Part 2 out of 6
letter into his pocket and replaced the other things as he had
A moment later Kazanovitch returned with a large box of Russian
cigarettes. "Be seated, sir," he said to Kennedy, sweeping a mass
of books and papers off a large divan. "When Nevsky is not here
the room gets sadly disarranged. I have no genius for order."
Amid the clouds of fragrant light smoke we waited for Kazanovitch
to break the silence.
"Perhaps you think that the iron hand of the Russian prime minister
has broken the backbone of revolution in Russia," he began at length.
"But because the Duma is subservient, it does not mean that all is
over. Not at all. We are not asleep. Revolution is smouldering,
ready to break forth at any moment. The agents of the government
know it. They are desperate. There is no means they would not use
to crush us. Their long arm reaches even to New York, in this land
He rose and excitedly paced the room. Somehow or other, this man
did not prepossess me. Was it that I was prejudiced by a puritanical
disapproval of the things that pass current in Old World morality?
Or was it merely that I found the great writer of fiction seeking
the dramatic effect always at the cost of sincerity?
"Just what is it that you suspect?" asked Craig, anxious to dispense
with the rhetoric and to get down to facts. " Surely, when three
persons are stricken, you must suspect something."
"Poison," replied Kazanovitch quickly. "Poison, and of a kind that
even the poison doctors of St. Petersburg have never employed. Dr.
Kharkoff is completely baffled. Your American doctors - two were
called in to see Saratovsky - say it is the typhus fever. But
Kharkoff knows better. There is no typhus rash. Besides" - and he
leaned forward to emphasise his words - " one does not get over
typhus in a week and have it again as Saratovsky has." I could see
that Kennedy was growing impatient. An idea had occurred to him,
and only politeness kept him listening to Kazanovitch longer.
"Doctor," he said, as Kharkoff entered the room again, "do you
suppose you could get some perfectly clean test-tubes and sterile
bouillon from Miss Nevsky's laboratory? I think I saw a rack of
tubes on the table."
"Surely," answered Kharkoff.
"You will excuse us, Mr. Kazanovitch," apologised Kennedy briskly,
"but I feel that I am going to have a hard day to-morrow and - by
the way, would you be so kind as to come up to my laboratory some
time during the day, and continue your story."
On the way out Craig took the doctor aside for a moment, and they
talked earnestly. At last Craig motioned to me.
"Walter," he explained, "Dr. Kharkoff is going to prepare some
cultures in the test-tubes to-night so that I can make a microscopic
examination of the blood of Saratovsky, Samarova, and later of his
servant. The tubes will be ready early in the morning, and I have
arranged with the doctor for you to call and get them if you have
I assented, and we started downstairs. As we passed a door on the
second floor, a woman's voice called out, "Is that you, Boris?"
"No, Olga, this is Nicholas," replied the doctor. "It is Samarova,"
he said to us as he entered.
In a few moments he rejoined us. "She is no better," he continued,
as we again started away. "I may as well tell you, Professor
Kennedy, just how matters stand here. Samarova is head over heels
in love with Kazanovitch - you heard her call for him just now?
Before they left Paris, Kazanovitch showed some partiality for Olga,
but now Nevsky has captured him. She is indeed a fascinating woman,
but as for me, if Olga would consent to become Madame Kharkoff, it
should be done to-morrow, and she need worry no longer over her
broken contract with the American theatre managers. But women are
not that way. She prefers the hopeless love. Ah, well, I shall
let you know if anything new happens. Good-night, and a thousand
thanks for your help, gentlemen."
Nothing was said by either of us on our journey uptown, for it was
late and I, at least, was tired.
But Kennedy had no intention of going to bed, I found. Instead,
he sat down in his easy chair and shaded his eyes, apparently in
deep thought. As I stood by the table to fill my pipe for a last
smoke, I saw that he was carefully regarding the letter he had
picked up, turning it over and over, and apparently debating with
himself what to do with it.
"Some kinds of paper can be steamed open without leaving any trace,"
he remarked in answer to my unspoken question, laying the letter
down before me.
I read the address: "M. Alexander Alexandrovitch Orloff, - Rue
de - , Paris, France."
"Letter-opening has been raised to a fine art by the secret service
agents of foreign countries," he continued. "Why not take a chance?
The simple operation of steaming a letter open is followed by
reburnishing the flap with a bone instrument, and no trace is left.
I can't do that, for this letter is sealed with wax. One way would
be to take a matrix of the seal before breaking the wax and then
replace a duplicate of it. No, I won't risk it. I'll try a
Between two pieces of smooth wood, Craig laid the letter flat, so
that the edges projected about a thirty-second of an inch. He
flattened the projecting edge of the envelope, then roughened it,
and finally slit it open.
"You see, Walter, later I will place the letter back, apply a hair
line of strong white gum, and unite the edges of the envelope under
pressure. Let us see what we have here."
He drew out what seemed to be a manuscript on very thin paper, and
spread it out flat on the table before us. Apparently it was a
scientific paper on a rather unusual subject, "Spontaneous Generation
of Life." It was in longhand and read:
*Many thanks for the copy of the paper by Prof. Betallion of Dijon
on the artificial fertilization of the eggs of frogs. I consider
it a most important advance in the artificial generation of life.
*In the printed book this is shown as handwritten
I will not attempt to reproduce in facsimile the entire manuscript,
for it is unnecessary, and, in fact, I merely set down part of its
contents here because it seemed so utterly valueless to me at the
time. It went on to say:
While Betallion punctured the eggs with a platinum needle and
developed them by means of electric discharges, Loeb in America
placed eggs of the sea-urchin in a strong solution of sea water,
then in a bath where they were subjected to the action of butyric
acid. Finally they were placed in ordinary sea water again, where
they developed in the natural manner. Delage at Roscorf used a
liquid containing salts of magnesia and tannate of ammonia to produce
the same result.
In his latest book on the Origin of Life Dr. Charlton Bastian tells
of using two solutions. One consisted of two or three drops of
dilute sodium silicate with eight drops of liquor fern pernitratis
to one ounce of distilled water. The other was composed of the same
amount of the silicate with six drops of dilute phosphoric acid and
six grains of ammonium phosphate. He filled sterilised tubes, sealed
them hermetically, and heated them to 125 or 145 degrees, Centigrade,
although 60 or 70 degrees would have killed any bacteria remaining
Next he exposed them to sunlight in a south window for from two to
four months. When the tubes were opened Dr. Bastian found organisms
in them which differed in no way from real bacteria. They grew and
multiplied. He contends that he has proved the possibility of
spontaneous generation of life.
Then there were the experiments of John Butler Burke of Cambridge,
who claimed that he had developed "radiobes" in tubes of sterilised
bouillon by means of radium emanations. Daniel Berthelot in France
last year announced that he had used the ultra-violet rays to
duplicate nature's own process of chlorophyll assimilation. He has
broken up carbon dioxide and water-vapour in the air in precisely
the same way that the green cells of plants do it.
Leduc at Nantes has made crystals grow from an artificial egg
composed of certain chemicals. These crystals show all the apparent
vital phenomena without being actually alive. His work is
interesting, for it shows the physical forces that probably control
minute life cells, once they are created.
"What do you make of it?" asked Kennedy, noting the puzzled look on
my face as I finished reading.
"Well, recent research in the problem of the origin of life may be
very interesting," I replied. "There are a good many chemicals
mentioned here - I wonder if any of them is poisonous? But I am
of the opinion that there is something more to this manuscript than
a mere scientific paper."
"Exactly, Walter," said Kennedy in half raillery. "What I wanted
to know was how you would suggest getting at that something."
Study as I might, I could make nothing out of it. Meanwhile Craig
was busily figuring with a piece of paper and a pencil.
"I give it up, Craig," I said at last. "It is late. Perhaps we had
better both turn in, and we may have some ideas on it in the morning."
For answer he merely shook his head and continued to scribble and
figure on the paper. With a reluctant good-night I shut my door,
determined to be up early in the morning and go for the tubes that
Kharkoff was to prepare.
But in the morning Kennedy was gone. I dressed hastily, and was
just about to go out when he hurried in, showing plainly the effects
of having spent a sleepless night. He flung an early edition of a
newspaper on the table.
"Too late," he exclaimed. "I tried to reach Kharkoff, but it was
"Another East Side Bomb Outrage," I read. "While returning at a
late hour last night from a patient, Dr. Nicholas Kharkoff, of
- East Broadway, was severely injured by a bomb which had been
placed in his hallway earlier in the evening. Dr. Kharkoff, who is
a well-known physician on the East Side, states that he has been
constantly shadowed by some one unknown for the past week or two.
He attributes his escape with his life to the fact that since he
was shadowed he has observed extreme caution. Yesterday his cook
was poisoned and is now dangerously ill. Dr. Kharkoff stands high
in the Russian community, and it is thought by the police that the
bomb was placed by a Russian political agent, as Kharkoff has been
active in the ranks of the revolutionists."
"But what made you anticipate it?" I asked of Kennedy, considerably
"The manuscript," he replied.
"The manuscript? How? Where is it?"
"After I found that it was too late to save Kharkoff and that he
was well cared for at the hospital, I hurried to Saratovsky's.
Kharkoff had fortunately left the tubes there, and I got them. Here
they are. As for the manuscript in the letter, I was going to ask
you to slip upstairs by some strategy and return it where I found it,
when you went for the tubes this morning. Kazanovitch was out, and
I have returned it myself, so you need not go, now."
"He's coming to see you to-day, isn't he?"
"I hope so. I left a note asking him to bring Miss Nevsky, if
possible, too. Come, let us breakfast and go over to the laboratory.
They may arrive at any moment. Besides, I'm interested to see what
the tubes disclose."
Instead of Kazanovitch awaiting us at the laboratory, however, we
found Miss Nevsky, haggard and worn. She was a tall, striking girl
with more of the Gaul than the Slav in her appearance. There was a
slightly sensuous curve to her mouth, but on the whole her face was
striking and intellectual. I felt that if she chose she could
fascinate a man so that he would dare anything. I never before
understood why the Russian police feared the women revolutionists
so much. It was because they were themselves, plus every man they
Nevsky appeared very excited. She talked rapidly, and fire flashed
from her grey eyes. "They tell me at the club," she began, " that
you are investigating the terrible things that are happening to us.
