ARCHIE P. McKISHNIE
straight back to Shag Villa. Just outside the city he met James Turnbull in his Super Six. Myra Huntingdon was beside him.
Turnbull grudgingly touched his hat, but Myra took no notice, simply staring stonily before her. “Snubbed.”
Nevilles stepped on the accelerator and the heavy car leaped ahead, eating up the miles with purring satisfaction and rocking as it took the turn up Shag Villa drive.
Griddle ran down the steps from the house as the car came to a protesting pause on the gravelled walk. As he opened the door he whispered a few words to Nevilles beneath his breath.
“I get you, Steve,” murmured Nevilles. Aloud he said: “I’m going over to have a look at the oak timber, Billy; Griggs tells me there are some wind-falls that should be removed. Better come along and we’ll decide on a plan for our big get-away.”
Griddle glanced fearfully about him.
“No so loud,” he cautioned.
“Afraid of spies?” laughed Nevilles. “Say, I’d like to catch any of Haight’s sleuths snooping about here.”
There was a slight rustle in a clump of dwarf spruce close beside the drive, but apparently their ears did not catch it.
Griddle glanced watchfully about.
“Perhaps this would be as safe a place as any to discuss our plans,” he said. “I know there are spies hanging around outside the grounds because I’ve seen them, and on at least three occasions I know I have been followed.” Nevilles frowned.
“That’s bad, Billy, bad. We’ll have to move carefully. We’re up against cunning brains. Well, the big showdown isn’t far off, then we’ll see what we’ll see.”
“Have you got the launch ready?” asked Griddle. Nevilles nodded.
“The swiftest thing on the river, my boy. She can limp twenty-five, is equipped with a silencer and can do thirty miles to a police-boat’s ten. That part will be easy. We’ll
choose the first dark, stormy night that comes and slip away down the river to Halliburt. We can make the distance well under three hours. There, I have a special engine and coach chartered. It’s costing me eight hundred a day, but Webster’s paying for it.”
He laughed and Griddle doubled up in wicked mirth.
“Holy guns! But when they find out—”
His chuckle died, and his face grew serious.
“There’s only one thing I don’t like about it,” he said hesitatingly, “and that’s making away with—you know who?”
Nevilles’ jaw set.
“It’s too late for either of us to have any conscience or feeling in the matter,” he said sternly. “Webster will have to pass out.”
“And the money?”
“I’ve got that part of it all fixed,” Nevilles answered.
His eyes shadowed. “It’s got to be good-bye to the open and my little Rainbow,” he said, as though to himself. “That’s the pure hell of it. It’s a new and wild country for ours, Billy.” ‘
“Any place’ll do for me,” said Griddle lightly, “so long’s there’s plenty of excitement and adventure.”
“You’re sure liable to find lots where we’re going,” Nevilles assured him.
“Now,” he said, “you’ve got it all. Come inside and I’ll give you some letters.” Once more he added, “I’m going down to have a look at the newly arrived Kentucky Kate, the horse that’s going to beat Haight’s Fire Fly in the Adanac Stakes race. And the joke of it is,” he laughed, “only three men in the world besides yourself know that I bought her.”
As they passed up the steps and into the house Mose, the chauffeur, appeared to drive the car in the garage. Again sounded that slight rustling in the spruce clump and as the engine started with a roar a man crept from cover and wriggled like a snake down the inside of the hedge toward the gate.
Three quarters of an hour later a dusty and begrimed individual approached Haight’s
country residence furtively and rang the bell.
Mr. Haight who had just returned home was hanging his linen duster in the hall. He answered the bell.
“Y ou?” he said, frowning at sight of his visitor. “Come in. Now duck in there, quickly.” He pushed the man into the small reception room, closed the door and locked it.
“Now what is it, Brittan?”
“I’ve got news for you,” answered the man surlily.
“Humph! It’s pretty nearly time, I should saw Well?”
“He’s planning on makin’ his get-away.”
Haight motioned to a chair and stood opening and closing his hands as his henchman seated himself.
“Well, proceed. What do you know; and how do you know?”
“I overheard his plans. Him and one of them dopeducks he’s picked up are going to slip away on the first dark night with a bunch of kale. They got a speed boat hid in the river. They’re goin’ to shoot up to Halliburt where they’re making for Gawd only knows where.”
The exclamation was one of immense satisfaction.
“And what else, Brittan?”
“I’m cussed if I understand what he meant, sir; but this Webster bloke he told the other gink that he was goin’ to see that somebody of his own name got croaked good and plenty. Maybe that old white head I saw limpin’ about the yard is his father and he meant him.”
“No,” said Haight irritably. “I know who he meant, Brittan. That’s all you need care. Now tell me,” he said, boring the man with his suspicious eyes, “where were you that you were able to hear so much?”
“I was hid in the hedge,” answered Brittan. “They just got talkin’ about their plans natural-like. They didn’t dream of anyone like me bein’ close, and of course they don’t know that choofer Mose is one of your men. I reckon old Dame Luck was with me for once.”
His grimy face cracked in a grin.
“I’ll be obliged if you’ll hand me a couple of hundred, sir,” he said, little pig eyes shifting before the contemptuous gaze of his employer. “I’m thinking this last job is worth all of that.”
Without demur Haight peeled a couple of bills from a roll he took from his pocket.
“Here’s a hundred. If I find you’ve told me the truth I’ll give you another hundred.”
Immediately the cringing air fell away from the man. He sprang to his feet, his face working with fury.
“Just for that, Mr. Haight, you’ll pay me five hundred,
and pay me nowhe said in soft menacing tones. ‘“If you refuse, I'll go straight to Webster and sell what I know to
Haight's face flushed and his hands clenched. He made as though to speak, checked the impulse and took a turn up and down the room. Then he drew the roll from his pocket again and counted four hundred dollars into the outstretched hand of his tool.
