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Title: Clue of the Silken Ladder
Author: Wirt, Mildred A. (Mildred Augustine), 1905-2002
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 "Clue of the Silken Ladder" ***

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

                                Clue of
                               the Silken

                            MILDRED A. WIRT

                              _Author of_
                       TRAILER STORIES FOR GIRLS


                        CUPPLES AND LEON COMPANY
                                NEW YORK

                             _PENNY PARKER_
                            MYSTERY STORIES

              _Large 12 mo.       Cloth       Illustrated_

                         TALE OF THE WITCH DOLL
                        THE VANISHING HOUSEBOAT
                        DANGER AT THE DRAWBRIDGE
                         BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR
                       CLUE OF THE SILKEN LADDER
                            THE SECRET PACT
                       THE CLOCK STRIKES THIRTEEN
                            THE WISHING WELL
                         SABOTEURS ON THE RIVER
                         GHOST BEYOND THE GATE
                       HOOFBEATS ON THE TURNPIKE
                          VOICE FROM THE CAVE
                       GUILT OF THE BRASS THIEVES
                           SIGNAL IN THE DARK
                            WHISPERING WALLS
                              SWAMP ISLAND
                          THE CRY AT MIDNIGHT

                COPYRIGHT, 1941, BY CUPPLES AND LEON CO.

                       Clue of the Silken Ladder

                          PRINTED IN U. S. A.


  CHAPTER                                                            PAGE
  1 DOUBLE TROUBLE                                                    _1_
  2 A ROPE OF SILK                                                   _12_
  3 SOCIETY ROUTINE                                                  _23_
  4 A TURN OF FORTUNE                                                _32_
  5 THE MAN IN GRAY                                                  _42_
  6 AN APARTMENT BURGLARY                                            _49_
  7 MARK OF THE IRON HOOK                                            _59_
  8 PSYCHIC SIGNS                                                    _67_
  9 MRS. WEEMS' INHERITANCE                                          _75_
  10 OUIJA BOARD WISDOM                                              _85_
  11 THE CELESTIAL TEMPLE                                            _94_
  12 A MESSAGE FOR MRS. WEEMS                                       _102_
  13 COUSIN DAVID'S GHOST                                           _111_
  14 WET PAINT                                                      _118_
  15 HIDDEN MONEY                                                   _125_
  16 OVER THE WINDOW LEDGE                                          _135_
  17 KANO'S CURIO SHOP                                              _142_
  18 THE BELL TOWER                                                 _151_
  19 PENNY INVESTIGATES                                             _157_
  20 INSIDE THE CABINET                                             _163_
  21 STARTLING INFORMATION                                          _168_
  22 SCALING THE WALL                                               _174_
  23 A PRISONER IN THE BELFRY                                       _181_
  24 THE WOODEN BOX                                                 _188_
  25 EXTRA!                                                         _200_

                            _DOUBLE TROUBLE_

"Now I ask you, Lou, what have I done to deserve such a fate?"

Jerking a yellow card from beneath the windshield of the shiny new
maroon-colored sedan, Penny Parker turned flashing blue eyes upon her
companion, Louise Sidell.

"Well, Penny," responded her chum dryly, "in Riverview persons who park
their cars beside fire hydrants usually expect to get parking tickets."

"But we were only inside the drugstore five minutes. Wouldn't you think a
policeman could find something else to do?"

"Oh, the ticket won't cost you more than five or ten dollars," teased
Louise wickedly. "Your father should pay it."

"He should but he won't," Penny answered gloomily. "Dad expects his one
and only daughter to assume her own car expense. I ask you, what's the
good of having a weekly allowance when you never get to use it yourself?"

"You _are_ in a mood today. Why, I think you're lucky to have a grand new

Louise's glance caressed the highly polished chrome plate, the sleek,
streamlined body which shone in the sunlight. The automobile had been
presented to Penny by her father, Anthony Parker, largely in gratitude
because she had saved his newspaper, _The Riverview Star_, from a
disastrous law suit.

"Yes, I am lucky," Penny agreed without enthusiasm. "All the same, I'm
lonesome for my old coupe, Leaping Lena. I wish I could have kept her.
She was traded in on this model."

"What would you do with that old wreck now, Penny? Nearly every time we
went around a corner it broke down."

"All the same, we had marvelous times with her. This car takes twice as
much gasoline. Another thing, all the policemen knew Lena. They never
gave her a ticket for anything."

Penny sighed deeply. Pocketing the yellow card, she squeezed behind the
steering wheel.

"By the way, whatever became of Lena?" Louise asked curiously, slamming
the car door. She glanced sharply at Penny.

"Oh, she's changed hands twice. Now she's at Jake Harriman's lot,
advertised for fifty dollars. Want to drive past there?"

"Not particularly. But I'll do it for your sake, pet."

As the car started toward the Harriman Car Lot, Louise stole an amused
glance at her chum. Penny was not unattractive, even when submerged in
gloom. Upon the slightest provocation, her blue eyes sparkled; her smile
when she chose to turn it on, would melt a man of stone. She dressed
carelessly, brushed a mop of curly, golden hair only if it suited her
fancy, yet somehow achieved an appearance envied by her friends.

The automobile drew up at the curb.

"There's Lena." Penny pointed to an ancient blue coupe with battered
fenders which stood on the crowded second-hand lot. A _For Sale_ sign on
the windshield informed the public that the auto might be bought for
forty dollars.

"Lena's value seems to have dropped ten dollars," commented Louise. "My,
I had forgotten how wrecky the old thing looks!"

"Don't speak of her so disrespectfully, Lou. All she needs is a good
waxing and a little paint."

The girls crossed the lot to inspect the coupe. As they were gazing at
it, Jake, the lot owner, sidled toward them, beaming ingratiatingly.

"Good afternoon, young ladies. May I interest you in a car?"

"No, thank you," replied Penny. "We're just looking."

"Now here is a fine car," went on the dealer, indicating the coupe. "A
1934 model--good mechanical condition; nice rubber; a lively battery and
fair paint. You can't go wrong, ladies, not at a price of forty dollars."

"But will it run?" asked Louise, smothering a giggle.

"There's thousands of miles of good service left in this little car,
ladies. And the price is only fifteen dollars above the junk value."

The thought of Leaping Lena coming to an inglorious end in a junk yard
was disconcerting to Penny. She walked slowly about the car, inspecting
it from every angle.

"Forty dollars is too much for this old wreck," she said firmly.

"Why, Penny, such disrespect!" mocked Louise.

Penny frowned down her chum. Sentiment and business were two different

"What _will_ you give?" inquired the car owner alertly.

"Not a cent over twenty-five."

Louise clutched Penny's arm, trying to pull her away.

"Have you lost your mind?" she demanded. "What could you do with this old
car when you already have a new one?"

Penny did not listen. She kept gazing at the coupe as one who had been

"I'd take it in a minute, only I don't have twenty-five dollars in cash."

"How much can you raise?" asked the dealer.

"Not more than five dollars, I'm afraid. But my father is publisher of
the _Riverview Star_."

Jake Harriman's brows unknitted as if by magic.

"Anthony Parker's daughter," he said, smiling. "That's plenty good enough
for me. I'll sell you the best car on the lot for nothing down. Just come
inside the office and sign a note for the amount. Will that be okay?"

Disregarding Louise's whispered protests, Penny assured the dealer that
the arrangement would be perfectly satisfactory. The note was signed, and
five dollars in cash given to bind the bargain.

"I'll throw in a few gallons of gas," the man offered.

However, Jake Harriman's gasoline did not seem suited to Leaping Lena's
dyspeptic ignition. She coughed feebly once or twice and then died for
the day.

"You have acquired a bargain, I must say!" exclaimed Louise. "You can't
even get the car home."

"Yes, I can," Penny insisted. "I'll tow her. A little tinkering and
she'll be as good as new."

"You're optimistic, to say the least," laughed Louise.

Penny produced a steel cable from the tool kit of the maroon sedan, and
Jake Harriman coupled the two cars together.

"Penny, what will your father say when he learns of this?" Louise
inquired dubiously. "On top of a parking ticket, too!"

"Oh, I'll meet that problem when I come to it," Penny answered
carelessly. "Louise, you steer Lena. I'll drive the sedan."

Shaking her head sadly, Louise climbed into the old car. Although Penny
was her dearest friend she was forced to admit that the girl often did
bewildering things. Penny's mother was dead and for many years she had
been raised by a housekeeper, Mrs. Maud Weems. Secretly Louise wondered
if it were not the housekeeper who had been trained. At any rate, Penny
enjoyed unusual freedom for a high school girl, and her philosophy of
life was summed up in one headline: ACTION.

Penny put the sedan in gear, towing the coupe slowly down the street. The
two vehicles traveled several blocks before a hill loomed ahead. Penny
considered turning back, and then decided that the cars could make the
steep climb easily.

However, midway up the hill the sedan suddenly leaped forward as if
released from a heavy burden. At the same instant Lena's horn gave a
sharp warning blast.

Glancing into the mirror, Penny was horrified to see Leaping Lena
careening backwards down the steep slope. The tow rope had unfastened.

Bringing the sedan to the curb, she jerked on the hand brake, and sprang
to the pavement. Louise, bewildered and frightened, was trying
desperately to control the coupe. The car gathered speed, wobbling
crazily toward the line of traffic.

"Guide it! Guide it!" shouted Penny. "Put on the brakes!"

So confused was Louise that she lost her head completely. Straight toward
a long black limousine rolled the coupe. The chauffeur spun his wheel,
but too late. There was a loud crash as the two cars came together.

Penny raced down the hill to help her chum from the coupe.

"Are you hurt?" she asked anxiously.

Louise shook her head, wailing: "Penny Parker, just see what has happened
now! You never should have bought this stupid old wreck!"

Both the chauffeur and an elderly gentleman who carried a cane, alighted
from the limousine. With grim faces they surveyed the fender which had
been crushed.

"The owner is Mr. Kohl," Louise whispered nervously. "You know, president
of the First National Bank."

The banker did not recognize either of the girls. Addressing them both,
he made several pointed remarks to the effect that irresponsible young
people were very thoughtless to endanger the property of others with
their ancient "jalopies."

"It was entirely my fault, Mr. Kohl," acknowledged Penny meekly. "Of
course, I'll pay for the fender."

The banker softened somewhat, gazing at the girls in a thoughtful, more
friendly way.

"Haven't I seen you somewhere before?" he asked.

"Oh, yes, Mr. Kohl." Penny was quick to press for an advantage. "Why, I
am one of your best customers. Ever since I was six years old I've
trusted your bank with my savings!"

"I remember you now," said Mr. Kohl, smiling. "You're the Parker girl."

Adding a mental note that Anthony Parker actually was one of the bank's
largest depositors, he decided it would be excellent policy to make light
of the accident. A moment later as a policeman came to investigate, he
insisted that the incident had been unavoidable and that it would be a
mistake to arrest the girls.

"Mr. Kohl, you were noble, absolutely noble," declared Penny gratefully
after the policeman had gone. "The least I can do is to pay for the

"I'll stop at Sherman's Garage and have a new fender put on," the banker
responded. "The bill can be sent to your father."

After Mr. Kohl had driven away, Louise helped Penny hook the coupe to the
sedan once more. She remarked cuttingly:

"You've done right well today. One parking ticket, a bill for twenty-five
dollars, and another one coming up. Just what _will_ your father say?"

"Plenty," sighed Penny. "I wonder if it might not be a good idea to break
the news by easy stages? Perhaps he'll take it more calmly if I

"Don't be too sure."

The street was a narrow, dingy one with few business houses. Noticing a
Japanese store which bore a sign, "Kano's Curio Shop," she started toward
it, intending to seek a public telephone.

Louise seized her arm. "Penny, you're not going in there!"

"Why not?"

"This is Dorr Street--one of the worst places in Riverview."

"Oh, don't be silly," chuckled Penny. "It's perfectly safe by daylight.
I'll go alone if you're afraid."

Thus challenged, Louise indignantly denied that she was afraid, and
accompanied her chum.

The door of Mr. Kano's shop stood invitingly open. Pausing on the
threshold, the girls caught a pleasant aroma of sandalwood.

So quietly did Louise and Penny enter that the elderly, white-haired shop
owner did not immediately see them. He sat behind a high counter,
engrossed in something he was sewing.

"Good afternoon," said Penny pleasantly.

The Japanese glanced up quickly and as quickly thrust his work beneath
the counter. Recovering poise, he bowed to the girls.

"May we use your telephone if you have one?" Penny requested.

"So very sorry, Miss," the Japanese responded, bowing again. "Have no

Penny nodded, absently fingering a tray of tiny ivory figures. The
Japanese watched her, and mistaking curiosity for buying interest,
brought additional pieces for her to inspect. The curios were all too
expensive for Penny's purse, but after endless debate she bought a pair
of wooden clogs. The shop owner padded away into a back room, intending
to wrap the package for her.

Scarcely had he vanished when Penny turned excitedly to her chum.

"Lou, did you notice how funny he acted when we came in here?"

"Yes, he didn't want us to see what he was making evidently."

"Exactly what I thought! But we'll fool Mr. Kano!"

Giving Louise no opportunity to protest, Penny boldly peered behind the

"Here it is," she whispered. "But _what_ is it?"

Hidden in a pasteboard box lay coil upon coil of what appeared to be
fine, black silk rope. Curiously, she lifted it up, exposing a network of

"Well, of all things!" she exclaimed. "It's a ladder, Lou! A ladder made
of silk!"

                            _A ROPE OF SILK_

Even as Penny spoke, she felt a hard, warning tug on her skirt. Quickly
she turned around.

In the doorway stood the old Japanese. His smile was not pleasant to

"We-we were just looking at this rope," Penny stammered, trying to carry
off the situation with dignity. "I hope you don't mind."

The Japanese shopkeeper gazed steadily at the girl, his face an
emotionless mask. Since he spoke no word, it became increasingly evident
that he regarded her with anger and suspicion.

"May I ask what use is made of this silk rope?" Penny inquired. "Do you
sell it for a special purpose?"

The Japanese coldly ignored the direct questions.

"So very sorry to have kept you waiting," he said softly. "Your change

Penny knew that she deserved the rebuke. Accepting the package and coins,
she and Louise hastily left the shop. Not until they were some distance
away did the latter speak.

"Penny, you would do a trick like that! One of these days your curiosity
will get us into serious trouble."

"At least I learned what was hidden behind the counter," chuckled Penny.
"But that Jap didn't seem very eager to answer my questions."

"Can you blame him? It certainly was none of our affair what he kept
inside the box."

"Perhaps not, Lou, but you must admit he acted strangely when we first
entered the shop. You know--as if we had surprised him in a questionable

"He naturally was startled. We came in so quietly."

"All the same, I'm not one bit sorry I looked behind the counter," Penny
maintained. "I like to learn about things."

"I agree with you there!"

"Lou, what purpose do you suppose silk ladders serve? Who uses them and

"Now, how should I know? Penny, you ask enough questions to be master of
ceremonies on a radio quiz program."

"I can't recall ever having seen a silk ladder before," Penny resumed,
undisturbed by her chum's quip. "Would acrobats use them, do you think?"

"Not to my knowledge," Louise answered. "If I were in your shoes I should
worry about more serious matters than those connected with a mere silk

"The world is filled with serious things," sighed Penny. "But mystery!
One doesn't run into it every day."

"You do," said Louise brutally. "If a stranger twitches his ears twice
you immediately suspect him of villainy."

"Nevertheless, being of a suspicious nature won me a new car," Penny
defended herself. "Don't forget Dad gave it to me for solving a mystery,
for telling his newspaper readers what was going on _Behind the Green

"Oh, your curiosity has paid dividends," Louise admitted with a laugh.
"Take for instance the time you trailed the _Vanishing Houseboat_, and
again when you lowered the Kippenberg drawbridge to capture a boatload of
crooks! Those were the days!"

"Why dwell in the past, Lou? Now take this affair of the silk ladder--"

"I'm afraid _you'll_ have to take it," Louise interrupted. "Do you
realize it's nearly four o'clock? In exactly ten minutes I am supposed to
be at the auditorium for orchestra practice."

"Lou, you can't desert me now," Penny protested quickly. "How will I get
Lena home? I need you to steer her."

"Thanks, but I don't trust your tow rope."

"At least go as far as the _Star_ office with me. Once there, maybe I can
get one of the reporters to help me the rest of the way."

"Oh, all right," Louise consented. "But the _Star_ office is my absolute

Deciding not to take time to telephone her father, Penny once more
climbed into the maroon sedan, posting Louise behind the wheel of the
coupe. At a cautious speed the two cars proceeded along the street,
coming presently to a large corner building which housed the _Riverview
Star_. No parking space being available on the street, Penny pulled into
the newspaper plant's loading dock.

"Say, you!" shouted a man who was tossing stacks of freshly inked papers
into a truck. "You can't park that caravan in here!"

Penny's eyes danced mischievously.

"Oh, it's quite all right," she said. "I guess you don't know who I am."

"Sure, I do," the trucker grinned. "But your dad gave orders that the
next time you tried to pull that daughter-of-the-publisher stuff we were
to bounce you! This dock is for _Star_ trucks."

"Why, the very idea," said Penny, with pretended injury. "The night
edition doesn't roll for an hour and I'll be away from here before then!
Besides, this is a great emergency! When Dad hears about all the trouble
I'm in, a little matter such as this won't even ruffle him."

"Okay, chase along," the trucker returned good-naturedly. "But see to it
that you're out of here within an hour."

Penny bade Louise good-bye, and with plaid skirt swinging jauntily,
crossed the cement runway to the rear elevator entrance. Without waiting
for the cage to descend, she took the steps two at a time, arriving at
the editorial floor gasping for breath.

"What's your rush?" inquired an amused voice. "Going to a fire?"

Jerry Livingston, ace reporter for the _Star_, leaned indolently against
the grillwork of the elevator shaft, his finger pressed on the signal
button. He and Penny were friends of long standing.

"Oh, hello, Jerry!" Penny greeted him breathlessly. "Guess what? I've
just come from Dorr Street--Kano's Curio Shop--and I had the most amazing

"I can imagine," grinned Jerry. "If you breezed through the place the way
you do this building, you must have left it in ruins."

"Just for that, I won't tell you a thing, not a thing," retorted Penny.
"What sort of a mood is Dad in today?"

"Well, I heard him tell DeWitt that unless the news output improves on
this sheet, he aims to fire half the force."

"Sounds like Dad on one of his bad days," Penny sighed. "Maybe I should
skip home without seeing him."

"Trouble with the old allowance again?" Jerry asked sympathetically.

"You don't know the half of it. I'm submerged so deeply in debt that I'll
be an old lady before I get out, unless Dad comes to my rescue."

"Well, good luck," chuckled Jerry. "You'll need it!"

Walking through the newsroom, between aisles of desks where busy
reporters tapped on their typewriters, Penny paused before a door marked:
_Anthony Parker, Editor_.

Listening a moment and hearing no voices within, she knocked and entered.
Her father, a lean, dignified man with tired lines about his eyes and
mouth, sat working at his desk. He smiled as he saw his daughter, and
waved her toward a chair.

Instead, Penny perched herself on a corner of the desk.

"Dad, I have a splendid surprise for you," she began brightly. "I've just
accomplished a wonderful stroke of business!"

"Never mind beating about the bush," interrupted Mr. Parker. "Shoot me
the facts straight. What have you done this time?"

"Dad, your tone! I've bought back my old car, Leaping Lena. And it only
cost me a trifling sum."

Mr. Parker's chair squeaked as he whirled around.

"You've done _what_?"

"It's a long story, Dad. Now don't think that I fail to appreciate the
grand new car you gave me last winter. I love it. But between Lena and me
there exists a deep bond of affection. Today when I saw her on Jake
Harriman's lot looking so weather-beaten and unhappy--why, a little voice
inside me whispered: 'Penny, why don't you buy her back?' So I did."

"Never mind the sentimental touches. When I gave you the new car I
thought we were well rid of Lena. How much did you pay for it?"

"Oh, Lena was a marvelous bargain. Five dollars cash and a note for
twenty more. The man said you could pay for it at your convenience."

"Very considerate of him," Mr. Parker remarked ironically. "Now that we
have three cars, and a double garage, where do you propose to keep Lena?"

"Oh, anywhere. In the back yard."

"Not on the lawn, young lady. And what do you plan to do with two cars?"

"The maroon one for style, and Lena when I want a good time. Why, Dad,
she bears the autographs of nearly all my school friends! I should keep
her as a souvenir, if for no other reason."

"Penny, it's high time you learned a few lessons in finance." Mr. Parker
spoke sternly although his mouth twitched slightly. "I regret that I
cannot assume your debts."

"But Dad! I'm a minor--under legal age. Isn't it a law that a father has
to support his child?"

"A child, but not two cars. If you decide to take the case to court, I
think any reasonable judge will understand my viewpoint. I repeat, the
debt is yours, not mine."

"How will I pay?" asked Penny gloomily. "I've already borrowed on my
allowance for a month ahead."

"I know," said her father. "However, with your ingenuity I am sure you
can manage."

Penny drew a deep breath. Argument, she realized, would be utterly
useless. While her father might be mildly amused by her predicament, he
never would change his decision.

"Since you won't pay for Lena, I suppose it's useless to mention Mr.
Kohl's fender," she said despairingly.

"Does he have one?"

"Please don't try to be funny, Dad. This is tragic. While I was towing
Lena, the rope broke and smash went the fender of Mr. Kohl's slinky black


"I had to promise to pay for it to keep from being arrested. Oh, yes, and
before that I acquired this little thing."

Penny tossed the yellow card across the desk.

"A parking ticket! Penny, how many times--" Mr. Parker checked himself,
finishing in a calm voice: "This, too, is your debt. It may cost you five

"Dad, you know I can't pay. Think how your reputation will be tarnished
if I am sent to jail."

Mr. Parker smiled and reached as if to take money from his pocket.
Reconsidering, he shook his head.

"I know the warden well," he said. "I'll arrange for you to be assigned
to one of the better cells."

"Is there nothing which will move you to generosity?" pleaded Penny.


Retrieving the parking ticket, Penny jammed it into her pocket. Before
she could leave there came a rap on the door. In response to Mr. Parker's
"Come in," Mr. DeWitt, the city editor, entered.

"Sorry to bother you, Chief."

"What's wrong now, DeWitt?" the publisher inquired.

"Miss Hilderman was taken sick a few minutes ago. We had to send her home
in a cab."

"It's nothing serious I hope," said Mr. Parker with concern.

"A mild heart attack. She'll be out a week, if not longer."

"I see. Be sure to have the treasurer give her full pay. You have someone
to take her place?"

"That's the problem," moaned DeWitt. "Her assistant is on vacation. I
don't know where we can get a trained society editor on short notice."

"Well, do the best you can."

DeWitt lingered, fingering a paper weight.

"The society page for the Sunday paper is only half finished," he
explained. "Deadline's in less than an hour. Not a chance we can pick up
anyone in time to meet it."

Penny spoke unexpectedly. "Mr. DeWitt, perhaps I can help you. I'm a whiz
when it comes to writing society. Remember the Kippenberg wedding I

"Do I?" DeWitt's face relaxed into a broad grin. "That was a real
write-up. Say, maybe you could take over Miss Hilderman's job until we
can replace her."

"Service is my motto." Penny eyed her father questioningly. "It might
save the _Star_ from going to press minus a society page. How about it,

"It certainly would solve our problem," contributed DeWitt. "Of course
the undertaking might be too great a one for your daughter." He winked at

"She'll have no difficulty in taking over," said Mr. Parker stiffly.
"None whatsoever."

"Then I'll start her in at once," DeWitt replied. "Come with me, Miss

At the door Penny paused and discreetly allowed the city editor to get
beyond hearing. Then, turning to her father she remarked innocently:

"Oh, by the way, we overlooked one trifling detail. The salary!"

The editor made a grimace. "I might have expected this. Very well, I'll
pay you the same as I do Miss Hilderman. Twenty-five a week."

"Why, that would just take care of my debt to Jake Harriman," protested
Penny. "I simply can't do high pressure work without high pay. Shall we
make it fifty a week?"

"So you're holding me up?"

"Certainly not," chuckled Penny. "Merely using my ingenuity. Am I hired?"

"Yes, you win," answered Mr. Parker grimly. "But see to it that you turn
out good work. Otherwise, you soon may find yourself on the _Star's_
inactive list."

                           _SOCIETY ROUTINE_

Penny followed City Editor DeWitt to a small, glass-enclosed office along
the left hand wall of the newsroom. Miss Hilderman's desk was cluttered
with sheets of copy paper which bore scribbled notations, items
telephoned to the _Star_ but not yet type-written.

