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Title: A Broken Bond - The Man Without Morals
Author: Carter, Nicholas (House name)
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                   *       *       *       *       *



                          NICK CARTER STORIES

                          New Magnet Library

                     Not a Dull Book in This List


Nick Carter stands for an interesting detective story. The fact that
the books in this line are so uniformly good is entirely due to the
work of a specialist. The man who wrote these stories produced no
other type of fiction. His mind was concentrated upon the creation of
new plots and situations in which his hero emerged triumphantly from
all sorts of troubles and landed the criminal just where he should
be—behind the bars.

The author of these stories knew more about writing detective stories
than any other single person.

Following is a list of the best Nick Carter stories. They have been
selected with extreme care, and we unhesitatingly recommend each of
them as being fully as interesting as any detective story between cloth
covers which sells at ten times the price.

If you do not know Nick Carter, buy a copy of any of the New Magnet
Library books, and get acquainted. He will surprise and delight you.


                     _ALL TITLES ALWAYS IN PRINT_

  850—Wanted: A Clew                           By Nicholas Carter
  851—A Tangled Skein                          By Nicholas Carter
  852—The Bullion Mystery                      By Nicholas Carter
  853—The Man of Riddles                       By Nicholas Carter
  854—A Miscarriage of Justice                 By Nicholas Carter
  855—The Gloved Hand                          By Nicholas Carter
  856—Spoilers and the Spoils                  By Nicholas Carter
  857—The Deeper Game                          By Nicholas Carter
  858—Bolts from Blue Skies                    By Nicholas Carter
  859—Unseen Foes                              By Nicholas Carter
  860—Knaves in High Places                    By Nicholas Carter
  861—The Microbe of Crime                     By Nicholas Carter
  862—In the Toils of Fear                     By Nicholas Carter
  863—A Heritage of Trouble                    By Nicholas Carter
  864—Called to Account                        By Nicholas Carter
  865—The Just and the Unjust                  By Nicholas Carter
  866—Instinct at Fault                        By Nicholas Carter
  867—A Rogue Worth Trapping                   By Nicholas Carter
  868—A Rope of Slender Threads                By Nicholas Carter
  869—The Last Call                            By Nicholas Carter
  870—The Spoils of Chance                     By Nicholas Carter
  871—A Struggle With Destiny                  By Nicholas Carter
  872—The Slave of Crime                       By Nicholas Carter
  873—The Crook’s Blind                        By Nicholas Carter
  874—A Rascal of Quality                      By Nicholas Carter
  875—With Shackles of Fire                    By Nicholas Carter
  876—The Man Who Changed Faces                By Nicholas Carter
  877—The Fixed Alibi                          By Nicholas Carter
  878—Out With the Tide                        By Nicholas Carter
  879—The Soul Destroyers                      By Nicholas Carter
  880—The Wages of Rascality                   By Nicholas Carter
  881—Birds of Prey                            By Nicholas Carter
  882—When Destruction Threatens               By Nicholas Carter
  883—The Keeper of Black Hounds               By Nicholas Carter
  884—The Door of Doubt                        By Nicholas Carter
  885—The Wolf Within                          By Nicholas Carter
  886—A Perilous Parole                        By Nicholas Carter
  887—The Trail of the Finger Prints           By Nicholas Carter
  888—Dodging the Law                          By Nicholas Carter
  889—A Crime in Paradise                      By Nicholas Carter
  890—On the Ragged Edge                       By Nicholas Carter
  891—The Red God of Tragedy                   By Nicholas Carter
  892—The Man Who Paid                         By Nicholas Carter
  893—The Blind Man’s Daughter                 By Nicholas Carter
  894—One Object in Life                       By Nicholas Carter
  895—As a Crook Sows                          By Nicholas Carter
  896—In Record Time                           By Nicholas Carter
  897—Held in Suspense                         By Nicholas Carter
  898—The $100,000 Kiss                        By Nicholas Carter
  899—Just One Slip                            By Nicholas Carter
  900—On a Million-dollar Trail                By Nicholas Carter
  901—A Weird Treasure                         By Nicholas Carter
  902—The Middle Link                          By Nicholas Carter
  903—To the Ends of the Earth                 By Nicholas Carter
  904—When Honors Pall                         By Nicholas Carter
  905—The Yellow Brand                         By Nicholas Carter
  906—A New Serpent in Eden                    By Nicholas Carter
  907—When Brave Men Tremble                   By Nicholas Carter
  908—A Test of Courage                        By Nicholas Carter
  909—Where Peril Beckons                      By Nicholas Carter
  910—The Gargoni Girdle                       By Nicholas Carter
  911—Rascals & Co.                            By Nicholas Carter
  912—Too Late to Talk                         By Nicholas Carter
  913—Satan’s Apt Pupil                        By Nicholas Carter
  914—The Girl Prisoner                        By Nicholas Carter
  915—The Danger of Folly                      By Nicholas Carter
  916—One Shipwreck Too Many                   By Nicholas Carter
  917—Scourged by Fear                         By Nicholas Carter
  918—The Red Plague                           By Nicholas Carter
  919—Scoundrels Rampant                       By Nicholas Carter
  920—From Clew to Clew                        By Nicholas Carter
  921—When Rogues Conspire                     By Nicholas Carter
  922—Twelve in a Grave                        By Nicholas Carter
  923—The Great Opium Case                     By Nicholas Carter
  924—A Conspiracy of Rumors                   By Nicholas Carter
  925—A Klondike Claim                         By Nicholas Carter
  926—The Evil Formula                         By Nicholas Carter
  927—The Man of Many Faces                    By Nicholas Carter
  928—The Great Enigma                         By Nicholas Carter
  929—The Burden of Proof                      By Nicholas Carter
  930—The Stolen Brain                         By Nicholas Carter
  931—A Titled Counterfeiter                   By Nicholas Carter
  932—The Magic Necklace                       By Nicholas Carter
  933—’Round the World for a Quarter           By Nicholas Carter
  934—Over the Edge of the World               By Nicholas Carter
  935—In the Grip of Fate                      By Nicholas Carter
  936—The Case of Many Clews                   By Nicholas Carter
  937—The Sealed Door                          By Nicholas Carter
  938—Nick Carter and the Green Goods Men      By Nicholas Carter
  939—The Man Without a Will                   By Nicholas Carter
  940—Tracked Across the Atlantic              By Nicholas Carter
  941—A Clew From the Unknown                  By Nicholas Carter
  942—The Crime of a Countess                  By Nicholas Carter
  943—A Mixed Up Mess                          By Nicholas Carter
  944—The Great Money Order Swindle            By Nicholas Carter
  945—The Adder’s Brood                        By Nicholas Carter
  946—A Wall Street Haul                       By Nicholas Carter
  947—For a Pawned Crown                       By Nicholas Carter



                             A BROKEN BOND

                                  OR,

                        THE MAN WITHOUT MORALS


                                  BY
                            NICHOLAS CARTER

  Author of the celebrated stories of Nick Carter’s adventures, which
     are published exclusively in the NEW MAGNET LIBRARY, conceded
          to be among the best detective tales ever written.

                            [Illustration]


                      STREET & SMITH CORPORATION
                              PUBLISHERS
                    79-89 Seventh Avenue, New York



                            Copyright, 1917
                     By Street & Smith Corporation

                             A Broken Bond


               (Printed in the United States of America)

    All rights reserved, including that of translation into foreign
                languages, including the Scandinavian.



                            A BROKEN BOND.



                              CHAPTER I.

                          A SHOT FROM AMBUSH.


Behind a big rock which looked down over the wide, straggling road that
ran upward through the mountains crouched a long, lean figure. Snuggled
against his right shoulder was a rifle, and the bearded face beneath
the broad-brimmed panama was turned toward the roadway below. The hot
sun beat down remorselessly, and its blinding rays were reflected from
the rocks. Perspiration poured down the man’s face, and now and then
he moved impatiently to brush away some buzzing insect. His head was
raised slightly above the level of the rock, and from his point of
vantage a splendid panorama spread out beneath him.

To his left lay the mountains, blue, remote, and full of rugged dignity
all their own. To his right, a fertile South American valley revealed
itself in the shimmering distance. Occasionally, as a light puff of
wind came up from the lowlands, it brought with it the dull, heavy
noise of an engine at work.

Half an hour passed, and then the first sign of life was revealed in
the roadway below. There appeared round a bend a long line of mules,
each of them burdened with two big packs. In front of the train of
mules walked a white man clad in dingy overalls.

The figure crouching behind the rock moved slightly and seemed to grow
tense and expectant, while the eyes in the bearded face glinted as they
peered down at the road.

Nothing happened, however. The mules plodded on, with their leader
striding away ahead of them, and the lonely sentinel watched them until
they had passed down the road and had vanished below the level of the
rise which led them on to the plains.

“He ought to be coming soon now.”

The man spoke aloud, and there was a curious, metallic sound in his
rasping voice.

Ten minutes passed, and then the clear, drumming sound of a horse’s
hoofs came to him, and presently around the same jagged spur there
appeared the figure of a man on horseback. He was riding along at a
good pace, but the reins were lying loosely across the horse’s neck,
and the animal was picking its way unguided down the rough surface of
the road. Evidently it was on a familiar trail.

At the sight, the lurking figure grew tenser still, and the sound of
a low growl, almost animal-like in character, might have been heard.
Slowly the rifle was nestled closer to the shoulder. The panama hat,
being too conspicuous, was pulled off and dropped behind him, after
which the bare, rather bald head was lowered until the right cheek
touched the stock of the gun. The left eye was closed, and the right
sighted along the barrel, which at the same time was shifted, following
the man on horseback.

A few moments passed, during which the down-pointed muzzle shifted like
a spy-glass, following the moving object. Then——

Crack! Into the still air a blue puff of smoke rose and hung for a
moment above the rock. The drone of the bullet sounded clearly down the
edge of the slope as the deadly missile hurled itself toward its mark.
A quick cry came up from the roadway, and the weapon was stealthily
withdrawn.

Quickly, however, the man behind the rock peered down, but when he did
so he saw that blind chance had stepped in and thwarted him. The horse
had apparently stumbled on a loose rock just as the shot was fired, and
had reared back slightly to recover its footing; therefore, it was into
the animal’s soft, rounded neck that the heavy bullet had bored its
way, and not into the more precious target at which it had been aimed.

The creature was now lying in the roadway, and the convulsive movements
of its limbs could be seen dimly through the little cloud of dust which
had been raised by its fall.

The man on the horse’s back had been hurled in a heap by the side of
the road, but as his would-be murderer watched, he saw him rise to
his feet and stare up in the general direction of the rock from which
the shot had been fired. Warned by that movement, the skulker swiftly
jerked his head back and crouched still lower in his place.

“Curse him!” the hard voice grated. “He always has the fiend’s own
luck!”

Grasping his rifle and hat, but still keeping on hands and knees, he
began instinctively to crawl away under cover of the rock. He had gone
no more than a yard, though, before he paused irresolutely and his
fingers sought his belt.

There were other bullets in that belt, but the man’s failure had
unnerved him, and a certain fatalistic instinct told him that he was
not likely to succeed in a second attempt, now that the first had come
to naught. The figure in the road would be on its guard now, and if
another shot missed its mark, the point from which it had been fired
would almost certainly be located. From that would only be a step to
the discovery of the shooter’s identity, and the latter did not care
to contemplate such a possibility. Consequently, with a snakelike
movement, the lean figure resumed its progress away from the rocks,
and presently, having reached the protection of large bowlders,
straightened up a little more and increased its pace.

The fugitive knew that the man he had tried to kill was more than
usually fond of the dying horse, and would probably delay at its side
for a precious minute or two before attempting to solve the mystery of
the shot. That delay promised to enable him to make good his escape,
and he was resolved to take every possible advantage of it. For
perhaps fifteen minutes he doubled and twisted, now ascending and now
descending the foothills. At the end of that time he had reached the
road again, and, watching his chance, dodged across it. This latest
move brought him into thick woods, through which he hurriedly threaded
his way in the direction of the valley.

He hid his rifle in a hollow tree, and when he reached the little
mining camp he had cunningly concealed all evidence of agitation or
guilt.

The knowledge of the act was not destined to remain locked in his own
breast, however, as he was soon to learn. At his destination, the
Condor Mine, he found Charlie Floyd, the mine’s physician, waiting for
him, and wearing a very stern expression.

“I have something important to say to you, Mr. Stone,” the young doctor
said grimly, and led the way to a spot where they were out of earshot.

“What’s up?” demanded Stone, who was one of the two original owners of
the mine. He and his partner, Winthrop Crawford, had only recently sold
out for a cool million.

“Much,” was the grave answer. “I happened to be roaming about in the
foothills back there a little while ago, and I saw you take that pot
shot at Mr. Crawford.”

“What are you raving about?” growled Stone, with the greatest apparent
surprise.

“I’m not raving at all, Mr. Stone. I always carry field glasses on my
walks, as you know, and, being startled by the shot, I looked in that
direction, saw the puff of smoke from behind the rock, and leveled
my glasses on the spot. I saw you when you looked down to see if the
bullet had done its work; saw you as plainly as if you had been not
more than ten feet away. There’s no possibility of a mistake. I was
in a position to watch your movements afterward, and saw you sneaking
away. I recognized your hat, too.”

Stone had wilted at first when the field glasses were mentioned, but
now he seemed to have plucked up fresh courage, and even assumed a
defiant attitude.

“Well, what are you going to do about it?” he demanded. “One or the
other of us will have to kick the bucket sooner or later. Crawford has
it in for me, and I only acted in self-defense. If I don’t get him
first, he’ll get me as sure as fate.”

The young physician looked at him searchingly, but there was much more
of pity than condemnation in his glance.

“You needn’t be afraid that I’m going to give you up to justice, Mr.
Stone,” he said, after a pause. “You’ll resent it, of course, but I’m
pretty sure that you’re not responsible for your actions. I hold your
liberty, if not your life, in my hands, though, and I’m going to name a
condition in return for my silence.”



                              CHAPTER II.

                     THE WITNESS MAKES CONDITIONS.


James Stone assumed a belligerent attitude.

“What do you mean by saying I’m not accountable?” he blustered. “You
think I’m crazy?”

“I wouldn’t use quite such a harsh word,” was the reply. “But I’ve been
watching you for some time, and I’m certain that your mind is slightly
affected. This grouch of yours against Mr. Crawford is entirely
uncalled-for, and everybody knows it but you. He’s the best friend you
have in the world, and would do anything and everything for you. Until
lately you’ve been the same toward him, and there’s nothing that could
have caused such a breach. Mr. Crawford wouldn’t harm a hair of your
head, and you wouldn’t think of harming him if you were yourself.”

“Rot!” exclaimed Stone. “You don’t know anything about it, Floyd,
and it’s none of your business; it’s nobody’s business but ours.
Something has come between us, and you’ll have to take my word for
it that Crawford has got it in for me. He’s a deep one. You’d think
butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth, but all the time he’s scheming to
finish his old partner. I know, and I’m not going to have any young
whipper-snapper tell me to my face that I’m crazy.”

Charlie Floyd’s lips tightened.

“Would you prefer to be branded as a would-be assassin, Mr. Stone?” he
asked cuttingly. “I’m putting the most innocent interpretation I can to
your act, and if you know what’s good for yourself you’ll accept it as
the lesser of two evils. You have a great deal more influence here than
I have in most ways, but you know that Mr. Crawford is more popular
than you. You’ve lost your popularity in these last few months by your
dogged, brooding manner and your harsh words. If I should reveal this
attempt of yours on your partner’s life, you know perfectly well that
it would go hard with you. No one would have any sympathy for you, and
you’d get the limit. Just think of that before you call me names, and
remember that I have it in my power to break you. Now will you listen
to what I have to say?”

The miner moistened his lips and glanced about with shifty eyes.

“I’ll listen, Charlie,” he said, with a suggestion of a whine in his
tone. “It ain’t pleasant to be called crazy, you know, but if you’ll
stand by me I’ll make it worth your while.”

The young physician knew at once what he meant.

“None of that, Mr. Stone!” he said quickly. “I don’t want a cent of
your money. I would not keep silent for the whole five hundred thousand
they say you received for your half interest in the Condor. I’m making
this offer simply for your own good. I really believe you’re not
responsible for your recent actions, but I feel sure there isn’t much
the matter with you. For that reason I want to shield you from the
consequences if I can, and try to set you on the road to recovery. You
and Crawford are going to New York soon, aren’t you?”

“That’s the plan—by the next boat,” was the sullen reply. “We figured
it out before this came up, and of course I was anxious to get back
home when I’d made my pile. I haven’t been back in twenty-five years.
When this break came, though, I wasn’t keen on going back with Win. But
he wouldn’t hear of anything else. I reckon he thinks the trip will
give him a good chance to polish me off.”

“The plan still holds good, then?”

“Yes. I ain’t a coward, and if one of us doesn’t get the other before,
then you won’t find me backing out.”

Young Floyd’s brows were knit, and he gazed absent-mindedly at the
ground for some moments.

“Well,” he said at length, “it’s a big responsibility to take, and I
don’t know that I ought to assume it, but there doesn’t seem to be
anything else to do—short of giving you up.”

His eyes sought Stone’s and held them.

“Mr. Stone,” he continued, speaking slowly, “I need not repeat that I’m
in a position to cause your arrest at any moment, and to give the most
damaging testimony against you. I don’t want to do it, because of what
I believe in regard to your condition, but you may be sure that I’ll
do it at the drop of the hat if anything happens to Mr. Crawford or if
you make any other attempt on his life. Now, remembering that, will you
give me your solemn promise—will you swear, in fact—that you’ll have no
other crime against you, and that when you reach New York you’ll do as
I say?”

The bronzed miner hesitated for some time, then held out his hand,
which Floyd took.

“I swear to you, Charlie,” he said, “that I won’t start anything
myself, if that’s what you want. Of course, if Crawford tries anything
on me I’ll have to defend myself. You couldn’t expect me to take it
without lifting a finger.”

“Certainly not,” the young doctor agreed. “Mind you, though, you’ve got
to refrain from anything hostile, unless you actually catch him in an
attempt on you—which is out of the question, as he would be incapable
of doing such a thing.”

“Incapable your grandmother!” was the scornful response. “You don’t
know Win Crawford as well as I do. I’ve given you my word, though. Now
what else do you want?”

“I want you to remember what will happen to you if you fail to keep
this oath. Will you?”

“I ain’t likely to forget. Is that all? What was it you wanted me to do
in New York?”

“To go to see some one who can help you, if any one can.”

“You mean a doctor?”

“Yes, a great one—the head of one of the biggest hospitals in the city.”

“Look here!” Stone burst out angrily. “Are you trying to have me sent
to an asylum?”

“Not at all,” Floyd hastened to say in a soothing tone. “Doctor
Follansbee isn’t very keen on asylums, except as a last resort. He’s
a famous specialist in nervous and mental diseases, but his chief aim
is always to keep people out of asylums, if possible; in other words,
to cure them without interfering with their liberty or branding them
as insane. I desire you to go to him—in fact, I must insist upon your
doing so, if I’m to shield you from the consequences of this morning’s
act. If, as I suspect, your mind is slightly affected in this one
respect, he may be able to help you very easily, and if he does,
you’ll never cease to be grateful to him. If, on the other hand, he
finds you perfectly sane, there will be nothing more to be said, and
I’ll continue to keep silence unless you make some further attempt on
Mr. Crawford. You need not fear to consult Doctor Follansbee. As I
say, he’ll never think of sending a man like you to an asylum, and,
as people go to him for all sorts of nervous troubles as well as for
operations, no one outside will draw any conclusions if your visit to
him is known. Will you promise to call on him as soon as you reach New
York?”

“I suppose so,” Stone agreed reluctantly. “It’s mighty hard lines to be
ordered about like this, and sent to one of those confounded alienist
fellows, but you’ve got the whip hand just now, Charlie, and it’s up to
me to take my medicine. Where will I find the wonderful Follansbee?”

Doctor Floyd took a letter from his pocket, removed the envelope, and
scribbled the name and address on the back. When he handed it to Stone
the latter read:

“Doctor Stephen Follansbee, St. Swithin’s Hospital, Amsterdam Avenue,
New York City.”

“There you are,” Floyd said. “I know you don’t want to do this, Mr.
Stone, and that it’s all you can stand to have me make this condition,
but I’m afraid you’ll have to put up with it. It’s that—or the other,
and I imagine you would find a trial and conviction for attempted
murder a little more irksome than either of the things I have asked you
to do.”

“I guess that’s right,” admitted the miner. “You’re a good fellow,
Charlie, and I know you mean well. You’ve rubbed it in pretty
thoroughly, and there’s a lot you don’t understand; but I reckon I’m
lucky at that. I’ll keep my hands off Win Crawford until I’ve the
chance to see this Follansbee person. After that—well, we’ll see what
we shall see.”

“That’s all I can ask at present,” Floyd returned, “and you can rely
on Doctor Follansbee’s word. He’s a queer-looking individual, and
very eccentric. You needn’t be surprised if he seems to agree with
everything you say about Mr. Crawford. His methods are all his own,
and they seem very peculiar at times, but he gets results in the most
wonderful way. I know, because I studied under him in medical school.
He’s far from a beauty, and has a manner which antagonizes a good many,
but he’s too big to care about that. Here comes Mr. Crawford, though.
Remember your promise, and don’t try any tricks!”



                             CHAPTER III.

                        AN UNFORTUNATE LETTER.


The young physician halted at a little distance and watched the meeting
between the two partners.

Crawford had been trudging along with head bent, as if brooding over
the loss of his faithful animal and the mystery of that unexpected
shot, but when he looked up at length and saw Stone, he hastened his
steps and called after him.

His genial greeting was borne to Floyd’s ears.

“Hello, Jimmy!” Crawford shouted. “How’s the boy this morning?”

There was nothing for Stone to do but to halt and turn. He nodded
curtly, however, and when they walked on together, it was evident that
Crawford was doing all the talking.

“That’s a queer deal,” thought Floyd, with a puzzled, apprehensive look
on his face. “If Stone isn’t touched in the head, I’ll miss my guess,
but I can’t imagine what the cause of it is. They’ve been pals for
years, and have gone through thick and thin together. Their friendship
has been the talk of this mining country for I don’t know how long,
and Crawford seems to be as fond of his partner as ever, in spite of
all the rebuffs he has given him lately. I’m afraid I’ve made a big
mistake and been altogether too easy on Stone. I’d never forgive myself
if anything happened to Crawford, but it didn’t seem right to make the
other suffer for that insane act.”

He went about his duties in an absent-minded way, however, and had done
a great deal of thinking before he encountered Crawford that afternoon,
as he was making his rounds. The two men greeted each other cordially,
and after Floyd had looked about to see that they were unobserved he
said quickly:

“I’ll walk along for a short distance with you, if I may, Mr. Crawford.
I find myself in a very difficult position, and what I’ve decided to
say seems like a very serious breach of confidence. I feel that I must
say it, though, because otherwise the responsibility would be too heavy
for me to bear.”

Crawford looked at him keenly.

“Is it about Jimmy Stone?” he asked.

“How did you guess?” was the surprised query.

“Oh, I’m not blind, Charlie, and I can put two and two together. Jimmy
hasn’t been himself for months, and I know others have noticed it. I
saw him talking with you this morning. Have you any idea what is the
matter with him?”

The young physician tapped his forehead significantly.

“I’m afraid it’s—a little of that,” he answered reluctantly.

“You do? I feared something of the sort, but I hoped I was mistaken.
What a pity! Jimmy has always been one of the finest and whitest men
that ever stepped the earth, and a friend worth having. I’ve worried
and worried over him lately, and tried to recall anything I had said
or done that might have turned him against me. I haven’t been able to
think of a thing that any man in his sound sense would resent to such
an extent, and I’ve been obliged to come to the conclusion that he was
not altogether responsible. Do you think anything can be done for him?
We’ve both got plenty of money now, and I’m ready and willing——”

“I’m sure you are, Mr. Crawford,” Floyd assured him, “and I hope
Mr. Stone can be helped. In fact, I’m almost sure he can be. He’s
absolutely normal in every other way, and this change is so recent that
the trouble can’t be very deep-seated. He has promised me that he will
consult a famous alienist in New York.”

“He has?”

Crawford gave a start as he put the question.

“Then you’ve actually talked with him about it?” he went on
wonderingly. “Has he sought your advice?”

“Hardly,” was the reply. “I butted in, and, of course, he was up in
arms in a moment. Nobody likes to be called crazy—least of all a crazy
man. It had to be done, though. If I tell you something, will you give
me your word not to use it in any way against Mr. Stone?”

“Of course. I’d protect Jimmy’s life at the risk of my own any day.”

“I haven’t a doubt of it, but this is asking a great deal of you. Mr.
Crawford, it was—it was your partner who fired that shot at you this
morning.”

Crawford gave the young doctor a long, searching look, and then said
quietly:

“That isn’t exactly news to me, Charlie. I guessed as much.”

“You did? And yet you could greet him as you did?”

“Why not? It was not the Jimmy Stone I’ve known for twenty years or
more who did it. It was this surly, glowering chap who has stepped into
his shoes. I don’t bear any ill will—I can’t. I’ve been looking for
something of the sort, and of course I’ve tried to protect myself and
shall continue to do so. I have no intention of having him confined,
though, and you must promise me that you won’t take any such steps.
There’s no danger to any one else, and if I choose to run the risk it’s
my own business.”

“I knew that would be your attitude,” Floyd told him, “and I allowed
myself to promise Mr. Stone that on certain conditions I would not play
the part of informer.”

“You accused him of it, then?”

“Yes. I witnessed the whole thing, and told him I had done so. I used
my knowledge to extract a couple of promises from him, but since then
I’ve been wondering if I did right. I’ve worried a lot about the
possible consequences to you, and finally I made up my mind that I’d
simply have to warn you. Strictly speaking, I didn’t give my word to
say nothing to you. I simply agreed not to inform the authorities; but
of course Stone did not dream that I would tell you, and I feel like
a sneak in doing so. I couldn’t bear to let you remain in ignorance,
however, for if I had, I would have felt that I was indirectly
responsible if anything happened to you.”

Crawford nodded slowly and gripped the young physician’s shoulder.

“I understand, Charlie,” he said. “It was a knotty problem, but you’ve
solved it the best you knew how, and I thank you for your warning,
although it wasn’t necessary. What were the promises Jimmy gave you?”

“I made him swear that he would make no further attempt on you
unless in self-defense. Nothing can persuade him, you know, that you
aren’t gunning for him, but I knew if he kept that promise nothing
would happen. It was a long chance to take with a man in his mental
condition, I suppose, but I couldn’t bear the thought of giving him up
to justice.”

Crawford nodded understandingly.

“Nor can I,” he said. “I hope he’ll keep the promise, knowing the light
in which your testimony would place him if he didn’t, but I don’t
intend to change my plans in the least. I’ll keep an eye on him as best
I can, but we’ll travel together unless he refuses. If he finishes
me—well, so be it. The responsibility will be mine, not yours. But what
about the other promise? Was it that he should seek the advice of a
specialist in New York?”

“Yes. I gave him the name of Doctor Stephen Follansbee, the famous
head of St. Swithin’s Hospital. Doctor Follansbee is at the top of his
profession in New York, and has a great reputation for handling such
cases in an unusual way without resorting to the customary confinement
of the patient.”

“Good! Nothing could be better! If Jimmy goes to him, we’ll hope that
all will come out right, and that I’ll soon have my old partner back.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart, Charlie, but we’d better
separate now. If Jimmy should happen to see us together, or hear that
we had been, he might smell a rat and make things decidedly unpleasant
for you.”

They shook hands again and separated, but Doctor Floyd felt that he
had one more duty to perform that day. When he returned to the rough
little shack which he occupied, his first act after supper was to sit
down and write a rather lengthy letter. It was addressed to his former
professor, Doctor Follansbee, and in it he gave the celebrated alienist
a history of James Stone’s case, so far as he knew it. He wished
Follansbee to receive the letter before Stone’s arrival, and to have
something else to go on besides the man’s own statements.

Incidentally, knowing that Follansbee’s charges were very high, he
thought best to mention the facts concerning the recent sale of the
mine. He informed the specialist that Stone and Crawford had been equal
partners in the Condor, and that the share of each was reputed to be
five hundred thousand dollars. For no particular reason, he added that
so far as was known Stone and Crawford were alone in the world, and
that the general understanding was that each had drawn a will in favor
of the other before the estrangement had come about.

Young Floyd was nothing if not thorough, but had he known the
consequences which would follow the writing of that letter he would
have cut off his right hand rather than send it.



                              CHAPTER IV.

                         CRAWFORD IS TROUBLED.


The boat deck of the _Cortez_ was of wide expanse, shaded by gleaming
canvas.

The South American liner had just passed Sandy Hook, bound inward, and
was making its stately way toward New York harbor. It was late in the
evening, and in a couple of deck chairs two figures were seated. The
men were chatting together quietly. The taller of the two, clean-shaven
and keen-faced, was puffing contentedly on a fragrant Havana.

They were Nick Carter, the distinguished New York detective, and his
leading assistant, Chick Carter, who were returning from a couple of
weeks’ holiday spent in Jamaica. The _Cortez_ had touched at Kingston
on its way north from South American ports, and it was there that the
detective and his assistant had come on board.

“Evidently we won’t be home until to-morrow morning,” Chick Carter said
quietly. “It will be too late for disembarking to-night. Of course we
could get a special dispensation, if necessary, but I don’t believe in
pulling wires unless there’s need for it. All the same, I’ll be glad to
get back into harness again.”

Chick grinned in the darkness. He had enjoyed their short stay in
beautiful Jamaica, but he had noted that his chief had chafed at the
idleness, especially during the last few days.

“Let’s hope there’s something waiting for us that will let us sit up
and take notice,” he said. “I feel fit to tackle anything.”

They were both in evening dress and awaiting the sound of the dinner
gong, which soon called them to the saloon.

There were over fifty first-class passengers on board, and at the
detective’s table were two men who had interested him. They sat side by
side opposite to him, and their broad shoulders and tanned features
told plainly that they were men who had spent the greater part of their
years out of doors in some hot country.

Their manners and dress were curiously alike, but their faces differed
greatly. The man who sat on the right, and who Nick had found out was
Winthrop Crawford, had an open, kindly countenance. The trim gray beard
did not quite hide the friendly lines about the mouth; and the eyes,
although set in a network of wrinkles—such as one always notices on
the faces of those who have peered long over sun-drenched stretches of
plain or mountain—were wide and blue and looked out on the world in a
genial fashion.

His companion, however, was almost the opposite, so far as looks were
concerned. There was nothing repellent about his features, to be sure,
but his expression was far from agreeable. His eyes were hard and
suspicious, his lips usually wore either a snarl or a sneer, and his
brows were drawn together with a surly frown most of the time.

It was the head steward who had told Nick the names of the two men, and
had also added the information that they had been until recently joint
owners of a big silver mine in South America.

The second man, James Stone, was the older of the two, and it was
his peculiar manner that had interested the detective first of all.
During the four or five days since Carter and his assistant had boarded
the _Cortez_, they had never heard Stone say more than half a dozen
words at a time to any one, even to his companion, Crawford. At the
table Nick noted that Crawford often tried to engage his partner in
conversation, but his efforts were always doomed to failure. Moreover,
the detective had observed the perplexed, anxious look which had come
into Crawford’s eyes many times after these rebuffs.

The two mining men were in their places when Carter and Chick dropped
into their seats. Once or twice in the course of the meal the detective
caught Crawford glancing across at him with a look of interest, and
wondered what it meant. He was not surprised, therefore, when, after
the meal was over and he had entered the smoking room, he heard a voice
at his elbow, and, turning round, saw the bearded face of Winthrop
Crawford at his side.

“I hope you’ll excuse me, Mr. Carter,” the man said in a deep,
melodious voice, “but I’ve just heard from the steward who you are, and
I’d like to make your acquaintance.”

As a judge of character Nick Carter had no superior, and he saw that
the man in front of him was of the sterling, honest type; therefore, he
had no hesitation in holding out his hand.

“It’s only another case of diamond cut diamond, Mr. Crawford,” he
answered, with a smile, “for I must also plead guilty to having made
inquiries about you.”

Crawford pulled out a cigar case, and Nick accepted the “weed,” after
which they strolled across the big room and seated themselves on a
comfortable settee.

“I’m returning to New York after an absence of a quarter of a
century,” Crawford explained, “and I don’t believe I know a single soul
there.”

“You are taking a well-earned vacation, I suppose?” the detective
remarked.

“Something of the sort,” was the answer. “As a matter of fact, I have
no occupation now, since my partner and I have sold out our mining
interests in South America. I have nothing definite in view, but I’m
sure I shan’t be content to remain idle for long.”

He leaned back and puffed at his cigar.

“I’ve had a pretty tough time of it,” he went on. “The usual experience
of those who knock about the world seeking their fortunes; but I think
I can safely say that I’m secure now for the rest of my life—unless I
make a fool of myself.”

“I’m very glad to hear of it,” Nick declared heartily. “I understood
that you and Mr. Stone had been fortunate.”

Crawford nodded his head, but a shadow passed over his face.

