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Title: The Film of Fear
Author: Kummer, Frederic Arnold, 1873-1943
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Film of Fear" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                                THE

                            FILM OF FEAR



                                BY

                         ARNOLD FREDERICKS



                            AUTHOR OF

                     THE IVORY SNUFF BOX, ETC.



                        WITH FRONTISPIECE BY

                            WILL FOSTER



                              NEW YORK

                          GROSSET & DUNLAP

                             PUBLISHERS

                        COPYRIGHT, 1917, BY

                        W. J. WATT & COMPANY



THE FILM OF FEAR



PART I



CHAPTER I


Ruth Morton finished her cup of coffee, brushed a microscopic crumb from
her embroidered silk kimono, pushed back her loosely arranged brown
hair, and resumed the task of opening her mail.

It was in truth a task, and one that consumed an inordinate amount of
her valuable time. And her time was extremely valuable. Computed upon
the basis of her weekly salary of one thousand dollars, it figured out
just $142.85 per day, or very nearly $6 per hour, or 10 cents per
minute, for each minute and hour of the twenty-four. As a motion picture
star, she had the satisfaction of knowing that she was paid a slightly
larger salary than had been, until recently, received by the President
of the United States.

The opening of the huge batch of letters that greeted her daily across
her dainty breakfast table was very much of a duty. It was not that she
felt any keen interest in the numberless notes from admirers, both male
and female, from Portland, Me., to Los Angeles, Cal., to say nothing of
South Bend, Opeloosa and Kicking Horse between. These might readily have
been consigned to the depths of the wastebasket unopened, unread. But
there was always the chance that, intermingled with this mass of
adulation, there might be a real letter, from a real friend, or a
business communication of importance from some picture company possibly,
prepared to offer her two thousand dollars per week, instead of one
thousand, at the expiration of her present contract. So the mail had to
be carefully opened, at least, even if the bulk of it was tossed aside
unread.

Her mother usually assisted her in this daily task, but to-day Mrs.
Morton, oppressed by a slight attack of indigestion, slept late, and
Ruth proceeded with the operation alone.

She was a singularly attractive girl, combining a wholesome and quite
unassumed innocence with a certain measure of sophistication, gained by
daily contact with the free and easy life of the studios. Her brown eyes
were large and wondering, as though she still found it difficult to
realize that within four years she had stepped from comparative poverty
to the possession of an income which a duke or a prince might readily
have envied. Her features, pleasing, regular, somewhat large, gave to
her that particular type of beauty which lends itself best to the
eccentricities of the camera. Her figure, graceful, well modeled, with
the soft roundness of youth, enabled her to wear with becoming grace
almost any costume, from the simple frock of the school girl to the
costly gowns of the woman of fashion. Add to this a keen intelligence
and a delightful vivacity of manner, and the reason for Ruth Morton's
popularity among motion picture "fans" from coast to coast was at once
apparent.

She sat in the handsomely appointed dining-room of the apartment on
Fifty-seventh Street which she and her mother had occupied for the past
two years. The room, paneled in dull ivory, provided a perfect setting
for the girl's unusual beauty. In her kimono of Nile green and gold, she
presented a figure of such compelling charm that Nora, her maid, as she
removed the empty coffee-cup, sighed to herself, if not with envy, at
least with regret, that the good God had not made _her_ along lines that
would insure an income of over fifty thousand dollars a year.

Ruth sliced open half a dozen more letters with her ivory paper knife
and prepared to drop them into the waste basket. One was from a
manufacturer of cold cream, soliciting a testimonial. Two others were
from ungrammatical school girls, asking her how they should proceed, in
order to become motion picture stars. Another was an advertisement of a
new automobile. The fifth requested an autographed picture of herself.
She swept the five over the edge of the table with a sigh of relief. How
stupid of all these people, she thought, to take up their time, and her
own, so uselessly.

The sixth letter, from its external appearance, might readily have been
of no greater interest than the other five, and yet, something
intangible about it caused her to pause for a moment before inserting
the point of the knife beneath the flap of the envelope. It was a large
envelope, square, formal-looking. The address upon it was typewritten.
Unlike the majority of the other letters, forwarded from the studio, it
bore the street and number of the apartment house in which she lived.
The envelope was postmarked New York, and was sealed with a splotch of
black sealing wax, which, however, contained the imprint of no monogram
or seal, but was crossed both vertically and horizontally by a series of
fine parallel lines, dividing its surface into minute squares.

Ruth observed these several peculiarities of the letter she was about to
open, with growing interest. The usual run of her correspondence was so
dull and uninteresting that anything out of the ordinary was apt to
attract her attention. Slipping the ivory blade of the paper knife
quickly beneath the flap of the envelope, she cut it open.

The letter within, written on the same heavy paper as that composing the
envelope, contained but three typewritten lines. It was not these,
however, that instantly attracted Ruth's attention, but the signature
appended to them. This signature did not consist of a name, but of an
astonishing seal, imprinted upon a bit of the same black sealing wax
with which the envelope had been fastened. And the device, as Ruth bent
over it to make out its clearcut but rather fine lines, filled her with
a sudden and overwhelming dismay.

It was a grinning death's head, about half an inch in width, with
eye-sockets staring vacantly, and grisly mouth gaping in a wide and
horrible smile, made the more horrible by the two rows of protruding
teeth. The girl almost dropped the letter, as full realization of the
significance of the design swept over her.

Hastily she recovered herself, and with trembling fingers raised the
letter from her lap. The three typewritten lines upon the sheet were, if
anything, more horrifying than the device beneath them. "Your beauty has
made you rich and famous," the letter read. "Without it you could do
nothing. Within thirty days it shall be destroyed, and you will be
hideous."

For a long time Ruth sat gazing at the words before her. In spite of
their ghastly significance she could with difficulty bring herself to
believe that she had an enemy in the world sufficiently ruthless,
sufficiently envious of her beauty and her success, to be capable of
either threatening her in this brutal way, or of carrying such a threat
into execution. So far as she knew, there was not a single person of all
her acquaintance who wished her ill. Her own nature was too sweet, too
sympathetic, too free from malice and bitterness, to conceive for a
moment that the very charms which had brought her fame, success, might
also be the means of bringing her envy and hatred in like proportion.
She cast about in her mind for some possible, some reasonable
explanation of the matter, but try as she would, she was unable to think
of anyone with whom she had ever come in contact, capable of threatening
her in this terrible way. She had about decided that the whole thing
must be some stupidly conceived practical joke, when she saw her mother
cross the hall and come into the room.

Mrs. Harriet Morton was a woman of fifty, handsome and youthful in spite
of her gray hair, her years. That she had once been extremely
good-looking could have been told at a glance; anyone seeing mother and
daughter together experienced no difficulty in determining the source of
Ruth Morton's charms.

"Well, dear," said the older woman, with a pleasant smile. "Haven't you
finished your letters yet?" She glanced toward the clock on the mantel.
"You'll have to leave for the studio in half an hour." Ruth nodded,
gazing at her mother rather uneasily.

"You'll have to open the rest of them, mother," she said, indicating the
pile of letters. "I--I'm tired."

Mrs. Morton came up to her daughter and passed her hand over the girl's
glossy hair.

"What's wrong, Ruth? You look as though something had frightened you."
Then her eyes fell upon the letter lying in the girl's lap, and she
paused suddenly.

Ruth handed her mother the sheet of paper.

"I--I just got this," she said, simply.

Mrs. Morton took the letter quickly from her daughter's hand and
proceeded to read it. A look of apprehension crept into her eyes, but
she did her best to appear unconcerned.

"Some crank," she said, after she had mastered the sudden fear that
swept over her. "I shouldn't pay any attention to it, if I were you, my
dear. There are a lot of people in the world that have nothing better to
do, than play silly jokes like that."

"Then you don't think it amounts to anything?" Ruth asked, somewhat
relieved.

"Certainly not. Just a stupid plan to frighten you. Pay no attention to
it. No"--she folded the letter as the girl put out her hand--"I'll take
charge of this. Now you'd better hurry and get ready. The car will be
waiting for you at nine, and Mr. Edwards expects to start that new
picture to-day, doesn't he?"

"Yes." The girl rose. "It's a beautiful part. I'm the daughter of an old
music teacher, who dies in Brooklyn, and leaves me in poverty. And later
on, it turns out he was the heir to the throne of Moravia, and I'm a
princess. Lots of adventures, and spies, and all that. Ralph Turner is
the lover. He's awfully good-looking, don't you think?"

Mrs. Morton assented in rather a preoccupied way, as her daughter left
the room. She was still thinking of the brutal threat which the girl had
just received, and of the possible dangers to which she might as a
result be exposed. Mrs. Morton by no means felt the matter to be a joke,
in spite of the assurances she had given Ruth. The tone of the letter,
the evident care which had been taken to prevent the identity of the
writer from becoming known, filled her with the gravest alarm.

As she sat pondering the matter, Nora came into the room, with Ruth's
dust coat and parasol in her hands. Mrs. Morton beckoned to the girl,
then spoke to her in a low voice.

"Nora," she said, "Miss Ruth received a letter this morning, from
somebody who is envious of her beauty and success. I pretended to make
light of the matter, but there may be something back of it. I want you
to watch her carefully while you are away from the house. Be on your
guard every moment of the time. Don't let anyone come near her. They
might try to throw acid, or something of the sort. I shan't feel safe
until she is home again."

The maid's face lit up with a significant smile. From her manner it was
clear that she fairly worshiped her young mistress.

"I'll not let anyone do her any harm, Mrs. Morton," she said, earnestly.
"You may be sure of that."

"And don't let her know," Mrs. Morton added hastily, in a low voice, as
she saw Ruth come to the door, "that I am at all worried. She must not
have a threat like that on her mind."

The maid nodded, then turned toward the door where Ruth stood.

"Well, mother, good-by," the latter exclaimed with a laugh. "You can
open all the rest of the letters, and if you come across any more like
that last one, please keep them. I think I'll begin a collection."

Mrs. Morton forced herself to join in the girl's laughter.

"There won't be any more, dear," she said, kissing the girl fondly.
"Don't bother your head about such things. They're not worth it. And
come home as soon as you get through."

"All right, mother. We're going to the theater to-night, aren't we?
Don't forget to get the tickets." With a smile she left the room, and a
few moments later Mrs. Morton heard the rumble of the descending
elevator.

She sat in silence for a long time, thinking, a great fear clutching at
her heart. Her life, she reflected, had held, until recently, but little
of happiness. The long, weary days of poverty, when her husband,
incapacitated by a paralytic stroke, had seen his savings slowly dwindle
away; the death of her son, and then that of Mr. Morton himself passed
before her mental vision. Only Ruth had been left to her, and in the
girl's happiness and success lay Mrs. Morton's whole life and being.
Now, that things had at last taken a turn, and the future seemed clear
and assured ahead of her, was some dreadful tragedy to change all her
joy to sorrow? She turned to the pile of still unopened letters with a
sigh, afraid, almost to proceed with the task of reading them. Yet, an
hour later, when they had all been disposed of without further threats
against Ruth having been discovered, she breathed more easily. Perhaps,
after all, the horrible letter was merely a silly joke. She took it out
and examined it again with the greatest care, but no clue to the
identity of the writer rewarded her scrutiny. The message remained
clear, terrible, full of sinister meaning. "_Within thirty days it shall
be destroyed, and you will be hideous!_" The grinning death's head seal
stared up at her, fascinatingly horrible. Mrs. Morton quickly placed the
letter in her bosom.

Rising, she left the room, and proceeded to that occupied by Ruth. It
pleased her, notwithstanding the servants, to take care of it herself.
Mrs. Morton was passionately devoted to her beautiful daughter. In her,
the sun rose and set.

She glanced about the daintily furnished room with a smile. The
appointments were simple, almost girlish, in spite of their owner's
large salary. Mrs. Morton began to set the room to rights. She had
finished making the bed, and had gone over to the dressing table to
arrange the articles upon it, when a square of white upon the floor
attracted her attention.

It lay upon the rug in front of the dressing table, and appeared to be a
letter of some sort.

Supposing it to be something that the girl had dropped in the hurry of
leaving, Mrs. Morton stooped and picked it up. Then a queer feeling of
dismay came over her. The large square white envelope, the typewritten
address, bore a singular and disquieting resemblance to the one in which
the threatening letter had been received so short a time before.

With trembling hands, Mrs. Morton tore the envelope open and removed the
folded sheet of paper within. When her eyes fell upon the contents of
the latter, she shuddered, and stood white with fear.

There was a message in typewritten characters upon the sheet, and Mrs.
Morton read it with a groan of despair.

"_Only twenty-nine days more!_" the message said. "We shall not fail."
Below the words grinned the frightful death's head seal.



CHAPTER II


Mrs. Harriet Morton was a courageous woman, but when she read the second
threat against her daughter, she was filled with instant indignation and
horror. The thing was so appallingly mysterious, so utterly without
reasonable explanation.

Ruth had left the room but a few moments before. Certainly the letter
was not upon the floor then. The maid, Nora, had gone with her. That
removed her from any suspicion, even had such a thought been reasonable
or possible, and Mrs. Morton felt it was not. The only other person in
the apartment was Mary, their old cook, a negro from the south, who had
been a faithful and patient member of the Morton household for over ten
years. That she could have had a hand in placing this mysterious message
in Ruth's bedroom seemed incredible, not to be entertained for a moment.
And yet, there was the message, appallingly simple, direct, threatening.
"_Only twenty-nine days more!_" Mrs. Morton shuddered.

She glanced about the room. How had the letter come there? Certainly not
by means of the door. Yet it seemed equally out of the question that it
could have been brought in through one of the windows.

There were two in the room, one facing to the front, and opening upon a
court, the other in the rear, overlooking the yards of the houses on the
next street. She went to the front window, which was raised only a few
inches, and gazed out.

Below her stretched the wide court, flanked on one hand by the side of
the apartment building, on the other by the blank wall of an adjoining
house. The latter was some ten feet from where she stood, and _there
were no windows in it_! She turned to the window at the other side of
the room.

Here a fire escape led down to an alley at the rear of the building.
Could it have been in this way that the letter had been delivered? The
thing seemed impossible. Not only was the window closed, but she knew
that the ladders did not reach all the way to the ground, the last
section being pulled up, to be dropped only in case of fire. With a
mystified look she returned to the center of the room.

The letter grinned at her from the dresser, on which she had left it.
Ruth must never hear of the matter, she knew. Taking it up, she placed
it in the bosom of her dress along with the one which had arrived
earlier in the day. Then she sat down to decide what she had best do
next.

To trifle with so dangerous a situation was no longer to be thought of.
One message, the first, might have been a foolish joke. The second
proved that the danger threatening her daughter was real, imminent.

At first she thought of placing the matter in the hands of the postal
authorities, but would they, she wondered, concern themselves with
threats delivered in other ways than by mail? This second message had
not come through any such channels. In desperation she put on her hat,
placed the two letters in her handbag and set out to seek the advice of
one of her oldest and best friends.

Her purpose took her to a private banking house in Broad Street, upon
the wide entrance doors of which was inscribed the name John Stapleton &
Co. She asked to see Mr. Stapleton. John Stapleton was a man of wealth
and influence in the financial world, and Mrs. Morton's husband had at
one time been one of his most trusted employees. Now that Ruth had
become to some extent a capitalist, it was to Mr. Stapleton that the
care of her savings had been entrusted. Mrs. Morton felt the utmost
confidence in both his sincerity and his judgment.

Mr. Stapleton received her almost at once, in his simply yet richly
furnished private office, and rising from his huge flat-topped rosewood
desk, welcomed her warmly, and asked what he could do for her.

Mrs. Morton felt confused. Her mission seemed, after all, a strange one
with which to come to a leader of finance.

"I--I am in great trouble, Mr. Stapleton," she began.

"Yes?" He took her hand in his and led her to a chair. "Tell me all
about it."

Mrs. Morton explained the circumstances surrounding the receiving of the
two letters in detail, and then handed the documents to Mr. Stapleton.

"Do you think I had better place the matter in the hands of the postal
authorities?" she said. Mr. Stapleton examined the two letters carefully
then he shook his head.

"No. At least not at present. It seems to me that your daughter may be
in grave danger, and under those circumstances, I think your wisest
course would be to employ a private detective, an investigator of
matters of this character, not only to ferret out those who are
responsible for these threats, but to take steps to protect your
daughter from harm."

"You think, then, that she is really in danger?" Mrs. Morton gasped.

"I do not wish to alarm you, but I very much fear that she is."

"But I don't know any private detectives," Mrs. Morton began.

Stapleton looked up from the letter.

"When I spoke," he said, "I had a certain man in mind. He is not a
detective, in the usual sense of the word. You can find plenty of those,
of course, but, while they are useful enough in the detection of
criminals of the ordinary sort, they would probably have very little
success in an affair such as this. The man I had in mind is a brilliant
criminal investigator, one whose services I have more than once been
obliged to make use of in matters of a personal nature. Some two years
ago, for instance, my child was kidnapped, in Paris, and held for
ransom. The entire police force of the French capital seemed powerless
to discover his whereabouts. At last I called in Richard Duvall, and
within a few days my boy was returned to me, and the criminals who had
abducted him placed under arrest. It was a marvellous, a brilliant piece
of work. I am not likely to forget very soon the mystery of the changing
lights." He paused, and Mrs. Morton spoke up eagerly.

"Give me Mr. Duvall's address," she said, "and I will see him at once."

"That," Mr. Stapleton smiled, "is, of course, the great difficulty.
Duvall, who is married, lives with his wife on their farm near
Washington. They both have plenty of money, and he has practically
retired from professional work."

"Then of what use is it to suggest his name?" asked Mrs. Morton,
quickly.

"He had already retired," Stapleton rejoined, "at the time of my boy's
kidnapping, but I prevailed on him to take up the case. His retirement
merely means that he is not in the active practice of his profession.
But exceptional cases, cases which by reason of their novelty interest
him, he may be persuaded to undertake. I fancy this matter of your
daughter's would prove attractive to him. It is unusual--bizarre. I
strongly advise you to see him."

"To do that, I must go to Washington?"

"Yes. I will give you a letter which will insure you an interview, and,
I hope, enlist his services in your behalf." He pressed a button on his
desk, summoning a stenographer. "I sincerely hope that you will be
successful."

Mrs. Morton sat in silence while the letter of introduction to Richard
Duvall was being written. Then she rose to go.

"I will leave for Washington this afternoon," she announced. "I feel
that there is no time to waste."

"You are quite right. And be sure to tell Mr. Duvall that you are a
close personal friend of mine, and that anything he can do for you I
shall appreciate to the utmost."

Mrs. Morton went back to the apartment, and made her preparations to
start. She determined to take a train leaving at half past three, and as
Ruth would not return from the studio until later, she called her up on
the telephone, and told her of her sudden determination.

"It is a matter of business, dear," she explained. "I will be back
to-morrow. Good-by." The girl's cheerful voice reassured her. At least
nothing had happened up to now, to give cause for alarm.

It was only when Mrs. Morton was about to leave for the train that her
nerves were once more subjected to a severe shock.

The telephone bell rang, and she went to answer it, thinking that Ruth
might for some reason have called her up.

Over the wire came a thin, queer voice.

"Beauty is only skin deep," it said. "A breath may destroy it." After
that, silence.

Mrs. Morton made a frantic effort to learn the number of the station
from which she had been called, but without success. In a rather
depressed state of mind, she made her way to the train.

It was half past eight at night when she arrived in Washington, and she
at once called up Richard Duvall on the telephone.

To her disappointment, she learned that he was out, and was not expected
back until late. There was nothing to do but wait until morning. She
retired to her room, full of hope that the following day would bring an
end to her fears.

Immediately after breakfast she called again, and this time was more
successful. Duvall himself answered the telephone.

"I am Mrs. Morton, from New York," she said, eagerly. "I would like to
come out and see you."

"What do you wish to see me about?" the detective inquired.

"It is a personal matter. I will explain when I arrive. I prefer not to
do so over the telephone. I have a letter to you from Mr. Stapleton."

"Mr. John Stapleton, the banker?"

"Yes."

"Come, then, by all means, at any hour that suits you. Mr. Stapleton is
one of my best friends."

Mrs. Morton hung up the receiver, after assuring him that she would
start at once. Then she went out and engaging an automobile, set out for
Duvall's place.



CHAPTER III


Richard Duvall and his wife, Grace, lingered rather later than usual
over their breakfast that morning.

It was a warm and brilliant day in May, and the blossoming beauty of the
spring filled them both with a delightful sense of well-being.

Duvall, however, seemed a trifle restless, and Grace observed it.

"What's the matter, Richard?" she asked.

"Oh, nothing." Her husband picked up the morning paper. "They are still
looking for the woman in that Marsden case, I see," he remarked.

"Do you know, my dear," Grace said, "I sometimes think that you made a
mistake in coming down here to the country to live. Your heart is really
in New York, and every time there is a murder case, or a bank robbery,
or a kidnapping up there, you are restless as a hen on a hot griddle
until the mystery is solved. Why don't you take up your professional
work again?" Duvall laid down his paper and regarded his wife with a
look of surprise.

"Because, Grace," he said, "you especially asked me, after that affair
of the missing suffragette, to finally give up my detective work and
content myself with a quiet existence here on the farm. You said, on
account of the boy, that I ought not to take such risks."

"Well--suppose I did. You agreed with me, didn't you?"

"Yes--I guess so." Duvall once more picked up the newspaper. "But,
naturally, I can't help feeling a certain interest in any striking and
novel case that I may read about."

"And I haven't a doubt," laughed Grace, "that you wish that you were
back in harness again a dozen times a day. Come now--'fess up. Don't
you?"

"Sometimes," granted her husband, with a smile. "You know I loved my
work. It always seemed to take me out of the dull routine of existence,
and give me a new feeling of interest. I shouldn't mind if I had a novel
and interesting case to work on right now."

"Would you take one, if it were offered to you?" asked Grace quickly.

"No--I guess not. I haven't forgotten my promise."

"Well--I've decided to release you from that, Richard. I really think
you need a little mental exercise and diversion. All play and no work,
you know----" She began to arrange the dogwood blossoms she had gathered
before breakfast, in a big vase on the table.

Duvall laughed.

"I'm getting along very well," he said. "Don't forget I'm expecting to
have that corner lot planted in potatoes to-day." He rose, and coming
over to his wife, playfully pinched her cheek. "What's the matter,
dear?" he asked. "Are you pining for a little trip to New York yourself?
We don't need a murder mystery to make that possible, you know."

Grace shook her head. As she did so, the telephone bell in the hall
began to ring. "That may be your murder mystery now," she said, with a
laugh.

"More likely the Clarks asking us over to dinner this evening," he
returned, as he made his way into the hall.

Grace continued to arrange her flowers. Presently Duvall re-entered the
room. There was a curious smile upon his face. "Well," Grace remarked,
glancing up. "Which was it? The murder case, or the Clarks?"

"Neither. A mysterious woman, this time, saying that she must see me at
once. I told her to come on out."

"Ah! This _is_ serious," his wife laughed. "A mysterious woman! I
suppose I ought to be jealous. Didn't she say what she wanted with you?"

"No. But we'll know soon enough. She'll be here at half past nine.
Suppose we go and take a look at those Airedale pups." Together they
crossed the veranda and made their way toward the barn.

Richard Duvall had changed but little since the days when he had served
on the staff of Monsieur Lefevre, the Prefect of Police of Paris, and
had taken part in the stirring adventures of the Million Francs, the
Ivory Snuff Box and the Changing Lights. The same delightful spirit of
_camaraderie_ existed between his wife, Grace, and himself, a spirit
which had enabled them, together, to solve some of the most exciting
mysteries in the annals of the French detective service. It had been
nearly two years, now, since the affair of the Mysterious Goddess, the
last case in which Duvall had been concerned, and he was beginning to
feel that he would welcome with outstretched arms a chance to make use
once more of his exceptional talents as an investigator of crime. Hence
he had received Mrs. Morton's telephone call with more than ordinary
interest.

The latter had told him nothing of her reasons for interviewing him,
contenting herself with the bare statement that she had a letter to him
from Mr. Stapleton. This, however, had been enough to set Duvall's
nerves to tingling and to cause him to conclude that the mysterious
woman who desired to interview him in such a hurry came on no ordinary
business. Hence he waited with some impatience for the arrival of half
past nine.

A few moments after the half hour, a large automobile swept up the
drive, and Duvall, with a nod to his wife, went back to the house to
receive his guest. She was waiting in the library when he entered.

"I am Mrs. Morton, of New York," his caller began, handing him Mr.
Stapleton's letter.

Duvall read it, but it told him little.

"Mr. Stapleton informs me," he said, looking at his visitor, "that you
are in some difficulty or other, and asks that, if I can possibly do so,
I try to help you out of it. Did he not also say that I have for some
time past given up the active practice of my profession?"

Mrs. Morton nodded, then bent eagerly forward.

"Yes, Mr. Duvall. He told me that. But he also said that, when you heard
the circumstances, you might be persuaded to assist me. I am in very
deep trouble, and I fear that there is not a moment to be lost."

"What is the nature of your difficulty, madam?" Duvall asked.

"It--it concerns my daughter. I am the mother of Ruth Morton." She made
this announcement as though she fully expected Duvall to realize its
significance at once, but the latter's face remained quite blank.

"Yes?" he replied, vaguely. "And who is Ruth Morton?"

Mrs. Morton looked at him in pained surprise. The thought that anyone
could possibly be ignorant of her daughter's fame and success seemed
unbelievable to her. Was not Ruth's name a household word among moving
picture "fans" from coast to coast? "Why--Ruth Morton--the motion
picture star," she replied. "Surely you must have heard of her."

Duvall smiled, but shook his head.

"I never go to motion pictures," he said. "But that is of no importance.
What has happened to your daughter?"

"Nothing. At least I hope not--yet. It is what _may_ happen to her that
frightens me so." She took the two threatening letters from her handbag
and gave them to the detective. "These came yesterday," she said,
simply.

Duvall took the letters, and proceeded to read them with the utmost
care. When he looked up, his eyes were sparkling with interest.

"The first letter, I observe," he said, "was mailed night before last,
at half-past six, at the general post office. How was the other letter
delivered?"

"I do not know. I found it, yesterday forenoon, upon the floor in my
daughter's bedroom, an hour or more after she had left the house. She
has not seen it. I kept all news of it from her, as I did not wish her
to be frightened."

"That was wise, of course," Duvall said. "But how could the letter
possibly have been placed where you found it, without your knowledge?
Who, beside yourself, was in the apartment at the time?"

"No one but an old negro cook, who has been with me for years. I am
quite certain that she had nothing to do with it."

"And the maid of whom you speak?"

"She had left my daughter's room, and come into the dining room, where I
was sitting, before Ruth left the bedroom. They went out together. The
note could not have been in the bedroom then, or my daughter would
certainly have seen it. The thing seems almost uncanny."

Duvall began to stroke his chin, a habit with him when he was more than
usually perplexed. Presently he spoke.

"One thing I have learned, Mrs. Morton, after many years spent in
detective work. There is no circumstance, however mystifying it may at
first appear, which is not susceptible of some reasonable and often very
commonplace explanation. You find this letter on the floor in your
daughter's bedroom. It was placed there, either by someone within the
apartment, or by someone from without. Now you tell me that it could not
have been placed from within. Then I can only say that someone must have
entered the room, or at least managed to place the letter in the room,
from outside."

"That may be true, Mr. Duvall," remarked Mrs. Morton, quietly, "but when
you consider that our apartment is on the fourth floor, that one of the
windows of the room was closed, and the other only open a few inches,
and that the blank wall of the opposite house is at least ten feet away,
I fail to see how what you suggest is possible."

Her words filled Duvall with surprise. If what his caller said was true,
the case might have elements which would make it more than usually
interesting.

"Has your daughter any enemy, who might envy her her success, and wish
to deprive her of it?" he asked.

"None, that I know of. But since these two letters came, I feel
convinced that someone, whom, I cannot imagine, _does_ feel that way
toward her, and that on account of it she is in the gravest danger.
Don't you think so, Mr. Duvall?"

"I think it highly probable. And what, Mrs. Morton, would you like to
have me do in the matter?"

"Why--come to New York, take up the case, and find out who these
wretches are, so that they may be prevented from doing my daughter any
harm. There is no time to lose. They may carry out their threats at any
moment. You will observe that in the first letter they said that her
beauty would be destroyed '_within thirty days_.' One of those days has
already passed. To-day is the second. At most, we have but twenty-eight
days left in which to find out who is responsible for this outrage.
Investigation may consume a great deal of time. I hope that you will
consent to come to New York and take charge of the matter at once. I am
returning this afternoon, as soon as I can get a train. Can you not
return with me? As for the matter of expense, I place no limit upon it.
There is nothing I would not sacrifice, to save my daughter from the
fate they have threatened. Think what it would mean, Mr. Duvall. A
young, beautiful, innocent girl, scarcely more than a child, to go
through life with her beauty taken from her, made hideous by some
fiendish device, blinded and scarred by acid, her features
crushed--gashed by some sudden blow. Can you imagine anything more
terrible?"

Duvall thought for moment of his own lovely child, now almost three
years old, and shuddered. Bank burglaries, thefts of jewels, seemed
relatively of small importance compared with such a situation as this.
His feelings of chivalry rose. He felt a strong desire to help this
young girl.

"Here is her picture," Mrs. Morton continued, taking a photograph from
her handbag and extending it to Duvall.

The latter gazed at the charming features of the young actress, and
nodded.

"She is lovely--exquisite," he murmured. "I don't wonder you feel as you
do. I did not intend to take up any detective work at this time, but I
have decided to assist you in this matter in any way that I can."

"Oh--thank you, Mr. Duvall." There were tears in Mrs. Morton's anxious
eyes. "I can never repay you for your kindness--never. But if you can
save Ruth from these scoundrels, I will gladly spend----"

"Never mind about that, Mrs. Morton," Duvall observed, with a friendly
smile. "It is scarcely a question of money with me. If I had not felt a
keen interest in your daughter's welfare, I should not have agreed to
take up the matter at all. As it is, you need not worry about the
expense. I am going to take the case largely because it has interested
me, and it will be a pleasure to work it out, not only on your
daughter's account, but on my own. You know, to me, such matters are of
absorbing interest, like the solving of some complex and baffling
puzzle."

"Then you will go back to New York with me this evening?"

"I can hardly do that, Mrs. Morton. But I can agree to call on you there
to-morrow. It will take me some hours to arrange matters here so that I
can leave. I do not think you need worry for a few days at least. If
these people had meant to act at once they would not have named the
period of thirty days in their threats."

"Very well." Mrs. Morton rose, and held out her hand. "I will expect you
to-morrow. Will it be in the morning?"

"Very likely. In any event, I will first telephone to you." He entered
the address in his notebook. "By the way, perhaps you had better let me
keep that photograph."

"Certainly." Mrs. Morton handed it to him, and he thrust it into his
pocket. "The letters you already have?"

"Yes."

"Is there anything else?"

"Yes. One thing. Do not tell your daughter that you have employed me in
this case. It--it might alarm her."

"Certainly not. And that leads me to say that you, on your part, will of
course observe the utmost secrecy. Even with Mrs. Duvall."

"That goes without saying, madam. My professional secrets I share with
no one. Even between my wife and myself there is an unwritten law which
is never broken. Unless we are working on a case together--unless she
can be of service to me, she asks no questions. She would not speak to
me, or even recognize me, were we to meet, while I am engaged in work of
this sort. You need have no fear on that score."

"I am very glad to know that. Were these people to suspect that I have
placed the matter in the hands of a detective, they would be instantly
on their guard, and all means of tracing them might be lost."

"That is undoubtedly true, and for that reason, I may appear in other
characters than my own, from time to time, disguised perhaps, in such a
way that even you would not recognize me. Under those circumstances I
will suggest a password--one that will not be known to anyone else.
Should occasion arise in which I desire to acquaint you with my
identity, without making it known to others, I will merely repeat the
words--twenty-eight days, or twenty-seven or six or five, as the case
may be, on that particular day, and you will know that it is I, and act
accordingly. Is that perfectly clear?"

"Perfectly, Mr. Duvall."

"Very well. Then we will leave further details until to-morrow." He
shook hands with his caller, escorted her to her automobile, then
returned to the library and began a careful study of the two notes which
Mrs. Morton had left with him. Here Grace found him, half an hour later.

"Well," she said, coming up to him with a smile. "Shall I begin to pack
our things?"

Duvall put his arm about her.

"Yes, dear," he said. "We'll leave on the sleeper to-night. You can get
Mrs. Preston to come and take charge of the house while we are gone. It
may be two weeks. That is, if you want to go along."

"Want to go along? Why, Richard, I'm just dying for a trip to New York.
I haven't been there since before Christmas, as you know, and I've got
to get a spring outfit. Of course I'm going." She went gayly toward the
hall stairs.

"Then you must be ready right after lunch," he called after her.

"But why so soon, if we are taking the sleeper?"

"Because we are going up to town this afternoon and see a few moving
pictures."

"Moving pictures?" Grace paused at the door, an expression of the utmost
astonishment upon her face. "Why, Dick, you never go to moving pictures.
You've always said they didn't interest you."

"We're going, just the same."

"What's come over you?" Grace asked.

"Nothing. I'm curious to see some of them, that's all. Never too old to
learn, you know. If I am not mistaken, I saw a new feature film
advertised in the newspaper this morning." He took a paper from the desk
and glanced through it. "Here it is. Ruth Morton, in _The Miser's
Daughter_. Have you seen it?"

"No. But I've seen Miss Morton often--in pictures, I mean. She's a
lovely creature, and a splendid actress, too."

"Then this film ought to be a good one, don't you think?"

Grace burst into a rippling laugh.

"You're getting positively human, Richard," she exclaimed. "Here I've
been telling you for months past what a lot you've been missing, and you
only made fun of me, and now you actually suggest going yourself. Was
the lady who called interested in the motion picture business?"

Duvall laughed, but made no reply.

"What's the mystery?" Grace went on, with an amused smile. "You haven't
told me, you know. Has she lost her jewels, or only her husband?"

Duvall raised his hand.

"No questions, my dear. This is a professional matter. But I don't mind
telling you this much, if I ever become a motion picture 'fan,' you'll
have her to thank for it."

"Really. Then I'm glad she came. I hate going alone. And it seems I
shall also have to thank her for a trip to New York. She has my eternal
gratitude. Now I'm going up to pack."

Duvall resumed his seat, and once more took up his examination of the
letters Mrs. Morton had left with him, but they told him little. There
were the usual individual peculiarities in the typewritten characters,
but that was about all he could discover. The letter paper, while of
excellent quality, was such as might be bought at any first-class
stationery store. The death's head seal, of course, was highly
individual, but to trace anyone by means of it presented almost
insuperable difficulties. To find the seal, one must of necessity first
find its owner, and then the chase would be over. He replaced the
letters in his pocket book, and went to his room to make ready for their
journey.



