way to the branch of the Fourth National over on Grant and Market, and I had stopped to deliver a package for President Carlton at this bank. I was so rattled I never thought to tell the policeman here, but they'll tell you inside that I was delivering the package when this man was killed."
Bryce turned to me. "Do you know him, Glace?" he inquired.
I nodded. "He's Will Baird from the Fourth National, all right," I hastened to assure him. "I've known him for years. He never did this thing, Bryce."
"I tell you I saw him," Mulcally cut in. "He was bendin' over this shoofer wid the spanner in his mitt when I seen him."
"I'd just found him, and the spanner was on the seat beside him, when I found he was dead. I picked it up," protested Billy. "I tell you I was in the bank. I'd just come out."
"You can tell all that in court," Bryce checked him. "What were you goin' to the branch bank for?"
"I was taking a transfer of funds to them from the main bank," Billy replied somewhat more quietly.
"Where is it now? In the cab?" asked Bryce.
"I suppose so. I was so shocked when I saw Sardon was dead that I never gave the money a thought."
"Suppose you look, Potter," suggested Bryce to the roundsman, who had accompanied us from the station; and the man climbed into the car beside the body of the chauffeur and carefully searched for the package which Billy had said he was taking to the branch bank. In a moment he emerged with a cynical grin on his face.
" 'Tain't there, sir," he declared.
The officers exchanged glances then. "How much was there in this package?" Bryce asked Baird.
"Fifty thousand dollars," Billy responded promptly enough.
"What was it in?"
"In a heavy pigskin grip, double-locked with padlocks. Sardon had stepped into the car to guard it while I went into the bank here to deliver the other package."
"You didn't see any such grip as that, did you, Mulcally?" the inspector asked.
"Nuthin' at all, sor. If it was here, it went away before I looked into the car."
"Let me see the spanner," said Bryce.
He took it in his hand, and turned it over. One end was stained with blood, which was congealing in the cold air, and stuck to it by the same blood were some short brown hairs. Bryce nodded and stepped over to the limousine which he entered, with Johnson at his heels.
The crowd began to press in closer to Mulcally and his prisoner, muttering. Bryce paused long enough to order Potter to clear the street. As he was turning back I asked him if I might come, too, and he assented with a nod.
Inside the car we three gave our attention to the body. It was that of a slightly built, foreign-looking fellow, apparently French, as his name would indicate. He was dressed in a dark, bottle-green livery with goggles and gauntlets, and a green cap which now lay on the floor of the car. His feet were encased in puttees of leather, and some snow still clung to the soles. Down the left side of his face some blood had trickled from the wound where the spanner had crushed in his temple. Bryce now laid the spanner over this spot and nodded to Johnson. The hair on the spanner, like that on Sardon's head, was short and brown. A moment later the detective pointed to the man's throat, upon which were some marks which looked greatly like finger- prints.
"Whoever killed him choked him, and then beat his head in," said Johnson. "Looks like the kid might have done it while some pal of his made a sneak with the bag. What you think, Bryce?"
"Looks like a safe bet now," the inspector replied.
While they talked I had been nosing about the car, and had found the half-burned butt of a cigarette. I showed it to Bryce.
"See if he has any more on him," I suggested, nodding to the dead chauffeur.
The officers set to work searching his clothes. They found several cigars, but no cigarettes, tobacco, or papers for making them.
"Somebody probably left it in the car and it wasn't swept out," said Bryce at the end of the examination. "Does your friend smoke cigarettes?" He jerked his arm toward Billy.
I shook my head. Just at the time I couldn't speak, for while they had been hunting through Sardon's clothing I had picked up the man's right hand, which was still encased in its gauntlet, and discovered that which interested me far more than any cigarette: The gloves had fastened with a patent catch, and caught in the lowest fastening of the one I held was a little tuft of dark-reddish hair.
My heart came up into my throat, and I glanced out of the window to where Billy was still standing beside the patrolman. As far as I could see, the hair in the catch of the gauntlet and that on Billy's head was of the same shade.
Suddenly I felt strangely sick. I knew that for months Billy had been grouching about his inability to make more money. I had known of others in his position who had yielded to a sudden mad temptation. Could Connie's brother have—I refused to allow even myself to complete the question. Believe it I would not! There remained but one thing to do. Very slowly and carefully, with my eyes on Bryce and Johnson, who were now preparing to leave the limousine, I slipped down my hand and drew out the little mass of hairs from the catch, intending to take them away.
For once fate was unkind to me as it seemed. Bryce saw my move, and just as I was congratulating myself on my own deftness his voice exploded all my confidence:
"I'll take whatever that is, Glace."
Caught in the act, my face showed my guilt. Bryce put out his hand and rather meekly I surrendered the few hairs into his palm. He glanced at me, and then out of the window and smiled dryly: "Where did you get them?" he asked.
"Caught on the fastening of Sardon's gauntlet," I told him. "But if you're thinking they're Baird's hairs I'll bet money you're wrong."
Bryce fastened me with a keen glance. "You seem to be a pretty good friend of his," he remarked, poking the hairs on his palm. "Now, these look like a mighty good match to me. What do you know about the youngster, Glace?"
In that moment I decided to follow Dual's plan and tell the truth. I looked the inspector straight in the eye. "He's my future brother-in-law," I answered slowly.
Bryce whistled softly. "I don't wonder you're hard hit," he said after a moment. "Deuce take it, it's too bad! So that's why you were trying to cover up the hairs?"
"See here," I begged, "there's enough there for both of us. Split them with me, Bryce! I wasn't trying to frustrate justice as you think, but I knew how it would look. I knew you'd consider it as additional evidence against Billy, while I believe they came from a different head. I wanted them as a possible clue, and I tried to get 'em. Well, give me a couple and keep the rest. I'd like to clear the boy if I can."
I suppose I seemed like a sentimental fool to Bryce, who now seemed fully satisfied of Billy's guilt, for he smiled in a rather tolerant fashion at my request, then gravely handed me two hairs. "There's a couple, just to show you I recognize your feelin's," he remarked, handing them over. "Wrap 'em up, an' we'll be gettin' out."
I wrapped those two hairs up in a bit of copy-paper as tenderly and as carefully as though each one had been an article precious beyond price, and stowed them away in a pocket-folder I carried. Bryce also wrapped his and put them away, and we all left the limousine.
The inspector spoke to Mulcally: "You made a good pinch, all right, Denny. We just found some red hair caught on Sardon's gauntlet which matches your man's thatch. We may as well be putting him in the wagon now, I guess. And, by the way—whose limousine is this, anyway?"
"It belongs to President Carlton of our bank," Billy put in.
"Sardon was Carlton's own chauffeur?"
"All right," directed Bryce. "Take 'im away!"
But Baird vigorously protested at this. "I told you I was in this bank when Sardon was killed," he reasserted. "Aren't you at least going to give me a chance to prove that to you?"
Bryce and Johnson paused and whispered together. "We may as well see what the stall is," Johnson finally decided in a low voice. "Just wait a minute, Denny, an' we'll settle the matter right now."
As though his words had been a signal, the revolving door in the storm entrance of the bank turned out a uniformed messenger, who ran down the steps glancing from Johnson to Bryce. "Which of you officers is in charge here?" he asked as he reached the street.
"I am at present," said Bryce.
"Then I was to ask you to step inside a minute, sir. Our cashier wants to see you before you go away."
"Lead me to him," assented the inspector, and turned to Mulcally. "May as well bring your man inside, Denny, till we see what they want."
We all passed up the steps and entered the bank. I took the occasion to walk at Billy's side, and he turned his troubled eyes to me at once. "My God, Gordon, what am I going to do?" he whispered. "This is awful! You know I didn't do it, don't you? And yet they seem to have the goods on me, too. What will Connie think? Oh, I wish to God they'd killed me instead of Sardon! This will queer me at the bank and send me to jail at least. What am I going to do?"
"Keep cool and don't talk so much," I told him. "I know you didn't do it, old man, and Connie won't give it a moment's belief. We'll work it out, all right. Now, brace up!"
I tried to speak with confidence and inspire him with some of the same feeling as we entered the bank. The trouble was I didn't see myself just where everything was leading. If only I could have had a few minutes' talk with my friend, Semi Dual— Of only one thing did I feel certain, and that was that Billy could not have done the foul deed of which he now stood suspected. Yet I knew that, against Mulcally's sworn word that he had caught him in the act, his chances of vindication would be slight.
Meanwhile, the page had led us across the general banking floor to a room at one side, whose door was lettered with the one word "Cashier," and was now tapping upon that door.
A voice bade us enter, and a moment later we were within the room.
A gray-haired man in pince-nez glasses, with a keen yet kindly face, half rose, as we entered, and fixed his eyes upon Baird.
"What is the meaning of all this, Billy?" he asked.
"I'm under arrest, sir," said Billy. "When I left here, after giving you that package, I found Mr. Carlton's chauffeur dead in his car, and the bank's bag of money gone. I was examining Sardon to be sure he was dead when I was arrested, Mr. Grier."
"Our patrolman found him hanging over the chauffeur with a bloody spanner in his hand," explained Bryce. "He was insisting that he was in the bank when the man was killed, and demanding that we bring him inside for you to verify his statement when your messenger came out after us. Now, let me ask you if this young fellow—Baird—brought you a package this morning, like he says he did?"
"He certainly did," responded Grier, and I felt my heart leap at his words. "It was concerning that that I wanted to see you, inspector."
"What about it?" asked Bryce.
If my heart had leaped before, it fell to the very depths now as the cashier replied: "That is the peculiar thing. It purported to be a bundle of valuable securities, according to Baird, who said he had been instructed to deliver it to me in person. Naturally, as soon as he had gone, I opened it, and discovered that it contained nothing but strips of blank paper, folded into document size."
Bryce sat down in a chair and regarded the cashier of the Merchants' Bank for a long minute, placing his hands together so that the pointed finger-tips aimed straight to the official. "You've known this lad for some time?" he spoke at last.
"Certainly. For some years."
"So that he had the full confidence both of his employers and you?"
"Naturally. He often acted as messenger, and handled funds between the banks."
Bryce nodded. "It's all deucedly clever," he announced. "This chap, Baird, and his pal, whoever he was, decided to make a haul. They fixed it so as to make it appear that he had an alibi. He come in here an' left the chauffeur on guard; then he goes out, quietly croaked the chauffeur, and his pal ducked with the swag. They counted on its appearing that it was the work of a gang, and that Baird had really discovered the chauffeur was dead when he went out again. The trouble was, Mulcally here pinched him with the spanner in his hand just after he'd done for the chauffeur. Mr. Grier, your package was this fellow's alibi, that's all."
"But that seems clumsy to me, and certain of question," objected Grier.
"Most likely they'd have claimed that the package was sent out from the Fourth National after Baird was in the car, and trusted that, to support their claim, it was the work of a gang," said Bryce, with a smile.
"That's just what happened!" cried Baird.
Bryce continued to smile at the cashier. "You see, sir. He's going to try and stick it out along the original lines. We learn about what to expect in our work."
Grier shook his head sadly. "I admit it looks bad, inspector, but I hate to think of anything like that of Baird."
"Fifty thousand looks like a lot to a boy," said Bryce.
There came a tap on the door. Then it swung slowly open. "I beg your pardon," came a voice which thrilled me, "but I was looking for Mr. Gordon Glace."
The next moment Semi Dual stepped into the room.
I SPRANG to my feet and hastened to his side. "Dual!" I cried softly. "Thank Heaven you're here! I've been wishing for you."
"For something over a half-hour," said Semi, glancing at the clock. "That is why I am here."
I gazed at him in amazement. "You mean—" I stammered.
"That I knew you were in some trouble, my friend. Therefore, I came to you. That should not surprise you now, Glace."
The other occupants of the room were gazing at us in silent question, and yet I felt that I must speak more fully to Dual. "Come outside a moment," I said.
Semi swept the room with his keen gray eyes for an instant, then turned with me through the door. I found seats for us in the general banking room, briefly told him all I had learned, and gave him the little paper with the two hairs, and also the stub of the cigarette.
He accepted them with a smile, and put them away. "Go back into the room and keep your ears open," he advised as he rose. "I'll be about when needed; if not here, at least at the Fourth National Bank. I know Cashier Sheldon fairly well, you may recall. If they take Baird back there before taking him to the station, as I think they will, I will accompany them."
He walked slowly in the direction of the side entrance and disappeared through the revolving door. I hurried back to the cashier's room.
Just as I entered, Bryce turned to Mulcally. "Take your man out to the wagon," he directed. "We'll come along in a minute now." Then, as the patrolman led Billy out, he swung back to Grier. "I think, sir, that the quicker we break this fellow down the quicker the bank he's looted will get back the money. It may even be possible that he had some accomplice from the bank itself. I am going to take him back to the Fourth National and sift every statement he has made straight down to the truth. But looks to me like an open and shut case from first to last. Johnson, let's be goin'! Good morning, Mr. Grier."
We went out to the street again, where Potter was guarding the limousine, with Sardon's body still in it, and Bryce stepped to the curb. "Can you run that wagon, Potter?" he asked.
"I ought to," said Potter. "I used to be on the motor squad, you know, Bryce."
"Well, then, take the body to the morgue and bring the car back to the side entrance of the Fourth National," Bryce ordered, and turned away to the patrol, where Mulcally and Billy sat. "You can go back on your beat, Denny, an' I'll speak about you to the captain," he said as he climbed to a seat. "I'm takin' your man with me for a while."
I had been looking about for Semi, but he was nowhere to be seen. I decided that he had gone on to the other bank, and that I would find him there when we arrived. As a matter of fact, he had done exactly that and was talking to Dick Sheldon, the assistant cashier, when we arrived.
Bryce's first move was to telephone to the station for a couple of men to guard the bank's entrances and issue an order against any of the employees being allowed to leave, until his investigations had been made.
It was while we were waiting for him to do this that the door of the president's office opened and a very pretty young girl, with brown hair and a slender, graceful figure, came out with some papers in her hands.
Johnson and Baird, the latter with a pair of ordinary handcuffs about his wrists, were sitting upon a bench inside the railing of Sheldon's quarters when she passed. Bryce was still at the phone on Sheldon's desk. Sheldon and Dual were standing a little to one side, still conversing, so that the woman had an unobstructed view of Baird.
Suddenly she uttered a little scream. The papers fluttered from her hands and scattered over the tiles. Her dark eyes opened wide with sudden horror and she literally flung herself through the swing-door in the railing, and rushed to Billy's side. "Billy!" she cried, apparently oblivious of all others. "Oh, Billy, what happened? What went wrong?"
I saw Bryce straighten slightly as he sat at the phone, and caught the quick glance he threw at the girl. Johnson, too, pricked up his ears.
Baird tried to meet the situation. "Nothing much, I hope, Noriene," he replied to the girl's frantic inquiry. "These chaps here think I killed Sardon and stole the bank's money, and I can't make them believe that I didn't, as yet."
The girl turned to Johnson in a fury.
"But Billy wouldn't do that!" she cried. "President Carlton trusts him implicitly. Why, that was why he sent him to-day. You know I'm the president's stenographer, and I knew all about this transfer and that Billy was to be sent with it. It's perfectly ridiculous to say he would steal, let alone kill. You men ought to be ashamed!" She swung on Dick Sheldon. "Mr. Sheldon, make them let Billy go!"
Sheldon interrupted anything more she might have said. "Miss O'Niel, you must control yourself. None of us in the bank really believe that Billy is guilty; but it is a very terrible affair, and at present circumstances seem, to some extent, to implicate Baird. But every one knows how untrustworthy circumstantial evidence often is. Do not be anxious! Now, as we are just about to begin investigating the matter, you must really leave us alone for the present. I say again that I think everything will come out all right in the end."
Both Billy and Miss O'Niel threw him a grateful glance. Billy and I both knew that Dick Sheldon had good cause to say that circumstantial evidence was apt to be uncertain. There had been a time when, save for Semi Dual, who now stood leaning against the railing, he himself might have been sent to a felon's cell.
As for the girl, she appreciated his avowal of his belief in Billy's innocence. She dropped her hand to his shoulder. "Never mind, Billy, boy," she comforted. "If they send you to jail, I'll come to see you every day and bring you flowers." She turned to leave the railed enclosure when Bryce arrested her by a word.
He had turned from the phone and now addressed her direct: "You say you're Carlton's stenographer and knew all about this transfer of cash yesterday?"
"Yes, sir, I am; I did."
"I suppose you tipped it off to Baird, eh?" snapped Bryce.
"No, sir, I did not."
"All right, run along," Bryce directed with a thin-lipped smile under his black mustache.
The girl's eyes flashed for an instant, then she went out and began to gather up her papers from the floor.
Bryce rose. "Well, let's get at this business," he began, and Sheldon led us toward the president's room.
In the Fourth National the officers' quarters occupied one side toward the front. First, at the extreme front, was the room of President Carlton, overlooking the street. Back of that and communicating with it was the room of the cashier, and next, back of that, the railed-in space in which Sheldon had his desk. Between that and the cages of the various tellers was the entrance to the safety deposit-vaults.
Sheldon now led the two officers, Baird, Dual, and I directly through the room of the cashier into that of the president, where Mr. Carlton sat, a short, fleshy individual, with black hair, eyes and mustache. He was a man of large holdings and always immaculate of dress. He was chewing somewhat nervously upon a cigar when we came in, and immediately fastened his eyes upon Baird's face. I was glad to see that Billy held his own head high, and gave him back glance for glance.
"Be seated, gentlemen," the president greeted our advent; and, continuing, spoke directly to the boy: "Baird, I want you to understand that we are trying to handle this thing fairly. You have the confidence of the officers of the bank. That is why I selected you for our messenger this morning. Still, we have just lost a great sum of money and I personally have sustained the death of a trusted servant. We have to get to the bottom of the affair. I want you now to begin and tell us, slowly and carefully, everything which happened from the time you took the grip from my office until you found Sardon dead. Begin, my boy."
"One moment," interrupted Bryce, glancing at Semi. "Is this gentleman to remain?"
Instantly Sheldon was on his feet. "At my request," he began as he rose. "I have a good reason, which you, Mr. Carlton, will understand if I recall to your mind the affair in which I myself was once implicated."
Carlton's eyes lighted for a moment. "The gentleman will remain," he told Bryce. "Now, Billy, go on."
"I took the bag," began Baird, "and went out to the car. One of the vault-guards went with me to the machine. I got in, and we were just starting away when I heard some one calling my name. I looked out and asked Sardon to stop. A boy, whom I did not know, but wearing the uniform of our messengers, ran up and handed me a parcel, which he said you desired me to deliver, in person, to Mr. Grier, of the Merchants' Bank, before going to our branch."
