The Brand of Silence by Harrington Strong
IN THE HARBOR
CHAPTER II. THE
GIRL ON THE SHIP
CHAPTER IV. A
FOE AND A FRIEND
CHAPTER V. THE
LIES AND LIARS
CHAPTER X. ON
CHAPTER XIII. A
PLAN OF CAMPAIGN
CHAPTER XV. A
MURK RECEIVES A
MURK IS TEMPTED
CHAPTER XVIII. A
CHAPTER XX. UP
CHAPTER XXII. AN
CHAPTER XXIII. A
CHAPTER XXV. AN
THE TRUTH COMES
The Brand of Silence
A DETECTIVE STORY
By HARRINGTON STRONG
CHELSEA HOUSE 79 SEVENTH AVENUE NEW YORK CITY
Copyright, 1919 by STREET &SMITH
(Printed in the United States of America)
All rights reserved, including that of translation into foreign
languages, including the Scandinavian.
THE BRAND OF SILENCE
CHAPTER I. IN THE HARBOR
Now the fog was clearing and the mist was lifting, and the bright
sunshine was struggling to penetrate the billows of damp vapor and
touch with its glory the things of the world beneath. In the lower
harbor there still was a chorus of sirens and foghorns, as craft of
almost every description made way toward the metropolis or out toward
the open sea.
The Manatee, tramp steamer with rusty plates and rattling
engines and a lurch like that of a drunken man, wallowed her way in
from the turbulent ocean she had fought for three days, her skipper
standing on the bridge and inaudibly giving thanks that he was nearing
the end of the voyage without the necessity for abandoning his craft
for an open boat, or remaining to go down with the ship after the
manner of skippers of the old school.
Here and there showed a rift in the rolling fog, and those who
braved the weather and lined the damp rail could see other craft in
A giant liner made her way past majestically, bound for Europe, or a
seagoing tug clugged by as if turning up her nose at the old, battered
Standing at the rail, and well forward, Sidney Prale strained his
eyes and looked ahead, watching where the fog lifted, an eager light in
his face, his lips curved in a smile, a general expression of
anticipation about him.
Sidney Prale himself was not bad to look at. Thirty-eight he was,
tall and broad of shoulder, with hair that was touched with gray at the
temples, with a face that had been browned by the weather. Sidney Prale
had the appearance of wearing clothes that had been molded to his form.
He had a chin that expressed decision and determination, lips that
could form in a thin, straight line if occasion required, eyes that
could be kind or stern, according to the needs of the moment. A man of
the world would have said that Sidney Prale was a gentleman of broad
experience, a man who had presence of mind in the face of danger, a man
who could think quickly and act quickly when such things were
He was not alone at the railand yet he was alone in a sense, for
he gave no one the slightest attention. He bent over and looked ahead
eagerly, waving a hand now and then at the men on passing craft, like a
schoolboy on an excursion trip. He listened to the bellowing sirens and
foghorns, drank in the raucous cries of the ship's officers, strained
his ears for the land sounds that rolled now and then across the
It's greatgreat! Sidney Prale said, half aloud.
He bent over the rail again. A hand descended upon his shoulder, and
a voice answered him.
You bet it's great, Prale!
Sidney Prale's smile weakened a bit as he turned around, but there
was nothing of discourtesy in his manner.
You like it, Mr. Shepley? he asked.
Do I like it? Does Rufus Shepley, forced to run here and there
around the old world in the name of business, like it when he gets the
chance to return to New York? Ask me!
I have my answer, Prale said, laughing a bit. And judge, then,
how I like itwhen I have not seen it for ten years.
Haven't seen New York for ten years? Rufus Shepley gasped.
A whole decade, Prale admitted.
Been down in Honduras all that time?
And you live to tell it? You are my idea of a real man! Rufus
Shepley took a cigar from his vest pocket, bit off the end, lighted
it, and puffed a cloud of fragrant smoke into the air. Rufus Shepley
was a man of fifty, and looked his age. If human being ever gave the
appearance of being the regulation man of big business affairs, Rufus
Sidney Prale had held some conversation with him on board ship, but
they had not become very well acquainted, though they seemed to like
each other. Each man seemed to be holding back, waiting, trying to
discover in the other more qualities to like or dislike.
Ten years, Sidney Prale went on thoughtfully. It seems a long
time, but the years have passed swiftly.
I always had an idea, Rufus Shepley said, that a genuine white
man who went to one of those Central American countries turned bad
after the first year and went to the devil generally. But you don't
The idea is correct, at that, in some instances, Prale admitted.
Some of them do turn bad.
They get to drifting, eh? The climate gets into their blood. Do you
know what I think? I think that, in seven cases out of eight, it's a
case of a man wanting an excuse for loafing. I knew a chap once who
went down to that part of the world. Got to drinking too much, threw up
his job, used to loaf all the time, married some sort of a half-black
woman who had a bit of coin, and went to the dogs generally.
Oh, there are many such, Sidney Prale admitted. But the majority
of them are men who made some grave mistake somewhere else and got the
idea that life was merely existence afterward. A man must have an
incentive in any climate to make anything of himselfand down there
the incentive has to be stronger.
I assume that youerhad the proper incentive, Rufus Shepley
I don't know how some persons would look at the propriety of it. I
wanted to make a million dollars.
Great Scott! Your ambition was a modest one, I must say. And you
managed to win out? Oh, I beg your pardon! It isn't any of my business,
That's all right, Prale answered good-naturedly. I don't mind.
I'm so happy this morning that I'm willing to overlook almost anything.
And I don't mind telling you that I've won out.
A million in ten years, Shepley gasped.
Yes; and with an initial capital of ten thousand dollars, Sidney
Prale replied. I'm rather proud of it, of course. I suppose this
sounds like boasting
My boy, you have the right to boast! A million dollars in ten
years! Great Scott! Say, would you consider being general manager of
one of my companies? We need a few men like you.
Sidney Prale laughed again. Sorrybut I'm afraid that I can't take
the job, he replied. I am going to have my little holiday nowgoing
to play. A million isn't much in some quarters, but it is enough for
me. I don't care for money to a great extent. I just wanted to prove to
myself that I could make a millionprove it to myself and others. And,
ready to take my vacation, I naturally decided to take it in New
Ah! Home's in New York, eh? Old friends waiting at the dock, and
Sidney Prale's face clouded. I am afraid that there will be no
reception committee, he said. I didn't let anybody know that I was
comingfor the simple reason that I didn't know whom to inform.
I have a few old friends scattered around some place, I suppose. I
have no relatives in the world except a male cousin about my own age,
and I never communicated with him after going to Honduras. There was a
There always is a girl, Shepley said softly, as Prale ceased
But that ended ten years ago, Prale continued. I stand
alonewith my million.
You advertise that fact, my boy, and there'll be girls by the
regiment looking up your telephone number.
And the right one wouldn't be in the crowd, Prale said, the smile
leaving his face again.
Well, you are in for a fine time, at least, Rufus Shepley told
him. There have been quite a few changes in New York in the past ten
years. Yes, quite a few changes! There are a few new boarding houses
scattered around, and a new general store or two, and the street cars
run out farther than they used to.
Oh, I've kept up to date after a fashion, Sidney Prale said,
laughing once more. I'm ready to appreciate the changes, but I suppose
I will be surprised. The New York papers get down to Honduras now and
then, you know.
I've always understood, Shepley said, that there are certain
gentlemen in that part of the world who watch the New York papers very
Meaning the men who are fugitives from justice, I see, said Prale.
I didn't mean anything personal, of course.
It does look bad, doesn't it? said Prale. I went straight to
Honduras when I left New York ten years ago, like a man running away
from the law, and I have remained there all the time until this trip.
And I have been gone ten yearsthereby satisfying certain statutes of
My boy, I never meant to insinuate that
I know that you didn't, Prale interrupted. My conscience is
clear, Mr. Shepley. When I land, I'll not be afraid of some officer of
the law clutching me by the shoulder and hauling me away to a police
Even if one did, a cool million will buy lots of bail, Rufus
The fog was lifting rapidly now. Here and there through the billows
of mist could be seen the roofs of skyscrapers glistening in the sun.
Sidney Prale almost forgot the man at his side as he bent over the rail
Getting homegetting home! he said. I suppose no man ever gets
quite over the home idea, no matter how long he remains away. Ten years
ought to make a change, but I find that it doesn't. I'll be glad to
feel the pavements beneath my shoes again.
Sure! said Rufus Shepley.
Confound the fog! Ah, there's a building I know! And there are a
few I never saw before. We're beginning to get in, aren't we? Ought to
dock before noon, don't you think?
A hotel, a bath, fresh clothesand then for hour after hour of
walking around and taking in the sights! Prale said.
Better engage a taxi if you expect to take 'em all in before night,
my boy, Shepley said.
I forgot! We haven't any too many taxis in Honduras. I had a car of
my own, but sold it before I came away.
You let the busy auto agents know that, and you'll have a regiment
And there! Sidney Prale cried. Now I know that I am home! There
is the Old Girl in the Harbor!
Prale removed his cap, and a mist came into his eyes that did not
come from the foggy billows through which the ship was plowing. The sun
was shining through the murk at last, and it touched the Statue of
Liberty. The great figure seemed like a live thing for a moment; the
mist made it appear that her garments were waving in the breeze.
Now I know that I am home! Sidney Prale repeated.
She sure is a great old girl! Rufus Shepley agreed. Always glad
to see her!
Well, I've got to get ready to land; I'm not going to waste any
time, Prale said. I'm glad that I met youand perhaps we'll meet
again in the city.
Hope we do! said Shepley, grasping Prale's hand. Our factories
are out in Ohio, but the company headquarters are in New York, of
course. Here's my business card, my boy. And I generally put up at the
Sidney Prale took the card, thanked Rufus Shepley, and hurried down
the deck toward his stateroom, one of the best on the ship. Rufus
Shepley looked after him sharply.
Went straight to Honduras and stayed there for ten years, eh?
Rufus Shepley said to himself. Um! Looks bad! I never put much stock
in those Honduras chapsbut this one seems to be all right. Never can
Sidney Prale, still smiling, and humming a Spanish love song,
reached his stateroom and threw open the door; and just inside, he came
to a stop, astonished.
Somebody had been in that stateroom and had been going through his
things. The contents of his suit case were spilled on the floor. A bag
was wide open; he had left it closed and in a corner less than an hour
Prale went down on his knees and made a quick inspection. There did
not seem to be anything missing. A package of papersbusiness
documents for the greater parthad been examined, he could tell at a
glance, but none had been taken.
Peculiar! Prale told himself. Some sneak thief, I suppose. No
sense in complaining to the ship's officers at this late hour,
especially since nothing has been stolen. Makes a man angry, though!
He put the suit case on the table and began repacking the things
that had been scattered on the floor. Then he gathered up his toilet
articles, bits of clothing he had left out until the last minute, a few
souvenirs of Honduras he had been showing a tourist the evening before.
He turned toward the berth to pick up his light overcoat.
There was a sheet of paper pinned to the pillow, paper that might
have been taken from an ordinary writing tablet. Sidney Prale took it
up and glanced at it. A few words of handwriting were upon the paper,
words that looked as if they had been scrawled hurriedly with a pencil
that needed sharpening badly.
Retribution is inevitable and comes when you least expect it.
The smile fled from Sidney Prale's lips, and the Spanish love song
he had been humming died in his throat. He frowned, and read the
Now what the deuce does this mean? he gasped.
CHAPTER II. THE GIRL ON THE SHIP
Sidney Prale folded the piece of paper carefully and slipped it into
his wallet. Winning a fortune in ten years in a foreign country had
taught Prale many things, notably that everything has its cause and
effect, and that things that seem trifles may turn out to be of great
He finished his packing, locked the suit case, put on coat and hat
and went out upon the deck. The Manatee was docking. A throng
was on the wharf. Prale glanced at the buildings in the distance and
forgot for the time being the scrap of paper, because of his happiness
at being home again and his eagerness to land. Returning to New York
after an absence of so many years was in the nature of an adventure.
There would be exploring trips to make, things to find, surprises at
every turn and on every side.
The passengers were crowding forward now, preparing to go ashore.
Sidney Prale picked up his suit case and started through the jostling
crowd. Already those on board were calling greetings to relatives and
friends on the wharf, and Prale's face grew solemn for a moment because
there was nobody to welcome him.
Not a friend in the world, he had said to Rufus Shepley that
A man with a million dollars has a million friends, Shepley had
replied. The only trouble is, you can't enjoy that sort of friends
except by getting rid of them, unless you happen to be a miser.
Well, that was something, Sidney Prale told himself now. He had
ample funds, at least, and perhaps he could enjoy himself after ten
years of battling with financial sharks, of inspecting and working
mines, of cutting through dense forests and locating growths that could
be turned into wealth.
Prale put his suit case against the rail to wait until he could move
forward again. He looked down at the throng on the wharf, and up and
down the rail at his fellow passengers. Then he saw the girl again!
He had seen her before. The first time had been at Tegucigalpa, at a
ball given by some society people for charity. He had known her at once
for an American, and finally had obtained an introduction. Her name was
Kate Gilbert, and she lived in New York. It was understood that she was
of a wealthy family and traveling for her health. She was accompanied
only by a middle-aged maid, a giant of a woman who seemed to be maid
and chaperon and general protector in one.
That night at Tegucigalpa, Prale had talked to her and had danced
with her twice. He judged her to be about twenty-eight, some ten years
younger than himself. She was small and charming, not one of the
helpless butterfly sort, but a woman who gave indication that she could
care for herself if necessary.
Prale had been surprised to find her aboard the Manatee, but
she had told him that she was going home, that her health had been much
benefited, and that she felt she could not remain away longer. It had
seemed to Prale that she avoided him purposely, and that puzzled him a
bit. He could not understand why any woman should absolutely dislike
him. His record in Honduras was a clean one; it was known that he did
not care much for women, and surely she had learned that he was a man
of means, and did not think he might be a fortune hunter wishing to
marry a prominent heiress.
He had not spoken to her half a dozen times during the voyage. She
made the acquaintance of others aboard and, for the first few days, had
been busy in their company. The last three days had been stormy ones,
and Kate Gilbert had not been much in evidence. Prale judged that she
was a poor sailor.
Now she stopped beside him, the middle-aged maid standing just
Well, we're home, Mr. Prale! she said.
I suppose that you are glad to get home?
Surely! she replied. And I'll be angry if there are not half a
dozen to meet me when I land. I've been trying to spot some friends in
that crowd, but it is a hopeless task.
I hope you'll not be disappointed, Prale said.
As he spoke, he glanced past her at the middle-aged maid, and
surprised a peculiar expression on the face of the woman. She had been
looking straight at him, and her lips were almost curled into a sneer,
while her eyes were flashing with something akin to anger.
Prale did not understand that. Why should the dragon be incensed
with him? He was making no attempt to lay siege to the heart of Miss
Kate Gilbert. He was no fortune hunter after an heiress. The expression
on the face of the maid amused Prale even while he wondered what it
Picked your hotel? Kate Gilbert was asking.
Not yet, but I hope to get in somewhere, Prale told her. May I be
of assistance to you when we land?
Marie will help me, thanksand there will be others on the wharf,
A cold look had come into her face again, and she turned half away
from him and looked down at the crowd on the wharf. Sidney Prale looked
straight at her, despite the glare of the middle-aged maid. Kate
Gilbert was a woman who would appeal to a majority of men, but there
seemed to be something peculiar about her, Prale told himself. He knew
that she had avoided him purposely during the voyage, and that she had
spoken to him purposely now, yet had asked nothing except whether he
had chosen a hotel.
Why should Kate Gilbert wish to know where he was going to stop?
Perhaps it had been only an idle question, he explained to himself. In
her happiness at getting home, she had merely wished to speak to
somebody, and none of her shipboard friends happened to be near.
He turned from her and glanced at the maid again. She was not the
sort to be named Marie, Prale told himself. Marie called up a vision of
a petite, trim woman from sunny France, and this Marie was nothing of
the sort. She appeared more to be a peasant used to hard labor, Prale
And he could not understand the expression on the woman's face as
she looked at him. It was almost one of loathing.
Got me mixed up with somebody else, or somebody has been giving me
a bad reputation, Prale mused. Enough to make a man shiverthat look
Kate Gilbert, apparently, did not intend to have anything more to do
with him. Smiling a little at her manner, Prale lifted his hat, picked
up the suit case, and turned away. Once more he tried to force a
passage through the jostling crowd. He had not taken three steps when
Kate Gilbert touched him on the arm.
Pardon me, Mr. Prale, but there is something sticking on the end of
your suit case, she said.
Prale glanced down. On one end of the suit case was a bit of paper.
It had been stuck there by a drop of mucilage, and the mucilage was
He thanked Kate Gilbert and picked the paper off, but he did not
throw it over the rail into the water. He crumpled it in his hand and,
when he was some distance away, he smoothed it out.
There was a single word written on it, in the same handwriting as
that of the note he had found pinned to the pillow in the
Sidney Prale glanced around quickly. Nobody seemed to be paying
particular attention to him. Kate Gilbert and her maid had passed him
and were preparing to land. Prale put the piece of paper into his coat
pocket and picked up his suit case again. That bit of paper, he knew
well, had not been on the suit case when he had left the stateroom. It
had been put there as he had made his way through the crowd of
passengers along the rail. Who could have stuck it thereand why?
Now the passengers were streaming ashore, and Sidney Prale stepped
to one side and watched them. Perhaps he had some business enemy on
board, he told himself, some man he had not noticed, and who was trying
to frighten him after a childish fashion. He searched the faces of the
landing passengers, but saw nobody he had known in Central America,
nobody who looked at all suspicious.
Either a jokeor a mistake, Prale told himself again.
He started ashore. He saw Kate Gilbert just ahead of him, the bulky
maid at her heels. An elderly man met her, but did not greet her as a
father would have been expected to do. Prale saw them hold a whispered
conversation, and it seemed to him that the elderly man gave him a
I must look like a swindler! Prale mused.
Finally, as he went out upon the street to engage a taxicab and
start for a hotel, he saw Kate Gilbert and her maid and the elderly man
again, getting into a limousine. The girl held a piece of paper in her
hand, and was reading something from it to the elderly man. As she got
into the car, she dropped the piece of paper to the curb.
The limousine was gone before Prale reached the curb. He put his
suit case down and picked up the piece of paper. There was nothing on
it except a couple of names that meant nothing to Sidney Prale. But his
eyes bulged, nevertheless, as he read them.
For the paper was similar to that upon which had been written the
note that he had found on the pillow in the stateroomand the coarse
handwriting was the same!
What the deuce Prale caught himself saying.
Had Kate Gilbert written that message about retribution and had her
maid leave it in the stateroom? Had Kate Gilbert written that single
word and had her maid paste it on his suit case as he passed, or pasted
it there herself?
Why had Kate Gilbertwhom he never had seen and of whom he never
had heard until she appeared at the ball in Tegucigalpaavoided him in
such a peculiar manner? And why had the misnamed Marie glared at him,
and expressed loathing and anger when her eyes met his?
What the deuce Prale asked himself again.
Then a taxicab drew up at the curb, and he got in.
CHAPTER III. SOME DISCOURTESIES
Sidney Prale obtained accommodations in a prominent hostelry on
Fifth Avenue, bathed, dressed, ate luncheon, and then went out upon the
streets, walking briskly and swinging his stick, going about New York
like a stranger who never had seen it before.
As a matter of fact, he never had seen this New York before. He had
expected a multitude of changes, but nothing compared to what he found.
He watched the crowds on the Avenue, cut over to Broadway and
investigated the electric signs by daylight, observed the congestion of
vehicles and the efforts of traffic policemen to straighten it out. He
darted into the subway and rode far downtown and back again just for
the sport of it. After that he got on an omnibus and rode up to Central
Park, and acted as if every tree and twig were an old friend.
He made himself acquainted with the animals in the zoo there, and
promised himself to go to the other zoo in the Bronx before the end of
the week. He stood back at the curb and lifted his head to look at new
buildings after the manner of the comic supplement farmer with a straw
between his teeth.
Greatgreat! said Sidney Prale.
Then he hurried back to the hotel, dressed for dinner, and went down
to the dining room, stopping on the way to obtain a ticket for a
musical revue that was the talk of the town at the moment.
Prale ordered a dinner that made the waiter open his eyes. He made
it a point to select things that were not on the menus of the hotels in
Honduras. Then he sat back in his chair and listened to the orchestra,
and watched well-dressed men and women come in and get their places at
But the dinner was a disappointment to Prale after all. It seemed to
him that the waiter was a long time giving him service. He
remonstrated, and the man asked pardon and said that he would do
better, but he did not.
Prale found that his soup was lukewarm, his salad dressing prepared
imperfectly, the salad itself a mere mess of vegetables. The fish and
fowl he had ordered were not served properly, the dessert was without
flavor, the cheese was stale. He sent for the head waiter.
I'm disgusted with the food and the service, he complained. I
rarely find fault, but I am compelled to do so this time. The man who
has been serving me seems to be a rank amateur, and twice he was almost
insolent. This hotel has a reputation which it scarcely is maintaining
I'll see about it, sir, the head waiter said.
Prale saw him stop the waiter and speak to him, and the waiter
glared at him when he brought the demi-tasse. Prale did not care. He
glared back at the man, drank the coffee, and touched the match to a
cigar. Then he signed the check and went from the dining room, an angry
and disgusted man.
Another thing like that, and I look for the manager, he told
He supposed that he was a victim of circumstancesthat the waiter
was a new man and that it happened that the portions he served were
poor portions. His happiness at being home again prevented Sidney Prale
from feeling anger for any length of time. He got his hat and coat and
went out upon the street again.
He had an hour before time to go to the theater. He walked over to
Broadway and went toward the north, looking at the bright lights and
the crowds. He passed through two or three hotel lobbies, satisfied for
the time merely to be in the midst of the throngs.
At the proper time, he hurried to the theater and claimed his seat.
The performance was a mediocre one, but it pleased Sidney Prale. He had
seen a better show in Honduras a month before, had seen better dancing
and heard better singing and comedy, but this was New York!
The show at an end, Prale claimed his hat and coat at the check room
and walked down the street toward a cabaret restaurant. He reached into
his overcoat pocket for his gloves, and his hand encountered a slip of
paper. He took it out.
There was the same rough handwriting on the same kind of paper, and
evidently with the same blunt pencil.
Rememberretribution is sure!
This thing ceases to be a joke! Prale told himself.
His face flushed with anger, and he turned back toward the theater.
But he had been among the last to leave, and already the lights of the
playhouse were being turned out. The boy in charge of the check room
would be gone, Prale knew.
He thought of Kate Gilbert again, and the bit of paper she had
dropped as she got into the limousine down on the water front. Surely
she could have no hand in this, he thought. What interest could Kate
Gilbert, a casual acquaintance and reputed daughter of a wealthy house,
have in him and his affairs?
Somebody is making a mistake, he declared to himself, or else it
is some sort of a new advertising dodge. If I ever catch the jokesmith
who is responsible for these dainty little messages, I'll tell him a
thing or two.
Prale turned into the restaurant and found a seat at a little table
at one side of the room. The after-theater crowd was filling the place.
The orchestra was playing furiously, and the cabaret performance was
beginning. Sidney Prale leaned back in his chair and watched the show.
The waiter came to his side, and he ordered something to eat and drink.
Then he saw Kate Gilbert again, at a table not very far away from
his. She was dressed in an evening gown, as if she had just come from
the theater or opera. She was in the company of the elderly man who had
met her at the wharf, and a young man and an older woman were at the
Prale's eyes met hers for an instant, and he inclined his head a bit
in a respectful manner. But Kate Gilbert looked through him as if he
had not been present, and then turned her head and began talking to the
Prale's face flushed. He hadn't done anything wrong, he told
himself. He merely had bowed to her, as he would have bowed to any
woman to whom he had been properly introduced. She had seen fit to cut
him. Well, he could exist without Kate Gilbert, he told himself, but he
wondered at her peculiar manner.
He left the place within the hour and went back to the hotel and to
bed. In the morning he walked up the Avenue as far as the Circle,
dropped into a restaurant for a good breakfast, and then engaged a
taxicab and drove downtown to the financial district. He had remembered
that he was a man with a million, and that he had to pay some attention
He went into the establishment of a famous trust company and sent
his card in to the president. An attendant ushered him into the
president's private office immediately.
Sit down, Mr. Prale, said the financier. I am glad that you came
to see me this morning. I was just about to have somebody look you up.
Anything the matter? Prale asked.
Your funds were transferred to us by our Honduras correspondent,
the financier said. Since you were leaving Honduras almost
immediately, we decided to care for the funds until you arrived and we
could talk to you.
I shall want some good investments, of course, Prale said. I have
disposed of all my holdings in Honduras, and I don't want the money to
Idleness is as bad for dollars as for men, said the financier,
clearing his throat.
Can you suggest some investments? I have engaged no broker as yet,
IerI am afraid that we have nothing at the present moment, the
The market must be good, Prale observed. I never knew a time when
investments were lacking.
I would not offer you a poor one, and good ones are scarce with us
at present, said the banker. Sorry that we cannot attend to the
business for you. Perhaps some other trust company
Well, I can wait for something to turn up, Prale said. There is
no hurry, of course. Probably you'll have something in a few weeks that
will take care of at least a part of the money.
The banker cleared his throat again, and looked a trifle embarrassed
as he spoke. The fact of the matter is, Mr. Prale, he said, that we
do not care for the account.
I beg your pardon! Prale exclaimed. You mean you don't want me to
leave my money in your bank?
Just that, Mr. Prale.
But in Heaven's name, why? I should think that any financial
institution would be glad to get a new account of that size.
IerI cannot go into details, sir, the banker said. But I must
tell you that we'd be glad if you'd make arrangements to move the
deposit to some other bank.
I suppose you don't like to be bothered with small accounts, said
Prale, with the suspicion of a sneer in his voice. Very well, sir!
I'll see that the deposit is transferred before night. Perhaps I can
find banks that will be glad to take the money and treat me with
respect. And I shall remember this, sir!
Ierhave no choice in the matter, the banker said.
Can't you explain what it means?
I have nothing to saynothing at all to say, stammered the
financier. We took the money because of our Honduras correspondent,
but we'll appreciate it very much if you do business with some other
You can bet I'll do that little thing! Prale exclaimed.
He left the office angrily and stalked from the building. Were the
big financiers of New York insane? A man with a million in cold cash
has the right to expect that he will be treated decently in a bank.
Prale walked down the street and grew angrier with every step he took.
Before going to Honduras he had worked for a firm of brokers. He
hurried toward their office now. He would send in his card to his old
employer, Griffin, he decided, and ask his advice about banking his
funds, and incidentally whether the financier he had just left was an
He found the Griffin concern in the same building, though the
offices were twice as large now, and there were evidences of prosperity
on every side.
Got an appointment? an office boy demanded.
No, but I fancy that Mr. Griffin will see me, said Prale. I used
to work for him years ago.
Then he sat down to wait. Griffin would be glad to see him, he
thought. Griffin was a man who always liked to see younger men get
along. He would want to know how Sidney Prale got his million. He would
want to take him to luncheon and exhibit him to his friendstell how
one of his young men had forged ahead in the world.
The boy came back with his card. Mr. Griffin can't see you, he
Oh, he's busy, eh? Did he make an appointment?
No, he ain't busy, said the boy. He's got his feet set up on the
desk and he's readin' about yesterday's ball game. He said to say that
he didn't have time to see you this mornin', and that he wouldn't ever
have time to see you.
Don't be discourteous, you young imp! Prale said, his face
flushing. You're sure you handed Mr. Griffin my card?
Oh, I handed it to himand don't you try to run any bluff on me!
the boy answered. From the way the boss acted, I guess you don't stand
very high with him!
The boy went back to his chair, and Sidney Prale went from the
office, a puzzled and angry man. There probably was some mistake, he
told himself. He'd meet Griffin during the day and tell him about the
He was anxious to meet some of the men with whom he had worked ten
years before, but he did not know where to find them. He'd have to wait
and ask Griffin what had become of them. Then, too, he wanted to
transfer his funds.
Prale got another taxicab and started making the rounds of the banks
he knew to be solid institutions. Within a few hours he had made
arrangements to transfer the account, using four financial
institutions. He said nothing, except that the money had been
transferred to the trust company from Honduras, because the company had
a correspondent there.
His funds secure, Prale went back uptown and to the hotel. The clerk
handed him a note with his key. Prale tore it open after he stepped
into the elevator. This time it was a sheet of paper upon which a
message had been typewritten.
You can't dodge the law of compensation. For what you have done,
you must pay.
Sidney Prale gasped when he read that message, and went back to the
Who left this note for me? he demanded of the clerk.
You don't know where he came from?
Prale turned away and started for the elevator again. A bell hop
Manager would like to see you in his office, sir, the boy said.
This way, sir.
Prale followed the boy, wondering what was coming now. He found the
manager to be a sort of austere individual who seemed impressed with
his own importance.
Mr. Prale, he said, I regret to have to say this, but I find that
it cannot be avoided. When you arrived yesterday, the clerk assigned
you to a suite on the fifth floor. He made a mistake. We had a
telegraphic reservation for that suite from an old guest of ours, and
it should have been kept for him. You appreciate the situation, I feel
No objection to being moved, Prale said. I have unpacked scarcely
any of my things.
Butagain I regret itthere isn't a vacant suite in the house,
A room, then, until you have one.
We haven't a room. We haven't as much as a cot, Mr. Prale. We
cannot take care of you, I'm afraid. So many regular guests, you
understand, and out-of-town visitors.
Then I'll have to move, I suppose. You may have the suite within
Thank you, Mr. Prale.
Prale was angry again when he left the office of the manager. It
seemed that everything was conspiring against his comfort. He got a
cab, drove to another hotel, inspected a suite and reserved it, paying
a month in advance, and then went back to the big hotel on Fifth Avenue
to get his baggage. He paid his bill at the cashier's window, and
overheard the room clerk speaking to a woman.
Certainly, madam, the clerk was saying. We will have an excellent
suite on the fifth floor within half an hour. The party is just
vacating it. Plenty of suites on the third floor, of course, but, if
you want to be up higher in the building
Sidney Prale felt the blood pounding in his temples, felt rage
welling up within him. He felt as he had once in a Honduras forest when
he became aware that a dishonest foreman was betraying business
secrets. He hurried to the office of the manager, but the stenographer
said the manager was busy and could not be seen.
Prale whirled away, going through the lobby toward the entrance. He
met Kate Gilbert face to face. She did not seem to see him, though he
was forced to step aside to let her pass.
CHAPTER IV. A FOE AND A FRIEND
After settling himself in the other hotel, Prale ate a belated
luncheon. For the first time that day, he looked at the newspapers. He
had remembered that a New Yorker reads the papers religiously to keep
up to the minute; whereas, in Honduras, it was the custom for busy men
to let the papers accumulate and then read a week's supply at a
Aside from his name in the list of arrivals, Prale found no word
concerning himself, though there was mention of other men who had come
on the Manatee, and who had no special claim to prominence.
I don't amount to much, I guess, said Prale to himself. Don't
care for publicity, anyway, but they might let the world know a fellow
has come home.
He went for another walk that afternoon, returned to the hotel for
dinner, and decided that, instead of going to a show that evening, he
would prowl around the town.
He walked up to the Park, went over to Broadway, and started down
it, looking at the bright lights again, making his way through the
happy, theater-going throngs toward Times Square. In the enjoyment of
the crowds he forgot, in part, the discourtesies of the day, but he
could not forget them entirely.
Why had the banker acted in such a peculiar fashion? It was not like
a financial institution to refuse a deposit of a round million. Why had
Griffin refused to see him? Why had he as good as been ordered out of
Coincidence, he told himself. No reason on earth why such things
should happen unless I am being taken for somebody elseand that
wouldn't be true in the case of Griffin.