CHAPTER IV


Mrs. Morton returned to New York that afternoon, greatly pleased with
the results of her trip. That she had been able to enlist the services
of Richard Duvall gave her a sense of security. She found Ruth at home,
safe and well, with no further threats or warnings to disturb her peace
of mind. The girl was absorbed in her new rôle. The picture promised to
be the most successful of her career.

The following morning Mrs. Morton rose early, in order to go through the
mail before Ruth had an opportunity to do so. The shock caused by the
first threatening letter had passed from the girl's mind. The second she
knew nothing of. Mrs. Morton was determined that if any more arrived,
she should not see those either.

Trembling with eagerness she opened the pile of letters, but found
nothing. With a sigh of relief she turned away. Perhaps, after all she
had exaggerated the importance of the matter. Half an hour later, while
Ruth was eating her breakfast, a messenger boy arrived with a telegram,
addressed to Miss Ruth Morton. The maid, seeing no reason to do
otherwise, brought it to the girl as she sat at the table. Mrs. Morton,
who had been at the rear of the apartment, hurried in as she heard the
sound of the doorbell, but by the time she had reached the dining room,
Ruth had already opened and read the message. She sat staring at a bit
of yellow paper, her face pale and drawn.

"What is it, dear?" Mrs. Morton cried, hurrying to her side.

Ruth picked up the telegram and handed it to her mother.

"Another threat," she said, quietly. "These people, whoever they are,
seem to be in deadly earnest."

Mrs. Morton took the telegram and hurriedly read it.

"Even the beauty of the rose," the message said, "cannot endure for
twenty-seven days." There was no signature to the telegram.

A look of the deepest apprehension crept into Mrs. Morton's eyes, but
she turned away, so that Ruth might not realize her fears.

"Pay no attention to the matter, Ruth," she said, in tones suddenly
grown a trifle unsteady. "It is certainly nothing more than a stupid
joke."

"Well, mother, of course you may be right, but for my part, I have a
feeling that it isn't a joke at all, but a real and very terrible
threat. What is to prevent these people, whoever they are, from
attacking me--sending me some infernal machine in the disguise of a box
or package, which, as soon as I open it, might burn or blind or
otherwise disfigure me so that my life would be ruined?" She rose and
glanced at herself in the mirror which hung over the mantel. Already
there were deep circles of anxiety beneath her eyes, while the lines of
her face, usually sweet and placid, were now those of an anxious and
frightened woman. The first threat had upset her far more than her
mother had realized. The one just received had intensified the effect a
hundredfold.

"But you mustn't open any packages, my child. Be very careful about
that. And Robert must not stop the car, under any circumstances, in
going to or from the studio. There, at least, I believe you are quite
safe. I will have a talk with Mr. Edwards to-day, and explain matters to
him. And here you cannot possibly be in any danger. Meanwhile, in spite
of what you say, I still beg you not to let this matter prey upon your
mind. I cannot, will not, take it seriously." Poor Mrs. Morton, herself
thoroughly frightened, strove with all her might to convince Ruth that
she had nothing to fear. She knew the girl's intense, high-strung
nature, and feared that constant worry, ceaseless anxiety, might readily
so work upon her as to reduce her to a nervous wreck long before the
expiration of the thirty days named in the first threatening letter. She
found herself wishing devoutly that Duvall would appear.

As she finished speaking there came a ring at the doorbell, and Nora
started to answer it. Mrs. Morton stopped her.

"Nora," she said. "Listen to me. You are not, under any circumstances,
to admit anyone--no matter who it is--until I have first seen and talked
with them. Do you understand?"

"Yes, ma'am. I understand," replied the girl, as she went out into the
hall.

A moment later Mrs. Morton, hearing a man's voice, hurried after her.
Nora, with the door but slightly open, was speaking with a rough-looking
fellow, a workman, apparently, who stood in the hallway outside. He was
a man of thirty-five, with a reddish moustache, wearing working clothes
and a cap. This he removed, as Mrs. Morton came to the door.

"Is this Mrs. Morton's apartment?" he asked.

"Yes. What do you want?" Mrs. Morton's voice and manner were far from
encouraging.

"There seems to be a leak in the plumbing somewhere on this floor," the
man went on. "There's trouble with the ceilings in the apartment below.
The superintendent wants me to go over the connections and see that
everything is all right." He lifted a canvas bag containing his tools
from the floor, and made as though to enter. Mrs. Morton, however, did
not open the door any wider.

"You can't come in now," she said. "Come back later--in an hour. My
daughter is not dressed yet." She seemed ready to close the door
entirely, but the man again spoke.

"Can't afford to wait, ma'am," he said, with a significant smile. "I got
every apartment in this building to go over before the end of the month,
and there are _only twenty-seven days left_." He emphasized his
concluding words, at the same time looking Mrs. Morton squarely in the
eye. The words, the man's look, brought sudden recognition. Mrs. Morton
drew open the door.

"Very well," she said. "Come in." She realized that the supposed workman
was no other than Duvall.

The latter went quietly toward the kitchen at the rear of the apartment,
and occupied himself by examining the connections of the sink. He seemed
to work slowly, unconcernedly, whistling softly to himself as he moved
about. His eyes, however, were very bright and keen, and no detail of
the room, the negro cook who occupied it, or the buildings in the rear,
escaped his attention.

Mrs. Morton came back presently and addressed him.

"My daughter has gone, now," she said. "You may look over the plumbing
in the bathroom whenever you are ready."

With a nod Duvall picked up his tools and followed her to the front of
the apartment. As they left the kitchen, Mrs. Morton closed the door
leading from it to the hall.

"I want you to stay here for the next hour, Sarah," she said, as she
left the kitchen. "If anyone rings, I will answer the bell." A moment
later she and Duvall were in the library.

The latter pretended to be busy inspecting the connections of the hot
water radiator.

"Have you received any more threats?" he asked, in a low voice, without
turning his head.

Mrs. Morton took the telegram that Ruth had received a short time
before, and placed it in his hand.

"This came half an hour ago," she said, without further comment.

Duvall read it, then thrust it into his pocket.

"Did your daughter see it?" he asked.

"Yes. It had been delivered to her before I could prevent it."

"That is too bad. Was she much upset?"

"Yes. The thing is beginning to get on her nerves."

Duvall rose, and placed his tools in the kit.

"Please take me to your daughter's bedroom," he said. Mrs. Morton led
the way.

The room was a fairly large one, situated in an ell at the rear of the
building. Of its two windows, one, as has already been pointed out,
overlooked the court between the apartment building and the house next
door. The other faced toward the rear. Duvall placed his kit of tools
upon the floor, and began an examination of the room. After a quick
glance about, he turned to Mrs. Morton.

"Where was the letter found--the one that did not come through the
mails?"

"Here." Mrs. Morton indicated a spot on the floor near the small
enameled dressing table that stood against the east wall of the room.
Its position was midway between the two windows. It was clear that
whoever had entered the room might have done so through either of the
windows; at least, the position in which the dressing table stood
afforded no indication as to which one it might have been.

"Which of the two windows was open, when you found the letter?" Duvall
asked.

Mrs. Morton indicated the one facing the court.

"This one," she said. "Not wide open. Perhaps six or eight inches."

"The other was not fastened, I suppose?"

"No. Ruth always keeps it raised during the night, but usually closes it
while dressing."

Duvall went to the window, and opened it. It was well balanced and moved
easily.

"Anyone coming up by way of the fire escape could, of course, have
raised the window from the outside, and closed it again after leaving
the room," he said, more to himself than to Mrs. Morton. Then he got out
on the fire escape and made a careful examination of its surface.

"When was this ironwork painted?" he asked Mrs. Morton, through the
window.

"About ten days ago."

"H--m." Duvall examined the newly painted iron surface with rather a
blank expression. That anyone had walked upon it since it had received
its newly applied coat was, he felt, out of the question. The paint was
so new, so shiny, so yielding in its fresh glossiness that, even
treading as lightly as he could, the marks of his shoes were plainly
visible. He leaned over and pressed the palm of his hand upon the grated
iron floor. The pressure of his hand was sufficient to dull the freshly
painted surface. It seemed impossible that anyone, even in bare or
stockinged feet, could have been upon the fire escape, without having
left tell-tale marks upon it. He re-entered the room, and turned his
attention to the other window.

Here the opportunities for entrance seemed even more unfavorable. The
window was situated on the fourth floor. There was still another floor
above, with a window similarly located. Anyone might, of course, have
been lowered from this window above, to the sill of the one at which he
now stood, and entered the room in that way. He examined with care the
white woodwork of the window sill, also freshly painted. It showed no
marks. This, of course, was not conclusive. He determined to investigate
the occupants of the apartment on the top floor.

The wall of the brownstone dwelling house next door, which formed the
east side of the narrow court, was of brick, covered with ivy. There
were no windows in it whatever. Apparently it had once adjoined the wall
of a similar house, where the apartment building now stood, and when the
second house had been torn down to make way for the new building, the
partition wall had remained as originally built, without windows.

Duvall examined this house next door with a great deal of interest. It
was four stories high, with an attic, and rose to almost the same height
as the fifth floor of the apartment house, owing, no doubt, to its
ceilings being somewhat higher. In the sloping roof of the attic were
three small dormer windows, facing the court, but the nearest one was
perhaps twenty feet from the window of Ruth's room, in a horizontal
direction, and some eight or ten feet above it. There was no way in
which anyone could have passed from the attic window to that of Ruth's
room, even supposing such a person to be an expert climber. Anyone
lowered from this window by means of a rope would merely have found
himself hanging against a bare brick wall, twenty feet from the window
of the girl's room. Duvall, accompanied by Mrs. Morton, made his way
back to the library.

"You feel quite certain about the cook?" he asked.

"Sarah?" Mrs. Morton smiled. "What do you think? You've seen her."

"She certainly appears to be above suspicion," Duvall replied. "But one
can never be sure. Suppose you send her out on some errand. I should
like to search her room."

Mrs. Morton left him for a few moments, and presently the old colored
woman passed down the hall and left the apartment. Then Duvall,
accompanied by Mrs. Morton, made a thorough examination of the woman's
room.

His search disclosed nothing of interest, nor was a similar search of
the room of Nora, the maid, productive of anything that could in any way
connect her with the mysterious warnings. There remained only the
occupants of the fifth floor apartment. Duvall requested Mrs. Morton to
summon the janitor of the building, and explain to him, in a guarded
way, that he wished to ask him certain questions.

The janitor proved to be a good-natured fellow, who seemed extremely
anxious to please Mrs. Morton in every possible way. In answer to a
question from the latter, he said that the apartment on the top floor
was vacant, and had been vacant for nearly two months.

The family that had occupied it, he explained, had moved away, and had
requested the management of the building to sublet it. This they had not
yet succeeded in doing.

"May I go up and look it over?" Duvall asked.

"Sure you may," the janitor replied, and he and Duvall went to the
elevator, leaving Mrs. Morton waiting in the library.

The apartment on the top floor had been newly done over, and smelt of
fresh varnish and paint. The shiny floors had scarcely been walked upon,
since they had been refinished. The air was close and warm, by reason of
the tightly closed windows. Duvall proceeded at once to the room
directly over Ruth's bedroom.

To his disappointment the two windows were not only closed and fastened,
but so tightly stuck on account of the fresh paint that it required the
combined efforts of the janitor and himself to open them. That they had
been opened, since the painting had been done, some ten days before, was
clearly out of the question. Duvall made up his mind at once that
however the person who had placed the mysterious message in Ruth's room
had effected his or her entrance, it had not been by way of the
apartment on the top floor.

Somewhat disappointed, he went to the floor below, and thanking the
janitor for his kindness, rejoined Mrs. Morton.

"What have you discovered, Mr. Duvall?" the latter asked, eagerly.

"Nothing, so far. I confess the thing is somewhat of a puzzle."

"Someone _must_ have been in Ruth's room."

"Not necessarily."

"But--why not?"

"You will remember that you found the letter on the floor. That would
seem to me to indicate rather the opposite. If anyone had actually been
_in_ the room, they would have been far more apt to place the message on
the dressing table. That it was found upon the floor indicates to my
mind that it was in some way inserted--thrown, perhaps--through the
window from without." He took the letter in question from his pocket,
and sitting down, gazed intently at the surface of the envelope.
Presently he passed it over to Mrs. Morton. "What do you make of that?"
he said, indicating with his finger a curious row of indentations,
extending in a semi-circular line about midway of one of the longer
edges of the envelope.

The marks were very faint, but by turning the letter about in the light,
Mrs. Morton at last managed to make them out. What they were, how they
had been placed there Duvall could not say. Yet their presence indicated
something of value, of that he felt sure.

"I don't understand them at all," Mrs. Morton replied, returning the
letter to him. "It looks as though someone had held the letter in a--a
pair of pincers."

The suggestion conveyed by her words interested Duvall greatly. The same
thought had been forming in his own mind.

He rose to his feet, his eyes shining with interest. Why could not such
a pair of pincers or forceps have been attached to a long pole, such as
a fishing rod, and the letter in this way pushed through the window and
released by pulling on a cord attached to one of the forceps' handles?
The thing was perfectly practical, except for the fact that there seemed
no place from which such a pole or rod might have been extended. He
gazed out of the library window, across the court to the row of dormer
windows in the house opposite. The distance from the nearest of them, to
Ruth's window was, as he had before observed, at least twenty feet
horizontally, or some twenty-three feet on the diagonal. Then there was
the distance from the window to the dressing table, at least eight feet
more, to be added, making necessary a rod over thirty feet long. And he
saw at a glance that even could a rod of this length be secured and
handled, the angle made by a line from the dormer window through Ruth's
window was such that the end of the rod or pole would strike the floor
only a few feet beyond the windowsill, and in no possible way could its
further end be elevated sufficiently to deposit the letter in front of
the dressing table. The thing was manifestly out of the question, even
had the window of the girl's room been _wide open_. And Mrs. Morton had
assured him with the greatest positiveness that it had been open, at the
time the letter was found, _but a few inches_. He returned the letters
to his pocket and rose.

"The thing is astonishing--remarkable," he said to Mrs. Morton, who was
regarding him intently. "I confess that so far I am quite in the dark. I
feel sure that whoever entered the room, or left the message, must have
done so by means of the fire-escape, and yet, how was it possible,
without marks having been left upon the paint? I think I shall make
another and even more careful examination, in the hope that some slight
clues may have escaped me." He once more made his way toward the girl's
room, followed by Mrs. Morton.

The room was precisely as they had left it. The window facing to the
rear was wide open, Duvall having omitted to close it after his
examination of the fire escape. The window fronting on the court was
raised perhaps six inches. And yet, to the utter amazement of them both,
there lay on the floor of the room, near its center, a square white
envelope, addressed in typewriting to Ruth Morton.

Duvall sprang forward and seized it with an exclamation of astonishment.
It bore the same seal, in the same black wax, and upon it was the same
semi-circular row of indentations. He tore the letter open. Its
typewritten message was brief but significant. "Only twenty-seven days
more," it read. The grinning death's head seal seemed to Duvall's
astonished eyes even more terrifying than before.

With a bound he reached the rear window, and swung himself upon the fire
escape. There was no one in sight. The gray surface of the ironwork
showed not the slightest scratch, save those made by his own heels
earlier in the day. The steps of the ladder leading up to the next floor
were glistening, immaculate. Those of the one to the floor below were
equally so. He re-entered the room, and going to the opposite window,
threw it wide open. The three dormer windows of the adjoining house were
gray, dusty, as though they had not been opened for years. He turned to
his companion with a look of amazement.

"In all my experience, Mrs. Morton," he said, "I do not think that I
have ever encountered anything quite so astonishing. That letter must
have been placed there while I was in the apartment above. Your cook,
your maid, are out. Certainly you did not place it there yourself. And
yet we know that someone has been in this room, or at least delivered
the letter, during the past fifteen minutes. Had I not found it here
myself, I should have been almost tempted to disbelieve it, but I am
forced to admit its truth."

Mrs. Morton stood wringing her hands.

"It--it seems almost supernatural," she exclaimed. "Poor Ruth. What are
we to do?"

"There is nothing supernatural about the matter, madam," Duvall
remarked. "I don't doubt the explanation is simple enough, could we but
hit upon it. But so far I confess I am unable to understand it." He went
over to the wall which adjoined that of the house next door, and sounded
it, inch by inch, with a small hammer he took from his bag of tools. The
operation required several minutes. When he had completed it, he tossed
the hammer back into his kit in disgust. "Brick, of course," he said,
"and perfectly solid." He turned toward the door. "What are you going to
do now?" Mrs. Morton asked.

"Try to find out something through this telegram. And also, investigate
the house next door."

"But, you will come back? I am afraid."

"I shall be at your call at all times, Mrs. Morton. If anything of
interest occurs, notify me here." He drew a card from his pocket and
wrote upon it the name of his hotel. "Say nothing to your daughter about
these new threats. I shall probably see you again later in the day."
Shouldering his kit of tools, Duvall left the apartment. He was by no
means satisfied with the results of his visit. In fact there had
apparently been no results at all.



CHAPTER V


Duvall's first move, after leaving Mrs. Morton's apartment that morning,
was to enter the taxicab which had been waiting for him at the door and
return to his hotel. A light overcoat which he had in the vehicle
concealed his workman's disguise sufficiently to enable him to reach his
room without exciting comment. Once there, he changed his clothes,
putting on a professional looking frock coat, and adjusting a pair of
shell-rimmed eyeglasses to complete the slight disguise. Thus equipped,
he once more set out.

Grace had left a note for him, saying that she had gone shopping. Beside
it lay the photograph of Ruth Morton, which he had, he remembered, left
on his chiffonier while putting on his workman's clothes that morning.
At the foot of her hastily written note Grace had added a postscript.
"Is _this_ the reason for your sudden interest in motion pictures?" it
read. "Well, I'll admit she's a raving beauty, Richard, but I'll bet she
isn't half as nice as I am." Duvall read the note with a smile. Grace
was always such a thoroughly good comrade.

Leaving the hotel, he went to the telegraph office from which the
message to Ruth Morton had been delivered that morning. It was on
Columbus Avenue, some four blocks from the Mortons' apartment.

"Can you tell me where this telegram was sent from?" he asked. The
message showed that it had been filed, as well as delivered, within the
city limits.

The man behind the desk looked up his records.

"It was sent from the main office on lower Broadway, at 8.30," he said,
briefly.

Duvall thanked him, then turned away. Although he realized that he could
scarcely hope to obtain even a scanty description of the sender of the
telegram from the main office, he determined to go there. First,
however, he walked back toward the Mortons' apartment, and going up the
steps of the brownstone house adjoining, rang the doorbell.

A neat maid-servant opened the door. Duvall favored her with a smile, at
the same time taking a notebook and pencil from his pocket.

"I am making some corrections in the city directory," he said. "Will you
please give me the names of all the persons living in this house." The
girl stared at him for a moment, but his prosperous appearance, his
businesslike manner, disarmed any suspicion she may have felt.

"There's--there's Mr. William Perkins," she said, "and Mrs. Perkins, and
Mr. Robert, that's Mr. Perkins' son, and--and Miss Elizabeth, although
she's away at boarding school, and--and Emily Thompson, the cook,
and--and me. My name's Mary. Mary Wickes."

"Thank you, Mary," Duvall replied, entering the names carefully in his
notebook. "And Mr. Perkins, the elder Mr. Perkins, I mean, is he the
lawyer?"

"No, sir. It's Mr. Robert that's the lawyer, sir. Mr. William Perkins is
in the leather business."

"Ah, yes. I see. Thank you very much indeed. And there are no boarders,
or other persons whatever living in the house?"

"No, sir. Not any, sir."

Duvall closed his book and put it carefully in his pocket.

"Now, Mary," he continued. "Just one more question. Does any one sleep
in the attic?"

"The attic, sir? Why, no sir. Cook and I sleep on the fourth floor, sir,
but the attic isn't used, except for storage, sir. Are you going to put
that in the directory too, sir?" The girl regarded him with wondering
eyes.

"No, Mary. Not in the directory. But we want to be sure not to omit any
names, and I thought that if there was anyone living in the attic----"
he paused.

"No one, as I've told you. Nobody ever goes up there, so far as I know.
Is that all, sir?"

"Yes. That's all. Thank you. Good morning."

Duvall went down the steps, and proceeded to the subway station,
somewhat mystified. He had handled many curious cases in the past, many
that had been notable for their intricacy, their complexity of motive
and detail. But here, he felt, was a case of a very different sort, the
peculiarity of which lay in its astonishing lack of clues of any sort.
Usually in the past there had been motives, evidence, traces of some
kind or other, upon which to build a case. Here there was nothing,
except the three mysterious letters, the one equally mysterious
telegram. He felt baffled, uncertain which way to turn. In rather a
dissatisfied frame of mind he made his way to the telegraph office in
lower Broadway. There were several clerks engaged in receiving messages.
He approached one of them.

"This telegram," he said, holding out the slip of yellow paper Mrs.
Morton had given him, "was sent from this office at half past eight this
morning. Can you by any chance give me a description of the person who
sent it?" He leaned over and addressed the clerk in a low tone. "I am a
detective," he said. "The telegram is part of a blackmailing scheme."

The man looked at him for a moment, and then consulted with an older
man, evidently his superior. The latter came forward.

"I received this message myself, sir," he said. "I remember it, because
of its peculiar wording. What is it you wish to know?"

"I would like a description of the person who sent it," Duvall told him.

The man thought for a moment.

"I'm not able to tell you much," he said. "It was a woman--I didn't
notice particularly whether she was young or old. In fact, she didn't
give me a chance, just laid the message and the money down and went
right out. She evidently knew the rate, for the amount she left was
correct. I took the message and read it, without noticing her
particularly, and then, when I had finished reading it and looked up,
she had gone."

"Then you can't tell me anything about her?" Duvall asked, greatly
disappointed.

"Not a thing. I remember it was a woman, and my general impression is
that she was rather young and small, but I can't be at all sure. You
see, sir, a great many persons come in, during the day, and we haven't
time to take note of them particularly. As I say, I read the telegram
first, and counted the words. By that time she had left the office."

Duvall thanked the man for his information and made his way to the
street. Something at least had been gained. The person who was hounding
Ruth Morton was a woman.

By this he was not at all surprised. He had felt for some time that
Ruth's enemy was, in all probability, some jealous and envious movie
actress who, herself unsuccessful, resented the youth and beauty of her
successful rival. He called a taxi and directed the driver to take him
out to the studio of the company with which Ruth was connected. Here, in
all probability, was to be found the woman he sought.

The journey consumed considerably over an hour, and it was lunch time
when he finally drew up before the entrance to the series of studio
buildings. Before entering he went to a nearby restaurant to get a bite
to eat.

It was a small and rather cheap place, but at this hour was crowded with
the employees of the big company. Duvall at first could not find a seat,
but presently discovered one at a table not far from the door, at which
were seated some young men, apparently stenographers or clerks.

While waiting for his order of sandwiches and milk, the detective
occupied himself with a newspaper. He was not reading it, however,
although he pretended to be deeply engrossed in its contents. He was in
reality listening to the gossip of the studio, which rose in a chorus
about him.

From a nearby table came the voice of a woman, evidently a great admirer
of Ruth Morton.

"I tell you," she said, "that new film that she finished last week, An
American Beauty, is going to be a knockout. She's the swellest thing on
the screen. Got 'em _all_ faded, _I_ think."

"Think so?" questioned one of her companions. "I'm pretty strong for
Helen Ward, myself."

"Ruth Morton won't last," remarked a third, in a petulant voice.

"Course she'll last. Say--ain't that a bear of a title? An American
Beauty. She always seems like a beautiful big rose, to me."

"Well, roses don't last, do they?" asked the petulant voice again. "Not
very long, anyway."

Duvall turned suddenly in an effort to see the face of the speaker, but
try as he would, he was unable to do so. Two of the girls sat with their
backs to him. He could not manage to catch a glimpse of either of them.
Almost as he turned, the three rose and made their way to the street.
For a moment he thought of following them, but the idea seemed absurd.
These twelve dollar a week stenographers or clerks could have no part in
the plot against Miss Morton. And yet, there was something startling in
the young woman's words. "Roses don't last." The telegram received by
Ruth Morton that morning had contained almost the same phrase. "Even the
beauty of the rose cannot endure." Then he remembered the title of the
new film of which the girls had spoken, and smiled at his own
suspicions. "An American Beauty." It would be natural, perfectly natural
for anyone to refer to Ruth as a rose, with that title for her latest
picture. He dismissed the matter from his mind, and proceeded to make a
hasty lunch.

[Illustration: He was watching, not only Ruth, but those about her]

At the entrance of the studio he explained that he was a writer of
special articles for the Sunday papers, and had come to "write up" the
life at the studios. He was promptly turned over to one of the officials
who, after a few inquiries, seemed delighted at the opportunity to
obtain free publicity for his company and its stars.

"I want particularly to give a sketch of Miss Ruth Morton," he said.
"She seems to be such a universal favorite."

"A most delightful and charming woman," his companion asserted, with a
pleased smile. "Come this way. You may be able to see her at work." He
led Duvall down a long corridor, and into one of the big studio rooms.

The first impression Duvall got was that of utter confusion. People were
darting here and there, in ordinary clothes, or in all sorts of makeups.
Stage carpenters were creating a terrific racket, building a new scene.
A tangle of electric light cables, a blinding glare from the arcs, a
confusion of voices, a wilderness of scenery and "props" all combined to
create an impression quite the reverse of what he had expected. Here, he
felt, was something very different from the theater, something bigger,
yet more elemental, in which vast sums were expended daily to amuse a
vaster indeed, a world-wide, audience. He sat down upon a box, and
inspected the scene before him.

"Miss Morton will be on in a few moments," his guide said.

Duvall nodded. His attention was fixed upon the little drama going on
before him. He knew nothing of the plot of the play, but the mechanical
features of the operation held his interest keenly. The brilliant
electric lights, the setting of the little room, the actors in their
ghastly greenish makeups, the camera man, grinding stolidly away at his
machine, the director, hovering about like a hawk, watching every
movement, every gesture, with a superlatively critical eye, all spoke to
him of a new world, and one with which he was not in the least familiar.

Suddenly he saw the lovely face of Ruth Morton, as the girl appeared
from an open doorway. She did not take part in the picture at once, but
stood chatting with the director, awaiting the moment when she would
make her entrance. Duvall watched her intently. Her face, he thought,
was drawn, nervous, her expression one of fear. She seemed suspicious of
every one who came near her, as though she suspected that every stage
hand, every electrician or helper, had in his possession a bottle of
vitriol, which he only awaited the moment to hurl in her face. That the
girl's nervous manner, her strained and tense expression, was evident to
others as well as to himself, he realized from a remark his companion
made to him.

"Miss Morton doesn't seem herself to-day," he said. "She must have
something on her mind. I shouldn't be surprised if she has been working
too hard lately."

Duvall made no reply. He was watching, not only Ruth, but those about
her. In particular he observed the other women in the cast. It seemed
not improbable that among them he would find the one whose envy had led
to the sending of the threats Ruth had been receiving.

Presently the scene was finished, and Ruth, in response to a call from
Duvall's companion, came toward them.

"Miss Morton," the latter said, "let me present Mr. Richards." This was
the name Duvall had given. "He is anxious to meet you, and write you up
for one of the newspapers."

Ruth gave him her hand with a smile which Duvall saw clearly enough was
forced. The girl was palpably worn, _distrait_.

"I'm not going to interview you now, Miss Morton," he said. "I can
understand that you must be tired, after posing all the morning. Let me
come and see you sometime when you are more at leisure."

[Illustration: "Come to my house some evening, and I'll tell you all
about being a 'movie' star"]

She thanked him with a smile, this time quite genuine.

"I'm not feeling very well this afternoon," she said. "Come to my home
some evening, or better still, on Sunday, and I'll tell you all I know
about being a 'movie' star. So glad to have met you." She was just about
to turn away, when a small boy came up, carrying in his hand a flat
package, wrapped in brown paper. Duvall observed that the package had
upon it a typewritten address.

"Something for you, Miss Morton," he said, and placed the package in
Ruth's hand.

The girl looked at it for a moment in dismay. Then realizing that the
eyes of the two men were bent curiously upon her, she recovered herself
and tore open the brown paper envelope. Duvall, with one eye on the boy,
saw that he had disappeared through the door leading to the company's
executive offices.

Suddenly Ruth, who had been examining the contents of the package, gave
a faint cry, and swayed backward, as though about to fall. Duvall's
companion sprang to her assistance, while Duvall himself snatched the
object which had so affected her from her hand and hastily examined it.

It was a photograph of Ruth Morton herself, but Duvall, as he gazed at
it, comprehended instantly the effect it had produced upon the girl's
over-wrought nerves. Some clever hand had been at work upon the
photograph, retouching it, changing its lovely expression, until the
portrait, instead of being a thing of beauty, grinned up at him in
frightful hideousness. The blank, sightless eyes, the haggard cheeks,
the thin wasted lips, the protruding and jagged teeth, all created an
impression shocking beyond belief. And yet, the result had been obtained
by the addition of but a few simple lines and shadows.

Along the blank space at the bottom of the picture a line of typewritten
characters had been placed. Duvall glanced at them. "As you will look
soon," the words read. Below them was fixed the grinning Death's head
seal. Unobserved in the confusion, Duvall thrust the photograph into his
pocket, and turned to Ruth and the others.

The girl had recovered herself by now, and was being conducted to her
dressing room by a solicitous crowd. So far as Duvall would see, she had
said nothing to those about her as to the cause of her sudden
indisposition, and with the exception of the man who had been Duvall's
guide, none of them had observed the opening of the package containing
the photograph, nor its immediate effect upon her.

The latter, however, whose name was Baker, came over to Duvall and
addressed him.

"What was it about that photograph that upset Miss Morton so?" he asked.
"And what has become of it?"

Duvall drew him to one side.

"Let us go to your office, Mr. Baker," he said. "I have a most important
matter to discuss with you."

Baker regarded the detective for a moment in surprise, then, seeing that
Duvall was very much in earnest, he led the way to his private office.

"I am not a newspaper writer, Mr. Baker," Duvall said, as soon as they
were seated. "As a matter of fact, I am a detective, in the employ of
Mrs. Morton, Ruth Morton's mother."

"A detective?" he questioned. "Why has Miss Morton's mother employed a
detective?"

"Because someone is persecuting the girl, by sending her threatening
letters, saying that her beauty is to be destroyed. This photograph"--he
drew the hideous picture from his pocket--"is a sample of their work."

Mr. Baker regarded the photograph for a moment in silence, then rose
with a growl of rage and struck his clenched fist upon the desk.

"This is outrageous--damnable!" he cried. "It cannot go on. No wonder
the poor girl looked tired out. We will put the matter in the hands of
the police. We will spend any amount of money----"

"Wait a moment, Mr. Baker," Duvall interrupted, urging the angry man
back into his chair. "Nothing is to be gained by giving any publicity to
this matter. The scoundrels who are at the bottom of it will at once be
warned, and then our chance of catching them will be small indeed. So
far, not a soul knows that I am working on this case, outside of Mrs.
Morton, and yourself. Even Miss Ruth does not know it. I have already
unearthed some very surprising things connected with the case, although
I have been occupied with it only since this morning. Within a few days,
I have no doubt, I shall be able to place my hands upon the person or
persons responsible for the trouble, but I must insist that I be given a
free hand."

"But," Mr. Baker expostulated, "she may be in immediate danger. At any
moment something may happen that would ruin her beauty, and
incidentally, ruin us as well. She is our star attraction."

"I do not think the danger is immediate," Duvall replied gravely. "All
the threats so far received set thirty days as the period within which
the attack is to be made. Only three days have passed, so far. And in
addition, Miss Morton is being very carefully guarded."

"She certainly shall be while she is here at the studio," Mr. Baker
exclaimed. "But, man, something ought to be done--at once."

"The first thing to be done is to find out how that photograph got
here--who brought it--and when. It was not delivered by mail. Look
here." He handed the angry official the torn manilla envelope, which
Ruth, in her excitement, had dropped upon the floor.

Mr. Baker regarded it for a moment in angry silence, then pressed an
electric button upon his desk. A young woman responded.

"Send Jim here," he said. The girl nodded and withdrew.

A few moments later a freckled-faced boy of twelve or fourteen came in.
Duvall saw that it was the same boy who had brought in the photograph.

"You sent for me, sir?" he asked.

"Yes. Where did you get the package you delivered to Miss Morton a
little while ago?"

"From Mr. Curry, sir."

"Good." Mr. Baker rose and went toward the door. "Come with me," he said
to Duvall, "and you too, Jim." The three of them went along the
corridor, arriving presently at the main entrance to the building. An
elderly man sat at a high desk behind a wire grating.

"Curry," Mr. Baker burst out, "this boy tells me you gave him a package
for Miss Morton a while ago."

"Yes, sir."

"Where did you get it?"

The man looked up in surprise.

"Why, sir, someone left it here--on my desk. I don't know who, sir.
Right after lunch, it was. You know people deliver things here all the
time. I didn't take any particular notice how it got here. It was just
pushed through the window, I guess, same as usual. There was a lot of
mail in the rack, after lunch, and everybody asking for theirs as they
came in. In fact, I don't remember seeing the package handed in at all.
Just found it lying on my desk, along with a lot of letters and things.
Why, sir? Is anything wrong?"

Baker turned to Duvall in disgust.

"No system here at all," he grumbled. "The trail is lost, of course.
Half a hundred people come through here every hour. That's all, Jim," he
said, turning to the boy, who disappeared at once. Accompanied by
Duvall, Baker returned to the private office.

"Well?" Mr. Baker asked. "What next?"

"How many typewriters have you in your offices, Mr. Baker? Machines, I
mean, not operators."

"About thirty, I guess. Or maybe thirty-five. Why?"

"I want you to get me a sample of the writing of each machine, without
letting anyone know about it. Put each one on a separate sheet of paper,
with a note added, stating whose machine it is--that is, in whose
office."

Mr. Baker nodded. "I'll do it to-night," he said. "Attend to it myself.
I see your idea. You think this thing is the work of someone inside the
studio."

"It may be, I don't know. But I mean to find out."

"All right. Anything else?"

"Yes. Tell me something about this new film you've just gotten out. 'An
American Beauty,' I think it is called."

Mr. Baker's manner became enthusiastic.

"Greatest film Ruth Morton ever did," he exclaimed. "A knockout. It is
to be shown at the Grand, on Broadway, to-morrow night. First time on
the screen. You'd better look it over."

"I probably shall. Now, tell me this. If I wanted to add anything to
that picture, put in an insert, I believe you call it, could I do so, if
I told you about it to-morrow?"

"Well--it might be done," Mr. Baker replied, dubiously. "But we wouldn't
want to change the film any. It's perfect as it is."

"I don't doubt that. I have no idea of improving it in any way. But it
is just possible that I may have a scheme that will help us to catch
these people who are threatening Miss Morton. I'll tell you more about
it, to-morrow. Meanwhile, don't forget about the typewriter samples.
I'll see you in the morning." He rose. "And for the present, I think it
would be best for you to keep what I have told you to yourself."

Mr. Baker nodded.

