Room 13

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Chapter 30

THE girl looked at him, speechless.

"It isn't true!" she cried.

"It's not true, isn't it?" Jeffrey almost howled the words. He was mad with hate, with grief, with desire for cruel vengeance. "I'll show you whether it's not true, my lady. You're my wife—do you understand that? If you don't, you're going to."

He flung out of the cell, turning to voice his foul mind, and then the door clanged on her, and he strode out of the hall into the little house that was once the Governor's residence, and which was now the general headquarters of the Big Printer.

He poured himself out a stiff dose of whisky and drank it undiluted, and the man who had accompanied him watched him curiously.

"Jeff, it looks to me as if it's time to make a get-away. We can't keep these people here very long. The men are scared, too."

"Scared, are they?" sneered Jeffrey Legge. "I guess they'd be more scared if they were in front of a judge and jury."

"That's the kind of scare they're anxious to avoid," said his lieutenant calmly. "Anyway, Jeff, we're getting near the end, and it seems to me that it's the time for all sensible men to find a little home on the other side of the water."

Legge thought for a long time, and when he spoke his voice was more calm.

"Perhaps you're right," he said. "Tell them they can clear to-night."

The other man was taken aback by the answer.

"To-night?" he said. "Well, I don't know that there's that hurry."

"Tell 'em to clear to-night. They've got all the money they want. I'm shutting this down."

"Who killed your father?"

"Peter Kane," snarled Legge. "I've got the full strength of it. The police are hiding him up, but he did the killing all right. They found him on the premises in the morning."

He sat awhile, staring moodily at the glass in his hand.

"Let them go to-night," he said, "every one of them. I'll tell them myself."

"Do you want me to go?" asked the other.

Legge nodded.

"Yes; I want to be alone. I'm going to fix two people tonight," he said, between his teeth, "and I'm fixing them good."

"Some of the men like Johnny Gray; they were in boob with him," suggested his assistant, but Jeffrey stopped him with an oath.

"That's another reason they can get out," he said, "and they can't know too soon."

He jumped to his feet and strode out of the room, the man following at a distance.

There were two halls to the prison, and it was into the second that he turned. This was brilliantly illuminated. The doors had been removed from most of the cells, and several of them were obviously sleeping-rooms for the half a dozen men who sat about a table playing cards. At only four places were the cell doors intact, for behind these were the delicate printing presses which from morning till night were turning out and numbering French, American and English paper currency. There was not one of the men at the table, or who came to the doors of their cubicles, attracted by the unusual appearance of Legge, who had not served long terms of imprisonment on forgery charges. Jeffrey had recruited them as carefully as a theatrical producer recruits his beauty chorus. They were men without homes, without people, mainly without hope; men inured to the prison system, and who found, in this novel method of living, a delightful variation of the life to which they were most accustomed.

It was believed by the authorities that Keytown Jail was in the hands of a syndicate engaged in experimental work of a highly complicated character, and no obstacle had been placed in the way of laying power cables to the "laboratories." Jeff had found the safest asylum in the land, and one which was more strongly guarded than any he could have built.

His speech was short and to the point.

"Boys, I guess that the time has come when we've got to make the best of our way home. You've all enough money to live comfortably on for the rest of your lives, and I advise you to get out of the country as soon as you can. You have your passports; you know me way; and there's no time like the present."

"Do you mean that we've got to go to-night, Jeff?" asked a voice.

"I mean to-night. I'll have a car run you into London; but you'll have to leave your kit behind, but you can afford that."

"What are you going to do with the factory?"

"That's my business," said Jeff.

The proposal did not find universal favour, but they stood in such awe of the Big Printer that, though they demurred, they obeyed. By ten o'clock that night the prison was empty, except for Jeffrey and his assistant.

"I didn't see Bill Holliss go," said the latter; but Jeffrey Legge was too intent upon his plans to give the matter a moment's thought.

"Maybe you'll see yourself go now, Jenkins," said he "You can take your two-seater and run anywhere you like."

"Let me stay till the morning," asked the man.

"You'll go to-night. Otherwise, what's the use of sending the other fellows away?"

He closed the big gate upon the car. He was alone with his wife and with the man he hated. He could think calmly now. The madness of rage had passed. He made a search of a little storeroom and found what he was looking for. It was a stout rope. With this over his arm, and a storm-lamp in his hand, he went out into the yard and came to a little shed built against the wall. Unlocking the rusty padlock, he pulled the doors apart. The shed was empty; the floor was inches thick with litter, and, going back, he found a broom and swept it clean. With the aid of a ladder he mounted to a beam that ran transversely across the roof, and fastened one end of the rope securely. Coming down, he spent half an hour in making a noose.

He was in the death-house. Under his feet was the fatal trap that a pull of the rusty lever would spring. He wanted to make the experiment, but the trap would take a lot of time to pull up. His face was pouring with perspiration when he had finished. The night was close, and a flicker of lightning illuminated for a second the gloomy recesses of the prison yard.

As he entered the hall a low growl of thunder came to him, but the storm in his heart was more violent than any nature could provide.

He tiptoed up the iron stairs to the landing, and came at last to No. 4 and hesitated. His enemy could wait. Creeping down the stairs again, his heart beating thunderously, he stood outside the door of the condemned cell. The key trembled as he inserted it in the lock. No sound broke the stillness as the door opened stealthily, and he slipped into the room.

He waited, holding his breath, not knowing whether she were awake or asleep, and then crept forward to the bed. He saw the outline of a figure.

"Marney," he said huskily, groping for her face.

And then two hands like steel clamps caught him by the throat and flung him backward.

"I want you, Jeffrey Legge," said a voice—the voice of Johnny Gray.

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