“Eventually?” Uncomprehendingly, stumblingly, Wilbur repeated the word.
“In a month or two or three, as the case may be,” explained Jimmie Dale brightly. “Whenever you insert a personal in the news-Argus to the effect that the mother lode has given you the cash to meet it.” He replaced the note in the cash box, slipped down to his feet from the desk—and then he choked a little. Wilbur, the tears streaming down his face, unable to speak, was holding out his hands to Jimmie Dale. “I—er—good-night!” said Jimmie Dale hurriedly—and stepped quickly from the room.
Halfway down the first flight of stairs he paused. Steps, running after him, sounded along the corridor above; and then Wilbur’s voice.
“Don’t go—not yet,” cried the old man. “I don’t understand. How did you know—who told you about the note?”
Jimmie Dale did not answer—he went on noiselessly down the stairs. His mask was off now, and his lips curved into a strange little smile.
“I wish I knew,” said Jimmie Dale wistfully to himself.
THE COUNTERFEIT FIVE
It was still early in the evening, but a little after nine o’clock. The Fifth Avenue bus wended its way, jouncing its patrons, particularly those on the top seats, across town, and turned into Riverside Drive. A short distance behind the bus, a limousine rolled down the cross street leisurely, silently.
As the lights of passing craft on the Hudson and a myriad scintillating, luminous points dotting the west shore came into view, Jimmie Dale rose impulsively from his seat on the top of the bus, descended the little circular iron ladder at the rear, and dropped off into the street. It was only a few blocks farther to his residence on the Drive, and the night was well worth the walk; besides, restless, disturbed, and perplexed in mind, the walk appealed to him.
He stepped across to the sidewalk and proceeded slowly along. A month had gone by and he had not heard a word from—her. The break on West Broadway, the murder of Metzer in Moriarty’s gambling hell, the theft of Markel’s diamond necklace had followed each other in quick succession—and then this month of utter silence, with no sign of her, as though indeed she had never existed.
But it was not this temporary silence on her part that troubled Jimmie Dale now. In the years that he had worked with this unknown, mysterious accomplice of his whom he had never seen, there had been longer intervals than a bare month in which he had heard nothing from her—it was not that. It was the failure, total, absolute, and complete, that was the only result for the month of ceaseless, unremitting, doggedly-expended effort, even as it had been the result many times before, in an attempt to solve the enigma that was so intimate and vital a factor in his own life.