"There should be a date book around here somewhere," DeWitt remarked.

Finally he found it in one of the desk drawers. Penny drew a deep breath
as she scanned the long list of social events which must be covered for
the Sunday page.

"Do the best you can," DeWitt said encouragingly. "Work fast, but be
careful of names."

The telephone bell rang. As Penny reached for the receiver, DeWitt
retreated to his own domain.

"Hello, Miss Hilderman?" a feminine voice cooed, "I wish to report a
meeting, please."

"Miss Hilderman isn't here this afternoon," replied Penny politely. "I
will take the item."

Gathering up paper and pencil, she slid into the revolving chair behind
the telephone, poised for action.

"Yes," she urged, "I am ready."

There was a lengthy pause, and then the woman at the other end of the
line recited as if she were reading from a paper:

"'A meeting of the Mystical Society of Celestial Thought, Order of Amar,
67, will be held Tuesday night at eight o'clock in the Temple, 426
Butternut Lane. The public is cordially invited.'"

"What sort of society is the Order of Amar?" Penny inquired curiously,
taking notes. "I never heard of it before."

"Why, my dear, the society is very well known," the woman replied. "We
hold our meetings regularly, communing with the spirits. I do hope that
the item appears in print. So often Miss Hilderman has been careless
about it."

"I'll see that the item is printed under club notices," Penny promised.
"Your name, please?"

The woman had hung up the receiver, so with a shrug, Penny typed the item
and speared it on a wire spindle. For the next hour she was kept busy
with other telephone calls and the more important stories which had to be
rushed through. Copy flowed steadily from her office by way of the
pneumatic tube to the composing room.

Shortly after five o'clock, DeWitt dropped in for a moment to praise her
for her speed and accuracy.

"You're doing all right," he said. "So far I've only caught you in one
mistake. Mignonette is spelled with a double t."

"This job wouldn't be half bad if only brides could learn to carry
flowers with easy names," laughed Penny. "When I get married I'll have
violets and sweet peas!"

DeWitt reached for the copy on the spindle. "What's this?" he asked.
"More to go?"

"Club notices."

The editor tore the sheet from the wire, reading it as he walked toward
the door. Abruptly, he paused and turned toward her.

"Miss Parker, this can't go through."

"Why, what is wrong?" Penny asked in surprise. "Have I made another error
in spelling?"

DeWitt tore off the lead item and tossed it on her desk.

"It's this meeting of the so-called Mystical Society of Celestial
Thought. The _Star_ never runs stuff like that, not even as a paid

"I thought it was a regular lodge meeting, Mr. DeWitt."

"Nothing of the sort. Merely a free advertisement for a group of mediums
and charlatans."

"Oh, I didn't know," murmured Penny.

"These meetings have only one purpose," Mr. DeWitt resumed. "To lure
victims who later may be fleeced of their money."

"But if that is so, why don't police close up the place?" Penny demanded.
"Why doesn't the _Star_ run an exposé story?"

"Because evidence isn't easy to get. The meetings usually are well within
the law. Whenever a police detective or a reporter attends, the services
are decorous. But they provide the mediums with a list of suckers."

Penny would have asked DeWitt for additional information had not the city
editor walked hurriedly away. Scrambling the item into a ball, she tossed
it into the waste paper basket. Then upon second thought she retrieved it
and carefully smoothed the paper.

"Perhaps, I'll drop around at the Temple sometime just to see what it is
like," she decided, placing the item in her pocket. "It would be
interesting to learn what is going on there."

For the next half hour Penny had no time to think of the Celestial
Temple. However, at twenty minutes before six, when her father came into
the office, she was well ahead of her work.

"Hello, Penny," he greeted her. "How do you like your new job?"

"Fine and dandy. Only routine items rather cramp one's style. Now if I
were a regular reporter instead of a society editor, I know several
stories which would be my dish!"

"For instance?" inquired Mr. Parker, smiling.

"First, there's an Oriental Shop on Dorr Street that I should
investigate. The Japanese owner acted very mysteriously today when I went
there. Louise and I saw him making a silk ladder, and he refused to
reveal its purpose."

"A silk ladder?" repeated Mr. Parker. "Odd perhaps, but hardly worthy of
a news story."

"Dad, I only wish you had _seen_ that old Japanese--the sinister way he
looked at me. Oh, he's guilty of some crime. I feel it."

"The _Star_ requires facts, not fancy or emotion," Mr. Parker rejoined.
"Better devote your talents to routine society items if you expect to
remain on my payroll."

Penny took the announcement of the Celestial Thought meeting from her
pocket and offered it to the publisher.

"Here's one which might be interesting," she said. "How about assigning
me to it after I get this society job in hand?"

Mr. Parker read the item and his eyes blazed with anger.

"Do you know what this means, Penny?"

"Mr. DeWitt told me a little about the Celestial Temple society. He said
the paper never ran such items."

"Certainly not! Why, I should like nothing better than to see the entire
outfit driven out of town! Riverview is honeycombed with mediums, fortune
tellers and faith healers!"

"Perhaps they mean no harm, Dad."

"I'll grant there may be a small number of persons who honestly try to
communicate with the spirit world," Mr. Parker replied. "My concern is
not with them, but with a group of professional mediums who lately have
invaded the city. Charlatans, crooks--the entire lot!"

"Why don't you write an editorial about it?" Penny suggested.

"An editorial! I am seriously tempted to start a vigorous campaign, but
the trouble is, the police cannot be depended upon to cooperate

"Why, Dad?"

"Because experience has proven that such campaigns are not often
successful. Evidence is hard to gain. If one place is closed up, others
open in different sections of the city. The mediums and seers operate
from dozens of private homes. When the police stage raids they acquire no
evidence, and only succeed in making the department look ridiculous."

"Yet the mediums continue to fleece the public?"

"The more gullible strata of it. Until recent months the situation here
has been no worse than in other cities of comparable size. Lately an
increasing number of charlatans has moved in on us."

"Why don't you start a campaign, Dad?" Penny urged. "You would be doing
the public a worthwhile service."

"Well, I hesitate to start something which I may be unable to finish."

"At least the public deserves to be warned."

"Unfortunately, Penny, many persons would take the attitude that the
_Star_ was persecuting sincere spiritualists. A campaign must be based on
absolute evidence."

"Can't it be obtained?"

"Not without great difficulty. These mediums are a clever lot, Penny.
They prey upon the superstitions of their intended victims."

"I wish you would let me work on the story, Dad."

"No, Penny," responded her father. "You attend to your society and allow
DeWitt to worry about the Celestial Temple crowd. Even if I should launch
a campaign, I couldn't allow you to become mixed up in the affair."

The telephone bell jingled. With a tired sigh, Penny reached for the

"Society desk," she said mechanically.

"I am trying to trace Mr. Parker," informed the office exchange operator.
"Is he with you, Miss Parker?"

"Telephone, Dad," said Penny, offering him the receiver.

Mr. Parker waited a moment for another connection to be made. Then Penny
heard him say:

"Oh, it's you, Mrs. Weems? What's that? Repeat it, please."

From her father's tone, Penny felt certain that something had gone wrong
at home. She arose, waiting anxiously.

Mr. Parker clicked the receiver several times. "Apparently, Mrs. Weems
hung up," he commented.

"Is anything the matter, Dad?"

"I don't know," Mr. Parker admitted, his face troubled. "Mrs. Weems
seemed very excited. She requested me to come home as soon as possible.
Then the connection was broken."

"Why don't you try to reach her again?"

Mr. Parker placed an out-going call, but after ten minutes the operator
reported that she was unable to contact the housekeeper.

"Mrs. Weems never would have telephoned if something unusual hadn't
happened," Penny declared uneasily. "Perhaps, she's injured herself."

"You think of such unpleasant things."

"Something dreadful must have happened," Penny insisted. "Otherwise, why
doesn't she answer?"

"We're only wasting time in idle speculation," Mr. Parker said crisply.
"Get your things, Penny. We'll start home at once!"

                          _A TURN OF FORTUNE_

Penny immediately locked her desk and gathered up hat and gloves. She was
hard pressed to keep pace with her father as they hastened to the

"By the way, you have your car downstairs?" the publisher inquired
absently. He seldom drove his own automobile to the office.

"What a memory you have, Dad!" chuckled Penny. "Yes, I have all two of
them! Parked in the loading dock for convenience."

"Penny, haven't I told you a dozen times--" Mr. Parker began, only to
check himself. "Well, it will save us time now. However, we may discuss a
few matters when we get home."

The elevator shot them down to the first floor. Leaping Lena and the
maroon sedan remained in the loading dock with a string of _Star_ paper
trucks blocking a portion of the street.

"Hey, sister," a trucker called angrily to Penny. "It's time you're
getting these cars out of here." He broke off as he recognized Mr. Parker
and faded behind one of the trucks.

"Dad, do you mind steering Lena?" Penny asked demurely. "We can't leave
her here. You can see for yourself that she seems to be blocking

"Yes, I see," Mr. Parker responded grimly.

"Of course, if you would feel more dignified driving the sedan--"

"Let me have the keys," the publisher interrupted. "The important thing
is to get home without delay."

Penny became sober, and slid into her place at the wheel of Leaping Lena.
Amid the smiles of the truckers, Mr. Parker drove the two cars out of the

Once underway, the caravan made reckless progress through rush-hour
traffic. More than once Penny whispered a prayer as Lena swayed around a
corner, missing other cars by scant inches.

Presently the two automobiles drew up before a pleasant, tree-shaded home
built upon a high terrace overlooking a winding river. Penny and her
father alighted, walking hurriedly toward the front porch.

The door stood open and from within came the reassuring howl of a radio
turned too high.

"Nothing so very serious can have happened," remarked Penny. "Otherwise,
Mrs. Weems wouldn't have that thing going full blast."

At the sound of footsteps, the housekeeper herself came into the living
room from the kitchen. Her plump face was unusually animated.

"I hope you didn't mind because I telephoned the office, Mr. Parker," she
began apologetically. "I was so excited, I just did it before I stopped
to think."

"Penny and I were nearly ready to start home in any case, Mrs. Weems. Has
anything gone wrong here?"

"Oh, no, Mr. Parker. It was the telegram."

"Telegram? One for me, you mean?"

"No, my own." The housekeeper drew a yellow paper from the pocket of her
apron, offering it to the publisher. "My Cousin David died out in
Montana," she explained. "The funeral was last Saturday."

"That's too bad," remarked Penny sympathetically. And then she added:
"Only you don't look particularly sad, Mrs. Weems. How much did he leave

"Penny! You say such shocking things! I never met Cousin David but once
in my life. He was a kind, good man and I only wish I had written to him
more often. I never dreamed he would remember me in his will."

"Then he did leave you money!" exclaimed Penny triumphantly. "How much
does the telegram say, Dad?"

"You may as well tell her, Mr. Parker," sighed the housekeeper. "She'll
give me no peace until she learns every detail."

"This message which is from a Montana lawyer mentions six thousand
dollars," returned the publisher. "Apparently, the money is to be turned
over without legal delay."

"Why, Mrs. Weems, you're an heiress!" cried Penny admiringly.

"I can't believe it's true," murmured Mrs. Weems. "You don't think
there's any mistake, Mr. Parker? It would be too cruel if someone had
sent the message as a joke."

Before returning the telegram to the housekeeper, Mr. Parker switched off
the radio.

"This message appears to be authentic," he declared. "My congratulations
upon your good fortune."

"What will you do with all your money?" inquired Penny.

"Oh, I don't know." The housekeeper sank into a chair, her eyes fastening
dreamily on a far wall. "I've always wanted to travel."

Penny and her father exchanged a quick, alarmed glance. Mrs. Weems had
been in charge of the household for so many years that they could not
imagine living without her, should she decide to leave. During her brief,
infrequent vacations, the house always degenerated into a disgrace of
dust and misplaced furniture, and meals were never served at regular

"The oceans are very unsafe, Mrs. Weems," discouraged Penny. "Wars and
submarines and things. Surely you wouldn't dare travel now."

"Oh, I mean in the United States," replied the housekeeper. "I've always
wanted to go out West. They say the Grand Canyon is so pretty it takes
your breath away."

"Mrs. Weems, you have worked for us long and faithfully and deserve a
rest," said Mr. Parker, trying to speak heartily. "Now if you would enjoy
a trip, Penny and I will get along somehow for two or three weeks."

"Oh, if I go, I'll stay the entire summer." The housekeeper hesitated,
then added: "I've enjoyed working here, Mr. Parker, but doing the same
thing year after year gets tiresome. Often I've said to myself that if I
had a little money I would retire and take life easy for the rest of my

"Why, Mrs. Weems, you're only forty-eight!" protested Penny. "You would
be unhappy if you didn't have any work to do."

"At least, I wouldn't mind trying it."

"Such a change as you contemplate should be considered carefully,"
contributed Mr. Parker. "While six thousand seems a large sum it would
not last long if one had no other income."

Before Mrs. Weems could reply, a strong odor of burning food permeated
the room.

"The roast!" exclaimed the housekeeper. "I forgot it!"

Penny rushed ahead of her to the kitchen. As she jerked open the oven
door, out poured a great cloud of smoke. Seizing a holder, she rescued
the meat, and seeing at a glance that it was burned to a crisp, carried
the pan outdoors.

"What will the neighbors say?" Mrs. Weems moaned. "I never did a thing
like that before. It's just that I am so excited I can't think what I am

"Don't you mind," laughed Penny. "I'll get dinner tonight. You entertain

With difficulty she persuaded the housekeeper to abandon the kitchen.
Left to herself, she opened a can of cold meat, a can of corn, a can of
peaches, and with a salad already prepared, speedily announced the meal.

"Mr. Parker, I truly am ashamed--" Mrs. Weems began.

"Now don't apologize for my cooking," broke in Penny. "Quantity before
quality is my motto. Anyway, if you are leaving, Dad will have to
accustom himself to it."

"I'll hide the can opener," said Mr. Parker.

"That's a good idea, Dad."

"Before I go, I'll try to teach Penny a little more about cooking," Mrs.
Weems said uncomfortably. "Of course, you'll have no difficulty in
getting someone efficient to take my place."

"No one can take your place," declared Penny. "If you leave, Dad and I
will go to wrack and ruin."

"You are a pair when you're left to yourselves," Mrs. Weems sighed.
"That's the one thing which makes me hesitate. Penny needs someone to
keep her in check."

"An inexperienced person would be putty in my hands," declared Penny.
"You may as well decide to stay, Mrs. Weems."

"I don't know what to do. I've planned on this trip for years. Now that
it is possible, I feel I can't give it up."

Penny and Mr. Parker regarded each other across the table, and
immediately changed the subject. Not until that moment had they actually
believed that the housekeeper was serious about leaving Riverview.
Somehow they had never contemplated a future without Mrs. Weems.

"I happen to have two complimentary tickets to a show at the Rialto," Mr.
Parker said offhand. "I'll be tied up with a meeting tonight, but you
folks might enjoy going."

"Shall we, Mrs. Weems?" inquired Penny.

"Thank you," responded the housekeeper, "but I doubt if I could sit still
tonight. I thought I would run over to see Mrs. Hodges after dinner.
She'll be pleased to learn about my inheritance, I know."

"A friend of yours?" asked Mr. Parker.

"Yes, Penny and I have been acquainted with her for years. She lives on
Christopher Street."

"Perhaps this is none of my affair, Mrs. Weems. However, my advice to you
is not to tell many persons about your inheritance."

"Oh, Mrs. Hodges is to be trusted."

"I am sure of it, Mrs. Weems. I refer to strangers."

"I'll be careful," the housekeeper promised. "No one ever will get that
money away from me once I have it!"

Penny helped with the dishes, and then as her father was leaving the
house, asked him if she might have the two theatre tickets.

"Since Mrs. Weems doesn't care to go, I'll invite Louise," she explained.

Mr. Parker gave her the tickets. Making certain that the housekeeper was
upstairs, he spoke in a low tone.

"Penny, Mrs. Weems is serious about leaving us. You must try to dissuade

"What can I do, Dad?"

"Well, you usually have a few ideas in the old filing cabinet. Can't you
think of something?"

"I'll do my best," Penny said with a twinkle. "We can't let an
inheritance take Mrs. Weems from us, that's certain."

After her father had gone, Penny telephoned Louise, agreeing to meet her
chum at the entrance of the Rialto. Arriving a few minutes early, she
idly watched various cars unloading their passengers at the theatre.

Presently a long black limousine which Penny recognized drew up at the
curb. The chauffeur opened the door. Mr. Kohl and his wife stepped to the
pavement. Observing the girl, they paused to chat with her.

"I see you have the new fender installed on your car, Mr. Kohl," Penny
remarked with a grin. "May I ask how much I owe the garageman?"

"The sum was trifling," responded the banker. "Twelve dollars and forty
cents to be exact. I may as well take care of it myself."

"No, I insist," said Penny, wincing inwardly. "You see, I am one of the
_Star's_ highly paid executives now. I write society in Miss Hilderman's
absence and Dad gives me a salary."

"Oh, really," remarked Mrs. Kohl with interest. "We are giving a dinner
for eight tomorrow night. You might like to mention it."

"Indeed, yes," said Penny eagerly.

Obtaining complete details, she jotted notes on the back of an envelope.
Mrs. Kohl, at Penny's request, was able to recall several important
parties which had been held that week, providing material for nearly a
half-column of society.

After the Kohls had entered the theatre, Penny turned to glance at the
black limousine which was pulling away from the curb. A short distance
away stood a young man who likewise appeared to be watching the car. He
wore a gray suit and a gray felt hat pulled unnaturally low over his eyes
as if to shield his face.

As Penny watched, the young man jotted something down on a piece of
paper. His gaze remained fixed upon the Kohl limousine which was moving
slowly down the street toward a parking lot.

"Why, that's odd!" thought Penny. "I do believe he noted down the car
license number! And perhaps for no good purpose."

                           _THE MAN IN GRAY_

Deciding that the matter should be brought to Mr. Kohl's attention, Penny
looked quickly into the crowded theatre lobby. The banker and his wife no
longer were to be seen.

Turning once more, the girl saw that the young man in gray had also

"Now where did he go?" thought Penny. "He must have slipped into the
alley. I wish I knew who he was and why he wrote down that car license

Curious to learn what had become of the man, she walked to the entrance
of the alley. At its far end she could barely distinguish a shadowy
figure which soon merged into the black of the starless night.

Penny was lost in thought when someone touched her arm. Whirling, she
found herself facing Louise Sidell.

"Oh, hello, Lou," she laughed. "You startled me."

"Sorry to have kept you waiting," apologized Louise. "I missed my bus.
May I ask what you find of such interest in this alley?"

"I was looking for a man. He's disappeared now."

Penny told Louise what she had observed, mentioning that in her opinion
the man might be a car thief.

"I've heard that crooks spot cars ahead of time and then steal them," she
declared. "I think I should have Mr. Kohl paged in the theatre, and tell
him about it."

"You'll make yourself appear ridiculous if you do," Louise discouraged
her. "The man may not have taken down the license number at all. Even if
he did, his purpose could have been a legitimate one."

"Then why did he slip down the alley?"

"It's merely a short-cut to another street, isn't it? Penny, your
imagination simply works at high speed twenty-four hours of the day."

"Oh, all right," said Penny with a shrug. "But if Mr. Kohl's car is
stolen, don't blame me."

"It won't be," laughed Louise, linking arms with her chum. "Not with a
chauffeur at the wheel."

Entering the theatre, the girls were escorted to their seats only a few
minutes before the lights were lowered. Penny glanced over the audience
but failed to see either Mr. Kohl or his wife. The curtain went up, and
as the entertainment began, she dismissed all else from her mind.

The show ended shortly before eleven and the girls mingled with the crowd
which filed from the theatre. Penny watched for Mr. and Mrs. Kohl but did
not see them. As she walked with Louise toward the bus stop she spoke of
her new duties as society editor of the _Star_.

"Lou," she asked abruptly, "do you mind going home alone?"

"Why, no. Where are you taking yourself?"

"To the _Star_ office, if you don't mind."

"At this time of night?"

"I have a few notes I should type. Unfinished work always makes me

"You, nervous!" Louise scoffed. "I'll bet you want to see Jerry

"No such thing," denied Penny indignantly. "Jerry doesn't work on the
night force unless he's assigned to extra duty."

"Well, you have something besides work on your mind."

"Come along with me, Suspicious, and I'll prove it."

"No, thanks," declined Louise. "It's home and bed for me. You run along."

The girls separated, Penny walking three blocks to the _Star_ building.
The advertising office was dark, but blue-white lights glowed weirdly
from the composing room. Only a skeleton night staff occupied the

Without attracting attention, Penny entered her own office. For an hour
she worked steadily, writing copy, and experimenting with various types
of make-up to be used on Monday's page.

The door creaked. Glancing up, Penny momentarily was startled to see a
large, grotesque shadow of a man moving across the glass panel. However,
before she actually could be afraid, Jerry Livingston stepped into the

"Oh, it's you!" she laughed in relief. "I thought it was against your
principles to work overtime."

The reporter slumped into a chair, and picking up a sheet of copy paper,
began to read what Penny had composed.

"I'm not working," he replied absently. "Just killing time." With a yawn
he tossed the paper on the desk again.

"Is my stuff that bad?" inquired Penny.

"Not bad at all. Better than Miss Hilderman writes. But society always
gives me a pain. Not worthy of your talents, Penny."

"I wish you would tell Dad that, Jerry. I'd love to work on a big story
again--one that would rock Riverview on its foundation!"

"I could bear up under a little excitement myself, Penny. Ever since you
broke the Green Door yarn, this sheet has been as dead as an Egyptian

"Things may pick up soon."


"Dad is thinking rather seriously of launching a drive against an
organized group of mediums."

"So I hear," nodded Jerry. "You know, for a long while I've thought that
a clever reporter might be able to dig up some evidence at the Celestial

"Then you know about the place?"

"I've been there several times."

"What are the meetings like, Jerry?" Penny asked eagerly.

"Similar to a church musical service. At least everything was dignified
when I was there. But I sure had a feeling that the lid was about to blow

"Perhaps you were suspected of being a _Star_ reporter, Jerry."

"Oh, undoubtedly. I could tell that by the way folks stared at me. The
only person who would have a chance to get real evidence would be someone
unknown as a reporter."

"I wish Dad would let me try it."

"I don't," said Jerry flatly. "The Celestial Temple is no place for a
little girl like you."

Penny did not reply as she lowered her typewriter into the cavity of the
desk. She was thinking, however, that if Louise could be persuaded to
accompany her, she would investigate the Celestial Temple at the first

"I'll take you home," Jerry offered as Penny reached for her hat.

The night was a warm, mellow one in early June, marred only by dark
clouds which scudded overhead, threatening rain. Deciding to walk, Penny
and Jerry crossed the park to Oakdale Drive where many of Riverview's
most expensive homes had been built.

"Doesn't Mr. Kohl live on this street?" Penny presently asked her escort.

"Yes," he answered, "in a large stone apartment building. I'll point it
out when we get there."

They walked for a time in silence. Then Penny found herself telling about
the afternoon meeting with Mr. Kohl which had led her to Kano's Curio
Shop. She spoke, too, of the silken ladder which had so aroused her
speculation. Jerry listened with polite interest.

"You and Louise shouldn't have chased around Dorr Street alone," he said
severely. "It's a bad district."

"Oh, it was safe enough, Jerry. I'd like to go back there. I can't help
being curious about that strange ladder which the old Japanese man was

"I doubt if there's a story connected with it. The Japanese make any
number of curious articles of silk, you know."

"But a ladder, Jerry! What purpose could it serve?"

"For one thing it would be more convenient to carry than the ordinary

"One couldn't stand it against a wall or use it in the ordinary way,
Jerry. I asked the Japanese about it but he refused to answer."

"He may not have understood you."

"Oh, he understood, all right. Do you know what I think? He was afraid I
might discover something which would involve him with the police!"

"Better forget the Kano Curio Shop," Jerry said tolerantly. "I repeat,
Dorr Street is no place for you."

"And I'm supposed to forget the Celestial Temple, too," grumbled Penny.
"Oh, I see you grinned behind your hand! Well, Mr. Livingston, let me
tell you--"

She paused, and Jerry's hand tightened on her own. Unmistakably, both had
heard a muffled scream. The cry seemed to have come from one of several
large brick and stone buildings only a short distance ahead.

"What was that?" Penny asked in a low tone. "Someone calling for help?"

"It sure sounded like it!" exclaimed Jerry. "Come on, Penny! Let's find
out what's going on here!"

