Part 3 out of 8
From Vincenzo's we walked over toward Centre Street, where Kennedy and
I left Luigi to return to his restaurant, with instructions to be at
Vincenzo's at half-past eleven that night.
We turned into the new police headquarters and went down the long
corridor to the Italian Bureau. Kennedy sent in his card to Lieutenant
Giuseppe in charge, and we were quickly admitted. The lieutenant was
a short, full-faced, fleshy Italian, with lightish hair and eyes that
were apparently dull, until you suddenly discovered that that was
merely a cover to their really restless way of taking in everything
and fixing the impressions on his mind, as if on a sensitive plate.
"I want to talk about the Gennaro case," began Craig. "I may add that
I have been rather closely associated with Inspector O'Connor of the
Central Office on a number of cases, so that I think we can trust each
other. Would you mind telling me what you know about it if I promise
you that I, too, have something to reveal?"
The lieutenant leaned back and watched Kennedy closely without seeming
to do so. "When I was in Italy last year," he replied at length, "I
did a good deal of work in tracing up some Camorra suspects, I had a
tip about some of them to look up their records--I needn't say where
it came from, but it was a good one. Much of the evidence against some
of those fellows who are being tried at Viterbo was gathered by the
Carabinieri as a result of hints that I was able to give them--clues
that were furnished to me here in America from the source I speak of.
I suppose there is really no need to conceal it, though. The original
tip came from a certain banker here in New York."
"I can guess who it was," nodded Craig.
"Then, as you know, this banker is a fighter. He is the man who
organized the White Hand--an organization which is trying to rid
the Italian population of the Black Hand. His society had a lot of
evidence regarding former members of both the Camorra in Naples and
the Mafia in Sicily, as well as the Black Hand gangs in New York,
Chicago, and other cities. Well, Cesare, as you know, is Gennaro's
"While I was in Naples looking up the record of a certain criminal
I heard of a peculiar murder committed some years ago. There was an
honest old music master who apparently lived the quietest and most
harmless of lives. But it became known that he was supported by Cesare
and had received handsome presents of money from him. The old man was,
as you may have guessed, the first music teacher of Gennaro, the man
who discovered him. One might have been at a loss to see how he could
have an enemy, but there was one who coveted his small fortune. One
day he was stabbed and robbed. His murderer ran out into the street,
crying out that the poor man had been killed. Naturally a crowd rushed
up in a moment, for it was in the middle of the day. Before the
injured man could make it understood who had struck him the assassin
was down the street and lost in the maze of old Naples where he well
knew the houses of his friends who would hide him. The man who is
known to have committed that crime--Francesco Paoli--escaped to New
York. We are looking for him to-day. He is a clever man, far above the
average--son of a doctor in a town a few miles from Naples, went to
the university, was expelled for some mad prank--in short, he was the
black sheep of the family. Of course over here he is too high-born to
work with his hands on a railroad or in a trench, and not educated
enough to work at anything else. So he has been preying on his more
industrious countrymen--a typical case of a man living by his wits
with no visible means of support.
"Now I don't mind telling you in strict confidence," continued the
lieutenant, "that it's my theory that old Cesare has seen Paoli here,
knew he was wanted for that murder of the old music master, and gave
me the tip to look up his record. At any rate Paoli disappeared right
after I returned from Italy, and we haven't been able to locate him
since. He must have found out in some way that the tip to look him up
had been given by the White Hand. He had been a Camorrista, in Italy,
and had many ways of getting information here in America."
He paused, and balanced a piece of cardboard in his hand. "It is my
theory of this case that if we could locate this Paoli we could solve
the kidnapping of little Adelina Gennaro very quickly. That's his
Kennedy and I bent over to look at it, and I started in surprise. It
was my evil-looking friend with the scar on his cheek.
"Well," said Craig, quietly handing back the card, "whether or not
he is the man, I know where we can catch the kidnappers to-night,
It was Giuseppe's turn to show surprise now.
"With your assistance I'll get this man and the whole gang to-night,"
explained Craig, rapidly sketching over his plan and concealing just
enough to make sure that no matter how anxious the lieutenant was
to get the credit he could not spoil the affair by premature
The final arrangement was that four of the best men of the squad were
to hide in a vacant store across from Vincenzo's early in the evening,
long before anyone was watching. The signal for them to appear was to
be the extinguishing of the lights behind the colored bottles in the
druggist's window. A taxicab was to be kept waiting at headquarters
at the same time with three other good men ready to start for a given
address the moment the alarm was given over the telephone.
We found Gennaro awaiting us with the greatest anxiety at the
opera-house. The bomb at Cesare's had been the last straw. Gennaro had
already drawn from his bank ten crisp one-thousand-dollar bills, and
already had a copy of _Il Progresso_ in which he had hidden the money
between the sheets.
"Mr. Kennedy," he said, "I am going to meet them to-night. They may
kill me. See, I have provided myself with a pistol--I shall fight,
too, if necessary for my little Adelina. But if it is only money they
want, they shall have it."
"One thing I want to say," began Kennedy.
"No, no, no!" cried the tenor. "I will go--you shall not stop me."
"I don't wish to stop you," Craig reassured him. "But one thing--do
exactly as I tell you, and I swear not a hair of the child's head will
be injured and we "will get the blackmailers, too."
"How?" eagerly asked Gennaro. "What do you want me to do?"
"All I want you to do is to go to Albano's at the appointed time. Sit
down in the back room. Get into conversation with them, and, above
all, Signor, as soon as you get the copy of the _Bolletino_ turn to
the third page, pretend not to be able to read the address. Ask the
man to read it. Then repeat it after him. Pretend to be overjoyed.
Offer to set up wine for the whole crowd. Just a few minutes, that is
all I ask, and I will guarantee that you will be the happiest man in
New York to-morrow."
Gennaro's eyes filled with tears as he grasped Kennedy's hand. "That
is better than having the whole police force back of me," he said. "I
shall never forget, never forget."
As we went out Kennedy remarked: "You can't blame them for keeping
their troubles to themselves. Here we send a police officer over to
Italy to look up the records of some of the worst suspects. He loses
his life. Another takes his place. Then after he gets back he is set
to work on the mere clerical routine of translating them. One of his
associates is reduced in rank. And so what does it come to? Hundreds
of records have become useless because the three years within which
the criminals could be deported have elapsed with nothing done.
Intelligent, isn't it? I believe it has been established that all
but about fifty of seven hundred known Italian suspects are still at
large, mostly in this city. And the rest of the Italian population
is guarded from them by a squad of police in number scarcely
one-thirtieth of the number of known criminals. No, it's our fault if
the Black Hand thrives."
We had been standing on the corner of Broadway, waiting for a car.
"Now, Walter, don't forget. Meet me at the Bleecker Street station of
the subway at eleven-thirty. I'm off to the university. I have some
very important experiments with phosphorescent salts that I want to
"What has that to do with the case?" I asked mystified.
"Nothing," replied Craig. "I didn't say it had. At eleven-thirty,
don't forget. By George, though, that Paoli must be a clever
one--think of his knowing about ricin. I only heard of it myself
recently. Well, here's my car. Good-bye."
Craig swung aboard an Amsterdam Avenue car, leaving me to kill eight
nervous hours of my weekly day of rest from the _Star_.
They passed at length, and at precisely the appointed time Kennedy and
I met. With suppressed excitement, at least on my part, we walked over
to Vincenzo's. At night this section of the city was indeed a black
enigma. The lights in the shops where olive oil, fruit, and other
things were sold, were winking out one by one; here and there strains
of music floated out of wine-shops, and little groups lingered on
corners conversing in animated sentences. We passed Albano's on the
other side of the street, being careful not to look at it too closely,
for several men were hanging idly about--pickets, apparently, with
some secret code that would instantly have spread far and wide the
news of any alarming action.
At the corner we crossed and looked in Vincenzo's window a moment,
casting a furtive glance across the street at the dark empty store
where the police must be hiding. Then we went in and casually
sauntered back of the partition. Luigi was there already. There were
several customers still in the store, however, and therefore we had
to sit in silence while Vincenzo quickly finished a prescription and
waited on the last one.
At last the doors were locked and the lights lowered, all except those
in the windows which were to serve as signals.
"Ten minutes to twelve," said Kennedy, placing the oblong box on the
table. "Gennaro will be going in soon. Let us try this machine now and
see if it works. If the wires have been cut since we put them up this
morning Gennaro will have to take his chances alone."
Kennedy reached over and with a light movement of his forefinger
touched a switch.
Instantly a babel of voices filled the store, all talking at once,
rapidly and loudly. Here and there we could distinguish a snatch of
conversation, a word, a phrase, now and then even a whole sentence
above the rest. There was a clink of glasses. I could hear the
rattle of dice on a bare table, and an oath. A cork popped. Somebody
scratched a match.
We sat bewildered, looking at Kennedy for an explanation.
"Imagine that you are sitting at a table in Albano's back room," was
all he said. "This is what you would be hearing. This is my 'electric
ear'--in other words the dictograph, used, I am told, by the Secret
Service of the United States. Wait, in a moment you will hear Gennaro
come in. Luigi and Vincenzo, translate what you hear. My knowledge of
Italian is pretty rusty."
"Can they hear us?" whispered Luigi in an awe-struck whisper.
Craig laughed. "No, not yet. But I have only to touch this other
switch, and I could produce an effect in that room that would rival
the famous writing on Belshazzar's wall--only it would be a voice from
the wall instead of writing."
"They seem to be waiting for someone," said Vincenzo. "I heard
somebody say: 'He will be here in a few minutes. Now get out.'"
The babel of voices seemed to calm down as men withdrew from the room.
Only one or two were left.
"One of them says the child is all right. She has been left in the
back yard," translated Luigi.
"What yard? Did he say?" asked Kennedy.
"No; they just speak of it as the 'yard,'" replied Luigi.
"Jameson, go outside in the store to the telephone booth and call up
headquarters. Ask them if the automobile is ready, with the men in
I rang up, and after a moment the police central answered that
everything was right.
"Then tell central to hold the line clear--we mustn't lose a moment.
Jameson, you stay in the booth. Vincenzo, you pretend to be working
around your window, but not in such a way as to attract attention, for
they have men watching the street very carefully. What is it, Luigi?"
"Gennaro is coming. I just heard one of them say, 'Here he comes.'"
