THE CRAIG KENNEDY SERIES
ARTHUR B. REEVE
I. The Stolen Motor
II. The Murder Car
III. The Mystery of the Thicket
IV. The Liquid Bullet
V. The Blackmailer
VI. The Gambling Den
VII. The Motor Bandit
VIII. The Explanation
IX. The Raid
X. The Gambling Debt
XI. The Gangster's Garage
XII. The Detectaphone
XIII. The Incendiary
XIV. The Escape
XV. The Plot
XVI. The Poisoned Needle
XVII. The Newspaper Fake
XVIII. The Vocaphone
XIX. The Eavesdropper Again
XX. The Speaking Arc
XXI. The Siege of the Bandits
XXII. The Man Hunt
XXIII. The Police Dog
XXIV. The Frame-Up
XXV. The Scientific Gunman
An Adventure in the New Crime Science
THE STOLEN MOTOR
"You are aware, I suppose, Marshall, that there have been considerably over a million dollars' worth of automobiles stolen in this city during the past few months?" asked Guy Garrick one night when I had dropped into his office.
"I wasn't aware of the exact extent of the thefts, though of course I knew of their existence," I replied. "What's the matter?"
"If you can wait a few moments," he went on, "I think I can promise you a most interesting case—the first big case I've had to test my new knowledge of crime science since I returned from abroad. Have you time for it?"
"Time for it?" I echoed. "Garrick, I'd make time for it, if necessary."
We sat for several moments, in silence, waiting.
I picked up an evening paper. I had already read it, but I looked through it again, to kill time, even reading the society notes.
"By Jove, Garrick," I exclaimed as my eye travelled over the page, "newspaper pictures don't usually flatter people, but just look at those eyes! You can fairly see them dance even in the halftone."
The picture which had attracted my attention was of Miss Violet Winslow, an heiress to a moderate fortune, a debutante well known in New York and at Tuxedo that season.
As Garrick looked over my shoulder his mere tone set me wondering.
"She IS stunning," he agreed simply. "Half the younger set are crazy over her."
The buzzer on his door recalled us to the case in hand.
One of our visitors was a sandy-haired, red-mustached, stocky man, with everything but the name detective written on him from his face to his mannerisms.
He was accompanied by an athletically inclined, fresh-faced young fellow, whose clothes proclaimed him to be practically the last word in imported goods from London.
I was not surprised at reading the name of James McBirney on the detective's card, underneath which was the title of the Automobile Underwriters' Association. But I was more than surprised when the younger of the visitors handed us a card with the simple name, Mortimer Warrington.
For, Mortimer Warrington, I may say, was at that time one of the celebrities of the city, at least as far as the newspapers were concerned. He was one of the richest young men in the country, and good for a "story" almost every day.
Warrington was not exactly a wild youth, in spite of the fact that his name appeared so frequently in the headlines. As a matter of fact, the worst that could be said of him with any degree of truth was that he was gifted with a large inheritance of good, red, restless blood, as well as considerable holdings of real estate in various active sections of the metropolis.
More than that, it was scarcely his fault if the society columns had been busy in a concerted effort to marry him off—no doubt with a cynical eye on possible black-type headlines of future domestic discord. Among those mentioned by the enterprising society reporters of the papers had been the same Miss Violet Winslow whose picture I had admired. Evidently Garrick had recognized the coincidence.
Miss Winslow, by the way, was rather closely guarded by a duenna- like aunt, Mrs. Beekman de Lancey, who at that time had achieved a certain amount of notoriety by a crusade which she had organized against gambling in society. She had reached that age when some women naturally turn toward righting the wrongs of humanity, and, in this instance, as in many others, humanity did not exactly appreciate it.
"How are you, McBirney?" greeted Garrick, as he met his old friend, then, turning to young Warrington, added: "Have you had a car stolen?"
"Have I?" chimed in the youth eagerly, and with just a trace of nervousness. "Worse than that. I can stand losing a big nine- thousand-dollar Mercedes, but—but—you tell it, McBirney. You have the facts at your tongue's end."
Garrick looked questioningly at the detective.
"I'm very much afraid," responded McBirney slowly, "that this theft about caps the climax of motor-car stealing in this city. Of course, you realize that the automobile as a means of committing crime and of escape has rendered detection much more difficult to- day than it ever was before." He paused. "There's been a murder done in or with or by that car of Mr. Warrington's, or I'm ready to resign from the profession!"
McBirney had risen in the excitement of his revelation, and had handed Garrick what looked like a discharged shell of a cartridge.
Garrick took it without a word, and turned it over and over critically, examining every side of it, and waiting for McBirney to resume. McBirney, however, said nothing.
"Where did you find the car?" asked Garrick at length, still examining the cartridge. "We haven't found it," replied the detective with a discouraged sigh.
"Haven't found it?" repeated Garrick. "Then how did you get this cartridge—or, at least why do you connect it with the disappearance of the car?"
"Well," explained McBirney, getting down to the story, "you understand Mr. Warrington's car was insured against theft in a company which is a member of our association. When it was stolen we immediately put in motion the usual machinery for tracing stolen cars."
"How about the police?" I queried.
McBirney looked at me a moment—I thought pityingly. "With all deference to the police," he answered indulgently, "it is the insurance companies and not the police who get cars back—usually. I suppose it's natural. The man who loses a car notifies us first, and, as we are likely to lose money by it, we don't waste any time getting after the thief."
"You have some clew, then?" persisted Garrick.
"Late this afternoon word came to me that a man, all alone in a car, which, in some respects tallied with the description of Warrington's, although, of course, the license number and color had been altered, had stopped early this morning at a little garage over in the northern part of New Jersey."
Warrington, excited, leaned forward and interrupted.
"And, Garrick," he exclaimed, horrified, "the car was all stained with blood!"
THE MURDER CAR
Garrick looked from one to the other of his visitors intently. Here was an entirely unexpected development in the case which stamped it as set apart from the ordinary.
"How did the driver manage to explain it and get away?" he asked quickly.
McBirney shook his head in evident disgust at the affair.
"He must be a clever one," he pursued thoughtfully. "When he came into the garage they say he was in a rather jovial mood. He said that he had run into a cow a few miles back on the road, and then began to cuss the farmer, who had stung him a hundred dollars for the animal."
"And they believed it?" prompted Garrick.
"Yes, the garage keeper's assistant swallowed the story and cleaned the car. There was some blood on the radiator and hood, but the strange part was that it was spattered even over the rear seat—in fact, was mostly in the rear."
"How did he explain that?"
"Said that he guessed the farmer who stung him wouldn't get much for the carcass, for it had been pretty well cut up and a part of it flung right back into the tonneau."
"And the man believed that, too?"
"Yes; but afterward the garage keeper himself was told. He met the farmer in town later, and the farmer denied that he had lost a cow. That set the garage keeper thinking. And then, while they were cleaning up the garage later in the day, they found that cartridge where the car had been washed down and swept out. We had already advertised a reward for information about the stolen car, and, when he heard of the reward, for there are plenty of people about looking for money in that way, he telephoned in, thinking the story might interest us. It did, for I am convinced that his description of the machine tallies closely with that of Mr. Warrington's."
"How about the man who drove it?" cut in Garrick.
"That's the unfortunate part of it," replied McBirney, chagrined. "These amateur detectives about the country rarely seem to have any foresight. Of course they could describe how the fellow was dressed, even the make of goggles he wore. But, when it came to telling one feature of his face accurately, they took refuge behind the fact that he kept his cap pulled down over his eyes, and talked like a 'city fellow.'"
"All of which is highly important," agreed Garrick. "I suppose they'd consider a fingerprint, or the portrait parle the height of idiocy beside that."
"Disgusting," ejaculated McBirney, who, whatever his own limitations might be, had a wholesome respect for Garrick's new methods.
"Where did you leave the car?" asked Garrick of Warrington. "How did you lose it?"
The young man seemed to hesitate.
"I suppose," he said at length, with a sort of resigned smile, "I'll have to make a clean breast of it."
"You can hardly expect us to do much, otherwise," encouraged Garrick dryly. "Besides, you can depend on us to keep anything you say confidential."
