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As McMurdo had said, the house in which he lived was a lonely one and very well suited for such a crime as they had planned. It was on the extreme fringe of the town and stood well back from the road. In any other case the conspirators would have simply called out their man, as they had many a time before, and emptied their pistols into his body; but in this instance it was very necessary to find out how much he knew, how he knew it, and what had been passed on to his employers.

It was possible that they were already too late and that the work had been done. If that was indeed so, they could at least have their revenge upon the man who had done it. But they were hopeful that nothing of great importance had yet come to the detective's knowledge, as otherwise, they argued, he would not have troubled to write down and forward such trivial information as McMurdo claimed to have given him. However, all this they would learn from his own lips. Once in their power, they would find a way to make him speak. It was not the first time that they had handled an unwilling witness.

McMurdo went to Hobson's Patch as agreed. The police seemed to take particular interest in him that morning, and Captain Marvin--he who had claimed the old acquaintance with him at Chicago--actually addressed him as he waited at the station. McMurdo turned away and refused to speak with him. He was back from his mission in the afternoon, and saw McGinty at the Union House.

"He is coming," he said.

"Good!" said McGinty. The giant was in his shirt sleeves, with chains and seals gleaming athwart his ample waistcoat and a diamond twinkling through the fringe of his bristling beard. Drink and politics had made the Boss a very rich as well as powerful man. The more terrible, therefore, seemed that glimpse of the prison or the gallows which had risen before him the night before.

"Do you reckon he knows much?" he asked anxiously.

McMurdo shook his head gloomily. "He's been here some time--six weeks at the least. I guess he didn't come into these parts to look at the prospect. If he has been working among us all that time with the railroad money at his back, I should expect that he has got results, and that he has passed them on."

"There's not a weak man in the lodge," cried McGinty. "True as steel, every man of them. And yet, by the Lord! there is that skunk Morris. What about him? If any man gives us away, it would be he. I've a mind to send a couple of the boys round before evening to give him a beating up and see what they can get from him."

"Well, there would be no harm in that," McMurdo answered. "I won't deny that I have a liking for Morris and would be sorry to see him come to harm. He has spoken to me once or twice over lodge matters, and though he may not see them the same as you or I, he never seemed the sort that squeals. But still it is not for me to stand between him and you."

"I'll fix the old devil!" said McGinty with an oath. "I've had my eye on him this year past."

"Well, you know best about that," McMurdo answered. "But whatever you do must be to-morrow; for we must lie low until the Pinkerton affair is settled up. We can't afford to set the police buzzing, to-day of all days."

"True for you," said McGinty. "And we'll learn from Birdy Edwards himself where he got his news if we have to cut his heart out first. Did he seem to scent a trap?"

McMurdo laughed. "I guess I took him on his weak point," he said. "If he could get on a good trail of the Scowrers, he's ready to follow it into hell. I took his money," McMurdo grinned as he produced a wad of dollar notes, "and as much more when he has seen all my papers."

"What papers?"

"Well, there are no papers. But I filled him up about constitutions and books of rules and forms of membership. He expects to get right down to the end of everything before he leaves."

"Faith, he's right there," said McGinty grimly. "Didn't he ask you why you didn't bring him the papers?"

"As if I would carry such things, and me a suspected man, and Captain Marvin after speaking to me this very day at the depot!"

"Ay, I heard of that," said McGinty. "I guess the heavy end of this business is coming on to you. We could put him down an old shaft when we've done with him; but however we work it we can't get past the man living at Hobson's Patch and you being there to-day."

McMurdo shrugged his shoulders. "If we handle it right, they can never prove the killing," said he. "No one can see him come to the house after dark, and I'll lay to it that no one will see him go. Now see here, Councillor, I'll show you my plan and I'll ask you to fit the others into it. You will all come in good time. Very well. He comes at ten. He is to tap three times, and me to open the door for him. Then I'll get behind him and shut it. He's our man then."

"That's all easy and plain."

"Yes; but the next step wants considering. He's a hard proposition. He's heavily armed. I've fooled him proper, and yet he is likely to be on his guard. Suppose I show him right into a room with seven men in it where he expected to find me alone. There is going to be shooting, and somebody is going to be hurt."

"That's so."

"And the noise is going to bring every damned copper in the township on top of it."

"I guess you are right."

