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Frank L. Packard
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 460 pages of information about The Adventures of Jimmie Dale.

For a moment Jimmie Dale stood hesitant—­a sudden perplexity and anxiety growing upon him.  It was strange!  What did it mean?  He had nerved himself to a quick, desperate attempt, trusting to surprise and his own wit and agility for victory—­there had seemed no other way than that, since he had seen those four men at the corner—­since they were ahead of him.  True, they were not much ahead of him, not enough to have accomplished their purpose—­and, furthermore, they were not in that room.  He knew that absolutely, beyond question of doubt.  He had listened for just that all the nerve-racking way up the stairs.  But where were they?  There was no sound—­not a sound—­just blackness, dark, impenetrable, utter, that began to palpitate now.

It came in a whisper, wavering, sibilant—­from his left.  A sort of relief, fierce in the breaking of the tense expectancy, premonitory in the possibilities that it held, swept Jimmie Dale.  He crept along the hall.  The whisper had come from that room, presumably empty—­that was for rent!

By the door he crouched—­his sensitive fingers, eyes to Jimmie Dale so often—­feeling over jamb and panels with a delicate, soundless touch.  The door was just ajar.  The fingers crept inside and touched the knob and lock—­there was no key within.

The whispering still went on—­but it seemed like a screaming of vultures now in Jimmie Dale’s ears, as the words came to him.

“Aw, say, Skeeter, dis high-brow stunt gives me de pip!  Me fer goin’ in dere an’ croakin’ de geezer reg’lar, widout de frills.  Who’s to know?  Say, just about two minutes, an’ we’re beatin’ it wid de sparklers.”

An inch, a half inch at a time, the knob slowly, very, very slowly turning, the door was being closed by the crouched form on the threshold.

“Close yer trap, Mose!” came a fierce response.  “We ain’t fixed the lay all day for nothin’.  There ain’t a soul on earth knows he’s got any sparklers, ’cept us.  If there was, it would be different—­then they’d know that was what whoever did it was after, see?”

The door was closed—­the knob slowly, very, very slowly being released again.  From one of the leather pockets under Jimmie Dale’s vest came a tiny steel instrument that he inserted in the key-hole.

The same voice spoke on: 

“That’s what we’re croaking him for, ’cause nobody knows about them diamonds, and so’s he can’t tell anybody afterward that any were pinched.  An’ that’s why it’s got to look like he just got tired of living and did it himself.  I guess that’ll hold the police when they find the poor old duck hanging from the ceiling, with a bit of cord around his neck, and a chair kicked out from under his feet on the floor.  Ain’t you got the brains of a louse to see that?”

“Sure”—­the whisper came dully, in grudging intonation through the panels—­the door was locked.  “Sure, but it’s de hangin’ ‘round waitin’ to get busy that’s gettin’ me goat, an’—­”

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