“It isn’t necessary to go into details, Mr. Carter,” he replied, “but
your informant was quite correct. Stone and I discovered and developed
the Condor Mine in Brazil. We worked it ourselves for over a year, and
then decided to sell out and come back home. It netted us about half a
million apiece. That’s very little, of course, as you count wealth up
here, but it’s enough for us to live on in comfort for the rest of our
lives. We have no one dependent on us—unfortunately.”

“I’m sure you deserve it all,” the detective told him warmly.

Crawford’s eyes grew misty with a host of memories of hard days and
lean ones—days when the nearest approach to a meal had been another
notch in the belt and the hope of something more substantial on the
morrow.

“Yes,” he said thoughtfully, “I’ve earned it; and that brings me to
something I wanted to say. I’m a little afraid of your New York, Mr.
Carter. I know much more about prospecting than I do about finance. As
I’ve told you, there’s nothing to occupy my mind, and I suppose I’ll
soon be looking about for investments. If I’m not very careful, I’m
likely to fall among thieves.”

He leaned across and placed his hand on Nick’s arm.

“Even in South America we hear of Nick Carter,” he said, with a quiet
nod of his grizzled head, “and I count it a very fortunate chance that
I should have run across you here on this vessel. I have engaged rooms
at the Hotel Windermere, and I’ll be very glad if you’ll give me your
address. I should like to have some one to go to for advice if I find
that the sharks begin to gather.”

Then, as the detective remained silent, Crawford went on:

“It must be a strictly business undertaking, you understand. If I’m
doubtful about any concern or individual, I would like to call on you
and have you give me a report. I should expect you to make the usual
charge for such work—in fact, I would be willing to pay more than that,
because, as a friendless man who doesn’t understand the game, I would
profit more than usual by such invaluable assistance.”

There was something curiously winning about Crawford’s voice, and the
man appealed strongly to Nick. The sort of assistance he asked for was
hardly in the detective’s line, but the simple, direct appeal gained
the day.

“Very well,” he said, taking out his case and handing a card to
Crawford. “Let’s hope for your sake that you won’t have any very urgent
need of me, but here’s my address, and you can ring me up at any time.
I shall be very glad to do anything I can.”

Crawford had just placed the card in his pocket when the door of the
smoking room opened and James Stone appeared. There was a little bar at
one end of the room, and it was toward this that Crawford’s partner was
headed. Stone’s eyes traveled across to Crawford, and the latter made
a move as though to rise to his feet, but his partner turned his head
away quickly and went on his way. There was more than a suggestion of
surliness, if not of enmity, in the way he ignored Crawford, and the
latter leaned back again with an involuntary sigh.

Nick caught his eye.

“I can’t make it out,” Crawford said at last, the troubled expression
deepening on his face. “I suppose you’ve noted that Stone and I hardly
exchange a word.”



                              CHAPTER V.

                       ANOTHER MURDEROUS ATTACK.


“I must admit that I have noticed it,” Nick returned, “and it struck me
as being rather curious, under the circumstances.”

“It beats me,” Crawford declared, glancing down at the bar, where the
broad-shouldered figure of his old comrade was standing. “Jimmy and I
have been chums for years. We’ve worked together and starved together,
and five years ago he saved my life at the risk of his own. He dived
into a flooded river, and it was touch and go whether he brought me out
or not.”

The deep voice shook for a moment. “It’s beyond me,” he continued. “For
the last few months he’s been a changed man. I can hardly get a word
out of him, and many times I’ve caught him looking at me as though I
were his bitterest enemy.”

There was no doubting the sincerity of Crawford’s emotions. His tanned
face twitched, and his hard, work-worn hands were clasped in a tight
grip as they rested on his knees.

“Something has gone wrong,” he concluded, “but what it is Heaven only
knows. Would you believe me if I told you that he——”

The detective waited curiously, but Crawford did not complete the
sentence, and a little silence fell between the two.

As Stone had tossed off his drink, he passed them once more. When he
reached the door, however, he halted for a moment, then, swinging
around on his heel, beckoned to Crawford. It was almost a gasp of
relief that broke from the latter’s lips as he rose.

“Hello!” he murmured. “He wants to speak to me, does he? Excuse me, Mr.
Carter.”

The eager way in which he hurried toward his partner revealed to the
detective how anxious he was to make friends again.

The two figures passed out through the doorway, and Nick mechanically
picked up a magazine from a neighboring table. Half an hour passed;
then, leaving the smoking room, the detective went off in search of
Chick. His young assistant was not to be seen, and presently Carter
returned to the boat deck, found a quiet gap between two suspended
boats, and, leaning on the rail, watched the distant lights along the
coast.

Perhaps fifteen minutes later the detective heard a quick, muffled cry,
followed by the creak of a boat as some heavy object swung against it.
He straightened up and listened. A moment later a half-choked voice
came to him:

“Jim! Jim! Good heavens! Are you trying to murder me?”

Nick recognized the voice as that of Crawford’s, and, with a swift
bound, he leaped out of the dark gap between the boats in which he had
stood concealed.

Sprinting forward along the deserted deck, he followed the direction
of the sound, and in another gap he saw standing out against the
background of the sea two struggling figures. They were locked in
each other’s arms, and one of them was swaying out over the rail at a
perilous angle. The detective saw that the figure of the man bending
over the rail was that of Crawford, and above him, with his fingers
clutched tightly around his throat, was James Stone. The former was
clutching at the murderous wrists of his companion, trying to release
the fierce grip, but even as Nick sighted them Stone made another
vicious lunge, and Crawford’s body was all but thrust out over the rail
into the sea.

A swift, horrified spring carried Nick into the gap between the boats,
and realizing that there was not a moment to spare, he flung himself
at Stone. It was a straight-arm blow that the detective gave, with
the swift, trained precision of an experienced athlete. The great
detective’s bunched fist landed full on the hard, dogged face of James
Stone with resistless force. A strangled oath broke from the miner’s
lips, and he staggered back against the bow of the swinging boat,
releasing Crawford as he did so.

Nick saw the unfortunate man’s body sway over the rail, and with a
headlong leap the detective hurled himself forward, gripping at the
toppling man. He was only just in the nick of time. His fingers caught
the ends of Crawford’s evening coat, and for a long tense moment he
hung over the rail, clutching in that way the otherwise unsupported
body of the miner. It was well for Crawford that the muscles of those
two arms were of a man much beyond the average strength. Carter felt as
though his arms were being pulled out of their sockets, but presently
he gathered himself for an extra effort, and slowly and carefully
pulled the swaying man upward until Crawford was able to grasp the rail
in his hands. A moment later, Nick had shifted his grasp until his
palms were under the man’s shoulders, and then with a tug Crawford was
lifted over the rail and deposited safely on the deck.

The perspiration was pouring from the detective’s face, and his breath
was coming and going in great, choking pants, for Crawford was a heavy
man and the bodily effort had been a tremendous one. The miner clung to
the rail for a few moments, steadying himself there. Through the gloom
Nick could see the bearded face and the blue eyes fixed on his own.
At that instant, a quick, shuffling footfall came to the detective’s
ears, and he turned quickly around in time to see the figure of Stone
gliding like a black shadow along the pale, canvas-covered side of the
suspended boat.

“Oh, no, you don’t, you confounded rascal!” Nick broke out, as he
started to follow the man.

But before he could do so, Crawford reeled, stepped toward him, and
clutched him by the arm.

“It’s—it’s you, Carter?” the miner breathed.

“Yes. Let me go, though. I don’t want that scoundrel to get away.”

Crawford’s fingers tightened their hold on his sleeve.

“Don’t follow him! Let him go—for my sake!” he pleaded.

Nick paused and peered with surprise into the man’s face.

“I suppose you know what you’re saying?” the detective asked, in a
strange voice.

“Perfectly.”

“But that fellow tried to murder you.”

“I know that only too well.”

“And you mean to say you’re not going to lodge a complaint against him
or do anything in the matter?”

The bearded face shone in the dusk.

“That man will never be accused by me,” Crawford said positively.
“Don’t you recognize him?”

The detective shrugged his shoulders.

“Yes, I recognize him, all right,” he said. “It was Stone, your
partner, and also—if I had not come on the scene just when I did—your
murderer.”

Crawford came closer to Carter and thrust his arm through that of the
detective.

“That may be,” he said, “but I can’t forget that he’s also the man who
once saved my life, who has shared his last crust with me again and
again.”

Then, as an exclamation of impatience broke from Nick’s lips, the miner
went on:

“Oh, yes, I know that you think me a fool. You will think me even a
greater when I tell you that this is not the first time. He has tried
to do the same thing on this very voyage—to say nothing of an attempt
before we left South America.”



                              CHAPTER VI.

                         THE LOVE OF COMRADES.


“Good heavens!” Nick Carter broke out. “Do you actually mean to tell me
that he has attacked you before?”

“I do,” the deep voice replied. “He tried to shoot me from ambush a
week or so before we left Brazil, and just prior to our arrival at
Kingston he made another attempt. He was not nearly so successful that
time, though. I managed to overpower him.”

They were pacing along the dark deck now, and Nick heard the man by his
side draw a deep breath.

“Something has gone wrong with Jimmy Stone,” he said quietly. “You
don’t know him as I do, Carter. Up to a short six months ago he was
like a brother to me. Man, I tell you that Jim Stone is the only person
in the world that I—I care two straws about. You know what it means to
men who have lived and starved together.”

The rich voice stopped, and Nick caught something that was suspiciously
like a suppressed sob. Involuntarily he paused, and Crawford halted for
a moment, his shoulders shaking.

A strong man’s grief is a terrible thing to witness, and the detective
felt himself tongue-tied.

“My friend—my old comrade!” Crawford went on huskily. “Trying to murder
me! By Heaven, Carter, it almost breaks my heart!”

He swung around suddenly and caught Nick by the arm again.

“I want you to keep this thing a secret,” he said earnestly. “Jim
isn’t accountable for this mood that has been on him for the last few
months—he isn’t accountable for his actions. I had feared for some time
that there was a little trouble with his brain, and my suspicions were
confirmed before we left South America.”

He then went on to tell in detail of Stone’s attempt to shoot him, as
revealed by the young physician; of the latter’s opinion of Stone’s
sanity—or, rather, insanity—and finally of the promise Floyd had wrung
from the misguided man.

He told the detective that Stone had reluctantly agreed to consult a
famous specialist, but only because he had felt compelled to do so in
order to stop Floyd’s mouth. Unfortunately, however, he had forgotten
the specialist’s name and that of the hospital of which he was the head.

Had Nick learned those important facts, there might have been a
different story to tell.

“You will help me shield him, won’t you, Carter?” Crawford begged. “I
suppose I haven’t any right to ask it, but, after all, it’s my funeral
and not yours. That’s what I told Floyd. He couldn’t rest until he had
warned me, but it did not seem right for me to change my plans in any
way. Jim is my oldest and best friend—my only close friend, in fact—and
I couldn’t bear to cut adrift from him. Besides, I’ve been hoping all
the time that he’d come out from under this cloud; that I’d find
some way of reaching his heart and making it all right again. I have
tried time after time, but always failed. He thinks I’m his enemy,
and attributes to me all the evil suspicions that are bred in his
poor diseased brain. It seems hopeless, unless he can get some help,
but whatever happens I’m going to stick to him. There’s so little the
matter with him, you see, and I know that the man himself is one of the
finest. He would never dream of hurting any one if he were in his right
mind, least of all me.”

“I have no doubt you are right about that,” the detective agreed, “and
that you’re the only one who is in any danger from him; nevertheless, I
can’t help thinking that your affection, highly commendable as it is,
has caused you to take a very foolish risk. You say yourself that you
haven’t been able to do him any good, and certainly he doesn’t take any
pleasure in your society, to say the least. It was very unwise of you
to have traveled all this distance with him, and to have occupied an
adjoining stateroom. It has simply put temptation in his way. You don’t
want to make him a murderer, do you, aside from the question of your
own safety?”

“No, no! Heaven knows I don’t!”

“Then you ought by all means to keep out of his way,” Nick advised
gravely. “You say that this Doctor Floyd extracted a promise from
him that he would do nothing more against you until he had seen this
specialist, but you admit that he has broken that promise not less than
twice during the voyage. Plainly there’s no reliance to be placed in
him, as there never is in the case of any one who is mentally affected
even in the slightest degree.”

“I know,” admitted Crawford. “Jimmy doesn’t think he has broken his
promise, though. He made a condition that he should do nothing unless
I provoked it or he was obliged to act in self-defense. I’m sure he
thinks he has adhered to that condition. Both times when he has pounced
on me he snarled, ‘You would, would you?’ or something like that, as if
I had made some move to attack him.”

“That’s just it,” commented the detective. “He’s obviously unbalanced,
and imagines all sorts of things. Under the circumstances, therefore,
you can do him no possible good, and may lose your life at any moment.”

The miner shook his head.

“I realize that what you say is all true,” he admitted, “but I’m afraid
I’m a fatalist, Mr. Carter. I simply can’t turn my back on Jimmy. I
feel that I must stick by him for the sake of old times, and, besides,
it seems like cowardice to do anything else. I’ve never been a coward,
and I don’t want to begin now. Anyway, I have engaged rooms for both of
us at the Windermere, connecting rooms. I’d feel like a selfish sneak
if I made any change. I don’t want Jimmy to have my blood on his head,
or the blood of any one, and I hope and pray it won’t come to that; but
the bonds between us are too strong to be broken by me. You see how
it is, Mr. Carter, and that it’s hopeless to argue with me. Are you
willing to let me go my way in this, and to promise me that you’ll not
take any action whatever?”

The anxiety in his voice indicated how keenly Crawford felt the
situation. On the one hand, the man’s amazing obstinacy made Nick
very impatient, but on the other, he felt a strange admiration for
Crawford’s unfaltering loyalty. He thrust out his hand in the darkness,
and the palms of the two men met.

“All right, Crawford,” he said, and his voice was deep and vibrating.
“I think you’re making a mistake, but it’s the kind of mistake one
can’t help honoring you for. I look upon you as one of the bravest men
I have ever met, and you may be sure that I will keep your secret.”

Crawford wrung the outstretched hand.

“I thank you with all my heart,” he said, “and I—I won’t forget that
you saved my life. Some day I hope to be able to repay you. In any
event, we’ll meet again in New York.”

But neither he nor Nick dreamed of the curious circumstances that were
to draw them together again in the great city.



                             CHAPTER VII.

                       FOLLANSBEE HITS THE NAIL.


It was little after eleven o’clock in the morning when a
broad-shouldered man turned into Amsterdam Avenue and began to move
slowly along the pavement, glancing now and then at the houses as he
passed. His tanned face suggested that he was a man from a warmer land,
and the stubborn chin and hard, sour look about the eyes were mute
tokens of the surly temper that ruled the stranger. He was wearing a
soft hat with a wide brim, and he had tilted it forward to shade his
eyes from the sun. Once he took a slip of paper from his pocket and
studied it for a moment. Evidently he was looking for an address.

Presently he caught sight of what he sought—the big bulk of St.
Swithin’s Hospital, which occupied an entire block. He quickened
his pace and approached the great building. In the reception room,
however, a disappointment awaited him. When he asked for Doctor Stephen
Follansbee, he was told that that distinguished individual had not yet
arrived at the hospital that day. But after some argument he obtained
Follansbee’s private address, which proved to be also on Amsterdam
Avenue and not more than half a dozen blocks away.

The stranger retraced his steps, therefore, and sought the new number.
He soon found it over the door of a house that was one of a row of
solid but by no means impressive residences.

A maid admitted him and asked if he had an appointment with the doctor.
When informed that he had not, she invited him into the empty reception
room and told him Doctor Follansbee was busy, but that he would be free
in a few minutes. The visitor seated himself, picked up a magazine, and
began mechanically glancing it over. After ten or fifteen minutes,
the folding doors at the rear of the reception room were opened and a
patient emerged. Over the latter’s shoulder the waiting man caught a
glimpse of a stern, repellent figure in the doorway.

The caller rose expectantly, but before he had a chance to step forward
or utter a word he was greeted in an unexpected, almost uncanny,
fashion.

“Come in, Mr. Stone!” were the words which came from the man in the
doorway.

With a start, James Stone grasped his hat and stepped forward. He could
not imagine by what black art the master of the house knew his name,
and he eyed his host apprehensively as he passed him and entered the
room beyond.

He was doubtless face to face with the famous Doctor Stephen
Follansbee, but it was hard, indeed, to believe it. The man before him
could not have been more than five feet high. His head was as bare as a
billiard ball and curiously elongated in shape. The vulturelike face,
the almost fringeless eyelids, and the long, thin, hawklike nose held
him mute.

Into the black, beady eyes there flickered a sudden mirth, and the thin
lips twisted into what was the ghost of a smile.

“It’s all right, Stone!” the extraordinary individual declared. “You
have come to the right place. You may not think it, but I’m Doctor
Follansbee.”

Was it possible? The man looked like some sinister bird of prey, and
yet he was at the head of a celebrated hospital and enjoyed the most
enviable reputation as an authority whose fame was countrywide.

In response to a gesture from Follansbee the visitor dropped into a
chair close beside a small desk that stood by a window. The specialist
crossed the room with quick, birdlike steps and took his seat behind
the desk. In the momentary pause that followed, the two men eyed each
other, but what their thoughts were remained their respective secrets.
At least, Stone could not read the physician’s.

“You expected to see some one very different, I suppose?” Follansbee
remarked, with a mocking smile. “A big, well-groomed figurehead with an
impressive manner and a carefully trimmed Vandyke beard? Confess, now.”

Stone relaxed and laughed. It was a short, grating laugh, and the
physician’s eyes dilated slightly as he heard it.

It was hardly the laugh of a sane person, and as Follansbee leaned
forward he noted that the pupils of Stone’s eyes were fixed and round,
a sign which the initiated always searches for in mental cases.

“That’s about it,” the visitor admitted, in his harsh voice. “The—the
young man who spoke to me about you told me that you were the head of a
big hospital, and I’ve just been there.”

Follansbee nodded.

“I understand,” he said. “I can assure you that your friend was quite
correct, as you’ve doubtless found out for yourself, if you’ve been at
St. Swithin’s. I’ve never been called handsome, but I haven’t found
that a drawback, and I suspect that you didn’t come to see me for my
looks. Did you have a pleasant voyage on the _Cortez_?”

Stone looked at him in open-mouthed amazement.

“What do you know about me?” he demanded. “You nearly floored me by
calling me by my name, and now you——”

“Oh, that isn’t all I know about you,” Follansbee assured him
maliciously. “I can tell you all about the Condor Mine and of your
partner, Winthrop Crawford—or shall we call him your ex-partner? I know
that you and he recently sold the Condor for a million, and that you
have both come back to your old stamping ground after an absence of a
quarter of a century or so. I know several other things, too, but we
won’t speak of them just yet.”

Stone bit his lip and paled a little under his tan.

“Well, I’ll be hanged!” he muttered. “I suppose Floyd must have written
to you about me. How in thunder you knew me, though, when I came in, is
more than I can understand.”

“Who may ‘Floyd’ be?” queried Follansbee, as if he had never heard the
name before.

His visitor looked at him in bewilderment, but again failed to read
that baffling countenance.

“Why, he’s the young American doctor down in Brazil who advised me to
come to you,” he explained wonderingly. “He said he had studied under
you in medical school.”

“Indeed! That’s very interesting,” murmured the specialist. “Hundreds
of young men have studied under me, however. I suppose I might say
thousands. It is gratifying to be remembered by one of them, of
course, but I cannot be expected——”

“Then how in the world——”

“Let’s not waste time over things out of our immediate concern,”
Follansbee interrupted. “Please remember that my time is valuable, very
valuable. You seem to be slow in getting to the point. I’ll help you
out. I happen to know the nature of your errand, but am also perfectly
well aware that your heart isn’t in it. Your real desires are of a very
different sort. Isn’t that so?”

James Stone looked alarmed, as well he might. His conscience was by no
means clear, and the conversation seemed to be getting on decidedly
dangerous ground.

“I—I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he faltered, moistening
his lips. “Doctor Floyd had a fool notion that I was going crazy,
or something like that. I naturally didn’t take very kindly to the
idea, but I was more or less under obligations to him, and he was so
insistent that I promised to look you up. He said you would help me. Of
course, I don’t think I need any help—of that sort—but I’m a man of my
word, and that’s why I’m here.”

“Very commendable!” murmured the head of St. Swithin’s. “Doctor Boyd,
or whatever his name is, was quite right. I can help you, in more ways
than one, and I perceive that what you really want is to be rid of your
former partner, Winthrop Crawford. Have I hit the nail on the head?”

A meaning smile crossed the sinister face, and Follansbee leaned back
in his chair, the glance from his hard little eyes playing over his
caller’s face.



                             CHAPTER VIII.

                          “NAME YOUR PRICE.”


James Stone looked as if the ground had suddenly caved from under his
feet. His big body stiffened, his hands clutched his hat, and his
startled eyes were riveted on Follansbee’s countenance. He moistened
his dry lips again and attempted to speak, but it ended only in a
swallow, as evidenced by the movement in his throat.

The great specialist seemed to enjoy the sensation he had made.

“You know, Mr. Stone,” he went on, “that we doctors have a way,
sometimes, of locating a patient’s trouble by feeling him over until
we find a tender spot. When he winces, we know we’ve struck it, and
we draw our own conclusions. It’s obvious that I’ve found your tender
spot; therefore, there isn’t any use in your beating about the bush.
I know that you desire to eliminate Crawford. I might use a stronger
expression, but I’ll spare your feelings to that extent. Out with it,
now, man! You have a lot of poison bottled up in your system. Let
it come out. If there’s anything wrong with you mentally, as your
friend in Brazil seems to have thought, I’ll find it out and make due
allowances. On the other hand, if you’re sane, you need be no more
afraid of confiding in me. I’m not a policeman, you know—or a judge.
Remember, too, that I have said I could help you.”

It was not so much his words, but the manner in which he uttered them
that gave James Stone a certain confidence.

Follansbee was as far removed as possible from the type of the kindly,
tolerant, helpful physician. On the contrary, everything said,
every glance he cast—the whole man, in fact—would have been highly
distasteful to the average person. It was that very thing, however,
that tended to draw Stone out and to make him reveal the murderous
impulses which controlled him.

It seemed incredible, but he had a feeling that he had nothing to fear
from the famous Doctor Follansbee; in fact, that the latter was a
possible ally. And in support of that startling belief, certain words
of young Floyd’s came to him.

Floyd had said that Follansbee was very eccentric, had ways of doing
things that were all his own, and was in the habit of seeming to
sympathize with those who came to him, no matter what they might say or
do.

The young physician had evidently been a firm believer in the man who
had once been his professor, but Stone found himself wondering if
Follansbee was what he had seemed to Floyd. He doubted it, and decided
he had found a kindred spirit. Follansbee’s mask seemed to be slipping
off.

Emboldened by this, the miner dropped his great hands on his knees and
leaned forward, flinging a quick glance about him as he did so.

“Are you sure we’ll not be heard here?” he asked, cunning returning to
his eyes.

“Perfectly,” was the answer. “My servants are well trained, and these
walls are much thicker than those they put into the houses they build
nowadays. You can talk openly and freely, Stone, and your secrets will
be guarded.”

Stone nodded, and the glitter in his eyes became more pronounced.

“You are right, Doctor Follansbee,” he said. “I can’t figure out how
you know, but I want to get rid of Win Crawford. I—I want to get rid of
him before he gets rid of me.”

His heavy face was wrinkled into a mask of cunning—the foolish, vacant
cunning of the insane.

“He thinks he’s clever,” Stone went on; “thinks I don’t know what he’s
going to do. But I’m as cute as he is, and I’ve tumbled to him.”

Follansbee had folded his long, flexible fingers and was leaning his
shoulders on the arms of his chair. His evil-looking eyes were slowly
taking on a mocking twinkle as they looked at the features of the man
in front of him.

The skilled specialist had no further doubt about the matter. At that
moment he knew to a certainty that James Stone was mad, and that his
was the most dangerous form of insanity, for it centered only on one
object.

Outwardly and in his everyday life, Stone might move and conduct
himself as an ordinary individual, but lurking always in his diseased
brain was one wild and terrible fancy—an insane fear and hatred of the
man who in the brighter, if less prosperous, past he had once risked
his life to save.

It remained to be seen, however, in what Follansbee’s treatment of the
case would consist.

“So you think that your partner is going to kill you, do you?” the
specialist asked.

“I don’t think—I know!” the husky voice returned. “All this is only a
game of his. He has brought me to New York because he was afraid to do
it in Brazil. I have too many friends there, but he’ll find I’m too
much for him. Ha, ha! He’ll find out!”

The laugh was so ugly and hollow, and the man so obviously getting
more and more excited that Follansbee decided to stave off a further
outburst.

“That’s all right,” he said soothingly. “I’m sure you will be able to
look after yourself.”

“I’m going to do more than that,” Stone announced malignantly. “I’m
going to kill him before he has a chance to kill me.”

It was clear that he had thrown off all fear of Follansbee, either
under the influence of his own misguided desires or his belief that the
head of St. Swithin’s was not what he seemed to the world.

With a quick movement he rose to his feet, and, leaning over the
desk, looked down into the physician’s eyes with a face that worked
convulsively.

“And you’ve got to help me!” he added. “I’ve tried three times to do
it, twice on board the _Cortez_, but luck was against me every time.”

“Three times!” Follansbee repeated, in astonishment. “Then Crawford
knows what you’re up to?”

“Yes, he knows,” Stone answered, “but that doesn’t make any difference.
He’s a fool, and he thinks he’s got to stick by me to wait his own
chance. He and I are staying at the same hotel in connecting rooms. We
breakfasted at the same table this morning, and I had hard work to get
away from him.”

“That’s queer,” the specialist remarked thoughtfully. “He must be a
fool!”

His surprise was genuine. He was not capable of fathoming the true
cause of Crawford’s devotion to his old comrade—could not understand
that Stone’s partner had forgiven and deliberately left his life in
jeopardy for the sake of other days.

And in James Stone’s distorted brain there was no more idea of the
truth. He stabbed at the desk with one thick finger.

“That’s his cursed cunning, I tell you!” he declared. “He’s waiting
until he gets good and ready to strike. By Heaven, I can’t sleep at
night, sometimes, for thinking of it! That’s why he doesn’t leave me,
even though I’ve tried three times to kill him. He’s just waiting his
chance, waiting his chance.”

The hoarse voice was lifted until it broke.

“But his chance isn’t going to come!” the demented man insisted. “He
won’t live to get it! You’ve got to help me, I tell you. Floyd sent
me to you because he caught me trying to shoot Crawford out there,
and thought I was crazy. You know better, though, and I know something
about you. Floyd thinks you’re only a great doctor, but he’s a kid,
and he doesn’t know the world as I do. I ain’t crazy, Doctor Stephen
Follansbee; I ain’t a fool. Maybe New York thinks you’re a saint,
for all I know—though I don’t see how it can when it looks at that
face of yours! But I know you’re not. You may be the king-pin of your
profession, but you’re a crook as well—as big a rascal as ever walked
the earth! I know something about men, and you can’t fool me.

“Now, let’s get down to business,” he continued. “Charlie Floyd sent me
here for one kind of help, but you’ve opened the way for another—and
that’s the kind I want. I ain’t very good at this sort of thing, I’ll
admit. I’ve failed three times, but if you take it on, I guess you’ll
get your man at the first crack. If you can’t I’ve got you wrong. I’m
willing to pay well, but I don’t want any backing and filling about it.
So name your price and let’s get busy, Doctor Stephen Follansbee, for
time is on the wing.”



                              CHAPTER IX.

                            A “FAIR” OFFER.


“Sit down and cool off,” Doctor Follansbee advised; and under his
compelling gaze his visitor subsided and sank into a chair.

The head of St. Swithin’s Hospital studied Stone for some moments
without showing the slightest sign of emotion as a result of the
astounding proposition which had just been made to him. His long,
capable, surgeon’s fingers tapped against one another, and his cold,
dark eyes seemed to have no more feeling in them than a couple of
highly polished stones.

“You take a great deal for granted, Mr. James Stone,” he remarked at
last, in his thin, squeaking tones. “I might have you confined in an
asylum for that, you know—or turned over to the police.”

“You might, but you won’t,” his caller said, with a half growl. “I’ve
taken your measure, Follansbee, and if your time is as valuable as you
say, you’ll stop wasting it. I asked your price, and I’m prepared to
pay anything in reason to have this business taken off my hands.”

The faint semblance of a smile twisted Follansbee’s thin lips.

“Rough and ready,” he murmured. “A South American edition of the old
‘wild and woolly’ Westerner. He wants what he wants when he wants it,
and he isn’t bashful about asking for it.”

He paused for a moment and then went on:

“Well, my genial friend, I won’t abuse your confidence. Professional
ethics forbid. As for your opinion of me, I care nothing for that.
Perhaps I look upon it as only another evidence of mental disease.”

“Will you help me or won’t you?” Stone broke in.

“Most assuredly I will,” was the quiet answer. “I’ll help you in my own
way, and if I’m to do so, you must put yourself wholly in my hands.
Will you promise?”

Stone’s heart sank, and he looked askance at Follansbee for a few
moments. The latter’s words sounded a little too professional to suit
him. His belief that the physician was a rascal was rooted deep,
however, and overshadowed everything else.

“I’ll agree to almost anything if you’ll do what I want done,” he said.

“I’ll do what needs to be done,” was the evasive answer. “You asked
my terms, though, and I must warn you that they’re high. Some of the
richest men in the world come to me, and I have no time to waste with
those who cannot afford to pay my price. You can, if you’re willing to
do so.”

“How much?” Stone asked, in a more subdued tone.

Follansbee’s preamble sounded formidable.

“I don’t expect to get you for nothing,” the miner went on. “You must
know of a thousand ways of—of getting rid of people—ways by which no
one would be any the wiser. I’m willing to pay for that knowledge, but
I’m not a millionaire, you know.”

“I’m aware of that,” piped Follansbee, “and shall take the fact into
account. That being so, my fee will be only forty-five thousand
dollars!”

James Stone started at the mention of this enormous sum.

“That is the best I can do,” Doctor Follansbee went on, in his cold
tones. “Remember that if I assist you to get rid of your partner, I
also assist you to add his share of the proceeds from the sale of the
Condor to your own.” The hawklike face was very hard now, and the beady
eyes glowed sternly. “You will receive at least four hundred and fifty
thousand dollars after the death of Winthrop Crawford,” he continued.
“I’m only asking ten per cent of that amount.”

His tone was calm and calculating. Stone saw the point which Follansbee
had made, but he could not penetrate the latter’s armor.

Follansbee had not said in so many words that he would help him to get
rid of his partner. He had promised to help “in his own way.” To be
sure, this calculation, based on Crawford’s death, seemed to commit
him, but Stone found himself wondering if he were only being played
with. Had the doctor merely mentioned that in order to draw him on
and get his own price? Of what was the promise of help to consist? He
voiced his doubts, but his words were met in the same sphinxlike way.

“I’m afraid I can’t enlighten you as to that,” Follansbee told him. “It
isn’t proper for a physician to make definite promises, and it’s very
unprofessional to outline methods. I have agreed to take your case for
forty-five thousand dollars, and I promise to give it my best attention
and the benefit of my long knowledge. That is all anybody but a quack
can say. You’ll have to take it or leave it. If you’re so thoroughly
persuaded that I’m a scoundrel, you oughtn’t to hesitate.”

His smile was a maddening enigma.

Under the influence of this skillful handling, the tanned face widened
into a smile, and Stone nodded his head. “All right,” he said. “I
forgot about the money. Crawford has made his will in my favor, and if
he dies without involving me I’ll get his share, of course.”

“That’s my understanding of the situation,” Follansbee agreed.

“That’s right—that’s right! How you got on to it, though, Heaven only
knows!”

“Then you’re willing to pay me the fee I demand?”

“I suppose it’s worth it. Yes, I’ll pay it.”

“A wise decision,” murmured Follansbee.

He reached out a lean hand and swung a pad of blotting paper round,
then placed a pen and inkwell beside it.

“Now I want you to sit down here and write me out a check for
forty-five thousand dollars. To-day is the seventeenth, and I want you
to date your check the twenty-seventh. That gives me ten days, and if
at the end of that time Winthrop Crawford is still troubling you, all
you have to do is to go to your bank and stop payment on your check. Is
that fair?”



                              CHAPTER X.

                           THE RAISED CHECK.


“I couldn’t ask anything more than that,” Stone admitted.

He felt sure now that Follansbee would do all he wished, despite the
fact that he had been able to pin him down. He assumed that that was
merely the doctor’s caution and cleverness, and the offer to allow him
to date the check ahead came with an unexpected sense of relief.

To be sure, Follansbee had put it with his customary vagueness. He had
not said, “if at the end of that time, Crawford is still alive,” but
only “if he’s still troubling you.”

That might mean any one of a number of things, but, as was his way,
Stone interpreted it as best suited him. He drew a check book from his
pocket, and, pulling a chair forward, seated himself at the desk. His
head was bent, and he could not see Follansbee’s face. Had he been able
to do so, he might have been struck by the curious look that was now in
the little eyes.

