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From a window in one of the vacant warehouses, twenty-odd feet away Cutty, from an oblique angle, had witnessed the peculiar drama without being able to grasp head or tail to it. For two hours he had crouched behind his window, watching the man on the cot and wondering if he would ever turn his face toward the candlelight. Then Karlov had entered. Gregor's ironic calm - with the exception of the time he had bared his throat - and Karlov's tempestuous exit baffled him. To the eye it had the appearance of a victory for Gregor and a defeat for Karlov, but Cutty had long ago ceased to believe his eyes without some corroborative evidence of auricular character.
He had recognized both men. Karlov answered to Kitty's description as an old glove answers to the hand. And no man, once having seen Gregor, could possibly forget his picturesque head. The old chap was alive! This fact made the night's adventure tally one hundred per cent. How to get a cheery word to him, to buck him up with, the promise of help? A hard nut to crack; so many obstacles. Primarily, this was a Federal affair. Yonder hid the werewolf and his pack, and it would be folly to send them scattering just for the sake of advising Gregor that he was being watched over.
Underneath the official obligation there was a personal interest in not risking the game to warn Gregor. Cutty was now positive that the drums of jeopardy were hidden somewhere in this house. To perform three acts, then: Save Gregor, capture Karlov and his pack, and privately confiscate the emeralds. Findings were keepings. No compromise regarding those green stones. It would not particularly hurt his reputation with St. Peter to play the half rogue once in a lifetime. Besides, St. Peter, hadn't he stolen something himself back there in the Biblical days ; or got into a scrape or something? The old boy would understand. Cutty grinned in the dark.
Any obsession is a blindfold. A straight course lay open to Cutty, but he chose the labyrinthian because he was obsessed. He wanted those emeralds. Nothing less than the possession of them would, to his thinking, round out a varied and active career. Later, perhaps, he would declare the stones to the customs and pay the duty; perhaps. Thus his subsequent mishaps this night may be laid to the fact that he thought and saw through green spectacles.
The idea that the jewels were hidden near by made it imperative that he should handle this affair exclusively. Coles, the operative he had sent to negotiate with Karlov, was conceivably a prisoner upstairs or down. Coles knew about the drums, and they must not turn up under his eye. Federal property, in that event.
If ever he laid his hands upon the drums he would buy something gorgeous for Kitty. Little thoroughbred!
Time for work. Without doubt Karlov had cellar exits through this warehouse or the other. The job on hand would be first to locate these exits, and then to the trap on the roof. With his pocket lamp blazing a trail he went down to the cellar and carefully inspected the walls that abutted those of the house. Nothing on this side.
He left the warehouse and hugged the street wall for a space. The street was deserted. Instead of passing Karlov's abode he wisely made a detour of the block. He reached the entrance to the second warehouse without sighting even a marauding tom. In the cellar of this warehouse he discovered a newly made door, painted skillfully to represent the limestone of the foundation. Tiptop.
Immediately he outlined the campaign. There should be two drives - one from the front and another from the roof - so that not an anarchist or Bolshevik could escape. The mouth of the Federal sack should be held at this cellar exit. No matter what kind of game he played offside, the raid itself must succeed absolutely. Nothing should swerve him from making these plans as perfect as it was humanly possible. He would be on hand to search Karlov himself. If the drums were not on him he would return and pick the old mansion apart, lath by lath. Gay old ruffian, wasn't he?
Another point worth considering: He would keep his discoveries under cover until the hour to strike came. Some over-zealous subordinate might attempt a coup on his own and spoil everything.
He picked his way to the far end of the cellar, to the doors. Locks gone. He took it for granted that the real-estate agent would not come round with prospective tenants. These doors would take them into the trucking alley, where there were a dozen feasible exits. There was no way out of the house yard, as the brick wall, ten feet high and running from warehouse to warehouse, was blind. Now for the trap on the roof.
He climbed the three flights of stairs crisscrossed and festooned with ancient cobwebs. Occasionally he sneezed in the crook of his elbow, philosophizing over the fact that there was a lot of deadwood property in New York. Americans were eternally on the move.
The window from which he intended dropping to the house roof was obdurate. Only the upper half was movable. With hardly any noise at all he pulled this down, straddled it, balanced himself, secured a good grip on the ledge, and let himself down. The tips of his shoes, rubber-soled, just reached the roof. He landed silently.
