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The Roanoke beacon. (Plymouth, N.C.) 1889-1929, November 10, 1916, Image 2

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SYNOPSIS. Peter Knisnt, defeated for political of fice la his town, decides to venture New York In order that the family fortunes might benefit by the expected rise of his charming daughter, Lorelei. A well known critic Interviews Lorelei Knight, Bow stage beauty with Bergman's Revue, tor a special article. Her coin-hunting mother outlines Lorelei's ambitions, but Blorson, the press agent, later adds his Information. Lorelei attends Millionaire Hammon's gorgeous entertainment. She meets Merkle, a wealthy dyspeptic. Bb Wharton comes uninvited. Lorelei dis covers a blackmail plot against Hammon In which her brother is Involved. A few fears ago New York city the -whole country in fact was deepty stirred by a series of sensational murders and a con sequent shaking up In the police department. For one of these murders four gunmen and a po lice officer went to the electric chair. Here Is related the de tails of the kind of dirty work some of the gangsters and their political friends accomplish In the metropolis. CHAPTER VI Continued. The Judge had enjoyed the scene. He chuckled; he clicked his loose front teeth like castanets. Bob turned at the sound and regarded him with be nignant Interest, his attention riveted upon the old man's dental Infirmity. "You're quite a comedian," Regan wheezed. "Click 'em again," said Bob, pleas antly. "Wonderful! Age has its com pensations. Play 'Home, Sweet Home' when you get 'em tuned up. Or per haps they are for sale?" Lorelei secured her number and was surprised to recognize her brother's rolce. She made herself known, to Jim's equal amazement, and then In quired: "Is Max there?" "Sure. He's outside In the automo bile." "Call him, please." "What do you want of him? now'd you know I was here?" "Never mind. Call him quickly." At last Melcber's voice came over the wire, and Lorelei recited the mes sage. There was a moment of silence, then she explained how she came to be talking Instead of Lilas. He thanked her, and she heard him muttering as he hung up. She turned j to find her annoyer nodding with sat- I Isfaction. "Splendid! I thank you; my father , thanks you; my family thanks you. Now where would you like to dine?" "How can a person get rid of you?" she inquired stiffly. "I'm sure I don't know it isn't be ing done. But I'll try to think. Wear your prettiest gown, won't you? for I intend to enrage all the other fel lows." She turned with a shrug of mingled annoyance and amusement, and he called after her: "The Judge's teeth will entertain me till you come. I'll be waiting." Miss Lynn, as she dressed after the performance, was still In an evil tem per; but she thanked her roommate for aiding her; then, as if some explana tion were due, she added, "That note was from Jarvis." "You puzzle me. Lilas," Lorelei told her, slowly. "I don't think you care for him at all." Lilas laughed. "Why do you think that? I adore him, but we had an en gagement and he broke it. Men are all selfish;- the bigger they are the more selfish they become. They never do anything you don't make them." 1 "He can't sacrifice his business for you." "Sacrifice! It's women who sacri fice themselves, D'you suppose any of those men we met last night would sacrifice himself for anything or any body? Not much. They are the strong and the mighty. They got rich through robbery, and they're in the habit of taking whatever they want. They made their money out of the blood and suffering of thousands of poor people. That's what it is blood money." "Is that why you're planning to blackmail it out of him?" Lilas paused In . her dressing and turned slowly, brows lifted. Her dark eyes met the blue ones unwaver ingly. "Blackmail? What are you talking about?" Mrs. Croft went pale, and retired swiftly but noiselessly into the lavatory, closing the door behind her. "What did Max tell you over the 'phone?" asked Lilas, sharply. "Nothing." "Then where did you get that? From Jim?" "Jim's pretty bad, I imagine, but he keeps his badness to himself. No. I've overheard you and Max talking." "Nonsense. We've never mentioned such a thing. The idea is absurd. I get mad at Jarvls he's enough to madden anybody perhaps I'm jealous, bat blackmail! Why, you're out of your head." Lorelei delayed her toilet purposely. and finally dismissed Croft When quiet had