"This is how I should work it. You will all be in the big room--same as you saw when you had a chat with me. I'll open the door for him, show him into the parlour beside the door, and leave him there while I get the papers. That will give me the chance of telling you how things are shaping. Then I will go back to him with some faked papers. As he is reading them I will jump for him and get my grip on his pistol arm. You'll hear me call and in you will rush. The quicker the better; for he is as strong a man as I, and I may have more than I can manage. But I allow that I can hold him till you come."

"It's a good plan," said McGinty. "The lodge will owe you a debt for this. I guess when I move out of the chair I can put a name to the man that's coming after me."

"Sure, Councillor, I am little more than a recruit," said McMurdo; but his face showed what he thought of the great man's compliment.

When he had returned home he made his own preparations for the grim evening in front of him. First he cleaned, oiled, and loaded his Smith & Wesson revolver. Then he surveyed the room in which the detective was to be trapped. It was a large apartment, with a long deal table in the centre, and the big stove at one side. At each of the other sides were windows. There were no shutters on these: only light curtains which drew across. McMurdo examined these attentively. No doubt it must have struck him that the apartment was very exposed for so secret a meeting. Yet its distance from the road made it of less consequence. Finally he discussed the matter with his fellow lodger. Scanlan, though a Scowrer, was an inoffensive little man who was too weak to stand against the opinion of his comrades, but was secretly horrified by the deeds of blood at which he had sometimes been forced to assist. McMurdo told him shortly what was intended.

"And if I were you, Mike Scanlan, I would take a night off and keep clear of it. There will be bloody work here before morning."

"Well, indeed then, Mac," Scanlan answered. "It's not the will but the nerve that is wanting in me. When I saw Manager Dunn go down at the colliery yonder it was just more than I could stand. I'm not made for it, same as you or McGinty. If the lodge will think none the worse of me, I'll just do as you advise and leave you to yourselves for the evening."

The men came in good time as arranged. They were outwardly respectable citizens, well clad and cleanly; but a judge of faces would have read little hope for Birdy Edwards in those hard mouths and remorseless eyes. There was not a man in the room whose hands had not been reddened a dozen times before. They were as hardened to human murder as a butcher to sheep.

Foremost, of course, both in appearance and in guilt, was the formidable Boss. Harraway, the secretary, was a lean, bitter man with a long, scraggy neck and nervous, jerky limbs, a man of incorruptible fidelity where the finances of the order were concerned, and with no notion of justice or honesty to anyone beyond. The treasurer, Carter, was a middle-aged man, with an impassive, rather sulky expression, and a yellow parchment skin. He was a capable organizer, and the actual details of nearly every outrage had sprung from his plotting brain. The two Willabys were men of action, tall, lithe young fellows with determined faces, while their companion, Tiger Cormac, a heavy, dark youth, was feared even by his own comrades for the ferocity of his disposition. These were the men who assembled that night under the roof of McMurdo for the killing of the Pinkerton detective.

Their host had placed whisky upon the table, and they had hastened to prime themselves for the work before them. Baldwin and Cormac were already half-drunk, and the liquor had brought out all their ferocity. Cormac placed his hands on the stove for an instant--it had been lighted, for the nights were still cold.

"That will do," said he, with an oath.

"Ay," said Baldwin, catching his meaning. "If he is strapped to that, we will have the truth out of him."

"We'll have the truth out of him, never fear," said McMurdo. He had nerves of steel, this man; for though the whole weight of the affair was on him his manner was as cool and unconcerned as ever. The others marked it and applauded.

"You are the one to handle him," said the Boss approvingly. "Not a warning will he get till your hand is on his throat. It's a pity there are no shutters to your windows."

McMurdo went from one to the other and drew the curtains tighter. "Sure no one can spy upon us now. It's close upon the hour."

"Maybe he won't come. Maybe he'll get a sniff of danger," said the secretary.

"He'll come, never fear," McMurdo answered. "He is as eager to come as you can be to see him. Hark to that!"

They all sat like wax figures, some with their glasses arrested halfway to their lips. Three loud knocks had sounded at the door.

"Hush!" McMurdo raised his hand in caution. An exulting glance went round the circle, and hands were laid upon their weapons.

"Not a sound, for your lives!" McMurdo whispered, as he went from the room, closing the door carefully behind him.

