A short story
by Broughton Brandenburg
. This story is in the public domain
The Mystery of the Steel Disk, by Broughton Brandenburg
THE telephone bell in the outer office rang, and opening the switch at the side of my desk I took up my stand-'phone and answered:
"Hello, is this Duncan & Betts?" inquired a man's voice with a slight foreign accent.
"I want to speak wit' Mister Lawrence Duncan."
"This is Mr. Duncan. What can I do for you?"
"T'is is Mr. Martin Anderson of 196 Gramercy Park. Yust now while I was eating my breakwast in my rooms over my real estate office, I was called to my telephone by Mr. George Rhodes, who is in t'e Municipal Bank. He is a young man who wants to marry my daughter Marie, and he called me up to tell me t'at when he opened t'e wault a little while ago he found t'at since he closed it t'e night before a package wit' more t'an a million dollars in bonds was gone. He is responsible for t'e wault and no one else, and he called me up to tell me, and say he did not take it, to tell Marie t'at, but he wit'drew his request for her hand. Now, t'en, Mr. Duncan, I don't care one tam about him, but my daughter must not be made to come in in t'is case wit' t'e noos-papers or t'e gossip, so I want you to go over to t'e bank and see him and help him out in every way, yust so he keep his mout' shut about Marie, and if t'ey lock him up I want t'at she don't get to see him or no such foolishness. I send you my check for five hundred t'is morning, and I want to know all about what you do, at my house to-night. Will you do it?"
"Yes, I will go over at once," I answered.
"T'at is all, Good-by—"
"Thank you. Good-by. I will call this evening."
"Good-by, Mr. Duncan."
My first impression as I hung up the receiver was a thrill at being thus thrust into the centre of what appeared to be one of the biggest cases which had transpired in years. My second was a pleasurable recognition of the crisp, direct, clear, and ample statement of the matter which the old real estate man had made. It had all been done in two minutes or less. It is not often that we lawyers encounter people outside of our own and the newspaper profession who can state anything so concisely and not lose any value in it.
At this moment, Betts, my partner, and the stenographer came in, so I hurried over to the Municipal Bank.
Business was just beginning for the day. I could see at a glance over the men behind the brass screens that they as a whole did not as yet know that the bank was a loser by a million. The cashier's door was open, and he was just smoothing out his morning mail in the calmest of manners. No one looked up as I entered; that showed normal state of mind among the clerks.
I asked for Mr. George Rhodes, and a tall, broad shouldered, clean-cut young chap came forward from a desk in the extreme rear of the place and took my card through the bars. Even with the slight view I could get of his face, I perceived he was pale and haggard. He opened a side door and admitted me to the anteroom of the directors' chamber. I told him I had come in his interest, retained by Mr. Anderson, and stated my client's reason for sending me, namely, to prevent his daughter's name from being mentioned in the matter at any or all times, and asked the young man what I could do for him.
He had been sitting running his thumb-nail precisely along the edge of my card, and now he looked up and said, in a dull, expressionless way:
"Really, Mr. Duncan, I have thought the matter over carefully, and there is nothing to do."
He seemed so numbed and hopeless that I was amused.
"You surprise me, Mr. Rhodes," I said. "Surely a thing like this can not in itself shut off any action. In the first place, give me the facts. We will see what can be done."
"The facts are few enough," he answered, simply. "The bonds were in a package four inches thick. They were '90 government fours, clipped and worth one million two hundred thousand when entered the first of the month, three weeks ago. They were marked with a typewritten slip on the end and lay in the securities compartment of the vault. Last night, with the assistant cashier and the receiving teller, as is our rule here, I checked the cash and books going in. We together do not check securities in that compartment except once every month, but I go over them every night and morning in the way that I was instructed by the cashier; that is, the packets are piled in alphabetical classification, and the piling is done so that if a packet were taken out it would make a hole which I should see at a glance, and by reference to my list see what it was. Last night there was nothing missing, for the pile was perfectly even across the top, and we closed the vault and set the time-lock. This morning the time-lock was still running when I arrived and the safe was absolutely just as I left it. When I opened the vault, I went over the securities as usual, and, observing a slight depression in the rear tier, put my hand on it. It gave way enough to show something was missing, and I checked off the packets and found the '90 governments gone. I checked them over three times, and then, when I had got over the shock, went into the booth outside and telephoned Mr. Anderson just what I have told you. Having asked him for his daughter, I felt I owed that to them and to myself. The assistant cashier and the assistant receiving teller were with me when I opened the vault, and I checked out the books and cash so that they know the safe had not been touched overnight; now you see it is up to me to account for those bonds. Mr. Anderson asked me to wait and see you before I told the cashier. The president is not down yet."