"There, my man,” he said loftily. “T’ve paid you because I consider the work you’ve done is worth it. Go back now and stay on your job And see here,” as Brittan slouched to the door, "if you ever so much as attempt to speak to Webster, I’ll have you arrested for that little trick you turned in Hi Sooe's joint three months ago. The police would give a good deal to know who stabbed Constable Dawson in the back the night he and his men made the raid.”
He cackled derisively as Brittan’s face blanched, and unlocked the door.
D your w -k well, and you’ll have no reason to dispute to! •■••-.i’.ity >f payment,” he admonished, as he let the gutter-sleuth out the back door.
TIE STOOD for a moment gazing down at the floor in perplexed thought, then swiftly he t! an i went up the stair to the library. So preoec .p ed wa.he that he failed to discern his ward, who curled up in a big chair was idly reading a st *;• in. a late magazine. Hepickedupthephoneand called a number.
Is this police head-quarters?” he inquired.
'Well Brady, this is Haight speaking. I have a special commission for you to perform, chief. Yes,
I'm coming right down and will tell you all about it;
I’ll be there in half an hour.”
He turned from the phone to encounter the grave eyes of Myra fixed upon him.
Is it about Mr. Trollivor?” she asked anxiously.
Haight frowned with annoyance.
T didn’t knowyou were in the room,” he said petulantly. ' Really. Myra, you have a penchant for being in unexpected places at unexpected times. This happens to be a matter with which you need not concern yourself, my dear. And it has no relation whatsoever to Mr. Trollivor."
Without another word, with head held high, she swept
from the room.
Haight smiled mirthlessly. The phone summoned him to attention. He lifted off the receiver.
"A'es.” he called crisply.
"Oh.” in altered tones, "it’s you, Turnbull. What’s that? Did Myra tell me—? Why no, I’m not surprised.
I knew the girl would come to her senses sooner or later. A'es. of course. I’ve done all I could—”
He stood listening, his thin lips twisting in a smile of satisfaction. Then with a word or two of congratulation he hung up the receiver.
For a full five minutes Haight stood tasting the satisfaction Turnbull’s information had imparted to him. Forgotten for the moment was the disconcerting news his sleuth Brittan had so recently brought him. His ward was to marry James Turnbull. Now she need never learn thrt her fortune had been gambled away—■
He went swiftly from the library and on to Myra’s room.
"It’s I. dear,” he called. “May I come in for a moment, Myra?”
She opened the door and he stepped inside.
Twice before only since she had shared his home had he been in this room. Once when she was but a little girl, newly bereaved, he had carried her here. She had thrown her arms about his neck on that occasion. Her heart was aching with loss and crying for affection but he had unwound the wee arms and had sternly commanded that she be brave and sensible, and had left her there with a world’s weight of loneliness.
On the other occasion he had come to this room to ask her to sign certain papers which required quick manipulation. And now for the third time he was here. The faint pure fragrance of innocence which pervaded the place bespoke a peace that had become long alien to him and made him feel little and ashamed.
\ f A RA had risen tomeet him. She looked very girlish and sweet in her simple gown of white organdie. Her golden hair was looped back like a gleaming halo which had shifted from its sphere. In the deep eyes lay something he had never seen there before, a troubled unrest, a look which was at once a cry and a pleading.
Haight took the girl’s hands and held them in his. They felt cool to his hot fingers. His eyes were on the slender band with it3 limpid stone of blue fire which encircled the third finger of her left hand.
“My dear child,” he said, “why didn’t you tell me?”
She withdrew her hands and stood up straight and tall.
“A'ou gave me no opportunity, Guardie.”
"I was troubled, Myra,” he offered in excuse. “Something terrible has happened. I am sorry I seemed so cross and abrupt. Air. Turnbull just this minute phoned me the good news.”
"A'ou are glad I am engaged to him then?” she asked.
"A'ou knew my wishes,” he answered gently.
Her lip curled.
"What is this terrible thing which has happened?” she asked as though anxious to switch the conversation into a new channel. “Have I no right to know?”
“Certainly, Myra. It’s this,” he said gravely. “We have discovered that the man who claims to be David Webster is an impostor. We have learned that he abducted the real David Webster, stole his proofs of identity and impersonated him with the hope of decamping with his millions.”
Alone, Myra Huntingdon stood white and silent in the centre of the room. Something within her had died; had gone suddenly out like a ray of light. What was it? Her belief in him? No, that had died before.
What was it he had said to her that morning when she had gone to him, shamelessly, hoping—?
“I would go just so far as you would go; to the heights or the depths. It would not matter so long—”
“Oh, pitiful heaven!”
The words were wrung from her white lips. Mutely she sank down and lay a huddled heap on the rug.
A sunbeam and a rose-scented breeze romped in through the open window together; but the cold gleam of the diamond on a little clenched hand looked up from the shadows menacingly and they stole away again.
Mr Height Receives A Jolt
LIKE that interesting animal the weasel, who of all blood-thirsty things that stalk and kill is considered the most relentless, Mr. James Turnbull believed in having more than one secret lair. Not that he feared any enemy; in this respect also he was similar to the red-eyed hunter of the trails. But an inherent and developed caution prompted vigilance, which to Turnbull’s mind was not only watchfulness but the digging of retreats which would spell immunity if ever danger threatened.
Then, too, it behooved one with so many irons in the fire as had he not to heat them to his shaping at one forge. Rarely did he let his right hand know what his left was doing; therefore, the room in which he was sitting to-day with Mr. Haight opposite him and a bottle, syphon and glasses between them had been taken by him solely for the purpose of discussing certain matters with the ex-banker, one of which was Wesley Trollivor. Haight of course, was not aware of this fact. Neither did he know that another room very similarly furnished had been taken in another part of the city by Turnbull for the express purpose of discussing Haight with Trollivor. Even the brainiest man in Harport could scarcely guess so much.
On the table between the two men lay the deed of sale, for a half interest in the Western Oil Lands, which bore David Webster’s signature and ten one thousand dollar bills beside it.
