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- Constance Dunlap - 10/46 -
advantage a woman of the world had in presenting the case and convincing a speculator of the rich returns if the revolution should prove successful. More than that, she quickly learned that it was best to go alone, that it was she, quite as much as the promised concessions for tobacco, salt, telegraph, telephone monopolies, that loosed the purse strings.
Her first week's report of pledges ran into the thousands with a substantial immediate payment of real dollars.
"How did you do it?" asked Santos in undisguised admiration, as she was telling him one night of her success, in the dusty, cobwebbed little ship chandlery on South Street where the Junta headquarters had been established.
"Dollar diplomacy," she laughed, not displeased at his admiration. "We shall soon convert American dollars into Vespuccian bullets."
They were alone, and a week had made much difference in the fascinating friendship to Constance.
"Let me show you what I have done," Ramon confided. "Already, I have started together the 'counterfeiting plant,' as you call it."
Piece by piece, as he had been able to afford them, he had been ordering the presses, the stamping machine, and a little "reeding" or milling machine for the edges of the coins.
"The paper, the ink, and the bullion, we shall order now as we can," he explained, resting his head on his elbow at the table beside her. "Everything will be secured from firms which make mint supplies for foreign governments. A photo-engraver is now engaged on the work of copying the notes. He is making the plates by the photo-etching process--the same as that by which the real money plates are made. Then, too, there will be dies for the coins. Coined silver will be worth, twice the cost of the bullion to us. Why, "he added eagerly," a few more successful days, Senora, and we shall have even arms and ammunition."
A key turned in the door. Santos sprang to his feet. It was Gordon.
"Ah, good evening," the Captain greeted them. The fact that they had been talking so earnestly alone was not lost on him. "May I join the conspiracy?" he smiled. "What luck to-day? By the way, I have just heard of a consignment of a thousand rifles as good as new that can be bought for a song."
Santos, elated at the progress so far, told hastily of Constance's success. "Let us get an option on them for a few days," he cried.
"Good," agreed Gordon, "only," he added, shaking his finger playfully at Constance, as the three left the headquarters, "don't let the commander-in-chief monopolize ALL your time, Remember, we all need you now. Santos, that was an inspiration to get Mrs. Dunlap on our side."
Somehow she felt uncomfortable. She half imagined that a frown had flitted over Santos' face.
"Are you going to Brooklyn?" she asked him.
"No, we shall be working at the Junta late to-night," he replied, as they parted at the subway, he and Gordon to secure the option on the guns, she to plan for the morrow.
"I have made a good beginning," she congratulated herself, when, later in her rooms, she was going over the list of names of commission merchants who handled produce of South American countries.
There was a tap on the door.
Quickly, she shoved the list into the drawer of the table.
"A gentleman to see you, downstairs, ma'am," announced the maid.
As she pushed aside the portieres, her heart gave a leap--it was Drummond.
"Mrs. Dunlap," began the wily detective, seeming to observe everything with eyes that seldom had the appearance of looking at anything, "I think you will recall that we have met before."
Constance bit her lip. "And why again?" she queried curtly.
"I am informed," he went on coolly ignoring her curtness, "that there is a guest in this house named Santos--Ramon Santos."
He said it in a half insinuating, half questioning tone.
"You might inquire of the landlady," replied Constance, now perfectly composed.
"Mrs. Dunlap," he burst forth, exasperated, "what is the use of beating about? Do you know the real character of this Santos!"
"It is a matter of perfect indifference," she returned.
"Then you do not think a warning from me worth troubling about?" demanded the detective.
Constance continued to stand as if to terminate the interview.
"I came here," continued the detective showing no evidence of taking the hint, "to make a proposition to you. Mrs. Dunlap, you are in bad again. But this time there is a chance for you to get out without risk. I--I think I may talk plainly? We understand each other!"
His manner had changed. Constance could not have described to herself the loathing she felt for the man as it suddenly flashed over her what he was after. If she had resented his familiarity before, it brought the stinging blood to her cheeks now to realize that he was actually seeking to persuade her to betray her friends.
"Do you want to know what I think?" she scorned, then without waiting added, "I think you are a crook--a blackmailer,--that's what I think of a private detective like you."
The defiance of the little woman amazed even Drummond. Instead of fear as of the pursued, Constance Dunlap showed all the boldness of the pursuer.
"You have got to stop this swindling," the detective raged, taking a step closer to her. "I know the bankers you have fooled. I know how much you have worked them for."
"Swindling?" she repeated coolly, in assumed surprise. "Who says I am swindling?"
"You know well enough what I mean--this revolution that is being planned to bring about the new state of Vespuccia, as your friends Santos and Gordon call it."
"Yes," he shouted, "Vespuccia--Santos--Gordon. And I'll go further. I'll tell you something you may not care to hear."
Drummond leaned over closer to her in his favorite bulldozing manner when he dealt with a woman. All the malevolence of the human bloodhound seemed concentrated in his look.
"Who forged those Carlton Realty checks?" he hissed. "Who played off the weakness of Dumont and Beverley against the clever thefts of Murray Dodge! Who is using a counterfeiter and a soldier of fortune and swindling honest American bankers and business men as no man crook--you seem to like that word--crook--could ever do?"
Constance met him calmly. "Oh," she laughed airily, "I suppose you mean to imply that it is I."
"I don't imply," he ground out, "I assert--accuse."
Constance shrugged her pretty shoulders.
"I want to tell you that I am employed by the Central American consulates in this city," blustered Drummond. "And I am waiting only for one thing. The moment an order is given for the withdrawal of that stuff from the little shop in South Street--you know what I mean--I am ready. I shall not be alone, then. You will have the power of the United States Secret Service to deal with, this time, my clever lady."
"Well, what of that?"
"There is this much of it. I warn you now against working with this Santos. He--you--can make no move that we do not know."
Why had Drummond come to see her? Constance was asking herself. The very insolence of the man seemed to arouse all the combativeness of her nature. The detective had thought to "throw a scare into" her. She turned suddenly and swept out of the room.
"I thank you for your kindness," she said icily. "It is unnecessary. Good-night."
In her own room she paced the floor nervously, now that the strain was off. Should she desert Santos and save herself? He had more need of her help now than ever before. She did not stop to analyze her own feelings. She knew he had been making love to her during the past week as only a Spaniard could. It fascinated her without blinding her. Yes, she would match her wits against this detective, clever though she knew he was. But Santos must be warned.
Santos and Gordon were alone when she burst in on them, breathlessly, an hour later at the Junta.
"What is the matter?" inquired Ramon quickly, placing a chair for her.
Gordon looked his admiration for the little woman, though he did not speak it. She saw him cast a sidewise glance at Santos and herself.
Though the three were friends, it was evident to her that Gordon did not trust Santos any further than the suspicious Anglo-Saxon trusts a foreigner usually when there is a woman in the case.
"The Secret Service!" exclaimed Constance. "I have just had a visit from a private detective employed by one of the consulates. They know too much. He has threatened to tell all to the Secret Service,
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