The Efficiency Expert
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Part 3 out of 4
small outer office where Mr. Compton's stenographer and his worked, was
addressed to Miss Edith Hudson.
"Is Mr. Torrance down yet?" he asked.
"Yes," replied the girl, "he has been here some time. Do you wish to
Edith thought that the "No" which he snapped at her was a trifle more
emphatic than the circumstances seemed to warrant, nor could she help
but notice after he had entered his office the vehement manner in which
he slammed the door.
"I wonder what's eating him," thought Miss Hudson to herself. "Of
course he doesn't like Jimmy, but why is he so peeved because Jimmy came
to work this morning--I don't quite get it."
Almost immediately Bince sent for Krovac, and when the latter came and
stood before his desk the assistant general manager looked up at him
"Well?" he asked.
"Look at my chin," was Krovac's reply, "and he damn near killed the
"Maybe you'll have better luck the next time," growled Bince.
"There ain't goin' to be no next time," asserted Krovac. "I don't tackle
that guy again."
Bince held out his hand.
"All right," he said, "you might return the fifty then."
"Return nothin'," growled Krovac. "I sure done fifty dollars' worth last
"Come on," said Bince, "hand over the fifty."
"Nothin' doin'," said Krovac with an angry snarl. "It might be worth
another fifty to you to know that I wasn't going to tell old man
"You damn scoundrel!" exclaimed Bince.
"Don't go callin' me names," admonished Krovac. "A fellow that hires
another to croak a man for him for one hundred bucks ain't got no
license to call nobody names."
Bince realized only too well that he was absolutely in the power of the
fellow and immediately his manner changed.
"Come," he said, "Krovac, there is no use in our quarreling. You can
help me and I can help you. There must be some other way to get around
"What are you trying to do?" asked Krovac. "I got enough on you now to
send you up, and I don't mind tellin' yuh," he added, "that I had a guy
hid down there in the shop where he could watch you drop the envelope
behind my machine. I got a witness, yuh understand!"
Mr. Bince did understand, but still he managed to control his temper.
"What of it?" he said. "Nobody would believe your story, but let's
forget that. What we want to do is get rid of Torrance."
"That isn't all you want to do," said Krovac. "There is something else."
Bince realized that he was compromised as hopelessly already as he could
be if the man had even more information.
"Yes," he said, "there is something beside Torrance's interference in
the shop. He's interfering with our accounting system and I don't want
it interfered with just now."
"You mean the pay-roll?" asked Krovac.
"It might be," said Bince.
"You want them two new guys that are working in the office croaked,
too?" asked Krovac.
"I don't want anybody 'croaked', "replied Bince. "I didn't tell you to
kill Torrance in the first place. I just said I didn't want him to come
back here to work."
"Ah, hell, what you givin' us?" growled the other. "I knew what you
meant and you knew what you meant, too. Come across straight. What do
"I want all the records of the certified public accountants who are
working here," said Bince after a moment's pause. "I want them
destroyed, together with the pay-roll records."
"Where are they?"
"They will all be in the safe in Mr. Compton's office."
Krovac knitted his brows in thought for several moments. "Say," he said,
"we can do the whole thing with one job."
"What do you mean?" asked Bince,
"We can get rid of this Torrance guy and get the records, too."
"How?" asked Bince. "Do you know where Feinheimer's is?"
"Well, you be over there to-night about ten thirty and I'll introduce
you to a guy who can pull off this whole thing, and you and I won't have
to be mixed up in it at all."
"To-night at ten thirty," said Bince.
"At Feinheimer's," said Krovac.
AN INVITATION TO DINE.
As the workman passed through the little outer office Edith Hudson
glanced up at him.
"Where," she thought after he had gone, "have I seen that fellow
Jimmy was in the shop applying "How to Get More Out of Your Factory" to
the problems of the International Machine Company when he was called to
"Is this Mr. Torrance?" asked a feminine voice.
"It is," replied Jimmy.
"I am Miss Compton. My father will probably not be able to get to the
office for several days, and as he wishes very much to talk with you he
has asked me to suggest that you take dinner with us this evening."
"Thank you," said Jimmy. "Tell Mr. Compton that I will come to the house
right after the shop closes to-night."
"I suppose," said Elizabeth Compton as she turned away from the phone,
"that an efficiency expert is a very superior party and that his
conversation will be far above my head."
Compton laughed. "Torrance seems to be a very likable chap," he said,
"and as far as his work is concerned he is doing splendidly."
"Harold doesn't think so," said Elizabeth. "He is terribly put out
about the fellow. He told me only the other night that he really
believed that it would take years to overcome the bad effect that this
man has had upon the organization and upon the work in general."
"That is all poppycock," exclaimed Compton, rather more irritably than
was usual with him. "For some reason Harold has taken an unwarranted
dislike to this man, but I am watching him closely, and I will see that
no very serious mistakes are made."
When Jimmy arrived at the Compton home he was ushered into the library
where Mr. Compton was sitting. In a corner of the room, with her back
toward the door, Elizabeth Compton sat reading. She did not lay aside
her book or look in his direction as Jimmy entered, for the man was in
no sense a guest in the light of her understanding of the term. He was
merely one of her father's employees here on business to see him,
doubtless a very ordinary sort of person whom she would, of course, have
to meet when dinner was announced, but not one for whom it was necessary
to put oneself out in any way.
Mr. Compton rose and greeted Jimmy cordially and then turned toward his
"Elizabeth," he said, "this is Mr. Torrance, the efficiency expert at
Leisurely Miss Compton laid aside her book. Rising, she faced the
newcomer, and as their eyes met, Jimmy barely stifled a gasp of
astonishment and dismay. Elizabeth Compton's arched brows raised
slightly and involuntarily she breathed a low ejaculation, "Efficiency
Simultaneously there flashed through the minds of both in rapid
succession a series of recollections of their previous meetings. The
girl saw the clerk at the stocking-counter, the waiter at Feinheimer's,
the prize-fighter at the training quarters and the milk-wagon driver.
All these things passed through her mind in the brief instant of the
introduction and her acknowledgment of it. She was too well-bred to
permit any outward indication of her recognition of the man other than
the first almost inaudible ejaculation that had been surprised from her.
The indifference she had felt prior to meeting the efficiency expert
was altered now to a feeling of keen interest as she realized that she
held the power to relieve Bince of the further embarrassment of the
man's activities in the plant, and also to save her father from the
annoyance and losses that Bince had assured her would result from
Torrance's methods. And so she greeted Jimmy Torrance pleasantly,
"I am delighted," she said, "but I am afraid that I am a little awed,
too, as I was just saying to father before you came that I felt an
efficiency expert must be a very superior sort of person."
If she placed special emphasis on the word "superior" it was so cleverly
done that it escaped the notice of her father.
"Oh, not at all," replied Jimmy. "We efficiency experts are really quite
ordinary people. One is apt to meet us in any place that nice people are
supposed to go."
Elizabeth felt the color rising slowly to her cheek. She realized then
that if she had thrown down the gage of battle the young man had lost no
time in taking it up.
"I am afraid," she said, "that I do not understand very much about the
nature or the purpose of your work, but I presume the idea is to make
the concern with which you are connected more prosperous--more
"Yes," said her father, "that is the idea, and even in the short time he
has been with us Mr. Torrance has effected some very excellent changes."
"It must be very interesting work," commented the girl; "a profession
that requires years of particular experience and study, and I suppose
one must be really thoroughly efficient and successful himself, too,
before he can help to improve upon the methods of others or to bring
them greater prosperity."
"Quite true," said Jimmy. "Whatever a man undertakes he should succeed
in before he can hope to bring success to others."
"Even in trifling occupations, I presume," suggested the girl,
"efficiency methods are best--an efficiency expert could doubtlessly
drive a milk-wagon better than an ordinary person?" And she looked
straight into Jimmy's eyes, an unquestioned challenge in her own.
"Unquestionably," said Jimmy. "He could wait on table better, too."
"Or sell stockings?" suggested Elizabeth.
It was at this moment that Mr. Compton was called to the telephone in an
adjoining room, and when he had gone the girl turned suddenly upon Jimmy
Torrance. There was no cordiality nor friendship in her expression; a
sneer upcurved her short upper lip.
"I do not wish to humiliate you unnecessarily in the presence of my
father," she said. "You have managed to deceive him into believing that
you are what you claim to be. Mr. Bince has known from the start that
you are incompetent and incapable of accomplishing the results father
thinks you are accomplishing. Now that you know that I know you to be an
impostor, what do you intend to do?"
"I intend to keep right on with my work in the plant, Miss Compton,"
"How long do you suppose father would keep you after I told him what I
know of you? Do you think that he would for a moment place the future of
his business in the hands of an ex-waiter from Feinheimer's---that he
would let a milk-wagon driver tell him how to run his business?"
"It probably might make a difference," said Jimmy, "if he knew, but he
will not know--listen, Miss Compton, I have discovered some things
there that I have not even dared as yet to tell your father. The whole
future of the business may depend upon my being there during the next
few weeks. If I wasn't sure of what I am saying I might consider
acceding to your demands rather than to embarrass you with certain
knowledge which I have."
