TWO MEN IN A LOCKED ROOM
“Jerry’ll raise hell,” a heavy voice was saying as they entered the room. “And that ain’t all. We’ll land in stir if we don’t look out. We just ducked a bad fall. The bulls pretty near had us that time we poked our nose out from the Park at Seventy-Second Street.”
Some one pressed a button and the room leaped to light. Through the open crack of the closed door Clay recognized Gorilla Dave. The second of the gunmen was out of range of his vision.
From the sound of creaking furniture Clay judged that the unseen man had sat down heavily. “It was that blowout queered us. And say—how came the bulls so hot on our trail? Who rapped to ’em?”
“Must ‘a’ been that boob wit’ the goil. He got busy quick. Well, Jerry won’t have to salve the cops this time. We made our getaway all right,” said Dave.
“Say, where’s Joey?”
“Pulled a sneak likely. Wha’s it matter? Listen! What’s that?”
Some one was coming up the stairs.
The men in the room moved cautiously to the door. The hall light was switched on.
“’Lo, Jerry,” Gorilla Dave called softly.
He closed the room door and the sound of the voices was shut off instantly.
The uninvited guest dared not step out of the closet to listen, for at any instant the men might reenter. He crouched in his hiding-place, the thirty-eight in his hand.
The minutes dragged interminably. More than once Clay almost made up his mind to steal out to learn what the men were doing. But his judgment told him he must avoid a brush with so many if possible.
The door opened again.
“Now beat it and do as I say if you know what’s good for you,” a bullying voice was ordering.
The owner of the voice came in and slammed the door behind him. He sat down at the desk, his back to the closet. Through the chink Clay saw that the man was Jerry Durand.
From his vest pocket he took a fat black cigar, struck a match and lit it. He slumped down in the swivel chair. It took no seer to divine that his mind was busy working out a problem.
Clay stepped softly from his place of refuge, but not so noiselessly that the gangman did not detect his presence. Jerry swung round in the chair and leaped up with cat-like activity. He stood without moving, poised on the balls of his feet, his deep-set eyes narrowed to shining slits. It was in his thought to hurl himself headlong on the man holding steadily the menacing revolver.
“Don’t you! I’ve got the dead wood on you,” said the Arizonan, a trenchant saltness in his speech. “I’ll shoot you down sure as hell’s hot.”
The eyes of the men clashed, measuring each the other’s strength of will. They were warily conscious even of the batting of an eyelid. Durand’s face wore an ugly look of impotent malice, but his throat was dry as a lime kiln. He could not estimate the danger that confronted him nor what lay back of the man’s presence.