It was a real fight; they all knew
that when it was finished. But it was three to
one, with Hobart blocking the only open door, and egging
them on, and the excited girl, backed into a corner
out of the way, the revolver still gripped in her
hand, ready for any emergency. The narrowness
of the hall alone afforded West a chance, as the walls
protected him, and compelled direct attack from in
front. Yet this advantage only served to delay
the ending. He recognized two of the fellows “Red”
Hogan and Mark while the third man was a
wiry little bar-room scrapper, who smashed fiercely
in through his guard, and finally got a grip on his
throat which could not be wrenched loose. The
others pounded him unmercifully, driving his head
back against the wall. Hogan smashed him twice,
crashing through his weak attempt at defence, and with
the second vicious drive, West went down for the count,
lying motionless on the floor, scarcely conscious
that he was still living.
Yet in a dazed, helpless way, he was
aware of what was occurring about him; he could hear
voices, feel the thud of a brutal kick. Some one
dragged him out from the mess, and turned his face
up to the light; but he lay there barely breathing;
his eyes tightly closed.
“It’s a knock-out all
right,” Hogan declared. “That guy
is good for an hour in dream-land. What’s
“We got to keep him here, that’s
all; and there’s goin’ to be no get-away
“How’d he do it before, Jim? did he tell
“Not a damned word; I was fool
enough to do all the talking. But this fellow
is too slick to take any more chances with.”
“Do you want him croaked?”
“No, I don’t not
now. What the hell’s the use? It would
only make things harder. We’re ready to
make our get-away, ain’t we? After tomorrow
all hell can’t get onto our trail. This
guy’s life wouldn’t help us none, so far
as I can see.”
“Getting squeamish, ain’t you?”
“No, I’m not. I’ve
got as much reason to hate the fellow as you have,
‘Red.’ He certainly swiped me one.
Before we had the swag copped, I was willing enough
to put him out of the running. That was business.
You sure did a fine job then, damn you; now I don’t
think it is your time to howl. Listen here, will
you? From all I learn, this bird amounts to something;
he ain’t just a dago to be bumped off, and nobody
care what’s become of him. This guy has
got friends. It won’t help us any to be
hunted after for murder on top of this other job.
If we cop the kale, that’s all we’re after.
Is that right, Del?”
The girl seemed to come forward, and face them defiantly.
“Sure it’s right.
I never was for the strong arm stuff, Hogan. This
is my graft, anyhow, and not one of you stiffs gets
a penny of it unless I split with you. This fellow
isn’t going to be slugged that’s
flat. It is only because he’s fell in love
with the Coolidge girl that he is here, and once we’ve
skipped out, I don’t wish the guy any bad luck.”
“You ought to have caught him
yourself, Del,” some one said. “The
bird never would have known the difference.”
She laughed, quickly restored to good humour.
“You’re about right there,
Dave,” she answered. “That was another
mistake; the only chance I ever had of marrying in
high social circles. But hell, I’ll be
a lady tomorrow, so let’s let the poor devil
go. Wrap him up, and lay him away out in the
garage. The walls are two foot solid stone; he’ll
stay buried there all right.”
Hogan growled in derision, yet it
was evident that she and Hobart would have their way.
Some one brought a rope, which was deftly wound about
him, West continuing to feign unconsciousness.
He secretly hoped this condition might result in some
carelessness on their part, in either speech or action.
Anyway it would undoubtedly save him from further
brutal treatment. He had no reason to suspect
that his ruse was questioned. The fellows spoke
freely while making him secure, but he gained very
little information from their conversation not
a hint as to where Natalie was confined, or how long
it was proposed to hold them prisoners. Then
“Red” and Dave lugged his limp body through
several rooms, out upon a back porch, finally dragging
him down the steps and along a cement drive way, letting
him lie there a moment in the dark, while one of them
unlocked a door. The next instant he was carelessly
thrown inside, and the door forced back into place.
He could hear Hogan swear outside, and then the sound
of both men’s feet on the drive as they departed.
With a struggle West managed to sit
up, but could scarcely attempt more, as his arms were
bound closely to his sides. The darkness about
him was intense, and, with the disappearance of the
two men up the steps, all outside sounds had ceased.
He knew he had been flung into the garage and was
resting there on the hard cement floor. He could
neither feel nor see any machine, nor was there probably
the slightest prospect of his getting out unaided.
Those fellows would never have left him there without
guard, had they dreamed any escape was possible.
The girl had affirmed the building was constructed
of stone, two feet thick. He stared around at
the impenetrable black wall completely defeated.
Undoubtedly they had him this time. He was weak
from hunger, tired nearly to death; bruised and battered
until it seemed as though every muscle in his body
throbbed with pain. Yet his mind was not on these
things, only incidentally; his thought, his anxiety
centred altogether on Natalie Coolidge. What had
become of her; where was she now? He had no reason
to believe her in any great personal danger.
If this gang, satisfied of success, were disposed
to spare his life, it was hardly probable they would
demand her’s. Now both the desire for murder,
and the necessity, had passed. The fellows felt
supremely confident the spoils were already theirs,
and that all that was needed now to assure complete
success was sufficient time in which to drop safely
out of sight. Murder would hinder, rather than
help this escape.
But what a blind fool he had been;
how strangely he had permitted this girl to lead him
so easily astray. Why really, to his mind now,
she possessed no real resemblance to Natalie; not
enough, at least, to deceive the keen eyes of love.