finally descended she opened her door cautiously and peered out. Robert Wharton sat on the top step of the stairway near at hand, but his head rested against the wall, and lie tlept. Beside him were his high hat. tiis gloves and his stick. As Lorelei, with skirts carefully gathered, tiptoed past him she saw suspended upon his gleaming white shirt bosom what at first glance resembled a foreign deco ration of some sort, but proved to bo Mr. Regan's false teeth. They were suspended by a ribbon that had once done duty in the costume of a cory phee: they rose and fell to the young man's gentle breathing. Lorelei telephoned to Merkle on the following day. and about the close of the show that night his card was brought up to her dressing room. A moment later Robert Wharton's fol lowed, together with a tremendous box of long-stemmed roses. She went down a trifle apprehensively, for by this time the current tales of Bob's drunken freaks, had given her cause to think somewhat seriously, and she feared an unpleasant encounter. More than once she had witnessed quarrels In, the al leyway behind the Circuit, where pes tiferous youths of Wharton's caliber were frequent visitors. But Mr. Merkle relieved her mind by saying, "I sent Bob away on a pre text, although he swore you had an engagement with him." "I'm glad you did. I left him asleep outside my dressing room last night, and I almost hoped he'd caught pneu monia." Beside the curb a heavy touring car was purring, and into this Merkle helped his companion. "I'm not up on the etiquette of this sort of thing," he explained, "but I presume the proper procedure is supper. Where Khali it be Sherry's?" Lorelei laughed. "You are inexpe rienced. The Johns never eat on Fifth avenue, the lights are too dim. But why supper? You can't eat." "A Welsh rabbit would be the death of me; lobsters are poison," he con fessed; "but I've read that chorus girls are omnivorous animals and seek their prey at midnight." "Most of them would prefer bread and milk; anyhow, I would. But I'm not hungry, so let's ride we can talk better, and you're not the sort of man to be seen in public with one of Berg man's show-girls." The banker acquiesced with alacrity. To his driver he said, "Take the Long Island road." The machine glided into noiseless motion. "Why do you choose the Long Island road?" asked Lorelei. "It's pleasant," responded Merkle. "I ride nearly every night, and I like the country. You see, I can't sleep unless I'm in motion. I get most of my rest in a car; there's something about the movement that soothes me." "How funny!" 'Teculiar. parhaps, but scarcely hu morous. I'd be dead or Insane with- "I'm Terribly Sorry, Miss Knight." out an automobile. I keep four French cars in my garage, all specially built as to spring suspension and up holstery, and I spend nearly every night in one or the other of them. So long as I'm moving fast I manage to snatch a miserable sort of repose, but the instant we go slow I wake up. I used to sleep at twenty miles an hour; now I can't relax under thirty. Forty is fine sixty means dreamless peace." "It does, indeed, if one happens to have a blowout," laughed tlio girl. j The car was now darting through unfrequented side streets, where the i asphalt lay In the shadow like dark pools. Up the approach to the Queens borough bridge it swept, and took the long incline like a soaring bird. Black well's island slipped under them, an inky, bottomless pit of despair. The breath of the overheated city changed ; as by magic, and the thin-faced suf ferer at Lorelei's side drank it in ea- j gerly. Even in the dim flash of the passing illuminations she noted how tired and worn he was, and a sudden pity smote her. "Won't you pretend I'm not here, and drive just as you always do? I won't mind," she said. "My dear, it's late. You'll need to go home." "No, no." "Really?" nis eagerness was genu ine. "Won't your people worry?" Her answer was a short, mirthless laugh that made him glance at her cu riously. "They know I'm perfectly safe. It's the other way round: a man of your standing takes chances by be ing alone with a woman of mine." "Which reminds me of Miss Lynn and Mr. Hammon. You've decided to accept my offer?" "No. I can't be a hired spy." "You said over the 'phone that you had learned something." "I have. I believe there is an effort on foot to get some of Mr. Hammon's money dishonestly. I have a reason for wishing to prevent it." I "I knew I wasn't mistaken in