"I'll do that," he said, putting out his hand. "For the present, at
least. But don't forget, Mr. Duvall, that this is a very vital matter to
our company, and we can't afford to take any chances."

"I realize that fully. You can depend on me. I intend to save Miss
Morton from any harm, not primarily on your company's account, but on
her own. Good day."

"Good day, and the best of luck."

Duvall went toward the entrance, and in the corridor met Mrs. Morton.
She was about to pass him, but he detained her.

"Twenty-seven days more," he whispered to her. She turned sharply, a
look of fear upon her face, but as she recognized Duvall, her expression
changed.

"Oh--it's you," she exclaimed. "I've just come down in the car, to take
Ruth home. Is everything all right?"

"Yes, so far. At least no harm has come to your daughter. But I am sorry
to say that she has received another warning."

"Here?" Mrs. Morton started, and glanced about in alarm.

"Yes."

"What was it?"

"A photograph." Duvall explained the contents of the mysterious package,
but did not show the hideous picture to the girl's mother.

"And you haven't found out anything yet?"

"Nothing definite. There has scarcely been time. But we will. You may be
sure of that."

"Have you seen Ruth?" Mrs. Morton asked.

"Yes. Mr. Baker introduced me to her. She thinks I am a newspaper man,
who wants to write a special article about her for one of the Sunday
papers. She suggested that I call at your house some evening, or
possibly Sunday. If you are going back to town soon, I think it might be
a good idea for me to drive back with you."

"By all means. I shall feel much safer. Suppose you wait for us at the
entrance. I shall not be long."

Duvall nodded, and strolled toward the street, his mind busy with the
events of the day. He stood for quite a while near the door, watching
the people who came in and out. Many of them were women. He wondered if
among them was the woman who was responsible for the threats of the past
three days. It seemed improbable, and yet, there were indications that
it was within the studio, rather than outside it, that the guilty person
was to be found.

Mrs. Morton came out presently, accompanied by Ruth. The girl looked
pale and troubled. Duvall went up to her.

"I have met your mother, Miss Morton," he said, "and she has very kindly
suggested that I ride back to the city with you."

The girl nodded, without particular interest.

"We shall be very glad to have you," she said, "but you will excuse me,
I know, if I do not talk to you about my work. I am feeling rather bad
to-day, and I'm sure I couldn't tell you anything interesting."

"I'm sure I would not expect it, under the circumstances," Duvall
replied, as Miss Morton, accompanied by her mother, went toward the
automobile that stood near the entrance. "I don't doubt your work is
full of trying incidents."

"Oh, it isn't my work," the girl replied, as he assisted her into the
car. "I love my work. But there are other things." She glanced toward
her mother with a tired smile, then sank back upon the cushions.

A moment later they were whirling toward the city.



CHAPTER VI


Duvall's ride back to town with Mrs. Morton and Ruth was quite
uneventful. The latter, as she had explained, was ill, weak, indisposed
to talk. Duvall and Mrs. Morton kept up a brisk conversation upon topics
of the day, but both knew that it was of the girl they were thinking,
and their interest in the subjects they discussed was clearly forced.
Both were glad when the car at last stopped before the apartment
building, and the long ride was over.

Mrs. Morton invited Duvall to come in and dine with them, and he
promptly accepted. Ruth seemed indifferent. Assisted by her maid, she
left the car and on reaching the apartment, at once went to her room.

"You will excuse me, I know," she said to Duvall. "I am tired out, and
think I had better lie down at once. Nora will bring me some dinner,"
she said, turning to her mother.

Duvall and Mrs. Morton ate their dinner in silence. Some sense of
oppression, of impending evil, hung over them both. Mrs. Morton left the
table toward the close of the meal, and went to her daughter's room.
With the solicitude of the typical mother she arranged the windows. That
opening to the fire escape she raised to its full height. The one facing
upon the court she left as it was, raised some six or eight inches.
Then, having kissed her daughter good night, she returned to the
library, where Duvall sat smoking a cigar.

"Ruth has gone to bed," she told him. "Both the windows in her room are
open, the one on the fire-escape wide, the other partly raised."

Duvall looked at her with an expression of doubt.

"I think it would be better, for the present," he said, "to close and
fasten the one opening on the fire escape. We cannot tell to what danger
your daughter may be exposed."

Mrs. Morton rose and left the room.

"I will do as you advise," she said. Going to Ruth's bedroom she closed
and fastened the window in question, then she went back to the library.

"Have you hit upon any theory to account for the sending of these
letters?" she asked.

Duvall shook his head. "The whole thing is very mysterious," he said.
"Of course it was easy enough for anyone to leave the photograph at the
studio this afternoon. In fact it might readily have been done by one of
the other actresses, who might be jealous of your daughter's success.
But if the thing was done by anyone employed at the studio, how can we
account for the message left in the bedroom at half-past nine this
morning, the one we found on the floor? If the woman who is responsible
for these threats was at the studio this morning, how could she arrange
to have the note left in your daughter's bedroom here at the same hour?
That would seem to imply a confederate. I confess that the entire matter
is for the moment beyond me."

"Were you able to find out anything concerning the telegram which came
this morning?"

"Nothing, except that it was sent by a woman. I was not surprised to
learn that. Naturally I should expect that a woman was responsible for
these threats. But what woman? That is the question." He sat for a long
time, thinking, his eyes fixed upon the floor.

Suddenly there came a ring at the doorbell. Mrs. Morton, without waiting
for the maid, sprang to the hall, with Duvall close at her heels. As she
threw it open, they saw a man standing in the doorway. Duvall was the
first to recognize their caller.

"How do you do, Mr. Baker," he said, holding out his hand.

Mr. Baker came in, and greeted Mrs. Morton.

"I didn't expect to find Mr. Duvall here," he said. "In fact, I came to
you to get his hotel address. Luckily I won't need it, now."

"Anything new?" Duvall asked, as they returned to the library.

"Nothing much. I got those samples of the writing of the various
typewriters, as you requested," Baker replied, "and I thought that
instead of waiting until to-morrow, it would be better to bring them to
you to-night." He took a sheaf of papers from his pocket. "There are
thirty-two in all. What are you going to do with them?" He placed the
papers in Duvall's hand.

The latter sat down at the library table and placed the sheets of paper
before him.

"Of course you know," he said to Baker, "that every typewriting machine
has its unmistakable peculiarities. It is almost impossible to find a
machine that has been used at all, that has not developed certain
individual defects, or qualities, found in no other machine. Now let us
take for instance the letters that Miss Morton has received during the
past few days. They have all been written on the same machine, and I am
of the opinion that it is a fairly old one. While going down to the
studio this afternoon, I worked out and wrote down in my notebook the
particular features which appear in all these letters." He took a small
leather-covered book from his pocket.

"In the first place," he said, "the letter 'a' throughout the several
communications is always found to be out of line. The key bar is
doubtless a trifle bent. Let us, therefore, see if, in any of the
samples you have brought me, there exists a similar defect."

He took the samples of writing, one by one, and after scrutinizing them
carefully, passed them over to Baker, who likewise subjected them to a
critical examination. When their work was completed, it was found that
of the thirty-two samples, the displacement of the letter "a" occurred
in but three, and in one of these it was so slight as to be scarcely
noticeable. Duvall laid the three pages to one side. "A second fault
shown in the typewriting of the letters," he said, "is to be found in
the capital 'W.' Its lower right-hand corner has been worn or broken
off, so that it invariably fails to register." He handed one of the
letters to Baker. "See here, and here. The corner of the 'W' instead of
being clear and distinct, is blunt and defective. Let us see whether a
similar fault is to be found in any one of these three samples." He
picked up the three sheets of paper that he had placed to one side.

As he examined them, Mr. Baker and Mrs. Morton saw a shadow of
disappointment cross his face. He handed the three pages to Baker.

"The threatening letters were not written on any machine at your
studio," he said.

Baker took the pages and looked them over carefully.

"No," he said at length. "You are right. None of these show the second
defect you have named."

"Well," observed Duvall cheerfully, "we have accomplished something, at
least. We know that these letters were not written at the studio, and it
seems reasonably certain that the woman we are looking for has a
typewriter in her rooms, or wherever she may live. Of course she might
have had the typewriting done by some public stenographer, but I
consider it unlikely. A person sending threats of this character would
not be apt to entrust so dangerous a secret to a third person. We must
therefore make up our minds to find a woman who has a typewriting
machine, and knows how to use it."

"There are probably a hundred thousand such women in New York," Baker
observed, gloomily.

"No doubt. But we have more information than that about the person who
sent these letters."

"What, for instance?" asked Baker and Mrs. Morton in a breath.

"Well, in the first place, this woman was able to secure possession of a
photograph of Miss Morton." He took the hideously distorted picture from
his pocket. "Do either of you know where this photograph was made?"

Mrs. Morton examined the picture with a shudder. Then she rose, went to
a cabinet at the other end of the room, and took out an album. Returning
to the table, she placed the book before her, and began to turn the
pages. In a few moments she found what she was looking for, a duplicate
of the likeness which lay before them, with the exception, of course, of
its frightful distortions.

"This picture was made by Gibson, on Fifth Avenue," she said, referring
to the photograph in the book. Both Baker and Duvall saw at once that on
the retouched picture, the name of the photographer had been scratched
off.

"How many of them were made, and what became of them?" Duvall asked
quickly.

"Ordinarily I could not answer such a question," Mrs. Morton replied,
"for Ruth has had many photographs taken, and we have not of course kept
a record of them, or what has become of them, but in this particular
case I happen to remember that she did not like the pose particularly,
and ordered but half a dozen. I do not think that she gave any of them
away. If I am right in my supposition, there should be five more here in
the apartment." Closing the book, Mrs. Morton went to the cabinet again,
and took out a portfolio containing numberless photographs of her
daughter in all sorts of poses.

After some searching, she produced a brown-paper envelope, containing a
number of pictures, all taken by the same photographer, at the same
time. There were in the envelope four copies of the photograph, the
fifth of which was contained in the album.

"Evidently one has been given away," Duvall exclaimed. "Now if we can
only find out to whom, our search for the writer of these letters may be
very quickly ended."

Mr. Baker regarded them both with a puzzled look.

"I have seen that picture before," he said, "and of course I could not
have done so, had I not seen the one that is missing." He sat for a
while in silence, searching his recollection for a solution of the
problem. Suddenly he spoke. "There was a picture like that in my office,
at one time," he exclaimed. "Miss Morton sent a number down, for
advertising purposes, and I am positive that this one was among them. I
remember distinctly the pose of the head, the unusual arrangement of the
hair. That photograph should be in our files. The fact that it has been
taken out shows that the person who has been writing these letters is a
member of our own staff, or at least has access to our files."

"That does not necessarily follow," observed Duvall.

"Why not?"

"Because the picture might have been obtained from the photographer."

"But they are not allowed to dispose of the portraits of others, without
the sitter's permission."

"I know that, but they sometimes do so, especially in the case of anyone
so well known as Miss Morton. She has become a sort of public character.

"Well," remarked Duvall, "we can readily find out, in the morning. You,
Mr. Baker, can go through your files, and should you find the photograph
to be there, I will take the matter up with the photographer. If, on the
contrary, the picture is missing, it will be fairly conclusive evidence
that the person or persons we are looking for are in some way connected
with the studio."

"I will make an investigation the first thing in the morning," Mr. Baker
announced, rising. "Do you expect to be at the studio early, Mr.
Duvall?"

"Yes. Quite early."

"Then we had best leave matters until then. Good night. Good night, Mrs.
Morton." He turned and started toward the door.

He had proceeded but a few steps, when the three occupants of the room
were startled by a series of sudden and agonizing cries. From the rear
of the apartment came a succession of screams so piercing in their
intensity, so filled with horror, that they found themselves for a
moment unable to stir. Then Mrs. Morton gave a cry of anguish, and
darted out into the hall, closely followed by Duvall and Mr. Baker.

The screams continued, filling the entire apartment with their clamor.
That the voice which uttered them was that of Ruth Morton none of the
three doubted for a moment. With sinking hearts they went on, prepared
for the worst. Duvall found himself dreading the moment when they should
reach the bedroom door, and face the girl, her beauty, perhaps,
disfigured beyond all recognition.

There was a sharp turn, at the end of the hall, into a shorter cross
hall, at the end of which was the door of Ruth's bedroom. It was closed,
but as though in response to Mrs. Morton's agonized appeals, it suddenly
opened as they reached it, and Ruth Morton, pale as death, appeared.

With wide open eyes staring straight ahead, she half stepped, half fell
through the doorway, her slender figure clothed only in her night dress.
"Ruth," Mrs. Morton screamed, as she caught sight of her daughter.

The girl tried to say something, but her tongue failed her. Then, with a
faint moan, she lurched forward and fell limply into her mother's arms.



PART II



CHAPTER VII


When Duvall, Mr. Baker, of the motion picture company, and Mrs. Morton
rushed down the hallway of the latter's apartment in response to the
screams from Ruth's bedroom, they were one and all convinced that the
girl had suffered some terrible injury--that the mysterious threats to
destroy her beauty which had been made during the past few days had been
converted into some frightful reality.

One glance at the girl's white face as she fell fainting into her
mother's arms told the detective that their fears had been, to that
extent at least, groundless. The girl's lovely features, although drawn
and contorted by fear, showed no signs of the disfigurement they feared.

Leaving the girl to her mother's care, Duvall, closely followed by
Baker, dashed into the bedroom, and at once switched on the lights. The
place, to the intense surprise of both, presented a picture of perfect
quiet and order. The bed clothing was slightly disarranged, but this of
course was but natural, since Ruth had sprung up under the influence of
some terrible fear, and rushed from the room. Everything else seemed in
its place.

Duvall's first act was to examine the window. The one fronting on the
fire escape was closed and tightly fastened. It was perfectly clear that
no one had entered the room in that way.

The other window, facing on the court, was raised a few inches, just as
Mrs. Morton had left it half an hour before. Duvall turned to his
companion with a puzzled frown.

"I had supposed, Mr. Baker," he said, "that someone had entered this
room, and frightened Miss Morton while she was asleep, but that is
impossible. The windows have not been disturbed."

Baker glanced at the one which faced the court.

"That one may have been," he said, indicating it with a nod. "Someone
may have come in that way, raising the window to effect an entrance, and
lowering it again after leaving."

"I admit that what you say would be possible, were there any way in
which the window might be reached from outside," Duvall replied, "but if
you will look out, and tell me how anyone could make an entrance from
the court, I will agree to the possibility you suggest."

Baker raised the window, and glanced out.

"The apartment above," Duvall went on, "is unoccupied, and the window
above is closed and fastened. The little attic in the adjoining house is
unused, although that is not important, since no one could reach this
window from it, in any event. Can you suggest any other way?"

Mr. Baker shook his head.

"She must have been frightened by some terrible nightmare," he said. "I
do not wonder at it. She has gone through enough to upset anybody's
nerves. Suppose we go back and question her."

"Just a moment," exclaimed Duvall. Then he dropped upon his knees beside
the disordered bed, and began to examine the surface of the counterpane
with minute care.

"What is it?" Baker asked, joining him.

"I don't know--yet," returned Duvall, as he took a magnifying glass from
his pocket and proceeded to scrutinize with the greatest interest some
marks upon the counterpane's surface. Presently he rose, replaced the
glass in his pocket, and turned to his companion.

"There is something very astonishing about this whole affair," he
exclaimed. "What do you make of those?" He indicated a series of dark
smudges upon the bedspread, arranged in little groups.

Baker bent over and examined the marks with an exclamation of surprise.

"Why--they look like finger prints," he cried. "Large finger prints."

"It is impossible to say whether they are finger prints or not," Duvall
replied. "As you see, there are a great many of them, very confusingly
arranged. But there is something else, that you have not noticed. What
do you suppose could have made a mark like this?" He pointed to a long
straight dark line, which extended half way across the counterpane, and
pointed directly toward the window which faced upon the court. The line
was very faint, but clearly defined, as though someone had laid a thin
dusty stick across the bed.

"I can't make anything of it," Baker exclaimed, gazing toward the
window.

"Nor can I," said Duvall. "At one time, because of certain indentations
on the letters found in this room, I had thought that they might have
been introduced through the partly opened window by means of a long rod,
a fishing pole, perhaps. This mark on the counterpane appears to bear
out that theory. The smudges which look like finger prints may have been
merely the points at which the end of the pole, or whatever was attached
to the end of the pole, came in contact with the bed. All that is
perfectly supposable. But you can see for yourself that if a long pole
were thrust through the window, raised as the latter was but a trifle
above the level of the bed, the other end of such a pole must of
necessity have been held at approximately the same level, and the only
point outside the window from which it could have been so held is _in
the air, forty feet above the bottom of the court_! The thing is
absurd."

"There is, of course, the window of the apartment below," Baker
suggested. "Might not it have been used?"

"I thought of that," Duvall replied. "You can see for yourself that even
a tall man standing on the window sill below, would find not only his
hands, but even his head, far below the sill of this window, nor could
anyone so support themselves, without something to hold on to. But all
that is beside the question. The people in the apartment below are
friends of Mrs. Morton's, a middle-aged man and his wife, with two young
children. They are eminently respectable people, and quite above
suspicion."

"Then I give the thing up," exclaimed Baker. "Suppose we have a talk
with Miss Morton."

They found the girl lying on a couch in the library, with her mother
sitting beside her. She seemed very weak and quiet, but in full
possession of her faculties. Duvall drew up a chair, and asked her if
she felt able to tell them what had occurred.

"Yes," she replied in a faint voice, her face still showing evidences of
her fright. "I will try to tell you exactly what happened."

"I had taken some medicine to make me sleep, before I got into bed,
because I was very nervous and upset. When mother came back to fix the
windows I was already drowsy, and just remember that she turned out the
lights, and then I must have dozed.

"All of a sudden I heard a strange rasping noise, and I woke up, with
the feeling that there was someone in the room. I don't know just why I
felt so sure of that, whether it was merely a sense of someone's
presence, or the sound of someone moving about near my bed. I think,
however, that it was the latter.

"The room was dark, of course, but enough light came through the windows
to make a moving object distinguishable. I looked about, terribly
frightened, but for a moment I saw nothing. The noise I had heard at
first continued. Then without the least warning, a hand seemed to clutch
at the bedclothes, and I saw above me, bending over me, a terrible dark
face, exactly like the grinning death's head on those letters I've been
getting.

"I lay perfectly still, frozen with horror, and in a moment the face had
disappeared, and then I began to scream. Right after that I sprang from
the bed and threw open the door, and found mother and Mr. Baker and
yourself standing in the hall. That is all I know."

Duvall looked at her for a moment, puzzled.

"Are you sure you really saw someone leaning over you? Might it not have
been an illusion, the result of your nervous condition?"

"No. I am certain someone was there--someone quite tall, I should say,
and with a terrible, evil face."

"It might have been a mask, of course," Duvall suggested. "Someone
wearing a mask."

"Yes. It might have been. It was too dark for me to tell, of course. But
I remember the eyes, for I saw them distinctly. They were only a few
inches from my own." She put her hands to her face and shuddered. "It
was terrible, terrible. I shall never sleep in that room again."

"There--there, dearie," Mrs. Morton whispered in a soothing voice. "You
need not sleep there. You can lie right here, for the rest of the night,
and I will stay with you and see that no one harms you."

"That would be best, Mrs. Morton," Duvall remarked. "And to-morrow I
suggest that you and your daughter move, temporarily at least, to
another location. Some quiet hotel, where you will not be subject to
these terrible annoyances. I cannot imagine how it is done, but in some
way, some almost superhuman way, it seems, someone can apparently either
enter your daughter's room, or at least reach it from without, at will."

"What do you mean by that?" asked Ruth, somewhat mystified.

"I mean this, Miss Morton. I do not believe that there was anyone in
your room to-night. I do not believe that there has ever been anyone
there. But I _do_ believe that the two letters we found there were
introduced from without, in some mysterious way, at the end of a long
pole, or rod. And I think that what frightened you so to-night was
merely a mask, a grotesque representation of the seal used on the
letters, and pushed toward you in some way, as you lay in bed for the
purpose of terrifying you."

"But--why--why?" the girl cried.

"I cannot say. But it has occurred to me that these people, whoever they
are, that are trying to injure you, may not intend any physical violence
at all, at least for the present, but may be depending solely upon the
terrible and insidious power of suggestion. You must bear this
possibility in mind, and try to control your fears. I can readily
believe that thirty days of this sort of persecution, and you would be a
physical and mental wreck. But we shall stop it. You need have no fears
on that score." Mrs. Morton turned to her daughter with a few words of
explanation.

"Mr. Richards, or rather, Mr. Duvall, is not a newspaper man, Ruth, but
a detective, who is trying to bring the wretches who are annoying you to
justice. I feel every confidence in him."

Ruth turned toward Duvall a very white and pathetic face.

"I hope you will succeed, Mr. Duvall," she said, in a weak voice. "I
cannot stand much more."

"I shall, Miss Morton. And now," he turned to Mr. Baker, "I think we had
better go, and let Miss Morton get some rest. I will come here in the
morning, Mrs. Morton," he continued, addressing the girl's mother, "and
we will consider further the question of your moving to a hotel.
Meanwhile I do not think you have anything further to fear this evening.
Good night."

Before leaving the apartment he made another examination of the marks
upon the bedclothes, then closed and fastened both windows, and locked
the door of the room.

Mr. Baker left him at the corner.

"You will come to the studio to-morrow, of course."

"By all means. I shall come down with Miss Morton and her mother. That
will give us an opportunity to investigate further the matter of the
missing photograph, and also to talk over that plan I had in mind
concerning the new film you are to show at the Grand to-morrow night. It
is barely possible that, by means of a plan I have in mind, we may be
able to locate the person or persons responsible for all this trouble."

"I certainly hope so," said Baker, as he took his leave. "This thing is
getting on _my_ nerves, too."

Duvall made his way back to his hotel, as much mystified as ever. He had
thought for a moment of spending the night on the sidewalk in front of
the Mortons' apartment, watching the windows facing on the court, but
his experience told him that it would be useless. The alarm which Ruth
had made, the closing of the windows of her bedroom, the locking of the
door, all made it highly improbable that any further attempt would be
made to annoy her during the night. He walked along in a state of
intense preoccupation, trying to discover some reasonable explanation of
the astonishing events of the day.

Once he had an impression, a feeling, that he was being followed, but
when he turned around, there was no one in sight but a slightly tipsy
man, and a couple of young girls, far down the street. He dismissed the
thought from his mind, and proceeded to his hotel.

It was not yet eleven o'clock, and Grace was waiting for him in the
little parlor of their suite.

"Well, Richard," she remarked, as he came in, "you've had quite a day of
it."

"Yes, quite," he replied, throwing himself into a chair. "What have
_you_ been doing with yourself?"

"Shopping, mostly. I found it rather dull. I went to a moving picture
this afternoon. Saw your friend Ruth Morton. She certainly is a very
beautiful girl."

"Yes--very," Duvall replied, absently.

"Have you seen her to-day?" Grace went on, with a smile.

"Yes. Why?"

"Oh--nothing. I was just thinking."

Duvall burst into a laugh, and rising, went over to his wife and kissed
her.

"For heaven's sake, Grace," he said, "don't be silly. I'm not interested
in motion picture actresses."

"You weren't, I'll admit, nor in motion pictures either, until recently,
but perhaps you have changed. I could understand any man being
fascinated by a girl like Ruth Morton."

Duvall did not pursue the question. It was a hard and fast rule between
them not to discuss his professional work. And Mrs. Morton had made it a
point that he should confide in no one, not even his wife.

"Well," he said, picking up an evening paper, "I'm not fascinated yet.
No letters for me to-day, I suppose."

"None." Grace went on with her sewing.

They sat for a while in silence. Presently there came a knock on the
door, and a boy appeared, bearing a telegram, Duvall opened it
carelessly, thinking it some word from the overseer of his farm. He sat
up with sudden astonishment as he read the contents of the message.

"Keep out," the telegram read, "or you will find that we can strike
back."

Duvall placed the telegram in his pocket with a frown. So it appeared
that in spite of all his care, his connection with the case was known.
How this was possible he could not imagine. His first visit to the
Morton apartment that day had been in the guise of a workman. His
subsequent appearance at the studio, and later, at the apartment, had
been in the character of a newspaper man. There was only one
explanation. Someone had watched him while he was making his examination
of Ruth Morton's room, and, subsequently, had followed him from the
apartment to his hotel. He began to realize that he was dealing with a
shrewd brain, and one that acted with almost uncanny quickness and
precision. He determined that, if Mrs. Morton and her daughter changed
their place of residence the following day, he would do the same. He
said nothing of his intentions to Grace, however. It was more than ever
necessary that he preserve secrecy in this case.

"No bad news, I hope, Richard," Grace remarked, glancing up from her
sewing.

"No. Nothing serious. Have you heard anything from home?"

"Yes. Everything is going along quite smoothly. The boy is well and
happy, and Mrs. Preston says to stay as long as we want to."

"Well," said Duvall, rising and throwing down his newspaper, "if things
don't go better than they have been going to-day, I may have to be here
some time. I've got a queer case on, Grace. I'd like to tell you about
it, but I can't. But it is quite unusual. Some features to it that I
have never met before."

"Oh--I wish I might help you," Grace exclaimed. "You know how often I
have done so in the past."

"I know, dear. But I am bound to secrecy, for the present at least.
Suppose we turn in now. I've got to get up early."

"All right," Grace said. "But if you need my help, don't hesitate to ask
me. To tell you the truth, I'm having an awfully slow time."



CHAPTER VIII


Duvall made his appearance at the Morton apartment the following morning
in his ordinary guise. It was his intention, when the time came, to
disappear from the case in his normal person, to reappear in it, later,
in a complete disguise. But that time, he felt, had not yet arrived.

Mrs. Morton received him in fairly good spirits. Her daughter, she said,
had had a restful night, in spite of her terrible experience. When Ruth
rose from the breakfast table to greet him, he was gratified to find
that she showed no great traces of the fright of the evening before.

"I'm feeling almost myself again, Mr. Duvall," she said. "I've made up
my mind not to let these people frighten me again."

"Nothing further occurred last night, of course," Duvall asked.

"Nothing," replied Mrs. Morton. "I could almost believe the whole thing
a horrible dream." They did not touch on the question of going to a
hotel, during the short interval that elapsed before they set out for
the studio. Duvall was anxious to see Mr. Baker. He hoped sincerely that
by means of the photograph which had been in the company's files, some
trace of the persons responsible for the threats might be obtained.

The trip to the studio was made most uneventfully, and Ruth started in
with her work in very good spirits. Duvall, leaving the girl with her
mother, sought out Mr. Baker in the latter's private office.

"Hello!" Baker cried, grasping the detective's hand warmly. "Anything
new?"

"Not a thing. How about the photograph we were going to trace?"

Mr. Baker frowned.

"It's a curious thing," he replied. "Most curious. The picture in
question was, I find, taken from the files by Mr. Moore, our president,
and placed on his desk. He always admired it, and kept it there, along
with a number of others, to show to persons calling upon him. Now, it
seems, it has disappeared. There is not the slightest trace of it."
"But," Duvall objected, "who could have taken it?"

"A dozen people. Half a hundred, I guess. You see, Mr. Moore's office is
a big room, just beyond here." He rose, and led the detective through a
short corridor. "Here it is," he went on, throwing open the door. "This
is where Mr. Moore receives his callers. It is his reception room, and
no private papers are kept here. Those are all in the smaller office
adjoining. This room is open at any time. After Mr. Moore leaves in the
evening, and he often leaves early, anyone might come in here. And when
the offices are closed, at night, I suppose any employee of the company
might look in, if he cared to do so, without anyone objecting. You see,
this is a sort of public room. The inner office is always kept locked,
but there has never seemed to be any good reason for locking this one."

"Still, although you cannot tell who has taken the picture, it seems
clear enough that it must have been removed by some one employed in the
studio."

"Even that is by no means certain. So many people come here every day.
All sorts of visitors, writers, actors, and the like. After business
hours I don't doubt any number of persons enter this room, to look at
the pictures of our great successes that hang on its walls. And then
there are the caretakers, the scrub-women, and their friends. I find
that they, many of them, bring in outsiders, after working hours, to
look at the studio, and the famous offices. Of course it should not be,
and it will not be, in the future, but up to now we have rather welcomed
people from outside. It seemed good advertising."

Duvall followed his companion back to his office.

"Then this clue, like all the others in this singular case," he
remarked, "seems to end in a blind alley."

"It seems so," assented Mr. Baker, gloomily. "What was your plan about
the new film we're going to show to-night?"

Duvall was about to speak, but before he could do so, they heard a
slight commotion in the hall outside. Then someone rapped violently on
the door.

Both he and Baker sprang to their feet.

"Come in," the latter cried.

The door was flung open, and Mr. Edwards, the director, who was making
the picture upon which Ruth Morton was working, strode hastily into the
room. "Mr. Baker!" he exclaimed, then paused upon seeing Duvall.

"What is it?" Baker replied.

"Will you look here a minute, please?"

Baker went up to him, his face showing the greatest uneasiness.

"What's the matter?" he asked. "Anything wrong?"

"Yes. Miss Morton was going through the scene in the first part, where
she gets the telegram, you know, and when she opened the message, and
read it, she fainted."

"Fainted? What was in the telegram to make her faint?"

"Well, it ought to have read, 'Will call for you to-night, with marriage
license--Jimmy.' That was the prop message we had prepared. But somebody
must have substituted another one for it. This is what she read." He
handed Baker a yellow slip of paper. "I can't make anything out of it."

Baker snatched the telegram from his hand with a growl of rage, and read
it hastily. Then he passed it over to Duvall.

"What do you think of that?" he asked. Duvall gazed at the telegram with
a feeling of helpless anger.

"Twenty-six days more," it read. "When you appear in your new picture at
the Grand to-night, it will be your last. I shall be there." The grinning
death's head seal was appended in lieu of a signature, as before.

A feeling of resentment swept over the detective. It seemed that these
people acted as they saw fit, with supreme indifference to the fact that
he was on their trail. Never before had he felt his skill so flouted,
his ability made so light of. And yet, as usual, the message had
apparently been delivered in such a way as to make tracing it
impossible.

"Still at it, it seems," Mr. Baker remarked. "This thing has got to
stop, and at once. I don't propose to let anybody make a monkey of me."

Duvall turned to the director, Mr. Edwards.

"Who prepared the original telegram?" he asked quickly.

Mr. Edwards looked at the detective in surprise, evidently wondering
what this stranger had to do with the matter.

"Answer, Edwards. It's all right," snapped Mr. Baker.

"I prepared the property telegram," the director answered.

"When?"

"Last night. I knew it would be needed to-day."

"What did you do with it?"

"I left it on my desk. This morning I took it into the studio, and when
the moment arrived, I gave it to the actor who took it to Miss Morton."

"Was he out of your sight, after you gave him the telegram?"

"No. He took it and walked right on the scene."

"Then he couldn't have substituted another for it?"

"No. It would have been impossible, unless he used sleight of hand."

"Before you gave the man the telegram where was it?"

"In my coat pocket."

"No chance, I suppose, of anyone having taken it out and substituting
another."

"None."

"Then it is clear that the substitution must have been effected between
the time you left your office last night, and your arrival here this
morning."

"Yes."

"Was this possible?"

"Undoubtedly. I left my office last night about six. It is never locked.
The caretakers, the women who clean the offices, were in there later,
and from seven to nine this morning it would also have been a simple
matter for anyone to enter and make the change."

Duvall turned to Mr. Baker.

"It's the same story," he said. "Someone who works in the building is
responsible for this thing, or else is able to bribe one or more of your
employees to act for them. But we won't get very far looking for the
guilty person, with several hundred people to watch and no clues
whatever to go on. Suppose we go back to your office, and I will tell
you what I had in mind about this evening."

"Is Miss Morton able to go on with the scene?" Baker asked, as Edwards
started away.

"No. She seems all broken up. I don't think she is very well. Her mother
is going to take her home, as soon as she feels better."

"Will you ask Mrs. Morton to wait a little while, Mr. Edwards? Tell her
that Mr. Duvall will join her presently, and go back to the city with
her." Mr. Edwards nodded, and withdrew, and Duvall and Mr. Baker retired
to the latter's private office.

"What did you have in mind about that new film we're going to release
to-night?" Mr. Baker asked.

"I'll explain that presently. First, tell me how long it will take you
to make a short section of film, say enough to show for about ten
seconds?"

"Oh--not long. But what of?"

"I'll explain that presently. But you could make such a section of film,
develop and print it, and insert it in the picture you are going to show
to-night, if you had to, couldn't you?"

"Yes--if we had to. But what's the idea?"

Duvall took a bit of paper from his pocket and handed it to Baker.

"I want you to make a picture of this, and have it inserted in the film
at any convenient point--say at the beginning of the second part. And
you had better have the cutting and pasting-in done by some trusted
person, under your personal supervision."

"But," said Baker, gazing in amazement at the bit of paper Duvall had
handed him. "What's the idea of putting this in our picture? It wouldn't
do at all."

"Look at that telegram Mr. Edwards just gave you. The writer says in it,
'I shall be there.' Now if the person who is causing all this trouble is
going to be in the audience at the Grand Theater to-night, it is our
business to find her. I say her, because I am convinced the guilty
person is a woman."

A look of comprehension began to dawn upon Mr. Baker's face.

"By George!" he exclaimed. "You figure out that this will cause her to
disclose herself--make some sign?"

"I feel certain of it."

"Then we will put it in." He laid the square of paper on his desk. "I
will have the section of film made privately, and at once. I shall not
tell even the other officers of the company about it. I suppose they
will give me the devil, until after they know the reasons for it, but
then, of course, it will be all right."

Duvall rose and put out his hand.

"You will be there to-night, of course?"

"Of course. And you?"

"Oh, I'll be on hand all right, although you may not recognize me. Good
day." With a quick hand-shake he left the room, and went to look for
Ruth and her mother. He found them in the girl's dressing-room, ready to
depart. Ruth was pale and terrified, showing the most intense
nervousness in every word and movement. Mrs. Morton, scarcely less
affected, strove with all her power to remain calm, in order that her
daughter might not break down completely. Duvall did his best to cheer
them up.

"You must not let this thing prey on your mind, Miss Morton," he said.
"We are going to put a stop to it, and that very soon."

"I hope so, Mr. Duvall," the girl replied. "If you don't, I'm afraid I
shall break down completely."

"I think we had better go home at once," Mrs. Morton said. "Ruth is in
no condition to do any more work to-day."

"I quite agree with you about going, Mrs. Morton, but not home." He
lowered his voice, as though fearing that even at that moment some tool
of the woman who was sending the letters might be within earshot. "I
suggest that you let me take your daughter to some quiet hotel. You can
follow, with her maid and the necessary baggage, later on. But we must
be certain to make the change in such a way that our enemies, who are
undoubtedly watching us, will not know of it. We will all leave here in
your car, giving out that we are going to your home. No one will suspect
anything to the contrary. On our arrival in the city, your daughter and
I will leave the car, and drive to the hotel in a taxicab. When, later
on, you follow with the baggage, take a taxi, sending your own car to
the garage. I know your confidence in your chauffeur, but in this affair
we can afford to trust no one. Your daughter and yourself can remain
quietly in the hotel, under an assumed name, for a few days, until she
recovers her strength. Meanwhile, I have every expectation that the
persons at the bottom of this shameful affair will have been caught."

