“If he escaped!” repeated Mr. Campbell musingly.
“But, of course, the compact would not be signed, at least in this country,” Mr. Grimm went on tentatively.
Mr. Campbell gazed straight into the listless eyes of the young man for a minute or more, and gradually full understanding came home to him. Finally he nodded his head.
“Use your own judgment, Mr. Grimm,” he directed.
A CALL ON THE WARDEN
The restful silence of night lay over the great prison. Here and there in the grim corridors a guard dozed in the glare of an electric light; and in the office, too, a desk light glimmered where the warden sat at his desk, poring over a report. Once he glanced up at the clock—it was five minutes of eleven—and then he went on with his reading.
After a little the silence was broken by the whir of the clock and the first sharp stroke of the hour; and at just that moment the door from the street opened and a man entered. He was rather tall and slender, and a sinister black mask hid his face from the quickly raised eyes of the warden. For a bare fraction of a second the two men stared at each other, then, instinctively, the warden’s right hand moved toward the open drawer of his desk where a revolver lay, and his left toward several electrically connected levers. The intruder noted both gestures, and, unarmed himself, stood silent. The warden was first to speak.
“Well, what is it?”
“You have a prisoner here, Pietro Petrozinni,” was the reply, in a pleasant voice. “I have come to demand his release.”
The warden’s right hand was raised above the desk top, and the revolver in it clicked warningly.
“You have come to demand his release, eh?” he queried. He still sat motionless, with his eyes fixed on the black mask. “How did you pass the outside guard?”
“He was bribed,” was the ready response. “Now, Warden,” the masked intruder continued pacifically, “it would be much more pleasant all around and there would be less personal danger in it for both of us if you would release Signor Petrozinni without question. I may add that no bribe was offered to you because your integrity was beyond question.”
“Thank you,” said the warden grimly, “and it shall remain so as long as I have this.” He tapped on the desk with the revolver.
“Oh, that isn’t loaded,” said the masked man quietly.
One quick glance at the weapon showed the warden that the cartridges had been drawn! His teeth closed with a snap at the treachery of it, and with his left hand he pulled back one of the levers—that which should arouse the jailers, turnkeys and guards. Instead of the insistent clangor which he expected, there was silence.
“That wire has been cut,” the stranger volunteered.
With clenched teeth the warden pulled the police alarm.