Jimmie Dale sank into a deeper reverie. He could steal them all right, and they would be well worth the stealing—old Luddy had done well, and lived and existed on next to nothing—the stones, she said, were worth about fifteen thousand dollars. Not so bad, even for twenty-five years of vegetable selling from a pushcart! He could steal them all right; it would tax the Gray Seal’s ingenuity little to do so simple a thing as that, but that was not all, nor, indeed, hardly a factor in it—it was vital that if he were to succeed at all he must steal them publicly, as it were.
And after that—what? His own chances were pretty slim at best. Jimmie Dale, staring at the grayness of the subway wall through the window, shook his head slowly—then, with a queer little philosophical shrug of his shoulders, he smiled gravely, seriously. It was all a part of the game, all a part of the life—of the Gray Seal!
It was half-past twelve, or a little later, as nearly as he could judge, for Larry the Bat carried no such ornate thing in evidence as a watch, as he halted at the corner of a dark, squalid street in the lower East Side. It was a miserable locality—in daylight humming with a cosmopolitan hive of pitiful humans dragging out as best they could an intolerable existence, a locality peopled with every nationality on earth, their community of interest the struggle to maintain life at the lowest possible expenditure, where necessity even was pared and shaved down to a minimum; but now, at night time, or rather in the early-morning hours, the darkness, in very mercy, it seemed, covered it with a veil, as it were, and in the quiet that hung over it now hid the bald, the hideous, aye, and the piteous, too, from view.
It was a narrow street, and the row of tenement houses, each house almost identical with its neighbour, that flanked the pavement on either side, seemed, from where Jimmie Dale stood looking down its length, from the corner, to converge together at a point a little way beyond, giving it an unreal, ominous, cavernlike effect. And, too, there seemed something ominous even in its quiet. It was as though one sensed acutely the crouching of some Thing in its lair—waiting silently, viciously, with sullen patience.
A footstep sounded—another. Jimmie Dale drew quickly back around the corner into an areaway. Two men passed—in helmets—swinging their nightsticks—that beat was always policed in pairs!
They passed on, turned the corner, and went down the narrow cross street that Jimmie Dale had just been inspecting. He started to follow—and drew back again abruptly. A form flitted suddenly across the road and disappeared in the darkness in the officers’ wake—ten yards behind the first another followed—at the same interval of distance still another—and yet still one more—four in all.
The darkness hid all six, the two policemen, the four men behind them—the only sounds were the officers’ footsteps dying away in the distance.