The plan appealed to Mrs. Morton at once, and she told the detective so.

"But where shall we go to--what hotel?" she asked.

Duvall leaned over and whispered in her ear the name of an exclusive and
very quiet hotel in the upper part of the city.

"Do not mention the name to anyone," he said, "not even to the taxicab
driver, when you leave the house. Tell him to put you down at the
corner, a block away, and do not proceed to the hotel until you see that
he has driven off. And keep your eyes on your maid. I do not suspect
her, I admit, but there seems to be a leak somewhere, and we must stop
it."

Mrs. Morton nodded, and rose.

"We had better start, then," she said. "I understand perfectly. Have
Ruth register in the name of Bradley. And I think, Mr. Duvall, if you
can do so, you had better arrange to stop there as well."

"I had intended to do so," the detective replied.

"That will be better." Mrs. Morton led the way to the street.

"You did not intend to go to the showing of your new film at the Grand
to-night, did you?" Duvall asked Ruth, after they had started away from
the studio.

"Yes, I had intended to go," she replied. "I always go to my first
releases. But to-night I do not feel able to do so."

"I think it is just as well. What you need most now is rest."

The girl looked at herself in a small mirror affixed to the side of the
car.

"Oh," she exclaimed. "I look terrible. These people are right, it seems.
Three more weeks of this persecution and my looks would be quite gone.
Mr. Edwards told me only this morning that he had never seen me look so
bad." There were tears in her eyes.

Duvall realized that she spoke the truth. The effect of the strain upon
her nervous system, the brutal shocks of the past two days, the horror
of the experience of the night before, had wrought havoc with the girl's
beauty. Her face, gray, lined, haggard, her eyes, heavy and drawn, made
her the very opposite of the radiant creature that had created such a
furore in motion picture circles. The methods of her persecutors, if
unchecked, would beyond doubt wreck her strength and health in a short
time, and in addition, there was the danger that at any moment a
physical attack, a swiftly thrown acid bomb, an explosive mixture
concealed in an innocent-looking package, might destroy both her beauty
and her reason in one blinding flash. With the fear in her great brown
eyes constantly before him, Duvall determined more than ever to free her
from this terrible persecution.

They separated in the neighborhood of 30th Street, Duvall and Miss
Morton taking a taxicab that stood before one of the smaller Fifth
Avenue hotels. He made a pretense of entering the hotel, and did not
summon the taxi until Mrs. Morton's car was well out of sight up the
Avenue. Then he instructed the driver to proceed first to his hotel.

Their stop here was but momentary. Duvall went to his room, threw a few
articles of clothing into his grip, left a note for Grace, telling her
that he would be absent for several days, then rejoined his companion
and drove uptown to the hotel opposite the park, the name of which he
had mentioned to Mrs. Morton. He felt perfectly certain that they had
not been followed.

Upon arriving at the hotel, he entered their names, including that of
Mrs. Morton, upon the register, using the pseudonym which that latter
had suggested. Then, sending Ruth to her room, he asked to see the
manager, and had a brief conference with him in private. Immediately
thereafter, he went up to his own apartment.

As he had arranged, it adjoined the suite selected for the Mortons. He
tapped lightly on the communicating door.

"Are you all right, Miss Morton?" he called.

"Yes," came the girl's voice from the opposite side. "All right, thank
you."



CHAPTER IX


Grace Duvall said good-by to her husband that morning with very little
enthusiasm. She was not jealous of him, she was too sensible a woman,
and trusted him too fully for that. But his sudden interest in Ruth
Morton, the charming motion picture star, seemed rather incomprehensible
to her. Of course she suspected he was working on a case which concerned
the girl although Duvall had neither affirmed nor denied it. But she
felt lonely, and perhaps a trifle out of sorts, and found her solitary
breakfasts, luncheons, dinners, a little trying. So often before, she
and Richard had worked together. Why, she wondered, did he so pointedly
exclude her from this case? She would have liked to talk it over with
him.

She sat rather disconsolately in her room most of the forenoon, and
about one o'clock made ready for a lonely luncheon. She was just about
to leave the apartment when the telephone bell rang. Grace hastened to
it at once, hoping that the call might be from her husband. A woman's
voice, low, firm, determined sounded in her ears.

"I want to speak with Mr. Duvall," the voice said.

"Mr. Duvall is out. This is Mrs. Duvall."

"Very well, Mrs. Duvall. If you want to keep your husband from very
serious harm, you had better tell him to steer clear of Ruth Morton's
affairs in future. A word to the wise, you know. Good day." The speaker
suddenly rang off.

Grace turned from the telephone, her brain in a whirl. What danger
threatened her husband? Ought she not to tell him of the message as soon
as possible, so that he might be on his guard? And what did this
mysterious reference to "Ruth Morton's affairs" mean. Did it imply that
Richard was in any way involved--but that was preposterous. She put the
thought from her mind, and went down in the elevator to a lonely and not
very enjoyable meal.

As she left the dining-room, and passed through the lobby, she thought
she saw ahead of her a familiar figure. A moment later she realized that
it was Richard himself, walking very rapidly toward the main entrance,
his satchel in his hand. Was he leaving the hotel? And if so, ought she
not to make an attempt to give him the message she had just received,
before he did so? She walked quickly after him, but his pace was so
rapid that she reached the sidewalk only in time to see him swing
himself into a waiting taxi, baggage in hand, and drive quickly off. But
what Grace saw, in addition to this, filled her with queer misgivings.
Beside her husband in the cab was a woman--very beautiful woman, whom
Grace had no difficulty whatever in identifying as Ruth Morton. And she
also noticed, in the brief moment that elapsed before the taxi shot
toward the Avenue, that the woman seemed to be in tears, and that
Richard leaned over with the utmost solicitude and affection and clasped
her hand in his. For the first time in her life, Grace Duvall was
actually jealous.

Thoughts of possible danger to her husband, however, were paramount in
her mind. Without an instant's hesitation she stepped into a second
taxi, whose driver was trying to attract her attention, and told him to
follow the car containing the man and woman which had just driven off.

The chauffeur grinned knowingly, nodded, and started his car. His grin
drove from Grace's mind her sudden and unaccustomed jealousy. She knew
that Richard must be going away with this girl for some reason connected
with his professional work. Of course that work did not usually include
consoling beautiful damsels in distress, but there must be extenuating
circumstances. She put her unpleasant thoughts from her mind, and
proceeded on her mission, to give her husband the warning message she
had just received, with a reasonably calm mind.

After a drive of some fifteen minutes, she saw the cab ahead of them
begin to slow up, and observed that her chauffeur did likewise.
Presently the first cab stopped before the doors of a big, imposing
looking hotel, and Richard and Miss Morton hurriedly entered.

Grace did not at once get out. She knew that her husband might resent
her having followed him, and did not care to put him to any disadvantage
by appearing so unexpectedly upon the scene. She waited, therefore, for
several minutes, until he would have had time to go to his room, and
then, paying off her cabman, she strolled quietly into the hotel lobby.

There were a few persons sitting about, but Richard was not amongst
them. Going to the clerk at the desk, she asked to see Mr. Richard
Duvall.

The clerk regarded her with a supercilious stare, consulted his records
in a bored way, then informed her that no such person was registered
there.

Grace was completely taken aback.

"But I saw him come in, only a few moments ago," she protested.

"No such person here, Miss." With a frigid smile the clerk turned away,
watching her, however, out of the corner of his eye, as though he
considered her a suspicious character.

Grace leaned over and examined the register. There were three entries
upon it, in a handwriting clearly that of her husband. "Mrs. Bradley and
maid," the first entry said. "Miss Bradley," the second. They had been
assigned a suite of rooms. The third and last entry was "John Bradley."
His room adjoined the suite. All three were set down as hailing from
Boston.

Grace puzzled for a long time over this mysterious series of entries
without arriving at any definite conclusion regarding them. Where was
the so-called Mrs. Bradley? And why had her husband assumed the same
name? Was he posing as Ruth Morton's brother, and if so, for what
reason? She could not make head or tail of the matter, and wondered
whether she had better send up her card, or write Richard a note and
leave it for him, telling of the warning. While she was debating the
matter in her mind, she suddenly saw him emerge from one of the
elevators at the opposite side of the lobby, and come toward the desk.

Grace approached him at once, glad that the matter had been so simply
arranged.

"Richard," she said, in a low voice. "I want to speak to you."

The gentleman she had addressed regarded her with a frown.

"My name is not Richard, madam," he said, pointedly. "I am John Bradley.
You must have made a mistake." With a polite bow he passed on.

Grace was completely taken aback. She knew that between them there
existed a tacit understanding never to address each other, in public,
during the progress of a case, unless requested to do so by some sign.
But she felt that she had important information to give her husband, and
then, she _had_ been a trifle jealous and annoyed. The thought that she
had committed an error filled her with chagrin. Without a word, she left
the hotel.

At a nearby corner she stepped into a telephone booth, and calling up
the hotel, asked to speak to Mr. John Bradley. In a few moments she
heard Richard's familiar tones.

"This is Grace," she said quickly. "I'm sorry I spoke to you, just now,
but I wanted to tell you that some woman telephoned the hotel to-day,
and left a warning to the effect that if you did not keep out of Miss
Morton's affairs, you would be in serious danger."

"How did you know where I was?" Duvall asked.

"I saw you leave the hotel, and followed you."

"You should not have done so."

"But I wanted to give you the message. I thought you ought to know."

"I understand that, but I wished my presence here to be unknown to
anyone. You made a serious mistake. I only hope that no harm will come
of it."

"But--how could harm come of it?"

"You drove here in one of the hotel's regular cabs, I suppose?"

"Yes."

"Then the people I am trying to avoid may trace me here, through the
driver of that cab."

"Oh--Richard--I'm so sorry. Isn't there anything I can do?"

"Nothing, now, except to make no further attempt to communicate with me
here. Good-by."

Grace returned to her hotel, very thoroughly dissatisfied with what she
had done. It seemed to her that by trying to warn Richard of possible
danger, she might only have brought it upon him. Apparently he had left
their hotel, to avoid the very persons who had telephoned the warning
message to her. She arrived at the door, got out of the cab in which she
had made the journey, and looked about, hoping that the cabman who had
driven her uptown might now be at his usual stand. To her delight, she
saw that he was.

She went up to the man, a slim, keen looking young Irishman, and engaged
him in conversation.

"Do you remember driving me uptown an hour or so ago?" she asked.

"Sure I do, Miss," answered the man, touching his cap.

"Then please forget completely where you went, will you?" She handed the
man a ten dollar bill. "It is barely possible that someone may try to
find out, through you, where I went. Be sure that you give them no
information."

"They'll get nothing out of me, Miss," the man replied, pocketing the
bill with a pleased grin.

"And if anybody _does_ try to find out, get their name, if you can, and
if not, a description of them."

"I'll do my best, Miss."

"I am stopping here. My name is Duvall, Mrs. Duvall."

"Very good, ma'am. I'll attend to it, ma'am."

Grace went up to her room, satisfied that she had remedied her mistake,
and began to look through an afternoon paper she had bought. There
seemed nothing better to do, during the evening, than to go to the
theater. Glancing down the list of attractions, she suddenly saw the
name of Ruth Morton, in large letters, billed in a new feature play, _An
American Beauty_, opening at the Grand Theater that night. She at once
made up her mind to go. Since yesterday, her interest in Miss Morton had
perceptibly increased. And in spite of all, Richard _had_ held her hand.

She was just finishing her dinner, when a page came through the room,
calling her name. She got up at once and followed him to the lobby.

"I am Mrs. Duvall," she said.

The boy looked up.

"There's a chauffeur outside wants to see you, ma'am," he said, "Tom
Leary."

Grace understood at once, and made her way to the sidewalk. The cab
driver of the morning stood near the entrance.

"I beg pardon, ma'am, for calling you out," he said, "but I couldn't
come in, and there was something I felt you ought to know."

"What is it?"

"A lady came here to see me a while ago," he said. "A smallish looking
woman, not pretty, with light hair. She had on a dark brown suit. Not
very good style, ma'am. She asked me if I knew anybody in the hotel
named Duvall. I said I did. I find she'd been asking all the other
cabmen, and had been to the desk, before that. I guess she must have
been inquiring for your husband, ma'am."

"Yes--yes--very likely," Grace hastily replied. "What then?"

"Well, ma'am, she then asked me if I knew Mrs. Duvall. I said I did.
Then she wanted to know if I'd driven either you or your husband to any
other hotel to-day, and I said I hadn't, but that I usually did drive
you, when you went anywhere. I took the liberty of saying that, ma'am."

"Yes. I'm glad you did. Go on."

"Then she hands me five dollars, and says that if I _did_ drive you to
any other hotel, I was to let her know which one it was."

"Where?" Grace asked, eagerly.

The man fished from his pocket a small bit of cardboard upon which was
scrawled with a pencil "Alice Watson, General Delivery."

Grace stared at the bit of paper in surprise. Had she, by some lucky
chance, discovered the very person for whom Richard was seeking? Of
course the name was probably a fictitious one, and the address "General
Delivery," meant nothing, and yet, it provided a clew by means of which
this woman might be found.

"You have acted very wisely, Leary," she said. "I am greatly obliged to
you."

"Do you want me to send her any word, ma'am?"

"I may. I am anxious to get hold of this woman, or, to be more exact, my
husband is. I will consult with him first, however. It may be that he
will want you to write her a letter, giving her some such information as
she desires, and then, by going to the general delivery window at the
post office and watching, identify her when she comes for it. Do you
think you could arrange to get off and do this?"

"Well, ma'am, even if I can't arrange to get off, you could of course
hire my cab, and----"

"Of course," Grace interrupted. "Very well. I will let you know further
about the matter a little later. Meanwhile, here is something more for
your trouble." She gave the man another bill. "Now drive me to the Grand
Theater."



CHAPTER X


Duvall, after having satisfied himself that Ruth Morton was safely
installed in her suite of rooms at the hotel, came down to the lobby to
await the arrival of Mrs. Morton.

The unexpected meeting with Grace caused him the utmost anxiety. He
appreciated fully her reasons for having come to see him, and yet he
deeply regretted her coming. The enemies of Ruth Morton were far too
clever, too shrewd, he feared, not to take advantage of her mistake, and
by means of it, trace him at once to his present address. A complete
disguise became an immediate necessity. He decided to assume one, as
soon as Mrs. Morton had arrived.

The latter came in about ten minutes later accompanied by Nora. Duvall
explained matters to the clerk at the desk, and the supposed Mrs.
Bradley was conducted to her rooms at once. Duvall accompanied her.

They found Ruth resting quietly, but her joy at her mother's arrival was
very apparent. She feared to be left alone, and seemed to expect her
persecutors to appear from every closet, through every door or window.

"Oh, mother, I'm so glad to see you," she exclaimed.

"I'm glad to find you safe," Mrs. Morton returned.

"I advise you to stay right here with your daughter throughout the
evening, Mrs. Morton," said Duvall, as he made ready to go to his own
room. "Have your meals sent up. Admit no one. Open no packages. I have
every hope that before the night is over, I may have some most important
and satisfactory news for you. I shall probably not see you again until
after the performance to-night, but if anything vital occurs, I will of
course communicate with you by telephone. Good-by, and good luck."

When he reached his own room, he proceeded to the business of divesting
himself completely of all resemblance to Richard Duvall. It was clear
that the persons he was seeking knew him by sight, and hence his
opportunities to accomplish anything against them were very greatly
lessened. The threatening telephone message received by Grace did not
worry him at all, but the fact that those people were so constantly upon
his heels did. He determined to disappear completely as Duvall, and
reappear in the person of John Bradley, using all his skill in the
matter of disguise to create for himself a totally different
personality.

Taking a makeup box from his grip, he proceeded first to give his dark
brown hair a very decided and natural looking touch of gray, over the
temples and at the sides. Then he fitted into place a short pointed
grayish beard, and a mustache with waxed ends. These were products of
the skill of one of the best wig-makers in Paris, and so cleverly made
that they would defy detection, even in broad daylight. A pair of
gold-rimmed eyeglasses completed the facial disguise. Duvall might now
have passed anywhere for a well-groomed professional man of fifty-five
or sixty.

The impression was heightened by his frock coat and silk hat. He felt
quite sure that, in his present disguise, the plotters against Ruth
Morton's welfare could not possibly recognize him.

He went down to the theater very early, after a hasty dinner, and found
Mr. Baker in the box office. The moving picture man did not recognize
him, of course, and Duvall, after drawing him aside, had some little
difficulty in convincing him of his identity. Once it had been
established, however, Mr. Baker conducted him to a dressing room behind
the scenes, and motioned him to a chair.

"We can talk here without being seen or heard," he said. "Is there
anything new?"

"Nothing. I have taken Mrs. Morton and her daughter to a hotel, where I
feel sure they will be quite safe from further annoyance. Ruth will not
come to the studio for a few days, until we have gotten to the bottom of
this affair. I am staying in an adjoining room, so as to be on hand at
once in case of any trouble. I suppose you have everything fixed for
to-night?"

"Yes." Mr. Baker's tone was dubious. "I have inserted in the film the
material you gave me. It will appear just at the end of Part I. I hope
it will not spoil our picture."

"I think not. As a matter of fact, when the reasons for its introduction
become known, I imagine it will give you a lot of very valuable
advertising."

"Possibly so," Mr. Baker granted. "But after all, I begin to feel very
doubtful as to the results. This woman, whoever she is, that is
persecuting Miss Morton seems to be mighty clever. She may not be
affected in the way you think, by what she sees on the screen."

"I realize that. It is only a chance. But don't you think that, under
the circumstances, it is a chance worth taking?"

"Most certainly; otherwise I should not have consented to it. But, as I
say, I doubt very much its success."

"Well--we can only try. You will remember what I said about the lights,
and the call for a doctor, if one appears to be needed."

"Yes. I have all that in mind. Miss Morton is not coming to-night, I
presume."

"No. I advised against it."

"I'm glad of that."

Duvall sat in silence for a moment.

"By the way," he said presently. "There is one important matter that I
have overlooked. Do you give your employees passes for these opening
performances?"

"No--not regularly, that is. But any member of our organization who
wishes to see the performance would of course be admitted. We reserve a
section of the house for that purpose. A number of our people usually
come over."

"Good! That's just what I had hoped for. Where is this section?"

"The last five rows on the left-hand side of the house. But why?"

"Don't you see? All the evidence points to the fact that the person who
is responsible for these threats either works in your studio, or is in
some way able to gain access to it at any time. Witness the stolen
photograph--the substituted telegram of this morning. In the latter it
was definitely stated that the woman in the case would be in the
audience to-night. I am hoping sincerely that she will not have the
cleverness to enter as one of the public, but will come in as one of
your people, and sit in the section of the house reserved exclusively
for your employees. In that event, I think we shall discover who she is
beyond a doubt."

"I certainly hope so," sighed Mr. Baker. "This thing has got us all up
in the air. Our President had a long conference with me this afternoon
about Miss Morton. He seems to think she is going to pieces, and
recommended trying to get Joan Clayton away from the Multigraph people
to take her place. He says that she is losing her good looks. I told him
nothing, of course, but it worried me a lot. I am very fond of Ruth
Morton, and I don't want to see her lose her place."

"She won't lose it," asserted Duvall. "When we get through, her position
with your company will be stronger than it has ever been before. Shall
we go out in the lobby and take a look at the crowd as it comes in?"

Mr. Baker assented, and the two men stationed themselves near the box
office.

Without appearing to do so, Duvall inspected the various members of the
incoming crowd. His scrutiny was careful, comprehensive, but the only
person he recognized was Grace.

That she also recognized him he knew. She had seen the disguise he wore,
many times, and was familiar with it. She did not betray herself,
however, by so much as a glance, but proceeded at once to her seat.

When the moment arrived for the beginning of the performance, the house
was filled. Duvall, with Baker at his side, stationed himself back of
the left-hand section of seats, so that the rows reserved for the
employees of the company were directly in front of him. He occupied
himself, during the interval before the lights were switched off, by
noting carefully all the women in the last five rows, but none of them
attracted his attention particularly.

Soon the performance began. Ruth Morton, the American Beauty, stepped
upon the screen, a compelling vision of loveliness. The audience
followed eagerly her exciting adventures. Duvall himself, in spite of
his preoccupation, found himself absorbed by the charm and action of the
picture. In the opening scenes, Ruth appeared as a poor girl, trying to
make her way in the great world of the theater. Her struggles, her
sacrifices, her failures, were almost vividly portrayed. When at last,
through her marvelous beauty, she succeeded in gaining recognition from
the critics, he applauded with those about him, completely under the
spell of her charm.

The final scene of the first part was a view of Ruth, as Catherine Grey,
the American Beauty, refusing the dubious offers made her by a rich New
Yorker. With a faith in herself by no means assumed, Catherine turned
from his picture of luxury, of steam yachts, of country estates, of
unlimited bank accounts, with a smile which showed her confidence in her
beauty, her talents. The audience watched her, spellbound, as she stood
on the sidewalk before the theater, looking with grave inscrutable eyes
after the costly limousine that had just driven away without her. In no
picture heretofore taken of the girl had she appeared to better
advantage. Every line of her lovely face seemed responsive to the effect
of the lighting, the situation, the motives which inspired her. The
audience drew itself back, ready to register its approval of the first
part of the film with hearty applause.

And then, something happened. The lovely, smiling face of Ruth Morton
faded from view, and in its place came with brutal suddenness the
picture of a huge grinning death's head, amazing in its suggestion of
horror. The audience sat in utter silence, wondering what could be the
reason for this sudden apparition. Beneath the death's head appeared in
huge letters the words:

                      "We know the woman."

The thing had come as a complete surprise. The tension throughout the
house was electric. Duvall saw his wife rise from her seat on the aisle,
a few rows away, and come quickly to the rear of the house. She, at
least, realized that a moment of importance had arrived.

And then, without warning, the stillness of the theater was broken by a
sudden cry, and a woman, sitting some three rows from where Duvall
stood, but on the opposite side of the aisle from the seats indicated by
Mr. Baker, rose to her feet, turned, and fell heavily against the back
of the seat ahead of her. At almost the same moment the lights were
switched on, and a voice was heard calling. "Is there a doctor in the
house?"

It was Mr. Baker, and Duvall, who stood beside him, sprang forward at
once.

"I am a doctor," he cried, and approached the place where the woman sat.

"Can I be of any assistance?" Grace asked. "I am a trained nurse."

"Yes," replied Duvall, quickly. "Get this woman to the ladies' dressing
room at once."

Grace sprang forward. There was a bustle among the audience, a sudden
rising, a craning of necks. Everyone seemed to be looking for the person
who had uttered the sudden cry. Before anyone fully realized what had
happened, Grace had reached the fainting woman's side, and supporting
her with an arm about her waist, was leading her toward the rear of the
house.

Almost at once the theater became dark, and the second part of the
picture was flashed upon the screen. The lovely face of Ruth Morton once
more greeted the eyes of the audience. The interruption had occupied
less than a minute.

Duvall, standing at the entrance to the aisle, watched Grace come
quickly toward him, supporting the fainting woman. The latter seemed
completely overcome, and Grace was obliged almost to carry her.

"Keep her there, in the dressing room, until I return," he said in a
quick whisper. Then with a nod to Mr. Baker, who stood close by, he went
toward the street. A taxicab drew up, awaiting a fare. Duvall signaled
to it.

"Wait for me here," he said to the driver. "I will be back in a moment."
Then he re-entered the theater.

Grace meanwhile had conducted the woman to the ladies' dressing room,
and placed her upon a couch.

She was a frail, insignificant looking creature, not at all the sort of
person one would associate with threats of the kind that Ruth Morton had
been receiving. She appeared to be greatly ashamed of her sudden
collapse, and kept insisting, in spite of her evident weakness, that she
was quite all right again, and wanted to go.

Grace, however, paid no attention to her protestations, but insisted
that she remain quiet.

"The doctor will be here in a moment," she said. "You must wait quietly
until he comes."

The woman, however, seemed determined to leave, and it was with a sigh
of relief that Grace welcomed her husband's return.

Duvall came in hurriedly, as he did so taking a small brown bottle from
his waistcoat pocket.

"Get me a glass of water," he said to the negro maid. The woman brought
one at once.

Duvall took a tablet from the bottle and placed it in the glass,
stirring the water about with the end of a lead pencil until the tablet
was dissolved. Then he went up to the woman on the couch.

"Here--drink this," he commanded. "It will quiet your nerves."

The woman took the glass, her eyes regarding him with suspicion. Duvall,
in his character of a physician, turned aside, and addressed a few words
to Grace, fearing that in some way the woman might succeed in
recognizing him. As a result both failed to see that instead of drinking
the medicine he had given to her, the girl swiftly poured it upon the
floor. When he again turned to her, she held the empty glass in her
hand.

Duvall took it from her, and handed it to Grace.

"Come with me, Miss," he said. "I will see you home."

"It isn't necessary," the woman gasped. "I--I'm all right now."

"You have had a severe shock, Miss. As a physician, it is my duty to see
that you arrive home safely. I have already engaged a cab. Come." He
took the woman by the arm and in spite of her objections, raised her
from the couch.

Suddenly her opposition vanished. She seemed glad of his assistance,
and, leaning on his arm, made her way from the theater. Duvall was in
high spirits. He fully believed that his plan had succeeded, that the
woman at his side was the one who was responsible for the threats which
had made Ruth Morton so wretched for the past few days.

The cab that he had engaged stood waiting at the door. He put the woman
inside. She seemed very weak and helpless. "Drive to the ---- Hotel,"
Duvall called to the chauffeur, then entered the cab and seated himself
at the woman's side. He saw Mr. Baker standing upon the sidewalk, and
nodded. Then they drove off.

The woman lay, in a state of apparent collapse, in one corner of the
cab, her face pale, her eyes closed. Duvall, inspecting her as well as
he could in the faint light, began to feel grave doubts as to whether
after all he had been successful in his ruse. She seemed so little the
type of woman he would have associated with the brutal campaign of
terror that had been directed against Miss Morton.

She clutched a black leather satchel tightly in one hand. Duvall
regarded it with interest. If he was right in his assumption that this
was the woman he sought, it seemed highly probable that within that
satchel lay evidence that might convict her. At least there would be
some clue as to who she was, and that in itself would be valuable.

The woman seemed to grow weaker and weaker. Her closed eyes, her slow
but regular breathing, indicated that the drug he had given her had
begun to take effect. Stealthily Duvall's hand reached toward the small
black satchel. With eager fingers he pressed the catch, and as the bag
opened, began to draw out its contents.

The woman, however, seemed far less helpless than he had supposed. She
pulled the satchel toward her, her fingers seeking to close it. Duvall
discontinued his efforts at once. It would be time enough, he felt, when
they had reached the hotel, and the woman had been safely conducted to a
room there. He had made his plans carefully in advance, and arranged
matters with the hotel manager. There was nothing to do, now, but wait.

Presently the woman, who had been regarding him, unnoticed, from beneath
lowered lids, uttered a groan, as though in great pain, and clutched her
breast. Duvall turned to her at once, speaking in a soothing voice, and
assuming a professional manner.

"Is anything wrong, Miss? I had hoped you were feeling better."

"No, doctor. I'm not. I feel terrible--terrible."

"In what way?"

"My--my heart. It is in awful shape. I need some stimulant. The--the
medicine you gave me made me feel very ill."

Her words surprised Duvall. He had given her a simple drug, the effect
of which should have been to make her drowsy, to quiet her nerves. That
she had not taken it, he of course did not know. His greatest fear had
been that she would refuse to enter the cab with him. Now that she had
done so, he was prepared to use even force, if necessary, to retain her
in his custody until he had either obtained the evidence he desired, or
forced from her a confession. What he particularly hoped to find was the
seal with which the death's head impression had been made. He felt
certain that, if this was the woman he sought, she would have this seal
somewhere about her person. It was far too significant a bit of evidence
to be left lying about at home.

But there was always the chance that this woman, who had been so
instantly affected by the ghastly apparition on the screen, the
significant words beneath it, might not, after all, be the right one,
the one he sought. There was always the possibility that the real
criminal, although present in the audience, had made no sign, and that
his companion in the cab might be entirely innocent. As he had told
Baker, it was a chance--a long chance, yet something seemed to say to
him that he had made no mistake in taking it. Now, however, a new
situation had arisen to upset his plans. His prisoner, instead of having
been quieted by the drug he had administered, was apparently becoming
more and more agitated and nervous every minute. Her groans, as she lay
huddled up in the corner of the cab, puzzled him, filled him with vague
alarm. Was it possible that she had a weak heart? Had the sedative he
had given her, harmless as he knew the dose would be to a normal person,
affected her in so unfavorable a way? He took her wrist in his hand, and
felt her pulse. It was quick, indicative of nervous excitement, but
certainly not weak.

"Oh--doctor, doctor, won't you _please_ give me something to make me
feel a little better?" the woman gasped. "It's my heart, I tell you.
I--I can't breathe. I'm suffocating. I must have something at once--some
aromatic spirits of ammonia--some brandy--anything, to make me feel a
little better."

Her earnestness, her trembling voice, her excited manner, all served to
convince Duvall that his companion was really in need of a stimulant of
some sort. He decided to humor her. A dose of aromatic spirits, he
reflected, could do no harm, and would doubtless serve to lessen her
excitement. He leaned out, and directed the driver of the cab to stop at
the nearest drug store.

"Oh--thank you--thank you," the woman gasped. "Tell him to hurry,
please." Then collapsing in the corner of the seat, she closed her eyes
and sat so silent that Duvall began to wonder whether she had lost
consciousness.

The taxicab, meanwhile, had drawn up in front of a drug store on Sixth
Avenue. Duvall took a look at the apparently unconscious woman, then
spoke quickly to the chauffeur.

"Stay here until I return," he said. "Don't go away under any
circumstances. I shall be gone but a moment."

The man nodded.

"I'll stay, sir," he said. "Don't worry."

Duvall went quickly into the store. Going up to the soda counter, he
instructed the clerk to prepare him a dose of aromatic spirits of
ammonia as quickly as possible. While waiting for it, he watched the cab
through the store window.

The preparation of the dose required but a few moments. Then, explaining
matters to the clerk, Duvall took the glass in his hand and went back to
the cab. He smiled to himself at his anxiety, as he passed through the
door. The woman was far too ill, he reflected, to entertain any thoughts
of escape.

"Here," the detective said, opening the door of the cab. "Drink this."

There was no response. Duvall stuck his head into the vehicle with some
misgivings. Then he experienced a sudden and most mortifying shock.
There was no fainting woman huddled against the cushions in the far
corner. There was no woman at all. _The cab was empty!_



CHAPTER XI


Richard Duvall had had charge of many unusual and intricate cases, in
the past, and he prided himself upon the fact that he had handled them
with skill and discretion, and that the results which had followed had
been both quick and decisive. But in all his career he had not, so far
as he could remember, ever felt quite so chagrined, as he did when he
threw open the door of the cab and found that the woman he had left
there had disappeared.

The fault was his, he knew that well--entirely and unmistakably his.
This woman was evidently far more clever, more subtle than he had
imagined. He realized now that she had in all probability not taken the
drug he had given her in the dressing room of the theater, that she had
seen his effort to examine the contents of her handbag, that her
weakness, her call for a stimulant of some sort had been but clever
acting, and that she had purposely sent him into the drug store in order
that she might escape. He blamed himself, utterly and completely, for
his amazing stupidity in not realizing that the woman, instead of
ordering the cabman to drive away, had only to slip out through the door
on the opposite side of the vehicle, and vanish in the darkness.

And this she had quite evidently done. The door of the cab opposite him
stood open. No doubt she had purposely refrained from closing it,
fearing that the click of the lock might attract the driver's attention.
The latter with his eyes following Duvall, as the detective entered the
store, had remained serenely unconscious of his passenger's movements,
her clever escape.

At least three or four minutes had elapsed. Duvall glanced up and down
the street, but no sight of the vanished woman greeted his anxious gaze.
She had had ample time to reach the next corner, and disappear in the
darkness. Thoughts of pursuit entered his mind, but he realized at once
the fruitlessness of such an attempt. His captive might have fled east
or west, at either of the streets north or south of where he stood. Or
she might have entered some restaurant, some motion picture house, or
other convenient doorway along the Avenue. She might even have boarded a
Sixth Avenue car, or hailed a passing cab. He looked up at the
chauffeur, who still sat at his steering wheel, totally unaware of the
flight of one of his passengers.

"The woman has gone," Duvall exclaimed, nodding toward the vacant cab.

The man turned in complete surprise. He seemed scarcely able to credit
the evidence of his senses.

"I--why sir--she was here just a moment ago, sir," he gasped, gazing
into the interior of the cab as though he expected its recent occupant
to suddenly materialize in the flesh.

"She got out on the other side, while I was in the store," Duvall
remarked, shortly, then taking an electric searchlight from his pocket,
made a thorough examination of the interior of the cab. He scarcely
expected to find anything, although it flashed through his mind that the
woman, in her hurry to escape, might have left her bag, her gloves, or
something that might afford him a clue to her identity.

At first he saw nothing. Then, as his eyes became more accustomed to the
brilliant glare of the electric torch, he observed a bit of white
cardboard lying on the floor. It looked like a visiting card, and he
snatched it up, devoutly hoping that it had fallen from the woman's bag
during the attempt he had made to rifle it.

Under the light of his pocket lamp he made a quick examination of his
find. It proved a lamentable disappointment. It was in fact a visiting
card, or to be more correct, the torn half of one, but what was engraved
upon it afforded him not the least clue to either the identity or the
address of the woman he sought. On the first line were the words, "Miss
Mar"--then came the torn edge of the card. On the second line there was
but the figure 1, and then the break.

Was the name so tantalizingly suggested by the letters before him "Miss
Mary" something or other? Or "Miss Margaret?" Or was it "Miss Martin,"
or "Miss Marvin," or "Miss Marbury," or any one of a score of other
names beginning with the letters "Mar?" And what was the missing
address? What numbers followed the figure 1, on that part of the card
that had been torn off? And what was the name of the street? He realized
at once that while what he had found might, under certain circumstances,
act as a suggestion, it would not serve to get him very far, unless
reinforced by other and more definite evidence. He thought for a moment
of securing from Mr. Baker a list of the women employees of the studio.
It was true, he remembered, that his prisoner had not been seated in
that particular section of the house reserved for the company's
employees, but that might have readily come from the fact that the
section was fully occupied when she arrived. Then, as more names
beginning with "Mar" occurred to him, the futility of the idea became
apparent. Apart from any possible number of Marys, and Margarets there
were Martha, Maria, Marcia, Marian, Marcella--others perhaps. Of course
he would be able to recognize the woman, if he saw her, but she would be
too clever to return to her place in the studio the following day, if by
any chance she worked there, knowing, as she must inevitably know, that
she would be identified at once.