Oh, Professor Kennedy, it is awful! Last night I was staying with
some friends on East Broadway. Suddenly we heard a terrific
explosion up the street. It was in front of Dr. Kharkoff's house.
Thank Heaven, he is still alive! But I was so unnerved I could not
sleep. I fancied I might be the next to go.
"Early this morning I hastened to return to Fifth Avenue. As I
entered the door of my room I could not help thinking of the
horrible fate of Dr. Kharkoff. For some unknown reason, just as
I was about to push the door farther open, I hesitated and looked
- I almost fainted. There stood another bomb just inside. If I
had moved the door a fraction of an inch it would have exploded.
I screamed, and Olga, sick as she was, ran to my assistance - or
perhaps she thought something had happened to Boris. It is
standing there yet. None of us dares touch it. Oh, Professor
Kennedy, it is dreadful, dreadful. And I cannot find Boris - Mr.
Kazanovitch, I mean. Saratovsky, who is like a father to us all,
is scarcely able to speak. Dr. Kharkoff is helpless in the
hospital. Oh, what are we to do, what are we to do?"
She stood trembling before us, imploring.
"Calm yourself, Miss Nevsky," said Kennedy in a reassuring tone.
"Sit down and let us plan. I take it that it was a chemical bomb
and not one with a fuse, or you would have a different story to
tell. First of all, we must remove it. That is easily done."
He called up a near-by garage and ordered an automobile. "I will
drive it myself," he ordered, "only send a man around with it
"No, no, no," she cried, running toward him, you must not risk it.
It is bad enough that we should risk our lives. But strangers must
not. Think, Professor Kennedy. Suppose the bomb should explode at
a touch! Had we not better call the police and let them take the
risk, even if it does get into the papers?"
"No," replied Kennedy firmly. "Miss Nevsky, I am quite willing to
take the risk. Besides, here comes the automobile."
"You are too kind," she exclaimed. "Kazanovitch himself could do
no more. How am I ever to thank you?"
On the back of the automobile Kennedy placed a peculiar oblong box,
swung on two concentric rings balanced on pivots, like a most
We rode quickly downtown, and Kennedy hurried into the house,
bidding us stand back. With a long pair of tongs he seized the
bomb firmly. It was a tense moment. Suppose his hand should
unnecessarily tremble, or he should tip it just a bit - it might
explode and blow him to atoms. Keeping it perfectly horizontal
he carried it carefully out to the waiting automobile and placed
it gingerly in the box.
"Wouldn't it be a good thing to fill the box with water?" I
suggested, having read somewhere that that was the usual way of
opening a bomb, under water.
"No," he replied, as he closed the lid, "that wouldn't do any good
with a bomb of this sort. It would explode under water just as
well as in air. This is a safety bomb-carrier. It is known as the
Cardon suspension. It was invented by Professor Cardono, an Italian.
You see, it is always held in a perfectly horizontal position, no
matter how you jar it. I am now going to take the bomb to some
safe and convenient place where I can examine it at my leisure.
Meanwhile, Miss Nevsky, I will leave you in charge of Mr. Jameson."
"Thank you so much," she said. "I feel better now. I didn't dare
go into my own room with that bomb at the door. If Mr. Jameson can
only find out what has become of Mr. Kazanovitch, that is all I
want. What do you suppose has happened to him? Is he, too, hurt
"Very well, then," Craig replied. " I will commission you, Walter,
to find Kazanovitch. I shall be back again shortly before noon to
examine the wreck of Kharkoff's office. Meet me there. Goodbye,
It was not the first time that I had had a roving commission to
find some one who had disappeared in New York. I started by
inquiring for every possible place that he might be found. No
one at the Fifth Avenue house could tell me anything definite,
though they were able to give me a number of places where he was
known. I consumed practically the whole morning going from one
place to another on the East Side. Some of the picturesque
haunts of the revolutionists would have furnished material for
a story in themselves. But nowhere had they any word of
Kazanovitch, until I visited a Polish artist who was illustrating
his stories. He had been there, looking very worn and tired, and
had talked vacantly about the sketches which the artist had
showed him. After that I lost all trace of him again. It was
nearly noon as I hurried to meet Craig at Kharkoff's.
Imagine my surprise to see Kazanovitch already there, seated in
the wrecked office, furiously smoking cigarettes and showing
evident signs of having something very disturbing on his mind. The
moment he caught sight of me, he hurried forward.
"Is Professor Kennedy coming soon?" he inquired eagerly. "I was
going up to his laboratory, but I called up Nevsky, and she said
he would be here at noon." Then he put his hand up to my ear and
whispered, "I have found out who it was who shadowed Kharkoff."
"Who?" I asked, saying nothing of my long search of the morning.
"His name is Revalenko - Feodor Revalenko. I saw him standing
across the street in front of the house last night after you had
gone. When Kharkoff left, he followed him. I hurried out quietly
and followed both of them. Then the explosion came. This man
slipped down a narrow street as soon as he saw Kharkoff fall. As
people were running to Kharkoff's assistance, I did the same. He
saw me following him and ran, and I ran, too, and overtook him.
Mr. Jameson, when I looked into his face I could not believe it.
Revalenko - he is one of the most ardent members of our organisation.
He would not tell me why he had followed Kharkoff. I could make him
confess nothing. But I am sure he is an agent provocateur of the
Russian government, that he is secretly giving away the plans that
we are making, everything. We have a plot on now - perhaps he has
informed them of that. Of course he denied setting the bomb or
trying to poison any of us, but he was very frightened. I shall
denounce him at the first opportunity."
I said nothing. Kazanovitch regarded me keenly to see what
impression the story made on me, but I did not let my looks betray
anything, except proper surprise, and he seemed satisfied.
It might be true, after all, I reasoned, the more I thought of it.
I had heard that the Russian consul-general had a very extensive
spy system in the city. In fact, even that morning I had had
pointed out to me some spies at work in the public libraries,
watching what young Russians were reading. I did not doubt that
there were spies in the very inner circle of the revolutionists
At last Kennedy appeared. While Kazanovitch poured forth his story,
with here and there, I fancied, an elaboration of a particularly
dramatic point, Kennedy quickly examined the walls and floor of the
wrecked office with his magnifying-glass. When he had concluded his
search, he turned to Kazanovitch.
"Would it be possible," he asked, "to let this Revalenko believe
that he could trust you, that it would be safe for him to visit you
to-night at Saratovsky's? Surely you can find some way of reassuring
"Yes, I think that can be arranged," said Kazanovitch. "I will go
to him, will make him think I have misunderstood him, that I have
not lost faith in him, provided he can explain all. He will come.
"Very well, then. To-night at eight I shall be there," promised
Kennedy, as the novelist and he shook hands.
"What do you think of the Revalenko story?" I asked of Craig, as we
started uptown again.
"Anything is possible in this case," he answered sententiously.
"Well," I exclaimed, "this all is truly Russian. For intrigue they
are certainly the leaders of the world to-day. There is only one
person that I have any real confidence in, and that is old Saratovsky
himself. Somebody is playing traitor, Craig. Who is it?"
"That is what science will tell us to-night," was his brief reply.
There was no getting anything out of Craig until he was absolutely
sure that his proofs had piled up irresistibly.
Promptly at eight we met at the old house on Fifth Avenue. Kharkoff's
wounds had proved less severe than had at first been suspected, and,
having recovered from the shock, he insisted on being transferred
from the hospital in a private ambulance so that he could be near
his friends. Saratovsky, in spite of his high fever, ordered that
the door to his room be left open and his bed moved so that he
could hear and see what passed in the room down the hall. Nevsky
was there and Kazanovitch, and even brave Olga Samarova, her pretty
face burning with the fever, would not be content until she was
carried upstairs, although Dr. Kharkoff protested vigorously that
it might have fatal consequences. Revalenko, an enigma of a man,
sat stolidly. The only thing I noticed about him was an occasional
look of malignity at Nevsky and Kazanovitch when he thought he was
It was indeed a strange gathering, the like of which the old house
had never before harboured in all its varied history. Every one
was on the qui vive, as Kennedy placed on the table a small wire
basket containing some test-tubes, each tube corked with a small
wadding of cotton. There was also a receptacle holding a dozen
glass-handled platinum wires, a microscope, and a number of slides.
The bomb, now rendered innocuous by having been crushed in a huge
hydraulic press, lay in fragments in the box.
"First, I want you to consider the evidence of the bomb," began
Kennedy. "No crime, I firmly believe, is ever perpetrated without
leaving some clue. The slightest trace, even a drop of blood no
larger than a pin-head, may suffice to convict a murderer. The
impression made on a cartridge by the hammer of a pistol, or a
single hair found on the clothing of a suspected person, may serve
as valid proof of crime.
"Until lately, however, science was powerless against the
bomb-thrower. A bomb explodes into a thousand parts, and its
contents suddenly become gaseous. You can't collect and investigate
the gases. Still, the bomb-thrower is sadly deceived if he believes
the bomb leaves no trace for the scientific detective. It is
difficult for the chemist to find out the secrets of a shattered
bomb. But it can be done.
"I examined the walls of Dr. Kharkoff's house, and fortunately
was able to pick out a few small fragments of the contents of the
bomb which had been thrown out before the flame ignited them. I
have analysed them, and find them to be a peculiar species of
blasting-gelatine. It is made at only one factory in this country,
and I have a list of purchasers for some time back. One name, or
rather the description of an assumed name, in the list agrees with
other evidence I have been able to collect. Moreover, the explosive
was placed in a lead tube. Lead tubes are common enough. However,
there is no need of further evidence."
He paused, and the revolutionists stared fixedly at the fragments
of the now harmless bomb before them.
"The exploded bomb," concluded Craig, "was composed of the same
materials as this, which I found unexploded at the door of Miss
Nevsky's room - the same sort of lead tube, the same
blasting-gelatine. The fuse, a long cord saturated in sulphur,
was merely a blind. The real method of explosion was by means of
a chemical contained in a glass tube which was inserted after the
bomb was put in place. The least jar, such as opening a door, which
would tip the bomb ever so little out of the horizontal, was all
that was necessary to explode it. The exploded bomb and the
unexploded were in all respects identical - the same hand set both."
