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´╗┐Title: Constance Dunlap
Author: Reeve, Arthur B. (Arthur Benjamin), 1880-1936
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 "Constance Dunlap" ***

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



THE CRAIG KENNEDY SERIES



CONSTANCE DUNLAP

BY

ARTHUR B. REEVE


WITH FRONTISPIECE



CONTENTS

CHAPTER

    I THE FORGERS
   II THE EMBEZZLERS
  III THE GUN RUNNERS
   IV THE GAMBLERS
    V THE EAVESDROPPERS
   VI THE CLAIRVOYANTS
  VII THE PLUNGERS
 VIII THE ABDUCTORS
   IX THE SHOPLIFTERS
    X THE BLACKMAILERS
   XI THE DOPE FIENDS
  XII THE FUGITIVES



CONSTANCE DUNLAP



CHAPTER I

THE FORGERS


There was something of the look of the hunted animal brought to bay at
last in Carlton Dunlap's face as he let himself into his apartment late
one night toward the close of the year.

On his breath was the lingering odor of whisky, yet in his eye and hand
none of the effects. He entered quietly, although there was no apparent
reason for such excessive caution. Then he locked the door with the
utmost care, although there was no apparent reason for caution about
that, either.

Even when he had thus barricaded himself, he paused to listen with all
the elemental fear of the cave man who dreaded the footsteps of his
pursuers. In the dim light of the studio apartment he looked anxiously
for the figure of his wife. Constance was not there, as she had been on
other nights, uneasily awaiting his return. What was the matter? His
hand shook a trifle now as he turned the knob of the bedroom door and
pushed it softly open.

She was asleep. He leaned over, not realizing that her every faculty
was keenly alive to his presence, that she was acting a part.

"Throw something around yourself, Constance," he whispered hoarsely
into her ear, as she moved with a little well-feigned start at being
suddenly wakened, "and come into the studio. There is something I must
tell you tonight, my dear."

"My dear!" she exclaimed bitterly, now seeming to rouse herself with an
effort and pretending to put back a stray wisp of her dark hair in
order to hide from him the tears that still lingered on her flushed
cheeks. "You can say that, Carlton, when it has been every night the
same old threadbare excuse of working at the office until midnight?"

She set her face in hard lines, but could not catch his eye.

"Carlton Dunlap," she added in a tone that rasped his very soul, "I am
nobody's fool. I may not know much about bookkeeping and accounting,
but I can add--and two and two, when the same man but different women
compose each two, do not make four, according to my arithmetic, but
three, from which,"--she finished almost hysterically the little speech
she had prepared, but it seemed to fall flat before the man's curiously
altered manner--"from which I shall subtract one."

She burst into tears.

"Listen," he urged, taking her arm gently to lead her to an easy-chair.

"No, no, no!" she cried, now thoroughly aroused, with eyes that again
snapped accusation and defiance at him, "don't touch me. Talk to me, if
you want to, but don't, don't come near me." She was now facing him,
standing in the high-ceilinged "studio," as they called the room where
she had kept up in a desultory manner for her own amusement the art
studies which had interested her before her marriage. "What is it that
you want to say? The other nights you said nothing at all. Have you at
last thought up an excuse? I hope it is at least a clever one."

"Constance," he remonstrated, looking fearfully about. Instinctively
she felt that her accusation was unjust. Not even that had dulled the
hunted look in his face. "Perhaps--perhaps if it were that of which you
suspect me, we could patch it up. I don't know. But, Constance, I--I
must leave for the west on the first train in the morning." He did not
pause to notice her startled look, but raced on. "I have worked every
night this week trying to straighten out those accounts of mine by the
first of the year and--and I can't do it. An expert begins on them in a
couple of days. You must call up the office to-morrow and tell them
that I am ill, tell them anything. I must get at least a day or two
start before they--"

"Carlton," she interrupted, "what is the matter? What have you--"

She checked herself in surprise. He had been fumbling in his pocket and
now laid down a pile of green and yellow banknotes on the table.

"I have scraped together every last cent I can spare," he continued,
talking jerkily to suppress his emotion. "They cannot take those away
from you, Constance. And--when I am settled--in a new life," he
swallowed hard and averted his eyes further from her startled gaze,
"under a new name, somewhere, if you have just a little spot in your
heart that still responds to me, I--I--no, it is too much even to hope.
Constance, the accounts will not come out right because I am--I am an
embezzler."

He bit off the word viciously and then sank his head into his hands and
bowed it to a depth that alone could express his shame.

Why did she not say something, do something? Some women would have
fainted. Some would have denounced him. But she stood there and he
dared not look up to read what was written in her face. He felt alone,
all alone, with every man's hand against him, he who had never in all
his life felt so or had done anything to make him feel so before. He
groaned as the sweat of his mental and physical agony poured coldly out
on his forehead. All that he knew was that she was standing there,
silent, looking him through and through, as cold as a statue. Was she
the personification of justice? Was this but a foretaste of the
ostracism of the world?

"When we were first married, Constance," he began sadly, "I was only a
clerk for Green & Co., at two thousand a year. We talked it over. I
stayed and in time became cashier at five thousand. But you know as
well as I that five thousand does not meet the social obligations laid
on us by our position in the circle in which we are forced to move."

His voice had become cold and hard, but he did not allow himself to be
betrayed into adding, as he might well have done in justice to himself,
that to her even a thousand dollars a month would have been only a
beginning. It was not that she had been accustomed to so much in the
station of life from which he had taken her. The plain fact was that
New York had had an over-tonic effect on her.

"You were not a nagging woman, Constance," he went on in a somewhat
softened tone. "In fact you have been a good wife; you have never
thrown it up to me that I was unable to make good to the degree of many
of our friends in purely commercial lines. All you have ever said is
the truth. A banking house pays low for its brains. My God!" he cried
stiffening out in the chair and clenching his fists, "it pays low for
its temptations, too."

There had been nothing in the world Carlton would not have given to
make happy the woman who stood now, leaning on the table in cold
silence, with averted head, regarding neither him nor the pile of
greenbacks.

"Hundreds of thousands of dollars passed through my hands every week,"
he resumed. "That business owed me for my care of it. It was taking the
best in me and in return was not paying what other businesses paid for
the best in other men. When a man gets thinking that way, with a woman
whom he loves as I love you--something happens."

He paused in the bitterness of his thoughts. She moved as if to speak.
"No, no," he interrupted. "Hear me out first. All I asked was a chance
to employ a little of the money that I saw about me--not to take it,
but to employ it for a little while, a few days, perhaps only a few
hours. Money breeds money. Why should I not use some of this idle money
to pay me what I ought to have?

"When Mr. Green was away last summer I heard some inside news about a
certain stock. So it happened that I began to juggle the accounts. It
is too long a story to tell how I did it. Anybody in my position could
have done it--for a time. It would not interest you anyhow. But I did
it. The first venture was successful. Also the spending of the money
was very successful, in its way. That was the money that took us to the
fashionable hotel in Atlantic City where we met so many people. Instead
of helping me, it got me in deeper.

"When the profit from this first deal was spent there was nothing to do
but to repeat what I had done successfully before. I could not quit
now. I tried again, a little hypothecation of some bonds. Stocks went
down. I had made a bad bet and five thousand dollars was wiped out, a
whole year's salary. I tried again, and wiped out five thousand more. I
was at my wits' end. I have borrowed under fictitious names, used names
of obscure persons as borrowers, have put up dummy security. It was
possible because I controlled the audits. But it has done no good. The
losses have far outbalanced the winnings and to-day I am in for
twenty-five thousand dollars."

She was watching him now with dilating eyes as the horror of the
situation was burned into her soul. He raced on, afraid to pause lest
she should interrupt him.

"Mr. Green has been talked into introducing scientific management and a
new system into the business by a certified public accountant, an
expert in installing systems and discovering irregularities. Here I am,
faced by certain exposure," he went on, pacing the floor and looking
everywhere but at her face. "What should I do? Borrow? It is useless. I
have no security that anyone would accept.

"There is just one thing left." He lowered his voice until it almost
sank into a hoarse whisper. "I must cut loose. I have scraped together
what I can and I have borrowed on my life insurance. Here on the table
is all that I can spare.

"To-night, the last night, I have worked frantically in a vain hope
that something, some way would at last turn up. It has not. There is no
other way out. In despair I have put this off until the last moment.
But I have thought of nothing else for a week. Good God, Constance, I
have reached the mental state where even intoxicants fail to
intoxicate."

He dropped back again into the deep chair and sank his head again on
his hands. He groaned as he thought of the agony of packing a bag and
slinking for the Western express through the crowds at the railroad
terminal.

Still Constance was silent. Through her mind was running the single
thought that she had misjudged him. There had been no other woman in
the case. As he spoke, there came flooding into her heart the sudden
realization of the truth. He had done it for her.

It was a rude and bitter awakening after the past months when the
increased income, with no questions asked, had made her feel that they
were advancing. She passed her hands over her eyes, but there it was
still, not a dream but a harsh reality. If she could only have gone
back and undone it! But what was done, was done, She was amazed at
herself. It was not horror of the deed that sent an icy shudder over
her. It was horror of exposure.

He had done it for her. Over and over again that thought raced through
her mind. She steeled herself at last to speak. She hardly knew what
was in her own mind, what the conflicting, surging emotions of her own
heart meant.

"And so, you are leaving me what is left, leaving me in disgrace, and
you are going to do the best you can to get away safely. You want me to
tell one last lie for you."

There was an unnatural hollowness in her voice which he did not
understand, but which cut him to the quick. He had killed love. He was
alone. He knew it. With a final effort he tried to moisten his parched
lips to answer. At last, in a husky voice, he managed to say, "Yes."

But with all his power of will he could not look at her.

"Carlton Dunlap," she cried, leaning both hands for support on the
table, bending over and at last forcing him to look her in the eyes,
"do you know what I think of you? I think you are a damned coward.
There!"

Instead of tears and recriminations, instead of the conventional "How
could you do it?" instead of burning denunciation of him for ruining
her life, he read something else in her face. What was it?

"Coward?" he repeated slowly. "What would you have me do--take you with
me?"

She tossed her head contemptuously.

"Stay and face it?" he hazarded again.

"Is there no other way?" she asked, still leaning forward with her eyes
fixed on his. "Think! Is there no way that you could avoid discovery
just for a time? Carlton, you--we are cornered. Is there no desperate
chance?"

He shook his head sadly.

Her eyes wandered momentarily about the studio, until they rested on an
easel. On it stood a water color on which she had been working, trying
to put into it some of the feeling which she would never have put into
words for him. On the walls of the apartment were pen and ink sketches,
scores of little things which she had done for her own amusement. She
bit her lip as an idea flashed through her mind.

He shook his head again mournfully.

"Somewhere," she said slowly, "I have read that clever forgers use
water colors and pen and ink like regular artists. Think--think! Is
there no way that we--that I could forge a check that would give us
breathing space, perhaps rescue us?"

Carlton leaned over the table toward her, fascinated. He placed both
his hands on hers. They were icy, but she did not withdraw them.

For an instant they looked into each other's eyes, an instant, and then
they understood. They were partners in crime, amateurs perhaps, but
partners as they had been in honesty.

It was a new idea that she had suggested to him. Why should he not act
on it? Why hesitate? Why stop at it? He was already an embezzler. Why
not add a new crime to the list? As he looked into her eyes he felt a
new strength. Together they could do it. Hers was the brain that had
conceived the way out. She had the will, the compelling power to carry
the thing through. He would throw himself on her intuition, her brain,
her skill, her daring.

On his desk in the corner, where often until far into the night he had
worked on the huge ruled sheets of paper covered with figures of the
firm's accounts, he saw two goose-necked vials, one of lemon-colored
liquid, the other of raspberry color. One was of tartaric acid, the
other of chloride of lime. It was an ordinary ink eradicator. Near the
bottles lay a rod of glass with a curious tip, an ink eraser made of
finely spun glass threads which scraped away the surface of the paper
more delicately than any other tool that had been devised. There were
the materials for his, their rehabilitation if they were placed in his
wife's deft artist fingers. Here was all the chemistry and artistry of
forgery at hand.

"Yes," he answered eagerly, "there is a way, Constance. Together we can
do it."

There was no time for tenderness between them now. It was cold, hard
fact and they understood each other too well to stop for endearments.

Far into the night they sat up and discussed the way in which they
would go about the crime. They practised with erasers and with brush
and water color on the protective coloring tint on some canceled checks
of his own. Carlton must get a check of a firm in town, a check that
bore a genuine signature. In it they would make such trifling changes
in the body as would attract no attention in passing, yet would yield a
substantial sum toward wiping out Carlton's unfortunate deficit.

Late as he had worked the night before, nervous and shaky as he felt
after the sleepless hours of planning their new life, Carlton was the
first at the office in the morning. His hand trembled as he ran through
the huge batch of mail already left at the first delivery. He paused as
he came to one letter with the name "W. J. REYNOLDS CO." on it.

Here was a check in payment of a small bill, he knew. It was from a
firm which habitually kept hundreds of thousands on deposit at the
Gorham Bank. It fitted the case admirably. He slit open the letter.
There, neatly folded, was the check:

  No. 15711. Dec. 27, 191--.

  THE GORHAM NATIONAL BANK

  Pay to the order of....... Green & Co.......
  Twenty-five 00/100 ..................Dollars
  $25.00/100

  W. J. REYNOLDS Co.,
  per CHAS. M. BROWN, Treas.


It flashed over him in a moment what to do. Twenty-five thousand would
just about cover his shortage. The Reynolds firm was a big one, doing
big transactions. He slipped the check into his pocket. The check might
have been stolen in the mail. Why not?

The journey uptown was most excruciatingly long, in spite of the fact
that he had met no one he knew either at the office or outside. At last
he arrived home, to find Constance waiting anxiously.

"Did you get a check?" she asked, hardly waiting for his reply. "Let me
see it. Give it to me."

The coolness with which she went about it amazed him. "It has the
amount punched on it with a check punch," she observed as she ran her
quick eye over it while he explained his plan. "We'll have to fill up
some of those holes made by the punch."

"I know the kind they used," he answered. "I'll get one and a desk
check from the Gorham. You do the artistic work, my dear. My knowledge
of check punches, watermarks, and paper will furnish the rest. I'll be
back directly. Don't forget to call up the office a little before the
time I usually arrive there and tell them I am ill."

With her light-fingered touch she worked feverishly, partly with the
liquid ink eradicator, but mostly with the spun-glass eraser. First she
rubbed out the cents after the written figure "Twenty-five." Carefully
with a blunt instrument she smoothed down the roughened surface of the
paper so that the ink would not run in the fibers and blot. Over and
over she practised writing the "Thousand" in a hand like that on the
check. She already had the capital "T" in "Twenty" as a guide. During
the night in practising she had found that in raising checks only seven
capital letters were used--O in one, T in two, three, ten, and
thousand, F in four and five, S in six and seven, E in eight, N in nine
and H in hundred.

At last even her practice satisfied her. Then with a coolness born only
of desperation she wrote in the words, "Thousand 00/100." When she had
done it she stopped to wonder at herself. She was amazed and perhaps a
little frightened at how readily she adapted herself to the crime of
forgery. She did not know that it was one of the few crimes in which
women had proved themselves most proficient, though she felt her own
proficiency and native ability for copying.

Again the eraser came into play to remove the cents after the figure
"25." A comma and three zeros following it were inserted, followed by a
new "00/100." The signature was left untouched.

Erasing the name of "Green & Co.," presented greater difficulties, but
it was accomplished with as little loss of the protective coloring on
the surface of the check as possible. Then after the "Pay to the order
of" she wrote in, as her husband had directed, "The Carlton Realty Co."

Next came the water color to restore the protective tint where the
glass eraser and the acids had removed it. There was much delicate
matching of tints and careful painting in with a fine camel's hair
brush, until at last the color of those parts where there had been an
erasure was apparently as good as any other part.

Of course, under the microscope there could have been seen the angry
crisscrossing of the fibers of the paper due to the harsh action of the
acids and the glass eraser. Still, painting the whole thing over with a
little resinous liquid somewhat restored the glaze to the paper, at
least sufficiently to satisfy a cursory glance of the naked eye.

There remained the difficulty of the protective punch marks. There they
were, a star cut out of the check itself, a dollar sign and 25 followed
by another star.

She was still admiring her handiwork, giving it here and there a light
little fillip with the brush and comparing this check with some of
those which had been practised on last night, to see whether she had
made any improvement in her technique of forgery, when Carlton returned
with the punch and the blank checks on the Gorham Bank.

From one of the blank checks he punched out a number of little stars
until there was one which in watermark and scroll work corresponded
precisely with that punched out in the original check.

Constance, whose fingers had long been accustomed to fine work, fitted
in the little star after the $25, then took it out, moistened the edges
ever so lightly with glue on the end of a toothpick, and pasted it back
again. A hot iron completed the work of making the edges smooth and
unless a rather powerful glass had been used no one could have seen the
pasted-in insertion after the $25.

Careful not to deviate the fraction of a hair's breadth from the
alignment Carlton took the punch, added three 0's, and a star after the
25, making it $25,000. Finally the whole thing was again ironed to give
it the smoothness of an original. Here at last was the completed work,
the first product of their combined skill in crime:

  No. 15711.                    Dec. 27,191--.
  THE GORHAM NATIONAL BANK

  Pay to the order of... The Carlton Realty Co.
  Twenty-five Thousand 00/100.........Dollars
  $25,000.00/100

  W. J. REYNOLDS Co.,
  per CHAS. M. BROWN, Treas.


How completely people may change, even within a few hours, was well
illustrated as they stood side by side and regarded their work with as
much pride as if it had been the result of their honest efforts of
years. They were now pen and brush crooks of the first caliber, had
reduced forgery to a fine art and demonstrated what an amateur might
do. For, although they did not know it, nearly half the fifteen
millions or so lost by forgeries every year was the work of amateurs
such as they.

The next problem was presenting the check for collection. Of course
Carlton could not put it through his own bank, unless he wanted to
leave a blazed trail straight to himself. Only a colossal bluff would
do, and in a city where only colossal bluffs succeed it was not so
impossible as might have been first imagined.

Luncheon over, they sauntered casually into a high-class office
building on Broadway where there were offices to rent. The agent was
duly impressed by the couple who talked of their large real estate
dealings. Where he might have been thoroughly suspicious of a man and
might have asked many embarrassing but perfectly proper questions, he
accepted the woman without a murmur. At her suggestion he even
consented to take his new tenants around to the Uptown Bank and
introduce them. They made an excellent impression by a first cash
deposit of the money Carlton had thrown down on the table the night
before. A check for the first month's rent more than mollified the
agent and talk of a big deal that was just being signed up to-day duly
impressed the bank.

The next problem was to get the forged check certified. That, also,
proved a very simple matter. Any one can walk into a bank and get a
check for $25,000 certified, while if he appears, a stranger, before
the window of the paying teller to cash a check for twenty-five dollars
he would almost be thrown out of the bank. Banks will certify at a
glance practically any check that looks right, but they pass on the
responsibility of cashing them. Thus before the close of banking hours
Dunlap was able to deposit in his new bank the check certified by the
Gorham.

Twenty-four hours must elapse before he could draw against the check
which he had deposited. He did not propose to waste that time, so that
the next day found him at Green & Co.'s, feeling much better. Really he
had come prepared now to straighten out the books, knowing that in a
few hours he could make good.

The first hesitation due to the newness of the game had worn off by
this time. Nothing at all of an alarming nature had happened. The new
month had already begun and as most firms have their accounts balanced
only once a month, he had, he reasoned, nearly the entire four weeks in
which to operate.

Conscience was dulled in Constance, also, and she was now busy with ink
eraser, the water colors, and other paraphernalia in a wholesale
raising of checks, mostly for amounts smaller than that in the first
attempt.

"We are taking big chances, anyway," she urged him. "Why quit yet? A
few days more and we may land something worth while."

The next day he excused himself from the office for a while and
presented himself at his new bank with a sheaf of new checks which she
had raised, all certified, and totaling some thousands more.

His own check for twenty-five thousand was now honored. The relief
which he felt was tremendous after the weeks of grueling anxiety. At
once he hurried to a broker's and placed an order for the stocks he had
used on which to borrow. He could now replace everything in the safe,
straighten out the books, could make everything look right to the
systematizer, could blame any apparent irregularity on his old system.
Even ignorance was better than dishonesty.

Constance, meanwhile, had installed herself in the little office they
had hired, as stenographer and secretary. Once having embarked on the
hazardous enterprise she showed no disposition to give it up yet An
office boy was hired and introduced at the bank.

The mythical realty company prospered, at least if prosperity is
measured merely by the bank book. In less than a week the skilful pen
and brush of Constance had secured them a balance, after straightening
out Carlton's debts, that came well up to a hundred thousand dollars,
mostly in small checks, some with genuine signatures and amounts
altered, others complete forgeries.

As they went deeper and deeper, Constance began to feel the truth of
their situation. It was she who was really at the helm in this
enterprise. It had been her idea; the execution of it had been mainly
her work; Carlton had furnished merely the business knowledge that she
did not possess. The more she thought of it during the hours in the
little office while he was at work downtown, the more uneasy did she
become.

What if he should betray himself in some way? She was sure of herself.
But she was almost afraid to let him go out of her sight. She felt a
sinking sensation every time he mentioned any of the happenings in the
banking house. Could he be trusted alone not to betray himself when the
first hint of discovery of something wrong came?

It was now near the middle of the month. It would not pay to wait until
the end. Some one of the many firms whose checks they had forged might
have its book balanced at any time now. From day to day small amounts
in cash had already been withdrawn until they were twenty thousand
dollars to the good. They planned to draw out thirty thousand now at
one time. That would give them fifty thousand, roughly half of their
forgeries.

The check was written and the office boy was started to the bank with
it. Carlton followed him at a distance, as he had on other occasions,
ready to note the first sign of trouble as the boy waited at the
teller's window. At last the boy was at the head of the line. He had
passed the check in and his satchel was lying open, with voracious maw,
on the ledge below the wicket for the greedy feeding of stacks of
bills. Why did the teller not raise the wicket and shove out the money
in a coveted pile? Carlton seemed to feel that something was wrong. The
line lengthened and those at the end of the queue began to grow restive
at the delay. One of the bank's officers walked down and spoke to the
boy.

Carlton waited no longer. The game was up. He rushed from his coign of
observation, out of the bank building, and dashed into a telephone
booth.

"Quick, Constance," he shouted over the wire, "leave everything. They
are holding up our check. They have discovered something. Take a cab
and drive slowly around the square. You will find me waiting for you at
the north end."

That night the newspapers were full of the story. There was the whole
thing, exaggerated, distorted, multiplied, until they had become
swindlers of millions instead of thousands. But nevertheless it was
their story. There was only one grain of consolation. It was in the
last paragraph of the news item, and read: "There seems to be no trace
of the man and woman who worked this clever swindle. As if by a
telepathic message they have vanished at just the time when their whole
house of cards collapsed."

They removed every vestige of their work from the apartment. Everything
was destroyed. Constance even began a new water color so that that
might suggest that she had not laid aside her painting.

They had played for a big stake and lost. But the twenty thousand
dollars was something. Now the great problem was to conceal it and
themselves. They had lost, yet if ever before they loved, it was as
nothing to what it was now that they had tasted together the bitter and
the sweet of their mutual crime.

Carlton went down to the office the next day, just as before. The
anxious hours that his wife had previously spent thinking whether he
might betray himself by some slip were comparative safety as contrasted
with the uncertainty of the hours now. But the first day after the
alarm of the discovery passed off all right. Carlton even discussed the
case, his case, with those in the office, commented on it, condemned
the swindlers, and carried it off, he felt proud to say, as well as
Constance herself might have done had she been in his place.

Another day passed. His account of the first day, reassuring as it had
been to her, did not lessen the anxiety. Yet never before had they
seemed to be bound together by such ties as knitted their very souls in
this crisis. She tried with a devotion that was touching to impart to
him some of her own strength to ward off detection.

It was the afternoon of the second day that a man who gave the name of
Drummond called and presented a card of the Reynolds Company.

"Have you ever been paid a little bill of twenty-five dollars by our
company?" he asked.

Down in his heart Carlton knew that this man was a detective. "I can't
say without looking it up," he replied.

Carlton touched a button and an assistant appeared. Something outside
himself seemed to nerve him up, as he asked: "Look up our account with
Reynolds, and see if we have been paid--what is it?--a bill for
twenty-five dollars. Do you recall it?"

"Yes, I recall it," replied the assistant. "No, Mr. Dunlap, I don't
think it has been paid. It is a small matter, but we sent them a
duplicate bill yesterday. I thought the original must have gone astray."

Carlton cursed him inwardly for sending the bill. But then, he
reasoned, it was only a question of time, after all, when the forgery
would be discovered.

Drummond dropped into a half-confidential, half-quizzing tone. "I
thought not. Somewhere along the line that check has been stolen and
raised to twenty-five thousand dollars," he remarked.

"Is that so?" gasped Carlton, trying hard to show just the right amount
of surprise and not too much. "Is that so?"

"No doubt you have read in the papers of this clever realty company
swindle? Well, it seems to have been part of that."

"I am sure that we shall be glad to do all in our power to cooperate
with Reynolds," put in Dunlap.

"I thought you would," commented Drummond dryly. "I may as well tell
you that I fear some one has been tampering with your mail."

"Tampering with OUR mail?" repeated Dunlap, aghast. "Impossible."

"Nothing is impossible until it is proved so," answered Drummond,
looking him straight in the eyes. Carlton did not flinch. He felt a new
power within himself, gained during the past few days of new
association with Constance. For her he could face anything.

But when Drummond was gone he felt as he had on the night when he had
finally realized that he could never cover up the deficit in his books.
With an almost superhuman effort he gripped himself. Interminably the
hours of the rest of the day dragged on.

That night he sank limp into a chair on his return home. "A man named
Drummond was in the office to-day, my dear," he said. "Some one in the
office sent Reynolds a duplicate bill, and they know about the check."

"Well?"

"I wonder if they suspect me?"

"If you act like that, they won't suspect. They'll arrest," she
commented sarcastically.

He had braced up again into his new self at her words. But there was
again that sinking sensation in her heart, as she realized that it was,
after all, herself on whom he depended, that it was she who had been
the will, even though he had been the intellect of their enterprise.
She could not overcome the feeling that, if only their positions could
be reversed, the thing might even yet be carried through.

Drummond appeared again at the office the next day. There was no
concealment about him now. He said frankly that he was from the Burr
Detective Agency, whose business it was to guard the banks against
forgeries.

"The pen work, or, as we detectives call it, the penning," he remarked,
"in the case of that check is especially good. It shows rare skill. But
the pitfalls in this forgery game are so many that, in avoiding one, a
forger, ever so clever, falls into another."

Carlton felt the polite third degree, as he proceeded: "Nowadays the
forger has science to contend with, too. The microscope and camera may
come in a little too late to be of practical use in preventing the
forger from getting his money at first, but they come in very neatly
later in catching him. What the naked eye cannot see in this check they
reveal. Besides, a little iodine vapor brings out the original 'Green &
Co.' on it.

"We have found out also that the protective coloring was restored by
water color. That was easy. Where the paper was scratched and the
sizing taken off, it has been painted with a resinous substance to
restore the glaze, to the eye. Well, a little alcohol takes that off,
too. Oh, the amateur forger may be the most dangerous kind, because the
professional regularly follows the same line, leaves tracks, has
associates, but," he concluded impressively, "all are caught sooner or
later--sooner or later."

Dunlap managed to maintain his outward composure admirably. Still the
little lifting of the curtain on the hidden mysteries of the new
detective art produced its effect. They were getting closer, and Dunlap
knew it, as Drummond intended he should. And, as in every crisis, he
turned naturally to Constance. Never had she meant so much to him as
now.

That night as he entered the apartment he happened to glance behind
him. In the shadow down the street a man dodged quickly behind a tree.
The thing gave him a start. He was being watched.

"There is just one thing left," he cried excitedly as he hurried
upstairs with the news. "We must both disappear this time."

Constance took it very calmly. "But we must not go together," she added
quickly, her fertile mind, as ever, hitting directly on a plan of
action. "If we separate, they will be less likely to trace us, for they
will never think we would do that."

It was evident that the words were being forced out by the conflict of
common sense and deep emotion. "Perhaps it will be best for you to
stick to your original idea of going west. I shall go to one of the
winter resorts. We shall communicate only through the personal column
of the Star. Sign yourself Weston. I shall sign Easton."

The words fell on Carlton with his new and deeper love for her like a
death sentence. It had never entered his mind that they were to be
separated now. Dissolve their partnership in crime? To him it seemed as
if they had just begun to live since that night when they had at last
understood each other. And it had come to this--separation.

"A man can always shift for himself better if he has no impediments,"
she said, speaking rapidly as if to bolster up her own resolution. "A
woman is always an impediment in a crisis like this."

In her face he saw what he had never seen before. There was love in it
that would sacrifice everything. She was sending him away from her, not
to save herself but to save him. Vainly he attempted to protest. She
placed her finger on his lips. Never before had he felt such
over-powering love for her. And yet she held him in check in spite of
himself.

"Take enough to last a few months," she added hastily. "Give me the
rest. I can hide it and take care of myself. Even if they trace me I
can get off. A woman can always do that more easily than a man. Don't
worry about me. Go somewhere, start a new life. If it takes years, I
will wait. Let me know where you are. We can find some way in which I
can come back into your life. No, no,"--Carlton had caught her
passionately in his arms--"even that cannot weaken me. The die is cast.
We must go."

She tore herself away from him and fled into her room, where, with set
face and ashen lips, she stuffed article after article into her grip.
With a heavy heart Carlton did the same. The bottom had dropped out of
everything, yet try as he would to reason it out, he could find no
other solution but hers. To stay was out of the question, if indeed it
was not already too late to run. To go together was equally out of the
question. Constance had shown that. "Seek the woman," was the first
rule of the police.

As they left the apartment they could see a man across the street
following them closely. They were shadowed. In despair Carlton turned
toward his wife. A sudden idea had flashed over her. There were two
taxicabs at the station on the corner.

"I will take the first," she whispered. "Take the second and follow me.
Then he cannot trace us."

They were off, leaving the baffled shadow only time to take the numbers
of the cab. Constance had thought of that. She stopped and Carlton
joined her. After a short walk they took another cab.

He looked at her inquiringly, but she said nothing. In her eyes he saw
the same fire that blazed when she had asked him if there was no way to
avoid discovery and had suggested it herself in the forgery. He reached
over and caressed her hand. She did not withdraw it, but her averted
eyes told that she could not trust even herself too far.

As they stood before the gateway to the steps that led down into the
long under-river tunnel which was to swallow them so soon and project
them, each into a new life, hundreds, perhaps thousands of miles apart,
Carlton realized as never before what it all had meant. He had loved
her through all the years, but never with the wild love of the past two
weeks. Now there was nothing but blackness and blankness. He felt as
though the hand of fate was tearing out his wildly beating heart.

She tried to smile at him bravely. She understood. For a moment she
looked at him in the old way and all the pent-up love that would have,
that had done and dared everything for him struggled in her rapidly
rising and falling breast.

It was now or never. She knew it, the supreme effort. One word or look
too many from her and all would be lost. She flung her arms about him
and kissed him. "Remember--one week from to-day--a personal--in the
STAR," she panted.

She literally tore herself from his arms, gathered up her grip, and was
gone.

A week passed. The quiet little woman at the Oceanview House was still
as much a mystery to the other guests as when she arrived,
travel-stained and worn with the repressed emotion of her sacrifice.
She had appeared to show no interest in anything, to take her meals
mechanically, to stay most of the time in her room, never to enter into
any of the recreations of the famous winter resort.

Only once a day did she betray the slightest concern about anything
around her. That was when the New York papers arrived. Then she was
always first at the news-stand, and the boy handed out to her, as a
matter of habit, the STAR. Yet no one ever saw her read it. Directly
afterward she would retire to her room. There she would pore over the
first page, reading and rereading every personal in it. Sometimes she
would try reading them backward and transposing the words, as if the
message they contained might be in the form of a cryptograph.

The strain and the suspense began to show on her. Day after day passed,
until it was nearly two weeks since the parting in New York. Day after
day she grew more worn by worry and fear. What had happened?

In desperation she herself wired a personal to the paper: "Weston.
Write me at the Oceanview. Easton."

For three days she waited for an answer. Then she wired the personal
again. Still there was no reply and no hint of reply. Had they captured
him? Or was he so closely pursued that he did not dare to reply even in
the cryptic manner on which they had agreed!

She took the file of papers which she kept and again ran through the
personals, even going back to the very day after they had separated.
Perhaps she had missed one, though she knew that she could not have
done so, for she had looked at them a hundred times. Where was he? Why
did he not answer her message in some way? No one had followed her.
Were they centering their efforts on capturing him?

She haunted the news-stand in the lobby of the beautifully appointed
hotel. Her desire to read newspapers grew. She read everything.

It was just two weeks since they had left New York on their separate
journeys when, on the evening of another newsless day, she was passing
the news-stand. From force of habit she glanced at an early edition of
an evening paper.

The big black type of the heading caught her eye:

NOTED FORGER A SUICIDE

With a little shriek, half-suppressed, she seized the paper. It was
Carlton. There was his name. He had shot himself in a room in a hotel
in St. Louis. She ran her eye down the column, hardly able to read. In
heavier type than the rest was the letter they had found on him:

MY DEAREST CONSTANCE,

When you read this I, who have wronged and deceived you beyond words,
will be where I can no longer hurt you. Forgive me, for by this act I
am a confessed embezzler and forger. I could not face you and tell you
of the double life I was leading. So I have sent you away and have gone
away myself--and may the Lord have mercy on the soul of

Your devoted husband, CARLTON DUNLAP.

Over and over again she read the words, as she clutched at the edge of
the news-stand to keep from fainting--"wronged and deceived you," "the
double life I was leading." What did he mean? Had he, after all, been
concealing something else from her? Had there really been another woman?

Suddenly the truth flashed over her. Tracked and almost overtaken,
lacking her hand which had guided him, he had seen no other way out.
And in his last act he had shouldered it all on himself, had shielded
her nobly from the penalty, had opened wide for her the only door of
escape.



CHAPTER II

THE EMBEZZLERS


"I came here to hide, to vanish forever from those who know me."

The young man paused a moment to watch the effect of his revelation of
himself to Constance Dunlap. There was a certain cynical bitterness in
his tone which made her shudder.

"If you were to be discovered--what then?" she hazarded.

Murray Dodge looked at her significantly, but said nothing. Instead, he
turned and gazed silently at the ruffled waters of Woodlake. There was
no mistaking the utter hopelessness and grim determination of the man.

"Why--why have you told so much to me, an absolute stranger?" she
asked, searching his face. "Might I not hand you over to the detectives
who, you say, will soon be looking for you?"

"You might," he answered quickly, "but you won't."

There was a note of appeal in his voice as he pursued slowly, not as if
seeking protection, but as if hungry for friendship and most of all her
friendship, "Mrs. Dunlap, I have heard what the people at the hotel say
is your story. I think I understand, as much as a man can. Anyhow, I
know that you can understand. I have reached a point where I must tell
some one or go insane. It is only a question of time before I shall be
caught. We are all caught. Tell me," he asked eagerly, bending down
closer to her with an almost breathless intensity in his face as though
he would read her thoughts, "am I right? The story of you which I have
heard since I came here is not the truth, the whole truth. It is only
half the truth--is it not?"

Constance felt that this man was dangerously near understanding her, as
no one yet had seemed to be. It set her heart beating wildly to know
that he did. And yet she was not afraid. Somehow, although she did not
betray the answer by a word or a look, she felt that she could trust
him.

Through the door of escape from the penalty of her forgeries, which
Carlton Dunlap had thrown open for her by the manner of his death,
Constance had passed unsuspected. To return to New York, however, had
become out of the question. She had plenty of money for her present
needs, although she thought it best to say nothing about it lest some
one might wonder and stumble on the truth.

She had closed up the little studio apartment, and had gone to a quiet
resort in the pines. Here, at least, she thought she might live
unobserved until she could plan out the tangled future of her life.

There had seemed to be no need to conceal her identity, and she had
felt it better not to do so. She knew that her story would follow her,
and it had. She was prepared for that. She was prepared for the pity
and condescension of the gossips and had made up her mind to stand
aloof.

Then came a day when a stranger had registered at the hotel. She had
not noticed him especially, but it was not long before she realized
that he was noticing her. Was he a detective? Had he found out the
truth in some uncanny way? She felt sure that the name on the hotel
register, Malcolm Dodd, was not his real name.

Constance had not been surprised when the head waiter had seated the
young man at her table. No doubt he had manoeuvred it so. Nor did she
avoid the guarded acquaintance that resulted in the natural course of
events.

One afternoon, shortly after his arrival, she had encountered him
unexpectedly on a walk through the pines. He appeared surprised to meet
her, yet she knew intuitively that he had been following her. Still, it
was so different now to have any one seek her company that, in spite of
her uncertainty of him, she almost welcomed his speaking.

There was a certain deference in his manner, too, which did not accord
with Constance's ideas of a detective. Yet he did know something of
her. How much! Was it merely what the rest of the world knew? She could
not help seeing that the man was studying her, while she studied him.
There was a fascination about it, a fascination that the human mystery
always possesses for a woman. On his part, he showed keenly his
interest in her.

Constance had met him with more frankness as she encountered him often
during the days that followed. She had even tried to draw him out to
talk of himself.

"I came here," he had said one day when they were passing the spot
where he had overtaken her first, "without knowing a soul, not
expecting to meet any one I should care for, indeed hoping to meet no
one."

Constance had said nothing, but she felt that at last he was going to
crash down the barrier of reserve. He continued earnestly, "Somehow or
other I have come to enjoy these little walks."

"So have I," she admitted, facing him; "but, do you know, sometimes I
have thought that Malcolm Dodd is not your real name?"

"Not my real name?" he repeated.

"And that you are here for some other purpose than--just to rest. You
know, you might be a detective."

He had looked at her searchingly. Then in a burst of confidence, he had
replied, "No, my name is not Dodd, as you guessed. But I am not a
detective, as you suspected at first. I have been watching you because,
ever since I heard your story here, I have been--well, not suspicious,
but--attracted. You seem to me to have faced a great problem. I, too,
have come to the parting of the ways. Shall I run or shall I fight?"

He had handed her a card without hesitation. It bore the name, "Murray
Dodge, Treasurer, Globe Importing Company."

"What do you mean?" she had asked quickly, hardly expecting an answer.
"What have you done?"

"Oh, it is the usual trouble, I suppose," he had replied wearily, much
to her surprise. "I began as a boy in the company and ultimately worked
myself up as it grew, until I became treasurer. To cut it short, I have
used funds belonging to the company, lost them. I don't need to tell
you how a treasurer or a cashier can do that."

Constance was actually startled. Was he what he represented himself to
be? Or was he leading her on in this way to a confession of her own
part, which she had covered so well, in the forgeries of her dead
husband?

"How did you begin?" she asked tentatively.

"A few years ago," he answered with a disconcerting lack of reserve,
"the company found that we could beat our competitors by a very simple
means. The largest stockholder, Mr. Dumont, was friendly with some of
the customs officials and--well, we undervalued our goods. It was easy.
The only thing necessary was to bribe some of the officials. The
president of the company, Walton Beverley, put the dirty work on me as
treasurer. Now you can imagine what that meant."

