Warily he lifted one leg into the room. His head followed, then the rest of his body. He waited, every nerve tensed.
There came to him a sound that sent cold finger-tips laying a tattoo up and down his spine. It was the intake of some one’s cautious breathing.
His hand crept to the butt of the revolver. He crouched, poised for either attack or retreat.
A bath of light flooded the room and swallowed the darkness. Instantly Clay’s revolver leaped to the air.
A LATE EVENING CALL
A young woman in an open-neck nightgown sat up in bed, a cascade of black hair fallen over her white shoulders. Eyes like jet beads were fastened on him. In them he read indignation struggling with fear.
“Say, what are you anyhow—a moll buzzer? If you’re a porch-climber out for the props you’ve sure come to the wrong dump. I got nothin’ but bum rocks.”
This was Greek to Clay. He did not know that she had asked him if he were a man who robs women, and that she had told him he could get no diamonds there since hers were false.
The Arizonan guessed at once that he was not in the room mentioned in the letter. He slipped his revolver back into its place between shirt and trousers.
“Is this house number 121?” he asked.
“No, it’s 123. What of it?”
“It’s the wrong house. I’m ce’tainly one chump.”
The black eyes lit with sardonic mockery. The young woman knew already that she had nothing to fear from this brown-faced man. His face was not that of a thug. It carried its own letter of recommendation written on it. Instinctively she felt that he had not come to rob. A lively curiosity began to move in her.
“Say, do I look like one of them born-every-minute kind?” she asked easily. “Go ahead and spring that old one on me about how you got tanked at the club and come in at the window on account o’ your wife havin’ a temper somethin’ fierce.”
“No, I—I was lookin’ for some one else. I’m awful sorry I scared you. I’d eat dirt if it would do any good, but it won’t. I’m just a plumb idiot. I reckon I’ll be pushin’ on my reins.” He turned toward the window.
“Stop right there where you’re at,” she ordered sharply. “Take a step to that window and I’ll holler for a harness bull like a Bowery bride gettin’ a wallopin’ from friend husband. I gotta have an explanation. And who told you I was scared? Forget that stuff. Take it from Annie that she ain’t the kind that scares.”
The girl sat up in bed, fingers laced around the knees beneath the blanket. There was an insouciance about her he did not understand. She did not impress him in the least as a wanton, but if he read that pert little face aright she was a good deal less embarrassed than he.
“I came to see some one else, but I got in the wrong house,” he explained again lamely.