Yet how could he begin action? What clue did he possess which could be followed? Practically none. Before morning, that saloon on Wray Street would unquestionably be deserted, except perhaps by its proprietor, and Mike would simply deny everything. A search of the place would be useless, for Hobart would be too sly a fox to leave any trail. Two possibilities remained; the police might have some record of the fellow, might know his favourite haunts, even be able to locate his next probable hiding place. If not, the only hope remaining would seem to be Natalie Coolidge. She would undoubtedly return to Fairlawn; was probably there already, and, by shadowing her, the whereabouts of Hobart would surely be revealed either sooner or later.
But possibly there was a quicker way to learn their purpose than by thus seeking to find either. If it was the Coolidge fortune which was at stake, why not endeavour to learn in whose trust it was being held, and what steps were being taken to safe-guard it? This investigation ought not to be particularly difficult, even though he possessed no authority; he could explain the nature of his interest to an attorney, and be advised how to proceed. Determined to take all three steps the first thing next day, West rested back comfortably in the chair, already half asleep. One hand rested in his pocket, and as his fingers fumbled some object there, he suddenly recalled the knife Sexton had found in the alley.
He drew the article forth curiously, and looked at it under the glow of the electric light—it was a small silver handled pen-knife, such as a lady might carry, a rather strange thing to be discovered in a dirt alley back of Wray Street. The incongruity struck him forcibly, and he sat up, wide awake once more, seeking for some mark of identification on the polished handle. There was none, not an inscription of any kind, but he noted that the single slender blade did not fit closely down into its place. He opened it idly to learn the cause—beneath appeared the white gleam of tightly folded paper.
WHAT THE TELEPHONE TOLD
All West’s indifference vanished instantly. He had to pry the paper out, so closely had it been wedged in beneath the closed knife blade, and it required a moment in which to straighten it out so that the writing was discernable. Even then the marks were so faint, and minute, he could not really decipher them until he made use of a magnifying glass lying on the desk. A woman’s hand, using a pencil, had hastily inscribed the words on a scrap of common paper, apparently torn from some book—the inspiration of an instant, perhaps, a sudden hope born of desperation. He fairly had to dig the words out, letter by letter, copying them on an old envelope until he had the message complete: “Please notify police to search Seminole quick.”