"Impossible," ejaculated Carlton. "Gentlemen, I did not send any such parcel or word. There is some mistake here. I did not know anything of Baird's movements after he left here, until we heard of his arrest."
"There's no mistake about his having left a package with Grier," said Bryce, crossing his legs with a smile. "Only it was full of blank paper. In my opinion that was part of his scheme—a stall for an alibi."
"Well, no such parcel came from this bank," Carlton asserted.
"I wouldn't be too sure of that," Bryce told him, grinning.
"What do you mean?"
"Nothing—yet. Let Baird go ahead."
"The boy said it was a package of valuable securities," Billy resumed, "and that I was to stop at the Merchants' and let Sardon guard the bag for our bank while I was delivering it. We made the run to the Merchants' and I delivered the package to Mr. Grier."
"Hold on," the inspector checked him. "Can you tell us what time all this occurred?"
"Yes, sir. I left here at twenty minutes to ten, so as to get to the branch before opening. I remember looking at the clock at the Merchants' when I went in, and it was a quarter to ten. I had to wait to see Mr. Grier, who was busy, and it was ten minutes to ten when I went into his room. I know I was afraid I might be late if I had to wait too long. I was in Mr. Grier's room just a minute, and, when I came out, I started to leave by the side door, and lost about a minute there—"
"How?" snapped Bryce.
"They have revolving-doors there, and there was a man going out ahead of me. I was in a hurry and threw myself against the door hard, and it hit him in the heels. He lost his balance and stumbled to his knees and threw up his hands against the glass panel to steady himself. Of course, I stopped and waited until he got up, and he was so long about it I was afraid he was hurt. When we got outside I apologized to him, but he walked off without a word."
"Could you see the limousine from within the door?" Carlton asked.
"No, sir; not from where I stood," said Billy. "Sardon had stopped a little beyond the entrance. I went down and started to get into the car. Sardon was sitting on the seat, and I thought it funny he made no move to get out. I spoke to him, and then I looked at him closer, and I saw the blood on his face. I backed out of the car and looked around. Then I caught sight of the spanner on the seat beside him, and I leaned back into the car and picked it up. I was looking at it when the patrolman came up. I told him Sardon was dead, and he looked at the spanner and arrested me. It wasn't until after the other officers came that I thought of the bag or knew it was gone."
"And so it was just seven minutes from the time you went into the bank until you found out that Sardon was dead?" said Bryce.
"Yes, sir; just about."
"And you want us to believe that in that time somebody attacked and killed him and carried off the money? Pretty quick work, son!"
"Why, you say I killed him after I came out!" flashed Baird.
"Never mind what I say," Bryce retorted. "Explain if you can how he came to have some of your hair stuck in the catch of his glove?"
Billy turned pale. "He didn't!" he cried. "How could he have had?"
"Just supposin'," said Bryce slowly, "that you grabbed him and choked him, and that he threw up his hands to fight you off, and one of the catches on one of his gauntlets caught a bit of your hair and pulled it out before you mashed his head with the spanner? See here!" He took out his paper of hair, and, unwrapping it, held the hair up against Billy's. It matched, in color at least.
"My God!" gasped Carlton as he grasped the meaning. "Inspector, did you really find that on Sardon's glove?"
"Exactly, Mr. Carlton. Now, get this right. We ain't pickin' on the youngster for nothin'. But when a cop sees a man with a bloody iron standin' over another who has just been killed with that sort of a thing, an' then finds some of the first man's hair pulled out of his head, an' stickin' to the other fellow's glove, it looks sort of suspicious to us."
"Of course—of course, inspector—but Baird—he's been with us for years!"
"Them's sometimes the worst kind, Mr. Carlton," remarked the officer sagely. "Now, I figure that this was all doped out between Baird an' some one else. Course he had a pal, an' most likely some one to help him in the bank, too. Most likely the fellow who slipped him the package was his pal, an', after he was sure everything was all right, he grabs a taxi and beats it to the Merchants'. Then when Baird comes out they croaks Sardon, an' the pal beats it with the grip. Bein' in uniform, nobody would notice him, except to spot him for a bank-messenger. Baird was goin' to pretend to discover Sardon, an' after the row blew over they'd cut the swag. All they'd need to work it was to find out just when the transfer was to be made in advance, and I think I know how that was done."
He seemed to have it all pretty well figured out, I had to admit, and I wondered how it struck Semi Dual. I glanced at my friend. He was sitting slouched down in his chair, fiddling with his little swagger cane. So far he had said no word; just sat and listened while the others talked, but as my eyes fell upon him he turned his toward mine. I caught a faint glimpse of them under drooping lids, and they were intensely bright. I knew then that, back of his seeming boredom, his wonderful brain was awake and on guard.
"It was this way, I reckon," Bryce was running on. "Maybe Baird has a girl he's sweet on, or who's stuck on him, workin' here in the bank. Maybe you know something about it, sir?"
"I believe," said Carlton slowly, "that he and Miss O'Niel have been going about a good deal."
"She's your stenographer, isn't she?" inquired Bryce.
"She knew of this transfer as early as yesterday?"
Carlton nodded in silence. "I told her myself," he said at length.
"Let's see what she has to say," suggested the officer.
Baird came to his feet in a bound. "Curse you, Bryce!" he cried in a treble of excitement and strained nerves. "You leave her out of this. She never told me a—"
I dragged him down myself and told him to be still. Carlton pressed his stenographer call and we sat and waited until the girl came in.
"Sit down, Miss O'Niel," Bryce directed. "I think you admitted that you knew of this affair last night?"
"Yes," she responded, her eyes searching Baird's face.
"But you didn't tell Baird?"
"I've already answered that once to-day, I think."
"Did you know his pal—the fellow who helped pull off the deal?"
"Mr. Carlton," she appealed to the president, "I am no criminal."
"If you didn't tell Baird, maybe you signaled to somebody else," the inspector persisted.
"I told no one, nor signaled to any one," she flashed.
"That's all," said Bryce. And again he smiled.
The girl rose and now again I noticed Dual. He had risen and moved over to the front window, where there was a typewriter desk, upon one end of which was a small bowl full of deep golden nasturtiums. As the girl turned to leave the room, he looked her full in the face and smiled. For just an instant she half drew back, then responded to his look with a faint smile of her own. "Do you like flowers?" said Semi Dual.
"Very much," she answered. "These were a surprise."
"Then they are yours?"
"Oh, yes. I found them on my desk this morning, but I think I know who sent them." I saw her eyes turn Billy's way.
"Rather hard to get—nasturtiums—in winter," said Semi Dual.
"They're a favorite of mine—" she began, when Bryce interrupted:
"Sheldon, is this a flower carnival or a police investigation?"
Dual threw up his head and met the inspector's eyes for an instant. It was like the contemptuous gaze of a great, noble dog at a snapping cur. Slowly at first and then in a flood, the blood rushed into the officer's face. Then very courteously, Dual led the girl to the door, opened it for her and resumed his seat without speaking.
Bryce cleared his throat. "Is there another girl working here with whom this kid is chummy," he asked Carlton. "She was lyin' just now or I'm a goat! She shied at most everything I asked!"
"I believe she and Miss Golding are rather friendly," said Carlton. "Shall I call Miss Golding in?"
"Better," decided Bryce.
"Will you call her, Sheldon," Carlton requested. "She's our cashier's stenographer," he explained to Bryce.
Sheldon rose and left the room, to return after a moment with the girl. To this day I don't know in what category to place her. She was of the "show-girl" type, to put it in a word. Rather tall for a woman and built in voluptuous lines. Her walk was a sort of stealthy glide rather than a walk, with an undulation of the hips with each step. Her face was beautiful, I had to admit, but in a sophisticated way; her eyes yellow—I am sure that is the best word—and I felt positive that her great mass of light hair was bleached. Some way, she came into the room, she reminded me of a soft, tawny cat with long, hard claws. She advanced to a chair and sank into it with a sort of languid grace.
"Miss Golding," began Bryce, "we want to know if you have any reason to believe that Mr. Baird and Miss O'Niel are anything more than friends—sweethearts, say?"
"I should think they were. Everybody knows that," said the girl.
"Engaged? Do you know?"
"Well," said Miss Golding with a smile. "I've heard them talkin' of gettin' married."
"Not hardly. Billy thought he was too hard up. I heard him grouchin' about it more than once."
"What did he say?"
"Say, I don't like to answer that," objected the woman, "because I think most likely he only meant it as a joke."
"Meant what?" demanded Bryce sharply. "If you know anything it's your duty to put us wise."
"Well, I did hear him tell Noriene once that if they ever got married he guessed he'd have to steal enough to set up housekeeping on."
"And when was that?"
"Oh, about two weeks ago, I think."
Bryce looked at Johnson and then at Carlton with a triumphant smile, then turned to Baird. "Did you say that?" he snarled.
"I was only joking. Miss Golding knows that," said Billy in a hoarse voice.
"Miss Golding," the inspector resumed, "did you know anything about this transfer which was to be made?"
"Goodness, no! I'm sure I never heard a word."
"Do you think that if Miss O'Niel knew about it she might have told Baird?"
"She might, of course, if she knew about it," replied Miss Golding, with a simper. "We women are all more or less fools with the men we like, an' they was out together last night."
"How do you know that?" Bryce asked instantly.
"Why, they was on the street and I just happened to see them. They was standin' in front of a window looking at—"
"Nasturtiums," said Semi Dual.
"What!" Miss Golding's voice rose high and shrill.
"An unusual flower in the winter and a favorite of Miss O'Niel's." Dual rose and crossed to the bowl upon the typewriter desk by the window and stood looking down at them, delicately fingering their petals. "See, she has some on her table now." He raised his head and looked directly into the woman's yellow eyes, turned away, and stared straight out of the window across the street. Then without warning he turned back to the room, resting his hips upon the desk beside which he stood.
I could see that Bryce resented this second interruption, although he endured it with such grace as he could muster.
"Well, what was they lookin' at?" he resumed with a frown.
"Nasturtiums—er—er—I mean flowers—in a florist's window." Miss Golding seemed suddenly very ill at ease.
Bryce turned to Carlton. "I guess that's enough," said he. "By the way, I told a man of ours to bring your car back here after takin' Sardon to the morgue. We'll finish our work somewhere's else"—with a scowl directed at Semi, who was again fingering the flowers in a thoughtful way. "For the present we'll hold Baird on a charge of murder and take the O'Niel girl for complicity."
I opened my mouth to protest, when Dual spoke for the third time: "By Jove! That might even have been a sign between them."
Bryce swung in sudden irritation. "What are you talking about?" he snapped. "There might have been a sign of what, between who?"
"Nasturtiums," said Semi.
"Them flowers?" grinned Bryce. "A sign, of what?"
"Oh," returned Semi, looking at him at last, "why, of love."
Bryce snorted: "If you'll bring Baird along," he addressed Johnson, "I'll go out and get the girl."
Meanwhile, I was watching the Golding woman and Dual. She was sitting straight up in her chair, staring fixedly at him, and very pale. Semi was holding her with his merciless gaze once more. As I watched he smiled slightly, put down a hand and picked one of the flowers from the bowl on the desk and drew it into his buttonhole.
I WENT with them when they led Billy out and put both him and the now white-faced Noriene O'Niel into the patrol. I wanted to keep the boy company as long as I could. At the last I gripped his hand and urged him again to be as brave as he could and not to talk to any one until I saw him again.
Bryce waited until I was done saying good-by. "I'm sorry for this, Glace," he told me as he swung up into the "wagon," "but you can see how it is."
"I'm giving you credit for thinking you're right," I answered, "only I bet you're dead wrong. Good-by, Billy. You'll come through all right!"
The patrol hummed away down the snow-whitened street, and I turned from watching it to find Semi Dual standing on the curb twirling his light stick and still wearing the nasturtium in his buttonhole. I stepped to his side and he greeted me with a smile.
"Quick work for you now, Gordon," he said. "Follow those two to the station and get an interview out of them both. Find out everything you possibly can. Also get samples of their handwriting and some of Baird's hair. I think you told me you kept a camera at the station? Well, here—" he drew a small package from his coat pocket. "After your interviews at the jail go to the morgue, dust this powder on the finger-marks on Sardon's throat and take a photograph. And don't waste time! As soon as you have done these things come to the Urania. And, by the way, tell Miss O'Niel that those flowers on her table did not come from her sweetheart, Baird."
"And you think Billy is innocent—" I began.
Dual cut me short: "Gordon, do you think that I have ever worked to frustrate justice or protect the guilty? Would I have answered your mental cry for help unless I could justify my course? When you see your fiancée, Baird's sister, tell her that I say she need not worry and have taken up the case. Now, waste no more time!" He held up his stick at a passing taxi and was whirled away.
For the first time in the past two hours my own heart seemed to beat with renewed hope as I thought over the words of my peculiar friend. Unconsciously from the first, I had wished for his presence. I knew, now, that the subconscious yearning had been there from the first, and that he had answered my call. He had said I should not be surprised, and I had to admit that if he could call me to him by his telepathic force, as he often did, it was not singular that he had sensed my own cry for help, and even been able to place the time when I had begun to wish for him.
And, because I was his friend, he had come. Truly the word friend was not one to be used lightly with Semi Dual. To him it stood for all it should imply. I quickened my step in search for a telephone-booth. Once more we were working together. Semi Dual—my general—was commanding and had set me a task. I threw back my shoulders and drew in a deep breath of the snow-laden air. Once more I felt confidence thrill me and resolved to prove worthy of the faith imposed in me by Connie and Billy and Semi Dual.
I entered a drug-store and stepped into a sound-proof booth. First, I called up Connie and told her the unhappy news. I would rather have gone to her with it, but didn't have time, and I knew she herself would put Billy's interests first. As it was, I broke it to her as gently as I could and told her that Dual was already working in Billy's behalf. She took it very well and promised to meet me at the station as soon as she could dress and come down. Then I told her about the O'Niel girl and she cried out afresh over that.
"She's a dear thing, Gordon," she ended; "and I think almost as much of her as Billy does. I'll dress and come right over. They'll let me see Billy, I suppose?"
"I'll attend to that," I promised, and hung up the phone.
Then I called Smithson on the wire, and presently his voice snapped back at me: "Well?"
"Smithson," I told him, "this is Glace. Say, Smithson, I can't handle this bank story which has just broke. You'll have to turn it over to somebody else."
"You've got to handle it," he declared quickly. "You were on the ground, as I know, and have all the facts. What's the matter with you, Glace? You ought to know you can't lay down like that. I want those facts and I want 'em quick!"
"I'll give you the facts right now," I retorted, "but I won't write the story! I can't do it! Smithson, listen: This Baird, who is suspected, is my girl, Connie's, brother. I've tried to be a good man for you folks up there, but I'm human after all, and I can't write that stuff."
"The devil!" said Smithson. "Well, give me the facts! Quick now! Go ahead!"
I told him all I knew, and he jotted it down, pausing now and then to ask for some detail. "All right," he snapped at the end, "I'll see that it's handled. Now see here; is the kid guilty?"
"He is not," I asserted with all the conviction I could put into my voice.
"Sure?" demanded the old man.
"I'll write up that end of the story if you'll let me," I offered.
"That's enough," grunted Smithson. "Take a day off if you need it. Good-by, and good luck."
I left the booth, went to the station, and walked straight across to Harrington's desk. Connie had not yet arrived.
"I've got to see Baird right away, Dan," I began as soon as I was close enough to make my remarks audible to him alone. "This is the very deuce of a fix I'm in, because the boy is the brother of the girl I am going to marry. She's coming down here pretty soon, and I want you to pass us both in so she can see her brother, and Miss O'Niel, who is a friend of hers. The thing's been an awful shock to her."
Dan nodded. For once he did not indulge in any facetious by- play about my request for privileges. "I'll fix it as soon as she gets here," he promised. "I'm sorry for both of ye, Glace. Th' bhye's got himself an' th' girl in bad. Most loike that's his sister comin' in the door now."
I turned and saw Connie just entering the station, and hurried to meet her as she paused and looked uncertainly around.
Her face lighted the least trifle as she saw me coming, and she advanced toward me, so that we met in the middle of the floor. She took my hand without a word, and I could feel hers quiver in my own. "Have they brought Billy here yet?" she asked in a half whisper at last.
I nodded. "We're going right in to see him," I told her, and glanced at Dan.
He motioned to an officer, and jerked his head toward the jail at the rear. The policeman rose, and came out from behind the railing, signing me to follow him back to the corridor door. Drawing Connie's hand through my arm, I led her with me, following the man to the barred entrance, where he tapped on the grating and told a warder to take us to Billy's cell.
The great door swung inward, and we passed, and it closed behind us with a clang like the stroke of doom. Connie caught her breath audibly at the sound, and pressed closer to my side. "And they've brought Billy here," she whispered. "Oh, Gordon, help me to be brave and tell me what to do."
"Just keep cool and tell Billy that everything will come out all right. He needs encouragement more than anything now," I coached her, as the warder led us down the whitewashed corridor of cells. Half timidly she glanced to right and left as we walked, her eyes darting into the little rooms where crouched the trapped members of the race. I saw her nostrils quiver, and her hand tightened on my arm.
Our guide had paused by a door, which he now unlocked. "Somebody to see you, young feller," he said not unkindly to the man within, and motioned us to enter the cell.
"Be brave," I whispered to Connie, and led her to the door.
Baird had sat up on his cot, and turned his eyes toward our voices. His face was still haggard and worried, but lighted at the sight of us.
In a moment Connie was at his side, her arms about him, drawing his head to her breast. "Oh, Billy, Billy brother," she murmured. "Don't take it so hard, boy. It will all come out all right. Gordon is going to help us, and his wonderful friend, Mr. Dual. Don't worry, Billy. Everything will end all right."
Billy rose well to the occasion. "I'm trying not to, Con," he assured her. "Of course a chap hates a thing like this, but I've been thinking and I'm going to keep cool. If only it wasn't for Noriene, I believe I could keep from worrying at all. But it's awful to think what I've brought on that little girl. It's an awful thing for a girl like her to be shut up in a place like this. I don't mind it so much for myself, but, when I think of her, I feel as if I could tear down this place. And of course I hate to bring disgrace on you, Con dear."
"Nonsense," said Connie. "As you didn't do it, there is no disgrace, and it will all be cleared up before long, and I'll come to see you every day."
"I want you to see Noriene, too," requested the boy.