He had fallen into a cynical tone again.

"It meant that I soon found, or, rather, thought I found, that every
man has his price--some higher, some lower, but a price, nevertheless.
It was my business to find it, to keep it as low as I could with
safety. So it went, from one crooked thing to another. I knew I was
crooked, but not as bad, I think, as the rest who put the actual work
on me. I was unfortunate, weak perhaps. That is all. I tried to get
mine, too. I lost what I meant to put back after I had used it. They
are after me now, or soon will be--the crooks! And here I am,
momentarily expecting some one to walk up quietly behind me, tap me on
the shoulder and whisper, 'You're wanted.'"

Time had not softened the bitterness of Constance's feelings. Somehow
she felt that the world, or at least society owed her for taking away
her husband. The world must pay. She sympathized with the young man who
was appealing to her for friendship. Why not help him?

"Do you really, really want to know what I think?" asked Constance
after he had at last told her his wretched story. It was the first time
that she had looked at him since she realized that he was unburdening
the truth to her.

"Yes," he answered eagerly, catching her eye. "Yes," he urged.

"I think," she said slowly, "that you are running away from a fight
that has not yet begun."

It thrilled her to be talking so. Once before she had tasted the
sweetness and the bitterness of crime. She did not stop to think about
right or wrong. If she had done so her ethics would have been strangely
illogical. It was enough that, short as their acquaintance had been,
she felt unconsciously that there was something latent in the spirit of
this man akin to her own.

Murray also felt rather than understood the bond that had been growing
so rapidly between them. His was the temperament that immediately
translates feeling into action. He reached into his breast pocket.
There was the blue-black glint of a cold steel automatic. A moment he
balanced it in his hand. Then with a rapid and decisive motion of the
arm he flung it far from him. As it struck the water with a sound
horribly suggestive of the death gurgle of a lost man, he turned and
faced her.

"There," he exclaimed with a new light in the defiant, desperate smile
that she had observed many times before, "there. The curtain
rises--instead of falls."

Neither spoke for a few moments. At last he added, "What shall I do
next?"

"Do?" she repeated. She felt now the weight of responsibility for
interfering with his desperate plans, but it did not oppress her. On
the contrary, it was a pleasant burden. "According to your own story,"
she went on, "they know nothing yet, as far as you can see. You would
have forestalled them by taking this little vacation during which you
could disappear while they would discover the shortage. Do? Go back."

"And when they discover it?" he asked evidently prepared for the answer
she had given and eager to know what she would propose next.

Constance had been thinking rapidly.

"Listen," she cried, throwing aside restraint now. "No one in New York
outside my former little circle knows me. I can live there in another
circle unobserved. For weeks I have been amusing myself by the study of
shorthand. I have picked up enough to be able to carry the thing off.
Discharge your secretary. Put an advertisement in the newspapers. I
will answer it. Then I will be able to help you. I cannot say at a
distance what you should do next. There, perhaps, I can tell you."

What was it that had impelled her to say it? She could not have told.
Murray looked at her. Her very presence seemed to infuse new
determination into him.

It was strange about this woman, what a wonderful effect she had on him.

A few days before he would have laughed at any one who had suggested
that any woman might have aroused in him the passions that were now
surging through his heart. Ten thousand years ago, perhaps, he would
have seized her and carried her off in triumph to his clan or tribe.
To-day he must, he would win her by more subtle means.

His mind was made up. She had pointed the way. That night Dodge left
Woodlake hastily for New York.

To Constance a new purpose seemed to have entered into a barren life.
She was almost gay as she packed her trunks and grips and quietly
slipped into the city a few hours later and registered at a quiet hotel
for business women.

Sure enough in the Star the next morning was the advertisement. She
wrote in a formal way, giving her telephone number. That afternoon,
apparently as soon as the letter had been delivered, a call came. The
following morning she was the private secretary of Murray Dodge,
sitting unobtrusively before a typewriter desk in a sort of little
anteroom that guarded the door to his office.

She took pains to act the part of private secretary and no more. As
appeared natural to the rest of the office force at first she was much
with Murray, who made the most elaborate explanations of the detail of
the business.

"Do they suspect anything?" she asked anxiously as soon as they were
absolutely alone.

"I think so," he replied. "They said nothing except that they had not
expected me back so soon, I think the 'so soon' was an afterthought.
They didn't expect me back at all. For," he added significantly, "I've
been in fear and trembling until I could get you. They already have
asked the regular audit company to go over the books in advance of the
time when we usually employ them. I didn't ask why. I merely accepted
it with a nod. It might have meant bringing matters to a crisis now."

He felt safer with Constance installed as his private secretary. True,
Beverley and Dumont had viewed her from the start with suspicion.

Constance had been thinking hard out in her little office since she had
begun to understand how matters stood. "Well?" she demanded. "What of
it? Don't try to conceal it. Let them discover it. Go further. Dare
them. Court exposure."

It was bold and ingenious. What a woman she was for meeting
emergencies. Murray, who had a will that had been accustomed to bend
others to his purposes except in the instance where they had bent him
and nearly broken him, recognized the masterful mind of Constance. He
was willing to allow her to play the game.

Thus Constance began collecting the very data that would have sent
Murray to jail for bribery. Day by day as she worked on, the situation
became more and more delicate. They found themselves alone much of the
time now. Beverley was, or pretended to be, busy on other matters and
avoided Dodge as much as possible. Only the regular routine affairs
passed through his hands, but he said nothing. It gave him more time
with her. Dumont came in as rarely as it was possible.

And as they worked along gathering the data Constance came to admire
Murray more than ever. She worked patiently over the big books, taking
only those on which the accountant was not engaged at such times as she
could get them without exciting suspicion. Together they dug out the
extent of the frauds that had been practiced on the Government for
years back. From the letter files they rescued notes and orders and
letters, pieced them together into as near a continuous record as they
could make. With his own knowledge of the books Dodge could count on
making better progress on the essential things than the regular
accountant of the audit company. He felt sure that they would finish
sooner and that they would have a closer report of the frauds of all
kinds than could be uncovered by the man who had been set on the trail
of Dodge to discover just how much of the illicit gains he had taken
for himself.

Constance became aware soon that whenever she left the office at night
she was being followed. She had at first studiously repelled the offers
of Murray to see her home. It was not that he had taken advantage of
the situation into which she had put herself. He would never have done
that. Still, she wished a little more time to analyze her own
conflicting feelings toward him. Then, too, several times in the
crowded subway cars she had noticed a face that was familiar. It was
Drummond, never looking directly at her, always engrossed in something
else, yet never failing to note where she was going. That must be, she
reasoned, some of the work of Beverley and Dumont.

Murray was now working feverishly. As he worked he found himself
feeling differently toward the whole affair. He actually came to enjoy
it with all its risks and uncertainty, to enjoy gathering the data
which, he should have said, ought really to be destroyed. Often he
caught himself wishing that everything had come out all right in the
end and that Constance really was his private secretary.

Every moment with her seemed now to pass so quickly that he would
willingly have smashed all the clocks and destroyed all the calendars.
Association with other women had been tame beside his new friendship
with her. She had suffered, felt, lived. She fascinated him, as often
over the books they would stop to talk, talk of things the most
irrelevant, yet to him the most interesting, until she would bring him
back inevitably to the point of their work and start him again with a
new power and incentive toward the purpose she had in mind.

To Constance he seemed to fill a blank spot in her empty life. If she
had been bitter toward the world for what had happened to her, the
pleasure of helping another to beat that harsh world seemed an
unspeakably sweet compensation.

At last even Constance herself began to realize it. It was not, after
all, merely the bitterness toward society, that lured her on. She was
not a woman carved out of a block of stone. There was a sweetness about
this association that carried her along as if in a dream. She was
actually falling in love with him.

One day she had been working later than usual. The accountant had shown
signs of approaching the end of his task sooner than they had expected.
Murray was waiting, as was his custom, for her to finish before he left.

There was no sound in the almost deserted office building save the
banging of a door echoing now and then, or an insistent ring of the
elevator bell as an anxious office boy or stenographer sought to escape
after an extra period of work.

Murray stood looking at her admiringly as she deftly shoved the pins
into her hat. Then he held her coat, which brought them close together.

"It will soon be time for the final scene," he remarked. His manner was
different as he looked down at her. "We must succeed, Constance," he
went on slowly. "Of course, after it is over, it will be impossible for
me to remain here with this company. I have been looking around. I
must--we must clear ourselves. I already have an offer to go with
another company, much better than this position in every way--honest,
square, with no dirty work, such as I have had here."

It was a moment that Constance had foreseen, without planning what she
would do. She moved to the door as if to go.

"Take dinner with me to-night at the Riverside," he went on, mentioning
the name of a beautifully situated inn uptown overlooking the lights of
the Hudson and thronged by gay parties of pleasure seekers.

Before she could say no, even though she would have said it, he had
linked his arm in hers, banged shut the door and they were being
whisked to the street in the elevator.

This time, as they were about to go out of the building, she noticed
Drummond standing in the shadow of a corner back of the cigar counter
on the first floor. She told Murray of the times she had seen Drummond
following her. Murray ground his teeth.

"He'll have to hustle this time," he muttered, handing her quickly into
a cab that was waiting for a fare.

Before he could give the order where to drive she had leaned out of the
window, "To the ferry," she cried.

Murray looked at her inquiringly. Then he understood. "Not to the
Riverside--yet," she whispered. "That man has just summoned a cab that
was passing."

In her eyes Murray saw the same fire that had blazed when she had told
him he was running away from a fight that had not yet begun. As the cab
whirled through the now nearly deserted downtown streets, he reached
over in sheer admiration and caressed her hand. She did not withdraw
it, but her averted eyes and quick breath told that a thousand thoughts
were hurrying through her mind, divided between the man in the cab
beside her and the man in the cab following perhaps half a block behind.

At the ferry they halted and pretended to be examining a time table,
though they bought only ferry tickets. Drummond did the same, and
sauntered leisurely within easy distance of the gate. Nothing seemed to
escape him, and yet never did he seem to be watching them.

The gateman shouted "All aboard!"

The door began to close.

"Come," she tugged at his sleeve.

They dodged in just in time. Drummond followed. They started across the
wagonway to the opposite side of the slip. He kept on the near side.
Constance swerved back again to the near side. Drummond had been
opposite them and they had now fallen in behind him. He was now ahead,
but going slowly. Murray felt her pulling back on his arm. With a
little exclamation she dropped her purse, which contained a few coins.
She had contrived to open it, and the coins ran in every possible
direction. Drummond was now on the boat.

"All aboard," growled the guard surlily. "All aboard."

"Go ahead, go ahead," shouted Murray, trying to pick up the scattered
change and scattering it the more. At last he understood. "Go ahead.
We'll take the next boat. Can't you see the lady has dropped her purse?"

The gates closed. The warning whistle blew, and the ferryboat,
departed, bearing off Drummond alone.


Another cab took them to the Riverside. A new bond of experience had
been established between them. They dined quietly and as the lights
grew mellow she told him more of her story than she had ever breathed
to any other living soul.

As Murray listened he looked his admiration for the daring of the
little woman opposite him at the table.

They drifted....

It was the day of the threatened exposure. Curiously enough, Dodge felt
no nervousness. The understanding which he had reached or felt that he
had reached with Constance made him rather eager than otherwise to have
the whole affair over with at once.

Drummond had been shut up for some time in the office of Beverley with
Dumont, going over the report which the accountant had prepared and
other matters--He had come in without seeing either Constance or
Murray, though they knew he must be nursing his chagrin over the
episode of the night before.

"They are waiting to see you," reported Constance to Dodge, half an
hour later, after one of the office boys had been sent over as a formal
messenger to their office.

"We are ready for them?" he asked, smiling at her.

Constance nodded.

"Then I shall go in. Wait a moment. When they have hurled their worst
at me I shall call on you. Have the stuff ready."

There was no hesitation, no misgiving on the part of either, as he
strode into Beverley's office. Constance had prepared the record which
they had been working on, and for days had been momentarily expecting
this crisis. She felt that she was ready.

An ominous silence greeted Dodge as he entered.

"We have had experts on your books, Dodge," began Beverley, clearing
his throat, as Murray seated himself, waiting for them to speak first.

"I have seen that," he replied dryly.

"They are fifty thousand dollars short," shot out Dumont.

"Indeed?"

Dumont gasped at the coolness of the man. "Wh--what? You have nothing
to say? Why, sir," he added, raising his voice, "you have actually made
no effort to conceal it!"

Dodge smiled cynically. "A consultation, will rectify it," was all he
said. "A conference will show you that it is all right."

"A consultation?" broke in Beverley in rage. "A consultation in jail!"

Still Dodge merely smiled.

"Then you consider yourself trapped. You admit it," ground out Dumont.

"Anything you please," repeated Dodge. "I am perfectly willing--"

"Let us end this farce--now," cried Beverley hotly. "Drummond!"

The detective had been doing some rapid thinking. "Just a moment," he
interrupted. "Don't be too precipitate. Hear his side, if he has any. I
can manage him. Besides, I have something else to say about another
person that will interest us all."

"Then you are willing to have the consultation!"

Drummond nodded.

"Miss Dunlap," called Murray, taking the words almost from the
detective's lips, as he opened the door and held it for her to enter.

"No--no. Alone," almost shouted Beverley.

The detective signaled to him and he subsided, muttering.

As she entered Drummond looked hard at her. Constance met him without
wavering an instant.

"I think I've seen you before, MRS. Dunlap," insinuated the detective.

"Perhaps," replied Constance, still meeting his sharp ferret eye
squarely, which increased his animosity.

"Your husband was Carlton Dunlap, cashier of Green & Company, was he
not?"

She bit her lip. The manner of his raking up of old scores, though she
had expected it, was cruel. It would have been cruel in court, if she
had had a lawyer to protect her rights. It was doubly cruel, merciless,
here. Before Dodge could interrupt, the detective added, "Who committed
suicide after forging checks to meet his--"

Murray was at Drummond like a hound. "Another word from you and I'll
throttle you," he blurted out.

"No, Murray, no. Don't," pleaded Constance. She was burning with
indignation, but it was not by violence that she expected to prevail.
"Let him say what he has to say."

Drummond smiled. He had no scruples about a "third degree" of this
kind, and besides there were three of them to Dodge.

"You were--both of you--at Woodlake not long ago, were you not?" he
asked calmly.

There was no escaping the implication of the tone. Still Drummond was
taking no chances of being misunderstood. "There was one man," he went
on, "who embezzled for you. Here is another who has embezzled. How will
that look when it goes before a jury!" he concluded.

The fight had shifted before it had well begun. Instead of being
between Dodge on one side and Beverley and Dumont on the other, it now
seemed to be a clash between a cool detective and a clever woman.

"Mrs. Dunlap," interrupted Murray, with a mocking smile at the
detective, "will you tell us what you have found out since you have
been my private secretary?"

Constance had not lost control of herself for a moment.

"I have been looking over the books a little bit myself," she began
slowly, with all eyes riveted on her. "I find, for instance, that your
company has been undervaluing its imported goods. Undervaluing
merchandise is considered, I believe, one of the meanest forms of
smuggling. The undervaluer has frequently to make a tool of a man in
his employ. Then that tool must play on the frailties of an unfortunate
or weak examiner at the Public Stores where all invoices and
merchandise from foreign countries are examined."

Drummond had been trying to interrupt, but she had ignored him, and was
speaking rapidly so that he could get no chance.

"You have cheated the Government of hundreds of thousands dollars," she
hurried on facing Beverley and Dumont. "It would make a splendid
newspaper story."

Dumont moved uneasily. Drummond was now staring. It was a new phase of
the matter to him. He had not counted on handling a woman like
Constance, who knew how to take advantage of every weak spot in the
armor.

"We are wasting time," he interrupted brusquely. "Get back to the
original subject. There is a fifty thousand-dollar shortage on these
books."

The attempt clumsily to shift the case away again from Constance to
Dodge was apparent.

"Mrs. Dunlap's past troubles," Dodge asserted vigorously, "have nothing
to do with the case. It was cowardly to drag that in. But the other
matter of which she speaks has much to do with it."

"One moment, Murray," cried Constance. "Let me finish what I began.
This is my fight, too, now."

She was talking with blazing eyes and in quick, cutting tone.

"For three years he did your dirty work," she flashed. "He did the
bribing--and you saved half a million dollars."

"He has stolen fifty thousand," put in Beverley, white with anger.

"I have kept an account of everything," pursued Constance, without
pausing. "I have pieced the record together so that he can now connect
the men higher up with the actual acts he had to do. He can gain
immunity by turning state's evidence. I am not sure but that he might
be able to obtain his moiety of what the Government recovers if the
matter were brought to suit and won on the information he can furnish."

She paused. No one seemed to breathe.

"Now," she added impressively, "at ten per cent. commission the half
million that he saved for you yields fifty thousand dollars. That,
gentlemen, is the amount of the shortage--an offset."

"The deuce it is!" exclaimed Beverley.

Constance reached for a telephone on the desk near her.

"Get me the Law Division at the Customs House," she asked simply.

Dumont was pale and almost speechless. Beverley could ill suppress his
smothered rage. What could they do? The tables had been turned. If they
objected to the amazing proposal Constance had made they might all go
to jail. Dodge even might go free, rich. They looked at Dodge and Mrs.
Dunlap. There was no weakening. They were as relentless as their
opponents had been before.

Dumont literally tore the telephone from her. "Never mind about that
number, central," he muttered.

Then he started as if toward the door. The rest followed. Outside the
accountant had been waiting patiently, perhaps expecting Drummond to
call on him to corroborate the report. He had been listening. There was
no sound of high voices, as he had expected. What did it mean?

The door opened. Beverley was pale and haggard, Dumont worn and silent.
He could scarcely talk. Dodge again held the door for Constance as she
swept past the amazed accountant.

All eyes were now fixed on Dumont as chief spokesman.

"He has made a satisfactory explanation," was all he said.

"I would lock all that stuff up in the strongest safe deposit vault in
New York," remarked Constance, laying the evidence that involved them
all on Murray's desk. "It is your only safeguard."

"Constance," he burst forth suddenly, "you were superb."

The crisis was past now and she felt the nervous reaction.

"There is one thing more I want to say," he added in a low tone.

He had crossed to where she was standing by the window, and bent over,
speaking with great emotion.

"Since that afternoon at Woodlake when you turned me back again from
the foolish and ruinous course on which I had decided you--you have
been more to me than life. Constance, I have never loved until now.
Nothing has ever mattered except money. I never had any one else to
think of, care for, except myself. You have changed everything."

She was gazing out of the window at the tall buildings. There, in a
myriad of offices, lay wealth untold, opportunity as yet untasted to
seize that wealth. Only for an instant she turned and looked at him,
then dropped her eyes. What lay that way?

"You are clear now, respected, respectable," she said simply.

"Yes, thank God. Clear and with a new ambition, thanks to you."

She had been expecting this ever since that last night. The relief of
Murray to feel that the old score that would have ruined him was now
wiped off the slate was precisely what she had anticipated.

Yet, somehow, it disappointed her. She felt instinctively that her
triumph was burning fast to ashes.

"Keep clear," she faltered.

"Constance," he urged, approaching closer and taking her cold hand.

Was she to be the one to hold him back in any way from the new life
that was now before him? What if Drummond, in his animosity, ever got
the truth? She gently unclasped her hand from his. No, that happiness
was not for her.

"I am afraid I am a crook at heart, Murray," she said sadly. "I have
gone too far to turn back. The brand is on me. But I am not altogether
bad--yet. Think of me always with charity. Yes," she cried wildly, "I
must return to my loneliness. No, do not try to stop me, you have no
right," she added bitterly as the reality of her situation burned
itself into her heart.

She broke away from him wildly, but with set purpose. The world had
taken away her husband; now it was a lover; the world must pay.



CHAPTER III

THE GUN RUNNERS


"We'll land here, Mrs. Dunlap."

Ramon Santos, terror of the Washington State Department and of a half
dozen consulates in New York, stuck a pin in a map of Central America
spread out on a table before Constance.

"Insurrectos will meet us," he pursued, then added, "but we must have
money, first, my dear Senora, plenty of money."

Dark of eye and skin, with black imperial and mustache, tall, straight
as an arrow, Santos had risen and was now gazing down with rapt
attention, not at the map, but at Constance herself.

Every curve of her face and wave of her hair, every line of her trim
figure which her filmy gown seemed to accentuate rather than conceal
added fire to his ardent glances.

He touched lightly another pin sticking in a little, almost microscopic
island of the Caribbean.

"Our plan, it is simple," he continued with animation in spite of his
foreign accent. "On this island a plant to print paper money, to coin
silver. With that we shall land, pay our men as they flock to us,
collect forces, seize cities, appropriate the customs. Once we start,
it is easy."

Constance looked up quickly. "But that is counterfeiting," she
exclaimed.

"No," rejoined Santos, "it is a war measure. We--the provisional
government--merely coin our own money. Besides, it will not be done in
this country. It will not come under your laws."

There was a magnetism about the man that fascinated her, as he stood
watching the effect of his words. Instinctively she knew that it was
not alone enthusiasm over his scheme that inspired his confidences.

"Though we are not counterfeiters," he went on, "we do not know what
moment our opponents may set your Secret Service to destroy all our
hopes. Besides, we must have money--now--to buy machinery, arms,
ammunition. We must find some one," he lowered his voice, "who can
persuade American bankers and merchants to take risks to gain valuable
concessions in the new state."

Santos was talking rapidly and earnestly, urging his case on her.

"We are prepared," he hurried on confidentially, "to give you, Senora,
half the money that you can raise for these purposes."

He paused and stood before her. He was certainly a handsome figure,
this soldier of fortune, and he was at his best now.

Constance looked out of the window of her sitting room. This was a
business proposition, not to be influenced by any sentiment.

She watched the lights moving up and down the river and bay. There were
craft from the ends of the earth. She speculated on the romantic
secrets hidden in liner and tramp. Surely they could scarcely be more
romantic than the appeal Santos was making.

"Will you help us?" urged Santos, leaning further over the map to read
her averted face.

In her loneliness after she had given up Murray Dodge, life in New York
had seemed even more bitter to Constance than before. Yet the great
city cast a spell over her, with its countless opportunities for
adventure. She could not leave it, but had taken a suite in a quiet
boarding house overlooking the bay from the Heights in Brooklyn.

One guest in particular had interested her. He was a Latin American,
Ramon Santos. She noticed that he seldom appeared at breakfast or
luncheon. But at dinner he often, ordered much as if it were seven
o'clock in the morning instead of the evening. He was a mystery and
mysteries interested her. Did he work all night and sleep all day? What
was he doing?

She was astonished a few nights after her arrival to receive a call
from the mysterious evening breakfaster.

"Pardon--I intrude," he began gracefully, presenting his card. "But I
have heard how clever you are, Senora Dunlap. A friend, in an importing
firm, has told me of you, a Mr. Dodge."

Constance was startled at the name. Murray had indeed written a little
note expressing his entire confidence in Mr. Santos. Formal as it was,
Constance thought she could read between the lines the same feeling
toward her that he had expressed at their parting.

Santos gave her no time to live over the past.

"You see, Mrs. Dunlap," he explained, as he led up to the object of his
visit, "the time has come to overthrow the regime in Central
America--for a revolution which will bring together all the countries
in a union like the old United States of Central America."

He had spread out the map on the table.

"Only," he added, "we would call the new state, Vespuccia."

"We?" queried Constance.

"Yes--my--colleagues-you call it in English! We have already a Junta
with headquarters in an old loft on South Street, in New York."

Santos indicated the plan of campaign on the map.

"We shall strike a blow," he cried, bringing his fist down on the table
as if the blow had already fallen, "that will paralyze the enemy at the
very start!"

He paused.

"Will you help us raise the money?" he repeated earnestly.

Constance had been inactive long enough. The appeal was romantic,
almost irresistible. Besides--no, at the outset she put out of
consideration any thought of the fascinating young soldier of fortune
himself.

The spirit of defiance of law and custom was strong upon her. That was
all.

"Yes," she replied, "I will help you."

Santos leaned over, and with a graceful gesture that she could not
resent, raised her finger tips gallantly to his lips.

"Thank you," he said with, a courtly smile. "We have already won!"

The next day Ramon introduced her to the other members of the Junta. It
was evident that he was in fact as well as name their leader, but they
were not like the usual oily plotters of revolution who congregate
about the round tables in dingy back rooms of South Street cafes,
apportioning the gold lace, the offices, and the revenues among
themselves. There was an "air" about them that was different.

"Let me present Captain Lee Gordon of the _Arroyo_," remarked Santos,
coming to a stockily-built, sun-burned man with the unmistakable look
of the Anglo-Saxon who has spent much time in the neighborhood of the
tropical sun. "The _Arroyo_ is the ship that is to carry the arms and
the plant to the island--from Brooklyn. We choose Brooklyn because it
is quieter over there--fewer people late at night on the streets."

Captain Gordon bowed, without taking his eyes off Constance.

"I am, like yourself, Mrs. Dunlap, a recent recruit," he explained. "It
is a wonderful plan," he added enthusiastically. "We shall sweep the
country with it."

He flicked off the ash of his inevitable cigarette, much as if it were
the opposition of the governments they were to encounter.

It was evident that the Captain was much impressed by Constance. Yet
she instinctively disliked the man. His cameraderie had something
offensive about it, as contrasted with the deferential friendship of
Santos.

With all her energy, however, Constance plunged directly into her work.
Indeed, even at the start she was amazed to find that money for a
revolution could be raised at all. She soon, found that it could be
done more easily in New York than anywhere else in the world.

 There seemed to be something about her that apparently appealed to
those whom she went to see. She began to realize what a tremendous
advantage a woman of the world had in presenting the case and
convincing a speculator of the rich returns if the revolution should
prove successful. More than that, she quickly learned that it was best
to go alone, that it was she, quite as much as the promised concessions
for tobacco, salt, telegraph, telephone monopolies, that loosed the
purse strings.

Her first week's report of pledges ran into the thousands with a
substantial immediate payment of real dollars.

"How did you do it?" asked Santos in undisguised admiration, as she was
telling him one night of her success, in the dusty, cobwebbed little
ship chandlery on South Street where the Junta headquarters had been
established.

"Dollar diplomacy," she laughed, not displeased at his admiration. "We
shall soon convert American dollars into Vespuccian bullets."

They were alone, and a week had made much difference in the fascinating
friendship to Constance.

"Let me show you what I have done," Ramon confided. "Already, I have
started together the 'counterfeiting plant,' as you call it."

Piece by piece, as he had been able to afford them, he had been
ordering the presses, the stamping machine, and a little "reeding" or
milling machine for the edges of the coins.

"The paper, the ink, and the bullion, we shall order now as we can," he
explained, resting his head on his elbow at the table beside her.
"Everything will be secured from firms which make mint supplies for
foreign governments. A photo-engraver is now engaged on the work of
copying the notes. He is making the plates by the photo-etching
process--the same as that by which the real money plates are made.
Then, too, there will be dies for the coins. Coined silver will be
worth, twice the cost of the bullion to us. Why," he added eagerly, "a
few more successful days, Senora, and we shall have even arms and
ammunition."

A key turned in the door. Santos sprang to his feet. It was Gordon.

"Ah, good evening," the Captain greeted them. The fact that they had
been talking so earnestly alone was not lost on him. "May I join the
conspiracy?" he smiled. "What luck to-day? By the way, I have just
heard of a consignment of a thousand rifles as good as new that can be
bought for a song."

Santos, elated at the progress so far, told hastily of Constance's
success. "Let us get an option on them for a few days," he cried.

"Good," agreed Gordon, "only," he added, shaking his finger playfully
at Constance, as the three left the headquarters, "don't let the
commander-in-chief monopolize ALL your time, Remember, we all need you
now. Santos, that was an inspiration to get Mrs. Dunlap on our side."

Somehow she felt uncomfortable. She half imagined that a frown had
flitted over Santos' face.

"Are you going to Brooklyn?" she asked him.

"No, we shall be working at the Junta late to-night," he replied, as
they parted at the subway, he and Gordon to secure the option on the
guns, she to plan for the morrow.

"I have made a good beginning," she congratulated herself, when, later
in her rooms, she was going over the list of names of commission
merchants who handled produce of South American countries.

There was a tap on the door.

Quickly, she shoved the list into the drawer of the table.

"A gentleman to see you, downstairs, ma'am," announced the maid.

As she pushed aside the portieres, her heart gave a leap--it was
Drummond.

"Mrs. Dunlap," began the wily detective, seeming to observe everything
with eyes that seldom had the appearance of looking at anything, "I
think you will recall that we have met before."

Constance bit her lip. "And why again?" she queried curtly.

"I am informed," he went on coolly ignoring her curtness, "that there
is a guest in this house named Santos--Ramon Santos."

He said it in a half insinuating, half questioning tone.

"You might inquire of the landlady," replied Constance, now perfectly
composed.

"Mrs. Dunlap," he burst forth, exasperated, "what is the use of beating
about? Do you know the real character of this Santos!"

"It is a matter of perfect indifference," she returned.

"Then you do not think a warning from me worth troubling about?"
demanded the detective.

Constance continued to stand as if to terminate the interview.

"I came here," continued the detective showing no evidence of taking
the hint, "to make a proposition to you. Mrs. Dunlap, you are in bad
again. But this time there is a chance for you to get out without risk.
I--I think I may talk plainly? We understand each other!"

His manner had changed. Constance could not have described to herself
the loathing she felt for the man as it suddenly flashed over her what
he was after. If she had resented his familiarity before, it brought
the stinging blood to her cheeks now to realize that he was actually
seeking to persuade her to betray her friends.

"Do you want to know what I think?" she scorned, then without waiting
added, "I think you are a crook--a blackmailer,--that's what I think of
a private detective like you."

The defiance of the little woman amazed even Drummond. Instead of fear
as of the pursued, Constance Dunlap showed all the boldness of the
pursuer.

"You have got to stop this swindling," the detective raged, taking a
step closer to her. "I know the bankers you have fooled. I know how
much you have worked them for."

"Swindling?" she repeated coolly, in assumed surprise. "Who says I am
swindling?"

"You know well enough what I mean--this revolution that is being
planned to bring about the new state of Vespuccia, as your friends
Santos and Gordon call it."

"Vespuccia--Santos--Gordon?"

"Yes," he shouted, "Vespuccia--Santos--Gordon. And I'll go further.
I'll tell you something you may not care to hear."

Drummond leaned over closer to her in his favorite bulldozing manner
when he dealt with a woman. All the malevolence of the human bloodhound
seemed concentrated in his look.

"Who forged those Carlton Realty checks?" he hissed. "Who played off
the weakness of Dumont and Beverley against the clever thefts of Murray
Dodge! Who is using a counterfeiter and a soldier of fortune and
swindling honest American bankers and business men as no man crook--you
seem to like that word--crook--could ever do?"

Constance met him calmly. "Oh," she laughed airily, "I suppose you mean
to imply that it is I."

"I don't imply," he ground out, "I assert--accuse."

Constance shrugged her pretty shoulders.

"I want to tell you that I am employed by the Central American
consulates in this city," blustered Drummond. "And I am waiting only
for one thing. The moment an order is given for the withdrawal of that
stuff from the little shop in South Street--you know what I mean--I am
ready. I shall not be alone, then. You will have the power of the
United States Secret Service to deal with, this time, my clever lady."

"Well, what of that?"

"There is this much of it. I warn you now against working with this
Santos. He--you--can make no move that we do not know."

Why had Drummond come to see her? Constance was asking herself. The
very insolence of the man seemed to arouse all the combativeness of her
nature. The detective had thought to "throw a scare into" her. She
turned suddenly and swept out of the room.

"I thank you for your kindness," she said icily. "It is unnecessary.
Good-night."

In her own room she paced the floor nervously, now that the strain was
off. Should she desert Santos and save herself? He had more need of her
help now than ever before. She did not stop to analyze her own
feelings. She knew he had been making love to her during the past week
as only a Spaniard could. It fascinated her without blinding her. Yes,
she would match her wits against this detective, clever though she knew
he was. But Santos must be warned.

Santos and Gordon were alone when she burst in on them, breathlessly,
an hour later at the Junta.

"What is the matter?" inquired Ramon quickly, placing a chair for her.

Gordon looked his admiration for the little woman, though he did not
speak it. She saw him cast a sidewise glance at Santos and herself.

Though the three were friends, it was evident to her that Gordon did
not trust Santos any further than the suspicious Anglo-Saxon trusts a
foreigner usually when there is a woman in the case.

"The Secret Service!" exclaimed Constance. "I have just had a visit
from a private detective employed by one of the consulates. They know
too much. He has threatened to tell all to the Secret Service, has even
had the effrontery to ask me to betray you."

"The scoundrel," burst out Santos impulsively.

"You are not frightened?" Gordon asked quickly.

"On the contrary, I expected something of the sort soon, but not from
this man. I can meet him!"

"Good," exclaimed the Captain.

There was that in his voice that caused her to look at him quickly.
Santos had noticed it, too, and a sullen scowl spread over his face.

Intuitively Constance read the two men before her. She had fled from
one problem to a greater. Both Santos and Gordon were in love with her.

In the whirl of this new discovery, two things alone crowded all else
from her mind. She must contrive to hold off Drummond until that part
of the expedition which was ready could be got off. And she must play
the jealous rivals against each other with such finesse as to keep them
separated.

Far into the night after she had left the Junta she debated the
question with herself. She could not turn back now. The attentions of
Gordon were offensive. Yet she could have given no other reason than
that she liked Santos the better. Yet what was Santos to her, after
all? Once she had let herself go too far. She must be careful in this
case. She must not allow this to be other than a business proposition.

The crisis for her came sooner than she had anticipated. It was the day
after the visit of Drummond. She was waiting at the Junta alone for
Santos when Gordon entered. She had dreaded just that. There was no
mistaking the man.

"Mrs. Dunlap," began Gordon bending down close over her.

She was almost trembling with emotion, and he saw it.

"You can read me like a book," he hurried on, mistaking her feelings.
"I can see that you know how much I think of you--how much I--"

"No, no," she implored. "Don't talk to me that way. Remember--there is
work to do. After it is over--then--"

"Work!" he scorned. "What is the whole of Central America to me
compared to you?"

"Captain Gordon!" she stood facing him. "You must not. Listen to me.
You do not know--I--please, please leave me. Let me think."

She did not dare accept him; she could not reject him. It seemed that
with an almost superhuman effort Gordon gripped himself. But he did not
go.

Constance was distracted, what if Santos with his fiery nature should
find Gordon talking to her alone? She must temporize.

"One week," she murmured. "When the _Arroyo_ sails--that night--I shall
give you my answer."

Gordon shot a peculiar glance at her--half doubt, half surprise. But
she was gone. As she hurried unexpectedly out of the Junta she fancied
she caught a glimpse of a familiar figure. It must have been Drummond.
Every move at the Junta was being watched.

At the boarding house all night she waited. She must see Santos. Plan
after plan whirled through her brain as the hours dragged.

It was not until almost morning that, seeing a light, he tapped
cautiously at her door.

"You were not at the Junta to-night," he remarked.

There was something of jealousy in the tone.

"No. There is something I wanted to say to you where we should not be
interrupted," she answered as he sat down.

A fold of her filmy house dress fluttered near him. Involuntarily he
moved closer. His eyes met hers. She could feel the passions surging in
the man beside her.

"I saw Drummond again, to-day," she began. "Captain Gordon--"

The intense look of hatred that blazed in the eyes of Santos frightened
her. What might have happened if he instead of Gordon had met her at
the Junta she could not have said. But now she must guard against it.
It flashed over her that there was only one thing to be done.

She rose and laid her hand on his arm. As quickly the look changed.
There was only one way to do it; she must make this man think they
understood each other without saying so.

"You must get the counterfeiting plant down on the
island--immediately--alone. Don't tell any of the others until it is
there safely. You were going to send it down on the _Arroyo_ next week.
It must not go from New York at all. It must be shipped by rail, and
then from New Orleans. You must--"

"But--Gordon?" His voice was hoarse.

She looked at Santos long and earnestly. "I will take care of him," she
said in a tone that Santos could not mistake. "No--Ramon, no. After the
revolution--perhaps--who shall say? But now--to work!"

It was with a sigh of relief that she sank to rest at last when he had
gone. For the moment she had won.

Piece by piece, Santos and she secretly carried out the goods that had
already been collected at the Junta, during the next few days. Without
a word to a soul they were shipped south. The boxes and barrels
remained in the musty shop, apparently undisturbed.

Next the order for the arms and ammunition was quietly diverted so that
they, too, were on their way to New Orleans. Instead, cases resembling
them were sent to the Junta headquarters. Drummond, least of all, must
be allowed to think that there was any change in their plans.

While Santos was at work gathering the parts, the stamping machine, the
press, the dies, the plates, and the rest of the counterfeiting plant
which had not yet been delivered, Constance, during the hours that she
was not collecting money from the concession-grabbers, haunted the
Junta. There was every evidence of activity there as the week advanced.

She was between two fires, yet never had she enjoyed the tang of
adventure more than now. It was a keen pleasure to feel that she was
outwitting Drummond when, as some apparently insurmountable difficulty
arose, she would overcome it. More delicate was it, however, to
preserve the balance between Santos and Gordon. In fact it seemed that
the more she sought to avoid Gordon, the more jealously did he pursue
her. It was a tangled skein of romance and intrigue that Constance was
weaving.

At last all was ready. It was the night before the departure of Santos
for the south. Constance had decided on the last interview in her own
rooms where the first had been.

"I shall go ahead preparing as if to ship the things on the _Arroyo_,"
she said. "Let me know by the code the moment you are ready."

Santos was looking at her, oblivious of everything else.

He reached over and took her hand. She knew this was the moment against
which she had steeled herself.

"Come with me," he asked suddenly.

She could feel his breath, hotly, on her cheek.

It was the final struggle. If she let go of herself, all would be lost.

"No, Ramon," she said softly, but without withdrawing her hand. "It can
never be--listen."

It was terrific, to hold in check a nature such as his.

"I went into this scheme for--for money. I have it. We have raised
nearly forty thousand dollars. Twenty thousand you have given me as my
share."

She paused. He was paying no attention to her words. His whole self was
centered on her face.

"With me," she continued, half wearily withdrawing her hand as she
assumed the part she had decided on for herself, "with me, Ramon, love
is dead--dead. I have seen too much of the world. Nothing has any
fascination for me now except excitement, money--"

He gently leaned over and recovered the hand that she had withdrawn.
Quickly he raised it to his lips as he had done that first night.

"You are mine," he whispered, "not his."

She did not withdraw the hand this time.

"No--not his--nobody's."

For a moment the adventurers understood each other.

"Not his," he muttered fiercely as he threw his arms about her wildly,
passionately.

"Nobody's," she panted as she gave one answering caress, then struggled
from him.

She had conquered not only Ramon Santos but Constance Dunlap.

Early the next morning he was speeding southward over the clicking
rails.

Every energy must be bent toward keeping the new scheme secret until it
was carried out successfully. Not a hint must get to Drummond that
there was any change in the activities of the Junta. As for the Junta
itself, there was no one of those who believed implicitly in Santos
whom Constance need fear, except Gordon. Gordon was the bete noire.

