They moved across to a low wall, climbed it and came to the dormer door of the next house. Clay knelt and lifted it an inch or two very slowly. He lowered it again and rose.
“I’m a heap obliged to you, Miss,” he said in a low voice. “You’re a game little gentleman.”
She nodded. “My name is Annie Millikan.”
“Mine is Clay Lindsay. I want to come and thank you proper some day.”
“I take tickets at Heath’s Palace of Wonders two blocks down,” she whispered.
“You’ll sure sell me a ticket one of these days,” Clay promised.
“Look out for yourself. Don’t let ’em get you. Give ’em a chance, and that gang would croak you sure.”
“I’ll be around to buy that ticket. Good-night, Miss Annie. Don’t you worry about me.”
“You will be careful, won’t you?”
“I never threw down on myself yet.”
The girl’s flippancy broke out again. “Say, lemme know when the weddin’ is and I’ll send you a salad bowl,” she flashed at him saucily as he turned to go.
Clay was already busy with the door.
STARRING AS A SECOND-STORY MAN
Darkness engulfed Clay as he closed the trapdoor overhead. His exploring feet found each tread of the ladder with the utmost caution. Near the foot of it he stopped to listen for any sound that might serve to guide him. None came. The passage was as noiseless as it was dark.
Again he had that sense of cold finger-tips making a keyboard of his spine. An impulse rose in him to clamber up the ladder to the safety of the open-skyed roof. He was a son of the wide outdoors. It went against his gorge to be blotted out of life in this trap like some foul rodent.
But he trod down the panic and set his will to carry on. He crept forward along the passage. Every step or two he stopped to listen, nerves keyed to an acute tension.
A flight of stairs brought him to what he knew must be the second floor. To him there floated a murmur of sounds. They came vague and indistinct through a closed door. The room of the voices was on the left-hand side of the corridor.
He soft-footed it closer, reached the door, and dropped noiselessly to a knee. A key was in the lock on the outside. With infinite precaution against rattling he turned it, slid it out, and dropped it in his coat pocket. His eye fastened to the opening.
Three men were sitting round a table. They were making a bluff at playing cards, but their attention was focused on a door that evidently led into another room. Two automatic revolvers were on the table close to the hands of their owners. A blackjack lay in front of the third man. Clay recognized him as Gorilla Dave. The other two were strangers to him.