Even from the booth I could hear the dictograph repeating the
conversation in the dingy little back room of Albano's, down the
"He's ordering a bottle of red wine," murmured Luigi, dancing up and
down with excitement.
Vincenzo was so nervous that he knocked a bottle down in the window,
and I believe that my heart-beats were almost audible over the
telephone which I was holding, for the police operator called me down
for asking so many times if all was ready.
"There it is--the signal," cried Craig. "'A fine opera is "I
Pagliacci."' Now listen for the answer."
A moment elapsed, then, "Not without Gennaro," came a gruff voice in
Italian from the dictograph.
A silence ensued. It was tense.
"Wait, wait," said a voice which I recognized instantly as Gennaro's.
"I cannot read this. What is this 23-1/2 Prince Street?"
"No, 33-1/2. She has been left in the back yard," answered the voice.
"Jameson," called Craig, "tell them to drive straight to 33-1/2 Prince
Street. They will find the girl in the back yard quick, before the
Black Handers have a chance to go back on their word."
I fairly shouted my orders to the police headquarters. "They're off,"
came back the answer, and I hung up the, receiver.
"What was that?" Craig was asking of Luigi. "I didn't catch it. What
did they say?"
"That other voice said to Gennaro, 'Sit down while I count this.'"
"Sh! he's talking again."
"If it is a penny less than ten thousand or I find a mark on the bills
I'll call to Enrico, and your daughter will he spirited away again,"
"Now, Gennaro is talking," said Craig. "Good--he is gaining time.
He is a trump. I can distinguish that all right. He's asking the
gruff-voiced fellow if he will have another bottle of wine. He says he
will. Good. They must be at Prince Street now--we'll give them a few
minutes more, not too much, for word will be back to Albano's like
wildfire, and they will get Gennaro after all. Ah, they are drinking
again. What was that, Luigi? The money is all right, he says? Now,
Vincenzo, out with the lights!"
A door banged open across the street, and four huge dark figures
darted out in the direction of Albano's.
With his finger Kennedy pulled down the other switch and shouted:
"Gennaro, this is Kennedy! To the street! _Polizia! Polizia!_"
A scuffle and a cry of surprise followed. A second voice, apparently
from the bar, shouted, "Out with the lights, out with the lights!"
Bang! went a pistol, and another.
The dictograph, which had been all sound a moment before, was as mute
as a cigar-box.
"What's the matter?" I asked Kennedy, as he rushed past me.
"They have shot out the lights. My receiving instrument is destroyed.
Come on, Jameson; Vincenzo, stay back, if you don't want to appear in
A short figure rushed by me, faster even than I could go. It was the
In front of Albano's an exciting fight was going on. Shots were being
fired wildly in the darkness, and heads were popping out of tenement
windows on all sides. As Kennedy and I flung ourselves into the crowd
we caught a glimpse of Gennaro, with blood streaming from a cut on his
shoulder, struggling with a policeman while Luigi vainly was trying to
interpose himself between them. A man, held by another policeman, was
urging the first officer on. "That's the man," he was crying. "That's
the kidnapper. I caught him."
In a moment Kennedy was behind him. "Paoli, you lie. You are the
kidnapper. Seize him--he has the money on him. That other is Gennaro
The policeman released the tenor, and both of them seized Paoli.
The others were beating at the door, which was being frantically
Just then a taxicab came swinging up the street. Three men jumped out
and added their strength to those who were battering down Albano's
Gennaro, with a cry, leaped into the taxicab. Over his shoulder I
could see a tangled mass of dark brown curls, and a childish voice
lisped: "Why didn't you come for me, papa? The bad man told me if I
waited in the yard you would come for me. But if I cried he said he
would shoot me. And I waited, and waited--"
"There, there, 'Lina; papa's going to take you straight home to
A crash followed as the door yielded, and the famous Paoli gang was in
the hands of the law.
The Steel Door
BY ARTHUR B. REEVE
It was what, in college, we used to call "good football weather"--a
crisp autumn afternoon that sent the blood tingling through brain and
muscle. Kennedy and I were enjoying a stroll on the drive, dividing
our attention between the glowing red sunset across the Hudson and the
string of homeward-bound automobiles on the broad parkway. Suddenly a
huge black touring-car marked with big letters, "P.D.N.Y.," shot past.
"Joy-riding again in one of the city's cars," I remarked. "I thought
the last Police Department shake-up had put a stop to that."
"Perhaps it has," returned Kennedy. "Did you see who was in the car?"
"No, but I see it has turned and is coming back."
"It was Inspector--I mean, First Deputy O'Connor. I thought he
recognized us as he whizzed along, and I guess he did, too. Ah,
congratulations, O'Connor! I haven't had a chance to tell you before
how pleased I was to learn you had been appointed first deputy. It
ought to have been commissioner, though," added Kennedy.
"Congratulations nothing," rejoined O'Connor. "Just another new
deal--election coming on, mayor must make a show of getting some
reform done, and all that sort of thing. So he began with the Police
Department, and here I am, first deputy. But, say, Kennedy," he added,
dropping his voice, "I've a little job on my mind that I'd like to
pull off in about as spectacular a fashion as I--as you know how. I
want to make good, conspicuously good, at the start--understand?
Maybe I'll be 'broke' for it and sent to pounding the pavements of
Dismissalville, but I don't care, I'll take a chance. On the level,
Kennedy, it's a big thing, and it ought to be done. Will you help me
put it across?"
"What is it?" asked Kennedy with a twinkle in his eye at O'Connor's
estimate of the security of his tenure of office.
O'Connor drew us away from the automobile toward the stone parapet
overlooking the railroad and river far below, and out of earshot of
the department chauffeur. "I want to pull off a successful raid on the
Vesper Club," he whispered earnestly, scanning our faces.
"Good heavens, man," I ejaculated, "don't you know that Senator
Danfield is interested in--"
"Jameson," interrupted O'Connor reproachfully, "I said 'on the level'
a few moments ago, and I meant it. Senator Danfield be--well, anyhow,
if I don't do it the district attorney will, with the aid of the
Dowling law, and I am going to beat him to it, that's all. There's
too much money being lost at the Vesper Club, anyhow. It won't hurt
Danfield to be taught a lesson not to run such a phony game. I may
like to put up a quiet bet myself on the ponies now and then--I won't
say I don't, but this thing of Danfield's has got beyond all reason.
It's the crookedest gambling joint in the city, at least judging by
the stories they tell of losses there. And so beastly aristocratic,
too. Read that."
O'Connor shoved a letter into Kennedy's hand, a dainty perfumed and
monogramed little missive addressed in a feminine hand. It was such a
letter as comes by the thousand to the police in the course of a year,
though seldom from ladies of the smart set:
* * * * *
Dear Sir: I notice in the newspapers this morning that you have just
been appointed first deputy commissioner of police and that you have
been ordered to suppress gambling in New York. For the love that you
must still bear toward your own mother, listen to the story of a
mother worn with anxiety for her only son, and if there is any justice
or righteousness in this great city close up a gambling hell that is
sending to ruin scores of our finest young men. No doubt you know or
have heard of my family--the DeLongs are not unknown in Hew York.
Perhaps you have also heard of the losses of my son Percival at the
Vesper Club. They are fast becoming the common talk of our set. I am
not rich, Mr. Commissioner, in spite of our social position, but I am
human, as human as a mother in any station of life, and oh, if there
is any way, close up that gilded society resort that is dissipating
our small fortune, ruining an only son, and slowly bringing to the
grave a gray-haired widow, as worthy of protection as any mother of
the poor whose plea has closed up a little poolroom or low policy
Sincerely, (Mrs.) JULIA M. DELONG.
P.S.--Please keep this confidential--at least from my son Percival.
* * * * *
"Well," said Kennedy, as he handed back the letter, "O'Connor, if you
do it, I'll take back all the hard things I've ever said about
the police system. Young DeLong was in one of my classes at the
university, until he was expelled for that last mad prank of his.
There's more to that boy than most people think, but he's the wildest
scion of wealth I have ever come in contact with. How are you going to
pull off your raid--is it to be down through the skylight or up from
"Kennedy," replied O'Connor in the same reproachful tone with which
he had addressed me, "talk sense. I'm in earnest. You know the Vesper
Club is barred and barricaded like the National City Bank. It isn't
one of those common gambling joints which depend for protection on
what we call 'ice-box doors.' It's proof against all the old methods.
Axes and sledge-hammers would make no impression there."
"Your predecessor had some success at opening doors with a hydraulic
jack, I believe, in some very difficult raids," put in Kennedy.
"A hydraulic jack wouldn't do for the Vesper Club, I'm afraid,"
remarked O'Connor wearily. "Why, sir, that place has been proved
bomb-proof--bomb-proof, sir. You remember recently the so-called
'gamblers' war' in which some rivals exploded a bomb on the steps? It
did more damage to the house next door than to the club. However,
I can get past the outer door, I think, even if it is strong. But
inside--you must have heard of it--is the famous steel door, three
inches thick, made of armor-plate. It's no use to try it at all unless
we can pass that door with reasonable quickness. All the evidence we
shall get will be of an innocent social club-room down-stairs. The
gambling is all on the second floor, beyond this door, in a
room without a window in it. Surely you've heard of that famous
gambling-room, with its perfect system of artificial ventilation and
electric lighting that makes it rival noonday at midnight. And don't
tell me I've got to get on the other side of the door by strategy,
either. It is strategy-proof. The system of lookouts is perfect.
No, force is necessary, but it must not be destructive of life or
property--or, by heaven, I'd drive up there and riddle the place with
a fourteen-inch gun," exclaimed O'Connor.
"H'm!" mused Kennedy as he flicked the ashes off his cigar and
meditatively watched a passing freight-train on the railroad below us.
"There goes a car loaded with tons and tons of scrap-iron. You want me
to scrap that three-inch steel door, do you?"
"Kennedy, I'll buy that particular scrap from you at--almost its
weight in gold. The fact is, I have a secret fund at my disposal such
as former commissioners have asked for in vain. I can afford to pay
you well, as well as any private client, and I hear you have had some
good fees lately. Only deliver the goods."
"No," answered Kennedy, rather piqued, "it isn't money that I am
after. I merely wanted to be sure that you are in earnest. I can get
you past that door as if it were made of green baize."
It was O'Connor's turn to look incredulous, but as Kennedy apparently
meant exactly what he said, he simply asked, "And will you?"