Two days passed and she was able to guard the secret, as well as to act
as though nothing had happened. Santos had left a short note for the
Junta telling them that he would be away for a short time putting the
finishing touches on the purchase of the arms. The arrival of a
cartload of cases at the Junta, which Constance arranged for herself,
bore out the letter. Still, she waited anxiously for word from him.

The day set for the sailing of the _Arroyo_ arrived and with it at last
a telegram: "Buy corn, oats, wheat. Sell cotton."

It was the code, telling of the safe arrival of the rifles, cartridges
and the counterfeiting plant in New Orleans, a little late, but safe.
"Sell cotton," meant "I sail to-night."

On the way over to the Junta, she had noticed one of Drummond's shadows
dogging her. She must do anything to keep the secret until that night.

She hurried into the dusty ship chandlery. There was Gordon.

"Good morning, Mrs. Dunlap," he cried. "You are just the person I am
looking for. Where is Santos? Has the plan been changed?"

Constance thought she detected a shade of jealousy in the tone. At any
rate, Gordon was more attentive than ever.

"I think he is in Bridgeport," she replied as casually as she could.
"Your ship, you know, sails to-night. He has sent word to me to give
orders that all the goods here at the Junta be ready to cart over by
truck to Brooklyn. There has been no change. The papers are to be
signed during the day and she is to be scheduled to sail late in the
afternoon with the tide. Only, as you know, some pretext must delay
you. You will hold her at the pier for us. He trusts all that to you as
a master hand at framing such excuses that seem plausible."

Gordon leaned over closer to her. He was positively revolting to her in
the role of admirer. But she must not offend him--yet.

"And my answer!" he asked.

There was something about him that made Constance almost draw away
involuntarily.

"To-night--at the pier," she murmured forcing a smile.

Shortly after dark the teams started their lumbering way across the
city and the bridge. Messengers, stationed on the way, were to report
the safe progress of the trucks to Brooklyn.

Constance slipped away from the boardinghouse, down through the
deserted streets to the waterfront, leaving word at home that any
message was to be sent by a trusty boy to the pier.

It was a foggy and misty night on the water, an ideal night for the
gun-runner. She was relieved to learn that there had been not a hitch
so far. Still, she reasoned, that was natural. Drummond, even if he had
not been outwitted, would scarcely have spoiled the game until the last
moment.

On the _Arroyo_ every one was chafing. Below decks, the engineer and
his assistants were seeing that the machinery was in perfect order. Men
in the streets were posted to give Gordon warning of any danger.

In the river a tug was watching for a possible police boat. On the
wharf the only footfalls were those of Gordon himself and an assistant
from the Junta. It was dreary waiting, and Constance drew her coat more
closely around her, as she shivered in the night wind and tried to
brace herself against the unexpected.

At last the welcome muffled rumble of heavily laden carts disturbed the
midnight silence of the street leading to the river.

At once a score of men sprang from the hold of the ship, as if by
magic. One by one the cases were loaded. The men were working
feverishly by the light of battle lanterns--big lamps with reflectors
so placed as to throw the light exactly where it was needed and nowhere
else. They were taking aboard the _Arroyo_ dozens of coffin-like wooden
cases, and bags and boxes, smaller and even heavier. Silently and
swiftly they toiled.

It was risky work, too, at night and in the tense haste. There was a
muttered exclamation--a heavy case had dropped! a man had gone down
with a broken leg.

It was a common thing with the gun-runners. The crew of the _Arroyo_
had expected it. The victim of such an accident could not be sent to a
hospital ashore. He was carried, as gently as the rough hands could
carry anything, to one side, where he lay silently waiting for the
ship's surgeon who had been engaged for just such an emergency.
Constance bent over and made the poor fellow as comfortable as she
could. There was never a whimper from him, but he looked his gratitude.

Scarcely a fraction of a minute had been lost. The last cases were now
being loaded. The tug crawled up and made fast. Already the empty
trucks were vanishing in the misty darkness, one by one, as muffled as
they came.

Suddenly lights flashed through the fog on the river.

There was a hurried tread of feet on the land from around the corner of
a bleak, forbidding black warehouse.

They were surrounded. On one side was the police boat Patrol. On the
other was Drummond. With both was the Secret Service. The surprise was
complete.

Constance turned to Gordon. He was gone.

Before she could move, some one seized her.

"Where's Santos?" demanded a hoarse voice in her ear. She looked up to
see Drummond.

She shut her lips tightly, secure in the secret that Ramon was at the
moment or soon would be on the Gulf, out of reach.

Across in the fog she strained her eyes. Was that the familiar figure
of Gordon moving in the dim light?

There he was, now,--with Drummond, the police, and the Secret Service.
It was exactly as she had suspected to herself, and a smile played over
her face.

All was excitement, shouts, muttered imprecations. Constance was the
calmest in the crowd--deaf to even Drummond's "third degree."

They had begun to break open the boxes marked "salt" and "corn."

A loud exclamation above the sharp crunching of the axes escaped
Gordon. "Damn them! They've put one across on us!"

The boxes of "salt" and "corn" contained--salt and corn.

Not a stock of a rifle, not a barrel, not a cartridge was in any of
them as the axes crashed in one case after another.

A boy with a telegram emerged indiscreetly from the misty shadows.
Drummond seized it, tore it open, and read, "Buy cotton."

It was the code: "I am off safely."

The double cross had worked. Constance was thinking, as she smiled to
herself, of the money, her share, which she had hidden. There was not a
scrap of tangible evidence against her, except what Santos had carried
with him in the filibustering expedition already off from New Orleans.
Her word would stand against that of all of the victims combined before
any jury that could be empaneled.

"You thought I needed a warning," she cried, facing Drummond with eyes
that flashed scorn at the skulking figure of Gordon behind him. "But
the next time you employ a stool-pigeon to make love," she added,
"reckon in that thing you detectives scorn--a woman's intuition."



CHAPTER IV

THE GAMBLERS


"Won't you come over to see me to-night? Just a friendly little game,
my dear--our own crowd, you know."

There was something in the purring tone of the invitation of the woman
across the hall from Constance Dunlap's apartment that aroused her
curiosity.

"Thank you. I believe I will," answered Constance. "It's lonely in a
big city without friends."

"Indeed it is," agreed Bella LeMar. "I've been watching you for some
time and wondering how you stand it. Now be sure to come, won't you?"

"I shall be glad to do so," assured Constance, as they reached their
floor and parted at the elevator door.

She had been watching the other woman, too, although she had said
nothing about it.

"A friendly little game," repeated Constance to herself. "That sounds
as if it had the tang of an adventure in it. I'll go."

The Mayfair Arms, in which she had taken a modest suite of rooms, was a
rather recherche apartment, and one of her chief delights since she had
been there had been in watching the other occupants.

There had been much to interest her in the menage across the hall. Mrs.
Bella LeMar, as she called herself, was of a type rather common in the
city, an attractive widow on the safe side of forty, well-groomed,
often daringly gowned. Her brown eyes snapped vivacity, and the pert
little nose and racy expression of the mouth confirmed the general
impression that Mrs. LeMar liked the good things of life.

Quite naturally, Constance observed, her neighbor had hosts of friends
who often came early and stayed late, friends who seemed to exude, as
it were, an air of prosperity and high living. Clearly, she was a woman
to cultivate. Constance felt even more interest in her, now that Mrs.
LeMar had pursued a bowing acquaintance to the point of an unsolicited
invitation.

"A friendly little game," she speculated. "What IS the game?"

 That night found Constance at the buzzer beside the heavy mahogany
door across the hall. She wore a new evening gown of warm red. Her face
glowed with heightened color, and her nerves were on the qui vive for
the unlocking at last of the mystery of the fascinating Mrs. LeMar.

"So glad to see you, my dear," smiled Bella, holding out her hand
engagingly. "You are just in time."

Already several of the guests had arrived. There was an air of bonhomie
as Bella presented them to Constance--a stocky, red-faced man with a
wide chest and narrow waist, Ross Watson; a tall, sloping-shouldered
man who inclined his head forward earnestly when he talked to a lady
and spoke with animation, Haddon Halsey; and a fair-haired, baby-blue
eyed little woman gowned in becoming pink, Mrs. Lansing Noble.

"Now we're all here--just enough for a game," remarked Bella in a
business-like tone. "Oh, I beg pardon--you play, Mrs. Dunlap?" she
added to Constance.

"Oh, yes," Constance replied. "Almost anything--a little bit."

She had already noted that the chief object in the room, after all,
appeared to be a round table. About it the guests seemed naturally to
take their places.

"What shall it be to-night--bridge?" asked Watson, nonchalantly
fingering a little pack of gilt-edged cards which Bella had produced.

"Oh, no," cried Mrs. Noble. "Bridge is such a bore."

"Rum?"

"No--no. The regular game--poker."

"A dollar limit?"

"Oh, make it five," drawled Halsey impatiently.

Watson said nothing, but Bella patted Halsey's hand in approval, as if
all were on very good terms indeed. "I think that will make a nice
little game," she cut in, opening a drawer from which she took out a
box of blue, red and white chips of real ivory. Watson seemed naturally
to assume the role of banker.

"Aren't you going to join us?" asked Constance.

"Oh, I seldom play. You know, I'm too busy entertaining you people,"
excused Bella, as she bustled out of the room, reappearing a few
minutes later with the maid and a tray of slender hollow-stemmed
glasses with a bottle wrapped in a white napkin in a pail of ice.

 Mrs. Noble shuffled the cards with practiced hand and Watson kept a
calculating eye on every face. Luck was not with Constance on the first
deal and she dropped out.

Mrs. Noble and Halsey were betting eagerly. Watson was coolly following
along until the show-down--which he won.

"Of all things," exclaimed the little woman in pink, plainly betraying
her vexation at losing. "Will luck never turn?"

Halsey said nothing.

Constance watched in amazement. This was no "friendly little game." The
faces were too tense, too hectic. The play was too high, and the desire
to win too great. Mrs. LeMar was something more than a gracious hostess
in her solicitude for her guests.

All the time the pile of chips in front of Watson kept building up. At
each new deal a white chip was placed in a little box--the kitty--for
the "cards and refreshments."

It was in reality one of the new style gambling joints for men and
women.

The gay parties of callers on Mrs. LeMar were nothing other than
gamblers. The old gambling dens of the icebox doors and steel gratings,
of white-coated servants and free food and drink, had passed away with
"reform." Here was a remarkable new phase of sporting life which had
gradually taken its place.

Constance had been looking about curiously in the meantime. On a table
she saw copies of the newspapers which published full accounts of the
races, something that looked like a racing sheet, and a telephone
conveniently located near writing materials. It was a poolroom, too,
then, in the daytime, she reasoned.

Surely, in the next room, when the light was on, she saw what looked
like a miniature roulette wheel, not one of the elaborate affairs of
bright metal and ebony, but one of those that can almost be packed into
a suitcase and carried about easily.

That was the secret of the flashily dressed men and women who called on
Bella LeMar. They were risking everything, perhaps even honor itself,
on a turn of a wheel, the fall of a card, a guess on a horse.

Why had Bella LeMar invited her here? she asked herself.

At first Constance was a little bit afraid that she might have plunged
into too deep water. She made up her mind to quit when her losses
reached a certain nominal point. But they did not reach it. Perhaps the
gamblers were too clever. But Constance seemed always to keep just a
little bit ahead of the game.

One person in particular in the group interested her as she endeavored
intuitively to take their measure. It was Haddon Halsey, immaculately
garbed, with all those little touches of smartness which women like to
see.

Once she caught Halsey looking intently at her. Was it he who was
letting her win at his expense! Or was his attention to her causing him
to neglect his own game and play it poorly?

She decided to quit. She was a few dollars ahead. For excuse she
pleaded a headache.

Bella accepted the excuse with a cordial nod and a kind inquiry whether
she might not like to lie down.

"No, thank you," murmured Constance. "But the cards make me nervous
to-night. Just let me sit here. I'll be all right in a minute."

As she lolled back on a divan near the players Constance noted, or
thought she noted, now and then exchanges of looks between Bella and
Watson. What was the bond of intimacy between them? She noted on Mrs.
Noble's part that she was keenly alive to everything that Halsey did.
It was a peculiar quadrangle.

Halsey was losing heavily in his efforts to retrieve his fortunes. He
said nothing, but accepted the losses grimly. Mrs. Noble, however,
after each successive loss seemed more and more nervous.

At last, with a hasty look at her wrist watch, she gave a little
suppressed scream.

"How the time flies!" she cried. "Who would have thought it as late as
that? Really I must go. I expect my husband back from a director's
meeting at ten, and it's much easier to be home than to have to think
up an excuse. No, Haddon, don't disturb yourself. I shall get a cab at
the door. Let me see--two hundred and twenty-eight dollars." She paused
as if the loss staggered her. "I'll have to sign another I O U for it,
Bella. There!"

She left in a flutter, as if some one had winked out the light by which
she, poor little butterfly, had singed her wings, and there was nothing
for her but to fly away alone in the darkness with her secret.

Halsey accompanied her to the door. For a moment she raised a
questioning face to his, and shot a half covert glance at Constance.
Then, as if with an effort, adhering to her first resolution to go
alone, she whispered earnestly, "I hope you win. Luck MUST turn."

Halsey plunged back into the game, now with Bella holding a hand. He
played recklessly, then conservatively. It made no difference. The
cards seemed always against him. Constance began really to feel alarmed
at his manner.

Once, however, he chanced to look up at her. Something in her face must
have impressed him. Turning, he flung down the cards in disgust.
"That's enough for to-night," he exclaimed, rising and draining another
glass on the tray.

"Luck will come your way soon again," urged Bella. "It all averages up
in the end, you know. It has to."

"How did you enjoy the evening!" insinuated Bella.

"Very much," replied Constance enthusiastically. "It is so exciting,
you know."

"You must come again when more of my friends are here."

"I should like to. But to-night was very nice."

Halsey looked at her contemplatively. She had risen to go. As she took
a step or two toward the door, still facing them, she found Halsey at
her side.

"Shall we go over to Jack's for a bite to eat?" he whispered.

There was as much of appeal in his undertone as of invitation.

"Thank you. I shall be glad to go," Constance assented quickly.

There was something about Haddon Halsey that interested her. Perhaps
Bella and Watson exchanged a knowing glance as she crossed the hall for
her wraps. Whatever it was, Constance determined to see the thing
through to a finish, confident that she was quite able to take care of
herself.

Outside the raw night air smote dankly on their fevered faces. As they
walked along briskly, too glad to get into the open to summon a car,
Constance happened to turn. She had an uncomfortable feeling. She could
have sworn some one was following them. She said nothing about a figure
a few feet behind them.

The lively, all-night restaurant was thronged. Halsey seemed to throw
himself into the gayety with reckless abandon, ordering about twice as
much as they could eat and drink. But in spite of the fascination of
the scene, Constance could not forget the dark figure skulking behind
them in the shadow of the street.

Once she looked up. At another table she could just catch a glimpse of
Drummond, of the Burr Detective Agency, alone, oblivious.

Never did he look at them. There was nothing to indicate that he was
even interested. But Constance knew that that was the method of his
shadowing. Never for a moment, she knew, did he permit himself to look
into the eyes of his quarry, even for the most fleeting glance.

She knew, too, that there must be some psychological reason for his not
looking at them, as he otherwise must have done, if only by chance. It
was the method followed by the expert modern trailer. She knew that if
one looks at a person intently while in a public place, for instance,
it will not be long before the gaze will be returned. Try as she would,
she could not catch Drummond's eye, however.

Halsey, now that the strain of the game was off, was rattling along
about his losses in an undertone to her.

"But what of it?" he concluded. "Any day luck may change. As for
myself, I go always on the assumption that I am the one
exception--unlucky both at cards and love. If the event proves I am
right, I am not disappointed. If I am wrong, then I am happy."

There was something in the tone of the whimsicality that alarmed her.
It covered a desperation which she felt instinctively.

Why was he talking thus to her, almost a stranger? Surely it could not
have been for that that Bella LeMar had brought them together.

Gradually it came to her. The man had really, honestly been struck by
her from the moment of their introduction. Instead of allowing others,
to say nothing of himself, to lead her on in the path he and Mrs. Noble
and the others had entered, he was taking the bit in his teeth, like a
high-strung race horse, and was running away, now that Bella LeMar for
the moment did not hold the reins. He was warning her openly against
the game!

Somehow the action appealed to Constance. It was genuine,
disinterested. Secretly, it was flattering. Still, she said nothing
about Bella, nor about Mrs. Noble. Halsey seemed to appreciate the
fact. His face showed plainly as if he had said it that here, at least,
was one woman who was not always talking about others.

There had been a rapid-fire suddenness about his confidences which had
fascinated her.

"Are you in business?" she ventured.

"Oh, yes," he laughed grimly. "I'm in business--treasurer of the
Exporting & Manufacturing Company."

"But," she pursued, looking him frankly in the face, "I should think
you'd be afraid to--er--become involved--"

"I know I am being watched," he broke in impatiently. "You see, I'm
bonded, and the bonding companies keep a pretty sharp lookout on your
habits. Oh, the crash will come some day. Until it does--let us make
the most of it--while it lasts."

He said the words bitterly. Constance was confirmed in her original
suspicion of him now. Halsey was getting deeper and deeper into the
moral quagmire. She had seen his interest in Mrs. Noble. Had Bella
LeMar hoped that she, too, would play will-o '-the-wisp in leading him
on?

Over the still half-eaten supper she watched Halsey keenly. A thousand
questions about himself, about Mrs. Noble, rushed through her mind.
Should she be perfectly frank?

"Are you--are you using the company's money!" she asked at length
pointedly.

He had not expected the question, and his evident intention was to deny
it. But he met her eye. He tried to escape it, but could not. What was
there about this little woman that had compelled his attention and
interest from the moment he had been introduced?

Quickly he tried to reason it out in his heart. It was not that she was
physically attractive to him. Mrs. Noble was that. It was not that
fascination which Bella aroused, the adventuress, the siren, the
gorgon. In Constance there was something different. She was a woman of
the world, a man's woman. Then, too, she was so brutally frank in
inviting his confidences.

Over and over he turned the answer he had intended to make. He caught
her eye again and knew that it was of no use.

"Yes," he muttered, as a cloud spread over his face at not being able,
as usual, to let the gay life put the truth out of his mind. "Yes, I
have been using--their funds."

As if a switch had been turned, the light broke on Constance. She saw
herself face to face with one of the dark shadows in the great city of
high lights.

"How?" she asked simply, leaning forward over the table.

There was no resisting her. Quickly he told her all.

"At first with what little money of my own I had I played. Then I began
to sign I O U's and notes. Now I have been taking blank stock
certificates, some of those held as treasury stock in the company's
safe. They have never been issued, so that by writing in the signatures
of myself and the other officers necessary, I have been able to use it
to pay off my losses in gambling."

As he unfolded to her the plan which he had adopted, Constance listened
in amazement.

"And you know that you are watched," she repeated, changing the
subject, and sensing rather than seeing that Drummond was watching them
then.

"Yes," he continued freely. "The International Surety, in which I'm
bonded, has a sort of secret service of its own, I understand. It is
the eye that is never closed, but is screened from the man under bond.
When you go into the Broadway night life too often, for instance," he
pursued, waving his hand about at the gay tables, "run around in fast
motors with faster company--well, they know it. Who is watching, I do
not know. But with me it will be as it has been when others came to the
end. Some day they will come to me, and they are going to say, 'We
don't like your conduct. Where do you get this money?' They will know,
then, too. But before that time comes I want to win, to be in a
position to tell them to go--"

Halsey clenched his fist. It was evident that he did not intend to
quit, no matter what the odds against him.

Constance thought of the silent figure of Drummond at the other
table--watching, watching. She felt sure that it was to him that the
Surety Company had turned over the work of shadowing Halsey. Day after
day, probably, the unobtrusive detective had been trailing Halsey from
the moment he left his apartment until the time when he returned, if he
did return. There was nothing of his goings and comings that was not
already an open book to them. Of what use was it, then, for Halsey to
fight!

It was a situation such as she delighted in. She had made up her mind.
She would help Haddon Halsey to beat the law.

Already it seemed as if he knew that their positions had been reversed.
He had started to warn her; she now was saving him.

Yet even then he showed the better side of his nature.

"There is some one else, Mrs. Dunlap," he remarked earnestly, "who
needs your help even more than I do."

It had cost him something to say that. He had not been able to accept
her help, even under false pretenses. Eagerly he watched to see whether
jealousy of the other woman played any part with her.

"I understand," she said with a hasty glance at her watch and a covert
look at Drummond. "Let us go. If we are to win we must keep our heads
clear. I shall see you to-morrow."

For hours during the rest of the night Constance tossed fitfully in
half sleep, thinking over the problem she had assumed.

How was she to get at the inside truth of what was going on across the
hall? That was the first question.

In her perplexity, she rose and looked out of the window at the now
lightening gray of the courtyard. There dangled the LeMar telephone
wire, only a few feet from her own window.

Suddenly an idea flashed over her. In her leisure she had read much and
thought more. She recalled having heard of a machine that just fitted
her needs.

As soon as she was likely to find places of business open Constance
started out on her search. It was early in the forenoon before she
returned, successful. The machine which she had had in mind proved to
be an oak box, perhaps eighteen inches long, by half the width, and a
foot deep. On its face it bore a little dial. Inside there appeared a
fine wire on a spool which unwound gradually by clockwork, and, after
passing through a peculiar small arrangement, was wound up on another
spool. Flexible silk-covered copper wires led from the box.

Carefully Constance reached across the dizzy intervening space, and
drew in the slack LeMar telephone wires. With every care she cut into
them as if she were making an extension, and attached the wires from
the box.

Perhaps half an hour later the door buzzer sounded. Constance could
scarcely restrain her surprise as Mrs. Lansing Noble stepped in quickly
and shut the door herself.

"I don't want her to know I'm here," she whispered, nodding across the
hall.

"Won't you take off your things?" asked Constance cordially.

"No, I can't stay," returned her visitor nervously, pausing.

Constance wondered why she had come. Was she, too, trying to warn a
newcomer against the place!

She said nothing, but now that the effort had been made and the little
woman had gone actually so far, she felt the reaction. She sank down
into an easy chair and rested her pretty head on her delicately gloved
hand.

"Oh, Mrs. Dunlap," she began convulsively, "I hope you will pardon an
entire stranger for breaking in on you so informally--but--but I
can't--I can't help it. I must tell some one."

Accustomed as she was now to strange confidences, Constance bent over
and patted the little hand of Mrs. Noble comfortingly.

"You seemed to take it so coolly," went on the other woman. "For me the
glamour, the excitement are worse than champagne. But you could stop,
even when you were winning. Oh, my God! What am I to do? What will
happen when my husband finds out what I have done!"

Tearfully, the little woman poured out the sordid story of her
fascination for the game, of her losses, of the pawning of her jewels
to pay her losses and keep them secret, if only for a few days, until
that mythical time when luck would change.

"When I started," she blurted out with a bitter little laugh, "I
thought I'd make a little pin money. That's how I began--with that and
the excitement. And now this is the end."

She had risen and was pacing the floor wildly.

"Mrs. Dunlap," she cried, pausing before Constance, "to-day I am
nothing more nor less than a 'capper,' as they call it, for a gambling
resort."

She was almost hysterical. The contrast with the gay, respectable,
prosperous-looking woman at Bella's was appalling. Constance realized
to the full what were the tragedies that were enacted elsewhere.

As she looked at the despairing woman, she could reconstruct the
terrible situation. Cultivated, well-bred, fashionably gowned, a woman
like Mrs. Noble served admirably the purpose of luring men on. If there
had been only women or only men involved, it perhaps would not have
been so bad. But there were both. Constance saw that men were wanted,
men who could afford to lose not hundreds, but thousands, men who are
always the heaviest players. And so Mrs. Noble and other unfortunate
women no doubt were sent out on Broadway to the cafes and restaurants,
sent out even among those of their own social circle, always to lure
men on, to involve themselves more and more in the web into which they
had flown. Bella had hoped even to use Constance!

Mrs. Noble had paused again. There was evident sincerity in her as she
looked deeply into the eyes of Constance.

Nothing but desperation could have wrung her inmost secrets from her to
another woman.

"I saw them trying to throw you together with Haddon Halsey," she said,
almost tragically. "It was I who introduced Haddon to them. I was to
get a percentage of his losses to pay off my own--but"--her feelings
seemed to overcome her and wildly, desperately, she added--"but I
can't--I can't. I--I must rescue him--I must."

It was a strange situation. Constance reasoned it out quickly. What a
wreck of life these two were making! Not only they were involved, but
others who as yet knew nothing, Mrs. Noble's husband, the family of
Halsey. She must help.

"Mrs. Noble," said Constance calmly, "can you trust me?"

She shot a quick glance at Constance. "Yes," she murmured.

"Then to-night visit Mrs. LeMar as though nothing had happened.
Meanwhile I will have thought out a plan."

It was late in the afternoon when Constance saw Halsey again, this time
in his office, where he had been waiting impatiently for some word from
her. The relief at seeing her showed only too plainly on his face.

"This inaction is killing me," he remarked huskily. "Has anything
happened to-day!"

She said nothing about the visit of Mrs. Noble. Perhaps it was better
that each should not know yet that the other was worried.

"Yes," she replied, "much has happened. I cannot tell you now. But
to-night let us all go again as though nothing had occurred."

"They have twenty-five thousand dollars in stock certificates already
which I have given them," he remarked anxiously.

"Some way--any way, you must get them back for a time. Let me see some
of the blanks."

Halsey shut the door. From a secret drawer of his desk he drew a
package of beautifully engraved paper.

Constance looked at it a moment. Then with a fountain pen, across the
front of each, she made a few marks. Halsey looked on eagerly. As she
handed them back to him, not a sign showed on any part of them.

"You must tell them that there is something wrong with the others, that
you will give them other certificates of your own about which there is
no question. Tell them anything to get them back. Here--take this other
fountain pen, sign the new certificates with that, in their presence so
that they will suspect nothing. To-night I shall expect you to play up
to the limit, to play into Mrs. Noble's hand and assume her losses,
too. I shall meet you there at nine."'

Constance had laid her plans quickly. That night she waited in her own
apartment until she heard Halsey enter across the hall. She had
determined to give him plenty of time to obtain the old forged
certificates and substitute for them the new forgeries.

Perhaps half an hour later she heard Mrs. Noble enter. As Constance
followed her in, the effusive greeting of Bella LeMar showed that as
yet she suspected nothing. A quick glance at Halsey brought an
answering nod and an unconscious motion toward his pocket where he had
stuffed the old certificates carelessly.

A moment later they had plunged into the game. The play that night was
spirited. Soon the limit was the roof.

From the start things seemed to run against Halsey and Mrs. Noble even
worse than before. At the same time fortune seemed to favor Constance.
Again and again she won, until even Watson seemed to think there was
something uncanny about it.

"Beginner's luck," remarked Bella with a forced laugh.

Still Constance won, not much, but steadily, though not enough to
offset the larger winnings of Watson.

Fast and furious became the play and as steadily did it go against
Halsey. Mrs. Noble retired, scarcely repressing the tears. Constance
dropped out. Only Halsey and Watson remained, fighting as if it were a
duel to the death.

"Please stop, Halsey," pleaded Mrs. Noble. "What is the use of tempting
fortune?"

An insane half light seemed to glow in his eyes as, with a quick glance
at Constance and a covert nod of approval from her, he forced a smile
and playfully laid his finger on Mrs. Noble's lips.

"Double or quits, Watson," he cried. "Return the new certificates or
take others for twice the amount. Are you game?"

"I'm on," agreed Watson coolly.

Halsey laid down his hand in triumph. There were four kings.

"I win," ground out Watson viciously, as he tossed down four aces.

Constance was on her feet in a moment.

"You are a lot of cheats and swindlers," she cried, seizing the cards
before any one could interfere.

Deftly she laid out the four aces beside the four deuces, the four
kings beside the four queens. It was done so quickly that even Halsey,
in his amazement, could find nothing to say. Mrs. Noble paled and was
speechless. As for Bella and Watson, nothing could have aroused them
more than the open charge that they were using false devices.

Yet never for a moment did Watson lose his iron cynicism.

"Prove it," he demanded. "As for Mr. Halsey, he may pay or I'll show
the stock I already hold to the proper people."

Constance was facing Watson, as calm as he.

"Show it," she said quietly.

There was a knock at the door.

"Don't let any one in," ordered Bella of the maid, who had already
opened the door.

A man's foot had been inserted into the opening. "What's the matter,
Chloe?"

"Good Lawd, Mis' Bella--we done been raided!" burst out the maid as the
door flew wholly open.

Halsey staggered back. "A detective!" he exclaimed.

"Oh, what shall I do!" wailed Mrs. Noble. "My husband will never
forgive me if this becomes known."

Bella was as calm as a good player with a royal straight flush.

"I've caught you at last," fairly hissed Drummond. "And you, too, Mrs.
Dunlap. Watson, I overheard something about some stock. Let me see it.
I think it will interest International Surety as well as Exporters and
Manufacturers."

Through the still open door Constance had darted across the hall to her
apartment.

"Not so fast," cried Drummond. "You can't escape. The front door is
guarded. You can't get out."

She was gone, but a moment later emerged from the darkness of her
rooms, carrying the oak box.

As she set it down on the card table, no one said a word. Deliberately
she opened the box, disclosing two spools of wire inside. To the
machine she attached several head pieces such as a telephone operator
wears. She turned a switch and the wire began to unroll from one spool
and wind up on the other again.

A voice, or rather voices, seemed to come from the box itself. It was
uncanny.

"Hello, is this Mrs. LeMar?" came from it.

"What is it?" whispered Halsey, as if fearful of being overheard.

"A telegraphone," replied Constance, shutting it off for a moment.

"A telegraphone? What is that?"

"A machine for registering telephone conversations, dictation, anything
of the sort you wish. It was invented by Valdemar Poulsen, the Danish
Edison. This is one of his new wire machines. The record is made by a
new process, localized charges of magnetism on this wire. It is as
permanent as the wire itself. There is only one thing that can destroy
them--rubbing over the wire with this magnet. Listen."

She had started the machine again. Whose voice was it calling Bella?
Constance was looking fixedly at Drummond. He shifted uneasily.

"How much is he in for now?" pursued the voice.

Halsey gasped. It was Drummond's own voice.

"Two hundred and fifty shares," replied Bella's voice.

"Good. Keep at him. Don't lose him. To-night I'll drop in."

"And your client will make good?" she anxiously.

"Absolutely. We will pay five thousand dollars for the evidence that
will convict him."

Constance's little audience was stunned. But she did not let the
telegraphone pause. Skipping some unimportant calls, she began again.

This was a call from Bella to Watson.

"Ross, that fellow Drummond called up to-day."

"Yes?"

"He is going to pull it off to-night. His client will make good--five
thousand if they catch Halsey with the goods. How about it?"

"Pretty soft--eh, Bella?" came back from Watson.

"My God! it's a plant!" exclaimed Halsey, staggering and dropping
heavily into a chair. "I'm ruined. There is no way out!"

"Wait," interrupted Constance. "Here's another call. It may serve to
explain why luck was with me to-night. I came prepared."

"Yes, Mrs. LeMar," came another strange voice from the machine. "We'd
do anything for Mr. Watson. What is it--a pack of strippers?"

"Yes. The aces stripped from the ends, the kings from the sides."

The group looked eagerly at Constance.

"From the maker of fake gambling apparatus, I find," she explained,
shutting off the machine. "They were ordering from him cards cut or
trimmed so that certain ones could be readily drawn from the deck, or
'stripped.' Small wedge-shaped strips are trimmed off the edges of all
the other cards, leaving the aces, say, projecting just the most minute
fraction of an inch beyond the others. Everything is done carefully.
The rounded edges at the corners are recut to look right. When the
cards are shuffled the aces protrude a trifle over the edges of the
other cards. It is a simple matter for the dealer to draw or strip out
as many aces as he wants, stack them on the bottom of the pack as he
shuffles the cards, and draw them from the bottom whenever he wants
them. Strippers are one of the newest things in swindling. Marked cards
are out of date. But some decks have the aces stripped from the ends,
the kings from the sides. With this pack, as you can see, a sucker can
be dealt out the kings, while the house player gets the aces."

Drummond brazened it out. With a muttered oath he turned to Watson
again. "What rot is this? The stock, Watson," he repeated. "Where is
that stock I heard them talking about?"

Mrs. Noble, forgetting all now but Halsey, paled. Bella LeMar was
fumbling at her gold mesh bag. She gave a sudden, suppressed little
scream.

"Look!" she cried. "They are blank--those stock certificates he gave
me."

Drummond seized them roughly from her hands.

Where the signatures should have been there was nothing at all!

Across the face of the stock were the words in deep black, "SAMPLE
CERTIFICATE," written in an angular, feminine hand.

What did it mean? Halsey was as amazed as any of them. Mechanically he
turned to Constance.

"I didn't say anything last night," she remarked incisively. "But I had
my suspicions from the first. I always look out for the purry kind of
'my dear' woman. They have claws. Last night I watched. To-day I
learned--learned that you, Mr. Drummond, were nothing but a
blackmailer, using these gamblers to do your dirty work. Haddon, they
would have thrown you out like a squeezed lemon as soon as the money
you had was gone. They would have taken the bribe that Drummond offered
for the stock--and they would have left you nothing but jail. I learned
all that over the telegraphone. I learned their methods and, knowing
them, even I could not be prevented from winning to-night."

Halsey moved as if to speak. "But," he asked eagerly, "the stock
certificates--what of them!"

"The stock?" she answered with deliberation. "Did you ever hear that
writing in quinoline will appear blue, but will soon fade away, while
other writing in silver nitrate and ammonia, invisible at first, after
a few hours appears black? You wrote on those certificates in
sympathetic ink that fades, I in ink that comes up soon."

Mrs. Noble was crying softly to herself. They still had her notes for
thousands.

Halsey saw her. Instantly he forgot his own case. What was to be done
about her? He telegraphed a mute appeal to Constance, forgetful of
himself now. Constance was fingering the switch of the telegraphone.

"Drummond," remarked Constance significantly, as though other secrets
might still be contained in the marvelous little mechanical detective,
"Drummond, don't you think, for the sake of your own reputation as a
detective, it might be as well to keep this thing quiet?"

For a moment the detective gripped his wrath and seemed to consider the
damaging record of his conversation with Bella LeMar.

"Perhaps," he agreed sullenly.

Constance reached into her chatelaine. From it she drew an ordinary
magnet, and slowly pulled off the armature.

"If I run this over the wires," she hinted, holding it near the spools,
"the record will be wiped out." She paused impressively. "Let me have
those I O U's of Mrs. Noble's. By the way, you might as well give me
that blank stock, too. There is no use in that, now."

As she laid the papers in a pile on the table before her she added the
old forged certificates from Halsey's pocket. There it lay, the
incriminating, ruining evidence.

Deliberately she passed the magnet over the thin steel wire, wiping out
what it had recorded, as if the recording angel were blotting out from
the book of life.

"Try it, Drummond," she cried, dropping on her knees before the open
fireplace. "You will find the wire a blank."

There was a hot, sudden blaze as the pile of papers from the table
flared up.

"There," she exclaimed. "These gambling debts were not even debts of
honor. If you will call a cab, Haddon, I have reserved a table at
Jade's for you and Mrs. Noble. It is a farewell. Drummond will not
occupy his place in the corner to-night. But--after it--you are to
forget--both of you--forever. You understand?"



CHAPTER V

THE EAVESDROPPERS


"I suppose you have heard something about the troubles of the Motor
Trust? The other directors, you know, are trying to force me out."

Rodman Brainard, president of the big Motor Corporation, searched the
magnetic depths of the big brown eyes of the woman beside his desk.
Talking to Constance Dunlap was not like talking to other women he had
known, either socially or in business.

"A friend of yours, and of mine," he added frankly, "has told me enough
about you to convince me that you are more than an amateur at getting
people out of tight places. I asked you to call because I think you can
help me."

There was a directness about Brainard which Constance liked.

"It's very kind of you to place such confidence in me--on such short
acquaintance," she returned pointedly, searching his face.

Brainard laughed.

"I don't need to tell you, Mrs. Dunlap, that anything I have said so
far is an open secret in Wall Street. They have threatened to drag in
the Sherman law, and in the reorganization that will follow the
investigation, they plan to eliminate Rodman Brainard--perhaps set in
motion the criminal clauses of the law. It's nothing, Mrs. Dunlap, but
a downright hypocritical pose. They reverse the usual process. It is
doing good that evil may result."

He watched her face intently. Something in her expression seemed to
please him. "By George," he thought to himself, "this is a man's woman.
You can talk to her."

Brainard, accustomed to quick decisions, added aloud, "Just now they
are using Mrs. Brainard as a catspaw. They are spreading that scandal
about my acquaintance with Blanche Leblanc, the actress. You have seen
her? A stunning woman--wonderful. But I long ago saw that such a
friendship could lead to nothing but ruin." He met Constance's eye
squarely. There was nothing of the adventuress in it as there had been
in Blanche Leblanc. "And," he finished, almost biting off the words, "I
decided to cut it out."

"How does Blanche Leblanc figure in the Motor Trust trouble?" asked
Constance keenly.

"They had been shadowing me a long time before I knew it, ferreting
back into my past. Yesterday I learned that some one had broken into
Miss Leblanc's apartments and had stolen a package of letters which I
wrote to her. It can't hurt her. People expect that sort of thing of an
actress. But it can hurt the president of the Motor Trust--just at
present."

"Who has been doing the shadowing?"

"Worthington, the treasurer, is the guiding spirit of the 'insurgents'
as they call themselves--it sounds popular, like reform. I understand
they have had a detective named Drummond working for them."

Constance raised her eyes quickly at the name. "Was Drummond always to
cross her trail?

"This story of the letters," he went on, "puts on the finishing touch.
They have me all right on that. I can tell by the way that Sybil--er,
Mrs. Brainard--acts, that she has read and reread those letters. But,
by God," he concluded, bringing down his fist on the desk, "I shall
fight to the end, and when I go down,"--he emphasized each word with an
additional blow,--"the crash will bring down the whole damned structure
on their own heads, too."

He was too earnest even to apologize to her. Constance studied the grim
determination in the man's face. He was not one of those destined to
fail.

"All is not lost that is in peril, Mr. Brainard," she remarked quietly.
"That's one of the maxims of your own Wall Street."

"What would you do?" he asked. It was not an appeal; rather it was an
invitation.

"I can't say, yet. Let me come into the office of the Trust. Can't I be
your private secretary?"

"Consider yourself engaged. Name your figure--after it is over. My
record on the Streets speaks for how I stand by those who stand by me.
But I hate a quitter."

"So do I," exclaimed Constance, rising and giving him her hand in a
straight-arm shake that made Brainard straighten himself and look down
into her face with unconcealed admiration.

The next morning Constance became private secretary to the president of
the Motor Trust.

"You will be 'Miss' Dunlap," remarked Brainard. "It sounds more
plausible."

Quietly he arranged her duties so that she would seem to be very busy
without having anything which really interfered with the purpose of her
presence.