He came to a prominent hotel and went into the lobby, looking in
vain for some friend of the old days with whom he could spend an hour
or so. Down in Honduras he had had his million and friends, too; and
here, in his old home, he had nothing but his money. At this hour, down
in Honduras, the band would be playing in the plaza, and society would
be out in force. There would be a soft breeze sweeping down from the
hills, bringing a thousand odors that could not be detected in New
York. Here and there guitars would be tinkling, and men and maidens
would be meeting in the moonlight.
There would be a happy crowd at a certain club he knew, at which he
always had been made welcome. A man could sit out on the veranda and
look over the tumbling sea, and hear the ship's bells strike. Sidney
Prale found himself just a bit homesick for Honduras.
Got to get over it, he told himself. No sense in feeling this
way. I'll have a hundred friends before I've been in town a month!
He went out upon the street, made his way down it, and dropped in at
another hotel. There he saw Rufus Shepley sitting in an easy-chair,
smoking and looking at an evening paper.
Well, he knew Shepley, at least. Shepley was only a steamship
acquaintance, but he was a human being and could talk. Prale was just a
bit tired of confining his conversation to waiters and cigar-store
He stopped before Shepley and cleared his throat.
Well, we meet again, Mr. Shepley! he said.
Rufus Shepley looked up, and then sprang to his feet, but his face
did not light and he did not extend a hand in greeting. Instead, his
countenance grew crimson, and he seemed to be shaking with anger.
You presume too much on a chance acquaintance, sir! Rufus Shepley
thundered. I do not wish you to address me againdo you understand,
sir? Never againeither in public or private!
Why Prale stammered.
I don't want anything to do with a man of your stamp! Rufus
Shepley went on. Ten years in Honduras, were you? We all know why men
go to Honduras and spend years there.
Shepley had raised his voice, and all in the lobby could hear. Men
began moving toward them, and women began walking away, fearing a scene
and a quarrel.
Sidney Prale's face had flushed, too, and he felt his anger rising
I am sure I do not wish to continue the acquaintance if you do not,
sir, he said. I can be courteous, at least.
Some men are not entitled to courtesy, Shepley roared.
What do you mean by that? Prale demanded.
I mean that I don't want anything to do with you, that's all! I
don't want you to speak to me again! I don't want anybody to know that
you even know me by sight!
See here! Prale cried. You can't talk to me like that without
giving me some explanation! You can't defame me before other men
Defame you? Shepley cried. You can't make a tar brush black,
Rage was seething in Prale now. There was quite a crowd around them,
and others were making their way forward.
I don't pretend to know what is the matter with you, and I don't
much care! he told Shepley. If your hair wasn't gray, I'd take you
out on the sidewalk and smash your face in! Please understand that!
Threaten me, will you?
I'm not threatening you. I don't fight a man with one foot in the
And I don't care to have you address me in public again, either,
Sidney Prale went on. It probably would be an insult.
Confound you, sir! Shepley cried.
He reached forward and grasped Prale by the arm. Sidney Prale put up
a hand, tore the grasp loose, and tossed Rufus Shepley to one side.
Keep your paws off me! he exclaimed. I think that you're insane,
if you ask me!
The hotel detective came hurrying up.
You'll have to cut that out! he said. What's the row here,
The place is harboring a maniac! Prale said.
It's harboring a crook! Shepley cried.
Prale lurched forward and grasped him by both arms, and shook him
until Rufus Shepley's teeth chattered.
Another word out of you, and I'll forget that your hair is gray!
Prale exclaimed, and then he tossed Shepley to one side again.
Either of you guests here? the house detective demanded. No? Then
maybe you'd both better get out until you can cool off. If you want to
stage a scrap, go down and rent Madison Square Garden and advertise in
the newspapers. I wouldn't mind seeing a good fight myself. But this
lobby isn't any prize ring. Get me?
Sidney Prale, his face still flaming, whirled around and started for
the entrance, the crowd parting to let him through. Rufus Shepley,
fuming and fussing, followed him slowly. The house detective
accompanied him to the door.
Prale was waiting at the curb, a Prale whose face was white now
because of the temper he was fighting to control. He stepped close to
I don't know why you insulted me, but don't do it again! Prale
said. I ought to settle with you for what you've said already.
The house detective, who had heard, stepped forward again, but
Sidney Prale swung across the street and went on his way.
He walked rapidly for a dozen blocks or more, paying no attention to
where he was going, until his anger began to subside.
Why, the raving maniac! he gasped, once or twice.
He didn't pretend to guess what it meant. Shepley had seemed to be
friendly enough when they had separated aboard ship. What could have
happened to make the man change his mind and attitude?
Must be some mistake! Prale told himself. If there is any more of
this, I'll have to get to the bottom of it!
He reached Madison Square, and sat down on a bench to smoke and
regain his composure. He knew that he had a terrible temper, and that
it had to be controlled. A temper that flashed was all right at times
in the jungles of Honduras, but it was not the proper thing to exhibit
in the heart of New York City. It might get him into serious trouble
He finished his cigar, listened to the striking chimes, and lighted
another smoke. A pedestrian stopped beside him.
Old Sid Prale, or I'm a liar! he cried.
Prale looked up, and then sprang to his feet.
Jim Farland, the sleuth! he cried in answer. Old Jim, the holy
terror to evildoers. Now I am glad that I'm home!
When did you get in?
Yesterday. Sit down. Have a cigar. You're the first old friend I've
Detective Jim Farland sat down and lighted the cigar. You've been
gone some time, he said.
Ten years, Jim.
Went away rather sudden, didn't you?
I did. I made my decision one night and sailed the night
following, said Prale.
I always wondered why you went, and what became of you. Had a good
job with old Griffin, didn't you?
The job was all right, Jim. But there was a girl
And she threw me over for a fellow who had some money. That made me
huffy, of course. I swore I'd shake the dust of New York from my shoes,
go to some foreign country, take with me the ten thousand dollars I had
saved, and turn it into a million.
And came back broke! Farland said.
Nothing of the sort, Jim. I came back with a million.
Great Scott! I suppose I'd better be on my way then. I ain't in the
habit of having millionaires let me associate with 'em.
You sit where you are, or I'll use violence! Prale told him. I
suppose you are still on the force? Still fussing around down in the
financial district watching for swindlers?
I left the force three years ago, Jim Farland replied. Couldn't
seem to get ahead. Too honest, maybeor too ignorant. I'm in a sort of
private detective business nowgot an office up the street. Doing
fairly well, toolots of old friends give me work. If you have
anything in my line
If I have, you'll get a job, said Prale.
Let me slip you a card, said Farland. You never know when you may
need a detective. So you came back with a million, eh?
And ran into a mess, Prale added.
I can't imagine a man with a million running into much of a mess,
That's all you know about it. I may need your services sooner than
you think. There is a sort of jinx working on me, it appears.
Spill it! Jim Farland said.
Sidney Prale did. He related what had happened at the bank, at the
hotel, in Griffin's office, and told of the scene with Rufus Shepley.
Funny! Farland said, when he had finished. I know old Rufus
Shepley, and as a general thing he ain't a maniac. Something behind all
Yes; but what on earth could it be?
That's the question. If anything else happens, and you need help,
just let me know.
I'll do that, surely, said Prale. And I'm glad that I've got one
friend left in town.
Always have one as long as I'm here, Jim Farland assured him. And
it ain't because of your million, either. It's true about the million?
Gee! That's more than old Griffin himself has in cash, anyway,
Farland declared. Maybe it's a good thing that girl turned you down.
You'd probably be a clerk at a few thousand a year, if she hadn't.
How'd you make the coin?
Mines and fruit and water power and logs, said Prale.
Sounds simple enough. When the detective business goes on the
blink, I may take a turn at it myself.
If you ever need money, Jim, call on me. If you want to engage
bigger offices, hire operatives, branch out
Stop it! Farland cried. I want nothing of the kind. I'm a
peculiar sort of duckdon't care about being rich at all. I just want
to be sure I'll have a good living for myself and the wife and kids,
and have a few friends, and be able to look every man in town straight
in the eye. I'd rather work for a friend for nothing than do work I
don't like for ten thousand an hour.
I believe you! Prale said.
CHAPTER V. THE COUSIN
An hour later, having parted with Detective Jim Farland, Sidney
Prale walked slowly up Fifth Avenue, determined to go to his hotel
suite and rest for the remainder of the evening. His conversation and
short visit with Farland had put him in a better humor. There was no
mistaking the quality of Farland's friendship. He and Prale had been
firm friends ten years before, when Farland was on duty in the
financial district, and they had made it a point at that time to eat
luncheon together when Farland's duties permitted.
New York seemed a better place, even with one friend among several
million persons. So Prale swung his stick jauntily, and hummed the
Spanish love song again, and told himself that Rufus Shepley and Kate
Gilbert, old Griffin and the hotel manager and the rest of the motley
crew that had made the day miserable for him amounted to nothing in the
broader scheme of things, and were not to be taken seriously.
He came to a block where there were few pedestrians, where the great
shops had their lights out and their night curtains up. He heard steps
behind him, and presently a soft voice.
Sidney Prale whirled around, alert and on guard, for he did not
recognize the voice. A medium-sized man stood before him, a man of
about his own age, who had a furtive manner and wore a beard.
Don't you know me, Sid?
Can't say that I do!
Why, I'm your cousin, George Lerton. I'm the only relative you've
got in the world, unless you got married while you were away.
Prale stepped aside so that the nearest light flashed on the face of
the man before him.
Well, if it isn't! he said. Didn't recognize you at first. How
long have you been wearing the alfalfa on your face?
Two or three years, George Lerton told him, grinning a bit. I saw
your name in the passenger list, Sid, and wanted to see you. I found
out where you are stopping
Why didn't you come to the hotel, then, or leave a note? Prale
asked. Come on up now.
II wanted to talk to you
And I want to talk to you. What are you doing for yourself, George?
Still working in a broker's office?
Oh, I've got an office of my own now.
Getting along all right?
Fairly well, Lerton said. Business has been pretty good the last
Maybe you can dig up a few good investments for me, then, Prale
said. I've got some coin now.
I understand that you're worth a million, Sid.
Yes, I've made my pile, and came back to New York to enjoy it. But
come along to the hotel.
I'dI'd rather not.
Why not? We've got to talk over old times and find out about each
other. We're cousins, you know.
The truth of the matter was that Sidney Prale never had thought very
much of his cousin. Ten years before they had worked side by side for
Griffin, the broker. There was something furtive and shifty about
George Lerton, but he never had presumed on his relationship, at least.
He and Sidney Prale had been courteous to each other, but never had
been warm friends.
They came from different branches of the family. Lerton had some
traits of character that Prale did not admire, but he always told
himself that perhaps he was prejudiced. They had seen a deal of each
other in a social way in the old days.
Let us just talk as we walk along, Lerton now said.
All right, if you have an engagement, Prale replied. We can get
together later, I suppose. How have the years been using you? Married?
I wasI am a widower.
Sorry, said Prale. Children?
Nonot any children. II married Mary Slade.
What? Prale cried.
He stopped, aghast. Mary Slade had been the girl who had turned him
down for a man with moneyand that man had not been George Lerton, who
did not have as much as five thousand at that time.
Itit's a peculiar story, Lerton said. You went away so
quickafter you quarreled with her. And that other manshe threw him
over, soon. She couldn't endure him, even with all his money. She
regretted her quarrel with you. I'm quite sure she wanted you for a
time. I got to taking her about. You didn't write, and she was too
proud to look you up, and soafter a time
You married her, said Prale.
About three years after you went away, Sid. She died after we had
been married a year.
But she always wanted money, and I had as much as you.
I made a strike soon after you left, Sid. I plunged with my five
thousand, and turned it into a hundred thousand inside four months. I
kept on, and got more. I was worth almost half a million when we were
I see. Well, there are no hard feelings, George. She was a good
woman, in a way, and I'm sorry you lost her. I suppose we'll have to
get together, for old time's sake.
Are you going to stay here long, Sid?
Long? I've sold out all my Honduras holdings, and I'm here to spend
the rest of my days. I've come home for good, George. The United States
is plenty good enough for me. I'm going to be a civilized gentleman
from now on.
Youyou're not going back?
Why should I? I brought that million with me. I left nothing in
Honduras except a few friends. I suppose I'll run down there some day
and see them, but this is going to be home, you can bet.
Don't do it, Sid! Lerton exclaimed.
Don't do what?
Don't stay here, Sid. Get out as quick as you can! Go back to
Hondurasanywherebut don't stay in New York.
Why shouldn't I? What on earth is the matter with you? Are you
II can't tell you, Sid. But you are in danger if you don't leave
New York. I can tell you that much. That's why I didn't call at the
hotel; I'm afraid. Sid, I'm afraid to have anybody see me talking to
you. If you came to my office, I'd refuse to see you
Why? demanded Sidney Prale, in a stern voice.
II can't explain, Sid.
I've endured a lot of nonsense to-day, and I'm not going to endure
any more! Prale said. You're going to open your mouth and tell me
what you mean, if I have to manhandle you.
You can beat me until I'm unconscious, Sid, but you can't make me
talk! Lerton told him.
But what does it all mean?
You'd better go away, Sid; you'd better get out of the country and
No reason why I should. I never gave up my citizenship; I haven't
done anything wrong. I'm back in my old home, and I fail to see why I
shouldn't remain here if that is my wish.
But you're in danger!
In danger from what? Sidney Prale cried.
You have powerful enemies, Sid.
II don't know, exactly. But you have powerful enemies. Some of my
best customers have informed me that they are through doing business
with me if I have anything to do with you. They told me that before you
had been back three hours.
Powerful enemies? Why? Business enemies?
II don't know.
Um! So that is why the bank refused my deposit, why I was turned
out of a hotel, and why old Rufus Shepley raised such a row with me!
Powerful enemies, have I? But there isn't sense in it! I haven't done
anything to make powerful enemies, or any other kind. I'm about fed up
with this stuff!
Go away, Sid. You've got moneyyou can live anywhere!
You bet I can! And I'm going to live in New York!
Don't try it, Sid!
Prale whirled and faced him. You know more than you're telling! he
accused. You open your face and talk! I never did have any too much
love for you, and you can wager that I'm not going to let you frighten
me into running away from New York! Talk!
I haven't anything more to say, Sid!
If I have to choke it out of you right here
You'd better not. It would give your enemies a chance!
Lerton, I've fought the Honduras jungles! I've fought half-savage
men and treacherous employees, snakes and fever, financial sharks and
common adventurers. I didn't come back to New York to back down in
front of a man like youor half a hundred like you. Maybe that is
strong talkbut you have it coming! Give my enemies a chance? I'll
give them all the chance they want. Maybe they'll come into the open,
then, and let me see whom I'm fighting! I don't like foes that fight
from the dark!
You'd better go away, Sid. I'm talking for your own good!
For my good? For yours, you mean! Afraid you'll lose a few
customers and a few dollars, by standing by your cousin, are you? Why
don't you be a man, tell me what you know, help me to fight! Bah! I'm
disgusted with you!
He hurled George Lerton away from him, curled his lips in scorn of
I've tried to warn you, Lerton whimpered.
I don't understand this and I'm sure you could explain a lot, if
you would. Perhaps I've got more dollars than the customers you are so
afraid of losing. Suppose I hand my million to you for investment. Will
you talk, then?
II wouldn't dare touch it, Lerton whimpered.
Prale looked at him closely. It must be something pretty bad to
make you toss aside the chance to handle a million in investments, he
said. I know you, George! You'd sell your soul for money! You got
anything more to say to me about this?
II dare not say anything more.
Very well. If you are afraid to be seen in my presence, kindly keep
away from me hereafter and don't worry about me looking you up at your
office. I'll not take the trouble!
Sidney Prale said nothing more; he whirled around and walked rapidly
up the Avenue, enraged, wondering what it all meant, determined to find
out as soon as possible.
Lerton ran after him.
Won't you go away, Sid? he whimpered.
No. I'll stay here, and if I have enemies I'll fight them! Prale
told him. Why are you so eager to have me run away?
I don't want to see you in trouble, Sid.
That's peculiar. In the old days you used to gloat whenever I got
in trouble. You seem to have a wonderful and sudden regard for my
welfare, and I can't explain it to myself.
Once more, Prale whirled around and started up the Avenue. His brain
was in a tumult. What did George Lerton know that he refused to tell?
Why should there be powerful enemies? He knew of no reason in the
He's dead eager to get me out of town, Prale mused. There's
something behind it, all right.
CHAPTER VI. MURKAND MURDER
Instinct, intuition, or some similar faculty caused Prale to turn
off the Avenue eastward toward the river. He was not angry now. His
mind was in action. He had convinced himself that there was something
behind all this, and he was eager for the solution.
Those mysterious warnings had begun on board ship, he remembered.
The piece of paper Kate Gilbert had dropped, and which he had picked
up, had writing similar to the messages he had received. He would have
to engage Jim Farland, he told himself, and learn a few things
concerning Miss Kate Gilbert.
Had the journey because of ill health been a subterfuge? Had Kate
Gilbert gone to Honduras to watch him? If she had, what was the reason
It's enough to make a man a maniac, Prale mused. And that Shepley
man! He was all right when we parted on the ship. Somebody said
something to him about me after he landed. He treated me as if I had
been a skunk.
Then he thought of George Lerton, his cousin. He couldn't quite make
up his mind about Lerton. The man seemed frenzied in his eagerness to
get Prale to leave New York. And Prale knew that it was not because of
an overwhelming love George Lerton had for him, not anxiety lest ill
fortune should come to Sidney Prale.
He would have to think it out, he told himself. At least, he knew
that he had foes working against him, and could be on guard
continually. Down in Honduras he had won a reputation as a fighter, and
a fight was a fight in any clime, he knew; there might be a difference
in the rules here and there, but the same qualities decided the winner.
He continued walking down the street toward the river. In Honduras
he had become accustomed to walking up and down the beach and looking
at the water whenever he wanted to think and solve some problem, and it
probably was habit that sent him to the water front now.
He tossed away the butt of his cigar and did not light another at
the moment. For a time he stood looking out at the black water, at the
craft plying back and forth, their lights flashing. He stepped upon a
little dock and started walking its length. After a time he came near
the end of it without having encountered a watchman, and sat down on a
box in a dark, secluded corner.
There, his back braced against the building and the building
shielding him from the cold wind that came up from the distant sea,
Sidney Prale sat and tried to think it out.
One thing made a comfortable thoughthe had money with which to
fight. Either he was the victim of some injustice, or a grave mistake
was being made. He wished that he had forced George Lerton to tell him
more, and he decided that he would do so if they met again. He might
even hunt him out and force him to speak. Sidney Prale thought nothing
of handling a man like Lerton.
He heard steps on the dock and remained silent in the darkness,
thinking that possibly some watchman was making the rounds. If he was
discovered, he would say that he had been looking at the river, give
the watchman his card and a tip, and leave.
The steps came nearer and Prale could make out the form of a man
slipping along the dock's edge in a furtive manner. There was not light
enough for Prale to see his features. He was walking bent over, a
short, heavy-set man who did not wear an overcoat.
Prale watched as the man passed within six feet of him and went to
the edge of the dock. There he stood, outlined against the sky, looking
down at the water. Prale imagined that he heard something like a sob,
and gave closer attention. Then he saw the man take off his coat and
drop it behind him, remove his cap and place it on the coat, and look
down at the water again.
And then Sidney Prale sprang straight forward, and grasped the body
of the other as it was in mid-air.
No, you don't! Prale exclaimed.
He found immediately that he had a fight on his hands. The other
whirled and began kicking and striking. Sidney Prale hurled him
backward, rushed, caught him up again in a better hold, threw him back
against the building, and held him there, breathless and panting.
Another smash out of you, and I'll drop you into the river myself!
Prale said. Suppose you take time to get your breath now.
II thought you was a cop.
Afraid of the cops?
It's against the law toto try to commit suicide.
So I understand, said Prale. Well, I am not a cop. Trying to
drown yourself, were you? Why?
Why not? the other asked. I'm done with livin'.
Not just yet, but you would have been if I hadn't been sitting
I've knocked all over the worldand made a few mistakes, said the
derelict. Oh, nothin' that would get me in trouble with the cops! But
I just found out that I'm clutterin' up the earth and don't amount to
anything. I'm sick of half starvin' to death, and workin' like a dog
when I get the chance just to get enough to keep a few old clothes hung
Disgusted generally with your lot? Prale asked.
Friends or relatives?
What's your name? Prale asked.
You mean my real name? I don't remember. It's been so long since
I've used it, and I've used so many others since that I don't know.
What's the difference?
I'll call you Murk, said Prale. That expresses the dark river,
the deed you were about to do, and the evident state of your feelings.
It's as good as any, I suppose.
What's your particular grievance against the world in general?
It ain't anything in particular, said Murk. It's just general.
I see. A drifter, are you?
I reckon I am.
Sore at existence, eh?
Well, what's the use of livin'? Murk demanded. There ain't a man,
woman or child in the world that gives a whoop what becomes of me. I'm
just in the way to be kicked around.
Maybe you haven't found your proper place in the scheme of things.
I've sure done some travelin' lookin' for it, boss, but maybe I
ain't found it, as you say. I sure ain't found any place that looks
like it needed me bad.
Hard to make a living?
Oh, I get along. But, what's the use? Murk wanted to know. I
ain't got anybodyI get lonesome lots of times. If I had money, it
might be different.
I'm not so sure about that, said Prale, smiling a bit. I've got a
million dollars, and, as far as I know right this minute, I have just
one friend in New York.
If I had a million dollars I wouldn't care whether I had a friend
or not, Murk said.
You can be just as lonesome with a million dollars as you can
without a cent, Prale told him. I was sitting down here because I was
lonesome, and because there are some enemies working at me, and I don't
know who they are or why they want to trouble me.
Well, let's jump in the drink together, Murk said.
Why not fight it out? asked Sidney Prale.
Mister, I've been fightin' for years, and it don't get me anything.
It just tires me outthat's all. The next world can't be any worse
Are you a fighter, or a quitter?
Nobody ever called me a quitter.
But you were trying to be a few minutes ago. You were going to quit
like a yellow dog! Prale told him. You were going to throw up the
sponge and give the devil a laugh.
That's between me and the devilnobody else would care.
If you had a friend, an influential friend, and didn't have to keep
up a continual fight to hold body and soul together, could you manage
to face the world a little longer?
I reckon I could.
How old are you?
Thirty-five, said Murk.
Old enough to have some sense. I am three years older. I'm almost
as lonesome as you are. Why not join forces, Murk?
If I showed you a corner where you would fit in, would you be
loyal? Would you stand by me, help me fight if it was necessary, and
You just try methat's all.
Very well, Murk, I'm going to trust you. I told you the truth when
I said I had a million dollars. I have but one friend I can depend
upon, and I have enemies. I like to fight, Murk, but I like to have a
good pal at my back when I do.
That's me, too, sir; but I ain't ever had the pal.
You've got one now, Murk. You'd be dead now, but for me. So you
must be my man, understand?
I don't quite getcha.
You're under my orders from now on, Murk. We'll have a nice row,
standing back to back perhaps. I'll take you on as a sort of valet and
bodyguard. You'll have good clothes and a home and plenty to eat and a
bit of money to spend. I'll expect you to be loyal. If I find that you
are notwell, Murk, I got back yesterday from Central America. I got
my million down there, by fighting for it, and there were times when I
had to handle men roughly. I can read men, Murk. Can you imagine what
I'd do to a man who double crossed me?
I getcha now! You needn't be afraid I'll double cross you. I don't
think this is real.
It's real, Murk, if we strike a bargain. Do we?
I've got everything to win and nothin' to loseso we do! Murk
Fair enough. Now we'll get off this dock. Pick up your cap and
Murk picked them up and put them on, and then he followed at Prale's
heels until they were on the street and beneath the nearest light.
There they stopped and looked each other over.
Murk was short, but he was built for strength. Prale could tell at a
glance that the man, even poorly nourished as he was, had muscles that
could be depended on. Prale liked the look around Murk's eyes, too.
Murk was a dog man, the sort that proves faithful to the end if treated
Well, how do you like me? Prale asked.
You look good to me, sir.
My name is Sidney Prale.
Yes, Mr. Prale.
You understand our little deal thoroughly?
Come along, then. Here is a cigarlight up!
Murk lighted the cigar, and Prale lighted another, and they went
rapidly up the street to Fifth Avenue. Prale signaled a passing
taxicab, and they got in. When the cab stopped, it was in a district
where some cheap clothing stores remain open until almost midnight.
Half an hour later they emerged again. Murk was dressed in a suit
which was somber in tone, and which was not at all a bad fit. He was
dressed in new clothing from the skin out. Prale took him to a barber
shop, and waited until the barber gave Murk a hair cut and a shave.
Gosh! Murk said, when he looked at himself in the glass. This
can't be me!
It is, however, Prale assured him. Now, we'll go home, Murk, and
Where is home?
Prale named the hotel.
I'd get thrown out on my bean if I ever stuck my nose in the
kitchen door, Murk said.
You're not going into the kitchen, Murk. You're going to be
registered as my valet and bodyguard, and you're going up in the
elevator with me. Kindly remember, Murk, that you are the personal
servant of Mr. Sidney Prale.
And your boss has a million dollars and nobody knows how many
secret enemies. Those things give you a standing, Murk. When we are
alone, of course, you'll be a sort of pal. I never had a valet before
and I couldn't stand a regular one. Instead of being a valet, when we
are alone, I want you to be a regular fellow.
I getcha, Mr. Prale.
Off we go, then.
They arrived at the hotel, and Prale registered Murk as his valet
and took him up to the suite.
You bunk in there, Murk, Prale said, pointing to another room.
Take a bath and go to bed and get some rest. If you are inclined to
throw me down, you'll find some money and jewelry in the top drawer of
the dresser. Rob me and sneak out during the night, if you want to. Cut
my throat, if it's necessary.
You needn't be afraid, siryou can trust me!
I do! said Sidney Prale.
Prale slept well that night. When he awoke in the morning, Murk was
dressed and sitting by the window. He drew Prale's bath without being
told, and then stood around as if waiting to be of service.
II found this slipped under your door, sir, he said, after a
What is it, Murk?
A piece of paper with writing on it, sir.
More news from the enemy, I suppose. What does it say?
It says as how a man's sin always finds him out.
That's interesting, isn't it? Do you think I am a sinner of some
I don't care if you are, sir!
Murk! You needn't get excited about it. Put the paper in the lower
drawer of the dresser; I'm making a collection of them, Prale said. He
went back into the other room and continued dressing. Go to the
telephone and order breakfast served to us here, Murk, he directed.
What shall I order, sir?
Order plenty of whatever you like, and tell them to make it
double, said Prale.
Murk grinned and gave a proper order. Prale was dressed by the time
the breakfast was served. He and Murk made a hearty meal.
And then Prale lighted his morning cigar and began reading the
newspapers. Murk went around the suite, straightening things and trying
to be of service. He looked at Sidney Prale often; it was plain to be
seen that Prale was Murk's kind of man.
There came a knock at the door.
See who it is, Murk, Sidney Prale said.
He did not even look up from the paper he was reading. He supposed
it was some hotel employee. Murk stalked across to the door and threw
it open. Two men stood there. Murk flinched when he saw them. He did
not know either of them, but he knew them immediately for what they
were. Murk was a man of experience.
Mr. Prale in? one of them asked.
Without asking permission, the two men stepped inside, and one of
them closed the door. Prale dropped the newspaper and turned around to
Are you Sidney Prale? one of them asked.
You are under arrest, Mr. Prale.
I beg your pardon?
Under arrest, I said. You know your rights, perhaps, so you need
not talk unless you wish to do so.
You are officers?
They showed their shields.
Straight from headquarters, one of them replied. We want to take
a look around your room while we are here.
Suppose, said Sidney Prale, that you tell me, first, why I am
under arrest? Of what crime am I accused?
You are charged with murder.
Murder? What crazy joke is this? Prale cried. And what particular
person am I accused of murdering?
You are charged with the murder of Mr. Rufus Shepley, the
CHAPTER VII. EVIDENCE
Many times in his life, Sidney Prale had been greatly surprised,
astonished, shocked. But never had he experienced such a feeling as he
did at this bald announcement of a police detective.
The statement was like a blow between the eyes. Prale stared at the
two detectives for an instant, his face flushed, and then he began to
It isn't a laughing matter, Mr. Prale, one of the detectives told
Pardon me, but it is so utterly preposterous, Prale replied. I
fail to see how I can be accused of such a crime. I am not a
cut-throat, and Rufus Shepley was a man I met on shipboard casually,
and have seen him only once since.
You can do your talking at headquarters, Mr. Prale, the officer
said. I'll have to ask you to come along with us. I'll leave my
partner here to look through your rooms.
The sooner I get to headquarters, the sooner this thing will be
straightened out, Prale said. Murk, you will remain here in the rooms
until you hear from me. Let the officer look at anything he wishes to
Yes, sir, said Murk, glaring at the two detectives.
Prale faced the detective who had been speaking to him.
Be with you as soon as I get my hat and coat, he said. It'll not
be necessary, I hope, to put handcuffs on me.
We can go to headquarters in a taxi, and I guess I can handle you
if you try any tricks, the detective replied.
There are going to be no tricks tried, Prale said.
Nevertheless, I think I'll keep a close eye on you.
Do so, by all means! Prale retorted.
Ain't there anything I can do, sir? Murk asked.
Nothing except to remain in the rooms until you hear from me,
Prale told him. If I shoulderbe detained, I'll probably send for
Very well, sir.
One of the detectives left the suite with Prale and walked down the
hall to the elevator. The second officer remained behind to go through
Prale's things in an effort to find evidence.
Prale said nothing regarding the crime as they journeyed in the
taxicab to police headquarters. His mind was busy, though. This
appeared to be a culmination of the annoyances to which he had been
At headquarters he was ushered into a room where a captain of
detectives awaited him.
Don't have to talk unless you want to, Mr. Prale, but it probably
will be better for you to do so, and have an end of it, the captain
said. Why did you kill Rufus Shepley?
That's a fool question. I didn't kill him. I had no idea he was
dead until the officer arrested me for his murder. I scarcely know the
man, captain. I made his acquaintance aboard a ship coming from Central
America, and I met him but once after leaving the ship. He told me his
business and gave me his card, and that is all. I'm ready to answer any
questions you may ask. This is some terrible mistake. I want to talk
about ithave an end of it, as you say.
Very well, Prale, the captain said.
Mr. Prale, if you please. I have not been convicted yet and am
entitled to some courtesy, it seems to me.
All right, if you're going to be nasty about it, the captain said.
But you won't gain anything by taking a high-and-mighty attitude with
I simply object to being addressed in the tone you used, Prale
replied. I am no crook. Let's get down to business. Ask me any
questions you like, and I'd like to ask a few myself.
That is fair enough, the captain said, a shrewd expression coming
into his face.
Suppose you take it for granted, for a few minutes, that I am
innocent, and tell me when Rufus Shepley was killed, and where, and
Very well, Mr. Prale. A hotel attendant found the body at an early
hour this morning. It was in Mr. Shepley's room. The man was fully
dressed. The physicians say that he was killed about eleven o'clock
I understand; go on, please.
He had been stabbed through the heart, said the captain. Death
had been instantaneous.
But why suspect me of the crime? Prale asked.
This was found beside the body, the captain replied.
From the desk before him he picked up a fountain pen. It was an
elaborate pen, chased with gold, and on one side of it was a tiny gold
plate, upon which Prale's name had been engraved.
You recognize it? the captain asked.
Certainly; it is mine.
Oh, you admit that, do you?
Naturally. But I fail to see how it came to be beside the body of
A man who has committed a murder generally is in a hurry to get
away, said the captain. It is easy to drop a fountain pen from a
pocket, especially if a man is bending over.
I don't even know where Shepley's rooms were located, Prale said.
I didn't know the pen was missing until this minute
Possibly not, replied the captain of detectives.