With strained ears the murderers waited. They counted the steps of their comrade down the passage. Then they heard him open the outer door. There were a few words as of greeting. Then they were aware of a strange step inside and of an unfamiliar voice. An instant later came the slam of the door and the turning of the key in the lock. Their prey was safe within the trap. Tiger Cormac laughed horribly, and Boss McGinty clapped his great hand across his mouth.

"Be quiet, you fool!" he whispered. "You'll be the undoing of us yet!"

There was a mutter of conversation from the next room. It seemed interminable. Then the door opened, and McMurdo appeared, his finger upon his lip.

He came to the end of the table and looked round at them. A subtle change had come over him. His manner was as of one who has great work to do. His face had set into granite firmness. His eyes shone with a fierce excitement behind his spectacles. He had become a visible leader of men. They stared at him with eager interest; but he said nothing. Still with the same singular gaze he looked from man to man.

"Well!" cried Boss McGinty at last. "Is he here? Is Birdy Edwards here?"

"Yes," McMurdo answered slowly. "Birdy Edwards is here. I am Birdy Edwards!"

There were ten seconds after that brief speech during which the room might have been empty, so profound was the silence. The hissing of a kettle upon the stove rose sharp and strident to the ear. Seven white faces, all turned upward to this man who dominated them, were set motionless with utter terror. Then, with a sudden shivering of glass, a bristle of glistening rifle barrels broke through each window, while the curtains were torn from their hangings.

At the sight Boss McGinty gave the roar of a wounded bear and plunged for the half-opened door. A levelled revolver met him there with the stern blue eyes of Captain Marvin of the Mine Police gleaming behind the sights. The Boss recoiled and fell back into his chair.

"You're safer there, Councillor," said the man whom they had known as McMurdo. "And you, Baldwin, if you don't take your hand off your pistol, you'll cheat the hangman yet. Pull it out, or by the Lord that made me--There, that will do. There are forty armed men round this house, and you can figure it out for yourself what chance you have. Take their pistols, Marvin!"

There was no possible resistance under the menace of those rifles. The men were disarmed. Sulky, sheepish, and amazed, they still sat round the table.

"I'd like to say a word to you before we separate," said the man who had trapped them. "I guess we may not meet again until you see me on the stand in the courthouse. I'll give you something to think over between now and then. You know me now for what I am. At last I can put my cards on the table. I am Birdy Edwards of Pinkerton's. I was chosen to break up your gang. I had a hard and dangerous game to play. Not a soul, not one soul, not my nearest and dearest, knew that I was playing it. Only Captain Marvin here and my employers knew that. But it's over to-night, thank God, and I am the winner!"

The seven pale, rigid faces looked up at him. There was unappeasable hatred in their eyes. He read the relentless threat.

"Maybe you think that the game is not over yet. Well, I take my chance of that. Anyhow, some of you will take no further hand, and there are sixty more besides yourselves that will see a jail this night. I'll tell you this, that when I was put upon this job I never believed there was such a society as yours. I thought it was paper talk, and that I would prove it so. They told me it was to do with the Freemen; so I went to Chicago and was made one. Then I was surer than ever that it was just paper talk; for I found no harm in the society, but a deal of good.

"Still, I had to carry out my job, and I came to the coal valleys. When I reached this place I learned that I was wrong and that it wasn't a dime novel after all. So I stayed to look after it. I never killed a man in Chicago. I never minted a dollar in my life. Those I gave you were as good as any others; but I never spent money better. But I knew the way into your good wishes and so I pretended to you that the law was after me. It all worked just as I thought.

"So I joined your infernal lodge, and I took my share in your councils. Maybe they will say that I was as bad as you. They can say what they like, so long as I get you. But what is the truth? The night I joined you beat up old man Stanger. I could not warn him, for there was no time; but I held your hand, Baldwin, when you would have killed him. If ever I have suggested things, so as to keep my place among you, they were things which I knew I could prevent. I could not save Dunn and Menzies, for I did not know enough; but I will see that their murderers are hanged. I gave Chester Wilcox warning, so that when I blew his house in he and his folk were in hiding. There was many a crime that I could not stop; but if you look back and think how often your man came home the other road, or was down in town when you went for him, or stayed indoors when you thought he would come out, you'll see my work."

"You blasted traitor!" hissed McGinty through his closed teeth.

