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Rhoda Gray could see now. Her eyes were on a level with the landing, and diagonally across from the head of the stairs was the open doorway of a lighted room. She could not see all of the interior, but she could see quite enough. Two men sat, side face to her, one at each end of a rough, deal table - Danglar, and an ugly, pock-marked, unshaven man, in a peaked cap that was drawn down over his eyes, who whittled at a stick with a huge jack-knife. The latter was Skeeny, obviously; and the jack-knife and the stick, quite as obviously, explained Danglar's facetious reference to wood-carving. And then her eyes shifted, and widened as they rested on a huddled form that she could see by looking under and beyond the table, and that lay sprawled out against the far wall of the room.
Skeeny pushed the peak of his cap back with the point of his knife-blade.
"What's the haul size up at?" he demanded. "Anything in the safe besides the shiners?"
"A few hundred dollars," Danglar replied. "I don't know exactly how much. I told the Cricket to divide it up among the boys who did the rough work. That's good enough, isn't it, Skeeny? It gives you a little extra. You'll get yours."
Skeeny grunted compliance.
"Well, let's have a look at the white ones, then," he said.
Rhoda Gray was standing upright in the little hallway now, and now, pressed close against the wall, she edged toward the door-jamb. And a queer, grim little smile came and twisted the sensitive lips, as she drew her revolver from her pocket. The merciless, pitiless way in which the newspapers had flayed the White Moll was not, after all, to be wholly regretted! The cool, clever resourcefulness, the years of reckless daring attributed to the White Moll, would stand her in good stead now. Everybody on the East Side knew her by sight. These men knew her. It was not merely a woman ambitiously attempting to beard two men who, perhaps, holding her sex in contempt in an adventure of this kind, might throw discretion to the winds and give scant respect to her revolver, for behind the muzzle of that revolver was the reputation of the White Moll. They would take her at face value - as one who not only knew how to use that revolver, but as one who would not hesitate an instant to do so.
From the room she heard Skeeny whistle low under his breath, as though in sudden and amazed delight - and then she was standing full in the open doorway, and her revolver in her outflung, gloved hand covered the two men at the table.
There was a startled cry from Skeeny, a scintillating flash of light as a magnificent string of diamonds fell from his hand to the table. But Danglar did not move or speak; only his lips twitched, and a queer whiteness came and spread itself over his face.
"Put up your hands-both of you!" she ordered, in a low, tense voice.
It was Skeeny who spoke, as both men obeyed her. "The White Moll, so help me!" he mumbled, and swallowed hard.
Danglar's eyes never seemed to leave her face, and they narrowed now, full of hatred and a fury that lie made no attempt to conceal. She smiled at him coldly. She quite understood! He had already complained that evening that the White Moll for the last few weeks had been robbing them of the fruits of their laboriously planned schemes. And now-again! Well, she would not dispel his illusion! He had given the White Moll that role - and it was the safest role to play.
She stepped forward now, and with her free hand suddenly pulled the table toward her out of their reach; and then, as she picked up the necklace, she appeared for the first time to become aware of the presence of the huddled form on the floor near the wall. She could see that the Sparrow was bound and gagged, and as he squirmed now he turned his face toward her.
"Why, it's the Sparrow, isn't it?" she exclaimed sharply; then, evenly, to the two men: "I had no idea you were so hospitable! Push your chairs closer together - with your feet, not your hands! You are easier to watch if you are not too far apart."
Dangler complied sullenly. Skeeny, over the scraping of his chair legs, cursed in a sort of unnerved abandon, as he obeyed her.
"Thank you!" said Rhoda Gray pleasantly - and calmly tucked the necklace into her bodice.
The act seemed to rouse Danglar to the last pitch of fury. The blood rushed in an angry tide to his face, and, suffusing, purpled his cheeks.
"This isn't the first crack you've made!" he flung out hoarsely. "You've been getting wise to a whole lot lately somehow, you and that dude pal of yours, but you'll pay for it, you female devil! Understand? By God, you'll pay for it! I promise you that you'll pray yet on your bended knees for the chance to take your own life! Do you hear?"
"I hear," said Rhoda Gray coldly.
She picked up the jack-knife from the table, and keeping both men covered, stepped backward to the wall. Here, kneeling, she reached behind her with her left hand, and felt for, and cut the heavy cord that bound the Sparrow's arms; then, pushing the knife into the Sparrow's hands that he might free himself from the rest of his bonds, she stood up again.
A moment more, and the Sparrow, rubbing the circulation back into his wrists, stood beside her. There was a look on the young, white face that was not good to see. He circled dry lips with the tip of his tongue and then his thumb began to feel over the blade of the big jack-knife in a sort of horribly supercritical appraisal of its edge. He spoke thickly for the gag that had been in his mouth.
"You dirty skates!" he whispered. "You were going to bump me off, were you? You planted me cold, did you? Oh, hell!" His laugh, like the laugh of one insane, jangling, discordant, rang through the room. "Well, it's my turn now, and" - his body was coiling itself in a slow, curious, almost snake-like fashion - "and you'll -"
Rhoda Gray laid her hand on the Sparrow's arm.
"Not that way, Marty," she said quietly. She smiled thinly at Danglar, who, with genuinely frightened eyes now, seemed fascinated by the Sparrow's movements. "I wouldn't care to have anything happen to Mr. Danglar - yet. He has been invaluable to me, and I am sure he will be again."
The Sparrow brushed his hands across his eyes, and stared at her. He licked his lips again. He appeared to be obsessed with the knife-blade in his hand - dazed in a strange way to all else.
"There's enough cord there for both of them," said Rhoda Gray crisply. "Tie them in their chairs, Marty."
For a moment the Sparrow hesitated; and then, with a sort of queer reluctancy, he dropped the knife on the table, and went and picked up the strands of cord from the floor.
No one spoke. The Sparrow, with twitching lips as he worked, and worked not gently, bound first Danglar and then Skeeny to their respective chairs. Skeeny for the most part kept his eyes on the floor, casting only furtive glances at Rhoda Gray's revolver muzzle. But Danglar was smiling now. He had very white teeth. There was something of primal, insensate fury in the hard-drawn, parted lips. Somehow he seemed to remind Rhoda Gray of a beast, stung to madness, but impotent behind the bars of its cage, as it showed its fangs.
"We'll go now, Marty," she said softly, as the Sparrow finished.
She motioned the Sparrow with an imperious little nod of her head to the door. And then, following the other, she backed to the door herself, and halted an instant on the threshold.
"It has been a very profitable evening, Mr. Danglar," she said coolly. "I have you to thank for it. When your friends come, which I think I heard you say would be in another hour or so, I hope you will not fail to convey to them my -"
"You she-fiend!" Danglar had found his voice again. You'll crawl for this! Do you understand? and I'll show you inside of twenty-four hours what you're up against, you - you -" His voice broke in its fury. The veins were standing out on the side of his neck like whipcords. He could just move his forearms a little, and his hands reached out toward her, curved like claws. "I'll -"
But Rhoda Gray had closed the door behind her, and, with the Sparrow, was retreating down the stairs.
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