"Why," he began, "the fact is that I had started out for a mild little sort of celebration, apropos of nothing at all in particular, beginning with dinner at the Mephistopheles Restaurant, with a friend of mine. You know the place, perhaps— just on the edge of the automobile district and the white lights."
"Yes," encouraged Garrick, "near what ought to be named 'Crime Square.' Whom were you with?"
"Well, Angus Forbes and I were going to dine together, and then later we were to meet several fellows who used to belong to the same upperclass club with us at Princeton. We were going to do a little slumming. No ladies, you understand," he added hastily.
"It may not have been pure sociology," pursued Warrington, good- humouredly noticing the smile, "but it wasn't as bad as some of the newspapers might make it out if they got hold of it, anyhow. I may as well admit, I suppose, that Angus has been going the pace pretty lively since we graduated. I don't object to a little flyer now and then, myself, but I guess I'm not up to his class yet. But that doesn't make any difference. The slumming party never came off."
"How?" prompted Garrick again.
"Angus and I had a very good dinner at the Mephistopheles—they have a great cabaret there—and by and by the fellows began to drop in to join us. When I went out to look for the car, which I was going to drive myself, it was gone."
"Where did you leave it?" asked McBirney, as if bringing out the evidence.
"In the parking space half a block below the restaurant. A chauffeur standing near the curb told me that a man in a cap and goggles—"
"Another amateur detective," cut in McBirney parenthetically.
"—had come out of the restaurant, or seemed to do so, had spun the engine, climbed in, and rode off—just like that!"
"What did you do then?" asked Garrick. "Did you fellows go anywhere?"
"Oh, Forbes wanted to play the wheel, and went around to a place on Forty-eighth Street. I was all upset about the loss of the car, got in touch with the insurance company, who turned me over to McBirney here, and the rest of the fellows went down to the Club."
"There was no trace of the car in the city?" asked Garrick, of the detective.
"I was coming to that," replied McBirney. "There was at least a rumour. You see, I happen to know several of the police on fixed posts up there, and one of them has told me that he noticed a car, which might or might not have been Mr. Warrington's, pull up, about the time his car must have disappeared, at a place in Forty- seventh Street which is reputed to be a sort of poolroom for women."
Garrick raised his eyebrows the fraction of an inch.
"At any rate," pursued McBirney, "someone must have been having a wild time there, for they carried a girl out to the car. She seemed to be pretty far gone and even the air didn't revive her— that is, assuming that she had been celebrating not wisely but too well. Of course, the whole thing is pure speculation yet, as far as Warrington's car is concerned. Maybe it wasn't his car, after all. But I am repeating it only for what it may be worth."
"Do you know the place?" asked Garrick, watching Warrington narrowly.
"I've heard of it," he admitted, I thought a little evasively.
Then it flashed over me that Mrs. de Lancey was leading the crusade against society gambling and that that perhaps accounted for Warrington's fears and evident desire for concealment.
"I know that some of the faster ones in the smart set go there once in a while for a little poker, bridge, and even to play the races," went on Warrington carefully. "I've never been there myself, but I wouldn't be surprised if Angus could tell you all about it. He goes in for all that sort of thing."
"After all," interrupted McBirney, "that's only rumour. Here's the point of the whole thing. For a long time my Association has been thinking that merely in working for the recovery of the cars we have been making a mistake. It hasn't put a stop to the stealing, and the stealing has gone quite far enough. We have got to do something about it. It struck me that here was a case on which to begin and that you, Garrick, are the one to begin it for us, while I carry on the regular work I am doing. The gang is growing bolder and more clever every day. And then, here's a murder, too, in all likelihood. If we don't round them up, there is no limit to what they may do in terrorizing the city."
"How does this gang, as you call it, operate?" asked Garrick.
"Most of the cars that are stolen," explained McBirney, "are taken from the automobile district, which embraces also not a small portion of the new Tenderloin and the theatre district. Actually, Garrick, more than nine out of ten cars have disappeared between Forty-second and Seventy-second Streets."
Garrick was listening, without comment.
"Some of the thefts, like this one of Warrington's car," continued McBirney, warming up to the subject, "have been so bold that you would be astonished. And it is those stolen cars, I believe, that are used in the wave of taxicab and motor car robberies, hold-ups, and other crimes that is sweeping over the city. The cars are taken to some obscure garage, without doubt, and their identity is destroyed by men who are expert in the practice."
"And you have no confidence in the police?" I inquired cautiously, mindful of his former manner.
"We have frequently had occasion to call on the police for assistance," he answered, "but somehow or other it has seldom worked. They don't seem to be able to help us much. If anything is done, we must do it. If you will take the case, Garrick, I can promise you that the Association will pay you well for it."
"I will add whatever is necessary, too," put in Warrington, eagerly. "I can stand the loss of the car—in fact, I don't care whether I ever get it back. I have others. But I can't stand the thought that my car is going about the country as the property of a gunman, perhaps—an engine of murder and destruction."
Garrick had been thoughtfully balancing the exploded shell between his fingers during most of the interview. As Warrington concluded, he looked up.
"I'll take the case," he said simply. "I think you'll find that there is more to it than even you suspect. Before we get through, I shall get a conviction on that empty shell, too. If there is a gunman back of it all, he is no ordinary fellow, but a scientific gunman, far ahead of anything of which you dream. No, don't thank me for taking the case. My thanks are to you for putting it in my way."
THE MYSTERY OF THE THICKET
"You know my ideas on modern detective work," Garrick remarked to me, reflectively, when they had gone.
I nodded assent, for we had often discussed the subject.
"There must be something new in order to catch criminals, nowadays," he pursued. "The old methods are all right—as far as they go. But while we have been using them, criminals have kept pace with modern science."
I had met Garrick several months before on the return trip from abroad, and had found in him a companion spirit.
For some years I had been editing a paper which I called "The Scientific World," and it had taxed my health to the point where my physician had told me that I must rest, or at least combine pleasure with business. Thus I had taken the voyage across the ocean to attend the International Electrical Congress in London, and had unexpectedly been thrown in with Guy Garrick, who later seemed destined to play such an important part in my life.
Garrick was a detective, young, university bred, of good family, alert, and an interesting personality to me. He had travelled much, especially in London, Paris, Berlin, and Vienna, where he had studied the amazing growth abroad of the new criminal science.
Already I knew something, by hearsay, of the men he had seen, Gross, Lacassagne, Reiss, and the now immortal Bertillon. Our acquaintance, therefore, had rapidly ripened into friendship, and on our return, I had formed a habit of dropping in frequently on him of an evening, as I had this night, to smoke a pipe or two and talk over matters of common interest in his profession.
He had paused a moment in what he was saying, but now resumed, less reflectively, "Fortunately, Marshall, the crime-hunters have gone ahead faster than the criminals. Now, it's my job to catch criminals. Yours, it seems to me, is to show people how they can never hope to beat the modern scientific detective. Let's strike a bargain."
I was flattered by his confidence. More than that, the idea appealed to me, in fact was exactly in line with some plans I had already made for the "World," since our first acquaintance.
And so it came about that the case brought to him by McBirney and young Warrington was responsible for clearing our ideas as to our mutual relationship and thus forming this strange partnership that has existed ever since.
"Tom," he remarked, as we left the office quite late, after he had arranged affairs as if he expected to have no time to devote to his other work for several days, "come along and stay with me at my apartment to-night. It's too late to do anything now until to- morrow."
I accepted his invitation without demur, for I knew that he meant it, but I doubt whether he slept much during the night. Certainly he was up and about early enough the following morning.
"That's curious," I heard him remark, as he ran his eye hastily over the first page of the morning paper, "but I rather expected something of the sort. Read that in the first column, Tom."
The story that he indicated had all the marks of having been dropped into place at the last moment as the city edition went to press in the small hours of the night.
It was headed:
GIRL'S BODY FOUND IN THICKET
The despatch was from a little town in New Jersey, and, when I saw the date line, it at once suggested to me, as it had to Guy, that this was in the vicinity that must have been traversed in order to reach the point from which had come the report of the bloody car that had seemed to tally with the description of that which Warrington had lost. It read:
"Hidden in the underbrush, not ten feet from one of the most travelled automobile roads in this section of the state, the body of a murdered girl was discovered late yesterday afternoon by a gang of Italian labourers employed on an estate nearby.