you," : smiled Merkle. "Oh. don't attribute my actions to , any high moral motives! I'm getting I a little rusty on right and wrong. Fer- j ! sonally, I have no sympathy with Mr. j j Hammon, and I don't imagine he nc- quired all of his tremendous fortune in a perfectly honorable way. Besides, he's a married man." "It isn't alone Jarvis or his family or their money that is concerned." Merkle said, gravely. "Great financial institutions sometimes rest on founda tions as slight as one man's person ality one man's reputation for moral Integrity. A breath of suspicion of any sort at the wrong tfme may bring on a crash Involving innocent people. "nammon at this moment carries a tremendous top-heavy burden of re sponsibilities; his death would be no more disastrous than a scandal that would tend to destroy public confi dence in him as a man." "Doesn't he know that himself?" 'Terhaps. But his infatuation over took him at an age when a man is a : fool. Young men are always objects of suspicion in the financial world, for their emotions are unruly; but when old men fall In love they are superbly heedless of the consequences. I prom ised to tell you something about Jar vis, and I will, since you spoke of his married life. From the time he could walk he never knew anything, never heard anything except steel, ne be came a rolling-mill superintendent al most before he was of age. They say he never did less than two men's work, and often more; but he could make j others work, too, and there lay the se- j cret of his success. His mill held the tonnage record for years. I "When the corporation was formed j he played a big part in the deal and i got a big slice of the profits. He ' went into other things than steel, and he prospered. He never failed at any thing. Jarvis had no vices and but one hobby at least his vices were neu tral, for he had never taken time to acquire the positive kind. His hobby was Napoleon Bonaparte. He read ev erything there was to read about Na poieon; he studied his life and pat terned his own on similar lines. Do I bore you, Miss Knight?" "No; go on. I'm tremendously In terested." i) "Well, naturally, Hammon began to consider himself another Napoleon, ! and his accomplishments were in a way quite as wonderful. He even con ! tided to me once that his idol sur . passed him in only one respect namely, the power to relax. Jarvis had never taken time for relaxation. and he was beginning to wear out; and so he deliberately set about learning to play. The emperor of yFrance, so history tells us, took his greatest pleas ure in the company of women; there fore Hammon sought womeiA He doesn't know the taste of, so the result was foreordained." "But surely he thought something of his family," protested Lorelfti. "Didn't he consider them?" "I fancy he wasn't well acquainted with his family. I'm sure he never en- Joyed any home life, as we understand it. He lived with a rich old woman who bore his name but scarcely knew him; his daughters were grown women whom he saw on rare occasions and whose extravagant whims he gratified without question. But there was little real intimacy, little sympathy. This was his first taste of youth. But he was not Napoleon. As you've noticed, he's quite mad on the Lynn woman. He's no longer himself. He has been drugged by her charms, and now he's paying the price. I wanted yon to know the story before we went any t further. Now tell me what you have learned." CHAPTER VII. By the time Lorelei had completed her recital of those occurrences that had excited her suspicions the car was rolling out the roads leading toward the Long Island plains, and, with head lights ablaze, was defying all speed laws. Merkle had drawn th- conver sation shield rearward, and in its shel ter leaned back with eyes closed. He seemed asleep, but after a time he spoke abruptly: "McMier is a shrewd man. He wouldn't tackle a blackmailing job of this si?e without protection; otherwise I could put him out of the way very quickly. I dare say Miss Lynp her self doesn't know Who is behind him." "Why don't you warn Mr. Hammon at once?" Merkle rolled his head loosely. "You don't know the man. He would laugh at the idea of a plot against him." Mcrltle dozed again, half burled in the cushions. They had passed Jamai ca, but it was not until it had swept into the Motor parkway that the chauffeur let the machine out. Over the deserted plains it tore, eonietllke, a meteor preceded by a streamer of light. The causeway