"Ay, John McGinty, you may call me that if it eases your smart. You and your like have been the enemy of God and man in these parts. It took a man to get between you and the poor devils of men and women that you held under your grip. There was just one way of doing it, and I did it. You call me a traitor; but I guess there's many a thousand will call me a deliverer that went down into hell to save them. I've had three months of it. I wouldn't have three such months again if they let me loose in the treasury at Washington for it. I had to stay till I had it all, every man and every secret right here in this hand. I'd have waited a little longer if it hadn't come to my knowledge that my secret was coming out. A letter had come into the town that would have set you wise to it all. Then I had to act and act quickly.

"I've nothing more to say to you, except that when my time comes I'll die the easier when I think of the work I have done in this valley. Now, Marvin, I'll keep you no more. Take them in and get it over."

There is little more to tell. Scanlan had been given a sealed note to be left at the address of Miss Ettie Shafter, a mission which he had accepted with a wink and a knowing smile. In the early hours of the morning a beautiful woman and a much muffled man boarded a special train which had been sent by the railroad company, and made a swift, unbroken journey out of the land of danger. It was the last time that ever either Ettie or her lover set foot in the Valley of Fear. Ten days later they were married in Chicago, with old Jacob Shafter as witness of the wedding.

The trial of the Scowrers was held far from the place where their adherents might have terrified the guardians of the law. In vain they struggled. In vain the money of the lodge--money squeezed by blackmail out of the whole countryside--was spent like water in the attempt to save them. That cold, clear, unimpassioned statement from one who knew every detail of their lives, their organization, and their crimes was unshaken by all the wiles of their defenders. At last after so many years they were broken and scattered. The cloud was lifted forever from the valley.

McGinty met his fate upon the scaffold, cringing and whining when the last hour came. Eight of his chief followers shared his fate. Fifty-odd had various degrees of imprisonment. The work of Birdy Edwards was complete.

And yet, as he had guessed, the game was not over yet. There was another hand to be played, and yet another and another. Ted Baldwin, for one, had escaped the scaffold; so had the Willabys; so had several others of the fiercest spirits of the gang. For ten years they were out of the world, and then came a day when they were free once more--a day which Edwards, who knew his men, was very sure would be an end of his life of peace. They had sworn an oath on all that they thought holy to have his blood as a vengeance for their comrades. And well they strove to keep their vow!

From Chicago he was chased, after two attempts so near success that it was sure that the third would get him. From Chicago he went under a changed name to California, and it was there that the light went for a time out of his life when Ettie Edwards died. Once again he was nearly killed, and once again under the name of Douglas he worked in a lonely canon, where with an English partner named Barker he amassed a fortune. At last there came a warning to him that the bloodhounds were on his track once more, and he cleared--only just in time--for England. And thence came the John Douglas who for a second time married a worthy mate, and lived for five years as a Sussex county gentleman, a life which ended with the strange happenings of which we have heard.

七 伯尔弟·爱德华的妙计

正如麦克默多所说的那样,他所寄寓的住所孤寂无邻,正适于他们进行策划的那种犯罪活动。寓所位于镇子的最边缘,又远离大路。若是作品它案子,那些凶手只要照老办法把要杀的人叫出来,把子弹都射到他身上就行了。可是这次,他们却要弄清这人知道多少秘密,怎么知道的,给他的雇主送过多少情报。

可能他们动手太晚了,对方已把情报送走了。如果真是这样,他们至少还可以向送情报的人复仇。不过他们希望这个侦探还没弄到什么非常重要的情报,要不然,他干吗不厌其烦地记下麦克默多捏造的那些毫无价值的废话呢。然而,所有这一切,他们要让他亲口招认出来。一旦把他抓到手,他们会设法让他开口的,他们已经不是第一次处理这样的事了。

麦克默多到霍布森领地后,这天早晨警察似乎很注意他,正当麦克默多在车站等候时,那个自称在芝加哥就和他是老相识的马文队长,竟然和他打起招呼来。麦克默多不愿和他讲话,便转身走开了,这天中午麦克默多完成任务返回之后,到工会去见麦金蒂。

“他就要来的,"麦克默多说道。

“好极了!"麦金蒂说道。这位巨人只穿着衬衫,背心下露出的表链闪闪发光,钻石别针尤其光彩夺目。既开设酒馆,又玩弄政治,使得这位首领既有权势,又非常有钱。然而,前一天晚上,他面前仿佛隐约闪现着监狱和绞刑这样可怕的东西。

