THE SWALLOW

ARCHIE McKISHNIE November 15 1920

THE SWALLOW

ARCHIE McKISHNIE November 15 1920

THE SWALLOW

ARCHIE McKISHNIE

Author of ``Lot' of the Wild," "Willow, the Wisp," etc.

FROM the dust-dimmed window of the room in the peak of the old distillery overlooking the harbor, Billy Cavers, better known as the Swallow, watched the great liner disgorge her sea-weary freight of humanity. It was twilight, and from the steamer's red funnels long ropes of smoke twisted across the darkening waters to

mingle with low-hanging, snow-spitting clouds. The Swallow watched the scene moodily, as one who is displeased with a play watches for the final scene. In those ant-like creatures swarming the gang plank, each wrapped in his or her own selfish abstraction, the one-time cracksman had no personal interest; and still about such kaleidoscopic action of life there was always a fascination which drew him, held him, forced him to watch and study.

He sighed impatiently, the arched brows above his grey eyes twisting in a frown, the corners of his mouth drawn in a twitch of self-contempt. It was cold in the little room; black shadows obscured its scanty furnishings. The Swallow hated darkness and cold. At Troxton’s saloon was warmth, light, music—

But with a shrug he braced himself and, lowering his arms on the dusty sill, peered down at the wharf.

Far beneath him the city streets loomed white through the gloom, and the steamer’s incandescent lights bored hazily a fluctuating wall of snow. Heavy clouds had massed low above the slate harbor-water; the last passenger had left the steamer.

Suddenly, the watcher started and pressed his face close against the dirty pane. The bulky figure of a man had just emerged from the shadow of a store-house into the yellow glow of the wharf-light. For perhaps half a minute the Swallow stood, his eyes, into which a cold light had flamed, concentrated on the one below; then swiftly he turnedtrom the window and, crossing the room noiselessly, unlocked the door of a smaller room adjoining it. From its darkness a man’s voice addressed him in faint, pleading accents. The Swallow spoke crisply. “I’m going out. Sleek will be here with your supper in an hour.”

He closed and locked the door and, lifting his overcoat from the table, went out of the room, locking the second door behind him. He crept down the two flights of stairs, paused a moment to listen at the street door, then swiftly turned and, lifting a trap-door, plunged underground. Five minutes later he emerged from a basement window in the rear of the building and, hugging the wall, made his way from the narrow alley into the street. When he crossed the street he staggered like a drunken man. His

snatch of

music-hall

unmusical key ballad.

As he neared the now almost deserted wharf, from the shadow of a store-house stepped the man whom he had glimpsed from the attic window. The Swallow lurched against him.

“Hello, Swallow; what’s all the hurry?”

A big hand reached out and gripped his wrist, an aggressive, bull-dog face was thrust into his. The Swallow swayed, blinking dazedly at those hard, boring eyes.

“Gwan ’way,” he stammered, thickly.

“All in good time, Swallow,” grated the other. “Know me? Yououghta. Take a good look.”

The Swallow struggled erect and stared. Then his jaw dropped. “Milligan!” he gasped.

“Correct. Now then?”

“You haven’t got anything on me,” said the Swallow, dropping all pretence. “I’m running clear, now.”

'T'HE other chuckled derisively. “I s’pose not,” he grunted. “So you’re runnin’ clear, eh? Well, you can pull that stuff with the brass-buttoned ’bulls, maybe, but it won’t go with me.”

The Swallow’s shudder was well feigned; it had to be to get past the astute eyes of detective Milligan, the one man of all human police-hounds most relentless in pursuit; Milligan, the soulless trailer who ran always alone—the man who had plucked so many clever cracksmen of the Underworld from their lairs and hurled them into barred and padlocked oblivion; Milligan, the man who swore that he would yet place the Swallow beyond all further danger to society.

But Milligan had ngver been able to do this, and in his heart it rankled. The Swallow had been during his heyday no ordinary cracksman. He had left no marks behind him. Three times had Milligan arrested him on suspicion,

only to hear his jeering laugh when the judge on the bench dismissed the case, on account of no convicting evidence to uphold the detective’s charge.

And frowning upon the Swallow now, Milligan knew that if he arrested him and ran him in, a search of his person would disclose no tools of his craft, no gun. His strong fingers nipped the flesh of the man he held.

“You damned crook!” he growled,

“I’d give a year of my life just to catch you with the goods once; once, do you hear that?” He flung the Swallow’s arm from him and stood glowering. “And to-night I’d hoped to nab you.

There was a jewel robbery committed on that boat. It looked to me clever enough to be your work. I was wirelessed the tip

and came here to get you.”

The Swallow laughed. “And you found that I hadn’t been aboard the Milligan, ” he said softly, “I’ve alway to your face that you were a damned liar, and now is my chance. You’re not only a liar butwait,” as the detective’s huge form bent for a lunge, “you won’t gain anything by a rough-house play. Glance behind you.^ See those five big wharf rats back yonder? Well, there’s the answer. Now you be good.”

Milligan glanced over his shoulder. He saw five toughlooking wharf-laborers loafing beneath, the protecting eave of the store-house, not more than fifty yards away. That they were friends of the athletic Swallow, he had no doubt, and the Swallow had the reputation of carrying a sleepproducing punch of his own.

He shrugged his huge shoulders. “All right,” he snarled with sinister meaning, “some other time.”

The Swallow nodded. “That’s sensible. Now Milligan suppose you come clean. You knew that I was in this vicinity; how you knew it doesn’t concern me; enough tjiat you knew it. You came here to-night in hopes of running across me. You haven’t anything on me; you daren’t arrest me. Now what do you want of me?”

Milligan’s red face wore a look almost of admiration. “You’re a smart feller, Swallow,” he sneered.

"What did you want of me?” repeated the other.

Milligan’s manner underwent a swift change. His jaws set; the cords on his thick neck swelled; his eyes filmed with the cold calculating inscrutableness of a snake’s!

“I wanta know where you and your pals have put Judge Graydon and his man,” he said.

If his words surprised the Swallow, he did not show it.

“What makes you think that I and my pals know anything about the whereabouts of Judge Graydon and his man?” he asked.

Milligan bit off the end of a cigar and spat upon the snow contemptuously.

“Because I think the Judge is bein’ held for ransom,” he answered. “And only a clever duck like you could turn the trick and get away with it.”

