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Dagger Doom

By Anthony Field
Author of "Dealing Death," "Murder at Ballston Spa," etc.

With a Knife at His Throat, Old Silas Mercer Had to Agree to Give Up His
Precious Formula—and Then . . .

OLD SILAS MERCER'S crude log cabin sat, dim, dark and foreboding, in a small clearing at the edge of the woods six miles from Ladville.

The sole means of approach was a narrow, winding mountain trail which could only be traveled afoot.

It was too narrow and steep even for horses.

Old Silas was a character. No one in Ladville knew much about him. Old, halting, reticent, with a queer, faraway look in his deep-set eyes, he talked very little with anyone. And then never about himself.

All the townspeople knew that he lived alone in his cabin on the mountainside, with only an aged cat for companionship. Though the mountains about Ladville were rich with mineral streaks, it was a known fact that Old Silas never busied himself with pick or shovel, neither did he work with a pan washing for gold.

Yet, he had money.

Once every month he came into the post office at Ladville with a small package neatly lettered and sealed with wax, which he properly registered and sent to an address on Maiden Lane in New York City. The package was always the same size, always the same weight, and always took identically the same fee—thirty-seven cents.

Ten days later he would come into Ladville again, and ask for his mail at the General Delivery window. He always received a letter, and it was the same kind of a letter which he had been receiving every month since Clem Hawker had become postmaster, more years ago than he could remember.

WHEN the postmaster handed him the letter, he would invariably hold it up carefully to the light, shake the contents down to one end, then rip open the other end of the envelope.

The letter always contained a money order, but unlike the letter or the package, he had mailed previously, the amount varied. It varied from $187.50, which was the smallest amount the postmaster could remember, to $234.35, which was the largest.

Old Silas had always endorsed and cashed these money orders as soon as he received them.

"Could you...

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