She had the features, the eyes, the hair, the voice,
a certain trick of speech, which, no doubt, she had
cultivated but there were a thousand things
in which she differed. Her laugh was not the
same, nor the expression of her lips; she was like
a counterfeit beside a good coin. It was easy
to conceive how others might be deceived by her tricks
of resemblance servants, ordinary friends,
even the old lawyer in charge of the estate but
it was inexcusable for him to have thus become a plaything.
Yet he had, and now the mistake was too late to mend.
He had left Natalie alone on the cliff, and then blindly
permitted this chit to lead him straight into Hobart’s
set trap. Angered beyond control at the memory,
West swore, straining fiercely in the vain endeavour
to release his arms. Then, realizing his utter
helplessness, he sank back on the floor, and lay still.
What was that? He listened, for
an instant doubtful if he had really heard anything.
Then he actually heard a sound. He doubted no
longer, yet made no effort to move, even holding his
breath in suspense. There was movement of some
kind back there a cautious movement; seemingly
the slow advance of something across the floor, a
dog perhaps. West’s heart throbbed with
apprehension; suppose it was a dog, he had no means
of protection from the brute. Cold sweat tingled
on his flesh; there was nothing he could do, no place
where he could go. The thing was moving nearer;
yet surely it could not be a dog; no dog would ever
creep like that. He could bear the strain no
longer; it was beyond endurance.
“What’s moving back there?” he asked
in a hoarse whisper.
There was a moment of utter silence;
then, a man’s voice said in low, cautious tone.
“The fellow ain’t dead,
Mac; anyhow he seems able to talk yet.”
“All right, we’ll find
out what he’s got to say go on along.”
West sat up, his heart bounding with sudden remembrance.
“My God! McAdams is that you?”
“You have the name who’s speaking?”
“Matt West. Good God, but
this is like a miracle. I’d played my last
card. Come here, one of you, and cut these strings.
I cannot even move, or stand up. Is it really
you, Mac? Yes, yes, I am all right; they bruised
me up a bit, of course, but that is nothing. Now
I have a chance to pay them out. But who are
with you? and how did you come to be here?”
McAdams ran his knife blade through
the lashings, feeling for them in the dark. Neither
could see the other, but West realized that another
man had crept up on the opposite side of him, and
crouched there silently in the blackness.
“Need any help, Mac?” the latter questioned
in a whisper.
“No, I’ve got him cut
loose. This is the lad I told you about, Carlyn.
You go on back, and, as soon as West gets limbered
up a bit, and I hear his story, we join you out there.
Then we’ll know how the ground lies.”
The fellow crept away unseen, and
McAdams gripped West’s hand.
“Say, but this is mighty good
luck, old boy,” he blurted out. “I
was afraid you’d gone down in that yacht last
“You were! How did you know about it?”
“Stumbled on to the story, the
way most detectives solve their mysteries. That
is, I stumbled on some of it, and the rest I dug out
for myself. It won’t take long to explain
and perhaps you better understand. They told
me at the office when I got back about the Seminole
being tied up at the Municipal Pier, and that you
had gone down there. Well, I made it as quick
as I could, but the yacht was three hundred yards out
in the lake by the time I arrived. There wasn’t
a damn thing to take after it in, and, besides, just
then, I didn’t really know any good police reason
for chasing her. First thing I did was to try
and find you, so we could get our heads together.
But you wasn’t there, and so I naturally jumped
to the conclusion you must have got aboard someway.
Say I combed that pier, believe me, West, and finally
I ran across a kid who put me wise. He saw you
go across the deck, and into the cabin with two other
guys. They came out again, but you didn’t.
I pumped him until I got a pretty good description
of both those fellows, and I decided one of them must
be ‘Red’ Hogan, about the toughest gun-man
“It was Hogan.”
“I made sure of that afterwards.
Then I got busy. If you was in the hands of that
guy, and his gang, the chances was dead against you.
But there wasn’t a darn thing I could do, except
to hunt up Hobart, wire every town along the north
shore to keep an eye out for the yacht, and pick up
a thread or two around town. I got a bit at that
to wise me up. We found Hobart hid away in a
cheap hotel out on Broadway, and put a trailer on
him. The girl had disappeared; she’d been
to a bank, and then to the Coolidge lawyer and signed
some papers; after that we lost all trace of her for
awhile. Your man Sexton, out at ‘Fairlawn,’
reported that she hadn’t returned there.
Then I got desperate and decided I’d blow the
whole thing to the Coolidge lawyer, and get him to
take a hand. I was afraid they were already for
the get-a-way see? I couldn’t
round ’em up alone; besides I’m a Chicago
police officer, and have to keep more or less on my
“And you told the lawyer?”
“Everything I knew, and some
I guessed at. I thought the old guy would throw
a fit, but he didn’t. He came through game
after the first shock. But say, that dame had
sold him out all right. He never had an inkling
anything was wrong; no more did the banks. We
went over, and talked to the president of one of them a
smooth guy with white mutton chops and
the girl had signed up the preliminary papers already,
and tomorrow the whole boodle was going to drop softly
into her lap. Say, I felt better when I learned
they hadn’t copped the swag yet. But just
the same I needed help.”
“And you got it?”
“Sure; those two duffers coughed
up money in a stream. Called in a detective agency,
and gave me three operatives to work under me.
Got the chief on the wire, and made him give me a
free hand. Then I had a cinch.”