'T'HE Swallow smiled. “Thanks for the compliment, A Milligan, but if I’ve got a hand in this thing'why shouldn’t I turn the Judge over for the reward offered by his wife? Five thousand dollars would look pretty good to

“Ten thousand would look better,” growled the detective.

“Ah! Then the reward has been doubled? I didn’t know that. You’re a great guy for getting first-hand in-

formation, Milligan.” Milligan frowned. “I didn’t say the reward had been raised,” he said quickly. “I didn’t infer it even.” “All right, all right,” shrugged the Swallow. “It’s getting cold, Milligan, so I’m going to leave you. Let me tell you before I go that I don’t know where Judge Graydon is—I wish I did.”

“Wait,” spoke Milligan peremptorily. “Now, Swallow, let’s understand each other. You know me; you know that what I say I’ll do, I’ll do and I say I’ll get you sooner or later. Now I’m as sure that you know where Judge Graydon is this minute as that I stand here. If you tell me where to find him, I promise to take my grip from your throat.

What you say?”

The Swallow looked up slowly. “I say, Milligan, that you’re wrong in at least two things. I don’t know where Judge Graydon is, and you haven't got any grip on my throat."

Milligan nodded. "All right. You’re goin’ to get what’s coming to you, then.”

“We’ll all get what’s coming to us, some time, ’ returned the Swallow. “I don’t suppose, Milligan,” he asked jeeringly, “there’s any use of my reiterating the fact that I am now a law-abiding citizen and on the straight and narrow for keeps, is there?”

Milligan champed his cigar savagely. “Fat chance you have of holding to the straight and narrow, he scoffed. “As I told you before, you and your ilk may fool

some people, but you can’t fool me. If the soft-hearted fools who give you reformed crooks a chance —as they call it, to make good—won’t protect themselves, the law has got to do it for ’em.”

The Swallow nodded. ‘‘You put it very nicely, Milligan. You mean, of course, that as soon as one of us secures a job of honest work, you’re on the spot to show us up and give our employers our records/’

“Precisely. Three days ago you were workin’ as shippin’ clerk for Stroud Brothers. Well, you aint workin’ there now, are you?”

“No.”

Milligan chuckled. “Somethin’ told me you wasn't.”

The Swallow wheeled upon him. “I suppose you think you got me fired, eh?”

“You bet I think it.”

“Well, you’re wrong. I beat you to it, Milligan. I resigned.”

Milligan’s little eyes bulged.

“To hell, you did!”

“I resigned,” said the Swallow placidly, “on the very afternoon I saw you hanging about outside the office.”

“Hu, huh. Knew you’d get the gaff, eh?”

“No, that wasn’t the reason. I had more important work to do.”

There was a devilish, exultant gleam in the eyes he turned upon the detective. He raised his cap and made a mocking bow.

“Sorry I can’t help you bracelet that reward money, Detective Milligan,” he laughed. “Permit me to wish you au revoir.”

"Oh, go to the devil.” Milligan swung on his heel and crunched off through the gloom.

HALF an hour later the Swallow was whispering in the ear of an attentive listener the story of his encounter with the detective. “And what do you know about that?” he chuckled at its conclusion.

Sleek Daniels threw his unlit cigarette on the floor and glared across at his pal. “I think it’s a damn-fool play, that’s what I think,” he flared. “I told you to keep out of Milligan’s way, but, of course, you had to play to the gallery.”

The two were seated in a small room off the bar of Troxton’s saloon. To their ears came the strains of an over-worked Victrola and the shuffle of feet on the sanded floor.

The Swallow got up and closed the door.

“Of course, Milligan trailed me here,” he said, as he resumed his seat.

Daniels threw out his hands, and muttered something between his teeth.

The Swallow smiled. “Don’t w-orry, Sleek, things’ll come out all right,” he comforted.

“Yes,” scoffed the other, “looks like it, don’t it, with Milligan nosing us at every turn like he is? Good Lord, Swallow, can’t you see it coming?”

The Swallow shook his head. “I can see only one thing coming, Sleek. Keep your nerve and your temper and leave Milligan to me.” Daniels’ moody face puckered in a smile. The smile grew into a chuckle, the chuckle into a noiseless laugh.

“Gosh, I’d have give a hundred to seen the big stiff’s face when you bawled him like you did,” he murmured.

“It wasn’t a nice sight,” said the Swallow. “And look here, Sleek, don’t you get thinking that I’m discounting Milligan’s cleverness any, because I’m not. I’m handing him everything he’s worth—and then some.”

“Now then,” he said, rising, “you best get back to our charge. Here’s the key to the inner room; you’ll find the basement window open. I’ll join you in an hour.”

“And if you don’t come?” Daniels asked, anxiously, as they passed outside. “How am I to know where you are?”

The Swallow’s eyes twinkled.

“Ask Milligan,” he said dryly. “He’ll likely know.”

HANDS deep in his overcoat pockets and cap pulled down well over his eyes the Swallow proceeded briskly east until the lights of the main thoroughfare grew up before him; then standing well in the shadow of a friendly factory he waited until he caught sight of a taxi. He hailed it and giving an address jumped inside.

The clocks were striking eight when the driver drew up before a row of modest-looking dwellings. The Swallow opened the door and {jeered cautiously up and down the

street. Then he alighted, paid the driver and, ascending the steps of the house on the extreme right of the row, rang the bell.

Almost instantly the door was opened and he stepped inside. A tall, slender girl stood directly beneath the cluster of rose-colored lights suspended from the hall ceiling. Her hair, a mass of coppery gold, was brushed straight back from a wide brow and looped in a heavy coil behind her head. Her eyes, big, violet, long-fringed, sought the face of her visitor, and as though satisfied with what they read there, fell away; a soft flush grew up in her pale cheeks. She held out her hands, and he grasped them; eagerly. He felt their convulsive clutch, and as though divining its meaning caught his breath quickly.

“Wait,” she whispered as he reached to draw her to him. “Mother is lying down in the drawing-room. Come in here, Billy.”

She led him into a small plainly-furnished room off the hall and turned on the light. Then she placed her hands on his shoulders and looked for a long moment deep into his eyes. He bore her scrutiny unflinchingly, only in his heart a great hunger grew, and from his face ebbed the color which the sharp frost had given it.

"Nell,” he murmured, at last, unable to bear the suspense longer. “Nell.”