leaped Into view and vanished beneath the wheels, like a tremendous ribbon whirling upon spools. Merkle lay back inertly, lolling and swaying to the side-thrust of the cushions, but Lorelei found her fists clinched and her muscles hard with the nervous strnin. Finally she pushed the shield forward, and, leaning over the front seat, stared at the tiny dash light. The finger of the speedometer oscillated gently over the figure "00," and she dropped back with a gasp. They had been running thus for a long time. Merkle roused to say, "Is this too fast for you. Miss Knight?" She laughed nervously. "N-no. I'm sorry I woke you." Merkle Inquired the time of his chauffeur, then directed him to turn homeward along the North shore. "I shan't be selfish and keep you out any longer. Miss Knight," he said. "If you don't mind. I'll doze on the way In, and try to figure out the next move in this Hammon affair." The return trip was another hurtling rush through the night, in a silence broken only by Merkle's demand for more speed whenever the machine slackened its labor. The miles wheeled past; the Sound lay to the right. They were sweeping over a rolling North shore road when suddenly out of blackness ahead blazed two blinding headlights. With startling abruptness they appeared over the crest of a rise; Merkle's driver swung to the right. The strange car held to Its course: there was a blast of horns, a dazzling instant of intense Illumination, then a crash as the Inside mud-guards met. Merkle's car seemed to leap into the air; there was a report of an exploding tire; the automobile was bucking and bumping, as if the pavement had been turned into a corduroy road; then it came to a pause, half in the ditch. The other car held to Its course, and whizzed onward, leaving In Its wake a drunken shout of mockery and defi ance. "Narrow shave, that. I wonder we weren't all killed." Merkle eyed the car's crumpled mud-guard and running board, then directed his driver to as certain the extent of the damage. The motor was still throbbing, but a brief examination disclosed a broken steer ing knuckle and a bent axle in addi tion to an injured wheel. "I'm terribly sorry, Miss Knight; but I'll have to send for another car," apol ogized Merkle. "Is this splendid machine ruined?" He shrugged. "That's the curse of these roads. Somebody is always driv ing recklessly. Lorelei smiled at memory of the miles they had covered so swiftly; but she saw that he was serious and in a sour temper. "One risks his life on the whim of some drunken idiot the moment he enters a motor car. Now for a telephone." A terse question to his man served to fix their location. "We're not far from the Chateau," Merkle interpreted the answer. "That place is always open, so If you don't mind the walk we'll go ahead. It will take an hour to get one of my other machines, but meanwhile we can have a bite to eat." At her cheerful accept ance his tone changed. "You're all right. Some women would be hysterical after such a shake- up. I swear, I think I feel it more than you. If you were a man I'd like to have you for a chum." The Chateau was a quasi-roadhouse, unsurpassed by any city restaurant, and, being within an hour's run by mo tor, it received a liberal patronage. Tips were large at the Chateau; its hospitality was famous among those who could afford the extravagance of midnight entertainment; and yet It was a quiet place. No echo of what occurred within Its walls ever reached the outside world. Sea-food, waffles, and discretion were its recognized spe cialties, and people came for miles mainly in pairs to enjoy them. As the pedestrians neared the ave Aue of maples leading up to the house ey espied in the road ahead of them nst the dull red glow of a tail light, tln a dusty license plate. "There's luck," Merkle ejaculated. "I'll rent this car." In the gloom several figures were standing, facing in the direction of the Chateau, and when Merkle spoke they wheeled as if startled. "No, you can't hire this machine. What do you think this Is, a cab stand?" answered a gruff voice. "Jim!" cried Lorelei, and ran for ward. Her breathless amazement at the meeting was no greater than her brother's. "Sist What the devil are you doing here?" he managed to say. One of the man who had been kneeling over a case of some sort, dimly out lined in the r::diance of a side light, rose and placed his burden In the ton neau. "I'm ready," he announced. Young Knight showed some nerv ousness and