Turnbull’s eyes were on the money as he pushed the decanter and glass toward the older man.
“You told me this Webster was a hairbrained fool,” he growled. “I think you’ve got him wrong. This don’t look like it, anyway.”
He motioned towards the bank notes.
“It’s just his conceit,” explained Haight. “He’ll come over with the balance all right.”
“Didn’t act anyway suspicious, did he?”
“No-o,” said Haight hesitatingly, “not exactly suspicious. Oh, Webster believes the thing’s on the level all right. I’m not just sure though that he altogether trusts Trollivor.”
“Trollivor’s acting queer lately. A'ou know that and you know the reason. He almost spoiled our chance of landing Webster on this thing. The idiot didn’t seem to have any heart for the scheme in the first place, and when it came to closing the deal he seemed to get cold feet.”
Turnbull filled his glass and nodded to Haight.
“Mr. Haight,” said Turnbull insinuatingly, “it might be a whole lot better for you if you were managing Webster’s affairs alone!”
To this Haight vouchsafed no reply.
“Of course,” continued Turnbull meaningly, “in the event of Trollivor not turning up—”
He paused and gazed at the man before him.
IT AIGHT mopped his brow. He refilled his glass with a •1-1 shaking hand.
“If we only knew where he was,” he groaned. “Good heavens, man, he’s liable to go off his head entirely and divulge all he knows. If Webster—”
He caught himself up suddenly.
“What about Webster?” Turnbull asked.
“I may as well tell you the truth,’’Haight said. “When Trollivor disappeared those papers and that money disappeared with him. Well, Webster gave papers and money to me this morning.”
“Then Webster knows where Trollivor is, you think?”
“No. But he’s the friend of a man who does know, and that man sent him the papers.”
“How did you learn all this?”
“Webster told Trollivor and me about a friend of his who had“ come to this city in search of a certain man. Trollivor was that man. Seems he had betrayed this fellow’s sister. I believe Trollivor has been made away with by this acquaintance of Webster’s.”
“And did you put it up to Webster?”
“I’m not such a fool,” Haight retorted. “No, I’m having every move David Webster makes watched. Sooner or later this friend of his is bound to show up, or communicate with Webster in some way; then we’ll nab him.”
Turnbull cut the tip from a cigar and settled back in his chair.
“Why bother about Trollivor?” he asked quietly. "If he’s gone, we’ll have five hundred thousand dollars to divide between two instead of three; isn’t that right?” “But,” stammered Haight, sitting up straight, “isn’t Trollivor—I understood that he was engaged to your—” Turnbull silenced him with a gesture.
“She’ll survive the shock, I guess,” he chuckled.
"But,” cried Haight, fighting between elation and horror, “if he’s been murdered? Great God!”
“What we don’t know needn’t worry us,” said Turnbull callously. “We didn’t do it, did we? Now what’s worrying you?” he asked.
“This fool Webster,” groaned Haight. “He’s simply giving the Parnley millions away hand over fist.”
“It’s his money, isn’t it?”
“Certainly,” answered Haight quickly.
“Let him spend it then.”
THIS Webster,” said Haight, weighing his words, carefully, “is a peculiar compound of vice and viciousness abetted by a perverted sense of humour. He seems to take a fiendish delight in balking us at every turn. We have only to make a suggestion and he immediately argues against it.”
“But,” interposed Turnbull, “he accepted the half interest in the fake oil-field readily enough.”
“Because he thought he saw a chance to double his. money. A'es. He’s wide awake enough to his own interests.”
“Perhaps,” said Turnbull dryly, “that’s why you think him stubborn.”
Haight shot him an ugly look. He wondered if Turnbull had guessed anything. If so, the beatific expression on the man’s face gave no sign that he had.
“Look at his high-handed manner of cancelling the Drowned Acres lease,” he reminded Turnbull. "A ou were pretty well stirred up over that, if I remember correctly.”
“Oh, I’m not trying to defend Webster,” said Turnbull. “All I’m trying to do is tell you not to worry over what he does with his money. He’s not going to bother you long anyway. At the rate lie’s going it’ll he a daisy coverlet for tiim in a year or so. He’ll kill himself by dissipation providing one of those thugs lie’s surrounded himself with don’t stick a knife between his ribs before old John Barleycorn puts him down for the count.”
He refilled Haight’s glass.
"Odd thing, his letting booze get him this way," he frowned. “I understand as a boy he was hell-set against it. Wasn’t that responsible for the rupture between him and his Uncle Parnley?”
“It was,” said Haight. “A'oung Webster was then, as he is now, a selfish conceited idiot. Parnley thought the world of the boy. Why, just to please him he would have stopped the manufacture of liquorentirely if itliadn tbeen for me. I convinced him that Webster was simply trying his power over him; that to allow him to deliberately kill
T HE "PIFFLE PLAY" is the theme of the second Stephen Leacock burlesque, in his series: "The Drama as I See It." It scores the high-brows and excoriates all the rest of us who throng to witness plays like "The Soul Call." This is Leacock in his happiest vein, witty with a grain of truth; pungent with rapier like thrusts at the so-called "Intelligencia." C. \X/. Jefferys' illustrations are an added treat.
a business which was paying the enormous profits his distillery was paying would make him a laughing stock in the community.”
“I see. And the old whiskey-king attempted to curb the cub, eh?”
“Exactly. But he didn’t do it. Webster went away. Parnley was pretty well broken up, but he never showed by word or sign that he cared. He attempted to trace Webster though; spent thousands of dollars in trying to find him. Then as the years passed, he gave up.”
He caught himself up suddenly and glanced at his watch.
“I don’t know why I should be telling you all this; to relieve my mind,
I guess. I forgot for the time that you have something to say to me.”
“You and I are going to put all our cards on the table,” he said affably.
“Have a show-down.”