“你估计他对我们的事知道得多吗?"麦金蒂焦虑地问道。

麦克默多阴郁地摇了摇头,说道:“他已经来了很长时间,至少有六个星期了。我想他还没有到我们这儿来收集他需要的东西。倘若他要利用铁路资本来做后盾,又在我们中间活动了这么长时间,我想,他早已有所收获,而且早已把它传递出去了。”

“我们分会里没有一个意志薄弱的人,"麦金蒂高声喊道,“每个人都象钢铁一样坚定可靠。不过,天哪!只有那个可恶的莫里斯。他的情况怎么样?一旦有人出卖我们,那就一定是他。我想派两个弟兄在天黑以前去教训他一顿,看看他们从他身上能得到什么情况。”

“啊,那样做倒也无妨,"麦克默多答道,“不过,我不否认,我喜欢莫里斯,并且不忍眼看他受到伤害。他曾经向我说过一两次分会里的事,尽管他对这些事的看法不象你我一样,他也绝不象是一个告密的人。不过我并不想干涉你们之间的事。”

“我一定要结果这个老鬼!"麦金蒂发誓道,“我对他留意已经有一年了。”

“好,你对这些知道得很清楚,"麦克默多答道,“不过你必须等到明天再去处理,因为在平克顿这件事解决好以前,我们必须暂停其它活动。时间有的是,何必一定要在今天去惊动警察呢。”

“你说得对,"麦金蒂说道,“我们可以在把伯尔弟·爱德华的心挖出以前,从他身上弄清他到底是从什么地方得到的消息。他会不会看穿我们设的圈套呢?”

麦克默多笑容满面。

“我想我抓住了他的弱点,"麦克默多说道,“如果他能得到死酷党人的踪迹,他甚至甘心尾随他上天入地。我已经拿到他的钱了。"麦克默多咧嘴笑了,取出一叠钞票给大家看,“他答应看到我的全部文件后,还要给更多的钱。”

“什么文件?”

“啊,根本就没有什么文件。我告诉他全体会员的登记表和章程都在我这里,他指望把一切秘密弄到手,然后再离开此地。”

“果然不错,"麦金蒂咧嘴笑道,“他没有问你为什么没把这些文件带去给他看吗?”

“我说我才不能带这些出门呢,我本来是一个受怀疑的人,况且马文队长这天又在车站上和我说过话,怎么可以呢!”

“对,我听说了,"麦金蒂说道,“我认为你能担当这一重任。我们把他杀掉以后,可以把他的尸体扔到一个旧矿井里。不过不管怎么干,我们也没法瞒过住在霍布森领地的人,况且你今天又到过那里。”

麦克默多耸了耸双肩,说道:“只要我们处置得法,他们就找不出这件杀人案的证据来。天黑以后,没有人能看见他来过我的寓所中,我会安排好,不使一个人看到他。现在,参议员先生,我把我的计划向你讲一下,并且请你转告另外那几位。你们一起早一些来。他来的时间是十点钟,敲三下门,我就去给他开门,然后我在他身后把门关上。那时他就是我们的囊中之物了。”

“这倒很简单容易。”

“是的,不过下一步就需要慎重考虑了。他是一个很难对付的家伙,而且武器精良。我把他骗来,他很可能十分戒备。他本打算只有我一个人单独和他谈,可是我要是直接把他带到那间屋子,里面却坐着七个人。那时他一定会开枪,我们的一些人就会受伤。”

“对。”

“而且枪声会把附近镇上所有该死的警察都招引来。”

“我看你说得很对。”

“我一定能安排得很好。你们大家都坐在你和我谈过话的那间大屋子里,我给他开门以后,把他让到门旁会客室里,让他等在那里,我假装去取材料,借机告诉你们事情的进展情况。然后我拿着几张捏造的材料回到他那里。趁他读材料的时候,我就跳到他身前,紧紧抓住他双手,使他不能放枪。你们听到我喊,就立刻跑过来,越快越好,因为他也象我一样健壮,我一定竭力坚持,保证坚持到你们来到。”

“这是一条妙计,"麦金蒂说道,“我们分会不会忘记你这次的功劳,我想我不做身主时,我一定提名让你接替我。”