"Of course I will," Connie assured him, and then I stepped in.
"Pull a couple of hairs out of your head, and give them to me, and write your 'John Hancock' on this sheet of paper," I directed shoving a copy pad into his hand.
"What for?" said Billy, then in a different tone. "Oh, I guess I see." He took the pad and scrawled his name, then jerked some hairs from his head and handed them to me. "I suppose Dual wants them, don't he?" he said, smiling, as I took them.
I nodded. "You remember what Dual did for Sheldon on that forgery case, Billy? Well, he's at work now for you, and he told me to tell Connie that everything would come out right. Now, all you've got to do is to wait. I suppose you don't know anything more about the case than you told at the bank?"
Billy shook his head. "Not a thing," he replied. "Or wait—of course. I may be mistaken, but if I'm right, I've seen the chap who played the part of messenger, and gave me the phoney message and the package, talking to the Golding girl several nights ago."
That looked important, and I hastened to follow it up. "Are you sure of that, Billy?" I asked.
"I couldn't swear to it," he answered slowly, "but I think it was the same chap. He came across the street from the taxi-stand, several nights ago, and met her, just as we were both leaving the bank."
"And that's all you can add?"
"Everything, Gordon," said Billy. "It's up to you and Semi Dual."
I tapped on the door for the warder. "I'm going over and see Miss O'Niel," I explained to Connie and Billy. "I want to see her alone for a few minutes. I'll be back here when I get through over there."
"Give her my love," said Billy as I turned away.
The warder came and let me out, and I explained to him that I wanted to see Miss O'Niel, and would come back for Connie. He nodded and closed the door. Then, as we moved away, he jerked his head back toward the cell. "He looks like a nice feller," he remarked, as I handed him a couple of cigars. "This working in a bank must be the very devil to make him go off his dip an' do a thing like that."
"Keep it under your hat," I boasted, "but he didn't do it at all!"
The fellow grinned. "If you prove that, Bryce will have three kinds of a fit. He's gettin' bouquets now for his lightning pinch."
"They'll wither and fade," I predicted, as I turned off toward the woman's section of the jail, leaving the warder smelling a cigar and shaking his head.
I found the matron, and got her to take me to Miss O'Niel's cell. She recognized me instantly. "You're the newspaperman what come to see the little nurse once on a time, aren't you?" she smiled.
"I hope you can do the same for this little body ye did for the other one," she went on. "This girl is no criminal, mind ye, young man. I've been here for a good many years, and I'm a woman. I kin tell by lookin' in their eyes, and the sound of the voices of them. Always look in a woman's eyes, says I—ye kin tell her soul by her eyes. Well, come along."
She led me down the row of cells to the one where Noriene O'Niel sat upon her narrow cot. Her eyes showed the marks of recent tears, and a haunted look besides, as she turned them toward me. At that moment she reminded me forcibly of a wild rabbit I once caught in a trap as a boy. It seemed to me that she looked at me with the same soft appeal of brown eyes as that little creature of the wild which had fallen into my snare. I had let the rabbit go and remembered its eyes all the years. Now I felt my heart swell with the hope that I might be instrumental in freeing this greater soul.
She started to rise, but I motioned her to be still. "Miss O'Niel," I began. "I want to ask you some questions, not as a reporter, but as a friend of yourself and Baird, in whose interests I am working on this case."
"How is Billy? Have you seen him?" she asked at once.
"He is well enough," I assured her, "and raving because you are here. You see he blames himself for your arrest."
The girl smiled softly. As I hoped, she cuddled the thought of Billy's interest to her heart. "The foolish boy! How could he help it?" she cried.
"He couldn't, of course," I responded. "Anyway, he asked me to give you his love, just before I left him to come here. Now we must get down to business, as I have to hurry back to my friend Dual, whom you saw at the bank to-day."
"The gentleman who spoke to me about the flowers?" Miss O'Niel questioned at once.
"The same, Miss O'Niel."
"Oh, I like him!" she exclaimed quickly, and I smiled. Dual always had that effect upon good women. The other sort avoided him, I had found. They seemed to sense an unassailable personality about the man.
"He is working to prove both yourself and Billy innocent," I resumed.
"Is he a detective?" she inquired.
"The greatest in the world, and he is working for us. Now: Have you recently had any reason to believe that any one in the bank could be getting information about the transfers of the bank's moneys?"
"I never even thought of such a thing," she replied.
"Was there any correspondence about this particular transfer of to-day?"
"Nothing," she said, "except a brief note from Mr. Carlton, which was sent yesterday, by messenger, to the branch, stating that the currency would be forwarded to-day before opening."
"Who wrote that note. Miss O'Niel?"
"I did, Mr. Glace."
"Directly on the machine, or from notes?"
"Which you probably took down in your stenographer's book?"
"Why was a note written? Why did not Mr. Carlton use the phone?"
"Mr. Carlton hardly ever used the phone in regard to money transfers, Mr. Glace. He knows that operators sometimes listen in."
"Where are your note-books kept, Miss O'Niel?"
"Why, in my desk," said the girl in some surprise.
"Then, to any one who could read shorthand, the message to the branch might have been easily available?" I suggested.
"Why, I suppose so; if they saw my book before I locked my desk for the night. You don't think—"
"One never can tell," I replied to her half-question. "Now, think carefully, Miss O'Niel. Did any one, say yesterday, disturb anything about your desk, after the note was written to the bank?"
She knit her brows in an effort at concentration. "I don't recall anything of the sort," she decided after an interval; "unless— Why, I do remember now, that, just before I went home, last night, I had been out of Mr. Carlton's office. He had gone home, and I stepped out to wash my hands, and left my dictation pad on the leaf of my desk. When I came back, it was on the floor, but I never gave it any thought. I supposed it had just fallen down, and picked it up and put it away. You don't suppose—"
"At what time do you usually leave the bank. Miss O'Niel?" I next asked.
"At about five o'clock."
"Does Miss Golding quit at the same time?"
"She did last night. We went out together."
"Miss O'Niel, do you know whether or not Miss Golding has any gentleman friend who is in the habit of meeting her after she leaves the bank?"
"Her brother meets her sometimes, Mr. Glace."
"Then she has relatives?"
"Only her brother. She tells me they are orphans. I know her only through our both working at the bank, and what she has told me of herself."
"Miss O'Niel," I began on a new line of questions, "I am going to be what you may perhaps deem impertinent, but I want you to believe that all I say or ask is for a good reason: What made you think that the flowers on your table were from Baird?"
Noriene O'Niel opened her eyes in surprise: "Why, because he often brought me flowers for my table," she replied.
"Were you out with him last night, and did you stop at a florist's and look at the flowers in the window?"
"That's queer, Mr. Glace," said she. "How did you know we did that?"
"Maybe I'll tell you sometime," I replied smiling. "Then you did do that?"
"But Billy didn't buy you any nasturtiums then—last night?"
"No. That's why I felt so sure they were from him. They had them in the window last night at the florist's."
"What shop was that?" I questioned.
"Hudson's, just a block from the bank."
"Miss O'Niel," I said as she paused after answering my question, "before I came down here, my friend, Semi Dual, asked me to tell you that those flowers did not come from Mr. Baird."
"Not from Billy!" cried the girl. "Why, where did they come from, then?"
"I don't know," I admitted, and I confess I felt strangely puzzled as I recalled the scene in the bank that morning. Dimly, I saw, even so early, that Dual had picked up something we all had overlooked. Suddenly I felt a sense of elation, and a desire to chuckle. Already he was upon the trail. What might he not have discovered while I was here at the station? "I don't know." I repeated, "but I'll wager my friend Dual, does. And that reminds me: I was to get you to write your signature on a bit of paper for him."
"Of course I will if it will help any," she assented. "Oh, Mr. Glace, isn't he the man who helped Mr. Sheldon out of his trouble sometime ago? He must be wonderful!"
"He is that," I agreed with enthusiasm and handed her my copy pad. "Just write your full name on that, please."
She took the pad and pencil and wrote "Noriene Malley O'Niel" and handed the pad back to me:
"I feel awfully relieved," said she. "He used handwriting in clearing up that case, didn't he? Now I shall just feel sure that everything will be cleared up and I shall sit here and pray for his success."
I took the pad and rose. "I am sure that your prayers will be answered," I told her. "I have never known Dual to fail on a case yet. In fact, he has to feel sure that the party he works for is innocent before he will interfere, and he has a habit of working awfully fast."
The matron let me out and I went back to get Connie and to ask Billy a question which had come into my mind.
"About this man whom you tripped up at the Merchants'," I began, after Connie had said good-by—"what was he like? Describe him as nearly as you can."
"He was a tall chap," said Billy. "I should judge something over six feet, and when he did get up he stood very straight. I couldn't see much of him except that he wore a long gray overcoat with a close-fitting back and a gray cap. Even when I apologized for my awkwardness he never looked at me and yet I'm almost sure he was light-complexioned and had a little mustache. There was one thing I did notice, though," he went on. "When he was down on his knees with his hands up against the glass of the door, trying to get up, I saw that he was wearing what looked like an immense ruby set in a ring on the little finger of his left hand."
"No more now, Billy," I answered. "I saw Noriene and she's all right. She's a game little girl and says this mix-up isn't any of your fault. Cheer up now and we'll get you out of this in no time at all!"
Connie insisted on going to see Noriene; and, after getting it fixed for her to have a half-hour with the girl, I promised to call her up that evening and let her know the latest news. Then I left the station and set off for the morgue. It was half past one and I deemed haste essential, so I took a taxi and was soon put down at the door of the gloomy house of the dead.
I had little trouble there, for I was rather well known in most such places through my connection with the Record. Newspapermen are pretty much free-lances in the pursuit of their calling.
I got an attendant whom I knew and we went back to where the body of Sardon lay upon one of the glass slabs. There I blew some of the powder Dual had given me upon the marks on his neck and a moment later had my photograph of them.
We covered the poor fellow up and I went back to my cab and told the driver to take me to the Urania. I had covered the first part of my assignment and now I was going to report to Semi Dual.
THE taxi set me down at the Urania at a few minutes after two and I made haste to catch an express just leaving for the top floor. I made it, thanks to the starter, who knew me through my frequent visits and was kind enough to hold the cage until I could slip in.
A spirit of impatience drove me now; and I was conscious of resentment that the cage was required to make each of its scheduled stops. However, we reached the twentieth floor in due time and I got out and turned up the great flight of marble stairs which led to Dual's quarters on the roof. I took them two at a time.
Then, despite my hurry and the drive of my anxiety for my friends, I paused at the top.
Outside it was snowing. Here all was soft moist warmth and the scent of blossoms. Under the great dome of curved glass Dual's winter-garden was in bloom, its plants and shrubs filling all the place with the odor of some vast conservatory, through which flitted chirping birds. The light of the outside filtered in through the greenish-yellow glass, giving almost the effect of a weak sunshine, pervading the place, and the tinkle of the little fountain in the midst of the garden came softly to the ear.
It was peaceful, beautiful, serene, and, as always, cast its strange spell of rest and soothing over my tingling nerves. It was like a quiet oasis from which the mad war and strife of life, the world, the elements themselves, was shut out; a temple of harmony not to be profaned by any disharmonizing influence. For one moment I paused and drank in its sedative atmosphere. While I stood the last flake of snow melted from my clothing. It was hard to realize that only the sheets of green-yellow glass were between me and the wintry forces, which now howled outside, as though trying to storm this citadel of tranquility.
I drew another deep breath and stepped upon the inlaid electric annunciator plate in the floor and I thought of the words which its curiously set glasses spelled out:
Pause and consider, oh, stranger. For he who cometh against me with evil intent shall live to rue it until the uttermost part of his debt shall have been paid; yet he who cometh in peace and with a pure heart shall surely find that which he seeks.Many a time since I had first read these words had I trod across their caution to the insincere and the evil-minded, but never, I believe, had I come with a more wholly clean desire to see the innocent cleared from suspicion than to-day. "Shall surely find that which he seeks." I wondered if I should.
The clear notes of the chime broke out on the air as I crossed to the path and went on up to the tower and, as their mellow notes beat softly about me, I felt myself chiding my momentary questioning of the future. Surely by now I, of all men, should know that I should find!
The door of the tower stood ajar, but no soft-footed Henri answered the chime of the bells. I pushed tentatively against it and it swung inward so that I stepped into the room. Across from me was the door of that inner room in which I had seen Dual unravel the tangled skeins of other lives in the past. I approached it and found it, too, upon the latch. Again I pushed it before me and looked into the room. Then very softly I entered and made my way to a chair and sank into it.
Semi Dual, clad in the loose robe he wore when at home, lay stretched at full length upon a couch, his eyes closed, his hands folded upon his breast. Not by a movement or a sign did he appear to be aware of my presence. Save for the slight rise and fall of his chest he might have been laid out for burial so quiet was his repose.
I glanced about the room. Upon his desk was a litter of papers covered with the peculiar groups of figures and cabalistic signs which, I had now learned, went with his investigations of our various problems, and among them stood the shining brass tripod and slender barrel of a beautiful microscope.
My gaze came back to my friend and for the first time I noticed that some object lay upon his broad forehead as he apparently slumbered. I bent forward and stared in uncomprehending surprise. The thing resting upon his forehead was the half-burned stub of a cigarette!
Slowly he opened his eyes and met mine. He smiled, put up a hand, removed the cigarette and a bit of paper which had lain beneath it and sat up on the couch. "The murderer is a red-haired person of some five feet eight inches in height, with grayish- green eyes and left-handed," he remarked. "Also he is addicted to the use of cigarettes."
"Good Heavens! How do you know that?" I burst out.
Dual rose and came across to his chair at the desk. He sat down. "When you came in," he continued, "I was attempting a little psychometry, as you may have observed." He indicated the cigarette stub and the folded bit of paper which he now laid down upon the desk.
"Psychometry?" said I.
"The process of reading a person's description from some object or thing which has been about him," explained Dual. "It all comes down to vibration again, friend Glace. Those hairs which you gave me are in that folded paper. They were at one time upon the murderer's head. The cigarette was at one time in his hands, between his lips. They will partake for a time even after being separated from him of his individual key of vibration. If I can sensitize myself so as to be affected by their vibrations I may sense the sort of individual to which they belonged."
"And that was what you were doing when I came in?"
Dual nodded. "Unfortunately, however, I would not dare arrest my man on such evidence," he said with a smile. "However, it serves to put me more readily upon the trail and I can support all the facts I have learned by others which will be acceptable to the police."
"For instance—" I began.
"For instance," he took me up, still smiling, "I have said that the murderer was red-haired, and he is. The police say so, too, yet we believe that different men are the cause of Sardon's death. However, I can prove their error to the police themselves. Let me see the hairs you got from Baird!"
I handed them to him and he spread them out on the paper in which I had wrapped them up. "Material science will now assist the occult and prove my point for me in the instance I am citing. The microscope here will show a difference between the hairs from Sardon's glove and those from Baird's head. To begin with, the hairs from the genuine assassin are of a less vigorous growth, their shafts show a poor nourishment and I would be inclined to say that the man is gradually losing his hair. On the other hand, you will find Baird's hair will show a sturdy strength, good nourishment and a strong root-cap."
I sat forward in my excitement. "Then that lets Billy out," I cried.
"Billy never was in, except in the mind of Bryce," said Dual dryly. "The difficulty will not be to discover his innocence, which all my calculations affirm, but to convince the police of the fact. That is where your activities come in, Glace; in getting proof—material proof. I can tell you where to seek it, but it must be obtained by you."
"But you know—know now—who really did the thing?" Truly Dual was piling surprise upon surprise as he calmly stated his opinion of the case! "How have you learned all this? What have you done? It is all incredible!"
"Incredible is a much abused word, Gordon," said Semi Dual. "As to what I have done, I have spent some time in gaining a little evidence for the police. There were few difficulties in the case itself. All that was necessary was to reconstruct the seven minutes during which Baird was in the Merchants' Bank. Immediately after leaving you this noon I returned to the Merchants' and took a photograph of the marks of the hand made by the man whom, Baird says, he knocked down in the revolving door. Also I interviewed the cashier and obtained the wrapper of the package which Baird delivered to him and one of the folded sheets of paper as well. You may have noticed that Bryce did not consider it necessary to do that. Upon returning home, I naturally made some calculations based upon the time mentioned by Baird in his account, giving particular attention to the seven minutes during which the actual crime must have occurred. After that I examined the two hairs and the stub of the cigarette. That is all save my little experiment in psychometry which you came in upon and a telephone message to Sheldon." He crossed and again stretching himself upon the couch, closed his eyes. "Now give me your report as usual. Be careful! Omit nothing! Go on!"
I began at the beginning and ran over every incident of my work from the time I left him until my return. I told of every move, quoted every remark from the notes I had made. Times before I had done thus, while Dual lay passive and listened; so that I talked rapidly now. Not once did he interrupt me or ask a question or give a sign that he heard.
When I had finished, however, he sat up at once. "Give me the signatures and the photograph of the finger-marks on Sardon's neck," he directed.
I laid the written pages on his desk and handed him the folding camera.
Without a word, he took it and left me to sit and stare out of the window at the steadily falling snow. Dual's handling of the case was certainly more than I could understand, so I gave it up and let my thoughts go back to Billy and Connie and the little O'Niel girl and to a vague wonder as to how long they would be compelled to bear the harassment and worry of their plight.
In something like ten minutes Dual came back with my camera and handed it to me. "I have reloaded it with a fresh film," said he; "and here is a flash-light pistol which you had better take along when you go out after a bit. Your negative was a good one and I can now add the information that the murderer has a scar on his left thumb. There is a similar mark on the butt of the cigarette you found, so that we know that he was the man who dropped it in the limousine. That, Gordon, is evidence at law."
"But how does that help if we don't know where to look for him?" I asked.
Semi Dual sat down and regarded me with a somewhat quizzical expression. At length he said: "Gordon, had I wished, I might have arrested two of the chief actors concerned in this morning's tragedy within fifteen minutes after we parted this noon. Yet I did not."
I guess I stared as if I didn't believe my ears. It was a shock to have him calmly inform me that he had been within striking distance of any of the guilty parties and had held his hand. I couldn't understand a thing like that, not for the life of me!
"Why?" resumed Semi Dual, reading the unvoiced question in my mind. "Because, Gordon, I was desirous of capturing not only the accomplices, but also the master mind."
I nodded. "I see. The murderer, you mean."
Dual shook his head. "No, I do not mean the murderer," he replied. "I could have had him this morning. But—he is only a tool."
"Then, whom do you mean?"