And I am quite sure I do not know how it came to be beside the
body, but of one thing I am certainI did not drop it there.
Naturally, you would say that.
And where is the motive? Prale demanded. Suppose you tell me what
you have against me, and then I'll proceed to tear your shabby evidence
We have this particular case so well in hand that I can afford to
do that, the captain said. Attend me closely and you'll see the
futility of denying your guilt.
I am waiting to hear the evidence, Prale said.
Very well. In the first place, you have recently spent some years
in Central America.
Ten years in Honduras, said Prale.
You made a fortune down there. We have communicated with the
authorities there and have learned many things about you. We have
learned that you have a hot temper and know how to handle men. You have
been known to beat natives terribly
Rot! I was kinder than nine out of ten men of affairs. I have
punished a few natives caught stealing, for instance.
Recently, Mr. Prale, you cashed in on all your properties down
there and announced that you were about to leave the country.
That is correct, said Prale. I made the million I went down there
to make. Honduras is all right in some ways, but a man likes to live
with his own kind. My home was in New York, and so, naturally, I
decided to return here.
Did you not tell some of your friends and acquaintances, before you
left, that you were returning to New York for a certain purpose.
I suppose that I did. My purpose was no secret. I had my pile and
wanted to enjoy life a bit and perhaps I wanted to show off a bit, too.
That was only natural, I suppose. I am proud of my success.
Did you not hint that the purpose was something sinisterthat you
were going to have revenge, or something like that?
Very well; let us get on, said the captain of detectives. You say
that you first met Rufus Shepley aboard the Manatee?
Never saw him in my life until I met him in the smoking room on the
ship, and never had heard his name before.
That is peculiar. Mr. Shepley was a man of large affairs.
But I had been in Honduras for ten years, out of touch with men of
affairs in the United States, Prale replied. I did the most of my
business with firms in South America.
Just how did you happen to meet Mr. Shepley?
In the smoking room. We spoke, as passengers are liable to speak to
each other on a boat or a train. We talked of ordinary things and
Did you happen to play cards?
One evening, for a short time. But the game did not amount to
anything, and we quit early. Are you trying to insinuate that I killed
the man as the outcome of a gambling quarrel?
Nothing of the sort, said the captain, Let us get on. You had no
trouble with Mr. Shepley on the shipno trouble of any sort?
Not the slightest. We parted good friends just before the ship
docked. I went to my stateroom for my things and I suppose that he did
When did you see him next? the captain asked.
Last evening, in the lobby of a hotel on Broadway, said Prale.
What happened then?
Ah, I see where you are trying to get the motive, Prale said. But
I think that you will agree with me, before we are done, that it is a
slim thing upon which to hang a serious charge of murder. I saw Mr.
Shepley sitting in the lobby and went up and spoke to him. We had been
friendly on the ship, I was feeling lonesome, and was glad to find
somebody with whom I could talk. Besides, he had expressed a desire to
see me again.
Well, what happened?
Something I am at a loss to understand. He berated me for daring to
address him. He acted like a maniac. I rebuked him for his manner, and
the hotel detective advised us to leave the place until we cooled off,
or something like that.
Who left first? the captain asked.
I did. I was angry because there was a crowd around and I hated the
scene that had been caused. I went through the main entrance and
stepped to the curb.
Shepley follow you?
And you went up to him and threatened him, didn't you?
Prale thought a moment. I told him that I didn't know why he had
insulted me, but I didn't want him to do it again.
What else? the captain demanded.
I believe I said that I ought to settle with him for what he had
And then I went on down the street. The hotel detective, I think,
heard me speak to Mr. Shepley.
Yes, I know that he did, said the captain. And the hotel
detective also says that you were white with anger, and that you went
off down Broadway like a man with murder in his mind. Do you care to
say anything more?
Of course, said Prale. I went down to Madison Square, and there I
sat down on a bench.
Meet anybody there?
I did. I met an old friend, Jim Farland, who used to be on your
detective force, and who now runs a private agency.
I know Farland well, and I'll send for him.
I talked with Jim for some time, Prale went on. I told him, I
believe, that I seemed to have enemies working in the dark. I told him
about the scene with Shepley.
Um! What did Farland have to say?
Nothing, except that he couldn't understand why Shepley had acted
so. We talked the matter over for a while and then we separated.
Very well. And where did you go next?
I walked up Fifth Avenue, said Prale. It was after nine o'clock
by that time.
Go straight to your hotel?
I did not, Prale said.
Care to tell me where you went and what you did?
I have no objections. I walked up the Avenue, and met my cousin,
George Lerton, the broker.
Meet him accidentally?
He overtook mecalled to me.
How long did you talk to him?
For only a few minutes, said Prale. You must understand that,
while George Lerton is my cousin, we are not exceptionally friendly,
and never have been. We worked for the same firm ten years ago, and
after I went to Honduras, George made some money and got into business
for himself; at least he told me so last night.
So you merely shook hands and renewed your acquaintance? the
There was something peculiar about the meeting, Prale replied.
In what way?
Lerton urged me to leave New York and remain away. He said that I
had powerful enemies.
What about that?
It is what has been puzzling me. So far as I know, I haven't a
powerful enemy on earth. I suppose I have a few business foes in
Central America; a man can't make a million without acquiring some
enemies at the same time. But I don't know of a single influential
person who is my enemy.
Didn't Lerton explain to you?
He refused to do so, said Prale, and I told him to go his way and
that I'd go mine.
Doesn't that story seem a bit weak to you, Mr. Prale?
It may, but it is a true story. Get Lerton and question him if you
wish. I couldn't make him talkmaybe you can. I'd like to know the
names of these enemies of mine, if I really have them.
Anything else lead you to believe you might have enemies?
Yes. I have received several anonymous notes, some on board ship
and some since landing, that say something about retribution about to
be visited upon me.
I don't know, captain. I never did anything in my life to merit
such retribution. I am sure of that.
What time was it when you parted from Lerton?
It must have been about nine thirty or a quarter to ten.
Go to your hotel then?
No; I turned east and went to the river.
Wasn't that a peculiar thing to do at that hour of the night?
It may seem so to you, said Prale, and I scarcely can tell why I
did it. I suppose it was because I wanted to think over what George
Lerton had told me, and down in Honduras I always used to walk along
the beach when I was thinking.
I went out on a dock and sat down in the darkness to think.
How long did you remain there?
For more than half an hour; and I had an experience. Another man
came on the dock. He was going to jump into the river, but I convinced
him that suicide was folly, and said I'd give him a job.
I did, said Prale. I took him downtown and bought him some
clothes, and then took him to a barber shop, and afterward to the
hotel. I registered him as my valet. I call him Murk. I can prove by
him that I could not have killed Rufus Shepley about eleven o'clock,
because I was in Murk's company at that time.
What time did you get back to your hotel with him?
It was a few minutes of midnight. We spent considerable time buying
the clothes and visiting the barber shop.
Um! the captain said. We'll have to question a few of these
people. It seems peculiar to me that a millionaire would pick up a
tramp and turn him into a trusted servant.
Perhaps it was peculiar. I can read men, I believe, and I decided
that Murk needed only a chance, and he would make good. He was broke
and friendless, and I was a millionaire and almost as friendless.
That's the only way I can explain it.
I'm going to send you to another office under guard, Mr. Prale,
the captain said. I'll have these people here in a short time, and
we'll question them. Just tell me where you bought the clothes for this
man, and what barber shop you visited.
Sidney Prale did so, and the captain of detectives made notes
regarding the addresses.
That will be all for the present, Mr. Prale, he said. I don't
want to cause any innocent man annoyance, but I can tell you this
muchthings look very bad for you!
CHAPTER VIII. LIES AND LIARS
Sidney Prale waited in an adjoining office, a detective sitting in
one corner of it and watching him closely. It was almost a prison room,
for there were steel bars at the windows, and only the one door. Prale
walked to one of the windows and looked down at the street, his arms
folded across his breast, trying to think it out.
The finding of that fountain pen in the room beside Rufus Shepley's
body was what puzzled and bothered him the most. How on earth could it
have come there? He tried to remember when he had used it last, when he
had last seen it. All that he could recall was that, the afternoon
before, he had used it to write a note in a memorandum book. How and
where had he lost it, and how had it come into Shepley's suite? Had he
dropped it in the hotel lobby during his short quarrel with Shepley,
while he was shaking the man? Had Shepley picked it up later and
carried it home with him? Prale did not think Shepley would have done
that under the circumstances.
Well, he'd be at liberty soon enough, he told himself. It was
natural for the police to learn of his quarrel with Shepley and to make
an arrest on the strength of that and of finding the fountain pen. His
alibi was perfect; they soon would know that he could not have
committed the crime.
It was almost an hour later when he was taken back into the other
room again. Prale had spent the time standing before the window,
smoking and trying to think things out. The captain of detectives was
before his desk when Prale was ushered into the office.
I've been investigating your story, Mr. Prale, the captain said,
looking at him peculiarly. It always has been a mystery to me why a
man keen in business and supposed to possess brains goes to pieces when
he commits a crime and tells a tale that is full of holes.
I beg your pardon! Prale said.
Sit down, Mr. Prale, over thereand I'll have some of the
witnesses in. I have not questioned them yet, but my men have, and have
reported to me what they said. They have discovered several other
I'm not afraid of anything they may have discovered, Prale told
Last night, you told Jim Farland that you had had trouble with a
bank, and at the hotel where you first registered after you came
ashore, did you not?
Yes; don't those things bear out my statement about the powerful
We'll see presently, the captain said.
He spoke to the sergeant in attendance, who immediately left the
room, and presently returned with the president of the trust company.
He looked at Prale with interest, and took the chair the captain
You know this man? the captain asked.
I do, said the banker. He is Sidney Prale.
Ever have any business with him?
Mr. Prale transferred a fortune to our institution from Honduras,
the banker said. Yesterday he called at the bank, satisfied me as to
his identity, and made arrangements concerning the money.
Mr. Prale has said that, for some reason unknown to him, you told
him you did not care to handle his business and didn't want his
deposit, the captain said.
I scarcely think that was the way of it, the banker replied. We
would have been glad to take care of the deposit, which was practically
one million dollars. But Mr. Prale told me he had other plans and that
he would remove the deposit during the day, which he did.
Sidney Prale sat up straight in his chair. Didn't you tell me that
you didn't want anything to do with me and my money? he demanded.
Certainly not, lied the banker. You said that you wished to put
your funds in other institutions.
Prale gasped at the man's statement. It was a bare-faced lie if one
ever had been spoken.
Why Prale began.
I do not care to discuss the matter further, the banker
interrupted. I am a man of standing and cannot afford to be mixed up
in a case of this sort.
You'll not be mixed up in it, the captain said. I just wanted to
show Mr. Prale that there were some holes in his story. That is all,
The banker left the room quickly, and Prale sprang to his feet, his
That man lied! he exclaimed. You could read it in his face! I
don't know why he lied, but he did!
Sit down, Mr. Prale, and let's have more witnesses in, the captain
Once more he spoke to the sergeant, and again the latter went out,
this time to return with the manager of the first hotel at which Prale
Know this man? the captain asked.
He registered at my place as Sidney Prale, of Honduras.
Well, what about it?
We furnished him with a suite on the fifth floor, the hotel
manager said. But he gave it up.
Gave it up! Prale cried. Why, you called me into your office and
told me to get out, that the suite has been reserved and that there was
none vacant in the house. The bell boy can testify that he called me
into the office.
Certainly he called you into my office, and at my request, the
manager said. I wanted to know why you were leaving, whether any of
the employees had treated you with discourtesy. You told me that you
had been served poorly in the dining room the evening before, and that
you were done with the hotel!
Prale sprang to his feet. That's a lie, and you know it! he cried.
Captain, said the hotel man, do I have to sit here and be
insulted by a man charged with a heinous crime?
That will be all, thank you, the captain said.
The hotel manager hurried from the room, and the captain grinned at
So he lied, too, did he? the captain asked.
He did! Prale cried.
There seems to be an epidemic of falsehood, to hear you tell it.
However, let us get on with the affair.
Once more he instructed the sergeant, and this time the man brought
in the hotel detective who had witnessed the trouble between Prale and
The hotel detective told the story much as Prale himself had told
it, except that he made it appear that Prale had threatened Rufus
Shepley on the walk in front of the hotel before they separated.
Did you pick up a fountain pen of mine after I had gone? Prale
I did not.
See anybody else pick it up?
No, sir, said the hotel detective; and he went out of the room.
The sergeant next ushered in George Lerton. Prale sat up straight in
his chair again. Here was where his proper alibi began, with the
exception of Jim Farland. George Lerton's face was pale as he sat down
at the end of the desk.
Know this man? the captain asked.
He is my cousin, Sidney Prale.
How long has he been away from New York?
About ten years, Lerton said. He returned day before yesterday, I
believe. I saw his name in the passenger list.
Mr. Prale says that he met you last night on Fifth Avenue, and that
you told him he had some powerful enemies seeking to cause him trouble,
and advised him to leave New York and remain away.
Whywhy this is not so! Lerton cried. I haven't seen him until
this moment. I would have looked him up, but did not know at what hotel
he was stopping, and thought that he'd try to find me.
Prale was out of his chair again, his face flaming. You mean to sit
there and tell me that you didn't talk to me on Fifth Avenue last
night? he cried.
Why, of course I never talked to you, Sid. I never saw you. What
are you trying to do, Sid? Why have you done this thing? We never were
close to each other, and yet we are cousins, and I hate to see you in
Stop your hypocritical sniveling! Prale cried. You are lying and
you know it! You saw me last night
But I didn't!
You didand tried to get me to run away, and wouldn't tell me your
reason for it.
George Lerton licked at his lips and looked appealingly at the
captain of detectives.
II am a man of standing, he whimpered. I am a brokerhere is
my card. This man is my cousin, but I cannot lie to shield him. I never
saw him last night, and did not speak to him.
Lerton got up and started for the door, and Sidney Prale did not
make a move to stop him.
It appears that your story is full of flaws, the captain said. A
little of it is true, however; you did meet Jim Farland and talk to him
in Madison Square, and remained for the length of time you said. Jim
has told me that much. But he does not know where you went and what you
did after leaving him. What we are interested in is what you did in the
neighborhood of eleven o'clock last night. That is when Rufus Shepley
was killed. And now we'll have in that new valet of yours.
There was a snarl on Murk's face as he came into the room and sat
down in the chair at the end of the desk. Murk did not like policemen
and detectives, and did not care whether they knew of his dislike. He
flashed a glance at Sidney Prale and then faced the captain.
Well, what is it? he asked.
Tell us where and how you met Mr. Prale first, what happened, and
bring the story right up to date, the captain commanded.
Well, I went down to the river to jump in, Murk said, as if
stating a simple fact. I was tired of fightin' to live and had decided
to end it all. Mr. Prale grabbed me and hauled me back, and then he
made me see that suicide was foolish. He offered me a job, and I agreed
to take it. He was the first man who had treated me decent since I
Never mind that; get down to cases.
Well, we walked up the street and got a taxicab and drove downtown,
and Mr. Prale bought me some clothes.
What time was it when you met him?
I guess it was about ten o'clock. We bought the clothes, as I said,
and then we went to a barber shop, and I got a hair cut and a shave.
After that we went to Mr. Prale's hotel and up to his rooms. We got to
bed pretty quick.
What time did you reach the hotel?
What happened after you went to bed?
Went to sleep, said Murk.
Never mind the jokes, the captain rebuked sternly.
Well, I stayed awake about an hour or so thinking how lucky I was,
and then I went to sleep. I woke up early in the mornin' and got up and
dressed. Mr. Prale got up later, and we ate breakfast in the suite.
Then the cops came. One of them took Mr. Prale away, and he told me to
stay in the rooms until sent for. The other cop rummaged around the
rooms and then left.
Prale bent forward. There is one man who can speak the truth, he
told the captain. His story corresponds with the one I told you,
doesn't it? And doesn't it show that I could not have murdered Rufus
Shepley at eleven o'clock last night?
The story is all right, and it certainly corresponds with yours,
replied the captain. Just a minute! He faced Murk again. Who are you
and where did you come from? he demanded.
I ain't anybody in particular. I've been hangin' around town a
couple of months doin' odd jobs. Before that I was bummin' around the
country workin' whenever I got a chance.
You felt grateful to Mr. Prale for giving you a job and a home,
Sure! said Murk. He talked to me decent, like I was a man instead
of a dog.
Well, you don't seem to have much standing in the world, the
captain said. Your word, against that of several prominent citizens,
does not carry much weight. You must see that. And there happens to be
something else, too. I had the clothing merchant and the barber you
mentioned look you over while you were in the other room. The clothing
merchant says he sold some clothes a couple of days ago, the ones you
are wearing now, but that he certainly did not sell them last night,
and the barber swears that he never saw you before!
Why, the dirty liars! Murk cried.
Did they say that? Prale demanded.
They did, the captain replied. And they said it in such a way
that I believe them. Prale, your alibi is shot full of holes. You told
the truth about meeting Jim Farland, and that much is in your favor.
Aside from that, we have only the testimony of a tramp you said you
picked up and gave a job. You had plenty of time to kill Rufus Shepley.
You had ample time to concoct the story and get this man to learn it,
so he could tell it and match yours. You are worth a million dollars,
and this man probably was ready to lie a little for a wad of money.
He tells the truth
It's too thin, Prale! And don't forget the fountain pen that was
found beside Shepley's body, either! As for you Murk, or whatever your
right name is, you are under suspicion yourself.
What's that? Murk snarled.
You are under suspicion, I said. You might have assisted at the
murder, for all I know. I don't know when you met Mr. Prale, or where,
but I do know that you got back to the hotel with Mr. Prale about
midnightan hour after the crime was committed.
You can't hang anything like that on me! Murk snarled. All the
cops in the world can't do it! I met Mr. Prale just like I said, and he
bought me the clothes and took me to the barber shop, no matter what
the store man and the barber say! It's a black lie they're tellin'! Mr.
Prale is a gentleman
That'll be enough! the captain exclaimed. I'm going to allow you
to go, Murk, but you are to remain in Mr. Prale's rooms and take care
of his things. And you can bet that you'll be watched, too.
I don't care who watches me!
As for you, Mr. Prale, you'll have to go to a cell, I think. The
evidence against you is such that I cannot turn you loose. You must
realize that yourself.
Prale realized it. His face was white and his hands were shaking. He
looked across the room at Murk.
You go back to the hotel, Murk, and do as the captain says, he
ordered. I'll come out of this all right in time. There are a lot of
things I cannot understand, but we'll solve the puzzle before we're
Ain't there anything I can do, sir? Murk asked.
Perhaps, later. I'll engage a detective and a lawyer, and they may
visit you at the hotel. I'll send you money by the lawyer. That's all
Murk started to speak, then thought better of it and went from the
room slowly, anger flushing his face. Sidney Prale faced the captain of
No matter what you think, I am innocent, and know that my innocence
can be proved, Prale said. You are only doing your duty, of course. I
want Jim Farland to attend to things for me. He is an old friend of
mine and he is an honest man. Will you send for him?
He's waiting in the other room now, the captain said. I'll let
you have a conference with him before I order you into a cell!
CHAPTER IX. PUZZLED
Once more Prale was taken to the room in which he had first
waitedthe room with the barred windows. This time the watching
detective was missing. When Jim Farland entered, he found Prale pacing
back and forth from one corner to the other. He was trying to think out
his problem, wondering what it all meant, why the witnesses had lied,
and what would be the outcome.
Farland rushed into the room, grasped Prale by the hand, led him
across from the door, and forced him into a chair. This done, the loyal
detective sat down facing him.
Now let us have it from beginning to end! Farland commanded. I
don't want you to leave out a thing. I want to get to the bottom of
this as soon as possible.
Sidney Prale started at the beginning and talked rapidly, setting
forth all the facts, while Jim Farland sat back in his chair and
watched him. Now and then he frowned as if displeased at the recital.
Well, there is something rotten, he said, when Prale had concluded
his statement. I want you to know, Sid, that I believe you. You're not
the sort of man to kill a fellow like Rufus Shepley over a little spat.
I believe your story about this Murk, too. But why should everybody
have it in for you?
I haven't the slightest idea, Prale answered. I must, indeed,
have some powerful enemies, but I cannot imagine who they are, and I
know of no reason why they should be against me. I'm simply up in the
You keep right on trying to figure it out, Farland advised him.
You might think of something in time that will give me a start in my
Why did the banker and hotel manager lie? Prale asked. Why did
the clothing-store man and the barber lie? Why did George Lerton
declare that he did not see me and speak to me last night? And how did
my fountain pen get into Shepley's room?
Huh! When we know a few of those things, we'll know enough to wipe
this charge away from your name, Jim Farland told him. It's my job to
answer those little questions for you. And nowyou want a lawyer, I
Yes. Can you suggest one?
The greatest criminal lawyer in town is named Coadley. I'll send
him right up here after I explain about this case to him. Thank Heaven,
you have plenty of money! A poor man in a fix like this would be on his
way to the electric chair. Coadley can fix you up, if anybody can. He
can make a sinner look like a saint.
But I'm not guilty!
I understand that, Sid, but it doesn't hurt an innocent man to have
the best attorney he can get. I'll send you Coadley. Give me a note to
that fellow Murk, for I may want him to help me. Sure he's loyal to
I never saw him until last night, but I'd bank on him, said Prale.
He'll stand by us!
Fair enough! You write that note right now, and try to get out on
bail. Tell Coadley to get busy on that right away. Get out under police
supervision, under guardany waybut get out!
Jim Farland hurried away, and Sidney Prale was conducted through
dark corridors to a cell, where he had the experience of hearing a door
clang shut behind him and the bolts shot. Prale never had expected to
get into jail when he was worth a million dollars, and most certainly
he never had expected to face a charge of murder.
He was allowed to send out for some luncheon, and it was more than
an hour before Coadley, the attorney, arrived. Prale was taken into the
He liked Coadley, and he liked the way in which Coadley regarded him
before he spoke.
I believe that you are innocent, the lawyer said.
The job will be to make other people think that way, Prale said,
with a laugh. The attorney's words had been like a ray of hope to him.
Did Jim Farland tell you the story?
Yes. I'll try to get you out on bail, or get you out in some
manner, Coadley said. This appears to be a peculiar case. It is not
only the charge of murder; it is the fact that several men told
falsehoods about you. You haven't an idea who your enemies are?
Not the slightest.
I'm glad that Jim Farland is working on this case for you, Mr.
Prale. He is a good man, and I may need a lot of help. I'll get my own
investigators busy right away, too, and we'll coöperate with Jim
Farland. You go back to your cell and take it easy. I'll get you out
before night, if I can.
Lawyer Coadley was a shrewd man, and his methods were the delight of
other attorneys and jurists. He lost no time when he was confronted
with a case that held unusual interest. Within an hour he was in court,
acting as if fighting mad.
Had a reputable citizen any rights, he demanded? Were the police to
be allowed to throw an innocent man into jail simply because there had
been a crime committed and somebody had to be accused? His client did
not care for an examination at this time, he said. Arraignment and a
plea of not guilty were all right, however.
Sidney Prale was arraigned, and the plea of not guilty was made and
entered. Then Coadley began his fight to have Prale admitted to bail.
The district attorney opposed it, of course, since that was his
business. The judge listened to the statement of the captain of
detectives. He heard Coadley say that his client could put up cash bail
in any amount, and was willing to abide by any provisions. Finally the
judge freed Prale on cash bail of fifty thousand dollars, but
designated that the bail could be recalled at any time, and that he was
to be in the custody of a member of the police department continually.
Coadley agreed, and left the jail with his client, a detective going
with them to stand guard. The detective had explicit orders. He was not
to annoy Sidney Prale. He was to withdraw out of earshot when Prale
talked with his attorney or anybody else with whom he wished to
converse privately. He was to allow Prale to come and go as he wished,
except that Prale was not to be allowed to leave the limits of the
city. If he attempted that, he was to be put under arrest immediately
and taken to the nearest police station.
Prale read the newspapers as he rode to the hotel with Coadley and
the detective. The story of the crime was in all of them, the tale of
his quarrel with Rufus Shepley and of the finding of the fountain pen,
and the inevitable statement that the police were on the track of more
and better evidence.
Prale expected to be ordered out of the hotel, but he was not, the
management stipulating only that he should not use the public dining
room. He went up to the suite, to find Murk there, sitting in front of
a window and glaring down at the street.
A cot was moved in for the use of the detective. Coadley held
another conference with Prale, and then left to get busy on the case.
Murk regarded the detective with scorn, until Prale explained the
situation to him. After that, there was a sort of armed neutrality
between them. Murk had no special liking for detectives, and he was the
sort of man detectives do not like.
Presently Jim Farland arrived.
Well, Sid, Coadley got you out of jail and home before I could get
here, did he? Farland said. I suppose I'll not need that note of
yours now. Is this Mr. Murk?
It is, Prale said. Murk, meet Jim Farland. He's a detective
friend of mine.
Gosh, Mr. Prale, ain't there anybody but cops in this town? Murk
Jim is a private cop, and he has a job now to get me out of this
scrape, said Prale. He's a friend of mine, I said.
I guess that makes it different, was Murk's only comment.
Oh, we'll get along all right, Farland put in. I'm going to need
you in my business, Murk. I've told the folks at police headquarters
that I'd be responsible for you, so we can work together without being
Murk grinned at him. You just show me how to help get Mr. Prale out
of this mess, and I'll sure help, he said.
Farland turned toward the police detective. Go out into the hall
and take a walk, he suggested. Mr. Prale will give you a couple of
The detective took the cigars and went out into the hall, smiling.
He had no fear of Sidney Prale slipping down a fire escape, or anything
like that. Jim Farland was responsible, and Jim Farland was known to
the force as a man who felt his responsibilities.
Now we'll get busy and dig to the bottom of this mess, Farland
said. Been thinking it over, Sid? Know any reason why anybody should
be out after you?
I can't think of a thing, Prale replied. I suppose I made a few
business enemies down in Honduras, but none powerful enough to cause me
all this trouble. I can't understand it, Jim. It must be something big
to cause all those men to lie as they did.
Maybe it is, and maybe it is very simple when we get right down to
it, Farland said. I've started right in to work it out. Let me see
those notes and messages you received.
Prale got them from the dresser drawer and handed them to Farland.
The detective looked them over, even going as far as to use a
Don't laugh! Farland said. A lot of folks make fun of the fiction
detective who goes around with a magnifying glass in one hand, but,
believe me, a good glass shows up a lot of things. It isn't showing up
anything here, though. Where do you suppose these things came from?
I don't know, said Prale.
Got the first one on the ship, did you?
The first two. One was pinned to the pillow in my stateroom, and
the second was pasted on the end of my suit case as I was landing. The
mucilage was still wet.
Didn't suspect anybody?
I didn't think much about it at first, said Prale. I thought it
was a joke, or that somebody was making a mistake.
Sid, have you told me everything?
Prale remembered Kate Gilbert and flushed.
I see that you haven't, Farland said. Out with it! Some little
thing may give me the start I am looking for.
Prale told about Kate Gilbert, about the piece of paper she had
dropped as she got into the limousine, about the peculiar way she acted
toward him, and the attitude of Marie, the misnamed maid.
Um! Farland grunted. We had one thing lacking in this caseand
we have that. The woman!
But I only met her down there and danced with her twice.
Don't know anything about her, I suppose?
Not a thing. It was understood that she belonged to a wealthy New
York family and was traveling for the benefit of her health. At least,
that was the rumor.
I know of a lot of wealthy families in this town, but I never heard
of a Kate Gilbert, Farland said. I think I'll make a little
But why on earth should she be taking a hand in my affairs? Prale
wanted to know.
Why should you be accused of murder? Why should men tell lies about
you? Farland asked. Excuse me for a time; I'm going down to the hotel
office to find out a few things.
Farland hurried away, and the police detective entered the suite
again and made himself comfortable. Jim Farland went directly to the
office of the hotel and looked at a city directory. He found no Kate
Gilbert listed, except a seamstress who resided in Brooklyn. The
telephone directory gave him no help.
But that was not conclusive, of course. A thousand Kate Gilberts
might be living in New York, in apartments or at hotels, without having
a private telephone.
Have to get a line on that girl! Farland told himself. She's got
something to do with this. I'll bet my reputation on it.
Jim Farland went to the smoking room and sat down in a corner. He
tried to think it out, groped for a starting point. He considered all
the persons connected with the case, one at a time.
Farland knew that Sidney Prale had told the truth. Why, then, had
George Lerton told a falsehood about meeting Prale and talking to him,
when the truth would have helped to establish an alibi? Why had the
clothing merchant and the barber lied?
I suppose I'll have to use stern methods, Farland told himself.
Old police stuff, I suppose. Well, I'm the man that can do it, take it
He went up to Prale's suite again.
Can't find out anything about that woman, he reported. And I want
to get in touch with her. Keep your eyes peeled for her, Sid, and
arrange for me to catch sight of her, if you can. Now you'd better take
a little rest. You've been through an experience to-day. I'm going out
to get busy, and I'm going to take Murk with me.
What for? Murk demanded.
You're going to help me, old boy.
Me work with a cop? Murk exclaimed.
To help Mr. Prale.
Well, that's different, Murk said. Wait until I get my hat.
CHAPTER X. ON THE TRAIL
Farland engaged a taxicab, bade Murk get into it, got in himself,
and they started downtown. The detective leaned back against the
cushions and regarded Murk closely. He knew that Sidney Prale had
guessed correctly, that Murk was the sort of man who would prove loyal
to a friend.
This is a bad business, Farland said.
It's tough, said Murk.
If it was anybody but Sid Prale, I'd say he was guilty. It sure
looks bad. And there is that fountain pen!
Somebody's tryin' to do him dirt, Murk said.
There's no question about that, Murk, old boy. Well, we are going
to get him out of it, aren't we?
I'll do anything I can.
Like him, do you?
Met him less than twenty-four hours ago, but I wish I'd met him or
somebody like him ten years ago, Murk replied. If it hadn't been for
Mr. Prale, I'd be a stiff up in the morgue this minute.
Strong for him, are you?
Yes, sir, I am!
Um! said Jim Farland. We're going to get along fine together. I
was strong for Sid Prale ten years ago, before he went away. And I'll
bet that, when we get to the bottom of this, we'll find something
The taxicab stopped at a corner, and Farland and Murk got out.
Farland paid the chauffeur and watched him drive away, and then he led
Murk around the corner.
Know where you are? he asked.
Sure. Right over there is the little shop where Mr. Prale bought me
my new clothes, Murk said.
Fine! That goes to show that Prale told the truth. Well, Murk, you
stand right here by the curb and watch the front door of that shop. And
when you see me beckon to you, you come running.
Jim Farland hurried across the street, opened the door of the little
shop, and entered. The proprietor came from the rear room when he heard
the door slammed.
He knew Jim Farland and had known him for years. There were few
old-timers in that section of the city who did not know Jim Farland.
The man who faced the detective now was small, stoop-shouldered, a sort
of a rat of a man who had considerably more money to his credit than
his appearance indicated, and who was not eager to have the world in
general know how he had acquired some of it.
Evenin', Mr. Farland, he said. Anything I can do for you, sir?
Maybe you can and maybe you can't, Farland told him. You been
behaving yourself lately?
What do you mean, Mr. Farland? I've been trying to get along, but
business ain't been any too good the last year.
Save that song for somebody who doesn't know better! Farland
advised him. Change the record when you play me a tune.
Yes, sir. Is there anything I can do for you, Mr. Farland?
Remember a little deal a couple of years ago? Farland demanded
I see that you do. One little word from me in the proper quarter,
old man, and you'll be doing time. You've sailed pretty close to the
edge of the law a lot of times, and once, I know, you slipped over the
edge a bit.
II hope, sir
You'd better hope that you can keep on the good side of me, Jim
Farland told him.