“参议员先生,说实话,我不过是一个新入会的弟兄,"麦克默多说道,可是他脸上的神色表明,他很愿听到这位有实力的人说出这样赞扬的话。

麦克默多回到家中,着手准备夜晚这场你死我活的格斗。麦克默多首先把他那支史密斯和威森牌左轮擦干净,上好油,装足子弹,然后检查一下这位侦探即将落入圈套的那间厅房。这间厅房很宽阔,中间放着一条长桌,旁边有一个大炉子。两旁全是窗户,窗户上没有窗板,只挂着一些浅色的窗帘。麦克默多很仔细地检查了一番。毫无疑问,这间房屋非常严密,正适于进行这样秘密的约会,而且这里离大路很远,不会引来不良后果。最后麦克默多又与他的同伙斯坎伦商议,斯坎伦虽是一个死酷党人,但却是一个于人无害的小人物,他极为软弱无能,不敢反对他那些同伙的意见,可是有时他被迫参加一些血腥的暗杀勾当,私下里却异常惊恐厌恶。麦克默多三言两语把即将发生的事告诉了他。

“假如我要是你的话,迈克·斯坎伦,我就在今夜离开这里,落得一身清净。这里在清晨以前,一定会有流血事件发生。”

“真的,麦克,"斯坎伦答道,“我并不愿意这样,可是我缺乏勇气。在我看到离这里很远的那家煤矿的经理邓恩被害时,我几乎忍受不住了。我没有象你或麦金蒂那样的胆量。假如会里不加害于我,我就照你劝告我的那样办,你们自己去处理晚上的事好了。”

麦金蒂等人如约赶来。他们是一些外表很体面的人,衣着华丽整洁,可是一个善于观察的人可以从他们紧闭的嘴角和凶恶残忍的目光中看出,他们渴望擒获伯尔弟·爱德华。室内没有一个人的双手以前不是多次沾满鲜血的,他们杀仆人来心肠铁硬,如同屠夫屠宰绵羊一般。

当然,从令人生畏的身主麦金蒂的外貌和罪恶来看,他是首要人物。书记哈拉威是一个骨瘦如柴的人,心黑手狠,长着一个皮包骨的长脖子,四肢神经痉挛,很关心分会的资金来源,却不顾得来是否公正合法。司库卡特是一个中年人,冷漠无情、死气沉沉,皮肤象羊皮纸一般黄。他是一个有才干的组织者,几乎每一次犯罪活动的细节安排都出自此人的罪恶头脑。威拉比两兄弟是实干家,个子高大,年轻力壮,手脚灵活,神色坚决果断。他们的伙伴老虎科马克是一个粗眉大眼的黑脸大汉,甚至会中的同伙对他那凶狠残暴的秉性也畏惧几分。就是这些人,准备这夜在麦克默多寓所杀害平克顿侦探。

他们的主人在桌上摆了些威士忌酒,这些人便急匆匆大吃大喝起来。鲍德温和科马克已经半醉,醉后更暴露出他们的凶狠残暴。因为这几夜依然寒冷异常,屋中生着火,科马克便把双手放到火上取暖。

“这就妥当了,"科马克发誓说道。

“喂,"鲍德温捉摸着科马克话中的含意说道,“如果我们把他捆起来,我们就能从他口中得知真相。”

“不用怕,我们一定能从他口中得知真相的,"麦克默多说道,他生就铁石心肠,尽管这样重大事情的全部重任落到他身上,他依然象平时一样沉着冷静、毫不在意。因此,大家都称赞他。

“由你来对付他,"身主麦金蒂赞许地说,“他毫不警惕地就会被你扼住喉咙。可惜你的窗户上没有窗板。”

麦克默多便走过去,把一个个窗子上的窗帘拉紧,说道:

“此时肯定没有人来探查我们的。时间也快到了。”

“也许他觉察出有危险,可能不来吧,"哈拉威说道。

“不用怕,他要来的,"麦克默多答道,“象你们急于见到他一样,他也急于到这里来。你们听!”

他们都象蜡人一样坐着不动,有几个人正把酒杯送往唇边,这时也停了下来。只听门上重重地响了三下。

“不要作声,"麦克默多举手示警,这些人欣喜欲狂,都暗暗握住手枪。

“为了你们的生命安全,不要出一点声音!"麦克默多低声说道,从室内走出去,小心翼翼地把门关上。

这些凶手都拉长了耳朵等候着。他们数着这位伙伴走向过道的脚步声,听到他打开大门,好象说了几句寒暄话,然后是一阵陌生的脚步声和一个生人的话声。过了一会儿,门砰地响了一下,接着是钥匙锁门的声音。他们的猎物已经完全陷入牢笼。老虎科马克发出一阵狞笑,于是首领麦金蒂用他的大手掩住科马克的嘴。

“别出声,你这蠢货!"麦金蒂低声说道,“你要坏我们的事了!”