"The cause of the whole thing," replied Semi Dual. "Gordon," he leaned forward in his chair and spoke slowly; "this thing is the work of a gang. In every gang, as in every other human organization, there is an activating, thinking, planning individuality, a 'master mind.' It is that individuality I am seeking to capture; waiting until the net I am spreading shall enmesh him as well as his accomplices."
"And you think the murderer and this man are different individuals?" I questioned. "I should think the person who killed Sardon and got the money would about fill the bill."
"Certainly not," said Semi Dual. "The master mind does not work in the open. That is why such a brain, with its craft and cunning, is as dangerous to the body politic as an insidious disease. Secure in its concealment, it plans and plots and uses others to carry out its conceptions.
"If you think that the man who killed Sardon also got the fifty thousand I must tell you that you are wrong. He may have had it for a short time, but by now it is in the possession of the stronger intellect which planned the theft. Do you not see now why I am so anxious to ensnare him as well as the others who worked when he pulled the strings? He is far more dangerous than the mere assassin who openly takes his chances. But for him the assassin would not have done the deed. He is the primary cause, the germ of evil, the instigator, the chief profitor of the other's crime, which robbed your friend of his freedom and Sardon of his life.
"Not only has he inspired this murder, but others, perhaps, before it. Should he go free, he may inspire others for years to come. It was for that I held my hand when I could have closed it upon his agents, and in that I shall be justified."
"But who is he?" I cried as he ceased and lay back in his chair. "Who is he, Dual? Do you know?"
Semi shook his head. "In my own soul, yes. So as to prove his guilt to the world at large, no; not yet."
"What do you mean? That you have no material proof?"
"Exactly. I told you that I had made calculations of this affair, basing my figures of the event upon the time when it occurred. Through them all looms the figure of this master of evil, overshadowing the figure of the calculation with his malignant spirit, like a cloud which dims the sun. Over Baird, his influence is but temporary, and even now passing away. Over others it will be a blight which will change their entire destiny."
He rose and began pacing the room. "Gordon, I must have this man. He has done evil enough. And through me, his evil course shall be brought to a close. I am the instrument of fate in this; the rock upon which this man shall break! It is written, and the stars, my friend, do not lie!"
He paused and seated himself again, with a smile. "In the end, all will be well," he said more lightly, with a return of his old control.
"And I perceive that you are still very anxious over the matter; if anything, more so than before."
"Well," I confessed, "I admit that I am rather worried lest the murderer and the others may escape while we are after this other chap."
"Do you think I would wait if that were true?" Dual said slowly. "However, you need not worry. You need not even fear that your friend Baird or his sweetheart will spend this night in jail."
I sprang to my feet. "Semi," I cried, "do you mean that?"
"Did I ever promise you anything I did not fulfil?" asked my strange friend.
"Then your calculations have shown you—"
"That the hour of retributive justice draweth nigh. Enough of this, Glace. There is yet work to be done, evidence to be gathered for—the police."
"Yet you know. Semi?"
"I know," said Dual. "I can tell you the story from the first to the last, even as it is written in the karmic records of all eternity, and mirrored by the stars—to what avail? Here!" He drew some currency from his robe, and handed it to me. "Here is money. There is need of haste. It is now after three o'clock. Use a taxicab for all you do and remember that you must be back here by six o'clock. I shall tell you what you are to do. First you will go to this florist's which Miss O'Niel mentioned and learn to whom they sold a bunch of golden nasturtiums this morning about eight o'clock. You will then leave the shop and go into the alley which runs back of the stores directly opposite the Fourth National Bank. Locate the empty storeroom across from the bank and see if there is not an unfastened window or an unlocked rear door. At any rate get into that room if you have to break a glass, and see what you will find.
"If you discover there what I expect you to, cross to the bank and ask for Assistant Cashier Sheldon, who will be waiting for you. I arranged that for you earlier in the afternoon. When you see him, you will ascertain if any one has rented a safety deposit-box or drawer in their vaults at any time since twelve o'clock to-day. Be very careful about this, Glace, and if anyone has rented a drawer or box, take a photograph of the page of the vault register upon which the signature appears.
"If you find that any such box has been rented, get Sheldon to take you into the vault, sprinkle some of your gray powder over the front of the box, and take a flash-light of it, and be sure to get the number of the box.
"After you have done this, call me up and let me know what you have found, both at the bank and at the empty room across the street. I shall then have fresh instructions to give you, governing your future course.
"While you are at the bank, you must also get Sheldon to let you have the stenographic note-books of both Miss O'Niel and Miss Golding. It is presumable that their names will be written on the pads, and you must bring them to me. Tell Sheldon that I will personally guarantee their safe return. As soon as you have the photographs of the register at the vault, and the front of the vault box, call a messenger and send the film to your paper's art department, with an order for rush work on them, and get several copies. I will see that a copy of the Sardon marks is furnished to your paper. Of course I could attend to all the development details myself, but time is essential, so I am taking this means of gaining it.
"And now, Gordon, I am going to ask you to work on this as you have never worked before, yet go carefully. Much depends upon it! Not only are we going to free Baird and the little O'Niel girl from any possible stigma, but we are going to free the world from the peril of a great mind of evil, and we must test every step of the way we go.
"Here in the civilized world of the twentieth century, it is no longer sufficient for a man to know that he is right in what he does; he must be able to prove it to his fellow men. Therefore, before we can put out our hands and make use of the knowledge which we possess to arrest the course of this man, we must have such evidence as any court of law will accept as proof of his guilt. Gordon, I am leaving the collection of that proof to you."
I rose to my feet. "I'll do the best there is in me," I promised. "The little O'Niel girl said she would sit and pray for your success. I hope she slips in a word for me as an afterthought."
Dual smiled into my eyes. "The prayers of a good woman avail much, Gordon," said he. "Women are far more subconscious in their existence than men are; hence, they can listen more closely to the voice of the spirit than their brothers can. It is easier for a woman to concentrate her mind upon some desire than it is for a man, and so she has an added force for bringing about her desire; actually creates a center of magnetic force, as it were, which attracts the thing of which she thinks. Myself I have faith in the actual assistance of the little O'Niel's prayers.
"Now one minute before you go. I see that you have been neglecting yourself in your work to-day. It is well to be zealous for a friend, but unwise both for yourself and for your end to neglect your own physical machine. Sit down and light a cigarette while I get you a stimulant!"
He rose and hurried from the room. I dropped back into my chair and made myself a smoke. Dual had himself gone to get me something. Then Henri was not anywhere in the apartments. I wondered what Dual could have done with his man; why he was not here to render his silent service.
I began to map out my assignment, the florist's, a vacant storeroom, a bank, books, photographs, a vault drawer, and a telephone back to Dual. For the life of me I could not see where it was all leading, save that I had Semi's assurance that in the end it would bring the answer to the riddle, and set free the two persons I wanted to liberate. I put it aside. I would go blindly forward, trusting in the wonderful acumen of the man who directed me, an acumen I had never known to fail.
I thought of his words, "a master mind," and I smiled. Speaking of master minds, what of the intellect which sat in a weirdly beautiful apartment on top of a storm assailed modern sky-scraper, and wove the meshes of an invisible net to ensnare the perpetrators of a crime; who lay upon a couch and rose from apparent stupor to pronounce the physical description of a man who had slain another man hours before, and whom the revealer admitted he had never seen?
I cast aside my half smoked cigarette. "It takes a master mind to catch a master mind," I reflected and smiled somewhat grimly as I did so. Came the question hard on the former thought, "Which was the master mind?" Surely not the misguided spirit which wrought ruin and woe to his fellows for a material gain, but rather that spirit which sensed the other's veiled presence and put an end to his course, my friend and "general"—Semi Dual.
Dual came back with a brimming glass of his wonderful preparation of fruit juices and a plate of his small, flat cakes, and set them on the corner of the desk. "Drink the liquid, and put the cakes in your pocket," he directed. "You can eat them as you go to the florist's in the cab, and you will work better for the nourishment!"
I rose again to my feet, and lifted the glass. "To the fulfilment of the little O'Niel's prayers, and the confounding of the master of evil," I toasted and drank, and set down the empty glass.
Dual nodded. "He who cometh with a pure heart, shall surely find that which he seeketh," he returned. "Now hasten, Gordon, and report to me from the bank without fail!"
I picked up my hat. "I don't profess to understand it at all," I told him, "but I'm off. I've seen you work before, but never like this. If it wouldn't be asking too much, just how do you expect to reach the murderer, if you don't know even his name?"
Dual smiled slightly as I filled my pocket with the cakes from the plate.
"The murderer will return here with Henri at about eight o'clock," he said.
I SUPPOSE I must have left the Urania in the usual way. Reasoning from my knowledge of such things, I am sure that I did; yet my next absolutely conscious action was telling the driver of a taxi which had drawn in to the curb as though expecting me to enter that I wanted to go to Hudson's flower shop.
The sound of the words served to rouse me to the fact that I had work to do; that there was still much to be done in order to insure Dual's success, and that he had entrusted part of the work to me. Up to that time his last words had buzzed and shrieked in my brain to the drowning of all else: "The murderer will return here with Henri, at about eight o'clock."
It wasn't possible. It wasn't even sane. What could Dual mean? How could he know that an unknown man, a person he had never even glimpsed to recognize, would come to his room, and at what time? And why with Henri? What bizarre twist in the every-day course of happening was Dual expecting to occur? What more unlikely than that the murderer should appear before the very man who should surrender him to punishment for his crime? I had seen Semi do many wonderful things, but I promised myself that if this latest prediction of his materialized I would crown it the climax of all he had done.
And all the time that my confused brain doubted, or seemed to doubt, I know there was an undercurrent of unshaken belief in the words of my peculiar friend. I couldn't logically accept it with credence, and yet I knew it was going to occur. Did you ever believe something at which your intellect scoffed, and yet still go on believing? Well, that was I—Gordon Glace, seasoned newspaperman!
At a crossing, a newsboy hopped to the running-board and shook a paper in my face. I tossed him a nickel and took the sheet. It was a Record extra, and I read the account, which I should have written but for the nearness with which the event had struck to myself. I recognized Davidson's handling of the story, which aside from the head-lines, was very decent indeed. I had to admit that my paper had shown a great consideration for me in the story they had put out.
And at the end was a little tail paragraph, in which I thought I detected Smithson's touch:
Latest reports indicate new developments in the case. It is by no means certain that the police have apprehended the proper parties. The Record, with its usual desire to serve its readers, has one of its best men devoting his entire time to the matter, and we are led from information he has collected to look for a surprising turn in the case, with probably more arrests.I folded the paper and tucked it away in the pocket which had held Dual's cakes. I had eaten them as I read, and felt wonderfully refreshed, although up to that time I had not realized my hunger.
The cab was slowing in front of Hudson's flower crowded windows, and I sprang out, paid the driver and sent him away. Then I turned and entered the moist, sweet-scented interior of the shop, where the vari-colored stock of the florist defied the sweep of the outer storm.
A neat little saleswoman in black, with white apron and cuffs, looking very much like a lady's-maid, came forward to meet me, and I asked for the proprietor at once. The girl turned and led me to a glass-partitioned office at the rear, and ushered me into the presence of a pink-cheeked, little, old lady, who sat in a rocking-chair knitting some gaily-colored creation of silks.
"A gentleman to see you, Mrs. Hudson," said the girl.
My heart leaped. Here was luck. There would be no need to deal with some hard-headed business man who would resent my inquiries as a man of the press, and begrudge me the time necessary for his answers. If I could interest the little, old lady's curiosity I felt sure I could excite her sympathies as well. I bowed to her and accepted a chair.
"Mrs. Hudson," I began, "I am Mr. Glace. I am a newspaperman, and I have reason to believe that you can help me in saving an innocent girl from serious trouble, if you will."
"My goodness!" said the little lady. "What has happened to her, Mr. Glace?"
"She has been arrested," I told her, "because she had some flowers—nasturtiums—which I believe were bought at your shop."
I saw by her eyes that I had touched the right chord. I had taken the tip of the matron at the jail, and was watching her eyes. "But how could that be?" she cried in sudden excitement. "We have nasturtiums, and have sold some, but how could they arrest a girl for buying a few little flowers? I'm afraid I don't understand."
I smiled in return. "I haven't time to explain it now, Mrs. Hudson," I answered. "If you'll read to-morrow's Record it will all be there. In the mean time, the little girl is in jail, and her friends are working to keep her from spending the night there. I want you to help me by finding out, if you can, whether you sold any golden nasturtiums, either late last night or early this morning, and if possible what sort of a person bought them, or took them away. Will you do this?"
She rose and laid her knitting aside. "Of course," said she, "if I can do anything to help any good girl from spending a night in a place like a jail, I shall be only too glad. I will ask my girls about any sale for either late last night or this morning early, I think you said?"
I bowed and she hurried out. I looked about the place. In some ways it was just an ordinary office, with a desk and ledgers and letter-files and a safe. But the corner in which I sat was different. Here was a rug and an easy chair and a rocker. There was a pair of dainty, white curtains on the rear window and flowers in pots on the sill, and a little table with a work- basket, on which lay the knitting Mrs. Hudson had laid down. I crossed and picked up the soft thing of silk, and it opened into a diminutive sock. I was fingering it in surprised admiration when Mrs. Hudson returned.
"There was only one sale made either last night or this morning of golden nasturtiums," she informed me, "and that was not to a little girl. Early this morning, just as we were opening, a large, blond woman came in and bought a bunch. I'm afraid I can't help you after all."
I laid down the little sock and faced her. "Indeed, but you have," I assured her. "You have told me what I hoped you would, I think."
Suddenly, as she spoke, I had seen all Dual was driving at at this point. One end of the snarl was straightening out. At the little, old lady's words I remembered Dual's apparently inane remark, "it might even have been a sign." Where did it lead? My next point was the storeroom. The storeroom? By Jove! I saw yet farther ahead. "I must thank you for your trouble," I told the little, old lady. "It was the large woman you see who brought trouble on the other girl. This will help us to set her victim free."
"I am very glad," she said sincerely. She crossed and took up her knitting. "I see you were looking at my work," she smiled. "It is getting near Christmas. They will be for a baby of a daughter of mine."
I left the little office with my hat in my hand and hurried out of the shop, but I took with me something of the sweet atmosphere of the place as I walked up the street toward the alley which ran behind the row of buildings which lined the side of the street opposite the bank.
I found it and crept into it out of the sweep of the storm, making my way down its length. All the old news sense, which had lain so singularly dormant to-day under the shock of the morning's happenings, now woke afresh. I had seized an end of the tangle now, and was following it toward that point where it must lead me to the heart of the snarl. Dimly I began to sense what Dual's wonderful mind must have grasped at the start; the point which had enabled him to build up, point by point, the story of the crime. I hastened my steps, scanning the backs of the buildings I passed until I came to that which I knew was next to the empty room.
I thanked Heaven for the storm. There would be no one about unless from absolute necessity, and I could move with little fear of detection. I stepped up close to the rear wall of the building and sought to peer into the room through some grimy glass panes. The blinds on the front windows were down, however, and I could make out nothing in the faint light.
I tried the door and found it fast. I tried the window and the sash moved slightly under my pressure. With a pencil I pressed up against the top frame of the lower sash. It slipped. I shoved it up until I could get my head and shoulders through, and so wriggled and crawled up and dropped down inside. I pulled the sash back into place and turned toward the front. I was inside the room.
What with the drawn blinds and the lateness of the hour at that time of year, and the storm, it was pitch black, and I stumbled forward over the bare, dusty floor toward the front, where a faint line of light outlined the drawn curtain.
I began to wonder how I was to find anything at all in all that gloom; and, even as I asked myself the question, I nearly fell over my first discovery. For a moment I thought of raising the curtain and seeing what I had scraped my shin against, but second thought told me that it was hardly safe. Instead, I felt in my pockets for a match and struck it alight. Then I saw that the thing I had struck was an ordinary packing-box, some three feet wide by, say, eighteen inches wide. It had evidently been standing in front of the street window, back of the drawn curtain, and I had not perceived it. Apparently it had been sitting with its opened-end down, for now that I had tipped it over it lay upon one side.
My match died and I sat down upon the box. Surely I thought this box could not be the discovery Dual had expected me to make, for there was nothing in the box. What then? There was something else. I reached for another match, yet even as my fingers touched it I became aware of something about the curtain which arrested my gaze. As I sat upon the box my eyes seemed to be exactly upon the level of two small holes in the heavy fabric of the blind.
Now, two holes might occur in any curtain, but these were regular in outline, symmetrical in proportion. For all they showed they might have been cut by some special design.
Without striking my match I half rose and brought my face close to the little apertures and received my second surprise. The holes were at exactly the right distance apart to accommodate my eyes. Standing as I was, and looking out of the two circles in the curtain, I could see all that was going on in the outer street.
Looking back, I know that my breath began to come fast, as I stood there squinting out. Little by little it was coming to me there in the darkness of the room. Nasturtiums, a sign, a darkened room, two holes in a blind, and back of it all two minds, one trained to the ways of evil; one equally trained to unveil that evil, playing an invisible game, in which I was a pawn.
My fingers trembled with excitement as I drew out the second match and lighted it. I waited until it was well aglow and then very carefully brought it up and inspected the curtain in the neighborhood of the little round holes. Again my heart leaped. In the smudge of the dust which had gathered upon the blinds since the room stood vacant were two smeared circles, somewhat larger than a dollar in their rimmed outlines—one drawn about each hole.
For a moment I asked myself what it meant—until my match burned down and scorched my fingers—and even as I dropped it to the floor I knew. They were the marks made by the large ends of a pair of field glasses pressed against the blind over the holes!
Suddenly the darkness of the room became peopled with fantoms of what had gone before. Mentally I could see some one sitting here in this darkened room watching the bank with glasses through the little, round holes; sitting and watching and watching until a "sign" appeared in the window of the bank which he commanded from his station, then rising and giving the signal which meant the beginning of a tragedy. And even while these thoughts ran through my brain there was something stronger which kept time to them like the basic theme of a composition—the thought that "Dual had known!"
I lighted more matches and examined the floor. There were the marks of feet in the dust. Some of them I knew for my own, but there were others. I tried to reconstruct the scene. Here was the box and the man, sitting watching. It would have to be about here, I thought. I stooped and glanced at the floor. There they were! The shuffled outlines of a pair of feet, toes pointing toward the window, and back of them, dimly marked out, the rectangle of the box where it had lain. Here he had sat and watched.