"I will do it to-night if you say so," replied Kennedy quietly. "Are
For answer O'Connor simply grasped Craig's hand, as if to seal the
"All right, then," continued Kennedy. "Send a furniture-van, one of
those closed vans that the storage warehouses use, up to my laboratory
any time before seven o'clock. How many men will you need in the raid?
Twelve? Will a van hold that many comfortably? I'll want to put some
apparatus in it, but that won't take much room."
"Why, yes, I think so," answered O'Connor. "I'll get a well-padded van
so that they won't be badly jolted by the ride down-town. By George!
Kennedy, I see you know more of that side of police strategy than I
gave you credit for."
"Then have the men drop into my laboratory singly about the same time.
You can arrange that so that it will not look suspicious, so far
up-town. It will be dark, anyhow. Perhaps, O'Connor, you can make up
as the driver yourself--anyhow, get one you can trust absolutely. Then
have the van down near the corner of Broadway below the club, driving
slowly along about the time the theatre crowd is out. Leave the rest
to me. I will give you or the driver orders when the time comes."
As O'Connor thanked Craig, he remarked without a shade of
insincerity, "Kennedy, talk about being commissioner, you ought to be
"Wait till I deliver the goods," answered Craig simply. "I may fall
down and bring you nothing but a lawsuit for damages for unlawful
entry or unjust persecution, or whatever they call it."
"I'll take a chance at that," called back O'Connor as he jumped into
his car and directed, "Headquarters, quick."
As the car disappeared, Kennedy filled his lungs with air as if
reluctant to leave the drive. "Our constitutional," he remarked, "is
abruptly at an end, Walter."
Then he laughed, as he looked about him.
"What a place in which to plot a raid on Danfield's Vesper Club! Why,
the nurse-maids have hardly got the children all in for supper and
bed. It's incongruous. Well, I must go over to the laboratory and
get some things ready to put in that van with the men. Meet me about
half-past seven, Walter, up in the room, all togged up. We'll dine at
the Cafe Riviera to-night in style. And, by the way, you're quite a
man about town--you must know someone who can introduce us into the
"But, Craig," I demurred, "if there is any rough work as a result, it
might queer me with them. They might object to being used--"
"Oh, that will be all right. I just want to look the place over and
lose a few chips in a good cause. No, it won't queer any of your
_Star_ connections. We'll be on the outside when the time comes for
anything to happen. In fact I shouldn't wonder if your story
would make you all the more solid with the sports. I take all the
responsibility; you can have the glory. You know they like to hear the
inside gossip of such things, after the event. Try it. Remember, at
seven-thirty. We'll be a little late at dinner, but never mind; it
will be early enough for the club."
Left to my own devices I determined to do a little detective work on
my own account, and not only did I succeed in finding an acquaintance
who agreed to introduce us at the Vesper Club that night about nine
o'clock, but I also learned that Percival DeLong was certain to be
there that night, too. I was necessarily vague about Kennedy, for fear
my friend might have heard of some of his exploits, but fortunately he
did not prove inquisitive.
I hurried back to our apartment and was in the process of transforming
myself into a full-fledged boulevardier, when Kennedy arrived in
an extremely cheerful frame of mind. So far, his preparations had
progressed very favorably, I guessed, and I was quite elated when he
complimented me on what I had accomplished in the meantime.
"Pretty tough for the fellows who are condemned to ride around in that
van for four mortal hours, though," he said as he hurried into his
evening clothes, "but they won't be riding all the time. The driver
will make frequent stops."
I was so busy that I paid little attention to him until he had nearly
completed his toilet. I gave a gasp.
"Why, whatever are you doing?" I exclaimed as I glanced into his room.
There stood Kennedy arrayed in all the glory of a sharp-pointed
moustache and a goatee. He had put on evening clothes of decidedly
Parisian cut, clothes which he had used abroad and had brought back
with him, but which I had never known him to wear since he came back.
On a chair reposed a chimney-pot hat that would have been pronounced
faultless on the "continong," but was unknown, except among
impresarios, on Broadway.
Kennedy shrugged his shoulders--he even had the shrug.
"Figure to yourself, monsieur," he said. "Ze great Kennedy, ze
detectif Americain--to put it tersely in our own vernacular, wouldn't
it be a fool thing for me to appear at the Vesper Club where I should
surely be recognized by someone if I went in my ordinary clothes and
features? _Un faux pas_, at the start? _Jamais!_"
There was nothing to do but agree, and I was glad that I had been
discreetly reticent about my companion in talking with the friend who
was to gain us entrance to the Avernus beyond the steel door.
We met my friend at the Riviera and dined sumptuously. Fortunately he
seemed decidedly impressed with my friend Monsieur Kay--I could do no
better on the spur of the moment than take Kennedy's initial, which
seemed to serve. We progressed amicably from oysters and soup down to
coffee, cigars, and liqueurs, and I succeeded in swallowing Kennedy's
tales of Monte Carlo and Ostend and Ascot without even a smile. He
must have heard them somewhere, and treasured them up for just such an
occasion, but he told them in a manner that was verisimilitude itself,
using perfect English with just the trace of an accent at the right
At last it was time to saunter around to the Vesper Club without
seeming to be too indecently early. The theatres were not yet out, but
my friend said play was just beginning at the club and would soon be
in full swing.
I had a keen sense of wickedness as we mounted the steps in the yellow
flare of the flaming arc-light on the Broadway corner not far below
us. A heavy, grated door swung open at the practised signal of my
friend, and an obsequious negro servant stood bowing and pronouncing
his name in the sombre mahogany portal beyond, with its green marble
pillars and handsome decorations. A short parley followed, after which
we entered, my friend having apparently satisfied someone that we were
We did not stop to examine the first floor, which doubtless was
innocent enough, but turned quickly up a flight of steps. At the foot
of the broad staircase Kennedy paused to examine some rich carvings,
and I felt him nudge me. I turned. It was an enclosed staircase, with
walls that looked to be of re-enforced concrete. Swung back on hinges
concealed like those of a modern burglar-proof safe was the famous
We did not wish to appear to be too interested, yet a certain amount
of curiosity was only proper.
My friend paused on the steps, turned, and came back.
"You're perfectly safe," he smiled, tapping the door with his cane
with a sort of affectionate respect. "It would take the police ages to
get past that barrier, which would be swung shut and bolted the moment
the lookout gave the alarm. But there has never been any trouble. The
police know that it is so far, no farther. Besides," he added with
a wink to me, "you know, Senator Danfield wouldn't like this pretty
little door even scratched. Come up, I think I hear DeLong's voice
up-stairs. You've heard of him, monsieur? It's said his luck has
changed. I'm anxious to find out."
Quickly he led the way up the handsome staircase and into a large,
lofty, richly furnished room. Everywhere there were thick, heavy
carpets on the floors, into which your feet sank with an air of
The room into which we entered was indeed absolutely windowless. It
was a room built within the original room of the old house. Thus the
windows overlooking the street from the second floor in reality bore
no relation to it. For light it depended on a complete oval of lights
overhead so arranged as to be themselves invisible, but shining
through richly stained glass and conveying the illusion of a slightly
clouded noon-day. The absence of windows was made up for, as I learned
later, by a ventilating device so perfect that, although everyone was
smoking, a most fastidious person could scarcely have been offended by
the odor of tobacco.
Of course I did not notice all this at first. What I did notice,
however, was a faro-layout and a hazard-board, but as no one was
playing at either, my eye quickly traveled to a roulette-table which
stretched along the middle of the room. Some ten or a dozen men in
evening clothes were gathered watching with intent faces the spinning
wheel. There was no money on the table, nothing but piles of chips of
various denominations. Another thing that surprised me as I looked was
that the tense look on the faces of the players was anything but the
feverish, haggard gaze I had expected. In fact, they were sleek,
well-fed, typical prosperous New-Yorkers rather inclined to the
noticeable in dress and carrying their avoirdupois as if life was an
easy game with them. Most of them evidently belonged to the financial
and society classes. There were no tragedies; the tragedies were
elsewhere--in their offices, homes, in the courts, anywhere, but not
here at the club. Here all was life, light, and laughter.
For the benefit of those not acquainted with the roulette-wheel--and I
may as well confess that most of my own knowledge was gained in that
one crowded evening--I may say that it consists, briefly, of a wooden
disc very nicely balanced and turning in the center of a cavity set
into a table like a circular wash-basin, with an outer rim turned
slightly inward. The "croupier" revolves the wheel to the right. With
a quick motion of his middle finger he flicks a marble, usually of
ivory, to the left. At the Vesper Club, always up-to-date, the ball
was of platinum, not of ivory. The disc with its sloping sides is
provided with a number of brass rods, some perpendicular, some
horizontal. As the ball and the wheel lose momentum the ball strikes
against the rods and finally is deflected into one of the many little
pockets or stalls facing the rim of the wheel.
There are thirty-eight of these pockets; two are marked "0" and
"00," the other numbered from one to thirty-six in an irregular and
confusing order and painted alternately red and black. At each end of
the table are thirty-six large squares correspondingly numbered and
colored. The "0" and "00" are of a neutral color. Whenever the ball
falls in the "0" or "00" the bank takes the stakes, or sweeps the
board. The Monte Carlo wheel has only one "0," while the typical
American has two, and the Chinese has four.
To one like myself who had read of the Continental gambling-houses
with the clink of gold pieces on the table, and the croupier with
his wooden rake noisily raking in the winnings of the bank, the
comparative silence of the American game comes as a surprise.
As we advanced, we heard only the rattle of the ball, the click of the
chips, and the monotonous tone of the spinner: "Twenty-three, black.
Eight, red. Seventeen, black." It was almost like the boys in a
broker's office calling off the quotations of the ticker and marking
them up on the board.
Leaning forward, almost oblivious to the rest, was Percival DeLong, a
tall, lithe, handsome young man, whose boyish face ill comported
with the marks of dissipation clearly outlined on it. Such a boy, it
flashed across my mind, ought to be studying the possible plays of
football of an evening in the field-house after his dinner at the
training-table, rather than the possible gyrations of the little
platinum ball on the wheel.
"Curse the luck!" he exclaimed, as "17" appeared again.
A Hebrew banker staked a pile of chips on the "17" to come up a third
time. A murmur of applause at his nerve ran through the circle. DeLong
hesitated, as one who thought, "Seventeen has come out twice--the odds
against its coming again are too great, even though the winnings would
be fabulous, for a good stake." He placed his next bet on another
"He's playing Lord Rosslyn's system, to-night," whispered my friend.