"Suspicion was at first directed by the local authorities at the labourers, but the manner of the finding of the body renders it improbable. Most of them are housed in some rough shacks up the road toward Tuxedo and were able to prove themselves of good character. Indeed, the trampled condition of the thicket plainly indicates, according to the local coroner, that the girl was brought there, probably already dead, in an automobile which drew up off the road as far as possible. The body then must have been thrown where it would be screened from sight by the thick growth of trees and shrubbery.
"There was only one wound, in the chest. It is, however, a most peculiar wound, and shows that a terrific force must have been exerted in order to make it. A blow could hardly have accomplished it, so jagged were its edges, and if the girl had been struck by a passing high-speed car, as was at first suggested, there is no way to account for the entire lack of other wounds which must naturally have been inflicted by such an accident.
"Neither is the wound exactly like a pistol or gunshot wound, for, curiously enough, there was no mark showing the exit of a bullet, nor was any bullet found in the body after the most careful examination. The local authorities are completely mystified at the possible problems that may arise out of the case, especially as to the manner in which the unfortunate girl met her death.
"Until a late hour the body, which is of a girl perhaps twenty- three or four, of medium height, fair, good looking, and stylishly dressed, was still unidentified. She was unknown in this part of the country."
Almost before I had finished reading, Garrick had his hat and coat on and had shoved into his pocket a little detective camera.
"Strange about the bullet," I ruminated. "I wonder who she can be?"
"Very strange," agreed Garrick, urging me on. "I think we ought to investigate the case."
As we hurried along to a restaurant for a bite of breakfast, he remarked, "The circumstances of the thing, coming so closely after the report about Warrington's car, are very suspicious—very. I feel sure that we shall find some connection between the two affairs."
Accordingly, we caught an early train and at the nearest railroad station to the town mentioned in the despatch engaged a hackman who knew the coroner, a local doctor.
The coroner was glad to assist us, though we were careful not to tell him too much of our own connection with the case. On the way over to the village undertaker's where the body had been moved, he volunteered the information that the New York police, whom he had notified immediately, had already sent a man up there, who had taken a description of the girl and finger prints, but had not, so far at least, succeeded in identifying the girl, at any rate on any of the lists of those reported missing.
"You see," remarked Garrick to me, "that is where the police have us at a disadvantage. They have organization on their side. A good many detectives make the mistake of antagonizing the police. But if you want results, that's fatal."
"Yes," I agreed, "it's impossible, just as it is to antagonize the newspapers."
"Exactly," returned Garrick. "My idea of the thing, Marshall, is that I should work with, not against, the regular detectives. They are all right, in fact indispensable. Half the secret of success nowadays is efficiency and organization. What I do believe is that organization plus science is what is necessary."
The local undertaking establishment was rather poorly equipped to take the place of a morgue and the authorities were making preparations to move the body to the nearest large city pending the disposal of the case. Local detectives had set to work, but so far had turned up nothing, not even the report which we had already received from McBirney regarding the blood-stained car that resembled Warrington's.
We arrived with the coroner fortunately just before the removal of the body to the city and by his courtesy were able to see it without any trouble.
Death, and especially violent death, are at best grewsome subjects, but when to that are added the sordid surroundings of a country undertaker's and the fact that the victim is a woman, it all becomes doubly tragic.
She was a rather flashily dressed girl, but remarkably good looking, in spite of the rouge and powder which had long since spoiled what might otherwise have been a clear and fine complexion. The roots of her hair showed plainly that it had been bleached.
Garrick examined the body closely, and more especially the jagged wound in the breast. I bent over also. It seemed utterly inexplicable. There was, he soon discovered, a sort of greasy, oleaginous deposit in the clotted blood of the huge cavity in the flesh. It interested him, and he studied it carefully for a long time, without saying a word.
"Some have said she was wounded by some kind of blunt instrument," put in the coroner. "Others that she was struck by a car. But it's my opinion that she was killed by a rifle bullet of some kind, although what could have become of the bullet is beyond me. I've probed for it, but it isn't there."
Garrick finished his minute examination of the wound without passing any comment on it of his own.
"Now, if you will be kind enough to take us around to the place where the body was discovered," he concluded, "I think we shall not trespass on your time further."
In his own car, the coroner drove us up the road in the direction of the New York state boundary to the spot where the body had been found. It was a fine, well-oiled road and I noticed the number and high quality of the cars which passed us.
When we arrived at the spot where the body of the unfortunate girl had been discovered, Garrick began a minute search. I do not think for a moment that he expected to find any weapon, or even the trace of one. It seemed hopeless also to attempt to pick out any of the footprints. The earth was soft and even muddy, but so many feet had trodden it down since the first alarm had been given that it would have been impossible to extricate one set of footprints from another, much less to tell whether any of them had been made by the perpetrators of the crime.
Still, there seemed to be something in the mud, just off the side of the road, that did interest Garrick. Very carefully, so as not to destroy anything himself which more careless searchers might have left, he began a minute study of the ground.
Apparently he was rewarded, for, although he said nothing, he took a hasty glance at the direction of the sun, up-ended the camera he had brought, and began to photograph the ground itself, or rather some curious marks on it which I could barely distinguish.
The coroner and I looked on without saying a word. He, at least, I am sure, thought that Garrick had suddenly taken leave of his senses.
That concluded Garrick's investigation, and, after thanking the coroner, who had gone out of his way to accommodate us, we started back to town.
"Well," I remarked, as we settled ourselves for the tedious ride into the city in the suburban train, "we don't seem to have added much to the sum of human knowledge by this trip."
"Oh, yes, we have," he returned, almost cheerfully, patting the black camera which he had folded and slipped into his pocket. "We'll just preserve the records which I have here. Did you notice what it was that I photographed?"
"I saw something," I replied, "but I couldn't tell you what it was."
"Well," he explained slowly as I opened my eyes wide in amazement at the minuteness of his researches, "those were the marks of the tire of an automobile that had been run up into the bushes from the road. You know every automobile tire leaves its own distinctive mark, its thumb print, as it were. When I have developed my films, you will see that the marks that have been left there are precisely like those left by the make of tires used on Warrington's car, according to the advertisement sent out by McBirney. Of course, that mere fact alone doesn't prove anything. Many cars may use that make of tires. Still, it is an interesting coincidence, and if the make had been different I should not feel half so encouraged about going ahead with this clew. We can't say anything definite, however, until I can compare the actual marks made by the tires on the stolen car with these marks which I have photographed and preserved."
If any one other than Garrick had conceived such a notion as the "thumb print" of an automobile tire, I might possibly have ventured to doubt it. As it was it gave food enough for thought to last the remainder of the journey back to town.
THE LIQUID BULLET
On our return to the city, I was not surprised after our conversation over in New Jersey to find that Garrick had decided on visiting police headquarters. It was, of course, Commissioner Dillon, one of the deputies, whom he wanted to see. I had met Dillon myself some time before in connection with my study of the finger print system, and consequently needed no second introduction.
In his office on the second floor, the Commissioner greeted us cordially in his bluff and honest voice which both of us came to know and like so well later. Garrick had met him often and the cordiality of their relations was well testified to by Dillon's greeting.
"I thought you'd be here before long," he beamed on Garrick, as he led us into an inner sanctum. "Did you read in the papers this morning about that murder of a girl whose body was found up in New Jersey in the underbrush?"
"Not only that, but I've picked up a few things that your man overlooked," confided Garrick.
Dillon looked at him sharply for a moment. "Say," he said frankly, "that's one of the things I like about you, Garrick. You're on the job. Also, you're on the square. You don't go gumshoeing it around behind a fellow's back, and talking the same way. You play fair. Now, look here. Haven't I always played fair with you, Garrick?"
"Yes, Dillon," agreed Garrick, "you have always played fair. But what's the idea?"
"You came up here for information, didn't you?" persisted the commissioner.
"Well do you know who that girl was who was murdered?" he asked leaning forward.
"No," admitted Garrick.
"Of course not," asserted Dillon triumphantly. "We haven't given it out yet—and I don't know as we shall."
"No," pursued Garrick, "I don't know and I'll admit that I'd like to know. My position is, as it always has been, that we shouldn't work at cross purposes. I have drawn my own conclusions on the case and, to put it bluntly, it seemed to me clear that she was of the demi-monde."