If there is anything I can do, Mr. Farland
Do you suppose you could tell the truth?
I'm going to give you a chance. If you tell the truth, I may forget
something I know, for the time being. But, if you shouldn't tell the
truthwell, my memory is excellent when I want to exercise it.
Farland stepped to the door and beckoned, and Murk hurried across
the street and entered the shop.
Ever see this man before? Farland demanded.
The storekeeper licked his lips, and a sudden gleam came into his
Ihe seems to look familiar, but I can't say.
You'd better say! Farland exclaimed. I want the truth out of you,
or something will drop. And when it drops, it is liable to hit you on
the toes. Get me?
II don't know what to do, wailed the merchant.
Tell the truth!
Butthere is something peculiar about
Out with it! Know this man?
I've seen him before, the merchant replied.
La-last night, sir.
Now we are getting at it! Jim Farland exclaimed. When did you see
him last night, and where, and what happened?
He was in the store, Mr. Farland, about half past ten or a quarter
of eleven o'clock. Hehe bought those clothes he's got on.
Pay for them?
Who paid for them? Farland demanded.
A gentleman who was with him, said the merchant.
Ah! Know the gentleman?
I saw him to-dayat police headquarters.
And you said that you never had seen him beforethat he was not
here last night with this man. Why did you lie?
Jim Farland roared the question and smashed a fist down upon the
counter. The little merchant flinched.
Out with it! Farland cried. Tell the truth, you little crook! I
want to know why you lied, who told you to lie. I want to know all
about it, and mighty quick!
II don't understand this, the merchant whimpered. I was afraid
of making a mistake.
You'll make a mistake right now if you don't tell the truth! Jim
Farland told him.
II got a letter, sir, by messenger. I got it early this morning,
Well, what about it?
The letter was typewritten, sir, and was not signed. There was a
thousand dollars in bills in the letter, sir, and it said that a Mr.
Prale had just been arrested for murder, and that he probably would try
to make an alibi by saying that he was here last night and bought some
clothes for another man. The letter said that I was to take the money
and ask no questions, and that, if I was called to police headquarters,
I was to say the man had not been here and that I never had seen him in
my life before.
And you fell for it? You wanted that thousand, I suppose.
I'll show you the letter, Mr. Farland. There was no signature at
all, and the paper was just common paper. II thought it was politics,
You did, eh?
Thought it had something to do with politics, sir. I thought the
letter and money might have come from political headquarters. I was
afraid to tell the truth at the police station.
You mean you have been so crooked for years that you're afraid of
everybody who has a little influence, Farland told him.
I thought it was orders, sir, from somebody who had better be
Oh, I understand, all right. Well, I scarcely think it was
politics. You've been played, that's all. Get me that letter!
The merchant got it and handed it over, together with the envelope.
He had told the truth. The letter was typewritten on an ordinary piece
of paper, and the envelope was of the sort anybody could purchase at a
corner drug store. Farland put the letter in his pocket.
Here between ten thirty and a quarter of eleven, was he?
Yes, sir, said the merchant.
All right! You remember that, and don't change your mind again, if
you know what is good for you. You'll hear from me in the morning.
Jim Farland went from the store with a grinning Murk at his heels,
leaving a badly frightened small merchant behind him.
I know that bird, he told Murk. He's a fence, or I miss my guess.
It's no job at all to run a bluff on a small-time crook like that. And
now we'll run down and see that barber.
They engaged another taxicab and made a trip. Once more Murk
remained outside, and Jim Farland entered and beckoned the barber to
Step outside the door where nobody will overhear, he said. I want
to ask you something.
The barber stepped outside, wondering what was coming. This man knew
Jim Farland, too, and he knew that a call from him might mean trouble.
Trying to see how far you can go and keep out of jail? Farland
II don't know what you mean, sir.
Trying to run a bluff on me? On me? Farland gasped. You'd better
talk straight. Do you expect to run a barber shop by day and a gambling
joint by night all your life?
Don't lie! Farland interrupted. I know all about that little back
room. Maybe I'm not on the city police force now, but you know me! I've
got a bunch of friends on the force, and if I told a certain sergeant
about your little game and said that I wanted to have you run in he
wouldn't hesitate a minute.
But what have I done, Mr. Farland? the barber gasped. I've always
been friendly to you.
I know it. But are you going to keep right on being friendly?
Of course, sir.
Willing to help me out in a little matter if I forget about that
I'll do the best I can, Mr. Farland.
Then answer a few questions. Did you get a typewritten letter this
morning, with a wad of money in it?
The barber's face turned white.
Answer me! Farland commanded.
Yes, II got such a letter and I don't know what to make of it,
the barber said. I've got the letter and money in my desk right now.
There wasn't any signature, and I didn't know where the letter came
from, or what it meant.
Then why did you do what the letter told you to do? Farland asked.
II don't understand.
Farland motioned, and Murk now stepped around the corner.
Know this man? Farland demanded.
II've seen him before.
That letter told you to go to police headquarters, if requested to
do so, and deny you knew this man, didn't it? It told you not to help a
man named Sidney Prale, arrested for murder, to make his alibi by
telling that he was here with this man last night about eleven o'clock,
And you did just what the letter told you?
I was afraid not to do it, sir. I didn't know where that letter
came from, you see.
Had an idea it came from some boss, didn't you?
I didn't know and I didn't dare take a chance, Mr. Farland. You
know how it is?
I know how it is with a man who has busted a few laws and knows he
ought to be pinched!
Did I make some sort of a mistake, sir? What should I do now?
Something you don't do very oftentell the truth, Jim Farland
replied. How about this man?
He came here with the other gentleman last night about eleven
o'clock, sir. He got a hair cut and a shave, and the other gentleman
paid the bill.
Thanks. Sure about the time?
I know that it was almost a quarter after eleven when they left the
Well, I'm glad you can speak the truth. Get on your hat and coat!
Iwhat do you mean, sir? Am I arrested?
No. Get that letter and come with me. I want you to tell the truth
to somebody else, that's all.
The frightened barber got his hat and coat and the letter, and
followed Jim Farland and Murk to the corner. There Farland engaged
another taxicab, and ordered the chauffeur to drive back to the little
Running up a nice expense bill for Prale, but he won't care, Jim
Farland said to Murk.
He compelled the merchant to shut up his shop and get into the cab,
and then the chauffeur drove to police headquarters. Farland had
telephoned from the clothing store, and the captain of detectives was
waiting for him. He ushered the merchant and the barber into the
office, looked down at the captain, and grinned.
What's all this? the captain demanded.
It's Sid Prale's alibi, Jim Farland said. These two gents want to
tell you how they lied to-day, and why they lied. It is an interesting
The captain sat up straight in his chair, while Jim Farland removed
his hat, sat down, motioned for Murk to do the same, and made himself
About that alibi, Farland said. I know that George Lerton lied
about meeting Sid Prale on Fifth Avenue, but you don't, and so we'll
let that pass for the time being and get to it later. I just want to
show you now that Prale's story about meeting this man Murk was a true
tale. This clothing merchant is ready to say now that Prale and Murk
were in his place last night about half past ten, and that Murk got his
clothes there. And this barber is ready to swear that Prale and Murk
arrived at his shop about a quarter of eleven or eleven, and did not
leave until a quarter after eleven. Prale and Murk got to the hotel, as
you know, at midnight. Prale couldn't have gone to that other hotel,
murdered Rufus Shepley, and got to his suite by twelve o'clock, not if
he left that barber shop far downtown at a quarter after eleven, could
Scarcely, said the captain.
Very well. Ask these two gents some questions.
The captain did. He read the two typewritten letters and he
understood how the fear of a political power might have been in the
hearts of the two men. He rebuked them and allowed them to go.
Well, it looks a little better for Mr. Prale, the captain said,
but this isn't the end, by any means. Remember that fountain pen of
his that was found beside the body of Rufus Shepley!
I didn't say that it was the end, Jim Farland declared. I don't
want it given out that any evidence has been found that is in Prale's
favor. I just want you to whisper in the ear of the court that the
alibi looks good, and let it go at that. There's something behind this
case, and we want to find out what it is. Prale is out on bailand let
it go at that, as far as the public is concerned.
I grasp you, said the captain. You want these enemies of his to
think he is in deep water, so they'll be off guard and you can do your
Exactly, said Jim Farland.
Good enough. I'll do my part.
Know anything about a woman calling herself Kate Gilbert?
Never heard of her.
Farland explained what Prale had told him. The captain fingered his
Several thousand women in this town answer that general
description, he said. I'm afraid I can't help you, unless you can
pick her up.
That's what I'll do as soon as I can, Farland replied. If I can
get my eyes on her once, I'll trail her and find out a few things. She
may have nothing to do with this, and she may have a great deal to do
with it. What do you know about George Lerton?
Shady broker, the captain replied. Never done anything outside
the law, as far as I know, but he's come pretty close to it. I'd hate
to have him handling my money.
Well, he lied about meeting Prale. He did his best to get Prale to
run away from town. That was a couple of hours before the murder, of
course, so it probably had nothing to do with that. But why should he
try to get Prale out of town? And, being a man of that sort, why did he
say that he wouldn't handle Prale's funds? You'd think a man of his
sort would like nothing better than to get his fingers tangled up in
I'll have a man take a look at George Lerton.
Don't strain yourself, said Jim Farland. I'm going to take a look
at him myself, the first thing to-morrow morning.
He left headquarters with Murk, and this time he did not engage a
taxicab. He walked up the street, Murk at his side, and puffed at a
Well, Murk, we've made a good start, Farland said, after a time.
How do you like working with a detective now?
Aw, you ain't a regular detective, Murk said.
I mean you ain't an ordinary dick. You got some sense.
Thanks for the compliment. I know men who would dispute the
statement, Farland told him.
They walked and walked, and after a time were on Fifth Avenue and
going toward the hotel where Prale had his suite. Suddenly, just ahead
of them, they saw Sidney Prale and the man from headquarters. They
hurried to catch up with them.
What's the idea? Farland asked.
Needed a walk, Prale replied. Didn't feel like going to bed, and
a walk would do me good, I knew.
I'll have some things to tell you in the morning, Farland said.
But I'm not going to tell you to-night, except to say that it is good
news, and I'm issuing orders to Murk not to tell you, either. I want
you to forget the thing and get some rest.
All right, Prale said, laughing; and then he stopped still and
What is it? Farland asked.
Therejust getting into that limousine. See her? The girl with the
I see her, Farland replied, signaling the chauffeur of a passing
taxicab. This is what I was hoping for, Sid. Go on to the hotel with
Murk and guard. I'm going to find out a few things about Miss Kate
He gave the chauffeur of the taxicab whispered directions, and then
sprang into the machine.
CHAPTER XI. CONCERNING KATE GILBERT
Given a definite trail to follow, Jim Farland was one of the best
trackers in the business. He liked to know his quarry by sight, and
conduct the hunt in a proper manner. And so he rejoiced, that now he
was following a person he believed to be interested in some way in the
The limousine went up Fifth Avenue toward Central Park, and the
taxicab with Jim Farland inside followed half a block behind. Farland
did nothing except look ahead continually and make sure that his
chauffeur did not lose the other machine. He wanted to discover, first,
where Miss Kate Gilbert was going, and after that he wanted to acquire
all the information he could concerning her.
There was little traffic on the Avenue at this hour, and the
limousine made good progress. It curved around the Circle and went up
Central Park West. In the Eighties it turned off into a side street,
and finally drew up to the curb and stopped. The taxicab came to a halt
a hundred feet behind it. Wait, Jim Farland instructed the chauffeur,
showing his shield. Wait until I come back, even if I don't come back
until morning. You will get good pay, all right.
The chauffeur settled back behind his wheel, and Farland stepped to
one side in the darkness and watched. He saw an elderly gentleman
emerge from the limousine and turn to help Kate Gilbert out. Then the
elderly gentleman got into the car again and was driven away, and Kate
Gilbert went into the apartment house before which the limousine had
Detective Jim Farland hurried forward, but when he came opposite the
apartment house he slowed down and walked slowly, glancing in. It was
not an apartment house of the better sort. The lobby was small, there
was an automatic elevator, and no hall boy was on duty, that Farland
could see. There was a row of mail boxes against a wall, with name
plates over them.
Farland went up the steps, opened the door, and stepped inside the
lobby. He walked across to the mail boxes and began looking at the
names. He found some one named Gilbert had an apartment on the third
The stairs were before him, and Farland was about to start up them
when a door leading to the basement was opened, and a janitor appeared.
He was an old man, bent and withered, and he looked at Farland with
You want to see somebody in the house? he asked, in a voice that
I want to see you, Jim Farland answered.
What about, sir?
Farland exhibited his shield, and the old janitor recoiled, fright
depicted in his face.
I ain't done anything wrong, mister, he said hoarsely. I obey all
the regulations about ashes and garbage and everything like that.
Don't be afraid of me, Farland said. I'm not accusing you of
doing anything wrong, am I? I can see that you're a law-abiding man.
You haven't nerve enough to be anything else. Suppose you step outside
with me for a few minutes. I just want to ask you a few questions about
All right, sir, if that's it, the old janitor said.
He opened the front door and led the way outside, and Farland forced
him to walk a short distance down the street, and there they stopped in
a doorway to talk.
I'm going to ask you a few questions, and you are going to answer
them, and then you are going to forget that you ever saw me or that I
ever asked you a thing, Farland said.
I understand, sir. I won't give away any police business, the old
janitor replied. I know all about such things. I had a nephew once who
was a policeman.
There's a party living in your place who goes by the name of
Gilbert, isn't there?
How many are there in the family, and who are they, and what do you
know about them?
There is an old man, sir, the janitor answered. He's a sort of
cripple, I guess. He always sits in one of them invalid chairs, and
when he goes out somebody has to wheel him. If he ain't exactly a
cripple, then he's mighty sick and weak.
Who else is in the family?
He's got a daughter, whose name is Miss Kate, the janitor said.
She's a mighty fine-lookin' girl, too. She's a nice woman, I reckon.
'Pears to be, anyway.
Do you know anything in particular about her? Jim Farland asked
Well, she's been away for about three months, and she just got
back, the janitor replied. I don't know where she wasdidn't hear.
While she was gone, there was a man nurse 'tended to her fathercooked
the meals and kept the apartment clean and took him out in his wheel
chair. Miss Kate has a maid they call Mariea big, ugly woman. She
takes care of things generally when she is here, but she was away with
How long have they lived here? Farland asked.
About three years, sir. But I don't know much about them. They
ain't the kind of folks a man can find out a lot about. They act
Are they rich?
My gracious, no! said the old janitor. They pay their rent on
time, and they always seem to have plenty to eat, and I guess they can
afford to keep that maid and hire a nurse once in a while, but they
ain't what you'd call rich. But Miss Kate comes home in a big
automobile now and then, and she seems to have a lot of clothes.
There's something funny about it, at that.
Think she isn't a decent woman? Farland asked.
Oh, I don't think she's a bad sort, sir, if that is what you mean.
She doesn't seem to be, at all. I guess she gets her swell clothes
honest enough. I think that she works for somebody and has to dress
Do they get much mail and have many visitors?
They get a few letters, and some newspapers and magazines, the
janitor replied. And they don't seem to have many visitors. I've seen
a man come here once or twice to see them, and once he brought Miss
Kate home in an auto. He looks like a rich man.
Is he old or young? Farland asked.
Oh, he has gray hair, sir, and looks like a distinguished
gentleman, like a lawyer or something. I guess he's rich. I think maybe
he is an old friend of Mr. Gilbert's, or something like that.
They live on the third floor, don't they?
Any vacant apartments up there?
Why, the apartment adjoining theirs happens to be vacant just now,
You take me up to that vacant apartment, Jim Farland directed.
Let me in without making any noise, and then forget all about me until
I speak to you again. Here is a nice little bill, and there will be
more if you attend to business. I'm an officer, so you'll not get in
trouble with the landlord.
The old janitor accepted the bill gladly, and led the way back to
the house. Jim Farland refused to use the elevator; he insisted on
walking up the stairs, and on going up noiselessly. When they reached
the third floor, he was doubly alert.
The old janitor pointed out the door of the vacant apartment, and
handed Farland a key. Then he pattered back down the stairs. Farland
slipped along the hall, unlocked the door of the vacant apartment,
darted inside, and locked the door again, putting the key in his
pocket. And then he moved noiselessly through the apartment until he
had reached the front.
He could hear voices in the apartment adjoining, and could make out
the conversation. A woman was speakingFarland decided that she was
Kate Gilbertand the weak voice of a sick man was answering her now
Let's not talk about it any more to-night, father, the girl was
saying. You'll not sleep well, if you get to thinking about it. You
must go to bed now, and we'll have a real talk about things when I have
something of importance to tell you. Get a good sleep, and in the
morning Marie can take you out in the Park.
Jim Farland could hear the old man mutter some reply, and then there
reached his ears the squeaking of a wheel chair being rolled across the
floor. He remained for a time standing against the wall, listening. He
decided that those in the Gilbert apartment were preparing to retire.
Half an hour later, Farland slipped from the room and went to the
basement to find the janitor.
Here's your key, he said. I'll be back here in the morning, and
I'll want to see you. And rememberyou're not to say a word about all
Not a single word, sir.
Farland went back to the taxicab and drove to his own modest home,
where he tumbled into bed and slept the sleep of the just. When Jim
Farland slept, he sleptand when he worked, he worked. Farland did not
mix labor and rest.
He arose early, hurried through his breakfast, got another taxicab
and went up into the Eighties again. The old janitor was sweeping off
the walk in front of the apartment house. The curtains at the windows
of the Gilbert apartment were still down.
Give me that key again and give me a pass key, too, Farland told
the old janitor. If the maid takes Mr. Gilbert out, and Miss Gilbert
is gone at the same time, I want to get into their apartment and take a
look around. Understand? And I'll want you to watch, so I'll not be
caught in there.
I understand, sir. Here are the keys.
Farland reached the vacant apartment without being seen. The
Gilberts were up now and eating breakfast. He could hear Kate Gilbert
trying to cheer her father, but not a word she said had anything to do
with Sidney Prale, or Rufus Shepley, or anybody connected in any way
with the Shepley murder case.
Now you must let Marie take you to the Park, father, he heard the
girl say. It is a splendid day, and you must get a lot of fresh air.
You can go down and watch the animals. I'm going out now, but I'll be
back some time during the afternoon, and then we'll talk about things.
Jim Farland waited in the vacant apartment until he heard Kate
Gilbert depart. A quarter of an hour later, he opened the front door a
crack and saw the gigantic Marie wheel out the chair with Mr. Gilbert
in it. They went down in the elevator.
Farland waited for another quarter of an hour, until the old janitor
came up and told that he had watched the maid wheel Mr. Gilbert into
I'll just leave the elevator up here until somebody rings, the old
janitor said, and I'll watch the floor below from the top of the
stairs. Then, if any of them come back, I'll tell you so you can get
He took his station at the head of the stairs, leaving the elevator
door open so that the contrivance could not be operated from below. Jim
Farland unlocked the door of the Gilbert apartment and stepped inside.
The first glance told him that it was an ordinary apartment
furnished in quite an ordinary manner. It certainly did not look like a
home of wealth, and Sidney Prale had said that it had been understood
in Honduras that Kate Gilbert was of a rich family and traveling for
Many tourists claim to have money when they are away from home, of
course, but the part about traveling for her health seemed to Jim
Farland to be going a bit too far. Would such a woman be traveling for
her health and leave behind her at home an old father who was an
There's something behind that little trip of hers, Farland told
himself. It looks to me as if she had gone down to Honduras to look up
Sid Prale for some reason. And Honduras isn't exactly on the
health-trip list, either.
He began a close inspection of the apartment, leaving no trace of
his search behind him, disarranging nothing that he did not replace.
Jim Farland was an expert at such things.
He ransacked a small desk that stood in one corner of the living
room and found a tablet of writing paper similar to that upon which had
been written the anonymous messages Sidney Prale had received. He found
scraps of writing in the wastebasket, too, and inspected them
Somebody in this apartment wrote those notes, all right, Farland
mused. But why? That's the question I want answered, and I'll have to
be careful how I start in to find out. You can't bluff that girl; one
look is enough to tell me that. If I jump her about those notes, she'll
probably get wise and cover her tracks, and then I'll be strictly up
He found nothing else of importance in the apartment. There were
some letters, but they seemed to be from relatives scattered throughout
the country, ordinary letters dealing with family affairs of no
particular consequence, and they told Jim Farland nothing that he
wished to know.
But Kate Gilbert was only one angle of the case, he reminded
himself, and so he decided that he was done for the present as far as
she was concerned. It would be only a waste of valuable time, he
thought, to remain longer in the Gilbert apartment; and there were
plenty of other things for him to be doing.
Farland went all over the apartment once more, making sure that he
was leaving everything in its proper place, that there would be nothing
to show that anybody had been making an investigation there. Then he
hurried out and locked the door, returned the keys to the old janitor,
gave him another bill and instructed him to forget the visit, lighted a
black cigar, and started walking rapidly southward.
When the proper time arrived, Jim Farland would tell Miss Kate
Gilbert that he knew she had written the anonymous notes to Sidney
Praleor that her maid hadand he would ask her why.
He reached Columbus Circle, made his way over to Fifth Avenue, and
continued his walk down that broad thoroughfare. Farland had decided to
go to the hotel and have a talk with Sidney Prale and Murk. He told
himself that he was going to like Murk, the human hulk who suddenly had
become of some use in the world.
But he did not get a chance to go to the hotel just then. He came to
a busy corner, and stopped to wait for a chance to cross the street
congested with traffic. Suddenly, a few feet to his right, he saw Kate
Gilbert, who had left her apartment only a short time before.
There was nothing startling in that fact alone, for this was a
district where there were fashionable shops and beauty parlors, and
well-dressed women were on every side.
What interested Detective Jim Farland the most was that Kate Gilbert
was standing before the show window of a fashionable shop in intimate
conversation with George Lerton, Sidney Prale's cousin!
CHAPTER XII. BATTERED KEYS
Farland started moving slowly toward them, making his way through
the crowd in such fashion that he did not attract too much attention to
himself. He was feeling a sudden interest in this case. There were
great possibilities in the fact that two persons connected with it from
different angles were in conversation.
As he made his way toward the show window, he remembered how this
George Lerton had tried to induce Sidney Prale to leave the city and
remain away, and how, afterward, he had denied that he had seen Prale
on Fifth Avenue and had spoken to him.
He's connected with this thing in some way, Farland told himself.
It's my job to discover exactly how.
But he was doomed to be disappointed. Before he could get near
enough to make an attempt to overhear what they were saying, they
suddenly parted. Kate Gilbert went into the shop, and George Lerton
crossed the street and hurried down the Avenue.
It was no use wasting time on Kate Gilbert. Farland knew where to
find her if he wanted her, and he knew there would be no use in
shadowing her now, since she probably had gone into the shop to
purchase a hat. But George Lerton was quite another matter.
The detective did not hesitate. He swung off down Fifth Avenue in
the wake of George Lerton.
Farland was a rough and ready man, and he had little liking for male
humans of the George Lerton type. Lerton always dressed in the acme of
fashion, running considerably to fads in clothes, appearing almost
effeminate at times. And yet it was said in financial circles that
Lerton was far from being effeminate when it came to a business deal.
There had been whispers about his dark methods, and it was well known
that a business foe got small sympathy or consideration from him. He
was a fashionable cut-throat without any of the milk of human kindness
in his system.
It was a surprise to Jim Farland to see Lerton walking. He was the
sort of man who likes to advertise his success, and he had a couple of
imposing motor cars that he generally used. But he was walking this
morning, and the fact gave Farland food for thought.
Lerton continued down the Avenue, and Jim Farland followed him
closely. He expected to see Lerton meet some one else and engage in
another whispered conversation, but Lerton did not.
That boy is worried, Farland told himself. He's one of those
birds who like to walk when they want to think something out. If I
could only know what was going on in that mind of his
Lerton had reached Madison Square, and there he did something
foreign to his nature. He crossed the Square, proceeded to Fourth
Avenue, and descended into the subway.
Farland was a few feet behind him, and got into the same car when
Lerton caught a downtown train. He followed when Lerton got off and
went up to the street level again, and now the broker made his way
through the throngs and along the narrow streets until he finally came
to the financial district. After a time he turned into the entrance of
an office buildingthe building where his own offices were located.
The detective watched him go up in the elevator, and then he turned
back to the cigar stand in the lobby and purchased more of the black
cigars he loved. For a time he stood out at the curb, puffing and
thinking. He watched the building entrance closely, but George Lerton
did not come down again.
As a matter of fact, Farland scarcely had expected that he would. He
believed that Lerton had kept an appointment with Kate Gilbert, and
then had continued to his office to take up the work of the day.
Farland decided that he would give Lerton a chance to attend to the
morning mail and pressing matters of business, before seeking an
Finally, Farland threw the stub of the cigar away, turned into the
entrance of the building once more, and walked briskly to the elevator.
He shot up to the tenth floor, went down the hall, and entered the
reception room of the Lerton offices. An imp of an office boy took in
Mr. Lerton will see you in ten minutes, sir, the returning boy
Farland touched match to another cigar. He was a little surprised
that Lerton had sent out that message. Lerton knew Farland, as Sidney
Prale had known him in the old days. He knew Farland's business, and he
knew that the detective and Prale were firm friends. He could guess
that Prale had engaged Jim Farland to work on this case and clear him
of the charge of having murdered Rufus Shepley.
After a time the boy ushered him into the private office. George
Lerton was sitting behind a gigantic mahogany desk, looking very much
the prosperous man of business.
Well, Farland, this is a pleasure! Lerton exclaimed. Haven't seen
you for ages. How's business?
It could be better, Jim Farland replied, and it could be a lot
worse. I'm making a good living, and so have no kick coming.
If I ever need a man in your line, I'll call you in, George Lerton
said. And the pay will be all right, too.
Don't doubt it, Farland replied.
Want to see me about something special this morning?
Yes, if you can give me a few minutes.
All the time you like, Lerton replied.
That was not like the man, Jim Farland knew. Lerton was the sort to
try to make himself important, the always-busy man who had no time for
anybody less than a millionaire.
Farland smiled and sat down in a chair at one end of the desk. He
twisted his hat in his hands, looked across at George Lerton, cleared
his throat, and spoke.
You know about Sidney Prale being in a bit of trouble, of course?
Yes. Can't understand it, Lerton replied, frowning. Sidney always
had a temper, of course, but I never thought he would resort to murder
during a fit of it. You know, I never got along with him any too well.
He had a quarrel with his sweetheart in the old days and left for
Honduras twenty-four hours later and remained there for ten years.
I know all about that, of course, Farland said. You perhaps have
guessed that he sent for meengaged me to get him out of this little
Murder, a little scrape? Lerton gasped. I should call it a very
Let us hope that it will not be a serious matter for Sid, Farland
said with feeling. I believe that the boy is innocent, and I hope to
be able to clear him. Will you help me?
I never had any particular love for Sidney, and neither did he for
me, George Lerton said. However, he is my cousin, and I hate to see
him in trouble. But how can I help you? I don't know anything about the
An alibi is an important thing in a case like this, Farland said.
We want to prove an alibi, if we can, of course. Sidney says that you
met him on Fifth Avenue
And I cannot understand that, Lerton interrupted. Why should he
say such a thing?
You didn't meet him?
I certainly did not! I cannot lie about such a thing, even to save
my cousin. Why, it would make me a sort of accessory, wouldn't it? I
cannot afford to be mixed up in anything of the sort. You must
And you didn't urge him to leave New York and remain away for the
rest of his life?
I didn't see him at all, George Lerton persisted. Why on earth
should I care whether he remains in New York or takes his million
I don't know, I'm sure, Farland said. But it seems peculiar to me
that Sid would tell a rotten falsehood like that. Doesn't it look
peculiar to you?
I must confess that it does not, George Lerton replied. I suppose
it was the first thing that came into his head. He was trying to
establish an alibi, of course, and he probably thought he would get a
chance to telephone to me and ask me to stand by the story he had told,
thinking that I would do it because of our relationship.
I was hoping that you would tell me you had met him on Fifth
Avenue, Farland said. It would have made his alibi stronger, of
course, and every little bit helps.
Stronger? You mean to say that he has any sort of an alibi at all?
A dandy! Farland exclaimed. In fact, we have an alibi that tells
us that Sid was quite a distance from Rufus Shepley's suite when
Shepley was slain.
Why, how is that?
Sid picked up a bum and tried to make a man of him. He bought the
fellow some clothes and took him to a barber shop. The clothing
merchant and the barber furnish the alibi.
An expression of consternation was in George Lerton's face, and Jim
Farland was quick to notice it.
Of course, I am glad for Sidney's sake, Lerton said. But I had
really believed that he had killed Shepley. It caused me a bit of
How do you mean? Farland asked.
Shepley was a sort of client of mine, Lerton said. I handled a
deal for him now and then. He has been traveling on business for some
time, as you perhaps know. I had hopes that he would give me a certain
large commission and that I would make a handsome profit. He was about
convinced, I am sure, that I was the man to handle it for him. His
small deals with me had always been to his profit and my credit.
Oh, I understand!
And a possible good customer is removed, Lerton went on. So you
have an alibi for Sidney, have you? In that caseif he did not kill
Rufus Shepleyhe must have told that story about meeting me when he
was in a panic immediately following his arrest. Sid always was
panicky, you know.
I didn't know that a panicky man could pick up a million dollars in
Oh, I suppose Sidney was fortunate. There are wonderful
opportunities at times in Central America, and I suppose he happened to
just strike one of them right. He was very fortunate, indeed. Not every
man can have good luck like that.
Well, I'm sorry that I troubled you, Farland said. And now, I'll
get outif you'll do me a small favor.
I see you have a typewriter in the corner, and I'd like to write a
short note to leave uptown.
Just step outside and dictate it to one of my stenographers, said
That'd be too much trouble, Farland replied. It's only a few
lines, and I can pound a typewriter pretty good. Besides, this is a
little confidential report that I would not care to have your
stenographer know anything about.
Oh, I see! Help yourself!
Farland got up and hurried over to the typewriter. He put a sheet of
paper in the machine, wrote a few lines, folded the sheet and put it
into his coat pocket.
Well, I'm much obliged, he said. I think we'll have Sid out of
trouble before long.
Let us hope so! George Lerton said.
There was something in the tone of his voice, however, that belied
the words he spoke. Farland gave him a single, rapid glance, but the
expression of Lerton's face told him nothing. Lerton was a broker and
used to big business deals. He was a master of the art of the blank
countenance, and Jim Farland knew it well.
Farland had said nothing concerning Kate Gilbert, for he was not
ready to let George Lerton know that he suspected any connection of
Miss Gilbert with the Rufus Shepley case. Farland was not certain
himself what that connection would be, and he knew it would be foolish
to say anything that would put Lerton on guard and make the mystery
more difficult of solution.
He thanked Lerton once more and departed. Out in the corridor and
some distance from the Lerton office, he took from his pocket the note
he had written on Lerton's private typewriter and glanced at it
quickly. Farland was merely verifying what he had noticed as he had
typed the note.
That was a lucky hunch about that typewriter, he told himself.
This case is going to be interesting, all rightand for several
Farland had noticed particularly the typewritten notes that had been
received by the clothing merchant and the barber. There were two
certain keys that were battered in a peculiar manner, and another key
that was out of alignment.
He knew now, by glancing at the lines he had written himself, that
those other notes had been typed on the same machine. He guessed that
it had been George Lerton, the broker, who had sent those notes and the
money to the barber and the merchant.
Why had George Lerton been so eager to destroy his cousin's alibi?
Why was George Lerton trying to have Sidney Prale sent to the
electric chair for murder?