The wheel spun, the ball rolled, and the croupier called again,
"Seventeen, black." A tremor of excitement ran through the crowd. It
was almost unprecedented.
DeLong, with a stiffed oath, leaned back and scanned the faces about
"And '17' has precisely the same chance of turning up in the next
spin as if it had not already had a run of three," said a voice at my
It was Kennedy. The roulette-table needs no introduction when curious
sequences are afoot. All are friends.
"That's the theory of Sir Hiram Maxim," commented my friend, as he
excused himself reluctantly for another appointment. "But no true
gambler will believe it, monsieur, or at least act on it."
All eyes were turned on Kennedy, who made a gesture of polite
deprecation, as if the remark of my friend were true, but--he
nonchalantly placed his chips on the "17."
"The odds against '17' appearing four consecutive times are some
millions," he went on, "and yet, having appeared three times, it is
just as likely to appear again as before. It is the usual practice
to avoid a number that has had a run, on the theory that some other
number is more likely to come up than it is. That would be the case if
it were drawing balls from a bag full of red and black balls--the more
red ones drawn the smaller the chance of drawing another red one. But
if the balls are put back in the bag after being drawn the chances of
drawing a red one after three have been drawn are exactly the same as
ever. If we toss a cent and heads appear twelve times, that does not
have the slightest effect on the thirteenth toss--there is still an
even chance that it, too, will be heads. So if '17' had come up five
times to-night, it would be just as likely to come the sixth as if the
previous five had not occurred, and that despite the fact that before
it had appeared at all odds against a run of the same number six times
in succession are about two billion, four hundred and ninety-six
million, and some thousands. Most systems are based on the old
persistent belief that occurrences of chance are affected in some way
by occurrences immediately preceding, but disconnected physically. If
we've had a run of black for twenty times, system says play the red
for the twenty-first. But black is just as likely to turn up the
twenty-first as if it were the first play of all. The confusion
arises because a run of twenty on the black should happen once in one
million, forty-eight thousand, five hundred and seventy-six coups. It
would take ten years to make that many coups, and the run of twenty
might occur once or any number of times in it. It is only when one
deals with infinitely large numbers of coups that one can count on
infinitely small variations in the mathematical results. This game
does not go on for infinity--therefore anything, everything, may
happen. Systems are based on the infinite; we play in the finite."
"You talk like a professor I had at the university," ejaculated DeLong
contemptuously as Craig finished his disquisition on the practical
fallibility of theoretically infallible systems. Again DeLong
carefully avoided the "17," as well as the black.
The wheel spun again; the ball rolled. The knot of spectators around
the table watched with bated breath.
As Kennedy piled up his winnings superciliously, without even the
appearance of triumph, a man behind me whispered, "A foreign nobleman
with a system--watch him."
"_Non_, monsieur," said Kennedy quickly, having overheard the remark,
"no system, sir. There is only one system of which I know."
"What?" asked DeLong eagerly.
Kennedy staked a large sum on the red to win. The black came up, and
he lost. He doubled the stake and played again, and again lost. With
amazing calmness Craig kept right on doubling.
"The martingale," I heard the men whisper behind me. "In other words,
double or quit."
Kennedy was now in for some hundreds, a sum that was sufficiently
large for him, but he doubled again, still cheerfully playing the red,
and the red won. As he gathered up his chips he rose.
"That's the only system," he said simply.
"But, go on, go on," came the chorus from about the table.
"No," said Kennedy quietly, "that is part of the system, too--to quit
when you have won back your stakes and a little more."
"Huh!" exclaimed DeLong in disgust. "Suppose you were in for some
thousands--you wouldn't quit. If you had real sporting blood you
wouldn't quit, anyhow!"
Kennedy calmly passed over the open insult, letting it be understood
that he ignored this beardless youth.
"There is no way you can beat the game in the long run if you keep at
it," he answered simply. "It is mathematically impossible. Consider.
We are Croesuses--we hire players to stake money for us on every
possible number at every coup. How do we come out? If there are no '0'
or '00,' we come out after each coup precisely where we started--we
are paying our own money back and forth among ourselves; we have
neither more nor less. But with the '0' and '00' the bank sweeps the
board every so often. It is only a question of time when, after paying
our money back and forth among ourselves, it has all filtered through
the 'O' and 'OO' into the bank. It is not a game of chance for
the bank--ah, it is exact, mathematical--_c'est une question
d'arithmetique seulement, n'est-ce pas, messieurs?_"
"Perhaps," admitted DeLong, "but it doesn't explain why I am losing
to-night while everyone else is winning."
"We are not winning," persisted Craig. "After I have had a bite to eat
I will demonstrate how to lose--by keeping on playing." He led the way
to the cafe.
DeLong was too intent on the game to leave, even for refreshments. Now
and then I saw him beckon to an attendant, who brought him a stiff
drink of whiskey. For a moment his play seemed a little better, then
he would drop back into his hopeless losing. For some reason or other
his "system" failed absolutely.
"You see, he is hopeless," mused Kennedy over our light repast. "And
yet of all gambling games roulette offers the player the best odds,
far better than horse-racing, for instance. Our method has usually
been to outlaw roulette and permit horse-racing; in other words,
suppress the more favorable and permit the less favorable. However,
we're doing better now; we're suppressing both. Of course what I say
applies only to roulette when it is honestly played--DeLong would lose
anyhow, I fear."
I started at Kennedy's tone and whispered hastily: "What do you mean?
Do you think the wheel is crooked?"
"I haven't a doubt of it," he replied in an undertone. "That run
of '17' _might_ happen--yes. But it is improbable. They let me win
because I was a new player--new players always win at first. It is
proverbial, but the man who is running this game has made it look
like a platitude. To satisfy myself on that point I am going to play
again--until I have lost my winnings and am just square with the game.
When I reach the point that I am convinced that some crooked work is
going on I am going to try a little experiment, Walter. I want you to
stand close to me so that no one can see what I am doing. Do just as I
will indicate to you."
The gambling-room was now fast filling up with the first of the
theatre crowd. DeLong's table was the centre of attraction, owing to
the high play. A group of young men of his set were commiserating with
him on his luck and discussing it with the finished air of roues of
double their ages. He was doggedly following his system.
Kennedy and I approached.
"Ah, here is the philosophical stranger again," DeLong exclaimed,
catching sight of Kennedy. "Perhaps he can enlighten us on how to win
at roulette by playing his own system."
"_Au contraire_, monsieur, let me demonstrate how to lose," answered
Craig with a smile that showed a row of faultless teeth beneath his
black moustache, decidedly foreign.
Kennedy played and lost, and lost again; then he won, but in the main
he lost. After one particularly large loss I felt his arm on mine,
drawing me closely to him. DeLong had taken a sort of grim pleasure in
the fact that Kennedy, too, was losing. I found that Craig had paused
in his play at a moment when DeLong had staked a large sum that a
number below "18" would turn up--for five plays the numbers had been
between "18" and "36." Curious to see what Craig was doing, I looked
cautiously down between us. All eyes were fixed on the wheel. Kennedy
was holding an ordinary compass in the crooked-up palm of his hand.
The needle pointed at me, as I happened to be standing north of it.
The wheel spun. Suddenly the needle swung around to a point between
the north and south poles, quivered a moment, and came to rest in that
position. Then it swung back to the north.
It was some seconds before I realized the significance of it. It
had pointed at the table--and DeLong had lost again. There was some
electric attachment at work.
Kennedy and I exchanged glances, and he shoved the compass into my
hand quickly. "You watch it, Walter, while I play," he whispered.
Carefully concealing it, as he had done, yet holding it as close to
the table as I dared I tried to follow two things at once without
betraying myself. As near as I could make out, something happened at
every play. I would not go so far as to assert that whenever the large
stakes were on a certain number the needle pointed to the opposite
side of the wheel, for it was impossible to be at all accurate about
it. Once I noticed the needle did not move at all, and he won. But
on the next play he staked what I knew must be the remainder of his
winnings on what seemed a very good chance. Even before the wheel was
revolved and the ball set rolling, the needle swung about, and when
the platinum ball came to rest Kennedy rose from the table, a loser.
"By George, though," exclaimed DeLong, grasping his hand. "I take it
all back. You are a good loser, sir. I wish I could take it as well as
you do. But then, I'm in too deeply. There are too many 'markers' with
the house up against me."
Senator Danfield had just come in to see how things were going. He was
a sleek, fat man, and it was amazing to see with what deference his
victims treated him. He affected not to have heard what DeLong said,
but I could imagine what he was thinking, for I had heard that he had
scant sympathy with anyone after he "went broke"--another evidence of
the camaraderie and good-fellowship that surrounded the game.
Kennedy's next remark surprised me. "Oh, your luck will change,
D.L.,"--everyone referred to him as "D.L.," for gambling-houses have
an aversion for real names and greatly prefer initials--"your luck
will change presently. Keep right on with your system. It's the best
you can do to-night, short of quitting."
"I'll never quit." replied the young man under his breath.
Meanwhile Kennedy and I paused on the way out to compare notes. My
report of the behavior of the compass only confirmed him in his
As we turned to the stairs we took in a full view of the room.
A faro-layout was purchasing Senator Danfield a new touring-car every
hour at the expense of the players. Another group was gathered about
the hazard-board, deriving evident excitement, though I am sure none
could have given an intelligent account of the chances they were
taking. Two roulette-tables were now going full blast, the larger
crowd still about DeLong's. Snatches of conversation came to us now
and then, and I caught one sentence, "DeLong's in for over a hundred
thousand now on the week's play, I understand; poor boy--that about
cleans him up."
"The tragedy of it, Craig," I whispered, but he did not hear.
With his hat tilted at a rakish angle and his opera-coat over his arm
he sauntered over for a last look.
"Any luck yet?" he asked carelessly.
"The devil--no," returned the boy.
"Do you know what my advice to you is, the advice of a man who has
seen high play everywhere from Monte Carlo to Shanghai?"
"Play until your luck changes if it takes until to-morrow."
A supercilious smile crossed Senator Danfield's fat face.
"I intend to," and the haggard young face turned again to the table
and forgot us.
"For Heaven's sake, Kennedy," I gasped as we went down the stairway,
"what do you mean by giving him such advice--you?"