“We’re both crooks, you know,” went on Turnbull, “and we both know it, which helps quite considerably. Of the two though, Haight, you’re the worst, because you pose as an honest and upright man. However, we’ll not discuss our relative degrees of greatness in that respect.
“We’ve used Trollivor. His term of usefulness is over. Therefore, may his disappearance never be solved.
You’re glad to get rid of him and so am I. So far so good.
“Now,” he resumed as Haight sat rigid, frozen into silence, “after this next big killing I’m through. I’ve made enough money to satisfy me. You’ve lost all or nearly all you’ve made.
And here’s news for you.
You’ve lost it to me.
Shall I tell you why,
Haight? It’s because you overestimated your own clever brain and underestimated mine. I’ve always been cleverer than you. I’m the brains, Haight. You’re only brains, limited."
HE SAT back laughing gloatingly at the other’s discomfiture.
“I’m coming straight, Haight. Cards are faceup, as you notice. I used you just as you used Trollivor and others. Nobody has ever used me because the man doesn’t live with enough brains to outpoint Jim Turnbull.”
He was leaning across the table, his heavy jaw squared and his whole face gleaming with malignant triumph.
“You’re wondering what I want, w’hat this talk is leading up to. I’ll tell you. I want yourward, Myra Huntingdon, to marry me immediately and go away with me; and unless you make her do it I’m going to crush you like this.”
He plucked a cigarette from the case on the table and ground it to powder between his thumb and finger.
“Like that, Haight.”
Haight opened his lips, striving to speak and failing. “Remorseless? Yep, that’s me, Jim Turnbull. That’s how I’ve climbed, my friend. I’ve used everybody, sacrificed them if the need arose to further my ambitions.” Haight arose totteringly, gripping the table for support.
“You damned, double-faced snake,” he hissed.
“Tut, tut,” jeered Turnbull. “Can you deny you’re any better than I? No heroics, Haight. It won’t go down with me. I want Myra Huntingdon and I want her now. You’re going to help me get her.”
With a supreme effort Haight mastered himself. “Turnbull,” he said slowly, “you’ve called the turn. I can’t deny that I am as big a villain as yourself, but, thank God, I’m not all base. Gambling with stocks has been my ruin and you fed my secret vice, I can see it now_as a devil from hell feedsa drunken man the liquor that destroys him. And now from your own admission I know what your purpose was. Turnbull, he said almost caressingly, “if I were possessed of the means to do it, so help me God, I would kill you where you sit.”
“And,” returned Turnbull lightly, “pay with your own fife for doing it. No, no, my misguided friend, a better
plan would be to accept my mandate like a sportsman. Persuade Myra to marry me at once and I’ll look after you."
He poured a glass of liquor and handed it to Haight. “Drink it,” he commanded.
Mechanically Haight raised the glass and drained it.
“VTOW listen. This is what you have already— through fear—done for me. Webster is undertaking to rebuild the tenement district at the cost of a cool
million. For some reason he doesn’t want his hand shown. You, Haight, who own and control the newspapers of this city, have through those papers been good enough to hint that the philanthropist who has undertaken this wonderful task of uplift and reform is no less a personage than—”
He tapped his breast, smiling triumphantly.
“Myra swallowed the bait, line and sinker. You builded better than you knew. About my unworthy head—this head with the brains, Haight—you have been the means of placing a halo, and the peerless Myra has consented to marry me. Only she will not set the day.”
He chuckled, but there was no mirth in the hard, boring eyes into which the ex-banker was gazing as a bird gazes into the beady, holding orbs of a serpent.
Turnbull sat up suddenly, slapping the table with his heavy hand.
“Haight,” he gritted, “I’m going to force her to marry me at once and you are to tell me now you’ll agree to the plan I’ve formed.”
“I’ll agree,” murmured Haight hopelessly.
Immediately Turnbull’s manner changed. He settled back in his chair with a deep satisfied sigh.
“All right,” he said “that matter’s settled. You are acting wisely. Later, to-morrow perhaps, I’ll tell you just what my little plan is.”
He lifted the decanter.
“Now, supposing we have just one little drink.”
They drank. Haight picked up his stick and walked none too steadily to the door. His shoulders sagged as he opened it. Then his left hand brushed the pocket which contained the ten thousand dollars and his figure straightened. There was something of the old imperiousness in his manner as he turned and bowed to Turnbull.
“We shall hope to see you at the house soon,” he said, and passed out.
CHAPTER XXIV Trollivor Returns
HAIGHT, as his car glided up the wide maple-hedged avenue, was oblivious alike to the golden sunshine, smiling skies and song of surging river—oblivious he was to all things save one, the fact that he had been bested by
a man whom he had up until an hour ago considered his mental inferior. Turnbull had proven himself the better of the two in that certain specimen of guile known as business astuteness and the realization rankled like a barb in the soul of the man who had always ruled and commanded in the questionable enterprises which he and Turnbull had planned together. That time was past. He was brains, limited now. That’s what Turnbull had jeeringly told him. Brains, limited.
Even the consciousness of ten thousand dollars in his pocket could not rob that dart of its sting. He found his lip quivering in self pity and gripped himself. He would show Turnbull. He had not erred in any sense in his summing up of that gentleman. He had always considered him worth close w’atching; a relentless, tank-like force that mow’ed the swath for himself to follow’ and with the finesse of a general put the finishing touches on opposing obstacles to his desire. Where he had erred, Haight grudgingly confessed, was in underestimating the man’s ability to scheme for himself.
Had Trollivor been bought by Turnbull? he wondered. It looked like it. What had Turnbull meant by saying the lawyer’s term cf usefulness was finished? Had Turnbull put Trollivor out of the way?
Haight groaned at the maze of difficulties’.that suddenly confronted him. Then an idea came to him. What was to hinder him from putting the police in possession of certain facts which w’ould effectually fix the gloating Turnbull?