She had been thinking rapidly. Late in the forenoon she reached a
decision. A little errand uptown kept her longer than she expected, but
by the late afternoon she was back again at her desk, on which rested a
small package which had been delivered by messenger for her.

"I beg you won't think as badly of me as it seems on the surface, Miss
Dunlap," remarked Brainard, stopping beside her desk.

"I don't think badly of you," she answered in a low voice. "You are not
the only man who has been caught with a crowd of crooks who plan to
leave him holding the bag."

"Oh, it isn't that," he hastened, "I mean this Blanche Leblanc affair.
May I be frank with you?"

It was not the first time Constance had been made a confidante of the
troubles of the heart, and yet there was something fascinating about
having a man like Brainard consider her worthy of being trusted with
what meant so much to him.

"I'm not altogether to blame." he went on slowly. "The estrangement
between my wife and myself came long before that little affair. It
began over--well--over what they call a serious difference in
temperament. You know a man--an ambitious man--needs a partner, a woman
who can use the social position that money gives not alone for pleasure
but as a means of advancing the partnership. I never had that. The more
I advanced, the more I found her becoming a butterfly--and not as
attractive as the other butterflies either. She went one way--I,
another. Oh well--what's the use? I went too far--the wrong way. I must
pay. Only let me save what I can from the wreck."

It was not Constance, the woman, to whom he was talking. It was
Constance, the secretary. Yet it was the woman, not the secretary, who
listened.

Brainard stopped again beside her desk.

"All that is neither here nor there," he remarked, forcing a change in
his manner. "I am in for it. Now, the question is--what are we going to
do about it!"

Constance had unwrapped the package on her desk, disclosing an oblong
box.

"What's that?" he asked curiously.

"Mr. Brainard," she answered tapping the box, "there's no limit to the
use of this little machine for our purposes. We can get at their most
vital secrets with it. We can discover every plan which they have
against us. We may even learn the hiding place of those letters Why,
there is no limit. This is one of those new microphone detectives."

"A microphone?" he repeated as he opened the box, looked sharply at the
two black little storage batteries inside, the coil of silk-covered
wire, a little black rubber receiver and a curious black disc whose
face was pierced by a circular row of holes.

"Yes. You must have heard of them. You hide that transmitter behind a
picture or under a table or desk. Then you run the wire out of the room
and by listening in the receiver you can hear everything!"

"But that is what detectives use--"

"Well?" she interrupted coolly, "what of it? If it is good for them, is
it not just as good for us?"

"Better!" he exclaimed. "By George, you ARE the goods."

It was late before Constance had a chance to do anything with the
microphone. It seemed as if Worthington were staying, perversely, later
than usual. At last, however, he left with a curt nod to her.

The moment the door was closed she stopped the desultory clicking of
her typewriter with which she had been toying in the appearance of
being busy. With Brainard she entered the board room where she had
noticed Worthington and Sheppard often during the day.

It was, without exaggeration, one of the most plainly furnished rooms
she had ever seen. A long mahogany table with eight large mahogany
chairs, a half inch pile of velvety rug on the floor and a huge
chandelier in the middle of the ceiling constituted the furniture. Not
a picture, not a cabinet or filing case broke the blankness of the
brown painted walls.

For a moment she stopped to consider. Brainard waited and watched her
narrowly.

"There isn't a place to put this transmitter except up above that
chandelier," she said at length.

He gave her his hand as she stepped on a chair and then on the table.
There was a glimpse of a trim ankle. The warmth and softness of her
touch caused him to hold her hand just a moment longer than was
absolutely necessary. A moment later he was standing on the table
beside her.

"This is the place, all right," she said, looking at the thick scum of
dust on the top of the reflector.

Quickly she placed the little black disc close to the center on the top
of the reflector. "Can you see that from the floor?" she asked.

"No," he answered, walking about the room, "not a sign of it."

"I'll sit here," she said in just a tremor of excitement over the
adventure, "and listen while you talk in the board room."

Brainard entered. It seemed ridiculous for him to talk to himself.

"If the microphone works," he said at length, "rap on the desk twice."
Then he added, half laughing to himself, "If it doesn't, rap
once--Constance."

A single rap came in answer.

"If you couldn't hear," he smiled entering her office, "why did you rap
once!"

"It didn't work smoothly on that last word."

"What--Constance?"

He thought there was a subtle change in their relations since the
microphone incident. At any rate she was not angry. Were they not
partners?

"I think it will be better if I turn that microphone around," she
remarked. "I placed it face downwards. Let me change it."

Again he helped her as she jumped up on the board room table. This time
his hand lingered a little longer in hers and she did not withdraw it
so soon. When she did there was a quick twinkle in her eyes as she
straightened the microphone and offered her hand to him again.

"Jump!" he said, as if daring her.

A moment she paused. "I never could take a dare," she answered.

She leaped lightly to the floor. For just a moment she seemed about to
lose her balance. Then she felt an arm steadying her. He had caught her
and for an instant their eyes met.

"Well, Rodman--I scarcely thought it was as brazen as this!"

They turned in surprise.

Mrs. Brainard was standing in the doorway.

She was a petite blonde little woman of the deceptive age which the
beauty parlors convey to thousands of their assiduous patrons.

For a moment she looked coldly from one to the other.

"To what am I indebted for the pleasure of this unexpected visit,
Sybil?" asked Brainard with sarcastic emphasis. "I shall finish those
letters to-morrow, Miss Dunlap. You need not wait for them."

He held the door to his own office open for Mrs. Brainard.

Sybil Brainard shot a quick glance at Constance. "Well, young lady,"
she said haughtily, "do you realize what you are doing and with whom
you are?"

"It isn't necessary, Sybil, to bother about Miss Dunlap. The lights
were out of order and I found Miss Dunlap standing on the table trying
to fix them. You came just in time to see her jump down. By the way,
Worthington seems to be another who works late. He left only a few
minutes ago."

Constance passed a restless night. To have got wrong at the very start
worried her. Over and over she thought of what had happened. And always
she came back to one question. What had Brainard meant by that
reference to Worthington?

He came in late the next day, however. Still, there was no change in
his manner as he greeted her. The incident had not affected him, as it
had her. Neither of them said anything about it.

A young man had been waiting to see Brainard and as he entered he asked
him in.

Just then Sheppard walked casually through the reception room and into
the board room.

Constance quickly closed her door. She heard the young man leave
Brainard's office but she was too engrossed to pay attention to
anything but the voices that were coming through the microphone. She
was writing feverishly what she heard.

"Yes, Sheppard, I saw her again last night."

"Where?"

"She was to meet me here, but he stayed later than usual with that new
secretary of his. So I cut out and met her at the street entrance."

"And?"

"I told her of the new secretary. She did just what I wanted--came up
here--and, say Sheppard--what do you think? They were in this room and
he had his arms about her!"

"The letters are all right, are they? How much did you have to pay the
Leblanc girl?"

"Twenty thousand. That's all charged up against the pool. Say, Leblanc
is--well--give you my word, Sheppard--I can hardly blame Brainard after
all."

"You ARE the last word in woman haters, Lee."

Both men laughed.

"And the letters?"

"Don't worry. They are where they'll do the most good. Sybil has them
herself. Now, what have you to report? You saw the district attorney?"

"Yes. He is ready to promise us all immunity if we will go on the stand
for the state. The criminal business will come later. Only, you have to
play him carefully. He's on the level. A breath of what we really want
and it will be all off."

"Then we'll have to hold the stock up, as though nothing was going to
happen."

They had left the board room.

Constance hurried into Brainard's office. He was sunk deep in his chair
reading some papers.

"What's the matter?" she asked.

"She has entered a suit for divorce. That young man was a process
server."

"Yes."

"You are named as co-respondent along with Blanche Leblanc."

"I?"

"Yes. It must have been an afterthought. Everything is going--fortune,
reputation--even your friendship, now, Constance--"

"Going? Not yet."

She read hastily what she had overheard.

"Devil take Worthington," ground out Brainard, gripping the arms of his
chair. "For weeks I have suspected him. They have been too clever for
me. Constance, while I have been going around laying myself open to
discovery, Sybil has played a cool and careful game."

He was pacing the floor.

"So--that's the plan. Hold back, keep the stock up until they get
started. Then let it go down until I'm forced to sell out at a loss,
buy it back cheap, and control the reorganization. Well, I haven't
control now, alone. I wish I did have. But neither have they. The
public owns the stock now. I need it. Who'll get it first--that's the
question!"

He was thinking rapidly.

"If you could do a little bear manipulation yourself," she suggested.
"That might get the public scared. You could get enough to control,
perhaps, then. They wouldn't dare sell--or if they did they would
weaken their own control. Either way, you get them, going or coming."

"Exactly what I was thinking. Play their own game--ahead of
them--accelerate it."

It was just after the lunch hour that Constance resumed her place at
her desk with the receiver at her ear.

There were voices again in the board room.

"My God, Sheppard, what do you think? Someone is selling Motors--five
points off and still going down."

"Who is it? What shall we do?"

"Who! Brainard, of course. Some one has peached. What are you going to
do?"

"Wait. Let's call up the News Agency. Hello--yes--what? Unofficial
rumor of prosecution of Motors by the government--large selling orders
placed in advance. The deuce--say, we'll have to meet this or--"

"Meet nothing. It's Brainard. He's going down in a big crash. We pour
our money into his pockets now and let him sell at the top and grab
back control with OUR money? Not much. I sell, too."

Already boys were on the street with extras crying the great crash in
Motors. It was only a matter of minutes before all the news reading
public were thoroughly scared at the apparently bursting bubble. Shares
were dug up in small lots, in huge blocks and slammed on the market for
what they would bring. All day the pounding went on. Thousands of
shares were poured out until Motors which had been climbing toward par
in the neighborhood of 79 had declined forty points. Brainard had
jumped in first and had realized the top price for his holdings.

Yet during all the wild scenes when the telephone was ringing
insistently for him, Brainard, having set the machinery in motion and
having been ostentatiously in the office when it started in order to
avert suspicion, could not now be found.

The market had closed and Constance was reading the account of the
collapse as it was interpreted in the Wall Street editions of the
papers, when the door opened and Brainard entered.

"This has been a good day's work, Constance," he said, flinging himself
into a chair.

"Yes, I was just reading of it in the papers. The little microphone has
put an entirely new twist on affairs. And the best of it is that the
financial writers all seem to think it was planned by Worthington and
the rest."

"Oh, hang Worthington--hang Motors. THAT is what I meant."

He slapped down a packet of letters on the desk.

"You--you found them?" gasped Constance. She looked at him keenly. It
was evident that a great weight had been taken off his mind.

"Yes indeed. I knew there was only one place where she would put
them--in her safe with her jewels. She would think I would never
suspect that she had them and, besides, she had the combination
changed. I went up to the house this afternoon when she was out. I had
an expert with me. He worked two hours, steady,--but he opened it. Here
they are. Now for the real game."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that I noticed the name of the manufacturer on your microphone.
I have had one installed in the room which she uses most of all. The
wires run to the next house where I've hired an apartment. I intend to
'listen in' there. I'll get this Worthington--yet!"

That night Constance and Brainard sat for hours in the empty apartment
patiently waiting for word over the microphone.

At last there was a noise as of a door opening.

"Show them in here."

"Sybil," whispered Brainard as if perhaps she might even hear.

Then came more voices.

"Worthington and Drummond," he added. "They suspect nothing yet."

"Drummond knows this Dunlap woman," said Worthington.

The detective launched forth in a tirade against Constance.

"But she is clever, Drummond. You admit that."

"Clever as they make 'em."

"You will have her shadowed?"

"Every moment, Mrs. Brainard."

"What's all this about the panic in Motors, Lee?"

"Some other time, Sybil, not now. Drummond, what do people say?"

Drummond hesitated.

"Out with it, man."

"Well, Mr. Worthington, it is said you started it."

"The deuce I did. But I guess Sheppard and I helped it along. We'll go
the limit, too. After all, it had to come. We'll load up after it
reaches the bottom."

The voices trailed off.

"Good night, Mrs. Brainard."

"Good night, Mr. Drummond. That was what I wanted to know." A pause.

"Lee, how can I ever thank you?"

A sound suspiciously like a kiss came over the wire. Brainard clenched
his fist.

"Good night, Sybil. I must go now--" Again the voices trailed off.

It was several minutes before Brainard spoke. Then it was that he
showed his wonderful power of concentration.

"I have a conference in half an hour, Constance," he remarked, looking
at his watch. "It is very important. It means getting money to support
Motors on the opening to-morrow after I have gathered in again what I
need. I think I can come pretty near doubling my holdings if I play it
right. That's important. But so is this."

"I will listen," put in Constance. "Trust me. If anything else occurs I
will tell you."

She was at the office early the next day, but not before Brainard who,
bright and fresh, even though he had been up all night, was primed for
the battle of his life at the opening of the market.

Brainard had swung in at the turn and had quietly accumulated the stock
control which he needed. He was now bulling the market by matching
orders, pyramiding stock which he owned, using every device that was
known to his astute brain.

On up went Motors, recovering the forty points, gradually, and even
going beyond in the reaction. Worthington and Sheppard had been
squeezed out. Not for a moment did he let up.

As the clock on Trinity church struck three, the closing hour, Brainard
wheeled suddenly in his chair.

"Miss Dunlap," he said quietly. "I wish that you would tell Worthington
and Sheppard that I should like to see them in the board room at four."

Constance looked at her watch. There was time also to execute a little
scheme of her own.

Four o'clock came. Brainard lounged casually across to the board room.
Instantly Constance had the receiver of the microphone at her ear,
straining to catch every word, and to make notes of the stormy scene,
if necessary.

Her door opened. It was Sybil Brainard.

The two women looked at each other coldly.

Constance was the first to speak.

"Mrs. Brainard," she began, "I asked you to come down here--not Mr.
Worthington. More than that, I asked the office boy to direct you here
instead of to his office. Do you see that machine?"

Sybil looked at it without a sign of recognition.

"It is a microphone detective. It was the installing of that machine in
the board room which you interrupted the other night."

"Was it necessary that Mr. Brainard should put his arm around you for
that?" inquired Mrs. Brainard with biting sarcasm.

"I had just jumped down from the table and had almost lost my
balance--that was all," pursued Constance imperturbably.

"Another of these microphone eavesdroppers told me of a conversation
last night in your own apartment, Mrs. Brainard."

Her face blanched. "You--have one--there?"

"Yes. Mr. Brainard heard the first conversation, when Drummond and Mr.
Worthington were there. After they left he had to attend a conference
himself. I alone heard what passed when Mr. Worthington returned."

"You are at liberty to--"

"Mrs. Brainard. You do not understand. I have no reason to want to make
you--"

An office boy tapped on the door and entered. "Mr. Brainard wants you,
Miss Dunlap."

"I cannot explain now," resumed Constance. "Won't you sit here at my
desk and listen over the microphone to what happens!"

She was gone before Mrs. Brainard could reply. What did it all mean?
Sybil put the black disc receiver to her ear as she had seen Constance
do. Her hand trembled. "Why did she tell me that?" she murmured.

"You can't prove it," shouted a voice through the black disc at her
ear. She was startled. It was the voice of Worthington.

"Miss Dunlap--have you that notebook?" came the deep tones of her
husband.

Constance read from her first notes that part relating to the
conspiracy to control Motors, carefully omitting the part about the
Leblanc letters.

"It's a lie--a lie."

"No, it is not a lie. It is all good legal evidence, the record taken
over the new microphone detective. Look up there over the chandelier,
Worthington. The other end is in the top drawer of Miss Dunlap's desk."

"I'll fight that to a finish, Brainard. You are clever but there are
other things besides Motors that you have to answer for."

"No. Those letters--that is what you mean--are in my possession now.
You didn't know that? All the eavesdropping, if you choose to call it
that, was not done here, either, by a long shot, Worthington. I had one
of these machines in my wife's reception room. I have all sorts of
little scraps of conversation," he boasted. "I also have an account of
a visit there from two--er--scoundrels--"

"Mrs. Brainard to see you, sir," announced a boy at the door.

Constance had risen. Her face was flushed and her breast rose and fell
with excitement.

"Mr. Brainard," she interrupted. "I must explain--confess. Mrs.
Brainard has been sitting in my office listening to us over the
microphone. I arranged it. I asked her to come down, using another name
as a pretext. But I didn't think she would interrupt so soon. Before
you see her--let me read this. It was a conversation I got after you
had left last night and so far I have had no chance to tell you of it.
Some one," she laid particular stress on the word, "came back after
that first interview. Listen."

"No, Lee," Constance read rapidly from her notes, "no. Don't think I am
ungrateful. You have been one friend in a thousand through all this. I
shall have my decree-soon, now. Don't spoil it-"

"But Sybil, think of Mm. What did he ever care for you! He has made you
free already."

"He is still my husband."

"Take this latest escapade with this Miss Dunlap."

"Well, what do I really know about that?"

"You saw him."

"Yes, but maybe it was as he said."

The door was flung open, interrupting Constance's reading, and Sybil
Brainard entered. The artificiality of the beauty parlor was all gone.
She was a woman, who had been wronged and deceived.

"Next friend--a true next friend--fiend would be better, Lee
Worthington," she scorned. "How can you stand there and look me in the
face, how could you tell me of your love for me, when all the time you
cared no more for me or for any other woman than for that--that
Leblanc! You knew that I, who was as jealous as I could be of Rodman,
had heard a little--you added more. Yet when you had played on my
feelings, you would have cast me off, too--I know it; I know your kind."

She paused for breath, then turned slowly to Brainard with a note of
pathos in her voice.

"Our temperaments may have been different, Rodman. They were not when
we were poor. Perhaps I have not developed with you, the way you want
of me. But, Rodman, did you ever stop to think that perhaps, perhaps if
I had ever had the chance to be taken into your confidence more often--"

"Will you--forgive me?" Brainard managed to blurt out.

"Will you forgive me?" she returned frankly.

"I--forgive? I have nothing to forgive."

"I could have understood, Rodman, if it had been Miss Dunlap. She is
clever, wonderful. But that Leblanc--never!"

Sybil Brainard turned to Constance.

"Miss Dunlap--Mrs. Dunlap," she sobbed, "forgive me. You--you are a
better woman than I am."



CHAPTER VI

THE CLAIRVOYANTS


"Do you believe in dreams?" Constance Dunlap looked searchingly at her
interrogator, as if her face or manner betrayed some new side of her
character.

Mrs. deForest Caswell was an attractive woman verging on forty, a
chance acquaintance at a shoppers' tea room downtown who had proved to
be an uptown neighbor.

"I have had some rather strange experiences, Mildred," confessed
Constance tentatively. "Why!"

"Because--" the other woman hesitated, then added, "why should I not
tell you! Last night, Constance, I had the strangest dream. It has left
such an impression on me that I can't shake it off, although I have
tried all day."

"Yes? Tell me about it."

Mildred Caswell paused a moment, then began slowly, as if not to omit
anything from her story.

"I dreamt that Forest was dying. I could see him, could see the doctor
and the nurse, everything. And yet somehow I could not get to him. I
was afraid, with such an oppressive fear. I tried--oh, how I tried! I
struggled, and how badly I felt!" and she shuddered at the very
recollection.

"There seemed to be a wall," she resumed, "a narrow wall in the way and
I couldn't get over it. As often as I tried, I fell. And then I seemed
to be pursued by some kind of animal, half bull, half snake. I ran. It
followed closely. I seemed to see a crowd of people and I felt that if
I could only get to that crowd, somehow I would be safe, perhaps might
even get over the wall and--I woke up--almost screaming."

The woman's face was quite blanched.

"My dear," remonstrated Constance, "you must not take it so.
Remember--it was only a dream.

"I know it was only a dream," she said, "but you don't know what is
back of it."

Mildred Caswell had from time to time hinted to Constance of the
growing incompatibility of her married life, but as Constance was
getting used to confidences, she had kept silent, knowing that her
friend would tell her in time.

"You must have guessed," faltered Mrs. Caswell, "that Forest and I are
not--not on the best of terms, that we are getting further and further
apart."

It rather startled Constance to hear frankly stated what she already
had observed. She wondered how far the estrangement had gone. The fact
was that she had rather liked deForest Caswell, although she had only
met her friend's husband a few times. In fact she was surprised that
momentarily there flashed through her mind the query as to whether
Mildred herself might be altogether blameless in the growing
uncongeniality.

Mildred Caswell had drawn out of her chatelaine a bit of newspaper and
handed it to Constance, not as if it was of any importance to herself
but as if it would explain better than she could tell what she meant.

Constance read:

        MME. CASSANDRA,
     THE VEILED PROPHETESS

Born with a double veil, educated in occult mysteries in Egypt and
India. Without asking a question, tells your name and reads your secret
troubles and the remedy. Reads your dreams. Great questions of life
quickly solved. Failure turned to success, the separated brought
together, advice on all affairs of life, love, marriage, divorce,
business, speculation, and investments. Overcomes all evil influences.
Ever ready to help and advise those with capital to find a safe and
paying investment. No fee until it succeeds. Could anything be fairer?

      THE RETREAT,
   -- W. 47th Street.

"Won't you come with me to Madame Cassandra?" asked Mrs. Caswell, as
Constance finished reading. "She always seems to do me so much good."

"Who is Madame Cassandra?" asked Constance, rereading the last part of
the advertisement.

"I suppose you would call her a dream doctor," said Mildred.

It was a new idea to Constance, this of a dream doctor to settle the
affairs of life. Only a moment she hesitated, then she answered simply,
"Yes, I'll go."

"The retreat" was just off Longacre Square among quite a nest of
fakers. A queue of automobiles before the place testified, however, to
the prosperity of Madame Cassandra, as they entered the bronze grilled
plate glass door and turned on the first floor toward the home of the
Adept. Constance had an uncomfortable feeling as they entered of being
watched behind the shades of the apartment. Still, they had no trouble
in being admitted, and a soft-voiced colored attendant welcomed them.

The esoteric flat of Madame Cassandra was darkened except for the
electric lights glowing in amber and rose-colored shades. There were
several women there already. As they entered Constance had noticed a
peculiar, dreamy odor. There did not seem to be any hurry, any such
thing as time here, so skilfully was the place run. There was no noise;
the feet sank in half-inch piles of rugs, and easy-chairs and divans
were scattered about.

Once a puff of light smoke appeared, and Constance awoke to the fact
that some were smoking little delicately gold-banded cigarettes. Indeed
it was all quite recherche.

Mrs. Caswell took one from a maid. So did Constance, but after a puff
or two managed to put it out and later to secure another which she kept.

Madame Cassandra herself proved to be a tall, slender, pale woman with
dark hair and a magnetic eye, an eye that probably accounted more than
anything else for her success. She was clad in a house gown of purplish
silk which clung tightly to her, and at her throat a diamond pendant
sparkled, as well as other brilliants on her long, slender fingers.

She met Mildred and Constance with outstretched hands.

"So glad to see you, my dears," purred Madame, leading the way into an
inner sanctum.

Mrs. Caswell had seated herself with the air of one who worshiped at
the shrine, while Constance gazed about curiously.

"Madame," she began a little tremulously, "I have had another of those
dreadful dreams."

"You poor dear soul," soothed Madame, stroking her hand. "Tell me of
it--all."

Quickly Mrs. Caswell poured forth her story as she had already told it
to Constance.

"My dear Mrs. Caswell," remarked the high priestess slowly, when the
story was complete, "it is all very simple. His love is dead. That is
what you fear and it is the truth. The wall is the wall that he has
erected against you. Try to forget it--to forget him. You would be
better off. There are other things in the world--"

"Ah, but I cannot live as I am used to without money," murmured Mrs.
Caswell.

"I know," replied Madame. "It is that that keeps many a woman with a
brute. When financial and economic independence come, then woman will
be free and only then. Now, listen. Would you like to be
free--financially? You remember that delightful Mr. Davies who has been
here? Yes? Well, he is a regular client of mine, now. He is a broker
and never embarks in any enterprise without first consulting me. Just
the other day I read his fortune in United Traction. It has gone up
five points already and will go fifteen more. If you want, I will give
you a card to him. Let me see--yes, I can do that. You too will be
lucky in speculation."

Constance, with one ear open, had been busy looking about the room. In
a bookcase she saw a number of books and paused to examine their
titles. She was surprised to see among the old style dream books
several works on modern psychology, particularly on the interpretation
of dreams.

"Of course, Mrs. Caswell, I don't want to urge you," Madame was saying.
"I have only pointed out a way in which you can be independent. And,
you know, Mr. Davies is a perfect gentleman, so courteous and reliable.
I know you will be successful if you take my advice and go to him."

Mildred said nothing for a few moments, but as she rose to go she
remarked, "Thank you very much. I'll think about it. Anyhow, you've
made me feel better."

"So kind of you to say it," murmured the Adept. "I'm sorry you must go,
but really I have other appointments. Please come again--with your
friend. Good-bye."

"What do you think of her?" asked Mrs. Caswell on the street.

"Very clever," answered Constance dubiously.

Mrs. Caswell looked up quickly. "You don't like her?"

"To tell the truth," confessed Constance quietly, "I have had too much
experience in Wall Street myself to trust to a clairvoyant."

They had scarcely reached the corner before Constance again had that
peculiar feeling which some psychologists have noted, of being stared
at. She turned, but saw no one. Still the feeling persisted. She could
stand it no longer.

"Don't think me crazy, Mildred," she said, "but I just have a desire to
walk back a block."

Constance had turned suddenly. As she glanced keenly about she was
aware of a familiar figure gazing into the window of an art store
across the street. He had stopped so that although his back was turned
he could, by a slight shift of his position, still see by means of a
mirror in the window what was going on across the street behind him.

One look was enough. It was Drummond, the detective. What did it mean?

Neither woman said much as they rode uptown, and parted on the
respective floors of their apartment house. Still Constance could not
get out of her head the recollection of the dream doctor and of
Drummond.

Restless, she determined that night to go down to the Public Library
and see whether any of the books at the clairvoyant's were on the
shelves. Fortunately she found some, found indeed that they were not
all, as she had half suspected, the works of fakers but that quite a
literature had been built up around the new psychology of dreams.

Deeply she delved into the fascinating subjects that had been opened by
the studies of the famous Dr. Sigmund Freud of Vienna, and as she read
she found that she began to understand much about Mrs. Caswell--and,
with a start, about her own self.

At first she revolted against the unpleasant feature of the new dream
philosophy--the irresistible conclusion that all humanity, underneath
the shell, is sensuous or sensual in nature, that practically all
dreams portray some delight of the senses and that sexual dreams are a
large proportion of all visions. But the more she thought of it, the
more clearly was she able to analyze Mrs. Caswell's dream and to get
back at the causes of it, in the estrangement from her husband and
perhaps the brutality of his ignorance of woman. And then, too, there
was Drummond. What was he doing in the case?

She did not see Mildred Caswell again until the following afternoon.
But then she seemed unusually bright in contrast with the depression of
the day before. Constance was not surprised. Her intuition told her
that something had happened and she hardly needed to guess that Mrs.
Caswell had followed the advice of the clairvoyant and had been to see
the wonderful Mr. Davies, to whom the mysteries of the stock market
were an open book.

"Have you had any other dreams?" asked Constance casually.

"Yes," replied Mildred, "but not like the one that depressed me. Last
night I had a very pleasant dream. It seemed that I was breakfasting
with Mr. Davies. I remember that there was a hot coal fire in the
grate. Then suddenly a messenger came in with news that United Traction
had advanced twenty points. Wasn't it strange?"

Constance said nothing. In fact it did not seem strange to her at all.
The strange thing to her, now that she was a sort of amateur dream
reader herself, was that Mrs. Caswell did not seem to see the real
import of her own dream.

"You have seen Mr. Davies to-day?" Constance ventured.

Mrs. Caswell laughed. "I wasn't going to tell you. You seemed so set
against speculating in Wall Street. But since you ask me, I may as well
admit it."

"When did you see him before?" went on Constance. "Did you have much
invested with him already?"

Mrs. Caswell glanced up, startled. "My--you are positively uncanny,
Constance. How did you know I had seen him before?"

"One seldom dreams," said Constance, "about anything unless it has been
suggested by an event of the day before. You saw him today. That would
not have inspired the dream of last night. Therefore I concluded that
you must have seen him and invested before. Madame Cassandra's mention
of him yesterday caused the dream of last night. The dream of last
night probably influenced you to see him again to-day, and you invested
in United Traction. That is the way dreams work. Probably more of
conduct than we know is influenced by dream life. Now, if you should
get fifteen or twenty points you would be in a fair way to join the
ranks of those who believe that dreams do come true."

Mrs. Caswell looked at her almost alarmed, then attempted to turn it
off with a laugh, "And perhaps breakfast with him?"

"When I do set up as interpreter of dreams," answered Constance simply,
"I'll tell you more."

On one point she had made up her mind. That was to visit Mr. Davies
herself the next day.

She found his office a typical bucket shop, even down to having a
section partitioned off for women clients of the firm. She had not
intended to risk anything, and so was prepared when Mr. Davies himself
approached her courteously. Instinctively Constance distrusted him. He
was too cordial, too polite. She could feel the claws hidden in his
velvety paw, as it were. There was a debonnaire assurance about him,
the air of a man who thought he understood women, and indeed did
understand a certain type. But to Constance, who was essentially a
man's woman, Davies was only revolting.

She managed to talk without committing herself, and he in his
complacency was glad to hope that he was making a new customer. She had
to be careful not to betray any of the real and extensive knowledge
about Wall Street which she actually possessed. But the glib
misrepresentations about United Traction quite amazed her.

When she rose to go, Davies accompanied her to the door, then out into
the hall to the elevator. As he bent over to shake hands, she noted
that he held her hand just a little longer than was necessary.

"He's a swindler of the first water," she concluded as she was whisked
down in the elevator. "I'm sure Mildred is in badly with this crowd,
one urging her on in her trouble, the other making it worse and
fleecing her into the bargain."

At the entrance she paused, undecided which was the quickest route
home. As by chance she turned just for a moment she thought she caught
a fleeting glimpse of Drummond dodging behind a pillar. It was only for
an instant but even that apparition was enough.

"I WILL get her out of this safely," resolved Constance. "I WILL keep
one more fly from his web."

Constance felt as if, even now, she must see Mildred and, although she
knew nothing, at least put her on her guard. She did not have long to
wait for her chance. It was late in the afternoon when her door buzzer
sounded.

"Constance, I've been looking for you all day," sighed Mildred,
dropping sobbing into a chair. "I am--distracted."

"Why, my dear, what's the matter?" asked Constance. "Let me make you a
cup of coffee."

Over the steaming little cups Mildred grew more calm.

"Forest has found out in some way that I am speculating in Wall
Street," she confided at length. "I suppose some of his friends--he has
lots down there--told him."

Momentarily the picture of Drummond back of the post in Davies'
building flashed over Constance.

"And he is awfully angry. Oh, I never knew him to be so angry--and
sarcastic, too."

"Was it wholly over your money?" asked Constance. "Was there nothing
else?"

Mrs. Caswell started. "You grow more weird, every day, Constance.
Yes--there was something else."

"Mr. Davies?"

Mildred had risen. "Don't--don't--" she cried.

"Then you do really--care for him!" asked Constance mercilessly.

"No--no, a thousand times--no. How can I? I have put all such thoughts
out of my mind--long ago." She paused, then went on more calmly,
"Constance, believe me or not--I am just as good a woman to-day as I
was the day I married Forest. No--I would not even let the thought
enter my head--never!"

For perhaps an hour after her friend had gone, Constance sat thinking.
What should she do? Something must be done and soon. As she thought,
suddenly the truth flashed over her.

Caswell had employed Drummond to shadow his wife in the hope that he
might unearth something that might lead to a divorce. Drummond, like so
many divorce detectives, was not averse to guiding events, to put it
mildly. He had ingratiated himself, perhaps, with the clairvoyant and
Davies. Constance had often heard before of clairvoyants and brokers
who worked in conjunction to fleece the credulous. Now another and more
serious element than the loss of money was involved. Added to them was
a divorce detective--and honor itself was at stake. She remembered the
doped cigarettes. She had heard of them before at clairvoyants'. She
saw it all--Madame Cassandra playing on Mildred's wounded affections,
the broker on both that and her desire to be independent--and Drummond
pulling the wires that all might take advantage of her woman's frailty.

That moment Constance determined on action.

First she telephoned to deForest Caswell at his office. It was an
unconventional thing to do to ask him to call, but she made some
plausible pretext. She was surprised to find that he accepted it
without hesitating. It set her thinking. Drummond must have told him
something of her and he had thought this as good a time as any to face
her. In that case Drummond would probably come too. She was prepared.

She had intended to have one last talk with Mildred, but had no need to
call her. Utterly wretched, the poor little woman came in again to see
her as she had done scores of times before, to pour out her heart.
Forest had not come home to dinner, had not even taken the trouble to
telephone. Constance did not say that she herself was responsible.

"Do you really want to know the truth about your dreams?" asked
Constance, after she had prevailed upon Mildred to eat a little.

"I do know," she returned.

"No, you don't," went on Constance, now determined to tell her the
truth whether she liked it or not. "That clairvoyant and Mr. Davies are
in league, playing you for a sucker, as they say."

Mrs. Caswell did not reply for a moment. Then she drew a long breath
and shut her eyes. "Oh, you don't know how true what she says is to me.
She--"

"Listen," interrupted Constance. "Mildred, I'm going to be frank,
brutally frank. Madame Cassandra has read your character, not the
character as you think it is, but your unconscious, subconscious self.
She knows that there is no better way to enter into the intimate life
of a client, according to the new psychology, than by getting at and
analyzing the dreams. And she knows that you can't go far in dream
analysis without finding sex. It is one of the strongest natural
impulses, yet subject to the strongest repression, and hence one of the
weakest points of our culture.

"She is actually helping along your alienation for that broker. You
yourself have given me the clue in your dreams. Only I am telling you
the truth about them. She holds it back and tells you plausible
falsehoods to help her own ends. She is trying to arouse in you those
passions which you have suppressed, and she has not scrupled to use
drugged cigarettes with you and others to do it. You remember the
breakfast dream, when I said that much could be traced back to dreams?
A thing happens. It causes a dream. That in turn sometimes causes
action. No, don't interrupt. Let me finish first.

"Take that first dream," continued Constance, rapidly thrusting home
her interpretation so that it would have its full effect. "You dreamed
that your husband was dying and you were afraid. She said it meant love
was dead. It did not. The fact is that neurotic fear in a woman has its
origin in repressed, unsatisfied love, love which for one reason or
another is turned away from its object and has not succeeded in being
applied. Then his death. That simply means that you have a feeling that
you might be happier if he were away and didn't devil you. It is a
survival of childhood, when death is synonymous with absence. I know
you don't believe it. But if you had studied the subject as I have in
the last few days you'd understand. Madame Cassandra understands.

"And the wall. That was Wall Street, probably, which does divide you
two. You tried to get over it and you fell. That means your fear of
actually falling, morally, of being a fallen woman."

Mildred was staring wildly. She might deny but in her heart she must
admit.

"The thing that pursued you, half bull, half snake, was Davies and his
blandishments. I have seen him. I know what he is. The crowd in a dream
always denotes a secret. He is pursuing you, as in the dream. But he
hasn't caught you. He thinks there is in you the same wild demimondaine
instinct that with many an ardent woman, slumbers unknown in the back
of her mind.

"Whatever you may say, you do think of him. When a woman dreams of
breakfasting cozily with some one other than her husband it has an
obvious meaning. As for the messenger and the message about the United
Traction, there, too, was a plain wish, and, as you must see, wishes in
one form or another, disguised or distorted, lie at the basis of
dreams. Take the coal fire. That, too, is susceptible of
interpretation. I think you must have heard the couplet:

"'No coal, no fire so hotly glows As the secret love that no one
knows.'"

Mildred Caswell had risen, an indignant flush on her face.

Constance put her hand on her arm gently to restrain her, knowing that
such indignation was the first sign that she had struck at the core of
truth in her interpretation.

"My dear," she urged, "I'm only telling you the truth, for your own
sake, and not to take advantage of you as Madame Cassandra is doing.
Please--remember that the best evidence of your normal condition is
just what I find, that absence of love would be abnormal. My dear, you
are what the psychologists call a consciously frigid, unconsciously
passionate woman. Consciously you reject this Davies; unconsciously you
accept him. And it is the more dangerous, although you do not know it,
because some one else is watching. It was not one of his friends who
told your husband--"

Mrs. Caswell had paled. "Is--is there a--detective?" she faltered.

Constance nodded.

Mildred had collapsed completely. She was sobbing in a chair, her head
bowed in her hands, her little lace handkerchief soaked. "What shall I
do? What shall I do?"

There was a sudden tap at the door.

"Quick--in there," whispered Constance, shoving her through the
portieres into the drawing room.

It was Forest Caswell.

For a moment Constance stood irresolute, wondering just how to meet
him, then she said, "Good evening, Mr. Caswell. I hope you will pardon
me for asking you to call on me, but, as you know, I've come to know
your wife--perhaps better than you do."

"Not better," he corrected, seeming to see that it was directness that
she was aiming at. "It is bad enough to get mixed up badly in Wall
Street, but what would you yourself say--you are a business woman--what
would you say about getting into the clutches of a--a dream doctor--and
worse?"

He had put Constance on the defensive in a sentence.

"Don't you ever dream?" she asked quietly.

He looked at her a moment as if doubting even her mentality.

"Lord," he exclaimed in disgust, "you, too, defend it?"

"But, don't you dream?" she persisted.

"Why, of course I dream," he answered somewhat petulantly. "What of it?
I don't guide my actions by it."

"Do you ever dream of Mildred?" she asked.

"Sometimes," he admitted reluctantly.

"Ever of other--er--people?" she pursued.

"Yes," he replied, "sometimes of other people. But what has that to do
with it? I cannot help my dreams. My conduct I can help and I do help."

Constance had not expected him to be frank to the extent of taking her
into his confidence. Still, she felt that he had told her just enough.
She discerned a vague sense of jealousy in his tone which told her more
than words that whatever he might have said or done to Mildred he
resented, unconsciously, the manner in which she had striven to gain
sympathy outside.

"Fortunately he knows nothing of the new theories," she said to herself.

"Mrs. Dunlap," he resumed, "since you have been frank with me, I must
be equally frank with you. I think you are far too sensible a woman not
to understand in just what a peculiar position my wife has placed me."

He had taken out of his pocket a few sheets of closely typewritten
tissue paper. He did not look at them. Evidently he knew the contents
by heart. Constance did not need to be told that this was a sheaf of
the daily reports of the agency for which Drummond worked.

He paused. She had been watching him searchingly. She was determined
not to let him justify himself first.

"Mr. Caswell," she persisted in a low, earnest tone, "don't be so sure
that there is nothing in this dream, business. Before you read me those
reports from Mr. Drummond, let me finish."

Forest Caswell almost dropped them in surprise.

"Dreams," she continued, seeing her advantage, "are wishes, either
suppressed or expressed. Sometimes the dream is frank and shows an
expressed wish. Other times it shows a suppressed wish, or a wish which
in its fulfilment in the dream is disguised or distorted.

"You are the cause of your wife's dreams. She feels in them anxiety.
And, according to the modern psychologists who have studied dreams
carefully and scientifically, fear and anxiety represent love repressed
or suppressed."

She paused to emphasize the point, glad to note that he was following
her.