I tore off some copy-paper and picked out the clearest of the footprints and wondered how I could measure the mark. In a moment I had the solution. Very carefully I licked that whole sheet with my tongue and pressed the damp page firmly over the track. It came away smudged with dust, it is true, yet showing plainly enough the outline of the shoe the watcher had worn.
Match after match I lighted after that and went hunting for other tracks. And I found them. They led from the window where I had entered, both forward and back from the front. And they were of two kinds. Some were similar to the one I had measured. Others were larger and broader as well. And of these last there were very few and not apparently smudged in their outlines at all, as though they might have been very recently made.
Once more I resorted to my moistened paper and found it to work. With nervous haste I folded it up and put it away. Every minute that I followed the mysterious trail which Dual had set me the scent was growing stronger, and I felt the urge of time pressing me on.
I had been kneeling by the box as I measured this last track and gradually my eyes had been growing more accustomed to the gloom. Now as I rose they caught the dim outlines of something sitting in front of the open end of the box as though it might have been beneath it, and so exposed by my collision in the dark, which had tipped its concealing cover upon its side.
I groped downward and my fingers closed upon a leathern handle, traced its outlines and felt the smooth sides of what seemed to be a satchel of some sort, and stopped. For perhaps a moment I crouched there, trying to realize the truth of the wild fancy which had popped into my brain. Then I caught the leather thing up and thrust it under my long waterproof coat.
Like a thief in the night, I slipped softly upon tiptoe to the rear window and inched it up that it might make no noise. Very carefully I got to the sill and looked up and down the white line of the alley. There was no one in sight. Slowly I crawled through and let myself down, picked up the thing I had found and thrust it again under my coat.
There was a saloon of which I knew midway of the block. I made my way there and slipped in at the back and so to a private room. There I rang for a waiter, and when he came I ordered a drink and asked him to get me a piece of string.
When he came back I paid for the liquor, drained it at a gulp, and tipped him for the string. When he had departed I rose, tiptoed to the door of the box and slipped the catch on the lock. I took the copy of the Record I had bought and spread it out upon the table and placed the thing I had found upon it, wrapped it up and tied it with the string. When that was done I put the parcel back under my coat.
I went to the door, unlocked it, and went out through the front of the saloon to the street. Half a block down was the corner on which stood the Fourth National Bank. I bent my head to the storm and set out for the next destination, which Dual had ordered me to make.
There were few people abroad, and I met no one except one or two men, hurrying like myself, head down.
The bank was closed and its curtains drawn, but I went up and tried a door. Dual had said Sheldon would wait, and I knew that I would get in. The door swung before me and admitted me to the vestibule, through which I could see the glow of the electrics in the cages of the accountants, who were still at work. I paused and surveyed the room. I could see only the bending bookkeepers far to the rear. I pushed open the vestibule door and went in.
As I crossed the floor of the general room, I glanced toward Sheldon's railed-in space. He was not there, so I did not pause. I crossed to the entrance of the vaults, back of the place where he had his desk, and approached the custodian of the vault itself. Not until then, when I was shielded from all observation from the front, did I take my package from under my coat, and hand it to the man. "Put that in the vault and get me Mr. Sheldon," I said.
The man opened the vault grating and set my parcel inside, then told me to wait an instant, and turned to seek the cashier. But there was no need. Dick Sheldon had heard my voice, and was already coming down the passage to the vaults. "I've been expecting you, Glace," he said. "Dual asked me to wait for you. Now what can I do to help?"
"First," I responded, "come inside here and look at something I've found, and see if it's what I think it is."
Sheldon nodded to the doorman to admit us, and we passed inside the vaults. There I laid my parcel upon a table and broke the strings. As they snapped, the newspaper wrappings fell away and disclosed a pigskin valise, fastened with two padlocks, which were still intact, but with a fresh cut in the leather of one side, extending from end to end!
Sheldon fairly leaped forward and caught it in his hands. "My God, Glace! Where did you get this?" he cried.
"Then it is what I thought it was?" I asked in return.
"It's our grip, which contained the fifty thousand," said Sheldon in a husky voice. "Where—"
"I found it," I told him again. "But wait. That isn't all."
I reached in through the gaping cut in the leather, and drew out what the grip contained. It was a suit of dark blue cloth, cut in military fashion, such as the messengers of the Fourth National were accustomed to wear!
SHELDON fairly staggered back, "The suit of the fake messenger!" he cried. "My God! Billy told the truth."
I nodded and thrust the suit back into the grip. My heart was beating madly as the realization of all this meant swept over me. "Lock this up in a safe place. It's important," I requested. "And let's get to work. We've got a lot to do here yet, and a mighty short time in which to do it."
Sheldon motioned me to a chair, several of which stood in this anteroom to the vaults proper. "Tell me just what you want," he said in a dazed tone, and sank down beside me as I seated myself.
"First," I began, "I want you to find out for me if you have rented any drawers or boxes in your vaults any time to-day, since noon."
He turned and requested the doorman to come in, and repeated my question to him.
The man nodded. "There was four," he replied.
"Can you describe the takers?" I cut in.
"Two was women, one was a young fellow from Pearsons', the brokers, an' one was a man I never saw before," he responded, after a moment's thought.
"What did they rent?" I continued.
"The women rented drawers, an' the boy did, too. The man got a box, if I remember right."
"I guess we can count the women out," I said. "Can you describe the man?"
"He was a big fellow," began the doorman, "though I didn't notice him very closely. As I remember, he was wearin' a gray coat and a cap. The thing that struck me the most about him was that he talked with a sort of drawl, an' walked sorter stiff. Oh, yes, he had a little mustache, too, with ends that looked as if they'd been twisted into points."
"Was he dark or light complected?" I prompted.
"He was light," said the man. "Anyway, his mustache was almost what I'd call yeller in speakin' of hair."
"Of course, he signed the register?"
"Let's look at the signature," I suggested to Sheldon; and we both crossed to a desk, where the doorman pointed to the open page and laid a finger on a certain line. "That's it," said he.
I looked at the indicated name and saw it scrawled half across the page: "A. Arthur Langdon," but in the space for the address there was not a word.
"Didn't he give you his address?" I asked.
"Said he didn't have no permanent one just now," the vaultman answered. "Said he'd let us have it in a day or two, when he got settled."
It all seemed to fit. Looking back at that day it seems to me that from the time I started from Dual's everything fell into place with the readiness of a picture puzzle after you have found the key section. Every incident followed its predecessor in so unbroken a sequence that at times I felt more like a spectator than an actual participant in the working out of the chain of events which demonstrated Dual's marvelous power of detection.
I turned to Sheldon and nodded. "I want to take a photograph of this page of your register," I resumed.
"Go ahead," he assented. "I suppose Dual is back of all this, and I would be the last man living to question an order of his."
I got out my camera, and Sheldon and the doorman propped the register under a drop-light so that its pages were fully illuminated. Then, as an afterthought, I sprinkled some of the gray powder over the edges of the page I was about to "flash." I got out the flash-light pistol, and when all was ready I focused my camera upon the register, and as Sheldon fired the pistol, I pressed the little bulb.
In a blinding flash the shutter clicked and we stood blinking and choking in the magnesium fumes which filled the air. I turned the camera over and rolled up a fresh film. "And now I want to see the box this Langdon rented," I told the doorman, who stood by wide-eyed.
He turned away and led us into the vault proper, finally pausing before one of the larger compartments, such as are called boxes, which would hold a great bulk of papers or valuables of any sort.
I glanced at the number. It was 711. I smiled. "What did he put into the thing?" I questioned. "Did you see?"
The doorman shook his head. "I dunno," he replied. "He had a big bundle of some sort—papers, I reckon. He just chucked them into the box careless like an' locked 'em up, stuck his key onto a ring, and walked out twistin' one end of his mustache."
I got down before the box on my knees, and took my packet of "gray powder" out of my pocket. Very carefully I dusted the front of the box.
"By Jove!" exclaimed Sheldon, who was watching closely, "that stuff shows up a lot of marks on the box. See—"
He was right. As the impalpable powder sifted over the metal surface, it adhered in strange lines, curved and twisted, which finally showed as the imprints of human fingers upon the front of the box.
I rose and again loaded the flash-light pistol, and handed it to the assistant cashier. Once more I focused carefully with my camera, and cried: "Now!" Again the blinding light of the flash powder filled the corridor of the vault, and died into white, stifling fumes. Yet, with the slight click of the shutter, another link had been forged in Dual's subtle chain.
That part of my work was done. We three turned back to the bank, where I at once requested Sheldon to get me a phone where I could talk without being overheard.
He led me to the same room where the investigation of the morning had been held, and seated me at Carlton's desk, with its extension instrument.
I called the office of the Record, and asked for Smithson himself. As soon as our switchboard girl could connect me I heard his voice.
"Hello, Smithson," I called into the mouthpiece; "this is Glace."
"What are you doin'? Did you see the extra? I run a line at the foot about you," Smithson replied.
"I saw it, and it happened to be the straight goods," I gave him back. "I've been at work all day, and something will drop pretty soon. Now listen, Smithson. I'm at the Fourth National now. I've got some awfully important photos which bear on the wind-up of this case. Send a boy up here, and tell him to ask for me. Have him take these plates back with him. Put them through rush, because I must have copies of them in one hour if I am to finish up the case to-night. If I get them, we will have the stuff for a late extra to-night. Can you do it, sure?"
"Can I do it?" yelled Smithson. "What d'yer think I'm running—a log wagon or a paper, Glace? Wait!" His voice died at the end of the wire, then faintly I heard it again. He was yelling as it seemed to me. "Boy! Hey, boy!" A faint mumble came over the wire for a moment, and then he spoke again to me. "He's gone. For the love of Mike. Glace, what have you dug up now?"
"I can't tell you; I'm too busy," I answered. "Just remember you promised to let me write the wind-up story. Good-by."
I hung up and swung back to Sheldon: "There'll be a boy here from my paper in a moment. Will you watch for him and see that he gets to me?"
He nodded, rose, and left the room. Then, and not until then, I got the operator at Central and had her ring a certain number which did not appear in the telephone book. A minute passed, and then another, and I heard the voice of Semi Dual: "Very well, Glace, go ahead."
As quickly as possible I told him all I had done and all I had learned, omitting nothing which I thought could, in the slightest, bear upon the case. He listened without interrupting, as though what I was saying were a twice-told tale. Yet, at the end, he said what meant much to me:
"You have done excellently, Gordon," he told me, "and accomplished all that I hoped you would, except getting the note- books. Be sure and do that!"
"I hadn't forgotten," I answered; "I was going to attend to that as soon as I got the camera off to the office."
"Also," said Semi Dual, "look in the uniform for the name of the maker, and find from him where the suit was delivered and for whom made. After you have done that, try and find where the large man who rented the box is stopping. Probably you will find him at one of the more modern hotels, such as men of his type frequent. Also, before you leave the bank, ascertain whether Sheldon has a list of the serial numbers of the missing money. When you have attended to all these details, go to the police station and find Bryce. Tell him to come here with you at six o'clock, and tell him that I said that I would surrender the gang to him at any time after eight o'clock. On your way back here stop at the Record and get your prints of the photographs and bring them here."
I heard his receiver click back on its hook, and turned from the phone to see Sheldon coming back into the room.
"I've arranged for your messenger to be met," he said, as he sank into a chair. "Good Lord, Glace! This is a queer affair. For the life of me I can't see head or tail to it. Can't you give me a hint? The papers all talk as though Billy were guilty, and yet you and Dual seem to be on the trail of something which neither the police nor the press have been able to pick up. And you fellows must have the right of it, for you found the grip and the suit the false messenger wore. At least tell me where you found those things?"
"I found them in the empty storeroom across from the bank, there," I responded pointing out of the window across the street.
"Over there!" cried Sheldon, as though he expected some trick. "Honestly, Glace, you don't mean that! What would our grip be doing over there, and how did the suit get into it? Who put it there?"
"The thief, I suppose, after he took the money out," said I. "There was no reason why he should expect that I would be prying around a vacant storeroom. It probably looked like a good place to leave the things."
Sheldon shook a puzzled head. "I can't see it," he muttered. "Why, look at it, Glace: Baird goes into the Merchants' to see Grier. He is inside not more than seven minutes, and when he comes out he finds Sardon dead, and the money gone. Seven minutes! In that time, whoever did the thing had to come on the scene, assault and kill a man on guard, take the money, and make a getaway. And all in broad daylight in a busy part of town! Look at the nerve of the thing! It doesn't seem possible, and yet it occurred. I've been thinking about it all day, and it don't get any clearer. And yet I can't believe Billy would have had a hand in a thing like that. I believe he's as much a victim of circumstantial evidence as I once was myself. And still look at it, yourself. If Semi Dual exonerates the boy, it will be a wonderful piece of work."
"If you'll keep it to yourself," I told him, "I'll state that Dual promises that Billy and Miss O'Neil will sleep in their homes to-night."
"Really?" said Sheldon after a moment of utter silence.
I nodded and got up. "We've something more to do," I resumed. "Has Miss Golding left the bank?"
"While we were in the vault, I think. I left her in the cashier's office when you came in."
"Did she know I was here?" I asked, in a sudden fear that she might suspect something from my presence.
"I think not," said Sheldon. "I didn't myself until I had entered my own office, and heard your voice from the vault."
"Good!" I cried in relief. "Now, Sheldon, Dual wants you to give me the stenographic pads of both Miss Golding and Miss O'Niel. He wants them to use to-night, and will see that they are returned to you. Can you get them for me now?"
"Miss O'Niel's book should be in her desk here," said Sheldon. "I don't think she even had time to lock it before they took her away. We'll see." He rose and crossed to the desk, and tried its drawers. The top one yielded readily, and came open. He lifted the little flexible book, such as typists use to take dictation, from its depths and handed it to me.
I pocketed it and followed him into the office of the cashier, where we stopped before the desk Miss Golding used. "This is the same make of desk as the one in my section," said Sheldon. "I'll see if my key will fit the lock."
He knelt and inserted the key in the lock, while I stood anxiously by. It turned and the drawer came open. Sheldon rose and drew out another note-book and passed it over to me. I took it and glanced at its cover. Sure enough, there was the name "Marie Golding," written across the top of the book.
I tapped the words with my finger. "What do you know about her?" I asked.
"Not much," replied Sheldon, "beyond the fact that she is an expert typist. Personally, she impresses me as too experienced for a woman."
"Do you know where she lives?" I went on.
Sheldon nodded. "We require our employees' addresses, you know. She has rooms in a lodging-house at 520 Welton Street."
I placed the two books in my pocket, where they would be safe. There remained only to look at the uniform I had found, and get the maker's name, then set out as soon as the messenger had taken the camera away.
We went on back into Sheldon's section on our way to the vault. Just as we stepped into the railed enclosure, the swinging inner door from the vestibule of the bank was pushed aside and a snow-covered boy made his way into the main room.
I recognized him instantly as one of our office-boys at the Record and called his name. He turned and came across to me with a grin. "Hello, Glace," he began. "De old man told me to beat it up here and freeze onto somethin' you had fer de paper. Pass it over an' I'll hit it back to de office."
I gave him the camera. "Beat it back as fast as you can, Jimmy," I urged, "and tell them to have those ready by half past five."
"You goin' to hand de old man a scoop?" grinned the boy as he buttoned the camera under his coat.
"If you don't get out of here, the old man will hand you a bouncing," I told him.
He grinned and turned away. "Watch my smoke," he flung back from the door.
Sheldon and I went to the vault again, and there I got the suit out of the grip, and taking the jacket scanned it for some maker's mark. It was easy enough to find. On a little cloth tag stitched to the lining of the inside pocket was the name "Steinman, Kupp & Co.," and, as luck would have it, I knew their address. I stuffed the jacket back into the grip and again told Sheldon to lock the whole thing up.
"I suppose you have a list of the serial numbers of those bills?"
"Of course, that is routine on a heavy transfer," he replied.
My work at the bank was done. As I came out of the vault for the last time I glanced at the clock in the general room. Its hands pointed to ten minutes of five. I had a trifle over an hour in which to complete the work set me by Semi Dual; to get the address of two men, get Bryce and the prints from the Record office and return to the Urania on time.
I turned to Sheldon and gripped his hand. "I've got to hurry," I declared. "I've got a lot to do yet, and I have something over an hour in which to do it, so I must be getting along. You've helped us immensely, and I appreciate it. So will Baird when he knows, and the little O'Niel."
"I only hope it will all come out as you think," said Sheldon. "I know what it is to be placed as Billy and the girl are. Let me know how things go."
I left him and hurried out of the door. I glanced across the street to the taxi-stand, but there were no cabs there. I turned up the collar of my coat, pulled down my hat, and set off in the direction of Steinman, Kupp & Co. with my head down against the wind.
In some ways, that was one of the most peculiar days I ever passed. As I have said before, everything I did seemed to be due to some force, some power outside of myself, directing my steps, rather than to any real volition of my own. People may laugh and scoff at such things as luck and fate. Personally, I don't know. Yet there are times when something seems to seize us like a strong current, and sweep us along to some appointed time and place. Sometimes I have felt as though Dual, through his uncanny, telepathic ability, followed and directed my course that afternoon.
It had nearly stopped snowing by the time I had gone a block from the bank. The lights were already burning in all the stores which I passed, but the wind still howled up the street. I lifted my head and quickened my steps, breasting its icy sweep.
I reached the shop of the tailors, which stood next to a popular café, and, going inside, I asked for the proprietor.
He hurried forward, a small, blandly smiling little Hebrew, inquiring what he could do for me.
"Just this, Steinman," I opened on him: "I want you to tell me if you have recently made a suit for a person representing himself as a bank-messenger—in other words, a uniform?"
Instantly his oily civility faded away. "Dot iss an odd question, young man," he responded. "Who might you pe, an' py vot right do you ask to know?"
It was no time for fooling or arguing. I had a press badge which admitted me inside fire and police lines, and I wore it on my vest. Without replying, I threw back my outer coats, so that he could catch a glimpse of the thing, and I smiled. "You'd better come over," I said.
He underwent another change. If he was suave before, he cringed now. "You are a detectif!" he gasped. "Dot is tifferent. Y'understand, we do not gif customers' names arount so careless like. But to you— Vait a minute. I shall see."
He hurried away, and I strolled to the front of the shop, and stood gazing out into the street. A taxicab was standing in front of the door of the café. My eyes noted it idly. I wondered if it were waiting or disengaged. I thought maybe I could get it for the rest of my trip.