"You refuse to leave, then?" she demanded.
"I do," he said.
"Very well," she replied; "I shall tell father when he returns to this
room just what I know of you."
"Will you tell him," asked Jimmy, "that you went to the training
quarters of a prize-fighter, or that you dined unescorted at
Feinheimer's at night and were an object of the insulting attentions of
such a notorious character as Steve Murray?"
The girl flushed. "You would tell him that?" she demanded. "Oh, of
course, I might have known that you would. It is difficult to realize
that any one dining at my father's home is not a gentleman. I had
forgotten for the moment."
"Yes," said Jimmy, "I would tell him, not from a desire to harm you, but
because this is the only way that I can compel you to refrain from
something that would result in inestimable harm to your father."
JIMMY TELLS THE TRUTH.
Mr. Compton returned to the room before Jimmy had discovered whether
the girl intended to expose him or not. She said nothing about the
matter during dinner, and immediately thereafter she excused herself,
leaving the two men alone.
During the conversation that ensued Jimmy discovered that Bince had been
using every argument at his command to induce Compton to let him go, as
well as getting rid of the certified public accountants.
"I can't help but feel," said Compton, "that possibly there may be some
reason in what Mr. Bince says, for he seems to feel more strongly on
this subject than almost any question that has ever arisen in the plant
wherein we differed, and it may he that I am doing wrong to absolutely
ignore his wishes in the matter.
"As a matter of fact, Mr. Torrance, I have reached the point where I
don't particularly relish a fight, as I did in the past. I would rather
have things run along smoothly than to have this feeling of unrest and
unpleasantness that now exists in the plant. I do not say that you are
to blame for it, but the fact remains that ever since you came I have
been constantly harassed by this same unpleasant condition which grows
worse day by day. There is no question but what you have accomplished a
great deal for us of a practical nature, but I believe in view of Mr.
Bince's feelings in the matter that we had better terminate our
Jimmy suddenly noted how old and tired his employer looked. He
realized, too, that for a week he had been fighting an incipient
influenza and that doubtless his entire mental attitude was influenced
by the insidious workings of the disease, one of the marked symptoms of
which he knew to be a feeling of despondency and mental depression,
which sapped both courage and initiative.
They were passing through the hallway from the dining-room to the
library, and as Compton concluded what was equivalent to Jimmy's
discharge, he had stopped and turned toward the younger man. They were
standing near the entrance to the music-room in which Elizabeth chanced
to be, so that she overheard her father's words, and not without a smile
of satisfaction and relief.
"Mr. Compton," replied Jimmy, "no matter what you do with me, you simply
must not let those C.P.A.'s go until they have completed their work. I
know something of what it is going to mean to your business, but I would
rather that the reports come from them than from me."
"What do you mean?" asked Compton.
"I didn't want to be the one to tell you," replied Jimmy. "I preferred
that the C.P.A.'s discover it, as they will within the next day or
two--you are being systematically robbed. I suspected it before I had
been there ten days, and I was absolutely sure of it at the time I
suggested you employ the C.P.A.'s. You are being robbed at the rate of
approximately one thousand dollars a week."
"How?" asked Compton.
"I would rather you would wait for the report of the C.P.A.'s," returned
"I wish to know now," said Compton, "how I am being robbed."
Jimmy looked straight into the older man's eyes. "Through the
pay-roll," he replied.
For a full minute Compton did not speak.
"You may continue with your work in the plant," he said at last, "and we
will keep the accountants, for a while at least. And now I am going to
ask you to excuse me. I find that I tire very quickly since I have been
threatened with influenza."
Jimmy bid his employer good night, and Mr. Compton turned into the
library as the former continued along across the hall to the entrance.
He was putting on his overcoat when Elizabeth Compton emerged from the
music-room and approached him.
"I overheard your conversation with father." she said. "It seems to me
that you are making a deliberate attempt to cause him worry and
apprehension--you are taking advantage of his illness to frighten him
into keeping you in his employ. I should think you would be ashamed of
"I am sorry that you think that," said Jimmy. "If it was not for your
father and you I wouldn't have urged the matter at all."
"You are just doing it to hold your position," retorted the girl, "and
now, by threats of blackmail you prevent me from exposing you--you are
a despicable cur."
Jimmy felt the blood mounting to his face. He was mortified and angry,
and yet he was helpless because his traducer was a woman. Unconsciously
he drew himself to his full height.
"You will have to think about me as you please," he said; "I cannot
influence that, but I want you to understand that you are not to
interfere with my work. I think we understand one another perfectly,
Miss Compton. Good night."
And as he closed the door behind him he left a very angry young lady
biting her lower lip and almost upon the verge of angry tears.
"The boor," she exclaimed; "he dared to order me about and threaten me."
The telephone interrupted her unhappy train of thoughts. It was Bince.
"I am sorry, Elizabeth," he said, "but I won't be able to come up this
evening. I have some important business to attend to. How is your
"He seems very tired and despondent," replied Elizabeth. "That
efficiency person was here to dinner. He just left."
She could not see the startled and angry expression of Bince's face' as
he received this information. "Torrance was there?" he asked. "How did
"Father asked him to dinner, and when he wanted to discharge the fellow
Torrance told him something that upset father terribly, and urged that
he be kept a little while longer, to which father agreed."
"What did he tell him?" asked Bince.
"Oh, some alarmist tale about somebody robbing father. I didn't quite
make out what it was all about, but it had something to do with the
Bince went white. "Don't believe anything that fellow says," he
exclaimed excitedly: "he's nothing but a crook. Elizabeth, can't you
make your father realize that he ought to get rid of the man, that he
ought to leave things to me instead of trusting an absolute stranger?"
"I have," replied the girl, "and he was on the point of doing it until
Torrance told him this story."
"Something will have to be done," said Bince, "at once. I'll be over to
see your father in the morning. Good-by, dear," and he hung up the
After Jimmy left the Compton home he started to walk down-town. It was
too early to go to his dismal little room on Indiana Avenue. The Lizard
was still away. He had seen nothing of him for weeks, and with his going
he had come to realize that he had rather depended upon the Lizard for
company. He was full of interesting stories of the underworld and his
dry humor and strange philosophy amused and entertained Jimmy.
And now as he walked along the almost deserted drive after his recent
unpleasant scene with Elizabeth Compton he felt more blue and lonely
than he had for many weeks. He craved human companionship, and so strong
was the urge that his thoughts naturally turned to the only person other
than the Lizard who seemed to have taken any particularly kindly
interest in him. Acting on the impulse he turned west at the first cross
street until he came to a drugstore. Entering a telephone-booth he
called a certain number and a moment later had his connection.
"Is that you, Edith?" he asked, and at the affirmative reply, "this is
Jimmy Torrance. I'm feeling terribly lonesome. I was wondering if I
couldn't drag you out to listen to my troubles?"
"Surest thing you know," cried the girl. "Where are you?" He told her.
"Take a Clark Street car," she told him, "and I'll be at the corner of
North Avenue by the time you get there."
As the girl hung up the receiver and turned from the phone a slightly
quizzical expression reflected some thought that was in her mind. "I
wonder," she said as she returned to her room, "if he is going to be
like the rest?"
She seated herself before her mirror and critically examined her
reflection in the glass. She knew she was good-looking. No need of a
mirror to tell her that. Her youth and her good looks had been her stock
in trade, and yet this evening she appraised her features most
critically, and as with light fingers she touched her hair, now in one
place and now in another, she found herself humming a gay little tune
and she realized that she was very happy.
When Jimmy Torrance alighted from the Clark Street car he found Edith
waiting for him.
"It was mighty good of you," he said. "I don't know when I have had
such a fit of blues, but I feel better already."
"What is the matter?" she asked.
"I just had a talk with Mr. Compton," he replied. "He sent for me and I
had to tell him something that I didn't want to tell him, although he's
got to find it out sooner or later anyway."
"Is there something wrong at the plant?" she asked.
"Wrong doesn't describe it," he exclaimed bitterly. "The man that he
has done the most for and in whose loyalty he ought to have the right of
implicit confidence, is robbing him blind."
"Bince?" asked the girl. Jimmy nodded. "I didn't like that pill," she
said, "from the moment I saw him."
"Nor I," said Jimmy, "but he is going to marry Miss Compton and inherit
the business. He's the last man in the place that Compton would suspect.
It was just like suggesting to a man that his son was robbing him."
"Have you got the goods on him?" asked Edith.
"I will have as soon as the C.P.A.'s get to digging into the pay-roll,"
he replied, "and I just as good as got the information I need even
without that. Well, let's forget our troubles. What shall we do?"
"What do you want to do?" she asked.
He could not tell by either her tone or expression with what anxiety she
awaited his reply. "Suppose we do something exciting, like going to the
movies," he suggested with a laugh.
"That suits me all right," said the girl. "There is a dandy comedy down
at the Castle."
And so they went to the picture show, and when it was over he suggested
that they have a bite to eat.
"I'll tell you," Edith suggested. "Suppose we go to Feinheimer's
restaurant and see if we can't get that table that I used to eat at when
you waited on me?" They both laughed.