When Stone had filled in the check, all except the signature, he found
that the ink on the point had given out, and he stretched out his hand
to dip the pen into the inkwell again. At the same moment Follansbee
also reached out, apparently to push the well nearer to his visitor.
Between them, in some manner the well was upset, and a small quantity
of the black fluid it contained made a round patch on the top of the
desk.

“Never mind!” Follansbee hastened to say, in answer to Stone’s
regretful exclamation. “It doesn’t matter. Let it be. You can finish
with this.” As he spoke, he took another ink bottle from the back of
the desk, removed the cork, and placed it within easy reach.

Stone mechanically dipped the pen into the new receptacle and scrawled
his signature at the bottom of the check, after which he handed the
slip of paper to Follansbee.

“Thanks!” the specialist said carelessly, turning the check over and
blotting it on the pad. “Now give me the name of your hotel and the
number of your room.”

“The Hotel Windermere, room number twenty-two,” was the reply.

Follansbee jotted it down on the back of a card, and then looked at his
watch.

“I must be going now,” he said. “I’m overdue at the hospital. I will be
engaged there until six o’clock, but I’ll phone you as soon after that
as possible.”

Stone picked up his hat and peered at the inscrutable face for a
moment, as if in a last attempt to read the thoughts behind it.

“You’re sure you can do it?” he asked hoarsely.

“Nothing is absolutely sure in this world, even the performance of a
specialist,” was the cool reply. “However”—and he tapped the check, the
blank side of which was turned uppermost, with one forefinger—“there is
my fee; and you may rest assured that I shall do my best to earn it.”

Half insane though he was, James Stone was greatly impressed.
Follansbee had not showed his hand once during the interview. At best
he had only given a momentary glimpse at his cards, but there was a
hint of strength, of unusual power of one kind or another behind that
hard mask.

“Very well, doctor,” the miner returned. “I shall expect to hear from
you this evening.”

He strode across the room, Follansbee following him with his short,
noiseless steps. When the double doors were reached and opened, the
doctor put out his hand and Stone felt a cold, dry palm thrust into his
own moist, hot one.

“Until this evening,” Follansbee said, with a bow that was almost
courtly, despite its mocking character.

Stone passed through the reception room, and the little man closed the
double doors of the office behind him.

Bending forward, Follansbee tilted his head at an angle like that of
a listening bird. He remained in that position until the noise of the
closing door told him that the miner had left the house; then, turning,
he darted across the room toward his desk and seized upon the check.
A low, disagreeable laugh broke from his lips as his eyes alighted
on the face of it, for date, number, payee’s name, and amount had
all disappeared, and the only words that remained were the two which
constituted the signature—“James Stone.”

The doctor’s eyes turned to the desk where the “ink” which had been
used had been spilled, but the mysterious volatile liquid had already
disappeared from the surface, and only a little grayish powder remained.

That, too, quickly vanished, as Follansbee blew it away.

Then, dropping into a chair in front of the desk, and in a strong,
bold hand—in stern contrast to his size and quick, nervous movement—he
filled in the rest of the check once more. He made it out, of course,
to himself, as before, and reproduced the vanished number from memory.
That was an easy matter, since he had been looking over Stone’s
shoulder; but this time the date put down was the twenty-fifth instead
of the twenty-seventh, and the amount was not forty-five thousand
dollars, but—four hundred and fifty thousand!



                              CHAPTER XI.

                      A DISTINGUISHED SCOUNDREL.


“Yes, my friend, I intend to earn my fee,” the cold voice declared to
the empty room. “The only difference is that the fee is somewhat larger
than I’ve given you reason to believe.”

Leaning back in his chair, Doctor Stephen Follansbee blotted the check,
then, taking a bunch of keys from his pocket, he unlocked the top
drawer of the desk and slipped the check into a small leather-bound
book which lay inside.

“Just to make sure that I receive my just dues,” he went on, “I’ll turn
this check in on Saturday instead of Monday. You’re mad enough on one
point, James Stone, but you’re a shrewd man outside of that, and it
might occur to you to stop payment on that check.” His short, cackling
laugh rang put anew.

Half an hour later he left his house. He did not seem to be in as much
of a hurry as he had said, as he made his way leisurely, and on foot,
to his destination.

He made a striking figure as he proceeded. His face alone would have
attracted attention anywhere, but his dress was eccentric in its
shabbiness. His arms were folded behind his back in a very unusual, but
thoroughly characteristic way, and his little, lashless eyes were bent
on the ground. Many passers-by stopped to stare at him as he passed,
and not a few recognized him.

“He’s the great Doctor Follansbee, the head of St. Swithin’s Hospital!”
they told one another. “You’d never think it to look at him, would you?
He looks more like a mummy than anything else.”

Careless of these comments and of the mild sensation his appearance
always created, Follansbee soon reached the hospital, passed through
the imposing entrance, and went on down the broad corridor to his
private room. As soon as he had seated himself at his desk and glanced
hastily through the few reports and other documents which lay there, he
pressed one of several buzzer buttons on a small switchboard attached
to his desk.

In response to the summons, the resident physician in charge quickly
entered. Follansbee spent half an hour listening to the reports of the
various cases and to matters of hospital routine. That done, he issued
a few instructions in his sharp voice, and the physician left the room.

Other heads of departments followed, and for two hours Follansbee was
constantly engaged. At the end of that time, though, he rose to his
feet and passed through into an adjoining room which was fitted up as a
private laboratory and workshop.

Crossing to one side of the room along which rows of shelves had
been placed, he opened a small, glass-doored cupboard, and, leaning
forward, took a small case of test tubes from one of the shelves, which
contained serum of various types. Going back to his desk, the doctor
seated himself and began to work. Evidently he was thinking something
out with the aid of pencil and paper. He had a pad in front of him,
and on it he scrawled a few lines of straggling writing. Then, after a
prolonged pause, he jotted down a few more words.

“Yes,” he said to himself presently, “I think that will be the best
way. There’s no reason why Crawford could not have been exposed to
disease before his arrival. He has just landed in New York, and if I
succeed in getting at him within the next day or so, there will be no
reason for any one to suspect.”

He leaned back in his chair.

“I’m sorry, though, that that mad fool attacked him,” he went on
musingly, “for, despite what Stone says, I feel sure that Crawford must
be on his guard now.”

That was the point in the case which baffled Follansbee for the moment.
He could not understand why Crawford, after no less than three attempts
had been made on his life, should still be willing to occupy a room
which connected directly with that of his would-be murderer. At last,
with a shrug of his shoulders, he dismissed the subject.

“After all, it doesn’t matter very much,” he mumbled to himself. “The
attempts which Stone has made are only known to four or five persons at
most. They are the two most concerned, young Floyd, and the stranger
who, according to Stone’s admission, separated him and Crawford on the
boat. His knowledge and that of Floyd would be dangerous if Crawford
were to be put out of the way in any ordinary fashion, but neither
would be suspicious if he succumbed to a tropical disease. It would
never occur to them to question his death under such circumstances, and
even if it did, they wouldn’t give Stone credit for so much ingenuity.
As for me, I’m above suspicion, except in the eyes of a very few
persons—notably Nick Carter’s. I shouldn’t like him to get wind of
this, but there’s little or no likelihood of his doing so.”

James Stone had not known of the detective’s identity, because the
latter’s name had not appeared on the passenger list of the _Cortez_,
and, strictly speaking, it had been a breach of confidence on the part
of the chief steward when the latter had revealed Carter’s name to
Crawford. Had Follansbee known more of the mysterious stranger whose
intervention had been so unfortunate from Stone’s standpoint, even his
cold, hard calm would have been broken up, and he would have cut off
his right hand rather than have anything to do with the affair. So far
as his knowledge went, however, it seemed sufficiently safe to venture
on what he had in view.

“Anyhow, I run no risk,” he concluded. “Both Stone and Crawford seem to
have no friends in the city, and if there should be a coroner’s inquest
the death would be put down as resulting from natural causes.”

He ran his fingers over the test tubes with a touch that was almost
caressing, and on his sallow, leathery face there rested a malevolent
smile.

“My first step in the career of crime,” he resumed, “was not very
successful, I’ll have to admit. It involved considerable risk, and I
was infernally lucky to have crawled out of it as well as I did. I was
a fool then, though, and I won’t take any such risks in future. I’ll be
the ‘man behind’ this time. Stone will execute the work, and when it’s
duly accomplished, the reward will be mine, and I think I can worry
along for some time on that amount.”

Floyd, in his misguided effort to be thorough, had sent a number of
details which might well have been omitted. They had enabled Follansbee
to make a great show of knowledge, and by his evasions in respect to
the source of it had greatly contributed to Stone’s bewilderment. They
had also made it possible for the unscrupulous head of St. Swithin’s to
fill in the check for the amount that was only fifty thousand dollars
short of the entire sum which Stone was supposed to have realized from
the sale of the Condor Mine. He would have liked to claim even more,
but he did not dare, for fear of overdrawing the miner’s account and
thereby creating a difficulty when the time came for the bank to honor
the check. Therefore he had shrewdly fixed his “fee” at that sum, in
order to allow for any reasonable withdrawals on Stone’s part.

In that and other ways Floyd’s letter had been of the greatest
assistance, and had served a purpose the nature of which its writer
had never dreamed. It would have seemed incredible to the young
physician, whose profession was sacred to him, and in whose eyes
Stephen Follansbee was everything that was desirable—except in external
appearances.

Well he might. Few would have been willing to believe for a moment that
the famous specialist could be guilty of such juggling with checks, and
much less that he would consent to engage in a criminal conspiracy, the
end of which was scientific murder, with any man—least of all one he
knew to be mentally diseased. Yet, such was the fact.

Now and then a physician—sometimes a really great one—goes wrong and
plays false to the tremendous responsibility which he has assumed.
Stephen Follansbee was one of the most conspicuous examples of this.
He had started out with the highest motives, and worked his way up by
hard work and sheer weight of ability. He had always been supremely
selfish, however, and had possessed little or no heart. He had won
fame in spite of his repellent appearance and his cold, unsympathetic
nature. But that fame, and the reward which followed it, had not been
enough for him. There was an evil streak in him, and it had become
more pronounced as the years passed.

He had begun by using his position to cover up indefensible experiments
on patients, especially those who were poor and obscure. Emboldened
by his freedom from penalty, he had gone on and indulged in more
daring and ruthless work. Most of it had been in the name of medical
knowledge, to be sure, and had had the sanction of not a few fellow
practitioners, but it was none the less criminal.

At length, a year or so before, he had dared to try a particularly
heartless experiment on a famous author, but while it was still in one
of its early stages, Nick Carter had learned of it—it doesn’t matter
how—and had effectually interfered. Incidentally, the detective had
prevented Follansbee from collecting fifty thousand dollars for his
services, as he called them.

It had not been an indictable offense, and so Follansbee went
unpunished. Carter had been obliged to content himself with a scathing
denunciation, and a warning to keep straight in the future. To the best
of the detective’s knowledge, Follansbee had done so. This chance,
however, had been too much for the distinguished scoundrel.



                             CHAPTER XII.

                           THE DEADLY TUBE.


While unconsciously playing into Follansbee’s hands, Floyd had opened
the way for a diabolical crime.

The head of St. Swithin’s had adroitly pulled the wool over James
Stone’s eyes, and kept the half-crazed miner from knowing just what to
expect; but nevertheless the specialist’s mind had been made up from
the beginning. He had planned it all out after receiving the letter.

As for his recognition of the miner, which had so startled his visitor,
it had been a very simple matter, and quite within the capacity of one
much less shrewd than Stephen Follansbee. Floyd had announced that
Stone and Crawford had taken passage on the _Cortez_. Follansbee had
taken pains to learn when the vessel had docked, and when, later, the
big, bronzed man had presented himself, the caller’s name had, to the
doctor, been as good as written over his face.

That Stone was undoubtedly a victim of some mental derangement did not
matter to Follansbee in the least. Almost any other physician would
have been affected by the man’s plight, and would have thought of
nothing but the best way to cure him. Not so Follansbee, however. His
apology for a heart had been hard in the beginning, and it had grown
steadily harder as a result of his ostensibly scientific, but really
devilish, experiments on unfortunate sufferers.

Had there been a spark of honor in him, he would have done all in his
power to keep the irresponsible Stone from crime, and, if possible, to
banish his ailment; but instead he determined to use the demented man
for his own ends to help him to murder, and finally to strip him of his
fortune.

His conscience had not given him a single twinge, for the very good
reason that he had none. In fact, the prospective divisions of wealth
seemed to him eminently right and proper. He might be taking away
Stone’s fortune, but he would be giving him Crawford’s in place of it.
In other words, he reasoned that Stone would be getting the job done
for practically nothing, and the four hundred and fifty thousand, while
generous pay, was not a cent too much according to Follansbee’s view of
it. He knew as well as any one could have known that, though he might
try to shift the responsibility as much as he pleased, it lay with him,
after all, and he wanted pay for it.

Moreover, he coveted wealth, more wealth than he had been able to amass
through the many handsome fees that were pouring in all the time from
the rich and great who were numbered among his patients. He wished
to build a hospital of his own, of which he should be even more the
master than was possible at St. Swithin’s. He longed for expensive
laboratories built and equipped along new lines, not for the good of
humanity, but to further his own peculiar ambitions. Stone’s money,
with what he already possessed, would go far toward realizing these
ambitions, and he was willing to take almost any risk to further his
conscienceless aims.

The hours passed away swiftly, and at about seven o’clock in the
evening Follansbee, returning from a round of the wards, entered
his private office and went to the telephone. He rang up the Hotel
Windermere and asked for Stone. The clerk informed him that Mr. Stone
was not in the hotel at that time, but might return at any moment. “If
you care to leave a message, it will be delivered to him as soon as he
arrives,” the man went on.

“Very well,” Follansbee returned, after a pause. “Tell him that the
gentleman whom he visited on Amsterdam Avenue this morning will be at
the hotel about half past seven, and will wait for him in the lobby.”

The clerk took down the message and repeated it, after which Follansbee
replaced the receiver and prepared to leave the hospital. By means of
an intercommunicating phone, he called up St. Swithin’s garage and had
his car, which he kept there, brought round to the entrance. As he
crossed the pavement to enter it, he lifted one long, lean hand and
pressed a smooth, round object in his breast pocket.

Little did the passers-by dream that, concealed in the clothing of that
sinister, shabbily dressed, but nevertheless distinguished figure, was
a tube containing deadly bacilli in a quantity sufficient to spread
death for miles around—even, if unchecked, to sweep throughout the
entire country.

Thus, like the shadow of death itself, the vulturelike form of Stephen
Follansbee slipped into the big limousine, and was winged away to the
Hotel Windermere.



                             CHAPTER XIII.

                      CHICK SIGHTS THE “BUZZARD.”


“Who is it, please?”

Chick Carter, with his ear to the receiver, waited for the reply.

“This is Winthrop Crawford. I wish to speak to Mr. Nick Carter, if I
may.”

It was about two o’clock in the afternoon of the same day that had
witnessed the meeting of Stone and Doctor Follansbee.

Unfortunately, Nick had just left the house, but his assistant had
heard about Crawford.

“The chief isn’t in just now, Mr. Crawford,” he said, “but I don’t
think he’ll be gone very long. Is there anything I can do for you? I’m
his assistant.”

“Are you the man who was with him on board the _Cortez_?”

“Yes.”

“Perhaps you’ll do as well, then. Are you busy just now?”

“No.”

“Could you come down to the Hotel Windermere? I don’t suppose it’s very
much, but I’d like to talk with one of you. I could come to your house,
though, if you prefer.”

There was no reason why Chick should not accept the invitation.

“No,” he said. “I’ll come down. I’m afraid I can’t reach the hotel
before three, though.”

“Oh, that’s all right; there’s no particular hurry.”

The detective replaced the receiver, saw to a few matters which
demanded his attention, and then, after some twenty-five or thirty
minutes, scribbled a brief message to his chief, and left it on the
latter’s desk—the usual information, telling where he had gone, and why.

Chick had never accustomed himself to riding in motor cars when it
was unnecessary; therefore, he set out briskly for the nearest subway
station.

“The chief seems very interested in Crawford,” he thought, as he walked
along. “We might as well get in touch with him as soon as we can.”

He reached the Windermere a little after three, and found Crawford
waiting for him in the lobby.

The bearded man seemed to be troubled about something, but his face
brightened when Chick appeared. He led the way to one of the rooms
which opened off the lobby. It proved to be deserted.

“It’s nothing very important,” Crawford explained, when they had seated
themselves in a quiet, remote corner, “but I’m just a little troubled
about my partner, Stone. He left the hotel immediately after breakfast
this morning, and wouldn’t tell me where he was going. He said he would
be back in time for lunch, but he hasn’t turned up yet.” He glanced
at Chick for a moment. “Of course. I’m not going to worry much about
that,” he went on, “but in case he doesn’t appear by dinner time,
I just wanted to know what to do. This New York of yours is a very
bewildering place to a man who hasn’t been in it for twenty-five or
thirty years, and I would be at a loss to know how to proceed.”

“Oh, that’s easy enough,” Chick said quietly. “If he doesn’t show up by
night, and you don’t get a message, the best thing to do would be to
ring up police headquarters and give a description of him. If anything
had happened, they would be in a position to let you know sooner than
any one else. They have the whole thing at their finger’s ends down
there, and handle ordinary cases with routine dispatch. You mustn’t
have any anxiety about Mr. Stone, though. He’s surely able to take care
of himself. He may have fallen in with some old friends, or made a new
one.”

“It does sound foolish, and I suppose you’re right,” Crawford admitted.
“This place has got me scared, though. I have been used to solitude for
a good many years, and the only crowds I’ve known have been those about
the bars in mining camps. There must be a frightful number of accidents
here every day.”

He turned slightly in his chair and looked out through a near-by window
into the traffic-filled street.

“You’re free to laugh at me,” he went on, “but I’m almost afraid to
venture out alone. It looks to me as if a man has to take his life in
his hands every time he crosses the street in this pandemonium.” He
paused again and smiled appealingly. “If you’ve got an hour or so to
spare, would it be too much to ask you to pilot me around a bit?” he
inquired. “I’d appreciate it, I assure you.”

The deep, friendly voice had a certain charm in it which the detective
found it impossible to resist.

“Of course I’ll come gladly,” he said.

He and Crawford left the hotel and strolled along the crowded
pavements. The grizzled miner seemed to find a keen delight in halting
to examine almost every window they passed.

“Spending years in the open makes a man fairly hungry for this sort of
thing. I’ve longed to be back home again just to look into these very
shop windows.”

His enthusiasm was infectious, and he and Chick walked along, laughing
and chatting together. They dropped in at the public library, and
Crawford could hardly tear himself away.

When they reached the street again and started back toward Broadway,
Chick happened to glance at a jeweler’s clock.

“Half past five!” he ejaculated. “By George! I had no idea it was as
late as that.”

“Late be hanged!” Crawford answered, with a laugh. “The game is young
yet. Let’s have a look in at one of those continuous performances I’ve
heard so much about—that is, unless you have to get back.”

The detective had nothing pressing in view, and he was thoroughly
enjoying Crawford’s comments on what they saw. He, therefore, expressed
his willingness to do whatever his companion wished, and conducted the
latter to a combination moving-picture and vaudeville house, where
they spent a little over an hour.

It was after seven when they returned to the hotel.

“I’ll just go and see if Stone has come back,” Crawford said anxiously.
“I won’t be long.”

Chick nodded assent and seated himself in one corner of the lobby,
while the miner made for the elevator.

Nick Carter’s assistant had bought an evening paper and stuffed it into
his pocket. He now took it out and began glancing over it.

Presently, as he lowered the paper to turn the page, his eyes chanced
to look into a mirror set into the wall beside him. The mirror was
so placed that it reflected the wide entrance of the hotel, and just
at that moment Chick saw a lean, curious figure approach from the
street. He gave a slight start, and stared for a moment at the familiar
reflection, then instinctively raised the paper again so that it hid
his face.

He never forgot features, and that one brief glance had been enough for
him. As a matter of fact, however, there was little chance of any one
forgetting Doctor Stephen Follansbee after even the most casual meeting.

“The ‘Buzzard’!” he muttered to himself, using the name he had applied
to the famous specialist. “I wonder what the dickens he’s doing here.”



                             CHAPTER XIV.

                       NICK’S ASSISTANT DECAMPS.


Chick knew all about Doctor Follansbee’s tendencies, and had assisted
his chief in an attempt to scrape up sufficient evidence against the
man to warrant some definite action.

They had failed to build up a case that would amount to anything
if brought to trial. To be sure, they could have brought charges
against the head of St. Swithin’s, and placed him before the medical
association, but there was more than one reason for refraining from
that. For one thing, Carter hesitated to stir up a scandal which
would be bound to follow the publication of such charges. Owing to
Follansbee’s great prominence, and the very responsible character of
his position as head of a big hospital, the accusation would tend to
discredit the whole profession more or less, and to shake the public’s
faith in such institutions.

Finally, the detective had always been a firm believer in the right of
a man to have a second chance, especially when he had much to lose.
Follansbee had had his warning, and nothing had happened since to give
the detective and his assistants any particular reason for believing
that he had failed to profit by it. They were by no means sure that he
had, however, and had continued to look out for further trouble in that
direction; consequently, Chick was more than commonly interested in
this chance glimpse of Follansbee.

As for his action in hiding himself behind the newspaper, that was
merely a mechanical sort of routine precaution. There was always
a certain possibility that Follansbee might be up to something
questionable, and if he were in this instance the detective did not
wish to be recognized. That would scare the game away, and his hunter’s
instinct shrank from the possibility of such a catastrophe.

Half a minute later he had cause to congratulate himself on his
presence of mind.

He was not more than twenty feet from the clerk’s desk, which
Follansbee had approached.

“Is Mr. James Stone in?”

The question was put in the doctor’s thin, piping voice, which hardly
carried to Chick, and wrenched a little gasp of amazement from him.

“Stone!” he thought. “That can’t be anybody but Crawford’s partner. The
Buzzard is asking for Stone. What does it mean?”

He strained his ears to catch the reply, but the clerk’s voice was low
and indistinct. A moment later, however, Follansbee remarked audibly:
“All right, I’ll wait for him here in this first sitting room for a few
minutes.”

Manipulating his paper cautiously, so that Follansbee could not see his
entire face, even in the glass, Chick glanced at the latter with one
eye. He was just in time to see the doctor move off and pass into one
of the rooms which opened off from the lobby, the one nearest to the
clerk’s desk.

Chick felt instinctively that the discovery he had made was of
considerable importance. He had come to look upon Follansbee with
suspicion, and he was aware of Stone’s attempts upon Crawford’s life.
To be sure, he also knew that Stone had been advised to consult
a specialist in New York. It might well be, of course, that the
specialist in question was Stephen Follansbee, and that the miner
had gone to him in good faith. The connection between them, however,
whatever it was, seemed to deserve a little more attention. At any
rate, he felt that he ought to inform his chief at once of the fact
that Follansbee had been inquiring for James Stone.

“I’ll have to clear out of this,” he thought, “and I mustn’t let the
Buzzard see me, either. If Crawford should come down and speak to me,
Follansbee might be put on his guard—supposing there’s anything fishy
about his call on Stone. It’s up to me to make tracks before Crawford
comes back.”

He rose to his feet, and as he did so the elevator bell gave a subdued
buzz. The man in charge closed the gate, and the elevator shot upward.
Chick felt morally certain that it was Crawford who had rung the bell,
and was waiting to descend. Another might have laughed at him for the
thought, when the big hotel was well filled with guests, but Chick put
enough faith in it to cause his heart to give a startled bound. Without
a look toward the elevator, he strode along the lobby in the direction
of the door, and hurried out. He had barely disappeared when the car
sank to the level of the ground floor, and Winthrop Crawford emerged.

The miner looked expectantly toward the corner where he had left Nick
Carter’s assistant, and stopped short when he found it vacant. His
bewildered gaze traveled over the whole room, and then he approached a
bell boy who was standing in a near-by doorway.

“Do you happen to know what’s become of the young man I left in that
corner less than five minutes ago?” he asked, pointing to the chair
Chick had occupied.

“He’s just gone out, sir,” was the reply. “He hurried past me just
before you came down, and shot out of the door as if he had been sent
for.”

“Did any one speak to him?”

“No, sir, not that I know. Maybe he just thought of something he had to
do.”

“That’s queer!” Crawford muttered. “I don’t understand it.”

Then he suddenly made up his mind. “See if you can catch him,” he said
to the boy. “Hurry! There’s a dollar in it if you do.”

The bell boy broke into a run, and Crawford hastily followed. When
he reached the street he saw the uniformed boy in full flight after
a slender, well-dressed man who was walking swiftly down the street
to the left. It looked like Chick, but in order to make no mistake,
Crawford halted where he was and looked to the right, then crossed the
street. He saw no one else whose appearance tempted him to follow;
consequently, he strode in the wake of the boy. The latter soon caught
up with his man and spoke to him. Crawford saw the pedestrian halt and
turn about.

“Confound it!” the miner ejaculated under his breath, when he caught
sight of the man’s face. “That isn’t my man. That fool boy has gone off
on a wild-goose chase!”

He remained where he was and waited for the return of the bell boy, who
came back sheepishly.

“It was the wrong man, sir,” the boy explained.

“So I saw,” was the answer. “Well, here’s something for your trouble,
anyway. I can’t imagine how my friend got away so quickly.”

“Thank you, sir!” said the boy, as he possessed himself of a coin.
“Maybe he caught a car.”

“That’s probably what he did,” agreed Crawford.

The boy left him and walked swiftly back to the hotel, but the miner
followed much more slowly. He had been very favorably impressed by
Chick and could not account for his sudden disappearance.

“Did I bore him as much as that?” he wondered. “He might at least have
left some excuse, I should think, even if I had taken up too much of
his time. If he had stayed he could have advised me about Jimmy.”

He had failed to find Stone in his room, and the place seemed to
indicate that his partner had not been there since morning. Yet,
despite his anxiety, he was very reluctant to do anything, since he
knew that if Stone were all right, he would greatly resent anything
which looked like meddling with his affairs. When Crawford returned to
the lobby of the Windermere, however, he found that his brief absence
had brought developments.

These developments were to have considerable bearing on his affairs,
although he was not to know of that for the present. While he was out
of the building, Stone had returned, and had met Doctor Follansbee.

When Crawford reappeared, the clerk beckoned to him.

“Mr. Stone has just come in, Mr. Crawford, and has gone to his room
with a friend,” he was informed.



                              CHAPTER XV.

                          A BAD COMBINATION.


A look of great relief passed over Crawford’s face as he thanked the
clerk.

“Friend, eh?” he said to himself. “I didn’t think he had a single one
in these parts, except myself, and I’m afraid he doesn’t think I’m his
friend now.”

The elevator was not at hand; consequently, he walked upstairs to the
second floor. Passing along the corridor, he halted in front of number
twenty-two and knocked.

“Who is that?” came the thick voice of James Stone.

“It’s only Win Crawford,” he returned, turning the knob of the door.
He found it locked, however, and his partner’s voice called out
impatiently:

“I’m busy just now, and don’t want to be disturbed.”

With a shrug of his shoulders, and a return of the old troubled look on
his face, Crawford turned away and went on to his own room to dress for
dinner.

“Don’t want to be disturbed,” the mine owner thought, half bitterly.
“There’s no mistake about it. All of his old affection for me is dead.
Heaven only knows how it’s come about, but I’m sure it isn’t my fault!”

Presently he was standing in front of his dresser, glancing
mechanically at his bearded face in the mirror, and shaking his head.

“I’d give all I possess to find out what is the matter,” he said.
“Jimmy and I have been like brothers for years, and the way he’s
treating me now is almost more than I can bear. I sometimes wish we’d
never found the mine, and were back again footing it through the bush
together. We didn’t have any money, and we never knew where the next
meal was coming from, but—we were friends then.”

As he crossed to the wardrobe he imagined he heard his name spoken, and
came to a halt close to the connecting door. It was evident that the
barrier was a thin one.

A murmur of voices came to his ear; but it was much too indistinct for
him to make out any words. He could distinguish Stone’s gruff tones,
and also the sound of another voice—a much sharper, higher-pitched one.
But that was all.

With an effort, Crawford roused himself and turned away. “Come,
come!” he said to himself. “That isn’t fair. You’ve never been an
eavesdropper, and you’re not going to turn to that sort of thing at
your time of life.”

He went on with his dressing, and at length heard the scrape of a key
in the lock of the next door. Crossing to his own, Crawford opened it
quietly and looked out. Stone was striding down the wide corridor, and
by his side walked a thin, short, dried-up-looking individual.

As the two figures turned at the end of the corridor to go on down the
stairs, the electric light at the landing shone for a moment full on
the face of Stone’s companion. Crawford had a glimpse of a bony jaw, a
hooked, cruel nose, and a pair of small unprepossessing eyes.

“By George! What an ugly-looking fellow Jimmy has picked up!” the miner
exclaimed, as he quickly withdrew his head, in order not to be seen
spying on his old partner. “I wonder who the runt is, and where Jimmy
got hold of him. They seemed to have something interesting to talk
about.”

He little dreamed that the subject they had found interesting was
himself, and that the object of their conversation had been the
devising of ways and means for taking his life.

The future, however, was to reveal it all to him, and, although he did
not suspect anything at that moment there were others who did.

The bell boy had been right.

Chick had indeed run for a passing car and boarded it after emerging
from the Windermere, and that explained his sudden disappearance from
the street.

He had been so full of his discovery, and so anxious to escape from
the hotel before Doctor Follansbee could see him and connect him with
Crawford, that he had run a certain risk in dodging through the traffic
and flinging himself on a moving trolley.

When he reached home a few minutes later, he found dinner waiting for
him, and his chief and some of the others at the table.

“Hello, Chick!” was the greeting his chief gave him. “So you’re back at
last, are you? I got your message. Have you been with Crawford all this
time?”

The young detective seated himself hastily, gave an account of the
afternoon’s program and then wound up with the startling information
that he had heard Doctor Follansbee asking for Stone. At the mention of
the specialist’s name, Carter’s lithe body stiffened, and he darted a
quick glance at Chick.

“Follansbee and Stone!” he repeated. “That combination looks bad. I
don’t like it.”



                             CHAPTER XVI.

                          A BIRD OF ILL OMEN.


“Neither did I,” his assistant answered. “Don’t forget, though, that
that young doctor down in South America insisted that Stone should
consult a specialist upon reaching New York. It looks as if Follansbee
were the man.”

“That seems probable,” Nick agreed, “but it doesn’t help matters very
much. For all I know, Floyd may be a scamp himself, and even if he
isn’t, and has communicated with Follansbee in good faith, the latter
may try some trick. Both Crawford and Stone are the sort of men who
would be looked upon as easy marks. They’ve been out of the country for
many years, and they now possess a million dollars between them. What’s
more, they’re almost friendless here in New York. That fact would
appeal to Follansbee. He made the mistake of aiming too high the last
time—of trying to victimize a man who was too well known. If he hasn’t
turned over a new leaf—and I fear he hasn’t—we may be pretty sure that
he’ll tackle a different proposition the next time.”

“Well, I didn’t feel easy about it,” Chick admitted. “That’s why I
hurried out without waiting for Crawford to return.”

A brief silence fell between them, although some of the others at the
table renewed in lower tones the conversation which Chick’s entrance
had interrupted. The chief was eating mechanically and hurriedly, and
the absent-minded expression on his face told Chick that something was
in prospect.

Presently the detective refused his dessert, and rose to his feet.
“What’s the number of Crawford’s room at the Windermere?” he asked.

“Twenty-one,” Chick answered.

Carter went out into the hall, where the nearest of the several
telephone connections in the house was located. The listening Chick
heard him shuffling over the pages of the directory, and then caught
the click as the receiver was removed from its hook.

The chief gave a number, and after a little delay asked: “Is this the
Windermere?” In another moment he went on: “I wish to engage a room for
a few days, and I’m particular about its location. Is number twenty-two
vacant?”

A slight grin parted his assistant’s lips. “It isn’t?” he heard his
chief ask. “Then how about twenty?” There was another pause, and then:
“Good! I’ll take it. Mortimer is the name—Thomas Mortimer. Got that?
Thanks!”

In a moment Carter put his head in at the dining room door. “I’d like
to see you in the study when you get through,” he said to Chick. “Don’t
hurry, though. There’s time enough.”

His assistant did justice to the meal, but wasted no time in
conversation with the rest. Fifteen minutes later he went up to the
study and found his chief seated at the desk.

“You think Crawford is in danger, then?” Chick asked, as he entered.

Carter’s face was grave. “I fear he is,” he said. “Something tells me
that I may be called on to save our friend’s life again before long—or
try to. It’s more than possible, of course, that my suspicions are
groundless. It isn’t likely that Stone knew Follansbee was a crook
before he called on him. He may not know it now, and Follansbee may
not be planning anything out of the way. The situation is full of
sinister possibilities, however, and I feel compelled to get on the
ground without much delay. It promises to be a complicated affair. If
Follansbee is running straight, all well and good. On the other hand,
he may be planning to victimize one or the other of the partners, or
both.”

Chick nodded. “He’s quite capable of doing them both,” he agreed.