I had been watching him covertly as he spoke, and the instant that he had given me the case I felt the conviction stealing over me that he had the bonds, or had had them. The case of a small-salaried trust company clerk, who put four hundred thousand dollars of his employer's money into Wall Street in four weeks, rose in my mind. No matter, however, whether he had taken them or not, a fifteen or twenty years' term stared him in the face. Perhaps he thought that worth the gain. I supposed that, of course, he was bonded for one or two hundred thousand by some one of the fidelity companies, so I did not trouble to ask him as to that. I merely remarked, drawing on my gloves:
"Well, Mr. Rhodes, I would advise you to put back the bonds if you can do it without detection, or else—slide."
A red flush crept up to his temples. It was either anger or guilt, probably both, but he controlled himself and said almost between his teeth, rising and turning away:
"I wish to bid you good-morning, Mr. Duncan. You can go back to Mr. Anderson and tell him Marie will receive a last note from me in an hour, and now, if you will excuse me, I shall inform the cashier."
Something in his manner and the remembrance of his quixotic haste in calling up his sweetheart's father caused a pang of remorse to shoot through me and I put out my hand and stopped him.
"I beg your pardon, Rhodes. I did not mean to be brutal, but the facts—"
The tense line of his white lips relaxed into a sickly smile.
"Yes, the facts—I know. I am not in a position to resent being reminded of them. But, I have made up my mind to tell the cashier."
We left the room together, and I walked with him along the outer corridor to the cashier's door, where the stenographer said he had gone out, and we found the president would not be down until one o'clock.
"See here, Rhodes," I said with sudden determination, "I'm going to do what I can in this matter. Is there any reason why it will become known as a matter of course?"
"The first of the month, a week from to-morrow, will be the triple checking-up time."
"Very well, just you hold off this morning, anyhow. You will probably have three-quarters of an hour for lunch; meet me at Haan's at 12:15."
"All right. Good-morning."
After I had gone twenty yards from the bank I was sorry that I had made the engagement. It was not in the line of my duty to my client, Mr. Anderson, and I was likely to become unprofitably involved with young Rhodes. I saw, even without thought, that there were two alternatives. Either he had taken the bonds or they had been removed overnight from the vault, and I believed he was telling the truth when he said the vault was all right in the morning, for if it had not been, he would have eagerly seized on the circumstance; and furthermore, the fact would have been known by the other officials and the state of peace which I had found on entering would not have existed. There was but one thing to think: Rhodes had taken the bonds, or was shielding the thief.
I related the case to Betts when I reached the office, and he laughed incredulously:
"Say, Duncan," he said, "that is a bit too wild a tale for me. Twelve hundred thousand dollars gone from a time-locked bank vault overnight without opening it! Gee! Why don't you consult that man Rand, Lawrence Rand, the fellow who has been untying some of those hard knots out West? Don't you remember the Johnstone mirror poisoning case and the Rebstock mines affair?"
"Yes, I do. Is Rand his name? Where is he to be found?"
"Jordan went up to his place one night—I think it is in Fifty-seventh Street, in some apartment house. Here, look him up in the telephone book."
I found him entered there. "Lawrence Rand, Special Agent. 32088 Plaza." And calling him up made an engagement for an hour later.
I was ushered into the reception-room of his apartment by a dark-skinned young giant, whom I at first thought a negro, but as I saw him in the full light and noted his straight hair and heavy coppery features, I was surprised to find he was a full-blooded Indian. He was dressed in clothes that did not seem compatible with the rank of a servant.