CHAPTER XIII. A PLAN OF CAMPAIGN
Naturally, a man facing prosecution on a murder charge is liable to
be nervous, whether he is innocent or not. If an attempt is being made
to gather evidence that will clear him, he wishes for frequent reports,
always hoping that there will be some ray of hope. And so it was with
Sidney Prale this morning, as he paced the floor in the living room of
his suite in the hotel.
Murk had done everything possible to make Sidney Prale comfortable.
Now he merely stood to one side and watched the man who had saved him
from a self-inflicted death, and tried to think of something that he
could say or do to make Prale easier in his mind.
They had not seen or heard from Jim Farland since the evening
before, when he had engaged the taxicab and had started in pursuit of
the limousine Kate Gilbert had entered. Prale wondered what Farland had
been doing, whether he had discovered anything concerning Kate Gilbert,
whether he had found a clew that would lead to an unraveling of the
Are you sure about that Farland man, Mr. Prale? Murk asked, after
What do you mean by that, Murk?
Well, he's a kind of cop, and I never had much faith in cops, said
Farland is an old friend of mine, Murk, and he is on the squareif
that is what you mean.
He sure started out like a house afire, sir, but he seems to be
fallin' down now, Murk declared. He sure did handle that barber and
the clothin' merchant, but he ain't showed us any speed since he left
us last night.
He is busy somewhereyou may be sure of that, Sidney Prale
Well, boss, I ain't got any education, and I ain't an expert in any
particular line, but I've often been accused of havin' common sense,
and I'm strong for you!
Meaning what, Murk?
Nothin', boss, except that I'd like to be busy gettin' you out of
this mess. Seems to me I know just as much about it as you do, and if
we'd talk matters over, maybe I'd get some sort of an idea, or
somethin' like that.
Prale sat down before the window, lighted a cigar, and looked up at
Go ahead, he said. It won't hurt anything, and it will serve to
kill time until we hear from Jim Farland. What do you want to talk
It seems to me, said Murk, clearing his throat and attempting to
speak in an impressive manner, that this is a double-barreled affair.
What do you mean? Prale asked.
Well, there's the murder thing, and then there's this thing about
you havin' some powerful and secret enemies that are tryin' to do you
dirt without even comin' out in the open about it. Maybe them two
things are mixed together, and maybe again they ain't. If they ain't,
we've got two jobs on our hands.
And, if they are? Prale asked.
Then it looks to me, boss, like the gang that's after you is tryin'
to hang this murder on you after havin' had somebody croak that Shepley
I've thought of that, Murk. But it doesn't look possible, Prale
said. If my enemies merely wanted to hang a murder charge on me, as
you have suggested, I think they would have planned better and would
have made the evidence against me more conclusive. It would mean that
there would be a lot of persons in the secret; the men who plan murder
do not like to take the entire town into confidence about it.
Well, that sounds reasonable, Murk admitted.
And why Rufus Shepley?
Because you had that spat with him in the lobby of the hotel, and
it could be shown that you had a reason for knifin' him, Murk said,
with evident satisfaction.
Nobody could have known I was going to have that quarrel with
Shepley, because I had no idea of it myself when I entered the hotel
lobby, Prale said. After I left the hotel, I met Farland and then
walked down to the river and met youand you know the rest. How could
they have contemplated hanging that crime on me when they did not know
but that I had a perfect alibi? I think we're on the wrong track,
Well, boss, how about your fountain pen? Murk asked. How come it
was found beside the body?
That is one of the biggest puzzles in the whole thing, Murk. I
cannot remember exactly when I had the pen last. I cannot imagine how
it got into Shepley's room and on the floor beside his body. That
fountain pen of mine is an important factor in this case, Murk, and it
has me worried.
It seems to me, Murk said, that if I had any powerful enemies
after my scalp, I'd know the birds and be watchin' out for them all the
time, to see that they didn't start anything when I was lookin' in the
But, Murk, I haven't the slightest idea who they are, Sidney Prale
declared. I don't know why I should have enemies that amount to
anything, and that is what makes it so puzzling. How can I work this
thing out when I don't even know where to start? I wish Jim Farland
Jim Farland did, at that moment. Murk let him in, and the detective
tossed his hat on a chair, sat down in another, lighted one of his own
black cigars, and looked at Sidney Prale through narrowed eyes.
Well, Jim? Prale asked.
I talk when I've really got something to say, but I'm not going to
make general conversation and muddle your brains with a lot of
scattered junk, Jim Farland replied. I'll say this muchthings are
looking much better for you.
That sounds good, Jim. Can't you tell me anything? Prale asked,
sitting forward on his chair.
The barber and the clothing merchant have fixed up a part of your
alibi, Sid, as perhaps Murk has told you. That is the first point. It
makes it look impossible for you to have slain Rufus Shepley, and I
think Lawyer Coadley could get the charge against you dismissed on that
But I want to be entirely cleared.
Exactly. You don't want to leave the slightest doubt in the mind of
a single person. There is but one way to clear you absolutely, Sid.
We've got to show conclusively that you could not have killed Shepley,
and the best way to do that is to find the person who did.
I understand, Jim.
There seems to be some sort of a mysterious alliance against you,
Sid. You say that you can't understand why you should have enemies that
hate you so, and I know you're telling the truth. Whether that business
has anything to do with the murder, or not, I am not prepared to say
now. But we want to find out about this enemy business, too, don't we?
Certainly, Prale said.
I followed Kate Gilbert. I know where she lives. She does not
belong to a rich family and does not live in splendor. But she wears
expensive gowns and has plenty of spending money, and has mysterious
dealings with a distinguished-looking man. Her father is mixed up in it
in some way, too. I went through their apartment, Sid. Somebody in that
apartment wrote the anonymous notes you received.
What? Prale gasped.
I found a tablet of the same sort of paper, and scraps of writing
in the wastebasket that were in the same hand. Think, Sid! On the
By George! Prale exclaimed. She could have slipped into my
stateroom and pinned that note to my pillow, and she could have stuck
the second one on my suit case as I walked past her on the deck.
And could have sent the others, Farland added.
But, why? Prale demanded. I never saw the woman until I met her
at a social affair in Honduras. What could she or any of her people
have against me?
Perhaps it was the maid, Farland said.
She could have done it, of course, the same as Kate Gilbert, Prale
said. But the same difficulty holds goodwhy? Kate Gilbert did seem
to avoid me, and I caught her big maid glaring at me once or twice as
if she hated the sight of me. But why on earth
Farland cleared his throat. Here is another thought for you to
digest, he said. This Kate Gilbert knows your cousin, George Lerton.
Sidney Prale suddenly sat up straight in his chair again, his eyes
Doesn't that open up possibilities? Jim Farland asked him. The
woman seems to be working against you for some reason, and we know that
George Lerton lied about meeting you on Fifth Avenue that night. It
appears that he is working against you, too, for some mysterious
A dangerous gleam came into Sidney Prale's eyes. That simplifies
matters, he said. I'll watch for Kate Gilbert, and when I see her
I'll ask why she sent me those notes. Then I'll get George Lerton alone
and choke out of him why he lied about meeting me on the Avenue. I've
trimmed worse men than George Lerton.
You'll be a good little boy and do nothing of the sort, Farland
told him. We are playing a double game, remembertrying to solve this
enemy business, and at the same time trying to clear you of a murder
charge. If any of those persons get the idea that we are unduly
interested in them, we may not have such an easy time of it.
I understand that, of course.
Let me tell you a few more things, Sid. I saw Lerton talking to
Miss Gilbert on the street. They were speaking in very low tones. When
they parted, I followed Lerton to his office, and went in and talked to
him. I did it just to size him up. He still declares that he never met
you on Fifth Avenue. He acts like a man afraid of something; and I
discovered an interesting thing, Sid. He has a typewriter in his
private office, one for his personal use. I managed to type a short
note on it.
What of that?
That typewriter has a few bad keys, Sid. And I discovered
thisthat the notes sent to the barber and merchant, that caused them
to lie and try to smash your alibi, were written on the typewriter in
George Lerton's office!
Prale sprang to his feet. Then Lerton has something to do with
this! he cried. He tried to get me to leave town, and he tried to
break down my alibi. How did he know I was going to make an alibi like
My guess is that your cousin has been having you watched since you
got off the ship.
But, why? Prale cried. It is true that he married the girl who
had jilted me a few years before, but I do not hold that against him. I
know of no reason why he should work against me so.
Know anything about him that might cause him serious trouble if you
No, Prale replied. As much as I dislike him, as much as I suspect
that he is crooked in business, all that I really could say would be
that he had a mean disposition and was not to be trusted too far.
I thought maybe you had something on him, and he was trying to get
you out of the way so you'd not talk, Farland said. That would
explain a lot, of course.
It can't be that.
Then we are up in the air again.
Why not ask him? Prale demanded. Believe me, I'll wait for him to
come from his officeand he'll answer me, and tell the truth!
Put that hot head of yours under the nearest cold-water faucet!
Farland commanded. You make a move that I don't sanction, and I'll
quit the case! You'll spoil things, Sid, if you're not careful. Just
digest what I have told you.
You're in command, Jim!
Very well. You leave George Lerton to me, Sid. There are many
angles to this case, and I can't attend to all of them at once. I don't
want to call in other detectives, because they may be in the pay of
these mysterious enemies of yours, and I haven't an assistant with an
ounce of brains. Sid, you've got to turn detective yourselfyou and
I was just wonderin' if I was goin' to get a chance to do
anything, Murk said.
Plenty of chances, Farland replied. Sid, you pick up this Kate
Gilbert, if you can. Act as if you did not suspect a thing. Try to talk
to heryou were introduced to her in Honduras, and all that. Don't let
her get nervous about you, but watch her as much as you can, and let me
know everything you see and hear. Take a look at that big maid, Marie,
when you get a chance. If you can do so, and think it advisable, put
Murk on Marie's trail. I'll want to use Murk later myself.
Sidney Prale was quick to agree. And thus, without being aware of
it, he started on a short career of adventure and romance.
Had Murk been a crystal gazer or something of the sort, and could he
have looked into the future in that manner, he would have said that the
CHAPTER XIV. MORE MYSTERY
Jim Farland went from the hotel to Coadley's office, to ascertain
whether the attorney's private investigators, who were working
independently of him, had unearthed anything of importance in
connection with the case.
Sidney Prale stated that he would go for a walk, and the police
detective, now thoroughly convinced that he would not try to run away,
raised no objection. It was Prale's intention to make an attempt to
meet Kate Gilbert. Murk hurried around getting his coat and hat and
gloves and stick.
Fool idea! Prale told himself. Kate Gilbert has given me the cold
shoulder already, and she certainly will do it now, since I stand
accused of murder. Not a chance in the world of getting better
acquainted with her now.
What do you want me to do, boss? Murk asked. I don't seem to be
amountin' to much in this game. I'd like to be in action, I would!
Can't I take a hand?
As soon as possible, Prale told him. Remember, Farland said he
wanted you to help him later.
I'd rather help you or work alone, Murk said. I reckon he is
pretty decent for a detective, but I don't put much stock in any of
Prale laughed as he finished dressing, put on his hat and gloves,
and reached for his stick.
Suppose you just shadow me this fine day, he told Murk. Get a
little practice in that line. Don't bother me, but just follow and
I getcha, boss. You want me to be within hailin' distance in case
you need help?
Exactly, Murk. We never can tell what is going to happen, you know.
I may need you in a hurry.
I'll be on hand, Murk promised.
Sidney Prale went down in the elevator, Murk going down in the same
car. Prale lounged about the lobby for a time, and Murk made himself as
inconspicuous as possible in a corner. Prale believed, as Farland had
intimated, that he was being followed and watched, possibly by the
orders of George Lerton, his cousin. He did not know why Lerton should
have done it, but it angered him, and he wanted to discover the man
He saw nobody in the lobby who appeared at all conspicuous, and
after a short time he left and started walking briskly down the Avenue,
like any gentleman taking a constitutional. The midday throngs were on
the streets. Prale was forced to walk slower, and now and then he
stopped to look in at a shop window. Once in a while he stepped to the
curb and glanced behind. But if there was a shadow Prale did not see
He did see Murk, however, and he smiled at Murk's methods. Murk
remained a short distance behind him, moving up closer whenever Prale
was forced to cross the street, so he would not lose him in the throng.
Murk was ordinary-looking and had a happy faculty of effacing himself
in a crowd. He was on the job every minute, watching Sidney Prale,
glancing at every man or woman who approached Prale or as much as
looked at him.
Prale reached Forty-second Street, crossed it, and came opposite the
library. He glanced asideand saw Miss Kate Gilbert walking down the
It was a ticklish moment for Sidney Prale, but he remembered that he
was fighting to protect himself. If Kate Gilbert ignored him, he could
not help it. At least, he would give her the chance.
She could not avoid seeing him, for they met face to face at the
bottom of the steps. Prale lifted his hat.
Good morning, Miss Gilbert, he said.
She turned and met his eyes squarely, and he could see that she
hesitated for a moment. Then her face brightened, and she stepped
Good morning, she replied. Although it is a little after noon, I
Her words might have been for the benefit of any who heard. They
were light enough and cordial enough, but she did not offer him her
hand, and the expression on her face was scarcely one of welcome.
I am glad to see you again, Prale said.
You are settled and feeling at home?
In a measure, he said.
She had not mentioned the crime of which he was accused, and he did
not wish to be the first to speak of it. She stepped still closer.
I want to talk to you, Mr. Prale, she said. Kindly get a taxi and
have the chauffeur drive us through the Park.
Prale scarcely could believe his good fortune. He had doubted
whether he would have a chance to talk to her, and here she was asking
him to engage a taxicab so that they could enjoy a conversation.
He hailed a passing taxi, put her in, gave the chauffeur his
directions, and sprang in himself. The machine turned at the first
corner and started back up the Avenue in the heavy traffic.
You wished to speak to me about something in particular? Prale
Yes. I have read of the crime of which you are accused. I am sure
that you are not guilty.
Thank you, Miss Gilbert. I assure you that I am not. It is an
unfortunate affair, which we hope to have cleared up within a short
I hope that you will be free soon, she said. And then you will be
able to enjoy yourself, I suppose.
I hope to have my vacation yet, Prale said.
You are going to remain in New York?
Certainly; it is my home.
Sometimes a man does better away from home.
But I have been away from home for ten years. I have made my pile,
as the saying is, and have come home to show off and lord it over my
neighbors, Prale replied, laughing.
They had reached the lower end of Central Park now, and the taxi
turned into a driveway, and made its way around the curves toward the
upper end. The chauffeur was busy nodding to others of his craft and
paying no attention to his fares. Sweethearts, he supposed, talking
silly nothings as they were driven through the Park. The chauffeur was
used to such; he hauled many of them.
Kate Gilbert leaned a bit closer to Prale, and when she spoke it was
in a low, tense voice.
Go away from New York, Mr. Prale!
Why should I do that? he asked.
It would be better for you, I feel sure.
Because of the absurd charge against me? I intend to have my
innocence proved, and I'd hate to run away and let people think that
perhaps I was guilty after all.
You have the right to prove your innocence of such a charge to all
the world, she said. But, after you have done it conclusively, you
should go away.
Why? he asked, again.
Becauseyou have enemies, Mr. Prale!
I have discovered that; but I do not know why I should have
Perhaps you did something, some time, to create them.
But I haven't, Prale declared.
Retribution comes when we least expect it, Mr. Prale.
Yes. I believe that you wrote that in one of your notes.
He had said it! And Jim Farland had told him not to let her suspect
that they knew. Well, he couldn't help it now.
Kate Gilbert gasped and sat back from him.
In my note? she said.
The notes interested me greatly, Miss Gilbert. I have saved them.
But why should you send them to me?
You can ask me that! she exclaimed. So you know that I wrote
them, do you? In that case, Mr. Prale, you know why I spoke of
retribution, you probably know my identity and intentions, and you know
why you have enemies!
But I do not! he protested.
Please do not attempt to tell a falsehood, Mr. Prale. You know I
wrote the notes, do you? Then you know everything else. So you are
going to fight.
I fail to understand all this.
Another falsehood! she cried. I have asked you to leave New York
And I fail to see why I should.
Then remainand receive the retribution! she said. You will
deserve all you get, Sidney Prale! When I think of what you have
She ceased speaking, and turned to glance through the window.
You were kind enough to say that you believed me innocent of the
I do. I hate to have you facing a thing like that when you are
innocent. But this other thing is
Can't you explain? I give you my word of honor that I do not
Your word of honor! she sneered, facing him again. You speak of
honoryou? That is the best jest of all!
Sidney Prale's face flushed.
I had hoped that I was a man of honor, he said. I always have
tried to be honorable in my dealings with men and women, all my life.
Please understand that, Miss Gilbert.
If you have tried, you have failed miserably. Why do you persist in
telling falsehoods, Mr. Prale. Do you think that I am a weak, silly
woman ready to be hoodwinked by lies?
But I assure you
I do not care for any of your assurances, she interrupted. I wish
it understood that we are strangers hereafter. You are going to fight,
are you? Fight, Sidney Praleand lose! What I said was correctyou
cannot dodge retribution. It will take more than a million dollars to
be able to do that.
My dear young lady
I am done, Mr. Prale. I have said all that I intend saying to you.
Then it is my turn to talk! Prale said. This thing is getting to
be so serious that I demand an explanation. Why should you, and others,
be so eager to run me out of New York?
Yesparticularly one man we both know.
His name, please?
Why ask, Miss Gilbert?
Why do you want me to run away?
I did not know that others were trying to get you to leave, she
said. I suggested it becausewell, because I am a woman, I suppose.
You deserve the worst that can happen to you. But a woman, has a kind
thought now and then. I hate to see any man ground down and down, no
matter how much he deserves itand that is what is to happen to you if
you do not go away. If you leave, your enemies will not use such harsh
measures, perhaps. But when you are here before their very eyes, they
will lift their hands against you!
Who are these enemies, and why are they after my scalp?
You know, Sidney Prale, as well as I. I can see that it is useless
to talk to you. I am sorry that I had a moment's compassion and made
the attempt. Please stop the cab and let me out here.
But I demand to know
Do as I say, or I shall make a scene!
Prale gave the signal, and the taxi stopped. He helped her out, and
she started briskly down the nearest path. Sidney Prale paid the
chauffeur, and started to follow.
He glanced back, and saw Murk getting out of another taxicab. He had
forgotten Murk in his interest in the conversation with Kate Gilbert.
But Murk had not forgotten. Murk had his orders, and he was carrying
them out; he was keeping in sight, to be on hand if he was needed.
Murk had a little money Prale had given him, enough to pay the taxi
chauffeur. Prale motioned for him to approach.
Here's a roll of bills, he said. Keep up the game, Murk. Don't
get too far away.
I'll be right at your heels, boss.
And keep your eyes open.
That woman was Kate Gilbert.
Then I'll know her whenever I see her again, sir.
Prale hurried on down the path. Murk kept pace with him, a short
Kate Gilbert had been walking swiftly. She had reached the street,
and, as Prale watched, she crossed it. Prale followed.
The girl did not look behind. She came to the middle of the block
and ran up the steps of an apartment house. Prale passed the entrance,
glanced at the number, and continued down the street. At the corner he
allowed Murk to catch up with him.
She turned in at the address Jim Farland gave us, Prale said. She
has gone home, Murk. I fancy that we are done with her for to-day!
A lot he knew about it!
CHAPTER XV. A MOMENT OF VIOLENCE
Sidney Prale turned around and walked back along the street to the
Park, Murk once more following at a short distance, as he had been
ordered to do.
Because he wanted to think of his predicament, Prale crossed into
the Park and began following one of the paths toward the south, making
his way along it slowly, paying little attention to the persons he
passed now and then.
He crossed a drive and followed another path; and now he came to a
secluded spot where the path was hidden from passers-by on the other
walks and drives. Here the way ran through a tiny gulch, the sides of
which were banked with bushes. Squirrels scampered and birds chattered
at him, but Prale saw none of them.
He was trying to explain to himself why Kate Gilbert had warned him
to leave New York, why she had interested herself in his affairs at
all, asking himself for the thousandth time what species of net it was
in which he suddenly had found himself enmeshed without knowing the
reason for it.
He had demanded information and it had not been given him. She had
said nothing at all that gave him an inkling as to the nature of what
seemed to be a plot against him. He had been as firm as he dared, he
told himself. A man could not threaten a woman, could not use violence
in an attempt to make her speak and reveal secrets.
We'll have to work from another corner, Sidney Prale told himself.
I can't threaten a woman, but I can pummel a man; and if I meet George
Lerton again, I am liable to forget what Jim Farland told me and use my
He walked on through the tiny ravine. He came to a cross path, and a
man lurched down it and against him.
Beg pardon! Prale murmured.
Wonder you wouldn't look where you're going! the other exclaimed.
Got an idea you own the whole Park, or something like that? Men like
you shouldn't be running around loose!
You ran into me, not I into you, Prale reminded him.
As he spoke, he looked at the other closely. He saw a gigantic man
who had the general appearance of a thug, whose chin was thrust forward
aggressively, and whose hands were opening and closing as if he wished
they were around Sidney Prale's throat.
I've a notion to smash you one! the fellow said, advancing toward
Prale a bit.
Prale's temper flamed at once. His own chin was shot forward, and
his own hands closed.
If that is the way you feel about it, start in! Prale said.
Perhaps I can teach you to act decently and keep a civil tongue in
The man before him made no commenthe simply launched himself
forward like a thunderbolt. Sidney Prale darted quickly to one side,
and tossed his hat and stick on the ground. He did not have time to get
off his coat; he could not even remove his gloves.
The other, missing him in that first rush, turned and came back,
swinging his fists. Prale did not dart aside now. He put himself on
guard, braced himself against the side of the little gulch, and waited
for the attack.
They clashed, and Prale knew that he had a real fight on his hands,
for the man who had attacked him was no mean antagonist. But, after the
first real clash, Prale had no fear of the outcome. The man was brutal,
but he had no skill. He delivered blows that would have felled any
onebut they did not reach their objective.
Then a second man crashed down through the brush and joined in the
attack. Sidney Prale realized in that moment that the attack had been
premeditated and the fight forced upon him purposely. It fed fuel to
the flames of his wrath. He did not know whether this was the work of
some of his unknown enemies or whether these thugs were mere robbers
intent upon getting his wallet and watch. It made little difference to
him which they were.
With his back against the side of the gulch, he fought with what
skill he could, trying to stand off both of them. The attack had come
with a rush, and all this had occupied but a few seconds.
Presently a human whirlwind appeared and took part in the battle.
There was an angry roar from a human throat, a raucous curse, a rushing
body, the thuds of swift, hard blows. Mr. Murk had reached the scene!
The battle immediately became two-fold. Murk fought as these thugs
fought, disregarding the finer rules of combat, seeking only to put his
opponent out, no matter by what means. Murk was not unaccustomed to
fighting of that character, and he was doubly formidable now, for he
was angry at the attack on Sidney Prale. Murk had been too far away to
hear what had been said when the trouble started, but he had seen, and
he guessed immediately that some of Sidney Prale's enemies were engaged
in the attempt.
Murk went after his opponent with determination if not with skill.
He fought him down the path, and there the fellow rallied from the
surprise and rushed back. But Murk was not the sort to give ground. In
a fight, a man should stand up to another until one of them was
whipped, Murk thought.
He knew how to give blows, but not how to guard against them. He was
marked, and marked well, before the battle was a minute old, but he had
the satisfaction of seeing blood on the face of his antagonist. Foot to
foot they stood and hammered each other, and gradually Murk began
wearing the other man down.
As for Sidney Prale, now that he had but the one thug against him,
he fought with skill and cunning, knowing that the other was a bit the
stronger, but realizing that he would be victor if he used reasonable
His flare of anger had passed, and now he was fighting like a clever
pugilist. He warded off the other's powerful blows, and now and then he
slipped beneath a guard, or smashed his way through one, and sent home
a blow of his own.
At the end of three minutes, the thugs were getting much the worst
of it. Gradually they were being fought back toward the nearest
driveway. Back and back they went, but did not turn and run. Sidney
Prale sensed that they were fighting for money, that they were being
paid for this attack, and he realized that, but for the presence of
Murk, he would have had no chance whatever, and probably would be a
senseless, bleeding thing now.
None of them knew that the fight had attracted attention, but it
had. Two women, coming around a curve in the path, had seen it, and had
run back toward the nearest driveway, screeching. Two mounted policemen
hurried toward them, heard the story, and charged down the path.
The two thugs made no effort to escape. They stopped fighting, and
Prale and Murk ceased also, though the latter was eager to continue
until a decision had been rendered. Murk had fought often where there
was no interference and he disliked to be bothered now, but he desisted
at Prale's command.
Well, what's all this about? one of the officers demanded. He did
not address any of them particularly. I was walking along the path,
and these men attacked me, Sidney Prale said. My valet was a short
distance behind and he came to my assistance. I never saw these fellows
Nothin' like it! one of the thugs snarled. Me and my pal were
walkin' along this path and met these men, and the one with the stick
ordered us out of the way as if we were dogs. When we didn't move quick
enough, they jumped into us.
That's a lie Murk began.
You can settle this at the station, the officer replied. All of
you come along with us!
Prale picked up his hat and stick, took off his torn gloves and
threw them away, and motioned for Murk to walk at his side and to keep
quiet. They went to the driveway and along it, the policemen watching
the four of them closely, the thugs growling to each other and
remarking that it was a fine day when honest workingmen could not
stroll in Central Park without a dude and his valet trying to beat them
There was a short wait when the station was reached, and then, at
the lieutenant's command, one of the thugs poured forth his story. He
gave his name and address, as did the other, and both made the
statement that they were out of work at present.
Prale stepped forward and gave his name. The lieutenant stared at
him in surprise.
Why, it's the guy who croaked that man Shepley! one of the thugs
cried. There ought to be a way of stoppin' him runnin' around and
assaultin' and killin' folks. If it hadn't been for the cops
Shut up! Sidney Prale commanded loudly, ignoring the presence of
the officers. You fellows made a deliberate attack on me and you know
it. And I want to know who paid you to do itunderstand?
You're crazy! said one of the thugs.
Prale turned to the lieutenant. I'd like to have Jim Farland sent
for, he said. He has been handling things for me. I want him to
investigate these men. I have an idea that the names and addresses they
gave are fictitious. Recently enemies of mine have caused me
considerable trouble, and I feel sure that these men were hired to
attack me. Fortunately, my valet was walking a short distance behind
me, and rushed up and helped me hold them off.
I'm ready to put up bail, and so is my pal! said one of the thugs
In that case, I'll have to let you go for the present, the
lieutenant said. The charge is fighting and disorderly conduct, and
bail will be one hundred dollars in each case. You may use the
telephone if you wish, Mr. Prale.
Prale hurried to the telephone, called Jim Farland's office, and was
informed that Farland had not been there, and that the girl in charge
did not know where he was, or what he was doing, or when he would
return. Prale left instructions for Farland and went back to the desk.
This is a serious business, though it may not look like it on the
face, he said. I'd like to have these men held until we can make sure
they have given correct names and addresses.
No use holding them if they have given bail, the lieutenant
replied. I think it's nothing but a regular scrap. You can talk to the
judge later, all of you.
Prale took a roll of bills from his pocket and put up cash bail for
both Murk and himself. One of the thugs followed suit and pulling out a
roll of bills, stripped off two hundred dollars, and arranged for the
release of himself and his partner.
You seem to have a lot of money for men who are out of work, Prale
Been savin' it, and it's none of your business anyway, growled the
They started toward the door, and Prale and Murk followed them,
watched them until they started away, and then turned back to bathe
their faces and hands. Then Prale got a taxicab, and drove to the
office of a physician, who did his best to make the countenances of
Prale and Murk presentable.
It was an hour later when Jim Farland called Prale by telephone at
I've investigated that little matter, Sid, he reported. Those
fellows gave fictitious addresses, as you supposed they had done, and
it is an even bet that the names they gave were fictitious, too. No
doubt about it, Sidthey were hired to get you. You'd better be on
guard and a bit careful.
CHAPTER XVI. MURK RECEIVES A BLOW
An hour before dinner, Detective Jim Farland suddenly appeared in
Sidney Prale's suite at the hotel.
They are working on me now, Sid, he said. I got a telephone
message when I was in the office, and the gent at the other end of the
line informed me that it would be beneficial to my health if I
immediately ceased having anything to do with the Rufus Shepley murder
case and stopped working for you.
Any idea where the message came from? Prale asked.
It came from a public pay station in the subway. I had the call
traced immediately, of course. No chance of finding out who sent it,
naturally. I doubt whether I'd recognize the voice if I heard it
againcould tell by the way the fellow talked that he was trying to
disguise his tones. I told him to go to blazes, and he informed me that
I was up against something too big for a man to face, or something like
Jim, if there is any danger, I don't want you to work for me,
Sidney Prale said. You're married and a father and
And that will be about all from you, Sid! Farland interrupted.
Think I'm going to let some man who doesn't tell me his name throw a
scare into me?
But, if there is danger
I thrive on danger, said Jim Farland. Think I'm going to desert
you at this stage of the game? That is what they want, of course. If I
did, you'd probably hire another detective, and it might be one of
their own menwhoever they are. I'm in this game to stay, Sid, first
because you are an old friend of mine and I think you are being made
the victim of some sort of a dirty deal, and also because I'm not the
kind of man to be bluffed out of a job. We are going right ahead. I got
a note at the office, too.
A note! Prale gasped.
Typewritten, but not on George Lerton's battered typewriter this
time. It remarked that unless I gave up this case, somebody would make
things hard for me, or words to that effect. Old stuff! If they are so
scared that they send threatening letters, they're whipped right
nowand they know it!
I had an interesting experience this afternoon, said Prale.
I don't mean that. I met Kate Gilbert in front of the library. She
asked me to get a taxicab and drive her through the Park. I did it. She
begged me to leave New York and remain away, and said that my enemies
might not be so harsh if I did. I tried to get her to explain, and she
insisted that I knew all there was to know. She left the taxicab and
walked to her home.
I'll have to investigate that girl more thoroughly, Farland said.
She is on guard now, as far as I am concerned.
Does she know Murk by sight?
I think not.
Then here is where Murk gets a steady job for a time, Jim Farland
declared. Murk, you go up to Kate Gilbert's home and watch a bit. Give
him plenty of money, Sid, for expenses. Just see if she leaves the
place, Murk, and if so, where she goes, and to whom she talks. Get any
general information you can. Try to keep her from knowing that you are
watching her, but if she finds it out drop the chase and get back here,
and we'll put another shadow on the job. When you are sure that she has
decided to remain in her apartment for the night, report back here to
You watch me, Murk said. I never expected to be caught doin'
detective work and I reckon it's somethin' like a disgrace, but this is
a sort of special occasion.
Prale gave Murk more money, in case he would have to engage taxicabs
or follow Kate Gilbert where money would be necessary for tips and
Your face looks pretty good, but you want to remember that there
are some marks on it, Prale told him.
It's looked worse, boss, Murk replied, grinning. I'll try to do
this thing right.
Murk hurried down in the elevator and went from the hotel. He got a
cab immediately, and promised that dire things would happen to the
chauffeur if he did not get to a certain corner up beside the Park in
record time. Jim Farland had given him a badge to be used if he was
questioned by a police officer, and he was to say that he was an
operative attached to Farland's office.
Murk discharged the taxi at the proper corner, touched match to
cigarette, and walked slowly down the street toward the apartment house
where Kate Gilbert lived with her father and her maid.
Jim Farland had told him the location of the Gilbert apartment, and
Murk saw that the lights in it were burning. It was about time for
dinner, he knew.
He went to a drug store on the nearest corner and hurried into a
telephone booth. He called the apartment house and asked to be
connected with the Gilberts. A woman's hoarse voice answered his call,
and he guessed that it was the maid speaking.
Miss Kate Gilbert there? Murk asked.
Who is calling, please?
Tell her it is about that Prale affair, Murk replied.
One moment. I'll call her.
Kate Gilbert's voice came to him over the wire almost immediately.
