Charles Goddard.

The Perils of Pauline online

. (page 17 of 18)
Online LibraryCharles GoddardThe Perils of Pauline → online text (page 17 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

"I have lost the most important documents of the Navy Department -
through a silly entanglement with a woman."

"No, you haven't. We went and got them for you," said Harry,
presenting the packet of plans.



In Balthazar's band, which had failed so often do away with Pauline
Marvin, there was, nevertheless, one man who had attracted the
particular interest Raymond Owen - Louis Wrentz. Physically and
mentally brutal, he had always been one to oppose Balthazar's delays.

Six months before Owen would have shuddered at the thought of employing
this ruffian. Then his great aim was to be rid of Pauline by the most
indirect and secret means.

But Pauline's hair-breadth escape a few weeks before from Mlle de.
Longeon's cleverly planned plot, the almost incredible rescue of the
submarine and recovery of Ensign Summers' torpedo boat plans, as well
as the fact that the year of adventure was rapidly drawing to a close
and that Harry's growing hostility and the increasing danger of
exposure at the hands of some one of his aides, made the secretary
willing to take every chance, made it imperative that he should have a
lieutenant who could be trusted to strike boldly. Owen sent for

The man appeared in the guise of a servant seeking employment, and was
brought up to Owen's private sitting-room.

"Wrentz, I want you to take charge of my work hereafter," said the

"You mean the work of - "

Owen raised his hand in caution. "The work of conducting a certain
person to a far country."

"But Balthazar?" questioned Wrentz.

"I am through with Balthazar. He's done nothing but procrastinate.
All his plans have failed because it was to his profit that they should

"I'll do the work quickly. What's your present plan?"

"A very simple one, but one that must be very shrewdly handled. It
will mean that you and some of your friends will have to make a trip to
Philadelphia. Where shall I be able to call you within a day or two?"

"At Stroob's lodging house, in Avenue B."

"Very well. Be prepared to act on short notice."

"I'll stick close to the place, sir."

"And, Wrentz, understand that you are also to act firmly. No
Balthazar, tactics. I'm through being tricked."

"I'm sure I never failed you, sir," said Wrentz, with an aggrieved

Owen smiled. "True, but temptation occasionally leads even the most
honest of men astray," he said, sarcastically.

While this last plot was being hatched Pauline and Harry were playing
chess in the library. As she checkmated him for the third time he
arose in mock disgust.

"They say chess is a perfect mental test. I wonder who is the brains
of this family now?" she taunted.

"There's a difference between brains and hare-brains. You know, I lost
because I had that Chicago thing on my mind."

"Oh, isn't that settled yet?"

"No; I'm expecting to be called up any minute with a message that will
send me out there."

"Oh, Harry! That's terrible! When you go to Chicago you never get
back for a whole week."

"If you like me so much, why don't you marry me and go with me on all
my trips?"

"Conceited!" she began, but her face fell again as the telephone bell
sounded. Harry answered it, and after a few rapid questions turned to

"That's what it is," he said; "I go tomorrow. I must see Owen," and
rang the bell.

"Owen," Pauline exclaimed upon his entrance, "Harry must go to Chicago
tomorrow. Isn't it dreadful?"

"I am very sorry. But I hope it will not be for long."

"No," said Harry, curtly. "Look over these papers."

An hour later Owen drew from his typewriter this letter:

Miss Pauline Marvin,

Carson & Brown,
Publishers, 9 Weston Place,

New York.

Dear Madam:

After reading your marine story, published in the Cosmopolitan
Magazine, we have decided you are just the person to write a new serial
we have in mind.

Would you be interested to call on us at your earliest opportunity?

Yours very truly,
J. R. Carson."

Owen sealed, addressed and, stamped the letter and enclosed it in a
larger envelope, which he addressed to a friend in Philadelphia, with
instructions to post the enclosure in that city.

He did not trust the mailing of the double letter to a servant, but,
putting on his motor togs, prepared to ride to Westbury.

"Well, he's got a reprieve; he's going to stay with us one more day,"
Pauline cried, happily, as she met Owen in the hall.

For the flash of an instant something twinged at the cold heart of the
secretary. The bright beauty of Pauline, her happiness, her love for
her foster brother, struck home the first realization of something
missing - and never to be achieved - in his grim existence. Perhaps
for the moment Raymond Owen had a dim understanding of the value of

The next afternoon Pauline stood on the veranda bidding Harry goodbye.