Rand entered with a brisk step, a frank smile on his keen face. As he gripped my hand I realized that far more physical power was in his possession than one would think by his frame, of medium height and slender almost to thinness. It was afterward that I found every inch of him was whipcord and steel.
We sat down in the inner room and I told him the story of Rhodes and the bonds. When I had finished he frowned ever so slightly and said, "Is that all?"
I thought I had been rather explicit, so I replied with a little rigor: "That seems to cover the case."
"Do you know whether there is one night-watchman or two? What is the make of the safe? Have there ever been any attempts at robbery of the bank? Are all of the members of the bank staff present this morning? Has the president been on the right side of the market for the past year?"
The questions came like shots from a rapid-fire gun. He did not wait for me to answer.
"I see you do not know. We will waste no time. You are to meet young Rhodes at lunch. I want you to invite me, too, for I want to see him."
We took a Sixth Avenue train to Rector Street, and at 12:15 chose our seats in a corner compartment in Haan's. We had been at the table a moment when Rhodes, still very pale, entered and looked around for me. As I introduced him to Rand, I noticed that the latter, after looking the bank clerk full in the eyes a second, let his gaze play like lightning over Rhodes's head and features, and before we sat down he even sought a pretext to step behind Rhodes and look at the back of his head.
Rhodes was subjected to a severe questioning at once, and some of the queries seemed to be anything but relevant, and in sum were meant to make sure that it was impossible for any one but Rhodes to take the bonds at any time the safe was open. After the books and cash had been checked out, Rhodes said, a sliding steel screen was drawn over the approach to the vault at such times as he was not inside to get or replace papers or securities ordered out on written slip by some one of the officers. He was sure the bonds could not have been given out by mistake on a slip for other securities because the list tallied.
"Then either you took the bonds or they were extracted from the safe after the time-lock was set, and the time-lock being all right up to the present minute, you are facing toward Sing Sing," summarized Rand, tilting his cigar and spilling salt into his beer.
Rhodes looked down and swallowed hard at something in his throat, but could not answer.
"Who made the vault, when and where?" asked Rand.
"Mahler, in 1890, in Cincinnati."
"Hm, is that so—a Mahler vault, eh? Did I understand you to say the watchman is an old Irishman named Hanahan, has been at the bank twenty years and has considerable property? How do you know about his property?"
"When I was on accounts he always had fifteen or twenty thousand on time deposits, and drew some large checks or made heavy deposits when Mr. Anderson bought or sold property for him—"
"Whom did you say, Mr. Anderson? The real estate agent who sent Mr. Duncan to see you?"
"Yes, Mr. Martin Anderson. He is Hanahan's agent. They were old volunteer firemen together in Williamsburg shortly after they came to this country."
"Indeed! How do you know that?"
"Well, one evening shortly after I met Marie, I went to call on her and she said her father was not at home; that he was down at our bank chatting with Hanahan and having a smoke. Then she told me about their having belonged to the same fire company. After the old man had taken a dislike to me and threatened to shoot me if I came to the house again, I used to watch for Hanahan's check, for every time he drew, I knew he was expecting to see Mr. Anderson and I would go up to the house. I never missed it."
Rand smiled as if he enjoyed the humor in the instance. He thought a moment and then said:
"Well, now, if you will go back to the bank I will be over presently accompanied by a man from the Broadway office of Mahler's, and you will be asked to show us the vault. Please do not indicate that you know me."
When Rhodes was gone, Rand turned to me quickly and said: "Mr. Duncan, kindly go over to Mr. Robert Steele in Hargan's office in Wall Street and tell him I sent you. Ask him whether any government fours of '90 have been in evidence in the market recently. Meet me in half an hour at the telephone booth in the Park Row drug store."
I hurried to the office of the great firm of Hargan Company and sent in my card to Mr. Steele with "through Ms. Rand" on the corner. I was ushered in immediately.
"Mr. Steele, I was sent here by Mr. Rand to inquire whether there have been any '90 government fours on the market in more than the usual quantity recently?"
At the question he started visibly and whirled abruptly around in his desk chair to face me. He stared at me a moment as if weighing his words forthcoming.