The inspiration, suddenly born, made Haight gasp. Turnbull had certainly acted suspiciously. He had expressed his satisfaction that Trollivor had disappeared. Haight’s hand caressed the bulge in his coat where the ten thousand dollars reposed. He could tell the police that this money had been given to him to buy his silence.
He chuckled voicelessly. Brains, limited w’as he? Well, Turnbull would see. He wras glad now that the fact of Trollivor’s disappearance had been kept from all but a few’ people. Those few’ he could handle.
He leaned forward as though to speak to his chauffeur, then settled back again with a satisfied smile. There wras no particular hurry for a day or two. He might as well use the money Turnbull had given him to make a killing on the stock market before turning it as hush-money over to the police.
“Trollivor’s office." he directed the driver. There were certain papers of an incriminating nature in the lawyer's safe and to this he fortunately held the combination.
He alighted from the car with almost a jaunty air and ascended the stairs to the sanctum-sanctorum in w’hich he and Trollivor had dreamed so many things for their own benefit. It had never been his intention to allow’ Trollivor to realize anything material from those dreams. He had simply used the law yer. Turnbull had spoken truly when he said Trollivor’s usefulness was over. There w’as no regret in Haight’s swiftly-working mind as he took a key from his pocket and noiselessly inserted it in the lock.
LIE SLIPPED inside and closed the door behind him, listening for the Yale lock to click security from intrusion.
Then he turned and his face ashed to the pallor of gray parchment.
“Trollivor!” he exclaimed in a gasping w’hisper.
Trollivor,who was seated at his table going through a huge pile of letters, looked up.
“Hello, Haight,” he returned easily. “You seem surprised to see me.”
“Surprised! Good Lord!”
Haight slumped w’eakly into a chair.
“Where have you been?” he asked jerkily, “and what Continued on page 35
Continued from page 27
do you mean by running away—”
He broke off, wetting his dry lips. “Whiskey, Trollivor,” he demanded. He had grown suddenly faint and ill.
Trollivor rose and brought a glass of water from the cooler.
“This will have to do,” he said shortly. “I have no whiskey.”
Haight took the glass and gulped a few mouthfuls of the water.
“Now perhaps you will explain,” he snarled, settling back in his seat again.
“You listen to me,” said Trollivor. “I’ll tell you a part of what has happened during my mysterious absence; part I shall not tell you because it concerns myself only.
“In the first place allow me to say I didn’t disappear of my own free will. That, however, is neither here nor there.” “If it was that damned Nevilles—” commenced Haight.
Trollivor checked him.
“It wasn’t Nevilles. He had nothing to do with it. I was forced to go, but not through the instigation of Nevilles. I was taken to Drowned Acres.”
“The devil,” muttered Haight.
“What transpired there,” continued Trollivor, “does not concern you in any way; it’s my private business.”
“So you said before,” flared Haight. “But the purchase-papers and the ten thousand dollars, man? What about them?”
“I returned the papers and money to Nevilles through a man named Storm, assistant keeper at the preserve.”
“But why to him? Why not to me?” “Because my abductor, for some reason, didn’t wish me to communicate with you.”
Haight gulped spasmodically.
“Well, what’s all this leading to?” he demanded. “Where does this man Storm come in?”
“That’s what I’m trying to tell you, Haight. Storm has come over to our side. He’s willing to do as we bid him—for a price.”
Haight was silent. He sensed that behind Trollivor’s working brain something of importance was being born. He sat tensely forward in his chair—waiting. Trollivor resumed.
“During my enforced stay at Drowned Acres, I had plenty of time to observe my surroundings. For one thing, I noted that Nevilles has had the old beaver meadow behind the oak ridge levelled and has an aeroplane hanger erected there. It was then I questioned Storm quietly and found that he was willing to talk.”
“And what did you learn?” asked Haight eagerly.
“Briefly this. Nevilles, or Webster as he is known, is scheming to make his getaway with a goodly portion of the Parnley cash, via hydroplane. On a certain date known to me he plans to slip across to Drowned Acres and then—good-bye.” “But,” cried the bewildered Haight, “I happen to have learned that he has an entirely different plan—”
“You don’t give him credit for possessing brains, Haight,” put in the lawyer scathingly. “The chances are he knew your spies were listening and discussed such plans for their and your benefit. However, that doesn’t matter. The fact remains that he intends to go by air and has ordered a Curtis four passenger machine for that purpose. Stolde, that daredevil flier he has been nursing down at Shag Villa, is expected to return with the machine at any time. Nevilles figures on making his big get-away soon. As a matter of fact I know the very night.” Haight arose shakily from his seat. “You’re sure of what you say?” he asked huskily.
“And what in God’s name are we to do?” wailed the other as lie sank back in his chair again. "How can we circumvent this man Nevilles?”
DON’T get excited,” cautioned the lawyer. "I have a scheme. I think you’ll agree it’s a good one.
"Storm is willing to guide us through Bee Beer gate to the preserve. Early on ti e night Nevilles plans to skip we’ll take W ebster and the police and slip across to Drowned Acres. We will have a clear coast because Abbott, the head keeper, will be at Parnley’s Landing waiting to guide Nevilles through. Storm will be there alone. He’ll slip us through and conceal us somewhere in the shooting lodge. At the psychological moment, we’ll jump out and put the skids under Nevilles.” "But the Western Oil Field purchase?” groaned Haight. “Nevilles has beaten us there, Trollivor. Without our share of that half a million, how are we going to face David Webster? Tell me that!”
"One moment,” said Trollivor softly. He turned squarely about on Haight.
"What are you going to do about Turnbull?” he asked.
“Turnbull? What about Turnbull?” shrilled the other.
Trollivor laid his hands palms down on the table. The significance of the action was not lost on Llaight.
"During the past few days,” Trollivor said acidly, "I have learned quite considerable about Mr. James Turnbull. That gentleman, not content with playing both of us, has been playing us one against the other. I see,” as Haight’s eyes shifted, “you already know that. What you may not know though is that Turnbull has been directly responsible for some things for which he must answer to me personally—but that’s my affair.