"I hate to go, Polly, but I must," he said. "I hate to leave you with
that - secretary."

"Harry, please don't start again on that. You know I don't agree with
you, and - and I don't want to quarrel with you when you're going

"Very well," he said, embracing her, "but don't get into any of your
scrapes while I am away. Remember, it's a long way to Chicago."

"And Tipperary," she laughed. "Goodbye, darling boy, and run home the
minute you can."

"I will. Goodbye."

Pauline had turned dejectedly back toward the house when the sound of
steps on the walk drew her attention. It was the postman.

"I'll take them," she said, extending her hand.

She ran over the envelopes swiftly until she came to one which bore the
corner mark of a publishing concern in Philadelphia. She had never
heard of the firm of Carson & Brown, but, to her enthusiasm of young
authorship, the very name "publisher" was magical. She opened the
letter hastily and read.

For a moment she stood spellbound with happiness. The realization of
her dreams was at hand. Publishers were calling for her work instead
of sending it back when she sent it to them.

With a glad cry, and waving the treasured letter, she rushed out into
the garden to Owen.

"It's happened!" she sang, gaily. "I am discovered."

"You are what, Miss Pauline?"

"Don't you understand? Can't you see?"

"Not exactly, while you slant that letter above your head like a
reprieve for a doomed man."

"Well, read it." She leaned breathlessly over his shoulder as he read
the familiar lines.

"Miss Pauline, it is splendid!" he exclaimed. "I was always sure you
would be successful with your writing."

"Yes, you encouraged me to get new experiences, while Harry always
opposed me," she said. "But, oh, I wish Harry was here to see this."

"Shall you go to Philadelphia?" inquired Owen

"Indeed - shall and instantly."

"Is it so urgent as that."

"Of course. They might change their minds any moment and get some one
else to write the story. Will you see what train I can take this
evening, Owen, while I run and pack a few things?"

"With pleasure - but don't you think some one ought to accompany you?"

"To Philadelphia? Nonsense. It's just like crossing the street.
Please, Owen, don't you begin to worry about every little thing I do."

"Very well," he laughed. As soon as she was gone he selected a time
table, and scanned the train list. Then he took up the telephone and
called a number.

"Hello, Wrentz?"

"This is Owen. It worked. Be at the Pennsylvania station with your
men tonight. And, Wrentz, if the plan I gave you fails, I leave it to
you to invent a new one. You understand? What? No. I don't want any
return this time."

Before Owen had helped Pauline into her car and bidden her goodbye,
Wrentz and his men were on watch in the railroad station.

"Goodbye and good luck."

Pauline was standing in the aisle, the porter stowing her baggage into
her drawing room, when the men entered the car. She noted them with
curiosity. There was nothing very sinister about them, but they seemed
obviously out of place, but the next moment she had forgotten about
them, and for the twentieth time, was reading her own story in the
Cosmopolitan. For now, in the light of the magic it had wrought, she
was bent on studying every word - to absorb the power of her own
genius, so to speak - in order that "her publishers" should not be
disappointed in the forthcoming novel.

When Pauline got off the train at Philadelphia she did not notice that
one of the four men who had aroused her curiosity walked behind her as
she left, or that he was joined by the three others in the taxicab
which followed hers.

When she left the cab at one of the fashionable hotels, Wrentz alone
followed her.

He was at Pauline's elbow when she registered. As she followed the
bell boy through the lobby, he stepped to the desk, and, noting the
number of Pauline's room - NO. 22 - he signed his name under hers
with a flourish.

"By the way," he said easily to the clerk, "is that pet room of' mine
vacant - the one I had last year?"

The clerk smiled. "I'll see," he said. "I had forgotten it was your
pet room. I can't remember everybody."

"Oh, I was just here for a few days," said Wrentz.

"I remember you."

"Yes, sir; 24 is yours," said the clerk. "Front."

Wrentz stood at the cigar counter to make a purchase. He did not wish
to follow Pauline so closely that she might know he had taken the room
next to hers.

In spite of her excitement, Pauline slept soundly that night. The next
morning she had breakfast in her own room and at ten o'clock was ready
to go to "Carson & Brown's." She was considerably provoked by the
ignorance of the hotel clerk, who not only did not know the publishing
house of Carson & Brown, but could not even direct her to Weston
place. He called the head porter and taxicab manager. The latter had
an idea.