"Well—yes," he said slowly, dropping his eyes in a manner that was anything but frank. "Yes, there have been—some." He paused and looked up at me again, took off his glasses, and, wiping them tentatively, put them on and looked me full in the face as if decided on his course.
"Since Mr. Rand sent you, it must be all right, for we trust Mr. Rand thoroughly here. Tell him that a pile of them has been dumped into the market in the past week, not into the market exactly, but Strauss brokers had them and loans on them were used to buy Overland Pacific at an average of 87, and when it reached 161 last Thursday, whoever was in this pool began to take profits as nearly as we can tell and closed out the line at an average of 157. Of course Overland went to 136, but she is—let me see—let me see—" he looked at the tape—"is 206, so whoever held these bonds must have been outside of Strauss's pool. It cost us about three million dollars, and if you can tell me any more about it I will be very grateful."
I told him there was absolutely nothing of which I knew personally.
Suddenly I remembered that I had not learned even the name of the president of the Municipal Bank, and if Rand had asked Rhodes at lunch I had let it slip by me. Inwardly ashamed of my loose methods, compared with Rand's thorough ones, I hastened to ask of Mr. Steele, as a by-matter, being sure that he would know. I was at the door ready to go out when the matter flashed into my mind.
"By the way, Mr. Steele," I said, "do you happen to know the president of the Municipal Bank—"
"J. R. Farrington Smith?" He jerked his head around sharply toward me as he interrupted me. "Indeed I do." Then he emitted a short, grating laugh, and continued, looking at me sharply all the while: "How odd I should be thinking of him also at that moment! Do you know, Mr. Duncan, that Strauss is or was his broker? Yet, he was on the short end of Overland very badly; that I know, to my sorrow."
He dropped his voice to a confidence-inviting tone, and said as he leaned forward, motioning me to a chair once more:
"Come now, Mr. Duncan, why should we dissemble? You are evidently very well informed in this matter. Did Smith flop and put up those bonds to go long on Overland? He made a pretty penny if he did. Honestly, is that the way he played fast and loose with us?"
I remained standing and put on my hat to further signify that I was about to go.
"Mr. Steele, to tell the truth, I did not know until a moment ago that J. R. Farrington Smith is president of the Municipal Bank. You have just informed me."
He became very stiff in his manner, and turned to his papers as if already thinking of them, and said quietly:
"Oh, then we are talking to no purpose. Good morning, Mr. Duncan."
By a short cut and a brisk walk up Nassau Street I reached the Park Row drug store on the minute of the half hour. A man was in the telephone booth talking, and just outside the half-open door was Rand, directing the queries that the man was making. The stranger was evidently the man from Mahler's. As I approached Rand motioned me to silence.
"Well, my books show the number is D186N," the safe man was saying; "we have no record of complaints or repairs back to '94. Have you any before that?—All right, I'll hold the wire.—Hello, yes. You have none at all. Now, what is the pattern of the time-lock?—Neilson patent, yes.—Well, who superintended the Secret Construction Room when this one was made?—The old man himself, eh?—Where is Neilson now?—How long has he been dead?—Well, was his brother-in-law working with him in 1890?—Wait a moment—"
He kept the receiver to his ear and turned to Rand.
"Is there anything else you wish me to ask, Mr. Rand?"
"Inquire if there has ever been any trouble with any D class vaults. That will be all."
The safe man repeated the question into the 'phone; received the answer, hung up the receiver, turned around and said:
"None but an attempt to blow one open in the Produce Exchange in Springfield. It failed. He says the man who controlled the secret measurements on that set of vaults was the patentee of the time-lock and he is dead. The measurements are sealed and filed. The patents went to his brother-in-law, who worked with him, who sold them outright to the company for a song."
"What was his name?" asked Rand, with disappointment in his voice and manner.
"They have no record and do not remember. He was just a drunken thick-headed Swede."