“There’s no doubt about that,” Carter went on. “I hope I’m wrong,
but I have come to look upon him as a bird of ill omen. Whenever
his vulturelike face appears, I’m inclined to take it as a sign of
impending trouble. If I misjudge him, I’m sorry, but I don’t intend to
be caught napping this time if I can help it.”

“And you’re really going to stay at the Windermere for the present,
chief?”

“Yes, that’s the least I can do. If Stone has joined forces with
Follansbee, Crawford will have little chance against them. It would
not be so bad if Crawford would only realize his danger, and would
consent to take proper precautions. As you know, though, he has already
experienced no less than three attacks on the part of his old partner,
and yet he still sticks by him. I can’t help admiring the man for his
loyalty, but it’s very quixotic, and I feel that I’ll have to guard him
from himself.”

“Are you going to tell Crawford that you’re coming to the hotel to
live?”

Nick shook his head decidedly.

“By no means,” he returned. “Crawford is much too simple-minded a man
for that, and is more than likely to give me away. I shall disguise
myself to-night before I go there, and you’ll have to hold the fort
here while I’m away. Of course, you can communicate with me whenever
you have to.”

Chick’s face changed its expression.

“But you’ll give me a chance to take a hand in this affair as soon as
the time is ripe, won’t you, chief?” he pleaded. “I didn’t come out
with flying colors from our previous bout with Follansbee, and I’d like
to get another crack at him.”

The chief was at the door of the study now, and he turned and nodded to
his assistant, a slight smile playing about his lips.

“All right!” he answered. “You’ll have a chance, I promise you, if the
case shapes up as I anticipate.”



                             CHAPTER XVII.

                      NICK CARTER MISCALCULATES.


At seven o’clock on the evening of the twenty-fourth the dining room of
the Hotel Windermere presented a scene of animation. The big hotel was
fairly well filled, and most of its guests, as well as many outsiders,
seemed to be on hand.

At a table in one of the little alcoves sat a quietly dressed gentleman
in evening clothes. A close-clipped, iron-gray mustache adorned
his lips, and the hair on his temples was tinged with gray, which
contrasted with the deep tan of his hands and neck. He was known in the
hotel as Thomas Mortimer, a wealthy traveler and sportsman.

From where he sat, Nick—as we may as well call him—could see the table
at which Crawford and Stone usually seated themselves. He had been in
the hotel constantly, and had kept a sharp watch on Stone’s movements,
but the miner’s actions had puzzled him not a little. Several times he
had met Stone stalking along the corridor or in the lobby, his brows
knitted, and his lips moving as if he were talking to himself.

Nick had been too clever to thrust his companionship on the man, and
Stone did not even know that “Mortimer” had a room so near to his own.
It was not part of the detective’s policy to allow Stone, or the more
subtle-minded Follansbee, to have a chance to penetrate his disguise.

So far, however, he had not been able to find out anything that was
likely to help him in his self-imposed task of guarding the life of
Winthrop Crawford. Follansbee had not reappeared at the Windermere, and
although there was every possibility that Stone had been holding some
sort of communication with the scoundrelly physician, the detective had
not been able to discover the means by which he did so.

Crawford, on his part, had been busy. Several men had called on him
at the hotel, evidently to urge the advantage of certain investments,
and one or two had been closeted with the miner for several hours.
It was obvious that he was trying to find a safe channel for some of
his money, and probably at the same time seek an outlet for his own
energies. He was not a man who would be likely to settle down and be
content to do nothing.

James Stone, however, seemed to be of a different type, or else his
insane suspicions of his former partner kept him in a state of mind
which prevented him from seeking new business responsibilities.

Nick noted that Stone was the first to take his seat at the table.
Crawford did not put in an appearance until a few minutes later, and
by that time his partner had already finished the first course. The
two men exchanged a few monosyllables as the meal went on, and as soon
as he had finished, Stone rose with only the curtest of nods to his
partner.

Nick had already signed the waiter’s slip, but had been toying with
a little fruit. He rose and followed Stone, but without any sign of
hurrying. His man used the stairs, and the detective followed in the
elevator, reaching the second floor ahead of his quarry.

Nick’s room, number twenty, occupied an angle of the corridor, its door
being almost opposite the elevator, while those leading to the rooms
occupied by Stone and Crawford were just around the corner.

When the detective entered his room, he left his door slightly ajar,
and a few moments later he heard Stone’s footsteps, as the miner passed
and went on round the angle. Nick gently closed his door and crossed
his room to the window, without turning on the lights.

The window looked out into a big courtyard of the Windermere, and from
it, by glancing sharply to his right, Nick could see the window of
Crawford’s bedroom, and also that of Stone’s, both of which were not on
a line with his, but at right angles.

Peering out through the darkness, he saw a light leap up suddenly in
Stone’s room, and presently the shadow of a man appeared on the shade.

The moving shadowgraph was significant. The detective inferred from
Stone’s actions that he must be putting on a light overcoat.

“He seems to be going out again,” the detective commented mentally.
“And in that case, I’d better go ahead again.”

He stepped back from the window, hurriedly snapped on the electric
lights, and secured his own hat and walking stick. That done, he left
the room, locked the door behind him, and made for the stairs. No one
followed, and he concluded that something had delayed Stone.

The detective slowed down and leisurely entered the lobby. He seated
himself there after buying a paper at the news stand; but ten minutes
passed without any sign of James Stone.

“What is keeping him?” he wondered. “Can it be that he sneaked out
through one of the other entrances?”

The thought was a disagreeable one, and Nick decided to put it to the
test at once, without further delay. He climbed the stairs once more,
hurriedly entered his own room, and crossed to the window.

A glance to the right told him that his suspicion was well founded.
There was no light in Stone’s room now, and it was obvious that the
tall miner had left.



                            CHAPTER XVIII.

                          ON THE FIRE ESCAPE.


An exclamation of annoyance broke from Nick Carter’s lips.

“I didn’t give him credit for so much cunning,” he thought. “But hanged
if I see why he should have felt it necessary to skulk away in that
fashion. It can’t be possible that he suspects me, and I don’t know of
any reason why Crawford should not know of his going out.”

He concluded on the whole that it was probably an evidence of the
instinctive slyness of the mentally affected, and nothing more.
Further, he concluded that Stone had probably turned along the corridor
in the other direction, used the servants’ stairs, and left by one of
the side exits. Of course, it was possible that his demented brain had
urged him on to the use of the fire escape. The more he thought about
it, the more he became convinced that the latter supposition was nearer
the truth. It would be just like a man in Stone’s condition to resort
to such a ruse.

The miner’s disappearance had been a great disappointment to the
detective. When he had discovered from the shadows on the drawn shade
that Stone was going out, his hopes had risen. He had counted on
following the man and getting some line on his movements, but now that
was out of the question.

He knew that it was useless to follow Stone after that delay, but as a
result of a few seconds’ deliberation, he decided not to let the chance
slip altogether. Donning his lightweight overcoat, and buttoning it up
to his chin in order to conceal the conspicuous expanse of white shirt
front—which might draw undesired attention—he softly raised the sash of
his window and stepped out on the wide sill. The fire escape did not
lead down directly past his room, but one end of the iron platform came
within two or three feet of the window on the right side.

It was the simplest matter in the world for Nick to grasp the rail and
to hoist himself over.

The windows of the hotel were supplied with a novel patent catch which
automatically fastened both the upper and lower sashes when the latter
was pulled down. Nick, therefore, took pains to leave his window open
after passing through it.

It was this peculiarity of the windows which had brought him out on
the fire escape. He knew that if Stone had his wits about him, and had
departed by that route, he must have left his window open or fixed it
in some way to prevent his being locked out. It was to find if such
precautions had been taken that he had made the effort.

When he approached Stone’s window, the lower sash seemed to be closed,
but a closer inspection revealed that a narrow wedge of wood had been
inserted, leaving a half-inch crack at the bottom—just enough to permit
a man’s fingers to get a purchase on the sash and raise it.

It was only a trivial thing, but it gave Nick a clew to what was going
to happen.

“He didn’t want the window to be locked by accident,” he mused, “and so
he placed the wedge there. That means he’s going to come back this way,
and it seems to me also that he wishes his partner to think he has been
in all the evening—probably that he has gone to bed. It looks as if
things were coming to a head.”

There was a cluster of small lights on a pole in the middle of the
big courtyard, and the shades of many of the windows opening on it
were up. It was light enough, therefore, for the detective to see with
reasonable clearness—and to be seen, if any one happened to look in his
direction.

He leaned over the rail and peered down. He was only at the level of
the second floor, but the pavement of the courtyard was flush with the
basement; therefore, two floors beneath him. He looked to see if the
lowest ladder of the fire escape was in place but saw that it was not.

“Stone probably dropped from the last platform,” he concluded. “It
wouldn’t have been anything for a man of his active habits. I wonder
how he expects to get back, though. By George! There’s a painter’s
ladder lying on the pavement on the other side of the court. Such
things never ought to be left around. The sight of that ladder would
tickle a thief to death. Stone probably saw it and made his plans
accordingly.

“He expects to use it to reach the lower platform, but I’m curious to
know what else is in his mind. According to Crawford he’s sane enough
in all respects but one—and he wasn’t born yesterday. He must know that
he can’t leave the ladder set up against the landing when he comes
back to his room. If he does, there will surely be an investigation in
the morning, if not before. Does he merely think that there will be
a little burglar scare which won’t affect him, or is there something
deeper in all this?

“Has he gone off half-cocked, or—— Great Ned! I wonder if that can be
it. If he were going to bring some one back with him—some one who would
be leaving by the same route later on who could put the ladder back
where it was originally—that would effectually remove the difficulty.
If Stone is as shrewd as I give him credit for being, I’ll wager that’s
what’s in the wind. And I can give a guess at his prospective visitor’s
identity.”

He referred, of course, to Doctor Follansbee; and the possibility that
the latter was expected later on that night was enough to stir his
pulses. It suggested that the period of inactivity was about to come to
an end, and that the test of his unsolicited guardianship of Winthrop
Crawford was at hand.

Stone had gone, and it was unnecessary, as well as useless, to attempt
to follow him. All that remained was to await his return as patiently
as possible, and in the meantime to keep an eye—or at least, an ear—out
for Crawford.

The latter proved an easy matter, for about an hour later he heard the
door of Crawford’s room open and close, and from his window saw the
light flash up in his new friend’s.

A glance at his watch told him that it was now almost ten o’clock.
He knew that Crawford was a man who rose early, and there was every
probability that the miner was about to turn in for the night.

Nick’s own room had remained in darkness. He now drew a chair close to
his window and took up his vigil, his arms resting on the sill. Fifteen
or twenty minutes later the light vanished in Crawford’s room. In order
to make sure, the detective hurriedly rose, slipped to his own door,
and opened it slightly. His friend did not appear in the corridor,
which was sufficient proof that he was going to bed.

Nick reclosed his door and locked it. “You are settled for the night,”
he thought; “and now for Stone.”

He was possessed of the infinite patience that means so much to a
detective, and is so essential to the success of any one who takes up
that profession. The rumble of traffic gradually died down, and light
after light went out in the hotel. At last, in the distance the clock
in the Metropolitan tower struck twelve. Yet the bunch light still
glowed in the courtyard below, and many windows were rectangles of
light, bright or subdued, as the case might be, for New York is very
slow to go to bed.

The detective’s lower sash was raised about six or eight inches,
and that fact at length enabled him to hear a slight sound in the
courtyard, even before his watchful eyes had warned him of the
approach. He did not make the mistake of leaning out of the window.
Indeed, it would not have been easy to do so, in view of the narrow
space he had left.

In any case, it was unnecessary. The painter’s ladder was well within
his range of vision, and a few moments later he had the satisfaction
of seeing two figures steal into view and grasp it. They had come from
the open end of the courtyard, which was on Nick’s side, and out of his
sight.

They picked up the ladder and started to sidle across the court in the
direction of the fire escape. There was more than a hint of sinister
purpose in their furtive movements, and an instant later first one and
then the other raised his head and scanned the tiers of windows above,
as if to make sure that they were not observed.

As they did so, the lights of the cluster fell on their faces for a
fleeting instant, and the muscles of Nick’s jaws tightened. He had
barely glanced at the taller figure. It was the shorter, slightly
stooped one which interested him most, and he had seen all that was
necessary.

The second man wore the repellent mask of Stephen Follansbee.



                             CHAPTER XIX.

                           A FIENDISH PLOT.


The two skulkers soon disappeared, having drawn too close to the nearer
wall for Nick Carter to see them. He put his ear close to the opening,
however, and listened.

He was enabled to hear the ladder placed against the fire escape,
faint though the sound was, and to check off the men’s movements as
they climbed upward. When they approached the second floor, he quietly
slipped out of his chair and retreated into the shadows in the middle
of the room. He did not care to be seen at the window, even though his
identity was so well cloaked.

Apparently no word was exchanged on the part of the two climbers. They
were running a considerable risk, and they doubtless knew it. There
was quite enough light for them to be seen if any one should look out
of one of the many windows which opened on the court. Fortunately for
them, however, they did not have far to go, and were not obliged to
pass a single bedroom.

They made their way upward with a great deal of care, but Nick could
plainly hear the faint scrape of their shoes on the metal steps.

It was obvious that they had already settled all the details.

“They have everything cut and dried,” the detective told himself, his
keen eyes glinting in the shadows, “and men of their type do not go to
such deliberate pains for nothing.”

After that the sounds told the detective that the first man, probably
Stone himself, had reached the landing just to the right of his window,
and almost immediately afterward he caught the faint noise made as the
sash was raised.

There was a little more rustling and scraping, then silence. The
detective concluded that it was safe enough to return to his point of
vantage outside. Just as he did so, he saw the lower sash of Stone’s
window being pulled down.

“I hope they leave that wedge in place,” he murmured.

The light flashed up, and the shade was drawn down—by Doctor
Follansbee, as the shadow showed.

There was no way of telling, however, whether the wedge had been
removed or not. Follansbee had doubtless been the last to pass through,
and probably did not know of its existence; and then it might have been
dislodged by the passage of one or the other of them.

It was time for the watcher to become the man of action, and the
transformation entailed considerable risk, as the detective knew. He
did not mean to remain in idleness where he was; but, on the contrary,
had determined to repeat his maneuver of some time before. In other
words, he meant to crawl out on the fire escape once more and take a
position outside of the miner’s window, in the hope that he could hear
enough of the conversation between the two to enable him to get a clew
to their intentions, if not with regard to Winthrop Crawford.

The sounds they had made with all their care had brought his danger
home to him, and he realized that the necessity for climbing over the
iron railing made it likely that he would cause even more noise. The
attempt must be made, though, come what might, and Nick had already
made preparations for it. He had anticipated the necessity, and had
previously transferred a little instrument from one of his suit cases
to his pocket.

It was a sort of disc made of hard rubber for the most part, and about
an inch in thickness. Its use was obscure at first glance, but would
have been sufficiently plain upon examination. It was a sort of ear
trumpet designed for the deaf, but without the old-fashioned horn
attachment.

He buttoned his coat once more about him, then proceeded to raise his
window the required distance; but at the risk of missing something
important, he took his time about it, with the result that the slight
sound could not have been heard even a few feet away. When there was
room enough for him to crawl through, he did so, and, leaning over,
grasped the end of the platform. He stepped noiselessly across the
gap, threw one leg over the railing and gently lowered himself to the
grating. Along this he tiptoed, his thin-soled shoes making practically
no sound as he advanced. In a few moments he was kneeling in front of
Stone’s window with the rubber disc held to his right ear, and his ear
lowered to the crack at the bottom of the sash.

The wooden wedge was still in place, luckily for him, consequently the
sash had remained slightly raised. As soon as the device was brought
into use, it amplified the sounds it caught, and what had been an
indistinct murmur of voices became an easily audible conversation.

“Be very careful of this,” were the first definite words he heard. They
were in Doctor Follansbee’s voice. “I will leave it in the case here
for you,” the high, thin tones went on. “Don’t press the plunger until
you have inserted the needle underneath the skin. Is that clear?”

“Yes.”

The detective hardly recognized Stone’s voice, so hoarse and agitated
did it sound.

“The drug and sponge will be easy for you to handle,” Follansbee
explained. “Wait until you get into the room and are six feet or so
from the bed, then just sprinkle a few drops on the sponge from this
vial.”

“Won’t he smell the stuff and wake up?”

“Certainly not, unless you make a noise. The drug has a penetrating
odor, of course, for the time being, but his sleeping sense won’t
convey a message of warning soon enough to spoil your plans. If the
odor reaches his nostrils before you’re ready to act, and he’s really
asleep, it will probably only cause a momentary dream of some sort; an
attempt of the subconscious self to explain the situation.”

“All right, but—but won’t they be able to tell that he’s been drugged?”

Nick heard a thin, piping laugh. “You must think me a fool,”
Follansbee’s voice returned. “The keenest scent would be incapable
of detecting any odor in the room five minutes after that drug is
used, and it leaves little or no after effects. Crawford will wake up
to-morrow morning without the slightest suspicion that anything has
happened to him, and he’ll feel perfectly normal.”

“And what about the—the other?”

“It will not begin to show itself until Monday or Tuesday,” was the
confident answer. “And even then the symptoms will be inconclusive.
There aren’t half a dozen physicians who would know what they meant in
any of the early stages, and by the time any one could authoritatively
diagnose the case, the patient would be beyond help. In fact, he’ll
be beyond it for all ordinary purposes from the time the serum is
introduced into his system, and before the twenty-seventh he’ll be
dead.”



                              CHAPTER XX.

                       QUICK WORK IS NECESSARY.


“Dead!”

The way in which Stone repeated the word gave a hint to the listener of
the grim hatred that possessed that demented brain.

There was a moment’s silence, then Follansbee’s voice came again.
“Above all, however,” he said, “remember that you must not be in a
hurry. Do everything deliberately and don’t get rattled for a moment.
There’s nothing to fear if you keep your nerve. Finally, don’t attempt
to carry out your—operations shall we call it?—until half past two.”

“Why should we wait? Why couldn’t we do it now?” Stone urged.

“If you were a medical man you would know why,” Follansbee answered
in his squeaking voice. “Between two and three o’clock in the morning
human life is at its lowest ebb. The flame of vitality burns more dimly
then than at any time during the twenty-four hours. That’s the answer,
and its application to this case ought to be apparent enough.”

Nick heard a movement, as though Doctor Follansbee had leaned forward
in his chair to drive his point home.

“You have waited months for this, Stone,” the peculiar voice went on,
“and an hour more or less can’t make any difference. Crawford will be
in a sound sleep at half past two, if he’s as normal as he seems to be,
and the low vitality which is natural at that hour will make him an
easy subject to handle; in other words, you will have the best chance
of successfully drugging him.”

The chair creaked again.

“You’re going now?” asked the miner.

“Yes. It’s much better that I should. My continued presence would
tempt us to talk, and we might disturb the man in the next room. You
don’t want to do that, you know. You want to find him as helpless as
possible when the time comes, so I’d advise you to keep as still as you
can. Don’t pace the room, or anything like that.”

“But I’m nervous as a cat,” objected Stone. “Who wouldn’t be?”

“I suppose you are,” Follansbee admitted, “but—here’s something to
quiet you. It will give you new courage, too. Just deposit this powder
on the end of your tongue and wash it down with a little water.”

There was a pause, and the detective suspected that the miner was
staring questionably at Follansbee. Stone’s next words confirmed it.

“You’re sure about this?” the man asked slowly. “It won’t hurt me or
keep me from doing what I’ve sworn to do?”

“Certainly not,” was the shrill response. “What do you take me for,
Stone? I’m in your pay, am I not? I must earn that forty-five thousand,
if I expect to enjoy it. Why should I try any tricks on you?”

“That’s all right—why should you?” Stone said more quietly. “I’ll take
it if it will fix me up in the way you say. Here goes!”

The detective outside held his breath. “Great Scott!” he thought. “I
wonder if Follansbee is putting up a job on him, too. He’d be quite
capable of it, but it doesn’t seem possible that he’s trying any such
tricks so early in the game. If he means to do anything of that sort,
I should think he would wait until Stone had killed his partner, or
had attempted to do so. To Follansbee’s certain knowledge, that would
give the latter a hold on Stone which Follansbee could use to advantage
before going any further. I may be mistaken about that, of course.
Follansbee does strange things, and may have something up his sleeve
which I don’t understand. There’s a chance that Stone is in grave
danger at this moment. I doubt it, though, and I’m afraid I can’t help
him if he is.”

Nick’s main concern was to protect Winthrop Crawford if possible. He
pitied Stone much more than he blamed him, because he knew that the
man was not responsible for his actions, but Crawford’s life was more
important than Stone’s, and a premature interference might spoil the
case that was developing against Doctor Follansbee.

“That will steady you,” he heard the specialist inform Stone. “I’m off
now, and remember that I shall be waiting for you in front of the bank
around the corner. I’ll have a car there in readiness at two-thirty.
I trust you told the hotel people that you would probably be away
to-night?”

“Yes, I arranged that. I didn’t see why it was necessary, but——”

Had the detective been able to look into the room, he would have found
that Follansbee was facing his man, but that Stone was not quick enough
to notice the cold flicker that came into the hard eyes. The detective
would have perceived it, though, had he been in a position to do so,
and would have jumped to the conclusion that the rascally physician
had a reason of his own for wanting Stone to join him as soon as the
dastardly crime had been committed.

“My reason is very obvious,” Follansbee declared in his thin, cackling
voice. “I want you to establish an alibi in case something unexpected
should happen.”

He thrust his face forward.

“You don’t want to be electrocuted, do you?” he demanded. “That would
be a poor sort of revenge on your partner.”

Nick heard the ex-miner draw a deep breath.

“Electrocuted!” came the deep, husky voice. “I don’t think I’d care for
that. They—they would send me to the chair, though, wouldn’t they, if
they found out?”

Follansbee knew better than that. He was aware that Stone would escape
any such fate owing to his mental condition, but it did not suit his
purposes to say so. “As sure as you’re alive!” he answered callously.

As he spoke, he turned to the window and started for it.

It was not the sound of his approaching footsteps that warned the
listener, however. Nick had already stiffened and drawn back as soon
as his ears caught the difference in Follansbee’s tones, caused by the
fact that the latter had faced about toward the window while in the act
of making his last remark.

The thin, stunted shadow of the head physician of St. Swithin’s was
already on the shade, and quick work was necessary on Nick’s part.



                             CHAPTER XXI.

                         IN NEED OF EVIDENCE.


Nick Carter moved with the quickness of a cat. In a twinkling he had
jerked the ear piece away and slipped it into his pocket. While doing
so, he had straightened up noiselessly and started along the platform
of the fire escape in the direction of his own window.

It was a close shave. Follansbee had started to raise the shade before
Nick even reached the railing over which he had to climb, and while
he was crawling over the barrier the sash of Stone’s window was being
lifted.

Fortunately for him, however, Follansbee tried to make as little noise
as possible, consequently his movements were slower than they otherwise
would have been. For all that, though, the detective was not out of
sight by the time Follansbee stuck his head and shoulders through the
opening.

It was a tense moment, and Nick’s heart skipped a beat or two. Should
Follansbee happen to glance that way the first thing and catch a
glimpse of his feet disappearing through the window the consequences
would be disastrous.

Despite the temptation to do so, he did not forget his caution for a
moment, or allow his extreme haste to betray him into a clumsy move.
He slipped from view almost noiselessly, and tiptoed away from his
window into the shadows of his room.

All the time he was listening intently for some evidence that
Follansbee had seen him, but none came. Seemingly the physician
continued to climb through Stone’s window, and, having done so,
proceeded on his stealthy way down the fire escape.

The detective heard a slight sound, followed by the grating of the
sash. Evidently the ex-miner had again closed the window.

As soon as Nick dared, he ventured back and stealthily peered over his
own sill. Follansbee was then descending the painter’s ladder. And when
the bottom was reached, he lifted the ladder carefully away from the
lower platform of the fire escape and carried it, with considerable
difficulty, back to the place from which it had been taken.

Subsequently his figure vanished, going in the direction of the open
end of the court.

“The end of the first act,” thought Nick, “and the play promises to be
a hair-raiser.”

With his brows drawn together and his arms folded across his breast,
he paced softly up and down his room, turning his discoveries over and
over in his mind. He had heard enough to realize that Crawford was in
deadly peril. With his usual cunning, Stephen Follansbee had again
taken what promised to be a perfectly, safe course. To the specialist’s
crooked brain, there could be no possible chance of fixing the
contemplated crime on him, if it was Stone, the tool, who was playing
the principal part.

To be sure, Nick had overheard a conversation which left him in no
doubt as to where the real responsibility lay. He had heard Follansbee
say that as a result of the proposed measures, Crawford would be dead
before the twenty-seventh. To the uninitiated, that would have seemed
conclusive, and more than enough to convict the physician. Nick Carter
knew better, however; at any rate, he knew enough to be sure that
Follansbee would make a great fight if the case ever came to trial, and
might easily wriggle out of it.

In the first place, he was a distinguished man, a leading light in his
profession, and the ruling spirit of a great hospital. Nick was the
only witness, and it would be very hard, if not impossible, for the
detective, with all his reputation, to convince a jury on the strength
of such evidence alone that Doctor Stephen Follansbee would stoop to
become the accessory to a murder.

Follansbee would have the advantage of dealing with a demented man,
and could insist that everything which seemed suspicious about his
actions—the use of the fire escape and all—had been due to that fact.
In other words, he might build up a plausible excuse on the theory that
he had been humoring Stone in order to study his case, and to see how
far the miner’s insanity would carry him.

“It must be the germ of some deadly disease, characteristic of the
tropics,” Nick told himself, “and he has left the hypodermic syringe
there for Stone to use. That’s as plain as the nose on my face. But
without more evidence than I now have, I can’t be sure of securing a
conviction. Follansbee is as shrewd as they make them. I wouldn’t be
a bit surprised to have him claim that the contents of the syringe
were harmless, and that he was merely ‘stringing’ Stone for some
medical reason. What he said about Crawford’s death could always be
attributed to the same motive, and his reputation is so great that it
would probably hypnotize a jury into accepting his word for it. He’s a
cunning rascal, and no mistake. How am I going to manage this affair?
I’ve got to do something before two-thirty, but what?”

It was seldom that Nick Carter felt at a loss, yet he realized that his
position was a peculiarly difficult one. He might have forced his way
into James Stone’s room, of course, but he felt that the mine owner
would have sufficient cunning to destroy at once the only tangible
evidence of guilt as soon as he heard the first alarm. And even if he
did foil Stone’s attempt that night, the detective feared that it would
only be putting off the evil day. He could have Stone locked up, to be
sure, and an inquiry into his sanity begun. He might also be able to
secure Follansbee’s arrest.

That would seem to clear the way and remove Crawford’s danger; but the
detective saw further than that. He felt certain that Follansbee must
have demanded a large fee of Stone, either for treatment or frankly for
the services of getting rid of the man’s partner. Furthermore, he was
assured that Follansbee had contrived it so that the fee would be paid
whatever happened.

In that case the arrest or death would by no means end the matter.
Follansbee’s professional standing would undoubtedly result in an
arrangement whereby the specialist would go free under heavy bonds
pending his trial, and the moment he was at liberty to do so, he would
almost certainly begin work on a new attempt to get rid of Winthrop
Crawford and to earn his money.

That fact had to be taken into consideration in connection with
Follansbee, for the latter would not be treated as an ordinary
criminal; therefore, it became increasingly evident that Nick would
have to meet cunning with cunning if he hoped to handle the affair
successfully.

At last, the hint of a plan came to him. He halted by his window and
looked out again. The light was still shining in Stone’s room. “I must
go in there without the fellow’s knowledge,” he thought. “A minute,
possibly half a minute, would do, with good luck. I wonder how I can
manage it, though?”



                             CHAPTER XXII.

                    HELP FROM THE HOUSE DETECTIVE.


Nick looked at his watch. It was ten minutes of one.

More than an hour and a half remained before half past two. There
seemed to be plenty of time, therefore; but he could not be sure
that Stone would take Follansbee’s advice and wait until that hour
before attacking his partner. The man’s insane impatience might get
the upper hand and lead him to act before the time set. But the plan
which had come to Nick could be put into execution at once, and thus a
nerve-racking delay could be avoided.

The detective might have acted wholly on his own responsibility, but
many difficulties would have been involved in that case, and he decided
against it. He turned on the lights in his room and looked up at the
wall in the neighborhood of the door. As he had anticipated, his eyes
fell upon an electric bell, which had doubtless been placed there in
order to arouse guests who might have left instructions for an early
call. If there was one in his room, there was doubtless one in each of
the others—including James Stone’s. Having made up his mind as to that,
the detective switched off the light again, softly unlocked and opened
his door, and slipped out into the corridor.

The Hotel Windermere was a modern one, with all the latest safeguards,
including floor clerks; in other words, there was a clerk on each
floor night and day. These clerks had desks in the main corridors,
with mirrors about them so arranged that they could see what went on
in all of the side passages. Calls from their floor were handled by
them, and it was their business to see that everything was orderly and
respectable, to scrutinize visitors, to note the comings and going of
guests, and to keep a watch for delinquencies on the part of employees.

Nick approached the clerk on his floor, a young woman of thirty-three
or four.

“Will you kindly tell me where I can find the house detective at this
hour?” he asked.

The clerk looked him over in some surprise. “Has anything happened?”
she asked quickly. “Have you lost anything?”

Nick smiled slightly. “Oh, no,” he answered. “It’s nothing of that
sort. I simply have business with your detective.” As he spoke, he
took out a two-dollar bill and laid it on the young woman’s desk.
“And I must ask that you look upon my interest in him as strictly
confidential,” he added.

The clerk frowned slightly as she saw the money, then gave the
detective a searching look. “I can’t accept that, Mr. Mortimer,” she
said, giving him the name he was using at the hotel. “We clerks are
not allowed to accept tips. It wouldn’t do, you know. Thank you just
as much, though. You may be sure I won’t say anything about it. You’ll
find Mr. Stickney, the detective, in room twelve hundred and twelve.”

“Thanks,” Nick replied. “And accept my apologies, please. I didn’t
think for a moment of the policy here. I don’t want to go up to the
detective’s room, though, for that would arouse the curiosity of the
elevator boy. Will you kindly telephone and ask him to meet me here as
soon as he can?”

“Certainly,” was the reply.

Ten minutes later, the house detective, having dressed hastily, put in
an appearance. Nick greeted him and drew him aside. He knew Stickney,
but had not seen fit to reveal that fact to the floor clerk.

“Look here, Stickney,” he said, as soon as they were out of earshot, “I
suppose you wonder what you’re up against. I’m registered here under
the name of Thomas Mortimer, but you know me better as Nick Carter.”

Stickney gave a low whistle. “For the love of Mike!” he ejaculated
under his breath. “Let me have a good look at you. Yes, I guess you’re
Nick all right, although I wouldn’t have dreamed of it if I’d passed
you a dozen times. What’s the matter? Is there anything queer going on
here?”

Nick nodded. “Very queer,” he answered. “This isn’t the proper time to
go into particulars, but I’ll tell you this much. The man in number
twenty-two has a room or two to rent in his upper story, and if you’re
not careful he’s going to commit a terrible crime this very night.
There are reasons for keeping dark, and for not taking him into custody
just yet. Will you help me, though, to save him from himself, and to
shield his intended victim?”

“Sure thing!” was the prompt answer. “I’ll do anything I can. I’d like
to know a little more about it, and I’d insist if you were any one
else. I can trust you, though, and I’ll keep mum until you give me the
word. What is it you want?”

“Something very simple.”

Nick drew nearer to the house detective and spoke even lower. “Do you
get the idea?” he asked, in conclusion.

Stickney nodded. “Of course,” he answered. “I can fix that up without
any trouble. Is that all you want me to do?”

“That’s all,” Nick replied. “Wait for ten minutes after I get back to
my room, and then let it go. I’ll be ready to take advantage of the
opportunity. Keep out of sight yourself, and tip off our young friend
at the desk, so that she’ll know what to do when Stone complains. Tell
her to keep the whole affair quiet. I’ll let you know in due time how
I’ve succeeded; and if I need any more help later on I’ll surely call
upon you.”

“I get you,” declared the house detective, and turned briskly away.

Nick Carter quietly returned to his own room, locked himself in, and
went to his window. Stone’s light was still burning, but Crawford’s
window was as dark as before. To all appearances, Stone was biding his
time as Follansbee had advised.

The detective consulted his watch once more, made a few preparations,
and then, stationing himself finally at his open, unlighted window,
awaited the prearranged signal. At the end of ten minutes a startling
din came to his ears from near at hand, and he prepared for action.

The time had come.



                            CHAPTER XXIII.

                            THE HYPODERMIC.


The detective’s scheme was simplicity itself, and it promised success.
He had merely instructed Stickney to have Stone’s bell rung at the
appointed time, and to keep it ringing continuously until the miner
should leave his room in desperation to complain of the nuisance.

If it worked out as Nick hoped, Stone’s absence would give him the
opportunity he sought, and meanwhile the miner would be informed that
the electrical apparatus must have been deranged in some way. It would
be looked to and “remedied;” whereupon, the ringing would cease, and
Stone would receive the apologies of the management.