A gasp of astonishment ran through the circle. Could it be that
one of their own number was playing false? In at least this instance
in the warfare of the chemist and the dynamiter the chemist had come
"But," Kennedy hurried along, "the thing that interests me most
about this case is not the evidence of the bombs. Bombs are common
enough weapons, after all. It is the evidence of almost diabolical
cunning that has been shown in the effort to get rid of the father
of the revolution, as you like to call him."
Craig cleared his throat and played with our feelings as a cat does
with a mouse. "Strange to say, the most deadly, the most insidious,
the most elusive agency for committing murder is one that can be
obtained and distributed with practically no legal restrictions.
Any doctor can purchase disease germs in quantities sufficient to
cause thousands and thousands of deaths without giving any adequate
explanation for what purpose he requires them. More than that, any
person claiming to be a scientist or having some acquaintance with
science and scientists can usually obtain germs without difficulty.
Every pathological laboratory contains stores of disease germs,
neatly sealed up in test-tubes, sufficient to depopulate whole
cities and even nations. With almost no effort, I myself have
actually cultivated enough germs to kill every person within a radius
of a mile of the Washington Arch down the street. They are here in
We scarcely breathed. Suppose Kennedy should let loose this deadly
foe, these germs of death, whatever they were? Yet that was
precisely what some fiend incarnate had done, and that fiend was
sitting in the room with us.
"Here I have one of the most modern dark-field microscopes," he
resumed. "On this slide I have placed a little pin-point of a
culture made from the blood of Saratovsky. I will stain the culture.
Now - er - Walter, look through the microscope under this powerful
light and tell us what you see on the slide."
I bent over. "In the darkened field I see a number of germs like
dancing points of coloured light," I said. "They are wriggling
about with a peculiar twisting motion."
"Like a corkscrew," interrupted Kennedy, impatient to go on. "They
are of the species known as Spirilla. Here is another slide, a
culture from the blood of Samarova."
"I see them there, too," I exclaimed.
Every one was now crowding about for a glimpse, as I raised my head.
"What is this germ?" asked a hollow voice from the doorway.
We looked, startled. There stood Saratovsky, more like a ghost than
a living being. Kennedy sprang forward and caught him as he swayed,
and I moved up an armchair for him.
It is the spirillum Obermeieri," said Kennedy, "the germ of the
relapsing fever, but of the most virulent Asiatic strain. Obermeyer,
who discovered it, caught the disease and died of it, a martyr to
A shriek of consternation rang forth from Samarova. The rest of us
paled, but repressed our feelings.
One moment," added Kennedy hastily. "Don't be unnecessarily alarmed.
I have something more to say. Be calm for a moment longer."
He unrolled a blue-print and placed it on the table.
"This," he continued, "is the photographic copy of a message which,
I suppose, is now on its way to the Russian minister to France in
Paris. Some one in this room besides Mr. Jameson and myself has
seen this letter before. I will hold it up as I pass around and
let each one see it.
In intense silence Kennedy passed before each of us, holding up the
blue-print and searchingly scanning the faces. No one betrayed by
any sign that he recognised it. At last it came to Revalenko
"The checkerboard, the checkerboard!" he cried, his eyes half
starting from their sockets as he gazed at it.
"Yes," said Kennedy in a low tone, "the checkerboard. It took me
some time to figure it out. It is a cipher that would have baffled
Poe. In fact, there is no means of deciphering it unless you chance
to know its secret. I happened to have heard of it a long time ago
abroad, yet my recollection was vague, and I had to reconstruct it
with much difficulty. It took me all night to do it. It is a cipher,
however, that is well known among the official classes of Russia.
"Fortunately I remember the crucial point, without which I should
still be puzzling over it. It is that a perfectly innocent message,
on its face, may be used to carry a secret, hidden message. The
letters which compose the words, instead of being written
continuously along, as we ordinarily write, have, as you will
observe if you look twice, breaks, here and there. These breaks in
the letters stand for numbers.
"Thus the first words are 'Many thanks.' The first break is at the
end of the letter 'n,' between it and the 'y.' There are three
letters before this break. That stands for the number 3.
"When you come to the end of a word, if the stroke is down at the
end of the last letter, that means no break; if it is up, it means
a break. The stroke at the end of the 'y' is plainly down. Therefore
there is no break until after the 't.' That gives us the number 2.
So we get 1 next, and again 1, and still again 1; then 5; then 5;
then 1; and so on.
"Now, take these numbers in pairs, thus 3 - 2; 1 - 1; 1 - 5; 5 - 1.
By consulting this table you can arrive at the hidden message.
He held up a cardboard bearing the following arrangement of the
letters of the alphabet:
"Thus," he continued, "3 - 2 means the third column and second line.
That is 'H.' Then 1 - 1 is 'A'; 1 - 5 is 'V'; 5 - 1 is 'E' - and
we get the word 'Have.'"
Not a soul stirred as Kennedy unfolded the cipher. What was the
terrible secret in that scientific essay I had puzzled so
unsuccessfully over, the night before?
"Even this can be complicated by choosing a series of fixed numbers
to be added to the real numbers over and over again, Or the order of
the alphabet can be changed. However, we have the straight cipher
only to deal with here."
"And what for Heaven's sake does it reveal?" asked Saratovsky,
leaning forward, forgetful of the fever that was consuming him.
Kennedy pulled out a piece of paper on which he had written the
hidden message and read:
"Have successfully inoculated S. with fever. Public opinion America
would condemn violence. Think best death should appear natural.
Samarova infected also. Cook unfortunately took dose in food
intended Kharkoff. Now have three cases. Shall stop there at
present. Dangerous excite further suspicion health authorities."
Rapidly I eliminated in my mind the persons mentioned, as Craig read.
Saratovsky of course was not guilty, for the plot had centred about
him. Nor was little Samarova, nor Dr. Kharkoff. I noted Revalenko
and Kazanovitch glaring at each other and hastily tried to decide
which I more strongly suspected.
"Will get K.," continued Kennedy. "Think bomb perhaps all right.
K. case different from S. No public sentiment."
"So Kharkoff had been marked for slaughter," I thought. Or was "K."
Kazanovitch? I regarded Revalenko more closely. He was suspiciously
"Must have more money. Cable ten thousand rubles at once Russian
consul-general. Will advise you plot against Czar as details
perfected here. Expect break up New York band with death of S."
If Kennedy himself had thrown a bomb or scattered broadcast the
contents of the test-tubes, the effect could not have been more
startling than his last quiet sentence - and sentence it was in two
"Signed," he said, folding the paper up deliberately, "Ekaterina
It was as if a cable had snapped and a weight had fallen. Revalenko
sprang up and grasped Kazanovitch by the hand. "Forgive me, comrade,
for ever suspecting you," he cried.
"And forgive me for suspecting you," replied Kazanovitch, "but how
did you come to shadow Kharkoff?"
"I ordered him to follow Kharkoff secretly and protect him,"
Olga and Ekaterina faced each other fiercely. Olga was trembling
with emotion. Nevsky stood coldly, defiantly. If ever there was
a consummate actress it was she, who had put the bomb at her own
door and had rushed off to start Kennedy on a blind trail.
"You traitress," cried Olga passionately, forgetting all in her
outraged love. "You won his affections from me by your false beauty
- yet all the time you would have killed him like a dog for the
Czar's gold. At last you are unmasked - you Azeff in skirts. False
friend - you would have killed us all - Saratovsky, Kharkoff
"Be still, little fool," exclaimed Nevsky contemptuously. "The
spirilla fever has affected your brains. Bah! I will not stay with
those who are so ready to suspect an old comrade on the mere word
of a charlatan. Boris Kazanovitch, do you stand there silent and
let this insult be heaped upon
For answer, Kazanovitch deliberately turned his back on his lover
of a moment ago and crossed the room. "Olga," he pleaded, "I have
been a fool. Some day I may be worthy of your love. Fever or not,
I must beg your forgiveness."
With a cry of delight the actress flung her arms about Boris, as he
imprinted a penitent kiss on her warm lips.
"Simpleton," hissed Nevsky with curling lips. "Now you, too, will
"One moment, Ekaterina Nevsky," interposed Kennedy, as he picked
up some vacuum tubes full of a golden-yellow powder, that lay on the
table. "The spirilla, as scientists now know, belong to the same
family as those which cause what we call, euphemistically, the
'black plague.' It is the same species as that of the African
sleeping sickness and the Philippine yaws. Last year a famous
doctor whose photograph I see in the next room, Dr. Ehrlich of
Frankfort, discovered a cure for all these diseases. It will rid
the blood of your victims of the Asiatic relapsing fever germs in
forty-eight hours. In these tubes I have the now famous salvarsan."
With a piercing shriek of rage at seeing her deadly work so quickly
and completely undone, Nevsky flung herself into the little
laboratory behind her and bolted the door.
Her face still wore the same cold, contemptuous smile, as Kennedy
gently withdrew a sharp scalpel from her breast.
"Perhaps it is best this way, after all," he said simply.
A big, powerful, red touring-car, with a shining brass bell on the
front of it, was standing at the curb before our apartment late one
afternoon as I entered. It was such a machine as one frequently
sees threading its reckless course in and out among the trucks and
street-cars, breaking all rules and regulations, stopping at nothing,
the bell clanging with excitement, policemen holding back traffic
instead of trying to arrest the driver - in other words, a Fire
I regarded it curiously for a moment, for everything connected with
modern fire-fighting is interesting. Then I forgot about it as I
was whisked up in the elevator, only to have it recalled sharply by
the sight of a strongly built, grizzled man in a blue uniform with
red lining. He was leaning forward, earnestly pouring forth a story
into Kennedy's ear.
"And back of the whole thing, sir," I heard him say as he brought
his large fist down on the table, "is a firebug - mark my words."
Before I could close the door, Craig caught my eye, and I read in
his look that he had a new case - one that interested him greatly.
