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The White Moll

The Secret Panel
Rhoda Gray hurried onward, back toward the garret, her mind in riot and dismay. It was
not only the beginning of the end; it was very near the end! What was she to do? The
Silver Sphinx - at eleven! That was the end - after eleven - wasn't it? She could
impersonate Gypsy Nan; she could not, if she would, impersonate the woman who was
dead! And then, too, there were the stolen jewels at old Jake Luertz's! She could not turn
to the police for help there, because then the Pug might fall into their hands, and - and the
Pug was - was the Adventurer.
And then a sort of fatalistic calm fell upon her. If the masquerade was over, if the end had
come, there remained only one thing for her to do. There were no risks too desperate to
take now. It was she who must strike, and strike first. Those jewels in old Luertz's
bedroom became suddenly vital to her. They were tangible evidence. With those jewels
in her possession she should be able to force Danglar to his knees. She could get them -
before Pinkie Bonn and the Pug - if she hurried. Afterward she would know where to find
Danglar - at the Silver Sphinx. Nothing would happen to Cloran, because, through her
failure to cooperate, the plan would be abortive; but, veiled, as the White Moll, she could
pick up Danglar's trail again there. Yes, it would be the end - one way or the other -
between eleven o'clock and daylight!
She quickened her steps. Old Luertz was to be inveigled away from his home about ten
o'clock. At a guess, she made it only a little after nine now. She would need the skeleton
keys in order to get into old Luertz's place, and, yes, she would need a flashlight, too.
Well, she would have time enough to get them, and time enough, then, to run to the
deserted shed in the lane behind the garret and change her clothes.
Rhoda Gray, as Gypsy Nan, went on as speedily as she dared without inviting undue
attention to herself, reached the garret, secured the articles she sought, hurried out again,
and went down the lane in the rear to the deserted shed. She remained longer here than in
the attic, perhaps ten minutes, working mostly in the darkness, risking the flashlight only
when it was imperative; and then, the metamorphosis complete, a veiled figure, in her
own person, as Rhoda Gray, the White Moll, she was out on the street again, and
hastening back in the same general direction from which she had just come.
She knew old Jake Luertz's place, and she knew the man himself very intimately by
reputation. There were few such men and such places that she could have escaped
knowing in the years of self-appointed service that she had given to the worst, and
perhaps therefore the most needy, element in New York. The man ostensibly conducted a
little secondhand store; in reality he probably "shoved" more stolen goods for his
clientele, which at one time or another undoubtedly embraced nearly every crook in the
underworld, than any other "fence" in New York. She knew him for an oily, cunning old
fox who lived alone in the two rooms over his miserable store - unless, of late, his young
henchman, the Crab, had taken to living with him; though, as far as that was concerned, it
mattered little to-night, since the Crab, for the moment, thanks to the gang, was
eliminated from consideration.
 
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