“Billy,” she returned, a sob in her voice, “you’ve always played square with me; you always will—won’t

you?”

“Always, Nell.” He swept her close, held her, his eyes closed, his lips against her hair.

“When you told me about yourself, you képt nothing

back, did you, Billy?”

“Nothing,” he answered. “I made a.full confession, sweetheart.” , •«

She sighed and raised her face to his. “And I told you that your past made no difference to me, you remember, but your future, Billy, do you remember what I said about your future?”

He strained her to him. "I remember. You said that the future belongs to us two. We are to make the best of it together; and we will, Nell,” he promised.

Continued on page 58

The Swallow

Continued from page 18

She shivered. “Billy,” she murmured, “when a woman loves, there can be no doubt in her heart, and though the whole world turn against you, I will always be there with you, believing in you.”

“That will be enough for me, Nell,” he said softly. “You alone matter. What you would have me do, that I will do; what you would have me be—”

She stopped his words with her lips. Her fingers combed his waving hair. He felt her tremble, and leading her to a sofa drew her down beside him.

“Now, woman mine,” he said, “tell me what’s troubling you.”

“It’s this, Billy,” she answered quickly. “The day you resigned from the office, that man came—that—”

“Milligan.” The Swallow’s lips tightened. “Yes, I know, dear.”

“You know?”

“I was speaking to Milligan to-night; he told me he had reported me to Stroud Brothers. You were there and heard what he said, I suppose. Did he give them my full history, Nell?”

SHE nodded, 1 er face averted. “Everything you told me, about yourself, he told them,” she faltered.

The Swallow laughed shortly. “It’s a little way Milligan has,” he said bitterly. “He glories in hounding the man who is trying to live straight back into prison. I knew he would find me sooner or later, so I left the job of my own accord. Of course they believed him?”

The girl’s lips quivered in a smile. “Oh, Billy,” she cried, “that’s the beautiful part of it. Mr. Wentworth Stroud— he is the crippled one, you know—flew into an awful temper. He called Milligan a sneak and a bully and told him that compared to him you were a gentleman. He said he hoped that some day one of the poor devils Milligan was driving would get the upper grip of him and show him up for what he was. Those were his very words, Billy. He ended by ordering Milligan from the office.”

The Swallow’s face was a puzzle. “You mean,” he said, slowly, “that he stuck up forme, Nell?”

“He surely did,” exclaimed the girl, “and he told Milligan that you had left his employ of your own volition, and as soon as you wanted your old position back you could have it.”

The Swallow’s shoulders squared. “God!” he murmured. “He’s white, that little cripple. And Milligan?” he asked. “What did he say to that?”

He saw the quiver of her lip and his arm stole about her shoulders. “Never mind, Nell,” he said. “I think I know what Milligan said then. He said he would prove that I was the biggest crook in the city and do it soon, too.”

“Yes, Billy, he .said that.” Her eyes were on his again, pleading, questioning. “He—he can’t do it though, can he, Billy?” she faltered.

He was silent. “And supposing he did, Nell?” he asked at length.

She shivered, but her hand stole into his. “I would still believe in you,” she answered, “but, Billy, he can’t do it— Tell me he can’t do it—”

His face twisted in a contortion of pain. “I’m afraid I can’t go so far as to say he can’t do it, little woman,” he said, “but I’ll say this: I don’t think he will.”

He laughed softly and taking his arm from about her shoulders held her glowing face in his hands. “Now listen, little woman of mine, I’m going to tell you something to cheer you up. I’ve got another job; the biggest job I ever had or will ever have again. I don’t know yet whether or not I’m big enough to finish it— as I would like to finish it. I’ll know that pretty shortly, now. But, Nell, if I am big enough to finish it, it will mean that our worries are over.”

She smiled. “Oh, that’s fine, Billy.” His face grew serious. “And no matter what the world thinks—you will always stand by me, Nell?” he asked hungrily.

She looked at him wonderingly. “Why, Billy, of course.”

He sighed and patted her hand. His face was haggard now and in his eyes was a look she could not understand.

“Billy,” she whispered, “when will you know? Tell me, Billy, so I can be with you to share your triumph.”

A strange look came into his face. He sat thinking. Suddenly he smiled.

“I will know by a quarter of six o’clock, Saturday,” he said. "You know where the old Drydon distillery stands? Well, dear, come there at that hour, five forty-five, remember—no sooner or later, I will be in the attic rooms. You trust me, dear? You are not afraid to come?”

“I’ll come, Billy.”

Somewhere in the house a clock chimed nine. He rose abruptly.

“I must say good night now, girl of mine,” he said, tenderly. “There’s work

She raised her lips to his. He crushed her to him, held her for a long, tense, joyfilled moment, then slowly released her.

A moment later she heard the front door close. Then she sank down on the floor and throwing her arms across a chair hid her face in them.

COUNTY Crown Attorney Hughstis sat in his office, pondering frowningly on an item which he had just read in the morning Times. There was nothing about the man to denote the relentless driving force which had characterized his meteoric career as a criminal lawyer and won for him the responsible position he now held. Externally he was a very ordinary-looking individual. He was medium-sized, possessed a plain, even-featured face and wore his closely-cropped, greying hair brushed straight back from his forehead. He was young, not more than thirty or thirty-five, and yet District Attorney Hughstis had, in more than one sense, proven himself a very extraordinary personage. Assuming office during a period of stress,'when gangmen and auto bandits were operating unhampered almost under the very noses of the police, he had demonstrated his ability to cope with the situation by personally conducting a campaign against the wolves of the Underworld, resulting in the breaking up of the bandits and the sending of their supposed leaders to the chair.

“It is now nearly two months since Judge Graydon and his chauffeur, Spencer, disappeared,” he read, “and as yet no trace of them has been found. What’s the matter with our police, our detectives? Is it possible that no man or woman is safe on our city streets in broad daylight?”

A knock fell on the door. Hughstis laid down the paper and swung swiftly about in his chair.

“Come in,” he invited.

The visitor was a stockily-built, bullnecked individual with keen grey eyes, aggressive jaw and round closely-cropped head. He took the chair designated and removing his derby fumbled with its brim. “I got your message, sir,” he said, grudging respect in his tones.