"Walter," he cried, "this is Fire Marshal McCormick. It's all
right, McCormick. Mr. Jameson is an accessory both before and after
the fact in my detective cases."
A firebug! - one of the most dangerous of criminals. The word
excited my imagination at once, for the newspapers had lately been
making much of the strange and appalling succession of apparently
incendiary fires that had terrorised the business section of the
"Just what makes you think that there is a firebug - one firebug,
I mean - back of this curious epidemic of fires?" asked Kennedy,
leaning back in his morris-chair with his finger-tips together and
his eyes half closed as if expecting a revelation from some
subconscious train of thought while the fire marshal presented
"Well, usually there is no rhyme or reason about the firebug,"
replied McCormick, measuring his words, "but this time I think there
is some method in his madness. You know the Stacey department-stores
and their allied dry-goods and garment-trade interests?
Craig nodded. Of course we knew of the gigantic dry-goods
combination. It had been the talk of the press at the time of its
formation, a few months ago, especially as it included among its
organisers one very clever business woman, Miss Rebecca Wend. There
had been considerable opposition to the combination in the trade, but Stacey
had shattered it by the sheer force of his personality. McCormick
leaned forward and, shaking his forefinger to emphasise his point,
replied slowly, "Practically every one of these fires has been
directed against a Stacey subsidiary or a corporation controlled
"But if it has gone as far as that," put in Kennedy, "surely the
regular police ought to be of more assistance to you than I."
"I have called in the police," answered McCormick wearily, "but they
haven't even made up their minds whether it is a single firebug or
a gang. And in the meantime, my God, Kennedy, the firebug may start
a fire that will get beyond control!"
"You say the police haven't a single clue to any one who might be
responsible for the fires?" I asked, hoping that perhaps the
marshal might talk more freely of his suspicions to us than he had
already expressed himself in the newspaper interviews I had read.
"Absolutely not a clue - except such as are ridiculous," replied
McCormick, twisting his cap viciously.
No one spoke. We were waiting for McCormick to go on.
"The first fire," he began, repeating his story for my benefit,
although Craig listened quite as attentively as if he had not heard
it already, "was at the big store of Jones, Green & Co., the
clothiers. The place was heavily insured. Warren, the manager and
real head of the firm, was out of town at the time."
The marshal paused as if to check off the strange facts in his mind
as he went along.
"The next day another puzzling fire occurred. It was at the
Quadrangle Cloak and Suit Co., on Fifth Avenue. There had been some
trouble, I believe, with the employees, and the company had
discharged a number of them. Several of the leaders have been
arrested, but I can't say we have anything against any of them.
Still, Max Bloom, the manager of this company, insists that the fire
was set for revenge, and indeed it looks as much like a fire for
revenge as the Jones-Green fire does" - here he lowered his voice
confidentially - "for the purpose of collecting insurance.
"Then came the fire in the Slawson Building, a new loft-building
that had been erected just off Fourth Avenue. Other than the fact
that the Stacey interests put up the money for financing this
building there seemed to be no reason for that fire at all. The
building was reputed to be earning a good return on the investment,
and I was at a loss to account for the fire. I have made no
arrests for it - just set it down as the work of a pure pyromaniac,
a man who burns buildings for fun, a man with an inordinate desire
to hear the fire-engines screech through the streets and perhaps
get a chance to show a little heroism in 'rescuing' tenants.
However, the adjuster for the insurance company, Lazard, and the
adjuster for the insured, Hartstein, have reached an agreement,
and I believe the insurance is to be paid."
"But," interposed Kennedy, "I see no evidence of organised arson
"Wait," replied the fire marshal. "That was only the beginning,
you understand. A little later came a fire that looked quite like
an attempt to mask a robbery by burning the building afterward.
That was in a silk-house near Spring Street. But after a
controversy the adjusters have reached an agreement on that case.
I mention these fires because they show practically all the types
of work of the various kinds of firebug - insurance, revenge,
robbery, and plain insanity. But since the Spring Street fire, the
character of the fires has been more uniform. They have all been
in business places, or nearly all."
Here the fire marshal launched forth into a catalogue of fires of
suspected incendiary origin, at least eight in all. I took them
down hastily, intending to use the list some time in a box head
with an article in the Star. When he had finished his list I
hastily counted up the number of killed. There were six, two of
them firemen, and four employees. The money loss ranged into the
McCormick passed his hand over his forehead to brush off the
perspiration. "I guess this thing has got on my nerves," he
muttered hoarsely. " Everywhere I go they talk about nothing else.
If I drop into the restaurant for lunch, my waiter talks of it.
If I meet a newspaper man, he talks of it. My barber talks of it
- everybody. Sometimes I dream of it; other times I lie awake
thinking about it. I tell you, gentlemen, I've sweated blood over
"But," insisted Kennedy, "I still can't see why you link all these
fires as due to one firebug. I admit there is an epidemic of fires.
But what makes you so positive that it is all the work of one man?"
"I was coming to that. For one thing, he isn't like the usual
firebug at all. Ordinarily they start their fires with excelsior
and petroleum, or they smear the wood with paraffin or they use
gasoline, benzine, or something of that sort. This fellow
apparently scorns such crude methods. I can't say how he starts
his fires, but in every case I have mentioned we have found the
remains of a wire. It has something to do with electricity - but
what, I don't know. That's one reason why I think these fires are
all connected. Here's another."
McCormick pulled a dirty note out of his pocket and laid it on the
table. We read it eagerly:
Hello, Chief! Haven't found the firebug yet, have you? You
will know who he is only when I am dead and the fires stop.
I don't suppose you even realise that the firebug talks with
you almost every day about catching the firebug. That's me.
I am the real firebug, that is writing this letter. I am
going to tell you why I am starting these fires. There's
money in it - an easy living. They never caught me in or
anywhere, so you might as well quit looking for me and take
"Humph!" ejaculated Kennedy, "he has a sense of humour, anyhow - A.
"Queer sense of humour," growled McCormick, gritting his teeth.
"Here's another I got to-day:
Say, Chief: We are going to get busy again and fire a big
department-store next. How does that suit Your Majesty?
till the fun begins when the firebug gets to work again.
"Well, sir, when I got that letter," cried McCormick, "I was almost
ready to ring in a double-nine alarm at once - they have me that
bluffed out. But I said to myself, 'There's only one thing to do
- see this man Kennedy.' So here I am. You see what I am driving
at? I believe that firebug is an artist at the thing, does it for
the mere fun of it and the ready money in it. But more than that,
there must be some one back of him. Who is the man higher up - we
must catch him. See?"
"A big department-store," mused Kennedy.
"That's definite - there are only a score or so of them, and the
Stacey interests control several. Mac, I'll tell you what I'll do.
Let me sit up with you to-night at headquarters until we get an
alarm. By George, I'll see this case through to a finish!
The fire marshal leaped to his feet and bounded over to where
Kennedy was seated. With one hand on Craig's shoulder and the other
grasping Craig's hand, he started to speak, but his voice choked.
"Thanks," he blurted out huskily at last. "My reputation in the
department is at stake, my promotion, my position itself, my - my
family - er - er - "
"Not a word, sir," said Kennedy, his features working sympathetically.
"To-night at eight I will go on watch with you. By the way, leave me
those A. Spark notes."
McCormick had so far regained his composure as to say a hearty
farewell. He left the room as if ten years had been lifted off his
shoulders. A moment later he stuck his head in the door again.
"I'll have one of the Department machines call for you, gentlemen,"
After the marshal had gone, we sat for several minutes in silence.
Kennedy was reading and rereading the notes, scowling to himself as
if they presented a particularly perplexing problem. I said nothing,
though my mind was teeming with speculations. At length he placed
the notes very decisively on the table and snapped out the remark,
"Yes, it must be so."
"What?" I queried, still drumming away at my typewriter, copying the
list of incendiary fires against the moment when the case should be
complete and the story released for publication, as it were.
"This note," he explained, picking up the first one and speaking
slowly, "was written by a woman."
I swung around in my chair quickly. "Get out!" I exclaimed
sceptically. "No woman ever used such phrases.
"I didn't say composed by a woman - I said written by a woman," he
"Oh," I said, rather chagrined.
"It is possible to determine sex from handwriting in perhaps eighty
cases out of a hundred," Kennedy went on, enjoying my discomfiture.
"Once I examined several hundred specimens of writing to decide that
point to my satisfaction. Just to test my conclusions I submitted
the specimens to two professional graphologists. I found that our
results were slightly different, but I averaged the thing up to four
cases out of five correct. The so-called sex signs are found to be
largely influenced by the amount of writing done, by age, and to a
certain extent by practice and professional requirements, as in the
conventional writing of teachers and the rapid hand of bookkeepers.
Now in this case the person who wrote the first note was only an
indifferent writer. Therefore the sex signs are pretty likely to be
accurate. Yes, I'm ready to go on the stand and swear that this
note was written by a woman and the second by a man."
"Then there's a woman in the case, and she wrote the first note for
the firebug - is that what you mean?" I asked.
"Exactly. There nearly always is a woman in the case, somehow or
other. This woman is closely connected with the firebug. As for
the firebug, whoever it may be, he performs his crimes with cold
premeditation and, as De Quincey said, in a spirit of pure artistry.
The lust of fire propels him, and he uses his art to secure wealth.
The man may be a tool in the hands of others, however. It's unsafe
to generalise on the meagre facts we now have. Oh, well, there is
nothing we can do just yet. Let's take a walk, get an early dinner,
and be back here before the automobile arrives."
Not a word more did Kennedy say about the case during our stroll or
even on the way downtown to fire headquarters.
We found McCormick anxiously waiting for us. High up in the
sandstone tower at headquarters, we sat with him in the maze of
delicate machinery with which the fire game is played in New York.
In great glass cases were glistening brass and nickel machines with
discs and levers and bells, tickers, sheets of paper, and
annunciators without number. This was the fire-alarm telegraph, the
"roulette-wheel of the fire demon," as some one has aptly called it.
"All the alarms for fire from all the boroughs, both from the regular
alarm-boxes and the auxiliary systems, come here first over the
network of three thousand miles or more of wire nerves that stretch
out through the city," McCormick was explaining to us.