NOW to return to our friend, Nevilles. Naturally his last act will be to draw a bunch of money from the bank. There should be more than sufficient to pay the purchase price of the half interest in the Western Oil Field.”
“You mean,” whispered Haight eagerly, “that we grab the money and—”
“And allow Nevilles to get away,” smiled Trollivor. “Exactly.”
“But the police?”
“We can fix the police.”
“But Webster, Trollivor? Lord, man, Webster will be right there.”
“No, Webster will be kept in the background. I tell you the thing can be done. I want it arranged so that Turnbull is there too. I have a certain reason for this which I cannot explain now. You can arrange that, I dare say?”
“Yes, yes,” agreed Haight excitedly. “I can have Turnbull think I have bribed this man Storm to conduct us into Drowned Acres. We’ll slip across the river in his yacht. We’ll have to let Turnbull know" that we have discovered Nevilles to be an impostor, of course.” Trollivor nodded.
“Better have your ward and Turnbull’s sister go along too. Turnbull will fall in line the more quickly if you do,” he suggested. “We can make it just after nightfall and Storm will conceal us in the lodge. The officers and Webster we can have hide in the boat-house. It’s just as well to have them out of hearing while we make terms with Nevilles.”
Haight rubbed his hands together gleefully.
“And just here,” he spat vindictively, “if you’re aiming to put anything over on Jim" Turnbull I hope you make it. Nothing would please me more than to see that gentleman get his desserts.”
Trollivor smiled enigmatically.
“We’ve got to work quickly. For some reason Nevilles wants to stick around until the races next week and after that— “You understand your part now?”
Haight sprang to his feet and shook himself.
“Brains, Trollivor,” he exulted, “brains are what count in any game, eh?”
“Brains are what count,” agreed the lawyer and to himself added, “as you, my friend, are going to find out.”
He escorted the highly elated Haight to the door. Then he went back to his table and sat down. He pulled open a drawer and drew out a silver brandy flask. This he tossed into a waste-paper basket. Then his hand stole back into the drawer and brought to light a small photo-
graph. It was only a plain every-day likeness of a woman and baby, but the man’s eyes misted as they gazed on it. Reverently he lifted the cardboard to his lips. Then, as though fearing intrusion, he dropped the picture back into the drawer and turned the key.
NEVILLES had always detested crowds. Horse-racing was a thing he knew little or nothing about. Yet, to-day, as he surveyed the scene of animated life and color before him, he could not but admit that it all brought a certain tingle to his blood.
He stood for a moment by the paddock gate to allow his eyes to wander appreciatively across the green turf with its oval track to the gleaming river and the blue hills beyond, then back to the eager, gaily-clad throng of men and women in the Members’ Stand and farther on to the densely packed betting-ring where parimutuel machines worked patiently overtime and were cursed for their pains by old time betting men who hated the mechanical tardiness of the system.
He _ had been down in that heaving, sweating crowd and had learned that Fire Fly was a favorite in the race now about to be run. As he stood conscious of the new flutter of excitement which gripped those thousands of racing-fans he wondered whimsically what would happen when at the last moment the dark horse came into the reckoning.
As he turned to make his way to the stables, Billy Griddle came wedging his way through the crowd to where he stood.
“They’re on bigger than a house,” he informed Nevilles in an exultant whisper. "The bookies have cut Ihre Fly’s odds to even. Haight’s raising hell-for-breakfast with the judges. Turnbull’s with Miss Huntingdon and he’s got a face long enough to eat oats out of a churn. Maybe some of those sure-odds Willies won’t be borrowing car fare home.”
Nevilles focused his field-glasses on the Judges’ Stand. The names of the entries were being run up: “Orchard Blossom. Captain Kid, Flossie B., Fire Fly, Egyptian, Dan Diablo, Kentucky Kate, Darawinia, Bird-In-The-Wind,” he read.
He saw Haight descending the stair from the stand. The man’s shoulders sagged, his step was lagging.
“Haight’s going to be a mighty disappointed man this day, I’m thinking,” he murmured.
“He’s going to be a lot poorer one,” chuckled Griddle, “but it’s Miss Huntingdon who’ll he the disappointed one. She owns the mare, Fire Fly, and—”
“What?" Nevilles gripped Griddle’s shoulder so hard the muscles cracked.
“Say!” grimaced that worthy, “do you want to pull my arm out of the socket? What’s the matter with you?”
“You mean to tell me that Fire Fly doesn’t belong to Haight?” Nevilles asked dazedly.
“Why of course she doesn’t. I thought you knew that. His ward owns all the horses. Now what—”
NEVILLES had turned and was shouldering his way through the throng toward the distant stand where the judges stood grouped about the starter who flourished a long trumpet.
"He must have gone clear batty,” Griddle muttered.
. Nevilles fought his way straight to the judges.
“I wish to withdraw my entry to this race,” he told them.
“Who are you, and. what’s your horse?” demanded a hatchet-faced, smallish man who was chewing nervously on an unlighted cigar.
“Can’t withdraw now; too late; get out! Starter, call’em to post.”
Nevilles found himself down on the turf again. He mopped his brow with his handkerchief and glanced up at the Members’ Stand. Gazing straight down at him was Myra Huntingdon. As his eyes met hers she turned her face away. He noted that it was pale. On the girl’s right sat Jonas Haight, on her left, James Turnbull.
“Great Scott!” murmured Nevilles. “It’s too bad. I’d give anything to undo the mischief I’ve done. Lord knows, she hated me enough without giving her more cause.”
Somebody slapped his shoulder. A drawling, familiar voice spoke to him.
He turned and looked into a pair of twinkling blue eyes set in a seamed, timebeaten face.
