If he, Jimmie Dale, could only in some way have arranged with the Tocsin out there to keep the Magpie away altogether! But it could not be done without arousing the Magpie’s suspicions; and, as a corollary to that, afterward, with the subsequent events, would come—the deluge! The law of the underworld was clear, concise, and admitting of no appeal on that point; to double cross a pal meant, sooner or later, a knife thrust, a blackjack, or—But what difference did it make what form the execution of the sentence took? And, since, then, that was out of the question, since he could not keep the Magpie away without practically risking his own life, the Magpie at least must have his chance.
Jimmie Dale was at the library door now, that, according to the plan the Tocsin had drawn for the Magpie, and as he remembered her description when she had told him her story earlier in the evening, was just at the foot of the staircase. How dark it was! Though the stairs could be only a few feet away, he could not see them. And how intense the silence was again! Here, where he stood, the slightest stir from above must have reached him—but there was not a sound.
His hand felt out for the doorknob, found it, turned it, and pushed the door open. He stepped inside the room and closed the door behind him. The safe, according to the Tocsin’s plan again, was in that sort of alcove at the lower end of the library. Jimmie Dale’s flashlight played inquisitively about the room. There was the window, the only one in the room, the window through which the Magpie proposed to enter; there was the archway of the alcove, with its—no, there were no longer any portieres; and there was the safe, he could see it quite plainly from where he stood at the upper end of the room.
The flashlight went out for the space of perhaps thirty seconds—thirty seconds of absolute silence, absolute stillness—then the round, white ray of the light again, but glistening now on the nickel knobs and dial of the safe—and Jimmie Dale was on his knees before it.
A low, scarcely breathed exclamation, that seemed to mingle anxiety and hesitation, escaped him. He, who knew the make of every safe in the country, knew this one for its true worth. Twenty-five minutes! Could he open it in that time, let alone with any time to spare! It was not like the one in Spider Jack’s; it was the kind that the Magpie, however clever he might be in his own way, would be forced to negotiate with “soup,” and, with the attendant noise, double his chance of discovery and capture—and the responsibility for what might have happened upstairs! No; the Magpie must have his chance! And, besides, the money in the safe apart, why should not he, Jimmie Dale, have his own chance, as well? All this would help. The motive—robbery; the perpetrator, there was grim mockery on his lips now as the light went out and the sensitive fingers closed on the knob of the dial, the perpetrator—the Gray Seal. It would afford excellent food for the violent editorial diatribes under which the police again would writhe in frenzy!