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THE cab purred off into the evening darkness, leaving Gregg Stacey alone on the curb. He wasted no time lingering there. A street lamp several feet away enclosed him within its circle of illumination, made his figure too conspicuous. He wasn't certain yet that he hadn't been followed.

Bending quickly, he gathered up his bags and strode across a stretch of lawn to the sidewalk. A short distance away, he sighted a broad, shadowed Opening between two buildings, flanked by tall bushes. It was the entrance to a driveway. He turned into it, stopping where the shadows were thickest. He couldn't be seen from the street, now. "

He set down his bags again, and pulled out his pipe. He began filling it from an oilskin pouch, watching the street, unable to shake off a feeling of unease that lay like a black, cold shadow on his mind.

Cars passed frequently on the street. They went rapidly, going somewhere, not slowly as though looking for something. There were occasional pedestrians, but they came and went with a definiteness that carried no hint that they might be searching.

Finally, carefully, Gregg Stacey lighted his pipe. The match, flickering in his large, brown hand, illumined his face. It was a youthful face. broad, with a pleasantly wide mouth, and thick dark brows that almost met over the bridge of a short blunt nose. The eyes, narrowed intently over the pipe. were a clear candid blue, fringed heavily with dark lashes. They were quick, straight, intelligent eyes that many people would find disconcerting. An easy humor showed in the lines around his mouth and eyes, but they were deepened now by grimness and strain. He wore a belted tan gabardine trench coat over a gray tweed suit, and a brown felt hat, the brim of which had been pulled low over his forehead.

The pipe going satisfactorily, Stacey resumed his watch of the street. He thought of the girl named Norma Red-dick. and impatience began to build up within him. Norma Reddick held the answer to the mystery that had brought Stacey to Seattle. She lived just around the corner, in the next block, if the cab driver who had brought Stacey here knew his directions. Stacey had given an address near the girl's, in case he might be followed. He hadn't wanted to lead pursuit directly to her, even though he had changed cabs twice since leaving the airport.

NORMA REDDICK wasn't entirely unknown to Stacey. He had seen her several times, the last being some ten years ago, when both were little more than kids. These meetings had taken place on the infrequent occasions when their respective fathers, Ben Stacey and Warren Reddick, came down from Alaska to visit them. The two men were inseparable friends, and as partners operated a couple of mines near Fairbanks.

Stacey remembered Norma as an impudent skinny brat, with hair of an indefinite blonde shade and a disdainful snub nose sprinkled generously with freckles. He hadn't liked her, and he doubted that he would like her now. He reminded himself that his only reason for coming to see her at all was because she knew the explanation behind the half of a map which he had received a few days before. It had been sent by Chinook Vervain, a half-breed servant of his father and Warren Reddick. With the map fragment. Vervain had enclosed a badly scrawled, barely legible note, containing Norma's address and informing Stacey that the girl had the other half of the map and would explain the matter. Vervain had added a strange warning for Stacey to be careful.

As it developed, the warning hadn't been an empty one. The next day Stacey received a visit from two men, obvious toughs, who had offered to buy his half of the map. He had refused to sell. That evening, while Stacey had been out making arrangements for his trip to Seattle, his room had been painstakingly searched. The map half hadn't been found for the simple reason that Stacey had taken it with him.

The two men had followed Stacey afterward, their purpose now evidently one of robbing him of the map. But doubly warned, Stacey had managed to elude them. So far anyway, he thought. It was possible that the sinister duo had followed in another plane, landing but scant minutes behind him, and even now might be hot on his trail, with a lead furnished by a swift checkup of cab drivers.

Heavy, dark brows meeting in a frown of perplexity, Stacey puffed at his pipe and watched the street. For the dozenth time, he wondered what the split map could mean. To what did it lead? Apparently to something valuable enough to have brought his two hard-faced visitors all the way from Alaska in the effort to buy or steal it. Who were these men? Who was behind them? And above all, Stacey wanted to know why Chinook Vervain instead of his father or Warren Reddick had written to him. The fact that the map had been divided showed the two partners had expected trouble of some kind in connection with it. Did their silence indicate that something had happened to them?

The pipe went out between Stacey's teeth. He knocked it empty on the heel of his hand, decision crystallizing in his mind. He was going to see Norma Reddick. He'd waited long enough to be sure that he hadn't been followed.

Tucking away the pipe, Stacey picked up his bags and left the driveway. It was only a short distance to the corner. A sign there assured him that the intersecting street was the one he wanted. He turned into it, striding rapidly, watching the house numbers. He hadn't entirely abandoned his sense of caution. He scrutinized closely the people who went by and the cars that drove past. But still he saw nothing that hinted of danger.