"Not so loud, Walter. He'd have done it anyhow, I suppose, but I want
him to keep at it. This night means life or death to Percival DeLong
and his mother, too. Come on, let's get out of this."
We passed the formidable steel door and gained the street, jostled by
the late-comers who had left the after-theatre restaurants for a few
moments of play at the famous club that so long had defied the police.
Almost gaily Kennedy swung along toward Broadway. At the corner he
hesitated, glanced up and down, caught sight of the furniture-van in
the middle of the next block. The driver was tugging at the harness of
the horses, apparently fixing it. We walked along and stopped beside
"Drive around in front of the Vesper Club slowly," said Kennedy as the
driver at last looked up.
The van lumbered ahead, and we followed it casually. Around the corner
it turned. We turned also. My heart was going like a sledge-hammer as
the critical moment approached. My head was in a whirl. What would
that gay throng back of those darkened windows down the street think
if they knew what was being prepared for them?
On, like the Trojan horse, the van lumbered. A man went into the
Vesper Club, and I saw the negro at the door eye the oncoming van
suspiciously. The door banged shut.
The next thing I knew, Kennedy had ripped off his disguise, had flung
himself up behind the van, and had swung the doors open. A dozen men
with axes and sledge-hammers swarmed out and up the steps of the club.
"Call the reserves, O'Connor," cried Kennedy. "Watch the roof and the
The driver of the van hastened to send in the call.
The sharp raps of the hammers and the axes sounded on the thick
brass-bound oak of the out-side door in quick succession. There was
a scurry of feet inside, and we could hear a grating noise and a
terrific jar as the inner, steel door shut.
"A raid! A raid on the Vesper Club!" shouted a belated passer-by. The
crowd swarmed around from Broadway, as if it were noon instead of
Banging and ripping and tearing, the outer door was slowly forced. As
it crashed in, the quick gongs of several police patrols sounded. The
reserves had been called out at the proper moment, too late for them
to "tip off" the club that there was going to be a raid, as frequently
Disregarding the melee behind me, I leaped through the wreckage with
the other raiders. The steel door barred all further progress with its
cold blue impassibility. How were we to surmount this last and most
I turned in time to see Kennedy and O'Connor hurrying up the steps
with a huge tank studded with bolts like a boiler, while two other men
carried a second tank.
"There," ordered Craig, "set the oxygen there," as he placed his own
tank on the opposite side.
Out of the tanks stout tubes led, with stop-cocks and gages at the
top. From a case under his arm Kennedy produced a curious arrangement
like a huge hook, with a curved neck and a sharp beak. Really it
consisted of two metal tubes which ran into a sort of cylinder, or
mixing chamber, above the nozzle, while parallel to them ran a third
separate tube with a second nozzle of its own. Quickly he joined the
ends of the tubes from the tanks to the metal hook, the oxygen-tank
being joined to two of the tubes of the hook, and the second tank
being joined to the other. With a match he touched the nozzle
gingerly. Instantly a hissing, spitting noise followed, and an intense
blinding needle of flame.
"Now for the oxy-acetylene blowpipe," cried Kennedy as he advanced
toward the steel door. "We'll make short work of this."
Almost as he said it, the steel beneath the blowpipe became
Just to test it, he cut off the head of a three-quarter-inch steel
rivet--taking about a quarter of a minute to do it. It was evident,
though, that that would not weaken the door appreciably, even if the
rivets were all driven through. Still they gave a starting-point for
the flame of the high-pressure acetylene torch.
It was a brilliant sight. The terrific heat from the first nozzle
caused the metal to glow under the torch as if in an open-hearth
furnace. From the second nozzle issued a stream of oxygen under which
the hot metal of the door was completely consumed. The force of the
blast as the compressed oxygen and acetylene were expelled carried a
fine spray and the disintegrated metal visibly before it. And yet it
was not a big hole that it made--scarcely an eighth of an inch wide,
but clear and sharp as if a buzz saw were eating its way through a
three-inch plank of white pine. With tense muscles Kennedy held this
terrific engine of destruction and moved it as easily as if it had
been a mere pencil of light. He was easily the calmest of us all as we
crowded about him at a respectful distance.
"Acetylene, as you may know," he hastily explained, never pausing for
a moment in his work, "is composed of carbon and hydrogen. As it burns
at the end of the nozzle it is broken into carbon and hydrogen--the
carbon gives the high temperature, and the hydrogen forms a cone that
protects the end of the blowpipe from being itself burnt up."
"But isn't it dangerous?" I asked, amazed at the skill with which he
handled the blowpipe.
"Not particularly--when you know how to do it. In that tank is a
porous asbestos packing saturated with acetone, under pressure. Thus I
can carry acetylene safely, for it is dissolved, and the possibility
of explosion is minimized. This mixing chamber by which I am holding
the torch, where the oxygen and acetylene mix, is also designed in
such a way as to prevent a flash-back. The best thing about this style
of blowpipe is the ease with which it can be transported and the
curious uses--like the present--to which it can be put."
He paused a moment to test the door. All was silence on the other
side. The door itself was as firm as ever.
"Huh!" exclaimed one of the detectives behind me, "these new-fangled
things ain't all they're cracked up to be. Now if I was runnin' this
show, I'd dynamite that door to kingdom come."
"And wreck the house and kill a few people," I returned, hotly
resenting the criticism of Kennedy. Kennedy affected not to hear.
"When I shut off the oxygen in this second jet," he resumed as if
nothing had been said, "you see the torch merely heats the steel.
I can get a heat of approximately sixty-three hundred degrees
Fahrenheit, and the flame will exert a pressure of fifty pounds to the
"Wonderful!" exclaimed O'Connor, who had not heard the remark of his
subordinate and was watching with undisguised admiration. "Kennedy,
how did you ever think of such a thing?"
"Why, it's used for welding, you know," answered Craig as he continued
to work calmly in the growing excitement. "I first saw it in actual
use in mending a cracked cylinder in an automobile. The cylinder was
repaired without being taken out at all. I've seen it weld new teeth
and build up old worn teeth on gearing, as good as new."
He paused to let us see the terrifically heated metal under the flame.
"You remember when we were talking on the drive about the raid,
O'Connor? A car-load of scrap-iron went by on the railroad below us.
They use this blowpipe to cut it up, frequently. That's what gave me
the idea. See. I turn on the oxygen now in this second nozzle. The
blowpipe is no longer an instrument for joining metals together, but
for cutting them asunder. The steel burns just as you, perhaps, have
seen a watch-spring burn in a jar of oxygen. Steel, hard or soft,
tempered, annealed, chrome, or Harveyized, it all burns just as fast
and just as easily. And it's cheap too. This raid may cost a couple of
dollars, as far as the blowpipe is concerned--quite a difference from
the thousands of dollars' loss that would follow an attempt to blow
the door in."
The last remark was directed quietly at the doubting detective. He had
nothing to say. We stood in awe-struck amazement as the torch slowly,
inexorably, traced a thin line along the edge of the door.
Minute after minute sped by, as the line burned by the blowpipe cut
straight from top to bottom. It seemed hours to me. Was Kennedy going
to slit the whole door and let it fall in with a crash?
No, I could see that even in his cursory examination of the door
he had gained a pretty good knowledge of the location of the bolts
imbedded in the steel. One after another he was cutting clear through
and severing them, as if with a super-human knife.
What was going on on the other side of the door, I wondered. I could
scarcely imagine the consternation of the gamblers caught in their own
With a quick motion Kennedy turned off the acetylene and oxygen. The
last bolt had been severed. A gentle push of the hand, and he swung
the once impregnable door on its delicately poised hinges as easily as
if he had merely said, "Open Sesame." The robbers' cave yawned before
We made a rush up the stairs. Kennedy was first, O'Connor next, and
myself scarcely a step behind, with the rest of O'Connor's men at our
I think we were all prepared for some sort of gun-play, for the crooks
were desperate characters, and I myself was surprised to encounter
nothing but physical force, which was quickly overcome.
In the now disordered richness of the rooms, waving his "John Doe"
warrant in one hand and his pistol in the other, O'Connor shouted:
"You're all under arrest, gentlemen. If you resist further it will go
hard with you."
Crowded now in one end of the room in speechless amazement was the
late gay party of gamblers, including Senator Danfield himself. They
had reckoned on toying with any chance but this. The pale white face
of DeLong among them was like a spectre, as he stood staring blankly
about and still insanely twisting the roulette wheel before him.
Kennedy advanced toward the table with an ax which he had seized from
one of our men. A well-directed blow shattered the mechanism of the
"DeLong," he said, "I'm not going to talk to you like your old
professor at the university, nor like your recent friend, the
Frenchman with a system. This is what you have been up against, my
His forefinger indicated an ingenious, but now tangled and twisted,
series of minute wires and electro-magnets in the broken wheel before
us. Delicate brushes led the current into the wheel. With another blow
of his axe, Craig disclosed wires running down through the leg of the
table to the floor and under the carpet to buttons operated by the man
who ran the game.
"Wh-what does it mean?" asked DeLong blankly.
"It means that you had little enough chance to win at a straight game
of roulette. But the wheel is very rarely straight, even with all the
odds in favor of the bank, as they are. This game was electrically
controlled. Others are mechanically controlled by what is sometimes
called the 'mule's ear,' and other devices. You _can't_ win. There
wires and magnets can be made to attract the little ball into any
pocket the operator desires. Each one of those pockets contains a
little electro-magnet. One set of magnets in the red pockets is
connected with one button under the carpet and a battery. The other
set in the black pockets is connected with another button and
the battery. This ball is not really of platinum. Platinum is
non-magnetic. It is simply a soft iron hollow ball, plated with
platinum. Whichever set of electro-magnets is energized attracts the
ball and by this simple method it is in the power of the operator
to let the ball go to red or black as he may wish. Other similar
arrangements control the odd or even, and other combinations from
other push buttons. A special arrangement took care of that '17'
freak. There isn't an honest gambling-machine in the whole place--I
might almost say the whole city. The whole thing is crooked from start
to finish--the men, the machines--the--"
"That machine could be made to beat me by turning up a run of '17' any
number of times, or red or black, or odd or even, over '18' or under
'18,' or anything?"
"And I never had a chance," he repeated, meditatively fingering the
wires. "They broke me to-night. Danfield"--DeLong turned, looking
dazedly about in the crowd for his former friend, then his hand
shot into his pocket, and a little ivory-handled pistol flashed
out--"Danfield, your blood is on your own head. You have ruined me."
