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Never-Fail Blake   By: (1874-1950)

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Supertales of Modern Mystery




[Frontispiece: "Then why can't you marry me?"]

Mckinlay, Stone & Mackenzie New York Copyright, 1913, by The Bobbs Merrill Company



Blake, the Second Deputy, raised his gloomy hound's eyes as the door opened and a woman stepped in. Then he dropped them again.

"Hello, Elsie!" he said, without looking at her.

The woman stood a moment staring at him. Then she advanced thoughtfully toward his table desk.

"Hello, Jim!" she answered, as she sank into the empty chair at the desk end. The rustling of silk suddenly ceased. An aphrodisiac odor of ambergris crept through the Deputy Commissioner's office.

The woman looped up her veil, festooning it about the undulatory roll of her hat brim. Blake continued his solemnly preoccupied study of the desk top.

"You sent for me," the woman finally said. It was more a reminder than a question. And the voice, for all its quietness, carried no sense of timidity. The woman's pale face, where the undulating hat brim left the shadowy eyes still more shadowy, seemed fortified with a calm sense of power. It was something more than a dormant consciousness of beauty, though the knowledge that men would turn back to a face so wistful as hers, and their judgment could be dulled by a smile so narcotizing, had not a little to do with the woman's achieved serenity. There was nothing outwardly sinister about her. This fact had always left her doubly dangerous as a law breaker.

Blake himself, for all his dewlap and his two hundred pounds of lethargic beefiness, felt a vague and inward stirring as he finally lifted his head and looked at her. He looked into the shadowy eyes under the level brows. He could see, as he had seen before, that they were exceptional eyes, with iris rings of deep gray about the ever widening and ever narrowing pupils which varied with varying thought, as though set too close to the brain that controlled them. So dominating was this pupil that sometimes the whole eye looked violet, and sometimes green, according to the light.

Then his glance strayed to the woman's mouth, where the upper lip curved outward, from the base of the straight nose, giving her at first glance the appearance of pouting. Yet the heavier underlip, soft and wilful, contradicted this impression of peevishness, deepened it into one of Ishmael like rebellion.

Then Blake looked at the woman's hair. It was abundant and nut brown, and artfully and scrupulously interwoven and twisted together. It seemed to stand the solitary pride of a life claiming few things of which to be proud. Blake remembered how that wealth of nut brown hair was daily plaited and treasured and coiled and cared for, the meticulous attentiveness with which morning by morning its hip reaching abundance was braided and twisted and built up about the small head, an intricate structure of soft wonder which midnight must ever see again in ruins, just as the next morning would find idly laborious fingers rebuilding its ephemeral glories. This rebuilding was done thoughtfully and calmly, as though it were a religious rite, as though it were a sacrificial devotion to an ideal in a life tragically forlorn of beauty.

He remembered, too, the day when he had first seen her. That was at the time of "The Sick Millionaire" case, when he had first learned of her association with Binhart. She had posed at the Waldorf as a trained nurse, in that case, and had met him and held him off and outwitted him at every turn. Then he had decided on his "plant." To effect this he had whisked a young Italian with a lacerated thumb up from the City Hospital and sent him in to her as an injured elevator boy looking for first aid treatment. One glimpse of her work on that thumb showed her to be betrayingly ignorant of both figure of eight and spica bandaging, and Blake, finally satisfied as to the imposture, carried on his investigation, showed "Doctor Callahan" to be Connie Binhart, the con man and bank thief, and sent the two adventurers scurrying away to shelter... Continue reading book >>

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