apprehension emotions which his companion!, judging by their alert watchfulness, fully shared. Jim seized his sister by the arm and led her aside. "nw the deuce did you ket here and who is this guy?" He Jerked his head toward Merkle. T.orfdni Intrndncpd h rr Cn-M in.n nlnn anfl made known th quSQ t'Vf their prent plight "nnmph!" grunted Jim. . "What d'j-ou suppose ma'll say to this you out all night with a man?" "What are you doing? Who are those people?" she retorted. "Never mind. But say I don't like the looks of this affair." For a second time Merkle appealed to Jim. "If you can't take your sister home I'll have to telephone for another car," Jim's tone wa disagreeable as he replied. "You two don't look ns if you'd been wrecked. Where's your driver?" Merkle's fist clenched; he muttered something, at which Jim laughed harshly. "Now don't get sore," said the lat ter; "I'm not going to make trouble, only I want to know where you've been." A bareheaded man came running across the lawn and flung himself into "They Got Us Into a Private Room, Then Took a Flashlight." the waiting automobile. One of Jim's companions called his name sharply. "Will you take me home?" his sis ter implored. "Can't do It. I'll see you later, and you, too, Merkle." His last words, de livered as he swung himself upon the running board of the car, sounded like a threat; a moment later, and the ma chine had disappeared into the night. "Hm-m! Your brother has a sus picious mind," Merkle said. "I hope he won't make you any trouble." "He can't make trouble for me." Lorelei's emphasis on the last word made her meaning clear; her compan ion shrugged. "Then there's no harm done, I as sure you." They turned in upon the driveway, walking silently, then as they neared the Chateau they became aware of an unusual commotion in progress there. Men were running from stable to gar age, others were scouring the grounds; from the open door came a voice pitched high in anger. The speaker was evidently beside himself with wrath. He was shouting orders to scurrying attendants, and abusing the manager, who hovered near him in a frantic but futile effort at pacifica tion. The enraged person proved to be Jarvis Hammon. He was hatless, purple-faced, shaken with combative fury. At first the two newcomers thought he was dangerously drunk, but, as they mounted to the tiled ter race which served as an outdoor eat ing place they saw their mistake. Rec ognizing Merkle, Hammon's manner changed instantly. "John!" he cried. "By God! you're just in time." . "What's happened?" "Blackmail, or worse, I hardly know, myself. These ruffians put up some thing on me they're all in It, even the manager." The latter, a sleek Frenchman with ferocious mustaches and frightened eyes, wrung his hands in supplication. "M'sleu 'Ammon," he bleated, "you ruin me. Such accusation Is terrible. But wait. Calmness. The man will be caught." "Caught!" roared the steel magnate. "You know who he is. Give him to me." A uniformed doorman appeared with a smoking lantern in his hand, and Hammon wheeled upon him. "Well? Did you find him?" "We can't find nobody. There was a car outside the grounds, but it's gone now." Merkle interposed. "Will you tell me what has happened?" "It is terrible, incredible, M'sleu," wailed the manager. "Same old story, John. I came out here for a quiet supper with a lady. I've been coming here regularly. They got us into a private room, then took a flashlight, and there you are. I made a rush for the waiter as soon as I realized what had occurred, but he'd skipped. Everybody's skipped, pho tographer and all. Nobody knows any thing. Blamedest bunch of Idiots I ever saw." He ground his teeth. Lorelei, who had remained In the background, turned suddenly sick at memory of that mysterious party a t the gate; she understood now the sig nificance of the man with the box and of the fleeing figure that had come through the darkness. The terrified manager continued his heartbroken lament, and nammon seemed about to destroy him when Merkle drew the latter aside, speaking in an undertone nammon listened briefly, then bros out: "Nonsense. I'd stake my life on her. Why, she's prostrated. It's either pure blackmail, or it's my wife's work. She's had detectives on me for some time." Merkle murmured something more. "Oh, come now! I know what I'm talking about, and I won't stand for that," cried Hammon. Merkle shrugged; his next words, were audible, and they were both sharp and