Kennedy must have been expecting something of the sort, for he seized
the arm of the young man, weakened by dissipation, and turned the
pistol upward as if it had been in the grasp of a mere child.
A blinding flash followed in the farthest corner of the room and a
huge puff of smoke. Before I could collect my wits another followed in
the opposite corner. The room was filled with a dense smoke.
Two men were scuffling at my feet. One was Kennedy. As I dropped down
quickly to help him I saw that the other was Danfield, his face purple
with the violence of the struggle.
"Don't be alarmed, gentlemen," I heard O'Connor shout, "the explosions
were only the flash-lights of the official police photographers.
We now have the evidence complete. Gentlemen, you will now go down
quietly to the patrol-wagons below, two by two. If you have anything
to say, say it to the magistrate of the night court."
"Hold his arms, Walter," panted Kennedy.
I did. With a dexterity that would have done credit to a pickpocket,
Kennedy reached into Danfield's pocket and pulled out some papers.
Before the smoke had cleared and order had been restored, Craig
exclaimed: "Let him up, Walter. Here, DeLong, here are the I.O.U.'s
against you. Tear them up--they are not even a debt of honor."
The Great K.& A. Train Robbery
BY PAUL LEICESTER FORD
THE PARTY ON SPECIAL NO. 218
Any one who hopes to find in what is here written a work of literature
had better lay it aside unread. At Yale I should have got the sack in
rhetoric and English composition, let alone other studies, had it not
been for the fact that I played half-back on the team, and so the
professors marked me away up above where I ought to have ranked. That
was twelve years ago, but my life since I received my parchment has
hardly been of a kind to improve me in either style or grammar. It is
true that one woman tells me I write well, and my directors never
find fault with my compositions; but I know that she likes my letters
because, whatever else they may say to her, they always say in some
form, "I love you," while my board approve my annual reports
because thus far I have been able to end each with "I recommend the
declaration of a dividend of ---- per cent from the earnings of the
current year." I should therefore prefer to reserve my writings for
such friendly critics, if it did not seem necessary to make public a
plain statement concerning an affair over which there appears to be
much confusion. I have heard in the last five years not less than
twenty renderings of what is commonly called "the great K.& A. train
robbery,"--some so twisted and distorted that but for the intermediate
versions I should never have recognized them as attempts to narrate
the series of events in which I played a somewhat prominent part. I
have read or been told that, unassisted, the pseudo-hero captured a
dozen desperadoes; that he was one of the road agents himself; that he
was saved from lynching only by the timely arrival of cavalry; that
the action of the United States government in rescuing him from the
civil authorities was a most high-handed interference with State
rights; that he received his reward from a grateful railroad by being
promoted; that a lovely woman as recompense for his villainy--but
bother! it's my business to tell what really occurred, and not what
the world chooses to invent. And if any man thinks he would have done
otherwise in my position, I can only say that he is a better or a
worse man than Dick Gordon.
Primarily, it was football which shaped my end. Owing to my skill in
the game, I took a post-graduate at the Sheffield Scientific School,
that the team might have my services for an extra two years. That led
to my knowing a little about mechanical engineering, and when I felt
the "quad" for good I went into the Alton Railroad shops. It wasn't
long before I was foreman of a section; next I became a division
superintendent, and after I had stuck to that for a time I was
appointed superintendent of the Kansas & Arizona Railroad, a line
extending from Trinidad in Kansas to The Needles in Arizona, tapping
the Missouri Western System at the first place, and the Great Southern
at the other. With both lines we had important traffic agreements,
as well as the closest relations, which sometimes were a little
difficult, as the two roads were anything but friendly, and we had
directors of each on the K. & A. board, in which they fought like
cats. Indeed, it could only be a question of time when one would
oust the other and then absorb my road. My headquarters were at
Albuquerque, in New Mexico, and it was there, in October, 1890, that
I received the communication which was the beginning of all that
This initial factor was a letter from the president of the Missouri
Western, telling me that their first vice-president, Mr. Cullen (who
was also a director of my road), was coming out to attend the annual
election of the K. & A., which under our charter had to be held in Ash
Fork, Arizona. A second paragraph told me that Mr. Cullen's family
accompanied him, and that they all wished to visit the Grand Canon of
the Colorado on their way. Finally the president wrote that the
party travelled in his own private car, and asked me to make myself
generally useful to them. Having become quite hardened to just such
demands, at the proper date I ordered my superintendent's car on to
No. 2, and the next morning it was dropped off at Trinidad.
The moment No. 3 arrived, I climbed into the president's special, that
was the last car on the train, and introduced myself to Mr. Cullen,
whom, though an official of my road, I had never met. He seemed
surprised at my presence, but greeted me very pleasantly as soon as I
explained that the Missouri Western office had asked me to do what I
could for him, and that I was there for that purpose. His party were
about to sit down to breakfast, and he asked me to join them: so we
passed into the dining-room at the forward end of the car, where I was
introduced to "My son," "Lord Ralles," and "Captain Ackland." The son
was a junior copy of his father, tall and fine-looking, but, in place
of the frank and easy manner of his sire, he was so very English that
most people would have sworn falsely as to his native land. Lord
Ralles was a little, well-built chap, not half so English as Albert
Cullen, quick in manner and thought, being in this the opposite of
his brother Captain Ackland, who was heavy enough to rock-ballast a
roadbed. Both brothers gave me the impression of being gentlemen, and
both were decidedly good-looking.
After the introductions, Mr. Cullen said we would not wait, and his
remark called my attention to the fact that there was one more place
at the table than there were people assembled. I had barely noted
this, when my host said, "Here's the truant," and, turning, I faced a
lady who had just entered. Mr. Cullen said, "Madge, let me introduce
Mr. Gordon to you." My bow was made to a girl of about twenty, with
light brown hair, the bluest of eyes, a fresh skin and a fine figure,
dressed so nattily as to be to me after my four years of Western life,
a sight for tired eyes. She greeted me pleasantly, made a neat little
apology for having kept us waiting, and then we all sat down.
It was a very jolly breakfast-table, Mr. Cullen and his son being
capital talkers, and Lord Ralles a good third, while Miss Cullen was
quick and clever enough to match the three. Before the meal was over I
came to the conclusion that Lord Ralles was in love with Miss Cullen,
for he kept making low asides to her; and from the fact that she
allowed them, and indeed responded, I drew the conclusion that he was
a lucky beggar, feeling, I confess, a little pang that a title was
going to win such a nice American girl.
One of the first subjects spoken of was train-robbery, and Miss
Cullen, like most Easterners, seemed to take a great interest in it,
and had any quantity of questions to ask me.
"I've left all my jewelry behind, except my watch," she said, "and
that I hide every night. So I really hope we'll be held up, it would
be such an adventure."
"There isn't any chance of it, Miss Cullen," I told her; "and if we
were, you probably wouldn't even know that it was happening, but would
sleep right through it."
"Wouldn't they try to get our money and our watches?" she demanded.
I told her no, and explained that the express and mail-cars were the
only ones to which the road agents paid any attention. She wanted to
know the way it was done: so I described to her how sometimes the
train was flagged by a danger signal, and when it had slowed down the
runner found himself covered by armed men; or how a gang would board
the train, one by one, at way stations, and then, when the time came,
steal forward, secure the express agent and postal clerk, climb over
the tender, and compel the runner to stop the train at some lonely
spot on the road. She made me tell her all the details of such
robberies as I knew about, and, though I had never been concerned in
any, I was able to describe several, which, as they were monotonously
alike, I confess I colored up a bit here and there, in an attempt to
make them interesting to her. I seemed to succeed, for she kept the
subject going even after we had left the table and were smoking our
cigars in the observation saloon. Lord Ralles had a lot to say about
the American lack of courage in letting trains containing twenty and
thirty men be held up by half a dozen robbers.
"Why," he ejaculated, "my brother and I each have a double express
with us, and do you think we'd sit still in our seats? No. Hang me if
we wouldn't pot something."
"You might," I laughed, a little nettled, I confess, by his speech,
"but I'm afraid it would be yourselves."
"Aw, you fancy resistance impossible?" drawled Albert Cullen.
"It has been tried," I answered, "and without success. You can see
it's like all surprises. One side is prepared before the other side
knows there is danger. Without regard to relative numbers, the odds
are all in favor of the road agents."
"But I wouldn't sit still, whatever the odds," asserted his lordship.
"And no Englishman would."
"Well, Lord Ralles," I said, "I hope for your sake, then, that you'll
never be in a hold-up, for I should feel about you as the runner of a
locomotive did when the old lady asked him if it was'nt very painful
to him to run over people. 'Yes, madam,' he sadly replied: 'there is
nothing musses an engine up so.'"
I don't think Miss Cullen liked Lord Ralles's comments on American
courage any better than I did, for she said--you take Lord Ralles
and Captain Ackland into the service of the K. & A., Mr. Gordon, as a
"The K. & A. has never had a robbery yet, Miss Cullen," I replied,
"and I don't think that it ever will have."
"Why not?" she asked.
I explained to her how the Canon of the Colorado to the north, and the
distance of the Mexican border to the south, made escape so almost
desperate that the road agents preferred to devote their attentions to
other routes. "If we were boarded, Miss Cullen," I said, "your jewelry
would be as safe as it is in Chicago, for the robbers would only clean
out the express and mail-cars; but if they should so far forget their
manners as to take your trinkets, I'd agree to return them to you
inside of one week."
"That makes it all the jollier," she cried, eagerly. "We could have
the fun of the adventure, and yet not lose anything. Can't you arrange
for it, Mr. Gordon?"
"I'd like to please you, Miss Cullen," I said, "and I'd like to give
Lord Ralles a chance to show us how to handle those gentry; but it's
not to be done." I really should have been glad to have the road
agents pay us a call.
We spent that day pulling up the Raton pass, and so on over the
Glorietta pass down to Lamy, where, as the party wanted to see Sante
Fe, I had our two cars dropped off the overland, and we ran up the
branch line to the old Mexican city. It was well-worn ground to me,
but I enjoyed showing the sights to Miss Cullen, for by that time I
had come to the conclusion that I had never met a sweeter or jollier
girl. Her beauty, too, was of a kind that kept growing on one, and
before I had known her twenty-four hours, without quite being in love
with her, I was beginning to hate Lord Ralles, which was about the
same thing, I suppose. Every hour convinced me that the two understood
each other, not merely from the little asides and confidences they
kept exchanging, but even more so from the way Miss Cullen would take
his lordship down occasionally. Yet, like a fool, the more I saw to
confirm my first diagnosis, the more I found myself dwelling on the
dimples at the corners of Miss Cullen's mouth, the bewitching uplift
of her upper lip, the runaway curls about her neck, and the curves and
color of her cheeks.