Miss Gilbert? Murk asked. I was to tell you that
And then Murk jerked down the receiver hook, and grinned as he put
the receiver on it. Kate Gilbert would believe that a careless central
girl had cut them off and put an end to the conversation.
He had learned what he had wished to learnthat Kate Gilbert was at
home. He walked back up the street. All he had to do now was to watch,
and if Kate Gilbert left the place follow her. If she did not, Murk
would wait half an hour or so after the lights in the apartment were
turned out, to be sure that she had retired, and then would hurry back
to the hotel.
Murk watched from a distance at first, and then went slowly forward,
for he did not wish to attract attention by remaining in one position
too long. There were few persons on the block; and now and then some
automobile or taxicab would discharge a passenger and go on. Murk made
his way slowly to the end of the block, always watching the entrance of
the apartment house, crossed the street, and started back on the other
He came in front of a dark passageway between two buildings, and
went on. And out of the mouth of that dark passageway came a blow that
caused Murk to groan once and topple forward. Hands gripped his
unconscious body and drew him back into the darkness.
CHAPTER XVII. MURK IS TEMPTED
The next thing that impressed itself upon Murk's consciousness was
the fact that he had a terrific pain in the back of his head. Many
times during his career Murk had experienced similar pains. And he knew
that the best thing to do was to remain quiet for a short time, keep
his eyes closed, and gradually pull himself together.
So he pretended that he had not regained consciousness. He knew that
he had been stretched upon a bed or couch of some sort, and that his
wrists were lashed together, and his ankles. He was not gagged,
Gradually the pain ceased, Murk's senses cleared and he became aware
of what was going on around him. He could hear whispered voices, but
could not distinguish words and sentences; neither could he tell
whether the voices were those of men or women.
Finally Murk opened his eyes.
He found that he was in a small room furnished in quite an ordinary
manner. He was stretched on an old-fashioned sofa. There were a few
chairs scattered about, and a cupboard in one corner. In the middle of
the room was an ordinary table covered with a red cloth. Upon the table
a kerosene lamp was burning.
Murk groaned and made an attempt to sit up, but fell back again
because of a fit of dizziness. It became evident that his groan had
been heard in the room adjoining, for the door, which had been ajar,
now was thrown open wide, and two men entered.
Murk knew them instantly; they were the men who had attacked Sidney
Prale in the Park.
Back to earth, are you? one of them snarled. If I had my way,
you'd have been cracked on the head for good.
Murk snarled in reply, despite the fact that he was bound and at the
mercy of these men.
Sore because I smashed your face! Murk said.
That'll be about all out of you! I may take a smash at you yet!
You've got a good chance while my hands and feet are tied, Murk
replied. It's the only time you could get away with it, all right!
Turn me loose and I can clean up the two of you!
You're not doin' any cleanin' for the present, he was told.
Murk began wondering at the object of the assault upon him. He could
feel the roll of bills Prale had given him bulging his vest pocket, so
he guessed robbery was not the motive. He managed to sit up on the sofa
now, and he glared at the two thugs before him with right good will.
One of the men went back into the adjoining room, and the other
remained standing before Murk, sneering at him, his hands opening and
closing as if he would take Murk's throat in them and choke the life
out of Sidney Prale's valet and comrade in arms.
Then the man who had left the room returned, and there was another
with him. Murk looked at this stranger with sudden interest. He was
well dressed, Murk could see, but he wore an ulster that had the wide
collar turned up around his neck, and he had a mask on his facea
home-made mask that was nothing more than a handkerchief with eye slits
cut in it.
Afraid to show yourself, are you? Murk sneered. Who are youthe
The masked man pulled a chair up before the sofa and sat down. His
eyes glittered at Murk through the slits in the handkerchief.
You are not going to be harmed, my manif you are reasonable, he
Reasonable about what? Murk demanded.
We want some information and we think you can give it to us; that
I don't know much, said Murk.
Tell us why you were prowling around that house near the Park.
Maybe I was takin' a walk, Murk answered.
And maybe you were spying, as I happen to know you were. We assume
that Sidney Prale sent you to watch the comings and goings of a certain
young woman and her friends.
Go right ahead assumin'.
It will avail you nothing, my man, to adopt this attitude, Murk
was told. And it might help you a great deal if you are willing to
listen to reason.
I'm listenin', Murk replied.
You haven't been working for Sidney Prale very long, have you?
Only a few dayssince you seem to know all about it, anyway. Why
ask foolish questions?
Very well. We understand that Prale kept you from committing
suicide and then gave you a job. There is no reason why you should feel
an overwhelming gratitude for Prale. He merely got a valet cheap.
What about it? Murk growled.
Sidney Prale has a million dollars, but you'll never see much of
it. He isn't the sort of man to toss his money away. And there are
others, not particularly Prale's friends, who have many millions
Well, that ain't doin' me much good.
But it may do you a lot of good. We want information and we stand
ready to pay for it.
I guess you'll have to do a little explainin', Murk told him. I
never was any good at guessin' riddles. Life's too short to be spent
workin' out silly puzzles.
Very well, the masked man said. As you perhaps are aware, Prale
has certain enemies. That is enough for you to know, if he has not told
you more. If you can give me information concerning Sidney Prale's
plans, and tell us how much he knows, we will pay you handsomely.
I getcha, Murk said.
And if you can manage to continue working for Prale, and let us
know everything as it comes up, there'll be considerably more in it for
Want me to do the spy act, do you?
Call it whatever you like. There is a chance for you to earn some
How much? Murk demanded.
That depends upon the services you render us. But let me assure you
that you will be richly rewarded. We will not fool you or defraud you.
What do you want to know?
What is Jim Farland, the detective, doing? What has he reported to
He ain't reported much of anything, said Murk.
We want to know what Prale thinks about the situation. Tell us all
you know concerning the Rufus Shepley murder case. Has Sidney Prale
said anything you have been able to hear about the enemies who are
bothering him? You understand what we want to knoweverything possible
about Prale's plans. And we want you to watch henceforth, and keep us
informed in a way I shall explain to you.
Well, explain it! said Murk.
Scarcely, until we know that you are our man. Try to think of
things now, and tell us. Be sure you let us have everything. What you
deem unimportant may be really important to us.
I'd feel a lot more friendly to you gents if you'd untie me, said
Murk. I can't talk business when I'm treated like a prisoner, or
somethin' like that.
You'll be untied as soon as we feel sure of you, and not before,
Murk was told. We are not taking chances with you. Are you going to
work for us?
I'm not sure that the proposition looks good to me, Murk said. I
make a deal with a man whose face I can't see, and do the dirty
workand then maybe you turn me down cold and don't give me a cent,
and I lose my job with Mr. Prale and get in a nice fix. Don't you
suppose I got some common sense?
Make the deal with us, and you shall have five hundred dollars in
cash before you leave this room, the masked man promised. And, take
my word for it, you'll be rewarded richly if you serve us well.
Well, I don't know much about this business, Murk said. You know
I ain't been with Mr. Prale very long. All I know is that he's got some
enemies who are tryin' to get the best of him. He says he ain't guilty
of that murder charge, and I happen to know he ain't, because he was
with me when Shepley was killed.
Maybe you both had a hand in the killing, the masked man said.
And if you don't come to terms with us, you may find yourself in jail
charged with being an accessory.
You can't bluff me, and you can't threaten me and get away with
it! Murk cried.
Softlysoftly! said the masked man. I was merely showing you
where you stand.
Well, don't start talkin' to me that way, if you want to do
business with me. If I'm goin' to work for you, I've got to know what's
what. Who's got it in for Mr. Prale, and why? That's what I want to
know. And what is it you're tryin' to do to him? How can I help if I
Some of the wealthiest and most influential men in the city are
against Sidney Prale. They are determined to run him away from this,
his old home town. They are going to strip him of his fortune if they
can. They are going to grind him down until he is nothing better than a
Well, why are they goin' to do all this?
It is not necessary for you to know at present. Perhaps you will
learn that from Sidney Prale, if you keep your ears and eyes open. All
we want you to do is to watch and listen and make frequent reports to
us. You'll have to be loyal to us, of course. If you are not, we shall
But what did Mr. Prale ever do to get such a bunch down on him?
You'll find that out in timemaybe.
I guess I'd better know right now.
It is not necessary. Besides, we are not sure of you yet, please
How could you ever be sure of me? Murk cried. If I threw down Mr.
Prale, wouldn't I be liable to throw you down, if somebody happened
along and raised the price? Why, you simp, I wouldn't turn against Mr.
Prale for a million dollars! He's treated me decent, and he was the
first man who ever did that! I was just stringin' you, you fool! Mr.
Prale himself don't know why your gang is causin' him trouble, and I
was tryin' to pump you and find out!
So he has told you that he doesn't know why he has enemies?
He hasand he told the truth. There's something phony about that
murder case; somebody's tryin' to frame him. And when Jim Farland gets
through, somebody is goin' to jail!
So you will not work for us?
You're right; I won't. Maybe I don't amount to much, but I'm mighty
square compared to some people I know about.
And what do you suppose is going to become of you, if you refuse to
do as I say?
I guess I'll manage to struggle along, Murk said.
We'll see about that! the masked man replied, getting up from the
chair. Perhaps a night spent in your present position, without food or
water, will cause you to change your mind. If it does not, there are
other methods that can be used.
Goin' to pull rough stuff, are you? Murk sneered. Go as far as
you like! You can manhandle me, but you can't make me turn against
Sidney Prale. That's a golden little thought for to-day, as the
CHAPTER XVIII. A WOMAN'S WAY
The masked man stepped forward, snarling behind his mask, his hands
closing, and the two thugs stepped forward also, as if to use Murk
roughly if the other gave the command.
But there was an interruption. Kate Gilbert came in from the
The masked man whirled to meet her.
You should not he began.
It makes no difference, Kate Gilbert said. This man knows me, or
he would not have been set to spying on me. Sidney Prale knows that I
am associated with his enemies, since I was talking to him to-day. It
is not necessary for me to mask my face!
It really was not necessary for you to come, said the masked man.
This fellow refuses to have anything to do with us.
I cannot blame him. You used violence to get him here. I am afraid
that I should refuse to have business relations with a man who knocked
me on the head.
It was the only way. We couldn't approach him on the street very
well. We have him here now and perhaps may be able to force him to see
I shall not countenance more violence! Kate Gilbert said. I told
you in the beginning that force was not to be used. This man is not to
be blamed in any way. He merely is an employee of the man we are
I think it justifiable to use any method that will get results,
the masked man told her. You seem to forget
I do not forget! Kate Gilbert cried. Who has a better right to
hope to see Sidney Prale punished? Who has suffered more than I and
mine? But I do not wish to see violence used. This man may be made to
help us, but I fear you have taken the wrong method. And what do you
intend doing now?
Perhaps it will be as well for you to return home and allow us to
handle this part of the affair, the masked man told her. No woman
likes violence, of course, but at times it is necessary. We are going
to leave him here to-night to think things over. He will be stiff and
sore and hungry in the morning.
But Kate Gilbert protested.
It is the better way, I assure youand quite necessary. This thing
is so big that it must be handled with firmness and decision. You have
aided us greatly, but I think it will be a mistake to let you take
command of the situation.
Kate Gilbert's eyes flashed angrily, and her face flushed.
Very well, sir, she said. But let me talk to this man alone.
Perhaps common sense and kindness will prevail where violence did not.
I sincerely hope so.
I am willing to let you talk to him, but you are to be guarded in
your speech. Tell him nothing about the real affair; we want to be sure
of him before we take him fully into our confidence. All we wish him to
do is to keep us informed about Prale and Jim Farland, and any others
who may be helping Prale.
I understand, and I am not quite a fool! Kate Gilbert told him,
The masked man motioned the two thugs out of the room, and then
followed them, closing the door behind him. Kate Gilbert sat down in
the chair before the sofa, and looked at Murk.
First, I want you to know that I had nothing to do with the blow
you received, she said. That was going a bit too far. I knew nothing
of it until I received a telephone message saying that you were spying
on the place where I live, and that you had been captured and brought
I understand that, lady, Murk replied.
I know that you have been with Mr. Prale only a few days. If he
were in your place now, I might be inclined to turn my back and let
those men handle him. But you are not to be blamed for the faults of
No, ma'am, said Murk.
I am going to tell you only this much: Sidney Prale committed a
great wrong against several persons. Those persons have banded together
to have vengeance. Sidney Prale deserves everything that can happen to
I think you've got him wrong, ma'am, said Murk. He's even accused
of murder, and I know he ain't guilty.
Neither do I believe that he is guilty of that crime, but that has
nothing to do with this other affair. The persons who are banded
together against Sidney Prale have nothing to do with the murder
charge, I am sure.
I reckon he'll be glad to know that. But you've got him wrong in
this other thing, lady. Mr. Prale is worried almost to death because he
don't know who his enemies are, or why they are causin' him a lot of
He has led you to believe that? she asked.
I know he's tellin' the truth, ma'am. He's got a detective workin'
tryin' to find out what it all means.
Then he is fooling you, and the detective also. Sidney Prale knows
who his enemies are, and why they are troubling him. He tried to tell
me that he did not know, and almost in the same breath he told me
something that convinced me he did know. You have received an offer to
help us. Are you willing?
I don't intend to turn against Mr. Prale! Murk declared. I ain't
a man like that! These gents can keep me here and starve me and beat me
up, and that's all the good it'll do 'em. I know a man when I see one,
and Mr. Prale's a man, and a square man, and I'm goin' to stand by
He has fooled you! You do not know him for the scoundrel that he
Maybe it's you that's bein' fooled, lady.
No. If you knew all, you would understand.
Well, why don't you tell me, then? If you prove to me that Mr.
Prale is a crook or somethin', and that you people ain't, maybe I'll
change my mind about some things.
I can tell you nothing now, except that I am right and that Sidney
Prale is fooling you, Kate Gilbert said.
Then I'll stay right here and take my beatin' at the hands of them
You will do nothing of the kind, she said. I will not see them
use violence toward you.
I don't see how you're goin' to help it, ma'am.
I am going to have you released. You may return to Sidney Prale and
tell him that we intend to punish him, but that I, for one, will not
resort to violence. He may fight unfairly, but we do not. She lowered
her voice and bent toward him. I'll attract their attention, and send
my maid to release you, she said. Remain where you are.
Without another word, Kate Gilbert got up and left the room, closing
the door behind her. In the other room were the masked man, the two
thugs, and Marie, the maid.
I have talked to him, and I have a plan, Kate Gilbert told the
others. Marie, I wish you to do something for me. Take the taxicab and
go on the errand, and after I am done here I will go home in another
She stepped across to the maid and gave her whispered instructions,
while the men waited. Marie left the room, walked through the hall, and
left the house. Kate Gilbert sat down at the table and called the
others to her.
That man is loyal to Prale, she explained. Prale has fooled him.
He honestly believes that Prale does not know his enemies or why he is
being bothered, and he is grateful to Prale for what Prale has done for
him. So, naturally, he refuses to turn against his employer.
If you will leave the matter in my hands the masked man
I may do so after we have had this little talk. Come closer, so I
can speak in a low tone and he will not hear.
They pulled their chairs up to the table.
This man is stubborn, she said. You could starve him or beat him,
and it would do you not the slightest good. It would only make him the
more determined to be faithful to Prale. We would gain nothing. We've
got to convince him that we are in the right.
I object to telling him the whole truth, said the masked man.
He could do nothing except tell it to Praleand Prale knows it
already, doesn't he? Kate Gilbert asked.
You want to let the fellow go? the masked man cried. Why, we can
use him as a sort of hostage!
As if Sidney Prale would care if he never saw his valet again!
He is more than a valet; he is one of Prale's spies! If we can hold
this man prisoner, and attend to Jim Farland, that detective, Prale
would stand alone. There are not many men he would trust to help him.
And, if he stands alone, it will be easier for us to torment him, cause
him trouble, drive him away!
Sometimes I regret that we started this thing, Kate Gilbert said.
What will it avail us to make Prale's life miserable?
You seem to forget
I forget nothing! I know how I have suffered, how my father and
others have suffered. But I am not sure that retribution will not visit
Sidney Prale even if we keep our hands off.
You're a woman; that is why! the masked man accused. You have a
soft heart, as is right and proper in a woman. But when you remember
I am not quitting! she declared. I will continue the game. But I
will not permit violence toward anybody, least of all to a poor fellow
who has nothing to do with the affair except that he is working for
Sidney Prale. We can accomplish our aims without becoming thugs and
breaking laws ourselves. I understood that we always were to keep
inside the law.
Well, what have you to suggest? the masked man asked.
Let Prale's valet go, for he can do us no harm. Prale knows that I
am against him, but he can make no move unless we break the law and his
detective has us apprehended. We play into Sidney Prale's hands if we
do that. Can't you see it? We do not want to give him an advantage, do
we? If we use violence or break a law, we do just that. We must break
him down cleverly.
I see that point, all right.
I am astonished that you did not see it before. You appear to be
very vindictive lately, yet you did not suffer as some others
I have my reasons. I always have hated Sidney Prale.
Then you are making this fight for personal reasons?
Do not forget that some very good friends of mine suffered because
of Prale. But, about the valet
Let him go, I say. What harm can he do?
We slugged him to get him here. He can report it to the police, and
have you arrested, and these two men.
And what evidence would he have? she asked. Who would testify
that he was telling the truth? These two men can keep out of sight for
the present. He has not seen your face because of your mask. And to
charge me with slugging him would be ridiculous.
Is vacant, so far as the neighbors know; it is owned by a man whose
wife died, and who has been gone for more than a year. The agent who
rented it to us furnished, is one of us. We can simply close it up and
not come here again. If he complained, and the police investigated,
they would find the house closed, and the nearest neighbors would
declare that it had been closed since the owner went away. The
furniture is not even dusted.
That part is all right.
And that attack on Prale in the Park during the afternoon! she
went on. That was a mistake. Suppose Detective Farland managed to
connect that with us. I tell you we must not break a law, or Sidney
Prale may get the advantage!
We can't handle an affair like this with kid gloves! the masked
We do as I say, or I shall go to Sidney Prale and tell him
everything and rob you of your vengeance!
You would do that! the masked man cried, springing from his chair.
I'll do it if there is any more violence! she declared. It was
understood that no rough tactics were to be used, and I demand that we
carry out the original plan!
We'll see about this! the masked man cried. I'll talk to some of
And I'll leave the game if there is any more violencedo not
forget that! Kate Gilbert cried.
She continued to talk and plan, for she was fighting for time. She
had known that, at the last moment, this man would refuse to release
Marie, the big maid, had hurried from the house, which sat far back
from the street and was surrounded by trees. But she had returned after
watching for a few minutes.
Murk, sitting on the sofa, heard somebody at one of the windows. He
watched the sash being raised slowly and cautiously, and after a time
saw the head of Marie. She motioned him for silence, listened a moment,
and then crawled inside.
Marie hurried across to Murk and fumbled with the cords that bound
his wrists together behind his back. The bonds slipped away, and Murk
made quick work of the one around his ankles. He hurried across the
room, got through the window, and helped the big maid through. Marie
led him toward the street.
Come right along with me! she commanded, when they were some
distance from the house.
Thanks for helpin' me out, but I guess I'll hang around, Murk
replied. I'm right eager to get a look at the face of the man who was
wearing the mask.
I supposed you'd want to do that, the big maid told him. And
that's what I've got orders to keep you from doing. You come along with
Murk got a surprise. Marie gripped his shoulder with her left
handand it was no gentle grip. Then he saw that she was holding an
automatic pistol in her right hand.
There is a taxi at the corner, she informed Murk. We are going to
get into it and drive back to the city. You may be able to find this
house afterward, but I doubt it.
Suppose I take a notion not to go? Murk asked.
I'm not afraid to shoot, Marie informed him.
Aw, let me go! he exclaimed. You're in wrong in this deal; see? I
tell you that Mr. Prale, my boss, is an all-right man, and you people
are makin' some kind of a mistake.
I like to see a man stick up for his boss, replied the gigantic
Marie. And I'm stickin' up for mine right this minute, and she told me
to see that you went to town. Why don't you quit that man Prale and get
a real job with a gentleman? You're not a bad-looking man at all.
Murk felt himself blushing at this unexpected announcement. Praise
from the lips of a woman was something new in his life. He glanced at
the amazon beside him.
And you're sure some woman! he said. And that ain't just nice
talkI sure mean it! But you ain't got this from the right angle. I've
got to work for Mr. Prale. I'd be a dead one this minute if it wasn't
for him. If I didn't stick by him now, I'd never be able to look at
myself in a shavin' mirror again. You don't want me to be an ungrateful
pup, do you? You see
Having directed her attention to another topic for a moment, Murk
put his plan into action. He made a quick lunge forward as he spoke,
springing a bit to one side as he did so, and trying to seize the
automatic and tear it from her grasp.
But the gigantic Marie had been anticipating something like that,
despite Murk's speech and his manner that said he was a willing
captive. She lurched forward and hurled Murk back, sprang after him,
crashed the butt of the weapon against the side of his head, and then,
while he was a trifle groggy from the blow, she grasped him with her
powerful hands and piloted him toward the street with strength and
Never try to play them child's tricks on me! she announced.
Murk regarded her with mingled admiration and chagrin, and spoke
Some woman! he commented.
CHAPTER XIX. COADLEY QUITS
Murk, compelled to ride back to the city in the taxicab with Marie,
spent the time in ordinary conversation with the amazon, and told
himself repeatedly that she was a great woman, a dangerous state of
mind for a bachelor.
The only reason Murk wanted to remain in the vicinity of the cottage
was to catch a sight of the countenance of the man who had worn the
mask. As far as the cottage itself was concerned, he had noticed a
signboard on a street corner not far from it, and he would be able to
locate it again if Sidney Prale or Jim Farland thought it necessary.
Marie stopped the taxicab near the Park, and Murk got out and
gallantly offered to pay the bill for his enemy, but Marie would not
Hope to see you often and get to know you better when this little
scrap is over, Murk made bold to say, and then, chuckling at her
retort, he started walking down the street.
He did not care to ride, for it was not so very many blocks to the
hotel, and Murk wanted time to formulate in his mind the report he
intended to make to his employer.
Prale was waiting for him, and Murk told his story in detail and
So Kate Gilbert had you freed, did she? Prale said. And she told
the others that she would quit them if they used any more violence?
Murk, old boy, when our foes begin fighting in their own camp it is
time for us to begin to hope. A house divided against itself cannot
stand, as you probably have heard.
She certainly panned the man who wore the handkerchief over his
face, Murk said. I think I'd know him again, boss. He talked a good
deal, remember, and he got careless toward the last and used his
regular voice. And I watched his handsboob didn't have sense enough
to wear gloves. Anybody but a boob would know that a hand can be
recognized as easy as a face.
Let us hope that they make a lot of mistakes like that, Murk,
Prale replied. I'll be glad if we ever solve this confounded mystery.
It's getting on my nerves.
They remained up until one o'clock in the morning, but Jim Farland
neither visited the hotel again nor called them up, and so they went to
They did not rise early, but had breakfast in the suite and took
their time about eating it. After that, they waited for Farland to
arrive or telephone and give orders and tell news. Farland did not
come, but Attorney Coadley did.
Murk admitted him, and the distinguished criminal lawyer sat in the
window beside Prale, a grave expression on his face, his manner that of
a disconcerted man.
I gather you do not bring good news, judging from your
countenance, Prale said.
At least, I have not come to say that the case against you is any
stronger, Coadley replied. I'd like to speak to you alone, Mr.
Certainly. You may go into the other room, Murk, and remain until I
Murk obeyed, and Sidney Prale bent forward in his chair and looked
at the attorney again, wondering what this visit meant, what was
coming, half fearing that the news would be ill after all.
Mr. Prale, Coadley said, I have come here to your apartment to
tell you that I wish you to get another attorney.
I beg your pardon! Prale gasped.
I wish to withdraw from the case, Mr. Pralethat is all. An
attorney does that frequently, you know.
But I want you to handle my case, Prale said. I have been given
to understand that you are one of the foremost criminal lawyers in the
city. And you have done so much already
I insist that I withdraw, Mr. Prale. I shall be ethical. I shall
give the man you name in my place all the knowledge at my command
regarding this case, and I shall see that the change does not embarrass
you or place you in jeopardy. The court will grant extensions if they
Farland has given me to understand that my alibi now is of such a
nature that the case against me may be dismissed. I had hoped that you
had come here this morning to tell me so.
I fancy that any good attorney can get the charge dismissed,
But I do not want to be freed under a cloud. I want the public to
be sure I did not kill Rufus ShepleyI want to have the public know
the identity of the man who did.
That is what I thought, and that will take considerable time,
perhaps, Coadley said. And so I wish to withdraw
If it is a question of fee
Nothing of the sort, Mr. Prale. I am sure you would pay me any
reasonable fee I asked. There is no question regarding your financial
May I ask, then, why you desire to leave the case? Sidney Prale
I'd rather not state my reasons, Mr. Prale. Just let me withdraw,
and make arrangements with the court, after you have named the man to
take my place. The bail arrangement will stand, of course.
So you do not care to tell your reasons! Prale said. Mr. Coadley,
a banker refused to handle my funds. A hotel manager ordered me out,
you might say, for no good reason whatever. I understand that I have
some powerful enemies who are working in the dark, and who cause these
annoyances. Do you wish me to understand, Mr. Coadley, that they have
been to see you? Do you wish me to think that you are under the thumbs
of these persons, whoever they may be?
The attorney's face flushed, and he looked angry for an instant, but
quickly controlled himself.
I do not care to go into details, Mr. Prale, he said.
Then it is the truth! Prale said. The big criminal lawyer is not
so big but that others can force him to do as they please.
Let us say as I please, Mr. Prale.
Then you think that you have a good reason for withdrawing?
In other words, something has been told you that convinced you I am
not a fit client. Is that it? And, instead of telling me what it is,
and giving me a chance to refute the charge or explain, you simply take
the easiest course and believe my enemies. Do you call that an example
of the square deal?
Let us not talk about it further, Mr. Prale, Coadley replied. I
feel quite sure that you have a complete understanding of the
But I have not! I seem to be able to understand nothing in regard
to this affair of which I am the central figure. I would give half my
fortune, I believe, to have an explanation and be able to set things
No doubt you would be willing to give half your fortune to set
things right! Coadley said. It is your privilege, of course, to say
that you do not understand. Mr. Prale, you must see that this interview
is painful to me, and it must be painful to you. Why prolong it?
As far as I am concerned, this interview may be terminated at once,
sir! Sidney Prale exclaimed. I'll send you a check for your services
as soon as you submit your bill; and please do not neglect to do so at
once. I'll inform you as soon as possible of the name of the man I
select to fill your legal shoes in this matter. That is satisfactory?
Very well. Murk!
Murk hurried in from the adjoining room when he heard Sidney Prale's
Show Mr. Coadley to the hall door, Murk! Sidney Prale said. And
while you are about it, please close that ventilator in the corner of
the room. It creates a draft, I am sure, and Mr. Coadley already has
The attorney glared at Prale, and then got up and walked quickly
across to the door, which the grinning Murk held open to let him pass
CHAPTER XX. UP THE RIVER
Coadley had not gone for more than an hour when Detective Jim
Farland arrived at the hotel and made his way immediately to Sidney
He found Prale pacing the floor angrily, and Murk sitting in a
corner and watching him. The police detective, after doing duty for a
few days, had been withdrawn, as it seemed evident that Prale had no
intention of jumping his bail or eluding trial in any other way.
What's the trouble now? Farland asked.
Coadley has just been here, Prale replied. He has quit us. Our
friends the enemy have reached him.
You couldn't get any sort of an explanation out of him? Farland
Nothing at all. He simply informed me that he was done, and that I
had to get another lawyer.
I'll try to find an honest one for you, Farland declared. I
happen to know a clever young chap who probably will take the case,
especially if I explain the thing to him, for he loves a fight. There
is no special hurry, but I'll try to attend to it some time to-day.
Anything new? Prale asked.
That is what I am waiting to hear. What did you do last night,
Murk related his adventure at length, while Jim Farland listened
gravely, nodding his head now and then, and looking puzzled at times.
I'd like to know the identity of that masked man, the detective
said, when Murk had finished. The main trouble in this case is that we
do not know the people we are fighting. We know that Kate Gilbert is
one of them, and have reason to suspect that George Lerton is another.
But there is somebody bigger behind, and that's a fact.
What are you going to do next? Prale asked.
I'm going to pay a little attention to the Rufus Shepley murder
case. I'm going to find out, if I can, who killed Shepley, and why. I
am of the opinion that the murder is distinct from this other trouble,
Sid. Perhaps a clew to the murder, however, will give us a clew to the
whole thing, for it is certain that somebody has attempted to hang that
crime on you.
How about George Lerton? Prale asked.
We know that he tried to help smash your alibi by telling a
falsehood, and by sending those notes to the barber and the merchant.
But we do not know his motive, unless it is simply a hatred of you,
Sid, and envy of the million dollars you got in Honduras. I'm going to
get out of here now, and get busy.
Anything for us to do? Prale asked.
Keep out of troublethat is the principal thing. It appears that
every time either of you goes out, you get knocked on the head. I'll
report again as soon as I can.
Jim Farland left them and hurried from the hotel. He went to the
hostelry where Rufus Shepley had met his death, was admitted to the
suite, and made an exhaustive investigation, which revealed nothing of
He visited the New York offices of the company in which Shepley had
been interested, and questioned officials and clerks, but got no
inkling of a state of affairs that might have led to a murder. He was
told that the company's business was in proper shape, and that Rufus
Shepley had had no financial trouble of any sort so far as his
Farland left the office and continued his investigations. In the
evening he went to his home for a meal, and admitted to himself that he
did not know any more than when he had started out that morning.
It gets my goat! he said to his reflection in the bathroom mirror.
I'll have to begin working from some other starting point. I've made a
mistake somewhere, or overlooked something that I should have seen.
Makes me sore!
The telephone bell rang, and Farland went to the instrument to hear
the voice of a man he did not know.
I understand that you are interested in the Shepley murder case,
his caller said.
I am working on it, yes. Who is talking? Farland demanded.
I'm not ready to mention any names. If you want to hang up, go
ahead and you'll miss something important. Or if you want to listen for
I'll listen! Farland said.
I know a lot about that Shepley case, but I am in a position where
I have to be careful. If you'll do as I say, you can learn something
you'd like to know.
What do you want me to do? Farland asked.
Meet me in some place where nobody will see us talking, and I'll
tell you a few things. But I must have your promise that you'll not
reveal the source of the information.
I'll protect you, unless you are mixed up in it to such an extent
that I'd dare not do so, Farland said. I'm not guaranteeing to shield
any murderer or accessory.
I had nothing to do with the murder, if that is what you mean,
came the reply.
Then where do you want me to meet youand when? Can you make it
Yes; and suppose that you set the meeting place, one that you know
will be all right for both of us.
Farland was glad to listen to that sentence. He had half believed
that this was nothing more than a trap, that some of Sidney Prale's
mysterious enemies were attempting to lure him to some out-of-the-way
place and get him in their power. But if he was to be allowed to name
the meeting place, it seemed to indicate that everything was all right
in that regard.
Farland though a moment, and then suggested a certain famous
restaurant on Broadway and a table in a corner of the main room, where
a man could lose himself in the crowd. But that did not meet with the
approval of the man at the other end of the telephone wire.
Nothing doing in that place, he said. One of the men interested
in this thing hangs out there almost every evening. He'd be sure to see
us, he knows how much I know about it, and he'd suspect things in a
second if he saw me talking to you. Then it'd be made hot for me. I've
got to protect myself, of course.
Suggest a place yourself, Farland said.
Make it outside somewhere. How about some place in Riverside Park?
Suits me, Farland replied.