When Rand was paying the telephone toll the clerk figured on the rate to Cincinnati, so I knew they had been talking to the Mahler offices at the factory. I told Rand just what had happened in Steele's office, and he smiled slightly and said:
"Well, well, the lost bonds or others have been used as collateral for a week past, eh, and Farrington Smith was on the wrong side of the markets. I do not think Rhodes will 'do any time' if he is clever. I have learned that he was a favorite employee of Smith's. Let us go over to the Municipal."
At the bank, the man from Mahler's spoke a moment to the cashier and received his permission to show the vault to "two prospective customers," and a boy was sent to tell Rhodes that the visitors had been accorded the courtesy.
As we passed the president's inner office door, I saw Smith at his desk and noticed how pale and careworn he appeared. I saw that Rand observed it also.
Rhodes admitted us to the enclosure, and, according to Rand's previous instructions, gave us no sign of recognition. Rand and the man from Mahler's examined the interior of the electrically lighted vault. The safe man tapped the floor all around with the stick he carried, sounding for concealed tunneling, but the inspection was unfruitful. The place was in perfect order, and the lock responded repeatedly to the safe man's skilled touch in a way that showed it was in excellent condition. Rand had been standing still, looking carefully at everything within range of his keen eyes, stroking his silver-touched hair lightly with one hand in a way I have observed many times since.
Suddenly he pulled out his watch, looked at the dial of the time-lock, then at his watch, then at the bank clock, an electrically regulated affair hung on the wall. The Clock read 2 P. M. to the second.
"I beg pardon," said Rand to Rhodes. "What time is it by your watch?"
Rhodes took out his timepiece, and said: "I have two o'clock flat."
I now noticed that the dial of the time-lock stood 1.58:30.
"When did you notice that the clock of the time-lock was slow?"
"It is slow, isn't it? Why, I had forgot that. It was last Monday morning, a week ago. I remember I was a little late," replied Rhodes.
"Has any one swept in here since?"
Rand asked this with his eyes fixed on a dark corner at the heel of the right door.
"No, not in the vault."
Rand stooped and put his hand into the corner. For a moment I thought he was picking up something, but he straightened up and brushed his fingers one against the other as if ridding them of dust, so I knew his hands were empty.
In a moment he signified he was through and we left the place, and at the corner parted with the man from Mahler's. We walked on toward my office.
"What do you make of that?" said Rand suddenly, and I saw that he was holding something toward me between his thumb and forefinger, I was sure he had put neither hand in his pockets since we had left the bank.
The small, bright object was merely a plain, smooth-worn bit of steel, thinner than a penny, and not as broad, with a small round hole in the centre. Just a tiny disk of steel.
"Did you pick that up in the vault?" I asked.
"Yes, out of that dark corner by the door."
"Why, how is that? I saw your hands as you rose and they were empty."
"Oh, no, you were mistaken, just as that man from Mahler's was. I merely palmed the disk, that is all, so he could not see it. There is no reason why he should be on the inside of this case. He thinks too much of his own cleverness as it is."
"Well, what is this thing?" I said, slightly irritated at having been so easily tricked.
"I wish I could answer that question as easily as you ask it," replied Rand, and relapsed into silence.
As we entered the building in which I had my office, there emerged from an elevator car that had just descended a girl, whose appearance caught my attention. She was attired in a dark street suit that set her small, trim figure to advantage, but by contrast emphasized the pallor of her face. Her hair was of that abundant flaxen quality so often seen in Germans and Scandinavians, and her eyes were large and dark blue. They were very troubled and it was plain she had been crying. There was something bravely piteous in every line of her face. She paused a moment as if half expecting some one and hurried out as we entered the next up-bound car.
When I went into the office, Betts came in with a slip of paper in his hand. After I had introduced him to Rand, he said:
"Duncan, for shame not to be in when nice young ladies call on you. The pretty daughter of your old real estate client, Anderson, was just here. She has received a letter from the young fellow who took those bonds in which he says he wishes her to forget him. She refuses to believe he is guilty, and has had a scene with her father, who must have told her that he has retained you, for she came down here demanding that you take her to see the young chap, wherever he is locked up. Has he been arrested yet?"
"No," I said, "he is over in the bank."
"I think he will be there for some time yet," observed Rand, looking out the window.