The little proprietor came hurrying back just then. "I vill tell you, mister," he began. "Ve haf made such a suit as you mentioned. It vas made for a young man vat said he was going to vork py a bank. It vas telifered to him vun week ago. Dot is all I know."
"You know his name, don't you?" I growled.
"Yes," he admitted. "I haf looked up his name on my books."
"Well, what is it, then?"
"It iss Eugene Golding, mister detectif," said the man.
That was certainly interesting news, and I appreciated the fact. At another time I would have been profoundly interested in the development. The trouble was that something was happening outside the café, next door, which interested me still more. Still, even as I watched, I did have sense enough to ask my informant one more question, though I did not turn my head.
"And where was the suit delivered?" I inquired.
"It vas sent to 520 Velton Street," he replied slowly, pressing in beside me to see what I was looking at.
I doubt if he found it of sufficient interest to explain why I stared, but that was because he didn't understand anything about the affair. What held my interest must have appeared to him merely as a man and a woman at most.
But the woman was tall and largely modeled, with a great mass of light hair, which appeared to me to be bleached. And the man was broad-shouldered, and apparently over six feet tall. He was wearing a gray coat with a close-fitting back, and a cap. The couple were leaving the café and crossing the pavement to the waiting taxicab, and, as Steinman pressed in beside me, the man handed the woman inside.
As I have said, it had stopped snowing, and the electrics were going, so that from the front of the café a broad illumination lit up the figures of the woman and man. And as he lifted his left hand to her elbow, while holding back the cab door with his right, I had caught the scintillant gleam of what appeared to be an immense ruby on the little finger of his left hand!
I CHOKED back a cry of amazement, and laid my hand on the door. Once more the odd, compelling sense of a directing something reached out and clutched me, urging me forward in my course. I forgot the little Hebrew who stood beside me. I am positive that I offered him no word either of thanks or explanation before I pushed open the door and stepped outside. My last recollection of him is seeing him standing in perplexed surprise as the door swung shut in his face.
Already the tall man had closed the door of the cab, and was on the curb. He had lifted his cap. Apparently he was bidding the woman good-by.
I walked out to the curb, and stood as near as possible, glancing up and down the street, as if looking for a car or cab, in reality straining my ears to hear what it was that he said.
"If you don't mind I think I'll foot it to the Kenton." That was all. He signed to the driver, and the taxi lurched away with spinning wheels. The man lifted his hand and twirled an end of his little pointed mustache. Again I saw the crimson gleam from the ring.
The same driving force impelled me to speak. "I wish you'd tell me where you got that taxi," I said with a rueful smile. "This storm has played the deuce with the service, it seems, and I'm late."
He dropped his hand and stared me full in the face. "Aw! Quite so. I had the cab waiting, you know," he remarked at the end of his stare.
"I wish I might have been so fortunate," I returned. "I presume they are all pretty busy with other fellows like us."
"Not bein' in a hurry, I rather prefer walkin', you know," said the man.
"Which way are you going?" I ventured. "I must be getting along myself."
The man actually smiled. "Really, you know. I can't see that it concerns you," he said.
"Perhaps not," I made frank response, "but I wanted to talk to you."
The fellow laughed shortly. "In that case I am going this way," he remarked and set off at a brisk walk, while I fell in at his side. "You're a refreshin' lot over here, d'ye know. Fancy a chap walkin' up to a chap an' scrapin' an acquaintance like this."
"I may as well be honest," I responded. "I had a reason for wanting to speak to you."
"Of course you had, old chap," he interrupted. "I was waitin' for that."
"Well," I explained, "the reason is your ring. It's magnificent. I saw it as you were handing the lady into the cab, and it excited my curiosity. As you may have heard, we American reporters are a very curious lot."
He raised his hand and glanced at the great ruby. "D'ye know," he observed, "you're not the first chap to be affected like that? It's a bit of old Indian stuff. Had it for a good many years. Those chaps used to turn out some very fine work, though they're a benighted lot of beggars now. I picked it up in India quite a few years ago. Chap gave it to me told me no end of rot about it. They always have a lot of superstitious nonsense tied onto their things over there. Believe in talismans and amulets and that sort of thing. So you're a newspaper chap?"
I nodded. "You're an Englishman, I take it," I said.
"Oh, yes," he replied indifferently, "though I've knocked about a good bit, more or less. Been huntin' big game for a good many years. Fact is, I was thinkin' of goin' to that part of your country you call 'out West.' They tell me there's some practically virgin territory out there. Fellow could get a bit of shootin', d'ye think?"
"I can't say from experience," I answered. "From what I have heard, there are antelope and deer and an occasional bear still to be picked up in those parts."
"Grizzlies, I think you call them," said he.
I nodded. The conversation was not going exactly to my liking, but I saw no good excuse for a subject change.
"I might have a try for one," he went on. "I've bagged tigers and elephants and lions, but I never shot a grizzly yet. About what part of the country would one go to to find his bear?"
We had reached the Kenton, and I paused. "Personally I can't tell you," I replied to his question; "but if you like, I'll have it looked up for you at the office and let you know." I drew my folder and handed him a card.
He took it, glanced at it, and smiled. "That's awfully good of you," he accepted. "I'll be here for a few days yet. Ask for Major Langdon. Glad to have met you, Glace. Good afternoon." He turned in at the door and left me wondering just how much of it all he meant, or if his keen, gray eyes had seen through my poor attempt at bluff.
I slipped around to the taxi-stand on the side of the hotel and engaged a cab. Then, satisfied that Langdon would probably be out of the lobby, I made my way cautiously inside and crossed to the desk.
Jeffrys was still clerk at the Kenton, so I anticipated little trouble in finding out all he knew about the big man with the ruby. He had a habit of observing the guests closely, and had often given me a good tip in the days when I was just beginning the newspaper game. Now he greeted me with a smile. "Hello, old scout!" he hailed as he put out a hand across the desk. "Haven't seen you around here in a coon's age! Whose trail are you cuttin' now?"
"That's what you've got to tell me," I returned with a smile. "He calls himself Major Langdon, I believe—"
"Oh," said Jeffrys, "the chap with the big red rock!"
"Then he is stopping here?"
"Sure," said Jeffrys. "Been here between two and three weeks. Got a parlor suite—No. 265. Seems an awful decent chap, barring his accent, which is something fierce, an' he'd look better if he'd shave off the wire-pointed mustache. It's my private opinion, Glace, that he wears the mustache as an excuse for showing off the ring when he's twisting the thing. Have you seen that ring? Some stone that, boy!"
I nodded. "What does he do?" I asked.
"Talks," said Jeffrys. "As near as I can dope it out, he's a sort of walking death. He acts like he has more money and time than he knows what to do with, so he goes around killing things. Says he spends his time hunting big game. Told me he got the big ruby for savin' the life of some East Indian maharaja or something like that. Walked up and took him away from a tiger that was playing with him. I sprung it on him that he'd won it 'bucking the tiger,' but the joke didn't soak in. He just stared for a minute, an' then: 'I don't think you get me, old chap,' he says. 'I shot the bloody brute, ye know.' He keeps talking about going out West to shoot the country up."
I glanced at the hotel clock and decided that I had no time to listen to any more of Jeffrys's chatter. It seemed to me that I was due at the station. Therefore, I told him I was in a hurry and rushed back to my waiting taxicab, threw myself into it, and bade the driver take me to the jail as fast as he dared. I thought the whole thing over as we skidded along in the snow.
Everything I had set out to accomplish I had succeeded in doing with what now seemed like ridiculous ease. Everything and everybody seemed to have been working to further my endeavors. Plunging blindly forward along the course set for me by Dual, I had arrived with almost unbelievable sureness at each and every point, and found what it seemed to have been preordained that I should find. I looked out at the twinkling lights of the early night, and I shivered, not because I was cold, but rather because I suddenly sensed the fact of what blind creatures we all are, after all.
So far as I could see, there were four people who had been mainly connected with the morning's tragedy. Each and every one of them were now somewhere under these same early lights, secure in their own minds, I fancied, because of the arrest of Baird and the O'Niel girl. No doubt they were smiling as they thought that already the police had picked their victims, and would seek their conviction, thus rendering the real criminals all the more safe.
I wondered what their thoughts would be if they knew of the strange presence dwelling high above their heads on the Urania's roof; sitting like destiny above mere mortals, spinning the threads of a snare which should enwrap them and bind them fast. What would they do? How would they act? Suppose, by chance, they should see my taxi speeding past. What would it mean to them? Nothing! Not once would they dream of it as an agency working for their undoing! And yet, in a sense, the throbbing motor was driving the very car of destiny itself—the car of destiny! The idea pleased me some way, and I smiled.
In a final sliding skid the taxi stopped in front of the green lights of the station. I sprang out and yelled to the driver to wait.
I crossed the pavement in a couple of running strides and threw open the door. Dan Harrington still sat at the desk. He lifted his head as I rushed in, as did several other officers who were lounging back of the rail. "Where's Bryce, Dan?" I cried.
"In the 'tecs' room," he answered after one glance at my face. "What's broke now?"
"Get him, will you?" I requested, shaking my head.
Dan pressed a button on his desk, and an instant later several of the detective force—Bryce among them—came from the detectives' room. I signed to the inspector that I wanted him.
He crossed to me with a quizzical smile. "That was a nice little joker you slipped into the Record's extra," he began, "after the spiel you put up this mornin' about treatin' the department right."
"I didn't write the story," I told him quickly. "That's what I want to see you about. Put on your hat and coat. I've got a taxi outside."
"What do you want me to do, son?" he asked with a sharp look.
"Quit talking and come with me," I answered. "I'll explain as we go along."
"Go along where?" said Bryce.
"To make those other arrests the Record spoke of," I snapped at him. "Oh, for the Lord's sake, hurry up! This is straight!"
He gave me another glance and nodded, turned away, and came back in a moment with coat and hat. "I'm going out with Glace," he threw over his shoulder at Dan. "I'll phone in after a bit."
I hustled him out and into the waiting cab, yelled to the driver to go to the Record office. "There's five dollars in it if you do it in five minutes," I shouted and sprang into the cab after Bryce.
"Is this straight about something new in the bank case?" began Bryce as the cab started. "No kiddin' now, son! Come across!"
"It's the best tip you ever had," I assured him, "and if we put it across I can see where you get one almighty boost."
"What's the dope?" mumbled the inspector, lighting a cigar.
"I'm going to take you where you can arrest the real murderer of the man Sardon, and a bunch of his accomplices as well."
"Meanin'," said Bryce, holding his lighted match in his fingers, "that you still claim Baird is innocent."
"Meaning," I flung back, "that I know he is innocent. Bryce, do you remember that Greenig murder case?"
"I ought to. You scored that time all right, Glace."
"I did nothing of the sort," I said, leaning forward and tapping him on the knee. "Bryce, it wasn't my work that cleared up that case."
"Then whose was it? It wasn't mine," he growled with a faint grin.
"Semi Dual's!" I cried.
"Eh?" said Bryce. "Semi Dual's? Who the dickens is he?"
"The man who helped me, or, rather, the man who really cleared up that case, the forgery case of Cashier Sheldon, and the Barstow-More murder case. Do you remember the night I called up and told you folks of the doctor's confession of murder in the Greenig case? I was in Dual's apartments at the time, and so was the doctor. You may also remember that I turned him over to your men at the door of the Urania. Dual lives on the Urania's roof. You saw him this morning at the bank."
Bryce whistled. "So that's it," he said after a moment. "How does it come, then, that his name never appeared in any of those affairs?"
"Because," I replied, "Dual is a man who works in silence, hates notoriety. Silence is the price of his services. He is the most peculiar and the most wonderful individual I have ever met. If a case interests him, he will spare no time, trouble, or expense to unravel it, provided he is permitted to work quietly and in his own way. He helped me with those cases only on condition that I would not say a word about his connection with them. He is helping me on this, and he still imposes the condition that we must say no word about what he does. He told me to promise you that, if you would come to his rooms with me at six, he would surrender the murderer of Sardon into your hands at eight o'clock. That is why I came for you. You are to make the arrests and take the credit. Unless you promise absolute silence, I am not to bring you at all."
The inspector puffed vigorously at his cigar. "It's a darned funny arrangement," he said at last. "But I'd be a fool to pass it up. If it suits Dual to act that way, why it goes with me. Mum's the word. How's he going to get this bunch up there, do you know?"
I shook my head. "I don't know any more than you do about that. But if he says he'll do it, he'll do it. I never knew him to fail to keep a promise."
"All I got to do, then, is to go there and wait two hours and he'll hand me my man? Hum!"
"You'll get the whole gang, who engineered the deal," I corrected.
"How do you know there is a gang?" growled Bryce.
"Dual says so," I retorted. "Oh, I know you think it's funny, but he's wise to the whole scheme. He even sent me to the place where I found the bank's empty grip and the sham messenger's suit of clothes."
That got Bryce. He took his cigar from his mouth with a jerk, and stared me in the face. "You found them?" he gasped. "That's straight is it, Glace?" he demanded incredulously.
"I found them this afternoon, and I've got them locked up in a safe place."
Bryce put back his cigar. "That settles it," he said. "I lay down after that. Take me to this Semi Dual. I wondered why he butted in at the bank to-day, though I didn't spot him for a 'fly.' How'd he happen to get in on the thing, anyway?"
"I called him," I said.
"Hold on there, son," the inspector objected. "Remember I was with you from the start. Say"—he sat up in his seat—"there's something darned funny about all this."
"Nevertheless I called him," I maintained.
"How?" Bryce was growing obviously suspicious.
I looked him full in the face. "Bryce," I said, "did you ever know me to tell you a deliberate lie?"
"No," he admitted; "I can't remember that you ever did, son."
"Then all I can do is to ask you to believe me," I continued. "I don't understand just how I called Dual myself—that is I can't explain it on any basis which you would accept, and yet it is true that he came to the Merchants' Bank this morning in answer to my wish."
"Is this Dual person a mind-reader?" he asked with a grin.
"You can judge for yourself pretty soon," I replied, slightly nettled at the raillery in his tone. "Here we are at the Record. I've got to stop here and get some things to help convince you that I am telling you the truth."
The cab stopped in front of the office, and I sprang out, raced up-stairs to the art-room, and demanded my copies of the photographs I had made.
Malley, our art man, handed them to me, and I thrust them into my pocket. "Get your plates ready from these for an extra later, this evening," I directed, as I turned to leave.
"Wait a minute," said he. "Somebody sent another print here this afternoon. It was a picture of this man Sardon, showing a lot of finger-marks on his neck. What about it?"
"It goes; I made it," I called as I moved to the door. "Make a plate of it, too, with the rest."
I seemed fated to interruption. I met Smithson as I was rushing out. "Here!" he cried, and I paused. "Who killed Sardon?" he wanted to know.
"I don't know now," I answered. "Get ready to put out an extra sometime after eight o'clock. I'll phone you the murderer's name any time after that." I turned to the stairs. I had seen the clock. It was six minutes of six.
"Here! Hold on!" yelled Smithson; but I was taking the stairs three at a jump.
I yelled the address to the driver and flung myself into the cab, which started with a jerk.
Bryce steadied me as I half fell into a seat. "What did you go after?" he questioned. "What sort of evidence have you folks got cached in the office?"
"Finger-prints of the main guy, who is responsible for the death of Sardon," I chuckled.
"Get out!" said Bryce. "You don't mean you've got the murderer's finger-prints?"
"Of course not." I felt a fool pleasure in mystifying the cocksure Bryce. "I had those by two o'clock to-day. These are the prints of the man who put the murderer up to the game."
Bryce threw his cigar out of the window. "Glace," he remarked, "I have got to admit that you and your friend have scored on us before this; but there are times when I feel like I'd like to wring your neck. First you tell me that you have found the stolen grip and the suit of the fake messenger, then you spring it that there's a gang back of the deal; next you coolly add that you've got the finger-prints of the principals and invite me to go with you to this Dual's and be presented with the whole bunch. Why the deuce can't you loosen up a bit and talk straight English for a minute? You're a pretty wise kid, but don't rub it in. Remember I'm not admittin' yet that I was wrong in the pinch I made. You hain't proved your case yet, son."
I didn't really want to get him mad. "I'll tell you the truth, Bryce," I replied. "If I had to prove my case, as you call it, I couldn't do it. I've been working all day, under the direction of the man we are going to see. I saw him this afternoon, and he sent me out to do certain things. How he knew what to tell me to do, only he knows; and yet he told me that, if he desired, he could have arrested two of the members of this gang within fifteen minutes after we left the bank. Before three o'clock he told me that he knew the entire story of the crime, and that it was instigated by some man who did not appear in the actual murder. He gave as his reason for delaying the arrest of the actual assassin that he wanted to catch the man behind it all—what he calls the 'master mind.' Now, I won't try to prove my case. That is up to Semi Dual, and he'll do it in good time; but you've got to admit that he did send me to the place where I found the empty grip."
"And where was that?" he took me up in a flash.
"In an empty storeroom across from the bank."
"The devil!" said Bryce. "And you didn't have an idea of what you was after until you got there and found it? D'ye mean that, Glace?"
"Dual told me to go to the room and see what I would find," I responded. "I went, and found the grip and the suit inside the thing."
"Sounds like magic," commented the inspector, after a pause, during which he studied me closely. "How did Dual know that, I wonder? That's about the blamedest thing I've ever listened to."
"And yet," I responded, "that is the way Dual works. I've had him do it before. Once he sent me clear out to Goldfield to find a man he wanted. That was on the Sheldon forgery case. Well, I went out there, and I found the man, and he was the real forger, too."
"Must get his dope out of a dream-book," said Bryce. "Well, we're stopping. Come on. I'm willing to be shown."
We got out of the cab, and I threw the driver a bill, rushed Bryce into a cage, and, a minute later, led him out on the twentieth floor.
We turned up the marble stairs. "Good Lord!" he exclaimed. "Is your friend a millionaire?"
I shook my head, smiling, and led him on up to the roof. When we got there, his jaw dropped in utter amaze. "Say!" he gasped, after his first glance around. "Say, Glace, just what am I up against?"
I led him across the annunciator-plate, and waited until the chimes had died away. Hard on their musical peal, there came the deep reverberation of the clock in the city hall striking six.
Not until they had sunk to silence did I answer Bryce's last surprised question. When I did, it was in just two words: "Semi Dual."
DUAL met us at the tower door, smiled approval at me, and gave a hand to Bryce. "On time to the minute, inspector," he greeted. "That is well."
"That's Glace's fault," stammered Bryce, as he eyed Dual from head to foot. Plainly he was puzzled by the long, loose robe of white, edged in purple, which he wore. In the morning my friend had worn the conventional garb of the ordinary well-to-do citizen, and the change seemed to add to the officer's surprise.