邻室中传来模糊不清的低语声,谈个没完,令人难以忍耐。后来门打开了,麦克默多走进来,把手指放到唇上。

麦克默多走到桌子一头,把他们打量了一番。他的面容起了令人捉摸不定的变化,这时他的神情似乎是一个着手办大事的人,面容坚决果敢,双目从眼镜后面射出极其激动的光彩。他显然成了一个领导人。这些人急切地望着他,可是麦克默多一言不发,依然打量着他们每一个人。

“喂!"麦金蒂终于大声喊到,“他来了吗?伯尔弟·爱德华在这里吗?”

“不错,"麦克默多不慌不忙地答道,“伯尔弟·爱德华在此。我就是伯尔弟·爱德华!”

这短短的几句话说出以后,室中顿时象空旷无人一般的寂静无声,只听到火炉上水壶的沸腾声。七个人面色惨白,十分惊恐,呆望着这位扫视他们的人。接着,随着一阵窗玻璃的破裂声,许多闪闪发亮的来复枪筒从窗口伸进来,窗帘也全被撕破了。

这时首领麦金蒂象一头受伤的熊,咆哮了一声,跳到半开的门前。一支手枪正在那里对准了他,煤矿警察队长马文两只蓝色的大眼睛正灼灼有神地向他望着。这位首领只好退后,倒在他的座位上。

“参议员先生,你在那里还是比较安全的,"他们一直把他叫做麦克默多的那个人说道,“还有你,鲍德温,如果你不把手离开你的手枪,那你就用不着刽子手了。把手拿出来,不然,我只好……放在那里,行了。这所房子已经被四十名全副武装的人包围了,你们自己可以想想你们还有什么机会逃走。马文,下掉他们的手枪!”

在这么多来复枪的威胁下,丝毫没有反抗的可能。这些人全被缴了械,他们面色阴沉、驯顺而惊讶地依然围坐在桌旁。

“在我们分别之前,我想对你们讲一句话,"这位给他们设下圈套的人说道,“我想我们不会再见面了,除非你们将来在法庭证人席上看到我。我想让你们回想一下过去和现在的一些事。你们现在知道我是谁了。我终于可以把我的名片放在桌子上了。我就是平克顿的伯尔弟·爱德华。人们选派我来破获你们这一匪帮。我是玩着一场非常艰难而危险的把戏。没有一个人,连我最亲近的人也不知道我正冒险做着的事。只有这里的马文队长和我的几个助手知道这件事。可是今晚这件事结束了,感谢上帝,我得胜了!”

这七个人面色苍白,愣愣地望着他。他们眼中显露出抑止不住的敌意,爱德华看出他们这种威胁的神情,说道:“也许你们认为这件事还不算完。好,那我听天由命。不过,你们许多人的手不会伸得太远了,除了你们自己以外,今晚还有六十个人被捕入狱。我要告诉你们,我接受这件案子时,并不相信有象你们这样的一种社团,我还以为这是报上的无稽之谈呢。但我应当弄清楚。他们告诉我这和自由人会有关系,于是我便到芝加哥入了会。发现这个社会组织只做好事,不做坏事,那时我更加确信这些纯粹是报上的无稽之谈了。

“但我还是在继续查访。自从我来到这些产煤的山谷以后,我一到这地方,就知道我过去错了,这完全不是一些拙劣的故事传说。于是我便停留下来观察。在芝加哥我从未杀过人,我一生中也从未制造过伪币。我送给你们的那些钱币都是真的,但我从来没有把钱用得这样得当过。可是我知道怎样迎合你们的心理,所以我对你们假装说,我是犯了法逃走的。这一切都正如我想象的那样管用。