"I don't think it's Weston Place, but there's a Weston Street down in
- well, it's not a very good section of the city, Miss. I wouldn't
want to - "

"Never mind. In New York some of our best publishing houses are
perfect barns. You may call a taxicab."

"Yes, Miss."

"Publishing house in Weston Street-whew! But she doesn't look crazy,"
he instructed one of his chauffeurs. "I don't know what the game is,
but it's a good job."

Pauline's spirits revived as the cab whisked her through the big
business streets, newly a-bustle with their morning life. She had a
sense of pity for the workers hastening to their uninspiring toil. How
few of them had ever received even a letter from a publisher! How few
had known the thrill of successful authorship!

A few moments after Pauline's departure Louis Wrentz and his companions
set to work.

Two of the men left the room and sauntered to opposite ends of the hall
where they lingered on watch. Wrentz and the other man stepped out
briskly and each with a screwdriver in his hand began unfastening the
number-plates over the doors of rooms 22 and 24.

A low cough sounded down the corridor and they quickly desisted from
their task and retired to their room while a maid passed by.

In a moment they were out again. Wrentz passed the number plate of 24
to his assistant, who handed back the plate Of 22. The numbers were
refastened on the wrong doors. The watchers were called back.

"Now," said Wrentz, "it is only a matter of waiting."

Pauline's cab passed out of the central city into the region of

"This looks like the section where the print shops are in New York,"
she said confidently to herself.

But the driver kept on into streets of dingy, ancient houses - streets
crowded with unkempt children and lined with push-carts.

"Are you sure you got the right address of them publishers, Miss?" he
asked after awhile. "The next street is Weston and it don't look very

She drew the letter from her handbag and showed it to him.

"Well, that's the queerest thing I know," he said, astonished by the
letterhead. "I've been drivin' cabs - horse and taxi - for twenty
years, and I never heard of no such people or no such place."

"Well, at least go around the corner and see. Perhaps it is a new firm
that isn't listed as yet," said Pauline.

The driver swung the cab into a street even more bleak and bedraggled
than the one they had just traversed. He stopped and got out. Pauline
followed him. A blear-eyed man, slouching on a stoop, looked up in
faint curiosity as she addressed him.

"There ain't no No. 9 Weston Street," he answered.

"It usta be over there, but it's burnt down."

Pauline's face fell. "Well, this is certainly stupid," she exclaimed.
"Of course it isn't Weston Street; it's Weston Place, as the letter

"But my 'City Guide' ain't got no such place in it, miss," answered the

"Well, I'll go back to, the hotel," she said dejectedly.

She was on the verge of tears as she left the elevator and started for
her room. She had looked through all the directories and street guides
and knew at last that she had been the victim of a cruel hoax. All her
joy and pride of yesterday had turned to humiliation and grief. She
wanted to be alone - and have a good cry.

She was puzzled for a moment as she drew her key from her handbag and
glanced at the numbers on the doors. She had been almost sure that No.
22 was the left-hand door, but she had been in such excitement that
she could not trust any of her impressions. She started to place the
key in the lock of the right-hand door.

Like a flash it opened inward and two pairs of hands gripped her. Her
cry was stifled by a hand over her mouth. She was dragged into the



Pauline had barely time to recognize in her new captors the four
strange men who had attracted her attention on the train, before a
bandage was drawn over her eyes, another over her mouth, and cruel,
heavy hands began to bind her limbs.

As she listened to the rough voices of the men, the mystery of the
"Carson & Brown" letter was entirely cleared away.

"That was easy," commented Wrentz.

"Easier than the rest of the work will be," said one.

"Shall we leave her on the floor, boss?" asked another.

"Yes, of course."

"Then I'll put a pillow under her head."

"Pillow? Why a pillow? Since when did you become tender-hearted,

Rocco scowled, but he made no reply.

"You don't need any pillows or Pullman cars on the way to heaven," said
Wrentz with a snarling laugh.

The laugh was checked abruptly by a rap on the door. For an instant
the ruffians looked at each other in alarm. There was no telling
whether to open that door would be to face the drawn revolvers of
detectives or only the expectant eyes of a bellboy.