NORMA REDDICK'S address proved to be that of a tall apartment hotel. Walking toward the entrance, Stacey heard a car door slam behind him. The noise was followed by the sound of swiftly approaching feet. Stacey whirled, thoughts flashing in alarm.

Two men were coming toward him. He relaxed a little as he saw they were not the men who had visited him in Los Angeles. But there was a purposefulness about them that showed Stacey was their immediate objective.

Stacey measured them grimly. He hadn't heard a car drive up. The two must have been waiting for him all the time. He discarded the idea of bolting into the building as soon as it came. He wouldn't have been able to make it.

"You're Gregg Stacey, aren't you?" one of the men asked, in a politely inquiring tone. He was fully as tall as Stacey, though somewhat slimmer, with sharp olive features that narrowly escaped being handsome. Even white teeth showed in a smile below a thin, carefully trimmed black mustache. He was smartly and even foppishly dressed. His black Homburg was tilted a bit too rakishly, and his gray double-breasted topcoat fitted a bit too snugly at the hips.

His companion was of an entirely different type. The man was a giant. He had a square, lumpy face and heavy. sloping shoulders from which swung arms that seemed abnormally long. His clothes were several sizes too small for him, not to mention the fact that a Borneo bushman might have shown more taste in their color scheme.

Stacey forced a smile to his lips and shook his head. "The name's Johnson. You probably have me confused with someone else."

"I'm more than positive I haven't." the man in the black Homburg said evenly. "You look too much like Ben Stacey for there to be any mistake."

Stacey said nothing. He didn't intend to commit himself. The fact that this foppish stranger knew his father didn't necessarily mean he was a friend.

The other's even white teeth gleamed in a faintly mocking smile. "Your silence, I presume, is an admission that you're actually Gregg Stacey. Let's stop beating around the bush. You have part of a certain map, Mr. Stacey. I want to buy it."

"I'm afraid I don't know what you're talking about."

"Come, come, Mr. Stacey, I'm sure we have more important things to do than play games. I happen to know you have the map."

Stacey's mildly quizzical expression vanished. "Then you must be connected with the two men who came to me in Los Angeles. You're here to get Norma Reddick's half of the map, and the Los Angeles boys contacted you after I gave them the slip. Somehow, you knew I was coming to Seattle, to see the girl."

"It pays to be informed, Mr. Stacey," the other returned coolly. "At any rate, I'm sure this knowledge doesn't affect my offer to buy your half of the map."

Grimly Stacey pointed out: "Those Los Angeles boys tried to steal my half. That's no way to do business. You've practically admitted being connected with them."

"Allow me to apologize for the boys, then. They're just a bit too impulsive sometimes." The dapper stranger lifted slim shoulders in a shrug. "Suppose we return to the subject of the map, Mr. Stacey. As I said, I want to buy it. Name your price."

"I haven't anything to sell."

"Is that a refusal?"

"You might put it that way."

THE other thoughtfully fingered his thin black mustache. He said finally, "Your words suggest that you're in no position to sell the map, Mr. Stacey—even though you might like to. Is it because you don't have the map with you?"

The question rang an alarm bell inside Stacey. It seemed abruptly clear to him that the stranger's talk about buying the map was merely a subterfuge to determine whether or not Stacey had it in his possession. The two men in Los Angeles had searched his room after employing the same trick. There was little doubt in his mind about what the pair before him would do if he were to admit that he had the map on his person.

"You guessed it," Stacey said. "After that stunt your friends tried to pull in Los Angeles, I decided I'd better be careful. So I mailed the map on ahead. Since you're interested only in buying it, I'm sure it won't be necessary for me to tell you where. The information wouldn't do you any good anyway, since I'm the only one who can claim the letter."

"Clever—but you hesitated just a bit too long, Mr. Stacey." The man in the black Homburg smiled thinly and nodded at his hulking, clumsily dressed companion. "All right, Buck."

The giant started forward, thick lips stretching in an eager grin. Stacey glanced quickly up and down the street. Nobody was in sight for the moment. He would have no help in what was shortly to take place.

But there was no time to worry over odds. Stacey moved into action. He ducked under Buck's first swing and heaved his shoulder violently into the giant's midriff. Buck staggered back, crashing into his dapper chief.

Whirling, Stacey darted for the entrance to the apartment hotel. He found the door handle and pulled. Nothing happened. The door seemed to be locked. Then he saw the sm...

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