"If old Feinheimer sees me he will have me poisoned," said Jimmy.
"Not if you have any money to spend in his place."
It was eleven thirty when they reached Feinheimer's. The table they
wanted was vacant, a little table in a corner of the room and furthest
from the orchestra. The waiter, a new man, did not know them, and no one
had recognized them as they entered.
Jimmy sat looking at the girl's profile as she studied the menu-card.
She was very pretty. He had always thought her that, but somehow
to-night she seemed to be different, even more beautiful than in the
past. He wished that he could forget what she had been. And he realized
as he looked at her sweet girlish face upon which vice had left no
slightest impression to mark her familiarity with vice, that it might be
easy to forget her past. And then between him and the face of the girl
before him arose the vision of another face, the face of the girl that
he had set upon a pedestal and worshiped from afar. And with the
recollection of her came a realization of the real cause of his sorrow
and depression earlier in the evening.
He had attributed it to the unpleasant knowledge he had been forced to
partially impart to her father and also in some measure to the
regrettable interview he had had with her, but now he knew that these
were only contributory causes, that the real reason was that during the
months she had occupied his thoughts and in the few meetings he had had
with her there had developed within him, unknown to himself, a sentiment
for her that could be described by but one word--love.
Always, though he had realized that she was unattainable, there must
have lingered within his breast a faint spark of hope that somehow, some
time, there would be a chance, but after to-night he knew there could
never be a chance. She had openly confessed her contempt for him, and
how would she feel later when she realized that through his efforts her
happiness was to be wrecked, and the man she loved and was to marry
branded as a criminal?
A LETTER FROM MURRAY.
The girl opposite him looked up from the card before her. The lines of
her face were softened by the suggestion of a contented smile. "My
gracious!" she exclaimed. "What's the matter now? You look as though you
had lost your last friend."
Jimmy quickly forced a smile to his lips. "On the contrary," he said,
"I think I've found a regular friend--in you."
It was easy to see that his words pleased her.
"No," continued Jimmy; "I was thinking of what an awful mess I make of
everything I tackle."
"You're not making any mess of this new job," she said. "You're making
good. You see, my hunch was all right."
"I wish you hadn't had your hunch," he said with a smile. "It's going
to bring a lot of trouble to several people, but now that I'm in it I'm
going to stick to it to a finish."
The girl's eyes were wandering around the room, taking in the faces of
the diners about them. Suddenly she extended her hand and laid it on
"For the love of Mike." she exclaimed. "Look over there."
Slowly Jimmy turned his eyes in the direction she indicated.
"What do you know about that?" he ejaculated. "Steve Murray and Bince!"
"And thick as thieves," said the girl.
"Naturally," commented Jimmy.
The two men left the restaurant before Edith and Jimmy had finished
their supper, leaving the two hazarding various guesses as to the reason
for their meeting.
"You can bet it's for no good," said the girl. "I've known Murray for a
long while, and I never knew him to do a decent thing in his life."
Their supper over, they walked to Clark Street and took a northbound
car, but after alighting Jimmy walked with the girl to the entrance of
"I can't thank you enough," he said, "for giving me this evening. It is
the only evening I have enjoyed since I struck this town last July."
He unlocked the outer door for her and was holding it open.
"It is I who ought to thank you," she said. Her voice was very low and
filled with suppressed feeling. "I ought to thank you, for this has been
the happiest evening of my life," and as though she could not trust
herself to say more, she entered the hallway and closed the door between
As Jimmy turned away to retrace his steps to the car-line he found his
mind suddenly in a whirl of jumbled emotions, for he was not so stupid
as to have failed to grasp something of the significance of the girl's
words and manner.
"Hell!" he muttered. "Look what I've done now!"
The girl hurried to her room and turned on the lights, and again she
seated herself before her mirror, and for a moment sat staring at the
countenance reflected before her. She saw lips parted to rapid
breathing, lips that curved sweetly in a happy smile, and then as she
sat there looking she saw the expression of the face before her change.
The lips ceased to smile, the soft, brown eyes went wide and staring as
though in sudden horror. For a moment she sat thus and then, throwing
her body forward upon her dressing-table, she buried her face in her
"My God!" she cried through choking sobs.
Mason Compton was at his office the next morning, contrary to the pleas
of his daughter and the orders of his physician. Bince was feeling more
cheerful. Murray had assured him that there was a way out. He would not
tell Bince what the way was.
"Just leave it to me," he said. "The less you know, the better off
you'll be. What you want is to get rid of this fresh guy and have all
the papers in a certain vault destroyed. You see to it that only the
papers you want destroyed are in that vault, and I'll do the rest."
All of which relieved Mr. Harold Bince's elastic conscience of any
feeling of responsibility in the matter. Whatever Murray did was no
business of his. He was glad that Murray hadn't told him.
He greeted Jimmy Torrance almost affably, but he lost something of his
self-composure when Mason Compton arrived at the office, for Bince had
been sure that his employer would be laid up for at least another week,
during which time Murray would have completed his work.
The noon mail brought a letter from Murray.
"Show the enclosed to Compton," it read. "Tell him you found it on your
desk, and destroy this letter." The enclosure was a crudely printed note
on a piece of soiled wrapping-paper:
TREAT YOUR MEN RIGHT OR
SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES
I. W. W.
Bince laid Murray's letter face down upon the balance of the open mail,
and sat for a long time looking at the ominous words of the enclosure.
At first he was inclined to be frightened, but finally a crooked smile
twisted his lips. "Murray's not such a fool, after all," he
"He's framing an alibi before he starts."
With the note in his hand, Bince entered Compton's office, where he
found the latter dictating to Edith Hudson. "Look at this thing!"
exclaimed Bince, laying the note before Compton. "What do you suppose it
Compton read it, and his brows knitted. "Have the men been complaining
at all?" he asked.
"Recently I have heard a little grumbling," replied Bince. "They
haven't taken very kindly to Torrance's changes, and I guess some of
them are afraid they are going to lose their jobs, as they know he is
cutting down the force in order to cut costs."
"He ought to know about this," said Compton. "Wait; I'll have him in,"
and he pressed a button on his desk. A moment later Jimmy entered, and
Compton showed him the note.
"What do you think of it?" asked Compton.
"I doubt if it amounts to much," replied Jimmy. "The men have no
grievance. It may be the work of some fellow who was afraid of his job,
but I doubt if it really emanates from any organized scheme of
intimidation. If I were you, sir, I would simply ignore it."
To Jimmy's surprise, Bince agreed with him. It was the first time that
Bince had agreed with anything Jimmy had suggested.
"Very well," assented Compton, "but we'll preserve this bit of evidence
in case we may need it later," and he handed the slip of paper to Edith
Hudson. "File this, please, Miss Hudson," he said; and then, turning to
"It may be nothing, but I don't like the idea of it. There is apt to be
something underlying this, or even if it is only a single individual and
he happens to be a crank he could cause a lot of trouble. Suppose, for
instance, one of these crack-brained foreigners in the shop got it into
his head that Torrance here was grinding him down in order to increase
our profits? Why, he might attack him at any time! I tell you, we have
got to be prepared for such a contingency, especially now that we have
concrete evidence that there is such a man in our employ. I think you
ought to be armed, Mr. Torrance. Have you a pistol?"
Jimmy shook his head negatively.
"No, sir," he said; "not here."
Compton opened a desk drawer.
"Take this one," he said, and handed Jimmy an automatic.
The latter smiled. "Really, Mr. Compton," he said, "I don't believe I
need such an article."
"I want you to take it," insisted Compton. "I want you to be one the
A moment later Bince and Jimmy left the office together. Jimmy still
carried the pistol in his hand.
"You'd better put that thing in your pocket," cautioned Bince.
They were in the small office on which Compton's and Bince's offices
opened, and Jimmy had stopped beside the desk that had been placed there
"I think I'll leave it here," he said. "The thing would be a nuisance in
my pocket," and he dropped it into one of the desk drawers, while Bince
continued his way toward the shop.
Compton was looking through the papers and letters on his desk,
evidently searching for something which he could not find, while the
girl sat awaiting for him to continue his dictation.
"That's funny," commented Compton.
"I was certain that that letter was here. Have you seen anything of a
letter from Mosher."
"No, sir," replied Edith.
"Well, I wish you would step into Mr. Bince's office, and see if it is
on his desk."
Upon the assistant general manager's desk lay a small pile of papers,
face down, which Edith proceeded to examine in search of the Mosher
letter. She had turned them all over at once, commencing at what had
previously been the bottom of the pile, so that she ran through them all
without finding the Mosher letter before she came to Murray's epistle.
As its import dawned upon her, her eyes widened at first in surprise and
then narrowed as she realized the value of her discovery. At first she
placed the letter back with the others just as she had found them, but
on second thought she took it up quickly and, folding it, slipped it
inside her waist. Then she returned to Compton's office.
"I cannot find the Mosher letter," she said.
Harriet Holden was sitting in Elizabeth's boudoir. "And he had the
effrontery," the latter was saying, "to tell me what I must do and must
not do! The idea! A miserable little milk-wagon driver dictating to me!"