Half a day served to see everything in Santa Fe worth looking at, but
Mr. Cullen decided to spend there the time they had to wait for his
other son to join the party. To pass the hours, I hunted up some
ponies, and we spent three days in long rides up the old Santa Fe
trail and to the outlying mountains. Only one incident was other than
pleasant, and that was my fault. As we were riding back to our cars
on the second afternoon, we had to cross the branch road-bed, where a
gang happened to be at work tamping the ties.
"Since you're interested in road agents, Miss Cullen," I said, "you
may like to see one. That fellow standing in the ditch is Jack Drute,
who was concerned in the D.& R.G. hold-up three years ago."
Miss Cullen looked where I pointed, and seeing a man with a gun, gave
a startled jump, and pulled up her pony, evidently supposing that
we were about to be attacked. "Sha'n't we run?" she began, but then
checked herself, as she took in the facts of the drab clothes of the
gang and the two armed men in uniform. "They are convicts?" she asked,
and when I nodded, she said, "Poor things!" After a pause, she asked,
"How long is he in prison for?"
"Twenty years," I told her."
"How harsh that seems!" she said. "How cruel we are to people for a
few moments' wrong-doing, which the circumstances may almost have
justified!" She checked her pony as we came opposite Drute, and said,
"Can you use money?"
"Can I, lyedy?" said the fellow, leering in an attempt to look
amiable. "Wish I had the chance to try."
The guard interrupted by telling her it wasn't permitted to speak to
the convicts while out of bounds, and so we had to ride on. All Miss
Cullen was able to do was to throw him a little bunch of flowers she
had gathered in the mountains. It was literally casting pearls before
swine, for the fellow did not seem particularly pleased, and when,
late that night, I walked down there with a lantern I found the
flowers lying in the ditch. The experience seemed to sadden and
distress Miss Cullen very much for the rest of the afternoon, and I
kicked myself for having called her attention to the brute, and could
have knocked him down for the way he had looked at her. It is curious
that I felt thankful at the time that Drute was not holding up a train
Miss Cullen was on. It is always the unexpected that happens. If I
could have looked into the future, what a strange variation on this
thought I should have seen!
The three days went all too quickly, thanks to Miss Cullen, and by the
end of that time I began to understand what love really meant to a
chap, and how men could come to kill each other for it. For a fairly
sensible, hard-headed fellow it was pretty quick work, I acknowledge;
but let any man have seven years of Western life without seeing a
woman worth speaking of, and then meet Miss Cullen, and if he didn't
do as I did, I wouldn't trust him on the tailboard of a locomotive,
for I should put him down as defective both in eyesight and in
THE HOLDING-UP OF OVERLAND NO. 3
On the third day a despatch came from Frederic Cullen telling his
father he would join us at Lamy on No. 8 that evening. I at once
ordered 97 and 218 coupled to the connecting train, and in an hour we
were back on the main line. While waiting for the overland to arrive,
Mr. Cullen asked me to do something which, as it later proved to have
considerable bearing on the events of that night, is worth mentioning,
trivial as it seems. When I had first joined the party, I had given
orders for 97 to be kicked in between the main string and their
special, so as not to deprive the occupants of 218 of the view from
their observation saloon and balcony platform. Mr. Cullen came to me
now and asked me to reverse the arrangement and make my car the tail
end. I was giving orders for the splitting and kicking in when No. 3
arrived, and thus did not see the greeting of Frederic Cullen and his
family. When I joined them, his father told me that the high altitude
had knocked his son up so, that he had to be helped from the ordinary
sleeper to the special and had gone to bed immediately. Out West we
have to know something of medicine, and my car had its chest of drugs:
so I took some tablets and went into his state-room. Frederic was like
his brother in appearance, though not in manner, having a quick, alert
way. He was breathing with such difficulty that I was almost tempted
to give him nitroglycerin, instead of strychnine, but he said he would
be all right as soon as he became accustomed to the rarefied air,
quite pooh-poohing my suggestion that he take No. 2 back to Trinidad;
and while I was still urging, the train started. Leaving him the vials
of digitalis and strychnine, therefore, I went back, and dined _solus_
on my own car, indulging at the end in a cigar, the smoke of which
would keep turning into pictures of Miss Cullen. I have thought about
those pictures since then, and have concluded that when cigar-smoke
behaves like that, a man might as well read his destiny in it, for it
can mean only one thing.
After enjoying the combination, I went to No. 218 to have a look
at the son, and found that the heart tonics had benefited him
considerably. On leaving him, I went to the dining-room, where the
rest of the party were still at dinner, to ask that the invalid have a
strong cup of coffee, and after delivering my request Mr. Cullen asked
me to join them in a cigar. This I did gladly, for a cigar and Miss
Cullen's society were even pleasanter than a cigar and Miss Cullen's
pictures, because the pictures never quite did her justice, and,
besides, didn't talk.
Our smoke finished, we went back to the saloon, where the gentlemen
sat down to poker, which Lord Ralles had just learned, and liked. They
did not ask me to take a hand, for which I was grateful, as the salary
of a railroad superintendent would hardly stand the game they probably
played; and I had my compensation when Miss Cullen also was not asked
to join them. She said she was going to watch the moonlight on the
mountains from the platform, and opened the door to go out, finding
for the first time that No. 97 was the "ender." In her disappointment
she protested against this and wanted to know the why and wherefore.
"We shall have far less motion, Madge," Mr. Cullen explained, "and
then we sha'n't have the rear-end man in our car at night."
"But I don't mind the motion," urged Miss Cullen, "and the flagman is
only there after we are all in our rooms. Please leave us the view."
"I prefer the present arrangement, Madge," insisted Mr. Cullen, in a
very positive voice.
I was so sorry for Miss Cullen's disappointment that on impulse I
said, "The platform of 97 is entirely at your service, Miss Cullen."
The moment it was out I realized that I ought not to have said it, and
that I deserved a rebuke for supposing she would use my car.
Miss Cullen took it better than I hoped for, and was declining the
offer as kindly as my intention had been in making it, when, much to
my astonishment, her father interrupted by saying--
"By all means, Madge. That relieves us of the discomfort of being the
last car, and yet lets you have the scenery and moonlight."
Miss Cullen looked at her father for a moment as if not believing
what she had heard. Lord Ralles scowled and opened his mouth to say
something, but checked himself and only flung his discard down as if
he hated the cards.
"Thank you, papa," responded Miss Cullen, "but I think I will watch
"Now, Madge, don't be foolish," said Mr. Cullen, irritably. "You might
just as well have the pleasure, and you'll only disturb the game if
you stay here."
Miss Cullen leaned over and whispered something, and her father
answered her. Lord Ralles must have heard, for he muttered something,
which made Miss Cullen color up; but much good it did him, for she
turned to me and said, "Since my father doesn't disapprove, I will
gladly accept your hospitality, Mr. Gordon," and after a glance at
Lord Ralles that had a challenging "I'll do as I please" in it, she
went to get her hat and coat. The whole incident had not taken ten
seconds, yet it puzzled me beyond measure, even while my heart beat
with an unreasonable hope; for my better sense told me that it simply
meant that Lord Ralles disapproved, and Miss Cullen, like any girl
of spirit, was giving him notice that he was not yet privileged to
control her actions. Whatever the scene meant, his lordship did not
like it, for he swore at his luck the moment Miss Cullen had left the
When Miss Cullen returned we went back to the rear platform of 97. I
let down the traps, closed the gates, got a camp-stool for her to sit
upon, with a cushion to lean back on, and a footstool, and fixed her
as comfortably as I could, even getting a traveling-rug to cover her
lap, for the plateau air was chilly. Then I hesitated a moment, for I
had the feeling that she had not thoroughly approved of the thing and
therefore she might not like to have me stay. Yet she was so charming
in the moonlight, and the little balcony the platform made was such a
tempting spot to linger on, while she was there, that it wasn't easy
to go. Finally I asked--
"You are quite comfortable, Miss Cullen?"
"Sinfully so," she laughed.
"Then perhaps you would like to be left to enjoy the moonlight and
your meditations by yourself?" I questioned. I knew I ought to have
just gone away, but I simply couldn't when she looked so enticing.
"Do you want to go?" she asked.
"No!" I ejaculated, so forcibly that she gave a little startled jump
in her chair. "That is--I mean," I stuttered, embarrassed by my own
vehemence, "I rather thought you might not want me to stay."
"What made you think that?" she demanded.
I never was a good hand at inventing explanations, and after a
moment's seeking for some reason, I plumped out, "Because I feared
you might not think it proper to use my car, and I suppose it's my
presence that made you think it."
She took my stupid fumble very nicely, laughing merrily while saying,
"If you like mountains and moonlight, Mr. Gordon, and don't mind the
lack of a chaperon, get a stool for yourself, too." What was more, she
offered me half of the lap-robe when I was seated beside her.
I think she was pleased by my offer to go away, for she talked very
pleasantly, and far more intimately than she had ever done before,
telling me facts about her family, her Chicago life, her travels, and
even her thoughts. From this I learned that her elder brother was an
Oxford graduate, and that Lord Ralles and his brother were classmates,
who were visiting him for the first time since he had graduated. She
asked me some questions about my work, which led me to tell her pretty
much everything about myself that I thought could be of the least
interest; and it was a very pleasant surprise to me to find that she
knew one of the old team, and had even heard of me from him.
"Why," she exclaimed, "how absurd of me not to have thought of it
before! But, you see, Mr. Colston always speaks of you by your first
name. You ought to hear how he praises you."
"Trust Harry to praise any one," I said. "There were some pretty low
fellows on the old team--men who couldn't keep their word or their
tempers, and would slug every chance they got; but Harry used to
insist there wasn't a bad egg among the lot."
"Don't you find it very lonely to live out here, away from old
friends?" she asked.
