“Will you also give your word that you didn’t take a letter from the cab?” Crenshaw demanded, turning upon Harleston.
“I’ll give you nothing since you’ve asked me in that manner,” Harleston replied sharply; “unless you want this.” His hand came from under the sheet, and Crenshaw was looking into a levelled 38. Harleston had a pair of them.
“Beat it, my man!” Harleston snapped. “None of you are of much success as burglars; you’re not familiar with the trade. You’re novices, rank novices. Also myself. I’ll give you until I count five, Crenshaw, to make your adieux. One ... two ... No need for you two to hurry away—the time limit applies only to Mr. Crenshaw.”
“It’s quite time we were going, Mr. Harleston,” Marston answered. “Good-night, sir—and pleasant dreams. Come on, Crenshaw.”
“Three ... four ...”
Crenshaw made a gesture of final threat.
“Meddler!” he exclaimed. Then he followed the other two.
Harleston lay for a few minutes, brows drawn in thought; then he arose, crossed to the telephone, and took down the receiver.
“Good-morning, Miss Williams,” he said. “Has it been a long night?”
“Pretty long, Mr. Harleston,” the girl answered. “There hasn’t been a thing doing for two hours.”
“Haven’t three gentlemen just left the building?”
“No one has passed in or out since you came in, Mr. Harleston.”
“Then I must be mistaken.”
“You certainly are. It’s so lonely down here, Mr. Harleston, you can pick up chunks of it and carry off.”
“I don’t think!” she laughed. “I’m not minded to lose my job. Suppose some peevish woman wanted a doctor and she couldn’t raise me; do you think I’d last longer than the morning and the manager’s arrival? Nay! Nay!”
“It’s an unsympathetic world, isn’t it, Miss Williams?”
“Only when you’re down—otherwise it’s not half bad. Say, maybe here’s one of your men now; he’s walking down. Shall I stop him?”
“No, no, let him go. When he’s gone, tell me if he’s slender, or stout, or has a moustache and imperial.”
“Sure, I will.”
Through the telephone Harleston could hear someone descend the stairs, cross the lobby, and the revolving doors swing around.
The next moment, the operator’s voice came with a bit of laugh.
“Are you there, Mr. Harleston?”
“Well, your man was a woman—and she was accidentally deliberately careful that I shouldn’t see her face.”
“H-u-m!” said Harleston. “Young or old?”
“She’s got ripples enough on her gown to be sixty, and figure enough to be twenty.”
“Yes; a perfect peach!”
“How’s her walk?”
“As if the ground was all hers.”