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They shouldered through the crowd and up to an officer at the door. The officer nodded, stepped aside, and Carruthers, with Jimmie Dale following, entered the house.
They climbed one flight, and then another. The card-rooms, the faro, stud, and roulette layouts were deserted, save for policemen here and there on guard. Carruthers led the way to a room at the back of the hall, whose door was open and from which issued a hubbub of voices--one voice rose above the others, heavy and gratingly complacent.
"Clayton's back," observed Carruthers.
They stepped over the threshold, and the heavy voice greeted them.
"Ah, here's Carruthers now! H'are you, Carruthers? They told me you'd been here, and were coming back, so I've been keeping the boys waiting before handing out the dope. You've had a look at that-- eh?" He flung out a fat hand toward the bed.
The voices rose again, all directed at Carruthers now.
"Bubble's burst, eh, Carruthers? What about the 'Prince of Crooks'? Artistry in crime, wasn't it, you said?" They were quoting from his editorials of bygone days, a half dozen reporters of rival papers, grinning and joshing him good-naturedly, seemingly quite unaffected by what lay within arm's reach of them upon the bed.
Carruthers smiled a little wryly, shrugged his shoulders--and presented Jimmie Dale to Inspector Clayton.
"Mr. Matthewson, a new man of ours--inspector."
"Glad to know you, Mr. Matthewson," said the inspector.
Jimmie Dale found his hand grasped by another that was flabby and unpleasantly moist; and found himself looking into a face that was red, with heavy rolls of unhealthy fat terminating in a double chin and a thick, apoplectic neck--a huge, round face, with rat's eyes.
Clayton dropped Jimmie Dale's hand, and waved his own in the air. Jimmie Dale remained modestly on the outside of the circle as the reporters gathered around the police inspector.
"Now, then," said Clayton coarsely, "the guy that's croaked there is Metzer, Jake Metzer. Get that?"
Jimmie Dale, scribbling hurriedly in his notebook like all the rest, turned a little toward the bed, and his lower jaw crept out the fraction of an inch. Both gas jets in the room were turned on full, giving ample light. A man fully dressed, a man of perhaps forty, lay upon his back on the bed, one arm outflung across the bedspread, the other dangling, with fingers just touching the floor, the head at an angle and off the pillow. It was as though he had been carried to the bed and flung upon it after the deed had been committed. Jimmie Dale's eyes shifted and swept the room. Yes, everything was in disorder, as though there had been a struggle--a chair upturned, a table canted against the wall, broken pieces of crockery from the washstand on the carpet, and--
"Metzer was a stool pigeon, see?" went on Clayton, "and he lived here. Moriarty wasn't on to him. Metzer stood in thick with a wider circle of crooks than any other snitch in New York."
Jimmie Dale, still scribbling as Clayton talked, stepped to the bed and leaned over the murdered man. The murder had been done with a blackjack evidently--a couple of blows. The left side of the temple was crushed in. Right in the middle of the forehead, pasted there, a gray-colored, diamond shaped paper seal flaunted itself--the device of the Gray Seal. In Jimmie Dale' hand, hidden as he turned his back, the tiny combination of powerful lenses was focused on the seal.
Clayton guffawed. "That's right!" he called out. "Take a good look. That's a bright young man you've got, Carruthers."
Jimmie Dale looked up a little sheepishly--and got a grin from the assembled reporters, and a scowl from Carruthers.
Now, then," continued Clayton, "here's the facts--as much of 'em as I can let you boys print at present. You know I'm stretching a point to let you in here--don't forget that when you come to write up the case--honour where's honour's due, you know. Well, me and Metzer there was getting ready to close down on a big piece of game, and I was over here in this room talking to him about it early this afternoon. We had it framed to get our man to-night--see? I left Metzer, say, about three o'clock, and he was to show up over at headquarters with another little bit of evidence we wanted at eight o'clock to-night."
Jimmie Dale was listening--to every word. But he stooped now again over the murdered man's head deliberately, though he felt the inspector's rat's eyes upon him--stooped, and, with his finger nail, lifted back the right-hand point of the diamond-shaped seal where it bordered a faint thread of blood on the man's forehead.
There was a bull-like roar from the inspector, and he burst through the ring of reporters, and grabbed Jimmie Dale by the shoulder.
"Here you, what in hell are you doing!" he spluttered angrily.
Embarrassed and confused, Jimmie Dale drew back, glanced around, and smiled again a little sheepishly as his eyes rested on the red- flushed jowl of the inspector.
"I--I wanted to see how it was stuck on," he explained inanely.
"Stuck on!" bellowed Clayton. "I'll show you how it's STUCK on, if you monkey around here! Don't you know any better than that! Where were you dragged up anyway? The coroner hasn't been here yet. You're a hot cub of a reporter, you are!" He turned to Carruthers. "Y'ought to get out printed instructions for 'em before you turn 'em loose!" he snapped.
Carruthers' face was red with mortification. There was a grin, expanded, on the faces of the others.
"Stand away from that bed!" roared Clayton at Jimmie Dale. "And if you go near it again, I'll throw you out of here bodily!"
Jimmie Dale edged away, and, eyes lowered, fumbled nervously with the leaves of his notebook.
Clayton grunted, glared at Jimmie Dale for an instant viciously--and resumed his story.
"I was saying," he said, "that Metzer was to come to headquarters at eight o'clock this evening. Well, he didn't show up. That looked queer. It was mighty important business. We was after one of the biggest hauls we'd ever pulled off. I waited till nine o'clock, an hour ago, and I was getting nervous. Then I started over here to find out what was the matter. When I got here I asked Moriarty if he'd seen Metzer. Moriarty said he hadn't since I was here before. He was a little suspicious that I had something on Metzer--see? Well, by pumping Moriarty, he admitted that Metzer had had a visitor about an hour after I left."
"Who was it? Know what his name is, inspector?" asked one of the reporters quickly.
Inspector Clayton winked heavily. "Don't be greedy boys," he grinned.
"You mean you've got him?" burst out another one of the men excitedly.
"Sure! Sure, I've got him." Inspector Clayton waved his fat hand airily. "Or I will have before morning--but I ain't saying anything more till it's over." He smiled significantly. "Well, that's about all. You've got the details right around you. I left Moriarty downstairs and came up here, and found just what you see--Metzer laying on the bed there, and the gray seal stuck on his forehead-- and"--he ended abruptly--"I'll have the Gray Seal himself behind the bars by morning."
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