Miss Holden smiled.
"I should not call him very little," she remarked.
"I didn't mean physically," retorted Elizabeth. "It is absolutely
insufferable. I am going to demand that father discharge the man."
"And suppose he asks you why?" asked Harriet. "You will tell him, of
course, that you want this person discharged because he protected you
from the insults and attacks of a ruffian while you were dining in
Feinheimer's at night--is that it?"
"You are utterly impossible, Harriet!" cried Elizabeth, stamping her
foot. "You are as bad as that efficiency person. But, then, I might have
expected it! You have always, it seems to me, shown a great deal more
interest in the fellow than necessary, and probably the fact that Harold
doesn't like him is enough to make you partial toward him, for you have
never tried to hide the fact that you don't like Harold."
"If you're going to be cross," said Harriet, "I think I shall go home."
At about the same time the Lizard entered Feinheimer's. In the far
corner of the room Murray was seated at a table. The Lizard approached
and sat down opposite him. "Here I am," he said. "What do you want, and
how did you know I was in town?"
"I didn't know," said Murray. "I got a swell job for you, and so I sent
out word to get you."
"You're in luck then," said the Lizard. "I just blew in this morning.
What kind of a job you got?"
Murray explained at length.
"They got a watchman," he concluded, "but I've got a guy on de inside
that'll fix him."
"When do I pull this off?" asked the Lizard.
"In about a week. I'll let you know the night later. Dey ordinarily
draw the payroll money Monday, the same day dey pay, but dis week
they'll draw it Saturday and leave it in the safe. It'II be layin' on
top of a hunch of books and papers. Dey're de t'ings you're to destroy.
As I told you, it will all be fixed from de inside. Dere's no danger of
a pinch. All you gotta do is crack de safe, put about a four or five
t'ousand dollar roll in your pocket, and as you cross de river drop a
handful of books and papers in. Nothin' to it--it's the easiest graft
you ever had."
"You're sure dat's all?" asked the Lizard.
"Sure thing!" replied Murray.
"Where's de place?"
"Dat I can't tell you until the day we're ready to pull off de job."
At four o'clock that afternoon Jimmy Torrance collapsed at his desk.
The flu had struck him as suddenly and as unexpectedly as it had
attacked many of its victims. Edith Hudson found him, and immediately
notified Mr. Compton, with the result that half an hour later Jimmy
Torrance was in a small private hospital in Park Avenue.
That night Bince got Murray over the phone. He told him of Jimmy's
"He's balled up the whole plan," he complained. "We've either got to
wait until he croaks or is out again before we can go ahead, unless
something else arises to make it necessary to act before. I think I can
hold things off, though, at this end, all right."
For four or five days Jimmy was a pretty sick man. He was allowed to
see no one, but even if Jimmy had been in condition to give the matter
any thought he would not have expected to see any one, for who was there
to visit him in the hospital, who was there who knew of his illness, to
care whether he was sick or well, alive or dead? It was on the fifth day
that Jimmy commenced to take notice of anything. At Compton's orders he
had been placed in a private room and given a special nurse, and to-day
for the first time he learned of Mr. Compton's kindness and the fact
that the nurse was instructed to call Jimmy's employer twice a day and
report the patient's condition.
"Mighty nice of him," thought Jimmy, and then to the nurse: "And the
flowers, too? Does he send those?"
The young woman shook her head negatively.
"No," she said; "a young lady comes every evening about six and leaves
the flowers. She always asks about your condition and when she may see
Jimmy was silent for some time. "She comes every evening?" he asked.
"Yes," replied the nurse.
"May I see her this evening?" asked Jimmy.
"We'll ask the doctor," she replied; and the doctor must have given
consent, for at six o'clock that evening the nurse brought Edith Hudson
to his bedside.
The girl came every evening thereafter and sat with Jimmy as long as the
nurse would permit her to remain. Jimmy discovered during those periods
a new side to her character, a mothering tenderness that filled him with
a feeling of content and happiness the moment that she entered the room,
and which doubtless aided materially in his rapid convalescence, for
until she had been permitted to see him Jimmy had suffered as much from
mental depression as from any other of the symptoms of his disease.
He had felt utterly alone and uncared for, and in this mental state he
had brooded over his failures to such an extent that he had reached a
point where he felt that death would be something of a relief.
Militating against his recovery had been the parting words of Elizabeth
Compton the evening that he had dined at her father's home, but now all
that was very nearly forgotten--at least crowded into the dim vistas of
recollection by the unselfish friendship of this girl of the streets.
Jimmy's nurse quite fell in love with Edith.
"She is such a sweet girl," she said, "and always so cheerful. She is
going to make some one a mighty good wife." and she smiled knowingly at
The suggestion which her words implied came to Jimmy as a distinct
shock. He had never thought of Edith Hudson in the light of this
suggestion, and now he wondered if there could be any such sentiment as
it implied in Edith's heart, but finally he put the idea away with a
"Impossible," he thought. "She thinks of me as I think of her, only as a
IN THE TOILS.
At the office of the International Machine Company the work of the
C.P.A.'s was drawing to a close. Their report would soon he ready to
submit to Mr. Compton, and as the time approached Bince's nervousness
and irritability increased. Edith noticed that he inquired each day with
growing solicitude as to the reports from the hospital relative to
Jimmy's condition. She knew that Bince disliked Jimmy, and yet the man
seemed strangely anxious for his recovery and return to work.
In accordance with Jimmy's plan, the C.P.A.'s were to give out no
information to any one, even to Mr. Compton, until their investigation
and report were entirely completed. This plan had been approved by Mr.
Compton, although he professed to be at considerable loss to understand
why it was necessary. It was, however, in accordance with Jimmy's plan
to prevent, if possible, any interference with the work of the auditors
until every available fact in the case had been ascertained and
In the investigation of the pay-roll Bince had worked diligently with
the accountants. As a matter of fact, he had never left them a moment
while the pay-roll records were in their hands, and had gone to much
pain to explain in detail every question arising therefrom.
Although the investigators seemed to accept his statements at their face
value, the assistant general manager was far from being assured that
their final report would redound to his credit.
On a Thursday they informed him that they had completed their
investigation, and the report would he submitted to Mr. Compton on
When Edith reached the hospital that evening she found Jimmy in high
spirits. He was dressed for the first time, and assured her that he was
quite able to return to work if the doctor would let him, but the nurse
shook her head. "You ought to stay here for another week or ten days,"
she admonished him.
"Nothing doing,"' cried Jimmy. "I'll be out of here Monday at the
latest." But when Edith told him that the C.P.A.'s had finished, and
that their report would be handed in Saturday, Jimmy announced that he
would leave the hospital the following day.
"But you can't do it," said the nurse.
"Why not?" asked Jimmy.
"The doctor won't permit it."
Edith tried to dissuade him, but he insisted that is was absolutely
necessary for him to be at the office when the C.P.A.'s report was made.
"I'll be over there Friday evening or Saturday morning at the latest,"
he said as she bid him good-bye.
And so it was that, despite the pleas of his nurse and the orders of his
physician, Jimmy appeared at the plant Friday afternoon. Bince greeted
him almost effusively, and Mr. Compton seemed glad to see him out again.
That evening Harold Bince met Murray at Feinheimer's, and still later
the Lizard received word that Murray wanted to see him.
"Everything's ready," the boss explained to the Lizard. "The whole
thing's framed for to-morrow night. The watchman was discharged to-day.
Another man is supposed to have been hired to take the job, but of
course he won't show up. You meet me here at seven thirty to-morrow
night, and I'll give you your final instructions and tell you how to get
to the plant." The C.P.A.'s were slow in completing their report. At
noon on Saturday it looked very much to Bince that there would be no
report ready before Monday. He had spent most of the forenoon pacing his
office, and at last, unable longer to stand the strain, he had announced
that he was going out to his country club for a game of golf.
He returned to his down-town club about dinner-time, and at eight
o'clock he called up Elizabeth Compton.
"Come on up," said the girl. "I'm all alone this evening. Father went
back to the office to examine some reports that were just finished up
late this afternoon."
"I'll be over," said Bince, "as soon as I dress." If there was any trace
of surprise or shock in his tones the girl failed to notice it.
At ten o'clock that night a figure moved silently through the dark
shadows of an alleyway in the area of the International Machine
Company's plant on West Superior Street. As he moved along he counted
the basement windows silently, and at the fifth window he halted. Just a
casual glance he cast up and down the alley, and then, kneeling, he
raised the sash and slipped quietly into the darkness of the basement.
At about the same time Jimmy's landlady called him to the telephone,
where a man's voice asked if "this was Mr. Torrance?" Assured that such
was the fact, the voice continued: "I am the new watchman at the plant.
There's something wrong here. I can't get hold of Mr. Compton. I think
you better come down. I'll be in Mr. Compton's office--" The message
ceased as though central had disconnected them.
"Funny," thought Jimmy, "that he should call me up. I wonder what the
trouble can be." But he lost no time in getting his hat and starting for
Although the Lizard knew that there was no danger of detection, yet from
long habit he moved through the plant of the International Machine
Company with the noiselessness of a disembodied spirit. Occasionally,
and just for the briefest instant, he flashed his lamp ahead of him, but
though he had never been in the place before he found it scarcely
necessary, so minute had been his instructions for reaching the office
from the fifth basement window.
