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- The Voice on the Wire - 30/37 -
Helene. "You say we women are illogical, but we are essentially practical in the small things. I would advise closing the doors before the horse escapes, rather than a chase from behind!"
"Perhaps," answered Monty, "but the uncertainty does allure me. I always enjoyed skating on thin ice, from the days of college when I loved to get through a course of lectures on as little work as possible. The satisfaction of 'getting away with it' against odds was so exhilarating. I will return after my little dinner with Warren at the Club. Where will you dine?"
"Your friend Dick Holloway is taking me to some restaurant where singing and music may alter my refusal to him."
"Your refusal?" and Shirley shot a quick glance at the girl. Her dimples appeared as she added: "Yes--he wants me to star in a little play for the coming spring, but I have had such fun playing in real-life drama that I said him nay."
"Oh," was all the criminologist said, but as he left, Helene's laugh interpretated a little feminine satisfaction. Monty's mind was just disturbed enough about the attitude of Dick Holloway to keep him from worrying over the Warren case until he had reached the East River, near the yacht club mooring.
There was the white yacht which had been mentioned in the purloined book. It was a trim, speedy craft. The criminologist walked down a few blocks to the office of a boat contractor with whom he had dealt on bygone occasions.
"I want to engage a fast motor-boat, Mr. Manby," was his request. "The speediest thing you've got. Keep it down at your dock, at Twenty-first Street, with plenty of gasoline and a man on duty all the time, starting with six o'clock to-night. I may need it at a minute's notice."
"I've got a hydroplane which I'll sell this spring to some yachtsman," said Manby. "It's a bargain--you can do forty miles an hour in it, without getting a drop of spray. Shall I show it to you?"
"Yes, and the two men who you will have alternating on duty, so they will know me when I come for it. I'll pay for every minute it is reserved."
They soon came to terms; the men were introduced and Shirley was well satisfied with the racing craft, which was moored according to his directions, handy for a quick embarkation.
Then he went up to the Holland Agency. Cronin was disappointed in his results with the telephone confederate. All of Warren's men were close-mouthed, as though through some biting fear of swift and unerring vengeance for "squealing." Even the prisoners in the station-house had not volunteered to communicate with friends, as they were allowed to do by law. They were "standing pat," as the old detective declared in disgust.
"That proves one thing," remarked the criminologist. "They are not local products, or they would have friends other than their chief on whom to call for bail or aid. Their whole work centers on him. I think I will send a code message to this man Phil this afternoon or evening. He may be able to read it, and if he does, it may assist us. I wish you would have a man call on Miss Marigold at the California Hotel, so that she may know his face. Then keep him covering her for they are apt to get suspicious of her and try to quiet her. She is a game and fearless girl, but she is no match for this gang."
Cronin assigned one of the men immediately, and the sleuth took up a note of introduction to Helene, in which Monty explained the need for his watch.
Shirley then repaired to the club house to await his dinner guest. He was thoughtful about the alacrity of Warren to dine with him. There was more to this assumed friendliness than the mere desire to talk to him.
"I wonder if he wants to keep me occupied for some certain reason?" pondered the club man. "Helene is protected now by a silent watcher. The members of the Lobster Club are all out of the city. Van Cleft is safe on the ocean. They must be laying a trap. I wonder where that trap would be?"
As he looked about his rooms he realized that many important pieces of evidence were locked up in his chests and the small safe. His bedroom, in the uppermost floor of the club building, was in a quiet and less frequented part of the house. Shirley summoned one of the shrewd Japanese valets who worked on the dormitory floors of the building.
"Chen," he began. "Are you a good fighter?"
The Mongolian grinned characteristically. Shirley took out a bill, and handed it to the little fellow.
"I have reason to think some one may come into my rooms to-night, while I am busy downstairs. How would you like to lock yourself on the inside of my clothes closet, and wait? The air is not very good, but with this ten dollars you could take a nice ride in the country to-morrow, and get lots of good oxygen in your lungs to make up for it."