"She was—in a sense," vouchsafed the commissioner. "Now," he added, leaning forward impressively, "I'm going to tell you something. That girl—was one of the best stool pigeons we have ever had."
Both Garrick and I were listening intently at, the surprising revelation of the commissioner. He was pacing up and down, now, evidently much excited.
"As for me," he continued, "I hate the stool pigeon method as much as anyone can. I don't like it. I don't relish the idea of being in partnership with crooks in any degree. I hate an informer who worms himself or herself into a person's friendship for the purpose of betraying it. But the system is here. I didn't start it and I can't change it. As long as it's here I must accept it and do business under it. And, that being the case, I can't afford to let matters like this killing pass without getting revenge, swift and sure. You understand? Someone's going to suffer for the killing of that girl, not only because it was a brutal murder, but because the department has got to make an example or no one whom we employ is safe."
Dillon was shouldering his burly form up and down the office in his excitement. He paused in front of us, to proceed.
"I've got one of my best men on the case now—Inspector Herman. I'll introduce you to him, if he happens to be around. Herman's all right. But here you come in, Garrick, and tell me you picked up something that my man missed up there in Jersey. I know it's the truth, too. I've worked with you and seen enough of you to know that you wouldn't say a thing like that as a bluff to me."
Dillon was evidently debating something in his mind.
"Herman'll have to stand it," he went on, half to himself. "I don't care whether he gets jealous or not."
He paused and looked Garrick squarely in the eye, as he led up to his proposal. "Garrick," he said slowly, "I'd like to have you take up the case for us, too. I've heard already that you are working on the automobile cases. You see, I have ways of getting information myself. We're not so helpless as your friend McBirney, maybe, thinks."
He faced us and it was almost as if he read our minds.
"For instance," he proceeded, "it may interest you to know that we have just planned a new method to recover stolen automobiles and apprehend the thieves. A census of all cars in the questionable garages of the city has been taken, and each day every policeman is furnished with descriptions of cars stolen in the past twenty- four hours. The policeman then is supposed to inspect the garages in his district and if he finds a machine that shouldn't be there, according to the census, he sees to it that it isn't removed from the place until it is identified. The description of this Warrington car has gone out with extra special orders, and if it's in New York I think we'll find it."
"I think you'll find," remarked Garrick quietly, "that this machine of Warrington's isn't in the city, at all."
"I hardly think it is, myself," agreed Dillon. "Whoever it was who took it is probably posted about our new scheme. That's not the point I was driving at. You see, Garrick, our trails cross in these cases in a number of ways. Now, I have a little secret fund at my disposal. In so far as the affair involved the murder of that girl—and I'm convinced that it does—will you consider that you are working for the city, too? The whole thing dovetails. You don't have to neglect one client to serve another. I'll do anything I can to help you with the auto cases. In fact, you'll do better by both clients by joining the cases."
"Dillon," answered Garrick quickly, "you've always been on the level with me. I can trust you. Consider that it is a bargain. We'll work together. Now, who was the girl?"
"Her name was Rena Taylor," replied Dillon, apparently much gratified at the success of his proposal. "I had her at work getting evidence against a ladies' poolroom in Forty-seventh Street—an elusive place that we've never been able to 'get right.'"
Garrick shot a quick glance at me. Evidently we were on the right trail, anyhow.
"I don't know yet just what happened," continued Dillon, "but I do know that she had the goods on it. As nearly as I can find out, a stranger came to the place well introduced, a man, accompanied by a woman. They got into some of the games. The man seems to have excused himself. Apparently he found Rena Taylor alone in a room in some part of the house. No one heard a pistol shot, but then I think they would lie about that, all right."
Dillon paused. "The strange thing is, however," he resumed, "that we haven't been able to find in the house a particle of evidence that a murder or violence of any kind has been done. One fact is established, though, incontrovertibly. Rena Taylor disappeared from that gambling house the same night and about the same time that Warrington's car disappeared. Then we find her dead over in New Jersey."
"And I find reports and traces that the car has been in the vicinity," added Garrick.
"You see," beamed Dillon, "that's how we work together. Say you MUST meet Herman."
He rang a bell and a blue-coated man opened the door. "Call Herman, Jim," he said, then, as the man disappeared, he went on to us, "I have given Herman carte-blanche instructions to conduct a thorough investigation. He has been getting the goods on another swell joint on the next street, in Forty-eighth, a joint that is just feeding on young millionaires in this town, and is or will be the cause of more crime and broken hearts if I don't land it and break it up than any such place has been for years." The door opened, and Dillon said, "Herman, shake hands with Mr. Garrick and Mr. Marshall."
The detective was a quiet, gentlemanly sort of fellow who looked rugged and strong, a fighter to be respected. In fact I would much rather have had a man like him with us than against us. I knew Garrick's aversion to the regular detective and was not surprised that he did not overwhelm Mr. Herman by the cordiality of his greeting. Garrick always played a lone hand, preferred it and had taken Dillon into his confidence only because of his official position and authority.
"These gentlemen are going to work independently on that Rena Taylor case," explained Dillon. "I want you to give Mr. Garrick every assistance, Herman."
Garrick nodded with a show of cordiality and Herman replied in about the same spirit. I could not fancy our getting very much assistance from the regular detective force, with the exception of Dillon. And I noticed, also, that Garrick was not volunteering any information except what was necessary in good faith. Already I began to wonder how this peculiar bargain would turn out.
"Just who and what was Rena Taylor?" asked Garrick finally.
Inspector Herman shot a covert glance at Dillon before replying and the commissioner hastened to reassure him, "I have told Mr. Garrick that she was one of our best stool pigeons and had been working on the gambling cases."
Like all detectives on a case, Herman was averse to parting with any information, and I felt that it was natural, for if he succeeded in working it out human nature was not such as to willingly share the glory.
"Oh," he replied airily, "she was a girl who had knocked about considerably in the Tenderloin. I don't know just what her story was, but I suppose there was some fellow who got her to come to New York and then left her in the lurch. She wasn't a New Yorker. She seems to have drifted from one thing to another—until finally in order to get money she came down and offered her services to the police, in this gambling war."
Herman had answered the question, but when I examined the answer I found it contained precious little. Perhaps it was indeed all he knew, for, although Garrick put several other questions to him and he answered quite readily and with apparent openness, there was very little more that we learned.
"Yes," concluded Herman, "someone cooked her, all right. They don't take long to square things with anyone who raps to the 'bulls.'"
"That's right," agreed Garrick. "And the underworld isn't alone in that feeling. No one likes a 'snitch.'"
"Bet your life," emphasized Herman heartily, then edging toward the door, he said, "Well, gentlemen, I'm glad to meet you and I'll work with you. I wish you success, all right. It's a hard case. Why, there wasn't any trace of a murder or violence in that place in which Rena Taylor must have been murdered. I suppose you have heard that there wasn't any bullet found in the body, either?"
"Yes," answered Garrick, "so far it does look inexplicable."
Inspector Herman withdrew. One could see that he had little faith in these "amateur" detectives.
A telephone message for Dillon about another departmental matter terminated our interview and we went our several ways.
"Much help I've ever got from a regular detective like Herman," remarked Garrick, phrasing my own idea of the matter, as we paid the fare of our cab a few minutes later and entered his office.
"Yes," I agreed. "Why, he's even stumped at the start by the mystery of there being no bullet. I'm glad you said nothing about the cartridge, although I can't see for the life of me what good it is to us."
I had ventured the remark, hoping to entice Garrick into talking. It worked, at least as far as Garrick wanted to talk yet.
"You'll see about the cartridge soon enough, Tom," he rejoined. "As for there being no bullet, there was a bullet—only it was of a kind you never dreamed of before."
He regarded me contemplatively for a moment, then leaned over and in a voice full of meaning, concluded, "That bullet was composed of something soft or liquid, probably confined in some kind of thin capsule. It mushroomed out like a dumdum bullet. It was deadly. But the chief advantage was that the heat that remained in Rena Taylor's body melted all evidence of the bullet. That was what caused that greasy, oleaginous appearance of the wound. The murderer thought he left no trail in the bullet in the corpse. In other words, it was practically a liquid bullet."