The room he sought was on the second floor, and the Lizard had mounted
the steps from the basement to the first floor when he was brought to a
sudden stop by a noise from the floor above him. The Lizard listened
intently. No, he could not be mistaken. Too often had he heard a similar
Some one was tiptoeing across the floor above. The Lizard was in the
hallway close beside the stairs when he realized the footsteps were
coming toward the stairway, and a moment later that they were cautiously
descending. The Lizard flattened himself against the wall, and if he
breathed his lungs gave forth no sound.
If one may interpret footsteps--and the Lizard, from the fund of a
great experience, felt that he could--those descending the stairway
from above him might have been described as nervous and repressed; for
at least they gave the Lizard the impression of one who desired to flee
in haste and yet dared not do so, for fear of attracting attention by
the increased noise that greater speed might entail.
At least the Lizard knew that those were the footsteps of no watchman,
but whether it be guardian of the law or fellow criminal the Lizard had
no wish to be discovered. He wondered what had gone wrong with Murray's
plans, and, suddenly imbued with the natural suspicion of the criminal,
it occurred to him that the whole thing might be a frame-up to get him;
and yet why Murray should wish to get him he could not imagine. He ran
over in his mind a list all those who might feel enmity toward him, but
among them all the Lizard could cast upon none who might have sufficient
against him to warrant such an elaborate scheme of revenge.
The footsteps passed him and continued on toward the foot of the stairs
where was the main entrance which opened upon the street. At the door
the footsteps halted, and as the Lizard's eyes bored through the
darkness in the direction of the other prowler the latter struck a match
upon the panel of the door and lighted a cigarette, revealing his
features momentarily but distinctly to the watcher in the shadow of the
stairway. Then he opened the door and passed out into the night.
The Lizard, listening intently for a few moments to assure himself that
there was no one else above, and that the man who had just departed was
not returning, at last continued his way to the foot of the stairs,
which he ascended to the second floor. Passing through the outer office,
he paused a moment before the door to Compton's private office, and then
silently turning the knob he gently pushed the door open and stepped
into the room.
Beyond the threshold he halted and pressed the button of his flash-lamp.
For just an instant its faint rays illumined the interior of the room,
and then darkness blotted out the scene. But whatever it was that the
little flash-lamp had revealed was evidently in the nature of a
surprise, and perhaps something of a shock, to the Lizard, for he drew
back with a muttered oath, backed quietly out of the room, closed the
door after him, and, moving much more swiftly than he had entered,
retraced his steps to the fifth window on the alley, and was gone from
the scene with whatever job he had contemplated unexecuted.
A half-hour later detective headquarters at the Central Station received
an anonymous tip: "Send some one to the office of the International
Machine Company, on the second floor of West Superior Street."
It was ten thirty when Jimmy reached the plant. He entered the front
door with his own latchkey, pressed the button which lighted the
stairway and the landing above, and, ascending, went straight to Mr.
Compton's office, turned the knob, and opened the door, to find that the
interior was dark.
"Strange," he thought, "that after sending for me the fellow didn't
wait." As these thoughts passed through his mind he fumbled on the wall
for the switch, and, finding it, flooded the office with light.
As he turned again toward the room he voiced a sudden exclamation of
horror, for on the floor beside his desk lay the body of Mason Compton!
As Jimmy stepped quickly toward Compton's body and kneeled beside it a
man tiptoed quietly up the front stairway, while another, having
ascended from the rear, was crossing the outer office with equal
Jimmy felt of Compton's face and hands. They were warm. And then he
placed his ear close against the man's breast, in order to see if he
could detect the beating of the heart. He was in this position when he
was startled by a gruff voice behind him.
"Put 'em up!" it admonished curtly, and Jimmy turned to see two men
standing in the doorway with pistols leveled at him.
At first Jimmy thought they were the perpetrators of the deed, but
almost immediately he recognized one of them as O'Donnell, the erstwhile
traffic officer who had been promoted to a detective sergeancy since
Jimmy had first met him.
"Compton has been murdered," said Jimmy dully. "He is dead."
"Put up your hands," snapped O'Donnell for the second time, "and be
quick about it!"
It was then for the first time that Jimmy realized the meaning that
might be put upon his presence alone in the office with his dead
employer. O'Donnell's partner searched him, but found no weapon upon
"Where's the gat?" he asked.
"Whoever did this probably took it with him." said Jimmy. "Find the
They made Jimmy sit down in a corner, and while one of them guarded him
the other called up central, made his report, and asked for an ambulance
and the wagon. Then O'Donnell commenced to examine the room. A moment
later he found an automatic behind the door across the room from where
Compton's body lay.
"Ever see this before?" asked O'Donnell, holding the pistol up to Jimmy.
"If you're asking me if it's mine, no," said Jimmy. "I have a gun, but
it's home. I never carry it. I didn't do this, O'Donnell." he continued.
"There was no reason why I should do it, so instead of wasting your time
on me while the murderer escapes you'd better get busy on some other
theory, too. It won't do any harm, anyway."
The wagon came and took Jimmy to the station, and later he was
questioned by the lieutenant in charge.
"You say this is not your pistol?" asked the police officer.
"It is not," replied Jimmy.
"You never saw it before?"
"No, I have not."
The lieutenant turned to one of his men, who went to the door, and,
opening it, returned almost immediately with Bince.
"Do you know this man, Mr. Bince?" asked the lieutenant.
"I certainly do," said Bince.
"Did you ever see this pistol before?"
Bince took the weapon and examined it.
"Yes," he said.
"Under what circumstances?" asked the lieutenant.
"It was one of two that Mr. Compton had in his desk. This one he loaned
to Torrance two or three weeks ago. I was in the office at the time."
The officer turned toward Jimmy.
"Now do you recognize it?" he asked.
"I haven't denied," said Jimmy, "that Mr. Compton had loaned me a
pistol. As a matter of fact, I had forgotten all about it. I do not
particularly recognize this one as the weapon he loaned me, though it is
of the same type. There is no way that I could identify the particular
weapon he handed me."
"But you admit he loaned you one?"
"Yes," said Jimmy.
"What did you do with it?" asked the policeman.
"I put it in my desk within five minutes after he gave it to me, and I
haven't seen it since."
"You say you couldn't identify the pistol?" said the officer.
"Well, we can, and have. The number of this pistol was recorded when
Mr. Compton bought it, as was the number of the other one which is still
in his desk. They were the only two pistols he ever bought, according to
Mr. Bince, and his daughter, aside from one which he had at home, which
has also been accounted for. The drawer in which Mr. Bince saw you place
this pistol we found open and the pistol gone. It looks pretty bad for
you, young fellow, and if you want a chance to dodge the rope you'd
better plead guilty and tell us why you did it."
Jimmy was given little opportunity for sleep that night. A half-dozen
times he was called back to the lieutenant's office for further
questioning. He commenced to realize that the circumstantial evidence
was strongly against him, and now, as the girl had warned him, his
entirely innocent past was brought up against him simply because his
existence had been called to the attention of a policeman, and the same
policeman an inscrutable Fate had ordained should discover him alone
with a murdered man.
O'Donnell made the most of his meager knowledge of Jimmy. He told the
lieutenant with embellishments of Jimmy's association with such
characters as the Lizard and Little Eva; but the police were still at a
loss to discover a motive.
This, however, was furnished the next morning, when Elizabeth Compton,
white and heavy-eyed, was brought to the station to identify Jimmy.
There was deep compassion in the young man's face as he was ushered into
the presence of the stricken girl, while at sight of him her's mirrored
horror, contempt, and hatred.
"You know this man?" asked the lieutenant.
"Yes," she replied. "His name is Torrance. I have seen him a number of
times in the past year. He worked as a clerk in a store, in the hosiery
department, and waited on me there. Later I "--she hesitated--" I saw
him in a place called Feinheimer's. He was a waiter. Then he was a
sparring partner, I think they call it, for a prizefighter. Some of my
friends took me to a gymnasium to see the fighter training, and I
recognized this man.
"I saw him again when he was driving a milk-wagon. He delivered milk
at a friend's house where I chanced to be. The last time I saw him was
at my father's home. He had obtained employment in my father's plant as
an efficiency expert. He seemed to exercise some strange power over
father, who believed implicitly in him, until recently, when he
evidently commenced to have doubts; for the night that the man was at
our house I was sitting in the music-room when they passed through the
hallway, and I heard father discharge him. But the fellow pleaded to be
retained, and finally father promised to keep him for a while longer, as
I recall it, at least until certain work was completed at the plant.
This work was completed yesterday. That's all I know. I do not know
whether father discharged him again or not."
Harriet Holden had accompanied her friend to the police station, and was
sitting close beside her during the examination, her eyes almost
constantly upon the face of the prisoner. She saw no fear there, only an
expression of deep-seated sorrow for her friend.
The lieutenant was still asking questions when there came a knock at the
door, which was immediately opened, revealing O'Donnell with a young
woman, whom he brought inside.