A buzzer hissed.
"Here's an alarm now," he exclaimed, all attention.
"Three," "six," "seven," the numbers appeared on the annunciator.
The clerks in the office moved as if they were part of the mechanism.
Twice the alarm was repeated, being sent out all over the city.
McCormick relapsed from his air of attention.
"That alarm was not in the shopping district," he explained, much
relieved. "Now the fire-houses in the particular district where
that fire is=20have received the alarm instantly. Four engines, two
hook-and-ladders, a water-tower, the battalion chief, and a deputy
are hurrying to that fire. Hello, here comes another."
Again the buzzer sounded. "One," "four," "five" showed in the
Even before the clerks could respond, McCormick had dragged us to
the door. In another instant we were wildly speeding uptown, the
bell on the front of the automobile clanging like a fire-engine,
the siren horn going continuously, the engine of the machine
throbbing with energy until the water boiled in the radiator.
"Let her out, Frank," called McCormick to his chauffeur, as we
rounded into a broad and now almost deserted thoroughfare.
Like a red streak in the night we flew up that avenue, turned into
Fourteenth Street on two wheels, and at last were on Sixth Avenue.
With a jerk and a skid we stopped. There were the engines, the
hose-carts, the hook-and-ladders, the salvage corps, the police
establishing fire lines-everything. But where was the fire?
The crowd indicated where it ought to be - it was Stacey's. Firemen
and policemen were entering the huge building. McCormick shouldered
in after them, and we followed.
"Who turned in the alarm?" he asked as we mounted the stairs with
"I did," replied a night watchman on the third landing. "Saw a
light in the office on the third floor back - something blazing.
But it seems to be out now."
We had at last come to the office. It was dark and deserted, yet
with the lanterns we could see the floor of the largest room littered
with torn books and ledgers.
Kennedy caught his foot in something. It was a loose wire on the
floor. He followed it. It led to an electric-light socket, where
it was attached.
"Can't you turn on the lights?" shouted McCormick to the watchman.
"Not here. They're turned on from downstairs, and they're off for
the night. I'll go down if you want me to and -"
"No," roared Kennedy. "Stay where you are until I follow the wire
to the other end."
At last we came to a little office partitioned off from the main
room. Kennedy carefully opened the door. One whiff of the air from
it was sufficient. He banged the door shut again.
"Stand back with those lanterns, boys," he ordered.
I sniffed, expecting to smell illuminating-gas. Instead, a peculiar,
sweetish odour pervaded the air. For a moment it made me think of
a hospital operating-room.
"Ether," exclaimed Kennedy. "Stand back farther with those lights
and hold them up from the floor."
For a moment he seemed to hesitate as if at loss what to do next.
Should he open the door and let this highly inflammable gas out or
should he wait patiently until the natural ventilation of the little
office had dispelled it?
While he was debating he happened to glance out of the window and
catch sight of a drug-store across the street.
"Walter," he said to me, "hurry across there and get all the
saltpeter and sulphur the man has in the shop.
I lost no time in doing so. Kennedy dumped the two chemicals into
a pan in the middle of the main office, about three-fifths saltpeter
and two-fifths sulphur, I should say. Then he lighted it. The
mass burned with a bright flame but without explosion. We could
smell the suffocating fumes from it, and we retreated. For a moment
or two we watched it curiously at a distance.
"That's very good extinguishing-powder," explained Craig as we
sniffed at the odour. "It yields a large amount of carbon dioxide
and sulphur dioxide. Now - before it gets any worse - I guess
it's safe to open the door and let the ether out. You see this is
as good a way as any to render safe a room full of inflammable
vapour. Come, we'll wait outside the main office for a few minutes
until the gases mix.
It seemed hours before Kennedy deemed it safe to enter the office
again with a light. When we did so, we made a rush for the little
cubby-hole of an office at the other end. On the floor was a little
can of ether, evaporated of course, and beside it a small apparatus
apparently used for producing electric sparks.
"So, that's how he does it," mused Kennedy, fingering the can
contemplatively. "He lets the ether evaporate in a room for a while
and then causes an explosion from a safe distance with this little
electric spark. There's where your wire comes in, McCormick. Say,
my man, you can switch on the lights from downstairs, now."
As we waited for the watchman to turn on the lights I exclaimed,
"He failed this time because the electricity was shut off."
Precisely, Walter," assented Kennedy.
"But the flames which the night watchman saw, what of them?" put in
McCormick, considerably mystified. "He must have seen something."
Just then the lights winked up.
"Oh, that was before the fellow tried to touch off the ether vapour,"
explained Kennedy. "He had to make sure of his work of destruction
first - and, judging by the charred papers about, he did it well.
See, he tore leaves from the ledgers and lighted them on the floor.
There was an object in all that. What was it? Hello! Look at this
mass of charred paper in the corner."
He bent down and examined it carefully. "Memoranda of some kind, I
guess. I'll save this burnt paper and look it over later. Don't
disturb it. I'll take it away myself."
Search as we might, we could find no other trace of the firebug, and
at last we left. Kennedy carried the charred paper carefully in a
"There'll be no more fires to-night, McCormick," he said. "But I'll
watch with you every night until we get this incendiary. Meanwhile
I'll see what I can decipher, if anything, in this burnt paper."
Next day McCormick dropped in to see us again. This time he had
another note, a disguised scrawl which read:
Chief I'm not through. Watch me get another store yet.
I won't fall down this time.
Craig scowled as he read the note and handed it to me. "The man's
writing this time - like the second note," was all he said.
"McCormick, since we know where the lightning is going to strike,
don't you think it would be wiser to make our headquarters in one
of the engine-houses in that district?"
The fire marshal agreed, and that night saw us watching at the
fire-house nearest the department-store region.
Kennedy and I were assigned to places on the hose-cart and engine,
respectively, Kennedy being in the hose-cart so that he could be
with McCormick. We were taught to descend one of the four brass
poles hand under elbow, from the dormitory on the second floor.
They showed us how to jump into the "turn-outs" - a pair of trousers
opened out over the high top boots. We were given helmets which
we placed in regulation fashion on our rubber coats, turned inside
out with the right armhole up. Thus it came about that Craig and I
joined the Fire Department temporarily. It was a novel experience
for us both.
"Now, Walter," said Kennedy, "as long as we have gone so far, we'll
'roll' to every fire, just like the regulars. We won't take any
chances of missing the firebug at any time of night or day."
It proved to be a remarkably quiet evening with only one little
blaze in a candy-shop on Seventh Avenue. Most of the time we sat
around trying to draw the men out about their thrilling experiences
at fires. But if there is one thing the fireman doesn't know it is
the English language when talking about himself. It was quite late
when we turned into the neat white cots upstairs.
We had scarcely fallen into a half doze in our strange surroundings
when the gong downstairs sounded. It was our signal.
We could hear the rapid clatter of the horses' hoofs as they were
automatically released from their stalls and the collars and
harness mechanically locked about them. All was stir, and motion,
and shouts. Craig and I had bounded awkwardly into our
paraphernalia at the first sound. We slid ungracefully down the
pole and were pushed and shoved into our places, for scientific
management in a New York fire-house has reached one hundred per
cent efficiency, and we were not to be allowed to delay the game.
The oil-torch had been applied to the engine, and it rolled forth,
belching flames. I was hanging on for dear life, now and then
catching sight of the driver urging his plunging horses onward like
a charioteer in a modern Ben Hur race. The tender with Craig and
McCormick was lost in the clouds of smoke and sparks that trailed
behind us. On we dashed until we turned into Sixth Avenue. The
glare of the sky told us that this time the firebug had made good.
"I'll be hanged if it isn't the Stacey store again, shouted the man
next me on the engine as the horses lunged up the avenue and
stopped at the allotted hydrant. It was like a war game. Every
move had been planned out by the fire-strategists, even down to the
hydrants that the engines should take at a given fire.
Already several floors were aflame, the windows glowing like
open-hearth furnaces, the glass bulging and cracking and the flames
licking upward and shooting out in long streamers. The hose was
coupled up in an instant, the water turned on, and the limp rubber
and canvas became as rigid as a post with the high pressure of the
water being forced through it. Company after company dashed into
the blazing "fireproof" building, urged by the hoarse profanity of
Twenty or thirty men must have disappeared into the stifle from
which the police retreated. There was no haste, no hesitation.
Everything moved as smoothly as if by clockwork. Yet we could not
see one of the men who had disappeared into the burning building.
They had been swallowed up, as it were. For that is the way with
the New York firemen. They go straight to the heart of the fire.
Now and then a stream of a hose spat out of a window, showing that
the men were still alive and working. About the ground floors the
red-helmeted salvage corps were busy covering up what they could
of the goods with rubber sheets to protect them from water.
Doctors with black bags and white trousers were working over the
injured. Kennedy and I were busy about the engine, and there was
plenty for us to do.
Above the shrill whistle for more coal I heard a voice shout,
"Began with an explosion - it's the fire- bug, all right." I
looked up. It was McCormick, dripping and grimy, in a high state
of excitement, talking to Kennedy.
I had been so busy trying to make myself believe that I was really
of some assistance about the engine that I had not taken time to
watch the fire itself. It was now under control. The sharp and
scientific attack had nipped what might have been one of New York's
"Are you game to go inside?" I heard McCormick ask.
For answer Kennedy simply nodded. As for me, where Craig went I
The three of us drove through the scorching door, past twisted
masses of iron still glowing dull red in the smoke and steam, while
the water hissed and spattered and slopped. The smoke was still
suffocating, and every once in a while we were forced to find air
close to the floor and near the wall. My hands and arms and legs
felt like lead, yet on we drove.
Coughing and choking, we followed McCormick to what had been the
heart of the fire, the office. Men with picks and axes and all
manner of cunningly devised instruments were hacking and tearing
at the walls and woodwork, putting out the last smouldering sparks
while a thousand gallons of water were pouring in at various parts
of the building where the fire still showed spirit.
There on the floor of the office lay a charred, shapeless,
unrecognisable mass. What was that gruesome odour in the room?