                        _AN APARTMENT BURGLARY_

Together Penny and Jerry ran down the street, their eyes raised to the
unevenly lighted windows of the separate apartment houses. They were
uncertain as to the building from which the cry had come.

Suddenly the front door of the corner dwelling swung open, and a young
woman in a maid's uniform ran toward them.

Jerry, ever alert for a story of interest to the _Star_, neatly blocked
the sidewalk. Of necessity the girl halted.

"Get a policeman, quick!" she gasped. "Mr. Kohl's apartment has been

"Mr. Kohl--the banker?" demanded Penny, scarcely believing her ears.

"Yes, yes," the maid said in agitation. "Jewels, silverware, everything
has been taken! The telephone wire was cut, too! Oh, tell me where I'll
find a policeman!"

"I'll get one for you," offered Jerry.

The information that it was Mr. Kohl's house which had been burglarized
dumbfounded Penny. As the reporter darted away to summon help, she
showered questions upon the distraught maid.

"I don't know yet how much has been taken," the girl told her excitedly.
"The rooms look as if a cyclone had swept through them! Oh, what will the
Kohls say when they learn about it?"

"Mr. and Mrs. Kohl aren't home yet?"

"No, they went to the theatre. They must have stopped at a restaurant
afterwards. When they hear of this, I'll lose my job."

"Perhaps not," said Penny kindly. "Surely you weren't to blame for the

"They'll think so," the maid responded gloomily.

"I am acquainted with Mr. and Mrs. Kohl. Perhaps, if I speak a good word
for you it may help."

"I doubt it," the girl responded. "I was supposed to have stayed at the
apartment the entire evening."

"And you didn't?"

"No, I went to a picture show."

"That does throw a different light on the matter," commented Penny.

"I didn't think it would make any difference. I intended to get here
ahead of the Kohls."

"The robbery occurred while you were away?"

"Yes. As soon as I opened the door I knew what had happened! Oh, I'll
lose my job all right unless I can think up a good story."

"I wouldn't lie if I were you," advised Penny. "The police are certain to
break down your story. In any case, you owe it to yourself and your
employers to tell the truth."

A misty rain had started to fall. The maid, who was without a wrap,
shivered, yet made no move to re-enter the building. Overhead, all along
the dark expanse of apartment wall, lights were being turned on.

"I am afraid your scream aroused nearly everyone in the building," said
Penny. "If I were in your place I would return to the Kohl apartment and
not answer many questions until the police arrive."

"Will you stay with me?"


The apartment door had slammed shut and locked with the night latch.
Fortunately the maid had a key with her so it was not necessary to ring
for the janitor. Ignoring the persons who had gathered in the hall, they
took an automatic lift to the third floor, letting themselves into the
Kohl suite.

"This is the way I found it," said the maid.

She switched on a light, revealing a living room entirely bare of rugs.
Where three small Oriental rugs had been placed, only rectangular rims of
dirt remained to mark their outlines.

Beyond, in the dining room with its massive carved furniture, the
contents of a buffet had been emptied on the floor. Several pieces of
china lay in fragments. A corner cupboard had been stripped, save for a
vase and an ebony elephant with a broken tusk.

"The wall cabinet was filled with rare antiques," disclosed the maid.
"Mrs. Kohl has collected Early American silver for many years. Some of
the pieces she considered priceless."

The bedrooms were in less disorder. However, bureau drawers had been
overturned, and jewel cases looted of everything save the most trivial

"Mrs. Kohl's pearls are gone, and her diamond bracelet," the maid
informed, picking up the empty jewel box. "I am pretty sure she didn't
wear them to the theatre."

"I wouldn't touch anything if I were you," advised Penny. "Fingerprints."

The maid dropped the case. "Oh!" she gasped. "I never thought of that! Do
you think the police will blame me for the robbery?"

"Not if you tell them the truth. It surely will be unwise to try to hide

"I won't hold anything back," the maid promised. "It happened just like I
said. After Mr. and Mrs. Kohl left I went to a picture show."


"With my girl friend. After the show we had a soda together, and then she
went home."

"What time did you get here?"

"Only a minute or two before I called for help. I tried the telephone

"Why didn't you summon the janitor?"

"I never thought of that. I was so excited I ran outside hoping to find a

Penny nodded and, returning to the living room, satisfied herself that
the telephone wires actually had been cut.

"You didn't notice anyone in the halls as you went downstairs."

"No one. Old Mr. Veely was on the lower floor when I came from the show,
but he's lived here for seven years. I don't see how the burglar got into
the apartment."

"I was wondering about that myself. You're quite sure you locked the
suite door?"

"Oh, yes, I know I did," the maid said emphatically. "And it isn't
possible to get into the building without a key. Otherwise, the janitor
must be called."

Penny walked thoughtfully to the living room window. The apartment stood
fully thirty-five feet from a neighboring building, with the space
between much too wide to be spanned. Below, the alley was deserted, and
no fire escape ascended from it.

"The burglar couldn't have entered that way," declared the maid. "He must
have had his own key."

Before Penny could respond, a sharp knock sounded on the door. The
servant girl turned to open it. However, instead of the anticipated
police, the apartment janitor, George Bailey, peered into the disordered

"I heard someone scream a minute or so ago," he said. "Some of the
tenants thought it came from this apartment. Maybe they were mistaken."

"There's no mistake," spoke Penny from across the room. "The Kohls have
been robbed. Will you please come inside and close the door?"

"Robbed! You don't say!" The janitor stared with alarmed interest. "When
did it happen?"

Penny allowed the maid to tell what had occurred, adding no information
of her own. When there came a lull in the excited flow of words, she said

"Mr. Bailey, do you mind answering a few questions?"

"Why should I?" the janitor countered. "I'll tell you right now I know
nothing about this. I've attended strictly to my duties. It's not my
lookout if tenants leave their suite doors unlocked."

"No one is blaming you," Penny assured him. "I merely thought you might
contribute to a solution of the burglary."

"I don't know a thing about it."

"You didn't let anyone into the apartment building tonight?"

"Not a soul. I locked the service door at six o'clock, too. Now let me
ask this: Who are you, and how did you get in here?"

"That's fair enough," smiled Penny. She told her name, explained that she
was an acquaintance of the Kohls, and had been summoned by the maid.

"Please don't think that I am trying to play detective," she added. "I
ask these questions in the hope of gaining information for my father's
paper, the _Star_."

"Well, it looks to me as if it was an inside job," the janitor replied,
mollified. "Come to think of it though, I've seen a suspicious-acting
fellow hanging around the building."

"You mean tonight?"

"No, several days ago. He stayed on the other side of the street and kept
watching the doorway."

"What did he look like, Mr. Bailey?"

"Oh, I don't remember. He was just an average young man in a gray
overcoat and hat."

"Gray?" repeated Penny alertly.

"It may have been light blue. I didn't pay much attention. At the time I
sized up the fellow as a detective."

Penny had no opportunity to ask additional questions for just then voices
were heard in the hallway. As she opened the door, Jerry Livingston,
followed by a policeman, came toward her.

"Learn anything?" the reporter asked softly in her ear.

"A little," answered Penny. "Let's see how much the officer turns up
before I go into my song and dance."

Making a routine inspection of the rooms, the police questioned both the
maid and the janitor. From an elderly lady who occupied the adjoining
suite he gleaned information that the Kohls' telephone had rung steadily
for fifteen minutes during the early evening hours.

"What time was that?" interposed Penny.

The policeman gazed at her with sharp disapproval. "Please," he requested
with exaggerated politeness.

"Sorry," apologized Penny, fading into the background.

"It rang about eight o'clock," the old lady revealed.

"The information is not significant," said the officer, glancing again at

She started to speak, then bit her lip, remaining silent.

"Well, sister, what's on your mind?" he demanded abruptly.

"Excuse me, officer, but I think the information does have importance.
Couldn't it mean that the crooks, whoever they were, telephoned the
apartment to make certain it was deserted before breaking in?"

"Possibly," conceded the policeman. His frown discouraged her. "Any other

"No," said Penny shortly.

The policeman began to herd the tenants into the hall. For a moment he
paid no attention to Penny and Jerry, who with the maid were permitted to

"Never try to show up a policeman, even if he is a stuffed shirt,"
remarked the reporter softly. "It gets you nowhere."

The door closed and the officer faced the pair.

"Now young lady," he said, quite pleasantly. "What do you know about this
burglary? I'll be very glad to listen."

"I don't really know a thing," admitted Penny. "But here's a little clue
which you may be able to interpret. I can't."

Leading the policeman to the window, she started to raise the sash. The
officer stopped her, performing the act himself, his hand protected by a

"There is your clue," said Penny.

She indicated two freshly made gashes on the window ledge. Separated by
possibly a foot of space, they clearly had been made by a hook or sharp
instrument which had dug deeply into the wood.

                        _MARK OF THE IRON HOOK_

"What do you think of it?" Penny asked as the officer studied the marks
in silence.

"I'd say they were made by something which hooked over the ledge," the
policeman replied. "Possibly a ladder with curving irons."

Jerry gazed down over the window ledge into the dark alley.

"No ordinary ladder could reach this high," he commented. "Raising an
extension would be quite a problem, too."

The Kohl maid timidly approached the window, gazing at the two deep
gashes with interest. Asked by the policeman if she ever had noticed them
before, she shook her head.

"Oh, no, sir. They must have been made tonight. I know they weren't there
this afternoon when I dusted the window sills."

"Incredible as it seems, the thief came through this window," decided the
policeman. "How he did it is for the detectives at Central Station to
figure out."

Explaining that the rooms must not be disturbed until Identification
Bureau men had made complete fingerprint records, the officer locked
Penny, Jerry and the maid outside the suite. He then went to a nearby
apartment to telephone his report.

"Maybe this is an ordinary burglary, but it doesn't look that way to me,"
remarked Jerry as he and Penny went down the stairway.

"In any case, the story should be front page copy. Anything the Kohls do
is news in Riverview."

"How high would you estimate the loss?"

"Oh, I couldn't guess, Jerry. Thousands of dollars."

Passing groups of tenants who cluttered the hallway excitedly discussing
the burglary, they evaded questioners and reached the street.

"Jerry," said Penny suddenly, "I didn't mention this to the policeman
because he seemed to resent my opinions. But it occurred to me that I may
have seen the man who robbed the Kohls--or at least had something to do
with it."

"How could you have seen him, Penny? We were together when the Kohl maid
yelled for help."

"Earlier than that. It was while I was at the theatre."

Half expecting that Jerry would laugh, Penny told how she had observed
the man in gray note down the license number of the Kohl limousine.

"It came to me like a flash! That fellow may have telephoned the Kohl
apartment after seeing the car at the theatre. Making sure no one was at
home, he then looted the place at his leisure."

"Wait a minute," interrupted Jerry. "The Motor Vehicle Department closes
at six o'clock. How could your man have obtained Kohl's name and address
from the license number?"

"I never thought about the department being closed," confessed Penny.
"How you do love to shoot shrapnel into my little ideas!"

"At least you have original theories, which is more than I do," comforted
Jerry. "Before we leave, shall we take a look at the alley?"

Penny brightened instantly and accompanied the reporter to the rear of
the building. The alley was deserted. Without a light they were unable to
examine the ground beneath the Kohl's apartment window.

Suddenly, both straightened as they heard a sound behind them. The
brilliant beam of a flashlight focused on their faces, blinding them.

"Oh, it's you again," said a gruff voice.

The beam was lowered, and behind it they saw the policeman.

"You young cubs are a pest," he said irritably.

Ignoring them, he moved his light over the ground. There were no
footprints or other marks visible beneath the window.

"If a ladder had stood here it would show," remarked Jerry. "The thief
must have used some other means of getting into the building."

While the policeman was inspecting the ground, the janitor stepped from a
rear basement door, joining the group.

"Officer, I have some more information for you," he volunteered.

"What is it?"

"I was talking with my wife. She says that about two hours ago she
noticed a man walking through the alley. He carried a suitcase, and kept
looking at the upstairs windows."

"No ladder?"

"Only a suitcase."

"I'll have the detectives talk with your wife," the policeman promised.
"They'll be here any minute now."

Penny and Jerry lingered until the two men arrived, bringing a
photographer with them. No new evidence being made available, it seemed a
waste of time to remain longer.

"Don't bother to take me home," Penny insisted. "Dash straight to the
office and write your story. The other papers won't have a word about the
robbery until the police report is made."

"I don't like to abandon you."

"Don't be silly, Jerry. It's only a few blocks farther."

Thus urged, the reporter bade Penny good-bye. As she hastened on alone,
it began to rain and the air turned colder. To save her clothing, she ran
the last block, reaching the porch quite breathless.

The house was dark, the front door locked. Penny let herself in with a
key, switched on the lights, and after getting a snack from the
refrigerator, started upstairs.

From her father's room issued loud snores. However, Mrs. Weems' door
stood open, and as Penny glanced in she was surprised to see that the bed
had not been disturbed.

"Mrs. Weems must still be at the Hodges'," she thought. "Perhaps I should
go after her. She'll have a long walk in this rain."

Penny went to a window and looked out. The downpour showed no sighs of
slackening. With a sigh she found her raincoat and started for the

During her absence, Mr. Parker had towed Leaping Lena to a vacant lot
adjoining the property. The maroon car awaited her beneath shelter, and
she drove it through dark streets to the Hodges' modest home.

Lights glowed cheerily from the lower floor windows. In response to
Penny's knock, a bent old man, his hands gnarled by hard labor, opened
the door.

"Is it Penelope?" he asked, squinting at her through the rain. "Come in!
Come in!"

"Good evening, Mr. Hodges. Is Mrs. Weems still here?"

"Yes, I am, Penny," called the housekeeper. "Goodness, what time is it

"Nearly midnight."

Penny shook water from her coat and stepped into the spic and span living
room. An unshaded electric light disclosed a rug too bright, wallpaper
too glaring, furniture stiff and old fashioned. Yet one felt at once
welcome, for the seamstress and her husband were simple, friendly people.

"Have a chair, Penelope," invited Mrs. Hodges. She was short like her
husband, with graying hair and an untroubled countenance.

"Thank you, but I can't stay," replied Penny. "I came to drive Mrs. Weems

"I had no idea it was so late," the housekeeper said, getting to her
feet. "Mrs. Hodges and I have been planning my traveling outfit."

"I'll try to have the dresses for you within the next two weeks,"
promised the seamstress. "Your good fortune makes me very happy, Maud.
Isn't the news of her inheritance wonderful, Penelope?"

"Oh, yes, yes, of course," stammered Penny. "Only I hope Mrs. Weems isn't
leaving us within two weeks. What's this about a traveling outfit?"

"I've always wanted fine clothing," said Mrs. Weems dreamily. "Mrs.
Hodges is making me a suit, three silk dresses, a tissue velvet evening

"An evening gown!" Penny gasped. "Where will you wear it?"

"I'll find places."

"Maybe she aims to catch a husband while she's galavantin' around out
there in Californy," contributed Mr. Hodges with a sly wink.

"The very idea!" laughed Mrs. Weems, yet with no displeasure.

Penny sagged into the nearest rocking chair. The conversation was paced
too fast for her.

"Evening gowns--husbands--California," she murmured weakly. "Wait until
Dad hears about this."

"Mr. Hodges was only joking," declared Mrs. Weems, reaching for her hat.
"I wouldn't marry the best man on earth. But I definitely am going west
this summer."

"I envy you, Maud," said the seamstress, her eyes shining. "Pa and I want
to go out there and buy a little orange grove someday. But with taxes
what they are, we can't seem to save a penny."

Mrs. Weems squeezed her friend's hand.

"I wish I could take you along, Jenny," she said. "All these years you've
sewed your poor fingers almost to the bone. You deserve an easier life."

"Oh, Pa and I don't complain," the seamstress answered brightly. "And
things are going to look up."

"Sure they are," agreed Mr. Hodges. "I'll get a job any day now."

Penny, who was watching the seamstress' face was amazed to see it
suddenly transformed. Losing her usual calm, Mrs. Hodges exclaimed:

"Pa! It just this minute came to me! Maud getting her inheritance is
another psychic sign!"

Penny rocked violently and even Mrs. Weems looked startled.

"I don't know what you mean, Jenny," she said.

"We said we wouldn't tell anybody, Ma," protested Mr. Hodges mildly.

"Mrs. Weems is my best friend, and Penelope won't tell. Will you,

"Not what I don't know," replied Penny in bewilderment. "How can Mrs.
Weems' inheritance have anything to do with a psychic sign?"

"You may as well tell 'em," grinned Mr. Hodges, "If you keep the news
much longer you'll bust."

"The strangest thing happened three nights ago," Mrs. Hodges began, her
voice quivering with excitement. "But wait! First I'll show you the

                            _PSYCHIC SIGNS_

As Penny and Mrs. Weems waited, the seamstress went to another room,
returning with a stamped, slit envelope.

"Notice the postmark," she requested, thrusting the letter into Penny's

"It was mailed from New York," the girl observed.

"I mean the hour at which the envelope was stamped by the postmaster."

"I make it 11:30 P.M. June fifteenth," Penny read aloud. "Does the time
and date have special significance?"

"Indeed, it does," the seamstress replied impressively. "You tell them,

"It happened three nights ago," began Mr. Hodges. "Ma worked late
stitchin' up some playsuits for Mrs. Hudson's little girl. Afterwards we
had bread and milk like we always do, and then we went to bed."

"At the time, I said to Pa that something queer was going to happen,"
broke in the seamstress. "I could feel it in my bones. It was as if
something was hovering over us."

"A feeling of impending trouble?" questioned Penny.

"Nothing like that," said Mr. Hodges.

"No, it was as if one almost could feel a foreign presence in the room,"
Mrs. Hodges declared, lowering her voice. "A supernatural being."

"Surely you don't believe in ghosts...?" Penny began, but the seamstress
did not hear. Unheeding, she resumed:

"Pa rubbed my back to ease the pain I get from working too long at the
machine. Then we went to bed. Neither of us had gone to sleep when
suddenly we heard it!"

"Six sharp raps on the outside bedroom wall," supplied Mr. Hodges. "It
was like this." He demonstrated on the table.

"We both heard it," added Mrs. Hodges. "It scared me nearly out of my

"Possibly it was someone at the door," suggested Penny.

"No, it wasn't that. Pa got up and went to see."

"Could it have been a tree bough brushing against the wall?"

"It wasn't that," said Mr. Hodges. "The maple is too far off to strike
our bedroom."

"There's only one explanation," declared the seamstress with conviction.
"It was a psychic sign--the first."

"I don't believe in such things myself," announced Penny. "Surely there
must be another explanation."

"That's what I told Jenny," nodded Mr. Hodges. "But since the letter
came, doggoned if I don't think maybe she's right."

"What has the letter to do with it?" inquired Mrs. Weems.

The seamstress pointed to the postmark on the envelope.

"The hour at which we heard the strange tappings was eleven-thirty! Pa
looked at the clock. And it was three days ago, June fifteenth."

"Corresponding to the marking on this envelope," commented Penny. "That
is a coincidence."

Mrs. Hodges shook her head impatiently.

"You surely don't think it just happened by _accident_?" she asked. "It
must have been intended as a sign--an omen."

"What did the letter say?" Penny inquired, without answering Mrs. Hodges'
question. She knew that her true opinion would not please the woman.

"It wasn't rightly a letter," the seamstress returned. "The envelope
contained six silver dollars fitted into a stiff piece of cardboard."

"We figured it was another sign," contributed Mr. Hodges. "Six raps on
the wall--six dollars."

"I wish some ghost would come and pound all night long on my bedroom
door," remarked Penny lightly.

"Penelope, you shouldn't speak so disrespectfully," Mrs. Weems reproved
in a mild voice.

"Excuse me, I didn't mean to," said Penny, composing her face. "What else
has happened of a supernatural nature?"

"Why, nothing yet," Mrs. Hodges admitted. "But Pa and I have had a
feeling as if something important were about to take place. And now Maud
inherits six thousand dollars!"

"There was nothing psychic about that," said Mrs. Weems. "Cousin David
had no close relatives so he left the money to me."

The seamstress shook her head, and an ethereal light shone in her eyes.

"Night before last when I went to bed I was thinking that I wished with
all my heart something nice would happen to you, Maud. Now it's come to

Even Mrs. Weems was somewhat startled by the seamstress' calm assumption
that her thoughts had been responsible for the inheritance.

"Don't you see," Mrs. Hodges resumed patiently. "It must mean that I have
great psychic powers. I confess I am rather frightened."

Penny arose and began to button her raincoat.

"Excuse me for saying it," she remarked, "but if I were you, Mrs. Hodges,
I'd spend the six dollars and forget the entire affair. Someone must have
played a joke on you!"

"A joke!" The seamstress was offended. "People don't give away money as a

"No, these days they squeeze the eagles until they holler," chuckled Mr.

"The letter was postmarked New York City," went on his wife. "We don't
know a soul there. Oh, no one ever can make me believe that it was done
as a joke. The letter was mailed at exactly the hour we heard the six

"And there wasn't a sign of anyone near the house," added Mr. Hodges.

"Well, at least you're six dollars ahead," said Penny. "Shall we go, Mrs.
Weems? It's after midnight."

The seamstress walked to the door with the callers.

"I'll get busy tomorrow on those new dresses," she promised Mrs. Weems.
"Drop in again whenever you can. And you, too, Penelope."

Driving home through the rain, Penny stole a quick glance at the
housekeeper who seemed unusually quiet.

"Do you suppose Jenny could be right?" Mrs. Weems presently ventured. "I
mean about Cousin David and the inheritance?"

"Of course not!" laughed Penny. "Why, your cousin died a long while
before Mrs. Hodges discovered that she was psychic. It's all the bunk!"

"I wish I really knew."

"Why, Mrs. Weems!" Penny prepared to launch into a violent argument. "I
never heard of such nonsense! How could Mrs. Hodges have psychic powers?
Everyone realizes that communication with the spirit world is

"You are entitled to your opinion, Penny, but others may differ with you.
Who can know about The Life Beyond? Isn't it in the realm of possibility
that Mrs. Hodges may have had a message from Cousin David?"

"She didn't speak of it."

"Not in words, Penny. But those strange rappings, the arrival of the
letter--it was all very strange and unexplainable."

"I'll admit it was queer, Mrs. Weems. However, I'll never agree that
there's anything supernatural connected with it."

"You close your mind to things you do not wish to believe," the
housekeeper reproved. "What can any of us know of the spirit world?"

Penny gazed at Mrs. Weems in alarm. She realized that the seamstress'
story had deeply impressed her.

"I'll stake my knowledge against Mrs. Hodges' any old day," she declared
lightly. "I met one ghost-maker--Osandra--remember him?"

"Why remind me of that man, Penny?" asked the housekeeper wearily.

"Because you once paid him good money for the privilege of attending his
séances. You were convinced he was in communication with the world
beyond. He proved to be an outrageous fraud."

"I was taken in by him as were many other persons," Mrs. Weems
acknowledged. "Mrs. Hodges' case is different. We have been friends for
ten years. She would not misrepresent the facts."

"No, Mrs. Hodges is honest. I believe that the money was sent to her. But
not by a ghost!"

"Let's not discuss it," said Mrs. Weems with finality. "I never did enjoy
an argument."

Penny lapsed into silence and a moment later the car swung into the
Parker driveway. The housekeeper hurried into the house, leaving the girl
to close the garage doors.

Penny snapped the padlock shut. Unmindful of the rain, she stood for a
moment, staring into the night. Nothing had gone exactly right that day,
and her disagreement with Mrs. Weems, minor though it was, bothered her.

"There's more to this psychic business than appears on the surface," she
thought grimly. "A great deal more! Maybe I am stubborn and opinionated.
But I know one thing! No trickster is going to take advantage of the
Hodges or of Mrs. Weems either--not if I can prevent it."

                       _MRS. WEEMS' INHERITANCE_

The clock chimed seven-thirty the next morning as Penny came downstairs.
She dropped a kiss on her father's forehead and slid into a chair at the
opposite side of the breakfast table.

"Good morning, Daddykins," she greeted him cheerfully. "Any news in the
old scandal sheet?"

Mr. Parker lowered the newspaper.

"Please don't call me Daddykins," he requested. "You know I hate it.
Here's something which may interest you. Your friends the Kohls were
robbed last night."

"You're eight hours late," grinned Penny, reaching for the front page. "I
was there."

"I suppose you lifted the pearls and the diamond bracelet on your way to
the theatre."

"No," said Penny, rapidly scanning the story which Jerry had written,
"but I think I may have seen the man who did do it."