The man at the other end of the wire gave the directions after much
seeming speculation and many changes. Jim Farland was to go to Grant's
Tomb, and from there to a certain place near the river. The other man
would be in the neighborhood watching, he said, would recognize Farland
as he passed the Tomb, and then would follow and speak to him when
nobody else was near.
Farland agreed, and made the engagement for an hour and a half
later, saying that he could not get there before that time. It would
not be the first time that Jim Farland had obtained an important clew
because somebody interested had grown disgruntled and had turned
against his pals; and he supposed this to be a case of that sort.
Before leaving home, Farland made sure that his automatic was in
excellent condition, and that he had his handcuffs and electric torch
and other paraphernalia of his trade. He made his way to Columbus
Circle, having decided to walk to the rendezvous. Farland was in no
hurry. He observed all who passed him, and he frequently made
experiments to ascertain whether he was being followed. He decided,
after a time, that if he was being shadowed the person doing it was too
clever for him.
He came to Riverside Drive through a cross street, and approached
the famous Tomb as cautiously as possible, keeping in the shadows,
alert to discover anybody who might be acting at all suspiciously.
Farland felt sure that this was no trap, but he was not taking chances.
He always had been known to his friends as a cautious man.
He reached the Tomb finally, and glanced around. Half a dozen
persons were passing, some men and some women, some alone and others in
couples, but none were of suspicious appearance.
Farland glanced at his watch to be sure that it was the appointed
time. He strolled around the Tomb and waited ten minutes longer, for he
did not care to find later that he had left the appointed spot too
early and that the other man had not seen and followed him.
At the end of the extra ten minutes, Farland lighted one of his big,
black cigars and started walking toward the river, following the route
the other man had designated over the telephone. He walked slowly and
not for an instant did he throw caution aside.
Here and there were dark spots where Farland expected to hear his
name spoken, spots where an attack might be made if one was
contemplated by foes.
It was as he was passing one of these that a whisper came from the
The detective whirled toward the sound, one hand diving into a coat
pocket and clutching his automatic.
Be as silent as possible. Do not flash your torch yet; you may do
so presently, so you can see who is talking. I am the man who called
you up by telephone.
Come out where I can get a glimpse of you, Farland commanded,
ready for trouble.
He could see a shadow detach itself from the patch of gloom in front
of him and approach.
That is close enough for the present! Farland said. I'm not
taking chances on you until I know who's talking to me.
I don't blame you, Mr. Farland, under the circumstances. If you are
sure there is nobody approaching, I'll come out into the light so you
can see my face.
Farland glanced up and down the walk quickly. As he did so, he heard
a step behind him. He whirled, the automatic came from his pocket ready
for useand a man crashed into him.
The one who had been talking from the patch of shadow rushed forward
at the same instant. Farland managed to fire once, but the shot went
wild. Then a third man rushed from the darkness, and the detective had
the automatic torn away, and found that he had a battle on his hands.
One man was upon his back, throttling him so that he could not utter
a cry. The others were trying to throw him to the ground. Farland
wondered whether that single shot had been heard, whether assistance
would reach him, for he knew that here was a battle he could not win by
Finally they got him down. Something was thrust into his mouth and
bandaged there, effectually gagging him. He was turned over on his
face, and his wrists were lashed behind him. Then his ankles were
fastened, and two of the men, at the whispered instruction of the
third, picked him up like a sack of meal and carried him into the deep
They did not stop there, but continued toward the river, holding a
conversation in whispers at times, and stopping now and then for a
moment to rest and listen. Farland had been quiet, gathering his
strength, and suddenly he began to struggle.
It was nothing worse than annoyance for his opponents. He was unable
to make an outcry that would attract attention, and he was unable to
put up an effective fight. They threw him upon the ground again and
held him there.
Another little trick like that, and we'll give you something to
keep you quiet, one of the men whispered into his ear. We've got you,
and you'd better let it go at that!
Once more they picked him up and went toward the river. They reached
it, and one of the men hurried away while the other two guarded
Farland. Five minutes passed, and then a powerful motor boat slipped
toward the shore. An instant later Farland was aboard it, a prisoner,
and the boat was rushing through the great river toward the north.
Farland made an attempt to watch the lights along the shore, but one
of the men threw a sack over his face, so that he could not see. And so
he merely listened to the beating of the boat's engine, and tried to
estimate with what speed they were running and how much mileage the
craft was covering.
The sack was heavy, and Jim Farland felt himself half smothered, the
perspiration pouring from his face and neck. He had grown angry for a
moment, angry at himself for walking into the trap even while
suspecting that one might exist, angry at these three men who had
captured him so close to Riverside Drive.
Then his rage passed. He was experienced enough to know that an
angry man is at a disadvantage in a game of wits, and that wits and
nothing else could get him out of the present predicament.
Finally, he felt the boat turning, the speed was cut off, and it
drifted against something. Farland was lifted out of the motor boat,
but one of the men held the sack over his head, and he was unable to
see. Once more he was carried, this time away from the river, and he
could tell nothing except that the men who carried him were struggling
up a sharp slope.
Farland made no attempt to fight or struggle now, knowing that it
would avail him nothing to attempt to throw off these three men. He had
decided to conserve his strength, and to trust to his usual good
fortune to get a chance later to even things by turning the tables on
Suddenly the sack was taken from his head, and he was able to
breathe better. He found that he was beside a road in which stood an
automobile. Two of the men lifted him, tossed him inside the machine,
and then got in themselves. The driver started the engine, threw in the
clutch, and soon the car was being driven at a furious pace along the
Look around all you want to! one of Farland's captors growled at
him. You won't even know where you are when you get there!
CHAPTER XXI. RECOGNITION
Through a maze of crossing and winding roads the car made its way,
now over highways as smooth as a city pavement, and now over rough
mileage that jolted the occupants and threatened the springs with
Jim Farland did not recognize this particular district. He did not
even know upon which side of the river he was being hauled along as a
prisoner. In the city proper, his abductors would have found it very
difficult to take him to a section where he could not have recognized
some sort of a landmark, but here they had him at a serious
The night was dark, too, and a fine drizzle was falling. Farland
tugged at his bonds when he could, and finally convinced himself that
they would not give. He tried to work one end of the gag from the
corner of his mouth and found that he could not do that. He was utterly
helpless for the time being, at the mercy of the three men who had
kidnaped him, and the chauffeur, and whoever might be where they were
For half an hour longer the car made its way across the country, and
then Farland noticed that it left the principal thoroughfare and turned
into a rough, narrow lane that was bordered with big trees. At the end
of a quarter of a mile of this lane, the chauffeur brought the car to a
stop. Farland could see a building that had the appearance of being an
He was lifted from the car and carried to the door. One of the men
threw it open, and Farland was carried inside. They took him through a
hall, turned into a room, and tossed him upon a couch in a corner
there. One of them struck a match, lighted a lamp, and then they turned
to survey him.
Farland glared at them, waited for them to speak. They were making
no attempt to hide their features. Typical thugs they were, the three
of them, and Farland supposed that the chauffeur, who had not come into
the house with the others, belonged to the same class.
One of them stepped forward and removed Farland's gag, while another
went into another room and presently returned with a dipper of water,
which he held to Farland's lips. He drank greedily, for the gag had
parched his mouth and throat.
Bein' as how you are a copper, I'd slip a knife between your ribs
and call it a good job, one of the men told him, but we are supposed
to treat you nice and keep you in condition for a little talk with the
boss. So you needn't tremble with fear any.
It'd take more than three bums like you to make me afraid! Farland
Nasty, ain't you? Maybe we'll get a little chance to beat you up
later, especially if your little talk with the boss ain't what they
call productive of results. You've got some reputation as a dick, but I
reckon it's all a fake. We didn't have much trouble gettin' you and
bringin' you here.
Isn't that enough to make you worry a bit? Farland asked.
How do you mean?
Did you ever stop to think that maybe I wanted to be captured and
hauled here? Have you any idea how many men watched and trailed us?
You've led me to where I wanted to come, to a place I wanted to find,
That bluff won't work, came the reply. We had a couple of men
watchin' for that very thing, and they'd have given us a high sign if
we had been followed. You're here all by your lonesome, and so you'd
better be good.
Two of the men left the room, and the third sat down by the table to
act as guard. Fifteen minutes passed, during which Jim Farland and the
man by the table exchanged pleasant remarks concerning each other,
neither getting much the best of the argument.
Then the hall door was opened again, and a masked man entered the
Remembering what Murk had related to him concerning his experience
of the night before, Jim Farland looked up at this newcomer with sudden
This man, undoubtedly, was a sort of leader, one who had hired
others to help him in his work and who knew the identities of Sidney
Prale's mysterious enemies, and why they were working against him;
perhaps, also, the man who could tell a good deal about the murder of
Farland did not betray too much interest, though, for he sensed that
he was opposed to a person of brains and cunning, a different type from
the thugs he hired to work for him. So the detective merely blinked his
eyes rapidly as he looked up at the other and waited for him to speak.
You are Jim Farland, a detective?
The voice was low and harsh, a monotone, a disguised voice in fact.
Jim Farland knew that at once.
That's my name, and some people are kind enough to say that I am a
detective, Farland replied. What's the idea of treating me rough like
I regret that violence was necessary to get you here, Mr. Farland,
the masked man replied, but it seemed to be the only way in which I
could get a chance to talk to you freely without subjecting myself to
Why regret? Farland asked.
Because I want you for my friend instead of my enemy, Mr. Farland,
and I fancy that we may be able to come to terms. I shall send this man
of mine from the room and submit a proposition to you. I hope you see
fit to accept it.
He motioned for the other man to leave, which he did immediately,
closing the hall door behind him. Then the masked man sat down in the
chair by the table.
Farland was watching him closely now. The collar of his coat and the
handkerchief mask effectually shielded his face and head. But, as Murk
had told, this man did not have the common sense to cover his hands,
and Farland looked at them when he could, careful not to let the other
suspect his object.
I am the man who talked to Mr. Prale's valet last night, Farland
heard the other say. In some manner, the valet escaped, and so we were
obliged to have you brought here instead of to the place where we had
him, and which was considerably nearer the city. I regret it if the
long ride annoyed you, but you will appreciate that it was necessary
for my men to bind and gag you.
It certainly was if they expected to get me here! Jim Farland
He heard the masked man chuckle.
I understand that you have been engaged by Sidney Prale to clear
him of the charge of murdering Rufus Shepley.
I don't mind admitting that, since the whole city knows it, said
And also to aid Sidney Prale in outwitting certain persons who are
trying to punish him for something he did.
I don't know anything about that. I do know that some people are
trying to make things hot for Sid Prale, and he doesn't deserve it,
Pardon me, if I interrupt! the masked man said. You say that he
does not deserve it. Do you believe that influential persons would
persecute him if he did not deserve it?
Sid Prale doesn't know what it is all about!
That is what he told the valet, too. But believe me when I say that
he does know what it is all about, and is deceiving you when he says
What has all this to do with me? Jim Farland demanded. Did you
have me brought here to argue the case with me?
I had you brought here because I want you to cease working for
Sidney Prale. I want you to go back to him and tell him that you are
As Coadley, the attorney, did?
Your people must be men of influence if they can buy off Coadley
Perhaps Coadley was shown that it would wreck his future if he
continued working for Prale.
Well, you can't wreck my future, because I haven't any, Farland
Do not be too sure of that, Mr. Farland. Agree to my proposition
and you may have a great future. You may find business thrown your way.
You may find yourself able to spread out, have a protective service,
become a wealthy man. If you give up the Prale case, we'll see that you
are paid cash immediately, of course, in lieu of the fee you would
receive from Praleand considerably more than he would pay you.
I suppose that would appeal to a lot of men, Jim Farland said,
but it isn't the right bait to use if you are eager to catch me. I
have all the business I want. I can make a living for myself and my
small family, and we do not hanker after riches. A larger business
would make me a human machine, and I'd rather just drift along and be
an ordinary good husband and father. I'd rather be running a little,
third-rate detective agency as I am, making just enough to get along,
and have a lot of friends. I wouldn't throw down a friend for a million
dollars! I suppose I'm the only man in town that thinks this way, but
I'm a sort of peculiar duck!
You mean to tell me that you are not anxious to better yourself, to
get along in the world?
Oh, I manage to get along! Jim Farland replied. I even eat meat
now and then. I haven't seen the face of the famous wolf outside my
door for some time. What is money?
Everything! the masked man replied.
That's what you think. It gives me an inkling as to what sort of
man you are. I happen to know a fellow to whom money is everythingand
I have reason to suspect that he is considerably interested in the case
of Sidney Prale. Be careful you do not betray your identity to me!
Farland had the satisfaction of hearing the masked man gasp, and he
Well, what is the proposition? Farland inquired. You seem to
waste a lot of time.
We want you merely to tell Sidney Prale that you will not work on
the case any morethat you are done. Then go about your regular
business. We'll have you watched, and as soon as we are satisfied that
you are keeping faith with us, we'll send you ten thousand dollars in
cash. If you make the agreement with me, I'll give you a thousand cash
to-night before you leave this place, as a sort of retainer and
expression of our sincerity. Then, following the fee of ten thousand
dollars, you'll find that much business is flowing your way. All you
have to do to get all this is to withdraw from the Prale case at once.
You must be afraid that I am finding out some things, Jim Farland
That is scarcely the reason, the masked man answered. We want
Sidney Prale to stand alone, to be without help of any sortthat is
But I am more than Sidney Prale's employee. I am his friend!
You were his friend ten years ago, sir, but a man may change a
great deal in ten years. Are you quite sure that the Sidney Prale of
to-day is the boyish, friendly Sidney Prale of ten years ago?
I am quite sure; and that is why I am trying to help him, Jim
I fear that he is fooling youas he is deceiving others. He is not
worthy of such friendship as you are giving him.
How do I know that? Farland asked. If I could have some sort of
He awaited the other's reply. If he could get some inkling as to why
Prale had powerful enemies, it might help a lot.
I can tell you this much: Sidney Prale did something that wrecked
and ruined several lives. Certain prominent persons have decided to
punish him. He is to have his life made miserable, he is to have his
fortune taken away from him, he is to be subjected to petty annoyances
and hard blows alike, driven from this, his home town, forced to
realize that a man cannot do what he did and escape retribution.
Sounds like he murdered a nation! Jim Farland commented. Did he
wreck the national treasury or turn traitor to the flag?
I am not jesting, Mr. Farland.
Neither am I. My eyes have got to be opened, sir. You've got to
come clean with me. Prale's enemies may strike at him from the dark,
but Jim Farland never works in the dark! I want to see where I'm
stepping. I never like to trip over anything.
I have told you all that I can at present.
Because I do not care to give you information if you are still to
work for Prale.
You say that Prale knows his enemies and why they are fighting him.
If he does, he never has told me. Tell me that muchsince you say Sid
Prale knows it already. It couldn't hurt your side at all.
We might tell you later.
You've got some very good reason for not telling me! Farland
accused. It is the truth, isn't it, that Prale does not know a single
thing about it. You are afraid to tell me because I may inform him of
what you say, and we may straighten out the tangle? I can see through
you, sir, as easily as through a newly cleaned window.
I see that you have faith in Sidney Prale, the masked man said.
But I assure you that your faith is misplaced. Is there any way in
which I can get you to stop your work for him?
Meaning against his influential enemies, or on the Rufus Shepley
murder case? Farland asked.
We simply want you to stop working for him. If he stands alone, we
can punish him the sooner.
I understand about that, of course. But how about the murder case?
Do you think Sid Prale is guilty of that crime? Farland asked.
I do not know, I am sure. I understand that the evidence against
him is damaging. But we are not awaiting the outcome of that. He may
manage to have the charge against him dismissed, and we are going ahead
with our plans for punishment.
Then you want me to quit Prale so I won't be helping him work
against his enemies, and not because you are afraid that, in clearing
him of the murder charge, I may find something detrimental to other
That is the idea, the masked man replied. The murder case can
take care of itself, I suppose.
Suppose I refuse to make this deal with you?
In that event, we may feel called upon to detain youand perhaps
to use further violence.
Then you might as well start! Jim Farland cried. For you are
lying to me like blazes! It's the murder case that's worrying you, and
you know it! And I know you! I've been trying to place those
hands of yours and I have succeeded. Besides, you have said one or two
things that have convinced me
The masked man gave a shriek and started toward the couch, his hands
reaching out, clutching. Two of the thugs ran in from the hall.
CHAPTER XXII. AN UNEXPECTED VISITOR
Waiting in anticipation of hearing good news, Sidney Prale paced the
floor of the living room of his hotel suite until noon the following
day, expecting Jim Farland to put in an appearance at any time and make
Murk, having done all the work that there was to do, spent the most
of his time looking from the window at the busy, fashionable avenue,
and glancing now and then at Prale as if wishing to anticipate his
wishes and save him the trouble of voicing them.
Prale had luncheon served in the suite, and then he stepped to the
telephone and called Jim Farland's office. Farland's stenographer
informed him that the detective had not been there during the morning,
though there was some business that needed his attention.
Then Prale got Farland's residence on the telephone, and the
detective's wife answered the call. Prale gave his name, and asked
where Jim could be found.
That is more than I can tell, Mr. Prale, Mrs. Farland said. He
got a telephone call last evening, and from what I overheard I think he
went some place to meet a man. He left soon after he received the call,
and I have not heard from him since. That is peculiar, too. When he is
obliged to remain away, he generally finds time to telephone and let me
This conversation bothered Sidney Prale, but he tried to tell
himself that Farland was following a hot trail, and that perhaps it had
led him some distance away, or that he was in a locality where he did
not care to telephone.
He did not want to miss Farland if he did call, and so he remained
at the hotel during the afternoon and kept Murk there also.
I have a hunch that something is going to happen soon, Prale said
to his valet.
A little action wouldn't make me mad any! Murk declared. I'm
spoilin' to mix with the enemy, Mr. Prale. Most of all, I'd like to
meet up with them two thugs that got gay with us. You're sure about
that Jim Farland, boss?
I've told you a hundred times, Murk, that Jim Farland is my friend
and as square a man as you can find anywhere. He has not deserted us,
if that is the thought in your head.
I'm beginnin' to like him a bit myself, said Murk. Ain't you got
any idea, boss, who's engineerin' this deal against you?
Once more, Murk, old boy, allow me to state that I haven't the
faintest idea who my enemies are, or why they are trying so hard to
make life miserable for me. If I knew where to start to round them up,
I wouldn't be standing in this room talking to youI'd be out rounding
Well, if you ask me, I think it's about time that Farland settled
that murder case, Murk said. If he don't get busy pretty quick, I'll
tackle it myself. I've got an idea
The ringing of the telephone bell cut his sentence off. Sidney Prale
was near the instrument, and he answered the call.
Mr. Prale? asked a man's voice.
I just wanted to inform you that you needn't depend on Detective
Jim Farland any more. We've got himand we'll get anybody else you
engage. And we'll get you, too, Mr. Prale, before very long. Don't
think we'll not!
The man at the other end of the wire hung up his receiver. Prale
paced the floor and told Murk of the conversation.
They've got Farland! Prale exclaimed. They probably got him last
night, decoyed him in some way. Well, Murk, if that is the truth, and I
imagine that it is, we'll have to do our sleuthing ourselves.
Suits me! Murk said. I'm ready to start out right now and sleuth
until it's settled. Let's get in action, boss!
We are in the same old quandary, Murk. We don't know where to
start, Sidney Prale said. If our foes would come out in the open,
instead of fighting from the dark, we might have a chance. This is some
city, Murk, and there are several million persons in it and around it.
Starting right in such a maze isn't the easiest thing in the world, you
For the second time that afternoon, Murk was interrupted by the
ringing of the telephone bell, and once more Sidney Prale happened to
be near and answered the call.
Send them up at once! Murk heard him say.
And then Sidney Prale hung up the receiver and whirled around with a
puzzled expression on his face.
Murk, he said, Miss Kate Gilbert is coming up here with that big
maid of herscoming to see me. What she wants is more than I can
guess, remembering what happened the last time I talked with her. It
may be good news, Murk!
They waited impatiently for the ring at the door. Murk opened it and
ushered them in.
He grinned at the gigantic Marie, but she did not return the
compliment. There was a serious expression in her face, and Murk looked
past her at Kate Gilbert, who was being greeted by Sidney Prale.
Something important had happened, Murk told himself immediately.
Kate Gilbert did not look frightened exactly or sorrowful or
triumphant. There was a peculiar expression about her mouth, and her
face seemed pale.
I felt that I had to come, Mr. Prale, and have this talk with you,
Kate Gilbert said, when she was seated near the window. I wanted to
speak to you here instead of in some public place, and so I brought
Marie and came to your suite.
You are welcome, Miss Gilbert, I am sure, Prale said. If you wish
to speak in private, Marie and Murk can step into the adjoining room.
Please, she said softly.
Murk opened the door, and the maid stepped in. Then he followed and
closed the door again. Prale sat down near Kate Gilbert and turned
Now, Miss Gilbert, he prompted.
She met his eyes squarely as she spoke, but her lips trembled at
times as if she were undergoing an ordeal.
Mr. Prale, she said, as you know, I have been associated with
others in an attempt to bring retribution home to you. When I became
associated with them, it was understood between us that there was to be
no violence, nothing outside the law. We were simply to attack you from
every angle, cause you trouble and annoyance, take away your money if
we could, break you in every way.
Pardon me, but
Please say nothing until I am finished, Mr. Prale. We began at once
to gather all the information we could about you and your affairs. We
began to plan for your downfall. We found that we could do nothing that
amounted to anything while you were in Honduras, where you were a
powerful man. But we were about to try, even there, when we learned
that you were selling out your properties and preparing to return to
You may know how that struck us. You had gone away and made your
fortune, and you were coming home, possibly with the hope that the past
had been forgotten. We intended showing you that it had not been
forgotten, that you could not return and enjoy the fortune whose
foundation wasBut enough of that!
I had been in Honduras spying upon you. I was sent because you did
not know me, and would not be on guard, as you might have been, had
some man gone down there. We did not care to send an ordinary
detective, of course. I kept the people here informed of all your
movements. I began the punishment by leaving that note in your
stateroom and pasting the other on your suit case, began it by
reminding you that the past lived in the minds of some persons.
You know the rest. We began our work. We caused you annoyance from
the first, with the banker, the hotel manager, and all that. Before we
could do any more, you were accused of murder. That pleased us, of
course. We did not believe you guilty, but we were glad to see that you
were being caused some trouble, that your name was being stained. Some
of us even began to think that the law of retribution was at work
itself, without our poor help.
We went ahead with our plans, however. You engaged a prominent
attorney, and finally we induced him to leave you. But some who were
handling the affair went too far. You were assaulted in Central Park.
Your valet was knocked on the head and kidnaped, and an attempt made to
get him to take payment and spy upon you. At that time I told a certain
man who had the handling of the affair that there could be no more
We should not break a law to undo you, I declared. If we did that,
we were as bad as you. I said that, if there was any more violence, I
should cease having anything to do with the affair, and would come to
you and tell you so. An hour ago, I found out that Detective Farland, a
man in your employ, had been seized and treated with violence and was
being held prisoner because he insisted upon remaining loyal to you. So
I am here!
This is amazing, Miss Gilbert! Sidney Prale told her. The whole
thing has been amazing. Somebody has tried to connect me with that
murder. Somebody tried to smash my alibi. The little annoyances were
bad enough, and the knowledge that I had unknown foes who fought in the
dark; but the murder charge was the worst of all, for it placed me in a
position where I had to clear myself absolutely or remain forever
suspected by many persons.
I understand that, Kate Gilbert said.
And now you have come to me to say that you are no longer
associated with my enemies?
For what you did, there can be no forgiveness, Mr. Prale. I want to
see you punished. But I will not be a party to violence. It seems to me
that the man who has been managing this affair has gone beyond proper
bounds. For some reason, he is particularly vindictive, though he did
not suffer at all, as did some of the others. I cannot forgive you for
what you did, Sidney Prale. But I can wash my hands of the entire
affair and try to forget you entirely and hope that there is a law of
retribution that will take vengeance for me. That is all, Mr. Prale.
Only please remember that, from this hour, I am not concerned with the
others in this affair.
She started to rise, but Prale motioned for her to retain her seat.
He bent forward and looked at her searchingly.
I am very glad that you have come here and spoken to me in this
way, Miss Gilbert, he said. I scarcely know how to express what I
feel that I must tell you. I have listened to you patiently, without
interruption. Will you be kind enough to listen to me for a moment
I'll listen, though it will be useless, she said.
When I left Honduras, Miss Gilbert, I was a happy man. I had made
my pile and was coming home. I had left ten years before because a
selfish woman, whom I imagined I loved, jilted me for a wealthier man.
That wound had healed, and when I left Honduras, I did not think that I
had an enemy in the world, unless it was some poor devil of a
disgruntled native workman I had been forced to discharge, or somebody
I believed those notes on the ship to be in the nature of a jest,
or else that somebody was making a mistake. Then troubles began, and I
was at a loss to understand them. Next came the murder charge! We will
put that aside for the moment, for it seems to be the result of
circumstantial evidence and probably has nothing to do with the other
affairmerely a coincidence.
Miss Gilbert, look at me! I want you to believe what I am going to
say. You must believe it! In the name of everything I hold sacred, I
swear to you that I do not know these foes of mine, or the reason for
How can I believe that? she cried. Why should you ask me to
believe such a statement?
Because I want some light on this subject, Miss Gilbert, and I am
determined to get it. There is some terrible mistake. I am being
punished for the fault of some other person.
Can you not remember back ten years? she asked.
Easily. I can live over again the last day I spent in New York ten
And the few days before that time?
Certainly, Miss Gilbert.
And yet you ask why others should seek to punish you? Perhaps you
are one of those men whose natures are so dishonorable that you think
you did nothing wrong at that time.
So it was then that I was supposed to have done this terrible
thingwhatever it was?
As you know, Mr. Prale.
But I do not know, Miss Gilbert. To the best of my recollection I
left New York without having done anything in the least dishonorable;
and certainly I did nothing to merit a band of enemies working against
What is it that you wish me to do? she asked.
Be fair with me, Miss Gilbert. I tell you that there is some
terrible mistake! If I am supposed to know all about this, what harm
can there be in your repeating the details to me? Tell me what crime I
am supposed to have committed to merit this attack. Give me a chance to
prove my innocence! The common thug gets that chance in a court of law,
But this is ridiculous! she exclaimed. There can be no question
of it! The whole thing came out at the time.
Then you do not wish to be fair? Prale asked.
I cannot allow you to say that. I will tell the story to you, Mr.
Prale, tell exactly what you didas you know very wellif that will
be any satisfaction to you. But it will do you no good to deny it!
Tell me! Sidney Prale said.
CHAPTER XXIII. A STARTLING STORY
This is a painful subject for me, as you must be aware, Kate
Gilbert said. I shall tell the story in as few words as possible, and
if you are a gentleman, you will not interrupt or cause me more
suffering by protesting your innocence.
I promise not to interrupt, Sidney Prale replied. I want justice
and nothing more, Miss Gilbert.
Ten years ago you were a clerk in the office of Griffin, the big
broker, were you not?
Mr. Griffin took a fancy to you, after your father died and left
you alone in the world without any money. He gave you odd jobs to do
around his residence, fed and clothed you and arranged it so that you
could go to school. Your uncle, the father of George Lerton, your
cousin, would do nothing for you because there had been a family
quarrel several years before.
Had it not been for Mr. Griffin you might have been an ordinary
street Arab. He sent you to a business college after you had finished
the public schools, and then he took you into his office and started
you on a business career.
You showed great promise, and Mr. Griffin was delighted and
advanced you rapidly. You seemed to know the meaning of gratitude and
worked hard. You were ambitious, tooalways said that some day you
would be worth a million dollars.
Step by step, you went up the ladder. Then it happened that your
cousin, George Lerton, obtained a position in the same office after his
father's death. He had had the advantage of a college education and
knew how to handle himself in the presence of other men, and yet you,
after your early struggle and with an inferior education and inferior
opportunities, easily outdistanced him.
Other men began talking about you as a coming manbankers and
brokers, business men and financiers. Mr. Griffin finally gave you the
post of chief clerk and adviser. You worked hard and seemed to be loyal
and faithful. You got profits for your employer where other men would
have caused losses. So he let you more and more into his confidence.
You got to know the secrets of big deals, the inside facts of the
country's finance. You spoke in millions, but got only a nice salary.
Your ambition to be worth a million dollars seemed to be not
susceptible of gratification. Yet you saved money, and took advantage
of small, solid investments now and then.
After a while you met a girl and fell in love with her. She was the
sort who wished wealth above all, and you soon found that out. You
became engaged to her, however. Then a rival appeared in the field, a
wealthier man. You realized that the girl was shallow in that she
favored the man with more money, but you were so infatuated that you
overlooked that. You wanted the girl and, to get her, you had to have
Then you began to feel dissatisfied. You didn't want to grow
gradually, as other men did. You wanted the foundation for a
fortuneenough to use in a plunge in the market. You wanted to be rich
as soon as possible.
You began to think, perhaps, that you were not getting ahead. You
worked in an atmosphere of wealth, you heard men speak in terms of
millions, while you had less than ten thousand dollars in the bank. You
began to think that Mr. Griffin should do more for you, that he had not
done enough. You forgot that he had picked you up and made you what you
were, that you had so much more than other men who had not been equally
fortunate in finding a sponsor.
She ceased speaking for a moment, but Sidney Prale never took his
eyes from her face. Be ungrateful to Griffin? He never had dreamed of
that! He always had worshiped Griffin for what the broker had done for
him; he realized what he might have been only for Griffin. But he had
promised not to interrupt, and so he said nothing, merely waited for
Kate Gilbert to continue her recital.
You made certain plans, she went on. Certain big business deals
were in the wind, and, as Mr. Griffin's confidential and chief clerk,
you knew all about them. There were millions of dollars involved, the
control of several large companies, and more than that; for Mr. Griffin
and his associates were fighting a group of financial thieves who were
trying to wreck excellent properties for the sake of making a gain. It
was a fight for more than moneyit was a fight to keep big business
honest, to drive off the wolves and make finance solid. It was a
And you, a boy picked up and educated by a broker, who had risen
through his kindness, knew as much of the big deal contemplated as some
of the wealthiest and most influential men of the country. There were
men in the other group who would have given a million gladly to know
what you, a clerk, knew.
You were approached by one of that band of financial wolves. You
were willing to listen. You wanted money because the girl with whom you
were infatuated demanded it before she would marry you. You believed
that Griffin had not done enough for you and you agreed to sell him
outhim and his associates.
Sidney Prale gasped, sat up straight in his chair, opened his mouth
as if to speak, but did not when he saw the expression in her face. He
decided to keep his word.
The agreement was made, she went on. And you, who could have
demanded half a million easily for the information you had, sold out
your benefactor and his friends and the decent element on the Street
for a paltry hundred thousand! You sold your honor and your manhood for
At this juncture, the woman in the case informed you that she
wished to break the engagement, because a man of moneyyour rivalhad
asked her to marry him, and she wanted his wealth. Instead of seeing
what sort of woman she wasinstead of coming to your senses then and
stopping your deal with the other sideyou took the opposite course.
You would take the money, betray your benefactor and his friends, and
leave the country! With that money as a foundation, you would build up
a fortune. And that is what you did, Sidney Prale!
You arranged everything nicely. You gave those men the information
and received your hundred thousand and then you quit your job and
sailed away to Honduras.
The battle began on the Street, and because of the information you
had sold them, the financial wolves got the better of the honest
element. It was a battle that lasted for two weeks. The wolves met
every move, because they knew everything that had been planned.
Fortunes were lost overnight. A score of big, decent men were ruined in
their attempt to defeat the wolves and keep finance clean.
Mr. Griffin, the man who had done everything for you, went down in
the crashbecause you had sold him out! It was only five years ago
that he got new backing and fought his way up again. Others went down
with him, and some never regained their footingbecause of what you
had done, because you had played traitor! They knew there had been a
leak, and there was an investigation. You had sailed away the day
before the fight began, and that looked suspicious, for you had made up
your mind suddenly. Finally it was discovered that you were the traitor
in the camp!