Burned human flesh? I recoiled from what had once been the form of
McCormick uttered a cry, and as I turned my eyes away, I saw him
holding a wire with the insulation burned off. He had picked it
up from the wreckage of the floor. It led to a bent and blackened
can - that had once been a can of ether.
My mind worked rapidly, but McCormick blurted out the words before
I could form them, "Caught in her own trap at last!"
Kennedy said nothing, but as one of the firemen roughly but
reverently covered the remains with a rubber sheet, he stooped down
and withdrew from the breast of the woman a long letter-file.
"Come, let us go," he said.
Back in our apartment again we bathed our racking heads, gargled our
parched throats, and washed out our bloodshot eyes, in silence. The
whole adventure, though still fresh and vivid in my mind, seemed
unreal, like a dream. The choking air, the hissing steam, the
ghastly object under the tarpaulin - what did it all mean? Who was
she? I strove to reason it out, but could find no answer.
It was nearly dawn when the door opened and McCormick came in and
dropped wearily into a chair. "Do you know who that woman was?" he
gasped. " It was Miss Wend herself."
"Who identified her?" asked Kennedy calmly.
"Oh, several people. Stacey recognised her at once. Then Hartstein,
the adjuster for the insured, and Lazard, the adjuster for the
company, both of whom had had more or less to do with her in
connection with settling up for other fires, recognised her. She
was a very clever woman, was Miss Wend, and a very important cog in
the Stacey enterprises. And to think she was the firebug, after
all. I can hardly believe it."
"Why believe it?" asked Kennedy quietly.
"Why believe it?" echoed McCormick. "Stacey has found shortages in
his books due to the operation of her departments. The bookkeeper
who had charge of the accounts in her department, a man named
Douglas, is missing. She must have tried to cover up her operations
by fires and juggling the accounts. Failing in that she tried to
destroy Stacey's store itself, twice. She was one of the few that
could get into the office unobserved. Oh, it's a clear case now.
To my mind, the heavy vapours of ether - they are heavier than air,
you know - must have escaped along the surface of the floor last
night and become ignited at a considerable distance from where she
expected. She was caught in a back-draught, or something of the
sort. Well, thank God, we've seen the last of this firebug business.
Kennedy had laid the letter-file on the table. "Nothing. Only I
found this embedded in Miss Wend's breast right over her heart."
"Then she was murdered?" exclaimed McCormick.
"We haven't come to the end of this case yet," replied Craig
evasively. "On the contrary, we have just got our first good clue.
No, McCormick, your theory will not hold water. The real point is
to find this missing bookkeeper at any cost. You must persuade
him to confess what he knows. Offer him immunity - he was only a
pawn in the hands of those higher up."
McCormick was not hard to convince. Tired as he was, he grabbed
up his hat and started off to put the final machinery in motion to
wind up the long chase for the firebug.
"I must get a couple of hours' sleep," he yawned as he left us,"
but first I want to start something toward finding Douglas. I
shall try to see you about noon."
I was too exhausted to go to the office. In fact, I doubt if I
could have written a line. But I telephoned in a story of personal
experiences at the Stacey fire and told them they could fix it up
as they chose and even sign my name to it.
About noon McCormick came in again, looking as fresh as if nothing
had happened. He was used to it.
"I know where Douglas is," he announced breathlessly.
"Fine," said Kennedy, "and can you produce him at any time when it
"Let me tell you what I have done. I went down to the district
attorney from here - routed him out of bed. He has promised to turn
loose his accountants to audit the reports of the adjusters,
Hartstein and Lazard, as well as to make a cursory examination of
what Stacey books there are left. He says he will have a preliminary
report ready to-night, but the detailed report will take days, of
"It's the Douglas problem that is difficult, though. I haven't seen
him, but one of the central-office men, by shadowing his wife, has
found that he is in hiding down on the East Side. He's safe there;
he can't make a move to get away without being arrested. The trouble
is that if I arrest him, the people higher up will know it and will
escape before I can get his confession and the warrants. I'd much
rather have the whole thing done at once. Isn't there some way we
can get the whole Stacey crowd together, make the arrest of Douglas
and nab the guilty ones in the case, all together without giving
them a chance to escape or to shield the real firebug?"
Kennedy thought a moment. "Yes," he answered slowly. "There is.
If you can get them all together at my laboratory to-night at, say,
eight o'clock, I'll give you two clear hours to make the arrest of
Douglas, get the confession, and swear out the warrants. All that
you'll need to do is to let me talk a few minutes this afternoon
with the judge who will sit in the night court to-night. I shall
install a little machine on his desk in the court, and we'll catch
the real criminal - he'll never get a chance to cross the state
line or disappear in any way. You see, my laboratory will be neutral
ground. I think you can get them to come, inasmuch as they know the
bookkeeper is safe and that dead women tell no tales."
When next I saw Kennedy it was late in the afternoon, in the
laboratory. He was arranging something in the top drawer of a
flat-top desk. It seemed to be two instruments composed of many
levers and discs and magnets, each instrument with a roll of paper
about five inches wide. On one was a sort of stylus with two
silk cords attached at right angles to each other near the point.
On the other was a capillary glass tube at the junction of two
aluminum arms, also at right angles to each other.
It was quite like old times to see Kennedy at work in his laboratory
preparing for a "seance." He said nothing as I watched him
curiously, and I asked nothing. Two sets of wires were attached
to each of the instruments, and these he carefully concealed and
led out the window. Then he arranged the chairs on the opposite
side of the desk from his own.
"Walter," he said, "when our guests begin to arrive I want you to
be master of ceremonies. Simply keep them on the opposite side of
the desk from me. Don't let them move their chairs around to the
right or left. And, above all, leave the doors open. I don't want
any one to be suspicious or to feel that he is shut in in any way.
Create the impression that they are free to go and come when they
Stacey arrived first in a limousine which he left standing at the
door of the Chemistry Building. Bloom and Warren came together in
the latter's car. Lazard came in a taxicab which he dismissed, and
Hartstein came up by the subway, being the last to arrive. Every
one seemed to be in good humour.
I seated them as Kennedy had directed. Kennedy pulled out the
extension on the left of his desk and leaned his elbow on it as he
began to apologise for taking up their time at such a critical
moment. As near as I could make out, he had quietly pulled out the
top drawer of his desk on the right, the drawer in which I had seen
him place the complicated apparatus. But as nothing further happened
I almost forgot about it in listening to him. He began by referring
to the burned papers he had found in the office.
"It is sometimes possible," he continued, "to decipher writing on
burned papers if one is careful. The processes of colour photography
have recently been applied to obtain a legible photograph of the
writing on burned manuscripts which are unreadable by any other
known means. As long as the sheet has not been entirely
disintegrated positive results can be obtained every time. The
charred manuscript is carefully arranged in as near its original
shape as possible, on a sheet of glass and covered with a drying
varnish, after which it is backed by another sheet of glass.
"By using carefully selected colour screens and orthochromatic
plates a perfectly legible photograph of the writing may be taken,
although there may be no marks on the charred remains that are
visible to the eye. This is the only known method in many cases.
I have here some burned fragments of paper which I gathered up
after the first attempt to fire your store, Mr. Stacey."
Stacey coughed in acknowledgment. As for Craig, he did not mince
matters in telling what he had found.
"Some were notes given in favour of Rebecca Wend and signed by
Joseph Stacey," he said quietly. "They represent a large sum of
money in the aggregate. Others were memoranda of Miss Wend's, and
still others were autograph letters to Miss Wend of a very
incriminating nature in connection with the fires by another person."
Here he laid the "A. Spark" letters on the desk before him. "Now,"
he added "some one, in a spirit of bravado, sent these notes to the
fire marshal at various times. Curiously enough, I find that the
handwriting of the first one bears a peculiar resemblance to that of
Miss Wend, while the second and third, though disguised also, greatly
suggest the handwriting of Miss Wend's correspondent."
No one moved. But I sat aghast. She had been a part of the
conspiracy, after all, not a pawn. Had they played fair?
"Taking up next the remarkable succession of fires," resumed Kennedy,
"this case presents some unique features. In short, it is a clear
case of what is known as a 'firebug trust.' Now just what is a
firebug trust? Well, it is, as near as I can make out, a combination
of dishonest merchants and insurance adjusters engaged in the business
of deliberately setting fires for profit. These arson trusts are not
the ordinary kind of firebugs whom the firemen plentifully damn in
the fixed belief that one-fourth of all fires are kindled by
incendiaries. Such 'trusts' exist all over the country. They have
operated in Chicago, where they are said to have made seven hundred
and fifty thousand dollars in one year. Another group is said to
have its headquarters in Kansas City. Others have worked in St.
Louis, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Buffalo. The fire marshals of
Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio have investigated their work.
But until recently New York has been singularly free from the
organised work of this sort. Of course we have plenty of firebugs
and pyromaniacs in a small way, but the big conspiracy has never
come to my personal attention before.
"Now, the Jones-Green fire, the Quadrangle fire, the Slawson Building
fire, and the rest, have all been set for one purpose - to collect
insurance. I may as well say right here that some people are in bad
in this case, but that others are in worse. Miss Wend was originally
a party to the scheme. Only the trouble with Miss Wend was that she
was too shrewd to be fooled. She insisted that she have her full
share of the pickings. In that case it seems to have been the whole
field against Miss Wend, not a very gallant thing, nor yet according
to the adage about honour among thieves.
"A certain person whose name I am frank to say I do not know - yet
- conceived the idea of destroying the obligations of the Stacey
companies to Miss Wend as well as the incriminating evidence
which she held of the 'firebug trust,' of which she was a member up
to this time. The plan only partly succeeded. The chief coup,
which was to destroy he Stacey store into the bargain, miscarried.
"What was the result? Miss Wend, who had been hand in glove with
the 'trust,' was now a bitter enemy, perhaps would turn state's
evidence. What more natural than to complete the conspiracy by
carrying out the coup and at the same time get rid of the dangerous
enemy of the conspirators? I believe that Miss Wend was lured
under some pretext or other to the Stacey store on the night of the
big fire. The person who wrote the second and third 'A. Spark'
letters did it. She was murdered with this deadly instrument"
- Craig laid the letter-file on the table - "and it was planned to
throw the entire burden of suspicion on her by asserting that there
was a shortage in the books of her department."