She then told her father of having observed a stranger note the license
number of the Kohl car, and mentioned the events which had followed.

"You may have been mistaken about what the man wrote down," commented her

"That's possible, but he was staring straight at the car."

"I doubt if the incident had any connection with the burglary, Penny.
With the Motor Vehicle Department closed, he would have had no means of
quickly learning who the Kohls were or where they lived."

"Couldn't he have recognized them?"

"In that case he would have no need for the license number. You didn't
see the man note down the plates of other cars?"

"No, but he may have done it before I noticed him standing by the

Turning idly through the morning paper, Penny's attention was drawn to
another news story. Reading it rapidly, she thrust the page into her
father's hand.

"Dad, look at this! There were two other burglaries last night! Apartment
houses on Drexel Boulevard and Fenmore Street were entered."

"H-m, interesting. The Kohls occupy an apartment also. That rather
suggests that the same thief ransacked the three places."

"And it says here that the families were away for the evening!" Penny
resumed with increasing excitement. "I'll bet a cent they were at the
theatre! Oh, Dad, that man in gray must have been the one who did it!"

"If all the persons you suspect of crime were arrested, our jails
couldn't hold them," remarked Mr. Parker calmly. "Eat your breakfast,
Penny, before it gets cold."

Mrs. Weems entered through the kitchen door, bearing reenforcements of
hot waffles and crisp bacon. Her appearance reminded Penny to launch into
a highly entertaining account of all that had transpired at the Hodges'
the previous night.

"Penny!" protested the housekeeper. "You promised Mrs. Hodges to say
nothing about the letter."

"Oh, no, I didn't promise," corrected Penny. "I was careful to say that I
couldn't tell what I didn't know. Years ago Dad taught me that a good
reporter never agrees to accept a confidence. Isn't that so, Dad?"

"A wise reporter never ties his own hands," replied Mr. Parker. "If he
promises, and then obtains the same story from another source, he's
morally bound not to use it. His paper may be scooped by the opposition."

"You two are a pair," sighed Mrs. Weems. "Scoops and front page stories
are all either of you think about. I declare, it distresses me to realize
how Penny may be trained after I leave."

"The way to solve that problem is not to leave," said Penny. "You know we
can't get along without you."

Mrs. Weems shook her head.

"It cuts me almost in two to leave," she declared sadly, "but my mind's
made up. Mrs. Hodges says I am doing the right thing."

"And I suppose a ghost advised her," muttered Penny.

Mr. Parker glanced sternly at his daughter and she subsided into silence.
But not for long. Soon she was trying to reopen the subject of the
mysterious letter received by the Hodges. For a reason she could not
understand, her father was loath to discuss it.

"Come, Penny," he said. "If we're having that game of tennis this
morning, it's time we start."

En route to the park, the publisher explained why he had not chosen to
express an opinion in the housekeeper's presence.

"I quite agree with you that Mrs. Hodges has no psychic powers, Penny.
She's been the victim of a hoax. However, Mrs. Weems is intensely loyal
to her friend, and any disparaging remarks made by us will only serve to
antagonize her."

"I'll try to be more careful, Dad. But it's so silly!"

Monday morning found Penny busy once more with her duties at the society
desk. No new information had developed regarding the Kohl burglary, and
she did not have time to accompany Mrs. Weems who went frequently to the
Hodges' cottage.

Secretly Penny held an opinion that the housekeeper's inheritance might
be the work of a prankster. Therefore, upon returning from the office one
afternoon and learning that the money actually had been delivered, she
was very glad she had kept her thoughts to herself.

"The lawyer came this morning and had me sign a paper," Mrs. Weems
revealed to the Parkers. "Then he turned the money over to me--six
thousand dollars."

"I hope the cheque is good," remarked Penny.

"It was. I had the lawyer accompany me to the bank. They gave me the
money without asking a single question. I have it here."

"You have six thousand dollars cash in the house!"

"Yes, I had the cashier give it to me in hundred dollar bills."

"Do you consider it safe to keep such a large sum?" Mr. Parker inquired
mildly. "I should advise returning it to the bank, or better still, why
not invest it in sound securities?"

Mrs. Weems shook her head. "It gives me a nice rich feeling to have the
cash. I've hidden it in a good place."

"Where?" demanded Penny.

"I won't tell," laughed Mrs. Weems.

Again later in the evening, Mr. Parker tried without success to convince
the housekeeper that she should return the money to a bank. Never one to
force his opinions upon another, he then dropped the subject.

"When will you be leaving us, Mrs. Weems?" he inquired.

"Whenever you can spare me. Now that I have the money, I should like to
leave within ten days or two weeks."

"Since we can't persuade you to remain, I'll try to find someone to take
your place," Mr. Parker promised.

Both he and Penny were gloomy at the prospect of replacing the
housekeeper. Not only would they miss Mrs. Weems but they honestly
believed that she would never be happy without two incorrigibles and a
home to manage.

"Dad," Penny ventured when they were alone, "just supposing that Mrs.
Weems' money should mysteriously disappear--"

"Don't allow your mind to dwell on that idea," cut in her father sternly.
"We'll play fair."

"Oh, I wouldn't do it," said Penny hastily. "I was only joking. But if
something _should_ happen to the money, it would solve all our problems."

"Mrs. Weems has earned her vacation. Even though it will be hard to lose
her, we mustn't stand in her way."

"I guess you're right," sighed Penny.

The following day Miss Hilderman resumed her duties at the _Star_, and
Penny once more found herself a person of leisure. To her annoyance, Mrs.
Weems insisted that she spend many hours in the kitchen, learning how to
bake pies and cakes. A particularly distasteful lesson came to an end
only when Penny, with brilliant inspiration, remembered that the
housekeeper had an appointment with the seamstress.

"Dear me, I had forgotten it!" exclaimed Mrs. Weems. "Yes, I must try on
my new dresses!"

"I'll drive you over," offered Penny.

Not in recent days had the girl called upon the Hodges. As she and Mrs.
Weems alighted from the car, they both noticed freshly ironed curtains at
the windows. Mr. Hodges was pounding dust from a carpet on the line.

"Housecleaning?" inquired Penny, pausing to chat with the old man.

"Yes, Jenny's got me hard at it," he grinned. "She's been tearin' the
house upside down gettin' ready for the new roomer."

"Oh, have you taken one?"

Penny was surprised, knowing that in past years the Hodges had been too
proud to rent rooms.

"There's a young feller moving in today," Mr. Hodges said, picking up the
carpet beater. "Go on inside. Jenny'll tell you about it."

Penny and Mrs. Weems entered the cottage where the seamstress was running
a dust mop over the floors. She was somewhat dismayed to see the

"Oh, Maud, I've been so busy I didn't get your dresses ready to be tried

"It doesn't matter," replied Mrs. Weems. "What's this about a new

"I always said I wouldn't have one cluttering up the place. But this
young man is different. His coming here--well, I interpret it as another

"A sign of what?" inquired Penny with her usual directness.

"Well, it seemed as if I had a direct message from the spirit world to
take him into our home. He came here last night. Instead of knocking in
the usual way, he rapped six times in succession!"

"Probably he was the one who sent the letter," said Penny alertly.

"Oh, no! He didn't know anything about it. I asked him."

"What is his name, Mrs. Hodges?"

"Al Gepper. He's such a nice young man and he talks so refined. I am
letting him have the entire floor upstairs."

"That should bring you a nice income," remarked Mrs. Weems.

"I am asking only two dollars a week," admitted the seamstress. "He said
he couldn't pay more than that."

"Why, Jenny," protested Mrs. Weems, "such a small amount hardly will
cover the lights and various extras."

"I know, Maud, but I couldn't turn him away. He moved his apparatus in
last night and will bring his personal belongings sometime today."

"His apparatus?" echoed Penny. "What is he, a chemist?"

"No," replied the seamstress, smiling mysteriously. "I'll show you the

Penny and Mrs. Weems followed the woman upstairs. The upper floor was
divided into two small bedrooms with a wide, old-fashioned sliding door
between which could be opened to make one large chamber. The larger of
the rooms had been cleared of its usual furniture. Where a bed previously
had stood was a circular table with six or eight chairs, and behind it a
tall cabinet with a black curtain across the front.

"Mr. Gepper plans to use this room for his studio," explained Mrs.

Penny's gaze had fastened upon the cabinet. She crossed to it and pulled
aside the curtain. Inside were several unpacked boxes and a suitcase.

"Mrs. Hodges, to what purpose does your young man expect to put this
studio?" she asked.

"I don't know. He didn't tell me. But I think he intends to carry on
psychic experiments. He's a student, he said."

"Mr. Gepper was afraid to tell you the truth lest you refuse to rent the
rooms," declared Penny. "Mrs. Hodges, your roomer is a medium."

"Why do you think so?"

"Because I've seen trappings such as these before at other séance
chambers," replied Penny. "Mrs. Hodges, you must send him away before he
involves you with the police."

                          _OUIJA BOARD WISDOM_

"Trouble with the police!" Mrs. Hodges echoed, regarding Penny with
unconcealed dismay. "How can it be illegal to rent Mr. Gepper these

"Renting the rooms isn't illegal," Penny corrected. "But if the young man
conducts public séances here--filches money from people--then you may be
considered a party to the scheme. This city has a local ordinance
prohibiting fortune telling, mind reading and the like."

"I am sure the young man means no wrong."

"Penny," commented Mrs. Weems, "it seems to me that you are overly
concerned. Why are you convinced that Mr. Gepper is a medium?"

"Doesn't this cabinet indicate it?"

"I thought it was some sort of wardrobe closet," Mrs. Hodges admitted.

"Al Gepper is a medium, or pretends to have spiritualistic powers," Penny
repeated. "In my opinion you'll be very unwise to allow him to start an
illegal business here."

"Oh, dear, I don't know what to do now," declared the seamstress. "I'll
have to ask Pa about it."

She and Mrs. Weems started downstairs, expecting that Penny would follow.
Instead, the girl lingered to inspect the cabinet.

On the lower floor a door slammed, and there were footsteps ascending the
stairway. She paid no heed, assuming that it was either Mr. Hodges or his
wife who approached.

The door swung open. Turning, Penny saw a young man, possibly thirty
years of age, standing on the threshold. His dark eyes were sharp and

"Hello," he said, without smiling. "Aren't you afraid a monkey may jump
out of that cabinet?"

Penny, who seldom blushed, felt a wave of heat creeping over her cheeks.

"Hello," she stammered. "You must be Mrs. Hodges' new roomer."

"Al Gepper, at your service. Who are you, girlie?"

"You guessed it," said Penny shortly, edging away from the cabinet.

Al Gepper remained in the doorway, blocking the exit with his arm. He did
not move as the girl attempted to move past him.

"What's your hurry?" he drawled. "Stick around and let's get acquainted.
I'll show you some neat card tricks."

"Thanks, but I haven't time, Mr. Gepper."

"What's your name anyhow?" he persisted. "You're not Mrs. Hodges'

"No, only a friend."

"You needn't be so icy about it," he rebuked. "Any friend of Mrs. Hodges'
is a friend of mine."

"I never make friends easily," Penny replied. "For that matter, I don't
mind telling you that I have advised Mrs. Hodges not to rent you these

"Oh, you have?" inquired the man, his eyes hardening. "And what business
is it of yours?"

"None, perhaps. I merely am not going to allow her to be taken in if I
can prevent it!"

"Oh, indeed. Do you mind explaining?"

"It's perfectly obvious that you're one of these fake spiritualists,"
Penny accused bluntly. "Your nickname should be Six-Raps Al!"

"A little spit-fire, aren't you?" the man retorted. "But you have style.
Now I may be able to use you in my business."

"You admit that you're a medium?"

"I am a spiritualist. Not a fake, as you so crudely accuse. And I assure
you I have no intention of deceiving or taking advantage of your dear
friends, the Hodges."

"You expect to use these rooms for public séances?"

"I do."

"Then you are certain to get the Hodges into trouble with the police."

"Not unless you start squawking." Al Gepper's manner changed abruptly. He
grasped Penny's wrist and pushed a leering face close to hers. "I'm not
looking for any trouble from you or anyone else--see! If you try to make
it, you'll wake up with a headache!"

Penny jerked free and, shouldering through the door, raced downstairs.

Glancing back, she saw that Al Gepper was following, though at a more
leisurely pace. Instantly she divined that he intended to make sure no
report of the incident was given to the Hodges, save in his presence.

Mrs. Weems and the old couple were talking in the kitchen.

"Well, Ma, it's for you to decide," Mr. Hodges was saying. "We gave our
word to the young feller, and it's kinda mean to turn him out so sudden

"I regret Penny said anything about the matter." apologized Mrs. Weems.
"You know how out-spoken and impulsive she is. Of course, she has no
information about Mr. Gepper."

"Oh, but I do have information," spoke Penny from the doorway. "Mr.
Gepper has just admitted that he intends to use the room for public
séances. Isn't that true?"

Defiantly, she turned to face the young man who had followed her.

"Quite true," he acknowledged loftily. "One who has a great psychic gift
is duty-bound to allow the world to benefit from one's talents. The
selection of this house as a Temple for Celestial Communication was not
mine, but the bidding of the Spirits. In a dream I was instructed to come
here and take up residence."

"What night did you have the dream?" questioned Mrs. Hodges, deeply

"It was June fifteenth."

"The very night we heard the strange rappings on our bedroom wall, Pa."

"Dogonned if it wasn't!"

"Mr. Gepper, do you truly believe it is possible to communicate with the
spiritual world?" Mrs. Weems inquired politely.

"My dear madam, I can best answer by offering a demonstration. Have you a
ouija board in the house?"

"Yes, we have," spoke Mrs. Hodges eagerly. "Pa and I got it from a mail
order house years ago, but it never worked for us. You fetch it, Pa."

Mr. Hodges brought a large, flat board which bore letters and figures.
Upon it he placed a small, triangular piece with cushioned legs.

"This do-dad is supposed to spell out messages, ain't it?" he asked. "Ma
and I could never make it work right."

Al Gepper smiled in a superior way, and placing the board on his lap,
motioned for Mrs. Weems to sit opposite him. However, before the
housekeeper could obey, Penny slid into the vacant chair. The medium

"Place your hands lightly on the triangular piece," he instructed.
"Concentrate with me as we await a message from the spiritual world."

Penny fastened her eyes on the distant wall with a blank stare.

A minute passed. The ouija board made several convulsive struggles, but
seemed unable to move.

"The Spirits encounter resistance," the medium said testily. "They can
send no message when one's attitude is antagonistic."

"Shall I take off the brakes?" asked Penny.

Even as she spoke the pointer of the triangle began moving, rapidly
spelling a message.

"AL GEPPER IS A FRAUD," it wrote.

The medium sprang to his feet, allowing the board to fall from his lap.

"You pushed it!" he accused. "The test was unfair."

"Why, the very idea," chuckled Penny.

"Penny, please allow Mr. Gepper to conduct a true test," reproved Mrs.
Weems severely. "Let me try."

Al Gepper, however, would have no more of the ouija board. Instead, he
took a pad of white paper from his pocket. Seating Mrs. Weems at the
kitchen table he requested her to write a message, which, without being
shown to anyone in the room, was sealed in an envelope.

The medium pointedly requested Penny to examine the envelope to assure
herself the writing could not be seen through the paper.

"You are satisfied that I have not read the message?" he asked.

"Yes," Penny admitted reluctantly.

The medium took the envelope, ran his fingers lightly over it, and
returned it still sealed to Mrs. Weems.

"If I am not mistaken, Madam, you wrote, 'Is the spirit of my cousin in
this room?'"

"Why, I did!" exclaimed Mrs. Weems. "Those were the exact words! How did
you know?"

Al Gepper smiled mysteriously.

"You have seen nothing, Madam," he said. "Now if conditions are right, it
may be possible for us to learn if a Spirit has joined our group. Lower
the blinds, please."

Mr. Hodges hastened to obey. With the kitchen in semi-darkness, the
medium motioned for his audience to move a few paces away. Taking his own
position behind the kitchen table, he intoned:

"Oh, Spirit, if you are with us in the room, signal by lifting this piece
of furniture."

Slowly the man moved his hands above the table. At first nothing
happened, then to the astonishment of his audience, it lifted a few
inches from the floor. There it hung suspended a moment before dropping
into place again.

"You see?" With a triumphant ring to his voice, the medium crossed the
room to raise the window shades. "Now do you doubt me?"

"No! No!" cried Mrs. Hodges tremulously. "Only a Spirit could have moved
that table. Maud, perhaps it _was_ your Cousin David."

The medium gazed at Mrs. Weems with sympathetic interest.

"You have lost a loved one recently?" he inquired.

"Cousin David and I never were well acquainted," replied the housekeeper.
"That was why I was so surprised when he left me an inheritance."

"Mrs. Weems!" remonstrated Penny. She was dismayed by the revelation so
casually offered.

"No doubt you would like to communicate with your departed cousin at some
later time," the medium said smoothly. "Allow me to offer my services as
an intermediary. No charge, of course."

"Why, that's very generous of you, Mr. Gepper."

"Not at all. Friends of the Hodges are my friends. Shall we set a
definite date--say tomorrow at two o'clock?"

"Yes, I'll come. That is, if the Hodges are to be present."

"Assuredly. Mrs. Hodges is definitely psychic and should contribute to
our séance."

It was with the greatest of difficulty that Penny finally induced the
housekeeper to leave the cottage. Al Gepper accompanied them to the door.

"Tomorrow at two," he repeated, smiling slyly at Penny. "And you may come
also, my little doubter. I assure you it will be well worth your time."

                         _THE CELESTIAL TEMPLE_

"Penny, tell me the truth," Mrs. Weems urged as they drove home together.
"Didn't you push the ouija board?"

"Of course," laughed Penny. "But if I hadn't, Al Gepper would have. He
was trying hard enough!"

"He said you were resisting the spirits."

"That was the worst sort of nonsense," Penny returned impatiently.
"Gepper is a fraud, and I wish you hadn't told him about your

"How can you accuse him of being a fraud after you saw his marvelous
demonstration? The table actually rose from the floor."

"I know it did," Penny acknowledged unwillingly. "But it must have been

"How could it have been? The table was an ordinary one. Mrs. Hodges uses
it every day of her life."

"I don't know how he did it," Penny responded. "All the same, I am sure
he's a trickster. Promise me you won't tell him anything more about
yourself or the inheritance."

"Very well, I'll promise if it gives you satisfaction," the housekeeper
replied. "However, I do intend to keep my appointment."

Penny had no opportunity to relate to her father what had occurred at the
Hodges home, for Mr. Parker was absent on a two-day business trip to a
distant town. Feeling that she must tell someone, she sought Louise
Sidell, and they discussed every angle of the affair.

"Will you attend the séance with Mrs. Weems?" Louise asked her curiously.

"Will I?" Penny repeated. "I'll be right there with bells! I intend to
expose Mr. Al Gepper if it's the last act of my life!"

Returning home later in the afternoon, she found Mrs. Weems sitting on
the living room floor, sorting a drawer of old photographs.

"You're not packing your things already?" Penny asked in alarm.

"Only these photographs," the housekeeper responded. "I wouldn't have
started the task, only I got into it when the agent came."


"A man from the Clamont Photograph Studio."

"Never heard of the place."

"It's opening this week. They're having a special offer--three old
photographs enlarged for only twenty-five cents. I gave the man Cousin
David's picture and two others."

"That is a bargain," remarked Penny. "I wish I had been here."

The evening meal was served, and afterwards Mrs. Weems devoted herself to
the reading of travel books borrowed from the library. Penny could find
no occupation to satisfy her. She turned the radio on, switched it off
again, and wandered restlessly from room to room. Finally she went to the
telephone and called Louise.

"How about a little adventure?" she proposed. "And don't ask for

"Will we be home by ten o'clock? That's the parental deadline."

"Oh, yes, we'll make it easily. Meet me at the corner of Carabel and
Clinton Streets."

Mrs. Weems was so engrossed in her book that she merely nodded as Penny
explained that she and Louise were going for a walk. Reaching the
appointed corner the girl found her chum awaiting her.

"Tell me about this so-called adventure," she commanded. "Where are we

"To the Celestial Temple, Lou. At least, we'll look at it from the
outside. Meetings are held there nearly every night at eight o'clock."

"Penny, I don't think I care to go."

"Nonsense! The meetings are open to the public, aren't they? We'll have a
very interesting time."

"Oh, all right," Louise consented reluctantly. "But I can't understand
why you're so interested in the place."

The girls took a bus to the end of the line, then walked three blocks
until they came to Butternut Lane. For long stretches there were only
scattered houses and the street lamps were far between. Becoming
increasingly uneasy, Louise urged her chum to turn back.

"Why, we're at our destination now," Penny protested. "I am sure that
must be the building."

She pointed to an old, rectangular brick structure only a few yards
ahead. Obviously it once had been a church for there was a high bell
tower, and behind the building a cluster of neglected tombstones gleamed
in the moonlight.

The evenly spaced windows were illuminated, and music could be heard.

"Are you sure this is the place?" Louise inquired dubiously. "It looks
like a church to me, and they're holding a service."

"Oh, the building hasn't been used for such purposes in over fifteen
years," Penny explained. "I investigated, so I know its history. Until
three years ago it was used as a county fire station. Only recently it
was reclaimed by this Omar Society of Celestial Thought."

The girls moved closer. Through an open window they were able to see
fifteen or twenty people seated in the pews. A woman played a wheezing
organ while a man led the off-key singing.

"Let's go inside," Penny proposed.

Louise held back. "Oh, no, we can see everything from here. It looks as
if it were a very stupid sort of meeting."

"Appearances are often deceiving. I want a ringside seat."

Penny pulled her chum toward the entrance door. There they hesitated,
reading a large placard which bore the invitation:

_The Public Is Invited. Services at eight p.m. daily._

"We're part of the public, Lou," urged Penny. "Come along."

She boldly opened the door, and there was no retreat.

Heads turned slightly as the girls entered the rear of the Temple. As
quickly they turned forward again, but not before Penny had gained an
impression, of sharp, appraising faces.

A man arose, bowed, and offered the girls his bench, although many others
were available. They slipped into the pew, accepting a song book which
was placed in Louise's hand.

While her chum sang in a thin, squeaky voice, Penny allowed her gaze to
wander over the room. At the far end she saw a door which apparently
opened into the bell tower. On a slightly raised platform where the
leader stood, were two black-draped cabinets somewhat similar to the one
she had seen at Mrs. Hodges' cottage. Otherwise, there was nothing of
unusual interest.

The services were decorous to the point of being boring. Yet as the
meeting went on, Penny and Louise both felt that they were being studied.
More than once they surprised persons gazing at them.

At the conclusion of the session which lasted no longer than thirty
minutes, the leader asked the audience if any "brother" were present who
wished to attempt a spirit communication. Immediately, Penny sat up a bit
straighter, anticipating that interesting demonstrations were in store.

Nor was she mistaken. A thin, hard-faced man went to the rostrum, and in
a loud voice began to call upon the spirits to make known their presence.
Signs were at once forthcoming. The empty pews began to dance as if
alive. The speaker's table lifted a foot from the floor and a pitcher of
water fell from it, smashing into a dozen pieces.

Louise, her eyes dilated with fear, edged closer to Penny.

"Let's go," she pleaded.

Penny shook her head.

A woman dressed in blue silk glided down the aisle, stopping beside the
girls. She held a tray upon which were a number of objects, an opal ring,
a knife, and several pins.

"Dearie," she said to Penny, "if you would care to have a message from a
departed soul, place a trinket in this collection. Any personal object.
Our leader will then exhort the spirit to appear."

"No, thank you," replied Louise, without giving her chum a chance to

"Perhaps, you would prefer a private reading," the woman murmured. "I
give them at my home, and the fee is trivial. Only a dollar."

"Thank you, no," Louise repeated firmly. "I'm not interested."

The woman shrugged and moved on down the aisle, pausing beside an elderly
man to whom she addressed herself.

"Lou, why did you discourage her?" Penny whispered. "We might have
learned something."

"I've learned quite enough. I'm leaving."

Louise squeezed past her chum, heading for the exit. Penny had no choice
but to follow.

Before they could reach the door, it suddenly opened from the outside. A
young man who had not bothered to remove his hat, entered. Seeing the
girls, he abruptly halted, then turned and retreated.

Penny quickened her step. Taking Louise's hand she pulled her along at a
faster pace. They reached the vestibule. It was deserted. Penny peered up
and down the dark street.

"Well, he's gone," she remarked.

"Who?" Louise questioned in a puzzled voice. "You mean that man who
entered the Temple and then left so suddenly?"