It was late in the afternoon, while Garrick was still busy with a high-powered microscope, making innumerable micro-photographs, when the door of the office opened softly and a young lady entered.
As she advanced timidly to us, we could see that she was tall and gave promise of developing with years into a stately woman—a pronounced brunette, with sparkling black eyes. I had not met her before, yet somehow I could not escape the feeling that she was familiar to me.
It was not until she spoke that I realized that it was the eyes, not the face, which I recognized.
"You are Mr. Garrick?" she asked of Guy in a soft, purring voice which, I felt, masked a woman who would fight to the end for anyone or anything she really loved.
Then, before Guy could answer, she explained, "I am Miss Violet Winslow. A friend of mine, Mr. Warrington, has told me that you are investigating a peculiar case for him—the strange loss of his car."
Garrick hastened to place a chair for her in the least cluttered and dusty part of the room. There she sat, looking up at him earnestly, a dainty contrast to the den in which Garrick was working out the capture of criminals, violent and vicious.
"I have the honor to be able to say, 'Yes' to all that you have asked, Miss Winslow," he replied. "Is there any way in which I can be of service to you?"
I thought a smile played over his face at the thought that perhaps she might have come to ask him to work for three clients instead of two.
At any rate, the girl was very much excited and very much in earnest, as she opened her handbag and drew from it a letter which she handed to Garrick.
"I received that letter," she explained, speaking rapidly, "in the noon mail to-day. I don't know what to make of it. It worries me to get such a thing. What do you suppose it was sent to me for? Who could have sent it?"
She was leaning forward artlessly on her crossed knee looking expectantly up into Garrick's face, oblivious to everything else, even her own enticing beauty. There was something so simple and sincere about Violet Winslow that one felt instinctively that nothing was too great a price to shield her from the sordid and the evil in the world. Yet something had happened that had brought her already into the office of a detective.
Garrick had glanced quickly at the outside of the slit envelope. The postmark showed that it had been mailed early that morning at the general post office and that there was slight chance of tracing anything in that direction.
Then he opened it and read. The writing was in a bold scrawl and hastily executed:
You have heard, no doubt, of the alleged loss of an automobile by Mr. Mortimer Warrington. I have seen your name mentioned in the society columns of the newspapers in connection with him several times lately. Let a disinterested person whom you do not know warn you in time. There is more back of it than he will care to tell. I can say nothing of the nefarious uses to which that car has been put, but you will learn more shortly. Meanwhile, let me inform you that he and some of the wilder of his set had that night planned a visit to a gambling house on Forty-eighth Street. I myself saw the car standing before another gambling den on Forty-seventh Street about the same time. This place, I may as well inform you, bears an unsavory reputation as a gambling joint to which young ladies of the fastest character are admitted. If you will ask someone in whom you have confidence and whom you can ask to work secretly for you to look up the records, you will find that much of the property on these two blocks, and these two places in particular, belongs to the Warrington estate. Need I say more?
The letter was without superscription or date and was signed merely with the words, "A Well-Wisher." The innuendo of the thing was apparent.
"Of course," she remarked, as Garrick finished reading, and before he could speak, "I know there is something back of it. Some person is trying to injure Mortimer. Still—-"
She did not finish the sentence. It was evident that the "well- wisher" need not have said more in order to sow the seeds of doubt.
As I watched her narrowly, I fancied also that from her tone the newspapers had not been wholly wrong in mentioning their names together recently.
"I hadn't intended to say anything more than to explain how I got the letter," she went on wistfully. "I thought that perhaps you might be interested in it."
She paused and studied the toe of her dainty boot. "And, of course," she murmured, "I know that Mr. Warrington isn't dependent for his income on the rent that comes in from such places. But— but I wish just the same that it wasn't true. I tried to call him up about the letter, but he wasn't at the office of the Warrington estate, and no one seemed to know just where he was."
She kept her eyes downcast as though afraid to betray just what she felt.
"You will leave this with me?" asked Garrick, still scrutinizing the letter.
"Certainly," she replied. "That is what I brought it for. I thought it was only fair that he should know about it."
Garrick regarded her keenly for a moment. "I am sure, Miss Winslow," he said, "that Mr. Warrington will thank you for your frankness. More than that, I feel sure that you need have no cause to worry about the insinuations of this letter. Don't judge harshly until you have heard his side. There's a good deal of graft and vice talk flying around loose these days. Miss Winslow, you may depend on me to dig the truth out and not deceive you."
"Thank you so much," she said, as she rose to go; then, in a burst of confidence, added, "Of course, after all, I don't care so much about it myself—but, you know, my aunt—is so dreadfully prim and proper that she couldn't forgive a thing like this. She'd never let Mr. Warrington call on me again."
Violet stopped and bit her lip. She had evidently not intended to say as much as that. But having once said it, she did not seem to wish to recall the words, either.
"There, now," she smiled, "don't you even hint to him that that was one of the reasons I called."
Garrick had risen and was standing beside her, looking down earnestly into her upturned face.
"I think I understand, Miss Winslow," he said in a low voice, rapidly. "I cannot tell you all—yet. But I can promise you that even if all were told—the truth, I mean—your faith in Warrington would be justified." He leaned over. "Trust me," he said simply.
As she placed her small hand in Garrick's, she looked up into his face, and with suppressed emotion, answered, "Thank you—I—I will."
Then, with a quick gathering of her skirts, she turned and almost fled from the room.
She had scarcely closed the door before Garrick was telephoning anxiously all over the city in order to get in touch with Warrington himself.
"I'm not going to tell him too much about her visit," he remarked, with a pleased smile at the outcome of the interview, though his face clouded as his eye fell again on the blackmailing letter, lying before him. "It might make him think too highly of himself. Besides, I want to see, too, whether he has told us the whole truth about the affair that night."
Somehow or other it seemed impossible to find Warrington in any of his usual haunts, either at his office or at his club.
Garrick had given it up, almost, as a bad job, when, half an hour later, Warrington himself burst in on us, apparently expecting more news about his car.
Instead, Garrick handed him the letter.
"Say," he demanded as he ran through it with puckered face, then slapped it down on the table before Guy, in a high state of excitement, "what do you make of that?"
He looked from one to the other of us blankly.
"Isn't it bad enough to lose a car without being slandered about it into the bargain?" he asked heatedly, then adding in disgust, "And to do it in such an underhand way, writing to a girl like Violet, and never giving me a chance to square myself. If I could get my hands on that fellow," he added viciously, "I'd qualify him for the coroner!"
Warrington had flown into a towering and quite justifiable rage. Garrick, however, ignored his anger as natural under the circumstances, and was about to ask him a question.
"Just a moment, Garrick," forestalled Warrington. "I know just what you are going to say. You are going to ask me about those gambling places. Now, Garrick, I give you my word of honor that I did not know until to-day that the property in that neighborhood was owned by our estate. I have been in that joint on Forty-eighth Street—I'll admit that. But, you know, I'm no gambler. I've gone simply to see the life, and—well, it has no attraction for me. Racing cars and motorboats don't go with poker chips and the red and black—not with me. As for the other place, I don't know any more about it than—than you do," he concluded vehemently.
Warrington faced Garrick, his steel-blue eye unwavering. "You see, it's like this," he resumed passionately, "since this vice investigation began, I have read a lot about landlords. Then, too," he interjected with a mock wry face, "I knew that Violet's Aunt Emma had been a crusader or something of the sort. You see, virtue is NOT its own reward. I don't get credit even for what I intended to do—quite the contrary."
"How's that?" asked Garrick, respecting the young man's temper.
"Why, it just occurred to me lately to go scouting around the city, looking at the Warrington holdings, making some personal inquiries as to the conditions of the leases, the character of the tenants, and the uses to which they put the properties. The police have compiled a list of all the questionable places in the city and I have compared it with the list of our properties. I hadn't come to this one yet. But I shall call up our agent, make him admit it, and cancel that lease. I'll close 'em up. I'll fight until every—-"
"No," interrupted Garrick, quickly, "no—not yet. Don't make any move yet. I want to find out what the game is. It may be that it is someone who has tried and failed to get your tenant to come across with graft money. If we act without finding out first, we might be playing into the hands of this blackmailer."
