He was in time—in plenty of time. They had just left Spider Jack’s, and were, perhaps, fifty yards or so ahead of him. He slouched on behind them—the cold, grim smile on his lips once more. It was the Crime Club now, that hell’s cradle where their devil’s schemes were hatched, that was the one thing left to him; they would lead him to that, and then—and then it would be his turn to strike!
They turned the first corner. And suddenly, as the racing engine of an automobile caught his ear, he broke into a run, and dashed around the corner after them—in time to see them jump into a car, and the car speed off along the street! He halted, as though he were suddenly dazed—started involuntarily to run forward again—stopped with a hollow laugh at the futility of it—and stood still and motionless on the sidewalk.
And then he swayed a little, and his face grew gray. Failure, defeat, ruin—in that moment he knew them all to their bitterest dregs. How could he go to her! How could he face her, and tell her that they were beaten, that the last hope was gone, that he had failed!
“God!” he cried aloud, and clenched his hands.
Then deep in his consciousness a thought stirred, and he swept a shaking hand across his eyes. Why had it come again, that thought! Did it mean that he must play—the last card! There was a way—there had always been a way. The way the Crime Club took—murder. It was their own weapon! If the man who posed as Henry LaSalle were killed! If that man—were killed!
“The Magpie was to be there at three!” he muttered—and started mechanically back along the street.
THE ONLY WAY
It was a horrible thing—and it grew upon him. In a blind, mechanical way, his brain receptive to nothing else, Jimmie Dale walked on along the street. To kill a man! Death he had faced himself a hundred times, witnessed it a hundred times in its most violent forms, had seen murder done before his eyes, had been in straits where, to save his own life, it had seemed the one last desperate chance—and yet his hands were still clean! To kill a man in fair fight, in struggle, when the blood was hot, was terrible enough, a possibility that was always before him, the one thing from which he shrank, the one thing that, as the Gray Seal, he had always feared; but to kill a man deliberately, to creep upon his victim with hideous, cold-blooded premeditation—he shivered a little, and his hand shook as he drew it nervously across his eyes.