"That clairvoyant," she went on, "has found out the truth. True, it may
not have been the part of wisdom for Mildred to have gone to her in the
first place. I pass over that. I do not know whether you or she was
most to blame at the start. But that woman, in the guise of being her
friend, has played on every string of your wife's lonely heart, which
you have wrung until it vibrates.

"Then," she hastened on, "came your precious friend Drummond, Drummond
who has, no doubt, told you a pack of lies about me. You see that!"

She had flung down on the table a cigarette which she had managed to
get at Madame Cassandra's.

"Smoke it."

He lighted it gingerly, took a puff or two, puckered his face, frowned,
and rubbed the lighted end on the fireplace to extinguish it.

"What is it?" he asked suspiciously.

"Hashish," she answered tersely. "Things were not going fast enough to
suit either Madame Cassandra or Drummond. Madame Cassandra helped along
the dreams by a drug noted for its effect on the passions. More than
that," added Constance, leaning over toward him and catching his eye,
"Madame Cassandra was working in league with a broker, as so many of
the fakers do. Drummond knew it, whether he told you the truth about it
or not. That broker was a swindler named Davies."

She was watching the effect on him. She saw that he had been reserving
this for a last shot at her, that he realized she had stolen his own
ammunition and appropriated it to herself.

"They were only too glad when Drummond approached them. There you are,
three against that poor little woman--no, four, including yourself.
Perhaps she was foolish. But it was not so much to her discredit as to
those who cast her adrift when she had a natural right to protection.
Here was a woman with passions which she herself did not understand,
and a little money--alone. Her case appealed to me. I knew her dreams.
I studied them."

Caswell was listening in amazement. "It is dangerous to be with a
person who pays attention to such little things," he said.

Evidently Drummond himself must have been listening. The door buzzer
sounded and he stepped in, perhaps to bolster up his client in case he
should be weakening.

As he met Constance's eye he smiled superciliously and was about to
speak. But she did not give him time even to say good evening.

"Ask him," she cried, her eyes flashing, for she realized that it had
been part of the plan to confront her, perhaps worm out of her just
enough to confirm Drummond's own story to Caswell, "ask him to tell the
truth--if he is capable of it--not the truth that will make a good
daily report of a hired shadow who colors his report the way he thinks
his client desires it, but the real truth."

"Mr. Caswell," interrupted Drummond, "this woman----"

"Mr. Drummond," cried Constance, rising and shaking the burnt stub of
the little gold-banded cigarette at him to impress it on his mind, "Mr.
Drummond, I don't care whether I am a--a she-devil"--she almost hissed
the words at him--"but I have evidence enough to go before the district
attorney of this city and the grand jury and get indictments for
conspiracy against a certain clairvoyant and a bucket shop operator. To
save themselves, they will probably tell all they know about a certain
crook who has been using them."

Caswell looked at her, amazed at her denunciation of the detective. As
for Drummond, he turned his back on her as if to ignore her utterly.

"Mr. Caswell," he said bitterly, "in those reports--"

"Forest Caswell," insisted Constance, rising and facing him, "if you
have in that heart of yours one shred of manhood it should move you.
You--this man--the others--have placed in the path of a woman every
provocation, every temptation for financial, physical, and moral ruin.
She has consulted a clairvoyant--yes. She has speculated--yes. Yet she
was proof against something greater than that. And I know--because I
know her unconscious self which her dreams reveal, her inmost soul--I
know her better than you do, better than she does herself. I know that
even now she is as good and true and would be as loving as--"

Constance had paused and taken a step toward the drawing room. Before
she knew it, the portieres flew apart and an eager little woman had
rushed past her and flung her arms about the neck of the man.

Caswell's features were working, as he gently disengaged her arms,
still keeping one hand. Half shoving her aside, ignoring Constance, he
had faced Drummond. For a moment the brazen detective flinched.

As he did so, deForest Caswell crumpled up the mass of tissue paper
reports and flung them into the fireplace.

"Get out!" he said, suppressing his voice with difficulty. "Send
me--your bill. I'll pay it--but, mind, if it is one penny more than it
should be, I'll--I'll fight if it takes me from the district attorney
and the grand jury to the highest court of the State. Now--go!"

Caswell turned slowly again toward his wife.

"I've been a brute," he said simply.

Something almost akin to jealousy rose in Constance's heart as she saw
Mildred, safe at last.

Then Caswell turned slowly to her. "You," he said, stroking his wife's
hand gently but looking at Constance, "you are a REAL clairvoyant."



CHAPTER VII

THE PLUNGERS


"They have the most select clientele in the city here."

Constance Dunlap was sitting in the white steamy room of Charmant's
Beauty Shop. Her informant, reclining dreamily in a luxurious wicker
chair, bathed in the perspiring vapor, had evidently taken a fancy to
her.

"And no wonder, either; they fix you up so well," she rattled on; then
confidingly, "Now, last night after the show a party of us went to
supper and a dance--and it was in the wee small hours when we broke up.
But Madame here can make you all over again. Floretta," she called to
an attendant who had entered, "if Mr. Warrington calls up on the
'phone, say I'll call him later."

"Yes, Miss Larue."

Constance glanced up quickly as Floretta mentioned the name of the
popular young actress. Stella Larue was a pretty girl on whom the wild
dissipation of the night life of New York was just beginning to show
its effects. The name of Warrington, too, recalled to Constance
instantly some gossip she had heard in Wall Street about the
disagreement in the board of directors of the new Rubber Syndicate and
the effort to oust the president whose escapades were something more
than mere whispers of scandal.

This was the woman in the case. Constance looked at Stella now with
added interest as she rose languidly, drew her bathrobe about her
superb figure carelessly in such a way as to show it at best advantage.

"I've had more or less to do with Wall Street myself," observed
Constance.

"Oh, have you? Isn't that interesting," cried Stella.

"I hope you're not putting money in Rubber?" queried Constance.

"On the contrary," rippled Stella, then added, "You're going to stay?
Let me tell you something. Have Floretta do your hair. She's the best
here. Then come around to see me in the dormitory if I'm here when you
are through, won't you?"

Constance promised and Stella fluttered away like the pretty butterfly
that she was, leaving Constance to wonder at the natural gravitation of
plungers in the money market toward plungers in the white lights.

Charmant's Beauty Parlor was indeed all its name implied, a temple of
the cult of adornment, the last cry in the effort to satisfy what is
more than health, wealth, and happiness to some women--the fundamental
feminine instinct for beauty.

Constance had visited the beauty specialist to have an incipient
wrinkle smoothed out. Frankly, it was not vanity. But she had come to
realize that her greatest asset was her personal appearance. Once that
had a chance to work, her native wit and keen ability would carry her
to success.

Madame Charmant herself was a tall, dark-skinned, dark-haired,
dark-eyed, well-groomed woman who looked as if she had been stamped
from a die for a fashion plate--and then the die had been thrown away.
All others like her were spurious copies, counterfeits. More than that,
she affected the name of Vera, which in itself had the ring of truth.

And so Charmant had prevailed on Constance to take a full course in
beautification and withhold the wrinkle at the source.

"Besides, you know, my dear," she purred, "there's nothing discovered
by the greatest minds of the age that we don't apply at once."

Constance was not impervious to feminine reason, and here she was.

"Has Miss Larue gone?" she asked when at last she was seated in a
comfortable chair again sipping a little aromatic cup of coffee.

"No, she's resting in one of the little dressing rooms."

She followed Floretta down the corridor. Each little compartment had
its neat, plain white enameled bed, a dresser and a chair.

Stella smiled as Constance entered. "Yes," she murmured in response to
the greeting, "I feel quite myself now."

"Mr. Warrington on the wire," announced Floretta a moment later, coming
down the corridor again with a telephone on a long unwinding wire.

"Hello, Alfred--oh, rocky this morning," Constance overheard. "I said
to myself, 'Never again--until the next time. Vera? Oh, she was as
fresh as a lark. Can I lunch with you downtown? Of course.'" Then as
she hung up the receiver she called, "Floretta, get me a taxi."

"Yes, Miss Larue."

"I always have a feeling here," whispered Stella, "that I am being
listened to. I mean to speak to Vera about it some time. By the way,
wouldn't you like to join us to-night? Vera will be along and Mr.
Warrington and perhaps 'Diamond Jack' Braden--you know him?"

Constance confessed frankly that she did not have the pleasure of the
acquaintance of the well-known turfman and first nighter.

She hesitated. Perhaps it was that that Stella liked. Almost any one
else would have been overeager to accept. But to Constance, sure of
herself now, nothing of the sort was worth scrambling for. Besides, she
was wondering how a man with the fight of his life on his hands could
find time to lunch downtown even with Stella.

"I've taken quite a fancy to you," pressed Stella.

"Thank you, it's very kind of you," Constance answered. "I shall try
very hard to be there."

"I'll leave a box for you at the office. Come around after the
performance to my dressing room."

"Miss Larue, your taxi's waiting," announced Floretta.

"Thanks. Are you going now, Mrs. Dunlap? Yes? Then ride down in the
elevator with me."

They parted at the foot of the elevator and Constance walked through
the arcade of the office building in which the beauty parlor occupied
the top floor. She stopped at a florist's stand to admire the flowers,
but more for an excuse to look back at Stella.

As Stella stepped into a taxicab, showing a generous wealth of silken
hosiery beneath the tango gown, Constance was aware that the driver of
another cab across the street was also interested. She noticed that he
turned and spoke to his fare through the open window.

The cab swung around to follow the other and Constance caught a
fleeting glimpse of a familiar face.

"Drummond," she exclaimed almost aloud.

What did it mean? Why had the detective been employed to follow Stella?
Instinctively she concluded that he must be engaged by Mrs. Warrington.

"I must accept Stella's invitation," she said to herself excitedly. "At
least, she should be put on her guard."

That evening, as she was looking over the newspapers, her eye caught
the item in the Wall Street edition:

RUBBER SYNDICATE DISSENSION

Break in Stock Follows Effort of Strong Minority to Oust Warrington
from Presidency

Then followed a brief account of the struggle of a powerful group of
directors to force Warrington, Braden, and the rest out, with a hint at
the scandal of which every one now was talking.

"I never yet knew a man who went in for that sort of thing that lasted
long in business," she observed. "This is my chance--a crowd riding for
a fall."

Constance chose a modest orchestra seat in preference to the place in a
box which Stella had reserved for her at the office, and, aside from
the purpose which was rapidly taking shape in her mind, she enjoyed the
play very much. Stella Larue, as the "Grass Widow," played her part
with a piquancy which Constance knew was not wholly a matter of book
knowledge.

As the curtain went down, the audience, its appetite for the risque
whetted, filed out on Broadway with its myriad lights and continuous
film of motion. Constance made her way around to Stella's dressing room.

She had scarcely been welcomed by Stella, whose cheeks beneath the
grease paint were now genuinely ablaze with excitement, when a man
entered. He was tall, spare, the type whose very bow is ingratiating
and whose "delighted, I assure you" is suave and compelling.

Alfred Warrington seemed to be on very good terms indeed with Stella as
she introduced him to Constance.

"You will join us, Mrs. Dunlap?" he asked, throwing an opera cloak over
Stella's shoulders. "Vera Charmant and Jack Braden are waiting for us
at the Little Montmartre."

As he mentioned the famous cabaret, Constance took a little tighter
grip on herself and decided to take the plunge and see the affair out,
although that sort of thing had very little attraction for her.

They were leaving the theater when she saw lurking in the crowd the
familiar figure of Drummond. She turned her head quickly and sank back
into the dark recesses of the limousine.

Should she tell them now about him?

She leaned over to Warrington. "I saw a man in the crowd just now who
seemed to be quite interested in us," she said quickly. "Can't we drive
around a bit to throw him off if he should get into a cab?"

Warrington looked at her keenly. It was quite evident that he thought
it was Constance who was being followed, not Stella or himself.
Constance decided quickly to say nothing more that would prejudice
Stella, but as Warrington directed his driver to run up through the
park she saw that, far from alarming him, the words had only added a
zest of mystery about herself.

They left the Park and the car jolted them quickly now over the uneven
asphalt to the palace of pleasure, where already the two advance guards
were holding one of the best tables in a house crowded with all classes
from debutantes to debauchees.

"Diamond Jack" Braden was a heavy-set man with a debonnaire, dapper way
about him. He wore a flower in his buttonhole, a smart touch which
seemed very fetching, evidently, to the artistic Vera.

Constance fell to studying him, as she did all men and women. "His
hands betray him," she said to herself, as she was introduced.

They were in fact shielded from view as he bowed, one with the thumb
tucked in the corner of his trousers pocket, the other behind his back.

"He is hiding something," flashed through her mind intuitively. And,
when she analyzed it, she felt still that there was nothing fanciful
about the idea. It was simply a little unconscious piece of evidence.

From the start the cabaret was pretty rapid. When they entered, two of
the performers were rendering the Apache dance with an abandon that
improved on its namesake. Scarcely had they finished when the orchestra
began all over again, and a couple of diners from the tables glided
past them on the dancing floor, then another couple and another.

"Tanguez-vous?" bowed Braden, leaning over to Stella.

"Oui, je tanguerai," she nodded, catching the spirit of the place.

It left Warrington and Constance at the table with Vera, and as
Constance looked eagerly after the graceful form of the little actress,
Warrington asked, "Will you dance!"

"No, thank you," she said, trying him out. "I haven't had time to learn
these new steps. And, besides, I have had a bad day in the market.
Steel, Reading, everything is off. Not that I have lost much--but it's
what I haven't made."

Warrington, who had been about to repeat his question to Vera, turned
suddenly. This was something new to him, to meet a woman like
Constance. If she knew about other stocks, she must know about the
Syndicate. Already he had felt an attraction toward Constance
physically, an attraction of maturity which somehow or other seemed
more satisfying, at least novel, in contrast with, the gay butterfly
talk of Stella.

He did not ask Vera to dance. Instead he began banteringly to discuss
Wall Street and in five minutes he found out that she really knew as
much about certain features of the game as he did. She did not need to
be told that Alfred Warrington, plunger, man about town, was quite
unexpectedly struck by her personality.

Now and then she could see Stella eyeing her covertly. The little
actress had had, like many another, a few dollars to invest or rather
with which to speculate. Her method had been usually to make a quick
profit on a tip from some Wall Street friend. Often, if the tip went
wrong, the friend would return the money to the unsuspecting little
girl, with some muttered apology about having been unable to get it
placed in time, and then, as the market went down or up, seeing that it
was too late, adding a congratulation that at least the principal was
saved if there was no profit.

The little actress was plainly piqued. She saw, though she did not
understand, that Constance was a different kind of plunger from what
she had thought at first up at Charmant's. Instead of trying to compete
with Constance in her field, she redoubled her efforts in her own. Was
Warrington, a live spender, to slip through her grasp for a chance
acquaintance?

Another dance. This time it was Stella and Warrington. Braden, who had
served excellently as a foil to lead Warrington on when he had eyes for
no one else, not even Vera, was left severely alone. Nothing was said,
not an action done openly, but Constance, woman-like, could feel the
contest in the air. And she felt just a little quiver when they sat
down and Warrington resumed the conversation with her where he had left
it. Even the daring cut of Stella's gown and the exaggerated proximity
of her dainty person had failed this time.

As they chatted gaily, Constance enjoyed her triumph to the full. Yes,
she could see that Stella was violently jealous. But she intended that
she should be. That was now a part of her plan as it shaped itself in
her mind, since she had plunged or, perhaps better, had been dragged
into the game.

As the evening wore on and the dancing became more furious, Warrington
seemed to catch the spirit of recklessness that was in the very air. He
talked more recklessly, once in a while with a bitterness not aimed at
any one in particular, which passed among the others as blase sarcasm
of one who had seen much and to whom even the fastest was slow.

But to Constance, as she tried to fathom him, it presented an entirely
different interpretation. For example, she asked herself, why had he
been so ready, apparently, to transfer his interest from Stella? Was it
because, having cut loose from the one feminine tie that morally bound
him, he no longer felt any restraint in cutting loose from others? Was
it the same spirit that had carried him on in the money game, having
cut loose from one financial principle, to let all go and to guide his
course as close to the edge of things as he dared? There had been the
same reckless bravado in the way he had urged on the driver of his car
in the wild ride of the earlier evening, violating the speed laws yet
succeeding in escaping the traffic squad.

Warrington was a plunger. Yet there was something about him that was
different from others she had seen. Perhaps it was that he had a
conscience, even though he had succeeded in detaching himself from it.

And Stella. There was something different about her, too. Constance
more than once was on the point of revising her estimate of the little
actress. Was she, after all, wholly mercenary in her attitude toward
Warrington? Was he merely a live spender whom she could not afford to
lose? Or was she merely a beautiful, delicate creature caught in the
merciless maelstrom of the life into which she had been thrown? Did she
realize the perilous position this all was placing her in?

They were among the last to leave and Vera and Braden offered to take
Constance to her apartment in Braden's car, while Stella contrived
prettily to take so much of Warrington's time with the wraps that by
the time they were ready to go the manner of the breaking up of the
party was as she wanted it. In her final triumph she could not help
just an extra inflection on, "I hope I'll see you again at Vera's soon,
my dear."

All night, or at least all that was left of it, Constance tried to
straighten out the whirl of her thoughts. With the morning she had an
idea. Now, in a moment when the exhilaration of the gay life was at low
ebb, she must see Stella.

It was early yet, but Stella was not at her hotel when Constance
cautiously called up the office to find out. Where was she? Constance
drove around to Charmant's on the chance that she might be there. Vera
greeted her a trifle coldly, she thought, but then this was not
midnight at the Montmartre. No, Stella was not there, she said, but
nevertheless Constance decided to wait.

"I'm all unstrung," confided Constance, with an assumed air of languor,
as she dropped into a chair.

Charmant, as fresh as if she had just emerged from the proverbial
bandbox, nodded knowingly. "A Turkish bath, massage, something to tone
you up," she advised.

With alert eyes Constance went patiently through the process of
freshening, first in the steamy hot room where she had met Stella the
day before, then the deliciously cool shower, gentle massage, and all
the rest.

At one of the little white tables of the manicures she noticed a
pretty, rather sad-faced little woman. There was something about her
that attracted Constance's attention, although she could not have told
exactly what it was.

"You know her?" whispered Floretta, bursting with excitement. "No?
Why,--" and here she paused and dropped her voice even lower,--"that's
Mrs. Warrington."

"Not the--"

"Yes," she nodded, "his wife. You know, she comes here twice a week. We
have to do some tall scheming to keep them apart. No, it's not vanity,
either. It's--well--you see, she's trying to get him back, to look like
a sport."

Constance thought of the hopeless fight so far which the little woman
was waging to keep up with the dashing actress. Then she thought of
Warrington, of last night, of how he had sought her, so ready, it
seemed, to leave even the "other woman." Then Floretta's remark
repeated itself mechanically. "We have to do some tall scheming to keep
them apart." Was Stella here, after all?

Mrs. Warrington was not a bad looking woman and in fact it was
difficult to see how she expected to be improved by cosmetics that
would lighten her complexion, bleaches that would flaxen her hair,
tortures for this, that, and the other defect, real or imagined.

Now, however, she was a creature of reinforcements, from her puffy
masses of light hair to her French heels and embroidered stockings that
showed through the slash in the drapery of her gown.

Constance felt sorry for her, deeply sorry. The whole thing seemed not
in keeping with her. She was a home-maker, not a butterfly. Was
Warrington worth it all? asked Constance of herself. "At least she
thinks so," flashed over her, as Mrs. Warrington rose, and left the
room, watchfully guided by Floretta to the next process in her course
in beautification.

Constance sank back luxuriously on the cushions of her chaise longue.
She longed to explore the beauty parlor, to leave the rest room and go
down the narrow corridor, prying into the secrets of the little
dressing rooms that opened into it. What did they conceal? Why had Vera
seemed so distant? Was it the natural reaction of the "morning after,"
or was Stella really there and was she keeping her away from Mrs.
Warrington to prevent friction between two clients that would have been
annoying to all?

She could reach no conclusion, except that there was a feeling of
luxurious well-being as she lolled back into the deep recesses of the
lounge in the corner of the room separated from the next room by a thin
board partition.

Suddenly her attention was arrested by muffled voices on the other side
of the partition. She strained her ears. She could not, of course, see
the speakers, or even recognize their voices, but they were a man and a
woman.

"We must get the thing settled right away," she overheard the man's
voice. "You see how he is? Every new face attracts him. See how he took
to that new one last night. Who knows what may happen? By and by some
one may come along and spoil all."

"Couldn't we use her?" asked the woman.

"No, you can't use that woman. She's too clever. But we must do
something, right away--to-night if possible."

A pause. "How, then?"

Another pause and the whispered monosyllable, "Dope!"

"What?"

"I have it here. Use a dozen of them. They can be snuffed as a powder,
or it can be put in a drink. If you want more--see, I will put the
bottle on this shelf--'way back. No one will see it."

"Don't you think I ought to write a note, something that will be sure
to get him up here?"

"Yes--just a line or two--as if in haste."

There was a sound as if of tearing a sheet of note paper from a pad.

"Is that all right?"

"Yes. As soon as the market closes. There will be nothing done to-day.
To-morrow's the day. To-night we must get him going and in the meantime
a meeting will be held, the plan arranged at the Prince Henry
to-night--and then the smash. Between them all, he won't know what has
struck him."

"All right. You had better go out as you came in. It's better that no
one up here should suspect anything."

The voices ceased.

What did it mean! Constance rose and sauntered around into the next
room. It was empty, but when she looked hastily up on the shelf there
was a bottle of white tablets and on a table a pad of note paper from
which a sheet had been torn.

She picked up the bottle gingerly. Who had touched it? Her mind was
working quickly. Somewhere she had read of finger prints and the
subject had interested her because the system had been introduced in
banks and she saw that it was going to become more and more important.

But how did they get them in a case like this? She had read of some
powder that adhered to the marks left by the sweat glands of the
fingers. There was the talcum powder. Perhaps it would do.

Quickly she shook the box gently over the glass. Then she blew it off
carefully.

Clear, sharp, distinct, there were the imprints of fingers!

But the paper. Talcum powder would not bring them out on that. It must
be something black.

A lead pencil! Eagerly she seized it and with, a little silver
pen-knife whittled off the wood. Scrape! scrape! until she had a neat
little pile of finely powdered graphite.

Then she poured it on the paper and taking the sheet daintily by the
edges, so that she would not mix her own finger prints with the others,
she rolled the powder back and forth. As she looked anxiously she could
see the little grains adhering to the paper.

A fine camel's hair brush lay on the table, for penciling. She took it
deftly. It made her think of that first time when she painted the
checks for Carlton. A lump came into her throat.

There they were, the second pair of telltale prints. But what tale did
they tell? Whose were they?

Her reading on finger prints had been very limited but, like everything
she did, to the point. She studied those before her, traced out as best
she could the loops, whorls, arches, and composites, even counted the
ridges on some of them. It was not so difficult, after all.

She stopped in an uptown branch of her brokers in one of the hotels.
The market was very quiet, and even the Rubber Syndicate seemed to be
marking time. As she went out she passed the telephone booths. Should
she call up Warrington? Would he misinterpret it? What if he did? She
was mistress of her own tongue. She need not say too much. Besides, if
she were going on a fishing expedition, a telephone line was as good as
any other--better than a visit.

"This is Mrs. Dunlap," she said directly.

"Oh, how do you do, Mrs. Dunlap. I have been intending to call you up,
but," he paused, and added, "you know we are having a pretty strenuous
time down here."

There was a genuine ring to the first part of his reply. But the rest
of it trailed off into the old blase tone.

"I'm sorry," she replied. "I enjoyed last night so much."

"Did you?" came back eagerly.

Before he could add anything she asked, "I suppose you are going to see
Stella again this afternoon."

"Why--er--yes," he hesitated. "I think so."

"Where? At Vera's?" she asked, adopting a tone not of curiosity but of
chiding him for seeing Stella instead of herself.

The moment of hesitation, before he said that he didn't know, told her
the truth. It was as good as a plain, "Yes."

For a few moments they chatted. As she hung up the receiver after his
deferential goodbye, Constance knew that she had gained a new angle
from which to observe Warrington's character. He was intensely human
and he was "in wrong." Here was a mess, all around.

The day wore on, yet brought no indecision as to what she would do,
though it brought no solution as to how to do it. The inaction was
worse than anything else. The last quotations had come in over the
ticker, showing the Syndicate stocks still unchanged. She left her
brokers and sat for a few moments in the rotunda of the hotel,
considering. She could stand it no longer. Whatever happened, she would
run around to Charmant's. Some excuse would occur when she got there.

As Constance alighted from the private elevator, a delicate scent as of
attar of roses smote lightly on her, and there was, if anything, a
greater air of exotic warmth about the place. Everything, from the
electric bulbs buried deep in the clusters of amber artificial flowers
to the bright green leaves on the dainty trellises, the little
square-paned windows and white furniture, bespoke luxury. There was an
inviting "tone" to it all.

"I'm glad I've found you," began Constance to Stella, as though nothing
had happened. "There is something I'd like to say to you besides
thanking you most kindly for the good time last--"

"Is there anything I can do for you?" interrupted Madame Charmant in a
business like tone. "I am sure that Miss Larue invited you last night
because she thought you were lonely. She and Mr. Warrington, you know,
are old friends."

Charmant emphasized the remark to mean, "You trespassed on forbidden
ground, if you thought you could get him away."

Constance seemed not to notice the implication.

"There is something I'd like to say," she repeated gently.

She picked up a little inking pad which lay on a mahogany secretary
which Vera used as an office desk.

"If you will be so kind, Stella, as to place your fingers flat on this
pad-never mind about the ink; call Floretta; she will wipe them off
afterwards-and then on this piece of paper, I won't bother you further."

Almost before she knew it, the little actress had placed her dainty
white hand on the pad and then on the paper.

Constance did the same, to illustrate, then called Floretta. "If Vera
will do as I have done," she said, offering her the pad, and taking her
hand. Charmant complied, and when Floretta arrived her impressions were
added to the others.

"There's a man wishes to see you, outside, Madame," said Floretta,
wiping off the soiled finger tips.

"Tell him to wait--in the little room."

Floretta opened the door to go out and through it Constance caught
sight of a familiar face.

A moment later the man was in the room with them. It was Drummond, the
same sneer, the same assurance in his manner.

"So," he snarled at Constance. "You here?"

"I seem to be here," she answered calmly. "Why?"

"Never mind why," he blustered. "I knew you saw me the other night. I
heard you tell 'em to hit it up so as to shake me. But I found out all
right."

"Found out what?" asked Constance coldly.

"Say, that's about your style, isn't it? You always get in when it
comes to trimming the good spenders, don't you?"

"Mr. Drummond," she replied, "I don't care to talk to you."

"You don't, hey? Well, perhaps, when the time comes you'll have to
talk. How about that?"

She was thinking rapidly. Was Mrs. Warrington preparing to strike a
blow that would be the last impulse necessary to send the plunger down
for the last time? She decided to take a chance, to temporize until
some one else made a move.

"I'd thank you to place your fingers on this pad," said Constance
quietly. "I'm making a collection of these things."

"You are, are you?"

"Yes," she cut short. "And if my collection isn't large enough I shall
call up Mrs. Warrington and ask her to come over, too," she added
significantly.

Floretta entered again. "Please wipe the ink off Mr. Drummond's
fingers," ordered Constance quietly, still holding out the pad.

"Confound your impudence," he ground out, seizing the pad. "There! What
do you mean by Mrs. Warrington? What has she to do with this? Have a
care, Mrs. Dunlap--you're on the wrong track here, and going the wrong
way."

"Mr. Warrington is--" began Floretta.

"Show him in--quick," demanded Constance, determined to bring the
affair to a show-down on the spot.

As the door swung open, Warrington looked at the group in unfeigned
surprise.

"Mr. Warrington," greeted Constance without giving any of the others a
chance, "this morning, I heard a little conversation up here. Floretta,
will you go into the little room, and on the top shelf you will find a
bottle. Bring it here carefully. I have a sheet of paper, also, which I
am going to show you. I had already seen the little woman, Mr.
Warrington, whom you have treated so unjustly. She was here trying
vainly to win you back by those arts which she thinks must appeal to
you."

Floretta returned with the bottle and placed it on the secretary beside
Constance.

"Some one took some tablets from this bottle and gave them to some one
else who wrote on this paper," she resumed, bending first over the
paper she had torn from the pad. "Ah, a loop with twelve ridges,
another loop, a whorl, a whorl, a loop. The marks on this paper
correspond precisely with those made here just now by--Vera Charmant
herself!"

"You get out of here--quick," snarled Drummond, placing himself between
the now furious Vera and Constance.

"One minute," replied Constance calmly. "I am sure Mr. Warrington is a
gentleman, if you are not. Perhaps I have no finger prints to
correspond with those on the bottle. If not, I am sure that we can send
for some one whose prints will do so."

She was studying the bottle.

"The other, however," she said slowly to conceal her own surprise, "was
a person who has been set to trail you and Stella, Mr. Warrington, a
detective named Drummond!"

Suddenly the truth flashed over her. Drummond was not employed by Mrs.
Warrington at all. Then by whom? By the directors. And the rest of
these people? Grafters who were using Stella to bait the hook. Braden
had gone over to them, had aided in plunging Warrington into the wild
life until he could no longer play the business game as before.
Charmant was his confederate, Drummond his witness.

"Stella," said Constance, turning suddenly to the little actress,
"Stella, they are using you, 'Diamond Jack' and Vera, using you to lead
him on, playing the game of the minority of the directors of the
Syndicate to get him out. There is to be a meeting of the directors
to-night at the Prince Henry. He was to be in no condition to go. Are
you willing to be mixed up in such a scandal?"

Stella Larue was crying into a lace handkerchief. "You--you are
all--against me," she sobbed. "What have I done?"

"Nothing," soothed Constance, patting her shoulder. "As for Charmant
and Drummond, they are tied by these proofs," she added, tapping the
papers with the prints, then picking them up and handing them to
Warrington. "I think if the story were told to the directors at the
Prince Henry to-night with reporters waiting downstairs in the lobby,
it might produce a quieting effect."

Warrington was speechless. He saw them all against him, Vera, Braden,
Stella, Drummond.

"More than that," added Constance, "nothing that you can ever do can
equal the patience, the faith of the little woman I saw here to-day,
slaving, yes, slaving for beauty. Here in my hand, in these scraps of
paper, I hold your old life,--not part of it, but ALL of it," she
emphasized. "You have your chance. Will you take it?"

He looked up quickly at Stella Larue. She had risen impulsively and
flung her arms about Constance.

"Yes," he muttered huskily, taking the papers, "all of it."



CHAPTER VIII

THE ABDUCTORS


"Take care of me--please--please!"

A slip of a girl, smartly attired in a fur-trimmed dress and a chic
little feather-tipped hat, hurried up to Constance Dunlap late one
afternoon as she turned the corner below her apartment.

"It isn't faintness or illness exactly--but--it's all so hazy,"
stammered the girl breathlessly. "And I've forgotten who I am. I've
forgotten where I live--and a man has been following me--oh, ever so
long."

The weariness in the tone of the last words caused Constance to look
more closely at the girl. Plainly she was on the verge of hysterics.
Tears were streaming down her pale cheeks and there were dark rings
under her eyes, suggestive of a haunting fear of something from which
she fled.

Constance was astounded for the moment. Was the girl crazy? She had
heard of cases like this, but to meet one so unexpectedly was surely
disconcerting.

"Who has been following you!" asked Constance gently, looking hastily
over her shoulder and seeing no one.

"A man," exclaimed the girl, "but I think he has gone now."

"Can't you think of your name!" urged Constance. "Try."

"No," cried the girl, "no, I can't, I can't."

"Or your address?" repeated Constance. "Try--try hard!"

The girl looked vacantly about.

"No," she sobbed, "it's all gone--all."

Puzzled, Constance took her arm and slowly walked her up the street
toward her own apartment in the hope that she might catch sight of some
familiar face or be able to pull herself together.

But it was of no use.

They passed a policeman who eyed them sharply. The mere sight of the
blue-coated officer sent a shudder through the already trembling girl
on her arm.

"Don't, don't let them take me to a hospital--don't," pleaded the girl
in a hoarse whisper when they had passed the officer.

"I won't," reassured Constance. "Was that the man who was following
you?"

"No--oh, no," sobbed the girl nervously looking back.

"Who was he, then?" asked Constance eagerly.

The girl did not answer, but continued to look back wildly from time to
time, although there was no doubt that, if he existed at all, the man
had disappeared.

Suddenly Constance realized that she had on her hands a case of
aphasia, perhaps real, perhaps induced by a drug.

At any rate, the fear of being sent away to an institution was so
strong in the poor creature that Constance felt intuitively how
disastrous to her might be the result of disregarding the obsession.

She was in a quandary. What should she do with the girl? To leave her
on the street was out of the question. She was now more helpless than
ever.

They had reached the door of the apartment. Gently she led the
trembling girl into her own home.

But now the question of what to do arose with redoubled force. She
hesitated to call a physician, at least yet, because his first advice
would probably be to send the poor little stranger to the psychopathic
ward of some hospital.

Constance's eye happened to rest on the dictionary in her bookcase.
Perhaps she might recall the girl's name to her, if she were not
shamming, by reading over the list of women's names in the back of the
book.

It meant many minutes, perhaps hours. But then Constance reflected on
what might have happened to the girl if she had chanced to appeal to
some one who had not felt a true interest in her. It was worth trying.
She would do it.

Starting with "A," she read slowly.

"Is your name Abigail?"

Down through Barbara, Camilla, Deborah, Edith, Faith, she read.

"Flora?" she asked.

The girl seemed to apprehend something, appear less blank.

"Florence?" persisted Constance.

"Oh, yes," she cried, "that's it--that's my name."

But as for the last name and the address she was just as hazy as ever.
Still, there was now something different about her.

"Florence--Florence what?" reiterated Constance patiently.

There was no answer. But with the continued repetition it seemed as if
some depth in her nature had been stirred. Constance could not help
feeling that the girl had really found herself.

She had risen and was facing Constance, both hands pressed to her
throbbing temples as if to keep her head from bursting. Constance had
assisted her off with her coat and hat, and now the sartorial wreck of
her masses of blonde hair was apparent.

"I suppose," she cried incoherently, "I'm just one more of the
thousands of girls who drop out of sight every year."

Constance listened in amazement. As the spell of her influence seemed
to calm the overwrought mind of the girl there succeeded a hardness in
her tone that was wholly out of keeping with her youth. There was
something that breathed of a past where there should have been nothing
but the thought of a future.

"Tell me why," soothed Constance with an air that invited confidence.

The girl looked up and again passed her hand over her white forehead
with its mass of tangled fallen hair. Somehow Constance felt a tingling
sensation of sympathy in her heart. Impulsively she put out her hand
and took the cold moist hand of the girl.

"Because," she hesitated, struggling now with re-flooding
consciousness, "because--I don't know. I thought, perhaps--" she added,
dropping her eyes, "you could--help me."

She was speaking rapidly enough now, "I think they have employed
detectives to trace me. One of them is almost up with me. I'm afraid I
can't slip out of the net again. And--I--I won't go back to them. I
can't. I won't."

"Go back to whom?" queried her friend. "Detectives employed by whom?"

"My folks," she answered quickly.

Constance was surprised. Least of all had she expected that.

"Why won't you go home?" she prompted as the girl seemed about to lapse
into a sort of stolid reticence.

"Home?" she repeated bitterly. "Home? No one would believe my story. I
couldn't go home, now. They have made it impossible for me to go home.
I mean, every newspaper has published my picture. There were headlines
for days, and only by chance I was not recognized."

She was sobbing now convulsively. "If they had only let me alone! I
might have gone back, then. But now--after the newspapers and the
search--never! And yet I am going to have revenge some day. When he
least expects it I am going to tell the truth and--"

She stopped.

"And what?" asked Constance.

"Tell the truth--and then do a cowardly thing. I would--"

"You would not!" blazed Constance.

There was no mistaking the meaning.

"Leave it to me. Trust me. I will help you."

She pulled the girl down on the divan beside her.

"Why talk of suicide?" mused Constance. "You can plead this aphasia I
have just seen. I know lots of newspaper women. We could carry it
through so that even the doctors would help us. Remember, aphasia will
do for a girl nowadays what nothing else can do."

"Aphasia!" Florence repeated harshly. "Call it what you
like--weakness--anything. I--I loved that man--not the one who followed
me--another. I believed him. But he left me--left me in a place--across
in Brooklyn. They said I was a fool, that some other fellow, perhaps
better, with more money, would take care of me. But I left. I got a
place in a factory. Then some one in the factory became suspicious. I
had saved a little. It took me to Boston.

"Again some one grew suspicious. I came back here, here--the only place
to hide. I got another position as waitress in the Betsy Ross Tea Room.
There I was able to stay until yesterday. But then a man came in. He
had been there before. He seemed too interested in me, not in a way
that others have been, but in me--my name. Some how I suspected. I put
on my hat and coat. I fled. I think he followed me. All night I have
walked the streets and ridden in cars to get away from him. At last--I
appealed to you."

The girl had sunk back into the soft pillows of the couch beside her
new friend and hid her face. Softly Constance patted and smoothed the
wealth of golden hair.

"You--you poor little girl," she sympathized.

Then a film came over her own eyes.

"New York took me at a critical time in my own life," she said more to
herself than to the girl. "She sheltered me, gave me a new start. What
she did for me she will do for any other person who really wishes to
make a fresh start in life. I made few acquaintances, no friends.
Fortunately, the average New Yorker asks only that his neighbor leave
him alone. No hermit could find better and more complete solitude than
in the heart of this great city."

Constance looked pityingly at the girl before her.

"Why can't you tell them," she suggested, "that you wanted to be
independent, that you went away to make your own living?"

"But--they--my father--is well off. And they have this detective who
follows me. He will find me some day--for the reward--and will tell the
truth."

"The reward?"

"Yes--a thousand dollars. Don't you remember reading--"

The girl stopped short as if to check herself.

"You--you are Florence Gibbons!" gasped Constance as with a rush there
came over her the recollection of a famous unsolved mystery of several
months before.

The girl did not look up as Constance bent over and put her arms about
her.

"Who was he?" she asked persuasively.

"Preston--Lansing Preston," she sobbed bitterly. "Only the other day I
read of his engagement to a girl in Chicago--beautiful, in society.
Oh--I could KILL him," she cried, throwing out her arms passionately.
"Think of it. He--rich, powerful, respected. I--poor, almost crazy--an
outcast."

Constance did not interfere until the tempest had passed.

"What name did you give at the tea room?" asked Constance.

"Viola Cole," answered Florence.

"Rest here," soothed Constance. "Here at least you are safe. I have an
idea. I shall be back soon."

The Betsy Ross was still open after the rush of tired shoppers and
later of business women to whom this was not only a restaurant but a
club. Constance entered and sat down.

"Is the manager in?" she asked of the waitress.

"Mrs. Palmer? No. But, if you care to wait, I think she'll be back
directly."

As Constance sat toying absently with some food at one of the snowy
white tables, a man entered. A man in a tea room is an anomaly. For the
tea room is a woman's institution, run by women for women. Men enter
with diffidence, and seldom alone. This man was quite evidently looking
for some one.