Nick assumed, however, that the miner would first telephone downstairs.
The din would make it difficult for him to be understood, though; and
even if he were, he would doubtless grow impatient at the delay and
soon leave his room to complain in person to the clerk.

The fact that he was already dressed would make that easy, and Nick
counted on his doing so sooner or later. At any rate, he had arranged
with Stickney that the bell should continue its exasperating dinning if
possible until Stone had been routed out.

On the other hand, there was a possibility, of course, that the man
would not act in accordance with expectations. He might remain at the
telephone, or even demolish the bell in his anger, especially as he
would doubtless be afraid that it would arouse Crawford, and that the
latter might not fall asleep again for some time. Nick had to run that
risk, though; and now he was impatiently awaiting some sign that his
ruse was working as he wished.

The muffled ringing of the bell prevented him from telling whether
Stone was telephoning or not, but he had no doubt that such was the
case. Would the man stop at that, though?

Evidently not; for two or three minutes after the bell began to ring
he caught the sound of an opening door, despite the racket, and almost
immediately afterward hurried footsteps passed his room.

He waited for nothing more, but crawled through his window near to the
neighboring platform of the fire escape and laid hands on Stone’s sash.
It came up easily, and revealed an empty room, and the door ajar. It
was a risky undertaking, and one that was full of uncertainties. The
irate miner might return at any moment. Crawford might come in from the
adjoining room and denounce him as a suspicious character, or some one
else might put in an appearance to investigate the noise which must
have been disturbing many by that time. Worst of all, Stone had left
the door partly open and the light on, so that Nick had to work in the
open, with a possibility of being seen and interrupted at any moment.

None of these things seemed to worry him, though. He slipped cautiously
into the room and looked about him with keen eyes. A faint ejaculation
of satisfaction escaped his lips as he caught sight of what he was
looking for.

There was a small writing desk close to the head of the bed. It was
open, and on the extended leaf lay a small, flat, leather case.
Leaping forward, Nick opened the case and took out a small hypodermic
syringe. The plunger had been drawn back to its fullest extent, and the
detective’s lips tightened as he realized that in that little cylinder
lurked sure death.

He paid no attention to the other articles in the case—the tiny bottle
with some colorless drug, the bit of sponge, and so on. He cared
nothing for them, and was interested only in the deadly hypodermic.

Looking about him again, and listening all the while, he took out his
fountain pen, removed the cap, and unscrewed the pen itself; then he
squirted the contents of the syringe into the barrel of the pen, which
he had taken the precaution to empty before leaving his room, and
replaced the pen and cap.

Having finished that manipulation, he carelessly thrust the pen back
into his pocket and went with long, silent strides to a stationary
washstand in a little alcove. He turned on the faucets, directed a
little stream of warm water into the syringe, and operated the plunger
several times, in order to clean the cylinder as well as he could;
after which he filled the syringe with water, and, leaving the plunger
out as he had found it, returned the instrument to the case. The case
closed, he made for the window.

So swift had been his movements that he had been in the room hardly
more than a minute, and nothing had occurred to disturb him. The bell
had continued its deafening ringing, and he had thought he heard
Crawford’s bed creak, but Stone’s partner had not called out. He gave a
sigh of relief as he reached the balcony of the fire escape and plunged
out into the shadows at one side. In a few brief moments he was over
the railing and through his own window.

He had hardly reached his room, however, before he heard Stone’s
familiar footsteps in the corridor outside. The miner was returning,
and muttering angrily to himself as he did so. Presently the noise
ceased. The bell had been “fixed.” The detective heard Stone pass again
and yet again, probably to tell the floor clerk that it was all right.

Not until Stone’s door was finally closed and locked did the detective
drop into a chair. “Whew!” he said, half aloud, “that was warm work,
and not very good for the nerves. I’ve saved Crawford for the time
being, but my work isn’t done by any means—even for to-night.”

He looked at his watch and found that it was quarter past one. There
was still an hour and a quarter if Stone obeyed instructions, and Nick
had no doubt that he would now. In fact, he might even wait longer, for
he would be certain to fear that the ringing of the bell had disturbed
Crawford, and would wish to give him plenty of time to fall into a deep
sleep again.

Nick did not intend to remain idle, but he felt sure that he had some
time to kill, and he was glad of it. Despite his iron nerve, he felt
just a trifle shaken by the exacting ordeal through which he had just
gone; therefore, he took out a cigar, lighted it, and leaned back in a
Morris chair. He must have dozed off before long, for the next thing he
knew he sat up with a start. It was half past two.

“Stone will probably be making a move now,” he thought, on the alert at
once. “I’m glad my mental alarm clock woke me when it did.”



                             CHAPTER XXIV.

                       THE PLUNGER REACHES HOME.


Once more Nick Carter eased himself out of his window. It was getting
to be a habit with him. His long legs bridged the gap as before, but
this time his errand was, if possible, even more fraught with risk than
the previous ones had been.

He lowered himself over the rail slowly and with infinite care, and
then, stooping, crept along the platform to Stone’s window. By peering
in through the crack between the sill and the partly lowered sash, he
saw the tall miner in the act of picking up the little leather case
from the writing desk. Stone’s back was turned to the detective, and
the latter seized the opportunity to slip noiselessly past the window.

A few feet ahead of him loomed another window, dark and open at top
and bottom. Winthrop Crawford was fond of fresh air. The lower sash
was raised about eighteen inches, which made it possible for Nick to
flatten himself over the sill and crawl through. It required daring
under the circumstances, but his performance that night would have
established a reputation for that sort of thing on the part of any one.

The room was in darkness, but the detective had previously found
opportunity to study the position of the furniture. He was able,
therefore, to avoid a collision, and his stockinged feet trod softly on
the thick carpet. A private bathroom opened off from the bedroom on the
side opposite the connecting door which led to Stone’s quarters. Nick
darted into this and began cautiously to close the door.

“Let’s hope our friend Crawford is a sound sleeper,” he thought; “and
that this door isn’t inclined to squeak. If he wakes up now and starts
on a burglar hunt, it will mess things up hopelessly.”

Crawford’s heavy breathing went on uninterruptedly, however, and the
sound was reassuring. It seemed to indicate, on the other hand, that
Crawford would fall an easy victim to his old partner’s attack; but the
detective had already pulled Stone’s fangs.

He waited perhaps five minutes, standing behind the bathroom door,
which he had left slightly ajar. At the end of that time the opposite
door, that leading from Stone’s room, quietly opened. As it did so,
it revealed the fact that Stone had put out his own lights. Nick
stiffened, for he knew that the crucial moment was close at hand.

He had taken the risk of entering Crawford’s room and secreting
himself there partly to witness whatever might happen, and partly
because he was by no means sure of James Stone. One never can be
certain of what a madman may do. Stone had been supplied with the
instruments necessary for the commission of a highly scientific
crime, but when the time came, he might discard them, owing to his
unfamiliarity with such things, and resort to some more commonplace
weapon. In fact, if he made a slip, or if Crawford awoke prematurely
and showed fight, it was almost certain that Stone would try to make
us of some more familiar way of getting rid of enemies—or supposed
enemies. Consequently Nick wanted to be on hand to give instant aid,
if necessary. He did not consider that his duty to Crawford had been
discharged when he had substituted water for the mysterious and deadly
charge which Doctor Follansbee had originally placed in the hypodermic
syringe.

Stone came in noiselessly, and the subdued light from the corridor
which shone in through the transom accentuated his lean, angular form
as it entered. The door was closed carefully behind him, and Nick could
hear his suppressed, nervous breathing as he crossed toward the bed.

The intruder paused there within a yard or so of the outstretched form
of Crawford, and Nick braced himself in anticipation of a possible
emergency. He saw Stone looking toward the bed with his head thrust
slightly forward, as if he were listening to Crawford’s breathing.
Seemingly the man soon became satisfied that all was well, for he took
from his pocket a couple of small objects which the detective guessed
to be the little vial and sponge.

Stone’s movements indicated that he was emptying the contents of the
vial into the sponge. As he did so, he took a quick step forward and
bent over the bed. Simultaneously there was a stir, and the springs of
the bed creaked.

Nick peered out and saw the head and shoulders of Crawford rising from
the pillow. The bearded face of the kindly mine owner peered for a
moment through the gloom at the vague form bending over him, then a
single word came to the detective’s ears:

“Jimmy!”

A savage cry sounded, and, with a last bound, the demented partner had
thrown himself upon Crawford. Nick heard a choking gasp, and for a
moment was tempted to leap from his hiding place and hurl himself upon
the would-be murderer. It was only with a supreme effort of will that
he kept himself in hand and mutely watched the struggle.

Stone had all the strength of his madness behind him, and with
remorseless force he pressed Crawford back upon the pillow. Then, with
a quick swoop, he pressed the sponge over the bearded lips and nostrils
of the man who loved him better than a brother. There was a convulsive
movement of the prone figure, and a long-drawn sigh, then Crawford’s
arms fell back from their hold on Stone’s shoulders and he relapsed
into unconsciousness.

Stone’s heavy breathing was very audible to the detective as the latter
stood watching the dramatic scene. He saw the miner take the little
leather case from his pocket and remove the hypodermic syringe. After
that, leaning over his unconscious partner, the madman plunged the
needle into Crawford’s forearm, close to the elbow, and the plunger was
pressed home with one quick movement of the powerful thumb.

As soon as the deed was done, Stone gave an exultant exclamation, and,
still leaning over the bed, shook his clenched fists at the motionless
body.

“It was either you or me, curse you!” he said, as if growling, his
face working savagely. “And I have won. You’re as good as done for,
and unless you stop playing with me as a cat plays with a mouse, you
won’t have a chance to do what you want to do with me. I’ve taken care
of myself so far, and I guess I can keep on doing it until you’re too
sick to try any tricks on me. Follansbee says you’ll be dead before the
twenty-seventh, and he ought to know. Anyway, he won’t get his money if
you’re not.”



                             CHAPTER XXV.

                        THE MADMAN’S GET-AWAY.


The words were spoken aloud in a thick, jerky voice, and it seemed
to be all that Stone could do to keep his clutching hands from his
senseless partner’s throat. Doubtless he remembered the rascally
doctor’s promise that Crawford would know nothing about it all when he
woke in the morning, and that was probably what stayed his hand.

Had the detective been in any doubt of the man’s condition, it would
have vanished then, and Stone’s irresponsibility was even more evident
when he turned away from the bed, and the light from the transom struck
his face. It was wrinkled into a mask of maniacal triumph, and the
glare in the eyes was more like that of a wild animal than of a human
being.

Nick held his breath for a moment. Stone was heading directly toward
the bathroom, apparently with the idea of washing his hands after
handling the drugged sponge. If he should enter there, discovery would
be inevitable, and the detective would have a crazy man to handle—a
task which even he did not care to contemplate.

Presently, however, when Stone was only four or five feet from the
door of the bathroom, he suddenly wheeled about and recrossed to his
own door, through which he disappeared. His shrewdness had evidently
suggested the desirability of performing the necessary ablutions in his
own room.

Nick relaxed when the danger was removed, and after waiting for perhaps
five minutes following the closing of the connecting door, he stole
from his hiding place and sought Crawford’s bed. No odor of the drug
had reached his nostrils in the bathroom. It was evidently so volatile
that it had been quickly dissipated in the air. The detective knew
its nature, however, for he had sniffed at it in Stone’s room. He was
aware that it was all that Doctor Follansbee had claimed for it, and
that, under ordinary circumstances, it would work no permanent harm;
but what he did not know was its effect on Winthrop Crawford. Crawford
seemed to possess a rugged constitution, but his heart, for instance,
might be weak. Nick wished to make sure that his new friend’s condition
was normal before he left the room.

His examination, for which he did not need a light, was satisfactory.
The drug had plunged Crawford into a profound sleep, but there was
nothing to indicate that the effects would not pass away in good time,
leaving him in his usual health. As for the injection, that meant
nothing, so long as the serum which Follansbee had provided was now
reposing in Nick’s fountain pen. To be sure, the hasty cleaning of
the syringe might not have removed all traces of the serum, but the
detective had done his best, and knew enough of such things to feel
sure that the consequences, if any, would not be serious. Crawford
might possibly have a slight touch of the disease, whatever it was, but
it was not likely to amount to much.

The detective straightened up a little, listened, then produced his
pocket flash light and turned the rays on Crawford. It was an easy
matter to find where the puncture had been made, for a tiny globule of
blood stood out on the tanned skin of the man’s arm. Nick stooped lower
and took a bit of the flesh between thumb and finger. He succeeded in
squeezing out a few drops of water and blood, which he carefully wiped
away.

“You’re safe enough, my friend,” he thought. “Anyhow, I’ve done my best
for you, and to-morrow will decide whether you’re still foolish enough
to refuse to guard yourself against the attacks of that madman, or
whether you’re willing to listen to reason and let me put him where he
belongs.”

Having done all he could for the time being, he straightened up and
stood in thought for perhaps half a minute, uncertain of his next move.
He had heard enough of the conversation between Stone and Follansbee to
know that the latter had planned for the miner to join him after the
diabolical injection had been made. That meant that Stone would soon
venture forth again, doubtless by way of the fire escape, and there was
no knowing what moment he might appear at his window. Consequently it
would be extra hazardous for Nick to venture out on the platform and
try to pass Stone’s room.

He decided to wait for a few minutes, and to return to the bathroom
to do so, for Stone might take it into his head to come back into
Crawford’s room for some reason.

In a short time he had the satisfaction of hearing Stone’s window go
up and then down again after the man had passed through. His alert
ears caught a few slight sounds on the fire escape, which told him
that the miner had begun to descend. He had planned to follow, if
possible, owing to his realization that Follansbee might be playing a
double game, and was quite capable of making away with Stone as well
as Crawford. He had brought along his shoes for that purpose, having
suspended them about his neck by means of the laces, and during the
last few minutes he had put them on in the bathroom.

It occurred to him now, though, that the difficulties were even
greater than he had looked for. It would not do for the floor clerk
to see him emerging from Crawford’s room, for she would naturally
become suspicious at once, and, not knowing his identity, would cause
a delay before an explanation could be made. On the other hand, he
could not follow down the fire escape until Stone had disappeared from
the courtyard, and by the time he could reach the near-by bank, where
Follansbee was to be waiting, the car would doubtless have carried the
two conspirators off.

Moreover, he had known all the time that there was small chance of
following the machine at that hour. He certainly could not do so on
foot, and even if he had arranged for another car to be in waiting in
the neighborhood, there would be considerable delay in reaching it. On
the whole, therefore, he reluctantly decided to return to his own room,
and call it a night’s work. It was not that he trusted Follansbee any
more, but merely that he thought a few hours’ delay would not entail
serious consequences to James Stone.

He did not dream, however, of what was in store for the ex-miner.



                             CHAPTER XXVI.

                       THE AWAKENING OF REMORSE.


“Have you done the trick?”

Stone dropped back on the soft cushions of the car and passed his
hands across his eyes. It had been a hasty and disordered flight that
had followed his act, and had carried him down the fire escape. On
reaching the lower platform, he had crawled through the ladder opening
and let himself down and dropped to the pavement of the court. Then he
had sped across the courtyard and out into the side street. There he
had moderated his pace for fear of attracting attention, if a passing
policeman should see him. He had still hurried along, however, blindly
and fearfully, until he saw the waiting machine.

Follansbee’s head had been thrust out of the closed car for a moment
as Stone approached, then the door had been opened, and the miner had
jumped in.

“Where is the syringe?” Follansbee asked.

Stone mechanically thrust his hand into his pocket and withdrew the
leather case. There was a look of satisfaction in the physician’s eyes
as he took charge of his property again.

“I was worried for fear you might have left that behind,” he said, in
his thin voice. “The most careful of us make slips now and then.”

“I made no slip,” came the answer, in a strange voice. “If that thing
was charged with death as you told me, then Winthrop Crawford is
doomed.”

“You need have no fear of the potency of my preparation,” Follansbee
assured him. “From to-night you may look upon yourself as virtually a
millionaire.”

“I don’t care so much about that,” the miner began. “It was——”

His tall, raw-boned form stiffened suddenly, and he drew in a deep,
noisy breath—just such a breath as a man might take when awakened from
a long sleep. He turned swiftly upon the astonished Follansbee, and
the latter involuntarily shrank away. He feared that Stone might do
him some harm, and knew that he was far from a physical match for the
hard-muscled miner.

Nothing was further from Stone’s thoughts, though. His unexpected move
had another meaning. “What was it that made me want to kill my best
friend?” he demanded, in tragic bewilderment.

Quick as a flash the truth burst on Doctor Follansbee. The strain and
intense excitement under which Stone had labored must have wrought a
startling but by no means unprecedented change in his mental condition.
He was indeed a sleeper awakened. It had probably been some subtle
excitement that had unhinged his brain in the first place, and now,
thanks to the law of balance, a more powerful excitement had come near
to bringing him back to his senses.

“What was it? What was it?” the poor fellow gasped, leaning forward and
peering at Follansbee through the half gloom of the limousine. “Why
did I want to kill Win? By heavens, man, speak—speak! There must have
been a reason!”

The strained voice rose almost to a shriek, and Follansbee began to
fear that his companion might attract attention and call down a demand
to stop the car for an investigation. Although it was past three
o’clock in the morning, the streets were not quite empty, for New
York’s streets rarely are. They flashed past a brightly lighted corner,
and the doctor saw the uniformed figure of a policeman pacing slowly
along and looking in their direction. At any moment Stone might burst
out into a storm of self-reproach, and there was no telling to what
lengths his remorse might carry him. It was a situation which required
a master hand, and the way in which Follansbee tackled it was typical
of his shrewdness and lack of conscience.

Instead of attempting to explain to Stone, he leaned forward suddenly
and gave the miner a hearty clap on the shoulder.

“At last!” he ejaculated, in tones of the greatest relief and
satisfaction. “Thank Heaven you’ve come back to your senses.”

He was playing a deep game now, and the way in which the haggard eyes
of his companion turned upon him might have touched his heart had
anything been there to touch.

“Come back to my senses!” Stone repeated uncomprehendingly. “What do
you mean by that?”

Then a great hope flamed up in his eyes. Had Follansbee been merely
humoring him, seeming to fall in with his madness? Had the hypodermic
been harmless after all?



                            CHAPTER XXVII.

                       AN ASTOUNDING STATEMENT.


James Stone’s questions, both uttered and unexpressed, were not to be
answered just then. A sudden swerve of the car made Follansbee look out
of the window. The machine had turned into Amsterdam Avenue, and a few
moments later had come to a halt before the physician’s door.

A ragged, shuffling figure, that of a hollow-cheeked young man, was
passing at the moment. The young fellow, apparently a homeless vagrant,
or worse, paused as the car drew up to the curb, then darted forward
and opened the door.

Doctor Follansbee muttered something under his breath, seemingly
derogatory to the volunteer, and he and Stone crossed the pavement and
vanished through the doorway while the car went on up the street.

Apparently disgusted by his bad luck in not obtaining a tip, the
disreputable-looking young man crossed the street and disappeared into
the shadows of an areaway, which primitive lodging place seemed to be
his choice for the night.

Meanwhile, Follansbee had unlocked the door with his latchkey, switched
on the lights in the hall and office, and motioned his companion to
enter the latter. The lights shone brightly on the former mine owner’s
face, and the doctor was almost startled by the change in it. The
hard, sour, brooding expression that had so characterized the tanned
features had vanished now, and in its place was a very sane anxiety,
coupled with shocked recollection. James Stone was plainly suffering in
a way that few men are called upon to suffer. “Now,” he said at once,
refusing the proffered chair, “tell me what you mean.”

Even his voice had subtly changed. It was still deep, but the
hoarseness had gone from it, and it had taken on a little of the
mellowness of Crawford’s own.

Follansbee advanced to his desk and dropped into a chair.

“Won’t you sit down?” he repeated, with perfect self-possession. “It’s
a rather long story.”

“No, no! I would rather stand,” Stone replied, pressing his hand to his
brow. “I feel dazed and sick; I feel as though a great gap had come
into my life, and that I was only returning to the world again after a
long absence.”

He stared down at Follansbee with anguished eyes.

“Everything—or nearly everything—is misty,” he went on, “but I know
that I came to you on the recommendation of young Doctor Floyd down in
Brazil. He sent me to you to get help for my trouble, but—but somehow,
instead of that, we hatched a devilish plot to murder the best friend
I have in the world, Win Crawford. In Heaven’s name what’s to be done?
What did you mean just now when you said I had come to my senses? I
have come to them, I hope, but if it’s too late to help Win, I would
have been far better off as I was. If he dies now, I shall kill myself.
I could not bear to live knowing that I had murdered him. You don’t
know—nobody knows—how much he has meant to me. Tell me, man, what you
meant? Is there—is there any hope?”

His terrible anxiety was pathetic to see, but it seemed to have no
effect on Stephen Follansbee. The latter looked on as if he were
witnessing a play, and as soon as Stone paused, his cold voice cut like
a knife through the silence.

“For a considerable period, Mr. Stone—several months, I understand—your
mind has been seriously affected in certain respects,” he said.
“Perhaps I should say that it has been affected in one particular
respect. A few days ago you came to me and seemed to jump to the
conclusion that I was the archfiend himself, or something little
better. If you had been sane, I would have thrown you out of the house
for your insults. As it was, I listened to you and led you on until you
made an extraordinary proposal; nothing less than that I should help
you to put your partner out of the way. Frankly I came very near to
using the telephone then and there, and having you placed in custody.”

“I wish now you had!” Stone burst out.

He was laboring under the greatest excitement and remorse, but he was
obviously as sane as he had ever been in his life.

“I did not do so, however,” Follansbee went on, ignoring the
interruption, “for I saw that your trouble was monomania; serious
enough in itself, but leaving you sane in all other ways. I diagnosed
it also as a mere temporary derangement, and I did not feel justified
in submitting you to the ordeal of publicity, or of committing you to
an asylum.”

“Go on! Be quick about it! What did you do? For Heaven’s sake tell me
the whole thing at once!”

Follansbee slipped his hand into the inside breast pocket of his coat
and drew out a little leather case.

“I simply played a professional trick on you, Mr. Stone,” he declared
quietly. “It’s true that the drug in the vial was a powerful narcotic,
and at this very moment I have no doubt that your friend is still under
the influence of it.”

As he spoke, he opened the case and took out the syringe.

“But this,” he went on, tapping the instrument, “was charged with
nothing more harmful than pure glycerine.”

“Is that true?” the miner demanded, striding forward and towering above
the diminutive specialist. “If it is——”

“I can easily convince you that it is,” Follansbee assured him.

He unfastened his cuff link and pulled up his cuff, revealing a lean,
yellow forearm.

“Watch!” he said.



                            CHAPTER XXVIII.

                    “YOU’VE SAVED ME FROM MYSELF!”


“You probably did not inject all of it,” Follansbee continued, as he
withdrew the plunger of the syringe.

He thrust the needle beneath the skin of his arm and pressed the
plunger almost home; then, as he withdrew the syringe, a tiny drop
of clear liquid appeared on the end of the needle, and a further
compression of the plunger caused the globule to drop on his arm under
the puncture.

“There, that ought to convince any man, sane or insane,” the cool voice
resumed. “Had this been a deadly culture, you will admit that I would
hardly be so mad as to run even the slightest risk of being infected by
it.”

His manner and act carried conviction to the perturbed brain of James
Stone.

There was a chair close to the desk, and the tall figure collapsed into
it. Stone stretched his arms out across the desk, dropped his head
between them, and gave vent to a hoarse sob.

“Thank Heaven! Oh, thank Heaven!” he said, in a choked voice. “I’ve
been in torment these last few months, but it was all for the best.
You’ve saved me from myself, doctor, and I don’t know how to thank you!”

The hawklike face above him creased with satisfaction, and the thin
lips curled back from the sharp teeth.

“I ask no thanks,” was the reply. “And allow me to remind you that I
hold your check for a substantial sum. That is the best thanks to a
man who needs all the money he can lay hands on in order to carry on
costly experiments. I trust you will not regret having given it to me,
although you did so under a misapprehension. You’ll remember, however,
that I did not promise, at that time, to do away with Crawford. I
merely promised that he would not trouble you after the twenty-seventh,
and I have kept to the agreement. He will not trouble you, because all
your differences will have vanished by that time—have vanished now, in
fact. Later, of course, I felt compelled to fall in more nearly with
your misguided desires, but that was nothing more than professional
tact. If you had called yourself the King of Mexico, I would have
humored you in that belief, and bowed down to you.”

“I understand, of course—now,” Stone replied gravely. “As for your fee,
it’s by no means too much for what you’ve done. Your skill has given me
back my sanity and my old friend. Say nothing more about it.”

Follansbee was not looking to drop the subject, however.

“I won’t after this,” he said, “but that reminds me that the check is
for a rather large amount, and it has occurred to me that your bank
may make some difficulty about cashing it. I won’t present it before
Monday, the twenty-seventh, of course, but if you would write a note
to the bank now, it might help matters.”

Gratitude and relief made James Stone less cautious than he might
otherwise have been. “Certainly,” he said, without hesitation. “I’ll be
glad to do so.”

“Thank you. I think I have some of your hotel stationery here in my
pocket. Yes, here it is. I remember picking some up in the writing
room the other day when I was waiting for you, and wished to make some
notes.”

He produced several sheets of paper engraved with the name of the Hotel
Windermere, and, selecting one of them, spread it out on the desk
before his visitor.

His explanation of the possession of the paper was sufficiently
plausible, and Stone was not in a critical mood. The result was that
the miner scrawled a brief letter of introduction for Follansbee,
accompanied with a request that the check be cashed without question.

If he had only ventured to look up as he signed the note, he might have
been warned that all was not well, but he did not think of doing so.
Follansbee rose to his feet, and, taking the letter, slipped it into a
plain envelope. Evidently he had not thought best to provide a hotel
envelope in addition to the paper, for that thorough preparation might
have seemed a little suspicious.

“And now,” he said, “before you go, I’d like to offer you a little
refreshment, if I may. I have some very good brandy, and a bit of it
would tone you up. You need it after all you’ve gone through to-night.
After that you can go back to the hotel.”

He did not know that Nick’s ruse in regard to the bell had spoiled
Stone’s alibi. Had he been aware of the fact, it would have given him
much food for thought, but it would not have affected his words to
Stone, for they were spoken merely for effect.

“And in the morning,” he added, “you will find Mr. Crawford as well as
he ever was in his life.”

“You are sure of that?” Stone asked eagerly. “The drug can’t possibly
do him any permanent harm?”

“On my professional honor, it cannot,” Follansbee assured him. “He
won’t know anything about it when you see him again.”

He had reached the sideboard now, and he picked up two glasses which
stood beside the decanter containing the brandy. Stone was by his side
as he poured the liquor, but the ex-miner did not see a suspicious
move. Perhaps it was because he was not in a suspicious mood. At any
rate, there can be no doubt that it was something more than brandy that
he drank.

Little more than five minutes later Doctor Follansbee accompanied Stone
to the door, shook hands with him, and watched him depart. Stone had
suggested the use of the doctor’s phone to call a taxi, but Follansbee
had advised against it.

“If you’re wise, you’ll walk; at least, a part of the way,” he had
said. “You’ve been through a great deal to-night, and the exercise will
be good for you. If you can get physically tired, so much the better.
You’ll be more apt to sleep when you reach your room.”

Stone had taken the advice, and started off on foot. After lingering at
the door for a few minutes, the specialist closed it and disappeared
into the house. Very shortly the lights went out, and he reappeared on
the steps.

Seemingly, he, too, was going for a stroll, although it was nearly four
o’clock in the morning by that time.

Curiously enough, Follansbee headed in the same direction which Stone
had taken, and, more curious still, a slouching figure emerged from
an areaway, crossed the street, and flitted along behind the head
physician of St. Swithin’s.

The night had been full enough, but it looked as if other things were
still to be crammed into it.



                             CHAPTER XXIX.

                        A STRANGE DEVELOPMENT.


Doctor Stephen Follansbee walked along at a slow pace, but his
movements were not characteristic. His hands were not folded behind
him, and his head was erect, as if he were peering into the distance in
front, instead of casting his eyes on the ground as he usually did.

He had walked down Amsterdam Avenue for several blocks when a faint
monosyllable issued from his lips.

“Ah!” he murmured, and sightly quickened his pace.

The young man who was keeping him in sight from the other side of the
street—and who was evidently the same one who had opened the limousine
door some time earlier—could not hear the ejaculation, but he noted the
quickened steps and glanced ahead in search of a reason.

Half a block beyond was a little group of men gathered on the sidewalk.
When Follansbee approached, he found that it consisted of a couple of
policemen, and the driver of a taxicab was bending over the figure of a
tall man lying prone on the sidewalk. The physician had no need to do
more than glance at the figure, for, as the policeman lifted the body,
the rigid features of James Stone were revealed.

Clearing his throat, Follansbee stepped forward. “What’s the trouble,
officer?” he asked. “Has there been any accident?”

One of the men in uniform turned and looked at Follansbee in a
questioning way.

“I’m Doctor Stephen Follansbee, of St. Swithin’s Hospital,” the
specialist went on. “Here’s my card. If I can help you in any way, I
shall be only too glad to do so.”

The patrolman took the card and glanced at it in the light of a near-by
street lamp. When he saw the name and the string of letters after it,
his attitude instantly changed to one of great respect. It was a name
to conjure with in New York City.

“It’s lucky you happened along, Doctor Follansbee,” the spokesman
declared, making way for the newcomer, who stooped and seemed to make
an examination.

“It seems to be a paralytic stroke,” Follansbee announced presently.
“You had better call an ambulance and have him taken somewhere at
once.” Then, as if struck by a new idea, he went on: “Come to think of
it, you might as well send him to St. Swithin’s. I was going there in
a few minutes, anyway. There’s a special case that needs watching. Why
not put him in this taxi?”

The cool cunning of the man had its reward.

Under ordinary circumstances, the unfortunate Stone would have
been taken to another hospital—one with an emergency ward—but at
Follansbee’s suggestion the inert, heavily-breathing form was lifted
into the machine, and one of the policeman took his place beside it.
Up Amsterdam Avenue, toward the big hospital over which Follansbee
presided, the cab made its way. Follansbee himself had climbed into the
seat beside the driver, and the ragged young man who had been following
him looked uncertainly after the dwindling vehicle.

From that the vagrant’s gaze shifted to the remaining policeman, who
was eying him suspiciously.

“This is no place for me,” thought the young fellow; and he made off
hurriedly along the side street before the officer had time to accost
him.

It was Patsy Garvan, Nick Carter’s second assistant, and he was doing
an almost unheard-of thing. In other words, he was there without his
chief’s knowledge or sanction. It was not as much of a breach of
discipline as it might have been, however, for he was under Chick’s
orders. Chick had something of a grudge against Doctor Follansbee,
and had not been altogether satisfied with his chief’s assurance that
he should have a hand in the case later on. It was impossible for him
to do anything himself, because he was in charge at the detective’s
headquarters in the absence of Carter; but he had done the next best
thing. He had found no trouble in inducing Patsy Garvan to shadow
Follansbee’s house while Nick Carter was watching James Stone at the
hotel.

“Follansbee is a slippery customer,” Chick had confided to the other,
“and it strikes me that he needs a little attention. He’s capable of
almost anything, and I’d like nothing better than to bring him up short
without the chief’s help. As that’s out of the question, though, I’m
going to turn him over to you. Don’t let the chief know what you’re up
to, if you can help it. I’d like to surprise him with some information
that would be news to him; and when it comes to a showdown, I’ll take
all the responsibility.”

Patsy had accepted the added task with his usual promptness, and had
been leading a sort of double life for several days. During the hours
of daylight he went about his regular duties as usual. As it happened,
Nick did not give him much night work; consequently he was able to
shadow Follansbee’s house night after night. He had enjoyed little
sleep, but he did not seem to mind that. He, too, was convinced that
Follansbee was an unusually dangerous man, and should be carefully
“covered,” and he was more than willing to do the job.

Now his feelings were decidedly mixed. He had ventured to mingle with
the group about the prostrate man, and had discovered his identity.
It was unquestionably James Stone, the man he had seen entering
Follansbee’s house a short time before, and had subsequently left it.

Patsy had seen Follansbee watching Stone as the latter started down
the street, and he knew that the doctor had deliberately waited a few
minutes, and then followed. This meant that the scoundrelly head of
St. Swithin’s had looked for Stone to succumb on the street, and had
planned to have it appear as if by accident.

“This is a queer go,” thought Patsy as he hurried away from the
neighborhood of the curious policeman. “Follansbee must have double
crossed Stone just as Patsy feared he might, and it was pretty foxy of
him to have arranged that the man should take a tumble on the street
several blocks from his house.

“I’ve stumbled over a discovery sure enough, and now it’s up to me to
report to Chick and let him tell the chief, as I suppose he will. It
might have been well for me to trail that taxi in order to make sure of
its destination, but I don’t believe there can be any doubt about that.
Follansbee suggested St. Swithin’s, and the policeman who went along
would want to know the why and wherefore of any change in plan. It
seems safe enough to assume, therefore, that the Buzzard is taking his
latest victim to St. Swithin’s, and that’s enough for the present. I’d
like to know what the mischief he’s up to, and what he expects to do
with him at the hospital, but that will have to keep. Thank Fortune I
was on hand to-night. I’ll bet the chief didn’t dream that this little
affair was going to be pulled off; if not, he certainly ought to thank
Chick and me for giving him the tip.”