Garrick had been holding the letter in his hand, examining it critically. While he was speaking, he had taken a toothpick and was running it hastily over the words, carefully studying them. His face was wrinkled, as if he were in deep thought.
Without saying anything more, Garrick walked over to the windows and pulled down the dark shades. Then he unrolled a huge white sheet at one end of the office.
From a corner he drew out what looked like a flat-topped stand, about the height of his waist, with a curious box-like arrangement on it, in which was a powerful light. For several minutes, he occupied himself with the adjustment of this machine, switching the light off and on and focussing the lenses.
Then he took the letter to Miss Winslow, laid it flat on the machine, switched on the light and immediately on the sheet appeared a very enlarged copy of the writing.
"This is what has been called a rayograph by a detective of my acquaintance," explained Garrick. "In some ways it is much superior to using a microscope."
He was tracing over the words with a pointer, much as he had already done with the toothpick.
"Now, you must know," he continued, "or you may not know, but it is a well-proved fact, that those who suffer from various affections of the nerves or heart often betray the fact in their handwriting. Of course, in cases where the disease has progressed very far it may be evident to the naked eye even in the ordinary handwriting. But, it is there, to the eye of the expert, even in incipient cases.
"In short," he continued, engrossed in his subject, "what really happens is that the pen acts as a sort of sphygmograph, registering the pulsations. I think you can readily see that when the writing is thrown on a screen, enlarged by the rayograph, the tremors of the pen are quite apparent."
I studied the writing, following his pointer as it went over the lines and I began to understand vaguely what he was driving at.
"The writer of that blackmailing letter," continued Garrick, "as I have discovered both by hastily running over it with a tooth-pick and, more accurately, by enlarging and studying it with the rayograph, is suffering from a peculiar conjunction of nervous trouble and disease of the heart which is latent and has not yet manifested itself, even to him."
Garrick studied the writing, then added, thoughtfully, "if I knew him, I might warn him in time."
"A fellow like that needs only the warning of a club or of a good pair of fists," growled Warrington, impatiently. "How are you going to work to find him?"
"Well," reasoned Garrick, rolling up the sheet and restoring the room to its usual condition, "for one thing, the letter makes it pretty evident that he knows something about the gambling joint, perhaps is one of the regular habitues of the place. That was why I didn't want you to take any steps to close up the place immediately. I want to go there and look it over while it is in operation. Now, you admit that you have been in the place, don't you?"
"Oh, yes," he replied, "I've been there with Forbes and the other fellows, but as I told you, I don't go in for that sort of thing."
"Well," persisted Garrick, "you are sufficiently known, any way, to get in again."
"Certainly. I can get in again. The man at the door will let me in—and a couple of friends, too, if that's what you mean."
"That is exactly what I mean," returned Garrick. "It's no use to go early. I want to see the place in full blast, just as the after-theatre crowd is coming in. Suppose you meet us, Warrington, about half past ten or so. We can get in. They don't know anything yet about your intention to cancel the lease and close up the place, although apparently someone suspects it, or he wouldn't have been so anxious to get that letter off to Miss Winslow."
"Very well," agreed Warrington, "I will meet you at the north end of 'Crime Square,' as you call it, at that time. Good luck until then."
"Not a bad fellow, at all," commented Garrick when Warrington had disappeared down the hall from the office. "I believe he means to do the square thing by every one. It's a shame he has been dragged into a mess like this, that may affect him in ways that he doesn't suspect. Oh, well, there is nothing we can do for the present. I'll just add this clew of the handwriting to the clew of the automobile tires against the day when we get—pshaw!—he has taken the letter with him. I suppose it is safe enough in his possession, though. He can't wait until he has proved to Violet that he is honest. I don't blame him much. I told you, you know, that the younger set are just crazy over Violet Winslow."
THE GAMBLING DEN
In spite of the agitation that was going on at the time in the city against gambling, we had no trouble in being admitted to the place in Forty-eighth Street. They seemed to recognise Warrington, for no sooner had the lookout at the door peered through a little grating and seen him than the light woodwork affair was opened.
To me, with even my slender knowledge of such matters, it had seemed rather remarkable that only such a door should guard a place that was so notorious. Once inside, however, the reason was apparent. It didn't. On the outside there was merely such a door as not to distinguish the house, a three-story and basement dwelling, of old brownstone, from the others in the street.
As the outside door shut quickly, we found ourselves in a sort of vestibule confronted by another door. Between the two the lookout had his station.
The second door was of the "ice-box" variety, as it was popularly called at the time, of heavy oak, studded with ax-defying bolts, swung on delicately balanced and oiled hinges, carefully concealed, about as impregnable as a door of steel might be.
There were, as we found later, some steel doors inside, leading to the roof and cellar, though not so thick. The windows were carefully guarded inside by immense steel bars. The approaches from the back were covered with a steel network and every staircase was guarded by a collapsible door. There seemed to be no point of attack that had been left unguarded.
Yet, unless one had been like ourselves looking for these fortifications, they would not have appeared much in evidence in the face of the wealth of artistic furnishings that was lavished on every hand. Inside the great entrance door was a sort of marble reception hall, richly furnished, and giving anything but the impression of a gambling house. As a matter of fact, the first floor was pretty much of a blind. The gambling was all upstairs.
We turned to a beautiful staircase of carved wood, and ascended. Everywhere were thick rugs into which the feet sank almost ankle deep. On the walls were pictures that must have cost a small fortune. The furniture was of the costliest; there were splendid bronzes and objects of art on every hand.
Gambling was going on in several rooms that we passed, but the main room was on the second floor, a large room reconstructed in the old house, with a lofty ceiling and exquisitely carved trim. Concealed in huge vases were the lights, a new system, then, which shed its rays in every direction without seeming to cast a shadow anywhere. The room was apparently windowless, and yet, though everyone was smoking furiously, the ventilation must have been perfect.
There was, apparently, a full-fledged poolroom in one part of the house, closed now, of course, as the races for the day were run. But I could imagine it doing a fine business in the afternoon. There were many other games now in progress, games of every description, from poker to faro, keno, klondike, and roulette. There was nothing of either high or low degree with which the venturesome might not be accommodated.
As Warrington conducted us from one room to another, Garrick noted each carefully. Along the middle of the large room stretched a roulette table. We stopped to watch it.
"Crooked as it can be," was Garrick's comment after watching it for five minutes or so.
He had not said it aloud, naturally, for even the crowd in evening clothes about it, who had lost or would lose, would have resented such an imputation.
For the most part there was a solemn quiet about the board, broken only by the rattle of the ball and the click of chips. There was an absence of the clink of gold pieces that one hears as the croupier rakes them in at the casinos on the continent. Nor did there seem to be the tense faces that one might expect. Often there was the glint of an eye, or a quick and muffled curse, but for the most part everyone, no matter how great a loser, seemed respectable and prosperous. The tragedies, as we came to know, were elsewhere.
We sauntered into another room where they were playing keno. Keno was, we soon found, a development or an outgrowth of lotto, in which cards were sold to the players, bearing numbers which were covered with buttons, as in lotto. The game was won when a row was full after drawing forth the numbers on little balls from a "goose."
"Like the roulette wheel," said Garrick grimly, "the 'goose' is crooked, and if I had time I could show you how it is done."
We passed by the hazard boards as too complicated for the limited time at our disposal.
It was, however, the roulette table which seemed to interest Garrick most, partly for the reason that most of the players flocked about it.
The crowd around the table on the second floor was several deep, now. Among those who were playing I noticed a new face. It was of a tall, young man much the worse, apparently, for the supposed good time he had had already. The game seemed to have sobered him up a bit, for he was keen as to mind, now, although a trifle shaky as to legs.
He glanced up momentarily from his close following of the play as we approached.
"Hello, W.," he remarked, as he caught sight of our young companion.
A moment later he had gone back to the game as keen as ever.
"Hello, F.," greeted Warrington. Then, aside to us, he added, "You know they don't use names now in gambling places if they can help it. Initials do just as well. That is Forbes, of whom I told you. He's a young fellow of good family—but I am afraid he is going pretty much to the bad, or will go, if he doesn't quit soon. I wish I could stop him. He's a nice chap. I knew him well at college and we have chummed about a great deal. He's here too much of the time for his own good."