I had to acknowledge that it was, and told her the worst part was the
absence of pleasant women. "Till you arrived, Miss Cullen," I said, "I
hadn't seen a well-gowned woman in four years." I've always noticed
that a woman would rather have a man notice and praise her frock than
her beauty, and Miss Cullen was apparently no exception, for I could
see the remark pleased her.
"Don't Western women ever get Eastern gowns?" she asked.
"Any quantity," I said, "but you know, Miss Cullen, that it isn't the
gown, but the way it's worn, that gives the artistic touch." For a
fellow who had devoted the last seven years of his life to grades and
fuel and rebates and pay-rolls, I don't think that was bad. At least
it made Miss Cullen's mouth dimple at the corners.
The whole evening was so eminently satisfactory that I almost believe
I should be talking yet, if interruption had not come. The first
premonition of it was Miss Cullen's giving a little shiver, which made
me ask if she was cold.
"Not at all," she replied. "I only--what place are we stopping at?"
I started to rise, but she checked the movement and said, "Don't
trouble yourself. I thought you would know without moving. I really
don't care to know."
I took out my watch, and was startled to find it was twenty minutes
past twelve. I wasn't so green as to tell Miss Cullen so, and merely
said, "By the time, this must be Sanders."
"Do we stop long?" she asked.
"Only to take water," I told her, and then went on with what I had
been speaking about when she shivered. But as I talked it slowly
dawned on me that we had been standing still some time, and presently
I stopped speaking and glanced off, expecting to recognize something,
only to see alkali plain on both sides. A little surprised, I looked
down, to find no siding. Rising hastily, I looked out forward. I could
see moving figures on each side of the train, but that meant nothing,
as the train's crew, and, for that matter passengers, are very apt to
alight at every stop. What did mean something was that there was no
water-tank, no station, nor any other visible cause for a stop.
"Is anything the matter?" asked Miss Cullen.
"I think something's wrong with the engine or the roadbed, Miss
Cullen," I said, "and, if you'll excuse me a moment, I'll go forward
I had barely spoken when "bang! bang!" went two shots. That they were
both fired from an English "express" my ears told me for no other
people in this world make a mountain howitzer and call it a rifle.
Hardly were the two shots fired when "crack! crack! crack! crack!"
went some Winchesters.
"Oh! what is it?" cried Miss Cullen.
"I think your wish has been granted," I answered hurriedly. "We are
being held up, and Lord Ralles is showing us how to--"
My speech was interrupted. "Bang! bang!" challenged another "express,"
the shots so close together as to be almost simultaneous. "Crack!
crack! crack!" retorted the Winchesters, and from the fact that
silence followed I drew a clear inference. I said to myself, "That is
an end of poor John Bull."
A NIGHT'S WORK ON THE ALKALI PLAINS
I hurried Miss Cullen into the car, and, after bolting the rear door,
took down my Winchester from its rack.
"I'm going forward," I told her, "and will tell my darkies to bolt the
front door: so you'll be as safe in here as in Chicago."
In another minute I was on my front platform. Dropping down between
the two cars, I crept along beside--indeed, half under--Mr. Cullen's
special. After my previous conclusion, my surprise can be judged when
at the farther end I found the two Britishers and Albert Cullen,
standing there in the most exposed position possible. I joined them,
muttering to myself something about Providence and fools.
"Aw," drawled Cullen, "here's Mr. Gordon, just too late for the sport,
"Well," bragged Lord Ralles, "we've had a hand in this deal, Mr.
Superintendent, and haven't been potted. The scoundrels broke for
cover the moment we opened fire."
By this time there were twenty passengers about our group, all of them
asking questions at once, making it difficult to learn just what had
happened; but, so far as I could piece the answers together, the
poker-players' curiosity had been aroused by the long stop, and,
looking out, they had seen a single man with a rifle standing by the
engine. Instantly arming themselves, Lord Ralles let fly both barrels
at him, and in turn was the target for the first four shots I had
heard. The shooting had brought the rest of the robbers tumbling off
the cars, and the captain and Cullen had fired the rest of the shots
at them as they scattered, I didn't stop to hear more, but went
forward to see what the road agents had got away with.
I found the express agent tied hand and foot in the corner of his car,
and, telling a brakeman who had followed me to set him at liberty, I
turned my attention to the safe. That the diversion had not come a
moment too soon was shown by the dynamite cartridge already in place,
and by the fuse that lay on the floor, as if dropped suddenly. But the
safe was intact.
Passing into the mail-car, I found the clerk tied to a post, with a
mail-sack pulled over his head, and the utmost confusion among the
pouches and sorting-compartments, while scattered over the floor were
a great many letters. Setting him at liberty, I asked him if he
could tell whether mail had been taken, and, after a glance at the
confusion, he said he could not know till he had examined.
Having taken stock of the harm done, I began asking questions. Just
after we had left Sanders, two masked men had entered the mail-car,
and while one covered the clerk with a revolver the other had tied
and "sacked" him. Two more had gone forward and done the same to the
express agent. Another had climbed over the tender and ordered the
runner to hold up. All this was regular programme, as I had explained
to Miss Cullen, but here had been a variation which I had never heard
of being done, and of which I couldn't fathom the object. When the
train had been stopped, the man on the tender had ordered the fireman
to dump his fire, and now it was lying in the road-bed and threatening
to burn through the ties; so my first order was to extinguish it,
and my second was to start a new fire and get up steam as quickly as
possible. From all I could learn, there were eight men concerned in
the attempt, and I confess I shook my head in puzzlement why that
number should have allowed themselves to be scared off so easily.
My wonderment grew when I called on the conductor for his tickets.
These showed nothing but two from Albuquerque, one from Laguna, and
four from Coolidge. This latter would have looked hopeful but for the
fact that it was a party of three women and a man. Going back beyond
Lamy didn't give anything, for the conductor was able to account for
every fare as either still in the train or as having got off at some
point. My only conclusion was that the robbers had sneaked onto the
platforms at Sanders; and I gave the crew a good dressing down for
their carelessness. Of course they insisted it was impossible; but
they were bound to do that.
Going back to 97, I got my telegraph instrument, though I thought it
a waste of time, the road agents being always careful to break the
lines. I told a brakeman to climb the pole and cut a wire. While he
was struggling up, Miss Cullen joined me.
"Do you really expect to catch them?"
"I shouldn't like to be one of them," I replied.
"But how can you do it?"
"You could understand better, Miss Cullen, if you knew this country.
You see every bit of water is in use by ranches, and those fellows
can't go more than fifty miles without watering. So we shall have word
of them, wherever they go."
"Line cut, Mr. Gordon," came from overhead at this point, making Miss
Cullen jump with surprise.
"What was that?" she asked.
I explained to her, and after making connections, I called Sanders.
Much to my surprise, the agent responded. I was so astonished that for
a moment I could not believe the fact.
"That is the queerest hold-up of which I ever heard," I remarked to
"Aw, in what respect?" asked Albert Cullen's voice, and, looking up, I
found that he and quite a number of the passengers had joined us.
"The road agents make us dump our fire," I said, "and yet they haven't
cut the wires in either direction. I can't see how they can escape
"What fun!" cried Miss Cullen.
"I don't see what difference either makes in their chance of
escaping," said Lord Ralles.
While he was speaking, I ticked off the news of our being held up, and
asked the agent if there had been any men about Sanders, or if he had
seen any one board the train there. His answer was positive that no
one could have done so, and that settled it as to Sanders. I asked the
same questions of Allantown and Wingate, which were the only places we
had stopped at after leaving Coolidge, getting the same answer. That
eight men could have remained concealed on any of the platforms from
that point was impossible, and I began to suspect magic. Then I called
Coolidge, and told of the holding up, after which I telegraphed the
agent at Navajo Springs to notify the commander at Fort Defiance, for
I suspected the road agents would make for the Navajo reservation.
Finally I called Flagstaff as I had Coolidge, directed that the
authorities be notified of the facts, and ordered an extra to bring
out the sheriff and posse.
"I don't think," said Miss Cullen, "that I am a bit more curious than
most people, but it has nearly made me frantic to have you tick away
on that little machine and hear it tick back, and not understand a
After that I had to tell her what I had said and learned.
"How clever of you to think of counting the tickets and finding out
where people got on and off! I never should have thought of either,"
"It hasn't helped me much," I laughed, rather grimly, "except to
eliminate every possible clue."
"They probably did steal on at one of the stops," suggested a
I shook my head. "There isn't a stick of timber nor a place of
concealment on these alkali plains," I replied, "and it was bright
moonlight till an hour ago. It would be hard enough for one man to
get within a mile of the station without being seen, and it would be
impossible for seven or eight."
"How do you know the number?" asked a passenger.
"I don't," I said. "That's the number the crew think there were; but I
myself don't believe it."
"Why don't you believe the men?" asked Miss Cullen.
"First, because there is always a tendency to magnify, and next,
because the road agents ran away so quickly."
"I counted at least seven," asserted Lord Ralles.
"Well, Lord Ralles," I said, "I don't want to dispute your eyesight,
but if they had been that strong they would never have bolted, and if
you want to lay a bottle of wine, I'll wager that when I catch those
chaps we'll find there weren't more than three or four of them."
"Done!" he snapped.
Leaving the group, I went forward to get the report of the mail agent.
He had put things to right, and told me that, though the mail had
been pretty badly mixed up, only one pouch at worst had been rifled.
This--the one for registered mail--had been cut open, but, as if to
increase the mystery, the letters had been scattered, unopened, about
the car, only three out of the whole being missing, and those very
probably had fallen into the pigeon-holes and would be found on a more
I confess I breathed easier to think that the road agents had got away
with nothing, and was so pleased that I went back to the wire to
send the news of it, that the fact might be included in the press
despatches. The moon had set, and it was so dark that I had some
difficulty in finding the pole. When I found it, Miss Cullen was still
standing there. What was more, a man was close beside her, and as I
came up I heard her say, indignantly--
"I will not allow it. It is unfair to take such advantage of me. Take
your arm away, or I shall call for help."
That was enough for me. One step carried my hundred and sixty pounds
over the intervening ground, and, using the momentum of the stride to
help, I put the flat of my hand against the shoulder of the man and
gave him a shove. There are three or four Harvard men who can tell
what that means and they were braced for it, which this fellow wasn't.
He went staggering back as if struck by a cow-catcher, and lay down on
the ground a good fifteen feet away. His having his arm around Miss
Cullen's waist unsteadied her so that she would have fallen too if I