                             CHAPTER XXX.

                          AN UNLUCKY MORNING.


Patsy Garvan had reason to congratulate himself on the outcome of his
night’s vigil, but it is to be feared that he did not follow it up
in the best way. It was nearly half past four in the morning when he
reached Nick’s headquarters, and he unwisely decided that there was no
use of rousing Chick at that hour. Breakfast was only about three hours
off, and he reasoned that the delay could make little difference.

Whatever Follansbee had done to Stone was an accomplished fact, and it
was not likely that any more serious steps would be taken that night.
Besides, St. Swithin’s Hospital was not an easy place to commit a
crime, even though the criminal was at the head of it. If Follansbee
meant to murder Stone, and had drugged him to get him into his power,
the murder would probably be a slow and subtle one. In that case a few
hours were unimportant.

Consequently Patsy made his way quietly to his own room without rousing
Chick or leaving any word for him. He removed his make-up, slipped out
of his ragged suit with a sigh of relief, and was asleep almost as
soon as he touched the bed. He fully expected to be up again by half
past seven at the latest, and counted on being called if he showed any
tendency to oversleep. He did not realize, however, that he had had
very little rest for several days, and that Nature would do her best to
make up the shortage as soon as she had the chance. Nor did it occur to
him that Chick, knowing that he had been doing double duty, might give
orders not to have him called if he did not appear for breakfast on
time.

The result was that when he awakened, it was to discover that the sun
was pouring into his room with a warmth and intensity which proved
that the day was several hours old. He rose up in bed with a start and
looked at the little clock on the table.

“Half past eleven!” he ejaculated, in amazement. “Great Scott! I
wouldn’t have had this happen for the world. Why the dickens didn’t I
make a report of some sort last night before turning in? I might have
known that I would sleep like a log, and that Chick might see I wasn’t
disturbed.”

Without stopping to dress, he stuck his head out of the door and
shouted Chick’s name at the top of his voice. The housekeeper heard
him, and came bustling down the hall.

“Mr. Chick was called out of town this morning,” she said, greatly to
the young assistant’s chagrin.

“Where to?” he demanded.

“To Providence.”

“To a hotel?”

“I’ll bring you the note he left for Mr. Carter.”

She hurried into the celebrated detective’s study and presently
returned with a slip of paper. On it the chief assistant had explained
his errand, and said that he hoped to be back by night, but would be
running about most of the day. He added that he would try to keep in
touch with the Sound Hotel, and could be reached there if he was wanted.

The information did not sound promising, but Patsy was obliged to
make the best of it. Putting on a bath robe and slippers, he ran to
the chief’s study and attempted to reach Chick on the long-distance
telephone. As he had anticipated, he had not yet arrived at the hotel.
He left a message asking that he be called as soon as possible; but
after he had done so, he decided that he could not wait for that. There
were too many uncertainties, and the delay might prove serious.

“Confound it, this is a pretty mess,” he told himself. “I can’t be sure
about Chick any more. I’ll have to ’fess up to the chief—if I can get
hold of him.”

The housekeeper was once more summoned, and from her Patsy learned that
the chief had not been there either the night before or that morning.

“He’s still at the Windermere, I suppose,” the housekeeper suggested.

“Let’s hope he is,” Patsy answered, and returned to the phone. He gave
the number of the Hotel Windermere, and was promptly connected.

“Is Mr. Mortimer—Mr. Thomas Mortimer—there?” he inquired anxiously.

“One moment, please.”

He kept the receiver to his ear for a few seconds, and then the clerk’s
voice sounded again.

“Hello?” it said. “Mr. Mortimer isn’t in at present. He went out with a
friend immediately after breakfast. He’s been gone about two hours now.”

Patsy could have kicked himself at that moment. “Have you any idea
where he has gone?”

“No, I haven’t. He went out with another of our guests, though, and——”

The assistant caught eagerly at that clew. “Was it Mr. Crawford?” he
asked.

“Yes, that’s the gentleman. I’m sorry I can’t tell you more. Mr.
Mortimer doesn’t seem to have left any word. Will you leave a message
for him?”

Patsy thought for a moment. “No, I believe not,” he said, after a
pause. “I’ll telephone later on, or drop around there.”

He replaced the receiver and leaned back disappointedly. “Worse and
more of it,” he mused. “First, Chick slips out of my reach, and now
the chief is off somewhere. This is certainly my unlucky morning. Of
course, Chick didn’t suppose I had anything of importance to report,
and that’s why he let me sleep. Now time is flying. Follansbee has got
Stone in his clutches for some beastly purpose of his own, and I don’t
know what to do about it. It’s up to the chief to decide that, and I
can’t reach him.”

He had not dictated a message for Carter because the matter was too
confidential for that; besides, he expected to present himself at the
hotel before long and wait for his chief, if the latter had not yet
returned.

First, though, he must dress and snatch a bite of breakfast. His
dressing and shaving occupied only about twenty minutes in all—with a
cold plunge thrown in—and when he reached the dining room, he found the
housekeeper waiting for him. His coming seemed to be a signal, for she
vanished at once into the regions behind, but soon returned bearing a
tray. Patsy was a favorite of hers, and she was doing him the honor of
serving him in person.

“Mr. Chick said to let you sleep,” she declared, nodding her gray head.
“Heaven only knows when you came in last night. I was awake until
twelve.”

Patsy grinned. “You missed me by a minute or two,” he answered, as he
attacked his breakfast.

His conscience was pricking him most uncomfortably, and although he
was hungry, he would have eaten little if he had had his own way. The
housekeeper stood over him, however, and saw to it that he made a good
meal. The breakfast consumed fifteen minutes of his precious time, and
even then the elderly lady sniffed as she picked up the tray.

“You oughtn’t to bolt your food like that, Mr. Garvan,” she complained.
“You’ll be a martyr to indigestion before you’re forty. Don’t you think
you might bite a thing twice before it goes down?”

She had gained her main point, however, and that was something. She
returned to the kitchen, and Patsy hurried out of the house.

He had ordered one of Nick’s runabouts brought round, and in it he
drove to the hotel.

“Mr. Mortimer” had not yet returned.

He said something under his breath, and decided not to wait. He was
too uneasy by that time, for James Stone’s fate was troubling him.
Accordingly he left word with the clerk for “Mr. Mortimer” to remain in
when he came, if possible, until he could be communicated with. That
done, he jumped into the runabout again and headed northward in the
direction of St. Swithin’s Hospital.

It was well that he did so, for his luck was to change.



                             CHAPTER XXXI.

                           NICK HAS A HUNCH.


“You, Carter!”

Winthrop Crawford had raised himself in bed, and, leaning on one arm,
was staring wonderingly at the figure of the detective seated in a
chair close to the head of the bed.

Nick had removed his false mustache, and although he was still dressed
in one of the suits he had worn as “Thomas Mortimer,” Crawford
recognized the clean-cut features.

“It is rather an early hour to make a call, Crawford,” the detective
said, with an apologetic smile.

“Oh, I’m always glad to see you,” was the answer. “Hanged if I
understand how you got in, though. Wasn’t my door locked?”

“I believe it was,” was the calm response.

“Then——”

“Oh, you ought to know that locked doors don’t trouble me, Crawford,”
Nick broke in, his smile broadening. “I sometimes tickle their keyholes
a little, and sometimes pass around them.”

He was delighted and greatly relieved to have Crawford awake and
evidently in such good trim.

“And which method did you employ in this instance?” inquired the man on
the bed, with a twinkle in his eyes.

“I’ll tell you all about that when I come to it. It’s too long to be
dismissed in a sentence. As a matter of fact, this is by no means my
first visit to your room since you went to bed last night, and I’ve
spent considerable time here.”

Crawford looked bewildered. “What on earth for?” he demanded; then, as
he saw Nick eying him queerly, he added: “Why are you looking at me
like that? What has happened?”

Instead of answering, the detective put another question. “How do you
feel this morning?” he queried.

Crawford searched Nick’s face as though he were half afraid that his
visitor had lost his senses.

“I feel like a fighting cock,” he said promptly. “Why should I feel any
other way?”

Nick’s face had grown stern. “Because some five or six hours ago,” he
answered gravely, “you were forcibly drugged, and a murderous attack
was made upon you.”

The blank look of amazement that came into Crawford’s eyes increased as
memory returned to him. He sat up in bed and stared at the detective.

“Good heavens, I remember now!” he broke out. “I—I thought at first,
though, that it was only a nightmare.” He raised his brown, muscular
hand and passed it across his brow. “Yes,” he muttered slowly, “I
remember—I saw Jim Stone—I saw the wet sponge—his terrible face!”

His voice died away into a frail whisper, whereupon Nick came up closer
to the bed and laid a kindly hand on the man’s shoulder.

“Stone drugged you,” he explained; “but that was not the worst he tried
to do. The drug was only administered so that you might be kept quiet
during what was to follow. Look!”

With a quick movement he pulled back Crawford’s right sleeve, and then,
extending his finger, indicated a small speck of hardened blood on the
tanned forearm.

“That mark covers a puncture made by the hypodermic syringe,” the calm
voice went on, “and it was charged with the bacilli of some deadly
disease when it was first handed to Stone to operate with.”

The mine owner listened rigidly.

“Again?” he whispered hoarsely. “Jim has tried again?”

“Yes, and he came very near accomplishing it this time,” the detective
answered. “Fortunately, however, I was in a position to take a hand.
Had I not done so, I’m afraid it would have been all up with you.
Neither you nor any one else would have known of what had happened,
and by the time you had begun to feel the effects of the injection you
would probably have been beyond hope or help.”

He seated himself at the foot of the bed and quietly told the whole
story. Before it was concluded, the lined, russet face of the miner
had become sallow and beaded with perspiration. He leaned back on the
pillow, his hands clasped behind his head.

“This is frightful; far more so than anything I dreamed of,” he said,
in an uncertain voice. “How can I reward you for what you’ve done?”

The detective leaned forward and laid his hands on the covers over one
of the raised knees.

“The only reward I ask for,” he said, “is to see you rouse yourself to
the true situation. If there was any doubt before, certainly none can
be present now. Your old partner is insane, and has fallen into the
hands of one of the most cunning, unscrupulous rascals at large to-day.
He was dangerous enough before when he only had the shrewdness of his
own misguided instincts to aid him, but now you’re up against something
much worse. You have to deal not only with a homicidal lunatic, but
through him with a scientific criminal of the most dangerous sort. The
combination is an extraordinary one, and has possibilities for evil
that stagger the imagination.”

“Do you really believe that—about this doctor, I mean?”

“I’m sure of it. Long before I ever saw you I knew he was a scamp.
That’s why I took a room here at the Windermere when I found that
Stone was consorting with him.”

“Is it possible? I don’t understand it. Isn’t he the one I told you
about—the one whom young Floyd recommended to Jimmy?”

“I take it for granted that he is. He has a reputation second to none
in his line, and there’s no reason to suppose that your own friend was
not sincere when he made the condition that Stone should visit Doctor
Follansbee. If so, though, he has a great deal to learn about the
scoundrelly head of St. Swithin’s Hospital.”

“But in what way is Follansbee a scoundrel? I should think he would
have altogether too much to lose by crime, no matter what his secret
tendencies were. What can he hope to gain by using poor Jim’s
irresponsible enmity to me? He is jeopardizing a great position.”

“True, but he thinks he can get away with it,” remarked Nick. “They all
do, you know—until they wake up. As for his anticipated reward, you
may be sure it’s a very large one. Follansbee’s are always that, and
in such a case as this, he must have named a huge price. Stone is in a
position, of course, to pay a big sum, and his mental condition makes
him an easy victim. That may be the whole explanation, but I have a
feeling that it isn’t. Something tells me that Follansbee is after more
than the fee he has named.”

“What are you driving at? How could he profit in any other way by my
death?”

“That’s what I’d like to find out,” Nick told him; “and you ought to be
able to help me, if any one can.”

“In what way?”

“Well, have you made a will?”

“Yes, I attended to that soon after we sold the Condor.”

“And who is the chief beneficiary named in it, may I ask?”

“Jim, of course. He’s practically the sole beneficiary, for no other
living person has ever been half so close to me as he.”

“I shouldn’t wonder if that explained it,” the detective said
thoughtfully.

The bearded mining man looked startled. “I’m afraid I don’t follow
you,” he said. “Tell me plainly what you have in your mind.”

“Oh, I may be mistaken,” was the answer, “but it seems rather
significant. As I’ve said, your partner’s condition makes him an easy
mark. Does he by any chance know of the terms of your will?”

“Certainly. I told him what I had done after it was drawn up.”

“That’s a pity. I do not believe he has his eyes on the money. If
I read his mental state aright, he’s only actuated by groundless,
diseased hate and suspicion, and that so fills his distorted brain that
it doesn’t leave any room for money considerations. It’s very possible,
however, that Follansbee has pumped him, and learned the facts in
regard to your will. If so, it wouldn’t surprise me a bit to find that
the rascal was plotting in some way, either with or without Stone’s
knowledge, to appropriate most, if not all, of your fortune.”

“By Jove! I wonder if you’re right!”

“I feel that I am. It strikes me that Follansbee wouldn’t have taken
the risks involved in this thing, especially after having had one
brush with me, unless there had been a huge reward in prospect. Half
a million or so would tempt almost any man who had any criminal
tendencies, you know.”

He paused, gazed into vacancy, and then added slowly: “To tell the
truth, I’m not convinced that he would be content with your share of
the proceeds from the sale of the mine. When the covetousness of a man
like that once gets to working, there’s no telling to what length it
may go. I shouldn’t wonder if he aspired to the possession of Stone’s
share as well as yours.”



                            CHAPTER XXXII.

                     “THE MAN WHO NEVER LETS GO.”


If Winthrop Crawford had been startled before, he was dumfounded now.

“Great guns!” he ejaculated, rising up again and planting his hands
on his knees. “Is it possible that you think the fellow is capable of
trying to kill Jimmy, too?”

“He’s capable of anything, Crawford, if he thinks it is safe. Figure
it out for yourself. A demented man comes to him and gets into
his power. Follansbee tempts him to unburden himself and makes a
criminal proposition. He agrees directly or indirectly to lend the
aid of his science for the carrying out of his patient’s murderous
grudge in return for a substantial fee—twenty-five or fifty thousand
dollars, let us say. Incidentally he learns that his patient has been
named as the chief beneficiary in the will of the man whose doom is
sealed. He naturally itches to get hold of that fortune, or a large
part of it, and plots to do so. That’s the next step. But there are
others—inevitable ones.

“To the best of his knowledge,” the detective went on, “his poor,
misguided tool carries out his instructions, and inoculates the other
man with the active principal of some dread tropical disease. So far,
so good—or so bad. What comes next? Why, the logical development, of
course. The unscrupulous doctor has schemed in one way or another to
benefit by the victim’s death, and now when that seems to be provided
for, he realizes how completely the man who has actually done the deed
is under his thumb.

“His patient is practically a murderer, and, as such, liable to be
blackmailed to the limit. Also, the man’s brain is unbalanced, and
that makes it possible to work upon his fears in an unusual way. Why
should such a man have nearly a million in the bank? Can he enjoy it
to the full with the specter of remorse always at his elbow? Couldn’t
somebody else—the doctor, for instance—get a lot more out of that
money? The answer is a foregone conclusion; but there’s another
consideration as well. The doctor has an accomplice whom he cannot
trust because of that same mental instability. An insane man is proud
of his crimes, and likes to boast about them. He does so without any
sense of responsibility. But that would never do in this instance, for
such boasting would be almost certain to involve the doctor himself.
Therefore, to the latter’s mind, there would be an additional reason
for getting rid of his patient-accomplice. An additional fortune on
the one hand—as a result of a little more clever manipulation—and the
prevention of indiscreet blabbing on the other. Can you doubt the
outcome?”

Crawford seized Nick’s arm excitedly. “You’re right!” he agreed. “Jimmy
isn’t safe for a moment while he’s in that fiend’s clutches. Where is
he now?”

“I don’t know,” the detective admitted. “He went away with Follansbee
after giving you the injection. It was impossible for me to follow at
the time; besides, I was altogether too uneasy in mind about you. I
realized that your partner might be running into danger, but up to that
time it had not come to me so forcibly as it did since. Even if it had,
however, I should still have felt that my first duty was to you, and
that your safety was more important.”

“No, no!” cried the miner, gripping Nick’s arm until it ached. “You’re
wrong there! My life is nothing to me compared with Jimmy’s safety.
Hasn’t he come back yet?”

“I don’t think so. He hasn’t been in his room, at least.”

“Then there isn’t a moment to lose. Good heavens, this is maddening!
Something terrible may have happened to him. We may be too late.”

“Calm yourself,” the detective advised kindly. “I don’t think you need
fear any immediate danger. Follansbee uses subtle methods in order to
cover his tracks, and subtle methods take time.”

“That may be, but I cannot have a moment’s peace until Jimmy is found
and wrested from that devil’s influence. I’ll dress at once, and——”

“Go ahead,” Nick interrupted, getting up from the bed. “You mustn’t
think of taking a hand in this, though.”

“But I must, man—for Jimmy’s sake. You admit yourself that you let him
go off with that rascal without lifting a hand.”

“That’s true, but if you feel this way about it, I’ll consider him
first hereafter. You can’t take part in it in person, though. I must
insist upon your keeping out of it. Remember your position, Crawford.
You’re supposed to have been infected by that injection, and you’re
also supposed to know nothing about it. You can’t admit any knowledge
of the hypodermic without letting the cat out of the bag and putting
Follansbee on his guard against me.”

“That’s true,” murmured the miner. “I was forgetting that. What can I
do, then?”

“You’ll have to keep your hands off and trust me to manage the affair.”

“I will, if you’ll promise not to have Jimmy locked up, if you can
possibly avoid it; and, above all, not to charge him with this latest
mad attempt against my life. As I told you before, nobody else is in
any danger from him. I’m sure of that, and I’m still willing to take
any risk in order to shield him, even after what happened last night.
If you can get him away from Follansbee, and put him in the care of
some conscientious physician—some one who won’t hustle him off to an
asylum the first thing—I shall be satisfied.”

The detective smiled grimly. “That’s all very well,” he said; “but what
about Follansbee? Don’t you realize that if we let one of them off,
both will necessarily go free?”

“I suppose so,” confessed Crawford. “I’d give anything to see that
scoundrel get all that’s coming to him, but you understand my position.
I can’t and won’t consent to sacrifice my old partner for the sake of
punishing his accomplice. That’s out of the question. Follansbee is as
dangerous as they make them, I’ll admit, but I’m afraid you’ll have to
find some way of getting around it—of reaching him without involving
Stone.”

“You make my task a very hard one,” Nick told him gravely. “In the face
of such a condition, Follansbee seems to be beyond reach; but perhaps
he isn’t. We’ll have to wait and see. He may make a false step before
we get through, and if he does——”

He did not finish the sentence, but the way in which he said the words
boded no good to Doctor Stephen Follansbee. Crawford had only to look
at the detective at that moment to realize why Nick Carter was called
“the man who never lets go.”



                            CHAPTER XXXIII.

                            WILL HE SCORE?


Winthrop Crawford was not satisfied, however. His anxiety was centered
about the welfare of his old friend, and he could not lose sight of
Stone’s continued absence from the Windermere.

“But what are you going to do about Jimmy?” he asked eagerly. “Don’t
delay, man. Hunt him up as soon as possible, even if you have to defy
Follansbee, and mess things up generally in order to do so.”

“Don’t worry about that, Crawford. I’ll look out for your friend. He
may have spent the night at Follansbee’s house. At any rate, the doctor
is a marked man, and if Stone has gone anywhere with his companion, it
ought to be a comparatively easy matter to trace them. You can’t stay
here, though, while I’m doing it.”

“Why not?”

“For various reasons. If you did so, and Stone came back, it would be
hard to act as if nothing had happened, and he would be watching you
with lynx eyes, waiting to see the effect of the injection. I haven’t
had time yet to analyze the original contents of the syringe, so that
I can’t say just how the stuff is supposed to act. In order to be on
the safe side, though, you’ll have to leave the Windermere for the time
being. If you’re out of their sight, they will not be able to keep tabs
on your condition, and we can easily enough make them believe that the
disease which they suppose has been introduced into your system is
following its normal course.”

“But won’t Jimmy think it strange if I disappear after I’ve stuck to
him so long—stuck to him against his will?”

“You can leave word for him. Write him a note and make some excuse that
will sound plausible.”

“Yes, I could do that,” the miner agreed. “Where do you want me to go?”

“I haven’t thought of any particular place as yet. That will
come later, but it is necessary that you should go away at once.
Furthermore, I want the people here in the hotel to see you and me go
out together.”

Crawford soon became convinced that something of the sort was
desirable. He was very reluctant to leave the hotel before learning
anything definite concerning Stone’s whereabouts, but there seemed no
help for it, and Nick promised to let him know at frequent intervals
whenever anything new came up. By half-past nine o’clock Crawford and
the detective—the latter once more in the guise of Thomas Mortimer—were
eating their breakfast in the dining room. Making a pretense of eating,
however, would be the better way of describing the half-hearted way in
which the man from South America toyed with his food.

Before ten o’clock they had both left the Windermere without giving any
one a hint as to their destination. So far as the detective knew, he
was the only one on the case; therefore it did not occur to him to keep
Chick advised of his comings and goings.

Crawford took with him nothing in the way of baggage; therefore they
were obliged to purchase a suit case and enough clothing for a few
days. That done, they boarded a train at the Grand Central Terminal,
and about half an hour later alighted in one of the northern suburbs
within sight of Long Island Sound.

A motor bus from the hotel met the train and took them to a huge
pile of masonry on a hill overlooking the water. It was one of the
best-known hotels in the neighborhood of New York, and much frequented
by those who wished to go away from the bustle of the great city for
a few days. There Crawford registered, at Nick’s suggestion, under an
assumed name.

They had parted, and the detective was already descending the steps,
when the miner ran after him.

“I’ve just thought of something that may help you to an understanding
of poor old Jim’s condition,” Crawford said breathlessly. “It has
occurred to me that he used to knock about the mine without his hat on
last year in all that broiling sun, and I know that many years ago,
when he was a boy, an axhead hit him on the skull. He was watching
somebody chop wood, and the head became loosened and flew off the
handle. Isn’t it possible that that injury affected him somehow, but
that the trouble didn’t manifest itself until recently?”

Nick nodded. “There may be something in that,” he said. “The exposure
to the sun may have developed the latent disease, somewhat in the way
photographic film is developed. I’m glad you told me of that. It makes
it clearer than ever that your friend is a victim himself, and should
not be judged harshly.”

“That’s it,” Crawford agreed eagerly. “He deserves all the mercy you
can show him, Carter. I’m positive that if he ever returns to his
senses he will be absolutely heartbroken to hear what he has tried
to do. I tell you, Jimmy Stone loves me like a brother, and he would
rather cut off his right hand than harm me. You must save him—save him
from Follansbee first of all, and then from himself. If you do, there’s
nothing you can’t ask of me.”

Nick ignored the generous promise. “The affection of man for man is a
wonderful thing, Crawford,” he said quietly. “I’m glad to have known
you and had this proof of what loyalty means. I must go now, though.
Try to have patience and take things as quietly as you can. I’ll do my
best for Stone, and telephone you from time to time.”

As he returned to the station, the detective felt sure that his promise
to Winthrop Crawford would greatly hamper his movements but he shrugged
his shoulders philosophically.

“Follansbee is a lucky rascal, and a keen one,” he thought. “He has
remained in the background, and even that telltale conversation I
overheard last night doesn’t seem destined to be used as a weapon
against him. He’s certainly stolen a base or two, but he may yet be
called out at the home plate!”



                            CHAPTER XXXIV.

                         A VISIT TO THE BANK.


The journey to and from the suburban hotel had occupied considerable
time, and it was almost one o’clock before the detective returned to
the Windermere.

The clerk saw him enter the lobby and called him to the desk. He was
informed of the telephone message and of Patsy’s call at the hotel. He
realized, of course, that one of his assistants had been trying to get
in touch with him, but he did not know that it was in connection with
that particular case.

Moreover, something came up which made it necessary for him to
disregard Patsy’s injunction to remain in until he could be reached.

“Mr. Crawford hasn’t come back yet, Mr. Mortimer?” the clerk asked.
“The gentleman seemed to know him, too.”

The detective had turned away from the desk, but he faced about and
shook his head.

“I’m afraid that Crawford will not be back for some time,” he replied.
“He was taken very ill while we were out together, and I had to remove
him to a hospital. I’m not quite sure what’s the matter with him.
I’m afraid, though, that it’s some sort of fever which he may have
contracted in South America.”

The hotel clerk looked startled. “It’s nothing very serious, I hope?”
he said.

“I trust not,” was the reply. “The hospital people feel sure that it
isn’t contagious, if that’s what you mean.”

Again he started to leave the desk, but the clerk once more detained
him. “A messenger came from the Standard National Bank about half an
hour ago,” the young man explained. “He asked for either Mr. Stone or
Mr. Crawford, and said it was very important. Mr. Stone was in his room
in the small hours of the morning, I understand, but he isn’t there
now, and nobody seems to have seen him about the building this morning.”

A little glint came into Nick’s eyes, but the clerk did not notice it.

“The Standard National is near here, isn’t it?” he inquired, although
he knew perfectly well.

“Yes, it’s just around the corner,” and the clerk indicated the
direction.

“Then I think I’ll drop around there. I can give them some information
about Crawford, anyway; besides, we’ve come to know each other pretty
well.”

His manner was careless, but inwardly he attached a great deal of
importance to the bit of information which by chance had come his way.
It suggested one of the possibilities he had feared, namely, that
Follansbee would try some trick to get possession of a large sum of
money belonging to one or the other of the partners, or both.

It being Saturday, he found the bank closed when he reached it, but
most of the employees were still on hand, and his knock soon brought a
response. He mentioned his business to the clerk who opened the door,
and a few moments later he was led into the cashier’s room. The bank
official had expected either Stone or Crawford, and his face betrayed
his disappointment. His manner was another proof that something out of
the ordinary had occurred, or was impending.

Nick drew a card front his pocket and held it out silently. As soon as
the cashier saw the name, “Nicholas Carter,” his eyes widened.

“There’s nothing wrong, Mr. Carter, I hope?” he asked quickly. “I was
very doubtful of honoring the check, but I had Mr. Stone’s own note to
justify me.”

From the desk at his elbow he picked up a sheet of paper bearing the
Hotel Windermere heading, and held it out. Nick glanced at the big,
careless scrawl.

“Yes,” he said. “I’ve seen specimens of Stone’s writing, and I don’t
think there’s any doubt that this is his.”

The cashier then extended a check marked “paid,” and made out to “S.
Follansbee.”

There were probably several men among New York City’s five millions who
had the right to that name and initial, but it seemed perfectly safe to
eliminate all but one. It was the sum called for, however, that riveted
the detective’s attention at once and caused him to fairly gasp.

“Four hundred and fifty thousand dollars!” he ejaculated. “Great Scott!
That practically cleans out Stone’s account, doesn’t it?”

“It leaves only twenty-five or thirty thousand, I believe,” was the
worried answer.

The detective was still examining the check, and the cashier watched
the keen face for a few moments.

“You seem greatly startled by the amount, Mr. Carter,” he ventured
presently. “Please tell me if there’s anything out of the way. I had my
doubts about it—owing solely to the size of the check; therefore I kept
the man waiting until I had sent around to the hotel to make sure, but
neither Mr. Stone nor his friend Mr. Crawford, who also has a large sum
on deposit, was within reach.”

“Did Follansbee present the check?”

“Oh, no. It was a young man who looked like a rather superior sort of
servant, and who spoke English with a slight accent—German or Austrian,
I think. The check was endorsed, as you see, and the man brought with
him not only that note purporting to be signed by Mr. Stone, but also
one from Doctor Follansbee on St. Swithin’s stationery. Here it is.”

He handed Nick another sheet, bearing Follansbee’s signature under an
authorization to cash the check for his agent.

“That’s undoubtedly genuine,” the cashier went on. “I called up Doctor
Follansbee at the hospital, and he assured me that everything was
regular. There didn’t seem to be anything to do but to take his word
for it, owing to his position and reputation. It seemed very queer,
though, and I couldn’t understand why he didn’t send the check to his
own bank and let it take the usual course.”

“You cashed it, then, in currency?”

“Yes, the man brought along a hand bag and carried away the money in
it.”

“Did you mark any of the bills?”

“Yes; many of those of large denomination. I felt compelled to take
that precaution, although it seemed foolish. There were too many of
them, though, to mark anywhere near all.”

Carter leaned forward suddenly, and, holding Stone’s note and the check
together, placed them in front of the cashier.

“Do you notice any striking peculiarities about these two documents?”
he asked.

The bank official scrutinized them carefully.

“I don’t quite know what you mean,” he said at length. “Oh, I think
I see. All except the signature of the check seems to be written in
another hand—more like Follansbee’s than Stone’s. Is that it?”

“That the most obvious,” the detective answered. “It hints that Stone
was foolish enough to sign a blank check or something of that sort.
That isn’t all, though. One would naturally assume that the check and
Stone’s note authorizing the payment had been written at the same
time, yet I’d swear the ink on this check is older—perhaps several
days older—than that on the note. What’s more, I happen to know that,
although this note is written on hotel paper, the ink used is not the
shade of that furnished at the Windermere.”

“By George!” muttered the cashier. “This is getting serious. You don’t
mean to tell me that Doctor Stephen Follansbee is a scamp?”

“These things speak for themselves, don’t they?” Nick asked quietly.
“And there are other straws which show the way the wind is blowing.”

“What, for instance?”



                             CHAPTER XXXV.

                      THE DOCTOR GETS A SURPRISE.


The fires were now burning brightly in the great detective’s eyes.

“I’m of the opinion that this note isn’t more than a few hours old,” he
said, tapping the paper signed by Stone. “The ink is still fresh, and,
besides, there’s the date—the twenty-fifth.”

“What of that?” demanded the cashier. “The check is also dated to-day.”

“But it wasn’t made out to-day.”

“Still, I don’t see what you’re driving at. The check may have been
dated ahead, and when the time approached for presenting it, Follansbee
might have asked for the note to present along with it.”

“Doubtless that’s what happened, but what I’m getting at is this:

“This note purports to have been written at the Hotel Windermere on the
twenty-fifth—to-day. I happen to know, however, that Stone hasn’t been
at the hotel since about three o’clock this morning, and I’m pretty
well aware of the manner in which he was occupied while he was there.
It isn’t likely that he wrote this note between midnight and three
o’clock, and even if he did do so, it isn’t probable that he would have
dated it to-day. Under such circumstances a man would jot down the date
of the day before, nine times out of ten.”

“Then you think that the note was written after he left the hotel?”

“I do, and I believe that the paper was thoughtfully given to him for
the purpose, after having previously been removed from the hotel. That
in itself is suspicious. It suggests a plot, and it, together with
the character of the writing, hints that the note was written under
pressure, or that Stone was not himself when he scribbled it. You
can see the difference between the note, signature and all, and the
signature on the check. The latter is big and bold and careless, but
the note, although obviously written in the same hand, is tremulous and
betrays agitation.”

Expert as he was, Carter was a little astray there. He was not in a
position to know that the agitation revealed had been due not to any
threats of Follansbee’s, but to the fact that Stone had been sane once
more when he wrote it, and was suffering from the effects of his recent
alarm and remorse.

As for his reasoning concerning the date on the note, it was sound
enough in general, but the fact was the note had been written at
Follansbee’s, and that one of the doctor’s servants, before retiring
for the night, had torn off the sheet on the top of the pad calendar on
the desk. That bearing the date of the twenty-fourth, had consequently
gone into the waste basket, and the following date had been revealed
in anticipation of the next day. Stone had glanced at this, and
mechanically copied it.

“Then you think that this check and note were written under undue
influence?” queried the cashier.

Nick nodded emphatically.

“There isn’t the slightest doubt about it,” he answered. “As a matter
of fact, Stone has been suffering for months from some obscure mental
trouble, and that is what took him to Doctor Follansbee.”

“Is it possible!” whispered the bank official. “That’s very
unfortunate. We couldn’t be expected to know that, though; and, after
all, I hardly see what other course we could have followed.”

“Oh, that’s all right,” Nick assured him. “The bank can’t be blamed. It
was an unusual proceeding, but you had ample justification for honoring
the check, and you did what you could to get hold of Stone or his
partner before doing so.”

A relieved look spread over the cashier’s face.

“I’m glad to hear you say that, Mr. Carter,” he declared gravely. “Both
the president and vice president are out of town, and this thing is up
to me. As a matter of fact, it seems to me that Mr. Stone oughtn’t to
have been allowed to handle so much money if he’s in the state you say
he is. We’re not alienists, and we would never have expected such a
thing. Besides, the check would not have been honored had it not been
made out to a man of such prominence who personally vouched for the
proceeding, as he did over the telephone.”