"And the immutable orbit of destiny," replied Semi, smiling. "Will you sit down a moment, inspector, until I speak to Glace?"
We left the official sitting in the reception-room and passed into the inner room, where Dual threw himself into his chair and silently held out his hand.
I passed him the copies of the photographs and the marks of the footprints I had made; also, the two stenographic pads. Still in silence, he turned to his desk and began his examination of the various articles, while I made a cigarette and smoked and watched.
As he opened the photograph of the signature of Langdon, I saw his eyes light with momentary triumph. He stretched forth a hand and drew a sheet of paper from among the mass covering his desk, laid it beside the reproduction, and tossed it aside as though satisfied, seized upon other papers, and made some rapid calculations, and, in turn, laid these down. His face had grown stern and keen in its expression as he worked, and he moved with a greater despatch than he had ever exhibited before in my knowledge of the man.
While I watched, his reply to Bryce came flashing through my mind: "The immutable orbit of destiny," and I pondered it as I sat. To me it appeared that I was privileged to catch some glimpse of the workings of destiny; that the man before me was a sort of agent of the force, knowing how to interpret its meaning in a way veiled to us blind creatures whom it swayed in its course. He had laid down the papers and taken up the note-books, placed them side by side, and was going over them, inch by inch, with his powerful magnifying glass. Sitting there in his long, white robe, with the great crystal before him, his features thrown into bold relief by the light from the golden apple in the hand of the great, bronze Venus, he suddenly came to remind me of some strange mystic, some crystal gazer, seeing visions in the pure depths of the glass; or else the very incarnation of that destiny, that law of retributive justice, of which he spoke, applying the microscope of the spirit to the little souls of men. What would he find?
Hard on my mental question, Dual laid down the glass. "The material supports the occult," he observed, tapping the books. "Once more, Gordon, you are about to see the workings of the law proven to material eyes."
"Then you are sure of everything now—" I began.
"I was sure of everything hours ago," said Semi, smiling slightly. "I said material eyes, my friend, which do not recognize spiritual sight. But come. The sands are running low in the glass of a man's fate. Tell me all you have done, before we bring Bryce in and close the net."
"You are ready for that?" I exclaimed. "To make the arrests?"
"I am ready," Dual responded, leaning back and closing his eyes. "Time presses, Gordon. Your tale."
Again, as earlier in the day, I made my report, which Dual received in the same silence which always marked his concentration of attention. For perhaps five minutes I talked steadily, and, having finished the account, I paused.
Semi Dual roused instantly from his apparent abstraction and sat up in his chair. "You have proved a very efficient medium, Gordon; and, as I perceive that you are somewhat mystified as yet, let me say this before we call Bryce: You are wondering how I have arrived at my conclusions, because you have seen less of the action behind the scenes than before. Remember, however, that I told you that I had set up an astrological figure of this affair and was prepared to tell the story of the crime at three o'clock to-day. I have arrived at my deductions by the use of astrology, psychometry, my knowledge of chirography, and a large proportion of common sense. Now call Bryce in!"
I won't say I was surprised, because I wasn't. I had grown accustomed to having Dual read my mind. There were times when I felt as though the man could have practically dispensed with verbal speech if he had so desired. I knew that now, as before, he had sensed my unspoken lack of understanding. I made no response, however, but rose and stepped to the door of the reception-room.
Bryce was sitting stoically smoking when I beckoned him in. He rose instantly and crossed to where I stood, and I ushered him into the room where I had seen Dual work out so many mysteries.
Semi waved him to a chair, into which he sank, and swept an appraising eye about the room, until Dual's words brought him back to attention in the case in hand.
"Inspector Bryce," Semi was saying, "I asked you here, because I need your assistance in closing up this affair. Not but what I could have taken a trifle longer and terminated it myself, but because I have promised my friend Glace that his friends shall not spend this night in custody, and because the signs indicate that a certain man shall end his evil course provided I act now. To bring this ending, however, you are necessary to me."
"You're takin' a lot for granted, ain't you, Dual?" said Bryce.
Semi nodded. "In a sense," he replied. "Primarily, I am assuming that you, as a detective, are desirous of seeing only justice done, and that, if I can demonstrate to you that one person is guilty and another innocent, you will act accordingly."
"Well," admitted the inspector, "that's right enough."
"That being the case," Dual continued, "I am now going to prove to you that certain parties are guilty of the murder of Sardon and the theft of the bank's funds. After that, I shall call upon you to act. To begin with, the murderer is, as you yourself deduced, a red-haired man. He is an individual of some five feet eight inches in height, as shown by the sized boot he wore, the mark of which was plainly evident in the snow at the Merchants' Bank. He is a professional chauffeur, as indicated by the same boot-mark. He drove a gray taxicab with safety tires, from the left hind one of which the safety tread was worn or cut in an irregular circular design. This also was shown in the snow, where he stopped the cab on the far side of the limousine which Sardon drove.
"There will be a fresh scar on the right hind fender of his car, where he rubbed against the limousine in turning away after the murder, and scraped off some of the gray paint from his own car. I have a piece of that paint, by the way, which I picked up in the snow.
"He is left-handed, as shown by the photographs of the marks on Sardon's throat, which also reveal that he had a scar on his left thumb. He is a user of cigarettes and left the stub of one in the limousine, which also shows the scar of the left thumb, corresponding to the one in the marks on Sardon's neck.
"He wore a light, drab suit, and snagged a piece out of it while overpowering Sardon. It was caught on a projecting screw in the door-frame of the limousine. For the rest I shall ask you to take my word for it, that his eyes are a gray-green. You might not understand how I know that, but the rest of the matter you will admit is such as any detective might have discovered by examining the scene of the affair."
Bryce had forgotten to smoke his cigar, as he listened. Once or twice he glanced helplessly in my direction. For the most part, he kept his eyes on Semi Dual.
"By Jove!" he burst out, as Semi paused. "I got to admit that sounds convincin'. Have you got proof for all that?"
Dual smiled. "I can even show you the microscopical difference between Baird's hair and the murderer's, if you wish."
"I'll take your word for it," said Bryce. "This sounds like the work of some of them European detectives."
"One trouble with the American detectives is that they are too prone to jump to conclusions without substantiating detail," Dual resumed. "But to get on: The murderer had three associates. There was a woman, who was an inside spy at the bank. She was a large woman, with yellow eyes, who worked as a stenographer."
"Not the Golding girl?" cried Bryce in excitement. "See here, Dual, I don't get that. She was perfectly willin' to answer questions this mornin', an' never showed no signs of excitement, barrin' the time yon made that crack about them flowers. What you got on her?"
"You may recall," Dual responded, "that the questions you asked were all calculated to implicate another person. Naturally, she would answer as you wished, as it could only help her own case to do so. I said what I did about the flowers for a purpose of my own, and her reception of it showed me that my suspicions were correct. Also, it was the only remark which in any way varied the program she had set for herself. Marie Golding was the confederate of the murderer of Sardon, and his sweetheart as well. You arrested the wrong pair of lovers, that is all. I have proof of what I say—I will mention this much: I have evidence to show that Miss Golding examined Miss O'Niel's note-book after the letter was written to the branch bank; also, to show that she is the sort of person who would be likely to play the part I have ascribed to her."
"How'd you get it? What is it?" demanded Bryce, who was growing rather red in the face.
"Glace got it," said Semi Dual. "As to what it is, the evidence that she examined the book consists in the print of her thumb on one of its pages, beside the shorthand transcript of the note, which print corresponds to her own on her own book. The evidence as to her character may not be so plain to you, but I will give it to you for what you consider it worth. Do you believe in chirography?"
"Dopin' out folks' characters from their handwritin'?" queried Bryce, grinning. "Naw!"
"It's a pity," Dual made comment. "One may gain valuable tips, as you call them, in that way. Now, in Miss Golding's writing on her note-book here"—he picked it up—"she has written her name. As Glace will tell you, because he has seen it twice borne out in our mutual cases, this writing exhibits the peculiarity of having breaks in the bottoms of such letters as the a, the o, and the d. Furthermore, the stem of the d is very short as compared to the loop of the l. The first loop of the M is very large, and the lower curve of the G does not come down to the line. Now, to a person who understands the science of handwriting, such writing would indicate an individual of a treacherous and rather cruel nature, regardless of how much superficial softness they might exhibit. In fact, their ordinary behavior is really a part of their hypocrisy. Furthermore, such persons will always be susceptible to temptation in regard to money affairs. In other words, they will steal if they think they have a safe chance."
"An' you believe that?" said Bryce in a puzzled tone. "You'd bank an arrest on stuff like that? The finger-prints are all right, but this other dope—I'm sort of leery on that, Mr. Dual."
Dual looked at me and smiled, as one who would say: "You see?"
"I have banked several arrests on similar findings," he replied in his quiet accents. "They proved to be correct, Mr. Bryce."
"Admittin' the fact," returned the inspector, "it wouldn't stand at law."
"In due time I'll produce evidence which will," said Semi Dual.
Bryce nodded. "If you can do that, all right. Go ahead."
"This woman," resumed Dual, "was assisted in a part of her work by her brother, Eugene Golding. While she worked to gain information in the bank, he acted as an outside spy and watched for her to give some signal that the transfer was about to be made. They naturally waited until a large sum was to be sent, and they arranged that the woman should show a sign on the day when it was to occur. Her brother then communicated with the fourth conspirator, and himself played the part of the messenger who stopped Baird and gave him the dummy package for Cashier Grier. Also, after the murder, the brother took the money, still in the bank's bag, and met the fourth member of the gang at an appointed place."
While Semi talked, Bryce had been chewing ruminatively at his cigar, which had gone out. Now he sat suddenly forward. "Them nasturtiums was the signal," he suddenly interjected. "That's why your buttin' in sort of rattled that Golding girl. Honest. I reckon you've got the right hunch."
Semi Dual smiled. "I am glad you agree, inspector. We will work much better together. In support of my idea about the brother, we have a print of his footmarks, which I feel certain will agree in measurement with his own shoes, and also his finger-marks—or rather some finger-marks on the wrapper of the dummy parcel, which, I believe, will correspond to his."
"You got them, too?" exclaimed Bryce. Plainly he was growing excited at last.
"Glace got them," said Semi Dual.
Bryce shook his head. "It gets me how you fellows work," he burst forth, nervously trying to light his cigar. "You tell me you've got all this, or that Glace has done it, and he tells me the same thing, and says he don't know what it means, but that the gang will be pinched by eight o'clock. Who's goin' to pinch them?"
"You are," said Semi Dual.
"Me!" Bryce seemed unable to say more until his match burned his fingers. Then he swore.
"You," repeated Dual easily. "I shall tell you where. You will have to send for all except the murderer, who will come here himself."
The inspector shook his head. "I give it up," he said.
"We are wasting time," Dual began again. "We come now to the fourth and principal member of the gang—the instigator, what one may call the 'master mind.' As I told Glace, I could have arrested the murderer and the woman at noon. I did not because I desired to wait until I could arrest as well this prime mover in the crime. This man is a British ex-army officer, cashiered from the service for crooked dealing. He is a large man, some six feet two inches tall, and correspondingly built. He is florid of complexion, with a light mustache, which he wears pointed, and dark-gray eyes. At present he is wearing a gray overcoat and cap, and stopping at the Kenton Hotel. He wears a large ring with a red setting on his left little finger, and calls himself Major A. Arthur Langdon. He also wears a number ten boot, of which we have a print."
"Good Lord!" gasped Bryce again. "How do you know all that? Have you seen this man?"
"Not that I know of," said Semi Dual. "However, I learned the facts in various ways. Do you remember Baird's statement of the man who fell inside the revolving door? Now, it naturally occurs that only a large man would throw his hands up against the glass panel. Ordinary-sized men would have grasped the brass hand-rail. I thought of that, and made a photograph of the hand-marks on the glass. That gave me my first clue, as you would say. For years, inspector, I have made a business of collecting the autographs and finger-marks of different men and women. I have a great many of what you would call police-characters. As you doubtless know, the finger-marks are a permanent method of identification. Also I may add that no matter how many aliases a man may adopt, by some subtle rule or law they always chose some one in which the letter combination will show forth the individual's character. You may doubt this, but it is true.
"After I had taken the photo of the marks on the door, I came home and went to my collection to see if I could find anything similar. Some years ago in Paris this man was arrested, but the State failed of conviction for lack of proof. They got his finger-prints and other measurements, however, and, through an acquaintanceship I have over there, I was able to add copies of them to my collection. Among my files I found a mark which corresponded to that of this Langdon, as he now calls himself. I was then fairly started upon his trail. Furthermore, there are marks on the blank sheets which were inside the dummy package which are identical to those on the glass door. This, I think, connects the man with the case, and shows that the package was prepared by him."
Bryce brought a hand down on the arm of his chair. "Gad! You're a wonder, Dual. We've got him with the goods all right, on that."
Semi nodded. "In the mean time," he continued, "Glace had found his signature. I compared it with the writing in the name he gave when arrested in Paris. The writing was the same. For years he has made his living by instigating theft and taking the major portion of the winnings of his tools. He is here at the Kenton, inspector. He instigated this crime, and is at least morally responsible for the death of Sardon. This is the man's history in brief, and not to bore you, every line of his written alias will bear it out. The writing is heavy, coarse, written with a heavy, ruthless pressure. The pen with which he wrote almost tore the paper; yet each word tapers slightly toward the end. The man is a selfish brute. In the letter t in the word Arthur, which, by the way, is his true given name, and which he has never been able to give up in his changes of name, the crossing of the letter alone serves to give us the key-note of an individual of inherent cruelty. Such a man, in other circumstances, might have been a second Nero, and have smiled at the sufferings and death of his fellow men. You will notice that the cross is remarkably heavy. Also the letters are angular, with few softening curves. The writing is that of a natural criminal with practically no 'nerves'; in other words, of a criminal machine."
Bryce reached for his hat and jammed it on. "That's enough," he declared in excitement. "You say you got the proof and that he's at the Kenton. I'm goin' over an' pinch that guy."
"He's wanted in a dozen cities in Europe," said Dual. "His arrest will be a credit to any town's detective-force. Will you let me still direct this affair, Mr. Bryce?"
Inspector Bryce paused in rising from his chair. "I reckon it's your picnic," he assented with a grin.
"First, then," Dual continued, "I shall expect your promise that no mention of my name shall occur in the matter. You shall direct the arrests, and Glace will see that due credit is given for them in the Record's account. Secondly, I wish you to remain here. There is a telephone in my desk here. Call up your station and send two men to 520 Welton Street with orders to arrest Marie Golding and her brother, Eugene. At the same time have two others go to the Kenton and arrest Major Langdon. Tell them to act quickly and not bungle the job! Instruct your men to bring their prisoners here as soon as they have made the arrests."
"Here!" cried Bryce. "Bring them here? What for?"
"We'll save the State the expense of a trial," said Dual with an odd smile. "Also, instruct the jail authorities to release Baird and Miss O'Niel. I don't think you want them any more."
"I reckon not," Bryce agreed somewhat ruefully. "But honest, Dual, I thought I was right."
"If I had not known that, I would not have had you here to- night," replied Semi Dual.
"All right, gimme the phone," Bryce surrendered. "Gad, this whole thing gets my goat!"
Dual opened the door of the desk where he kept the concealed phone and handed the instrument to Bryce, who planted it on the desk and squared himself off for action, as it were.
It was a tense moment; the beginning of the end, I felt. I sat watching as the inspector leaned a heavy arm on the desk and lifted the receiver off the hook. Dual, as though satisfied, was leaning back in his chair, his head resting on his hand.
Bryce spoke. "Hello! Gimme eight— Hello! Johnson there? Sure I want him— Hello! Say, Johnson, this is Bryce. Say, take a couple of men an' go to the Kenton an' grab a guy callin' himself Major Arthur Langdon. Got it? All right. Now listen. Send a couple of boys over to 520 Welton Street and get a woman by the name of Marie Golding and a feller, Eugene Golding, her brother. She's a blonde—bleached, I think—big girl with a wise look. Hurry up on this! When you got them bring the whole push up to the Urania! That's what I said! I'll be waitin' for you at the door. All right. Now let me talk to the Sarge. Say, Sarge, this is Bryce. It's all day with the Baird-O'Niel pinch. Sure, turn 'em loose, we don't want 'em any more. That's straight. Good-by."
He hung up the phone and swung back to us. "I done it," he announced. "Now I'm goin' down-stairs and wait for the bunch." He rose and went out.
I sat lost in silent wonder. Still in their fancied security the culprits lay out under the night. Yet the word which would confound them utterly had gone out from this high tower from the brooding presence of that strange agent of fate, who still sat with head in hand. Already he had given the signal which was even now causing a narrowing of the mouth of that invisible net of circumstance. Already the hand of fate hovered above them, a dreadful shadow. Soon now that hand was going to close.
"And you brought it all about," I burst out at length.
"The immutable law brought it about," said Semi. "I am but a medium of the law."
"That may all be so," I retorted; "but if it is, why don't the law work the same through other men—Bryce, for instance?"
Dual smiled slightly. "Perhaps by practice I have become a better medium of conduction than some others," he said.
"Why did you want the signatures of Baird and Miss O'Niel?" I asked. "You didn't appear to use them."
Dual looked up and I saw a light in his eyes. "You noticed it, did you, Gordon? Then I will explain. I wanted them in order to center their minds. I knew they both knew of Sheldon's trouble and that I used my knowledge of chirography to help clear that case. I had you ask for their signatures in order to turn their minds from fear to hope and trust in me; to place them en rapport with my efforts, Gordon. Thought forms are strong things to a sensitive spirit. I knew that while I worked to help them they, unknowingly, would help me by the hope and trust waves they sent me. You remember I told you I had faith in the assistance of the little O'Niel's prayers? Does it occur to you that her prayers are answered even now?"
"By Jove!" I cried. "So they are! She's free!"
"Suppose," said Dual, "that you call Cashier Sheldon and ask him to come here at once. Explain to him how to get here. After that, call Miss Baird and tell her the news. Ask her to get Billy to bring her and Miss O'Niel here about nine o'clock."
I looked at him in fresh wonder and he smiled broadly. "Do as I tell you," he urged.
I went to the phone. While I was speaking Semi rose and stretched himself upon the couch. He lay utterly relaxed in every muscle, his eyes closed, his chest rising and falling in great inhalations, his arms stretched wide in the shape of a cross. As I ceased speaking I became conscious that with each slow breath he was repeating over and over the one word: "Oom!"