incisive. "The harm's fione. They got away clean. Now we've got to kill the Rtory and kill It quick in case they Intend it for the papers." "My God! Newspapers at this time," groaned the other. "It couldn't be worse." Right. We must move fast. Is your car here?" "Yes." "Get it. We'll go in with you. I had an accident to mine." "You'll see for yourself you're wrong about the other." Hammon jerked his head meaningly toward the house, then strode away to order his motor. Merkle favored his young companion with a wintry smile. "It seems we're too late." Lorelei nodded silently. "Don't tell him who spoke to us out there. Not yet. at least. I can't see him go to jail." "Jail? There won't be any jail to this there never is. Jarvis will have to settle for the sake of the rest of us." Hammon's limousine rolled in under the porte-cochere, and a moment later the owner appeared with Lilas. Lorelei stared at her friend In genu ine surprise, for it was obvious that Lilas was deeply agitated. Her face was swollen with weeping; she verged upon hysteria. No sooner were the four in the car and under way than she broke down, sobbing wretchedly. "It's all my fault. I might have known he was up to something; but I didn't think he'd dare " she managed to say. "He? Who?" Merkle asked her. "Max Melcher. He as much as told me. If I hadn't been a fool I'd have guessed, but he Oh, I could kill myself!" She burst Into strangling sobs and hysteric laughter. "Why did you let him come to the dressing room?" Lorelei Inquired. "ne's been doing it for years. I've always known him. We were en gaged." Hammon verified this. "That's right They were engaged when I met her. She didn't know the sort of ruffian h is till I proved it. She's afraid of him, and he knows it." "I tried to break with him, but he wouldn't let me, and I've had to be nice to him. He'd have murdered me if I" "Rot!" Merkle exclaimed, testily. "Rot, eh?" Jarvis answered. "He's done as much, more than once; but he's so powerful that nobody can get him. He's the king of his ward; he keeps a gang of gunmen on the East side, and he's the worst thug in the city." Hammon soothed his charmer in his clumsy, elephantine way, show ing that, despite Merkle's recent Insinua tions, he still trusted her. "This is the only woman who ever cared for me, John," he explained, after some hesi tation, "and We're going to stick to gether. We have no secrets." "Your little Fifth avenue establish ment rather complicates matters, doesn't it? What are you going to do about that?" Merkle inquired. 'This thing tonight is likely to settle the matter for me. You know the kind of home life I've led for twen ty years, and you know I wouldn't re gret any change. When a man goes ahead and his wife stands still the right and wrong of what either chooses to do is hard to settle. At any rate, it has ceased to concern me. I want a few years of happiness and compan ionship before I die. I'm selfish I'll pay the price." They rode on In silence. CHAPTER VIII. When Lorelei awoe on the follow lng afternoon her first Inquiry was for Jim; but he had not come home, ati her mother knew nothing of his where abouts. Lorelei ate her breakfast in silence; then, in reply to a question, accounted for the lateness of her ar rival by saying that she had dined with Mr. Merkle. . At the name Mrs. Knight pricked np her ears; she undertook to pick out of her daughter all that had occurred, down to the most Insignificant detail. Lorelei had always made a confidante of her mother in such cases; but this time the latter's lnquisitiveness grat ed on her, and she answered the ques tions put to her grudgingly. She could not help likening her mother to a mag pie, although the thought shocked her. There was the same sly angle of coun tenance, a similar furtlveness of pur pose; the very expression of Mrs. Knight's keen, hard eyes was like nothing so much as that of the pry ing bird's. Displeased at her own irri tation, Lorelei made the excuse of a shopping trip to esanpe from the house. 1 At the nearest news stand she bought the afternoon papers, and was relieved to find no mention of the In cidents of the night before. It ap peared that Hammon and Merkle had ; succeeded In their attempt to suppress the story if, indeed, there had ever been any Intention of making It public. J Do you think that Merkle has fallen in love with Lorelei and really wants to marry her? i 1 (TO BE CONTINUED.) 4

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