The Adventures of Jimmie Dale
II.14. Out Of The Darkness
A moment later, Jimmie Dale stepped forward through the vestibule. He was
quite calm now; a sort of cold, merciless precision in every movement
succeeding the riot of turbulent emotions that had possessed him as he had
entered the house.
The half hour, the maximum length of time before the Magpie would appear, as
he had estimated it when out there under the stoop with the Tocsin, had dwindled
now to perhaps twenty minutes, twenty-five at the outside. Twenty-five minutes!
Twenty-five minutes was so little that for an instant the temptation was strong
upon him to sacrifice, rather than any of those precious minutes, the Magpie
instead! And then in the darkness, as he stole noiselessly across the hall, he
shook his head. It would be a cowardly, brutal thing to do. What chance would a
man with a record like the Magpie's stand if caught there? How easy it would be
to shift the murder of the supposed Henry LaSalle to the Magpie's shoulders!
Jimmie Dale's lips closed firmly. Self-preservation was, perhaps, the first law, but
he would save the Magpie if he could--the Magpie should have his chance! The
man might be a criminal, might deserve punishment at the hands of the law, his
liberty might be a menace to the community--but he was not a murderer, his life
forfeit for a crime he had never committed!
If he, Jimmie Dale, could only in some way have arranged with the Tocsin out
there to keep the Magpie away altogether! But it could not be done without
arousing the Magpie's suspicions; and, as a corollary to that, afterward, with the
subsequent events, would come--the deluge! The law of the underworld was
clear, concise, and admitting of no appeal on that point; to double cross a pal
meant, sooner or later, a knife thrust, a blackjack, or-- But what difference did it
make what form the execution of the sentence took? And, since, then, that was
out of the question, since he could not keep the Magpie away without practically
risking his own life, the Magpie at least must have his chance.