“我加入了你们那恶魔一般的分会,你们商议事情时,我尽力参加。可能人们会说我象你们一样坏,他们愿意怎么说就怎么说,只要我能抓住你们就行。可是事实怎么样?你们毒打斯坦格老人那晚我参加了。因为没有时间,我来不及事先警告他。可是,鲍德温,当你要杀死他时,我拉住了你的手。假如我曾经建议过一些事情,那就是为了在你们中间保持我的地位,而这是一些我知道我可以预防的事情。我未能拯救邓恩和孟席斯,因为我事先完全不知道,然而我会看到杀害他们的凶手被处绞刑的。我事先警告了切斯特·威尔科克斯,所以,在我炸他居住的寓所时,他和家中人一起躲起来了。也有许多犯罪活动是我未能制止的,可是只要你们回顾一下,想一想为什么你们要害的人往往回家时走了另一条路,或是在你们寻找他时,他却留在镇上,或是你们认为他要出来时,他却深居不出,你们就可以知道这正是我做的了。”

“你这个该死的内奸!"麦金蒂咬牙切齿地咒骂道。

“喂,约翰·麦金蒂,假如这可以减轻你的伤痛,你可以这样称呼我。你和你这一类人是上帝和这些地方居民的死敌。需要有一个人到你们和受你们控制的那些可怜的男女中间去了解情况。要达到这个目地,只有一种方法,于是我就采用了这种方法。你们称呼我是内奸,可是我想有成千上万的人要称呼我是救命恩人,把他们从地狱里救出来。我用了三个月的时间,在当地调查全部情况,掌握每一个人的罪恶和每一件秘密。如果不是知道我的秘密已经泄露出去,那我还要再等一些时候才动手呢。因为镇里已经接到了一封信,它会给你们敲起警钟来。所以我只好行动,而且迅速行动。

“我没有别的话对你们说。我要告诉你们,在我晚年临终之日,我想到我在这山谷做的这件事,我就会安然死去。现在,马文,我不再耽搁你了。把他们拘捕起来。”

还需要再向读者多罗嗦几句。斯坎伦被派给伊蒂·谢夫特小姐送去一封蜡封的信笺,他在接受这项使命时,眨眨眼,会意地笑了。次日一大清早,一位美丽的女子和一个蒙首盖面的人,乘坐铁路公司所派的特别快车,迅速不停地离开了这个危险的地方。这是伊蒂和她的情人在这恐怖谷中最后的行踪了。十天以后,老雅各布·谢夫特做主婚,他们在芝加哥结了婚。

这些死酷党人被押解到远处去审判,他们的党徒无法去威胁那里的法律监护人,他们枉费心机去运动,花钱如流水一般地去搭救(这些钱都是从全镇敲诈、勒索、抢劫而来的),结果依然是白费心机。控诉他们用的证词写得非常周密、明确、证据确凿。因为写这份证词的人熟知他们的生活、组织和每一犯罪活动的每一细节,以致他们的辩护人耍尽阴谋诡计,也无法挽救他们灭亡的命运。过了这么多年,死酷党人终于被击破、被粉碎了。从此,山谷永远驱散了乌云。

麦金蒂在绞架上结束了他的生命,临刑时悲泣哀号也是徒然。其他八名首犯也被处死。另有五十多名党徒被判以各种的徒刑。至此,伯尔弟·爱德华大功告成。

然而,正如爱德华所预料的,这出戏还不算结束。还有别的人要继续上演,而且一个接一个地演下去。特德·鲍德温首先逃脱了绞刑,其次是威拉比兄弟二人,还有这一伙人中其他几个凶狠残暴的人也都逃脱了绞刑。他们只被监禁了十年,终于获得释放,而爱德华深深了解这些人,他意识到仇敌出狱这一天也就是自己和平生活的结束。这些党徒立誓要为他们的同党报仇雪恨,不杀死他决不罢休!

有两次他们几乎得手,毫无疑问,第三次会接踵而至。爱德华无奈离开了芝加哥。他更名换姓从芝加哥迁至加利福尼亚。伊蒂·爱德华与世长辞,他的生活一时失去了光彩。有一次他险遭毒手,他便再次更名道格拉斯在一个人迹稀少的峡谷里和一个名叫巴克的英国人合伙经营矿业,积蓄了一大笔财富。最后,他发现那些嗜血的猎犬又追踪而来。他清楚地意识到,只有立即迁往英国才是出路。后来约翰·道格拉斯重娶了一位高贵的女子,过了五年苏塞克斯郡的绅士生活。这种生活最后所发生的奇事,前面已经介绍过了。

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