Still, there was of course the chance that Mr. Baker might have
recognized her. He presumably knew all the employees of his company by
sight. Duvall got into the cab with a mortifying sense of having made a
very foolish blunder, and directed the cabman to drive him back to the
Grand Theater.

Mr. Baker was waiting in the lobby when the detective arrived, and at a
nod from the latter the two men retired to the dressing room in which
they had had their previous consultation. The moving picture man's face
was eager, expectant, as he waited for Duvall to speak, and the latter
felt his chagrin increase by the moment.

When he had at last finished his account of the affair, Mr. Baker looked
exceedingly grave.

"Too bad--too bad," he muttered, "to have had her in our hands like
that, and then, to lose her."

"Did you ever see the woman before?" Duvall questioned.

"No. Of course she might be in our employ, but I doubt it, although I
could not be expected to know by sight every girl who works in the
plant. There are stenographers, film cutters and pasters, dozens of
others, that I do not engage directly, and never see. Let me look at the
card."

Duvall handed the torn bit of pasteboard to him.

"Not much to go on," he said, quietly.

"No. Not much."

"Of course," the detective went on, "the evening has not been entirely
wasted. We know the woman by sight, and that is a great deal. As for her
name, I have made a careful study of this card, and assuming it to have
been of the usual length in comparison to its width, the name following
the 'Miss,' if it was a first name, points to a very short one, such as
Mary, and not a long one, such as Margaret."

"How do you make that out?"

"Simply enough. The entire name would of course have been placed in the
center of the card, which was, it appears, torn almost exactly in half.
On the left-hand side, which we have in our possession, there are, in
the word 'Miss,' four letters, and in 'Mar' three, or seven in all. We
should correspondingly expect to find seven letters on the right or
missing half of the card. But were the first name Margaret, or Marcella,
which each contain eight letters, or five to be added to the 'Mar' we
already have, it would leave but two letters for the woman's last name,
and names of that length, or rather shortness, are so rare as to be
negligible. It is far more probable that we have but to add a 'y' to the
'Mar,' or one letter, leaving six for the last name. This would give us
'Miss Mar-y Gordon,' with the name evenly divided by the tear. Or, if by
chance, the first name is such a one as Marian, containing six letters,
we need add but the 'ian,' or three letters, to the left-hand side of
our card, leaving us four letters for the last name. Thus, Miss Marian
Kent. The full name on the card should have just fourteen letters,
provided the card is, as I conclude, torn exactly in half."

"Why do you conclude that?"

"Because visiting cards of this sort are usually made in standard sizes.
I happen to have a woman's card--Miss Morton's, in fact, in my pocket.
Its width is the same as that of the torn card, and if the latter was of
the same length, you can readily see that it was torn exactly in half."
He took a card from his wallet and laid the torn bit of pasteboard upon
it. Their widths were identical. The whole card was just twice the
length of the torn one.

"That is a most interesting deduction," Baker exclaimed. "What use can
we make of it?"

"I will tell you. You have your car here, have you not?"

"Yes."

"Then I suggest that we run down to the studio at once, get your list of
employees, examine the name of every woman upon it, and see if we cannot
find one of fourteen letters, including the 'Miss,' of which the first
name begins with 'Mar.' The chances are that we will be able to locate
the name immediately."

"Yes," Mr. Baker exclaimed, rising in some excitement, "but, as you have
before said, the woman, if she works for us, will not dare to appear in
the morning, for fear that she will be recognized at once."

"That is true, but you will no doubt have on your books her home
address. If we hurry, we can get there and back by midnight, and we may
be able to place our hands on the woman before she can have time to
escape."

Mr. Baker reached the door in two steps.

"Come along," he said. "We'll burn up the roads."

The two men said little, during their long ride. When they reached the
entrance to the dark and silent studio building, only the night watchman
appeared to greet them.

Inside the building, however, there were more signs of life. Some stage
carpenters were busy, working overtime on a piece of scenery. In the
developing and drying departments were also signs of activity. Mr. Baker
led the way to his office. "It happens," he said, "that as I am obliged
to O. K. the payroll each week, I have a list of our employees in my
desk." As he spoke, he took his keys, opened a drawer, and drew out a
small red book.

"Here is the list, with the home addresses," he said. "How shall we go
to work?"

"Read me all the women's names, in which the first name begins with
'Mar,'" Duvall said. "I will put them down on a sheet of paper." He drew
a pad toward him, took out his pencil, and the two set to work.

When they had at last reached the end of the book, both Duvall and Mr.
Baker were surprised to find that the names they had picked out were so
few. In all there were but eight, as follows:

      Miss Mary Sollenberger,
      Miss Mary Green,
      Miss Margaret Schwartz,
      Miss Maria Rosenheim,
      Miss Martha Simmons,
      Miss Marcia Ford,
      Miss Marian Greenberg,
      Miss Mary King.

Duvall ran his pencil down the list of names. "There is but one that
fulfills the requirements," he announced. "The sixth name, that of Miss
Marcia Ford, contains in all fourteen letters. None of the others do.
Two, those of Miss King and Miss Green, come the nearest. Miss King's
full name contains twelve letters, Miss Green's, thirteen. Any one of
the three _might_ be the one we seek."

"I can answer for Miss King at once," said Mr. Baker, quietly. "She is
my stenographer, and most certainly _not_ the woman who was in the
theater to-night."

"That leaves then, Miss Green and Miss Ford. What do they do, and what
are their addresses?"

Mr. Baker referred to his book.

"Miss Green is a telephone operator. Her address is given here as 310
Gold Street, Brooklyn. Miss Ford is a film cutter, and lives at 122 West
9th Street, New York."

"Neither sounds particularly promising," Duvall remarked, with a frown.

"No. But of course we are assuming that the woman in question works in
the studio. If she does _not_, our whole fabric falls to pieces." Duvall
took the torn piece of card from his pocket and glanced at it.

"The address given here begins with the number 1," he said,
significantly. "It may be that Miss Marcia Ford, of 122 West Ninth
Street, is the woman we are looking for, although I confess I should
have suspected some rival motion picture star, rather than a film
cutter."

"By George, I forgot the fact that the card had an address on it," Baker
exclaimed. "I think we had better look up Miss Ford at once."

"I agree with you," Duvall said. A few moments later they were driving
at top speed back toward New York.

It was five minutes to twelve when they reached the corner of Fifth
Avenue and Ninth Street and turned west. Duvall realized that they were
following a very slim clue, but it seemed for the moment the only
promising one they had.

The house, No. 122, proved to be a typical high stooped, brownstone
boarding house of this section of the city. It was for the most part
dark, although one or two of the upper windows showed lights.

Accompanied by Baker, Duvall quickly mounted the steps and rang the
bell. At first there was no answer, although they could hear the sound
of the bell tinkling mournfully inside. A second summons brought no
greater response. At the third, a woman's head appeared in one of the
upper windows, and they heard a shrill and not over pleasant voice
asking them what they wanted.

"I have an important message for Miss Marcia Ford," Duvall replied
pleasantly. "I must see her at once."

"Miss Ford moved away from here three months ago," the woman snapped.

"Will you please give me her present address?" the detective exclaimed,
somewhat taken aback.

"I don't know it. She didn't say where she was going. Good night!" A
moment later the window above them was closed with a slam.

The two men stood staring at each other in the utmost disappointment.
They had expected a more favorable outcome of their expedition.

"How long has she been with you?" Duvall asked, turning to his
companion.

"I don't know. Certainly over three months, or we shouldn't have this
address on our books. I suppose, when she changed it, she omitted to
notify us. What are we going to do now?"

"There isn't anything we can do, until morning. If Miss Marcia Ford
reports for work to-morrow, and you see that she is the woman who
fainted in the theater to-night, have her arrested at once. If she
doesn't report for work, at least we shall know that she is the woman we
are after."

"That isn't much consolation," Mr. Baker grumbled.

"I don't agree with you. Having the woman's name, knowing her
appearance, we are certain to catch her, sooner or later. And in the
meanwhile, I do not think that she will attempt anything further so far
as Miss Morton is concerned. We are too close on her trail, for that."

"I hope you are right," said the motion picture man. "Well, I guess I'll
go along home. I'll be at the studio first thing in the morning,
however, and I suppose you will be there too."

"By all means. I am most curious to see whether our reasoning to-night
has been correct."

"Shall I take you to your hotel in my car?"

"No, thanks. I'll take a taxi. Good night."

"Good night."

A few moments later, Duvall was speeding up Fifth Avenue, his brain
still puzzling over the curious contradictions which the events of the
night had developed. On one point he felt secure, however. He was
certain that the woman who had so narrowly escaped him earlier in the
evening would not soon again attempt anything against Ruth Morton.

Arrived at his hotel, he asked for his key. The man behind the desk,
with a queer look, handed him along with it a slip of paper. On it was
written: "Mrs. Bradley wishes Mr. John Bradley to come to her room at
the moment he returns."

"When was this message left?" the detective asked.

"Oh--nearly two hours ago. The time is stamped on the back of it, sir."

Duvall turned the card over, and saw from the stamp on the other side
that Mrs. Morton had sent for him at half past ten.

"The message was phoned down by the lady herself," the clerk added, by
way of explanation.

Duvall went up in the elevator, and a few moments later, was knocking at
the door of Mrs. Morton's suite.

The latter herself appeared in the doorway. She was pale and agitated.
"Come in, Mr. Duvall," she said.

The detective entered, closing the door behind him.

"What is wrong, Mrs. Morton?" he asked.

"There has been another warning--a dreadful one," the older woman
exclaimed, her voice trembling. "It came a little after ten."

"What was it?" Duvall's voice was almost as strained as that of the
woman before him. Her words came to him as a complete surprise. Had all
the work of the evening, then, been wasted?

"At a little after ten," Mrs. Morton said slowly, "I sent my maid Nora
out for some medicine for my daughter. She went to a drug store some
three blocks away. As she returned to the hotel, she saw a young woman
standing near the entrance, apparently watching those who went in and
out. As soon as the maid came up to the doorway, the woman stepped up to
her, and thrusting a package into her hands, said quickly, 'Give this to
Miss Ruth Morton. It is from the studio.' Then she walked away at once.

"Nora, as she tells me, did not know just what to do. You will remember
that while she realizes from our presence here under an assumed name,
that something is wrong, she knows little or nothing of the
circumstances surrounding Ruth's terrible persecution. Hence she
foolishly took both the medicine and the package the woman had given
her, to my daughter."

"Yes--yes--go on," Duvall exclaimed, seeing Mrs. Morton pause.

"Ruth opened them both. I was in the next room at the moment. Suddenly I
heard a cry, and on rushing in, found her standing in the center of the
room, holding a small bottle in one hand, and staring at it in the
utmost consternation. In her other hand was a sheet of paper, which, as
I subsequently found, had been wrapped around the bottle, inside the
outer brown-paper cover.

"The bottle was labeled 'carbolic acid.' Here is the sheet of paper."
Mrs. Morton, with trembling fingers, extended a half sheet of note-paper
toward the detective.

Duvall took it and read the typewritten words upon it.

"We gave you thirty days. Now we give you seven. Drink this, and save
yourself from a horrible fate." The death's head signature ended the
message. "Ruth has been very ill ever since," Mrs. Morton added
drearily. "If she is not better in the morning, I shall call in a
doctor. She felt herself absolutely safe, here, and was recovering her
cheerfulness. Now all her fears have returned with redoubled force. I am
terribly worried about her--terribly worried." Taking out her
handkerchief, the poor woman wiped the tears from her eyes. "How could
these people have known we were here?" she whispered, in an awed voice.
"It seems like the work of fiends."

There was little that the detective could say in reply. Even to his
sober judgment, there came a suggestion of the uncanny, the
supernatural. The woman in the cab had escaped at half past nine,
presumably quite ignorant of the location of Mrs. Morton's retreat. Half
an hour later, the campaign of intimidation was renewed with greater
vigor than before.

"I'm afraid, Mrs. Morton," he said, "that it will be necessary for you
to remain with your daughter every minute of the time, for a day or two.
By then, I am convinced that we shall have laid our hands on the guilty
parties. Good night."

Duvall rose very early the following morning, and drove at once to the
studio, but early as he was, Mr. Baker was there before him.

The latter was seated in his office, poring over a mass of reports, when
Duvall entered. He glanced up, rose, shook hands nervously, then
motioned to a chair.

"Nothing new yet," he said. "My stenographer, Miss King, is here.
Neither Miss Green nor Miss Ford have yet arrived, but it is still a
little early. Miss King came before her usual time, as she had some
reports to get out that she could not complete last night. We have at
least fifteen minutes to wait."

Duvall told him to proceed with his work, and drawing a newspaper from
his pocket, made an effort to interest himself in it. In this, however,
he was not very successful. Time after time his mind would wander from
the printed sheet before him to the strange events of the night before.
The thing that puzzled him most was, how did the persecutors of Miss
Morton discover her new address so soon? Was the woman who had handed
the package to Nora, the maid, the same one that had vanished from the
cab? He remembered that it had been about nine o'clock when they left
the Grand Theater, and perhaps half-past when he had gone into the drug
store in Sixth Avenue to get the aromatic spirits of ammonia. Had the
woman gone directly from the cab to the hotel? She must have done so,
without much loss of time, in order to reach there by ten o'clock. How
had she known the address? He knew very well that he had given it to the
cabman, when they started away from the theater. Had the supposedly
fainting woman overheard his words? If she had, and had so promptly
acted upon them, she was far more clever and determined than her
appearance would seem to warrant. He revolved the matter endlessly in
his mind, waiting for Mr. Baker to announce that the time had come, when
Miss Ford's or Miss Green's arrival or non-arrival would indicate which
of the two, if either, was the woman they sought.

Suddenly the bell of the telephone on Mr. Baker's desk ran sharply. He
answered it, then turned to Duvall.

"Miss Green, the telephone operator, is at her desk," he said. "Would
you like to take a look at her?"

"Yes." The detective arose, and followed Mr. Baker into the corridor.
The switchboard of the building was located at the end of the hall, in a
small bare room. When they reached it, Mr. Baker spoke to a dark-haired,
rather stout, woman who sat at the desk.

"Miss Green," he said, "if any calls come in for Mr. Duvall, he will be
in my office." Then he went back along the corridor.

"She certainly isn't the woman we are after," he remarked to Duvall, as
soon as they were out of earshot.

"No. It must be Miss Ford," the detective replied.

"Suppose we go to the developing and finishing department," Baker
suggested. "It is time all our people were on hand. Mr. Emmett, who is
in charge there, can tell us about Miss Ford."

They crossed to the other side of the building, and entered a small
office. A bald-headed man sat at a littered desk.

"Mr. Emmett," Baker said, "shake hands with Mr. Duvall. He is looking
for a young woman in the finishing department. Miss Marcia Ford. Has she
come in yet?"

"No," replied the bald-headed man, gravely shaking hands. "She is not
here this morning. It is rather surprising, too, for she usually is on
time."

"What sort of a looking woman is she?" Duvall inquired.

"Oh--a rather insignificant looking girl of about twenty-five. Small,
slender, not very prepossessing, but clever--enormously clever. One of
the best film cutters we have. I should be sorry to lose her."

"Light blue eyes, and light hair," Duvall questioned. "And a thin,
rather cruel mouth?"

"Exactly. But why? Has she gotten into any trouble?"

"No--I hope not. I merely wanted to see her."

"Well--of course she may show up later, although as I say she has
usually been very punctual. I shouldn't be surprised if she is sick.
She's been acting rather peculiarly, the past few days."

"How so?" asked Duvall, quickly.

"I can't say--exactly. I got the impression from her manner that she was
nervous, excited, out of sorts. Merely an impression, but such things
count."

"Telephone me, Emmett," Mr. Baker said, "if she comes in during the next
hour. Come along, Mr. Duvall, you can wait in my office."

They returned to the other side of the immense building, and Duvall sat
down to wait. He felt sure that they were on the right track, and was
impatient to get back to New York and try to locate the missing woman.
The description given by Mr. Emmett left little doubt in his mind that
she and Miss Marcia Ford were one and the same. He sat in Mr. Baker's
office, reading the paper, waiting anxiously for the hour the latter had
specified to pass.

After what seemed an interminable wait, Mr. Baker glanced at his watch,
then rose.

"It is ten o'clock, Mr. Duvall," he announced. "Miss Ford has not come,
or Mr. Emmett would have notified me. I do not see that there is
anything further to be accomplished here."

As he spoke, the telephone bell rang sharply. Mr. Baker picked up the
receiver, listened intently for a few moments, then slammed the receiver
back upon the hook.

"Hell!" he ejaculated softly.

"What is it?" Duvall asked.

"Miss Ford has just reported for work!"



PART III



CHAPTER XII


The announcement, made by Mr. Baker, that Miss Marcia Ford, the film
cutter, had reported for work, filled Duvall with astonishment. He had
expected nothing of the sort, so convinced was he that the girl in
question was the one they were looking for, the one who had been
persecuting Ruth Morton, the motion picture star, with her threats.

He rose from his seat, in Mr. Baker's office at the studio, and turned
toward the door. "If Miss Ford has reported for work," he said, "I had
better take a look at her at once. If she is the woman who escaped from
the cab, last night, I shall have no difficulty in recognizing her. But
I am afraid it is out of the question. Knowing that both you and I had
seen her, when she fainted at the theater, she would not dare to put in
an appearance here to-day. The thing is utterly incomprehensible.

"Still, she might suppose that we would not suspect her, that she could
carry on her work in the studio without anyone being the wiser. I seldom
go into that part of the building, myself, and she would certainly not
expect to see you. In fact, it may not have occurred to her that we
suspect one of our employees, in spite of the stolen photograph or the
fake telegram."

"Suppose we take a look at her at once. That will settle the whole
question," Duvall urged.

"Very well." Mr. Baker closed his desk and the two men crossed the
corridor and made their way into that part of the studio building
devoted to the developing and finishing of the films.

Mr. Emmett, the head of the department, was seated at his desk when they
arrived.

"So the Ford girl is here," Baker said at once.

"Yes, sir. She came in about ten minutes ago, explaining her lateness by
saying that she was ill, when she got up this morning, and was not sure
that she could get here at all. Shall I send for her?"

"No," Duvall interposed quickly. "Pardon me, Mr. Baker," he turned to
the latter, "but if we send for this girl, it will arouse her
suspicions. Of course I do not think she is the woman we are looking
for, but she may be in league with her. Would it not be better to have
Mr. Emmett and yourself conduct me through the room in which she works,
as though I were a visitor to the studio? You can readily point her out
to me as we pass, and that will give me ample opportunity to recognize
her, in case I have ever seen her before."

"I think that a very good idea," returned Baker. He said a few words to
Mr. Emmett, and the three men set out to go through the rooms in which
the film cutting and pasting were done.

At one of the tables a girl of about twenty was at work. As they passed,
Mr. Emmett turned his head and nodded. The girl did not look up, and the
three men continued their way through the room.

When they again reached the hall, Mr. Baker turned to Duvall.

"Well?" he questioned.

"It is not the woman," the detective said. "I did not suppose it would
be. There is some slight resemblance, of course. The color of the eyes
and hair is the same, and the features are somewhat alike. However, I am
very much afraid, Mr. Baker, that I have wasted both your time and mine.
And yet, I cannot get over my original impression, that the person
responsible for these threats is connected, in some way, with your
company."

Baker, puzzled and disappointed as well, led the way back to his office.
Duvall, however, when they reached it, did not enter.

"I shall not remain any longer, at present," he said. "I have an idea
that I can accomplish more in town. Perhaps I may discover something
there--some clue, that will enable us to make progress. I have a plan
that may result in something."

"What is it?" Mr. Baker asked.

"I prefer not to say yet. If anything develops, I will let you know.
Good day."

The taxicab in which he had made the trip down was still waiting for
him. An hour later he had reached his hotel.

The disguise of the night before he had discarded. The woman in the cab
had penetrated it. His presence, and that of Mrs. Morton, at the uptown
hotel, was known. There seemed to be no further purpose, for the
present, in attempting to preserve his incognito. He went to his room at
once, and knocked on the door which separated it from the apartment of
Mrs. Morton and her daughter. The door was opened by the maid, who
ushered him into the little parlor.

"I will tell Mrs. Morton that you are here," the girl said, and went
into the next room.

Mrs. Morton came out presently, her face pale and drawn. Duvall knew at
once that she had been up all night, watching, no doubt, beside her
daughter.

"How is Miss Ruth?" he asked.

"She is better. She had a fairly good night's rest, and her fever has
left her."

"I am glad to hear that. I hope there have been no further threats."

"No. Not yet. But I never know at what moment something may happen. It
is terrible--terrible, living under a shadow like this."

As she spoke, the telephone bell rang.

"You answer it, Mr. Duvall," she said, turning quickly to the door by
which she had entered, and closing it. "I do not think I can stand
anything more at present."

Duvall took down the receiver. Someone was asking for Mr. John Bradley.

"This is Mr. Bradley," he said, then suddenly recognized his wife's
voice. "Is this you, Richard?" she asked.

"Yes. What is it?"

"If you have time, to-day, come down and see me. I have something I want
to tell you. Something important."

"Very well. I will be there in half an hour. Good-by." He hung up the
receiver.

"Was it anything--anything _more_, Mr. Duvall?" asked Mrs. Morton.

"No. Nothing of that sort. Well, I must go along now. I merely looked in
to ask after your daughter. There is one thing I want you to do,
however, and that is, let me have a key to your apartment on 57th
Street."

Mrs. Morton took the key from her purse, and handed it to him.

"Haven't you any good news, yet?" she asked, somewhat pathetically.

"Not yet--at least nothing very definite. I know the woman who is
annoying your daughter by sight, however, and I think I can safely
assure you that she will be under arrest before very long. Matters of
this sort take time, Mrs. Morton. Remember that I have had charge of the
case but three days, and these people we are looking for are shrewd,
leaving few clues. But I feel that I shall have something definite to
report very soon now."

"I hope so, I'm sure. Good day."

"Good day." Duvall left the room, and taking a taxi, drove down to see
Grace.

He found her sitting at the writing desk, in the reception room of their
suite, apparently busy over a letter. She pushed the sheet of paper
aside, when her husband entered, and threw her arms about his neck.

"Richard!" she exclaimed, "I'm so glad to see you. It has been ages.
What's the matter with you? You look dreadfully blue."

Duvall threw himself into a chair.

"I'm a bit disgusted with myself," he said.

"What about? I may ask you now, may I not? Is it about that wretched
Morton case? I must talk to you about that. May I? You see, you rather
got me into it, last night, and I got myself into it, too, by coming up
to your hotel to see you, and now you've got to tell me how things
turned out, after you left the theater, or I shall not know just what to
do."

"About what?"

"I'll tell you that, after I hear about last night."

Duvall laughed, although a trifle grimly.

"I'm not particularly proud of last night," he said.

"Wasn't the woman who fainted the one you were after?" asked Grace.

"Yes. I'm sure she was. But unfortunately, she got away from me." He
outlined to Grace the circumstances which led up to the woman's escape
from the cab.

"You say she was a small, slight woman, with light hair?"

"Yes. Why?"

"Then I may know something about her."

"What?"

"I'll tell you. You remember that, when I came up to see you at the
hotel yesterday afternoon, you were greatly put out, because you were
afraid that I might have been followed, thus disclosing the name of your
hotel to these people you are trying to avoid?"

"Yes. I was afraid of it. And the people in question did find out in
some way where I had taken Miss Morton and her mother, as I discovered
last night."

"They did not discover it through me."

"How do you know?"

"It came about in a curious way. After you told me, over the telephone,
that you feared I might have been followed, I looked up the taxi driver
who took me uptown, and asked him if anyone had tried to question him. I
thought that possibly this hotel might have been watched, and, if so,
the person who was watching it might have noticed the number of my car,
or the driver, and later, applied to him for information. I saw him as
soon as I returned. No one had done so."

"That is all very well, but they might have asked him, and found out
where he drove you, later."

"They did ask him, later. Why is it, Richard, that you seem to forget
that I have done detective work before, too? I suspected that he might
be approached, and I subsidized him--gave him ten dollars, and
instructed him to let me know, in case anyone questioned him about me.

"Well, late yesterday afternoon, a woman, answering the description you
give, did apply to the cabman to find out where he had driven me.
Naturally he told her nothing. Then, thinking, I suppose, that I might
repeat my visit, she gave him five dollars, and told him to let her know
in case I drove from here to any other hotel. She figured, no doubt,
that being your wife, I was certain to go and see you."

Duvall sat forward in his chair, an eager look upon his face.

"You did splendidly, Grace," he said. "Much better than I have done. But
the important point is this. How was the cabman to let her know, and
where? Did she give him her name and address?"

"She gave him a name and address. It is about that, that I wanted to see
you."

"What was it?"

"Alice Watson. General Delivery. He was to write her a letter."

Duvall sank back in his chair with a disappointed look.

"An assumed name, of course," he said. "I'm afraid it won't be of much
service to us."

"But why? I was going to write this woman a letter, giving her the name
of some other hotel--any one would do. Then, she would come there to
find you, we could have the cabman, Leary, on watch to point her out,
and in that way identify her and perhaps follow her to her home." Duvall
shook his head.

"It would have worked splendidly, my dear," he said, "except for the
fact that in some way the woman has already discovered the name of my
hotel. She will not go to the general delivery window at the post office
to get it, now, for she already knows it. And if she did, she would
realize as soon as she read your letter that you were not telling her
the truth. Is that what you have been so busy about?" He glanced at the
half-finished letter that lay on his wife's desk.

"Yes." Grace looked at him rather sheepishly. "I am terribly
disappointed," she said. "I really hoped that I had discovered something
that would help you." She took from the desk the piece of paper that
contained Alice Watson's address, and tearing it into bits, dropped them
slowly into the waste basket.

Duvall observed her action.

"What are you tearing up?" he asked.

"Oh, nothing. Merely the bit of paper that contained the woman's assumed
name and address. It is of no use any longer." She glanced at a scrap of
the paper, about half an inch square, that remained between her fingers,
then started. "There must have been something on the other side," she
exclaimed. "There's a part of a name here--printed or engraved. It looks
like 'Ford.'"

Duvall sprang from his chair and made a dive for the scrap basket.

"Ford!" he exclaimed. "That's queer! We must get every scrap of that
card at once."

It took the two of them several minutes to gather from the basket the
tiny pieces into which Grace had torn the bit of paper. Then they fitted
them together. Duvall saw at once, as soon as he picked up the first
scrap, that the address had been written on a card. When the several
pieces had at last been assembled upon the top of the desk, it became
quite clear that the Watson name and address had been hastily scrawled
upon the torn half of a visiting card. Slowly and carefully Duvall
turned the bits over. The words engraved upon the opposite side filled
him with delight.

There were first the letters "cia," followed by the name "Ford." Beneath
were two figures, a "6" and a "2," and after them, West 57th Street.

Duvall gazed at the result in surprise, then taking from his pocketbook
the torn half of the card he had found the night before in the cab, he
laid it beside the fragments on the desk. The two fitted exactly. The
name and address were both plain. Evidently the woman who had
interviewed the cabman, Leary, and the woman who had escaped from the
cab were one and the same. She had taken a card from her purse, torn it
in half, written the "Alice Watson" address that she gave the cabman on
one half, and thrust the other back into her handbag. Later, when Duvall
had attempted to examine the contents of the bag, the bit of card had
fallen to the floor. All that was sufficiently clear.

Grace, looking over her husband's shoulder, read the completed name and
address.

"Miss Marcia Ford," she exclaimed. "162 West 57th Street. Why, Richard,
there is the name and address of the woman you want."

"It may be her address," her husband remarked, gloomily, "but it
certainly isn't her name."

"But--Why not?"

"Because I saw Marcia Ford this morning, and _she isn't the woman_!"

Grace looked at him in astonishment. "Are you sure?" she cried.

"Perfectly. Marcia Ford is not the one we are after."

"Then how do you explain the woman having a card with that name on it?"

"I don't explain it--unless," he paused for a moment in thought. "Unless
this Ford woman, and the other one, are in league with each other, which
might account for the latter having her card in her purse."

"And the address! Is that where Marcia Ford lives?"

"I don't know. It may be where they both live, for all I can tell. I
only hope it is." He rose and took up his hat.

"Where are you going?" Grace asked.

"To 162 West 57th Street." Suddenly he took his wallet from his pocket,
snatched a second card from it, and after looking at it for a moment,
gave an exclamation of delighted surprise.

"What is it?" Grace asked quickly.

He thrust the card into her hand. Grace glanced at it, without quite
understanding what it meant.

"I don't see what you mean," she exclaimed. "The thing is clear enough.
The card I have just given you belongs to Miss Ruth Morton."

"I see that, but----"

"Then surely you must see that Miss Morton's apartment also is on
Fifty-seventh Street, and just two doors from the address of Miss Marcia
Ford!"



CHAPTER XIII


Duvall, upon discovering that the address of Miss Marcia Ford was on
West 57th Street, but two doors from the building in which the Morton
apartment was located, began to feel that he was on the right track. He
had known, ever since his first day upon the case, that the mysterious
messages found in Ruth Morton's bedroom had been placed there by some
ingenious but perfectly natural means. The apparition that had so
startled the girl upon her last night at the flat was capable, of
course, of some reasonable explanation. When he left Mr. Baker in the
morning his plan had been to go to Mrs. Morton's apartment and once more
investigate all possible means of entrance, hoping that, by finding out
how the messages were delivered, he might also be able to find out by
whom. It was for this reason that he had asked Mrs. Morton for the key
to the apartment.

Now the question seemed in a fair way to being answered for him. The
fact that this girl's room was located so near to the Mortons' apartment
could not be a mere coincidence. There must be, between her room and the
Morton flat some means of communication, although of what nature he
could not now surmise. Fully convinced, however, that he might very soon
find out, he hurried up to Fifty-seventh Street and walked along until
he reached No. 162.

The house was, like that which immediately adjoined the apartment
building, an old-fashioned one, of brown stone, with a high front stoop.
It presented an appearance which, if not exactly dilapidated, was yet in
strong contrast to the neat appearance of its neighbors. A printed card
in one of the lower front windows indicated that roomers were wanted.

It was just the sort of place that Duvall had expected to find--just the
sort of place in which a working girl like Marcia Ford would live.
Located in a very excellent neighborhood, surrounded by apartment
buildings and houses of the best type, it still could afford to rent
rooms at the moderate figure that one of her class could pay. He went up
the front steps and rang the bell. "Is Miss Ford in? Miss Marcia Ford?"
he asked.

The servant who came to the door, a neatly dressed German girl, shook
her head.

"No, Miss Ford is not in. She usually gets back about half past six."

Duvall glanced at his watch. It was not yet three o'clock. He realized
that he had a long wait before him.

"Will you leave any message?" the girl asked.

"No. It is not important. I will come back." Descending the steps he
walked slowly in the direction of the apartment building, two doors
away.

Entering, he made his way to Mrs. Morton's apartment. The place was just
as they had left it, two days before. The windows had all been tightly
closed and fastened, and there were no further mysterious messages lying
about. Once more Duvall went to Ruth Morton's room, and opening the two
windows looked out.

His investigations, however, told him no more than he had learned
before. The three dormer windows in the home next door gazed vacantly
down at him, their windows covered with cobwebs and dust. The
impossibility of anyone making their way from even the nearest of them,
to the window where he stood, was manifest. And that a long rod or pole
could have been utilized to introduce the letters into the girl's room
was even more impossible. He shook his head, then turned to the other
window, that facing upon the fire escape.

Here, as on the occasion of his previous examination, the smooth glossy
surface of the freshly dried paint showed no marks, except those he had
himself made during his former visit. And yet, as his eyes searched the
grated surface, he saw that there was something there, something that
had not been there before. He reached out and picked it up.

It was a woman's handkerchief, a tiny square of lace-edged linen, of an
inexpensive variety. But it was not the mere presence of the
handkerchief that so interested him. It might readily have belonged to
Miss Morton herself, and have been accidentally dropped from the window.
There were two things about this particular handkerchief, however, that
marked it as a clue of the utmost value. One was the fact that in its
corner was embroidered an initial, the letter "F." The other was that
two of the corners of the handkerchief were knotted together, as though
it had been tied about someone's wrist, for what reason, he could not
imagine.

The latter feature puzzled the detective greatly. He could not form any
hypothesis to account for it. If the Ford woman, as indicated by the
presence of the handkerchief, marked with an "F," had been on the
fire-escape, why were there no tell-tale marks to indicate it? And if
she had not been there, why was her handkerchief found there, knotted in
this peculiar way? Had it formed part of some apparatus, some device,
made of a pole and a cord, for inserting the threatening letters through
the window? If so, it might, of course, have become detached while the
device was being used. Duvall remembered that he had not examined the
fire escape on the night when the astonishing apparition had appeared
beside Ruth Morton's bed, _because the window opening on the fire escape
had been closed and locked_. Had the handkerchief been left there then?
He sat for a long time in the deserted library, trying to hit upon some
reasonable theory to explain the matter, but his efforts resulted in
failure. Not the least confusing feature of the affair was the fact that
the woman, Marcia Ford, _was not the woman he was seeking_. He had seen
her at the studio that morning, and knew that she was not the one who
had escaped from the cab the night before. Were there then two working
together? If so, he would, through the Ford girl, in all probability be
able to trace her confederate. He waited patiently until the waning
afternoon light told him that it was time to begin his watch before the
house at number 162.

Across the street a residence, closed for the summer, its front entrance
boarded up, afforded him a convenient place to wait. He sat down upon
the steps, and pretended to be occupied with a newspaper. His eyes,
however, sought constantly the doorway opposite.

A number of persons entered the place, during the next two hours, but
Marcia Ford was not amongst them. As the darkness began to approach, and
lights in the streets and houses flared up, Duvall rose, crossed the
street, and stationed himself at a nearer point, from which he might the
more certainly identify anyone entering the house. Miss Ford, however,
failed to appear.

From the sign in the window, to the effect that roomers were wanted,
Duvall concluded that the Ford girl did not take her meals in the house.
His watch showed him that it was nearly seven. Doubtless she had
arranged to dine before returning home. In a flash it came to him that
his opportunity to make an examination of her room was now at hand.

To secure entrance to the room by the usual channels was clearly out of
the question. The people at the boarding house would, of course, not
permit it. But could he discover the means of communication, whatever
they were, between Miss Morton's apartment and the girl's room, he might
be able to enter the latter unknown and unobserved. He had thought of
attempting this during the afternoon, but realized that he could not
hope to accomplish it, in broad daylight, without being seen by the
occupants of the neighboring buildings, and perhaps arrested as a
burglar or sneak thief.

With a last glance down the street, he hastened back to the apartment
building and made his way to Mrs. Morton's flat. Passing quickly through
Ruth Morton's bedroom, he climbed out upon the fire escape and looked
about.