The thing was fascinating, I must admit, no matter what the morals of it were. I became so engrossed that I did not notice a man standing opposite us. I was surprised when he edged over towards us slowly, then whispered to Garrick, "Meet me downstairs in the grill in five minutes, and have a bite to eat. I have something important to say. Only, be careful and don't get me 'in Dutch' here."
The man had a sort of familiar look and his slang certainly reminded me of someone we had met.
"Who was it?" I inquired under my breath, as he disappeared among the players.
"Didn't you recognize him?" queried Garrick. "Why, that was Herman, Dillon's man,—the fellow, you know, who is investigating this place."
I had not recognized the detective in evening clothes. Indeed, I felt that unless he were known here already his disguise was perfect.
Garrick managed to leave Warrington for a time under the pretext that he wanted him to keep an eye on Forbes while we explored the place further. We walked leisurely down the handsome staircase into the grill and luncheon room downstairs.
"Well, have you found out anything?" asked a voice behind us.
We turned. It was Herman who had joined us. Without pausing for an answer he added, "I suppose you are aware of the character of this place? It looks fine, but the games are all crooked, and I guess there are some pretty desperate characters here, from all accounts. I shouldn't like to fall afoul of any of them, if I were you."
"Oh, no," replied Garrick, "it wouldn't be pleasant. But we came in well introduced, and I don't believe anyone suspects."
Several others, talking and laughing loudly to cover their chagrin over losses, perhaps, entered the buffet.
With the gratuitous promise to stand by us in trouble of any kind, Herman excused himself, and returned to watch the play about the roulette table.
Garrick and I leisurely finished the little bite of salad we had ordered, then strolled upstairs again.
The play was becoming more and more furious. Forbes was losing again, but was sticking to it with a grim determination that was worthy of a better cause. Warrington had already made one attempt to get him away but had not succeeded.
"Well," remarked Garrick, as we three made our way slowly to the coatroom downstairs, "I think we have seen enough of this for to- night. It isn't so very late, after all. I wonder if it would be possible to get into that ladies' poolroom on the next street? I should like to see that place."
"Angus could get us in, if anyone could," replied Warrington thoughtfully. "Wait here a minute. I'll see if I can get him away from the wheel long enough."
Five minutes later he came back, with Forbes in tow. He shook hands with us cordially, in fact a little effusively. Perhaps I might have liked the young fellow if I could have taken him in hand for a month or two, and knocked some of the silly ideas he had out of his head.
Forbes called a taxicab, a taxicab apparently being the open sesame. One might have gone afoot and have looked ever so much like a "good thing" and he would not have been admitted. But such is the simplicity of the sophistication of the keepers of such places that a motor car opens all locks and bolts.
It seemed to be a peculiar place and as nearly as I could make out was in a house almost in the rear of the one we had just come from.
We were politely admitted by a negro maid, who offered to take our coats.
"No," answered Forbes, apparently with an eye to getting out as quickly as possible, "we won't stay long tonight. I just came around to introduce my friends to Miss Lottie. I must get back right away."
For some reason or other he seemed very anxious to leave us. I surmised that the gambling fever was running high and that he had hopes of a change of luck. At any rate, he was gone, and we had obtained admittance to the ladies' pool room.
We strolled into one of the rooms in which the play was on. The game was at its height, with huge stacks of chips upon the tables and the players chatting gayly. There was no large crowd there, however. Indeed, as we found afterward, it was really in the afternoon that it was most crowded, for it was rather a poolroom than a gambling joint, although we gathered from the gossip that some stiff games of bridge were played there. Both men and women were seated at the poker game that was in progress before the little green table. The women were richly attired and looked as if they had come from good families.
We were introduced to several, but as it was evident that they were passing under assumed names, whatever the proprietor of the place might know of them, I made little effort to remember the names, although I did study the faces carefully.
It was not many minutes before we met Miss Lottie, as everyone called the woman who presided over this feminine realm of chance. Miss Lottie was a finely gowned woman, past middle age, but remarkably well preserved, and with a figure that must have occasioned much thought to fashion along the lines of the present slim styles. There seemed to be a man who assisted in the conduct of the place, a heavy-set fellow with a closely curling mustache. But as he kept discreetly in the offing, we did not see much of him.
Miss Lottie was frankly glad to see us, coming so well introduced, and outspokenly disappointed that we would not take a seat in the game that was in progress. However, Garrick passed that over by promising to come around soon. Excise laws were apparently held in puny respect in this luxurious atmosphere, and while the hospitable Miss Lottie went to summon a servant to bring refreshments—at our expense—we had ample opportunity to glance about at the large room in which we were seated.
Garrick gazed long and curiously at an arc-light enclosed in a soft glass globe in the center of the ceiling, as though it had suggested an idea of some sort to him.
Miss Lottie, who had left us for a few moments, returned unexpectedly to find him still gazing at it.
"We keep that light burning all the time," she remarked, noticing his gaze. "You see, in the daytime we never use the windows. It is always just like it is now, night or day. It makes no difference with us. You know, if we ever should be disturbed by the police," she rattled on, "this is my house and I am giving a little private party to a number of my friends."
I had heard of such places but had never seen one before. I knew that well-dressed women, once having been caught in the toils of gambling, and perhaps afraid to admit their losses to their husbands, or, often having been introduced through gambling to far worse evils, were sent out from these poker rendezvous to the Broadway cafes, there to flirt with men, and rope them into the game.
I could not help feeling that perhaps some of the richly gowned women in the house were in reality "cappers" for the game. As I studied the faces, I wondered what tragedies lay back of these rouged and painted faces. I saw broken homes, ruined lives, even lost honor written on them. Surely, I felt, this was a case worth taking up if by any chance we could put a stop or even set a limitation to this nefarious traffic.
"Have you ever had any trouble?" Garrick asked as we sipped at the refreshments.
"Very little," replied Miss Lottie, then as if the very manner of our introduction had stamped us all as "good fellows" to whom she could afford to be a little confidential in capturing our patronage, she added nonchalantly, "We had a sort of wild time a couple of nights ago."
"How was that?" asked Garrick in a voice of studied politeness that carefully concealed the aching curiosity he had for her to talk.
"Well," she answered slowly, "several ladies and gentlemen were here, playing a little high. They—well, they had a little too much to drink, I guess. There was one girl, who was the worst of all. She was pretty far gone. Why, we had to put her out—carry her out to the car that she had come in with her friend. You know we can't stand for any rough stuff like that—no sir. This house is perfectly respectable and proper and our patrons understand it."
The story, or rather, the version of it, seemed to interest Garrick, as I knew it would.
"Who was the girl?" he asked casually. "Did you know her? Was she one of your regular patrons?"
"Knew her only by sight," returned Miss Lottie hastily, now a little vexed, I imagined, at Guy's persistence, "like lots of people who are introduced here—and come again several times."
The woman was evidently sorry that she had mentioned the incident, and was trying to turn the conversation to the advantages of her establishment, not the least of which were her facilities for private games in little rooms in various parts of the house. It seemed all very risque to me, although I tried to appear to think it quite the usual thing, though I was careful to say that hers was the finest of such places I had ever seen. Still, the memory of Garrick's questioning seemed to linger. She had not expected, I knew, that we would take any further interest in her story than to accept it as proof of how careful she was of her clientele.
Garrick was quick to take the cue. He did not arouse any further suspicion by pursuing the subject. Apparently he was convinced that it had been Rena Taylor of whom Miss Lottie spoke. What really happened we knew no more now than before. Perhaps Miss Lottie herself knew—or she might not know. Garrick quite evidently was willing to let future developments in the case show what had really happened. There was nothing to be gained by forcing things at this stage of the game, either in the gambling den around the corner or here.
We chatted along for several minutes longer on inconsequential subjects, treating as important those trivialities which Bohemia considers important and scoffing at the really good and true things of life that the demi-monde despises. It was all banality now, for we had touched upon the real question in our minds and had bounded as lightly off it as a toy balloon bounds off an opposing surface.
Warrington had kept silent during the visit, I noticed, and seemed relieved when it was over. I could not imagine that he was known here inasmuch as they treated him quite as they treated us.