"Well, she will be back in half an hour," said Betts, laying down the strip of paper on my desk. "She did not have a card and wrote her name. Excuse me, Mr. Rand, I am not through with my correspondence yet, and it will soon be three o'clock."
As Betts went out Rand rose and looked at the strip with the name written in a tall, delicate hand, "Miss Marie Neilson Anderson."
In a short time Miss Anderson came into the outer office and I brought her in and closed the door. With trembling lips and tears constantly ready to fall, she repeated what she had already told Betts and demanded that I arrange an interview with Rhodes at once.
I reassured her to the best of my ability. Rand sat quiet and said nothing. I thought he might at least have repeated to her what he had just said to Betts, though I could not exactly make out what were his grounds for the statement. Instead, just before she was leaving, much comforted and calmer, he said:
"Excuse me, Miss Anderson, when did you last see Mr. Rhodes?"
"Oh, I have had a letter from him nearly every day, but I have not talked with him since Sunday night a week ago, when he came to see me at the house."
"How long have you known him?"
"Nearly two years."
"How did you meet him?"
"Why, he knew papa at the bank, and one day when papa was ill he sent for George to come up to the house to get some papers about his accounts and papa introduced us. When we were first engaged, he did not seem to dislike George, and often sat talking with him about matters in the bank and other things."
"By the way, how old are you, Miss Anderson?"
She did not seem to mind the blunt question and replied quickly:
"I am twenty-one."
"Were you born in this country?"
"Yes, I was born in New York."
"Thank you, kindly; that is all," said Rand, and was promptly so deep in thought that he barely rose and bowed as she left a few minutes later. He kept his feet and put on his hat as if he, too, were going.
"I believe you told me that you were to go to Anderson's house to-night and report, did you not?" he asked.
"Yes, I am sorry that I can not make a better showing both for my client and for Rhodes."
"I suppose you mean that you hoped a man of my reputation would have offered better support to you in yours," he observed with a quizzical smile that nettled me as he walked over to the door.
"I should like to go with you, Mr. Duncan," he continued. "I will meet you at the northwest corner of Gramercy Park at eight o'clock. Will you be so kind as to bring young Rhodes with you? 'Phone him at the bank, now, and you might come prepared for anything in the way of a fight for—we will close up the case to-night."
He shut the door and went out. I was wild to call him back and get an explanation, but pride restrained me.
That evening Rhodes met me by appointment at the Fifth Avenue Hotel and we walked over to the corner Rand had named. We had been standing there a moment when a carriage drove up, stopped, and Rand alighted, followed by J. R. Farrington Smith and the brawny Indian.
I could see by the street light that Smith was very white, and the Indian kept just at his elbow and a little behind him as they advanced to meet us. Rand presented me to Smith, who bowed coldly. If Smith and Rhodes exchanged salutations I did not notice it. Rand said to me as we walked along to the house after he had told the cabman to wait for him:
"Will you kindly ask Mr. Anderson to see Mr. Duncan and some gentlemen?"
I was angry with him for a number of small things which had occurred during the day, but more than ever now for bringing Smith into the case, and at Anderson's house, a proceeding which would be sure to involve Anderson and his daughter in the expose' that must occur in so short a time.
A little maid admitted us at a door beside Anderson's real estate office, and passed back along a narrow hall and up to a well-furnished apartment immediately over the offices. The maid vanished through portieres, and I judged by the sounds that she found Anderson in the third room to the rear. I could hear him clearing his throat as he came.
As he stepped through the portieres, I saw he was a man of fifty, of good appearance, short and heavy, with large hands and a massive jaw. His eyes were very small and nearly hidden by the overfolding wrinkles about them.
"Good-evening, gentlemen," he said cheerily, looking about in a pleasant though puzzled way. I rose and went forward, saying:
"I am Mr. Duncan, Mr. Anderson. I believe you know Mr. Smith and Mr. Rhodes. This is Mr. Lawrence Rand, with whom I have consulted in this matter."