Chen was a willing little self-jailer. Shirley handed him his own revolver, and the slant eyes sparkled with glee at the opportunity for some excitement. Americans may carp at the curious manners and alleged shortcomings of the Oriental, but personal fear does not seem to be in the category of their faults. So, with this little valet, who improved his time, as Shirley had discovered, by taking special courses in Columbia University's scientific department. The criminologist had used him on more than one occasion when Eastern subtlety and apparent lack of guile had accomplished the impossible!
The closet door was closed, and Shirley went downstairs. At the desk of the, club clerk he sent a cablegram to the police authorities of Paris. The message was simple
"Cable collect to Holland Detective Agency name and record of man in Montfleury case, August, 1914. Do you want him? ......... ........ Cronin, Captain."
Shirley smiled as he handed the envelope to the little messenger who had been summoned, and made his exit through the front doorway just as the affable Reginald Warren entered it: another instance of "ships that pass in the night," was the thought of the host who advanced courteously.
"You are on time to the minute: German training, I see. Let the boy have your hat and coat, Mr. Warren."
These little amenities completed, they sauntered about the beautiful building, Shirley pointing out the many interesting photographs of athletic teams, trophies, club posters, portraits of famous graduates, and the like, which seem part and parcel of collegiate atmosphere. Warren was profoundly interested, yet there was an abstraction in his conversation which was not unobserved by his entertainer. As they passed a tall, colonial clock in the broad hallway, Shirley caught him glancing uneasily at it. This was the second time he had looked at its silvered face since they came into the range of it. Purposely the club man took him down the length of the big dining-hall, to exhibit the trophies of the hunt, from jungles and polar regions, contributed by the sportsmen members of past classes. Here Shirley chatted about this and that boar's head, yonder elephant hide, the other tiger skin, until he had consumed additional time. As they passed into the lounging room Shirley led his guest past another small mahogany clock. Again the sharp, anxious glance at the progress of the minutes. He was convinced by now that some deviltry was being perfected on schedule time. He began to worry over his little assistant on the floor high above: perhaps he would not be able to cope with the plotters, after all. Yet, Chen was wiry, cunning, and needed no diagrams as to the purpose for which he was to guard the rooms.
At last Shirley led Warren to the grill-room where they ordered their dinner: the supreme test of a gentleman is his taste in the menu for a discriminating guest. Warren sensed this, as the delicious viands and rare old wines were brought out in a combination which would have warmed the heart cockles of the fussiest old gourmon from Goutville!
"Ah, a feast fit for the gods," were his admiring words, as the two men smiled across this strange board of hospitality. In the midst of the meal, their chat of student days was interrupted by a page who approached Shirley.
"Begging your pardon, sir, but I have a note which was left here by messenger for a gentleman named Mr. R. Warren; your guest, I believe, sir?"
Warren's face flushed, and his surprise was indubitable. He snatched the envelope from the boy, who had reached it toward Shirley. The criminologist was no less in the dark. Warren, with a scant apology, tore open the missive. It was typewritten! He read it, and his brows came together with an angry scowl.
He arose from his seat swiftly, turning toward Shirley with a nervous twitching of the erstwhile firm lips.
"Would you pardon me if I ran? A Wall Street client of mine has suddenly been stricken with apoplexy. We have deals together, dependent upon gentlemen's agreements, without a word of writing. It may mean a fortune to get to him before he loses all power of speech. It is a shame to spoil, at this time, such a wonderful dinner as I had promised myself with you. Can you forgive me?"
The man was visibly panic-stricken, although his superb nerve was fighting hard to cover his terror. Shirley wondered what news could have fallen into his hand this way. He watched the envelope, hoping that he would inadvertently drop it. But no such luck! Warren carefully folded it and put it with the letter into the breast pocket of his coat.
"My dear fellow, business before indigestion, always! I am sorry to have you go, but we will try again. I will go upstairs with you. Shall I call a taxicab for you?"
Warren expostulated, but the host followed him to the check room. Unseen by Warren, Shirley inserted a handkerchief from his own pocket into the overcoat pocket of the other with a
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