My father was one of Mr. Griffin's associates, Mr. Prale. He lost
his fortune, of course. We could have endured that, but the blow cost
him his health. He was a giant of a man at that time, the best father
in the world. You should see him now, Mr. Pralesee what your treason
made of him. He is an invalid who sits all day in his wheel chair. At
times his mind wanders and he fights that battle over again and calls
curses down upon the head of the man who played traitor! My big,
handsome, rich father is a broken, thin-faced man whose voice is a
whisper and whose hands tremblebecause of what you did. You beast!
She began sobbing softly as she glanced through the window, and
Sidney Prale started to get out of his chair. But she faced him again
quickly and motioned for him to remain silent.
You wanted to hear it, and so I shall tell it all! she declared.
You had been clever; you had done this thing in such a manner than the
law could not touch you. Yet you must have been afraid of it, for you
fled the country. It was some time before things were adjusted, and
then those men you had betrayed got together and determined to make you
They told the story to others, and they began gathering information
about you. You were making your million, all right, on the foundation
that had wrecked a score of fortunes and liveson treason instead of
superior financial abilityand they swore that you should pay.
They knew my father's story, of course, and knew that we had very
little money. So they provided for him, and gave me funds and sent me
to Honduras to spy upon you. Marie, my maid since girlhood, who
worshiped my father and knew all the circumstances, went with me. Soon
after I reached Honduras, I found that you were selling out with the
intention of returning to New York and enjoying your million.
I communicated with the others and told them all I knew of your
plans, whereupon they made some plans of their own. They won the
sympathy of the most influential men in the city. They determined to
make you pay!
That is why the big trust company would not accept your account. A
whisper in the ear of the hotel manager by the president of the company
that owned the hotel, and you were as good as ordered out. Can you
understand now, Sidney Prale? Coadley, the lawyer, was told that he
will be made a nobody by the influential men of the town unless he
ceased to work for you, and he dropped your case.
But there was to be no violence, and because they have descended to
that, I have ceased to be interested in the affair. I know nothing
about the Shepley murder case or any trouble it may have caused you.
That is quite another matter. Now that I have told my story, I hope
that you are satisfied. It has shown you, I trust, that I know all, and
that any falsehood you may utter will have no effect on me.
I do not intend uttering a falsehood, Miss Gilbert, Sidney Prale
assured her. What you have said has amazed and shocked me. So that is
why I was treated so badly upon returning to my home?
Exactly, she said.
Now listen to me one moment, I beg of you. There is some mystery
here, and though it is ten years old, I shall solve it. Miss
Gilbertwhether you believe me or notI am not guilty of such
treachery. I had no dealings with the financial wolves. When I left the
United States I took with me the ten thousand dollars I had
savednothing more. And I left nothing behind.
You made a million in ten years with a capital of ten thousand?
she asked, with a slight sneer.
I did, Miss Gilbert! I can prove every transaction, show you or
anybody else exactly how I did it. Disbelieve me or not, it is the
truth that I am innocent. If my people were sold out at that time,
somebody else got the selling price. I was chagrined because my love
affair had gone wrong. I shook the dust of New York from my feet. I did
not even look at a New York newspaper for more than a year. Somebody
else got the money, and I got a nasty name. And Mr. Griffin, who was as
a father to me, thinks that I was an ungrateful cur!
This thing is hard to believe, Miss Gilbert. But I never can thank
you enough for telling me. I am going to clear myself before I am
I cannot believe you, Mr. Prale! The proof was there!
And who furnished it? he demanded. Who is handling this campaign
of vengeance against me now?
You scarcely can expect me to tell you that, she said. I am
donehave nothing more to do with the affairbut I am not going to be
a traitor, as you were!
If you ever are convinced, Miss Gilbert, that I am entirely
innocent, that somebody has put this stain upon me for their own
reasons, can I count upon your friendship?
Convince me that injustice has been done you, Mr. Prale, and I'll
do everything in my power to make amendsand so will all the others!
Thanks for that assurance, Prale said. I am going to clear myself
in your eyes, and in the eyes of the others. I remember the details of
that big deal perfectly and I shall know how to start to work.
I cannot understand this, she said. You speak as if you were
indeed innocent, but I cannot believe it!
I am innocent!
If so, who is guilty?
That is what I intend finding out.
But you were in their confidenceyou knew all the details of their
financial plans, Kate Gilbert said. You were the only one who could
have betrayed them. You scarcely expect me to believe that they
Any spying clerk in the Griffin offices could have told the enemy
enough to betray the plans, Prale replied. By the way, who is this
man who goes too far and insists upon using violence? Who is the man
who seems to be so extraordinary vindictive toward me in this affair?
I can tell you nothing more, she declared. It would not be fair
But they have Jim Farland, and Heaven knows what they are doing to
him, simply because he will not turn against me. Is it fair to Jim
Farland's wife and child?
II am being kept informed, she assured him. If they treat Mr.
Farland badly, or detain him much longer, I shall speak. But until
then, I have nothing to say. You see, Mr. Prale, I cannot believe that
you are innocent and have been misjudged. The evidence against you is
so conclusive, and I have learned to hate you as the man who betrayed
his benefactor and friends and wrecked my father's health. But, if you
are innocent, I hope that you will forgive me.
I'll forgive you gladly, said Sidney Prale. I realize what you
must have suffered, and what your father must have suffered, too. I am
going to prove my innocence; and then I hope to claim you as one of my
I am sorry that I cannot believe you, she said again, although I
would like to. I would prefer to think that no man could be so
ungrateful as to do such a thing. I'd like to have my faith in human
nature restored. If you prove your innocence, I shall be very glad
Then she called for Marie, and when the maid came from the adjoining
room, Sidney Prale ushered the two women to the door and watched as
they went down the hall toward the elevator. But Kate Gilbert did not
CHAPTER XXIV. HIGH-HANDED METHODS
Sidney Prale closed the door and turned around to face a grinning
Some pair of chickens! Murk said. That Marie girl may be a bear
for size and strength, but she's got a lot of good common sense. I'm
strong for her!
Sit down! Prale commanded.
And then, walking up and down across the room, he told Murk what
Kate Gilbert had revealed to him, simply because he felt that he had to
tell it to somebody.
How is that for a dirty deal, Murk? he asked when he had finished.
Doesn't that make ordinary dirty work look rather pale?
Who did it, boss? Name the gent, and I'll get his address out of
the city directory and pay him a visit! Murk said. I'll have some
things to say to himand some things to do, maybe.
I'm a sort of husky individual myself, Murk, and, if I knew him, I
think I'd beat you to it, Prale replied. Now we must get busy!
Just say the word, Mr. Prale. What is it to be?
I haven't quite decided yet, Murk. How far will you go?
I'll croak him, if it's necessary!
That'd be a bit too far, Murk, and might lead to the electric chair
and a far country. Let's take a walk and think it over. We will confine
ourselves to the Avenue, and you may trail me as before. I scarcely
think they'll assault us on the Avenue.
Ten minutes later, Sidney Prale was walking down the street, and the
faithful Murk was trailing in his wake, watching carefully. That walk
lasted for an hour. Then they returned to the hotel and Prale ordered
an early dinner. He did not say what he had decided to do, despite
Murk's hints that he should state his plans.
But Murk had noticed that Prale had stopped in at a printing office
during the walk, and shortly after they finished dinner, a bell boy
brought a small package to the suite. Prale unwrapped it, and some
cards spilled out.
Nice cards, Murk, he said. I had them printed this afternoon.
They bear the name of Horace Greenman, whoever he may be, and state
that he is connected with the General Utilities Companywhatever that
What's the big idea, Mr. Prale? Murk asked wonderingly.
I wish to get into a certain place, Murk, and I'd never do it if I
send in my own card. What time is it?
A few minutes of eight, sir.
Then we'll be going. Let us hope that we find our man at home. If
this happens to be his opera or theater evening, we are going to be
Murk followed him down in the elevator and to the street, where
Prale engaged a taxicab. The machine took them up past the Park and to
an exclusive residence section, where it stopped on a corner. Prale and
Murk got out, and Prale instructed the chauffeur to wait. Then he led
the way to the middle of the block.
Murk, you remain just outside this gate, he instructed. If I have
good luck, I'll come out with a man, and I may want to take him with
us. Be ready to help in case I get in wrong.
Sure thing, sir, Murk said.
Prale passed through the gate, went up the walk, and lifted the
knocker on the front door. A moment, and a servant appeared and looked
at him searchingly.
I wish to see Mr. Griffin at once on important business, Prale
said. Kindly take my card to him.
Then Prale waited with his heart in his mouth. Was Griffin at home?
The servant instantly assured him of that, and carried the card away.
Prale had written Important Business on it.
The servant returned soon and announced that Mr. Griffin would see
the visitor. Prale followed him down the hall to the library. He was
glad that Griffin had chosen to receive him there, for there was less
likelihood of an interruption. The servant opened the door, and Sidney
Prale stepped inside.
Griffin was sitting beside the long table, and he arose immediately
You! he gasped.
Pardon the deception
James! James! Griffin thundered.
The servant was in the room instantly.
Show this fellow the door! Griffin commanded. Look at him well,
and never admit him again!
James took a step forward and indicated the door. But Sidney Prale
reached into the pocket of his coat, drew out an automatic pistol, and
held it menacingly.
Close the door, Jamessoftly! he commanded in a stern voice. Now
advance to the table and stand where I can watch you. Don't you make a
move, Mr. Griffin! I used to handle men down in Honduras, and I feel
confident that I can take care of this situation.
You thug! Griffin cried. I'll have you sent up for this, Prale,
if it's the last thing I do!
I know that it is against the law to be carrying a gun without a
permit, but this situation demands a show of force, Prale said. I
merely want you to listen to me for a moment, Mr. Griffin.
I don't want to hear anything you may have to say to me, Sidney
Prale! the financier said.
You are going to hear it, nevertheless! Mr. Griffin, I did not know
until this afternoon why I had secret enemies and why they were trying
to cause me endless trouble. Miss Kate Gilbert was kind enough to
I am sorry that you believe me guilty of such base ingratitude to
you and of such dishonorable conduct, for I am not guilty, Mr. Griffin!
You were like a father to mewhich was enough to compel my
loyaltyand, aside from that, you had taught me several things
regarding honor in business deals. I went away on the spur of the
moment because a woman had jilted me. But before I went, I did not
betray you and your associates.
A likely story!
But a true one, Mr. Griffin! I did not sell you out for a hundred
thousand dollars or any other sum. My conscience is clear, and I came
back to New York expecting to greet old friends and have a pleasant
time. You know what I found instead of that happy state of affairs. I
am not here to talk at length. I demand a chance to prove my
How can you do the impossible, sir?
It is not the impossible, Mr. Griffin! I intend to prove to you
that I was not disloyal, and then I shall prove that I had nothing to
do with the murder of Rufus Shepley. I have an idea, sir, what is
behind all this.
We are wasting time
I think not, sir! Time is not wasted in which a man shows that he
is not a scoundrel! I think you owe it to me to give me a chance. You
have condemned me unheard.
I would give almost anything to have you prove your innocence,
Griffin said. You don't know how it hurt me. But the case against you
was so strongand is so strong
Let us waste no more time, Prale said. I remember the details of
the big deal that was under way when I left New York ten years ago. If
you recall, sir, I helped plan the campaign. If I can look at papers in
your office, I think I can show that I am not guilty.
I'd like to believe you, but this is preposterous! Griffin cried.
I tell you the evidence
It probably was strong, because the guilty man wanted to make it
so. Mr. Griffin, were I guilty I should not be here. Please give me a
few minutes, and let us talk this over. Then, if you wish, we can go to
your office and continue the investigation.
Griffin sat down and motioned for Sidney Prale to do the same. Prale
returned the automatic to his pocket, much to the relief of the
Murk, standing outside by the gate, paced back and forth and
wondered whether he should attempt to take the house by storm and
rescue his employer. The chauffeur, waiting at the corner, wondered
whether his fare had slipped down the next street without paying the
bill. Murk relieved him on that point and threatened to beat him up
because he intimated that Prale might do such a thing.
It was more than two hours later when Prale left the house and went
out to the street. He paid the chauffeur and dismissed him, and told
Murk to return to the hotel. Then he went back into the house and
joined Mr. Griffin again, and after Griffin had telephoned several
persons, he ordered his car, got into it with Prale, and started
An astonished watchman took them up in an elevator in an office
building in the financial district, and a little later he took up
several other gentlemen.
Them financiers make me sick! the watchman told himself. Why
can't they lay their schemes in the daytime?
It was almost dawn when they left the building and scattered. They
had spent hours investigating books and papers. Sidney Prale had even
sent a messenger to the hotel with an order to Murk for certain books
and papers of his own, and these had been investigated, too.
And there we are, gentlemen, Prale had said, at the last. I have
shown you, I think, that I did not do this thing. I do not want you to
believe me fully until I have proved my innocence by revealing the man
who is guilty. I merely ask you to give me a fair chance to prove my
case. I have told you my suspicions. Now it is up to me to demonstrate
whether they are just or worthless.
Griffin had little to say as they rode back uptown. But when he
dropped Prale at the hotel just before daylight, he gripped him by the
I want to believe you, Sidney! he said. I hope that you have told
me the truth. If you have, I hope you'll be able to clear yourself. If
you only can show me that the boy I was glad to help was not
ungrateful, after all
I'll do it, sir!
And then I'll never forgive myself, Sidney!
You'll show your forgiveness by handling my affairs for me, sir, in
that event, and by treating me as your son again! Prale said.
He hurried up to the suite. Murk had been sleeping in a chair in the
living room, as if expecting a call at any moment. He was somewhat
startled to hear Sidney Prale whistling merrily at four o'clock in the
CHAPTER XXV. AN ACCUSATION
Springing toward him, the masked man stopped two feet from the bound
So you think you know me, do you? he snarled.
I have a pretty good idea, Farland said. There are only a few men
in the city, to my knowledge, who could be hired to do work like this,
and it occurs to me that I have seen those hands of yours before. I
think your face is in the rogues' gallery, too, if you want to know!
The masked man retreated for a few feet, evidently relieved.
So you'll not make terms with me, he said. You'd rather work for
Sidney Prale, would you? Perhaps we can change your mind.
I doubt that like blazes!
You are going to be kept here as a prisoner until I decide what is
to be done with you.
He crossed over to the door, opened it, and called to his men, two
of whom responded.
I want this man guarded well, he said. I want you to understand
that I am holding you responsible for him. I'll be back to-morrow
evening and have another talk with him. Give him something to eat now
and then, and fix him so he can sleep, but watch him all the time!
I was figurin' on goin' to the city this mornin', boss, one of the
men spoke up.
You'll do as I say! the masked man cried.
Don't argue with me, you dog!
Farland saw the man's eyes flash fire for a moment. And then the
masked man faced toward him again, his eyes glittering through his
Sometimes it isn't healthy to know whose picture is in the rogues'
gallery! he said.
He went from the room. After a short argument one of the men
remained to guard Farland, and the other went away. Farland spent a
night of agony. His guards fixed the bonds so that he could be a bit
more comfortable, and yet he got little sleep.
Jim Farland was considering a big idea now. He had thrown the masked
man off guard by intimating that he might be a crook with a record,
when, as a matter of fact, the detective did not believe him to be
anything of the sort. Now Farland knew where to begin working, but he
had to win his freedom first.
Night passed, morning came, and the long day of agony began. Farland
had his hands untied and was given some food. Then his wrists were
lashed again and his ankles loosened, and he was allowed to walk around
the room for an hour or so, two of the men watching him closely. The
one to whom the masked man had applied the epithet, dog, appeared
After they had bound him again and stretched him upon the couch,
they guarded him one at a time, evidently secure in the belief that he
could not escape. Jim Farland thought a day never had seemed so long.
All the time he was busy with his thoughts. He had a plan of campaign
outlined now; he wanted to be at work.
Once more the evening came. Farland, who had been sleeping for a few
minutes, awoke and turned over to find that his guard had been changed
again. The man who had been called a dog was on duty.
How long are you going to keep me tied up like this? Jim Farland
Don't ask me. Ask the high and mighty boss, was the sneering
You don't seem to stand very high with him.
Aw, he makes me sick sometimes.
It'd make me sick, too, if anybody called me a dog, Farland
The man before him did not reply to that, but Farland could see the
anger burning in his face.
Come closer, Farland whispered.
The man obeyed instantly.
Can anybody overhear what I say to you?
No. Everybody's gonebut they'll be back soon.
Why are you working for these people?
Coin, of courseand precious little of it I've seen so far, was
Then you haven't any other interest in this business? Maybe we can
make a deal.
What sort of a deal?
The man I work for is worth a million, Farland said. Help me
escape, and I'll give you five hundred dollars.
Got it with you?
The biggest part of it, Farland replied.
He told the truth, too, for he always carried plenty of money while
working on a case.
Suppose I simply take it away from you, the guard said.
In the first place, I don't think you are that kind of a man. And
you want to get square with the man who called you a dog, don't you?
What's your scheme?
Simply let me go, right now. It is dusk outside already. Tell me
how to get to town the quickest way. I'll give you almost all I have on
me; I'll need a little to use to get back to the city. To-morrow I'll
meet you some place and give you the rest. In addition I'll give you a
chance to get out without being arrested for your part in abducting me
and holding me here.
The man spent a few minutes in thought.
I'll fix you so you can slip your bonds, he said, and I'll hand
your automatic back to you. It is there in the cupboard. But I don't
want you to make a get-away while I'm guarding yousee? I don't
exactly love the man who'll guard you next. I'll fix it so you can
handle him. Wait for five minutes after he comes and I have gone. I
will be away for an hour or so, and the escape can happen while I'm not
That suits me, Farland said.
What about the money?
You'll get it just as soon as I get my hands loose.
The guard walked to the hall door and opened it, peered out into the
hall and listened. Then he hurried back to the couch and cut Jim
Farland's bonds. Farland took the money from one of his inside pockets
and handed it over. The guard got the weapon from the cupboard and gave
it to Farland.
The detective stretched himself down on the couch again, and the
guard adjusted the ropes on his ankles and wrists so that they would
appear to be all right. Farland slipped the automatic beneath the small
of his back, where he could reach it quickly.
It was half an hour later before the guard was changed and Farland's
friend hurried away, warning him with a glance that he should not make
a move too soon. He had declined to meet the detective the following
day and get the few dollars still due him; he would rather use what he
already had in getting out of town, he had said.
Farland made no attempt to talk with the new guard. He pretended to
be tired, almost exhausted and sleepy. The guard sat beside the table,
smoking and glancing at a newspaper now and then, apparently of the
opinion that Farland was safely a prisoner.
After waiting for about half an hour, the detective began moving his
ankles and wrists gently. Gradually the ropes fell away. He reached one
hand beneath his back and grasped the automatic. Then he sat up quickly
on the couch and covered the guard.
Put 'em up! he commanded.
The guard whirled from the table and sprang to his feet, surprise
written on his countenance. Farland had arisen now, and advancing
Walk past me to the couch! the detective commanded.
The guard started to obey. He was holding his hands above his head
and seemed to be afraid that his captor would shoot. But as he came
opposite Farland, he lurched to one side and made an attempt to grapple
The detective did not fire. He sprang aside himself, swung the
automatic, and crashed it against the other man's temple. The guard
groaned once and dropped to the floor.
Thought you might try something like that! Jim Farland growled.
Couldn't have pleased me betterwon't have to waste time tying you up
now. You'll be dead to the world for a few minutes at least!
Farland darted to the door, opened it, went into the hall and closed
the door again. He passed through the house noiselessly. He could hear
two men in conversation in a rear room, and he knew that he would have
to be cautious until he was at some distance from the old dwelling,
unless he wanted a battle on his hands.
He got out of the place without being discovered, and reached the
edge of a grove not far away. There he found the lane, and near the end
of it was a powerful roadster, its engine dead and its lights
Farland listened a moment, then went forward and examined the
machine. He knew the model, and he was an excellent driver. Once more
he stopped to listen. Then he sprang behind the wheel and operated the
He drove slowly down the lane, the engine almost silent, the car
traveling slowly. He proceeded in that manner until he had reached the
highway. There he switched on the lights, put on speed, and sent the
powerful car roaring along the winding road toward the river.
Jim Farland, being a modest man, never did tell the entire story of
that night. He drove like a fiend, narrowly escaping collision a score
of times. He made his way along the roads running alongside the broad
river, and finally came opposite the city. He crossed over a bridge,
drove through the streets with what speed he dared, left the car at a
public garage with certain instructions, and hurried to a telephone.
He was unable to get either Sidney Prale or Murk, for at that hour
they were on their way to the Griffin residence. Farland telephoned to
his wife to say that he was all right, but would not be home until some
time during the day. Then he engaged a taxicab and began his work.
He knew where to start now. An idea had come to him in that old
house far up the river, a suspicion, a feeling of certainty that he was
on the right track. Jim Farland was no respecter of persons that night.
When morning came he stopped only for a cup of coffee, and then
worked on. He dashed from one place to another, running up a taxicab
bill that made the chauffeur smile. He interviewed important gentlemen,
threatening some and cajoling others, but always getting the
information that he desired.
At two o'clock the following afternoon he stood on a certain corner
near Madison Square, his suspicion almost proved, his investigation at
Now for the big bluff! Jim Farland said to himself.
He fortified himself with another cup of coffee, got into the
taxicab again, and started downtown. He was smoking one of his big,
black cigars, puffing at it as if in deep contentment, not looking at
all like a man who had been kept a prisoner a night and a day, and had
been busy since that experience.
The taxicab stopped before an office building, as Jim Farland had
ordered. The detective pulled out his last money and paid the
You're got more coming, son, but this is all I have with me,
Farland said. Drop in at my office any time after ten to-morrow
morning and get it.
Yes, Mr. Farlandand thanks!
You're a good boy, but keep your mouth shut! Farland told him.
Then he hurried into the office building, went to the elevator
nearest the entrance, and ascended to the floor where George Lerton had
his suite of offices.
The office boy stepped to the railing.
Mr. Lerton busy? Farland asked.
He is alone in his private office, sir, said the boy, who regarded
the detective with admiration and awe. After Farland's other visit, the
youth had decided to be a detective when he grew up.
I am to go right inimportant business, Farland said. Never mind
The willing boy opened the gate, and Farland hurried across to the
door of the private office. He paused there a moment and seemed to pull
himself together, as if making sure before entering the room of
questions he wanted to ask and information he wanted to gather. Then he
threw the door open, stepped quickly inside, closed the door, and
turned the key.
Lerton was sitting at his desk with his back to the door. He made no
move until he heard the key turned. Then he whirled around in his desk
IGreat Scott, Farland, how you startled me! he exclaimed. I
thought it was my secretary.
Pardon me for butting in this way, but I am in a deuce of a hurry
and told the boy it was all right, Farland said.
You'll smash my office discipline doing things like this. But, sit
down, man! What is it now? Has that cousin of mine been acting up
again, or are you going to pester me with a lot of fool questions about
things I don't know anything about?
Farland had seated himself in the chair at the end of the desk,
within four feet of George Lerton. He had tossed his hat to a table and
twisted the cigar into one corner of his mouth. Now he stared Lerton
straight in the eyes.
You look like a madman! Lerton said. Why on earth are you looking
at me like that? You look as if you were ill
The expression in Farland's face made him stop, and he appeared to
be a bit disconcerted.
Why did you kill Rufus Shepley? Jim Farland demanded suddenly in a
voice that seemed to sting.
Lerton's face went white for an instant. His jaw dropped and his
Areare you insane? he gasped. What on earth do you mean by
this? I'll call a clerk and
The door is locked, Farland said, taking the automatic from his
pocket. You raise your voice, touch a button or make any move that I
do not like, and I'll plug you and say afterward that I had placed you
under arrest and had to shoot when you tried to escape. Answer my
question, Lerton! You are at the end of your rope! Why did you kill
Rufus Shepley and then try to hang the crime on your cousin, Sidney
This is preposterous! Lerton exclaimed.
Oh, I've got the goods on you, Lerton! I wouldn't be here talking
like this if I didn't! You're going to the electric chair!
Lerton laughed rather nervously. I always thought that you were a
good detective, Jim, but I am beginning to have doubts now, he said.
What has put such an idea into your head?
Facts gathered and welded together, Farland told him. Don't try
to carry out the bluff any longer, Lerton. And don't call me Jim. I
never allow murderers to get familiar with me!
This has gone far enough! the broker exclaimed. I'll have to ask
you to leave my office, sir!
I expect to do that little thing before long, and you are going
with me, Farland said.
There was a knock at the door.
CHAPTER XXVI. THE TRUTH COMES OUT
Farland did not take his eyes off George Lerton.
If you have touched a button and called some fool clerk, I'll
manhandle you! he promised. Kindly consider yourself a prisoner!
The knock was repeated, and Farland, still keeping his eyes on the
man at the desk, backed to the door and turned the key. Then he took up
a position where he could continue watching George Lerton and keep an
eye on the door at the same time.
Come in! he called.
The door was hurled open. At the same instant, the office boy who
had opened it was thrust aside. Sidney Prale sprang into the private
office and stood glaring at his cousin. Behind him was Murk, and behind
Murk were Kate Gilbert and her maid.
Quite a gathering! Farland said, grinning. I'm glad that you are
here. Kindly close and lock the door, Murk, with that young office
gentleman on the outside!
Murk obeyed. George Lerton sprang to his feet.
What is the meaning of this intrusion? he demanded. Has my office
been turned into a rendezvous for maniacs?
Sit down! Sidney Prale cried. He had not taken his eyes off
Lerton, had not even turned to speak to Jim Farland, had not even
wondered how Farland had escaped and come here.
Lerton dropped back into his chair, wetting his thin lips, his eyes
You miserable cur! Sidney Prale went on, advancing toward his
cousin. I should handle this affair myself. I should have you in
Honduras, and fasten you to a tree and beat you until you are
Are deserved, you beast! Prale cried. So, when I went away ten
years ago, you sold out Mr. Griffin and put the blame for it on me, did
you? You wrecked that good man's faith in me, turned influential men
against me, had me persecuted when I returned.
Jim Farland gave a shout of delight. That right, Sid? he cried,
Then I have the connecting link! So George Lerton has been causing you
all this trouble, has he? I understand a lot more now. Lerton killed
Rufus Shepley, also!
It's a lie! You are trying to save Prale by accusing me! Lerton
Why, we've got you, you weak fool! said Farland. I knew you in
that old farmhouse despite your mask. Your hands gave you awayI
And he's the man who tried to bribe me! Murk cried. I can tell it
by his hands, too!
You tried to smash Prale's alibi, Jim Farland continued. You had
him followed that night and you sent those notes to the barber and the
clothing merchant, with money in them.
And you betrayed yourself when you began using violence, Prale put
in. You were too vindictive. You showed that you had some good reason
of your own for wanting to drive me away from New York quickly!
Oh, we've got you! Farland repeated. You are as good as in the
electric chair now!
George Lerton looked as if he might have been in it. He was
breathing in gasps, and his face was white. His eyes held an expression
I guessyou've got me! he said. But I'll nevergo to the
Farland stepped across to him. Get it off your chest! he
II'll talk about ityes! George Lerton said. II sold out
Griffin. I wanted money, and I hated Griffin because he had put Sidney
Prale over me. Then Sid had his trouble with the girl and ran away. I
fixed things so it looked as if he had been the guilty one.
I pretended to hate Sid for what he was supposed to have done. I
suggested the scheme of vengeance, and worked to get the influential
men together. Then he came backwith his million. I hated him all the
more because of that. I was afraid that, if he remained in New York, he
would find out the truth and I'd be exposed. I knew what that would
mean, and I was beginning to get rich.
So I had him followed and watched. I trailed him myself and met him
on Fifth Avenue, and tried to get him to go away, and afterward denied
that I had seen him at all, for he was accused of the murder of Rufus
Which was your deed! Farland put in. Go aheadtell it all. Let
us see whether you were clever or merely an amateur at crime.
Oh, I was clever enough! Lerton boasted. II killed Shepley
because he was about to have me arrested for embezzlement. I had been
handling a vast sum for him, aside from his regular business. While he
was traveling, I speculated with the moneyand lost. He knew it. I
could not repay.
I had an engagement with him that night at the hotel. The detective
I had working for me had reported that Sid had had a quarrel with
Shepley, and where he had gone afterward and what he had done. There I
saw my chance.
I did not have myself announced at Shepley's hotel. I knew where
his suite was, so I slipped up to it without anybody seeing me, and
knocked at the door. He admitted me. I begged him to give me a little
time to repay the money, but he would not. He called me a thief, and
said that I must go to prison, that he would not have a hand in letting
me remain at liberty to rob other men.
There was a steel letter opener on the table. II stabbed him with
it, and then I got away by the fire escape. Nobody saw me. I left him
there dead. I was almost frantic when I reached home. Then I saw how I
could have Sidney Prale accused and remove the menace of his presence
also. I would be safe if Prale were convicted of the murder. I would
not have to repay the Shepley money, and Prale never could reveal that
I had betrayed Mr. Griffin and the others instead of him.
So I sent the notes and money to the barber and clothing merchant,
and they denied that Prale had visited them, thus smashing his alibi. I
denied that I had met him on the Avenue. I thought that I was safe. But
the barber and merchant told Farland the truth, and the police began to
think that Sid was not guilty.
I grew almost frantic then. My one hope was in running Sid out of
town as quickly as possible, and so I did everything I could think of
to bring about that end.
How about that fountain pen found beside the body? Farland asked.
When I was talking to Sid that night on the Avenue, his coat was
open and I saw the pen. Something seemed to tell me to take it, that it
might be used against him some time. As I clutched his lapel, begging
him to leave town, I took the pen from his pocket.
Nothing but a plain dip, after all! Farland sneered.
I dropped it beside the body after I had killed Shepley. It was a
part of my plan. Andand I guess that is all!
I guess it is! Sidney Prale said. Mr. Griffin and I, and some
other men, made a little investigation last night and continued it this
morning. We found that you were the traitor who caused that financial
smash ten years ago. It may please you to know that Mr. Griffin is my
friend again, and that others are being informed of my innocence. Even
Coadley has come to me and asked to take my case again. But I was
clearing myself of the charge of business treason, and nothing more. I
did not connect you with the murder of Shepley.
Well, I did connect him with it, Farland put in. But when I
sprung it on him here this afternoon, I was running a bluff. I had some
evidence, but not enough to convict. You might have got away with it,
Lerton, if you had had any nerve. But you happen to be a rank
cowardand a guilty man!
Youyou George Lerton gasped.
He had been holding two fingers in a pocket of his waistcoat. Now he
withdrew them and, before Farland could reach him, he had swallowed
You'll never he began, and then his head fell forward to the
desk. Get the ladies outside, Murk! Farland commanded suddenly. And
tell that secretary out there to send in a call for a physician and the
police. Lerton was righthe'll never go to the electric chair!
* * * * *
Ten minutes later, Sidney Prale and Murk were waiting for the
elevator with Kate Gilbert and Marie, but each couple was standing at
some distance from the other.
I have proved my innocence, and now I ask you to remember your
promise and grant me your friendship, Prale was telling Kate Gilbert.
I shall remember, she said. You have my address, haven't you? If
you haven't, ask Murk. He knows it. You sent him to spy on me,
Jim Farland did that, Prale protested.
Murk was talking to the gigantic Marie at that moment.
You're mighty nice! he was saying. Say, I'd like to see you some
more. I've got an idea my boss will be calling on your mistress, and
when he does I might come up to the corner, and you might slip out and
meet me, and we might take a walk in the Park. You wouldn't want to
stay in the apartment and bother them, would you?
It would be a shame! said Marie. Which corner, Murk?