The Indian, whom I scarcely knew how to consider, whether companion of Rand's or his servant, had stepped back into the shadow by the portieres, and I do not think Anderson saw him, so I made no reference to him whatever. I was very busy thinking just what to say and how to say it, for Rand's bringing Smith with him showed Smith was informed in part or wholly, and was so unexpected that I had had no chance to ask him aside just what the situation was. He left me in no uncertainty. He gracefully superseded me in the initiative by drawing back a chair at a small table in the centre of the room, in the full glow of the shaded light, and saying:
"Would you mind sitting here, please, Mr. Anderson? I shall want you to write something in a moment and it will be more convenient for you."
Anderson sat down, as requested, and turned his face toward Rand as if he knew where the power lay. I could see the arteries in his neck throbbing. I noticed that Rhodes was very pale, and the bank president was laboring under great excitement.
"Now, to be brief, gentlemen, we are about to adjust this matter of the disappearance of twelve hundred thousand dollars' worth of bonds from the vault of the Municipal Bank."
Rand spoke in a soft even voice. I think I was the only man who moved a muscle. I could see that at least Anderson's blood did not quicken any. His eyes may have turned toward Rhodes. I could not tell. Rand went on:
"Before I say anything further, I wish to remind the interested parties that I have brought an officer with me and any violence would be inadvisable.
"Mr. Anderson, you will kindly turn over to Mr. Smith that packet of '90 government fours. Mr. Smith will give you a receipt in full. You will also give Mr. Smith your order on Strauss & Company for four hundred thousand dollars, which is approximately what Mr. Smith lost when caught short on Overland Pacific ten days ago, and also your order to Mr. George Rhodes for the remainder of your profits when you went long on Overland Pacific this last week by using the Municipal Bank as an involuntary partner. You will also give your consent to his marriage with your daughter. Mr. Duncan here will arrange the matter of fees and that will close the incident. If you do not, Mr. Smith will prosecute you and I will furnish the evidence. If Mr. Smith does not perform his share I will, in behalf of Mr. Rhodes, inform the bank directors of his hand in Overland. Kindly do as I have requested, Mr. Anderson."
The old fellow never changed color one whit, nor did the throbbing of the arteries in his neck increase. They diminished, if anything. A bitter sneer came on his face, and as he spoke he dropped into very broken English.
"Vot iss diss nonsense, Meester, vot-afer-your nem-iss? Vot a ni'ice liddle scheme bote Ah don't ma'eke no mohney baycoss Ah aindt got dey bonts-s—"
Rand held up a forefinger and the old man stopped. He was now breathing hard and was flushed. Rand drew from his vest pocket and laid on the table before Anderson the little steel disk.
Before Rand could speak, the portieres parted, and in the opening stood Marie Anderson, very white and drawn up to her full height. In one hand she extended the packet with the typewritten slip still on the end.
"Father," she said slowly, in a low, tense voice, "here are the bonds. By accident I just found them in a jar on the sideboard."
With surprising quickness Anderson drew out a drawer in the table at which he sat, snatched up a revolver, leaped to the doorway, thrusting his daughter aside, but as he turned and fired pointblank at Rand, who had vaulted the table to reach him, the Indian knocked up the muzzle of the revolver from behind. The bullet struck the ceiling and the next instant Anderson was on the floor, helpless in the bearlike clasp of the big red man.
The girl had reeled as if about to faint. Rhodes had sprung to her assistance, but she recovered herself and seemed to be anxious to get away from her father, as if from a reptile. Rhodes led her to the other side of the room.
"Take the gun away from him and set him on the chair again, Tom," said Rand, as if nothing had happened. He returned to his own seat, and we too sat down.