His eye fell on Constance. Her heart gave a leap. It was her old enemy,
Drummond, the detective. For a moment he hesitated, then bowed, and
came over to her table.

"Peculiar places, these tea rooms," observed Drummond.

Constance was doing some quick thinking. Could this be the detective
Florence Gibbons had mentioned?

"The only thing lacking to make them complete," he rattled on, "is a
license. Now, take those places that have a ladies' bar--that do openly
what tea rooms do covertly. They don't reckon with the attitude of
women. This is New York--not Paris. Such things are years off. I don't
say they'll not come or that women won't use them--but not by that
name--not yet."

Constance wondered what his cynical inconsequentialities masked.

"I think it adds to the interest," she observed, watching him
furtively, "this evasion of the laws."

Drummond was casting about for something to do and, naturally, to a
mind like his, a drink was the solution. Evidently, however, there were
degrees of brazenness, even in tea rooms. The Betsy Ross not only would
not produce a labeled bottle and an obvious glass but stoutly denied
their ability to fill such an order, even whispered.

"Russian tea?" suggested Drummond cryptically.

"How will you have it--with Scotch or rye?" asked the waitress.

"Bourbon," hazarded Drummond.

When the "Russian tea" arrived it was in a neat little pot with two
others, the first containing real tea and the second hot water. It was
served virtuously in tea cups, so opaquely concealed that no one but
the clandestine drinker could know what sort of poison was being served.

Mrs. Palmer was evidently later than expected. Drummond fidgeted after
the manner of a man out of his accustomed habitat. And yet he did not
seem to be interested really in Constance, or even in Mrs. Palmer. For
after a few moments, he rose and excused himself.

"How did HE come here?" Constance asked herself over and over.

As far as she could reason it out, there could be only one reason.
Drummond was clearly up with Florence. Did he also know that Constance
was shielding her?

The more she thought of it, the more she shuddered at the tactless way
in which the detective would perform the act of "charity" by
discovering the lost girl--and pocketing the reward.

If her family only knew, how eagerly they might let her come back in
her own way. She looked up the address of Everett Gibbons while she was
waiting, a half-formed plan taking definite shape in her mind.

What--she did must be done quickly. Here at the tea room at least
Florence, or rather Viola, was known. Perhaps the best way, after all,
was to let her be discovered here. They could not deny that she had
been working for them acceptably for some time.

Half an hour later, Mrs. Palmer, a bustling business woman, came in and
the waitress pointed her out to Constance.

"Did you have a waitress here named Viola Cole?" began Constance,
watching keenly the effect of her inquiry.

"Yes," replied Mrs. Palmer in a tone of interest that reassured
Constance that, if there were any connection between Drummond's
presence and Mrs. Palmer, it was wholly on his seeking. "But she
disappeared last night. A most peculiar girl--but a splendid worker."

"She has been ill," Constance hastened to explain. "I am a friend of
hers. I have a business downtown and could not come around until
to-night to tell you that she will be back to-morrow if you will take
her back."

"Of course I'll take her back. I'm sorry she's ill," and Mrs. Palmer
bustled out into the kitchen, not unfeelingly but merely because that
was her manner.

Constance paid her check and left the tea room. So far she had
succeeded. The next thing she had planned was a visit to Mr. Gibbons.
That need not take long, for she was not going to tell anything. Her
idea was merely to pave the way.

The Gibbons she found, lived in a large house on one of the numerous
side streets from the Park, in a neighborhood that was in fact
something more than merely well-to-do.

Fortunately she found Everett Gibbons in and was ushered into his
study, where he sat poring over some papers and enjoying an
after-dinner cigar.

"Mr. Gibbons," began Constance, "I believe there is a one thousand
dollar reward for news of the whereabouts of your daughter, Florence."

"Yes," he said in a colorless tone that betrayed the hopelessness of
the long search. "But we have traced down so many false clues that we
have given up hope. Since the day she went away, we have never been
able to get the slightest trace of her. Still, we welcome outside aid."

"Of detectives?" she asked.

"Official and private--paid and volunteer--anybody," he answered. "I
myself have come to the belief that she is dead, for that is the only
explanation I can think of for her long silence."

"She is not dead," replied Constance in a low tone.

"Not dead?" he repeated eagerly, catching at even such a straw as an
unknown woman might cast out. "Then you know--"

"No," she interrupted positively, "I cannot tell you any more. You must
call off all other searchers. I will let you know."

"When?"

"To-morrow, perhaps the next day. I will call you on the telephone."

She rose and made a hasty adieu before the man who had been prematurely
aged might overwhelm her with questions and break down her resolution
to carry the thing through as she had seen best.

Cheerily, Constance turned the key in the lock of her door.

There was no light and somehow the silence smote on her ominously.

"Florence!" she called.

There was no answer.

Not a sign indicated her presence. There was the divan with the pillows
disarranged as they had been when she left. The furniture was in the
same position as before. Hastily she went from one room to another.
Florence had disappeared!

She went to the door again. All seemed right there. If any one had
entered, it must have been because he was admitted, for there were no
marks to indicate that the lock had been forced.

She called up the tea room. Mrs. Palmer was very sympathetic, but there
had been no trace of "Viola Cole" there yet.

"You will let me know if you get any word?" asked Constance anxiously.

"Surely," came back Mrs. Palmer's cordial reply.

A hundred dire possibilities crowded through her mind. Might Florence
be held somewhere as a "white slave"--not by physical force but by
circumstances, ignorant of her rights, afraid to break away again?

Or was it suicide, as she had threatened? She could not believe it.
Nothing could have happened in such a short time to change her
resolution about revenge.

The recollection of all the stories she had read recently crossed her
mind. Could it be a case of drugs? The girl had given no evidence of
being a "dope" fiend.

Perhaps some one had entered, after all.

She thought of the so-called "poisoned needle" cases. Might she not
have been spirited off in that way? Constance had doubted the stories.
She knew that almost any doctor would say that it was impossible to
inject a narcotic by a sudden jab of a hypodermic syringe. That was
rather a slow, careful and deliberate operation, to be submitted to
with patience.

Yet Florence was gone!

Suddenly it flashed over Constance that Drummond might not be seeking
the reward primarily, after all. His first object might be shielding
Preston. She recollected that Mr. Gibbons had said nothing about
Drummond, either one way or the other. And if he were both shielding
Preston and working for the reward, he would care little how much
Florence suffered. He might be playing both ends to serve himself.

She rang the elevator bell.

"Has anybody called at my apartment while I was out?" she asked.

"Yes'm. A man came here."

"And you let him up?"

"I didn't know you were out. You see I had just come on. He said he was
to meet some one at your apartment. And when he pressed the buzzer, the
door opened, and I ran the elevator down again. I thought it was all
right, ma'am."

"And then what?" inquired Constance breathlessly.

"Well, in about five minutes my bell rang. I ran the elevator up again,
and, waiting, was this man with a girl I had never seen before. You
understand--I thought it was all right--he told me he was going to meet
some one."

"Yes--yes. I understand. Oh, my God, if I had only thought to leave
word not to let her go. How did she look?"

"Her clothes, you mean, Ma'am?"

"No--her face, her eyes!"

"Beggin' your pardon, I thought she was--well, er,--acted
queer--scared--dazed-like."

"You didn't notice which way they went, I suppose!"

"No ma'am, I didn't."

Constance turned back again into her empty apartment, heart-sick. In
spite of all she had planned and done, she was defeated--worse than
defeated. Where was Florence! What might not happen to her! She could
have sat down and cried. Instead she passed a feverishly restless night.

All the next day passed, and still not a word. She felt her own
helplessness. She could not appeal to the police. That might defeat the
very end she sought. She was single-handed. For all she knew, she was
fighting the almost limitless power of brains and money of Preston.
Inquiry developed the fact that Preston himself was reported to be in
Chicago with his fiancee. Time and again she was on the point of making
the journey to let him know that some one at least was watching him.
But, she reflected, if she did that she might miss the one call from
Florence for help.

Then she thought bitterly of the false hopes she had raised in the
despairing father of Florence Gibbons. It was maddening.

Several times during the day Constance dropped into the Betsy Ross,
without finding any word.

Late that night the buzzer on her door sounded. It was Mrs. Palmer
herself, with a letter at last, written on rough paper in pencil with a
trembling hand.

Constance almost literally pounced on it.

"Will you tell the lady who was so kind to me that while she was out
seeing you at the tea room, there was a call at her door? I didn't like
to open it, but when I asked who was there, a man said it was the
steam-fitter she had asked to call about the heat.

"I opened the door. From that moment when I saw his face until I came
to myself here I remember nothing. I would write to her, only I don't
know where she lives. One of the bell-boys here is kind enough to
smuggle this note out for me addressed to the Betsy Boss.

"Tell her please, that I am at a place in Brooklyn, I think, called
Lustgarten's--she can recognize it because it is at a railroad
crossing--steam railroads, not trolleys or elevateds.

"I know you think me crazy, Mrs. Palmer, but the other lady can tell
you about it. Oh, it was the same horrible feeling that came over me
that night as before. It isn't a dream; it's more like a trance. It
comes in a second--usually when I am frightened. I suddenly feel
nervous and shaky. I can't tell what is going on around me. I lose my
hearing. Part of the time it is as though, I had a paralytic stroke of
the tongue. The next day, perhaps, it is gone. But while it lasts it is
terrifying. It's like walking into a new world, with everybody,
everything strange about me."

The note ended with a most pathetic appeal.

Constance was already nervously putting on her hat.

"You are going to go there?" asked Mrs. Palmer.

"If I can locate the place," she answered.

"Aren't you afraid?" inquired the other.

Constance did not reply. She ostentatiously slipped a little
ivory-handled revolver into her handbag.

"It's a new one," she explained finally, "like nothing you ever heard
of before, I guess. I bought it only the other day after a friend of
mine told me about it."

Mrs. Palmer was watching her closely.

"You--you are a wonderful woman," she burst out finally. "It isn't good
business, it isn't good sense."

Constance stopped short in her preparations for the search. "What are
business and sense compared to the--the life of--"

She checked herself on the very point of revealing the girl's real name.

"Nothing," replied Mrs. Palmer. "I had already made up my mind to go
with you before I spoke--if you will let me."

In a moment the two understood each other better than after years of
casual acquaintance.

Back and forth through the mazes of streets and car lines of the city
across the river the two women traveled, asking veiled questions of
every wearer of a uniform, until at last they found such a place as
Florence had described in her note.

There, it seemed, had sprung up a little center of vice. While
reformers were trying to clamp down tight the "lid" in New York, all
the vicious elements were prying it up here. Crushed in one place, they
rose again in another.

There was the electric sign--"Lustgarten." Even a cursory glance told
them that it included a saloon on the first floor, with a sort of dance
hall and second-rate cabaret. Above that was a hotel. The windows were
darkened, with awnings pulled down, even on what must have been in the
daytime the shady side.

"Shall we go in? Are you game?" asked Constance of her companion.

"I haven't gone so far without considering that," replied Mrs. Palmer,
somewhat reproachfully.

Without a word Constance entered the door down the street followed by
her companion.

A negro at the little cubby hole of an office pushed out a register at
them. Constance signed the first names that came into her head, and a
moment later they were on their way up to a big double room on the
third floor, led by another, younger negro.

"Will you send the bell-boy up?" asked Constance as they entered the
room.

"I'm the bell-boy ma'am," was his disconcerting reply.

"I mean the other one," replied Constance, hazarding, "the one who is
here in the day time."

"There ain't no other boy, ma'am. There ain't no--"

"Could you deliver a note for me at a tea room in New York to-morrow?"
interrupted Constance, striking while the iron seemed hot.

The boy turned around abruptly from his busy occupation of doing
something useless that would elicit a tip. He quietly shut the door,
and wheeled about with his hand still on the knob.

"Do you want to know what room she's in?" he asked.

Constance opened her handbag. Mrs. Palmer suppressed a little scream.
She had expected that ivory-handled thing to appear. Instead there was
a treasury note of a size that caused the white part of the boy's eyes
to expand beyond all the laws of optics.

"Yes," she said, pressing it into his hand.

"Forty-two-down the hall, around the turn, on the other side,"
whispered the boy. "And for God's sake, ma'am, don't tell nobody I told
you."

His shuffle down the hall had scarcely ceased before the two women were
stealthily creeping in the opposite direction, looking eagerly at the
numbers.

Constance had stopped abruptly around the turn. Through a transom of
one of the rooms they could hear voices but could see no light.

"Well, go back then," growled a gruff voice. "Your family will never
believe your story, never believe that you came again and stayed at
Lustgarten's against your will. Why," the voice taunted with a harsh
laugh, "if they knew the truth, they would turn you from the door,
instead of offering a reward."

There was a moment of silence. Then a woman's voice, strangely familiar
to Constance, spoke.

"The truth!" she exclaimed bitterly. "He knew it was a case of a girl
who liked a good time, liked pretty clothes, a ride in an automobile,
theaters, excitement, bright lights, night life--a girl with a romantic
disposition in whom all that was repressed at home. He knew it," she
repeated, raising the tone to an almost hysterical pitch, "led me on,
made me love him because he could give them all to me. And when I began
to show the strain of the pace-they all show it more than the men--he
cast me aside like a squeezed-out lemon."

As she listened, Constance understood it all now. It was to make
Florence Gibbons a piece of property, a thing to be traded in,
bartered--that was the idea. Discover her--yes; but first to thrust her
into the life if she would not go into it herself--anything to
discredit her testimony beforehand, anything to save the precious
reputation of one man.

"Well," shouted the other voice menacingly, "do you want to know the
truth? Haven't you read it often enough? Instead of hoping you will
return, they pray that you are DEAD!"

He hissed the words out, then added, "They prefer to think that you are
dead. Why--damn it!--they turn to that belief for COMFORT!"

Constance had seized Mrs. Palmer by the arm, and, acting in concert,
they threw both their weights against the thin wooden door.

It yielded with a crash.

Inside the room was dark.

Indistinctly Constance could make out two figures, one standing, the
other seated in a deep rocker.

A suppressed exclamation of surprise was followed by a hasty lunge of
the standing figure toward her.

Constance reached quickly into her handbag and drew out the little
ivory-handled pistol.

"Bang!" it spat almost into the man's face.

Choking, sputtering, the man groped a minute blindly, then fell on the
floor and frantically tried to rise again and call out.

The words seemed to stick in his throat.

"You--you shot him?" gasped a woman's voice which Constance now knew
was Florence's.

"With the new German Secret Service gun," answered Constance quietly,
keeping it leveled to cow any assistance that might be brought. "It
blinds and stupefies without killing--a bulletless revolver intended to
check and render harmless the criminal instead of maiming him. The
cartridges contain several chemicals that combine when they are
exploded and form a vapor which blinds a man and puts him out. No one
wants to kill such a person as this."

She reached over and switched on the lights.

The man on the floor was Drummond himself.

"You will tell your real employer, Mr. Preston," she added
contemptuously, "that unless he agrees to our story of his elopement
with Florence, marries her, and allows her to start an undefended
action for divorce, we intend to make use of the new federal Mann
Act--with a jail sentence--for both of you."

Drummond looked up sullenly, still blinking and choking.

"And not a word of this until the suit is filed. Then WE will see the
reporters--not he. Understand?"

"Yes," he muttered, still clutching his throat.

An hour later Constance was at the telephone in her own apartment.

"Mr. Gibbons? I must apologize for troubling you at this late, or
rather early, hour. But I promised you something which I could not
fulfill until now. This is the Mrs. Dunlap who called on you the other
day with a clue to your daughter Florence. I have found
her--yes--working as a waitress in the Betsy Ross Tea Boom. No--not a
word to anyone--not even to her mother. No--not a word. You can see her
to-morrow--at my apartment. She is going to live with me for a few days
until--well--until we get a few little matters straightened out."

Constance had jammed the receiver back on the hook hastily.

Florence Gibbons, wild-eyed, trembling, imploring, had flung her arms
about her neck.

"No--no--no," she cried. "I can't. I won't."

With a force that was almost masculine, Constance took the girl by both
shoulders.

"The one thousand dollar reward which comes to me," said Constance
decisively, "will help us--straighten out those few little matters with
Preston. Mrs. Palmer can stretch the time which you have worked for
her."

Something of Constance's will seemed to be infused into Florence
Gibbons by force of suggestion.

"And remember," Constance added in a tense voice, "for anything after
your elopement--it's aphasia, aphasia, APHASIA!"



CHAPTER IX

THE SHOPLIFTERS


"Madam, would you mind going with me for a few moments to the office on
the third floor?"

Constance Dunlap had been out on a shopping excursion. She had stopped
at the jewelry counter of Stacy's to have a ring repaired and had gone
on to the leather goods department to purchase something else.

The woman who spoke to her was a quietly dressed young person, quite
inconspicuous, with a keen eye that seemed to take in everything within
a radius of a wide-angled lens at a glance.

She leaned over and before Constance could express even surprise, added
in a whisper, "Look in your bag."

Constance looked hastily, then realized what had happened. The ring was
gone!

It gave her quite a shock, too, for the ring, a fine diamond, was a
present from her husband, one of the few pieces of jewelry, treasured
not only for its intrinsic value but as a remembrance of Carlton and
the supreme sacrifice he had made for her.

She had noticed nothing in the crowd, nothing more than she had noticed
scores of times before. The woman watched her puzzled look.

"I've been following you," she said. "By this time the other store
detectives must have caught the shoplifter and bag-opener who touched
you. You see, we don't make any arrests in the store if we can help it,
because we don't like to make a scene. It's bad for business. Besides,
if she had anything else, we are safer when the case comes to court, if
we have caught her actually leaving the store with it. Of course, when
we make an arrest on the sidewalk, we bring the shoplifter back, but in
a private, back elevator."

Constance was following the young woman mechanically. At least there
was a chance of recovering the ring.

"She was standing next to you at the jewelry counter," she continued,
"and if you will help identify her the store management will appreciate
it--and make it worth your while. Besides," she urged, "It's really
your duty to do it, madam."

Constance remembered now the rather simply but richly gowned young
woman who had been standing next to her at the counter, seemingly
unable to decide which of a number of beautiful rings she really
wanted. She remembered because, with her own love of beauty, she had
wanted one herself, in fact had thought at the time that she, too,
might have difficulty in choosing.

With the added feeling of curiosity, Constance followed the woman
detective up in the elevator.

In the office, apart in a little room curiously furnished with a
camera, innumerable photographs, cabinets, and filing cases, was a
young woman, perhaps twenty-six or seven. On a table before her lay a
pile of laces and small trinkets. There, too, was the beautiful diamond
ring which she had hidden in her muff. Constance fairly gasped at the
sight.

The girl was sitting limply in a chair crying bitterly. She was not a
hardened looking creature. In fact, her face bore evident traces of
refinement, and her long, slender fingers hinted at a nervous, artistic
temperament. It was rather a shock to see such a girl under such
distressing circumstances.

"We've lost so much lately," a small ferret-eyed man was saying, "that
we must make an example of some one. It's serious for us detectives,
too. We'll lose our jobs unless we can stop you boosters."

"Oh--I--I didn't mean to do it. I--I just couldn't help it," sobbed the
girl over and over again.

"Yes," drawled the man, "that's what they all say. But you've been
caught with the goods, this time, young lady."

A woman entered, and the man turned to her quickly.

"Carr--Kitty Carr. Did you find anything under that name?"

"No, sir," replied the woman store detective. "We've looked all through
the records and the photographs. We don't find her. And yet I don't
think it is an alias--at least, if it is, not an alias for any one we
have any record of. I've a good eye for faces, and there isn't one we
have on file as--as good looking," she added, perhaps with a little
touch of wistfulness at her own plainness and this beauty gone wrong.

"This is the woman who lost the ring," put in the other woman
detective, motioning to Constance, who had accompanied her and was
standing, a silent spectator.

The man held up the ring, which Constance had already recognized.

"Is that yours?" he asked.

For a moment, strangely, she hesitated. If it had been any other ring
in the world she felt sure that she would have said no. But, then, she
reflected, there was that pile of stuff. There was no use in concealing
her ownership of the ring. "Yes," she murmured.

"One moment, please," answered the man brusquely. "I must send down for
the salesgirl who waited on you to identify you and your check--a mere
formality, you know, but necessary to keep things straight."

Constance sat down.

"I suppose you don't realize it," explained the man, turning to
Constance, "but the shoplifters of the city get away with a couple of
million dollars' worth of stuff every year. It's the price we have to
pay for displaying our goods. But it's too high. They are the
department store's greatest unsolved problem. Now most of the stores
are working together for their common interests, seeing what they can
do to root them out. We all keep a sort of private rogue's gallery of
them. But we don't seem to have anything on this girl, nor have any of
the other stores who exchange photographs and information with us
anything on her."

"Evidently, then, it is her first offense," put in Constance, wondering
at herself. Strangely, she felt more of sympathy than of anger for the
girl.

"You mean the first time she has been caught at it," corrected the head
of the store detectives.

"It is my weakness," sobbed the girl. "Sometimes an irresistible
impulse to steal comes over me. I just can't help it."

She was sobbing convulsively. As she talked and listened there seemed
to come a complete breakdown. She wept as though her heart would break.

"Oh," exclaimed the man, "can it! Cut out the sob stuff!"

"And yet," mused Constance half to herself, watching the girl closely,
"when one walks through the shops and sees thousands of dollars' worth
of goods lying unprotected on the counters, is it any wonder that some
poor woman or girl should be tempted and fall? There, before her eyes
and within her grasp, lies the very article above all others which she
so ardently craves. No one is looking. The salesgirl is busy with
another customer. The rest is easy. And then the store detective steps
in--and here she is--captured."

The girl had been listening wildly through her tears. "Oh," she sobbed,
"you don't understand--none of you. I don't crave anything. I--I
just--can't help it--and then, afterwards--I--I HATE the stuff--and I
am so--afraid. I hurry home--and I--oh, what shall I do--what shall I
do?"

Constance pitied her deeply. She looked from the wild-eyed,
tear-stained face to the miscellaneous pile of material on the table,
and the unwinking gaze of the store detectives. True, the girl had
taken a very valuable diamond ring, and from herself. But the laces,
the trinkets, all were abominably cheap, not worth risking anything for.

Constance's attention was recalled by the man who beckoned her aside to
talk to the salesgirl who had waited on her.

"You remember seeing this lady at the counter?" he asked of the girl.
She nodded. "And that woman in there?" he motioned. Again the salesgirl
nodded.

"Do you remember anything else that happened?" he asked Constance as
they faced Kitty Carr and he handed Constance the ring.

Constance looked the detective squarely in the face for a moment.

"I have my ring. You have the other stuff," she murmured. "Besides,
there is no record against her. She doesn't even look like a
professional bad character. No--I'll not appear to press the
charge--I'll make it as hard as I can before I'll do it," she added
positively.

The woman, who had overheard, looked her gratitude. The detectives were
preparing to argue. Constance hardly knew what she was saying, as she
hurried on before any one else could speak.

"No," she added, "but I'll tell you what I will do. If you will let her
go I will look after her. Parole her, unofficially, with me."

Constance drew a card from her case and handed it to the detective. He
read it carefully, and a puzzled look came over his face. "Charge
account--good customer--pays promptly," he muttered under his breath.

For a moment he hesitated. Then he sat down at a desk.

"Mrs. Dunlap," he said, "I'll do it."

He pulled a piece of printed paper from the desk, filled in a few
blanks, then turned to Kitty Carr, handing her a pen.

"Sign here," he said brusquely.

Constance bent over and read. It was a form of release:

"I, Kitty Carr, residing at -- East --th Street, single, age
twenty-seven years, in consideration of the sum of One Dollar, hereby
admit taking the following property... without having paid therefor and
with intent not to pay therefor, and by reason of the withdrawal of the
complaint of larceny, OF WHICH I AM GUILTY, I hereby remise, release,
and forever discharge the said Stacy Co. or its representatives from
any claims, action, or causes of action which I may have against the
Stacy Co. or its representatives or agents by reason of the withdrawal
of said charge of larceny and failure to prosecute."

"Signed, Kitty Carr."

"Now, Kitty," soothed Constance, as the trembling signature was blotted
and added to a photograph which had quietly been taken, "they are going
to let you go this time--with me. Come, straighten your hat, wipe your
eyes. You must take me home with you--where we can have a nice long
talk. Remember, I am your friend."

On the way uptown and across the city the girl managed to tell most of
her history. She came from a family of means in another city. Her
father was dead, but her mother and a brother were living. She herself
had a small annuity, sufficient to live on modestly, and had come to
New York seeking a career as an artist. Her story, her ambitions
appealed to Constance, who had been somewhat of an artist herself and
recognized even in talking to the girl that she was not without some
ability.

Then, too, she found that Kitty actually lived, as she had said, in a
cozy little kitchenette apartment with two friends, a man and his wife,
both of whom happened to be out when they arrived. As Constance looked
about she could see clearly that there was indeed no adequate reason
why the girl should steal.

"How do you feel?" asked Constance when the girl had sunk half
exhausted on a couch in the living room.

"Oh, so nervous," she replied, pressing her hands to the back of her
head, "and I have a terrible headache, although it is a little better
now."

They had talked for perhaps half an hour, as Constance soothed her,
when there was the sound of a key in the door. A young woman in black
entered. She was well-dressed, in fact elegantly dressed in a quiet
way, somewhat older than Kitty, but by no means as attractive.

"Why--hello, Kitty," she cried, "what's the matter!"

"Oh, Annie, I'm so unstrung," replied the girl, then recollecting
Constance, added, "let me introduce my friend, Mrs. Dunlap. This is
Mrs. Annie Grayson, who has taken me in as a lodger and is ever so kind
to me."

Constance nodded, and the woman held out her hand frankly.

"Very glad to meet you," she said. "My husband, Jim, is not at home,
but we are a very happy little family up here. Why, Kitty, what is the
matter?"

The girl had turned her face down in the sofa pillows and was sobbing
again. Between sobs she blurted out the whole of the sordid story. And
as she proceeded, Annie glanced quickly from her to Constance, for
confirmation.

Suddenly she rose and extended her hand to Constance.

"Mrs. Dunlap," she said, "how can I ever thank you for what you have
done for Kitty? She is almost like a sister to me. You--you were--too
good."

There was a little catch in the woman's voice. But Constance could not
quite make out whether it was acted or wholly genuine.

"Did she ever do anything like that before?" she asked.

"Only once," replied Annie Grayson, "and then I gave her such a talking
to that I thought she would be able to restrain herself when she felt
that way again."

It was growing late and Constance recollected that she had an
engagement for the evening. As she rose to go Kitty almost overwhelmed
her with embraces.

"I'll keep in touch with Kitty," whispered Constance at the door, "and
if you will let me know when anything comes up that I may help her in,
I shall thank you."

"Depend on me," answered Mrs. Grayson, "and I want to add my thanks to
Kitty's for what you have done. I'll try to help you."

As she groped her way down the as yet unlighted stairs, Constance
became aware of two men talking in the hall. As she passed them she
thought she recognized one of the voices. She lowered her head, and
fortunately her thin veil in the half-light did the rest. She passed
unnoticed and reached the door of the apartment.

As she opened it she heard the men turn and mount the stairs.
Instinctively she realized that something was wrong. One of the men was
her old enemy, Drummond, the detective.

They had not recognized her, and as she stood for a moment with her
hand on the knob, she tried to reason it out. Then she crept back, and
climbed the stairs noiselessly. Voices inside the apartment told her
that she had not been mistaken. It was the apartment of the Graysons
and Kitty that they sought.

The hall door was of thin, light wood, and as she stood there she could
easily hear what passed inside.

"What--is Kitty ill?" she heard the strange man's voice inquire.

"Yes," replied Mrs. Grayson, then her voice trailed off into an
indistinguishable whisper.

"How are you, Kitty?" asked the man.

"Oh, I have a splitting headache, Jim. I've had it all day. I could
just get up and--screech!"

"I'm sorry. I hope it gets better soon."

"Oh, I guess it will. They often go away as suddenly as they come. You
know I've had them before."

Drummond's voice then spoke up.

"Did you see the Trimble ad. to-night?" he asked, evidently of Annie.
"They have a lot of new diamonds from Arkansas, they say,--one of them
is a big one, the Arkansas Queen, I believe they call it."

"No, I didn't see the papers," replied Annie.

There was the rustle of a newspaper.

"Here's a picture of it. It must be great. I've heard a good deal about
it."

"Have you seen it?" asked Annie.

"No, but I intend to see it."

They had passed into the next room, and Constance, fearing to be
discovered, decided to get away before that happened.

Early the next morning she decided to call on Kitty, but by the time
Constance arrived at the apartment it was closed, and a neighbor
informed her that the two women had gone out together about half an
hour before.

Constance was nervous and, as she left the apartment, she did not
notice that a man who had been loitering about had quickened his pace
and overtaken her.

"So," drawled a voice, "you're traveling with shoplifters now."

She looked up quickly. This time she had run squarely into Drummond.
There was no concealment possible now. Her only refuge was silence. She
felt the hot tingle of indignation in her cheeks. But she said nothing.

"Huh!" exclaimed Drummond, walking along beside her, and adding
contemptuously, "I don't know the young one, but you know who the other
is?"

Constance bit her lip.

"No?" he queried. "Then I'll show you."

He had taken from his pocket a bunch of oblong cards. Each bore, she
could see from the corner of her eye, a full face and a profile picture
of a woman, and on the back of the card was a little writing.

He selected one and handed it to Constance. Instantly she recognized
the face. It was Annie Grayson, with half a dozen aliases written after
the name.

"There!" he fairly snorted. "That's the sort of people your little
friend consorts with. Why, they call Annie Grayson the queen of the
shoplifters. She has forgotten more about shoplifting than all the rest
will ever know."

Constance longed to ask him what had taken him to the Grayson flat the
night before, but thought better of it. There was no use in angering
Drummond further. Instead, she let him think that he had succeeded in
frightening her off.

She went back to her own apartment to wait and worry. Evidently
Drummond was pretty sure of something, or he would not have disclosed
his hand to her, even partially. She felt that she must see Kitty
before it was too late. Then the thought crossed her mind that perhaps
already it was too late. Drummond evidently was working in some way for
an alliance of the department stores outside.

Constance had had her own ideas about Kitty. And as she waited and
watched, she tried to reason how she might carry them out if she had a
chance.

She had just been insured, and had been very much interested in the
various tests that the woman doctor of the insurance company had
applied to her. One in particular which involved the use of a little
simple instrument that fitted over the forearm had interested her
particularly. She had talked to the doctor about it, and as she talked
an idea had occurred to her that it might have other uses than those
which the doctor made of it. She had bought one. While she was waiting
it occurred to her that perhaps it might serve her purpose. She got the
instrument out. It consisted of a little arrangement that fitted over
the forearm, and was attached by a tube to a dial that registered in
millimeters a column of mercury. Would it really show anything, she
wondered?

There was a quick call on the telephone and she answered it, her hand
trembling, for she felt sure that it was something about the little
woman she had befriended.

Somehow or other her voice hardened as she answered the call and found
that it was from Drummond. It would never do to betray even nervousness
before him.

"Your friend, Miss Carr," shot out Drummond with brutal directness,
"has been caught again. She fell into something as neatly as if she had
really meant to do it. Yesterday, you know, Trimble's advertised the
new diamond, the Arkansas Queen, on exhibition. Well, it was made of
paste, anyway. But it was a perfect imitation. But that didn't make any
difference. We caught Kitty just now trying to lift it. I'm sorry it
wasn't the other one. But small fry are better than none. We'll get
her, too, yet. Besides, I find this Kitty has a record already at
Stacy's."

He added the last words with a taunting sneer. Constance realized
suddenly the truth. The whole affair had been a plant of Drummond's!

"You are at Trimble's?" she inquired quickly. "Well, can you wait there
just a few minutes? I'd like to see Miss Carr."

Drummond promised. His acquiescence in itself boded no good, but
nevertheless she decided to go. As she left her apartment hurriedly she
picked up the little instrument and dropped it into her hand-bag.

"You see, it's no use," almost chortled Drummond as Constance stepped
off the elevator and opened the door to a little room at Trimble's much
like that which she had already seen at Stacy's. "A shoplifter becomes
habitual after twenty-five. They get to consorting with others of their
kind."

Kitty was sitting rigidly motionless in a chair, staring straight
ahead, as Constance entered. She gave a start at the sight of a
familiar face, rose, and would almost have fainted if Constance had not
caught her. It seemed as if something had snapped in the girl's
make-up. For the first time tears came. Constance patted her hand
softly. The girl was an enigma. Was she a clever actress--one minute
hardened Miss Sophisticated, the next appealing Miss Innocence?

"How did you--catch her?" asked Constance a moment later as she found
an opportunity to talk to Drummond alone.

"Oh, she was trying to substitute a paste replica for the alleged
Arkansas Queen. The clerk noticed the replica in time, saw a little
spot of carbon on it--and she was shadowed and arrested just as she was
leaving the store. Yes, they found the other paste jewel on her. She
was caught with the goods."

"Replica?" repeated Constance, thinking of the picture that had
appeared in the papers the night before. "How could she get a replica
of it?"

"How do I know?" shrugged Drummond coldly.

Constance looked him squarely in the eyes.

"What about Annie Grayson?" she asked pointblank.

"I have taken care of that," he replied harshly. "She is already under
arrest, and from what I have heard we may get something on her now. We
have a record against the Carr girl. We can use it against her friend.
We're just about taking her to the flat to identify the Grayson woman.
Would you like to come along?" he added in a spirit of bravado. "I
think you are a material witness in the Stacy case, anyhow."

Constance felt bitterly her defeat. Still she went with them. There was
always a chance that something might turn up.

As they entered the door of the kitchenette loud voices told them that
some one was disputing inside.

Drummond strode in.

The sight of a huge pile of stuff that two strange men had drawn out of
drawers and closets and stacked on the table riveted Constance's eyes.
Only dimly she could hear that Annie Grayson was violently threatening
Drummond, who stood coolly surveying the scene.

The stuff on the table was, in fact, quite enough to dazzle the eyes.
There were articles of every sort and description there--silks, laces,
jewelry and trinkets, little antiques, even rare books--everything
small and portable, some of the richest and most exquisite, others of
the cheapest and most tawdry. It was a truly remarkable collection,
which the raiding detectives had brought to light.

As Constance took in the scene--the raiding detectives holding the
stormy Annie Grayson at bay, Drummond, cool, supercilious, Kitty almost
on the edge of collapse--she wondered how Jim Grayson had managed to
slip through the meshes of the net.

She had read of such things. Annie Grayson was to all appearances a
"fence" for stolen goods. This was, perhaps, a school for shoplifters.
In addition to her other accomplishments, the queen of the shoplifters
was a "Fagin," educating others to the tricks of her trade, taking
advantage of their lack of facility in disposing of the stolen goods.

Just then the woman caught sight of Constance standing in the doorway.

In an instant she had broken loose and ran toward her.

"What are you," she hissed, "one of these department store Moll Dicks,
too?"

Quick as a flash Kitty Carr had leaped to her feet and placed herself
between them.

"No, Annie, no. She was a real friend of mine. No--if your own friends
had been as loyal as she was to me this would never have happened--I
should never have been caught again, for I should never have given them
a chance to get it on me."

"Little fool!" ground out Annie Grayson, raising her arm.

"Here--here--LADIES!" interposed Drummond, protruding an arm between
the two, and winking sarcastically to the two other men. "None of that.
We shall need both of you in our business. I've no objection to your
talking; but cut out the rough stuff."

Constance had stepped back. She was cool, cool as Drummond, although
she knew her heart was thumping like a sledge-hammer. There was Kitty
Carr, in a revulsion of feeling, her hands pressed tightly to her head
again, as if it were bursting. She was swaying as if she would faint.

Constance caught her gently about the waist and forced her down on the
couch where she had been lying the night before. With her back to the
others, she reached quickly into her hand-bag and pulled out the little
instrument she had hastily stuffed into it. Deftly she fastened it to
Kitty's wrist and forearm.

She dropped down on her knees beside the poor girl, and gently stroked
her free hand, reassuring her in a low tone.

"There, there," she soothed. "You are not well, Kitty. Perhaps, after
all, there may be something--some explanation."

In spite of all, however, Kitty was on the verge of the wildest
hysterics. Annie Grayson sniffed contemptuously at such weakness.

Drummond came over, an exasperating sneer on his face. As he looked
down he saw what Constance was doing, and she rose, so that all could
see now.

"This girl," she said, speaking rapidly, "is afflicted with a nervous
physical disorder, a mania, which is uncontrollable, and takes this
outlet. It is emotional insanity--not loss of control of the will, but
perversion of the will."

"Humph!" was Drummond's sole comment with a significant glance at the
pile of goods on the table.

"It is not the articles themselves so much," went on Constance,
following his glance, "as it is the pleasure, the excitement, the
satisfaction--call it what you will--of taking them. A thief works for
the benefit he may derive from objects stolen after he gets them. Here
is a girl who apparently has no further use for an article after she
gets it, who forgets, perhaps hates it."

"Oh, yes," remarked Drummond; "but why are they all so careful not to
get caught? Every one is responsible who knows the nature and
consequences of his act."

Constance had wheeled about.

"That is not so," she exclaimed. "Any modern alienist will tell you
that. Sometimes the chief mark of insanity may be knowing the nature
and consequences, craftily avoiding detection with an almost superhuman
cunning. No; the test is whether knowing the nature and consequences, a
person suffers under such a defect of will that in spite of everything,
in the face of everything, that person cannot control that will."

As she spoke, she had quickly detached the little instrument and had
placed it on Annie Grayson's arm. If it had been a Bertillon camera, or
even a finger-print outfit, Annie Grayson would probably have fought
like a tigress. But this thing was a new one. She had a peculiar spirit
of bravado.

"Such terms as kleptomania," went on Constance, "are often regarded as
excuses framed up by the experts to cover up plain ordinary stealing.
But did you wiseacres of crime ever stop to think that perhaps they do
actually exist?

"There are many things that distinguish such a woman as I have
described to you from a common thief. There is the insane desire to
steal--merely for stealing's sake--a morbid craving. Of course in a
sense it is stealing. But it is persistent, incorrigible, irrational,
motiveless, useless.

"Stop and think about it a moment," she concluded, lowering her voice
and taking advantage of the very novelty of the situation she had
created. "Such diseases are the product of civilization, of
sensationalism. Naturally enough, then, woman, with her delicately
balanced nervous organization, is the first and chief offender--if you
insist on calling such a person an offender under your antiquated
methods of dealing with such cases."

She had paused.

"What did you say you called this thing?" asked Drummond as he tapped
the arrangement on Annie Grayson's arm.

He was evidently not much impressed by it, yet somehow instinctively
regarded it with somewhat of the feelings of an elephant toward a mouse.

"That?" answered Constance, taking it off Annie Grayson's wrist before
she could do anything with it. "Why, I don't know that I said anything
about it. It is really a sphygmomanometer--the little expert witness
that never lies--one of the instruments the insurance companies use now
to register blood pressure and discover certain diseases. It occurred
to me that it might be put to other and equally practical uses. For no
one can conceal the emotions from this instrument, not even a person of
cast-iron nerves."

She had placed it on Drummond's arm. He appeared fascinated.