"I do," responded Penny. "Unless my eyes tricked me, he was none other
than Al Gepper!"

                       _A MESSAGE FOR MRS. WEEMS_

"I don't know anyone answering to that name," remarked Louise. "However,
the fellow did act as if he were retreating from us."

Penny glanced up and down the dark street. No one was to be seen, and
since so little time had elapsed, she reasoned that the man had taken
refuge either in the high weeds or the nearby cemetery.

"It must have been Gepper," she declared. "Naturally he wouldn't care to
meet me here." Quickly Penny recounted the events of the afternoon.

"Then you think he may be connected with the Temple, Penny?"

"That would be my guess. Lou, this place is nothing but a blind. The
members of the society pretend to be honest spiritualists, while in
reality they're charlatans. They hold services for one purpose only--to
solicit persons for private readings."

"Isn't that illegal?"

"Of course it is. The police should raid the place."

"Then why don't they, Penny?"

"Dad says it's because they've been unable to obtain sufficient evidence.
But they'll have it after we report what we've seen tonight!"

"How do you suppose they made things jump around as if they were alive?"
Louise remarked as the girls walked slowly toward home. "It frightened

"Everything was done by trickery. I'm sure of that, Lou. Just as soon as
Dad returns I shall make a full report to him. We'll see what he can do
about it."

By the time Penny arrived home, Mrs. Weems had retired to her room.
However, the light still burned and the door was open a crack. Rapping,
the girl entered, for she was eager to tell the housekeeper about her
visit to the Celestial Temple.

Mrs. Weems sat at the desk. Hastily she closed one of the drawers, and
turned the key.

"You startled me, Penny!" she exclaimed. "I do wish you would give more
warning before you descend upon one."

"Sorry," apologized Penny, glancing curiously toward the desk. "Oh, I

"You see what?" demanded the housekeeper.

"Six thousand dollars reposing in a desk drawer!"

Mrs. Weems' look of consternation betrayed her. She glanced at the locked
drawer, and then laughed.

"For an instant I thought you actually could see the money, Penny."

"Then my guess was right?"

"I keep the money in the drawer," Mrs. Weems admitted.

Penny sat down on the edge of the bed, drawing up her knees for a chin

"Mrs. Weems, don't you think it's risky keeping so much money here?"

"It will only be for a few days, Penny. I'll have it converted into
traveler's cheques as soon as I am ready to start west."

"The desk doesn't seem a safe place to me."

"You're the only person who knows where I keep the money, Penny. Oh, yes,
I told Mrs. Hodges, but she is to be trusted. No one can steal it as long
as I have the key."

Mrs. Weems tapped a black velvet ribbon which she wore about her neck.

"I keep this on me day and night," she declared. "No thief ever will get
it way from me."

Penny said nothing more about the matter. Instead, she launched into a
highly colored account of her visit to the Celestial Temple. The
housekeeper expressed disapproval, remarking that she never would have
granted permission had she known in advance where the girls were going.
Nevertheless, her eager questions made it evident that she was deeply
interested in the demonstration which had been witnessed.

"I don't see how you can call it trickery," she protested. "You have no
proof, Penny."

"Never in the world will I believe that spirits can make tables do a
dance, Mrs. Weems! Probably the furniture had special wiring or something
of the sort."

"You can't say that about the table at Mrs. Hodges', Penny."

"No, it seemed to be just an ordinary piece of furniture," the girl
admitted reluctantly. "All the same, Al Gepper is a fraud, and I wish you
wouldn't attend his old séance tomorrow."

"But Penny, I gave my promise."

"I can run over to the house and tell him you've changed your mind."

Mrs. Weems shook her head. "No, Penny, I am curious to learn if he will
be able to communicate with the spirits. Tomorrow's séance should provide
a genuine test. The man knows nothing about me or my ancestors."

"Mrs. Hodges probably has provided all the information he'll require."

"I telephoned her yesterday and requested her not to tell Mr. Gepper
anything about me. She'll respect my wishes. The test should prove a true

Penny sighed and arose from the bed. Knowing Mrs. Weems as she did, she
realized that her opinion could not be changed by argument. It was her
hope that Al Gepper would discredit himself by failing in the séance.

"Penny, please promise that you'll do nothing outrageous tomorrow," Mrs.
Weems begged as the girl started to leave. "I am sure Mr. Gepper feels
that you are antagonistic."

"I'll try to behave myself," Penny laughed. "Yes, we'll give Mr. Gepper a
chance to prove what he can do."

At two the following afternoon she and Mrs. Weems presented themselves at
the Hodges' cottage. Both Mr. Hodges and his wife, who were to sit in at
the séance, were trembling with anticipation.

"Mr. Gepper is simply wonderful," the seamstress confided to Mrs. Weems.
"He tells me that I have great healing powers as well as a psychic

"Jenny, I hope you haven't told him anything about me," the housekeeper

"Oh, no, Maud. For that matter, he's said nothing about you since you
were here."

Mrs. Weems cast Penny an "I-told-you-so" glance which was not lost upon
Al Gepper who entered the room at that moment.

"I am ready for you, ladies," he said. "Kindly follow me."

In the upstairs room blinds had been drawn. Al Gepper indicated that his
audience was to occupy the chairs around the circular table.

"Before we attempt to communicate with the departed souls, I wish to
assure you that I employ no trickery," he announced, looking hard at
Penny. "You may examine the table or the cabinet if you wish."

"Oh, no, Mr. Gepper," murmured Mrs. Hodges. "We trust you."

"I'll look, if you don't mind," said Penny.

She peered beneath the table, thumped it several times, and pulled aside
the curtain of the cabinet. It was empty.

"Now if you are quite satisfied, shall we begin?" purred Mr. Gepper. "It
will make it much easier, if each one of you will give me a personal

"A la the Celestial Temple method," muttered Penny beneath her breath.

"What was that?" questioned the medium sharply.

"Nothing. I was merely thinking to myself."

"Then please think more quietly. I must warn you that this séance cannot
be successful unless each person present concentrates, entering into the
occasion with the deepest of sincerity."

"I assure you, I am as sincere as yourself," Penny responded gravely.

Mr. Hodges deposited his gold watch on the table. His wife offered a pin
and Mrs. Weems a plain band ring. Penny parted with a handkerchief.

After everyone was seated about the table, Al Gepper played several
phonograph records, all the while exhorting the Spirits to appear.

Taking Mrs. Weems' ring from the tray before him, he pressed it to his
forehead. A convulsive shudder wracked his body.

"Someone comes to me--" he mumbled. "Someone comes, giving the name of
David--David Swester."

"My cousin," breathed Mrs. Weems in awe.

"He is tall and dark with a scar over his left eye," resumed the medium.
"I see him plainly now."

"That _is_ David!" cried the housekeeper, leaning forward in her

"David, have you a message for us?" the medium intoned.

There was a long silence, during which the man could be seen writhing and
twisting in the semi-darkness. Then his voice began again:

"David has a message for a person called Maud."

"I am Maud," said Mrs. Weems tremulously. "Oh, what does he say?"

"That he is well and happy in the Spirit World, but he is worried about

"Worried about me? Why?"

The medium again seemed to undergo physical suffering, but presently the
message "came through," although not in an entirely clear form.

"David's voice has faded. I am not certain, but it has something to do
with six thousand dollars."

"The exact amount he left to me!" Mrs. Weems murmured.

"David is afraid that you will not have the wisdom to invest the money
wisely. He warns you that the present place where you have it deposited
is not safe. He will tell you what to do with it. Now the voice is fading
again. David has gone."

With another convulsive shudder, Al Gepper straightened from the position
into which he had slumped. Resuming his normal tone he said:

"That is all. The connection with Cousin David has been broken."

"Can't we contact him again?" Mrs. Weems asked in disappointment.

"Not today. Possibly tomorrow at this same hour."

"Couldn't you call up another Spirit by using my pin or Pa's watch?" Mrs.
Hodges suggested wistfully.

Al Gepper raised one of the window blinds. "I am very, very tired," he
said. "This séance was particularly exhausting due to the presence of
someone antagonistic. Tomorrow if conditions are right, I hope actually
to materialize Cousin David. The poor soul is trying so hard to get a
message through to the one he calls Maud."

"You mean I'll be able to see him?" the housekeeper asked incredulously.

"I hope and believe so. I must rest now. After a séance I should refresh
myself with sleep."

"Of course," agreed Mrs. Hodges. "We are selfish to overtax you."

Recovering their trinkets, the elderly couple and Mrs. Weems went from
the room. Penny was the last to leave.

"Well, sister?" inquired the medium in a low voice. "Were you convinced,
or do you still think that you can show up Al Gepper?"

"I think," said Penny softly, "that you are a very clever man. But clever
as you are, one of your well-trained ghosts may yet lead you to the city

                         _COUSIN DAVID'S GHOST_

When Penny reached the lower floor she found Mrs. Weems and the Hodges
excitedly discussing the séance. The seamstress and her husband
emphatically declared that they had given the medium no information
regarding either the housekeeper or the deceased Cousin David.

"Then there can be only one explanation," Mrs. Weems said. "We were truly
in communication with a departed spirit."

"Don't you agree, Penny?" inquired Mrs. Hodges.

"I am afraid I can't," she replied.

"The test was a fair one," Mrs. Weems insisted. "Mr. Gepper couldn't have
described Cousin David so accurately if he hadn't actually seen him as he
materialized from the spirit world."

"Al Gepper could have obtained much of his information from persons in
Riverview," Penny responded.

"About me, perhaps," the housekeeper conceded. "But not about Cousin
David. Why, I doubt if anyone save myself knew he had a scar over his
eye. He received it in an automobile accident twelve or thirteen years

"Just think!" murmured Mrs. Hodges. "Tomorrow you may actually be able to
see your departed cousin!"

In vain Penny argued that Al Gepper was a trickster. She was unable to
offer the slightest evidence to support her contention while, on the
other hand, the Hodges reminded her that the medium had never asked one
penny for his services.

From the cottage Penny went directly to the _Star_ office, feeling
certain that her father would have returned there from his trip. Nor was
she mistaken. Gaining admittance to the private office, she wasted no
words in relating everything which had transpired during his absence. Her
father's attention was flattering.

"Penny, you actually saw all this?" he questioned when she had finished.

"Oh, yes! At the Celestial Temple Louise was with me, too. We thought you
might take up the matter with the police."

"That's exactly what I will do," decided Mr. Parker. "I've turned the
matter over in my mind for several days. The _Star_ will take the
initiative in driving these mediums, character readers and the like out
of Riverview!"

"Oh, Dad, I was hoping you'd say that!"

Mr. Parker pressed a desk buzzer. Summoning DeWitt, he told of his plan
to launch an active campaign.

"Nothing will please me better, Chief," responded the city editor. "Where
do we start?"

"We'll tip the police to what is going on at the Celestial Temple. Have
them send detectives there for tonight's meeting. Then when the usual
hocus-pocus starts, arrests can be made. Have photographers and a good
reporter on hand."

"That should start the ball rolling," agreed DeWitt. "I'll assign Jerry
Livingston to the story. Salt Sommers is my best photographer."

"Get busy right away," Mr. Parker ordered. "We'll play the story big
tomorrow--give it a spread."

"How about Al Gepper?" Penny inquired after DeWitt had gone. "Could he be
arrested without involving the Hodges?"

"Not very easily if he lives at their place. Has he accepted money for
the séances he conducts there?"

"He hasn't taken any yet from Mrs. Weems. I am sure he must have other

"You have no proof of it?"


"Suppose we forget Al Gepper for the time being, and concentrate on the
Celestial Temple," Mr. Parker proposed. "In the meantime, learn
everything you can about the man's methods."

"No assignment would please me more, Dad. I've the same as promised Mr.
Gepper he'll land in jail, and I want to make good."

Mr. Parker began to pace the floor. "I'll write a scorching editorial,"
he said. "We'll fight ignorance with information. Our reporters must
learn how these mediums do their tricks, and expose them to the gullible

"I'll do everything I can to help," Penny promised eagerly. "May I have
Al Gepper for my particular fish bait?"

"He's your assignment. And I'm depending upon you to see that he doesn't
work any of his trickery on Mrs. Weems. If she can't be persuaded to
remain away from the Hodges', then we must protect her as best we can."

"I'll try to accompany her every time she goes there, Dad. I am afraid he
may be after her money."

"Gepper doesn't know she inherited six thousand dollars?" Mr. Parker
asked in alarm.

"Yes, she dropped the information that she had come into money. He
supplied figures himself."

"I wonder how?"

"I haven't the slightest idea, Dad. Gepper is as clever a man as ever I
met. Honestly, it wouldn't surprise me if he does produce Cousin David at
tomorrow's séance."

Mr. Parker snorted in disgust.

"Tommyrot! The man will make an excuse about the conditions not being
right, and fail."

"Perhaps, but he seems pretty confident."

"You expect to attend the séance?"

"Oh, definitely. Jungle beasts couldn't keep me away."

"Then be alert every instant--without appearing too suspicious, of
course. Try to learn how the man accomplishes his tricks."

"Leave it to me," chuckled Penny. "Mr. Al Gepper is due for his first
shock when he wakes up tomorrow and reads that the Celestial Temple has
been raided. Unless I am much mistaken, that place is one of his favorite

Leaving the newspaper office, Penny went directly home. She longed to
stop at the Sidell home, but she had promised her father to say nothing
about the planned raid until it was an accomplished fact. Feeling the
need of work to occupy her time, she washed the maroon car and waxed the
fading paint of Leaping Lena.

At six o'clock her father came home for dinner.

"Any news?" Penny asked, running to meet him.

"Everything's set," he answered. "DeWitt laid your information before the
police. Tonight three detectives will attend the meeting at the Temple.
If anything out of the way happens, the raid will be staged."

Penny was so tense with expectation that she was unable to do justice to
the delicious dinner which Mrs. Weems had prepared. Her father, too,
seemed unusually restless. After dinner he made a pretense of reading the
paper, but actually his eyes did not see the print.

The hands of the clock scarcely appeared to move, so slowly did time
pass. Eight o'clock came, then nine. Suddenly the telephone rang.

Penny was away in an instant to answer it. From the next room she called
to her father:

"It's for you, Dad! DeWitt, I think."

"I told him to telephone me as soon as the raid was staged." Mr. Parker
arose and went quickly to take the receiver. Penny hovered at his elbow.

"Hello! DeWitt?" the publisher asked, and after a slight pause: "Oh, I
see. No, I don't think Penny was mistaken. It's more likely there was a

He hung up the receiver and turned toward Penny who anticipated the news.

"The raid was a failure?"

"Yes, Penny. Detectives spent two hours at the meeting. Nothing happened.
It was impossible to make arrests."

"They must have been recognized as detectives."


"Others will be assigned to the case?"

"I doubt it, Penny. DeWitt reports that the police have become convinced
that the spiritualists who use the Temple are not operating for profit."

"Louise and I know better because she was approached." Penny anxiously
regarded her father. "Dad, even if the police do give up, we won't, will

"No, we're in this fight and we'll stay in it," he answered grimly.
"We'll put some new teeth in our trap. And the next time it's sprung, I
warrant you we'll catch a crook."

                              _WET PAINT_

Promptly at two o'clock the following afternoon, Penny and Mrs. Weems
presented themselves at the Hodges' cottage for the appointed séance.
Already Mr. Gepper awaited them in the darkened apartment on the second

Penny's glance about the room found everything in the same order as upon
the previous visit, save that an easel with a large black sheet of
artist's paper stood beside the cabinet.

She moved as if to examine it. Al Gepper intercepted her by saying:

"Sit here, if you please. Beside Mrs. Weems. I'll call the Hodges and
we'll start at once."

The medium went to the door and shouted down the stairway. Penny noticed
that he remained where he could watch her every move in a mirror which
hung on the wall. She shrewdly guessed that he was afraid she might
attempt to examine either the cabinet or the easel.

Mr. and Mrs. Hodges came in response to the call, taking chairs about the
circular table. The gaze which they fastened upon Al Gepper was almost

"Now today I hope to materialize the Spirit of Cousin David," announced
the medium. "The task will be difficult, as you must realize. After the
séance begins I am compelled to request absolute quiet. The slightest
movement may frighten away the Spirits."

"Why are spirits so timid?" asked Penny.

"Because their beings are so sensitive that they instantly feel an
unfriendly presence," the man responded glibly. "Please hold hands, and
use every precaution that contact is not broken."

Mrs. Weems took one of Penny's hands and Mr. Hodges the other. Mrs.
Hodges sat next to her husband.

After lowering black curtains over the window blinds to further darken
the room, the medium returned to his chair. Those at the table were
unable to distinguish his form, and for a time there was no sound save
the scratching music of a phonograph record.

Presently the medium exhorted the Spirit of Cousin David to appear. For
at least ten minutes there was no indication that communication was to be
established. Then a cowbell tinkled, causing Mrs. Weems to shake and

"Are you there, David?" called the medium.

The bell jingled violently.

"We are ready, David," intoned the medium. "Have you a message for us?"

To Penny's amazement, a pair of shapely white hands slowly materialized,
apparently pulling aside the curtain of the cabinet above the medium's
head. In the darkness they glowed with a weird phosphorescent light.

Next appeared a white-rimmed slate, upon which luminous words were
written: "I am the Spirit of Cousin David. Is Maud here?"

"Yes, yes," responded Mrs. Weems, quivering with excitement. "Have you a
message for me?"

Again the hand wrote: "My happiness in this world beyond is disturbed.
Maud, do not squander the money which I gave to you."

"Squander it?" the housekeeper said aloud. "Why, I've scarcely spent a

"A trip to California is ill-advised," wrote the hand. "Invest your money
in good eight per cent securities. There are many excellent
companies--the Brantwell Corporation, White and Edwards, the Bierkamp

The slate vanished and once more the jingling of the cowbell denoted that
the spirit was moving away.

The medium spoke. "Contact has been broken. Shall we try to reach Cousin
David again?"

"Oh, please!" pleaded Mrs. Weems. "I don't know what to do now. I've
planned on the western trip and I can't understand why Cousin David
should advise me to give it up."

"I wouldn't go agin' the Spirits if I was you," advised Mr. Hodges. "You
better change your plans, Maud."

"But how can I be certain that the message came from Cousin David?" the
housekeeper quavered. "Oh, dear, I am so upset! If only I could be

"Madam, I hope you do not distrust me," said Al Gepper reprovingly.

"Oh, no, it's not that. I'm just upset."

"Perhaps, if you actually saw your cousin it would set your mind at

"Is it possible to see him?"

"I cannot promise, but we will try. Hold hands again please, and everyone

There followed an interval during which the medium pleaded with the
Spirit of Cousin David to return and show himself. Suddenly the group was
startled to see a luminous banjo move high through the air, unsupported
by any hand. It began to play "Down upon the Swanee River."

Midway through the selection, the music broke off and the banjo
disappeared. An instant later Mrs. Hodges uttered a choked cry.

"The easel! Look at it, Maud!"

All eyes turned toward the painter's canvas. As the medium focused a
flashlight upon it, the face of an elderly man slowly materialized on the
blank surface, the picture appearing in red, blue and finally black oil

"It _is_ Cousin David!" whispered Mrs. Weems, gripping Penny's hand so
tightly that it hurt. "He looks exactly as he did when last I saw him!"

The medium extinguished his light and again the room was dark. Mrs.
Weems' chair creaked as she stirred restlessly. Mr. Hodges' heavy
breathing could be plainly heard. There was no other sound. Everyone
waited in tense expectancy, sensing that the climax of the séance was at

Suddenly, behind Al Gepper's chair a spot of ethereal light appeared. As
Penny watched, it grew in size until the figure had assumed the
proportions of a man. Then, to her further amazement, it slowly rose
toward the ceiling, hovering above Mrs. Weems' chair.

Throughout the séance Penny had remained firm in her conviction that the
medium had resorted to trickery to produce his startling effects.
Although she could not be sure, she thought that several times he had
slipped from his chair to enter the conveniently placed cabinet. She also
believed that the only way he could have materialized the ghost was by
donning luminous robes.

"I'll end his little game once and for all," she thought.

Deliberately she waited until the ghostly figure floated close to her own
chair. Then with a sudden upward spring, she snatched at it.

Greatly to her chagrin, her hand encountered nothing solid. With the
speed of lightning, the figure streaked toward the cabinet behind Al
Gepper's chair and was seen no more.

Arising, the medium switched on the room lights. His face was white with

"I warned you to make no move," he said harshly to Penny. "You
deliberately disobeyed me."

"Oh, Penny, why did you do it?" wailed Mrs. Weems. "I was so eager to get
another message from Cousin David."

"His Spirit has been frightened away," announced the medium. "It will be
impossible ever to recall him. For that matter, I shall never again
conduct a séance with this young person present. She is a disturbing

"Oh, Penny, you've ruined everything," said Mrs. Weems accusingly. "Why
do you act so outrageously?"

Penny started to speak and then changed her mind. Mrs. Weems, the
seamstress and her husband, all were gazing at her with deep reproach.
She realized that there was nothing she could say which would make them

She arose and walked to the easel. The painting of Cousin David remained
clearly visible. She touched it and then glanced at her finger which bore
a streak of red.

The paint was still wet.

Penny stared at her finger a moment. Lifting her eyes she met the
triumphant gaze of Al Gepper.

"Not even a skillful artist could have painted a picture so quickly," he
said with a smirk. "Only a spirit would have the ability. You are
dumbfounded, my little one?"

"No, just plain dumb," answered Penny. "I salute you, Mr. Gepper."

Without waiting for Mrs. Weems, she turned and went from the house.

"Now how _did_ he do it?" she muttered. "I saw everything and yet I am
more in the dark than ever. But I am sure of one thing. Unless I work
fast, Al Gepper is almost certain to obtain Mrs. Weems' inheritance."

                             _HIDDEN MONEY_

One of Penny's first acts upon arriving home was to scan the telephone
directory under the heading, Investment Firms. The three companies
mentioned during the séance, White and Edwards, Brantwell, and Bierkamp,
were unlisted.

"Evidently there are no such firms in Riverview," she reflected. "But why
was Mrs. Weems advised to invest her money with one of them? It looks
very suspicious to me!"

Not until after five o'clock did Mrs. Weems return from the Hodges'. She
seemed rather upset, and when Penny tried to bring up the subject of the
séance, said distantly:

"Please, Penny, I prefer not to discuss it. Your conduct was

"I apologize for grabbing at the ghost, Mrs. Weems. I only did it to
prove that Al Gepper is a fraud."

"Your motives were quite apparent. One could not blame Mr. Gepper for
being angry."

"Oh, Mrs. Weems," said Penny in desperation. "How can you be taken in by
his smooth line? His one purpose is to obtain your money."

"You are very unjust," the housekeeper responded. "Today I tried to pay
Mr. Gepper for the séance and he would not accept one penny."

"That's because he is playing for higher stakes."

"It's no use discussing the matter with you," Mrs. Weems shrugged. "You
are prejudiced and will give the man credit for nothing."

"I give him credit for being very clever. Mrs. Weems, please promise that
you'll not allow him to invest your money for you."

"I have no intention of doing so, Penny. It does seem to me that I should
consider Cousin David's wishes in the matter. Very likely I shall abandon
my plans for the western trip."

"And stay here with us?" Penny cried eagerly.

"No, I am thinking of going to a larger city and taking an apartment.
With my money invested in eight per cent securities, I should have a
comfortable little income."

"Mrs. Weems, I've heard Dad say over and over that sound securities will
not pay such a high rate of interest. Promise you won't invest your money
until you've talked with him."

"You're always asking me to promise something or other," the housekeeper
sighed. "This time I shall use my own judgment."

Realizing that further argument was only a waste of breath, Penny
wandered outside to await her father. When he came, they sat together on
the front porch steps, discussing the situation.

"I'll drop a word of advice to Mrs. Weems at the first opportunity,"
offered Mr. Parker. "If she is in the mood you describe, it would not be
wise to bring up the subject tonight. She merely would resent my

"What worries me is that I am afraid she may have told Al Gepper where
the money is kept."

"Tomorrow I'll urge her again to deposit it in a bank. We'll do our best
to protect her from these sharpers."

The publisher had been very much interested in Penny's account of the
séance. However, he was unable to explain how the various tricks had been

"Dad," Penny said thoughtfully, "you don't suppose there's any chance it
wasn't trickery?"

"Certainly not! I hope you're not falling under this fellow's spell?"

"No, but it gave me a real shock when I saw Cousin David's face
materialize on the canvas. It was the absolute image of him--or rather of
a picture Mrs. Weems once showed me."