Below him were the rear yards of the houses fronting on the next street.
To the right he could see the bulk of the apartment building, blocking
his view of the avenue beyond. To the left were the rear buildings of
the adjoining houses. It was quite dark, the sky was starless, but all
about him gleamed the lights in the windows of the neighboring
buildings.

Neither to the right, nor to the left was there any possible way by
which access to the point where he now stood could be gained. From
below, it was possible, although his previous examination had showed him
both the fact that the newly painted surface of the fire escape was
unmarred, and that the ladder at the lower floor was drawn up some nine
or ten feet from the ground. He felt certain that Miss Ford had not
reached Ruth's room in that way.

He glanced upward. The fire escaped stopped at the level of the floor
above. To ascend from it to the roof was impossible.

Remembering that the top apartment was vacant, Duvall re-entered the
building and hunting up the janitor, told him that he desired to get out
on the roof.

The man remembered him, from his first visit, and the inquiries he had
then made about the tenants of the apartment above.

"I am making some special inquiries on Mrs. Morton's behalf," he
explained. "You can go with me, if you like, to see that I do nothing I
shouldn't."

The janitor joined in his laugh.

"I'm not worrying," he rejoined, "but I'll go along, just the same, to
show you the way." He led the detective up one flight of stairs and,
going to the end of the outer hall, unlocked and opened a small door
beside the elevator shaft. A short spiral staircase was disclosed.

Snapping on an electric light, the man ascended the steps, and, after
fumbling for a moment with the catch, threw open a trapdoor leading to
the roof. In a moment both he and Duvall had climbed out upon the tiled
surface. Duvall went to the edge which overlooked the house adjoining,
and peered down. He at once saw something that interested him.

The house with the dormer windows consisted, as has been previously
mentioned, of four stories and an attic. Its roof rose several feet
above the level of the window of Ruth's room, which was on the fourth
floor of the apartment building. But Duvall saw at once that this
elevation of the adjoining house did not extend all the way back, but,
in fact, stopped a little beyond the point where it joined the
apartment. From here to the rear of the lot the building had no attic,
its rear extension being but four stories high. In this position on the
apartment-house roof, the roof of the back building was at least fifteen
feet below him.

Another thing that he noticed at once was the fact that the second
house, No. 162, was of almost the same design as the first, that is, it
consisted of a main building with an attic, and a rear extension,
reaching to the same level as that of the house between. It was clear
that if anyone living in the second house could obtain access to the
roof of the back building, he would be able to walk across that of the
first or adjoining house, and reach a point directly beneath where he
stood.

But, granting the possibility of this, of what use would it be? A person
on the roof below him would in no conceivable way be able to reach
either of the windows of Ruth Morton's room. Was it possible that an
opening had been made through the wall of the apartment building itself?
He thought it unlikely, but determined to investigate.

"I must get down on that roof below," he informed his companion. The
janitor grinned.

"How are you going to do it?" he asked.

"Haven't you a ladder--a rope?"

The man thought a moment.

"I've got a short ladder in the cellar, only about eight feet long, I
guess. I'm afraid it would not do."

"Yes it would," replied Duvall, pointing to the roof of the attic
portion of the house below. "I'll get down to the roof of the main part
of the house first, and from there to the roof of the back building. An
eight-foot ladder will be long enough for that. Bring it up, will you?"

The man hesitated.

"I don't just like this idea of going on other people's roofs," he said.

"You don't need to go. I've got to. I'm a detective, and I'm working for
Mrs. Morton on a most important case." As he spoke, he took a bill from
his pocket and pressed it into the man's hand.

The janitor responded at once.

"I'll fetch it up, sir," he said. "Wait for me here."

Duvall occupied the few moments consumed by the janitor's absence in
examining, by means of his pocket electric torch, the surface of the
roof on which he stood. The smooth flat terra cotta tiles showed no
distinguishing marks. Here and there spots of paint, marred by
footprints, indicated where the painters at work on the building had set
their buckets, no doubt while painting the wooden portions of the
trapdoor, and the metal chimney-pots on the roof.

The man returned in a few moments with the ladder, and Duvall, lowering
it to the level of the main portion of the adjoining house, saw that it
was of sufficient length to permit his descent. In a moment he had
slipped off his shoes, and was cautiously descending the ladder.

Once on the surface of the main roof of the house, he had intended to
take down the ladder and, by means of it, descend the remaining six or
seven feet to the roof of the back building, but he found that means for
this descent already existed. A rough but permanent wooden ladder led
from the higher level to the lower. Duvall judged that it had been
placed there to provide easy communication between the upper roof and
the lower. Leaving the ladder where it stood, he made his way down to
the roof of the back building. It was covered with tin, and he walked
softly in his stockinged feet to avoid being overheard.

His first act was to go to the wall of the apartment house which faced
him, and make a thorough examination of it by the light of his electric
torch. He judged that in the position in which he now stood he was about
on a level with the floor of Ruth's room. The brick wall of the
apartment building facing him was blank, that is, it contained no
windows. After a minute examination, Duvall was forced to the conclusion
that no entrance to the girl's bedroom had been made through it. The
bricks were solid, immovable, the cemented joints firm and unbroken. A
moment later he turned to the left.

Here the rising wall of the attic story of the house faced him, reaching
to a point above his head. Two dusty and long unopened dormer windows,
similar to those facing on the court, confronted him. He remembered that
the servant of the house next door had informed him, earlier in the
week, that the attic was, and long had been, unoccupied.

Whether the attic was tenanted or not, however, had no bearing on the
problem which confronted him. The windows might serve as a means whereby
anyone could reach the roof of the back building from the house proper,
but they did not suggest any means whereby anyone might reach the
windows of Ruth's bedroom. And by ascending to the point on the attic
roof where his ladder stood, the problem was no nearer a solution, for a
person standing there was on the edge of the court between the
buildings, seven feet or more above the girl's bedroom window, and as
many away from it. He turned away, and approaching the rear edge of the
back building, looked over.

To his left, some eight feet away, was the fire escape before the rear
window of the girl's bedroom. Standing on that sharp edge, he realized
that in no way could he reach the railing of the fire escape, except by
jumping, a feat that an expert gymnast might have hesitated to attempt,
at that height above the ground. And could it be done successfully, what
about the crash, the noise which must inevitably result from such a
performance? What about the damage to the paint upon the fire escape's
iron surface? And yet it would seem that a young girl had accomplished
this feat, without noise, without making the least mark to register her
passage. He thought of the tell-tale handkerchief, which he had found on
the fire escape earlier in the evening, then turned back with a feeling
of annoyance. The thing was, he realized, an impossibility.

A sudden sense of the passage of time made him hurry to the roof of the
rear building of the house at No. 162. Like its neighbor, it was built
with an attic story, and in the rear were two dormer windows opening in
the same way upon the lower roof. Could these windows, by any chance, be
those of the room of Marcia Ford? It seemed highly probable, since, if
she had operated from the roof, they could afford an easy way to reach
it. Very cautiously he crept up to the nearer of the two windows and
looked in.

The room before him was in total darkness, and the very faint radiance
from without was not sufficient to enable him to distinguish anything
within it. The window, however, he saw to his delight was open, and the
opening, although small, was quite large enough to enable him to crawl
in. Holding his electric torch in one hand, he crept into the room.

The beam of light from his torch, although powerful, was, of course,
very concentrated. He swept it about the room, to make sure that it was
unoccupied. It was a small room, long and narrow, with the single dormer
window, by which he had just entered, at one end, and a similar one at
the side, in the slanting mansard roof. It contained a small bed, a
chiffonier and dresser, a table, some chairs and a trunk. It was a
woman's room; one glance at the dresser told him that, and a
handkerchief lying crumpled on the latter's top proved to be identical
with the one he had found on the fire escape, both in its general
character, and in the initial "F" in one of its borders. Beyond any
doubt, he was now in Marcia Ford's room.

Had he been inclined to doubt it, two photographs upon the wall would
have convinced him. One was a picture of the Ford girl herself. The
other was a portrait of the woman of the cab, the one that Duvall fully
believed to be the author of the attacks upon Ruth Morton.

He examined the various articles about the room with the utmost care,
but nothing of any interest rewarded his search. It had been his hope
that he might find something of definite value--the typewriter, perhaps,
upon which the threatening letters had been written, the black sealing
wax, used in making the death's-head seals, the paper employed by the
writer. None of these things was in evidence; there was no typewriter,
the table contained a small bottle of ink, a couple of pens, and some
cheap envelopes and a writing tablet of linen paper quite different from
that upon which the warning letters had been written. There was nothing,
absolutely nothing, in the place to connect its occupant with the
sending of the letters, except the room's location, in such close
proximity to that of Ruth Morton, and the photograph of the woman of the
cab, hanging upon the wall.

Duvall, greatly disappointed, was about to take his departure, when he
observed at the far end of the room a door. Whether it led to another
room, or to a bathroom, or merely to a closet, he did not, of course,
know. There was danger, he fully realized, that Marcia Ford might return
at any moment. There was equal danger that, upon opening the door, he
might find himself in another room, possibly an occupied one. He thought
at one time that he heard sounds on the far side of the door, but when
he paused and stood listening he could distinguish nothing, and
concluded that he had been mistaken. Shutting off the light of his
pocket torch for the moment, in order that, should the entrance lead to
another room, its rays might not betray his presence, Duvall grabbed the
door knob, and, turning it softly, opened the door.

For a moment he had a glimpse of a black cavern, and then, with
incredible swiftness, something struck him a heavy blow in the face.
What it was he was too much surprised and stunned to realize. His
electric lamp fell from his hand, and clattered to the floor.

Realizing his helplessness in the almost total darkness, he bent down,
groping about in an unsuccessful effort to recover the searchlight. And
then, with a loud cry, a heavy body projected itself upon him, grasping
wildly at his hair. An arm, clothed in some silken material, encircled
his throat. He felt himself choking. And at the same moment a strange
and irrational terror seized him. He seemed in the grasp of something
uncanny, something inhuman, in spite of its very human cries. With a
shudder he sprang to his feet, unable to locate the missing electric
torch, and shaking the shrieking figure from him, plunged toward the
window by which he had entered. It was not alone the surprise, the
nameless terror of the thing, that sent Duvall headlong from the room.
He fully realized that the noise of the encounter, the shrieks of his
assailant, would quickly bring the other inmates of the house to the
room. He had no wish to be discovered there--his entrance had been too
irregular, too illegal, for that. With extraordinary rapidity he flung
himself through the window and without waiting to observe the results of
his intrusion, sped swiftly across the roofs of the two buildings, up
the steps to the attic roof, and from there, by means of the ladder, to
the roof of the apartment building. The janitor sat where he had left
him, smoking a pipe. Duvall looked back. Lights were visible in the room
he had just left. He saw a figure, one that closely resembled Marcia
Ford, cross the lighted area of the window. There was a second figure
with her--smaller, shorter, he thought. Who--what was it that had
attacked him? He stood in a daze, unable to grasp the meaning of the
experience through which he had just passed.

The janitor took his pipe from his mouth and rose.

"Find what you were looking for?" he asked with a grin. Duvall shook his
head.

"No," he said. "Not exactly. But I'm on the track of it."

"Want the ladder any more?"

"No, not to-night." He assisted the man to draw it up to the roof.

A few moments later he had reached the sidewalk. He glanced at his
watch. It was just eight o'clock. As he walked toward the entrance of
the house at No. 162, the front door opened, and a woman came out.

Duvall quickened his pace, but the woman was also apparently in a great
hurry. She ran swiftly across the sidewalk, and sprang into a cab which
stood beside the curb. Duvall was able to get but a fleeting glance at
her, but that glance was enough to convince him that she was the
mysterious prisoner who had so neatly given him the slip while in the
cab the night before. He sprang forward with a cry, but before he had
come within ten feet of the cab, the vehicle dashed off and proceeded at
a rapid rate up the street.

A second cab came along at almost the same moment. Duvall hailed it, but
the driver shook his head, indicating that he had a fare. In a moment
the second cab had passed, apparently in hot pursuit of the first. There
were no other cabs in sight. With a growl of anger and annoyance Duvall
turned back to the door of No. 162.

Should he ring the bell and ask for Miss Ford? he wondered. Of what use
would it be, to request an interview? Yet there seemed to be nothing
else that he could do. Miss Ford had not left the house, although the
other woman, apparently her confederate, had done so. He stood in the
shadow of the apartment building, trying to decide what move he should
make next.



CHAPTER XIV


Grace Duvall, on being left at the hotel by her husband, spent a long
and very tiresome afternoon. She had expected Richard back long before,
with news, perhaps, of a successful investigation of the woman, Marcia
Ford, whose address was so near that of the Mortons. But when six
o'clock came, and went, with no news of her husband, Grace came to the
conclusion that he had probably struck a long trail, and being a
normally healthy person, with an excellent appetite, she went to the
dining room and ordered dinner, leaving word at the desk where she would
be, in case Richard returned.

Her lonely meal was over by seven, and, not knowing what to do next,
Grace went out on the sidewalk, with the intention of looking for her
friend of the evening before, the taxicab driver, Leary. It was possible
that the man might have something more to report. As she reached the
door, she saw him descend from his cab. He came forward at once, tipping
his cap.

"Taxi, ma'am," he asked.

"No, I don't think so, Leary. Anything new?"

"Not a thing, ma'am. Haven't seen that party since. Can't I take you for
a drive, ma'am?"

Grace was on the point of refusing, when a sudden idea came to her. She
hastily opened her pocketbook, tore out the pieces of the visiting card
that Duvall had left upon the table, and fitted them together.

"Drive me to 162 W. 57th Street," she directed, and stepped into the
cab.

Leary touched his cap, and in a few moments they were speeding up the
Avenue.

"Don't go right up to the address," Grace told him through the speaking
tube. "Stop a little below, but in a place where I can see the door."

The man nodded, and a little later they turned into 57th Street and drew
up alongside the curb.

"Do you think you would recognize the woman who gave you the card, last
night?" Grace asked.

"Yes, ma'am. I think I should, ma'am."

"Very well. Watch the doorway of number 162. If she goes in let me know.
If she comes out, follow her. I shall probably recognize her myself, if
she is the woman I think. I saw her for a few moments at the Grand
Theater last night. But she may not be the same one. We'll know that
later."

Leary nodded, and they began a long wait. After what seemed to Grace an
interminable time, they saw a taxicab come rapidly down the street,
execute a turn, and draw up before the door of number 162.

Grace, as soon as she realized the cab's destination, sprang to the
sidewalk and strolled carelessly along in the direction of the house.
The cab came to a standstill just before she reached it, and two women
got out. One of them Grace had never seen before. The other she
recognized at once. It was the woman who had fainted in the theater the
previous night.

Neither of the women paid any attention to her, but directing the cabman
to wait, passed quickly into the house.

Grace went back to her cab and got in.

"The woman I am looking for has just driven up in that cab," she said.
"She has gone into the house. The cab is to wait. When she comes out
again, follow her." Leary nodded, and the two of them settled down for
what they supposed would be a long wait. To their surprise, scarcely ten
minutes had passed before the door of No. 162 was suddenly opened, and
the woman whom Grace had recognized dashed down the steps and sprang
into the waiting cab. At almost the same moment Grace saw her husband
start forward from the direction of the apartment building, as though in
pursuit of her.

There was no time, however, to wait for him. The cab ahead had already
started off, and Leary, true to his instructions, was speeding after it.
In a moment both vehicles had turned into Seventh Avenue and were
driving rapidly uptown.

As minute after minute sped by, Grace began to realize that the chase
might prove a long one. They had already crossed to Central Park West,
and were now speeding northward again in the neighborhood of 72nd
Street. Then, to Grace's surprise, the cab ahead swerved into a side
street, and drew up before the entrance of the hotel at which Ruth
Morton and her mother were stopping. The cab had no sooner stopped than
the woman sprang out and entered the lobby.

Grace followed her without a moment's hesitation, ordering Leary to
wait. The woman hurried up to the desk and, taking a blank card from it,
scribbled a few words upon it in pencil, and handed it to the clerk.
Grace was unable to hear what she said to him, but the man nodded, and
handed the card to a bellboy. The woman sat down in a nearby chair.

Grace, having nothing else to do, and being somewhat afraid that the
woman might recognize her, crossed at once to the opposite side of the
lobby and, going to the news stand, spent some time in selecting and
purchasing a magazine. She stood with her back to the woman, screened by
a large palm, but at the same time managed to keep a fairly close watch
upon her.

It was several minutes before anything happened. Then an elderly lady
emerged from one of the elevators, and under the guidance of a bellboy
approached the woman Grace had been following. Grace did not remember
having ever seen the older woman before, but she had a distinct
impression that it might be Mrs. Morton. She strolled over to the desk,
and addressed the clerk in a low voice.

"Is that Mrs. Morton--the elderly lady in black?" she asked. The clerk
stared at her, but his reserve melted before her charming smile.

"No, Miss," he said. "That is Mrs. Bradley."

"Thank you." Grace gave a sigh of relief, and turned away.

Looking once more toward the two women, she saw that the older one was
addressing her companion with something of reserve, as though she had
never met her before. The younger woman spoke quickly, smilingly, for a
few moments, shook hands with her companion, and turned away. Grace saw
that she was about to leave, and at once followed her, although at a
little distance, so as not to excite her suspicions. When she reached
the sidewalk the other woman had already entered her cab, and seemed
about to drive off.

The cab, however, merely moved to a position a little further down the
street, and by the time Grace had entered her own vehicle the other had
again become stationary.

This maneuver struck Grace as extremely peculiar. She told Leary to
remain where he was, and with some misgivings, awaited the woman's next
move.

After a time she saw Mrs. Bradley, who had gone toward the elevators as
Grace left the lobby, come out, signal for a taxicab, and drive quickly
off. Leary was obliged to draw up with his machine, in order to leave a
clear space before the door.

A few seconds later Grace saw the woman she had been following spring
from her cab, come rapidly along the sidewalk, and once more enter the
lobby. Grace again followed her, just in time to see that instead of
applying at the desk, as before, she went directly to one of the
elevators, entered, and was whisked out of sight.

Grace's heart almost stood still with fear. She had not appreciated the
meaning of the woman's actions before. Now they were only too clear. She
had evidently gotten Mrs. Morton, whom Grace suddenly remembered had
been registered under an assumed name, out of the way on some pretext or
other, and had gone to Ruth's room, with the intention, no doubt, of
carrying out her previous threats. The situation was frightful. It would
admit of no delay. Grace dashed to the desk and began to speak rapidly,
in a frightened voice, to the clerk.

"That woman"--she exclaimed--"the one who just went up in the
elevator--she is going to Miss Ruth Morton's room--you must stop
her--there is no telling what she may not do--send up, quick--quick!
Miss Morton is in the greatest danger."

The clerk looked at her, his mouth half open with surprise.

"I--what do you mean, Miss? I don't understand you. We have no Miss
Morton here." He regarded Grace apprehensively, and out of the corner of
his eye looked toward the cashier, as though he contemplated calling on
him for assistance in case this apparently mad woman became violent.

Grace gave a groan of despair.

"The daughter of the elderly lady, about whom I asked you before. Her
name is Morton. Her daughter Ruth is staying here under an assumed
name--Bradley, you say it is. Oh--please be quick. I know what I am
talking about. That woman who came here a while ago is a dangerous
character. She gave Mrs. Morton some message or other to get her out of
the way, and as soon as she had gone came back into the hotel and went
upstairs in the elevator. Didn't you see her?"

"Yes, Miss, I saw her. She was a friend of Mrs. Bradley's, she said, and
I supposed Mrs. Bradley had told her to go upstairs."

"I tell you, that woman who just went upstairs means harm--terrible
harm, to Miss Bradley--Miss Morton. Oh--don't stand there wasting time.
Come up with me at once, and you will see that I am right----"

"But--who are you, Miss? What have you to do with the matter?"

"What difference does that make, if what I say is true? If you must
know, I am a detective employed by Mrs. Morton----"

"Employed by Mrs. Morton! And yet you didn't know her when you saw her!
My dear woman, your story does not hang together----"

"It is my husband, Mr. Duvall, who is employed by her. He was registered
here under the name of Bradley, too. I am trying to help him."

"Oh!" The clerk seemed somewhat more inclined to accord her serious
attention. "Very well. I will go to the room with you, and see if
everything is all right."

"And hurry, please--hurry." Grace started toward the elevators.

Then a sudden thought came to her. Suppose the woman was to make her
escape, coming down in one of the elevators, while she and the clerk
were going up in another. There had been ample time, she knew, for her
to have murdered Ruth, were that her plan, and have already left the
room.

"Wait just a moment," she cried to the clerk, who had said a few words
to one of his assistants and was leaving the desk to join her. "I must
speak to my cabman, but I'll be back in a moment." She dashed through
the entrance doors and hurried to the point where Leary sat at his
steering wheel.

"Wait here," she whispered to him, "until I come back, unless the woman
we have been following comes out. If she does come out, and drive away,
follow her, and find out where she goes. Then telephone me here. I will
leave my name at the desk, and wait until I hear from you."

Leary nodded, and Grace quickly re-entered the lobby and joined the
waiting clerk.

"Instruct your telephone operators," she said to him, "to let me know,
in case anyone calls up Mrs. Duvall."

The clerk gave the necessary instructions, and the two then entered one
of the elevators and quickly made their way to the seventh floor, upon
which Mrs. Morton's apartment was located.

There was no one in the corridor when they left the elevator, and the
clerk, who knew the location of the suite, hastened to it at once.

They reached the door. Grace was conscious of a feeling of apprehension,
a sense of impending disaster. Her heart pounded violently as she waited
for the answer to the clerk's knocks. She waited in vain. Only silence,
grim, terrible, rewarded his efforts.

"Something _has_ happened," Grace whispered, as the clerk again rapped
upon the door, this time more loudly than before.

Again there was no reply, no evidence of the presence of anyone in the
girl's rooms.

"Open the door!" Grace cried. "Something terrible must have occurred!"

The clerk took the pass key with which he had provided himself, and
inserted it in the lock. A moment later the door swung open, and the two
of them entered the room.

It was in total darkness. Grace clutched at her heart, fearing what she
believed the switching on of the lights would reveal. The clerk, without
loss of time, pressed the push button near the door. The room was at
once flooded with light.

Grace glanced about, then gave a momentary sigh of relief. The room, the
small parlor of the suite, was quite vacant. At its further end the door
to Ruth Morton's bedroom stood ajar.

With the clerk beside her, Grace hurriedly crossed the room. With a
prayer in her heart she pushed open the bedroom door. Her companion at
the same moment felt along the door-jamb for the electric switch. In an
instant the bedroom lights were turned on.

Then Grace saw that her fears had been fully justified. On the floor,
halfway between the door and the bed, lay Ruth Morton, apparently
lifeless. Her face was the color of chalk, her eyes were closed. With a
cry, Grace fell on her knees beside the unconscious girl and with
trembling fingers felt her heart. The clerk, a weak-faced young man,
stood gazing at the scene before him in amazed horror.

"She isn't dead!" Grace exclaimed, turning an excited face to him. "Her
heart is still beating. Send for a doctor, quick!" Then, taking the
unconscious girl in her arms, she lifted her to the bed.



CHAPTER XV


Richard Duvall, realizing that the woman he sought had once more eluded
him, was for the moment unable to decide what to do next. He was
oppressed by a sense of failure. Apparently this enemy of Ruth Morton's
was far more resourceful than he had supposed. She had gotten clear
away, and there appeared no means by which he could trace her. That the
second cab, the one he had hailed, contained Grace, did not of course
occur to him. The trail appeared to be hopelessly lost.

Still, his investigations in Miss Ford's room had not been entirely
fruitless, although they had also added a startlingly new element to the
mystery of the case. Who was the person who had attacked him from the
closet? Was it the woman who had just left the house? He did not think
so. Nor was it Miss Ford herself. There had been something uncanny about
the whole experience; he was by no means certain that his assailant had
been a human being at all. And yet, its cries--its fingers, tearing at
his throat. He was unable to account for the experience at all, and
determined, as soon as possible, to repeat his visit, and sift the
matter to the bottom.

He remembered that he had seen two persons in the Ford girl's room,
after his hasty retreat. Two women, he thought, outlined against the
lighted square of the window. One of these had already left the house.
The other, Miss Ford herself, was still there. He determined to
interview her at once.

Of course, he told himself, to do so would put her on her guard, but his
visit to her room had already done that, and doubtless accounted for her
companion's hasty flight. And there was something to be gained, by
letting her realize that she was under suspicion. She would at once try
to communicate with, to warn, her confederate, and it was in just such
ways as this, Duvall's experience told him, that criminals so often
betrayed themselves. If, by frightening Miss Ford, he could cause her to
flee--to join her companion--the tracing of the latter would become
comparatively simple. He went up to the door of No. 162 and rang the
bell.

The same woman answered his summons as had answered before. She seemed
somewhat uneasy--disturbed.

"I want to see Miss Marcia Ford," Duvall told her.

"Very well, sir. Come in. I will tell Miss Ford. What name, please?"

"Say that Mr. Bradley is calling."

The girl ushered him into a dark parlor, lighted by a single lowered gas
jet, and suggestive of the gloom of ages, in its walnut furniture, its
dismal pictures and ornaments. He took a seat, and waited for the
appearance of Miss Ford.

She arrived in a few moments, a slender, ordinary-looking girl, in white
shirtwaist and black skirt.

"You are Mr. Bradley?" she asked, regarding the detective with a look of
inquiry.

"Yes. I came to see you about a matter of importance."

"What is it?"

"Who was the woman who just left here--the woman who had just come in
with you?" Miss Ford favored the detective with a glassy stare.

"I do not understand you," she exclaimed. "I came home alone. What is
the purpose of these questions?"

Duvall felt that he had a shrewd opponent to deal with.

"Are you acquainted with Miss Ruth Morton?" he asked.

"Why--certainly--that is, I know her by reputation, She works for the
same company as I do. Why do you ask?"

"Miss Morton has recently been the subject of a shameful persecution.
The woman who just left this house is concerned in it. Who is she?"

"I do not know what you are talking about," the girl exclaimed, angrily.
"I know nothing about any woman. You must pardon me, Mr. Bradley, if I
decline to be questioned in this way any further." She moved toward the
door.

"Then you wish me to understand that the woman who just left this house
did not come here with you?"

"Understand anything you please. I decline to be questioned any
further." With a look of anger she left the room.

Duvall made his way back to the sidewalk, thoroughly satisfied with the
results of his visit. The Ford woman, in the first place, had lied. The
other woman had been with her, beyond a doubt. Duvall thought of her
picture on the wall of Miss Ford's room. The latter's reason for lying
was equally clear. She and the woman with her were guilty.

In the second place, Miss Ford now realized fully that she was under
direct suspicion. If, this being the case, she failed to take some step
that would be fatal to both her confederate and herself, Duvall felt
that he would be very much surprised. He made up his mind to keep close
watch upon the house.

Suddenly it occurred to him that Grace might be of immense service to
him at this juncture. She could follow the Ford girl, unknown,
unrecognized, while he himself could not. He decided to call her up at
once, and ask her to join him.

At the corner, the lights of a saloon glowed brilliantly. With a final
glance at the dark doorway of No. 162, he walked quickly down the street
He felt that, if he hurried, he need not be away from his post more than
a few moments.

The call to his hotel developed the fact that Grace was not in. There
was a lady asking for him, however, the clerk said, an elderly woman,
who gave her name as Mrs. Morton. She had just come in, and seemed
greatly agitated at not having found him.

The name, Mrs. Morton, filled Duvall with sudden apprehension.

"I'll speak to her, please," he said. A moment later, he recognized the
voice of Mrs. Morton over the 'phone.

"Is this Mr. Duvall?"

"Yes."

"This is Mrs. Morton. Your wife came to me, a little while ago, and said
that you wanted to see me at your hotel at once. She explained that it
was of the utmost importance. Why are you not here?"

"I sent no such message."

"No such message! Then who did?"

"I do not know. You left your daughter alone?"

"Yes."

"Then, Mrs. Morton, I am afraid you have been imposed upon. Wait where
you are. I will join you at once."

"Hurry, then, Mr. Duvall. If what you say is true, we do not know what
may have happened."

"I will be with you in fifteen minutes."

The astonishing news given to him by Mrs. Morton filled Duvall with
alarm. Clearly the supposed message from him had been part of a scheme
to get her away from the hotel, to leave Ruth there alone. He scarcely
dared think of the consequences. The following of Miss Ford now became a
matter of secondary importance. Fearing the worst, he signaled to a
passing taxicab, and drove as rapidly as possible to his hotel.

Mrs. Morton awaited him in the lobby. She was in a state of the utmost
excitement.

"We must go back to the hotel at once," she cried. "Ruth is there all
alone."

"Where is her maid, Nora?"

"I let her go out, this evening."

"Then you should not have left the hotel."

"I would not have done so, but for this imperative message from you."

"What was the message?"

"Your wife, or at least a woman claiming to be your wife, came to see me
a little after eight o'clock. She said you had arrested the woman who
has been sending these threats to my daughter, and that you needed me at
once, to make a charge against her at the police station. I naturally
came here immediately."

"The woman who told you this--she couldn't have been my wife. Describe
her."

"She was slight, small, neatly but not expensively dressed, with light
eyes and hair."

"That was not Mrs. Duvall, but it answers very well the description of
the woman we are seeking. What did she do, when you left the hotel?"

"I thought she also left."

"You are not sure of this?"

"No."

"Then we have no time to lose. Come." He escorted Mrs. Morton to a
taxicab, and instructed the chauffeur to drive to her hotel at top
speed.

Mrs. Morton had very little to say on the way uptown. She was naturally
in a state of greatest excitement. Duvall, too, was greatly concerned.
He knew that the false message had not been given by Grace. What purpose
had the woman in mind, in getting rid of Mrs. Morton? The realization of
what might have happened to Ruth alarmed him beyond measure.

The drive to the hotel occupied but a few moments, but to Duvall it
seemed hours. When they at last drew up before the hotel door, he sprang
to the sidewalk, ordered the chauffeur to wait, and with Mrs. Morton at
his side, hurried into the lobby.

"Give me my key," Mrs. Morton cried, pausing for a moment at the desk.
Then, with Duvall at her heels, she rushed to the elevator.

As soon as they arrived at the door of the suite, it was apparent that
something was wrong. The door stood open. The clerk, with one of the
maids, occupied the little parlor. Through the open door of the bedroom
Duvall caught a glimpse of Ruth, lying in bed, the figure of a
heavily-set, bearded man bending over her.

"Mrs. Bradley!" the clerk exclaimed, as soon as he caught sight of Mrs.
Morton. "I'm so glad you have come. Your daughter has had an--an
accident!"

Mrs. Morton paid scant attention to his words. She, too, had seen
through the doorway the figure of her daughter lying in the bed. With a
cry, she passed the clerk unnoticing, and went toward the bedroom door.

"Ruth!" she exclaimed, in an agonized voice, then rushed into the room
beyond.



CHAPTER XVI


When Grace Duvall, accompanied by the hotel clerk, found Ruth Morton
lying on the floor in the parlor of her suite, her first act had been to
call for a doctor.

Her second was to gather the unconscious girl in her arms, and carry her
into the adjoining bedroom.

That Ruth was alive, filled Grace with joy. She had feared something far
worse might have befallen the girl. Yet it was clear that some terrible
shock had operated to reduce her to the condition in which she had been
found. What this shock was, Grace could only surmise.

She placed the girl upon the bed, and proceeded to remove her clothing.
By the time she had gotten her beneath the sheets, the clerk came in,
accompanied by the hotel physician.

The latter, after a hasty examination, turned to Grace with a grave
look. "The young woman has experienced a terrible shock of some sort,"
he said. "She is very weak, and her heart action is bad." He took some
tablets from a bottle in his medicine case, and called for a glass of
water. "Severe nerve-shock of this sort is a serious matter," he
exclaimed. "Sometimes it is fatal, at others the mind may be permanently
affected. The young lady must be kept absolutely quiet, of course. We
will hope for the best. Give her a tablespoonful of this solution every
hour. Force her to take it, even if she does not regain consciousness. I
will look in again in an hour or two. But be sure that she is kept
absolutely quiet."

Grace sat beside the unconscious girl for a long time in silence. Once
she went into the next room and called up her hotel, thinking that
Richard might have returned, but he had not. She felt that she could
only wait where she was, until some word came from Leary.

The clerk, as soon as Ruth was attended to, had hastened down to the
lobby, only to learn that the woman who had gone to Miss Bradley's room
had not been seen.

It must have been almost an hour before Grace was informed by one of the
bellboys that someone wished to speak to her on the telephone. She did
not take the message in Ruth's room, the management having given
instructions that no calls were to be transmitted there for fear of
arousing the unconscious girl. She went quickly downstairs in the
elevator, and repaired to a booth in the lobby. One of the maids had
been left to watch over Ruth.

The message was from Leary, as Grace had anticipated.

"Is this you, Mrs. Duvall?" the cabman asked.

"Yes. What have you discovered?"

"The lady got into her cab a little while after you left me, and drove
away. I followed, as you told me to do. She drove to an apartment on
96th Street, left her taxicab, and entered. The cab drove away. I'm
waiting across the street, in a drug store. The apartment is on the
corner, 96th Street and Columbus Avenue. Shall I stay here?"

"Yes. Wait until I come." Grace left the booth, and hunting up the
clerk, told him that she was obliged to go out at once.

"Mrs. Morton should be back very soon," she said. "One of the maids is
sitting with Miss Ruth. Hadn't you better stay with her, as well?"

The clerk nodded, then saw the doctor coming through the lobby.

"Here's Dr. Benson," he said. "I'll send him up. The young lady will be
quite safe, until her mother comes."

Grace bowed to the doctor, then hurried out of the hotel, and jumping
into a taxi, ordered the driver to take her to Columbus Avenue and 96th
Street. She felt overjoyed, to know that the woman Duvall had been
seeking had at last been run to earth. She should, Grace determined, not
escape a second time.

At 96th Street, she found Leary, impatiently waiting for her in the
doorway of the corner drug store from which he had telephoned. He saw
her as soon as she left the cab and, tipping his cap, came forward and
joined her.

"She's in there yet, Miss," he whispered, jerking his thumb toward the
building on the opposite corner.

Grace glanced in the direction indicated. A somewhat dingy-looking
apartment house stood upon the corner; its lower floor occupied by a
florist's shop. The entrance was on 96th Street. Leaving Leary on the
opposite corner, she crossed the street and entered the vestibule of the
building.

The mail boxes on either side contained five names each, indicating that
there were ten apartments in the building. Grace looked over the
addresses in them carefully, but none of them meant anything to her.
None was at all familiar. The name on the torn card had been Ford, but
there was no such name among those before her. How was she to tell to
which apartment the woman had gone? The situation presented an
interesting problem.

Making a list of the names upon a visiting card, Grace determined to try
them each in turn. She had observed that the building contained no
elevator. She rang one of the bells, and almost at once the clicking of
the catch told her that the front door was unlocked. She turned the knob
and entered.