The attorney nodded curtly. He picked up the newspaper from the desk and tapped its heavy scare-lines with a slender finger. “You saw this, I suppose, Milligan?” The other shifted before the half scornful glance of the questioner. “I saw it all right,” he returned. “There’s nothin’ to it, sir, really. Them newspaper cubs have got to have something to rave about.” “It’s a biting slash at the efficiency of our police department,” said the lawyer gravely. “I don’t like it, Milligan.” “No, sir, nor more do I. It’s regrettable, but how are you going to stop it?”

Hughstis banged his fist on the table. “That part is up to you and the other members of the force,” he cried. “Good God, man, what’s the matter with you fellows? You, Milligan, with your boasted record! What’s the matter with you? Are you asleep?”

A dark flush mounted to the sullen face of the detective. “Consider the situation,” resumed the attorney. “One of our wealthiest citizens, a renowned judge on the bench, disappears as suddenly and mysteriously as though the ground had opened and swallowed him. His chauffeur disappears with him. What’s the answer? The men’s relatives want to know, the public want to know, everybody wants to know and has a right to know. They’ve been asking ‘Where are Judge Graydon and James Spencer?’ for more than two months now.” He paused and let his eyes search the detective’s face. “And now, Milligan, I’ve sent for you to tell you that I’m going to know. If the abductors or murderers of these men are not brought to light within the next ten days there is going to be a shaking up in the police force that will make history.”

The detective squirmed. That the

crown attorney meant what he said, he had not the slightest doubt.

“The trouble is, sir,” he defended, “the public ridicule us instead of givin’ us their support. No sooner do we break up an organized band of thugs and land the leader in jail, than some man or woman gets busy with a petition for his pardon, or some other fool thing, and just as soon as the crook is free again, there’s always some idiot ready to give him employment the same as if he was an honest man. I ask you, sir, how is the most efficient police force in the world goin’ to protect people who simply won’t protect themselves?”

THE crown attorney pondered this question. “There may be something in what you say, Milligan,” he returned, “but this hounding of poor devils who might go straight if given half a chance is, as you know, directly contrary to my methods of reasoning. I believe in giving the under dog a show.”

“And get bitten for your kindness.” Milligan did not speak the thought aloud. He sensed in the attorney’s remark a warning to himself, and once again the dull red crept up into his purple-veined cheeks.

“Understand, I’m not lecturing you-, Milligan,” the voice had lost its wireedge, was almost friendly, in fact, “I don’t agree with certain of the methods you employ in your work, but after all, it’s your work, not mine. I decided to send for you following a conversation I had with Mrs. Graydon this afternoon.”

The detective nodded. “Mrs. Graydon’s relyin’ on me to clear this mystery up, sir. I’ve had the case in hand for— quite some time. I’ve promised her that I would have the men who abducted her husband and his chauffeur behind the bars mighty soon now.”

“So she told me, Milligan,” returned the attorney, “it was no breach of confidence, I hope?”

The detective threw out his hands. “None whatever, sir. Mrs. Graydon told me that she would like to let you know; seems you and her husband were close friends. I didn’t mind in the least, because I don’t usually make a statement like that without being sure; and I am sure I’ll have the abductors in my grip by Saturday.”

The crown attorney started.

“That’s only two days away,” he said. “Are you sure, Milligan?”

“Yes, sir, absolutely sure. Two days from now these here papers’ll be singin’ another song, and,” the speaker's mouth drooped to sneer, “you, sir, will have changed your opinion concernin’ the under dog, because—” he leaned across the table, tapping its polished surface with a thick finger to emphasize his words, “the two men who are responsible for this mystery which has baffled the cleverest detectives on the force are both of ’em reformed crooks; and now, sir, you’ve got it straight.” Hughstis sat silent, looking away. He roused himself at length and, producing a box of cigars, passed it across the table. Milligan selected a cigar, bit the end from it and lit it. He blew a ring of smoke ceilingward, squinted through it as though deliberating, then with a short laugh turned to the attorney.

“I’ll go a little further than that, sir,” he said. “I’ll tell you now who tne abductors are.”

“No, Milligan,” spoke Hughstis, sharply. “I don’t want to know who they are. If you know, that’s enough for me. I’ll learn soon enough. You see,” he smiled queerly, “the abductors are your game. If I learn from you who they are, I just might circumvent you and beat you to that $5,000 reward.”

Milligan’s yellow teeth showed in a grin. “Ten thousand,” he corrected. “You’re not forgettin’ that Mrs. Graydon doubled the reward, I hope, sir?”

The attorney frowned. “Well, no,” he said dryly, “seeing that she did it against my advice. The fact had just slipped my mind for the time, Milligan. I presume that extra $5,000 would be a big incentive to one of your profession to do his utmost, eh?”

Milligan felt the thrust and twisted uncomfortably in his chair. However, he hid his feeling of rancor as he said :

“I’m not afraid of any double cross from you, so I’m goin’ to name the birds who pulled this thing.” There was a gleam of triumph in his small eyes. “You know the Swallow, the cleverest cracksman this country has ever seen, and the smoothest

article that ever fooled a judge. Well, he’s the main guy.”

HE SAT back and folded his arms, his eyes watching the effect of his words. Hughstis had glanced quickly up at mention of the name. “Are you sure, Milligan?” he asked.

“I am,” said the detective shortly. “I knowed you’d find it hard to believe that, seein’s you’ve always stood up for him and believed in his promise to run straight. But it simply goes to prove my theory, that no man with born and bred instincts of criminality will run anythin’ but crooked, correct. Why, sir, if that Swallow is ever fortunate enough to die out of jail, they’ll have to lock him in his coffin, or he’ll break his way out and steal his own name plate. Oh, don’t I know him and his kind?”

The lawyer was walking up and down the room now, hands locked behind his

“Milligan,” he said, turning frowning eyes on the man in the chair, “you’re mistaken.”

Milligan shrugged.

“All right,” he returned. “But evidence is evidence. Maybe you’ll believe that when you see it. I’m sayin’ that the Swallow and his pal, Sleek Daniels, abducted Judge Graydon and his man and are holdin’ them for ransom. I’m goin’ to prove that to you and the world, and soon, and I’m not doin’ it altogether for the reward money either.”

“Am I to infer from that that the reward is a secondary consideration?” asked the attorney caustically.