A startled expression came over Penny's face. Without explanation, she
sprang to her feet and ran to the kitchen.

"Mrs. Weems," she cried, "did you ever get it back? Your picture!"

"What picture, Penny?" The housekeeper scarcely glanced up as she
vigorously scrubbed carrots.

"I mean the one of Cousin David. You allowed a photographer to take it
for enlargement."

"It hasn't been returned," Mrs. Weems admitted. "I can't imagine why the
work takes so long."

"I think I can," announced Penny. "But you never would believe me if I
told you, so I won't."

Racing to the porch, she revealed to her father what she thought had
occurred. It was her theory that the agent who had called at the Parker
home days earlier had in actuality been one of Al Gepper's assistants.

"Don't you see, Dad!" she cried. "The man obtained a picture of Cousin
David, and probably turned it over to the medium." Her face fell
slightly. "Of course, that still doesn't explain how the painting slowly

"Nor does it explain the ghost or the banjo. Penny, couldn't Gepper have
painted the picture himself in the darkness?"

"There wasn't time, Dad. Besides, he held a flashlight on the painting.
No human hand touched it."

"You say, too, that the banjo was high overhead when it played?"

"That's right, Dad. Gepper couldn't have reached the strings. The
instrument floated free in the air."

"Sounds fantastic."

"Believe me, it was, Dad. It's no wonder Gepper is gaining such influence
over Mrs. Weems. He's as slick as a greased fox!"

"I'll have Jerry go to the house and try to learn how the fellow
operates," declared Mr. Parker. "We can't break the story until we have
absolute evidence that Gepper has obtained money under false pretenses."

The next day Penny remained close at home. Mrs. Weems still treated her
somewhat distantly, leaving the house immediately after lunch and
declining to explain where she was going. Penny was quite certain that
her destination was the Hodges' cottage.

"Guess I'll run over and see Louise," she thought restlessly. "Nothing to
do here."

Before she could leave the house, the doorbell rang. A man of perhaps
thirty, well dressed, with a leather briefcase tucked under his arm,
stood on the front porch. He bowed politely to Penny.

"This is where Mrs. Weems resides, I believe?"

"Yes, but she isn't here now."

"When will she be home?"

"I can't say," replied Penny. "Are you an agent?"

The man's appearance displeased her although she could not have said
exactly why. His smile was too ingratiating, his eyes calculating and

"My name is Bierkamp," he explained. "I represent the Harold G. Bierkamp
Investment Company."

Penny stiffened. She glared at the agent. "You mean you represent the Al
Gepper Spookus Company," she said in a cutting voice. "Well, Mrs. Weems
doesn't want any of your wonderful eight per cent stocks! She'll not see
you, so don't come here again!"

"And who are you to speak for her?" the man retorted.

"If you come here again, I'll call the police," Penny threatened. "Now
get out!"

Without another word, the man retreated down the street. Penny watched
until he turned a corner and was lost to view. She was a trifle worried
as to what she had done.

"If Mrs. Weems learns about this she'll never forgive me," she thought
uneasily. "But he was a crook sent by Al Gepper. I know it."

Wandering upstairs, she entered the bathroom, intending to wash before
going to Louise's home. On the tiled floor lay a velvet ribbon with a key
attached. At once, Penny realized that Mrs. Weems had left it there

"It's the key to her desk," she reflected, picking it up. "And she
insists that her money is kept in a safe place! I have a notion to play a
joke on her."

The longer Penny considered the idea, the more it pleased her.
Jubilantly, she set forth for the Sidell home. Taking Louise into her
confidence, she visited a novelty shop and purchased a supply of fake

Returning home, she then unlocked the drawer of Mrs. Weems' desk and,
removing the six thousand dollars, replaced it with neat stacks of
imitation bills. Louise watched her with misgiving.

"Penny, this joke of yours isn't likely to strike Mrs. Weems as very
funny," she warned. "You're always doing things which get you into

"This is in a good cause, Lou. I am protecting Mrs. Weems from her own

"What will you do with the money?"

"Deposit it in a bank."

"You are taking matters into your hands with a vengeance! Suppose you're
robbed on the way downtown?"

"That would complicate my life. Upon second thought, I'll send for an
armored truck."

To Louise's amazement, Penny actually carried through her plan. A heavily
guarded express truck presently drew up before the Parker residence, and
Mrs. Weems' money was turned over to the two armed men who promised that
it would be delivered safely to the First National Bank.

"There, that's a load off my mind," said Penny. "Just let Al Gepper try
to steal Mrs. Weems' money now!"

Louise shook her head sadly. "You may be accused of stealing yourself. I
wouldn't be in your slippers when Mrs. Weems learns about this."

"Oh, I'll be able to explain," laughed Penny.

The joke she had played did not seem quite so funny an hour later. Mrs.
Weems returned home and without comment recovered the key which had been
replaced on the lavatory floor. She did not open her desk or mention the

At dinner Penny was so subdued that the housekeeper inquired if she were

"Not yet," the girl answered. "I'm just thinking about the future. It's
so depressing."

"Perhaps a picture show would cheer us all," proposed Mr. Parker.

Mrs. Weems displayed interest, and Penny, without enthusiasm, agreed to
go. Eight o'clock found them at the Avalon, a neighborhood theatre. The
show was not to Penny's liking, although her father and the housekeeper
seemed to enjoy it. She squirmed restlessly, and finally whispered to her
father that she was returning home.

In truth, as Penny well knew, she was suffering from an acute case of
"conscience." Now that it was too late, she regretted having meddled with
Mrs. Weems' money.

Gloomily she walked home alone. As she entered, she heard the telephone
ringing, but before she could answer, the party hung up. With a sigh
Penny locked the front door again, switched out the lights and went to

For a long while she lay staring at a patch of moonlight on the bedroom
carpet. Although she felt tired she could not sleep.

"It's just as Louise said," she reflected. "I'm always getting myself
into hot water and for no good reason, either!"

Her morose thoughts were interrupted as a hard object thudded against a
nearby wall. Penny sat up, listening. She believed that the sound had
come from Mrs. Weems' room, yet she knew she was alone in the house.

Rolling from bed, she groped for a robe, and without turning on the
lights, tiptoed down the hall. Mrs. Weems' door stood open. Was some
intruder hidden in that room?

Peering inside, Penny at first noticed nothing amiss. Then her gaze
fastened on the window sill, plainly visible in the moonlight. Two iron
hooks, evenly spaced, had been clamped over the ledge!

                        _OVER THE WINDOW LEDGE_

As Penny flattened herself against the wall, the head and shoulders of a
man slowly rose into view. Although his body was plainly silhouetted in
the moonlight, she could not see his face.

The intruder raised the sash, making no sound. He hesitated, listening a
moment, then dropped lightly into the bedroom.

Without turning on a flashlight which he carried, he went directly to
Mrs. Weems' desk. So deliberate was the action that Penny instantly
decided the fellow had come for a particular purpose and knew the lay-out
of the entire house.

"He means to steal Mrs. Weems' money!" she thought.

Opening the desk, the man tried the drawer where the inheritance funds
had been hidden. Failing to unlock it with a key, he took a tool from his
pocket and in a moment had broken the lock.

Removing the stack of fake bills which Penny had substituted, he thrust
them into his coat. Taking no interest in anything else in the room, he
moved stealthily toward the window.

Penny knew there was no one within calling distance and that the man
probably was armed. Wisdom dictated that she remain in hiding, but she
was determined the thief should not escape. Hoping to take him by
surprise, she stalked forward.

A board creaked. With a muttered exclamation the man whirled around. At
the same instant Penny flung herself upon him, diving low in imitation of
a football tackle.

The thief reeled, but instead of falling he recovered his balance and
gave Penny a tremendous shove which sent her sprawling backwards. Before
she could regain her feet, he ran to the window. Swinging himself over
the ledge, he vanished from view.

By the time Penny reached the window there was no sign of the intruder.
He had disappeared as if into thin air. However, she knew that the man
must have descended by means of a ladder which he had hastily removed.

She ran her hand over the window ledge. The iron hooks no longer were
there, only the scars which had been cut in the wood.

"This undoubtedly was the same fellow who broke into the Kohl apartment!"
she thought. "But how did he escape so quickly?"

Penny started for a telephone, intending to notify the police. However,
when it occurred to her that her father might not wish the matter made
public, she changed her mind and ran downstairs.

Unlocking the rear door, she glanced carefully about the yard. There was
no one in sight, no movement behind any of the shrubbery.

"He's gone, of course," she thought.

Penny wore no shoes. Finding a pair of old galoshes on the porch, she
protected her feet with them, and hobbled into the yard.

The grass beneath Mrs. Weems' window had been trampled, but at first
glance there was no clue to indicate how the burglar had gained entrance
to the house.

"Obviously he used a ladder," she reasoned. "But how did he descend so
quickly? And what became of the ladder? I know he never had time to carry
away one of the ordinary type."

A dark object lying on the grass attracted Penny's attention. Picking it
up, she carried it to the porch and switched on a light that she might
see to better advantage. In her hand she held a torn strand of black silk

"This may be an important clue!" she thought excitedly. "I know now how
the man entered the house!"

As Penny examined the piece of rope, automobile headlight beams cut a
path across the yard. The Parker car drew up on the driveway and both
Mrs. Weems and Mr. Parker alighted.

"Dad, come here quickly!" Penny called as he started to open the garage

"What's wrong, Penny?"

Both the publisher and Mrs. Weems came toward the porch.

"We've had a burglar," Penny announced. "He broke into Mrs. Weems' room,
smashing the lock on the desk--"

"My money!" the housekeeper exclaimed in horror. "Oh, Penny, don't tell
me that it's gone!"

"He escaped with the contents of the drawer."

Mrs. Weems gave a moan of anguish. "Haven't you called the police?" she
demanded. "When did it happen? Tell me everything!"

"First, I'll set your mind at rest," Penny replied. "Your money is safe."

"Oh! I never was so relieved in all my born days." Mrs. Weems sagged
weakly into a porch rocker. "Penny, how could you torture me by letting
me think the money was stolen?"

"Because I have a confession to make, Mrs. Weems. You left the key to
your desk lying on the bathroom floor. I thought it might be a good joke
to move the money to another place."

"Oh, you darling blessed girl!" laughed Mrs. Weems. "Where did you hide
it, Penny? Are you sure it's safe?"

"It should be. I had it taken to the First National Bank and deposited in
your name. The thief carried off a package of fake money."

"Rather high-handed weren't you?" commented her father.

"Now don't you scold her," spoke Mrs. Weems quickly. "I am glad Penny
acted as she did. Otherwise, I might have lost my entire inheritance."

Penny drew a deep breath. "I'm relieved you feel that way about it. I
wish I could see the burglar's face when he discovers he stole worthless

Both the housekeeper and Mr. Parker pressed her with questions. She
revealed exactly what had occurred during their absence, showing them the
strand of black silk rope.

"Dad, I think this may be a valuable clue," she declared. "What does it
suggest to you?"

"Not much of anything, I am afraid."

"You remember that when the Kohls were robbed the police couldn't figure
out how the burglar gained entrance?"

"Yes, I recall the story."

"Well, I believe the same man committed both burglaries."

"Why do you think so, Penny?"

"At the Kohl's the police found two marks on the window ledge apparently
made by iron hooks. Similar marks are on the sill in Mrs. Weems' room.
For that matter, I distinctly saw the iron pieces bite into the wood."

"Let's look at them," proposed Mr. Parker.

"Only the marks are there now, Dad. The man jerked the hooks loose after
he descended. They must have been attached to his ladder."

"I thought you said he had none, Penny."

"There was no time for him to have carried away an ordinary, heavy
ladder. I think the one he used must have been made of silk."

"And this is a piece of it!" Mr. Parker exclaimed, examining the twisted
strand with new interest. "Your theory sounds plausible. It would be
possible for a man to scale a wall with such a ladder."

"He could jerk loose the hooks in an instant, too, Dad. The ladder would
fit into a small suitcase, or even his pocket!"

"There's one objection to your theory, Penny. How could such a ladder be
raised to the window ledge? It naturally would be limp."

"That part has me puzzled, I'll admit."

"I never even heard of a silken ladder," said Mrs. Weems doubtfully.

"I once saw one being made," declared Penny with deliberate emphasis. "At
a Japanese Shop on Dorr Street."

"That's right, you spoke of it!" exclaimed her father. "Penny, you may
have something!"

"I think so, Dad. This strand of twisted silk may lead straight to Kano's
Curio Shop."

"And from there?"

Penny hesitated, glancing at Mrs. Weems. She knew that the housekeeper
might take offense, but she answered quietly:

"My guess would be to Al Gepper, Dad. Who but he or an accomplice could
have known where the money was hidden?"

                          _KANO'S CURIO SHOP_

As Penny had anticipated, Mrs. Weems indignantly declared that she did
not believe Mr. Gepper could have had any connection with the attempted
robbery. Yet, even as she made the assertion, a startled expression came
over her face.

"Think back, Mrs. Weems," urged Mr. Parker. "How many persons knew where
you had secreted the money?"

"I told Mrs. Hodges."

"And Al Gepper?" Penny probed.

"Well--" The housekeeper looked ill at ease. "He may have heard me
talking with Mrs. Hodges. I remember he passed through the hall while we
were together."

"What day was that?" inquired Penny.

"Yesterday. After the séance. But I can't believe that Mr. Gepper would
try to steal the money. I just can't!"

"From what Penny has told me of the man, I should judge that he is a
schemer," contributed Mr. Parker. "You know the _Star_ has started a
vigorous campaign directed against such mediums as Al Gepper."

"But he told me such remarkable things about Cousin David," protested
Mrs. Weems. "Facts which couldn't be faked."

"Oh, Gepper doesn't make many false moves," acknowledged Penny. "He's a
smooth worker. All the same, he's a fake."

"How could he have faked Cousin David's message? You forget we actually
saw the picture of my relative painted without the aid of a human hand."

"Did the picture closely resemble your cousin?" inquired Mr. Parker.

"Oh, yes, indeed. It looked exactly as I saw him many years ago."

"Isn't that rather odd?" demanded Penny. "One would expect Cousin David
to age a little."

"Penny believes that a photographer's agent who came here a few days ago
was sent by Gepper to obtain a picture of your relative," explained Mr.
Parker. "Did the man ask you many questions about your cousin?"

"Well, yes, he did," Mrs. Weems admitted unwillingly. "I made a mistake
giving him the photograph."

"It seems fairly evident that the picture was used by Gepper," Mr. Parker
commented. "Whether he plotted to steal your money remains to be proven.
Penny, you saw the man plainly?"

"No, I didn't, Dad. Not his face. He was about the same build as Gepper."

"That's not much to go on."

"From the first Gepper was determined to get Mrs. Weems' money, Dad. He
sent a man here who pretended to be from the Bierkamp Investment

"You didn't tell me that," said Mrs. Weems.

"Well, no I didn't. I was afraid you would invest your money with him, so
I drove the man away. He must have been Gepper's accomplice. Failing to
acquire the money by that means, he plotted the burglary."

"Surely you don't agree with Penny?" the housekeeper asked Mr. Parker

"In general, I am afraid I do. Mr. Gepper is an undesirable character,
and I should like nothing better than to send him to jail."

"Come upstairs, Mrs. Weems," urged Penny. "I'll show you the desk."

Both the housekeeper and Mr. Parker followed her to the second floor. An
examination of the bedroom disclosed no additional clues, but after
studying the marks on the window ledge, the publisher favored Penny's
theory that a silk ladder had been utilized.

"It was unwise of me to keep my money here," Mrs. Weems remarked in a
crestfallen tone. "I--I've been silly about everything, I guess."

Penny gave her a quick hug. "No, you haven't. Anyone might have been
taken in by Al Gepper."

"I shall never attend another of his séances. I'll urge Mrs. Hodges to
turn him from her house."

"Mrs. Weems, are you willing to help get evidence against him?" asked Mr.
Parker abruptly.

"Why, yes, if I can."

"Then go to the Hodges' exactly as you have in the past," instructed the
publisher. "Penny has been warned by Gepper not to attend any of the
séances, but you'll still be welcome. Learn everything you can and report
to me."

"I'll be glad to do it, Mr. Parker."

"Don't allow him to guess that you have become suspicious. Above all,
never withdraw your money from the bank at his suggestion."

"You may be sure I won't. This has taught me a bitter lesson."

"Haven't you an assignment for me, Dad?" inquired Penny. "How about
Kano's Curio Shop?"

"Early tomorrow I'll send Jerry there to question the old Jap."

"Will you notify the police?"

"Not for the present. If we can crack this story I'd like to get it ahead
of the _Record_."

"I wish you would send me to Kano's instead of Jerry."

"Dorr Street is no place for you, Penny," Mr. Parker replied, dismissing
the matter. "Shall we get to bed now? It's nearly midnight."

After the doors had been locked once more Penny went to her room, but she
did not immediately fall asleep. Instead, she kept mulling over the
events of the night. The more she thought about it the more firmly she
became convinced that both the Kohl home and her own had been entered by
the same person.

"The telephone was ringing when I came from the movie," she recalled.
"Now I wonder who called? It may have been a trick of the thief to learn
if anyone were in the house. When no one answered, the assumption would
be that the coast was clear."

Penny felt rather well satisfied with the way matters had developed. In
one bold stroke she had saved Mrs. Weems' inheritance, convinced the
housekeeper that Al Gepper was not to be trusted, and had made definite
progress in gaining evidence to be used in her father's campaign against
the charlatan invaders of Riverview. Yet it annoyed her that the story,
now that it had reached an active stage, was to be turned over to Jerry.

"I have a notion to visit the Kano Curio Shop ahead of him," she thought.
"That's exactly what I'll do!"

Having made up her mind, she rolled over and promptly fell asleep.

In the morning Penny ate breakfast and wiped the dishes with a speed
which astonished Mrs. Weems. Shortly after her father left for the
office, she backed her own maroon car from the garage, and offering only
a vague explanation, departed for Kano's Curio Shop.

Dorr Street was quite deserted at such an early hour, and the Japanese
shop owner had just unlocked his doors. He was sweeping the floor as
Penny boldly entered.

"Good morning, Mr. Kano," she greeted him. "You remember me, I believe?"

Mr. Kano bowed, regarding her warily. "Yes," he replied. "You are the
young lady whose curiosity is very large."

Penny smiled. "You are right, Mr. Kano. It is very large, especially
about a certain silken ladder."

Mr. Kano frowned as he leaned on his broom. "I am very sorry," he said.
"I am a merchant, not one who answers what you call the quiz-bee."

Penny understood that the Japanese never would tell her what she wished
to know save under compulsion. She decided to adopt firm tactics.

"Mr. Kano," she said, "my father is the owner of the _Riverview Star_ and
he intends to expose certain crooks who have been robbing wealthy persons
such as the Kohls. You read in the paper that their home was entered?"

"Yes, I read," the Japanese shrugged.

"My own theory is that the thief gained entrance by means of a silk
ladder," Penny declared. "_A ladder made in this shop!_"

The shopkeeper's eyes narrowed. "I know nothing," he replied. "Nothing.
You go now, please."

"If I go," said Penny, "I'll return with the police. You would not like
that, I take it?" Her voice was crisp and full of menace.

Mr. Kano lost some of his poise. "No!" he answered sharply. "I am an
honest man and want no sad trouble with the police."

Chancing to glance toward the street, Penny observed Jerry Livingston
standing on the opposite corner. He was gazing thoughtfully toward the
Curio Shop, and she knew that he must have been sent by her father to
interview Mr. Kano. Inspired, she turned again to the old Japanese.

"You see that young man yonder?" she asked, indicating Jerry. "I have but
to summon him and he'll come here."

"Detective?" demanded Mr. Kano, peering anxiously through the window. "Do
not call him! I am an honest man. I will answer your questions."

"Then tell me about the silken ladder."

"I know little," the shopkeeper insisted. "I made the rope for a man who
said: 'Do this or we will burn your shop down, Mr. Kano.' So I made the
ladder and he paid me well for fashioning it."

"And what was the man's name?"

"His name I do not know. But his eyes were small and evil. His skin was
dark, his nose crooked."

Mr. Kano ceased speaking with an abruptness which caused Penny to glance
toward the door. Her first thought was that Jerry had entered. Instead a
strange young man stood there, regarding her suspiciously.

As she stared at him he quickly retreated, but not before she had caught
a fleeting impression of a face which matched Mr. Kano's description with
startling accuracy.

"Was he the one?" she demanded as the door slammed. "The man for whom you
made the ladder?"

"No, no!" denied the Japanese.

His words failed to convince Penny. Darting to the door, she saw that the
young man already was far down the street, walking rapidly.

"He is the one," she thought. "I'll follow him."

"Wait," called the Japanese as she started away, "I have more to tell

It was a ruse to detain her, Penny knew. Pushing past the shopkeeper who
sought to bar the exit, she reached the street and ran toward Jerry

"Why, Penny!" he exclaimed in surprise. "What are you doing in this part
of town?"

"Never mind that," she answered hastily. "If you're after a story, come
along with me. We're trailing the man who just left Kano's Shop."

                            _THE BELL TOWER_

Jerry fell into step with Penny. As they walked along, she told him of
her conversation with Mr. Kano.

"I believe this man we're following is the same one who entered our house
last night," she declared. "He's the same build as the fellow I grabbed.
Besides, he fits Kano's description of the person who bought the silken

"Here's hoping you're right," replied Jerry. "If I muff this assignment,
I may wake up looking for another job."

Fearing that the man ahead would discover he was being followed, Jerry
and Penny dropped farther and farther behind. Presently they saw him
enter a pawnshop.

"I know that place," commented Jerry. "It's run by Spike Weiser, a
notorious _fence_. He buys stolen goods and gets rid of it at a profit.
Has a swell home on Clarmont Drive."

"Why don't the police arrest him?"

"Oh, they watch the place, but Spike is too smart to be caught. He has a
system for handling _hot_ goods."

"I'll venture some of the Kohl loot was sold through him, Jerry."

"It wouldn't surprise me. But if the police search the place they won't
find a thing."

Loitering on the opposite side of the street, Penny and the reporter kept
close watch of the pawnbroker's shop. Thirty minutes elapsed. The man
whom they had trailed, did not reappear.

"He must have slipped out the back door," Jerry remarked. "Probably knew
he was being watched."

"I'm beginning to think so myself."

Jerry glanced at his watch. "I can't take any more time," he said. "I'll
have to get back to the office."

"I'll watch a few minutes longer," answered Penny. "If anything develops
I'll try to telephone."

Jerry walked hurriedly away. Scarcely had he disappeared when the door of
the pawnshop opened, and the young man who had entered a half hour
earlier, appeared. Penny hastily moved back into the vestibule of an
office building.

Without observing her, the stranger crossed the street and walked briskly
toward an intersecting boulevard. There was no opportunity for Penny to
telephone the _Star_ office. Following, she was hard pressed to keep the
man within view.

Not until they reached the entrance of Butternut Lane did it dawn upon
her that the Celestial Temple might be their destination. Then, indeed,
her pulse stepped up a pace.

"It's exactly as I guessed!" she thought triumphantly. "He's connected
with Al Gepper and the other mediums!"

Not wishing to attract attention in the deserted lane, Penny took a short
cut through the cemetery, emerging at the rear of the Celestial Temple.
There was no door on that side of the building but a window had been left
raised. Placed beneath it, as if for her particular convenience, was a
large rock.

Penny stood on it, peering into the Temple. The room was unoccupied.
However, as she waited, the same man she had trailed, quietly let himself
in through the front entrance, using a key. He glanced about and called
in a low voice: "Pete! Pete! Anyone here?"

There was no answer, which seemed to please the young man. He moved
quickly down the aisle, crossed the platform to a door which opened into
the bell tower. Kneeling he began to fit keys into the lock, seeking one
which would serve.

As Penny watched, the young man suddenly straightened. Apparently he had
heard footsteps in the vestibule for he moved away from the bell tower

A middle-aged woman with dyed hair and a skin of unusual pallor entered
the Temple. She stopped short as she saw the young man.

"You here, Slippery?" she commented, gazing at him with distrust.
"Where's Pete?"

"Hello, Sade. I was wonderin' about Pete myself. Just got here a minute

The woman's gaze fastened upon the key which had been left in the bell
tower door.

"Say, what's coming off here?" she demanded. "You were trying to get

"Now don't ruffle your feathers, Sade," the man said soothingly. "I was
only testing the door to make sure it was locked."

"I'll bet! You were aiming to break in! Slippery, they sure named you
right. Why, you'd double-cross your own mother!"

"Oh, quiet down," the man retorted angrily. "I only came here to make
sure Pete was on the job. The lazy loafer has skipped out and left the
place unguarded."