"I guess we're getting to the bottom of it," announced the sergeant.
"Look who I found workin' over there as Compton's stenographer."
"Well, who is she?" demanded the lieutenant.
"A jane who used to hang out at Feinheimer's. She has been runnin'
around with this bird. They tell me over there that Compton hired her on
this fellow's recommendation. Get hold of the Lizard now, and you'll
have the whole bunch."
Thus did Sergeant Patrick O'Donnell solve the entire mystery with
Sherlockian ease and despatch.
At Jimmy's preliminary hearing he was held to the grand jury, and on the
strength of the circumstantial evidence against him that body voted a
true bill. Edith Hudson, against whom there was no evidence of any
nature, was held as a witness for the State, and a net was thrown out
for the Lizard which dragged in nearly every pickpocket in town except
the man they sought.
Jimmy had been in jail for about a week when he received a visitor. A
turnkey brought her to his cell. It was Harriet Holden. She greeted him
seriously but pleasantly, and then she asked the turnkey if she might go
"It's against the rules, miss," he said "but I guess it will be all
right." He recalled that the sheriff had said that the girl's father was
a friend of his, and so assumed that it would be safe to relax the rules
in her behalf. He had been too long an employee of the county not to
know that rules are often elastic to the proper pressure.
"I have been wanting to talk to you," said the girl to Jimmy, "ever
since this terrible thing happened. Somehow I can not believe that you
are guilty, and there must be some way in which you can prove your
"I have been trying to think out how I might," said Jimmy," but the more
I think about it the more damning the circumstantial evidence against me
"There must always be a motive for a crime like that," said Harriet. "I
cannot believe that a simple fear of his discharge would be sufficient
motive for any man to kill his employer."
"Not to kill a man who had been as good to me as Mr. Compton was," said
Jimmy, "or a man whom I admired so much as I did him. As a matter of
fact, he was not going to discharge me, Miss Holden, and I had an
opportunity there for a very successful future; but now that he is dead
there is no one who could verify such a statement on my part."
"Who could there be, then, who might wish to kill him, and what could
the motive be?"
"I can only think," said Jimmy, "of one man; and even in his case the
idea is too horrible--too preposterous to be entertained."
Harriet Holden looked up at him quickly, a sudden light in her eyes, and
an expression of almost horrified incredulity upon her face. "You don't
mean--" she started.
"I wouldn't even use his name in connection with the thought," Jimmy
interrupted; "but he is the only man of whom I know who could have
profited by Mr. Compton's death, and, on the other hand, whose entire
future would have been blasted possibly had Mr. Compton lived until the
The girl remained for half an hour longer, and when she left she went
directly to the home of Elizabeth Compton.
"I told you, Elizabeth," she said, "that I was going to see Mr.
Torrance. You dissuaded me for some time, but I finally went today, and
I am glad that I went. No one except yourself could have loved your
father more than I, or have been more horrified or grieved at his death;
but that is no reason why you should aid in the punishment of an
innocent man, as I am confident that this man Torrance is, and I tell
you Elizabeth if you were not prejudiced you would agree with me.
"I have talked with Torrance for over half an hour to-day, and since
then nothing can ever make me believe that that man could commit a
cold-blooded murder. Harold has always hated him--you admit that
yourself--and now you are permitting him to prejudice you against the
man purely on the strength of that dislike. I am going to help him. I'm
going to do it, not only to obtain justice for him, but to assist in
detecting and punishing the true murderer."
"I don't see, Harriet, how you can take any interest in such a
creature," said Elizabeth. "You know from the circumstances under which
we saw him before father employed him what type of man he is, and it was
further exemplified by the evidence of his relationship with that common
woman of the streets."
"He told me about her to-day," replied Harriet. "He had only known her
very casually, but she helped him once--loaned him some money when he
needed it---and when he found that she had been a stenographer and
wanted to give up the life she had been leading and be straight again,
he helped her.
"I asked Sergeant O'Donnell particularly about that, and even he had to
admit that there was no evidence whatever to implicate the girl or show
that the relations between her and Mr. Torrance had been anything that
was not right; and you know yourself how anxious O'Donnell has been to
dig up evidence of any kind derogatory to either of them."
"How are you going to help him?" asked Elizabeth. "Take flowers and
cake to him in jail?"
There was a sneer on her face and on her lips. "If he cares for flowers
and cakes," replied Harriet, "I probably shall; but I have another plan
which will probably be more practical."
"THE ONLY FRIENDS HE HAS."
So it befell that the next day a well-known criminal attorney called on
Jimmy Torrance at the county jail. "I understand," he said to Jimmy,
"that you have retained no attorney. I have been instructed by one of my
clients to take your case."
Jimmy looked at him in silence for a moment.
"Who is going to pay you?" he asked with a smile. "I understand
attorneys expect to be paid."
"That needn't worry you?" replied the lawyer.
"You mean that your client is going to pay for my defense? What's his
"That I am not permitted to tell you," replied the lawyer.
"Very well. Tell your client that I appreciate his kindness, but I
cannot accept it."
"Don't be a fool," said the attorney. "This client of mine can well
afford the expense, and anyway, my instructions are to defend you
whether you want me to or not, so I guess you can't help yourself."
Jimmy laughed with the lawyer. "All right," he said. "The first thing I
wish you'd do is to get Miss Hudson out of jail. There is doubtless some
reason for suspicion attaching to me because I was found alone with Mr.
Compton's body, and the pistol with which he was shot was one that had
been given to me and which I kept in my desk, but there is no earthly
reason why she should be detained. She could have had absolutely nothing
to do with it."
"I will see what can be done," replied the attorney, "although I had no
instructions to defend her also."
"I will make that one of the conditions under which I will accept your
services," said Jimmy.
The result was that within a few days Edith was released. From the
moment that she left the jail she was aware that she was being shadowed.
"I suppose," she thought, "that they expect to open up a fund of new
clues through me," but she was disturbed nevertheless, because she
realized that it was going to make difficult a thing that she had been
trying to find some means to accomplish ever since she had been
She went directly to her apartment and presently took down the
telephone-receiver, and after calling a public phone in a building
down-town, she listened intently while the operator was getting her
connection, and before the connection was made she hung up the receiver
with a smile, for she had distinctly heard the sound of a man's
breathing over the line, and she knew that in all probability O'Donnell
had tapped in immediately on learning that she had been released from
That evening she attended a local motion-picture theater which she often
frequented. It was one of those small affairs, the width of a city
block, with a narrow aisle running down either side and all emergency
exit upon the alley at the far end of each aisle. The theater was
darkened when she entered and, a quick glance apprizing her that no one
followed her in immediately, she continued on down one of the side
aisles and passed through the doorway into the alley.
Five minutes later she was in a telephone-booth in a drug-store two
"Is this Feinheimer's?" she asked after she had got her connection. "I
want to talk to Carl." She asked for Carl because she knew that this man
who had been head-waiter at Feinheimer's for years would know her voice.
"Is that you, Carl?" she asked as a man's voice finally answered the
telephone. "This is Little Eva."
"Oh, hello!" said the man. "I thought you were over at the county jail."
"I was released to-day," she explained. "Well, listen, Carl; I've got
to see the Lizard. I've simply got to see him to-night. I was being
shadowed, but I got away from them. Do you know where he is?"
"I guess I could find him," said Carl in a low voice. "You go out to
Mother Kruger's. I'll tell him you'll be there in about an hour."
"I'll be waiting in a taxi outside," said the girl.
"Good," said Carl. "If he isn't there in an hour you can know that he
was afraid to come. He's layin' pretty low."
"All right," said the girl, "I'll be there. You tell him that he simply
must come." She hung up the receiver and then called a taxi. She gave a
number on a side street about a half block away, where she knew it would
be reasonably dark, and consequently less danger of detection.
Three-quarters of an hour later her taxi drew up beside Mother Kruger's,
but the girl did not alight. She had waited but a short time when
another taxi swung in beside the road-house, turned around and backed up
alongside hers. A man stepped out and peered through the glass of her
machine. It was the Lizard.
Recognizing the girl he opened the door and took a seat beside her.
"Well," inquired the Lizard, "What's on your mind?"
"Jimmy," replied the girl.
"I thought so," returned the Lizard. "It looks pretty bad for him,
don't it? I wish there was some way to help him."
"He did not do it." said the girl.
"It didn't seem like him." said the Lizard, "but I got it straight from
a guy who knows that he done it all right."
"Who?" asked Edith.
"I thought he knew a lot about it," said the girl. "That's why I sent
for you. You haven't got any love for Murray, have you?"
"No," replied the Lizard; "not so you could notice it."
"I think Murray knows a lot about that job. If you want to help Jimmy I
know where you can get the dope that will start something, anyway."
"What is it?" asked the Lizard.
"This fellow Bince, who is assistant general manager for Compton, got a
letter from Murray two or three weeks before Compton was killed. Murray
enclosed a threat signed I.W.W., and his letter instructed Bince to show
the threat to Compton. I haven't got all the dope on it, but I've got a
hunch that in some way it is connected with this job. Anyway, I've got
both Murray's letter and the threat he enclosed. They're hidden in my
desk at the plant. I can't get them, of course; they wouldn't let me in
the place now, and Murray's so strong with the police that I wouldn't
trust them, so I haven't told any one. What I want is for you to go
there to-night and get them."
