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It was the following evening, and they had dined together again at the St. James Club--Jimmie Dale, and Carruthers of the MORNING NEWS- ARGUS. From Clayton and a discussion of the Metzer murder, the conversation had turned, not illogically, upon the physiognomy of criminals in general. Jimmie Dale, lazily ensconced now in a lounging chair in one of the club's private library rooms, flicked a minute speck of cigar ash from the sleeve of his dinner jacket, and smiled whimsically across the table at his friend.
"Oh, I dare say there's a lot in physiognomy, Carruthers," he drawled. "Never studied the thing, you know--that is, from the standpoint of crime. Personally, I've only got one prejudice: I distrust, on principle, the man who wears a perennial and pompous smirk--which isn't, of course, strictly speaking, physiognomy at all. You see, a man can't help his eyes being beady or his nose pronounced, but pomposity and a smirk, now--" Jimmie Dale shrugged his shoulders.
Carruthers laughed--and then glanced ludicrously at Jimmie Dale, as the door, ajar, was pushed open, and a man entered.
"Speaking of angels," murmured Jimmie Dale--and sat up in his chair. "Hello, Markel!" he observed casually, "You've met Carruthers, of the NEWS-ARGUS, haven't you?"
Markel was fat and important; he had beady black eyes, fastidiously trimmed whiskers--and a pronounced smirk.
Markel blew his nose vigorously, coughed asthmatically, and held out his hand.
"Of course, certainly," said he effusively. "I've met Carruthers several times--used his sheet more than once to advertise a new bond flotation."
The dominant note in Markel's voice was an ingratiating and unpleasant whine, and Carruthers nodded, not very cordially--and shook hands.
Markel went back to the door, closed it carefully, and returned to the table.
"Fact is," he smiled confidentially, "I saw you two come in here a few minutes ago, and I've got something that I thought Carruthers might be glad to have for his society column--say, in the Sunday edition."
He dove into the inside pocket of his coat, produced a large morocco leather jeweller's case, and, holding it out over the table between Carruthers and Jimmie Dale, suddenly snapped the cover open--and then, with a complacent little chuckle that terminated in another fit of coughing, spilled the contents on the table under the electric reading lamp.
Like a thing of living, pulsing fire it rolled before their eyes--a magnificent diamond necklace, of wondrous beauty, gleaming and scintillating as the light rays shot back from a thousand facets.
For a moment, both men gazed at it without a word.
"Little surprise for my wife," volunteered Markel, with a debonair wave of his pudgy hand, and trying to make his voice sound careless.
The case lay open--patently displaying the name of the most famous jewelry house in America. Jimmie Dale's eyes fixed on Markel's whiskers where they were brushed outward in an ornate and fastidious gray-black sweep.
"By Jove!" he commented. "You don't do things by halves, do you, Markel?"
"Two hundred and ten thousand dollars I paid for that little bunch of gewgaws," said Markel, waving his hand again. Then he clapped Carruthers heartily on the shoulder. "What do you think of it, Carruthers--eh? Say, a photograph of it, and one of Mrs. Markel-- eh? Please her, you know--she's crazy on this society stunt--all flubdub to me of course. How's it strike you, Carruthers?"
Carruthers, very evidently, liked neither the man nor his manners, but Carruthers, above everything else, was a gentleman.
"To be perfectly frank with you, Mr. Markel," he said a little frigidly, "I don't believe in this sort of thing. It's all right from a newspaper standpoint, and we do it; but it's just in this way that owners of valuable jewelry lay themselves open to theft. It simply amounts to advising every crook in the country that you have a quarter of a million at his disposal, which he can carry away in his vest pocket, once he can get his hands on it--and you invite him to try."
Jimmie Dale laughed. "What Carruthers means, Markel, is that you'll have the Gray Seal down your street. Carruthers talks of crooks generally, but he thinks in terms of only one. He can't help it. He's been trying so long to catch the chap that it's become an obsession. Eh, Carruthers?"
Carruthers smiled seriously. "Perhaps," he admitted. "I hope, though, for Mr. Markel's sake, that the Gray Seal won't take a fancy to it--if he does, Mr. Markel can say good-bye to his necklace."
"Pouf!" coughed Markel arrogantly. "Overrated! His cleverness is all in the newspaper columns. If he knows what's good for him, he'll know enough to leave this alone."
Jimmie Dale was leaning over the table poking gingerly with the tip of his forefinger at the centre stone in the setting, revolving it gently to and fro in the light--a very large stone, whose weight would hardly be less than fifteen carats. Jimmie Dale lowered his head for a closer examination--and to hide a curious, mocking little gleam that crept into his dark eyes.
"Yes, I should say you're right, Markel," he agreed judicially. "He ought to know better than to touch this. It--it would be too hard to dispose of."
"I'm not worrying," declared Markel importantly.
"No," said Jimmie Dale. "Two hundred and ten thousand, you said. Any special--er--significance to the occasion, if the question's not impertinent? Birthday, wedding anniversary--or something like that?"
"No, nothing like that!" Markel grinned, winked secretively, and rubbed his hands together. "I'm feeling good, that's all--I'm going to make the killing of my life to-morrow."
"Oh!" said Jimmie Dale.
Markel turned to Carruthers. "I'll let you in on that, too, Carruthers, in a day or two, if you'll send a reporter around-- financial man, you know. It'll be worth your while. And now, how about this? What do you say to a little article and the photos next Sunday?"
There was a slight hint of rising colour in Carruthers' face.
"If you'll send them to the society editor, I've no doubt he'll be able to use them," he said brusquely.
"Right!" said Markel, and coughed, and patted Carruthers' shoulder patronisingly again. "I'll just do that little thing." He picked up the necklace, dangled it till it flashed and flashed again under the light, then restored it very ostentatiously to its case, and the case to his pocket. "Thanks awfully, Carruthers," he said, as he rose from his chair. "See you again, Dale. Good-night!"
Carruthers glared at the door as it closed behind the man.
"Say it!" prodded Jimmie Dale sweetly. "Don't feel restrained because you are a guest--I absolve you in advance."
"Rotter!" said Carruthers.
"Well," said Jimmie Dale softly. "You see--Carruthers?"
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