The woman deliberately seated herself in a chair beside the bell tower

"I'm parking here until Pete shows up," she announced. "Maybe you're on
the square, Slippery, but I don't trust you."

"Thanks for your flattering opinion," the man responded mockingly. "You
give me a pain, Sade. I do all the dangerous work, and what do I get? A
measly ten per cent."

"Plus what you stick in your pocket when you're on a job," the woman shot
back with rising anger. "You've been doing pretty well for yourself,
Slippery--you and Al. But the boys are getting wise. From now on it may
not be so easy. Better play fair with the rest of us--or else."

"You always did have a wagging tongue," the man retorted. "Always trying
to stir up trouble. Don't you realize we've got to work together or we'll
be jailed separately? Our ranks must be united."

"Gettin' sort of jittery, ain't you?"

"Maybe you haven't been reading those editorials in the _Star_."

"Sure, I read them and get a big laugh. This guy Parker has to blow off
steam. Nothing will come of it."

"The police have visited this place once already."

"And what did they find? Nothing."

"That's no guarantee they won't try again. I tell you this town is
getting too hot for comfort."

"Figurin' on blowing?" the woman inquired, watching him shrewdly.

Slippery's laughter had an unpleasant edge. "You sure do get ideas, Sade.
Don't start peddling that line of talk. Understand?"

"I hear."

Suddenly losing his temper, the man strode nearer, seizing her arm.

"Just start something and see where you wake up!" he said harshly. "One
word to Pete or any of the boys and you won't do any more pretty fortune

The woman jerked her arm free, gazing at the man in sullen silence. Nor
did she speak as he left the Temple, slamming the door behind him.

                          _PENNY INVESTIGATES_

Penny debated whether or not to follow Slippery. Deciding that she should
try to keep him within sight, she abandoned her post beneath the window
and ran to the front of the building.

Already the young man was far down the lane, walking rapidly. Before
Penny could overtake him he hailed a taxi and drove away. By the time she
obtained another cab, pursuit was futile.

"To the _Star_ office," Penny ordered the driver.

Although Slippery had eluded her, she did not feel that her morning's
work had been wasted. She believed that her father would be very much
interested in a report of her findings.

"It's evident that Slippery is connected with Al Gepper and various
mediums of the Celestial Temple," she reflected. "I am sure, too, that
he's the one who broke into our house, but to prove it may not be so

Penny had not fully understood the conversation which she had overheard
between Slippery and Sade. That they distrusted each other was evident,
but why had the woman feared Slippery might break into the bell tower
during the guard's absence?

"Something of great value to the organization must be kept there," she
reasoned. "But what can it be?"

Penny believed that her father would not delay in requesting police to
search the bell tower of the Celestial Temple. However, a disappointment
awaited her.

Upon arriving at the newspaper office DeWitt stopped her as she went past
his desk.

"Don't go in there," he said, jerking his thumb toward Mr. Parker's
private room.

"Why not?" asked Penny in surprise. "Is Dad having a conference?"

DeWitt nodded as he composed a two column headline. "With J. P. Henley."

"The _Star's_ Sugar Daddy?"

"Our biggest advertiser. He's threatening to go over to the _Record_."

"Why, that's serious!"

"It is if he quits the _Star_. The old man--Mr. Parker--" DeWitt
corrected hastily, "has been trying to soften him up for the past two
hours. Whatever you do, don't bust in there now."

"I won't, Mr. DeWitt, but I did wish to see Dad."

"Anything I can do for you?"

Penny hesitated. "Well, I wanted to talk to him about something I learned
today at the Celestial Temple."

"Oh, yes," nodded the city editor, his attention on a sheet of copy. "Mr.
Parker is handling the campaign personally. Sorry I can't be of service."

Rather startled by DeWitt's unusual politeness, Penny glanced hopefully
toward Jerry Livingston's desk. It was littered with papers, but quite

With a sigh she left the building and walked to Dorr Street where she had
left her maroon car. Upon reaching home she found that Mrs. Weems was not
there and she had forgotten her own key. For a time she sat
disconsolately on the front porch. Then she decided to go to the Hudell
Garage where Leaping Lena had been left for repairs three days earlier.

The car was ready, and with it a bill for eight dollars and forty-two

"I'll have to give you a dollar on account and pay the remainder next
week," said Penny. "Or would you rather keep the car as a deposit?"

"Give me the dollar," said the garage man hastily.

Penny became even more depressed as she drove the automobile home. Not
for the world would she openly admit that she had made a mistake in
repurchasing Lena. Secretly she acknowledged that two cars were an
unbearable financial drain upon slender resources.

Turning into her own street, Penny saw Mrs. Weems walking toward home,
and stopped for her.

"I've just come from the Hodges'," the housekeeper commented, climbing
into the car.

"You have?" inquired Penny eagerly. "Did you learn anything?"

"No, I didn't. Mr. Gepper seemed very unwilling to conduct another
séance. He acted so different this time--almost as if he bore me a
personal grudge."

"He's probably provoked because your inheritance eluded him."

"He did tell Mrs. Hodges that he doubted I had any money," Mrs. Weems

"What happened at the séance?"

"Why, nothing. The table moved and we heard a few raps. That was all."

"No message from Cousin David?"

"Not a word or a sign. Mr. Gepper seemed very indifferent about it all.
He said he couldn't give me another appointment unless I paid for it."

"What do you think about him now?" Penny asked curiously. "Don't you
agree with Dad and me that he was after your money?"

"Yes, I was very silly," the housekeeper acknowledged. "Mrs. Hodges has
begun to lose faith in him, too. She says he's been bringing all sorts of
folks to her place. When she told him she didn't care to have the house
over-run with strangers, he became very unpleasant."

"You mean he threatened her?"

"In a mild way. He told her that he would stay as long as he pleased and
she could do nothing about it. Mrs. Hodges is afraid to go to the police
for fear she'll be arrested with Mr. Gepper."

"I wonder if he ever has charged for his séances?" Penny said

"I am sure he has, Penny. Of course I have no proof."

"Mrs. Weems, you must go there again this afternoon," Penny urged.
"Insist upon another séance, and pay him for it! Then you'll be able to
testify as a witness against him!"

"But I don't wish to go into court," the housekeeper protested. "Besides,
Mr. Gepper won't be at the cottage this afternoon."

"Where is he going?" Penny questioned alertly.

"I don't know. I heard him tell Mrs. Hodges he would be gone this
afternoon, but would return for an eight o'clock séance."

"Why, that's fine--wonderful!" chuckled Penny.

Mrs. Weems gazed at the girl with sudden suspicion. "Now what have you
thought up?" she demanded.

"Nothing alarming," grinned Penny. "I merely plan to visit Mr. Gepper's
studio during his absence. Who knows, I may yet master a few of the finer
points of ghost-making!"

                          _INSIDE THE CABINET_

Despite Mrs. Weems' protests, Penny remained firm in her decision to
investigate Mr. Gepper's studio. She ate a belatedly prepared lunch and
did not reach the Hodges' cottage until nearly four o'clock, having
driven there in Lena.

The doors were closed and Penny knocked several times without receiving a

"Everyone must have gone away," she thought. "Oh, dear, now what shall I

Penny reasoned that it was of vital importance for her to inspect Al
Gepper's room during his absence. She might never have another
opportunity. Yet she hesitated to enter the house while the Hodges were
away, even though she felt certain the seamstress would not mind.

Walking to the rear, Penny noticed that the porch screen had been left
unfastened. Entering the kitchen, she called Mrs. Hodges' name but
received no answer.

"If I wait for her to come home it may be too late," decided Penny. "This
is an emergency."

Her mind made up, she took the stairs two at a time to Al Gepper's room.
Her knock went unanswered. Satisfied that he was not there, she tried the
door and found it unlocked.

Penny raised a blind to flood light into the darkened room. Save that a
film of dust covered the furniture, everything was approximately the same
as she had last seen it.

Her gaze fell upon two suitcases which had been pushed beneath the bed.
The first contained only miscellaneous clothing. The second merited a
more careful inspection.

Almost at once Penny came upon an old faded picture, the one of Cousin
David which Mrs. Weems had given to the photographer's "agent."

"So that was how it was done!" she thought. "Al Gepper sent one of his
confederates to see Mrs. Weems and obtain information about her cousin.
The painting which appeared so miraculously during the séance was merely
a copy of this! Even so, how was it painted so quickly?"

Forgetting the picture for a moment, Penny picked up several newspaper
clippings which were fastened together with a rubber band. All had been
taken from the obituary column and concerned the death of well-to-do
Riverview persons.

"Al Gepper and his pals are ghouls!" Penny told herself. "They prey upon
the relatives of persons who have died, realizing that at such a time it
will be much easier to interest them in trying to communicate with the

Lifting a tray from the suitcase, her attention focused upon a small red
booklet. As she turned rapidly through it, a folded sheet of paper fell
to the floor.

Examining it, Penny saw a long list of names, together with pertinent
information about each person. Not only was the address and financial
standing of the individual given, but the deceased relatives in each
family and other facts of a personal nature. The list had been

"This must be a 'sucker' list!" thought Penny. "No wonder it's easy for a
medium to find victims and tell them astonishing facts."

Thrusting the paper into her pocket, she turned her attention to the
wardrobe closet. Al Gepper's clothes hung in orderly rows from the
hangers. Behind them, half hidden from view, was a small box.

Pulling it to the window, Penny examined the contents. There were many
bottles filled with chemicals, the names of which were unfamiliar. She
noted a bottle of varnish, another of zinc white, and some photographic
paper in a sealed envelope.

A glance satisfying her, she replaced the box and next turned her
attention to the cabinet behind the large circular table. Here she was
richly rewarded as her gaze fell upon a banjo.

"The same one which played during Mrs. Weems' séance!" she thought. "We
were able to see it in the dark because it's covered with luminous paint.
But what made it rise into the air, and how could it play without the aid
of human hands?"

Penny examined the instrument closely. She chuckled as she discovered a
tiny phonograph with a record built into its back side. As she pressed a
control lever, it began a stringed version of "Down Upon the Swanee

Quickly turning it off, she inspected other objects in the cabinet. At
once she found a rod which could be extended to a height of five feet.

"That's how the banjo was raised!" she reasoned. "And by use of this rod
it would be easy to make a ghost appear to float high overhead. This
luminous material must have been used."

Penny picked up a filmy robe, shaking out the many folds. While it was
clear to her that Al Gepper had employed the garment to materialize the
so-called spirit of Cousin David, she could only guess how he had made it
enlarge from a mere spot to a full sized figure.

"He must have wadded the cloth in his hand, and held it above his head,"
she mused. "Then he could have slowly shaken it out until it covered his
entire body. Thus the figure would appear to grow in size."

In one corner of the cabinet Penny came upon a luminous slate.

"This was used for Cousin David's message," she thought. "Al probably had
an assistant who wrote on it and thrust it through the curtain."

While many questions remained unanswered, Penny had obtained sufficient
evidence to indicate that Al Gepper was only a clever trickster. Greatly
elated, she decided to hasten to the _Star_ office to report her

Noticing that she had neglected to return the two suitcases to their
former places, Penny pushed them under the bed again. As she
straightened, a door slammed on the lower floor.

For an instant she hoped that it was Mrs. Hodges or her husband who had
come home. Then she heard footsteps on the stairs, and their rapidity
warned her that they could belong only to a young person.

Frantically, she gazed about the room. The cabinet seemed to offer the
safest hiding place. Slipping into it, she pulled the black curtain
across the opening.

                        _STARTLING INFORMATION_

Scarcely had Penny hidden herself when Al Gepper entered the room. With
him was the hook-nosed young man known as Slippery.

"I tell you, Al," the latter was saying, "this town is getting too hot
for comfort. We've got to blow."

"It was that Parker girl who queered everything," muttered Gepper. "How
could I know that her father was a newspaper publisher? He's stirred up
folks with his editorials."

"You never should have let her in here. We had a swell set-up, but now we
can expect a raid any day."

"I tell you I thought she was just a smart-aleck kid, a friend of the
Hodges'. Didn't learn until yesterday who she was."

"We've got to blow, Al. Sade's threatening to make trouble, too. She
thinks we're holding out on the others."

"We have picked up a little extra coin now and then."

"Sure, Al, but we've always been the brains of the outfit. We take most
of the risk, plan all the big jobs, so why shouldn't we have more?"

"It's time we cut loose from 'em, Slippery."

"Now you're talking! But we can't pull out until the Henley job comes
off. I've had a tip that the house is likely to be deserted tonight.
Let's make the haul and then skip."

"Okay," agreed Gepper. "I have some suckers coming for a séance at eight.
I'll get rid of them in quick time, and be waiting. So long, Slippery."

A door slammed, telling Penny that the hook-nosed man had left. She was
somewhat stunned by what she had overheard, believing that the Henley who
had been mentioned must be her father's chief advertiser.

Nervously she waited inside the cabinet, wishing that she might take her
information to the police. To her intense annoyance, Al Gepper did not
leave the room even for a moment.

Instead he threw himself on the bed and read a tabloid newspaper. After
an hour, he arose and began to prepare his supper on an electric grill.

Penny shifted from one position to another, growing more impatient. Every
time the man came toward the cabinet her heart beat a trifle faster. She
was quite sure the Hodges had not yet returned home, and should Al Gepper
discover her, he would not treat her kindly.

The medium finished his supper and stacked the dishes in the closet
without washing them. Then he started to get ready for the night's

Peeping from between the cracks of the curtain, Penny saw him seat
himself before the easel. With painstaking care he painted a picture of a
woman, using a photograph as a model. After a coating of varnish had been
applied, he allowed it to dry and afterwards covered the entire picture
with zinc white. The original painting was entirely hidden.

Penny knew that hours had elapsed. The room gradually darkened, and Al
Gepper turned on the lights.

"Oh, dear, I must get out of here soon!" the girl thought desperately.
"But if I make a break for it he'll be sure to see me. That will ruin all
my plans."

Eight o'clock came. Al Gepper put on his coat, combed his hair and was
alertly waiting when the doorbell rang. However, instead of descending
the stairs he shouted an invitation for the visitors to come up.

Two women in their early forties were ushered into the séance chamber, to
be followed almost immediately by an elderly man.

"We will start at once if you please," said Al Gepper brusquely. "I have
another engagement tonight. However, before the séance is undertaken I
must ask that each of you pay the required fee, five dollars."

The money was paid, and the three persons seated themselves at the table.
Gepper switched off the lights.

The séance began in much the same manner as the one Penny had attended.
The medium called upon the spirit of a woman named Flora to appear.

"Now concentrate hard--everyone," he instructed. "Flora, where are you?
Can you not show yourself that we may know it is truly your spirit which
communicates with us?"

From the cabinet, so close to Al Gepper that she could have touched his
hand, Penny was able to see his every move. Yet so swift was his next
action, that she barely discerned it.

Taking a wet sponge from his pocket he wiped it across the painting
previously prepared. The picture immediately became visible to the
audience as Gepper focused his flashlight on the canvas.

"That wasn't the way he made Mrs. Weems' picture appear," thought Penny.
"The fellow must have a great repertoire of tricks!"

The séance had become so interesting that she no longer thought of
escape. Nevertheless, she came to a sudden realization of her precarious
position as she heard the medium say that he would next endeavor to
persuade the Spirit of Flora to take actual shape. With a shock it dawned
upon her that in another moment the man would enter the cabinet to make
use of the luminous gauze robe and other paraphernalia.

Knowing that she could not hide from him, Penny decided upon a bold break
for freedom. Dropping the ghostly robe over her face and shoulders, she
pulled aside the dark curtain and flitted into the room.

Her dramatic entrance brought gasps of astonishment from the persons who
sat at the circular table. The medium, as dumbfounded as his audience
muttered: "What the dickens!" and pushed back his chair, his legs rasping
on the floor.

Penny did not linger, but darted past the group and groped for the door.
In the darkness she could not immediately find it. Her shining robe, on
the other hand, made her an easy target for Al Gepper.

Angrily the medium strode across the room, seizing her arm. She jerked
away, but he grasped a fold of the robe. It tore and was left behind.

At that critical instant, Penny's hand encountered the door. She swung it
open, and bounded down the stairway.

In the séance chamber a light went on, then the hallway became
brilliantly illuminated. But by that time the girl was in the dining

She could hear Al Gepper clattering down the steps, intent upon capturing
her. Penny was determined that he should never learn her identity.

Letting herself out of the house by way of the kitchen door, she decided
that if she attempted to cross the yard, the medium certainly would
recognize her. The woodpile offered a hiding place and she crouched
behind it.

Scarcely had she secreted herself, when Al Gepper ran into the yard. He
glanced about carefully and circled the house twice.

Finally, convinced that the "ghost" had escaped he came back to the
porch. His customers, greatly agitated by what had occurred, were
demanding explanations.

"Someone played a prank," Gepper explained briefly. "It will be
impossible to resume the séance for the spirits are offended. You will
leave, please."

The customers departed and the medium locked himself in the house. He did
not bother to lower the upstairs hall blind, and Penny caught occasional
glimpses of him as he moved to and fro.

"He's packing to leave!" she observed. "Unless I act in double-quick
time, he'll skip town! I must notify Dad and the police without an
instant's delay!"

                           _SCALING THE WALL_

The nearest drugstore with a public telephone was two blocks away. Penny
ran the distance, and slipping into the booth, she dialed the _Star_
office. Informed by the building switchboard operator that neither her
father nor DeWitt was available, she inquired for Jerry Livingston, and
to her relief was connected with him.

"Listen, Jerry, this is Penny!" she began excitedly. "I haven't time to
explain, but the lid is blowing off the fake spiritualist story! Rush the
police out to the Hodges' cottage and demand Al Gepper's arrest! Send
another squad or some private detectives to Mr. Henley's home."

"Henley!" Jerry exclaimed. "Say, have you gone loco?"

"I'm not making any mistakes," Penny replied tersely. "If you act quickly
we may prevent a robbery. I'm on my way there now to warn Mr. Henley! Oh,
yes, try to find Dad or DeWitt and warn them a big story is breaking!"

"Penny, what's this all about?" the reporter demanded. "I can't go to the
police unless I know what I am doing."

"You must, Jerry. I have plenty of evidence against Gepper and his crowd,
but unless you take the police to the Hodges' in the next fifteen minutes
it will be too late!"

Without giving Jerry opportunity to delay her with other questions, Penny
hung up the receiver. Hastening to the street, she gazed frantically
about for a taxi. None was to be had.

"I'll get to the Henley place quicker in Lena than by waiting for a cab
to come along," she thought.

The battered old car had been parked a short distance from the Hodges'
cottage. Hurrying there, Penny jumped into the ancient vehicle and
started the motor. As usual it made a loud clatter, but she did not
suspect that the sound carried far up the street. Nor did she guess that
Al Gepper stood at the darkened window of his room, watching her.

Penny drove as fast as she could to the Henley home in the southern
section of Riverview. Lights blazed from the downstairs windows.

Abandoning her car in the driveway, she rang the doorbell. After a long
wait, a maid appeared.

"Is Mr. Henley here?" Penny asked breathlessly. "Or Mrs. Henley? It's
most important that I talk with them at once."

"Mrs. Henley has been at the seashore for a month," the maid replied in
an agitated voice. "Mr. Henley is somewhere downtown. I've been trying to
get him, but the telephone wire has been cut!"

"The house hasn't been robbed?"

"Mrs. Henley's jewelry has been taken! I don't know what else."

"When did it happen?" Penny asked.

"It must have been during the last half hour. I went to the corner store
for a book of stamps. When I came back five minutes ago I discovered what
had occurred. I ought to call the police, but I am afraid to do it until
I've talked with my employer."

"The police already have been notified," said Penny. "They'll be here any

"But how did you know--?" the maid began in astonishment.

Penny had turned away. She was convinced that the burglary had been
committed by Slippery. Perhaps, by this time he had fled town, but she
did not believe he would leave without his pal, Al Gepper.

Climbing into the car again, Penny debated. It was reasonable to suppose
that, having accomplished the burglary, Slippery would return to the
Hodges' cottage to meet the medium.

"If he does, the police should be on hand to seize him," she thought. "At
least, he and Al will be held for questioning. But there's one place I
forgot to cover--the Celestial Temple."

Like a flash came the recollection that Slippery had been deeply
interested in something which was guarded in the bell tower. Was it not
possible that he might return there before leaving Riverview?

Shifting gears, Penny turned the car and headed for Butternut Lane.
Anxiously, she glanced at the gasoline gauge. It registered less than a
gallon of fuel and she had used her last dime in the telephone booth.

"If I coast on all the downgrades I should just make it," she estimated.

In starting for the Celestial Temple Penny was acting upon a "hunch."
However, it disturbed her that the Henley burglary had been accomplished,
and she was afraid she might again be wasting precious time. Now that it
was too late, she wondered if it would not have been wiser to remain at
the Hodges' cottage until the police arrived.

"I only hope that end of the affair isn't bungled," she thought. "I'll
never get over it if Al and Slippery both escape."

Penny had reached the entrance to Butternut Lane. Parking at the side of
the road, she continued afoot toward the Celestial Temple.

From a distance the building appeared dark. However, as she drew closer
she could distinguish a dim light. Inside the Temple, a stout man wearing
a hat sat with his chair tilted against the door of the bell tower room.

"He must be the guard," thought Penny. "Probably the one they call Pete."

Suddenly she paused, retreating into a clump of elder bushes near the
walk. From the direction of the cemetery a figure emerged. At first, all
that Penny could distinguish was a man carrying a suitcase. As he drew
closer, her pulse quickened. Unmistakably, it was Slippery.

Without passing the bushes where the girl had taken refuge, the man
walked on toward the Temple. Presently he halted. Glancing carefully
about to assure himself that he was unobserved, he shoved his suitcase
into the tall weeds which lined the walk. Then he moved to one of the
Temple windows, peering into the gloomy interior.

"Now what?" thought Penny, watching alertly. "This should prove

Slippery remained beneath the window a minute or two. Instead of entering
the Temple, he presently returned to the high weeds, stooping to remove
some object from his suitcase. Hiding it under his coat, he circled the
building and approached the side adjoining the cemetery.

Thoroughly mystified, Penny cautiously followed, taking care that her
body cast no shadow which would attract Slippery's attention.

The man seemed deeply engrossed in the task he had set for himself. From
his coat he took a collapsible rod which he extended to the approximate
length of a fish pole. To its end he attached a trailing silken ladder.

Deftly the man raised the ladder until two metal hooks bit into a
projection of the bell tower. He tested the ropes to make certain they
would bear his weight then, with the agility of a cat, mounted the silken
rungs. Penny saw him disappear into the bell tower.

"Now why did he climb up there?" she asked herself. "He must be after
something hidden in the belfry."

Penny knew that she was a long distance from police aid, but it was
unthinkable that Slippery should be allowed to escape. Impulsively, she
moved from her hiding place to the base of the tower.

Grasping the silken ladder, she gave it a quick jerk which dislodged the
two iron hooks. Down it tumbled into her arms, leaving the man trapped in
the turret.

"He'll never dare call for help when he discovers what has happened,"
reasoned Penny. "If he does, the guard, Pete, will have something to

Rolling the ladder into a small bundle, she started across the clearing,
intending to seek the nearest telephone. With no thought of lurking
danger, she brushed past a clump of bushes. A hand reached out and
grasped her arm.

Penny screamed in terror and tried to break free. The hand help her in a
grip of steel.

As she struggled, her captor emerged from the shelter of leaves. It was
Al Gepper.

"I thought I might find you here, my little one," he said grimly. "You
have had your fun. Now you must pay, and the entertainment shall be

                       _A PRISONER IN THE BELFRY_

Penny tried to scream, only to have Al Gepper clamp his hand over her

"None of that!" he said harshly. "Behave yourself or you'll get rough

Inside the Temple, lights suddenly were turned on, for the brief struggle
had been heard by Pete. The squat, stupid-faced man appeared in the
doorway of the building, peering down the lane.

"Who's there?" he demanded suspiciously.

Al Gepper uttered an angry word beneath his breath. It was not to his
liking that Pete should be drawn into the affair. However, he could not
avoid detection.

"It's Al!" he called softly. "This girl broke up my séance tonight, and I
trailed her here. She was prowling around the bell tower."

As he spoke, he dragged Penny toward the Temple entrance. His words
convinced her that he had not observed her remove the silken ladder from
the belfry wall, nor was he aware that Slippery was a prisoner in the

"Let's have a look at her," said Pete. He flashed a light directly into
Penny's face.

"She's the Parker girl--daughter of the publisher," informed Al.