"See how it works?" she went on. "You see one hundred and twenty-five
millimeters is the normal pressure. Kitty Carr is absolutely abnormal.
I do not know, but I think that she suffers from periodical attacks of
vertigo. Almost all kleptomaniacs do. During an attack they are utterly
irresponsible."

Drummond was looking at the thing carefully. Constance turned to Annie
Grayson.

"Where's your husband?" she asked offhand.

"Oh, he disappeared as soon as these department store dicks showed up,"
she replied bitterly. She had been watching Constance narrowly, quite
nonplussed, and unable to make anything out of what was going on.

Constance looked at Drummond inquiringly.

He shook his head slowly. "I'm afraid we'll never catch him," he said.
"He got the jump on us--although we have our lines out for him, too."

She had glanced down quickly at the little innocent-looking but
telltale sphygmomanometer.

"You lie!" she exclaimed suddenly, with all the vigor of a man.

She was pointing at the quivering little needle which registered a
sudden, access of emotion totally concealed by the sang-froid of
Drummond's well-schooled exterior.

She wrenched the thing off his wrist and dropped it into her bag. A
moment later she stood by the open window facing the street, a bright
little police whistle gleaming in her hand, ready for its shrill alarm
if any move were made to cut short what she had to say.

She was speaking rapidly now.

"You see, I've had it on all of you, one after another, and each has
told me your story, just enough of it for me to piece it together.
Kitty is suffering from a form of vertigo, an insanity, kleptomania,
the real thing. As for you, Mr. Drummond, you were in league with the
alleged husband--your own stool pigeon--to catch Annie Grayson."

Drummond moved. So did the whistle. He stopped.

"But she was too clever for you all. She was not caught, even by a man
who lived with her as her own husband. For she was not operating."

Annie Grayson moved as if to face out her accusers at this sudden turn
of fortune.

"One moment, Annie," cut in Constance.

"And yet, you are the real shoplifter, after all. You fell into the
trap which Drummond laid for you. I take pleasure, Mr. Drummond, in
presenting you with better evidence than even your own stool pigeon
could possibly have given you under the circumstances."

She paused.

"For myself," she concluded, "I claim Kitty Carr. I claim the right to
take her, to have her treated for her--her disease. I claim it because
the real shoplifter, the queen of the shoplifters, Annie Grayson, has
worked out a brand-new scheme, taking up a true kleptomaniac and using
her insanity to carry out the stealings which she suggested--and
safely, to this point, has profited by!"



CHAPTER X

THE BLACKMAILERS


"They're late this afternoon."

"Yes. I think they might be on time. I wish they had made the
appointment in a quieter place."

"What do you care, Anita? Probably somebody else is doing the same
thing somewhere else. What's sauce for the gander is sauce for the
goose."

"I know he has treated me like a dog, Alice, but--"

There was just a trace of a catch in the voice of the second woman as
she broke off the remark and left it unfinished.

Constance Dunlap had caught the words unintentionally above the hum of
conversation and the snatches of tuneful music wafted from the large
dining-room where day was being turned into night.

She had dropped into the fashionable new Vanderveer Hotel, not to meet
any one, but because she liked to watch the people in "Peacock Alley,"
as the corridor of the hotel was often popularly called.

Somehow, as she sat inconspicuously in a deep chair in an angle, she
felt that very few of the gaily chatting couples or of the waiting men
and women about her were quite what they seemed on the surface.

The conversation from around the angle confirmed her opinion. Here,
apparently at least, were two young married women with a grievance, and
it was not for those against whom they had the grievance, real or
imagined, that they were waiting so anxiously.

Constance leaned forward to see them better. The woman nearest her was
a trifle the elder of the two, a very attractive-looking woman,
tastefully gowned and carefully groomed. The younger, who had been the
first speaker, was, perhaps, the more dashing. Certainly she appeared
to be the more sophisticated. And as Constance caught her eye she
involuntarily thought of the old proverb, "Never trust a man who
doesn't look you in the eye or a woman who does."

Two men sauntered down the long corridor, on the way from a visit to
the bar. As they caught sight of the two ladies, there was a smile of
recognition, an exchange of remarks between each pair, and the men
hurried in the direction of the corner.

They greeted the two ladies in low, bantering, familiar terms--"Mr.
Smith," "Mrs. Jones," "Mr. White" and "Mrs. Brown."

"You got my card!" asked one of the men of the woman nearest Constance.
"Sorry we're late, but a business friend ran into us as we were coming
in and I had to shunt him off in the other direction."

He nodded toward the opposite end of the corridor with a laugh.

"You've been bad boys," pouted the other woman, "but we forgive
you--this time."

"Perhaps we may hope to be reinstated after a little--er--tea--and a
dance?" suggested the other man.

The four were all moving in the direction of the dining-room and the
gay music.

They had disappeared in the crush about the door before Constance
noticed that the woman who had been sitting nearest her had dropped an
envelope. She picked it up. It was on the stationery of another
fashionable hotel, evidently written by one of those who lounge in, and
on the strength of a small bill in the cafe use the writing room. In a
man's hand was the name, "Mrs. Anita Douglas, The Melcombe Apartments,
City"

Before she realized it, Constance had pulled out the card inside and
glanced at it. It read:

     MY DEAREST A----:

     Can you meet us in the Vanderveer to-morrow afternoon at four?
     Bring along your little friend.

     With many * * * *

     Yours,

     ?????

Mechanically Constance crumpled the card and the envelope in her hand
and held them as she regarded the passing throng, intending to throw
them away when she passed a scrap basket on the way out.

Still, it was a fascinating scene, this of the comedy and tragedy of
human weaknesses, and she stayed much longer than she had intended. One
by one the people had either gone to dinner in the main dining-room or
elsewhere and Constance had nearly decided on going, too.

She was looking down the corridor toward the desk when she saw
something that caused her to change her mind. There was the young lady
who had been talking so flippantly to the woman with a grievance, and
she was now talking, of all people, to Drummond!

Constance shrank back into her wicker chair in the protecting angle.
What did it mean? If Drummond had anything to do with it, even
remotely, it boded no good, at least.

Suddenly a possible explanation crossed her mind. Was it a side-light
upon that peculiar industry of divorce as practiced in no place except
New York?

It was not only that Constance longed for, lived by excitement. She
felt a sense of curiosity as to what the detective was up to now. And,
somehow, she felt a duty in the case. She determined to return the
envelope and card, and meet the woman. And the more she thought of it
the more imperative became the idea.

So it came about that the following forenoon Constance sought out the
Melcombe Apartments, a huge stone and brick affair on a street which
the uptown trend of population was transforming.

Anita Douglas, she had already found out by an inquiry or two, was the
wife of a well-known business man. Yet, as she entered the little
apartment, she noticed that there was no evidence about it of a man's
presence.

Mrs. Douglas greeted her unexpected visitor with an inquiring look.

"I was passing through the corridor of the Vanderveer yesterday
afternoon," began Constance, leaping into the middle of her errand,
"and I happened to see this envelope lying on the carpet. I thought
first of destroying it; then that perhaps you would rather destroy it
yourself."

Mrs. Douglas almost pounced on the letter as Constance handed it to
her. "Thank you," she exclaimed. "It was very thoughtful of you."

For a moment or two they chatted of inconsequential things.

"Who was your friend?" asked Constance at length.

The woman caught her breath and flushed a bit, evidently wondering just
how much Constance really knew.

"The young lady," added Constance, who had put the question in this
form purposely.

"Why do you ask?" Mrs. Douglas inquired in a tone that betrayed
considerable relief.

"Because I can tell you something of her, I think."

"A friend of mine--a Mrs. Murray. Why?"

"Aren't you just a little bit afraid of--er--friends that you may
chance to make in the city?" queried Constance.

"Afraid?" repeated the other.

"Yes," said Constance, coming gradually to the point. "You know there
are so many detectives about."

Mrs. Douglas laughed half nervously. "Oh, I've been shadowed," she
replied confidently. "I know how to shake them off. If you can't do
anything else, you can always take a taxi. Besides, I think I can
uncover almost any shadow. All you have to do, if you think you're
being shadowed, is to turn a corner and stop. That uncovers the shadow
as soon as he comes up to the corner, and after that he is useless. You
know him."

"That's all right," nodded Constance; "but you don't know these crooked
detectives nowadays as I do. They can fake up evidence to order. That
is their business, you know, to manufacture it. You may uncover a
six-dollar operative, Mrs. Douglas, but are you the equal of a
twenty-dollar-a-day investigator?"

The woman looked genuinely scared. Evidently Constance knew some things
she didn't know, at least about detectives.

"You--you don't think there is anything like that, do you?" she asked
anxiously.

"Well," replied Constance slowly to impress her, "I saw your friend,
Mrs. Murray, after you had left the Vanderveer, talking to a detective
whom I have every reason to fear as one of the most unscrupulous in the
game."

"Oh, that is impossible!" persisted Mrs. Douglas.

"Not a bit of it," pursued Constance. "Think it over for a moment. Who
would be the last person a man or woman would suspect of being a
detective? Why, just such an attractive young woman, of course. You
see, it is just this way. They reason that if they can only get
acquainted with people the rest is easy. For, people, under the right
circumstances, will tell everything they know."

The woman was staring at Constance.

"For example," urged Constance, "I'm talking to you now as if I had
known you for years. Why, Mrs. Douglas, men tell their most important
business secrets to chance luncheon and dinner companions whom they
think have no direct or indirect interest in them. Over tea-tables
women tell their most intimate personal affairs. In fact, all you have
to do is to keep your ears open."

Mrs. Douglas had risen and was nervously watching Constance, who saw
that she had made an impression and that all that was necessary was to
follow it up.

"Now, for instance," added Constance quickly, "you say she is a friend
of yours. How did you meet her?"

Mrs. Douglas did not raise her eyes to Constance's now. Yet she seemed
to feel that Constance was different from other chance acquaintances,
to feel a sort of confidence, and to want to meet frankness with
frankness.

"One day I was with a friend of mine at the new Palais de Maxixe," she
answered in a low voice as if making a confession. "A woman in the
dressing-room borrowed a cigarette. You know they often do that. We got
talking, and it seemed that we had much in common in our lives. Before
I went back to him--"

She bit her lip. She had evidently not intended to admit that she knew
any other men. Constance, however, appeared not to notice the slip.

"I had arranged to meet her at luncheon the next day," she continued
hastily. "We have been friends ever since."

"You went to luncheon with her, and--" Constance prompted.

"Oh, she told me her story. It was very much like my own--a husband who
was a perfect bear, and then gossip about him that so many people,
besides his own wife, seemed to know, and--"

Constance shook her head. "Really," she observed thoughtfully, "it's a
wonder to me how any one stays married these days. Somebody is always
mixing in, getting one or the other so wrought up that they get to
thinking there is no possibility of happiness. That's where the crook
detective comes in."

Anita Douglas, confidence established now, poured out her story
unreservedly, as there was little reason why she should not, a story of
the refined brutality and neglect and inhumanity of her husband.

She told of her own first suspicions of him, of a girl who had been his
stenographer, a Miss Helen Brett.

But he was careful. There had never been any direct, positive evidence
against him. Still, there was enough to warrant a separation and the
payment to her of an allowance.

They had lived, she said, in a pretty little house in the suburb of
Glenclair, near New York. Now that they were separated, she had taken a
little kitchenette apartment at the new Melcombe. Her husband was
living in the house, she believed, when he was not in the city at his
club, "or elsewhere," she added bitterly.

"But," she confided as she finished, "it is very lonely here in a big
city all alone."

"I know it is," agreed Constance sympathetically as they parted. "I,
too, am often very lonely. Call on me, especially if you find anything
crooked going on. Call on me, anyhow. I shall be glad to see you any
time."

The words, "anything crooked going on," rang in Mrs. Douglas's ears
long after the elevator door had clanged shut and her new friend had
gone. She was visibly perturbed. And the more she thought about it the
more perturbed she became.

She had carried on a mild, then an ardent, flirtation with the man who
had introduced himself as "Mr. White"--really Lynn Munro. But she
relied on her woman's instinct in her judgment of him. No, she felt
sure that he could not be other than she thought. But as for Alice
Murray and her friend whom she had met at the Palais de Maxixe--well,
she was forced to admit that she did not know, that Constance's warning
might, after all, be true.

Munro had had to run out of town for a few days on a business trip.
That she knew, for it had been the reason why he had wanted to see her
before he went.

He had, in fact, spent the evening in her company, after the other
couple had excused themselves on one pretext or another.

She called up Alice Murray at the number she had given. She was not
there. In fact, no one seemed to know when she would be there. It was
strange, because always before it had seemed possible to get her at any
moment, almost instantly. That, too, worried her.

She tried to get the thing out of her mind, but she could not. She had
a sort of foreboding that her new friend had not spoken without reason,
a feeling of insecurity as though something were impending over her.

The crisis came sooner than even Constance had anticipated when she
called on Anita Douglas. It was early in the afternoon, while Anita was
still brooding, that a strange man called on her. Instinctively she
seemed to divine that he was a detective. He, at least, had the look.

"My name," he introduced himself, "is Drummond."

Drummond paused and glanced about as if to make sure that he could by
no possibility be overheard.

"I have called," he continued, "on a rather delicate matter."

He paused for effect, then went on:

"Some time ago I was employed by Mr. Douglas to--er--to watch his wife."

He was watching her narrowly to see what effect his sudden remark would
have on her. She was speechless.

"Since then," he added quietly, "I have watched, I have seen--what I
have seen."

Drummond had faced her. Somehow the effect of his words was more potent
on her than if he had not accused her by indirection. Still she said
nothing.

"I can suppress it," he insinuated.

Her heart was going like a trip-hammer.

"But it will cost something to do that."

Here was a straw--she caught at it eagerly.

"Cost something?" she repeated, facing him. "How much?"

Drummond never took his eyes from her anxious face.

"I was to get a fee of one thousand dollars if I obtained some letters
that had passed from her to a man named Lynn Munro. He has gone out of
town--has left his rooms unguarded. I have the letters."

She felt a sinking sensation. One thousand dollars!

Suddenly the truth of the situation flashed over her. He had come with
an offer that set her bidding against her husband for the letters. And
in a case of dollars her husband would win. One thousand dollars! It
was blackmail.

"I--I can't afford it," she pleaded weakly. "Can't you make it--less?"

Drummond shook his head. Already he had learned what he had come to
learn. She did not have the money.

"No," he replied positively, adding, by way of inserting the knife and
turning it around, "I shall have to turn the letters over to him
to-day."

She drew herself up. At least she could fight back.

"But you can't prove anything," she cut in quickly.

"Can't I?" he returned. "The letters don't speak for themselves, do
they? You don't realize that this interview helps to prove it, do you?
An innocent woman wouldn't have considered my offer, much less plead
with me. Bah! can't prove anything. Why, it's all in plain black and
white!"

Drummond flicked the ashes from his cigar into the fireplace as he rose
to go. At the door he turned for one parting shot.

"I have all the evidence I need," he concluded. "I've got the goods on
you. To-night it will be locked in his safe--documentary evidence. If
you should change your mind--you can reach me at his office. Call under
an assumed name--Mrs. Green, perhaps."

He was gone, with a mocking smile at the parting shot.

Anita Douglas saw it all now. Things had not been going fast enough to
suit her new friend, Mrs. Murray. So, after a time, she had begun to
tell of her own escapades and to try to get Anita to admit that she had
had similar adventures. It was a favorite device of detectives, working
under the new psychological method by use of the law of suggestion.

She had introduced herself, had found out about Lynn Munro, and in some
way, after he had left town, had got the letters. Was he in the plot,
too? She could not believe it.

Suddenly the thought came to her that the blackmailers might give her
husband material that would look very black if a suit for divorce came
up in court.

What if he were able to cut off her little allowance? She trembled at
the thought of being thus cast adrift on the world.

Anita Douglas did not know which way to turn. In her dilemma she
thought only of Constance. She hurried to her.

"It was as you said, a frame-up," she blurted out, as she entered
Constance's apartment, then in the same breath added, "That Mrs. Murray
was just a stool pigeon."

Constance received her sympathetically. She had expected such a visit,
though not so soon.

"Just how much do they--know?" she asked pointedly.

Anita had pressed her hands together nervously. "Really--I confess,"
she murmured, "indiscretions--yes; misconduct--no!"

She spoke the last words defiantly. Constance listened eagerly, though
she did not betray it.

She had found out that it was a curious twist in feminine psychology
that the lie under such circumstances was a virtue, that it showed that
there was hope for such a woman. Admission of the truth, even to a
friend, would have shown that the woman was hopelessly lost. Lie or
not, Constance felt in her inmost heart that she approved of it.

"Still, it looks badly," she remarked.

"Perhaps it does--on the surface," persisted Anita.

"You poor dear creature," soothed Constance. "I don't say I blame you
for your--indiscreet friendships. You are more sinned against than
sinning."

Sympathy had its effect. Anita was now sobbing softly, as Constance
stole her arm about her waist.

"The next question," she reasoned, considering aloud, "is, of course,
what to do? If it was just one of these blackmailing detective cases it
would be common, but still very hard to deal with. There's a lot of
such blackmailing going on in New York. Next to business and political
cases, I suppose, it is the private detective's most important graft.
Nearly everybody has a past--although few are willing to admit it. The
graft lies in the fact that people talk so much, are so indiscreet,
take such reckless chances. It's a wonder, really, that there isn't
more of it."

"Yet there is the--evidence, as he called it--my letters to Lynn--and
the reports that that woman must have made of our--our conversations,"
groaned Anita. "How they may distort it all!"

Constance was thinking rapidly.

"It is now after four o'clock," she said finally, looking at her wrist
watch. "You say it was not half an hour ago that Drummond called on
you. He must be downtown about now. Your husband will hardly have a
chance more than to glance over the papers this afternoon."

Suddenly an idea seemed to occur to her. "What do you suppose he will
do with them?" she asked.

Mrs. Douglas looked up through her tears, calmer. "He is very
methodical," she answered slowly. "If I know him rightly, I think he
will probably go out to Glenclair with them to-night, to look them
over."

"Where will he keep them?" broke in Constance suddenly.

"He has a little safe in the library out there where he keeps all such
personal papers. I shouldn't be surprised if he looked them over and
locked them up there until he intends to use them at least until
morning."

"I have a plan," exclaimed Constance excitedly. "Are you game?"

Anita Douglas looked at her friend squarely. In her face Constance read
the desperation of a woman battling for life and honor.

"Yes," replied Anita in a low, tense tone, "for anything."

"Then meet me after dinner in the Terminal. We'll go out to Glenclair."

The two looked deeply into each other's eyes. Nothing was said, but
what each read was a sufficient answer to a host of unspoken questions.

A moment after Mrs. Douglas had gone, Constance opened a cabinet. From
the false back of a drawer she took two little vials of powder and a
small bottle with a sponge.

Then she added a long steel bar, with a peculiar turn at the end, to
her paraphernalia for the trip.

Nothing further occurred until they met at the Terminal, or, in fact,
on the journey out. On most of the ride Mrs. Douglas kept her face
averted, looking out of the window into the blackness of the night.
Perhaps she was thinking of other journeys out to Glenclair, perhaps
she was afraid of meeting the curious gaze of any late sojourners who
might suffer from acute suburban curiosity.

Quietly the two women alighted and quickly made their way from the
station up the main street, then diverged to a darker and less
frequented avenue.

"There's the house," pointed out Mrs. Douglas, halting Constance, with
a little bitter exclamation.

Evidently she had reasoned well. He had gone out there early and there
was a light in the library.

"He isn't much of a reader," whispered Mrs. Douglas. "Oh--it's clear to
me that he has the stuff all right. He's devouring it, gloating over
it."

The sound of footsteps approaching down the paved walk came to them.
Loitering on the streets of a suburban town always occasions suspicion,
and instinctively Constance drew Anita with her into the shadow of a
hedge that set off the house from that next to it.

There was no fence cutting it off from the sidewalk, but at the corner
of the plot a large bush stood. In this bower they were perfectly
hidden in the shadow.

Hour after hour they waited, watching that light in the library,
speculating what it was he was reading, while Anita, half afraid to
talk, wondered what it was that Constance had in mind.

Finally the light in the library winked out and the house was in
darkness.

Midnight passed, and with it the last belated suburbanite.

At last, when the moon had disappeared under some clouds, Constance
pulled Anita gently along up the lawn.

There was no sign of life about the house, yet Constance observed all
the caution she would have if it had been well guarded.

Quickly they advanced over the open space to the cottage, approaching
in the shadow as much as possible.

Tiptoeing over the porch, Constance tried a window, the window through
which had shown the tantalizing light. It was fastened.

Without hesitation she pulled out the long steel bar with the twisted
head, and began to insert the sharp end between the sashes.

"Aren't--you--afraid?" chattered her companion.

"No," she whispered, not looking up from her work. "You know, most
persons don't know enough about jimmies. Against them an ordinary door
lock or window catch is no protection at all. Why, with this jimmy,
even a woman can exert a pressure of a ton or so. Not one catch in a
thousand can stand it--certainly not this one."

Constance continued to work, muffling the lever as much as possible in
a piece of felt.

At last a quick wrench and the catch yielded.

The only thing wrong about it was the noise. There had been no wind, no
passing trolley, nothing to conceal it.

They shrank back into the shadow, and waited breathless. Had it been
heard? Would a window open presently and an alarm be sounded?

There was not a sound, save the rustle of the leaves in the night wind.

A few minutes later Constance carefully raised the lower sash and they
stepped softly into the house--once the house over which Anita Douglas
had been mistress.

Cautiously Constance pressed the button on a little pocket
storage-battery lamp and flashed it slowly about the room.

All was quiet in the library. The library table was disordered, as if
some one in great stress of mind had been working at it. Anita wondered
what had been the grim thoughts of the man as he pondered on the mass
of stuff, the tissue of falsehoods that the blackmailing detective had
handed to him at such great cost.

At last the cone of light rested on a little safe at the opposite end.

"There it is," whispered Anita, pointing, half afraid even of the soft
tones of her own voice.

Constance had pulled down all the shades quietly, and drew the curtains
tightly between the room and the foyer.

On the top of the safe she was pouring some of the powder in a neat
pile from one of the vials.

"What is that?" asked Anita, bending close to her ear.

"Some powdered metallic aluminum mixed with oxide of iron," whispered
Constance in return. "I read of this thing in a scientific paper the
other day, and I determined to get some of it. But I didn't think I'd
ever really have occasion to use it."

She added some powder from the other vial.

"And that?"

"Magnesium powder."

Constance had lighted a match.

"Stand back, Anita," she whispered, "back, Anita," she whispered, "back
in the farthest corner of the room, and keep quiet. Shut your
eyes--turn your face away!"

There was a flash, blinding, then a steady, brilliant burst of
noiseless, penetrating, burning flame.

Anita had expected an explosion. Instead she found that her eyes hurt.
She had not closed them tightly quick enough.

Still, Constance's warning had been sufficient to prevent any damage to
the sight, and she slowly recovered.

Actually, the burning powder seemed to be sinking into the very steel
of the safe itself, as if it had been mere ice!

Was it an optical illusion, a freak of her sight?

"Wh-what is it!" she whispered in awe, drawing closer to her friend.

"Thermit," whispered Constance in reply, as the two watched the glowing
mass fascinated, "an invention of a German chemist named Goldschmidt.
It will burn a hole right through steel--at a terrific temperature,
three thousand or more degrees."

The almost burned out mass seemed to fall into the safe as if it had
been a wooden box instead of chrome steel.

They waited a moment, still blinking, to regain control over their eyes
in spite of the care they had used to shield them.

Then they tiptoed across the floor.

In the top of the safe yawned a hole large enough to stick one's hand
and arm through!

Constance reached into the safe and drew out something on which she
flashed the pocket light.

There was bundle after bundle of checks, the personal checks of a
methodical business man, carefully preserved.

Hastily she looked them over. All seemed to be perfectly
straight--payments to tradesmen, to real estate agents, payments of all
sorts, all carefully labeled.

"Oh, he'd never let anything like that lie around," remarked Anita, as
she began to comprehend what Constance was after.

Constance was scrutinizing some of the checks more carefully than
others. Suddenly she held one up to the light. Apparently it was in
payment of legal services.

Quickly she took the little bottle of brownish fluid which she had
brought with the sponge.

She dipped the sponge in it lightly and brushed it over the check. Then
she leaned forward breathlessly.

"Eradicating ink is simply a bleaching process," she remarked, "which
leaves the iron of the ink as a white oxide instead of a black oxide.
The proper reagent will restore the original color--partially and at
least for a time. Ah--yes--it is as I thought. There have been erasures
in these checks. Other names have been written in on some of them in
place of those that were originally there. The sulphide of ammonia
ought to bring out anything that is hidden here."

There, faintly, was the original writing. It read, "Pay to the order
of--Helen Brett--"

Mrs. Douglas with difficulty restrained an exclamation of anger and
hatred at the mere sight of the name of the other woman.

"He was careful," remarked Constance. "Reckless at first in giving
checks-he has tried to cover it up. He didn't want to destroy them, yet
he couldn't have such evidence about. So he must have altered the name
on the canceled vouchers after they were returned to him paid by the
bank. Very clever--very."

Constance reached into the safe again. There were some personal and
some business letters, some old check books, some silver and gold
trinkets and table silver.

She gave a low exclamation. She had found a packet of letters and a
sheaf of typewritten flimsy tissue paper pages.

Mrs. Douglas uttered a little cry, quickly suppressed. The letters were
those in her own handwriting addressed to Lynn Munro.

"Here are Drummond's reports, too," Constance added.

She looked them hastily over. The damning facts had been massed in a
way that must inevitably have prejudiced any case for the defense that
Mrs. Douglas might set up.

"There--there's all the evidence against you," whispered Constance
hoarsely, handing it over to Anita. "It's all yours again. Destroy it."

In her eagerness, with trembling hands, Anita had torn up the whole
mass of incriminating papers and had cast them into the fireplace. She
was just about to strike a match.

Suddenly there came a deep voice from the stairs.

"Well--what's all this?"

Anita dropped the match from her nerveless hands. Constance felt an arm
grasp her tightly. For a moment a chill ran over her at being caught in
the nefarious work of breaking and entering a dwelling-house at night.
The hand was Anita's, but the voice was that of a man.

Lights flashed all over the house at once, from a sort of electric
light system that could be instantly lighted and would act as a
"burglar expeller."

It was Douglas himself. He was staring angrily at his wife and the
stranger with her.

"Well!" he demanded with cold sarcasm. "Why this--this burglary?"

Before he could quite take in the situation, with a quick motion,
Constance struck a match and touched it to the papers in the fireplace.

As they blazed up he caught sight of what they were and almost leaped
across the floor.

Constance laid her hand on his arm. "One moment, Mr. Douglas," she said
quietly. "Look at that!"

"Who--who the devil are you?" he gasped. "What's all this?"

"I think," remarked Constance slowly and quietly, "that your wife is
now in a position to prove that you--well, don't come into court with
clean hands, if you attempt to do so. Besides, you know, the courts
rather frown on detectives that practice collusion and conspiracy and
frame up evidence, to say nothing of trying to blackmail the victims. I
thought perhaps you'd prefer not to say anything about this--er--visit
to-night--after you saw that."

Constance had quietly laid one of the erased checks on the library
table. Again she dipped the sponge into the brownish liquid. Again the
magic touch revealed the telltale name. With her finger she was
pointing to the faintly legible "Helen Brett" on the check as the
sulphide had brought it out.

Douglas stared-dazed.

He rubbed his eyes and stared again as the last of the flickering fire
died away. In an instant he realized that it was not a dream, that it
was all a fact.

He looked from one to the other of the women.

He was checkmated.

Constance ostentatiously folded up the erased vouchers.

"I--I shall not--make any--contest," Douglas managed to gasp huskily.



CHAPTER XI

THE DOPE FIENDS


"I have a terrible headache," remarked Constance Dunlap to her friend,
Adele Gordon, the petite cabaret singer and dancer of the Mayfair, who
had dropped in to see her one afternoon.

"You poor, dear creature," soothed Adele. "Why don't you go to see Dr.
Price? He has cured me. He's splendid--splendid."

Constance hesitated. Dr. Moreland Price was a well-known physician. All
day and even at night, she knew, automobiles and cabs rolled up to his
door and their occupants were, for the most part, stylishly gowned
women.

"Oh, come on," urged Adele. "He doesn't charge as highly as people seem
to think. Besides, I'll go with you and introduce you, and he'll charge
only as he does the rest of us in the profession."

Constance's head throbbed frantically. She felt that she must have some
relief soon. "All right," she agreed, "I'll go with you, and thank you,
Adele."

Dr. Price's office was on the first floor of the fashionable Recherche
Apartments, and, as she expected, Constance noted a line of motor cars
before it.

They entered and were admitted to a richly furnished room, in mahogany
and expensive Persian rugs, where a number of patients waited. One
after another an attendant summoned them noiselessly and politely to
see the doctor, until at last the turn of Constance and Adele came.

Dr. Price was a youngish, middle-aged man, tall, with a sallow
countenance and a self-confident, polished manner which went a long way
in reassuring the patients, most of whom were ladies.

As they entered the doctor's sanctum behind the folding doors, Adele
seemed to be on very good terms indeed with him.

They seated themselves in the deep leather chairs beside Dr. Price's
desk, and he inclined his head to listen to the story of their ailments.

"Doctor," began Constance's introducer, "I've brought my friend, Mrs.
Dunlap, who is suffering from one of those awful headaches. I thought
perhaps you could give her some of that medicine that has done me so
much good."

The doctor bowed without saying anything and shifted his eyes from
Adele to Constance. "Just what seems to be the difficulty?" he inquired.

Constance told him how she felt, of her general lassitude and the big,
throbbing veins in her temples.

"Ah--a woman's headaches!" he smiled, adding, "Nothing serious,
however, in this case, as far as I can see. We can fix this one all
right, I think."

He wrote out a prescription quickly and handed it to Constance.

"Of course," he added, as he pocketed his fee, "it makes no difference
to me personally, but I would advise that you have it filled at
Muller's--Miss Gordon knows the place. I think Muller's drugs are
perhaps fresher than those of most druggists, and that makes a great
deal of difference."

He had risen and was politely and suavely bowing them out of another
door, at the same time by pressing a button signifying to his attendant
to admit the next patient.

Constance had preceded Adele, and, as she passed through the other
door, she overheard the doctor whisper to her friend, "I'm going to
stop for you to-night to take a ride. I have something important I want
to say to you."

She did not catch Adele's answer, but as they left the marble and onyx,
brass-grilled entrance, Adele remarked: "That's his car--over there.
Oh, but he is a reckless driver--dashes along pell-mell--but always
seems to have his eye out for everything--never seems to be arrested,
never in an accident."

Constance turned in the direction of the car and was startled to see
the familiar face of Drummond across the street dodging behind it. What
was it now, she wondered--a divorce case, a scandal--what?

The medicine was made up into little powders, to be taken until they
gave relief, and Constance folded the paper of one, poured it on the
back of her tongue and swallowed a glass of water afterward.

Her head continued to throb, but she felt a sense of well-being that
she had not before. Adele urged her to take another, and Constance did
so.

The second powder increased the effect of the first marvelously. But
Constance noticed that she now began to feel queer. She was not used to
taking medicine. For a moment she felt that she was above, beyond the
reach of ordinary rules and laws. She could have done any sort of
physical task, she felt, no matter how difficult. She was amazed at
herself, as compared to what she had been only a few moments before.

"Another one?" asked Adele finally.

Constance was by this time genuinely alarmed at the sudden unwonted
effect on herself. "N-no," she replied dubiously, "I don't think I want
to take any more, just yet."

"Not another?" asked Adele in surprise. "I wish they would affect me
that way. Sometimes I have to take the whole dozen before they have any
effect."

They chatted for a few minutes, and finally Adele rose.

"Well," she remarked with a nervous twitching of her body, as if she
were eager to be doing something, "I really must be going. I can't say
I feel any too well myself."

"I think I'll take a walk with you," answered Constance, who did not
like the continued effect of the two powders. "I feel the need of
exercise--and air."

Adele hesitated, but Constance already had her hat on. She had seen
Drummond watching Dr. Price's door, and it interested her to know
whether he could possibly have been following Adele or some one else.

As they walked along Adele quickened her pace, until they came again to
the drug store.

"I believe I'll go in and get something," she remarked, pausing.

For the first time in several minutes Constance looked at the face of
her friend. She was amazed to discover that Adele looked as if she had
had a spell of sickness. Her eyes were large and glassy, her skin cold
and sweaty, and she looked positively pallid and thin.

As they entered the store Muller, the druggist, bowed again and looked
at Adele a moment as she leaned over the counter and whispered
something to him. Without a word he went into the arcana behind the
partition that cuts off the mysteries of the prescription room in every
drug store from the front of the store.

When Muller returned he handed her a packet, for which she paid and
which she dropped quickly into her pocketbook, hugging the pocketbook
close to herself.

Adele turned and was about to hurry from the store with Constance. "Oh,
excuse me," she said suddenly as if she had just recollected something,
"I promised a friend of mine I'd telephone this afternoon, and I have
forgotten to do it. I see a pay station here." Constance waited.

Adele returned much quicker than one would have expected she could call
up a number, but Constance thought nothing of it at the time. She did
notice, however, that as her friend emerged from the booth a most
marvelous change had taken place in her. Her step was firm, her eye
clear, her hand steady. Whatever it was, reasoned Constance, it could
not have been serious to have disappeared so quickly.

It was with some curiosity as to just what she might expect that
Constance went around to the famous cabaret that night. The Mayfair
occupied two floors of what had been a wide brownstone house before
business and pleasure had crowded the residence district further and
further uptown. It was a very well-known bohemian rendezvous, where
under-, demi-and upper-world rubbed elbows without friction and seemed
to enjoy the novelty and be willing to pay for it.

Adele, who was one of the performers, had not arrived yet, but
Constance, who had come with her mind still full of the two unexpected
encounters with Drummond, was startled to see him here again.
Fortunately he did not see her, and she slipped unobserved into an
angle near the window overlooking the street.

Drummond had been engrossed in watching some one already there, and
Constance made the best use she could of her eyes to determine who it
was. The outdoor walk and a good dinner had checked her headache, and
now the excitement of the chase of something, she knew not what,
completed the cure.

It was not long before she discovered that Drummond was watching
intently, without seeming to do so, a nervous-looking fellow whose
general washed-out appearance of face was especially unattractive for
some reason or other. He was very thin, very pale, and very stary about
the eyes. Then, too, it seemed as if the bone in his nose was going,
due perhaps to the shrinkage of the blood vessels from some cause.

Constance noticed a couple of girls whom she had seen Adele speak to on
several other occasions approaching the young man.

There came an opportune lull in the music and from around the corner of
her protecting angle Constance could just catch the greeting of one of
the girls, "Hello, Sleighbells! Got any snow!"

It was a remark that seemed particularly malapropos to the sultry
weather, and Constance half expected a burst of laughter at the
unexpected sally.

Instead, she was surprised to hear the young man reply in a very
serious and matter-of-fact manner, "Sure. Got any money, May?"

She craned her neck, carefully avoiding coming into Drummond's line of
vision, and as she did so she saw two silver quarters gleam momentarily
from hand to hand, and the young man passed each girl stealthily a
small white paper packet.

Others came to him, both men and women. It seemed to be an established
thing, and Constance noted that Drummond watched it all covertly.

"Who is that?" asked Constance of the waiter who had served her
sometimes when she had been with Adele, and knew her.

"Why, they call him Sleighbells Charley," he replied, "a coke fiend."

"Which means a cocaine fiend, I suppose!" she queried.

"Yes. He's a lobbygow for the grapevine system they have now of selling
the dope in spite of this new law."

"Where does he get the stuff!" she asked.

The waiter shrugged his shoulders. "Nobody knows, I guess. I don't. But
he gets it in spite of the law and peddles it. Oh, it's all
adulterated--with some white stuff, I don't know what, and the price
they charge is outrageous. They must make an ounce retail at five or
six times the cost. Oh, you can bet that some one who is at the top is
making a pile of money out of that graft, all right."

He said it not with any air of righteous indignation, but with a
certain envy.

Constance was thinking the thing over in her mind. Where did the "coke"
come from? The "grapevine" system interested her.

"Sleighbells" seemed to have disposed of all the "coke" he had brought
with him. As the last packet went, he rose slowly, and shuffled out.
Constance, who knew that Adele would not come for some time, determined
to follow him. She rose quietly and, under cover of a party going out,
managed to disappear without, as far as she knew, letting Drummond
catch a glimpse of her. This would not only employ her time, but it was
better to avoid Drummond as far as possible, at present, too, she felt.

At a distance of about half a block she followed the curiously
shuffling figure. He crossed the avenue, turned and went uptown, turned
again, and, before she knew it, disappeared in a drug store. She had
been so engrossed in following the lobbygow that it was with a start
that she realized that he had entered Muller's.

What did it all mean? Was the druggist, Muller, the man higher up? She
recalled suddenly her own experience of the afternoon. Had Muller tried
to palm off something on her? The more she thought of it the more sure
she was that the powders she had taken had been doped.

Slowly, turning the matter over in her mind, she returned to the
Mayfair. As she peered in cautiously before entering she saw that
Drummond had gone. Adele had not come in yet, and she went in and sat
down again in her old place.

Perhaps half an hour later, outside, she heard a car drive up with a
furious rattle of gears. She looked out of the window and, as far as
she could determine in the shadows, it was Dr. Price. A woman got out,
Adele. For a moment she stopped to talk, then Dr. Price waved a gay
good-bye and was off. All she could catch was a hasty, "No; I don't
think I'd better come in to-night," from him.

As Adele entered the Mayfair she glanced about, caught sight of
Constance and came and sat down by her.

It would have been impossible for her to enter unobserved, so popular
was she. It was not long before the two girls whom Constance had seen
dealing with "Sleighbells" sauntered over.

"Your friend was here to-night," remarked one to Adele.

"Which one?" laughed Adele.

"The one who admired your dancing the other night and wanted to take
lessons."

"You mean the young fellow who was selling something?" asked Constance
pointedly.

"Oh, no," returned the girl quite casually. "That was Sleighbells," and
they all laughed.

Constance thought immediately of Drummond. "The other one, then," she
said, "the thick-set man who was all alone!"

"Yes; he went away afterward. Do you know him?"

"I've seen him somewhere," evaded Constance; "but I just can't quite
place him."

She had not noticed Adele particularly until now. Under the light she
had a peculiar worn look, the same as she had had before.

The waiter came up to them. "Your turn is next," he hinted to Adele.

"Excuse me a minute," she apologized to the rest of the party. "I must
fix up a bit. No," she added to Constance, "don't come with me."

She returned from the dressing room a different person, and plunged
into the wild dance for which the limited orchestra was already tuning
up. It was a veritable riot of whirl and rhythm. Never before had
Constance seen Adele dance with such abandon. As she executed the wild
mazes of a newly imported dance, she held even the jaded Mayfair
spellbound. And when she concluded with one daring figure and sat down,
flushed and excited, the diners applauded and even shouted approval. It
was an event for even the dance-mad Mayfair.

Constance did not share in the applause. At last she understood. Adele
was a dope fiend, too. She felt it with a sense of pain. Always, she
knew, the fiends tried to get away alone somewhere for a few minutes to
snuff some of their favorite nepenthe. She had heard before of the
cocaine "snuffers" who took a little of the deadly powder, placed it on
the back of the hand, and inhaled it up the nose with a quick intake of
breath. Adele was one. It was not Adele who danced. It was the dope.