The Lizard was thinking fast. The girl knew nothing of his connection
with the job. She did not know that he had entered Compton's office and
had been first to find his dead body; in fact, no one knew that. Even
Murray did not know that the Lizard had succeeded in entering the plant,
as the latter had told him that he was delayed, and that when he reached
there a patrol and ambulance were already backed up in front of the
building. He felt that he had enough knowledge, however, to make the
conviction of Jimmy a very difficult proposition, but if he divulged the
knowledge he had and explained how he came by it he could readily see
that suspicion would be at once transferred from Jimmy to himself.
The Lizard therefore was in a quandary. Of course, if Murray's
connection was ever discovered the Lizard might then be drawn into it,
but if he could keep Murray out the Lizard would be reasonably safe from
suspicion, and now the girl had shown him how he might remove a damaging
piece of evidence against Murray.
"You will get it, won't you?" asked the girl.
"Where are these papers?" he asked.
"They are in the outer office which adjoins Mr. Compton's. My desk
stands at the right of the door as you enter from the main office.
Remove the right-hand lower drawer and you will find the papers lying on
the little wooden partition directly underneath the drawer."
"All right," said the Lizard; "I'll get them."
"Bless you, Lizard," cried the girl. "I knew you would help. You and I
are the only friends he has. If we went back on him he'd be sent up, for
there's lots of money being used against him. He might even be hanged. I
know from what I have heard that the prosecuting attorney intends to ask
for the death penalty."
The Lizard made no reply as he started to leave the taxi.
"Take them to his attorney," said the girl, and she gave him the name
The Lizard grunted and entered his own cab. As he did so a man on a
motorcycle drew up on the opposite side and peered through the window.
The driver had started his motor as the newcomer approached. From her
cab the girl saw the Lizard and the man on the motorcycle look into each
other's face for a moment, then she heard the Lizard's quick admonition
to his driver, "Beat it, bo!"
A sharp "Halt!" came from the man on the motorcycle, but the taxicab
leaped forward, and, accelerating rapidly, turned to the left into the
road toward the city. The girl had guessed at the first glance that the
man on the motorcycle was a police officer. As the Lizard's taxi raced
away the officer circled quickly and started in pursuit. "No chance,"
thought the girl. "He'll get caught sure." She could hear the staccato
reports from the open exhaust of the motorcycle diminishing rapidly in
the distance, indicating the speed of the pursued and the pursuer.
And then from the distance came a shot and then another and another.
She leaned forward and spoke to her own driver. "Go on to Elmhurst," she
said, "and then come back to the city on the St. Charles Road."
It was after two o'clock in the morning when the Lizard entered an
apartment on Ashland Avenue which he had for several years used as a
hiding-place when the police were hot upon his trail. The people from
whom he rented the room were eminently respectable Jews who thought
their occasional roomer what he represented himself to be, a special
agent for one of the federal departments, a vocation which naturally
explained the Lizard's long absences and unusual hours.
Once within his room the Lizard sank into a chair and wiped the
perspiration from his forehead, although it was by no means a warm
night. He drew a folded paper from his inside pocket, which, when
opened, revealed a small piece of wrapping paper within. They were
Murray's letter to Bince and the enclosure.
"Believe me," muttered the Lizard, "that was the toughest job I ever
pulled off and all I gets is two pieces of paper, but I don't know but
what they're worth it."
He sat for a long time looking at the papers in his hand, but he did not
see them. He was thinking of other things: of prison walls that he had
eluded so far through years of crime; of O'Donnell, whom he knew to be
working on the Compton case and whose boast it had been that sooner or
later he would get the Lizard; of what might naturally be expected were
the papers in his hands to fall into the possession of Torrance's
attorney. It would mean that Murray would be immediately placed in
jeopardy, and the Lizard knew Murray well enough to know that he would
sacrifice his best friend to save himself, and the Lizard was by no
means Murray's best friend.
He realized that he knew more about the Compton murder case than any one
else. He was of the opinion that be could clear it up if he were almost
any one other than the Lizard, but with the record of his past life
against him, would any one believe him? In order to prove his assertion
it would be necessary to make admissions that might incriminate himself,
and there would be Murray and the Compton millions against him; and as
he pondered these things there ran always through his mind the words of
the girl, "You and I are the only friends he has."
"Hell," ejaculated the Lizard as he rose from his chair and prepared for
Edith Hudson spent a restless night, and early in the morning, as early
as she thought she could reach him, she called the office of Jimmy's
attorney. She told the lawyer that some new evidence was to have been
brought in to him and asked if he had received it. Receiving a negative
reply she asked that she be called the moment it was brought in.
All that day and the next she waited, scarcely leaving her room for fear
that the call might come while she was away. The days ran into weeks and
still there was no word from the Lizard.
Jimmy was brought to trial, and she saw him daily in the courtroom and
as often as they would let her she would visit him in jail. On several
occasions she met Harriet Holden, also visiting him, and she saw that
the other young woman was as constant an attendant at court as she.
The State had established as unassailable a case as might he built on
circumstantial evidence. Krovac had testified that Torrance had made
threats against Compton in his presence, and there was no way in which
Jimmy's attorneys could refute the perjured statement. Jimmy himself had
come to realize that his attorney was fighting now for his life, that
the verdict of the jury was already a foregone conclusion and that the
only thing left to fight for now was the question of the penalty.
Daily he saw in the court-room the faces of the three girls who had
entered so strangely into his life. He noticed, with not a little sorrow
and regret, that Elizabeth Compton and Harriet Holden always sat apart
and that they no longer spoke. He saw the effect of the strain of the
long trial on Edith Hudson. She looked wan and worried, and then finally
she was not in court one day, and later, through Harriet Holden, he
learned that she was confined to her room with a bad cold.
Jimmy's sentiments toward the three women whose interests brought them
daily to the court-room had undergone considerable change. The girl that
he had put upon a pedestal to worship from afar, the girl to whom he had
given an idealistic love, he saw now in another light. His reverence for
her had died hard, but in the face of her arrogance, her vindictiveness
and her petty snobbery it had finally succumbed, so that when he
compared her with the girl who had been of the street the latter
suffered in no way by the comparison.
Harriet Holden's friendship and loyalty were a never-ending source of
wonderment to him, but he accepted her own explanation, which, indeed,
was fair enough, that her innate sense of justice had compelled her to
give him her sympathy and assistance.
Just how far that assistance had gone Jimmy did not know, though of late
he had come to suspect that his attorney was being retained by Harriet
Bince appeared in the court-room only when necessity compelled his
presence on the witness stand. The nature of the man's testimony was
such that, like Krovac's, it was difficult of impeachment, although
Jimmy was positive that Bince perjured himself, especially in a
statement that he made of a conversation he had with Mr. Compton the
morning of the murder, in which he swore that Compton stated that he
intended to discharge Torrance that day.
The effect of the trial seemed to have made greater inroads upon Bince
than upon Jimmy. The latter gave no indication of nervous depression or
of worry, while Bince, on the other hand, was thin, pale and haggard.
His hands and face continually moved and twitched as he sat in the
courtroom or on the witness chair. Never for an instant was he at rest.
Elizabeth Compton had noticed this fact, too, and commented upon it one
evening when Bince was at her home.
"What's the matter with you, Harold?" she asked. "You look as though
you are on the verge of nervous prostration."
"I've had enough to make any man nervous," retorted Bince irritably. "I
can't get over this terrible affair, and in addition I have had all the
weight and responsibility of the business on my shoulders since, and the
straightening out of your father's estate, which, by the way, was in
pretty bad shape.
"I wish, Elizabeth," he went on, "that we might be married immediately.
I have asked you so many times before, however, and you have always
refused, that I suppose it is useless now. I believe that I would get
over this nervous condition if you and I were settled down here
together. I have no real home, as you know--the club is just a
stopping place. I might as well be living at a hotel. If after the day's
work I could come home to a regular home it would do me a world of good,
I know. We could be married quietly. There is every reason why we
should, especially now that you are left all alone."
"Just what do you mean by immediately?" she asked.
"To-morrow," he replied.
For a long time she demurred, but finally she acceded to his wishes, for
an early marriage, though she would not listen to the ceremony being
performed the following day. They reached a compromise on Friday
morning, a delay of only a few days, and Harold Bince breathed more
freely thereafter than he had for a long time before.
Mr. and Mrs. Harold Bince entered the court-room late on Friday morning
following the brief ceremony that had made them man and wife. It had
been generally supposed that to-day the case would go to the jury as the
evidence was all in, and the final arguments of the attorneys, which had
started the preceding day, would be concluded during the morning
session. It had been conceded that the judge's charge would be brief and
perfunctory, and there was even hope that the jury might return a
verdict before the close of the afternoon session, but when Bince and
his bride entered the court-room they found Torrance's attorney making a
motion for the admission of new evidence on the strength of the recent
discovery of witnesses, the evidence of whom he claimed would materially
alter the aspect of the case.