The occupants of the two ground floor apartments were named Weinberg and
Scully, respectively. Grace tried both doors in succession, asking for
Mrs. Weinberg at the one, and for Mrs. Scully at the other. In each case
the woman who appeared bore no resemblance to the one she sought, and
she was obliged to pretend that she had made a mistake. The doors were
at once closed in her face.

It was not until she reached the fourth floor that success rewarded her
efforts. The left-hand apartment on this floor had as its tenant a Miss
Norman. To Grace's delight, she had scarcely rung the bell, when the
woman she had been following appeared, wearing a flowered kimono.

She looked at Grace keenly, suspiciously, but with no sign of
recognition. Whether she did not know her, or merely pretended not to do
so, Grace was unable to say. After all, it made little difference.
Having now located the woman, it was only necessary to get away, upon
some pretense or other, and telephone to Richard. She felt highly
elated.

"What do you want?" the woman asked, quickly.

"Are you Miss Norman?"

"I am."

"Miss Norman, I have come to try to interest you in the work we are
doing on behalf of the suffering people of Poland. The war, as you
know----" Grace reeled off this appeal, feeling quite certain that the
woman would reject it at once, and thus leave her free to go. But as it
turned out, Miss Norman did nothing of the sort.

"I am always interested in worthy charities," she remarked, with a
peculiar smile. "Won't you come in?" She held wide the door.

Grace found herself in a quandary. Was this a plot to get her inside the
apartment, or was the woman in earnest? It seemed unlikely, and yet,
Grace feared the danger, now that she had gone so far, of arousing the
other's suspicions by a refusal.

"I--I will come in for a moment," she said, and an instant later found
herself in a small, rather poorly furnished living room. The woman
closed the door, and followed her. Grace braced herself for a possible
attack, but none came.

"Sit down," her hostess said, indicating a chair.

"No. It is too late for that. If you care to subscribe anything----"

"But you must tell me more about your work."

"It is very simple. The money is expended by the Polish Relief
Committee, to relieve the starving and destitute sufferers in the war
zone."

"I see. It seems a worthy charity. I will think the matter over. Suppose
you call again."

Grace began to breathe more freely.

"I will do so, of course," she said, moving toward the door.

The woman preceded her.

"Let me open it," she said. "The catch has a habit of sticking." She
fumbled with the lock.

Grace was so completely deceived by the woman's actions that she
momentarily relaxed her guard. As her companion drew the door open,
Grace bade her good night and started to go. The instant her back was
turned, she felt a slender but muscular arm slide about her neck, and
she was instantly dragged backward, unable, on account of the pressure
upon her throat, to utter a sound.

Her attempt at a cry for help was smothered before it became audible.
She saw, as in a dream, the woman before her drive the door to with her
shoulder. Then she was whirled backward and thrown violently upon a low
couch.

She grasped the arm of her assailant and struggled with all her might,
but to no purpose. The woman bent over her, her hands at her throat.
Grace's brain reeled. Everything seemed black before her eyes. She
gasped, trying in vain to breathe, but the fingers upon her throat were
momentarily tightening. Then, almost before she realized it, the objects
in the room swam vaguely before her eyes, and she lost consciousness.



PART IV



CHAPTER XVII


Duvall, on his arrival with Mrs. Morton at her apartment, lost no time
in finding out from the clerk just what had happened. The story, pieced
together, confirmed his worst suspicions.

The woman, after escaping from the house at 162 West 57th Street, had
gone at once to Ruth's hotel, followed by Grace. Here she had
interviewed Mrs. Morton, represented herself as Grace Duvall, and
induced Mrs. Morton to leave the hotel by giving her a fictitious
message purporting to be from himself.

Returning, later, to the hotel, she had gone to Ruth Morton's room and
attacked her. The nature of that attack, the effect upon the girl, were
as yet uncertain. Ruth Morton was still unconscious.

Meanwhile, as he learned from the clerk, Grace had received a telephone
message and hurriedly left the hotel. The clerk did not know from whom
the message had come.

Duvall went to Ruth Morton's bedroom, and called the doctor aside.

"What is the exact nature of Miss Morton's injuries?" he asked.

"She has no injuries, at least in the sense I think you mean. She is
suffering solely from the effects of shock."

"What sort of shock?"

"I do not know, of course. Fright, of some sort, terrible fright, I
should say. I am informed that some woman, some enemy of hers, came to
this room, and was alone with her."

"There is no evidence of any violence?"

"None whatever. But the effects of shock are often worse than those of
actual physical violence. They have frequently been known to cause
death."

"You do not, I hope, anticipate anything of the sort in this case."

"I cannot say." The doctor shook his head. "She must have been very
weak. Her system is responding very slowly."

Duvall glanced over to where Mrs. Morton hung in agonized silence over
her daughter's bed, then went out into the sitting room. It seemed to
him well nigh incredible that the woman responsible for all this had
been able to move about, to elude pursuit, to carry out her threats,
apparently without the least hesitation or fear of capture. His
professional pride had received severe shock.

Two means of finding the woman, he felt, were still open to him. One was
to trace her through Miss Ford. He did not doubt that, after what he had
said to the latter, she would make an immediate attempt to warn her
confederate of the danger that threatened her. Of course, the Ford girl
might communicate with her companion by telephone, in which event the
tracing would be difficult, if not impossible.

The other hope of tracing the woman lay in Grace. Why had she left the
hotel so suddenly? He did not of course know the source of the telephone
message, and could only surmise that Grace had in some way been able to
pick up the woman's trail.

Leaving Mrs. Morton with a few words of encouragement, he made his way
to his hotel. There was no news there of Grace, however, and he realized
that it was now too late to accomplish anything by returning to the
house on 57th Street. Marcia Ford would either have long since retired,
or else would have left the house to communicate with the woman who had
been with her earlier in the evening. Considerably upset by the events
of the past three hours, Duvall retired to his room, and sat down to
think the whole matter over.

Proceeding on the assumption that the woman in question, and Miss Ford
were acting together, all the events at the studio, the fake telegram,
the missing photograph, became intelligible. But the delivery of the
letters in Ruth Morton's apartment, the strange attack upon him while
searching the Ford girl's room, were by no means so clear. Once more his
thoughts reverted to the attic room, the roof of the adjoining house,
the problem of effecting an entrance to the Morton apartment through
either of the two windows.

And then, as he revolved the problem in his mind, a sudden light came to
him. He sprang from his chair with an exclamation of satisfaction. A
solution of the whole matter flashed through his brain, a solution at
once so simple, and so ingenious, that he wondered he had not thought of
it before.

He glanced at his watch. It was midnight. Too late, perhaps, to test the
accuracy of his deductions. Nor did he feel at all easy in his mind
regarding Grace. Something must have happened to her, he feared, to keep
her out so late, with no word to him concerning her movements. He went
to the 'phone, and calling up the office, inquired whether anything had
been heard of Mrs. Duvall.

"No," the night clerk informed him. Mrs. Duvall had not been heard from,
nor had she sent any message. But a note had just been left for her. He
would send it up.

Duvall awaited the arrival of the note with the utmost impatience. A
message for Grace. From whom? What could it mean? A few moments later
one of the bellboys thrust into his hand a letter, written on the note
paper of the hotel.

He regarded the scrawling and ill-written superscription with
apprehension, then tore open the envelope and proceeded to read the
contents of the note.

"Dear Madam," it said. "I waited till nearly midnight. When you did not
come, I thought you must have gone out some other way, so came back to
the hotel. I hope I did right. Respectfully yours, Martin Leary." Duvall
stared at the words before him with a look of alarm. Who was Martin
Leary? And where had he waited for Grace until nearly midnight? And,
above all, why had she not returned? Had some accident, some danger
befallen her? The circumstances made it seem highly probable.

There was but one thing to do--to question the night clerk, and find
out, if possible, who Leary was. He rushed to the elevator and made his
way to the lobby with all speed.

"Who left this note for Mrs. Duvall?" he asked of the clerk.

"Why,"--the man paused for a moment--"one of the cabmen, I believe."

"Is his name Leary--Martin Leary?"

"Yes. It was Leary, come to think of it. Nothing wrong, I hope, Mr.
Duvall."

"I'll know later. Where is Leary now?"

"Couldn't say, sir. You might ask the cab starter?"

Almost before the clerk had finished speaking, Duvall had darted across
the lobby and made his way to the taxicab office at the door.

"Taxi, sir?" the man asked. "Do you know a chauffeur named Martin
Leary?" exclaimed Duvall.

"Yes, sir. One of our regular men, sir."

"Where is he?"

The starter glanced along the row of taxicabs.

"He's turned in for the night, sir. Left for the garage some time ago.
He's been on duty since early this morning."

"Where is the garage?"

"On Lexington Avenue, sir, near 30th Street."

"Does Leary sleep there?"

"No, sir. I don't think so, sir. They would know at the garage, I
guess."

"Very well. Get me a cab. I want to be taken there at once."

The starter called to one of the drivers, and a few moments later Duvall
was being driven at a rapid rate toward the garage.

His inquiries, on his arrival there, developed the fact that Leary had
left for his home, on Second Avenue, some little time before. Duvall
secured the address, and once more set out.

He felt greatly alarmed at Grace's failure to put in an appearance.
Something must have happened to her. Clearly the case was going very
much against him--the woman's second escape--the attack on Ruth
Morton--now the disappearance of Grace. He felt that the time had come
for action of a quick and drastic nature.

Leary lived with his wife and two children on the third floor of a
Second Avenue tenement. Hastily climbing the two flights of dark steps,
Duvall rapped on the door. He was overjoyed when it was opened by a man
whom he judged to be the chauffeur himself.

"Are you Martin Leary?" he asked.

"Yes, sir." The man wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, choking
down a bit of cold supper he had been eating, before turning in.

"I am Richard Duvall. You drove my wife uptown, somewhere, did you not?"

"Yes, sir. To Columbus Avenue and Ninety-sixth Street, sir. Won't you
come in?"

"No. There isn't time. I want you to put on your coat and come along
with me. Mrs. Duvall has not returned, and I am afraid something has
happened to her."

The man turned and called to someone inside the flat.

"Gimme my hat and coat, Kitty," he said, then turned again to Duvall. "I
suppose I should have waited, sir, but after two hours went by, I made
up my mind that Mrs. Duvall didn't need me any longer."

"What is the building at Columbus Avenue and 96th Street?" Duvall asked,
as the man, pulling on the coat his wife handed him, strode down the
hall.

"An apartment building, sir."

"And why did Mrs. Duvall go there?"

"Well, sir, we was following a woman, sir. She went to a hotel on
Seventy-second Street, and Mrs. Duvall told me to watch for her. I did,
and tracked her to the place at 96th Street. Then I telephoned to Mrs.
Duvall to come, and she did."

"What time was that?"

"About half-past nine, sir."

"All right. Go on."

"Mrs. Duvall came, sir, in another taxi. I pointed out the place where
the woman went in, and Mrs. Duvall went in after her. She didn't say I
was to wait, but I guess she expected me to, because she had sent the
other cab away. I waited over two hours, and then, when she didn't come
out, I supposed she had returned to her hotel, so I came back, too. She
wasn't there, though. That's why I left the note."

"How did you think Mrs. Duvall could have gotten back to her hotel, if
you were watching the door of the apartment house all the time?"

"I wasn't watching it all the time, sir. I went into the drug store
once, sir, and got a cigar. And then, later on, I went to a saloon a
piece down the Avenue and got a glass of beer. Mrs. Duvall didn't say I
was to watch the place, sir. I thought when she got through what she had
to do, she would come back to the cab. But she didn't. Do you think I
ought to have waited, sir?" The man seemed greatly distressed.

"No use talking about that now," Duvall remarked, shortly. "I want to
drive there at once. Get on the box, with the chauffeur, and point out
the place to him."

"Yes, sir." A moment later they had started on their way uptown.

Knowing as he did Grace's impetuous nature, Duvall could only conclude
that her pursuit of the woman had led her into some trap. What danger
she might at this moment be facing, he could only surmise. The apartment
building, when they finally reached it, presented a grim and forbidding
appearance. Not a light broke the darkness of any of its windows. The
drug store on the opposite corner, too, was closed for the night. The
whole locality was dark and silent.

"There's the place, sir," Leary exclaimed, as they drew up to the
corner.

"Tell the driver to stop a few doors up the block--not right in front of
the building."

Leary nodded. Presently the cab stopped, and he and Duvall got out.

The detective's first move was to ascertain whether or not the building
had any rear exit, by which Grace might have left, without being seen by
Leary. He walked down the avenue to its rear wall, only to find that it
abutted against the wall of the next building. There was no rear
entrance.

If, then, Grace had not left the place during the past hour, she must
still be in one of the ten flats that formed the five floors of the
building. But which one? That, apparently, was the problem he had to
solve.

It would be useless, he felt, to inquire at the doors of the various
apartments at this hour of the morning. Admission, at least on the part
of those he sought, would certainly be refused. Yet he felt that there
was no time to be lost.

Stationing Leary before the front door, with instructions to keep a
careful watch, Duvall went into the vestibule, and by means of his
pocket light, inspected the names of the occupants of the building, as
Grace had done a short time before. The hallway inside was dark, with
the exception of a dim light at the foot of the stairs. Apparently the
place boasted no elevator or hall-boy service.

The ten names on the boxes in the vestibule meant nothing to him. How
was it possible to determine which one was that of the woman he sought?
Weinberg--Scully--Martin--Stone--he ran down the list, trying to find
some distinguishing mark, some clue, that would guide him.

Suddenly he paused, allowing the light from his torch to rest upon the
card bearing the name of one of the tenants on the fourth floor.

This card had attracted his attention, because it was different from any
of the others in the two racks. They were either engraved or printed
visiting cards, stuck inside the brass frames provided for them, or the
names were written or printed by hand upon blank cards. But this card,
bearing simply the inscription E. W. Norman, was neither engraved nor
printed, nor written by hand. On the contrary, it was _typewritten_.

This in itself at once attracted Duvall's attention, owing to the fact
that the various letters received by Ruth Morton had also all been
typewritten. If the name, Norman, was an assumed one, as Duvall
concluded it to be, what more natural than that it should be
_typewritten_ on a blank card, especially when a regular printed or
engraved card was not available; when to have it written in long hand
would have been a disclosure of identity, and when, above all, the woman
in question possessed, and knew how to operate, a typewriter.

There was more than this, however, about the name on the card, to
convince Duvall that E. W. Norman was the woman he sought. He recalled
with distinctness the two salient features of the typewriting in all the
letters sent to Miss Morton, the misplaced "a," and the broken lower
right-hand corner of the capital "W." He looked closely at the two
letters in the name before him. The "a" was misplaced, the "W" minus its
lower right-hand corner. The evidence seemed to be complete.

The next thing to be considered was, how could he first obtain entrance
to the apartment building, and, subsequently, to the flat of the woman
posing as E. W. Norman? Were he to ring the latter's bell, he felt quite
sure she would not respond by unfastening the front door, but she would
on the contrary be warned, and even if unable to escape, might destroy
the evidence he hoped to find in her possession.

On the other hand, to ring the bell of one of the other apartments might
result in the unlatching of the front door, but might involve
explanations, difficult, in the circumstances, to make. There was no
help for it, however. Duvall pressed the bell belonging to the family
named Scully.

It was a long time before there was any response. Duvall had almost
begun to despair of getting one, when he heard the clicking of the
electric latch, and found that he could turn the knob and enter the
hallway.

He had barely done so, when at big, burly-looking man, who might have
been a bartender, or a head waiter, appeared in the door of one of the
ground floor apartments, clad only in his night clothes.

"Well--whatcha want?" he growled.

Duvall stepped up to him quickly, and spoke in a pleasant voice.

"I'm mighty sorry," he said. "I rang your bell by mistake. Pardon me."

The man glared at him, suspicion blazing from his eyes.

"That's an old one," he retorted. "How do I know you ain't a burglar?"

"Do I look like one?" Duvall asked.

The man ignored this question.

"Rang my bell by mistake, did you? Who do you want to see?"

"I have some business with a lady on the fourth floor." He went closer
to the man, and lowered his voice. "I'm a detective, my friend," he
whispered confidentially. "I'm here on a very important case."

The big man's eyes widened.

"Th' hell you are!" he exclaimed. "Central office?"

"No. Private."

"H--m." The man nodded slowly. "All right. But I guess I'll keep my eye
on you, just the same." He leaned against the door jamb and watched
Duvall as he ascended the stairs.

The detective reached the fourth floor at top speed. He was panting,
when he arrived opposite the door of the apartment he sought. Once
there, he paused for a moment, listening intently. Not a sound came from
the interior of the flat.

The problem of obtaining access to the place now confronted him. The
door was of oak of stout construction. He doubted his ability to break
it in, nor did he wish to attempt to do so, if it could be avoided.
Breaking into private apartments, without a warrant, was a serious
matter. There was a chance that this might not be the right place, after
all. He hesitated. Yet Grace might be within, in danger, perhaps, of her
life. It was imperative that he should find out the truth at once.

Stepping up to the door, he knocked sharply upon it, then waited for a
reply. He scarcely expected one, but felt that he should at least give
the persons within a chance.

A long silence ensued. Duvall was about to rap again, when, to his
amazement, the door slowly and noiselessly swung inward, as though
impelled by some unseen hand.

The room beyond was shrouded in darkness. Duvall could see no one.
Whoever had opened the door must now be concealed behind it. No one
either greeted or challenged him. The door swung three-quarters open,
and stood still. Not a sound was to be heard. The room was as silent as
a tomb.

Duvall stood on the threshold for a few seconds, listening intently. He
was greatly astonished by what had occurred. Why had the door been so
silently opened? Was someone waiting within, ready to attack him the
moment he made a step forward?

Whether this was the case or not, nothing, he reflected, was to be
gained by remaining where he was. Drawing an automatic pistol from his
pocket, he held it in readiness in his right hand, then, raising his
left arm, he flung his entire weight against the partly opened door.

The door yielded to his attack. Then there came a dull thud, as though
some heavy body had fallen to the floor, and immediately after the
hallway resounded with a series of unearthly screams. Duvall still moved
forward. Then, to his utter surprise, there appeared in the darkness a
grotesque figure, which immediately hurled itself upon him and began to
clutch frantically at his throat.



CHAPTER XVIII


It would be difficult to describe the feelings of Grace Duvall when,
after having traced the mysterious woman who had attacked Ruth Morton,
to the flat at Columbus Avenue and Ninety-sixth Street, she had
foolishly entered the place, and allowed herself to be attacked.

The woman's onslaught had been so sudden, so unexpected, that Grace was
entirely unable to offer any defense.

Her cries for help had been smothered at once and with the woman's thin
but muscular fingers clutching at her throat, she found herself forced
violently back upon a low couch that stood immediately behind her.

For a few moments she struggled violently, striving with both her hands
to break her assailant's hold upon her, but her efforts were in vain.
Slowly she realized that she was being choked into unconsciousness. The
objects in the room, the woman's set face, whirled dimly before her
eyes, and then everything became blank.

When she once more recovered consciousness, she found herself still
lying upon the couch. Her throat ached fearfully, and there was a dull
roaring in her head.

She opened her eyes and looked about. The room was quite dark. Only a
very faint glow came through the windows at its further end--the dim
reflection of the lights in the street. So far as she could determine,
she was alone.

She tried to move her arms, her feet, but found them bound fast. A
moment later she realized that a piece of cloth of some sort, tightly
rolled, had been forced into her mouth. She could not utter a sound.

There was no one in the room, but from the one which adjoined it in the
rear came the murmur of voices.

By twisting her head about she was able to learn that the door
connecting the two was ajar, and through the narrow opening came a thin
ribbon of light.

As her senses became clearer, she realized that two persons were in the
room beyond her, and from the sounds they made, the words which from
time to time came to her ears, it appeared that they were engaged in the
operation of packing.

At first the words that filtered through the partly open doorway were
mere fragments of conversation--words spoken here and there in a
slightly higher key, and therefore distinguishable to her. She made out
that her captors supposed her to be still unconscious--that they were
preparing to leave the place.

"There's no hurry," she presently heard one of the women say, in a
somewhat louder voice. "If she had had friends waiting outside for her,
they would have come to her rescue long ago. I'm sure nobody knows where
she is."

"And her husband had gone, long before I left the house. I was watching,
and he first went to a saloon on the corner, and then drove off in a
taxicab. So I couldn't have been followed here."

"No. But I think we ought to get away as soon as possible. When does
that train go?"

"Not until half past five."

"We'll have to wait in the station, then."

"Why not here?"

"Because that woman's husband, when she fails to return to-night, is
certain to look for her. She probably came in a cab, and he might trace
her that way. My advice is to leave here as soon as possible. Have you
finished packing that suit case?"

"No, not quite. What do you propose to do with Jack?"

"I was going to take him with me."

"I don't see how you can do that."

"Why not?"

"Because, if any attempt is made to follow us, he would be a certain
means of identification."

There was silence for a time. Grace heard the sounds of drawers being
opened and shut, as the two women hurried through their task. Who was
Jack, she wondered? There had been no sounds to indicate the presence of
a third person in the next room.

Presently she heard the voices again.

"I think the whole affair has been a mistake, anyway," one of them said
petulantly. "I don't see what you have gained by it."

"I've gotten my revenge on that baby-faced Morton girl. The stuck-up
thing. I'll bet she won't act again in a hurry. What right has she to be
getting a thousand a week, when they wouldn't give me a chance at any
price. I may not be as good-looking as she is, but I'm a better actress.
I hate her. I believe she told the director I wouldn't do--that's why I
didn't get the job. And after running down to the studio every day for
three weeks, too. I hate her, I tell you. I hope she's never able to act
again." The woman spoke with an intensity, a violence that made Grace
shudder.

"How do you ever suppose they came to connect _me_ with the matter?" the
other woman said after a time. "They didn't know my address, at the
studio. And even if they had, I have never been seen with you. I don't
see why they ever suspected me."

"I don't know. That man Duvall is pretty shrewd, though. I _did_ manage
to get away from him, the other night. I'd like to have seen his face,
when he got back to the cab and found me gone."

"His wife followed you here, from the hotel, I suppose. You took an
awful chance."

"I don't understand how she traced me. I knew she was following me, and
when she saw me go up in the elevator, at the hotel, I expected her to
come, too. I was afraid they might prevent me from coming down, while
they were coming up, so I walked down. I watched, from the stairs, and
saw her and the clerk get out of the elevator on the floor where that
girl's apartment was. Then I came down the stairs and went out the side
entrance. I knew she was upstairs, when I left, and I don't see how she
traced me."

"Perhaps she had her taxi driver do it."

"That's just about it. And if he did, like as not he's waiting for her
yet."

The other woman laughed.

"Nice wait he'll have," she said.

"That's all very well, but won't he see us going out?"

"Suppose he does. Anyway, it's dark, and we'll wear veils. And we won't
go out together. But I don't think he'll wait so long."

"If he doesn't, he'll go back to the hotel and report, and then the
woman's husband will be up here in no time. I think we'd better get out
now. You'll have to leave the trunk. There's nothing much in it."

Again there was a long silence. Then Grace heard the door open, and the
two women came into the room, carrying their suitcases. She closed her
eyes and pretended to be still unconscious. One of the women paused
beside her.

"If they don't find out where she is," she whispered to her companion,
"she's likely to stay here and starve to death."

"I shouldn't be sorry," the other snarled. "But if you feel badly about
it, it's easy enough to telephone to-morrow and tell the janitor to let
her out. No chance of a cab, I guess."

"No. Not at this hour. We'll take the car down to Forty-second Street,
and cross over. Are you ready?"

"Yes. I'd better put out the light, though."

"All right." The first woman moved to the door, while the second
returned to the bedroom and snapped off the light. A moment later Grace
saw her ghostly figure pass the couch, and then the snapping of the door
catch told her that she was alone.

The thought was anything but a pleasant one. If Richard did not happen
to remember Leary--she knew she had mentioned him in connection with the
address on the torn card he had given her--it was by no means impossible
that she might lie where she was, helpless, for days. And in that event,
starvation, or what was worse, thirst, might very readily serve to
fulfill the woman's predictions. She shivered at the thought of spending
hours, days, in this place alone.

But was she alone? Until now, she had supposed so, in spite of the
woman's remarks about "Jack," for she had heard not the slightest sound.
Presently she became aware of a slow, regular scraping sound, that
seemed to come from one of the rear rooms. It suggested something alive,
something moving about with stealthy footsteps. Then, all of a sudden,
there came a loud crash.

Grace gave an involuntary cry, or what would have been a cry, had she
not been so effectually gagged. The knowledge that she lay helpless,
unable to protect herself from attack, frightened her. She turned her
head, straining her eyes into the semi-darkness. Something, some figure,
was moving toward her from the bedroom, gliding along with swaying,
noiseless steps. What it was, she could not determine; from its
appearance against the darkness of the doorway it looked like a crawling
figure in black.

Presently she heard the sound of breathing, and with it a mumbling
noise, as though the apparition were talking to itself. Two eyes seemed
to gleam through the darkness. There was a hissing yet guttural sound,
human in quality, yet horrible to her ears.

And then, without warning, the figure sprang toward her, and flung its
arms about her neck.

With a gasp of fear, Grace turned and buried her face in the pillows.
Fingers seemed clutching at her hair. An arm, wearing a silken sleeve,
brushed her cheek, lay across her throat. A low voice muttered
unintelligibly in her ear, filling her with horror. She felt her senses
reeling. She thought herself about to faint.

Then, in a moment, the creature was gone, and she heard it moving
noisily about the further end of the room.

From time to time there came a crash, as though in the darkness it had
upset something. Then would follow long, uncanny periods of stillness,
broken only by the horrible muttering. She lay with her head buried in
the pillows, wondering at what instant the figure would again appear at
her side.

For a long time she remained thus, straining her ears to keep track of
the creature's movements. And as the moments passed, she began to take
courage, to hope that since no harm had as yet been offered her, the
_thing_ in the room, whatever it was, might not come near her again.

It appeared to have crept to the door, and from it came a low, quite
human whimpering, as though it were in great grief. Perhaps, Grace
thought, this was caused by the absence of the two women. She lay quite
still, trying vainly to free her hands from their encircling bands,
praying silently that Richard would come to her assistance. Her nerves
were badly shaken. She contemplated hours, even days of such a situation
with terror. At least, however, the coming of the dawn would bring one
relief. She would be able to see what this uncanny thing was that shared
her captivity.

Suddenly she became aware that some one was ascending the stairs in the
hall outside. Could it be Richard coming to her assistance? She strained
her ears, fearing that it might be only one of the tenants of the
apartment above, returning home at a late hour.

The creature at the door had apparently also heard the approaching
sound, for its whimperings ceased. Grace could tell by its movements
that it had risen. There was a faint sound of fingers sliding over the
polished surface of the door. The steps outside came to a halt.

With all her force Grace tried to cry out, but the gag prevented her
from uttering a sound. Then there came a sharp knocking at the door.

The figure before it seemed to be fumbling noiselessly with the catch.
In a moment Grace felt, rather than saw, that the door had been opened.
Another interval of silence came, and then the person outside flung
himself heavily forward.

The silence of the room was broken by a fall, a succession of unearthly
screams. Grace saw a dark body go hurtling through the air, and then
came the sharp, vicious crack of a pistol. The next thing she saw was
her husband, bending over her, flashing an electric torch in her face.
With frightened eyes she looked up at him and tried to smile.



CHAPTER XIX


The first thing that Duvall did, after releasing Grace from her bonds,
was to take her in his arms and kiss her. Then he found the electric
switch upon the wall and turned on the lights.

"What--what was it?" Grace asked, staring before her in horror.

"What was what?" he questioned.

"That--that thing that was locked in here with me."

"Poor creature. A monkey. I'm sorry I had to shoot it." He pointed to a
crumpled figure on the floor dressed in a gay costume of red silk.

"But--what was a monkey doing here?"

"I'll explain all that later. Where is the woman?" He glanced toward the
silent bedroom.

"They have gone?"

"They?"

"Yes. There were two."

"Ah! The Ford girl. I might have known. Where did they go?"

"I--I don't know. To the station, I think. They said something about
waiting there for a train."

"What station?"

"They didn't say. But they spoke of taking a car to 42nd Street, and
crossing over. It must have been the Grand Central."

"Or possibly the West Shore. We'll have to try both. Are you able to
leave now?"

Grace straightened out her stiffened limbs.

"Yes--I--guess so."

"Then come along."

As they started to leave the place, two men confronted them at the door.
One was Mr. Scully, he of the ground-floor apartment, the other a short,
thickset man, who at once announced himself as the janitor of the
building.

"What's going on up here?" he questioned. "I heard a shot."

Duvall pointed to the crumpled heap on the floor.

"I had to shoot it, though I'm sorry now that I did. It attacked me in
the dark. I couldn't afford to take any chances. My wife was locked in
here, and was, so far as I knew, in grave danger."

"Your wife?" The man glanced at Grace.

"Yes."

"But--where is Miss Norman? And how did that monkey get in here?"

"Miss Norman left here some time ago. Another woman, by the name of
Ford, was with her. She brought the monkey."

"What for?"

"I imagine she didn't want to leave it at her rooms. She did not expect
to return there."

"And Miss Norman's gone, you say?"

"Yes."

"Where to?"

"I don't just know, but I mean to find out at once. She has been guilty
of a grave offense, on account of which I have been trying to lay my
hands on her for several days. My wife tells me she took most of her
belongings with her in her flight."

"Flight, eh?" the man growled. "And she owes us a month's rent. I hope
you find her."

"I think I shall. Meanwhile, suppose you wait here in the apartment, in
case, for any reason, she comes back. If I find her I shall bring her
here at once, and unless the place is open I couldn't very well get in."

"All right." The man glanced about the disordered room. "That damned
monkey has smashed a lamp and a lot of ornaments that somebody's got to
pay for. Miss Norman rented this place furnished."

Duvall made no reply, but nodding to Grace, led the way to the hall.

"I'll be back soon, whether I find the woman or not," he said. "I've got
some investigations to make here."

Accompanied by Grace, he descended to the cab. Leary seemed overjoyed to
realize that Grace was safe, and began a long apology for his
carelessness in not waiting for her earlier in the evening, but Duvall
cut him short.

"Good thing you didn't," he said. "By coming back to the hotel and
leaving the note for Mrs. Duvall, you made it possible for me to find
her, and if I hadn't"--he paused and looked at Grace with a troubled
face--"there's no knowing what might have happened. Tell the chauffeur
to drive to the Grand Central Station."

It was three o'clock when the cab drew up at the curb. In spite of the
lateness of the hour, there were a good many persons moving in and out
of the station. Duvall got out and motioned to Grace and Leary to do the
same.

"We will all go in by different doors," he explained, "and meet in the
general waiting-room. If the women are not there, Mrs. Duvall will look
through the women's room. If you see them, and they make no effort to
escape, wait for me to join you. If they do try to get away, detain them
until I come."

It was Duvall himself, however, who first caught sight of the objects of
their pursuit. They sat, both apparently asleep, on a bench in one
corner of the main waiting room. The detective was not certain of their
identity, heavily veiled as they were, until he had gone quite close up
to them. Then he saw that they were Miss Ford and the woman who had
escaped from him while in the cab the night before.

He leaned over and tapped the Ford girl on the shoulder.

"Wake up, Miss Ford," he exclaimed.

The girl shivered, then struggled to her feet. Her companion appeared to
be too dazed to move, although she opened her eyes and stared at him
with a vague and terrified face.

"Will you come with me quietly," he said, "or shall I call a policeman
and have you put under arrest for the attack upon my wife?" He addressed
himself more particularly to the woman who was sitting.

She now rose and made a movement as though to attempt to escape. Duvall
grasped her by the arm.

"It will be quite useless to attempt it, Miss Norman," he said. "I have
help close at hand in case it is needed." He glanced toward Grace and
Leary, who were now approaching. "I do not wish to use any violence, of
course, but you and your friend are going back to the apartment on
Ninety-sixth Street with me."

His voice, his manner, made it apparent to the two women that escape was
hopeless. They seemed suddenly to realize it, to give up further ideas
of resistance.

"Very well," Miss Norman said, "we will go."

"Good." Duvall turned to Leary. "Take those two suit cases, Leary, and
get another cab." In silence the little party made its way to the
street. The two women said nothing on the way back to the apartment, and
Duvall did not question them. There was time enough for that, he
reflected, after they reached their destination. Within less than an
hour from the time of their departure, their entire party was back in
the woman's apartment.

The janitor was still there on guard, but the body of the dead monkey
had been removed. Duvall, requesting Leary to remain, closed the door.
The janitor rose and came toward them.

"Look here, Miss Norman," he began, "who's going to pay for that broken
lamp and them vases and ornaments?"

The woman regarded him with a stare, but said nothing.

"Never mind about those things now," Duvall said. "They can remain. I
have some questions of much greater importance to ask these ladies. You
need not wait. In fact, I should prefer that you did not. The matter is
a private one." The janitor took his departure, grumbling to himself,
and Duvall closed and bolted the door. Then he requested the two women
to be seated. They obeyed without a word.

"Why did you send those threatening messages to Miss Morton?" he
suddenly asked, addressing himself to Miss Norman.

She faced him defiantly.

"I'll answer no questions," she flung at him. "You can't prove I sent
anybody any messages."

"Do you deny it, then?"

"Yes!"

Duvall turned to Grace.

"You saw this woman enter Miss Morton's hotel to-night and go up in the
elevator, did you not?"

"Certainly!"

"Do you deny that?" The detective once more addressed Miss Norman.

"No. What of it? How do you know I went to Miss Morton's room?" Her
defiance was in no way lessened. Duvall saw that she meant to deny her
guilt utterly. He turned to Leary.

"This woman came to you, did she not, with a request that you spy on my
wife's movements, and inform her concerning them?"

The chauffeur nodded.

"Yes, sir. She did."

Again Miss Norman spoke.

"Suppose I did. What then?"

"You will admit, I presume, that you fainted at the theatre the other
night when the picture of the death's-head seal was thrown on the
screen, and that later you escaped from the cab in which I had placed
you?"

"Certainly I will admit it. The hideous thing startled me. As for
escaping from the cab, I had every reason to do so. You had not only
attempted to drug me, but after that you tried to steal the contents of
my purse. You are the one who ought to be arrested, not I."

The woman's attitude began to annoy Duvall, especially as, so far, he
realized fully that the evidence against her was entirely circumstantial
and vague. He turned away, and began to search the rooms.

The search, although he conducted it with the utmost minuteness, was
quite unproductive of results. If the woman possessed a typewriter, she
had apparently made away with it. The scrap basket contained nothing but
a few torn bits of paper of no value. There was no stationery on the
small desk in the living room, no black sealing wax, such as had been
used to make the seals. Duvall began to realize that the case against
his prisoner was far from complete. Returning from a fruitless search of
the bedroom, Duvall's eye fell upon the two suitcases that the women had
carried in their flight. He bent over to them at once, and proceeded to
open them, one after the other.

"Search them, please." He nodded to Grace.

The latter did so with the utmost care, but found nothing of an
incriminating nature. The two women sat in stony silence, showing little
interest in the proceedings. Duvall went over to them.