The glare of the street lamp at the corner struck the warehouse, and this indirect light was sufficient to work by. He made the trap after a series of extra-cautious steps. The roof was slanting and pebbled, and the least turn of the foot might start a cascade and bell an alarm. A comfort-loving dress-suiter like himself, playing Old Sleuth, when he ought to be home and in bed! It was all of two-thirty. What the deuce would he do when there were no more thrills in life?
He stooped and caught hold of a corner of the trap to test it - and drew back with a silent curse. Glass! He had cut his hand. The beggars had covered the trap with cement and broken glass, sealing it. It would take time to cut round the trap; and even then he wouldn't be sure; they might have nailed it down from the inside. The worst of it was he would have to do the work himself; and in the meantime Karlov would have a fair wind for his propaganda gas, and perhaps the disposal of the drums to some collector who wasn't above bargaining for smuggled emeralds. Odd, though, that Karlov should have made a prisoner of Coles. What lay behind that manoeuvre? Well, this trap must be liberated; no getting round that.
Hang it, he wasn't going to be dishonest exactly; it would be simply a double play, half for Uncle Sam and half for himself. The idea of offering freely his blood and money to Uncle Sam and at the same time putting one over on the old gentleman had a novel appeal.
He stood up and wiped a tickling cobweb from his cheek. As the window from which he had descended came into range he stared, loose-jawed. Then be chuckled, as thoroughbred adventurers generally chuckle when they find themselves at the bottom of the sack, the mouth of which has subitaneously and automatically closed. Wasn't he the brainy old top? Wasn't he Sherlock Holmes plus? Old fool, how the devil was he going to get back through that window?
The drums of jeopardy - even to think of them was unlucky! Not to have planned a retreat; to have climbed down a well and cut the bucket rope! For in effect that was precisely what he had done. Only wings could carry him up to that window. With sardonic humour he felt of his shoulder blades. Not a feather in sight. Then he touched his ears. Ah, here was something definite; they had grown several inches during the past few hours. Monumental ass!
Of course there would be the drain. He could escape; but, dear Lord! with enough noise to wake the dead. And that would write "Finis" to this particular adventure. The quarry and the emeralds would be gone before he could return with help. When everything had gone so smoothly - a jolt like this!
A crowded day, and no mistake, as full of individual acts as a bill at a vaudeville, trained-animal act last. Was it possible that he had gone fiddle hunting that morning, netting an Amati worth ten thousand dollars? Hawksley - no, he couldn't blame Hawksley. Still, if this young Humpty-Dumpty hadn't been pushed off his wall he, Cutty, would not now be marooned upon this roof 'twixt the devil and the deep blue sea. To remain here until sunrise would be impossible; to slide down the drain was equally impossible - that is, if he ever wanted to see Boris Karlov again. The way of the transgressor was hard.
He sat on his heels and let his gaze rove four-square, permitting no object to escape. He saw a clothes pole leaning against the chimney. Evidently the former tenants had hung up their laundry here. There was no clothesline, however. Caught, jolly well, blooming well caught! If ever this got abroad he would be laughed out of the game. He wasn't going to put one over on Uncle Sam after all. There might be some kind of a fire escape on the front of the house. No harm in taking a look; it would serve to pass the time.
There was the usual frontal parapet about three feet in height. Upturned in the shadow lay a gift from the gods-a battered kitchen chair, probably used to reach the clothesline in the happy days when the word "Bolshevism" was known to only a select few dark angels.
Cutty waved a hand cheerfully if vaguely toward his guiding star, picked up the chair, commandeered the clothes pole, and silently manoeuvred to the wall of the warehouse. Standing on the chair he placed the tip of the pole against the top of the upper frame and pushed the frame halfway up. He repeated this act upon the obdurate lower half. He heaved slowly but with all his force. Glory be, the lower half went up far enough to afford ingress! He would eat his breakfast in the apartment as usual. To-morrow night he would establish his line of retreat by fetching a light rope ladder. There was sweat at the roots of his hair, however, when he finally gained the street. He was very tired. He observed mournfully that the vigour which had always recharged itself, no matter how recklessly he had drawn upon it, was beginning to protest. Fifty-two.
Well, his troubles were over for the night. So he believed. Arriving home, dirty and spent, he had to find Kitty asleep on the divan!
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