“Teddy Jerome, you old hill-rat,” he exclaimed, and grasped the calloused hand of Fire Fly’s trainer in an iron grip. “And how’s the old nugget-hunter holding his own, Teddy?”
Jerome shook his head.
“The old nugget-hunter has just been struck by a Texas cyclone,” he returned ruefully. “Ah trained a li’l mare named Fire Fly to win this race, and now some clam-souled son-of-darkness rings in this Kentucky Kate. It makes me-all want to cry; that’s what it does.”
“The devil!”muttered Nevilles.
“He’s all that and more,” agreed Jerome. “But,” he added with a snap of his lean jaws, “this ringer will have to extend herself some to win over Fire Fly, mark that.”
His face lengthened and he pointed away.
“There comes Kentucky Kate now. Look at her. She’s never been beaten, that lady.”
NEVILLES turned. The thoroughbreds were being brought to their positions from the stables. Some of them walked slowly and sedately, others curveted; still others feeling the nerve-tension of the occasion made it difficult for their jockeys to control them. .
Kentucky Kate, a gleaming chestnut with a white star and fore-stockings, minced her way daintily down the course. Astride her was the thin-faced jockey who had arrived with the mare and who had never left her for a moment since she arrived.
Jerome had moved across to assist in placing the little mare upon whom rested so many of the local fans’ hopes. Nevilles caught the eye of Kentucky Kate’s rider and held up his hand. The jockey pulled up and waited for him to come near.
“Gnat,” Nevilles addressed him guardedly, “I want you to throw this race.”
The jockey made no reply.
“There’ll be a thousand bucks in it for you, if you do.”
The wizened Gnat squinted little, unreadable eyes down at the owner of his mount.
“Mr. Webster,” he said in vitriolictones which oozed from the corner of his mouth, “with all due respect to you, sir—you can go to .hell. This Kentucky Kate mare ain’t never been pulled, and she ain’t ever goin’ to be as long as I’m up. And that’s that.”
He leered down at Nevilles and went forward to take his position in the line. Nevilles crossed the track.
“Good little sport,” he murmured as he came to a pause in front of the Members’ Stand. “It was coming to me, all right.” On the eager assemblage a tense hush had fallen. The horses were due to be off at any second.
He doubled his arms on the fence and leaned across it moodily watching the fretting bunch of horses being fought to barrier.
Suddenly a roar went up from the watchers. They were off. The horses flashed past him and were away up the stretch running grandly, closely. Then suddenly a hurtling unit detached itself from the mass and shot ahead. Without any exultation he recognized on the leading horse his jockey’s colors.
The cries of “Fire Fly! Fire Fly!” died down. Somebody behind him swore senselessly.
The horses were strung out now. Half of the mile course had been covered. Kentucky Kate still led by a length. At the three quarters post she had increased that lead a trifle.
Then from the throng another cheer arose. Again sounded the call, “Fire Fly! Fire Fly!”
Nevilles’ hand holding his glasses was shaking. He saw the little bay mare creeping up, creeping up on the chestnut’s flank. Now they were three hundred yards from the finish wire. Nevilles dropped his glasses. His hands were clenched, his nails biting into his palms. “Fire Fly!” he heard himself shouting. “Come on, Fire Fly!”
And she came. Came like a red arrow, flashing home a good nose in the lead of the indomitable Kentucky Kate.
“God!” Nevilles heard the man behind him mutter, “what a race!”
HE CLUTCHED the fence, laughing weakly. It was all so queer. “Why,” he asked himself, “should I be glad because my horse has lost to this little newcomer, Fire Fly?”
It was Teddy Jerome who answered that question for him. The trainer’s hand fell on Nevilles’ shoulder.
“Fire Fly showed ’em after all. Li’l filly Myra will he plumb tickled, Ah reckon.”
He went on, his face working, and Nevilles straightened up.
“That’s why,” he told himself, “I’m glad because she is glad. Oh, lordie, can you beat it?”
A slight, swarthy-faced man came elbowing his way through the crowd.
“Lingram,” Nevilles laid a detaining hand on his arm and spoke a few words to him in a whisper. The other listened and gradually a broad smile grew on his face.
“Sure,” he said heartily, “I’d do more than that for you, Webster.”
He drew a blank cheque from his pocket, signed it and handed it to Nevilles.
“Good luck,” he said, holding out his hand.
• Nevilles wrung it, then went seeking for Griddle. He finally found that young man in a state of mental collapse, seated dejectedly on a water-bucket outside Kentucky Kate’s stall.
“Oh, mother of Moses,” wailed Griddle, as he caught sight of Nevilles. “Did you ever see anything like it? Here I’ve gone and bet every cent I owned—”
“Shut up,” cut in Nevilles. “I’ll give you two dollars for every one you’ve lost. You’ve got to do something for me, though.”
Griddle was on his feet in a flash.
“Unto the half of my kingdom, sire. What is it?”
“Here,” Nevilles handed him the cheque. “You’ll note this is signed by George Lingram. Yes,” as Griddle opened his mouth to ask a question—“I fixed it with Lingram. Now then, you’re to get hold of Haight—he wron’t know you from a Chinaman with your hair dyed that way—let on you represent Lingram and buy Fire Fly.”
“Wow!” roared Griddle, “but the mare don’t belong to him.”
“That’s why I want him to sell her to me,” Nevilles said. “I’m curious to see what his ward will do when she finds out.”
“How much’ll you pay?” asked the practical Griddle.
“His price. You can fill in the amount yourself.”
“The old skeesicks’ll be so excited I’ll get past him all hunky,” said Griddle as he moved away. “But,” he added, “this is where you play the mischief with your chances of ever—”
“Beat it,” growled Nevilles, aiming a water bucket at him.
Nevilles sat down on a bale of hay and smoked thoughtfully for twenty minutes. At the end of that time Griddle returned jubilantly, leading the mare Fly Fly.
