Jimmie Dale shook his head. Better, of the two, to start in at once and shadow those who were shadowing his house. But that was not the way! He knew that intuitively. He hated to eliminate it from consideration, for he had no other move to take its place—but such a move was almost suicide in itself. Time, and time alone, was the vital factor. They, the Tocsin and he, must act quickly—and strike that night if they were to win. His fingers, the grimy fingers, dirty-nailed, of Larry the Bat, that none now would recognise as the slim tapering, wonderfully sensitive fingers of Jimmie Dale, the fingers that had made the name of the Gray Seal famous, whose tips mocked at bars and safes and locks, and seemed to embody in themselves all the human senses, tightened spasmodically on the edge of the table. Time! Time! Time! It seemed to din in his ears. And while he sat there powerless, impotent, the Crime Club was moving heaven and earth to find what he must find—that package—if he was to save this woman here, the woman whom he loved, she who had been forced, through the machinations of these hell fiends, to adopt the life of a wretched hag, to exist among the dregs of the underworld, whose squalour and vice and wantonness none knew better than he!
Jimmie Dale’s face set grimly. Somewhere—somewhere in the past five years of this life of hers in which she had been fighting the Crime Club, pitting that clever brain of hers against it, must lie a clew. She had told him her story only in baldest outline, with scarcely a reference to her own personal acts, with barely a single detail. There must be something, something that perhaps she had overlooked, something, just the merest hint of something that would supply a starting point, give him a glimmer of light.
She came back from across the room, and sank down in her chair again. She did not speak—the question, that meant life and death to them both, was in her eyes.
Jimmie answered the mute interrogation tersely.
“Not yet!” he said. Then, almost curtly, in a quick, incisive way, as the keen, alert brain began to delve and probe: “You say this man Clarke never returned to the house after that night?”
She nodded her head quietly.
“You are sure of that?” he insisted.
“Yes,” she said. “I am sure.”
“And you say that all these years you have kept a watch on the man who is posing as your uncle, and that he never went anywhere, or associated with any one, that would afford you a clew to this Crime Club?”
“Yes,” she said again.
It was a moment before Jimmie Dale spoke.
“It’s very strange!” he said musingly, at last. “So strange, in fact, that it’s impossible. He must have communicated with the others, and communicated with them often. The game they were playing was too big, too full of details, to admit of any other possibility. And the telephone as an explanation isn’t good enough.”