In fifteen seconds the smoke floating about the ceiling was the only sign of the crisis just passed, Rand began again:
"In order to give you an opportunity to recover your composure before you begin writing, Mr. Anderson, and to prevent your indulging in any more foolish lies, I will tell you the evidence against you. You helped your brother-in-law, Neilson, make the time-lock on the vault ordered for the Municipal Bank in 1890. You inserted in the journal of the main standard of the clock works a steel disk instead of a brass one, knowing that the steel against steel would make a friction that would wear out both in several years' time. By means of a second time-lock accurately duplicated, and which, if I am not mistaken, is ticking away in that black box on the mantel behind you, you were able to tell very nearly the very hour when you could turn back the bolts of the Municipal vault without let or hindrance. When your brother-in-law died, you sold his patents to the company, returned to New York, and began to live for the hour when you could help yourself to whatever you wished. You stopped drinking and settled down. You went into the real estate business because you could obtain in that manner a permanent hold on Hanahan, the watchman at the Municipal, whom you already knew, and you drew him into the habit of seeing you on business regularly at the bank at night. You have his perfect confidence. When you found that about the time you were ready to make your haul George Rhodes would be the young man in charge of the vault, you called him to the house on a pretext and made him acquainted with your daughter and encouraged his visits that you might get from him in your chats, bit by bit, knowledge of just what to put your hand on in the short time you were in the vault, and how to conceal the theft long enough for you to convert the securities. This is one of the deepest and cleverest criminal plots of which I have ever heard. Your life for all these years has been devoted to it. I am not surprised that you succeeded. Your one mistake was in giving so flimsy a pretext to Mr. Duncan for calling him up and retaining him. That attracted my attention to you. What you really wanted was to be able to have constant information from Mr. Duncan when he should become Rhodes's counsel in the natural course of events, as to efforts to explain the disappearance of the bonds in order to defend Rhodes. In that way you would always know how close he was on the track of the real thief, Mr. Martin Anderson. Few men pay attorneys $500 retaining fees to persuade young men who really love their daughters from dragging them into a scandal which does not essentially concern the daughters at best. You were surprised into this mistake when Rhodes called you up and crystallized your plan to force your choice of counsel on him too hastily.
"On Sunday night a week ago you went to the bank, as your duplicate time-lock showed you the steel disk was worn so thin a jar on the door would cause the standard to drop and the lock to release. Hanahan, as he told me an hour ago, went across the street for some tobacco that Sunday night, leaving you in the bank. In ninety seconds you had opened the vault, taken the right packet, opened the case of the time-lock, replaced the disk with a brass one, closed the case, and closed the vault, but—you carelessly dropped this worn disk on the floor.
"You used the bonds as collateral to buy stock, not as a speculation, but as an investment that would conceal the bonds, and by chance chose Overland Pacific at a low figure and it rose. You thought best to take your profits, and only your greed prevented you from returning the bonds to Rhodes by mail. As we have seen, you had not thought long enough or deeply enough what you would do with your lifetime harvest after you got it in your hands, and suddenly you found yourself out of your depth. You hid the bonds in a jar, just like a foolish old woman. But I must compliment you on your clear thinking and previous planning. I have never known of anything so deliberate, and only a phlegmatic Scandinavian would be capable of it, especially to end up with such good nerves as you have shown to-night. Mr. Smith does not wish to prosecute you and expose his speculations. Since Mr. Smith and Mr. Duncan doubtless have other engagements to-night, kindly write as I requested a few minutes ago."
Muttering objurgations in his native tongue, Anderson wrote the two drafts, Rhodes's being for more than one hundred thousand, and both Rhodes and Smith receipted. Smith took the bonds and thrust them into his overcoat pocket. Miss Anderson refused to remain an hour longer under her father's roof, and left the house to go to the home of a distant relative. I pocketed the odd little steel dish, which lies before me as I write, with a slip copied from a page of Rand's notebook that lays out so plainly and simply his quick, sure, and unerring processes in this remarkable case, that I can not refrain from giving it.
- Anderson's retaining Duncan very strange.
- Rhodes's cranium shows moral incapacity for theft. Innocent.
- Neilson's brother-in-law could know lock construction.
- Smith lost speculating. Thief won half million with bonds.
- Time-clock lost 90 sec. Sunday night, week before discovery.
- Disk of steel instead of brass. Meant to wear out. Is discarded part of lock. Must be a new disk in lock. Work of expert. Prepared since making of lock.
- Marie Neilson Anderson.
- Anderson was alone in bank 3 min. Sunday night of robbery.
Anderson guilty. Proved and confessed. Adjusted, no proceedings, by L. R