Constance was determined to speak.

"You remember that man the girls spoke of?" she began.

"Yes. What of him?" asked Adele with almost a note of defiance.

"Well, I really DO know him," confessed Constance. "He is a detective."

Constance watched her companion curiously, for at the mere word she had
stopped short and faced her. "He is?" she asked quickly. "Then that was
why Dr. Price--"

She managed to suppress the remark and continued her walk home without
another word.

In Adele's little apartment Constance was quick to note that the same
haggard look had returned to her friend's face.

Adele had reached for her pocketbook with a sort of clutching eagerness
and was about to leave the room.

Constance rose. "Why don't you give up the stuff?" she asked earnestly.
"Don't you want to?"

For a moment Adele faced her angrily. Then her real nature seemed
slowly to come to the surface. "Yes," she murmured frankly.

"Then why don't you?" pleaded Constance.

"I haven't the power. There is an indescribable excitement to do
something great, to make a mark. It's soon gone, but while it lasts, I
can sing, dance, do anything--and then--every part of my body begins
crying for more of the stuff again."

There was no longer any necessity of concealment from Constance. She
took a pinch of the stuff, placed it on the back of her wrist and
quickly sniffed it. The change in her was magical. From a quivering
wretched girl she became a self-confident neurasthenic.

"I don't care," she laughed hollowly now.

"Yes, I know what you are going to tell me. Soon I'll be 'hunting the
cocaine bug,' as they call it, imagining that in my skin, under the
flesh, are worms crawling, perhaps see them, see the little animals
running around and biting me."

She said it with a half-reckless cynicism. "Oh, you don't know. There
are two souls in the cocainist--one tortured by the pain of not having
the stuff, the other laughing and mocking at the dangers of it. It
stimulates. It makes your mind work--without effort, by itself. And it
gives such visions of success, makes you feel able to do so much, and
to forget. All the girls use it."

"Where do they get it?" asked Constance "I thought the new law
prohibited it."

"Get it?" repeated Adele. "Why, they get it from that fellow they call
'Sleighbells.' They call it 'snow,' you know, and the girls who use it
'snowbirds.' The law does prohibit its sale, but--"

She paused significantly.

"Yes," agreed Constance; "but Sleighbells is only a part of the system
after all. Who is the man at the top?"

Adele shrugged her shoulders and was silent. Still, Constance did not
fail to note a sudden look of suspicion which Adele shot at her. Was
Adele shielding some one?

Constance knew that some one must be getting rich from the traffic,
probably selling hundreds of ounces a week and making thousands of
dollars. Somehow she felt a sort of indignation at the whole thing. Who
was it? Who was the man higher up?

In the morning as she was working about her little kitchenette an idea
came to her. Why not hire the vacant apartment cross the hall from
Adele? An optician, who was a friend of hers, in the course of a recent
conversation had mentioned an invention, a model of which he had made
for the inventor. She would try it.

Since, with Constance, the outlining of a plan was tantamount to the
execution, it was not many hours later before she had both the
apartment and the model of the invention.

Her wall separated her from the drug store and by careful calculation
she determined about where came the little prescription department.
Carefully, so as to arouse no suspicion, she began to bore away at the
wall with various tools, until finally she had a small, almost
imperceptible opening. It was tedious work, and toward the end needed
great care so as not to excite suspicion. But finally she was rewarded.
Through it she could see just a trace of daylight, and by squinting
could see a row of bottles on a shelf opposite.

Then, through the hole, she pushed a long, narrow tube, like a putty
blower. When at last she placed her eye at it, she gave a low
exclamation of satisfaction. She could now see the whole of the little
room.

It was a detectascope, invented by Gaillard Smith, adapter of the
detectaphone, an instrument built up on the principle of the cytoscope
which physicians use to explore internally down the throat. Only, in
the end of the tube, instead of an ordinary lens, was placed what is
known as a "fish-eye" lens, which had a range something like nature has
given the eyes of fishes, hence the name. Ordinarily cameras, because
of the flatness of their lenses, have a range of only a few degrees,
the greatest being scarcely more than ninety. But this lens was
globular, and, like a drop of water, refracted light from all
directions. When placed so that half of it caught the light it "saw"
through an angle of 180 degrees, "saw" everything in the room instead
of just that little row of bottles on the shelf opposite.

Constance set herself to watch, and it was not long before her
suspicions were confirmed, and she was sure that this was nothing more
than a "coke" joint. Still she wondered whether Muller was the real
source of the traffic of which Sleighbells was the messenger. She was
determined to find out.

All day she watched through her detectascope. Once she saw Adele come
in and buy more dope. It was with difficulty that she kept from
interfering. But, she reflected, the time was not ripe. She had thought
the thing out. There was no use in trying to get at it through Adele.
The only way was to stop the whole curse at its source, to dam the
stream. People came and went. She soon found that he was selling them
packets from a box hidden in the woodwork. That much she had learned,
anyhow.

Constance watched faithfully all day with only time enough taken out
for dinner. It was after her return from this brief interval that she
felt her heart give a leap of apprehension, as she looked again through
the detectascope. There was Drummond in the back of the store talking
to Muller and a woman who looked as if she might be Mrs. Muller, for
both, seemed nervous and anxious.

As nearly as she could make out, Drummond was alternately threatening
and arguing with Muller. Finally the three seemed to agree, for
Drummond walked over to a typewriter on a table, took a fresh sheet of
carbon paper from a drawer, placed it between two sheets of paper, and
hastily wrote something.

Drummond read over what he had written. It seemed to be short, and the
three apparently agreed on it. Then, in a trembling hand, Muller signed
the two copies which Drummond had made, one of which Drummond himself
kept and the other he sealed in an envelope and sent away by a boy.
Drummond reached into his pocket and pulled out a huge roll of bills of
large denomination. He counted out what seemed to be approximately
half, handed it to the woman, and replaced the rest in his pocket. What
it was all about Constance could only vaguely guess. She longed to know
what was in the letter and why the money had been paid to the woman.

Perhaps a quarter of an hour after Drummond left Adele appeared again,
pleading for more dope. Muller went back of the partition and made up a
fresh paper of it from a bottle also concealed.

Constance was torn by conflicting impulses. She did not want to miss
anything in the perplexing drama that was being enacted before her, yet
she wished to interfere with the deadly course of Adele. Still, perhaps
the girl would resent interference if she found out that Constance was
spying on her. She determined to wait a little while before seeing
Adele. It was only after a decided effort that she tore herself away
from the detectascope and knocked on Adele's door as if she had just
come in for a visit. Again she knocked, but still there was no answer.
Every minute something might be happening next door. She hurried back
to her post of observation.

One of the worst aspects of the use of cocaine, she knew, was the
desire of the user to share his experience with some one else. The
passing on of the habit, which seemed to be one of the strongest
desires of the drug fiend, made him even more dangerous to society than
he would otherwise have been. That thought gave Constance an idea.

She recalled also now having heard somewhere that it was a common
characteristic of these poor creatures to have a passion for fast
automobiling, to go on long rides, perhaps even without having the
money to pay for them. That, too, confirmed the idea which she had.

As the night advanced she determined to stick to her post. What could
it have been that Drummond was doing? It was no good, she felt positive.

Suddenly before her eye, glued to its eavesdropping aperture, she saw a
strange sight. There was a violent commotion in the store. Blue-coated
policemen seemed to swarm in from nowhere. And in the rear, directing
them, appeared Drummond, holding by the arm the unfortunate
Sleighbells, quaking with fear, evidently having been picked up already
elsewhere by the wily detective.

Muller put up a stout resistance, but the officers easily seized him
and, after a hasty but thorough search, unearthed his cache of the
contraband drug.

As the scene unfolded, Constance was more and more bewildered after
having witnessed that which preceded it, the signing of the letter and
the passing of the money. Muller evidently had nothing to say about
that. What did it mean?

The police were still holding Muller, and Constance had not noted that
Drummond had disappeared.

"It's on the first floor--left, men," sounded a familiar voice outside
her own door. "I know she's there. My shadow saw her buy the dope and
take it home."

Her heart was thumping wildly. It was Drummond leading his squad of
raiders, and they were about to enter the apartment of Adele. They
knocked, but there was no answer.

A few moments before Constance would have felt perfectly safe in saying
that Adele was out. But if Drummond's man had seen her enter, might she
not have been there all the time, be there still, in a stupor? She
dreaded to think of what might happen if the poor girl once fell into
their hands. It would be the final impulse that would complete her ruin.

Constance did not stop to reason it out. Her woman's intuition told her
that now was the time to act--that there was no retreat.

She opened her own door just as the raiders had forced in the flimsy
affair that guarded the apartment of Adele.

"So!" sneered Drummond, catching sight of her in the dim light of the
hallway. "You are mixed up in these violations of the new drug law,
too!"

Constance said nothing. She had determined first to make Drummond
display his hand.

"Well," he ground out, "I'm going to get these people this time. I
represent the Medical Society and the Board of Health. These men have
been assigned to me by the Commissioner as a dope squad. We want this
girl. We have others who will give evidence; but we want this one, too."

He said it with a bluster that even exaggerated the theatrical
character of the raid itself. Constance did not stop to weigh the value
of his words, but through the door she brushed quickly. Adele might
need her if she was indeed there.

As she entered the little living-room she saw a sight which almost
transfixed her. Adele was there--lying across a divan, motionless.

Constance bent over. Adele was cold. As far as she could determine
there was not a breath or a heart beat!

What did it mean? She did not stop to think. Instantly there flashed
over her the recollection of an instrument she had read about at one of
the city hospitals, It might save Adele. Before any one knew what she
was doing she had darted to the telephone in the lower hall of the
apartment and had called up the hospital frantically, imploring them to
hurry. Adele must be saved.

Constance had no very clear idea of what happened next in the
hurly-burly of events, until the ambulance pulled up at the door and
the white-coated surgeon burst in carrying a heavy suitcase.

With one look at the unfortunate girl he muttered, "Paralysis of the
respiratory organs--too large a dose of the drug. You did perfectly
right," and began unpacking the case.

Constance, calm now in the crisis, stood by him and helped as deftly as
could any nurse.

It was a curious arrangement of tubes and valves, with a large rubber
bag, and a little pump that the doctor had brought. Quickly he placed a
cap, attached to it, over the nose and mouth of the poor girl, and
started the machine.

"Wh-what is it?" gasped Drummond as he saw Adele's hitherto motionless
breast now rise and fall.

"A pulmotor," replied the doctor, working quickly and carefully, "an
artificial lung. Sometimes it can revive even the medically dead. It is
our last chance with this girl."

Constance had picked up the packet which had fallen beside Adele and
was looking at the white powder.

"Almost pure cocaine," remarked the young surgeon, testing it. "The
hydrochloride, large crystals, highest quality. Usually it is
adulterated. Was she in the habit of taking it this way?"

Constance said nothing. She had seen Muller make up the
packet--specially now, she recalled. Instead of the adulterated dope he
had given Adele the purest kind. Why? Was there some secret he wished
to lock in her breast forever?

Mechanically the pulmotor pumped. Would it save her?

Constance was living over what she had already seen through the
detectascope. Suddenly she thought of the strange letter and of the
money.

She hurried into the drug store. Muller had already been taken away,
but before the officer left in charge could interfere she picked up the
carbon sheet on which the letter had been copied, turned it over and
held it eagerly to the light.

She read in amazement. It was a confession. In it Muller admitted to
Dr. Moreland Price that he was the head of a sort of dope trust, that
he had messengers out, like Sleighbells, that he had often put dope in
the prescriptions sent him by the doctor, and had repeatedly violated
the law and refilled such prescriptions. On its face it was complete
and convincing.

Yet it did not satisfy Constance. She could not believe that Adele had
committed suicide. Adele must possess some secret. What was it?

"Is--is there any change?" she asked anxiously of the young surgeon now
engrossed in his work.

For answer he merely nodded to the apparently motionless form on the
bed, and for a moment stopped the pulmotor.

The mechanical movement of the body ceased. But in its place was a
slight tremor about the lips and mouth.

Adele moved--was faintly gasping for breath!

"Adele!" cried Constance softly in her ear. "Adele!"

Something, perhaps a far-away answer of recognition, seemed to flicker
over her face. The doctor redoubled his efforts.

"Adele--do you know me?" whispered Constance again.

"Yes," came back faintly at last. "There--there's something--wrong with
it--They--they--"

"How? What do you mean?" urged Constance. "Tell me, Adele."

The girl moved uneasily. The doctor administered a stimulant and she
vaguely opened her eyes, began to talk hazily, dreamily. Constance bent
over to catch the faint words which would have been lost to the others.

"They--are going to--double cross the Health Department," she murmured
as if to herself, then gathering strength she went on, "Muller and
Sleighbells will be arrested and take the penalty. They have been
caught with the goods, anyhow. It has all been arranged so that the
detective will get his case. Money--will be paid to both of them, to
Muller and the detective, to swing the case and protect him. He made me
do it. I saw the detective, even danced with him and he agreed to do
it. Oh, I would do anything--I am his willing tool when I have the
stuff. But--this time--it was--" She rambled off incoherently.

"Who made you do it? Who told you?" prompted Constance. "For whom would
you do anything?"

Adele moaned and clutched Constance's hand convulsively. Constance did
not pause to consider the ethics of questioning a half-unconscious
girl. Her only idea was to get at the truth.

"Who was it?" she reiterated.

Adele turned weakly.

"Dr. Price," she murmured as Constance bent her ear to catch even the
faintest sound. "He told me--all about it--last night--in the car."

Instantly Constance understood. Adele was the only one outside who held
the secret, who could upset the carefully planned frame-up that was to
protect the real head of the dope trust who had paid liberally to save
his own wretched skin.

She rose quickly and wheeled about suddenly on Drummond.

"You will convict Dr. Price also," she said in a low tone. "This girl
must not be dragged down, too. You will leave her alone, and both you
and Mr. Muller will hand over that money to her for her cure of the
habit."

Drummond started forward angrily, but fell back as Constance added in a
lower but firmer tone, "Or I'll have you all up on a charge of
attempting murder."

Drummond turned surlily to those of his "dope squad," who remained:

"You can go, boys," he said brusquely.

"There's been some mistake here."



CHAPTER XII

THE FUGITIVES


"Newspaper pictures seldom look like the person they represent,"
asserted Lawrence Macey nonchalantly.

Constance Dunlap looked squarely at the man opposite her at the table,
oblivious to the surroundings. It was a brilliant sight in the great
after-theater rendezvous, the beautiful faces and gowns, the exquisite
music, the bright lights and the gayety. She had chosen this time and
place for a reason. She had hoped that the contrast with what she had
to say would be most marked in its influence on the man.

"Nevertheless," she replied keenly, "I recognize the picture--as though
you were Bertillon's new 'spoken portrait' of this Graeme Mackenzie."

She deliberately folded up a newspaper clipping and shoved it into her
hand-bag on a chair beside the table.

Lawrence Macey met her eye unflinchingly.

"Suppose," he drawled, "just for the sake of argument, that you are
right. What would you do?"

Constance looked at the unruffled exterior of the man. With her keen
perception she knew that it covered just as calm an interior. He would
have said the same thing if she had been a real detective, had walked
up behind him suddenly in the subway crush, had tapped his shoulder,
and whispered, "You're wanted."

"We are dealing with facts, not suppositions," she replied evasively.

Momentarily, a strange look passed over Macey's face. What was she
driving at--blackmail? He could not think so, even though he had only
just come to know Constance. He rejected the thought before it was half
formed.

"Put it as you please," he persisted. "I am, then, this Graeme
Mackenzie who has decamped from Omaha with half a million--it is half a
million in the article, is it not?--of cash and unregistered stocks and
bonds. Now what would you do?"

Constance felt unconsciously the shift which he had skilfully made in
their positions. Instead of being the pursuer, she was now the pursued,
at least in their conversation. He had admitted nothing of what her
quick intuition told her.

Yet she felt an admiration for the sang-froid of Macey. She felt a
spell thrown over her by the magnetic eyes that seemed to search her
own. They were large eyes, the eyes of a dreamer, rather than of a
practical man, eyes of a man who goes far and travels long with the
woman on whom he fixes them solely.

"You haven't answered my hypothetical question," he reminded her.

She brought herself back with a start. "I was only thinking," she
murmured.

"Then there is doubt in your mind what you would do?"

"N--no," she hesitated.

He bent over nearer across the table. "You would at least recall the
old adage, 'Do unto others as you would that they should do unto you'?"
he urged.

It was uncanny, the way this man read her thoughts.

"You know whom they say quotes scripture," she avoided.

"And am I a--a devil?"

"I did not say so."

"You hinted it."

She had. But she said, "No, nor hinted it."

"Then you did not MEAN to hint it?"

She looked away a moment at the gay throng. "Graeme Mackenzie," she
said, slowly, "what's the use of all this beating about? Why cannot we
be frank with one another?"

She paused, then resumed, meditatively, "A long time ago I became
involved with a man in a scheme to forge checks. I would have done
anything for him, anything."

A cloud passed over his face. She saw it, had been watching for it, but
appeared not to do so. His was a nature to brook no rivalry.

"My husband had become involved in extravagances for which I was to
blame," she went on.

The cloud settled, and in its place came a look of intense relief. He
was like most men. Whatever his own morals, he demanded a high standard
in her.

"We formed an amateur partnership in crime," she hurried on. "He lost
his life, was unable to stand up against the odds, while he was alone,
away from me. Since then I have been helping those who have become
involved, on the wrong side, with the law. There," she concluded
simply, "I have put myself in your power. I have admitted my part in
something that, try as they would, they could never connect me with. I
have done it because--because I want to help you. Be as frank with me."

He eyed her keenly again. The appeal was irresistible.

"I can tell you Graeme Mackenzie's story," he began carefully. "Six
months ago there was a young man in Omaha who had worked faithfully for
a safe deposit company for years. He was getting eighty-five dollars a
month. That is more than it seems to you here in New York. But it was
very little for what he did. Why, as superintendent of the safe deposit
vaults he had helped to build up that part of the trust company's
business to such an extent that he knew he deserved more.

"Now, a superintendent of a safe deposit vault has lots of chances.
Sometimes depositors give him their keys to unlock their boxes for
them. It is a simple thing to make an impression in wax or chewing gum
palmed in the hand. Or he has access to a number of keys of unrented
boxes; he can, as opportunity offers, make duplicates, and then when
the boxes are rented, he has a key. Even if the locks of unrented boxes
are blanks, set by the first insertion of the key chosen at random, he
can still do the same thing. And even if it takes two to get at the
idle keys, himself and another trusted employe, he can get at them, if
he is clever, without the other officer knowing it, though it may be
done almost before his eyes. You see, it all comes down to the honesty
of the man."

He paused. Constance was fascinated at the coolness with which this man
had gone to work, and with which he told of it.

"This superintendent earned more than he received. He deserved it. But
when he asked for a raise, they told him he was lucky to keep the
job,--they reduced him, instead, to seventy-five dollars. He was angry
at the stinging rebuke. He determined to make them smart, to show them
what he could do.

"One noon he went out to lunch and--they have been looking for him ever
since. He had taken half a million in cash, stocks, and bonds,
unregistered and hence easily hypothecated and traded on."

"And his motive?" she asked.

He looked at her long and earnestly as if making up his mind to
something. "I think," he replied, "I wanted revenge quite as much as
the money."

He said it slowly, measured, as if realizing that there was now nothing
to be gained by concealment from her, as if only he wanted to put
himself in the best light with the woman who had won from him his
secret. It was his confession!

Acquaintances with Constance ripened fast into friendships. She had
known Macey, as he called himself, only a fortnight. He had been
introduced to her at a sort of Bohemian gathering, had talked to her,
direct, as she liked a man to talk. He had seen her home that night,
had asked to call, and on the other nights had taken her to the theater
and to supper.

Delicately unconsciously, a bond of friendship had grown up between
them. She felt that he was a man vibrating with physical and mental
power, long latent, which nothing but a strong will held in check, a
man by whom she could be fascinated, yet of whom she was just a little
bit afraid.

With Macey, it would have been difficult to analyze his feelings. He
had found in Constance a woman who had seen the world in all its
phases, yet had come through unstained by what would have drowned some
in the depths of the under-world, or thrust others into the degradation
of the demi-monde, at least. He admired and respected her. He, the
dreamer, saw in her the practical. She, an adventurer in amateur
lawlessness saw in him something kindred at heart.

And so when a newspaper came to her in which she recognized with her
keen insight Lawrence Macey's face under Graeme Mackenzie's name, and a
story of embezzlement of trust company and other funds from the Omaha
Central Western Trust of half a million, she had not been wholly
surprised. Instead, she felt almost a sense of elation. The man was
neither better nor worse than herself. And he needed help.

Her mind wandered back to a time, months before, when she had learned
the bitter lesson of what it was to be a legal outcast, and had
determined always to keep within the law, no matter how close to the
edge of things she went.

Mackenzie continued looking at her, as if waiting for the answer to his
first question.

"No," she said slowly, "I am not going to hand you over. I never had
any such intention. We are in each other's power. But you cannot go
about openly, even in New York, now. Some one besides myself must have
seen that article."

Graeme listened blankly. It was true. His fancied security in the city
was over. He had fled to New York because there, in the mass of people,
he could best sink his old identity and take on a new.

She leaned her head on her hand and her elbow on the table and looked
deeply into his eyes. "Let me take those securities," she said. "I will
be able to do safely what you cannot do."

Graeme did not seem now to consider the fortune for which he had risked
so much. The woman before him was enough.

"Will you?" he asked eagerly.

"I will do with them as I would for myself, better, because--because it
is a trust," she accepted.

"More than a trust," he added, as he leaned over in turn and in spite
of other diners in the restaurant took her hand.

There are times when the rest of the critical world and its frigid
opinions are valueless. Constance did not withdraw her hand. Rather she
watched in his eyes the subtle physical change in the man that her very
touch produced, watched and felt a response in herself.

Quickly she withdrew her hand. "I must go," she said rather hurriedly,
"it is getting late."

"Constance," he whispered, as he helped her on with her wraps, brushing
the waiter aside that he might himself perform any duty that involved
even touching her, "Constance, I am in your hands--absolutely."

It had been pleasant to dine with him. It was more pleasant now to feel
her influence and power over him. She knew it, though she only half
admitted it. They seemed for the moment to walk on air, as they
strolled, chatting, out to a taxicab.

But as the cab drew up before her own apartment, the familiar
associations of even the entrance brought her back to reality suddenly.
He handed her out, and the excitement of the evening was over. She saw
the thing in its true light. This was the beginning, not the end.

"Graeme," she said, as she lingered for a moment at the door.
"To-morrow we must find a place where you can hide."

"I may see you, though?" he asked anxiously.

"Of course. Ring me up in the morning, Graeme. Good-night," and she was
whisked up in the elevator, leaving Mackenzie with a sense of loss and
loneliness.

"By the Lord," he muttered, as he swung down the street in preference
to taking a cab, "what a woman that is!"

Together the next day they sought out a place where he could remain
hidden. Mackenzie would have been near her, but Constance knew better.
She chose a bachelor apartment where the tenants never arose before
noon and where night was turned into day. Men would not ask questions.
In an apartment like her own there was nothing but gossip.

In the daytime he stayed at home. Only at night did he go forth and
then under her direction in the most unfrequented ways.

Every day Constance went to Wall Street, where she had established
confidential relations with a number of brokers. Together they planned
the campaigns; she executed them with consummate skill and adroitness.

Constance was amazed. Here was a man who for years had been able to
earn only eighty-five dollars a month and had not seemed to show any
ability. Yet he was able to speculate in Wall Street with such dash
that he seemed to be in a fair way, through her, to accumulate a
fortune.

One night as they were hurrying back to Graeme's after a walk, they had
to pass a crowd on Broadway. Constance saw a familiar face hurrying by.
It gave her a start. It was Drummond, the detective. He was not,
apparently, looking for her. But then that was his method. He might
have been looking. At any rate it reminded her unpleasantly of the fact
that there were detectives in the world.

"What's the matter?" asked Graeme, noticing the change in her.

"I just saw a man I know."

The old jealousy flushed his face. Constance laughed in spite of her
fears. Indeed, there was something that pleased her in his jealousy.

"He was the detective who has been hounding me ever since that time I
told you about."

"Oh," he subsided. But if Drummond had been there, Mackenzie could have
been counted on to risk all to protect her.

"We must be more careful," she shuddered.

Constance was startled one evening just as she was going out to meet
Graeme and report on the progress of the day at hearing a knock at her
door.

She opened it.

"I suppose you think I am your Nemesis," introduced Drummond, as he
stepped in, veiling the keenness of his search by an attempt to be
familiar.

She had more than half expected it. She said nothing, but her coldness
was plainly one of interrogation.

"A case has been placed in my hands by some western clients of ours,"
he said by way of swaggering explanation, "of an embezzler who is
hiding in New York. It required no great reasoning power to decide that
the man's trail would sooner or later cross Wall Street. I believe it
has done so--not directly, but indirectly. The trail, I think, has
brought me back to the proverbial point of 'CHERCHEZ LA FEMME.' I am
delighted," he dwelt on the word to see what would be its effect, "to
see in the Graeme Mackenzie case my old friend, Constance Dunlap."

"So," she replied quietly, "you suspect ME, now. I suppose _I_ am
Graeme Mackenzie."

"No," Drummond replied dubiously, "you are not Graeme Mackenzie, of
course. You may be Mrs. Graeme Mackenzie, for all I know. But I believe
you are the receiver of Graeme Mackenzie's stolen goods!"

"You do?" she answered calmly. "That remains for you to prove. Why do
you believe it? Is it because you are ready to believe anything of me!"

"I have noticed that you are more active downtown than--"

"Oh, it is because I speculate. Have I no means of my own?" she asked
pointedly.

"Where is he? Not here, I know. But where?" insinuated Drummond with a
knowing look.

"Am I my brother's keeper?" she laughed merrily. "Come, now. Who is
this wonderful Graeme Mackenzie? First show me that I know him. You
know the rule in a murder case--you must prove the CORPUS DELICTI."

Drummond was furious. She was so baffling. That was his weak point and
she had picked it out infallibly. Whatever his suspicions, he had been
able to prove nothing, though he suspected much in the buying and
selling of Constance.

A week of bitterness, of a constant struggle against the wiles of one
of the most subtle sleuths followed, avoiding hidden traps that beset
her on every side. Was this to be the end of it all? Was Drummond's
heroic effort to entangle her to succeed at last?

She felt that a watch of the most extraordinary kind was set on her, an
invisible net woven about her. Eyes that never slept were upon her;
there was no minute in her regular haunts that she was not guarded. She
knew it, though she could not see it.

It was a war of subtle wits. Yet from the beginning Constance was the
winner of every move. She was on her mettle. They would not, she
determined, find Graeme through her.

Days passed and the detectives still had no sign of the missing man. It
seemed hopeless, but, like all good detectives, Drummond knew from
experience that a clue might come to the surface when it was least
expected. Constance on her part never relaxed.

One day it was a young woman dressed in most inconspicuous style who
followed close behind her, a woman shadow, one of the shrewdest in the
city.

A tenant moved into the apartment across the hall from Constance, and
another hired an apartment in the next house, across the court. There
was constant espionage. She seemed to "sense" it. The newcomer was very
neighborly, explaining that her husband was a traveling salesman, and
that she was alone for weeks at a time.

The lines tightened. The next door neighbor always seemed to be around
at mail time, trying to get a look at the postmarks on the Dunlap
letters. She had an excuse in the number of letters to herself. "Orders
for my husband," she would smile. "He gets lots of them personally
here."

All their ingenuity went for naught. Constance was not to be caught
that way.

They tried new tricks. If it was a journey she took, some one went with
her whom she had to shake off sooner or later. There were visits of
peddlers, gas men, electric light and telephone men. They were all
detectives, also, always seeking a chance to make a search that might
reveal her secret. The janitor who collected the waste paper found that
it had a ready sale at a high price. Every stratagem that Drummond's
astute mind could devise was called into play. But nothing, not a scrap
of new evidence did they find.

Yet all the time Constance was in direct communication with Mackenzie.

Graeme, in his enforced idleness, was more deeply in love with
Constance now than ever. He had eyes for nothing else. Even his
fortunes would have been disregarded, had he not felt that to do that
would have been the surest way to condemn himself before her.

They had cut out the evening trips now, for fear of recognition. She
was working faithfully. Already she had cleaned up something like fifty
thousand dollars on the turn over of the stuff he had stolen. Another
week and it would be some thousands more.

Yet the strain was beginning to show.

"Oh, Graeme," she cried, one night after she had a particularly hard
time in shaking Drummond's shadows in order to make her unconventional
visit to him, "Graeme, I'm so tired of it all--tired."

He was about to pour out what was in his own heart when she resumed,
"It's the lonesomeness of it. We are having success. But, what is
success--alone?"

"Yes," he echoed, thinking of his feeling that night when she had left
him at the elevator, of the feeling now every moment of the time she
was away from him, "yes, alone!"

With the utmost difficulty he restrained the wildly surging emotions
within him. He could not know with what effort Constance held her poise
so admirably, keeping always that barrier of reserve beyond which now
and then he caught a glimpse.

"Let us cut out and bury ourselves in Europe," he urged.

"No," she replied firmly. "Wait. I have a plan. Wait. We could never
get away. They would find us and extradite us surely."

She was coming out of a broker's office one day after the close of the
market, only to run full tilt into Drummond, who had been waiting for
her, cat-like. Evidently he had a purpose.

"You will be interested to know," remarked the detective, watching her
narrowly, "that District Attorney Wickham, who had the case in charge
out there, is in New York, with the president of the Central Western
Trust."

"Yes?" she said non-committally.

"I told them I was on the trail, through a woman, and they have come
here to aid me."

Why had he told her that? Was it to put her on her guard or was it in a
spirit of bravado? She could not think so. It was not his style to
bluster at this stage of the game. No, there was a deep-laid purpose.
He expected her to make some move to extricate herself that would
display her hand and betray all. It was clever and a less clever person
than Constance would have fallen before the onslaught.

Constance was thinking rapidly, as he told her where and how the new
pursuers were active. Here, she felt, was the crisis, her opportunity.

Scarcely had Drummond gone, than she, too, was hurrying down the street
on her way to see Mackenzie's pursuers face to face.

She found Wickham registered at the Prince Henry, a new hotel and sent
up her card. A few moments later he received her, with considerable
restraint as if he knew about her and had not expected so soon to have
to show his own hand.

"I understand," she began quickly, "that you have come to New York
because Mr. Drummond claims to be able to clear up the Graeme Mackenzie
case."

"Yes?" he replied quizzically.

"Perhaps," she continued, coming nearer to the point of her
self-imposed mission, "perhaps there may be some other way to settle
this case than through Mr. Drummond."

"We might hold you," he shot out quickly.

"No," she replied, "you have nothing on me. And as for Mr. Mackenzie, I
understand, you don't even know where he is--whether he is in New York,
London, Paris, or Berlin, or whether he may not go from one city to
another at any moment you take open action."

Wickham bit his lip. He knew she was right. Even yet the case hung on
the most slender threads.

"I have been wondering," she continued, "if there is not some way in
which this thing can be compromised."

"Never," exclaimed Wickham positively. "He must return the whole sum,
with interest to date. Then and only then can we consider his plea for
clemency."

"You would consider it?" she asked keenly.

"Of course. We should have to consider it. Voluntary surrender and
reparation would be something like turning state's witness--against
himself."

Constance said nothing.

"Can you do it?" he asked, watching craftily to see whether she might
not drop a hint that might prove valuable.

"I know those who might try," she answered, catching the look.

Wickham changed.

"What if we should get him without your aid!" he blustered.

"Try," she shrugged.

Arguments and threats were of no avail with her. She would say nothing
more definite. She was obdurate.

"You must leave it all to me," she repeated. "I would not betray him.
You cannot prove anything on ME."

"Bring the stuff up here yourself, then," he insinuated.

"But I don't trust you, either," she replied frankly.

The two faced each other. Constance knew in her heart that it was going
to be a battle royal with this man, that now she had taken a step even
so far in the open it was every one for himself and the devil take the
hindmost.

"I can't help it," he concluded. "Those are the terms. It is as far as
I can trust a--a thief."

"But I will keep my word," she said quietly. "When you prove to me that
you are absolutely on the level, that Mackenzie can make restitution in
full with interest, and in return be left as free a man as he is at
this moment--why,--I can have him give up."

"Mrs. Dunlap," said Wickham with an air of finality, "I will make one
concession. I will adopt any method of restitution he may prefer. But
it must be by direct dealing between Mackenzie and myself, with
Drummond present as well as Mr. Taylor, president of the Trust Company,
who is now also in New York. That is my ultimatum. Good-afternoon."

Constance left the room with flushed face and eyes that glinted with
determination. Over and over she thought out methods to accomplish what
she had planned. When they complied with all the conditions that would
safeguard Mackenzie, she had determined to act. But Graeme must be
master of the situation.

Cautiously she went through her usual elaborate precautions to shake
off any shadows that might be following her, and an hour later found
her with Mackenzie.

"What has happened!" he asked eagerly, surprised at her early visit.

Briefly she ran over the events of the afternoon. "Would you be
willing," she asked, "to go to District Attorney Wickham, hand over the
half million with, say, twelve thousand dollars interest, in return for
freedom?"

Graeme looked at Constance a moment doubtfully.

"I would not do that," he measured slowly. "How do I know what they
will do, the moment they get me in their power? No. Almost, I would say
that I would not go there under any guarantee they might give. I do not
trust them. The indictment must be dismissed first."

"But they won't do that. The ultimatum was personal restitution."

Constance was faced by an apparently insurmountable dilemma. She saw
and agreed with the reasonableness of Graeme's position. But there was
the opposition and obstinacy of Wickham, the bitterness and
unscrupulousness of Drummond. Here was a tremendous problem. How was
she to meet it?

For perhaps half an hour they sat in silence. One plan after another
she rejected.

Suddenly an idea occurred to her. Somewhere, in a bank, she had seen a
method which might meet the difficulty.

"To-morrow--I will arrange it--to suit both of you," she cried
confidently.

"How?" he asked.

"Trust it all to me," she appealed.

"All," replied Graeme, rising and standing before her. "All. I will do
anything you say."

He was about to take her hand, but she rose. "No, Graeme. Not now.
There is work--the crisis. No, I must go. Trust me."

It was not until noon of the next day that he saw Constance again.
There was an air of suppressed excitement about her as she entered the
apartment and placed on a table before him a small oblong box of black
enameled metal, beneath which was a roll of paper. Above was another
somewhat similar box with another roll of paper.

Constance attached the instrument to the telephone, an enigmatical
conversation followed, and she hung up the receiver.

A few minutes later, she took the stylus that was in the lower box.
Hastily across the blank paper she wrote the words, "We are ready."

Mackenzie was too fascinated to ask questions. Suddenly, out of the
corner of his eye, he saw something in the upper box move, as if of
itself. It was a similar, self-inking stylus.

"Watch!" exclaimed Constance.

"Do you get this?" wrote the spirit hand.

"Perfectly," she scrawled in turn. "Go ahead, as you promised."

The upper stylus was now moving freely at the ends of its two rigid
arms, counterparts of those holding the lower stylus.

"We promise," it wrote, "that in consideration of the return..."

"What is it?" interrupted Graeme, as the meaning of the words even now
began to dawn on him.

"A telautograph," she replied simply, "a long distance writer which I
have had installed over a leased wire from the hotel room of Wickham to
meet the demands of you two. With it you write over wires just as with
the telephone you talk over wires. It is as though you took one of the
old pantagraphs, split it in half, and had each half connected only by
the telephone wires. While you write on this transmitter, their
receiver records for them what you write. Look!"

"... of $500,000," it continued to write, "in cash, stocks and bonds,
with interest to date, all proceedings against Graeme Mackenzie will be
dropped and the indictment quashed.

"Marshall Taylor, Pres. Central Western Trust."

"Maxwell Wickham, District Att'y."

"Riley Drummond, Detective."

"It is even broader than I had hoped," cried Constance in delight.
"Does that satisfy you, Graeme?"

"Y-yes," he murmured, not through hesitation, but from the suddenness
and surprise of the thing.

"Then sign this."

She wrote quickly: "In consideration of the dropping of all charges
against me, I agree to tell the number and location of the safe deposit
box in New York where the stocks and bonds I possess are located and to
hand over a key and written order to the same. I now agree immediately
to pay by check the balance of the half million, including interest."

She stepped aside from the machine. With a tremor of eagerness he
seized the stylus and underneath what she had written wrote boldly the
name, "Graeme Mackenzie."

Next Constance herself took the stylus. "Place in the telautograph a
blank check," she wrote. "He will write in the name of the bank, the
amount, and the signature."

She did the same. "Now, Graeme, sign this cheek on the Universal Bank
as Lawrence Macey," she said, writing in the amount.

Mechanically he took the stylus. His fingers trembled as he held it,
but with an effort he controlled himself. It was too weird, too uncanny
to be true. Here he was, without stirring forth from the security of
his hiding place; there were his pursuers in their hotel. With the
precautions taken by Constance, neither party knew where the other was.
Yet they were in instant touch, not by the ear alone, but by
handwriting itself.

He placed the stylus on the paper. She had already written in the
number of the check, the date, the bank, the amount, and the payee,
Marshall Taylor. Hastily Graeme signed it, as though in fear that they
might rescind their action before he could finish.

"Now the securities," she said. "I have withdrawn already the amount we
have made trading--it is a substantial sum. Write out an order to the
Safe Deposit Company to deliver the key and the rest of the contents of
the box to Taylor. I have fixed it with them after a special interview
this morning. They understand."

Again Graeme wrote, feverishly.

"I--we--are entirely free from prosecution of any kind?" he asked
eagerly.

"Yes," Constance murmured, with just a catch in her throat, as now that
the excitement was over, she realized that he was free, independent of
her again.

The telautograph had stopped. No, it was starting again. Had there been
a slip! Was the dream at last to turn to ashes? They watched anxiously.

"Mrs. Dunlap," the words unfolded, "I take my hat off to you. You have
put it across again.

"DRUMMOND."

Constance read it with a sense of overwhelming relief. It was a
magnanimous thing in Drummond. Almost she forgave him for many of the
bitter hours he had caused in the discharge of his duty.

As they looked at the writing they realized its import. The detective
had abandoned the long search. It was as though he had put his "O.K."
on the agreement.

"We are no longer fugitives!" exclaimed Graeme, drawing in a breath
that told of the weight lifted from him.

For an instant he looked down into her upturned face and read the
conflict that was going on in her. She did not turn away, as she had
before. It flashed over him that once, not long ago, she had talked in
a moment of confidence of the loneliness she had felt since she had
embarked as the rescuer of amateur criminals.

Graeme bent down and took her hand, as he had the first night when they
had entered their strange partnership.

"Never--never can I begin to pay you what I owe," he said huskily, his
face near hers.

He felt her warm breath almost on his cheek, saw the quick color come
into her face, her breast rise and fall with suppressed emotion. Their
eyes met.

"You need not pay," she whispered. "I am yours."



THE END





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