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"You were safe enough," he rasped on. "The police could only construe your visit to Moyne's flat as zeal on behalf of the bank. And it was safer, much more circumspect on your part, not to order the flat searched at once, but only as a last resort, as it were, after you had led the police to trail him all evening and still remain without a clew--and besides, of course, not until you had planted the evidence that was to damn him and wreck his life and home! You were even generous in the amount you deprived yourself of out of the hundred thousand dollars--for less would have been enough. Caught with ten thousand dollars of the bank's money and a steamship ticket made out in a fictitious name, it was prima-facie evidence that he had done the job and had the balance somewhere. What would his denials, his protestations of innocence count for? He was an ex-convict, a hardened criminal caught red-handed with a portion of the proceeds of robbery--he had succeeded in hiding the remainder of it too cleverly, that was all."
Carling's face was ghastly. His hands went out again--again his tongue moistened his dry lips. He whispered:
"Isn't--isn't there some--some way we can fix this?"
And then Jimmie Dale laughed--not pleasantly.
"Yes, there's a way, Carling," he said grimly. "That's why I'm here." He picked up a sheet of writing paper and pushed it across the desk--then a pen, which he dipped into the inkstand, and extended to the other. "The way you'll fix it will be to write out a confession exonerating Moyne."
Carling shrank back into his chair, his head huddling into his shoulders.
"NO!" he cried. "I won't--I can't--my God!--I--I--WON'T!"
The automatic in Jimmie Dale's hand edged forward the fraction of an inch.
"I have not used this--yet. You understand now why--don't you?" he said under his breath.
"No, no!" Carling pushed away the pen. "I'm ruined--ruined as it is. But this would mean the penitentiary, too--"
"Where you tried to send an innocent man in your place, you hound; where you--"
"Some other way--some other way!" Carling was babbling. "Let me out of this--for God's sake, let me out of this!"
"Carling," said Jimmie Dale hoarsely, "I stood beside a little bed to-night and looked at a baby girl--a little baby girl with golden hair, who smiled as she slept."
Carling shivered, and passed a shaking hand across his face.
"Take this pen," said Jimmie Dale monotonously; "or--THIS!" The automatic lifted until the muzzle was on a line with Carling's eyes.
Carling's hand reached out, still shaking, and took the pen; and his body, dragged limply forward, hung over the desk. The pen spluttered on the paper--a bead of sweat spurting from the man's forehead dropped to the sheet.
There was silence in the room. A minute passed--another. Carling's pen travelled haltingly across the paper then, with a queer, low cry as he signed his name, he dropped the pen from his fingers, and, rising unsteadily from his chair, stumbled away from the desk toward a couch across the room.
An instant Jimmie Dale watched the other, then he picked up the sheet of paper. It was a miserable document, miserably scrawled:
"I guess it's all up. I guess I knew it would be some day. Moyne hadn't anything to do with it. I stole the money myself from the bank to-night. I guess it's all up.
THOMAS H. CARLING."
From the paper, Jimmie Dale's eyes shifted to the figure by the couch--and the paper fluttered suddenly from his fingers to the desk. Carling was reeling, clutching at his throat--a small glass vial rolled upon the carpet. And then, even as Jimmie Dale sprang forward, the other pitched head long over the couch--and in a moment it was over.
Presently Jimmie Dale picked up the vial--and dropped it back on the floor again. There was no label on it, but it needed none--the strong, penetrating odor of bitter almonds was telltale evidence enough. It was prussic, or hydrocyanic acid, probably the most deadly poison and the swiftest in its action that was known to science--Carling had provided against that "some day" in his confession!
For a little space, motionless, Jimmie Dale stood looking down at the silent, outstretched form--then he walked slowly back to the desk, and slowly, deliberately picked up the signed confession and the steamship ticket. He held them an instant, staring at them, then methodically began to tear them into little pieces, a strange, tired smile hovering on his lips. The man was dead now--there would be disgrace enough for some one to bear, a mother perhaps--who knew! And there was another way now--since the man was dead.
Jimmie Dale put the pieces in his pocket, went to the safe, opened it, and took out a parcel, locked the safe carefully, and carried the parcel to the desk. He opened it there. Inside were nearly two dozen little packages of hundred-dollar bills. The other two packages that he had brought with him he added to the rest. From his pocket he took out the thin metal insignia case, and with the tiny tweezers lifted up one of the gray-coloured, diamond-shaped paper seals. He moistened the adhesive side, and, still holding it by the tweezers, dropped it on his handkerchief and pressed the seal down on the face of the topmost package of banknotes. He tied the parcel up then, and, picking up the pen, addressed it in printed characters:
HUDSON-MERCANTILE NATIONAL BANK,
NEW YORK CITY.
"District messenger--some way--in the morning," he murmured.
Jimmie Dale slipped his mask into his pocket, and, with the parcel under his arm, stepped to the door and unlocked it. He paused for an instant on the threshold for a single, quick, comprehensive glance around the room--then passed on out into the street.
At the corner he stopped to light a cigarette--and the flame of the match spurting up disclosed a face that was worn and haggard. He threw the match away, smiled a little wearily--and went on.
The Gray Seal had committed another "crime."
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