The great clock in the corner chimed a quarter of eight. Dual rose. "The sands are running low in the glass of one man's fate," he remarked. "At eight-thirty, Gordon, the last grain will fall."
Turning to a drawer, he opened it and drew forth a number of red lamps. One by one he replaced the ordinary lights in the apartment with these others until the room was bathed in an angry ruby light.
Scarcely had he finished than the sound of the chimes broke on our ears. Dual raised his hand. "Hark!" said he. He dropped into his chair, bent, and opened another drawer. From it he lifted a snow-white turban, placed it upon his head, and sat back in his chair. So all in white and purple, he sat under the red lights save for an immense ruby which fastened his turban in front and glowed like a fiery third eye directly over the center of his brow.
FOOTSTEPS crossed the outer room. A tap fell on the door.
"Enter!" cried Semi Dual.
The door swung open and there came through it first, a fair- haired youth, whose wrists were circled by the steel bands of handcuffs; behind him a splendidly proportioned girl with great masses of yellow hair and yellow eyes, whose hands, though free, were clenched, her lips set into a sternly repressed line; and behind her a great bulk of a man with florid face and a needle- pointed mustache, who wore a great ruby upon the little finger of his left hand, walking with shoulders back and head boldly lifted, despite his manacled wrists; and back of him again Inspector Bryce.
Dual eyed them all in steady silence as they filed into the room. Not until Bryce had entered and closed the door did he say in a level monotone: "Good evening, Miss Golding and Mr. Eugene Golding. Please be seated, and you also, Captain Lane, take a chair."
Did I notice a slight start of the huge man or was it a shadow? To this day I do not know, yet it seemed to me that as his name fell from Dual's lips a slight spasm twitched his face.
The level monotone of Dual's speaking droned along: "It is now five minutes of eight. I shall have to ask you to wait five minutes for the fourth member of our party to arrive."
A stifled exclamation burst from the lips of the woman. Her features looked ashen even under the red light. I saw desperation look out of her eyes; the abandonment of all hope, and I realized that Dual had purposely used the word "fourth."
He swung his eyes to Bryce. "Remove the handcuffs," he said slowly. "There is no escape from this room; the door is of steel. A movement of my finger and it is electrically charged." His hand hovered along the edge of his desk.
As one uncomprehending, yet obeying, Inspector Bryce released the wrists of his prisoners and slipped the manacles into his pocket. He glanced at me and I saw a vague, a vast questioning in his eyes. I shook my head and laid a finger on my lips.
Dual had ceased speaking. Silence filled the room. I felt rather than saw Langdon's, or Lane's, eyes fall upon me, and turned to meet his steely stare. Very slowly he nodded his head as one who perceives and accepts a fact. The clock in the corner chimed eight times. As though it were a continuation of its peal, an echo, the annunciator rang forth. Again steps came from the outer room. Once more the door swung slowly back. There appeared Henri, supporting one end of an immense hamper, and with him, assisting him with his burden, was a red-haired man wearing the cap, coat, and puttees of a public chauffeur!
A shrill scream rent the air. Marie Golding was leaning forward in her seat. "For Gawd's sake beat it, Jim!" she cried to the red-haired man wildly. "It's a plant!"
The hamper crashed to the floor as the man lifted his head and saw the inmates of the room. For one moment he stood rigid in amazement, then whirled to the door. But in that moment Henri had closed the door and now stood before it, barring the way.
For a moment there was silence. The red-haired man, standing half crouched like a cornered animal about to spring, Henri smiling a stiff-lipped smile before him; the rest of us sitting as though rooted to our chairs.
Then Dual's voice again broke the quiet tension: "Don't try it, Murdoch. The door is charged with electricity now." His fingers pressed a button on his desk. "See! I will show you." He picked up a small object from his desk and held it toward the door. On the instant, with a snapping crash, a myriad darting, hissing sparks sprang from the door's surface and leaped to the electrode in his hand. "To touch that door is death," said Semi, as he laid the electrode down.
He waved Murdoch to a chair next to Miss Golding, and swung to face us as we sat before him in the now silent room. His features had settled into a calm, inscrutable mask, his eyes seeming slowly to widen and become larger and brighter, as though some inward fire were flaring higher and higher in their gray depths.
For a long minute there was no sound save our subdued breathing; then there came a low, haunting murmur like the sound of voices chanting at a great distance. It floated in from apparently nowhere, yet I, who knew Dual, knew it was the voice of the wonderful instrument he had constructed to play by means of etheric vibration. Soft, illusive, haunting, the melody crept into the apartment where we sat waiting, without exactly knowing for what.
As though drawn by some strange power, my eyes sought the great ruby on Dual's brow. With a start it came to me that it was moving in time to the music very, very slowly, swinging backward and forward and from side to side; backward and forward, backward and forward, round and round. It was glowing and flashing, advancing and retreating with the slow, rhythmic motion of a throbbing heart-beat, the weird, compelling influence of the swaying head of a snake. Gradually it seemed to me that it was swelling, increasing. Its blood-like color was tinting my whole perspective. It was no longer a ruby, but a vast red light, filling all the room.
Dimly I sensed a sigh escaping the lips of the woman next to whom I sat, but I did not turn my head. My eyes were fascinated by the vast red light of the gem, below which I could still faintly imagine rather than perceive the face of Semi Dual.
Presently I became aware, with a start of surprise, that it was snowing, and that I seemed to be back in that room at the Fourth National where we had sat with Carlton that morning. Now, however, there was no one there. Or, wait—the door of the cashier's room opened and the Golding woman came in. She advanced to the typewriter desk by the window and placed a bowl of golden nasturtiums thereon and went away.
There came a hiatus—a space of blankness—and again I was seeing. I was in the empty storeroom across from the bank. There was some one else there. It was the fair-haired youth who sat in the room with the rest of us, but in my vision he was sitting on a box, watching out of two holes in the blind of the front window. Now and then he lifted a pair of field-glasses and looked intently across the street.
Then he sprang up, unrolled a paper parcel, and drew out a suit of clothes, which he donned. It was the uniform of a messenger of the bank. He went out, carrying a paper package in his hand, ran around the block, and came down the street and slipped into an alley beside the bank.
A limousine was standing in front of the bank. A man, Baird, was coming down the steps with a vault-guard. He carried a grip locked with double padlocks in his hand. He entered the limousine.
The fair-haired youth slipped from the alley. He ran after the limousine as it started. He called. The car stopped. The youth handed the package he carried through the window. The car went on. The youth crossed the street and entered a taxicab at the stand there. The cab was gray. Its driver was red-haired. It set forth in pursuit of the limousine.
We were in front of the side door of the Merchants' Bank. The limousine was just stopping. Baird got out. The driver of the limousine, whose face was that of the dead chauffeur Sardon, left his seat and entered the car. Baird went up the steps of the bank. He carried in his hand the package the youth had given him.
Far up the street a gray taxicab appeared. It came on swiftly. It was here. It was stopping beside the limousine now. The red- haired man sprang out. He carried a thing of metal in his hands. It was a spanner. He ran around back of the limousine, and came to its door next the curb. He wrenched open the door and seized Sardon by the throat with his left hand. Sardon struggled. His gloved hands came up and clawed at the man's head. Once, twice, the red-haired chauffeur struck him with the spanner. Sardon sank back. Blood poured from his scalp.
The far door of the car opened. The youth seized the pigskin grip. He sprang back to the taxi. The chauffeur dropped his weapon and released Sardon, who sank back in a limp heap. He ran around the car and sprang into the driver's seat of the taxicab.
We were inside the bank. Baird was leaving. A large man stood beside the revolving door, looking out. He was tall and fair, and wore a pointed mustache, and a great red ring on his left hand. He was watching the two cabs outside. They were still there. Baird was at the door. The large man stepped into a section of the door. Baird threw himself into the next.
The large man stumbled and fell to his knees. He threw his hands up against the glass. He seemed trying to rise, but I knew that he was holding the door, watching the two cabs, until one should go away.
The taxi was just starting. It leaped away with a jerk suddenly. It swung in a short circle—so short that its fender struck against that of the limousine and scratched off some gray paint. I saw it fall. It struck the snow and lay there, a gray spot. The taxi sped away. The gray paint lay on the snow. It began to grow. It grew and grew until it blotted out the entire scene. It seemed to pulsate and throb, and gradually it began to change color. It grew pinkish, a delicate rose, a crimson, a deep, rich ruby tint. It began to shrink and dwindle. It was no longer a pall, but a spot—a spot of blood! No! It was the great ruby glowing on Semi Dual's brow!
A shrill scream rent the silence. It was the fair-haired youth: "My God, sis! He's killed him! He's killed him! He struck too hard. Oh, this is awful, awful! It's murder, sis!"
I opened my eyes, or seemed to. Golding was standing upon his feet and swaying drunkenly, his arm out-stretched, pointing at Murdoch. "He killed him," he muttered, and sank back into his chair.
I looked about the room. It was unchanged, unless the strange pallor on the faces of those present might be called a change. Semi Dual still sat beside his desk, the same inscrutable expression on his face. I glanced at this one and that. Murdoch was shaking as with an ague. The woman beside me was breathing in short little gasps. Her brother sat in pale collapse, his forehead beaded with sweat. Bryce's jaw was sagging, his eyes popping from a pale face. Only Lane, or Langdon—whichever he was—seemed to remain cool.
Presently Lane spoke: "Devilish clever, that! I don't know who you are or what you call yourself, but it was devilish clever. I've seen the same mass hypnotism stunt pulled in India, you know. But what does it prove?"
Semi Dual made no reply. Still in silence, he turned his eyes upon the woman by my side.
As though galvanized to action, she sprang to her feet. She turned to Langdon and threw out an arm, pointing it at his face.
"It proves what I told you!" she cried in a voice grown shrill and high and unsteady; "to beware of this man; that he was at the bank this morning; that he had spotted the sign of the flowers; that he was dangerous! Didn't I say we ought to have him watched? Didn't I come to the café this afternoon and tell you this? And you laughed at me; told me I was suffering from nerves! Well, this proves who was right!" She sank back to her seat and began to shake with sobs.
Dual turned his eyes back to Lane. "That is your answer, captain," he said.
"Quite so," replied the captain. "But since when have the utterances of hypnotic subjects been taken as evidence at law in the United States?"
"They are not," rejoined Dual promptly, "nor do they need to be. There is sufficient material evidence to serve, Captain Lane. There are your finger-marks on the bank door and duplicates of them on the paper folded to make the dummy package, and on the vault register of the Fourth National Bank. There is your signature on the same register, and a print of your boot, taken from the dust on the floor of an empty storeroom where Golding and you cut open the bag and removed the money. There is sufficient evidence. And surely you have not forgotten that you are wanted in a dozen cities whose names I could call. Besides, Miss Golding was not under hypnotic influence when she spoke just now."
Lane nodded and twirled his mustache slowly. "That's the trouble with women. They are apt to go to pieces," he said at length.
"Then you think the evidence quite sufficient, Captain Lane?" said Dual. He lifted his eyes and fixed those of the man opposite as he spoke. Like two opponents at fence, they sat and crossed glances as the swordsmen clash foils. It was the Englishman whose eyes dropped at last.
"Quite," he replied. "As I remarked before, I don't know you, never heard of you; but I will say this: I imagined that this country would be an easy place in which to operate, because they are far more superficial in their police methods than the European authorities. However, had I known of you, or that you were living in this particular city, I would have chosen some other locality for my activities. If it's a fair question, just what do you intend doing in this affair?"
"I shall let destiny take its course," said Semi Dual. "You of all men, captain, should know best what to expect—what you deserve. Inasmuch as I have acted as destiny's agent in bringing you to this point, I have performed my part of the work in hand. It is now time for me to step aside and allow other forces to take charge in bringing about an end."
Lane lifted his eyes again and looked into Dual's face. "Do you know that's rather decent of you," he said with a tired smile. "In return I don't mind telling you that years ago, when I first engaged in my present methods of life, I made a promise with myself that I would never be taken alive." Again he smiled faintly. "I seem to have been mistaken, don't I, old chap?"
"Yes?" Dual's tone made it a question. Lane's head came up again with a jerk. Once more the two men met and measured wills, looked into each other's souls, and wrestled mentally. From that encounter Lane emerged with glistening eyes, a sweat-beaded forehead, and firmly compressed lips. Dual, smiling slightly, sat apparently unmoved.
Suddenly Lane's voice rang loud and strong. "No!" he burst forth, as one who has made up his mind. He threw his hands to his mouth, held them a moment, and dropped them again. He looked at Dual and returned his smile. He glanced about the room. "I hope you folks will believe that I am sorry to leave you in such a—beastly mess," he muttered. His face was turning slowly purple. He lurched in his chair. His arms slipped down at his sides and dangled limp hands. He gasped.
Dual rose and moved to his side. He reached down and lifted the man's left hand, and held it up for us to see. The red setting was gone from the great ring, crushed between Lane's strong teeth!
"A glass ampoule, filled with a potent poison," said Semi Dual.
The clock in the corner chimed half past eight.
Dual looked at me and smiled. "The last grain of sand," said he.
Marie Golding still sobbed and shivered. Her brother sat sunken down in his chair. Murdoch stared at the dead man as if seeing visions of his own fate. Bryce stumbled to his feet. "My God!" he muttered. "The man's dead! You hadn't oughter let him do that, Dual."
"It was better for the master mind to change his plane of operations," returned Semi with perfect quiet. "You can now take your prisoners away. I don't think any of them will deny what occurred to-day."
Murdoch raised his head. "There's no use," he said. "I didn't really mean to kill Sardon, but I was excited. I struck too hard." He turned to the sobbing girl. "Can the tears, May! The jig's up! Langdon knew that or he'd never have cashed in."
There came the click of handcuffs as Bryce shackled the men. Dual glanced at the clock, crossed, and pressed the button on his desk. A moment later there came the sound of the chimes, and he nodded to Henri, who went out and returned to usher Sheldon in.
Dual laid aside his turban and met him as he entered. "Good evening, Mr. Sheldon," he greeted, putting out a hand. "We have here three of the parties responsible for the trouble at your bank. The fourth"—he waved his hand to Lane's figure—"has gone away."
Dick Sheldon started back in horror and surprise. "What does it mean, Dual?" he cried.
"Ask Bryce," replied Semi.
"That's right, Mr. Sheldon," the inspector cut in. "These are the folks who done the job. They've confessed. It was the blamedest game I ever set into, but we took all the tricks. The big feller croaked hisself when he'd played his last chip."
"That," said Dual, smiling, "is a graphic statement of the truth."
Sheldon sat down and drew off his gloves. He seemed hardly able to comprehend the turn in affairs. At length: "It is wonderful, wonderful how you do it, Dual," he remarked. "Would it be too much to ask if you have any idea where the money was put?"
Semi Dual smiled broadly now and spoke to Bryce: "Put your hand in Lane's pocket and hand me his bunch of keys."
In silence the inspector complied.
Dual took the little bunch of keys and selected one from among them, which he removed from the ring and handed to Sheldon. "When you go to the bank to-morrow unlock vault box 711. It was a piece of daring consistent with the character of the dead man there to place your fifty thousand in the vaults of your own bank."
Sheldon turned the little flat key in his hand. "Wonderful," he finally repeated for the third time, as though the word were all that occurred to his mind.
"I think," began Semi, "that you offered a reward for the return of the money, did you hot?"
Sheldon nodded. "Two thousand," he replied.
"I have no claim on it," said Semi, and glanced at Bryce.
"I didn't do nuthin'," the inspector declared.
"In that case," Dual, suggested, "I would like to see it deposited in your bank in the names of Baird and Miss O'Niel."
Sheldon pocketed the key and glanced up. "By Jove, I'll see it done! They deserve it from the bank," he promised.
"Better take your prisoners away now," Dual suggested to Bryce. "Also I wish you'd remove the body. There can be no question of the way of his death. We all witnessed his end."
I glanced at Semi. I was crazy to be at the phone. As usual, he understood my unspoken question and nodded his head. I sprang to the desk and dragged out the instrument. I got the Record and Smithson, and drove him half frantic trying to tell him the story faster than he could take it down.
While I talked the prisoners left, and the body of Lane was taken away. Semi and Henri went to work, removing the red lights, replacing them with others of a delicate pink, as soft and rosy as the first hopes of spring. They pulled the little disappearing table out of the wall, dragged the hamper across to it, and from it took flowers and glass and china and food. When I was done speaking and hung up the receiver, after promising Smithson to be down in an hour to write up the story for the morning's issue, a banquet was spread in the room.
I sat and stared at the table a moment, then turned again to Dual. "Good Lord, that was all in the hamper which Murdoch helped Henri carry in!" I exclaimed, pointing.
Dual was standing beside the desk. He looked down into my eyes. "Some people might imagine an Oriental sense of humor in that, Gordon," he answered. "In reality, it was a simple method of getting him here. Henri was riding around in his cab the greater part of the afternoon."
"How did you know his name?" I asked.
"Every one who knew him thought it when he came in," said Semi, smiling. "I read it. The veriest fortune-teller knows that trick."
I nodded. "There's one other thing I don't understand even yet," I went on. "If Golding lived in the same house as his sister, why was the signal necessary at the bank? Why couldn't she have told him last night?"
"Your question is well thought of," said Semi. "But you are looking at the thing backward, Glace. The flowers were a signal—not that the money was to be sent, but that there had been no change in the bank's plans since the original plan was made. Had there been any Miss Golding would have found a means to remove the flowers before the time set for the transfer to be made."
There it was, simpleness itself, when one looked at it right.
Again the chimes sounded, and Henri hurried forth. Connie and Billy and Miss O'Niel came into the room, and were welcomed by Dual. They and Sheldon, Semi Dual, and I sat down to the table in the rosy-lighted room.
We ate and drank, talked and exclaimed until there was nothing more to be said. Sheldon even made a speech in which he told of the proposed disposal of the bank's reward, and suggested that Baird and Miss O'Niel take a holiday.
Billy shook his head. "I'll be at work to-morrow," he decided. "I'd rather come back as though nothing had happened at all."
Dual lifted his hand. Silence fell over the room. He rose, and, beckoning me, crossed to the great window at the end of the apartment. He threw it up and let the cool night wind fan in.
From far down in the white snow-clad cañon of the street rose the sound of shrill voices, piping through the night:
"Wuxtry! Wuxtry! Record wuxtry! All about—"
Dual turned and smiled into my eyes as he closed the window. "The requiem of the Master Mind," said he.