"Yeah," commented Pete. "I saw her at one of our meetings. Another girl
was with her. How much has she learned?"

"Enough to get us all run out of town. The question is, what shall we do
with her?"

"Bring her inside, and we'll talk it over," said Pete. "Maybe we ought to
call a meeting."

"No," replied Al Gepper impatiently, shoving Penny through the doorway.
"We can take care of this ourselves."

The door was locked from the inside. Al pushed Penny into a chair on the
front platform.

"Now sit there," he ordered. "One peep out of you and we'll tie you up
and tape your mouth. Understand?"

"_Oui, oui, Monsieur_," said Penny, mockingly.

The two men stepped a few paces away and began to whisper together. Pete
seemed to protest at Al's proposals.

Penny watched them uneasily, speculating upon their final decision.
Whatever it was, she would never be given an opportunity to report to the
police until it was too late to apprehend members of the Temple.

"I was stupid not to realize that Gepper might trail me," she told
herself. "If only I had used an ounce of caution, I might have brought
about the capture of the entire gang. Not to mention a grand scoop for
Dad's paper."

Penny slumped lower in her chair. Her own predicament concerned her far
less than the knowledge that she had bungled a golden opportunity.

Speculatively, her gaze shifted toward the bell tower room. The door was
closed and she believed that it must be locked. There was no sound from
the belfry, adding to her conviction that the man imprisoned there was
fearful of attracting attention to his plight.

Al Gepper and Pete came toward her. With no explanation, the medium
seized her arm and ordered her to walk toward the exit.

"Where are you taking me?" Penny asked.

"Never mind. You'll find out in good time."

"Wait!" exclaimed Penny, bracing her legs and refusing to be pushed. "If
you'll let me go, I'll tell you something very much worth your while."

Deliberately, she allowed the silken ladder to slip from beneath her
coat. The men would not have heeded her words, but the familiar object
served its purpose.

"Where did you get that ladder?" demanded Al Gepper.

"So you would like to know what became of your friend, Slippery?"
responded Penny evenly. "You'll be surprised when I tell you that he has
double-crossed you both!"

"You're lying," accused Gepper.

Penny shrugged and did not speak.

"What were you going to say?" Gepper prodded in a moment. "Out with it!
How did you get Slippery's ladder?"

"It fell into my hands, literally and figuratively."

"Stalling for time will get you nowhere," snapped Gepper, losing
patience. "If you know anything about Slippery spill it fast or you'll
not have another chance."

"Your friend tried to double-cross you," declared Penny. She decided to
make a shrewd guess. "Tonight, after he robbed the Henley home he came
here intending to loot the bell tower."

"Why, the dirty sneak!" exclaimed Pete.

"Weren't you here on guard all evening?" Gepper demanded, turning to him.

"Sure, I was. I never set foot outside the building."

"Slippery wasn't here?"

"Haven't seen him since yesterday morning."

"Then the girl is lying!"

"Oh, no, the girl isn't," refuted Penny. "If you care for proof you'll
find it in the tower."


"I mean Slippery. He's hiding in the belfry now, hoping you'll not
discover him there. You see, he scaled the wall by means of this silk
ladder. I removed the ladder, and I assume he's still up there."

"Why, the low-down skunk!" Pete exclaimed wrathfully. "So he planned to
rob us! I'll get him!"

Leaving Al to watch Penny, the guard ran to the tower room door and
unlocked it. Stealthily he crept up the iron stairway which led to the

Suddenly those below heard a cry of rage, followed by the sound of
scuffling. Al Gepper listened tensely, yet made no move to join the
fight. He remained standing between Penny and the outside door.

"You were right," he admitted in a stunned voice. "Slippery's up there.
He meant to get all the swag for himself."

The fight increased in intensity as the two men struggled on the belfry
steps. Over and over they rolled, first one delivering a hard blow, and
then the other. Still locked, they finally toppled to the floor, but even
then Al Gepper remained a bystander.

Penny was less concerned with the fight than with thoughts of escape. She
had hoped that Al, too, would join the battle. Apparently, he was taking
no chance of letting her get away.

She considered attempting a sudden break for freedom, but immediately
abandoned it. The outside door had been locked by Pete. Before she could
turn the key, Al would be upon her. As for the windows, none were open.
While they might not be locked, it was out of the question to reach one
quickly enough.

Penny's gaze roved to the tower room once more, and the struggling men.
High above their heads she saw something which previously had not drawn
her attention. It was a loop of rope, hanging from the belfry.

"Why, that must be attached to the old church bell!" thought Penny. "If
only I could reach it, I might be able to bring help here."

However, the rope dangled high overhead. Even if she were able to reach
the room leading to the tower, there was nothing upon which she could
stand to grasp the loop. Obviously the rope had been cut short years
before to prevent anyone from ringing the bell.

Penny glanced toward Al Gepper. The medium's gaze was upon the two
struggling men, not her. A golden opportunity presented itself, if only
she had the wits to make use of it.

Almost at the girl's feet lay the tangle of silken ladder. As she stared
at it, a sudden idea took possession of her. The iron hooks would serve
her purpose, but dared she try it? If she failed--and the chances were
against her--punishment would be certain.

Yet, if she did nothing and merely waited, it was likely that Al Gepper
and his pals never would be brought to justice. She must take the chance,
no matter how great the personal risk.

For a moment Penny remained inactive, planning what she must do. If she
made a single mistake, fumbled at the critical instant, everything would
be lost. Above all, her aim must be accurate. If she missed the loop--

Slippery and Pete were beginning to tire, their blows becoming futile and
ineffective. Further delay in executing her plan only increased the
danger. She must act now or never.

Her mind made up, Penny no longer hesitated. With a quick movement she
seized the silken ladder and darted to the doorway of the bell tower.

"Hey!" shouted Al Gepper, starting after her.

Penny slammed the door in his face. Taking careful aim, she hurled the
silken ladder upward. One of the iron hooks caught in the loop of the
rope. She jerked on it, and to her joy, the bell began to ring.

                            _THE WOODEN BOX_

Penny pulled the rope again and again, causing the huge bell to sway back
and forth violently. It rang many times before Al Gepper succeeded in
opening the tower room door.

His face was crimson with fury when he seized the girl, hurling her away
from the rope. With one quick toss he released the hooks of the silken
ladder, stuffing the soft strands beneath his coat. The bell made a final
clang and became silent.

Penny retreated against the wall, anticipating severe punishment for her
act. However, Al and his companions were more concerned with thoughts of
escape than with her.

"We've got to get out of here," muttered Al. "Come on!"

The two men on the floor had ceased their struggles. Painfully they
regained their feet. In this sudden emergency they had forgotten their

"What shall we do about the box in the tower?" Pete demanded, nursing a
swollen eye.

"Leave it here," returned Al. "We can't save anything now. The police are
apt to swoop down on us any minute."

Turning, he fled to the street. Pete and Slippery hesitated, then
followed. Penny heard a key turn in the lock. Even before she tested the
door she knew she had been imprisoned in the tower room.

"They've escaped after all," she thought dismally. "But I may have saved
some of the loot. I'll take a look."

Quickly she climbed the iron stairs to the belfry. From the turret she
obtained a perfect view of the entire Lane. Al Gepper was running down
the street, while Pete and Slippery had turned toward the cemetery.

There were no other persons in the vicinity, Penny thought at first
glance. Then her heart leaped as she saw three men entering the Lane at
its junction with the main street. They, too, were running.

"They must have heard the bell!" she told herself. "Oh, if only I can
make them understand what has happened!"

Her best means of attracting attention was by ringing the bell. She
pushed against it and was rewarded by a deafening clang.

The men stopped short, staring toward the belfry. Penny cupped her hands
and shouted. Her words did not carry plainly, but the newcomers seemed to
gain an inkling of what was amiss, for they wheeled and began to pursue
the two who had taken refuge in the cemetery.

From her high perch, Penny saw Al Gepper nearing the end of the Lane,
unobserved by all save herself. Tapping the bell again, she called:

"Get him, too! At the end of the street!"

One of the pursuers halted, turning toward the tower. In the moonlight
Penny saw his face and recognized Jerry Livingston. He was close enough
now to hear her voice.

"It's Al Gepper!" she shouted. "Don't let him escape!"

The reporter turned, but as he started off in the new direction, both he
and Penny saw the fleeing man climbing into Leaping Lena. With a grinding
of gears, he drove away. Jerry stopped, thinking that he never could
overtake the car.

"Keep after him, Jerry!" encouraged Penny. "The gas tank is almost empty.
He can't possibly go more than three or four blocks!"

As the reporter again took up the chase, she began tolling the bell once
more, determined to arouse everyone within a mile of the Temple.

Her energy was rewarded, for in another minute she heard the familiar
wail of a siren. A police cruiser swerved alongside the tower, stopping
with a lurch.

"What's the idea of ringing that bell?" demanded an officer, leaping to
the ground.

Tersely Penny explained the situation. The two policemen took a short-cut
through a vacant lot, circling the cemetery. Darkness swallowed them, but
presently there came a muffled command to halt, followed by a revolver

So excited was Penny that she nearly tumbled from the bell tower.
Recovering her balance, she sat on the stone ledge, trying to remain
calm. Her nerves were jumpy and on edge.

"If only Jerry captures Al Gepper--that's all I ask!" she breathed.

As the minutes elapsed, it occurred to her that she had not yet searched
for the loot which she believed to be hidden in the belfry. With questing
fingers she groped beneath the ledge. For a short distance she felt
nothing. Then she encountered a long wooden box.

Before she could open it, she heard shouts from the direction of the
cemetery. Four men, two of them police officers, were marching Slippery
and Pete toward the Temple. As they came nearer she received another
pleasant surprise. The two who had aided in the capture were her father
and Salt Sommers, a photographer for the _Star_.

"Dad!" shouted Penny. "Can you get me down from this pigeon roost?"

Mr. Parker, separating from the others, came to the foot of the bell

"So it was you who sounded the alarm!" he exclaimed. "I might have known!
How did you get up there?"

"I'm locked in. Dad, send the police to help Jerry. He's after Al Gepper
who rode off in my car."

The police cruiser was dispatched, leaving one officer to guard the two
prisoners. Mr. Parker unlocked the door of the tower room, releasing his

"You're all right?" he asked anxiously.

"Of course. Here's a little present for you." Penny thrust the wooden box
into his hands.

"What's this?"

"I don't know yet. I found it hidden in the belfry."

"Penny, if you fell into a river you would come up with a chest of gold!"
exclaimed the publisher admiringly.

"Open it quick, Dad."

Mr. Parker required no urging. The box was locked but he pried off the
cover hinges, exposing the contents.

"A real treasure!" exclaimed Penny.

The box contained several bracelets, one of them set with rubies and
diamonds, countless rings, four watches, and several strings of matched

"Stolen loot!" ejaculated the publisher.

"And what a collection!" chuckled Penny as she examined the separate
pieces. "There's enough plunder here to start a jewelry store."

"Likewise sufficient evidence to put this Celestial Temple gang out of
circulation for a long, long time," added her father.

"I learned a lot tonight, Dad. Wait until I tell you!"

"A scoop for the _Star_?"

"You'll be able to use your largest, blackest headlines."

Penny began to tell her story, interrupting only when Slippery and Pete
were brought into the building handcuffed together. Starting again, she
made her charges, accusing Slippery not only of having committed the
Henley burglary, but also of having robbed the Kohls and many prominent
Riverview families.

After inspecting the jewelry found in the wooden box, one of the police
officers definitely identified several of the pieces as stolen goods. He
expressed an opinion that the jewelry had been hidden in the belfry
because it was too "hot" to be disposed of by fences.

"The organization members had an agreement by which all shared in the
loot," added Penny. "That caused trouble. Al Gepper and Slippery thought
they were taking most of the risk without sufficient return. So they
pulled a few extra jobs of their own."

Before she could reveal more, the police car was heard outside the
Temple. From the window Penny saw that Jerry and the policeman were
returning with Al Gepper who had been handcuffed.

"They've caught him!" she cried jubilantly.

The prisoner was brought into the Temple to be identified. He had been
captured when Leaping Lena had stalled for lack of gasoline.

As Gepper was searched, the silken ladder, and various small objects were
removed from his coat. Penny noticed two tiny rubber suction cups no
larger than dimes, and immediately made up her mind that later she would
try to obtain them. She was quite certain she knew their purpose.

Penny told her story and learned, in turn, that after she had telephoned
Jerry, he had traced her father, and with the police both had hastened to
the Hodges' cottage. Arriving there, they discovered that Gepper had
fled. Jerry, Mr. Parker, and Salt Sommers had immediately proceeded to
the Celestial Temple.

"It was lucky you rang that bell, Penny," chuckled Jerry. "If you hadn't,
we never would have arrived here in time."

"It was lucky, too, that Mr. Gepper tried to escape in Lena," she
laughed. "I guess my old rattle-trap has redeemed itself."

One of the officers picked up the silken ladder, examining it with
critical interest. He agreed that it had undoubtedly been used in many
mysterious burglaries committed during the past month.

"It's obvious that Slippery approached the houses on the 'blind' side,
and scaled the wall after hooking his ladder into a window ledge," Penny
remarked. "I suppose he reasoned that second-story windows nearly always
are left unlocked. But how did he learn the houses were deserted? By

"That would be my opinion," nodded the policeman. "If someone answered,
he could hang up. Otherwise, he would be fairly sure the house was

"One night at the theatre I saw a man who resembled Slippery noting down
the license number of the Kohl car. But the house was robbed within a few
hours after that. How could he have obtained the name and address?"

"Easily. There are 'information fences' who supply such data to fellow
members of the underworld. It is also possible that Slippery previously
had watched the Kohl house, obtained the car license number, and then
watched for it later at the theatre."

Jerry already had supplied police with the name of the fence whose
establishment Slippery had visited earlier in the day. Later, a raid
staged there brought to light much loot taken from various Riverview

However, for the moment, police were most interested in gaining complete
information which could be used in rounding up all members of the
Celestial Temple Society who had not fled the city.

Searching Slippery they found, not only jewelry stolen from the Henley
residence, but a booklet containing many names and telephone numbers.

"Sadie Beardsell," Penny read. "She's one of the members, I am sure."

Lest Mr. and Mrs. Hodges might also be arrested, she explained that the
old couple had been an innocent dupe of Al Gepper. Turning to the medium
she said:

"I think I know how you accomplished most of your tricks. Of course, you
were the one who sent Mrs. Hodges a letter with six dollars. Undoubtedly,
you had it mailed by an accomplice from New York at exactly the hour you
specified. Then at that same hour you slipped up to the Hodges' cottage,
and rapped six times on the bedroom wall."

"You seem to have everything figured out," Al Gepper responded
sarcastically. "Clever girl!"

"I saw how you made the spirit painting tonight at the séance," resumed
Penny. "May I ask if that same method was used in regard to Mrs. Weem's
picture of Cousin David?"

She did not dream that the medium would answer her question. With a shrug
which implied that the entire matter was very boring, he replied:

"No, the picture was painted with a solution of sulphocyanid of potassium
and other chemicals, invisible until brought out with a re-agent. During
the séance, an assistant sprayed the back of the canvas with an atomizer,
bringing out the colors one by one."

"And how was the paint made to appear wet?"

"Poppy oil."

"One more question, Mr. Gepper. I never could understand how you were
able to raise the kitchen table at Mrs. Hodges' cottage."

"No?" Al Gepper smiled mockingly. "I assure you I had nothing to do with
that demonstration. It was a true spirit manifestation."

"I'll never believe that," declared Penny.

"Then figure it out for yourself," replied the medium. "You are such a
very brilliant child."

Before the prisoners were led to the police car, Salt Sommers set up his
camera and took a number of flashlight pictures for the _Star_.

"How about it, Mr. Parker?" inquired Jerry eagerly. "Are we putting out
an extra?"

"We are," said the publisher crisply. "This is the big break I've been
hoping we would get! We should beat the _Record_ on the story by at least
a half hour."

The three men hurriedly left the Celestial Temple, with Penny trailing
behind them. At the main street intersection they finally obtained a

"To the _Star_ office," Mr. Parker ordered. "An extra dollar if you step
on it."

"How about my pictures?" Salt Sommers asked, as the cab rocked around a
corner. "They ought to be dandies."

"Rush them through as soon as we get to the office," Mr. Parker
instructed. "If they're any good we'll run 'em on page one. Jerry, you
handle the story--play it for all it's worth."

Jerry glanced at Penny who sat very still between her father and Salt.
Their eyes met.

"Chief," he said, "there's a sort of fraternity among reporters--an
unwritten rule that we never chisel on each other's work."

"What's that?" Mr. Parker asked, startled. "I don't get it."

Then his glance fell upon his daughter, and he smiled.

"Oh, so it's that way! You think Penny should write the story?"

"I do, Chief. It's hers from the ground floor up."

"Please, Dad, may I?" Penny pleaded.

The cab rolled up to the _Star_ office, stopping with a jerk. Mr. Parker
swung open the door, helping her alight.

"The story is yours, Penny," he said. "That is, if you can crack it out
fast enough to make the extra."

"I'll do it or die in the attempt."

"Keep to the facts and write terse, simple English--" Mr. Parker began,
but Penny did not wait to hear his instructions.

With a triumphant laugh, she ran ahead into the _Star_ office. Her entry
into the newsroom was both dramatic and noisy.

"Big scoop, Mr. DeWitt," she called cheerily. "Start the old print
factory running full blast!"

Dropping into a chair behind the nearest typewriter, she began to write.


Penny stood at the window of her father's office, listening to the
newsboys crying their wares on the street.

"_Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Police Capture Three in Raid on
Celestial Temple! Extra! Extra!_"

Mr. Parker rocked back in his swivel chair, smiling at his daughter.

"Your story was first-class, Penny," he said. "Thanks to you we scooped
the _Record_. Tired?"

"I do feel rather washed out," Penny admitted. "Writing at high speed
with a deadline jabbing you in the back is worse than facing a gang of
crooks. But it was exciting."

"You turned in a good story," her father praised again. "In fact, you may
as well take credit for breaking up that outfit of fake spiritualists."

"So far the police have only captured Al Gepper, Slippery and Pete.
There's not much evidence against the others."

"True, but rest assured those who aren't rounded up will leave Riverview.
The backbone of the organization has been smashed."

Penny sank wearily into a chair, picking up a copy of the _Star_ which
lay on her father's desk. Two-inch, black headlines proclaimed the
capture, and opening from the banner was her own story tagged with a
credit line: _by Penelope Parker_. Salt Sommer's photographs had made the
front page, too, and there was a brief contribution by Jerry telling of
Al Gepper's attempted flight in Leaping Lena.

"Dad, you must admit that it was a stroke of genius when I bought back
that old car," remarked Penny. "Why, if it hadn't been for Lena, Al
Gepper surely would have escaped."

"That and the fact you always run your cars on an empty tank," responded
Mr. Parker. "I suppose you foresaw the future when you made your
brilliant purchase?"

"Not exactly. It was just a feeling I had--the same sort of hunch which
came to me when I found the silken ladder at Kano's Curio Shop. If I
depended upon a mere brain to solve mysteries, why I'd be no better than
the police."

"Your modesty overwhelms me," chuckled her father. "I'm thankful my other
reporters aren't guided by their instincts. Otherwise I might have a
scoop a day."

"There's one thing which annoys me," Penny said, frowning.

"And what is that?"

"Two of Al Gepper's tricks haven't been explained. How was he able to
raise a table and read a message in a sealed envelope?"

"I was talking to the Chief of Police about that letter trick only this
morning, Penny. Magicians often employ it. Wasn't the message written on
a pad of paper before it was placed in the envelope?"

"Yes, it was."

"Then very likely Gepper read the message from the pad. He could have
placed carbon paper beneath the second or third sheets. Possibly he
resorted to a thin covering of paraffin wax which would be less

"Now that I recall it, he did glance at the pad! How would you guess he
lifted the table?"

"Were his hands held high above it, Penny?"

"Only an inch or two. However, he never touched the table. I was able to
see that."

"Could he have used sharp, steel pins held between his fingers?"

"I doubt it. But I think I know what he may have used! Did you notice two
small suction cups which were taken from his pockets by the police?"

"Well, no, I didn't, Penny."

"The longer I mull over it, the more I'm convinced he used them to raise
the table. They could be held between the fingers and wouldn't be
observed in a darkened room. Dad, if I can get those rubber cups from the
police, I'll have some fun!"

The telephone rang. It was Mrs. Weems calling to ask if Penny were safe.
Mr. Parker replied in the affirmative and handed the receiver to his

"Penny, I just read your story in the paper," the housekeeper scolded.
"You never should have pitted yourself against those dangerous men! I
declare, you need someone to watch you every minute."

"I need you," said Penny. "And so does Dad. Why not promise to stay with
us instead of going away on a trip?"

"Of course, I'll remain," came Mrs. Weems' surprising answer. "I made up
my mind to that two days ago. You and your father never could take care
of yourselves."

"What will you do with your inheritance, Mrs. Weems?"

"I hope your father will invest it for me," replied the housekeeper
meekly. "One thing I know. No medium will tell me what to do with it."

The hour was late. Penny felt relieved when her father locked his desk in
preparation for leaving the office.

They walked through the newsroom, down the stairway to the street. A
middle-aged man in a brown suit and derby hat alighted from a taxi,
pausing as he saw them.

"Mr. Parker!" he called. "May I speak with you?"

The publisher turned, recognizing him. "Mr. Henley!" he exclaimed.

"I have just come from the police station," the advertiser said in an
agitated voice. "I was told that your daughter is responsible for the
capture of the men who robbed our home tonight."

"Yes, Penny managed to have a rather busy evening," smiled Mr. Parker. "I
hope you suffered no loss."

"Everything was recovered, thanks to your daughter. Miss Parker, I
realize I never can properly express my appreciation."

"I was sorry I couldn't prevent the burglary," replied Penny stiffly. "As
it turned out, the capture of the crooks was mostly due to luck."

"You are too modest," protested Mr. Henley. "I've talked with the police,
you know. I am truly grateful."

The man hesitated, evidently wishing to say more, yet scarcely knowing
how to shape his words. Penny and her father started to move away.

"Oh, about that contract we were discussing today," the advertiser said

"Yes?" Mr. Parker paused.

"I've been thinking it over. I acted too hastily in deciding to cancel."

"Mr. Henley, please do not feel that you are under obligation," said the
publisher quietly. "Even though Penny accidentally did you a favor--"

"It's not that," Mr. Henley interrupted. "The _Star_ is a good paper."

"The best in Riverview," said Penny softly.

"Yes, it is!" Mr. Henley declared with sudden emphasis. "I tell you,
Parker, I was irritated because of a trivial mistake in my firm's copy.
I've cooled off now. Suppose we talk over the matter tomorrow at lunch."

"Very well," agreed Mr. Parker. "The Commodore Hotel at one."

Bowing to Penny, Mr. Henley retreated into a waiting taxi and drove away.

"How do you like that, Dad?" Penny inquired after a moment's silence.

"I like it," answered Mr. Parker. "The _Star_ could have limped along
without Mr. Henley. But the going would have been tough."

"He'll renew the old contract?"

"Oh, yes, and probably give us a better one. Stealing Mr. Henley's words,
I am truly grateful."

Penny gazed at her father with twinkling eyes.

"Are those idle words, Dad? Or are you willing to back them in a material

"I might," grinned Mr. Parker. "Present your bill."

"Well, Dad, I've discovered to my sorrow that I can't support two cars on
my present allowance. I need a generous raise."

"You could get rid of Lena."

"Why, Dad! After her noble work tonight!"

"No, I suppose not," sighed Mr. Parker. "You've earned an increase, and I
may as well grant it."

"Retroactive to the time I started working on the story," added Penny. "I
figure if you pay back allowance, I'll be solvent once more!"

"You drive a hard bargain," chuckled the publisher. "But I'll agree."

Arm in arm, they started on down the street. Rounding a corner of the
_Star_ building they abruptly paused before the plate-glass window to
watch a long, unbroken sheet of white paper feed through the thundering
press. Freshly inked newspapers, cut and folded, slid out one upon the
other to be borne away for distribution.

"It's modern magic, isn't it, Dad?" Penny said reflectively as the great
machine pounded in steady rhythm.

"Yes, Penny," her father agreed. "And for this edition, at least, you
were the master magician!"

                                THE END

                          Transcriber's Notes

--Replaced the list of books in the series by the complete list, as in
  the final book, "The Cry at Midnight".

--Silently corrected a handful of palpable typos.

--Conforming to later volumes, standardized on "DeWitt" as the name of
  the city editor.

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