"Pooh!" exclaimed Stacey, smoking complacently at his cigar. "We
have been victimised in those fires by people who have grudges
against us, labour unions and others. This talk of an arson trust
is bosh - yellow journalism. More than that, we have been
systematically robbed by a trusted head of a department, and the
fire at Stacey's was the way the thief took to cover - er - her
stealings. At the proper time we shall produce the bookkeeper
Douglas and prove it.
Kennedy fumbled in the drawer of the desk, then drew forth a long
strip of paper covered with figures. "All the Stacey companies,"
he said, "have been suffering from the depression that exists in
the trade at present. They are insolvent. Glance over that,
Stacey. It is a summary of the preliminary report of the accountants
of the district attorney who have been going over your books to-day."
Stacey gasped. "How did you get it? The report was not to be ready
until nine o'clock, and it is scarcely a quarter past now."
"Never mind how I got it. Go over it with the adjusters, anybody.
I think you will find that there was no shortage in Miss Wend's
department, that you were losing money, that you were in debt to
Miss Wend, and that she would have received the lion's share of
the proceeds of the insurance if the firebug scheme had turned out
"We absolutely repudiate these figures as fiction," said Stacey,
angrily turning toward Kennedy after a hurried consultation.
Perhaps, then, you'll appreciate this," replied Craig, pulling
another piece of paper from the desk. "I'll read it. 'Henry
Douglas, being duly sworn, deposes and says that one' - we'll call
him 'Blank' for the present - 'with force and arms did feloniously,
wilfully, and intentionally kill Rebecca Wend whilst said Blank
was wilfully burning and setting on fire - "
"One moment," interrupted Stacey. "Let me see that paper."
Kennedy laid it down so that only the signature showed. The name
was signed in a full round hand, "Henry Douglas."
"It's a forgery," cried Stacey in rage. "Not an hour before I came
into this place I saw Henry Douglas. He had signed no such paper
then. He could not have signed it since, and you could not have
received it. I brand that document as a forgery."
Kennedy stood up and reached down into the open drawer on the right
of his desk. From it he lifted the two machines I had seen him place
there early in the evening.
Gentlemen," he said, " this is the last scene of the play you are
enacting. You see here on the desk an instrument that was invented
many years ago, but has only recently become really practical. It
is the telautograph - the long-distance writer. In this new form
it can be introduced into the drawer of a desk for the use of any
one who may wish to make inquiries, say, of clerks without the
knowledge of a caller. It makes it possible to write a message
under these conditions and receive an answer concerning the
personality or business of the individual seated at one's elbow
without leaving the desk or seeming to make inquiries.
"With an ordinary pencil I have written on the paper of the
transmitter. The silk cord attached to the pencil regulates the
current which controls a pencil at the other end of the line. The
receiving pencil moves simultaneously with my pencil. It is the
principle of the pantograph cut in half, one half here, the other
half at the end of the line, two telephone wires in this case
connecting the halves.
"While we have been sitting here I have had my right hand in the
half-open drawer of my desk writing with this pencil notes of what
has transpired in this room. These notes, with other evidence, have
been simultaneously placed before Magistrate Brenner in the night
court. At the same time, on this other, the receiving, instrument
the figures of the accountants written in court have been reproduced
here. You have seen them. Meanwhile. Douglas was arrested, taken
before the magistrate, and the information for a charge of murder
in the first degree perpetrated in committing arson has been
obtained. You have seen it. It came in while you were reading the
The conspirators seemed dazed.
"And now," continued Kennedy, "I see that the pencil of the receiving
instrument is writing again. Let us see what it is."
We bent over. The writing started: "County of New York. In the
name of the People of the State of New York - "
Kennedy did not wait for us to finish reading. He tore the writing
from the telautograph and waved it over his head.
"It is a warrant. You are all under arrest for arson. But you,
Samuel Lazard, are also under arrest for the murder of Rebecca Wend
and six other persons in fires which you have set. You are the real
firebug, the tool of Joseph Stacey, perhaps, but that will all come
out in the trial. McCormick, McCormick," called Craig, "it's all
right. I have the warrant. Are the police there?"
There was no answer.
Lazard and Stacey made a sudden dash for the door, and in an instant
they were in Stacey's waiting car. The chauffeur took off the brake
and pulled the lever. Suddenly Craig's pistol flashed, and the
chauffeur's arms hung limp and useless on the steering-wheel.
As McCormick with the police loomed up, a moment late, out of the
darkness and after a short struggle clapped the irons on Stacey and
Lazard in Stacey's own magnificently upholstered car, I remarked
reproachfully to Kennedy: "But, Craig, you have shot the innocent
chauffeur. Aren't you going to attend to him?"
"Oh," replied Kennedy nonchalantly, "don't worry about that. They
were only rock-salt bullets. They didn't penetrate far. They'll
sting for some time, but they're antiseptic, and they'll dissolve
and absorb quickly."
THE CONFIDENCE KING
"Shake hands with Mr. Burke of the secret service, Professor
It was our old friend First Deputy O'Connor who thus in his bluff
way introduced a well-groomed and prosperous-looking man whom he
brought up to our apartment one evening.
The formalities were quickly over. "Mr. Burke and I are old
friends," explained O'Connor. "We try to work together when we can,
and very often the city department can give the government service
a lift, and then again it's the other way - as it was in the
trunk-murder mystery. Show Professor Kennedy the 'queer,' Tom."
Burke drew a wallet out of his pocket, and from it slowly and
deliberately selected a crisp, yellow-backed hundred-dollar bill.
He laid it flat on the table before us. Diagonally across its face
from the upper left- to the lower right-hand corner extended two
parallel scorings in indelible ink.
Not being initiated into the secrets of the gentle art of "shoving
the queer," otherwise known as passing counterfeit money, I suppose
my questioning look betrayed me.
"A counterfeit, Walter," explained Kennedy. "That's what they do
with bills when they wish to preserve them as records in the secret
service and yet render them valueless."
Without a word Burke handed Kennedy a pocket magnifying-glass, and
Kennedy carefully studied the bill. He was about to say something
when Burke opened his capacious wallet again and laid down a Bank
of England five-pound note which had been similarly treated.
Again Kennedy looked through the glass with growing amazement
written on his face, but before he could say anything, Burke laid
down an express money-order on the International Express Company.
"I say," exclaimed Kennedy, putting down the glass, "stop! How
many more of these are there?"
Burke smiled. "That's all," he replied, "but it's not the worst."
"Not the worst? Good heavens, man, next you'll tell me that the
government is counterfeiting its own notes! How much of this stuff
do you suppose has been put into circulation?"
Burke chewed a pencil thoughtfully, jotted down some figures on a
piece of paper, and thought some more. "Of course I can't say
exactly, but from hints I have received here and there I should
think that a safe bet would be that some one has cashed in upward
of half a million dollars already."
"Whew," whistled Kennedy, "that's going some. And I suppose it is
all salted away in some portable form. What an inventory if must
be - good bills, gold, diamonds, and jewellery. This is a stake
worth playing for."
"Yes," broke in O'Connor, "but from my standpoint, professionally,
I mean, the case is even worse than that. It's not the counterfeits
that bother us. We understand that, all right. But," and he leaned
forward earnestly and brought his fist down hard on the table with
a resounding Irish oath, "the finger-print system, the infallible
finger-print system, has gone to pieces. We've just imported this
new 'portrait parle' fresh from Paris and London, invented by
Bertillon and all that sort of thing - it has gone to pieces, too.
It's a fine case, this is, with nothing left of either scientific
or unscientific criminal-catching to rely on. There - what do you
know about that?"
"You'll have to tell me the facts first," said Kennedy. "I can't
diagnose your disease until I know the symptoms."
"It's like this," explained Burke, the detective in him showing now
with no effort at concealment. "A man, an Englishman, apparently,
went into a downtown banker's office about three months ago and
asked to have some English bank-notes exchanged for American money.
After he had gone away, the cashier began to get suspicious. He
thought there was something phoney in the feel of the notes. Under
the glass he noticed that the little curl on the 'e' of the 'Five'
was missing. It's the protective mark. The water-mark was quite
equal to that of the genuine - maybe better. Hold that note up to
the light and see for yourself.
"Well, the next day, down to the Custom House, where my office is,
a man came who runs a swell gambling-house uptown. He laid ten
brand-new bills on my desk. An Englishman had been betting on the
wheel. He didn't seem to care about winning, and he cashed in each
time with a new one-hundred-dollar bill. Of course he didn't care
about winning. He cared about the change - that was his winning.
The bill on the table is one of the original ten, though since then
scores have been put into circulation. I made up my mind that it
was the same Englishman in both cases.
"Then within a week, in walked the manager of the Mozambique Hotel
- he had been stung with the fake International Express money-order
- same Englishman, too, I believe."
"And you have no trace of him?" asked Kennedy eagerly.
"We had him under arrest once - we thought. A general alarm was sent
out, of course, to all the banks and banking-houses. But the man
was too clever to turn up in that way again. In one gambling-joint
which women frequent a good deal, a classy dame who might have been
a duchess or a - well, she was a pretty good loser and always paid
with hundred-dollar bills. Now, you know women are not good losers.
Besides, the hundred-dollar-bill story had got around among the
gambling-houses. This joint thought it worth taking a chance, so
they called me up on the 'phone, extracted a promise that I'd play
fair and keep O'Connor from raiding them, but wouldn't I please
come up and look over the dame of the yellow bills? Of course I
made a jump at it. Sure enough, they were the same counterfeits.
I could tell because the silk threads were drawn in with coloured
ink. But instead of making an arrest I decided to trail the lady.
"Now, here comes the strange part of it. Let me see, this must
have been over two months ago. I followed her out to a suburban
town, Riverwood along the Hudson, and to a swell country house
overlooking the river, private drive, stone gate, hedges, old trees,
and all that sort of thing. A sporty-looking Englishman met her
at the gate with one of those big imported touring-cars, and they
took a spin.