Apparently, though, he had no relish for a possible report of the excursion to get to Miss Winslow's ears. He was the first to leave, as Garrick, after paying for our refreshments and making a neat remark or two about the tasteful way in which the gambling room was furnished, rescued our hats and coats from the negro servant, and said good-night with a promise to drop in again.
"What would Mrs. de Lancey think of THAT?" Garrick could not help saying, as we reached the street.
Warrington gave a nervous little forced laugh, not at all such as he might have given had Mrs. de Lancey not been the aunt of the girl who had entered his life.
Then he caught himself and said hastily, "I don't care what she thinks. It's none of her—-"
He cut the words short, as if fearing to be misinterpreted either way.
For several squares he plodded along silently, then, as we had accomplished the object of the evening, excused himself, with the request that we keep him fully informed of every incident in the case.
"Warrington doesn't wear his heart on his sleeve," commented Garrick as we bent our steps to our own, or rather his, apartment, "but it is evident enough that he is thinking all the time of Violet Winslow."
THE MOTOR BANDIT
Early the next morning, the telephone bell began to ring violently. The message must have been short, for I could not gather from Garrick's reply what it was about, although I could tell by the startled look on his face that something unexpected had happened.
"Hurry and finish dressing, Tom," he called, as he hung up the receiver.
"What's the matter?" I asked, from my room, still struggling with my tie.
"Warrington was severely injured in a motor-car accident late last night, or rather early this morning, near Tuxedo."
"Near Tuxedo?" I repeated incredulously. "How could he have got up there? It was midnight when we left him in New York."
"I know it. Apparently he must have wanted to see Miss Winslow. She is up there, you know. I suppose that in order to be there this morning, early, he decided to start after he left us. I thought he seemed anxious to get away. Besides, you remember he took that letter yesterday afternoon, and I totally forgot to ask him for it last night. I'll wager it was on account of that slanderous letter that he wanted to go, that he wanted to explain it to her as soon as he could."
There had been no details in the hasty message over the wire, except that Warrington was now at the home of a Doctor Mead, a local physician in a little town across the border of New York and New Jersey. The more I thought about it, the more I felt that it was extremely unlikely that it could have been an accident, after all. Might it not have been the result of an attack or a trap laid by some strong-arm man who had set out to get him and had almost succeeded in accomplishing his purpose of "getting him right," to use the vernacular of the class?
We made the trip by railroad, passing the town where the report had come to us before of the finding of the body of Rena Taylor. There was, of course, no one at the station to meet us, and, after wasting some time in learning the direction, we at last walked to Dr. Mead's cottage, a quaint home, facing the state road that led from Suffern up to the Park, and northward.
Dr. Mead, who had telephoned, admitted us himself. We found Warrington swathed in bandages, and only half conscious. He had been under the influence of some drug, but, before that, the doctor told us, he had been unconscious and had only one or two intervals in which he was sufficiently lucid to talk.
"How did it happen?" asked Garrick, almost as soon as we had entered the doctor's little office.
"I had had a bad case up the road," replied the doctor slowly, "and it had kept me out late. I was driving my car along at a cautious pace homeward, some time near two o'clock, when I came to a point in the road where there are hills on one side and the river on the other. As I neared the curve, a rather sharp curve, too, I remember the lights on my own car were shining on the white fence that edged the river side of the road. I was keeping carefully on my own side, which was toward the hill.
"As I was about to turn, I heard the loud purring of an engine coming in my direction, and a moment later I saw a car with glaring headlights, driven at a furious pace, coming right at me. It slowed up a little, and I hugged the hill as close as I could, for I know some of these reckless young drivers up that way, and this curve was in the direction where the temptation is for one going north to get on the wrong side of the road—that is, my side—in order to take advantage of the natural slope of the macadam in turning the curve at high speed. Still, this fellow didn't prove so bad, after all. He gave me a wide berth.
"Just then there came a blinding flash right out of the darkness. Back of his car a huge, dark object had loomed up almost like a ghost. It was another car, back of the first one, without a single light, travelling apparently by the light shed by the forward car. It had overtaken the first and had cut in between us with not half a foot to spare on either side. It was the veriest piece of sheer luck I ever saw that we did not all go down together.
"With the flash I heard what sounded like a bullet zip out of the darkness. The driver of the forward car stiffened out for a moment. Then he pitched forward, helpless, over the steering wheel. His car dashed ahead, straight into the fence instead of taking the curve, and threw the unconscious driver. Then the car wrecked itself."
"And the car in the rear?" inquired Garrick eagerly.
"Dashed ahead between us safely around the curve—and was gone. I caught just one glimpse of its driver—a man all huddled up, his collar up over his neck and chin, his cap pulled forward over his eyes, goggles covering the rest of his face, and shrouded in what seemed to be a black coat, absolutely as unrecognizable as if he had been a phantom bandit, or death itself. He was steering with one hand, and in the other he held what must have been a revolver."
"And then?" prompted Garrick.
"I had stopped with my heart in my mouth at the narrowness of my own escape from the rushing black death. Pursuit was impossible. My car was capable of no such burst of speed as his. And then, too, there was a groaning man down in the ravine below. I got out, clambered over the fence, and down in the shrubbery into the pitch darkness.
"Fortunately, the man had been catapulted out before his car turned over. I found him, and with all the strength I could muster and as gently as I was able carried him up to the road. When I held him under the light of my lamps, I saw at once that there was not a moment to lose. I fixed him in the rear of my car as comfortably as I could and then began a race to get him home here where I have almost a private hospital of my own, as quickly as possible."
Cards in his pocket had identified Warrington and Dr. Mead remembered having heard the name. The prompt attention of the doctor had undoubtedly saved the young man's life.
Over and over again, Dr. Mead said, in his delirium Warrington had repeated the name, "Violet—Violet!" It was as Garrick had surmised, his desire to stand well in her eyes that had prompted the midnight journey. Yet who the assailant might be, neither Dr. Mead nor the broken raving of Warrington seemed to afford even the slightest clew. That he was a desperate character, without doubt in desperate straits over something, required no great acumen to deduce.
Toward morning in a fleeting moment of lucidity, Warrington had mentioned Garrick's name in such a way that Dr. Mead had looked it up in the telephone directory and then at the earliest moment had called up.
"Exactly the right thing," reassured Garrick. "Can't you think of anything else that would identify the driver of that other car?"
"Only that he was a wonderful driver, that fellow," pursued the doctor, admiration getting the better of his horror now that the thing was over. "I couldn't describe the car, except that it was a big one and seemed to be of a foreign make. He was crowding Warrington as much as he dared with safety to himself—and not a light on his own car, too, remember."
Garrick's face was puckered in thought.
"And the most remarkable thing of all about it," added the doctor, rising and going over to a white enameled cabinet in the corner of his office, "was that wound from the pistol."
The doctor paused to emphasize the point he was about to make. "Apparently it put Warrington out," he resumed. "And yet, after all, I find that it is only a very superficial flesh wound of the shoulder. Warrington's condition is really due to the contusions he received owing to his being thrown from the car. His car wasn't going very fast at the time, for it had slowed down for me. In one way that was fortunate—although one might say it was the cause of everything, since his slowing down gave the car behind a chance to creep up on him the few feet necessary.
"Really I am sure that even the shock of such a wound wasn't enough to make an experienced driver like Warrington lose control of the machine. It is a fairly wide curve, after all, and—well, my contention is proved by the fact that I examined the wreck of the car this morning and found that he had had time to shut off the gas and cut out the engine. He had time to think of and do that before he lost absolute control of the car."
Dr. Mead had been standing by the cabinet as he talked. Now he opened it and took from it the bullet which he had probed out of the wound. He looked at it a minute himself, then handed it to Garrick. I bent over also and examined it as it lay in Guy's hand.
At first I thought it was an ordinary bullet. But the more I examined it the more I was convinced that there was something peculiar about it. In the nose, which was steel-jacketed, were several little round depressions, just the least fraction of an inch in depth.
"It is no wonder Warrington was put out, even by that superficial wound," remarked Garrick at last. "His assailant's aim may have been bad, as it must necessarily have been from one rapidly approaching car at a person in another rapidly moving car, also. But the motor bandit, whoever he is, provided against that. That bullet is what is known as an anesthetic bullet."