“You bet. I’m going to show the world that one named Milligan knows born crooks better than them who have criticized his methods of dealin’ with ’em, and that’s why I’m makin’ this round-up by my lonesome. Of course,” he added, “it has taken me some longer than I anticipated but—”

“It pays to go slow sometimes, Milligan.”

The detective glanced up suspiciously, but if there was a double meaning in the words, the speaker’s face did not show it.

“It allers pays to go slow, sir,” he replied respectfully.

He selected a fresh cigar from the box, pushed it into the corner of his mouth and stood up.

“If you care to be here in your office at six o’clock Saturday I’ll show you the birds who tried to pull this stunt and failed to get away with it,” he said.

“Very well, Milligan, I’ll be here.” The detective walked to the door.

“And the reward money, sir? Mrs. Graydon told me that she had placed the cheque in your hands.”

“It will be here too,” said the attorney. “Fine.” Milligan was smiling as he passed out.

Left to himself, the crown attorney resumed his seat and with the fingers locked across his knee, stared thoughtfully away.

The disappearance of the wealthy judge and his chauffeur had electrified the whole civilized world. The two men had gone out suddenly, vanished as it were completely. Judge Graydon had driven away from his home on the evening of Friday, September 15th. Neither he nor his chauffeur, Spencer, had been since seen.

The police had been notified. A diligent and systematic search for the missing men had been instituted without success. Not one sign of either Graydon or Spencer could be found. Advertisements had been inserted in the city and outside^ papers; printed descriptions of the missing men had been sent out broadcast. Detective agencies of every continent in the world had been notified; a reward of $5,000 for information leading to his recovery had finally been offered by the judge’s wife. Later the reward had been doubled. Every railway and steamship line was being watched by men clever in their craft; isolated spots of the world were being combed for a possible clue to the victims. As to what had happened to the missing men opinion was divided. The general theory was that Judge Graydon had been kidnapped, and was being held for ransom. But why kidnap Spencer, the chauffeur? And why had the abductors made no overtures? Another theory was that Judge Graydon had been murdered by his chauffeur for money and valuables which he carried on his person. Then where was the body? And what had become of the chauffeur? What amount of money did Graydon carry, and what valuables?

This then, was the trying situation in a nutshell. Master trailers of all countries had failed to find the missing men. The city newspapers were making scathing denouncements of the police, criticizing their methods, openly scoffing at their impotency to cope with the situation.

''HE attorney leaned forward and assumed his interrupted perusal of the item in the Times, lying on the table where Milligan had angrily thrown it.

“To what is the world coming? Men have been murdered in the dead of night on paths that stretch below the Dead Level, and their slayers brought to quick justice. With everything in his favor, the murderer has failed to slip through the mesh of the drag-net set for him by clever minions of the law. But here is a case where two men, one of them high in financial and state affairs, suddenly disappear and no trace of either can be discovered. Again we ask, what is the matter with the police, the detectives? Why have Judge Graydon and his chauffeur, Spencer, not been found? The public, stirred from its false idea of protection is asking these questions and has a right to ask them. What has happened to these men might happen to you or me.”

There was more—crisp, barbed facts cleverly hurled by one who was schooled in satiating a questioning public’s desire. But the district attorney read no further. He sat, eyes still glued to the paper, but unseeing. He was thinking of what Milligan had told him, that he would have the men who were responsible for the disappearance of Judge Graydon and his chauffeur before him by six o’clock on Saturday.

He stirred from his abstraction as his secretary entered.

“Mrs. Graydon is here, sir,” the young man informed him.

“Send her in, Wilson.”

He arose and stood beside the table, his eyes on the door. When it opened it was to admit a white-haired woman whose sweet, comely face clearly bore the marks of anxiety.

He went quickly forward and taking the hand she held out to him led her to a seat. He had known her from early boyhood and to her womanly sympathy and faith in him always owed not a small portion of his success in life. Nearly fifteen years his senior, she had been friend and mother to him, sharing with him his defeats and triumphs, and in return he had given her an affection amounting to almost reverence.

She smiled bravely up at him now, although her lips were trembling.

“Martha, old friend,” he said, “please be patient for only a little longer.”

“How long, Mark?” she asked quickly. “Oh, it is becoming almost unbearable.”

“But a day or two, I hope,” he answered. “Milligan has just left me. He says he will have the abductors in his grip by Saturday night.”

She caught her breath. “And you,” she whispered eagerly, "you believe—?”

She had risen and was holding out her hands. He took them and gave, them the strong pressure of friendship and assur-

“I believe that Saturday will see the clearing up of what has been far too great a strain on you, dear friend,” he answered.

She sighed her relief. “Sometimes,” she commenced, “I am not sure that we—”

She checked her words at a warning look from him. “I’m sorry, Mark,” she murmured contritely. “I shan’t forget again; but you know how the public are demanding to know, how the newspapers are printing horrible stories and theories. I try not to let those things bother me, and still—”

“It will soon be over,” he said convincingly. “I know how you feel about it, my friend. But all will be right soon, and then you will understand that what you have been forced to endure has been all for a great good.”

She nodded wistfully, as she turned to leave. “Come to dinner to-night, Mark,” she begged. “I know you are busy— but say you will come. I want you to tell—”

Again she checked herself. Hughstis laughed and placed his hands on her shoulders. “Martha Graydon,” he said, “I want you to go home, and stay home until I give you permission to come out again. Now, not another word; wait till I get my coat; I think it wise that I accompany

^ “But about dinner to-night?” she persisted.

“Oh, I’ll come to-night, as usual,” he promised. “The first thing we know,” he added, as he opened the door, “the gossip - hungry public, that don’t know what a dear little foster mother you’ve been to me, is going to start a dark rumor that I have made away with your husband.”

She caught his spirit of banter and flashed him a smile. “Public opinion seldom strikes so near to the truth, Mark dear,” she returned. “Anyway I would welcome anything that would relieve my mind of its horrible obsession, even a scandal.”

“Then school your soul to patience until Saturday night,” he returned, as they entered the elevator.

'T'HE Swallow crept up the dim stairway of the old distillery building like a rat that knows its runway well. As he reached the top of the first story, he paused to glance back at the window through which he had made his entrance. Then, a sinister shadow among shadows, he made the turn and ran swiftly up the second flight of stairs. The city clocks were striking five, the boom sounding muffled and strangled through the heavy snow which was falling, as he inserted a key in the door of the room in the peak of the building and noiselessly opened it.