An hour was consumed in argument before the judge finally granted the
motion. The first of the new witnesses called was an employee of the
International Machine Company. After the usual preliminary questions the
attorney for the defense asked him if he was employed in the plant on
the afternoon of March 24. The reply was in the affirmative.
"Will you tell the jury, please, of any occurrence that you witnessed
there that afternoon out of the ordinary?"
"I was working at my machine," said the witness, "when Pete Krovac comes
to me and asks me to hide behind a big drill-press and watch what the
assistant general manager done when he comes through the shop again. So
I hides there and I saw this man Bince come along and drop an envelope
beside Krovac's machine, and after he left I comes out as Krovac picks
it up, and I seen him take some money out of it."
"How much money?" asked the attorney.
"There was fifty dollars there. He counted it in front of me."
"Did he say what it was for?" "Yes, be said Bince gave it to him to
croak this fellow"--nodding toward Jimmy.
"What fellow?" asked the attorney. "You mean Mr. Torrance, the
"And what else? What happened after that?"
"Krovac said he'd split it with me if I'd go along and help him."
"The guy beat up Krovac and come near croaking me, and got away."
"That is all," said the attorney.
The prosecuting attorney, whose repeated objections to the testimony of
the witness had been overruled, waived cross-examination.
Turning to the clerk, "Please call Stephen Murray," said Jimmy's
Murray, burly and swaggering, took the witness chair. The attorney
handed him a letter. It was the letter that Murray had written Bince
enclosing the supposed I.W.W. threat.
"Did you ever see that before?" he asked.
Murray took the letter and read it over several times. He was trying to
see in it anything which could possibly prove damaging to him.
"Sure," he said at last in a blustering tone of voice. "I wrote it.
But what of it?" "And this enclosure?" asked the attorney. He handed
Murray the slip of soiled wrapping paper with the threat lettered upon
it. "This was received with your letter."
Murray hesitated before replying. "Oh," he said, "that ain't nothing.
That was just a little joke."
"You were seen in Feinheimer's with Mr. Bince on March--Do you recall
the object of this meeting?"
"Mr. Bince thought there was going to be a strike at his plant and he
wanted me to fix it up for him," replied Murray.
"You know the defendant, James Torrance?"
"Didn't he knock you down once for insulting a girl?" Murray flushed,
but was compelled to admit the truth of the allegation.
"You haven't got much use for him, have you?" continued the attorney.
"No, I haven't," replied Murray.
"You called the defendant on the telephone a half or three-quarters of
an hour before the police discovered Mr. Compton's body, did you not?"
Murray started to deny that he had done so. Jimmy's attorney stopped
him. "Just a moment, Mr. Murray," he said, "if you will stop a moment
and give the matter careful thought I am sure you will recall that you
telephoned Mr. Torrance at that time, and that you did it in the
presence of a witness," and the attorney pointed toward the back of the
court-room. Murray looked in the direction that the other indicated and
again he paled and his hand trembled where it rested on the arm of his
chair, for seated in the back of the courtroom was the head-waiter from
Feinheimer's. "Now do you recall?" asked the attorney.
Murray was silent for a moment. Suddenly he half rose from his chair.
"Yes I remember it," he said. "They are all trying to double-cross me. I
had nothing to do with killing Compton. That wasn't in the deal at all.
Ask that man there; he will tell you that I had nothing to do with
killing Compton. He hired me and he knows," and with shaking finger
Murray pointed at Mr Harold Bince where he sat with his wife beside the
For a moment there was tense silence in the court-room which was broken
by the defense's perfunctory "Take the witness" to the prosecuting
attorney, but again cross-examination was waived.
"Call the next witness, please," and a moment later the Lizard emerged
from the witness-room.
"I wish you would tell the jury," said the counsel for defense after the
witness had been sworn, "just what you told me in my office yesterday
"Yes, sir," said the Lizard. "You see, it was like this: Murray there
sent for me and tells me that he's got a job for me. He wants me to go
and crack a safe at the International Machine Company's plant. He said
there was a fellow on the inside helping him, that there wouldn't be any
watchman there that night and that in the safe I was to crack was some
books and papers that was to be destroyed, and on top of it was three or
four thousand dollars in pay-roll money that I was to have as my pay for
the job. Murray told me that the guy on the inside who wanted the job
done had been working some kind of a pay-roll graft and he wanted the
records destroyed, and he also wanted to get rid of the guy that was hep
to what he had been doin'. All that I had to do with it was go and crack
the safe and get the records, which I was to throw in the river, and
keep the money for myself, but the frame-up on the other guy was to send
him a phony message that would get him at the plant after I got through,
and then notify the police so they could catch him there in the room
with the cracked safe.
"I didn't know who they were framin' this job on. If I had I wouldn't
have had nothin' to do with it.
"Well, I goes to the plant and finds a window in the basement open just
as they tells me it will be, but when I gets on the first floor just
before I go up-stairs to the office, which is on the second floor, I
heard some one walking around up-stairs. I hid in the hallway while he
came down. He stopped at the front door and lighted a cigarette and then
he went on out, and I went up-stairs to finish the job.
"When I gets in Compton's office where the safe is I flashes my light
and the first thing I sees is Compton's body on the floor beside his
desk. That kind of stuff ain't in my line, so I beats it out without
crackin' the safe. That's all I know about it until I sees the papers,
and then for a while I was afraid to say anything because this guy
O'Donnell has it in for me, and I know enough about police methods to
know that they could frame up a good case of murder against me. But
after a while Miss Hudson finds me and puts it up to me straight that
this guy Torrance hasn't got no friends except me and her.
"Of course she didn't know how much I knew, but I did, and it's been
worryin' me ever since. I was waiting, though, hopin' that something
would turn up so that he would be acquitted, but I been watchin' the
papers close, and I seen yesterday that there wasn't much chance, so
here I am."
"You say that a man came down from Mr. Compton's office just before you
went up? What time was that?"
"It was about ten o'clock, about half an hour before the cops finds
"And then you went upstairs and found Mr. Compton dead?"
"Yes, sir." "You say this man that came downstairs stopped and lighted a
cigarette before he left the building. Did you see his face?"
"Yes, I did."
"Would you recognize him if you saw him again?"
"Look around the court-room and see if you can find him here."
"Sure I can find him. I seen him when I first came in, but I can't see
his face because he's hiding behind the prosecuting attorney."
All eyes were turned in the direction of the prosecuting attorney to see
Bince leap suddenly to his feet and lean forward upon the desk before
him, supported by a trembling arm as he shook his finger at the Lizard,
and in high-pitched tones screamed, "It's a lie! It's a lie!"
For a moment longer he stood looking wildly about the room, and then
with rapid strides he crossed it to an open window, and before any one
could interfere he vaulted out, to fall four stories to the cement
For several minutes pandemonium reigned in the court-room. Elizabeth
Compton Bince swooned, and when she regained consciousness she found
herself in the arms of Harriet Holden.
"Take me home, Harriet," she asked; "take me away from this place. Take
me to your home. I do not want to go back to mine yet."
Half an hour later, in accordance with the judge's charge to the jury, a
verdict of "Not guilty" was rendered in the case of the People of
Illinois versus James Torrance, Jr. Mr. Holden and Jimmy's attorney were
the first to congratulate him, and the former insisted that he come home
with him to dinner.
"I am sorry," said Jimmy; "I should like to immensely, but there is some
one I must see first. If I may I should like to come out later in the
evening to thank you and Miss Holden."
Jimmy searched about the court-room until he found the Lizard. "I don't
know how to thank you," he said.
"Don't then," said the Lizard. "Who you ought to thank is that little
girl who is sick in bed up on the north side."
"That's just where I am going now," said Jimmy. "Is she very sick?"
"Pneumonia," said the Lizard. "I telephoned her doctor just before I
came over here, and I guess if you want to see her at all you'd better
"It's not that had, is it?" Jimmy said.
"I'm afraid it is," said the Lizard.
Jimmy lost no time in reaching the street and calling a taxi. A nurse
admitted him to the apartment. "How is she?" he asked
The nurse shook her head.
"Can she see any one?"
"It won't make any difference now," said the nurse, and Jimmy was led
into the room where the girl, wasted by fever and suffering, lay in a
half-comatose condition upon her narrow bed. Jimmy crossed the room and
laid his hand upon her forehead and at the touch she opened her eyes and
looked up at him. He saw that she recognized him and was trying to say
something, and he kneeled beside the bed so that his ear might be closer
to her lips.
"Jimmy," she whispered, "you are free? Tell me."
He told her briefly of what had happened. "I am so happy," she murmured.
"Oh, Jimmy, I am so happy!"
He took one of her wasted hands in his own and carried it to his lips.
"Not on the hand," she said faintly. "Just once, on the lips, before I
He gathered her in his arms and lifted her face to his. "Dear little
girl," he said, "you are not going to die. It is not as bad as that."
She did not reply, but only clung to him tightly, and against his cheek
he felt her tears and a little choking sob before she relaxed, and he
laid her back again on her pillow. He thought she was dead then and he
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