Every inch of the walls and ceiling, except the windows and doors, was plastered. The doors and windows were fitted in the crudest kind of casing. A few unframed, colored pictures were pasted on the walls. The furniture of the room consisted of a few chairs, a table and an old trunk. A kerosene lamp on the table lighted the room.
“Here’s one of them, Mag,” said Bill, addressing a large, coarse featured, but remarkably shrewd-eyed woman who opened the door and received them. “Can you keep her safe?”
“You bet your bottom dollar I can keep her safe as long as there is any dough in it for me,” was the reply in almost a man’s voice.
“Well, get into good practice on this one a-keepin’ prisoners,” the first speaker advised. “We’re goin’ to have a dozen more here before long, and then you will have some job.”
* * * * *
The subterranean avenue.
For more than half an hour Mr. Stanlock waited upstairs nervously, eagerly, expectantly, apprehensively, for a report from Lieut. Larkin and the four men who remained in the cellar of the Buchholz house to move the pile of scrap lumber, under which it was suspected might be found a clew as to the whereabouts of the missing twelve girls. Interest in the search within the building had suspended other activities in the neighborhood, as it was felt that further progress must depend upon results at this point.
So the score or more of uniformed and citizen policemen waited as patiently as they could in or around the house of mystery, becoming more and more impatient as the minutes grew into the twenties and then the thirties, and still nobody came upstairs to announce indications of success or failure. The noise of the striking pieces of lumber against one another had not been heard for more than twenty minutes. In fact, no sound of any kind came up the cellarway following the first quarter of an hour of rapid labor on the part of the five active searchers below.
At last one of the men, more nervously eager for information than the rest, shouted down the cellarway to the lieutenant, inquiring how he and his helpers were getting on. There was no answer.
He shouted again. Still no reply. Then he announced his intention to descend into the cellar to investigate.
“Wait,” said Mr. Stanlock. “There are some tracks in the dust on the steps, and Lieut. Larkin doesn’t want them disturbed. Let me go.”
Although his apprehensions had not diminished, the mine owner’s nerve was considerably strengthened by this time, perhaps as a result of his return from a stuffy basement atmosphere into a region of better ventilation. As he started down the steps with the flashlight of one of the policemen in his hand, he was surprised to feel a strong current of wind blowing upward into his face.