Sleek Daniels, seated beside a crude table, leaped to his feet. The Swallow gripped his arm and placed a finger on his lip to enjoin silence. Followed a few whispered words which the third party in the room, a man slumped on a stool in its darkest corner, failed to catch, although he strained his ears to do so.

To this man the Swallow now turned. “You’ll be a free man soon again, Mr. Spencer,” he said, with a short laugh. “You won’t be sorry to hear that. Now, I’m going to ask you to step into this other room for a few moments while my friend and I talk over some private matters. You don’t mind, I hope. Sleek, a little light wouldn’t hurt any. Flash a glim, like a good fellow.”

While his pal turned to execute the order the Swallow unlocked the door of the inner room.

The man addressed as Spencer got slowly up from his stool. He was middle-aged, tall and gaunt, with cadaverous features lit by colorless eyes. His face, shadowed with a two months’ growth of beard, showed the marks of his forced imprisonment. The man’s shoulders drooped wearily as he slouched into the other room. The Swallow promptly closed the door and locked it. Then he tip-toed across the floor and, with his ear to the keyhole of the door opening on the hall, listened intently.

When he stood up there was a look in his eyes which Sleek Daniels read and understood.

The Swallow flung himself into a chair opposite his pal and producing a box of cigarettes lit one and passed the box across the table.

“Sleek, old card,” he addressed his pal loudly, “it hasn’t been such a hard thing to pull after all.”

“Well, you needn’t shout it,” growled the other. “Besides, we’re not out of the woods yet.”

“But we will be soon, Sleek, and we’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that we’ve beaten the cleverest of those bulls and plainclothesmen to a big thing, eh?”

Daniels growled something unintelligible in his throat. “If it wasn’t for that damned Milligan,” he commenced, but the Swallow laughed scoffingly.

“To hell with Milligan; the flat-footed, pig-headed stupid,” he exclaimed. “What has that back number ever done but harrow the life out of poor devils like you and me? I told him that I was going to turn the tables on him, and I guess this will pretty nearly do it. Him a detective! Why it takes brains to be a detective, Sleek, and poor old Milligan hasn’t the brains of a fat toad. Look, haven’t we pulled this thing under his very eyes?”

“That’s so,” admitted Daniels, ruefully, “but, Swallow, somethin’ tells me we aint through with the pullin’ yet. That Milligan is all you bawl him, and then some, but just the same he’s smooth enough to keep us in sight.”

“Bah! Right now, Sleek, he’s toasting his shins down at the Stanhope hold-out, bragging of the things he never done. Oh, you needn’t worry about that ‘has-been’ Milligan. You needn’t worry about anything, Sleek. To-morrow we’ll be gone, and we’ll go heeled, don’t you forget it.”

He ceased speaking suddenly, as outside the door came the sound of whispering voices. Daniels leaped to his feet, overthrowing the stool upon which he had been seated. At the same instant the door burst from its hinges and Milligan stood before them. Close behind him loomed two stalwart policemen.

In spite of the angry flush occasioned by the uncomplimentary remarks he had evidently heard about himself, the detective’s face was gloating. In his right hand he held an automatic pistol.

His frowning eyes swept from face to face of the quarry before him. “Darby ’em, boys,” he grunted, and the two policemen stepped forward and handcuffed the Swallow and Daniels. “Now, feel ’em over.” But a thorough search of the prisoners failed to disclose weapons of any

“So, I’m flat-footed and pig-headed, am I?” sneered Milligan. “I’ve got the brains of a fat toad, eh? Well, I guess you two fly cards are goin’ to change your opinion some. Now then, come quick and come clean. I’m asking you, Swallow, where’s Judge Graydon and Spencer?”

The Swallow glanced quickly at the barred windows and the open door. Milligan waved his pistol towards the only means of exit. “Jim,” he addressed one of the policemen, “stand in that door and if either of these birds makes a break for it, pot him.”

“Now then, Swallow, _ my clever-boywho-wants-to-run-straight, answer my question. Where is Graydon and Spencer?”

The Swallow was breathing heavily.

“I don’t know,” he answered sullenly.

“Huh! Don’t know! That’s a likely story. Don’t forget that we was listenin’ out there and overheard your little discussion. We’ve got the goods on you birds all right. You’re the abductors all hunky; now then, out with it. Where are your victims?”

The Swallow remained doggedly silent. Milligan laughed a wheezing laugh of derision. “Well, if you fancy boys won’t talk, I guess we’ll have to give these diggin’s the once over. Hello!”

FROM the inner room came a voice, faint, fear-ridden. “Outside there, for God’s sake let me out. I’m being held prisoner.”

A look of exultation came into Milligan’s face. “Swallow,” he commanded, “gimme the key to that room. All right,” he called to the imprisoned man, “we’re officers of the law and are goin’ to get you out.” He picked up the key which the Swallow threw on the floor, and going to the door, unlocked it.

Spencer staggered out and stood swaying, his eyes were filled with mingled terror and wonder.

Milligan gripped his arm and supported him to a seat.

“Who are you?” he asked.

The man shivered. “I’m Spencer, Judge Graydon’s chauffeur,” he answered weakly.

Suspicion and perplexity struggled in Milligan’s face. “Then where’s Judge Graydon?” he demanded, crisply. “Come,” as Spencer sagged to a stool and sat swaying, “where’s the Judge?”

His hand gripped the spent man’s shoulder. Spencer struggled up and opened his eyes. “He is—” he commenced, then slipped from the stool and lay a huddled and unconscious heap on the

Milligan frowned down upon him. “The poor devil’s all in,” he growled. “But he knows where these birds have hid the Judge, all right, and that’s good enough for us. These crooks separated ’em for some reason. They’ve got Graydon hid up somewhere close, and Spencer there knows where. He’ll talk later. Jim, get some water, bring him round, and we’ll beat it outa here.”

“Billy!”

Clear, freighted with anguish, a woman’s voice broke the dramatic tenseness of the moment.

Standing in the open doorway, a tall figure silhouetted against the outer blackness, stood a girl with white, stricken face and eyes wide with horror and amazement.

Milligan’s hairy hands clutched; his heavy face twisted in a grin. “Well, by God!” he chuckled, “this is rich. Goin’ to be a clean round-up. Pinch her, Skerving.”

