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The Embezzlers
by [?]

It thrilled her to be talking so. Once before she had tasted thesweetness and the bitterness of crime. She did not stop to thinkabout right or wrong. If she had done so her ethics would have beenstrangely illogical. It was enough that, short as their acquaintancehad been, she felt unconsciously that there was something latent inthe spirit of this man akin to her own.

Murray also felt rather than understood the bond that had beengrowing so rapidly between them. His was the temperament thatimmediately translates feeling into action. He reached into hisbreast pocket. There was the blue-black glint of a cold steelautomatic. A moment he balanced it in his hand. Then with a rapidand decisive motion of the arm he flung it far from him. As itstruck the water with a sound horribly suggestive of the deathgurgle of a lost man, he turned and faced her.

“There,” he exclaimed with a new light in the defiant, desperatesmile that she had observed many times before, “there. The curtainrises–instead of falls.”

Neither spoke for a few moments. At last he added, “What shall I donext?”

“Do?” she repeated. She felt now the weight of responsibility forinterfering with his desperate plans, but it did not oppress her. Onthe contrary, it was a pleasant burden. “According to your ownstory,” she went on, “they know nothing yet, as far as you can see.You would have forestalled them by taking this little vacationduring which you could disappear while they would discover theshortage. Do? Go back.”

“And when they discover it?” he asked evidently prepared for theanswer she had given and eager to know what she would propose next.

Constance had been thinking rapidly.

“Listen,” she cried, throwing aside restraint now. “No one in NewYork outside my former little circle knows me. I can live there inanother circle unobserved. For weeks I have been amusing myself bythe study of shorthand. I have picked up enough to be able to carrythe thing off. Discharge your secretary. Put an advertisement in thenewspapers. I will answer it. Then I will be able to help you. Icannot say at a distance what you should do next. There, perhaps, Ican tell you.”

What was it that had impelled her to say it? She could not havetold. Murray looked at her. Her very presence seemed to infuse newdetermination into him.

It was strange about this woman, what a wonderful effect she had onhim.

A few days before he would have laughed at any one who had suggestedthat any woman might have aroused in him the passions that were nowsurging through his heart. Ten thousand years ago, perhaps, he wouldhave seized her and carried her off. in triumph to his clan ortribe. To-day he must, he would win her by more subtle means.

His mind was made up. She had pointed the way. That night Dodge leftWoodlake hastily for New York.

To Constance a new purpose seemed to have entered into a barrenlife. She was almost gay as she packed her trunks and grips andquietly slipped into the city a few hours later and registered at aquiet hotel for business women.

Sure enough in the Star the next morning was the advertisement. Shewrote in a formal way, giving her telephone number. That afternoon,apparently as soon as the letter had been delivered, a call came.The following morning she was the private secretary of Murray Dodge,sitting unobtrusively before a typewriter desk in a sort of littleanteroom that guarded the door to his office.

She took pains to act the part of private secretary and no more. Asappeared natural to the rest of the office force at first she wasmuch with Murray, who made the most elaborate explanations of thedetail of the business.

“Do they suspect anything?” she asked anxiously as soon as they wereabsolutely alone.

“I think so,” he replied. “They said nothing except that they hadnot expected me back so soon, I think the ‘so soon’ was anafterthought. They didn’t expect me back at all. For,” he addedsignificantly, “I’ve been in fear and trembling until I could getyou. They already have asked the regular audit company to go overthe books in advance of the time when we usually employ them. Ididn’t ask why. I merely accepted it with a nod. It might have meantbringing matters to a crisis now.”