“I understand,” Nick said consolingly. “Don’t worry about your end of
it. I think I can promise you that there won’t be any comeback. It’s
up to me, though, to repair the damage, if I can. I had come to fear
something of this sort in the last few hours, but Follansbee has stolen
a march on me. I don’t think his methods do any very great credit to
his undoubted shrewdness, though, and the evidence you have to offer
ought to be enough to make it hot for him.”

He left a few minutes later, after promising to keep the bank informed
of developments.

“Follansbee has made the haul of his life,” Nick thought, as he paced
along the busy street on his way back to the hotel; “and evidently
Crawford wasn’t his only victim.”

When he reached the Windermere, his first act was to inquire if Stone
had returned or if anything had been heard from him.

“Nothing doing,” was the clerk’s answer. “We’re somewhat alarmed, Mr.
Mortimer. We don’t see how he could have left his room without the
knowledge of the floor clerk.”

Nick looked about and saw there was no one else within earshot. He
leaned confidentially over the desk.

“I know how he left the building,” he told the clerk; “and although I
don’t feel at liberty to tell you the whole story, I’ll say this much:
I’m Nicholas Carter, not Thomas Mortimer, and I have been keeping an
eye on Stone and Crawford—for their good.”

“You don’t mean it!” cried the clerk, eying Nick’s make-up inquiringly.
“I hope they haven’t done anything——”

“Nothing of that sort,” Nick assured him quickly. “It’s a long story,
and the time hasn’t come to tell it. Just keep it dark, therefore. I
revealed my identity to your house detective last night, but I don’t
want it to be generally known that I’ve been here in disguise.”

“Trust me, Mr. Carter; I understand. Is Mr. Crawford really ill,
though?”

Nick gave a slow wink. “No, he isn’t,” he admitted. “I put that one
over on you for reasons of my own, and I want you to pass the story on
to any one who inquires after him. He won’t be back for a few days, but
you’re to hold his room for him. I’ll be responsible.”

“And Mr. Stone?”

“I think I know where to find him, and I’m going to trace him without
delay. Something may have happened to him, but nothing very serious,
I’m sure. I’m going to give up my room now, since there doesn’t seem to
be anything else I can do here. By the way, I have reason to believe
that the young man who phoned for me and called here later is one of my
assistants. If he asks for me again after I leave, try to find out his
identity without letting the cat out of the bag, and if he satisfies
you, tell him I’ve gone home.”

It was after two o’clock when Nick arrived at the house uptown, where
he inquired first for Chick and then for Patsy Garvan. His housekeeper
informed him that Chick was in Providence, and that Patsy had seemed
very anxious to reach his fellow assistant or his chief that morning.

“You don’t know why?”

“No, sir, I don’t; but I think it is something important. He’s been out
every night lately, and goodness knows what time he’s been coming in.
He slept until half past eleven this morning, and that’s why he missed
Mr. Chick.”

“Did he say where he was going?”

“No, sir.”

It was plain that Patsy had stumbled over something important and was
badly in need of advice, but it did not occur to the detective that it
could have anything to do with Follansbee or Stone. He had given out no
assignment of that sort. He found several matters which demanded his
attention, and spent some time at his headquarters. He was impatient
for the next move, but delayed a little in the hope that Patsy would
put in an appearance. At length, however, having heard nothing from his
young assistant, he determined on a bold step—nothing less than to seek
out Doctor Follansbee and confront the cunning rogue with the evidence
he had gathered.

“It’s doubtful if I will be able to bring him to terms,” he told
himself, “for I doubt if he has a nerve in his body. It’s worth trying,
though. If he realizes that I’ve taken up the case, it will make him
move more cautiously than he otherwise would. Besides, I must find out,
if possible, what has happened to Stone. Poor Crawford will be on pins
and needles until I can send him some definite word; and let’s hope the
news won’t be too bad. Follansbee certainly means no good to Stone.
He has annexed practically the whole of the fortune, and that implies
some scheme to get rid of his victim. I’d be afraid that the worst had
happened if I did not feel sure that Follansbee isn’t the man to make
use of any ordinary means of gaining his ends.”

The detective hunted up Doctor Follansbee’s private address in the
telephone book and began hasty preparations for departure. He had
already removed his disguise, and did not consider another. He meant to
go openly in one of his cars and to see if he could scare the head of
St. Swithin’s into returning the money and dropping all of his schemes
against the partners.

It was shortly after four o’clock when his machine stopped in front of
the doctor’s house and he strode up the steps. He was more than half
prepared to find that Follansbee was out, although he had called up the
hospital and learned that the doctor was not there. On the contrary,
however, the servant informed him that her employer was at home.

Nick thought best not to give his name, and was ushered into the
reception room as if he had been an ordinary patient without an
appointment. But Follansbee happened to be at liberty, and in a
few moments the servant invited him into the office adjoining the
reception room.

It was a dark day, and the electric lights were on in the office. Nick
stepped quietly into the room, and the light fell full upon his face.
Follansbee did not look up at first, but when he became conscious that
his visitor was standing just inside the door, he turned round to
motion him to a seat. As he caught sight of the detective, he gave a
visible start, and the hand on the desk closed convulsively.

His cool self-command had deserted him for the moment when he found
himself face to face with the man who had once thwarted him and
threatened to crush him if he ever broke his parole.



                            CHAPTER XXXVI.

                          SOME PLAIN TRUTHS.


Stephen Follansbee’s loss of nerve was only momentary, however, and,
after their looks had met, Nick quietly closed the door behind him,
and, striding forward, dropped into a chair.

Follansbee looked at him with half-closed eyes and tapped on the desk
with his long fingers. “This is an unexpected pleasure, Mr. Carter,” he
said, in his high, thin voice. “Of course I’m always glad to see such a
distinguished visitor as yourself.”

Nick’s smile was grim. He rated his antagonist’s recovered coolness and
quiet irony at their true value. Physically, Follansbee was beneath
contempt, but Nick was well aware that he represented an infinitely
more dangerous type of criminal than any hulking, broad-shouldered
ruffian who ever swaggered through the world.

“You did not come to see me on professional business, I take it?”
Follansbee went on, a quiet smile lifting the corners of his mouth.
“You don’t look as if you needed medical attention.”

“No, I’m quite well, thank you,” was the calm response. “I have come to
see you concerning a certain case I have taken up.”

“Indeed?”

The doctor’s voice was mildly curious, but there was a perceptible
tightening of his fingers which told Nick that the man was holding
himself in by sheer force of will.

“Yes,” the detective continued; “recently I’ve had cause to play the
part of a sort of bodyguard to a man who has just returned to this
country from South America. His name is Winthrop Crawford.”

Follansbee’s performance was improving, in spite of the increasing
strain under which he was laboring.

“That doesn’t sound like a very important task for one of your
abilities,” remarked the physician. “What were your duties, may I ask?”

They were fencing with each other—fencing with the skill of masters—and
Nick set himself to his task with keen zest.

“I undertook the part of bodyguard to Crawford,” he explained, “in
order that he might be safe from the murderous attacks of his former
friend and partner, James Stone.”

“Oh!” Follansbee played with the pen on his desk. “All this may be very
interesting to you,” he said presently, “but I can’t imagine what it
has to do with me. If you can enlighten me as to that, perhaps I shall
prove a better listener.”

Nick leaned forward quickly, and his clean-cut face was grave and hard.
“On second thoughts, I suggest that we throw aside our masks, and
go at it face to face,” he said. “I’m telling you this for the very
good reason that to my personal knowledge you had a hand in the last
fiendish attack which Stone made on Crawford.”

Follansbee raised his vulturelike face and shot a keen glance at the
detective.

“I suppose you’re quite sane,” he said slowly, “although your
statements sound curiously wild. You deliberately accuse me of having
connived with some man of whose identity I am ignorant, to murder some
one?”

“I do!” Nick rapped out. “And the reason I accuse you of it is that I
saw you—and heard you—conspiring with Stone last night in his room at
the Hotel Windermere.”

“Good Lord!”

Stephen Follansbee had betrayed himself. His icy self-command had
cracked for a moment, and through the fissure Nick saw a flicker of
fear in the beady eyes.

“Ah! I found a joint in your armor that time, didn’t I? Shall I tell
you what you did at the hotel?”

But the head of St. Swithin’s held himself once more with a tight rein.
He leaned back in his chair and folded his arms.

“I’m afraid you misinterpreted my exclamation,” he said. “It was called
out not by guilt, but by astonishment and concern. My confidence in
your sanity has received a big jolt, Carter. I’ve been treated to many
such flights of the imagination, but I never expected to find you
indulging in them. Professionally, though, your condition appeals to
me, and I’m tempted to humor you; therefore, go on by all means, and
tell me what I did at the—what hotel did you say it was?”

“Cut it out, Follansbee,” the detective advised, ignoring the question.
“You’ve given yourself away, and it’s a waste of cleverness to try to
cover up the break now. I’ll accept your invitation, though, and tell
you what you did. In the first place, you were unconventional enough to
choose the fire escape as a means of access to Stone’s room.”

He did not look into Follansbee’s eyes, but fastened his gaze on the
man’s right temple. The eyes would have told him nothing, but there
was a blue, distended vein in that temple, and its throbbing was
significant.

“You and your patient—your tool—used a painter’s ladder to reach the
fire escape,” the detective went on, “and when you had climbed to
Stone’s room, on the second floor, you neglected to remove a little
wedge of wood on the sill which prevented the sash from closing.”

He leaned farther forward, and his voice was the voice of a judge.
“Thanks to that little oversight, Follansbee,” he continued, “I was
able to hear all that you said. I heard from your own lips about the
hypodermic syringe, and the character of its contents, as well as about
the drug which you gave to Stone to——

“Keep your hands up!”



                            CHAPTER XXXVII.

                     FOLLANSBEE REACHES THE LIMIT.


The sudden command had been fully justified.

One of Follansbee’s long, lean hands crept to his side—the side away
from the detective—and had been extended toward an open drawer in the
desk.

Nick did not wait to see whether his order met with obedience or not.
The words were still on his lips when he leaped to his feet and flung
himself across the intervening space, grasping the thin, steel-like
wrists of the physician.

The grip brought Follansbee to his feet, and for a moment the two
faced each other, their eyes flashing. Perhaps the powerful grip of
the detective’s fingers had warned Follansbee of the uselessness of a
struggle, but the unmasked, flaming rage in his face revealed the depth
of his hatred.

A quiet smile flitted over the detective’s features. He quietly
brought Follansbee’s two wrists together, clasped them both with the
fingers of one hand, and then leaning down, pulled out the open drawer
a little farther.

As he had anticipated, he found a revolver in it. This he confiscated
and dropped it into his pocket.

“I’ll take charge of this,” he announced. “All the same, though, I
don’t trust you, and I must ask you to keep your hands on the desk
hereafter. If you don’t, you may get hurt.”

With that he released Follansbee and stepped back. The head of St.
Swithin’s glared at him for a few brief moments, then subsided into his
chair again, and, with a sullen, venomous look, leaned both arms on the
desk.

“I suppose there’s no use in playing the part any longer,” he confessed.

Nick pricked up his ears at this and wondered if it were possible that
Follansbee was about to make a clean breast of it. The latter’s next
words, however, proved that the hope was groundless.

“I was at the Windermere last night,” Follansbee declared coolly, “but
not for the reason you think. James Stone is my patient, and that’s why
I consented to go through with that rather questionable farce. I can
hardly blame you for misinterpreting it, but the fact remains——”

“Drop it!” Nick broke in. “I can guess what you’re going to say. You’re
going to tell me that you were merely ‘humoring’ Stone in an attempt to
draw him out and get to the root of his disease. I suppose you think
I’m green enough to believe that there was nothing harmful in that
syringe.”

“Nothing worse than glycerine,” the physician assured him.

Nick’s laugh was harsh.

“You’re a fool, Follansbee,” he declared. “You think you’re so clever
that you can’t make yourself believe the other fellow has any brains at
all.”

“Do you think a man of my standing would deliberately lie?”

The detective might have said that he knew Follansbee was lying, but he
did not choose to do so for the very good reason that he did not wish
the doctor to learn just then what he had done.

“Standing hasn’t anything to do with it,” he answered. “It’s your
personality I don’t trust, Follansbee.”

The physician’s lips curled cynically. “That’s my misfortune—or
yours,” he said. “You played the spy last night and heard some things
which could easily be twisted. Your interpretation is wide of the
mark, however, and even if it were not, more than one witness would
be required to give any weight to the evidence. You couldn’t prove
anything against me if you tried, and I’m sure you’re too sensible to
try. I have no personal knowledge of the matter, but I’ll wager that
your friend is perfectly well and sound to-day. If he isn’t, it’s no
fault of mine.”

“What’s the good of this fencing?” demanded the detective. “Of course
Crawford is all right—so far as you know. That’s understood, and was
provided for in your instructions to your tool. The stuff isn’t
supposed to act at once, and that’s why you chose it. We’ll come back
to that later on. What I want to make clear now is that I know exactly
what you’ve done and that I also know you have already realized on your
crime.”

Doctor Follansbee stiffened a little. “Realized on my crime?” he cried.
“What do you mean by that?”

“Precisely what I say,” Nick answered coolly. “I happened to make a
call early this afternoon at a certain bank not far from the Hotel
Windermere, and I had a very interesting interview with its cashier.
He showed me three decidedly noteworthy documents—a note from you, one
from James Stone, and last, but not least, a check signed by Stone, but
otherwise filled in by you. It called for a huge amount, and had been
cashed just before the bank closed.”

Follansbee’s control was amazing.

“Well, what of it?” he snarled. “Everything was regular, wasn’t it?
Surely you haven’t any doubt of the genuineness of Stone’s note? As for
the check, it was for a large sum, I’ll admit, but every one knows that
I exact large fees, and if a patient chooses to consider my services
worth that much, it’s none of your business.”

“Isn’t it? I’m afraid you’re mistaken there, Follansbee. Picture
to yourself what it will mean when this thing comes out; when the
world learns that you have obtained nearly half a million dollars by
swindling a patient who trusted himself to you, and whose unsound
mind made him an easy victim. How long do you think you will hold
your position at the head of St. Swithin’s? And how many of your
rich patients will employ you again when it is known that you used
disappearing ink to gain your unscrupulous ends? Ah, I see that gets
under your skin!”

The detective paused for a moment and watched the discomfited rascal
through narrowed lids.

“I thought at first that Stone had merely signed the check in blank,”
he continued, “which would have implied a greater mental lack on his
part and a lesser degree of criminality on yours; but now I know
better. I took that check home with me, Follansbee, and examined it
under a microscope. Thanks to that, I discovered that there had been
other writing on it—doubtless in Stone’s hand. Your trick ink had
quite disappeared, but the point of the pen had slightly scratched the
surface of the paper; and, moreover, the application of a chemical on
one or two spots revealed traces of the ink originally used. As soon as
the bank gives me permission to do so, I shall apply that chemical—you
can doubtless guess what it is—to the whole check, and thereby bring
out the original writing once more. And when I do so, I’m sure I shall
find that, as Stone made it out, the check originally called for a much
smaller sum. Doubtless you found some excuse to change inks when it
came to the signature, with the result that it alone was written with
ordinary ink. What do you say to that?”

Apparently Follansbee had nothing to say. His hands were clenched on
his desk and he was biting his under lip and glaring fearfully at the
detective. Nick returned look for look and allowed his glance to play
over the surface of the desk. As it did so, it fell upon a letter
which Follansbee had been writing before his visitor’s entrance. The
doctor’s name and address were engraved in the upper left-hand corner,
and the ink in which the beginning of the letter was written was of the
same shade as that used on the three documents which the detective had
obtained at the bank.

“That reminds me,” said Nick, looking from the unfinished letter to the
open ink bottle.

He paused, and then with a swift movement thrust his hand out, picked
up the bottle, corked it, and started to drop it into his pocket.

“This will be one more link in the chain—your chain,” he announced.

Snarling like a wild beast, and with an agility for which Nick had not
given him credit, Follansbee shot out of his chair and hurled himself
upon the detective.

In the brief tussle which followed, the tables were turned, despite the
detective’s greater bulk and strength.



                           CHAPTER XXXVIII.

                            NICK IS BALKED.


One of the little physician’s hands shot out and caught at the ink
bottle which the detective was about to pocket, and as they reeled
across the room together, the rascal lowered his head unexpectedly and
set his sharp teeth into Nick Carter’s hand.

It was the trick of an animal rather than of a human being, and it took
the detective completely by surprise.

Involuntarily Nick released his hold on the bottle, and it fell to the
floor. The fall did not break it, however, and Follansbee was obliged
to kick it into the fireplace, where it struck against one of the
massive andirons and was shattered, its contents mixing with the ashes.

With a swift movement Nick released himself from his clinging
antagonist, and sent him spinning after the broken bottle. The doctor
recovered his balance, gasping for breath, and the two faced each other
silently for a few moments.

“Well,” Follansbee said presently, panting, “you didn’t connect with
that bit of evidence after all, did you?”

The detective shrugged his shoulders.

“True,” he admitted. “I knew I was dealing with a cur, but I forgot
that you weren’t muzzled. You needn’t pride yourself on your victory,
however; the ink would have been a little further evidence against you,
but I can very easily get along without it. But I didn’t come here to
bandy words with you, or to fight with mad dogs. I came to find out
where your latest victim is—Stone, I mean; and I’d advise you not to
put any more obstacles in my way.”

“What do I know about Stone?”

“That’s what I want you to tell me. I heard you arrange to wait for him
outside the bank, and I saw you leave the hotel for that performance.
He hasn’t been back since, and the hotel people are beginning to worry
about it. It is up to you to do a little explaining, if you don’t want
to be accused of another crime.”

“I know nothing about it,” the rascal insisted. “Stone came back here,
it’s true. I brought him in my car, and he was here for some little
time. It must have been something after three o’clock when he left,
intending to walk back to the hotel. That’s the last I saw of him.”

He spoke with the utmost assurance, and unfortunately Nick was not able
to contradict him. The detective realized with a sinking of the heart
that, in spite of Follansbee’s telltale flareups and partial or implied
confessions, the man intended to fight doggedly every step of the way.

For a moment he was at a loss to know how to proceed, and the Buzzard,
seeing his hesitation, took advantage of that fact.

“That’s all I have to tell you,” Follansbee went on triumphantly. “Make
as much—or as little—of it as you can. Let me remind you of something
else, too. Any charge you may try to bring against me will involve
Stone and give a lot of undesirable publicity to his mental condition.
It will involve you, too, for if he’s as dangerous as you claim he is,
the newspapers and the public will ask why you allowed him to go about
of his own free will, to live unmolested at a hotel, and all the rest
of it. More than that, the revelations that will inevitably follow
will make your friend Crawford very sore. He has stuck to Stone, I
understand, through thick and thin. I don’t pretend to say what his
motives have been, but I know enough to be sure that he won’t welcome
the limelight when it’s thrown upon them.”

Nick was amazed at the man’s cleverness in making use of such an
argument. He had felt himself hampered at every turn by the peculiar
circumstances which surrounded the case, and especially by Crawford’s
insistance that no punishment be visited upon his old partner. It had
seemed to the detective, however, when he discovered the way in which
Follansbee had juggled with the check, that he had the scoundrel where
he wanted him, but now he was beginning to doubt even that. At any
rate, he did not feel justified in having Follansbee arrested at once.
He needed to know what had become of Stone before doing that, and it
was desirable to have another conference with Crawford in order to see
how far the latter was willing for him to go.

All of which meant that he was unprepared in many ways for the
situation which had developed. It went decidedly against the grain,
after having carried things so far, to be obliged to indulge only
in empty words, and finally to walk out of Follansbee’s house
empty-handed. Yet that seemed to be what he was destined to do. Had
he known what Patsy Garvan knew, he could have turned the tables very
neatly, and might have brought Follansbee to time, but he did not
have an inkling that his assistant’s eagerness to see him had had any
bearing on the case in hand.

“You refuse, then, to tell me where James Stone is?” he asked, harking
back to his errand.

“I have told you all I know,” the head of St. Swithin’s declared
sullenly. “I’m not running an insane asylum.”

“And you’re going to keep his fortune? You don’t think it wise to make
restitution, and thereby lighten your punishment?”

“I shall certainly not part with the money,” was the answer. “I have
earned it, or will earn it before I get through. If I’m let alone,
James Stone will not be crazy when I have finished with him. As for
any little irregularities there may have been about the transaction,
that’s a matter for Stone and Crawford to decide. It isn’t any of your
business or the public’s, and if you’re wise you won’t try to take any
steps against me.”

He was still standing before the fireplace, and perceptibly trembling
with rage. He clenched his hands now and bared his teeth.

“Have a care, Nicholas Carter,” he went on shrilly. “I’m not the sort
of man to allow another to cross my path with impunity. It would be far
better for you to retire from this case right now, and leave matters as
they stand. If you become a menace to me, I swear I’ll sweep you out of
my way.” Here he passed his long, lean hand around, as though brushing
away some object. “Let me tell you,” he added, “that I’m a dangerous
man to have for an enemy.”

“Your threats haven’t any weight with me, Follansbee,” the detective
answered quietly. “I’ve devoted my life to handling such blackguards as
you. You’re clever, but you’re not clever enough; no scamp is. The evil
he does trips him up sooner or later. I tell you here and now that you
will not enjoy one penny of that money, no matter what happens. You may
spend some of it, but you’ll be looking for a thunderbolt all the time.”

As he spoke, he half turned and approached the door. He took good care,
however, to keep one eye on the physician, for he knew that at that
moment Follansbee was ready for anything.

“I’ve given you your chance,” the detective said, as he laid his hand
on the knob, “and you haven’t seen fit to take it. I can find Stone
without aid, and when I do, you’ll discover that you’ve made a bad
bargain. Good afternoon.”

The door closed behind the lithe figure, and Follansbee just for a
moment allowed his stiff attitude to relax. It seemed as though the
lean body shrank, that his clothes suddenly became too large for him.
There was a curious mummylike expression about his sharp features as he
leaned against the mantel.

“How much does he know?” he muttered to himself. “By heavens, it was
well that I got rid of Stone when I did. I defy him to find out where
he is now.”

A sudden gust of anger swept over him, and he reeled toward the door,
shaking his fists. “I defy you! I defy you!” he shrieked, in his thin
voice. “Look out for yourself, Nick Carter! Men have died for less
than you have done.”

There was an unholy meaning in his voice, and the face looked fiendish
in its menace. At that moment Stephen Follansbee looked what he was—an
insatiable bird of prey. “Only let me get you into my power,” he
continued, “and nothing in the world will save you!”

Nick Carter had made another enemy; one whose scientific resources and
unusual shrewdness might have daunted almost any one, when coupled, as
they were, with the maddening thirst for revenge which shook him at
that moment.



                            CHAPTER XXXIX.

                      PATSY TRACES THE AMBULANCE.


There is always a certain element of luck in one’s experiences, and
chance ordained it that Patsy Garvan should arrive in front of St.
Swithin’s Hospital at just the right moment. His anxiety had sent him
in that direction after his repeated failures to reach his chief, but
he had no very definite idea in view.

He had driven the little runabout to Amsterdam Avenue partly to kill
time during his chief’s absence from the hotel. Having left the car
around the corner, he had approached the hospital on foot. When he came
near the big entrance, he noticed an ambulance—evidently a private
one, for there was no lettering on it—drawn up at the curb with a
circle of the curious loitering about it. Evidently some patient was to
be taken away in the ambulance; perhaps a convalescent. Patsy mingled
with the crowd, but before he had time to make any inquiries, a couple
of hospital attendants appeared, half carrying, half supporting a tall
man.

One glance at the face was sufficient for Patsy. Despite the intense
pallor which lay under the tan, he recognized it at once as being that
of James Stone, whom he had previously taken pains to identify. The
miner was fully dressed, but his eyes were sunken, and every line of
his naturally powerful frame bespoke weakness and listlessness. The
two attendants, although they were supporting Stone, were allowing him
to make use of his lower limbs, and the mine owner was able to walk
unsteadily toward the ambulance.

Nick’s assistant looked about and into the wide hallway, but could see
no signs of Doctor Follansbee. A dapper-looking interne in a white
uniform was superintending the removal. When Stone had been placed in
the vehicle, a stout, matronly looking nurse in uniform came out of the
hospital and entered the waiting ambulance. Immediately the vehicle, a
motor one, started quietly and shot ahead down the street.

Patsy bitterly regretted that he had left his runabout. If he had
brought it to the front of the hospital he could have followed the
ambulance, but as it was there was no hope of that. The ambulance was
already a block away, and going at a high rate of speed, and there was
no other available vehicle within reach.

“Confound it,” thought the young detective. “Why didn’t it have a sign
on it? If it had I would have known where to look for Stone.”

As a matter of fact, he did know where to look, although indirectly.
He had to have something to worry about, however, for this succession
of anticipated developments was getting on his nerves, and he felt
very much aggrieved because he had been unable to share the knowledge
of them with any one else. He had taken the precaution of fixing the
license number of the ambulance in his memory before it had been
whisked away, and he knew that all he had to do—unless the number was a
false one—was to get into communication with the license bureau.

He chose to follow that line rather than to question the young interne,
since the latter course might have aroused suspicion, and his questions
might be reported to Follansbee. It involved some delay, but that could
hardly be avoided, and the sight of Stone, though weak and ill, had
reassured Patsy somewhat. At any rate, he knew now that the man was not
dead, and there seemed to be no reason to believe that a few hours’
further delay, if it came to that, would have very serious consequences.

Apparently Doctor Follansbee was playing an unusual game, and one
that could not be brought to a conclusion at once. Patsy had no
doubt that the head of St. Swithin’s had planned this move from the
beginning. Stone had probably been taken to the big hospital the night
before merely as a temporary expedient, and to lend an appearance of
regularity to the proceedings. Now he was being removed to some place
where Follansbee would find himself less hampered in his dealings with
him.

The crowd had quickly melted away, and the young interne and the
hospital attendants had reëntered the big building while Patsy stood
staring after the vanishing ambulance. Now he strode away and returned
to his own car. Entering it, he drove a few blocks and stopped in front
of a telephone pay station. After a little delay he obtained the number
of the license bureau, and asked for the name of the institution owning
the designated machine.

It was two or three minutes before he received a reply, but when it
came, it told him all that he needed to know for the time being.

“Nineteen-nineteen license, number five hundred and fifty thousand,
three hundred and thirteen, New York, is issued in the name of Miss
Worth’s Private Hospital for Convalescents, fifteen thousand Flatbush
Avenue, Brooklyn,” he was told.

Patsy thanked his informant, to whom he had been obliged to give his
name in order to obtain the desired information. When he had reached
the street again he paused before entering the runabout.

“Now, it’s up to me to make another stab at an interview with the
chief,” he thought. “If I don’t catch him this time, I’ll begin to
think I’m the victim of a jinx.”

He entered the little car and headed back to the Hotel Windermere.
There he received another slap. Nick had been in and left, but the
clerk questioned Patsy as the detective had suggested, and satisfied
himself of his identity. The young assistant learned in this way that
his chief had revealed himself to the clerk, and had left word that he
was going back home.

He swallowed his disappointment as best he could, and felt sure that
the trail must be nearing its end. He had no doubt that he would find
his chief when he reached the house.

But Fate took the next trick away from him also.



                              CHAPTER XL.

                         THE PRIVATE HOSPITAL.


In his eagerness to reach the detective’s headquarters, Patsy drove
the runabout rather recklessly at a time when the streets were full
of traffic. As a result, his machine was struck by a street car, and
he was thrown out against the curbstone. He was rendered unconscious
and removed to the hospital, where, owing to the fact that he was in
disguise, his identity was not discovered.

When he came to, he felt decidedly groggy at first, but insisted on
dressing and leaving the hospital. After he had given his name, he was
allowed to go under protest, and a taxi was sent for.

The hired machine took him home in record time, but when he arrived
there, the chief had once more flown. To be sure, he had left word that
he was going to Doctor Follansbee’s, but that only added to Patsy’s
troubles.

On the one side, the young assistant felt it to be his duty to follow
his chief immediately and reveal what he had learned, in the hope that
his information would clinch the case against the doctor, and leave
the latter no loophole or escape. On the other hand, however, he found
himself hesitating and undecided. He did not know why his chief had
gone to the physician’s house, and was afraid to spoil Nick’s plans
in some way. The detective might be working under cover in such a way
that Patsy’s coming would ruin everything. Anyway, even at best, it
would be decidedly awkward for him to break in on an interview without
previously preparing his superior for his revelations, or finding out
if they would be welcome at that time.

If he only could have caught his chief before the latter had left,
all would have been well, but as it was, Nick might already have left
Follansbee’s, and Patsy’s inquiries for him might alarm the physician
and lead to further complications.

“This is certainly my unlucky day,” Nick’s assistant complained
inwardly. “What the dickens am I to do now? I could sit here and
twiddle my thumbs, of course, while waiting for the chief to show
up, but every time I get busy, I seem to learn something more of
importance—something that the chief isn’t wise to. I think, therefore,
I’ll have another try at the same game.”

He was already feeling much better, and a bath and a change of clothing
left few traces of his recent accident. Before leaving the house, he
scribbled a brief note to his chief and left it with the housekeeper.
It read:

 “DEAR CHIEF: I have been having a mischief of a time trying to locate
 you. I am bursting with information about Stone and Follansbee, but
 have decided not to run the risk of spoiling your play by following
 you to the latter’s house. Stone has been removed from St. Swithin’s
 Hospital to Miss Worth’s private hospital for convalescents, on
 Flatbush Avenue. I saw him when he was put into the ambulance.
 He looked considerably the worse for wear, but was walking—with
 assistance. I’m going over to Brooklyn now to murder a little more
 time while waiting for you. For the love of Mike stay put this time
 until I can get back!

  P.G.”

Young Garvan had already put one car out of commission that day, and
did not know where it was, although he assumed that it was in the
hands of the police—if there was anything left of it. That was only an
incident in the day’s work, however, and he promptly sent for another
of the detective’s machines.

In it he hurried downtown across the Manhattan Bridge, and sped up
Flatbush Avenue. He had learned so much that he hoped to pick up
some more information. Nick might know something about Miss Worth’s
hospital, but he did not, and he wished to supply that deficiency if he
could. This time he had brought the detective’s chauffeur along with
him, and he remained with the car when Patsy left it a block or two
from his destination.

It was an easy matter to find the private hospital, although the small
brass plate affixed to one of the big gate posts was the only outward
evidence that the building was more than a private residence. It was a
large, old-fashioned house, with broad verandas, standing some distance
back from the street, in the midst of extensive grounds. A driveway led
up to the spacious entrance, and in this drive, just in front of the
door, stood a handsome motor vehicle. Patsy’s experiences of the night
before had familiarized with just such a car, and his nerves tingled as
he caught sight of it.

“Follansbee’s own machine, as I’m a living sinner,” he thought, with a
start. “The last time I saw that was when the doctor brought Stone home
with him in the small hours of the morning. This is interesting, to say
the least. That rascal hasn’t lost much time before paying a visit to
his ‘patient’ in the latter’s surroundings.”

The sight of the car changed his plans. He had intended to pay a visit
to the private hospital at once, but now he decided to delay until
Follansbee had left.

He strolled up and down the block for perhaps ten minutes, and at the
end of that time his patience was rewarded. He saw the diminutive,
sinister form of Stephen Follansbee emerge from Miss Worth’s and vanish
into the vehicle, which promptly wheeled and made its way back to the
city. When it had gone, Patsy sauntered slowly along the pavement, and
paused for a moment in front of the gate. He was anxious to find out
what kind of a place it was; and at last, putting on a bold front, he
entered the grounds, strode up the walk, and rang the bell.

A neat-looking maid opened the door to him, and he was led into a quiet
waiting room.

Patsy always had a story ready to fit the occasion, and it was
generally the most plausible sort; consequently, he was quite prepared
for the advent of Miss Worth herself, who proved to be a kindly-faced
woman of middle age, gray-haired and stately.

He informed the lady that a friend of his was convalescent after a
fever, but that certain unavoidable noises in the neighborhood made
him nervous, and it seemed best to remove him to a more quiet place.
Patsy, it appeared, had taken upon himself to hunt up such a place,
and, having been told of Miss Worth’s, had called to inquire as to the
charges.

His well-cut suit and his ingratiating manner had their effect. After
giving him the information he asked for, Miss Worth volunteered to show
him over the building, and Patsy spent fifteen minutes in going through
the wards. It was soon obvious to him that the private hospital was
a perfectly respectable place, and the well-bred face of Miss Worth
herself justified the opinion that she could have nothing in common
with the scoundrelly side of Stephen Follansbee.

Presently the lady paused in front of a door and opened it.

“There’s a new guest here,” she said: “a poor fellow who is recovering
from the effects of the drug habit.”

Patsy glanced into the room and noted that there were two beds in
it. The one on the right was unoccupied, but in the left one lay the
figure of James Stone. The ex-miner’s eyes were closed, and his hands
stretched out on top of the coverlet were painfully clenched.

“Our distinguished consultant, Doctor Stephen Follansbee, of St.
Swithin’s Hospital, has made a special study of that type of case,”
Miss Worth went on, as she closed the door. “The patient will soon
recover, and meanwhile your friend could have that other bed. It
happens to be the only one available just now.”

“What luck!” thought Patsy. “It’s a good thing I took it into my head
to come over here. I hope the chief will appreciate all I’ve done.
Hanged if I can see how he thought he could handle this case alone.”