"Show me your rings," he said to Miss Norman.

The woman held out her hand.

"Take them off."

She stripped from her finger three rings. One was a gold seal with a
monogram upon it, another a cheap affair set with pearls, the third a
twisted gold band. None of the rings contained the mysterious
death's-head seal, or could in any way have concealed it.

An examination of Miss Ford's stock of jewelry produced no better
results.

"Let me see the contents of your purse," Duvall said, indicating a
leather bag the Norman woman carried on her wrist.

She handed the bag over with an almost imperceptible smile. Duvall
examined it but without result. The seal was not inside. Nor did Miss
Ford's purse, a silver one, contain anything worthy of his notice. He
handed the two back.

"Anything else you would like to see?" Miss Norman asked with cutting
irony.

Duvall walked over to the window and looked out. It was still quite
dark. The woman's assurance puzzled him. It was quite clear now that
unless he could find the typewriter, the letter paper, the missing seal,
and could connect this woman with them, there remained but a single way
in which she could be connected with the attacks upon Miss Morton, and
that would be by the direct testimony of the motion-picture actress
herself, concerning the woman's visit to her room. But suppose the visit
had been made in disguise. It would have been simple enough to have put
on a mask on entering the room and subsequently have thrown it away. And
Miss Morton, frightened as she had been, might be totally unable to
identify her assailant. She had covered her tracks well. Was she then to
go free?

The matter of the typewriter Duvall put aside for the moment. The woman
might readily have a friend who possessed one--a hotel stenographer,
perhaps, who had permitted her to make use of her machine. But the seal
was a matter of more importance. His examination of the several
impressions had shown him that it was extremely well carved--a decidedly
expensive piece of work. Of course, the woman might have thrown it away
during her flight, but it seemed unlikely. What had she done with it?
The question was one to which he felt he must find an answer.

Again, with Grace's assistance, he examined the articles in the women's
suitcases, testing the backs of hairbrushes, the contents of powder
boxes, the interior of a cake of soap, a bottle of shoe blackening, but
the search was as unproductive of results as before. Duvall was forced,
against his will, to the conclusion that the woman had made away with
the seal, rather than run the risk of its being found upon her person.

"Is there anything more you want of us?" Miss Norman asked, when he had
again closed the suitcases. "If not, my friend and I would like to go."
She rose as though to take her departure.

"Yes. There is one thing more. You will have to go to Mrs. Morton's
hotel with me, so that her daughter may have an opportunity to identify
you. But it is far too early to start now. I will send out presently and
have some breakfast brought in."

It was beginning to grow light now. Duvall suggested to Grace that she
had better go out into the little kitchenette at the rear of the
apartment and see if she couldn't find the materials for preparing some
coffee. He himself sat down at the little writing desk, and proceeded
once more to examine its varnished surface with the greatest care. He
had thought, if the letters had been sealed here, there would in all
probability be some tiny spots of the black sealing wax upon the desk
top, but he could discover nothing. Presently he heard Grace calling to
him from the kitchen.

Directing Leary to keep an eye on the two women, he joined her at once.

"What is it?" he asked. "Have you discovered anything?"

"No, not exactly. But--what does that mean?" She pointed to a candle
which stood in a tin holder on the table. "Do you notice the spots of
black wax on the candlestick?"

Duvall took the candlestick up and looked at it. There were large
splashes of sealing wax all over the bottom of the tin tray, not minute
spots, such as might have been made by the dropping of bits of the hot
wax in making a seal, but circular splotches half an inch or more in
diameter, as though a great quantity of the material had been melted.

"What do you make of it?" Duvall asked.

"I don't know. Looks as though she had melted up the whole stick, for
some reason or other. Possibly to destroy it."

"Hardly that. It would have been far easier to have simply thrown it out
of the window. And besides, the mere possession of a stick of sealing
wax, black or otherwise, could not be regarded as evidence. This woman
is smart, very smart and shrewd. She did not melt that wax up for
nothing. I think I have an idea of her purpose, although I cannot, of
course, be sure, yet. Did you find some coffee?"

"Yes. I'll have it ready very soon. What do you make of this woman's
attitude?"

"It is simple enough. She believes that she can bluff this thing out
without it being possible to prove her the author of the letters. And
she may be right. Certainly, unless Miss Morton can identify her, or we
can discover the death's-head seal in her possession, she stands a very
good chance of getting away scot free."

The coffee which Grace presently brought in was drunk by the whole party
in silence. Duvall seemed unusually preoccupied. His eyes scarcely left
Miss Norman; he appeared to be studying her, watching her every movement
with extraordinary interest, although he strove, by assuming a careless
indifference, to disguise his scrutiny. Grace, who knew his methods,
realized that the sealing wax in the candlestick had suggested some clue
to him, which he was trying his best to work out.

At about seven o'clock Leary was sent out to fetch some breakfast. By
half past eight they were ready to go to see Mrs. Morton.

Before doing so, Duvall thought it wise to call the latter up and make
arrangements about their coming. He presently got Mrs. Morton on the
wire.

"Good morning, Mrs. Morton. How is your daughter?" he asked.

"Much better," the reply came. "Very much better. I am going to take her
back to the apartment at once."

"The apartment?"

"Yes. She will be more comfortable there, and safer, too, I think. We
came here on your advice so that we might escape this fearful
persecution. But since the persons who have been threatening my daughter
have discovered our whereabouts, I see no reason for remaining any
longer. Do you?"

"No. I was going to suggest that you should return. I think I can quite
safely assure you that there will be no recurrence of the threats."

"Why do you say that?"

"Because I think the woman who has been making them is now in my hands.
I will bring her to the apartment a little later in the morning so that
your daughter may identify her. Will eleven o'clock suit you?"

"Yes, very well."

"Then I will come at that hour. Good-by." He hung up the receiver and
turned to speak to Grace. His eyes, however, sought the figure of Miss
Norman. She had not anticipated his quick scrutiny, and had for the
moment ceased to be on her guard. Duvall smiled to himself. The theory
which the spots of sealing wax had suggested had in that moment received
an unexpected confirmation.



CHAPTER XX


Ruth Morton had received a fearful shock the evening before, but by the
morning she had recovered from the immediate effects of it, although she
still felt extremely weak.

When Duvall and his little party arrived at the apartment on
Fifty-seventh Street, they were received in the library by Mrs. Morton.

She greeted both Grace and Duvall cordially, but it was evident, from
her manner, that she found the presence of the Norman woman and Miss
Ford highly distasteful to her.

Duvall drew her to one side, leaving the two women in charge of Leary
and Grace.

"How is your daughter now, Mrs. Morton?" he asked.

"Better, I think."

"May I see her for a few moments?"

"Yes. She is expecting you. Come this way, please. She is occupying my
room at present. She still has a fear of the other one--the one she
formerly used."

"I see. But she need not have it now. There will be no further trouble."
He followed Mrs. Morton into her bedroom.

Ruth, looking very haggard and white, was sitting in an easy chair by
the window. Duvall was amazed to note how terribly the shock of the
night before had affected her.

"How do you do, Miss Morton," he said, offering his hand. "I am glad to
find you almost yourself again."

The girl looked up with a faint smile.

"Thank you, Mr. Duvall. I am much better. I understand that you have
found out who has been causing me all this trouble."

"I think I have. But before I go ahead I want you to give me a little
assistance. Do you think you would know the woman who came to your rooms
last night, in case you should see her again?"

Miss Morton shuddered.

"I--I don't know. I do not think I saw her face. It was all so very
sudden----"

"Tell me about it," Duvall said. "It may help me to get at the facts.
That is, if you feel able to do so."

"I think I do. What shall I tell you?"

"Just describe, in a few words, what happened."

"Well, as you know, I had been feeling rather better yesterday, and had
begun to rather laugh at my fears. Mother was with me constantly, and
Nora as well, and I began to feel quite cheerful again, especially as I
knew that you were making splendid progress and had found the woman who
had been writing me. Mother told me that you expected to arrest her
before the day was over. She said your wife had been helping you, too.

"After dinner Nora, who had been in the hotel all day, asked permission
to go out for awhile and mother told her she might go. The poor girl had
been almost a prisoner since we arrived at the hotel. That was about
eight o'clock.

"About half past eight a boy came to the room with a card, upon which
was written your wife's name, and a note asking if she might see mother
for a few moments. We both looked at the card and then mother decided to
go down and see her. She instructed me to lock the door while she was
out, and of course I did so.

"In a few minutes mother came back. She seemed greatly excited, said
that she had seen Mrs. Duvall and that you had sent a message to the
effect that you had arrested the woman who had been threatening me and
wanted mother to come to your hotel at once to appear against her in
court. It was necessary, the woman who pretended to be your wife said,
that mother should come at once, as otherwise the woman couldn't be
held.

"We talked the matter over for a few moments and I told her that I
thought she ought to go. She seemed rather afraid to leave me alone, but
I promised to keep the door locked, and anyway, as I pointed out to her,
if the woman was arrested I had nothing further to fear.

"At last mother decided she would go, and left me. I locked the door as
soon as she went out.

"It seemed to me a very few moments before I heard some one rapping. At
first I supposed that mother had come back for some reason or other.
Then I thought it might be Nora who had said she was only going out for
a breath of air. So, suspecting nothing, I unlocked the door and opened
it.

"A woman came in, very quickly, before I realized it. She was not tall,
and rather slight, and I think she had light hair. I couldn't see her
face well because she had twisted a black veil across it, hiding her
eyes and the upper part of her features. She turned as soon as she got
in the room and locked the door.

"I was too surprised for a moment to speak, then I asked her what she
wanted.

"'I want you,' she said in a terrible voice, and I saw that she was
taking a bottle from her handbag.

"I was so frightened that I could not cry out, although I tried. You
see, the warnings I had received had gotten me so worked up that my
nerves were all on edge, and as soon as I saw the bottle, I concluded
that the woman was about to throw vitriol in my face. So I put my hands
to my eyes and ran into the bedroom.

"The woman came behind me, saying that my looks would soon be gone, that
my days as an actress were over, and other things like that which I
scarcely heard I was so frightened. When she got to me she caught hold
of my arm and pulled me around, facing her.

"I couldn't keep my eyes closed now, for I simply _had_ to see what she
was doing. It seemed worse not looking at her, and then I thought I
might take the bottle away from her and save myself in that way. So I
took my hands from my face and rushed toward her.

"Then she raised the bottle and dashed something into my face.

"It seemed hot, stinging, and made my eyes burn frightfully. I was sure
it was vitriol, and the thought was too much for me I guess, for I felt
myself falling and--well, that's all I remember until I woke up and
found the doctor and mother there. It was a terrible experience. I could
scarcely believe them, when they told me, after I came to, that I wasn't
really hurt at all."

Duvall looked at the girl's face. It showed no signs of injury, although
her eyes were red and inflamed.

"Then it wasn't vitriol after all?" he asked, wondering.

"No, it apparently wasn't. The doctor said he thought it must have been
ammonia."

"Remarkable!" Duvall muttered to himself. "Why should she have gone to
all that trouble, just to frighten you?"

"That's apparently all she intended to do from the start. Do you know,
Mr. Duvall, I've been thinking this thing over, and I believe her whole
plan from the beginning was merely to ruin me in my work by _fear_. And
I must say that she very nearly succeeded."

"Very nearly," said Duvall, with a frown. "If this thing had kept up for
another week or two, you would have been a complete nervous wreck."

"I am now, I'm afraid," Miss Morton said, sadly. "I don't feel as though
I could act again for a long time."

"Oh, yes, you will. You have youth, and that is everything. And now,
tell me, do you think if you took a look at this woman you might
recognize her?"

The girl shuddered.

"Is she--here?" she asked.

"Yes. In the library."

"You think it would be quite safe?"

"Quite. She can do you no harm while I am here."

"Very well. I will see her if you wish it, but I am very much afraid
that I shall not be able to identify her." Duvall held out his hand.

"Come," he said. "I will take you in."

Miss Morton rose, and walking slowly and with considerable effort, went
with him into the front room. Standing in the doorway, with the
detective beside her, she confronted the two women. They regarded her
with stony indifference.

"Miss Morton," Duvall said, "do you recognize either of these two women
as the one who attacked you in your rooms last night?"

The girl gazed helplessly from Miss Ford to her companion and back
again. Then she slowly shook her head.

"No," she said. "It might have been either of them. They look somewhat
alike. But as for saying which one it was, if it _was_ either of them,
I'm afraid I can't. The woman was veiled. The room was not brightly
lighted. And I was very much frightened."

The look of disappointment in Duvall's face was reflected in that of
both Grace and Mrs. Morton. The two women, on the contrary, seemed
vastly relieved. Miss Norman's mouth curled in rather an ironical smile.

"Are you through with this inquisition now?" she asked. "For if you are,
my friend and myself would like to continue our journey. You have had no
right to bring us here in the first place, and I am strongly considering
making a complaint against you for having done so." She grasped firmly
the umbrella she had held in her hand all the morning, and turned as
though to go. Leary, however, stood before the door.

"You apparently have forgotten," Duvall remarked, going toward her,
"that I still have a charge against you for attacking my wife."

"Very well; make it. I can prove that your wife forcibly entered my
apartment under false pretense, saying that she was collecting money for
the war sufferers in Poland. If I attacked her, it was in self-defense."

"That isn't true," cried Grace. "You sprang at me----"

"My word is as good as yours," Miss Norman interrupted. "And my friend
here will bear out what I say." She nodded to Miss Ford. "You also," she
again faced Duvall, "broke into my apartment without warrant and killed
my pet monkey. You will have to answer for that as well. You have
accused me of sending threatening letters to this girl here. I defy you
to prove it."

Duvall, who had been coming nearer the woman all the time, reached out
and snatched from her hands the umbrella she held. The others in the
room regarded him with astonishment. The woman herself gave a cry of
anger, and starting forward tried to recover her lost property.

Duvall yielded it to her at once, but not before he had torn from the
handle two small round balls covered with knitted silk that hung from it
by a heavy silken cord.

Miss Norman, seeing what he had done, drew back with a cry of anger. A
few incoherent words trailed from her lips. Duvall, paying no attention
to her, ripped open one of the silk-meshed coverings and extracted from
it a small, round black object about the size of a hickory nut.

He gazed at it for a moment, then going quickly to the table in the
center of the room brought the thing down smartly upon its surface.

There was a crackling sound, and bits of some black substance flew in
every direction. A moment later the detective raised in his hand a
glittering bit of metal and held it up so that the others might see it.

"The death's-head seal," he said, quietly.

Miss Norman fell on her knees before Ruth Morton, her hands upraised.

"Forgive me--forgive me!" she sobbed.



CHAPTER XXI


"In reconstructing the case from the beginning," Duvall said, later in
the day, "one fact stands out with especial prominence--the almost total
absence of any definite clues."

He was sitting in the library of the Morton apartment, and with him were
his wife, Mrs. Morton and Ruth.

"The thing was certainly very cleverly done," Mrs. Morton remarked. "I
still do not understand it in the least. How, for instance, were the
letters placed in my daughter's room?"

"I am coming to that," replied Duvall. "But first I will run over the
case in the light of Miss Norman's confession to me so that you may
understand it thoroughly and decide what action you wish to take against
her and her sister, Miss Ford."

"Her sister?"

"Yes. The woman's name is not Norman. It is Ford--Jane Ford. Norman is
an assumed name.

"The two of them came to New York about a year ago from somewhere up the
state--a small town near Rochester, I believe. One secured employment in
the motion picture studio--the other, the one calling herself Miss
Norman, worked as a stenographer.

"Her interest in motion pictures having been aroused by her sister's
stories of the life in the studio, she became an ardent picture 'fan,'
and spent every evening watching the films.

"Her attention was particularly devoted to the pictures in which your
daughter appeared, owing to the stories her sister told her about Miss
Morton's marvelous salary, her beauty, the ease with which she had
become famous.

"These stories naturally inflamed her sister's mind. Working for ten
dollars a week, she began to compare her state with that of a girl of
her own age earning a hundred times as much, and gradually the idea
began to possess her that she could become a motion-picture star
herself.

"At first she admired Miss Morton immensely and never missed an
opportunity to see the pictures in which she appeared. Then, convinced
of her own ability as an actress, she made application at the studio at
which her sister worked for a position.

"It seems she haunted the studio for several weeks without getting any
encouragement. Then, more to get rid of her than for any other reason,
one of the directors offered her a place as extra woman in a picture
Miss Morton was doing--a very minor part, in which she had to appear
momentarily as a saleswoman at a counter in a department store.

"Unfortunately, when Miss Morton saw her she happened to say to the
director that she would have preferred a woman of a different type,
dark, taller, so as to provide a more effective foil to her own type of
beauty. As a result, the girl did not get the position."

"I am so sorry," Ruth cried. "I hadn't the least idea who the girl was,
and, of course, I wouldn't have done her any harm for the world."

"I know that," Duvall replied, "but _she_ did not. She is mentally
rather erratic, and she at once conceived the idea that you had singled
her out for persecution; that, in fact, you were envious of her
abilities and meant to prevent her from getting a chance.

"The thing preyed on her mind, and I fancy, unbalanced it a little. She
conceived a violent hatred for you, and with her sister began to plot
revenge.

"Her first move was to persuade her sister to move to the house on
Fifty-seventh Street, close to your apartment. It took them some time to
find the place--to secure a room situated as Miss Ford's was, but at
last they managed it. Then they went to work.

"The letters were all typewritten on a machine belonging to a public
stenographer whom the girls knew. Jane Ford would stop in at this
woman's place late in the afternoon and asking permission to use one of
the machines would type the threatening letters. The paper she used was
procured especially for her by her sister at a stationery store
downtown.

"The seal, a curious thing, had belonged to the girls' father, and she
conceived the idea of signing the letters with it to add to the grimness
of her threats. As a matter of fact, I do not think she ever had the
least intention of carrying them out. It was to be solely a campaign of
fear. She probably thought that she could so frighten you, Miss Morton,
that your health would be broken down, and your work consequently
interfered with to such an extent that you would lose your position. As
I say, I think she is mentally somewhat unbalanced. I cannot account for
some of her actions, otherwise.

"The mailing of the first letter, the telephone messages, were
comparatively simple. It was the delivery of those at the apartment that
taxed her ingenuity. Yet the method was simple enough.

"The girls' father, I am told, had been an animal trainer in a circus,
and one of his bequests to his daughters was a pet monkey named Jack,
that had been taught to do all sorts of tricks. The girls brought this
monkey to New York with them after their father's death. When the
question arose of delivering the letters in your room, Miss Morton, she
decided to make use of the animal.

"Creeping out of Marcia Ford's bedroom to the roof of the back building,
and taking the monkey with her, she crossed the roof of the second house
and reached the wall of the apartment. From here she was in a position
to reach either of your bedroom windows in the following manner.

"The monkey was led by means of a long, thin rope, attached to a sort of
harness about his neck and shoulders. By going to the rear edge of the
back building they could readily swing him over to the fire-escape,
while by ascending to the top of the attic roof overlooking the court,
they could in the same way enable him to reach the other window. The
monkey had been trained to carry objects in his mouth. This accounts for
the row of indentations on the letters found in your room. I had
supposed they came from some mechanical device, fastened to the end of a
long pole, but as a matter of fact, they were made by the monkey's
teeth.

"The animal being light in weight, and the pads of his feet being, of
course, soft, no traces of his presence were left on the newly painted
surface of the fire-escape. The handkerchief that I found there had been
knotted about his neck as the collar to which the rope was fastened had
seemed a bit weak. In some way it became detached, probably when the
girls jerked on the cord to summon him back after he had completed his
task.

"In crossing the roofs of the two houses, the monkey's paws, as well as
the rope, became covered with dust. This explains the spots which seemed
to be finger marks upon the counterpane of your bed, and the long, dark
straight line across the bed, which I thought might have been left by a
rod or pole. As a matter of fact, it was made by a tightly stretched
rope.

"The sending of the monkey on the night when you were lying in bed must
have been a mistake. You will remember that, contrary to your usual
habit, you retired that night very early--a little after eight o'clock,
if I remember correctly. The girls, coming over the room, saw that your
room was dark, and naturally supposed that no one was in it. The
grinning face of the monkey standing on the bed beside you, was the
death's head apparition you thought you saw. At your cries the two women
at once jerked on the cord, and the monkey hastened back to them through
the partly raised window, leaving no trace of his presence except the
black smudges of which I have spoken.

"I have no doubt that Jane Ford followed me back to my hotel after one
of my early visits to your apartment, and thus learned my name and
address. Her supposition that I was engaged in an attempt to ferret out
the writer of the letters was a shrewd guess.

"The photograph was stolen from the studio by Marcia Ford who, being an
employee, had ample opportunity to stroll about the place after office
hours without exciting suspicion. She also arranged the subsequent
delivery of the photograph and the substitution of the fake telegram.

"Even when I made my night visit to Marcia Ford's room, and was attacked
in the dark by the monkey, I did not suspect what it was. The room was
pitch dark, and in the gloom I got the impression of a much larger
object--a person, in fact, and this impression was heightened by the
fact that the animal wore a silken jacket, and I felt the sleeve of it
against my throat. I only regret that the noise, the cries he made,
singularly human in quality, made it necessary for me to leave the place
so precipitately.

"The Ford girl and her sister had evidently just come in, and rushing to
the room found evidences of some one having been there. The monkey had
been shut in a closet, and by opening the door I had, of course,
released it. Fearing discovery, they arranged to flee at once. Jane Ford
went uptown. Her sister remained to pack up her belongings.

"The visit to your hotel, the attack on you, was a crazy inspiration of
the moment. Not knowing that my wife was following her, and having seen
me on the sidewalk on Fifty-seventh Street as she drove away, Miss
Norman naturally felt that if she could get you, Mrs. Morton, out of the
way, she would be perfectly safe in going up to your rooms.

"Even when alone with your daughter, she did not attempt to do her any
serious bodily injury, but contented herself with hurling the ammonia in
her face, counting, no doubt, upon the effect of the shock that would
result. As I have said, the woman is mentally a little unbalanced. The
things she does are not normal."

"Nevertheless, they came very near being fatal," Mrs. Morton remarked
grimly. "The doctor informed me that the fright, the shock of her
experience, might readily have caused Ruth's death, or upset her
reason."

"I do not doubt it," replied Duvall. "The woman has all the cunning of
an insane person. She showed it when, overcome by the sight of the
death's-head seal I had flashed upon the screen at the theater, she so
quickly recovered herself that she was able to deceive me completely
regarding her condition, and subsequently to make her escape.

"Both she and her sister realized that it had become necessary for them
to leave the city. Marcia Ford, taking the monkey with her in a cab,
hastened uptown to join her sister at the latter's apartment. She knew
that I was not following her, for she had seen me drive off to join you,
Mrs. Morton, at my hotel. They both thought themselves quite safe, and
able to leave the city without interference.

"The arrival of my wife at their apartment caused them to hasten their
plans. They realized that we were close upon their heels. Jane Ford knew
that the ring containing the death's-head seal was about the only
evidence that existed against her, yet she hesitated to throw it away,
as it had belonged to her father, and she prized it highly. With the
cunning that she had exhibited throughout, she conceived the idea of
hiding it in one of the tassels upon the handle of her umbrella.

"These tassels, as you perhaps know, are usually made of round bits of
wood, enclosed in a covering of knitted silk. The girl removed one of
the wooden balls, and having embedded the ring in a ball of black
sealing wax, put it in place of the wooden one. It was a most ingenious
hiding place, and one extremely unlikely to be discovered."

"How did you happen to discover it, Mr. Duvall?" Mrs. Morton asked.

"In this way. When my wife called my attention to the spots of black wax
on the tray of the candlestick, I saw at once that a far larger amount
of the wax had been melted than would have been required in making an
ordinary seal. The impressions on the warnings the woman sent were very
small and flat, so as to readily be inserted in the envelopes containing
the letters without being bulky, or becoming broken while passing
through the mails. But here were spots of the wax that had dripped down
as large as a silver quarter and larger. What, I wondered, had caused
the woman to melt so large a quantity of wax?

"I attempted to put myself in her place and to think what she would do
to hide the seal ring. The idea of embedding it in a ball of the wax
occurred to me. But, having done this, what would she do with the ball?
It was not an easy thing to hide; in her purse, her satchel, it would
have attracted attention at once. Then I noticed the round black
ornaments hanging from her umbrella, with their silken cords and
tassels. What better place to hide the ball of wax?

"In order to test my theory, I twice attempted to take the umbrella from
her on our way here, as though to relieve her of the trouble of carrying
it. In both instances she drew back at once, and refused to allow the
umbrella to leave her possession. This action on her part convinced me
that my guess had been a correct one. The subsequent finding of the ring
broke down her assurance. As you know, she has made a complete
confession."

"Poor woman," Ruth Morton remarked. "What are you going to do with her?"

"That rests with you, Miss Morton. If you decide to prosecute you can
readily do so. The penalty for sending threatening letters through the
mails is not a light one. And her attack upon you, under the
circumstances, is a very serious matter indeed."

Ruth turned to her mother.

"I think we ought to let them go," she said.

"And have the same trouble over again," Mrs. Morton replied. "I could
never feel safe with that woman at large."

"I do not think she will trouble you again, Mrs. Morton," remarked
Duvall. "She is thoroughly frightened. All her assurance has
disappeared. She begs that she and her sister be allowed to return home
at once. It seems that some relative in Rochester has offered them a
home there, and they were going to join her when we intercepted them."

"Then let them go," Ruth Morton exclaimed. "I certainly do not wish to
cause them any harm, especially as you tell me the woman who originated
the whole thing is mentally not quite right."

"She is certainly unbalanced, so far as her grievance against you is
concerned. But I feel sure that were you to explain matters to her, and
let her understand that your action in losing her the position at the
studio was quite impersonal on your part, she will realize the folly of
what she has done, and come to her senses."

"I will do it," said Ruth. "I don't want to injure her any more. Let
them go home in peace."

"Very well." Duvall rose to go. "Permit me to say, Mrs. Morton, that I
admire your daughter's generosity very much. Good morning." He and Grace
bade their hosts good-by and took their leave.

"She's a lovely girl," Grace remarked, as they drove to their hotel. "I
like her immensely."

"Then you aren't jealous of me any more, because I so suddenly became a
motion-picture 'fan'?"

"Richard!" she laughed. "Don't be silly. I suppose I shall always be
jealous of you when a girl, as beautiful as Ruth Morton, is concerned.
After all, to be jealous is only a woman's way of paying tribute to
another woman's charms."

Duvall laughed.

"It was Miss Ford's way, too," he said, "but as a means of showing one's
appreciation it had its faults."


THE END.



THE NOVELS OF

MARY ROBERTS RINEHART

May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset & Dunlap's list.


"K." Illustrated.

K. LeMoyne, famous surgeon, drops out of the world that has known him,
and goes to live in a little town where beautiful Sidney Page lives. She
is in training to become a nurse. The joys and troubles of their young
love are told with that keen and sympathetic appreciation which has made
the author famous.


THE MAN IN LOWER TEN.

Illustrated by Howard Chandler Christy.

An absorbing detective story woven around the mysterious death of the
"Man in Lower Ten." The strongest elements of Mrs. Rinehart's success
are found in this book.


WHEN A MAN MARRIES.

Illustrated by Harrison Fisher and Mayo Bunker.

A young artist, whose wife had recently divorced him, finds that his
aunt is soon to visit him. The aunt, who contributes to the family
income and who has never seen the wife, knows nothing of the domestic
upheaval. How the young man met the situation is humorously and most
entertainingly told.


THE CIRCULAR STAIRCASE. Illus. by Lester Ralph.

The summer occupants of "Sunnyside" find the dead body of Arnold
Armstrong, the son of the owner, on the circular staircase. Following
the murder a bank failure is announced. Around these two events is woven
a plot of absorbing interest.


THE STREET OF SEVEN STARS.

Illustrated (Photo Play Edition.)

Harmony Wells, studying in Vienna to be a great violinist, suddenly
realizes that her money is almost gone. She meets a young ambitious
doctor who offers her chivalry and sympathy, and together with
world-worn Dr. Anna and Jimmie, the waif, they share their love and
slender means.



B. M. BOWER'S NOVELS

May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset and Dunlap's list.


CHIP OF THE FLYING U. Wherein the love affairs of Chip and Della Whitman
are charmingly and humorously told.


THE HAPPY FAMILY. A lively and amusing story, dealing with the
adventures of eighteen jovial, big hearted Montana cowboys.


HER PRAIRIE KNIGHT. Describing a gay party of Easterners who exchange a
cottage at Newport for a Montana ranch-house.


THE RANGE DWELLERS. Spirited action, a range feud between two families,
and a Romeo and Juliet courtship make this a bright, jolly story.


THE LURE OF THE DIM TRAILS. A vivid portrayal of the experience of an
Eastern author among the cowboys.


THE LONESOME TRAIL. A little branch of sage brush and the recollection
of a pair of large brown eyes upset "Weary" Davidson's plans.


THE LONG SHADOW. A vigorous Western story, sparkling with the free
outdoor life of a mountain ranch. It is a fine love story.


GOOD INDIAN. A stirring romance of life on an Idaho ranch.


FLYING U RANCH. Another delightful story about Chip and his pals.


THE FLYING U'S LAST STAND. An amusing account of Chip and the other boys
opposing a party of school teachers.


THE UPHILL CLIMB. A story of a mountain ranch and of a man's hard fight
on the uphill road to manliness.


THE PHANTOM HERD. The title of a moving-picture staged in New Mexico by
the "Flying U" boys.


THE HERITAGE OF THE SIOUX. The "Flying U" boys stage a fake bank robbery
for film purposes which precedes a real one for lust of gold.


THE GRINGOS. A story of love and adventure on a ranch in California.


STARR OF THE DESERT. A New Mexico ranch story of mystery and adventure.


THE LOOKOUT MAN. A Northern California story full of action, excitement
and love.



Transcriber's Notes:


Typographical errors in original have been corrected as follows:


Chapter III

"Would you take one, if it were offered to you," asked Grace quickly.
changed to: "Would you take one, if it were offered to you?" asked Grace
quickly.

"No one, but an old negro cook, who has been with me for years.
changed to: "No one but an old negro cook, who has been with me for
years.

I am going to take the case largely bceause it has interested me,
changed to: I am going to take the case largely because it has
interested me,


Chapter IV

Duvall examined this house next door with a great deal of interest
changed to: Duvall examined this house next door with a great deal of
interest.

"Nothing, so far. I confess the thing is somewhat of a puzzle.
changed to: "Nothing, so far. I confess the thing is somewhat of a
puzzle."


Chapter V

...eyes of the two men were tent curiously upon her,
changed to:  ...eyes of the two men were bent curiously upon her,

Why, sir. Is anything wrong?"
changed to:  Why, sir? Is anything wrong?"


Chapter VI

Dora will bring me some dinner," she said,
changed to:  Nora will bring me some dinner," she said,

She has become a sort of public character."
changed to: She has become a sort of public character.


Chapter VII

Duvall turned to his companion with a juzzled frown.
changed to:  Duvall turned to his companion with a puzzled frown.

...his head, far below the sill of this window. nor could anyone...
changed to: ...his head, far below the sill of this window, nor could
anyone...

...may have to be here some time, I've got a queer case...
changed to: ...may have to be here some time. I've got a queer case...


Chapter VIII

"Nothing, replied Mrs. Morton.
changed to:  "Nothing," replied Mrs. Morton.

"This is where Mr. Moore receives his callers:
changed to:  "This is where Mr. Moore receives his callers.

...at the Grand to-night, It will be your last
changed to:  ...at the Grand to-night, it will be your last.

"Last night I knew it would be needed to-day."
changed to:  "Last night. I knew it would be needed to-day."

...when the moment arrived, I gave it to the actor who took it to Miss
Morton:"
changed to: ...when the moment arrived, I gave it to the actor who took
it to Miss Morton."

...Duvall asked Ruth, after they had had started away from the studio.
changed to: ...Duvall asked Ruth, after they had started away from the
studio.


Chapter IX

With a polite bow he passed no.
changed to:  With a polite bow he passed on.


Chapter X

Duval, after having satisfied himself that...
changed to:  Duvall, after having satisfied himself that...

The lovely face of Ruth Morton once more greeted the eyes of the
audience
changed to: The lovely face of Ruth Morton once more greeted the eyes of
the audience.

...the water about with the end of a leadpencil until the tablet...
changed to: ...the water about with the end of a lead pencil until the
tablet...


Chapter XI

...sent him into the drag store in order that she...
changed to:  ...sent him into the drug store in order that she...

...provided the card is, as I conclude, torn exactly in half.
changed to: ...provided the card is, as I conclude, torn exactly in
half."

...begins with 'Mar,' Duvall said. I will put them down on a sheet of
paper."
changed to: ...begins with 'Mar,'" Duvall said. "I will put them down on
a sheet of paper."

It may be that Miss Marcia Ford,...
changed to:  "It may be that Miss Marcia Ford,...

...extended a half sheet of none-paper toward the detective.
changed to: ...extended a half sheet of note-paper toward the detective.

...he said, "that it will, be necessary for you to remain...
changed to: ...he said, "that it will be necessary for you to remain...

Mr. Emmett, who is in charge there, can tell as about Miss Ford."
changed to: Mr. Emmett, who is in charge there, can tell us about Miss
Ford."


Chapter XII

The thing is utterly incomprehensible."
changed to:  The thing is utterly incomprehensible.

What's the matter with you.
changed to:  What's the matter with you?

...in case anyone questioned him about me."
changed to: ...in case anyone questioned him about me.

She gave him a name and address.
changed to:  "She gave him a name and address.


Chapter XV

"Yes. I came to see you about a matter of importance.
changed to: "Yes. I came to see you about a matter of importance."


Chapter XVI

...been following appeared, wearing a flowered kimona.
changed to: ...been following appeared, wearing a flowered kimono.


Chapter XVII

"Very well Get me a cab.
changed to:  "Very well. Get me a cab.

He was overjoyed, when it was opened by a man...
changed to:  He was overjoyed when it was opened by a man...

He doubted his ability to break it in. nor did he wish...
changed to: He doubted his ability to break it in, nor did he wish...


Chapter XIX

"'Is there anything more you want of us?" Miss Norman asked,
changed to: "Is there anything more you want of us?" Miss Norman asked,


Chapter XX

"I am glad to find you almost yourself again.
changed to:  "I am glad to find you almost yourself again."


Chapter XXI

It seems she haunted the studio for several weeks without...
changed to: "It seems she haunted the studio for several weeks
without...

...and thus learned by name and address.
changed to:  and thus learned my name and address.

What better place to hide the ball of wax.
changed to:  What better place to hide the ball of wax?

Permit me to say, Mrs. Morton, that I...
changed to:  "Permit me to say, Mrs. Morton, that I...


B.M. Bower's Novels

THE RANGE DWELLERS. Spirited action, a range feud be two families, and
a...
changed to: THE RANGE DWELLERS. Spirited action, a range feud between
two families, and a...





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