But the policeman already had hold of the girl’s arm. She did not appear con-

scious of her danger. She was oblivious to all save one thing. Before her stood the man she loved, handcuffed, in the grip of the law. Across the narrow space which separated them, his harrowed eyes met hers, and twisting from the grip of the officer she ran to him.

“Billy, oh Billy,” she cried, throwing her arms about his neck. “What does it all mean, Billy?”

The Swallow’s head drooped; he made no> answer.

Milligan swaggered forward and with hands in his pockets surveyed the girl from insolent, calculating eyes.

“Innocent, aint you?” he sneered. “Mebbe you’re not in on this deal, eh? Well, I guess you know what’s happened all hunky, and why. Oh, I know you all right, all right. You’re name’s Mary Reardon; work down in Stroud Brothers’ office where you met up with this handsome educated crook, who landed a job of shippin’ clerk there through the recommendation of—who do you ’spose? The district attorney himself, no less. Godamighty, isn’t it rich!”

He laughed a low chuckling laugh. “Fell for the Swallow’s reform dope and handsome features, didn’t you? Swallowed that smooth gent’s line of dope about runnin’ straight now and forever, so help him God, hook and sinker, eh? He was clever enough to leaf back his checkered past for you, wasn’t he? Oh, he’s clever all right. And you promised to marry him! Leave it to Milligan to know all the facts; why, Mary dear, I’ve had that crook under my eye for months. I knew he was shapin’ for a big pull of some sort— but he’s tripped up on it—and, Mary, it looks as though you had come a cropper with him, it does so.”

She had stood straight, defiant, her big eyes on the detective’s face as she listened. Now her hand slipped forward and clasped the shackled hand of her lover.

The touch of her clinging fingers seemed to arouse the Swallow. Slowly his head was lifted, and into his drawn face leaped a look that stifled Milligan’s laugh in his throat.

“Milligan,” he spoke earnestly, “if you weren’t born a damn fool, you would know that she is not in any way mixed up in this. Now, you stop baiting her and set her free or—”

He staggered back against the table, blood spurting from a cut lip. The detective had struck him a swinging blow on the mouth.

The girl stood white and trembling. Her scornful eyes were on the working face of the detective. “Oh, you coward,” she panted. “And you—” scornfully addressing the police officers who stood sheepishly by, “you call yourselves men!”'

She turned back to the Swallow and with a tiny handkerchief wiped the blood from his lips, whispering soothingly to him the while.

Milligan, sucking a cut knuckle, spoke mumblingly. “That’s just a taste of what he’ll get when I land him down in the cell. Here you,” to the officers, “shackle them two crooks together and put the other pair of darbies on her. We’ll see who’s runnin’ this show.”

“Milligan,” spoke the Swallow, pleadingly, “don’t do that.”

“You shut up,” growled the detective.

SLEEK DANIELS roused up and spoke for the first time since his arrest. “You’ll get yours for this, Milligan, as sure as there’s a God, and don’t you forget it,” he grated.

He submitted without a murmur while his right wrist was shackled to the Swallow’s left.

Milligan motioned toward the door. “Come on, we’ll be late at the crown attorney’s office. I’m due there with these birds at six.”

Mary Reardon reached up and with her shackled hands brushed the damp curls from the Swallow’s forehead.

“Billy,” she whispered, “I don’t—I can’t understand. But, Billy, I’m with you, remember—always.”

He straightened up and his broad shoulders squared. On his face was a look of wonderful tenderness, transfiguring it; then, catching sight of the detective’s exultant, sneering face, his jaw set and the features hardened.

“There are some things you can’t understand, Milligan,” he said. “This is one of them.”

The detective laughed shortly. “One thing I do understand, though,” he re-

torted, “that dingin’ frill o’ yourn passin’ you that soft stuff is just as smooth in her way as you are in yours. She’ll be out and passin’ the same stuff to another guy when you’re still in jail, that’s what she’ll be doin’!”

Like a flash the Swallow’s six foot two swayed erect and balanced for the fraction of a second: then his right arm with one hundred and eighty pounds of bone and sinew behind it flashed up and out. There sounded a sharp impact, and Milligan’s heavy body, lifted from the floor by that driving blow straight to the cleft of his jaw, crashed against the wall.

Another man with less powers of resistance would have been knocked senseless by that blow. Not Milligan. For perhaps five seconds he lay where he had fallen; then he struggled up. There was more of surprise and admiration than resentment in the face he turned upon the Swallow. It was all in the game. A man in his profession had to expect bumps. It was characteristic of him that he could take his medicine without flinching when occasion demanded. But he spoke to the Swallow as the officers led him, Daniels and the girl out.

“The screws’ll go on all the tighter for that, my pretty boy.”

pROWN ATTORNEY HUGHSTIS ^ paced slowly up and down his office floor. It was six o’clock. Already the early Winter twilight had settled down. He paused before his table and touched a button.

“Have Walters bring in half a dozen chairs,” he addressed the young man who answered the summons, “and please switch on the lights as you go out.”

He glanced at his watch and continued his walk to and fro. Six o’clock. Milligan had said that he would be there at that hour, with the men who had kidnapped Judge Graydon and his chauffeur. For once the punctual Milligan was late.

The man Walters came in with the chairs, placed them as directed in a half circle about the table, and went out.

The attorney seated himself at the table and from his vest pocket drew out a slip of blue paper. He smiled whimsically as he unfolded it. It was a cheque on the First National Bank and read:

“Pay to bearer, Ten Thousand Dollars.

Margaret Graydon.”

Again he glanced at his watch. He had told Milligan that the reward would be ready for the man who discovered the whereabouts of the men who were missing. Naturally, the detective wouldn’t lose any more time than was necessary, and still—

Steps sounded outside. The door opened and Milligan with his prisoners and followed by two »policemen entered. Behind them came a haggard, unshaven man whom the district attorney at once recognized as Spencer, Judge Graydon’s chauffeur.

Milligan’s face glowed with triumph. His little eyes gleamed with malicious joy. “Here they are, sir,” he exulted. “I brought ’em here before lockin’ ’em up, as I said I would.”

“You are to be congratulated, Milligan,” said the district attorney.

His eyes sought the prisoners’, noting the dejected mien of the man for whose second chance in life he had been responsible, and from them to the girl who stood beside her lover, manacled hands closely locked together, wide eyes gazing unseeingly before her.

