“Skinner is a blasted fool,” Horser exclaimed fiercely. “Listen here, Mr. Sabin. You can read that report if you must, but, as I’m a living man you’ll not stir from New York if you do. I’ll make your life a hell for you. Don’t you understand that no one but a born fool would dare to quarrel with me in this city? I hold the prison keys, the police are mine. I shall make my own charge, whatever I choose, and they shall prove it for me.”
Mr. Sabin shook his head.
“This sounds very shocking,” he remarked. “I had no idea that the largest city of the most enlightened country in the world was in such a sorry plight.”
“Oh, curse your sarcasm,” Mr. Horser said. “I’m talking facts, and you’ve got to know them. Will you give up that report? You can find out all there is in it for yourself. But I’m going to give it you straight. If I don’t have that report back unread, you’ll never leave New York.”
Mr. Sabin was genuinely amused.
“My good fellow,” he said, “you have made yourself a notorious person in this country by dint of incessant bullying and bribing and corruption of every sort. You may possess all the powers you claim. Your only mistake seems to be that you are too thick-headed to know when you are overmatched. I have been a diplomatist all my life,” Mr. Sabin said, rising slowly to his feet, and with a sudden intent look upon his face, “and if I were to be outwitted by such a novice as you I should deserve to end my days—in New York.”
Mr. Horser rose also to his feet. A smile of triumph was on his lips.
“Well,” he said, “we— Come in! Come in!” The door was thrown open. Skinner and two policemen entered. Mr. Sabin leaned towards the wall, and in a second the room was plunged in darkness.
“Turn on the lights!” Skinner shouted. “Seize him! He’s in that corner. Use your clubs!” Horser bawled. “Stand by the door one of you. Damnation, where is that switch?”
He found it with a shout of triumph. Lights flared out in the room. They stared around into every corner. Mr. Sabin was not there. Then Horser saw the door leading into the bed-chamber, and flung himself against it with a hoarse cry of rage.
“Break it open!” he cried to the policemen.
They hammered upon it with their clubs. Mr. Sabin’s quiet voice came to them from the other side.
“Pray do not disturb me, gentlemen,” he said. “I am reading.”
“Break it open, you damned fools!” Horser cried. They battered at it sturdily, but the door was a solid one. Suddenly they heard the key turn in the lock. Mr. Sabin stood upon the threshold.
“Gentlemen!” he exclaimed. “These are my private apartments. Why this violence?”
He held out the paper.
“This is mine,” he said. “The information which it contains is bought and paid for. But if the giving it up will procure me the privilege of your departure, pray take it.”