Nick Carter, Detective: The Solution of a Remarkable Case

CHAPTER VII.
THE STRANGLER'S THREAT.

After satisfying themselves that the detective had made good his escape, the three men, Tony, Morgan and their companion, who was known among them as Crofty, returned to the cabin of the sloop.

Nick followed them closely, and reached the hatchway in time to hear all that was said.

"Well?" demanded the captain when the three men returned from the deck.

"Skipped," replied Morgan, laconically.

"How?"

"Flew away, I guess. There was not a sign of him."

"See!" and the captain held up his right arm, the wrist of which Nick had broken in the struggle. "My wrist is broken. He must pay for it. Do you know who it was, Tony?"

"Morgan told me."

"What did he say?"

"The little giant."

"Right. He could have been none other. I have heard of him often, but have never seen him before. Tony, he must die."

"At my hands?"

"Yes."

"When?"

"At once. the sooner, the better."

"Tomorrow, then."

"Bah! If you get him foul within a week, I will give you a thousand dollars."

"Done, cap. He's a dead man. My string never failed me yet. More than one has gone down beneath it, and oh, how I love to see them gasp for breath."

"How is the wind?" asked the captain, curtly.

"None at all," replied Morgan, "The rain has knocked it all out. We could not reach the nest to-night if we tried."

"Then let us go ashore. Sindahr will be there. Come."

Nick waited to hear no more, but went hastily to his boat and untied the painter.

As he drifted away, he heard the low murmur of voices as the men came upon deck from the cabin of the sloop.

Soon there came a gentle splash in the water, and he knew that they had put the boat over the side-the very one behind which he had hidden, when they were searching for him so eagerly.

That they had some rendezvous on shore near that point, Nick felt certain, and he resolved to follow them at all risks.

Standing in the stern of his own boat with a single oar, he could force her through the water as silently as a shadow, while he conjectured that they would row, and that he could thus follow the sound of their oars in the water.

He was right.

They were soon in the boat and rowing rapidly away, while Nick followed them, sculling as fast as they rowed. A long pier stretched far out into the bay, near by, and they made directly for it.

The noise made by their oars in the water ceased, and Nick paused, knowing that they had gone beneath the pier.

Presently he sculled cautiously forward.

His boat touched the pier, and drawing in his oar, he used his hands upon the planking, to force his boat ahead.

When far beneath the pier, he stopped and listened again.

The silence of death and the blackness of the Styx reigned supreme.

Cautiously Nick drew his little dark-lantern from his pocket, pressed the spring and opened the slide.

A ray of light shot out over the water.

The empty boat employed by the men in coming from the sloop was immediately before him, but the men had disappeared.

The boat was fastened to a cross-beam of the pier, just where a crib was sunk into the water.

It was not likely that they had jumped into the river, and therefore it followed that there must be a way of passing through the crib, or of reaching the dock from that point.

Nick pulled his boat forward.

He searched the crib and was examining it intently, when something, he knew not what, caused him to turn his head suddenly.

The act saved his life.

There was a flash and a loud report, and a bullet whizzed past his ear.

Like a shot he turned and leaped toward the point from whence the flash had proceeded, for in that one instant he had seen the dark form of a man.

He reached him and seized him in his iron grasp, but even as he did so, the man who had fired the shot was endeavoring to escape.

They grappled just as he was balanced on the gunwale of the boat, and the next instant they were in the river and floating away with the tide.

The struggle was short, for one man was no match for Nick.

As soon as they came to the surface, Nick twisted himself free from his opponent's grasp, and struck him a violent blow in the face with his fist.

He would not have been rendered senseless more quickly if struck with a hammer, and Nick quietly swam to the nearest wharf with his prisoner.

Having reached it, he pulled the fellow upon the planks, and then with all the expertness of a pickpocket, searched him.

He found nothing of interest to him, and so left the man upon the dock, to revive as best he could, or to stay there senseless until found. Nick, who was an extremely expert swimmer, again plunged boldly into the water.

He headed straight for the pier where he had left his boat, and reached it without accident. Then he set out at once for the pier where the boat had been procured, realizing that the men were too much on their guard for him to learn more that night.

Once landed, he hurried to the ferry, crossed to New York, and took the elevated road.

His destination was the house in Forty-seventh street.

"It is my belief that these men know something about the death of Eugenie La Verde," he thought, "and that Tony knows more of the particulars than the others."

"For the sake of the argument, I will premise that Tony went to the house on the night of the murder, and that he strangled the girl with his cord.

"What was the motive for the crime, if he committed it?

"What did these men expect to gain by murdering a danseuse? Not money or jewels, certainly, for they left both, to a considerable amount, on the bureau.

"How did they enter the house from the street, and how leave it?

"In what way is this captain, who is evidently an American, to be benefited by Eugenie's death?

"Those fellows are on their guard, now, They know that I am after them and they will be more than ordinarily cautious, unless Tony succeeds in getting his deadly string around my neck!"

He was soon again in the house in Forty-seventh street, where the beautiful Eugenie La Verde had met her sudden and mysterious fate.

When he entered, he went straight to Eugenie's room.

As he stood upon the threshold, he thought he heard a rustling noise not unlike that made by the dress of a woman as she passed across a floor.

He paused suddenly and listened.

The noise came again.

Quickly he brought forth his little lantern, and touched the button, throwing a gleam of light into the apartment.

From point to point he turned the ray of light, himself remaining standing in the door-way.

The room was empty.

A moment's search satisfied him on that point, but he was equally sure that he had heard something.

What?

Had a person been there when he stepped over the threshold? and if so, by what means had that person left the room?

The noises that he had heard could not have been made by a rat, or a mouse.

If the room had been tenanted by a human being who wished to escape observation, why had that person not gone while he was yet in the lower hall, instead of waiting until he stood upon the very threshold of the room?

Perhaps the occupant of the apartment was sleeping when he entered, and did not rouse until the last moment.

Wonderingly, Nick approached the bed, for he had a peculiar feeling that it was not a human being that had been in the room when he entered, and yet his reason told him that it was.

Suddenly, having lighted the gas and turned toward the bed, he started.

Before him was the proof that somebody or something had been there since he had left the place.

He remembered perfectly how the pillows had been placed when he was there before, and now they were differently located. One of them was near the foot of the bed and the other was on the floor.

Both were crushed, as though they had been used.

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