“Thought it best to bring the young woman along too, sir,” vouchsafed Milligan. “She drifted in on the scene so natural like, it looked sorta spoofie to me. I guess she’s one with ’em, all right. The faded lookin’ chap yonder is the missin’ Spencer. He knows where Judge Graydon’s bein’ held, but he was too used up to give details. Maybe he’ll speak now, sir.”

“I would like you all to sit down,” said the District Attorney. “Milligan, will you be good enough to lock the door and bring the key to me. Thanks. Now then, we won’t be interrupted.”

He took from his pocket the cheque and held it up to view. “I have here a cheque for ten thousand dollars, payable by Mrs. Graydon to the man who is instrumental in finding her husband, Judge Graydon.”

He returned Milligan’s broad smile and laid the cheque on the table. “Mr. Spencer,” he addressed the chauffeur,

‘ ‘Detective Milligan has suggested that you might tell us the whereabouts of Judge Graydon. However, that will not be necessary. The Judge is at his home, where he has been for the past two months.”

“What?” Milligan was on his feet. His pig-like eyes were bulging with incredulity. “But, sir,” he stammered, “that can’t be right.”

Hughstis raised his hand. “Please do not get excited, Milligan,” he said. “Judge Graydon has never been away from home. As a matter of fact, he wasn’t kidnapped at all; no more was Spencer,

Silence followed his words. Milligan sat the picture of surprise and stupefaction. The Swallow raised his eyes to those of the girl beside him, and the hand upon hers tightened. Spencer was sitting erect now, and smiling. The two policemen alone seemed unconcerned. Those schooled custodians of the law sat, unmoving, eyes glued to the crown attorney’s face.

‘ ‘ Officers, y ou will release your prisoners, ’ ’ spoke Hughstis crisply. “One moment, Milligan.”

The detective had risen to his feet and was slouching toward the door. “You’ll be interested in what I have to say, I’m sure.”

Milligan sullenly resumed his seat and threw the man Spencer a ferocious look.

The attorney placed the tips of his fingers together and continued.

“Some weeks ago, following the rounding up of the auto bandit gang, a part of my speech to the judge and jury at the conclusion of their trial was largely quoted by the press. In that speech I expressed my belief that the two men who on their own forced admission were guilty of murder were but the tools and dupes of greater criminals who held these poor wretches in their power.

“I made no specific charge against the master criminals; but Judge Graydon on the bench and those master criminals themselves knew to whom I referred. Like myself. Judge Graydon was determined to bring the greater criminals to justice. Later we met and together discussed ways and means to this end. The judge, who is a wealthy man, was willing to use an unstinted amount of money toward the breaking up of the ring against which the police seemed powerless, and suddenly a way lay opened before us.

“One night, some two months ago, Spencer, Judge Graydon’s chauffeur, was approached by a stranger. What followed, I will let Spencer, who is with us, tell in his own way.”

SPENCER came forward and stood beside the table. “Five years ago,” he commenced, “I served a term in prison for theft. I was teller in a bank, I was tempted and failed. I paid. When I was discharged, I took the name I now bear. I was determined to go straight. For two years I worked at odd jobs. I was afraid to go back to my old work. Somebody from out my past might recognize me. I understood automobiles and was a good driver. In due time I landed a job as Judge Graydon’s chauffeur.

“I was beginning to be almost happy again. The judge and Mrs. Graydon were kindness itself to me. I began to hope that I had lived down my past. Then one night I was accosted by a man I had never seen before. This man knew all about my past, my imprisonment. He threatened to go to the judge and denounce me. I pleaded with him. He made this ultimatum. I was to approach a reformed criminal known as the Swallow. To him I was to outline a plan to kidnap Judge Graydon and hold him for ransom. To avoid all suspicion to myself, I was to be kidnapped also. The Swallow and his helpers were to hide us up somewhere, and in the end the author of this plot and myself were to give them the double cross in this manner. A big reward for the recovery of her husband would doubtless be offered by Mrs. Graydon. When this happened, my fellow conspirator was to discover our whereabouts, release us and have the Swallow and his pals arrested. He admitted a twofold object in this plan. He saw big money and he also saw a means of landing the Swallow, whom he hated, behind the bars.

“I promised to do it. Then I went to the Swallow, who, unknown to this man, was my friend, and told him all. To him I described the man who was hatching the plot. He advised going to the judge and the crown attorney and telling them everything I had told him.”

“This I did. It was terrible to have to confess myself an ex-convict before people who had so trusted me, but I knew the Swallow’s cleverness and did as he said. Judge Graydon warmly commended my action. He and the district attorney discussed the situation, and advised me what

“I was to play the hand out. The judge was to disappear and I was to disappear with him.

“On the evening of September 15th, I drove the judge’s car down town and left it standing in front of the Manhattan Club. Next morning Mrs. Graydon reported the judge’s disappearance and my own to the police. All during this two months the judge has been in his home and I have been very comfortable, a guest of my friend, the Swallow. I believe that is all, sir.” Spencer turned to the attorney.

“Thank you, Spencer,” said Hughstis. “Just a moment,” as the chauffeur turned to go. “This stranger who threatened to denounce you and schemed this kidnapping—you would know him if you saw him again?”

Spencer looked his wonder. Why certainly, sir. I thought he was known to you. There he is, yonder, the man you call Milligan.”

The next instant in response to a nod from the lawyer, the police officers had Milligan in their grip. He struggled, striving to break away. Then the handcuffs snapped, and he sank back into his seat.

“Milligan,” spoke the attorney, softly, “you’ll remember somebody telling you not long ago that some day one of those men whose lives you were making a hell would get you? Well, one of them has got you. That man is Billy Cavers, otherwise known as the Swallow. To him belongs the credit of showing up the underhand methods of you and your ilk._ I’m going now to shake his hand, Milligan.”

He stepped forward and held out his hand to the Swallow, and in his very ordinary face was a smile that was anything but ordinary as he turned to the girl beside him. “He has made a good start,” he spoke for her ears alone. “I am not afraid of his future with you to guide.”

From his vest pocket he took a strip of blue paper, and closed the Swallow’s fingers upon it. “With the judge’s thanks —and mine,” he said. He turned to Spencer. “By the way, Spencer,” he said. “Judge Graydon asked me to have you hurry home. He says it’s a long time since he has been in a car.”