There was nothing to do but to answer, however. Wrentz moved to the

"Who is it?" he asked.

"Your trunk, sir."

"You are the porter?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, you can leave the trunk at the door. I am too busy to be
interrupted just now. But here - "

Wrentz opened the door an inch and passed a dollar bill to the porter.
"I am going to need you again in a few hours," he said.

"Yes, sir; thank you, sir."

"Move the girl over behind the bed - out of range there," commanded
Wrentz. Two men seized Pauline and dragged her across the room where
she could not be seen through the door, which Wrentz now opened wide.

In the corridor outside stood a large trunk. Wrentz and one of the men
lifted it and carried it into the room.

"Your baggage is light," said the man.

"It will be heavier in a little while. Open it."

They obeyed.

"Do you think it is large enough?" asked Wrentz.

"Large enough for what - the girl?" demanded Rocco, who had been
sulking since his rebuke.

"You are shrewd, Rocco. You have guessed rightly I suppose you'll want
to put a pillow in it."

"Yes, I would," said Rocco, who was the youngest of the band, "or else
I would kill her first. What is the use of torture?"

Wrentz's dark fact grew even blacker as he eyed the young man.

"If you were a grown man, Rocco," he said, "instead of a soft-hearted
boy, you would know that there is one form of murder that is always
found out - the trunk murder. And I want to say this to you," he
added with growing heat, "that if I hear one more word of rebellion
from you this prisoner will be alive some hours after you have
departed. Now, then, into the trunk with her."

Rocco sullenly helped the others in the grim task. The trunk, large as
it was, was not deep enough to permit Pauline a sitting posture, nor
long enough to prevent the painful cramping of her limbs. But she was
deadened to physical pain. With the words of her doom still ringing in
her ears - the calm discussion of her death - her terror was her
torture. The choking gag, the cutting bonds, the stifling trunk - in
which the knife of Wrentz had cut but a few air holes - these were as
nothing to the agony of her spirit - the agony of a lingering journey
toward a certain but mysterious end.

Pauline had been a prisoner before, had been through many and desperate
dangers, but her heart had never failed her utterly until she felt the
pressure of the trunk lid on her bent shoulders and heard the clamping
of the locks that bound her in.

She could still hear the voices.

"I'll go down and settle my bill and send up that porter," Wrentz was
saying. "Don't let him help with the trunk, except to run the
elevator. You're sure your car is at the side entrance - not out in


"I will meet you there."

Pauline had been so carefully bound that she could not stir in the
trunk. As she felt it lifted and carried rapidly through the corridor
to the hotel elevator she strained with all her might to make a noise
- to beat with hands or feet or even with her head, the sides of the
receptacle. But it was no use. She was carried through the hotel and
out to the side entrance without attracting attention.

She felt the trunk lifted over the men's heads, and the whirring of an
automobile told her that she was being placed in the machine.

"Well, you didn't care much for your pet room this time, Mr. Wrentz,"
smiled the clerk as Wrentz asked for his bill.

"Indeed I did, but a message has called me back to New York."

He paid his bill and hurried out to the big car in the back of which
Pauline's trunk had been placed. Springing to the wheel, he ordered
his followers in, and they drove away.

Once on suburban roads, Wrentz, either fearful of pursuit or drunk with
success, began speeding.

Along the railroad tracks the noise of their speed drew a tumult of
wild sounds from a string of gaily painted cars on the siding. The
snarls and howls of beasts were mingled with the angry cries of men who
seemed to be at work on the other side of the cars.

To Pauline the noises came faintly, but with a horrid and unearthly
note. She, who had been the victim of so many cruet and fantastic
plots, knew not what new danger the roaring of the beasts threatened.

In a moment, though, her mind was set at rest on this point. For
Rocco, the young bandit, turning to the man next him, asked: "What does
it mean? What are they doing?"

"It is a circus train," answered the man. "They are loading the beasts
into the cars."

Pauline felt the machine swerve sharply and evidently take to a
by-road, for she could hear the swish of leaves on overhanging branches
as they brushed through.

"This place will do," she heard Wrentz say. "Now, be quick about it."

"It has come," breathed Pauline to herself. "This is the place where
I am to die."