Assuring Miss Worth that he would let her know as soon as possible of
his friend’s decision, he left the building. He was on tenterhooks now
to pour out the whole story to his chief, and as soon as he was out of
sight from the hospital windows, he hurried to the waiting car.

“Start something!” he urged the chauffeur. “Open her up and let’s see
you burn up a little asphalt.”



                             CHAPTER XLI.

                           NICK HAS A PLAN.


Darkness had descended when Patsy sprang up the steps of Nick Carter’s
house. He eagerly inquired for his chief, and learned, to his delight,
that he had returned and was in his study. The young assistant fairly
sprinted up the stairs, and burst into the room.

“Well!” he ejaculated. “I began to think I’d never see you again.”

“I usually bob up sooner or later,” was the answer. “What’s all this
you’ve been up to? How did you break into this game, I’d like to know?”

“That’s just what I did—I broke in,” was the answer. “Chick put me up
to it. He was itching to have a hand in the affair, and had a hunch
that somebody ought to keep an eye on Follansbee. He couldn’t do it
himself, because you had left him in charge of affairs, and so I’ve
been losing my beauty sleep—and most of the rest—for several nights.
Nothing happened until last night, but since then things have been
coming so thick and fast that they’ve taken my breath away.”

Nick tried to look stern. “You don’t seem to realize that this is a
breach of discipline,” he commented.

“Now, chief, don’t be nasty about it,” Patsy pleaded. “Let me get this
out of my system. My private information is that you couldn’t have
done without me, and when I get through, I think you’ll agree that I
haven’t wasted my time.”

The detective smiled slightly. “Go ahead and let’s hear it,” he said.
“You usually get your way in the end.”

After some little beating around, young Garvan launched into an account
of his adventures from the time Follansbee and Stone had arrived at the
former’s house, until the last glimpse of the miner had been obtained
at the private hospital. The look of interest and satisfaction which
came into the great detective’s face assured Patsy that he was pardoned.

As a matter of fact, the assistant’s report, coupled with what Nick had
learned for himself, brought the whole case to a focus, and made plain
much that had seemed obscure.

“By George, my boy,” the chief commented at the end of the recital,
“you certainly have turned a trick or two, and I wish I had known
something about it before I bearded Follansbee in his den. If I had, it
would have put a very different face on that interview. I was all up in
the air about Stone, but now everything is clear enough and——”

“Then you’re better off than I am, chief,” his assistant interrupted,
“for I can’t make head or tail of it. I thought it was Crawford that
that scoundrel Follansbee was plotting against, but it can hardly be
doubted that Stone is his victim—or one of them, at least.”

“I will give you a little information to complete the exchange,” was
the answer.

In a few brief sentences the detective gave Patsy his side of the
story, and the young man’s eyes fairly flashed as he heard the grim
details of the attempt on Winthrop Crawford’s life.

“What a fiend that man Follansbee is!” Patsy exclaimed at the end.
“Thank Heaven you were on hand to ditch his scheme. But what do you
make of it now? What do you think Follansbee is up to in connection
with Stone?”

“I can’t say offhand,” was the reply. “Not a little remains to be
seen. I had thought that Stone might be in hiding somewhere, suffering
from a guilty conscience; but, on the whole, I was inclined to believe
that Follansbee had drawn him into the net. Your revelations leave no
doubt of that, and seem to indicate that we have time enough to save
Stone. He needs saving, though, that’s certain. So far as I can tell,
Follansbee still believes that Stone injected the serum given him for
that purpose, and that Crawford is doomed. I was skating on thin ice
this afternoon in my interview with the fellow. I didn’t want him to
know that I had thwarted him, but I looked for him to guess it.

“He ought to have realized at once that, after I had heard his
conversation with Stone, I wouldn’t have stood by and allowed the
latter to make the injection, knowing as I do what it would have meant.
Evidently, however, he thinks I didn’t interfere. He has Stone’s word
for it, of course, that the hypodermic was used as directed.”

“That must be it,” agreed Patsy. “You were speaking of Follansbee’s
attitude toward Stone, though, and the urgent need of interference.”

“Exactly. I was going to say that since the rascal apparently thinks
the injection was made as planned, he’s convinced he has a strangle
hold on Stone. He’s cleaned out the latter’s fortune, and can keep him
cowed by drugs and threats. That may be what he plans to do for the
present, in anticipation of Crawford’s death. Stone, as I told you, is
named as the chief beneficiary in Crawford’s will, and if Follansbee
could keep Stone alive and in his power until Crawford passes out,
there would be another half a million or so to angle for.”

“Great Scott! You mean that Follansbee intends to wait until Stone
becomes Crawford’s legal heir, and then plans to swindle Stone out of
Crawford’s fortune, as well as the poor devil’s own?”

“It wouldn’t surprise me in the least; and when that was accomplished,
there wouldn’t be any doubt about the next step. Stone would surely die
in turn, but in such a way that no one could prove anything suspicious
about his death.”

Patsy whistled softly. “It’s a large order,” he remarked; “but that
check for four hundred and fifty thousand shows that Follansbee is
capable of thinking in big numbers. You’re probably right, therefore;
but there’s something about it that beats me.”

“What’s that?”

“I can’t understand how Follansbee would dare to go so far. It might
be impossible to prove anything, but the very fact that Stone had been
a patient of his, and that he had realized a huge sum through the
association would look pretty bad on the face of it; wouldn’t it? It
might not bring conviction, but it could hardly fail to be the means of
severing Follansbee from his job as the head of St. Swithin’s, and of
cutting off his practice. More than that, though, he’s aware that you
know what he’s up to, and that you’re right after him. I can’t conceive
of his going on with it under the circumstances.”

Nick smiled grimly. “Follansbee is an extraordinary man,” he answered.
“As you say, he already knows that I have a lot of dangerous evidence
against him. That very thing, though, may drive him on to fresh crimes,
on the theory that he might as well be killed for a sheep as a lamb. If
he thinks Crawford is doomed—as he evidently does—another life is of no
consequence. I suspect that he really counts on getting rid of me. He
implied as much this afternoon. If he tries that, though, he’ll have
his hands full, shrewd as he is.”

Nick got up suddenly. “Enough of this,” he said. “We might keep on
theorizing all night, but I prefer action.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to try to sound Stone, if possible, and that’s where you’ll
come in.” He nodded to his assistant. “I’m going to make use of that
nice little introduction you prepared for me at Miss Worth’s,” he added
significantly.

Patsy was on his feet at once. “You don’t mean to say——” he began.

Nick smiled. “Precisely,” he replied. “I’m going to occupy that bed
next to Stone. I’ll be your convalescent friend.”



                             CHAPTER XLII.

                    THE DETECTIVE ACQUIRES A WIFE.


“Now, then, my boy,” the detective went on, pointing to the telephone
on his desk, “you’ll oblige me by calling up Miss Worth and telling her
that your friend has agreed to place himself in her hands. Say that
he’ll arrive there about half past nine to-night.”

Patsy eyed his chief doubtfully. “It’s a risky business,” he warned
him. “You’ll have to stay there for some time to keep up the bluff, and
Follansbee will probably visit Stone to-morrow. If the scoundrel should
recognize you——”

“I’ll take that risk,” Nick put in; “but I don’t think he will. If I
can’t make use of a disguise that will deceive him, I ought to go out
of the business. It’s settled, anyway. I want you to accompany me to
Miss Worth’s and see me safely deposited.”

“How long do you expect to stay there?”

“I haven’t the slightest idea. That will depend on circumstances.
Perhaps I can get away after a day, but it may be a week, for all I
know.” And he left the room.

Patsy nodded after the lithe, upright figure. “I’ll give you
twenty-four hours, chief,” he said to himself; “and if you’re not out
of that place by that time, I’ll be hanged if I don’t come and get you.”

He turned to the desk, and, after consulting the telephone book, found
the number of Miss Worth’s private hospital.

“Number two bed in Ward E will be reserved for your friend, Mr.
Bainbridge,” Miss Worth informed him over the wire. Gerald Bainbridge
was the name Patsy had given to Nick on the spur of the moment.

About nine o’clock that evening young Garvan, who was fidgeting about
in the study, heard the door open softly. Some one entered the room.
He knew that it was his chief, but he was forced to think that the
disguise was one of the most successful Nick had ever attempted. He had
dressed himself in a suit that was a size or two too large for him. The
garments hung loosely on him, he stooped slightly, and it seemed as
though his shoulders were much thinner and narrower than was actually
the case. His cheeks looked hollow and his eyes had dark rings around
them that seemed to indicate a weakened frame and long hours on a sick
bed. A straggling beard, badly in need of trimming, covered his cheeks
and chin. It was by no means an ordinary false one, but one of Nick’s
own invention—of the kind used by him when the occasion called for
extraordinary care against detection.

He knew that he would be in charge of a nurse, and that a commonplace
disguise would not stand the close inspection he would be obliged
to undergo. It would have taken a Nick Carter himself, however, to
discover that that beard was artificial. It had been put on with a
great deal of care, and the thin substance into which the hairs were
embedded so closely resembled the human skin in hue and texture that it
was almost impossible to tell where one began and the other left off.
Ordinary washing would not effect it in the least, and yet it could be
removed in fifteen minutes’ time—if one knew how. It was the same with
the wig.

He was leaning heavily on a stout walking stick, and caught the look of
admiration in Patsy’s eyes.

“Well, will I do?” he asked.

His assistant drew a deep breath. “You’re the real thing,” was the
enthusiastic comment. “I never saw you turn out anything better than
that.”

A moment later Ida Jones, Nick’s beautiful woman assistant, entered
the room. She, too, was to play a part in the sketch that had been so
hastily staged. Nick waved one trembling hand toward her.

“For an old friend, my boy, you don’t seem to be on your job. Is it
possible you don’t recognize ‘Mrs. Bainbridge?’”

Patsy looked bewildered for a moment, and then broke into a grin. “Mrs.
Bainbridge, eh?” he queried. “So you’ve taken a wife for the occasion,
have you? Is she going with us?”

“Of course. She’s devoted to her husband, and it wouldn’t do, you know,
for you to take me there alone. We’ll have to have a woman along to
fuss over me and make the thing seem real.”

The young assistant’s grin broadened. “Well, I must say I admire your
taste,” he remarked, with a wink. “I could have told you long ago that
Ida is just the girl for you.”

Miss Jones laughed. “None of that, Patsy,” she said laughingly. “If the
chief ever comes to think of me as a girl, he’ll fire me as sure as
fate.”

Nick looked at her admiringly. “I’m not quite as bad as that, Ida,” he
said. “Give me credit, please, for knowing that you’re a girl, and a
remarkably attractive one. But you’re a corking good detective, also,
and I’m afraid that interests me more. No more nonsense now, you two.
It’s time to go.”

A couple of travel-worn suit cases had been provided and packed.
Catching these up, Patsy went off down the stairs, followed by Nick and
the girl.

About half an hour later their machine—a hired taxi—halted at Miss
Worth’s steps. Patsy and the girl jumped out and solicitously helped
their companion to alight, while the chauffeur rang the bell. Miss
Worth herself followed the servant to the door, and all concerned
played their parts to perfection. Patsy was a rather officious, but
tender-hearted friend. Ida Jones made a beautiful and devoted wife,
while Nick assumed a querulous voice and a crotchety manner which went
well with his apparent weakness.

“I don’t want any nurses fussing about me, except when it is absolutely
necessary,” he declared. “I’ve had quite enough of nurses. I want just
a quiet, peaceful time, you understand?”

Miss Worth assured him that he would have no cause to complain of
overattention, and gave Mrs. Bainbridge a reassuring look behind his
back.

Patsy was having all he could do to keep a straight face, and, indeed,
when the others had left the reception room, he felt obliged to relax
and indulge in a hearty, though silent, laugh. In a moment he became
serious enough, however, when he remembered Follansbee’s threats and
the defenseless position in which his chief was placing himself.

Ida Jones had, of course, accompanied her “husband” to the room which
he was to occupy. She had declared that she must see it, in order to
be sure that he would be comfortable. Five minutes later, however, she
returned to the waiting room, still escorted by Miss Worth, and, after
leaving many parting injunctions, she accompanied Patsy out of the
house.

“When the taxi starts, you must applaud, Patsy,” she whispered, as they
crossed the veranda. “I flatter myself that I did that fairly well.”

“You certainly did,” he answered. “You could give points to most
wives—except mine.”

He was thinking of something else though—of Stephen Follansbee’s
diabolical cleverness.

“Twenty-four hours is the most I’ll allow the chief,” he said,
repeating his resolve. “If he isn’t out by that time—unless I know
everything is all right—I’m going to stick a finger into the pie once
more.”



                            CHAPTER XLIII.

                          THE HYPNOTIC SPELL.


“That fiend is slowly killing him!” It was Sunday evening, just after
eight o’clock, and the little ward in which Nick Carter found himself
was deserted save for its two inmates. On his bed lay James Stone,
motionless and mute, just as he had lain there all through the day.
Over him bent Nick, and there was a pitying look in the detective’s
eyes as they rested on the white face.

Dropping his hand gently on Stone’s eyelids, he lifted them and looked
at the set, fixed pupils. They were small, almost the size of pin heads.

“There isn’t the slightest doubt about it,” the detective decided,
“this man is under some powerful narcotic, which means that Follansbee
has his own reasons for keeping him thus. I’d give a good deal to know
just what is at the bottom of it, but, after all, it doesn’t greatly
matter. I know that Follansbee means no good, and I’m here to see that
he fails; that’s the important thing.”

During the day Nick had kept to his room, and the nurse, a gentle
little woman, had decided that he was a model patient. He had, however,
ventured to make a few inquiries about the inanimate man in the next
bed, and the nurse had given him several details.

“He came from St. Swithin’s,” she said. “Doctor Follansbee—the head
there you know—is looking after him, so he must consider it a very
important case. The doctor says that he doesn’t expect the patient to
awaken for at least another twenty-four hours. He’s in an unusual sort
of coma.”

There was nothing to be gained by revealing his suspicions to the
nurse; therefore Nick kept his peace. He knew, however, that Follansbee
would have to return again to see the man, and it was for that visit he
was waiting—waiting with an impatience which proved the hold the case
had upon him.

Another hour passed before Stephen Follansbee’s voice warned him that
the long-looked-for moment had arrived. The detective had been sitting
up much of the time, but at the sound he stripped off his bath robe and
jumped into bed, the nurse being absent. In a few seconds the covers
were pulled up to his chin and his face was turned to the wall.

It would have taken a clever observer to notice that on the wall,
almost level with his head, hung a small mirror. It had been tilted at
such an angle that the detective, although he had his back to the bed
occupied by Stone, could see everything that happened there.

The door opened, and he heard a soft footfall. He lay quite still,
breathing easily and regularly.

There was only one light in the room, a shaded bulb, which was
suspended above a small table that stood close to Stone’s bed. The rest
of the little ward was in semidarkness.

“Another patient?”

The detective recognized an undercurrent of disagreeable surprise, if
not of anger, in Follansbee’s voice.

Miss Worth had accompanied the physician into the room. “Yes, a typhoid
convalescent,” she answered, in a low voice. “He came last night, and
there was no other place to put him. He seems to be asleep now.”

Nick could hear Follansbee’s footfalls as the latter came across the
room and halted by the side of the bed. The hawklike face bent over him
and the beady eyes searched his features for a few moments.

The pains which Nick had taken in his disguise justified themselves,
however, and Follansbee presently straightened up.

“Very well, Miss Worth,” he said, turning to the matron, “you need not
wait. If I want the nurse I shall call her.”

The woman left the ward. Nick heard the door close softly behind her,
and then he cautiously opened his eyes a little and glanced up at the
tilted mirror. It caught the glow from the electric bulb, and he could
see every movement that the doctor made—could even mark the sinister
expression on Follansbee’s face. The head of St. Swithin’s had been
carrying a little bag, and this he placed on the table, bringing out
various articles and placing them in readiness. Then, from the inside
pocket, the scientific criminal withdrew a small case containing a
number of glass tubes.

When his preparations were completed, Follansbee seated himself on the
bed and made a swift examination of the helpless man. The expression
on his face was almost fiendish now, and the lids were curled in a
mocking smile. Evidently the callous scoundrel was gloating over his
triumph.

Nick held his breath as he watched, for Follansbee had set to work
now. The swift, capable fingers reached out toward the little table,
selected one of the vials, and dropped its contents on a little pad of
cotton. When the pad was saturated, the doctor bent closer over Stone
in such a way that the detective was unable to see what happened; but a
moment later, when Follansbee straightened up, the first sign of life
appeared in the motionless figure.

The head moved restlessly from side to side and the eyes fluttered
open. Very slowly Stone lifted himself up until he was in a sitting
position. His eyes were wide and staring now, and he looked about him
with the half-vacant expression of a dazed man.

Follansbee had stepped back as Stone sat up, and now, reseating himself
on the edge of the bed, the criminal craned his lean neck forward, so
that his face was on a level with that of his victim.

Stone’s eyes, which had been wavering about the room, seemed to
fix themselves on the hard, little ones which met them; whereupon
Follansbee raised his hands and began to make passes in front of the
staring, intent face.

The meaning of his actions was at once revealed to the detective:
Follansbee had brought his man back to life only to hypnotize him. For
what purpose?



                             CHAPTER XLIV.

                         CHICK COMES TO GRIEF.


With every nerve on the alert, Nick Carter waited.

He was prepared to interfere at once, whatever the cost, if he should
feel Stone was in any immediate peril; but he was curious to hear and
see all he could. Suddenly a thin voice pierced the silence.

“You are well now,” it announced. “You feel your strength returning.”

It was Stephen Follansbee who spoke, and the slow incisiveness of the
tone seemed to cut through the stillness of the room like a knife.

“Yes. I feel it. I’m much better now—almost well.”

Nick hardly recognized Stone’s voice, so changed was it. It sounded
thin and vague, as though the man were hardly sure of himself, as if he
had been in solitary confinement for months.

It was by no means the first time that the detective had witnessed a
hypnotist at work, but seldom had he experienced a more dramatic thrill
than he did at that moment. The uncanny power gave him the creeps.

“To-morrow you will get up and go back to the Hotel Windermere,”
Follansbee went on. His eyes never left those of his victim, and he
was speaking slowly and distinctly, so that the entranced brain would
follow each detail.

“Remember that to-morrow is Monday,” he said. “The bank people will
want to see you, and you must tell them that the check for four hundred
and fifty thousand dollars is quite correct—that it covers not only
professional fees, but a business transaction, the nature of which you
are not at liberty to reveal.”

Subtle and powerful though the influence was that held the poor, abused
brain in thrall, Nick saw a shaft of doubt cross Stone’s face.

“The check for forty-five thousand,” the miner corrected, in his
far-off tone.

Follansbee’s face went suddenly livid. “Not forty-five thousand!” he
cried. “Four hundred and fifty thousand. Don’t you remember?”

Again the clawlike hands moved in swift passes in front of the rigid
features, and the doubt vanished from the reflected face as Nick
watched it.

“Yes, four hundred and fifty thousand,” murmured Stone mechanically, as
if talking in his sleep.

An expression of exultant content possessed Stephen Follansbee’s
features. It was victory for him now. With this man under his complete
control, ready to carry out his desires, he believed his position was
secure.

If Stone appeared at the bank and authorized the transaction, the chief
weapon which still remained in Nicholas Carter’s grasp would be torn
away.

The plotter started to get up from the bed. “You are——” he began.

But at that moment the faint click of some hard object sounded
against the glass of the window, and was accompanied by a smothered
exclamation. Follansbee wheeled abruptly and peered through the
opening. Outlined against the background of glass, he—and the detective
as well—saw a head and shoulders.

With a swiftness that few would have given him credit for, the doctor
darted across the room and threw up the sash; then his long arms shot
out and closed around the intruder’s throat, strangling the words
that rose to his lips. The swift movement brought Nick round, and he
stared at the open window out of which Follansbee was leaning, his
outstretched arm thrust into the darkness.

Over the rounded shoulders the detective caught sight of a familiar
face involuntarily twisted in pain. It was that of Chick Carter.

For the fraction of a second Nick found himself surprised that it was
not Patsy. It would have been quite like the latter, especially after
his unauthorized activities of the last few nights, to have come there
to see for himself how things were going; but Chick’s appearance was
unlooked for.

Nick had heard and seen enough, however, and even had the interruption
been far more unwelcome, he would not have remained idle. With a swift
bound he was on his feet, and then, darting across the room, he hurled
himself headlong at Follansbee.

He was just in time.

Patsy Garvan had talked over his affairs with Chick, and the latter had
decided to accompany him to Miss Worth’s hospital at the expiration of
twenty-four hours. They had entered the grounds at the rear, and had
made their way without detection to a point beneath the window which
Patsy knew belonged to Ward E.

A stout vine climbed the wall beside the window, and Patsy had wanted
to make use of it in order to gain a view of the room, but Nick’s first
assistant had used his authority as Patsy’s senior, and made the ascent
instead. The ward was on the second floor, but the ground fell away
from the building on that side, and was about ten feet below the level
of the main floor; consequently there was a nasty drop from the second
floor to the concrete walk beneath.

The climb had been an easy matter for Chick, and no more risky than the
stunts he did every day. When he had reached the level of the window
sill, however, he had found the footing rather precarious. The main
stem of the vine was three feet or more to the left of the window. He
was obliged to hold this with his left hand and lean far out, with
one foot extended along a branch of the vine. In this way he was able
to get his right hand on the window sill and to pull the vine over
far enough so that he could look into the window. But his efforts had
loosened the vine, and when he felt it giving way, he made a sudden
thoughtless move, which brought one of the buttons of his coat sleeve
in sharp contact with the pane.

That was the sound Nick and Follansbee had heard.

The doctor’s lightninglike attack had taken Chick by surprise, and the
detective, who was clawing for a fresh hold had been unable to resist.
He had let go of the vine the moment the window was opened, and had
clutched the inner edge of the sill with both hands; but while he was
doing so, Follansbee had secured a strangle hold, and begun to push his
head backward, with the obvious intention of making him let go of the
sill.

The rascally physician would have been no match for Chick under
ordinary circumstances, but that situation was a different matter. The
young detective was absolutely defenseless.

It was all over in a few seconds, but they seemed like years to
Carter’s assistant.

“A-h-h!”

It was a thin, frenzied scream that went up. Chick felt the muscular
fingers relax from his throat, and dimly saw the long, lean arms,
waving wildly, drawn in from the window. For a few moments he hung
there, gasping, then, inch by inch he dragged himself up until his head
was level with the sill again, and his feet had found a support on a
little ledge which hooded the first-floor window.

Another heave brought him higher, and he dizzily drew himself over the
sill somehow, anyhow, into the room. For an instant he lay where he had
fallen, while the interior of the room danced about him. Then, as his
eyes cleared, he saw two figures writhing on the floor, locked in each
other’s arms. Summoning all of his strength, and gritting his teeth, he
rose to his feet and staggered forward.

It seemed as if the Fury possessed Follansbee, for he fought like a
wild cat, and it was all Carter could do to hold him down. But the
detective won at last, and as Chick scrambled to his feet, Follansbee
was stretched out flat on his back, while the chief, with one hand on
the heaving chest, pinned the miscreant to the floor.

“It looks like a—a case of handcuffs, chief,” Chick said, panting for
breath.



                             CHAPTER XLV.

                           “HEAVEN HELP ME.”


Nick Carter looked up at his assistant’s words, then nodded toward the
door. “Lock that!” he commanded. “Quick!”

Chick made his way dizzily across the room and turned the key in the
lock. He knew the meaning of the move. The noise of the struggle might
have been heard, and if so, the room might be invaded at any moment. It
was evident that the chief did not wish such an interruption. As soon
as Chick had locked the door, he returned to his chief’s side.

“Now, watch this fellow,” the detective directed. “Don’t let him make
even a move to get up.”

As he spoke, Nick got to his feet, and, striding to the wall, switched
on a couple more lights, flooding the room.

Follansbee lay where he had been left, but his evil eyes searched the
features of the pajama-clad detective. Seemingly he had guessed his
identity, but had failed to verify his suspicions from the bearded face.

“Who are you?” he demanded. “And what does this mean?”

Simultaneously he started to rise on one elbow, but Chick prodded him
in the ribs with his foot.

“Stay where you are!” he advised. “I have my eye on you, you know.”

“It’s too much trouble to take off this beard, Follansbee,” Nick
replied evenly. “I hardly think that’s necessary, anyhow. I have a
notion you could guess at my name without much trouble, and that the
guess would be right. I am Nick Carter, not at yours—but at James
Stone’s—service.”

There was a tense, dramatic silence; then suddenly, with a curious,
gurgling sound, another figure came to the stage.

Stone, swinging himself out of bed, rose to his feet unsteadily. The
blind, vacant look had vanished. A perplexed, troubled frown had
taken its place, and Stone turned his head slowly, eying each of the
occupants of the room in turn.

“What is this?” he asked, in a hesitating voice. “What does it mean?”

Follansbee screwed himself round on the floor and faced the man. Chick
caught the look on the doctor’s face, and guessed what he was up to.

“No, you don’t,” he remarked, stooping down and jerking Follansbee
about by the collar. “Keep your eyes off him and cut out your Svengali
tricks.”

There was no doubt that Stone was coming out from the influence of
the spell which had been laid upon him, but he would doubtless have
succumbed again had it not been for Chick’s quick move. As it was, he
had already looked at Follansbee and recognized him.

The ex-miner passed his hands across his eyes. “I thought I’d seen the
last of you,” he jerked out. “I remember leaving your house, but after
that—after that——”

His voice faltered and broke, and his look was pathetic as he turned
toward Nick Carter.

“I seem to recognize you,” he went on. “I wonder if you are my friend.
Can you explain?”

A look of hope sprang into the detective’s eyes, and he nodded his head
eagerly.

“I think I can,” he answered. “You have been made a victim of a
cold-blooded rascal. I need not tell you what happened at the Hotel
Windermere, I suppose?”

James Stone’s awakening memory brought the scene back to him, and he
shuddered.

“I know—I know,” he said, dropping back quickly on the side of his bed.
“I—I tried to murder poor old Win. But you saved me from that, didn’t
you?”

He looked appealingly at Follansbee. The latter could no longer bear
his ignominious position on the floor. With a look of defiance he
scrambled to his feet, and Carter and his assistant allowed him to do
so, although they ranged themselves on either side of him.

Follansbee knew that he was in desperate straits, but he believed that
his star was not yet ready to set. He made one mistake, however; for
he imagined that Winthrop Crawford had been inoculated with the deadly
disease.

“You are mistaken,” he said daringly. “By this time Crawford must be
suffering from the disease that you placed in his veins.”

“No, no, no! You don’t mean that—you can’t mean it!” Stone broke out,
in a horrified voice. “You told me that the syringe was filled with a
harmless liquid.”

“That was a lie,” was the brutal answer.

A groan burst from the lips of the tall man, and his lean figure seemed
to shrivel. “Then Heaven help me!” he moaned. “I’ve killed the man I
love best in the world.”

“No, you have not!”



                             CHAPTER XLVI.

                          THE BOND IS MENDED.


Crisply, cuttingly, the words came from Nick Carter’s lips, and
Follansbee wheeled on him in a flash.

“It was no fault of Follansbee that you did not carry out the vile
scheme his cunning brain had devised,” Nick went on. “I was fortunately
able to thwart him and to thwart your irresponsible aims of the moment
at the same time.”

Then, in quiet tones, the detective told the whole story, which was
listened to in a breathless silence by the others.

“At this moment,” the detective concluded, “Winthrop Crawford is
perfectly well, and is looking forward eagerly to meeting his old
friend again.”

“You—you mean that he forgives me?”

“I do,” was the reassuring answer. “He has forgiven you again and again
because he knew you were not yourself, and because he’s one man in ten
thousand.”

Stephen Follansbee’s sharp voice cut in. “This is all very
interesting,” he said sarcastically, “but you will oblige me, Carter,
by unlocking that door and letting me go my way.”

The two men measured glances for a moment.

“Do you imagine that you have sufficient evidence against me?”
Follansbee went on cynically. “If you do, you’re destined to meet with
a shock. Don’t forget that you may have to bring both of these men into
it along with me, especially Stone—for, by your own statement, it was
he who attempted to kill his partner.”

The detective turned to Stone.

“A check signed by you for the sum of four hundred and fifty thousand
dollars, payable to this man, was presented at the bank yesterday, and
cashed. Do you know anything about it?”

The miner lifted his head.

“No, no! I made out a check, but it was only forty-five thousand. That
was bad enough, but—what day is this?”

“This is Sunday, the twenty-sixth,” Nick answered.

“Then my check cannot have been cashed,” Stone said, with a great sigh
of relief. “You must be mistaken, for I distinctly remember that I
dated it the twenty-seventh.”

“In that case, Mr. Stone,” said Nick, “you have a chance of getting
even with this fellow. I made no mistake in saying that he cashed a
check for four hundred and fifty thousand dollars yesterday, but it
was dated the twenty-fifth. Circumstances have conspired with his
own cunning to save him from the charge of being an accessory to a
murder, but he won’t find it so easy to avoid the consequences of this
other crime. We can’t accuse him of forgery, because the signature
is evidently yours, but we can make out a complete check-raising
case against him without the slightest trouble. A peculiar kind of
‘disappearing ink’ was used. I’ve already brought out your original
writing in one place, Stone, and I can bring out all of it by the same
process. That will doubtless corroborate you as to the amount and
date—and Stephen Follansbee will come off his perch.”

The famous specialist gave a peculiar strangled sound in his throat and
his hands dropped to his side.

“You’ve won, Carter,” he said, his voice quavering. “I’ll return the
money—every cent of it, if you will drop the case—and you will have
to do that. The whole thing will come out if you try to press it,
and Stone will be branded as a man who was once under treatment for
insanity.”

“You’re right, Follansbee, in part,” Nick told him quietly. “I’ve won,
and the time has come for you to throw down your arms. Don’t be too
sure about the rest, though. I don’t believe my friend Stone here has
any desire to let you go free, if he can be shown a way to prevent it.
Isn’t that right, Stone?”

“It certainly is,” was the emphatic response. “If it is a possible
thing to make this infernal scamp pay for what he has done, I say go
ahead, by all means; but I don’t see how——”

“It’s my business to find a way,” Nick interrupted, “and I think I
have.”

“How?” Stone eagerly demanded.

“By keeping this fact in mind,” the chief explained: “Follansbee isn’t
going to bite off his nose to spite his face. He says that everything
will come out, but that’s nonsense, and he knows it. We have a clear
case against him, and we can press it without lugging in anything that
we don’t want to be spread on the records. All the judge and jury
need to know is that you went to Follansbee for professional advice
and treatment—it doesn’t matter for what. His lawyers will know that
the case is going against him, anyway, and all their energies will be
directed toward obtaining as light a sentence as possible. That being
so, they will be very careful to keep quiet about the nature of the
trouble that brought you to him.”

“I don’t see why,” confessed Stone.

“It’s perfectly obvious,” Nick insisted. “Any decent lawyer would know
that Follansbee would get a much more severe sentence if it came out
that he had attempted to victimize an irresponsible man; to swindle one
who was temporarily incompetent, and take away practically his entire
fortune. That would be the last straw.”

“I see!” Stone cried excitedly. “It would be even more to the interest
of the defense to keep dark on that subject than it would for the
prosecution.”

“Then you will get satisfaction, as well as your money back,” Nick told
him confidently; and then added to the cowed wretch at his side: “The
jig is up, Follansbee. I won’t lock you up until you turn over your
loot; but you may as well write out your resignation as head of St.
Swithin’s, and your millionaire patients will have to hunt for some one
else to doctor them. You will find it inconvenient to discharge your
professional duties in a cell.”

Apparently the detective plucked a pair of handcuffs from the air, and,
before Follansbee knew what was happening, they were snapped on his
wrists.

A few hours later—some time after midnight—two bronzed men met and
clasped hands in Nick Carter’s study. They did not say much at first,
but the detective’s heart swelled as he watched them.

The partners had been reunited, and the broken bond had been welded
anew.


                               THE END.


No. 1006 of the NEW MAGNET LIBRARY, entitled “The Crime of the French
Café,” by Nicholas Carter, is a rattling good story, full of thrills,
in which Nick Carter shows again his extraordinary skill in ferreting
out the deep schemes of the most wily plotters, and his cool courage in
dealing with the most desperate criminals.



                              The Dealer


who handles the STREET & SMITH NOVELS is a man worth patronizing. The
fact that he does handle our books proves that he has considered the
merits of paper-covered lines, and has decided that the STREET & SMITH
NOVELS are superior to all others.

He has looked into the question of the morality of the paper-covered
book, for instance, and feels that he is perfectly safe in handing one
of our novels to any one, because he has our assurance that nothing
except clean, wholesome literature finds its way into our lines.

Therefore, the STREET & SMITH NOVEL dealer is a careful and wise
tradesman, and it is fair to assume selects the other articles he
has for sale with the same degree of intelligence as he does his
paper-covered books.

Deal with the STREET & SMITH NOVEL dealer.


                      STREET & SMITH CORPORATION
                 79 Seventh Avenue      New York City





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