“Yours,” he cried, “and all for the modest sum of forty thousand! I tell you I was lucky. Haight was talking to Turnbull when I came up. They didn’t see me. I heard him say: ‘I expect Lingram along here any time: he’ll surely want Fire Fly now.’ Turnbull moved off and I stepped up. ‘How about selling us Fire Fly, Mr. Haight?’ I asks. ‘It was understood, I think, providing she won the race.’
“ ‘You can’t have her at the price you offer,’ he comes back like a weasel slashing at a chicken’s jugular.
“ ‘Name your price,’ I says, flicking my cigarette ash so’s to flash my diamond.
“ ‘Forty thousand,’ he snaps.
“Of course I considered this a little. I could see him glancing back over his shoulder and surmised that he -was expecting Miss Huntingdon to appear.
“ ‘You’ll have to decide at once if you want the mare,’ he says.
“I filled in the amount demanded. Haight examined the signature mighty closely, let me tell you, then he called his nigger jockey.
“ ‘Let this man have Fire Fly,’ he said. ‘Mr. Lingram has bought her.’
“As I followed the nigger to the stable I saw Turnbull returning. Miss Huntingdon was with him. I had quite a time with that jockey. He cried over Fire Fly and called me every mean thing he could think of. He wanted to fight me. However, I got hold of the mare, and here she is.”
“Good, work, Billy,” commanded Nevilles. "Find Gnat, and tell him to put her
in the box stall next to Kentucky Kate.”
Griddle moved away to execute the order but was stayed by an angry voice.
UST a moment, young man.” Turnbull, his dark face wearing an ugly look, had appeared from around the stable. Behind him was Myra Huntingdon and trainer Jerome.
The girl seemed oblivious to everything save the little mare. Her arms went about the thoroughbred’s slender neck; lier face caressed the soft muzzle that sniffed for sugar.
‘ What’s all this?” asked Nevilles, rising and coming forward. “What’s wrong, Mr. Turnbull?”
“We want that horse,” Turnbull answered savagely.
"But,” said Nevilles politely, “this is my horse. I just bought her from Mr. Haight.”
“Mr. Haight,” Turnbull sneeringly informed him, “had no right to sell her. She belonged and still belongs to Miss Huntingdon.”
Nevilles managed to look astonished. He glanced at Myra and surprised a look of almost pleading in her violet eyes. Immediately she dropped her face to Fire Fly’s neck again.
“So you see,” he heard Turnbull saying, “that’s how it stands. You, Wëbster, are too much of a gentleman I hope to insist on retaining what does not belong to you. ”
Nevilles’ fingers itched towipethe sneer from the speaker’s lips with a smashing blow straight from the shoulder, but he restrained the impulse. However, something in his eyes must have telegraphed his desire to Turnbull, for he recoiled a step or two.
Nevilles went over to where Myra stood beside the mare.
“Miss Huntingdon,” he said, “I am very sorry. Once I promised a certain girl that I would become interested^ in horses. I’m afraid I’ve been an extremist, have been over ambitious. I wanted to own an Adanac Stake winner. I bought Kentucky Kate that I might have this desire fulfilled. Fire Fly beat her. I wish to say now, though, that I didn’t know Fire Fly belonged to you when I entered Kentucky Kate against her. Not to be cheated of my desire to own a winner, I bought Fire Fly. I am content. Now\ Miss Huntingdon. I give her back to you.”
He took the halter from the slack grip of the staring Griddle and placed it in the girl’s hand.
SHE had remained silent, face averted, while he spoke. Now she lifted her eyes and his heart leaped. There was deep within them a something she could not hope to hide from him.
“You are—very kind,” she murmured. Then with an effort she summoned her old scornful pose.
“Mr. Haight will return you your
cheqUë of course, Mr. Webster,” she said in frigid tones that reached the listening Turnbull.
She motioned to Jerome. The old trainer came forward and took the halter from her hand. Then without so much as another glance at Nevilles she crossed to Turnbull and took his arm. They passed from sight about the stables.
“Gnat,” Nevilles addressed the sphynxlike jockey who had just come up, “take that Kentucky mud-lark and beat it to hell or anywhere else you care to go. She’s yours. All I ask is that I never have to play goat to an honest jockey or an honest race-horse again.”
Gnat’s little eyes popped open in amazed wonder.
“Yer mean ter say yous givin’ me the mare?” he catapulted from his twisting lips.
“I’m inflicting her on you.” grinned Nevilles. “Call it giving if you care to.” “Hully larks!” exulted the jockey, “den it’s N’aleans fer ours.”
Nevilles turned to Jerome.
“Teddy,” he said whimsically as he watched the jubilant Gnat withdraw proudly leading Kentucky Kate, “there’s no depending on females. The next race horse I own is going to be named Thomas.”
Jerome’s voice was husky as he replied: “You’re just the same fun-lovin’, reckless, open-hearted—”
“Careful, Teddy,” interjected Nevilles, “soft pedal on names and locations.”
“In the old days, Teddy, I always tried to play the game didn’t I?”
“You sure did that. I’m not forgettin’ how you grub-staked me—”
“Well, Teddy, I’m playing one now, as you’ve probably guessed. It’s going to be touch and go, my boy. I may get away with it—or—•
“It’s a game of wits, Teddy; brain against brain. Get me?”
The trainer nodded. It was easy to see his sympathies were all with his friend of other days.
“So, old pal sourdough,” he held out his hand, “that’s how she stands. The game’s all but played. I may see you again—or—”
Old Teddy Jerome brushed a hand across his eyes.
“Oh yes, and Teddy, remember that Little Rainbow claim you sold us for a
“Ah might as well have stole your money,” groaned the old man.
“Wrong, Teddy, wrong. She turned out big—bigger than you would dream even. And if you’ll go to the recordingoffice you will find a third interest in the Little Rainbow filed in your name.]’ Before the old man could voice his wonder and surprise Nevilles wrung his hand again and was gone—swallowed up in the sea of restless humanity.
To be Concluded