"I waited a day or so, but nothing more happened, and I began to
get anxious. Perhaps I was a bit hasty. Anyhow I watched my chance
and made an arrest of both of them when they came to New York on a
shopping expedition. You should have heard that Englishman swear.
I didn't know such language was possible. But in his pocket we
found twenty more of those hundred-dollar bills - that was all.
Do you think he owned up? Not a bit of it. He swore he had
picked the notes up in a pocketbook on the pier as he left the
steamer. I laughed. But when he was arraigned in court he told
the magistrate the same story and that he had advertised his find
at the time. Sure enough, in the files of the papers we
discovered in the lost-and-found column the ad, just as he claimed.
We couldn't even prove that he had passed the bills. So the
magistrate refused to hold them, and they were both released. But
we had had them in our power long enough to take their finger-prints
and get descriptions and measurements of them, particularly by this
new 'portrait parle ' system. We felt we could send out a strange
detective and have him pick them out of a crowd - you know the
system, I presume?
Kennedy nodded, and I made a mental note of finding out more about
the "portrait parle" later.
Burke paused, and O'Connor prompted, "Tell them about Scotland Yard,
"Oh, yes," resumed Burke. "Of course I sent copies of the
finger-prints to Scotland Yard. Within two weeks they replied that
one set belonged to William Forbes, a noted counterfeiter, who, they
understood, had sailed for South Africa but had never arrived there.
They were glad to learn that he was in America, and advised me to
look after him sharply. The woman was also a noted character - Harriet
Wollstone, an adventuress."
"I suppose you have shadowed them ever since?" Kennedy asked.
"Yes, a few days after they were arrested the man had an accident
with his car. It was said he was cranking the engine and that it
kicked back and splintered the bone in his forearm. Anyhow, he went
about with his hand and arm in a sling."
"They gave my man the slip that night in their fast touring-car.
You know automobiles have about made shadowing impossible in these
days. The house was closed up, and it was said by the neighbours
that Williams and Mrs. Williams - as they called themselves - had
gone to visit a specialist in Philadelphia. Still, as they had a
year's lease on the house, I detailed a man to watch it more or less
all the time. They went to Philadelphia all right; some of the
bills turned up there. But we saw nothing of them.
"A short time ago, word came to me that the house was open again.
It wasn't two hours later that the telephone rang like mad. A
Fifth Avenue jeweller had just sold a rope of pearls to an
Englishwoman who paid for it herself in crisp new one-hundred-dollar
bills. The bank had returned them to him that very afternoon
- counterfeits. I didn't lose any time making a second arrest up
at the house of mystery at Riverwood. I had the county authorities
hold them - and, now, O'Connor, tell the rest of it. You took the
finger-prints up there."
O'Connor cleared his throat as if something stuck in it, in the
telling. "The Riverwood authorities refused to hold them," he said
with evident chagrin. "As soon as I heard of the arrest I started
up myself with the finger-print records to help Burke. It was the
same man, all right - I'll swear to that on a stack of Bibles. So
will Burke. I'll never forget that snub nose - the concave nose,
the nose being the first point of identification in the 'portrait
park.' And the ears, too - oh, it was the same man, all right.
But when we produced the London finger-prints which tallied with
the New York finger-prints which we had made - believe it or not,
but it is a fact, the Riverwood finger-prints did not tally at all."
He laid the prints on the table. Kennedy examined them closely.
His face clouded. It was quite evident that he was stumped, and he
said so. "There are some points of agreement," he remarked, "but
more points of difference. Any points of difference are usually
considered fatal to the finger-print theory.
"We had to let the man go," concluded Burke. "We could have held
the woman, but we let her go, too, because she was not the principal
in the case. My men are shadowing the house now and have been ever
since then. But the next day after the last arrest, a man from New
York, who looked like a doctor, made a visit. The secret-service
man on the job didn't dare leave the house to follow him, but as he
never came again perhaps it doesn't matter. Since then the house
has been closed."
The telephone rang. It was Burke's office calling him. As he
talked we could gather that something tragic must have happened at
Riverwood, and we could hardly wait until he had finished.
"There has been an accident up there," he remarked as he hung up
the receiver rather petulantly. "They returned in the car this
afternoon with a large package in the back of the tonneau. But
they didn't stay long. After dark they started out again in the
car. The accident was at the bad railroad crossing just above
Riverwood. It seems Williams's car got stalled on the track just
as the Buffalo express was due. No one saw it, but a man in a buggy
around the bend in the road heard a woman scream. He hurried down.
The train had smashed the car to bits. How the woman escaped was
a miracle, but they found the man's body up the tracks, horribly
mangled. It was Williams, they say. They identified him by the
clothes and by letters in his pockets. But my man tells me he found
a watch on him with 'W. F.' engraved on it. His hands and arms and
head must have been right under the locomotive when it struck him,
"I guess that winds the case up, eh?" exclaimed O'Connor with
evident chagrin. "Where's the woman?"
"They said she was in the little local hospital, but not much hurt.
Just the shock and a few bruises."
O'Connor's question seemed to suggest an idea to Burke, and he
reached for the telephone again. "Riverwood 297," he ordered; then
to us as he waited he said: "We must hold the woman. Hello, 297?
The hospital? This is Burke of the secret service. Will you tell
my man, who must be somewhere about, that I would like to have him
hold that woman who was in the auto smash until I can - what? Gone?
He hung up the receiver angrily. "She left with a man who called
for her about half an hour ago," he said. "There must be a gang of
them. Forbes is dead, but we must get the rest. Mr. Kennedy, I'm
sorry to have bothered you, but I guess we can handle this alone,
after all. It was the finger-prints that fooled us, but now that
Forbes is out of the way it's just a straight case of detective work
of the old style which won't interest you."
"On the contrary," answered Kennedy, "I'm just beginning to be
interested. Does it occur to you that, after all, Forbes may not
"Not dead?" echoed Burke and O'Connor together.
"Exactly; that's just what I said - not dead. Now stop and think a
moment. Would the great Forbes be so foolish as to go about with
a watch marked 'W. F.' if he knew, as he must have known, that you
would communicate with London and by means of the prints find out
all about him?"
"Yes," agreed Burke, "all we have to go by is his watch found on
Williams. I suppose there is some possibility that Forbes may still
"Who is this third man who comes in and with whom Harriet Wollstone
goes away so willingly?" put in O'Connor. "You said the house had
been closed - absolutely closed?"
Burke nodded. "Been closed ever since the last arrest. There's a
servant who goes in now and then, but the car hasn't been there
before to-night, wherever it has been."
"I should like to watch that house myself for a while," mused
Kennedy. "I suppose you have no objections to my doing so?"
"Of course not. Go ahead," said Burke. "I will go along with you
if you wish, or my man can go with you."
"No," said Kennedy, "too many of us might spoil the broth. I'll
watch alone to-night and will see you in the morning. You needn't
even say anything to your man there about us."
"Walter, what's on for to-night?"he asked when they had gone. "How
are you fixed for a little trip out to Riverwood?"
"To tell the truth, I had an engagement at the College Club with
some of the fellows."
"Oh, cut it."
"That's what I intend to do," I replied.
It was a raw night, and we bundled ourselves up in old football
sweaters under our overcoats. Half an hour later we were on our
way up to Riverwood.
"By the way, Craig," I asked, "I didn't like to say anything before
those fellows. They'd think I was a dub. But I don't mind asking
you. What is this 'portrait parle' they talk about, anyway?"
"Why, it's a word-picture - a 'spoken picture,' to be literal. I
took some lessons in it at Bertillon's school when I was in Paris.
It's a method of scientific apprehension of criminals, a sort of
necessary addition and completion to the methods of scientific
identification of them after they are arrested. For instance, in
trying to pick out a given criminal from his mere description you
begin with the nose. Now, noses are all concave, straight, or
convex. This Forbes had a nose that was concave, Burke says.
Suppose you were sent out to find him. Of all the people you met,
we'll say, roughly, two-thirds wouldn't interest you. You'd pass
up all with straight or convex noses. Now the next point to observe
is the ear. There are four general kinds of ears-triangular, square,
oval, and round, besides a number of other differences which are
clear enough after you study ears. This fellow is a pale man with
square ears and a peculiar lobe to his ear. So you wouldn't give
a second glance to, say, three-fourths of the square-eared people.
So by a process of elimination of various features, the eyes, the
mouth, the hair, wrinkles, and so forth, you would be able to pick
your man out of a thousand - that is, if you were trained."
"And it works?" I asked rather doubtfully.
"Oh, yes. That's why I'm taking up this case. I believe science
can really be used to detect crime, any crime, and in the present
instance I've just pride enough to stick to this thing until - until
they begin to cut ice on the Styx. Whew, but it will be cold out
in the country to-night, Walter - speaking about ice.
It was quite late when we reached Riverwood, and Kennedy hurried
along the dimly lighted streets, avoiding the main street lest some
one might be watching or following us. He pushed on, following the
directions Burke had given him. The house in question was a large,
newly built affair of concrete, surrounded by trees and a hedge,
directly overlooking the river. A bitter wind swept in from the
west, but in the shadow of an evergreen tree and of the hedge Kennedy
established our watch.
Of all fruitless errands this seemed to me to be the acme. The
house was deserted; that was apparent, I thought, and I said so.
Hardly had I said it when I heard the baying of a dog. It did not
come from the house, however, and I concluded that it must have
come from the next estate.
"It's in the garage," whispered Kennedy. "I can hardly think they
would go away and leave a dog locked up in it. They would at least
turn him loose."
Hour after hour we waited. Midnight passed, and still nothing
happened. At last when the moon had disappeared under the clouds,
Kennedy pulled me along. We had seen not a sign of life in the
house, yet he observed all the caution he would have if it had been
well guarded. Quickly we advanced over the open space to the house,
approaching in the shadow as much as possible, on the side farthest
from the river.
Tiptoeing over the porch, Kennedy tried a window. It was fastened.
Without hesitation he pulled out some instruments. One of them was
a rubber suction-cup, which he fastened to the windowpane. Then
with a very fine diamond-cutter he proceeded to cut out a large