Through her mind, in piteous pageant, flashed thoughts of home, of
Harry, of even Raymond Owen. There was a great loneliness in the hour
of doom. But it would be over quickly. She shut her eyes tight and
clenched her tied hands as the trunk was taken from the machine and
placed upon the ground.

"Open it," commanded Wrentz. "I don't want her to die in there."

The men quickly unclamped the locks and lifted Pauline out.

"Take off the ropes and the bandages," ordered Wrentz.

"Take them off? Why, she'll scream," exclaimed one.

"If she does you may choke her to death in the car," replied Wrentz.

"Why not here?" asked the oldest of the men. "Didn't Mr. - "

"Hush your mouth! You confounded rascal!" Wrentz screamed. "Are you
going to mention that name here?"

"What harm - as long as she is to die? Dead women tell no more tales
than dead men."

"I will name all names that are to be spoken," declared Wrentz.

"Well, he of the name that is unspoken - at least he did say that we
must have no delays. We want to earn our money as well as you, Louis
- remember that."

"Come, come," he said. "This is no way to be arguing among friends.
You'll get your money all right; but there is one thing to remember-you
ain't get it except through me. So let me handle the matter. Put the
girl in the car."

Pauline, although her bonds had been cut away, was unable to rise to
her feet. They lifted her to her feet. She took a step or two, while
they watched her curiously. Quickly strength and self-control came
back to her. With a sudden spring, she struck at Wrentz with her fist,
and as he drew back, astonished she darted across the roadway toward
the wood.

It was but a futile, maneuver. She had gone but a few paces when she
was gripped from behind and snatched back.

"You see, Louis - I told you she would do something of the kind," said
the old bandit.

"And I told you it would do no harm. Place her in the car between you
and Rocco. If she screams or makes a move to get away you may do as
you wish, but not until then."

Pauline still struggled feebly as she was lifted into the machine.
Wrentz kicked the empty trunk to the side of the byroad and took the
wheel again. He drove back to the main drive that skirted the

Distant as they were by now, the clamor of the caged beasts in the
circus train could still be heard. To Pauline the creatures seemed
less wild and cruel than these, her human captors.

Wrentz put on even greater speed than he had ventured before. Two
policemen, Burgess and Blount, of the Motorcycle Squad, were standing
by their wheels in the roadway when the sound of the car's rush reached
their ears from half a mile away.

"By George, that fellow's coming some," exclaimed Blount.

"And looks as if he wasn't going to stop," said the other. "Halt!
Halt, there!" he commanded, as the machine flashed up in a mantle of

"They are coming, Louis," said one of the men.

"I know they are. But there is no machine made that can catch this
one. Have your guns ready, though. In case they begin to fire, pick
them off."

Pauline shuddered at the matter-of-fact way in which Rocco and the man
on the other side drew their heavy pistols from their hip pockets and
rested them on their knees.

"Do you see the girl in that car?" yelled Burgess to his companion over
the din of their streaking machines.

"Yes. We want that party for more than speeding, I guess," answered
Blount. They bent low over their handle-bars and raced on.

"If he takes the 'S' curve like that we've got him - dead or alive,"
said Burgess.

"And it looks as if he would. By George, he is!"

Wrentz's car had shot suddenly out of sight around a twist in the
road. Wrentz was an able driver, and, even at its terrific speed, the
machine took the first turn gracefully. But Wrentz had not counted on
a second shorter turn to the opposite direction. And he worked the
wheel madly for a second swerve; the huge car skidded, spun round, and,
reeling on two wheels for an instant, turned over in the ditch.

It was several moments before Pauline opened her eyes. She shut them
quickly and staggered to her feet shuddering - she had been lying
across Rocco's dead body which had broken her fall and saved her life.

Two other men lay motionless in the road. But from under the
overturned car there came a sound, and Pauline realized, with quick
alarm, that Wrentz was still alive. She ran across the road and into
the parked woods that hid the railroad from the drive.

Wrentz struggled out from beneath the car. His eyes swept swiftly from
the bodies of his dead comrades to the form of Pauline just vanishing
in the thicket. He was bruised and bleeding, but with the instinct of
a beast of prey he followed his quarry.

"Dead or alive was right," said Burgess, jumping from his wheel and
examining the bodies in the road. "I wonder what that fellow was up
to. And where is the girl?"

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 17

Online LibraryCharles GoddardThe Perils of Pauline → online text (page 17 of 18)